Activity around the strange building had increased as time went by. Voices were heard outside, hushed whispers, anger lacing the tones. The group hid, as only they could, finding a stack of cases and shelves, laden with books and various objects, to the side of the main room- they daren't venture further. As they had time to look around, they saw a pathetic excuse of a bed, an old, thin mattress with some measly blankets on the far right hand side by the wall. There was a bucket with some odd things laid close by, a brush being the only thing they could name. A cupboard with a half hanging door was towards the back of the large room but the voices had stopped them in their tracks as they'd made to investigate, so the objects inside were unknown, though it looked like food products, though not anything they knew of.
As they squatted behind the bookcases the voices quietened too, making them all worry they'd alerted them to their presence. Only the rain created sound in the anxious silence, an occasional crack of thunder in the distance. It was moments later the one door they could see to the outside world opened and closed in quick succession, a warm breeze blowing brown and orange leaves across the dusty floor. Each member of Camelot found a gap in their chosen shelf to peer out, still cleverly hidden though, so not to alert the newcomer. The person was huddled up, though even under the roof it was warm, which made them all question who would wrap themselves up so conspicuously in this heat. They had dark trousers made from an odd material that gripped to the person's legs, from both being wet from the rain and tight in the first place, and said legs ended with large boot-like shoes on the feet. The many layers of top clothing made it hard to figure anything but the top layer out, an oversized coat, sweeping to just below their backside, but there was evidence of some sort of undergarment that hooded the figure's face and head. A scarf decorated the neck and top part of the jacket, though this was a long one, wrapped a number of times and knitted, unlike the ones they were used to seeing on their old friend's neck. And on the hands were some half hearted gloves, ones they all questioned as to their purpose. They covered the hands yet not the fingers. The long, slender fingers protruding from them were slightly red, maybe from the rain, and fumbled with keys to lock the door behind them.
"Can anyone see their face?" Gwaine whispered. Everybody shook their heads, the man- obviously a man now- was huddled up very well indeed, if he were hiding, he was doing it right.
No-body moved, they didn't know who the hell this person was, and it wasn't exactly like they could jump out and explain their situation. "Well, we're from a thousand years ago, Camelot. I'm King Arthur..." It would get them killed again, or some embarrassingly funny looks. The person walked toward a bench, throwing the gloves to the side. They didn't seem dangerous, if anyone were to guess they were homeless or hiding, it almost rang bells in the knights' heads to protect.
All thoughts were cast aside when a side door was thrown open, two large men strolling in, eyes immediately boring into the man before them.
"Got the money yet git!?" The larger of the two shouted, his head raising in a threat.
The smaller man turned and scurried backward, his body suddenly finding the wall near his bed. "Some of it."
"Some of it?" He exclaimed, looking to his partner. "Some of it?" He repeated.
"A month's worth."
"One month!? You owe me 3 you little fucking shit."
"I gave you 4 months worth 2 months ago." The voice rang bells in everybody's minds, though with the heat of the situation no-one acted on the recognition, not even picking up on it.
"I raised it a couple o' quid, so 4 months is only 2 months worth na. And you owe me some from earlier this year I seem to fink." The man's accent was extremely strange, like he couldn't accentuate very well. Maybe this was the change in times now?
"I don't have anything. And you gave me no warning..."
"No warning!? This is my fucking warehouse, you pay me, I own you, I don't need to give no warnin' mate. Now what ya gonna give me instead?"
"Nothing, I don't have anything else."
"I saw him drop sommink over there Gaz, tryna hide it I think." The second man finally spoke, and seemed to have the same affliction with speech as the other. He powered forward, walking over to their victim, his buddy following shortly after.
It was a blur as they reached the hooded figure, one man pulling him away from the wall, punching him in the gut and holding him in place as he sank to the floor on his knees. "Find it then." He said as he held the struggling man by the shoulders. "What ya got?" He whispered, teasing the man.
"Nothing. It was just a fucking slice of gammon I bought for tea. Jeez, think Harry needs his eyes checking. Unless you want to steal that, won't get much for it, it's already a day out of date, that's why I got it so cheap." The man was rambling, trying to pull the men off their search.
His reward was a kick to the back, forcing him to the ground. 'Gaz' kicked him again in the chest, spit flying from his mouth as he swore against the 'little shit' lying to him. 'Harry' continued his search of the bedding, turning and smirking as he saw the beating taking place.
