Beta: The forever amazing souleswanderer, starxd_sparrow and silverindie80
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Merlin and no money was made from writing this story.
Summary: Merlin starts having a reoccurring dream, and he realizes he's going to die. How far will he go to save his own life, what happened to his destiny, and where the hell is Arthur?
A/N: This was written for vail_kagami after her generous donation to the Support Stacie April Auction.
Dawn had just begun to creep over the horizon when Merlin stumbled out of the front door of the home he shared with Gaius and went to the stables. He hadn’t tried to go back to sleep; the sinking feeling of dread in his stomach had chased away Merlin’s exhaustion.
His mind worked in overdrive as he prepared Arthur’s horse for patrol. His dream had left with him with the knowledge of his own demise and nothing else. It wasn’t a vision – there were no images and no scenes unfolding while he slept. He had only the vivid emotions and the simple knowledge that he was going to die.
He needed to talk to someone, someone who would understand and not think he was completely insane. Unfortunately that posed another problem – what would he say? Sure, he could announce he was going to die and what exactly would he base that on? Arthur would most likely tell him he was being dramatic, as usual, and trying to avoid his duties as a manservant, and somewhere along the way Merlin would probably reveal himself as a sorcerer and have his head lopped off a half an hour later. Merlin wondered if that would prove his point - he had said he was going to die, after all.
Merlin stroked the restless stallion’s nose. He could always go to Gaius. Merlin knew his mentor would listen to him, nod thoughtfully, and probably believe him. Then Gaius would consult his treasured books and Merlin would have to choke down whatever hideous draught that Gaius concocted, and if that didn’t kill him, Merlin knew he’d wish he was dead. He also knew Gaius wasn’t getting any younger; even the daily tasks of being court physician seemed to wear on him even though he never complained. The last thing Merlin wanted to do was worry him. After all, Gaius was already risking so much by letting Merlin live with him.
There was one person who he knew would understand – Morgana. They were friends, after all - at least he considered her a friend. But what if she –
“Honestly, Merlin, you’re going to remove all his hair if you keep that up,” Arthur chided.
Merlin jerked around and wiped his hands on his trousers. “He likes it.” The horse nudged his shoulder as if confirming his statement. “See?” Merlin said triumphantly. “Why are you sneaking around the stables, anyway?”
Arthur lifted an eyebrow. “I assure you that I wasn’t sneaking. A prince doesn’t sneak around his kingdom.” He took the reigns and adjusted the saddle. “You’re the one who’s daydreaming again. I called you three times.”
“Oh, I didn’t hear you,” Merlin said, shrugging.
“Obviously,” Arthur replied with a sniff. “I suppose I should thankful for small miracles. I expected to have to send someone to fetch you.”
“Well as you can see, I made it, and your horse is ready for patrol so off you go,” Merlin said, gesturing toward the castle gates in the distance.
“I realize you didn’t have a lot of schooling, but you do know what accompany means, don’t you?” Arthur asked.
“Yes, I know what it means,” Merlin said through clenched teeth. Unfortunately, he was distracted. Knowledge of your impending doom can do that to a person. He opted for the first excuse he could think of. “I wasn’t thinking and didn’t prepare a horse for myself.”
“I figured you would say that,” Arthur said, signaling one of stable hands who approached leading a brown mare. “Oh look, a horse,” Arthur said dryly, tossing a pair of his personal gloves at Merlin’s head. “Put those on.”
Merlin managed to catch one of the gloves and bent down to retrieve the other. “What are these for?”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Your hands, you idiot. I don’t want you reopening those blisters and bleeding all over one of my favorite mares.” He waited until Merlin slid the gloves over his hands. “Let’s go.”
Arthur left him with no other option but to take the reigns and go with him. After muttering a quick thank you to the stable boy, Merlin slid onto the horse and followed Arthur out of the gates.
After riding for nearly half the morning, it became apparent Arthur was in no hurry. He talked with some of the villagers, asking them about their crops and how their preparations for the winter were coming. Merlin was surprised when Arthur knew most of their names.
By late afternoon, it was all Merlin could do to stay to awake. He slumped in the saddle and his head fell forward, his nose hitting the back of the mare’s head. He jerked awake, his hand covering his nose that was now leaking blood.
