Title: For Arthur...
Character/s: Arthur, Gaius, Merlin
Summary: An AU tidbit from 4X06 "Servant of Two Masters".
Word Count:1,321 (I just don't know how to write a short story, I guess!)
Prompt: #34 ~ Devotion
Author's Notes: You'd think this prompt would have been a piece of cake! Nope, I actually found this one really difficult. I also had to try hard not to write ANOTHER Camlann fic...because the BBC/Shine/Js are really ruining my mojo! (As evidenced by my lovely new icon!)
Thanks to k_nightfox for another brilliant beta job!
This piece is an excerpt from a story I'm writing called "No Better Assassin". A quick overview to bring you up to where this story starts: During the time Morgana holds Merlin hostage, she discovers he has magic, although, because he was dying, she doesn't realize he's actually very powerful. When she places the Fomorroh in Merlin's neck, she specifically tells him she wants him to kill Arthur with magic. The Fomorroh doesn't control Merlin completely, and he fights back until he regains control...barely. That leads us to what happens here.
Merlin could feel the Fomorroh squirming in his neck, trying its best to retake control of its host. Yet by the tiniest of margins, he held it off… by sheer willpower, it seemed. Knowing this might be his only chance to save Arthur, he bolted for the door of Gaius’ rooms. He flung it open so hard it rattled the hinges, and darted past the guards stationed on either side.
Merlin heard the startled shout, knowing they were starting to give chase, but he didn’t stop. In fact, he ran faster, as if his life depended on it. No, as if Arthur’s life depended on it...which it did.
The route Merlin took twisted and turned, taking dark hallways and servant passages, finally losing his pursuers somewhere near the kitchens. Moments later, he emerged in the royal hallway and burst unceremoniously into Arthur’s room, startling Arthur and Gaius.
“Merlin!” Gaius gasped in shock as his ward doubled over with both hands upon his knees, gulping in great lungfuls of air.
“What’s going on, Merlin?” Arthur asked, walking over to put a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Are you all right?”
Merlin shook his head no, his wide and fearful eyes meeting Arthur’s before he turned his head to stare at Gaius.
“Fomorroh…” he gasped, his chest heaving from the both the mad dash he’d just run and the effort of holding off the horrible, terrible impulses to kill Arthur pounding on his brain. “It’s a Fomorroh…and Morgana…put it there.”
Merlin, still hunched over, pointed to the back of his neck, where the creature still noticeably squirmed under his skin.
Arthur and Gaius shared a horrified look over Merlin’s back. “Morgana! She had you?” Arthur asked.
Merlin nodded wordlessly.
“Is she the one that healed you, too?” Arthur continued.
Clenching his hands into white-knuckled fists in an effort to maintain control of himself, Merlin nodded again.
“A Fomorroh?” Arthur questioned, his eyes resting on the wiggling mass in Merlin’s neck. “What is it? What does it do?”
“It is a creature of magic,” Gaius answered woodenly, “often used by High Priestesses to enslave the minds of their victims.”
Merlin nodded vehemently at this statement, taking another deep breath before stubbornly giving his Fomorroh-self a shove backward in his mind.
“Actually…” Gaius paused as he placed a bracing hand on Merlin’s other shoulder. “Merlin? How are you doing that?”
Merlin glanced at Gaius for a moment before grimacing and staring back down at the tips of his boots, trying like hell to stay focused. “Don’t…know…” he ground out at last.
Gaius squeezed Merlin’s collarbone with his hand to gain his ward’s attention once more. “What did Morgana want you to do, Merlin?”
The agony of holding onto himself and his sanity was almost more than Merlin could bear. But bear it he would...for Arthur. Tears leaked from Merlin’s eyes and dribbled down his cheeks as he rasped in little more than a whisper, “To…kill Arthur.”
“Gods…” Arthur breathed, stunned. It was a brilliantly simple plan; to use the one person Arthur trusted implicitly against him. And then Merlin would be killed for the treason he’d been forced to commit against his will, leaving Morgana’s path to the throne clear.
