Title: Like a Fine Wine (15)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, Percival, Leon
Summary: It was slowly starting to sink in that they had done it—they were safe, at least temporarily, free to return to their ordinary lives while they tried to figure out what it was they’d been brought back to do.
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | AO3 ]
Warnings: None (this part).
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 385 Scream
Author's Notes: Aaaand we're done! I still need to revise this part but I ran out of time, so...apologies in advance.
“That’s the second time I’ve saved your life, Princess,” said a familiar voice from the doorway. “I reckon you owe me a drink.”
“You’re kidding,” Arthur said, staring. Gwaine shrugged, grinning, and behind him Percy and—was that Leon?—both gave awkward little waves. “How did you get here?”
“Funny story that,” Gwaine said, picking his way past Mordred’s body and looking around the devastated kitchen. “But how about I tell it to you when we get outside? Leon’s called the fire department, but this place looks like it’s on the verge of falling apart, and I’d rather not be here when that happens.”
As if to underscore his point, the wooden staircase gave an ominous groan and the bottom stair collapsed, sending up a flurry of sparks. Smoke billowed through the open kitchen door, and Arthur began to cough.
“Yeah, you’re right, we should go,” he agreed, once he’d caught his breath. “Merlin?”
But Merlin was standing stock still, staring at Gwaine and the others with a stunned expression on his face. “You remember,” he said. “All of you?”
“Uh, yeah.” Gwaine ran a hand through his hair, and it was the first time Arthur could remember seeing him look hesitant. “It hurt like a sonuvabitch, but at least now we have some idea of what’s going on—”
He was cut off abruptly as Merlin launched himself at him, enveloping the former knight in a massive bear hug. Gwaine laughed, the tension in his shoulders fading as he returned the embrace with equal enthusiasm, lifting Merlin clear off the floor. Even through the pinch of jealousy, Arthur couldn’t help but smile. It was good to have his friends around him once again.
“After your call, I was worried,” Gwaine explained later, as the five of them piled into Leon’s car and started the engine. “I spoke to Percy, and he said he had a friend at the police department, so we went to see him and ask if he could help us track you down. At first,” he shot a narrow-eyed glare at Leon, “he wasn’t very cooperative, but then, after we remembered—”
“I was able to find a couple of addresses connected with Merlin Emrys,” Leon said, looking at Merlin briefly in the rearview mirror. “We went to your flat first, but when we couldn’t find either of you there, we headed for your aunt’s place.”
“And after that, we just followed the trail of mayhem and destruction,” Gwaine said with a smirk. “It wasn’t very hard.”
Arthur snorted, but he couldn’t exactly argue. Already, he could hear the scream of sirens in the distance, and as they turned out of the street he looked back to see the night behind them lit up with a lurid glow. Fortunately, having a sorcerer on their side at least meant that they were able to cover their tracks; Merlin had taken care of the CCTV cameras and Mordred’s body, and Excalibur now lay in the boot of Leon’s car, bumping and rattling against the metal as they took the corners slightly too fast. The fire had been too well established for Merlin to extinguish, however, and while he had managed to ensure it wouldn’t spread to the rest of the block, they had to let it burn. Arthur felt a twinge of guilt for destroying Alice’s home; he hoped she’d found somewhere safe to stay.
It was slowly starting to sink in that they had done it—they were safe, at least temporarily, free to return to their ordinary lives while they tried to figure out what it was they’d been brought back to do. He looked over at Merlin, slumped against the window beside him, and felt a flutter of something like hope stir to life in his belly. It would be legal, this time, for them to marry, to start a family, and with Gwaine and the other knights to help them there was a chance they could end the cycle once and for all. He and Merlin could be together for real, rather than being forced to snatch brief periods of happiness in between moments of tragedy and loss.
Always assuming such freedom was possible, of course. Always assuming that it was something Merlin wanted.
“So,” Arthur said softly, leaning over to nudge Merlin’s shoulder with his. “What happens now?”
“I don’t know,” Merlin said, just as quietly. He looked over at Arthur, uncertainty writ large across his face. “I wasn’t expecting anyone else to remember. That’s never happened before.”
“It’s a good thing it did,” Arthur pointed out. “Gwaine would never have come to our rescue, otherwise.”
“I know. I just…I can’t help but wonder what it means.”
Arthur nodded. “Me too,” he said. “Do you think there might be others? From Camelot, I mean.”
“It seems likely.” Merlin chewed on his lower lip. “I wonder if—that is, I know the dragon’s prophecy was about us, specifically, but what if—what if we needed them, too, this whole time?”
For a long moment, Arthur didn’t think he could answer. It seemed cruel to think that, after all of their efforts, the solution had been right in front of them without their knowing it. “Maybe your plan worked after all,” he said finally. “Just not in the way that you intended.”
Merlin’s lips quirked. "Maybe it did," he agreed, leaning over to kiss Arthur’s cheek. “I really am sorry, you know. I should never have done that without telling you.”
“You’re forgiven,” Arthur murmured back. He turned his head as Merlin withdrew and caught his mouth for a proper kiss, momentarily forgetting about the others in the car. It felt like an age since they had been able to touch each other like this, and in a way it had been. He still couldn’t believe he’d almost been forced to give it up. “As long as you swear to me you’ll never separate us again.”
“I think I can promise that,” Merlin replied, and smiled.