His hopes that Arthur hadn’t seen his little mishap were dashed when he turned to find Arthur’s horse pulled to a halt with Arthur staring wide-eyed in his direction. “Did you sleep at all last night?”
Merlin shrugged, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. “Maybe a little?”
Arthur’s wide-eyed expression melted into a frustrated glare. “Can you make it back to the castle or do I need to tie you to the horse?”
Merlin had no doubt that Arthur was being completely serious so the waving of the rope was just overkill. “No, I’m fine.”
Arthur made a noise in his throat that made Merlin think he didn’t believe him. “Let’s ride back.”
“But you’re not finished! There were two more villages you wanted to visit.”
“And they’ll still be there tomorrow.” Arthur nudged his horse forward, and Merlin stared at his back as he rode away. “Now, Merlin.”
“Prat,” Merlin muttered.
The castle gates were on the horizon, and Arthur slowed his mount to a walk. “I realize you’re absolutely terrible at caring for yourself so if I need to handle your sleeping schedule for you, I will.”
Merlin glared at the prince, toying with the idea of turning him into a wide assortment of insects. “I already told you I was fine.”
“You nearly fell asleep while riding today,” Arthur said, as if Merlin had forgotten that little snippet of information. “I’m ordering you to get some rest.”
“Yes, fine,” Merlin snapped, sliding out of the saddle once they reached the stables.
“Don’t test me, Merlin.”
“If you keep this up, I’m going to start thinking you actually care.” That had the desired effect, and Arthur’s mouth snapped closed. “I’ll have your horse ready in the morning so you can finish your patrol.”
Arthur shook his head and passed the reigns to one of the waiting stable hands. “Someone else will take care of it.”
Merlin stopped short. Early this morning he was falling over himself for reprieve, and now the idea of someone else taking care of Arthur only angered him. “There’s no reason to have –“
Arthur lifted his hand. “Leave it.”
“You’re being –"
“Considerate? Yes, I am.”
“I was going to say –“
Arthur cut across him. “Do yourself a favor and shut up. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Merlin tossed his hands in the air and stalked across the courtyard. In the back of his mind he knew Arthur was trying to help, but that nagging sensation did nothing to lessen his worsening mood. Unfortunately, the idea of his warm bed and actually having to sleep didn’t either.
Arthur had ordered him to get some rest, but he hadn’t been specific as to when. If he went now, Merlin hoped he could catch Morgana before the evening meal.
After knocking on her door, he waited and wondered why he hadn’t put more thought into what he planned on saying.
Merlin pushed the door open, hovering awkwardly in the entryway. “Um…hello.”
“Oh, Merlin. I wasn’t expecting you this evening. Is everything well?” she asked.
“Yeah, everything’s fine.” He glanced around the room and was quickly regretting his decision to come to Morgana.
“Gwen’s not here,” she said, a hint of a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
“Right, yes,” Merlin said, trying to get his brain to join the conversation. “I was actually looking for you.”
She looked pleased, and Merlin felt a pang of sympathy for her. Being the king’s ward came with its own hardships. “Come in and close the door.” He managed to accomplish that simple task without any major mishaps. “Are you sure you’re all right? You look dreadful.”
“Long day,” he said, shrugging.
“Is that blood on your sleeve? Merlin, are you hurt?” She crossed the room in several quick steps and placed her hands on his face. She titled his head and clicked her tongue several times disapprovingly. “Did Arthur do this? It was another one of his silly training lessons, wasn’t it? I swear I’ll-“
“No, it’s fine,” Merlin said, stepping back. “I’m fine.”
“I’m going to speak with him. He has no right to –"
“Morgana, please,” Merlin interjected. Morgana wasn’t the only one surprised by the firmness in his voice. “It wasn’t Arthur. I just bumped my head.”
She didn’t seem convinced, but she let it go. “So you wanted to see me?”
“Did I? Oh, right. Well…”
She waited patiently, resting her slender hip against the dressing panel.
“You see, I –“ he rubbed the back of his neck – “I have this friend.”
“Go on,” she prompted, gesturing for him to continue.
Feeling creative and safe that his secret was secure, he continued, “He’s been having a dream. The same dream or at least it feels like the same dream.”
Merlin sighed, his hand falling to his side. “Days, maybe weeks. He can’t remember the last time he’s slept well.”
