Hidden Royalty Chapter One

There were many pictures scattered on the desk where His Majesty King Balinor Emrys of Mercia sat at. The pictures had just been delivered by Morgause, his Private Investigator, and he could only sigh deeply as he watched them all. On every pictures were the raven haired boy and the woman with long brown hair.

The woman's name is Hunith. His love - the one who had started to love all those years ago, and who was still affecting him as of this day. He missed her, so bad. King Balinor sighed deeply again as he traced the features of the woman.

And then there was the boy, Merlin... his son. Or so he believed. There couldn't be any other explanation, because the boy looked so much like him. But to be sure he would wait for the copy of Merlin's birth certificate, which Morgause promised him to get as soon as possible.

Balinor's lips lifted themselves in a smile when he picked up one picture in particular. Merlin was sitting with Hunith on a terrace of one of the many Costa's in the city, trying to catch the last bit of summer sun of the day. Both were smiling and drinking a cup of tea.

It was and still is the most beautiful woman he every laid his eyes on and he was over the top in love with her. That's why he was heartbroken to learn that she had left nearly twenty years ago. He really shouldn't have been too surprised to find out about that Hunith was gone, because his parents weren't exactly throwing confetti when he announced to his family he had fallen in love with Hunith - who was a commoner and so in his parents' eyes not suitable for their son.

But he could care less about Hunith's parentage, he loved her and wanted to marry her and start a family with her. That's why he felt crestfallen when she left without really an explanation.

His father, the late King Edward III, his late mother Queen Lenora of Mercia and their herd of advisors weren't amused the slightest to find out how Hunith captured the Prince's heart and certainly weren't amused when she came over more and more at the palace and dined with them almost every week and who was around their son almost every breathing moment. At one moment Hunith even moved into Balinor's apartment and they even started to talk about getting married, something that his family had disagreed on wholeheartedly when he voiced his thoughts about that subject to them.

His family would keep up the pretence of approving his relationship with Hunith for a shortwhile, just because they saw how happy their son had become, and in their eyes a happy heir was meaning good prospects for the Kingdom. That didn't mean that they accepted the request of approval of their son to marry her.

They kept praising Hunith whenever Balinor was around, but as soon as he was out of the room or out of earshot, they dropped their act and made nasty comments to her; telling her exactly how they wouldn't approve this spur of the moment romance. Unfortunally he was oblivious to most of that, until that one dreadful day when he found a handwritten letter from Hunith on his desk wherein she wrote that she had taken her leave from the palace and out of his life and that he should forget about her all together and focus his energy in finding an appropriate wife.

Forget about her. That wasn't on the top of his list, not even at the bottom of it. He had spent the last twenty years searching for her at every place in the world he could think off, but no one seemed to have heard of her or seen her ever since. It was like she had vanished from the Earth.

To great vexation of his parents and their advisers, he never married either. They tried - oh believe him, they tried. They were pushing him to marry a noblewoman from their country or from any other suitable country, so he could produce an heir and secure the line of succession.

He thought it was absolute nonsense that he couldn't choose who to love and vowed to himself that he wouldn't be getting into a marriage, arranged by his family. He wouldn't accept to be married off to some dim-witted princess or noblewoman, just because his parents wanted it, because it was time that something had to change in the perspective of the royal standards.

Even when he ascended the throne after his parents died in a car crash almost ten years ago, he refused to marry. He couldn't bring himself to be with another woman, not when he knew that the woman he gave his heart to was still around somewhere. till this day, he even keeps a locket with a picture of Hunith, and the handwritten letter she left him on the day she left securely in the drawer of the side table next to his bed.

He kept hope all those years. Hope that one day he would find her again and by finding her he would finally discover the real reason behind her sudden leave, because he would not accept it that it was just over. Particularly because he knew what Hunith felt for him and she knew what he felt for her.

And then his prayers were answered at his last royal visit to England just over a month ago.

