Title: The Spoils of War
Pairing/s: one sided Arthur/Merlin
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: It had been nearly a year, and still Merlin couldn't quite get used to living in the grandeur of Camelot. After the small settlement where he had grown up it still seemed far too much, more than anyone could need.
Warnings: Rape, mind control, imprisonment, vile things done to food.
Word Count: 1913 (I got carried away with the darkfic, sorry)
Prompt: 109 - Fond
Author's Notes: This also fills my trope_bingo square 'Mind Control' - that's 20/25 done. Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. Sorry about this one, I'm desperately trying to fill the last few trope bingo squares before the end of the month. Only 2 still free so next week's prompt has a 50/50 chance of being interpreted in a fluffy way, honest.
The Spoils of War
It had been nearly a year, and still Merlin couldn't quite get used to living in the grandeur of Camelot. After the small settlement where he had grown up it still seemed far too much, more than anyone could need.
He gave a tired smile as he passed Will and Freya in the corridor, bickering noisily over some imagined (or not) wrong that Will had done. They'd make it up, they always did. It was like a tiny slice of home, something familiar.
Merlin longed for the settlement, for the open air and the trees overhead. He longed for a time when he was free, when he didn't have to be the man his people looked to for guidance. For a time when they hadn't revered him as their salvation.
He longed for a time when he wasn't the king.
Uther Pendragon, now that was a man who wanted to be king. He had seized the throne decades before, taken the crown and all the power that came with it, and he had used it to do so much harm. Too many magic users had been taken, executed without a second thought. Cleansed from the land as if they were the pestilence he so obviously thought they were. And so they'd risen up, the last of the sorcerers, banded together despite their differences against the common enemy. Merlin, the strongest of them all, had found himself looked up to by most of his kind, pushed to the forefront of battle because what else could he do but protect them. Eventually he had been the one to lead them to victory.
Now he stood outside the king's chambers. His chambers. It still felt very wrong.
He nodded to the guards, thanked them and watched them walk away. There was no need to protect his prize whilst he was there to do so. He took a deep, steadying breath because it didn't feel like a prize, it never had, then unlocked the door.
There was a sudden scurry of movement in the room. Whatever had been happening before Merlin entered was being covered up, hidden. Probably yet another pointless attempt at escape. The prisoner... because that was what he was, no matter how much people referred to him as servant or toy or pet or bedslave (and how wrong were they about that?)... stared at him from the other side of the room, eyes cold and resentful. The influence of that morning's controlling spell had started to wear off and now the true character would be starting to emerge.
"Good evening, Arthur." Merlin took a few steps towards him, saw Arthur flinch, and decided against it. He walked to the window instead, turning his back on the former prince of Camelot.
They would have killed him, of course, if Merlin hadn't accepted him as a tribute. Arthur's father had never even made it to the pyre that had been built for him in the courtyard below, torn apart by the grieving families and friends of those he had killed. It was some form of justice, perhaps. But the son, as far as Merlin could see, had done nothing. Some said that was a crime in itself.
Now that courtyard was teeming with life. Some of his knights were coming back from what looked like it had been a successful hunt. Elyan and Lancelot at the head were laughing over some joke that appeared to be at Gwaine's expense. None of the knights were nobles now, or if they were they didn't flaunt it. There were a few stallholders just visible through the gateway haggling with their customers. Children ran in and out of the doors to the servants quarters, some of them quite openly practicing harmless little pieces of magic they had been shown. Camelot was a safe place for all of them now. Or for all of them except Arthur.
"What were you doing before I came in?" Merlin asked. He still faced the window. There was no reply, so he tried to sound firmer, more forceful. "You know that you will tell me, when I ask again."
Still there was nothing. Merlin bowed his head, knowing what he had to do. He hated this. Hated having the prisoner there, hated the way that he had to keep Arthur under control, but there was nothing else for it. Arthur was strong-willed and he would always, always keep fighting. Perhaps if his father's demise had been cleaner, or if Arthur hadn't witnessed it... but that was all done now and they couldn't go back.
"If you didn't fight me all the time, you know that I wouldn't do this," Merlin turned to face Arthur. He raised his hand, in what had to by now be a familiar gesture. Arthur flinched again, then slowly stood up. There was a time when he had tried anything to get away, hiding behind chairs, crawling under the bed. As if that would block Merlin's magic, stop him controlling Arthur's every move. But these days Arthur stood proud, although Merlin could see the fear in his eyes. Arthur was more defiant than ever, if that were possible. Merlin admired him so much for that. If only they could work together, freely. They could do so much, be an example to magic and non-magic users alike. That was never going to happen, Merlin could see that now. Still, it didn't stop him from trying.
