- Discussion - Other Trigger Topics
- No Beta
- Alternate Universe
- Canon Divergence
- Challenge Response
- Episode Related
It was with a heavy heart that Merlin went to Gaius’ chambers. It should had been a great moment for all of them. Lancelot was once again with them, Gwen was safe and the king was none the wiser how any of it was accomplished. He had even, reluctantly, allowed Lancelot to regain his title of knight. How Arthur managed that miracle was anyone’s guess. He would get the story out of him, later. Much, much later.
It should had been a good day, instead Merlin felt a weight settled on his shoulders as he left Arthur’s chambers for the evening. He had not spoken more than two words to Merlin. Sat nursing a goblet of honey wine, staring into the fire, dinner all but untouched. Alone. Having dismissed him to much needed rest.
Merlin wished he’d had words to offer. He wished he would had held his tongue in the forest, instead of rekindling Arthur’s feelings and hopes only to see them crushed not hours later. He didn’t and it was done. He stepped into Gaius’ chambers and was not surprised that to find Gaius sitting by the fire. Slumped and snoring loud enough to wake the dead.
Merlin gave himself a moment to enjoy the warmth blossoming in his chest at the sight. He grabbed a throw and tucked it around Gaius. The man didn’t even twitch. Slept so soundly at times, that if not for the racket he made, Merlin would think him dead.
He shook his head and headed for his own bed. He had hardly slept, thanks to an overly anxious prince, and now that they were all returned, safe and relatively unharmed, his body was reminding him of that fact. Of course it was the creaking of hinges that would startle the old man from his sleep.
When Merlin opened his door, Gaius started, glanced at his room and a wash of relief covered his face. “Thank, goodness.” He muttered, slowly coming to stand. Joints and bones popping in a manner that had Merlin wincing in sympathy. “Uther had started to become suspicious when Morgana settled after Arthur went on a hunt.”
He moved toward the table and Merlin joined him despite his own protesting body. How did Arthur manage without falling on his face? “Did he say anything?” He allowed Gaius a moment to check him for any injuries before he sat. His back popping in a most uncomfortable manner.
“Only that if Arthur did not return after a fourth night, an entire battalion of knights would be sent to drag him back.” Gaius chucked and served Merlin from a covered pot. It smelled like heaven. “Eat. I’m certain Arthur set a punishing pace if you were able to achieve your adjective in a mere two days time.”
“Especially considering it was at least a day’s ride from where Gwen was taken.” He too served himself and they dug into their respective meals. “He certainly didn’t let on for a moment.” He tore a piece of bread and dipped it into the thick stew. It was as hard as stone and the broth softened it enough not to choke on. “I don’t think I’ll be able to feel my feet for at least a week.”
Gaius chucked as he, too, dunked his bread into the stew. “Yes, well. I imagine that more than fearing Morgana’s wrath if he didn’t rescue her maidservant, it was his sense of honor which drove him to try and retrieve young Gwen.” With a twinkle in his eye, he added, “And of course the most powerful motivator of any man in creation . . . love.”
Merlin nearly chocked on his bread. Took a long pull of wine before he was able to speak without spluttering his entire meal on Gaius. “What?”
“Oh don’t give me that, Merlin. I may be old, but these eyes still work quite well.” He waved his hand in an almost lazy manner, giving Merlin a rather pointed look that had him squirming in his seat. “I see the way Arthur looks after Gwen when he believes no one is watching.”
Merlin sighed, deeply and heartfelt. “Well, I doubt there’s going to be anymore of those lovestruck looks from him.” He played with a potato. Pushing it back and forward in his bowl. At Gaius’ inquisitive look, Merlin dropped the spoon. Wishing he could lay his head on the table and pretend this entire situation had not occurred. “Lancelot found Gwen before we did. He and Gwen . . .” He trailed off, unsure of how to say it. Arthur was his master, his king, but most of all his friend. His feelings for Gwen were so clear, so apparent to anyone who knew him. But Lancelot was also Merlin’s friend.
“They were holding hands. And Arthur did not react well.” Which was an understatement. “I think he’s better about it now, but when Lancelot asked, he said the only reason he went after Gwen was for Morgana’s sake. That she begged him and he felt compelled to do as she asked.”
Merlin ripped off another piece of bread but did not eat it. “I think it was my fault, mostly. I told Arthur that he should pursue her. Even if she were a servant and beneath his station, when he is king he could change the laws. They could be together. Now I wish I’d said nothing at all.”
Gaius chewed for a moment, a thoughtful look on his face, “I take it Gwen has made her choice, then?”
Merlin nodded, and spooned the last dredges of his meal. “He said nothing when he came back from delivering Gwen to Morgana, but his face, Gaius, it was as though he had been run through with his own sword.” He shoved the last of the bread in his mouth, his thoughts back to Arthur’s chambers and how he had sat by his window, staring onto the heart of Camelot. Dozens of lit fires dancing merrily in the dark. “He said that no man could be more worthy of Gwen than Lancelot.”
