It wasn’t supposed to have happened like that.
It wasn’t supposed to have happened at all, actually, but when the safety rope had malfunctioned in gym class and Arthur began to fall, Merlin had moved without a second thought.
And now the entire school knew he was a sorcerer.
Worst. Day. Ever.
Merlin sat in the principal’s office, arms crossed over his chest and a surly look on his face as he tried his hardest not to glare at Aredian (called “sir” out loud; in his head Merlin felt no need to show that respect) while the man feigned uncaring and bowed over his papers, writing down who knew what as he refused to look at Merlin.
It was a game, Merlin knew; he’d heard the other students talking about Aredian and the mind games he played with them, trying to get people to confess what they’d done wrong, even if they hadn’t done anything wrong in the first place.
Merlin, personally, felt he hadn’t done a thing wrong either. Yes, okay, so he’d used magic to save someone’s life when his school was rather decidedly anti-magic, but Merlin failed to see why he was in trouble when he had, in fact,saved someone’s life. But of course, no one seemed to care about that part, or he wouldn’t be in Aredian’s office in the first place.
It had probably been stupid, moving from backwater Ealdor into a city such as Albion, famous for its rather harsh views on magic, but the scholarship that had been offered and Camelot College’s upstanding education had made Merlin determined to try anyways. So long as no one found out, everything would be fine.
Of course now that he’d revealed who he really was, who knew what would happen.
Finally, Aredian looked up from his papers, viewing Merlin with an almost condescending look that had Merlin’s metaphorical hackles rising, but he refused to rise to the man’s tricks. They stared at each other, back and forth, neither willing to give an inch, before Aredian finally broke the silence.
“So,” he said, and Merlin sat back in his seat, trying not to smile at the personal victory.
“So,” Merlin echoed, and Aredian frowned deeply.
“Don’t talk back to me, Mr Emrys. It has come to my attention that you’ve been hiding who you are from everyone.”
Merlin bit the inside of his cheek to refrain from arguing the point, and instead simply nodded. “Yes, sir,” he managed to get out.
“You know, of course, that Camelot does not look favourably upon...your kind.”
Merlin nodded, but he was unwilling to let the point be. “In my defence, sir, magic isn’t actually banned.”
Aredian laughed, cold and humourless. “It will be, soon enough, once Uther Pendragon is elected mayor. And that doesn’t change the fact that you deliberately left out your...talents when applying for a scholarship here. We allowed you into Camelot assuming you were a normal person, and now...” he sighed, as if this troubled him, but Merlin could see in his eyes that Aredian was enjoying the entire situation.
“Now, I’m afraid we will have to decide if you should be allowed to keep your scholarship. In the meantime, you will be given a three-day suspension, and we’ll be calling your mother to come pick you up.”
Merlin sat up abruptly, tense. “But sir—!”
“There will be no arguing, Mr Emrys.”
Merlin slumped back in his seat dejectedly. His mother worked two jobs just to keep a roof over their head, and now they were going to call her out of work to inform her that her son had just outed himself as a sorcerer to the entire school. That was going to go over well.
Merlin couldn’t look at his mother when she arrived; he simply got up and walked over to her, too ashamed to raise up his head and see the look in her eye. He could imagine it well enough; fear, concern, a trace amount of anger. Possibly, now, she also looked resigned. It was the look she always gave him, when she was afraid that someone would find out about his magic—but now people had, and there was nothing they could do.
The two of them didn’t speak as they walked down the hall. Merlin didn’t have any sort of hope that it might last; they would most definitely have words once they got home, and Merlin was decidedly not looking forward to that. His gaze wandered, and he happened to catch sight of an opened door out of the corner of his eye. He turned to look, only to realise it was the nurse’s office, and he was looking directly at Arthur Pendragon, who had the nurse fussing over him.
Clearly he was being checked over to make sure he was really okay, and Merlin was glad for that, at least, but then the two of them made eye contact, and the bored look on Arthur’s face changed to one of complete and utter revulsion as he looked at Merlin.
Merlin found that he could only smile sadly in response, because he didn’t expect someone like Arthur to actually be grateful, not with his father running the biggest anti-magic campaign Albion had ever seen, but at the very least, he was grateful the prat was alive. He didn’t exactly like the guy very much, but well, no one really deserved to die for that.
Merlin forced himself to look away first, instead calmly looking ahead as he and his mother made their way to the exit.
Of course, Merlin got in trouble with his mother. He hadn’t expected any different; his powers had given her cause to worry ever since they had manifested, and it didn’t help that he was apparently extremely powerful for his young age.
He hadn’t really thought so, at first, but when he had learned he could sense the magic of others at his school and they could not sense his in return, Merlin had started to think that maybe she had a point.
It had also helped him come to realise that he was not the only person at his school with secrets to hide, but Merlin had no intention of outing anyone. Not even now, that his own magic was known; it wasn’t his place.
Despite her anger, Hunith still hugged him close. Because if nothing else, he was still her son, and she still loved him, and of all the scenarios to happen, this was hardly the worst case. It wasn’t a very good one, but definitely not the worst.
Merlin was at risk now though, the two of them knew. Not just with his scholarship, but with the rest of the student population. Sorcerers were a hated breed in Albion, and just because he had saved someone’s life didn’t mean they would look more kindly upon him than they did any other sorcerer.
“I am so proud of you,” Hunith said. “Despite the aftermath, you saved that boy’s life, and that’s wonderful.”
Merlin smiled at her, weakly. “It wasn’t much. I just...acted without thinking.”
Hunith kissed him on the side of the head. “And one boy can now say he’s alive and well, thanks to you. I would call that something. Now, I have to get back to work...” she hesitated. “I trust you won’t treat this suspension like a vacation, Merlin,” she said, voice stern.
Merlin nodded once, twice. “Of course not, mum.” He knew better than anyone what was at stake, and he was hardly celebrating the cause behind it.
She continued to look at him, worry in her eyes, but then Merlin shrugged. “It’ll be fine. You just go back to work, I’ll look after the house.”
Hunith chuckled. “Of course you will, little man of the house.” She planted one more kiss on his cheek (Merlin resisted the urge to scowl, because he hadn’t been shorter than her in a good many years, thank you very much), and then she was gone.
Merlin made his way up to his room and curled up on his bed. All he really wanted to do was sleep for a thousand years; he didn’t want to think about what had happened at school in the slightest. He didn’t want to think about the fact that now everyone knew who he was, or that he had saved Arthur bloody Pendragon (of course, he didn’t want him dead, but it didn’t change the fact that Arthur had always, always bullied him, ever since he’d first arrived in Camelot). Of course, he couldn’t actually sleep for a thousand years, so when he finally woke up, he occupied his time with mindlessly watching telly and playing video games where he could, until not even those things could distract him, and he once again got into bed.
The thoughts plaguing him, that he might lose his scholarship, or the fact that they were too poor to move (again)...Merlin forcibly shut down his mind and curled in further on himself.
By the second day of his suspension, Merlin was feeling moderately better, if only because he was intentionally repressing memories of the day prior to the best of his ability. If he knew how to use his magic for things like that, it might have been easier, and Merlin had, fleetingly, entertained the notion of erasing the memories of the entire school. But it had been dismissed quickly enough—he didn’t want to use his magic on people to alter their minds, and it was too many people, anyways.
Besides, word had surely spread beyond school, by now. Maybe most people didn’t know what he looked like; but at the very least, they knew his name, and what he was.
