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a drop of truth

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A single drop of the water-like potion will make the victim tell the truth. The effects will last an hour, and once the victim slept, they would remember nothing as they woke. Arthur had come into possession of such a potion, but knew not how to use it or, rather, who to use it on. The vial which held the potion contained roughly ten drops, and while Arthur could think of many uses this potion may have, he felt honor bound to never use it. Who was he to force the truth from an enemy, and what friend would lie to him? He contemplated gifting it to his father, but decided against it in fear that he would abuse its powers. Morgana likely kept many secrets that his father benefited from being ignorant of. So Arthur kept the vial for himself, letting no one know he possessed it, waiting for an opportunity to arise.

 

When Merlin became his manservant, Arthur thought of using it on him to ask why he was here, and why he was the way he was, but the boy seemed honest and straightforward, so Arthur saw no use for it. Until he did. Merlin drank poison for him. He didn't say how he knew – refused even – and was rather adamant about drinking the poison in Arthur's stead, being the only one in the room believing that it would kill him. He almost died for him, but would tell no one how he had acquired the information. Merlin was not an enemy, but he wasn't quite a friend either. Arthur didn't feel guilty about wanting to force the truth from his servant.

 

Two weeks later, Arthur put a single drop of the truth potion into Merlin's water-skin as they were out hunting, and watched as Merlin drank it without being any the wiser.

 

Arthur waited awhile, not knowing how long it would take for the potion to take effect. After five minutes he asked a question to test its effects.

 

“Why were you late this morning?”

 

“I overslept,” Merlin answered, not sticking to the lie about helping Gaius with some herbs, which he had told that morning, as he had stumbled into his chambers with breakfast. The potion was working and Merlin would remember nothing of the next hour when he woke up in the morning.

 

“Why did you drink the poison?” Arthur asked casually.

 

“To save you,” Merlin answered without hesitation. Arthur thought that perhaps that was one of the effects. The victims would answer immediately with the truth. Of course, saying the truth didn't necessarily give Arthur the answers he actually wanted, because Merlin had answered the question truthfully, but remained as elusive as ever.

 

“Do you know who was responsible for poisoning the chalice?” He tried instead, hoping it would get him closer to getting some answers.

 

“No.” Interesting.

 

“Who told you that it was laced with poison?” Arthur pressed, remembering that Merlin had said that someone had seen it being done.

 

“A servant girl from Mercia, but I think Gaius suspects that she was in disguise,” Merlin said, finally giving a good answer. Arthur nodded as he thought of his next question with the new information in mind.

 

“Why would she tell you? It could have been her doing.”

 

“Perhaps,” Merlin agreed. Even with the truth potion in effect, it didn't really stop them from having a real conversation, it only meant that Arthur could be certain that Merlin wasn't lying to him – not that that was normally a concern, “Maybe she wanted Bayard to drink it? He did offer.”

 

Arthur was silent for a moment. Merlin knew less than he had hoped (he didn't even know what he had hoped would come from this conversation), but the potion was still in effect, so he should take advantage of that.

 

“What do you think of me?” Arthur asked then, a little smirk on his lips as he eyed Merlin. He saw Merlin smile before he answered.

 

“Arrogant,” he said, almost laughed, “A prat, but not as much as I first thought.”

 

Okay, so Merlin didn't like him that much. Arthur kind of knew that already. But that begged the question.

 

“Then why did you save me?”

 

“It is my destiny.”

 

Arthur asked no questions after that.

 

In the following year, there were many instances where Arthur thought of using the truth potion on Merlin, but Arthur waited, keeping a list of things he would like to ask him. The truth about Sophia (he was certain that Merlin could not have knocked him out with a lump of wood and done it so forcefully that Arthur literally forgot about it), how his father had slain the wraith of his uncle (Merlin might not have been directly involved, but Gaius probably knew, so maybe Merlin knew as well) and Merlin had tried to tell him something back in Ealdor, which had begun to bug Arthur.

