I will not speak about the finale or how beautiful it was but I will bore you all with details from my life. :D
I saw Les Miserables yesterday. Perhaps one of the best interpretations of the book, that still is one of my all-time favorites. :) Hugh Jackman was just unbelievable.
Yes yes yes this took me ages. But at least I managed to get everything I wanted into it though I still rushed through it and for that I am so so sorry. Since my exams and APs are coming up ( oh, joy!) I wanted to have this done as quickly as possible and so I've spent almost all of my free time writing. And I loved it. :D
Don't panic if you don't hear from me in a while. :) ( story wise that is, because whenever one of you fabulous authors update your brilliant stories you can be sure I'll read them as soon as I can. ) But I just have to get really focused this last few months of school. Graduation's around the corner! :)
What's in a name? An Achilles' heel is a fatal weakness in spite of overall strength, actually or potentially leading to downfall.
And you made me the strongest of all men.
-With Eyes Wide Shut 'Bless the Fall'
You have yet to learn, Morgana, that there is no power on Earth greater than the power of love. True love, like true friendship, is one of life's sweetest miracles.
– Merlin, "The Awakening" 1982.
The Strongest of All Men.
There was a symbiosis- a co-dependence- between Merlin and himself that the King never really paid attention to. But now, as he locked gazes with Merlin and then turned slowly to see the figure of Melwas advance towards them he suddenly became aware of it. At the same time his hand tensed over Excalibur's hilt he could feel Merlin's own hands tense upon the bars of the cell, and he could see the soft frown that appeared on Melwas face when both men turned towards him with impeccable timing and identical expressions.
But yet he let it slide, paying no attention as Arthur tried to appear distant and blend into the background, instead, focusing wholly on Merlin.
Merlin. The same man who had been careworn, haggard and hollow only hours before and who now appeared as strong as ever, his cheeks rosy again with color and his eyes bright with rightful anger. When Merlin stood up to face Melwas- covered with soot and skinnier than Arthur had ever seen him- there was no trace of the nearly defeated man that had been there before. Now it was as if Arthur's presence alone infused life and courage into Merlin's body, as if that one time Arthur had grasped his friend's hand in reassurance had been enough for Merlin's heart and soul to rise again.
And it was true.
"You haven't changed your mind, have you Emrys?"
"Not at all." answered Merlin. And Arthur could see that Melwas was taken aback by the cheerfulness in Merlin's voice, the same irritating tone he used when he awoke his King in the morning and wanted nothing more than to be bothersome. "Actually, I've strengthened my resolve."
Melwas shook his silver head as he said softly, almost painfully. "I see."
Arthur could not contain a grin of his own when Merlin smiled, a smile so wide and true that it brightened the dark dungeons. However, it soon fell when Melwas continued, "We cannot allow this. You know that, don't you Emrys?"
And what Arthur heard next, still preceded by Merlin's radiant smile, made his blood turn to ice.
"You mean you'll have to kill me." said The Emrys, as casually as if he and Arthur were discussing how dignified tackling each other in the courtyard looked. "Such corrupted power cannot be, isn't that right?"
It took all of Arthur's self- control not to leave the man headless right there and then. That and a soft warning look from Merlin's soulful eyes.
"Yes." replied Melwas. It sounded as if he regretted it with all his heart. "Emrys, you-"
"My loyalty lies with King Arthur Pendragon of Camelot." Merlin said, and the sheer devotion on his voice made Arthur's heart swell. "If you want to kill me for what I know to be true then go ahead. I will never betray him."
For the smallest of moments Merlin let his eyes wonder towards Arthur's and whatever he saw in them- be it gratitude, acceptance or simply brotherly love- made his face glow with almost heavenly bliss. He and Arthur locked gazes and in his friend's tender eyes Arthur could see a silent command that he would never follow. 'Run, Arthur. Please.'
The King almost snorted as he thought, 'Not bloody likely, idiot.'
Merlin somehow managed to read the defiance on his King's eyes and Arthur already saw determination building up inside his friend's features but even if he had intended to obey Merlin Arthur could do nothing when Melwas turned towards him and said, "Guard, take the prisoner. I'm afraid the time for negotiations is over."