Gaius sipped his wine, his thought very much his own. How Merlin wished, for once, that he could read him as easily as Gaius seemed to do him. Perhaps that was something that only came with age and experience but oh what he would give for even a glimpse of that insight now. “I gather that Uther’s unexpected change of heart had to do with Arthur as well?”
Merlin nodded, more thoughtfully. After all, he remembered quite clearly how that meeting had gone, Uther all but condemning Lancelot and swearing never to allow him to retain the title he had earned. “He never said a word. If I had not run into Gwen on my way here, I would have known nothing until it was announced in the morning.”
Gaius took the last bit of bread before he said anything else. “I truly have no idea how Arthur managed such a thing. In all the time I have known him, Uther has never changed his mind once he set a course of action.”
“Yes well, apparently Arthur is truly capable of achieving feats beyond comprehension. Though I thought for sure he would be prancing about, like the prat he is, crowing over this latest accomplishment. But he’s been strangely silent on the matter. Didn’t even hint at it in his chambers.” Of course at the time, Arthur had been too busy nursing a broken heart and Merlin too busy trying to stave of the worst of it. Him and his stupid, idiotic tongue.
“Indeed Arthur would know better than to go about boasting about such a thing.” Gaius stood up and spooned some more stew into Merlin’s bowl.
“Why do you say that?” With a heartfelt thanks, Merlin shoveled the rest of the food in his mouth. It was good. One of the better meals they had had together. Hearty and filling and by the time Merlin was done, he felt warm and the drain of the days heavy on his shoulders. He could fall asleep on the table were it not for his needing to go to Arthur’s chambers and ensure the prince was settled for the night. “That law was hideously unfair if you ask me.”
“Well then it’s a good thing then that you weren’t asked.” He gave Merlin a severe look. “Do not forget that Uther is not known for leniency nor for considering an issue once he has ruled. For it to be known that Arthur, in whatever manner he may had, managed to accomplish such a deed could easily weaken the king’s position and place the prince in further peril.”
Merlin straightened in his seat, his meal long forgotten. “In peril? For helping his father rid of such a ridiculous law?”
“It is not merely “getting rid of such a ridiculous law” as you put it. A king must remain strong in the face of opposition and steadfast in his decisions. This mandate has been in place since the founding of this kingdom, Merlin. It was the very first thought important enough to turn into action and make decree. The king’s foremost act as sovereign and now, at the behest of his only son and heir, twenty years of certainty has been pushed aside.” Gaius shook his head, a wariness settling over his spine, his face, marking his years like few things ever did. He looked, in this moment, every bit the old man he truly was. “A people can not abide by a weak king, Merlin. In Camelot, and beyond our lands, there are those who would move against Uther if they believed him feeble of mind and spirit. Those that would move against Arthur if they felt his influence too great.”
“But Arthur will be king someday!” A lump was forming in his stomach, all the pleasantness of the meal long forgotten. “Surely him having more of a say in these matters means he will be ready to take the throne one day.”
“Yes, but not now. Arthur is still too young and, while perhaps not as easily swayed as some would think, his youth and relatively inexperience make him vulnerable. What if, by this unprecedented situation, certain factions within felt embolden to move against the throne. There are many that do not support Uther or his many decrees. Beyond our borders certainly, but even here, within our very court and among our strongest nobles there is dissent. What if this minor act, as you believe it to be, became a catalyst to remove Uther from the throne. It is not as if there were no precedence for such a thing. Perhaps not here, but it has occurred in other lands beyond our borders.” Gaius sighed and tapped the wooden table for emphasis. “Whatever Arthur’s feelings for Gwen, whatever his feelings toward Lancelot, Arthur should not have allowed them to rule his common sense. Really, he knows, or should know better.”
Merlin swallowed hard, his mouth suddenly dry. But he couldn’t let himself see only this horrible possibility when the future he had envisioned looked so much closer. So much brighter than this terrible possibility. He couldn’t. Not when Arthur had done it regardless of his heart, of the pain it caused him and would continue to do so as Lancelot and Gwen’s relationship blossomed and led to its inevitable conclusion. “I know what you’re saying Gaius, I do, but Arthur has sacrificed so much for this. Surely it can’t all be bad. I mean, so what if a stupid law has to be changed? So what if some nobles get all bent out of shape because of it? Surely change is inevitable and this might be one more step towards Arthur becoming the king he is meant to be.”
Gaius merely eyed him with that careful way of his. Not agreeing but not arguing his point either. It was the one he used on Merlin when he thought him young and naive but wished that it be so. “I do hope you’re right, my boy, for if not, the consequences would not bear speaking.” Then got up to do something with some foul smelling draughts in a corner.
Merlin grabbed their bowls to be cleaned, mind already on other things. Lancelot’s reknighting. The token Gwen was making for such an occasion which she’d asked his help with. Arthur’s armor and sword that would need to be at the ready for such an occasion. And for all of Gaius’ worries, Merlin felt his heart lighten. The hunger coiled in his belly for a future he could see ever so clearly with each passing day. Arthur, the king that he will be, so much closer now than he was the day before. His faith in him proven, once again.