Okay, so he was failing horribly at any sort of actual repression, but Merlin had accepted the fact that he could not change what happened, and accepting that alone had lifted a weight off his chest.
His mum was at work, and no one ever came and visited them, so Merlin practically jumped a foot in the air in surprise when he heard the doorbell ring. There may have also been some rather unmanly yelping going on, but Merlin was adamant that no one could prove anything.
He trudged downstairs unwillingly, because it most definitely wasn’t for him, so he’d have to turn them away saying to come back later when his mum was home—so of course it was only natural when he froze in utter shock upon opening the door and seeing Arthur Pendragon, of all people, standing on his doorstep.
Merlin found all he could do was stare, because, what? Why was Arthur of all people at his house? How did he even know where Merlin lived? Then again, he was a Pendragon...but still! Not to mention the time; school definitely wasn’t over yet, and he didn’t need a clock to know that—his mum’s first job always ended approximately thirty minutes before school let out, which meant Arthur was ditching class to come visit him.
Not that Merlin was a perfect student, but since he’d been on scholarship (and hopefully, still would be), skipping classes hadn’t really been an option; Merlin was more flummoxed over the fact that Arthur deemed Merlin important enough to visit after doing so.
While Merlin was still gaping at the unexpected visit, Arthur was merely looking right back at him with a mild look of disdain on his face, clearly waiting for Merlin to say something. When nothing was forthcoming, he cleared his throat. “May I come in?” he asked.
He made it sound more like a demand than a question, but Merlin couldn’t exactly refuse (that would be rude, after all, and Hunith had raised him to not be rude), and he nodded a few dozen times.
“Yeah, yeah of course, sure,” he babbled, stepping aside and allowing Arthur to enter his house (and wasn’t that a statement he thought he’d never think in his entire life?) before leading him farther in. Several times, he glanced over his shoulder, just to verify that Arthur was still actually there and he wasn’t hallucinating, but sure enough, the blond was always behind him, intense blue gaze casting about the house with utter arrogance, as if he believed himself better than his surroundings.
Merlin finally forced himself to look forward and keep walking until they reached the living room, but he couldn’t get the look on Arthur’s face out of his head, and it annoyed him that he was more than slightly offended about it. Yes, he knew Arthur was a rich boy, probably had a house with seventeen bathrooms for no good reason; in comparison to Merlin, the poor kid on scholarship, but Arthur didn’t have to show such derision to the poor house, which had done absolutely nothing to him.
So yeah, he was offended, but part of Merlin was still in awe of Arthur being there in the first place (even if he was being rude), and he did still need to hear Arthur out first before he did anything else.
He needed to be a good host, in addition. “Do you want a drink or something?” he offered, but Arthur shook his head. “No, thank you.”
Merlin shrugged and slumped down onto the couch, but Arthur remained standing as Merlin looked at him curiously. Gone was the disdainful look from before, and now Arthur looked slightly—dare Merlin say it—uncomfortable. Now Merlin was definitely intrigued, but instead of prying he simply sat there quietly, waiting for Arthur to say whatever he needed to.
It took a few minutes, but eventually Arthur spoke up.
“I am indebted to you, Merlin,” he said quietly.
Merlin did a double-take. He opened his mouth to express his disbelief, but Arthur noticed and shot him a look and Merlin snapped it shut again as he continued staring at Arthur. He’d thought Arthur couldn’t surprise him any further, and yet, here they were, Arthur thanking him (well, sort of) for saving his life.
Except Arthur kept talking.
“I must admit,” Arthur continued, carelessly, “I had thought that maybe you were behind the safety rope malfunctioning, that perhaps you had done it just to save me and thus get on my good side.”
Merlin grew very still as any lingering shock he had had of Arthur coming to try and possibly thank him abruptly died, and all he could do was stare at Arthur.
And he could imagine the look on his face, in that moment; knew his emotions were clearly reflected on his face, knew he looked utterly hurt and more than just a little bit offended, but Arthur, to his disbelief, didn’t even notice—simply kept right on going.
“I mean, my father says not to trust sorcerers, after all. They always have an ulterior motive, but regardless, you did, at least, save me, even if you did have another agenda going on.”
Merlin couldn’t believe how heartless Arthur was being about the entire situation—couldn’t believe that Arthur couldn’t realise how much he was hurting him in that moment, and he could only listen to Arthur talk for another minute or two before he finally snapped.
“Enough!” he almost shouted, rising to his feet.
In response Arthur broke off mid “thank you,” blinking over at Merlin with a look of puzzlement on his face. “What? What is it?”
Merlin could feel himself shaking with both rage and hurt; trembling where he stood as he squeezed his hands into fists, his nails digging into his skin as he struggled not to lash out at Arthur with his magic at the utter outrage of all of this, but despite that, he managed to say, very calmly—
Arthur had the gall to look confused. “Why should I?” he asked. “I’m attempting to thank you, here, I’m a guest!”
Of course he wouldn’t realise what he’d done wrong. Merlin gritted his teeth in response. “Get. Out.”
To his chagrin, Arthur didn’t move; merely tilted his head to the side as if he couldn’t understand the words coming out of Merlin’s mouth.
Well, fine. If words wouldn’t do it...
Merlin allowed his eyes to flare up gold in warning. He wasn’t going to use his magic, but it was more than enough to intimidate Arthur into taking a step back immediately in shock, and probably a bit of fear (not that he’d ever admit that, Merlin was sure), and Merlin took a step forward in response.
And then, he let Arthur have it.
“I’m sorry,” he began, not sounding sorry in the slightest. “But I don’t need someone like you thanking me. In fact, I don’t even want someone like you thanking me, if you’re going to be such a fucking twat about it. And really, how dare you try and blame me for being behind the accident! All I wanted to do was help you, because I didn’t want to watch someone possibly die, no matter who they were. I didn’t save you because you’re you. I saved you because you’re a human being—though your attitude right now is seriously making me think otherwise.”
All throughout his rant, Merlin kept stepping forward, taking a sort of twisted pleasure out of the fact that Arthur kept stepping backwards in turn. Obviously, he was trying to keep up his front, that he wasn’t afraid, but Merlin wasn’t going to give him a chance to speak up. He had Arthur out of the living room now; into the hallway that led to the front door.
Merlin allowed his magic to reach out and open said door, and he cherished the look of shock on Arthur’s face as he found himself back on the doorstep. Merlin’s eyes were still glowing, he knew, but he had one last thing to say to Pendragon before this could be over.
“Fuck you, Arthur Pendragon. You’re just like your father.”
He slammed the door in Arthur’s face.
Merlin stepped away from the door, still shaking, and in that moment he realised he was crying. It was finally sinking in that this was going to be his life now—people not trusting him, thinking he did things for gain.
He uncurled his fists slowly as he finally began to calm down, noticing that his nails had pierced the skin, and he was bleeding.
Two days later found Merlin back at school. The school had decided—tentatively—not to take his scholarship away, on the grounds that though he had lied, he had, at the very least, saved a student’s life.
Of course what no one was telling him was how Hunith had called the school and threatened to sue them for discrimination against her son, because magic wasn’t actually illegal and she didn’t think they were actually allowed to try such a stunt.
(But just because no one was telling him that part didn’t mean he didn’t know—he’d overheard her on the phone.)
There had been one condition to his return, though: his magic. Merlin was never to use his magic in school, ever again, under any circumstances whatsoever. It was annoying, and more than a little degrading, but Merlin could accept such a stigma if it meant he was able to continue his education.
Strangely enough (or well, not really), Merlin found that upon his return, Nimueh was suddenly being oddly friendly to him—and it was definitely odd, because before that day, Nimueh had ignored his existence like the plague.