It was the moment when he got out of the car at the entrance of the hotel where the meeting would take place, and he found himself surrounded by flashing cameras of the paparazzi and press. He had turned around to pose for some pictures, and then his eyes caught her. He saw how Hunith crossed the street, carrying two large plastic bags of what he assumed were groceries and everything suddenly went in slow-motion. His breathing had quivered for a moment when he realized that she still looked the same as almost two decades ago.

He wanted to shout, run to her, get her attention at any cost, but he couldn't move when he saw the raven haired boy running towards her from the other side of the street and taking the two heavy bags from her.

He took a better look at the boy and mentally shook his head when he realized that the boy was almost the spitting image of him when he was that age.

But that couldn't be, that was impossible.

His stomach was doing somersaults after letting that thought sink in for a moment and he became conscious of the fact that the boy must be his son. The boy undoubtedly inherited the pale skin and bright eyes from his mother, but his head screamed that this boy was his son once he saw the dark hair, the high cheekbones, the lithe body… but Balinor still couldn't believe it, even when the facts were right in front of his nose. Hunith would never keep something as important as this a secret for him, would she?

Balinor quickly fled inside, he needed to wrap his head around all of this. Could the boy really be my son? Would Hunith really keep something as big like this hidden from me? He had to know and made sure before he entered the building that one of his most trusted bodyguards would discretely follow the couple and report back to him their every move.

One thing was for sure. Since a really long time he felt and allowed himself to be happy again. He had finally found her!

~oOoOo~

In a middleclass house in the middle of London, England, the ignorant hidden Prince was being woken up by his best friend. Will.

"Come on you lazy arse. Up!"

No response.

"Merlin, I'm serious! We're gonna be late for the first day of uni." His best friend was standing there, hands on hips and even foot tapping. Merlin peeked through half open eyelids at his friend before yawning and stretching his limbs.

"Will, that you're so eager to see His Royal Arseness, doesn't mean that I am." He sleepily sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes with the heels of his hands and stretched yawned once again. "And besides he'll probably have a dozen of bodyguards around him, so you're probably not even going to see, let alone talk him. Now where's the fun in that?"

His best friend sat himself at the nearest and cleanest spot he could find in the dump that Merlin called his bedroom. It was a little chair and it was too low to let his long legs rest in a normal position so his knees came almost up to his nose, but he still managed to cross his arms in front of his chest and scowled deeply back at his friend.

"What is it with you and royalty, Merlin?" He said, keeping the scowl on his face when his best friend finally decided that is was time to get out of bed. Merlin sniffed at some t-shirts to find the least smelling one, before shrugging and pulling a random one over his head. "Seriously, you don't even know him and you're already holding a grudge against him."

Merlin shrugged some more. "I guess I got that from mum. You know how she's against everything that's regal, god knows why! And besides have you ever seen those interviews of His Royal Arseness on TV, or those pictures of him in magazines and don't let me get started on those custom made suits that are fitting him perfectly, pfft. I mean that prat just oozes fake pretence and you know how I hate people who act like someone who they are not."

Will's left eyebrow raised. "From all that prattling you just did, the only thing I heard is how much time you've spent checking -and I quote- His Royal Arseness out." Will made sure he clearly emphasized the word arse, making Merlin's eyes widen just a fraction before he turned around with a pink colouring already creeping up from his neck.

Will pointed at his direction and stood up once he caught sight of the blush Merlin started to get. "You so are! I see you blushing. Come on Merlin, admit it."

Merlin turned fast, looking his friend in his eyes. "M'not! Now drop it and help me find my phone. I lost it again."

"You so are though." Will muttered under his breath while searching with little effort for Merlin's mobile. Every now and then he lifted a piece of clothing off the ground with little interest to see if the missing mobile was hiding under it.

"What's that now?" Merlin asked demandingly, stopping his search for a brief moment to glare at his friend.

"Nothing." Will muttered back, avoiding eyecontact.

