I do not own Merlin.

It is my intention to alleviate the pain we felt (and still do) in the aftermath of the two final episodes of Merlin.

Thank you all so much for the fabulous response I got for the previous chapter. I really appreciate all your favourites, follows and review!

This is easily the lengthiest chapter I have ever written. However, it felt wrong to chop it up further - it feels like a unit to me and therefore I left it as it was. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy it and things pan out in a way that you will not feel cheated by the time you reach the end! (like we did at the end of the show!)


Merlin opened his eyes to find Arthur staring at him in utter terror and disbelief.

'I cannot breathe.' Arthur croaked barely audible. Merlin was horrified to see Arthur gasping for air and raising his hands to his throat when he found he could not get any.

'What …. are ….. you…..doing? ' Arthur squeezed the words out with maximum effort, his eyes wide open in complete shock and bewilderment. He recoiled from Merlin's touch violently as the name of his friend hung on his lips in a strangled whisper. 'M...er…lin?'

Is he thinking that I am the cause of this? Merlin's heart missed a beat at the thought.

He immediately lowered his arm staring back at the king in confusion, and the fear and distrust expressed in Arthur's eyes was like a slap into his face. It was a look that Merlin had hoped he would never see. A look that embodied everything he had never wanted Arthur to feel … about him….and about magic.

What is happening? Merlin's brain tried frantically to make sense of it.

Suddenly the expression in Arthur's eyes changed and his gaze wandered past his shoulder, settling somewhere behind him. It seemed to desperately communicate something while he was struggling to keep his breathing regular.

Just then Merlin sensed the presence of a magical being and as he whisked round a hooded figure appeared out of the shadows of the forest.

'Seems I am interrupting something.' A rather satisfied, but intensely cold voice came from the edge of the clearing while Arthur's panting grew louder and more pained by the second.

Morgana.

She had licked her wounds after Camlann and mourned Mordred with an intensity that bordered on insanity. Revenge was all that had been on her mind since that day. The sooner, the better. When her spies had reported that Arthur had left Camelot virtually on his own she had welcomed it as the opportune moment to finally get even with him and with Merlin, because it had not been difficult to guess that this was where Arthur was headed. When she had found them, unprotected by knights or druids at a fireside, she knew her hour had come.

'It is time to say good-bye, brother.' She spat out the last word as if it was poisonous. 'You may have won the battle, but now you have lost the war.'

And at that she raised her arm to finish off what she had started, but Merlin was more than ready for her. With a wave of his hand he blocked the spell she was aiming at Arthur and then blew some air into his fist to conjure a giant fireball. With a flick of his wrist he sent it flying towards Morgana. It was so fast that all she could do to avoid getting hit was jump out of its path. It hit the tree behind her in full force and the splinters of the wood showered her as she lay on the ground.

Morgana had not expected the quick retort, but she was a High Priestess of the Old Religion and not that easily beaten.

'Brynewielm and æledfýr' She shouted as she raised herself from the floor like a phoenix from the ashes. The flames of the fire suddenly seemed to explode into the mellow evening air and they engulfed Merlin from top to toe.

'Acwencaþ'Shouted the warlock in return and the next second the flames around him were extinguished. He lifted his arm and a blast of raw magic hit Morgana which sent her flying across the clearing. When her body crashed on the ground she was dazed and immobilized by the power of the fall for a second.

At that the spell that threatened Arthur's life was broken and Merlin could hear him spluttering as air started flowing freely through his airways again.

The warlock had never felt so sure about what to do next.

'You have caused so much suffering, Morgana.' Resentment was ringing in his voice, but it was steady and unfaltering.

'This has to end.' He stated it matter of fact and with certainty and finality.

Arthur was still fighting the pain in his lungs and the weakness of his body after Morgana's attack so all he could do was watch as the man who had cleaned his boots, mucked the stables and polished his armour for so many years walked up to a High Priestess of the Old Religion without any fear or hesitation. The power emanating from him was almost tangible and Arthur could not help but feel awe at his steely strength and uncompromising determination.

Morgana's eyes were widening more and more the nearer Merlin came.

