He was late. So. Very. Late. Arthur hated it when he wasn't punctual to counsel meetings. As quickly as possible, he dashed through the halls, yelling apologies at servants he narrowly managed to evade on the way. More than a few times he tripped over the official robes that Arthur had insisted on, and still wouldn't budge from. Merlin thought they were ridiculous, mainly because they were far too over the top for his taste, plus they were always tripping him up (it's not like he needed extra reasons to be clumsy). Eventually he made it to the great hall, throwing the doors open with magic and racing inside. It wasn't until he was in his seat, cheeks flushed and chest heaving, that he realized everyone was silent and staring at him.
“Really Merlin, you do know how to make an entrance don't you?” Arthur's voice was laced with sarcasm, and his eyes glinted with reproach.
“Excuse me Sire, I got caught up in research.” He made sure to look up at Arthur from under his lashes and make 'sire' sound as dirty as possible. He rarely called him by his title, the last time being when Arthur had him bent over their table, making him beg for it. By the rush of heat in Arthur's cheeks and narrowed glare (ensuring Merlin he wouldn't forget this little incident), he assumed the King had remembered as well.
“Yes, well there's no excuse for tardiness.” Arthur said in what Merlin often referred to as his 'Uther voice'. It should have been scary, but after all their years together it just made Merlin want to laugh. There was a time and a place for jibing though, and in front of the counsel was not one of them. Merlin bit his lip hard enough to draw blood to keep the laughter from bubbling out his mouth.
“Of course.” Merlin said sternly, and masked his face into complete seriousness.
Arthur motioned around the table, acknowledging everyone present before speaking again, “Let's begin, shall we gentlemen?” They all nodded in agreement and sat back quietly in their chairs.
“As we all know, Mercia is the last city to join Albion and agree to peace. Over the past month several of our outlying villages have been attacked by Mercian troops.” Arthur motioned over to him and he took that as his cue to bring up the maps. A few whispered words later and a golden version of Camelot sprouted to life and hovered just over the table. “We can not let this continue any longer. While I would much rather solve this without any war, I will not let my people suffer by their hand. We will set up and hold a line here,” Arthur pointed to a spot of land and Merlin helpfully added a little golden army to the map, “and here.” Arthur pointed to another small village and Merlin added another army. “Does anyone have any questions?” Arthur asked and fell silent.
“Have the other Kings agreed?” Lord Askern asked.
“I have not had time to discuss the specific actions to take, but they are all in agreement that something needs to be done.” Arthur replied confidently.
Merlin fought the urge to roll his eyes. Even after five years of Arthur being High King of Albion, Askern still felt it necessary to get each and every action agreed upon by the old Kings. It felt like a lack of respect to Merlin, but Arthur tolerated it; he said that while all the armies and lands were his to command now, it didn't mean the old Kings shouldn't be allowed to give input. They did still help govern over the lands after all. Merlin agreed with him wholeheartedly, he just didn't like Askern.
“When will the knights move to their new stations?” Another member asked.
“Today if we are in agreement. Leon will command the northern post at Eofewic and I will be at Aqualonia.” Arthur said.
Merlin watched closely and evaluated the reaction of the counsel. Most of them seemed apprehensive, and he could understand why. No one wanted a war. Arthur was right though, they couldn't stand by while Mercia attacked innocent villagers. He stood next to Arthur and waved his hand to make the magical map dissipate. In its place he conjured an image of the aftermath he had witnessed in one of the ransacked villages. Houses were burning, women screaming, children running. He had got there just in time to put out the fires and save lives.
“This is what they are doing to our people. I understand your hesitation, I don't want war just the same as all of you, but we can't let this continue on any longer.” He let his conjured image move to a crying girl he had found separated from her mother, and watched it have the intended effect. Insecurity quickly turned to rage and the counsel meeting descended into disorder as everyone voiced angry shouts at once. After Arthur got them quieted back down, a poll was taken and it was a unanimous decision to send the knights.
After everyone else had left, Arthur sighed and settled down in his chair. “Thank you for the theatrics. I don't know if they would have agreed otherwise and I'm not in the mood to force the issue.”
“At least it's good for something.” Merlin chuckled and wiggled his fingers.
“Why don't you make it even more useful. I could really use a few more hours in the day.” Arthur said as he sagged further into his chair. Merlin took a moment to really look at him and was shocked to see what he'd been missing the past couple days; Arthur looked well and truly exhausted. Dark circles rimmed his eyes and his skin was pulled into taught lines.
“I think that can be arranged.” Merlin said with a soft smile as he willed time to slow around them. For once, Arthur didn't complain or goad him about being a showoff.
“I've been so busy lately I haven't noticed how tired you look. This business with Mercia is really getting to you, isn't it?” He moved behind Arthur and started rubbing his shoulders, letting some of his magic seep through his hands and relax Arthur's tense muscles.
“We've been able to do everything without war so far, and I want to keep it that way. I don't want to see my men die for me; no matter the cause.” Arthur said with great conviction in his voice. This was why he loved Arthur. He has such a good heart, always putting his kingdom and people above himself.
