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How to Train Your Dragon Meets Merlin AKA How to Train Your Merlin

Chapter Text

           The dragons were once again attacking their small island of Berk and Arthur was finally going to take his moment; his father wouldn’t listen, so Arthur was going to make him see. For years now, Arthur had been the best trained dragon killer in the village, and yet he had not been allowed to kill a single dragon! No, instead King Uther, in his fatherly wisdom, made Arthur in charge of training the other members of their village so that they could go off and kill the vicious beasts. With Arthur’s expert training honing their skills, they were given opportunities to prove themselves to Odin and the Valkyries by protecting their hearth and home while Arthur was kept as far from the action as possible. Uther feared for the safety of his only son and living embodiment of his beloved Ygraine but Arthur, with his newest invention, Arthur had taken that obstacle away.

           Gaius was too preoccupied supplying their fighters with weapons to notice Arthur slip away. Arthur was as good a trainer as he was a fighter, so the tide was steadily moving in the Viking’s favor as nets pinned down the roaring beasts, clippers ensnared the vile creatures’ wings, and the mindless animals’ greatest weapon—their fire—started to run out, allowing for close combat. His people’s efficiency made Arthur’s trek to the hillside relatively danger free but his steps quickened at the fear that all the dragons would be finished off before he could even see his baby in action.

           As Arthur crested the top of the hill and loaded his flinger, he thought that may very well be the case and he was too late, as the stars twinkled peacefully in the night sky, undisturbed by flying, scaly monstrosities. Disappointment slumped Arthur’s shoulders but he kept on searching the sky, praying to the gods to let him have his chance, to prove he deserved a seat in Valhalla and, more importantly, to let his father see the man he was and be proud. Silence greeted his prayers and Arthur felt an overwhelming urge to smash something, perhaps his flinger, when he heard a high-pitched shriek that could only mean one thing. “A nightfury.” Arthur whispered, a delighted laugh bubbling up in his throat and his muscles zinged with excitement as a tower to the left of him exploded in a deafening roar of wood and flame. Arthur used the glass on his flinger to track the night sky, searching for any disturbance that could be the key to unlocking his destiny. Another high-pitched shriek, another explosion, and there!, flying away and obscuring the stars, a silhouette of long, devil wings. All it took was a single twitch of a finger. Arthur waited with baited breath then let out a whoop of pure relief and joy when he heard a pained roar fill the night air. He tracked the dark silhouette of the downed dragon to where it landed, memorizing the location then returning to the glass of his flinger, ready for what other offerings the night might have.

           “You better run and hide,” a familiar voice said behind him, “the king is heading this way. I doubt you want him to find you this close to the action, not when you could get a splinter, or worse, a stubbed toe!”

           “Or maybe a scraped knee.” Arthur countered, a smile on his face though he kept his eye trained to the sky.

           “Or a sniffle, there is a chill in the air.” That forced out a bark of laughter from Arthur as half the village was still ablaze, giving the night air a rosy warmth to it.

           It looked as if the dragons had retreated for the night and Arthur turned towards Morgana, though he had no intention of doing as she suggested and hiding. Tonight, he had felled a nighfury, the first Viking ever to do so. His father would have to acknowledge the asset Arthur was now.

           “Arthur, tell me I’m not seeing this.” Uther said when he finally crested the hill and took in the scene before him. Arthur straightened his spine, trying to show determination in the face of Uther’s chilly tone and opened his mouth, only for Uther to continue, “Tell me there is some other explanation for what I am seeing here. Tell me that my own son did not directly disobey an order from his King.”

           “Father,” Arthur tried to interject but Uther merely held up a commanding hand and Arthur felt his head lower.

           “I know I could not have been clearer, so I must wonder at the gall of the boy in front of me, to think he can overlook his King’s command and needlessly endanger his life.” The dressing down continued and Arthur could only be grateful Morgana was the only witness to Arthur’s shaming. When it seemed as though Uther had run out of ways to convey his disappointment, Arthur asked, “If I might explain?” and held his breath for his father’s response.

           “Indeed” was the low growl he got and Arthur was quick to say, “I know the danger of close combat as surely as I know the future of this village resides with me and I must stay safe. That’s why I invented this.” Arthur moved aside and gestured proudly to his flinger. “It’s a long-range flinger, so I can take out those vermin dragons without getting even within fire range. And it’s not just me,” Arthur said, excitement tinging his voice at all the possibilities, “we can set up a perimeter of flingers, take down the beasts before they even reach our shores. Imagine it, no more burnt houses, no more lost sheep, we’d be free.”

           Uther was shaking his head before Arthur even stopped talking, “You think this contraption can turn the tide of war? It’s the toy of a boy. A naïve, disobedient child and it could no more set us free of those murderers than a doll could.” To his horror, Arthur felt the beginning of tears start to sting his eyes, but years of practice held them back before Uther could even notice. He would not further dishonor his father by letting a single tear drop.

           “You’re wrong,” Arthur said, willing his voice to convey strength without being too confrontational. “I’m not a child anymore and my flinger does work. I brought down the nightfury with it! It landed just past Knuckleback Ridge.”

           “Arthur,”

           “If we just went there, you’ll see.”

           “Arthur,”

           “I promise, Father, I can do this. I’ve had the training and with this flinger, I wouldn’t even have to”

           “Enough!” Uther shouted and Arthur did feel like the child Uther accused him of being as he once again fell silent and felt his shoulders hitch up as his head jerked down under the wrathful gaze of the king.

           “I will hear no more of this. I have a village to repair, Arthur. That is our duty to our people. To help restore normalcy and safety after a night of terror and all you can talk about is yourself. You’re a selfish child and I won’t waste another moment with this foolishness. You are to return to our home. Morgana will escort you.”

           “I know where it is.” Arthur grumbled but Uther was already gone. So much for his moment of destiny.

Chapter Text

           Morgana was silent as they walked towards Arthur’s house but that didn’t fool Arthur. Sure enough, as they reached Arthur’s front door, just as dawn was breaking and welcoming the day with a faint pink glow, with not so much as a “by your leave”, Morgana swept past Arthur and made herself comfortable in front of the fireplace. Arthur didn’t even try to argue. He just slumped down across from her as the interrogation started.

           “How did the trigger mechanism work?” Like a dream.

           “There wasn’t a delayed reaction from trigger to release?” No.

           “Did the glass work?” Of course, it did, it was your idea.

           “Naturally. How was the rotation range for aiming?” Could be enlarged.

           Morgana’s questions kept coming, the constant thrum of her voice slowly drowning out the acerbic clang of his father’s reprimands as they bounced around his head. Just as she intended, probably. She was always saying that he was made of tiny pieces that she always had to put back together.

           “Did you really take down a nightfury?” Morgana asked. Arthur had been directing his answers to her bombardment of questions to the ceiling, his body feeling as useless as if he were a puppet that had all its strings cut. The force of Morgana’s final question, however, brought his gaze to hers as this, clearly, was the one question she had been dying to ask.

           “Yes. I did.” Arthur answered. For a moment, Arthur saw himself presenting his father with the nightfury’s carcass to much fanfare and joy from the village. But, for some reason, he couldn’t imagine what his father’s face would look like, in that moment. Brief jolt of energy spent, Arthur once again slumped back to examine the ceiling.

           “It doesn’t matter, though. It’s probably long gone by now.” Arthur said, once again feeling the threat of tears, though not as strongly and easily suppressed as he let out a dejected sigh.

           “But what if it’s not? I mean, it’s probably hurt. I saw your calculations on the velocity your flinger can achieve. You don’t get hit with something like that without getting some kind of damage.”

           “Morgana,”

           “Think about it, Arthur. You go out there and,”

           “No. Morgana, no. You already convinced me to disobey Father once, with the flinger, and look where that got me. He wants me here.”

           “But your destiny is out there, Arthur.”

           “Why do you keep doing this? Why is it, every time Father says something, you try and get me to do the opposite?”

           “Arthur, let’s not get into this tonight, it’s not really the best time.”

           “No, Morgana, I think this is the perfect time. So, tell me. Why do you constantly try to get me into trouble? Do you want him to disown me?”

           “Are you insane? No one cares more for Berk and its people than you. I know I don’t say it, but you’ve had a rough night of it, so, here it goes. You’re a good man, Arthur Pendragon, and we need you as our king.” A humorous gleam lit Morgana’s eyes as she added, “Besides, I can only imagine who he’d pick to replace you. As bad as you obviously are, Arthur, I can imagine so much worse. Cenred or Sigan.”

           “Or Valiant.” Arthur said with a half-hearted chuckle. Even when he was mad at her, Morgana still shimmered with so much vitality that he couldn’t resist to join in her fun.

           “Do you think any of those idiots would promise to make me a co-ruler?”

           “Then why do you keep doing this?”

           “Leave it be, Arthur.”

           “By the gods, Morgana, tell me! I think I deserve to know why my best friend and future partner keeps sabotaging me!”

           “It’s not sabotage! Arthur, I want you to make your own choices.”

           “Well, this doesn’t sound like my choice, either. This sounds like you making my choice for me. Is that what you’re thinking? That, instead of being an equal ruler with me, you will have me following along with everything you say like some lap dog! Because I’m here to tell you now, Morgana, I won’t have it.” Arthur was standing now and yelling right in Morgana’s face. But Morgana wasn’t one to be cowed or intimidated. That was one of the reasons, seasons ago, that he had made that oath to her that, when his father was gone and he became king, he would make her king as well. She was so fierce, so smart, and she held the well-being of their people as closely to her heart as he did his own. He knew his village would not survive his rule without her, just as she knew the same for her rule without him and if they both had been other than what they were, they might’ve married. But as things stood…

           “You sound just like Uther.” Morgana spat.

           “He’s a great king, Morgana.”

           “He’s a bully and the fact that you keep trying to emulate him, frankly, scares the shit out of me. That’s why I do what I do. So I can keep my friend and not see him killed by the bastard he thinks he should be to please a monster more destructive than any dragon. And I would not raise a dog with that kind of man, let alone rule alongside him. Arthur, you do not need to be a second Uther to be a good king.” Morgana reached out to place her hand on Arthur’s wrist, willing Arthur to accept her comfort, as he once had as a child.