Emrys. He is your doom and your destiny. The voice of the Cailleach hollowed in her head and for a fraction of a second she thought she might just be able to beat the blasted prophecy that had made her life a misery for years. She lifted her arm to call upon the most deathly of spells, but before she could even think about it she felt a crippling pain around her heart.

Merlin had formed a tight fist and the firmer he closed it the stronger the grip around her heart became. Morgana just stared at the warlock, shell shocked that the man she had known for so many years should wield so much power. An uncontrolled sob escaped her when she felt the extent of it and she finally, finally understood that she had no chance against him.

'You will do no more.' He whispered as he recognized the terror written all over the witch's face.

'Emrys.' Morgana trembled as she mumbled his name. 'You could have saved me.' hoping to distract him by appealing to his good heart.

Merlin had reached the witch by now and looked straight in her eyes. 'You chose the path of your destiny yourself, Morgana.'

Anger rushed through her when she heard his words and in a last desperate effort she mumbled a spell that ripped Arthur's sword out of its scabbard and aimed it straight at Merlin's heart.

'Merlin!' Arthur croaked, barely able to utter a sound, but the worry that he might lose his friend gave him the strength to vocalize the warning. 'Watch out!'

Merlin heard him but he was well aware of what was happening. It took only a nod of his head and a golden glow of his eyes to redirect the sword while accelerating its fall and as it did, it went straight past him to lodge itself firmly in Morgana's chest. When it hit the witch a look of disbelief spread across her face and she just stared at the weapon in her body dubiously.

Instinctively she knew that the excruciating pain that shot though her body was such it could only be caused by a sword forged in a dragon's breath. The prophecy - it had finally caught up with her and there was nothing, nothing at all she could do about it anymore.

A last whimper and then Morgana slumped on the ground lifeless.

A moment of deadly silence followed and both, Arthur and Merlin, took a few moments to take stock of what had happened. The king was still on his knees and had not found the energy to rise again.

'Are you alright?' Merlin sounded anxious as he helped his friend to sit up properly again. Arthur gave a faint smile and nodded.

'Told you, you needed a lot of protecting.' Merlin mumbled between his teeth, but Arthur had heard it and looked at him most indignantly, still too exhausted to manage more than a twinge on his lips.

'We will finally have peace.' Arthur said breathily after a minute and his heart lightened at the thought that no one in Camelot would have to fear another attack by the woman who had once been his sister, ever again. A surge of hope for the future flooded him.

'I do blame myself for what she became in the end.' Merlin whispered more to himself than anything.

'You cannot take the burden of her failures onto your shoulders, Merlin.' Arthur replied gasping for air after every second word. 'I also often wondered what I could have done …..to save her.'

'I was better placed than you to help her, yet I did not.' Merlin muttered guiltily.

He glanced at Arthur quickly, but avoided looking directly into his eyes. 'It would have meant sharing my secret and exposing you to unknown dangers.'

'You did that for me…' Arthur muttered in contemplation but before he could say anything else Merlin passed the water skin to him and the king took it gratefully and gulped down a few sips. Then Merlin started to carefully remove the outer armour that was restraining Arthur's breathing. It was the act of a servant and he had done it so many times before, but this time it felt like much more than that. There was tenderness and genuine compassion in every movement and Arthur sensed it and was touched by it.

However, when he looked up he saw Merlin's eyes boring into his.

'You thought it was me when Morgana attacked…..' Merlin said somewhat accusingly, but crestfallen at the same time.

'I am sorry.' Arthur did not know what else he could say or do. It was true. The old fears had surfaced when he had felt magic squeezing the air out of him and they had drowned what his heart had been screaming at him: This cannot be Merlin's doing.

Yet, he had lost too many people to sorcery, had felt the pain of losing a person he loved to witchcraft too often and years of warnings against any form of magic had been ingrained in his mind. No, he was not proud of his reaction and there was nothing more he wanted at that moment than to banish the pain written across Merlin's face.

'I really am.' The king sought Merlin's eyes, wanting to meet his gaze head on to make sure that he understood how sincere he was about it.

Merlin was very quiet for a moment. Arthur's earlier action had cut straight through his heart, even if it had lasted only for a split second. For a fleeting moment it had been the confirmation of all his worst fears and bared his own uncertainties in the most hurtful way. Yet, when he looked at Arthur now, all he saw was genuine regret. And at that point he could do nothing else but forgive.

