A/N: First of all, your response was amazing. Thank you. Secondly, I received a request for a sequel. Although originally I had intended for this to be a oneshot, an idea sparked and here we are. Hopefully this part will live up to its predecessor.

. . . . .

"Arthur, you're looking at me funny. Why are you looking at me funny?"

Arthur picked at his breakfast. "Don't be ridiculous, Merlin." It was a king's prerogative to avoid answering questions if he wanted to.

Particularly questions with answers like this one had.

"Is this about Agravaine?" Merlin asked with unusual hesitance.

Agravaine was bad enough. He'd been killed in an escape attempt not a week back, but no, this wasn't about him.

It was natural, he supposed, so soon after one betrayal to have nightmares of others doing likewise. So the first night's nightmare had made sense.

. . . . .

The last bandit collapsed under a falling tree branch. By this point, Arthur just accepted it.

Except Merlin had been standing right behind him, hand outstretched and eyes glowing gold.

He lowered his hand and laughed nervously. "I thought that branch looked shaky. Good thing I shoved him under it."

Arthur nodded like he accepted the excuse, but he knew what he had seen.

Merlin was a sorcerer.

"Let's go," he managed to force out. It must have sounded natural enough to Merlin, because he grinned in relief and turned to go.

Magic corrupted. How long had it had its hooks in his friend? How long since his good heart had been turned? Or was it still pure, still good for a little while longer?

By law, the flames had to claim him either way.

The very thought sickened him. He couldn't.

He couldn't let a sorcerer roam free in Camelot either.

Arthur hadn't sheathed his sword. He left it loose in his hand as he strode after the cheerfully chattering manservant.

In. Out. The blade dripped red down onto the leaves.

Merlin never felt a thing.

The law said you couldn't mark a sorcerer's grave. Arthur decided then and there it was a stupid law. He'd have to change it when he got back to Camelot, right after he'd gotten Gaius to examine him. He must have gotten a concussion somehow. His vision was blurry.

Gaius. Gwaine. Hunith. He'd have to tell them -

I killed your son. I killed your friend. I killed your ward.

Actually, he might as well say, I killed your son, twice. It would hit Gaius as hard.

No, there wasn't a trial. But he killed a bandit with magic, so I snuck up behind him. It was quick. The blade went right in. I think I buried him beneath this tree. Or was it that one? I can't remember.

Arthur collapsed to his knees, acid burning up his throat. He gagged, throwing up the contents of his stomach as he hadn't since his very first kill.

He was talking about lunch. He was saying all the excitement had made him hungry, and he was talking about lunch before he got distracted by some birds. He had that look on his face, all wide eyed wonder. I know because he was turning to look at me, smiling in that way he had, and he saw -

He saw. He knew. He saw.

He said, "Arthur?"

What was it he'd told Merlin once? No man is worth your tears. No man. Especially not a servant. Especially not a sorcerer. Especially not a traitor.

Arthur sobbed.

. . . . .

Merlin had apparently given up on getting a response. "Right, well, you've got training in an hour, so why don't I make sure your sword's - "

"No!" The choked cry was out before Arthur could stop to consider that Merlin's shows of initiative with his chores were rare enough that Arthur should probably be encouraging this, not shouting at him to stop. "I'll get it."

"Arthur, are you alright? You don't have a fever, do you?" Merlin's eyes had narrowed, and he'd grabbed Arthur's arm and put a hand to his forehead before he could stop him. "You're freezing. Sit down. I'll stoke the fire up."

. . . . .

There had been a trial. It was perfectly legal. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that he was guilty.

Or, rather, no doubt he'd used magic. Gwaine had made it quite clear that magic didn't translate to guilt in his book.

But Gwaine was in the dungeons now, and Merlin was in the courtyard. Arthur was above it all on the balcony, and he wished he was anywhere else.

When his arm fell, it did so without his permission. It was acting on its own. He was merely an observer. Detached. Proper. Implacable.

He stayed that way until the torch was thrown. Until the flames licked up the wood. Until Merlin"s eyes somehow, impossibly, connected with his, until Merlin's screams rent the air, until he realized what it was he was screaming, Arthur, always Arthur, because that's what, to Merlin, he'd always been. Arthur.

And Arthur was no longer detached, or proper, or any of those things. Arthur was screaming and thrashing and trying to get to his best friend who was being burned alive. Who was screaming for him, who needed him, right now -

But Arthur was imprisoned, chained by a crown and a cold kingly exterior that couldn't be allowed to crack.

Not even when the screams stopped and the body was cut down to be tossed out with the rubbish, and a small, broken voice whispered that Merlin had died thinking he didn't care.

That was the last he heard from that voice. It got thrown out with Merlin, and a proper, cold, shell of a king began his empty reign.