 

But then came the Question Beast, its bite a fatal one, which Arthur miraculously survived. Arthur had to use it. He didn't even know if Merlin had been involved, but he needed answers and Merlin was the only one whom he could use the potion on without him finding out. And it wasn't that he hadn't thought of just asking Merlin without the help of a truth potion, he had, but in the past year he had learned a couple of things about his strange manservant. Most importantly he had learned that Merlin rarely lied, but that he kept secrets. Merlin was very good at serving Arthur half-truths, or changing the subject when there was something he didn't want to talk about. He could lie, and despite what he had claimed, Merlin could lie quite well too, but Arthur also knew that Merlin didn't like to lie. At his core, he was an honest person, and Arthur believed that Merlin had a reason for keeping secrets.

 

But Arthur needed the truth about this. Anything Merlin had to offer, he needed.

 

“How did I survive?” He asked, still bedridden with Merlin tending to him.

 

“I made a deal,” Merlin merely spoke, and Arthur wasn't quite following.

 

“What kind of deal?”

 

“A life for a life.” So magic.

 

“Whose life did you bargain?” Arthur asked, already knowing the answer.

 

“Mine.”

 

“That's why you said goodbye.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Arthur bit his lip before he continued. Getting answers had been easier than he had anticipated, since Merlin was the reason he was alive, but he was starting to regret having this knowledge.

 

“Why are still alive then?” Arthur asked sadly, “Will I lose you?”

 

“Nimueh didn't honor the deal,” Merlin explained, “She tried to take my mother's life instead. Magic was angry with her and took her life instead.” Merlin spoke as if magic was entity, as if it was a person. It puzzled Arthur, but then again, what did Arthur know of magic? Even studying it was outlawed.

 

“So you won't die?”

 

“No.”

 

“Why didn't you tell me?”

 

“I didn't want you to blame yourself for my death,” Merlin answered sincerely.

 

Arthur bit his lip, another question on his tongue, “What do you think of me?”

 

Merlin smiled, perhaps happy to change the topic, “Arrogant,” He said again, “A prat, but not as much as I first thought. You are also stupidly brave.”

 

Arthur smiled at the addition, and repeated another question: “Why did you save me?”

 

“Because you are my king.”

 

Arthur didn't question it. He didn't think he would like the answer.

 

Arthur felt like a bad friend for continuing to use the truth potion, but it seemed to be the only way to make Merlin tell him a whole truth. After Morgause, Arthur wasn't seeking information, but rather an opinion that he knew Merlin wouldn't give him without being forced to.

 

“Do you think she told the truth?” Arthur asked. It had been a day since he had attacked his father, and Merlin had stopped him by saying Morgause had been lying. Only after Arthur had calmed down had it crossed his mind that Merlin could have been lying to make him stop, knowing he wouldn't listen to anything else. It had also occurred to him that his father had never actually denied Arthur's accusations.

 

“Yes,” Merlin said, confirming Arthur's suspicions.

 

“Do you know if she said the truth?”

 

“No, not for certain.”

 

“Why did you tell me she lied, if you believed it to be true?”

 

“You were going to kill your father. I had to stop you.” Merlin talked as if he was a knight on a mission. Perhaps he was. How many times had he saved Arthur now? He truly didn't know the answer.

 

“Don't you think he deserves it?” Arthur asked sharply. His anger at his father resurfacing, but no longer thinking of striking him down with a sword. He thought that it was Merlin's calming presence that was keeping him grounded. Keeping him from making a mistake.

 

“Perhaps,” Merlin said slowly, something akin to hatred bubbling to the surface, before it was calmed and he looked kindly at Arthur, “But you don't.”

 

Arthur didn't think too much about the answer, too focused on Merlin's kind eyes. He asked a familiar question instead.

 

“What do you think of me?”

 

Merlin didn't smile as he answered this time: “Arrogant.” He said for the third time, “Stupidly brave and just. You don't always listen when you should.” Arthur noted how Merlin no longer thought he was a prat. He still called him that though, so maybe it just wasn't important. Or perhaps the nickname had merely turned endearing now that they were friends.

 

“Why do you stay?” Arthur asked this time. Merlin could have left so many times. Arthur sometimes thought he would. Every time Merlin told him a truth he didn't believe. Every time Arthur's anger got unjustly turned on his servant, merely because he was close by. Every time Arthur gave him extra chores because he made one small mistake. Every time Merlin had almost died.

 

“You are my king and my friend. I would never leave.”

 

Arthur hoped that would remain true. He had gotten too used to Merlin's presence to want to be rid of it. He found it hard to imagine a future where Merlin wasn't by his side, supporting him through trying times and cheering him up with stupid jokes.

