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the island of conclusions

Merlin fic: "My Heart Going Boom, Boom, Boom" (Spoilers for 2.13)

the island of conclusions

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Merlin fic: "My Heart Going Boom, Boom, Boom" (Spoilers for 2.13)

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nimueh
Title: My Heart Going Boom, Boom, Boom
Rating: pg, gen.
Word Count: ~1.5K
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Balinor
Warnings: SPOILERS FOR 2.13
Genre: missing scene for 2.13, h/c, character study.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
a/n: rescue beta’d by the amazing [personal profile] calamitycrow; all remaining problems entirely mine!
a/n: title from Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.”
a/n: a kind of companion piece to my 2.12 tag, Without Oaths, but no need to have read that one to understand this one.

Summary: What was Merlin thinking when Arthur called his name?


My Heart Going Boom, Boom, Boom

Merlin felt as if he were standing on a cliff over a mountain lake, giddy with the height, ready to plunge into the icy water and leave his old life forever. He had found a father he could never have imagined, and the longing to claim that bond roared through him. He didn’t think he had ever wanted anything quite so much. He opened his mouth--

“Merlin.” Arthur’s plaintive voice pulled him back from the brink.

The sound was so querulous, he thought for a moment Arthur must have woken up. Turning, Merlin was surprised to see him still out cold. The prince was simply restless, probably dreaming that Merlin had mislaid his socks again.

The pieces of Merlin’s world shifted and swirled, unsettled, around him.

For one horrifying moment, he saw Arthur the way that Balinor must see him. “Arthur Pendragon, Uther’s son”: the heir of a king who had destroyed Balinor’s life: tricked him; tried to kill him; hunted him; and finally driven him to a miserable, cave-dwelling exile.

It was a wonder Balinor hadn’t let Arthur die when he had the chance—refused to help him as soon as he realized what fate had blown onto his doorstep. It would have been a fitting revenge on a man who had stolen so much from the last dragon lord, including own chance to have a family. The prince’s death would have been the perfect blood price for the brutal termination of Balinor’s own lineage.

Arthur fretted restlessly on the pallet, pale, drenched in fever-sweat, pain pulling his face into uncharacteristic hollows and lines. For the first time, Merlin was deeply, painfully aware of the stamp of Uther in Arthur’s features.

With a kind of sick dread, he traced the resemblance between father and son in the suddenly unfamiliar lines of the prince’s face, chilled by the new certainty that Arthur’s father had tried to kill his own father. It had never come home to him quite so forcefully that he and Arthur should by rights be on opposite sides in Uther’s war against magic. The fact that Arthur did not know this, and Merlin did not care seemed inconsequential compared to the enormity of that conflict.

Servant and master, wizard and prince, they teetered on a knife’s edge, surrounded by forces waiting for them to waver, to shift the balance in a war they had had no hand in making.

Arthur murmured Merlin’s name again, his voice weaker now, strength fading. And the moment passed, like a film of ice melting over a mountain lake. Merlin’s vision of massed armies dissolved, and the world narrowed, as it did so often these days, to the two of them alone, the prince’s pain a sharp ache in his own heart.

Arthur’s face settled back into its usual contours. He became again the man who had quietly defied his father to bring magic to Camelot’s aid, the prince who sometimes wondered what life would be like if he weren’t royalty. The Arthur whose passing whims and enduring loyalties Merlin knew almost better than his own. A thankfully familiar presence, laid low by sickness now, lying vulnerable in a strange place.

And so, under Balinor’s assessing gaze, Merlin went to him, laid a steadying palm along the damp, hot, skin of Arthur’s face. “I’m here,” he whispered, “you’re—“ he couldn’t bring himself to say “safe,” so he just repeated “I’m here,” the words sounding ineffectual even to his own ears.

The prince did not wake, but he quieted at Merlin’s gentle touch.

He cursed himself again for letting Arthur get this bad. If he hadn’t been so wrapped up in his own hopes and fears last night at the inn, if he had at least thought to change the dressing on the wound…Well, he wasn’t sure that would have helped, but he might have noticed Arthur’s condition was worsening, before they ended up in hostile territory, dependent on a sworn enemy for aid.

Balinor, his expression unreadable, handed Merlin a wooden bowl of water and a clean cloth. The water was scented with something astringent—some herb Merlin almost recognized, though not from Gaius’s medicines—something from his mother’s kitchen, perhaps.

“The salve will draw the infection out,” the dragon lord said, sounding faintly disapproving of Merlin’s attentiveness to his master, “we need do no more for him.”

Merlin nodded dumbly, and Balinor took himself away to a dark corner of the cave, lay down on a rough heap of blankets, and threw an arm over his eyes. Merlin realized that the dragon lord must have given Arthur the only bed.

He wet the cloth, wiped down Arthur’s face and neck with the soothing liquid, let the simple, repetitive gestures anchor him, pull him away from the abstractions of great powers, the terrifying future. This was the here and now, this was his master, his friend, in need of comfort.

But his thoughts soon drifted again, thinking of fathers.

He had always been the only child of a lonely parent. It occurred to him now that this was something he and Arthur shared: an understanding of what it meant to be your parent’s sole support, sole love, sole hope.

