Sequel to: While You Slept
Pairing/Characters: Merlin/Arthur, Mordred, Will, Morgana, Gwen
Summary: Two months after Arthur was taken Merlin saved a young druid boy, raising and protecting the usually silent and possessive five-year-old, and eight months later Arthur returns to Ealdor with his knights and (reluctantly) Morgana and Gwen as well. Merlin is shocked to realize that the one he'd saved is the son of the man who's happily execute both Merlin and Mordred, and lies are told, while Morgana tries to help Arthur, who has a plan
Warning: AU, Pre-Slash
It was nightfall and the nobles were still in Ealdor.
Not only were they in the village, but Merlin was dumbfounded as he found Prince Arthur, Lady Morgana, and her handmaiden Gwen spending the night at his home. He had no idea what his mother was doing, inviting the butchers of his kind into her home, but he was going to question her strongly when the nobles finally left tomorrow.
For they had to leave tomorrow.
“You’re doing the mending.”
Looking up at the sound of that voice, Merlin paused in the middle of his work and raised an eyebrow. “Keen eye.”
Morgana might have snorted in amusement from where she was sitting with Hunith and Gwen, but that could have only been Merlin’s imagination.
“Is everyone in this little village disrespectful?” Arthur sighed, exasperated, sitting down next to Merlin. “How does King Cendred stand it?”
“Well, the king has little to do with us.” Merlin shrugged, returning his attention to the matters at hand (literally) as he continued to mend one of Mordred’s shirts. “We’re left to our own devices.”
Arthur was listening intently, an unreadable expression on his face. “You don’t express much loyalty for your king.”
Merlin winced, remembering who it was that Arthur was. He wasn’t just the man Merlin had saved, he was the prince of Camelot, a man who knew Cendred personally.
He was the enemy.
Mordred looked up from where he was playing with the clay Merlin had gotten for him, using different berries and flowers to dye them a multitude of colors. The boy liked to mold the clay under his hand and usually passed the time thusly, but his attention seemed to waver between concentrating on his creation and keeping a close, wary eye on Arthur.
“Loyalty is earned, sire.” Merlin kept his eyes on the material in his hands, saying the last word with a little bite, reminding himself who it was he spoke to.
If only Will hadn’t left to court Libya, he would have provided a good buffer in a situation like this. Then again, he and Arthur seemed ready to beat the other to death at the slightest provocation, so maybe it’d been Providence that Libya had batted her lashes at Will and lured him away.
For some reason, Arthur didn’t look the least bit insulted at the slight towards Cendred’s name. If anything he seemed quite pleased with Merlin’s scowl. “Have you never thought about leaving Ealdor, Merlin?”
Even though the question itself shocked the young warlock, it was the strange way in which Arthur voiced his name that had him looking up at the prince, eyes wide, not exactly sure why he was blushing when, if anything, he should be pale in worry as to what had prompted the question.
He didn’t notice the way the three women stopped their happy chattering and did their best to pretend that they weren’t listening intently to the conversation, waiting for an answer.
Mordred looked up from his clay figurine.
“Sometimes, maybe, when I was younger.” Merlin tore his gaze from Arthur and lowered it to the shirt in his hands. “But I have Mordred and my mother to look after, and I couldn’t leave either of them behind.”
Mordred, apparently not even liking the thought of Merlin ever leaving him, shot Arthur an ugly, accusing look and attached himself to Merlin’s leg, arms curled around it possessively, gaze warning Arthur to drop the subject.
Unfortunately, the prince wasn’t paying attention to the young boy. Instead, his gaze was intense and on Merlin. “It would be better, would it not, for the three of you to move to a place where there’s more of a future, not only for you, but for your son?”
Merlin was confused. Not exactly getting what was going on. “Like where?”
Arthur grinned, leaning backwards. “Camelot of course.”
Merlin’s eyes widened and then he laughed, missing the slightly confused and hurt expression on Arthur’s face at his reaction. To even think that living in Camelot would be giving Mordred more of a future was hilarious, and Merlin couldn’t help but shake his head as his laughter died to soft chuckles.
That had had to be the most ridiculous suggestion ever.
Even if Merlin decided to become suicidal and move his family from Ealdor (his Eden) to Camelot (Hell incarnate) what in the world would he even do there to make a living?