“We'll be fine. If we have to go to war, I can take on their armies by myself. No need to loose anyone.” He hadn't done magic on that scale before, but he knew it was possible. He had far less debts about the constraints of his magic these days. It had taken Arthur being kidnapped for him to finally understand he had been limiting himself by thinking things impossible.
Arthur had insisted on going on a hunting trip on the same day a group of new recruits had come to be a part of Merlin's magic knights. He had all the faith that Arthur could go on a hunting trip with just a few of his own knights, but old habits died hard (plus Arthur always seemed to attract any kind of trouble possible when outside Camelot's walls).
Sure enough, later that afternoon Merlin had felt a certain unease and did his best to brush it off. It wasn't until that night, when several horses, including Arthur's, returned home without their riders that Merlin started to panic. The entire kingdom, including Merlin had been out looking for him for days. The worst part was that Merlin could feel Arthur getting weaker and weaker.
After a week, he knew if he didn't find him, Arthur was going to die within the day. Hysterically and near death with worry, Merlin let his power out with a furry. He stopped thinking and willed himself to be where Arthur was. Within moments he was transported to an abandoned castle, breathless from using a transportation spell he had never been able to get the hang of before. Furious and desperate to find Arthur, he stormed through the castle, eyes blazing bright gold. His enemies were sent flying or burned to a crisp without him even muttering the words. He walked straight into the dungeons just in time to see Morgana's eyes grow wide with surprise and then she quickly disappeared.
Arthur was hanging from chains, blood running from his mouth and several other wounds on his body. Merlin rushed to his side and placed his hands on his shoulders, willing him to be whole again. Before he could remember that healing magic had never worked on Arthur before, the wounds closed and Arthur was sputtering awake. Merlin had whisked them both home and realized later that he didn't think he was capable of doing half of the things he had accomplished.
From that point forward he learned to trust in his magic. If he willed it hard enough, he was confident he could do anything. So while he had never fought an entire army by himself, he knew it wouldn't be a problem.
Arthur, however, thought it was a terrible idea. “You absolutely will not do something as ludicrous as face an entire army alone, powerful warlock or no.”
Merlin walked around to face him, ready to object, but stopped when he saw the look on Arthur's face. It wasn't an 'I don't trust you to get the job done' sort of expression, but rather an 'I couldn't bear to loose you and would never risk your life like that.' sort of look.
“Ok, fine. Unless there are no other alternatives, I won't face their army alone.” Merlin said in retreat.
Arthur nodded in agreement before gently pushing Merlin back and standing up. “I do need to go speak with Leon and make sure everything is ready to go. Would you unfreeze everything please?”
Merlin let time go and started walking towards the doors. “I have to get back to some research actually. I'm assuming we're going with the knights?”
He heard Arthur fall into step behind him. “Yes. Be ready after lunch, along with a contingent of your knights.” The implied 'do not be late this time' was clear.
“Of course my Lord.” Merlin said with a grin over his shoulder.
Arthur surprised him by grabbing his arm, spinning him around and shoving him against the door before kissing him passionately. Merlin groaned and immediately sought purchase on Arthur's hips, grabbing them tightly and using the leverage to wantonly grind into him. They hadn't been together in several nights; both too exhausted to do anything but fall straight to sleep by the end of the day. He reached for Arthur's laces, only to have his hand batted away.
“We don't have time for that now.” Arthur mumbled into the side of his face, making the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and his cock throb in protest.
“Time is something I can always give us.” Merlin retorted.
“But then I would want to sleep for days. Tonight at camp, I promise.” Arthur said just before he latched on to Merlin's neck and suckled a bruise into place. Merlin whined and tilted his head to give him better access to his sensitive skin. He had learned early on in their tentative relationship that Arthur was a bit possessive and loved to mark Merlin as his. The first time it had happened Merlin used his magic to heal the bruise, trying to keep their relationship discreet. When Arthur had seen him later that day in a counsel meeting he had stopped the entire proceeding to drag him out in the hall and find out where it had gone. When Merlin explained what he'd done Arthur had shoved him into the wall and worked his lips over Merlin's neck, worrying it into a deep purple bruise. “You're mine.” Arthur had all but growled at him. From then on Merlin left the evidence of their couplings alone.
“Consider that a promise of things to come.” Arthur said as he gently laved over the new mark with his tongue.
“You're insufferable.” Merlin said with a chuckle.
“Of course I am.” Arthur grinned at him before turning and walking out the door. “Don't be late Merlin!” he shouted down the hall.
The Magic Knights of Camelot were created a few years after Merlin was appointed the official Court Sorcerer. In addition to his magical research and adviser responsibilities, Merlin oversaw to the group of magic knights. He chose them for service, trained them and led them in battle. His only complaint was that their training took place at the same time as Arthur's knight's so he couldn't watch Arthur practice anymore. It had always been a favorite past time of his.
“King Arthur is setting up a post in two outlying villages and requires a contingent of you to stand by his side. Gilli, Vera, Brendanus, Jeffery, and Elizabeth, you will be joining us.”
Everyone bowed their heads and voiced their agreement. Merlin's eyes landed on Gilli, overwhelmed with joy and pride that the wayward sorcerer had made his was back. He was one of the few people that knew of Merlin's magic early on, and it made him feel like a kindred spirit.
