A.N This story is for Bloopywhoopy who got my mind ticking over on this brilliant idea. The original idea given to me will be in the second chapter, but this one was the one that came to being first, I was just very unhappy with the episode with Ygraine and Morgause, Ygraine was so un-maternal, I had to rewrite it XD. Hope you enjoy
Arthur looked at Merlin one last time, at his unhappy face but clearly showing that he wasn't going to stop Arthur from doing this. He ignored the tug in his chest as Merlin's blue eyes watched him with concern. But he faced the stones and blew on the horn, the piercing sound echoing around the area. He breathed in and thought about his father, of wanting to see him again, of wanting to hear him again. How much he wanted to hear a parents advise right now.
The light swelled around him and took in a light breath before he walked forwards into the light. He was shocked by the icy heat that washed over him, freezing his skin and yet burning it up at the same time. He realised with a start that he was no longer walking through the light, instead the light was forming a room of some sort around him, about the size of the area inside of the stones. Gazed around awed it took him a moment to realise that there was a figure forming in front of him.
He squinted waiting to see his father finally, but blinked when the figure took on a distinctly feminine appearance, an appearance that was definitely not his father's. He couldn't stop his breath from audibly catching when he took in the long white dress, the regal bearing, the golden skin, soft blue eyes, golden blonde hair.
"Mother?" Arthur choked out.
"Arthur," Ygraine smiled, her eyes filling with tears as she took in her son.
"Can…can I…" Arthur reached out not able to finish the words as his hungrily drunk in his mother's appearance. He had come to see his father, but he realised in his heart that the parent he really wanted to see was the one that was standing in front of him right now.
"That is the gift of the horn, here I am as real as you are," Ygraine reached out and cupped her son's cheeks, meeting the eyes that were so much like her own.
"I…" Arthur jerked forwards, wrapping his arms around his mother's waist and buried his face into her hair. He felt like a little boy, needing his mother's comforting hug, a hug he had never been able to receive when he was little and engraved into his memory now. And Ygraine hugged him back with a strength that completely belied her slender frame, her hands alternating between running through his hair and rubbing his back. He was glad he had removed his armour before this otherwise he would have likely had to break their hug quickly to stop himself from hurting his mother.
"Oh Arthur, I am so proud of you! You have no idea, you are doing so amazingly well!" Ygraine said softly, aware that even though she would quite happily spend their limited time holding her son in her arms for the second time in their lives, there were things that needed to be said and discussed.
"I… some days I worry," Arthur admitted into her shoulder.
"About what?" Ygraine asked softly, running her fingers through his hair and wondering at how it was the exact same shade as her own.
"That I have made the wrong choices. That I am not strong enough. The decisions I have made, the changes are so different to how father ruled," Arthur made a noise of protest when Ygraine pulled away from their hug, but she gripped his face again, her blue eyes serious as she looked at him.
"Arthur, your father was a good man, and a strong king. But you are a better man and a better king. Your father put his own feelings and his own anger above those of his people, and he punished them for his own choices. Just because you are not ruling as he did does not mean that you are ruling wrong, or that you are weak. It takes a stronger man to rule with kindness and have a great Kingdom than it does for a King to rule with fear," Ygraine said softly but her words were firm.
"What do you mean his own choices?" Arthur frowned after a few beats of taking in what she said. Her words making his heart and shoulders feel a little lighter.
"Arthur. We have met before. Morgause really did manage to summon me," Ygraine said gently, but she felt her son's body freeze.
"But that means…you said…"
"You were born of magic Arthur. Morgause's spell it was not a natural summoning as this is, it was painful and uncomfortable to my soul. I was not as gentle with the truth as I should have been I fear," Ygraine sighed.
"But…he killed you…magic killed you! He was right!" Arthur frowned, confusion and pain warring within him as he looked at the woman he had lost, the kind and warmth, the gentleness and maternal presence that had not been present during his childhood.