Merlin had no skills (magic definitely wasn’t an option) and they’d be starving in days.
“No, no, no.” Merlin continued to shake his head as he chuckled. Finishing mending the shirt and folding it neatly before placing it in the basket of finished clothes, he picked up one of his trousers next to be mended.
“Why not?” It was the dark steel in Arthur’s voice that tipped the warlock off that he might have offended the prince somehow.
Looking up from where he was threading the needle, Merlin rested his blue gaze on Arthur and noted the tight lines around his mouth and eyes, lines that shouldn’t even be there for years to come. Lines that hadn’t even been there seconds before.
Gaze widening, realizing that he’d just insulted the prince’s kingdom with his reaction, Merlin opened his mouth, closed it, and opened it once more. “I—I don’t mean any disrespect for Camelot,” he quickly added: “sire.” Arthur wasn’t looking appeased, so Merlin quickly continued on. “It’s just that my mother is the only physician Ealdor has, and it’d be wrong to take her from the people.”
Seeing that Arthur’s eyes were softening slightly, Merlin realized he was on the right track. “And Camelot is too far from here and I don’t have a trade. I---,” he motioned around the house. “I take care of the household chores, tend to the garden, and help some of the neighbors during harvest…nothing I can do would be useful in such a grand place as Camelot.”
By now Arthur was back to smiling contently, and a little smugly, as he leaned back in the seat. “Your way with herbs and healing is astounding. Even our Court Physician was impressed with how well my wounds were when I was returned safely to Camelot.”
Merlin opened his mouth to stutter something like ‘it was a fluke’ or ‘you really weren’t that badly wounded’, which everyone who heard it would know were lies…
“How is Gaius doing?” Hunith asked, surprising the nobles.
“You know the Court Physician?” Gwen asked in surprise.
Hunith smiled brightly, nodding. “As a younger woman I lived in Camelot, in the castle, and I worked under Gaius as his apprentice.” Her smile turned nostalgic. “Those were some of the happier days of my life. Always busy, always entertaining.”
Arthur was silent before looking at Hunith in an oddly intent way. “Did you---did you ever meet my mother?”
At that moment Merlin forgot that Arthur was the son of his greatest threat, an enemy in his own right, and he just saw a son who’d lost his mother at too young an age.
“Yes, I did.” Hunith smiled tenderly at the prince, as if seeing the same thing Meriln did. “She was a beautiful woman, and sweet and loving. All of the servants loved her dearly. She used to sing all the time, especially when she was pregnant with you. She’d walk around, hands on her stomach, and sing and hum and just talk to you. She was so happy.”
Arthur looked like he was desperate to ask more, but was keeping a reign on his questions.
Merlin watched Arthur contemplatively, wondering why it seemed as if Arthur hadn’t even heard that much about his mother. His gaze went thoughtfully to Morgana, and was surprised to see her giving him a sad smile, nodding an answer to the question that must have been visible on his face.
“Did Mordred’s mother sing to him while she was pregnant?” Gwen asked, and then her eyes widened as she realized what she’d done. “I’m so sorry---no one has to answer---I didn’t mean to be insensitive!”
Mordred pouted, crawling up onto Merlin’s lap. “Papa’s my mama.”
Merlin went bright red as Mordred said that. Dear gods!
Hunith’s eyes went wide.
Gwen and Morgana shared identical charmed expressions that clearly said: awwwwww.
Arthur looked between Mordred and Merlin, watching as the child clung to Merlin and pouted right back at him.
Despite the fact that Mordred was acting somewhat like a spoilt brat refusing to share a toy with another child, Arthur was suddenly smirking in amusement.
“He remind you of anyone, Arthur?” Morgana asked teasingly.
Arthur sent her a glare that lacked heat.
Somehow after that conversation was easy and the night was spent in laughter was Hunith entertained everyone with stories of her life in the castle, and misadventures while working under Gaius’ tutelage. She spoke of the old man with tender regard, as one would speak of a dear uncle, and Merlin wondered why she hadn’t spoken more of him while Merlin was growing up.
His mother always tried to keep so many secrets from him, and he couldn’t help but feel a little hurt at how easily she opened up and told stories of her past for these strangers.