 

Friends shouldn't force each other to do things they wouldn't want to do, but Arthur justified slipping another drop of the potion into Merlin's drink with the belief that friends shouldn't lie to each other anyway. And Arthur knew that Merlin must have lied. How could he have killed a dragon and not remembered? It didn't make much sense.

 

“How did I kill the dragon?” He asked a couple of nights after it had happened... or not happened. Whatever it was.

 

“You didn't,” Merlin answered, quite as expected, but Arthur was still disappointed. It would have looked good on the list of his accomplishments. Arthur Pendragon, the dragon-slayer. Or maybe not. The dragon was his family crest. Maybe he should kill them.

 

“Who did?” Arthur asked, because the attacks had stopped, so someone must have killed the dragon. Was it Merlin? Arthur knew his manservant was capable of more than he let on, but he doubted that he had the ability to slay dragons.

 

“No one,” Merlin answered, and Arthur took a deep breath. Great. The dragon was still alive (or at least Merlin believed it to be).

 

“It lives?” Arthur asked, just to be safe.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why did it stop attacking?”

 

“I commanded it to stop,” Merlin answered casually, Arthur having to do a double take on that. If it wasn't for the truth potion, he would have thought Merlin was joking.

 

“How could you do that?”

 

“I am the last dragonlord.” The statement was spoken with pride. Arthur would have been proud too.

 

“Then why did we search for Balinor?”

 

“He was my father. When he died, I inherited his gifts.”

 

Arthur swallowed the information like he would one of Gaius' nasty potions. A truth he didn't want to know. A truth Merlin hadn't wanted him to know. A truth he should know. A truth Merlin shouldn't have carried alone. A truth which Merlin would carry alone as soon as morning came.

 

“I'm sorry,” Arthur said, at a loss for words, feeling bad for how he looked down on Merlin for crying over Balinor's death.

 

“Don't be,” Merlin said as if he was comforting him.

 

“Would you ever tell me about your powers?” Arthur asked, almost dreading the answer.

 

“No.”

 

“Do you trust me?”

 

“With my life.”

 

“But not with the truth?”

 

“No.”

 

Arthur sighed. One day he would ask Merlin for the truth and he would give it to him. No truth potion needed.

 

“What do you think of me?” Arthur asked again. It hadn't been long since he had asked last, but a lot of things had happened. Perhaps Arthur had changed. Perhaps Merlin thought differently of him once again.

 

“Arrogant,” he repeated. Arthur thought Merlin would always think that of him, “Stupidly brave and just. You are kind-hearted. Sometimes, I think you are too kind.”

 

“Why do you stay?” he asked again.

 

“You are my king and my friend. I would never leave.”

 

“Uther is your king,” Arthur corrected, but Merlin looked him in the eyes, and spoke without hesitation.

 

“Uther is no king of mine.”

 

Arthur didn't use the potion for another two years. There were many reasons for that. He felt guilty for making his friend tell him a secret that could get him killed should the wrong people find out (Arthur decided to ignore the fact that those wrong people were mainly his father). Being a dragonlord was simply considered too close to having magic in Camelot – hence why there were no dragonlords left. They had all been killed, except for Balinor, who had been forced out of the kingdom, and even when beyond the border, he had been hunted again, forced to leave his pregnant lover behind. All because of the king's madness.

 

And now that Uther believed that the dragons were no more, he would not hesitate to kill Merlin. Merlin who was good and kind and under Arthur's care and protection. Arthur trusted Merlin with his life and he wouldn't betray that trust. If he did, he could never earn Merlin's truth. And that was the other reason why he didn't use the potion. He wanted Merlin to tell him his secrets on his own terms. Arthur couldn't keep forcing his hand, especially when his servant was none the wiser.

 

But then Morgana betrayed them and Merlin acted like he had known it would happen all along. Arthur didn't have time to find out the truth until after they have taken back Camelot, and that ordeal had brought its own bag of questions. One drop of the potion reminded Arthur that Merlin's truth must be treasured, yet he did not hold back with the questions.

 

“Did you know about Morgana?” Arthur asked immediately, but Merlin merely smirked.