"We'll eat here, tonight," he said, and saw Arthur relax just slightly at the thought of one less ordeal. The servants took their revenge for the Pendragon reign where they could, and when he was under Merlin's control Arthur had to eat whatever was in front of him. Merlin couldn't watch the servants all the time. "Will you behave?"
Arthur considered it, then gave a brief, curt nod. Perhaps, Merlin thought, they were getting somewhere after all.
The meal seemed to please no-one. The servants looked sulky, deprived of their favourite sport. Arthur, forced to eat with his fingers because Merlin didn't trust him with a knife, kept up his stony silence despite further attempts to engage him in conversation. And Merlin found that having to watch Arthur constantly was a chore he could do without after a long day. Or not a chore but something else. Arthur's unbroken spirit and so many other things about him were irresistible.
Merlin could have him in a heartbeat. It was what people thought he did, and the reason Arthur had been gifted to him. He could put Arthur back under his control and then there would be nothing at all that Arthur could do about it. Merlin would never, ever stoop that low. If he ever had Arthur it would be by mutual consent, and that would never happen.
Arthur pushed his plate away. He'd eaten more than he normally did despite his apparent annoyance over the lack of eating implements. He reached over and took an apple from Merlin's plate then sat back and ate it, his eyes never leaving Merlin's.
"Good?" Merlin asked. He didn't expect an answer so it was a surprise when one came.
"Food always tastes better when it's not mixed with spittle or urine or worse. Or has so much salt that I vomit. So yes, good."
Merlin winced. He knew some of what the servants did but rarely caught them at it. Arthur hadn't been sick for a while, but that probably just meant that they'd got the dosage right now. "Perhaps we'll eat in here more often then. You're safe here."
Arthur stared at him as if he'd said something quite ridiculous. "It's not safe in here."
"I have guards posted outside the door constantly. They protect you."
"Protecting me?" Arthur spat. "You really think that's what they do? You don't know anything. When you close the door on me in the morning after you've cast that spell, do you imagine I don't see anyone else in here all day? Some of your guards... you must know what they do. You couldn't be that oblivious. Isn't that why you leave me unable to defend myself? Cast that spell so that I have to do whatever they want?"
"No..." Merlin could feel a twist of horror as Arthur's words struck home. "That's to stop you trying to leave, because you'd never get out of the castle alive. It's to stop you harming yourself, left in here."
Arthur glared at him. "Well it's not working very well. Look." He stood up, pulled up his tunic and yanked at his breeches, dropping them and Merlin could see the marks, the bruises, the dried blood... "This is the protection they deal out. These are the people that you've given authority in this place. You call my father a monster, but can you really say these people are any better?"
Merlin could see a bruise in the rough shape of a handprint on Arthur's hip. He focused on that, staring at it, horrified. "I'm sorry. I didn't know. Let me..." He reached out and healed everything with a swipe of his palm.
Arthur looked at him almost pityingly as he pulled his clothes back on. "Do you really think that's made it go away, Merlin? That I'll forget what they did, or that they won't do it again?"
"Which guards was it? I can make sure they're not left near you again."
"That won't help. There'll be others. There will always be others. What you've done... soon enough there'll be another powerful sorcerer, perhaps even stronger than you. They'll take your crown like you took my father's."
"I never wanted the crown."
"No. It shows. A peace-loving warlock doesn't make a good king in troubled times, Merlin. It won't be long. I might even live to see it. I wonder if they'll keep you alive, spare you like you've spared me? A taste of your own misguided kindness." He walked away, over to the fire, settling down on the mat where he always spent the night. "You'll let me sleep now?"
It was the first time Arthur had ever asked him for it. Merlin sighed, knowing there was going to be no persuading Arthur that night, nor any night. Whatever escape attempt Arthur had been working on earlier could be left for another day. Perhaps Merlin should just let him go, let him take his chances? He didn't know, and couldn't trust anyone enough to ask. Instead he cast the control spell, his eyes flashing briefly, shimmering gold.
Arthur's eyes glazed.
"Sleep now," Merlin ordered. "Dream of happier times." He wasn't sure if the total obedience worked through sleep, but he could try.
Merlin preferred it when Arthur slept. He draped a blanket over him, looking down at him with a fondness that he knew he shouldn't entertain. Arthur was his enemy and always would be. But curled there by the fire he looked for all the world like the harmless pet people said he had become. His expression was peaceful in sleep, a faint smile playing about his lips. Perhaps he was dreaming of freedom, of taking a horse and galloping away out across the countryside with his knights once more at his heels, of hunting for sport, and battles that he won.
Or perhaps he was dreaming of running Merlin through with a sword, taking revenge for everything that had been done to him.
Merlin shuddered, and looked away.