“You must come and visit us in Camelot, Hunith.” Morgana leaned forwards, smiling, placing her hand on the older woman’s. “I’m sure Gaius would be happy to see you again, and I know I would like to know you better.”
Gwen nodded her agreement.
Merlin smiled as he watched his mother glow with the attention.
Turning to Arthur, Merlin tilted his head slightly to the right, curious as to the determination in those blue eyes. “Yes?”
“I have to be honest with you, Merlin.” Arthur cleared his throat. “I came to Ealdor with the mission to find you.”
“Find…me?” Merlin told himself not to get nervous.
If they’d known he was a warlock they’d have arrested him on sight and wouldn’t have put Morgana and Gwen in danger by letting them associate with him.
Arthur nodded, clearing his voice in a way that might have been nervousness, but that was silly to contemplate, so Merlin dismissed it. “I want you to come to Camelot to work for me as my personal physician.”
Merlin dropped the last of the clothes to be mended, Mordred going still in his lap.
Hunith’s eyes were wide as she looked from the prince to Merlin and back.
Arthur, suddenly noticing the surprised, tensed shock in the little house, hurried on. “I am not asking you to abandon your family. I am asking you to bring them with you. I wish for you to move into the castle.”
Merlin knew the absolute, bone-crushing shock was visible on his face. “I—but I don’t---I’m not---.”
“And I know that you don’t have any formal training as a healer, but you may learn from Gaius as your mother once did and he will better fit you to serve under me.” And for some odd reason, Arthur all of a suddenly went beet red.
Gwen bit her bottom lip, hard.
Morgana, on the other hand, expressed her sinisterly amused smile quite openly.
Merlin, not exactly sure what they found so amusing, returned his attention to Arthur. “I—uh—I’m honored and very confused, that wasn’t expected at all, but I don’t think I---.”
“You would have your own chambers, and be attended to if you wish it.” Arthur hurried on, ignoring Merlin’s words. “You will be my personal physician, so you wouldn’t have to tend to anyone else other than myself. And not only will your mother be able to live her days enjoying the castle life, catching up with Gaius, but young Mordred could be taught his numbers and alphabets.”
“He---he already knows how to do that.” Merlin shook his head. “It’s really a wonderful offer, Arthur---.”
“I know.” Arthur smirked.
Merlin almost smirked back in amusement at the smug confidence in the prince’s voice. “But I’m afraid I’ll have to---.”
“Did I mention the fact that you’ll have your own work room?” Arthur’s smirk was suddenly gone and he looked, interestingly enough, nervous once more. “You’ll be paid handsomely, and your rooms will be in one of the towers, so you’ll have your own privacy to both live and work.”
Everything was so tempting, and Merlin hated the look on Arthur’s face, hated the fact that he felt he was distressing the prince. He didn’t understand why this meant so much to the blonde, but despite the fact that he wanted to please him, Merlin had to think of Mordred and himself. There was no way that he could---.
“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but I cannot leave this village.” Hunith announced, bringing the attention to her. “The villagers trust me to take care of them with the little knowledge I possess, and we are a small community who doesn’t trust strangers. Even if you offered to send a physician here in my place they wouldn’t feel comfortable with it.”
Arthur’s face fell.
Had Arthur been about to offer such a thing?
Morgana and Gwen shared worried glances.
“But as for my son and grandson, I do not see a reason for them to not accept your generous offer.” Hunith wouldn’t look at Merlin, who was watching her with a wide-eyed, horrified gaze. “To be truthful, I had been contemplating sending him to Camelot for a while now, but I couldn’t separate him from Mordred. Your offer, though, it is like an answer to my prayers to the gods.”
“Mother!” Merlin gasped.
What was she doing?
“Merlin, you were made for better things than you could ever achieve living here.” Hunith finally looked at her son, face determined. “I—I truly believe that it is your destiny to accept the prince’s offer.”
At the word destiny Arthur turned to look at Hunith, eyes wide in surprise.
“I will not leave you here.” Merlin frowned, standing up, and letting Mordred down before glaring at his mother. “How could you even suggest that I do such a thing?”
“I’m your mother, Merlin.” Hunith whispered. “Respect my wishes.”