. . . . .

"Arthur? Arthur, you're scaring me. Did you sit up all night with the reports again? When was the last time you slept?"

He didn't want to sleep. Sleep brought dreams, and those were never good. Not anymore. He thought he might have mumbled something to that effect, because something like comprehension was spreading over Merlin's face, and he was rushing over to the bed as soon as he'd eased Arthur back into his chair.

. . . . .

Exiling Merlin had seemed like a good idea at the time, although for the life of him, he couldn't remember why. True, it was better than the alternatives, but it wasn't all that long ago that a dream had forced him to consider life with Merlin gone, and that dream hadn't exactly been pleasant.

Well, Agravaine was gone, so Morgana hadn't taken over again. Yet.

He had to add the yet because the last few patrols hadn't gone well, and he was starting to wonder if maybe Merlin's claims that he'd been protecting the kingdom might have had some truth to them.

Even if it hadn't been for that, life seemed . . . empty with him gone. Like something had been torn from him. An amputation, of sorts, like Merlin had been an essential part of him somehow, and now that he was gone, he had to spend the rest of his life crippled, trying to make up for the loss.

It wasn't working.

He'd been through - Actually, how many servants had he gone through since then? Did it matter?

The latest one brought him a tray of food. He ate it mechanically. If the taste was a bit off, he didn't notice.

He did, however, notice the flames that were racing through his veins.

Apparently the number of replacements did matter. Morgana had managed to slip an assassin into the job.

As the darkness closed over him, he wondered if Guinevere and Merlin would ever hear of it in their exile.

He wondered if they'd care if they did.

. . . . .

Merlin was under his bed. Why was Merlin under his bed?

"Come on, it's got to be mandrake root, it's got to be! Okay, okay, so it's not mandrake. What is it?" He started flinging the blankets off the bed.

Arthur's head dropped towards his desk. He was so tired . . .

. . . . .

"I can explain."

Arthur looked down at his armor. It was currently on the floor. A moment ago, it had been in midair, being industriously polished by various cleaning implements and only in the most indirect of senses by Merlin.


"Yes, sire?"

"You're fired."

"As in, permanently and completely fired, or as in, you'll cool down in a day or two and plop your armor down on Gaius's table while I'm eating fired?"

"I haven't decided yet."

No sooner had Merlin shut the door to his room then an assassin burst from the shadows.

Really, Arthur had rather expected it.

. . . . .

"Arthur? Arthur, wake up! I found it! There was a poultice under your pillow. And before you ask why I didn't notice before when I was making your bed, there was a really strong concealment charm on it."

"That's good." Arthur's head nodded towards the table again.

"Hey! Let's get you to the bed first, alright?" Merlin helped him over. Not that it was necessary, of course. Arthur meant to sway like that.

"Dollophead," Merlin said fondly.

. . . . .

For the first time in two weeks, it wasn't a nightmare that woke Arthur up. Instead, it was Merlin being his clumsy self. Apparently the idiot had dropped something. From the sound of it, the unknown object had shattered.

He glanced towards the bed. Apparently he thought Arthur was still asleep, because he whispered a word in the language of the Old Religion, and his eyes glowed gold. Shards of a vase flew up into the air and mended themselves before settling on the table.

Arthur blinked and pinched himself just to make sure this wasn't another dream.

It wasn't.

"You're a sorcerer." After two weeks of nightmare reveals, he couldn't muster up much outrage over it.

Merlin jumped. His mouth worked furiously as he tried to come up with an excuse.

"Don't bother," Arthur said tiredly as he got out of the bed. He wandered over to the vase and poked it. "Huh. Not even a crack."

"You're taking this rather well," Merlin managed.

"I've had a lot of practice." A thought occurred to him. He frowned. "You weren't the one who put the poultice in my bed, were you?"

"What? No!"

Given what he'd seen earlier today, Arthur believed him. "Good." He looked around. "What time is it?"

Merlin looked to be in a state of shock. "Er. Noon. Ish. Am I under arrest?"

"Not at the moment, no."

"Are you going to exile me?"

"You never really thought I meant it, did you? Good grief, Merlin, if I was going to exile you for dropping something, you wouldn't have lasted a day."

"I meant for the magic, you prat!"

"Not for that either. Particularly as I suspect the same statement would hold true. You're not fired either if that was what you were about to ask."

" . . . Stocks?" Merlin tried.

Huh. He hadn't had a chance to try that one. Then again, given his track record . . .

Arthur cuffed him around the head and was mildly surprised when the action didn't cause immediate and painful doom. "There. Consider yourself punished. Now sit down and tell me everything."

Somewhere, the sorceress watched from her scrying bowl and smiled.