“Back to your training until then, we leave after mid-day meal.”
“Yes Sire.” Many voices rang out at once. The group dispersed, all going to work at their respective projects. Rather than making everyone learn the same thing at once, Merlin learned it was better to find each magic users strengths and help them develop it. Gilli was skilled with basic elemental magic, Vera with enchantments, Brendanus with spell creating and Elizabeth potions. Others were skilled with healing magic, some defensive magic. A little bit of everything was represented within their group that all worked together to create an unstoppable force.
“Merwin, Merwin! Look what I can do!” Robin, a young boy that had started showing signs of magic early on, ran up to him and opened his palm. A small little flame danced on the palm of the boy's hand.
Merlin crouched down next to him and stretched his hand out. “Forbaerne,” he whispered and watched Robin's eyes light up with glee as a flame came to life on his own hand.
“'m just like you!” Robin shouted with unconstrained glee.
Merlin chuckled and ruffled the boy's hair with his other hand. “Looks like you are! Won't your mother be proud!”
“Maybe I can mawry a King when I get big too, then I'll be King Robin, just like your King Merwin!”
“I'm not a King little guy, just Court Sorcerer.” Merlin gently corrected him.
“But mummy says you are mawried to King Arthur!” Robin exclaimed and stuck his lip out to pout.
Merlin laughed inside, but kept a straight face. “Not exactly Robin, but you don't have to worry about that. Why don't you go show Gilli what you've learned.”
“Ok!” Robin's face lit up with the idea of showing off, already forgetting his aspirations to be King one day.
“Robin.” The boy stopped and turned around to look at him. “Remember what I told you before. Don't do magic unless your mother or one of the knights is with you, ok? You could hurt someone.”
“I know King Merwin!” he said and rushed off towards Gilli.
Merlin smiled and shook his head. It wasn't the first time he'd heard the people refer to him and Arthur as married, but it still came as a shock sometimes. He didn't know if they were referring to the way they bickered like an old married couple, or if the gossip was about what went on behind closed doors. He'd never tried to find out, because he'd really rather not know how publicized their sex life was. They had stopped being concerned about what the people thought many years ago (with the love bite fiasco he kind of wondered if Arthur was ever concerned about hiding it). When he had asked Arthur if it bothered him, he had told Merlin that he'd already given Camelot her Queen and he didn't feel obligated to try again.
Merlin had left the conversation at that, Gwen and Lancelot leaving ended up being a good thing, but it was still a touchy subject. He missed his friends dearly, but Gwen had been the one to push them together in the end and he couldn't hate her for that. He had known something was off when Gwen kept finding excuses to leave dinner early, or not show up at all; effectively leaving Merlin and Arthur alone for extended periods of time (and also gave her time with Lancelot). Not only that, but she kept asking Merlin about his feelings for the King, always saying he could trust her. Merlin had been terrified his feelings for Arthur were plain for anyone to see.
The morning she and Lancelot left the kingdom, she pulled Merlin into a tight embrace and urgently whispered “I know you and Arthur love each other. Please stop being so oblivious about it and find some happiness. You both deserve it so much.”
He had been completely taken off guard, but had managed to stammer out “How do you know?”
A small smile had graced her lips, and her eyes filled with a quiet sadness. “Because on our wedding day he was looking more at you in your spiffy red coat, than at me.” She had given him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Goodbye Merlin.” He had blushed bright red from head to toe, remembering the lascivious looks Arthur had given him that day; at the time he thought Arthur had been taking the piss with him. The coat had been Arthur's idea in the first place, indignantly claiming that the manservant to the King couldn't be seen in tattered rags on the day of his wedding. Apparently he had been misunderstanding a lot of Arthur's actions.
Merlin smiled at the memories, knowing now that Gwen had been right, and beyond thankful he and Arthur had managed to find a sliver of happiness she had spoken of. He shook off the nostalgia and started his regular circuit around the training grounds, stopping once and a while to offer his advice or answer a question.
“You have to control it Madeline. You're letting it control you.” He said to a young girl that had just recently joined them. Her magic was strong and spiraling out of control, ruled by her emotions. Her mother had beat her for being different, until one day Madeline had acted without meaning to, throwing her mother across the room. Arthur's knights had found her in the woods in hysterics. After she had thrown some of them around, they returned to Camelot and had Merlin retrieve her. It was going to be a long healing process for her, but Merlin was proud of the progress she had already made.
“I know! I'm trying!” she screeched at him and a pot exploded.
Merlin put a hand on her shoulder. “You're trying too hard and then letting your emotions take over. Take two deep breaths, then concentrate on putting the shards of the pot back together.”
She nodded and did as instructed. After several tries, she managed to get everything put back as it was.
“See! You can do so much when you keep calm.” Merlin smiled and squeezed her shoulder.
Madeline ducked her head and let out a shaky breath. “I know, I just get so angry sometimes.”
“Are you meditations still helping?” Merlin asked. It had been his idea to make her spend hours alone in the forest, using her magic to feel and connect with the earth. She needed to relearn the beauty of magic, where it came from.
