pairing; merlin/arthur, gwen.
length; 1,737 words.
summary; She wanted to ask so many questions (why did he need to be bound? why was his magic dangerous? who was the 'us' he was talking about) but she kept quiet, always watching.
notes; set a little way into the future. for the mirrorverse challenge.
disclaimer; definitely not mine.
Standing in the middle of Arthur's rooms - or what should have been Arthur's rooms - Gwen knew she was not in her Camelot.
The room was sparse and almost empty, save for a huge double bed pushed up against the far wall and a table stretching out into darkness. The room was cold and open and lacking in all the trappings and gifts that Arthur had insisted on decorating their rooms with. She shivered in the cold and turned towards the fire, wondering vaguely why there were no servants around to light it. She froze.
Merlin was chained to the floor in front of the fire, dark hair flat, lifeless and body curled inwards.
Gwen knelt on the hearth, hands reaching for Merlin's face even before her knees had fully rested on the cold flagstones. He flinched away from her grasp and Gwen wondered what horrible things had been done to make him this unresponsive and afraid of her touch. He turned his face back towards the fire and the shadows cast over his face left her with an irrational sense of foreboding. This was Merlin and he would never hurt her. He didn't know how to hurt anyone.
"I'd be careful if I were you."
There was a scraping against the flagstones and Gwen looked over to the main rooms. A figure was pulling away from the table and Gwen felt a small thrum of something through her body. She had not realised anyone else was in the room and she knew that Arthur would have been angry at her for letting her guard down so easily. The dirty blond hair beneath the crown on his head looked oddly familiar and then she realised just whose face she was seeing - older, angrier and darker, but still the same. "Arthur."
The only sign that he'd heard her was a twitch of the eyebrows. He was taller and broader than her husband and his face was lined with anger and intrigue. He had the start of a beard on his chin, stubble lining his jaw in a way that would have been dashing had she cared. His eyes were not the vibrant blue she was used to, but a dark, dull brown. She recognised the sword on his hip and the dagger lining his boot. This man was not her husband - not anything close to a husband she could envisage in the future.
(The guards had been rough as they had escorted her here, pleas and demands falling on deaf ears. They had been forthcoming with information, though, on the King they all adored and feared. Gwen had known what to expect but not that it would be so jarring to think of this man as the husband she had left behind.)
"Why should I be careful? He could not hurt me."
She motioned at the chains attached to the wall, clasped around Merlin's wrists and neck.
"You think I'm keeping him here against his will?"
Gwen tilted her chin up, defiant. "I've heard that it's best not to think much at all around you."
Arthur's lips twitched. "My reputation precedes me, it seems. However, in this instance I think your knowledge is lacking."
He started towards them and Gwen couldn't tear her gaze away from Merlin. He was turned towards Arthur's approach, eyes hungry and devouring as they took in the form of the young King. His eyes were dark and then gold, a contrast that made Gwen's breath catch in her throat. She didn't know what was happening but the want in Merlin's eyes was a startling change from the raw affection she was used to. Her Merlin would never have been so bold in his attention but she was beginning to realise things were very different here.
Arthur knelt before her and she was once again reminded of his presence. He wasn't overbearing or angry but the way he held himself told her more than she could ever want to know. He was the King, he was dangerous and she was a stranger here, an intruder. "You're sitting along a boundline."
"A what?" The words slipped out before she could stop them.
Arthur smiled at her unkindly but it was Merlin who answered, voice raspy with misuse. "I am bound here, in this place. It keeps my magic at bay. Keeps us safe."
She wanted to ask so many questions (why did he need to be bound? why was his magic dangerous? who was the 'us' he was talking about) but she kept quiet, always watching.
Merlin was still staring at Arthur and she could see his fingers flexing, itching to touch Arthur's skin. They seemed to be speaking without words, heads tilted and gazes assessing. Gwen resisted the urge to turn away and give them the privacy that should have been afforded to them. She was wary of them, still, and would not be cowed by the anger in Arthur's gaze or the blatant disregard for her that Merlin was exuding. She was not scared of them; she was the future Queen of Camelot and she would not be swayed by their actions.