"No Arthur. Listen to me!" Ygraine said firmly when she saw her son's distraction. "Your father made the agreement, not knowing that the price would be my life. Nimueh was my friend. She probably had her worries but you know what your father was like when he had his mind set on something and demanded it. And magic, magic was not to fault for this Arthur, a deal was met with all parties unknowing of the price it would claim and the terrible retribution your father would seek,"
"But…magic still claimed your life," Arthur said slowly, ignoring the tears that were trickling down his cheeks.
"Arthur. Magic is neutral and unbiased, it is ancient and human lives are but a dust speck in the light, with the exception of very few people. You can not give life back or create a life without another being claimed, that is the balance of the world, that is the price. For you to live, there had to be a price claimed. Magic decided that that would be me," Ygraine gently wiped his tears from his eyes.
"I'm so sorry, I so so sorry I…"
"No!" Ygraine interrupted his words shaking her head, tears appearing in her own eyes as she followed Arthur to the floor as his knees collapsed. "No, my baby, I would never ever regret having you. Even knowing the price, I would do it all again. You my love are worth everything, seeing the man you are here, standing in front of me, you are so worth it. Arthur you are my son, I carried you for nine months, I nurtured you, and every moment I got with you was amazing. You always were and always will be my miracle," She smiled through her tears as she brushed his hair from his face.
"But you died because of me," Arthur shook his head.
"Arthur, my love, I died so that you would live. That is a sacrifice any mother would make, that is a sacrifice I would make a hundred times willingly. The life you have, shines so brightly throughout the world and throughout history. The King you are and the King you will become, it was more than worth it Arthur," Ygraine smiled brightly.
"I needed you, I still need you," Arthur whispered.
"I'm so sorry, I wish I could have been there for you, I wish I could have seen you grow, been there when you had your nightmares, seen you wield your first sword and take part in your first tournament. But never forget Arthur I am not completely gone, a part of me will always be with you, and I will always be there with you, in here," Ygraine tapped his chest with her slender fingers.
"I need your strength. Some of the choices I have to make…they confuse me so much," Arthur sighed.
"You speak of magic," Ygraine stated rather than asked, taking his hands in hers.
"Yes. I do not agree with the way Father ruled and banned it, killing people for being suspected over it. But I have seen so much evil and hatred from magic," Arthur said softly.
"Arthur. Your father twisted the truth to make himself right. Yes magic can be corrupting, the power can consume some. But then so can the power of wielding a sword. When I was alive, the court was full of magic, and it performed such wonders, it helped our crops grow when the summer was too hot or the winters too cold, it helped heal the sick and the wounded. You have seen the worst of magic, because it is only those filled with hate and wanting revenge on your father that would risk coming into the open. But you have seen the good as well, unknowingly or not. You have seen the people punished for trying to heal or for helping the crops in their village. There is good magic out there Arthur, amazing magic that just waits for the time it will be accepted again before revealing itself," Ygraine told him passionately before smiling. "Would it help if I told you I could do magic?"
"What?!" Arthur nearly choked in shock at his mother's words.
"Oh I was nothing impressive, I had just a little magic. Enough to heal small wounds and sicknesses, I could sense things more than anything else, if there was danger to come, or happiness things like that," Ygraine nodded.
"As normal chose to see what he wanted," Ygraine rolled her eyes fondly.
"I don't know if I can welcome magic into my land," Arthur admitted lost.
"Can you condemn it and the people that use it?" Ygraine asked.
"No," Arthur said surely, the memory of the old woman lying dying by their fireside as Merlin tried to make her as comfortable as possible to die, to give her a little dignity back. The woman who had given him this gift.
"Then your choice is already made. Arthur you cling to this uncertainty mainly through loyalty to your father and not wanting to admit that he was so wrong. I loved your father, and he did his best. But he was a selfish man, and a spoilt one. He did not get his way exactly as he saw it, and rather than admit to his guilt for making the bargain without my knowledge, he punished others. But Camelot is yours now, and all its people, magical and not are yours to protect. You have already broken some of our oldest laws with your knights, this choice is one you must also make with your heart as well as your head," Ygraine advised.
