never quite learned how to swim;
U-Rated, 523words, spoilers/coda: 2.07 The Witchfinder;
Based on the trailer for the upcoming episode. I just wanted to get this wee snippet out before canon completely ruined it for me, either by not having a moment like this, or by doing it way better than I ever could ;D Enjoy!
“You once said you'd never lie to me,” Arthur tells him matter-of-factly, though his gaze is averted and he stands just out of reach of Merlin who clings to the bars of his dungeon prison, staring imploringly towards him.
“I never lied,” Merlin promises him; his tone beseeching Arthur to believe him, to believe in him, to just so much as look at him.
“What would you call it then?” Arthur asks, almost casually. Merlin can see the way Arthur’s fingers curl into fists and the way his jaw tightens as he endeavours to maintain his air of indifference.
“Arthur-,” Merlin pleads but his words fall short and he finds that he doesn’t have an answer to Arthur’s question.
“What, Merlin?” Arthur inclines his head, eyes finally finding his own and Merlin sees the glint of anger and betrayal shining there. It is his turn to avert his gaze from Arthur’s open stare.
“What would you call this all but a lie?” Arthur presses, arms swinging wide to encompass everything and nothing all at once.
“It's not a lie,” Merlin protests, “It was never a lie. Arthur, I was just scared. I…”
“I thought you trusted me.” Arthur says softly, interrupting his babbling as he trips over the words he’s trying to use to explain.
“I do. Please, Arthur, I do.” Merlin’s fingers flex upon the bars, palms sweaty with a new kind of fear. He looks at Arthur and Arthur looks at him.
“Then why didn't you tell me?” The question is barked out accusingly and Merlin flinches at the sound of it echoing around the dungeons.
“How could I?” He snaps back, wanting to be angry in return but unable to keep it up. What should have been an accusatory shout of his own soon became a desperate quest for his own answers as he whispered his next words.
“How could I tell you when so much as a whiff of magic on the air had your father baying for blood?”
“I would have protected you.” Arthur states like it’s the most obvious answer in the world. Merlin feels a familiar frustration by Arthur’s ability to simplify these things.
“From your own father? From the king? For a servant?” Merlin scoffs openly at the notion though a part of him quivers at the truth he hears in Arthur’s voice.
“Yes!” Arthur cries out. “Damn you,” he whispers, “yes.”
“I could never have asked that of you.” Merlin breathes, shaking his head sadly.
“That's the thing, Merlin. You've never had to.” The words hang in the air between them and Merlin lets out a slow breath, heart thudding against his chest as he realises just how grave a mistake he’s made.
“I- I'm-,” he tries to apologise but Arthur is having none of it.
“Save it.” He raises a hand and Merlin falls silent; surprised both by the gesture and his inclination to obey it. He shifts, uncertain.
“Arthur, please-,” he tries again, but Arthur only shakes his head and turns on his heel, walking away.
Merlin doesn’t call out to him as he watches Arthur leave the dungeons without another word.
[ end. ]