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24 November 2008 @ 08:07 pm
Title: The Same Coin
Rating: PG.
Pairings: Merlin/Arthur, Arthur/Morgana (unrequited)
Warnings: None
Spoilers: None
Summary: First few chapters of The Same Coin, in which the beginning of the story is set up - "The Same Coin" explores the growth of the relationship between Arthur and Merlin, and what must be done if Arthur is to accept Merlin's powers in a desperate time for Camelot.

C H A P T E R // T W O

A jug which had been set on the dressing table was angrily thrown against the wall of the Prince's bedroom as Arthur of Camelot vented his rage against his father without him actually being in the room. Stood near the doorway Merlin flinched behind him, unsure as to what to say to him. He had learnt to appease Arthur and get his temper to calm down but in this circumstance his attempts had seemed to push his master ever further.

Balling his fists tight Arthur paced the floor, nostrils flaring. He did not know how his father could do it. "He was thirteen," he told Merlin, repeating this for the sixth time. Merlin again nodded ruefully in silence. "Thirteen! What justice is there in killing a boy? What possible balance can be restored? He has gone too far this time..."

Shifting his weight awkwardly Merlin opened his mouth to speak. He was rather quiet, unnerved by the scene he'd just witnessed in the Castle grounds. It was far too close for comfort. "It is unacceptable, I know... but your father and magic.... He does what he thinks is right..."

"And he is always wrong!"

Arthur took a large breath, turning his face to the ceiling with a tense jaw. His arms were shaking and he folded them over his chest to try and disguise it before releasing them down at his sides once more, fidgeting with his restlessness. Outside the window, down in Camelot, crowds were dispersing from witnessing the execution of Thomas Brewn, a young lad accused of witchcraft. His hysterical mother was lead from the grounds wailing as she walked, supported by the arms of two of her friends. Arthur heard her cries and spun around to face Merlin on his heel, not realising his manservant was deep in his own nervous thoughts.

"I do not condemn magic but I recognise its dangers and that boy was of no danger to anyone. If my father has ANY remorse he should..."

Once again he lapsed into silence, his eyes falling towards the floor. Several moments passed in the quietness of the room before Arthur spoke again.

"I have wasted too much of your time. Go back to Gaius and help him for the rest of today."

"But Arthur..."


Recognising both Arthur's need to be alone and urgency in his voice Merlin nodded, bowed and exited the room without a second thought. Left with nothing but his own company, Arthur turned to the window as if in answer to the sounds filtering through his window before placing a hand to his forehead.

C H A P T E R // T W O

Morgana sat by the bench of Gaius' workshop, hands folded neatly on her lap as she waited for the kind physician to finish his work. She watched him, though she did not observe anything he was doing - her mind was too tired and her emotions too riled to concentrate. Gaius had not said much to her, he had merely acknowledged her request for more medicine to help her sleep before getting to work. It seemed that the ripple of Thomas Brewn's execution had a wider berth than expected as there was not a person in Camelot unaffected by King Uther's cruel order. A month riddled with accusations of witchcraft and magic had resulted in the death of an innocent... now the Kingdom was wondering what else was to come. As Morgana's eyes travelled from the boiling liquids to the wizened old man, she felt her need to confide rise once more.

"The nightmares are coming back."

Gaius raised his head, peering up at her over the glass of a small beaker. Looking concerned he raised himself so he was standing straight and put down the instruments he'd been holding. "I thought the new potion had stopped them altogether?"

Morgana swallowed down the tension in her throat. "It had. It did. But I've been dreaming more over the past week and last night's vision was... far too vivd for me to stand. They were sparse and fairly normal dreams but now -" Morgana paused as she tried to find the words. "They are far too real, Gaius. They worked in my favour once before but I cannot keep seeing these things and then risk everything on the minor possibility one of them might come true."

After a moment Gaius nodded without question, his expression grave. "I understand. I will draw you a stronger draught immediately. I am sorry you are once again being tormented. I had hoped you would be relieved of such things after so long."

"As did I," agreed Morgana, but became silent as Gaius started walking to his shelves to retrieve a small empty bottle. As Gaius came back to the bench Merlin entered the room with a sad gait and a drawn expression, not noticing Morgana's presence until he had closed the door behind him. On seeing his assistant Gaius' eyes widened in surprise and he paused from pouring a mixture into the container.

"I didn't expect you back for hours. Is everything alright?"

Opening his mouth slightly, Merlin quickly thought about the best way to answer with Morgana in the room, whose attention was already piqued. "Arthur dismissed me for the afternoon. I think he just needs some time alone."

"He was as unhappy with the result as the rest of us then?" Gaius observed, and Merlin answered with a nod. "He's a good lad. I can't imagine Uther would be happy with him if he knew of his feelings on the matter..."

"Uther's judgement is obviously flawed," said Morgana quickly, full of conviction. The change from her quiet demeanor to such a headstrong stance was quite quick once her passion was roused. "Sending a boy to his death on a mere suspicion of magic. He is becoming paranoid... he's becoming dangerous."

"Uther only does what he believes will benefit and protect the Kingdom and his family," Gaius commented, getting back to his task of diluting the draught for Morgana. "His heart is in the right place, he is fair more often than not - but his fear only serves to cloud his judgement. With cases of magic increasing I'm not sure how he will handle it."

Merlin put his bag on the chair and sighed, trying to divert his attentions elsewhere but his ears refused to do anything but listen to the conversation. He didn't want to get involved, knowing that all this was becoming far too frequent and far too much - but if he was to play his part in Arthur's future and do it right, then he'd have to know the climate in which he was working.

"What did Arthur say, Merlin?"

Morgana looked half angry half saddened with her question. No doubt her feelings about Uther were conflicting with those of his son. Folding his scarf and placing it down, Merlin shrugged then moved over to the bench where the two were gathered, wondering how to answer once again. "He believes the King was wrong to do it. He's rather incensed about the whole thing, it's affected him more than he thought it would." More than Merlin thought it would, too.... Morgana's expression showed a glimmer of satisfaction, that at least one Pendragon had a sense of morality. Gaius and Merlin shared a significant look as the physician stopped off the bottle which was now full of a swirling blue concoction, Morgana now staring into the space infront of her with a resolute air about her.

"Thank you Gaius," she said, accepting the bottle from him and standing from her chair. As she reached the door she turned towards the young warlock and paused before voicing her request and exiting the room. "Keep an eye on Arthur, Merlin."

As he watched the woman leave, Merlin hung his head. It was true he hadn't seen Arthur as angry as this in... well ever. The Prince had been on edge occasionally, angered by his father's actions yet he had never expressed it in such a strong way as throwing something. As Merlin ruffled his hair in an exasperated manner, Gaius noticed his apprentice's demeanor and offered a few words of advice.

"There are dark days coming, Merlin," he said softly, hoping not to worry him too much, "I know you have your wits about you more often than not, but I want you to be extra careful around Arthur and the King. Arthur may appear to be sympathetic towards those with your gift but he cannot protect you from Uther... it is time to keep your magic at bay and guard yourself at all times."

"Yes, Gaius." Merlin's voice was dead in volume and expression, causing Gaius to place a kind hand on Merlin's shoulder in a gesture of comfort. "I do not want you to meet the same fate as that boy. Do what you must to keep yourself safe but do not - use - magic."

With a resigned nod Gaius saw that Merlin was truthful in his agreement and, satisfied, left his assistant in peace.

This fic is also available on Fanfiction.net