Pairing/s: None (knights friendship)
Summary: For most it would begin with the Holy Grail. But for Leon, it began long before that, when myths were not yet myths and the Grail was known as the Cup of Life. Crossover with Indiana Jones.
Word Count: 1,901
Author's Notes: I'd been so determined not to write a crossover -- and yes, I most definitely saw that in the 'likes' category of the prompt, my eyes just naturally gravitated there. I'd even had a story idea and half a scene in my head. Then I was browsing Amazon for pre-Christmas movie deals... and ended up writing this. Anyway, Celeste9, I hope you like this. I think there's a little bit of a lot of things in here. Because why stick to just one part of a prompt, right?
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
He stared at the cup. He wasn't the only one – everyone in the lecture hall was staring at the cup – though likely not for the same reason as him.
He'd seen it in his dreams. Years ago, before he'd realized what it meant. In fact, until this very moment, he hadn't even realized what it was. Until this very moment, he hadn't known why he was dreaming of it. He still wasn't sure what it meant exactly, but he remembered it.
Doctor Jones was speaking behind the lectern, his eyes glowing with excitement as he paced, seemingly unable to keep still as he spoke about seismic activity and modern tools, which had made it possible for him to return forty years later to the place where he and his father had once found, and then lost, the cup.
The Grail. He called it the Grail. The Holy Grail.
That's wrong, Leon wanted to tell him. It was the Cup of Life, not the Holy Grail... his dreams told him so.
Maybe they were delusions. Maybe the tenuous thread he'd always held with sanity was finally snapping. And maybe they were memories.
He remembered opening his eyes to chanting voices and stone beneath his back. He remembered wondering why he wasn't dead – he'd been so sure he was about to die. Instead he was waking up surrounded by people in brown robes. Druids. He remembered the Cup.
It looked less old and tarnished in his memories. It looked powerful, a vessel of power of the Old Religion.
Doctor Jones was showing slides of the excavation site, pictures from inside the old tomb. All Leon could see was a fire-lit cavern. Until his mind provided him with the image of a gleaming white castle towering proudly over bright green countryside. The memory hit him with strength of a hundred-pound hammer. His breath left him and, for a moment, he could barely remain standing for the longing that made his knees weak and tears spring to his eyes. How could he feel so strongly for a place he'd only just remembered?
A dam had broken within his mind. He could see himself sitting inside a dirty tavern overseen by a nearly-bald bartender with blackening teeth. A busty barmaid, whose name he remembered was Brittany pouring him mead. He wasn't alone, but at a table with others, laughing. Somewhere, someone was singing off-key. Then he was wearing armour and looking into the familiar eyes of those same men, meeting their determined expressions with one of his own.
They were his friends, his comrades-in-arms. His brothers.
But there was one other. Blond hair that gleamed in the sun, shoulders strong enough to hold up and inspire them, yet stand by their side. A will that could never be matched and arms with the strength to protect the realm. And a sword that would forever be a sliver of hope within the darkness.
The King. His King. Leon felt a tear fall down his cheek. Nothing could be eternal, but he should have been. No. He was, Leon realized as Doctor Jones mention his name.
But why was Leon here? He was here for the lecture, obviously, having been just as excited as his fellow archaeology students to be alive for such an amazing find. And Doctor Jones was a legend, even if he was officially retired. But that didn't explain why Leon was here, remembering legends.
Doctor Jones' next slide was of a skeleton wearing the armour of a Templar Knight. Leon shivered, remembering an army of skeletons. He remembered fighting – the night seemed to go on forever. Then he remembered her and her army of men that wouldn't die. There had been so much blood. Afterwards, they had buried so many of their men.
It had been brutal, horrible, he thought. He missed it. He missed them. There had been no running water, no central heating, no concept of hygiene, and no internet – they hadn't known of such things – but he missed it. He felt as though he'd been in an accident and just woken up to find he was missing a limb. Except he'd been missing this limb his entire life. How could he not have realized it?
He remembered being on night patrol, looking out from the battlements long after the sun had set, after most of the castle had retreated to bed. Even the kitchens were no longer giving off their steady stream of smoke. From that high up he could everything. He could see Merlin hurrying across the courtyard, stumbling on a loose stone, on his way to the physician's tower. Then there was Gwaine staggering in from the Lower Town, his face stretched into a loose grin, though there was no girl giggling on his arm tonight. Percival followed silently behind him and, though it was too dark and too far away for Leon to see properly, he could just imagine the amused look on the other knight's face. Someone came to stand beside him and leaned against on the battlements. Leon glanced to Elyan, who was on patrol with him, and nodded in greeting. They didn't speak, just watched as the night stretched on peacefully.
He remembered mourning his king. Where had the Cup been then?
Oh. Yes, of course. Lancelot had damaged it to stop the Immortal Army – no, wait, he'd later found out that had been Merlin. The Cup had been dented and dirty when Arthur had handed it to him in secret, told him to hide it where it would never been found.
