Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, Gwaine, Gaius, Morgana, Percival, Iseldir
Word Count: 18,549
Summary: Percival convinces Gwaine not to chase after Morgana after Eira is killed. Because of that, Merlin gets Arthur to the Isle on time and is able to save Arthur. Now, Merlin and Arthur have to really dela with the repercussions of his magic reveal. Things begin to change between the two of them and they both have to truly figure out what their feelings are toward each other and just where Gwen fits in.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
Warnings: Spoilers for 5.13. Brief violence
Notes: Written for the livejournal Merlin_Redux fest.
Title taken from a line from Journey's song, "Faithfully."
Gwaine almost fell off his horse as it heeded Percival’s cry and stopped suddenly. They were only two miles outside of Camelot. Gwaine looked back at Percival sharply.
Percival dismounted quickly and walked towards Gwaine.
Gwaine tightened his grip on his horses’ reins, blowing out a harsh breath. “What are you doing? If we’re going to trap Morgana we have to leave now.”
Percival shook his head. “I don’t think this is right.”
Gwaine gritted his teeth. “What...what are you talking about? I thought we agreed -
Percival stepped closer to Gwaine. “I know. But after really thinking about this, I think it’s a bad idea. We could be playing right into Morgana’s hands.”
Gwaine balled his hands into fists. He was normally the one telling Percival to speak his mind more often, but he wished that Percival hadn’t chosen now to heed his advice. “That’s not possible. Eira...” Gwaine took a deep breath, even saying her name left him with a huge knot in his stomach. He couldn’t remember the last time he was filled with such rage. He felt as if Eira wasn’t already dead, he could strangle her with his bare hands. This was all Morgana’s doing and he was determined to punish her. “She got word to Morgana and told her where she thought Arthur and Merlin were traveling. How would Morgana know it was a trick?”
Percival shrugged. “I don’t know. But Morgana has her methods. And are you forgetting that Morgana is a powerful witch. We can’t handle her type of magic.”
“Yes, we can,” Gwaine gritted out. “All we have to do is dispatch whatever guards Morgan may have protecting her and catch her when she least expects it.”
“All we have to do?” Percival repeated. “There’s no assurance that will work.”
“I can’t offer you assurances, Percival. If you’re too afraid to face Morgana and end this once and for all, then I’ll do it alone.” Gwaine yelled.
He turned to leave but Percival gripped his bicep and turned him around roughly. Gwaine grimaced slightly. Percival didn’t mean to hurt him, but he had to get through to his friend. “Gwaine, I’m sorry that Eira betrayed you. You may not want to admit it, but I know this hurts you. But you’re not just risking your life or mine. What about our king? What about, Merlin?”
Some of the fire went out of Gwaine’s eyes and he looked down briefly. “You know that I would never do anything to hurt them.”
“Not on purpose. But what if Morgana catches one of us. Do you remember what happened to Elyan?” Percival’s voice cracked when he spoke his fallen friend’s name. “He told me that Morgana tortured him once for information. He would have rather died than have told her anything but she broke him. She could just as easily do that to one of us. If she did, and you had anything to do with getting Arthur or Merlin killed, you would never forgive yourself. I won’t let that happen.”
Gwaine took in a deep breath.
“I could make you stay.” Percival said, with a ghost of a smile on his lips. “But it would be better if you made that decision yourself.”
Gwaine turned around and clasped his hand around the back of his neck and leaned forward and groaned loudly. He turned back around slowly. “Alright. I’ll stay here.” Gwaine walked over to his friend. “You know you’re a lot smarter than you look.”
Percival nodded. “Likewise.” Percival was happy to hear Gwaine’s slight chuckle. He hoped that Gwaine was on his way to letting go of some of his anger.
The two men rode back to Camelot, praying that they would hear from Merlin and Arthur very soon.
As Merlin removed his hand from Arthur’s neck, he let out a shaky breath. Arthur had a pulse but just barely. It was the fourth time in two minutes that Merlin had gotten up to check that Arthur was still alive. Each time, as he moved his hand towards Arthur’s neck, he felt as if the entire world was frozen. Merlin’s body shut down and he stopped breathing. He only came back to life as he felt Arthur’s heart beating against his fingertips. As the piece of sword traveled towards Arthur’s heart his life was slowly ebbing away and Merlin felt the same thing was happening to him. He wouldn’t be able to properly breathe again until Arthur was healed.
Merlin fought the urge to cradle Arthur to him. He wanted to hold him and make this nightmare end. He looked up to the sky, fighting back tears and hoping against hope to hear the flapping of Kilgarrah’s wings but he didn’t come. Merlin had practically screamed for Kilgarrah until his voice was hoarse but the dragon did not answer his call. Merlin feared that as Kilgarrah had warned, his time on Earth had come to an end. That could be the only explanation for his absence. Merlin would mourn him at another time. All of his energy was focused on Arthur.
Merlin practically leaped to his feet and strained his ears when he thought he heard a twig snap in the distance. He was petrified that Morgana would find them. They could not afford the time it would take to deal with her. Merlin stood listening for a few more seconds before turning to look at his king. They had to get out of there. He rushed to Arthur’s side and kneeled before him.
“Arthur?” He called gently. When Arthur didn’t wake he shook him. Arthur’s head popped up lazily. He couldn’t focus his eyes on Merlin. Merlin put Arthur’s arms around him and lifted him up with a groan. They were running out of time.
As they got to the lake Merlin almost let out a whoop of a joy. Just a few more feet and Arthur would be saved. Merlin hurriedly dismounted his horse and raced to Arthur, who was practically falling off his.
As Merlin wrapped his arms around him, Arthur looked up at him. Merlin could barely see the beautiful blue eyes he loved so much, Arthur’s eyes only forming two narrow slits. Arthur’s body became slack and Merlin couldn’t hold him up any longer. They tumbled to the ground together.
The weight of Arthur crushed Merlin’s chest. He grunted as he tried to lift Arthur up. “Arthur, please, you have to help me. We have to make it to the lake.”
Arthur’s head lolled to the side and he struggled to turn it even a fraction of an inch to look at Merlin. “It’s too late,” Arthur whispered.
Merlin’s eyes widened and he shook his head. “No.”
“It’s too late.”
“No!” Merlin breathed harshly into Arthur’s ear. “I am not going to lose you. Now if you don’t get up, I will drag you, I swear.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow at Merlin slightly. “That’s no way to talk to your king, Merlin.”
“You’re much more than my king, Arthur.”
Arthur’s eyes opened a little wider as he stared at Merlin. Arthur slowly lifted his arm and put it around Merlin. Merlin put his arms around Arthur’s waist and helped him up. They walked unsteadily to the boat and Merlin helped Arthur in. Merlin took a brief moment to catch his breath before climbing in and setting the boat adrift with a short spell.
“It won’t be long now, Arthur. I promise you it’s going to be alright.” Merlin talked quickly, he thought he might tip the boat over with how hard he was shaking.
“How...” Arthur closed his eyes as he slowly took in a breath. “How do you know that?”
“I’ve saved your life so many times, Arthur. I will never stop fighting for you.” Merlin took Arthur’s hand.
Arthur smiled weakly at him.
When they finally arrived at the isle in the middle of the lake, Merlin was up before the boat touched land. He dragged the boat forward before going to get Arthur. He helped lift him up. Arthur slumped to the ground.
Merlin looked around helplessly. He wasn’t sure how exactly to contact the Sidhe. He remembered watching Alfric all those years ago. He reached out with his magic and called out to them. “Hello! I seek an audience with the Sidhe elders.” He looked into the lake and saw nothing. He tried again. “Hello. I know you can hear me. Please, I need your help. If you don’t help me the King of Camelot is going to die!”
“Merlin.” Arthur spoke so quietly Merlin could barely hear him. “Merlin.”
Merlin kneeled down beside Arthur. He knew what Arthur was going to say, but he didn’t want to hear it.
“Merlin you tried but you’re not going to save me.”
Merlin shook his head. “I can’t - I’m not going to lose you.”
Arthur grabbed his hand. “Just...Just...Just hold me. Please.”
Arthur’s plea shook Merlin to the core. He paused briefly, not wanting to give up but desperately wanting to give Arthur whatever he needed. He went behind Arthur and gently picked up Arthur’s head, cradling it in his lap. He took Arthur’s hand in his.
“There’s something I want to say.” Arthur wheezed every word a struggle.
Merlin shut his eyes tightly. “You’re not going to say good-bye.”
“No.” Arthur shook his head lightly. “Everything you’ve done, I know now.” Arthur’s eyes filled with tears. “For me. For Camelot. For the kingdom you helped me build.”
“You would have done it without me.”
“Maybe.” Arthur smiled. “Thank you, Merlin.”
Merlin knew that he would remember that smile for the rest of his life. It was filled with so much pride and affection. All he’d ever wanted was for Arthur to look at him the way he was right now. This couldn’t be the last time he would ever see Arthur, it just couldn’t. He had to do something. Gaius said here was the source of the Sidhe’s magic. Merlin thought that maybe if he could tap into it somehow, he could find the power to save Arthur.
He put one hand over Arthur’s wound and one hand on the ground, digging his hand into the soft earth beneath him. He gazed down at Arthur, fighting back tears. Merlin closed his eyes. “Please, please, please let this work.”
Arthur looked up. He was barely holding on to consciousness. “What are you doing, Merlin?”
“I made you a promise and I’m going to keep it.” Merlin tried to concentrate, channeling all of his magic into the ground and trying to connect with the magic in Avalon.
“Merlin, please look at me. I want to say...something I’ve never said to you before.” Arthur lifted his arm and buried his hand in Merlin’s hair.
Merlin felt him lightly tugging him down. Merlin wanted to close the distance between them but he felt like he couldn’t move. He had to be imagining this. This was a dream tangled up in a horrible, horrible nightmare.
“Merlin...” Arthur half smiled. “I...lo...”
The ground began to rumble beneath them. Merlin felt a magic more powerful than he’d ever felt start to fill him. It was ancient and overwhelming. He opened his eyes and looked down. Arthur’s eyes were closed. Merlin’s hand was glowed a brilliant blue and soon the whole world was bathed in the same brilliant blue light. He could feel the trail of magic from the ground to him to Arthur.
When the lights fade, Merlin blinked down at Arthur. He’s still unconscious but his skin is no longer the deathly pale white it was before. His lips no longer chapped. With shaky fingers, Merlin feels Arthur’s pulse - it’s steady and strong and Merlin feels like he can finally breathe again. He presses his forehead to Arthur’s. “You’re going to be alright.” He no longer fought the tears as they fell freely.
Physically, Arthur felt better than he had in days. But he was incredibly tired. He felt as if he had been sleeping for a week, and yet still wasn’t ready to open his eyes. He searched for the last thing he could remember before he lost consciousness. He could feel his life slipping away and he tried to tell Merlin something, he couldn’t remember what he had to say at the moment, and then...nothing. What happened to him? What happened to Merlin? He could feel someone beside him. “Merlin?” He said before opening his eyes.
It wasn’t Merlin sitting beside him and stroking his hair. It was a tearful Gwen. Arthur felt horrible for the disappointment he felt.
Gwen didn’t seem to notice as she caressed his face. “Arthur? Oh, Arthur thank God you’re awake.” She kissed his forehead.
He smiled up at her. “It’s so good to see you, Guinevere.”
Gwen wiped her tears. “I was so worried I’d never see you again. Gaius told me Merlin was taking care of you but I was still scared.”