"My knights…you do you…"
"I think they are wonderful! All those stuffy Pendragons will be rolling in theirs graves!" Ygraine laughed in delight. "They are wonderful men and even better Knights Arthur, and they will stand by your side till the end,"
"I wish that you could meet them, and Guinevere, you would get on I think," Arthur said thoughtfully.
"Ah. Yes, I do not think that myself and Guinevere would get along," Ygraine said, her suddenly tight and angry expression startling Arthur.
"Mother?" Arthur frowned confused.
"I am not sure that I should say anything Arthur, it is perhaps not my place," Ygraine shook her head, clearly trying to fight it into some sort of neutral expression.
"You are my mother, if there is anyone that has a place to say something it is you!" Arthur protested. "Is it because she is a commoner?"
"No Arthur!" Ygraine shook her head a little more rapidly.
"Because I married for love?" He asked feeling more lost.
"No, Arthur. It is perhaps that you married her for love that makes this worse," Ygraine sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose in a manner that startled him, it was a familiar gesture that he himself made when he was frustrated.
"Mother, please…" He decided to try pleading, something he realised broken her resolve quickly. She reached out and took his hand between hers gently before speaking.
"Arthur….Guinevere, she…she has not been faithful to you," Arthur reared back as though slapped, he wished his could shout denials and call her a liar, but the expression on her face made it clear that she wished she hadn't had to tell him. She looked even more sorrowful than when she had told him it was Uther's betrayal that had cost her her life, and him a mother.
"But…who?" He managed to choked out.
"Lancelot," Ygraine said the name that Arthur had known would be uttered and had prayed it would not be.
"I…I…" He frowned as he dropped forwards feeling his heart breaking. The two people he had trusted, the two who were in his closest circle. The two who knew they had the power to break him.
"Arthur…I wish I had the time to be more tactful, I wish I had the time to be gentle about this. But our time is running out here and it will be another year before you may summon me again if you wish. I know that this hurts, and I know that this betrayal will shake you to your roots. But love is not lost to you, nor is it impossible for you find and keep. There is one, one that has always been at your side, one that loves you with an honestly, with a truth and passion, with a loyalty that I doubt you will ever find in your life. One that would stand by your side for the rest of your lives…."
"Merlin," Arthur breathed out the name lifting his eyes to his mother's.
"Yes," She smiled. "And I feel that you do not feel so different?"
"I love him as my closest friend," Arthur shook his head.
"But it could be different if you allowed yourself to acknowledge it. And I think you have felt like this for a long time, even before Guinevere,"
"I would never betray her like that!" Arthur snapped.
"I know, I know, I was not saying that you would," Ygraine soothed him. "I think you realised the potential there, but for many reasons wished not to risk it, mainly for his own safety I would guess,"
"He was in enough danger being my friend. Being my lover? Male and a servant? I could not trust Father not to get rid of him for 'my own good'," Arthur sighed.
"Arthur you have no one dictating your life, no one but you to make this choices. Make the one that your heart tells you is right,"
"That has always been Merlin," Arthur smiled sadly.
"Its not too late. You are not the one betraying Guinevere, that betrayal has already taken part on her side. You have a chance to be happy and know real, unconditional love. Grasp it with both your hands Arthur and do not let it slip by again, I fear a third chance is not in your futures," Ygraine squeezed the hand in hers.
"But the people. Divorcing my Queen, and taking up with a male servant?"
"Arthur, Merlin is not merely a servant," Ygraine said slowly.
"What do you mean?" Arthur asked confused.
"Arthur…Merlin is a powerful sorcerer, he is the last Dragon Lord. And he has been at your side all these years protecting you from harm, keeping who he really is secret, hiding and being thought of as nothing but a loyal idiot because he loves you and believes in the man you will become,"
"If he believes so strongly in who I am then why has he never told me!" Arthur finally managed to spit out after long beats of tension filled silence between them.
