"Father, please," Arthur began.
"No!" the King replied in anger. "He knew the law. Anyone caught using magic is to be executed, no exceptions."
"He was only trying to help, father," Arthur tried again.
"He used magic!" Uther cried.
"Do not argue with me, Arthur. The sorcerer will be executed at sunrise. Now leave me. And do not try anything foolish."
Arthur wanted to say more, but he knew his father would never see reason, not when magic where involved.
"Yes, Sire," he said, bowing out.
Late that night, Arthur made his way to the prison cells, where Merlin was being held. He swiftly knocked out the two guards watching over the boy.
"Come to kill me?" Merlin asked. He was curled up in the corner of his cell, and he didn't bother to look up when Arthur arrived.
"Why would I kill the man who's saved my life every other week?" Arthur asked, carefully unlocking the cell.
Merlin then looked up at him, a strange curious expression in his eyes.
"You knew," he said.
"Come on, Merlin, there isn't much time." He motioned for Merlin to get up and follow him.
Merlin gaped at him for a moment, but quickly recovered from his shock and jumped up.
"Here, put this on," Arthur said, handing him a long cloak that matched the one Arthur himself was wearing. "Hurry."
Merlin did as he was told, and the pair of left. Arthur lead him out of the prison and into the stables, where two horses awaited them.
"Gwen?" Merlin asked. Arthur nodded as they mounted the horses and rode off to the forests. Once beyond the grounds, Arthur stopped, and dismounted his horse. Merlin followed.
"You knew," Merlin said again, looking at Arthur. "You knew, all along, and you never said."
"Of course I knew," Arthur replied. "How stupid do you think I am?"
"Well, you did just break me out, when your father intends to execute me at morning. That doesn't seem all that intelligent."
Arthur smiled. "I couldn't let him kill you, could I?"
"And you think he won't know it was you?"
Arthur's smile grew. "Not a problem. He assigned a guard to make sure I never left my room."
"That sounds worse."
"Sir Leon has agreed to lie for me. He was quite willing. I think he likes you."
Arthur shrugged. "You've saved his life a few times as well."
"I still can't believe you knew," Merlin said, shaking his head. "When did you figure it out?"
"I started to suspect when you nearly died drinking from the poisoned chalice."
Merlin just stared at him. That had been years ago. He had known all this time?
"Why did you never say anything?"
"Why didn't you?" Arthur asked in return.
"Magic is forbidden," Merlin said obviously. "I thought you would… see as your father does. Have me executed."
"Never," Arthur said, shaking his head. "You should go," he added. "Knights will soon be here, searching for you. And I should get back to the castle before anyone realizes I'm missing as well."
Merlin nodded and turned back to his horse.
"And Merlin," Arthur said. Merlin turned to face him once again. "When I am king, things will be different. I promise you."
Merlin smiled, but didn't have the chance to respond, as Arthur's lips were now on his. For a moment, Merlin could not comprehend what was happening. Arthur pulled away, a mixture of a dozen emotions etched on his face that Merlin couldn't name. Merlin then pulled their lips back together, and they stayed there for what felt like an eternity, but ended all too soon.
"Go," Arthur said, pushing him away, sadness now the only thing Merlin could read.
Merlin mounted his horse as Arthur did the same. They began to ride away in opposite directions, Arthur toward Camelot, and Merlin deeper into the forest.
"Perhaps I'll have a decent servant now," Arthur called over his shoulder. Merlin grinned back at him, attempting to hide the tears threatening to fall.