"Don't listen to Tristan, he doesn't know you," Merlin said softly.
"I trusted the wrong people," Arthur shook his head.
"They betrayed you. That's wasn't your fault!" Merlin frowned concerned.
"I was a fool. I misjudged everyone. My Uncle. Morgana. Gwen! Every decision I have made has been wrong,"
"You are being too hard on yourself," Merlin argued.
"I should be more discerning, wise. A statesman. King! Tristan's right. There's nothing special about me. I'm just like everyone else," Arthur laughed bitterly.
"You're not! You're a worthy King!"
"I'm good with a sword, that's all,"
"You're people love you!" Merlin said firmly.
"Most of them are dead, thanks to me," Arthur said frustrated.
"Most of them escaped. They'll be here. In the forest, I'm sure of that," Merlin insisted.
"If they are they'll have to find themselves a new King,"
"Arthur! Arthur!" Merlin called after the King but Arthur ignored him.
Merlin watched with joy as the Druids bowed their heads to Arthur and he…he touched the leaders shoulder and inclined his head in respect.
"We are a peaceful race Arthur Pendragon, but we will aid you here where we can," The leader said.
"I thank you,"
"You have more power on your side than you will ever know my Lord," The leader smiled.
"But it is not enough to fight the witch! We need to be able to fight her!" Someone called from within the crowd.
"If we could fight with our magic we would. But that is not how we use our magic, and even all my people collected, we would not be able to fight against her, I am sorry. But you have magic on your side, magic that will defend you against her evil, a good and powerful magic that guards over you and shields you from harm. A magic that knows the King you are meant to be, and gently guides you to your rightful place," The Druid leader spoke softly but the words echoed.
"This magic, where is it? What is it?" Arthur asked confused.
"It is a person Sire, a person destined to be by your side and to guide you, as you are destined to be the Greatest King Albion has ever known. This person will ever be at your side My Lord, watching over you,"
"How do you know they will stay by my side?" Arthur sighed, and Merlin could see the doubt creeping into his eyes again despite Excalibur on his belt and his people gazing at him with love. The doubt that the betrayals around him would continue and the magic that protected him would chose to leave his side. As everyone else had. Before he knew what he was doing Merlin was moving forwards.
"Because I am always by your side Arthur," The words came from his mouth before it was stoppered by his heart lodging in his throat. Which was strange because at the same time it felt as though it was trying to beat out of his chest while someone was sitting on it.
He caught the looks of shock and stunned surprise on Leon, Gwen and Percival's faces especially, the shock on everyone else's faces faded into one mass. But he didn't stop moving forwards until he was in front of Arthur, and then he knelt down on one knee bowing his head.
"Merlin!" Looking up at the disbelief on Arthur's face he bit back a rueful smile. Looking to the Druids he inclined his head when they bowed to him.
"Camelot was built upon magic, and magic has not forsaken it. I was sent to you Arthur, to protect the Once and Future King, and to ensure that you fulfilled the destiny that you were born for. I hid my magic from you and for that I can never apologise enough, but I had to stay at your protect you. Magic sees the King you are destined to be Arthur, and we are with you," Merlin met Arthur's eyes, begging him to believe him.
"You are…you have magic," Arthur breathed out, his face stunned as he realised Merlin was telling the truth.
"Yes," Merlin bowed his head again. After Agrivane's betrayal Merlin didn't know how Arthur would take this revelation. He was sure that it was too soon and he was scared that this would be one betrayal too many for Arthur. But everything in him was telling him this was the time.
"And you stayed in Camelot, in danger of discovery every day, under my father's nose! Why!?" Arthur demanded. "Because of this Destiny?"
"No," Merlin held his hand up to the Druids automatically when they shifted uneasily at the tone and implication to Arthur's words. And at Merlin's actions they stilled. Looking back to Arthur he took a deep breath and once more met his eyes. "I did not stay in Camelot. I stayed at your side. Not because of Destiny, I stayed because I love you, and because I believe in the King you are today and the King you are still destined to become, just as I believed in the prince you were, and the man you have always been,"
"You are the one that's been protecting me all these years?" Arthur sighed.
