Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, background Gwen/Lancelot
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Will, Gwen, Lancelot
Summary: Five times Merlin did not belong, and one time he did. Or: how the show really should have ended.
Word Count: 612 words.
Prompt: #269 Belonging.
Author's Notes: It's good to be back! \o/
Merlin doesn’t fit in at all in Ealdor. It’s not so much that he’s a big fish in a small pond as that he’s one of the first amphibians to crawl out of the water, and these days it’s getting harder to breathe. It’s always been just him and his mum, hard graft and fingernails scraping for whatever they can coax from the soil, and it’s not like he hates it here, but.
Will doesn’t understand.
“You belong here,” he says, arms folded, squinting at the horizon so that Merlin can’t read the emotion on his face.
But Merlin doesn’t.
If Merlin thought Camelot would be different, his illusions are shattered the second he walks through the castle gates. There’s a sorcerer’s head on the block in the centre of the square, and he knew, he knew that magic was banned in Uther’s kingdom, but to see it out in the open like this is a shock, like slipping on the ice on a winter’s day.
His mother had said, “Go. It’ll be the making of you.”
And Will had said, “Fine, go if you have to.”
But there’s nothing Merlin wants more in that moment than to turn back.
Except, there’s Arthur.
The first time Arthur looks at him and says, “I believe you,” Merlin feels the imprint of the words like a brand. Already he knows that Arthur does not trust lightly. The true value of those three little words is more than all the coin Merlin could ever earn.
The trust is rescinded; Merlin is rejected. Even so, the poignant echo remains, and when Valiant is defeated, when Arthur grudgingly welcomes Merlin back into the fold, he thinks maybe there’s something in this whole destiny business. Maybe there will be a niche here for him after all.
In the end, the magic stands between them: a gulf that is larger than mere words can bridge.
“I understand why you had to lie,” Arthur says, but his shoulders are angry, his face set in profile. “What I don’t understand is why you lied to me.”
The answers Merlin has practiced slip away from him.
It’s not an excuse to say, the things I’ve done for you frighten me.
It’s not an excuse to explain, this isn’t what I wanted.
Arthur accepts the magic; there is no pyre, no executioner’s block. But things are never the same, after that.
“Are you unhappy, Merlin?” Gwen asks, and he knows she worries about him. Merlin is not unhappy. He is being run ragged, holding the kingdom together by a gossamer thread, and every time he looks up Arthur is looking at somebody else. A knight. A princess. Merlin is not unhappy. Merlin is keeping their destiny on track by the skin of his teeth, he doesn’t have the luxury of jealousy when Arthur starts asking Gwen for advice at the Round Table and Merlin is still standing with his back to the door.
Merlin is not unhappy. He’s pretty damn miserable.
Gwen marries Lancelot.
Arthur kisses Merlin after the feast like it’s something they do all the time, only his hands are rough in Merlin’s hair and his lips are soft and he says, “Forgive me,” like he’s breaking a promise. It’s not that Merlin has never wondered if they’d end up like this but it’s still a surprise anyway, the way touching Arthur’s skin feels like his first step on dry land and kissing is like breathing when you’ve never had lungs before.
He thinks of Ealdor, all those years away.
“You belong here,” Will had said.
But Merlin doesn’t.