A/N: AAAAAAAH! I'm sorry. I could have sworn I already posted this! Which means you have waited WAY to long for this last chapter. Here it is!
"I now pronounce you man and wife, Princess Mithian and Prince Edgar of Nemeth."
Cheers erupted from the entire room as the newly wed couple stood from their kneeling position at the altar and turned to face the crowd, hands held aloft between them in a quite dignified fashion. Spoiling the dignity of the moment slightly were the looks on their faces, especially as neither of them so much as looked at the crowd and only stared at each other, positively glowing.
How could anyone think that was enchanted? Merlin wondered. But unfortunately, from his multiple experiences of dealing with Arthur's magic-induced love crazes, he knew that it was possible to fake such infatuation. But at least things were sorted now. There'd be rumors for a time, no doubt. But that was part of being in the public eye. Arthur was right. If it wasn't one rumor, it would be another.
A wedding and a coronation, all in one go. It made sense, of course, but somehow it had slipped his mind that Edgar would have to actually be coronated into his new royal status.
As the formal part of the festivities ended (at last) Merlin made his way back over to Arthur, who had been sitting amongst the dignitaries. He'd been the only monarch to actually show up over these last couple weeks. Possibly because he was the only one with a wife who could take care of her own while he was away. The rest were dukes and duchesses, barons and baronesses, and whatnot. In any case, it was time to rejoin him, to tail him through the entire festivity, and keep his wineglass full through the reception. Oh joy.
One of these days he should just sneak off and leave him to fend for himself. But not today. He found he didn't mind so much with the huge burden of his secret lifted from his shoulders.
"My lord," Arthur greeted first thing when they at last found a moment to greet the couple. "How's it feel being not just wed, but officially royal?"
Edgar laughed. "I confess, the first is outweighing the second easily. Perhaps my new title shall hit me more thoroughly when I begin my duties."
"And my lady," Arthur greeted, bowing to Mithian as well.
Merlin tried his best not to squirm, but he couldn't help it. Arthur told him he'd taken care of things, but he still hadn't discussed anything with Mithian personally, and Arthur had not given him specifics.
"And here's the man of the hour," Edgar said as he turned to Merlin, much more quietly than before, though the other guests had respectfully given the monarchs plenty of space.
Merlin very nearly dropped his jug of wine.
Arthur, anticipating this, steadied him.
"Relax, would you? You'll draw attention."
"I'm sorry," Edgar said. "I didn't mean to startle you.
"My lady told you, then?" And he thought he did a remarkable job keeping his voice steady.
"He is my husband," Mithian reminded him gently. "I keep no secrets from him. But rest assured, not a soul otherwise shall hear of any of this."
"Your secret is safe with the two of us," Edgar insisted. "I regret I haven't gotten the chance to thank you, until now. If it wasn't for you, I may very well be dead right now."
"I wouldn't have let that happen, darling," Mithian answered, patting his cheek gently.
He laughed again. "No, I'm sure you wouldn't have."
Mithian turned back to Arthur. "I'm sorry again for all the trouble you endured because of me. Kinsley…was not the man I thought he was."
"You are not the first to be fooled by a relative, my lady," he reminded her sadly. "My uncle betrayed me in much the same way. Except many people died as a result of his treason. You needn't apologize."
"Thank you. I must admit I am somewhat glad that he was dead when we found him. I don't know how well I would have handled a trial."
Merlin was also very glad he'd turned up dead. He hadn't meant to kill the man, but apparently forcibly removing someone's consciousness from another's mind was rather…violent. But this way he wasn't able to testify to anything he'd seen, such as negotiating turning over a sorcerer for a lighter sentence.
Unfortunately, if there was anyone helping him (which they were sure someone must have been) then they were long gone. There may never be a way to find whoever his accomplices had been.
"Merlin," Edgar said calmly, probably noticing that Merlin was still not exactly comfortable. "You are welcome in Nemeth, anytime."
"And just so you know," Arthur put in, "My…affront that you would consider relaxing certain laws? That was entirely Kinsley in my head. You will have Camelot's support, whatever you decide."
"I'm glad you say that," Mithian said, squeezing Edgar's hand. "Because he was slightly understating the changes we want to make."
Merlin's eyebrows shot up. Dare he hope? "Oh?" Arthur asked.
"We've been considering things carefully for some time now," Edgar admitted. "Rodin knows a bit of our plans, but not the extent. We don't think he'd be entirely comfortable with the ideas."
"But I think Merlin here just proved us right to be taking these steps."
"You're going to legalize magic," Merlin whispered, eyes wide. The two of them smiled at him in confirmation.
"I'm glad to hear that," Arthur said. "I've been considering the same, in light of recent events."
Merlin's knees just about buckled at that, but he caught himself. "Y—you are?" He stammered. He had yet to mention that little detail.
