Title:Téigh go Misniúil isteach i dTús Nua
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin (eventually but not yet), Gwaine/Merlin (in this story)
Spoilers: All seasons, up until season 4 episode 3
Warnings: hurt/comfort, violence
Beta: none, all mistakes are mine
Summary: All new beginnings are hard. Especially with Arthur being a newly crowned king, Merlin accidentally outing his magic, loosing his virginity and whooops...who knew certain spells actually required sex?
“I can’t do this anymore.”
The words hung softly in the air, hovering for a moment before only Merlin’s ragged breaths broke the otherwise silent world.
“What do you mean?” Gaius inquired, gently touching his ward on the bony arm.
Merlin crumbled, leaning forward until his head nearly landed on the wooden table’s surface. “I can’t continue to save Arthur, I just can’t.” If possible his voice sounded even more broken than before, barely audible as the young warlock mumbled his distressed into the ancient wood.
“No!” This time Merlin shouted, head snapping off the table in record speed, spine straightening. When he turned around to face his mentor, his blue eyes were blazing with fury. “I tried to help!” he nearly shouted, only years of experience in keeping quiet every time he got agitated got him not to scream at the top of his lungs.
He balled his fingers into tight fists, holding them close to his body lest he would accidentally lash out and smash one of Gaius’ important jars.
“For all these years I clung to hope”, Merlin continued to vent, twitching in agitation. “I always thought Arthur would come to learn that magic isn’t evil. I know he’s got a kind heart under all his bluster. I’ve seen how he cares about the people and since our destiny is supposed to be intertwined, I thought,” Merlin’s speech fumbled for a moment before he picked up speed again. “I thought,” he repeated, voice getting stronger again, ice slowly layering over the previous heat. “I was so sure he wouldn’t follow in his father’s footsteps. Maybe I was in trying to save Uther with magic…but Arthur…”
“Merlin,” Gaius gently interjected, placing a hand carefully on Merlin’s tightly wrapped fingers. “You couldn’t possibly know Morgana would know about Arthur wanting to use magic to heal his father. Nor could you know she would go as far as place an enchanted amulet around the King’s neck. You didn’t know…”
“Maybe,” Merlin softy admitted but his eyes still held fire.
“Arthur doesn’t know magic was used to swart your efforts…”
“No,” Merlin narrowed his eyes, heat flaring up again inside him, making it nearly impossible for him to breath. Hot on the heels of his anger though was another emotion, curled so tightly around his heart, he barely gave it any concern. For it had been his constant companion for years now, always there, treading side by side, never leaving him. “He told me he blamed magic. Magic cost him his mother and now his father. He isn’t going to change his stance any time soon…I’m going to have to continue to hide who I am, living in fear while trying to save the brat’s life.”
“No,” Merlin interrupted his mentor, ducking his head, shoulders slumping. “I’m done,” he softly said, heat finally ebbing away, giving away to the always present emotion of fear. “I can’t continue to be at his side, looking for the promised bright future while always hiding who I am. I can’t continue to save a man who would kill me should he ever find out who I really am.”
“But you saved his life…”
“Do you honestly think this would matter?” Merlin shot back, shaking his head. “I’m not hanging around any more. I always thought after the initial shock, Arthur would come around. We’re friends…” Merlin conveniently left out how he wanted to be more than just friends because Arthur had never shown any inclination of feeling more towards him than fondness and even those moments had been rare. Arthur was closely guarded book for good reason and Merlin treasured the moments where the façade cracked, giving him glimpses of the real Arthur underneath.
Now he couldn’t help but wonder if he had only imagined those rare moments because the man Merlin had always believed Arthur to be would not easily consent to continue mindlessly burn people alive simply for something they were born with. This was like condemning people simply because they were born with red hair or with blue eyes. Magic simply happened to people, it mostly wasn’t their choice.
He always believed, deep down, Arthur knew the difference and wasn’t speaking out because of his father. There had been times when Arthur had gone behind his father’s back, saving people because it was the right thing to do and stupid Merlin had always clung to the hope that one day Arthur would bring magic back, giving Merlin a chance to embrace who he was.
“He needs you.”
“He doesn’t know me,” Merlin replied, slowly rising, mind made up. “How can I justify staying, looking out for him while knowing he would kill me should he ever find out how I’m aiding him? I might be slow on the uptake on many things but after being repeatedly hit over the head with the evidence, I don’t think even I am stupid enough to ignore it.”
“Well,” Gaius finally relented, rising as well, steadying him on the table because his old bones no longer supported him so easily. “At least sleep on it. If you still feel the same come morning, I won’t stop you. But there is no point in dashing about now, this close to nightfall.”
Merlin wanted nothing more than run but he nodded slowly. Gaius did have a point. Besides, what was one more night, right?
He sniffed, retreating to his room. He haphazardly started stuffing his meagre belongings into his bag and if he hadn’t glanced behind his trunk, he would’ve probably never seen the forlorn looking note hidden behind it.
“What…?” he wondered, tongue peaking out as he shoved the trunk aside, crouching down to retrieve the note. Someone must have placed it on top of the trunk and Merlin being Merlin hadn’t noticed when he had opened it, causing it fall in the crack between the wooden trunk and the shabby wall.
His fingers curled around the paper, slowly lifting it.
His name was clearly written on the note and his heart started racing inside his chest as he unfolded the paper. He knew the handwriting and as he started reading, his heart constricted in his chest. His breathing grew ragged as the world slowly fell away in a pool of tears.
Merlin – the note started in Lancelot’s neat handwriting, just as noble and clear as the man had been. If this note finds you, then I didn’t get a chance to retrieve it which means I lived up to the promise I made, laying down my life to protect Arthur’s. For a while now I wanted to tell you how I felt but I never found the words. There is no simple way to say this, so…I love you. You are a kind person, Merlin, never forget this. I am your friend, always have been and always will be and know this: in this world, there was someone who loved you for who you are and nothing else. Love, Lancelot.
The note fell from Merlin’s fingers as if it were made out of led, too heavy for the young man to hold it in one hand. It fluttered to the stone floor, resting there, looking all harmless and innocent while its words were slowly burning away at Merlin’s heart.
