nekare: (Elektra)
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EEK, MERLIN FIC. I DON'T EVEN KNOW, YOU GUYS. Still, I really like this and I had a blast writing it and it got me to write fic again after a bazillion years, so all in all, WIN. In honor to the show being renewed (;lsjdfasjf!!!) and of Arthur's bratty ways and of Merlin's creepy adorably smirks and that fact that today is FINALE day, omg, what will I do without the show for so lonnnng.

Title: Prophesy
Word Count: 7290
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Summary: In which Merlin dreams, and sometimes, his dreams come true.
Author's notes: Betaed by the lovely [livejournal.com profile] such_heights. Written because of my immense and rather surprising love at this little fantastically gay show. Why did I choose to show said love with serious ominous fic instead of crack, I have no idea, but that is how things go, I suppose.


Prophesy

There is a kingdom, its name stuff of legend, never to be forgotten. There is a sword, its name almost as famous, but that has only just begun. There is a king, and there is a magician, but sometimes they’re just boys, just a prince and a servant.

Prince and King and legend – time is not linear, and there is a moment, a place in time, when they’re all true. It’s hard to access that place, where all of time is visible and there to read. Some people dedicate their lives to getting there, and when they do, they invariably regret it.

There are also some that don’t ask for it, that get the sight without having a choice in the matter just because Fate has ordained it so.


----


Merlin dreams. He dreams of Camelot, thriving with life, brighter than he’s ever seen it. He dreams of light filtering through the throne room’s windows, casting Arthur’s hair golden, a match to his crown.

He sees himself standing by Arthur’s side, older, more lined, sees himself wearing the Pendragon colors, not a servant anymore. He can feel the magic at the tip of his fingers, trained and controlled, but so much of it it almost hurts.

Arthur waves a gloved hand in his direction, still staring ahead at the emissary in front of him, still looking more regal on his throne than his father ever did. This is an enemy, and there’s conquer on his mind. Merlin leans over and whispers in his ear, and Arthur nods, heeds his advice, and when he speaks his word is law.

Merlin calls him my King.

Later, they meet at the armory, or in one of their chambers, or outside of the city walls, looking for a menace to defeat, and Arthur is only Arthur and he calls Merlin his worst magic counselor ever, because old habits die hard. Merlin laughs, and so does Arthur, and they ride together; friends, allies, with Camelot’s flags flapping in the wind behind them.

Merlin dreams this, of Arthur scratching at his beard when he’s worried about his kingdom, about his people; dreams of himself performing magic so powerful it burns at his skin for a moment, with Arthur’s encouraging hand on his shoulder. He dreams of a kingdom so magnificent, its name will never die.

He wakes up almost choking on the grandness of the vision, overwhelmed, and then he remembers he has to clean Arthur’s armor, and the dream fades to next to nothing.

It comes back every time Arthur saves someone, every time he gets glimpses of the king he’ll one day become, and then the dream doesn’t feel that far at all.


----


Merlin spends the next few days in a daze, an echo of the dream overlapping reality.

“Oi, what is wrong with you?” Arthur asks, batting Merlin’s hands away while Merlin is halfway through readying him for training. “You laced it all wrong and my shirt is backwards and the armor is too loose.”

A bit of silence while Arthur catches his breath, and then, “Also, my boots need polishing.”

Merlin could about kill him, the insufferable twat. Sod off, are the words on the tip of his tongue. What he says is, “Sorry, sire, won’t happen again, sire, should I polish those boots with my spit, sire?” which isn’t actually better but there you go.

Arthur rolls his eyes and pushes him away, starts dressing himself all over again, which only goes to prove he’s actually quite capable of doing so, and that’s he’s just a lazy bugger. Since that dream, Merlin has been irritated all the time, on edge. He doesn’t quite know what to make of it.

“Oh, just – just go do something else.” Arthur waves him away, and Merlin goes to the kitchens and announces that the prince would like his venison bloody today, something that he knows perfectly well Arthur hates. Arthur whines all day, and then forces Merlin to wear the stupid feather hat at dinner.

Some days, the dream feels close, and some others, it’s just hard to believe it could ever come true.


----


“I had a nightmare last night,” Merlin once tells Will as a small child. “There was a lot of fire, it was really scary.” They’re playing in the fields surrounding Ealdor, trying to escape their chores.

“Being afraid of dreams is stupid,” Will says, shading his eyes with his hand and waving a stick around, just because.

A seven-year-old Merlin pouts. “Is not.”

“Is too.”

They end up squabbling, shoving each other and then running back to their mothers to tell on the other boy.

Six weeks later an entire family dies in a fire.

Merlin thinks nothing of it all and forgets about it, but Will never does, and in hindsight, it’s only natural he wasn’t surprised when Merlin confessed about his magic.


----


In his dream, it is dawn, and he and Arthur are surrounded by dead creatures, black chainmail over viscous, wrinkled skin. They look like they might have been men once, but it’s hard to tell. It is black magic that keeps them running, an enchantment so powerful it makes Merlin want to gag.

The armor and chainmail feel heavy on his shoulders, and as he runs through another of the creatures his sword is unpractised in his hand, even after years of wielding one. There’s magic flowing through his sword, through his arm, helping him far more than Arthur’s training ever has, and when Arthur yells That’s cheating, Merlin, he laughs, a bit, kicks another creature before stabbing it, says, My bad, sire, mocking.

If Uther were still alive he would see this invasion as proof of all magic’s inherent evil, but he’s not, and Arthur is more than willing to fight fire with fire. Times have changed, people have changed, Merlin has changed, and as he ponders this he lets his magic surge, flow out of him and finish another couple of creatures, easy as breathing.

