Disclaimer:I do not own Merlin, but if I did. . . I'd have some crazy fun.

A/N:Hey everyone! Hope you're all well, this is a fic I wrote a few weeks ago, that I've only had enough time to read through today! I'm currently enjoying the back end of my Freshers' Week so I haven't had enough time for fic-writing sadly! The only marked difference between this and therealseries3 is that Morgana's not bad ass. She's there but she's not crazy-evil like she is in the show now. Anyway, this story's a seven chapter jobby, kind of an alternative S3 fic! There is a twist to this reveal story that will soon become apparent . . . ;) I hope you enjoy and please review.

EDITED 23/12/10: If you find the story too confusing to read the way it's structured, read it from the last chapter and work your way back to here. :)


Keepsake

Chapter 1

He walked slowly, retracing his steps, his azure eyes shining with burning hope as he looked at the murky water. There, floating on the surface, was his red neckerchief.

Merlin's felt his whole body tense and then relax with unbridled relief and glee. He carefully reached into the water, the sodden scrap in his hands.

He felt the water evaporate, the thicker dampness seemingly woven into the thread of the material itself still present. His heart beat a taboo against his rib cage.

Before he had time to think, his legs took off and he begun to run to Arthur.

"Arthur! Arthur!" he shouted as he burst into his master's chambers. He soon ground to a halt though, biting as lip as he swung the door open; the room was dark, the only light was coming from the dying fire; the blonde was sleeping softly.

He crept silently across the floor- he'd had enough practice since living in Camelot- and he stood beside Arthur's bed with his neckerchief scrunched in his hand. He shoved thoughts around his head like books off a shelf- what was he supposed to do with it?

A thought struck him like a pinch, and he quietly tucked the scrap of material under the prince's pillow- said prince muffling and rolling over uneasily when his pillow was slightly moved.

The boy moved back across the room, as quietly as he could adding more wood to the fire, and then seating himself down on a chair, his fingers dancing against the wood of his table as he waited. . . waited. . .

Now, what's the first thing you can remember?

Right now, you must listen to me and do exactly as I tell you.

You never say thank you, Arthur, even to me.

It is not just you I seek Arthur Pendragon. Your servant is much a part of this as you are.

Don't worry, she's safe.

Today will be a moment that will start to truly define you.

Merlin, you're always late.

Arthur felt himself jolt awake, his shirt glued to his ribs and his hair stuck to his forehead. He felt dizzy, like a hundred memories and feelings all colliding in his body at once. He let out a shuddering breath.

Arthur felt the world come into focus a little, dream and reality overlapping and then sliding apart. . . and then overlapping again. . . he couldn't get his head straight.

He shut his eyes, breathing through his nose and thought. . .

He remembered his father. . .

He remembered Morgana. . .

He remembered Gwen. . .

Waking up in a forest. . . the battle. . . Merlin.

The prince's eyes widened, everything slotting into place. War. Camelot. Merlin.

He felt his heart punch against his chest. It wasn't a dream.

Merlin.

He heard a sleepy snuffle, and he jerked his head to one side, his breath hiding in his lungs. Arthur squinted through the darkness, seeing his manservant sleeping on a chair. . . his head resting on his arm and in turn his arm resting on the table. He looked so innocent.

He felt his breath slowly escape between his lips, his mind a whirl as he examined the dark haired boy. He thought it would scare him, knowing what he could do, although he could scarcely believe it. Merlin had used magic twice in front of him; he remembered it now. The golden flash, the voice in his head. . . he hadn't looked real. He'd saved them all.

The prince felt his whole world steadily crash around him- everything he'd ever been taught reduced to dust- his father had told him stories as a child of sorcerers so evil they would not stop at nothing to destroy Camelot, magicians painted in bloody reds and impenetrable blacks. All the years his father had taught him how sorcery corrupted your very self. . . he knew from Merlin alone that it wasn't true. He had been looking at the whole affair wrong; he'd been looking through the broken eyes of his father. Magic could be a masterpiece, how could he think otherwise now after what he had seen? Merlin painting the world in golds and blues.

He heard his manservant stir, moaning as he pinched an ache in his neck from sleeping at an odd angle, he arched his back, his eyes were drowsy and his hair sleep mussed. Arthur kept quite still, watching Merlin's eyes search through the near darkness. Their eyes met, and his facial expression changing to one of complete panic when he saw the blonde's misty blue eyes staring back at him.

