Title: To Trust a Sorcerer
Pairing/s: Gen or Merlin/Arthur depending on your goggles
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius
Summary: Post 2x01 AU, Arthur was not quite as unconscious as Merlin thought he was...
Warnings: Magic Reveal
Word Count: 1,411
Prompt: #92 ~ Reconciliation
Author's Notes: This story is sadly, woefully unbeta'd, so please forgive any errors that may ensue. I had a really difficult time with this prompt, so I hope this isn't complete rubbish. Thanks for reading!
[Better To Serve a Good Man than to Rule With an Evil One...]
The mysteriously glowing blue gem that housed Cornelius Sigan’s soul had conveniently been found on the cobblestones next to Arthur’s right hand when he’d awoken. So naturally, the King had assumed it had been Arthur who had conquered the ancient sorcerer.
But Arthur knew better. Because while he had not been conscious enough to move or to speak, he could still hear…and he had heard everything.
Merlin—his endearingly clumsy, loyal, idiot of a manservant—was a sorcerer. It cast everything he knew about the boy in a new light and explained so much: how , he’d been able to be fast enough to pull Arthur out of the way of the witch’s dagger, why the serpents on Valiant’s shield suddenly came alive where everyone could see, who had healed Guinevere’s father, who had sent the light that had saved him in the Caves of Balor, how Lancelot had been able to kill the Gryphon…the list went on and on. Now that the blinders had been removed, Arthur could see Merlin’s not-so-subtle touches everywhere in the past eighteen months of their shared history.
Moreover, Merlin had unknowingly proven to Arthur beyond a doubt that his father’s views on magic were wrong. Magic itself did not corrupt. How could it if Merlin had it? Merlin, for all his faults, was the probably the purest and kindest hearted person he’d ever met. Even after Arthur had fallen prey to that charlatan Cedric’s flattery, after Arthur had hurt Merlin’s feelings, insulted him, and even locked him in the dungeons, Merlin had still been loyal to Arthur over one of his own kind.
Arthur had had no idea how deeply he had wounded Merlin with his thoughtless actions until he heard him speaking to Sigan. The pain at being misunderstood and the boy’s yearning for acceptance had been a palpable force in that courtyard, and yet, Merlin’s sense of justice and goodness had prevailed.
Better to serve a good man than to rule with an evil one, Merlin had said, and Arthur had never been more humbled, or more grateful.
In the Council Chambers, Arthur had spun a wildly fictitious story to explain how Sigan had come to be trapped inside the gem. While his father had readily believed his tale, it was obvious by Gaius’s incredulous eyebrows that not everyone had been fooled.
Once the meeting had ended, Arthur caught up to the physician under the guise of seeking medical treatment for his wounds. They walked side by side through the castle corridors and neither one spoke until the door to Gaius’s chambers had been closed behind them.
“You know,” Gaius said, with a bone-weary sigh.
Arthur didn’t bother to pretend he didn’t understand. “Yes,” he replied simply.
“I figured as much. ‘The spell reflected off my shield…’ Honestly, Arthur…” Gaius chided with a shake of his head.
“Well, what else was I supposed to say? I certainly wasn’t going to implicate Merlin, even though I doubt that anyone would have believed it even if I had told the truth…”
“Best not to take chances with that sort of thing,” Gaius agreed.
Subdued, Arthur nodded. Then, he glanced toward the closed door behind Gaius’s shoulder and asked, “How is he?”
Gaius looked over his shoulder at the door to Merlin’s room and then back to Arthur. “Oh, he’s not there, Sire.”
Arthur’s brows scrunched up in confusion. “He’s not? Then where is he?” Arthur had a fleeting thought that perhaps he was tending to the injured in Gaius’ stead.
Gaius leveled one eyebrow at Arthur. “Right where you left him, Sire.”
Oh, for the love of…! Merlin had gone ahead and saved Camelot and then locked himself back up in the dungeon?!?
“Right.” Arthur nodded once, grim determination filling his features. “Not for long.”
