Harlequin's Slash Fic

Our Best Intentions

Title: Our Best Intentions
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Merlin, Gaius
Category, Word count: PWP; 1,040 words
Rating: PG
Summary: Merlin knew he’d done the right thing in having Gaius’s love Alice arrested. So why couldn’t he sleep that night?
Notes: A follow-up to episode 309 Love in the Time of Dragons, for the Merlin Canon fest 2018.

Our Best Intentions

Merlin hadn’t managed to fall asleep easily, and then he’d been restless with troubled dreams, and now he was lying there in his narrow bed, wide awake despite it being the darkest hours of the night. He wondered if was due to guilt or sorrow, regret or confusion, or maybe he was disturbed by some residual energy here in this room where he and Gaius had together used magic to defeat the manticore.

Gaius using magic … that had been something to behold! His skills were a bit rusty with disuse, of course, but the results were splendid and powerful … In every moment of his life, Gaius carefully hid so much of himself behind a solemn mask. It was no wonder the people of Camelot – even his lifelong friend Uther – underestimated him. Even Merlin undervalued him at times, though he knew well enough there was joy to be found behind the dry, serious manner. He knew there was a true treasure of love stored away beneath the calm physician’s care and concern. And beyond that, Merlin had discovered in the wake of Alice’s coming and going that Gaius’s old heart still beat with the possibilities of a romantic love, too. Intriguing …

The soft sound of logs resettling in the fireplace caught Merlin’s attention – and seeing as he was awake anyway, he might as well get up and make sure all was well. If an ember escaped the hearth and the whole tower burned down, Merlin did not want to be the one to blame. It would probably mean a year in the stocks.

Merlin dragged himself out of bed, and padded barefoot down into the main room – where he found that Gaius was also awake, sitting on a bench before the fireplace with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He was just setting a poker aside, so obviously all was well with the fire itself. Gaius, perhaps … not so much.

“You’re awake,” Merlin noted as he walked closer.

Gaius shifted a little to look at him, clumsy with the stiffness that came from sitting in one position for too long a time. “And you, as well,” Gaius replied evenly. “Is anything troubling you, Merlin?”

He almost guffawed. Where should he start? Guilt. Sorrow. Regret. Confusion. Love. Magic. Intrigue. … But Gaius had asked in his dry physician’s voice, not even his concerned fatherly tone, so Merlin replied in kind. “Just couldn’t sleep. You?”

Gaius sighed a little, very quietly. “I couldn’t sleep, either.” He patted the bench beside him. “You could come and sit with me for a while, if you like. An old man’s conversation will have you nodding off soon enough.”

Merlin did laugh, then. “Only if you start talking about anatomy!” But once he’d settled beside Gaius, and stretched out his legs so his feet were toasty warm, they both gazed into the flames and neither ventured a word.

Memories and ideas swirled through Merlin’s head, but it all seemed too difficult, too chaotic, to trust to language. He felt better for sitting there, though. It was reassuring to know that, despite everything, he and Gaius remained friends.

Eventually another small sigh escaped Gaius, as if the man were too lost in his thoughts to be aware of it. And that somehow made it easier for Merlin to quietly say, “You miss her, don’t you?”

Gaius glanced at him, and then returned his steady gaze to the fire. “Yes. More than I can say. But perhaps that is inevitable.” He paused for a moment, as if searching for the essence of the thing, or for courage. “Alice and I always shared the same goals. But we never did agree on the methods required to achieve them. Perhaps that would have always divided us.”

“I’m sorry,” Merlin said, moved beyond his own concerns by this poignant grief.

Gaius nodded an acknowledgement, but remained stoically silent.

At which Merlin found himself blurting, “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry I –” Betrayed you. Turned in your love.

“Never mind, Merlin,” Gaius said wearily. “I know you were only trying to protect me.”

“I was. It’s true, I swear it. I was only thinking of you – and not of –” Merlin turned towards Gaius a little too wildly, and ended up sliding off the narrow bench onto his knees. He cried, “It wasn’t revenge!”

“Revenge?” Gaius seemed utterly confounded. “Against Alice? Did you really resent her so much?”

“No! I mean – revenge against you. For …” He could hardly even say her name, after all these months. All these years. Since Gaius had betrayed Merlin and turned her in. “For Freya.”

“Oh, Merlin,” Gaius said, with nothing but sorrow colouring his voice. He lifted a hand to run back over Merlin’s hair, and then to shape to his head in a blessing. “Of course not. Don’t even think such things.”

Merlin collapsed to rest his forehead against Gaius’s knee. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled again.

Gaius had settled into stroking his hair now, as if knowing that words could never be enough to heal such hurts. After a while, though, he murmured, “Did you never forgive me, then?”

“Yes,” said Merlin. “No. No – yes, I forgave you. But it was hard.”

“I know. I know, my dear.” Gaius sighed. “We were only taking care of each other – for we couldn’t take care of ourselves. It’s not in a heart that truly loves, to betray that love. We each needed a friend to do it for us.”

And Merlin wept then, with Gaius’s benevolent hands upon him, until Gaius’s robe was wet with tears.

Eventually Merlin was done, and he twisted around to curl up against Gaius’s sturdy leg with his head pillowed on Gaius’s thigh, and together they gazed into the flames. “It’s hard,” Merlin said, his voice more ravaged than he’d anticipated. “It’s hard, when you mean well, and –”

“I know. I know, my dear. Even our best intentions can cause harm, Merlin. Even love can lead us astray. It hurts to learn these lessons – but learn them we must.”

Merlin sighed – a gusty affair when compared with Gaius’s gentleness. But at last he felt peace enough to drift into sleep, and – he discovered hours later, in the cool light of dawn – Gaius was far too kind to move him.

Posted in: Gen fic, Merlin

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