"Arthur?" he said quietly, steadily making his way towards the blonde's beside; the prince could hear the anxiety in the boy's voice.

"It's me. The one and only." he replied, quirking a smile.

He saw a grin crack across Merlin's face, he looked happy, overjoyed even. And before the Prince had time to react, the boy had bounded over and pulled him into a tight hug.

As if realising what he was doing, Merlin started to pull away, only to find Arthur folding one arm round his shoulder and the other his side and patting him manfully, "You are my best friend, you know?" Arthur murmured; he felt like he'd broken down a barrier, and Merlin could feel his heart smiling. After a few silent moments, it ended.

"So. . .erm. . . what can you remember?" Merlin mumbled. His ears were pinker and there was an edge of fear tinted in his voice.

"You're not thinking that after I just hugged you I'm going to get you killed, are you?"

Merlin opened his mouth, but it fell close again, "I. . . "

Arthur rolled his eyes good naturedly, although he felt more hurt than he expected- he looked away, "Of course you did."

Silence ate away at the air, Merlin's voice breaking its feast.

"I'm sorry I never told you. I regret that the most. I missed so many opportunities. . . I was going to. . . the morning we left, but I bottled it. Again."

Arthur met his eyes again, the oceanic brilliance there only just concealing the gold that swirled in their depths.

Merlin's expression was pained, "I didn't know what you'd think. . . I just want you to know, I was born like this. . . I can't do anything about it-"

"Merlin. . . it doesn't matter." Arthur spoke levelly.

Merlin looked stunned, a pause, "What?"

"You heard me." the prince said, his crooked teeth displayed in a half smile, "You saved us all Merlin. . . more times than I'm probably aware of."

Merlin looked at his feet sheepishly. He wasn't used to this.

"Will the knights tell Uther?" Merlin whispered, his hands clasped nervously in front of him.

"They won't. The ones who survived are far more loyal to me than to my father. They'll do what I tell them to."

Merlin let out a breath, his hand running through his scruffy hair.

In some ways Arthur didn't want to know, but his curiosity was burning away at him like a giddy child, "Exactly how powerful are you Merlin?"

The boy's eyes glittered mischievously, holding eye contact with the prince as the blonde watched in the corner of his vision as furniture raised up around him, dancing in the air; Merlin's eyes blazing gold yet not a word leaving his lips.

Arthur felt his heart freeze in his chest. It was incredible. Merlin was incredible. He couldn't believe it. He wanted to see everything he could do.

The prince watched the flames swirling in the fireplace, Merlin lost in his magic, "Also, I didn't know you were mates with a dragon?" Arthur smirked, added as an after thought.

Merlin's happiness was momentarily wiped off his face, chairs slamming back down on the floor. "Ah. About that. . ."

"I'm guessing I didn't land the 'mortal blow'?"

"Not quite. . ."

Arthur and Merlin held each other's gaze, before bursting out laughing, a strange sort of relief running through both their blood streams.

"Would it be ok if I had my neckerchief back now? It's under your pillow."

Arthur gave Merlin a strange look, like a bemused cat looking at a spot of moving light as he put his hand underneath the squishy white lump and pulled out the scrap of material, passing it to Merlin, "Why, Merlin, is your neckerchief in my bed?"

"I told you this before, it was meant to help you. And it did." Merlin beamed.

"Are you telling me that that thing gave me my life back?" Arthur exclaimed.

Merlin chuckled, "Sort of, not this alone, but as I said . . . it helped. A keepsake."

"What else did you use?" Arthur asked, as Merlin wandered to the other side of the room and nonchalantly started tidying up.

"Don't ask, I won't tell you."

"You said that last time!" Arthur cried, shaking his head disbelievingly, "What are you doing anyway?"

"Sorting your mess out! I'll only have to do it tomorrow otherwise."

"You should go get some sleep. It's the middle of the night."

"That would be nice." Merlin smiled, contemplating, stretching his arms at the thought.

"Bring me my breakfast on time would you though tomorrow? On time?"

He was half way out the door, but he turned round at the last minute, "I'm never late!" his manservant cried out in mock protest.

Arthur grinned at his manservant, his eyes glinting happily in his misty blues eyes; some things will never change, he thought contently to himself, "Merlin, you're alwayslate!"


A/N:Hope you enjoyed the first chapter, tune in soon for the second! ;) xxx