Arthur was used to Merlin’s incompetence at his job, but when he didn’t show up the next morning in Arthur’s chambers, the prince took it upon himself to find out what was going on.
He headed to Gaius’, ready to give his manservant a good talking to. That is, after he was certain that Merlin was all right. He tried not to dwell on the words they had exchanged the previous day when Merlin was being stranger than usual with him.
Contemplating his words after he left, Arthur felt, without a doubt, that Merlin, in his own infuriating way, was saying goodbye to him -- giving him advice, telling him not to be a prat. And then there was that look in Merlin’s eyes – he had looked stricken, like this was difficult for him, like he was about to cry.
Arthur would have appreciated knowing when someone was saying goodbye to him. All that Merlin left him with was questions and a deep-seated worry as to what trouble his manservant had gotten himself into.
“Where is he? Where’s Merlin?” Arthur demanded as he came in, unannounced, into Gaius’ workroom.
The court physician looked up from his work, a sigh escaping him. He looked like he had expected Arthur to come by, to seek his errant manservant out.
“Merlin isn’t here, sire. He informed me that he had to go somewhere.”
“And that’s it? You just let him go? Alone? Do you know where he went?”
Gaius resumed his work, directing his attention away from Arthur. He shook his head. “I tried to make him see reason, but he was stubborn about leaving. There was little I could do. He said it was for his own safety.”
“What is that supposed to mean – “his own safety”?”
“I don’t know. I think he planned to go into the forest. That is my guess, but that would be the best place to find him, sire.”
“And why do you think he would be in the forest?” Arthur asked, narrowing his eyes. Gaius was clearly not telling him the whole story.
“That is where I saw him headed, sire. I can’t tell you anymore than that.”
“You can’t or you won’t?”
Gaius gave Arthur a meaningful look. “Merlin may be in danger. I don’t know from what, but if it wouldn’t be too much trouble --”
“It won’t. I’ll go look for him,” Arthur said resolutely.
Suddenly, a noise from the direction of Merlin’s room was heard.
“What’s that noise? Is there someone --?”
Gaius appeared nervous all of a sudden. “It is just a sound. Nothing to concern yourself with, sire. Now, if you will, I have work to attend to.”
Arthur nodded and left without another word.
~ * ~
“No, I can’t. I can’t,” Merlin said, sounding weary, tired.
“You would sacrifice so much when it could be dealt with so simply? You just need to tell him, Emrys.”
“No, I have to do this. Even – even if I tell him, I can’t control my magic. I can feel it. In the end, it wouldn’t matter when I expose myself without meaning to in front of everyone. I can’t take that risk.”
The blonde woman in a flowing blue dress observed him thoughtfully. “I may know of a way to help you. There is a chance that the Pendragon--”
Merlin shook his head vehemently. “No, leave Arthur out of it. I don’t want him to have any part in this.”
“Very well. I can bind your magic, so you’ll be unable to use it, but it’ll still be inside of you. All of your magic will be compressed into a tiny locked box. Only I have the key,” the sorceress explained.
She neared him and placed her hand gently on his cheek. Merlin involuntarily shivered from the contact. His eyes turned gold at her touch.
She broke contact with him. “This will be painful for you, you understand,” she said, trying to impress upon him the seriousness of what she was about to do. “You’re very powerful. You don’t just have magic. You are magic.”
“Just get on with it. I’m no good to Arthur dead. I can’t risk being found out,” Merlin said with determination.
“All right, as you wish. Remember to come back in a week – hopefully, you will have come to your senses.”
“Why a week?”
“Because, Emrys, that is how long I expect you to last under the binding. If you could bring the prince with you the next time, I may be able to better assist you.”
Merlin started to feel the beginnings of doubt and fear at her words. Maybe this was a bad idea. He dreaded to think how he’d feel without the ability to use his magic, to not feel it rippling, swirling just underneath his skin – ready to be used at a word or a thought.
“I’ll consider bringing him. But I have to do this. Please,” he pleaded with her. He wanted to get this over with before his anxiety got the best of him.
The sorceress nodded and conjured a small blue and silver box, a lock at the front, into her hand.
She waved her hand over the box and it opened. She said a few words and Merlin felt himself weakening.
He saw a great swirl of many colors, shades of brilliance, flowing out of him and into the small ornate box. The spectacle left him in awe for a moment – he had never seen all of his magic before him like this -- before the pain hit.
Merlin could feel himself going down to his knees. He felt like he was near death. He couldn’t breathe. Everything was swirling around him, moving all together too fast while he was crawling at a snail’s pace.
“One week, remember. I am sorry,” she said quietly.
Merlin could hear her words as a distant echo inside his head. He looked up to see her looking down on him, a sad, apologetic expression gracing her face.
Some things never changed. Arthur had gone looking for him.
But all Merlin could see was black as the darkness fell over him like a thick blanket.
He succumbed to the darkness as the pain ebbed away from him. It was a release.
It was bliss.
~ * ~
“What have you done to him?!” Arthur demanded.