"Arthur, think! He has had to hide who he is his whole life, his mother probably drilled it into his head for his safety from a child. He was living under the King's nose. And you have never been steady on what you believe in magic, swinging back and forth. After Morgana and everything that has happened with her, and then that yellow bellied, greedy, disgusting, despicable coward of a brother of mine, he fears what another betrayal will do to you, and he believes that you will see this as a betrayal. Think how you would feel, believing that the person that you love more than anyone else, the person you have dedicated your life to, believeing that they could look at you with hate, distrust and disgust in their eyes," Ygraine shook his shoulders slightly to make sure he was listening to her.
"I would never…"
"Arthur your temper proceeds rational thought sometimes. A part of you sees this as a betrayal, I can see it in your eyes. What would you do if this was him facing you, telling you. Would you give him the time to defend himself?"
"I…no," Arthur deflated staring at his mother mournfully.
"Oh Arthur, this not a bad thing. Merlin has saved your life so many times, not allow him to save and protect your heart. Together, oh Arthur, together the things that you can do! The land you can build! Have faith in him, trust him, because if there is one person that will never let you down, that will never betray you, it is that boy," Ygraine smiled.
"My friendship with him, I can't risk losing that," Arthur admitted his fear quietly, gripping onto his mother's hands.
"Arthur, you won't be losing that friendship, you will be gaining more on top of it. Plus you are already risking losing that friendship by pushing Merlin away and keeping him at arms length. He is in love with you, can you imagine what it is like for him, watching you with Guinevere, being kept at arms length. Its always a risk that you are going to lose someone by getting into a relationship with them. But I think that you and Merlin do not have to worry, the future you have together and the lives you are destined to live are so twined together I am not sure that there is an Arthur without a Merlin. Your future blazes so brightly together," Ygraine stroked her hand over his cheek.
"You think...you would love him," Arthur grinned.
"I love him already for the man that he has helped you become already. I'm sure that I would love him, especially as I know you Pendragon's need someone who will tell you when you are being idiots!" Ygraine chuckled.
"Mother!" Arthur protested with a laugh.
"What, I love you, but you know that you can be a bit of a prat sometimes," Ygraine teased.
"That's what Merlin said to me the first time we met," Arthur laughed.
"Really? Tell me!" Ygraine laughingly demanded. Arthur grinned before telling her about the first two meetings with himself and Merlin. And then he found himself telling her about their different times together.
"I'm still not entirely sure what a clotpole is," Arthur snickered.
"Oh Arthur, he sounds wonderful!" Ygraine wiped a tear from her eye.
"I think...you're right, our relationship is worth the risk, what I think that we could have," Arthur bit his lip.
"Oh Arthur, I'm so glad!" Ygraine tugged him forwards into a hug. And so he felt it when Ygraine jerked suddenly.
"I have to go Arthur, our time is up," Ygraine smiled sadly, cupping his face, her eyes drinking him in desperately.
"Already!" Arthur protested, holding onto her tighter.
"There is a limit or you will be trapped here," Ygraine ran her fingers through his hair. "You can come back in a year and we can see each other again. And I expect to see a different ring on this finger Arthur Pendragon. You deserve real and honest love!" Ygraine scolded lightly tapping Guinevere's ring on his finger.
"I will, I'll be here, and maybe I can bring Merlin with me next time. I would love for you to actually meet him," Arthur sniffled slightly feeling tears building in his eyes.
"I would love to get to see you both next year. Now go, before you are trapped, and tell that boy how you feel about him," Ygraine kissed both his cheeks and then his forehead before they fell together in one last desperate hug.
Arthur had to be helped to his feet by Ygraine after she stood, allowing her to pull him to his feet. With one last hug they forced themselves to part from each other, staggering back a few stops. Arthur could feel the pull to stay, to stay with his mother and not let go of her after finally getting to meet her, to know her love and her kindness. But the thought of Merlin, waiting for him on the other side of where ever they were, probably worrying about him and panicking about what was happening to him. The promise of the chance of a future that they could have.
"You have to go now my love, and don't look back, whatever happens you can't look back!" Ygraine warned.