How Merlin came to cradle the canter with the hot, burning liquid he didn’t know but did he care? Not one bit.
He drank deeply, allowing the scorching liquid to burn down his throat, coating his insides liquid fire while the world slowly morphed into a place where his emotions were nothing but distant, horrible stabs of pain.
He crawled across the floor, scooping up the precious letter before he somehow managed to fold himself onto the bed, curling in on himself, brining his knees nearly up to his chest.
His friend; the only person apart from Will who had truly seen him. Who he had shared laughter with, exchanged smiles and who had always had his back when Merlin had gone off on a wild goose chase involving all kinds of dangers while trying to protect Arthur and Camelot.
Lancelot had always been there; a quite, steady beacon of hope right beside him, never letting him waiver and he had never known the man actually loved him!
What had happened to Gwen?
Of course Gwen’s affections had transferred easily from the dashing knight towards Arthur but Merlin had always thought Lance still loved her. Hadn’t there been longing puppy dog looks on his part? Surely, he hadn’t imagined those but maybe he had interpreted them wrongly because Lancelot’s note spoke differently.
He didn’t return Lance’s feelings. His heart had always been solely taking up by Arthur; the Arthur-shaped bow tied around his heart would never let anyone else in but maybe, maybe if he had known, maybe if Lancelot were still alive they would have a chance. And even so, he missed his friend. Gaius was like a father to him but until Lancelot he had never had anyone who had his back as loyally as him.
Will might have been his good friend but Merlin had always known Will would go his own way first before thinking of Merlin. With Lancelot though, the knight’s devotion to his friendship had been unyielding and maybe it had been wrong of him but Merlin had always assumed Lancelot would have his back, regardless of what silly task Merlin would agree to take on.
A sob broke free from deep inside his core, echoing through the tiny room, bouncing off the walls and falling right back on Merlin.
The paper got nearly destroyed as Merlin’s fingers started to wrap even more tightly around it but in the absence of Lancelot’s steady heartbeat, this was the closest he could get to him and this time, this time he would hang on.
Hours passed, day morphed into night and then into day again and eventually Merlin drifted into a fitful sleep.
He was still drunk, caught up in his own misery and fear when Gwaine barged into his room, shaking him roughly. “Arthur is shouting for you. If you don’t get your lazy ass out of bed and see to the King’s needs, he’s likely to chew you a new head.”
In Merlin’s misery, the name alone caused fear to spike deep inside him, stabbing him with every breath he took. He shook his head, sobbing into the pillow. “No,” he whimpered, Arthur couldn’t find out about him. He would kill him. He wasn’t aware he was mumbling some of his thoughts out loud.
“Arthur’s isn’t going to kill you,” Gwaine grumbled, but instead of shaking him roughly again, this time he gently tried to unfold Merlin so he could talk some to the young man.
“But he is,” Merlin protested, curling further into himself, nearly folding himself up if such a thing would have actually been possible. “If he ever found,” Merlin hiccupped, “If he knew who I really was, he would have me burnt…”
Instead of prying further, Gwaine ruffled his head. Merlin didn’t notice his friend removing the crumbled letter nor did he noticed Gwaine reading it.
“Merlin,” the older man softly said again, hands still carting through Merlin’s ebony hair. “I didn’t know…” he coughed before he continued, “I don’t know about Uther but I’m sure Arthur doesn’t care about you liking men.”
The statement was so far away from Merlin’s real thoughts that the young warlock could only master a confused sniff before slowly turning to stare at his friend. What was Gwaine talking about?
Why wouldn’t he like men? He liked cats and dogs too…and of course he liked women and children too…what was the idiot talking about? He tried to be kind and respectful to every living being he encountered because this was how his mother had raised him. She taught him to respect life and being who he was, with all this power bubbling up inside him, he wanted to ensure he never lost sight of how precious life actually was. For it was all too easy to get lost in the pull of power, he wasn’t a saint; he wasn’t immune to the lure of it but he would never give in. There was always a choice and hoped he would never make the wrong one.
“What’s the hold up?” another knight burst into the room and there were a few seconds of silence as he took in the scene before Gwaine snapped, “Go and get Arthur.”
“No!” Merlin screamed, still way too drunk for this to be reasonable while a tiny part of him slowly started processing the world around him again.
“Look,” Gwaine eyed him again with cautious eyes, a look Merlin wasn’t use to seeing on the otherwise carefree man. He paused, blinking rapidly, raising his finger to wipe an itch of his nose. “Lancelot was a good man, a good friend and I’m sorry I didn’t realize he meant more to you than…”
“Oh,” Merlin exclaimed softly, everything slowly falling into place as his innate magic quickly whisked his hang over away. His magic sometimes did that; recognizing a need and taking care of things while Merlin made no conscious decision about it. Gaius didn’t much like when this happened which was why Merlin had stopped talking about it. Why bother the sweet old man with something he couldn’t change anyway?
“I didn’t know,” Merlin sniffed, speaking slowly as if forming words were almost beyond him. “He left me a letter. I only found it last night…”
Gwaine nodded as if this explained everything. “You’re still a…hm…”
Was there a faint blush on the knight’s cheeks?
“I’m what…?” Merlin wondered, tilting his head before Gwaine’s meaning settled in causing him to blush to the colour of a tomato. “Yes…what business is it of yours?” He shot back, eyes slightly narrowing.
“Just…if you ever want to experiment…and without Lance…well, I’m your friend too…we could experiment together, I could show you the ropes, no strings attached. I will always be your friend…”
The jumbled speech was almost incoherent but when Merlin got the gist of it, a wide smile broke out on his face. He had more than one friend; he wasn’t totally alone even though his heart was still aching, some soothing bursts of happiness echoed within him, soaking up Gwaine’s kind words.
Of course it wasn’t the same as with Lance because Gwaine didn’t know the real him but still, it warmed his heart.
“What’s all this about?” Arthur’s head poked into the room, his tall, strong frame leaning against the door, a smirk firmly planted on his face. “I hear you’re worried I’m going to kill you. What did you do? Hm…? Forgot to order my breakfast? Or…” Arthur’s paused theatrically, “did you forget to clean my sheets?” he was stage whispering now which despite everything made Merlin smile.
