Title: If You Ever Have Need
Rating: T for violence
Pairings: Mostly Merlin/Arthur friendship. There will probably be some Arthur/Gwen romance later on. ABSOLUTELY NO SLASH
Spoilers: Through the end of season 2
Warnings: Slight violence. No beta. All mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters or ideas. I just like to play with them. (Okay...that sounded wrong, but you know what I mean.)
Summary: When yet another creature attacks Camelot, Merlin is forced to reveal his powers. Unable to kill his closest friend, Arthur sends him away. What does that mean for their destiny.
Author’s Note: This is a repost. I went over the reviews I got on ff.net, and there were a couple who really thought that Gwen was OOC. When I went back and reread the chapter, I realized that I had gone a little more off the beaten path than I’d intended. Hopefully this fixes things. Because this is an AU fic, I’m not entirely backtracking with Gwen. I want her to work with Merlin because I think that in the long run, her knowledge of his powers will help Arthur. There’s a little more explanation for my decision in the chapter and in the AN at the end. If you still think she’s too OOC, then I’m sorry, but that’s what I needed to do for the fic to work. Let me know what you think.
I’d like to thank Maya Tamika for reviewing every chapter so far. Her praise has done me wonders. I’d also like to point out that when I started this fic, I hadn’t actually seen season three. I had no idea that there were wyverns in the episode with the Fisher King. I just picked a creature to use. Sorry for any confusion.
Chapter 4: Secrets Revealed and Favors Asked
To most of those who stepped inside the chambers of the court physician, nothing seemed to be missing. Various herbs, plants, and strange looking instruments were scattered across the crowded benches. Books littered almost every available surface and were stacked high against the wall. Shelves were filled with vials of medicines. The smells blended together to create a distinct odor that could found only in that one room.
In the midst of the seeming chaos, was the old physician himself. He busily mixed potions, restocking what had been used through the course of the day, or making specific concoctions for one of his patients. He stopped what he was doing to help any who came into his chambers, regardless of whether they wanted his aid or a bit of his fatherly advice. He went about his rounds as he always did, with a smile on his face and gentle hands. No one who saw him would ever guess that anything was amiss.
But when the jobs of the day were done and there was nothing left to occupy his mind, the facade slipped, revealing a man consumed with sorrow and loneliness.
This was how Gwen found Gaius every morning and every evening. In Merlin’s absence, she had been assigned to help the physician with his chores. There was nothing else for her do with Morgana gone. So in the mornings, she reported to the court physician’s chambers, got a list of the supplies Gaius needed her to collect that day only to return in the evenings to help in any way she could. She’d tidy up the room, help mix some of the simpler remedies.
It was painfully obvious to her that Gaius was desperately missing Merlin. The twinkle was gone from the old man’s eyes. Gwen could see that it hurt him to witness her doing the jobs that Merlin had once taken care of. Merlin’s old room remained closed and empty. Every once in while, Gwen would catch Gaius staring at the door, aslmota s though he was hoping that his ward would magically return.
It had been almost a month since the day she’d found Arthur in his chambers and the prince had confided to her that something had happened between him and his manservant. Gwen still had no idea what had happened. Arthur hadn’t spoken to her on the subject since, though he’d made it a habit of showing up at her house at least three times a week. Usually, they talked about the inane daily happenings of the city or simply sat in silence. She knew that he was still as conflicted as before. Something in her heart told Gwen that Arthur would never really come to terms with whatever had happened until he got a chance to actually talk to Merlin. That didn’t seem like something that would happen any time soon.
Gwen wished that someone would tell her what was going on. She hated feeling useless. She’d once asked Gaius if he could tell her why Merlin had left, but he’d simply shaken his head and said that it truly was for the best that he was gone.
No one else missed the gangly, clumsy young man. Some of the other servants had noticed that Merlin had left. He had a way of brightening any room he came into, but they had never been close friends with Merlin. To most the castle, nothing had changed with his departure and no one considered Gaius’ distress as being strange. Everyone knew that Merlin was the son he’d never had.