           “He’s our King, Morgana.” Arthur said, voice like ice as he snapped his wrist from Morgana’s grasp.

           “Fine, Arthur. You stay here and be Daddy’s little lap dog. I’m going to go to Knuckleback Ridge to find a nightfury. Then, when I bring it back, I’ll take all the credit.” Morgana flounced towards the door and Arthur felt his heart start to accelerate.

           “Well, maybe you should.” Arthur said, desperately willing his breath to even out.

           “I don’t make idle threats, Arthur. You know this.” Arthur did know that; he had the scars to prove it.

           A choice stood before Arthur as Morgana paused at the door. Morgana said she wanted him to make his own choices but she was trying to force him to go while his father was forcing him to stay. Arthur could feel these two powerful wills like a living, breathing thing threatening to pull him in twain. They pulled and they clawed and in the center was Arthur, or what should be Arthur, but who was that? Arthur wasn’t sure, but as Morgana slammed the door, he did know one thing: he couldn’t tolerate not knowing.

           “I know what you did.” Arthur said as he caught up with Morgana.

           “Oh?” was her only reply, though her sly smile showed she wasn’t trying very hard to fain innocence.

           “Knuckleback Ridge isn’t exactly close, you know.” Arthur said and Morgana’s smile turned pure evil as she said, “I’ll distract Uther, don’t worry.” Arthur gave a nervous laugh, decided not to ask, and, with a quick “thanks”, set out the back way towards Knuckleback Ridge. He didn’t hear Morgana as she said, “You go get him.”

Chapter Text

           Arthur was a prime fool. Only a fool would set out on a hike with no provisions. Only a fool would go after a dragon with only a knife as a weapon. And then, only a fool would go and lose said dragon! Arthur slammed his foot into a fallen tree trunk and, ow, now he’s a limping fool. Fuck, the gods hate him, there was no other explanation. Dragons are big, they take up a lot of space. They are incredibly hard to miss, so it must take a special kind of complete dunce to go and lose one! Over there? No dragon. Behind that clump of trees? No dragon. In that wide track of broken bramble, branches, and torn up dirt? No dra—wait. Arthur took a closer look, saw how the branches lay strewn about the ground, saw how the dirt was newly turned, as if a force of great weight and speed had plowed through it. Better still, there were splotchy points of liquid gold that could very well be dragon blood! Pace quickening, Arthur followed the tracks, seeing more and more evidence to suggest he was following the tracks of a downed, wounded dragon.

          Hunger and thirst forgotten, Arthur raced to get to the end of the track, to where his prize must surely be. But when he pushed through some low hanging branches what he saw was…a man? Arthur glanced around, rechecking the path of the dragon tracks, only to confirm that they did indeed lead straight to the sleeping man’s form. Or was it a dead body? Had this stranger come across Arthur’s dragon and tried to take care of it himself, only to fall victim to it? Arthur inched forward, no stranger to dead bodies but uncertain if that was actually what he was dealing with here. Scanning his surroundings cautiously, he saw that the tracks ended exactly where the man was lying with his back to Arthur. He was almost on top of this stranger when he suddenly groaned and turned onto his stomach. Startled back a pace, Arthur watched as the stranger’s eyes snapped open and locked onto Arthur’s. Arthur was just out of reach as the strange man surged towards him, hands out stretched and fingers curled like claws. It was a valiant lunge and Arthur was readying his body for a second attempt only to see the man fall hard upon the ground with an earth-shattering scream of pain. It was then that Arthur saw it but…no, that couldn’t be. Arthur’s gaze returned to the man’s face as it twisted in pain, his breaths coming out in great heaves. He had blue eyes, black hair, comically large ears and high cheekbones. What he didn’t have were horns, scales, or anything to suggest he was actually, secretly, a dragon. Yet there, caught beneath the man’s body and twisted between his legs, was Arthur’s unique twirlers, the one where he had used a special, ultra-thin, but strong, wire to connect the two weights instead of the usual rope. The special twirlers he had last seen hurtling towards, and connecting with, a nightfury.

           Arthur took out his knife and the stranger tracked the motion. The stranger, who Arthur was just noticing was quite naked, had a swirling tattoo encasing his entire left shoulder, faint scars around his neck and flanks, as if from thin, sharp teeth inflicted during battles long ago won, and a…Arthur was suddenly grateful for his empty stomach as the reason for this man’s intense pain—and the damage Arthur’s twirlers had wrought—finally came into focus. Where clearly there had once been two legs, there was now one leg and half a leg abruptly ending just above the knee with raw, flaky skin. The end of the leg had been cauterized in some fashion—dragons breathe fire, some distant, analytical part of Arthur noted—but it was still covered in dirty gold blood. That was the final piece for Arthur, because what human bled gold blood? Somehow, his nightfury had become this man and once again, Arthur had two choices standing in front of him. A hysterical laugh started to climb out of Arthur’s throat that he determinedly squashed as he started to pace. Arthur felt that if he started laughing now, he wouldn’t be able to stop until he was actually crying. And he could not cry.

         Arthur could clearly hear Morgana’s voice in his head saying, Two choices in one day, Arthur? It’s unfair to put your pitiful brain through so much work. But what was he going to do? He knew what he was going to do. What would Morgana do? He knew what he was going to do. What would his father do? He-he could do it. What…what would his mother do? He didn’t know, because dragons had taken her away from him before he could even remember her.

        “I can do this.” Arthur said to himself and raised his knife high. The vile creature in only the semblance of a man—a trick that would not work, it would not sway Arthur—saw Arthur’s approach and started to writhe. One eye stayed trained on Arthur as it reached its arms forward, arched its back, cried out in pain but kept on, fierce determination plain to see in its eye. An eye that was suddenly swirling gold as black scales haphazardly sprouted in random places along the stranger’s body. Arthur slowed, knife still raised, as he saw the man’s eyes, flickering between gold and blue, patches of scales appearing before receding, with sweat breaking out as this creature’s breaths became choppy. He lifted up onto his hands, baring his teeth at Arthur in a vicious snarl and he could almost hear his father’s voice urging him on, Now, Arthur, while its throat is exposed. But clearly, that final move had been the last of the dragon’s energy because he…it…collapsed back on the earth, panting as his…its eyes lowered. It looked like defeat and Arthur…Arthur made his choice.

Chapter Text

           It took some manhandling, and Arthur received quite a lot of scratches and bites in the process, but Arthur finally got the nightfury’s arm around his neck and his own arm around the dragon’s waist. The nightfury was surprisingly heavy for such a lean creature and Arthur needed quite a bit of his strength to help support the resisting dragon as they made their excruciatingly slow way back to Berk. It was as they stopped at a ravine that Arthur spotted something strange. Moving a little to the right, he tried to get a better look, only for the nightfury to move as well, keeping his back from being completely turned to Arthur. Arthur kept moving and the nightfury kept moving until it was like they were in this awkward little, shuffling dance. But finally, Arthur saw enough to know that the nightfury had an intricate tattoo of a dragon along his entire back. It was a beautiful tattoo and Arthur suddenly found himself thinking that he would like to see what a life-size version of that dragon would look like. Arthur gave himself a vigorous shake at such a treasonous thought. Would it be suspicious that this new man in the village had this amazing tattoo of a never before seen dragon right after Arthur claimed to have taken down a nightfury? Or would it not? It’s a great leap to look at a man and see a dragon. Unless the elders knew about this little quirk and just had never told Arthur? Ah! Arthur supposed, if you squinted just so and cricked your neck so that everything turned sideways, the tattoo could look like, “A merlin” Arthur decided. Yeah, a plain bird and nothing at all suspicious here.

           When they had both drunk their fill, and the nightfury had washed himself up a little, Arthur moved to once again take his place at the dragon’s side. Lucky he was there because the dragon tried to set out on his own, either forgetting about his missing limb or wanting to try to walk unaided. In either case, Arthur was there to bear the brunt of the nightfury’s weight, their sides connecting and their close sizes meaning the dragon’s nose collided with Arthur’s skull. The pain of it caused both men to freeze as their eyes smarted. Suddenly, the dragon’s face was being pressed into Arthur’s neck and Arthur stood frozen, convinced he was about to feel the bite of sharp, tearing teeth trying to rip open his jugular. Instead, the nightfury brought his head back and surveyed Arthur intently, before placing his arm around Arthur’s shoulder, without Arthur prompting, and making a little hop, as if saying he was ready to go.

           When they finally reached the village, Arthur headed straight to Gaius’. Though Gwen was the official healer of Berk, Gaius proved a mender in his own right, as his inventive contraptions ably replaced missing hands, feet, or entire legs—something that was always in demand, as limb removal was sort of an occupational hazard for a Viking. As a young man, Gaius himself had been his first patient and business had been booming ever since. The dragon in human skin…which Arthur was walking straight through his village…by the gods, what was Arthur thinking! The dragon kept twitching, with low growls emitting from his throat at every person they passed. “For gods’ sake, stop that.” Arthur admonished, earning him a particularly deep growl from the walking beast beside him, as if he actually understood what Arthur had said. Which was clearly impossible, as it was an animal, with an animal’s understanding—or lack thereof—of the world. To think that the dragon could understand him, to speak to it? Arthur’s mind was clearly breaking from reality.

           Luckily seventy-odd years as a Viking meant that Gaius greeted Arthur and his burden with aplomb, completely unperturbed at having a new, naked patient bring brought to him by his king’s son. It took more than a minute, in which Arthur set the nightfury down and started shifting from foot to foot, uncertain what to do immediately after you have brought your enemy into your village to be mended, but Gaius eventually found a pair of trousers that fit the dragon-man well enough—the dragon absolutely refused any attempts at giving him a shirt. Gaius then started his work. His measuring tape whizzed at a dizzying speed as Gaius took measurement after measurement so that the fit would be just right for the dragon’s new leg. Arthur noted with some interest that the nightfury let Gaius examine, poke and prod him without so much as a glare while every time Arthur drew near to watch Gaius in action, he nearly had his head chewed off.

