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Merlin Fic: What Matters Most

Wow, look at that, I actually wrote a fic!

Title: What Matters Most
Author: ladytory
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Word Count: ~1600
Rating: PG-13 (if that)
Warnings: Minor character death
A/N: Thanks to miz_tith and ladytonks for braving this fic to do my beta work.
Disclaimer: Not mine, more's the pity.

Summary: If that were in fact the case...He would have been sitting on Uther’s throne juggling conjured dragons, and not on a cold patch of earth that could be seen from Arthur’s chambers but not the king’s.

It doesn’t really matter anymore.

Part of him knew that it was just a passing thought born of grief, but there was another wilder part of him that heard a ring of truth in it. There were times when his own reasoning took time to unravel itself in his mind and this was one of those times. And slowly, Merlin came to realize that he did not indeed have a wish to join his mother beyond the veil. If that were in fact the case, he would have been sitting in the castle right now, instead of out on this bare knob of dead grass at the edge of the woods. He would have been sitting on Uther’s throne juggling conjured dragons, and not on a cold patch of earth that could be seen from Arthur’s chambers but not the king’s.

The rider had come in the early evening, just as the sun was setting. Merlin remembered that he had been smiling when he saw a familiar face from his childhood and hailed the man with a cheerful, “Hullo! What news from Ealdor?” Merlin remembered the words. He remembered the feeling of hard packed earth of the market street beneath his cheek. Then he had been in his own bed, and recognized Arthur and Gaius’ voices in the outer room. Merlin had no idea what they had been saying to each other. It had not mattered. He had not listened.

When he had recovered enough to know his own mind, it seemed to have made a decision without him. Even though he had not been consciously part of the process, Merlin agreed with the plan of action that presented itself to him. With his mother gone, Merlin now felt an overwhelming need to be fully known by someone; someone he cared about more than anyone else in this world.


Arthur had been following Merlin, thinking about how often that happened and how it really should be the other way around, when he saw Merlin hail the rider. The next thing Arthur knew the man was standing in front of Merlin, a roughened hand on his manservant’s shoulder. And then Merlin just dropped to the ground. For a second, Arthur’s heart stopped thinking that maybe the man had attacked Merlin or done him some other kind of bodily harm, but the man was kneeling trying to pull Merlin up and it was not the usual demeanor of an attacker. Still Arthur ran, and knelt down beside Merlin’s prone form.

“What has happened?” Arthur had demanded and then received the news for his own ears. Even for Arthur the news of Hunith’s death was like a well-placed blow to the chest. His breath left him as if he had been thrown from a horse. If it was such a shock to him, what of Merlin? Merlin who had no one else in the world. No one but Gaius, who would have to be told as well.

After forcing air back into his lungs Arthur, slipped into the part of himself that could command the situation no matter what his emotions might have happened to be. The man from Ealdor assisted him with getting Merlin back to his room and informing Gaius about the circumstances of Merlin’s collapse.

Arthur could see that Gaius was visibly shaken, but the older man took care of Merlin first. Merlin seemed to be awake, his eyes were open but unseeing. Arthur had seen the same look of men in their first battle, but it was not any easier to see that empty stare from Merlin’s blue eyes. Those eyes were supposed to be crinkled in laughter, fiery with willful disobedience, or warm with friendship. Arthur knew the sight of Merlin’s empty eyes would come back to fill his nightmares.

And Merlin’s empty eyes were the only thing that Arthur saw when he had come from a dinner that he had barely eaten, returned to Merlin’s room, and found him gone.


He could hear Arthur coming up the winding trail behind him, and Merlin had been along for the ride long enough to know that the noise was a very purposeful attempt at giving Merlin a chance to compose himself before Arthur intruded on his manservant’s mourning. Merlin savored the bittersweet kindness of this allowance from Arthur.

“If you wanted to be left alone,” Merlin could nearly hear the effort that it took Arthur to leave off the you idiot, “You shouldn’t have brought a torch.”

Merlin almost smiled at how easy Arthur has finally made this, before he turned to face his prince, his friend? The man he loved? The man who would send him into exile? The man who would demand his death? Merlin wasn’t even sure in his own head what to call Arthur, and it mattered even less now as it would most likely change in the next few moments.

“I didn’t, on either count.” Merlin said as he turned to face Arthur. Merlin knew that his eyes were flecked in gold and shining even as he turned to look over his shoulder and away from the ironically merrily dancing ball of flames he held in his right hand. He did his best to put this new found strength and conviction in his eyes. He schooled his face into a mask of dark, quiet calm borne of the realization that Merlin would forgive Arthur if the prince could not come to terms with this knowing.

Merlin leaned to the side, and let one hand sink into the earth. He felt the strength of the magic seeping through his body connecting the earth and fire with the wind of his breath and the water in his body. Merlin knew that he could harness them all, could destroy a kingdom if it was his want. Suddenly, in his mind’s eye, it was there: scorched castle walls, twisted smoking trees, stream beds boiled dry, and blackened earth as far as he could see. Merlin shook his head to rid himself of the vision and turned to face his destiny, watching Arthur round the final bend in the path.

Merlin saw Arthur stumble as the magicked light reached his face. Arthur did not stumble on the paths of his boyhood.


