Dragonfasting by ebhg
Pairing(s): Merlin/Morgana, Arthur/Gwen
Spoilers: Series 1-4
Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to BBC
A/N: This is it! The epilogue to Dragonfasting! Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed, especially those who have reviewed regularly. It really makes my day to hear from you!
The stars over Camelot shone brightly in the clear, moonless night. Temperatures had only just recently begun to warm up, finally bringing the cold winter to an end, just in time for Beltane. Merlin was glad of it; Morgana had started to go stir-crazy in the last few weeks that everyone was stuck inside with late-season snow.
As it was now, Merlin was going more than a bit stir-crazy himself. He paced from one end of the council room to the other, feeling Arthur's eyes on him wherever Merlin's restless feet took him.
"For pity's sake, sit down!" Arthur ordered.
"Easy for you to say," Merlin huffed, continuing to walk up and down the room.
"Should be easy for you, too. It's not like this is the first or even the second time you've been through this," Arthur drawled.
"How can you say that? I've seen you when it's your wife giving birth. The first time, you hyperventilated and passed out! Then the second, you were half-inebriated because you stupidly accepted a glass of wine from Gaius. You should know by now that he laces anything he says will 'calm your nerves' with a sedative. Besides, this time is different; the first two were simple in comparison."
"I think Morgana would beg to differ," Arthur laughed.
"I'm not saying that Balinor or Vanora's births were easy or painless. It's just that Morgana is carrying two babes this time and it makes the birth more dangerous."
"Caroline is the best midwife in all of Albion, Merlin. And she's got Hunith and Guinevere to help her and you if something beyond their skill comes up. Morgana will be just fine."
"Says the man who has been either unconscious or not entirely lucid during his wife's two labors."
"There's no winning with you. Maybe I should go wake up Gwaine? He'd be able to distract you!"
"No!" Merlin protested. "I don't want to hear any more of his tavern songs tonight."
"Then think about something else. Tell me how Aithusa and Kilgharrah are doing," Arthur tried. Merlin grinned at the mention of his 'other family' as Morgana liked to call them.
"Kilgharrah is worse than I am. Aithusa has a clutch of three eggs right now. They'll be mature enough to hatch in a few weeks. Frouuin and Gailana are both about to start nesting any day now."
"It was a good job that you were able to find the cache of dragon eggs, then," Arthur mused.
"It was," Merlin agreed. "Having two more males and three more females makes the dragon bloodline much stronger. I was worried that even with finding Aithusa, we had only delayed the eventual extinction of their breed. Now there is real hope for them."
"And if you and Morgana keep having more sons, then there is even more hope," Arthur agreed cheekily.
Merlin winced and rubbed at his brow, waving a hand to douse the candles that had suddenly become torches. Arthur chuckled.
"Is she screaming at you again?"
"Yes," Merlin groaned. "Yet another example of how mindspeech is not always convenient."
"That's what you get for sneaking off all the time, you know."
"You're just jealous," Merlin quipped.
"Please. I'm the king, I could never be jealous of you," Arthur scoffed.
"Still a cabbage head, though," Merlin replied.
"Better than a clotpole," Arthur argued.
"And yet you are still using my words!"
"Shut up, Merlin. No one likes a clever-clogs."
Merlin spun around as the door to the council room burst open a few minutes later and Hunith rushed through, an enormous grin on her face.
"Morgana would like to see you now," she said, her smile never wavering. Merlin's face broke into his own grin, his eyes nearly disappearing it stretched so wide. Arthur chuckled as Merlin left Hunith shaking her head in fond exasperation when, rather than walk all the way to his and Morgana's chambers, he simply transported himself in the blink of an eye.
Arthur stood and greeted Hunith properly. She had become his surrogate mother since she had come to live in Camelot. Though Arthur continuously denied it, he loved it when Merlin's mother would wrap him in a hug as only mothers could. When he pulled back, Hunith had a knowing glint in her eye.
"Did he wear a rut into the floor this time? Or set anything else on fire?" she asked.
"Amazingly enough, the floor is intact despite your son's incessant pacing. He kept the ignitions to a minimum this time. It was only an issue when Morgana was screaming into his head," Arthur chuckled.
"Well, at least there's that," Hunith chuckled leading the king to gather the older children and prepare them to meet the newest members of the family.
Gwen smiled as Morgana gazed, happily exhausted, at the newborn babe in her arms. The queen made quick work of tightly swaddling the second-born twin before adding to Morgana's burden. Caroline chuckled at Morgana's overwhelmed expression as the midwife finished tucking the high priestess into bed just as the sun began to shine through the windows.