           “Arthur, this may take a while.” Gaius said. “Why don’t you go, as I’m sure you have a lot to attend to after last night’s attack. I’ll send this fine fellow to Gwen’s once I’m done here.” As Gaius had been a constant presence in the long days of his youth while his father was off on raiding campaigns, Arthur knew better than to argue with The Eyebrow. Though, as Arthur set out from Gaius’, as he was supposed to be nestled away at home, there wasn’t really anywhere he needed to be.

 

 

           “Did you find him?” Morgana called as his aimless wandering somehow led him to Gwen’s. Arthur was trying to figure out how to answer that when Morgana continued, “Not quite what you were expecting, was he?” Arthur narrowed his eyes as pieces started to fall into place.

           “You’ve Seen this.” He accused, “You couldn’t give me any warning?!” Morgana gave a nonchalant shrug.

           “You wouldn’t have believed me.” She said with certainty and Arthur was just about ready to risk the odds against him and punch Morgana in her smug face when Gwen came out and said,

           “Oh Arthur, hello. It’s good you’re here, I just finished harvesting a bunch of shacklewort, they’re perfect for relieving stress, I think they might do you some good.” Arthur put on a fake grin and asked,

           “And why do you think I’m stressed?”

           “Oh, well, after what Morgana told m—What?! Morgana didn’t tell me anything, of course not, she respects your privacy too much. But if she had, which she didn’t, it would be perfectly understandable for you to be a little stressed right now and I thought you might need some help. Not that you can’t handle him on your own, of course, he’s your father, I mean, you know he’s your father…” Realizing Gwen was eluding to what happened the night before and not the fact that Arthur had snuck the enemy into their village, a relieved smile broke across Arthur’s face. He turned to Morgana to say,

           “You do this just to torture her, don’t you?” Morgana gave a bright laugh as Gwen frowned. Morgana leaned close and brushed a devoted kiss to Gwen’s lips before saying,

           “Ignore the evil Pendragon, he’s just jealous that I caught your eye before he could.”

           “Morgana.” Arthur groaned, hoping that some things remained sacred and that she never shared the details of the summer that Arthur had spent composing sonnets to Gwen’s blooming voluptuousness to Gwen. Ever.

           “I’ll just leave you two to it.” Gwen said, sliding a smirk Arthur’s way that he did not trust at all and made his stomach feel like a stone had plopped directly into it. “Arthur, I was serious about the shacklewort. Don’t you leave without it.”

           Gwen had barely closed the door when Morgana gave Arthur’s head a harsh slap. “Ow!” Arthur complained.

           “That’s for thinking about hitting me. It’s unbecoming in a partner.”

           “But you hitting me is fine?” Arthur asked, rubbing the sting with his hand. Arthur was trying to be joking, the reverberations of their earlier fight not completely gone yet, but Morgana had grown suddenly still and serious.

           “Arthur, we are partners,” she said, though her voice sounded hazy and distant, “That means I’ll be there for you when you need me but you have to remember I have a life of my own, too. There’s a wasting disease trying to attack Gwen’s orchard,” Morgana continued, her voice steadily growing stronger and more present, “there’s rot at the docks that needs fixing, and I need to practice my archery if I stand a chance of beating fucking Cenred at the Fall Fest. I’m here for you,” Morgana reiterated, taking Arthur’s face in both her hands, “I just can’t wait until you start figuring shit out on your own.”

           “Morgana,” Arthur asked, unsettled, “how much of what you do is dictated by what you See?” Morgana removed her hands from Arthur’s face, rubbing them up and down her arms, her gaze looking more inward than out when she replied, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

           The woman Morgana had become was always so confident, so vital, that Arthur often forgot the scared waif who would climb into his bed so that he could chase the nightmares away when they were children. Arthur would spend those nights reminding her that she was here and now and not trapped in a dark hole with a broken white dragon or anywhere other desolate wasteland her nightmares had transported her to. Arthur supposed they had both taken turns reminding the other of who they were and he shouldn’t blame her for it.

           “I could help with the trees, if you need another pair of hands.” Arthur offered. Morgana briefly leaned her weight into Arthur before moving forward with a brisk pace, ridiculing Arthur on his workman’s hands and the delicate work that needed to be done. Arthur followed anyway. It was their way.

           They weren’t even half way through their painstaking work when Gaius showed up with a handsome new…wait, that was the dragon! The pain twisting his face was gone, as was the snarl, as he slowly limped towards Arthur and Morgana. He kept a steadying hand on Gaius’ shoulder as he hesitantly put weight onto his new leg, trying out the feel of it. The repetitive work in the orchard had completely sidetracked Arthur, driving the concern of a dragon in Berk from his mind, and he turned rounded eyes to Morgana. She knew the newcomer’s secret, surely, she had a plan for all this! But before he could even think how to ask, he saw his father heading their way. Arthur felt like he might’ve forgotten how to breathe.

           “Ah Gaius, there you are.” Uther greeted and Arthur thought he might not actually be in trouble until, “Arthur, I’m surprised to see you here. What do you think you’re doing?”

           “Morgana asked for my help, Father.” Arthur heard himself say.

           “There’s a wasting disease trying to take root in the trees,” Morgana agreed, adding, “And I thought it better to keep a closer eye on him, after everything. I didn’t think he should be left to his own devices. We need to keep him out of trouble.” Uther gave a curt nod to that and then turned back to Gaius,

           “I wish to speak with you before we set sail tomorrow. Perhaps I can come around seven.” Gaius replied in the affirmative, keeping a firm hand, strengthened by daily metalwork, on a menacing nightfury hiding under the nose of the very man who would kill him as soon as look at him. It would only take a few, simple words from Arthur and it would be done.

           Arthur stayed silent as the nightfury continued to glare. Not a very subtle creature, Arthur noted as the dragon caught Uther’s eye.

           “Ah, sire, meet my new friend here. He’s a poor sailor Ji found washed ashore. He’s still quite discombobulated by the dehydration, I should say. I’m just taking him in to see the clever Miss Gwen, but we should be done in time for your visit.” Sailor, huh? Gaius…was lying to his father…why would Gaius do that, Gaius didn’t know…did he? After giving a brief nod to all present, Gaius and possibly the biggest mistake Arthur had ever made wound their way towards Gwen’s front door, Uther following their progress with narrowed eyes.

           “What kind of tattoo is that?” Uther suddenly asked, “Is that a”

           “Merlin!” Arthur shouted, drawing Uther’s surprised gaze his way. What the fuck, where the fuck was the cool Arthur of a minute ago who had smoothly lied about Morgana asking for help?

           “It’s a merlin, like the bird,” it kept getting worse, “the merlin. Because of his name. Merlin. His name is Merlin.” Arthur said emphatically, adding, “Like the bird.” Fuck his life.

           “A merlin?” Uther asked, incredulous. “The tattooist must have been quite drunk if he thought that looked like a merlin.” With that, Uther was gone and Arthur’s betrayal was complete. His chance to come clean to his father was gone, the dragon still lived, and yet Arthur felt a slight lightness to his being. Despite everything that had happened since the dragon attack, and gods did that feel like eons ago, he had helped someone today. He had brought succor to a fellow being in pain, and that was enough. Gods, don’t let this be the stupidest mistake ever.

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           Later that night, there was a knock on Arthur’s door and a subdued Uther entered Arthur’s room. Arthur quickly closed his sketchbook, so that Uther wouldn’t see the invention he was currently working on. In years past, he had proudly displayed the drawings of his creations, hoping to draw his father’s interest. Then later, hoping his father would compel him to build one of his clever contraptions to aid their quest to end all dragons, but to no avail. Uther’s eyes simply tightened every time he saw the sketches, so Arthur had given up, removing them from his wall and enclosing them all within bound journals.

           “I’ve spoken with Gaius.” Uther started with no preamble or greeting, “and it seems I should apologize. Your flinging thing could be a valuable addition to our defenses.” Uther stopped and, for a moment, Arthur thought that was all Uther was going to say when he continued, “You are the last remnant of your mother, Arthur. I’m hard on you because you carry her with you always and sometimes, I think you don’t appreciate how precious that is to me.”

           “I do, Father, I”

           “You wouldn’t take these risks if you…But this isn’t about the past,” Uther said, “Gaius has pointed out some…truths to me and, well, here.” Uther took out a well-worn pair of clippers, an ingenious weapon of leather and metal meant to bind around a dragon’s wings, shredding them in the process, for, as his father always said, “A downed dragon is a dead dragon.”

           “They were your mother’s.” Uther said with a reverent caress to the leather. “I want you to have them. To show my faith in you. I know you will protect our people from the scourge of dragons.” Arthur thought of the dragon currently snuggled warm above Ji and Gaius’ smithy and wanted to plunk his head down on his desk in despair. Instead, he reluctantly took the offered clippers, wondering just what, by the gods, he was supposed to do. Because he didn’t think he could kill Merlin unless Merlin gave him a reason to. And, by Syn, goddess of truth, he didn’t believe Merlin would do that. A far away voice that sounded like his father said, Shouldn’t it being a dragon be reason enough?

           While a voice that sounded exactly like Gaius telling him a story when he was a child said, You must look a man in the eye and imagine why he is approaching you the way he is and give him the chance to do the same to you before determining the worth of that man. Or woman. Morgana’s voice was thankfully silent as a conflicted Arthur went to bed after another awkward five minutes of his father standing in his room in silence, staring at the clippers Arthur held loosely in his hands.

          By the time Arthur woke up the next morning, Uther was gone, set sail on yet another mission to find the dragon’s nest. Arthur set out to begin his day.

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           Arthur was being watched. He was being watched by the docks, as he lent his hands to the restoration process of the rotting planks of wood. He was being watched as he worked on rethatching some roofs. He was being watched as villager after villager came to him seeking advice and aid. He felt eyes boring into his back as he sailed away on fishing expeditions and he felt the sear of a glare as he trained the youth of the village in hand to hand combat. His days became filled with feeling the touch of eyes upon him and keeping a firm resolve not to turn around and meet them. For he knew who was following him, who was watching him so intently, just as surely as he knew he must pretend that this new presence didn’t exist. Surely, he reasoned, stuck in human form as he was, he couldn’t be a real danger to anyone. The thought gave Arthur comfort but he still maintained his distance, not wanting any more reality shaking secrets to be revealed.