Arthur groaned as he sat up. They were in their chambers back at Camelot.
“Be careful. Gaius says that you’re healed, but you haven’t properly eaten in days and you might not be back to normal for a few days.”
Arthur patted her hand. “I feel fine. How long have I been asleep?”
Arthur nodded. He glanced around the room. He knew Merlin wasn’t there, he could feel his absence. But he wanted to check for himself. When he looked back at Gwen, she was smiling at him.
“Merlin isn’t here. When he came back, he looked dead to the world but he refused to leave your side.”
Arthur found himself smiling and nodding. He wouldn’t expect anything different from Merlin.
“I had to use my authority as Queen to make him go back to Gaius’ and get some sleep.”
Arthur cocked his head to the side. “Really?”
Gwen chuckled. “No. I just begged him to go as a friend and thankfully, he finally listened.”
Arthur nodded as he kept one eye on the door.
Gwen touched his arm gently. “Would you like me to ask George to bring Merlin here?”
Arthur nodded. “I need to talk to him.”
“Of course.” Gwen got up and walked to the door.
Arthur heard her gasp in surprise. “Gwen, what’s happening?”
Gwen briskly walked towards him. “I suppose I wasn’t as persuasive as I thought.”
Arthur didn’t have time to question what she meant before he saw Merlin trailing behind her. Arthur couldn’t help the broad smile that came to his face. Though his smile dimmed somewhat when he saw the deep, dark circles under Merlin’s eyes and how pale and sickly he looked. He’d spent every waking moment for the last few days with Merlin. At this point he would expect to be so tired of Merlin; he wouldn’t want to lay eyes on him for days. But the intense relief and happiness he felt just looking at Merlin said otherwise.
Gwen turned to Merlin, not seeming to notice that Merlin and her husband couldn’t take their eyes off of each other. “Merlin, I asked you to get some rest.”
“I know.” Merlin nodded. “And I did, I slept outside on the floor.”
“By the door?” Gwen asked. Merlin just nodded. “Merlin-”
Merlin cut off Gwen’s protest. “I’m sorry, Gwen. But I couldn’t leave until I knew for sure that Arthur was alright.”
“Thank you, Merlin.” Arthur looked Merlin up and down. “You really do look like death.”
Merlin chuckled. “I save your life and you say thank you by insulting me.”
Arthur bit his lip. “I’m sorry.”
Merlin shook his head. “No...I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Arthur stared into Merlin’s eyes, but broke eye contact when he was overwhelmed by the intensity of the moment.
Gwen came back and sat by Arthur’s side. She squeezed Arthur’s hand.
“Gwen, could you give Merlin and me a moment. I need to talk to him about something.”
“If this is about Merlin’s magic, you don’t have to hide that from me.” Gwen said.
Arthur’s eyes widened as he looked from Gwen to Merlin and back again. “How long have you known?” He looked back at Merlin. “Did she know before I did?” There was a bit of an accusatory tone in Arthur’s voice.
Merlin shook his head. “I didn’t tell her. Gaius said she figured it out in the last few days.”
Gwen smiled as she looked at Merlin. “I saw the sorcerer at the battle and I just felt that I knew him. When I asked Gaius about it, he didn’t come right out and say it was Merlin, but I knew.”
“And you don’t have a problem with it?” Arthur asked, looking back at Merlin carefully. He didn’t want Merlin to think that he had an issue with it. He just worried about what Gwen would think; he knew how much Gwen’s opinion meant to Merlin. Merlin didn’t seem upset at his question.
“No, I don’t have a problem that Merlin has magic. I’ve always known that he’s special and having magic doesn’t change who Merlin is.”
Merlin beamed at Gwen. “Thank you, Gwen.” He swallowed. “You’re lucky to have her, Arthur.”
Arthur bit his lip as he looked at Gwen out of the corner of his eye. He kept most of his gaze on Merlin. “I know how lucky I am.” He turned to Gwen fully. “I’m grateful that you are aware of Merlin’s magic, but I still have some things I need to discuss with him privately.”
“Of course.” Gwen ran a hand through his hair. “But you’re going to have to do that tomorrow.” Before Arthur could protest, she continued on. “You both have to get some rest. And I have no intention of leaving your side anytime soon.”
“No, Arthur, she’s right.” Merlin interrupted. “We can talk later. I just wanted to see that you were alright with my own eyes. And now that I have, I know that I can finally sleep.”
Arthur still wanted to protest, but he saw Merlin swaying on his feet and wanted to make sure Merlin started to take care of himself. “Alright. Take care of yourself, Merlin. I’ll see you tomorrow morning bright and early.”
Merlin grinned. “I thought you were giving me two days off.”
“See, Merlin that lack of sleep must have made you delirious. I don’t remember saying any such thing.”
Merlin shook his head, looking at Arthur fondly. “Welcome back, sire.”
Arthur just smiled at him. Merlin lingered for a moment longer before leaving the room.
Even before fully waking up, Merlin could sense something unusual was happening. It took him a few seconds to realize that someone else was in the room with him. He could hear Gaius’ snoring and knew that it wasn’t him. He sprang up quickly from his bed, sticking his hand out. “Who’s there?” His eyes hadn’t adjusted to the darkness and couldn’t yet make out who it was.
“Put your hand down, Merlin.”
He would know that exasperated tone anywhere. “Arthur!”
Arthur stepped out from the shadows.
Merlin groaned. “Arthur, what are you doing? I could have killed you.”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Merlin. You can’t kill me just by raising your...hand.” Arthur’s brow furrowed as he trailed off. “You really could do that, couldn’t you?”
“Yes.” Merlin nodded slowly and got back in bed.
“Because you have magic.” Arthur said slowly. He ran both hands through his hair. “I’m sorry. I’m still having trouble absorbing all of this.”
Arthur sat down on Merlin’s bed and Merlin hugged his legs to his chest. “It’s understandable, sire. You’ve been through quite an ordeal the last few days.”
Arthur didn’t say anything for a bit, just looked down at his hands, where his finger was absently drawing circles on the bed.
Merlin found his gaze wandering all over the room, everywhere but on Arthur. Finally, the silence became too deafening. “Arthur, why are you here?”
Arthur stopped drawing on the bed, but didn’t look up at Merlin. “We have to talk, Merlin.”
“About what?” Merlin asked, his breath hitching in his throat.
Arthur rolled his eyes. “I wanted to talk about Gaius’ snoring. I know he’s the court physician, but he should really have someone see about that.”
Merlin’s eyes knitted together in confusion.
Arthur threw up his hands. “What do you think I want to talk to you about? We have some important matter, like my resurrection and your magic to discuss.”
“That couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
“No, it couldn’t. How did you save me?”
“You don’t remember?”
Arthur clasped his hands together tightly. “I wouldn’t need to ask, if I remembered everything. The last thing I recall was trying to tell you something...and then nothing.”
Merlin sighed. Every last detail of the last few days was burned into his memory. “You didn’t get to finish what you were going to say because the ground began to shake, as the Sidhe’s magic began to flow through me. I was able to use it to heal you.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow. “And the Sidhe are...?”
Merlin bit his lip, trying to figure out a way to simplify this for Arthur. “The Sidhe are magical creatures who live in the lake in a spirit world called Avalon. They’re masters of enchantment.
Arthur studied Merlin. “Have you had dealings with them before?”
“Have I?” Arthur stared at Merlin and looked as if he already knew the answer.
Merlin wrinkled his nose. “Yes...sort of.”
“Sort of? What does that mean?”
Merlin winced preemptively. He had a feeling Arthur was not going to like this. “Do you remember Sophia?”
Arthur nodded. “It’s a bit hard to forget someone you stupidly tried to elope with.”
“Except you don’t really remember that part, do you?”
Arthur pursed his lips, looking as if he was searching his memory. “No, those memories never came back to me.”
“That’s because it never happened.” Arthur’s eyes widened. “Gaius and I told you that to cover up what really happened.”
“Sophia’s father had been a Sidhe but he was banished from Avalon. For Sophia to be allowed back and gain immortality, they were required to offer up the soul of a mortal prince.” Merlin pointed at Arthur. “So they tried to drown you at the lake.”
Arthur’s mouth dropped open and the crease in his forehead became deeper and deeper as he tried to make sense of this new information. “I was almost drowned in a lake and somehow I have no memory of this happening?”
“There are a lot of things you don’t remember?” Merlin muttered.
“Apparently.” Arthur rubbed his forehead and sighed. “What happened to Sophia and Alfric?”
“I killed them.” Merlin said matter-of-factly. It never brought Merlin any pleasure to take someone’s life, but he had stopped feeling guilty about the lengths he had to go to protect those he loved long ago. Merlin knew if anyone would understand that, Arthur would.
Arthur nodded slowly. He got up and walked towards Merlin’s cupboard and leaned against it. “Tell me more. I want to know about another time that you used you magic for me.”
Merlin brew out a breath; almost everything he did was for Arthur. He wasn’t sure how to narrow down the list. “Uh...the first year I worked in Camelot, you were bitten by the Questing beast.”
“Yes. I almost died.”
“I tried to find a way to cure you. I found a high priestess, Nimueh and she gave me water from the Cup of Life to save you.”
“I’m sure she didn’t do that out of the goodness of her heart. What did you give her in return?”
Merlin rubbed a nervous hand across the back of his neck. “In magic, to save a life there must be death, to restore the balance in the world. So I offered my life for yours.”
Arthur walked over to Merlin slowly and stood over him. “Why are you so willing to give up your life for mine?”
Merlin gave him a gentle smile. “I told you, I was born to serve you. You are destined to do so many wonderful things, Arthur. I have to make sure you have the opportunity to do them, no matter what I have to do.”
Arthur sat down heavily. “I remember after I woke up, you came to me. You were acting peculiar. You were as insolent as ever, telling me not to be a prat...”
“Advice you clearly never heeded.” Merlin grinned.
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t figure it out. You were trying to say good-bye to me, weren’t you?”
“Yes. Obviously I couldn’t tell you what was going to happen, but I couldn’t die without saying something to you one last time.”
Arthur pressed his fingers to his eyes tightly. When he removed his hands, he exhaled softly. “Gwen was wrong. You’re not the same Merlin we’ve always known. I don’t think I’ve ever really known you.”
Merlin sucked in a breath. He had been dreading this moment. He had always known that Arthur would react badly to his magic, but in his heart of hearts he had hoped and prayed that Arthur would be able to get over his initial anger and understand. It seemed like Arthur had come to accept Merlin’s magic and understood Merlin like he never had before when they were traveling to the lake.
But once Merlin had saved Arthur and he had woken up, Merlin feared that given the time to think about it, Arthur’s initial anger would return. Arthur’s emotions over the last few days had been real, but he had been dying. He had been forced to come to terms with Merlin’s magic. Now that he had a choice, and some time to think, perhaps the betrayal was too much for him to deal with.
Merlin couldn’t bear to see any hurt, anger, or worse, fear in Arthur’s eyes. He tried to think of something to make Arthur understand. “I’m still the same person, Arthur.”
“How is that possible? Your magic is a huge part of who you are and I’ve never known that side of you.”
“Do you want to get to know that side?” Merlin asked so quietly, he wasn’t sure Arthur had heard him. He glanced up quickly and saw Arthur’s penetrating gaze staring at him. He looked back down again.
“Merlin?” Arthur paused. “Merlin look at me, please?” When Merlin finally looked up at him tentatively, Arthur smiled. “Yes, I do.”