He ducked his head shyly, fumbling to grab the letter from Gwaine’s fingers before Arthur could find it and make fun of him for it.
“Sorry to bother you, your highness,” Gwaine swiftly said, rising to his feet and planting himself in between Merlin and Arthur, giving the young warlock enough time to hide the letter. “I thought something had happened to Merlin but he was simply too drunk to notice what he was babbling about. Nightmares, you know…”
Arthur nodded sagely when Merlin risked a peak around Gwaine’s strong body. “Take a few hours,” Arthur offered, face still smiling but his amusement slowly fading. “I can manage on my own for a bit…”
Then Arthur turned around, strolling out of sight.
“I’m still leaving,” Merlin mumbled, slowly extracting himself from the bed sheets.
“Leaving?” now Gwaine’s voice was getting agitated again as he hurled about. “Why would you leave?”
“I’m going to bring Lancelot back.”
“You’re going to do what?” Gwaine nearly shouted, “Lance is dead…you can’t raise the dead…”
“Of course not,” Merlin scoffed, as he flung his small bag over his shoulders. As if he would ever do something as despicable as trying to raise the dead. “But Lance didn’t die…”
“Of course he’s dead!” Gwaine was back to shouting again, his huge hands coming to rest on Merlin’s shoulders, shaking him as if he could shake some sense into the younger man. “ He went into the void. In with the dead people…so he’s dead…We had a funeral and everything!”
“But he didn’t get stabbed…” Merlin countered. “When Morgana opened the veil, there was a blood sacrifice. And I planned to kill myself much like Arthur did…but Lance? He simply walked into the veil and it closed…but he didn’t die…”
The logic was flawed but not totally wrong. Sureness settled in Merlin’s bones. He was on to something here, he was sure of it. Lancelot had been removed from this realm, he might have crossed over to where no living soul had ever wondered off too but it didn’t change one simple fact: he hadn’t died this side of the veil. So maybe, there was a loop hole he could explore.
“You sure about his?” Gwaine queried, no longer shaking him but his fingers still dug into Merlin’s skin, surely leaving bruises behind. Not that any of them noticed.
“No,” Merlin admitted, “but you got to trust me. I know how magic works. There’s a chance I’m right and I owe it to Lance to look into it. If there’s nothing there, then he’ll still be dead…nothing lost, right? But if I am right, if there is the slightest chance we can actually bring him back…wouldn’t you rather try than always wonder?”
“How come you are suddenly an expert on magic?”
Gwaine was a free spirit; always bouncing from one bar to the next, enjoying life to the fullest but he was also a closely guarded book because under the joyous façade he rarely showed the deep emotions within. Having spent much time with him Merlin knew there was more to his friend than met the eye but he couldn’t be sure he would react favourably to magic.
But he had gone this far and he was already leaving…
He shook off Gwain’s hands, taking a step backwards before slowly lifting his right arm. He mumbled a few words and then a small ball of blue light burst into life, hovering between them before rising to the ceiling, vanishing in a sparkle of blue stars.
There was a gasped followed by stunned silence as Merlin waited for the axe to fall. His shoulders tensed, he braced himself for a blow, readying his magic to lash out should Gwaine turn hostile and for a moment he thought the knight would try to knock him over when his strong hands were back on his shoulder, shaking them.
“Be careful,” Gwaine hissed, eyes darting left and right. “What if someone had seen…!”
“You don’t hate me?” Merlin mumbled, avoiding to look up, hating how weak and unsure his voice sounded.
“Of course not!” Gwaine shouted, giving Merlin another good shake before letting go.
Merlin dared to raise his head, watching how Gwaine rubbed his jaw, closing his eyes for a moment before he re-opened them. “Are you forgetting I wasn’t born here? I don’t share the believe magic is evil. I’ve got nothing against a decent block who uses it as long as he isn’t flinging fire balls at me.”
“But you never said…!” Merlin protested, eyes slowly rounding in wonder.
“Of course not!” Gwaine shouted again, only reigning in his voice at the last moment. It wouldn’t do to raise any more attention to them. “I’m not stupid, despite what people think. The only see what they like to see and I keep it that way.”
Merlin nodded; this made sense.
“So you see,” he continued, “If there is a chance, then I’m the only one who can do this. And I can’t tell Arthur where I am going or why…”
He conveniently left out the part where he wouldn’t serve Arthur any longer anyway because he wouldn’t bow down to a man who would chop of his head if he ever found out who had been his friend for so many years. No, better to leave this part out lest Gwaine got agitated again.
Besides, he honestly was going to try and find away to save Lancelot.
How come he hadn’t even thought of this before?
Guilt churned deep inside him but he ruthlessly squashed those thoughts. A better friend would’ve thought of this sooner, would’ve used his head instead of burying it in the sand but he was thinking about this now, this had to count for something, right?
“So you’re in or out?” Merlin asked and the playful swat he received over his head was answer enough.
“Do you even have to ask?”
Sneaking away was easier than Merlin would have anticipated. He had already informed Gauis who in turn would tell Arthur. Gwaine had left a note and because he was a free knight he could come and go as he wished. Maybe leaving without speaking to Arthur directly was bad form but there was no rule about him not being allowed to make his own way should he so choose.
“I’m not stealing a horse,” Merlin hurriedly said at the agreed time and meeting place Gwaine was waiting for him with two horses. Arthur was going to be furious enough as it was but Merlin could leave with it. He didn’t though want to give the royal prat turned king any legit reason to send knights after them. Getting arrested for horse theft wouldn’t really make his day.
“You bought me a horse?” Merlin’s voice rose a notch because where had Gwaine gotten the money to buy him a horse from? With Gwaine anything was possible and new nightmare scenarios were running around Merlin’s head until Gwaine nearly fell off his horse with laughter.
“No, dummy,” he said in good humour, “Didn’t you realize you were always given the same horse when you went riding with Arthur?”
Merlin tilted his head sideways, thoughtfully chewing on his lower lip. “Uhm…maybe?” he hedged. He wasn’t fond of horses, he preferred walking but for obvious reasons the crown prince couldn’t possible be seen walking places. He wasn’t afraid of the beasts but still…he had two good legs to take him about, why chance it?