"Who the fuck do you think you are? Coming here, being all suspicious, telling me you just need somewhere to get away from your past. You weird little..."
He stopped when Harry announced he'd found something. "Ahh, let's see what's so important to hide from us then shall we." He picked the man up, pulling him to his knees. The hood, miraculously, was still in place, but blood spat from the strangers mouth as he breathed out in obvious pain.
"What the hell is that?" Gaz asked as he looked at the object in Harry's hand.
"Looks like...a big ass medal or sommink."
"Gis' it 'ere." He snatched the object from Harry's grasp, yet still held onto the fabric of the kneeling man's clothes- he wasn't going anywhere fast. "Huh!? Got some decoration on it. Strange looking thing. Bloody heavy though." He weighed the round disk in his hand, bouncing it in his palm to gauge the weight.
"Bet we get a good amount from melting it down. Whatever the metal it's worth some."
"Or if it's some old artefact the boring historians will pay us tons for it."
"It's nothing like that. Just something I had made years ago. But worth nothing, believe me, it's just fucking metal, same stuff the roof's made from...not even lead or silver, your basic metal..."
"I'll tell ya if it's worth anything alright!? Like I'm gonna believe a word that comes from your snotty little mouth." Gaz looked up to Harry then. "Go get the machine. Let's see what we'll get."
Harry raced out into the rain, the door banging on the wall with his strength. It didn't take long for him to return with a pretty large machine, though he still carried the bulk in his arms. The two of them weighed it, did some other things shielded from everybody else by their large bodies before looking to one another smiling.
"You like this?" Gaz asked, gesturing to the strange machine. "Made it ourselves. Bet you thought we were too stupid to do such a thing."
"Well you said it." It was pretty obvious the words were muttered and not expected to be heard, but a sudden lull in the rain meant they carried across the room quite well. It earned a knee to the side of the head, visibly dazing the man.
"It weighs things, then we can melt stuff down wherever we are, don't have to pay no other gits to melt stuff for us. They're always wantin' a cut, greedy bastards. All we have to do is light it and in minutes we got melted metal." As if on cue the burner whirred to life, smoke rising from flumes and holes to the top.
"No. Please. Don't." The knelt down figure pleaded, he was starting to struggle again against the restraint.
"Must be important. What is it? Tell me and I might give ya it back." Gaz teased.
"A gift. A gift from a friend. They died. It's worth nothing, not to you. Please. I'll go, I'll leave. I'll find somewhere else and send you what I owe."
"As glad as I'd be to see the back o' ya, I don't trust you'll send me noffink. You're staying put 'til I got all my money. But aww, a little gift from a dead friend." He bent down slightly, patting the smaller man's shoulders almost sympathetically before smirking towards Harry. "Harry my friend, melt it down."
The thinner of the two large men dropped the disk into the metal plate above the fire that was already sizzling away from the heat, laughing as he did. As soon as the metal touched down the hooded man screamed, a vicious, yet sorrowful sound that seemed to reverberate around the entire warehouse. An invisible wave travelled with the scream, throwing the two men far away from the miniature furnace. The blast knocked a few books from the cases the group were hid behind, but they remained hidden, not that anybody was paying them the slightest bit of attention. Collectively they watched as the shaggy dark head of the young man, now no longer hidden under his hood, raced towards the machine. Without thought he reached out, grasping the disk in his hands and pulling it free. It had only been in a matter of seconds but already the red of the heat could be seen emanating from it. The slender fingers danced around the object, bouncing it from one hand to the other, a small hissing emitted each time it came into contact with bear skin. The young man made pained noises, shaking his hands once he'd dropped the thing onto the floor before him. For a while the men were forgotten, all focus- from everybody- was on the disk. From their viewpoint the group got their first real look of the boy, for he was not much more than that, though even now his back was to them. The hair was messed, and in need of trimming, curls breaking out at the bottoms, near his neck and over his ears. It didn't look wrong on him, but definitely gave him a more rugged look- from what they could see. Though this was all that could be seen, for the locks hid any other profile views, including his ears. Arthur's mind had perked up though, as for one split second he caught sight of the disk, and he recognised it immediately. His mother's sigil.
Heck, now he looked, the body, the figure, the legs that went on for miles...