Her actions were pretty obvious to Merlin though; he knew she was a sorceress, and now that she had discovered he also had magic, well. She actually deemed him useful now, apparently, as a fellow magic user.
Not that Nimueh had any idea that Merlin already knew of every single magic user in the school, two of which helped make up the trio—Nimueh included—of her creepy (Merlin didn’t want to be mean, but well...they were creepy) friends, but she was still extending the hand of friendship anyways.
To be frank, Merlin didn’t really want to take it. The only problem was, he hadn’t had friends before, either. With a public school like Camelot, almost the entire student population viewed themselves as above Merlin’s own station, like he was a peasant and they were all nobles (and if they were nobles, Merlin supposed that made Arthur the prince)—but before he’d outed himself, at least people had been willing to talk to him.
He had been, and still was, too far on the side of nerdy to actually have friends, and loads of people (most notably, Arthur) had bullied him, but it hadn’t been completely horrible, mainly teasing of sorts, nothing dangerous. Nothing he couldn’t handle.
Now, though, Merlin was completely ostracised from the rest of the students, and even most of the teachers. When he would walk by, silence would fall temporarily around him, before everyone would start up again, gesturing and pointing subtly and whispering behind their hands. Some didn’t even bother whispering, or trying to be any sort of subtle. They called him names.
What once had been merely laughing at him and taunting him and knocking his books out of his hands had escalated into being shoved into lockers.
And then there were the death threats.
Merlin wasn’t willing to tell his mum and the other adults about those, though. Logically, they would tell him to stop attending school for his own safety, and that just wasn’t an option for Merlin. Failing to attend school would be another great reason to try and take his scholarship away from him.
Also, he refused to show his tormentors that he was afraid of them.
He could do it (probably). It was his last year at school, after all. All he had to do was hide the bruises from his mother and everything was going to be okay.
So, yes. Merlin didn't want to take Nimueh’s proffered hand of friendship, but in the end, Merlin found that honestly there wasn’t really a choice to be had in the matter. Much as he didn’t want to be anywhere within Nimueh’s proximity, he needed to be, for safety.
The people threatening him, they wouldn’t be stupid enough to attack him with witnesses around, which was how Merlin found himself eating lunch with Nimueh and her other creepy, magical friends day after day.
They tried to talk to him, sometimes, but Merlin didn’t feel particularly like doing so in return, and tended to reject conversation if they brought it to him. He didn’t mean to be rude, not really, but Merlin didn’t want them to know that he knew they had magic. He heard them whispering sometimes, but they always made sure to stop if he got close enough, so clearly, they didn’t actually want Merlin to know. Why, he couldn’t say.
Mordred and Edwin were rather polite and withdrawn around him, all things considered (even if Mordred did stare at him all the time, and Merlin was afraid the other boy was going to suck his soul out, or something), but Nimueh almost always kept up a constant stream of chatter with him, ignoring the fact that he rarely responded; hardly listened, either.
Once, she had asked him about Arthur; asked what he was like, what he had done after Merlin saved his life, but Merlin flat-out refused to pursue that line of conversation. He was still angry—hurt—over what Arthur had said to him before, and he was in no mood to discuss that with Nimueh, of all people.
That wasn’t the only reason Merlin didn’t want to talk about Arthur with her (though it was a large part). In truth, Merlin was highly suspicious of Nimueh in general. Because...and he couldn’t be certain, not for sure, not until he felt her performing magic (and who knew if that would happen anytime soon)...but Merlin was almost positive that he had felt her magic flare up, right before Arthur had fallen. He wasn’t going to say anything until he knew without a doubt, but still. Merlin had a very strong feeling that it had been her.
The only question was why. Of that, Merlin had no idea.
That wasn’t the end of Merlin’s problems. In addition to now being ostracised, pushed around, threatened, and it being necessary to hang out with Nimueh and her creepy friends for his own safety, of all people, Nimueh wasn’t the only one acting differently—Merlin was also forced to have to deal with Arthur.
Honestly, after he had slammed the door in Arthur’s face, Merlin had never expected to have to deal with him again, ever. And he hadn’t wanted to, either. But apparently his yelling at Arthur that day had struck a chord with him, because Merlin hadn’t even been in school again for a week before Arthur had hunted him down.
It had been in a rather deserted corner of the school, and for a moment, Merlin had been afraid that Arthur was going to hit him, or worse. He didn’t, though; Arthur just wanted to talk to him where there were no witnesses, apparently, just like before.
Not that Arthur said that, but Merlin sort of figured that part out on his own.
It rankled him, that Arthur had the audacity to try talking to him when he was still the golden boy, too afraid to be seen talking to a sorcerer, and Merlin wanted nothing to do with him. Arthur had seriously hurt him before, and it annoyed him that it hurt at all. Arthur wasn’t worth his time.
Unfortunately, Arthur was the persistent type.
The first time, Arthur had actually attempted to apologise. He tried to say they had gotten off on the wrong foot, but Merlin couldn’t even bring himself to believe what he was hearing.
After all, Arthur had been one of the people to bully him, from the very beginning, up until Merlin saved his life, and then Arthur had the nerve to insult him, and suddenly, they’d gotten off on the wrong foot?
Merlin didn’t want to hear it, and every time Arthur managed to get him alone somewhere, Merlin stormed off at the nearest opportunity presented to him.
Whenever the two of them passed in the halls, Merlin made sure to glare at Arthur to the best of his ability, but to his infuriation, Arthur would just smirk at him in return, that look of utter smugness upon his face, like he knew better.
In addition, Arthur apparently also didn’t know the meaning of personal space. He could seriously only pin Merlin to the wall and hover over him so many times before he was going to get punched in the face. He hadn’t been, not yet, but Merlin’s not-so-eternal patience was starting to wear thin. Dealing with Arthur was very tiring.
To his surprise though, Merlin found that Arthur was, in actuality, an honest sort. He admitted to Merlin that he knew he’d fucked up his original thank you, and that it was bothering him that Merlin blowing him off affected him so badly.
“Because in theory—and don’t get mad, Merlin, but you’re supposed to be a big evil sorcerer who isn’t worth my time, and yet, you’re just Merlin, that scrawny kid who I used to rag on, and yet, miraculously, saved my life. There’s something about you, Merlin.”
Merlin could have scoffed at the things Arthur said day after day; things he wasn’t even brave enough to say when people were around, and Merlin did not want to deal with Arthur being weird and invasive and almost—almost flirty, Merlin thought; not when he was currently struggling to deal with death threats and Nimueh both. He did not need Arthur all up on him trying to seduce him, or what the fuck ever Arthur’s deal was.
Because Merlin, most assuredly, did not want to be seduced. No matter how pretty Arthur was. Merlin did not like Arthur. Not even a little.
Except Arthur was refusing to give up hounding Merlin and he was starting to get under Merlin’s skin and that was so not right.
Having no other options, Merlin was left with trying to avoid Arthur as much as he could. He didn’t need Arthur trying to make everything all better, and none of it was anything he needed in his life right then.
Unfortunately, Arthur was better at finding him than Merlin was at avoiding him.
