Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: They were stuck, chained together until they learnt to work together.
Word Count: 999
Prompt: Strangers no more.
Author's Notes: I've had this idea for a story for a while now and it seemed to fit the prompt quite well so I thought I would have a play as to whether I turn it into something longer or not.
Arthur couldn’t believe his luck. When was it that a feast never went according to plan? Between plots, schemes and just general chaos, it seemed that his father’s hope that a banquet could be used to ensure peace was a far-fetched notion. But as he stared down at his own wrist, his mind numb to any plan of action, he thought that this might be the most extreme they have had yet.
He could hear the king screaming for the sorcerer to be killed where he stood. But Arthur had had enough encounters over the years – he knew that was going to get them nowhere. The man would be able to defend himself and it wasn’t as if he had actually hurt anyone. In fact, Arthur wasn’t entirely sure what he had just done.
A gleaming manacle was fastened around his left wrist. Arthur’s mind wildly informed him that it was good – it meant he could still use his sword without anyone getting in the way. But he knew that wasn’t the case. Of course someone was going to get in the way. For the other cuff of the manacle was also attached to a wrist. Only not Arthur’s. Instead, it was clamped around the right hand of a very indignant young man. The same man, Arthur couldn’t help but note, he had had thrown in jail just a few days ago.
Arthur stepped forward, dragging the boy with him as he realised just how short the chain between them was. His father fell silent, something Arthur had to wonder was a first. But raising his chin, he let his courage as a prince fill him as he stared down at the man.
“Undo your sorcery,” he ordered, surprising himself with how steady his voice was. The man gave him a look that Arthur didn’t like. He was used to people looking at him with awe or jealousy. He had never seen someone – a complete stranger at that – look at him with such pity.
“Only you can do that, my prince,” the man said, dipping his head softly as he spoke.
“How?” It wasn’t Arthur who spoke this time, but the boy. He looked even more annoyed than Arthur at finding himself shackled to the prince. Arthur was sure that for most people, it would have been an honour, but this boy – Merlin, he remembered his name being – had already made it quite apparent what he thought of Arthur. The man smiled as he stared up at them.
“By no longer denying your destiny. Only when your minds are travelling on the same path will you be allowed to part.”
Arthur stared. What in the name of Camelot was that supposed to mean? He opened his mouth to demand answers, but the man had clearly had enough. Strange words fell from his lips and even as Uther shouted orders again, the man disappeared.
“Kill him,” the king ordered, and it took a second for Arthur to realise he meant Merlin. Before he knew what he was doing, he had stepped in front of him.
“It’s not his fault. Kill him and I could end up chained to a body for the rest of my life. I can solve this, Father,” Arthur spoke quietly, hoping this was one of the rare occasions his father listened.
Taking Merlin by the elbow, Arthur hauled him out of the room, trying to position themselves so no one could tell they were chained together as he dragged him back to his rooms and locked the door. As Arthur made to sink into his chair, he groaned when his wrist tugged as Merlin clearly didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing.
“Just sit,” Arthur ordered, not really thinking about where considering he still wanted his chair. Merlin sank to the floor. After a few moments, Arthur found himself joining him. It saved the pull on his arm at the very least.
“Any ideas how to get this off?” Merlin muttered, tugging at it. Arthur frowned.
“You heard him. We have to be united.”
“So we’re stuck?”
Neither young man knew what to say to that and settled for simply glaring in different directions, tension running through them.
As it happened, it took over a month. There had been small moments along the way where Arthur was sure he could feel the chain getting longer when they had moments of not disagreeing on something. But they were out in the forest when it happened, Arthur desperate to get some air. It was just the two of them and they had walked, for riding was almost a disaster where Merlin was involved and Arthur had no desire to be dragged down into the dirt.
They reached a small cave and although the tingles on the back of Arthur’s neck told him magic was present, he had insisted they go in. A pool lay inside and before Arthur knew what he was doing, he had looked in. Judging by Merlin’s gasp, he knew he had done the same.
Images spread across the pool but Arthur found himself transfixed by the sight of him as king. How long he remained still for, he had no idea. But by the time he found himself blinking again, something had changed. Something in the back of his mind told him the sorcerer had acted for a reason. He needed Merlin in order to complete his journey to being king, although heaven knows why.
He stumbled back from the pool, heart pounding hard. He shouldn’t trust the images; it was magic. And yet he did, something about it had just felt right.
“Hey,” Merlin said softly, drawing his attention. Arthur looked where the other man had pointed and found a smile unfurling on his face.
Somehow, accepting that Merlin was here to stay whether Arthur liked it or not had been enough for the chains to spring open and were now on the floor.
They were free.