She missed him as well. One goofy smile from Merlin was enough to brighten her day. He always seemed to know what to say and he always seemed to be there when anyone needed him. He’d gone out of his way on more than one occasion to help her. There was no doubt about it, Merlin had left Camelot just a little bleaker in his absence.
Realizing she’d reached her home, Gwen shook herself from her thoughts and let herself in. She dropped her cloak over the back of a chair before busying herself with starting a fire.
There was a clatter behind her, as if someone had kicked a chair as they passed it. A hand clamped across her mouth to keep her from screaming out.
“It’s me!” a familiar voice said calmly in her year. “It’s just me.”
Gwen instantly relaxed and the hand fell to her shoulder, gently turning her around. A hooded figure was standing behind her. He smiled sheepishly and pushed the hood of his cloak back.
“Merlin!” she whispered, throwing her arms around his neck.
He eagerly returned the embrace. Gwen had always given the best, most heart warming hugs. More than once she’d turned his day around when Arthur was being more of a prat than usual or when something was going wrong. He’d missed her, just as he’d missed Arthur and Gaius.
After a moment, Gwen pulled away and smacked his chest. “Where have you been? Do you have any idea what you’ve done to everyone?”
Merlin winced. “I didn’t have a choice.”
“That’s not true,” Gwen snapped. “Gaius said the same thing to me when Edwin came to Camelot. You always have a choice, even if it is the choice not to do anything.”
“I wish it were that simple,” he sighed. “But it’s not Gwen. Believe me, I didn’t want to leave. I just had to.”
“Then why did you come back?” she challenged.
If possible, he looked even more sheepish than before. “I need a little help,” he admitted.
Gwen was immediately concerned. “With what? Is this about why you left?”
“Yeah, but it’s complicated,” he said evasively. “I don’t want to get you into trouble. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t my last choice. I’d ask Gaius, but you’re closer to Arthur.”
“Just tell me what’s going on!” she pleaded.
“I can’t,” he said miserably.
“I don’t care if it’s complicated,” Gwen shouted. She rarely, if ever, raised her voice and the fact that she had was a testament to how worried she’d been. “I’ve spent the past month standing by, watching Gaius and Arthur suffer because something happened that they can’t tell me about. I’ve been worried sick about you, but the only answer I ever get is that it’s not their story to tell. If you want my help with this, then I want to know what is going on!”
Merlin sighed. She had a point there. What he was about to ask her would put her right in the middle of what had happened between him and Arthur. If he was going to ask her that, then she had a right to know. He just hoped that she took it better than Arthur.
He spared a quick glance toward the window to make sure that no one was passing by. As he looked back to Gwen, who was still glaring at him, his eyes fell on the empty fireplace.
“Forberne,” he said clearly.
His eyes flashed golden and a fire sprang to life in the grate. Gwen let out a quiet gasp, her hands flying to her mouth. She stared at Merlin in surprise and reflexively took a step back.
“Is that why you left?” she asked after a long moment of stunned silence.
Merlin looked confused. That was not the question he’d expected her to ask, and he wasn’t sure that he understood what exactly she was asking.
“Did you leave because you found out that you have magic?” Gwen clarified.
A sad smile tugged at the warlock’s lips. “Gwen, I’ve had magic since I was born. I didn’t leave because I have powers, I left because Arthur found out and ordered me to.”
He sank onto the chair that he’d kicked earlier, looking more weary than Gwen had ever seen him. He looked like he’d aged ten years. “I’ve been using magic to save Arthur’s royal ass since the day I met him,” Merlin admitted. “It’s apparently my destiny, but it doesn’t hurt that I consider Arthur my friend. I managed to escape attention, until the incident with the wyvern. That time, Arthur saw me. He told me that he didn’t want to execute me, but that I couldn’t stay either. So, I left.”
