I realise that there is nothing I can say to really make up for the massive delay for this chapter and for that I'm sorry. I can't believe it's been over a month since I promised you this! Thank you all for waiting and especially those who sent me messages encouraging me to get this up. All I can say is that I've just started uni so everything has been majorly busy and I haven't really had time to get this done. I meant to have this completed before I went so I didn't leave you all hanging but packing kinda took over and so I didn't get a chance to.
Thank you to anyone still reading this and I really hope it is worth the wait. This is the final chapter so I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read this and to all you amazing people who have reviewed, I seriously think you are the best group of reviewers I have ever had! Your kind words have certainly helped me through a lot. Anyway I'll stop waffling now and let you get on to what you've been waiting for. Enjoy. x
Arthur and Merlin stood outside the gates of Camelot once again. However this time they weren't a lost boy and a runaway prince. Instead the King and his sorcerer stood proud and tall as they watched the people filing into the city for the annual celebrations. The ceremony for the lost Emrys had soon been replaced by a celebration of the day of his return and people gathered from far and wide to see the all-powerful Emrys and the Once and Future King.
Merlin tore his gaze away from the city to look at the man next to him. They had grown so much over the years but Merlin still saw the golden angel that had brought him here every time he looked at Arthur. Living in the tower Merlin had always felt like there was something missing, as if he didn't quite fit right into the life he was living. But now he was here, in Camelot with Arthur, that feeling had left and never returned.
Thinking back Merlin remembered the events that had brought them to where they are now. Remembered that fateful day in the tower when he thought he had lost Arthur forever and the events that had followed. To this day he wasn't entirely sure how they made it back to Camelot. Exhaustion had taken over as his body reacted to the vast amount of magic he had used. Killing Nimueh and bringing Arthur back had taken a lot out of him and an uncomfortable ache had settled in all his bones as his body tried to recharge.
Arthur hadn't been in a much better state. He had pushed his body to its limit during the journey he had made to try and get to Merlin on time. On top of that being brought back from the dead had come with a price. His muscles had screamed in protest every time he moved and his head had felt foggy for days.
However they managed to make it back to Camelot in one piece and the shocked looks that they were given as they walked through the town was tantamount to how little people had expected the prince to return. However, in true Pendragon style, Arthur had ignored all of this, steering Merlin through the crowds and informing a couple of his knights to fetch his father, Hunith and Balinor and direct them to the throne room.
A rush of excitement had flooded through Merlin as he had entered the city once again, this time not having to hide from anyone, however the moment Arthur led him into the castle it had faded away to be replaced with fear. His stomach clenched with nerves as he realised that this was it, he was about to meet his real family.
The fear had completely overwhelmed him as they eventually reached the throne room and he froze outside, unable to take the final step inside. Arthur had turned to look at him with a frown, completely oblivious to Merlin's internal turmoil.
"What if it's all a mistake?" Merlin had whispered softly, "What if I'm not really their son?"
"There is no mistake Merlin I promise you." Arthur tried to reassure him, "And anyway even if there was I'm not going to throw you out on the streets. Your life is here now, this is where you belong."
Merlin had stared up into Arthur's eyes; longing to believe what he said was true. He knew that Arthur was speaking the truth, that he wouldn't just abandon him, but deep down inside his insecurities were coming to the surface and he feared being left on his own.
However the look on Arthur's face had told him everything he needed to know and, even if it hadn't, Merlin felt he would probably follow Arthur to the end of the world if he asked him to. He had known that it didn't matter what happened in that room, his place was always by Arthur's side.
"Okay." He had replied, taking a deep breath, "I'm ready."
Arthur had smiled reassuringly before leading the way into the room. This hadn't managed to calm the butterflies in Merlin's stomach however and he followed the prince through the door with trepidation. He kept as close as he could behind Arthur, wanting to be able to reassure himself that the blonde was still there.
