Title: The Blinkered Prince
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana
Summary: Morgana wanted to meet Arthur.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
“It’s alright,” Merlin soothed, drawing Arthur’s hood further over his head. The prince’s head was down and Merlin could feel him trembling. He wondered if this was a good idea, but knew he couldn’t back out now. Morgana would kill him.
He had met the king’s ward by accident the week before and discovered – by pure chance – she believed Arthur was dead. Uther had fed her the same lie for years; a childhood illness had claimed the prince. She hadn’t been sure; it didn’t match the whispers circulating the kingdom about his imprisonment. But with no clue as to where to look, she hadn’t known the truth.
Merlin had been shocked. The good Morgana could have done for Arthur, the companionship she would have offered him, and Uther had deprived Arthur of that. When Merlin had told the prince he had someone else who cared about him, Arthur had backed away. It was clear that Merlin’s introduction to his life had been enough excitement for now. Merlin didn’t know what to do: he had Morgana demanding a meeting and Arthur refusing.
But during one restless day, Arthur had wanted to go out. Merlin had suddenly realised how he could make both things work.
Which was why he was sneaking the prince from his prison in order to meet the king’s ward further down the corridor. Merlin had made it clear to Morgana she had to make sure the guards were gone – if Uther realised what Merlin was doing, he knew for sure he wouldn’t see Arthur again. But she had promised with such a gleam in her eye that Merlin had no doubt she would stay by her word and there would be no one waiting for them.
“I don’t know if this is such a good idea,” Arthur muttered. He had sounded eager before, relishing the chance to break his father’s rules in more ways than one. “What if she doesn’t like me?”
“Who couldn’t like you?”
Merlin winced. He turned to face Arthur, but had to bend his knees in order to look him in the eye. He took Arthur’s chin and gently drew his head up to stop Arthur looking at the floor.
“Your father is wrong,” Merlin said simply. “He is wrong about so many things, but he is mostly wrong about you. She will love you, Arthur. And if she doesn’t… well, then, I’ll deal with her.”
“What are you going to do?”
Merlin grinned and winked. “I have my methods.”
He knew one day he would tell Arthur about his magic. He had a feeling Arthur would accept him – he was more of a victim of Uther’s hatred than Merlin would ever be and he knew Arthur would understand. But it was still early days and Merlin wasn’t going to risk the friendship between them. He was still learning about Arthur and knew meeting Morgana would be enough for now; Arthur couldn’t handle more surprises thrown at him.
They walked slowly along the corridor. Merlin knew only one person was waiting for them – his magic was active and he had no intention of putting Arthur in danger. But the prince ran his hands along the wall and kept stopping to examine cracks. Merlin forced himself to be patient; Arthur only ever saw his room and occasionally Kilgarrah’s own prison.
“I used to sneak out when I was young,” Arthur’s voice was a whisper but Merlin caught every word. “Before there was a lock on the door and he thought telling me to stay was enough. I made it to the surface a few times. I saw the sun. Then he found out.”
Merlin didn’t need to ask what happened next; the sturdy bolt on Arthur’s door was answer. He put a hand on Arthur’s shoulder.
“You’ll see the sun again, I swear.”
“Merlin?” The voice was distinctly female and Arthur flinched. Merlin tightened his grip to stop Arthur from bolting back down the corridor, knowing that him coming this far meant that he was nervous rather than scared.
“It’s alright,” he murmured again and lead the way forward. When he glanced back, Arthur’s head was down. Merlin sighed. It didn’t surprise him Arthur avoided eye-contact.
“Merlin, is that you?” Morgana sounded as nervous as Arthur and Merlin quickly reassured her that it was indeed him. A torch flared to life. She was dressed in a dark dress and also had her hood up. There were no guards though and Merlin knew they were undetected.
“Arthur, come on,” Merlin cajoled, guiding the prince forward. “Arthur, this is Morgana.”
He knew in court, they would have been presented to each other with titles and formalities. But there was no place for them down here. All Arthur needed was another friend. Morgana held out her hand, but Arthur kept his own by his side and she dropped it.
“I thought you were dead,” she said, her voice choked. Arthur nodded, still keeping his head down. Merlin glanced at Morgana – who looked like she was going to cry. He stood in front of Arthur, putting both hands on his shoulders and giving him a gentle shake.
“Arthur, listen to me. It’s safe. She knows, alright? You have nothing to be ashamed or afraid of here. I would never let anything happen to you. Look up.”
He knew that unless Arthur overcame this fear, they would never progress with him. Arthur’s shoulders tensed but his head slowly started to lift. Merlin ducked out of the way and heard Morgana’s intake of breath when she saw Arthur’s eyes. Arthur made to duck his head again, but Morgana rested her hand on his chin, keeping his head up. She smiled, and then sank into a deep curtsey.
“My Prince,” she murmured demurely. Arthur looked totally stunned, glancing at Merlin for a clue to what to do. Merlin smiled at him.
“People don’t share your father’s views, Sire,” he murmured. “You can look them in the eye and stand tall.”