'I know how much you have suffered at the hands of magic.' He stated quietly. 'and that you have lost more than many others because of it.' His shoulders slumped a bit as if taking the full blame for all the sorrow magic had caused Arthur.

'And there were only the two of us and there was not much else you could have assumed.' Merlin said, his common sense summing up the situation.

Arthur sighed inwardly, relieved at his absolution, but for some reason the words struck a cord and it was as if a lightning had hit him, as he made a completely different connection out of the blue. 'Like the day when my father died.' He watched Merlin breathing in deeply. 'The sorcerer, it was you, wasn't it?'

Merlin bowed his head in acknowledgment. 'I tried to save him, Arthur. But Morgana and Agravaine …..'

Arthur waved his hand to show that he did not need any further explanations. 'I know you would have tried all you could.' he muttered and then, thinking it through for a moment, exclaimed in astonishment:

'You would have saved a man who would have put you on the stake for your efforts?' It was difficult to grasp the enormity of Merlin's selflessness completely.

'I wanted to prove to you that magic can be used for good. I hoped to change your mind that not all sorcerers are wicked and …. I know that you loved Uther….' Merlin added as a last point.

His intention was nothing but noble and honest and fuelled by his friendship for me. Arthur gulped at the realization.

Merlin was watching him and sensed a definite change in atmosphere. It seemed the tide had changed for the better and that his time had come to make his argument.

'There is no evil in sorcery, Arthur. Only in the hearts of men. Magic is as good or bad as the person who practices it.' He paused and sent a meaningful look over to Morgana's body.

Then he got up slowly and covered her remains with a blanket he picked up from Arthur's saddle bag. Arthur watched him in thought. Merlin's words had sounded familiar, as if he had heard them somewhere before….I am sure of it. He thought forlorn in thought. There was so much he needed to learn about magic and sorcery, but first he wanted to understand what part it had played in his life.

'I do trust you.' He insisted, imploringly. 'I trust you more than any other man I know.' And he put his arm on Merlin's when he returned to the fire and the warlock gladly accepted the gesture.

'I came to find the truth. About everything.' Arthur spoke very quietly. 'If whatever you were going to do earlier will make me understand more quickly ….'

Merlin lifted his eyes to scan Arthur's face and their eyes met yet again, the warlock's hopeful and expectant, the king's enquiring and curious.

Quietly he put his fingertips on Arthur's forehead.

'You're ready, then?'

'You are not going to mess up my brain?' Arthur attempted the joke but it sounded half serious.

'Not more than it is already.' Merlin mumbled indignantly and a smile was playing on his lips.

'I heard that.' Arthur retorted quietly, but then they both fell silent and Merlin mumbled the spell.

Images filled Arthur's head immediately and as he slipped into Merlin's mind some of the warlock's most prominent memories shot through his conscience with speed, yet amazing clarity.

He is diving into the murky waters of the Lake of Avalon. Arthur is the only thought on his mind. Where are you? Sophia, the Sidhe, has enchanted him and lured him to the lake to sacrifice Arthur's life to gain back her own. He cannot die. The water is freezing and the cold is permeating his bony frame. There! A hand! He grabs it frantically and pulls until he gets a hold of Arthur's chest. Then, fresh air and relief. He is safe.

The poison is rushing through his veins with increasing tenacity, but he can see Arthur clearly. In the deadly cave where the healing flower grows. Nimueh has led the prince there and left him to meet a terrible end. As soon as Merlin is aware of it, a blue shining orb appears in his hand. Lead Arthur. Get him to safety. His mind whispers. And it does.

I offer my life for Arthur's. His voice is clear and determined with no hesitation when he faces Nimueh. First she just laughs at him, but then accepts with a glint in her eye.

Arthur is lying on the ground completely drained by the magic of the Eye of the Phoenix. One more day and he would have been dead. Morgana is not going to win this one. Merlin is triumphant as he slips off the bracelet. He has followed Arthur all the way to the Perilous Lands. I do not care what happens to me as long as he is alright. Relief is flooding him.

