Genres: romance, drama, magic reveal
Word length: 10,000 +
Summary: Merlin has just saved Arthur yet again with magic, and this time King Uther saw. Merlin is sentenced to death. Will he get a chance confess his true feelings for Arthur? Work in progress.
Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to the BBC, not me.
A/N: I will update this quite regularly.
Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to the BBC and the four J's - Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Johnny Capps
and Julian Murphy. It's not mine. If it were, I'd make Merthur canon!
A/N: It's my first Merlin fic – be kind. Thanks to all my great reviewers! I love them soooo much I just wanted to say that I like nice!Morgana so she's going to be staying that way for awhile. I hope I got Lancelot right. OMG Arthur saying "Lance… a lot" in 1X05. I think that could have been a Bradley James adlib. I can't stop watching behind the scenes Merlin – it is sooo fun. People have made some awesome Merthur youtube vids as well. *Sigh* I love new fandoms. Here's a nice long chapter for you guys. Happy Memorial Day to those who celebrate it.
Chapter 3: Long Live The King
Merlin, Arthur, and Lancelot set off for Camelot as soon as they could gather their belongings. To Arthur's relief, their horses had been well cared-for, probably because the Druids had so much respect for Merlin. The Druids had also replenished their food and water supply. Merlin said his goodbyes quickly, thanking the Druids for their hospitality. Arthur was relieved to leave the Druid camp, as he hadn't felt welcome there. It was strange only being allowed to stay there because he was with Merlin. Arthur was used to the other way around, getting Merlin into noble functions because he was with the prince.
The three men rode single file, with Arthur at the front, Merlin in the middle, and Lancelot in the back. However minutes into the ride, Arthur fell back so he could ride side by side with Merlin. The young warlock was both surprised and pleased by this action.
"Is everything alright?" Merlin asked, wondering why Arthur wasn't taking the opportunity to lead like he always did.
Arthur nodded, then asked, "Should we tell Lancelot about us?"
"What, now?" Whatever Merlin had been expecting Arthur to say, it certainly hadn't been that.
Arthur shrugged. "Why not?"
"If you really want to, that's fine with me," said Merlin, unable to keep from smiling. Finally, someone else would know about him and Arthur! He was fine keeping it between them, but it was always nice for an outside party to know. "You did say that you wanted people to know about us. Might as well start off by telling one of our friends who we know is going to support us."
Arthur cleared his throat, drawing Lancelot's attention.
Lancelot accelerated his speed so he could hear Arthur. "Yes, my lord?"
"We should stop and water the horses."
After a few minutes, they came across a small stream just off the trail. Lancelot dismounted and pulled his horse over to drink. Arthur and Merlin did the same.
Merlin glanced over at Arthur, waiting for him to begin, but the prince said nothing.
"I thought you were going to tell him," Merlin whispered.
"I thought you were," Arthur hissed.
"Don't be such a coward."
"I'm not a coward!"
"What are you two arguing about?" Lancelot asked. "Is it about your love life?"
Merlin went beet red, which Arthur found incredibly endearing.
"Actually, Lancelot," Arthur began. "About that. I wanted to inform you that Merlin and I are…" he trailed off. How exactly was he supposed to explain what they were? What had Merlin said before to the Druids? That they were together. Somehow that didn't seem descriptive enough. He and Merlin had always spent a lot of time together as master and servant, and then as friends. They weren't exactly lovers, not yet. He still didn't think that 'lovers' was an apt description of what they meant to each other either. He saw Merlin not as a servant, but as an equal, the only person in Camelot that he believed to be his equal. So, friends, equals, and soon-to-be lovers? Luckily, Merlin saved him the trouble of having to explain all that.
"He's courting me," Merlin helpfully supplied.
"Merlin!" Arthur groaned, sending him a look that clearly said 'I'm going to kill you'. "Did you have to put it like that?"
"Took you two bloody long enough," said Lancelot, shaking his head. "I wondered when you were going to come to your senses," he said, nodding at Arthur. "Merlin had been mooning about over you for ages."
"Lancelot!" Merlin sounded horrified. "I told you that in confidence."
"Ah, turnabout is fair play, Merlin." Arthur smirked. "Ages, huh? Just how long have you been pining away for me?"
"None of your business," Merlin said stiffly.
"But it is my business. I order you to tell me," said Arthur, using his 'authoritative prince' voice.
"You're not my master anymore. I don't have to tell you anything," Merlin said cheekily.
"He's right, Arthur; he doesn't have to tell you a thing." Lancelot agreed.
