Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin
Summary: AU. When Merlin's father returns suddenly Merlin realizes that his destiny isn't exactly what he thought it would be. Separated from Arthur, Merlin's life is turned upside down, never once suspecting that Arthur might miss him with the same intensity, or that their destiny is going to be tested and tried as his magic begins creating all sorts of troubles and attracting all sorts of potential love rivals...
Note: Icon that inspired story was created by jade_dragoness
On the fourth day Merlin didn’t have to be constantly in contact with Morgana funneling his calming magic into her and driving away her nightmares. On the fourth day she’d woken up and smiled into his face, and they known, they’d both known, that whatever had led to Morgana’s death had changed, and now the nightmares had left her, vanishing into the air to be forgotten.
They left her room on the eve of the fourth day, and Merlin was glad to see that while the servants and maids weren’t exactly friendly, they weren’t hostile with Morgana anymore. Whatever it was that his father had said to them must have made an impact.
Merlin slept that night in his own bed, and when he visited Morgana early the next morning he’d barely knocked on her door before it was flung open and she’d hugged him, happy.
They are gone, she’d whispered happily about her nightmares. Thank you.
Lancelot, looking for Merlin, had stumbled upon the scene, with a couple of servants. The knight had sighed and shaken his head. The knight could understand why Merlin wanted to protect and help Lady Morgana, he could, but Lancelot’s duty was to Merlin and taking care of him, and if Merlin wasn’t truly planning on marrying the woman this would look very badly on both their parts.
Merlin, of course, ignored his friend’s words of advice and worry. The prince understood Lancelot’s worries, but he also knew that he had to take care of Morgana now. Sure, she was strong and independent and could take care of herself in most situations, but now with Uther still having a hold over her Merlin needed to protect her.
He’d even offered to marry her during their four days seclusion in her room, but Morgana had only given him a tender smile, kissed his cheek, and told him that while Camelot and Valador needed uniting, she wasn’t the one who he should be offering marriage to.
The prince wondered if she was talking about Gwen.
Sure, he now knew of the crush the handmaiden had had on him, but they were both only friends now, and he couldn’t imagine himself marrying Gwen.
This still bothered him as they strolled out of the castle walls on the fifth day, arm in arm, watching as Lancelot trained the knights in hand-to-hand combat.
Since Merlin was really rubbish compared to the other knights when it came to weaponed combat, Lancelot had been appointed as head Knight and trainer. Some of the older knights had complained and muttered about it until Lancelot had started training them and left them all on their arses. Now they all tried their best to apply themselves to the lessons, hoping one day to beat the young knight.
Somewhere during that they’d grown to respect Lancelot despite his age.
The fact that he was Merlin’s right hand man helped a lot too though.
“It’s really lovely here, Merlin.” Morgana smiled as they continued to stroll, going passed Lancelot and the knights (who’d stopped training to bow to them).
Gawain stayed behind them, seeming a little put out for some reason.
Merlin had given him the day off but the boy wouldn’t hear of it, and had insisted on accompanying them in case he was needed.
“I’m glad you like it.” Merlin smiled, waving to some of the commoners calling his name. “I want you to think of this place as your home.”
They walked out of the inner walls and entered the city of Valador, entering the throng of people going around their daily lives working and selling. They didn’t seem surprised to see Merlin out and about without any guards, obviously used to having their prince amongst them.
It was Morgana who was getting the looks.
Morgana smiled and watched as a woman used a spell to keep her products green and healthy. “Is everyone in Valador magically inclined?”
“No.” Merlin smiled, shaking his head at that. “Less than half of the population actually, and most of those can only perform basic agronomical magic to help boost their crops and such. Most Valadorians are just normal humans, like the knights. But our witches and sorcerers are spread out evenly amongst the land.”
“I wonder if Camelot was like this, before the Great Purge.” Morgana made up her face at the word, disgust obvious in her voice as she thought of Uther’s decree.