"Always," Merlin nodded. "My magic is yours," The Druids gasped, one woman even covering her mouth. Arthur to them before looking back to Merlin. And then he shocked everyone, including Merlin, by kneeling down in front of him.
"What does that mean? What have you done?" Arthur frowned at him.
"I have bound my magic to you in an oath. I can never break it, and I can never use magic to do you any harm," Merlin answered calmly. "Not that I ever have!"
"Merlin, I may not have seen what is in front of me, but I know you would never harm me. Why did you never tell me?" Arthur asked tiredly.
"I wanted to, I have wanted to for so long. At first I couldn't because you would have felt duty bound to arrest me, then I did not want to place you in a position of having to choose between myself and your father. I was going to tell you on your birthday, but your father…and then Gwen and I couldn't add to your problems," Merlin said, desperation in his voice as he begged Arthur to understand.
"Why now?" There was no accusation in Arthur's voice and it made something relax in Merlin.
"Because I could not let you think I would abandon you. And because you should know what and who you have standing beside you. Arthur you have always had my magic, now was the time for you to know it,"
"Then I thank you. Stand, you should not kneel in front of me," Arthur stood and placing his hands on Merlin's shoulders drew him up with him.
Merlin watched and waited as Arthur went around the people, talking to them and comforting them. And then as Merlin had expected he came towards him, he captured and gripped Merlin's arm and tugged him with him, through the edges of the camp and into the forest. Merlin stood where he was released and waited for Arthur to talk.
"What?" He looked up confused.
"Show me your magic," Arthur demanded coming to stand back in front of Merlin. Thinking of the best thing to perform Merlin closed his eyes and held his hand out before whispering the words. Arthur gasped when an ember dragon reared up in between them. "That is…"
"Yes?" Merlin asked nervously.
"Amazing!" Arthur breathed out staring at the dragon. "Merlin, is there anything else that I should know?"
"Yes," Merlin nodded. Before sighing and sitting down heavily. "Arthur, I'm the last Dragon Lord,"
"What?" Arthur staggered slightly.
"Balinor, he was my father. When he died the Dragon Lord legacy passed to me,"
"But there are no dragons left," Arthur frowned before sitting down heavily when Merlin looked at him.
"There are two. The Great Dragon, you didn't mortally wound it, I took control of it and I sent it away. I couldn't kill him, even after everything he did, he was the last of his kind, as I was, and he begged not for his life but that I did not destroy the last of his race because of his desire for revenge. I couldn't kill him," Merlin rambled.
"I…I found out what my father did, what he did to it. I…I can't agree with what you did, but I understand, you have a connection with him, if you are a Dragon lord right?"
"Yes, I feel him, his magic, his power all the time," Merlin nodded.
"You say magic is on my side? I have only ever been attacked by it!" Arthur frowned running his hands through his hair.
"Not only ever," Merlin shook his head. "My magic has been protecting you. And others, others like me, we believe in the land you will build and the King you will become,"
"Then where are they? Why have I never seen them?" Arthur asked exasperated.
"Because they like me can not reveal who they are for fear of being persecuted for something we can not help. You have relented on the Druids, but you have not changed the laws on magic and show no sign of doing so. And so they remain hidden, waiting for the right moment. Arthur they are just waiting, for you to show signs that will accept magic, and you will see the good," Merlin was suddenly aware that he was not pleading the case for himself, but for all magic users and for magic.
"Magic corrupts," Arthur frowned.
"Do you really believe that Arthur? Do you believe I am corrupted by my magic? Arthur it was a lie your father told, to condone what he did," Merlin said softly.
"Morgana was twisted by circumstances not her magic. And I can understand to a point…"
"What?!" Arthur stared at him in anger.
