Word Count: 15,808
Characters/Pairings: Gen, past Arthur/Gwen
Warnings: Violence towards children, character death
Spoilers: Spoilers through series five of Merlin, AU season four of Supernatural
Summary: Centuries after his death, destiny calls Arthur Pendragon forth to fulfill his duty as the Once and Future King. But Arthur is also a Winchester now. Destiny won’t know what hit it.
Author’s Notes: I want to thank chosenfire28 for running this challenge. And to finnickodair, your artwork is awesome, and gorgeous. Thank you so much for picking my story. :)
He didn’t remember falling asleep. Arthur woke tucked into the futon, his dad stretched out on the beanbag chair. He sat up, stretching out sore muscles. The clock said 8:01 a.m.
Climbing out of bed, Arthur wrote a quick note, and carefully tiptoed around his dad. He made sure to keep quiet as he climbed out of the tree house. When he made it to the ground he paused. Merlin was a sleep against the trunk of the tree, mouth open and a bit of drool on his chin. A wave of gratitude and nostalgia filled his heart.
Merlin had been a constant in his first life, his best friend and confidant. They’d done everything together, and when Arthur had felt his lowest, Merlin had been there, by his side.
He also remembered the numerous times Merlin had come singing into this chambers in the morning, that ridiculous smile on his face. Unable to help himself, Arthur snorted and shoved him with his foot.
“Merlin, wake up,” Arthur called. He laughed when his old friend flailed upon waking, nearly falling over into the dirt. “Up here, Merlin.”
“Oh,” Merlin said. Standing he brushed off dirt and leaves before giving Arthur a hesitant look. “Is everything okay?”
Arthur studied Merlin for a few seconds. It was odd. He remembered being king, he remembered trusting Merlin above all but Gwen. He also remembered the hurt and betrayal he’d felt when Merlin had finally confessed his magic.
But it also felt like it had all happened to another person, and in a way, it had. He had been Arthur Pendragon, King of Camelot. Now he was Arthur Winchester, student and part time hunter. He wasn’t going to give that up.
“Yeah,” he finally said, giving Merlin a half smile. “It’s a bit crowded in my head at the moment, but it’s getting better.”
“Huh,” Merlin said, cheeky grin in place. “I would never have described your head as crowded.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “Merlin?”
Arthur rolled his eyes and shoved his way forward.
“Come on,” Arthur said as he made his way back towards the house. “It’s been a long night and I want some coffee.”
The house was silent when they got back. Arthur headed towards the kitchen, and began filling the coffee pot. Merlin stood off to the side, seemingly not sure what to do. Arthur was glad; he didn’t like people messing with his morning routine.
Coffee on, he opened the fridge and pulled out eggs and bacon. Soon he had breakfast going and a coffee in hand. Merlin watched all of this with a bemused look on his face and Arthur just sighed.
“I’m not the same person I was back then.”
Merlin’s eyes turned sad. “No, you’re not.” He grabbed the cup Arthur handed him. “Back then you had no idea how to take care of yourself.”
Arthur snorted. “None of us did.” He settled the first two eggs on a plate and added two more to the skillet. He turned the heat down and settled back, spatula in hand.
“I think I did just fine,” Merlin said.
“Yeah,” Arthur said. “Sure you did. And how much of what you did was because you actually knew what you were doing, and how much was pure dumb luck?”
Merlin’s mouth opened and closed several times before he managed to speak.
“I knew plenty.”
“It’s a wonder we didn’t get ourselves killed,” Arthur snorted. More eggs went on the plate and he turned off the stove. “I mean who goes after an immortal army with just eight people.”
Arthur turned to find his dad standing in the door way, a crooked smile on his face.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Merlin asked, eyes darting between the two grinning men.
“It means, Ol’ Great and Powerful Oz,” Dean said, ignoring Arthur’s snorted laughter. “That even back then, Arthur was meant to be a Winchester. We don’t take insurmountable odds lying down.”
“Screw destiny,” Arthur said at the same time as his dad.
