Title: The Sorcerer's Shadow
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: After learning about Merlin's magic, Arthur comes to some conclusions.
Media: Digital art + fic.
Word Count: 585w.
Prompt: 296 Revelation.
Author's Notes: I was going to write the next chapter of WNTTAA, I swear, but then this happened.
It’s not really anything in particular that sparks Arthur’s revelation. Merlin is sitting in a corner of the armoury, his head bent over his work the way it so often is, mouth drawn tight into a familiar expression of concentration. He doesn’t look like an all-powerful sorcerer: surely a man who could stop time on a whim would not still be sitting there, patiently working the rust out of Arthur’s vambraces, when it would be easier and less onerous to wave a hand and simply will it to be done.
Then again, there is nothing about Merlin that really hints at who—at what—he is, at least, not on the outside. Over the last month or so, since Arthur had discovered his secret, he has waited patiently for the real Merlin to reveal himself. Arthur isn’t stupid; he knows his father’s prejudices are based more on grief than accuracy, but over the years he has learned that no one seeks out a position in the royal household without some kind of purpose. For a sorcerer, that could be anything—power, money, revenge. But Merlin has been unfailingly, well, Merlin, kind to small animals and prattish princes, still managing to trip over thin air and spill sauce down Arthur’s shirt not quite on purpose. There are days when Arthur looks at him and thinks, this isn’t possible, and is ready to swear blind that everything he saw was an illusion—that he has made some kind of horrible mistake.
Even in the face of Arthur’s anger, however, Merlin does not run, or beg, or try to change his mind. Instead, he just sits there, diligently polishing like the bumbling servant he pretends to be, and for the first time it occurs to Arthur that this is as far as the deception goes.
Merlin could clean Arthur's armour with magic; he could take over the kingdom with a word; he could use his powers to achieve whatever he wanted, without giving so much as a thought to anyone else.
He could, but he wouldn’t.
He wouldn’t, because Merlin is still the same man, underneath that unexpected aura of power. Because Merlin’s shadow, that silent ghost darkening the opposite wall, has stretched over every aspect of Arthur’s life since the moment he set foot in Camelot, protecting him even from himself. Merlin has never lied to him about that, not really.
“You’re an idiot,” Arthur says out loud, making Merlin jump and look up at him with startled eyes. He crosses the room and takes the vambrace from Merlin’s hands, setting it aside to sieze the work-roughened fingers. Merlin is staring at him like he thinks Arthur is about to chop off his head, which is so preposterous that Arthur gives his hands a little shake. “You have no self-preservation instincts whatsoever, do you?”
Merlin’s mouth is a little round O. “Is that supposed to be a question?”
“No, I suppose not.” Arthur wants to laugh at him, but this is too serious a moment for laughter. “I don’t know what to do with you.”
“That’s easy.” Merlin ducks his head, his eyes dropping to his hands, still caught in Arthur’s own. Arthur instinctively tightens his grip. “You could keep me.”
The air in the armoury is close and calm, silent but for the hum of cicadas and the clash of training swords outside the window. Merlin’s hands in his are very warm and not at all soft.
“Yes,” Arthur tells him quietly. “I believe I shall.”