"How am I supposed to do two at once?" Morgana asked sleepily as the second babe began to nuzzle at her as well.
"That's why we have a pair of bosoms," Caroline said cheekily. Morgana looked even more tired at the thought.
"Trust me, dear, you'll learn soon enough and you'll manage just fine," the midwife said encouragingly. Morgana nodded, allowing Caroline to help situate the second babe to get them suckling together.
"It will help your womb to recover faster as they feed. No wet nurses; you'll need the extra help to recover since you carried two," the midwife said sternly.
"I've never used a wet nurse," Morgana said sleepily. "Too possessive, I suppose."
"It never occurred to me to use one, having been common born. Still, I loved feeding Llacheu and Gwydre," Gwen mused fondly.
"Hunith said that it was the only time Merlin ever held still," Morgana said, smiling. The three women laughed quietly, trying not to disturb the babies. Gwen, however, startled and yelped in surprise when Merlin suddenly appeared beside her.
"Merlin!" Caroline chided, looking to Morgana as she fed the babies through the openings in her gown.
"It's nothing he hasn't seen," Morgana said bluntly then looked at her husband impishly. "You're going to disturb our sons if you're not careful."
"Sons?! Both of them?" Merlin exclaimed. Morgana nodded and looked to the babe in her right arm.
"This is Gorlois, who was born first," she explained, then looked to his twin cradled in her left arm. "And this is William."
"I'm glad we picked those names. They seem like a good fit," Merlin said, his eyes beginning to tear up. Morgana smiled as Merlin sat next to her on their bed and carefully took in both boys, brushing their soft curls and watching as they nursed peacefully. As the boys finished, Merlin eagerly offered to relieve Morgana of the two of them, allowing her to close her gown. It was a bit of a challenge at first, but soon Merlin was cradling them both, using a bit of magic to steady them during the transfer.
"Thank you," Merlin whispered, leaning in to press a kiss to his wife's brow.
"You're welcome," Morgana replied drowsily. "Just don't expect me to do this again anytime soon."
"You'd best not," Caroline said sternly, turning away from her task of cleaning the room and dismantling the birthing chair. The midwife was eyeing Merlin especially.
"I wasn't even thinking it!" the warlock said defensively.
"These last two pregnancies were too close for my liking. Morgana needs more time to recover, especially since she carried twins this time," Caroline said sternly.
"Perhaps you'd better be telling Morgana this," Merlin argued.
"Even if I did instigate things, you certainly went along with it," Morgana responded.
"Are you kidding? I'm not stupid. I know by now not to argue with you, especially when it comes to-!"
"Perhaps you'd like to save this conversation for a more private time?" Gwen asked, blushing brilliantly. Merlin's face flushed as well, but Morgana smirked. Though he was used to speaking so bluntly around Arthur, Merlin was not in the habit of doing so in front of Gwen.
A quiet knock distracted them from the sudden awkward silence. A moment later, Hunith peeked around the door and smiled.
"I have some visitors for you, if you're ready," Hunith said gently.
"Please, let them in," Morgana said, smiling.
Hunith opened the door wider and stepped in, followed by two dark-haired children. Seven-year-old Balinor carried his nearly-two-year-old sister Vanora on his hip, the both of them warily eyeing their mother and father. Arthur was right behind with his and Guinevere's sons. Merlin smiled, holding the two babes in his arms a little higher in invitation.
"Come and meet your brothers," he said softly. Balinor put Vanora down on her feet and the two of them eagerly moved towards their parents. Morgana smiled as Hunith followed and lifted Vanora up to sit beside her mother on the bed. Arthur kept his boys back by the table and Gwen joined them there as Caroline bid her goodbyes and left the family in privacy.
"They look all wrinkly," Balinor said, scrunching up his nose. Merlin laughed.
"So did you, when you were first born," Merlin explained. Balinor looked up at his father incredulously, his green eyes showing his disbelief.
"Would you like to hold one?"
Balinor shook his head nervously, but Vanora raised her hand excitedly.
"Me, papa, me! I wanna howed bowf of dem!"
"Maybe if mama helps you," Merlin chuckled. Seven-year-old Llacheu and three-year-old Gwydre moved forward then, the king and queen following in amusement.
"Can we see them, Uncle Merlin?"
The eleven of them visited for nearly two hours, until Gorlois and William began to fuss and fidget.
"I think someone is probably getting hungry," Gwen said fondly. "We should take our leave so you can do that. Llacheu, Gwydre, let's go."
Arthur and Gwen herded their boys from the room offering their congratulations as they went. Hunith stayed to help Morgana get situated and Merlin smiled and took Balinor and Vanora out for a little walk.