 

“Be specific,” he teased, still trying to cheer Arthur up despite being under the influence of a powerful potion.

 

“Her betrayal,” Arthur clarified, and Merlin bit his lip.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Why didn't you say anything?” Arthur asked through gritted teeth. Only his faith in Merlin held him back from doing something he would later regret.

 

“You wouldn't have believed me,” Merlin answered sadly, and Arthur hated that it was the truth.

 

“How long have you known?”

 

“Since we found her,” Merlin said, the truth clearly upsetting him. They had been friends too.

 

“How did you find out?”

 

“I followed her as she met with Morgause and she tried to kill me.”

 

That surprised Arthur. Morgana had tried to kill him, yet Arthur had never noticed. He felt a pang of guilt knowing that Merlin had likely been hurt and Arthur would have only made it worse by complaining about Merlin not doing his job properly.

 

“How did you survive?” Arthur asked instead of asking something that would make him feel worse about how he had treated him in the past.

 

“I am dragonlord,” Merlin confessed, unaware that Arthur already knew  of his powers (Arthur was surprised that Merlin didn't make much of a deal of it being revealed), “I called Kilgharrah for help,” Arthur assumed that Kilgharrah was the name of the Great Dragon, and that Merlin was using his name to cover up from the fact that he wasn't dead as best he could under the influence of the potion. Arthur wondered if Merlin had figured out that he had been drugged.

 

“Did you ever try to stop her?” Arthur asked, not knowing if there had been anything to stop, but Morgana being Morgana, there likely would have been many times where she would have schemed something.

 

“Yes. I almost killed her,” Merlin confessed again, and shun away from Arthur, ashamed of the truth. Merlin was no murderer.

 

“Explain,” Arthur demanded. He needed to hear this story. Merlin was unlikely to give it to him willingly no matter the circumstance.

 

“I was shown a vision of her killing the king. I tried to prevent it, but she fell down the stairs as I tried to stop her.”

 

Arthur didn't question the bit about visions, and continued with Morgana.

 

“How did she survive?”

 

“I asked Kilgharrah to help heal her,” Arthur nodded as he began to see a pattern of the dragon healing people. Arthur had no idea dragons could do that.

 

“If you knew she would betray us, why did you save her?” Arthur asked puzzled. He would have let her die, he was certain.

 

“Because you would have been hurt,” Merlin said sincerely and looked at Arthur for the first time since the topic of Morgana's almost death had begun. He looked at Arthur so kindly that the prince couldn't understand what he had ever done to be looked at like that. He changed the topic.

 

“What did you and Lancelot do when you took off by yourselves?”

 

“We went for the cup of life,” Merlin explained, and Arthur presumed that that had made a lot of sense. But the cup would have been well-guarded by immortal soldiers. Not even Lancelot would have been good enough to get past all of them.

 

“How did you get past an immortal army?”

 

“I used Excalibur,” Merlin said, as if Arthur had any idea what that was.

 

“What is Excalibur?”

 

“A sword forged in a dragon's breath with the power to slay the dead,” Merlin said, his eyes marveling, “A sword forged for you.” The fact that Merlin had probably made it went unsaid.

 

“Then why don't I wield it?”

 

“You will,” Merlin smiled, “When you are ready.”

 

Arthur nodded slowly, and asked his last two questions.

 

“What do you think of me?”

 

“Arrogant,” Merlin laughed, “Stupidly brave and just. You are kind. The kindest person I know.”

 

“Why do you stay?”

 

“You are my friend and I love you. I would never leave.”

 

Another year went by without Arthur using the potion, but then Lancelot died. Arthur felt guilty. Guinevere felt guilty. Merlin felt guilty. Arthur's hand shook as he put a drop in Merlin's drink.

 

“Why do you feel guilty?” Arthur asked, his voice sad. It had only been a couple of hours since Lancelot's funeral.

 

“It should have been me.”

 

“Why you?” Arthur asked. He didn't want to lose Merlin. He couldn't lose him. He wanted him to know that, but under the effect of the potion, the words would be empty. He wouldn't remember them.

 

“It is my destiny- no, I- I didn't want to lose you. I didn't want to lose him. I didn't want to lose anyone. It should have been me,” Merlin rambled, clearly not having sorted out his own emotions or truths. Merlin was in pain. Arthur wanted to know why he was suffering so much.

