It's late, it's long, and it's the final chapter!
I so badly wanted to get this right that I've re-written it about five times. And I'm still not 100% satisfied. So I'm still open to suggestions on what to put into this chapter if there's something I missed!
Also... I forgot about Gwen! So an earlier chapter has been edited, and the confrontation with Gwen is in this chapter instead. Thank you to Moonwing for pointing that out.
So, here it is. The final chapter of I Will Follow.
The Return Of Destiny
The streets of Camelot were teeming with people when the party rode back into Camelot. As the horses approached, they moved to the sides, watching in silence as the group passed. Merlin ducked his head, his cheeks flushed slightly red as people stared at him.
Then, someone began clapping. Just one person, then another, and then suddenly a roar rose up as everyone began to cheer as they passed. The young Warlock's eyes widened, before he stared determinedly at the ground. Arthur noticed his discomfort, and, without saying a word, drew his horse to a halt. Merlin drew up next to him with a frown, but Arthur just shook his head, reaching over to take Merlin's wrist, and raising his arm into the air.
The volume of the cheers increased, and Merlin stared around in awe, as he realised that their audience wasn't looking to their King and their Knights.
They were looking to him.
And with that realisation, Merlin turned to Arthur, who was looking at him expectantly. 'What do you think?'
'What did you do?'
'I lifted the ban on magic,' Arthur smiled, with a little shrug, causing Merlin to raise an eyebrow at him. 'And, I might have named you Court Sorcerer; well, not officially. You'd have to agree and pledge an oath, and then there's all the paperwork, but still...' he trailed off, watching his friend for his reaction.
Merlin took a moment, staring at his King, before pulling his arm away, and using it to wipe his eyes. He didn't miss the look of hurt that crossed Arthur's face, so, mindful of his ribs, he leant across, and pulled the King into a one armed hug. The crowd cheered again, as King and Warlock pulled apart, and the people parted to allow them to begin to move towards the castle once again.
The King turned.
Gwen was waiting for them in the courtyard.
As Merlin gently eased himself from his saddle (he really needed to practise his healing magic.), the young Queen made her way to stand in front of him. Merlin stood their awkwardly, very aware of how their last conversation had gone, and waited for her to speak first.
'How are you feeling?'
He shrugged. 'I'm recovering, My Lady.'
Gwen swallowed heavily at the title. Out of the corner of his eye, Merlin saw Arthur giving orders to a group of servants, who began unpack their saddle bags. He saw Hunith take his staff from one of the servants, whispering softly to the young maid who nodded and moved away. Gwen followed his gaze, smiling when she saw the woman stood there.
'My lady,' Hunith curtsied, before she was led away by Gwaine and the rest of the Knights, leaving Merlin alone with the King and Queen.
Arthur coughed. 'We should take this inside.'
Merlin glanced around, noticing, for the first time, the crowd gathered around them. He shouldn't have been surprised; they had attracted a rather large crowd on their entrance. Gwen nodded, and the three made their way upstairs to Arthur's chambers.
Once they were inside the Kings chambers, silence fell. Merlin has no idea how to begin the conversation, and Arthur looked equally uncomfortable. Gwen glanced between the two men, taking in their travel stained clothes and grimy faces.
'Morgana,' Arthur replied, Merlin choosing, instead, to study the floor. Gwen was already unsure about his magic; he didn't want to make things worse by admitting he'd killed the witch. Arthur would tell her anyway. 'I don't know how she found out about the magic; she was already there when I arrived, and she had Hunith. The bloody idiot didn't want to risk hurting her, so he just sat there as Morgana tried to kill him.'
Gwen looked at Merlin who was, determinedly, not looking at her. 'Why won't you look at me?'
'Because I failed,' Merlin muttered. Arthur stared at his friend as the Warlock finally raised his head. 'I spent so much time trying to protect you and the Knights, and, when it came down to it, I couldn't protect my own mother. How am I supposed to help you create Albion and bring peace if I can't even look after my own family? You were right to turn me away.'