Arthur is graceful even when killing. He’s always in movement, his sword an extension of his body, making broad arcs in the air, stained red to the hilt. His hair is plastered to his head with sweat. With a battle cry, he beheads the last of the things before it can skewer Merlin, and then they’re staring at each other, alone in a sea of corpses, breathing hard.

They reach for each other at the same time, Merlin’s hand on Arthur’s nape, pulling his head down, and Arthur’s hand clutching at Merlin’s tunic, bunching the fabric between his fingers as he brings Merlin closer. They crush their mouths together, painful, teeth clicking for a moment before their tongues slide together, messily. They’re both tense, bodies humming with the thrill of battle, and their kiss is aggressive, almost violent.

Arthur’s nose digs into Merlin’s cheek, but he gives it no mind, feels warm with Arthur’s teeth biting at the corner of his mouth, golden hair between his fingers, which he grasps harder until Arthur gasps. They’re still holding their swords. There’s blood on both of their faces, the red too dark to be human.

When they pull apart, even more breathless than before, Merlin can still feel his blood throbbing in his ears, but he feels more focused, centered. They look at each other through half-lidded eyes, wanting, but there is a time, and this isn’t it.

When Merlin finally looks around, he can see the fields around them are devastated, bodies covering all, dark blood sipping into the ground. The crops are ruined. One by one, Arthur’s knights regroup, looking weary but triumphant. Arthur smiles, and Merlin mourns for the soil, because no one else will.

If he closes his eyes, concentrates, Merlin can feel Nimueh’s wrath at her army having been savaged. If anything, Merlin is triumphant about that.

After, Camelot celebrates, for they have won a war.


----


Merlin wakes up sweating, terrified out of his mind. He’s not sure if he’s afraid of such a vision of destruction, all those bodies, or of his own bloodlust. Or maybe of Arthur, and the warmth that spreads through him when he thinks of him so close.

For two days, he starts every time Arthur calls his name.


----


He dreams of a girl that drowns before Arthur can reach her, her straw doll floating next to her. The next week the same girl is covered with a sheet, Arthur looks defeated, and Merlin starts believing that there might be something true about his dreams after all.


----


“I dreamed of you, Merlin,” Morgana says softly behind him on one of the palace’s stairs. She catches up to him. Merlin is in a hurry, but he stands still because Morgana’s sheer presence demands the attention, and her nightmares even more so.

“I dreamed you were dreaming,” she says, chin held high, such a strong character. “I do wonder what that means.”

There’s a moment of silence, in which they look at each other, and Merlin actually thinks for once before speaking. “It probably means we have the same worries, my lady,” he says, and they’re no longer being coy, not hiding that she knows because she’s probably dreamt it, and that he knows because he’s already seen it. Magic binds together all of those who possess it.

Morgana nods, then gives him a small smile. She’s looking even more striking than usual today, green gown and eyes the same color and hair framing her face, and if Merlin didn’t know her, if he hadn’t seen her so desperate to save a strange child, he might think she couldn’t possibly be real.

They’d been speaking in whispers, but when Morgana speaks again she does it in her normal tone. “Gaius’ sleeping medicine isn’t working anymore,” she says, like she’s letting him in on a secret.

“It seems it doesn’t, no,” he says, smiling back. “I’ll let Gaius know.”

Morgana nods at him, starts walking away. “Thank you, Merlin.”

Later, he and Gwen sneak into the kitchens for a midnight snack, as the feast in the Great Hall ends. They’ve been drinking, and they laugh like children every time they can hear someone passing by and have to hide. It’s the most he’s seen her smile since her father died a season ago, and if she needs to be half drunk to do so, Merlin won’t say anything about it. They end up sitting on the floor, backs against a wall. Gwen says something about her lady – something about her dress, and a hole in it, perhaps, but Merlin really couldn’t be sure. He remembers his earlier conversation with her, and takes advantage of the conversation topic.

“Morgana still gets a lot of nightmares, then?” he asks, only half innocently, while biting into an apple.

Gwen sighs, worried. “Yes. She says she doesn’t so I won’t worry as much, but I can always tell if she has one – she looks sick the next morning, you see.” She’s frowning, almost as if she was blaming herself for not being able to help Morgana. He touches his knee to hers, and she smiles a bit.

Gwen cares too much, too deeply, about everything and everyone but especially about those she loves. Merlin knows one day it might be her undoing, but for know it’s what makes him like her the most.

“I’m sure she appreciates the concern.”

She nods. “The calmer she is she has fewer dreams. Physical exertion helps, too.”

Merlin looks at her curiously. “And how does she manage that?”

Gwen blushes. “We. Um. You mustn’t say, but we sometimes sneak into the armory at nights and practice swordsmanship,” she says, looking nervous, and Merlin laughs.

“No wonder you both are so good at fighting.”

“Morgana had lessons when she was younger, alongside Arthur – she used to beat him, and his sulks, they were legendary!” she laughs, eyes far away, and Merlin sometimes forgets she’s been serving the royal family for almost her entire life. It makes him feel like a bit of a stranger, in their small little circle of four. Gwen continues her story. “Uther deemed it unladylike once she got older. She loves it, though, and I’m a blacksmith’s daughter, it’s practically in my blood.” She sounds exhilarated, alive, and Merlin should really try and watch them in one of their practices, because he’s sure they’re a sight to behold.

“Better you than me,” he says, laughing. “I can hardly tell the pointy edge of a sword.”

“Oh, believe me, Merlin, we’ve all noticed.”

They laugh together, and eat one of the pastries destined for the royalty. It tastes rather too sweet.


----


That night, he dreams of Morgana, alone in the woods, eyes too bright and hair everywhere. She’s talking to herself, planning someone’s demise, and Merlin vows to not let it happen.


