Disclaimer: Merlin still does not belong to me.
So here it is - the final chapter. :) I'd like to dedicate this to all my regular reviewers, thanks for sticking with me and this. You guys know who you are. :P I'd also like to thank all the reviewers, favouriters and those who subscribed. You guys are fantastic! And if you haven't reviewed yet, I'd really love to hear what you thought of this. :)
Anyway I do hope you all enjoy this chapter. I've done a few scenes here as I wanted to include both the depression at the beginning of the episode and the contentment at the end. Sorry if it's a bit disjointed. I think I'm most happy with the end part of this (even if it is a bit cheesy-pie).
Finally - if I get enough support I may continue with a sequel for Season 4. Because we all know the slashy scenes will probably continue then and I have enjoyed writing this. :P Enjoy!
Keep The Relationship Secret - Episode XIII
Merlin watched Arthur from the opposite side of the cave and tried to stop his heart from breaking. His prince had never looked so without hope and so deeply depressed. There had been no consoling him after Morgana's betrayal, Uther's dethroning and the hostile takeover of Camelot. Nothing Merlin could say would help him. And that pained Merlin more than he could let on. He couldn't even begin to describe how much it hurt to see Arthur this way.
It therefore came as a great relief when Arthur seemed to snap out of his black-pit despair.
"Having a little lie down, Merlin?" Arthur said, startling Merlin as he came up behind him.
"No." Merlin turned to look at his prince, taking in every aspect of his appearance.
"Good, because the time for sleeping is over."
"You seem better," Merlin said with a smile.
"You're hopeless at a lot of things, Merlin," Arthur said, the fondness in his voice contrasting his words. "Most things in fact, but occasionally, quite by accident, you say something useful."
"Yesterday, amongst all your gibberish, you said something that... if I didn't know you, I would be completely fooled into thinking you were..."
"What?" Merlin questioned, having an idea what was coming.
"...wise," Arthur finished, proving Merlin right. This was the second time Merlin's supposed wisdom had been mentioned and Merlin gave a curious frown as though he didn't quite believe what Arthur had said. The prince looked as though he was about to say something further, but there was a sudden shout from outside.
Sharing a glance they left together, not knowing what would meet them.
~ *XX* ~
It was only a few hours later that a group of nine sat around a large round table in the Castle of Ancient Kings. Merlin didn't try to hide how proud he was of them as they all willingly pledged their loyalty to Arthur.
Lancelot. Elyan. Leon. Gwaine. Percival. Gaius. Guinevere.
Merlin couldn't stop the smile from spreading across his face.
"Merlin?" Arthur said and Merlin's smile dropped slightly. Left to last, everyone's eyes turned to the gangly manservant seated at Arthur's right. Though not a true knight, everyone seemed to know he was Arthur's right hand man in every way.
"Nah, I don't really fancy it," Merlin said with mock seriousness.
"You don't have a choice, Merlin," Arthur retorted and for a moment their banter seemed to break the tension.
"Ok." Merlin stood and he and Arthur shared a grin and a nod that meant so much more than the others would have thought.
Time seemed to move at double speed from then on. Plans were formed and Merlin was more or less separated from Arthur before they had a proper chance to say goodbye. And it was that thought that kept both Arthur and Merlin fighting in those last few hours in Camelot.
They would see each other again. They had to.
~ *XX* ~
Two days later and prince and manservant sat on the steps together, more contented than they had been for the past few weeks. "Have you seen the state of these boots?" Arthur said, a hint of casualness to his usual demanding tone.
"Yeah," Merlin replied, matching Arthur's tone.
"Well go and get something to clean them."
"Why? They're your boots."
Arthur turned to look, disbelievingly at his manservant. "Have you lost your mind?"
"I thought you believed in equality?" Merlin countered.
"But at the round table you said-"
"Shut up, Merlin," Arthur cut him off, trying to stop from grinning. Beside him Merlin smiled and laughed lightly. Turning to look at him again, Arthur grinned before giving Merlin a friendly shove. They shared another grin, which was more flirtatious than what should have been between prince and manservant.
Merlin then turned away and Arthur looked out over the courtyard. Everything was slowly returning to normal. Morgana and Morgause hadn't been seen since that day and while it still hurt Arthur to think about how his sister had lied and betrayed him, with Merlin's help and the support of his knights he was pulling through.
"How's your father?" Merlin's voice was soft as he touched upon the delicate topic.
"I don't know," Arthur said truthfully grave. "All this... Morgana... it's hit him hard."
Merlin nodded in understanding. "Perhaps we're heading for a new time. You may need to take charge, become... become king."
"Who knows what the future will bring," Arthur replied and Merlin knew he was still slightly unwilling to become king. At least for now.
They shared a final look, before the sounds of hooves made them look away. The new knights of Camelot rode across the courtyard, led by Gwen who rode side by side with Lancelot.
"You've done well, Arthur," Merlin said suddenly, his voice almost breaking with how proud he was. Arthur turned to look at him again; his eyes taking in every beautiful feature of his Merlin.
"Perhaps we are heading for a new time," the prince said and he swung an arm around Merlin. The young warlock pulled a face and tried to shrug out of the embrace.
"They'll see," he said.
"I don't care," Arthur replied and they locked eyes once more.
"Arthur..." Merlin trailed off as the prince turned and brought his other hand up to caress his cheek. Arthur smiled as Merlin's eyes fluttered closed and he leaned into the embrace. It was a moment before Merlin remembered himself and he jumped slighted before edging away. "No. Not here. Keep the relationship secret, remember!"
Arthur chuckled. "Fine, but you're not getting out of this, Merlin."
Merlin returned the grin. "I wouldn't dream of it, sire."
And for a moment, as Arthur took Merlin's hand in his and they looked out towards the new knights, all seemed right in the world.