           Still, he would sneak glances sometimes, when he felt the pressure of that stare dissolve and wander. Every time his eye caught onto Merlin’s form, he was wearing some ridiculously gaudy scarf tied loosely around his neck, equally loose trousers, and no shirt, putting on clear display the tattoo on his shoulder and back. Like he wanted to get caught, the idiot. No matter what the weather was like, there was Merlin, scarf, trousers, and no shirt. Did he not understand subtlety at all?!

           Merlin, it seemed, was quite taken with Gaius and his husband, Ji. There had been no hesitation in having him move in above their smithy and he always joined them in their morning Tai Chi practices. Arthur would also see him stoking the fire in the forge, watching the flames burn higher and higher with a sort of nostalgic rapture, as well as see him listening to Gaius or Ji as they wove tales of warriors and sorcerers, princesses and thieves. Tales Arthur remembered from his own youth.

           It also seemed that Morgana and Gwen were quite taken with Merlin and, just as often as Arthur would find him with Gaius or Ji, he would find him with Gwen or Morgana: allowing them to braid flower crowns and place them in his hair, tending the garden with Gwen, listening to her lecture on the particular requirements each plant needed to thrive and the curative properties of said plants, or having his own hand to hand combat sessions with Morgana.

           It wasn’t that Arthur was particularly interested in what Merlin was doing. No, it was just that, Arthur needed to figure out the purpose of Merlin’s deception. Why would a dragon, an animal, pretend to be a man? More to the point, how could an animal imitate the workings of man so perfectly? Merlin sat and listened to Gwen, Gaius, and Ji like he actually understood them. He held his own against Morgana in their lessons without reverting to animalistic snarls when she bested him and without lashing out like a cornered beast. He ate with his hands, bathed his body, and just, no one would guess when looking at Merlin that they were looking at a mindless animal. It was trick, Arthur knew it, he just needed to figure out why.

           So, they stared at each other as the weeks passed, eyes never colliding as they learned how the other existed within the tiny island that was Berk. Arthur convinced himself it was to maintain the safety of his people, to make sure Merlin showed no uncontrollable dragon aggression towards those under his care, for surely the trick must wear thin at some point and Arthur didn’t want to be caught unawares when it did. Arthur couldn’t even begin to guess why Merlin watched him so intently.

           They had reached an impasse, neither willing to make the first move, when Uther and his search party returned to Berk. That night, a thwarted Uther fell deep into his cups and gave one of his infamous speeches at the feast prepared in honor of his return. He vowed to stamp out the plague that was dragons, to purge them from the earth and bring a great peace to the land. He vowed that they would find the dragon’s nest and bathe in the blood of their kills, hack and maim until the last breath of the last dragon rattled from its pulverized throat.

           As Uther’s speech went on and on, Arthur snuck a look down the table to where Merlin was sitting, only to find a glowering Merlin staring straight at him. For the first time in weeks, their gazes locked and Arthur felt a jolt of…something race through him at the ferocity he found within that stare. Clear hatred bore into him from across the table as his father placed a sloppy hand on Arthur’s shoulder, clearly including him in whatever violent fantasy he was currently entertaining the feasters with. But Arthur couldn’t tear his eyes away from blue daggers that appeared to be trying to pierce his soul.

 

 

           The next day, Gwen asked Arthur to go foraging for some mushrooms she need to make a tonic for the returned, and very sunburnt, sailors. He went alone, as was his custom, and hardly felt the air shift behind him before something was slamming into his back. He let himself fall, using the momentum to roll himself onto his feet, facing his attacker. He only had a split second to see Merlin’s vicious snarl contorting his usually handsome features, before his hands were flying towards Arthur’s face. Here was the animal Arthur had expected.

           Arthur dodged but Merlin was quick, connecting his next punch with Arthur’s sternum, sending his breath out in a pained whoosh. Merlin clenched one fist over the other to slam them both into a gasping Arthur’s temple, disorienting him with the blow. Muscle memory kicked in and allowed Arthur to block subsequent attacks and even get a few kicks in himself, aiming for Merlin’s new leg which he was still learning how to trust. But in short order, Arthur found himself staring into hate filled eyes with a cold blade pressed snugly against his throat. Merlin bared his teeth, giving a mean growl as Arthur dislodged the blade, only to find a hand in his hair, to feel a solid kick to his leg which sent him crashing down onto both of his knees, and then the blade was once again pressed to his vulnerable throat.

           But the position actually benefitted Arthur, as his hand was now within easy reach of his own knife, tucked safely in his boot. It would take an easy, practiced motion to simply retrieve the knife, knock Merlin’s blade away, and plunge his own dagger keep into Merlin’s chest. What’s more, Arthur knew that Merlin knew this just as well as Arthur did. Arthur was a trained fighter, the best, and he recognized a planned attack when he saw one. He could no longer ignore the fact that the dragon before him had memory, had thought, that he could plan and execute a strategy, and use reason to dictate his actions. Arthur knew Merlin placed him in this position on purpose because just yesterday Arthur had run drills on how to get out of this very position. And Merlin had watched. Merlin was giving Arthur an opening; he was giving Arthur a reason and a chance to kill him. Certainty blazed through Arthur as Merlin backhanded Arthur before once again grabbing hold of Arthur’s hair with a harsh shake; Merlin was trying to provoke him, to force a confrontation. There was no trick after all; Merlin was exactly as he seemed. Arthur’s hand twitched towards his hidden knife but, in the end, all he could do was lift his chin, stare proudly up at Merlin, and see if his newfound trust was misplaced.

           For Merlin’s part, the heat had left his eyes and he looked a little lost for the first time in this whole ordeal. Slowly, he inched his head forward until his nose brushed Arthur’s neck. Then, just as suddenly as he had attacked, Merlin was gone, his knife vibrating back and forth with the force with which he had thrust it into the ground between Arthur’s splayed knees. So, apparently, they had decided not to kill each other. That was good to know.

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           There was a dragon co-habitating with Arthur’s people and not only was Arthur tolerating it, but, with Uther once again gone—on a raiding campaign this time—he was actually starting to seek him out.

 

“You can totally talk, can’t you? You go around with all these snarls and growls but you can totally talk. I’m right, aren’t I. tell me I’m right.” “…”

 

“You’re actually really intelligent, aren’t you? Like, you’re not instinctively mindless. Hey, where’re you going?”  

 

“You know how I know you’re smart? Because Gwen doesn’t suffer fools, not when it comes to her plants. I once saw her chase Gwaine away from her radishes with a hoe. She threatened to cut his bollocks off with it. Hmmm, good times. But you, she lets you tend her garden unsupervised. Go on, you’re a secret genius, you can tell me.”

 

“I saw you with the children today. Don’t worry, I’m not mad or anything. I just, I thought, I mean, you looked so comfortable with them. Do you, you know, have one of those at home?”

 

“Ji, what story are you telling today?”  “I’m telling Merlin the story of how I met my Gaius." “Do you mind if I join?”  “Not at all.” “Merlin?”

 

“Hey Merlin, would you want to go fishing? Wait, yes? Was that a nod?! Wait, hold up, that was definitely a nod. Who knew you could do anything but growl? Wait, I did. I totally knew, you couldn’t fool me, Mer-lin.”

 

“Merlin, get out of the water, you’re scaring the fish away with all that uncoordinated splashing. Merlin, what…no, Merlin, don’t you dare!” Splash. “You prat! You…” That was the first time Merlin smiled at him.

 

“Do you like gardening? You look so…just, I’ve seen you in the garden a lot, lately…Does the earth feel different to you than it does to me? Wha…” Merlin grabbed Arthur’s hand, burying it in the fragrant soil next to his own. Arthur tried to remember if Merlin had ever voluntarily touched him before when it wasn’t to hurt or out of necessity. He didn’t think he ever had.

 

“Do you have a father, Merlin? Is he proud of you?”

 

“What’s it like to fly?”

 

“Do you have a family? Are there people, er, dragons out there right now, wondering where you are? Missing you?”

 

“Merlin, please. Can I hear your voice?”

 

 

           Merlin was settling in nicely with life in the village. He was even starting to grow on the villagers who weren’t Gwen, Morgana, Gaius, and Ji with his goofy, yet infectious, grin. As the number of people Arthur had to share his time with Merlin with grew, Arthur tried to convince himself that it was a good thing. That the more accepted Merlin was, the less likely they were to be found out. Yet he found himself wanting to separate Merlin from Percival during his runs with him—his gait smoothing out now that Arthur had made some adjustments to Gaius’ design—or from Gwaine as he taught Merlin the glorious art of making mead. It was for their own protection, of course. Merlin was a-a cold blooded killer in the guise of a handsome, no, goofy bean pole. It didn’t matter that Merlin was clearly no animal, that he had reason, restraint, and possibly even a moral code. He was still a dragon, a dragon that Arthur had brought into their midst. Arthur was the one to endanger all their lives by bringing Merlin here and so he should be the only one to risk his life by being alone with him. Yes, he was looking out for his people. It wasn’t that he enjoyed Merlin’s company or anything. “Hey, Merlin, wait up!”

 

 

           Ok, so they were friends, but that was alright. Arthur’s father was away and would never know anyway and besides, for a guy who refused to talk, Merlin was a really funny personfury. He was also caring, strong, and he noticed things about Arthur. Arthur noticed things about him, too. Like, that Merlin loved being in the elements, whether that was tilling in the dirt, swimming naked in the lake, or helping Gaius in the smithy—and practically crawling into the flames—those were the moments when he was at his most relaxed and content. But he hated the rain. The memory of seeing Merlin’s sour expression as his hair became plastered to his face when he got caught in a downpour still made Arthur laugh until his sides hurt.