For a moment, Arthur froze.
And then, his gaze found Merlin's.
Once again Merlin looked directly into his eyes and there was nothing but pure panic ebbed in each crease of his soft face (fear for him, the King realized with another rush of affection for the man that was his guardian angel.) Arthur just stared at him, barely believing his own hands when he unlocked the door and reached for Merlin, not once looking away from his eyes and yet trying not to let his concern for his friend show since he could sense Melwas' gaze nailed on his back.
Arthur Pendragon tugged at the chains so that his bounded manservant would follow behind, as meekly as a condemned sheep
There was no time to think, not really. Both of them, the King and the Warlock, could hardly stop themselves from looking into each other's eyes as they walked but the silent knock of the staff against the floor behind them did not let them. And then, they were in that throne room again and there was no time, no time at all for Arthur to come up with a plan or for Merlin to try – although he knew it would be useless- to get out of the shackles.
But then Melwas suddenly turned towards Merlin (and if he noticed how the guard behind his prisoner tensed and placed his hand on the hilt of his sword he didn't worry about it) and did what neither of the prophesied men expected him to do.
He took the god forsaken shackles out.
When he stepped away Merlin's wrists were free and Melwas threw the shackles to the floor as if they were useless trinkets. A knight came up besides Arthur and the King watched with narrowed eyes as the man twisted Merlin's arms behind his skinny back on that same way Arthur had done years ago.
Numbly, prompted by the knight's quick nod, he found himself doing it too.
"This is a regrettable incident." said Melwas, turning his back on them and playing with a small pocket knife while staring at the dry land that the sun bathed on the other side of the window. "But you leave me no choice."
Almost as if it was instinctual, Arthur tightened his fingers on Merlin's arm and not one heartbeat later Merlin's own were curling around his wrist. His friend- the man that had, apparently, saved him from everything and everyone with magic -squeezed gently.
Arthur understood what it meant. It's okay.
Their captor barely glanced at them before he spoke again, as if he could not bear to look at Merlin anymore. "You are rejecting your destiny Emrys."
But Merlin, with a smile that Arthur would've described as beatific had he been able to stop his panicking heart, answered,
"My destiny is Arthur Pendragon. And I would die a thousand deaths before rejecting him."
This time, Melwas did not look as he gave the order.
For the tiniest of seconds Arthur wondered why Melwas thought Merlin would let himself be killed so stupidly, unbounded and free now, if Merlin was truly this all-powerful sorcerer then…what stopped him from blasting them all to oblivion?
He did not notice when the knight that stood beside him took a step back, bowing his head in something akin to fear.
Merlin looked up at him and Arthur looked back. His servant's blue eyes held inside them an apology so deep and true that Arthur could feel the frown of confusion forming on his face.
It was the only way. Merlin's eyes said.
Arthur held his gaze and suddenly he knew- and the knowledge left him with a throbbing heart and a dry throat- because Merlin could not be – he surely could not be this idiotic…
He glanced up at Melwas as Merlin's words echoed through his mind, almost as if his friend was vowing again- If you let him go I will not fight, I will not escape, I will not stop you.
And then, coming back with the flash of a cruel smile in the darkness, the words that his brain had barely registered when he'd fallen to his knees- We're honor bound to Emrys and cannot touch you.
Now he knew who Emrys was. Emrys was the man that he'd grown to call a friend. A man that now looked up at him with such serenity and acceptance that it made his skin crawl. A man that had been his idiotic servant and clumsy fool but that, at the same time, had been his savior and guiding light.
A heartbeat passed. Then,
"What is wrong with you?" it was the knight, once again by his side, whispering furiously into his ear. "Just do it."
Uther's voice surged up from a dormant part of his subconscious. 'It is easy my boy, the heart is at the left side of the chest. Just hold the blade still and push.'
'Right, 'cause if you do you'll have to kill me, I suppose.'
'Immediately, and without hesitation...'
Immediately and without hesitation.