“I wondered that myself the first month being here.” Merlin admitted. “It’s a big difference, here and Camelot. I sometimes wonder how it is that we can be allies and yet Uther has no idea of the magic in this kingdom.”
“I wonder the same.” Morgana nodded before stopping and turning to face Merlin, determined. “I know that peace with Camelot is what you most want, Merlin, but don’t let Uther destroy this place. It’s magical.”
Gawain looked from one to the other, frowning slightly.
Merlin smiled at her. “Don’t worry, Morgana.”
Morgana smiled, before suddenly her face went pale and her eyes flashed white. Her lips opened in a soundless cry as she tightened her hold on Merlin, her whole body glimmering white light, attracting the surprised gaze of everyone in the marketplace.
“Morgana?” Merlin asked, worried. “What’s happening?” His magic reacted to hers, trying to feel out what was wrong, but then it was gone in a flash and Morgana’s eyes were blue once more and on him, frightened.
“Merlin!” She gasped, pointing towards a stall. “To your right!”
Merlin acted on instinct, eyes flashing gold in time for the attacker to jump out of his hiding spot, sword held high.
Gawain jumped protectively in front of Merlin, and the warlock only managed to pull the boy out of striking range in time, wondering if this was how Arthur had felt all those times they’d struggled to protect the other with their own bodies.
Deciding that it was not the best time to think of the one person who could distract him so, Merlin pulled out the sword hanging on his narrow hips and metal met metal as the attacker struck at him again. Each blow was fast and precise and it took all of Merlin’s concentration to ward off each and every one of them.
“Use your magic Merlin!” Morgana cried out, surprising everyone as they realized that she knew.
Merlin ignored her though as he continued to swing his sword, trying to find an opening, trying to put Lancelot’s many grueling lesson to practice. He was quite proud of himself that he was getting this far without any help of his magic, although he knew his irises were swirling with gold as his magic stood ready to shoot out and defend him if his sword failed him.
Seeing an opening, Merlin twirled, slammed his sword into the body armor, and sent the assailant into a pole. The man fell to the ground, and before he could recover, he had the tip of Merlin’s sword at his neck.
“Surrender.” Merlin whispered, pressing the tip against the skin of the neck.
The man silently let go of his own sword, but Merlin anticipated the next move, his eyes flashing completely gold as outstretched his other hand, stopping the sword being magically hurtled at him in mid air.
“Surrender.” He hissed, eyes purest gold.
The attacker looked up at him and then smiled. “You’ve gotten bloody good since the last time I was in town.”
Merlin asked and pulled the sword away from the man’s neck, the other sword continuing to be suspended in midair (where the man it’d been taken from went to collect it). The prince smiled and reached down, helping his assailant to his feet before they embraced.
“Must you always greet me by attacking me?” Merlin wanted to know as they finally pulled back, smiling into the handsome face of his assailant, and friend.
“Have to make sure Lancelot’s keeping up with your training.” The redhead grinned. “Wouldn’t do to hear of how you died because you tripped and fell on your own sword.”
“Shut up.” Merlin laughed, coloring slightly. “That only happened once.”
“Merlin?” Morgana’s soft, confused voice reached them.
Merlin turned to the Ward of King Uther and felt horrible because she’d obviously been frightened. “I’m sorry Morgana, but this idiot here does this every time he’s in town.”
“You’re friends?” She asked, coming towards them.
“I put up with him, more like it.” Merlin laughed.
“Hey!” The man gasped. “I’m offended!” He then turned to Morgana and reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Morgana, I am Eldric Parthers. I have heard much of you from Merlin, though he failed to tell me of the fact that you were also one of us.”
The look Eldric sent Merlin was accusing.
Morgana’s eyes widened as she realized that she’d just outed herself completely to the people of Valador. She looked sick.
Merlin took her arm and wrapped it around his. “Do not worry, Morgana, Uther won’t be able to hurt you. You’re in Valador now, you’re safe here.”