"Traitor," Arthur grumbled good-naturedly. "I should have you hanged for treason."
"You might as well hang Merlin too for sorcery," Lancelot suggested.
"And you should be hanged for helping me escape from jail," said Merlin, grinning at Arthur.
"When I'm king, I'll pardon us all," said Arthur with a grin. Then his grin quickly faded as he realized what he'd said. "If I become king any time soon."
"Whatever happens with your father, I'll be with you all the way," Merlin reminded the prince, placing an arm around his shoulder.
"I know," Arthur said quietly. "I appreciate that, Merlin, more than you know."
"I'll be there as well," Lancelot chimed in, ruining the moment.
"Thank you," said Arthur, clasping hands with his knight. "I'll need all the help I can get."
The future king was silent for the next stretch of riding, leading the group on his horse. Merlin thought about asking him what was the matter but decided that Arthur would talk when he was good and ready. He probably just needed some time to sort out how he felt about his father's possible death, assuming the throne, and voluntarily accepting the weight of the kingdom on his broad shoulders.
Merlin just hoped that Arthur wasn't thinking what he was thinking. What if Arthur asked him to cure Uther with magic? On one hand, how could he say no to Arthur now that they had admitted what they felt for each other? On the other hand, how could he save the life of someone who'd dedicated their life to killing people with magic? Either way, he'd be betraying someone. He'd just have to hope that Arthur wouldn't think of asking him to do such a thing.
When Arthur fell back to talk to him, Merlin's stomach churned with apprehension.
"Could you cure my father? With your magic?" Arthur asked.
Merlin forced himself not to panic. This was the very question he'd hoped that Arthur wouldn't ask of him. Although, had their places been reversed, and it was his father that was on his deathbed, he wouldn't have hesitated to ask. Merlin didn't blame Arthur. Arthur wasn't stupid – he remembered that Merlin was a powerful magician who might have the talents to heal the sick. The young warlock decided on telling a half-truth.
"I don't even know what's wrong with him. I'm not sure if I can cure him," Merlin said slowly.
"You mean you can't or you won't?" Arthur pressed.
Merlin didn't answer, which was answer enough for the future king.
"How could you dare refuse him? How could you dare refuse me?" Arthur yelled.
"You can't tell me what to do," Merlin shot back. "Not anymore."
Lancelot caught up to them, curious about all the shouting. "Really? You're going to do this now?" Lancelot asked, incredulous.
Both Arthur and Merlin ignored him, too wrapped up in their fight.
"Merlin, why on earth wouldn't you cure him if I asked it of you? He's my father and your king. You owe him your allegiance."
"I swore my allegiance to you, Arthur. Not to your father. I'm thinking of the good of the kingdom," Merlin shot back. "I'm thinking of the people born with magical abilities. If I cure Uther, he could live for another ten years – maybe more. How many more people must die thanks to his prejudices? And then there are the people that don't have magic and are falsely accused. Not to mention the poor and the hungry. If you were the king instead of Uther, perhaps you could-"
Arthur interrupted him. "The good of the kingdom? Sure. I know what you're really thinking. You're thinking that if you save my father, you'll have to continue to hide what you are," said Arthur. "You're being incredibly selfish, Merlin!"
Merlin couldn't believe his ears. "I hadn't even thought of that! I swear I wasn't thinking of myself, although perhaps you might do well to. I can't exactly waltz back into Camelot, can I? Not with a death sentence on my head."
Arthur scoffed at that. "Can't you just cast a disguising spell? That shouldn't be too difficult if you're as powerful as you claim."
"I could, but I don't know how long I could maintain it," Merlin said truthfully. "I haven't practiced it enough because I bloody well have to hide my magical abilities!"
Warlock and prince glared at each other. Arthur's temper flared, and Merlin was not faring much better. He loved Arthur, he really did, but sometimes the prince could be a pompous ass. This was one of those times. It was true that Arthur had grown wiser over the years that he'd befriended Merlin. However, there were times where his arrogance and stubbornness would rear its ugly head.
Merlin forced himself to think. How could he solve this without having to use magic? Was there any law that stated that the prince could rule in the king's place if said king was sick or incapacitated? Merlin wasn't sure.
"What if there was an alternate solution," Merlin said slowly.
"What'd you mean?" Arthur asked.
"What if Uther verbally relinquished the throne to you? Could you become king then?"
"I can't assume power unless my father is dead," Arthur said hollowly. "It was a good idea, though."
They rode in silence for the next ten minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Arthur finally broke the silence.
"Truth be told, you were right. I am a coward."