"Is Mama gonna stay big?" Vanora wondered.
"No," Merlin chuckled. "And I suggest you do not ask your mama about that anytime soon."
Merlin smiled as he walked his children to the courtyard to sit on a bench in the late April sunshine.
"Why did you and Mama name them Gorlois and William?" Balinor asked curiously as he sat beside his father.
"When your Mama was carrying you, Balinor, we decided that we wanted to honor those who had meant a great deal to us in our lives. You were named for my father," Merlin explained.
"Wha' abou' me?" Vanora interrupted excitedly, her dark curls bouncing as she hopped from foot to foot in front of their bench.
"You, my little dragonling, were named after your Aunt," Merlin said, tapping Vanora's nose playfully.
"I not a dragon, Papa. I Vanowa," the little girl said indignantly, putting her hands on her hips in a perfect mimic of her mother.
"But we don't have an aunt named Vanora," Balinor said in confusion.
"Well, we didn't want to confuse everyone with another Gwen or Guinevere, so we researched a bit and found Vanora, which means the same as Guinevere."
"So who are the new babies named after?" Balinor asked curiously.
"Gorlois is the nobleman who raised your mother until he died fighting for Camelot. William, or Will, was my very best friend growing up. He protected me when magic was still illegal and he died saving your Uncle Arthur. Though he was a peasant farmer, he was just as much a hero as any knight of Camelot."
"Why did Mama get raised by Gorlois? I thought Mama and Uncle Arthur were brother and sister?" Balinor asked, even more confused than he was before.
"It's complicated," Merlin deflected, then brightened when four smirking knights sauntered towards them.
"I'm guessing by your enormous smile that everything went well?" Leon asked.
"Yes. We have two more boys, Gorlois and William."
"Congratulations," Leon, Elyan and Percival said, clapping Merlin on the shoulder amiably.
"Good job, Merlin! Who would have thought that you'd have such potent- eHAW!"
Balinor and Vanora weren't sure why Gwaine was suddenly braying, but they thought it funny, nonetheless.
Merlin couldn't help the occasional lump in his throat when he walked down the streets in Camelot now. Life was certainly easier these days, and not just because the twins were finally using the privy by themselves. The city had changed drastically since he had first arrived sixteen years previous. Then, Merlin had been young and naive, eagerly excited for his new adventure. But the alarm and horror he had soon felt as he had watched a man being executed for using the very thing that ran through Merlin's veins had stayed with him for nearly seven years.
But now the market was full of life and magic. Many families that openly practiced magic had come to live within the city, their sorcerer's chimes hanging from the eaves of their homes proudly displaying the gift of their heritage. Druids frequently entered the city as well, trading their goods and services. People were much friendlier than they were before, no longer afraid of being executed by unwittingly associating with sorcerers. As a result, the city had flourished and it was evident in everything.
Life was certainly good in Camelot. Arthur was coming ever closer to uniting all of Albion, further strengthening ties with Camelot's allies every year. Merlin and Morgana had begun training their own apprentices in magic, in addition to their children. Balinor, at nine, was quite skilled already. Prince Llacheu was rather indignant when he realized that he had no talent for magic as his cousins did, but Gwydre was happy enough just being able to coerce Balinor and Vanora into supplementing their pranks. Arthur and Gwen's newest son, Amhar, at only a year, couldn't care less that his cousins had magic while he did not.
Gaius and Hunith had apprenticed two new healers in the last five years. Gaius was approaching ninety; he was happy for the new apprentices to assume his duties, leaving him free to tinker in his pharmacy with new experiments and herb mixtures. Leon and Percival had both married ladies of the court, though Elyan had surprised everyone when he married a druid girl that he had met when she came to trade in the marketplace. Gwaine was determined to remain a bachelor. Merlin figured it was only a matter of time, though. Gwaine had been unofficially courting Elaine, the innkeeper's daughter, for nearly a year now.
Morgana had suggested after breakfast that morning that such a fine spring day ought to be celebrated outside. Thus, Merlin was in a hurry to get back the the castle after accompanying the healer-apprentices on their rounds. The royal family had a picnic planned for dinner and Merlin did not want to be late.
After the third time Merlin was stopped in the market for trivial chit-chat, he stepped onto a side street and transported the rest of the way to the courtyard where everyone was assembling. Arthur raised his eyebrow at his first advisor's late arrival, but said nothing. Gwen smiled in greeting but quickly hid her smile behind her hand as Merlin turned around and sheepishly greeted Morgana, who stood before him with her hands on her hips.
"You were supposed to be here twenty minutes ago," Morgana chided him.