'You'll have to kill me, I suppose.'
'You'll have to kill me.'
It was then when the reality of what he was asked to do caught up with The Once and Future King.
He looked again into Merlin's eyes and his friend looked back but there none of the reassurance Arthur was hoping for only heart-stopping sadness.
"No." said the Once and Future King. Each part of his heart and soul was rebelling against this sacrilegious act and the knight beside him mistook the trembling of Arthur's hands for the fear that paralyzed him as well. "No... No."
"Look-" said the knight, licking his dry lips. "-he will not fight back, Lord Melwas assured me he wouldn't. 'Emrys gave me his word.' he said. He cannot hurt us."
Arthur's eyes flickered towards Merlin's scarf, still visible around his scrawny neck, even if the cloak still covered his friend's shoulders. It was as if the sight of it ripped the King's heart.
When the man's words broke through the numbness in his mind, Arthur's chaotic thoughts reeled and he had to fight the urge to laugh. The knight beside him was afraid of his manservant, of Merlin. And not just afraid but terrified.
Yet the man's sense of duty was truly remarkable because when Arthur did nothing to harm The Emrys kneeling before him, the knight unsheathed his own sword.
And Arthur saw the blade flash before it was brought down upon Merlin's bent back-
Not one heartbeat later Excalibur was buried deep into the knight's stomach and the King of Camelot no longer cared about his disguise or the look of complete horror on the knight's ashen face, he no longer cared that Melwas was a few feet away, he no longer cared that he was blowing up their only chance of survival, he just did not care. He only knew that he had been seconds away from seeing the most horrific act being committed in front of his eyes.
This was Merlin.
Merlin the idiot. Merlin the sorcerer. Merlin, who had given up his liberty so that Arthur could be free…
Another wave of brotherly love and almost unbelievable anger swept through him when he remembered Merlin's words.
I would die a thousand deaths before rejecting him.
Arthur Pendragon looked into the man's eyes and held his gaze until it glassed over, then threw the body to the side, not paying attention to Merlin's hand curling on the hem of his cloak when he raised Excalibur and prepared to dealt a killing blow to Melwas' back-
But he never got that far. Suddenly his body stopped responding and his muscles tightened, Excalibur fell from his hands and his knees buckled as Melwas turned around and pinned both of his arms back so that he was looking directly into Merlin's horrified eyes.
"Do you really think me an idiot, Arthur Pendragon?"
A thin yet muscular arm slid across his throat so that Arthur's head was irremediably forced to rest against Melwas shoulder. He could not move.
"I think you a coward." answered the Once and Future King with baited breath, "I think you broke every alliance there ever was between us when you tried to kill me."
A low chuckle in his ear, "Oh, I never wanted to kill you Pendragon."
Even before Arthur realized what those words meant, even before Merlin's eyes widened in accordance with his other half's erratic heartbeat, sorcerers and knights alike were surrounding them and Arthur could do nothing but watch as Merlin was forced to his feet and a blade was placed across his neck.
To make it all easier the neckerchief was thrown aside and there they lay, both Excalibur and a piece of red cloth while the Once and Future King and Emrys stared into each other's eyes at opposite sides of the room.
For as long as he lived the Once and Future King would never forget those moments in which Merlin's eyes and his connected over the bedlam and he felt his soul cry out in despair as the thread that kept their souls united, entwined around each other's, shook him to the core.
They stood, facing each other, for less than four heartbeats. But in those seconds Arthur and Merlin's gazes kept locked, never once wavering, as if with his eyes they could say to each other everything that was unsaid between them. It was empowering, almost, when the heart of the Once and Future King swelled and his breath hitched as he saw the simple truth stare at him from the depths of Merlin's eyes.
In those four heartbeats, in that badly kept room, Arthur Pendragon understood and accepted that Merlin had been soul-bonded to him forevermore and that the magic his friend wielded was true and pure and that together, he and Merlin, could bring the land of Albion true peace and prosperity-
Then, those chilling words were spoken,
"Go on. Kill him."
One blade was raised and then brought down over Merlin's chest.