----


Gaius is teaching him how to make a medicinal potion, how to use his magic so subtly it won’t be noticed and yet do a world of difference for the sick person in need of it.

“You think I could see the future?” Merlin asks out of the sudden, and Gaius raises his eyebrows at him.

“Probably. We can never tell for sure, with your powers.” He indicates he should stir harder, and points at the next herb he should use. “The real issue here, Merlin, is whether you would want to.”

Merlin frowns, stirs too hard and has to start all over again.

The answer is no, he doesn’t really want to, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.


----


Some nights, he dreams of a sky so gray it hardly deserves the name, of machines running down streets fast enough to make him dizzy, of weapons that can kill from afar, of so many witch burnings the smoke covers the sun, of kings beheaded by their own people.

Those are the worst dreams, the scariest, and he doesn’t even want to begin to understand them.


----


A spy from a neighboring kingdom is discovered working in the kitchens during the day and stealing war plans at night. Uther orders his death immediatly.

It’s a crowded affair; executions in Camelot are nothing if not common, but this time it’s not one of their own, not a child-witch or an old man that meddled with the wrong herbs, and their consciences are appeased as they set out to see a man die. The crowd cheers as the axe falls – people want blood, call for it, and Uther gives it to them, ever the merciful king.

Merlin stays in his room. He’s refused to watch an execution since that first one on the day he arrived to Camelot. He can still listen to the cheers out in the courtyard, though, and he’s thankful for the distraction when Arthur summons him to his rooms to complain over something or other Merlin didn’t clean just quite right. Arthur’s drinking, even if it is but noon, and he paces along the room. It’s only until the castle goes silent that he sighs, and he goes outside again. He does this most of the times there’s an execution, whatever the reason for it, and when Merlin asked why, long ago, he just said he’d had enough of them to last him a lifetime.

At his most morbid, Merlin wonders if this would apply if it were him on the block. At his most cheerful, which is more often, he allows himself to hope for no more killings once the future king reigns.

The Crown Prince of Camelot is sent out to give back the spy’s head to its monarch.

The entire court is present, and Arthur nods gravely, says he shall set out in the morning with his best knights. There is a feast, then, when hours ago there had been a death, people dancing and toasting each other and flirting. Merlin serves wine, and wonders if he’ll ever truly understand court life.

“Isn’t that too extreme, though? The head bit?” Merlin asks, after, folding one of Arthur’s shirts.

“It’s about giving a message, Merlin,” Arthur says, rolling his eyes. “We can’t exactly give off the impression of being weak.”

“Well, yes, but isn’t it a bit risky for you of all people to go? What if they decide to kill the messenger?”

“For goodness’ sake, Merlin, I’m not a damsel in distress. I can take care of myself.” Merlin snorts. “And I heard that.”

When Merlin goes looking for him that night, the dragon says, “Take a sword with you,” before Merlin even speaks at all.

He frowns. “How did you even know I planned to go?”

“Ah, but where one goes, the other follows, is it not, young warlock?”

Merlin sits on the ground, thinks of his dreams. “You can see the future,” he says. A statement, not a question. The dragon flips its wings, smiles in its own way.

“There is a veil over the days to come. It parts a mere inch for you, lets you see glimpses. Your abilities are still developing, Merlin – you shall part the veil in time.”

Merlin groans, irritated. “I don’t want to see,” he says, kicking pebbles over the edge. The dragon laughs. It didn’t even answer the question.

“You don’t get to choose your destiny - you are born into it.”

When Merlin turns around to leave, the dragon speaks again, its voice carrying in the stone passage. “Take a sword. You never know,” it tells him, in the tone of someone who obviously does.

In the morning, Merlin rides after Arthur, even when he was forbidden to do so.


----


"I cannot believe how useless you can be,” Arthur says when he nearly stabs Merlin after discovering him skulking around camp. The tip of his sword is still against Merlin’s neck. Merlin gives him a watery smile from the ground, and Arthur sighs, offers him a hand. “Come on, you’ll freeze in here. We have a fire going.”

The other knights laugh when they see Merlin. “Your loyal defender, sire,” the youngest says, looking impressed at his own daring, and Arthur’s glare has him shuffling his feet and shutting his mouth and not opening it for days afterwards.

They sit together, Merlin and Arthur, as close to the fire as possible because even with spells keeping him warm Merlin could hardly feel his fingers by the time he was found. Arthur shakes his head and offers him some mead to get his blood going.

“You just can’t do what you’re told, can you,” he says, and it’s not a question at all.

Merlin spares a glance to his horse, reunited with the others, still tetchy about the fright Arthur gave it. “You should be used to me showing up to help you by now,” he says, and he normally wouldn’t say anything of the sort, would probably just smile and evade the comment, but he’s warm and the mead is sweet on his tongue and he feels good, contented.

Arthur snorts. “I am getting used to it, that’s the problem,” he says, and Merlin might not be the only one being too honest tonight.

Arthur doesn’t comment on the sword Merlin’s carrying, but he does make a face at it.


----


He is running through the trees, green everywhere he looks. He can hear Arthur’s labored breath by his right, watching his back even when he’s so tired that walking fast is a strain. There is something after them, so ancient and powerful it makes shivers travel down Merlin’s spine, has him on edge.

There is running and there is tripping and there is Merlin’s magic opening a path for them, and there are welts and cuts on their faces from branches where Merlin’s magic wasn’t enough. His heart is racing, and he’s terrified down to the bone.

There is a lake, too, at the end of the woods, familiar and not because it’s been years, but there is a lake and Merlin can almost taste the triumph on the back of his throat, can almost feel the sword warm still from the dragon’s breath as he hands it over to Arthur.