“Yes, they are.” She said, and a true smile tugged at her lips before disappearing again. “But as soon as I'm done everything gets jumbled again, and I can't control it anymore.”
“Don't worry, it will just take some time. Keep up the good work Madeline.” He squeezed her shoulder one last time, before making a final trip around the training grounds.
Arthur wasn't in the dining hall for lunch, so Merlin grabbed a tray from the kitchens and took it up to their room. (They had given up the pretense of Merlin living anywhere else ages ago.) When he entered, Arthur was at his desk rummaging through papers.
“Everything ready to go?” he asked as he set the tray down on the table.
Arthur paused for a minute and looked up at him through bleary eyes. “Almost. Just making sure everything is in order for Sir Lucan while we're away.”
Normally Leon, Kay or any of Arthur's inner circle would oversee Camelot if they were required elsewhere, but they were going with so Arthur had selected another member of the Knights of the Roundtable to rule in his stead. Sir Lucan had joined them three years ago and had quickly become one of Arthur's most trusted men. Regardless, this would be his first time as the acting King.
“He'll do fine. You worry too much.” Merlin said as he pulled Arthur from his chair and forced him to sit at the table. “You're going to pass out if you don't get something to eat.”
Arthur grumbled something unintelligible and stuffed a piece of bread into his mouth. They ate in silence, Merlin running through his mental checklist and making sure everything was prepared. Every once and a while he glanced over at Arthur, making sure he was eating as much as Merlin deemed sufficient.
“Robin learned a basic fire spell today. He was so excited and adorable. You should have seen it.” Merlin said as he popped a grape into his mouth. “He also told me his mother explained to him that we're married.” he said with a smirk.
Arthur took a gulp of water and leaned back in his chair. “Sometimes I think the people would actually celebrate if we had an official ceremony. I can just see you in a wedding dress, I do believe you'd make a rather blushing bride Merlin.”
Merlin rolled his eyes at Arthur's condescending and sarcastic tone. “But then no one would be able to resist my beautiful charms and you'd have to fight them off.”
The King's eyes grew dark, clearly an unspoken warning for Merlin to stop that train of thought right there. Merlin threw up is arms surrender. “Hey, you're the one who started it.”
“And you call me insufferable.” Arthur mumbled as he stood from the table and stretched. “Are you ready to go?” Arthur asked as he picked up Excalibur from the table and strapped it around his waist.
“Sure.” he responded. He waved a hand and their lunch mess cleaned itself up. “Don't want to keep the troops waiting!”
After Arthur dropped off his final instructions for Sir Lucan, they made their way to the courtyard. A small contingency of Merlin and Arthur's knights awaited them. The stable hand delivered their horses and they swiftly mounted. Arthur quickly briefed everyone and they rode out.
It didn't take long for Gwaine to ride up next to Merlin, giving a low whistle and motioning towards his neck. “Vampire Arthur has been at it again, huh?”
Merlin smiled and didn't give him any more of an answer besides, “Yup!”. When Gwaine had figured out what was going between he and Arthur, he had switched from calling Arthur 'princess' to 'vampire'. Merlin couldn't decide if Arthur was happy with the change or even more annoyed. He had a suspicion that it secretly made Arthur preen with satisfaction. Though he often became surly on the rare occasion Gwaine combined them into 'vampire princess'.
“What do you expect will happen oh magical Merlin?” Gwaine asked, somehow managing to smirk as he talked. Before the big reveal he had always just been Merlin, sans nickname. Ever since his magic was out in the open he had started tacking on the 'magical' and asking him to conjure up all sorts of things for him. Merlin had drawn the line at a unicorn, explaining the trouble they could cause.
“I hope we'll stop the attacks and make peace with Mercia.” Merlin answered, concern etching his brow.
“Between the vampire and you, there's no way they could say no!” Gwaine said cheerily.
“I hope so.” Merlin responded with a weak smile.
They fell into a companionable silence for the rest of the trip. Merlin hoped Gwaine was right, but he had a horrible feeling that Morgana and Mordred were somehow involved and that always meant trouble.
As they reached camp, Merlin put his uneasiness aside and focused on present matters. They were stationed right outside of the village of Aqualonia. Leon had taken his band of knights just a few miles north to protect Eofewic.
“Raise the tents and start a fire would you Merlin?” Arthur yelled up to him.
Merlin dismounted, raised his hand and whispered a few words under his breath. The tents unwound themselves from the horses, floated over the ground and then assembled themselves. Wood from the nearby forest appeared in the middle of the clearing and a fire burst to life.
Elyan walked up next to him and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “I think I tell you this every time, but things would have been so much easier if you would had done this from the beginning!”
“And I think I remind you every time that I was rather attached to my head back then.” he retorted with a chuckle.
The inner circle of Arthur's knights had taken the magic reveal very well. Elyan, Percival and Leon had been surprised, but accepted him immediately. Gwaine had shrugged and said that he had already known. Both Merlin and Arthur had balked at that and asked why he had never said anything. Gwaine had merely said that it wasn't his secret to tell. Merlin had went all gushy and told Leon he was a very lucky man (which made Leon blush bright red as he wasn't one for having their relationship publicly acknowledged). It had taken them a while to get used to the range of his abilities, but now none of them were shy to ask him to show them something, joke with him about it, or request he complete something easier done with magic. He was able to be open about who and what he was for the first time in his life and it was an overwhelmingly liberating feeling.
