Rating: PG for naughty words
Word Count: 5,000. I don't even.
Author's Note: Written for Challenge #21 'Prompt Fanfiction' over at merlin_land. Prompts were Unicorn, Tree, Storm, Crown, Stocks, Goblet and Laundry.
Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own Merlin or Arthur (one could argue that neither does the BBC, really, and if they're allowed to play then I reckon so am I). The idea of a princess school and fairy God-Unicorns is not mine, but Sarah Rees Brennan's. Thank you to eavling for pointing out I'd forgotten to add the disclaimer and credit! How embarrassing!
As far as Merlin was concerned, his life had been going fairly well up until the unicorn turned up to take him to Princess School.
“I’m not even a girl!” Merlin had protested, but the Unicorn – name of Charlie – had just snorted irritably and said, “Doesn’t make any difference to me, Sunshine. Grab your things. I’m going out back for a smoke.”
“Merlin,” Merlin’s mother had told him, “it is an honour and a privilege to be accepted into the Ladies Academy of Royaltyness. I had such fun there as a girl!” she trailed off wistfully, lost in happy memories of, Merlin suspected, twirling in glittery skirts and giggling while having her hair done.
“Why did you go to princess school?” Merlin demanded, “We live in a hovel! The only reason we don’t sleep with the pigs in winter is because we’re too poor to keep pigs.”
“Oh hush!” Hunith snapped, very un-princess like, “I had a life before you, you know. I was my own person, had dreams and aspirations and looked damn fine in lace. Only I failed my final exam, and look where it got me! Not that I don’t love you or that I regret having you,” she hurried to reassure him, “but if you graduate well I can get my kingdom back and finally get some floorboards and central heating. So you are going to Princess School and you are going to like it, young man!”
“Oh shut up,” Merlin said miserably to his friend Will, who’d been sitting in the corner laughing solidly the entire time. He looked down at the acceptance letter Charlie had shoved into his hands. “It says I need to bring a staff of ladies-in-waiting.”
“Well I can’t afford a retinue of noble women,” Hunith said, “So you’ll just have to take Will instead.”
Will suddenly wasn’t laughing anymore.
Merlin stared dolefully down at his acceptance letter while Will futilely argued over his new status as Ladies Maid, and noticed that it was slightly drool stained around the edges from where Charlie had been carrying it between his teeth. He was going to be made such fun of at Princess School.
Merlin suspected that he wouldn’t do very well in his Princess lessons. Merlin was right.
In Afternoon Naps 101, he’d managed only five minutes (instead of the minimum year) before he was caught reading under the covers. In Spinning Wheels for Beginners, he’d pricked himself on the spindle every three minutes, which was fine, but instead of falling into an enchanted slumber he’d just whacked on a bandaid when he'd bled all over the fleece, and had another go. His voice didn’t sound angelic and woodland critters tended to run from him when he was forced to sing, rather than gathering around and joining in. Worse still, his dancing was just adequate, not gloriously graceful or even endearingly clumsy. Sure, he stumbled over his own feet occasionally, but he generally managed to not step on any toes and there’d only been one unfortunate incident early on where he’d tripped over another girl’s sash and fallen straight into the orchestra pit.
He was also a bit of an outsider, not actually being a girl. Only two of the others in his class would talk to him, really – Gwen, a shy, quiet, graceful girl whose overwhelming sweetness of disposition made her a great favourite with everyone, and Morgana, who seemed to be personally affronted by the fact that she had to be here and, for whatever reason, considered Merlin to be her comrade in her personal war against an oppressive patriarchal system that wouldn’t let her wear trousers and learn to fight (the fact that nobody at the Academy had ever stopped her from doing these things had completely escaped her notice).
So it didn’t come as any surprise to Merlin that he was, a week before the final exam, hauled in front of the headmistress to discuss his abysmal grades.
“Merlin, I just don’t know what to do with you.” Lady Aurelia said, “Your final exam determines the rest of your life, but given your previous results I haven’t a clue where to put you!”
“He did alright,” protested Charlie, cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth. “What’s your problem? Whack him in a tower or something. His hair’ll grow long enough for climbing eventually.”
“No, Charlie, that is my problem!” Lady Aurelia spread out Merlin’s numerous report cards before her. “None of the young ladies I have ever put through this Academy have ever done ‘just alright’. They’ve been hopelessly yet endearingly bad at everything, or sickeningly perfect, singing like nightingales, and glittering like defective vampires. None of the standard exams are suitable.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m a man?” Merlin suggested “As in, not a lady. Which I’ve been trying to tell you from the beginning.”