“You’re not just some lowly servant, you know…” Gwaine continued, his humour drying away leaving a rather thoughtful expression behind. This was a new look for Gwaine which had Merlin fidgeting and averting his gaze while he fixed his bag on the saddle. “You’re the man servant to the Crown Prince, this come with a certain status…”
When Merlin still didn’t react, a huge sigh could be heard before the knight continued. “Your position comes with a horse. It is yours even when you leave. Kind of like a job benefit.”
“Oh!” was all Merlin had to say to this. He owned a horse? He eyed the animal wondering if they should’ve bonded or something.
“What’s your name?” he asked, leaning into the mane, his breath ghosting over the anima’s skin. A sound very much akin to the horse laughing at him was the result which had Merlin pulling back, glaring at the huge, dark animal. “Fine,” he snapped, “I just call you Blizzard then.”
Then he swung up onto the horse, muscles responding with ease despite his misgivings about riding in general. Contrary to popular believe he wasn’t really a klutz. Arthur just always made him so nervous and when the prince, no the King, was around, all eyes were usually on them making Merlin even more self conscious and double afraid his instinct would kick in and he would do some magic.
Maybe if he were normal, studying magic in order to practice, he wouldn’t have such a hard time but magic was like breathing to him; it was instinct and suppressing his instinct all the time sometimes actually hurt. Kind of liking always trying to remember to breath in and out ad nausum.
“Let’s get going then,” Gwaine said, kicking his horse, falling into a quick pace with Blizzard joining in without Merlin having to actually give the go ahead. Had the bloody animal always been this self assured? Who was the master here?
Still, Merlin decided it would be best to simply cling on and let the animal follow Gwaine. If it worked, why argue with it, right?
After about an hour riding in a random direction, Gwaine finally slowed down. “So what’s the grand plan here?” he asked brining Merlin up short.
“Well,” Merlin hedged, raising a hand to rub his forehead. He honestly hadn’t gotten this far. “It’s not like I could ask someone for advice,” he defended himself. Gaius was most of the times a pool of wisdom but there was only so much the old man knew and Merlin had been kind of reluctant to discuss this with him. He didn’t want to spend his last moments arguing with him.
“Well, you’re the warlock here,” Gwaine continued, “What does your instinct say?”
“I know I am right,” Merlin quickly answered, not even having to think about it. “I know there is a way to bring Lancelot back because he didn’t die. The rules were still satisfied because a sacrifice was made but he didn’t die in our realm which leaves us with a loop hole.”
“Just as long as brining him back won’t re-open the veil…”
“I would never do that!” Merlin nearly fell off his horse with outrage.
“I know,” Gwaine reassured him quickly, “I just wanted to point it out… Do we have to go back to the Isle of the Blessed?”
Merlin pondered this for a moment but then he shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Theoretically the veil can be accessed anywhere and that place is tainted now. What I want to dry is get a fire started because this is positive energy and burn some herbs which are supposed to connect us to the spirit world and then simply use all my power to call for our friend.”
“Good enough for me,” Gwaine said easily but Merlin could hear the doubt in his voice. And the knight wasn’t alone with his concerns because Merlin was pulling the idea out of the depth of his mind without knowing if it would work but hadn’t Gaius always said magic was mostly instinct with him anyway? Some of the so called spells hadn’t quite worked for Merlin because he would simply wish to light a fire, he didn’t need the word for it.
Of course mumbling the word would give him an edge, allow him to focus his will but he didn’t need it; unlike all other warlocks Gaius had ever come across including himself.
Merlin was unique and sometimes this was more of a burden than a blessing because despite his old friend’s best efforts, there wasn’t really anyone he could turn to get answers. The ban on magic didn’t make his life any easier either…
He sighed; if his plan didn’t work they could always come up with another one.
A few hours later, Gwaine finally stopped, dismounting. “This is a good place as any to settle for the night.”
Merlin quickly followed, leading his horse towards Gwaine’s before removing his bag.
“I’ll get the fire wood,” Merlin offered, dumping his bag where Gwaine was already couched on the ground, gathering stones.
“Be quick about it. I don’t want you running around in the forest after it gets dark…”
Merlin scoffed. “I can take care of myself…”
“If you break your neck because you stumbled over a fallen branch, Arthur will kill me. So do me a favour, be back before it gets dark. There’s surely enough wood around, so don’t wander off to far.”
Merlin glared but refused to rise to the bait. There was no point in arguing because running around in the darkness wasn’t high on his agenda either.
He quickly went about his business and when he got back, Gwaine already had some simply supper laid out. Merlin arranged the fire wood before using his magic to get it started.
“Handy,” Gwaine observed, “Arthur doesn’t know what he is missing out on…”
Merlin blushed; compliments about his magic, even about something this simple, were extremely rare and meant the world to him.
“Here, have some cheese,” Gwaine held some old cheese out towards him which Merlin quickly snatched up, eating greedily. The bread was fine too and soon the two men were done eating dinner.
“Do you have what you need?”
“I borrowed the herbs from Gaius,” Merlin said while shrugging.
“Borrowed?” Gwaine teased, “is that right…” The way he stretched the word left no doubt on Merlin’s mind he actually meant stole but he wasn’t going to argue semantics.
He grabbed the pouch from his bag, opening it and throwing the mixture into the flames. Then, after swallowing hard, he breathed in deeply, taking as much air into his lungs as he could manage. He let his eyes wander over the flames, cataloguing the different colours. How alive the fire seemed to be, dancing around, reaching out with teasing fingers, inviting you to join them in their merriment, leading any such idiot to severe burns. But there was beauty in danger, Merlin couldn’t deny it.
He focused on the colours, on how fire represented life before he started to call for Lancelot in his mind, his name softly falling from his lips.
He wasn’t aware how his eyes flared golden or how Gwaine sucked in a breath at the sight; he was too lost in the moment, burning up with magic both from the inside and from the outside until…like a busting bubble, everything seemed to be exploding outwards, bursting into million of tiny stars.
He blinked, his eyes slowly adjusting to the darkness.
“What happened?” He slurred, hand rising to rub at his aching head.
“Fire show,” Gwaine said right beside him, helping him to lie down.