They wade in. The water is cold, enough to make his teeth chatter. The water only reaches their knees when there is a sound behind them, so loud their ears hurt, and then the creature is there, under the sunlight, roaring and making his blood run cold, and Merlin –

– Merlin wakes up.


----


Merlin wakes with a gasp. He rolled closer to the fire in his sleep, and there’s sweat on his face and neck, pooling at his collarbones. Arthur is sitting beside him, knees drawn and elbows on them. “What did you dream about?” he asks, face in a frown.

“Destiny,” Merlin says, still half asleep, and Arthur stares a bit but says nothing.


----


When they get to Glywysing, they are expected. The severed head is one of the first things that gets lost in the skirmish, which is somewhat ironic. They are ready for attack, though, which is the only reason half of them don’t die within minutes.

Merlin does magic by instinct, in an odd way of self-preservation – he throws one of Glywysing’s knights into a tree before he can put a knife through him, and he doesn’t even realize what he did until it’s over and done with. For a moment, he’s thankful for the distraction battle allows, because no one seems to have noticed. He takes a deep breath, steels himself, and draws his sword. It feels foreign in his hand, but it starts feeling less so as he charges ahead.

The attackers know who Arthur is. They keep on trying to break him apart from the group. Not even Arthur can fight four men at once, and there’s a slow, dragging moment when he falls off of his horse, but then he’s getting back to his feet and Merlin can breathe again.

Merlin follows, because that’s what he does. He’s not that much of a rider, so he leaves his horse behind, hopes it’ll be fine.

“You idiot,” Arthur says over the sound of steel clashing when he sees Merlin coming, but without any bark. Merlin smiles.

A thrust, a cry, and there’s only two riders left. Another one follows soon after, by Merlin’s hand – almost an accident, a stroke of luck – but the last one proves hard to kill.

They find themselves deeper into the woods, running blindly through the foliage, trying to get an edge over the riders. I’ve seen this before, Merlin thinks, and it is so vivid, the memory, soft light filtering through the branches and Arthur behind him and any moment now – any moment now the earth will crack and the skies darken and there will be a lake, and the sword in the bottom of it will be their only hope against the horror behind them, and then.

Then nothing, because Merlin pushes Arthur out of the way and the remaining rider sinks his sword into his arm and then there is only reality, and Arthur calling his name and blood slipping through his fingers as Merlin holds the wound down.

The knight is circling them, his horse whining. Merlin almost wishes it had red eyes or that his hooves would leave fiery imprints on the ground, but it is only a regular horse, with a regular human on it, and Merlin can’t use magic against them.

“Stay behind me,” Arthur says, unnecessarily. Merlin raises his sword again, but he’s losing too much blood, and his vision is swimming, his knees week. Back to back, they wait together for another attack.

In the end, Merlin exhales pure magic into the horse’s head, reservations forgotten, scares it enough to give Arthur a window of attack, for him to sink his sword into the rider’s belly, to pull it out and watch him fall to the ground. The horse flees, alarmed.

There’s silence, and then they’re alone with a corpse between them, breathing hard. They’re still both holding their swords. Arthur is not king yet, and Merlin is but a servant, but the moment feels worn, threadbare, already lived-in, and Merlin wants to sink into it, and wants to escape it at the same time. Past and present and future melt together, for a moment.

“This has already happened,” Merlin says. He gives a step forward, two, and in a moment Arthur is going to reach for him, and then Merlin will, Merlin will – but when Arthur grasps him it’s to catch him before he hits the ground. “You’re bleeding too much,” he says, as he makes Merlin sit on the ground. “Damnit, Merlin, hold still for a moment.”

“This wasn’t – this isn’t how it goes,” Merlin mumbles, but he’s dizzy and Arthur is tearing the hem of his own tunic to use as a bandage and Merlin just wants to sleep, so he does, and only wakes up when there’s a sharp slap across his face. “Ow, damn you,” he says, groggy and tired and irritated. He can feel Arthur sigh in relief beside him.

“You’re not allowed to talk to me like that,” he says as he helps Merlin to his feet.

“Damn you, sire, then.”

Arthur huffs with tense laughter, and then visibly stops himself, curls his hands into fists and purses his lips. He closes his eyes for a moment, let’s his head fall back. There’s sunlight in his hair, in his face, and Merlin’s breath catches. He can see when Arthur swallows. When Arthur opens his eyes, there’s a steely quality to them.

“Let’s go,” he says.

They drag themselves to their starting point, going slow. There are only two knights remaining of the six that rode out of Camelot. Merlin’s horse is all right, merrily eating some grass next to a corpse’s hand, but two others didn’t fare as well. “What now, sire?” one of the knights asks. He’s covered in grime, like the rest of them.

Arthur turns his head away. “Camelot,” he simply says, teeth clenched. More than anything, Arthur hates retreating, hates it with his very soul, but even he can recognize a lost cause when he sees one.

The ride back home is silent, Arthur eerily detached, and Merlin aches and hurts, his arm throbbing, but he knows Arthur’s pride must be in worse condition. They have to keep making sure the bodies piled on the extra horses don’t fall.

By the time they dismount in the courtyard, Merlin has developed a fever. He stands on wobbly legs and pats his horse’s neck, eyes half closed with pain and exhaustion, and then Arthur is there, hand closed around Merlin’s wrist hard enough to hurt, and head close to Merlin’s.

“I saw, you know. What you did,” he whispers into Merlin’s ear, his tone harsh and furious. For a moment, Merlin doesn’t understand what he’s talking about, and then he remembers, remembers the magic on his breath as he scared the horse away, remembers the bright colors it painted itself as it left his body, and how natural it had felt.

