Title: Till Death do us Part
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Arthur/Elena
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther
Summary: Arthur had no choice; he swore to protect Merlin.
Warnings: Just Uther being an arse
Word Count: 995
Author's Notes: Kind of a prequel to In Your Arms and The Reason
Arthur stumbled as he was led out of his cell, his hands shackled behind him and his own father holding onto a small length of chain behind him. Why he thought Arthur would run, the prince had no idea. He had no intention of going anywhere until he had found his lover. He didn’t say anything though, he wouldn’t give Uther the satisfaction of hearing his voice tremble. He had literally no idea what had happened to Merlin since the guards broke down his door and chained him. He didn’t know if the warlock was alive or dead, and he wasn’t going to risk losing his chance to find out by angering his father.
So he just let himself be led on. For a moment, utter confusion crossed his face when another cell was unlocked and he was pushed in. He was convinced they were leading him from the dungeons; his father needed the people to see that his heir was still loyal even if they both knew that wasn’t the truth. But Arthur was a prince of the people; he wouldn’t let them suffer because of something he had done.
But as soon as he saw what was in the cell, he understood.
“Merlin!” The yell rang in his own ears and Arthur hurried forward, only to be stopped short by his father pulling on the chain. He felt like a dog on a lead the way he was forced to stop, hands outstretched behind his back as he tried to get as close as he could to his love.
Merlin looked around, terror in his eyes and fear etched into his face. There was something about the way he forced himself to focus on Arthur’s face that meant Arthur knew he was drugged. There was no other explanation; Merlin wouldn’t still be on the ground shackled when he knew Arthur was in danger. His secret was out and Uther had made it quite clear he would execute Arthur as well if he thought he could get away with it. Merlin wouldn’t have sat idly by waiting to see if Uther was going to carry out that threat or not.
The small smile he managed to send Arthur’s way just confirmed it. There was utter vulnerability in that look, an expression he had never seen on Merlin’s face before. Arthur knew it wasn’t just fear for his own situation that had Merlin looking like that, however. It was because he knew he was helpless to save Arthur until the drug wore off.
“Get on with it,” Uther ordered, yanking Arthur back out of the way and holding the chain close to the manacles to make sure he couldn’t move. It didn’t escape Arthur’s notice his father wouldn’t actually touch him though, he was making sure Arthur was secure just by the chain.
It almost wasn’t enough as guards surged upon Merlin. Arthur heard him cry out. Arthur practically screamed at seeing the noose around Merlin’s neck when they backed away enough to let him see again.
“No! Please, I told you I would do whatever you wanted if you let him go!”
“Arthur, no,” Merlin murmured, his voice lined with pain as the men forced him onto a stool and tightened the rope until Merlin had no choice but to balance or have his neck snapped. The stiffness of his movements meant Arthur knew he had been whipped.
“I will let him go once you have done what is required of you,” Uther snarled. He must have given some sort of signal to the guards, for he let go of Arthur only for the prince to immediately be held by other men.
“What do you want from me?” Arthur knew it had to be something big. There was something bold Uther wanted, then he might stay true to his word. Or he might kill them all; right now Arthur wasn’t sure which was most likely.
“Take him upstairs. Get him cleaned up. It takes place in an hour.”
“What does? Father! What do you want? Let him go!” Arthur didn’t stop fighting as he was led up the stairs.
Servants were waiting but the guards never left the room as Arthur was scrubbed and dressed officially. It didn’t escape his notice they made sure his clothing covered the wounds on his body and the signs of his father’s disapproval. His wrists were lightly bound with a rope and he was led from his room to in front of the great hall. It was only there he was finally released as his father came to join him.
“What is this?” Arthur asked, trying to sound as if he was unafraid. But he couldn’t get the image out of his head of Merlin on the end of the rope and wondered how long his warlock could balance for. Uther glanced at him and sneered.
“I need you to secure the succession so I can disown you. The boy will be released after the ceremony. You have my word.”
The only reason Arthur was listening was because he knew his father still needed him right now. Arthur had threatened suicide if Merlin was killed and right now, Uther couldn’t afford for that to happen.
“But do anything to disrupt the proceedings and my men will kick that stool out from under him and he will choke to death and you will know it was your fault.”
There was a smile back on Uther’s face as he finished speaking and trumpets signalled their arrival.
It was only as the doors swung open and the inside of the hall was revealed that Arthur understood what was going on. He was getting married. For if he didn’t, his lover would be hung.
He had no choice. He had sworn to protect Merlin when he had found out the man’s secret. He would die before he betrayed his word.
His heart back in the dungeon with his love, Arthur stepped forward.