1. I don't know when this became an annual thing, except it apparently is now.
2. I considered not including my "comments", mostly because they are always so useless and repetitive (ahaha), but in the end I couldn't resist the chance to babble.
3. As always, there are 20 Merlin/Arthur recs in total: 10 for Canon and 10 for AUs. And as always, it was incredibly hard to cut down to 10 of each.
Healing Spells by BeyondTheStorm: After revealing his magic to Arthur due to life-threatening circumstances, Merlin decides it's time he learned to heal. With Gaius off dealing with an illness in the outer villages, Merlin is left to his own methods, bearing some rather costly outcomes.
comment: long and epic and amazingly good. I spend a lot of time wanting to shake Merlin, but I think that just goes to show how engaging the story is.
Rheged by McShame: Gwen and Arthur have been married for several years, Merlin's magic has been revealed and Arthur has now reached a kind of cold peace with it. Then a delegation arrives from a kingdom based on magic, and suddenly Destiny is starkly and ruthlessly to the fore. The question is should - can - it be avoided?
comment: what I love about this story is that everything isn't just black and white - when Merlin's uncertain about what he should do, as the reader, you're not thinking how obvious the choice is. instead, you're as torn as him because there is no obvious right answer. I love how everything's resolved in a very realistic way.
Gadarene by unpossible: “You’re the Prince?” Merlin says, eyeing him. He hesitates, then adds, defiant, “The Mad Prince of Camelot.” / Arthur doesn’t move. There’s quiet for a long time, then he says it. “I am.” / “You don’t seem mad,” he says. / The smile wells up from somewhere deep, and very sad. “Well, Merlin,” he says, “give me time.”
comment: epic and heartbreaking and wonderful. I've reread this so many times.
Aspects by lycoris: When Arthur is hit by a curse that splits him into two people, Merlin has to try and take care of both of them until Gaius finds a cure. But with the two Arthurs so violently opposed to each other, will it ever be possible for them to reunite?
comment: huzzah for unusual and fantastic plot! love the portrayal of the two arthurs.
Beyond the Vale by BeyondTheStorm: Post S3. When a patrol goes missing under strange circumstances, Arthur is determined to find out what happened, and no one can persuade him otherwise. With nothing to go on but a foreboding story, Merlin fears that their luck might finally run out.
comment: a long, plotty adventure - perfect for curling up with. :3
The King And His Sorcerer by tarayith: There are many tales told of the Court of King Arthur. This is a tale of the time before the legends had begun. Merlin wakes up in Arthur's bed five times and incidentally discovers time travel along the way.
comment: I have such a weakness for time travel fics, ♥,
Pin the Crown with A Star by flypaw: After decades of tyranny under King Sigan’s rule, Arthur travels from his home in Balor to the city of Camelot in search of his friend’s sister. On the way he meets Merlin, a seemingly idiotic commoner who is happy to question why those without magic are treated as second class to those with magic.
comment: the plot idea is amazing. when I first read this, I had to wonder at how I'd never read another fic with this sort of plotline before, because it's so obvious in hindsight - to do a reversal of the way the canon world works. I've put this very loosely under the "canon" heading, but this, probably more than any other fic on this list, is definitely a canon!AU.
made of dreams and bones by lady_ragnell: Arthur would have starved that first winter, if it weren’t for Hunith and her son.
comment: I LOVE THIS. okay, this is true of every fic on this list but THIS, ESPECIALLY makes me want to curl up a little inside in delight.
What Infinite Heart's Ease by arcadianmaggie, art by sallyna_smile: Betrayed by the people he loves best, Arthur finds comfort in the arms of his manservant, Merlin. In the wake of Uther's death, the unrest to the east intensifies and shocking secrets are revealed. As a young king struggling to find his place and control a kingdom on the verge of war, Arthur must decide whether to continue his father's crusade against magic users or place his faith in the one person he thought he'd never trust again.
comment: a very very well-done and believable magic reveal, but that's certainly not the only highlight in this. heartbreaking but wonderful.
Stars Above, Stones Below by Destina: After the disastrous end of his betrothal to Gwen and the regret of his offer to Princess Mithian, Arthur swears off finding a wife until he's ready to wed. When Merlin offers himself to Arthur as bedmate, Arthur suggests they hand-fast in secret for a single year of mutual pleasure without obligation. As their year together unfolds, and secrets and betrayals unravel around them, Arthur and Merlin learn there is no such thing as uncomplicated pleasure. Everything they thought they knew can change in the span of a single year.
comment: a rewrite of season 4, basically, and it is beautiful. we have romance, a fantastic magic reveal, and me in happy tears.
~ ~ ~
For Your Information by anon: When Arthur comes out as gay to his father, Uther decides to be modern and reasonable about it. In his own way. As he doesn’t know any gay men, he decides to befriend Merlin, his old friend Gaius’ gay nephew and try to learn about the whole gay thing. It takes approximately two minutes before Uther decides that Merlin and Arthur are meant for each other and need to meet.
comment: I spent the entire time reading this trying not to explode in glee. I love this Merlin and how he sounds so very much like his hilarious canon self. I love this Uther and his extensive, tmi questions.