He had his sword pointed at the blonde woman in front of him. She was holding a small box in her hands where the last of something -- Arthur wasn’t sure what it was, but he took a wild guess and decided it was magic – went into the box and the box clicked shut.
And it had been coming from Merlin.
The magic had been coming from Merlin.
That would make him a sorcerer…
The woman, appearing unperturbed at the sword on her person, looked upon Arthur with a perceptive gaze.
“This could be a test for you. I was planning on sealing this back inside of him, but I’ve decided you should have it. He trusts you, does he not?”
She held the box in her hand, and offered it to Arthur. She looked expectantly at him. “Well, take it.”
Arthur eyed her suspiciously. “What is inside of that box? What have you done to Merlin? The least you could do is explain that to me.”
“Merlin has decided to bind his magic, so he will be unable to use it. He feared he was losing control over it, which would lead to unintentional exposure of his abilities.”
“He’s a sorcerer then?” Arthur wanted to confirm.
“Yes, he is. It’s a pity he didn’t feel he could trust you enough to tell you, but well, I’m sure you know what caused his hesitancy.”
Of course Arthur knew. And while he felt not just a little hurt that Merlin had not trusted him with the secret of his magic, he understood why he had kept it from him. No matter how often Merlin had stepped over the boundaries of what constituted a master-servant relationship – and Arthur could not deny that he allowed it even welcomed it because, well, there was just something about Merlin and he really couldn’t explain it, there just was – he knew that such a secret would be kept closely guarded.
Arthur was still King Uther’s son after all, so the risk Merlin would have been taking to tell someone thrown between loyalty to his father and the laws of Camelot warring with his inexplicable fondness for his manservant would have been great. It would have been simply too much of a risk.
And Arthur was grateful that Merlin had not revealed his magic in his father’s presence. It would have been much harder to defend him against the king’s law. And his father was unyielding, absolute when it came to ridding the kingdom of sorcery. Arthur couldn’t bear it if he had to see Merlin burning at the stake. He would never let that happen, never.
A feeling of trepidation took a hold of him as Arthur took the small box from the sorceress.
“What is in here?” He asked with bated breath.
Though he had seen what had taken place, what had gone inside this rather tiny, decorative box, he needed to hear it said out loud. Just to make sure.
“You saw, Pendragon, with your own eyes. It is Merlin’s magic, all of it, contained in that box. I want you to have it for safekeeping. You and Merlin should come back in a week’s time and I will be able to help Merlin. Hopefully he will be willing to listen the next time.”
Arthur traced his finger over the raised silver forming the ornate detailing on the box’s exterior as if it were something precious. He looked up and shook his head.
“No, I can’t take this. Merlin should get his magic back. This isn’t fair to him.”
“Merlin asked for this. He is still young – this could be a lesson for him. This could turn out to be a good thing.”
Arthur stared at her in disbelief. This did not look like a good thing from where he was standing. He turned to look at Merlin, who was lying very still on the hard ground. His face was paler than Arthur had ever seen it and his fists were clenched, one hand was tightly grasping a fallen twig.
The woman walked toward him and when she was right in front of him, she placed her hand over the box.
She made him look her in the eye and then she spoke in a manner not unlike a mother trying to soothe her child.
“Would you like to know why I’m entrusting you with this? With keeping his magic?”
“No,” he muttered, glancing over at Merlin, who was breathing shallow breaths. He was worried about him.
She sighed. “It is not my place to tell you, but just understand, there are not many people who can keep a sorcerer’s magic without losing their heads. They attempt to seize power and rule the world -- using magic for cruel and selfish means. But for you, Pendragon, it is different. Any magic given to you will have no effect on you. It will lay dormant, unused inside of you.”
“Inside of me?” Arthur uttered in shock.
Was he meant to swallow this box then?
“Why yes. It is the best way to protect the magic. No one will find it. No one will suspect,” she explained.
And then she waved her hand over the box and it turned into a goblet full of liquid.
“Drink that and the magic will be in your blood. You won’t even feel it’s there.”
Arthur tried not to feel nervous as he downed the drink. An assault of taste took over him. It was hard to explain what exactly the drink – Merlin’s magic, he reminded himself abruptly and the awkwardness set in of what he was doing – tasted like, but he thought it tasted good. Very pleasant, in fact – and it wasn’t exactly the actual taste that got him, but the sensation, the feelings that swept through his mind of warm, breezy summer days watching the clouds lazily roll by. The sound of laughter, running in the fields, and standing atop the castle parapets looking down below. And finally, gazing upon the dark night sky adorned with twinkling stars, a peace settled over the land. All of it took Arthur’s breath away. He had to admit it was beautiful and endearing in a way that suited Merlin rather well.
Once he drank it all, he let out a gasp of surprise when his injured shoulder suddenly felt as good as new. It didn’t hurt anymore and he certainly didn’t need the sling any longer.
He narrowed his eyes at the sorceress. “You said the magic would have no effect on me,” he accused.