Arthur found Merlin in his cell, hunched up on a lumpy cot and shivering underneath a threadbare blanket. Even when his key scraped in the lock and the door opened on squeaky hinges, Merlin didn’t turn toward the sound. It wasn’t until Arthur sat upon the creaking cot next to Merlin’s hip and placed a hand on his servant’s shoulder that Merlin finally turned to look at him. Even in the dim lighting of the space, Arthur could see that Merlin’s eyes were red rimmed and wet.
“Come,” was all Arthur said, and wordlessly, Merlin obeyed.
Arthur didn’t stop walking until they reached the grassy knoll of the keep that overlooked the Lower Town. It was still in massive disarray, but the soft pastels of dawn painted the scene with an almost dreamlike quality. Arthur surveyed the area with pride; even battered and bruised, there was no greater city than Camelot. He loved it dearly, and the only reason it was still standing was because of the man beside him, whom—if he allowed himself to admit it—he also loved dearly.
Arthur leaned his hip against the stone wall and faced Merlin. Merlin mirrored the Prince’s action, although he kept his eyes trained on the grass at their feet.
“I’m sorry, Merlin,” Arthur said, his voice soft and warm.
Startled, Merlin’s eyes fixed on Arthur’s. “What?”
“I’m sorry for the way I treated you. You tried to warn me about Cedric, and I was too much of a…What was the word you used? Oh, yes…a clotpole…to listen.”
Merlin’s lips pursed with the effort of holding back a smirk while his cheeks pinked with embarrassment.
“Despite our rather inauspicious beginning, you have been nothing but loyal to me, and you deserved better.”
The blush, Arthur was pleased to note, was now creeping up Merlin’s ears and down his neck. The boy’s eyes skittered away from his as if he couldn’t stand the attention a moment longer.
“And, Merlin?” Arthur waited until he had the servant’s attention again.
Merlin’s eyebrows scrunched together and he tilted his head to the side. “For what?”
“For what you did…with Sigan.”
Merlin’s blue eyes opened impossibly wide before he stammered, “Wh-wh-what are you talking about? I didn’t do anything. I was locked up in dungeons, remember?”
“Oh, I remember, all right. I remember you telling Sigan you wouldn’t allow him to harm me. I remember the spell you used to lock him back into that gem, Merlin.”
Merlin’s whole body was trembling like a leaf, but still, he denied Arthur’s words. Instead, he reached a shaking had toward the bump on Arthur’s forehead and joked tremulously, “Exactly how hard did you hit your head?”
“‘Better to serve a good man than to rule with an evil one,’” Arthur quoted. Merlin blanched and swayed in place until Arthur put one hand on the boy’s shoulder to keep him from falling over.
“It’s all right, Merlin,” Arthur said, rubbing his thumb in a soothing motion along his collarbone as his manservant hyperventilated with panic. “Breathe, just breathe…”
“But…but…” Merlin stammered between gasps of air.
“You tried to tell me that day, didn’t you? In Ealdor?”
Merlin nodded. “And I wanted to dozens of other times since.”
“Then why didn’t you?”
Merlin wiped wetness from his cheeks with the back of one hand. “I couldn’t,” he admitted miserably. “I didn’t want you to hate me. I couldn’t bear it if you hated me, Arthur…”
Arthur shook his head and chucked Merlin gently under his chin. “No matter how crazy you make me at times, Merlin, rest assured that I could never hate you.”
Merlin caught his full lower lip between his teeth and blinked rapidly in a vain attempt at holding back more tears.
“Your secret is safe with me. I promise you,” Arthur vowed. “I shall allow no harm to come to you.”
Merlin sniffled and ducked his head. “Thank you, Sire,” came his very muffled reply.
“Arthur,” Arthur corrected with a smile.
“Arthur,” Merlin amended, pleasure lighting up his whole face.
Arthur wrapped a friendly arm across Merlin’s shoulder and tugged him away from the wall. “And now…” he said, nudging Merlin with his hip, “you can get us some breakfast. I want to hear the tale of how you were able to pull me out of the way of that dagger. As clumsy as you are, I have to assume that some sort of sorcery was involved…” Arthur teased.
Merlin’s bark of surprised laughter was like balm to Arthur’s soul, and taking the resulting indignant shove from his servant good-naturedly, he knew that, magic or not, they would be just fine.