           Merlin also showed that he did care and thought of Arthur as a friend, too. He would willingly follow Arthur on any adventure he devised—only playacting a few vicious grumbles before acquiescing—he would poke and tease Arthur when he became too glum, bring grievances and disputes to Arthur’s attention that he thought Arthur might be able to help with but the injured parties felt was too beneath his notice, and once, Merlin even wrapped Arthur in a hug as he was beating himself up over a mistake he had made that almost cost Gwaine his hand.

           “It’s alright, princess, it wouldn’t’ve been my wanking hand, so we’re all good.” Despite Gwaine’s attempt at levity, Arthur still couldn’t believe his stupidity. He should’ve known, he should’ve seen, he should’ve been faster…Then suddenly strong, pale hands were wrapping around his chest, one landing over his heart while the other spread warm across his opposite hip. He leaned back, feeling the steady rise and fall of Merlin’s chest as he breathed against Arthur’s neck. So, they were friends. He was friends with a dragon. Uther would be furious…but Uther wasn’t there, Merlin was. A dragon…who wasn’t at all like Uther described. That must be all the other dragons, the thoughtless beasts. They were two separate categories, clearly; in one of them was Merlin and in the other were the senseless, primitive animals that Uther described, the ones that lived to kill. Because his father couldn’t be wrong.

 

 

           The day started out like any other. Better, even, as warm sunlight filled his room, casting a golden quality to his furniture and possessions. Wanting to take advantage of the weather, Arthur set out for a leisurely walk about the village. He checked in with various villagers, making sure everyone was happy and not in need of anything. His route brought him near Ji and Gaius’, though he was still some distance away, and he stopped as he saw that Ji, Gaius, and Merlin were still moving through their Tai Chi sequence. It was a sight Arthur had seen a hundred times before, Merlin in his ridiculous scarf and loose trousers, a look of serene concentration on his face as he followed Ji and Gaius’ slow movements. Merlin clearly loved the art of Tai Chi and made a point of being free every time Ji and Gaius held their practices. It was too slow for Arthur’s taste but the graceful flows suited Merlin, who looked so gangly and uncoordinated most of the time, until you saw the flex of muscle in his exposed arms, torso, and back as he moved.

           Today should have been like any other, except Arthur found himself frozen, transfixed by the way the light fell across Merlin’s strong chest. The warm glow of the sun seemed to be caressing Merlin’s skin as a lover would, blanketing it in gold. Arthur imagined himself as the sunlight, landing upon Merlin’s upturned head and tousling his hair. Arthur imagined it would be as soft as down, thick, the kind of hair you just sink your hands into. The sunlight would then fall upon Merlin’s high cheekbones, brushing light kisses along them before falling to his chest, sweaty from his exertions, warming the pointed nipples with its heat, then falling even lower, to the loose trousers that were just a touch too big, so that they always looked like they were hanging on through sheer willpower. The sun got to envelope Merlin completely, bath his entire, lithe form in heat as Merlin reached out a long hand to brace his weight using Ji’s shoulder as one particular pose required him to balance on his new leg. Merlin’s determination shone through his face as he held his leg aloft and without any true awareness of what he was doing, Arthur’s hand fell to his achingly hard cock to give a firm squeeze. Merlin moved on in his sequence and Arthur’s breath became labored as the beauty that was Merlin washed over him in waves. Arthur wondered how he couldn’t have noticed it before. It was when Merlin turned, giving Arthur a delicious view of his pert arse that caused him to groan in appreciation and desire, that Arthur caught sight of Merlin’s dragon tattoo. Once again, it gave the illusion of flight as Merlin’s limber muscles caused it to ripple and wave and Arthur’s hand stilled, bringing his attention to just where his hand was, what it had been doing and who had caused it. Arthur wanted to be sick as he started backing away, horrified on so many levels by what he had done, what he had almost done. His breath coming in panicky spurts, Arthur started running.

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           Arthur ran, his thoughts matching pace with his pounding feet. Of course, of course he’d had urges. Youthful urges, when the slightest breeze could make you hard. Just because he had an equal number of sonnets in praise of Percival’s various bulges as Gwen’s tantalizing voluptuousness didn’t mean he was genuinely interested. It was part of being a youth, nothing more. Yet here he was, a man, lusting after another man. Not a man, a dragon! Arthur put on another burst of speed. Oh gods, and he thought he had betrayed his father before! These were the creatures that had killed his mother, whose memory resided solely in Arthur’s golden hair, bright smile, and care for their people. He was the keeper of her memory and he had tarnished it by craving her murderer. How could he ever look his father in the eye after what he had done. He wasn’t ready for this. Morgana had all but warned him but he didn’t want to face it. But the thoughts kept coming.

           His father, who had told him that dragons were senseless beings, barely capable of pain. yet Merlin had reason, he had likes and dislikes. Gwen said she had never had a more attentive pupil. And he had certainly experienced pain, excruciating pain at Arthur’s own hand. His father, who had told him that a dragon would kill you as soon as look at you but even when he had a knife to a defenseless Arthur’s throat, Merlin had chosen to let Arthur live. His father, who said dragons were evil, cruel beasts, incapable of thought or emotion. Yet Merlin was filled with emotions and he showed them boldly. Though he had never heard him speak, Arthur never wondered at what Merlin was thinking or feeling, for he wore it plain on his face. He had seen the joy when the children of the village teased him and got him to chase after them. The fascination as Ji told him of his travels, as no one in the village had gone farther than Ji. Arthur had even seen Merlin cry when a lamb had been born stillborn. Arthur had admonished him with words he knew by heart, “No one is worth your tears.” Merlin had shaken his head at that pronouncement, tears still streaming unchecked down his face as a new sort of sorrow furrowed his brow. Merlin was clearly no animal; he was all man.

           But-but, Merlin was different. Special. He had to be. But that didn’t mean Arthur was allowed to imagine what he was imagining. He owed his father that. His mother. He had betrayed them by offering refuge to a wounded dragon, betrayed them when he then befriended said dragon. It didn’t matter if it had felt right, it was wrong and this was the final line he could not cross. He could not want Merlin! Could not crave his heat pressed to Arthur, his smooth lips gliding across Arthur’s body, brushing a nipple then sucking kisses down his stomach. He could not imagine the feel of Merlin’s coiled strength beneath his hands as he explored Merlin’s willing body. He couldn’t! He tried to push the images away but it was like a dam had burst and all these images, once safely contained, now had free rein. Images of what he wanted to do to Merlin and what he wanted Merlin to do to him. It was as if, once acknowledged, they refused to be silenced any longer.

           Arthur gave an anguished gasp as his body collapsed. Tears threatened to spill but he could not cry, he could not cry. Arthur raised his head to the sky, cursing the gods for playing with him this way. Ranting and raving that they had cursed him to be such a failure, such a faithless rogue. It wasn’t enough and as his desperate eyes forsook the sky, they landed on his flinger.

      Somehow, in his sightless race, he had brought himself to the place it had all started. He stood at the place of his first disobedience, the place where he was supposed to have become a man his father could be proud of. Morgana’s caustic voice reverberated through his head, as clear as if she were standing right beside him, I could never suffer the rule of a second Uther, let alone be partnered with one.

        But immediately after her voice stopped, he heard a faint whispering that was still clearly Uther saying contemptuously, They’re monsters, Arthur, they don’t deserve our pity. And what did that make Arthur, if what he felt for one was not pity but something even more treacherous?

          Arthur snapped. He drew his knife and lunged at the flinger. He hacked and bellowed and when the knife didn’t quell the explosive rage inside him, he used his bare hands to rip the planks of wood apart. This, this thing was him, whoever that was, and he wouldn’t stand it, he couldn’t suffer it to stand one more second upon this earth. When nothing stood before him but splinters of wood and shattered glass, Arthur turned to the grass, ripping it up with his nails, accepting the pain of his mangled hands as his due. Arthur felt as if a hurricane were ripping through him, this powerful, uncontrollable force that would never be satisfied.

           But the storm did pass and brought with it clear skies and a moment of clarity. An exhausted Arthur sat back on his haunches and surveyed the massacre of wood that had once been his most prized invention. He knew that some version of himself lay dead there, within that rubble, but which Arthur was it? Which Arthur remained? A third and final choice stood before Arthur as he once again tried to imagine his father’s face as it beamed down at him with pride. As had happened with every previous attempt, he just couldn’t see that Uther’s face. Arthur tried harder, willing the face to crystalize but in its stead came Morgana’s likeness, face twisted with wry humor as he regaled her with the story of some adventure he’d had. Then it changed to the fearful concern he still remembered when the first horse he had ever tried to ride threw him from its back. She had cuddled him close and said it was alright to cry, but Arthur had known better and refused. Morgana’s likeness turned and there was Gaius standing before him with clear pride in his eyes as Arthur successfully completed his first solo project at the forge, his utilization of The Eyebrow when Arthur’s arrogance almost burnt his entire house to a crisp, and his voice, drifting up from a long forgotten childhood memory saying, A mistake is only unforgivable if we refuse to learn from it, son. And there was Ji, teaching him how to sail and how to read the stars so that he would never be lost and Gwen with her sky smiles and fierce loyalty.

         Uther’s blank visage imposed itself onto them, a distant sneer of weak echoing in Arthur’s head. Then Merlin’s smiling face broke through everything and filled Arthur’s entire vision.

         Love, said a voice that sounded…Arthur gasped as his throat constricted and pressure started to build behind his eyes…that sounded like Arthur’s own voice as image after image of Merlin played through Arthur’s mind. With one last valiant effort, Arthur tried to bring forth his father but then he saw Merlin as he first found him, bloody and crumpled on the forest floor, leg completely severed after only a twitch of Arthur’s finger and Arthur sobbed. Tears splashed onto his hands as his throat became sore, his body wracked with the force of his sobs. Arthur let himself cry.

 

 

       “You’re finally free of him.” Morgana stated as she opened the door for Arthur before he had even knocked. Arthur felt as small as a child as he slowly rubbed a bloody hand along his arm, following Morgana on legs that felt as wobbly as a newborn colt’s and allowing her hands to guide his head onto her shoulder, an action he hadn’t allowed since he was a child.