She said calmly, “That is true, but magic is still tied to the emotions of its owner. It is unavoidable. In this case, Merlin does not wish to see you hurt.”
“Oh,” Arthur said, feeling more than a bit overwhelmed.
“Remember the magic is in your blood. Only I can take it away from you magically. Just--” she paused, looking away, appearing uncomfortable all of a sudden.
“Nevermind, it’s of no import,” she said quickly, and then she composed herself and nodded at him. “You should know that while you cannot perform magic, a drop of blood will work just as well as a spell or incantation. Though I doubt you would have need of it during the week you will be with his magic.”
Arthur nodded. “Will Merlin be all right? Without his magic? Will he be okay?”
“I would fear hardship ahead. It will not be easy for him. He was born this way, the magic flowing through his veins since birth. He was not trained in sorcery, you must understand. It comes naturally to him – as naturally as breathing, I would say. But you’ll be there for him, won’t you?”
“Yes, of course.”
The sorceress smiled at him. “Good. My name is Luna by the way. It was a pleasure to meet you, Pendragon.”
And then she disappeared after that.
~ * ~
“Merlin?” The prince shook him lightly.
He had heard his manservant groaning a moment ago, so he decided there was a chance he was waking up.
“Geroff me,” Merlin muttered incoherently.
Unbidden, the sorceress’ – or Luna as she called herself – words came to mind, “--a drop of blood will work just as well as a spell or incantation.—”
He shrugged, figuring he might as well as try it out and see if it worked. He took out a dagger he had with him and sliced his palm open. He adjusted Merlin’s head and instructed him to open his mouth.
Merlin did so, and feeling suddenly very weird about this, Arthur let a drop of blood fall into his manservant’s mouth.
Merlin moaned. His tongue swiped over his lips to clean off any blood that had not made it into his mouth. He opened his eyes, looking up at Arthur, a dazed look on his face.
Arthur tried not to dwell on the gold in Merlin’s eyes that flashed briefly before fading out.
Suddenly, Merlin stood up easily, without any assistance from Arthur, and said that he was feeling just fine.
Arthur blocked his way to get to his horse and said urgently, “Wait, Merlin. I know.”
Merlin’s blue eyes darkened slightly before he did the last thing the prince was expecting him to do.
“Well, it’s a moot point now. I don’t have it anymore.”
And with that, Merlin shoved past him, effectively ending the conversation.
Arthur did not know what to make of Merlin’s behavior, but he heeded the sorceress’ words. He was certain that the next few days would not be easy for Merlin. One did not lose something so integral to their being without there being unwelcome consequences.
So with grim anticipation, Arthur rode back to Camelot with Merlin riding alongside him.
Merlin may not have thought that Arthur didn’t notice the frequent side glances directed at him, but Arthur did notice.
Merlin suspected something.
~ * ~
When they got back to Camelot, Arthur could see that Merlin was looking tired, weary even. The small bit of magic only lasted so long, it seemed.
Merlin said he was feeling exhausted and told Arthur that he was heading back to his room to get some rest.
Arthur let him.
~ * ~
“I’ll be all right. I promise,” Merlin said earnestly to his mother.
“Merlin, you shouldn’t have given up your magic. There had to be another way. You know I worry about you,” she said softly, caressing his cheek.
He leaned into the touch. “I know. I’m sorry. But I’ll be fine. You should go back to Ealdor.”
Hunith sighed, a look of concern still showing on her face.
“I’ll be leaving at first light tomorrow,” she informed him.
She made to leave the room, but then Merlin spoke up from his seat on his bed.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he said solemnly.
His mother turned around and sat down beside him, giving him a hug. “Oh, Merlin.”
“I’m scared,” he whispered.
He cried silently into her embrace, his mother stroking his hair in a soothing manner.
~ * ~
It began not too long after Merlin left Arthur’s side.
One servant after another came to Arthur saying that Merlin needed to see him. While at first, the prince thought nothing of it and nodded to each of these servants, acknowledging their relayed message, but telling them that right now, he was far too busy with his duties to see him.
The last time that a servant had come by, Arthur was almost certain that someone was watching the two of them speak. And he most definitely could not ignore the servant’s nervous glances around him. As if he was afraid of someone accosting him.
But then he couldn’t see the servant anymore and a knight wanted to talk to him. So, no matter how much the prince wished to find out where that servant had gone and question him, Arthur pushed down his need to satisfy his curiosity.
~ * ~
He found it odd that Merlin was not there to attend to him for dinner in his chambers. Surely he wasn’t that tired to sleep the whole day away?
The servant who had come with dinner appeared to be preoccupied with his thoughts. He looked, Arthur concluded, as if it’d rather be anywhere else but here.
Once the servant set the tray down on to the table, he spoke with a noticeable tremor in his voice.
“Merlin asked me if I could tell you that, “If you don’t get your royal – er -- something down to see him, then he will make sure to kill you in your sleep” sire.”
