It was a beautiful spring day; warm and lazy, filled with laughter, friends, wine, and food.
With his husband and son, and all of their friends around them, the troubles of the last year and a half seemed very far away. A year buried in the ground, unable to be with his family had been followed by nearly six months of battles: against magic users testing him, or magic users seeking vengeance against Uther through Arthur or Yvain, and against the fears and objections of the nobles. The first and second threats were easy to deal with, Merlin had known how to deal with them since he first stepped foot in Camelot. The political battles were definitely not his forte; he left them to Arthur and Morgana, both of them more than willing to uphold this particular edict of Uther’s. Of course, they were also working on lessening the punishments for use of non-malevolent magic, but it was slow going against Uther’s still steadfast hatred of magic.
Thankfully, Merlin could now live here in Camelot in peace and his mother could come and go as she pleased. Which she did, quite often. When they had all traveled to Ealdor, his mother had stared incredulously at him, tears running down her cheeks, hands shaking as they cupped his face. He had held onto her as she cried, burying his tears in her hair, gripping her just as tightly as she embraced him. She was so grateful he was alive and well that she even agreed to let Arthur give her a sturdy, practical horse that would enable her to travel to Camelot more easily so that she could visit whenever she chose.
His mother was here now, laughing with Yvain as they played with Cadfael. Just as he had promised, Merlin had helped his son find his pet, Arthur and the rest of their family and friends trooping out with them to help. They found the canine deep in the forest surrounding Camelot, but far from being undernourished and scraggly, Cadfael was well-fed and healthy. More than one person had sheepishly admitted to tracking him down to feed and play with him.
Merlin waved and smiled when Yvain turned to search him out. His son was obviously still suffering from his loss, as Yvain constantly looked for him, even if it was just a glance, to ensure that Merlin was still there. Gaius was sure Yvain would grow out of it as the memory faded and Merlin remained by his father’s side, but it broke his heart a tiny bit every time Yvain couldn’t immediately find him and an expression of scared sadness took over his young face.
Arthur was no better; his husband would find the most ridiculous excuses to keep Merlin by his side.
“Where are you going, Merlin?” Arthur’s question was a mix of princely demand and sleepy confusion.
“Off to Gaius’, to see if he needs any help with anything.” Merlin didn’t look up as he pulled up his boots. “Morris will be by with your breakfast in a bit. Yvain’s already eaten since he wanted to play with Cadfael for a bit before going to lessons.”
“Well, while you’re in Gaius’ tower, could you ask him to send me some of his tonic, please?”
That ‘please’ should have been his first clue, but Merlin didn’t notice as he spun towards Arthur, hands already out and glowing. “Where are you hurt? Show me?”
Arthur was sprawled against his pillows, face slack, limbs listless. “Not hurt,” he refuted, then promptly coughed and sneezed in succession. “I think I’m getting a summer cold.”
Merlin’s frown grew, his magic drawing back inside so that his hands no longer glowed when he reached out to feel Arthur’s temperature. “You’re not overly warm,” he mused.
“I don’t feel well.” Arthur shrugged one shoulder, eyes downcast and face turning away.
Since his husband hadn’t even complained when he was dying from the bite of the Questing Beast, his words didn’t make Merlin feel any better. “I’ll stay with you, just in case.”
“But, doesn’t Gaius need you?” Arthur didn’t fuss at all when Merlin tugged him into his arms after taking off his boots and jacket. Arthur tugged fretfully at his clothing so he disrobed completely.
“No, I just wanted to spend some time with him is all.” Merlin magicked the blankets around them both since he was naked again and the cool chill of the early morning still lingered.
“Oh, all right, that’s good.” Arthur snuggled down into his arms, face buried in Merlin’s neck. His hands began moving randomly over Merlin’s skin, his mouth lipping at his neck and shoulder.
Sadly, Merlin did not realize his devious husband’s plans until Arthur’s hands reached their destination: his cock and his ass.
“You prat,” Merlin managed to groan out, never once pushing the conniving idiot away.
He shook his head in remembrance, shooting an amused glare down at the blond head currently lolling on his chest. Even as he thought of ways to wean his husband off this behavior, Merlin tightened his arms around Arthur, letting his hands wander over the solid weight of his lover, gliding his fingertips over smooth skin.