"You little shit! You...you freak!" Harry screamed from across the room, he looked as if he wanted to approach but was slightly worried.
"Nah, it must have been...the storm. The storm's right overhead now Harry." And it was, the thunder shook the building and lightning lit up the world every few seconds. "This tin can's gonna attract it ain't it...the lightning must have..." Gaz trailed off, looking worriedly at the third man, because even in his heart he knew the bullshit excuse he was trying to come up with.
"Yeah, that's what it was. A strike threw you. I've noticed before in storms this place is dangerous as hell...electricity everywhere. Lucky it just took you off balance and nothing more." The voice was sturdy but there was definitely a slight waver as they pushed to persuade his pursuers of what had, or had not, just happened. "Not only that, there's shards of metal all over this floor from when the factory was in use..."
"Nah Gaz, it was him, I saw his eyes glow." A shaking finger pointed from Harry to the still hunched figure.
"Freak." Gaz gave no warning, he'd made up his mind either way, whether it was over the money problems or the 'lightning' situation, he raced forward, picking up an abandoned length of wood. The makeshift weapon was raised high over his head, ready to strike down the blow the moment he was within distance. Although he screamed in fury and rage, there was fear glistening in his eyes as the lightning lit them up, it was as if he knew he was running into danger, but did it anyway.
"Gaz no...wait..." Harry's scuffling made the kneeled person turn, for his running footsteps joined the echoing sounds of the warehouse now. He too had no idea what he was doing, but he ran forward anyway, a pen knife appearing from his pocket and pointed out in front of him.
Two men. Two men carrying weapons. Coming from the front and the back. One distracting him from the other.
Arthur, the Knights, even Morgana tensed as if to rush out, forget any reservations or worries they had, they were the brave royals of Camelot, they could not stand by and let an innocent man be killed. But the fear, or the left over shock of waking in this strange place gripped them to their spots, their feet not moving an inch, like in a dream or nightmare. Before their eyes they saw Harry get thrown back once again, the knife skittering along the floor as he landed with an 'oomf' not to move again.
Gaz on the other hand was luckier, the distraction proving enough. The length of wood came down, a crack sounding as it connected with the side of the intended recipients face. The black haired man was thrown sideways to the ground, the force whipping his head to the side and spraying blood out before him.
"What the fuck? You fucking Harry Potter!? I'm on bloody drugs. you've drugged me or sommat haven't ya! Well not now, you piece of shit..." He got no further. The moment the wood came down Arthur had been pulled from his reverie, making his way towards the man. As Gaz turned to smash the wood down again, he was stopped by a sword coming between the plank and man, stopping it mid swing.
"I suggest you leave him alone."
As Gaz turned he saw the proud, blond head of a knight in full armour, his cloak the brightest red and bearing a gold dragon stitched lovingly onto the shoulder. His chainmail shone like it had been freshly polished as did the sword which he knew to be real as it had embedded its way into the wood he still held. In the man's sky blue eyes he saw anger, determination and a sense that he would stop at nothing to prevent this...even pushing the weapon through his gut.
"Yeah...yeah mate, course..."
"Gary..." The slurred tone came from across the room where Harry was beginning to stir. "Was'appnin'?"
"We're going mate. It's all alright, I was thinkin' o' givin' this place up anyway...too much to look after...it's yours, or his...whatever, stay here if ya like, I don't mind. Come on Harry, let's leave these freaks to it." There was genuine fear in his voice, he pleaded to the knight in front of him, giving up the building in place of his life.
Before Harry could even get to his feet Gary was out of the door, rushing out into the rain and thunder. The second man followed swiftly after, glancing down at their ex tenant who was sat awkwardly looking at the events unfold, his black curls hiding half of his bloodied face. As their eyes locked, Harry sped up, diverting his eyes and following his partner out of the door. They heard the sound of an engine and gravel as they sped away leaving the group alone in the warehouse. As if some sign, the thunder died down, the lightning stopped flashing and the rain fell to become a slight patter on the tin roof, now a gentle shower.
"Ar...Arthur?" The voice was so small and pained Arthur had trouble believing it had come from the mouth of the man on the floor. "God he must have hit me good if I'm seeing you. Think the last time I saw you was when I took a bullet in the war."