Arthur could do nothing but stare at him. What in the world was going on? Was this what Luna had meant by “hardship”? That his manservant would resort to threatening murder?
Unfortunately, he knew he couldn’t blame this on Merlin’s supposed mental affliction.
~ * ~
Merlin was knocked down in the courtyard.
“Can’t take a walk, can I?” Merlin grumbled.
He looked up and saw Morgana bearing down on him, a scolding look in her eyes.
“Gwen told me you needed to speak to me,” Morgana said without preamble, her hands on her hips. She did not look pleased.
“Yes, but you didn’t have to knock me down, Morgana!” Merlin retorted, irritated.
“You’ve been scaring the servants, I’ve heard. I’m not going to let you do the same to me. Anyway, I know in this state, you couldn’t even harm a fly.”
“Oh, believe me, Morgana. I know it’s a wasted effort to really scare you,” he told her, barely just suppressing an eye roll. “Have any dreams lately?”
Still on the ground, Merlin moved away from her when she looked like she was about to kick him.
She spoke with accusation lacing her words. “You know while I feel that I have the right to be outraged that you and Gaius kept this from me, I can only feel sorry for you. You think I wouldn’t suspect on my own? Do you take me for a fool, Merlin?”
Merlin shook his head, making to stand up. Morgana, for her part, let him get back on his feet and didn’t push him down again.
“All right, I’m sorry. Gaius made me swear that you not know about it. I went along with it -- reluctantly-- I might add.”
“Well, I received confirmation from Gaius nevertheless. It wasn’t easy, but he gave in eventually. In time, I may accept your apology,” she informed him.
Merlin groaned and said impatiently, “Morgana, did you see anything related to me? Can you tell me anything?”
Morgana looked at him smugly. “What you worry might happen – it won’t come to that. That’s all I can tell you.”
Suddenly, Merlin had a knife in his hand and was glaring at her with intent. “Is there anything you’re keeping from me?”
Morgana stared at the knife and then back to his face, looking into his eyes. Merlin knew what she was seeing – and in front of her, he felt exposed, vulnerable. She wasn’t threatened by him. Sometimes she unnerved him greatly. But for right now, he decided not to dwell on it.
Morgana shook her head. “Of course not. That is all you wanted to know? If things will turn sour? I wouldn’t lie to you. Not like you’ve been lying to everyone about your talents…”
The knife vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. Merlin didn’t say a word.
Seeing this, Morgana asked, “So what Gaius said is true? Arthur has your magic? Gave you a taste of it without knowing the consequences?”
“He didn’t understand. If he knew what would happen, I’m sure he wouldn’t have done it.”
“Merlin, you should talk to him,” she implored him. “If Arthur isn’t coming to you, you should go seek him out yourself. You should have done that in the first place. Really, Merlin. What were you thinking?”
“All right. I know what I should have done. It’s not that easy though,” Merlin said tiredly.
“No, Merlin. You’re the one who is making it hard,” she countered.
Merlin could do nothing but agree with her. Morgana was right. Still, despite what she had told him, despite her reassuring him that there was nothing to fear in his near future, Merlin knew he couldn’t depend on that alone.
But he had to see Arthur some time. He couldn’t let this go as it was any longer.
~ * ~
Arthur had decided not to visit him. He had this inexplicable concern of what would happen if Merlin confronted him about what had occurred between Arthur and the sorceress while he was unconscious.
Merlin’s magic was currently in Arthur’s blood and the sorceress had said that only she could take it from him through magical means.
Only her. That meant – the non-magical means would be to bleed the person out.
And he wasn’t an idiot. Merlin had to be suffering through withdrawal. The persistence in sending servants after him, wanting to see him – even, even threatening to kill him. And true, Merlin had been disrespectful to him more times than he could count, but the fear he’d seen in the servant relaying Merlin’s death threat – the prince knew that this could not be taken lightly. Merlin wasn’t himself anymore.
~ * ~
In the middle of the night, Arthur was abruptly woken up by – he could not believe it – an actual roar. A dragon’s roar.
He sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up. He then stared at the sight in front of him.
A conjured dragon, outlined by fire licking and hissing about its shape, was flying around and making such a loud roaring sound that Arthur feared that the whole castle could hear it.
Arthur sighed. “How did you do that, Merlin? Without your magic?”
Merlin was standing in shadow by the door. He didn’t make a move.
“It’s my magic. I know how to manipulate it – to stretch even the smallest amount. Thank you for that little bit you gave me, Arthur. You shouldn’t have done that though.”
“And why not?” Arthur countered.
Merlin walked toward him. Arthur could see that he was holding a knife.
“It’s my magic. Mine. I would like it back. All of it,” Merlin practically growled at him.
~ * ~
“So you found out?” Arthur noted.
He surprised himself by not being more afraid. He just couldn’t believe that Merlin would ever follow through with harming him. No matter how convincing Merlin tried to be, Arthur felt he knew him well enough to at least be fairly confident on that matter.