Melwas did not expect any of what would happen next. Emrys, the one that the gods had gifted with such power, the one that had refused to use them for the good of his people, the one that had doomed them all because his heart beat only for Arthur Pendragon, a man that had killed mercilessly and that would do so again, had betrayed them all and he was now convicted.
Yet the moment he saw Arthur Pendragon – The Once and Future King- lunge forwards in what could only be described as a forlorn attempt to reach Emrys before the deed was done, he suddenly realized that maybe- just maybe the King of Camelot felt the same foolish affection towards The Emrys…and therein was his most grave mistake.
Arthur's raw howl of 'Merlin!' was preceded by the King's desperate attempts to break free and when he finally did so, it took no longer than a second for Melwas to realize that his hand, the one that was curled around the King's throat, still held a dagger in it.
As Arthur broke free the metallic blade grazed his neck.
The King of Camelot cried out and then-
Then time seemed to slow down…and it took The Emrys less than a breath to find that his King had been touched, less than a second for his eyes to burn with a power that could not be comprehended and free himself from the imminent danger he was under, less than a heartbeat to scream, in turn, the Once and Future King's name.
Then, as if the name was a sign, all of the people in the room- be it sorcerers or warriors, knights or simple peasants- began to move at their own accord. The chambers were filled with the screams of dying men when The Emrys picked his way through the crowd to reach his King-
And Arthur Pendragon, even though there was no sword on his hand, used his fists and nails to make his way through the moving masses of people and reach Merlin again.
Breaking through the air as if it was a crow's cry, one old withered voice- a sorcerer, no doubt- let out a war shout, "Emrys and the Pendragon must die!" and suddenly Merlin found himself surrounded by faces that thought him a traitor and he could see Arthur no more as spells and blades turned in his direction and he wordlessly flashed his eyes so that they would make way-
But there were too many of them and not even the mighty Emrys could face them all at once. The glowing golden eyes lasted but a second before Merlin's concentration was broken by the hilt of a sword hitting the side of his head.
His vision swam and his knees buckled and just the thought of Arthur needing him somewhere in the middle of the pandemonium enabled him to grit his teeth and bring down the knight that had done it.
"Arthur!" he shouted again, "Arthur!"
The King heard his warlock call his name and his eyes searched for Merlin once more, unconsciously punching a man that had tried to sneak on him from behind. Still there was no Merlin to be seen, only the swarm of knights and sorcerers and yet he called out Merlin's name too, it was the only thing he could do.
As if it was an answer a familiar piece of clothing caught his eye and after his heart had jolted on his chest Arthur Pendragon dived for it.
He found himself holding that plain red neckerchief on his hands, the one that had being thrown to the floor just moments ago and so he, clutching the piece of worn neck wear tightly on his fist tried to catch a glimpse of anything else- the familiar boots and jacket, the mop of black hair...
There was nothing and suddenly Arthur felt as if his heart was about to escape his chest.
Merlin, still looking for any sign of his King, struck both sorcerers and knights alike as if they were nothing but obstacles on his path. There was one that had managed to nick his arm and his head still throbbed from the sword's hilt but his wide eyes never stopped looking even if Arthur seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth.
Perhaps in his desperation he did not see it coming but the next moment something collided with his back and Merlin found himself kneeling on the floor, skidding amongst the bodies and legs, pressing a hand to the slight bleeding on his head.
Something glimmered on the edge of the warlock's vision.
And in the same way Arthur had found the ever present neckerchief Merlin's dexterous fingers closed around the handle of Excalibur.
Merlin was nowhere to be found and the Once and Future King didn't know what to do.
He held the neckerchief tightly inside his fist as if the worn cloth could provide any assurance that Merlin was, indeed, alive in the middle of that carnage. He never stopped calling the idiot's name and not even when his voice had gone hoarse did he stop.
He could not.
He was a warrior, trained to kill since birth (1) and Arthur had never been gladder of his upbringing. It took him no time at all to find a dispatched sword, hanging loosely from a fallen man's hand and in his hands the rusty blade became a nightmare to whoever dared cross him. There were two or three of Melwas men, foolish enough to try and get in the King's way of finding his manservant and their hearts were bleeding even before they could utter a word.