Merlin ruffled through a stack of papers on his desk to see if his phone was there. When the missing object wasn't there, he expanded his search area and started to look through the amazingly large pile of miscellaneous stuff that currently was scattered all over his bedroomfloor. Will had commented at least once every time he entered his room that a tornado would leave less mess behind, in comparison to the state Merlin's room was in. But Merlin wasn't bothered by the mess, to great irritation of his mum and best friend.

Merlin stood up, two fingers from one hand firmly pressed against his temple. "I could've sworn that I saw it here last night!" He exclaimed, pointing with his other hand to an unbelievable but true empty spot on his nightstand. "It couldn't have gotten legs overnight and wandered off!"

"Maybe he was tired off your voice." Will snickered, Merlin gave him a pointed look.

"Just call me with your phone Will." Merlin sighed.

Still sniggering, Will began dialling his friend's number that he knew by heart now. The unmistakable Kill Bill whistling ringtone of Merlin's phone rang throughout the room and Will as well as Merlin looked around them to find out where the sound was coming from. Narrowing his eyes, Will walked towards Merlin and the ringtone got louder.

"It's in your pocket you poof!" Will said as he whacked his friend around the head. Merlin rubbed the spot on his head where Will whacked him, looking sheepish.

"Well how should I know!" Merlin answered, still rubbing the spot.

Will just shook his head, Merlin will always be… well Merlin. He was truly one of a kind. "Now you've found your phone, can we finally go-o?"

"Fi-ine." He replied just as whiny and both make their way downstairs to the kitchen.

"Bye mum" Merlin said, standing in the doorframe of the kitchen where Hunith was reading the newspaper at the table and sipping her tea. She looked up and smiled at him.

"Have a great day… and look after Will won't you." She said with a wink.

"Hey!" Will feigned being hurt by bringing both his hands over his heart and teased. "Ms. Browne. I am perfectly capable at looking after myself. It's him you should be worried about." He finished with a jerk of his head in Merlin's direction.

Merlin quickly tugged Will's arm and dragged him to the front door, making his escape before his mother would start telling embarrassing stories from his past. However, before he completely closed the door he shouted over his shoulder, "I will mum!"

Hunith could hear the door being closed with a soft thud and suddenly the Browne residence became eerily quiet again without the energy from her eighteen -soon to become nineteen year old son- bouncing of the walls.

Telling herself that she could better take advantage of this peace and quiet while it lasted, she continued to sip her tea thoughtfully and turned the page of the newspaper she was reading. She wasn't, however, prepared for what she would see when she turned the page and the headline that greeted her was like a slap in the face.

'His Royal Majesty King Balinor of Mercia, to be visiting London.' She almost let her tea cup slip out of her hands out of shock, but managed to put the cup - albeit shakingly - down on the table before she steeled herself and let her eyes dart over the page.

'Because of the successful renewal of the peace treaty between His Royal Majesty King Balinor of Mercia and His Royal Majesty King Uther of the United Kingdom last month, King Balinor will be proceeding to visit England once again in nine weeks. Main activity is to be visiting a number of university facilities, including Avalon University London where His Royal Highness Crown Prince Arthur of Wales is attending…'

Hunith didn't - no couldn't - read further. Instead she closed her eyes and shook her head, thinking how this couldn't be happening, not after everything she did to keep Merlin away from him.

After she left the palace, she did everything to mislead Balinor so he wouldn't be able to find her, and finding out about her pregnancy. It was so important to her that Balinor wouldn't find out about the pregnancy even when she wanted to share it with him with all her heart.

When she left, the first thing she did was changing her last name, but she knew that that was just the start. She travelled from country to country for over nineteen year, never staying too long in one place and never drawing too much attention to herself. But now it would be all for nothing when Balinor would be in the exact same building as Merlin.

She looked at the picture posted at the article; it was Balinor smiling with his political smile. Hunith could always tell apart his genuine and political smile and addressed him many times on it. He would usually just laugh about it and kept telling her that every politician had at least one.