“It wasn’t hard to figure out especially after you gave me some of my magic back. I recognized its presence.” Merlin explained. A wistful, longing look swept across his face before a drawn, restless look replaced it.
Arthur nodded. “Right, but you know if you just ask, I wouldn’t deny you. I don’t feel right as it is having your magic while you go without. But, there’s what the sorceress said to keep in mind—”
“Yes, I know what she said,” Merlin interjected sharply. He knew well that this was his fault. He asked to have this happen despite her warnings. He went through with it all the same. The regret he felt at this decision nearly consumed him.
Merlin increased the distance between him and Arthur. He appeared to be considering this matter and then looked at Arthur. He waved his hand at him. “Shield yourself.”
“I can feel my magic – you don’t understand how much I want to take it back right now. I – I can’t let that happen. You need to shield yourself from me – to protect yourself. It’s the only way,” Merlin clarified.
Arthur wasn’t too enthusiastic to cut himself to get the drop of blood he needed, but he knew of no other way to use the magic contained inside of him. And it had worked on Merlin – proving the sorceress’s instructions to be true.
He reluctantly took the knife that suddenly appeared beside him on the bed. A look at Merlin and Arthur was met with a steady gaze.
“I would think you’d try to conserve what you have," Arthur said carefully. "If you’re this liberal with the magic, it’ll run out faster, you realize.”
Merlin shrugged, his eyes flashing gold for a moment. “Just because you have my magic doesn’t give you any reason to lecture me, Arthur.”
Arthur was about to say something else, but at seeing Merlin fidgeting and appearing worryingly anxious; he quickly used the knife to make a small cut in his palm. Then, realizing what he had to do, he stopped.
Noticing this, Merlin grinned a little too widely at him. For the moment, he seemed like his old self again.
“You have to ingest it, Arthur. Only way it should work.”
Arthur glared at him briefly. “Yes I know that. It doesn’t help the situation though. No one in their right mind swallows their own blood.”
“Well, it’s not exactly just your blood, is it? My magic is mixed in with it, so it might taste all right.”
“Shut up, Merlin,” Arthur said without any heat. Nevertheless, he felt that maybe Merlin had a point. After all, when he drank from the goblet full of Merlin’s magic, it was an overall pleasant sensation. While he could not attribute a specific taste to his magic, the rush of images and different sensations he did get was an experience he would not mind going through again.
He licked the blood from the cut and this time, a snatch of conversation echoed in his head as the blood touched his tongue. Something that Arthur remembered well – it had happened in Ealdor when he had asked Merlin why he had left his home.
“I just didn't fit in anymore. I wanted to find somewhere that I did.” Merlin had told him.
“Had any luck?”
“I'm not sure yet.”
~ * ~
Upon seeing a dome-like shimmering shield go up around Arthur, Merlin moved a little closer to him.
“We didn’t get a chance to discuss what’s going to happen next. After I get my magic back, that is,” Merlin said.
Arthur sat up in his bed, a look of confusion on his face. “What are you on about? Nothing will happen. You’ll get your magic back and nothing will change. Well, granted you figure out how to keep control over your magic.”
Merlin gave him an incredulous look. He took a chair by the table and moved it by the prince’s bed, the harsh noise of the chair’s legs scrapping across the floor irritating Arthur.
“You could have just lifted the chair. With that racket, you could wake the whole castle!”
Merlin ignored him. Instead he had thoughtful look on his face. He placed his hands on his knees, the nervousness he felt showing through in his fidgeting hands.
Then, he looked at Arthur, really looked at him and said with a small tremble in his voice, “I can’t let you just keep my secret. The risk you’d be taking – if the king were to find out and then discover you knew all this time and kept it from him. Arthur--”
“Well, then we’ll make sure it doesn’t come to that. If my father hasn’t noticed it so far, then it shouldn’t be too hard.”
“Maybe I should leave Camelot.”
“No, Merlin. No. Don’t even think that. That’s not even an option.”
“Arthur, I can’t risk anything happening to you if you’re found to be committing treason! This is serious – and only when --” Merlin paused, deciding to change the subject. “You should get a new manservant, Arthur. For the rest of this week at least, maybe longer. With how I am now, I can’t be near you.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “ ‘Maybe longer’? What do you mean by that?”
Merlin shrugged. “Just in case.”
“Look, Merlin – I can use the shield. There’s no need--”
“Using magic requires energy. Energy that you can’t afford to lose – especially since you’re using your own blood. To maintain the shield, you would need to use magic on a regular basis. It’s not worth using all that blood. It’s just better if I stay away from you.”
“And what are you going to do?”
“Help Gaius, I suppose. I don’t know. There’s always something to do,” Merlin said absentmindedly.
At seeing Merlin’s distracted look, Arthur decided to talk about something else. Curiously, he asked, “How are you feeling? I suspect you’ve never been without your magic. It must feel strange for you…”
Merlin sighed, reaching out his hand to just graze the transparent shield covering Arthur. The shield flashed golden for a moment, Merlin hissing as he pulled his hand away. The shock he felt was akin to touching fire, he surmised.