His eyes open wide, terrified. Arthur lets go of his arm violently, pushes him away. “Get out of my sight,” he growls. Then he turns around and walks away and Merlin’s knees give out.


-----


Legend says, the first thing Arthur says to Uther is, “We were expected. There is another spy in Camelot.”


----


Merlin burns in fever. When he closes his eyes he sees castles with no turrets and lands so far away he can’t even begin to measure the distance and Gwen wearing a crown, dancing with Arthur as Merlin watches from the high table. When he opens his eyes there’s pain, so he keeps them closed.

He’s dimly aware of Gaius making him drink potions, of Gwen’s gentle hands smoothing his brow and putting wet rags on his face, of Morgana’s anxious enquires of his health. No Arthur, and that’s a new hurt.

He starts losing his sense of time, confuses present with future and chatters of government matters with a king Arthur hasn’t become, calls Gwen my lady. For one second he’s the boy in Ealdor and the servant in Camelot and the magician in Arthur’s tent at wartime at the same time.

“He’s delusional,” he can hear Gwen say in between dreams. She sounds worried.

“Not completely,” Morgana says. “There’s something true about his words.” She leaves it at that, enigmatic.

Merlin sees them as lady and maid and as witch and queen but always legends, the both of them. His lips are cracked and dry from speaking so much, a neverending flow of words, that, were he conscious, he would wish no one could understand.

There is a rumble in the earth, the growl of a dragon as the visions, more abstract now, get worse, threaten to keep him buried in these future memories, and then there’s a bitter taste on the back of his throat and he pulls free.

When the fever finally breaks and he opens his eyes, he’s greeted by three eager, smiling faces. The roof is a different color than it used to be, no doubt by his own hand. “Arthur will have me killed,” he says, his voice hoarse. Only he probably won’t, because fate has other thing is store for them, his dreams attest to it.

Gwen frowns. “What are you talking about? It was Arthur that got the herb that saved you.”

“You’re making it a habit, it seems, saving each other’s lives,” Morgana says with a smile. “‘Better not to tempt fate,’ I think is what Arthur said.”

Once they’re alone, the girls off to sleep after days of caring for him (and he is so grateful, feels so very warm at the affection), Gaius says, “You did a great deal of magic, Merlin.” He shakes his head as he helps Merlin sit up. “You should count yourself lucky that this city is far too used to strange occurrences, and that that tremendous power of yours kept itself to making children’s tongues turn blue and make pigs chirp like birds.”

“Really, I did that?”

“No need to sound so proud about it, Merlin, truly.”

It’s been four days since Merlin slipped into unconsciousness, but he still has the bruise on his wrist where Arthur grabbed him.


----


There is a witch hunt indeed, but of a different, less literal kind. The spy is ratted out three weeks after their return to Camelot, turns out to be a cook that used to give extra portions to Gwen and Merlin.

In this time Merlin has almost managed to convince himself Arthur won’t tell his father about him, so the execution unnerves him, leaves him shaken.

Camelot is in the brink of war, foreign relations with Glywysing tangibly strained. A spy is one thing, but attacking the Crown Prince a very different one. The very atmosphere feels tense, people nervous and anxious and mostly keeping to themselves. Merlin finds himself interested in politics, and following the attempts at peace talks. Anything to distract him of the way Arthur hasn’t even looked his way for weeks.

He doesn’t like it, not one bit, but Arthur feels rather like a phantom limb, and he sometimes catches himself talking to someone who isn’t there, bantering with thin air. If he’d known this on his first day in Camelot, he probably would’ve laughed. Him? Miss the royal prat, the obnoxious little prince? Never, surely.

And yet.

“Will he ever forgive me?” he asks the dragon, but it says something cryptic and useless and Merlin sighs, turns around to leave.

“You’re still in possession of your head, aren’t you, Merlin?” the dragon says, and maybe its got a point.

In the end, it’s magic that brings them together again.

Arthur drops his sword to the ground, like a child in a tantrum, when Merlin steps in and saves him from a Chimera, his hands still glowing with magic.

“Oh, God, won’t you stop it?”

“Stop what?” Merlin asks, the adrenaline speaking for him – it’s the first time he directly talks to Arthur in weeks.

“Stop saving me! Stop condemning yourself even further, damnit!”

Merlin licks his lips, cracked and on the verge of bleeding, swallows hard. “I can’t do that,” he says, tone so light he’s not even sure Arthur heard him for a moment.

“Pray tell, why not?” Arthur says at his most sarcastic, and Merlin must be insane because he sees that as a good sign overall.

Because it’s my destiny would sound so very trite. “Because I just can’t,” Merlin says, lamely, because he can’t figure out what else to say.

Arthur sighs, a gloved hand rubbing at his forehead. “Just leave. I can’t surround myself with people I can’t trust.”

“You can trust me,” Merlin says, still slightly out of breath and then there’s no breath at all in his lungs because Arthur turns around suddenly and slams him into a tree, near painful.

“Trust you? You lied to me!” he says, lips curled, furious.

“Is this about the lying or the magic?” Merlin asks, perhaps too daring. He can tell by Arthur’s expression that he hit a soft spot.

“Both!” comes the response, a bit too late to be believable.

They’re standing too close, Arthur red in the face from shouting, his hands flat against Merlin’s shoulders, pressing him into the bark. He pulls away with an irritated groan. Merlin stays put, lets his head rest against the tree.

“I’m meant to protect you. To help you rule wisely.”

“I don’t need advice to rule.”

“Yes you do.”