Lady Aurelia glowered at Merlin over her pince-nez and Merlin promptly shut up.
“I knew your mother,” Lady Aurelia sniffed, “And though the scandal surrounding her final exam is entirely what we wish to discourage and prevent – “
“Shacked up with the hired help, I heard,” Charlie whispered into Merlin’s ear “turned down a prince and all.”
“Stop talking trash about my mother” Merlin snapped back.
“ – her results were otherwise flawless, and the standard to which all girls should aspire. She was a dear friend of mine, and I thought them stripping her kingdom from her was much too harsh, given what some of the other girls got up to. I had hoped that you might have repaired a little of the damage done all those years ago, but it – “
Merlin had phased out by now, and was contemplating writing a quick note home detailing his tragic and untimely death by pixie stampede before killing himself with the quill pen, when Morgana burst into the room, knocking down the door.
“Merlin is my friend!” she yelled “And you will not punish him for not conforming to your insulting and unrealistic standards of femininity!”
“The door wasn’t locked, Morgana,” Lady Aurelia said placidly. “You could have just opened it.”
“I shan’t let you throw him aside like yesterdays jam!” Morgana raged on.
“That doesn’t really work as a thing,” Merlin pointed out, “Since jam actually lasts for ages” but nobody was paying him any attention.
“I shall protect him!” Morgana went on, “The bonds of sisterhood demand we all stand together to fight the oppressive – “
“It sounds to me like you need something to occupy your time,” Lady Aurelia interrupted. “How do you feel about a Quest, hmm? Something to prove your worth? Independent modern woman and all that?”
Morgana quit yelling and considered this for a moment. “A quest would give me the opportunity to show that arrogant Prince Morgause that I am equal to any man, and that nothing can – “
“Morgause is a woman.” Merlin interjected. “She can’t be a prince anymore than I can be a princess.”
“Yes, yes,” Lady Aurelia waved her hand dismissively, “Your final test will be to go on a quest for the…oh, say, Mirror of Ultimate Destiny. You and Merlin both. Merlin, if you get the Mirror, then I’ll just pass you on everything and I can give your mother her kingdom back.”
“If Morgause is going along with Morgana,” Charlie interrupted, “Who’s going along with my special snowflake?”
“That’s just creepy.” Merlin shuddered. “Please don’t call me that.”
Lady Aurelia looked down at a long list of eligible young princes from the Princely Academy of Princely Training. “There’s only one left on the list, really. All the others have been paired off already.” She looked up at Merlin. “Merlin, your Prince and Knight Protector is Arthur Pendragon.”
Merlin groaned and reconsidered death-by-quill. It wouldn’t be quick enough.
“This isn’t going to work,” was the first thing Prince Arthur said when Merlin stumbled into the stables the next morning to saddle the horses and begin questing.
“I’m not happy about it either,” Merlin snapped, “but the sooner we get this stupid mirror, the sooner I can graduate, get my mothers kingdom back, and put this whole embarrassing charade behind me. I have many years I need to repress and deny and you are not making it any easier.”
“If I fail because of you,” Arthur threatened, “I will personally see to it that the pieces of your body are scattered so far across the globe that nobody will ever be able to put you together again.”
“Boys, boys!” said Charlie, “Play nice now, we’ve got an amulet to find.“
“Mirror.” Corrected Arthur and Merlin simultaneously.
“I don’t actually give a toss,” Charlie admitted. “I’m just counting down the days to my retirement.”
Merlin had met Arthur on their first day at their respective academies. Arthur, who Merlin found unfairly attractive, had been making fun of someone else's pageboy, and Merlin had called him a clot pole. Arthur had responded by punching him squarely in the face. According to Charlie, and Arthur’s own Fairy God-Unicorn, Rowan, this was some sort of symbol of true love and epic destiny, which is why they hadn’t intervened as Merlin got his arse decisively handed to him on a plate. He’d never been very good at sports.
They’d been paired up in almost every co-ed lesson and organised socialisation. It usually ended in disaster and embarrassment. The last time there’d been a ball, Merlin had gotten insanely drunk and accidentally kicked his glass slipper into the back of Arthur’s head while trying to do a little jig, which had set off a domino effect ending in Lady Aurelia and Lord Eric the Charming in an undignified tangle on the floor covered in the contents of their goblets.
Charlie had been no help at all. He’d just taken embarrassing photographs and loaded them up on facebook later that night.