However as he entered the room he was distracted from his nerves by the vastness in front of him. The room was bigger than anything he had ever seen, the tall ceiling towered above him and the room seemed to stretch on forever. The ornate decorations hanging on the wall were so lavishly designed that Merlin wondered just how much they had cost. The high arching windows loomed over him as he walked forward, highlighting the magnificent view of Camelot through them.
So awed by his surrounding Merlin barely noticed the other people in the room. It wasn't until he heard movement at the other end of the room that the young warlock's attention turned to focus on the three figures stood by the throne.
Although Merlin had never met any of them before it wasn't hard for him to work out that the imposing figure on the left was Uther Pendragon, King of Camelot. Merlin could see the resemblances between him and Arthur as plain as day and knew that the prince took after his father much more than he realised.
However it was the other two figures that captured Merlin's attention. As his gaze settled on the woman in front of him all the air seemed to leave his body and he gasped as if he had just been punched in the stomach. For he recognised the woman instantly. She had continuously appeared in his dreams, though until this moment he had never remembered that whilst awake, and he instantly felt the connection drawing him to her.
The tall man next to her had his arm around her waist and staring at him felt so familiar to Merlin. Although there were notable differences between them, his colouring and build matched the woman's far more than this tall broad man, it was his own bright blue eyes that Merlin could see staring back at him from the face of this man. And suddenly he was transported back to the image he had seen in the tower. The couple in front of him were staring down to where he lay in a cot, smiling lovingly at him.
And any doubts that Merlin had had before now vanished. Deep down inside some primal connection was calling to him, telling him everything his mind had doubted before now. These were his parents, his real family.
A wave of fear crashed over him as he realised that they may not come to the same conclusion he had. Although he remembered them as they were when he was a child they had barely changed. Time had taken its toll, as it was prone to do, and they looked wearier and much more burdened than the carefree couple he remembered, however it was clear they were the same people. Yet he was no longer the cute little baby that they had lost. Eighteen years had passed since the day he was taken and he wondered if they would be able to tell who he was.
The woman looked up from where she had clearly been lost in thought and spotted the pair making their way towards them. A timid smile graced Merlin's features however her attention was entirely focused on Arthur. A relieved smile broke out across her face and she hurried towards him with a cry of delight.
The prince almost staggered backwards as the woman threw her arms around him, pulling him in for a tight hug. Merlin stopped and, as he watched the sight in front of him, he felt something clench tightly around his heart. He had never had anyone show that level of affection towards him. Although Nimueh had been kind to him she had never really been big on displays of affection and Merlin longed to have someone look that relieved that he was safe. Also another seed of doubt was inching its way into his mind. What if they didn't want him anymore? He could see that the woman clearly cared deeply for Arthur, what if she no longer cared for the son she had lost?
She had closed her eyes as she pulled Arthur into the hug, leaning her cheek against his. However now her eyes opened and she looked at Merlin over Arthur's shoulder for the first time. A small gasp of shock tore from her lips and her eyes widened as they landed on Merlin. She pulled back from Arthur's embrace, her eyes never leaving Merlin.
The young warlock could read the shock written all over her face but he didn't know what to do. His mind was working furiously as he tried, and failed, to work out what she was thinking. She took a hesitant step towards him as if she thought he would disappear if she made any sudden movements.
The word was barely a whisper but it seemed to echo around Merlin's head as she spoke. Anticipation filled the air around them as they stared at each other for what felt like an age. And suddenly a huge grin spilt across her face as she realised that she wasn't dreaming. Before Merlin could react she had flown towards him and wrapped her arms around him so tightly as if she was afraid he would vanish if she let him go.
"It's you, it's really you." She whispered softly in his ear.
"It is me, mother." Merlin replied instinctively as he wrapped his arms around her.
A million emotions seemed to be flooding through Merlin, overwhelming his senses and making him feel dizzy. Closing his eyes he lost himself in the moment, in this strange yet oddly familiar gesture. He felt wetness on his cheeks and knew that tears were pouring uncontrollably down them. He could hear the woman, his mother he corrected himself, whispering comforting words in his ear and the wetness soaking into his shirt told him that he wasn't the only one shedding tears.
