Fandom: Merlin (BBC)
Prompt: Merlin fic request??? Merlin is on a hunting trip with the knights when he spots an assassin hiding in the trees- he pushes Arthur out of the way and takes an arrow to his eye (miraculously it doesn’t kill him) but it does leave a gaping void where his eye used to be and he’s super self-conscious about it. - Anon on tumblr
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, Merlin thinks, not like this at all.
Granted, he hadn’t exactly been super picky about how his magic got revealed in the first place, seeing as he’d come to terms with the fact that it would just be his secret until he died.
But this…this was far from ideal.
It hadn’t been his fault, truly, it hadn’t. He really bloody hates hunting trips, had he mentioned that? He feels like he should mention that. Not just that, he hates it when Arthur decides this is a full-party affair and decides to bring all the knights.
“You know,” Leon says offhandedly when he hears Merlin grumble—to himself, thank you very much—for the third time in half an hour, “if you were a bit better at it, perhaps you’d find it more fun.”
Merlin snorted. “I don’t see the appeal in it.”
“It’s a game,” Gwaine said, “outwitting the enemy.”
“Ah yes, rabbits, dear, and occasionally a fish. Truly the vilest enemies to Camelot.”
“It’s even better!” Gwaine raises his voice theatrically. “It’s you and your wits against Nature herself! What more dastardly foe could there be?”
“Why do we have to fight her though? Can’t we just…get along?”
“Oh, she doesn’t mind.”
“Have you asked her recently?”
“A game of chase then,” Percival says, “catch.”
“But if you win,” Merlin argues, hefting a quiver further onto his shoulder, “they die. If they win, you’re just a little more bored now. And humiliated.”
“Truly a fate worse than death,” Percival nods sagely. It would be convincing if he hadn’t cracked two seconds later.
Merlin rolls his eyes. “You’re all bloody idiots.”
“It teaches you skills,” Lancelot says, and really? Lancelot, you too? “If you ever need to survive on your own. how to think quickly, how to use the terrain to your advantage.”
“But that’s life and death,” Merlin argues, “you do this for sport.”
Lancelot shrugs. “Everyone needs practice.”
“Plus,” Elyan says from the back, “it’s nice to just get out, even if we don’t find or catch anything.”
“And that’s the truth!”
Merlin rolls his eyes again. If the knights truly wanted to just ‘get out,’ as Elyan puts it, they would go for rides. Picnics. Something else other than a hunt. Maybe the hunt was the only ‘acceptable’ reason to get out of the castle, but still. His point stands.
“Come on, Merlin,” Gwaine says, “you can’t deny that if you had more practice hunting you’d have a more diverse skill set.”
Merlin scoffs. “My skill set is just fine, thank you very much.”
The knights laugh. “You’d be handier in a fight if you could scrap at least,” Arthur says.
“And how do you know I can’t?”
Arthur just twists around in the saddle to give him a look.
“Oi! Just because I don’t fight like you boys doesn’t mean I can’t.”
“Sure,” Arthur laughs, turning back around, “if that’s what you need to tell yourself.”
“What makes you all think I’m so useless in a fight anyway?”
Merlin hears Lancelot and Leon snicker. Arthur just heaves a dramatic sigh and opens his mouth.
He doesn’t even have a chance to make a sound before a crossbow bolt whizzes by and sticks in a tree.
“Get down,” Merlin roars, his hand still outstretched, “get down!”
Merlin’s already swung his horse around. Behind him, Lancelot kicks his horse forward to get between Arthur and the direction the bolt came from. Leon rides by and yanks Arthur forward.
Gwaine takes off. Another bolt whizzes by and Merlin barely deflects it.
“I can’t tell!”
“Get back here!”
“Go, go, go!”
Another bolt comes from in front of them and Arthur’s forced out of his saddle. The horses scatter, as they’re trained to do, and Gwaine curses, getting to the ground. The knights form a shield around Arthur.
“Whoever you are,” Percival barks, “show yourself!”
