Arthur met Merlin for the first time thanks to Morgana and Leon. They were throwing a cookout for all the guys at the fire station.
Leon was the fire chief of firehouse twenty-four and had a great bunch of firemen working for him. They were like one big extended family, so every June, they'd have a cookout at Morgana's father, Uther Pendragon's mansion. All the firemen and their spouses or significant others and children were invited.
Merlin was the newest member of the "family" having only been with the department about seven months so this was the first cookout he'd been to. He was both a fireman and a trained paramedic so he was partnered with Gwaine, the only other paramedic on their shift, for all runs requiring an ambulance. The rest of the time, they were just part of the group.
Morgana knew Merlin was perfect for Arthur but didn't know how to set them up since her brother always claimed he was too busy for a relationship. She knew, in reality, that he was just afraid to get involved with anyone because of Mordred.
Mordred was the product of a drunken one-off Arthur had at uni with a girl named Sophia. She dumped the baby on Arthur's doorstep as soon as he was born and diagnosed as being deaf. Arthur hadn't even been aware that he'd gotten her pregnant.
Uther had, of course, ordered a DNA test to prove Arthur was indeed the father before he welcomed the baby into the family. Uther had also instructed Arthur that he should get Sophia to sign over her parental rights which she more than happily did.
Arthur didn't really date because he didn't want to get involved with someone and then have Mordred get attached only for the relationship to not work out and Mordred to feel abandoned.
Merlin was sitting at one of the tables set up around the swimming pool when Arthur walked out with Mordred. As soon as Arthur saw him, he stopped dead in his tracks and just stared. Mordred pulled on his hand a few times before he was finally able to get Arthur's attention.
"Can I go play with the other kids?" he signed.
"Sure, just be careful," Arthur signed back.
"I will Dad," he signed as he ran off.
As soon as Morgana saw her brother, she walked over to him.
"Arthur, I'm so glad you decided to come after all," she said to him as she pulled him in for a hug. He had tried to get out of coming but Mordred really liked swimming so he reluctantly agreed.
"Yeah, me too," he told her as his eyes drifted back over to the handsome dark haired bloke. "Who is that?" he asked her as he tried to nonchalantly nod in the guy's direction.
"Oh, that's Merlin. He's the guy I've been wanting to set you up with. He's the sweetest guy you'll ever meet. Come on, let me introduce you," she said as she grabbed his arm and started pulling him toward Merlin.
"Merlin, I'd like to introduce you to my brother Arthur," Morgana said as she shoved Arthur towards the table.
"Hi, it's nice to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about you," Merlin said as he smiled and held out his hand to Arthur.
When Arthur took his hand, it felt like magic surged through his body. He finally was able to say, "it's nice to meet you too. So you're a fireman then?"
"Yeah, well a fireman and I'm also a trained paramedic."
"That's really great." Before he had a chance to say anymore, Morgana told the two that she needed to go check on something and quickly made her exit.
"Sorry, I think she's trying to set us up," Arthur said to Merlin apologetically.
"Oh, don't be. She's been going on about you for months so it's nice to finally be able to put a face to the man she described."
"She thinks I need to be dating and looking for my, and I'm quoting Morgana here, "my one true love, my soulmate." She's such a romantic," and he laughed as he said it.
Merlin grinned as he asked him, "don't you believe that there is one true love out there for everyone?"
"Don't tell me you're a romantic too," he teased.
Merlin smiled as he shrugged his shoulders. "I guess that explains why I'm still single. I guess I haven't found my true love yet."
Arthur blushed at that. The more he was around Merlin, the more he was starting to believe in soulmates and true love.
Merlin met Mordred when he came over to ask his dad if he could get in the pool.
"Yes, but no messing around. You know the rules," Arthur looked at him sternly as he signed.
"I know Dad," he signed before he turned to Merlin. "Are you a fireman like Uncle Leon?"
Before Arthur had a chance to tell Merlin what Mordred had asked him, Merlin signed back to Mordred, "I sure am." Arthur was shocked that Merlin knew sign language.
Mordred's eyes lit up, "cool."
"Yeah, it is cool Mordred. This is Merlin and he works with Uncle Leon. Merlin this is my son Mordred," Arthur signed.
"It's very nice to meet you Mordred," Merlin signed before he bent over and held out his hand to Mordred.
Mordred, being the little gentleman that Arthur raised him to be, took Merlin's hand and once he'd released it, he signed his reply, "it's nice to meet you too Merlin." After that he rushed to get his shirt and shoes off so he could jump into the pool since he came wearing his swim trunks.