The King knelt down, so quickly but so gently, like the laying down of a blanket. "No. It's me. I'm here. I do not know how, or why, but I'm here."
"Can't be you...you wouldn't know modern English. 'Ts my head playing tricks, it likes to do that sometimes..." It seemed as if he would continue rambling but Arthur chose to place his hand on the man's clasped ones. The raw hands now held the cooler sigil between both palms, grasping it in hope, or as some sort of lifeline.
"You kept it all these years?" That was when the head rose, it rose so quickly that a spike of pain registered on the face. Blue eyes bored into Arthur's, tears already making tracks down his face. Although Arthur had long ago figured out who had stood before them it was only now a gasp left his own throat. There he was. The same pale face, the same sharp bone structure, the pain hidden behind the bright eyes full of wonder.
He nodded. "I'm here Merlin."
His throat closed up, as did his friends', the tears choking them in their happiness and sorrow. Arthur had not known it was even possible to feel both at once, but it was. It was a strange sensation, he wanted to throw his arms around the man, laugh, smile, mess his hair as he'd once done, but he also wanted to take him in his arms and cry until there was nothing else left to feel. He couldn't vouch for Merlin, but a thousand years of thinking everything over had made a home in his heart, a home for the regrets, the confusion, the uncertainty. But most of all for the guilt. He had watched as his friend pulled himself apart for what had happened. He had watched as he fell into ruin from his own demons. He had had time to think over all his own mistakes, towards Merlin, towards Camelot, Morgana...everything. He realised the enormity of what had lied on Gaius' shoulders, on Merlin's mother's. He quickly learnt only Lancelot had known of Merlin's abilities but he thought over all the possibilities of what could have happened had his knights known, about their split loyalties, their devotion to both himself and Merlin. He had never known a heart could feel so much for so many people. Did Merlin feel this too?
As he came back to the present, he felt the hot tears soaking onto his neck, he felt the wracking of the body beside his and the grip of the hands on his back, even through his armour.
"Merlin. Come now, shh, it's ok."
The words must have struck something in the man for he sobered up, once again kneeling on his knees, his eyes still damp but no longer shedding fresh tears.
"Here I am wallowing and I should be making sure you're ok. I'm meant to keep you safe afterall..."
"No Merlin, I think we're meant to keep each other safe. Let's look at your face, you look ugly."
A laugh escaped the younger man then. "Ha! Charming."
"I'd actually say it's a slight improvement though..." There was a shove on his right shoulder as Merlin hit him. "Now, what the heck is this place? Where am I? And what are you wearing."
Before any more could be said there was shuffling behind them and for a moment even Arthur placed a hand on his sword, forgetting completely there was anyone else with them. Once the red of another cloak blew into view though it all came rushing back.
"Oh, did I forget to mention I wasn't alone?" Merlin's head whipped round to look at him again, this time in utter shock.
"I never thought they would return too..." He was breathless, all his friends returning, all the ones he'd had to say goodbye to.
"Hey mate, looking a bit worse for wear. Can't see your pretty face behind all this hair and blood." Gwaine! Of course Gwaine was the first to emerge and come forward, his arms wide open as an invitation. Merlin ran into them without a moments hesitation.
As Arthur looked on, he saw his friend work his way around all of their friends, and finally to Gaius. As his arms wound around his mentor his knees buckled, as did the old man's and they sat in one another's embrace for many minutes. They were left alone, this wasn't just friends being reunited this was mentor and ward, father and son.
The only person to hold back was Morgana, she lurked around the bookcases and looked on with anxious eyes. Arthur could see his old sister back, she was there, still defiant and brave, but also very virtuous and juvenile. She remembered. She could remember it all, just as they all could, and she too had had a thousand years to see the error of her ways. This wasn't the Morgana he had watched die, this was the Morgana he had lost all those years ago, when Morgause had poisoned their land. Slowly he walked towards her.
"You know he always wanted to save you. One of his biggest regrets was you." He said in a way a brother should, lovingly and honest.
"I do. I saw it all."
"Then go to him."
"Are you mad? I had you killed. I killed people he cared for, I tried to kill him...I was a monster Arthur." Some of the venom came back, but it was no longer aimed toward him.
"He always wanted to save you." He repeated. "Talk to him."
The two Pendragon's looked toward their friend who now sat on the edge of a bench as Gaius tended to his wounds as best he could. Arthur gave his sister a final look before returning to the pair.