He happened to look up in time to see Leon’s sly smile; Merlin shook his head and rolled his eyes when he saw that Leon wasn’t the only one wearing a smirk. Arthur’s knights were all surreptitiously watching them; they were all grinning. Well, most of them were grinning, Gwaine was giving them a lewd smirk. Merlin shook his head again, this time specifically for Gwaine as the man never did learn, not even when Arthur sent him on a diplomatic mission designed to torture Gwaine with numerous staid and pompous nobles, actual responsibility, and absolutely no Percival for over a fortnight. Gwaine was probably planning his revenge at this very moment.
Merlin grinned into Arthur’s hair as Yvain threw himself at his father, Arthur rousing just in time to grunt in pain and to close his arms around a squirming Yvain. Merlin ran his fingers through Yvain’s hair, quieting his movements with just that touch.
Yvain tilted his head back, bright smile on his lips and in his eyes. “Papa, I’m hungry.”
“Well, we can’t have the prince of Camelot hungry, can we?” Merlin teased, grinning a thank you at Morgana as she passed him the basket of food. She winked at him before leaning back into her betrothed’s arms; Leon looked most grateful to have her back in them. He held the basket for Yvain’s inspection, his son finally choosing a shiny red apple to chomp down on.
Then he shook with laughter as Arthur declared “that was my apple!” and then made a poor attempt at biting at the apple, ridiculously following it with his head and mouth, looking like a horse trying to follow a treat.
“Father, no!” Yvain laughed. Then, proving what an utterly sweet boy he was, he said, “We’ll share.”
“Thank you, Yvain,” Arthur answered, solemnly taking the offered bite.
“Papa?” Yvain offered him the apple, holding it up to Merlin’s mouth.
Merlin took a bite, grinning at Yvain. “Thank you, sweetheart,” he said around the food.
“Papa!” Yvain was all crossed reprimand. “You should not speak with your mouth full!”
“Yes, Merlin,” Arthur drawled, mischief all over his face. “You should not speak with your mouth full.”
Merlin glared down at his husband, only to flick his wrist at Gwaine, dumping him into the pond when he muttered loud enough for everyone to hear, “Probably not what he said last night!”
Great whooping laughter drew his attention away from the field he was surveying and the farmers that worked it.
From here, Uther could see his son and grandson, the man he had grudgingly accepted as his son-in-law, and their household picnicking in the sun. Their laughter was not the carefully regulated laughter of courtiers, nor even the rowdy, raucous laughter of common soldiers. Instead, their laughter was that of a family, happy to be together on such a fine day.
Uther craved to be there with them, and surprisingly, thanks to Merlin, he knew he would be welcomed. At least by the sorcerer.
Merlin had forgiven him, publically, for his murder. The sorcerer had shown incredibly subtle court skills by bowing low and asking if Uther would enjoy another goblet of wine. It was his deep respect in the bow and the genuinely solicitous offer of wine that indicated to all that he had forgiven Uther his offense. Most likely Morgana or Arthur had taught him these little tricks, but Uther had welcome the gestures nevertheless because it had been in private that Merlin had said that he understood that Uther had only been trying to protect his family. Merlin had grinned that guilelessly large grin at him and said that he couldn’t fault him for doing what Merlin himself had been doing since he first came to Camelot.
Of course, forgiveness from Arthur and Yvain was much harder to obtain. As was a return into Morgana’s good graces. His family still watched him warily, especially Arthur and his sharp, knowing eyes, but thanks to Merlin’s actions, they were thawing towards him. Yvain had even granted him a smile the other morning. Family dinners were no longer completely silent, helped by his invitation to Merlin to join them. Admittedly, the children spoke more to each other than to him, but at least now he wasn’t reduced to eavesdropping in corners and niches in order to know about his family’s lives. And there was a bit more honesty in the conversations they had around him, hints that Merlin had used his magic to protect the royal family or Camelot. It was slow-going, but Uther now had hope that his family would be his once more, and not just strangers that lived in the same home.
There was still the issue of magic and its use to be resolved, and Uther feared it would be a point of contention between his children and him until the end of his days. He was no fool. He knew that the moment he died and Arthur took the crown, the ban on magic would be lifted and new laws put into its place. Strangely, for all that he was resistant to changing the laws – with its one exception – he did not feel betrayed by his family any longer. Perhaps because he knew how magic had saved his family or his throne countless times since Merlin came to Camelot, perhaps he was mellowing in his old age, or, perhaps like Gaius had pointedly suggested, perhaps he was finally letting go of the grief and guilt of Ygraine’s death.
Whatever the reason, he knew now, that his legacy would not be the protection of Camelot against the evils of magic. No, his legacy would be his son, his grandson, and all of the Pendragon children to come.