Title: Separate roads
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gaius
Summary: Merlin leaves when Arthur won’t see reason
Word Count: 365
Prompt: #16 Bleeding Heart
Author's Notes: -
Gaius never really thought of either Merlin or Arthur as men, until now. Now that they face each other across a space that almost vibrates with their rage.
Arthur’s expression is thunderous, and his stance aggressive. “I will not lift the ban and plunge Camelot back into chaos. I thought you were with me on this.”
Merlin’s glare is sharper, but less weighty. “You swore you would treat the druids better. They are asking for peace. You could at least hear them out.”
“They are asking for the use of my forests. I will not allow them to practice their magic within my borders.” He says “magic” like it’s a dirty word, and Merlin flinches at it.
“They just want to be close to-” Merlin stops himself, and Gaius breathes a sigh of relief. They cannot speak of prophesies, of Emrys, of a united Albion. Not to Arthur, who is at the centre of it all. Gaius can’t decide who it is most unfair to: those who must be silent, or the one who is not even allowed to know his own destiny.
Merlin breathes deeply to calm himself. “They use magic in harmless ways. They are no threat to you.”
Arthur’s eyes narrow suspiciously. “There is no such thing as harmless magic." He shakes his head definitively. "Until they stop perverting nature with their craft, there can be no peace.”
Merlin’s back is ramrod straight, his hands clenched at his sides. “Very well, Sire.” He makes a stiff, awkward bow, disappointment expressed in every line of his face, before turning on his heel and walking away.
Merlin halts like he's come to the end of a rope, and for a moment Gaius imagines he can see the man's heartstrings extending from his body down the length of the room and into Arthur's hand, where Merlin's heart has rested since he arrived in Camelot, or perhaps since the prophets first spoke his name and Arthur's in the same breath.
“Don’t walk away,” Arthur says, and it’s a threat and a plea and a command and an offer.
Merlin looks back over his shoulder. “I’ll come back. When you need me. When you’re ready.”