“All right, so I bloody do. But you don’t figure anywhere in the equation, Merlin.” He kicks the chimera’s corpse lightly with the tip of his foot, frowning, hands on his waist. Merlin has missed hearing his own name on Arthur’s tongue.

“You were born to be king, sire. I was born to do magic. I can’t help what I am anymore than you can.”

Arthur huffs. “You lied to me.” He sounds like a lost child.

“Yes. I’m sorry. You surely understand why.”

Arthur nods with his eyes closed, head thrown back for a moment. He picks up his sword. “Let’s go back home.”


----


Three days later, the negotiations end.

War is declared on Glywysing.

Uther stands from his throne, looking grand and regal as he raises his cup towards his court. “To victory,” he says, chin high, and the entire room repeats the words.

Arthur doesn’t drink, for he rides to battle the next day.


----


Gaius wakes him up at dawn. “You seem to have a prince to dress,” he says, eyebrows raised. Merlin doubts it for a moment, wonders if it’s all a mistake, but when he gets to Arthur’s chambers said prince is actually waiting for him, looking fidgety in his nightshirt, sitting at the edge of his bed.

“Took you long enough,” he says, not quite like usual but getting there, and Merlin dares a smile.

“Well, you know me, always tripping on things.” Arthur just snorts.

Merlin dresses Arthur for battle. With every piece of the armor, Arthur leaves the prat and the pampered boy behind, becomes the Crown Prince of Camelot and its best warrior. Merlin is a bit awed at the transformation, always has been, even if he’s seen it a thousand times by now.

When he’s done, he stays close, for a moment, and doesn’t really realize it until he can feel Arthur’s breath on his face, and can see his confused eyes. Arthur doesn’t step back, stays right where he is, and it’s heady, this strange intimacy between them born out of lies and truths and reveilings. Merlin thinks of his dreams, of the easy camaraderie and stolen nights hiding in years to come. He’s never actually allowed himself to believe they’re all true.

Merlin coughs, Arthur looks away, and the moment is over. “I could help,” Merlin says, the first time he mentions it to Arthur although he was already planning on going anyway. His infected wound took a toll on him, though, and Gaius threatened to drug him just to keep him in Camelot.

Arthur shakes his head, starts walking to the door. “You’ve just been wounded, you’d be useless.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“You wouldn’t,” Arthur agrees with a sigh, and they both know what he’s talking about. “But it’s far too risky. You’re to stay here, and I mean it this time.” He stops in the doorway, hits the wood with his loose fist once, lightly, and then, like a concession, he says before he goes, “there’s always the next time, Merlin.”

Not even an hour later, when Arthur strides into Gaius’ rooms, without knocking of course because he’s too damned royal for that, Merlin is sitting on the bench, spreading ointment on the scar on his arm. It’s still bright red, but Gaius swears by a plant that will supposedly make the color grow fainter. Arthur stops at the sight of it, frowns and swallows but then he moves forward again. They’re still in uneasy terms with each other, and even if it weren't for the fact that Arthur should probably be going to war right now, his presence here would still feel foreign.

“Did you need something else?” Merlin asks, but Arthur doesn’t answer, just takes a deep breath and walks towards him, leans down, slots his mouth to Merlin’s and kisses him without a reservation.

There’s a slight pause, and then Merlin kisses him back, both familiar and new and exhilarating, Arthur’s hands on his jaw. It’s a bit aggressive, and a bit awkward. Merlin tries to stand up, but Arthur won’t let him; he puts his hands on Merlin’s shoulders and shoves down. “I cannot linger,” he mumbles as an explanation, his lips brushing Merlin’s as he speaks. Merlin doesn’t quite believe him, but he’s not about to argue. He already likes lording over people, Arthur does.

“Was that for luck?” Merlin asks, eyes still closed.

“Because you irritate me. And because you’re a fool and because you’re always there in my mind and I hate it and yet not really. And yes, for luck, I guess.”

Merlin puts his palm flat on the center of Arthur’s chest, whispers the sibilant words with his cheeks still flaming. Arthur doesn’t move away, but he does flinch, tenses all over. Arthur is almost curled around him, and Merlin can feel it, but it’s nothing he didn’t expect. “For luck, then.”

Arthur straightens up to his full height, and they nod at each other, a glimpse of the men they will become, lips still red, and then Arthur leaves without another word and Merlin stays there, sitting, slightly out of breath.

Arthur rides out with an army and conquers a kingdom for his father.


----


Merlin dreams of being asleep, dreams of dreaming of Lancelot and Gwen stealing glances at each other in a tournament, Arthur sitting between them. Then Gaius is shaking him awake, now only one dream instead of two.

“There isn’t much time,” he says.

On the night Uther dies, Merlin watches Arthur sitting at the edge of his father’s bed, saying no, no, no, father, over and over again under his breath. Gaius has been trying to save Uther for days, and trying to bring him back for half an hour already, and he finally looks over at Arthur, says there is nothing else to be done.

Then there is commotion, and a crowd of people in varying degrees of grief hovering around the room, trying to pay their final respects. Morgana doesn’t cry. Doesn’t laugh either, though. She hasn’t been quite herself for almost a year now, and Merlin knows what’s coming but doesn’t quite want to believe it yet.

Uther dies just before midnight, and it’s not until almost dawn that Morgana turns around in a swirl of silks, stands before Arthur and says, levelly, “The King is dead. Long live the King.”

Arthur stands petrified, looking ahead as everyone in the room kneels. Arthur Pendragon is sworn allegiance while he has tears in his eyes.

Later, there is a crowning, and a feast, and when they’re finally alone, Arthur still looking defeated but wearing what was once his father’s crown proudly, Merlin looks him in the eye. “I allege myself, and my loyalty, to you, my lord,” he says, and Arthur nods, eyes shut, tells him the formalities are over.