But Merlin cut her off, finally feeling the hurt and anger of the past two weeks rising up. 'Then what would you call it?' he snapped. 'Where were you when I needed you, Gwen? You were banished for betraying the King, and I was still there when you needed me! I came when no one else did, I healed you after Mithian shot you...'
'She did what?'
'She was a deer at the time. Anyway, your warning about Agravaine being in-league with Morgana? I delivered that and received a threat of banishment as well, I then sent you to Ealdor to live with my mother, so that I knew that you would be safe.'
'You didn't even say anything!' He could feel something running down his face and was slightly surprised when he realised he was crying. 'I just... why couldn't have said you couldn't forgive me? At least then I would have known, but instead you just left me there, and I didn't... I couldn't... Why couldn't you have just..?'
'I didn't tell you I couldn't forgive you, Merlin,' she whispered, walking forward to place her hand on his shoulder, gripping it tightly, 'Because I already had. The magic... I didn't care, but I just couldn't understand why you didn't trust me... I mean, I understand that you were scared, but it's me. I thought we told each other everything...'
'But I couldn't,' Merlin cried. 'Why can't any of you understand that? Look at what happened to my father, to Lancelot, to Freya...' he cut himself off there, snapping his mouth shut.
Gwen bowed her head slightly, and Merlin pulled away from her, heading over to the window.
'I'm sorry, Merlin.' He leant against the window, closing his eyes against the sound of her voice. 'You shouldn't have had to go through that alone.' But Merlin barely acknowledged this.
'He told you about Freya?'
'Only that she was cursed and died at the hands of one of Camelot's Knights. And that Merlin loved her with all his heart; but then, there's no other way for Merlin to love, is there?'
'No, I guess there isn't,' Arthur sighed. 'But that's what you do, isn't it, Merlin? You give your heart and soul to everyone, and you never get anything in return.'
'I killed her, Merlin.' The Warlock heard Gwen gasp, and turned to see her staring at her husband in horror, but Arthur was focused on Merlin. 'I killed the love of your life, and yet you remained by my side. I destroyed your heart without batting an eyelid, completely oblivious to your pain, and yet, just a few weeks later, you were working tirelessly to repair mine and Guinevere's relationship. And now... Now, if I was to ask you what punishment you would bestow on your attackers, you would ask me to let them go, wouldn't you?'
'Yes, I would.'
Merlin frowned at him. 'Why does that matter? It's in the past now, there's nothing you can do to change what happened.'
'Fine,' Merlin moved away from the window, as Arthur drew a chair for his wife, and Gwen sat down. Merlin sat down opposite the couple, staring at the wooden table. 'If they were punished because of what they did to me, then they'd hate me even more than before and it would only make things worse in the end. There's already so much hate in this world, the last three weeks have been proof enough of that, and I just want it to stop. It's all I've ever wanted; for everyone to be able to forgive each other and for the fighting to stop. I've worked so hard for seven years, and every time I got close to achieving that, it was ripped away from me, and I didn't know who I could turn too. Like I said, so many people have been hurt because of me; Lancelot died to stop me taking your place at the Veil. If I'd been faster, he would have survived, and then he wouldn't have become Morgana's puppet. What happened to Lancelot was my fault. After he died... there was no way I was going to risk anymore lives. Even after... even after your father's death, it was too dangerous. I had to do it alone.'
Gwen wiped her eyes, brushing away the tears that clung to her eyelashes. 'Couldn't you have gone to Gaius?' she whispered.
Merlin shook his head. 'Not after what happened with the Cathe. They may be my allies now, but they weren't when kidnapped Gaius. He almost died. Again. I still talked to him about most things, but if I could get away with not talking to him, I didn't. He may not have been safe, but he was definitely safer.'
Arthur turned away for a moment, and Merlin saw him lift his arm to his face, before the King turned back, his face hard and determined.
'You've spent the last seven years struggling, alone and afraid, because I made it so that you felt you couldn't talk to me. You've been through hell, and I never knew what was happening to you. But those days are behind us now, Merlin. You will come to me from now on, with any problem, because there's no way you will ever be alone again. You hear me? If there is one thing I can do for you, Merlin, it will be that.'