 

“Was Lancelot special to you?”

 

“Yes,” Merlin answered, holding back tears.

 

“Why?”

 

“He knew my secret,” Merlin's hands trembled. Arthur didn't know what secret he was referring to, but he was slightly hurt that Lancelot had known something Arthur either didn't know, or Merlin didn't know that he knew. Because Merlin had never told him, but somehow Lancelot knew. Arthur knew he was a possessive person, but it shouldn't have been right to ask for the secret merely out of jealousy. But Arthur did anyway.

 

“What secret?”

 

“I have magic.”

 

As soon as the words were out, Merlin slapped his hand over his mouth and took a few steps backwards, away from his prince – his king as he had claimed. His eyes remained locked on Arthur's shocked face, and he breathed heavily, tears forming in his eyes and spilling over, running down his cheeks and over his hand still keeping his mouth closed. Arthur couldn't move. He had thought that Merlin being a dragonlord was overwhelming, but this? He didn't know what to do with this knowledge.

 

Merlin's eyes tore away from Arthur, and found the goblet still on the table. His eyes went wide with realization as it dawned on him what Arthur had done – must have done for Merlin to so unwillingly spill his secret. He lowered his hand, trying to speak, but nothing came out at first, until he slowly whispered his name.

 

“Arthur...” Merlin sounded hurt, in disbelief and Arthur expected him to be angry with him, disappointed in him for using such methods against someone he claimed was his friend, “I'm sorry,” Merlin said and Arthur was shocked anew. This wasn't what Merlin was supposed to do, “I'm so sorry,” he repeated, the disbelief being replaced with fear. “I'm sorry. You couldn't trust me to be truthful so you... I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you.”

 

“Merlin,” Arthur tried, wanting his servant to stop apologizing, but he didn't know what else to say. He tried to take a step towards him, but Merlin backed away from him, frightened, scared, scared of the man he called his king and friend. The man he had claimed to love.

 

“And now you know,” Merlin continued, “I'm sorry, Arthur, I'll- I'll do whatever you want. I'm sorry. You weren't supposed to find out like this.”

 

Merlin slid to the floor, still crying and mumbling his apologies, while Arthur was still frozen in place.

 

“If-” Merlin sobbed, struggling to speak against the tears, “If I meant anything to you, could you- could you grant me one favor?”

 

Arthur wanted to say 'yes, anything', but the words got stuck in his throat. He didn't know what to do. He wanted Merlin to stop crying. Stop apologizing. Stop acting like Arthur would suddenly hate him when Merlin was the best person he knew. He wanted everything to stop. He wished he had never asked.

 

“I don't want to burn,” Merlin sobbed, his hands shaking as hugged himself, the thought of fire being too much for him, “Will you kill me?”

 

Arthur felt like he could throw up as he heard the request. The plea for a painless death. A death Merlin expected, and accepted so easily that Arthur hadn't been able to keep up. Arthur didn't know what to say, but he slowly leaned down to embrace his crying servant. Once in his arms, he could feel just how much Merlin was shaking, but Arthur couldn't find the words of comfort he knew should be uttered. He returned to something familiar, holding his friend close, trying to convey that he would never hurt him.

 

“What do you think of me?”

 

“You are kind and brave and just,” Merlin sobbed, and Arthur wanted to say that that wasn't true. If he was kind and just, his crying friend wouldn't think that he would kill him, “You are the strongest person I know.”

 

Arthur wanted to shake his head. He wasn't strong at all.

 

“Will you leave?” Arthur asked. Merlin might not remember, but Arthur needed to know that Merlin at least had the sense to protect himself.

 

“I would rather burn.”

 

Arthur shed tears as he knocked Merlin out, holding his now unconscious manservant in his arms as he wept over the reality of this man, who had nothing but undying loyalty for a king he believed wanted him dead. He didn't deserve it.

 

The next morning, Arthur was woken by a bright and smiling Merlin who had no idea of what had aspired the night before. As Merlin smiled at him, going through his plans for the day, a frightening thought entered Arthur's head. For all his apologies, Merlin never once asked Arthur for forgiveness.