They seemed to come to some sort of agreement and Merlin reached out, sliding his fingers up Arthur's arm. She did turn away then, out of a respect for their feelings as for her own. She wondered if her Merlin felt this way; a desperate need to have Arthur always, even when she was the one he took to his bed, his wife. She found she did not wish to know the answer.
"Gwen," Arthur said, softly. There was still an edge to his voice that wasn't fading.
She caught Merlin's gaze slowly, aware of the hatred blossoming across his face. He shifted on the floor, chains clinking against the stone as he moved. His eyes were dark and hooded and the fear she'd felt at seeing Arthur for the first time was nothing to this. This was a Merlin she could never understand and it was such a contrast from the meek boy who had been curled up on the hearth when she'd been brought here. Arthur's arrival had prompted something to come alive in Merlin and Gwen didn't want to know what it was.
"You were sent here," Merlin said. His words were quiet and strung out, as if Merlin were dazed and unsure of his words. She knew it was only because he wasn't used to talking with words, that he was used to having Arthur understand everything he wanted. She shivered involuntarily. "I - your Merlin - made a mistake and you were sent here."
"How do you know that?" She whispered.
Merlin grinned, sadistic and slow. "Our Guinevere is dead."
Sucking in a sharp breath, Gwen felt her fingers clench unconsciously in the rug by Merlin's feet. She wasn't dead and she had never met her counterpart but it still felt as if something hard had been pulled out from under her.
Arthur was watching the exchange quietly. She could see the smile he was hiding and felt the first blossom of fear uncurl in her stomach. Queen of Camelot or no, there would be no sanctuary for her here. Merlin pulled on the chains and twisted them taut. She was frozen as he reached for her, sliding his fingers over her cheeks and across her temples. He was searching her face and smiled at whatever he saw in her expression.
"I killed her," he whispered, like he was imparting some great secret. She felt the fear flood her veins, hands shaking as she pulled them close to her thighs. This seemed to delight Merlin more and he brushed their faces together, lips ghosting over her own. "I watched the light die in your eyes, the blood growing cold on the flagstones underneath your body. Nobody cried for you. Nobody cared."
Gwen forced herself to hold his gaze. She pushed the fear and the anger and the grief deep inside of herself and tilted her chin.
"Oh, you can be as strong as you like," Merlin crowed, stroking her hair. "I know what's deep inside your heart. I can see it."
"You allowed this?" Gwen asked Arthur, her voice low.
He just looked at her, face impassive. "I couldn't have stopped him. His jealousy is limitless and it was exacerbated by Gwen's dalliance with my favoured Knight."
Lancelot, Gwen thought and then wondered why.
"He would have killed you himself but he likes to watch, sometimes, when I use my magic." Merlin traced her forehead with a finger.
Merlin snapped his head to the left. Arthur was watching them with disinterest and Merlin nodded once. He let go of her and shifted back onto his ankles, reaching for Arthur instead. The chains scraped against the floor and Gwen wished Arthur would just let him free. She wondered if it was his magic that had driven him mad or something else entirely. Either way, he still deserved freedom.
"If I set him free," Arthur said, following her gaze, "nobody in Camelot would be safe."
Merlin grinned against Arthur's neck, hands clenched in Arthur's tunic. He didn't look any different even now and it was startling to know that this could be the future for her Merlin if he let his magic reign free. Lucky for them all, she thought, that he did not.
Arthur blinked slowly. "I will have someone escort you to some quarters."
"You're not going to imprison me?"
"No. I don't have a dungeon."
Gwen didn't ask him to elaborate but from the way Merlin was eyeing the sword at Arthur's hip she could well imagine why they did not. "Merlin will fix this."
Merlin laughed, hands stroking down Arthur's face and shoulder and Arthur gripped him hard, eyes once more on her face. "Until then, I will house you in your old rooms. I'm sure there will be a certain amount of humour in that."
Gwen couldn't see any.
"I wonder if her blood is still on the floor," Merlin said, absently.
Turning her face away so that they would not see her flinch - and so she would not have to watch them any longer - Gwen touched a hand to her mouth and prayed to the bone that Merlin would whisk her away from here soon.