"Yes, I was caught up in the market," Merlin explained hurriedly. Morgana raised her eyebrow but couldn't hold the facade any longer. She smiled brilliantly, grabbed Merlin by his ever-present scarf and kissed him. Balinor and Llacheu grimaced along with Arthur, much to Gwen's amusement.
"Let's get on with it," Arthur groused good-naturedly, climbing into his saddle as Merlin and Morgana mounted their horses beside him. Gwen climbed into the open carriage with the children along with the knights' wives. Elyan climbed up into the driver's seat of the carriage while Percival, Gwaine and Leon followed behind on horseback.
Merlin smiled when they reached the clearing they regularly picnicked in. The children squealed as their mothers let them down from the carriage to run free while the blankets were spread and the food laid out.
Morgana laughed as Vanora used magic to beat the older boys in a race. Of all their children, Vanora had been the most like Merlin. Where Balinor had shown signs of magic around five, Vanora had been levitating her toys and lighting the candles by eighteen months. Now that Gorlois and William were two, their parents were watching them carefully. Merlin had sworn several times that things had moved around in their nursery and that things that hadn't been there before suddenly appeared, but they hadn't caught the twins in the act yet.
Leon helped his wife, Sarah, who was heavy with child, down from the carriage steps while Percival picked his new wife Efa up and over the side. Elyan chuckled as his wife, Siân, waited to come down the steps. Merlin was just settling down on a blanket beside Morgana across from Gwen and Arthur when the children ran up to them.
"Uncle Merlin! Uncle Merlin!" Llacheu and Gwydre entreated.
"What is it?" Merlin laughed.
"Can you show us how you put the sword in the stone?" Llacheu requested, his eyes alight with anticipation as his brother and cousins nodded their agreement.
"Wouldn't you rather see how I pulled it out?" Arthur argued.
"Papa, pulling it out would be easy," Gwydre said in his five-year-old wisdom, much his father's indignation.
"Yeah, putting it in the stone is the really impressive bit," Llacheu said, causing his father's mouth to fall open in disbelief. Arthur then turned and narrowed his eyes at Merlin and Morgana, who were struggling to remain straight-faced. Gwen took pity on her husband.
"Let's save that for another time, perhaps," the queen offered diplomatically, soothing Arthur's ruffled feathers.
"Fine," Llacheu and Gwydre intoned together in disappointment. Then they brightened without another word and turned to Percival, begging him to play with them.
Percival was never one to refuse an excuse to rough-house, so he kissed his wife and allowed himself to be pulled into the children's games. A moment later, as Merlin was watching them, he had a strong feeling of deja-vu. Merlin looked carefully around at the scene. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. The blond and black-haired children climbing over Percival; Elyan, Leon and Gwaine laughing as the knight was piled upon, Morgana smiling at the sight while Gwen and Arthur laughed.
Open your heart, Merlin. It is my desire to see you happy...
Merlin gasped as he remembered the dream he'd had ten years earlier; the night after he and Morgana had been dragonfasted. The dream that he had thought was his imagination.
"What is it?" Morgana asked curiously.
"I just realized I'm sitting in my dream," Merlin said, awestruck.
"You're speaking nonsense again, Merlin," Arthur taunted.
"You had a dream? Like one of mine?" Morgana asked, ignoring Arthur.
"No, yes. Maybe."
"Still nonsense," Arthur said.
"I had a dream, a long time ago. The night after we were dragonfasted. You had collapsed and I was besides myself. I couldn't believe how much seeing you collapse had affected me, since we'd been fighting all day. Gaius finally convinced me to lay down and get some rest and when I fell asleep, I saw a lake like a mirror; in the mirror I saw Morgana and I, happy. I saw her with child as I held our son, I saw her kiss me, and I saw this. The picnic, the children, the knights. I saw it all, and I wanted it so much, because we all looked so happy."
"And here we are," Gwen said, smiling.
"I thought it was just a dream," Merlin said, still utterly taken aback by the realization.
"Now you know how I feel," Morgana teased. Merlin looked at her blankly for a moment then the two of them burst into hysterics, laughing until they couldn't breathe.
"Was that a magic joke?" Arthur asked grumpily, setting their laughter off once more.
Merlin finally settled down, taking in everything again with a new sense of awe and wonderment. The last ten years had been by no means easy. There had been fights and battles and struggles nearly every step of the way. But there had also been happiness, family, and love. He had despaired when he had woken up married to a woman who had tried so hard, so many times, to kill him before then. Now she was his greatest joy, his love, his heart.
And that was when Merlin realized that he wasn't just trying his best to make the most of what he had been given. He hadn't been doing that for a very long time.
He was living his dream.
A/N: Thanks again for reading, and please, let me know what you think!