“When has that ever worked,” Merlin mutters, doing his own scan of the forest. His magic detects someone about three yards away, concealed behind a tree. He focuses.
“There!” Elyan turns in the direction of the snapping branch.
“No!” Percival rushes to get between Arthur and the bolt.
Arthur falls to the ground.
Merlin is on top of him.
Arthur’s in shock.
He barely has time to register Elyan and Lancelot pulling Merlin off of him before he’s up again.
“Is he alright?” He falls to his knees to see if he can help, where did Merlin get hit, is he alive—
The crossbow bolt is still in Merlin.
Percival comes up and gently covers Arthur’s eyes but it’s too late. Arthur’s seen.
Merlin, sweet, clumsy, lovely Merlin, has a crossbow bolt sticking out of where his left eye should be.
He distantly hears Lancelot murmur that he’s got a pulse. He hears Gwaine and Leon hustle up behind him. He hears three of them tear off towards Camelot and he makes to go with them but Percival holds him steady. Arthur growls, orders him to let him up, let him go to Merlin, let him go—
But Percival holds firm, a murmured apology on his lips.
When Percival does finally let him up, Arthur opens his eyes to see only he, Gwaine, Leon, and Percival is still left in the clearing. Well, that and someone in a dirty cloak. He hears a muffled curse and lets a feral grin take over his face.
Ahead of him, he sees Gwaine tackle someone to the ground. A crossbow and a set of bolts tumble to the forest floor. Leon grabs their hood and tears it off.
Arthur approaches slowly, watching the assassin curse Gwaine and Leon, still fighting to escape.
“What do you want,” he asks in a low voice.
“Justice,” the assassin hisses, “for what you’ve done.”
“And you planned to kill me?”
The assassin spits at him.
Arthur smiles, sharp and deadly. “I would have let you go, you know. Had you only tried to hurt me.”
He leans forward. Places the tip of his sword under the assassin’s chin.
“But you shot my manservant,” he whispers, “and for that, you die.”
The corpse barely makes a thump as Gwaine lets it fall. Arthur doesn’t stick around to watch them search the body. He’s already tearing back to Merlin.
Merlin doesn’t remember getting back to the castle.
He doesn’t remember getting hurried into Gaius’ chambers, the physician barking orders at Lancelot and Elyan.
He doesn’t remember the knights’ curses.
He doesn’t remember Gaius working hard and fast to make sure he stays alive.
He doesn’t remember the crossbow bolt coming out.
He does remember waking up with a bandage covering half of his face.
He does remember an ache in his head.
He does remember when Gaius tentatively asks if Merlin wants to have a look when he takes the bandage off to clean and change it.
Merlin wishes he’d said no, or at least prepared himself for what he sees now.
A gaping wound would’ve been fine. A gouged out half-healed mess would’ve been fine.
Instead, Merlin looks no better than a skull, just a hollow black socket.
“You’re lucky,” Gaius murmurs, “it could’ve been much worse. Your magic helped heal a great deal before you got to me.”
Merlin can’t stop staring at it.
It’s so deep.
“Merlin,” Gaius says again, “I have to put the bandage back on.”
“Yes, yes,” Merlin mumbles, “bandage, back on. Right. Yes, please, Gaius.”
How is he supposed to face Arthur? How is he supposed to do his job? How is he supposed to do something like this?
It hurts, he decides when he can’t make sense of everything whirling through his body right now, it just hurts.
He drifts for a while, trying to figure out what he’s going to do as Gaius tends to him. He doesn’t want to leave, doesn’t want to go away, but…Arthur.
It always comes back to Arthur, doesn’t it?
“And that’ll be him,” he mutters when Gaius chuckles.
“He’s been asking to see you.”
“Have you…let him?”
“Has he seen…” Merlin can’t gesture towards his eye.
Gaius shakes his head. “Only you and I have seen that.”
The door swings open and Merlin ducks his head. He’s grateful to see Arthur, truly, he is, but…he doesn’t really want Arthur to see him.
“Merlin, thank god,” Arthur breathes, “what were you thinking?”