But It's A Good Refrain by lady_ragnell: Arthur doesn't care much about the popular radio program Dragon's Lonely Hearts until his ex-girlfriend calls in to slag him off and get advice. When he calls in and has an on-air argument with the host, it starts off more than he expected, including meddling friends, overinvolved fans, and maybe love.
comment: chance meetings and growing feelings. this is delightful.
We Are Diamonds by footloose: As the precocious heir of a diamond magnate and a famous designer, Arthur lived his entire life sheltered, protected, nurtured and spoiled. He always knew that he would have to step out from behind the scenes and into the limelight to run the family business some day, but he never expected that it would happen so soon or that he would encounter resistance from a board of directors who believe that his disability makes him unfit to lead. Merlin has stood on every stage in every city in the world, performing to critical acclaim, but after years of globetrotting, he's well and truly burnt out. He didn't quit -- he ran away from stardom, dropping to obscurity in the blink of an eye, forgotten, just another face in the crowd. He's aimless and without purpose until a friend asks him to fill in on a job. Neither Arthur nor Merlin are looking for salvation. They don't think there's any for them, that things are just too rotten, too far gone. But in the end, Arthur's quiet strength will be a balm to Merlin's broken soul, and it will be in Merlin's steadfast faith that Arthur finds courage.
comment: long and plotty and insightful. I adore the author's descriptions of Merlin through Arthur's eyes.
Drown My Sorrows In Yours by la_temperanza: A young Arthur is caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Apart from the fines, his community service/punishment from Uther is to work for a charity for people with spinal cord injuries. That's where he meets Merlin, a young man of his own age. Merlin is the most wonderful and annoying person Arthur has ever met. Merlin is also paralysed from the waist down after having been hit by a drunk driver.
comment: Merlin is upbeat and wonderful, and it's amazing to see how being around him changes Arthur. ♥ Also, we get the rest of the cast as well, being generally awesome.
Fundamental Imperfection by Starlingthefool:In which an argument about Dickens leads to a Twitter scandal, broken bones, midnight conversations, and transatlantic longing. (Or, an AU with Arthur and Merlin as moderately famous authors.)
comment: back-and-forth banter, hashtags, and literary arguments: this is exactly the kind of thing I love. just reading the summary makes me smile.
Mind the Gap by lamardeuse: This time, Arthur has a secret.
comment: in which Merlin meets Arthur on the train and everything is wonderful - except not everything is quite what Merlin thinks.
Strangers On A Plane by mad_maudlin: It's bad enough that Arthur has to fly business class--why does he also have to sit next to this guy?
comment: short and completely adorable. if I had a dime for every time I wished this had a longer sequel, I would be rich.
Rules for Roommates by pickitup: Arthur works in publishing and is ashamed to tell anyone he's secretly editing erotica, and being bullied by one of his authors - the arrogant 'Lake Anders'. He's also just taken in a new roommate, the adorable Merlin Emrys, who is definitely Not His Type. Or is he?
comment: this premise makes me laugh. I love it.
Stop Watching by footloose: Browbeaten and threatened into denying himself by a domineering father who refuses to be embarrassed by even a whisper that his son is gay, Arthur has given up everything that he's ever wanted in his life to keep the peace -- shaky as it is -- with Uther. Arthur Pendragon, a former track and field Olympic medallist, is the well-liked and successful track coach of Camelot High, with a long list of former students making the national teams. For years, he's been courted to join the coaching staff at Ivy League universities, with the national team, for the Olympic team, but instead of jumping at the opportunities in front of him, Arthur keeps his head down and stays at Camelot out of a feeling responsibility for his students, duty to the school, and a tiny, little bit of fear. It's the first day of school and a new runner joins Arthur's team -- a senior transfer from Ealdor High. Merlin Emrys is out, open, impossibly friendly, immediately popular, and impossibly persistent. Merlin has two goals: the Olympics and Arthur.
comment: I read an abundance of Olympic!AU fic this year, thanks to the London Olympics, and this is one of the best. basically, I am blown away by everything footloose writes.
The King of Queens by pickitup: Merlin has always dreamed of going to Cambridge University and is thrilled to win a place at Queens’ College. Whilst there he falls hopelessly in love with the JCR President, drinking society President, Lacrosse captain and all-round popular guy Arthur Pendragon. Arthur takes him under his wing until Merlin stands to be LGBT Rep on the JCR and Arthur realises that Merlin likes boys. Full of Cambridge slang, UST, Arthur being a knobhead with no knob, and eventual happy ending.
comment: in which Arthur is really dumb. but I love him anyway.
Okay okay, I lied. Extras, because I couldn't leave them out. There's the fic about a Merlin that's been diagnosed with HIV, the one where Merlin works at a PR agency and Arthur is the Prince of Wales, the one where Arthur is working with a group of sorcerers planning to take his father's company apart, the one where Merlin is drafted against his will into the service of Camelot’s Royal Dragon Force, the one where Merlin works in a coffee shop, the one where Merlin and Arthur are figure skater rivals, the one where Merlin is a swimmer and Arthur is, again, the Prince of Wales (see, I told you there's a lot of Olympic!fic), the one where Arthur sets out to complete the Rights of Ascension, and the one where Merlin is a teacher.