“What does he dream of?” Morgana asked, her expression attentive as she watched Merlin carefully.
“He doesn’t remember the dream. Just the feeling afterwards. And –“ He swallowed as the feeling of dread clawed its way down his spine. “He thinks…he knows he’s going to die.”
Morgana rubbed her arm nervously as if she’d suddenly caught a chill. “Do you think this friend is telling the truth?”
“I think he’s pretty convinced he’s going to die. And, no, he wouldn’t lie to me. We’re…close.” Merlin held his breath hoping she wouldn’t press the issue. When she didn’t say anything else, he added, “What do you think?”
“I believe dreams can reveal the future,” Morgana said quietly. “And if he knows what will bring his demise, there might be a chance it can be changed.”
Merlin felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest and his lips curled into a slight smile. “That’s a relief.”
“A word of caution,” Morgan began, and Merlin felt like he’d spoken too soon. “Be careful who you share this information with. Not everyone is as understanding as I am.”
“Of course, m’lady,” Merlin said, inclining his head before starting for the door. “But, how do I – I mean how does he find out how he’s going to die?”
“I suggest he spends more time sleeping.”
Merlin nodded, wondering why he hadn’t thought of that. “And-“ he swallowed – “what if he can’t change his future? What if that’s his destiny?”
Morgan frowned. “Then I’m very sorry for your friend.”
“Yeah, me too.” He forced a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “Thank you.”
“Any time, Merlin.”
She could hear Arthur’s annoyed voice drifting down the corridor.
“I thought I told you to –“
Merlin cut across him. “On my way now. I…got lost.”
Morgana didn’t hear Merlin’s response, but noticed Arthur’s frustrated expression when he appeared at her open door. “One day I’m going to find myself a real manservant.”
“When that happens, I’ll start obeying Uther’s every command,” she replied, rolling her eyes.
The corner of Arthur’s mouth lifted to a half smile, but his eyes were focused on the corridor, watching Merlin until he was out of sight. “Something’s wrong,” he said finally.
Arthur shifted and their gazes locked. “What did he tell you?” When she didn’t respond he changed tactics. “Fine. How do we help him?”
“Right now we keep an eye on him, and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid,” Morgana said.
Arthur’s eyes widened. “You do realize we’re talking about Merlin, don’t you?”
She tossed her hands in the air. “Of course we’re talking about Merlin.”
“I want to make sure you understand the depth of challenge we’re undertaking,” Arthur clarified.
“This is serious, Arthur,” she snapped.
“Don’t you think I know that?” He ran his hand through his hair, a sign he was agitated.
“He’ll be okay,” Morgana said softly, walking forward and resting her hand on his shoulder.
“If he knows what’s good for him, he’d better be,” Arthur grumbled.
Morgana let the threat slide past. Arthur wasn’t used to having an adversary he couldn’t pound into the dirt by physical means.
“Will you join us for dinner?” Arthur asked.
“Of course.” After Arthur nodded his acknowledgment, he turned to start down the corridor before Morgana’s voice stopped him. “Arthur, no one can know of this.”
“Who exactly do you think I’d tell? Most of Camelot already thinks he’s mentally afflicted. I’d hate to add to the rumors.”
“Not even Merlin,” she amended.
“You’re not making any sense,” Arthur said.
“For whatever reason, he doesn’t want us to know anything is wrong. I do not wish to betray him.”
Arthur’s jaw clenched. “He’s my manservant. I would be remiss in my duties if I allowed him to flounder on his own. Well, flounder any more than usual.”
“We would drive him away,” Morgana said sensibly. “There could be something far more dangerous than he’s realized working against him. We don’t want him rushing off to face this alone.”
Arthur watched her carefully, his hand fiddling with the hilt of his sword. “Would you care to elaborate on whatever evil you think we’re facing?”
Morgana sighed. “I don’t know, but if you rush in there and act like a complete arse, we won’t have the chance to find out.”
“As if I would do such a thing!” After noticing Morgana’s raised eyebrow in response, Arthur said, “Fine. We’ll give him some time, but at the first sign of a sorcerer or magic of the sort, the one responsible will meet the end of my sword.”
Morgana tilted her head in agreement. “I’ll see you the evening meal.”
“Yeah,” Arthur replied and stalked off to grab the first knight he found for a quick sparring session.