        “Is it really that simple?” Arthur asked into her collar, his voice muffled and hoarse.

        “No,” Morgana answered with conviction, “there are moments of doubt every day. But, with luck, they become easier and easier to overcome as you grow more comfortable with the person you want to be.” Morgana must have told Gwen what sort of state he’d be in, as he felt her gentle, competent hands encase his own, the fragrant sting of salve tickling his nose. He didn’t know how, but Gwen’s salves always yielded the best results and he knew that within even a few days, his hands would feel as if they’d never been injured at all. He didn’t see the barest flicker of gold as she called upon the last vestiges of her ancestors coursing through her blood as she carefully rubbed the salve into Arthur’s skin.

           “I’m so proud of you, Arthur.” Gwen said and, though he thought he’d shed them all up on that hill, Arthur let more tears flow as the two most important women in his life cradled him and let him know that it was all alright.

 

 

           Merlin found Arthur under a tall, golden tree—the place he had found Arthur often, as of late—drawing in his sketchbook. The injuries to Arthur’s hands were mostly pink new skin by now, though Arthur refused to tell Merlin how he got them. Merlin sat down beside Arthur and took the sketchbook wordlessly, the book flowing willingly out of Arthur’s hands.

           Arthur had been spending more time at his mother’s tree in the week since his world upended. Gaius had told him the story many times of how his mother had found this weak little sapling, struggling to survive. He had described how she had tended to it, cared for it, and imbued it with her prayers and dreams of the future, so that the gods might hear. And under her tender dedication, the sapling had grown tall and strong, carrying her voice up to the gods. As a youth, Arthur had come here a few times, to bow and pledge to her that he would avenge her death. Now, he sat under the golden branches trying to construct an image of who she was, as herself, without the filter of Uther. He thought she would’ve liked Merlin. He hoped so.

           Arthur watched Merlin’s hands as they paged through his sketchbook. The first thing Arthur had done once getting home after Morgana’s was burn all his sketches of twisted inventions of aerial death. He had then started this new book, sketching Merlin’s tattoo, shading and detailing different types of dragons, drawing them, not in fiercesome scenarios but just being. Remembering those previous sketches brought Arthur’s thoughts back to Uther.

           “Are all dragons like you, Merlin?” Arthur asked. As had become his habit, Merlin leaned in to rub his nose against Arthur’s neck. It usually lasted all of a second but this time, Merlin lingered, inhaling an audible breath. Arthur felt a bit of heat pool low in his belly but then Merlin pulled away and Arthur, accustomed to Merlin’s silences, thought that was the end of it.

           “You have not earned all of our secrets yet, Arthur.” Merlin said in a voice that was surprisingly only moderately deep with an amazing lilting accent that almost sounded like singing.

           “You talked.” said an incredulous Arthur as Merlin resumed his perusal of Arthur’s sketches.

           “Yes.” Merlin replied, giving Arthur a sly glance out of the corner of his eye.

           “I knew it! Oh-ho, Merlin, you…” Arthur stopped abruptly, mid-gloat, as he looked over and saw that Merlin was currently examining, with focused interest, a sketch Arthur had done of Merlin himself, laughing at something Ji had said as they both practiced their Tai Chi. It was a full-length sketch of Merlin and Arthur had worked really hard to get the shading just right to capture the unrestrained, full-bodied delight that was Merlin when he laughed.

           Arthur had thought, once he acknowledged he wanted to bed Merlin, that he would feel awkward around Merlin but in truth, nothing much had changed. Arthur still gloried in teasing Merlin, and being teased by Merlin, the easy camaraderie of their adventures was still there. It was as if this attraction had always been, so nothing was different. So, Arthur leaned back against his mother’s tree, a small smile touching his lips as he once again heard the soft scrape of pages being turned.

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           Arthur walked into his room to find Merlin sitting in his bed, the warm glow of the fireplace casting golden light onto his pale chest as Arthur’s fur blanket covered Merlin’s lower half. But Merlin’s new leg propped up against Arthur’s wall and the expectant look in Merlin’s eyes suggested to Arthur that Merlin was as naked below the blanket as he was above.

           Arthur slowly walked to the edge of his bed, drawn in by the desire plain in Merlin’s gaze. Arthur crawled onto the bed and came within a hair’s breadth of Merlin when he realized the circumstances they found themselves in. He had a stranded, wounded dragon in his bed, offering him exactly what he had only recently dared to want. He had to be sure.

           “Merlin, I don’t want you to feel like you have an obligation, that you have to” Arthur hadn’t even finished when a, yep, very naked Merlin pushed him onto his back and growled, “I never do anything I don’t want to do.” He punctuated his statement with a full-body glide, pressing his naked, and obviously aroused, body all along Arthur’s front. Arthur was struggling to find a response to that as his brain had suddenly shut down when Arthur saw uncertainty flash across Merlin’s face and shade his eyes. “Did I misunderstand?” Merlin asked, drawing back a little bit, “Do you not want me?”

           And there it was, the line he was never supposed to even approach, let alone cross. Morgana had been right; Arthur did have his moments of doubt. But this wasn’t one of them. He closed the distance between him and his dragon and pressed his lips, hard, against Merlin’s. He still felt the imprint of Merlin’s lips tingling against his own when he answered, “I want you.”

           A wicked smile spread across Merlin’s face as he lightly nipped Arthur’s throat before sliding his large hands up and under Arthur’s shirt, caressing Arthur’s chest as he brought the shirt up and over Arthur’s head. He tossed it away without either of them turning to look where it landed then turned to Arthur’s trousers. His trousers followed in the same way, his completely hard cock springing free and earning him a lascivious look from Merlin as he licked his lips. But Arthur was not destined to feel those gorgeous lips around his aching cock just yet as, once he had Arthur as naked as he, Merlin crouched low and lunged onto Arthur’s back, pushing him into the soft mattress, giving his shoulder a bite, and then spinning away.

           Dumbfounded, Arthur watched as Merlin crouched again, swaying slightly from side to side before leaping once more onto Arthur, leaving a bite on his pec this time. It took one more bite and retreat, to his flank this time, for Arthur to begin to understand the game. Soon Arthur, too, was crouching low on his bed, circling Merlin as he circled him. Arthur pounced, knocking Merlin flat on his back and scraping his teeth along that perfect neck that Merlin insisted on hiding with those stupid scarves. Arthur groaned as the momentum of his leap brought his and Merlin’s cocks together with delicious friction and he repeated the slow glide more deliberately at the sound of Merlin’s deep, appreciative groan. And then they were wrestling, their hands clawing along flanks, their teeth biting into muscle, their bodies pressing into each other as they tried to hold the other down. Merlin’s favorite move was to flip Arthur onto his back, press him down and do his, now very familiar move of rubbing his nose along Arthur’s neck. Arthur’s room filled with the sounds of their carefree laughter as they grew accustomed to the touch of the other, became familiar with the press of the other’s weight on top of them, and discovered which parts of the other’s body made their eyes darken with desire and their cocks pulse with precum and which parts were ticklish—ah! Stop that Merlin! Their wrestling turned to rubbing, sweat making their bodies slick as they matched their rhythms together, Merlin weaving his hand into Arthur’s hair, meeting Arthur’s eyes as Arthur thrust above him. Arthur could come just like this but the brief, feathery touch of Merlin’s other hand against the rim of Arthur’s hole suggested Merlin had something else in mind for the night. Arthur took the hand from his arse and gave the fingers a fervent kiss as he returned his gaze to Merlin and whispered, “I’m not ready yet. Not for that.” Merlin accepted that with a fiery kiss, his tongue boldly engaging Arthur’s own.

           Arthur’s mouth began to wander, brushing against Merlin’s perfect cheekbones before furthering his exploration downwards. He traced Merlin’s swirling tattoo with his tongue, following each bold line as they wove around Merlin’s shoulder. Arthur kissed along Merlin’s entire body, stopping at every scar he found, every mark that showed Merlin’s strength and power. On his neck, on his chest, further down until Arthur was nearly at Merlin’s slightly curved cock. But Arthur wasn’t quite ready for that either, and besides, he had another destination in mind at the moment.

           Arthur placed his hand on Merlin’s thigh, well above where the leg had severed, and slipped his hand a bare fraction lower, keeping his eyes trained on Merlin, trying to convey his question through them since words had deserted him. They had never spoken of it, but they both knew that Merlin knew it was Arthur who had shot him down that fateful night. Merlin’s abs tightened as he raised himself up, picked up Arthur’s hand with both of his own and kissed Arthur’s fingers with the same reverence Arthur had kissed Merlin’s. Then slowly, gently, he pressed Arthur’s hand right where his leg abruptly ended. Arthur splayed his hand along the, now smooth, skin; you would have thought the injury an old one. Arthur split his attention between Merlin’s face and his own hand. He saw as Merlin’s gaze turned towards the ceiling, confusion marring his brow.

           “This ok?” Arthur asked, stilling his hand. “Ye-yeah,” Merlin answered, though he didn’t sound certain. “It’s just sensitive.”

           “Good sensitive or bad sensitive?” Arthur asked, about to lift his hand away when Merlin once again met his gaze and said, “I don’t know yet, it’s still too new. But you don’t have to stop. I’ll tell you if it becomes too much.” Feeling as if a coil had released within his stomach, Arthur resumed his exploration. It was a clean cut but the thick muscle above it highlighted just how changed Merlin was. Arthur pressed an apologetic kiss to the scar that was his own doing.

           Merlin’s erection had wilted a little but seeing Arthur turn away in shame, his own erection starting to wane, Merlin said, “Hey, none of that.” and brought his hand to his cock, splaying his legs wide to give Arthur a perfect view. Merlin’s grip on his cock was firm, sure, as he pumped the quickly hardening cock with a steady motion. His other hand came up to lightly play with his nipples, first pressing one, then the other, his pinches becoming harder as his pace on his cock quickened. Following Merlin’s lead, Arthur came up onto his knees and used the strong muscles of his arse` to thrust his hips forward, plunging his cock in and out of the loose ring he made with his hand. The sensation was familiar and comfortable, the addition of another man’s frantic breathing bringing an extra shock to his building pleasure. His orgasm was coming up fast and, judging by the choppy breaths escaping Merlin, he wasn’t going to last much longer either. Arthur spread his legs and started massaging his balls, feeling the exquisite pressure build until he reached just a bit further, gave his perineum a pinch, and came, throwing his head back with a satisfied hum.