He had no mercy for them- what they had done...trying to take Merlin away from him, trying to disrupt the balance that had been lost for so long in his life. It was unthinkable. Arthur Pendragon had never once wanted to spill innocent blood. But the Once and Future King's enraged eyes only had present the way Merlin had bended towards the floor, offering his life - once more- for his King.
Little did he know that Merlin, now armed with a sword forged in the dragon's breath, held within his heart the exact same thoughts.
Then, as if the world had stopped for one moment just to give Arthur's fury a direction, the King caught sight of Melwas, making his way through his men as quickly as possible, using his staff and his magic as a weapon as he ran.
And in that moment Arthur forgot about the man he thought he'd seen, the man that was trying to do the best for his people. He forgot about the trembling of Melwas' hands when he had raised his sword against Arthur ( the way his heart warmed up when they first shook hands) , forgot the sympathy he'd felt when he saw the state Melwas people were in. All Arthur Pendragon saw was a murderer that needed to be stopped.
So he followed the thin, robed man through the crowd. Behind him the fighting went on but, in the same way his mind worked during a hunt, Arthur's eyes had singled out his prey and so he sliced and cut until he had his opportunity and broke into a fleeting run to reach him and strike a definitive blow to his heart.
Then, the unthinkable happened when the man turned around and his eyes flashed gold.
Suddenly Arthur understood why he had failed to kill Melwas the first time and the irony of it all made his heart throb. Because Melwas had magic as well. And Arthur had been so naive, believing every single word that had left Melwas' lips in which he'd told his new ally that he condemned magic just before he slid a blade trough Arthur's ribs.
The Lord looked at him with something akin to pity on his eyes.
"You really should've left it all alone, Pendragon. I would've let you live."
Gripping his weapon tightly on his hand Arthur tried to get back up but an invisible force pushed his body down once again and he fell to his knees with a grunt.
"I really would have." Melwas repeated. In his eyes there were only ashes from the fire that had fueled his motive and it was as if he knew how quickly all was crumbling around him.
The sword that had fallen from Arthur's hand was on the traitor's grasp in that moment and then, with a smile that would haunt Arthur for the rest of his days, Melwas said, "The Emrys should not be allowed to live. Not if he's bound to you by will."
And then he raised the sword to strike down the Once and Future King-
Only to be cut off by a blade suddenly protruding from his stomach.
And Arthur could not repress the smile that blossomed in his face when the fluorescent light of a wayward spell showed him Merlin's face behind Melwas, in his hands Excalibur that was now slicing through Melwas' body.
Yet it was not Merlin who was staring back at him and in the space of a single heartbeat Arthur saw why his clumsy friend awoke such fear in the hearts of men . For a moment Merlin was Emrys, protector of the Once and Future King, and his soft face held none of the accustomed gentleness and compassion. There was only cold determination in Merlin's dark blue eyes, each and everyone of his features a sharp line.
Arthur was looking right at the face of a man that had been given to him since birth. A man that was Merlin and yet...wasn't.
Somehow the moment was gone and Merlin was back, gripping his forearms and smiling that bright, idiotic smile that Arthur always woke up to. And the King couldn't help but smile too.
"Merlin, you idiot." he said, and Merlin's eyes twinkled as if he'd never heard anything more wonderful in his entire life.
Then, the world collapsed upon them all.
Merlin only had time to realize that Melwas was not actually dead yet and that the low, incessant whispering he was hearing was the man spitting a spell, when it happened.
The roof that was above them collapsed in the same way it had done so many years ago when Morgana had taken Camelot for the first time.
As if it was pure instinct his magic reached out for Arthur and the King had time to form the words "what are you-" before a ray of golden light washed over him, shielding him from the falling debris and pushing him away at the same time. Then Merlin turned towards the ceiling with golden eyes and as Arthur regained his balance everything was engulfed in dust and screams.