Arthur and Merlin both kept a close eye on Mordred as they continued talking. Arthur asked Merlin how he knew sign. "My best friend from childhood was deaf so I learned it for him," Merlin explained. Arthur was even more impressed with Merlin, if that was even possible.
Arthur enjoyed Merlin's company so much that he asked him out to dinner which Merlin more than happily accepted.
They exchanged numbers before Merlin left.
"I knew you'd adore him," Morgana screeched as she ran over to Arthur as soon as Merlin was out of sight.
"Whatever you say Morgs."
"Oh, come on now Arthur. Are you going to try to deny that you've fallen for him already?"
He didn't know how she was always able to read him so well. He thought she must be a sorceress. "Well, I will admit that there is something about him..."
"So when are you going on a date with him?" she interrupted.
"Who says I am?"
"Just stop it. I know you like him Arthur and it's quite obvious that he feels the same. I'm really happy for you both," she said sincerely and with a smile.
"Wow Morgana, it's not like we're getting married."
"Not yet, but you will, in due time," she said as she gave him a knowing look. Arthur wondered if it was possible that she could be a seer along with being a sorceress.
Morgana hadn't been wrong. Arthur and Merlin started dating soon after their first meeting. They were taking things slow because first, that's how Merlin wanted it because he had these crazy ideas about romance and not rushing things and second, because Arthur didn't want Mordred to get attached to Merlin until he was sure they had a future together. He'd never admit this to anyone, but he was absolutely positive they did have a future together because he knew Merlin was his soulmate shortly after meeting him.
The happy couple had been dating for more than nine months. Over those months, Arthur slowly started to include Mordred in more of their planned outings. Mordred really liked Merlin and Merlin adored Mordred. It was like they were already becoming a happy little family much to Arthur's delight.
Mordred's class went on a field trip to a nature preserve. There were caves throughout the preserve so the children were instructed to stay with their group and to not venture off the path.
Unfortunately, Mordred didn't heed those instructions. He went wondering over to a small cave entrance that went almost straight down underground. Before the teacher or chaperones were able to stop him, he'd fallen down into the cave and was out of sight.
The police and fire department were called immediately. Leon's crew was the first to arrive. By that time, all the other children had been put back on their bus so Merlin and Leon had no idea it was a deaf child trapped let alone that it was Mordred.
When they arrived, the park ranger explained that the tunnel went back about four feet before it opened up into a large cavern probably 20 - 25 feet down meaning the child would have fallen that distance.
Merlin immediately said he'd go down since he was the thinnest. Leon agreed since he was also a paramedic, and they feared what condition the child might be in. They'd been calling out repeatedly but never got any response back so they feared he may be unconscious or worse.
Merlin got suited up in the harness that would lower him down into the cave once he made it through the tight space. He couldn't wear any protective gear since it was too bulky.
Just as Merlin was crawling into the opening, Arthur arrived and went running over. "Where's my son?! How is he?!" he yelled to no one in particular. He was in such a panicked state that he didn't even realize it was Leon's crew that was on the scene until Leon came and put his arm around Arthur to try to calm him down.
"Leon, how is he?" Arthur asked with tears in his eyes.
"Sorry Arthur, but we don't know yet. We're waiting on Merlin to reach him," Leon explained.
"What? What do you mean? Where's Merlin?"
"He just went down into the cave..." but he didn't get to say anymore because his radio suddenly came to life.
Meanwhile, once Merlin got through the initial cramped space, it opened up and Lance and Percy slowly lowered him to the cave floor. Once he was down, he turned on his flashlight and saw a small boy sitting on the floor with his knees pulled up to his chest with his head resting on them and crying.
"Hey, hey, it's okay. You're going to be fine now," he said trying to comfort the child as he kneeled down in front of him. The boy didn't respond to him so he gently touched his shoulder to get his attention. He was shocked when he discovered it was Mordred down in the cave with him.
Merlin put the flashlight down in such a way that it was shining on both of them. As soon as Mordred saw Merlin, he sat up and threw himself into his arms.
Merlin held on to him tightly with one arm as he pulled out his radio.
"Leon, I've got him. It's Mordred," he said into the radio.
Before he said anymore, he put the radio down and gently tilted Mordred's head so he could read Merlin's hands. "Do you hurt anywhere?"
Mordred shook his head no.
"Did you hit your head when you fell down here?"
Again, he shook his head no.