“We beat the apocalypse once,” Dean said. “We’ll do it again.” He went and grabbed a coffee, then sat down at the table. “So while we wait for the others, what’s for breakfast?”
Arthur rolled his eyes and made another plate of eggs. He handed it to his before sitting down with his own.
“So, what’s the plan?” Dean asked as he finished breakfast and took the used dishes to the sink. He got more coffee before sitting back down, his gaze going between Arthur and Merlin.
“First off,” Arthur said. “We get my sword back.” He turned and gave Merlin his best prattish look. “I take it you do know where it is, right?”
Merlin waved a lazy hand. “Freya has it.”
“The Lady of the Lake,” Merlin said, a wistful smile lighting his face.
Dean paused, coffee cup held half way to his mouth, and eyed the two of them. “Just how much of that legend crap is true?”
“They got our names right?” Merlin said with a shrug.
Arthur wrinkled his nose in disgust. Some of those legends had him sleeping with Morgana. “Now I know why you hate those damn books so much.”
Dean snorted. “And to think you used to love The Sword in the Stone.”
Merlin snorted into his coffee.
“I was seven,” Arthur grumbled, feeling a blush heat up his face.
“He won a goldfish at a fair once and named it Merlin. Damn thing is still alive,” his dad said, causing Merlin to choke and Arthur to wish he could crawl into a hole and hide. “He lives in a giant tank in the office.”
The sound of fluttering wings interrupted the conversation. A second later Castiel stood in the kitchen, an old book held in one hand.
“Emrys,” Castiel said as he came to stand beside his dad.
Merlin nodded in response, the humor from before now nothing but a distant memory.
“You knew where he was.” Merlin did not sound happy, and Arthur turned, giving his old friend a glare.
“I had to keep him safe,” Castiel said.
“I could have done that.”
“No, you couldn’t,” Arthur said as he stood from the table. He went to the coffee pot to get more coffee and barely resisted the urge to slam it down.
When he turned back to the room he saw Merlin giving him a look so filled with hurt, Arthur felt like he’d just kicked a puppy.
“You don’t think heaven and hell had eyes on you?”
“I could have—”
“What?” Arthur asked, voice harsh. “Sent me to Avalon again?”
Merlin’s flinch was more pronounced and Arthur rolled his eyes.
“Stop it,” Arthur said. “There was nothing you could do.”
“Could somebody tell me what the fuck is going on?”
“He’s King Arthur, the Once and Future King,” Castiel said. Arthur shot him a dark look.
“I got that bit already,” Dean said. “But he’s still my son, and I want to know what’s going on.”
“I told you he was important,” Castiel said. “That he must be protected.”
“Not helping, Uncle Cas,” Arthur ground out.
“Heaven and Hell want to start the apocalypse again,” Merlin said.
He was still glaring at Castiel, but somehow managed to be polite and respectful when answering his dad. Arthur took a moment to wonder when he learned how to do that. He never spoke that way to Arthur when he’d been king.
Dean ran a hand through his hair and sighed.
“Right, so what’s the plan?”
Arthur paused, staring at his dad. Before him wasn’t the dad he grew up with. This was the man he’d only get a few glimpses of whenever he helped out on a hunt. This was the man who’d defied destiny, and won.
“Merlin?” Arthur asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I help you fulfill your destiny,” Merlin said.
“Yeah, but how do you plan on doing that?” Dean asked, arms crossed over his chest.
Merlin drew himself up, and gave Dean a look Arthur remembered seeing whenever a crisis appeared. It was the same look he wore whenever he followed Arthur out into battle, or would spout odd words of wisdom whenever Arthur doubted himself. His heart clenched and his eyes stung. He’d missed his friend.
“We need to find out their plan is,” Castiel said.
“Right,” Dean said. “You, Cas, and Merlin here hit the books.”
“Not Merlin,” Arthur said. Everyone turned to look at him. He rolled his eyes. “My sword, Merlin? Remember?”
Merlin’s eyes lit up and he smiled the same grin Arthur often thought made him look like an idiot.
“Oh, yeah,” Merlin said. “Come, on.”