When everything was settled at camp, Merlin sent Arthur and his men off to hunt for dinner while he and his magic knights cast protection spells around the clearing. Brendanus had written a beautiful spell that encompassed an entire encampment within a protective barrier. Nothing inside the barrier could be seen by those meaning harm, those inside couldn't be scryed, and it alerted magic users inside to the presence of those outside. Rather useful, even if it did take someone as powerful as Merlin to perform.
Once they were done spelling the camp, Merlin returned to his tent and pulled out one of Gauis' old books. He was trying to familiarize himself with all the magical beasts instead of waiting for one to attack Arthur and then wonder what it was. There had been too many times where Arthur's life was on the line from a bite or sting that Merlin didn't know how to cure until the last minute. He considered the study time a preventative measure.
“Gauis would be proud you know. When you're not training with your knights you've always got your nose in a book.”
Merlin startled at the sound of Arthur's voice and spun around in his seat. “Reading his books does make me feel closer to him, but I'm memorizing all this because of you and your penchant for running into blood thirsty magical animals.” Merlin paused and smiled at his King. “Did you catch any dinner?”
“We did. Why don't you come eat.” Arthur walked over, kissed him on the cheek and cuffed the back of his head before grabbing his hand and dragging him outside to the campfire.
Just as they were sitting down to eat, screams and shouts rang out through the forest. Everyone was on their feet in an instant, hands hovering over their swords.
“How did they get past us?”Arthur hissed as he flew past Merlin and started assembling his knights. “Quickly, to the village!”
Merlin stepped up beside Arthur and ran along with him. His knights followed quickly behind, all knowing the main priority was to keep Arthur safe.
When they broke through the tree line, Merlin's heart clenched at the sight of Aqualonia burning to the ground. The flames jumped into the night air, licking at the buildings and anything that dared to come close enough. Even from where they stood, his skin began to prickle from the heat.
“Ymbfeng æledfýr samod lagustréam” Merlin shouted to douse the fires. Once it was safe to enter, Arthur stormed ahead of him and started looking for survivors and attackers. Some of the Mercian army was still inside, lighting fires and murdering the villagers. Merlin and Arthur charged forward, Arthur cutting them down with his sword and Merlin his magic. They worked seamlessly together. Merlin froze an arrow flying towards Arthur's chest, and Arthur blocked the sword of an enemy at Merlin's back. Together, they cleared the village in hardly any time.
With the fire gone, and enemies vanquished, everyone spread out and began to search the buildings for survivors. Merlin instructed Elizabeth to take everyone they found out into the clearing with her and to start administering healing potions as needed.
Just as he finished giving out orders, he saw Arthur running out into the forest. Alone. He must have found the tracks of the attackers. Why he always had to charge ahead alone Merlin would never understand. He took off after him, summoning a ball of energy to light the way and tracking him with his magic. After several grueling minutes of stumbling over logs and being struck in the face with branches, Merlin stumbled into a clearing much larger than the one they had been camped at.
His heart stopped with dread at the sight that awaited him. Morgana and Mordred were standing together across the clearing, holding hands, heads upturned towards the sky and a quiet chant falling from their lips. Arthur was lying motionless in the middle of the field.
“What have you done?” Merlin bellowed, voice filling the entire clearing and ringing loudly in his own ears.
They both stopped and looked over at him. “We're taking back what has always been rightfully mine.” Morgana yelled back, eyes blazing gold and her hair blowing wildly in the wind. She looked like a savage untamed beast.
Next to her, Mordred smiled in his eerie and unsettling way. 'This has always been our destiny Emrys. I will kill the Once and Future King.' Mordred spoke into his head.
“Even as we speak, Mercian armies are attacking all the villages of Albion under my command. Even if Arthur survives, he will loose favor with the people, and they too will be mine to control.” Morgana cackled and barred her teeth in a twisted smile.
In his head, Mordred showed him image after image of Albion's villages being overrun with soldiers. There was no way they had gotten past Arthur's defenses without the use of magic.
“Kilgharrah, Aithusa, ácweðan sé here! Àmundian sé castel! Àbrecan úre gefíend!” He called out, keeping his eyes on Mordred. He felt them stir and began to obey his call. Having dragons on their side always tipped the battles in their favor. Aithusa had grown to nearly full size in ten years, and besides that one incident they never spoke of (though Kilgharrah still gives him a hard time for helping Morgana out), he had turned out to be a monumental help and good friend.
Mordred had started chanting again, taking small steps towards Arthur's prone body. Merlin's heart sunk in despair, he could feel the strings of destiny reaching around them and twining together. This was meant to be. This was the danger Kilgharrah had warned him about those many years ago. Arthur had united the land and brought peace, only to have his life stolen away from him. How was he supposed to protect Arthur against destiny?
“Stop!” Merlin shouted in a futile attempt to do something. Anything. He tried spell after spell, but Morgana stood fast, protecting Mordred as he finished what Merlin had interrupted.