Merlin held Arthur’s gaze for a moment, before closing his eyes, afraid of ruining the moment with his tears.
“Merlin, you have always been the bravest person that I’ve ever known and that hasn’t changed. I used to think you were brave because you fought by my side and weren’t afraid, even though you had no way to defend yourself. But now, to see what you’ve done the last few days and to hear everything you’ve done for me, it’s a different kind of bravery that you’ve shown. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you to make the sacrifices that you have, to put my life ahead of your own, knowing how I feel about magic, about people like you. I am so sorry for that, Merlin.”
Merlin was startled to hear the pain and regret in Arthur’s voice. He reached out his hand without thinking and covered Arthur’s own. “Hey, you don’t have to apologize. I understand your attitudes about magic. Your father taught you all of your life that magic was evil and that you couldn’t trust anyone with magic. And it never helped that almost everyone you met with magic has been evil and tried to do you harm.”
“You’re not evil. You’ve done nothing but try and protect me.”
“But you never knew I had magic. If I had told you the truth, perhaps things would have been different.”
“Perhaps.” Arthur let out a long sigh. “But it wasn’t up to you to make me see something that is so simple, I feel like a fool for only just coming to truly understand it. Sorcerers are just as capable of being good as anyone else. And they are also capable of evil, just like anyone else. It’s not about whether or not you have magic. It’s about what’s in your heart.”
Merlin squeezed Arthur’s hand so hard he thought he might break it. He needed proof that this was real and it wasn’t just a dream.
“These aren’t just words, Merlin. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Things have to change.”
Merlin gasped as Arthur stood up suddenly. “I have to do something I should have done a long time ago. I’m going to repeal the ban against magic.”
Merlin stood up quickly. “Are you serious?”
Arthur laughed. He looked as if a giant weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “Yes, Merlin. How can I know what I do now and do anything else. How could you still live in Camelot if I stood by and did nothing while your people suffered? I don’t want you to have to hide who you are anymore.”
“You want everyone to know about me?”
“Yes.” Arthur furrowed his brow. “As long as that’s something that you want.”
Merlin nodded quickly. “Yes. This is something that I’ve dreamed of for a long time.” Merlin’s smile faltered. “Arthur, I’m not trying to talk you out of this, but this isn’t going to be easy.”
“I know. But you’re going to help me, aren’t you?”
“Then it’s settled.” Arthur grinned. He walked towards Merlin, closing the distance between them. “Merlin, there’s something else that I want.”
Merlin stared up at him with owlish eyes. “What’s that?”
“What you’ve done for me, I will never forget. And I don’t want anyone else to either. You’re a hero, Merlin and you deserved to be honored like one. I want to hold a celebration in your honor.”
Merlin let out a breathy chuckle, truly shocked by Arthur’s offer. “Arthur, thank you. But that’s not necessary. Nothing that I’ve done has been so I can get recognition.”
Arthur nodded. “I know. And that’s why you deserve this even more.” Before Merlin could protest some more, Arthur continued. “Now, Merlin a lot has changed but I am still your king and you kind of have to do what I say.”
“I never really listened to you before; I’m not going to start now.”
Arthur groaned. “Merlin! I’m not asking you to make a speech. All you have to do is sit there and...be honored. I would think that even you could manage that.”
Merlin knew he could put his foot down and Arthur would probably back off, but he could see that this was important to Arthur. He sighed heavily. “Alright. But please nothing too elaborate.”
“Fine.” Arthur looked out Merlin’s window. “I should be getting back before Gwen knows I’ve gone.”
“Okay.” Merlin wanted to find any excuse for Arthur to stay. He knew that Arthur was okay now, but still felt anxious being away from Arthur for even a second. It was going to take a long time for the helplessness and fear he felt the last few days to completely fade. Arthur turned to leave. When he was at the door, something occurred to Merlin.
“Arthur?” Merlin called out.
Arthur turned to face him. “Yes?”
“Before you lost consciousness at the lake, you were going to say something. What was it?”
Arthur’s eyes turned up as he thought. After a few moments, Arthur’s gaze fell to Merlin. “I really don’t remember. Sorry.”
Merlin shrugged. “It’s fine.”
Once Arthur closed the door, Merlin collapsed onto his bed. A huge smile spread on his face. Being able to honest with Arthur and speak with him openly, felt better than he’d ever thought possible.
Merlin stood in the Great Hall and watched as preparations were made for the feast in his honor. Arthur had been true to his word and kept things as simple as possible. There was a sparse selection of gladiolus throughout the room. The kitchen staff was setting up the tables right now. Arthur hadn’t announced to anyone but Gwen who the celebration was honoring. Everyone assumed it was to celebrate the King’s return.
It had been a day since Arthur and he had last spoken. Arthur thought it best that he approach the Council alone about lifting the magic ban. He had been in meetings for hours. Gwen had come by to inform that Arthur wouldn’t be able to see him until the celebration that night.
Merlin jumped slightly when someone clapped him on the shoulder. When he turned and saw Gwaine standing next to him he smiled broadly.
“If I were you, I wouldn’t try to steal any food from the kitchen. I almost lost a finger a minute ago.” Gwaine announced.
Merlin laughed and hugged Gwaine. He hadn’t seen him since before the Battle. “I think you’d risk death for one of Cook’s chickens.”
Gwaine chuckled as he pulled away from Merlin. “You’re right, it would be worth it.” He clapped Merlin’s shoulder again. “It’s good to see you’re alright.”
“You, too.” Merlin nodded.
Gwaine gazed around the room. “This dinner must be for someone really important.”
“Why do you say that?” Merlin asked.
“In the midst of almost chopping off my finger, the cook said that Arthur had specifically said it was extremely important that everything be perfect for tonight.”
Merlin bit his lip and struggled to contain the huge grin wanting to burst on his face.
Gwaine looked at him. “So who’s the fancy git we’re to be celebrating this fine evening?”
Merlin laughed. “Uh, that fancy git would be me.”
Gwaine’s eyes popped momentarily and then he began to grin. “Well, all I can say is it’s about time.”
Merlin just shook his head.
“I mean it, Merlin. It’s about time the princess recognized that you’re the best one out of all of us. You’ve gone above and beyond what any normal servant would do. You saved his life. It’s about time he honored you.”
Merlin squeezed Gwaine’s shoulder. “Thank you for saying that. You’ve been a really good friend to me, Gwaine.” He took a deep breath. “I have to tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone else yet.”
Gwaine bit his lip. “Oh, mate you know I’m not usually the best one at keeping my mouth shut. But for you, I’ll try.”
“Everyone’s going to find out tonight anyway. Arthur is going to announce that he will be lifting the ban against magic.”
Gwaine shook his head slowly. “That doesn’t sound like him. Arthur hates magic.”
“Arthur’s feeling have changed....because...Because I told him that I have magic.”
Gwaine just stared at him. “You’re a sorcerer?”
A slow smile spread over Gwaine’s face. “I knew you weren’t normal.”
Merlin smiled tentatively. “Is that a compliment?”
“The best one there is. I never had anything against magic, personally. I just had never met a sorcerer who wasn’t evil. But it turns out I knew the best one there is.”
“You’re not mad that I lied to you?”
Gwaine shrugged. “No. It wasn’t any of my business. And it’s not like Arthur made it easy on you.”
Merlin shook his head. “I don’t know. If I was as brave as Arthur says I am, I would have told him. You never would have kept a secret like that.”
“That’s because I don’t know how to shut my gob when I should. If it had been me I would have shot my mouth off long ago and would probably be dead already.” Gwaine sighed. “I’m always doing things without thinking.”
Merlin gazed at his friend. “Is this about Eira?”
“In a way. After she was...executed, I convinced Percival that we should go after Morgana. Thankfully, Percival thought better of it and talked me out of it.”
“It’s a good thing he did. You both could have been killed.” He patted Gwaine’s shoulder. “But I understand why you wanted to go after her. If I knew where she was right now, I don’t know if anyone could talk me out of going after her.”
“But you can fight her because you have magic.”
“Magic doesn’t solve everything.”
Gwaine ran a hand through his brown locks. “Are you worried about her coming after, Arthur?”
“Of course. She won’t stop until she kills him.”
“You won’t let that happen, Merlin. If anyone can save Arthur and stop Morgana, it’s you. And the knights will back you up without question.” Gwaine declared.
Merlin hugged Gwaine again. “Thank you. You’re a true friend, Gwaine.”
Arthur watched Merlin out of the corner of his eye and almost laughed. He didn’t recall a time he’d ever seen someone look so uncomfortable. He kept touching his neck, where his ever present neckerchief was missing and fidgeting. He was wearing the same fancier attire he’d worn to Gwen and Arthur’s wedding. Arthur thought about how much better Merlin looked cleaned up and made a note to seeing that Merlin got a whole new wardrobe. He would need it in his new role in Camelot, a role that Arthur had yet to discuss with Merlin.
To say that his announcement about repealing the ban against magic didn’t go over well with the Council would be an understatement. They’d talked to Arthur for hours about the danger and the repercussions they would face. They were concerned how some of the other kingdoms may see this as a betrayal. They talked about was Arthur’s lack of knowledge concerning magic and how they would address the citizens who would naturally have concerns. Arthur assured them that he had people around him that knew about magic and would advise on any concerns or questions anyone had. He acknowledged that this would be an uphill battle, but he remained firm that lifting the ban would happen no matter what.
Arthur watched everyone take their seats before addressing the gathered crowd. “Citizen of Camelot, I am honored to stand here before you tonight. It has been an arduous few days. We fought a hard battle at Camlann and while we did emerge victorious many lives were lost and we will never forget the men who risked their lives to protect Camelot and all that we hold dear. I, too, was injured at the battle and I almost lost my life. But I had a guardian angel watching over me.” He looked to his left at Merlin and gave him a small smile. “I didn’t always know it, but he’s been watching over me and guiding me to become the king I have always strived to be.” He looked back at the crowd. “I know with him by my side, we can bring peace to Camelot at last. That is why tonight, we are here to honor, Merlin.” He put his arm around Merlin and gripped his shoulder tightly.
There were several gasps in the audience and some began talking amongst themselves. Merlin just stared ahead awkwardly. Gaius was the first to stand up and begin clapping, followed by the knights. Everyone else joined in with polite applause. Merlin began to relax a little and smiled briefly.
Arthur continued. “He has saved my life more times than I can count. We all owe him nay thanks because he has saved Camelot, with no regard for his own safety and he has never sought any reward.” Arthur swallowed as he prepared to drop the biggest news on the crowd. “And he has done all of this, with the use of magic.”
There were no gasps this time, just stunned silence.
“I know this is a shock, but you have no reason to be scared. My father believed that all of magic was evil and sorcerers only meant to do us harm and would bring ruin to Camelot I believed it for a long time, as well. We have faced all matters of evil because of sorcery. But that’s not because magic itself is evil. Magic corrupts in the same way power and money does. We have laws against those who choose to break the law and we need laws against those who abuse magic. But I don’t believe that banning magic and persecuting anyone who may have it, is the right or just thing any longer. And that is why I have made plans to lift the ban on magic.”
There were some cries and whispering in the crowd. Arthur waited for everyone to quiet down. He looked over at Merlin and saw that Merlin had begun to sweat and was breathing heavily. He briefly squeezed Merlin’s hand. “It’s going to be alright.” Arthur whispered.
When Arthur started to retract his hand, Merlin grabbed it again. “Are you sure about this?”