It had been found.
Outside the clouds shifted and suddenly the lecture hall was bathed in bright sunlight. People gasped as the light hit the Cup, illuminating it with a golden glow like it was trying to reveal the power within. Leon remembered sitting in front of a large fire, limbs aching with age and his eyesight diminished. But he could see his companion just fine. Across the fire, Merlin smiled at him, time having barely marked him – except in his eyes. They spoke of many things that night, including the Cup of Life. Both of them had been touched by it, after all. In the morning, Merlin had vanished. Leon hadn't been surprised.
Suddenly, Leon felt old, the marks of age visible on the Cup felt like a reflection of his soul.
Leon jumped as the lecture hall erupted with noise.
His head shot to the side and he blinked. Everyone was clapping. Was the lecture over already? Woodenly, feeling like he'd just woken up from a rather unsatisfying mid-morning nap, Leon politely joined in. As people began gathering their things, he remained seated. When the hall was empty except for a few professors speaking to Doctor Jones at the front, Leon finally stood and began making his way down, drawn by the power of the Cup.
Was it just his imagination, or did it seem to be faintly glowing beneath the tarnish?
“It's really quite something, isn't it?”
Leon blinked, startled at Doctor Jones' voice suddenly so close. There was amusement in the old man's eyes, coupled with understanding.
Leon nodded. “It is, sir.”
“I noticed you during the lecture, you couldn't take your eyes off the Grail. My father didn't have eyes for anything else either.”
“Yes, sir. Although I can't help but wonder...”
“Wonder... how do we know the story of the Holy Grail is true?” He paused, unsure whether or not to continue. Doctor Jones looked surprised, but not outraged. “After all, like the Romans before them, Christians liked to take existing stories and change them to better suit their own purposes.” Leon turned his gaze back to the Cup. “What if the cup is actually much older than that?”
Doctor Jones frowned. “Is this just speculation or do you actually have something to support this theory of yours?”
And Leon found himself continuing despite knowing this conversation had already gone on too long. His new-found memories weren't proof, after all. He was barely sure they weren't delusions. “There's a Druid legend about an artifact called the Cup of Life. In the right hands, it is said to have the power of life and death. Merlin himself once used it to save King Arthur's life.”
“My father spent his life researching anything and everything he could find relating to the Grail myth, but I've never heard of this legend.” There was an edge to Doctor Jones' voice now and Leon cringed. For a moment he'd forgotten he was speaking to one of the most famous archaeologists in the world.
“Actually there's a cave in the Forest of Dean that's got an entire wall covered in a story about a Knight of Camelot, who was brought back to life with a magical chalice. They call it the Cup of Life.”
Leon stiffened at the voice. He didn't dare even breathe as a voice from his memories spoke out loud. There were tears in his eyes when he finally turned to the familiar, grinning face. His hair was neatly-trimmed and his rougish looks somewhat tampered by a gray suit and navy blue tie, but his face, his eyes... Gwaine. There was a press pass hanging around his neck, but it was Gwaine.
Gwaine winked at him. “Hello Leon, thought it was you. Been a while, my friend.”
Leon laughed. “Yes, it really has.”
Doctor Jones, meanwhile, looked between them suspiciously for a moment. Then he clapped his hands together, his eyes sparkling once again. “So, this cave... could you show me where it is?”
A smile spread across Leon's face. “Yes, Doctor Jones, I most definitely can.”
It wasn't a dream. It wasn't a delusion. It was real. Leon remembered going on so many patrols, so many hunts, he could make it home blindfolded. He'd once known the countryside better than the estate he'd been born on. It wasn't something he would ever forget.
Suddenly, the Cup of Life wasn't important.
Home. He could go home. He doubted the towers were still standing, but Camelot had been built in a time when people still trusted magic. Something had to have remained, even after all these years. No one had ever been able to confirm the existence of Camelot. Perhaps it was finally time.
“I think, Doctor Jones, this is just the beginning.”
The archaeologist grinned, his eyes sparkling with anticipation. “What's your name, kid?”
“Leon, sir. Leon Castleman.”
Doctor Jones stepped forward and threw an arm around Leon's shoulder. “Well, Leon, I think you might just be right. I can feel it. And, please, call me Indiana.”
The elation over being invited on a dig with one of his childhood heroes lasted Leon until later that evening, when he and Gwaine were walking into a pub to grab a couple of pints and catch up. There, sitting alone at a table and nursing his own pint, was Percival.
He smiled at them happily. “Saw the article in the paper about the Holy Grail,” he said in place of a greeting. “Do you know where the others are?”
“Not yet,” Gwaine answered. “But we'll find them.”
Leon felt an odd sense of anticipation. He raised his glass. “To Camelot.”
Percival and Gwaine both grinned. “To Camelot,” they echoed.