Merlin quickly got back on his radio. "He looks fine, doesn't appear to have any broken bones, just a few cuts and bruises. Just give me a minute." Merlin then felt all around Mordred's head to see if he could feel any bumps. He followed that up by shining the flashlight all over him to see if there were any injuries he didn't initially see. "He doesn't appear to have a head injury either. I'll have him in the harness in a minute so you can pull him up."
"Okay, just let us know when you're ready," Leon told him.
Arthur had never been more relieved in his life. Mordred was okay and Merlin was there to comfort him. He felt like the luckiest man in the world at that moment, all things considered.
Suddenly, there was a loud noise and the ground shook. Then, all of a sudden, dust and dirt came pouring out of the tunnel opening.
"What the hell was that?!" Lance yelled.
The park ranger said all the movement around the cave and tunnel must have caused it to become unstable.
Thankfully, Merlin had heard the start of the rumble so he had managed to push Mordred back against the wall and then stood in front of him to act as a shield to protect him.
After the noise stopped, they both had trouble breathing because of all the dust and dirt in the air. Finally, it settled down so they could open their eyes.
Merlin heard Leon on his radio. "Merlin! Merlin! Are you and Mordred okay?"
"Yeah, we're both okay. Nothing hit us."
"That's a relief. Just hang in there until we can formulate a plan to get you two out of there."
"Daddy really loves you," Mordred signed as they were waiting to be rescued.
"That's good cause I really love your Daddy and you too," Merlin signed back.
They continued signing back and forth.
"I asked Daddy if we could keep you." This caused Merlin to chuckle.
"You did? What did your Daddy say?"
"He said he was planning on keeping you forever."
"Yes, he said he wants to marry you and then you'd be my Papa."
Merlin was holding back his tears as he signed, "I'd really like that."
"Me too, Papa," Mordred signed before he leaned his head against Merlin's chest and fell asleep.
Merlin sat there smiling, even though he was currently stuck in a cave, knowing that Arthur wanted to marry him. He knew he'd accept because he loved them both so much.
Finally, almost an hour later, Leon came over his radio. "Okay, we've got it cleared enough to bring you two out of there. But Merlin, it's still very unstable so you need to be careful."
"Okay, thanks Leon. I'll have Mordred ready in a minute."
Merlin woke Mordred up and got him in the harness and signed, "this is very important. You have to hold onto the rope very tightly, okay. Don't let go of it until the firemen have ahold of you, okay. Now, once they start pulling you up, don't look down. Just keep looking up. It's going to be a tight fit so you'll probably have to help them get you out, okay."
Mordred nodded his head at each of Merlin's instructions before he gave Merlin a tight squeeze. "I will."
"Go ahead, he's ready," he radioed up.
Percy and Lance were at the cave entrance and once he was up, they grasped onto Mordred and pulled him out. He gave them both a big smile before he saw his daddy and ran over into Arthur's arms. When he finally pulled away, he signed, "Daddy, Merlin saved me."
"I know baby, I know. He's our hero."
Mordred smiled and nodded his head yes before Gwaine came over to examine him. It was like Merlin said, no broken bones, just some minor cuts and bruises. How he had managed to fall that far without any serious injuries was a mystery.
Morgana had arrived by this time. Arthur asked her if she could take him home because he didn't want to leave until Merlin was out.
"Of course I will. Give the hero a kiss from me okay," she said.
"Will do. Thanks Morgana. I'll be there as soon as I can," he said as he was hugging Mordred tight.
"It's no problem. We'll see you later," she grinned before she walked away with Mordred.
They had already sent the harness back down and were pulling Merlin up when, all of a sudden, there was another loud noise before the ground once again shook, only this time more violently, followed by the same dust and dirt as before.
"Shit!...What the fuck!...No!...Merlin!" Everyone seemed to be yelling at the same time.
"There's been another cave in! We need additional trucks and heavy equipment now!" Leon yelled into his radio as he ran over to where Percy and Lance were kneeling shining flashlights down into the cave to see if they could see Merlin. All the rock around the tunnel had collapsed leaving a much larger opening now.
"Merlin! Merlin! Can you hear us!" they were both yelling as Leon was calling out to Merlin over the radio.
"The cave-in snapped the rope. I don't know how high up he was when he fell," Lance said, fighting to keep his voice steady.
"Can you see him?" Leon asked.
Lance told him, "not yet. There's too much dust still in the air to see anything."
"Merlin, this is Gwaine! Hang in there, we'll get you out soon! We've got more trucks and equipment coming! Just hang in there, okay!" There was no response.