Merlin snuggled into the embrace, resting his head on Gwaine’s chest, listening to the man’s steady heartbeat.
“Do you think it worked?” the knight asked, voice carefully blank which told Merlin exactly how important to this was to him.
“I don’t think so,” Merlin answered, defeated. “Lance isn’t here, is he?”
He could feel Gwaine raising his head, peering into the darkness.
“No, he isn’t,” the knight replied quietly. And after a second and a huge hand coming to rest low on Merlin’s back, he added, “but the night doesn’t have to be a complete waist…”
“Huh?” Merlin wasn’t following.
Gwaine snorted before he shifted, lifting his hips, allowing his erection to poke Merlin pointedly into his ribs.
“Oh,” Merlin said, blushing fiercely.
“No strings attached,” Gwaine added, “Just two friends enjoying each other…what do you say?”
Merlin had always thought he would loose his virginity when he got to Camelot because surely in a place this big there would be someone else who fancied men. He wouldn’t even have minded hooking up with Gwen if there had been a spark. And contrary to how Will had always teased him, he had never planned to hold out for a special someone. He had always wanted his first to be with someone who he had a spark with but he never expected to find love and marry straight away.
Surely sleeping with someone for better reason than to just scratch an itch wasn’t too much to ask for, right?
But Arthur had invaded his entire life, keeping Merlin busy with chores and with constantly falling into one disaster after the other so Merlin had never really gotten a chance to find a lover.
Maybe being a tad bit insecure and unsure about his looks hadn’t helped but if he had been given a bit more time, a bit more normal, he would surely have managed! He might not be pretty by any standard but his self esteem wasn’t quite so low he didn’t realize he wasn’t ugly either.
“Yes,” Merlin whispered, not able to actually speak out loud any more. His heart was hammering in his chest while his nerves were starting to tingle and vibrate. What if he couldn’t get it up because he was too nervous? Maybe he should get drunk first, make those annoying worries about his inadequacies leave his mind?
“You’ve got nothing to worry about,” Gwaine reassured him, patting his back. “I know you’re inexperienced and there isn’t anything you could possibly do to put me off. And if you change your mind at any time, just tell me. We don’t have to go through with this if you don’t want to.”
Merlin lifted his head, nodding. Sadly the fire light wasn’t strong enough to allow him to fully make out Gwaine’s expression but he was sure his friend had a kind look on his face.
“There is a bit of thrill in this for me,” the knight confessed with a rueful laugh as he gently shoved Merlin off his chest. He sat up, pulling his shirt over his head. “Having a virgin, going where no one has gone before is kind of exciting.”
“Hey!” Merlin protested, “I am not completely innocent here…” he blushed further as he recalled the many times he had brought himself off but before he could get even more off track, Gwaine tugged at Merlin’s shirt.
Getting naked was less thrilling than Merlin had imagined but the cold air wasn’t really giving them any incentive to attempt a teasing striptease.
“It would be easier if you were on hands and knees…”
“No,” Merlin shook his head, “I’d like to see you…”
Gwaine responded by gently shoving him onto his back, settling in between his legs. His strong body nearly blocked out the cold air and when their lips met, Merlin’s world almost evaporated instantly.
His hands grabbed Gwaine’s shoulders, digging in and when the knight started licking at his throat, he couldn’t quite stifle the groan. He allowed his fingers to freely roam over the broad back, hesitating slightly before venturing further down the body, coming to rest on Gwaine’s ass. The globes were round and firm, enticing Merlin to squeeze and he was rewarded with a slightly desperate sounding grunt coming from Gwaine.
Merlin smiled; it was a heady feeling to know he could elicit these sounds from someone. He shifted, his own straining cock coming in direct contact with Gwaine’s and he nearly passed out from the sensory overload that followed.
“Ungh…”he mumbled, wanting to scream out his pleasure but finding his vocal cords had somehow stopped working. Maybe this was a good thing because he didn’t want to scare away the wild life.
His hips buckled upwards and when Gwaine gently pushed him back down, moving away from planting sweet, little kisses all over Merlin’s body he couldn’t help but whimper in protest.
“Lift your legs, pull them up as far as you can,” Gwaine ordered and with a gulp, Merlin complied. Of course he knew what fucking entailed. Organ A had to go into slot B but knowing and actually having to bear himself to curious eyes were two totally different things.
He was grateful for the darkness for it would hide his full on body flush. Flaring tomato red wouldn’t be a flattering look on anyone, least of all for someone with his pale skin.
“You can’t just…” Merlin started to protest, remembering how using one of Gaius’ cream to jerk off had helped. He doubted pre-come alone would be enough to ease the knight’s passage into his body.
“I’ve got things cover, don’t you worry,” Gwaine reassured him and true enough, when a finger slowly pushed passed the tight ring of his muscles, the finger was slicked up with something, easing into Merlin’s body.
“Ungh,” he grumbled, ass clenching around the intruding digit.
Merlin couldn’t relax. There was a finger in his ass! You try to relax!
Gwaine seemed to realize the problem because moments later his free hand was working Merlin’s cock with expertise. Merlin’s head flopped back onto the ground, eyes fluttering shut. The finger in his ass was nothing but a memory as pleasure overtook him.
His body moved on its own accord, slowly rocking back and forth, fucking himself deeper onto Gwain’s fingers which might have multiplied in the mean time.
Eventually something bigger and harder nudged at his entrance but right the, white, hot pleasure soared through him, burning away any linger discomfort or doubt he might have had. His world vanished in white as his body spasmed uncontrollably. His ass clenched around an intruding organ, thrusting in and out in almost desperate strokes.
He could barely hear his name being called as he slowly came down from cloud nine. Something hot exploded deep inside him, coating his tight channel but all he did was cling to Gawaine, fingers digging into his back as he held on, allowing the man finish.
When Gwaine was spent, he flopped down on top of Merlin who enjoyed being nearly squashed for a few seconds before he searched for enough energy to push and pull at his friend.
“You’re to heavy,” he complained and eventually, with a grunt, Gwaine rolled sideways, pulling Merlin with him and into a tight hug.