He had seen fathers, of course—in Ealdor, working beside their sons in the fields, teaching them the skills of village life, doling out rough affection, laughing in a shared, masculine understanding of the world. Even Arthur and Uther had their own private, royal versions of such things. Up ‘til now, though, Merlin had resigned himself to viewing such relationships from the outside.

Gaius loved him, he knew, mentored him, protected him, treated him in many ways like a son. Still, for better or worse, their bond lacked the fierce, visceral force of kinship. And he and Gaius would never share one central thing.

Merlin had always regarded his magic as such an anomaly, so weirdly, idiosyncratically his own, that he had never really thought about it as an inheritance—as something that had been shaped by others before him, might have rules and patterns that he could learn. Nor had he viewed of it as a manifestation of the Old Religion, a tradition to which he might be expected to owe allegiance.

It was both wonderful and troubling to think about taking up his place in that lineage now. It might mean sharing ideas and experiences he had always been forced to keep secret, learning things he had never dreamed of. But—a shadow fell across his joy—it might also mean being subject to the expectations of others, allied to their plans for the future. Worse still, it might mean shouldering the legacy of their mistakes: as Arthur now did, unknowingly, with Uther’s.

Hours must have passed as he sat there, pulled along helplessly by the unpredictable currents of his thoughts. He felt suspended an endless present, passing the cool cloth over Arthur’s brow, murmuring reassurances when he stirred, kept awake partly by concern, partly by frustration at his own inability to figure out how best to navigate the turbulent waters ahead.

Finally, Merlin shook his head sharply, though there was no one awake to see it. No. He had spent too much time around the Pendragons. Not all fathers regarded their sons as instruments of power, honed by ignorance to uphold a policy based on lies. Besides, Arthur was not Uther—he saw that again more clearly than ever. Every passing week seemed to prove more strongly that Arthur would be a different kind of king. Was already a different kind of man.

And soon thereafter, as if the celebrate Merlin’s re-found faith, the prince’s fever broke—far sooner than he would have expected. Balinor’s medicine, or perhaps his words, had been powerful indeed. Arthur’s breathing evened out, and he relaxed into true sleep. Merlin did what he could about the sweat-soaked bedding, put a dry cloth under Arthur’s head, tucked a rough blanket around him, and then slumped exhausted against the side of the cot, the events and emotions of the day finally catching up with him.

Too much thinking, he told himself sternly. The only thing that mattered was getting Balinor to help them with the Great Dragon. All this worrying about inheritances and allegiances could wait until Camelot was safe. With a sigh, he rested his arms on the bed, and laid his head down. Just for a moment--

::::::

Merlin woke with a crick in his neck, his face inches from Arthur’s. The prince slept on oblivious, clearly restored to health. Arthur looked faintly ridiculous, hair sticking up in clumps, wearing one of his goofier smiles, as if his dreams had taken a decided turn for the better. Merlin snorted affectionately. Although the light in the cave hadn’t changed, he could sense that it was morning. A glance revealed that Balinor had abandoned his makeshift bed.

Merlin stood, stretched, and went to look for his father.

  • This was great. Loved how he recognized Uther in Arthur and yet saw more than Uther could ever be. Loved how he was thinking about fathers and sons. I could almost feel the longing when he thought about Ealdor and all he had missed.

    Well done.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I wanted to explore what an intense moment it must have been for Merlin--to suddenly find a father, and yet to maintain his love and loyalty to Arthur.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Oh, that was lovely - Merlin's longing for a father to teach him, for that bond; for recognizing the common ground he shared with Arthur in knowing only one parent.

    And I love how you showed that Merlin stands with Arthur despite Uther and what he had done to Balinor; that Arthur is not his father.

    Another perfect missing scene - thanks for sharing!
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Those were exactly the issues I wanted to explore *g*--Merlin's and love and loyalty to Arthur seems so intense to me, in the wake of everything he's found out about Uther this season....

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • A great read, I like it a lot.
    While I thought the final episode of the 2nd season quite good, but I was disappointed to learn how the Merlin-Balinor thing developed. He died so soon!
    It's one reason I like this so much, it gives much more depth to that episode. Thanks for sharing :D
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I also liked the episode a lot--but wanted to explore what an intense moment it must have been for Merlin--learning about what had happened to his father at Uther's hands.

      And yeah, it would have been wonderful to have Balinor around for longer--what an interesting relationship....sigh....

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Awww! This is lovely!
  • This is just lovely. Very, very new to Merlin, but I thoroughly enjoyed this and have been looking for a coda just like this after the last episode. Thank you.
    • Hi! *waves* Welcome to Merlin! Does this mean we might have Merlin fic from you some day? I love your SPN fic!

      I'm so glad you enjoyed this--thanks for reading a commenting!
      • *smiles* Thanks for the nice words about my SPN stories... am finishing up a longish one hopefully today! I'm tempted by Merlin but haven't found many gen stories at all, so I'm not sure if there's an audience. Loved yours though! :) Friended you back...
        • am finishing up a longish one
          yay!!

          haven't found many gen stories at all, so I'm not sure if there's an audience.
          There's always an audience for good fic! (I posted a long SPN/Merlin xover that was VERY gen, and a fair number of people read it--by my standards, anyway, lol)
          *encourages you*

  • (no subject) - ex_calamity172
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