The day of the wedding dawned, and Aria could feel the overwhelming sensations bubbling up underneath her skin. Feelings of love, feelings of anxiety, and general nerves. On this day of days, she and Merlin would become as one - she would never again be a bride, and she would not have changed anything at all about this moment or about what she was feeling.
Guinevere was helping her dress and had even enlisted the assistance of her hand-maiden to style Aria's hair to perfection, something that would never again be done for her.
Aria's hands smoothed out against the lace of the dress, inhaling and exhaling deep breaths as she was silently preparing herself for what was going to happen in the matter of an hour.
"Nervous?" Guinevere asked as she tacked the hem of the dress and fixated it just so, checking the rest of it for a proper fit.
Aria nodded. "Should I not be?" she inquired, feeling her hands tremble softly.
Guinevere smiled fondly. "No, my friend. I would be shocked and slightly disappointed if you weren't nervous. The feeling is totally natural."
"Are we making the right decision in marrying so quickly, so young? I do not have my family to be here with me." A frown stretched across her face and Guinevere stood in front of the bride-to-be, clipping on the earrings she was lending for her friend.
"You mustn't think about them. I am sure their hearts go out to you, wherever they are."
Aria nodded. "Of course. Perspective."
"You must think of yourself and of Merlin, the man who will be your husband in a mere short time."
Aria smiled fondly upon thinking of her great love, her one true masterpiece, and the man who was about to become her husband. "My dear Merlin..." She struggled to hold back tears, knowing that those were to be saved for later. "I am ready to be his wife."
"I dare say you've been ready for a long time." Guinevere smiled and ushered Aria to the full-length mirror against the wall. "You must see how beautiful you look."
One glance in the mirror was enough to tell her that she would never again look like this, never again be this radiant, this magnificent. "I look..."
"...like a bride." Guinevere was kind enough to finish her sentence for her, smiling into the reflection. "The lace suits you well. You wear this gown like a queen."
Aria turned and embraced her queen, closing her eyes. "I cannot thank you enough, your majesty."
"Just marry Merlin - that is thanks in and of itself."
Two rooms away. Arthur slapped Merlin on the back a couple of times after showing him what he looked like.
"I look princely," Merlin commented with a fond smile. "I have never worn nice clothes like this - I'll be sure to return them when I'm finished."
"Nonsense, Merlin," Arthur said heartily, readying to change himself for the wedding. "Those were made for you - they're yours to keep."
"I'm beyond flattered by how much you've supported my relationship with Aria to this point."
"Merlin, that gorgeous girl is marrying you - someone actually wants to marry you. You, Merlin, are - "
"Yeah, I think I get it, thanks." Once again, Arthur was proving that he was still in shock about the whole situation. Theirs was to be a small wedding, but the happy couple were just that - they just wanted to be forever joined. "I wonder what she'll look like - "
"Don't think about it - allow yourself to be surprised."
"I know she's beautiful, Arthur - she's breathtaking. I just want to see the whole new level her beauty will take today. I'm not sure my heart can handle it."
Arthur knew that his manservant was being serious and nodded. "I know exactly what you mean. And trust me, Merlin, she'll look like more than you could've ever dreamed."
The great hall was decked out in garlands of greens with occasional wreaths of the reddest roses and pinkest tulips that Camelot had to offer. Merlin smiled at the sight.
"What do you think?" Arthur said, perhaps a bit louder than was necessary. "Will your bride be pleased?"
"Very much so - she adores flowers." Merlin could not have been happier or more nervous for this, not to mention a tad anxious to get all of this over with - not because he wanted to skip the ceremonies, just that he wanted to be joined with his love as soon as possible.
Merlin awoke with a start, the cool breeze of the early morning drafts hitting his flesh like another icy blow. He could feel the stubble on his cheeks and realized he needed to shave if he was going to go through with what he had to finish that day - God-willing. There was no way in hell he was going to miss out on this day, miss the chance of being close to his love, the one he'd lost so long ago.
"I miss you," he breathed as he picked up his rucksack and shoved his hands into his jean pockets. All he had thought about every day for almost fifteen-hundred years was her. He missed her so ardently and promised himself the day he'd lost her that he would, one day, find her again. Today, time-permitting and by the grace of the stars, would be that day.
As he walked along the streets of London, he knew that soon everyone would be out - the city was waking up, and he would've given anything to share this moment with Aria.
Merlin, with this ring, I thee wed and solemnly swear to protect and affirm my love for you every single day and to show you every waking second that you're mine and that it is all I can do to keep you.
Like a blade to his heart stung the words of her wedding vow to him and he could feel the tears welling up into his eyes. Stifling them back hurt just as much - for fifteen-hundred years he had cried over the loss of his bride, the one who warmed and abducted his entire soul the second she walked down the aisle, the moment she grasped his wrists and uttered the words "I do".