He is outside the chamber where he knows he will find what keeps the undead army alive – The Cup of Life. Its spell must be broken or they will all perish. The sword in his hand is familiar. Merlin wields it well and Morgana's soldiers fall with the help Lancelot. The blood that spills when Merlin knocks the cup off its pedestal to save them all leaves a trail of red on the wall.

He is pushing the same sword into a stone for the future, whenever Arthur will need it. And then the day comes and the king is facing the sword, doubting himself more than ever. Merlin is there at his side. You have to believe, Arthur! The words are soothing and instill confidence. Have faith! And Arthur trusts him and takes heart and believes. And he watches on proudly as the king pulls the sword out of the stone and proves to himself and his knights that he still is the king of Camelot.

He is desperate. No, that does not even come near to what he feels. Gwen has poisoned Arthur with a potion more deadly than anything he has ever seen. His nerves are raw from worry. The magic he uses is intensely powerful and drains every ounce of energy from his body. When life returns to Arthur he breaks down completely. Overcome by exhaustion and relief he sobs mindlessly into Gaius's arms. He will live. That was so close. Is all he can think.

oooooooooo

The power and immediacy of past events left Arthur breathless and yet, there was more, as much as Merlin wanted him to see.

His fight with Valiant. Merlin had accused the knight of sorcery and nobody had believed him, until he used magic to bring the serpent's on Valiant's shield alive and proved that the man had wanted to kill Arthur using dark powers.

Another fight passed before his eyes. Queen Annis's champion had been the tallest and strongest man Arthur had ever seen. His own sword felt odd, as if it had a mind of its own and he struggled against the skilled warrior. Then in the last minute he saw Merlin's eyes turn golden and enchant his opponent's weapon so Arthur could get the advantage he needed.

Finally Arthur saw himself caught by Morgana in a cave, led by Mithian's pretence, and just when all seemed lost and Odin's sword was ready to swipe down and chop his head off, Merlin caused the earthquake that rattled his enemies long enough to give Arthur the opportunity to strike back and defeat Morgana's men.

Images of spears killing beasts, swords piercing magical creatures and tree branches falling at the right time tumbled through his head until, finally, Merlin took his hands off Arthur's head and the visions stopped.

Arthur remained totally still, unable to speak or move, unwilling to react while his mind was struggling to comprehend what he had just witnessed. It was true what Gaius had said. Merlin had not only saved his life many more times than he had known, he had also put his own life in danger again and again willingly, just to keep him safe and alive. And he had always, always, held him when he was falling and lifted him when he was down.

Stunned into silence Arthur processed every single memory.

And Merlin waited. Waited for Arthur's reaction. Getting more nervous by the second as watched his friend sitting there, motionless and staring into the flames. This was it. For years he had wondered about this very moment. Had lived through the most diverse scenarios and outcomes. This was the moment Arthur would pronounce his verdict – on him and on magic.

Finally the king looked up and his voice was hoarse from emotion when he spoke again.

'Looks like I did need some protecting.' And then he smiled and the tight knot in Merlin's insides disappeared as if by magic. He had not even realized that he had been clenching his teeth and tensing his muscles with a vigour any knight would have been proud of during a training session.

'All those years. Merlin.' Arthur shook his head in disbelief 'And you never sought any credit for it.'

Merlin blushed at the compliment, a flutter of excitement making his heart beat faster. This was so much more than he had ever hoped for.

'It is not why I do it' Merlin lowered his head, almost in embarrassment.

Arthur looked totally bewildered for a second. Merlin had sacrificed more for him than any other man he knew, yet he was so humble about it, it was almost irritating.

'Merlin.' Arthur swallowed hard, overwhelmed by the sheer modesty of his words. 'I am sorry for the way I treated you.' He looked a tiny bit deflated when he said it.

And as an afterthought: 'Why are you doing it?'

'I do this because of who you are, Arthur and who you are destined to be.' Merlin said slowly and he gave the king a disarming smile. 'And because you are my friend.' He sounded so sincere, almost naïve, and the affection in his voice touched the essence of Arthur's soul.

'You, Arthur, are the Once and Future King. You are the one to create Albion, a land where people live in peace and prosper and where magic is free.'

'Is that what this is all about? Magic being free?' Arthur asked a little bit provokingly.