“I’ll be all right. I just need to find something to occupy my time. Keep my mind off not having any magic.”
“And what exactly will that be?”
Merlin shook his head, rolling his eyes. “Well, I’m certainly not going to tell you. I’m not your manservant as of now, so I don’t need to inform you of what I plan to do with my time.”
“Wait! You can’t just quit like that. I have to dismiss you,” Arthur said quickly as Merlin stood up and turned to leave the room.
Merlin looked back at Arthur and he nodded at him. “Goodbye, Arthur. That shield won’t last for much longer. It’s best if I go.”
“Merlin --!” Arthur tried to call him back, feeling desperate. He was certain he sounded desperate too and felt a bit of a fool for having this earnest desire to keep Merlin in the room.
Despite Arthur’s plea, Merlin left the room, closing the door softly behind him.
He hadn’t taken his knife back.
The prince did not like this turn of events at all, no matter how necessary they were. Having to avoid Merlin for the week was something he was not looking forward to whatsoever.
~ * ~
The next morning, Merlin saw his mother off.
“Promise me you’ll take care of yourself, sweetheart,” she said softly, a concerned look in her eyes.
“I promise,” he told her sincerely. “Everything will work out, I’m sure of it. I just need to keep my distance from Arthur and it’ll all be okay.”
She made him look her in the eyes, lifting his chin up so he couldn’t look away. “Promise me that you’ll get your magic back. I know how much it is a part of you. I can see how much it’s hurting you to be separated from it. Please, Merlin--”
Merlin felt a sudden need to explain his actions -- his desperation to find a solution. “I had to do it, mum. I didn’t have control over my magic. I couldn’t risk being found out. I didn’t know what else to do…”
“I understand, but I’m sure there’s a more reasonable solution. Now after you know how it feels without magic, you should be more open to other options.”
Merlin sighed. He had made an impulsive choice without really giving Luna, the sorceress, enough time to lay out all the possible solutions to him.
He just saw his magic as the problem – his inability to keep it under control, from unleashing itself at inopportune times frightened him. And the only logical solution he had seen was to get rid of his magic somehow – temporarily, of course -- until he figured out how to control it once again. So with that in mind, he had sought out someone to assist him. And the sorceress had given him what he wanted even though it was possibly the worst thing he could have done to himself…
And the sole consolation he had was that Arthur had his magic for safekeeping. Merlin decided that if his magic had trusted Arthur enough to stay inside of him, then maybe what he had told Merlin was to be believed – that nothing will happen, nothing will change once Merlin had his magic back.
He could scarcely believe it to be true, but Merlin knew deep down that Arthur was speaking the truth. And if anything, he just had to have faith in Arthur.
Someday, Arthur would be a great king. And Merlin would be there to see it.
He would make sure of that.
~ * ~
After he had finished eating his lunch that first day without Merlin attending him, Arthur decided that he had had enough. His new manservant was insufferable. He just stood there and stared at him. He was infuriatingly competent and Arthur wasn’t positive why, but that annoyed him to no end.
Arthur pushed his chair away from the table. He cleared his throat and said, “You can go.”
“Yes, sire,” the servant – Thomas, Arthur vaguely recalled – said.
Thomas collected his plate and cup, placing them on the tray, and then with a bow of his head, he made his exit.
Arthur decided that he should go see Merlin. Nevermind the necessity for them to keep away from each other – he wouldn’t let something like that get in the way of what he wanted.
~ * ~
“Merlin!” Arthur shouted, not pleased at all upon finding him on his bed with some girl.
Merlin groaned. “You can’t just barge in here, Arthur--” At that moment, the girl decided to giggle, of all things. She was ruffling Merlin’s hair. Arthur glared in her direction, but she paid him no mind. Trying very hard not to roll his eyes, Merlin told him quite clearly that, “This is my room.”
Arthur waved his hand in a flippant manner. “I don’t care. Send her away. I need to talk to you in private.”
“Her name is Emily. And you can’t tell me what to do,” Merlin said stubbornly. He wouldn’t let whatever fit Arthur get in the way of what he had been doing.
Emily looked at the both of them, and wisely, she made a move to leave the room.
“I’m going to go--” she announced slowly.
Arthur blocked her way though. “Give it to me now.”
She sighed and handed over the key. Without another word, she rushed out of the room.
“Trust you to choose the servant girl who also happens to be a known key snatcher.”
Merlin shrugged. “I guess I missed that in the castle gossip.”
Arthur just let out a noise of derision before he tossed Merlin’s room key at him.
“You really shouldn’t be here. I’m a danger to you--” He reminded Arthur.
Even so, Arthur pulled up a chair by his bed. “What were you doing with that girl? That’s not like you,” he questioned.
He pretended not to notice Merlin scooting away from him on the bed. He had closed his eyes and was now sitting cross-legged on the bed.
After Merlin had not say a word, Arthur looked over at him and asked sharply, “What are you doing?”