When they kiss, it feels rather too much like sealing a contract. Merlin pulls back slightly, until only the tips of their noses are touching. Both of them have their eyes open, a bit crossed, too close to see each other properly. They kiss again, harder, and this time it’s nothing other than warm breath going from mouth to mouth and lips and teeth and tongues sliding together.

Three months later, Merlin is the court’s royal magician.


----

Arthur comes back covered both in glory and grime and dried sweat, looking exhausted from battle but still smiling and nodding at the crowd that clusters around the streets to greet their knights back. He accepts some flowers from a red-faced maiden with a flourish, over the top, and once Merlin is sure he can see him, he mouths prat, because someone needs to say it.

Idiot, Arthur mouths back, still smiling.

After the celebratory feast and ceremonies and war councils, Uther finally welcomes back Arthur like a father would, says how proud of him he is without once mentioning the new province added to Camelot. Arthur flushes at the attention, and Merlin turns around and goes back to his conversation with Gaius, feeling like he’s intruding.

He wonders at the lengths Arthur will go to get his father’s approval.

Days later, they go out hunting, just the two of them. There is also a fire, and lying by it with limbs entwined, but mostly they walk, and talk, and kiss each other under the trees and then the circle starts all over.

Merlin lights their way in the dark with small balls of blueish, phosphorescent light that float above their heads. Arthur snorts when he first sees them. “Should’ve known,” he mumbles to himself. “I want to know,” he says, level, and Merlin nods and speaks the words and the entire sky goes white for a moment, so bright it almost hurts to look at it.

Arthur blinks, slowly.

“Please don’t tell me I’ve blinded you. Your father will have my head.” The tone is playful, but the threat is real enough.

“That was – that was quite impressive, Merlin, I half expected you to be as bad a sorcerer as you are a servant,” he says, eyebrows together and nodding his head. Merlin hits him lightly on the arm.

“Your face,” Arthur says.

“What about it?

“You seemed to enjoy it.”

Merlin nods. “It’s part of who I am.”

“And yet you can hardly do any magic at all.”

“You see, I do like my head, Arthur.”

Arthur stops walking, lags behind a bit and when Merlin notices he’s staring ahead, looking serious.

“I am not my father. I shall rule in a different way.” He sounds so very grave. It shouldn’t fit him but it does, weirdly enough.

“I know you will,” Merlin says, and he does know, has seen it.

Arthur doesn’t ask how, but Merlin can tell he believes him all the same.


----


In a dream within a dream within a dream, he sees Arthur dying on the banks of a river.

It’s the only dream he never remembers when he wakes up.

There are 187 comments over 4 pages. (Reply.)
1 2 3 4
 
posted by [identity profile] sunshineclouds.livejournal.com at 06:13pm on 13/12/2008
¡Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Sabrás que esto no ayuda a que me calme con mi super emoción por el episodio de hoy peeeero no importa, hijole Ale, para empezar no saber cuaaanto extrañaba tu fic y luego sales con esto, que está increíble y genial y ¡¡ahhhhhhhh!! así debe ser, he dicho <333

Wow! En serio ♥
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:50pm on 14/12/2008
EEEEEH, gracias gracias, Sarah! :DDD

Y yo sigo sin poder ver la finale y me muero de emoción y nada más no lo puedo bajar porqueeeee. ;___;
 
posted by [identity profile] syllic.livejournal.com at 06:24pm on 13/12/2008
Eh, lo que [livejournal.com profile] sunshineclouds dijo.

(!MI PRIMER ENCUENTRO CON SLASHERS MEXICANAS!!!)

This is amazing; I love that your narration threads are slotted, one into the other, and that the whole piece reads like peeling away layers before the node is finally revealed: Merlin and Arthur together and Arthur's reluctant but confident movement towards kingship.

The last two lines are beautiful.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:56pm on 14/12/2008
Part of what makes the show so awesome for me are those little moments when Arthur is suddenly like, KINGLY FULL TIME and then the next he's a total asshole. XD OH SHOW.

(A poco más gente mexicana conoce a Merlin? NO WAI! Siempre es lindo encontrarse compas por estos lares :D :D)
 
posted by [identity profile] nyoka.livejournal.com at 06:29pm on 13/12/2008
This is exquisite!
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:47pm on 14/12/2008
Aw, thanks!
 
posted by [identity profile] iamlolweasel.livejournal.com at 06:40pm on 13/12/2008
Absolutely stunning.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:57pm on 14/12/2008
Thank you!
 
posted by [identity profile] green-grrl.livejournal.com at 06:50pm on 13/12/2008
This is absolutely gorgeous! Angsty Merlin, beautifully written.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:48pm on 14/12/2008
Thank you! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_profiterole_/ at 07:43pm on 13/12/2008
This was a wonderful story. ^__^

Three months later, Merlin is the court’s royal magician.
:D Ah, this gets me every time, especially with a nice context as this one.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:57pm on 14/12/2008
Aw, thank you! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] burningqueen.livejournal.com at 08:00pm on 13/12/2008
Wow. Just, wow.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:49pm on 14/12/2008
:DD
 
posted by [identity profile] fakelunacy.livejournal.com at 08:21pm on 13/12/2008
Awww, I love this. ^___^
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:02pm on 14/12/2008
Glad you do! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] significantowl.livejournal.com at 08:33pm on 13/12/2008
oh, how lovely and satisfying and interconnected and yay. I remember loving your DW stuff, glad to see you here!
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:03pm on 14/12/2008
Thank you so much! :D Ah, I'm a bit of a fandom-whore, yes. I remember your stuff too, it was all rather brilliant. :3
ext_18558: (Default)
posted by [identity profile] rainchild.livejournal.com at 08:36pm on 13/12/2008
I love this so much!
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 03:49pm on 14/12/2008
Glad you liked it!
ext_23722: ((tv) sides of a coin)
posted by [identity profile] ariastar.livejournal.com at 08:47pm on 13/12/2008
This is brilliant -- this is the first fic I've found which deals with Merlin and his strange personal timeline in a way that really fits into this universe. I particularly love Merlin dreaming about cars &c in the far future, and Arthur's handling of Merlin's magic. <3
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 02:35am on 15/12/2008
Merlin dreaming about cars &c in the far future

THAT BIT? Totally inspired by the Disney movie. UM. Because I always found Merlin's little hawaiian print shirt sort of adorable. UM UM.

