A/N

A post-finale consolation fic.
Many many thanks to Sillygoose and Detochkina for helping me to beta this story. Any mistakes left are my own.

Beatiful banner to this little story was made by Detochkina: /Xiub6w


The Clearest Blue

Merlin stays beside the lake where his King lies.

Soon days grow shorter and nights seem to have no end. The sun has all but vanished.

Merlin waits.

xxx

He hides, spending days on the forest floor covered in moss, leaves, and mud, motionless. Animals sniff him and leave him alone. If he doesn't move the time is not flowing.

He is above time.

xxx

You are useless, he tells his magic. No good. You failed. And he lights up the fire with a flint.

Go away, he yells at his magic, and he closes his eyes to not see the shadows of the dead.

You are a curse, he spits at his magic, because his destiny has brought nothing but pain and loss.

He apologizes later, since magic is the only thing that still matters.

xxx

His mother has gentle hands. She caresses his hair and waits until he can stand up.

Ealdor doesn't feel like home anymore. It hasn't been home for a long time now.

xxx

They tell him the Queen is expecting.

Letters come inviting him to Camelot. Magic is welcomed in Albion and so is he.

We want you back, the Queen writes. We need you back. I'll understand if you can't. Please think about it.

Merlin throws the letters away.

xxx

He hears it's a boy.

(He hears his name is Arthur.)

He hears the Queen died in childbirth.

He'll never forgive himself for not being in Camelot for Gwen. Even though it's possible he couldn't have helped, he should have tried. He owes it to Arthur.

Or maybe he doesn't owe anyone anything anymore.

xxx

Leon is a loyal advisor and regent, but he is no king.

Without a Pendragon on the throne the future of Albion is threatened. Arthur's son has to grow up fast.

xxx

Of all the people, they send Percy.

Merlin turns his back on him because he can't think about Gwaine. He won't allow anyone to steal his private grief. He won't allow himself to grieve for Gwaine, nor any other man.

"The boy has no one, Merlin," Percy says. "Leon does what he can, we all do. But none of us knows how to tame Arthur."

Merlin cringes at the sound of Arthur's name coming out of Percy's mouth. There is only one Arthur. And he lies under the cold waters of Avalon.

"He's a strange kid, but a good one." Percy tries again. "If he's to be King one day he'll need a guardian."

Merlin says no.

xxx

Merlin watches two kids playing knights on the plains outside the city walls of Camelot. Wooden swords click dully.

"You die, Arthur! I killed you!" one of the boys cries and Merlin doubles over.

The kid is nothing like Arthur. He's got Gwen's black hair and her dark eyes instead of the clearest blue of his father's. He is small and bony.

"I win this time!" he shouts proudly. When he turns to Merlin he's smiling.

And it's Arthursmiling at Merlin.

Merlin flees.

xxx

The boy doesn't want to come out from under the table. He bites and kicks anyone who dares to approach him. His dirty hands scratch the floor.

Merlin stands by the wall.

When later he sits down and magics a dragon using sparkles from the fire, the boy slowly crawls toward him, curious.

xxx

He finds Arthur in little things. In the way the boy scolds, in the movement of his wrist when he's practicing with the sword, in the way his lips part when he sleeps.

Each time it feels as if someone has thrown Merlin under ice. No air, just the burning blades of freezing water in his chest.

xxx

"I hate you!" Arthur throws the book Merlin's teaching him mathematics from at the wall. Merlin picks it up and places it back on the table. He starts again.

"I could tell them to execute you, you know!" Arthur shouts. The little prat.

Merlin closes his eyes and counts to ten. And then counts backwards.

xxx

They shouldn't have stayed in the rain for so long, but Merlin is suffocating within Camelot's walls. The stones mock him. The empty throne room is full of shadows. Outside, engulfed in the greens of the forest, Merlin feels more alive. Connected to the world as he once knew it.

Back in the castle Arthur climbs on Merlin's lap and hugs him, warm, dry skin pressed to Merlin's neck. He lays his hot cheek on Merlin's chest and falls asleep, breathing feverishly fast. Merlin pushes damp hair from Arthur's forehead. He leans back in the chair until his head is against the wall.

Morning finds him stiff and red-eyed, Arthur nowhere to be seen. He looks outside to find the Prince on the plains with his sword, killing imaginary enemies again.

Merlin smiles.

xxx

On Arthur's eighteenth birthday it is Merlin who puts the crown on the Prince's head.

He is not his Arthur, but Merlin's heart swells anyway. He swallows, remembers another time and place, and a sword being pulled out of stone.

He wants to believe in his King again.

xxx

When the King names his firstborn Arthur, Merlin storms out of the room. His limbs catch in his long robes.

Once in the clearing, he stands and looks into the sky. He covers his mouth to keep the sound in, even though he knows no one would answer his call. The last Dragons are long gone.

Killgarah has defied Merlin yet again. Because if guarding Arthur's sons' sons is Merlin's fate he resents it.

Merlin bows his head.

xxx

Eons pass, and Merlin's beard grows long and white.

He teaches each one of the boys about life, and closes their eyes when the time comes to lay them to rest. The last ones of the Pendragon's line have scattered around the world and don't need a guardian anymore. Not one of the boys has looked at Merlin with Arthur's clear blue.

Merlin is tired.

xxx

It's getting harder to draw magic from the heart of the Earth and Merlin has no reasons to go on. He doesn't know what are the times of greatest need for Albion, but he has never been in greater need himself.

He closes his eyes and dreams of Camelot. In his dream he searches each corner of the castle, but Arthur is nowhere to be found, even though Merlin can feel him close by.

In his dream he is young again and his magic feels like fire, burning hot under his skin. He crushes the stones, drains the Oceans and blows forests away in search for Arthur.

xxx

Rise and shine, Merlin. It's a familiar voice.

The curtains are being pulled, windows open wide. Sounds of people and cars from the outside are loud and cheerful in the gentle air of summer. Merlin stretches in the comfort of his bed and rolls onto his side, opening his eyes.

He meets the clear blue.

So maybe the Dragon wasn't wrong after all.