Title: Fury and Forgiveness
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Uther
Summary: It was everything Merlin feared. Arthur hated him.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: I totally did not spend my day at work daydreaming *whistles innocently*
Merlin locked his jaw, scowling at the floor. Uther’s hatred meant nothing to him. But Arthur… The prince was standing next to his father and so far, he had not once looked at his servant. Not when Merlin had been forced into the room, his hands tightly bound behind his back. Not when Merlin had been shoved to his knees and had to stifle a cry of pain. And not now, as Uther paced in front of him and declared the pyre be lit at dawn.
Merlin knew he had hurt Arthur by not telling him the truth. He understood that, knew all too well the sting of betrayal. He could feel it as well; Arthur had made no attempt to defend him but had just stood there, listening to his father ranting.
When Uther paused, Merlin dared look up. As if sensing his gaze, Arthur glanced down at him. There was nothing but anger and hatred in his expression and Merlin flinched. Arthur clearly took that as a sign of weakness as he stalked closer. When he was standing directly in front of him, Merlin looked up again.
Arthur’s backhand was powerful enough that Merlin slumped, gasping. It was the shock rather than the pain. For all their play-fights over the years, Arthur had never hurt him. Merlin felt the fight go out of him. What was the point if his destiny hated him? He stayed quiet and still, meek in a way he had never been before.
“Take him to the cells,” Uther instructed. Merlin knew it would not be a comfortable night in the dungeon. Uther wasn’t angry over his magic – he saw that with cold detachment. It was the fact he had been fooled that meant he wouldn’t let Merlin go to his death with his head held high but would make sure he was dragged out, beaten and humbled, when dawn broke.
“No,” Arthur said. Merlin didn’t dare hope. Instead, he hung in the guards’ grip as they hauled him up from the floor. He scrambled to get his feet under him, but didn’t move more than that.
“Take him to my chambers,” Arthur instructed. “I promise he will be alive for the pyre, Father, but he betrayed me more than anyone. I want my time with him.”
When Merlin looked up, Arthur’s hand was on his sword. He dropped his gaze again as Uther agreed and offered no fight as he was dragged through the castle and shoved into Arthur’s rooms. The door was locked behind him and Merlin dropped to his knees, doubling over in the anguish he had caused by not checking the corridor was clear. These restraints meant nothing, but he didn’t have the motive to escape.
Arthur didn’t leave him waiting for long. As soon as he strode in, he picked up his knife. Blind terror, beyond anything Merlin had ever felt, overcame him. He scrambled back with a muffled sob, reason leaving him as everything he had ever feared came true. Arthur approached him with the knife.
Then he stopped, looking startled.
“For heaven’s sake, Merlin, stay still.”
Shock of a different sort crashed through Merlin. He stopped, staring up at his master as Arthur drew closet. He couldn’t stop his eyes from squeezing shut, only to open them when the blade pressed against his wrists and cut the tight bonds. He remained on his knees, rubbing his sore wrists and staring up at Arthur.
“I had to make my father believe I wanted you dead,” Arthur said, tossing the knife carelessly on the table. “I didn’t think you would believe it.”
“But…Arthur, I have magic.” Merlin didn’t see the point of lying any more.
“You…know?” There was something in Arthur’s tone that made Merlin climb slowly to his feet, staring at the prince. Arthur shrugged.
“I’ve known for years. I forgave you for the lies shortly afterwards and have been amusing myself since watching you squirm. I never thought it would come to this though.”
“You…forgive me?” It was the only part of Arthur’s speech that Merlin had properly heard. Arthur looked at him and his expression softened. Merlin knew his terror was still showing in his eyes.
“Yes,” Arthur said carefully. “I forgive you.”
Merlin felt his knees give way. His nightmares and his dreams were all coming true in one day. Arthur was there to catch him though and he kissed his forehead gently.
“How could I not?”
Merlin didn’t know what to say to that and clung to his lover in a way he thought he had lost. Arthur gave him a moment but then forced him back to his feet.
“You have to go though, Merlin.”
“I can’t leave you.”
“You have to. You have to make it look convincing and get out of here.”
“Convincing?” Merlin frowned at Arthur, who stared back pointedly. Then it dawned on him. “I’m not going to hurt you just to escape!”
“If you don’t, he’ll believe I had a hand in it and will set me up as mad. I’ll never persuade the nobles to site with me. Make it look realistic, Merlin, for the sake of magic.”
Merlin’s head was reeling, unable to believe what he was hearing. But he heard the sense in Arthur’s words. Uther was too furious for Merlin to stay here.
“I’ll come back to you,” he said, “I swear.”
Merlin cupped Arthur’s face, looked deep into his eyes and let the magic swell. Arthur gasped, looking stunned by the magic he could see, before his eyes rolled in his head and he dropped. Merlin slowly lowered the sleeping prince to the floor. Arthur wouldn’t wake until Uther’s anger had turned to genuine concern for his heir and he was reminded that he needed his son alive and sound of mind.
“Forgive me,” Merlin whispered, hoisting Arthur onto the bed before moving to the servant’s entrance. He knew deep down Arthur already had though.