Merlin just nodded, wishing with all his heart that he could believe Arthur's statement, but he couldn't. He just couldn't...
And then he felt warm arms wrapping around him, and he started back slightly in his chair as he realised Gwen was hugging him.
'I'm so, so sorry, Merlin,' she whispered, obviously not noticing how awkward he was in her embrace. 'You shouldn't feel this way, you should never have felt this way. You've always been such a good friend to me, and I was never there when you really needed me.'
'That's not...' But she shushed him as she continued.
'No, it is. I've completely let you down as a friend, Merlin, and I'm sorry for that. I can never make up for what I've done to you, especially in the last few weeks, but I will spend the rest of my life trying. You are one of the most important people in my life, Merlin, and I can't bear to lose you again. If you just promise us you won't leave us again. Please.'
Merlin pulled out of her embrace, so he could look at her face. She was watching him with such an open expression, begging him to listen. He looked to Arthur, who was also watching him, waiting for his reaction. And, all at once, every emotion he'd felt over the past few weeks washed over him again, but this time he didn't feel angry.
Instead, he once again leant into his Queens embrace, and she held him as he finally broke down.
It was far from over. They still had a lot to talk about.
But as Merlin left the King's chambers with Arthur and Gwen, he felt that they were finally on the road to recovery.
Arthur had told him that the four Knights that had attacked him were already in custody, and had been for over a week. As expected, Merlin had asked Arthur to release them without punishment.
So Arthur had put them in the stocks and assigned them a month's worth of guard duty.
Well, he had to be a prat about something.
Gwaine was leaning against the wall when they left, and he immediately swung his arm around his friend.
'Mate,' he declared as he steered Merlin away from the royals. 'We are in need of a trip to the tavern.'
Within a week, Merlin was officially sworn in as Court Sorcerer of Camelot. His mother was there for the ceremony; she used up the majority of the handkerchiefs that Gwen had thoughtfully brought with her.
As the ceremony came to an end, Arthur pulled Merlin up onto the podium where Arthur clasped his hand in his, and they raised their hands into the air. The crowd erupted into cheers and clapping, and Merlin swore his face may have split if his grin had gotten any wider.
Within a month, Arthur had arranged for all the sovereigns of the five Kingdoms to meet to discuss a new treaty, based on the sudden turnaround of Camelot's laws. A lot of the treaties included a 'magic is evil' paragraph, after all. There, Merlin and Arthur had once again found themselves in the company of Princess Mithian and Queen Annis.
That had made for interesting conversation at the dinner table. More so once Queen Guinevere had decided that Princess Mithian was her new best friend.
Merlin had laughed hysterically at Arthur that night.
As for Queen Annis, she had merely congratulated Arthur on his new appointment, and confirmed her thought that Arthur was, indeed, a symbol for hope. King Lot and King Alined hadn't been too impressed, but chose, wisely, not to argue, especially once Merlin arrested Trickler for breaking into Arthur's chambers.
The negotiations had gone according to plan, and Merlin found himself leaning against the battlements, watching the sunset, and the last of the royal delegations departing Camelot. He felt, more than sensed, Arthur come up beside him.
For a while, neither of them said a word. They didn't have to.
So much had changed in the last couple of months. There had been a lot of anger to vent, and tears to shed, but in the end, they had both come out stronger for it.
And as the sky faded from red to black, Merlin simply let his head drop back as he revelled in cool breeze and the sense of peace it brought.
Arthur turned to him, a small smile playing on his lips. 'No matter what, Merlin.'
Merlin opened his eyes, looking at his King, and smiled. 'No matter what.'
No matter what happened, they would always follow each other, always find each other, and they would always bring each other home.
And that's the end! *sob*
BUT, I do have a poll up for my next story! So please go check that out, although I have a good idea, based on S5 spoilers, for my next one.
Been corrected, Katie McGrath has said Aithusa's a girl. I thought it was announced or something, but I could be wrong. They have already said in S4 that's Aithusa's a boy, so... who knows. I'll continue writing him as a boy until S5
Thank you so much for reading, and please leave a review before you go and check out my poll.
See you all soon!