He reached out towards Arthur, but before he could touch him, Arthur was pulled out of the way. His dad had a firm grip on his arm and was eyeing Merlin like he wasn’t sure if he should kill him or not.
“Dad,” Arthur said, pulling out of his grip. “It’ll be fine. We’ll be back before you know it.”
Dean stayed silent for a few more seconds before nodding. “Fine. If you’re not back in fifteen minutes, Cas and I are coming after you.”
“Got it,” Arthur said as he came to stand beside Merlin.
The trip to the Lake of Avalon went much like the one that had gotten him home. Once the gold mist had receded, Arthur and Merlin stood on the shores of a cold lake, a busy street behind them. There was an island in the middle, a broken stone pillar in the center.
The hair on Arthur’s neck stood on end, and another memory surfaced. Trees replaced houses and roads and the area sang with magic even he could feel. His side ached, and his breath caught in his throat. He blinked and shook away the memory, turning to face Merlin. He wore a concerned look, and his hands were clenched in his pockets like he was resisting the urge to reach out and magic Arthur away from this place.
“I died here, didn’t I?” Arthur asked, turning back to the lake.
Merlin nodded. “You did.”
“What happened after?”
Merlin swallowed and turned his gaze towards the lake. His voice cracked as he spoke.
“I laid you to rest,” Merlin said. “Then I went back to Camelot. Gwen deserved to know what happened.”
Arthur nodded. “Then what?”
“I stayed,” Merlin said. “She lifted the ban on magic, and named me her magical adviser. A few years later she married Leon.”
“Were they happy?” Arthur asked, his own voice thick.
“Yes,” Merlin said. “But no one stopped missing you. They named their first son after you.”
Arthur nodded and Merlin gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze. He stood on the shore as Merlin walked forward and lifted his hand. A string of words he didn’t understand drifted to him on the breeze.
At first nothing happened. Then the water started to ripple and the tip of a sword broke the surface. It gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. The gold inlay was just as he remembered it and his palm itched to hold it in his hands again.
It was soon followed by an arm, then a woman in a flowing dress with long dark hair. She walked along the surface like it was solid, her steps hardly displacing the water.
Merlin met her at the edge of the water and she bowed to him, handing the sword over. She gave him a soft smile and laid her hand against his cheek. Arthur couldn’t hear what they said to each other, but he recognized the look on her face. It spoke of love and respect, and it pained Arthur that Merlin had never told him of her.
She turned and bowed towards him before going back out over the lake. She disappeared from view, drifting away on the breeze like she had never been there.
Merlin came to stand by his side again, and handed the sword over. It fit in his hand just like he remembered, solid, strong, and giving him the feeling he could accomplish anything. He felt like a king again.
“So, that was Freya?” Arthur asked. He kept his head down, and his eyes on his sword.
“Right.” Arthur nodded. “Let’s get back before dad sends out a search party.”
He arrived back in his living room, sword in hand. His Uncle Sam was sitting at the kitchen table the book his Uncle Cas had brought over sitting in front of him. He was watching Arthur and Merlin with a look Arthur was having a hard time placing. It made Arthur feel like a bug under a microscope. The angel was nowhere to be seen.
“Sammy!” Dean yelled as he came into the room. “Stop staring.” He then walked over to Arthur, giving him a quick once over. It was the look Arthur had gotten his whole life, his dad making sure he was in one piece. “This your fancy sword?”
Arthur held it up. It was just as perfectly balanced as he remembered. It felt at home in his hand, like there had been pieces of him missing and he’d finally found them in Merlin and this sword.
“Huh,” Dean said. He gave Arthur a smirk. “I always thought it’d be bigger.”
They turned. His Uncle Sam stood with an affronted look on his face.
“That’s Excalibur,” Sam said, gesturing towards the sword.
Arthur felt his shoulders tense and he drew the sword in closer. Merlin moved closer to his side and he watched as his dad glared at his uncle.
“And the skinny dude is Merlin,” Dean said. “Big freaking deal.”
“Your nephew Arthur,” Dean said, shutting Sam up.”My son, remember?”