But eeeh, thanks so much! :DDD
 
posted by [identity profile] conversenjeans.livejournal.com at 10:15pm on 13/12/2008
This is absoloutly beautiful!!

I have just this minute finished watching the last episode, so was all tearful to begin with. The last two lines just killed me!

Thanks for sharing.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:04pm on 14/12/2008
Thank you!

I still haven't seen the finale, but I'm so so excited about it!
 
posted by [identity profile] crystal-lily.livejournal.com at 10:26pm on 13/12/2008
This was just epic. No other word for it. One of the best fics I've ever read. Thank you for writing this!
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:04pm on 14/12/2008
Aw, thank you so much! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] carmenamatorium.livejournal.com at 10:50pm on 13/12/2008
This is fabulous; I was completely caught up in it. The kiss before Arthur left was perfect and I loved the ending. Your intertwining of future and present was wonderfully done; such a double-edged sword that gift is.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:05pm on 14/12/2008
Thank you so much! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] moothril.livejournal.com at 10:50pm on 13/12/2008
Gorgeous. I love the blending of present and future and the rich descriptions and suggestions about Merlin's powers. :)
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:11pm on 14/12/2008
Aw, thanks so much! I wish there were more actual magic in the show - there's so much potential for it.
 
posted by [identity profile] ignipes.livejournal.com at 11:23pm on 13/12/2008
I still haven't seen a single episode of this show, but this story is amazing and beautiful and haunting and I really, really love it.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:12pm on 14/12/2008
Zomg, girl, what are you waiting for? XD

The fact that you read it without seeing the show just makes me all warm inside. Thank youuu. :3
 
posted by [identity profile] offlers-teeth.livejournal.com at 11:26pm on 13/12/2008
In seeing sunshinecloud's commentary:
Precioso, me ha encantado. Los saltos entre tiempos y sueños y realidad están perfectos. Me gusta mucho la idea de que a Arthur le cueste un par de días enfrentarse a Merlin y decirle que le ha visto hacer magia. Que se sienta más traicionado que asustado por la magia.
Y me has hecho llorar, maldita sea... Más la penultima sección que la última, curiosamente. La sorpresa de Arthur y la promesa de que será diferente a su padre me impactan mucho.
Pero ya vale, voy a ver si se ha terminado de descargar el 13 en el torrent ;-) Quiero ver esto mismo en la tercera temporada (por pedir que no quede, no?).

Offler
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 04:14pm on 14/12/2008
Aw, muchas gracias. :D :D

Para estas alturas creo que Arthur va a frikearse de lo lindo cuando se entere de la magia de Merlin, pero me gustaría creer que lo que más le va a doler es que Merlin le mintió a la cara. Ah, estos dos, tan fáciles de shippear.

Mi descarga del 13 apenas va a la mitad - estoy a punto de empezar a morderme las uñas, jaja.
 
posted by [identity profile] sajee.livejournal.com at 11:26pm on 13/12/2008
This was absolutely amazing!
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 05:05pm on 14/12/2008
Thank you! :D
ext_31419: (merlin - legendary destinies)
posted by [identity profile] ximeria.livejournal.com at 12:28am on 14/12/2008
I've seen attempts at weaving some of the versions of the Arthurian legend into the show by the use of fanfic. I do belive yours is the first I've seen done so very seamlessly.

It's poetic without losing the humour and banter of the show. And you manage the shifts in scenes so very well. Thank you for writing such a great piece of storytelling.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:43pm on 15/12/2008
That was lovely feedback, and especially flattering because I'm really no expert in Arthurian legends, but like them all the same. Thank you! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] maz4pj.livejournal.com at 12:56am on 14/12/2008
wow. that was seriously amazing.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:44pm on 15/12/2008
Thank you! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] mirasymphony.livejournal.com at 01:46am on 14/12/2008
That is absolutely stunningly gorgeous!
Just amazing.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:44pm on 15/12/2008
Thanks a lot! :D
 
posted by [identity profile] explora.livejournal.com at 03:29am on 14/12/2008
Complete brilliance, lovely to read. :)
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:44pm on 15/12/2008
Aw, thank you!
 
posted by [identity profile] dodificus.livejournal.com at 03:42am on 14/12/2008
I found this strangely chilling, especially that last bit.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:44pm on 15/12/2008
That's quite flattering, thanks. :)
 
posted by [identity profile] iamlillykane.livejournal.com at 03:42am on 14/12/2008
this is the most amazing thing. really, it is. whoa.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:45pm on 15/12/2008
Wee, thanks so much! :D
ext_7850: by ev_vy (Merlin)
posted by [identity profile] giandujakiss.livejournal.com at 08:24am on 14/12/2008
This was gorgeous, and the ending was lovely and perfect and sad.
 
posted by [identity profile] nekare.livejournal.com at 08:45pm on 15/12/2008
Aw, thanks a lot! :D
There are 187 comments over 4 pages. (Reply.)
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