"I won't look back. I will see you in a year," Arthur promised, walking slowly backwards.
"I will see you in a year. Now go," Ygraine smiled through her tears. Uncaring of his own spilling down his cheeks Arthur turned and went back the way he had come. "Remember Arthur, I will always love you," Ygraine whispered after him.
The urge to turn back and have just one last look was almost too much to bear, but his mother's warning and the tone of her voice lingered in his mind and he grit his teeth almost painfully and kept looking forward to where he knew Merlin was. His breath left him in a whoosh as he stepped through the light and into the dull sunlight and wide landscape where he had left Merlin.
"Arthur!" Merlin had rushed forwards as soon as he saw Arthur stumbling, and his deceptively strong hands grasped his upper arms. Before he could really think about what he was doing, or the fact that while he had discussed this with his mother and fairly made up his mind, he had not yet spoken to Merlin, he could not stop himself from wrapping his arms around Merlin's waist and hugging him tightly.
He was fairly sure that he had not taken or given so many hugs in a year as he had today, but he needed the comfort of Merlin, of what he had good and waiting for him here to take away from the betrayal still burning his heart, and the desire to turn around and go back to his mother's warmth and safety. He felt Merlin freezing, probably completely shocked and worried now at this unusual behaviour. But when Arthur snuggled closer breathing in the earthy, herbal, soapy scent that was all Merlin, the thinner man wrapped his arms around Arthur and hugged back.
"Come, we need to find somewhere to camp before night falls," Arthur pulled away slowly and with clear reluctance, but the wind was starting to bite through them and the sun was already beginning to sink.
"Arthur what…." Merlin frowned at him clearly concerned.
"Later, come on," Arthur automatically took Merlin's hand and started leading him back to the horses. When he felt the shock from Merlin at the action he considered letting go but thought better and just led Merlin to the horses.
He could feel Merlin's worried eyes on him as they mounted their horses and started away from the stones. It was unspoken between them that they both wanted to put as far between them and the stones as they could before they settled down to camp, the stones eery atmosphere was not something they wanted to be near to while they slept.
They had been riding for a good hour before the sun rapidly began to set leaving them with no choice but to find somewhere suitable and start setting up their camp. They moved with years of practice and familiarity, setting up their camp rapidly until they had their bed rolls laid out, a fire crackling merrily and burning brighter and brighter, meat was cooking nicely over the fire giving off a scent that was making Arthur's stomach rumble. They had both settled down on either side of the fire and were sitting in two very different silences. Merlin watching Arthur concerned and frowning slightly. Arthur going over everything that had happened and had been said and the choices and decisions he was now going to have to make.
"I am thinking of making this a yearly celebration, I promised my mother I would be back next year," Arthur finally spoke, clearly shocking Merlin.
"A yearly…but that would mean celebrating magic! And…wait…your mother but you…" He stammered.
"Apparently magic knows my heart, my real desires and who I need to speak to better than I do myself. It was my mother who was summoned," Arthur smiled, a little bittersweet but definitely with happiness.
"I what did she…," Merlin looked as though he was about to have a heart attack so Arthur took pity on him.
"She told me that it was her that Morgause summoned, and that what she had told me was true, that I was born of magic. As I think you know," Arthur took pity, but not completely.
"Arthur I…I couldn't let you kill your father, if you had you would have hated yourself! No matter what he had done! You were so angry and the only thing I could think to say to get you to calm down and stop was…"
"Merlin, honestly calm down," Arthur chuckled slightly amused at how frantic Merlin was getting himself when Arthur was just sitting calmly on the other side of the fire. Something Merlin just seemed to realise.
"You're not angry?" He asked confused.
"My mother spoke to me about a lot of things to make me see them as they really are and not what I have had worn into my head, or refuse to disbelieve because of loyalty to my father. Magic for one," Arthur watched closely and so could see Merlin flinch.
"Magic?" He choked out.