“I am very sure.”
Merlin nodded briefly and let go of his hand.
Arthur turned and looked over at Gwen, standing on his right. She was looking down at where Merlin and Arthur’s hands had been clasped together. When she noticed Arthur looking at her, she stared up at him and smiled tightly.
Arthur turned back to his people. “I know that this will not be easy and it will take time to get used to this change, but I assure you this is for the best and we will have all of the help we need in learning how to understand magic and any questions you may have. I have decided to promote Merlin. He will no longer be my servant...”
Merlin’s head whipped around and he looked at him in confusion.
“...He will be promoted to the position of Magical Advisor and will have a seat next to me at the Round Table.” Arthur grimaced slightly as he turned to Merlin, knowing he had an unhappy ex-servant by his side. “Will you stand beside me, Merlin?”
Merlin shook his head slightly. He looked at the hushed crowd and smiled. He turned back to Arthur. “Of course, sire.” He bowed.
The knights and Gaius clapped once again. He was sure he heard Gwaine whooping out loud, but his eyes were focused on Merlin. Merlin was staring daggers at him. Arthur turned back to everyone seated in the Great Hall. “I know that I’ve given you a lot to absorb, but the cook has prepared a wonderful feast and, I don’t know about any of you, but I am famished. Let’s eat!”
Arthur sat down. Everyone was slow to tuck into their meal, still reeling from the king’s announcements. It was deathly quiet. Arthur smiled at Gwen, who squeezed his hand. He turned to look at Merlin, but his friend refused to look back at him.
Thankfully, the feast became much livelier as time passed. The people were finally able to put aside their worries and concerns about the future of Camelot and just relax with some exceptional food and wine. Gwaine was telling the knights one of his thousand stories about his various tavern fights all over the world. At one point, Percival laughed so hard, ale came out of his nose. Gwaine teased him mercilessly for that. The only one who wasn’t having a good time was the honoree.
An hour into the celebration, Merlin was nowhere to be found. Arthur searched for him everywhere. He finally took a chance and went up to his chambers. When he opened the door, he was greeted with a pillow to the face.
“Ow!” Arthur groaned. It got him right in the eye. He started to rub his left eye. “What did you do that for?”
Merlin charged forward. “You know damn well what for? How could you do that to me, Arthur? You don’t just offer someone a job like that, without discussing it with them first.”
Arthur stopped rubbing his eye. “Believe it or not, but I was trying to avoid fighting with you.”
“Well, that worked out really well.” Merlin huffed.
“Look, Merlin, I knew that if I offered you the job as advisor, you’d be stupidly noble and turn it down and I would have to waste precious time and energy fighting with you and getting you to see sense. I thought if I asked you in front of the crowd, I could force your hand and soon enough you’d see that this is a great opportunity.” Arthur explained.
Merlin blinked slowly. “Only a prat as big as you would think that made any sense.”
“You can call me a prat, but it worked. You’ve been sitting in here and thinking about it and you know that I’m right...Right?”
Merlin wrinkled his nose and sighed. “Fine, perhaps you’re right.”
Arthur puffed out his chest a little. “I still know you.”
“Don’t get cocky. We still have a lot to work out tomorrow.”
Arthur nodded. “Yes.”
“For now, I’d like to get back to the feast. It’s sort of rude to leave a celebration in your honor.” Merlin said as he walked past Arthur.
“Am I allowed to join you?” Arthur asked in a sarcastic tone.
Merlin kept his back turned to Arthur. “I suppose.” He turned back to Arthur. “It wouldn’t be as much fun making fun of you behind your back.” He grinned as he turned and left.
Arthur chuckled fondly and followed him.
Merlin couldn’t stop smiling as he walked to Arthur’s chambers. He had gotten several funny looks, not sure if it was the toothy grinning or the news from last night that earned him the stares. But at this time, he couldn’t really bother to get upset about it. He was still floating thinking about the celebration last night.
After he and Arthur had returned, Merlin felt like a weight had been lifted and was truly able to enjoy himself for the first time in days. He enjoyed sitting around with the knights and feeling like he was truly one of them. He had caught Gaius giving him several proud looks, which filled him with happiness. But the best was Arthur. Just looking at him made him feel a level of happiness that he didn’t know existed. Arthur was alive. They had beaten the prophecy and they would truly get a chance to fulfill the destiny Kilgarrah had always said they were meant for. Every once and awhile, Merlin would see Arthur looking over at him with such tenderness; it confused, excited, and overwhelmed him.
When he arrived at Arthur’s chambers, he wasn’t sure what to do. He wasn’t Arthur’s servant anymore. He was in a new position that he really didn’t understand. His high from last night began to fade as he started to wonder if how he was with Arthur was supposed to change. He decided to knock.
“Merlin?” Arthur asked in a quizzical tone.
Merlin opened the door and walked in. “Good morning, sire.”
Arthur cocked his head to the side. “Since when do you knock?”
Merlin crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I’ve knocked several times before.”
“Knocking and walking in at the same time, doesn’t count.”
Merlin rolled his eyes.
Arthur walked over to the table, where a full breakfast was set forth. Merlin worried that the table would fall over with the amount of bread, cheeses, and meats stacked on the table.
“I see you’re using George as your servant.”
“For now.” Arthur spit out. “He’s a lovely man, but still as dull as ever. I can actually see the seconds of my life stretching endlessly before me when that man talks.”
“Would you care to join me for breakfast?” Arthur said as he sat down.
Merlin raised an eyebrow. “You want to eat breakfast with you? Now, you’re the one who’s acting weird.”
Arthur groaned. “Merlin, I don’t want things to change between us, but things can’t stay exactly the same either. I don’t want you to change who you are. Lord knows why but I’d miss your surly retorts. But you’re not my servant anymore. I sometimes dine with my council members and I treat them like they’re equal to me. If you’re going to be sitting next to me at the Round Table, you have to get used to this.”
Merlin nodded and walked over, and took a seat at the table. He grabbed a few grapes and stuffed them into his mouth. He started to speak before he’d finished chewing. “What exactly does it mean to be a Magic Advisor?”
Arthur looked at him with his lip curled in disgust. “They’re called table manners, Merlin. Please find them?”
Merlin wiped his mouth with a napkin and swallowed. “Sorry.”
“As for your question, I’m not exactly sure. The Council mentioned a lot of issues that have a lot of merit. Other than meeting a few sorcerers, and a few things Gaius has told me, I know next to nothing about magic. I need you to educate me and everyone else. After so many years with the ban, people are scared of magic and that’s not going to go away overnight.”
“Gaius told me a lot. He gave me a book on magic when I first moved here. It was the first time I really got to learn about magic. There’s still a lot that I have to learn. I think Gaius can offer information that I can’t.” Merlin said.
“I agree.” Arthur rubbed his chin. “There’s also the issue of when someone without magic breaks the law, we detain them and punish them. But it’s not some simple with sorcerers. Their magic may make it impossible to lock them away.”
“Depending on their level of magic, there may be a way to create a protection spell or something that we could use that could block their magic and contain them.”
Arthur took a sip from his cup, looking lost in thought. “Do you think those things would work on Morgana?”
Merlin took a deep breath and pondered this briefly. He shook his head. “I don’t think so. Morgana’s powers have grown so much over the years; I don’t know what it would take, if there’s anything that could stop her.”
Arthur rubbed a hand across his face. “I’m surprised she hasn’t attacked yet?”
Merlin leaned forward, putting his elbows on the table. He saw Arthur glance briefly at them. He knew this was another show of his horrible table manners, but he didn’t care. “I keep worrying about it. But I think the battle, and especially Mordred’s death, was too much even for her. She’ll rest and regroup soon.”
Arthur got up and rubbed the back of his neck. “This has to end, Merlin. We can’t sit still any longer and let her keep attacking us. We have to stop her, even if it means...”
“Killing her?” Merlin finished.
Arthur didn’t meet Merlin’s eyes as he nodded his head slowly. “I can’t hold on to the Morgana from my memories, especially not at the expense of my people’s lives. If we can’t contain her in the cells, she leaves me no other choice.”
Merlin walked around the table and stepped closer to Arthur. He wanted to offer Arthur some comfort, but wasn’t sure if he should touch him, even though he ached to.
Arthur turned to him. “I don’t understand why she’s like this. I blamed the magic, but that’s not an excuse. I grew up with her and she always annoyed me. She was far too stubborn and forthright. But she was so loyal and had such a good heart. Was Morgeuse’s influence that powerful? If Morgana really was the person I thought she was, she wouldn’t have done any of this. I can’t imagine you ever doing anything like she has.”
Merlin looked down. “I wouldn’t be too sure of that, Arthur.”
Arthur’s quickly turned around to look at Merlin. “Why would you say that?”
“Because, while I have used my magic mainly to help you and Camelot, there have been things that I have done, that I’m ashamed of. One of the worst was what I did to Morgana.”
All the blood drained from Arthur’s face. “What do you mean?”
“Morgana was having dreams; she was able to see the future. It terrified her. Gaius knew that if your father found out that Morgana had magic, he might have killed her. Gaius prescribed her sleeping draughts to try and keep her from having these dreams.”
“I remember the sleeping draughts.”
“He was honestly trying to make things easier for her. But it didn’t work. She was confused and scared and she came to me. She desperately needed to know that she wasn’t alone. I knew that was like. I wanted to tell her. But I wasn’t sure if I could trust her. So I let her believe that she had no one to turn to. When Morgeuse came along, why wouldn’t Morgana turn to her?” Merlin explained his voice etched with such sorrow and guilt.
“Merlin?” Arthur waited for Merlin to look at him. “You can’t blame yourself for Morgana. You were afraid for your life. Even if Morgana were scared, it doesn’t excuse what she’s done. She had choices, like everyone else does. She chose to abandon her family. She chose to become a murderer. You did not make her do that.”
Merlin turned away from Arthur and shut his eyes tightly. “That wasn’t the worst thing that I did to her.” He took a deep breath. Arthur had forgiven him for a huge a betrayal, but he was terrified that this would turn Arthur away from him for good. “When Morgeuse attacked Camelot with the Knights of Medhir, you remember that Morgana was the only one awake when we arrived back in Camelot.”
“Yes.” Arthur said slowly.
“That was because Morgeuse had used an enchantment to make everyone fall asleep. That kind of enchantment needed a living host to sustain the spell. And that host was Morgana. The only way to reverse the effects was to kill her.”
Arthur grabbed Merlin’s arm and turned him around to face him. “What did you do, Merlin?”
“When you left us alone to go and fight the knights, I had used poison that I had procured earlier and I gave it to Morgana. I will never forget the look in her eyes when she realized what was happening. A part of her died and I don’t think it ever came back.”
“How did she survive?”
“Morgeuse showed up. I offered her a deal. If she stopped the knights I would give her the name of the poison I used. She broke the enchantment and when I told her the name of the poison she was able to save Morgana.”
“And then she abducted her.” Arthur finished, ice was dripping from his words. He was glaring at Merlin.”
Merlin nodded minutely.
Arthur walked over to the window. “Someone she trusted betrayed her. And when Morgeuse she had all the time she needed to fill Morgana’s head with poison and turn her against us.” Arthur stalked over to him. “And it was all because of you.”
Merlin didn’t want to look up, but he felt that he owed Arthur the courtesy of looking him in the eye. He needed to try and explain why he did it. “Yes.”
“Merlin, why didn’t you talk to her? Perhaps she didn’t know that Morgeuse used her for the enchantment.”