The people were whispering loudly amongst themselves, and while it made Merlin wince the fact that they were all staring at Morgana with awe made him decide to not say anything about it. If anything, Morgana’s show of magic could be the only thing to endear her to his people.
They’d see her in the way that they’d seen Merlin when he’d first arrived---a survivor of Uther’s cruelty.
“Lady Morgana…” Gawain finally spoke, eyes wide. “You are magic! A Seer!”
Morgana held on tighter to Merlin. “Dear Circe.”
Merlin, so caught up in trying to reassure Morgana she was safe and scold Eldric for not taking this seriously enough, failed to notice the shocked blue eyes staring at them from the crowd.
Arthur staggered away from the crowd, heading around the corner and leaning up against the wall, eyes wide, heart racing, unable to believe what it was that he’d seen.
He’d only just arrived in Valador City when he’d heard the people talking about the prince and Lady Morgana having a stroll in the marketplace. He hadn’t been able to believe his luck at having found them so easily and quickly, and he’d been making his way towards them through the crowd when Morgana had started to glow.
That’s shocked him into being unable to move, and he’d only reacted when the unknown man had attacked Merlin. Arthur had had his hand on his sword, ready to draw it and defend his buffoon of an ex-manservant, when he realized that Merlin was holding up on his own.
Yet another shocking thing!
He’d watched as Merlin moved with a grace an agility he’d never seen the boy use before, dodging and parrying and landing some blows of his own…and then he’d seen the magic.
Merlin was a sorcerer.
Merlin…his Merlin…was a sorcerer.
Arthur slid down the wall and stared unseeingly ahead of him, calling himself a million names and things suddenly made sense. All those times he had those ‘lucky breaks’, all the times he should have died and didn’t, all the times his weapon shouldn’t have killed the beast ‘who couldn’t be killed by mortal weapon’ but had, all the times Merlin was by his side as he won victory after victory despite the fact that everything was against his favor…
How had he not figured it out before?
And then Arthur realized that he had, deep down inside of him he had known all along but just hadn’t accepted it. Because if he accepted that he knew then he’d have to do something about it and he didn’t want to.
He remembered in Ealdor, remembered that it was Merlin’s hand that was raised when the winds came, and yet he’d been more than happy to pretend he didn’t know, to convince himself he didn’t know---been more than happy to accept Will’s confession at face value and dismiss any doubts that the magic had come from his manservant, his friend, his Merlin.
“I’m a sorcerer!” He remembered Merlin announcing at the council, and he remembered his own words, belittling the confession, making Merlin look like some lovestruck country boy willing to do anything for the woman he ‘loved’. Thankfully the council had bought his act, and had dismissed Merlin’s claim.
But he couldn’t dismiss it anymore, couldn’t pretend that deep down inside he’d always known.
Merlin was a sorcerer.
Morgana was a Seer.
Arthur rested his head against the wall and looked up.
It was suddenly making sense.
This was what had strengthened their friendship in Camelot, this shared secret that had brought Merlin and Morgana together…
Sitting on the damp ground, Arthur remembered the way Merlin’s eyes had flashed molten gold, and he wondered what it said about him that he was suddenly hard.
Clara was walking towards her father’s workshop when she first heard the maids whispering amongst themselves.
“She’s magic!” One announced, excited. “It makes sense now! The Lady Morgana has magic!”
Clara stopped, frowning darkly.
What were they saying?
“Now I understand why the prince is so besotted with her!” Another maid whispered. “They knew of each others magic in Camelot, they kept each other’s secret! They protected each other from Uther’s cruelty!”
“And now that he’s a prince he’s bringing her to the safety of his kingdom---and his arms!” Another sighed.
“I still don’t like her, magic or no magic.” A fourth pouted.
Clara quite agreed with her.
Eyes flashing darkly, Clara continued on her way.