"Magic. I have made steps with the Druids. But all magic users while not persecuted as they were are still not welcomed. I need to start making changes to that, when we get back I will start making new decrees and laws, yourself and Gaius will have to help me start laying them out and figuring them out. After all if you have magic that it can't be all bad, and a stumbling idiot like you is definitely not an evil master mind," Arthur said calmly watching Merlin's face pale.
"Arthur…" Merlin wheezed as though something was sitting on his chest. "I…I…I…please…"
"Come here you idiot," Arthur moved quickly around the fire and once again tugged Merlin against his chest again, he held him firmly and tilted Merlin's face up to press their lips together firmly.
"Arthur no!" Merlin tugged his face away from Arthur, the King feeling his heart shattering, his mother had gotten it wrong! "I can't…I can't do this and then…and then watch you going back to…to Gwen and pretend…" Merlin shook his head, tears filling his eyes as he tried to push away from Arthur.
"Shush, shush, Merlin listen to me, please!" It was probably the please that did it, because Merlin stopped struggling against him, instead blinking up at him with those damned wide, so blue eyes filled with tears.
"Arthur, please don't…" Merlin lowered his eyes, his hand resting on Arthur's chest but at least not trying to escape anymore.
"Listen to me. When we go back to Camelot I will be telling Guinevere that we are getting divorced and that she is to leave Camelot. I will give her one of the houses on the outskirts of the Kingdom and…"
"Arthur what?! What happened? Something is wrong! You love Gwen, you wouldn't do this just like that. We need to get you Gaius and…" Arthur tugged Merlin back down when the younger man started trying to pull him to his feet, clearly intending on taking him back to Camelot right now.
"Merlin, nothing has happened to me. I have just had a…well it wasn't a suspicion that they had gone this far, I never thought they would betray me like this…I was sure she would come to me before this would happen but…they have and now I have to do what I should have done a long time ago, except I have to send them away now," Arthur sighed tiredly, the day weighing on him.
"Arthur? What are you talking about?" Merlin asked, concern growing even more on his face.
"Guinevere and Lancelot are having an affair, I suspect it probably start about two years ago," Arthur sighed.
"Oh Arthur…I though Gwen had made her choice and they were both sticking to it, if I had known I would have…" Merlin drew off looking at Arthur sadly.
"I sort of knew myself, somewhere deep down. But I did love Guinevere and she was safe so I ignored it because I was afraid of what I really wanted. I am to blame for this as well, I would have preferred if they had come to me and told me that they wanted to be together, but I'm sure she knew that she did not have my full love, just as I suspect I did not have hers," Arthur shrugged.
"Merlin, you really are an idiot sometimes," Arthur sighed amused.
"Hey! What do you. Oh," Merlin blinked up at him, hope visibly welling up in his eyes.
"Yes oh. Merlin I was a coward, I needed you with me, I needed you. I was terrified of losing what we had by taking a chance at something more, so I pushed my feelings back and pretended they were something else. I've been unfair to you, and probably have not right to ask this, but do we have a chance?" Arthur asked nervously.
"What feelings?" Merlin bit his lip unsurely.
"What?" Arthur blinked.
"You're feelings, what are they? We have gone too long not knowing really how the other feels, we need to talk about this properly. I need you to tell me how you feel," Merlin said a little more firmly.
"I…you are everything to me. You support me when I am weak and remind me I am strong when my courage is failing, even though you are the one that gives me that strength. You make me feel like a man when everyone else sees someone who is forced onto a pedestal and has to live up to it, you make me better and even more than that you make me want to be better. You remind me in the good and happiness that there is in my life when everything seems to be swallowing me. And I honestly don't think that I can even imagine you not being with me, I can't imagine you not being in my life, and I don't know what I would do without you with me. Gwen, the Knight, Gaius, Geoffrey, even my father when he was alive – all of them I know I can carry on without, it will hurt and I would grieve their loss, but you…you have twined yourself around me so much, around my heart that I am not sure I exist without you. You're my other half, my heart and soul, and I love you more than Camelot, I love you from one end of Albion to the other and the heavens above us. You're my guiding light when the darkness starts to swallow me and I love you more than anything else," Arthur spoke from his heart despite his normal reticence to put himself so vulnerably on display like this, knowing that his future with Merlin rested right here on this moment.