Gwen stared at him. “You’re a sorcerer.”
“A warlock actually,” he corrected with a hint of his old humor. “Sorcerers have to practice and study magic. I’ve always had it.”
She rolled her eyes a little, almost relieved to see that Merlin was still the same person she’d always known. It was hard to reconcile the idea of magic with the idea of Merlin. He seemed too innocent and carefree to carry that kind of power. Gwen’s forehead furrowed as a trouble thought crossed her mind. “Have you ever used magic to hurt people?”
Merlin shook his head emphatically. “I would never hurt an innocent person. I have only ever inflicted on harm on people who were going to kill me, Arthur, or the people of Camelot.” He tried not to feel hurt that she would ask that of him. Growing up under Uther’s reign didn’t exactly foster good will toward magic.
Blood rushed to Gwen’s cheeks, turning them a deep shade of crimson. “Of course not. I knew that. You couldn’t hurt anyone. I should never have--”
“It’s all right,” Merlin interrupted softly. “I understand why you asked. I use magic when it’s forbidden and according to Uther, magic is evil, therefore I am evil. It’s not your fault.”
She gave him a small, thankful smile. “Well this certainly explains why Gaius seems resigned to the fact that you’re never coming back and why Arthur seems to conflicted over what happened,” she said, moving to sit in the chair beside Merlin as she did.
“I never meant for Arthur to find out about me the way he did,” Merlin said miserably. “Especially not after everything that had happened with Morgause and the dragon.”
“There’s nothing you can do about it now,” Gwen said gently. “At least Arthur was willing to consider that you aren’t a threat simply because you have magic. He could have killed you on the spot, but instead he let you go. That has to mean something.”
“It does,” the warlock said quickly. “But it also makes things more complicated. Arthur is a magnet for danger, especially danger of the magical kind. I’m the only one who can protect him because I’m the only one who knows how. I can’t come back to Camelot. Not yet, anyway. Arthur isn’t ready to trust me--”
“How can you know that?” Gwen interrupted. “For all you know, he could be waiting for you to come back!”
“You know Arthur as well as I do,” Merlin said. “And you know he’s not ready. When he is, he’ll come looking for me.”
As much as she didn’t want to admit it, Merlin was right. Arthur wasn’t ready. He still hadn’t decided what he thought about Merlin. Until Arthur made his decision, Merlin needed to keep his distance.
“Then what are you going to do? If Arthur’s in danger as often as you say, you can’t stay out of Camelot,” she said quickly.
Merlin grinned. “That’s were you come in. I’ve found a house in a small village just outside the city. I’m using all the training Gaius gave me to work as a physician. As close as I am to the city, I still don’t know everything that’s going on. You’re in the castle every day and Arthur trusts you with everything. I need to tell me when something happens so that I can stop if I need to.
“I’d ask Gaius to do it, but you’re closer to Arthur. You’re more likely to notice if someone is after him. He confides in you.” He hesitates slightly before adding. “With Morgana gone, you’re less likely to be missed if you have to leave the city to come find me.”
Gwen fell silent, trying to process everything she’d heard. Merlin was a warlock who’d been using magic to protect Arthur. He’d gone into hiding, but was still willing to risk his life to protect the people he cared about. What’s more, he trusted her enough to ask her for help. She knew that channelling information to Merlin could be dangerous. If he was as close to the city as he’d hinted, then anyone could see her with him and word could get back to Arthur, who probably wouldn’t take the news well. She should tell Merlin just to ask Gaius for help. The old man had been helping Merlin from the beginning, but she knew that Merlin was right. She was closer to Arthur. She’d have a better chance of seeing if something was wrong.
“I’ll do it,” she said after a moment. “What exactly do you need to know and how do I find you?”