“If you’re here to scold him, sire,” Gaius says sharply, “you can leave.”
“What? I—no, that’s not what I—Merlin,” Arthur says, reaching out for him, “I…I…come here—“
Merlin lets Arthur pull him into a hug, keeping his face turned so Arthur can’t see what’s under the bandage, luxuriating in the warmth he can feel coming from him.
“I thought I was going to lose you,” Arthur breathes, “I’m so sorry.”
Arthur shakes his head miserably. “For teasing you about your battle instincts, for making you come on this ridiculous hunt, for everything? Merlin, I—you saved my life.”
Not for the first time.
“And you…you were right. You didn’t need any of those stupid hunting instincts to do it.”
“I didn’t do it to prove you wrong,” Merlin jokes, “if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Arthur lifts a hand to his face, probably to stroke his cheek, but Merlin ducks away.
“I, um, don’t really want you to see,” Merlin whispers.
“I’m not trying to look before you’re ready to show me,” Arthur says soothingly, “it’s just…well, you’re crying.”
Ah. That’s why half of his face feels like it’s on fire.
Beneath the ruin of his face, he can feel the tear duct swelling against the skin, pressing violently against the scar tissue, against the raw nerves and Merlin whimpers, it hurts, it hurts…
“Shh,” Arthur whispers desperately, “Merlin, shh…”
Merlin shuts his eyes—well, he shuts his eye.
“Wait, hang on—Gaius, what’s…what’s happening?”
Why is Arthur panicking?
And why did Gaius turn on such a bright light?
“Sire, shut the door,” Gaius mutters, “Merlin, Merlin can you hear me?”
“Gaius,” Merlin hiccups, “what’s…what’s happening?”
“I think,” Gaius says, as Arthur hustles back to his side, “that you’re proving a long-thought theory correct.”
“What theory? What are you talking about?”
In response to Arthur’s frantic mumbling, Gaius seems to open one of his many books. Merlin can hear his fingers scanning down the pages.
“Here,” Gaius says softly, “read, sire.”
There are a few seconds of tense silence.
“…but…” Arthur should never sound that lost and scared.
“Merlin,” Gaius says softly, “did you ever hear the stories of a sorcerer’s golden tears?”
Merlin shakes his head.
“It is an old legend,” Gaius says, “one that not many people believed, even back when magic was legal. It was that powerful sorcerers, extremely powerful sorcerers, could cry tears that could cure almost anything.”
No, Arthur, no…
“Merlin’s a sorcerer?”
Merlin’s a rock on the table, frozen in place.
Then he hears a low chuckle. “Guess I owe Gwaine a drink.”
Arthur shakes his head. “I thought for sure you’d’ve told me before you told Gwaine.”
“Believe it or not, Merlin,” Arthur says softly, coming back to the table and carefully covering Merlin’s hand in his, “I do pay attention to you.”
“You are also,” Gaius mutters, “not the best at hiding it.”
“Well, it also didn’t hurt that someone would yell that Merlin’s magic is a secret he should defend with his life in the middle of the day with the door wide open,” Arthur says offhandedly.
Merlin can’t help himself from snorting.
“Merlin,” Arthur says again, “do I sound angry to you?”
“Really don’t understand how you’re not.”
“Oh, I’m angry that Gwaine knew before I did,” Arthur says, “and apparently, so did the rest of the knights—“
“I didn’t tell them either! Well, except Lancelot.”
But it’s fond, it’s not scared, it’s not upset, it’s not angry. Merlin can’t help leaning into Arthur’s touch.
“I’m not angry now, Merlin, not at you.” Arthur strokes a hand over Merlin’s unbandaged cheek. “Just…letting you know that I won’t be going anywhere. And certainly not over this.”
With that, Arthur’s boots thump across the floor. The door opens and closes.
“Well,” Gaius says somewhat sheepishly, “that went well.”
“Yeah,” Merlin mumbles, “I…I think it did.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this, Merlin thinks as he lies down to let Gaius re-examine his wound, and yet…
He can’t find it in himself to be too upset about it.