Merlin rested his head on Gwaine’s chest again, fingers curling into the man’s wiry chest hair. “Thank you,” he said quietly which only got him yet another grunt.
The come was still trickling down his thighs and the feeling wasn’t totally uncomfortable. As the stains though slowly started to dry, they became itchy and instead of drifting off into a restful sleep, he extracted himself, hobbling towards their water.
He wetted his shirt, using the cloth to clean himself up. He hissed when the fabric touched his sore ass. He wasn’t in any pain; Gwaine had stretched him real good but he couldn’t deny the slight discomfort he was feeling. Nothing had ever made its way up his passage and Gwaine’s dick hadn’t been on the small side of things either.
When he was clean, he hurried into his clothes.
Gwaine only had a few stains from Merlin on his stomach so Merlin quickly cleaned his friend up as well before dropping his clothes on the sleeping man. If Gwaine was fine to sleep in the nude in the forest, then this was fine with him but he didn’t want to leave him without some protection from the cold air.
He then curled up next to Gwaine again, snuggling close for comfort and the knight didn’t need much prompting before he settled against Merlin once more, a hand draped over warlock’s slender frame.
Moments later, only the sounds of two men breathing could be heard.
Merlin came awake in an instant, sitting up so quickly he dislodged Gwaine who greeted him with obscenities.
“Lance!” Merlin shouted, more falling to his feet than gracefully rising.
Why was the world wobbling?
He blinked, swaying slightly before falling on his ass.
Pain shot through him because his used hole didn’t quite appreciate the mistreatment. Merlin scrunched up his nose as he squeezed his eyes shut. The world continued to move around him as if someone was spinning the trees about making Merlin motion sick.
The bustling around him told him Gwaine was getting dressed in a hurry before hands were on him, gently lifting his head.
“Merlin?” Lance asked.
Merlin opened his eyes again, blearily blinking at his formerly dead friend.
“What did you do?”
“You weren’t dead,” Merlin explained, “You weren’t dead…”
“It worked,” Gwaine added, “How the fuck did it work?”
The shoe finally dropped deep within Merlin who immediately turned scarlet. To breath the veil, to bring someone back from the other end, a sacrifice was needed and apart from taking life, giving up his sexual innocence was right up there on the list.
Having sex with Gwaine, allowing someone to take his innocence away from him had been the final ingredient and even if his first time hadn’t already been great, this would surely make it the best first time even in the history of first times!
But nothing explained why everything was looking so shifty. Why was the air streaked with white? Was everything under water?
He raised a hand, poking at what only he could see, missing the worried glances exchanged between Lancelot and Gwaine.
“I think we should get him to Gaius…there’s something wrong with him…” Lancelot said, always the one to worry about Merlin but he wasn’t alone in this because Gwaine was right there with him.
“Merlin!” a new voice shouted, causing Merlin to cringe, attempting to curl in on himself. “If you don’t explain yourself this instance, I’ll wring your neck!”
Arthur burst through the bushes like a bull in a rage but unfortunately his choice of words couldn’t have been any worse if he had tried.
“No!” Merlin screamed, fear fluttering to life within him. He scrambled away from Gawaine, rolling sideways, attempting to crawl for his life.
His legs weren’t quite supporting him and why was the sky up side down?
He fell face forward into the dirt and for a few seconds his sluggish brain couldn’t quite comprehend why his lungs weren’t getting any air.
“Detain him,” Arthur said but Merlin couldn’t make out to whom. “Until I know for sure you’re not some imposter, I can’t let you walk around…”
“Lance…” Merlin whined, rolling onto his back, blindly reaching for his friend.
“Merlin…” Gwaine started to say, probably to explain how Merlin had brought him back.
Merlin reared up, suddenly finding enough strength to sit up, sending a wide eyed glare towards Gwaine.
“I didn’t do anything!” he squeaked. If Arthur found out he had used magic to bring their friend back from the other side then he would be dead! Nothing more than a pile of ashes and he wasn’t ready yet to go! He wasn’t!
“Merlin,” Arthur’s face came into focus.
Merlin flinched, pulling away but Arthur didn’t let him, grabbing him by the shoulders. A way too cool hand came to rest on his forehead.
“He’s got a fever,” Arthur said to someone.
Merlin frowned. A fever? Why would he have a fever?
He was fine! It was everyone else who wasn’t!
He struggled, fighting against Arthur’s hold on him but the prat just clung to him, not giving him an inch.
“Let go,” Merlin demanded, trying to rear backwards, getting nowhere.
“What did you do to him?” Arthur shouted, his words bouncing around in Merlin’s head, echoing loudly and enraging his already aching head into producing even more hammers trying to break down his skull.
“Uhm…” the whimper escaped Merlin’s lips as he closed his eyes, swaying again. If Arthur hadn’t clung to him for dear life, he would’ve fallen sideways and probably become one with the ground. Even the forest needed fertilizer, right? At least his then dead body would be of use instead of going up in flames in Camelot.
When he was being lifted, carried like a damsel in distress, he tried to kick but his body had decided to go on strike. No limb moved.
“Once you’re better, I’m so going to kill you,” Arthur groused, briefly handing Merlin over to someone else before Merlin was deposited on Arthur’s lap, having to allow his limbs to be arranged around him otherwise he surely would fall to his death.
Arthur was going to kill him!
How had he found about his magic?
Strong hands held on to his back, holding on to him for dear life and there was a part of him, deep down buried underneath the fear and raging fever where Merlin knew, Arthur’s words weren’t spoken with true intent. Arthur was simply worried and brining his errant friend back where he belonged.
In Merlin’s state though, the words true meanings didn’t register and the closer they got to Camelot, the more his fever took hold, burning away all reason, leaving only Merlin’s deep seated fear behind.
Blurry images were at war with sharply focused ones, burning holes into his retina. Pain alternated with a numbness so severe it had him almost reeling with nausea.
He was barely aware of being moved, of being guided up the stares and then once again carried in Arthur’s strong arms. When his back connected with a soft surface, way too bouncy to be his own or to be a hard ground somewhere in the forest, his eyes shot up and his panic flooded his senses, brining some awareness of his surroundings back to him.
