Character/s: (In this section) Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Agravaine, Morgana
Summary: With Merlin's magic restored, Arthur has things he wants to say to his father.
Word Count: 1841 (Sorry, I got really carried away)
Prompt: 91 Atonement
Author's Notes: Thanks to the lovely fififolle for the super-fast last minute beta even though Leon wasn't in it. This is the next part of 'His' and 'The Cold Light of Morning' but as it's been a few weeks and I always lose track of long series[there's a quick recap here]Arthur has soul-bonded with his omega servant when Merlin went into heat unexpectedly. Uther, who wanted his son to make a political match, condemned Merlin to burn. With Merlin unable to use his magic Uther almost succeeded, until Arthur climbed up on the pyre beside Merlin and found that as Merlin's alpha he could restore his magic.
Arthur could feel the change in Merlin immediately.
It had just been a hunch, the idea that giving him an order as his alpha would free the magic again. It was, he thought, for a brief heady moment, his to command. That power could so easily corrupt a man. Then he pushed the thought aside. They had more pressing concerns.
The bindings fell away from Merlin almost instantly, curling outward and dropping onto the pyre. The fire, Arthur realised, had stopped burning. Only the smoke remained and even that was starting to clear. Merlin stood there beside him, one arm raised, his eyes glowing pure gold. He was magnificent, Arthur thought, the power radiating from him. A consort worthy of a king.
Merlin wrapped his other arm around Arthur's waist, gripping him tightly.
"I'll take us far from here," he promised.
Arthur had once seen a sorcerer vanish into the air, as if he had never been there at all. He felt a thrill of fear at the thought that this was probably what Merlin was about to do. What they were about to do. After what the king had just tried to do to them, Arthur had no qualms about leaving. But not without doing one last thing.
"Wait." He closed his hand over Merlin's arm. "I want to speak to my father."
Merlin blinked at him, his eyes still that unnatural gold, though it was fading. "Arthur, he would have killed us both!"
Arthur nodded. "And that's why I want to face him. You can protect us, can't you?" Already he could hear Uther shouting at the guards to seize them.
"Yes, but he'll never change his mind. We need to get away. I can't watch every single person here."
"Just my father. I don't believe the others would willingly harm me." He hoped rather than entirely believed that it was true. In the end they were all loyal to the king. And he wasn't king. After this, there was a good chance that he never would be.
Merlin gave a sigh, then the tiniest half-bow and suddenly they were up on the balcony, facing the king. There was a huge gasp from the crowd below, a few little shrieks of fear. Arthur staggered forward, and might have fallen if Merlin hadn't been holding onto him. He looked at Merlin, then down at the pyre, over to the shocked face of his father, and then back at Merlin again.
"We could have walked," he breathed, trying to calm the rush of fear he felt over what had just happened. Magic was not evil, not when it was Merlin wielding it. He wanted to say it over and over to himself like a mantra, not ready to face so much all at once. He took a deep, steadying breath, because he had to deal with it. "We could have fought our way through the crowds."
Merlin ignored him, intent on the king. There was a hard, cold expression on his face that Arthur had never seen before. In contrast, Uther looked a little afraid, just for a moment. But then that moment was gone and he looked on them both with cold defiance.
"You dare to come up here?"
"You dare try to burn your own son?" Merlin countered. "What kind of monster does that make you?"
"Guards!" Uther roared, never taking his eyes off the pair of them. "GUARDS!"
The Camelot guard were loyal to the king at any rate. Arthur felt a brief pique of anger as a group of them rushed forward. But he didn't need them on his side, he had Merlin. Merlin, who raised his arm again and with a brief, unnerving flash of those golden eyes every weapon except the sword that Arthur himself held vanished.
The guards stopped where they were, apparently frozen to the spot.
"What did you do?" Arthur hissed. "Are they dead?"
Merlin shook his head. "They'll be fine when I release them," he whispered. "Your father. You wanted to speak to him. Hurry up, I can't hold them forever."
Arthur glanced a little nervously back at what appeared to be human statues. Agravaine and Uther were regarding them worriedly as well, he noticed. Morgana, behind them, had her hands pressed to her mouth, her eyes wide with horror. There was, he noticed, a tear on her cheek. He had never realised she actually cared about him. Or perhaps it was just tears of terror because of the magic.
"Step away from him, Arthur."
That was something, Arthur thought. Uther was no longer referring to Merlin as if he were an inanimate object, a thing. That would be difficult given all that had happened.
"We're bonded," Arthur told him. "As you can see, it's a magical soul bond and all that entails. I couldn't leave him even if I wanted to." He glanced at Merlin and gave him a small smile, hoping that his actions were making up for his earlier failings. "And I'd never want to."
"You know the laws on sorcery."
"Perhaps you should check the ones on filicide. You would have killed me."