Then there was silence. A silence that was only broken by Arthur Pendragon making his way out of the rubble and forcing his head up. With a panicking heart the King of Camelot tried to catch a glimpse of Merlin but the grime in the air made it impossible and the dust in his eyes blurred his vision.
"...Merlin." it was not a scream at all but rather a choked whisper, followed by incessant coughing when the floating ashes entered his lungs. Then, maybe an eternity later his vision sharpened and he finally could see his friend, lying face-first in the ground with one arm still extended towards Arthur when he had forced his magic to protect his King.
Merlin had magic. And Arthur could not bring himself to care. Because he knew, in the deepest recess of his heart, that Merlin's magic had been his savior again and again.
A fear like nothing he'd ever known gripped Arthur's heart when he whispered Merlin's name again through his raw throat and his manservant did not move. Forcing himself to his elbows, even though the shallow cuts in his body protested and burned, he crawled towards his warlock, calling Merlin's name once more, like a mantra, a prayer that kept him sane.
His heart stuttered inside his chest when he saw that dust-covered face move towards him and two bright blue eyes blinked open. Merlin's worn gaze locked with his and an instant smile that brightened the death-filled atmosphere formed on his lips as he mouthed the word, 'Arthur.'
The joy that gripped the King's heart was indescribable and he could see in Merlin's face that his friend was as ecstatic to see Arthur was alright as he himself was. For a moment the knowledge that they were alive washed over them both and Arthur fought the urge to laugh right there and then, to scoop his manservant up in a bear hug and blabber about how much of an idiot he was.
But before he could do any of those things Merlin let his head fall down again and closed his eyes, as if he wanted to rest there forevermore.
"Merlin." the Once and Future King repeated. He began crawling closer. "Merlin you idiot come on. Get up. Get up Merlin we're getting out of here."
"I'm tired Arthur." was the mumbled answer.
The King of Camelot shook his head, forcing his scraped knees to pick themselves up and aid him in his effort to reach his dearest friend. "I'll give you a week off if you want. But first we have to get home."
Merlin did not opened his eyes again but an instant frown settled on his expression. "Two."
"Alright, two." Arthur conceded, trying to ignore the way his heart climbed to his throat when Merlin did not move. "Three, even. Hell, I don't even know if you're fit to be my manservant anymore. I should find you a position in the Court where you can- Merlin? Merlin?"
There was nothing and suddenly Arthur couldn't remember how to breathe.
He crawled the rest of the way to his manservant with such desperation that his knees ended up more scraped than before and he did not feel the small sharp rocks that scratched the palms of his hands. All Arthur could see was Merlin just a few feet away from him, lying there as if he never intended to get back up.
He was so focused on his friend that Arthur did not see it until it was too late.
He felt it though, and his every instinct cried out in alarm when a hand wrapped itself around his ankle, cold and unyielding. Turning his head the King of Camelot saw a fallen sorcerer raising his head and fixing his bloodshot eyes on him, half buried in the debris but still strong enough to pull him back against his will and not even Arthur's kicks lessened the tight hold he had.
With one last desperate leap Arthur reached out for Merlin and his fingers wrapped themselves around that skinny wrist before the exhaustion blurred his vision and the pull on his leg got stronger...
The sorcerer was perhaps in his last breaths but that did not stop him from raising his hand, which was already bright with condensing flames, and point it at the prone King. Taking the time to crack one last pained smile the man wheezed,
"You will pay for what you've done Pendragon."
Arthur saw sparks like that of a crackling fire rush towards him and he closed his eyes as he felt the heat lick his skin, about to burn him alive.
It was then when soft, long fingers closed around his hand and at the touch he directed his gaze towards Merlin to find his manservant's eyes wide open, looking directly into his. Knowing that this would be the last chance he would ever have to look at Merlin Arthur did his best to smile and then waited for the end, still clutching his friend's wrist with a vice-like grip.
Yet the end never came.