“No, let me go!” he demanded, pushing at Arthur’s chest as the man was hovering over him. “I never did anything to you, can’t you just let me go?” He hated how his voice took on a whining quality but really, couldn’t Arthur show some mercy? He had done so before to people he hardly knew; surely a servant he hopefully considered at least a friend would qualify for a bit more leniency, right? Please?
“You’re not going anywhere, even if I have to tie you up,” Arthur threatened, blue eyes burning with its own kind of fever which set Merlin’s nerves tingling with renewed anxiety.
Tie him up…shackles? Iron chains?
He whimpered followed by a sniff before he tried to move his tired body, attempting to get his limbs to carry him. If he couldn’t get out the front door, maybe he could jump out the window? If he was high up enough, his death would come quickly and would surely be preferable than to go up in flames.
Every time he had been forced to watch one of his own kind being burnt at the stake, the pain had been more than obvious on their faces. No, if Merlin’s time was coming up, rushing towards him with renewed force, then he would prefer to choose a different method to leave this world behind. Besides, he wouldn’t give Arthur the satisfaction of burning yet another sorcerer because he was too blind to see that magic on its own was evil; people were.
The grip on his shoulders turn to painful again as Arthur’s finger dug into his sensitive flesh, attempting to push him back.
“No!” Merlin shouted, his magic rearing up inside him, responding to his call. Power broke free from with him, moving the air, shoving Arthur backwards until he crashed into the nearby wall, slumping to the floor.
Merlin stared; eyes not quite able to pick up as to what had just happened.
He gasped; a hand flew to his mouth as his eyes turned even wider. He had used magic against Arthur; he had used magic against the one person he had sworn never to lift a finger against. He had used magic and hurt Arthur!
“No!” he was struggling, trying to extract himself from the greedy fingers of the freaking bed which seemed keen on keeping him there, snaking its awful blankets around his ankles, ensnaring him.
When he did get free, he fell face forward onto the floor, connecting with a very audible thud.
“Lock him up. Don’t let him get away,” Arthur ordered and Merlin’s shoulders slump.
Now he had done it; his fate was sealed for sure now.
When yet another set of hands reached for him, the grip on his upper arms was less kind this time and a lot more forceful.
A different voice broke through the fog setting up residence in his mind, words barely registering but still somehow clicking into place. “Take him to the dungeons.”
“King Arthur only said to keep him here…and lock him in…”
“I do not need to explain myself to you,” Agravaine snapped, “Even you should be able to understand when the king says he wants someone locked up, he usually means the dungeon and not his bedroom.”
The guard didn’t seem to have a reply to that and Merlin found himself dragged along, mind starting to wander again until darkness overtook his senses once more.
The rough ground wasn’t unexpected but the hay smelled a lot worse than what he was used to and was this…this a mouse?
“Here mousy mousy…” Merlin whispered, eyes barely open as he stared at the cute, little rodent. His fingers twitched, attempting to reach out but his body still was cooperating.
He allowed his eyes to fall shut again, sinking deeper into his thoughts, into a world consumed by fever.
The world seemed to be moving again but since apparently Merlin was the only object still standing still in a crazy, new world, he paid it no heed. So what if he was higher up than before, staring at the moving floor from an elevated point and from an angle he had never seen before.
His life was over; he snorted. The desperate sound seemed to echo through the corridor, bouncing off the walls before coming back with full force, drilling holes into his skull. He was either going to be ravaged by his fever, burnt up from the inside out or he was going to be brunt with an audience, catching fire from the outside. Either way, his fate seemed to be sealed and quite linked with fire.
“Here,” Merlin was flung forward and passed on to someone like a sack of potatoes before yet another set of strong arms cradled him close.
He sniffed, inhaling a familiar scent and before he could figure out why the smell was familiar, the feeling of safety and comfort had him relaxing, sinking deeper into the embrace.
“Let’s get going before Arthur notices we’re gone…” Gwaine ordered and moments later, the earth moved again…was he on a horse? Riding backwards? Huh?
“Don’t worry, Merlin,” Lancelot’s kind voice broke through his haze, “I’ll look after you. You’ll be right as rain in no time, just trust me. Please.”
As if not trusting Lancelot had ever been an option but replying was beyond him at this moment so he answered by snuggling even closer, inhaling the comforting scent and then allowing his mind to drift further away once more.
“What happened?” Merlin smacked his lips, slowly sitting up.
His eyes darted around, taking in the makeshift hut and the more than sparse belonging strewn across the dirt floor. He took it back; this wasn’t so much a hut as a camping sight where someone had somewhat skilfully weaved a few branches together and stuck them on a tree.
“Here, drink this,” Lancelot was by his side in no time, holding out a mug. Merlin drank deeply, savouring the rich taste of water. Who knew water could be this delicious?
“You had us worried here,” Lance continued, “You were out for a few days and I was afraid the herbs Gaius had given us weren’t working.”
“I still don’t know…” Merlin stuttered, eyes darting around again as if looking at the merger home once more would give him some answer. Sadly the wood hadn’t learnt yet how to talk.
“King Prat,” Came the cutting voice of Gwaine, “apparently decided to forget you’re his friend and had you thrown into the dungeon.”
“We didn’t think it was prudent to wait until he cooled down, so we got you out as soon as we could,” Lancelot continued.”
“We?” Gwaine asked with mock outrage, raising an eye brow which Merlin found highly amusing. “You were locked up too. Maybe not in the dungeon but in a cosy bedroom but you wouldn’t have gone anywhere if I hadn’t gotten you out. Then you just sat your pretty ass down on a horse while I broke into the dungeon and carried Merlin to safety.”
“Fine, fine,” Lancelot conceded in good humour. “You did all the work.”
“Don’t squabble,” Merlin laughed. “But what happened to me?”
“Apparent loosing your virginity to Gwaine here,” Lancelot gestured with his head towards the other knight, “Didn’t only seal the ritual to bring me back but it also unlocked a part of your magic you hadn’t been able to use before. Apparently coming of age when it comes to magic means having sex for the first time, unlocking your full gift.”