Now they had to quest together. With Morgana and Morgause competing with each other over who was manliest, and bickering about who had the prettier hair. Merlin felt a headache coming on.
Questing is a great deal more boring than one might think, even if the scenery constantly changes.
“I should have gone to Wizard School.” Merlin grumbled. “Then I’d know how to make the trees stop turning purple and giving us the finger.”
“They wouldn’t let you into Wizard School.” Charlie pointed out. “Not after that time you tried to change the broccoli into chocolate and ended up setting fire to the water mill.”
“How’d you set fire to the water mill?” Arthur asked incredulously, coming in at the end of the conversation.
“I sneezed.” Merlin sniffed. “I have bad allergies in the spring. It wasn’t my fault.”
“You shouldn’t do that with your hair,” Morgause scolded Morgana, “You’ll get split ends!”
“You’ll never control me, arrogant tyrant!” Morgana snapped back, but took the stray lock she’d been absently chewing on from her mouth anyway.
“You have pretty eyes when you’re angry.” Morgause replied, and sped up while Morgana was still spluttering and turning red.
“Girls,” said Arthur, watching, “Are really weird.”
Merlin nodded in agreement.
At the end of the first day of questing, they’d run into no less than seventeen elderly women offering them ominous warnings of impending doom, fifteen anthropomorphic forest creatures and a lost Emperor who very nearly managed to trick Merlin into being his love slave. Only Morgana’s shrill ranting about the insulting nature of forcing princesses to compete against one another and forsake the bonds of sisterhood for the love of one inferior man, and the timely sword work of Morgause, saved Merlin from a life of veils and harem pants.
“Never trust an Emperor,” Charlie scolded, taking a swig from his flask. “They’ve got some weird fetishes.”
“Thanks Morgana, Morgause.” Merlin said, but they were too busy awkwardly complimenting each other to pay attention.
“You were very brave, for a princess.” Morgause was saying.
“Do you think you could teach me how to do that twirly move with the double stabbing action?” Morgana asked, almost shyly.
“I thought you were supposed to be my knight protector?” Merlin turned to Arthur, who was standing back a ways trying to look inconspicuous and uninterested. “Why didn’t you help out?”
“I thought you had the situation under control.” Arthur said, “Besides, you’d look funny dressed as a love slave, what with all that makeup. I could do with a good laugh.”
Merlin threw a pinecone at Arthur’s stupid, grinning face.
About half way through their second day, the quartet came across an obstacle. Directly in their path was a house made entirely of –
“Is that gingerbread?” Merlin asked incredulously. He leapt down from his saddle and went to touch the walls of the house, maybe break a bit off and nibble, just to make sure.
“Don’t!” cried Arthur and Merlin froze. “It might be enchanted!”
Merlin turned around and stared at Arthur. “You don’t say.” He said flatly.
“What?” said Arthur, confused. “What’s that look for?”
“It’s a house made entirely of gingerbread and sweets,” said Merlin. “Never in my entire life would I have thought that it might be slightly enchanted. Whatever would I do without you, oh my Knight Protector?”
“There’s no need to be sarcastic.” Arthur bristled.
“Hey you lot!” Morgana called out, interrupting what could have turned into Epic Argument Number Three for that morning, “There’s someone over here!” She gestured at the bushes by the side of the road.
That someone turned out to be Lancelot, a good friend of Arthur’s from the Prince Academy. He was lying on his back staring up at the sky, and it was immediately apparent to Merlin, sulking.
“What are you – “ Arthur began.
“I can’t get in.” Lancelot moaned. “The evil witch that owns the place has my poor, darling Guinevere trapped inside, and try though I might I cannot break down the door.”
“What about the windows?” Morgause suggested brightly. “They look like spun sugar, they should shatter just as easily!”
“Magically reinforced.” Lancelot dramatically threw his arm over his face. “My sword doesn’t even make a dint.”
“Is the witch still there?” Morgana asked nervously. “Because Penelope doesn’t want me near any witches.” Penelope, Morgana’s Fairy God-Unicorn snorted in what might have been agreement, and nibbled on a nearby fern.
“No, I killed her already.” Lancelot said pitifully. “She wanted to eat me and I wasn’t having any of that.”
“Have you tried eating your way through?” Merlin suggested. Everybody turned to look at him. “What?” Merlin said. “It’s made out of gingerbread!”
Lancelot looked at him sourly “I’m on a low-carb diet.”
“…Right then,” said Arthur, “Two swords are better than one, so I’m going to give it a go anyway. Morgause, you coming?” Morgause hefted her sword up on her shoulder like a lumberjack’s axe, and the two left.
