Innocence and Instinct

Chapter 7

Elyan sighed exhaustedly as he collapsed on the bench next to Percival, who was removing his armor after a day of training. He looked as tired as Percival felt, which was saying something. Leon had been on edge during training, everyone had been lately, all because of Merlin. Percival and Elyan, while good friends of Merlin, probably felt it the least out of the group.

“How’s Merlin?” Percival asked, not really sure he wanted to know. The other knight had gone to visit him, forgoing training to do so.

Elyan breathed out again. “Sleeping, for now. I have yet to see him awake actually.”

Percival nodded. “Me either.”

Elyan chuckled. “When I first met Merlin, I did not know he was a servant. I thought he was a knight or something. He did not really look the part, but he was by Arthur’s side in the midst of danger.” Percival smiled, not at all surprised. “When Gwen told me that he was Arthur’s servant I was shocked.” Elyan glanced up at Percival and then away again. “Now after years of being around it, I think Merlin’s loyalty has become almost commonplace. He charges into battles with no weapons, not that he could use any if he had them. He’s always chasing after Arthur even if the odds are stacked against them. He’s the one who is always by Arthur’s side.”

Percival’s face had gone blank as he stared into space, his mind wandering. “The first time I heard of Merlin was from Lancelot. I was with him when he got the message from Merlin to come to the aid of Camelot. The way he acted, I thought that the letter had been sent by some important official.” Percival looked at Elyan. “When I finally met him, I had much the same reaction you did.”

He was silent a moment before continuing. “I do not know what it is, but Merlin is much more than a servant. I think Lancelot saw it much more clearly than I ever did. He never questioned Merlin, always did what he asked without hesitation.” Percival frowned. “It was like he knew something about Merlin that the rest of us did not.”

Elyan nodded in agreement. “I always got that impression as well. Merlin was more relaxed around Lancelot as well. They were good friends… until…” The conversation halted, drifting into an uncomfortable silence as they remembered the pain and confusion they had all felt after Lancelot’s betrayal.

They sat in silence until Elyan got up to pace. “I wish there was something I could do… not just for Merlin… for all of them.” Percival nodded, remembering the pain in his king and queen’s eyes, in Gaius’ and Gwaine’s. It was difficult to see close friends in such pain.

“How is Gwaine?” Percival asked.

Elyan smiled softly. “He never leaves Merlin’s side, not even Gaius is with him as much.”

Percival nodded. Gwaine and Merlin were close, always had been for as long as the two had known them. They had both seen how the days of Arthur’s and Merlin’s imprisonment had torn at the knight. They doubted anyone would be able to pry Gwaine from Merlin’s side for a long time.

~.~.~.~

When Merlin awoke again, Gwaine was glad it was just the two of them. He wanted… no… needed to talk to Merlin privately. Arthur had brought another bed up, though he had them remove the door and even the wardrobe from Merlin’s room. Servants came and cleaned up the blood, and someone covered the window with a heavy blanket to keep the draft out, though it was yet to be repaired. Merlin was once again sleeping in his own room; Gaius in his own bed.

Merlin’s eyes blinked open and focused on the man sitting next to him. Gwaine had been entertaining himself by counting the cracks in the ceiling but glanced down every once in a while at Merlin. He looked down now at the raven haired man and then back up…and then did a double take.

Merlin’s eyes met Gwaine’s, and they just stared at each other. Merlin gulped as he stared into eyes of betrayal and hurt, eyes brimming with tears. Gwaine swallowed as he stared back into eyes that had not lost their determination but were now tinged with guilt. Merlin blinked first and looked away, a small but completely fake smile settled on his lips.

“What time is it? Don’t you have a beautiful barmaid you should be flirting with?” The joke seemed to fall on deaf ears, and when Merlin looked back at Gwaine, the look he got silenced him.

“Why?”

It was a simple word, with so much pleading and misery behind it, as well as a longing just to know. It was a word Gwaine had asked several times over the last twenty-four hours, but had yet to get an answer to.

“Arthur’s told you what I told him, I’m sure.” Merlin muttered.

“Rubbish.” Gwaine snapped back. “You’re not one to believe in such garbage so easily. I know you would give your life for Arthur, as would I, but this…”

Merlin looked away. “You don’t understand, Gwaine.”

“Then explain it to me, Merlin!” Gwaine barked, both of them wincing at Gwaine’s Arthur-like emphasis on his name.

Merlin stared at him. Gwaine’s jaw was set firmly, his breathing fast, but what or who he was angry with, Merlin wasn’t completely sure. He might be angry at Merlin of course; that was completely logical, but Merlin thought he would be equally as happy to flog the sorcerer who started this whole thing. Too bad he was already dead. Merlin grimaced and closed his eyes frowning in concentration like he did often nowadays. Finally he answered Gwaine, but still didn’t meet his eyes.

“I… saw the future with my own eyes, Gwaine. Do you know what it’s like to see the future? It gets in your head, makes you question everything you do. It drives you mad!”

Gwaine leaned forward. “Merlin…”he said kindly. Merlin ignored him.

“It is my destiny to serve and protect Arthur. It is a destiny you will never understand, and it weighs even more heavily than that prophecy, but… seeing… what I saw… there is no way that I will not do everything in my power to stop it.” Merlin’s words were faltering, and Gwaine could see he was trying to hide something… or perhaps he did not completely understand himself.

“What did you see Merlin?” Gwaine asked curiously.

The look of concentration returned.

“I saw Arthur dying because of me,” he finally said; giving no other details.

“Did you, now?” Gwaine asked. “How?”

Merlin balled his hands up in frustration. “You don’t believe me.”

“I think you’ve been mislead, Merlin. That sorcerer is even more twisted than I thought. He couldn’t just kill you, he wanted to break you, and everyone around you. Arthur, Gwen, the knights, Gaius… your closest friends.”

“No…” Merlin said adamantly. “If I live Arthur will die.”

Gwaine ground his teeth together. “Then tell me! How?”

Merlin glared at Gwaine, and then for a moment his face melted into a defeated look. He opened his mouth to say something when suddenly his head snapped back, and he was staring at the ceiling, panic masking his face. He shouted as though he was fighting something, and then he was hyperventilating. His back arched off the bed, the color drained from his face, and he started shaking. At first it was just small trembles, but soon his body started convulsing. Gwaine leaned forward, his eyes betraying his panic, his hands held out trying to calm the anxious Merlin.

“Woah woah… Merlin… mate… calm down!” he called frantically but got no response. The boy was thrashing so hard Gwaine was afraid he would hurt himself. He put his hands on Merlin’s shoulders, trying to hold him still. He saw the potion on the table by the bed that Gaius had left in case Merlin woke and became agitated. He was plenty agitated now. Gwaine jumped up to grab it, running back and tilting Merlin’s jerking head up.

“Shh shh friend. There you go.” He held the potion up to Merlin’s lips, and the boy struggled to drink it, bits of it pouring down his cheeks and dribbling off his chin, but it had the desired effect. Merlin calmed almost instantly, and within moments he was asleep.

Gwaine leaned back and sighed in relief. There were two things he was sure of; there was more to this story than met the eye, and he would do everything in his power to protect Merlin until they could fix this. He owed him that.


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