Story Title: Not Quite Enough
Character/Relationships: Merlin (Cromwell), Arthur (Wolsey), Merlin(Cromwell)/Arthur(Wolsey)
Summary: Henry VIII's main advisor Thomas Wolsey is happy living his life - until he meets Merlin. Tudor reincarnation fic with Merlin as Cromwell and Arthur as Wolsey.
AN: This was written for challenge 5 of round 1 of tvnetwork2_las. The prompt was "Chance Encounter". Reincarnation fic set in Tudor England, with historical people and as much historical accuracy as I could manage considering the context, although modern language.
Not Quite Enough
Thomas Wolsey had always felt special. He may have been born the son of a butcher, but he dreamed of castles and kingdoms and a military force that followed his every command, his every whim. He knew how to get things done: how to strategize, how to feed an army and how to run a damn country, and if he had to ride roughshod over everyone to do it all then so be it.
He wondered sometimes what it would be like not to be so driven but, then again, it wasn't that he didn't take time to appreciate the finer things in life. Indeed, he loved his jewellery and fancy houses and, whatever the official line of thought was, as long as he kept Joan and their kids out of the way, and married Joan off to someone else when he started to get some power and having a woman on the side became a bit of an embarrassment, no one really cared.
Everything had been going so well. The King was giving him more and more power, and allowing him to do just about anything, and behaving as a good King should: keeping his affairs separate from his marriage bed. Some proper male heirs would be nice, but other than that everything was hunky dory. And then he went to the Gray's Inn to drop off some legal papers.
There was this dark head that he could see, suddenly, and then he twisted round and superimposed on this young bruiser of an intellectual, there was a skinny, lanky body, in the coltish stage of an adolescence that had never quite ended. And it all slipped into place, as though he had always known himself to be King Arthur, leader of the knights of the round table, deep down.
Thomas Cromwell – Merlin – was working for him by the end of the week.
It was incredible how much was the same and yet how much was different. When they were alone it was like no time had passed, as though they were bickering in Arthur's chambers again, and they worked from each other as though their minds were one and the same. The loyalty was still there too, that bone deep loyalty to each other and to Albion. But even with that, he always felt there was something Merlin was keeping from him, just like before and yet different. Something that he wouldn't trust him with and this time it wasn't magic.
He mostly noticed it when heretics were caught. Merlin would look at him like he was lacking somehow, like there was something missing that he had never understood. Like he was letting magic people burn again, and how could he explain that this wasn't about magic, about some inborn gift that people couldn't help. Dammit, this was about protecting people's souls and if he just let them get away with it … well … what kind of ki-person would he be?
And then the King met Anne Boleyn and disaster struck and Arthur was holding the country together by the tips of his fingers and Merlin just gave him this look, like Arthur wasn't grasping the whole picture, like he couldn't see. But what was he supposed to do? This would split the church and the church was the country and the country was the church and didn't Merlin understand that? But how were you supposed to argue with a disappointed look in someone's eye?
Merlin stopped sneaking into his bedchambers and somehow it felt easier not to look at him. And then he was banished and he couldn't have looked at him even if he had wanted to. He had got above himself, got above the King, but how could he not? He was Arthur Uther Pendragon, the Once and Future King of Albion, and he needed to be at the centre of things, or how else could he protect his land, his people?
He wrote begging letters to anyone and everyone, desperate to be let back into court. Most of the ones he got back practically laughed at him. Merlin sent several, and seemed to be trying, but then Arthur got called back on the order of the King and he knew that this was going to be the end and Henry was going to execute him and, God, he just wanted to … he needed…
Merlin's letter arrived the day before the guard's did. It told him about his meeting with the Dragon, and how England needed to see more religions to reach tolerance, and how the Dragon had said it needed to happen like this and that Arthur could not be told until now. It told him about the poison in the vial it contained that would work slowly and painlessly while he walked and then kill him the minute he stopped in a way that would look natural. It told him that Merlin was sorry, and that he thought this was the only way, and that Arthur should forgive him, must forgive him, that there would be lives after this, better ones, gentler ones, if only they could just change things a bit. It said that Merlin loved him.
Arthur ripped the letter to shreds and chucked the remnants in the fire, but he pocketed the poison. It was ridiculously easy to down it as the guards started their long trek and then crush the vial beneath his heel. No one looked twice when he asked to be allowed the privacy of peeing behind a bush.
It took a lot less courage to walk to his death this time, knowing that there would be lives after this. He knew that he couldn't change things like Merlin needed him to. He hoped this was the right thing to do. He trusted Merlin.
- Current Mood: chipper