"No you're not. You're the bravest person I know," said Merlin. "After me, of course. I've been brave enough to stick around to save your sorry ass more times than you'd care to know."
Arthur didn't even chuckle at that.
"I'm not ready to be king," Arthur confessed. "That's why I was so hard on you earlier. It wasn't even that I was worried my father would die. I mean, that would be hard but that's not the main reason why I acted the way I did. I'm terrified, Merlin. Terrified that I'll make a mistake that will lead to losing the lives of my subjects, the people I've sworn to protect. Terrified that I'll be viewed as too soft. Terrified that I'll be just like my father." Arthur shook his head.
"You'll be a great king. I know so," said Merlin.
"I can't believe I had the nerve to call you selfish when it was me-"
"Shh," Merlin pulled Arthur to him and lightly stroked his golden hair. "It's alright."
"No, it's not alright," Arthur shuddered. "I can't keep talking to you that way, like you're just my servant."
"I'm used to it," Merlin joked. "You were angry – it's forgotten."
"It's not fair to you," Arthur insisted. "You're so good inside, Merlin – so kindhearted and pure. You don't deserve to be insulted, even when I am angry. Especially then."
"Arthur, your father is dying. Not only that, you might have to assume the throne. You're under a lot of pressure!" Merlin smiled at the prince, trying to reassure him. "You're going to say things that you don't mean. I understand that. I won't hold it against you."
"You should," Arthur whispered. "You deserve my respect at the very least."
"Thank you," said Merlin, warmed by the rare compliment. "Look at me." Arthur did. "Arthur, we're going to disagree on things. It's going to happen. We'll probably have some spectacular fights in our day – every couple does. But what matters is if we're able to settle our differences with as little damage to each other as possible."
"If I'm too horrible to you, you should use your magic against me. Teach me a lesson." Arthur was only half kidding.
"I just might," Merlin muttered, although they both knew he never would abuse his powers in such a way. "Depends on how big of a prat you're being."
Merlin reached out with his free hand and Arthur grasped it.
"Arthur, I don't want to use magic to cure your father. I can't stand by and know that I let other innocent people die thanks to his wrath. I couldn't live with myself if I did that. I'm sorry."
Arthur sighed. "I thought that's what you were going to say. I want what's best for the kingdom too, and although I hate to admit it, it would be better for everyone if my father died. I'll just have to get over my fear of becoming king so young."
"So I'm forgiven?"
"There was nothing to forgive."
Merlin smiled at that. Arthur returned his smile.
"Oi, did you two kiss and make up?" Lancelot asked from his position behind them.
"Oh shut up," Arthur muttered good-naturedly.
They stopped to make camp and eat. Merlin could tell Arthur still wanted to talk about the responsibilities that went along with becoming king, so he sent Lancelot away to gather some firewood. Arthur would not let his guard down around even his closest of friends, only Merlin was to be privy to his insecurities.
"I still don't feel ready," Arthur began. "Fix it, Merlin."
Merlin shook his head. "I can't fix it – only you can do that. But I will tell you this - no one ever feels completely ready to assume a new responsibility. But you have prepared for this your whole life. You've seen by your father's example what to do, and what not to do."
"What if I'm just like him?" Arthur worried yet again.
"You already said you were going to reverse the law on magic," Merlin reminded him. "That's one thing your father never would have done."
"I also want to give my people the right to a fair trial if they are accused of a crime," Arthur added. "They will be innocent until proven guilty – not the other way around."
"That's two things. What else?" Merlin encouraged.
"I want to lessen the tax on the poor. It's not fair that I get everything and they get practically nothing."
"Arthur, even if you only make those three changes, you're going to be the best king Camelot's ever had," Merlin said emphatically.
"I also want to avoid wars if I can. I already have enough land. I don't want to risk the lives of my men to acquire properly like my father did."
"See? You and Uther are as different as night and day," said Merlin. "You know why?"
"Because you're choosing to not to be like him; you're choosing to be your own ruler."
"I suppose so."
"And because of that your people will adore you and believe in you as much as I do."
Arthur kissed him in response.
Five hours later
As soon as they arrived at the castle, Merlin ran off to alert Gwen and Morgana of his and the prince's return. Arthur wanted Lancelot to gather the knights Elyan, Percival, Leon, and Gawain to wait outside the king's chambers. The future king knew he would need their support when he had to address his subjects, who were outside holding candlelight vigils for Uther. Why they would do a thing for their fallen king when he had never been very popular, Arthur would never understand. But he appreciated the gesture.
