Merlin was only back in Camelot for two days before the queen caught on.
Arthur had gone to speak with the king, leaving Merlin with a stack of reports to look at. Normally, he shadowed Arthur around, as a part-bodyguard, part-advisor in magical matters, decked out in black and Camelot red, but the king had voiced a specific need to speak to Arthur privately. Merlin wasn’t surprised; King Uther had mixed feelings toward him, even without knowing the extent of his and Arthur’s relationship. On one hand, Merlin helped save Camelot—and Arthur’s life; on the other hand, Merlin was once a slave, still a sorcerer, and too close to Arthur for the king’s liking. Merlin kept himself as much away from the king as possible.
“Hello, your majesty,” Merlin greeted the queen when she swept gracefully into Arthur’s antechamber. “Arthur is with the king.”
“Yes, I know. I actually wanted to speak with you,” Ygaine said.
“Yes.” The queen took the reports still in Merlin’s hands and set them aside, sitting down next to Merlin.
“Oh. Um, what did you want to speak with me about?”
“Arthur is in love with you, isn’t he? And you’re in love with him.”
“Your majesty, I—”
“Don’t deny it, dear. I know my son, and I know the way he looks at you, the way you look at him.”
“No, don’t apologize. You’re good for him. I haven’t seen him truly happy in a long time,” Ygraine said. “What—who—I want to know about is you, Merlin.”
“Oh no, there isn’t much to know about me,” Merlin protested.
Ygraine took his hands into hers. “Tell me, please. I would like to know the man who holds my son’s heart.”
“I…” Merlin wanted to protest, but Ygraine had that look on her face which told him that she wouldn’t take no for answers; it was unfairly identical to the one Arthur sometimes gave him. “…all right,” Merlin said with a sigh.
Then, strangely enough, he ended up telling the queen almost everything—about growing up in Carmarthen, his mother and his father, his studies, his magic and the prophesy, the war, his years in slavery, and finally, what has happened in the last year. Perhaps because he missed his family, or because he just needed to tell someone everything he’d gone through, or maybe even because the queen reminded him of Arthur enough to let him bare his soul to her, even if he hadn’t told even Arthur about his whole past, simply what the prince had asked about and pieced together.
When he reached the end of his life story, the queen wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into an embrace.
“Thank you, Merlin,” Ygraine said into Merlin’s ear. “You are truly one of the bravest, best men I’ve ever met. And the least I can do is thank you for all that you’ve done and sacrificed, for protecting my son and Camelot, and for continuing to do so.”
Merlin blinked repeatedly against the stinging in his eyes, swallowing down the tightness in his throat. It had been years since he’d last been held like this, engulfed in a mother’s warmth and love. And it’s when the queen stroked a hand through his hair that he gave in, letting out a choked sob.
“Shh…” Ygraine whispered, running her hand once again through Merlin’s hair.
Later, Arthur found him still in the queen’s embrace, face pressed to Ygraine’s shoulder, though his tears had run out. Merlin heard the pause in Arthur’s footsteps by the door, before Arthur sat down quietly in his favored chair at the table.
Ygraine pulled away, hands moving to cup Merlin’s face. Her thumbs brushed the wetness from his face.
“There you go. If you ever find you need a mother’s touch, don’t be shy to ask me. All right?”
“Good. I best be leaving now.” Ygraine reached over and touched Arthur’s head. “Hello, my boy. How did your talk with your father go?”
“Mother,” Arthur greeted. “It went…better than I expected it to.”
“Good, I’ll see you two boys later than.” Merlin and Arthur bowed their heads to her before she turned to leave the room. She paused by the door, turning slightly to add, “Merlin, I’ll be sure to put in a good word for you with my husband.” Before Merlin could protest, the queen was out the door.
The next few moments were spent in silence, Arthur staring at Merlin, and Merlin staring at the floor.
Then Arthur cleared his throat and asked, “So, are you going to tell me what that was about?”
“I…” Merlin glanced over at the prince before glancing away again. “I told her about my past. And…I think your mother just approved of our…relationship.”
“Oh gods, my father will know by the end of the day,” Arthur said, running a hand over his face.
“Um, well, on the bright side, we won’t have to hide anymore? Possibly?” Merlin remarked.
Arthur huffed in reply. He then grabbed hold of Merlin’s hand, lacing their fingers together, and gave him a smile.
“As long as he doesn’t kill the two of us first.”