After several weeks of feeling like he was degrading himself by having to sit with Nimueh and her creepy friends for his own protection and Arthur tracking him down day after day and bantering with him, of all things—and well, maybe Merlin responded. Sometimes. He couldn’t help it; it wasn’t his fault that Arthur was annoyingly charismatic when he wanted to be. But they most definitely weren’t friends, at all, and of that, Merlin was sure, because he refused to be friends with someone who was afraid to talk to him when people could see them. He didn’t care who Arthur’s father was...but Merlin did understand, in a way, even though it annoyed him that he did—one day Gaius, the Biology teacher (he demanded to be called by his first name, for whatever reason), asked Merlin to stay behind after class.
Merlin found that he really, really didn’t want to, because Biology was his last class of the day, which meant he’d be staying after school. He’d been avoiding anything that could involve him being alone after school, because alone meant he was a target. It was, after all, the very reason he sat with Nimueh and her friends at lunch, and why he always walked home with the crowds—why he practically ran home every day.
Because he was terrified; he didn’t want to tell people, couldn’t bring himself to admit what was going on, but he was still scared.
However, he couldn’t just say no to a teacher, so against his better judgement, Merlin agreed.
After school, he went back to Gaius’ classroom; it turned out that Gaius had a boy in mind that he wanted Merlin to tutor.
“Me?” Merlin asked. “I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, what with me being...well, me.”
Gaius shook his head. “It’s all right. He’s...” he lowered his voice a bit, “well, he’s like you, so I don’t think he’d mind very much.”
Merlin bit his lip as he considered it. “Well, if you think it’d be all right, I can’t see any reason to say no.”
Gaius smiled, relief clear on his face. “His name is Gilli, he’s a Year 9. I know you’re going to be busy studying for your GCSE’s, but well, his grades are a bit low, and he’s not done very well on his Mock GCSE’s the past two years. He also expressed an interest in getting into Higher, and he won’t be able to manage that, currently. Seeing as how your own grades more than fit the bill...”
He trailed off, and Merlin laughed lightly. “It’s fine, I’m sure I’ll manage to do both.”
“That’s wonderful to hear,” Gaius said, but then his look of relief faded slightly. “I’m sorry to say you won’t be paid or anything of the like, not with your status well known throughout the school, so it would have to be off the record.”
“I don’t mind,” Merlin reassured him, and he really didn’t. He saw the tutoring as more of a favour to Gaius than anything. The two of them weren’t particularly close, or anything, but—Merlin could sense Gaius’ magic. Unlike other magic users, though, Gaius’ magic was extremely muted in comparison; Merlin could sense it, yes, but just barely. He didn’t know why that was, but it wasn’t his place to ask. He hadn’t even told Gaius that he knew the man had magic.
They chatted for a bit longer, making plans to start tutoring next week once Gaius had informed Gilli, and then Merlin left the classroom.
He turned the corner, intent on beginning the walk home—
and then three jerks from his Biology class cornered him.
Merlin cursed inwardly; he should have seen this coming, of course they would have heard Gaius asking Merlin to stay after school.
The prime opportunity to get him alone.
At the back of his mind, Merlin wondered how long they’d been planning for something like this, to find the perfect time to finally have him alone. Because Merlin had no doubts that the confrontation would not end well—these were the same people who shoved him into lockers and made death threats on a near daily basis. They were out for blood.
He refused to show fear though, even as they loomed over him, taunting him.
“The entire school knows you can’t use your freaky powers, or you’ll risk that nice shiny scholarship of yours,” one leered.
“Yeah, you can’t hurt us,” another chimed in, and Merlin resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Of course they wouldn’t realise that he wasn’t the sort; he would never use his magic to cause harm to another person intentionally.
“You guys are scum,” Merlin said, as calmly as he could manage. “Scum who would only pick on someone they saw as defenceless.”
The third boy grabbed Merlin’s shirt, pulling him so close Merlin could smell his (utterly disgusting, for the record) breath. “We hate your kind!” he shouted at Merlin. “Your kind isn’t welcome here.”
Merlin scoffed, speaking up again against his better judgement, despite the position he was in.
“And yet me, the sorcerer, saved someone’s life—and here you are, normal people, threatening someone. Yeah, I can see who the bigger man is, here.”
The boy still holding his shirt scowled. “Why you—!”
He drew his fist back, and then Merlin practically crumbled to the ground, tasting blood in his mouth.
Arthur had become a stalker. Or, well, that sounded bad, and he wasn’t really a stalker, at least, not in a bad way, but he knew better than anyone that his following after Merlin day after day probably couldn’t be considered healthy. Currently, school was out, and he liked to try and talk to Merlin before the kid started running toward home (why, Arthur wasn’t sure. Was he running from him? Arthur didn’t think he was that scary). It usually failed, but it had become a habit, and yet, he hadn’t seen Merlin leaving the school yet.
Part of him wondered why he was bothering sticking around at all, but then, Arthur knew the answer to that.
Against his will, somehow, Arthur didn’t know, he’d grown almost fond of Merlin, somehow. It wasn’t really any sort of liking him, Merlin was still a sorcerer and Arthur wasn’t really sure about his opinion on that, but they had talked enough that Arthur knew he was a trustworthy, honest person (beyond the whole, lying about who he was, but he tried not to dwell on that part); a good person, who hadn’t really done anything wrong and didn’t exactly deserve the hand he’d been dealt.
He wanted more chances to talk to Merlin, in all honesty; knew he was taking the coward’s way out by avoiding talking to him where anyone could see them, and he was almost envious of the fact that other people didn’t have their father breathing down their neck telling them who they could and could not talk to.
(Especially when he saw people like Nimueh Priest sitting with Merlin at lunch every day. Not that he ever looked directly their way, just in case Merlin caught him staring, but Arthur could still feel her intense gaze on him now and again. Not that he thought there was any reason behind it; Merlin had saved his life, after all—and Arthur wasn’t exactly complaining about being alive—and she hung out with Merlin, so of course she’d be interested, but still, the staring was kind of creepy. Then again, there was always the off-chance that she wasn’t looking his way at all, but in the end Arthur cared more about the fact that she was free to sit with Merlin without repercussion compared to him.)
Arthur waved his thoughts away and checked his watch, growing restless. It wasn’t like not seeing Merlin after school for one day was going to kill him, he didn’t need to wait around for him to appear, but well, it was kind of bothering him, that Merlin hadn’t shown up. Merlin always showed up. It was too strange, Arthur thought, and so after ten minutes of waiting around (ten whole minutes, Arthur thought that was being quite patient), he decided to go looking for Merlin.
For whatever reason, Arthur didn’t know, he had always been able to find Merlin fairly easily, as if drawn to the other boy (but he was decidedly not thinking about that), so Arthur went with his gut and simply walked in the direction that felt right.
He noticed three boys out of the corner of his eye, and turned to look at them in mild curiosity, but his eyes abruptly widened when he realised they weren’t just standing around—they were kicking at someone on the ground before them.
And Arthur just knew, without a doubt, exactly who that someone was.
“Hey!” Arthur shouted, running toward them as he felt anger surge up inside them. “What are you doing?! Stop that!”
They weren’t listening, though, just continued hitting Merlin, who was curled up on the ground and covering his head as best he could, and Arthur didn’t waste a second of thought—he jumped on the back of the guy closest to him, arms going around his neck. “I told you. To stop.” He growled.
The guy flailed around, trying to dislodge Arthur, but Arthur let go and jumped back down to the ground. The other boy turned around, a scowl on his face. “Who the fuck do you think you are?—Oh.” His eyes widened.
Arthur smirked, but there was no humour in the action; just pure, unadulterated rage. “That’s right. Oh.”
And he punched the boy in the face, both hearing and feeling the satisfying sound of someone’s nose breaking.