           Arthur opened his eyes to see that Merlin had stopped his own movements to watch Arthur come. Once their gazes once again collided, Merlin started again full force. When Merlin came, his eyes stayed open and turned a brilliant gold. His gaze challenged Arthur’s but Arthur didn’t think he had ever seen anything hotter.

           Later that night, as they lay wrapped around each other, Merlin once again pressed his face close and briefly rubbed his nose along Arthur’s neck. Curiosity compelled Arthur to ask, “Ok, Merlin” Arthur said as he arched his back in a luxurious full-body stretch, drawing Merlin’s appreciative eye, “What’s with the sniffing? Why do you always do that? What do I smell like to you?”

           “Well, right now you smell like gross sweat.” Merlin replied.

           “I think I preferred you when you didn’t talk” Arthur growled, giving Merlin’s arse a light slap. Merlin simply grinned and continued,

           “Right now, you smell like sweat and me.” Heat once again darkened Merlin’s blue eyes as he said, “It’s quite intoxicating. But under that,” Merlin paused and Arthur asked, “It this one of those dragon secrets I haven’t earned yet?” Slowly, Merlin replied, “I think you’ve earned this one.” Taking a big breath, Merlin finally answered, “Under that is your true scent, a scent unmarred by the spilling of dragon blood. We can smell when we’ve met a human who has taken the life of one of our kin. This whole village reeks of it. But you, your scent remains clean. I couldn’t believe it, when I caught that fresh scent coming from you as you helped me that first day. I couldn’t understand how an obvious killer like you could fool my senses like that. I thought it must be some kind of trick. I watched you. I watched as you helped your people, I saw how deeply you care, and I came to accept that it wasn’t a trick. And each time I check,” Merlin whispered, once again rubbing his nose along Arthur’s neck, “it remains the same.” Merlin slowly rubbed his hand over Arthur’s heart as Arthur felt as if Merlin was about to hand him the moon itself. “You really are that good and my fellow kin have never met their fate at your hand.” Arthur lay there frozen, the world slightly spinning. The one thing he had thought would define him as a man, the one kill he had thought would bring him everything he wanted, would have lost him Merlin. What he had once looked on with shame, as evidence of his failure, Merlin saw as good and evidence of his worthiness. Arthur had never been surer he had made the right choice than he was in that very moment, with a contented nightfury in his arms.

 

 

           After that night, Arthur and Merlin couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Arthur would be going about his business when he would be set upon from behind by a nightfury. He would quickly find a face buried in his neck while a strong hand would plunge down the front of his trousers to set a brutal pace on his cock as Arthur ground his arse into Merlin’s own throbbing shaft. Or, Arthur would be walking through the village only to be pulled between the houses, his trousers pulled down to mid-thigh as a kneeling Merlin would swallow his cock to the root, burying his nose in Arthur’s pubic hair and breathing deep because apparently—fuck!—dragons have no gag reflex. And Arthur was just as handsy with Merlin, often pulling Merlin’s hideous scarf from his long throat and mouthing along Merlin’s long neck, which Arthur had found to be extremely sensitive. Arthur would also have his turn on his knees and, though he couldn’t take as much of Merlin as Merlin could of him, Merlin’s shouts as he came hinted to Arthur that he didn’t particular mind. Soon, there was almost nothing Merlin and Arthur hadn’t tried. Arthur had briefly worried about the villager’s reactions to Arthur and Merlin’s budding relationship but all he got were indulgent smiles and some gentle ribbing about putting on quite a show. In fact, the longer Uther’s absence became, the more Arthur’s people seemed to smile.

 

 

           Arthur was ready. He and Merlin had discussed it, at length, and Arthur felt he was ready. He’d already felt Merlin’s fingers enter him and once, very memorably, Merlin’s tongue. His recovery must be progressing because, while pushing into Arthur, Merlin’s tongue had suddenly elongated, way past the length of any human tongue. A dragon’s tongue must also be made of stronger stuff than a human’s for Merlin had pressed his tongue, hard, into that spot within Arthur that Arthur had never known existed but vociferously thanked the gods for creating as the sensations if produced caused Arthur to come without even touching his cock. He knew how talented Merlin was with his mouth and now he wanted to know what talents and sensations he could produce with his cock.

           There was a charge in the air between them as Arthur climbed into bed, already achingly hard as his body anticipated the new pleasures about to be revealed to him tonight. They had both pleasured themselves earlier in the day, to take some of the urgency away from their need, so that they could take their time in the night.

           Arthur’s jaw was starting to tire as he slowly worshipped Merlin’s cock, sinking his mouth down until the cockhead pushed just passed the opening of his throat, then hollowing his cheeks as he slowly guided his head back up, until his lips were pursed around just the tip. It took all of Arthur’s concentration to keep this steady rhythm up as Merlin’s wicked, and once again extended, tongue kept trying to drive him to distraction, buried, as it was, deep within Arthur’ arse. Merlin had already used his fingers to stretch Arthur but he insisted on making Arthur as loose and wet as possible. That is how Arthur found himself atop a dragon with said dragon’s cock in his mouth while he had his arse pressed into said dragon’s face, his body rocking unconsciously into the delicious heat that was Merlin’s mouth and tongue. The press of Merlin’s lips right at the rim of his hole was electric and, every so often, Merlin would snap his teeth around Arthur’s rim, causing Arthur’s cock to jump in pleasure.

           When Merlin deemed Arthur open to his satisfaction, he once again inserted well-oiled fingers into Arthur’s hole, giving them a final twist before urging Arthur to turn around. He handed Arthur the jar of special oil that Gaius had insisted on supplying them with which Arthur took with a shaky exhale. Arthur spilled some oil onto his hand so that he could run it along Merlin’s cock, giving a firm squeeze before lining it up with Arthur’s hole. Because of Merlin’s legs, they had decided that Arthur would ride Merlin but the angle was all wrong. Arthur couldn’t figure out how to take Merlin all the way in and the pain of it was starting to threaten his erection. Giving a frustrated growl, Merlin spun Arthur onto his back, hooked Arthur’s legs over Merlin’s shoulders and pressed close, bearing his weight with his hands.

           “I will not have you injure yourself because of my body.” Merlin snarled and he placed his weight onto his left hand as he used his right to line up his cock and start to press into Arthur. Pretty quickly he had to lay his head down upon Arthur’s should to keep himself up, blocking Arthur’s view of Merlin’s cock disappearing inside of him but, oh, he could feel it. Merlin was about the same size as Arthur but he felt huge as the pressure of his slowly entering cock stretched Arthur wide. The pressure built and built until Arthur felt a jolt to the spot and the slap of Merlin’s balls against his arse. Then both of Merln’s hands were once again by Arthur’s head, enveloping Arthur within his strong arms so that, it was like the whole world was made of Merlin as he started a slow glide of his body, pushing his cock deeper into Arthur with each forward thrust of his hips, his stomach providing wonderful friction to Arthur’s cock.

           The sensation of Merlin’s cock steadily fucking in and out of him was overwhelming and Arthur saw the bulge and bunch of Merlin’s arms as he increased his pace and yet held his weight up to stop from crushing Arthur. It was a marvelous display and Arthur was vocal in his appreciation as Merlin continually hit that one spot within Arthur that set the world on fire.

           Dragon though he was, Merlin’s strength was not infinite, especially in a position where he was most decidedly unaccustomed to having only one leg to work with. So, he was nowhere near to being done in reducing Arthur to a mindless, sweaty mess when his arms started to give out. Arthur whimpered as Merlin withdrew, and Merlin was most definitely going to remind him of that when the night was through, but Merlin himself was too excited to return to the tight paradise he had found in Arthur to tease him about it now. Instead, he turned Arthur onto his side, took himself in hand, and pushed back in to that glorious, hot clench. Merlin placed his hand over Arthur’s heart, the other finding itself in Arthur’s hair, as Merlin once again began to thrust, his balls making an obscene slapping sound as they connected with Arthur’s arse. Arthur made the most wonderful, uninhibited sounds as he took Merlin’s cock and someday, Merlin was going to have to do this in the air, with nothing to support them but his wings. But for now, Merlin moved the hand on Arthur’s chest down to his hip so he could grab on and start to truly pound into that perfect arse that took him so greedily. Arthur came first, as he was amazingly sensitive and Merlin followed shortly after. They both fell asleep with Merlin still buried deep inside Arthur.

Chapter Text

           Uther’s raiding party had returned, shattering Merlin and Arthur’s peaceful idyll. With him, he had brought a new ally and Arthur could hear the crazed bellow of a trapped dragon even from the cliffs where he waited for the returning raiders. Merlin might not know what that all meant but Arthur did. There would be a dragon killing tonight.

           Arthur didn’t know how he would react to seeing his father again, after all that had transpired. Facing the man when a clench of his arsecheeks still brought a pleasant sting from his romp with a dragon the night before would probably feel pretty fucking weird, right? Arthur thought he might see Uther differently, that he might seem older or stoop-shouldered. Or, perhaps Arthur might feel more confident, now that he no longer sought this man’s approbation. Instead, he still saw his father, as Uther strode proudly towards him and Arthur felt a sense of foolish hope swell in his chest at the sight of the smile gracing his father’s face. Only to have it immediately squashed, as Uther turned it to their new ally, Grug, and boasted of the many advantages Berk had to offer.

 

 

           The feast was a merry thing, as the villagers indulged in their cups and it was probably Arthur’s own strain to keep up the façade that made him think some of the villager’s smiles looked a little forced. Arthur had to sit with Uther and Grug while Merlin was at the next table over, sitting with Gaius and Ji, who had quite adopted him. As the hour grew nearer and nearer, Arthur started to break out into a cold sweat, desperately trying to figure out how he was going to unsuspiciously excuse Merlin and himself from the highlight of the new alliance feast. He didn’t think Merlin could stand by and watch his kin be murdered. For that matter, he wasn’t certain he could either. Then, the night got impossibly worse.