“I’m going to comfort my bosom friend, who must be so terribly frightened!” Morgana exclaimed, and dashed after them.
“Are you going to stop being a girl and get up?” Merlin nudged Lancelot with his foot once the others had gone.
“Any time now,” said Lance cheerfully. “You could always do that thing you do.” and he levelled a look at Merlin that clearly conveyed what with how I know that you know that I know that you are a super secret magic man.
“Did you seriously just lie here and wait for me to turn up?” Merlin couldn’t believe it. The nerve of some people, honestly.
“It was Gwen’s idea!” Lancelot protested, and Merlin sighed, and said “Fine, fine”, waved his hands around a bit, and the heavens opened. It didn’t take very long for the storm to crumble the gingerbread house away to nothing, and a soggy but relieved Gwen was soon reunited with her One True Love and Knight Protector.
“Aw, isn’t it sweet? So romantic!” Morgause nudged Morgana with her shoulder.
“No.” said Morgana, “Not really. Maybe. Okay, a bit.”
“My armour is going to get rusty.” Arthur complained.
“Dodge the raindrops.” Merlin recommended, and they kept on riding.
The storm lasted for quite a while, and by nightfall it was still drizzling a little bit.
“We must stave off hypothermia,” Morgana announced, “by sharing body heat!” Her and Morgause were quick to cuddle up together, snug against Penelope, who rolled her eyes and kept nibbling on stray bits of grass.
Merlin and Arthur eyed each other warily.
“I have a blanket you could borrow.” Arthur offered awkwardly.
“What a gentleman,” Charlie slurred a bit, “lookin’ out fer yer maidenly virtue.” He hiccupped.
“I’m not a maiden.” Merlin huffed, and “Stop drinking so much, you’ll ruin your liver.” He curled up tight under the borrowed blanket across the campfire from Arthur, and thought warm thoughts until he fell asleep.
Day three, and passing through the main square of an improbable looking city, the adventurers ran into Freya, another one of Merlin and Morgana’s graduating class.
“Hello,” she said miserably, “I don’t suppose you could help me out a bit?”
“What did you do to get arrested?” Merlin asked, as Arthur smashed the lock off the stocks. He’d always liked Freya. She was a bit magic like him, but she never caused any real trouble.
“I was sent here to marry the Prince,” Freya explained, stretching tired muscles, “only on the way my maidservant hit me on the head and stole my identity. Now she’s got my darling wrapped around her evil little finger, and has filled his head full of lies about me! She told him I have stolen her grandmother’s ivory comb – but it’s really my comb, and she has it locked away in her chambers! Oh Merlin, what am I to do?” She threw herself dramatically into Merlin’s arms and sobbed into his shoulder.
“Er,” said Merlin awkwardly, patting her on the back. “There, there?”
“I never liked that bitch,” Morgana said feelingly.
“You never like anybody.” Arthur pointed out. “Who’s this prince of yours, then? Maybe I can have a chat with him.”
Freya’s Prince turned out to be Prince Leon, a handsome, trusting fellow who was trying to convince himself he was head over heels in love with Freya’s turncoat maidservant. “She’s everything I ever dreamt she’d be!” he told Arthur, “Well, except how she’s blonde, and I don’t really go for that. And she’s, well, not my physical type. And she’s a bit slow. And vain. And she hates children and puppies. We don’t get on very - well actually, we don’t get on at all. If I can be honest with you, Arthur? She’s not at all what I expected. But the Academy can’t be wrong, can it? They Academy are never wrong.” Leon turned hopefully to Arthur “Were the Academy wrong?”
“The Academy weren’t wrong, Leon,” Arthur said, and Leon’s face fell. He was crushed. “but that girl is not your princess.”
“She’s not?” Leon was understandably confused, and so between them, in an appropriate Princely manner, Arthur and Morgause explained the situation.
“Well this makes so much sense!” Leon exclaimed when they were done, “But how can I prove it? My people have already met Miranda, they’ll need to know I wasn’t ensorcerelled.”
“I can help with that.” Morgana offered, “You need to get them to tell lies. Real princesses cannot lie. Just ask them to repeat something that is untrue, and they’ll stumble and stutter and no words will come out.”
“Merlin lies all the time,” Arthur pointed out. “Yesterday he tried to tell me he didn’t eat my last bacon sandwich, but I saw him.”
“I didn’t see your name on it anywhere,” Merlin countered, “and I’m not a princess. None of those rules work on me.”