Merlin pulled a map out of his pocket and unfolded it on the table, talking as he did. “I need to know if you see anything out of the ordinary. Whether it be visitors who seem a little strange, beasts attacking the country side, or a mysterious illness. If something happens, this is where I am.” He pointed to the village where he was staying, but before he could say anything else, Gwen spoke.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” she said in surprise that bordered on horror, “but isn’t there a magical way I can talk to you?”
His eyes widened. “Using magic is dangerous. I’ve almost been caught more times than I can count.”
“I know that,” she said impatiently. “But if I leave the city every time there is a crisis, some one will begin to get suspicious. Besides, I may not get to you fast enough or I may not be able to leave the city.”
Merlin knew she had a point. He still didn’t like the idea of risking her life with magic, but he’d admitted to himself before ever coming to Camelot that he might have to resort to that. Sighing, he pulled a small pouch of herbs out of the pack still slung over his shoulder. “Throw a small amount into the fire when you think that something is going on. I’ll get to the city as quickly as I can.” He handed her the pouch. “That’s the best I can do.”
“Will you get here in time?” she asked softly.
“I have my ways,” Merlin said with a small hint of a smile. He reached back into his bag and pulled out a small mirror. “Give this to Gaius. He’ll know what to do. It’s a last resort if something happens. Tell him that I’m all right when you do. I’m sure he’s worried.”
Taking the mirror, Gwen clutched it to her chest. She was feeling beyond overwhelmed.
Merlin glanced out the window.
“I should go,” he murmured. “I don’t want to risk being seen. Thank you for helping me.”
“Of course,” she whispered. She set the mirror aside and pulled him into a hug. “You’re my friend, Merlin. I know you’re the one that saved my father from that plague last year and I am sure that you’ve done far more.”
“Thanks, Gwen. Look after Arthur, will you? That prat can’t stay out of trouble to save his life,” he laughed weakly.
“You keep yourself safe, too” Gwen said fiercely. “Camelot needs you as much as it needs Arthur.”
Merlin smiled sadly, pulling back. “I’ll try. If you have any questions about magic, you can always go to Gaius. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about all of this sooner,” he whispered.
“Don’t be,” Gwen smiled. “I understand why you didn’t tell anyone and I’m glad you trusted me now. Just keep yourself safe and eventually this will all work out, I know it will.”
Merlin grabbed the map off the table where he’d left it and pressed it into Gwen’s hands. “Keep this in case you need to get out of the city. You can come to me. Just ask for Emrys when you get into the village. It’s what the druids call me,” he admitted with a blush.
He pulled the hood of his cloak over his face. With one last goofy smile, Merlin ducked out of the house and disappeared into the darkness.
Gwen collapsed onto her bed, her mind spinning. She could understand completely why Arthur was so torn up over what had happened. If she hadn’t known that he was struggling to reconcile what he knew with what he’d been taught, Gwen wouldn’t have been so easily able to accept Merlin’s magic. She supposed that it helped that she’d never been quite sure that Uther’s anti-magic laws were right.
Her eyes fell on the mirror and the small pouch Merlin had given her. Sighing, she wrapped the mirror in a scrap of cloth from one of the dresses she’d made. She’d give to Gaius in the morning. The pouch had a long string attached, almost like a necklace. She slipped it over her head, so that she would always have it should something happen.
It took Merlin several hours to make the trek back to the small village he’d been staying in. The village was dangerously close to the city. Knights passed through on an almost daily basis. Any one of them could see him and take word back to Arthur. That was why he was going by Emrys. He’d known that changing his name wouldn’t ben enough if someone he knew came into the village, so he’d made a potion that could alter his appearance. It was more permanent than a spell and took no effort to maintain. He took it every day when he woke up and before he went to bed. He’d allowed the effects to wear off so that he could go see Gwen. He’d taken the potion again once he was outside the city. By the time he reached the village, he had become Emrys once again.
The villagers had welcomed him easily. Someone with his abilities as a physician was a rare commodity. Though he was nowhere near as good a physician as Gaius, but he had still been able to help the villagers and even save a few lives. It was good work. He was happy to do it, but he still missed Camelot.