“Fucking hell!” The boy roared, clutching at his nose. Arthur had now managed to attract the attention of the other two (and finally, finally they had left Merlin alone), and by the looks of fear on their faces, they also obviously realised who he was, and what sort of power he held due to his family.
“I suggest you get out of here. Now,” Arthur said coolly, and that was all it took.
“He’s just a filthy magic user anyways,” one of them spat, and then the three of them took off before Arthur could respond.
The second they were out of sight Arthur forgot about their existence entirely, crouching down before Merlin with a worried look on his face. He didn’t look good—Arthur wasn’t a doctor; wasn’t even planning on becoming one, so he had no real idea of exactly how badly Merlin was injured, but Arthur could see enough.
His left wrist was at an awkward angle, and Arthur had at the very least seen enough sports related injuries in his time to know that it was probably broken. Merlin’s breathing also wasn’t so great, and the tiny bit of Merlin’s face that he could see was bloody.
Arthur was pretty sure Merlin needed a hospital, but calling an ambulance to the school would cause more problems than not, and going to look for help would require leaving Merlin alone (and school was out, so he wasn’t sure how successful the venture would be), and well, he knew where Merlin lived. It wasn’t very far from the school. Maybe he shouldn’t move Merlin, but Arthur couldn’t just leave him lying there, either. He had to do what he could, at least.
He reached out to place his hand on Merlin’s shoulder, but Merlin flinched, whimpered, and curled up further in on himself. The action caused him to yelp weakly in pain, and Arthur felt another surging wave of anger toward the three boys who had done this to Merlin.
“I’m sorry, Merlin,” Arthur murmured, “but I need to help you get up.” He made sure to keep his voice gentle, as soothing as possible given the circumstances, trying to coax Merlin into listening to him. “I promise I won’t hurt you.”
At that, Merlin relaxed, just a little, and slowly uncurled himself, and Arthur willed himself not to flinch upon seeing Merlin’s face fully. It was a bloody mess; a split lip, a black eye, and blood running down his face from a cut just beneath his hairline.
Arthur helped Merlin up, gingerly, and brought Merlin’s arm around his shoulder, and the two of them began walking to Merlin’s house together.
Merlin was leaning heavily on Arthur, and it was all too easy to notice his rather pronounced limp. But despite it all, Arthur found that he couldn’t bring himself to care that blood was getting all over his school uniform.
Merlin was only half-conscious by that point, but his head was near enough to Arthur’s ear that Arthur heard him whisper a small thank you. Even then, he could just barely hear it; Merlin’s voice was so weak and quiet, and Arthur found himself struggling not to cry at the entire situation at hand.
It wasn’t fair that this had happened to Merlin, of all people.
Merlin was mostly slumped against him by the time they arrived at Merlin’s house, and Arthur rang the doorbell with a calmness he did not feel, desperately hoping someone would be home. After a few moments of standing there, the door opened, to Arthur’s relief, and a woman that could only be Merlin’s mother stood before them. She took in the two of them, and proceeded to grow pale.
Merlin was too weak to even utter a greeting as he continued leaning heavily on Arthur, mostly asleep, which meant it was up to Arthur to explain the situation. He continued standing there, eyes wide and supporting Merlin as best he could as he bit at his lip anxiously. “Some boys at our school...”
That snapped Merlin’s mother out of her shock almost immediately, and she ushered the two of them inside, a worried look on her face and hand pressed to her mouth as she looked at the two of them for another moment longer, before she turned away.
“Follow me,” she said softly, and Arthur found himself half-carrying Merlin up the stairs after her, and she guided him to Merlin’s room, gesturing to the bed to show that Arthur should set him down (which he did, gently), and then Arthur stepped away, allowing Merlin’s mum to step in.
Arthur found that he was somewhat surprised she wasn’t freaking out more; he had always assumed a mother would (since he wouldn’t know, his own mother having died when he was he was still just an infant) and all he could do was simply stand there awkwardly, watching as Merlin’s mum took in her son’s injuries with an almost calculating air.
Once she was done, she grasped Merlin’s shoulder and shook him, gently, careful not to aggravate his injuries further. “Merlin, darling boy,” she called softly. “You need to stay awake.”
Merlin groaned faintly, half-heartedly stirring as his eyes fluttered open, unfocussed and glazed over with pain. “Mum?” he asked, his voice practically a croak.
“Yes, my boy, I’m here,” she said, soothingly. “You’re going to have to sit up, now.”
“It hurts,” Merlin mumbled, a tear leaking out of the corner of his bruised eye.
Merlin’s mother’s own eyes were filling up with tears in response, placing a hand against his cheek and stroking it with her thumb carefully. “I know, I know it does, and I’m sorry,” she murmured, and Arthur found he almost couldn’t look at the intimacy of the mother-son moment.
It was almost a relief, when Merlin started struggling to sit up instead, but Arthur couldn’t help but flinch every time Merlin whimpered with pain, whenever he accidentally jostled his wrist, couldn’t help feeling extraordinarily helpless as he watched Merlin’s mother help her son do so as best she could.
To Arthur’s surprise, Merlin’s eyes flicked dully over to him once he was sitting up fully, but the second they made eye contact Arthur had to look away as the guilt washed over him.
“Will you be all right if I leave for a few minutes, Merlin?” his mother asked, and Arthur glanced back in time to see Merlin nod heavily, wincing, and Merlin’s mother turning to look at him.
“Downstairs?” she suggested, which Arthur hadn’t really been expecting, but found himself nodding in agreement anyways.
After she had assured Merlin that she would, in fact, be back soon, the two of them went to the living room (Arthur tried not to remember what had happened the last time he’d been in there; Merlin yelling at him, telling him to get out), and Merlin’s mother sat down on the couch as she looked up at him.
“I just thought it would be better to talk here, rather than in front of Merlin. Considering what happened, I didn’t want to upset him any further.”
Oh, that made sense, Arthur thought.
“I’m Hunith,” she introduced herself, “I’m a nurse—from what I could see, he has a broken wrist, at least two cracked ribs, a sprained ankle. I needed him to stay awake because he possibly has a mild to severe concussion. And of course, there are the injuries on his face, as well.” Her lip trembled slightly, but she maintained her composure. “So, what exactly did happen?”
Arthur was almost shocked that she was able to list off her own son’s injuries in such a calm voice, but the fact that she was a nurse explained why she was handling the entire situation relatively well—at least one of them knew what was going on with Merlin. In response to her question, though, he just shook his head slightly. “I can’t say for sure,” he admitted. “I just happened to come across them...and Merlin was...” he swallowed. “I interfered, and they took off, but by then...”
He broke off, and to his shock, Hunith was offering him a gentle smile, though there were tears once again brimming in her eyes. “If not for you, my boy would be far worse off, right now. Thank you.”
Arthur honestly wasn’t used to getting a great amount of thanks, so he just shuffled his feet awkwardly. “Is he...is he going to be okay?”
Hunith nodded decisively, to Arthur’s surprise and relief both. “He’ll need to be taken to the hospital, of course, and he’ll need some time off school to recover, but Merlin is strong.”
Arthur found that he was having a hard time believing that, because to look at Merlin now, he seemed anything but; he was always so weak-looking, frail and delicate, like the gentlest breeze could blow him over—but then he knew, Merlin had magic; all that power inside that gangly, lean body of his, and Arthur knew, deep down, that Hunith was right.
“What’s your name?” Hunith asked him kindly, and Arthur fumbled. “Oh, I’m...Arthur.”
Hunith had a look of dawning realisation on her face. “You’re the one he saved, that day.”