Arthur started to thrash on the ground, gasping for air and screaming in agony. Each scream pierced Merlin's heart, begging him to stop this. Morgana was powerful though, and Mordred even more so. For the first time in many years, Merlin felt helpless.
After what felt like never ending minutes, the screams stopped and Arthur fell limp to the ground once more. This time, his chest didn't rise.
This couldn't be happening. Merlin wouldn't let this happen.
He threw his head back and screamed in agony and anguish. The sky parted and rain started to fall, as if the heavens were crying with him. He drew his hands back and then clapped them together forcefully, sending his magic flying over the clearing, splitting the ground where it traveled. The earth trembled and began to crumble underneath their feet. Merlin hovered himself over the decaying land, covered in a bright ball of magic.
He felt Mordred and Morgana's magic try to whisk them away, but he reached out and stopped it; caging their magic within themselves. They struggled to maintain their balance on the shaking earth, barely avoiding being swallowed by the holes that were opening up.
Merlin floated over to them and forced them to their knees. “Morgana Le Fay, Mordred, you are both guilty of treason and should die for your crimes.”
For the first time ever, he saw true fear light up Mordred's eyes. He spoke into the man's mind, 'It may have been your destiny to kill the Once and Future King, but it's my destiny to defeat you.' He watched as Mordred began to visibly shake with fear.
“I should kill the both of you for everything you've done. But,” Merlin's voice grew soft and he looked over where Arthur's body was resting on the only pillar of earth left standing, a deep chasm now forming a circle where he laid. “he still wouldn't want that.” Merlin looked back over to Mordred and Morgana. “I can't let you hurt anyone else any longer.” He put one hand on Morgana's head and the other on Mordred's and used every last ounce of his strength to draw their power out of them. Their screams rang in his ears but he didn't stop until their was nothing left.
When he finally released them they fell to the ground, cowering in on themselves. “What have you done to us?” whispered Morgana in an uneven voice.
“I've taken your power away. Never again will you use magic to hurt other people. And you will never again see Albion.” Merlin said as he waved his hand and sent them far away from him. Far away from Arthur.
Not taking a moment to savor his victory, Merlin floated to Arthur's side and felt for a heartbeat. There was a faint pulse, but he was fading quickly.
“Arthur you can't leave me.” he cried into the crook of Arthur's neck, clinging to his shoulders. There were no wounds to heal, Mordred had used magic to drain the life-force directly out of him. He had no idea how to make this right.
Again, Merlin felt the heavy weight of destiny. She called to him, whispering words of comfort and caressing him with the finality of this moment. Arthur was meant to die here today.
“I can't loose him.” Merlin whispered back in apology.
He closed his eyes and stopped time around them, forcing his magic to show him everything. He gasped when he opened his eyes, tears prickling at the beauty of it all. Millions of golden threads ran through everything, connecting everything to the world around it. His body pulsed a brazen gold, his magic flowing out of him and running through the chords of the earth. All around him, he could feel the web of destiny's will. She swirled through the clearing, whispering of fate.
When he looked at Arthur his chest constricted all over again. He could see his very essence being absorbed back into the world, being pulled from his body. Carefully, Merlin reached out and severed the chains of destiny one by one, willing Arthur to be free from this fate.
He wove them a new destiny, bending and shaping his will into the future. A future where the land would know peace far longer than these few years had provided. A future where they ruled side-by-side, happy and most importantly, together. Destiny fought and screamed the entire time, warning him of the consequences of his actions.
He ignored her.
Finally, he placed his hands on Arthur and pulled the life back from the earth and sent it racing through him. Arthur sprung up from the ground with a gasp of air, clutching his chest and blinking furiously. He reached for his sword, grabbing Merlin's hand instead.
Arthur turned towards him, confusion evident on his face. Merlin let go of time and destiny and pulled Arthur into a tight embrace. “I wasn't sure it would work.” he said and took a deep breath. “I'd thought I'd lost you.”
Arthur pulled back and surveyed the area around them with wide eyes. “What happened?” he asked as he peered over the edge into the cavern surrounding them.
Merlin was too overwhelmed to answer him, overcome with joy and relief that Arthur was sitting in front of him, alive. He reached out and brushed a hand down Arthur's cheek, relishing the feel of soft, warm skin. Needing to know this wasn't a dream, Merlin pulled Arthur in close and rested his head against Arthur's chest. He sighed and smiled contentedly at the soft thump that sounded under his ear.
“Merlin?” Arthur asked again, worry creeping into his voice.
“I love you.” Merlin croaked out, realizing the chance to say that again was very nearly stolen from him.
“And I you.” Arthur said hesitantly, putting a hand to Merlin's head. “Are you alright? What's going on?”
“Do you remember anything?” Merlin asked. He still felt unhinged, like Morgana or Mordred would suddenly appear and kill them both.
“Just that I found the direction the attack came from and traced the tracks.” Arthur said, looking far away as if trying to recall the images in his mind.
“Morgana and Mordred were waiting for you. They-- they killed you.” Merlin said, feeling his heart break, even though Arthur was still sitting in front of him. He had a feeling he would never forget that terrible moment.