Arthur just stood there looking on in horror for several minutes trying to get his mind around what had just happened. Then he cried, "no...no...no...Merlin," as he collapsed to the ground. He couldn't believe this. Merlin was supposed to be out of that damn cave and standing here with him while he thanked him properly.
While they were waiting for the heavy equipment to arrive, Leon went over to Arthur. "Hey, Arthur, it's going to be okay. Merlin's a fighter. We'll get him out."
Arthur heard Leon and all he could say was, "when? When are you going to get him out of there? You need to get him out of there now Leon. I can't lose him, I just can't," and he broke down crying.
"I know Arthur. The equipment should be here any minute..." Leon was saying as they turned to see the other trucks arrive. "Sorry Arthur, I've got to go," and he ran over to the others to talk strategy.
Less than twenty minutes later, a dozer was slowing removing the soil and rocks around the cave opening. It was slow work because they had to be careful to avoid causing yet another cave-in.
It was the longest three hours of Arthur's life waiting until they were ready to send guys down to get Merlin. Gwaine and Lance were all harnessed up and ready to go as soon as the dozer moved out of the way.
"Okay, lower him slowly!" Leon yelled to his guys as Gwaine disappeared down into the now much larger opening. He was quickly followed by Lance.
Everyone up top was on pins and needles waiting for either of the two men to come on the radio saying they had Merlin.
It felt like hours but was only actually five minutes before Lance was heard. "We've got him. It doesn't look good." He was fighting back tears as he continued. "He appears to have suffered head trauma. We need a backboard and neck brace."
"We'll send them right down," Leon told him. When he looked over to his guys, Percy and Elyan were already in the process of lowering the items.
Gwaine got on the radio to relay Merlin's vital signs so they could get things ready for him when he came up and for the hospital to be prepared for his arrival.
It took what felt like forever before Merlin was slowly pulled up. When he finally emerged, he was strapped securely onto a backboard, covered in dirt and unconscious. The dirt didn't do a very good job of hiding all the blood though.
From there it was a blur. Everyone was rushing around and as soon as they got an I.V. line started and got him stabilized and on the stretcher, they loaded him into the back of the ambulance and took off with their lights flashing and sirens blaring.
Arthur wanted to run over to Merlin the second he saw him but knew he'd only be in the way so he stayed back so the other paramedics could do their job.
He was still standing in the same place when Leon rushed over to him. "You coming Arthur?"
"What? Oh yeah." He was still in shock but somehow managed to get to his car and follow the ambulance to the hospital.
He ran in and was soon joined by Leon and his crew. There was no update on Merlin's condition. Gwaine and Lance, who were both covered in dirt, came over to stand by Arthur.
"Sorry Arthur. If I'd known this could happen I would've gone down there instead of letting Merlin," Gwaine told him.
"Gwaine, you know Merlin wouldn't have let you," Lance said to Gwaine before he turned to Arthur. "He's a fighter. He's going to be okay."
Arthur nodded his head, "yeah, he has to be."
It was probably two hours later before the doctor came out. Dr. Gaius told them, "Merlin has suffered some head trauma but after looking at the initial brain scans, I don't expect there to be any permanent damage. He also has a dislocated shoulder, broken arm and fingers, three cracked ribs and numerous cuts and bruises. He should wake sometime within the next few hours."
They all let out a collective sigh of relief and hugged each other. Arthur went and sat down in a corner by himself. He was overwhelmed with emotions. Now that he knew Merlin was going to be okay, everything that had happened today was finally sinking in.
He could very easily have lost Mordred today. He was so fortunate that his son didn't get hurt but just the possibility scared him to death. Then there was Merlin. He didn't know what he'd do without him in his life even after such a short time.
Merlin risked his life to save his son and that's something he could never repay him for. He didn't know what he ever did to deserve Merlin and his love but he did know that he would cherish it always.
Leon came over to talk to Arthur. "You can go home to Mordred. We'll keep you updated."
"No Leon, I'm not going to leave him."
"I figured that's what you'd say," he said with a grin. "I really don't know which of you is worse. It's almost sickening how in love you both are," he chuckled.
Arthur just looked at him and let a smile spread across his face thinking about Merlin being in love with him.
Arthur was sitting on the side of Merlin's bed, holding his good hand and gently rubbing his cheek when he started to stir.
"Hey you, wake up," Arthur quietly said to him.