“You are currently trying to graduate from Princess School.” Arthur argued.
“I have a penis.” Merlin hissed angrily.
Morgana coughed delicately. “Prince Leon,” she continued, “Just get Freya and Miranda together on the balcony, and ask them about the Ivory Comb.”
Sure enough, in front of the entire city, Miranda lied smoothly, seamlessly accusing Freya of theft and a dozen other offences, spinning tales and crying delicate little crocodile tears. It made Merlin want to vomit. Freya, on the other hand, could only tell the truth, her mouth clamming shut as if by magic whenever Leon tried to get her to repeat one of Miranda’s lies. If the crowd thought they saw sparkles and signs of magical princessly purity, well, that was just what happened with real princesses, wasn’t it? Merlin had absolutely nothing to do with it.
“My darling!” Leon cried, falling to his knees before Freya, as Miranda was led away by the Royal Guard. “Will you ever forgive me for being such a fool? I have never loved any but you! Will you take my hand and rule by my side till the end of days?”
“Of course!” Freya’s joy was palpable, and it filled Merlin’s heart with a warm glow.
They were all invited to stay for the wedding feast. Morgana and Morgause disappeared halfway through the revelries, which would have ordinarily caused scandal, except they could clearly be seen through the window running training drills in the courtyard below. Merlin and Arthur both drank and ate and drank some more, and then all of a sudden Charlie was nudging Merlin and Rowan, Arthur, and then without quite knowing how it happened, Arthur was spinning Merlin around the dance floor.
“Your eyes are very blue,” Merlin said, and okay he was probably very drunk, but Arthur’s hand was warm where it rested in the small of Merlin’s back, and Arthur was very close and quite a good dancer besides.
“You’re taller than me,” Arthur said, surprised, trying to spin Merlin, who, to his credit, only stumbled a little.
“I think we’re drunk.” Merlin said, and Arthur laughed warmly and spun him around again.
“Maybe a little.” Arthur admitted, pulling Merlin closer, and the breath hitched in Merlin’s throat. For all he was a prat, spoilt, and arrogant, Arthur had a kind heart and he was quite stunningly beautiful, Merlin thought, with the flush of wine in his cheeks and his hair out of place, slightly breathless from dancing. ‘He could kiss me,’ Merlin realised, as Arthur lowered him down in a graceful dip, ‘and I wouldn’t complain. I would kiss him back.’ Arthur looked as though he might kiss Merlin, like he wanted to, and Merlin thought, heart doing a funny drunken dance, he was going to when Charlie and Rowan stepped in. Merlin and Arthur were upright and separate in a flash.
“That’s enough now boys,” Rowan was saying, “You’ve had a bit too much to drink. Bedtime, I think.”
“Save it for your wedding night, yeah?” Charlie added in his usually crass way.
Merlin met Arthur’s eyes as he was ushered out of the ballroom, but he couldn’t make sense of what he saw there. There was some strange feeling pooling in the pit of his stomach that he thought was maybe something important, something he should pay attention to, but he’d barely made it into the guest room he’d been assigned before being noisily sick into the laundry basket, so then again maybe it was just the wine. As Merlin lay on the cold stone floor feeling miserable and strange, he wondered not for the first time how his life had turned out this complicated and confusing mess.
Both Merlin and Arthur were taken aback the next morning to discover that Morgana and Morgause had decided not to continue with them on the quest for the Mirror of Ultimate Destiny.
“Prince Leon and Princess Freya need someone to lead the Knights in training every day,” Morgause explained, “and they’ve offered that position to me.”
“And I’m staying because Freya needs other noblewomen to associate with,” Morgana smiled sweetly, “Plus, Morgause has promised to teach me how to stab people in aesthetically pleasing ways.”
“I’m…glad. Happy for you.” Said Arthur, “But please stop talking. My head hurts and I just want to die.”
Merlin would have pulled him up on his manners, said something about being nicer to his sister or just politer and more princely in general, but he was feeling much the same way.
“Finally,” Arthur said when they reached an imposing looking keep surrounded by a high fence just barely holding back a prickly looking wilderness. It was dark and gloomy, clouds circling the northern turret ominously, and everything pronounced it to be exactly the sort of place heroes had to go through to find a questing object. Merlin, too, was glad they were here at last. They hadn’t spoken a word to each other since the night of Leon and Freya’s wedding feast when they’d danced. It had all been rather awkward and stressful. Merlin kept catching Arthur looking at him with an indecipherable expression on his face. Merlin preferred the insults and the childish spats to this constant tension.