Arthur shrugged, looking decidedly uncomfortable from the suddenly scrutinizing gazes. "Well, what did you expect?" he demanded. "For me to be a total hypocrite and let you run around as my own little exception?" He looked away, fingering his glass. "It…will take some time," he admitted. "Probably years." He swallowed his pride for a moment and looked at Merlin. "I hate to make you wait that long but—"
"I've waited my entire life, Arthur," Merlin reminded him shakily. "I can wait a little longer."
"Nemeth may be in a better position to test these changes first," Mithian inserted. "And if we remain in alliance through the change…"
"That gives us a gateway to make changes of our own," Arthur finished. "It's brilliant. But you'll take the worst of the brunt for it. Are you prepared?"
"It's worth facing opposition to be fair to all our citizens," Edgar answered. He looked straight at Merlin. "No one should have to live in fear."
Merlin actually felt dizzy. This…this was huge. This was monumental. It was just about everything he had dared hope for.
"You all right?" Arthur asked softly.
Merlin came to his senses again and nodded shortly. "Yes. Just…a little overwhelmed. Arthur—may I take a moment, Sire?"
Arthur frowned. "Of course."
Merlin bowed to Mithian and Edgar respectfully, then carefully retreated, setting his wine jug down on a table as he exited.
He slowly migrated away from the crowd. After some time, he found himself in a courtyard garden. Pretty much everyone in the castle was involved in the festivities—whether they were attending or serving, so it didn't surprise him to find this place empty.
He sat down hard on one of the stone benches, watching the small fish swim through the pond at his feet. It helped sooth the turmoil inside him.
Free. He was free. Or at least, he would be. But Arthur knew. That was enough freedom to last him a lifetime, as far as he was concerned.
Yet still, his heart was heavy. There were things Arthur still didn't know. And until he did, Merlin was hesitant to let himself believe all this until he knew for sure. But how could he tell him?
Two weeks had passed since Kinsley had been expelled from Arthur's mind. Two weeks since Merlin's mad dash through the castle and the hasty conversation he and Arthur had to restore some sort of a functioning relationship. In that time, they still hadn't really talked. Arthur had been busy sorting through the political mess Kinsley had caused with his plot, and Merlin had—in all honesty—been busy hiding. Too afraid that this hope would lead to nothing when everything at last came out.
"You know, if you keep running off to sulk by yourself, people are going to start worrying about your mental health." Merlin jumped and spun around. His heart skipped a beat when he saw Arthur standing there, arms folded stubbornly across his chest. "Granted, I've been wondering about your mental health since we first met."
Merlin shook his head and turned back around, staring at the fish again.
"What's wrong, Merlin?" Arthur asked softly. "Aren't you happy?"
"Elated," Merlin confirmed.
"So what's the problem?"
"I feel like I'm lying to you," Merlin said before he could stop himself. He'd run away from this conversation long enough. "There's so much you don't know. If you did…you'd never—" but he couldn't say it. Couldn't voice his fear.
"Never make these changes?" Arthur guessed. "Never accept you? Never forgive you?"
"Then tell me," Arthur said, coming around to stand in front of Merlin. "While you've been busy avoiding me these last two weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking. And I'll tell you something, some of it I've figured out already."
"Not these things." There was no way. If he had…
Merlin's eyes snapped, wide as plates. Arthur just stood there, staring at him resolutely with a quizzical eyebrow raised.
"First time 'Dragoon' showed up," Arthur held up his finger, "was supposedly because he enchanted me and Guinevere to fall in love with each other. Which obviously was not true." Merlin was speechless. "Clearly, you framed yourself to save her. I should thank you for that, by the way."
"Killed my father? Hardly." He hesitated. "Although I confess, I had thought that for a time, until Gaius set me straight. You tried to save him, didn't you?"
Tears silently slid from Merlin's eyes. "I swear," he whispered, "I swear I tried."
Arthur sat next to him. It was easier to stare at the fish than Merlin when he was crying.
"Merlin," he said slowly. "I killed Annis's husband. I gave up on Guinevere—multiple times. I let Agravaine andMorgana both get way too close to the throne. I even almost killed my father—you stopped me."
Merlin was silent for a long moment. "Why are you telling me all this? I already know."
"Because you seem to be under the delusion that you're the only one who's made mistakes."
Arthur still didn't look at him, but he saw out of the corner of his eye Merlin raise a hand to his face. His shaking revealed that he was probably crying much harder now, though he managed to remain silent. Arthur fidgeted uncomfortably.
"Whatever's happened, you're not going to scare me off. Or change my mind. You don't have to be afraid anymore."
Finally, Merlin sniffed and wiped his face. Glad that Arthur still wasn't looking at him. "Very well. What would you like to know?"
A/N: Tada! This fic is officially complete. I hope you enjoyed it! Again, I'm really sorry for how long it took me to update this final chapter. I thought I had done it ages ago, but apparently I was hugely mistaken.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Please leave a review and let me know what you think. I love hearing from you all.