Suppressing a yawn, Merlin walked into his tiny home. It was only two rooms, with a shed added on. The two rooms were separated into a patient room and a small living space for him. He’d knocked a wall down to connect the shed to the house and was using the room to store his medicinal supplies and his magic tools. He’d managed to get his hands on a few other books during the month he’d been away from Camelot. Most people had no idea what they were and were more than happy to part with them for a few coins.
He stumbled toward the barrel of water in the corner and gazed at his reflection, making sure that the potion had worked and that his appearance had been altered.
His eyes were the only thing that didn’t change. They stared at back him beneath a mop of thick, unruly light brown hair. His face was rounder and slightly older. There were lines around his eyes and mouth. For someone to realize who he was, Merlin would have to run into someone who knew him well and who took a a really good look at him.
Merlin was glad that Gwen had agreed to help him, but he wasn’t as happy that he’d ended up giving her a magical method of communication. If she got caught with those herbs by someone who knew what they were for, she would be in serious trouble. The only thing he could do was make sure that he got there to stop whatever was going to happen to her.
Sighing, he looked out the window. The sky was beginning to lighten. The village would be stirring soon.
There was no time for him to sleep. He didn’t just tend to the people’s medical needs. His time as a servant in the royal household had taught Merlin many skills that he used to help the people with their daily chores.
With a flash of his eyes, Merlin closed the front door to his house. He ran a hand through his hair and made his way back to the storeroom. He muttered a few words to create a ward that would alert him if anyone entered the house.
He spent the last few hours before morning to flip through one of his new spell books. With so much more time on his hands, Merlin had done quite a bit to strengthen his magic. He’d learned new spells, become better at controlling his powers with only his thoughts, and had learned new kinds of magic. It was exhilarating. He guessed that learning magic was like training for Arthur. He felt tired and often sore from spells gone wrong at the end of the day, but it was always worth it.
The sounds of the village beginning to wake drifted into the house. Knowing that he would not be alone for long, Merlin put away his spell book and began sorting through the medicines he knew that he would need for the day. A buzzing sound in his ear alerted him to the fact that someone was coming.
The door banged open and a small boy ran in. Merlin smiled.
“Good morning, Andrew,” he said cheerfully, managing to keep the fatigue from his voice. “How’s your mother doing?”
“Better,” the little boy answered. “She’s still coughing and we’re out of the medicine you gave us.”
Merlin plucked the vial off of his shelf and handed it to Andrew. “If she’s still coughing when this is empty, come and let me know. We might need to try something else. Tell your mother that I hope she feels better.”
The boy took the vial, grinning broadly. “Thank you, Master Emrys.”
He watched Andrew go with a smile. He still couldn’t get used to be called “master.” Everyone in the village did. They seemed to think that because he knew so much about medicine that he was an important person.
During the day, Merlin kept busy. He saw to several small injuries: a woman who had cut her thumb while cooking, a young child who’d fallen and badly scraped her knee and hands, and two men who’d been carrying a log and dropped it. He went around to the elderly and checked up on them, prescribing various tonics for their aches and pains. In the afternoon, he helped the other men repair the house of an elderly couple. By the time evening came round, he could barely stand.
He quickly cleaned up his materials before collapsing into bed. There was no doubt about it, as much as he’d complained about the workload and Arthur’s tendency to be a prat, Merlin really did miss working for him. As much respect as everyone gave him, they weren’t his friends.
With a quiet sigh, he closed his eyes. His last thought before he fell asleep was that he hoped that one day he would be able to return to Camelot to be with his friends once more.
Author’s Note: So I hope this isn’t too out of character for Gwen. I wanted someone other than Gaius to be helping Merlin and Gwen just made sense. She’s the only one that is close enough to Arthur to notice if something is going to happen to him. Read and Review people!!! It’s like manna from heaven for us writer types :P