After what felt like forever, yet not nearly long enough, she pulled back to clasp his face in her hands.
Hunith gazed at the son she had lost eighteen years ago, hardly believing that he was truly here. Yet there was no mistaking the dazzling blue of his eyes, a shade she had only ever seen on her husband and only child. The moment she had looked into his eyes she had felt, deep down inside her, that her child had found his way home. All these years she had carried around an ache inside of her that she knew would never go away, an ache for her child. But here he finally was, and suddenly that hole inside of her didn't feel quite so big.
"Oh my precious child you've come back, you're safe." She gasped through her tears, her smile never wavering.
Merlin's smile was just as big yet it faltered slightly as the tall man came to stand behind her. His face was impassive but Merlin could see the turmoil of emotions in his eyes. He placed his hand on his wife's shoulder and she turned to him, though still not releasing her hold on Merlin.
"I told you he would come back to us Balinor." She smiled through her tears.
And then Balinor was smiling too and another pair of arms wrapped themselves around mother and son. Merlin closed his eyes as he melted into his parents embrace and knew that he was well and truly home.
Arthur had moved to stand next to his father as the broken family were reunited. The pair watched as the three of them embraced. Arthur sneaked a look at his father whose eyes were focused on the embracing family.
"So you did find him." Uther spoke suddenly, however he gaze remained focused on the others.
"I did." Arthur confirmed, also looking back at them.
His gaze found Merlin, as it seemed to do a lot since he had met the boy, and the look of pure delight and contentment he saw on the young warlock's face caused a warm glow to settle in his stomach.
"I guess I owe you an apology." Uther's words brought Arthur's attention away from Merlin.
He had never really heard his father even offer to apologise and, although he probably did deserve an apology, it felt weird hearing it come out of his father's mouth.
"It's forgotten." Arthur replied.
The two of them had never been very big on displays of affection and he knew what his father was trying to say without the king needing to speak it aloud. However he was so distracted by his father's conversation that he didn't notice that Hunith had moved away from embracing her son until her arms were once more wrapped around him. He shot his father a startled look only to see him smiling back at him, clearly amused by Arthur's current situation.
"Thank you thank you thank you." Hunith chanted softly in his ear causing Arthur to turn his attention back to her.
Unsure what he was supposed to say to that Arthur patted her gently on the back until she had calmed enough to release him.
After that everything had become a flurry of motion. Merlin barely remembered what had happened next as everything seemed to go so fast. He was introduced to an endless stream of people that he had been sure he would never remember, shown around the castle to rooms that felt so familiar yet he couldn't find any recollection of them when he tried to place them. Gaius, the court physician, had told him that this was perfectly normal and that once he gained his bearings around the castle the strange feeling of Déjà vu would leave.
Eventually Merlin had felt the exhaustion of the past couple of day catching up with him and it was only the strong arms of his father that had kept him from collapsing where he was. Although he wasn't sure how he had gotten there, Merlin had been thankful to wake the next morning in bed with Arthur curled up next to him, one arm thrown possessively over his waist.
Thinking back, if he was honest, there wasn't really much of the next couple of weeks he remembered. Everything seemed to happen in a dazed shock and suddenly it felt like he had lived with his parents and Arthur in Camelot forever. The Le Fay sisters had been dealt with. Morgana had been banished from Camelot, though she and Arthur had parted on much friendlier terms than many had expected. There had been those that thought banishing her would only cause her to eventually return with an army to take over. However both Arthur and Merlin were fairly confident that there was no fear of this, that Morgana was truly sorry for what had happened.
Morgause however was a different matter. Once her betrayal of Camelot had come to light, countless of schemes of hers to destabilise Camelot had been revealed. Uther had no choice but to order her execution as they all knew that there was no way Morgause would stop her campaign whilst she was still alive. The day of her execution was one that Merlin had tried to erase from his mind ever since. There was to be no burning, just a simple beheading in front of a small crowd so there was no way Morgause could make a scene of it. Even then Merlin didn't like to remember the way she had called down hatred upon Camelot even as she had been led to her death. How the axe had swung high before landing with a sickening crunch that had silenced her forever.