“Your magic is very strong,” Lance continued, shrugging. “Gaius thinks your fever was caused by your core exploding with this new strength and your body and mind needed time to process everything. Hence the fever…”
Merlin blinked. Who knew worrying about having sex for the first time, having some performance anxiety wasn’t good enough? If he had known he would burn up, he probably would’ve thought twice about having sex because having a fever was never fun. But all had ended well, right?
Lance was back, his fever was gone and…oh…Merlin’s face fell.
“What…what is it?” Lance moved closer, face full of worry.
Merlin gulped, ducking his head to avoid looking at anyone. “Arthur hates me now,” he said in small voice.
Memories started flooding back. They were distorted at times but he clearly remembered pleading with Arthur to let him go and Arthur ordering him to be locked up.
“Am I…?” Merlin started to ask before he stopped. “Are we being hunted?” he amended because his friends were with him in this and if he was caught, they would also be sentenced to death because they had aided and abetted a sorcerer.
“I’ve been looking but I haven’t seen anyone,” Gwaine said in a peculiar tone. “We didn’t get far enough away but we’re pretty well hidden.”
“Still,” Lance added, voice full of worry. “We should’ve seen some knights out in the woods, looking for tracks.”
“I’m excellent at covering…”
Lance interrupted again, “Yes, yes,” he hurriedly said, “You’re a bloody genius. Still, we should’ve heard something…”
Merlin sunk back down onto his makeshift bed, rolling to his side. Suddenly being awake wasn’t all that tempting anymore.
He had intended to leave before but frankly he had never quite thought this through. In the back of his mind, the option to go back home to his mother had always been there, giving him comfort but even though Ealdor wasn’t in Arthur’s kingdom, the borders hadn’t mattered before and home would be the first place Arthur would come looking for him. And with Cendrid gone and the succession still open for debate, who would question Arthur for taking his knights into a small, border village?
Unfortunately for Merlin, he wasn't given any chance to ponder his crisis for much longer.
Arthur, as always, managed nicely to put kinks in his plans.
“You suck at stealth, you know that?” Arthur's deep drawl had everyone momentarily frozen to the spot before a flurry of activity broke out.
Lancelot launched himself at Merlin, putting himself in between any harm which might be coming for the young man while Gwaine rushed towards Arthur. His fingers hovered over his knife which was tugged at his side but he never drew the weapon.
Arthur raised both of his hands, making sure they all saw he was unarmed.
“I come in peace,” Arthur almost said mockingly but since there was no humour to be had in this situation, no one was laughing. Or even smiling. Just twitching.
“You won't harm Merlin,” Gwaine drawled, relaxing his body visibly which was an indication he was getting ready for anything Arthur might try to throw at him. Gwaine might be all humour and good fun but he was a mean warrior when the need called for it and even if he was reluctant to actually take up arms against what could possibly be a good king in the making, he would still protect his friend with his life.
“Why would I...?” Arthur's voice trailed off before he connected some dots he seemed to have been missing. “Can I talk to you outside for a minute?”
Whatever was being said next, Merlin didn't hear because he slowly slipping off to sleep again.
His fever might be more or less broken but his mind was still fuzzy and he was still a long way from being on the mend.
“I don't want to go,” words tumbled from Merlin's lips as he was lifted into Arthur's arms.
“Do you trust me, Merlin?” Lancelot asked gravely, causing the young man to nod. “Then trust in me. I would never let any harm come to you. Go with Arthur. We'll be along shortly. Right behind you even...you won't have the chance to miss us.”
Merlin nodded again, settling comfortably against Merlin as his body almost involuntarily started to relax. Arthur was familiar after all, even if the idiot wanted to kill him.
The familiar, almost expected devastating fear though was absent; almost as if his unconscious mind had realized something which Merlin himself hadn't quite understood.
Still, he was in desperate need of some rest and soon, Arthur's familiar smell, the strong arms wrapped firmly around him and the gentle rocking of the horse, put him into the land of Nod once more.
“No,” Merlin protested as Arthur dragged him towards the bed.
A long suffering sigh followed and then Arthur, unexpectedly let go of Merlin which nearly put him firmly on his ass.
“Merlin,” Arthur said, making to sit on the bed next to Merlin but aborting in the last minute. “I never knew you had magic.”
Merlin tensed; was this it? Was this going to be the end? Some nice bed, a cosy chat and wham...the axe? Arthur wasn't cruel though so what was going on?
His forehead creased while his thoughts whirled around in his head. He wasn't quite firing at his full strength yet so maybe this was why he wasn't quite connecting the dots as quickly as he normally would have.
Or maybe he was just as dense as Arthur had always accused him of being.
“You startled me when he shoved me away. I won't deny I was surprised, angry even but I never ordered you to be punished. Merlin,” Arthur said again, “I know you were running a high fever at the time but do you remember what order I gave?”
“You said...” Merlin tried to think back, trying hard to recall. “You said, lock him up.”
“Yes,” Arthur confirmed, “I didn't order you to be dragged to the dungeon, I didn't call for guards screaming at the top of my lungs. I simply ordered you to be locked into my room while I tried to come to terms with what I had just learned...”
“My uncle,” here the new king's voice took on an edge which was tinted with sadness and anger. “He was working with Morgana. Apparently my dear sister had a vision where someone called Emrys would be her downfalls. I've since had a nice chat with my uncle and he confirmed he thought you might be this Emrys person and he was trying to get you killed.”
“You had a chat...?”
Arthur gave him a look. Clearly having a chat was a new euphemism for torture. Despite Merlin's aversion to hurting people and killing, he found he approved.
“Merlin,” his name rolled off Arthur's tongue so easily, with so many hidden meanings that Merlin's toes were curling while a new, unexpected feeling slowly unfurled deep inside him. “Please believe me. Out of all the things I might do to you one day, killing you for being a warlock isn't going to be among them.”
“How else might you kill me then?” the words fell off Merlin's lips before he could stop himself. Where had they come from? And why wasn't he more alarmed?
Arthur chuckled, rubbing the bridge of his nose while his blue eyes were glistering with amusement and that strange, new emotion which had Merlin's heart racing but he still couldn't name. “There are many ways to kill someone...” the teasing tone was back which was why Merlin simply attempted a weak smile instead of jumping off the bed and cowering in fear in a corner.
This new Arthur was a strange creature but he found, he quite liked him.