Title: One Day
Characters: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: With the most painful kind of reveal of all, will friendship hold its bond?
Warnings: talk of character death, talk of violence
Word Count: 976
Author's Notes: Sort of cannon future, possibly with an AU twist
Arthur finds his manservant with tear blotched skin. They make him frown, even as a lame part of him is tempted to ‘girl’ joke. Merlin is often so like one, but rare to cry. And these tears are driven by something important.
Something Arthur knows for he is the one who put him in this cell, had him locked into manacles.
He signals for all the guards to leave. A few give questioning looks; he is insistent and so finally they depart. He is left alone with the sorcerer who is not crying for his entrapment, but loss.
Arthur enters the cell, kneeling down upon the ground. Merlin has lied to him now for years. Kept secrets. Been of magic and never said anything. Protected him. Kept Camelot thriving.
It’s all so contradictory.
He moves forward a bit, seeing that the sorcerer’s hands are shaking behind his back as he rocks back and forth like his stomach is plagued by bolts of pain.
Arthur is uncertain of his emotional reaction. He should be livid that Merlin lied to him.
But the reveal is tied into so much pain.
Morgana took Merlin’s mother prisoner. Made her suffer. That monster Mordred made it even worse. Arthur supposes Merlin felt he had no choice. Had to reveal his magic to save her.
But he was too late.
Too late because once again he risked all to save his king first. Merlin had a cruelly unbalanced choice, to rescue his mother who was so far away or to end Arthur’s bleeding, who was just near.
And Merlin picked the closer. Found her dead before he could work his healing. Found her life bled out before he could do anything of magical meaning. And so he screamed at Arthur to punish him. Went wild in the throne room, yelling so loudly it sent shivers down Arthur’s spine. Acted so wild that Arthur had no choice but to restrain him. And to imprison him.
But now he suffers and Arthur feels his own heart suffering along with him. He feels guilty that he was closer, that his servant was too self-sacrificing.
“Merlin.” Arthur whispers, reaching around, removing the manacles, getting his manservant to protest.
“NO. Put them back on. Keep me away. KEEP ME AWAY.”
He should be afraid. Merlin nearly destroyed the throne room with his grief, bringing on the dragon even, leading to chaos before everything was sorted. But oddly enough Arthur is not. He’s known this man for too many years. Cares.
Arthur sits closer, answering wryly. “Don’t be so melodramatic Merlin.”
The sorcerer laughs at that. Like a lunatic. The wild man of magic who couldn’t save his own mother. Tears grow. Make his body shake and shiver. And Arthur edges in even closer, brings him arms up and with all his awkwardness, holds his bony shoulders. “It’s not your fault.”
The rock wall gives a shudder. Arthur steels himself for the blast of magic, yet not retreating. “You need to calm down Merlin. Listen to me. What you’re doing now…that’s why people like me have always feared magic. Calm your mind, alright? That’s an order.”
Merlin laughs again. Cries. Arthur can tell his pain is too enveloping. Too fierce and solid. Still he stays near, not threatened. Not even needing Excalibur to defend: the now known to be magical sword.
He rubs Merlin’s back. Once again awkward. Jilting. He feels the humor lessen the uncontrolled magic. He feels more sense from his manservant and continues his words. “If it’s anyone’s fault it’s mine. You saved me first. But you couldn’t have done more Merlin. Alright? She was too far away. Even if you had gone to her first, there probably wouldn’t have been enough time. Merlin, Mordred was too strong. He could have killed you too.”
He hears Merlin let out dryly, choked still by his heavy sobs, “Better…then. You always complain. Could have had a better servant.”
Arthur smiles a fraction, pondering the ceiling as he admits the truth. “Oh Merlin, I don’t want a better one. You are my friend Merlin. The best I’ve ever had. That’s why I put you here. Because YOU wanted it. But you’re no criminal and you did no wrong. You were right. The dragon was. We are like two sides of a coin, you and I. You’ve shown me the truth of magic.”
“It’s EVIL. I AM.”
“No Merlin.” Arthur coaxes, still rubbing awkwardly.
“I’m the one who poisoned Morgana. I did it because otherwise you would have died. But I POISONED her.”
It’s a shock to Arthur, but he lets it go for the moment, knowing this needs to be said. “My father did all he could to rid the land of magic because he believed it killed my mother. But I realize now it was not magic alone. It was situations and fate. It’s the same here Merlin. I believe your magic has never been used for evil. I see now it is part of how you breathe and live. And I’d be a monster to want to bind that. To let you believe your mother’s death is your fault. Merlin…”
Arthur feels Merlin fall forward at that, too wrecked with emotion. Too flooded with agony and anger. “It’s my fault.”
“No.” Arthur states solidly, giving up on the rubbing and holding his manservant instead. Still unaccustomed. Still nearly childish in action to be amusing. But it’s a heart filled attempt. “I’ll never let you believe that. You did no wrong. You’re a clumsy idiot, but you did no wrong.”
“And you’re an egotistical prat.” Merlin mutters out.
Arthur smiles, friend in his embrace. This won’t end soon. Merlin will have to cry himself out. But it’s a start.
His innocence is gone. But one day the lightness will return.