Arthur could only nod.
“Could I...do you think I could visit him?” he asked almost timidly, after a moment, and Hunith’s face softened.
“Of course you can, Arthur, dear. I think he would appreciate that.”
Arthur found that he didn’t exactly agree, that Merlin would probably rather Arthur never came near him again, but he couldn’t bring himself to tell Hunith that, so he just smiled weakly at her, instead.
“I’ll come by tomorrow. And don’t worry—I’ll see myself out. You should get back to Merlin.”
And see himself out he did.
When Arthur came to visit Merlin the next day, Merlin’s left wrist was in a cast, a bandage was around his left ankle, the cut by his hairline had stitches, and the bruise around his eye was a dark purple.
He looked like crap, if Arthur was being honest, but he was alert, at least, and he was smiling as best he could despite his split slip when he saw Arthur enter his room.
“Mum said you’d drop by, but I didn’t think...” Merlin trailed off. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed that.”
Arthur shrugged. “You have every right to, after how I treated you. I brought your homework, by the way; left it with your mother.”
Merlin groaned, but Arthur just chuckled. “Do you have any idea when you’ll be back?” he asked, making absolutely sure that he didn’t sound concerned in the slightest.
It was Merlin’s turn to shrug. “Sometime next week, I think.”
He grew serious.
“You don’t need to do anything else, you know. If you have some crazy idea that you’re still ‘indebted’ to me, you’ve more than repaid it by saving my life in return.”
Arthur looked slightly offended. “Don’t be ridiculous, Merlin,” and that was that.
Arthur visited Merlin every day, and the two of them would spend hours talking while Merlin did his homework, and Arthur was starting to see how Merlin had managed to get a scholarship to such a prestigious school.
Sometimes, he would sit on the bed with Merlin, but Merlin wasn’t very comfortable with physical contact, most of the time, after the beating.
Arthur couldn’t blame him; to his own surprise, he found himself being surprisingly patient and careful with Merlin, but he supposed that was natural. Of course he’d feel some protective instincts concerning Merlin after having been the one to come across the boy being beaten.
And concerning the assholes that had been behind it in the first place—well. Given who his father was, it hadn’t been hard for Arthur to simply suggest to the school that that the three of them be expelled. Considering Uther Pendragon contributed a substantial amount of funds to them annually, the suggestion had basically been seen as a command, and though Arthur normally hated abuse of power like that, in this case, he hadn’t regretted it in the slightest.
One day though, Merlin wasn’t quite so hesitant and nervous about physical contact, and Arthur was leaning over from the opposite end of the bed to look at Merlin’s homework as Merlin bowed his head over it, and Arthur looked up and saw Merlin concentrated on his homework intently.
His face was much closer than usual, and Arthur could take in the healing bruise, now just a faint, sickly yellow, and the split lip had healed, Merlin’s lips plump and full and healthy and pink without the injury, and the sweep of his long, black eyelashes against his cheek whenever he blinked, and Arthur came to the realisation that it wasn’t quite protectiveness he felt about Merlin—at all, actually.
It took a few days for Arthur to come to terms with his feelings for Merlin properly. After all, due to being raised by a man like Uther, there was that small part of Arthur that still mentally jerked away from Merlin; that thought sorcerer in a hateful voice whenever he thought about Merlin, or saw Merlin, or anything involving Merlin.
But when Arthur found himself in bed with his hand down his pants as he pulled at his cock just this side of too rough to be comfy, imagining world famous singer Helen Mora sitting naked on top of him, and then his mental fantasy suddenly turned into naked Merlin instead, and fantasy Merlin was leaning down and kissing him, and rutting against him, and Arthur found himself coming faster than he ever had since he’d been fourteen and just entering puberty...
He stared at his come-covered hand afterwards in silent awe (and a mild amount of shock), and gave it up as a lost cause.
The next week saw Merlin return to school, and with it came the firm line that couldn’t be crossed between him and Arthur. Unlike before, though, Merlin understood completely, and couldn’t blame Arthur in the slightest.
Now, he understood—the son of Uther Pendragon couldn’t be seen talking casually to a known sorcerer, not where everyone could see them. Arthur would get in trouble, if word got back to Uther, and Merlin didn’t want Arthur getting into trouble because of him. Who even knew what Uther would do to Arthur? It would probably damage their newfound friendship beyond repair, that much was for sure.
Thus, Merlin was basically stuck with Nimueh being the person he was closest to, instead, to his eternal discontent. He had hoped that tutoring with Gilli could have started, in order to have a new sort of distraction, but after the attack Gaius was cautious; said that Merlin was only just recovering, and he could start tutoring after his cast was removed.
Of course, Gaius was right; Merlin was still skittish after what had happened, shying away from anyone who happened to brush against him, accidentally or otherwise, but it hadn’t escaped his notice that the three boys who had beaten him up weren’t anywhere to be seen in school anymore.
He did wonder, if Arthur had had anything to do with that, but he couldn’t bring himself to ask; didn’t want to assume that what had happened to him had had anything to do with their disappearance in the first place. Still though, now instead of glaring at Arthur when they passed in the halls, Merlin would offer him tentative smiles, instead.
The two of them still hung out after school together, when they could. Always at Merlin’s house, obviously—Arthur never invited him to his, and even if he had, Merlin would never have accepted, and he had a feeling they were on the same wavelength in that regard. Neither of them wanted to risk Merlin’s neck (and even Arthur’s) by bringing him straight to Uther.
Merlin’s wrist was still healing, so there wasn’t a whole lot that he could go that involved two hands (but thank fuck it had been his left wrist, because not being able to wank would have been a horrific thing indeed), so most of the time the two of them just sprawled out in the living room, often half on top of each other as they poked and prodded and giggled and acted like idiots. Sometimes they talked, but more often they just watched television.
They never really settled on one thing; often they just channel flipped like crazy (or Arthur did, because he always got control of the remote for some reason, despite it being Merlin’s house), and one day they were watching a show (Merlin didn’t particularly know the name of it, nor did he care), and the main character happened to save another character from drowning.
Merlin, without thinking, looked over at Arthur, and he was suddenly struck with the realisation of everything, of just how much Arthur had done for him thus far.
It far outweighed the one simple instance of him saving Arthur’s life, and holy fuck he’d been in love with Arthur all this time.
Merlin was shocked, but he made sure to not let Arthur onto his sudden epiphany. How he had not realised before now, Merlin wasn’t sure. It all made sense now—no wonder it had hurt so much when Arthur had first (albeit accidentally) insulted him after he’d saved his life; why Arthur had gotten under his skin so easily after the fact.
Part of him wanted to jump Arthur immediately after the realisation, but Merlin stopped himself.
He didn’t know how Arthur felt in return, after all. To his knowledge, Arthur liked girls (or at least, he showed far more interest in them). Merlin, in comparison, was a liberal sort; didn’t really put a label on liking people (he supposed other people called that pansexual, though), but while Arthur had become his friend, he wasn’t sure how well Arthur would take being involved in a relationship with a sorcerer, of all things, least of all a male one.
After Merlin’s love revelation, however, it didn’t get any easier. Arthur had always been the touchy feely sort, with him (when Merlin wasn’t busy freaking out that his personal space was being invaded, anyways), and always took the opportunity to be as close to Merlin as was decently allowed (and occasionally, beyond that) whenever Merlin wasn’t feeling so jumpy.
Of course, Arthur being in such close proximity at almost all times meant Merlin was far more tense than normal, and really, really horny.