"How's it looking. Will his face come out alright from this?"
"Shut up you." Merlin jibed back, the smile undoing some of Gaius' work as fresh blood seeped from a cut on his face.
"Look at the mess of this place. And my armour was all clean until you wiped your bloody face on it. I think you need to clean it Merlin."
"Can't." The boy joked, holding up his makeshift wrapped hands of cloth. "My hands are out of order for a while."
"Well that's because you're an idiot and pick up burning hot metal." His shoulder bumped his friend, but all he got in response was a glare from Gaius as he tried to work on Merlin's face.
"Sorry. I'll just let your precious sigil melt down next time shall I!?" It was a jest but they all knew Merlin would never allow that to happen.
Arthur sobered then. "Why keep it?"
"Come on sire, thought you were at least a bit cleverer than that." The wide smile hid the pain threatening to show on his face, but it soon vanished. "It was the only thing I had left to hold onto of you. Of Camelot."
Arthur knew it was wrong to get more from Merlin, so he let the subject drop, they were all already suffering, there needn't be anymore quite yet. "Morgana's...Morgana again by the way. At least I think she is."
Both sets of blue eyes looked up to the long locks of the priestess. "Yeah, I was told she may be different when she once again walked the earth. Never could bring myself to believe it, I didn't want to get my hopes up."
"Are you going to speak with her?"
"Of course. Plus I need distractions, I'm not allowed to sleep." He nodded towards Gaius, his eyebrows carrying the sarcasm he could not say out loud.
The old man got the gist though. "Concussions are very dangerous things Merlin, we know this. They are not to be joked about."
"Yes, but Gaius, remember who I am." It was the first hint of smugness he had ever heard from the boy, especially regarding his abilities, it even surprised Merlin, who backtracked rather quickly. "I, I mean...that sounded bad, I mean, it's hard for me to...for anything bad to happen so...oh, are you finished? Right, well, I best go and..." He rushed off, leaving Arthur and Gaius to exchange a double dosing of eye rolls and fond smiles.
"Merlin. Get back here." Racing after his friend wasn't hard when his movements were slowed by the concussion. "I just, I just want to say thank you. I said it before but...now I say it to you because you never lost hope. It got hard, I watched you and I am truly sorry. But through it all you waited and you hoped. All those years ago you looked after me but know that we are here for you now. All the pain you went through, the suffering...a burden shared is a burden halved. You are no longer alone Merlin."
The final sentence broke the walls, the walls Arthur had learnt to find on the sorcerer, that shielded him from the pain of his destiny, of the thousand years. He found himself once again wrapping his cloaked arms around Merlin, eyes drowning in tears. He couldn't find it in himself to joke now, to tease his friend as he had so many times in the past. They all needed each other, there was so much to discuss, to explain, not even beginning on how to cope in this new world.
It was a new beginning, as had always been predicted. Maybe Albion didn't need Arthur as King, to rule and banish it of evil. Maybe Merlin was Albion, the human representation of the home they'd once known, and maybe he needed him most now, to fix the wounds of years of guilt. He didn't blame Merlin, he never had, not once, for he understood that all that had happened was foretold and as powerful as his friend was he could not have stopped it. Morgana was meant to hold him back, take him away from Camlaan. Mordred was meant to defect, betray, to kill. And Arthur was meant to die.
"For Albion." He muttered into Merlin's hair.
"For Albion." His people echoed, for they too knew it was their turn to be there for Merlin.
I need you. He had earlier thought, but no, he was very much mistaken.
It is he who needs me now.
Yes, I didn't bring everybody back, but the main people in Merlin and Arthur's story. If I were to carry this on (I doubt it but hypothetically) I would add other characters, ie Mordred, Balinor and Hunith, to the outside world for Merlin to find later on.
The accents of the thugs are based off Essex (mainly Tom Hardy's in Peaky Blinders and the new Legend movie) but as I'm further North I may not have got it quite spot on. And before anybody comments, Arthur's opinions on the accent aren't mine, ("like he couldn't accentuate very well"..."the same affliction with speech") but imagine coming from a well enunciated era of Old English to suddenly hearing that, or any modern accent/language.
Any other questions feel free to ask. Hope you enjoyed, even if it is me just rambling to get a little idea out of my head.