"Not like that, I could never accept what she has done, and in no way is she right for the choices she has made. I don't mean that I…sympathise with her, I mean that I pity her," Merlin sighed.
"What do you mean? Can you explain?" Arthur sat down in front of him, his eyes intense as he scanned Merlin's face.
"Arthur. Morgana discovered she had magic, after she had grown up being made to watch what happened to magic users in the courtyard where she lived. She was the King's ward, imagine, being afraid of who you are, not knowing if you are supposed to hate yourself or not, afraid that any moment someone will find out what you are and the people that raised you and cared for you will have you locked up an executed. While still watching as people, your people are killed for being exactly what you are. And then Morgause got into her head and twisted her bitterness and fear even further with her own hatred. And then I….when the knights of Medhir attacked, Morgause had made Morgana the centre of the spell that made the castle sleep. I…the only way I could stop the magic and get Morgause to call off the Knights was to poison Morgana. She knew what I had done,"
"You poisoned her…" Arthur's face was twisting.
"It was the only way, to protect you, and to protect Camelot. I didn't want to, even though I knew she was twisting, Morgana…I cared for her, and I knew you loved her," Merlin pleaded.
"I…why couldn't you tell me?" Arthur frowned.
"Because you loved her," Merlin said slowly.
"And I don't have a very good habit of listening to you when it comes to people who are betraying me," Arthur deflated suddenly.
"It would have been her words against mine and I am just a servant," Merlin said quietly, not confirming or denying Arthur's words. "I think, her time with Morgause and then finding out that Uther was her father, it snapped something in her. It wasn't the magic it was everything that happened around her, some of it she is to blame for, some of it circumstances around her,"
"But…you have had to hide who you are, you have lived in fear of being found out, you have been living in Camelot, risking being found out. And you have not turned evil," Arthur frowned.
"Magic is like a sword Arthur. Some pick up a sword and use it to defend. Other pick up a sword and use it to kill," Merlin tried to explain.
"I need to think," Arthur frowned standing.
"Arthur, I would never hurt you," Merlin reached out to grab his wrist. He let out a shocked noise when Arthur swept down and pressed their lips together. It was gentle or even very long, but it got across what Arthur wanted. Merlin blinked at him before licking his lips when he pulled away, still holding Merlin's chin.
"I never believed you would. It's a lot to take in, I just need to think," Arthur assured him.
"If I had known kissing you was all it to make you compliant I would have done it a hell of a lot sooner," Arthur snorted before he pressed one more kiss to Merlin's lips before he turned and made his way away from Merlin.
The dark haired man sighed, rubbing his face tiredly, everything sinking in, what he had done in front of everyone. He had finally told Arthur, and he had kissed him, he wasn't angry, he didn't seem to be angry.
"I reckon that we owe you a lot of thanks," Merlin looked up sharply to see Percival and Leon standing in front of him.
"What?" He blinked confused.
"All the strange things that happened to swing battles in our favour when you were around, mysterious flying inanimate objects, a huge amount of falling branches, people tripping randomly, quite a few rock falls when I come to think of it. I just thought you were some sort of…lucky charm. But that was all you wasn't it, not to mention I think a lot of our major battles we have you to thank for winning," Leon smiled.
"I'm sorry I lied to you," Merlin said softly.
"Its ok, we understand," Percival patted him on the back, only to nearly send him flying. "Sorry,"
"Its fine," Merlin smiled.
"How's Arthur taking it?" Leon asked.
"He seems to be trying to understand, and I don't think he's angry," Merlin worried his lip before blushing when he remembered Arthur's had been there. He started when Percival and Leon sat down on either side of him. He smiled faintly as the two clearly tried to distract him by going through various things from their history guessing that it had something to do with Merlin or not.
"Leave us," Arthur demanded, informing them all that he had returned. Leon and Percival both squeezed Merlin's shoulders before walking off, Arthur quickly taking the place Percival had been in.