Arthur's head snapped back over to him. “Yes. I remember now. I argued with Morgana, tried to make her see reason. She wouldn't listen though and the next thing I remember is waking up here with you.”
“I couldn't stop them Arthur. The two of them together have always been so much to deal with, and destiny kept saying this was supposed to happen. I didn't know what to do.” Merlin said quietly.
Arthur raised an eyebrow in his 'you magical people are weird' way and kissed him sweetly on the lips. “You must have figured something out.” Arthur said as he motioned to the devastated ground around them and to the fact he was still alive.
“I took away their powers and sent them away from here. I had to change destiny to bring you back, and that may have some negative side effects; sorry for that, but I couldn't let go.” Merlin said with purpose. He wouldn't regret the decisions he'd made.
“Of course you did Merlin.” Arthur said with soft smile. “Only you would alter destiny itself to be with me.” He leaned in close and placed another kiss on Merlin's lips. “You're such a girl.”
Merlin took several deep breaths, re-memorizing the smell of Arthur's sun kissed skin.
“I realize this was all fairly traumatic for you, but I feel as if I've just woken from the best nap of my life. We really need to get back to the village and make sure everyone is ok. We can talk more about how you saved the world later if that's alright.” Arthur said calmly.
“I know.” Merlin said as he stood and then helped Arthur to his feet. “Are you sure you feel alright?” He appraised Arthur from head to toe.
“Yes. Now how about you,” Arthur wiggled his fingers for the universal sign of 'do magic stuff', “and get us back to Aqualonia.”
“Yes, Sire.” Merlin said with a smile, trying to let go of the sadness and grief. Arthur was alive. Everything was going to be alright.
“Aeþrýtnes ús æt Aqualonia” he said and they were quickly taken to the village.
When they arrived, order had already been returned to the camp. They received a report from Gwaine that the survivors had all been cared for and Merlin's knights had already begun to rebuild the town. They had suffered no casualties and very few injuries besides Percival receiving a nasty burn on his right forearm. It wasn't that serious, but according to Gwaine it had Elyan on edge, worried about his man.
“Morgana had Mercian troops attacking villages all over Albion. I sent Kilgharrah and Aithusa to take care of them, but I should probably go check on them.” Merlin explained to Arthur after they had made their way around the village.
“I'll see you back in Camelot then.” Arthur said, distracted by knights vying for his attention.
He grabbed Arthur's arm and squeezed it gently, drawing his attention. “Be safe.”
Arthur's eyes softened and he covered Merlin's hand with his own and squeezed back. “I promise.”
Merlin didn't finish with all the villages until late in the evening of the next day. When every building was put back into place, and every individual cared for, Merlin finally allowed himself to magic his way back home.
Arthur was waiting for him in their room, reading over the reports Sir Lucan had left for him.
“Hey.” he said in greeting as he sunk down into the closest chair. He was exhausted.
“Hi.” Arthur said without looking up. “I've great news. Now that Morgana isn't controlling him, King Bayard has recognized me as High King and sworn his fealty.”
“That's wonderful.” Merlin said. They had finally done it. All of Albion was Arthur's to reign.
“Also, did you know Morgana had some of the troops come here as well?” Arthur asked.
“No, I didn't. Is everyone alright?” So far they hadn't lost anyone, well besides Arthur (not that anyone needed to know that), and Merlin hoped it stayed that way.
“Yes. I just thought you would be proud to know that Madeline detected the warnings from your magical walls and alerted everyone else just in time. Sir Lucan tells me she was an asset in battle and a courageous warrior.”
“That's great news.” Merlin said as enthusiastically as he could. All he wanted to do was curl up on the bed and sleep for weeks. He was proud of her though.
Arthur finally looked up at him and reeled back in shock. “Have you not slept at all?”
Sleepily, Merlin shook his head no. “Had to help everyone and I was worried about you the whole time. I have half a mind to never let you out of my sight again.”
“You idiot of a man. Come on then.” Arthur grabbed his hand and drug him over to the bed, forcing him to lie down. He mumbled on about how stupid Merlin was while he helped divest him of his clothes.
Merlin watched through heavy lidded eyes as Arthur undressed himself and crawled into bed with him. Regardless of being overly sleepy, Merlin took the time to gaze over Arthur's face, once again overwhelmed with the reality he'd almost lost the man.
Arthur must have seen his thoughts in his eyes as he brushed a hand over his cheek and said, “I'm here. Go to sleep now and we'll talk more in the morning.”
Closing his eyes, he finally succumbed to the pull of blissful rest.
His dreams were plagued with visions of Arthur dying over and over again by Mordred's hand; always with the sorcerer laughing menacingly and mocking Merlin for his failure. Eventually the dream morphed and twisted until he was the one killing Arthur again and again, unable to stop himself each time.
The next morning he woke still feeling exhausted. Arthur's lifeless face haunted him every time he closed his eyes. He squirmed around, trying to get away from the image and felt a pair of strong arms encircle him.
“You're far too bony, and it's too early in the morning for you to be flailing all over the place Merlin.” Arthur said directly in his ear.