“I thought about that, but you saw the way Morgana was acting. You questioned her. She may not have known exactly what Morgeuse had done, but she knew Morgeuse wanted to kill your father, but she said nothing. Arthur, you didn’t know this but Morgan had tried to kill your father once before.”
Arthur gaped at Merlin. “What?”
“It was after Gwen’s father was killed. She changed her mind at the last second, but her anger was always there.”
Arthur covered his mouth and shook his head.
Merlin bravely took a step closer to Arthur. “Arthur, you have to believe me if there was any other way, I would have taken it. I didn’t want to hurt her, but I couldn’t let you or anyone else die.”
Arthur took in a few slow, deep breaths. “Merlin, I need you to go.”
Merlin almost let out a sob.
“I just need some time to think and I can’t be around you for that. I’ll send for you when I’m ready to talk.” Arthur said and didn’t wait for a response from Merlin before and turning and walking to his window.
Merlin couldn’t find his voice to say anything anyway. He walked out of the room on shaky legs. He collapsed against the back the door. He had no idea what he would do.
Merlin walked into Gaius’ with unseeing eyes. He didn’t notice that Gaius was speaking to him, until Gaius had grabbed Merlin’s shoulders.
“Merlin, what’s wrong?”
Merlin just stared at Gaius. “I think I ruined everything.”
Gaius’ brow furrowed, but he wrapped Merlin in a firm embrace.
Merlin took the comfort that Gaius offered, but refused to break down. He pulled away after a moment and walked over to the table in the corner and sat down.
Gaius sat down in front of Merlin and waited for him to speak.
“I thought Arthur was going to die. I thought there was nothing I could do to stop the prophecy. But I saved him. When I walked into his chambers and he was looking at me with eyes I thought I would never see looking so beautiful and full of life, I thought it couldn’t get better than that.” Merlin sighed. “But I was wrong. Arthur finally knew about my magic, he knew the real me and he didn’t reject me. He didn’t just accept me. He celebrated me!” Merlin’s smile broke wide on his face, even though tears began to fall from his eyes. “And now I’ve ruined it.”
Gaius squeezed Merlin’s hands. “Merlin, my dear boy, please tell me what happened?”
“I told Arthur about almost killing Morgana.”
Gaius’ eyebrow quirked. “Killing Morgana?
“After what happened with the Knights of Medhir.” Merlin clarified.
Gaius’ head snapped back a little. “All those years ago? Why would you tell him that now?”
“We were talking about Morgana and he wanted to know why she became as evil as she has. I had to tell him what I did.”
“Do you still blame yourself?”
“Don’t you?” Merlin didn’t mean for it to come out as accusatory as it sounded.
Gaius’ face hardened. “Why would I feel guilty?”
“Gaius, I’m sorry. I’m not blaming you exactly. But I feel like if you hadn’t convinced me to not confide in Morgana about my magic, that she might never have turned to Morgeuse. She might still be that funny and wonderful woman that I first met.”
Gaius got up from the table. He walked over to his work table.
Merlin put his head in his hands; as if he didn’t feel guilty enough already. He walked over to Gaius. Gaius was fiddling with some potions on the table. He looked over at Merlin briefly. “I don’t feel guilty, Merlin. But I do think about all of the decisions that I’ve made and the best thing that I can say is that I did what I had to do to protect you and to protect Camelot. I can’t change the choices I’ve made. They were my choices and I have to live with them.”
“You have to as well and so does Morgana.”
“I know. I just don’t know if Arthur can forgive me.”
Gaius glance at Merlin and grinned. “Arthur is a very smart man and he cares for you a great deal. I’ve seen the way he looks at you, especially now. He knows you as well as I do and will forgive you.”
“You’re sure of that?”
“I’m as sure of it as the fact that I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with a bad back and cursing the Gods.”
“You should be proud of everything you’ve accomplished, Merlin. I’m very proud of you.” Gaius smiled at him.
Merlin smiled back. “That means the world to me, Gaius. Thank you.” Merlin was still worried about what would happen with Arthur, but knowing that Gaius would always be there for him, gave him some comfort.
Arthur paced his chambers as he waited for Merlin to arrive. He’d sent George to give Merlin the message to be there at the crack of dawn. It would be any minute now. Arthur had taken the whole night to think over what Merlin had done. It did not make him easy to live with. He felt guilty for the way he treated Gwen.
Arthur had been distracted all night. Gwen tried to engage him in conversation, but he only half listened, if he listened at all. When they were in bed at night, Gwen had turned to him and tried to wrap her arms around him, but he purposefully turned away from her and got as far to the edge of the bed as possible. He had found himself recoiling from her touch ever since he had been back in Camelot. When Arthur had woken up in the morning, Gwen was already gone.
He had woken up and Merlin was the first thing on his mind. He knew that what Merlin had done to Morgana was horrible. But he thought about Merlin and he remembered the look on his face when he admitted to having magic. He remembered the man who took care of him as if he was the most important thing in the whole world. He remembered the times Merlin had sacrificed his life. He remembered the clumsy idiot who always forgot to bring up a knife and fork with dinner the first year he had worked for Arthur. He remembered Merlin being there for him whenever he needed.
When Arthur heard the knock on the door, he froze momentarily. “Come in.” He rolled his eyes at the quiver in his voice.
Merlin stepped timidly into the room. “You wanted to see me, sire.”
Arthur cringed when Merlin bowed to him. “Come in further, Merlin.”
Merlin walked in slowly, stopping more than few feet in front of Arthur. He stared at a spot just above Arthur’s shoulder.
“Merlin, I’ve always known that you were far from perfect. Even now, knowing you’re a sorcerer, I know that you’re still human and none of us are perfect. Not even me.” He gave Merlin a small grin. “I wouldn’t want to be judged solely by my worst mistakes, and I won’t do that to you. I know what’s in your heart, Merlin. You would never hurt anyone, if you could help it. ”
Merlin met his gaze.
“Merlin, I don’t need you to tell me every horrible thing that you’ve ever done. I just need you to promise me from now one that you’ll always be honest with me. That is the only thing that I need.”
Merlin licked his lips. “You forgive me?”
Arthur nodded. “Yes, Merlin, I forgive you.”
Merlin exhaled slowly. “Thank you.”
There was a slight pause in the conversation. Arthur looked at Merlin expectantly. “Merlin, the promise?”
Merlin’s eyes widened. “Oh, yes! I promise you no more secrets. I don’t want to lie to you anymore.”
“Good.” Arthur took a deep breath, before walking across the room to his desk. Merlin followed. “We didn’t get to finish going over everything yesterday.”
“I know that many people are going to have questions.”
Merlin nodded. “I’ve already had so many people come up and ask me questions about magic.”
“That’s why I think you need an office like Gaius has where everyone come and get their questions answered.”
Merlin pursed his lips. “Like Gaius’. Can’t people just come over to Gaius’ to talk to me? It is where I live.”
Arthur fiddled with some papers on his desk. “I think it’s best that there’s one place that people can go to Gaius and see their physician and get their needs met without their being the confusion of the people who go to see you.” Arthur cleared his throat. “The room next door to my chambers is unoccupied and I think it would make an excellent place for you to work from…and live at.”
Merlin’s mouth opened in a wide “O” shape. “You want me to live in the castle?”
“I think that’s the best idea. Do you have a problem with that?”
Merlin shrugged. “Not really. I’d missing living with Gaius, but it would be nice to have my own space and to not have to bother Gaius with people coming to see me.”
“You’re part of the royal court now, Merlin. You belong here.”
Arthur looked up at Merlin. He hoped that he couldn’t see how nervous he was for Merlin’s answer.
Merlin smiled. “Since I’m part of the royal court can someone else do all the annoying packing and moving.”
Arthur laughed. “I think I can arrange for that.”
Merlin grinned. “Great.”
“Merlin, I know that there will be people who will not be accepting of these changes, including many sorcerers.”
Merlin sighed. “I don’t think they’ll trust it at first. They may think you’re trying to trap them.”
Arthur nodded. “I need your help reaching out to as many of them as you can and letting them know that I am willing to work with them now and I want to try and make up for my father’s and my own mistakes.”
“I will do my best, Arthur.” He twisted his hands together. “Arthur, there will still be people who want to attack you.”
“I know. I’m the king and I’ll always have enemies.”
Merlin put his hands on Arthur’s desk and leaned forward. “I promise you that I will do what I always have and protect you from them.”
Arthur looked up and met Merlin’s steely gaze. “Thank you.” After a few moments, he looked down at the papers on his desk, awkwardly clearing his throat.
Merlin took a step back. “I should probably go and tell, Gaius about everything.”
“Okay.” As Merlin got to the door a thought occurred to Arthur. He stood up. “Merlin?”
Merlin turned with his hand on the doorknob. “Yes?”
“I was wondering if you would show me something…”
Merlin narrowed his eyes. “Show you something?”
Arthur tripped over his words as he thought about how to word his request. “Can you do something with your magic?”
Merlin grinned. “You want me to do magic tricks for you?”
“Just one. It doesn’t have to be big, it can be something small.” Arthur regretted his request when he saw the mischievous twinkle in Merlin’s eye. “Never mind.”
Merlin shook his head. “No. I’ll do it. The king asks me for a personal favor, how could I refuse?”
Arthur bit back a grin.
Merlin walked over to the table in the middle of the room and gazed at all of the food. Arthur followed him. Merlin turned to him.
Arthur let out a short gasp as he saw Merlin’s eyes turn a brilliant gold. He barely concentrated as Merlin magically lifted apples into the air and had them dance before him.
Merlin laughed as he set the apples down. “I told you I had many talents. Now, you said to do something simple. I can do something more intricate if you...” He turned to look at Arthur. “...prefer.” He finished. “What?”
Arthur took a few steps and closed the distance between them. He wasn’t sure how to exactly describe what he was feeling. The few times Merlin had performed magic for him he had never looked into his eyes before. But now that he saw how they changed, it took his breath away. Merlin looked suffused with a warmth and brightness Arthur had never seen before. He looked...beautiful.
Arthur couldn’t resist touching Merlin’s face. By now Merlin’s eyes were back to their normal shade of blue. For the first time, Arthur looked at Merlin’s eyes and realized how blue and perfect they looked. “You’re beautiful.” He whispered.
Merlin just stared at him with unblinking eyes.
“Arthur, I -” Gwen started as she burst into the room.
The spell was broken instantly. Arthur’s hand quickly fell to his side and Merlin jumped away from him as if his feet were on fire.
“I have to go.” Merlin said in a rush. He was practically gone before he finished his sentence.
Gwen watched Merlin scurry away. “Is something wrong with, Merlin?”
Arthur shook his head and cleared his throat. “I don’t know.”
“I hope he’s alright.”
Arthur nodded absently. “Me, too.” He sat down at the table to try and eat breakfast.
“Arthur, I had this amazing idea...” Gwen started.
“Have some breakfast, Guinevere.” Arthur interrupted.
Arthur wanted to pay attention to Gwen, he wanted to be thinking about anything else, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Merlin. He couldn’t stop picturing his eyes. He couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things Merlin had done for him. Arthur was feeling such affection for Merlin it overwhelmed. It was Merlin, for goodness sake. Arthur had felt a lot of things for Merlin over the years, but never like this. Even now, confused as he was, just thinking about Merlin made him feel happy. It felt impossible, but the connection between them was stronger than ever. As he looked at a sullen Gwen, he didn’t know what to do.