 

After the revelation of Merlin's magic, Arthur realized something about his servant. Something he should have realized long ago. Everything that Merlin did, he did for Arthur. Okay, so perhaps that bit was obvious, and Arthur had kind of known that for a while, but that wasn't exactly what Arthur had noticed. No, what he had noticed was that Merlin would often let Arthur come before what was right. He should have figured it out with Morgause. Merlin had lied to keep Arthur from killing his father, and while that had technically been the right thing to do, Merlin had put the blame on magic.

 

He should have figured it out with Morgana. Merlin had saved her life despite knowing that she was the enemy, all because Arthur was hurting. Arthur suspected that Merlin would gladly lay ruin to a kingdom if it would make Arthur happy for a week.

 

So when his father died, Arthur needed Merlin to be honest with him rather than trying to soothe his grief. Because in his grief, he had called magic evil and Merlin hadn't stopped him. In his grief, he had blamed the old man – whom he strongly suspected of being Merlin in disguise – for his father's death and Merlin had said nothing. Arthur needed council. Honest council.

 

“Is magic evil?”

 

“It is neither good nor evil. It merely is,” Merlin answered, honestly, wisely.

 

“Did magic kill my father?”

 

“Yes,” Merlin said, saddened.

 

“Whose magic?” Arthur hoped that Merlin wouldn't say his own.

 

“Morgana's, I suspect,” he said instead, Arthur being thrown for a loop.

 

“How is it her doing?”

 

“There was an amulet,” Merlin explained, “It reversed the effects of the healing, killing him instead. We didn't notice it in time,” Merlin looked full of regret. Of course he did. If it had worked, Merlin would have believed that he could open Arthur's mind about magic. Instead, it seemed to have resulted in the opposite.

 

“So you tried your best to save him?” Arthur asked, trying to kill two birds with one stone.

 

“Yes, I-” Merlin's eyes widened, “How did you figure it out?” Shock and fear formed on his servant's face as he backed away from Arthur slowly.

 

“It's your eyes,” Arthur explained, “I would recognize them anywhere.”

 

“I'm sorry, Arthur,” Merlin cried, “I tried, I-”

 

“It's okay,” Arthur interrupted, and hugged him. He didn't want Merlin to be as scared as last time. This time he was prepared. This time he would react better. Be a better friend.

 

“Will you send me away?” Merlin asked frightened. Arthur knew that Merlin feared banishment more than death.

 

“No,” Arthur said and shook his head.

 

“Kill me?” Merlin trembled, his voice growing small.

 

“Never,” Arthur reassured, pulling Merlin in closer.

 

“I betrayed you,” Merlin sobbed, “Lied to you. Failed you.”

 

“You didn't fail me,” Arthur said, you never could, he didn't add, “You didn't betray me.”

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“What do you think of me?”

 

“You are the best person I know,” Merlin said and hugged Arthur firmly, afraid of Arthur letting go.

 

“Would you ever leave?”

 

“I'd rather you burn me.”

 

Arthur held back tears as he realized that once again, Merlin never asked for forgiveness.

 

As king, Arthur always held a trial when someone committed a crime. Arthur stop the persecution of the druids. Arthur never burned a single person. Arthur saved magic users who had never caused any harm, and Arthur tried to clean up the mess his father had left him. Slowly, he rebuild his kingdom, hoping the land he had created was fairer than before.

 

Lifting the ban on magic was no easy task. Personally, he had a lot to overcome and, legally, his father had made the law hard to change. It was a slow process.

 

Two years after his father's death, Arthur faced the disir. They gave him a choice. It wouldn't be hard for to choose, yet he still asked for Merlin's advice, wanting to know what his wise servant had to say on the matter. Curious as to how Merlin would convince him to lift the ban.

 

“Magic has no place in Camelot,” Merlin said and Arthur was shocked. He wanted to ask him why he was lying about something as important and momentous as this, but he didn't. He waited until he had given him the potion.

 

“Why don't you want me to legalize magic?”

 

“I do.”

 

“Then why did you tell me not to?”

 

“I want Mordred dead,” Merlin's voice was cold as he spoke. Arthur didn't know what Mordred had done to deserve Merlin's hatred. Merlin hardly hated anybody.

 

“Why?”

 

“He is destined to kill you. Destiny has not been wrong yet,” Merlin's voice was still cold. He didn't look at Arthur as he spoke.

 

“Is he loyal to me?”