Merlin had excused himself and gone to speak with Eldric, and Morgana had remained in the inner castle walls, walking by herself in the garden. Her heart was racing and she was terrified. She’d never seen things while she’d been awake, but she believed that it was the magic Merlin had been funneling into her to protect her from her nightmares that’d jumpstarted it.
What if word got out to Uther?
She was going to lose her head!
She sat down on a bench and closed her eyes, trying to regain the sense of peace she’d had this morning.
“Are you unwell, Lady Morgana?”
She turned and looked up at the figure of Lancelot, watching her worriedly. “I’m fine, Sir Lancelot.” She looked away from him, staring down at the colorful fish in the little pond before her.
“I have heard of what happened in the marketplace.” Lancelot announced softly.
Morgana winced. “It’s only time until Uther finds out.”
“Merlin won’t let anything happen to you.” Lancelot sounded so sure of that. “He’ll protect you, as will we all.”
The young ward turned to look at the knight and smiled softly, beginning to see what about this knight had had Gwen so flustered during his brief stay in Camelot. “I don’t want you all to have to protect me. I don’t want to be a burden.”
“You are not a burden, milady.” The young knight reassured her. “You are safe here, so do not fear yourself into sickness again. Please.”
Morgana smiled softer. “I will not, I promise.”
There was an awkward silence between them before Lancelot bowed slightly and left.
Morgana watched him go, soft smile still on her face, feeling better already.
As always, Merlin’s conversation with Eldric ended up in an argument, this time the redhead had been angry that Merlin had kept secret from him the fact that Morgana had magic within her. Merlin had held strong to his point that it wasn’t his secret to share, and that he’d kept all of Eldric’s secrets hidden, so he didn’t see how Eldric could expect him to act differently with the secrets of others.
Despite what Merlin knew was a sound argument, Eldric hadn’t seen his way. The young mercenary third son of the king of a neighboring county, friend to Valador and yet not Camelot, pushed Merlin against the wall and growled at him.
“I don’t keep secrets from you, Merlin!” Eldric’s face was close to the young prince’s. “I need to know that you trust me just as much as I trust you!”
“Calm down, El.” Merlin sighed in annoyance, used to this treatment by his friend and more than a little exasperated by now. “I trust you, I do, but I’m not about to----.”
“To what, Merlin?” Eldric pushed him back harder, pressing his lower body against Merlin’s, pinning him to the wall.
Having had enough, Merlin’s eyes flashed gold and Eldric was thrown across the room into the wall and he collapsed on the floor with a flourish of curses.
Rolling his eyes at the young prince who just wouldn’t accept that when it came to magic Merlin was by far stronger, Merlin shook his head and straightened his clothes. “What do you want, Eldric? You didn’t come here just to push me up against the wall.”
Eldric leered up at him from the floor. “How can you be so sure? It was quite pleasurable having you beneath me.”
Blushing to the roots of his head, Merlin internally cursed the man’s love of teasing him. “El…”
“Alright, okay.” Eldric got to his feet, brushing off his clothes. “I might have heard about an engagement in the making with the ward ofCamelot and came to see if it was true.”
Merlin made a face, looking up from straightening his clothes. “You journeyed all the way here to find out if I was going to marry Morgana---when you could have just sent a falcon?”
Eldric shrugged. “Seemed an impersonal way of finding out if my boy was soddin’ insane or not. Wanted to make sure I was here to bash your head into some sense if you even thought of forever tying yourself to Camelot.”
“If I want to tie myself to Camelot, that’s my decision.” Sick and tired of everyone giving their opinion on the matter, Merlin narrowed his eyes, frustrated and bad tempered. “If I want to marry Morgana or Arthur or even Uther that’s my decision. There’s nothing you or my father or mother of anyone can say to change my mind because it’d be my life.”
Eldric looked sick at his stomach.
Merlin sighed, placing a hand to his forehead. “What is it now?”