Arthur sometimes gave Merlin these looks that maybe, just maybe he wanted to jump Merlin’s bones in return, but they were always gone before Merlin could be sure, and occasionally, he caught Arthur staring at his lips, but Merlin wasn’t stupid enough to think that Arthur actually felt something for him. They were just friends.
Honestly, the entire situation was causing the greatest amount of pent up sexual tension Merlin had ever had in his life, ever, but Merlin didn’t want to make the first move and risk their friendship.
But even if nothing was going to come of it all, it didn’t stop the dreams.
Arthur was now in basically every dream Merlin had, ever, and Merlin hadn’t suffered from that many wet dreams in what felt like ages. He took to magicking his sheets clean of stains whenever possible, to spare himself the mortification of his mother seeing and knowing.
The dreams kept bothering him when he was awake, too though. One minute he’d be talking to Arthur, and then next, Merlin was having a fantasy where Arthur was shoving him against the wall and biting and licking at his neck, one hand shoved down Merlin’s pants.
Of course then Arthur would actually speak, asking if Merlin was okay and commenting that he looked a little flushed, and Merlin would want to die of sheer embarrassment.
If Merlin had thought Arthur had been oddly flirty before they’d become close, those times had nothing on now, and Merlin was now officially really not sure what the fuck Arthur’s deal was, and he was ready to just scream at Arthur to make a move or stop it entirely because, honestly, he wasn’t even sure if Arthur was aware of the fact that he was doing it at all.
Because of course, that would be just like Arthur, being unaware of the fact that he was actually kind of hitting on someone. Prat.
Still, Merlin was a healthy teenage boy, and whether or not his best friend had a thing for him or otherwise (Merlin was thinking not, because he couldn’t imagine Arthur not acting on his desires, especially when Merlin dropped not-so subtle hints left and right that he would very, very much so reciprocate if Arthur made a move), it didn’t change the fact that he needed some form of relief.
That, in turn, led to a hell load of frustrated wanking on Merlin’s end—so much, in fact, that he was afraid his cock was going to start chafing, soon.
But then, finally, finally, after weeks and weeks and weeks, Merlin was able to get his cast off. His left hand was fairly weak, since he hadn’t been able to move it for ages, but Merlin was still relieved that it had been the left, instead of the right (especially now, where he basically had to jerk himself off at least three times a night, every night).
At least he could now shove his fingers up his arse, if he wanted. And sometimes, he most definitely wanted, considering he needed some other sort of relief, sometimes (seriously, the chafing, it was going to happen eventually at the rate he went).
Merlin could only be satisfied with that for so long, though (and he wasn’t satisfied, not at all), and with that knowledge came the sort of rashness and impatience that Hunith had always chided Merlin for as a child.
But you only lived once, right? If he lost Arthur’s friendship, so be it, but Merlin knew he had to do something or nothing would ever happen. He was willing to take that risk, and so one day while they were (once again) watching telly, Merlin decided that was the moment.
“Fuck it,” he said, causing Arthur to turn and look at him in confusion.
“What?” he asked, and then Merlin practically lunged at him, with every intention of kissing him full on the mouth, but the vigour behind the action made him clumsy, and instead of kissing him, his nose ended up bumping into Arthur’s eye.
Before he had a chance to freeze and panic, though, Arthur spoke.
“Ow,” he said blandly, and that was all it took to set the two of them off.
They collapsed on top of each other, laughing, but after a minute or two Arthur moved, positioning himself above Merlin and looking down at him intently.
Merlin stopped giggling, slowly, as the moment sunk in and he looked up at Arthur in return, and then Arthur leaned down and kissed him.
After that, it was easy.
Of course, they couldn’t tell anyone about their relationship (well, they told Hunith, who said she was very happy for them and thankfully didn’t say anything further); couldn’t be together at school, could only be chaste around Hunith, so the two of them had taken to sneaking out of school during lunch time and going to Merlin’s house when they could.
Hunith was always at work at that time, which meant they didn’t need to be quiet in the slightest.
Because of course, they were, after all, two horny teenage boys, and they could only be satisfied with just kissing for so long.
“Ah-Arthur,” Merlin gasped.
Arthur had his mouth around Merlin’s cock, and he hummed lightly in response, the sound sending vibrations through said cock and causing Merlin to try jerking his hips in response (Arthur’s hands on them, however, stopped him).
“Oh God,” Merlin babbled. “That was fucking—oh God.”
Arthur smirked around his cock and pulled back a little; Merlin whimpered, but Arthur moved back in quickly, mouthing along the length and peppering it with small nips and kisses. Merlin’s breathing quickened, and Arthur chuckled.
“Stop teasing me,” Merlin pleaded.
“Patience,” Arthur chided, leaning in closer and breathing against it, and Merlin let out a strangled moan.
“I don’t have any patience, Arthur,” Merlin huffed out.
“Well then I suppose you’ll just have to learn some, Merlin.”
And then, without warning, he moved back in, covering Merlin’s cock with his mouth and sucking enthusiastically, hands once again firmly on Merlin’s hips to prevent him from bucking up.
Arthur had already informed Merlin that he wasn’t going to attempt any sort of deepthroating, and Merlin couldn’t blame him considering it was only their third time doing it, but in Merlin’s opinion, Arthur still sucked cock like a pro (not that he had anything to go off of prior, but it felt amazing).
One of Arthur’s hands snaked up Merlin’s body and tweaked one of his nipples, and Merlin groaned at the sensation coupled with Arthur now licking at his cock like it was fucking candy or something (Merlin enjoyed sucking Arthur’s cock, in return, had done so just a few minutes earlier, in fact, but Arthur seemed very, very fond of Merlin’s dick), and Merlin slammed his head back against the pillow.
He was so, so close, and then Arthur’s hands were joining his mouth on Merlin’s dick as well, and Merlin curled his toes.
“Arthur—Arthur I’m going to come,” Merlin warned, and Arthur bobbed his head in response and then Merlin arched up as his orgasm ripped through him. He came in Arthur’s mouth for what felt like an endless amount of time, and then finally he collapsed back down on the bed, trying to catch his breath.
Arthur pulled off his now over-sensitive cock and licked at his lips to make sure he had swallowed it all before moving up on the bed, lying down next to him.
“Can’t believe you swallowed,” Merlin mumbled, eyes half closed.
He felt more than saw Arthur shrug. “It doesn’t taste so bad.”
Merlin wrinkled his nose. “If you think that’s going to get me to swallow yours...”
Arthur laughed, the sound deep and rich. “I don’t expect you to, Merlin.”
Merlin hummed in consideration. “You’re very good at it.”
Arthur reached out, resting his hand against Merlin’s chest. “What are you talking about, Merlin, I’m good at everything.”
“And modest, too.”
Arthur laughed again, rubbing Merlin’s chest for a moment before he pushed himself up. “Come on, lunch will be over soon, no time to sleep.”
“Whose brilliant idea was it to come home during lunch, again?” Merlin grumbled.
“Would you rather your mum catches us at it?”
Merlin pushed himself up reluctantly. “Not like she doesn’t know what we’re doing.”
“Merlin!” Arthur said, looking scandalised.
“It’s true!” Merlin argued. “She’s not stupid, gave me a pack of condoms the day after we told her. Didn’t say anything else, thankfully.”
“I do not need to think about Hunith having any idea what I get up to with you,” Arthur responded, bending down and picking up his pants and pulling them on. “Come on, we’ll be late if we waste anymore time.”
“Not like you don’t ditch class all the time,” Merlin complained quietly, but he got out of bed anyways.