Merlin had seen him stumble, Arthur was sure of it, even if Merlin’s face did not betray it. Regardless of what Arthur always said, Merlin was not actually an idiot. Arthur often felt that Merlin knew him better than any other person in all of Camelot.

And maybe Arthur knew Merlin better too. Because what Arthur saw was not so much of a surprise as it was the confirmation of thoughts half-formed, of whispered suspicion and too convenient circumstance. What Arthur saw was both beautiful, awe inspiring and a bit frightening.

“I could push this fire into the ground, scorch the earth, and destroy every living thing within a mile of my hands,” Merlin said with an amazing lack of inflection in his voice as he stared at the crown prince and met Arthur’s wide-eyed stare, “Even you.”

Arthur kept his eyes fixed on Merlin’s and sank down into the grass. Maybe closer than Merlin had expected, if Arthur really had caught that flicker of an emotion that might have been terror or excitement that passed through Merlin’s eyes.


There was no fear in Arthur’s gaze, just a slight softening of deference, the likes of which Merlin had only seen in Uther’s throne room. It was the look that Arthur had about him when, for once, Arthur was not the most powerful man in the room. The realization settled like a warm coal deep in the black sea of Merlin’s empty grief.

“But you won’t.” Arthur said, without even using the tone of voice that might be reserved for a crazed woman holding a child over the edge of a bridge. Instead there was the inflection of a king, one who would command this power to serve his people and his kingdom. And it was like watching intricate bead work repair itself into a beautiful piece of jewelry. And as Arthur’s hand slid over in the grass to cover Merlin’s own, Merlin realized what Arthur knew. Merlin’s magic was Arthur’s to command. That Merlin was his.

And in that place, Merlin had everything he needed in Arthur. Merlin had someone else to know that Merlin could, but he would not. Someone who loved him. Some one from whom Merlin did not have to hide.


Merlin’s hand relaxed under his and turned, allowing Arthur to thread their fingers together. Merlin leaned closer, a gentle, thrilling pressure against Arthur’s shoulder. As his thumb began to rub comforting circles into Merlin’s, Arthur knew that the racing of his heart had nothing to do with the fact that he was in the presence of a frighteningly powerful sorcerer. It was not racing because for the last several minutes he had been actively committing treason against the crown by simply not telling anyone that Merlin was magic. His heart was racing because Merlin’s hand was in his. And Merlin had trusted Arthur, with his secret, his power, his life and something that was definitely more than just his friendship.

When Merlin brought the hand full of flame to rest against Arthur’s cheek, it did not burn. It was merely the honeyed warmth of summer sunlight against his skin. And that was only a faint echo of the heat Arthur’s kiss found in Merlin’s mouth.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:11 pm (UTC)
Beautifully written! The last lines are perfection. Merlin's grief is heartbreaking, and I love the way you've written it with such intensity whilst still keeping your descriptions subtle. Wonderful fic, thank you.

I think you have a typo in there - it's 'Ealdor', not 'Elador'.
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the lovely review, and thanks for the typo catch!
Feb. 24th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
This is beautiful! Love how something new comes from the sorrow of losing Hunith! *hugs them*

Great job! :)
Feb. 24th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Feb. 24th, 2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
Feb. 24th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
Feb. 24th, 2011 04:50 pm (UTC)
I like the revelation!fics so much.

It was beautifully written and you nicely captured the emotions.

Well done. :)
Feb. 24th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I am glad that you enjoyed it!
Feb. 24th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
wow! fantastic! really heart-breakingly beautiful! I really like the POVs exchange in the story! well written too! Thanks for posting! :)
Feb. 24th, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reviewing! I am glad that you liked it :)
Feb. 25th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
I've been away from lj for a little while, and this fic is a wonderful reminder of everything that is so beautiful about this ship. You write very fluidly, and the whole feel of the fic is intensely sad. Absolutely wonderful. :)
Feb. 25th, 2011 01:09 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for such a lovely comment. I am so glad that my first foray into Merlin fic has been received so well. I am so glad that you enjoyed it.

Edited at 2011-02-25 05:07 am (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2011 03:45 am (UTC)
This is one of the best "reveal" fics I've ever read. It makes sense that Merlin would feel the need to have someone know once his mother died. It was also great that the situation was not a confrontation, and that Arthur just silently accepts that Merlin gives his magic for Arthur to command.
Feb. 25th, 2011 03:58 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks so much for your kind words. I am so glad that you enjoyed my story. Thanks for taking the time to leave your thoughts.
Feb. 25th, 2011 08:03 am (UTC)
Oh, that is a very nice reveal story. I loved Arthur's acceptance - Because what Arthur saw was not so much of a surprise as it was the confirmation of thoughts half-formed, of whispered suspicion and too convenient circumstance. - that was perfect.
You have a lovely use of imagery and simile and the central premise, that, in the circumstances, Merlin needed Arthur to see and finally took the risk of showing. That was wonderful.
Feb. 25th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
Gorgeous. Seriously, this was absolutely lovely.
Feb. 27th, 2011 11:37 am (UTC)
Absolutely gorgeous! Your writing style is brilliant, and this little fic is just angsty and sweet and makes the butterflies happy. Thank you! :'D
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )