Actions

Work Header

The Years Passed

Chapter Text

The world was thriving now that mankind had left. Over 150 years ago man tried to destroy the world, at least what had remained after the Climate Crisis in the 21st century. The Third World War ended up being the one that went too far and the only choice was to leave Earth. Mars and The Moon were the first places that man went to, but by now they've found their way outside the solar system. 

A large portion of the world was left toxic from Nuclear fumes after the bombs. By now, Merlin had found that no longer an issue. It was safe for the people to return, but they wouldn't. He was thankful for that. As said previously, the world was thriving.

Nature took over what man had stolen. Plants were the first to lead the charge and within half a century (with help from nuclear mutations) all man made things were soon overtaken. Roads were nearly non-existent, buildings were wrapped and filled with weeds, and deforestation was nonexistent. Merlin had seen more whales and dolphins near the beach, more birds and exotic creatures wandering about, and the air was cleaner. It was like the world was as it was meant to be before the mistake of mankind.

However, Merlin was a man and the only one left. He was the only one capable of living through the radiation, and he still had a wait after all. Waiting for his once and future King to resurface since his death over a thousand years ago. With the help of some scavenged robotics and technology (and some magic) he was still able to maintain a home with the luxuries he's grown to love. Simplicities like lights, stoves, and a running hot shower. He was never fond of social media or cellphones so it wasn't much loss. 

Merlin found his way in this nature led world. A way to live in peace with the plants, animals, and natural disasters. Animals no longer feared him, he realized. He'd managed to walk alongside creatures that would once flee at the thought of man. 

Merlin was alone, however. Waiting patiently as he always had before, but this time there was nobody else to fill the void. No Telly's, no Music (other than his sacred old fashioned vinyls), and no people buzzing with life. The world was quiet now. Peaceful but quiet. There was nothing and nobody left to fight.

On midnight of the 15th day of the 6th month, the past king that Merlin had waited so long to see had resurfaced. The old lake of Avalon released the Once and Future King and left him asleep on the beach. 

The man hadn't changed since the day he passed. His hair was still a youthful blonde and his physique was exactly as it'd been before. Only his skin was no longer the paled white from coming death and his wound was replaced by a small scar. He laid naked and asleep, leaving his entire being on display.

When he gasped awake, inhaling the warm air around him, his eyes showed they were still a sparkling blue.

"Merlin."

Chapter Text

In his daze Arthur didn't realize he began walking through the woods. Woods with endless looming trees so high he could barely see the sky. His feet began to ache from the rough ground but that didn't stop his journey. Many years ago Merlin had bewitched this land so that when Arthur would awaken, he would always find his way home.

Arthur found himself outside a large house, with its garden holding the only brightest plants in the whole forest. It looked larger than most cottages he remembered and far more stable. He looked around but found nothing around him but more blooming nature.

The windows shined with light and showcased that someone was home. Naked, the man knocked on the strangers door and hoped a familiar face would open it. He wasn't aware of just how familiar that face would be.

The man inside heard the knock but was nearly certain it was just a curious deer that ran into it again. Nonetheless he moved to open the door, not sure why since he hadn't done so before. His beard was grown out and his hair was wildly curly. Perhaps the deer would mistake him for a bear and flee without trouble.

Both men came face to face with one another for the first time in over a millennium. Merlin's heart plummeted to his stomach as he stared at the ghost that lingered in his dreams. The ghost of a blonde King who once ruled over Camelot with a courage that not even a lion could challenge. That ghost stared back at his servant. A servant who seemed as wonderfully young as he remembered but also looked like the oldest man he'd ever seen.

They both embraced each other and cried unashamedly. Merlin for his wait finally coming to an end and Arthur for the familiarity of his friend. They clung to each other as if it would be the last thing they'd do, holding on with a tightness what could kill. Tears ran hot down their faces and onto the other, whether they were tears of joy or not didn't matter in that moment.

"You're home," Merlin cried into the mans neck.

Arthur could only bring himself to nod as the other mans voice broke his heart. He wasn't sure how he was home, he wasn't sure how long it had been, but he didn't care because his best friend was in his arms and that's all he ever needed.

Merlin was the first to pull away, but his hands cupped his Kings face. As if trying to solidify and guarantee that the man before him was real and not just a hallucination that he once had too often but never enough. 

"I've missed you," Merlin confessed brokenly. "There's so much I need to tell you, Arthur. I— I failed. Camelot's gone."

Arthur looked at the house to Merlin and to the forest he'd never seen so bright even so late at night. He knew deep inside that this wasn't the same home he'd left. These weren't the same woods that Merlin had carried him through in his final days. A part of him felt devastated, but looking into the bright blue eyes of Merlin he decided that he could learn to accept this. Maybe it will take years, but he was back now and he was going to try. 

"What've you done Merlin?"

"I—I had to wait...For this moment. For when you would come back."

Merlin pulled Arthur back into a tight embrace. Arthur's hands found their way into the curly black hair (the memory that lingered with them) and sighed. The man still felt the same, if only a bit bigger.

"How long has it been?" Arthur murmured.

"1,757 years give or take," Merlin responds.

That sent the King flying from his arms in order to properly look at the man before him. He couldn't fathom the idea of that much time. How long it has been since he died and how much the world must've changed. However, the thing that shocked him the most-

"You've waited for me to return after all these years? After thousands of generations? What've you done to yourself to still be here, Merlin?"

"You never were very punctual. I was always waiting for you before so I suppose not much has changed." Merlin joked, wiping tears from his eyes.

Arthur smiled in bewilderment and moved to pushed Merlin gently with his shoulder. Then he allowed his reality to settle and he forced himself to confront it.

"I'm naked."

It seemed that fact only then dawned on the men and they found themselves laughing so hard they couldn't breath. When they eventually gained composure, Merlin led his king into his house and gathered him some clothing. While he was off, Arthur allowed himself to be in awe of his surroundings. 

The room was lit with these orbs of light that seemed to float. The furniture was larger and more luxurious than his castle had ever seen. Art and sculptures and books littered the walls as well as a various amount of plants. It felt cool despite the heat outside, but also warm like a hug from his wife. 

Guinevere, he thought as his legs went weak and he fell to the couch. I'll never see her again. 

Merlin came back with a handful of cloth and a worried look on his face as he ran to Arthur's side. 

"Camelot's gone," Arthur starts. "Guinevere and Morgana and everyone else. Magic, even? But not you."

"Not me." Merlin looked down ashamed, "I'm so sorry, Arthur. I should've fought harder for you. There's so many things I did wrong...so many things I could've done different to save you."

"Enough of that," Arthur ordered. The familiarity wrapped itself around them both. "You were an excellent servant but a better friend. It's not like I made it easy for you, did I? None of what happened matters anymore. You're here and I'm back."

Merlin nodded and looked at Arthur. He was reminded of how much he missed his life in Camelot. The man, his king, was sat before him looking as though he was taken out of a memory and placed into reality. 

Merlin handed the man his clothes and waited patiently as he got dressed. His eyes lingered on the area where a scar replaced what wound had taken the man from him in the start. The wound that would lead Merlin to the life he's lived waiting. Through pain and loss and love.

When finished, Arthur grabbed hold of Merlin's hair again, a sentiment that they both ached at, and pushed their foreheads together. Their foreheads pressed into each other firmly and they both closed their eyes as if trying to recall a dream. A dream of a land where they were happy and joking with one another. A land where there was no war or time or any other danger besides what dinner would be that night. 

A land whose name is no longer spoken by the people outside this cabin surrounded by endless woods. 

Merlin noticed that, although cleaner, Arthur still smelt the same. He smelt warm and earthy and familiar. That his hands were still rough with callouses. Arthur noticed that Merlin's hair was a lot softer but his skin was just as smooth as it always was. That his smile was still crooked and his eyelashes were still too long. 

"A thousand years, Merlin." Arthur whispered in a broken voice, still desperately holding the man. "1,757 years I had you wait for me. I'm sorry I couldn't come sooner."

"It was my honor," Merlin responded, tears suddenly falling down his cheek. "I'd do it again if I had to."

They stayed like that, resting against one another, until exhaustion fell upon them again. Arthur couldn't bare the idea of falling asleep and finding that he never really came back, so he laid beside Merlin on the freakishly large couch. In a way it was familiar, like the late nights in the woods they had come by so often. Only instead of rough dirt and rock they had the softest cushions and blankets he could've asked for. 

Their body heat seemed to warm one another as they laid facing each other, afraid if they looked the other way it'd all be a dream. It was a familiarity that both men appreciated. Arthur fell asleep first with the last thing he saw being the eyes of his best friend. 

The world had gone dark again for a moment before he was awake. He was back to dying, too far away from the Lake with death settling on him. It's too soon, he thought. But death doesn't wait and he was tired of asking it too. The grass was green and wet with dew. He felt cold and hot and neither all at once.

Then he realized he was in Merlin's arms again. His armor was too thick and bulky and he resented that fact. Resented that it further separate him from his friend during these last moments. Merlins eyes were bright and desperation settled into his face. 

Desperation to save his life again, like he always had. But Arthur was too tired and he needed to stop so he forced Merlin to listen. To understand that it was too late and that it was okay. 

"All your magic Merlin and you couldn't save my life," Arthur whispered, incapable of holding back his usual teasing nature.

"I can." Merlin said with desperate determination, "I'm not gonna lose you."

"Just-Just... Just hold me." He pauses, "Please."

That's all Arthur wanted and he wasn't ashamed. He was tired of the lying and wanted his last moments to hold his truth. That he was tired and wanted to be held before he goes. That he wanted to be real because there was nothing else to lose and he had so many regrets. So many things he wished he could've said and now was his chance. 

"There's- There' so- there's something I want to say." He whispers.

Merlin's voice shows his stubborn sadness, "You're not— you're not going to say goodbye."

"No, Merlin." Arthur whispered, finding it hard to breath and think but also to say it. But looking into those heartbreakingly blue eyes he found it within himself to continue, "Everything you've done... I know now. For me, for Camelot...for the kingdom you helped me build..."

"You'd have done it without me," Merlin jokes.

Arthur laughs, relieved at the familiarity of it. "Maybe," He says.

He regains his serious composure as he feels the world getting darker and knows he doesn't have longer to finish what he started. To say what he desperately needed to say. To say his goodbye.

"I want to say something I've never— said to you before... Th- Thank you." Arthur whispered, looking Merlin directly in his eyes. Showing how much Merlin's actions really meant to him. How much Merlin meant to him.

No further words needed to be spoken, but Arthur still needed more. So he reached up and took the back of Merlin's head in his hand to try and bring him closer. They needed to be closer before he could leave. He needed Merlin to understand how much he cared. 

That was the last thing he saw before his world went dark again, as it had the first time and probably would be for his last.

Arthur woke up and the man was gone. A surge of panic embedded itself into his chest as he jumped up, frantically looking for Merlin. Was it a dream? He found himself running to open a door only for it to open by itself. 

Merlin was almost exactly as Arthur remembered from the memory he just escaped. His face was clean shaven, his hair cut, and his eyes shining. The only difference was that his hair was more curled and the smile didn't quite shine as brightly. Despite these differences, Arthur found himself pulling Merlin into another desperate embrace

"You can't just disappear," He whispered. 

"I won't," Merlin promised before pulling back with a goofy grin on his face. "I'm glad that you've finally managed how to get yourself out of bed. I wasn't looking forward to your early morning wrath."

Chapter Text

"Your table is round," Arthur as they sat around it for breakfast.

"In Honor is the knights of the round table," Merlin said, answering the question lingering on Arthur's lips.

"I never let you sit at the table," Arthur suddenly realized with a stone in his gut. "The most loyal in all of my Kingdom and I didn't even think to ask."

Merlin let out a soft sigh, "I never needed to sit at the table to know, Arthur. It's not why I served you."

They began to eat the most delicious meat Arthur ever tasted (he later found out it was from something called "Weasel"). He had so many things he wanted to say and so many questions he wanted to ask... but after this long where do you start? 

"Camelot... what happened to it?" He asked.

Merlin froze mid-bite, eyes downcast and breath shallow, "Time, I suppose. She lasted another century before her fall."

"What happened to Guinevere? The knights? Did sorcery ever become legal again, like i hoped it would? Was there peace between the kingdoms?" Arthur began to ramble, losing his appetite the the vast amount of questions he needed answers to. 

Merlin sighed deeply before walking to one of the many bookshelves and grabbing a large old book. It's pages were thin from age and the leather cover ripped from use. Merlin stared at it a moment, as if remembering something, before turning and pushing it into Arthur's arms. 

"What am I supposed to do with this?" The man asked. 

Merlin shrugged on a coat for the rain and grabbed the bow resting by his door. As much as he wished to stay and never let Arthur out of his sight, he knew that this was something he'd need time alone to comprehend. They needed more food now that there was going to be two of them... now that he wasn't alone. 

"Answers. I wrote it all down so I wouldn't ever forget over the years. It will tell you everything, from when we first met to the fall of Camelot." Merlin said, still unable to look at the blonde man. "I'll need to gather more meat for the month. I'll be back before sun fall."

Merlin left without another word, which he was thankful for because suddenly he felt sick. He feared he would return to find that Arthur hated him. Would be disgusted at his actions and lies. He looked before him in the rain and vast forest and prayed to whomever there may be that Arthur would stay inside while he was away. 

Arthur spent the next hours of that day sat reading about Merlin's secret adventures in Camelot. About the hidden sorcery and fears and near death experiences. About how often Merlin saved him. He even read about a girl named Freya he loved and lost by Arthur's hand. So many things he never knew about his best friend and most loyal servant. His Dragonlord heritage after he held his father in his arms while the man died.

Arthur couldn't find it in himself to be bitter or angry for being left out. For the lies. He couldn't because he read about what Merlin felt and thought. How badly he wanted to tell Arthur the truth but couldn't. How much Merlin cared about Arthur as a friend rather than a boss.

Arthur cried. 

He couldn't stop the tears running down his face throughout the story. He couldn't stop himself from feeling what Merlin felt, the sadness or the rage or the guilt. Most predominantly the ever so constant fear, of death or hatred or failure. 

He cried reading about his own death not because of his loss but rather Merlin's. Merlin wrote about the pain he felt when Arthur was gone and when he was flown by a dragon to the Lake of Avalon. How he felt like he'd let Arthur down. You didn't, Arthur thought, you could never. 

Merlin was back with a few caught rabbits when he saw Arthur wiping his face and moving on to the start of what he missed. Merlin was quick to store the meat in the fridge before heading upstairs. He was terrified of what Arthur was thinking as he continuously read everything Merlin did that betrayed him. Or worse, about his failure to keep Camelot alive in his memory.

After Arthur's death I was lost. Unsure of where to go now that I failed my destiny of keeping him alive. Of making sure he ruled Camelot as the rightful true king. I was ashamed of my failure but mostly ashamed of myself for allowing it to happen. I should've fought harder to save him. I owed him that much. He saved me so many times before and he was my friend... 

Returning to the castle without him felt wrong. Telling Guinevere that I couldn't save the love of her life was the hardest part. She had so much hope that when I walked through the doors her husband would be by my side as he always was. She mourned him for so long. 

I avoided her highness for as long as time would allow. To avoid my failure that brought that pain lingering in her gaze, though she claimed she didn't blame me. I blame myself. I had one job, a job I was born to do, and that was to protect Arthur no matter the cost. A job I was proud to serve because I... He was the best man I've ever known.

She was deemed the ruler of Camelot, long live the Queen. I was so proud of her but disgusted at the disappointment I felt when I saw her rule without Arthur by her side. He would've been proud of her. It was then that she told me she knew I was the great Sorcerer Emry's.

Not great enough, I'm afraid.

Gaius died a month after my return. The pain I felt had multiplied and I lashed out. My magic was exposed, but I was protected by the guards. It felt wrong. I wanted them to attack me for my failures to their Kingdom. I deserve to be punished.

Within months I lost everyone. My father figure was dead, my best friend, and even Gwaine didn't make it. He'd been too sick by the time Percival made it back to the castle earlier that month. Guinevere was the Queen.  

I was alone and I deserved it.

I left Camelot to join my mother. She'd been quite ill and I felt as if Camelot no longer needed me. Wanted me, actually. I didn't deserve to stay within her grace after everything I've done. I took care of my mother and ignored any messages from Camelot asking my return. It was cowardly, I know, but I couldn't bare to let anyone else down.

Unfortunately, I did. It seems as through the Gods were still punishing me for Arthur's passing. My mother died during the winter. As both a sorcerer and a trained physician I couldn't even help my own mother survive the common cold. It was then that I swore off magic and decided to stay in the woods.  

I missed Arthur the most. Missed his orders and teasing and his smile. I missed cleaning his clothes and shining his armor, even. But I failed him, just as I had everyone else. It's something I would have to live with for all of eternity I decided. My last act of magic was to become immortal 50 years ago. Kilgarah told me that Arthur would return someday as the Once and Future King.  

I couldn't fail him again.  

"Merlin, you prat," Arthur whispered softly to himself. "I'm so sorry."

The rain had seemed to come to a stop by now. It was evening, but that hardly measured in his mind. Arthur carefully held the book, feeling the toughness of the cover, and decided to sit on the front porch. He opened the door and breathed in the smell of rain.

The weather was cooler than earlier that night, but the sun was out and he could absorb the true beauty of the world. There was a lingering mist in the air, but he didn't feel damp from it. Birds sang high in the trees, the ground was littered with grasses and flowers, and the sky was such a bright blue it almost hurt. Perhaps the rain stopped earlier than he realized. 

His bare feet walked across wet dirt until he sat upon a large tree trunk. There was a slight breeze that helped him relax and take a moment before continuing the journey of Merlin's early life. A life so painful he can't remember another time that he's cried so much. This is just the beginning, he realized as he finally opened the book. This was only the first fifty years in the journey of Merlin's wait.

Guinevere married a prince from Mercia, an arrangement made to strengthen the alliance. She was supposed to marry Sir Leon, but he wanted to spend his life serving his queen. That and the alliance with Mercia was on the rocks after Arthur's passing. It took a year after their marriage for Guinevere to learn to not hate him. Longer to love him. This isn't because he was a bad guy but rather because he wasn't Arthur. 

The Kingdoms had legalized Sorcery once again. Druids and sorcerers and many other magical beings called Camelot their home. Everyone but me. 

She gave birth to 3 beautiful children, two girls and a boy. They were good, just like their mother. Arthur would've loved to see how Camelot thrived, I like to imagine. He always knew she'd be a good queen and mother. 

Arthur gasped. He knew Guinevere would've had to love again, a part of him almost hoped she would, but it stabbed his heart reading it. Confirming that she was a queen and a mother, but not to him. He used to dream of a world where she would mother his children... it seems as though that will never happen now.

By the time her eldest came to his time to reign the rest of the surrounding Kingdoms had joined together. They're now all Camelot, with Lords and Ladies and everything else. Her son, William the II, took to the throne masterfully. He was equal and fair, just like Arthur would've been. His mother raised him to be less of a prat than Arthur was when I first met him (and better than William's father as well, who’s not terrible but quite pompous from what I can tell).

I visited Guinevere when she had grown old and tired. During her last days. Her husband had passed the year before, so when I entered her chambers late that night she was alone. Her hair was longer and she had more wrinkles but she was still beautiful as always.

She'd been mad at me for waiting so long. Waiting too long to come back to her as she needed me to. If only you could've heard her yell... it was beautiful.

"What've you done, Merlin?" She asked me upon seeing how I hadn't aged during the time she'd grown older.

I didn't need to answer for her to know. Always too smart of her own good, our Queen. She cried when she realized I was still waiting for him to come back. When she realized she'd grown old and loved and lived but I hadn't.  

"I miss him, too." She told me. "Even after all these years I miss him. I love him. But he's gone Merlin, and you need to move on."

I didn't want to upset her during the last hours. She was still trying to take care of me and love me as she had before... I wanted her to be angry with me. To hate me the way I hated myself. Instead, I simply smiled and kissed her knuckles.  

"I had children, Merlin. 3 beautiful children and I told them all about you. About the man who I met one day when he was having rotten food thrown at him." She told me. "About the sorcerer who helped during a Great War and saved many lives. About Merlin, the greatest friend I've ever known."

"I know, Gwen." I told her. "I may have left but I never stopped caring. They are truly beautiful, just like their mother. You've been a good Queen."

She cried. I cried. We told stories about the years that have passed. She was still so strong, despite her age. It seems as though the wrinkles that embedded her face added strength instead of weakness.

Arthur could imagine her as Merlin said. He could imagine her hair that he loved so much, only grayed with age. Her smile and eyes surrounded by winkles on her brown skin. 

"What will you do, Merlin?" She asked. "We've all grown old and lived but you haven't. What will you do when I'm gone? I'm the last one left."

"He will come back," I insisted, but a part of me knew I didn't truly believe it. "He has to and I've got to be there when he does."

"All these years you served him, Merlin. You did good but... he's gone. He wouldn't want you waiting for him." 

I didn't know how to explain it to her. I just held her hand and looked in her eyes. I could see myself in them but I didn't recognize my reflection.

"I know you loved him, Merlin." She told me. "I loved him too."

That was the last thing the beautiful Guinevere would say to me. Then I was isolated again.

Chapter Text

Arthur was encountering the new obstacles the future brought upon him. The first being a "shower". He stood in the large "bathing room" naked and confused. There was a glass door closing him in but he didn't understand how water would appear. He followed Merlins instructions and tapped the wall.

A holographic screen appeared. Then he tapped what looked like water before a red and blue scale appeared. Merlin had said Red was hot and Blue was cold. That he should go somewhere in between... so he tapped the area that seemed right.

It began raining. Temporarily he freaked out before realizing that it was the ceiling of the "shower". He decided he liked it.

While he relished the warmth of the water flowing over his body, his mind slipped into a trance of thought. About the world after his death. About a world without his family. He'd read about the famine and the attacks by the savages. 

About how Camelot fell. 

That's what the book ended on. The death of their home. She fought a tough battle, with the Pendragon name lasting for generations (it seemed Guinevere was strong headed in the King taking her last name and passing that title down the generations). However, invaders were relentless and soon the fight was lost. He'd mourned for it as he read about Merlin's own mourning. Emrys fought in that war, the first of many Arthur could tell.

He wondered why he was special enough to come back when nobody else did. Why him? A King who barely had a chance to rule his kingdom before being betrayed. A brother who was unable to help his sister resist the temptation of dark magic. A son who failed his father. 

Despite his unworthiness of a resurrection, he thought about how he was thankful. If he never came back then Merlin would've kept waiting until the end of the world. Perhaps longer. Merlin was someone who deserved happiness and Arthur hated that his death took that from him. 

Meanwhile, Merlin was sat on the top stair to the second floor. An area where he was safe to hide while still having a view of the doors to the bathroom, just in case something happened. He was beyond overwhelmed by emotions and thoughts. He was so relieved that his King was back, but scared of the day Arthur no longer wanted him around. Of the day Arthur realizes that Merlin has changed, even after being told never to.

He was also overwhelmed with having another human to interact with after so long. Company who talked to him, unlike the plants and creatures of the forest. The forest, Merlin thought with sadness. Arthur had come to a world no longer occupied with other people.

No bar mates or knights or lovers. No one to escape and talk to when he would eventually grow tired of Merlin's company. They were the only two men on earth. Arthur would never get to see a concert or film or even the odd druggie on the street. What if he wants more to life? 

It was then he decided that if that ever became true, he would help Arthur leave. Merlin had a rocket for one kept deep in the rainforest of Africa in case he ever decided to leave. To stop waiting, remove the spell, and live life among the stars. He knew that day would never come, but he was glad that if Arthur ever wanted to escape he could give him that. Give him his freedom, even if it meant Merlin was alone again. Even if it meant sending his heart away on that rocket.

He heard Arthur unlock the bathroom door, so he made his way down and grabbed the book. He hadn't read it in half a century, but he knew exactly what it said. Even if other memories often got jumbled, he never forgot Camelot. He put it back on the shelf, next to thousands of other books of his life. All but four are on the wall.

"That shower was the best thing I've ever seen!" Arthur exclaimed as he plopped down on the couch. "Do all the other houses have them or only the rich? Wait, are you rich?"

Merlin laughed, "The other houses did have them. It's been an invention for at least 3 centuries. In terms of money, technically I don't have any."

"Not much has changed then," Arthur mumbled. "How do you live without money? Is it a trade system or something?"

Merlin sighed softly, "No, currency was a fairly important thing a century and a half ago. Arthur... there is nobody else on Earth anymore. Nobody to pay for anything since it's just us."

Arthur laughed before seeing that Merlin wasn't. He ran to open the door, looking around but only seeing woods. That's not different though, random cottages in the woods were a thing during Camelot. Surely... Arthur turned around to look at Merlin, there must be someone.

"Nobody?" He exclaimed. "That's impossible, there must be someone somewhere."

"There was a Great War, Arthur. So great that everyone killed each other. Those who survived left," Merlin pointed up to the sky, "to the Moon, other planets, god know what else by now."

"That's ridiculous, Merlin. You can't go to the moon." Arthur scoffed.

Then he stopped to consider this. It had been a long time since he died so perhaps they found a way. Perhaps they do have weapons that could kill the world or that could help them do more than shower. The moon? Other planets? 

"Then why are you still here?" Arthur asked as he slowly walked back inside. 

Merlin said nothing because he knew Arthur knew the answer. And he did, even if he could barely believe it. A world with only Merlin for a hundred and a half years. Again, guilt plagued him at the thought. 

"Come with me," Merlin said softly as he went straight out the door (much to Arthur's frustration since had just come back in).

"You do know I was your boss, right? Why should I listen to you when you hardly ever did the same?" Arthur grumbled but followed nonetheless.

"I listened...sometimes." 

They climbed into a large circular glass object. Arthur simply did everything Merlin did, though was incredibly worried during the process. He let out a yelp when the sphere began to float into the air rather quickly. 

He tightly clutched his chair and tried not to panic. Peeking to the side, he saw a large smirk plastered on Merlin's face. He's going to pay for this, He thought before repressing the urge to puke.

Then they came to a stop, hovering 50 meters in the air. Arthur gasped as he looked down on the tips of the trees, saw the long stretch of green so far he saw nothing else. The sky, from the start of the tree line to directly above them, was painted with the colors of a sunset. Pinks, reds, purples, and yellows painted the sky as it clashed with layers of blue. 

It was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen. It was so pure and freeing that the weight of the world lifted off both men's shoulders. It was just them in a world, peaceful and open. There was nothing stopping them or holding them back from doing whatever they wanted. 

Arthur felt more powerful sitting next to Merlin watching the sunset then he ever did sitting on his throne. His eyes began to water as he absorbed the feeling, letting it drown out all other troubles he ever had. Letting it drown out his sorrows of the death of the past.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Merlin whispered. 

"Thank you, Merlin."

That spoke more words than imaginable. More than when he was dying in Merlin's arms. It was a thank you with the full knowledge of just how much Merlin did for him. Waiting and fighting and protecting. Showing him that even at the end, the world was still beautiful.

When they made it back home the sky was dark and the stars peaked behind the black curtain of life. Arthur wondered, as he looked at them, which one is the new world. The new Camelot or Mercia or something more. He hoped it was peaceful and fair, like Camelot was before she fell.

Merlin began dinner (Arthur was shocked the man could cook) while Arthur explored his new Castle. The thing in particular that caught his eyes was the shelves of books almost identical to the one he'd read the previous day. The one that caused him to cry until he fell asleep in the guest bedroom. 

"How many are there?" Arthur asked.

"2,106 give or take. Some decades were too eventful for one while others were so dreadful I couldn't care to write about them." Merlin responded as he seasoned the meat. "Feel free to read them."

Arthur was hesitant, but he knew that the only way he'd be able to understand the man Merlin is today is by reading about his experiences. He knew that asking would take too much time, even though he did dread reading. He peaked to see Merlin, who was focused solely on the meat in a pan.

He saw differences, even though he wouldn't say that out loud. Merlin held himself differently, as if constantly on the edge. His eyes were a lot older than his face, speaking to how much he's seen over the years. Merlin looked sad, even if he was smiling. He looked worse than his father was after Morgana's disappearance all those years ago. It scared Arthur. 

A particularly concerning change were his scars. He'd seen a glimpse of them over the past days, from his face to his feet. There were particularly nasty scars around Merlin's neck, as if it had been cut off and sewn back on. Only the one who sealed those stitches had as poor of hands as Arthur did. The scars were worse than the ones the greatest warrior Arthur knew would've worn. Even the faint small ones spoke of gruesome injuries.

He shook his head, too afraid to think of what battles Merlin has fought without him by his side, and grabbed a random book.

13 May 1647

Britain is still deep into it’s Civil War. Parliamentarians versus the Royalist, from what I hear. I've learned to keep out of the war this time, because honestly I'm too tired to fight. I haven't left these woods in years so why bother when the world will just keep killing each other like they always do. I've tried to join the fight in order to stop it, but the world seems desperate for bloodshed. 

I remember 1,145 years ago when I truly believed the world would become better. Fair and equal, man and magic living together in peace. Seems that naive man forgot that its Man killing Man that's the true problem. It wouldn't surprise me if in the next century those in the America's rebelled and another war happened... another war will always happen. 

I'm tired of the bloodshed. 

That's not why I'm writing. If I wrote about every war then there wouldn't be enough books in the world to fit it all. I'm writing because the Witch Trials are still at a high, especially with that bugger Matthew Hopkins.

He's the Aredian of this century, I'm afraid. Only Aredian had actually caught a few real sorcerers during his horrible reign... Hopkins is too dim to realize there is no more sorcery. The last of sorcerers were killed off during the Black Plague of the 1300s (as well as wars, of course). 

He's just been killing those who "do the devils work". It seems Christianity, like most other religions, have done more harm than good. It hurts... that a belief meant for peace has turned to a cry for war. An excuse for hatred. Anyways, he's been going on "witch hunts" for years now, but the only sorcerer he's actually burned was myself. Then again, his preferred method was drowning and lynching. You get the point.

I remember when he came in, speaking nonsense about my sinful activities. The fact I couldn't recite the Bible didn't help much, as if he'd forgotten not everyone practices his religion... he wasn't the first man to burn me, however. Not even the hundredth.  

I'm not sure where I'm going with this... perhaps nowhere. I'm just desperate to get it out like a bad stomach virus. I wish Arthur were here... then again that's never changed. He would despise this Hopkins, I know that much. 

Arthur did, he realized. He despised a dead man he'll never meet because of the thought of him hurting Merlin. He knew he should remember the rest, the innocent people that died, but his skinned was heated at the idea of this man torturing Merlin. Of strapping him down and burning— no. He couldn't think of that.

His dread of the events of the past sunk deeper into his chest. Over a thousand years since his death and the world, in this particular passage, wasn't all that different than it was during his fathers reign. Killing innocent people because the word of a stranger by burning them alive. Well drowning and lynching was just as bad. It turned his stomach. 

Especially at the fact that Merlin lost all the remaining magic practicers so soon. He must've felt so... lonely.

"Arthur," Merlin called, joy in his tone, "Dinner is ready. It's not much but I think you'll quite like it. You've not had mango before, have you?"

Arthur pushed down the negative thoughts and quietly put the book back where he grabbed it. Forcing a smile he walked to the round dining table where his friend was already waiting.

"No, I don't think I have."

Chapter Text

The end of civilization came with many benefits as well as downsides. As a whole, the world was better off without man. The climate had rebalanced, the oceans were clean, and nature was free to adapt and repopulate more than ever. Most endangered animals have rebounded (unfortunately, it was too late for Rhinos and Horses to). 

However, one problem with the vast majority of man made structures collapsing (from nature or bombs) was the storms. There was nothing to hold back the fierce winds or rains. In the forest, you would hope that you'd have shelter but you'd be wrong. It seems that Mother Nature had a chip on her shoulder. 

Merlin and Arthur have been stuck inside the house for almost a week now. The rain was falling so hard it felt like punches and the wind was so strong it would blow even Arthur away. Thunder rumbled the house and lighting was the only light source outside Merlin's fireplace and the occasional candle. The clouds were so thick and dark that, if they hadn't known better, the men could've believed the sun had burnt out like a candle near a breeze. 

"Do you have any fives?" Arthur asked.

"Go fish." Merlin said, much to the former kings irritation. "Do you have any sevens?"

"No."

"Are you sure?"

"Why would I lie, Merlin?"

"Probably because you're angry I've beat you the last 3 rounds."

Arthur paused, staring at the sevens in his hand, then looked to Merlin. He threw his deck down in frustration and huffed as Merlin smiled victoriously. Arthur had a feeling the only reason he was losing was because Merlin was secretly using magic, but he didn't voice these thoughts in fear it'd make him look like a sore loser. 

"I don't like this game. Do you have anything that requires actual talent?"

Merlin smiled and his eyes went gold, sending their cards back into their box then that soon flew across the room to settle neatly where they originally grabbed them. They went golden again as a large box (something called Monopoly by the creators of Ancient Capitalism).

Arthur was surprised at how accustomed he was to seeing Merlin do magic now. He remembered how uncomfortable he'd been in the woods in his final days, his stomach churning at the sight of golden eyes. Now he found it rather attractive, though he'd never dare say it out loud. Perhaps his new comfortableness was due to how often the man used his magic, nearly for everything. Arthur figures it must be a force of habit after all these years, especially now that he has no one to hide it from. 

He was glad Merlin didn't feel the need to pretend anymore. To lie about how he started the fire with damp wood or how the door must've closed from a breeze. He was almost thankful for the sorcerers talent, since it washed the dishes and tidied the house (though he missed seeing Merlin in his hands and knees scrubbing the floors... again, he'd never say that). He was starting to think the constant use of magic was making the other man rather lazy.

"This is a classic! Was made around 300 or so years ago, although this particular one was one of the last made. After the fall of capitalism, this was the only remaining Monopoly game."

"What on earth is Capitalism?"

"Not sure, to be honest. I made sure to stay out of government and politics, except for Nazis. I kicked some Nazi arse in the 40s." 

Arthur decided he needed to find that particular book, but said no further as Merlin began to explain the rules of the game. It was all rather complicated, but Arthur decided to look at it like a castle. As a king he had to make investments in certain areas (although not hotels). He was never very proper at spending his money, however, so he was dreading this as well.

His dread was well placed as he was quickly demolished by Merlin. It seems that the world was rather expensive during the years the game was created("Honestly Merlin, who would pay that much for a bloody inn?"). He wasn't able to refrain from curses and by the end he'd even flipped the board. Merlin realized then that perhaps Monopoly wasn't the right game for his King, so he decided not to mention any other classics (especially Operation). Patience and delicacy wasn't Arthur's strong suit.

"Do you have Rum or is that another thing the world managed to destroy while I was away?" Arthur grumbled as he watched the board game float back to its proper spot. 

"It seems alcohol is one of the few consistencies over time," Merlin laughed as he stood to go to the kitchen. "Luckily it's far stronger and taste much better than the Taverns sold."

"Tavern!" Arthur yelled from the other room, "Gaius always said you went to the bloody Taverns? Was that all rubbish too?"

"I never even saw the inside of Camelot taverns unless it was with you," Merlin yelled back with a grin, grabbing an old bottle of whiskey and two cups.

He laughed as he heard Arthur's curses while he walked to the living room. He was glad at this fresh friendship they've been forming, an open and honest one. There was no longer a life threatening villain or the risk of being killed. He could openly be himself with the person he always wanted to be free around.

He poured them each a glass of the golden drink. He waited and watched Arthur first as the man recklessly swallowed the whole cup in one go. Quickly, he began coughing as his eyes watered and his throat burned.

"Careful not to drink it all at once, it's hundreds of years old and very strong." Merlin laughed as he took a sip and relished the fire in his stomach after.

"Oh really?" Arthur said sarcastically as he wiped his tears, "I hadn't noticed. Thank you, Merlin, for your wise words of caution."

"You're very welcome, Sire."

They both said nothing about the classic title. They both knew that they were equals now, that there was no power dynamic. Merlin wasn't a servant just as Arthur wasn't his King. There were no more Kingdoms, and certainly not the one that Arthur belonged to. It was a comfort, however, to them both. To hear that things hadn't changed so drastically that they no longer remembered the days they were together as they had been in Camelot.

"So Merlin," Arthur started as he poured another drink, "a lot of change has happened. You've been alive for quite some time, roaming the earth and what not. I have one very important thing to ask, however."

"What might that be?"

"Are you still a Virgin?"

They both laughed deeply as they drank. Arthur didn't know which he would be more surprised by, that he was or he wasn't. For the sake and sanity of his friend, he hoped he had  laid with a beautiful maiden at least once. 

"No," Merlin confessed as he smiled. "Not even close."

"Is that so?" Arthur asked, drinking as he stared at the other man.

"Let's just say it could get rather cold and lonely, Sire." Merlin said, suddenly shy under the gaze of the other man. "Seems as if company was around quite often, actually."

Arthur continued to stare as he took a drink at the same time as the other. His body was warmed (by more than just a drink) and his stomach was burning pleasantly. Merlin was right that this alcohol was far more enjoyable than the others Arthur had tried. However, with this topic, he didn't like how hot he felt and how a part of him hated to imagine the meaning of Merlin's answer.

"Right," He said, not wanting to know any more.

Merlin ignored the bite in the other mans tone, thinking surely he must've imagined the jealousy in it. The air was suddenly tense, so he took the rest of his drink as though it were a shot and stood. He flipped through his Records (which consisted only of Queen, Elton John, Lady Gaga, and Toxic by Britney Spears). He decided on Elton, carefully placing it onto the turn table. 'Philadelphia Freedom' flowed into the silence and shattered it with its beat.

"What this nonsense?" Arthur asked.

Merlin gasped (over dramatically, I might add) and snapped his head in offense as he stared at Arthur. He studied the man, as if no longer knowing him, before taking a long sip of his fresh drink. Arthur rolled his eyes, unaware that his head started to bop to the beat. 

"This, my friend, is Rock n Roll. The most beautiful invention man made since Ice Cream. It's the music that started revolutions and sent glory to the gays! It's magic incarnate," Merlin exclaimed as he closed his eyes and absorbed the music. "This particular song was made by an Englishman named Elton John, though born Reggie Dwight. He was magnificent on stage!" (And off, he thought as he remembered the 1970/80s).

"This is what came of Music?" Arthur asked, bemused at the other mans dramatic explanation. 

He listened to it as closely as his friend and decided he actually quite likes it. It felt energetic and almost chaotic, just as he felt after he won a duel. As the song switched, now playing 'Meal Ticket', Arthur decided he quite liked this Rock n Roll thing. It felt... alive. 

Far less boring then the pieces he was forced to hear in the castle, at least. 

"Rock n Roll, Capitalism, and burning Whiskey is what the world invented after a thousand years?" Arthur asked. 

"Firstly, don't you dare pair the likes of a revolutionary musical genre to something I barely know about, making it far less fantastic. For all I know Capitalism could've been bad...damn I should've payed more attention I suppose." Merlin smiled,"But yes, pretty much. There was all the technology and medicine and such, which was fairly impressive."

"Marriage, is that still a thing? Kingdoms?" Arthur asked curiously. "Please tell me there's still Jousting at least?"

"Marriage, yes though a lot different. Far more open relationships and less arrangements, not to mention a thing called Divorce." Merlin started as he laid down, facing the ceiling. 

"Afraid royalty and kingdoms lost meaning centuries ago. Replaced with Democracy, that was a thing and quite good if I say so. At least I think it was... can't remember. Was it Capitalism that replaced it... no no I'm sure that had something to do with money. Or was that socialism? Bugger, I can't seem to remembered what goes where and which is what." He rambled, lost in thought. So many things to remember, Merlin had.

Seems you've forgotten more than you realize, Arthur thought. A lot of questions Arthur had asked recently either got an unsure answer or no answer at all. His eyes glanced to the books a moment before he shook his head and laid down as well, still sipping his drink.

"Anyways, I'm sorry to say, Sire, that Jousting died a very long time ago. Most humans in the past few centuries don't even know the word, let alone what it means." 

Arthur frowned with a deep sigh. He hated that a classic activity of honor and nobility such as Jousting had been replaced with utter ridiculousness like Monopoly or Go Fish. 

He thought about the other bits. The fact that Kingdoms lacked importance, when in his life time it was the most important thing. Royalty was essential to the safety and well-being of the kingdom. It was the whole meaning behind his life, the thing that controlled his every action. A good king could save lives while an evil king could murder hundreds. 

Then he considered the bit about marriage. Marriage in his time was also very important, who he married would have to be a fair ruler as well as the mother to continue the family line (unfortunately, that never happened). The fact he had chose to marry a servant woman was so incredibly controversial... but from what Merlin said that's no longer the case. Freedom to marry whomever you want (and whatever divorce meant). 

"What's an open relationship?" He asked.

Merlin choked on his drink for a moment before answering. "Things have changed quite a lot since Camelot, especially who you can be with. Self love and confidence is more important than old fashioned modesty."

"So open relationship is sleeping round?"

"Not exactly, although that's not frowned upon anymore either. An open relationship is when a person is in a committed relationship with their partner, but they're also free to have intimacy with other lads or ladies if they please."

Arthur frowned, not quite liking that idea. He'd never even considered being with another woman while he'd been married to Gwen. It was a large difference, these changes Merlin told him, but he supposed it wasn't a problem now that there's nobody around. Even if there were he didn't care much about how other people decided to live their life (even if he didn't quite understand the appeal).

"What else has changed with courting, Merlin?"

Arthur wasn't sure what brought this question to mind. What had forced it into his mouth to slip off his tongue. He just desperately needed to know if something, something so forbidden he dare not speak it, had changed. He wanted to hear it said aloud for the first time in his life. His heart had raced and he was sweating in fear, he realized. His shaky hands brought his drink to his lips.

"You could love whoever you want, Arthur. Be whomever you pleased..." Merlin paused, also suddenly afraid to speak it out loud.

He'd done so many times in the years, he'd had many lovers that he wanted, no matter who they were. However, he was suddenly afraid to say it like he was during Camelot and centuries after. Terrified at how people could react, at how Arthur would react. However, he was free now to be who he was, sorcerer and other. He wouldn't lie to Arthur again.

"Men with Men. Woman with woman. You could love one, both, neither, or more. Straight, Gay, Bisexual, and a thousand other terms they've chosen over the years of acceptance." Merlin whispered, "You could...love."

Arthur hadn't realized he was crying until the tear fell down his face. Yes, he thought, I would like to love. I want to be...free.

"And you, Merlin? Who did you love?"

You, Merlin thought but dare not say. No, this was a confession that needed far much more time to settle. He had waited this long so he would wait until Arthur was ready for such a thing. 

"Men and women." Merlin confessed with a voice so small he almost wondered if he spoke at all. "I just loved."

He was scared to look at Arthur just then. As if he was laid next to Arthur in Camelot, before the battle, and he just confessed his being a sorcerer. Afraid to look at the other mans reaction. Afraid of the rejection.

"Yes," Arthur finally whispered, "That does sound nice, Merlin."

Simultaneously they rolled their heads to the side and looked at one another. Both were shocked at the others tears, the others fear, but both understood. God, they understood how freeing it felt to be honest. To be free to admit to wanting nothing more than to love without fear. 

"I think I would've loved too," Arthur murmured, feeling the pain go away as he looked into a man he yearned for for many years. Yearned to love, just like Merlin said he loved many others. Only more than that, Arthur knew, he was in love even if he wasn't ready to say that.

They both knew that their want to love wasn't for strangers, but the person laying next to them in that moment. We're free, Merlin's eyes said. I'm free, Arthur's said back, as another scolding hot tear fell across the bridge of his nose and onto the wooden floor. Neither men noticed that the storm had long since cleared, leaving Elton Johns sweet voice the only sound flooding the room.

Chapter Text

8 May 1945

We go unmarked in death as in life.

Mordred had never spoken something so painfully true before. It seems that it was the only thing he ever said to me that I've been able to forgive. However, I just wish it had been myself to drive that sword through him. I'd never wanted to kill a man as much as I did Mordred, especially since he's won. He succeeded in killing my best friend, leaving me to mourn him for all eternity. Perhaps that's what I hate most in the whole world...other than myself.

Today marks the final day of the Second World War. The allies have accepted Germany's surrender...I no longer have to fight. It's estimated that 40-50 million have died during this fight but I'm certain it's far more. I've my fair share of blood on my hands, the blood of the enemy. This war was different than the last for the simple reason that I'm a soldier instead of a healer...I'm almost ashamed to admit I enjoyed the fight.

When I close my eyes I remember the sight of blood coating the battlefield, dead bodies laid in piles, and the burnt smell of gunpowder. I'm considered one of the best soldiers, according to the Field Marshal. They aren't aware that I had the power of the old religion coursing through my veins... I'm afraid my actions were far worse than that of even Morgana. I've lost track of how many people died by my hand during this war, but I reckon it's at least a thousand.

I've become the killer that my past self would've despised. I know, in a way, that I should feel guilt or remorse for my actions in the war. Frankly...I don't feel anything anymore. Perhaps I've become my worst enemy and greatest nightmare...I'm not sure I know the difference anymore. I don't think I care to know either.

Truth is, I might miss being a soldier.

Arthur couldn't bring himself to read further as his stomach churned. This man he's reading about...he's not the man that once drank from a poison chalice to protect his king. This was a warrior who thrived on bloodshed and misery. It was a stranger that Arthur was terrified of.

He regretted reading this book, and feared what could possibly be in the others. The worst part was that he could imagine Merlin as he read about the battles he fought. Imagine the blood on his skin, the darkness on his face, and the glow of his eyes. A glow like Morganas in her last years. 

"You alright, Arthur? You look ill," Merlin said as he sat across from him on the couch.

Arthur considered lying, pretending like what he read didn't bother him. Acting as though he didn't see him differently now, even if it was unfair. He knew it was wrong for him to judge Merlin for what happened to him over the years. What became of him after lord knows how many wars and tragedies. He knew he shouldn't blame the other man, a man he cared about, but he couldn't help but speak his mind.

"Are you a killer, Merlin?" Arthur asked coldly. "Is that who you've become?"

Merlin sighed and he looked down at his hands after seeing which book Arthur had been reading. World War II, the war that killed. He should've known better than to let Arthur have access to the stories, most of which were very dark and gruesome. Then again, he knew it was necessary to keep himself honest.

"I've become many things, Arthur. I've fought in many wars, so yes I suppose I am." Merlin confessed. 

"Did you enjoy fighting?"

Merlin's heart heart sank deeper. He forced his eyes to look up, to plead for Arthur to let this go, but all he saw was a hardness in the other face. A hardness that told him that he knew the answer and didn't approve.

"Sometimes," Merlin admitted, his voice breaking. 

"I don't know who this man is that I'm reading about. You've changed! I don't even recognize the man you've become, Merlin." Arthur exclaimed as he turned away in disgust.

"You don't get to judge me! After everything I've gone through waiting all these years, you don't get to judge me for what I've become. For who I became and what I've done. If you've been through half of what I have you wouldn't recognize yourself either." 

"I wouldn't have enjoyed it, Merlin." 

That hit Merlin in the chest like a bullet. However, the gunpowder from it was reignited and burned bright. He felt an anger, so strong he can't remember the last time he felt it, and stood up. He stood in front of Arthur so the man would have no choice but to look at him. 

"Do you know how many battles I've had to fight? How many wars I've been forced into over the years? 207 wars, Arthur!" Merlin said, face growing red with anger. "Do you know how many people I loved and lost in those wars? How many men, women, and children died that I couldn't protect?"

"Merlin-"

"Millions! I've watched millions die! I had friends and family who died over and over right in front of my eyes. I've held people I've raised from childhood in my arms as they bled to death, I've watched fellow soldiers burn alive, I've seen so much death Arthur!" 

Merlin was crying hysterically now. Arthur had never felt so regretful before now, watching his best friend fall apart. This was his fault, he knew, since he was too quick to assume. Too ignorant to take into consideration just how much he didn't know about Merlin. How much he was forced to endure and change. 

He couldn't imagine what it felt like to see so much tragedy. So much death. He'd lost men in battles before but never as many as Merlin claims. Arthur remembers the pain he felt after Lancelot died and couldn't begin to imagine what he would've become if he'd had to relive that feeling a thousand times over. 

"So I'm sorry, Arthur. I'm sorry that I'm no longer than man you thought me to be. That I've changed despite your desires. So yes, i am a killer. Don't bother hating me because I do that enough for the both of us, Sire." 

Merlin finally took a moment to breathe, wiping his tears and closing his eyes. It seems as though his past had caught up to him. Too scared to look at Arthur, knowing that all he would see was disappointment, Merlin turned to walk up the stairs. He didn't make it far before large warm arms wrapped around his torso from behind.

Arthur held him strictly out of instinct. He needed Merlin to know that he was sorry and that he understood. They both said nothing, Merlin just allowed himself to be held and Arthur held him tight. It was comforting, Merlin realized as his hurt began to fade behind the other mans arms. 

When they separated spoken apologies were not needed, they both already knew. Instead, Arthur picked up the large book and stared at it a moment before placing it in Merlin's hands. It was then they looked at each other again, faces clear of any hatred or anger.

"I don't think I liked this one," Arthur whispered. "You're a terrible writer."

Merlin laughed softly, "Yes, I suppose I am."

"I agree, you know? That you should've had the chance to stab Mordred."

"Trust me, I thought of it quite often."

They both laughed quietly. The tension was gone now, but their past words lingered like a whisper. Arthur was afraid of what Merlin had told him. Afraid of just how much pain the other man had experienced over his wait. That Merlin would hate him for being the reason he lost so much. Merlin was afraid for another reason. That Arthur would no longer want to forgive him for who he's become. That his king would abandon him and hate him.

Fear, what a powerful illusion.

"Burn it," Arthur whispered, gesturing to the book. "You've lost more than I'll ever understand, Merlin, but I'm here. You shouldn't have to remember the days you hated yourself... or the pain of war."

I'll never be able to forget, Merlin thought, because I can't remember a time I didn't hate myself. However, Merlin liked the idea of leaving behind this particular memory.

He moved to the fireplace and set down the book. His eyes were flashed a quick gold and a large flame grew. Together they watched as the pages were burned away and the cover melted into itself. Merlin found it oddly freeing watching his past burn. 

It had become abundantly clear to him that the greatest enemy they've ever had to encounter had been there from the moment Arthur woke up. He should've seen it coming. A danger so strong that poisoned chalices, dark sorcerers, and even the broken bit of a sword wielded from dragon fire were by far overshadowed. This was an enemy that could not be defeated. This, Merlin realized, was the only thing capable of splitting Arthur and him apart forever.

It was Time.

It's stolen so much from the two men, and was still hungry for more. Time is what changed Merlin, which is pushing Arthur away, and is what has taken everything from him but his life. He'd been naive to believe Arthur wouldn't notice the effects these years had on him. Naive to think he wouldn't learn to hate the changes time brought and never would take back.

Not having enough time took Arthur from him, then he spent so much time waiting for his return, so of course now it was that time apart that would ruin them forever... such a dangerous thing, Hope was. This only further reminded Merlin of why he lost it so long ago.

He decided his only option was to relish the good for as long as he could. He would make good of every moment he had before that inevitable break would happen. He would serve his King and love his King and protect his King until he was banished from his presence. Arthur deserves as much, Merlin decided.

However, Arthur felt and believed different.

Arthur knew it would only be a matter of time before they came at odds again... he also knew that they would be ready. That no matter how dirty and painful that day would be, he hoped they would find a way to forgive each other and themselves. 

They were meant to be together. It was written in destiny. Two sides of the same old and rough coin.

Merlin loved Arthur more than he hated himself. He loved Arthur more than Arthur would ever know. He understood he was alone in this feeling, at least he believed it now more than ever. He remembered those years in Camelot, before Arthur married Gwen, when he thought maybe. Maybe there was something more than a work relationship. More than a friendship. That just maybe Arthur could've felt the same.

Merlin had wanted that more than anything, but after the marriage he believed it to be one sided. 

However, it wasn't. Arthur knew, deep inside, that he's never loved anyone the way he loved Merlin. It terrified him, especially in Camelot when temptation was always at the edge of his tongue. Temptation to say it, those three simple words, and act on his desires. To throw rules and tradition to the wind as he allowed himself to be with Merlin. Go to a farm, live a simple life, and just be free to be with the man he loved.

That being said, he knew then that it was an impossible wish. Instead, he allowed himself to try and love another. Guinevere became his new love, and he did love her deeply. A different type of love, perhaps, but a true one. There were moments, late at night as they laid together and she slept, that his mind wandered back to Merlin. He'd never say it, even hated himself for it, but it happened. 

What neither men knew, since they were so hopelessly foolish, was that Guinevere always knew. Always saw that love they shared just below the surface of their eyes. She knew they wanted to be together more than anything and she wished desperately that they could've had that freedom. Yes, she loved her husband, but her husband was deeply in love with her friend. They were just too blind to realize the other felt the same and too scared to realize they could've found a way. 

She felt sadness in her last days as she spoke with Merlin. A sadness that their love was stolen, and unlike her and William, they couldn't move on. If she were here now, however, she would be smiling. Together as meant to be, even if it was hard (then again, wasn't it always).

Chapter Text

Merlin had pinned Arthur on the ground for the fifth time that morning, a small blade pressed to his throat.

"I don't like this change," Arthur admitted. "I remember when you couldn't even hold a sword properly until I taught you."

Merlin chuckled as he stood and helped his king up. "It was only a matter of time before I got the hang of it."

They were out in a clearing miles into the woods. Earlier that week they had agreed that they should practice sparring, for their own protection as well as for Arthur. He missed training with the knights everyday. Merlin was rather happy at this suggestion for two simple reasons: the woods were full of dangerous animals and he has an excuse to pin Arthur down. The fact that he'd surprised Arthur with his abilities was just an added bonus.

Merlin wore a white shirt that clung to his body in sweat, which suggested that he had more muscle that Arthur could remember. His biceps were larger and his legs were thicker as well. All of this was greatly distracting to Arthur, who wasn't used to seeing this much exposed skin of Merlin. That and the added muscle made the man incredibly attractive, much to Arthur's frustration.

Merlin was in a very similar situation, what with Arthur wearing a tight black shirt and shorts. He'd seen the man with less clothes on the past, but something about being close and personal during a hot day made it worse. The only reason why he wasn't as thrown off by it was the mere fact that he was winning.

"I still think we should focus more on weaponry. It's not like we're going to wrestle a lion or tiger, Arthur," said Merlin as they started another round. 

"I'm perfectly fine with an arrow," Arthur grunted as he moved forward.

It was a rather predictable move. He moved in, top heavy, so Merlin was quick to sidestep and even slapped Arthur on his arse. It was a taunt, they both knew, and it was like a red flag to a bull. Merlin smirked at Arthur's huff, feeling rather proud of himself.

"There's many more important weapons than an arrow," Merlin simply said. "But if you insist, I'll sit back and watch them eat you for dinner."

Arthur rolled his eyes and moved in again, this time aiming for the other mans legs. Again, quick and smooth, Merlin dodged it. He was going easy on the man, knowing that he had many a skill that Arthur didn't know existed, and just humored him enough to not completely fracture his confidence. 

Merlin had plenty of time to train in the arts of combat. From boxing to karate to Muay Thai. He'd even taken Ballet in the 1700s, helping his agility and lightness on his feet. All of this he would never tell Arthur, of course. The man would claim he was being cheated (which he was). 

Arthur had gone in again, and Merlin decided that he'd been playing with the man too much. They'd been sparring for nearly 2 hours and not once had his king managed to get a hit in. He remembered how much of a sore loser the man could be, so he pretended to dodge the attempt a second too late and Arthur had slammed into him, bring them both down together. 

Arthur sat atop Merlin with a large victorious smile, with legs straddling him while his large hands held shoulders to the ground. Not enough to hurt but enough to secure them in place. A part of him was aware of the intimacy of the position, but the larger part was just arrogant at his victory.

Merlin wanted to scratch the smugness off his face, just for a second, so his eyes glew gold and he managed to throw Arthur off just enough to slip away. 

"You cheated!" Arthur exclaimed.

"Did I? I don't remember there being any rules, Sire." Merlin responded, a smirk on his face as he feigned innocence. "I'm very sorry about this misunderstanding."

Arthur all but growled as he lunged for Merlin, grabbing his arms and pushing him against the trunk of a tree. Merlin's back met rough bark, but he felt no pain. Arthur's hands bundled Merlin's shirt up and he smiled bright.

"Seems like you've still got learning to do," He said.

"Or I let you win so I wouldn't have to hear your whining all night."

"You'd never."

Merlin simply smiled, secretly glad he managed to get Arthur to get close and pin him down. Oh how he missed it. Then, the little devil on his shoulder whispered to him. It told him that this wasn't the proper position, even if it was a pleasant one. No, it said that this was how their dynamic once was but things are different. Merlin was different. 

He caved, listening to that red devil, and before Arthur could blink their roles were reversed. This time it was Merlin pinning his king to a tree trunk, his body pressed close so their chests touched and breath mixed, and he smiled sinfully.

"I much prefer it this way, Sire." Merlin whispered. 

Arthur stammered but was unable to get any words out. His cheeks flushed and heart raced, and without realizing it he held his breath. Merlin simply smiled and let go, moving to gather their supplies now that it was obvious their session was over.

With Merlin's back turned, Arthur allowed himself to comprehend what just happened. He took a deep breath and tried to calm himself, but he was feeling many things in that moment. So many that he had to adjust his pants as they'd gotten a little tight from his excitement. He'd never felt more sexually frustrated or flustered than he did in that moment.

He realized he liked it... liked losing. Especially when losing meant being held down by Merlin, feeling every inch of his body but being helpless to do anything about it. Perhaps, he thought, I should lose more often. 

"Right," he said, clearing his voice. "What are we doing next?"

"Whatever you want."

Gods, Arthur thought as many things flooded his mind, if only you knew. Shaking his head he walked with Merlin and thought of what he wanted that wasn't inappropriate. Something simple and far less complicated. 

"Is there anywhere we could go?" He asked curiously, eyes scanning the forest. "Somewhere different? It's a large world and I'm quite interested in seeing more, if we can."

"I know just the place," Merlin said with a smile.

Together they climbed into the sphere (something Merlin called a "AeroAuto") and Arthur watched in fascination as it started up again. Merlin moved his hand and a holographic screen appeared above the consol. After some typing, a map heading to 'Paris,Paris' and the sphere floated high above the trees and began to fly itself.

"How does this Aroauto thing work?" Arthur asked as he nervously watched the ground below zip by.

"AeroAuto, basically a flying automobile. It's like a carriage but better. This was made around 200 years ago, powered by the sun with solar panels," Merlin explained, hoping Arthur would understand. "It's made of a fiber glass that's nearly indestructible, it has this sort of brain so it can move itself, and it can pretty much go anywhere. Automobiles used to be on the ground but it's better this way."

Arthur nodded through this and thought of how much easier life would've been if he had this in Camelot. No long weeks in horse back with a numb arse and a sore back. He didn't fully understand exactly how it worked but he supposed it wasn't too important.

The ground below was a blur of green and brown. It seemed to go on for ages, Arthur thought, but it was hypnotic. When they would pass lakes or large areas of water he was amazed at just how blue the water was (almost as blue as Merlin's eyes, he thought). The sky above his was clear and bright, only having the occasional white puff of a cloud. 

"Have you been outside of this 'Britain'?" Arthur asked after growing sick looking down.

"I've been everywhere in the world, even places far under water by now. A lot of the time I was building places, such as Berlin or Dubai or even Paris, where we're going." 

Arthur absorbed the story with his full attention. It was different to hear it from Merlin rather than a book. When he spoke of memories his eyes would often get this misty look, as if actually seeing them again. Warmth and life in his tone made it real. 

"Most of France is underwater now, especially after the bombs, so the few bits remaining are called Paris. Most of the America's is under water as well... the climate crisis was hard on the world. I think my favorite place to visit was Japan, but I'm afraid that's gone now too."

"It's weird to think that there's so much outside Albion," Arthur whispered.

"There was always a world outside, Arthur, we just were too lost in our love for Camelot to realize it. L'amour est aveugle." 

Arthur's stomach did a flip, "What was that last bit? Sounded like rubbish."

"French. Lots of languages and I know just about all of them now."

"You need hobbies that aren't so pathetic, Merlin."

He didn't actually believe that for a second, but he couldn't say what he was thinking. He couldn't say, Do me a favor and speak like that all the time and I'll do whatever you please, Merlin. No, he had a reputation to keep as well as what little dignity he had left. 

Merlin just smiled but said nothing. They sat in a comfortable silence for almost an hour before they arrived. They landed softly on a patch of grass, opening their doors. It looked different than their home, Arthur noticed. It was more humid and a bit hotter. The ground was covered in wildflowers and weeds, not as many trees in this particular area.

This was a city once. The buildings still standing were so thickly wrapped in plants it looked made of them. There was cement under the weeds that showed in a few areas and bricks laid randomly across the streets. It looked like a place that could've been a home once, like an abandoned castle. Arthur was amazed at how tall some buildings were as he walked around.

Merlin was watching Arthur's childish curiosity with a grin. It was refreshing to see someone amazed by the world instead of seeing the darkness lingering in it. Arthur saw a city with beautiful plants and grasses, but Merlin only saw a battleground. A place he helped build once now destroyed and abandoned. Forgotten. 

"Is this how most of the world is?" He asked, looking at an old church. 

"Yes." Merlin paused, looking at the Notre-Dame (the one rebuilt in the 21st century). "I helped build this Cathedral, you know? Well, the original one at least. It was huge and majestic... I don't imagine they would've been so welcoming to my presence if they knew what I am." 

"It's wonderful," Arthur whispered, laying his hand on the vines covering the doors. "What is it?"

"A church for a religion called Christianity. There a lot more religions now, and even then, than we thought. Hell, most of the world doesn't even remember the Old Religion."

"It's meant for worship?"

"It was, yes. I didn't follow any religion too closely in case I got burned, but I believe that's what their goal was."

Walking towards their final destination, Merlin hoped that Arthur wouldn't see what he did. Wouldn't notice the grave yards, the scorch marks from the fires, or the occasional bone lying around after some creature dug it up. That he wouldn't realize this place was a grave yard, one of the most damaged in Europe from the war. 

"What on earth-"

"This, Arthur, is one of my favorite creations. The Eiffel Tower," Merlin said.

The Eiffel Tower still stood high and proud. Looking at it, Merlin could remember so much. Remembered building each piece along side architects. Remembered the amount of people walking the streets of Paris and seeing it, kissing under it, or even getting married near by. It looked it's age, now. It was beginning to rust and large vines wrapped around it like a python it's prey. It was still breathtaking though.

Together they walked to the staircase (a broken escalator) and began to venture up. 674 steps later and Arthur was beginning to think he might die. The elevator to the top was broken and Merlin wasn't very skilled in technology so they decided the second floor was high enough. They sat together on the edge, looking out at the vast ghost town.

"Good to know you're capable of making something that's still standing," Arthur joked.

"You couldn't build a dresser if you tried."

"Of course I could. If you're capable of it then it can't be very hard."

"You would think there would've been an intelligence standard to be a ruler of an entire kingdom. Then again, it's probably best there wasn't otherwise you would've never seen a crown a day in your life."

"And you would think that an immortal who's been alive for thousands of years would be the brightest man in the world, and even with just the two of us here he isn't! A donkey would be smarter than you are, Merlin."

"A brainless toad would beat you in a reading contest, Sire."

Chapter Text

21 December 1424

Kilgharrah died today making me officially the last magical being left on earth. I'm not sure what brought his death, illness or age, but he flew back to the Lake of Avalon to bid his farewell. He looked older than I felt. 

He told me, "Merlin, you're all that's left now. The last living memory of Albion and magic. It's all on you now, so make the most of it."

I cried, even though over the years I've grown to hate him. I believe it was my listening to him that lead to Arthur's death...I still wonder if he always knew that. If he did it on purpose. Despite all this hatred, I mourn him. He was the last friend I had from my world and now I'm completely alone.

His remains vanished in a puff of smoke... I wonder if mine will do the same someday. If one day I will disappear without a trace and nobody will remember my name either. I wonder if he lied about Arthur, just like I've been thinking of his other lies these past 900 years... it doesn't matter because if I give up hope now then I have nothing to live for. I can't risk being wrong. Even Kilgharrah couldn't be so cruel, right?

"Why do you insist upon cutting my hair? It's perfectly fine how it is," Arthur grumbled as he sat on the kitchen chair.

Merlin had finished wetting his hair and pulled out scissors, "Because, Arthur, you're hairstyle is outdated. It reminds me of an early 2000s boy band, which isn't a good thing."

He began cutting away with a confidence and delicacy that surprised his former king.

"Well, your hairstyle is the same as it was in Camelot."

"That's not true, you're just to dim to notice how different it is, Sire. Perhaps you've forgotten what I used to look like."

I could never, Arthur thought but said nothing. They sat, listening to Queen, in a comfortable silence. Gwen was the last person to cut Arthur's hair, he remembered now. When Merlin pulled out his clippers Arthur didn't realize. Which is why when the buzzing sounded near his ears he panic, flinging himself back and falling hard on the floor with his chair. He groaned in pain while Merlin looked down on him with a smile.

"I did that on purpose," Arthur insisted. 

"Seems like no matter how much time has passed, you'll always be a dollophead," Laughed Merlin as he helped Arthur up from where he lay.

"I'm not a dollophead."

"If you insist, sire."

When Merlin had finished he felt quite proud of himself, giving Arthur a handheld mirror to inspect it. While Arthur had simply nodded in approval, Merlin knew he was happy with the end results. He knew this because his king walked a little straighter and smiled a bit cockier, like he had been when they first met that faithful day in Camelot. Only now Merlin thought the confidence endearing rather than appalling. 

Merlin finished cleaning up the mess before starting work on their dinner. Tonight's meal was duck, which he wasn't sure Arthur would like. Considering this as he seasoned the meat and prepared a side of vegetables, Merlin looked through his cabinet. He'd managed to find the leftover sugar, vanilla beans, and coconut. Scavenging around he found enough leftover supplies for a proper dessert. 

Meanwhile in the other room Arthur had returned to the library with the book from that morning in hand. In the past he would've rather a deadly illness than spending his free time reading, but it seems much has changed. The real reason behind his obsession with continuing reading the books (though at no specific order at all) was to better understand Merlin. 

He needed to know more about why his friend is different. Why he wakes most nights (if he actually slept) with a yell from nightmares. Why he flinched if Arthur moved too close too quickly or if he'd dropped something on accident that left a loud bang. Most importantly, Arthur wanted to know why Merlin was so sad. From what he's read so far he had a great understanding of how much loss and pain Merlin had endured, and by doing so he's began to know how to approach him. To understand him better. 

For example, he purposely avoids talk of wars or destruction. It's why he didn't voice his questions last week in Paris when he saw so much leftover destruction of war. He avoids asking about his own death, or that of the people in Camelot as a whole. While Gwen was an easy topic, the mere mention of how Leon, Percival, and Gwaine had bothered him so deeply that he had to excuse himself. Arthur learned afterwards not to even consider mentioning Gaius or Hunith.

29 May 1436

Its days like these where I miss Lancelot. Miss how caring and kind he was... There was a time once where I wondered what a different world would be like. What a world would be like if I loved Lancelot instead... It wouldn't matter anyhow. He loved Gwen and I loved the forbidden man... I guess both of us were too lost to realize how hopeless we were. He was a good man and a better friend.

You know this reminds me of a little rumor that was going around when the story of the Arthurian Era was popular. The rumor was that Lancelot was deeply in love with Arthur but couldn't be with him, so instead loved Gwen since that's the closest he'd ever be to his king in that way... It's a silly story really. Just as silly if it had been I he loved.

No, they got the wrong man for that rumor, the wrong idea of who was in love with their King... I must be going now. I'm not sure why I ever come back if it's to write useless things like this... maybe I'm afraid because I'm beginning to forget. A man had asked me earlier today the name of my mother and I told him I couldn't remember. Yes, that's why I wrote this. That and because he had been holding a book about Lancelot.

Arthur's stomach was in his chest and his heart in his gut. He knew what most of this implied, and he was as amazed as he was terrified. He knew, based off what Merlin had wrote of himself, that his friend was in love with him. At least that he had been during his time in Camelot. It made sense, he knew, because of what the first book showed. But certainly he would've known?

Just like you knew he was a sorcerer? He thought.

What could he possibly do with this information? It was the most important thing he'd read so far because he wanted it. He wanted so badly for so long to love Merlin and have that love back, even if he couldn't. Arthur was so incredibly relieved...but this was written so long ago and referenced only Camelot. Surely he has moved on? Surely, Arthur thought disheartened, he no longer feels the same. 

Why would he when Arthur was the reason he'd forgotten his own mother's name?

Arthur set the book down and pushed it as if it were a monster ready to kill him. With the way his heart was racing, maybe it was. He had no clue what to do with this information. What to do with the fact his friend was in love with him from the beginning, when Arthur had felt the same. A forbidden man was who they both loved in unforgiving times. 

Then, he remembered as he looked at the book, with the fact that Merlin wanted a different world where he fancied Lancelot. Were he and-

"Arthur!" Merlin's voice sounded from downstairs, "Dinners ready!"

Arthur glared at the book then went downstairs. They'd sat down around the table, plates made and fresh out the oven, and Arthur forced himself to act as if nothing changed. They ate the duck, which Arthur found pleasant, and made small talk.

"Were you and Lancelot ever... courted?" Arthur asked suddenly.

Merlin laughed, "No, of course not. He was in love with Gwen, you know that."

Arthur nodded, his jealousy beginning to die down, before another thought stopped it. "What about Gwaine?"

Merlin flushes and looked down, "Who didn't Gwaine bed?"

It seemed that was not the proper response since a chunk of meat was sent flying into Merlin's face. It fell off slowly and Merlin couldn't help but laugh. He wondered where these questions were coming from as well as why Arthur wasn't happy with that answer.

"I'm kidding, I never gave into his charm. I'm afraid he wasn't my type. He slept with nearly half of the people he met, but I think it was obvious Percival had his heart."

Arthur nodded, but then remembered what he just read. What it meant and implied...that Merlin was in love with him during that time. So many feelings and thoughts overwhelmed him, but for now he'd say nothing.

"I never really suspected Gwaine was into men," Arthur admitted. "He was constantly making remarks, but I also thought he was joking."

"Gwaine would've bed anyone he could, Arthur," Merlin laughed heartily. "I thought he fancied me at the start, but it didn't last long when he saw Percival in his ridiculous sleeveless armor."

"I had tried to get him to quit that when he was first knighted, since it wasn't practical. It was hopeless, like you and your cleaning skills."

Merlin smiled as his eyes got that misted memory look again. He said nothing but looked down at his empty plate, trying to clear his throat. Arthur was so desperate to ask what he was thinking but need not before Merlin spoke.

"Yeah, I suppose that's true," He said softly, still smiling. "Um, I just—I knew someone who said the same thing often. She, uh, she said a monkey could've done better than I could when it came to shining things."

"Smart lady," Arthur said.

Merlin simply nodded and took their plates to the washer. Arthur felt as if he'd invaded on a special moment. Yet another mystery to what Merlin had stored away in his memories that Arthur has yet to learn. When telling that small simple explanation right now, Merlin had been more vulnerable than he'd been with Arthur since he came back. Something in his voice shook him deeply. 

Which is why he hated himself for impulsively saying what first came to mind. What he had been holding back the whole dinner. He hated that he said it because he knew it wasn't the right time. Then again, when did that ever stop him?

"Did you love me, Merlin? In Camelot, did you love me more than was forgivable during those times?" Arthur asked.

Merlin froze and was unable to turn to look at the other man.  Eyes wide, staring at the dessert he'd pulled out of the fridge, his breath was stolen. Gods, I should've known he'd realize. How dumb could I be letting him read those books, He thought. 

Tears were in his eyes, "D—Don't ask me that, Arthur."

"Why not?"

"Because—because I can't lie to you and then everything will change for the worst. Everything will be ruined. Please, don't make me answer that."

They both knew that was confirmation, that was a yes. Merlin was terrified that this would be it, the final act that would keep Arthur from him forever. He had hoped there would be more time. It would be his fault, just like everything else that died had been. All because he forgot how openly in love he had allowed himself to be in those books.

"Look at me," Arthur said. When Merlin didn't he said it again, voice strong with demand but soft with affection, "Look at me now, Merlin." 

Merlin turned to him as if waiting for his rejection. Waiting for the final blow of the sword that exist only through words. It never came. 

Arthur grabbed him and held him tightly, "You're an idiot, Merlin. Don't ever change."

It was safe to say that wasn't the response he ever expected. How could he expect acceptance when he didn't know just how much Arthur felt the same. Just how scared Arthur had felt about feeling that way too. When they separated it was Merlin's turn to feel hopelessly confused.

"You're not mad?" He asked softly.

"No, of course not. Why would I be? I can't blame you, I'm a catch," Arthur joked.

Merlin couldn't humor it this time, couldn't hide behind a joke. He needed to answer to a question that's haunted him for longer than he remembers. He needed to ask before it was too late and he allowed himself to hope.

"D—Did you—" Merlin whispered with a broken voice.

Arthur turned away, afraid his face would reveal his lie when he said, "No, you were a servant. A friend. Nothing more, because I loved Guinevere."

Merlin nodded brokenly, "That's a shame, Arthur, because I never stopped loving you."

The confession, the fact he actually spoke those words instead of implying them, shocked Arthur so deeply that he turned, only to find that Merlin had already left the room. He hated himself in that moment because he told himself now that he was free he would always be honest. To Merlin and to himself. This was the biggest lie he'd ever told, and he hated how cowardly he was. This time he didn't have an excuse outside his own fear.

Merlin sat upstairs trying to compose himself. He knew that would've been the response he got, but it didn't stop him from breaking at the confirmation. He felt foolish to think, even for a second, that there was a chance. However, he couldn't let Arthur know much it hurt him to know the truth (at least what he believed was the truth). Merlin needed to be strong and act as though he was perfectly happy with that answer.

Meanwhile, Arthur sat downstairs with his head in his hands with overwhelming guilt. He was disappointed that when he finally had a chance to speak his truth he was scared and lied. Merlin, the wonderfully loyal man that waited all this time for his King and Friend, deserved to know how much he really meant to Arthur. How Arthur would die without him, would be lost, and would do anything to keep him safe. Just like he always would've. Only this time he had no excuse to not speak those words out loud. 

Love is an agonizing thing.

Chapter Text

Merlin has perfected the art of hiding his emotions. He now knows how to swallow his pain and face the day as if nothing ever changed. It was only a matter of time the pain he would have to conceal would be heartbreak from the first man he'd ever loved. He hadn't slept the night before, almost as if those moments of peace were stolen from him, and instead laid all night flipping through those 4 books that didn't rest on the shelf like the others.

He hadn't cried, despite his despair. He just sat feeling on the verge of empty, smiling as he flipped through these pages like he did almost every night. They were the most worn down, used, and tear stained books he owned (even though this was the 3rd copy of them). When sunrise came he hid them away like he always did before changing. Then he was downstairs and making breakfast.

Arthur stumbled out of his room, eyes red and dark circles under his eyes, and plopped down on the dining chair. His hair was disheveled, after dozens of times he's run his hands through it. He was surprised Merlin was up like normal, but he didn't want to voice that in case he scared him off.

They ate together as they had every day the past couple months. Merlin was chatty, going on about some bird he'd seen outside the window that he'd never seen before. Arthur simply nodded along, suspicious about the other mans attitude, and tried not to think of the night before.

The problem was that it's all he could think about. The words of confessed love coming from Merlin's lips like a song Arthur wished to hear on repeat. The fact that he lied about his true feelings because he was scared. What of? He wasn't sure. It was just a fear so tightly gripped that he couldn't bring himself to be honest should doing so end the world forever. He knew it wouldn't, but he felt otherwise.

The next few hours were spent gathering nuts, berries, and any other edibles. The temperatures had dropped significantly as August came to an end and autumn was approaching. The grass wasn't growing as quickly and the tree leaves weren't as bright of a green. Soon, Merlin knew, they would be yellows, reds, and oranges. He enjoyed autumn and was looking forward to it.

They made it back home with three baskets full of supplies. Merlin had only tripped five times, which was considered progress. It seems after all these years of training and walking, he still was as clumsy as ever. Luckily, that clumsiness hadn't harmed their collecting very much. 

Arthur was growing more and more irritated, however. Upset that Merlin was acting as though nothing had happened. As if the night before wasn't even a thought in his mind, like he wasn't phased by confessing his love to his king only to be rejected. Merlin had smiled and joked and been himself all day, and Arthur hated it.

This is because he couldn't do the same. Because Arthur felt like he was lying to himself, just like Merlin was to himself, and neither one was being honest. However, Arthur couldn't try to pretend like the other man could. He couldn't laugh or smile or joke. He wanted to be real, even-though it made him a hypocrite.

It was lunch time when he'd decided enough. It was as if he'd been a bucket under a small flow of water and now it's overflowing. The hurt was beginning to escape over the edges, running along the side, and falling in the floor where Arthur stood. He was angry, though he knew he shouldn't be, but this water was boiling hot despite there being no fire.

"One time a toad had landed on-"

"Dammit, Merlin, enough!" Arthur exclaimed as he slammed his hand on the counter. "Can you just, for one moment, stop lying?"

Merlin was startled at the sudden change in attitude, the heat of the air surrounding Arthur, and forced himself not to flinch. Not allow himself to revert back to a hundred other times where this attitude happened and it ended on a lesser note. A note with him or his loved ones dead. No, because he knew Arthur would never hurt him. Instead he focused on what Arthur was talking about, which was the night before.

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to say something—Anything about how you really feel! You can't confess your love for me and then act as though it never happened."

"What else am I to do? You've made it very clear where you stand so it's not a big deal."

"Not a big deal?" Arthur cried out, "How is this not a big deal?"

"Because there's nothing to be done. I've always known you didn't love me so why should I be upset? I can't change you nor do I want to." Merlin explained as he sat down, a migraine forming.

"Do those feelings mean so little to you that you can act as though nothing's different?"

"I don't know what you want from me," Merlin said softly.

"I want you to be honest," Arthur said.

"The truth? The truth is I've learned to accept that my feelings for you will always be stronger and different than yours for mine. The truth is I've had my heart broken by you enough that this time is no different. The truth, Arthur, is that I'm okay with all of it."

"You shouldn't be."

Merlin looked up at his King with tired eyes and a sad smile, the smile that Arthur realized in that moment he's seen so often, one of pain and sadness for a loss he didn't know of, the smile of a broken hearted Merlin. He only realized now, as if seeing it for the first time, that that ache lingering on those lips was for him.

"When has life ever been what should," Merlin whispered. 

Those words and that look should've been enough for Arthur to stop. To settle down and understand that he shouldn't be angry, that Merlin was trying to be the good friend he always was. Selfless and caring, expecting nothing (not even affection) in return. 

However, Arthur was never truly mad at Merlin. He was mad at himself and he wanted to feel that hatred as well. He needed Merlin to be selfish for once. Honest. He didn't deserve unwavering loyalty from a man he'd once treated as nothing more than a servant. He didn't deserve someone who cares so much about him they'd live forever for the chance to serve him again, standing by his side even when it hurt to do so. 

So he couldn't stop. He needed to feel something human, something rough and raw, something that hurt him. His whole world is gone and he needs to feel that now. He's angry that his wife mothered another mans children, angry that his sister died from her own hatred and he couldn't save her, and gods was he angry that he was still scared. He'd lost his home, his wife, his best friends, and his fight. Now, he knew, he was about to lose Merlin. Which is why he needed candor and rage from the other man...it was his only way of keeping him.

Merlin didn't know it, but by acting as if he was okay he was actually making it worse. If he continued this act then they would never recover. He would forever hold himself at arms length from Arthur in fear of rejection and loss. It would pull them apart, a crack in glass that if left unchecked would spread, and Arthur couldn't let that happen. He couldn't afford to lose Merlin because he was too scared to be true. 

So he would have to make it worse in order for things to be better. He can see the walls building up around Merlin and he needed to crash them down, even if it hurt them both. 

"That's horse shit and you know it," Arthur pushed. "What do you really want to say?"

"I have to trust that no matter what we'll always be friends. That's all I've ever wanted."

"And I thought I could trust you, Merlin. That was never true, was it? All you did in all our years together was lie to me about who you really were," Arthur snapped.

"You know why I did that, Arthur."

"It doesn't change the fact that you lied to me everyday for years. I'll never forgive you for that."

Merlin slammed his hand on the counter in frustration, "I'm done asking you to. I lived in fear everyday since I was born. Do you know what it's like to be different? To be hated for being born the way you were? I was tortured and attacked and treated like a monster for being a sorcerer! I wanted nothing more than to tell the person I cared about most in the world who I really was, but I couldn't. Do you know how much that hurt me?!"

"I'm sorry that you went through all that. But you could've come to me, told me! You know I would've been there for you no matter the cost." 

"I told you why I didn't. I couldn't put you in a situation where you were forced to make that choice," Merlin sighed.

"That's the problem! You've done so much for me, given up so much of yourself to serve me, and now you're doing it again. You're lying to me and yourself to protect me," exclaimed Arthur.

"What do—"

"I want you to be honest. Be selfless and pissed. Hate me because I'm the reason you've lost so much, are covered in scars, and now I'm the reason you're pretending to be something you're not. We're not in Camelot, Merlin, so why are you still protecting me?"

"I can't hate you, I never could. I especially can't hate you for dying because that was my fault. I can't hate you for staying dead because I chose to wait for you. No matter what, I will always care about you and protect you. I will always save you and I'm so sorry I couldn't before," Merlin said as he stood and walked to look out the window. It was raining hard now, but he had a feeling it was about to become a larger storm.

"Why?" Arthur asked, taking a breath to calm himself down. "Why did you wait? Why didn't you live your life free of myself?"

"You know why, Arthur."

"I need to hear it. I need you to be honest with the both of us. You're not fine, so stop saying you are."

Merlin felt it was a cruel ask. That it was just Arthur twisting the blade in his heart as a way to cause him more pain. To say it is one thing, but to say it knowing there wouldn't be a return is another. He couldn't understand why Arthur would be so cold and brutal to him... He didn't know that Arthur was ready to be honest too.

"I waited... because I love you." Merlin whispered as he turned away from the window and looked at the man in front of him.

The man who's hair was a fair blonde and whose eyes were the bluest he'd ever seen. A man who's smile was crooked and who's frown was deep. The man he'd served everyday in Camelot not out of duty but out of want. Saying those words lifted a weight off his chest, especially since he'd always wanted to tell Arthur the truth. He could breath for the first time in so long. 

Arthur grabbed him on the shoulder, ready to say what he'd only dreamed of saying before, but never got the chance. The storm came quicker than Merlin could've anticipated and within minutes a hurricane was among them. It was something that had been brewing far away for almost a day now, the real reason for the drastic change in temperature, but neither men knew it. Hurricanes in Great Britain was never a thing before the past couple centuries but, like most things, that's changed.

With the shifts in water levels and climate, the occurrence of tropical storms and small hurricanes increased around Great Britain. However, it was the nuclear manipulations that caused erotic weather (and plant/animal life but that's not important here) to reach this far out that even a Hurricane can reach this particular section.

Hurricanes are about three times stronger than they'd been two hundred years ago. Three times larger, deadlier, and erratic. This is the first time a hurricane managed to make it this far, which is why even Merlin hadn't expected what happened next.

A large tree trunk blasted through the window behind him. They'd managed to jump on pure instinct just enough that only the left part of Merlin's abdomen and leg were impaled by the tree roots. That instinct also had Merlin's eyes glowing seconds after first impact to send Arthur flying to the bookshelf. The hit was harder than Merlin anticipated, knocking Arthur out, but he was free of any further injury. 

Glass was shattered and scattered across the living room. The whistles of the wind was louder now, but most of the window (and wall) was plugged by the tree. Merlin felt an immense pain, his eyes watering, as he looked down at his injuries.

Half his body was just covered in bruises and scratched, but the  other half was completely shredded. Bottom fragments of the tree went from his back side to his front. They stuck out in dozens of places from starting from his bottom ribs all the way down to his ankle. Hot blood oozed from the wounds and was quickly puddling on the floor.

It was hard to think or breath, but the whole time he just focused on one thing. Arthur was okay. He wasn't hurt, he's not dying, and he's going to wake up. That's all that mattered to him, despite his circumstances. So he stayed, standing in immense pain, waiting for Arthur to get up.

Chapter Text

Warmth. Blood is warmer than you'd expect it to be. It's thick and hot and tacky. It's been over 150 years since Merlin had his blood dripping down his side as he slowly bled out. He'd forgotten how hot it was...and how painful. Every beat of his heart and breath in his lungs increased the pain in him. It radiates and echoed all across his skin to the point he felt nothing else. 

He was crying, he's come to realize. His face is wet with tears (or is it sweat?). He'd died a thousand times, and each of those times he felt it. Pain. You'd think he'd be immune to it by now, but he wasn't. It's not hard to blame him for crying from agony since half his body was impaled by the bottom of a 200 year old tree. 

"Arthur," He gasped, unable to speak much louder (probably damaged his diaphragm). "Arth—You have to get up."

The blonde man laid on his back, deep asleep after hitting his head on the bookcase, and didn't move other than to breathe. Merlin couldn't let him stay there because he needed help. He needed to be moved off the tree so he'd come back after his death. A body can't heal around foreign objects. He scanned the room and found a glass of water.

Eyes glowing bright, Merlin had the cup levitate and hover above Arthur. Then, very carefully, the cup tipped and the water began to spill onto Arthur's face. Half way through the man jolted awake and sat straight. The cup fell and broke upon contact with the floor, Merlin didn't have enough strength for magic now. 

"Merlin," Arthur exclaimed upon seeing him. He quickly stood and walked over to his friend, "You—you're hurt. What can I do?"

Merlin smiled, despite the pain it caused him, and reached out his undamaged hand to lay it on the side of Arthur's neck. His thumb moved softly, a motion of comfort, and he relished the feeling. He did this because he was about to ask Arthur to do the hardest thing he'd ever have to: to let him die.

"You alright?" Merlin asked softly. "I didn't mean for you to fly that hard...to get hurt."

"You saved me," Arthur corrected. "Are you alright? H—how can I help you? Tell me what to do."

"I'm going to die, Arthur. I'll come back, since I haven't done the reversal spell yet... But you need to help me," he said.

Arthur started shaking his head frantically, eyes flooded with sorrow, and brought his shaky hand to rest on top of where Merlin's lay. He couldn't let Merlin die, not now and not ever, so there had to be another option. 

"But—"

"Do you trust me, sire?"

"Of course I do, Merlin. I always have."

With Arthur's free hand, he wiped the tears from the other mans face. The skin was cold, which worried him more than he could say. He kept his hand there, laying on a cold cheek, for a moment before nodding to himself. Despite his desires, he would help Merlin. Have faith that when he died it wouldn't be long before he came back.

"You're going to have to wrap your arms around my back...there's a small section above my hip that's free on both sides," Merlin whispered weakly. "Then you're going to have to pull me off and away from the tree. No matter how much I cry or scream, you have to keep going until I'm off. Okay?"

Arthur was no longer able to hold back his tears, despite his great efforts to be strong for his friend. He nodded his okay and moved his hands. Finding a gap, he pushed his hands to wrap around until they met in the center of Merlin's back. Arthur rested his forehead on Merlin's, looking into those eyes he loved so much, and began to pull. 

Merlin had to move his head away and rest it on Arthur's shoulder in order to scream. He could feel his flesh ripping, his blood flooding, and his insides being pulled out stuck to the wood. He cried and screamed as he felt the ongoing torment of death being ripped out of him, but Arthur kept going as quickly as possible. It only took a minute before Arthur laid Merlin on his back, softly on the floor, but to Merlin it felt like a century. 

Blood was everywhere. It quickly began to pool around Merlin's body on the floor. It stuck to Arthur's clothes like a hot sweat. Neither of them paid it much mind as Arthur was holding Merlin's face and the other man was dying. 

"You did good," Arthur whispered, pushing Merlin's hair back. "You're going to be okay, Merlin."

"Are you alright, Sire?" Merlin asked weakly, forgetting in his delirious state that the reason there was blood on Arthur's shirt was because of him. "You've got blood...are you injured? You're bleeding!"

"I'm not your King anymore, Merlin. Camelot is gone and so is my throne. You're no longer obligated to serve me," Arthur said through tears.

Even when Merlin was injured and in great pain, he still took care of him. He still made Arthur his main concern. It was a loyalty that he believed he didn't deserve. This, among a billion other things, is why Arthur had loved the man. He cradled Merlin's head in his arms, wishing that this never happened. That he never picked a fight... he wasn't sure he'd survive if Merlin didn't come back quickly. Even then, knowing he was coming back, Arthur felt as if his world was dying in his hands.

"You'll always be my King, Arthur."

The last word was uttered as a small breath before Merlin grew still. His oceanic blue eyes were hidden away behind his eyelids and his strong heart went weak then stopped completely. So many times Arthur had been there when Merlin was on the brink of death, but only now had he not been able to save him. He'd imagine the hurt he'd feel if this ever happened, but his imagination was child play compared to what he was feeling now. 

He felt cold and empty, like the last good in his life laid dead in his hands. 

The whistling of the wind was giving him a headache (or was that the tears?). He scooped Merlin up off the floor, holding his limp body in his arms, and walked him carefully up the stairs. Laying him in the bath, Arthur stripped Merlin of his clothes (He didn't want Merlin to awaken in bloody clothes).

He turned to throw up in the toilet upon seeing the large gaping holes in Merlin's abdomen. Once he regained control of himself, he grabbed a cloth and filled a cup with water. Gently, he began to clean the blood and dirt off Merlin's skin. The white cloth turned pink and the water cup needed changing at least a dozen times until he was satisfied with the end result. He'd only vomited again when he'd gathered bandages from under the sink and had to look at the damage again.

Holes and rips from ankle to ribs, varying from the size of a pinky to the size of a fist. Arthur knew he had no experience with wrapping wounds properly or giving stitches. Instead, he tried his best to just seal the damage and prayed to the gods it was enough. He redressed Merlin and gently laid him in the bed (the side far away from the window). 

He couldn't leave. No, he had to be here when Merlin woke up just like Merlin always was when Arthur was sick in the palace. So he laid on the opposite side and waited, holding Merlin's hand in a death grip. A fear unlike any other he'd ever felt before rested itself in his chest. He'd wait a lifetime on this bed for Merlin to awaken, he knew.

The worst of the storm was gone half a day later when Merlin came to. He was freezing, but turned towards the warmth that was against his side. Opening his eyes he realized it was Arthur who slept next to him, holding his hand in a tight grip, and warming him better than a fire ever could. It made him forget his pain for a moment and he just smiled until he fell back into a deep slumber.

When Arthur woke an hour later he nearly shouted out in joy upon seeing the color return to Merlin's skin. The rise of his chest as he breathed softly. He'd even gently laid his head down on that chest and heard the rhythmic beating of the heart. 

"Merlin!" He whispered, still listening. "You're alive."

"I told you I would be," Merlin mumbled, peeking out of his eyelashes. "What're you doing?"

Blushing Arthur sat up, "Just checking, is all. I was worried—I'm glad you're back."

Merlin smiles and open his eyes all the way. His wounds were still bleeding and looking down he noticed that his clothes were being stained. Shaking his head he just looked at his king and was thankful that he was still there. That Arthur was real. Arthur laid back down next to him, unconsciously grabbing Merlin's hand again, and stared up at the ceiling.

"I didn't know what I would've done if the roles were reversed in Camelot. If I was the one trying to save you and failed, holding you in my arms as you died for good." Arthur admitted in a whisper, "I think I would've... I'm not sure I would've recovered. And even last night when you died in my arms, even knowing that you were coming back, I was so scared. Terrified that you were really gone...I can't imagine what it was like for you knowing that I wasn't immortal like you are."

"When Kilgarah told me that someday you would return, as the once and future King, I had hope. I had something to fight for," Merlin started as he squeezed Arthur's hand, "You're right. I was terrified that it wasn't true. There were moments where I doubted...but here you are. It was worth it."

"I'm not sure what I would've done if you had done the spell and just like that you were dead."

"I'm doing the spell still, Arthur. The full moon of the tenth month I'm reversing it."

"But—"

"I can't allow myself to outlive you. Not when you're the only reason why I'm this way in the first place. I don't want to see a world where I sit by your side as I did with Gwen and watch you die..." Merlin stated.

"Are you saying you want to grow old with me?" Arthur teased, but deep inside he wanted that too.

"It's all I ever wanted, Arthur."

Arthur nodded, "Okay then Merlin. It looks like it's you and me now. Nobody else and nothing else to stop us."

Merlin smiled but then considered this.

"Kilgarah told me you would come back when Albion's need was greatest. Perhaps you're here to bring the people back to Earth!" He said suddenly, as if everything was clicking into place. 

"No, I don't think so. You said it yourself, the world is better off without man and gods know where they even are by now."

"But, Albion-"

"I'm not here for Albion, Merlin. Albion is gone and has been for a while." Arthur said as he turned to hold Merlin's face in his hands. "I'm here for you."

Before Merlin had a chance to respond, Arthur kissed him. A kiss so deep and passionate it healed over a thousands years worth of heartbreak. It was gentle, as if Arthur was being cautious of the other mans injuries, and sweet. Everything that Merlin imagined but more. When Arthur pulled away he was panting softly, as was Merlin, but he was smiling. His eyes had a confidence and sureness that Merlin remembered seeing when Arthur sat on his throne.

Merlin shook his head in confusion, "I thought you said you didn't love me."

"I was being a prat," Arthur confessed. "I've loved you longer than I even realized, you idiot."

"You know, Arthur, you don't have to pretend. You don't owe me anything. I know I just died but—"

"Merlin," Arthur interrupts in annoyance.

"Yes sire?"

"Shut up," He whispered as he kissed the man again as if addicted to his taste and couldn't wait to try it again.

Chapter Text

Night fell upon the two men as they laid in bed with one another, having spent the day whispering sweet nothings and relishing their freedom to taste one another's lips after holding back for so long, as Merlin continued his recovery. His wounds were completely sealed by now, but the scar tissue left behind was still tender and it still pained him to move. He didn't complain when it was Arthur's turn to aid him to health (even cooking) and considered it karma for Arthur lying previously.

Now, however, they rested against one another on the bed and enjoying their freedom to love each other. Arthur rested his head in the crook of Merlin's shoulder and his hands gently traced the other mans torso. His fingers danced amongst the white aged scars and were careful to avoid the puffy pink ones on the opposite side of the mans stomach. Merlin was warm and his skin soft, even with its imperfections.

They both imagined a moment where they could lay innocently, like this, or otherwise in each other's embrace. Skin to skin, sexual or endearing, and heart to heart. Arthur used to lay in bed, before and while with Guinevere, and imagine he was with Merlin. Craved those cold nights in the forest where it was just the two of them, close but never close enough, huddling together for warmth when the fire wasn't enough. When it once had guilted him to think such thought, now it was what lifted that self hatred off his chest.

Merlin had dreamt of this moment nearly his entire life after having first loving Arthur. It was better than his dreams, though, because it was real. Over the years he'd constantly dreamt of Arthur, of holding him and loving him, but it was never enough because it wasn't real. It was a painful story that forced him back into reality when eventually he was forced to awaken. But now he was awake and the dream was reality and it was sweet. It was strong and warm and had hair that smelt of evergreen. 

"How did you get all these?" whispered Arthur, his breath fanning Merlin's neck and sending a shiver down his spine.

His hand traced a thick curved scar hovering just above Merlin's breast. Then his hand dropped again to trace a circular wound just above the mans pant line, smirking to himself when he felt Merlin's stomach jerk in shocked anticipation. His hand then gently went far up and cupped the small scar on the corner of Merlin's chin. 

"I've died a thousand deaths," Merlin told him. "Each one leaves a scar behind. A reminder of how close I came and how no matter what I'd always come back. It's the only time I scar anymore, when it kills me, but there are many."

Arthurs hand lowered to Merlin's neck, cupping it and softly running his thumb over the white lines, and looked at the numerous scars there, "What were these?"

Merlin closed his eyes as Arthur ran his thumb over the scars softly. He gulped deeply at the feeling of Arthur's thick warm hand encasing his neck, gentle but firm, and forced himself to calm and remain focused. However, after a hundred plus years of forced abstinence, it was rather hard to properly breath while his kings hands freely roamed his body, let alone explain his side of things. 

"Depends. Lynching, betrayals, and Guillotines mainly."

"What were the worst ways you...died?" Arthur asked.

"Fear of sorcery lasted far past your fathers reign. Seems the world was rather fond of burning people at the stake. That was the worst, I suppose. It happened the most and it killed off what few magic users were left." Merlin whispered, "They're all bad though, but it's hard to remember some."

Arthur was tempted to kiss the pain off Merlin's face but held himself back. Instead he pulled himself forward and placed a kiss to Merlin's neck, even daring to run his tongue over the ridges, then raised himself until he hovered over Merlin, practically straddling him. He smirked mischievously but made no other moves. 

"What're you doing?" Merlin squeaked.

"What was this one?" Arthur whispered, lowering himself and kissing a scar just above the other mans left nipple.

Thoughts and words flew out the window as Merlin closed his eyes to relish the feeling of Arthur's mouth on his skin. The feeling of another mans touch, of Arthur's touch, after being so alone for so long. This was more than a hug or kiss because this was fully intimate and encased him. He was caged in by the legs and arms of his king (who was incredibly careful not to hurt him), he was surrounded by his scent, and now he was encased by his touch on him.

"Merlin?" Arthur taunted softly, his mouth by the mans ear.

"G-gun shot wound during French Revolution,"  Merlin stumbled out, face bright red and heart racing. 

Arthur lowered his lips to Merlin's collarbone, his tongue sneakily licking down a long line before he sucked on it gently, "And this?"

Merlin felt his blood stir more under Arthur's lap but tried to focus on the death aspect to his scars over the tongue-and-mouth bit. His hands reach up to grab Arthur's hair, but didn't make it far before the other mans grabbed them and pinned them to the pillow.

He groaned before answering, "Russian assassins in Cold War era." 

Satisfied Arthur moved his mouth lower and focused on a diamond shaped scar in the center of Merlin's pale sternum. He gave it a small peck first before kissing it firmer the second time, having his actions speak for him.

"Poisoned Arrow."

A kiss on the side gave the first answer that Arthur was not in pain to hear. That was, "Wet stairs with no sign..."

Arthur gave a hearty laugh and sat straight, eyes sparkling with amusement. Of course a few of these scars were from Merlin's own clumsy nature and idiocy. Of course one of the thickest scars on the man he loved was from slipping and falling down stairs, rather than a battle wound like never before. 

"Like you'd be any better," Merlin huffed with a pout, his lower lip sticking out.

Arthur laughed again before leaning down and capturing that lip in his own. The innocent kiss didn't take long to grow heated and desperate, especially after Arthur unconsciously ground his hips into the ones below his. Merlin had escaped from the tight grip on his hands and soon pulled Arthur closer, his hands sinking into blonde hair.

His second hand laid on the small of Arthur's back, thumb moving in small circles, and they melted into one another for a few minutes longer. Arthur was the first to pull back with his face flushed, lips red, and panting softly. He had a smile on his face, but when he opened his eyes there was a distant uncertainty.

"Can—can we just," Arthur stumble, trying to figure out the best way to word his thoughts. "I've never done this and..."

"We're going to go slow, Arthur. I've been without someone in a long time too. I don't want to ruin this." Merlin assures, knowing where the others thoughts must lay. 

Arthur nodded in relief, smiling at his own insecurity when he should've known Merlin better, and calmed his own excitement. 

"Um," Merlin recaptured Arthur's attention with a deep blush, "It would be much easier if you changed where exactly you're, uh, sitting."

It was Arthur's then to blush and he quickly nodded as he climbed off the other man. He settled back into his side as he was before and looked up at the spinning fan, wondering about how incredibly destroyed the downstairs must be. A problem for another time, he silently decided. They were silent for a moment, gathering their composure, before Arthur spoke again. 

"It's hard to comprehend this all, but I know it's right. I think I've always known it was right... a part of me feels as though I've betrayed Guinevere. That by allowing myself to give into my love for you I've ruined the memory our marriage together. That she'll think I.. didn't love her?"

"She'd never think that, Arthur."

"I did love her, more than anything except you. Even with her, though, I was longing for you and I feel as though that's unforgivable. Un-honorable. Like i was an unfair husband by being with her without being completely honest," Arthur confessed. "I'm not sure you would understand."

"I would, actually." Merlin said, still staring out the window and into the distant night sky. 

Arthur looked to him, "What are you on about?"

"I've been married before. Twice actually."

Arthur was agape at this, though he figured it made sense. Of course he couldn't have truly expected Merlin to be alone all these years. Despite this, he couldn't help but feel jealous at the idea of Merlin with someone else. Of him being married and in love...but after a moments consideration he was happy. It meant that Merlin had someone to be with instead of being alone all these years.

"I married a man named Robert Madden in 1957 secretly. The first man I allowed myself to love in all those years. More than physically, at least. He was an Irish man, with curly black hair and stunningly brown eyes, and a kind heart unlike any other."

Arthur smiled, "Did you grow old together? I reckon you'd make a proper housewife- or husband I suppose."

However, Merlin was no longer smiling but instead a shadow had fallen down his face as he grew lost in thought. In memory. Arthur noticed this and moved closer to Merlin for comfort, grabbing his hand and entwined their fingers. 

"Our love... it still wasn't acceptable Arthur. Hadn't been acceptable until 2015 or so, and even then it was a hard fight. It was just like it had been in Camelot. Robb was caught kissing me in an alley one night after we got too drunk for caution... couple of bastards attacked us on our way home. Knocked me out cold and I woke up with a bloody noose around my neck. We both died only I was the only one to come back, just like I always do."

Arthur could all but hear his heart break in his chest as he heard the cruel story. Merlin's first true life in so long and it ended in a bloodied hate crime. They both deserved better. 

"Tell me about him?"

Merlin hesitated before smiling and nodding, eyes glowing bright. A large book from those hidden, marked on the rim with the title My Madden 55-58. Arthur took it in his hands and sat up, helping Merlin do the same. They stared at the brown cracked leather cover before opening it. 

An American dollar, made circa 1950s, was what laid on the first page. Below it had a journal entry of February 20th of 1955. 

Today is the day that will change my world for the better. I've been in the America's for a week now, but it's my first time here. It's dirtier than I'd imagined, but that's worth the experience I've had tonight. I've met a man, Irish despite residing here, who goes by the name of Robert Madden. He's the most handsome man I've met since my kings department...He kissed me tonight. We were in a club unlike any other I'd been to and he caught my eye the moment I walked in.

He's the reason I bothered staying until closing, since he worked the bar. I'd gotten fairly tipsy for the simple reason I'd find any excuse possible to talk to him at the bar without coming off as a totally pathetic fairy. He was charming and seemed as engaged with me as I with him. When the bar was set to close I offered to walk him home, hesitant but kind he accepted. When he kissed me, pulling me into a dark alley the second we left the building, I've felt something real for the first time since Camelot. 

I can only hope to do it again.

"He gave this dollar back to me on our anniversary a year later. It was the first tip I gave him that night, and he kept it all that time," Merlin whispered with a smile with both sadness as well as fondness. 

They flipped to the next page, with a black and white photo of Merlin and a man. Merlin's hair was longer and styled oddly, he wore a suit with a tie, but it was his eyes that popped out most. He was smiling so large and wide that the sparkle was undeniable. 

The man next to him wasn't looking at the camera but rather at Merlin, who's arm was slung around his shoulder. His hair was thick and dark and even with his face turned Arthur could tell he was incredibly handsome. He looked utterly smitten with the man, even though it was obvious they weren't supposed to be lovers but rather friends in this setting. 

New Years 1956

I know it's been a while but much has changed so rapidly I haven't found time to write. After meeting Rob I went back to the club every night and walked him home. After a month of this, the hinting and teasing and flirting, he invited me inside. It seems his affection outweighed his fears.

We've been together ever since. Not publicly unfortunately, but we enjoy the love we share when we can. That is what it is, by the way. Love. I never thought I'd feel it again but gods am I happy. We've even found a way to live together, as 'roommates'. Being with him makes me feel alive and free. 

They spend the rest of the night flipping through the book, reading memories and pictures, until night fell and they fell asleep in each other's arms. Arthur was glad that Merlin was beginning to open up more to him and be vulnerable. His thoughts lingered on the secret photo of Merlin and Robbs wedding day as he began to dream about a world where it was him saying his vows to Merlin. 

It was a good dream and for the first time he didn't feel guilty for thinking so.

Chapter Text

27 June 1969

This is my first time writing since my loves death...since Robert was taken from me that night. I had once considered going back home, leaving America behind in the dust of darkness that haunts my nightmares. To leave this cruel world and hide away as I once had so many years before. I can't, however. I'm not ready to leave him.

He'd be ashamed of my actions these past few years. Of the drugs, alcohol, and random sex with strangers. I've lost myself in the addictions that America has to offer in all their glory. I can't recall my actions, who I spent the night or what I drank. It's all a blur...numb. That's what I've been, even though I know Robb would've wanted more for me. It just hurts to remember holding him in my arms, like I once had a young prince, and mourning him in the middle of a court yard. The noose that took his life still wrapped around his neck like the reapers necklace.

I've decided to get sober now. I've slept with half the male population, did almost every drug known to man, and I can't remember most of it. Then one night a man I bed asked me about the ring on my finger...i remembered. I was forced to remember. So here I am, sober and full of agony. 

Anyways, I've decided to try and make Robert proud. Tomorrow myself along side a bunch of other freedom fighter sorts are going to stand up. Speak out against the hatred that society bestows on the gay community. Fight against those who stand by as innocent men who just want to love, men like my love, die for their wants. Tomorrow we are going to riot. Stonewall Inn at Greenwich Village, Manhattan. The bar was where I met my love, so it seemed fitting it's where I start my fighting again. 

28 June 1969

The police entered the bar before we were ready. Armed to their teeth with the intent to force their way through the crowds. They arrested 13. Female officers even forced those in drag to "prove" their gender... it only further sparks our desire to fight back. So those who remained, such as myself, crowded around the street and began our protest. Who shouted and screamed so they had no choice but to hear us. We were to be heard now, no longer forced into silence. Violence grew after the officers got too rough for legal right, soon we were throwing anything we could get our hands on. Even rotten fruit, which I felt was right to honor my time in Camelot. 

I know it was only hundreds, but it felt as if thousands of people were joined together today. We forced them back into the bar, away from any escape, and blockaded them in. Of course, as all riots do, their reinforcements hit harder than believable. I remember the pain of the blast from the fire trucks. The water pelting onto my sink so rough it tore. 

This is only the start. 

30 June 1969

The protest continued on again last night. Our forces multiplied and the violence as well. Despite the fact I would usually be against such a thing...I feel as though this was right. While violence is never the answer, sometimes the only way to grab the attention of those in power is to speak their language. Those who hurt you, you must hurt back harder. Then, only when they realize you're unwilling to back down, must you be the bigger man and protest peacefully. I believe there is a balance that must be made...perhaps it's my time on this earth that's made me realize not everything can be solved peacefully.

The old me was naive enough to hope that being peaceful was the only way to be good. I was wrong. Perhaps if I'd acted sooner, spoke up and fought harder instead of hiding in the shadows like a coward, things would've ended differently. Better. Perhaps my king would've lived, Morgana would've remembered the good inside her, and I would've died hundreds of years ago... 

No good to dwell on the past. There's no changing what's already been done. 

I was arrested today during the riot. One of many, sitting alongside my jail mates for the crime of loving freely. I've been tempted to use my magic to free us, take over the police force and take control. I couldn't, however, because even I know that chaos will only make things worse. Instead I waited for the time to come that a few out there returned a favor I'm owed, one of many. 

I've helped different members of different mobs before. At first I was reluctant to work with criminals, and even to a point I still am. I won't work with men who rape, that much I made clear after the last mobster I encounter. They've learned not to mess with me...not to challenge my rule. These men I work with they follow my rules if they want my power. I've only aided here and there, never enough to do harm and I always keep an eye just in case they step out of line.

In a way, I'm their leader... they're just too afraid to admit it.

Anyways, It was my hard hand that forced them into aiding and supporting the gay safe haven bars around town. They fund the locations and occasionally step in to turn the polices eye in other directions. They're the ones who support Stonewall. Now that things have escalated, they've pulled back their support...until now.

It wasn't long until word got out that I was in police custody. They knew they couldn't let me stay there. So different members of different gangs worked together and here I am. Home. Planning my riot tomorrow. Free from the pathetic police who try to convince themselves they have power over the lives of those who seek love instead of hate. 

I like to imagine Robert would be proud...

28 June 1970 

It's been a year since the riot. Since the tidal wave of the revolution of love. Of Pride. Things after Stonewall quieted down, but the protest didn't. We still fought to be heard. Police raids and hate crimes have diminished, not quite burnt out but growing into a small flame. We just need to keep pushing the air into the lungs of this revolution and soon there will only be the distant smell of sulfur and smoke. 

Today we march. 

Like soldiers into the battle field. Ants towards a mountain. Knights around their king. We march for ourselves, our lovers, and those we lost along the way. We march for the right to be heard and seen, men and women who want to love freely. Brothers and sisters side by side marching towards a future where they can be themselves without fear. 

Christopher Street Liberation March. Or as most call it now, the PRIDE March. 

It's the kickoff to the first Gay Pride Week. A newly declared week of absolute assurance to be who we are without fear. Without the allowance of hatred from those who are scared. I march for myself, who's struggled with oppression of who i am for over a thousand years. I march for my love, deep and heated, for my King. A love I was too afraid to speak of and too afraid to act on. A love that ended too soon. I march for Robert Madden, the love of this lifetime whom I will always remember. 

Several hundred of us will match from 6th Avenue toward Central Park. We hope that along the way others will join in support, instead of fighting against. 

I hope...I hope... I hope.

"What's it like," Arthur whispered against Merlin's ear one night, "to love another man?"

They laid together on the couch, the heat of the fireplace washing over their entwined bodies. Merlin laid curled up in Arthur's arms, relishing the feeling of being held after so long. Of being held by the man he always wanted to be held by most. The room was rebuilt now, Merlin having fixed it up within hours. It's been two weeks since that night, but it was almost as though nothing ever happened, although the pink scars on his body begs otherwise. Their home was complete again. 

Whole. 

"It's the same as if you loved a woman. It's wholesome, sweet, and fulfilling." Merlin responded.

Arthur hummed, tucking his face into Merlin's neck and breathing deeply. "This doesn't feel the same...not like it was with Guinevere."

"No two loves are the same, Arthur. My love for you isn't the same as my love for Robert was. With you it was hard, the battle of our times and our positions, but it was a fight I wouldn't ever back down. With Robb... it was fun and easy and youthful. It was stolen kisses in the middle of the night."

"I'm sorry I couldn't give that to you, Merlin."

Merlin grabbed Arthur's large hand from where it laid on his waist. He brought it up and kissed his palm softly, smooth lips brushing callused skin. His hand was warm, so Merlin couldn't help but lean into it as Arthur cupped his face, his thumb brushing over new stubble. 

"I loved what we did have," Merlin confessed. "The long nights huddled by the fire, listening to each other's voice like it was all that mattered. The teasing and messing around, but also the tender moments where I knew I could trust you. I wouldn't change it for the world, Arthur." 

Something in Arthur's stomach stirred at the memory. Heat burst in him as he remembered the days of Camelot, where he wanted so desperately to cave into his desires. To hold Merlin close in the night and together make love under the stars where nobody was around. Just him and Merlin, breast to breast, and their heat. Tongue fighting tongue, breath mingling together, and sweat. Desire but longing, all in one. A desire he wanted to indulge in but never could. 

But what's stopping him now?

He kissed Merlin's neck softly, grinding his hips into Merlin's bottom, and groaned. Nothing, he realized. Nothing was stopping him. He was free to love and be loved, even if it was terrifying. 


 

His thumb moved and rested on Merlin's lips, which were now opened with a ragged breath of excitement. He applied a soft but firm pressure, soon his thumb slipped into that warm mouth. Merlin sucked, tasting the saltiness of Arthur's skin, and Arthur groaned. 

This heat wasn't like anything he'd felt before. Nothing like his nights with Gwen, where it was soft kisses and gentle slow movements. No, this was a heat of wanting building up for centuries. Tenderness was something they could relish in later, this was something that he'd be locked away from until now. Something that needed to be close but hot. 

His free hand pulled Merlin desperately closer, allowing more friction on Arthur's erection, and he sucked on the small section of skin under Merlin's ear. The ragged moans escaping Merlin only pushed Arthur forward, knowing he wasn't alone in this increasing pleasure. Merlin turned so he was under and wrapped his legs around Arthur, desperately reaching up for a kiss. Their teeth clashed as their frantically melted into the other. 

Soon their clothes were off and all that was left was skin on skin. Heat and sweat and moans flooded the room. This contact, the brushing and rubbing, was more than either ever imagined but still not enough. They needed more, to be as close as they always dreamed of late nights in Camelot.

Merlin thrust upwards, his member sliding against Arthur's, and together they both released a strained moan into each other's mouth. Their pre-cum mixed together on their stomachs, allowing them to continue their friction without pain. Still, the pleasure that jolted through them with each brush, wasn't enough. 

"Are you sure about this?" Merlin whispered in a moment of clarity as they both gained breath. "It's only been a couple of weeks... we can go slower. Tell me to stop and—"

"For fucks sake Merlin, I've never been more sure about anything in my life."

Merlin laughed, reaching up with his hands and grabbed Arthur's face. They kissed before pulling apart again, this time Merlin's eyes glew and a small bottle of lube flew from his room and onto the table. Grabbing Arthur's fingers he coated them, before lowering them down. Without word, Arthur gently eased one finger in. 

Merlin moaned loud, biting his lip as he relished the feeling. His eyes slipped closed a second, much to Arthur's disliking, until the second finger joined. He jolted, thrusting back against Arthur's large fingers, and gasped. It's been so long since he'd been with someone, but the pleasure seemed tenfold by who it was doing it. Arthur thrust his fingers, slowly building up speed until Merlin came with a shout, lightly biting into Arthur's shoulder. 

Just as Merlin came down from his high, his breath was stolen again as Arthur slowly entered him. He was thicker and bigger than Merlin had imagined, the largest he'd ever had, and Merlin couldn't help the small shout that left him. Arthur groaned, deep and rough, into Merlin's neck as he sunk deeper and deeper until he bottomed out.

For a moment, they laid there together just relishing the feeling. They finally, after all these years, were completely together. They could feel the heat of one another, each twist of muscle and twitch of pleasure. It was the most beautiful thing Arthur ever felt, and same for Merlin. Then they moved in unison with one another, in and out, slowly but strong. 

Both of Arthur's hands circled around Merlin, supporting his weight while being as close as possible. One of Merlin's hands were tangled in Arthur's hair while the other gripped the mans arse to ensure they were as close as possible. Their love seemed to last forever, with moans and whispers of sweet nothings. However, Arthur was soon lost in the bliss of the man he loved and grew faster and sloppier in movement. With one final thrust they both came together, faces flushed but smiles bright.

Complete.

Chapter Text

15 May 1504 

I remember when I first met Morgana I thought she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever met. Not just because of her gorgeous features, but because of what made her Morgana. So brave, strong, and compassionate. 

I wish I could've gone back and been there for her. Told her the truth about my magic and helped guide her through the struggle of accepting who she was. Let her know she wasn't alone in her fear and save her from the hatred that penetrated her heart. It breaks mine knowing how far gone she was by the end... I understand it more now.

The anger and loneliness and resentment. I've been tempted to let go and just release havoc on the world but I never will. Morgana had nothing left to fight for. I do, even after all these years, I have something keeping me alive that isn't a spell.

I have the hope that one day, despite all the horrors I've been through, I'll see my King rise again. That Arthur will return to me.

It's been getting harder and harder each day to remember my years in Camelot. To remember the years before and after it. Even the events of a century ago seem to be slipping by me, out of grasp but within sight. I know they're there, my memories, but I'm afraid I'll never reach them without the guidance of the books.

I remember Morganas smile, but not her laugh. I remember Guinevere's eyes, but not her voice. Gaius's hug, but not his guidance. Each person I forget more and more of everyday. I no longer remember what my mothers voice sounded like, what the Knights swords clashing into one another sounded like... 

I fear one day I won't remember them at all.

That I won't remember Arthur...

The two men sat around the campfire under the open October sky. The air was crisp with cold, but they cuddled with one another and all they felt was warmth. Peace. It's been a week since Merlin successfully performed the spell, ending his immortality for the first time in over a thousand and a half years. He was mortal now, vulnerable and human. He relished it.

November was approaching a night from now, meaning Winter was officially upon them. It would be a hard one but they'd managed worse. Now that they had one another, free and honest, they felt as though they could tackle the world. Their love was blossoming like a sunflower under a sunny sky, strong and bright. There were no more secrets or lies being kept, for the first time ever they were completely open to one another. 

It was scary sometimes. When alone they would find each other worrying about when this peace would break. If it would break. They'd found happiness together after so long, the fear of losing it was daunting. However, they had more faith in their love for each other that little things like fear wouldn't be enough to break them. Not after all they've gone through and said.

"Did you hate me, back in Camelot when in I told you about my sorcery? You seemed so mad..." Merlin mumbled as he held his king in his arms, resting his head in the crook of the other mans shoulder. 

"I wasn't mad at you for being a sorcerer, Merlin. I was mad for you not telling me, for you keeping it a secret and lying all the years we were together," Arthur explained.

"I'm sorry Arthur, really I am."

"Don't be...I understand now."

Merlin sighed deeply, "There were times when it took everything in me not to tell you. Not to scream it for the whole world to hear. There were so many moments, when things were so hard, where I thought this was it. This was when I could...but something always happened. Something always happens."

Arthur brought his hand up to hold Merlin's tighter against his chest. His eyes were closed as he listened and thought about what it must've been like. He used to miss Camelot when he first came back, sometimes he still does, but now he finds himself thankful to never go back. Thankful for his peace and freedom that the world has offered in solitude. 

"There were moments I suspected," He whispered. "I suspected many things, that you were a sorcerer or loved me or hated me. But in the end I knew who you were...you're not the same man as before but I'm okay with that. I don't know a man better or more honorable than you, Merlin."

They sat together in silence again, occasionally pointing out stars or constellations, but they wouldn't have it any other way. This was the first time they'd stayed around a campfire without having a mission, running away, or on a hunting trip. This was the first time they were just relaxing in the forest together.

"I used to dream of running away from it all. Having my own farm far away, working day to day to provide. My own family running around, not worrying about dark magic or trolls or anything. Just away," Arthur whispered, tucking closer to Merlin when a shiver ran down his spine. 

"I'm sorry you and Guinevere never had the chance for that. For family and life together," Merlin murmured.

"A part of me wanted to have that dream with Guinevere, but most of me wanted to have it with you. No matter what, I always imagined you being in my life. Lover or friend. Family or not, I just wanted you." Arthur confessed, turning to face Merlin. 

"Really?" 

Arthur's eyes flickered down to Merlin's lips a moment, "Really. I couldn't imagine a life without you, I never could." 

Merlin smiles as he kisses his king, soft and passionate. Any doubts he could've had about their new relationship had long since flown out the door, but this reassurance is appreciated. He never would've taken Arthur to be such an open and compassionate lover. 

"I had a farm once. Lived far out in the south of the isles, on my own. I really looked the part, you know? Long hair that reached my shoulders, a thick manly beard, and raggedy clothes. I lived there for about 50 years, then the First World War started and I left to aid however I could," told Merlin.

"Back in Camelot I didn't think it possible for you to grow a beard. Barely even saw you with stubble. I probably wouldn't believe you if I hadn't seen you when I came back, hair curly and beard covering half your face." 

Merlin smirked, "Did you like my beard, sire?"

"No, you looked like a horse," Arthur lied, face flushing a slight pink. 

"Shame, I was thinking about growing it out some," Merlin continued to tease. "Probably even my hair, I used to love running my hands through it. But if you insist I looked horse like, then it'd be ridiculous for me to follow through... right sire?"

Arthur all but growled at the idea. He could imagine the scruff running across his face as they kissed. Imagine running his hands through curly black hair and pulling ever so slightly. The idea had never occurred to him before now, but now it was hard not to think of. 

"Shut up, you prat," Arthur huffed, kissing Merlin in annoyance. 

Merlin laughed, so deep and lively it filled their surroundings. Even in his worked up heat, Arthur couldn't help but smile. He smiled because Merlin's laugh was the exact same as he remembered. Filled with life and happiness, so sweet it filled his own heart with happiness. He'd missed that laugh, Arthur realized. 

"You're lucky I'm no longer King or I'd have you on your knees scrubbing the floor for your teasing," Mumbled Arthur. 

"Is that all you'd have me on my knees for, sire?" Merlin asked with feigned innocence. 

Arthur coughed, choking on his own spit, and his face grew an even darker shade of red then before. He shoved Merlin, rolling his eyes and trying to control his temperature. It felt like their years before, this new relationship, only with more kissing and sexual innuendos.

"I never took you for such a dirty mind, Merlin."

"I'm afraid I've lost my innocence and taste for modesty in the 1970s, love. You should get used to it...or you could take my word and act on it."

"Honestly, You're like a sexed up pig."

Merlin laughed again, pecking Arthur on the cheek. He had fun teasing Arthur, especially when the man flustered so easily. There was so much for him to learn, but they had time. Things were going slower now as they explored each other's sexualities and comfort zones. It was a journey they were both willing to venture into, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have his fun. Joking and teasing has always been something that Merlin took pleasure in doing to Arthur. 

"You've gained your nerve now that I'm no longer royalty. No longer your boss," Arthur said, settling back into Merlin's arms.

"Bloody hell, i can't believe I forgot!" Merlin exclaimed suddenly.

Arthur didn't get a chance to question him before the other man sprung from behind him, leaving him to fall back roughly, and raced inside. From there Merlin ran to the library, frantically searching through his dozens of safes for the thing he was looking for. He couldn't quite remember which one it was in so he tried them all.

Then, minutes later he came leaping down the steps, nearly missing one and just barely saving himself. He clutched the object in his hand, feeling the cool of the metal against his hand, and ran back to join a rather annoyed Arthur. 

"What are you doing? I almost hit my head when you left," The King asked.

"I've been holding onto it for when you came back. It's been so long that I honestly forgot it existed until now."

"What are you on about, Merlin?"

Merlin didn't respond but simply opened his palm and showed him. It held a small golden ring, shining despite its age, with a dragon engraved into its center. The royal seal of Pendragon, the one that Arthur wore after his father and Guinevere wore after Arthur. Made of pure gold, the last remaining object since Arthur's rule as King. A ring Merlin obtained in his last visit to Queen Guinevere that night so long ago, before he lost it during the battle. He'd scoured the entire land until he found it again.

"You've kept it all this time?" Arthur asked in shock.