Arthur raised his head. The heat never touched him and when he looked up in bewilderment what he saw would be engraved in his mind eternally. He would always remember how truly frightening Merlin looked as he shot towards the sorcerer with pure power and the way his eyes glowed as stars in the middle of the carnage and how he'd thought- maybe he was delirious- that the gold of Merlin's eyes was a thousand times clearer and brighter, purer than any other he'd ever seen. He would never forget the way Merlin's hands drew him closer and how with one powerful flicker of his wrist the sorcerer's screeches were silenced forever and then his ankle had been free before Merlin placed his hand across his shoulder blades and looked up at the skies above.
Through wide eyes Arthur saw those who weren't dead pick themselves up and rush towards them, sorcerers, warriors and knights, all of them raising their hands and weapons to strike down the Once and Future King who was, in their eyes, nothing more than a Pendragon.
But Merlin tightened his arms around him and the world exploded in golden hues as magic- Merlin's magic- enveloped it all. The Once and Future King's heart leaped in his chest because he recognized the soft touch of this magic and his soul, so deeply entwined with Merlin's, had craved that which made him whole for so long...
Magic, the essence of Merlin, swept through Arthur's golden hair as an invisible current that tightly held his heart with the one whom was made for him.
He had not finished tasting the wonder of it all before it was over and Merlin's eyes looked at him again as the legendary warlock let out a shuddering breath. His deep blue eyes seemed to flicker through Arthur's whole body, reassuring himself that his King was not harmed.
The knowledge of what he'd just done- Of what he and Arthur had just done- hit The Emrys then and Merlin let out a high pitched laugh, rubbing his thumbs in Arthur's shoulders as if to make sure that his King was there and it was not a dream.
His secret was no longer a secret.
And there was no hatred on his King's expressive eyes, no condemnation. There was only relief- at seeing him alive, Merlin realized.- and...awe. Arthur had not forsaken him.
His Once and Future King had not forsaken him.
Now there was no shadow upon his heart and there was only light before his eyes. It was the sight of Arthur's soft smile, carried within such peace that Merlin knew it was all over and he had nothing to fear. Never again.
As Arthur held out his hand so that his beloved friend could take it and rise to his feet Merlin looked around. He cringed as the full extent of what had just happened was unveiled before his eyes and his tender heart throbbed for all those lives he couldn't save. Still, when he saw a man twitch out of the corner of his eye he did not hesitate in helping him. Running towards him The Emrys knelt and placed his hands upon the gruesome wound on his stomach.
"Ge hailige." he whispered.
Perhaps seeing Arthur's expression- the way his eyes glimmered with curiosity and wonder, the steps he took towards Merlin as he watched.- was more astounding than the healing itself.
With difficulty he dragged his eyes from Arthur's and looked down at the man he had just healed, who regarded him with open-mouthed bewilderment. One pale hand rose to place itself on Merlin's as the old druid- for Merlin had recognized the mark on his temple- asked,
"Why are you doing this Emrys?"
Giving the man's trembling hand a gentle squeeze he answered, "Because it is not victory I seek. It is peace." (2)
And Arthur's soul trembled inside him when the words reached his ears. He stared, wide eyed, at Merlin's gentle face while he spoke and the bond that had suddenly made itself known to him shook in ecstatic joy. Merlin's heart, after all, beat in accordance with his own.
When the druid -overwhelmed by The Emrys' kindness even though he'd tried to kill that which was more precious to him- finally let go of his hands he caught sight of something glimmering on the edge of his vision. Merlin felt his expression instantly soften. Excalibur, having saved his King's life once more, was lying a few feet from them both.
So he reassured the druid with soft words again before making his way towards the blessed sword and picking it up from the rubble, where it didn't belong, to put it on its rightful place. In Arthur's hands.
"Arthur." never had the King heard his name being called with such reverence.
His warlock knelt before him, offering the sword pulled from the stone with trembling hands as he bowed his head and Arthur's eyes trembled with awe when he understood what it all meant, when the dipping of Merlin's head reminded him that he'd never had a more loyal friend and the quickening of his heart told him that he needed to pull Merlin to his feet...because he was the true hero, and he, Arthur, did not deserve him.