Finally, Merlin opened his eyes. He looked confused like he was trying to figure out where he was. He smiled when he saw Arthur. "What happened? Where am I?"
"There was a cave in..." Arthur began.
Merlin quickly interrupted him almost frantic, "how's Mordred? Is he okay?"
"Shhh...Mordred's fine, thanks to you." Merlin breathed an audible sigh of relief upon hearing that before Arthur continued. "You saved him. You're our hero." He bent down and gave Merlin a sweet kiss since his lip was split.
Arthur pulled back and just looked at his boyfriend in awe. He was so beautiful, even bloodied and bruised and with stitches over his temple. "I love you so much Merlin. The thought of losing you..." he stopped and had to put his head down while the tears flowed down his cheeks.
"Hey, it's okay, I'm still here," Merlin told him as he put his good hand under Arthur's chin so he was looking at him. "I'm not going anywhere. I love you and Mordred too much."
Hearing Merlin say that about, not only him, but his son too, made Arthur love him even more, if that was possible.
Arthur got down on one knee. "Merlin, I love you so much. You are my soulmate, my one true love. Will you make me the happiest man alive and marry me?"
A smile instantly spread across Merlin's face as he nodded his head and said, "yes, of course I will. I love you too."
Before he knew it, Arthur was on his feet and had Merlin wrapped securely in his arms, being extra gentle as he kissed him tenderly.
"Merlin, I'm sorry. I know this wasn't the most romantic place or way to propose, and believe me, I had something much more romantic in mind..."
"It was perfect Arthur," Merlin interrupted as he pulled him back down for another kiss.
Merlin was released from the hospital, and into Arthur's care, two days later. He was sore all over and he had to be careful how he moved because of his ribs.
As soon as Arthur pulled up outside of his house, Mordred, who was inside with Morgana, rushed out to greet him. "Are you okay?" Mordred signed to Merlin when he saw his arm and hand in a cast and his still bruised face.
Since Merlin only had use of one hand, Arthur had to sign for him. "Merlin says he's fine. Just a little sore but he's so happy to see you."
"I'm happy to see you too. Daddy and me missed you."
"He missed you too," Arthur signed for Merlin to his son.
Morgana came outside and gave Merlin a gentle kiss on the cheek and told him she was so glad he was okay. She then led Mordred back inside so Arthur could help Merlin in.
As soon as they walked in, Merlin saw the big banner they had hanging on the wall. It said, "Welcome Home."
Merlin smiled but looked confused.
"Since we're getting married anyway, Mordred and I want you to move in with us now, before the wedding. What do you say?" Arthur spoke and signed.
Merlin looked over at Mordred who was nodding his head as he signed, "please say yes."
He then looked back at Arthur who was copying his son by nodding his head as he too signed, "please say yes."
Merlin gave them both a blinding smile as he nodded his head yes.
Both father and son hugged him, but not too tightly. Arthur could tell Merlin was getting tired so he led him back to his bedroom which was now their bedroom. Merlin wanted to shower before he climbed into bed so Arthur slowly helped him undress. As he saw the many cuts and bruises that covered Merlin's body, he started getting misty eyed.
Once he had him undressed, he wrapped his cast up to keep it dry before he turned on the water and helped Merlin into the shower before he stripped and got in with him where he proceeded to wash his hair and then his body before drying him off and getting him into bed. He was barely able to kiss him before Merlin fell asleep.
Three long months later, Merlin had finally been cleared by the doctor to return to work. Over those three months, Arthur and Mordred had taken such good care of him and the three of them had grown even closer.
When Arthur drove him to the station for his first shift, the crew was thrilled to finally have him back. They had all seen Merlin on numerous occasions while he was recovering but there was just something about Merlin that made everyone smile and they'd missed that in his absence. The guys immediately surrounded him as Arthur moved out of the way. He knew what Merlin meant to them all.
A few months later, Arthur and Merlin walked down the aisle together to join Mordred, who was standing in front anxiously waiting on them. Soon they were pronounced husband and husband. They kissed each other lovingly before they both turned to Mordred. Arthur picked him up so they could give him a joined hug.
A little more than a year later, well after Merlin had officially adopted Mordred, they adopted a little girl named Jenny.
When Leon and Morgana's annual cookout came around again, Arthur arrived late because of a work emergency. This time, when he walked out, it was to see Merlin, his true love, his soulmate, holding their daughter while watching their son swimming. When Merlin saw Arthur, he gave him the brightest smile and Arthur knew he was the luckiest man alive.
Thanks for reading.