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Monsters

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“You know, when you said you had something to tell me too, this is the last thing I would have guessed.”

Arthur huffed at him, all nervous bluster. “Well, I wouldn’t have thought you were going to confess to being a sorcerer, so the feeling is mutual.”

Merlin watched as Arthur hunched in on himself defensively, and decided he better explain first. “I was born with my magic. I think it’s different. No one’s actually ever called me a sorcerer.”

Arthur frowned. “What do they call you then?”

Merlin thought of the dragon. “Warlock. They call me a warlock.”

“I’ve never heard of that before.”

Merlin shrugged. “Neither had I, until I came here.”

Arthur tensed, and Merlin can see the anger just under his skin. “There are other sorcerers here? In Camelot?”

“Not exactly.” Merlin winced. “Did you know your father didn’t kill the Great Dragon when he captured him?”

Arthur spluttered, stared at him, and then spluttered some more. “You! You mean to tell me you’ve been talking to a dragon? And its talked back?”

“Only in nonsense and riddles.” Merlin huffed, familiar frustration at the dragon bubbling up. “He’s helped me save your hide quite a few times you know, but never with a straight answer.”

“Why would he help you save me?” Arthur asked, quick like the question escaped before he could even think about asking it. “Why would you want to save me?”

Merlin sat back on Arthur’s bed, arms folded and eyebrows raised. “Certainly not because of your prattish nature!” But then he leaned forward again, voice dropping back down to a whisper. “The Great Dragon told me it was prophesied that you’re going to be the greatest king Albion has ever seen. He said you’d unite the kingdoms and bring magic back to the land, but only if I stayed by your side.”

“Is that why you stayed? Why you saved me?” Arthur asked, hushed and upset like he didn’t want to believe it even if Merlin told him it was true.

“In the beginning.” Merlin said, because they were done with the lies now. Both of them. “But that was only until I saw for myself that the dragon was right. You’re going to become a great king Arthur, and not because some prophecy says so. It’s because you’re a good and kind man, one of the best I’ve ever met.”

Arthur flushed, but leaned away and stared at the ground. “And a werewolf.”

Merlin winced, because yes, alright, he hadn’t forgotten Arthur’s secret in the minutes they’d spent talking about his. “How did it happen?”

Arthur curled in on himself. “I was stupid. I was eighteen and on a mission with a few knights. I was patrolling our camp when I found a cave. There were signs that someone had been there recently, and torn clothes, so I assumed someone maybe have been mauled by a bear or-“ he cut himself off and shook his head. “It jumped out at me out of no where. Almost tore my arm off. By the time the knights got there I’d managed to scare it off. I told them it was a wild dog.”

“Did you know?” Merlin asked, unable to help himself. “That it had been a werewolf, I mean.”

“I didn’t want to believe it.” Arthur shifted on the bed, risking a glance at Merlin and then grabbing a pillow to squeeze in his hands. “I think- I think a part of me knew. And when the next full moon came, I went to the woods, just in case and...”

“And you changed.”

Arthur nodded. “I changed.”

Silence settled around them. They let it sit, both wondering at what the other had revealed. The more Merlin thought, the more he realised Arthur wasn’t so different from himself. They both had a secret that could get them killed if anyone were to find out, and they both had to live with that fear everyday of their lives. After all, there was only one thing Uther hated more than sorcerers.

“But you didn’t.” Merlin blurted. He flushed at the look Arthur sent him, his are you an idiot look. “I mean- you changed into a wolf, obviously, but you didn’t- you didn’t change. You’re still Arthur. You’re still a prat, and the Crown Prince of Camelot, and the only person I will gladly serve under until the day I die.”

Arthur’s eyes steadily widened as Merlin spoke, and that flush was back, and goddess it was more distracting than Merlin thought it had any right to be.

“I didn’t think-“ Arthur muttered quietly, picking at his pillow again. “Well, I thought everyone would think me a monster if they knew.”

Merlin swallowed. “That’s what I thought too.”

Arthur looked up in surprise. “About your magic?”

Merlin nodded, feeling as weird as Arthur looked hearing it spoken about so openly with someone that wasn’t his mother or Gaius. “I’ve always been able to do things, ever since I was a baby. And sometimes- sometimes I wonder if I’m just one step away from doing something horrible, because I can’t control it or my emotions get the best of me and my magic reacts horribly-“

Arthur reached out and grabbed his arm, shaking his head. “You aren’t a monster Merlin! That- you can’t- no one’s born a monster. That’s something you choose, and you would never choose to be anything other than your bumbly, kind, optimistic self.”

Now it was Merlin’s turn to flush and look away as he fought back tears. “I’ve done things. Things I’m not proud of. Made mistakes.”

“So have we all Merlin.” Arthur forced his chin up, made him meet his eyes. “You aren’t a monster.”

Merlin nodded, just once. “You aren’t a monster either.”

And Arthur was drawing away again, but Merlin couldn’t let him, because if Arthur could show Merlin the good in himself the least he can do is return the favour. “No, Arthur, I’m serious. You didn’t choose to be bitten, you didn’t choose to be a werewolf.”

“I’m a danger Merlin.” Arthur said, still drawing away and no longer looking at him, damnit- “Every month I’m a danger to anyone that comes near me. And I have no way of stopping myself from-“

Merlin shook his head, an iron grip on Arthur’s hands as he chased his friend’s gaze. “That’s not your fault Arthur. It’s not.” He squeezed, hard. “You’re not a monster.”

And then Arthur met his eyes, blue on blue and dizzying, and Merlin offered him a smile. He didn’t get one back, but there was a hesitant nod, a little give as Arthur squeezed his hands back. Merlin sighed.

“We’re not monsters.”