"My King." said Merlin with a softness not unlike the one he would use to address the dearest of brothers. "This is yours. It was made for you and you only."
Knowing that he could do nothing else Arthur's hand closed around the hilt of Excalibur, taking it gently from his warlock's hands.
"As was I." Merlin continued, with the sincerity and guilelessness of a child. "I was made for you too Arthur. My magic. It is yours. Only yours Arthur."
Arthur's eyes fell once again over his kneeling warlock and perhaps if Merlin could've seen the emotions swimming behind his sky-blue eyes he would've wept of joy. The Once and Future King rejoiced and marveled upon the bond they shared and the unadulterated faith and honesty that his greatest friend held within his heart. He wondered, and he would do so for many years, how had he survived almost twenty years without Merlin by his side, how had he not known everything that he was missing. Merlin had saved him, Arthur realized, but not only that. He had, as well, saved Merlin. They'd saved each other with the inextinguishable depth of their faith and devotion for one another.
Saying not a word the King knelt before his warlock- because Merlin was his just as he was Merlin's and he had been since the beginning of time.- and placed both hands upon those narrow shoulders he knew so well.
Merlin's heart nearly missed a beat when he felt it and he raised his gaze to meet his King's, his eyes full of wonder and warmth and saw him flatten something carefully with his calloused hands. Then, with the same care he would've taken Guinevere's hand, the King's arms tied the worn red neckerchief around his neck, arranging it so that it would be exactly were it should be, smoothing it over and then running his thumbs along his warlock's shoulders.
"Merlin." the King said, with a smile that held within all the emotions that his thundering heart could not contain. "Thank you."
The embrace that came after was never spoken of by neither of them. They never doubted that the strain of almost losing each other in such short amount of hours was the reason why they both had simultaneously forgotten all and clasped their arms around each other needing to just breathe and know that they were alright. Arthur hid a few tears in Merlin's shoulder and Merlin did as well and as time went by neither of them relented. Neither of them wanted to.
And if later, as they picked their way through the rubble without letting go of each other's arm, Arthur noticed the redness in Merlin's eyes he said not a word and if Merlin perceived that Arthur's fingers tightened their hold on his shoulder every few heartbeats he lowered his gaze and let it be.
There was no need for words to know what was happening inside their hearts. Every few seconds, when their eyes found each other, Merlin could see the soft assurance and acceptance inside Arthur's sky-blue irises. And that was all he needed.
That was all he would ever need.
La commedia è finita
'...What may I do when my master feareth
But in the field with him to live and die?
For good is the life ending faithfully.'
-Sir Thomas Wyatt, ' The Long Love That My Heart Doth Harbour.'
(1) In Arthur's words, " I've been trained to kill since birth." 1x01.
(2) 4x05. "It is not victory I seek, it is peace." Arthur to Queen Annis.
Before you ask yes I totally ripped off Mulan on that sword scene. :P I just couldn't resist.
An Unbreakable Vow is a magical spell of unknown incantation, in which one wizard makes an oath to another. If either of the wizards break their terms, they die. What Merlin did in his desperation is not the proper Unbreakable Vow but ( and I'm taking creative license here) a watered down/medieval version of it. When the wizards get wands then maybe they changed the form but not the substance. (The reason why Melwas didn't die is because he didn't actually vowed anything just as Narcissa Malfoy wouldn't have died if Snape broke his vow.)
( all this makes sense in the Harry Potter Universe so if you have no idea of what I'm talking about then just ignore it.)
Soundtrack for the final chapter:
Guiding Light- Muse
With Eyes Wide Shut- Blessthefall.
Silver Lining- Hurts.
What If The Storm Ends- Snow Patrol.
What You Need- Les Friction. ( this...THIS...is unbelievable.)
There might be an epilogue...I'm not sure how that will work out just yet. ;)
And now let me hug each and every one of you for being so awesome. Each and every time I think about it I just cannot believe how many wonderful, talented people I've met in the Merlin fandom. I hope we all continue to happily write fan-fiction for a long, long time. :D
THANK YOU! *blows kisses.*