"I had gotten it in the ashes of Camelot... it belongs to you, Arthur. I've kept it to return it to its rightful owner. The King of Camelot, last blood born heir to the throne, son of Uther Pendragon...You."

"There's no longer a kingdom, Merlin," Arthur whispered but his eyes remained trained on the item from his past.

It had meant the world to him once, being able to wear it and honor his family. Protect Camelot. Merlin didn't give him a choice as he knelt down on his knee and pushed the ring onto Arthur finger. It felt just as it always did...the fit perfect.

"You're still a Pendragon, Arthur. You're still my King, with or without the kingdom."

"Thank you, Merlin. I never thought I'd see it again."

Merlin smiled, kissing Arthur's knuckles softly before moving forward to brush away the escaped tear running down Arthur's face. He kissed Arthur's forehead, his temples, his cheeks, the tip of his nose, and then finally his lips. He kissed his King, strong and sweet, under the night sky in an empty world. The flame of the fire was a distant memory behind his back as they leaned into one another, Arthur's back resting against the tree trunk. 

The moonlight reflected off the golden ring as Arthur's hand moved to cup Merlin's face. It felt cool against both their skin, like a reminder of the world outside their heat, and they slowly pulled apart. This, a king holding his most loyal servant, was how it was always meant to be.

Chapter Text

The highs and joys of their relationship lasted strongly until the approach of a new year. They'd learned more about one another and grew comfortable in this new life, living together as partners rather than friends. It was easier than Arthur ever imagined it to be. 

Arthur found himself more satisfied and happy than he'd ever been before. He woke each morning looking forward to the day and went to bed each night in the arms of a man he loved. Most importantly, he no longer felt guilt for his feelings. His previous internalized hatred for how he felt no longer existed, and he wondered why it ever did. Why he ever stopped himself from diving into the possibilities that his love had to offer.

He no longer has nightmares. No more haunting from his disappointed father, or the lifeless body of his sister, or a heartbroken wife questioning his love. Now he was certain in himself and his choices in life. His choice to be with Merlin, a magical man of many wonders. 

Arthur has continued reading the journals, although some stories he gets from Merlin throughout their time together. He's read about strangers that kept his bed warm at random, battles that coated the world with more death, and friendships made along the way. He read about love and hate and everything in between. Now he no longer questions who Merlin has become, how he's changed, and instead understands as if he were there the whole time. 

However, Arthur notices the toll that old age has left permanently on Merlin. How he lacks energy most days, tired even as he pretends not to be. How he thrashes around the bed from a nightmare, or rather a memory. How he grows quiet when he remembers a darker time, though he rarely ever tells Arthur of such memories.

Most importantly, Arthur notices how much Merlin forgets. Some days the man wakes up and panics, unaware of who Arthur is or where he is until a minute passes and it all rushes back in. From small things like forgetting to lock the door to bigger things like forgetting how to start the fire. Forgetting who Morgana or Gwaine or even Uther was, stumbling around as he tries to fill the voids. 

Arthur's adapted to these gaps, though. He takes more caution in double checking things are done or offering to help when he sees the other man struggle. He never voices his worries because it doesn't need to be spoken. Merlin appreciates these moments beyond anything, even if he doesn't speak that either. 

Merlin has been the most alive he's been in a thousand years if not more. He finds himself wanting to do more, like celebrating his first Christmas with Arthur or experimenting with his cooking. He tells more stories and laughs when he teases. He makes love to Arthur more passionately then he has in years. 

He feels young again. 

For so long Merlin spent his life floating between empty and content. The years and days would pass by in a blur, either from his own uncaring nature or from a world of addiction. When he became sober he felt more gone than ever before, but now he no longer craves to forget. No longer passes the day by, but instead absorbs every moment as if it was his last. Arthur has reminded Merlin of why life was worth living again. 

However, the inevitability has arrived. The depression that he swallowed back for this long had come bubbling to the surface faster than he could've realized. There was nothing he could've done to delay it or prepare, it just washed over him suddenly as Winter came to its end. Despite how perfect his life was, depression was not something that cared about perspective. It was inescapable and it was back deep inside Merlin.

A sadness that had been there for longer than Merlin can remember. It was a shadow over his life, often seen in the words of his journals even without a light to cast it. He'd hoped that it was gone for good now, that the completion of his life was enough to cure him...the dark days always come when the sun isn't shining bright enough. But even the sun gets tired sometimes.

"Merlin, it's half past noon. You should really wake up now...you've been like this all week." Arthur tried again, head peeking through the door into the dark bedroom. "At least come down a bit for lunch."

Merlin said nothing, just turning deeper into his covers and into the dark. Arthur waited a moment, desperately hoping for a change, before signing and the soft click of the door was heard. After a moment, making sure that Arthur was really gone, he reached back under his pillow and pulled out the photo album. 

His eyes had long since adjusted to the dark as he flipped through the pages, scanning the pages full of pictures desperately. His head aches with the pain of no longer being able to cry, his face stiff with dried tears. His hand cresses each photo before he moved on to the next. A habit so common that, if it wasn't for the plastic covering, the photos themselves would've long since been worn away. 

Growing tired of the ache in his chest and his head, he closed his burning eyes and clutched the book close to him. A dreamless sleep invaded him yet again, though he knew that when he woke he'd still be tired. 

Downstairs Arthur sat worried, head in his hands. He hadn't seen Merlin leave the room for almost a week now, hardly having eaten any food or drank any water. He'd given up on sleeping in the same room with the man when he felt his presence was no longer wanted. If he was being honest, Arthur was scared.

It was so sudden and now he doesn't know what to do next. It felt so foreign, this new heavy sorrow weighing in the air, and wrong. He wanted to be there for Merlin, show him that he cared, and make things better but he wasn't sure how. Or even if that's what the other man wanted. 

It's not like they gave lessons on this during his youth. This wasn't a problem that mannerism or a sword could solve.

So instead he tried his best to make a stew. It took him nearly half an hour to learn how to turn on the stovetop, then another hour in itself to figure out what actually went into a proper stew. His diced vegetables weren't as well as Merlin's was when he made this, but he tried his best to get it perfect. He tried to go based off memory of what Merlin had always done, hoping his time watching the other cook would come handy now.

Snow fell softly outside as night approached and Arthur decided that the stew was properly done. After a short taste (that burnt his tongue) he decided it wasn't as good as Merlin's was, but it was good enough. At least he hoped so.

Arthur sat alone as he ate dinner on his own for another night. He missed the teasing and the bantering. The stories and the not-so-subtle hints at what adventures dessert would bring in bed that night. Now the house was cold and silent. His eyes flickered up to their bedroom again before he finished and washed his dish. Then he turned and gently made Merlin's bowl.

Carefully walking up the spiral staircase Arthur, he mentally prepared himself. For what, he wasn't sure. He opened the door and walked over to a half awake Merlin, setting the bowl and spoon down on the bedside table. Merlin's dark eyes watched him silently, questioning your, but he said nothing. Arthur smiled in the dark, leaning down to press a soft kiss to Merlin's forehead. 

"I made you some hot stew...it's not as good as yours but I tried my best. There's more in the cold box if you get hungry." He whispered, brushing his hand over Merlin's curls. "Goodnight, Merlin. I love you."

Merlin wanted so desperately to sit up, kiss him, and wash away his despair. To shout those three words back. But he couldn't bring himself to whisper, or move, or even blink. Instead he watched as the love of his life walked out the door, taking his heart with him. 

Merlin stared at the soup a while, hands still clutching the book, and had an inner debate. His body and mind was too tired to move and eat that soup, not to mention his complete lack of appetite. Then a small voice, stubborn and loud, popped into his mind. A voice with an uncanny resemblance to the late Gwen, whom he missed dearly as well.

So he tucked the book back under his pillow and forced himself to sit up. He wasn't ready to shower or leave the bed or turn on the lights. However, he could eat this stew before it got cold. He could try to support the effort Arthur was so obviously putting forth.

He ate silently, surprised at his own hunger, and a ghost smile graced his face. Arthur was wrong, because this was the best stew Merlin's had in centuries. When he was done he stayed sitting, looking around the cold room. The lack of Arthur's warm presence only just weighed in him...and he realized how lonely it felt.

Merlin creeped out of the bed, ignoring the inner tiredness and pain it brought forth, and forced himself towards the door. He was thankful to find that Arthur had turned out all the lights before bed, leaving him to wander downstairs in the dark. He stopped before the guest room door, hand hovering above the handle, before forcing himself to continue. He'd gotten this far, hadn't he?

"I know I've not quite been myself this week," Merlin whispered softly as he sat besides Arthur in the dark bedroom, knowing the man was awake after he'd sat up. "I'm sorry about that. This time of year is always hard on me..."

Arthur turned over to look at Merlin's outline in the dark. Then, after a second of hesitation, he pushed back the blankets on that side of the bed and laid back down. Merlin took that as a message and laid down so they were facing each other. They couldn't see one another, but somehow Merlin knew those beautiful blue eyes were trained on his. It gave him the courage so continue on.

"You know how I said I was married twice?" Merlin whispered, his breath fanning Arthur's face from their close proximity.

Arthur nodded, his hand rising and laying comfortingly on Merlin's cheek. In his chest his heart beat hardly, making him feel as if thunder were trapped behind his ribs, but he remained silent. Merlin needed this, he knew. 

"Her name was Isabella Stein. She was a nurse, which is how we'd met one another. We married in the late 2090s and lived together in Germany. I—We had 3 children."

Arthur's eyes went wide in shock. The idea of Merlin having children, of him being a father, baffled Arthur. Still he said nothing, just continued to silently encourage the man to go on. He leaned in so their foreheads met each other, to remind Merlin that he was listening. That he cared.

"My boys, Morgan and Lance. My baby girl Gwenith. They were beautiful, Arthur. They had curly hair, my baby girls was red like her mothers, and they had the brightest smile," Merlin told, voice shaking with grief.

Arthur could feel Merlin's tears running down his cheek and clashing against where his hand rest. With his thumb he wiped them, then moved forward and kissed them away.

"Then the war came and I knew it wasn't safe to stay in Germany any longer, although I know now that nowhere was safe. I left one night to arrange our escape... the bombs were dropped before I made it back. They were gone, Arthur. Burned to death. My babies were gone and I—there was nothing I could do! All the power, all my power, and it didn't matter. My babies were gone because I wasn't home, Arthur! I wasn't there to protect them!"

Arthur pulled the sobbing man to him and held him tight. They held each other and cried for the loss of Merlin's family. For the loss of Merlin's last chance at happiness in over a century. For the children that Merlin lost and Arthur would never meet. 

Oh, what misery to lose a family would bring.

Chapter Text

13 February 2087

I met the most amazing woman this week at my new job in Berlin. She had flaming red hair and a grin that could make gods envious. The woman was stern and sharp minded, moving at a faster pace than the world around her. Despite her hard guidance with the interns, she's kind and encouraging. 

When we talked I found myself falling in love with the German language for the first time ever. It was suddenly the most beautiful and entrancing noise I'd ever heard...perhaps it's because she was the one speaking it. It made me foolish and bold.

We are to have dinner tomorrow night.

Merlin and Arthur sat in the middle of the living room, close to the fire and each other. A month had passed and Merlin's spirit was uplifted enough for him to begin to return back to himself. Enough so that he brought out the last 3 secret books...the journals from his time with his family. 

Arthur had been wonderfully patient during the process, offering his support without overbearing. Every night he would check that Merlin had eaten at least one meal, the dinner he'd made, before kissing his forehead and bidding the man goodnight. He said nothing to push further than that and Merlin was grateful. 

The three books sat on the floor before them now, each with withered pages and torn leather coverings. Arthur could tell that, unlike all the others, this was the most frequently read stories. Their spines wrinkled and the edges frayed. They were well loved, but old. 

The only one open was the first, the story of the blossoming love between Merlin and Isabella Stein. Together they read each page, with Arthur watching as Merlin smiled fondly at the memories. Arthur could feel the love Merlin once had, could even imagine it without trying very hard, so he smiled along as well.

"Gwen would've liked her," Arthur commented after reading more about the woman's fierce personality. "Morgana too."

"Yeah, I thought so too." Merlin smiles.

27 July 2088

She said yes. 

We'd been away in the Netherlands for some training, looking at the beautiful sights. I was a blubbering fool, full of worry about messing things up. For someone as amazing as her...it needed to be perfect. 

I tripped and dropped the ring in a the row of bushes outside below the hotel balcony. She interrupted my long rehearsed speech in favor for laughing at my foolish mistake, so hard in fact that she was crying on the floor. Safe to say it didn't work out quite how I planned, but she said she wouldn't have had it any other way. I was a bit disappointed at my own clumsiness because the speech was the best I’ve ever written.

That's besides the point... I'm going to get married!  

Merlin watched irritated as Arthur laughed hearty as Merlin retold the story. When he finally calmed down, he clapped Merlin on the shoulder with pride. 

"I wouldn't have expected different, Merlin."

2 January 2091

We married yesterday. Her large family was welcoming as always, there was a large feast and the ceremony was brilliant. It was...beautiful. Isabella was beautiful. My Isabella Emrys-Stein. 

It's insane to think about how this marriage differs from my last with Robb so long ago, not just in love but in how much has changed. It's no longer hard, at least not in the same ways. I'm not scared to love her openly, because hatred like that has long since died out.

There's also no more secrets. She knows who I am, what I am, and she's accepted me. Kept my secret as if it were her own. She knows about Camelot and my wait and immortality. About Arthur. Robb and who I love. My fears and aspirations and desires. My love, she accepted me when I worried nobody would again.  

Love is a tragedy I am blessed to experience again.

“She knew?" Arthur asked, surprise clear in his voice. 

"Of course she knew, Arthur. This was my wife and mother of my children, it was only a matter of time she found out."

"And she wasn't afraid? Worried about the fact that you'd never die?" 

Merlin frowned a bit, hand running down the page, and responded. "She wasn't afraid of me...but we both agreed that if you weren't back within the next decade I would drop it. Grow old. I was worried she’d grow to despise me...she never did.”

Arthur was silent a moment as he considered this. Considered how Merlin had agreed, had planned, to end his immortality. End his wait for his King after a thousand years. He felt as though he should feel...upset? No. All he could find himself feeling was happy and sad. 

Merlin had a life. He had a family and a future, something to live for outside his wait for a dead man. And it was stolen from him.

"That's the end of book 1. The stories of how I fell in love with a wonderful woman. This one, the center one, is about my babies." Merlin whispered, unable to bring himself to touch it, or to open it.

"How bout some tea?" Arthur suggested. 

Merlin nodded silently, eyes lingering on the book a moment longer, before standing and making his way to the kettle. The house was silent again, but each mans minds were buzzing with thought. Their bodies hummed with emotions, so many there was no word to explain it.

When Merlin came back he had two cups of steaming jasmine tea in hand. They sipped silently, enjoying the moments of peace and quiet, before turning back to the book. Merlin took a deep breath, reaching for Arthur's hand, and opened it to the first page. From there, the story began.

3 September 2092

He was born today. A beautiful baby boy, my baby. I never thought I’d say that. It's so weird to think after all this time I'm a father now. He's so beautiful, eyes bright blue like the sky. For the first time in so long...i don't miss Camelot.

His name is Morgan, in honor of Morgana. It was something Isabella suggested one night when she was pregnant and we flipped through an old journal...I’ve never felt a name more fitting.

I would do anything and everything in this world to protect him. To keep him happy and free. My baby boy will live a long prosperous life, open to become whoever he's destined to be.  

5 August 2093

Morgan said his first words today. It wasn't what we bet on, not mommy or daddy or anything like that. I can't even find it in myself to be upset. I'm just so...proud. He's beautiful, with my black hair and eyes but his mother's freckles and nose. He's perfect, even when I'm sleep deprived and running on fumes. 

His first word was 'King'. Bella was a bit upset it wasn’t mama, which she had been betting on for months, but I think she’s not as mad as she leads on. Then again, she ranted her frustrations at me that entire night until I had to kiss her to calm her down. I was surprised at first that it was what he first said, but then again I do tell him stories about King Arthur every night before bed. 

11 January 2095

Bella gave birth to our second son today. We'd been trying to have a child for well over a year now and when we realized we would...I wouldn't trade this family for the world. He's smaller than Morgan was, and his eyes are brown, but he's just as beautiful. Pure and fragile. She wanted to name him Lance, after Lancelot who was he favorite knight. She argued for Arthur...it didn't feel right. Besides, when he comes back his ego would inflate far too much. 

Morgan was excited about having another brother, he hasn't stopped talking about it for months now. He's grown so much, but even at 3 he's still a baby boy. So stubborn and independent, but begs me to tell him stories about the Kingdom of Camelot. He held Lance for a moment today and mumbled out his own version of a story about Sir Lancelot, trying to explain who Lance was named after...I cried like a baby. 

18 May 2096

Morgan is doing well in school, though admittedly I'm struggling with him being gone so long. He's speaking proper sentences now (or at least trying) and I'm still as adored by it as I was before. He's been coming home and trying to teach what he learned to Lance, though Lance is more interested in running around throwing toys than learning. 

It's become shocking in how much they're like the people they're named after. Morgan is kind, but also ridiculous stubborn and strong minded. He's always running around, ready to defend anyone he could. Once tried to beat me up because I touched Barney the Bear. Lance is more quiet and brave, but he's a lover at heart. 

We're telling them tonight that there will be a new addition to the family soon. I was worried about continuing after Lance, but Isabella has always wanted a big family. She's been a wonderful mother and wife. I love her more than the world. I'd even suggested a year back when Lance was born to do the spell sooner... she didn't let me. Said I'd never forgive myself if something happened and I wasn't here. 

A family. I have a real, blossoming family.

25 December 2097

Christmas. A holiday I've come to love now that I'm not alone. Nothing has made me as happy as waking up Christmas morning, Isabella in my arms, with 3 children sitting on the bed screaming to wake up. I don't think it'll ever grow old. 

Gwenith's first Christmas and she seemed to love every minute of it when she was awake. Her head is already covered in a mane of wild red hair, her eyes bright blue, and her laugh the noise of angels if they existed. She's so gorgeous, my baby girl. Even now she's every bit as charming as Gwaine and compassionate as Gwen. 

Morgan and Lance are wonderful big brothers. They're so protective over their sister, even when they want to tear each other's head off. They'll be fighting and arguing up a storm but the second she crawls in to play they call truce. Like the knights and their queen. It's odd but we love it. 

Gods, I hope this never ends. Being a husband, being a father, it's more than I could've ever realized. A wish I didn't even know I had. The only thing that would make it better is if Arthur were to wake up. 

5 April 2100

The war has begun.  

Merlin was crying. So hard that he couldn't bring himself to continue. To read about how he left, looking for safe passage out, and came back to a family lost. His children and wife, the loves of his lives, gone before he could even blink. He couldn't bring himself to relive his greatest loss ever.

Arthur held him, forcing back his own tears to be the strength that Merlin needed. He held those broken wounds and mended them back together with his love. One hand rubbed small smoothing circles into his back while the other held Merlin's face against his chest. They stayed like this for a while until Merlin calmed down enough to breath.

"They sounded wonderful, Merlin." Arthur whispered. 

"They were. You should've seen them, Arthur. They were fantastic." Merlin whispered back, pulling the photo album into their lap and they moved onto the couch. 

"We don't have to—"

"I want you to see them. To see how much I loved them. My family, my babies..." 

Arthur nodded and they opened the book. The first picture was a wedding photo, Merlin standing tall in a proper suit smiling as he held a red haired woman in a white wedding gown in his arms. The woman, Isabella, was every bit as beautiful as Merlin had described her as. They looked wonderfully in love. 

They flipped through some more wedding images, Arthur listening as Merlin told his stories without any memory gaps. Then they came upon the baby pictures, from ultrasound images to the hospital day. Arthur nearly cried at the pictures of Merlin smiling wide, holding his tiny child in his arms. Each picture was labeled, from Morgan to Lance to Gwenith. Each one was as wonderful as the last.

When they got to the toddler pictures their tears turned into smiles. Chubby little children smiling with messy hair in their faces, not a care in the world. Innocent and sweet. Pictures of Merlin throwing them in the air or Isabella reading them stories. 

"Their favorite stories were about you, you know?" Merlin said as they flipped to the next page of toddler pictures. 

"You told them stories about me?"

"Of course I did. About the once and future king, just ruler of Camelot, king to the throne. I told them the tales of our adventures together, of Morgana and the nights and Gwen. Everything, just more child friendly and with happier endings," Merlin laughed, staring fondly at a picture of Gwenith. "You were their hero."

Arthur was stunned, unsure what to say. The idea that Merlin told his children stories about him, not just Camelot but himself, was unfathomable. A hero in the eyes of Merlin's children, when to himself Merlin was the hero of their story. 

"I was?" He sputtered.