 

“For now.”

 

“If he has done nothing wrong, you shouldn't condemn him,” Arthur said, in disbelief that Merlin would do all of this just to ensure Mordred's death.

 

“I just want you to live,” Merlin said, his voice desperate and pained.

 

“You would choose me over magic? Over your own freedom?” Arthur asked slowly, the reality of Merlin's choice hitting him hard.

 

“Always,” Merlin spoke, his voice strong with loyalty and determination.

 

“It isn't right,” Arthur pleaded, and Merlin looked down, in shame.

 

“I'm not as good as you.” Arthur wanted to say that it wasn't true, but he could feel an argument coming. He closed the conversation.

 

“What do you think of me?”

 

“You are the best person I know. The kindest, the bravest and the fairest. I wish I was more like you.”

 

“Will you follow me?”

 

“Through hell and back.”

 

All Arthur asked of the disir was time to change the law.

 

The ban was lifted after a year, but Merlin didn't tell him about his magic. Arthur had just one drop of the potion left, and he was determined to use it. He invited Merlin into his chambers, made him sit down at the table, while Arthur remained standing, leaning over his chair, looking at Merlin.

 

“Do you know what this is?” He asked his servant, holding up the vial and his servant shook his head.

 

“It is a truth serum,” he explained and Merlin looked scared for a moment, “Whoever drinks it will tell the truth for one hour and will not remember anything after sleep.”

 

“Why are you telling me this?” Merlin asked slowly, and Arthur moved away from the table. He took two goblets from the cupboard and poured water in both. He gave Merlin one and put the rest of the serum in his own.

 

“Why...?” Merlin wondered out loud, but Arthur interrupted him.

 

“Now you know that I won't lie, and you can tell me anything you want, since I won't remember anything in the morning anyway,” Arthur drank it all before Merlin could interfere.

 

“I know about your magic and I don't blame you for hiding it from me,” Arthur said as soon as the potion entered his system. Merlin let his jaw drop, before composing himself and asking a question.

 

“How you do know?”

 

“You told me.”

 

The puzzle pieces fell in place slowly, before Merlin asked his next question.

 

“You've used it on me before?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“How many times?”

 

“Nine times.”

 

Merlin nodded slowly, coming to terms with what Arthur was telling him.

 

“When did I tell you about my magic?”

 

“After Lancelot died.”

 

“Why aren't you angry with me?” Merlin asked, almost frustrated, perhaps angry with himself on Arthur's behalf, “I lied to you. I lied to you, and you knew it.”

 

“You were scared,” Arthur said quietly, “You thought I was going to kill you.”

 

“What else did I tell you?”

 

“You are a dragonlord. The Great Dragon lives. You knew of Morgana's betrayal long before she revealed herself. You tried to save my father despite hating him. Destiny dictates that Mordred will kill me. Those are the biggest truths you have told me.”

 

Merlin shook his head in disbelief, “And you still kept me after all that,” he mumbled to himself, before turning his attention back to Arthur, “How could you know I was loyal to you? Did you ask?”

 

“I didn't have to.”

 

“Why?” Merlin breathed, more frustrated with the situation than Arthur had anticipated. Did he want to be punished so badly?

 

“You wanted to die for me. You said you would stay and follow me through hell. You said you loved me.”

 

Merlin snorted at the last part: “Truth-serum me must be very mushy.”

 

Arthur smiled: “I quite liked it.”

 

“Probably because you knew I wouldn't remember.”

 

“Probably,” Arthur agreed, he had never really thought about it.

 

“You don't believe Mordred will kill you?”

 

“No.” Arthur said simply, “You shouldn't listen to destiny.”

 

“Who then?” Merlin challenged.

 

“How about your king?” Arthur suggested cheekily and Merlin laughed.

 

“Sounds good.”

 

There was a moment of silence, Merlin smiling to himself, before he asked another question. A question that made Arthur laugh before answering.

 

“What do you think of me?”

 

“You are incredibly loyal. Braver than any knight and wiser than any scholar. You are the best person I know.”

 

“Would you ever make me leave?”

 

“Never. You are my friend and I love you.”

 

“Sappy,” Merlin commented, “Did you get that from me?”

 

“Yes,” Arthur confessed, “It is the truth though.”

 

“It is.”