However there was one event that stood out more vividly in his mind. It was the day after they had returned to Camelot and they were in Gaius' chambers as he examined both him and Arthur to make sure they hadn't suffered any lasting damage. Arthur had explained everything from his leaving the castle with the Le Fay sisters, till their return the day before with Merlin adding his own side to points. After they had both been given a clean bill of health Uther had asked Gaius about the curse the crystal was supposed to contain. Although Arthur had technically died in the tower he had been brought back so did that mean the curse was still in place?
Gaius hadn't known the answer however Balinor had known someone who would. And that was how they found themselves stood in a small clearing just outside the walls of Camelot waiting for the arrival of Balinor's friend. Merlin stood close of Arthur, Hunith on his other side, as they waited. Suddenly a gust of air blew through the clearing and a large dragon landed gracefully in front of them.
Merlin stared up at the creature in front of him in shock and awe. He had never seen anything like this creature and knew instantly that it was part of an old magic, much more complicated than anything he would ever know.
"I see the future dragonlord has returned." The dragon spoke, his voice echoing around the clearing and, surprisingly, inside Merlin's head, "How small you are young warlock for one with such a great future."
Merlin's brow furrowed in confusion at this but it was Balinor who spoke.
"We have come to seek your advice." He told the great creature.
"Of course you have." He replied rather smugly, "Only I see it is the young prince whom you worry for."
"We need to know about the curse, is Arthur still affected by it?" Balinor questioned, "Is he still doomed to death?"
"Everyone is doomed to die eventually." The dragon replied cryptically, "That is the fate of mortal souls."
"What is that even supposed to mean?" Merlin asked confused.
The dragon turned his attention from Balinor back to Merlin and the young warlock felt a trickle of fear run down his back and the full weight of his penetrating stare was focused upon him. However he held his ground and stared back at the dragon, determined to find out Arthur's fate.
"I'm afraid that is for you to work out young warlock, I cannot give you all the answers." The dragon replied calmly, "But with the great Emrys to watch over him the young prince's chances are better than most."
And with that the dragon had unfurled his wings and set off into the sky. They had all stood watching him disappear, each of them lost in their own thoughts.
"Is he always that annoyingly cryptic?" Merlin asked, breaking the silence.
He heard Arthur laugh next to him and leaned closer towards the blonde. Balinor smiled ruefully as he turned his gaze from the sky to his son.
"I'm afraid he is." He replied, "But you'll get plenty of practice at deciphering his riddles."
"So what did that one mean?" Arthur asked confused.
"It meant that curse or no curse we're all going to die; it just depends on who you have watching out for you as to when." Balinor explained with a knowing smile.
Merlin was jolted out of his memories as Arthur slipped a hand into his. The sorcerer turned to smile at his king, once again marvelling that such a wonderful man was truly his.
"What are you thinking about?" Arthur asked.
"When we first met." Merlin replied with a cheeky smile, "And what a prat you were back then."
"Hey you were the one that tied me to a chair!" Arthur exclaimed, "How was I supposed to react?"
Merlin grinned fondly and silenced Arthur's protests by pressing their lips together.
"Come on." Arthur said as they pulled apart, "You wouldn't want to be late to your own celebrations."
"I'm late for everything else; it would hardly be a surprise to anyone." Merlin pointed out as he wrapped his arms around Arthur's neck and kissed him once again.
Even after all this time Merlin was surprised how brand new and exciting being with Arthur always felt. Yet how it also seemed he had been in the blonde's arms forever. Merlin knew, as he had since the moment they had first kissed, that there was nowhere else in the world that he would rather be. That there was no money or land or power worth nearly half as much as the man in front of him. He was Arthur's forever; mind, body and soul.