She traced the outlines of his face and couldn't fathom how little he had changed in almost twenty years. Sure he looked older and there were clearly more worries etched into his face, but other than that she still sees the same Balinor of which she fell - and secretly still was - in love with.

Closing the paper she brought both her hands up to cover her eyes. She couldn't bring it in her heart to leave once again and go to another country. She wouldn't even know where to go now, Belgium perhaps?

Hunith slammed both hands on the table and abruptly stood up, the legs of the chair scraping over the floor. No she couldn't leave. It wouldn't be fair to Merlin to get him pack up all his stuff and leave again. Merlin finally felt happy somewhere, had made friends and just started university. He'd be devastated if he was to be leaving again and Hunith wasn't sure if she could handle her son being that.

She always had in her mind to tell Merlin who his father is when he would turn twenty-one but she rather wouldn't tell him about Balinor at all.

Maybe this was a sign, maybe the time had come tell Merlin about his father, about his heritage. Maybe she really had no other choice now and she really had to tell him, but in the pit of her stomach she felt obliged then to tell Balinor too.

Hunith inhaled deeply, letting herself sink down onto the chair. She'd have to think about it and it was probably best if she'd sleep on it and make her decision whenever she felt ready.

~oOoOo~

Merlin and Will currently sat on the low wall in front of the main entrance. The apple Merlin was holding in his hand, seemed to capture more of his attention than the Prince who just arrived at the gates. The screams of the hundreds of girls and some boys were deafening and on top of that there were also the constant annoying questions of the paparazzi, asking the Prince to 'turn this way, turn that way' and Merlin couldn't help to roll his eyes, before starting to nibble on his apple, simultaneously wishing he had brought some earplugs with him.

Will on the other hand was perched up right on his spot on the wall, stretching his spine as far as possible to make himself as tall as he could so he could catch sight of the Prince. Merlin briskly wondered to himself why Will wasn't just going to stand on the wall, but held that thought to himself. He'd be happy if that whole pack of people moved on so he could enjoy his apple in peace.

Will -still exited by the fact that there was royalty in their midst- continued to try to catch a view of the Prince, but could only see some strands of golden blonde hair in the swarming crowd of people. The pack of paparazzi and fangirls plus boys were starting to move and slowly made their way to the entrance. Excitingly, Will poked Merlin in his side. "Oh Merlin, he's coming closer."

"Fascinating," Merlin answered taking another bite of his apple, not even giving the Prince a glance when he walked pass the wall and didn't noticed that the Prince paused to look to his left to see Will and Merlin sitting on the low wall.

Will, however, did and said, "Your Highness." Will slightly tilted his head down because he didn't know how to address and act around the Prince.

Arthur gave a smile in return and directed his gaze to the figure next to light brown haired person, expecting to receive a same sort of greeting. He surely was surprised when the other person didn't even bat an eyelash towards him, seemingly to be more interested in the piece of fruit in his hand.

Will frustratingly elbowed Merlin hard in the ribs, who jolted up with a yelp.

"Will!" Merlin scolded at Will, who in his turn tried to subtly point his head to the Prince who stood behind Merlin. Merlin followed his line of sight and saw that Arthur hadn't continued to walk pass him, but stood now perhaps two feet away from him. The stupid tabloid smile plastered on his face.

Merlin scoffed, cocked his eyebrow and abruptly took another large bite of his apple before chewing it really ungraceful in the Prince's direction. Arthur not yet snorted at the sight and chuckled lightly before being sweet talked inside by the principal.

The doors had not yet closed all the way, or Will already turned towards his friends. His eyes had narrowed into a thin line. "Was that really necessary Merlin? I know you hate royalty, but did you had to be that obvious about it?"

Merlin looked unimpressed back at his best friend with one eyebrow cocked. "What would you expect me to do? Should I bow like some idiot, say Your Highness to him, or wait even better, maybe I should kiss the ground he has walked on?" He rolled his eyes and aimed the core of his apple towards the bin a couple of feet in front of him. Miss. Grumbling he got up and picked the core up and dumped it in the bin.

