Summary: In Ealdor one day, Merlin finds an injured, wounded and unconscious blonde man in the woods. Though he wants to take him to the village to be taken care of, the blonde is conscious long enough to beg to be hidden, and against his better judgment he takes the blonde to his special hiding place and takes care of the unconscious male...never realizing that the one he was watching over was Prince Arthur of Camelot.
On the fifth day, the young man’s fever broke and with the daily ministrations his wounds were healing favorably. Merlin himself was no good when it came to conventional healing and medicines and such, but his magic seemed amazingly in tune with this stranger, working easier, more controllable than it had ever been before.
Sitting up the figure, Merlin forced water down his throat, and wet his chapped lips. He wondered when he’d wake up, when he’d be fully conscious and able to speak to Merlin.
He really wanted him to speak.
These last five days Merlin had found himself spending less and less time in the village and away from Will, and more time next to the stranger’s side. He even spent the nights here, keeping watch over his restless sleep, making sure that the fever didn’t get worse.
He found that despite the fact that he doubted the man could hear him, Merlin spoke. He spoke about himself, about Elador, and about life in general. He spoke about his mom, about Will, about the villagers, about the crops and the harvest. Merlin even found himself talking about the father his mother would never speak about, and how he’d wondered all his life why it was that she wouldn’t even give him his father’s name.
And, of course, Merlin was shocked when he shared his greatest fear with the stranger. The fear that his father might have been some monster who’d forced himself onto his mother.
For what other reason could his mother have for not wanting to tell him of the man?
It was odd, how he felt safe telling this blonde stranger his many doubts and fears and secrets.
Though he never mentioned the magic.
He didn’t know why.
Even when around someone in a near coma he was cautious.
“You’re a troublesome prat, you know that, right?” Merlin asked, sitting on his bedroll and leaning forwards to brush some golden strands of hair out of that handsome face. “You should have been awake by now. I’m sure of it. But you’re just enjoying making me worry, aren’t you?”
There was no answer as the man remained still, breathing evenly.
Merlin sighed, tilting his head to the right. “What’s your name?” He asked, not realizing that his thumb was trailing down across that noble forehead. “Who are you?” He gazed upon that face that he now had committed to memory. “Why would someone do this to you?”
Hearing a twig snap, Merlin jerked away from the bandaged stranger and stood, turning in time to see four injured men, wearing uniforms with the same crest his patient had worn. They had their swords drawn, and while they looked worse than the one he tended to they seemed more worried and relieved to have found him.
“What have you done?” The first glared at Merlin. “Have you hurt him?”
“Does it look like I’ve hurt him?” Merlin asked, not sure why he wasn’t more afraid considering that there were four swords trained on him.
“Down, Bors.” Another stood forwards, sheathing his sword. “The lad has been taking care of him.” He turned to Merlin and bowed. “Thank you for tending to his wounds. We----when we couldn’t find him we were so worried. We searched for days, fearing that he’d been taken or----.”
They all winced, not wanting to think of the other option.
Merlin nodded, realizing that the blonde man lying on the bedroll must belong to this group, whoever they were.
“We must take him with us.” Bors announced, sheathing his own sword. “We are not safe here, we must leave.” He sent Merlin a worried glance. “Is he healed enough for travel?”
Merlin nodded. “His injuries are mostly healed and his fever broke last night.”
“Good.” Bors nodded. “Gawain, Kay, come help me with him.”
The other two nodded and went forwards.
Merlin watched them take the man carefully, all treating him as if he were precious.
Something clenched in his chest at this but he pushed it away. He should be relieved that the man’s comrades had found him and were taking him somewhere safe where a true physician could look after him.
That didn’t mean though, that he didn’t watch the blonde longingly until the men disappeared out of the cave, taking the blonde with them.
“We are forever in your debt,” the one who’d remained with him bowed slightly.
“Anyone would have done the same if they’d found a stranger dying in the forest.” Merlin stammered, blushing slightly.
The man straightened himself and looked at Merlin oddly. “You---you do not know who he is?”
Merlin frowned, finding this odd. “Should I?”
The man paused, considering. “No, I suppose not.” He smiled at Merlin. “Thank you again.” With that he turned to leave and join his other companions.
Merlin opened his mouth, closed it, bit on his bottom lip and then gathered his courage. “What’s his name?”
The man paused at the entrance and then turned to Merlin and smiled. “Arthur.” He hesitated for a moment. “And yours?”