           “Your young lad there will have the honor, of course.” Grug said, as he and Uther discussed the details of the dragon killing. Arthur waited for Uther to demure, as he always had a million excuses on hand to keep Arthur out of the kill ring. For once, Arthur wasn’t going to complain. But a sly little smirk across Grug’s face suggested he knew what Uther was going to try to do and was daring him to go through with it.

           “Come now,” Grug continued, “We must see what kind of men we are allying ourselves with. If men, they be.” Arthur turned incredulous eyes towards Uther, convinced he had hallucinated his father’s voice saying,

           “Go fetch your clippers, son.” Now?! Now Uther saw him as a man, as his son worthy of taking down a dragon? What happened to Arthur being the last remnant of his mother, a precious thing that needed to be kept away and hoarded? There was no way this was happening, there was no way Uther would let this happen!

           “Don’t stare at me like a simpleton, boy. Go!” Like a sleepwalker, Arthur went. He found his mother’s clippers shoved under his bed and, in a daze, strapped them to his belt.

           The whole village was already gathered around the kill ring, Grug and Uther sitting in seats of honor, with the best view into the pit below. Merlin saw Arthur’s approach and took a worried half-step towards him until he saw the weapon dangling from Arthur’s side. Disgust replaced the concern on Merlin’s face and Arthur wanted to throw up as Merlin’s gaze once again met his, despair and horror mixed within his eyes.

           Arthur couldn’t think, couldn’t speak, but his feet just kept carrying him forward and,

Blink.

           He was at the entrance to the kill ring and,

Blink.

           He was facing a snarling dragon. His time was up.

           The dragon was big and angry, first climbing all about the cage, trying to find a weak link that could bring about his release. When none was found, he supposed he would have to go through the little, quivering human. Arthur watched the dragon’s calculated approach and unstrapped the clippers. The leather felt like it was searing into his flesh and he saw as the dragon’s eyes narrowed on the weapon. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Arthur tossed the clippers away from him, to the side and where they could do no more damage.

           “I’m not like them.” Arthur stated emphatically. Distantly, he heard Uther shout something but he was focused on the dragon, whose head had perked up at Arthur’s actions. Arthur extended his hand out, bending it so that his wrist jutted forward, hoping the dragon could smell just how thoroughly Arthur belonged to one of his brethren. But then a jarring clang rent the air, piercing into the dragon’s skull and sending him into a rage as Uther yelled, “Stop the fight!” The dragon was thrashing around and, oh, shit, yeah, he needed to get out of there. Racing towards the exit of the pit, Arthur suddenly heard a high-pitched shriek and then there were black limbs and long, elegant wings joining the fray as people yelled, “Nightfury!”

           Merlin got the rampaging dragon safely back into its cage but Uther and his raiders were relentless and they quickly had Merlin surrounded, pinning him down by his wings before he had a chance to escape.

           “No, don’t hurt him!” Arthur shouted. Uther snarled, raising his ax as he shouted, “Don’t you dare look away, boy. You need to see this.” Arthur was reaching for the knife at his boot, wondering if he was truly going to throw it, when Gaius put a staying hand to Uther’s arm and whispered something into his ear that caused Uther to slowly lower his weapon.

           “You’re certain?” Uther probed and Gaius was steady in his reply of, “The texts were most specific.”

           “Fine. Lock it up.” Uther ordered, leaning close to Merlin and digging his boot into Merlin’s neck. “Tomorrow you lead us to your nest, devil.” Uther growled. Merlin tried to snap the foot clean off but received the slash of a whip for his troubles. Arthur wanted to race to him but was suddenly just as pinned down as Merlin—at Uther’s command.

           “He’ll need to be locked up as well. The beast has clearly ensorcelled him. Until his heart is once again true, we cannot risk him walking free.” Uther declared.

           Arthur had no clear memory of what he said as they dragged him away from Merlin, just that, by the time he heard the rumbling tumble of the lock falling into place, his throat felt strained, raw, and almost as if it were bleeding.

 

 

           “Arthur.” a voice whispered, jolting Arthur out of his blankness and causing his gaze to whip towards the door. There was a sudden clanking sound and then Gaius was filling the doorway. “Come, Arthur. Morgana and Gwen are distracting the guards. We’ve got to get to Merlin.” Not needing to be told twice, Arthur followed Gaius as they both rushed to the cage where Merlin was being kept. Gaius stood watch as Arthur charged in. Only, Merlin wasn’t in the cage, he was free and currently standing over an unconscious, or dead, body. Arthur must have made a sound because Merlin turned to look his way. When he saw Arthur, Arthur suddenly had a charging nightfury heading straight for him. Before Arthur could even think of running, or screaming, there was a flash and Arthur’s arms were filled with his familiar Merlin.

           “I didn’t want to hurt him, Arthur, I swear,” A gasping Merlin explained, “He tried to hurt me, I was just defending myself.” Arthur shushed the near sobbing Merlin as he once again glanced over to the body of the man clearly doing a terrible job of guarding Merlin.

           “I’m sure it was, love.” Arthur said, “Shh, it’s alright. That’s just fucking Valiant, a right prick if ever there was one and not someone to worry over. What we need to do is get you out of here before it’s too late.” Arthur pulled on Merlin but Merlin refused to budge. “Where I’m going, you can’t follow me, Arthur.”

           “I know that, but you’ll be alive.” Arthur reasoned, once again trying to drag Merlin away with him, refusing to dwell too long on the vice clenched tight around his heart. Merlin looked up at Arthur’s home, eyes darkening as if he could see Uther across the long distance and through the thick, wooden walls.

           “I won’t be gone long,” Merlin said, his voice taking on a kind of dazed quality, similar, though not quite the same, as what happened when Morgana used her Sight. “For Uther won’t live past the year and under the rule of Arthur and Morgana, dragons will once again rest easy on the shore.” Merlin gaze a rapid few blinks, then started walking briskly. This time, it was Arthur who held Merlin up short as he asked, “What are you going to do, Merlin?” Merlin returned to Arthur’s side and took his face between his hands, touching his forehead to Arthur’s.

           “I promise you this, Arthur Pendragon. Uther will not die by my hand. But his death is nigh as his hatred is an infection upon this land that must be lanced. Everyone here is drawn into it as if drones compelled by the force of the queen. It must end.” Arthur closed his eyes in acceptance and when they met up with a waiting Gaius, Merlin rushed into strong, waiting arms for a fierce hug. He refused to say goodbye to Arthur, determined to see him again very soon. Then, there was a flash and Merlin was once again the nightfury. Arthur took his first, clear look at the other form his Merlin took. It was long and svelte, a stunning black that had an iridescent quality to it. Arthur felt a compulsion to touch, to run his hand along those perfectly laid scales, but there was no time for appreciation; Merlin was pushing off from the ground and propelling himself through the sky. The nightfury was quickly swallowed up by the night sky but Arthur saw enough of those powerful wings lifting a graceful body through the crisp night air to think that dragons were pure magic.

 

 

           Merlin proved true to his word; Uther did not live another year. He did not live to see the new year, even, as dragons laid a frighteningly coordinated attack upon Berk in broad daylight. The majority of the dragons drew the villagers out, away from their inland homes and out towards the rough sea. As more and more of the villagers deserted him, Uther started to pace and rave, challenging any dragon to face its death. A pure white dragon that could easily hide within the clouds above Uther’s head peppered Uther with fire blasts, shooting just behind him or just to the side, driving him further and further up the hill upon which his home resided. And with each near miss, after which she would vanish and provide Uther with no true target to retaliate against, he became more and more enraged. His shots became sloppy, he extended his arms higher and higher above his head. Finally, he extended himself too far, exposed too much of his armor’s weaknesses and forgot, in his madness, the first cardinal rule of dragon training: always count the shots. With her final blast, the white dragon’s aim was true, her flames finding the exposed weaknesses in Uther’s defenses until Uther was nothing more than a pile of ash encased in metal. With that, the dragons flew away and Arthur stood, having lost both his parents at the claws of a dragon.

           Arthur had given thought to how he would feel at Uther’s death, especially given his advanced warning that could have prevented the whole thing from occurring. He thought he might feel despair and anguish. Or, perhaps angry and blood-thirsty vengeance. Unlikely. Most of all, he was worried that he might feel like he had let his father down, that he would forget what had led to Uther’s demise and bitterly regret his lost opportunities. But in the moment that Uther fell, Arthur was more relieved to see Gaius, his eyebrows slightly singed but his stride confident and strong as he made his way towards his smithy. As Uther’s ashes slowly cooled, a smile pulled at Arthur’s lips as he saw Ji taking command of the water brigade, his words calm yet forceful as he kept the younger members from panicking. And as the wind swept away whatever remained of Uther Pendragon, Arthur let out a breathless laugh as he stumbled upon Morgana and Gwen locked in a passionate kiss before turning around and leaving them to it. The sun hadn’t even begun to set, Uther was dead and Arthur was king. But what mattered most to Arthur and filled him to overflowing was the knowledge that Merlin would be returning to him soon.

Chapter Text

           Arthur strode amongst the villagers as they once again started the rebuilding process after a dragon attack. But something was different, there was a subtle change to the body language of his people as they once again gathered wood, hammered and thatched, building new houses on the island that had been their home for generations. Arthur had to admit, once again, that Merlin had been right—though he’d never tell him that to his face, of course. For it seemed that, with Uther’s death, the village was, for the first time in Arthur’s memory, filled with hope. And it was all Arthur’s fault because he had been the first Viking who wouldn’t kill a dragon.

           “First to ride one, though.”

           “Huh? What’re you talki…” Arthur turned to see Morgana give him a saucy wink. Understanding dawning, a horrified Arthur shouted at a gleefully retreating Morgana, “Morgana! Stop perving on Merlin and me with your Sight!”