Merlin looked up, but could sense no ill intent in the question.

'That night outside the cave of the disir.' Arthur continued. 'I asked you about magic then.'

Merlin nodded and they both clearly remembered his words of that night.

There can be no place for magic in Camelot. He had said. And nothing had ever felt more wrong.

'If you wanted magic to return to Camelot – why did you advise me to reject it?' Arthur wondered.

'I thought that Mordred would die.' was the simple explanation.

'And the prophecy predicted that he was destined to kill me.' Arthur concluded in no time. 'You denied yourself for my sake.' He said, finally understanding why Merlin had appeared so upset that time and, with the understanding, intense humility ensued.

It seemed that whatever Merlin had done since he had come to Camelot, whatever decisions he had taken, every single act had always been with him at the fore of his mind.

'Magic being free is only part of it, Arthur.' Merlin went on. 'There are many people of different beliefs and opinions in your kingdom and they all deserve to live in peace and not fear for their lives just because for who they are or what they think.' Merlin's words were heartfelt and full of integrity and honesty.

'This is what the prophecy is about, this is what the destiny of the Once and Future King holds.'

Merlin's eyes were full of expectation and hope and Arthur could not help but smile at his enthusiasm. This was the Merlin he had always known, the man who always believed in the best of everything and everyone and who always tried to do the right thing.

'You're being wise again?' Arthur nudged fondly and then repeated in thought. 'The prophecy.' And as if this was a cue he grabbed the chance to say what he had come to say.

He paused. 'Does it not speak of the king and the warlock working together, linked by destiny, striving for a shared goal?' It was not really a question, but Arthur hoped that he was making a good point for his own cause. And when he saw Merlin nod in agreement he continued.

'Please, come back to Camelot with me, Merlin.'

Merlin's head popped up at the words. He could not remember Arthur ever pleading with him. He really does mean this. Merlin thought exhilarated and it was as if all his wildest dreams were fulfilled that very moment. His heart was singing and waves of excitement rushed through him drowning him in a hurricane of overwhelming happiness because he realized what the request entailed.

Arthur wanted him back in the full knowledge of who he was, what had been and what he was capable of. And he did not only accept all of it, but welcomed it in a way Merlin had never thought possible.

The king watched Merlin carefully as he was waiting for an answer. An answer that seemed to take forever. His friend's face seemed to be clouded in thought and the longer Merlin took to reply, the more uneasy Arthur grew.

Arthur coughed quietly, in some ways hoping to elicit a reaction. 'I can see how you like living with the druids and how much you enjoy using your magic freely….' He started rambling on and startled when he was interrupted by quiet laughter.

'How can you be king and yet be so unwise at judging people.' Merlin interrupted him cheekily. 'The druids have been very good to me and I owe them a lot.' He paused because he saw how much his words were unsettling his friend.

'A long time ago I said that I was happy to be your servant till the day I die.'

Arthur looked up, still uncertain.

'That is still true now, Arthur. I was born to serve you and I would not change a thing.'

'So you will return?' Arthur laughed in delight and the intense strain that been burdening him for so many weeks lifted from his heart. He tried to pretend not to notice the tears of relief and jubilation that had started appearing in the corners of his eyes. He would not change a thing. He repeated to himself. But I will. There is no way I will have a man like this serve me breakfast and wash my laundry. And he smiled to himself, a plan already forming in his mind.

'There is no other place I would rather be than at your side, at Camelot, Arthur.' Merlin was beaming now and his eyes were almost sparkling golden with joy.

Arthur rose, feeling the sudden urge to move as he was overcome by emotion.

'Merlin.' There was something else he needed to get off his chest, something he'd had at the back of his throat ever since Camlann. He walked up to his friend and put his hand on his shoulder, meeting his blue eyes full on.

'I know now what you have done for me and for Camelot.' He was clearing his throat quietly trying to compose himself before he continued. 'And there is something I would like to say I have never said before.' And then the king uttered two little words that meant more than anything else he had said before.

'Thank you.'

And at that Arthur pulled him into a heartfelt hug and Merlin reciprocated it with all his heart. While this was the only way for Arthur to express his heartfelt gratitude and for Merlin his delirious happiness, the symbolism of the act wasn't lost on either.