Gaius hadn’t been home when Merlin arrived and Merlin was glad. Gaius would have taken one look at him and dragged the truth out of Merlin. Though when he thought about it, he wasn’t even sure what the truth was. The way Arthur had looked at him…Merlin thought he knew the perfect word to describe it, but he couldn’t allow himself to think that. Arthur didn’t…feel that way about him.
As confused as he was about Arthur’s feeling, Merlin’s own were clear to him. He’d known it for a long time, but had always tried to put it in the back of his mind because of Gwen and because he knew it would do nothing but hurt to admit it, even to himself. But there was really no use in denying it at this point. The pain was already there. He was in love with Arthur and he knew he always would be.
Merlin groaned when he heard a knock at the door. For the first time in a long time, he hoped it wasn’t Arthur. He trudged over to the door and almost let out a squeak when he saw Gwen standing in front of him.
“Gwen?” Merlin croaked.
Gwen smiled. “May I come in?”
“Of course.” Merlin stepped aside so Gwen could enter. He ran a shaky hand through his hair.
Gwen sat down at the Gaius’ work table. Merlin hesitated briefly before sitting beside her. Merlin almost jumped when Gwen reached out and squeezed his knee.
“Are you alright, Merlin? You seem upset.”
Merlin shook his head. “I’m fine.”
Gwen let out a deep sigh. “Merlin, please don’t shut me out, too.”
A deep crease formed as Merlin furrowed his brow. “What do you mean ‘too’?”
Gwen threw up her hands. “Arthur. Ever since he’s come back from his ordeal he hasn’t been the same. He seems so distant. I think the only person he’s normal around is you.”
“Depends on what your definition of normal is.”
Gwen looked at Merlin and seemed to scrutinize him. “I’ve seen the way Arthur looks at you.”
“He values your opinion so much. Has he said anything to you about how he’s feeling?”
Merlin shrugged. “Arthur doesn’t really like to talk about his feelings very often.”
Gwen sighed. “That’s true. I just wish he would talk to me about what happened. He cared about Mordred and I know killing him couldn’t have been easy. And when he was wounded…it must have been so horrible. I wish I had been there to give him some comfort.”
Merlin reached out and took Gwen’s hand. “No, Gwen you don’t. You wouldn’t have wanted to see him like that. Every second his face became paler and the light in his eyes began to dim. He struggled for every breath. I could barely stand it.”
Gwen reached over and hugged Merlin. “I’m so glad you were there for him.” She pulled back. “Thank you for bringing him home to me.”
Merlin’s face formed a grim line that he tried to pass off as a smile. He loved Gwen, but he was so jealous right now he could hardly see straight and it made him feel tremendously guilty.
“Merlin, what did Arthur say about me when he thought he was dying?”
Merlin looked down at his hands and bit his lip. It had never occurred to him before how little Arthur said about Gwen those two days. He didn’t want to hurt Gwen’s feelings, but didn’t want to lie to her either. “Everything was so…there wasn’t a lot of time really to think of anything. Arthur needed to save his strength and didn’t say a lot.”
Gwen nodded. “I’m just happy he’s home now.”
Merlin smiled briefly. “Me, too.”
Over the next few weeks, Merlin began to settle into his new role in Camelot. It was harder than he had imagined saying good-bye to Gaius and the only home he’d ever known in Camelot, but he was settling in well living in the castle. Everyone but those closest to him, acted awkward around him. He could tell that some of the servants were terrified of him, trembling when he was around. It unnerved him. Gaius assured him that things would get easier.
Things weren’t quite so easy with Arthur. Merlin was surprised to find that he actually missed his duties as Arthur’s servant. Or maybe it was just that he missed Arthur. They lived next to each other now and yet saw each other rarely, at least not alone. Not since Arthur had touched his face and stared into his eyes. Whenever they were in meetings at the Round Table, he tried to keep from staring at Arthur all the time, but he slipped every now and again, which gave him the opportunity to see Arthur gazing at him a few times as well. Gwaine seemed to be the only one who noticed. Every time Merlin would look at Gwaine, he would smirk at him.
There had still been no sightings of Morgana. Merlin had done research and met with many sorcerers, but he still hadn’t figured out a way to stop her. Merlin just knew that Morgana would make her presence known sooner or later and was desperate for a way to lure her out, so they could finish this once and for all. He thought he had come up with the perfect solution.
“I think I know a way to draw Morgana out!” He announced at the meeting.
Arthur turned to him. “How’s that?”
“I think I found a way to call to her with my magic. If I promise to surrender to her, I think she’d come out of hiding.”
Arthur’s eyes widened, almost comically. “Are you out of your mind?”
“It would be a trap. But it’s something that Morgana would expect of me, to sacrifice myself so that you and Camelot would be safe. If Morgana hates anyone more than you, Arthur, it’s me. She’ll gladly take any opportunity to see Emrys dead.”
To Merlin’s surprise Arthur laughed. He threw his head back and laughed loudly. Everyone stared at him. Arthur wiped at his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to laugh, but I honestly have no idea of how to react to that. Do you honestly think I would ever allow you to put yourself in harm’s way like that? You know me, Merlin. It’s absolutely out of the question.”
“Yes, I know you. I know that you can be a prat, but you can’t just dismiss this idea so hastily. And you can’t tell me what to do.” Merlin shouted.
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “I am your king and I can tell you whatever I please.”
Merlin chuckled mirthlessly. “Wow, you just sounded exactly like your father.”
Arthur gripped the arms of his chair tightly. “My father may have made his share of mistakes, but he was a smart man. He would have sense to see this plan for what it is – a way to get yourself killed and nothing more.”
“Arthur, I have magic. I can protect myself.” Merlin argued.
Arthur shook his head. “Morgana is just as powerful as you, perhaps more so. You’re not immortal, Merlin. She could kill you.” Arthur ran a hand across his face. “And Morgana’s too smart to fall for that.”
“Morgana might be able to sense that it’s a trap but she’s far too arrogant to think she’ll ever be caught. Given the chance to kill me, she would come anyway.”
“How do you plan on killing her? Have you figured out a way?”
“It’s possible that no mortal blade can kill her. But Excalibur is no mortal blade.” Merlin answered.
Arthur stood up. “No. I’m not taking that chance.”
Merlin could sense the tension all around them. You could hear everyone’s breathing and nothing else. His only focus was on Arthur and how pig-headed and stupid he thought he was acting. He grabbed Arthur’s arm. “It’s alright for you to risk your life, but not me?”
Arthur pulled his arm away and grabbed at Merlin’s shoulders. “I would rather die than to let anything happen to you, do you understand?”
Merlin’s breath came out in shallow gasps.
Arthur looked around the room, and down at Gwen who was watching with an unreadable expression. Arthur let go of Merlin and stormed out of the room.
Merlin stood at Arthur’s door. He knew that he should leave him alone, give him a chance to cool down, but he wanted to talk to him. He raised his hand to knock.
Merlin turned swiftly. He saw a tall man with gray hair standing beside him. He was wearing a robe. Merlin caught a glimpse of his hand and saw the druid symbol. Merlin had tried to speak with the druids after his appointment as Magic Advisor, but they had been reluctant to speak to him. He looked at the man’s face again. He’d seen the man before. “Yes?”
“I wish to speak to you about the Lady Morgana.”
Merlin nodded once. “Follow me.” He walked over to his room and opened the door for the older man. He closed the door once inside.
The man removed the hood from over his head. “My name is Iseldir. We met many years ago.”
Merlin thought back. “I remember you now. You were there when we came for the Cup of Life.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t guard it as carefully as I should have.” Iseldir just looked at him with a serene look on his face. It unnerved Merlin slightly. “I’ve been trying to speak to the druids since the King lifted the ban on magic. No one would speak to me.”
Iseldir bowed his head. “I am sorry. We were still very afraid and weren’t sure if the King’s true intentions. But we have come to believe that the king’s intentions are pure and he is finally becoming a king worthy of having you stand beside him.”
Merlin smiled. “Arthur is a great king and he will continue to do many great things.”
Iseldir bowed again.
Merlin looked down at his hands. “I’m sorry about Mordred.”
A look of sadness passed over Iseldir’s features, but was gone quickly. “We are, too. Mordred was a very troubled boy. We had hoped that he would choose the right path in life, but unfortunately he chose to ally himself with the wrong people.”
“Morgana.” Merlin looked at Iseldir. “You said you wanted to talk about her.”
Iseldir cast his eyes downward. “I want you to know that we do not come here seeking revenge against the King or the lady Morgana. We want to assure that this new peace in our land continues.”
Merlin nodded quickly, he had a feeling that whatever Iseldir was going to say or do might bring an end to this war.
“Emrys, what are your intentions towards the Lady Morgana?”
“Do you mean to kill her?”
“I…” Merlin hesitated. “Morgana has brought about so much tragedy and destruction. I want to be rid of her.” He shook his head and sighed deeply. “But I don’t want to kill her if I don’t have to. But she has left us no other choice.”
Iseldir looked down. “I believe that your intentions are honorable, Emrys. I wish to help you.” He reached behind him and pulled out an ancient dagger that was tucked into his belt. “I believe with this we can end everyone’s suffering.”
Arthur sat with his head on his desk. He was still thrumming all over with anger and worse, with fear. He knew Merlin well enough to know that he wouldn’t let this situation go. But he refused to allow him to risk his life. Arthur knew that if Merlin gave him no other choice, he would have him thrown in the dungeon. He chuckled. He really was turning into his father.
Of course his father would probably not have made such an emotional outburst as Arthur had. He couldn’t believe he had said that to Merlin, in front of everyone, in front of Gwen. As if on cue, Gwen walked through the door. He knew it was her from the swishing of her dress. She stopped a few feet from his desk.
“You were rather hard on Merlin.” She said in a soft voice. She almost sounded close to tears.
“I’m sorry, Gwen. I have a hard time acting rational when my friend is being an idiot.”
Arthur looked up at her. “Yes.”
“You weren’t treating him like a friend.”
Arthur huffed in exasperation. “That’s how I always treat, Merlin. He’s used to it by now. He knows what I’m like. He accepts it.”
Arthur stood up. “I never said that.”
“But you know it’s true.” Gwen shrugged. It looked like she was in physical pain. Arthur didn’t understand why she seemed so upset. “I’ve never liked that arrogant prattish side of you.”
Arthur sighed. “I know. You expect me to be more mature and you want me to be a better person. Merlin wants that, too. But he knows this is always going to be a part of me. Sometimes I’m going to act like an idiot. He doesn’t have to lecture me.”
“That’s because he accepts you, all of you. There’s not a side of you that he doesn’t love.”
Arthur’s mouth dropped open. “Who said anything about love?”
Gwen smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Any idiot can see that Merlin loves you, Arthur. I think deep down I’ve always known how much. But it never bothered me because I knew you didn’t feel the same. Or perhaps I hoped you didn’t.”
Arthur stepped closer to her. “Gwen, you’re not making any sense.”
Gwen shook her head. “I think I am. The way you’ve looked at Merlin ever since you came back is so different. It’s like you’re in awe of him.”
“He saved my life!”
“It’s more than that. The way you just reacted at the meeting…I don’t think I’ve ever seen you look so scared. You looked at him as if he was your entire life.”
Arthur shook his head vehemently. “That’s not true.”
Gwen’s eyes welled up with tears. “It is. Please just be honest with yourself, if not with me.”
“Guinevere, I love you.”