“Well, we can fix that easily enough, Merlin,” Gaius said, placing a hand at his ward’s elbow to steer him toward Arthur’s dining table. “Come over here and sit down. I’ll get my scalpel and we’ll get that thing out of you.”
“No!” Merlin yanked his arm away from Gaius and scurried behind the table, putting the wooden surface between him and them. His face was a picture of abject terror. “You can’t, Gaius!”
Gaius’ eyebrows scrunched together in confusion. “Why ever not? It’s really a simple procedure, Merlin.”
Panic laced every agonized word. “It’ll grow back! I saw it! When she cut off the head of it…another one grew right back!” Merlin’s breath hitched painfully. “It’s taken me days to get to where I am now—days of being held hostage in my own body—to be able to fight it off at all! I don’t know if I can do it again! Even now…I can barely hold it back…” Sobs wracked Merlin’s body and he shook like a leaf. He grabbed onto the back of one of Arthur’s chairs like it was a lifeline.
“Merlin,” Arthur said softly, as if speaking to a skittish horse instead of his best friend, “It’ll be all right. We’ll figure this out.”
“I don’t know how much longer I can do this…” Merlin croaked, breathing heavily, holding his head tightly with both hands, shutting his eyes against the sight of Arthur because it only made the longing to kill him stronger. Even now, he could feel the incantations pressing against his lips from the inside, desperate to get out.
“Now, that I know…things will be just fine,” Arthur continued in that same overly-calm tone. “I mean…no offense intended, Merlin…” Arthur gestured between them, “…but I’m pretty sure I could take you if it came down to it.”
Merlin’s voice was bitter as his face twisted into a grimace. “Really? All the time? Because last night, I came to and found myself standing over your bedside while you were asleep. The Fomorroh was controlling me; there was nothing I could have done. If it had decided to attack you then…”
Arthur’s eyes widened at this revelation, but he refused to give up hope. “So then…we could lock you up until we figure this thing out,” he suggested.
Merlin’s brows contracted into one thin line. “There isn’t a dungeon in Camelot that could hold me, Arthur,” he proclaimed ominously. “You’d be dead by morning.”
Arthur was at a loss for words. What Merlin was saying made no sense…and yet, he believed that Merlin believed them wholeheartedly. That’s what worried him.
Slowly, Merlin walked toward Arthur, and with shaky hands, retrieved his master’s sword from where it lay on the table. Kneeling before his king, Merlin proffered the blade he cradled in both hands.
“There is only one way to stop me from killing you, Arthur. You must kill me first… Now, while I can still let you.”
“No!” Gaius gasped, throwing a staying hand out toward them.
Merlin turned his head and met his mentor’s eyes with sorrow in his heart. “It’s the only way, Gaius.” Then he shoved the hilt of Arthur’s sword into the king’s hand. “Do it.”
“I won’t,” Arthur declared defiantly. “I almost lost you once this week, Merlin; I will not lose you again…and certainly not by my own hand!”
“Please!” Merlin begged, touching his forehead to the floor as he grasped at the ankles of Arthur’s boots desperately. “I don’t want to kill you…”
“And I don’t want to kill you,” Arthur replied, turning and tossing his sword onto the bed behind him.
“No!” Merlin panicked. He could feel his tenuous hold on his body and mind slipping; he might only have moments left to convince him. As he jumped to his feet, he yelled, “You don’t understand!”
Merlin swallowed over the lump in his throat, hating what he was about to do. He’d always wanted to tell Arthur his secret…but not like this. He’d wanted to be able to explain how magic could be a force for good, make him see that Merlin had only ever wanted to help Arthur…
But it was too late for that. He knew instinctively that this was the only thing that would work…the only thing that would make Arthur despise him enough to kill him. It was the only thing left that Merlin could do to save his friend from himself.
Merlin squared his shoulders, forced himself to make eye contact with Arthur, and declared boldly, “I’m a sorcerer. I have been since the day I set foot in Camelot. I was the one who set the Great Dragon free…and I killed your father.”