The King of Camelot was finally embracing magic.

ooooooooooo

They were looking down at the familiar sight of the citadel of Camelot, each lost in his own thoughts.

'Things won't be easy for you to start with.' Arthur said tentatively.

'I expect nothing else.' Merlin replied, not at all disheartened.

'Many nobles and councillors will need convincing about the benefits of magic.'

'I'll just turn those who disagree into toads.' Merlin laughed out loud when he saw the appalled look Arthur gave him for his comment.

'So that is what you call using magic for the good of people.' Arthur mumbled between his teeth and grinned. And, like on cue, Merlin's words about magic popped right into his head again.

There is no evil in sorcery. Only in the hearts of men. Magic is as good or bad as the person who practices it.

He had been sure he had heard the words before and they had been on his mind ever since. …when, out of a sudden, it struck him. The old witch who had brought Gwen back from Morgana's clutches. Those blue eyes. The woman had seemed so familiar. How could he have missed it at the time?

'The Dolma!' He shouted dumbfounded. 'That was you!'

Merlin head shot round, surprised at the sudden outburst, and Arthur bit his lips when he saw his friend's ears turning red.

'It was Gaius's idea.' Merlin explained rather defensively and somewhat embarrassed, but there was a smile twitching on his lips. 'You knew the face of my old self and I could not risk being found out.'

And while Arthur noted at the back of his mind that Merlin had obviously not only looked after him but also saved Gwen, he could not deny himself the tease.

'You wore women's clothes.' Amusement oozed from the comment.

'Enjoy it?' Arthur quipped further, a massive grin spreading over his face.

'Just as much as you liked posing as a simpleton.' Merlin retorted, reminding Arthur of his ridiculous outfit and behaviour when he had to go undercover after Camelot had fallen to Morgana three years earlier.

'Guess that did not need a lot of posing though.' Merlin finished, smiling mischievously.

Arthur laughed out loud and slapped Merlin's shoulder happily. They both shared a look, very much aware how much they had missed this channel of communication.

'Any other memories you have kept from me?' Arthur taunted and there was something in his voice that made Merlin look up.

'There might be one or two.' He admitted while he hesitated and searched Arthur's face. There was clearly something particular on his friend's mind.

'Dragons.' It was just the one word and Arthur knew he had hit a nerve when he took in Merlin's reaction.

The warlock blushed again, fully aware that this was something that would need properly explained.

'Yes,' He admitted and grinned. 'There is that.'

But he did not volunteer anything else at this moment and Arthur was happy to leave it that – for now. There would be plenty of time to discover even the last of Merlin's secrets and he had every intention of doing so.

'Come on. Let's go!' Merlin edged him on as he was keen to return to Camelot and see Gaius and Gwen again.

'I am the king.' said Arthur in mock gruff. 'I give the orders. Nobody tells me what to do.'

'I always have.' Merlin could not help but stating a fact and his eyes were dancing with laughter. 'And I am not going to change now.'

Arthur, suddenly all serious, took the reins of Merlin's horse to steady it and faced his friend earnestly.

'I do not want you to change, Merlin. I want you to be always you.' And he meant every single word of it. And at that he spurred on the horses before the emotion that was crossing his face became too obvious.

oooooooooo

Two men were riding side by side towards the turrets of the bustling citadel of Camelot.

Two men of power and of equal standing. One a warrior and a statesman; the other a man nurtured by the most powerful force on earth.

Each needing the other to feel ultimately whole. Each granting that their souls were incomplete without the bond they shared.

They were two sides of the same coin. As they always had been and always would be.

Two men, ready to build a kingdom in friendship and prepared to face all the challenges that this would entail. They were set to embark on a new adventure, one that would need each their skills and one that would lead to a new era.

Just as the prophecy predicted.

They were both sure of it.

THE END

No, not really.

THE BEGINNING


So there we are. Nothing else I can add to that! :)

I know that there are many more things Arthur and Merlin have to talk about, but it would be unrealistic to pack it all into the one conversation. Arthur will have many years to find out the WHOLE truth about things as they work towards a united Albion together.

And on this happy thought I would like to thank you all for your lovely support!

Please feel free to post any comments, thoughts , etc...:))) I really appreciate it!