A tear fell down Gwen’s cheek. “I know you do, but not in the same way.” When Arthur started to protest again, Gwen walked over and put her finger to his lips. When Arthur stopped trying to talk, she stepped away slightly and looked up at his face. “Just answer me one question.”
Arthur nodded slowly.
“I asked Merlin, but I think he lied. When you were dying, did you think of me?”
Arthur made to say something, but the words stuck in his throat. He couldn’t lie to her. It wasn’t something that he did on purpose. But at the time, the world had shrunk down to just him and Merlin and, if he was honest, that was exactly how he wanted it. If he was going to die, he wanted to be held by Merlin and looking into his eyes. He looked at Gwen and couldn’t say anything.
Gwen sucked in a breath. “I think that says it all.” She held her hand to her stomach as she walked further away from Arthur. She turned around and sobbed.
“Gwen.” Arthur said, his voice quivering. She abruptly stopped sobbing but didn’t turn to look at him. “Guinevere.”
She turned around slowly. “Arthur, I know what you’re going to say. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.”
Arthur worried his lip, practically drawing blood. He could feel his eyes fill with tears.
“Arthur, please just be honest with yourself and be honest with Merlin. He deserves that.” She walked towards the door.
“Gwen, where are you going to go?”
She took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I just can’t be here anymore.”
She walked out of the room. Arthur walked back to his desk and collapsed in his seat. His marriage was almost certainly over and Arthur wasn’t sure how to feel about that.
There was a knock on his door. He quickly wiped his eyes. “Enter.” When Merlin walked in, he stood up quickly.
Merlin closed and stayed practically glued to it. Arthur walked over closer.
Arthur swallowed. “Merlin, I’m sorry about before.”
Merlin shook his head. “I knew how you would react. You were actually far more diplomatic than I thought you’d be.”
Arthur cocked his head to the side. “You haven’t changed your mind, have you?”
“No.” Merlin said in a rush.
“I didn’t think so.”
Merlin looked down. Arthur noticed that he was having trouble meeting his eyes. “I just wanted to tell you that I understand how you feel better than anyone. If I could protect you every second of every day, I would.”
Arthur swallowed down a rush of emotion.
“Arthur, it is my destiny to protect you.”
Arthur felt a twinge of disappointment. Merlin made it sound like an obligation.
Merlin looked into Arthur’s eyes and Arthur was captivated by the earnest expression on Merlin’s face in the emotion in his stare. “I don’t protect, I don’t care about you, because I have to.” Merlin took a deep breath. “I do it because I’m in love you with you.”
Arthur stood stock still. He was blindsided with so many conflicting emotions. “Merlin…”
Merlin held up his hand. “Please don’t feel obligated to say anything. You asked me to be honest with you and I’m trying to be. I don’t want to hurt, Gwen. I just wanted you to finally know how I feel.”
Merlin quickly turned to leave.
Merlin turned to leave. “I have to go, Arthur. I’m tired. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
Arthur was left alone once again.
Merlin hurried out of the castle. He looked behind him, worried that Arthur might be following him. He saw no one. As he turned around he bumped into someone hard. When he looked down, he saw Gwen on the ground. “Gwen? Oh, God, I’m so sorry!” He bent down to help her up.
“Merlin, it’s okay.”
He looked down at her face. It looked like she had been crying. “Gwen, what happened?”
Gwen brushed down her dress. “You knocked into me. I should be asking you that.”
Merlin grinned. “Right. What I meant was you look like you’ve been crying. What happened?”
Gwen wiped her eyes. “It’s nothing. Where are you going in such a hurry?”
Merlin hesitated. “Uh…I’m meeting Gwaine…at the tavern.”
Gwen shook her head. “I don’t know how you managed to keep your secret for so long; you’re a terrible liar, Merlin.”
Merlin wrung his hands. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Arthur may not notice but I know you spend very little time at the tavern. Besides, I just saw Gwaine being thumped by the cook in the kitchen.” She crossed her arms waiting for an explanation.
“Perhaps he’s running behind, too.”
Merlin sighed. “Gwen, I don’t want to put you in the position of having to lie to your husband.”
Gwen’s eyes widened. “You’re going after, Morgana.”
Merlin quickly looked behind him and turned back to Gwen. “I have to. She’s going to attack Camelot again and I can’t let her do that.”
“Merlin, you can’t go alone.”
“I can’t tell, Arthur. You saw how he reacted today and I don’t want anyone else in danger. I have faced Morgana before and I can do it again.”
“Merlin, do you even have a plan?”
“The Druids are going to help me.” He took Gwen’s hand. “I’m not asking you not to tell, Arthur. But just give me a few minutes, please?” Merlin begged.
Gwen hesitated then very minutely nodded.
Merlin kissed her cheek. “Thank you, Gwen.” He rushed off, looking back at Gwen once.
Arthur paced his room. Gwen’s last words to him and Merlin’s declaration jumbled together in his head. He knew that Gwen was right and he had to stop denying what was apparently clear to everyone but him. He was in love with Merlin. He wished that Merlin had given him a chance to respond, instead of leaving so quickly.
Perhaps Merlin just assumed Arthur would reject him. That seemed possible, but there was something nagging at Arthur about Merlin’s behavior. Something about it was familiar. All of a sudden, Arthur stopped pacing. He remembered a conversation Merlin and he had a few days before.
“I remember after I woke up, you came to me. You were acting peculiar. You were as insolent as ever, telling me not to be a prat...”
“Advice you clearly never heeded.” Merlin grinned.
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “I knew something was wrong, I just couldn’t figure it out. You were trying to say good-bye to me, weren’t you?”
“Yes. Obviously I couldn’t tell you what was going to happen, but I couldn’t die without saying something to you one last time.”
Arthur threw his head back. “I am such an idiot!
Arthur rushed to the door. He threw the door open and rushed out, colliding immediately with someone else. He looked down and was shocked to see Gwen on the floor. “Guinevere! I’m so sorry.” He reached down and helped her off the floor.
“It’s alright. It’s only the second time tonight.”
Arthur furrowed his brow. “Second time?”
“Merlin knocked me down a few minutes ago. He’s-”
“Going after Morgana. I just worked that out. I think he came here before to say goodbye to me.”
“You have to find him.”
“Did he say anything about where he could possibly be heading?” Arthur asked.
“He didn’t say exactly. He did say that the Druids would be helping him.”
Arthur thought fast. “He’s probably heading to the Forest of Ascetir.”
Gwen nodded in agreement.
“Gwen, I need you to tell the knights what’s happening. If Merlin and I aren’t back in two hours, the need to come to after us.”
“Alright. Please be careful, Arthur.”
Arthur nodded once. “I will. Thank you for telling me, Gwen.” He gave her a fond look and squeezed her hand before racing away.
Merlin stood in the middle of the Forest and waited for Morgana. He had a feeling she would be there shortly. Iseldir had told him that Morgana had been desperate and contacted one of them a few days ago for help. Iseldir had sent word to her to meet him in the Forest right about now.
Merlin took out the dagger Iseldir had given him, hoping that Morgana wouldn’t give him a reason to use it. But he knew that hope was fruitless. Morgana was beyond saving. Merlin’s head snapped up when he heard a few twigs snap a few feet in front of him.
A few minutes later Morgana walked out of the shadows. She didn’t seem at all surprised to see him.
She looked around. “I should have known the Druids couldn’t be trusted. They’ve fallen for Arthur’s lies just like everyone else.”
“It’s not a lie. Arthur has lifted the ban against magic in Camelot. He has been trying to change.”
“He can try and change, but he never will. He is just like Uther. Sooner or later his true colors will show. But I will not wait for that day to come. I want what belongs to me.” Morgana snarled.
“Morgana it doesn’t have to be this way. You can end this vendetta. It has brought nothing but death and sadness. You’re all alone. Why do you continue to fight?”
“My brother has taken what belongs to me and I intend to get it back.”
Merlin gritted his teeth. “Camelot was never yours.”
Morgana stalked forward. “That is not your decision.”
Merlin held onto the dagger firmly. “Morgana, you used to be such a wonderful person. What did Morgeuse do to you?”
Morgana screamed as she threw up her hand and sent Merlin hurtling backward. “Don’t you dare blame my sister! She is the only person in this world who ever truly loved me. She didn’t pretend to be my friend and then poison me.”
Morgana stood above Merlin.
“I am sorry for what I did to you, Morgana. I truly am. If you want to punish me, then do it. But stop trying to hurt, Arthur.”
“I will never stop. I’m going to enjoy killing you, Merlin and then I am going to watch Arthur suffer over your death. Then I will put him out of his misery and take back my crown.”
“You can try and kill me, Morgana. But I don’t care what I have to do. If I had to crawl back from the other side, I would never let you hurt Arthur.” Merlin’s eyes flashed gold and Morgana was thrown back. She hit her head hard on a tree.
Merlin got up and advanced towards her, only to stop and clutch at his throat. Morgana stood up slowly chanting something. Merlin felt as if his throat was being choked. He couldn’t get any air. He thought fast and his eyes flashed gold and Morgan stopped chanting. She tried to form words, but nothing was coming out.
Merlin quickly caught his breath and held his hand up towards the sky. There was a loud rumbling and lightning began to strike. Merlin channeled the lightning with his hand and directed it toward Morgana. She hurled herself away from it. He was about to do it again when he heard horses’ hoof beats.
“Oh, no.” Merlin muttered. “Please don’t let that be, Arthur.” He whipped his head around and saw Arthur galloping toward them in the distance. “Damn it!”
Merlin turned back and saw that Morgana was still on the ground. He knelt down, touching his hand to the ground. He said a quick spell. He hoped that would last long enough to protect Arthur.
When Arthur saw Merlin he jumped off of his horse. He ran toward Merlin. All of a sudden he rammed into something and fell to the ground. He got up in a bit of a daze. He looked in front of him, confused. There was nothing there and yet he knew he ran into something solid. He looked towards Merlin, who was looking back at him.
Merlin mouthed “I’m sorry.”
Arthur closed his eyes and groaned. Merlin must have put up some kind of shield. He ran forward trying to push his way through Merlin’s magic block but he couldn’t get through.
“Merlin!” Arthur screamed.
Arthur could only see Merlin from behind. He could hear him chanting something and Morgana was being lifted in the air. Merlin put his hand forward and threw Morgana against a tree.
Arthur saw Merlin gripping a dagger in his hand as he stalked toward Morgana. Merlin lifted the dagger up, but before he could Morgana’s eyes sprang open and Merlin was hurtled backwards. It was as if an invisible line was pulling him back and he landed with a thud directly in front of Arthur. Merlin was crumpled on the ground and not moving.
“Merlin, get up!” Arthur looked up and saw Morgana walking towards them. Arthur tried to fight his way through Merlin’s magic again but it was a futile effort.
Morgana smiled when she saw Arthur. She knelt next to Merlin. “Dear brother, you’re here just in time to watch your protector die.”
“Morgana!” Arthur screamed. “Please, don’t do this!”
Morgana pulled out a dagger from behind her. Arthur was horrified to recognize the dagger he had given to Morgana years ago as a gift. Morgana trailed the knife against Merlin’s chest.
“Morgana!” Arthur yelled until his throat was raw.
“Don’t worry, Arthur. I won’t kill him quickly.” Morgana raised the dagger and stabbed Merlin in his side.
Merlin didn’t know which pain was worse: the pain in his side or the sound of Arthur’s sobs. He opened his eyes slowly and saw Morgana looming over him. She was grinning cruelly at Arthur. She was relishing Arthur’s helplessness. Merlin took advantage and used his magic to throw Morgan off him.