And he didn't take his eyes off of Merlin's face as he talked, watched as his words soaked into all the wounds and scars that his words and actions had caused over the years and started to heal them over. He watched as Merlin's eyes filled with happiness and tears until just as he finished Merlin threw himself into his chest and held on tightly so that the last of Arthur's words were murdered against jet black hair.
"I love you Arthur, so much," Merlin admitted shakily, the words he had held so close finally falling from his lips in a tumble into the skin over Arthur's heart.
"Do we have a chance?" Arthur asked softly.
"Yes, I want nothing more than to be with you, to give us a try," Merlin smiled raising his head. Arthur leant down slowly, letting Merlin understand what he was doing this time, and kissed him gently, both of them feeling the soothing wave falling over their bodies and hearts even as a fire seemed to race through their veins. "Arthur," Merlin complained trying to follow and deepen the kiss when Arthur pulled away.
"I won't dishonour you by going any further when I am still a married man to all intents. We will get back to Camelot tomorrow and I will talk to Guinevere and Lancelot, I will inform them of their banishment and the divorce. And then I will start the proper courting towards you, after appointing you Court Sorcerer and Magical Advisor of course," Arthur said with more strength than he reckoned he actually had.
"Arthur the proper courting lasts four months!" Merlin groaned dropping his head against Arthur's chest.
"I will do this properly!" Arthur said managing to sound both determined and strained at the same time. Merlin's warmth pressing against his body was not really helping.
"I've been waiting ten years Arthur!" Merlin whined.
"Then four months will not be much," Arthur smirked running his fingers through Merlin's black hair, enjoying the simple fact of being allowed to touch Merlin tenderly and intimately.
"Ten years of watching you bathe, and prance around half naked! All sweaty and dirty from practices and exercising in those damned tops that go mostly see through with sweat!" Merlin complained.
"Ten years of watching you bend over scrubbing that damned table, or the floor, or the hearth, all sweaty and dirty with that ridiculous grin that makes me want to do all sorts of things to you that did I not set the laws I am sure should be illegal – and I do not prance Merlin," Arthur retorted.
"You do so prance. Are you sure that we can't just keep it secret?" Merlin asked hopefully, ignoring the way his face was burning at Arthur's words.
"I do not prance Merlin, I am the King, King's don't prance," Arthur sniffed sticking his nose pompously into the air and getting the laugh he was looking for from Merlin. "And no we can not just keep it a secret, I want to do this properly, please Merlin?"
"Oh fine! But don't blame me if something magically goes boom when we get to finally do it!" Merlin pouted before tensing and looking up at Arthur nervously at his slip in words.
"I'll make sure that anything dangerous, heavy or sharp besides the bed is removed from our chambers before hand, though you can be the one to explain to the servants why," Arthur snorted.
"I'm thinking more the torches in the castle all becoming flame throwers," Merlin snickered.
"Oh dear lord, I knew I was going to regret this," Arthur sighed dramatically before laughing when Merlin's sharp elbows dug into his side. "Ok, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For now lets sleep, we have a long ride back and I want to do get all this sorted as soon as we get back," Arthur winced at the thought standing when Merlin shuffled back slightly.
"You know if you keep Leon awake all night he's going to be seriously grumpy as normal, we should set off earlier than normal," Merlin said thoughtfully, nodding when Arthur winced at the thought of Leon without sleep.
"That would mean you actually have to be awake Merlin," Arthur teased.
"I can wake up!" Merlin protested before blinking. "What are you doing?"
"I'm pulling our bed rolls together, just because we can not do other things doesn't mean I can't get to sleep with you in my arms," Arthur snorted.
"Might be you sleeping in my arms," Merlin grumbled under his breath despite knowing it was a lie, he had dreamt about getting to sleep in Arthur's arms for years, he was not going to pass the chance up. So much so that he was already moving towards the bed rolls.