"Are you ok?" Merlin asked softly after a few moments of silence between them.
"I think so. Its still a lot to take in, and not a lot of time to get used to it. Things are going to have to change," Arthur sighed.
"Do they have to?" Merlin asked a little panicked, was Arthur going to send him away?!
"Of course they do, you can not remain as my man servant, especially as you have announced yourself a sorcerer in front of half of Camelot!" Merlin closed his eyes in dread. So Arthur wasn't going to kill him, he was going to send him away instead. "…do something about your clothes…the seamstress to make you some new outfits, though I know she has been dying to get her hands on you for a long time, something about your colouring and…new rooms, though I will have to move Gaius as well he deserves better rooms and ones he doesn't have to travel as far to…just move you into my rooms would be better…to get you a new title, Court Sorcerer or Magical Royal Advisor or…"
"Wait, what?" Merlin asked shakily suddenly realising what Arthur was saying.
"You aren't going to complain about keeping those clothes are you Merlin, I mean honestly you have had them for years!" Arthur sighed.
"No, no Arthur what are talking about, clothes, rooms, court sorcerer?" Merlin shook his head.
"Well you are going to have to have a title to go with the position you are going to hold, and you are going to have to have clothes to match that position, especially if you are officially going to stand by my side, and now I have a good reason to have them made for you. As for rooms, Gaius has been more than faithful to my family for most of his life, he deserves to be properly thanked for it, better rooms will be a start. You with your new position can't be seen to still be living with your mentor, of course if you want to be really proper about it I can have the consort suit set up for you, I will have that done anyway, but I will have the bedroom made up for you," Arthur was looking at him concerned.
"What…consort?" Merlin felt as though he had missed a huge chunk of this conversation.
"My consort," Arthur frowned.
"No…me?" He choked.
"Well yes Merlin, what did you think I was talking about?!" Arthur had his idiot tone back.
"But, Gwen…" Merlin frowned, pushing Arthur's hand away from him as he remembered the woman Arthur loved, and who he had been sure Arthur was reconciling with.
"No! No you stop! Whatever this is stop it! This isn't fair, is…are you punishing me? Is this…is this my punishment?" Merlin frowned trying to fight back the growing hurt in his chest.
"What no! Merlin stop please!" It was the please that did it, Merlin stopped trying to stand up, but he refused to meet Arthur's eyes.
"You're in love with Gwen Arthur, whatever this is, I can't…Arthur its hard enough watching you, and Gwen, this is…this is cruel Arthur," Merlin said softly. He made a startled noise when Arthur grabbed him by his shoulders and yanked him against his chest, holding on tightly when he tried to fight him again.
"Merlin. I love Gwen yes, but I have never been in love with her. And she knows that. And she knows how I feel for you. I thought you felt nothing more for me than friendship, and I wouldn't risk what we have, I couldn't…" Arthur dropped his head onto Merlin's shoulder as the sorcerer stopped struggling in his arms. "But you said…and I saw in your eyes…you love me too,"
"I….always have," Merlin sighed, no point in denying it, whatever was going on.
"I would have married Gwen out of duty to her for leading her on. But she betrayed me, I have no honour to her to uphold anymore. We both lied about where our true feelings lie. It may sound cold, for I still care for her, but I have the chance at the love that I turned my back on to be with her. If you will have me, I am not letting this slip by me a second time," Arthur said firmly.
"You mean it?" Merlin asked quietly.
"I would never lie to you about something like this, or play with your feelings, no matter what you had done to me," Arthur swore.
"Stay by my side," Arthur whispered into Merlin's ear. Merlin licked his lips before he turned and pressed them to Arthur's tenderly.
"Always," He sighed into the kiss before Arthur pressed back more insistently. The both of them chose to ignore the giggling and cheering that they could hear as Leon and Percival scrambled back to the camp leaving them to their privacy.