“Just imagining Uther with his old hands all over you,” Elric whined, hands now covering his face as if to block the image. “You’ve just scarred me for life!”
Merlin paused, the image now in his mind, and he winced.
The warlock prince ran thin pale fingers through his dark hair and shook his head. “Stay here, you can use this room while you are here. I need to relax, I’m going to my room to rest. Don’t bother me. And don’t even think about trying to sneak in like you did the last time.”
“You sure you wouldn’t like some company?” Eldric asked seductively---not prepared for the pillow that flew at his face violently.
Merlin growled in frustration at the guy’s relentless teasing and left the room, heading towards his own.
He really liked Eldric, he did, but the guy was frustrating!
And it wasn’t in the nice, amusing way Arthur was.
Merlin paused as he thought about Arthur, again, his face forlorn.
He wondered what it was the blonde prince was doing now. How was his new manservant? Did he take care of Arthur the way Merlin did?
Pushing back a feeling that was chaotically close to jealousy, Merlin shook his head and continued on to his room.
Opening the door, Merlin shrugged off his coat and toed off his shoes, tired, not wanting anything more than to lay down for a couple of hours and sleep off the stress he always built whenever Eldric came for a visit---which was, admittedly, quite often.
It was only when he was pulling off his shirt that he sensed it, going still, before pulling the shirt off completely and turning to the shadows of the darkest corner of his bedroom. But what he found there, leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest, lips a smirk, was the last person he would have thought to see.
“You have got to do better than that Merlin,” Arthur’s voice was a low growl that sent shivers of pleasure down Merlin’s spine. “If I hadn’t made a little noise you would have just stripped right in front of me, never noticing I was there all along.” He smirked. “Good thing I’m here now, otherwise you’d be assassinated within the week. You really are quite useless.”
Merlin was just too shocked, realizing that this was truly Arthur, to even rise to the bait. “Arthur.” He whispered, unable to believe it.
He wanted---he wanted to hug him, to make sure that the other man was there, but his feet were stuck to the ground, fearful that somehow taking a step towards the blonde would make him disappear like a mirage.
“Are you ogling me, Merlin?” There was a teasing quality to Arthur’s voice that Merlin had never heard him use before.
“How did you know this was my room?” Merlin whispered, dumbstruck. “How did you get in here? How---why---?”
“I’m the best tracker in Camelot, possibly the world,” Arthur’s ego seemed to not have changed during this time apart. “There isn’t a prey I can’t hunt down. You should know this by now, Merlin.”
Despite being mentioned as prey Merlin couldn’t find himself frightened. Although his heart was suddenly racing in his heart---his blood in his veins, fear wasn’t what drove it.
His eyes widened as he suddenly realized it.
He was lusting after Arthur.
How---how long had this been going on without him fully realizing it?
“Aren’t you going to welcome me to Valador, Merlin?” Arthur asked, coming towards him.
Merlin’s eyes widened and he took a couple of steps back before the back of his legs hit his bed, sending him falling down on it, looking up at Arthur who was suddenly smirking at him before reaching down his hand and pulling Merlin back up to his feet.
Merlin, heart racing, smiled up at one of Arthur’s many tender insults. He couldn’t believe---he’d never thought he’d hear---he thought Arthur hated him!
He didn’t care that he was half naked and still not sure why Arthur was here. All that Merlin cared about was that Arthur was there, and he didn’t hate him, and suddenly all was right in the world for the warlock.
So he did something that surprised them both, and threw his arms around Arthur’s neck, drawing in close, hiding his teary-eyed face in Arthur’s shirt. “You prat.”
Arthur went still, probably in shock, but instead of pushing Merlin away as the warlock had expected, the blonde prince placed his arms around Merlin’s waist and drew him in close.
Merlin closed his eyes, smile touching his lips, not realizing that he was glowing with his happiness.
And that was the scene his mother walked in on.
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