"My children asked everyday when their Uncle King Arthur was coming to visit. I hoped...I told them you'd be coming soon. Even without meeting you, they loved you so much. Morgan wanted to be just like you." 

"I'm sorry I never came, Merlin. I would've loved to meet them, teach them a few tricks."

Merlin laughed, "That was the last thing we'd need. The boys were born pranksters and Isabella would've gone mad if you'd made that worse."

Arthur laughed softly, leaning in and kissing Merlin. The kiss was softer than usual, as if it were to be an apology. A thank you. It was also a kiss that wouldn't push Merlin into anything more heated then he was ready for, his mind state still clouded with sadness.

"I'm sorry, Merlin. For leaving you for so many years. You've lost so much for me and I don't know how I could ever thank you," Arthur whispered against Merlin's lips. 

"I would've waited a million years for you," He responded with a sureness that even Arthur couldn't argue against. 

"I love you," Arthur whispered as he flipped to the next page.

"And I love you."

Love is a tragedy I hope to experience again.

 

Chapter Text

The heat of June air heated down on the last two men on earth, overwhelmingly present that the distant memory of the cool of winter had long since disappeared. Every window in the house was open, every fan whirling, and ice cold lemonade or water was the only source of refreshment. The men walked around in only their underwear, sometimes less, most days to make it a bit more bearable.

The singsong of birds and chirping of insects flooded the air day and night. Occasionally animals, ranging from deer to wolf, wander around the house in curiosity. Their presence lacked fear of the men, replaced with a form of curiosity. Bonds even developed with man and animal, each sharing an understanding of the other. It was peaceful. Wonderful. 

"I think I'm melting, Merlin," Arthur groaned as he pressed his body against the hardwood floor, the idea of going near cloth unbearable. "No, I'm dying." 

"You're not dying," Merlin responded with half his body inside the fridge. "Gods, I miss air conditioning."

"We need to move somewhere else." Arthur groaned as sweat began to pool onto the floor, "Like far far away. Where it's not as damp and hot and rainy." 

Merlin hummed in agreement, but didn't think much of the suggestion. He opened up the fridge and grabbed a tray of ice cubes to much on, leaning comfortably as he flipped through a random thriller, one he'd read a dozen times. Arthur stood from where he laid as he grew weary of the lack of conversation, walking over to the shelf holding the vinyls and flipped through them randomly. He stopped on his secret favorite, the only album that wasn't Queen or Elton John or Lady GaGa, and grabbed it. 

The first song to start playing once he set it blasted louder than he expected. Toxic by Britney Spears interrupted the peace, causing Arthur to wince as he rushed to lower the volume. It was too late, however, as Merlin came running in the room with a wide grin on his face. 

"What're you doing, Arthur?" He asked, smirk heard in his voice even though there was an innocent smile on his face.

"N-nothing. Grabbed the wrong album, is all." 

"No, I don't think so," Merlin said as he stalked closer. "No I think you meant to grab this album."

"Don't be ridiculous, Merlin. You know I hate this album."

"Uh-uh," the man said, pointing at Arthur with his book in accusation. "You chose this album on purpose. You chose to play Britney Spears, didn't you sire? You did it because you love it."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Arthur denied weakly. 

"Oh, alright. Well...then perhaps I should just get rid of it. I only have it because a mate of mine from centuries ago gave it to me as a gift, I don't listen to it often. If you don't like it then let's just put it in the bin."

Arthur stared at Merlin, who was wickedly grinning, then down at the pink vinyl, then back to Merlin again. He was presented with a splitting pathway in that moment, a choice that could possibly change his life forever. He could either confess his love for Britney Spears and her music, giving into a possible lifetimes worth's of embarrassment and taunting. Or he could deny it and let Merlin follow through in his threat, leading to a lifetime worth of never hearing Britney singing toxic or any other In The Zone Songs. An impossible choice really. 

"Or I could just not give you any loving. I mean, I won't even sleep in the same bed. I'd rather sleep with Leon the doe." Arthur challenged, an answer that indirectly said 'if you touch this album I'll kill you emotionally'.

Merlin pauses a moment, looking into Arthur's eyes to see if he was being serious. It seems he found his answer in it because his smile slipped off his face and he sighed deeply, walking back into the kitchen without another word. Arthur smiled victoriously before taking the album off and back into packaging to listen to on a day when Merlin wasn't home. 

Night brought a coolness with it that they both needed dearly, shedding the previous annoyance and irritation as they laid together in their bed. The new coolness that the darkness brought made being together in their most vulnerable state more tolerable. Some nights they made passionate love with one another, replacing the silence with moans and grunts, before they fell asleep together. Other nights they just lay with one another, talking about everything and nothing all at once, until drowsiness pulled them deeper and deeper into unconsciousness. 

Some nights Merlin would wake with a fright and Arthur would have to hold him, whispering words of love and comfort until the man calmed down. Or occasionally it was Arthur who had the nightmare, remembering the pain of his death and Mordred's face, and Merlin reminded him that he was alive. Most nights both men slept with the best of dreams as they laid with one another.

Tonight was one of those nights where they spoke about the future, a discussion that was increasingly arising. They talked about what they should have for dinner the next night, when they would go berry picking again, or what new adventure they should go on. Merlin has taken Arthur out of their little home more, to places like Berlin, Egypt, and Iceland. It gave them both a chance to escape, to explore the world together when Merlin used to have to do it alone. 

"How long have you been living here?" Arthur asked, playing with the tips of Merlin's hair. 

"150 years give or take. Built it myself after everyone left, tore apart the last one and built over it," Merlin mumbled as he traced the crevices in Arthur's palms. "Why?"

"Maybe it's time for a change. We should really do it, what I suggested earlier. We should really move and build our own home together."

Merlin tilted his head back to look up at the man, "Really? You were being serious?"

"Wouldn't it be nice to go somewhere different? Start over, far away from these woods?"

Merlin hummed as the thought about it. He'd never thought that Arthur would want to leave...or that he would. He'd lived in these woods for most of his life, only having left for only a few years at a time. Staying as he waited for Arthur to emerge from the lake, coming back to him. Arthur is back. 

"Where would we go?" He asked softly, pressing a kiss to Arthur's peck.

"I want to go somewhere that doesn't rain as much. Somewhere where it's never too hot or too cold, you know? A place where we can be free to explore someplace without so much trees, but not like those cities you showed me."

"A change of scenery would be nice. There were a lot of beautiful places that you would've loved, Arthur, but I'm afraid most of them are under water now. Except for one—"

"Where?"

"Loja, Ecuador. We're moving to South America, mi amor. La ciudad de la musica!" 

Arthur had no idea what the other man was saying, but he couldn't help himself from reaching down and trying to taste it. To taste the rolls of the r's off Merlin's tongue and the flow of whatever it was he just said. The kiss soon got heated and the air was no longer cool. The house was no longer silenced as soon moans and words of love were shouted into the air, floated out the windows to be lost in the night sky. 

The next morning they began packing. Most of the boxes were filled out with Merlin's old journals. Actually, everything packed was Merlin's, from the blankets to the clothes they shared to the eating utensils. However, after their last 11 months together it didn't make Arthur feel like he was missing out. He saw everything as theirs, something they shared together.

They they packed everything worth packing, though Merlin was forced to accept that most of his things weren't actually worth keeping. They couldn't take everything and he couldn't keep clinging onto the items from the past that held no true worth to him. Then, when everything was packed away exept the furniture they decided they would leave most of it locked away while they left to build. 

They flew out with a box worth of supplies and another with necessities. It didn't take long for them to decide to built their home on the outskirts of the city, that way they didn't have to be surrounded by the ghost town. Merlin's magic made the chopping of lumbar faster than ever while Arthur explored the stores in search of other materials.

They made a large log cabin, something homey and simple but just as large as the last one. Merlin found himself being glad that he decided to major in architecture once upon a time, making the process easier for them both. The house was no longer 2 stories, but was longer and less crowded. The interior had skinnier planks of wood rather than logs, splitting the home into spacious rooms. 

Together both men worked on the hardwood for their floors. Merlin taught Arthur how to sand the wood until it was smooth and how to use wood stain so that it was as pretty as their old one. Then he showed Arthur how to build a table, leaving him to finish the detailing while Merlin started the bed frame. Then they worked on the book cases (which Arthur wanted to paint blue so Merlin let him). 

By the end of the month they had a home. Simple and sweet, made in union of two lovers. Arthur had never loved a place more, never felt as at home as he did when they finished. This was the first place he's lived that he had to work for, building it piece by piece with his own hands. It wasn't a farm, but it was everything he ever wanted.

It took them 3 long trips back and forth before they had everything moved in (mainly due to how small their vehicle was). With the help of Merlin's magic, everything was unpacked and organized within a week. This home felt more alive, refreshed and vibrant. Not old and worn in, but youthful. Like this new relationship. 

It was their home.

By some twisted coincidence, or perhaps it was destiny, they finished moving in a year to the day that Arthur woke up. They both nearly shed tears upon its completion, overwhelmed with joy and belonging. It was all so perfect, from the where to the what and with whom. It made both men feel complete. 

"It's perfect, Arthur." 

Arthur smiled as he kissed Merlin's cheek, "Yeah, I think so too. Of course, I did most of the work..."

"Like hell you did, wanker. Last I checked I built just about everything in here and everything you built I had to fix." 

"If it helps you sleep at night." 

"Keep up the lies and this house will never be christened because you'll be sleeping on the couch," Merlin huffed, moving out of Arthur's arms. 


Arthur stopped him before he could get far, pushing him against the nearest wall and kissing him passionately. Merlin nipped his bottom lip before flipping their positions so that he was the one pinning Arthur to the wall. Soon both their shirts were off, the only times their lips broke contact, and they were stumbling towards the bedroom. 

Merlin pushed Arthur on to the bed, smiling as he tugged his own jeans off and watching as Arthur rushed to do the same. Then he crawled onto the bed and over Arthur, straddling him as he gently ran his nails over Arthur's chest.

"Seems hard labor has done wonders for your body, sire." Merlin whispered, leaning down to lick down Arthur's defined chest. "Lost all your winter pudge."

Arthur growled and slapped Merlin's ass at the comment, satisfied with the yelp it brought out. However, that satisfaction was quickly stolen when Merlin ground his hips down against Arthur's, increasing the friction and forcing a moan out of his own mouth. It didn't take long after that for both men to be completely naked, Arthur a moaning mess as Merlin fingered lube into him for preparation. 

Then Merlin grabbed Arthur’s hard member with his free hand, jerking it at the same time he thrust his fingers in. Arthur bit his lips as not to scream, before Merlin did it again and he had no choice. It seems like Merlin was enjoying making Arthur be as loud as possible, especially since there was no reason not to be. They were the only ones around to listen. 

"I love you, but please fuck me before I kill you," Arthur panted, pulling Merlin closet for a kiss. 

As always, Merlin obliged his kings request and did as told. Together they both became lost in the pleasure and each other, every inch of skin pressed as tightly to one another as possible. They both came to their high together, holding on as they whispered words of love. By the end of the day, they 'christened' the house numerous times. From their room to the hallway wall, and to the kitchen counter. 

Love feels better when you're at home.

Chapter Text

15 June 2262

Arthur proposed to me today, marking exactly 2 years to the day he returned. Gods, I wasn't expecting it at all. If I'm being honest, I never thought he'd want to get married again. We'd talked about it of course, but it seemed silly to get married when we're already spending the rest of our lives together. 

He did it after dinner, which he managed to cook on his own. Turned away for one moment and there he was holding a little golden ring and asking for forever and more. It didn't matter that there was nobody else, the idea of the commitment was what he wanted. A promise. Of course I said yes.

I asked him where he managed to find the ring, which is still perfectly shining and had little diamonds wrapped around. He said he found it during those trips to the city last year when we were starting to build our home. Kept it hidden away for the perfect moment.

23 December 2262

We have a dog now, decided to call him Sir Elyan. The dark golden retriever had wondered around the house curiously the last month or so, but only earlier this week did he take the move to inspect us closer. I didn't want to keep him, especially since the domestication of animals has long since ended, but he didn't give us much choice after never leaving again. Perhaps he loves us...or our food.

Either way, he and Arthur are inseparable and constantly causing trouble. 

12 March 2262

Today is the day we wed.

We found this beautiful clearing miles away and decided months ago that this would be it. I initially wanted to just find proper wears and just give our vows, but unfortunately Arthur is a bloody bridezilla. Spent months gathering supplies for the venue and building a small table to have our wedding feast at.

He somehow managed to gather more music over the past years, adding randomly to the collection. Elton John's Your Song will be the song we dance to, but I think he's planning a secret flash mob with Elyan. He'd spent months in the town shops looking for our wedding wear, dragging me from store to store. Most of the clothing was destroyed (the only reason my clothes lasted so long is because I had time to gather as much as possible before the plant revolution). In the end he managed to find the perfect suits and we were ready. 

We stood in the clearing under the spring sky, holding each other's hands. It seemed the world knew what was happening and decided to play its part in making it magical. Various wildlife peaked out from the forest to watch silently. The insects seem to chirp less and let the birds sing more. It was...perfect. 

"Arthur, I've loved you for 1,765 years now. There was never a moment, no matter what trouble you found yourself in that I had to save you from, I regretted that love. Regretted being your servant, your friend, and now your partner. 

It hasn't been easy, our love. For so long we were repressed by hatred, by fear, by time. Despite this, I would do it all again if it meant I could fulfill my destiny of being by your side no matter what. You are the greatest love of my life, my royal prat. My King."

He cried. I could tell as I told him those words, staring into his eyes since they were something I memorized long ago, that he tried to hold back. It didn't matter because he was beautiful as he cried tears of...joy? Love? Whatever it is, it's beautiful. 

"Merlin," He said once he collected himself long enough to breathe properly. "There has never been a moment when I doubted you. Where I questioned your undying loyalty and unknown love for me. Even when I was a King, the person who I cared about most in this world was you. To me you were never just a servant, never just a friend, but someone I wanted to spend my life with. 

I didn't know I loved you, not at first. I knew that I would've died if you weren't by my side, that I would've rather fought a hundred battles with you than one without, and that nobody in the world meant as much to me as you. It took dying to put a word to those feelings, my feelings for you. Now I know what it was... I love you, Merlin."

...yeah I cried too. Fuck, I cried because it was everything I ever wanted and so much more. Just like he is, my Arthur. Then we both stood there, crying like fools in the middle of a field with a dozen animals watching us. Then we slid our rings on, mine the one he found and his being the royal sigil. The kiss was the best one we've ever shared, like marriage tasted better on his lips.

Then we danced. It was awkward at first, especially since our dumbasses forgot that we should've actually practiced what we would do. None of that mattered in the moment, we just stumbled around and our tears were replaced with laughing and smiling. I wouldn't change it for the world. 

"Are you sure about this, Arthur? Forever is a long time and there's still that rocket for a one way trip hidden away—"

"Merlin, We're literally married. Shut up before I have to kiss the nonsense off you."

"Promise?"

2 January 2263

We took in a cat today, or more like a cat moved in and we can't get rid of him. Decided to name it Uther because the little monster just sits around grumpily and if you get too close he'll attack. However, if he doesn't get enough attention he'll piss all over the house. 

The journal was unused again for a while, only the occasional picture or artifact with little date labels. A small bag of sand from their honey moon. A small plant leaf from their garden. Then after about 12 little memorable things over 15 years a large time gap was present before new entrance was admitted, only not in the same handwriting. The new writing was more messy and sloppy. 

7 May 2283

Merlin's sick. Not in the sense that he's ill, but he's becoming more and more lost in his memories. He's forgetting or becomes stuck in something from a long time ago, no longer aware of what's real and what's not. Its grown worse now, perhaps it's our older age. 

I don't think I can fix this. He was the one who has the medical training for almost 2000 years...I've tried everything I could. Herbs and blends and gods know what else. I'm afraid. I'm petrified that one day he won't remember me anymore...or himself. 

18 August 2287

He became lost in a time of Camelot today, which was both a blessing and curse. He remembered me and i him as he once was. Joking around, calling me sire, and trying poorly to hide his sorcery. I could see his old love clearer now that I've seen him revert back to who he was. 

It's a curse because this isn't my Merlin. Not the one I married. This is a Merlin who never went through the hells, the old lovers and children, or the overcoming of his fears. I can't love a man who's hiding that love again, can't sleep with him at night and kiss him in the morning...

But I'll manage for him, like he once did for me. I'll love him the best that our time allows. 

27 September 2290

This month was one of his better months. He remembered me more and the past less. Gods, it was wonderfully fantastic. I've managed over the past years to find a way to love him, to be with him, even when he doesn't remember. 

It seems like not even forgetting will be enough to keep him from loving me. Even if it's a new type of love, more of a loose and wild love that's like new lovers instead of a married couple, but I wouldn't trade it. I will love him no matter the type, even if sometimes I miss the him I came back to.

This month he remembered me, me from now and not from Camelot. It was perfect! I didn't write sooner in case I ruined it, but he relapsed again last night. While it still hurts, this past month was everything I could ever ask for and more. We bickered like bitter sobs and made love like rabbits. We held each other in the night and whispered sweet nothings. It was perfect.

1 November 2292

It was my birthday today. I'm honestly not even sure how old I am now, but I can feel that it's old. I didn't even realize what today was until I woke up and Merlin was baking me a cake. He's not fully back, more like he was that first month we reunited, but it doesn't matter. What matters is he remembered enough.

The cake was great, by the way. I'm not sure how he managed to make it perfect, where he got the ingredients I'm clueless. I do know that ever since we built our chicken coup and gathered a few strays, our meals have managed to become far better. Even have a dairy cow. 

I just realized we basically have a farm. Didn't even realize the dream has happened until now...best birthday present an old king could've asked for.  

Present Day: 4 October 2299

Arthur woke up with a chill running down his back, regretting not having closed the window the night before. Peaking into the sunny room, his eyes met Merlin's sleeping face. Wrinkles lined his face where there wasn't a beard while curly black hair fell over his forehead. Even after all this time Arthur couldn't help but fall more in love, moving forward and kissing Merlin softly on the cheek before leaving the bed. 

When Arthur came back in the room, towel wrapped around his waist from the shower, he was surprised to see the other man sitting up awake. He smiled, though weary about where Merlin's mindset was now, and moved to the dresser. 

"Good Morning, Love." Merlin yawned, running his hands though his hair. 

Arthur smiled to himself, still digging for some proper clothes. That was what his Merlin always said in the mornings. Today would be a good day. 

"Nothing quite wakes a man up in the morning like seeing his half naked husband walking into the room," Merlin said with a smile, watching pleased as Arthur turned in shock, a pair of underwear in his free hand.

"We're nearly 70 years old and you're still as crude minded as before we were married. If I didn't know any better, I'd think you're only with me for my body."

Merlin laughed, deep and raspier now, "Not for it, but it is a bonus. You should be glad I still want to shag you at this age, otherwise you'd be miserable."

Arthur turned to walk into the bathroom and finish getting ready, but didn't make it far before Merlin's eyes went bright gold and sent the towel flying across the room. A very good day, Arthur thought as he joined Merlin in the bed. It didn't take long for things to escalate from there.

Once they were done and smiling like hopeless fools, they both managed to force themselves out of bed for the day. Merlin went to start breakfast while Arthur went to feed the animals. He tossed vegetable scraps to the chickens, some hay he'd gathered to the cow, and fed Sir Elyan and Uther the leftover meat and corn from the night before. The whole time he couldn't help smiling while looking down at his wedding ring. 

When he came back inside Merlin was staring at the stovetop in confusion. As he always did, Arthur went forward and helped turn it on before moving and grabbing some oranges for juice, humming as Merlin kissed his cheek in thanks. No matter how much he remembered, Merlin keeps forgetting the little things. Which was fine, because Arthur always remembered them for him. 

They sat together, one hand holding each other as they used to other to eat, and began talking about the upcoming day. The past and the future. 

"I was thinking we should get a pet monkey? Do you think they have those here? Figure we'd name it after Gwaine."

"We are not having a monkey, Merlin."

"Alright, how about a deer? That speckled one keeps popping up in the back yard. Think he might be lonely."

Arthur rolled his eyes fondly, "No more strays, Merlin."

It was perfect. Just like it was meant to be. Two sides of the same coin, but not separated by the other side anymore. Inverted and facing one another with a sense of understanding that nothing else could possibly comprehend. It was a lifetime worth of love and loss in the making, battles and friendship.

Perhaps it was more than love, but rather a kinship. A soulmate story written in the stars by a higher power with a sense of understanding. A sense of irony and humor, both the bitter and sweet kind. Two men who were born in situations that couldn’t be more different, a king and a servant, a man and a sorcerer. A blossoming love in an era of forbiddance.

Destiny is a glorious thing.