"Well you don't have to be an arse about it for one. Seriously, why do you hate him so much? Is it because he's gay? No that can't be it, because so are you." Will gripped both handles of his synthetic duffle bag in one hand and hoisted the whole thing up from the ground and flipped it behind his back in one swift motion. His arm bent at his elbow and his wrist resting on his shoulder while holding the two handles tightly in his hand. "Merlin, give me one valid reason to dislike him."

"First of all, Arthur is bisexual which is probably the only redeeming quality in him. Second I don't know, okay. Just this whole 'we're royals so we can do anything we want and you have to bow to us like we're some kind of god' act gets on my nerves. They are just normal people like us. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm sure he just has normal red blood like us and nothing like that proverbial blue blood."

Will wiggled his finger teasingly in front of Merlin's face. "Ahh, you called him Arthur, and not His Royal Arseness. Maybe there's hope in changing you after all."

"Oh shut up." He gently elbowed Will's arm and looked at his watch to see that the lessons were almost starting. Glancing around the school grounds, he saw the other students getting up from the grass or benches and walking in all kinds of directions. Merlin got up with a deep inhale of air and already put the short encounter with the Prince next to him and now looked forward for his first and favourite class of the year. Chemistry.

Entering the class, Merlin's mood was great. He loves Chemistry and especially now he had Professor Geoffrey Monmouth -probably the most renowned chemist in England- as his professor. Just the smell of the chemicals that infiltrate his nostrils the minute he walked into the classroom got his senses tingling with excitement and couldn't wait to actual start using them in projects.

His classmates started to slowly pour into the class one by one and Will and Merlin had already limited choice in where they could sit. Eventually they took a seat at one of the workbenches in the front which could hold up to four people. There was already a guy sitting there; he was quite tall and muscular and made Merlin gulp deeply at just seeing the person, but Will decided that he would still take a seat next to him and Merlin didn't want to sit on his own so had no other choice then to sit down at that same bench too. He was just glad that Will had taken the seat directly next to the bulky guy.

Both Will and Merlin got their laptops and books out of their bags, placing them softly down on the workbench and checking their battery's energy level. Merlin sighed as he saw his little adapter icon already blinking vigorously with the warning of a too low battery level, and Merlin ruffled some more in his bag to find the adapter. Will, in the meantime, had put out his hand to the big guy that was staring blankly in front of him.

"Hi, I'm Will."

The large guy jumped just slightly when he was suddenly addressed and coughed awkwardly to cover his embarrassingly action up. Gripping the hand a smile started to spread across his face "I'm Percival but you can call me Percy. Or Perce if you must but I don't really like that, it sounds too much like a woman's handbag."

Will started to chuckle. "Avoid Perce at all times, got it. Oh this is Merlin by the way." Will turned on his chair and Merlin awkwardly smiled to the bigger guy.

"Hi." Merlin softly said, holding out his hand as well and plugging in the found adapter in one of the available sockets with his other hand. After the exchange of names and spending a minute of ten just talking to Percival, Merlin found out that they shared similar interests and got more at ease around the big but friendly guy. He was wrong about his fist impression and it turned out that Percival wasn't as intimidating as he first thought he would be, in contrary; he's actually pretty funny and really nice.

"You know Percy I've got to say." Merlin began, staring at the bench as he talked. "I was a bit intimidated by you, I mean you're twice if not thrice the size of me. But I totally take that train of thought back and have to admit that you seemed to be a pretty great guy."

A laugh erupted from Percival. "I hear that a lot, but don't let my muscles fool you, I promise I am as meek a lamb. Just good genes I guess."

"Good genes indeed." Will said, having to keep himself in track to avoid his hands squeezing Percy's biceps. "At least I have some good genes from my father's side. You should see my moth-" but before Will could finish his sentence the door opened, and the principal strode in with a confident looking Prince Arthur right behind him. Murmurings immediately started to spread through the classroom, while Merlin's great mood started to sinks somewhere towards the ground.