Arthur raced as fast as his legs could carry him to the king's chambers. He opened the door and slipped inside, unsure he was prepared to face what awaited him. His father was alone save for a priest, who was present to complete Uther's Last Rites. Uther's gaunt form lay in the middle of the bed. Arthur had never seen his father so frail or so powerless.
"Father." Arthur pushed away his fear, focusing on his compassion for his dying parent. Perhaps it was his father's time, but that didn't make it easier on him to watch. "I got here as soon as I could." He thought about apologizing for leaving with Merlin, but quickly nixed the idea. Now was not the time to bring up his law-breaking. He wanted to give his father a proper send off. Mending things between them was crucial before Uther could pass on.
"Arthur. I'm glad I got to see you one last time before… well." Uther gave his son a grim smile. "I'm afraid you'll have to assume the throne much sooner than you expected."
"I am prepared to do so. Father, I promise you that I will rule Camelot to the very best of my ability," Arthur swore.
"I do not doubt it," said Uther. He coughed and struggled to breathe, making this seem all the more real to Arthur. His father was about to die and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
"When I become king, I will marry soon, and produce an heir to continue the Pendragon lineage." Arthur did his best to assure his father that he would take care of Camelot after he was gone. He would not let the kingdom be without an heir, which could lead to debate over who was next in line to rule, and in a worst case scenario could lead to civil war.
He would do his duty, even though his heart belonged to Merlin. He and Merlin understood that their obligation to keep the peace came before the love they had for each other.
Uther coughed again, wheezing as he struggled to keep breathing.
"Sire, if you wish to confess something, now would be the time," said the priest.
"I want you to be happy, Arthur," Uther said heavily, as if it was difficult to say the words. "If you can manage it, find a wife that you believe you could learn to love."
"Like the way you loved my mother?" Arthur pressed.
"Yes. Promise that if something happens to the one you love that you will not allow hate to guide your decisions. Don't be like me, how angry I was after I lost your mother. I took my anger out on many of my subjects, something I deeply regret." Uther reached out and grabbed his son's wrist. "Promise me."
Whatever Arthur had expected his father would confess, it was not that. "I promise," Arthur vowed.
"You will be a far better man than I am, my son," said Uther.
"I will remember you fondly, Father," Arthur said, hoping that one day he would be able to do just that.
Arthur stayed with his father as the king slowly slipped away. Uther's pallid form went completely still. Arthur knew his father was gone even before the priest checked his breathing. Now I am the king, he thought dully. It didn't seem real. When he'd imagined taking the throne, Arthur had never pictured himself this young, this inexperienced. This was in stark contrast to his fantasy, which included applauding crowds and perching on the throne wearing his large golden crown. He supposed he'd mixed up his future coronation with the scenario where the kingship was actually passed from Uther to himself. He hadn't imagined feeling this empty, watching as the priest closed his father's blank eyes and covered him up with the white bed sheet.
"Your majesty," the priest addressed him with a slight bow. Arthur turned away from his father's covered form to stare at the priest, startled at the title. He was the king – his new responsibilities started right now.
"King Uther is dead." The priest announced, opening the door to Uther's chambers to allow Arthur to pass through. Merlin came running, then remembered himself and skidded to a stop next to Morgana and Gwen, who gave Arthur a sad look. Sir Elyan, Sir Leon, Sir Percival, and Sir Gawain all bowed before their new king, swearing their allegiance. Arthur strode forward as the doors closed behind him, momentarily sealing the dead body in the king's chambers.
"All hail Arthur Pendragon, king of Camelot." The priest announced.
"Long live the king!" The knights chorused.
"Long live the king!" Morgana, Gwen, and Merlin echoed. "Long live the king!"
Arthur nodded at them in acknowledgement but didn't speak. He locked eyes with Merlin, not feeling so lost knowing that Merlin was there supporting him.
"Sire, the people have heard the bells," the priest said gently, as Arthur was struggling to absorb all that was happening around him. He tore his eyes away from Merlin and focused on the priest's words. "They know your father has passed. You must speak to them; reassure them that you're in charge and that you will keep them safe." Address the subjects, right. Arthur thought. So much for easing into his kingly duties.
Merlin was the only one who noticed a flash of fear in Arthur's blue eyes before it was overcome by a fierce determination. Now that he was the king, he bloody well was going to act like one.
"Then I will address my subjects," Arthur declared, standing tall and proud. Then he locked eyes again with his sorcerer. "Merlin, with me."
End Chapter 3
A/N: Hope you liked! Reviews are great!