Uther was staying well back, Arthur noted. There was no attempt to come any closer to them. "No, Arthur. You were free to step down, and I assure you that you would have done so if this freak hadn't escaped."
"That's it? That's your idea of an apology?"
"No, of course not. I have no reason to apologise, no sins to atone for. I, after all, am not the one consorting with a sorcerer."
Arthur gave Agravaine a long, hard stare. To give him his due, the man didn't flinch, merely gave that slightly superior and smug half-smile back.
"I wouldn't be too sure about that. Do you really think that trying to kill your own son was a something you would do without magical persuasion? We saw him." Arthur gestured towards Agravaine, who merely looked mildly puzzled. "He used a charm on you."
Agravaine gave a short, incredulous laugh. "What rubbish! He's merely trying to protect his omega."
"It was an inhuman thing to do, Uther," Morgana put in.
"Silence!" Uther snapped at her. "This has nothing to do with you!"
"Oh really? And what happens if it's me next time? If I'm bonded to someone you don't approve of? I heard what you said to Agravaine just now, when Arthur climbed up onto the pyre. You said you were going to disinherit him and make me your heir, have me marry someone you felt would make a suitable king." Morgana looked to Arthur and added: "He did. If you didn't give up your omega. So it's got plenty to do with me. And as I said, inhuman."
"The omega isn't protecting you, Morgana," Uther growled dangerously. "Don't let a few careless words cost you dearly."
"They're being manipulated by that man again," Merlin whispered to Arthur. Sure enough, there was something in Agravaine's hand. "He's distracting them."
"Don't you see what he's doing?" Arthur exclaimed. "He's drawing you away from what we just told you. Agravaine is the one you should be burning!" He ignored the incredulous expression on his father's face, and ploughed on regardless. "Don't you see that he's got some sort of charm in his hands? He's manipulating you!"
Agravaine snorted in disbelief. "Uther, you don't believe this nonsense? The boy's mind is addled."
"Show him then," Merlin countered. "Open your hand."
Merlin, Arthur noticed, was starting to tremble slightly. He recalled what his omega had said about the guards. They couldn't stay there much longer.
Agravaine opened his hand. There was a small locket. Grimly he held it up, then clicked it open. Inside was a small lock of golden hair.
"You know whose it is," he told Uther. "I carry it with me always, to remember her."
"Summoning power from the underworld," Merlin snapped, then added just for Arthur's ears: "We have to go. I can't hold them any longer."
"Can we take Morgana?" Arthur hissed back, not wanting to leave her to some unloving husband in a marriage of convenience.
Merlin shook his head. "Not now. I'll barely manage to get us out as it is. Finish this, Arthur."
"Enough of these ridiculous accusations!" Uther snarled. "This is your last chance, Arthur. Give up the omega."
"Then you are no longer my son and heir, and henceforth banished. You have until nightfall to leave the kingdom unharmed. Your omega has no such period of grace."
Arthur inclined his head in acquiescence. "Goodbye, Father."
Uther opened his mouth to speak, but Arthur never heard what it was that he was going to say. The balcony was abruptly gone and replaced by the warm, familiar smell of the stables.
This time it was Merlin who stumbled forwards, collapsing on the floor at Arthur's feet. Arthur's own horse was right there, saddled and ready with a slightly smaller mount beside him. Arthur silently blessed what had to be Leon and Gwaine's foresight. To the two knights, escape on horseback would have seemed the only way out. They had no way of knowing just how powerful Merlin was, or how stupidly thoughtless Arthur had been. If he hadn't wasted time with his father they would both be miles away by now. Merlin would be safe. Quickly he helped his mate up onto the other horse, not liking the way he swayed unsteadily in the saddle.
"Do I need to tie you on there to stop you falling off?" It wasn't a slight. Merlin looked ready to drop again.
"I can ride," Merlin insisted.
"Just hold on," Arthur urged. "I can't lose you."
The grateful, loving look Merlin managed through his exhaustion warmed Arthur through to the core. They only had moments, he knew. For all those who might be unwilling to harm him, there were plenty who would have no concerns about killing an omega and claiming whatever bounty Uther would have put on his head. Already he could hear the shouts from other areas of the castle. It was only a matter of time before they were spotted. Arthur swung up onto his own mount, grabbed the reins of Merlin's horse because he wasn't convinced Merlin was going to be able to do more than cling on, and rode out as fast as he dared given the state Merlin was in.
They cantered through the courtyard. One guard stepped out to stop them at the gate but flung himself aside when he saw Arthur bearing down on him. And then they were out and riding through the countryside, away from Camelot.
Only when the castle was almost out of sight did Arthur slow, and look back. He'd lived his entire life at Camelot. He was supposed to dedicate his life to the service of its people. He had no idea where they were going to go now. Merlin was still leaning over the saddle, barely clinging to it.
Grimly, they rode on to whatever life their future held.