Merlin opened one eye to briefly glance at Arthur. “I’m trying to meditate. Gaius said it should help if I’m near you. To stop me from attacking you…”
Arthur sighed and was about to take out the knife, but Merlin gave him a firm look. “No, don’t bother with the shield. You shouldn’t be here anyway.”
“For someone who could get the urge to attack me, you’re oddly calm about this.”
Merlin gave him a tired smile. “Maybe this meditation trick really does work.”
Arthur snorted, not quite believing that. “So, what made you decide to be with that servant girl?”
Merlin had a sudden urge to hit the prince hard, but he managed to suppress it. What business did he have questioning him like that? What Merlin did in his free time was none of his concern. And anyway, Merlin wasn’t his manservant at the moment. What did it matter really? It was a common thing for servants to do – taking a girl up to his room wasn’t anything scandalous. Especially if she was just a fellow servant, no matter her key snatching tendencies… Now, if she had been a noblewoman, then that –
Unbidden, Merlin had an image of Morgana come to mind, but luckily Arthur had hit him upside the head to regain his attention, so Merlin banished that errant train of thought gratefully.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I needed something to do to get my mind off having no magic. Like I told you. I figured that having sex would be the best way to go about it. Hard to think of anything else, you see, when you’re doing that…” Merlin trailed off when he saw that his answer was not appeasing Arthur in the slightest.
Arthur raised his eyebrows at him. “Well, you clearly didn’t get very far,” he remarked, looking over Merlin. His shirt was off, so he was naked from the waist up and his trousers hadn’t been taken off.
Merlin gave him a look. “I’m sure you know who’s at fault for that.”
Arthur did not appear to be apologetic whatsoever.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Merlin spoke up. “I think you should go. And just please, try – really try – to keep away from me until the week is up. I’m really not sure how I’ll be in a few days. It’s best not to tempt fate, you know?”
Arthur didn’t answer him immediately. Merlin was getting rather nervous at his sudden silence.
Then he let out a small sigh and he said, “I don’t like this.” The frustration was clear in his tone.
Merlin wanted to make him feel better somehow, but he wasn’t sure there was anything he could do. He was the one who had brought this on them. He could say with relative certainty that this was definitely not the way he had hoped Arthur would find out about his magic.
He reached out to Arthur, placing his hand on the blonde’s shoulder in an attempt to be reassuring.
~ * ~
Merlin’s eyes flashed golden for a moment and what came out of his mouth next were words he had little control over.
“It’s coming, Arthur,” his eyes locked on Arthur’s. “It’s coming!” He finished on a shout and collapsed back on to his bed.
“Merlin? Merlin!” Arthur said urgently.
Though he shook him, Merlin would not wake.
Arthur didn’t know what to do. After checking that Merlin was at least alive, Arthur left the room to seek Gaius’ help.
He couldn’t help but feel nervous about what Merlin had said. One thing was for certain, whatever Merlin believed was coming wasn’t good.
~ * ~
Merlin woke up slowly to the sound of hushed voices.
“…send him away?”
“He needed some rest. Someone had to talk some sense into him.”
“…waking up, look.”
“You can go, Gwen. I need to speak to him privately. Thank you for coming along.”
“It was no trouble. Merlin is a good friend to me; I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Merlin looked to see Gwen quietly leaving his room and Morgana seated in the chair by his bed.
Merlin sat up, rubbing his head tiredly. “What – what happened? Last I remember Arthur was here and--”
Morgana shook her head, touching his shoulder. He turned to properly look at her.
“We need to talk, Merlin. About Arthur.”
“Why? Is something wrong?”
“In a manner of speaking. You can’t trust him.”
“I – I don’t understand, Morgana. You said everything would be all right. You said--”
“Yes, while that may be true from your end that might not be the case on Arthur’s end. He’ll betray you to Uther, I know it.”
Merlin’s eyes widened at her words. He couldn’t believe it. No, no, no…why was Morgana saying all this?
“Listen, Merlin. Arthur didn’t get a chance to sort out how he feels about you being magic. He had no time. You don’t even know if he’ll change his tune once your magic leaves him. Right now, do you really think Arthur would risk telling his father when he could be incriminating himself as he has magic inside of him? Arthur wouldn’t be that stupid, Merlin. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?”
Merlin spoke slowly as realization set in. “Once he’s not risking himself, he could tell on me…” But then he shook his head quickly. “No, no, that won’t happen. My magic wouldn’t have gone inside of him – wouldn’t have trusted Arthur if there was even the chance he’d betray me. No, I don’t believe it.”
“Merlin, who would you trust more if it came down to it? Someone who was raised to despise magic and those who wield it or someone who bears the same burden as you? I have as much to risk as you do. I’m only trying to help you.”
Merlin didn’t know how to answer that. Morgana had a point…she was a Seer, she had magical abilities like him and she faced the pyre just like him if either were found out…
The question now was, 'How strong was his trust in Arthur?'