“Merlin.” The young peasant didn’t see the harm in giving his name to a man he’d never see again. “My name is Merlin.”
“Thank you, Merlin.” The man repeated. “Thanks to you, Arthur alive. This shall not be forgotten, I promise you this.”
“Arthur.” Merlin tried the name on his tongue as the man left, deciding that the name fitted the blonde perfectly. “Arthur.”
At least, he thought as he sighed and leaned against the wall, hugging himself. At least I learnt your name.
He hugged himself tighter, wondering why the cave felt so cold all of a sudden.
When Arthur had awoken days later in the safety of his own room, with Gaius looking after him and Morgana and her maid keeping him company, he hadn’t been in the best mood. He’d waited for so long to get the strength to wake up properly, to see his savior, and the opportunity had been taken away from him. He knew he was being spoilt and ungrateful and difficult, but he didn’t care.
Morgana had grown angry with him only minutes after he’d awoken and had stormed out of his room, vowing to never worry about him ever again, and Arthur had even ignored his own father when he’d come to see him. He’d barely remembered to tell his father about Bayard’s involvement (just barely stopping a war with King Cendred’s kingdom before it could begin) before he’d asked who’d found him and brought him here.
The four surviving members of his knights had found him, scouring the land for him, and they’d found him and brought him to Camelot.
That had been Gaius’ story, at least.
Arthur, thoroughly unimpressed with said story, had ordered the four knights to his quarters and interrogated them intensively. Bors and Kay and Gawain only could take him so far in the story to the part where they’d come across a very well hidden cave in which a young man with blue eyes and black hair had been tending to him. But it was sir Galahad who had more of a story to tell.
“He didn’t know who I was?” Arthur didn’t know how to feel about that. “He honored my wish to remain hidden and took care of me day and night and he didn’t know who I was?!?” By now he was feeling anger. “The idiot! I could have been a murderer who’d done something to deserve what’d happened to me!”
The knights frowned at that.
“He seemed like a genuinely kind spirit, sire.” Sir Galahad defended. “He was young not only in age but in spirit and innocence, and he tended to you diligently. It is thanks to his care that you are well. Or so the Court Physician told His Majesty the King.”
Arthur nodded from where he still sat in bed, pale and weak and hating it. “Do you know anything else?”
“No sire.” Sir Galahad then paused. “Ah. His name. He gave me his name.”
The prince looked up at that, a hungry feeling greedy and controlling deep inside of him. “What was his name?”
The knights shared looks.
“Merlin.” Sir Galahad replied.
Arthur’s face went pale. “Thank you. You may now leave.”
The knights left, and only when he was sure they were gone, Arthur forced himself out of bed and fought against the nausea and pain. He put on boots and grabbed a cape and a lantern and snuck out of his room through the secret passageway behind his bed.
His father had stationed guards outside of his room, making sure that no one entered or left without his knowing, and Arthur was about to do something he didn’t want his father to have any knowledge of.
Continuing downwards through the secret tunnels, Arthur finally entered the underground lair and this time the Great Dragon who’d been talking to his mind ever since Arthur could remember, was waiting for him.
And Arthur could have sworn it was grinning smugly.
“I see that you have found your destiny, young Pendragon.” The Great Dragon announced, leaning forwards. “I told you this day would come, did I not?”
“When you said ‘Your destiny is Merlin’ I thought you’d meant the bird.” Arthur accused. “I thought it was a metaphor for a kingdom or something of the sort! Not—not a boy!”
The dragon continued to watch him, decidedly amused.
Arthur frowned at the beast. “What do I do now?” He winced in pain yet refused to let his discomfort show in his voice. “I—he—I’m at the top of a mountain and he’s in the valley below. All I can do is go to the edge and look down!” He growled. “What do I do now?”
The dragon was silent.
“For years I have ordered you to leave my mind be and stay your infernal tongue, and yet now that I am asking for your advice you stay silent?” Arthur snapped. “I order you to answer me! What do I do once I get to that edge and there’s no way down?!”
The dragon grinned. “You jump, Arthur.”
Arthur paused, blinked, and ran a hand through his hair. “The fall will be rough, and I’ll hit a lot of things on the way down.”
“But there’s a cool lake below waiting to soften the blow.” The dragon declared.
Arthur chuckled against his better judgment, shaking his head. “Merlin, huh?”
The Great Dragon nodded, teeth showing in his happiness. “Destiny.”