Face crumpling at the plea, Merlin tried to keep his anger, but just couldn’t. He turned to Morgana. “Milady, could you please keep an eye on Mordred while I have a private word with my mother?”
“Of course, Merlin.” Morgana smiled, getting up and going to Mordred, bending to his level. “What were you sculpting?”
Mordred narrowed his eyes suspiciously at her, gaze intent and holding hers, before he pouted and reluctantly held out his hand for her to see.
Morgana smiled, receiving the clay figure. “It’s a dog.”
Mordred didn’t smile, but some of the harshness left his eyes. “Horse.”
“Oh,” Morgana laughed. “Sorry. I’m rubbish at the arts.”
Mordred’s lip twitched for a second.
Merlin, deciding he could leave them alone, motioned with his chin outside and didn’t wait for his mother to follow him. The young man stormed out of the home and walked to the garden in the back, making sure that no one was around to overhear what they were about to say.
“Merlin, listen to me.” Hunith whispered as she came up to his side, placing a hand on his arm. “I know you must be confused, but you must trust me. You are my son, I love you more than I could ever love another being. I would never send you to Camelot if I wasn’t sure you were going to be safe, that this wasn’t what you are supposed to do.”
“How can you think I’m meant to put myself and Mordred in danger?” Merlin gasped, horrified. “It’s not only me, mother! Mordred’s in danger as well within that kingdom—much less behind those walls!”
“I know, my son.” Hunith sighed, looking away. “But I have not been completely honest with you on many counts, and one of them is the reason why I know you must go.”
Merlin’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
“There was a prophecy the night of your birth, Merlin.” Hunith whispered, turning to look at her son urgently once more. “It said that you would help Arthur to join all of Albion as one kingdom, and that you would make him the greatest king of history.”
“What?” Merlin gasped, heart racing. “Who told you---?”
“It doesn’t matter.” Hunith cut him off, pulling away once more. “All that matters is that you were destined to join Arthur’s side, and your meeting him and saving his life was just your destinies beginning to intertwine. You are meant to be together, to be two sides of the same coin.”
That sounded uncomfortably intimate.
“Please trust me Merlin.” Hunith pleaded. “Your destiny lies in Camelot. You must go. And you must take Mordred with you or you know that he shall wander out into the forest trying to find you and he will be lost forever.”
Merlin went cold, realizing that that would most probably happen if he left the child behind.
“I love you, Merlin.” Hunith whispered, wrapping her arms around her son, voice shaky. “And forgive me for keeping so many secrets from you, but know that I only wish the best for you.”
“I know, mother.” Merlin whispered back, wrapping her in his arms as well, hugging her tightly. “I---I will go, as you have asked of me.” He leaned his cheek against the top of her head. “I don’t know if I believe in prophecies and destinies, but you do, and I will go out of respect and love of you.”
“Thank you.” Hunith whispered, and then began to cry.
Closing his eyes tightly and hugging his mother, Merlin cried as well, mother and son saying goodbye.
Arthur watched as Merlin slept.
It was disturbing, really, how pathetic he was being about this. How entranced he was at watching someone sleeping.
Morgana and Gwen had been allowed to stay in Hunith’s room, and Hunith had taken Merlin’s (despite her insistence that Arthur take it instead). This had left Arthur, Merlin and Mordred to sleep on bedrolls in what could be considered the living room. They were sleeping head to toe, with Mordred sleeping between them, Merlin curled up around the boy, protective even in sleep.
Arthur knew it was ridiculous to be jealous of the boy, but he admitted it to himself. He was jealous. Still, the spoilt kid amused him as well, as he reminded Arthur of himself when he was that age.
Merlin made a kittenish sound in the back of his throat and continued to sleep.
Hunith was the second person to refer to Merlin and him as that.
Turning so that he was lying on his back and looking up at the ceiling, Arthur grinned.
Tomorrow they’d wait for Merlin to pack his things and say his goodbyes, and then they were returning to Camelot. In his own territory, with Merlin now so close to him, working for him, Arthur was sure he could get the man to see the truth of the situation.
Men and women both easily fell in love with Arthur, without him even trying, so the prince could only gloat at how easy it was going to be to make Merlin his.
He closed his eyes and smiled.
Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.