“Arthur told me about you and the girl. What was that about?” Morgana changed the subject, sensing Merlin’s need to consider the matter some more.
“I was trying to get my mind off of getting my magic back from Arthur. I didn’t want to hurt him trying to get the magic back… so, I thought – uh, I needed an effective distraction.”
Merlin would rather not say the word, “sex” in front of Morgana. It just seemed like too vulgar a word to say in front of a noblewoman, even though Morgana definitely wasn’t a typical, “pretty to look at but no substance behind the fancy dress and painted face” lady of the court. Merlin could attest to that. It still felt improper nevertheless.
Morgana looked at him carefully, thoughtfully. “Right. You haven’t had much success with that method, have you?”
Merlin muttered. “No, I just thought of the idea. Arthur interrupted me before I got anywhere. I need to try it again…”
“Would you like me to help?” She asked softly.
“No, no! That’s – I couldn’t – Morgana, honestly! No.”
“You’re not making any sense, Merlin.”
He tried to get his point across again. “But you’re not supposed to – you’re you know and I’m – and if the king found out -- !”
Morgana only sighed, thinking it best to talk about something else. Merlin was blushing terribly and she honestly wasn’t sure that he had a coherent thought in him at the moment.
“I don’t just see the future now. I’ve been practicing,” Morgana informed him lightly. Her eyes seemed to glow a brighter green.
“What?” Merlin breathed out, wondering what in the world she meant by that.
She shook her head. “First, will you consider what I just told you about Arthur?”
“I don’t know, Morgana. Arthur has proven himself--”
“Has he, Merlin? Really think about it.”
Morgana placed her hand under his chin and jerked it so that he was facing her. So that he was looking right into her eyes.
“Take all your magic back when you see the sorceress again. All of it, all at once. And run, run away. You’ll be in danger. Do you understand what I’m telling you, Merlin?”
Merlin couldn’t look away even if he tried. But he really didn’t want to, truth be told. There was something about her eyes, they were –
He couldn’t think anymore.
“Merlin?” She said softly.
“Yes. I’ll do it. I understand,” he answered her.
“I’m doing this to protect you, Merlin.”
He nodded and didn’t even notice when she threw the sheet covering him aside and began to undo his breeches.
~ * ~
Arthur woke up the next morning to someone shuffling about his room. He wished they weren’t so loud about it.
“Good morning, Arthur,” Merlin’s voice greeted him cheerfully. He set down the prince’s breakfast tray on the table.
Wait -- Merlin? Arthur, needing to see it to believe it, hastily opened the curtains enclosing his bed.
“Merlin?” He said, surprised. “I thought you had to stay away from me.”
Merlin looked at him oddly. “Why do you mean by that?”
Arthur glared at him, shifting his position so his feet were dangling over the edge of the bed. He was facing Merlin.
“Don’t pretend, Merlin. You know what I mean.”
“Umm…I don’t think I do.”
Now Arthur was puzzled and just a bit alarmed. Taking a good look at Merlin, his manservant did actually appear to be honestly confused as to what Arthur was referring to.
“Merlin, don’t you remember? I have your magic inside of me – that sorceress gave it to me to keep for you.”
Merlin looked at him as if he were frightened of him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You would never do that. What the king might think! And, well, you have it wrong. You don’t have my magic – the sorceress--” Then Merlin’s eyes widened and he shut his mouth as if he had said too much. After a moment, he continued on with renewed determination. “I don’t know where you got the idea that – and since when do you know about who I am?”
He backed away from Arthur. Merlin continued speaking when Arthur just stared at him. “What are you playing at? She told me I should bring you when I see her again, but this – I wasn’t expecting this.”
Arthur stood up, wanting to approach Merlin, but deciding against it when he looked like a skittish animal ready to make a quick escape.
And Arthur didn’t want him to leave just yet.
“Merlin, what is going on with you? Something is wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong! Maybe you just have it all wrong! I have to go. Morgana needed to see me.”
Arthur stepped forward, Merlin walked backwards until he hit the wall. “Are you afraid of me, Merlin?” He questioned.
What had brought this on? Arthur wondered. Something must have happened since he had seen Merlin last night and this morning. Something had been done to him…
Arthur knew he needed a closer look at his manservant.
So with that in mind, Arthur walked slowly toward him, noticing how Merlin kept glancing at the door.
When he was directly in front of him, Arthur found something peculiar…
“Merlin, what color are your eyes again?”
“Blue,” He said in a small voice, trying to move away from Arthur.
“Stand still. I’m not going to hurt you. You should get that thought out of your head.”
Merlin nodded. “Can I go?”
Arthur sighed and he nodded. “Yes, you may go.”
After Merlin had left his room, Arthur just stood there staring at the wall.
If Merlin’s eyes were blue, then why, just now, were his eyes an odd sort of green color?
The only answer that came to mind was magic. But Arthur decided it was too soon to tell for certain.
He needed to do more investigating. With that decision, he went on to dress himself and eat breakfast.
~ * ~