The look his uncle gave his father had Arthur unsuccessfully suppressing a snort of laughter. It was the look his dad loved to call his uncle’s ‘bitch face’. Everything was going to be okay.
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“It’s freaking Excalibur,” Sam said. “Do you know what the lore says about it?”
Dean waved a hand. “Really powerful weapon, used to slay evil monsters, yadda, yadda, yadda.”
“Dean,” Sam said. “If we’d had that sword…”
“You can’t use it,” Merlin said, cutting their fight off. “It was meant for Arthur alone.”
“Besides,” Arthur said, giving Merlin a shove. “Someone had it hidden at the bottom of a magical lake.”
“I thought it was supposed to be in a stone?”
Arthur laughed. “He’s hidden it there too.”
“Let me guess,” Dean said, snickering. “You pulled it out?”
Arthur glared at his dad. He just knew he was never going to live this down. “I hate you.”
“Come on.” His dad put his arm around his shoulder. “Let’s get this show on the road.”
The mood turned serious and books were pulled from shelves, and laptops were fired up. Castiel returned with more books and tension rose.
Arthur, never one to sit still, retreated outside. His head was still too chaotic for him to focus on dusty books full of obscure facts. He found a nice shaded place in the front yard and began going through his old sword drills.
He kept his movements controlled and precise. The sword moved through graceful arcs, blocks, and thrust. With the return of his memories, his body ran through the sword drills with minimal resistance. He spun, and slashed the blade through the air, fighting imaginary opponents. He could almost feel the heat of Camelot’s sun beating down on him, hear the hustle and bustle of castle life, and hear the laughter of his knights as they mock battled beside him.
His dad’s footsteps drew him from his memories and he cooled down from his exercise, his breath coming out in short pants. He kept his back turned, fighting the lump of grief in his throat. They’d been dead for over fifteen hundred years, but for Arthur it still felt like yesterday and forever all at once.
“Hey,” his dad said, stopping a few yards away. “That was some pretty fancy moves you had going there.”
Arthur shrugged. “I’m still a bit rusty.”
He swung his sword in a lazy arc, feeling the muscles in his arm and wrist tense with the movement. He was going to be sore tomorrow.
“Dinner’s almost ready,” Dean said, coming to stand beside his son.
Arthur turned, and from the look on his dad’s face, he hadn’t hid his emotions as well as he’d wanted.
“You wanna talk about it?”
Arthur snorted and went to sit down on the top step. “I don’t think this is covered in any of those parenting books you used to read.”
He stabbed the end of the sword into the dirt, but kept his hand on the pommel. His dad sat down next to him.
“Knew I should have burned those things,” Dean said with a shake of his head.
“Is Uncle Sam badgering Merlin yet?” Arthur asked. “Or has World War three broken out between Merlin and Uncle Cas?”
It was his dad’s turn to snort. “I’ve called a truce on pain of dismemberment.”
“He’s always been overprotective.”
“Who are you talking about?” Dean asked. “Your uncles, or Merlin?”
“All three?” Arthur said. He ran his ringers through his hair and leaned back against the porch railing. “Merlin used to follow me everywhere.” Arthur kept his gaze on the darkening sky, watching as more stars appeared. “No armor, no weapon, just that insufferable grin and a knowing look in his eyes.”
“He was your best friend,” Dean said. “You trusted him.”
“He lied to me,” Arthur said, mind pulling up memories of those agonizing days as they tried in vain to reach the Lake of Avalon in time.
“And you forgave him,” Dean said, placing a hand on Arthur’s shoulder. Arthur turned to look at his dad. He had a look of understanding in his eyes that had Arthur swallowing down a new surge of grief. “It’s what you do for family.”
Arthur nodded and stood, pulling his sword out of the dirt. “I believe you said something about dinner?”
Dean stood and dusted off his jeans before clapping Arthur’s shoulder.
“Come on,” he said, leading them into the house. “I made your favorite.”
Arthur smiled at that as he pulled open the front door. “Chili cheese hotdogs and fried pickles?”
Dean laughed. “Your Uncle Sammy has been giving me the stink eye all evening.”