Merlin relaxed at the sound of his voice and happiness swelled through his body, overcoming the sorrow and fear. He snuggled back into Arthur, enjoying the warmth he had to offer. “I couldn't stop dreaming about you dying.” Merlin said. He knew it was over and done with and they had a kingdom to get on with running, but recent events had still shaken him to the core.
Arthur turned him around in his arms so they were facing each other. His face was solemn, and his eyes serious. “I remember a little bit of it now. I could feel myself slipping away, but couldn't do anything to stop it.” The corner of his lips turned up a bit. “I wasn't afraid though, I knew you'd come.”
He wasn't sure Arthur's unwavering faith in him was well placed, but he was grateful for it nonetheless. Unable to find the words to properly express the past days events, Merlin instead leaned in and kissed Arthur. It started slow and sweet, both men taking their time to relearn the others mouth and savor the moment they fought so hard to have. Merlin slowly ran his tongue over Arthur's, moaning as they tangled and stroked each other. Pulling back, he sucked Arthur's bottom lip between his teeth and tugged gently.
“Can I---?” Merlin asked timidly. He didn't usually control things in the bedroom, but he was near delirious with need to feel Arthur, to be inside him. He didn't think his mind would truly believe Arthur was alright until he felt his heat wrapping around his cock, and his body writhing underneath him.
In response, Arthur wantonly spread his legs and lifted his knees. Not wasting a second, Merlin used his magic to summon a jar of oil. He slicked his fingers and began to circle Arthur's rim with just enough pressure to be teasing; circling over and over again until Arthur threw his head back and started moaning.
Finally, he pushed a single finger all the way in and curled it around, brushing against that sensitive spot that always makes Arthur keen. Merlin gasped at the feel of Arthur's heat taking his digit inside and gripping it firmly. The sensation was so overwhelming, so comforting that he had to rest his head against Arthur's thigh and take a deep breath.
“More. Please Merlin, more.” Arthur said, his voice low and raspy.
Merlin didn't lift his head, but he did relent and added a second finger. He scissored them back and forth slowly, loving the feel of Arthur opening for him, stretching for what was to come. Merlin had always taken pleasure in Arthur's body, but something about this time was intense. Just having his fingers buried in the man was making him unbearably hard and needy. If he didn't want to be fully inside Arthur so badly, he probably would have come untouched.
“One more.” Arthur instructed breathlessly.
Taking his time, Merlin inserted one more finger; trying to imagine how good the burn must feel for Arthur. With his other hand, he reached between his own legs and firmly gripped the base of his cock in an attempt to stem off his fast approaching orgasm. He needed this to last.
Arthur began to lift himself up and bring himself down hard onto Merlin's fingers, fucking himself in impatience. Merlin moaned and let him, barely able to keep himself under control from the sight. With each thrust, his fingers made a filthy squelching noise and oil ran down the side of his hand.
Unable to wait any longer, Merlin pulled his fingers away, provoking a loud protest from Arthur.
“Sh.” Merlin whispered and leaned down to kiss Arthur as he slicked his cock with oil. Pulling back, he looked into Arthur's eyes as he pushed inside his tight entrance. Both of them shook from the pleasure of it, Merlin unsure how long he would be able to last.
When he was fully seated, he took a moment to caress Arthur's face and take a deep breath. This was real. Arthur was here, and he had changed destiny so they could be like this for a very long time.
“Arthur.” Merlin spoke reverently into his skin, kissing down his neck as he started to move. With each piston of his hips, he felt his fears and unease slip away, to be replaced with peace and contentment. Much sooner than he would have liked, he felt that familiar tightness in his balls and the clenching in his gut. Not wanting to finish alone, he firmly gripped Arthur's cock and began to stroke it quickly. Arthur whined and bucked up into his hand, spreading his legs as wide as they could go. Arthur came with a shout a few strokes later, his muscles clenching so tightly around Merlin that it sent him over the edge as well.
Merlin collapsed on top of Arthur, breathing heavily but feeling positively sated. Arthur lazily brought his arms up and wrapped them around him, squeezing gently.
“I needed that.” Merlin said.
Arthur hummed and said, “Me too.”
They feel asleep tangled together, not even bothering to clean up the mess.
He was late again. So. Very. Late. Arthur knew he was always groggy the mornings after they had sex, and yet he still didn't wake him up.
No matter the reason for his tardiness, Arthur would still be irritated at him. He ran down the halls, his stupid robes tripping him up again. He burst through the great hall doors in what was quickly becoming his traditional entrance. The council members didn't even look up from their papers this time, and continued discussion as normal.
Arthur glanced at him though and raised his eyebrow minutely.
'You're fault.' Merlin mouthed to him.
Arthur gave him a disapproving look, but Merlin caught how his shoulders shook in silent laughter. He couldn't contain a small grin at that.
As he looked around the room, Merlin felt proud and happy with everything they had accomplished within these four walls. Arthur was High King of Albion and peace reigned throughout the land. This is what he wanted every day of his life. He wanted sleepy sex with Arthur, his fake disappointment at Merlin's lateness, Arthur's pride at their success. This was why he had fought destiny herself for this moment; because it was perfect.
Destiny may come for him eventually, but for right now-- he made his own fate.