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Title: And Remember What Came Before
Author: batgurl88
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: 1859
Pairing/Characters: Merlin/Arthur
Summary: In the wake of Gaius' revelation about Dragoon, Arthur goes to talk to Merlin. Tag for 4x07.

A/N: Originally posted (ages ago) to kinkme_merlin for the prompt: "Arthur/Merlin - Despite Merlin's protestations that Arthur doesn't need to apologize to him, Arthur still feels that he does owe him something beyond sending him off to clean his chambers...". Beta’d by penelopesfriend


Arthur kept his eyes on the stone hallway in front of him as he walked, his mind swirling with questions. His conversation with Gaius had left him feeling off-kilter, the sense that there was an entire world of secrets operating beyond his awareness throwing him for a loop. The way Gaius had spoken of a network, of a host of people - people he knew, even - who fought for him without his knowledge, who used whatever means were at their disposal. It was a lot to wrap his head around, but he found it less frightening than he might have imagined.

He opened the door to his chambers quietly, unsurprised to find Merlin inside tending the fireplace. Of course he'd want to know how it had gone. As meddlesome as they came, Merlin, though perhaps that was a good thing. If it weren't for Merlin sticking his nose where it didn't belong, Gaius might've...

Closing the door behind him, he waited for Merlin to look up, but was ignored. Or maybe Merlin was still being extra conscientious about his duties. Arthur had half-expected to see George run screaming from the castle after two or three days of Merlin's company, but instead Merlin had been unusually patient with the other servant, listening quietly to his instructions even as he cast the occasional eye-roll in Arthur's direction.

His work had even improved a bit, though it still had that old Merlin flair to it that no other servant would dare attempt. Arthur wondered if he'd taken his threat of being replaced to heart, though he couldn't think why. If Merlin didn't know by now that Arthur had no intention of having anyone else by his side, he was an even bigger idiot than he thought.

Still, no amount of attention to detail merited the level of concentration Merlin was exhibiting just then, which meant that Arthur was indeed being ignored.

He sighed, an uncomfortable weight in his stomach that felt rather like guilt. Apologies had never been his strong suit, and it seemed he'd be making an awful lot of them today.

"Almost done?" he asked, deciding to start things off himself.

Merlin's head dipped lower as he poked at the fire. "Yes, sire. I've already cleaned up in here, and I'll get your clothes down to be laundered as soon as I'm finished."

Arthur refrained from rolling his eyes at his formal tone. Sometimes, knowing Merlin was like being close friends with a girl, the way he'd sulk and sigh over arguments for days instead of saying what was on his mind. Although Merlin usually wasn't as dramatic as Mor-...as some of the women he'd known over the years, he still had a quiet way of letting Arthur know he wasn't pleased about something.

Leaning back against the door, he let his hands clasp behind his back, trying - and probably failing - for a casual, unguarded stance.

"I apologised to Gaius," he said, knowing it was best to lead with something he'd done right. Merlin always seemed absurdly proud of him every time he did a good deed, however small, which made it that much harder the times he failed to live up to the expectations his friend appeared to have set for him in his head. "While some of his behaviour was questionable, I should never have doubted his intentions. Or his loyalty to Camelot."

Merlin nodded, standing up to dust the soot off the knees of his trousers, letting it fall back down to the floor instead. So much for improvement in his work ethic.

"Gaius has always had your best intentions at heart," he said quietly, still turned mostly away from him. "He wouldn't betray you to Morgana."

"I know." Arthur pushed away from the door, needing to do something with his hands. He strolled across the room to his table, toying with the backs of one of the wooden chairs. "I was wrong to suspect him. Agravaine has apologised as well."

It was only from knowing Merlin so well that he caught the stiffening in his spine at that name. Arthur felt a small spike of protectiveness. He valued Merlin's friendship and opinions, but Agravaine was his uncle, his last living relative. Or, at least, the only relative who didn't want him dead.

"I know you think Agravaine was a bit...harsh, but he was only acting in my best interests," he said, his tone broking no argument. He'd had enough of lies and betrayal within his family. He wasn't about to cast that relationship aside over petty suspicion. "He's a trusted advisor, and I don't want you to hold this against him. I know how you get."

Merlin turned at that, his face as smooth as it'd been in the council chambers the other day. "You don't find it the least bit suspicious? He was only too happy to jump on Gaius as the traitor - he never even considered another possibility."

Arthur shook his head, rubbing his temple to stave an oncoming headache. He couldn't let this continue, having two of his closest confidantes suspecting one another. The longer Merlin held onto this grudge, the more likely he was to say something about it at the wrong moment, and that way lie only disaster.

"You're upset about Gaius, and I understand that, but Agravaine was not targeting him," he reasoned. "He found books of sorcery in Gaius' room - what else was he to think?"

"And you haven't wondered where they came from?" Merlin said, his brow creasing as he tilted his head. "I know every book and scroll in Gaius' chambers, Arthur. Those books weren't his. Agravaine claimed to have found them lying around on the table - you don't think, if Gaius were hiding magic books in his room, he'd be a little more careful about it?"