He didn’t give Morgana any time to recover before scrambling forward; brandishing the dagger the Druids had given him.
Morgana laughed. “Is that supposed to scare me? It’s going to take more than that dagger, Emrys. I no longer fear any mortal blade.”
“This is no mortal blade.” Merlin lifted up his hand and plunged the dagger in the middle of Morgana’s chest. Thunder rumbled in the dark clouds in the sky and made the ground shake. Morgana’s screamed and her body convulsed. As her body became still the ground stilled and the sky became quiet.
Merlin pulled the dagger out of Morgana’s chest. He fell backwards onto the ground. He pressed his hand to the ground and lifted the shield keeping Arthur out. Merlin could hear Arthur calling to him. Soon he heard Arthur’s footsteps stomping against the ground. Arthur’s face was soon staring down at him. He had tears streaming down his face.
“I could kill you, Merlin. I really could.” Arthur panted.
“Shouldn’t you be taking care of me and not yelling at me?” Merlin laughed and then winced at the pain in his side.
“I think I can manage to do both.” Arthur said. “You’re going to be alright, Merlin. I’m going to get you to Gaius and then I’m going to yell at you and tell you what an idiot you are and then…”
“Then I’m going to do this.” Arthur leaned forward and kissed him softly.
“Am I dreaming?” Merlin asked after Arthur pulled away.
Arthur laughed. “No.” He put his arm under Merlin’s shoulder and the other one under his knees and picked Merlin up. Arthur turned and looked at Morgana. “I can’t believe she’s dead.”
Merlin looked at him. “She’s not.”
Arthur looked at Merlin with surprise etched in his features. “What?”
“Iseldir gave me this dagger.” He showed Arthur the dagger in his hand. “This is the only one of its kind. It was used by sorcerers in the old religion to steal other sorcerer’s powers. The druids kept it hidden with the Cup of Life and other items they found over the years.”
Arthur stared at Morgana. “She doesn’t have any powers?”
Merlin shook his head. “You can keep her locked away safely now. She’ll remain unconscious for a while and the Druids will watch over her. You can send someone to get her later.”
Arthur nodded slowly. He took one last long at his sister and turned away, cradling Merlin in his arms.
Merlin woke up in his old bedroom at Gaius’. He passed out shortly after arriving back in Camelot. He looked down and saw that he had on no shirt and there was a huge bandage wrapped around his chest. He noticed something weighing down on his right arm. He looked down and was surprised to see Arthur with his head resting against his arm. Arthur hand was clasped around his. Merlin smiled. He reached over and stroked Arthur’s hair gently.
Arthur’s head shot up and he stared at Merlin. He smiled broadly at him. “You’re awake!”
“What gave it away?” Merlin teased.
Arthur frowned at him. “You’re not funny, Merlin.”
“I’ve been told by many people that I am.”
“I’m sure they were all drunken fools.”
Merlin tried to sit up.
“Don’t. It’s probably too painful to sit up.” Arthur warned.
“Arthur, I’m fine.” Merlin gritted his teeth at the pain when he sat up.
Arthur shook his head. “Do you have some kind of mental affliction that makes it impossible for you to listen to a word I say?”
Merlin was taken aback at Arthur’s sudden harsh tone. “Arthur, I said I was alright.”
Arthur stood up. “No, you’re not alright. You were stabbed by Morgana. You got stabbed because you went off, after I specifically told you not to, and faced her alone. She could have killed you!”
“I protected myself, just like I said I would.”
“Do you not care at all about what you put me through?” Arthur yelled. He took a deep breath and turned his back on Merlin.
Arthur turned back to look at him.
The look on Arthur’s face was worse than any physical pain he could ever endure. The last time he’d seen Arthur looking that lost was after his father had died.
“I have never been so terrified in my entire life.” Arthur crossed his arms in front of his chest. “I was standing on the other side of that shield you created and I could nothing to help you. You were right there and I couldn’t touch you. I felt like I was drowning.”
“Arthur.” Merlin’s voice cracked. “I am so sorry. I know exactly how that feels. When you were laying there and dying at the lake, it was the worst pain I’ve ever felt. If you had died, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Arthur walked over and sat beside Merlin’s bed.
Merlin grabbed his hand. “I couldn’t go through that again. You said you would rather die than see anything happen to me. I feel the same way.”
Arthur gave a small laugh. “We’re quite a pair, aren’t we?”
Merlin smiled and nodded.
Arthur got up and sat on the bed right next to Merlin. He picked up Merlin’s hand.
Merlin’s breath hitched in his throat. “Arthur when we were in the forest you kissed me.”
“Yes.” Arthur brought Merlin’s hand to his lips and kissed it softly.
"Why would you do that?"
Arthur leaned forward and stopped inches from Merlin's lips. "Because I love you, too."
Arthur closed the distance between them and kissed Merlin. Merlin froze momentarily, but soon smiled into the kiss.
Arthur brought his hand to Merlin's face and stroked his cheek softly. Arthur tried to be mindful of Merlin's wound but when he deepened the kiss, his hand brushed against Merlin's side.
Merlin didn't care. He couldn't feel the pain. The only thing he could feel were Arthur’s lips gently moving against his, Arthur's hand against his face, and the feeling of all of his dreams coming true.
Arthur must have noticed his mistake because he made a move to pull back but Merlin moaned and wrapped his arm around Arthur's neck, pulling him back.
Arthur moaned as well. He swept his tongue along Merlin's lips, until Merlin opened his mouth and he swept his tongue inside Merlin's mouth.
Merlin was beginning to feel dizzy, but he couldn't stop kissing Arthur. He couldn't let him go. Merlin knew with absolute certainty that all of the years of waiting were absolutely worth it.
She looked so tiny. It surprised Arthur that it was that thought that ran through his mind as he watched Morgana curled up on the floor of her cell.
Morgana lifted up her head slowly and looked at Arthur. Her eyes slowly focused and her eyes slowly became filled with hate.
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
Arthur shook his head slowly. "Unlike you Morgana, I don't revel in other's misfortune."
"You're so smug." She coughed, clearing her throat after weeks of remaining silent. It had been a month since Merlin had stripped her of her powers. "If I had powers you would be cowering before me."
Arthur walked closer to the bars. "I will never cower before you or anyone else."
Morgana lunged for the bars. Arthur didn't flinch.
Morgana's face crumpled slightly. "You had him do this to me. I'm nothing now. I might as well be dead. Why didn't you let him kill me?"
"This wasn’t my idea, Morgana. But it does seem like a fitting punishment.”
Morgana gripped the bars. “Don’t you think this is over, Arthur Pendragon. I will get my magic back.”
“You’re never going to get out of this cell, Morgana. No matter what.” Arthur backed away from her and turned to leave.
Morgana kept screaming at him. “You will never keep me here, do you understand? You haven’t won!”
Arthur just sighed as the door to the dungeon was closed behind him. He would never have his sister back and he had finally made his peace with that.
As Merlin opened the door to the Rising Sun, he almost ran into Gwaine. Gwaine smirked when he saw him. He patted Merlin’s shoulder. “I’m surprised to see you, Merlin. I thought you and Arthur were permanently locked at the hip, you might say.” Gwaine winked.
Merlin grinned tightly. “Don’t exaggerate.”
“Who’s exaggerating? I thought you two would never come up for air. You’re really putting him through his paces, aren’t you?”
Merlin’s cheeks reddened. “Bye, Gwaine.”
Gwaine laughed loudly. He turned to leave, but then turned back calling to Merlin. "Merlin?"
Merlin grimaced briefly before turning around. "Yes?"
Gwaine him a big and genuine smile. "I am happy for you."
Merlin smiled back. "Thank you."
Gwaine bowed his head slightly. “Bye, Merlin.”
Merlin turned and headed inside. He tried to get over the embarrassment of Gwaine’s jibes. He walked through the tavern and spotted Gwen at a back table. She smiled warmly at him as he sat down.
“Why’d you want to meet here?”
“I thought I’d give it a try before I left.” Gwen explained.
Merlin frowned. “You’re leaving?”
It was still hard for Merlin not to feel incredibly guilty around Gwen. Arthur had told him about the conversation that he and Gwen had that opened his eyes to his feelings for Merlin. Gwen had assured him that she didn’t blame him, but he couldn’t help feeling that he’d betrayed her and stolen something from his best friend. He could see the sadness that was in her eyes constantly. But he had thought she was beginning to start to move past it.
“It’s just temporary, Merlin. Camelot is my home. But I need a little respite from here.”
Merlin looked down at the table. “Because of Arthur and me?”
Gwen nodded stiffly. “Yes.” Merlin began to speak. “Merlin, if you apologize one more time I’m going to finally take you up on your offer and hit you.”
Merlin closed his mouth.
“Merlin, I mean it when I say that I’ve never seen Arthur happier. He’s where he should be. I just can’t be around your happiness right now. I need to learn to live without Arthur.”
Merlin took Gwen’s hands gently. “Where will you go?”
Gwen gave him a big smile. “I’m going to stay with your mother.”
Merlin’s eyebrows lifted. “Really?”
“Yeah. The only other place I’ve ever felt as comfortable as in Camelot was when I was in Ealdor. Your mother helped me so much when Arthur ended things last time; she thinks that she can help again.”
When Merlin had told Hunith about Arthur and him she had been incredibly happy for them. She said she always knew they belonged together. But she did admit that she felt terrible for Gwen, a sentiment that Merlin shared.
Gwen and Merlin enjoyed a few drinks and then Merlin walked her out. “I know it’s only been four years, but it’s going to be so strange not having a Queen in Camelot.”
Gwen gave him a rueful smile. “After decades without magic, Arthur has lifted the ban against it and sorcerers and everyone else are actually getting along for once. You and Arthur have done amazing things together. You’re making history. Camelot will survive without a Queen.”
“I don’t think I will survive without you.” Merlin whispered.
“Yes, you will. You have everything you need with Arthur. This is the way it was always meant to be.” Gwen looked down at the ground. “I just wish it had happened a lot sooner.”
Merlin hugged Gwen fiercely. “I love you, Gwen.”
“I love you, too, Merlin.”
Merlin walked into Arthur’s chambers, which Arthur was already trying to turn into their chambers, and smiled briefly when he saw Arthur at his desk.
Arthur looked up at Merlin and gave him a brilliant smile. He saw the look on Merlin’s face and his smile fell. “Come here.”
Merlin half walked and half ran over to him. Arthur pulled Merlin down on to his lap and wrapped his arms around him, burying his face in Arthur’s waist. Arthur gave a small kiss to Merlin’s side. “You saw Gwen?”
Merlin nodded. “Yeah. She’s leaving Camelot for a little while.”
Arthur didn’t say anything for a long moment. “Oh?”
“She’s going to visit Ealdor. She said to say good-bye.”
“If that’s going to make things easier for her, then I’m happy for her.” Arthur looked up at Merlin. “Do you feel guilty for being happy with me?”
Merlin stared at Arthur. He slid down and grabbed Arthur’s hands. “I wish that Gwen didn’t have to be hurt.”
“As do I.”
Merlin cupped Arthur’s face. “But I don’t regret being with you and I never will.”
Arthur beamed down at him. Merlin leaned up and kissed Arthur deeply. Merlin felt that now Arthur and he were truly beginning to live the life they were truly destined for. He would hold on to that for as long as he could.