Did he really have to follow the same class as me? Merlin thought and let his head hang for a second until he heard the principal speaking.

The principal held his hands up, and the murmuring in the class slowly starts to cease. When it was completely silent the principal let his hands down and begins his speech. "Class I promise I won't stay long. But I just want to make one thing clear. His Highness Prince Arthur has requested that you will treat him like any other student and to make that easier for you all, he has stated that you can just call him Arthur."

"How princely of him." Merlin cheekily whispered in Will's ear, earning a side-glances with narrowed eyes from his best friend.

"Just be quiet." Will whispered back.

"… Now I'm sure I kept you'll long enough and Professor Monmouth is eager to start his class." He nodded towards Geoffrey and bowed briefly to the Prince before leaving the classroom. Whispering started to spread through the classroom again once the door had closed.

Arthur stood in front of the class, looking overly confident to Merlin's distaste but he had to admit to himself, that for the princely arse he is, Arthur is surely looking divine. Merlin couldn't stop himself and let his eyes roam over the Prince's body; taking in the casual dark blue jeans that was finished off with a torso hugging red polo with his golden blonde hairs in perfect contrast with the red collar that has been neatly turned down.

His gaze was luckily interrupted by the professor's announcement or otherwise he would caught sight of those piercing blue eyes that were currently busy scanning the classroom and he would probably be doomed by the intensity of them.

"If you could just take a seat Arthur." Professor Monmouth's voice drummed right through Merlin's skull, getting him out his train of thought just in time before his mind would take a road of his own.

Arthur looked around the class and saw that all the places have been taken, except for the two spots. One available spot was at a workbench with three girls that now sported excited and maybe even slight creepy expressions on their faces so he'd rather avoid them at all cost.

But the only other available spot was right next to the guy with dark hair that he had seen outside on the wall in front of the entrance. Arthur had a feeling that the guy wasn't all too happy to see him, whatever the reason may be, but he'd rather sit next to him than to the girls who would more likely swoon over him than actually paying attention in class, and he wasn't in the mood for that in the slightest.

Taking his chances he started walking towards the seat next to the dark haired guy and eased himself onto the last vacant stool, earning an eye roll from the said person. The raven haired immediately placed his arm on top of the bench with his hand propped under his chin, clearly sulking. Arthur could not help but just gawk at the person, normally everyone was overloading him with fake compliments, just so he got to notice them, but not with this guy. It was quite elaborating and Arthur couldn't help that the smallest of smiles graced his lips.

The two other people at the bench were a bit more hospitable and Arthur saw the brown haired guy sending a scowled look to the dark haired guy before holding his hand out to him and introduced himself as Will. The bulky guy on the other end of the bench nervously followed and stammers out that Percival was his name before pulling his arm back.

Will kicked hard but curt against Merlin's leg underneath the table and looked at him with an almost murderous look. Merlin could refrain the already familiar to him eye roll and put on a fake smile prior introducing himself to the amused looking Prince.

"I'm Merlin."

Arthur gave him a nod in understanding. "I'm Arthur." He replied with what Merlin only can describe as that stupid tabloid smile and could refrain himself from doing the face-palm for Arthur's obvious answer, so he just simpered towards the Prince.

"So class." Professor Monmouth rubbed his hands together in an almost menacing way. "I took the liberty of dividing you into pairs for the assignments you'll have to complete this year. Swapping is not allowed."

Merlin immediately heard some girls on his left and at the back of the class whispering that they hope that they're paired up with Arthur, but he didn't care about whom gets paired up with the prat. As long as it's not with him.

Tapping his pen softly but repeatedly against the page of his notebook, he absent-mindedly listened to the list of names professor Monmouth droned. He heard that Will was paired up with Percy and he felt slightly annoyed by that, since he hoped Will would be his lab partner, but that annoyance wasn't even close to what he felt when he heard the person's name that was teamed up with his. It made him instantly drop his pen flat on the paper.

"Merlin Browne, you're paired up with Arthur Pendragon."