Arthur paused at that, considering it. Truthfully, he'd all but forgotten about the books until just then, but they seemed to make little sense in light of Gaius' kidnapping. Perhaps they were linked to the network of protectors Gaius had mentioned, but even still, it was unlike Gaius to be so careless about something that could've easily meant a death sentence for him. But then...

Merlin was watching him carefully, sympathy in his eyes. "Look, I have no hard proof against Agravaine, and if I did I'd share it. But you have to admit, he's had a lot of influence over you since you became king. Telling you to kill Caerleon, interrogating Gaius..." he trailed off with a sad shrug. "Maybe you should consider the possibility that he has his own agenda for doing these things."

He broke his gaze, letting his shoulders relax. "I just don't want anything to happen to you."

A hollow feeling settled in Arthur's stomach as he stared at the floor in front of him. Merlin's words made more sense than he would've liked, but he didn't dare think about what they might mean. Not now. He'd had too many surprises over the last couple of days, too many new things to consider.

Even still, he flashed back to his memory of first confronting his uncle about Camelot's traitor. He'd been quick to point out Gaius then, as well...

He looked up, finding Merlin's eyes on him. It could wait. He had other things he needed to discuss.

"Gaius said the sorcerer who killed my father wasn't trying to hurt him."

Merlin stood up straighter, an uneasy look in his eyes, though if it was from the abrupt subject change or the mention of sorcery, he couldn't tell.

"He said the sorcerer did everything he could to help, that I shouldn't blame him for my father's death when he was dying already," Arthur said, his voice wavering ever so slightly. Even after so many months, the memory of his father's death - and his part in it - still stung. The king would have been so ashamed to know he'd sought out magic to save the life of a loved one.

Across the room, Merlin's posture was guarded, wary, as it always seemed to be whenever magic was mentioned. In a way, he couldn't blame him. After all they'd seen of magic - and those who were accused of it - he had every right to be cautious of it.

Still, if there was anyone in Camelot he could trust to help him sort his thoughts out regarding magic, it was Merlin.

Appearing to sense this, his servant swallowed before opening his mouth to speak.

Hesitantly, he said, "I think he's right."

Arthur frowned.

"That sorcerer-" Merlin cut off, looking nervous. "I mean, from what you told me, he really wanted his freedom. What good would it do him to kill your father, when it would just break your bargain and make him a fugitive?"

Pulling a chair out, Arthur sank into it, feeling defeated. "I don't know. Then again, when have sorcerers ever been logical, that we've seen?"

Cautiously, Merlin stepped forward, settling himself into a seat across from him. "But, from what you said, he seemed surprised when Uther died. And at any rate, the- the king was an inch away from death already. That was Odin's doing, not the sorcerer's."

Arthur rested his head on his fist, staring into space. There were too many unknowns. It felt like every time he'd gotten his grip on the world around him, someone was just waiting to pull the rug out from under him again. How could he know what to believe?

"Do you think all magic is evil?" he asked quietly, watching Merlin across the table.

Merlin's fingers dug into the seat beneath him, his eyes distant.

"I- I think it depends on the sorcerer," he said slowly. "I know we've seen quite a few who wanted to harm Camelot, but we've also seen peasants who just wanted to heal a broken leg or stop a fever or make the crops stronger." He looked up, meeting Arthur's eyes for the first time since he'd begun talking.

"I think, in the right hands, magic can be a force for good as well."

Something quiet passed between them then, something Arthur couldn't fully grasp. There was a strangeness to Merlin's expression - something desperate, yet earnest and assured all at once. In all the years he'd known him, he'd never seen him like this.

Speaking softly, afraid to break the spell that had fallen over the room, Arthur said, "Gaius believes that there are others out there, helping me. He said I owe them a great deal."

Merlin was silent, his gaze unwavering. The afternoon sun streamed through the windows, making everything light.

"I should have trusted you, Merlin," he said, meaning every word. "Thank you for helping me to see that."

Across from him, Merlin's lips softened into a smile, hesitant but pleased.

"You're welcome," he said, the words sounding bigger than they should have.

One day you will understand just how much they've done for you.

He breathed out slowly, considering the man in front of him with new eyes.

Yes, maybe one day, he would.

The End.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
archaeologist_d
Jul. 31st, 2013 12:00 pm (UTC)
Loved the emotion of this. I would have loved to have seen this in the show. Great characterization and plot flow. Well done.
batgurl88
Jul. 31st, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much. I really wish we'd had a chance to see some follow-up to that episode with Arthur and Merlin - it feels like so much went unresolved between them. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
owensheart
Jul. 31st, 2013 02:25 pm (UTC)
Such an emotion filled piece of writing, really wonderful.
batgurl88
Jul. 31st, 2013 08:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! :)
47eleven
Aug. 1st, 2013 03:42 am (UTC)
Love it :)
batgurl88
Aug. 1st, 2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it :)
thismaz
Aug. 18th, 2013 04:01 pm (UTC)
That was really good - so satisfying to see them have that conversation.
batgurl88
Aug. 19th, 2013 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'm glad you found it satisfying to read.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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