“Can’t go in with you,” Charlie settled down underneath a nearby tree and lit a smoke. “Well, I could. S’not against the rules or anything.” He took a long drag. Merlin resisted the urge to bat the cigarette out of the unicorn’s mouth. “I’m just too old for this shit. Have fun and try not to die, kids.”
Merlin and Arthur looked at each other.
“Best get this over with then,” Merlin said, and jumped the gate.
Five hours later they were battered, bruised, scratched, and scarred for life after accidentally stumbling upon a faun orgy, but they’d made it inside the castle. Before them were three doors and a Gnome.
“Behind two of these doors lies death,” said the Gnome, “Behind one lies the key to advance. Choose wisely, for you only get once chance.”
“Fantastic.” Said Arthur flatly.
“To be honest,” Merlin told the Gnome, “I’d rather not choose. I’m a little over this. So I’m just going to take the stairs over there - ” he pointed down the corridor to the left “and just skip right on up to the highest tower, which is where the Mirror is.”
The Gnome’s mouth fell open. So did Arthur’s.
“How do you know that?” they demanded almost in unison.
Merlin shrugged. “I read a lot. This is how it always goes. Behind the door that doesn’t have death is only something that’ll help you fight the thing on the next level, and by the time you reach the end point some douche comes out and tells you your princess is in another castle. This way you get to cut out the middle man.” He started up the stairs.
“This feels a bit like cheating,” Arthur complained fifteen flights of stairs up, as they stood outside the final door.
“Think of it more like being creative and efficient.” Merlin wheezed, still trying to catch his breath. “It’s stupid to fight stuff and risk your life when you don’t have to.”
“Yeah, but you could just – “ Arthur waved his hand about. Merlin nearly choked.
“How did you – “ he spluttered.
“Merlin, please,” said Arthur, giving Merlin his best ‘Bitch, please’ expression. “I’m not an idiot. You’re not exactly subtle about it you know. Don’t think we all didn’t see you conjuring up a fire every night – and the marshmallows the other day were a little excessive.”
“But delicious,” Merlin said sulkily.
“Besides,” said Arthur, looking away. “I think it’s kind of…cool.” He shifted his sword from one hand to another. “Are we going in?” and without waiting for Merlin to answer, he kicked the door open and strode in.
As Merlin had predicted, the Mirror was waiting for them, on a small decorative table in the centre of the room - a single beam of sunlight reflecting off its smooth surface. The whole thing was glittering gently and exuding a faint aura of magic and goodliness. It was kind of cloyingly sweet, and in Merlin’s opinion, overdone.
“What’s this thing supposed to do, anyway?” Arthur asked, picking the mirror up and examining it more closely.
“Er…” said Merlin, flipping quickly through the instruction manual, which had been handily left on the sideboard, “It says here it shows you your destiny – hence it’s name, the Mirror of Ultimate Destiny. Pretty self explanatory, really.”
“Huh,” said Arthur, peering into the mirror. “That’s funny. I can only see you.”
“Give that here,” Merlin said, pressing against Arthur’s side to try and get a better look. “Well, this is awkward,” he said, “I can only see you.” He looked at Arthur. Arthur looked back, with that expression on his face, which Merlin was finally beginning to understand. “It would appear,” clarified Merlin swallowing nervously, “that we are each other’s Ultimate Destinies.” Merlin suddenly became hyper aware of just how close he and Arthur were to one another, and thought he ought to move. But he didn’t.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” said Arthur.
“Okay,” said Merlin, and just managed to put the mirror down safely before Arthur threaded his fingers through Merlin’s hair and pulled him in for a kiss.
Outside, unnoticed by the two young men busily making out in the tower, the darkness melted from the sky. The clouds disappeared; the prickly wilderness became bright and gentle rolling forest with wildflowers and happy woodland critters. Beneath the tree outside the gate, Charlie took a long drag on his cigarette and said, “Fucking finally.”
Not being much for fussy or elaborate functions, Merlin graduated from Princess School with full honours and married his Prince Charming at the same time. His mother wept in the front pew as twin crowns were placed on Merlin and Arthur’s heads, and Will jeered and made highly inappropriate comments when the priest announced that ‘You may now kiss the bride’. It had all worked out pretty well, Merlin thought giddily as he grinned at Arthur. His life may be a confusing and complicated mess, but it was a good one – and his mothers newly restored Kingdom ought to keep her too busy to start nagging for grandchildren for a little while yet.