The two of them had been dating for three weeks (a glorious, wonderful, fucking brilliant three weeks, Arthur thought), filled with blowjobs, hand jobs and mutual wanking, and frottage; lots and lots of all of that—Merlin loved frottage almost as much as Arthur loved giving blowjobs, and Arthur was basically walking on air, really. It upset him that he couldn’t really go public with his relationship, but that aside, he was dating Merlin and everything was wonderful.
He was trying really, really hard not to hum out loud as he crammed his books into his bag when someone approached him.
“Arthur Pendragon,” a neutral, unassuming voice said, and Arthur looked up, curious to see who was talking to him.
“Mm?” he asked, trying to remember who the boy standing before him was.
“Emrys has asked for you to meet him at the rugby field.”
Mordred, Arthur remembered suddenly (memory placing him as one of the people who hung out with Nimueh), feeling unnerved as Mordred’s bright blue eyes stared intently at him without blinking, but he soon forgot about all that as the other boy’s words sank in.
“Really?” he asked, and Mordred nodded.
Part of Arthur was suspicious—to his knowledge, Merlin hadn’t really planned on telling anyone about them either, and they didn’t hang out at school, and Merlin didn’t ever ditch class, and lately he’d been busy with some sort of tutoring thing—and yet this person was saying that Merlin wanted to see him.
In the end though, Arthur decided not to question it, his eagerness to see Merlin taking over any sort of rational thought, because clearly he was starting to think more with one head than the other, but Arthur didn’t really care at that moment.
“Thanks,” he told Mordred, and closed his locker, making his way toward the rugby field without a second thought.
It was genius, Arthur thought, because it was such a deserted part of the school—no one was ever there while school was still in session, they’d never be caught for any sort of secret rendezvous during school hours.
When he arrived, though, Merlin wasn’t there.
Nimueh, however, was.
Arthur blinked, confused. “Where’s Merlin?” he asked tentatively.
“Oh, Merlin won’t be coming,” Nimueh said, and suddenly Arthur was hit with the sense that something was very, very wrong.
Sticking around would not be a wise option, he felt, and Arthur turned to leave quickly, but Nimueh reached out with her hand in response, and abruptly Arthur found that he couldn’t move, trapped in place by invisible bonds.
Oh, great, Arthur realised. Nimueh was a bloody magic user. That explained her fascination with Merlin and wanting him to sit with her and her friends at lunch, Arthur thought, but then Nimueh started talking.
“I admit, I was upset when Merlin saved you from falling, at first,” and Arthur stared at her in horror, but she kept talking. “But then I realised that I might be able to use that to my advantage. And I was right—eventually you two started dating, imagine that. It was easy enough to notice, what with Merlin not being around at lunch anymore, and I would have to be blind to miss the looks you two gave each other when you passed by in the halls. And now, I can finally get my revenge.”
Arthur was confused beyond all belief. “Why do you want revenge on me?” he asked. “What did I ever even do to you?”
Nimueh, it seemed, was more than happy to explain.
“It wasn’t you that wronged me, but your father that wronged my parents. Your mother, Ygraine Pendragon, died in a car accident—that much you know. What you didn’t know is that my father happened to be the driver in the other car. It was raining that day,” she explained, “and it wasn’t his fault. It was an accident.”
Her tone said that this was something that had been told to her many times, and even as she spoke Arthur could detect a hint of desperation in her voice, as if she wanted to convince him of that truth. “But Uther overreacted. Just because my father was a sorcerer, Uther decided all magic users were evil. My mother, she worked for him at the time, but after the accident, Uther fired her, slandered her name, ruined her so she couldn’t find work.
“It drove her half mad, and I was just a baby at the time. I grew up hearing stories about Uther Pendragon, how he was driven to insanity by the loss of his wife, and how he ruined the lives of magic users over what had simply been an accident.”
Arthur didn’t doubt her story, if he thought about it—but it was clear his father hadn’t been the only one driven to insanity by the situation; Nimueh’s own eyes had a slightly crazed look in them.
“And then we ended up at school together, and I saw my chance. Your father ruined my family, and my life,” Nimueh said. “And now I’ll ruin his by destroying you, Arthur.”
Definitely crazy, Arthur realised. He could tell she was absolutely serious, but it felt unreal to him; she had seemed so normal before then, when he saw her in school. And he wasn’t sure if by “destroy” she meant she was actually going to kill him, but fucking hell, Arthur didn’t want to stick around and find out.
Except she still had him trapped in place, and no matter how hard Arthur fought against the invisible bonds, they held fast—he could only watch in horror as Nimueh lifted her hand, and then a blast of magical energy was zooming right toward him—
—and then he was flat on the ground and Merlin was on top of him, and all the breath had left Arthur’s lungs.
So apparently, Merlin had just tackled him to safety.
Arthur wished he could have been a little gentler about it, but he wasn’t going to complain about being alive.
Merlin didn’t waste any time though; he turned to look at Nimueh, his eyes glowing, and he thrust his hand out at her, and Nimueh toppled to the ground like a puppet that had had its strings cut.
Merlin snorted disdainfully. “She might be strong for a sorceress,” Merlin told him, “but she’s not that strong.”
Arthur, however, was in more shock than anything beneath Merlin, who was still lying on top of him, and then Merlin finally relaxed, breathing in relief and resting his head against Arthur’s shoulder. “They said I was never supposed to use my magic in school again,” Merlin mumbled. “And here I am, using it to save your sorry arse, again. If words get out and they expel me, I expect full compensation from you.”
Arthur huffed out a breathless laugh, and the two of them just lay there for awhile, not saying anything, until eventually Arthur recovered both his breath and his voice.
“How’d you know I was here?”
Merlin paused at the question, hesitating for a moment before answering. “Just...someone. They said they had a dream about this, and wanted to warn me. Over the years, I’ve learned never to question seers.”
Arthur found himself intrigued, and tilted his head to the side. “A seer? Who?”
But Merlin refused to say, and merely shook his head.
Arthur knew when not to push, so instead he looked over to where Nimueh was lying unconscious and huffed out a noise of disbelief.
“That girl needs serious therapy.”
Merlin could only let out a wobbly laugh in return.
Arthur sat at the dinner table with Merlin and Hunith, a large smile on his face as he piled a large helping of food onto his plate.
“Careful, you’ll get fat,” Merlin teased, and Arthur scoffed.
“I beg your pardon, Merlin, I am not fat.”
Hunith watched the two of them with a fond smile on her face, but it faded slightly as a look of contemplation crossed her features.
“So, whatever did happen to Nimueh?” she asked, cautiously.
It had been several days since the incident, but neither boy had seemed very keen to talk about it. Sure enough, Arthur and Merlin exchanged wary looks, but in the end, Merlin was the one to relent, with a shrug.
“She got expelled. And they signed her up for therapy, last I heard. Her family life...wasn’t so great; she wasn’t right in the head. But I think she’ll be okay, one day.”
Neither boy mentioned how Uther had been partially to blame for Nimueh’s onset of insanity—it was a raw subject that they didn’t want to poke at.
Hunith hummed, a sympathetic sound. “That poor girl. It can’t have been easy.”
Arthur shook his head, mouth in a tight line, and he blinked in surprise when he felt Merlin’s hand cover his own, and he allowed himself to relax, slightly.
Their problems were far from over, Arthur knew. They couldn’t exactly tell the world they were together, yet, not with his father running anti-magic campaigns and mistrust of magic users at an all-time high, but that was okay. They were together, and they were happy.