"King's don't sleep in their Consort's arms Merlin," Arthur drawled.
"Bat ears! And they might," Merlin grinned flopping down onto Arthur roll. He was hysterically laughing by the time Arthur finished tickling him and bodily moved him onto his own bed roll before flopping down behind him and tugging him back against his warm body firmly before covering them with the blanket and fur they had with them to keep out the winter chill. "Arthur?" Merlin asked after a few moments of silence and both of them getting their breath.
"Are you ok? Everything, your mother, Gwen, Lance…are you ok?" Merlin asked softly, running his fingers over the back of Arthur's hand and arm where it was thrown over his waist.
"I needed to speak to my mother. She told me things that I have known for a long time, but have never been brave enough to face. Getting to talk to her even for just that time, made me feel…I don't know…more centred. I was never really my father's son, we were too different, I guess it's good to know that I am my mother's son. It's eased something I never really knew was hurting, or at least not the full extent. Guinevere and Lancelot, it hurts, of course it does. More the fact that they betrayed me, and didn't feel they could come to me and speak to me before they committed the betrayal. I would like to think they know me well enough to know that if they had come to me and told me that they loved each other that much that they were willing to risk their lives to be together, I would have let Guinevere go. I would have carried on with the marriage, despite us had this not happened, I couldn't have betrayed her loyalty…" Something like guilt coloured Arthur's voice so Merlin squeezed his hand.
"I know, your loyalty and righteousness I love and hate," Merlin sighed raising Arthur's hand to his mouth to kiss the knuckles before placing it back over his waist. "Arthur I…I love you, I have for a long time, but I would have been content…no I would have been ok with whatever place I could have in your life, as long as I was in it,"
"I don't deserve you," Arthur shook his head holding Merlin tighter to himself.
"You deserve to be happy Arthur," Merlin squeezed his hand.
"You have always made me happiest. I've been a fool, but I was a fool for the best of intentions. Do you think…Do you think that you can be happy with the future we could have together?"
"We're already forging a future together Arthur, we have been for a long time. Us forging a future in a different direction together? Yes, I can be very happy with that," Merlin smiled, shifting until he could press his lips to Arthur's. He closed his eyes and sighed happily when Arthur's strong fingers combed into his hair as he tenderly kissed him back.
Merlin had been so sure that he would never get this, that this was something he was always going to be on the outside of in Arthur's life. And while he hadn't lied to Arthur when he said that he had been happy just being by Arthur's side, it had broken his heart seeing him with Gwen. He didn't know how long this was going to last, there was a part of him that wasn't entirely sure that this would last, that they wouldn't get back to Camelot and everything would just go back to exactly how it had been.
But Arthur's grip in his hair, his warm and firm hand on his hip, his warm body against him told him that Arthur was here and that this was real. Arthur's nature wasn't one to be cruel, especially not with someone else's emotions. As he lay deep into the night exchanging kisses with Arthur, the reality sank deeper and deeper into him, and he clung onto Arthur as hope and happiness welled inside of him, picking up speed and strength until he felt he could trust this.
And the future that he was looking at now, it was bigger and brighter and suddenly filled with a lot more hope and joy than he had become resigned to receiving in his life. And if the he was reading the look in Arthur's blue eyes correctly, a heck of a lot more love than he had thought he would ever receive.
Smiling in a way that was both shy and overjoyed Merlin snuggled down into Arthur's chest and settled down to get at least a little bit of sleep before they had to get up and ride back to Camelot. He knew that the future was not going to be easy, that it was going to hold a lot of hurt and pain for Arthur, even with their relationship the realty of the betrayal of two of the people he trusted most and the actions he would have to take were going to be gut wrenching, for Merlin he was going to be losing two of his closest friends, and bringing magic back was going to be fought against by a portion of the court and the people who had believed Uther's propaganda.
But they had each other, and they had proven before that together they could fight against anything that came their way and win. They were strong enough to fight through anything that came their way. And their destiny was set into place for them to follow.