Handing a lady in a hotel lobby a few quid just for the day, just to wash up inside their lobby's head, Merlin leaned over the sink and gathered his supplies from his sack, placing them on the counter and beginning the ritual of shaving his face.
Flashbacks filled his thoughts - one of their wedding night full of passion and new experiences and of being in love, one of the moment they realized they could not have children together, one of the moment she breathed her last - and Merlin could feel his heart lurching more and more, breaking and straining the more time he spent without her.
He had been incomplete since she had passed away of old age. She had gone to sleep peacefully at around fifty-five years of age, which seemed far too short a time, but enough to live out a life of happiness together.
"Merlin," she'd said the day she turned forty. "You still seem to be the same age as the day I married you."
"It's my curse, my love," he had responded sadly.
"I wish so many things - the greatest wish is that I hadn't quit my magic, that I hadn't stopped...if I hadn't, perhaps we would be ageless together."
"You can't think like that, Aria. You can't."
"I can't help it, Merlin. All I've wanted is you and I'm even losing that."
He took hold of her face in his hands. "I swore the day I married you that I would love you until the day you pass, and I will hold true to that. I will. You're mine until then and I won't let you go without a fight."
"Without my magic, there's nothing you can do to save me. When I die, I die and that's the end of it. I love you more than life itself. When I wake up in the next life, swear to me that you'll find me."
"I swear I will find you."
And find her he did. He knew of a woman somewhere close, a woman that held all of Aria's traits in the modern world. All he had to do was meet her and cast a small spell to reawaken his love's soul within her and the two could have their chance at immortality together. He could teach her the Old Ways at last, render her as a powerful woman, one to be marked for the ages. All he had ever wanted lay with the hope that this modern-day woman had his love within her.
Finishing up his readying for the day, Merlin quickly changed his clothes and trekked his way out of the hotel and down the streets. He was heading for the coffee shop, the one he knew this woman frequented. If he missed the window in meeting this woman, he could lose out on the chance to remeet Aria, the chance to rekindle the flame he had wanted back for almost fifteen-hundred years.
The coffee shop was on a quaint little corner, one that always reminded him of the place where he had taken Aria on their wedding night. That night rung in his mind - it was the beginning of so many different things and the end of a few unremarkable stages in his life. Since she had entered his life, she had penetrated his timeline so much that everything began and ended with Aria. Everything he had been, everything he had become, and everything he had ever hoped to be was because of her, so meeting her in this life wasn't an option - it had to be.
Ordering a black coffee, he took a seat, still a bit estranged from this modern world. He had trekked across all of time and had still never completely adjusted to this new world and all the technology it had surmassed over the ages.
"I'll take a vanilla latte, please," Merlin heard the woman's voice say from behind him, so he turned around to truly get a good look at her. She was exactly Aria's height - how could he forget how easily she could fit into his arms? - and even bore her hair color and texture, something that might have superficially appeared to be something to be overlooked and unimportant, but it was traits like that that made this woman so much closer to his love. This woman even braided her long, bushy hair into a side-braid, just like his bride.
"Excuse me," he greeted softly, melting instantaneously the second he looked back into the woman's eyes - they were Aria's eyes. "I was wondering if perhaps we've met before."
The woman eyed him suspiciously for a moment and nodded. "I can't seem to place your face, but you do look like someone I once knew." Her voice was exact and Merlin was on fire.
He nodded and smiled. "I don't mean to approach you out of the blue - I just can't shake the feeling that I know you from somewhere."
The woman smiled. "I know what you mean. I'm a firm believer in deja-vu."
"Isn't deja-vu considered to be some kind of magic?"
The woman pondered this for a moment before nodding slowly and smiling fondly. "Yes, I suppose it is."
"So you believe in magic, huh?"
The woman laughed and took her latte from the barista. "I guess you could say I do."
Merlin chuckled. "Would you maybe want to join me?"
The two of them sat down together and Merlin smiled across the table, hoping to make eye contact with her and complete the spell he needed, the one he had been practicing since the day he'd lost her the first time. It was all he could hope for that this would work and he would be reunited with his long-lost love, the one he had literally waited ages for.
The way the woman looked when she sat down caused Merlin's eyes to flash back to a scene he remembered all too well when Aria had sat down in the same manner. He noticed her bag, littered with print of red roses and pink tulips.
"You like red roses and pink tulips?" he asked, gesturing to her bag.
She nodded, patting the bag fondly. "Yeah, I've loved them since I was girl. It's a generational thing. The women in my family have loved them as far back as the Middle Ages, or so my mother told me."
This was a good sign. She bore yet another trait passed down from Aria's lineage. "They're beautiful flowers for sure." He paused, taking a sip of his coffee. "I'm sorry I'm so rude - I've forgotten to ask you what your name is."
She smiled. "My name is Aurelia."
Even her name still bore A-r-i-a, even in some small way. "Lovely."
"And what's your name, stranger?"
Merlin shrugged. "What do you think it is?"
"Like a guessing game?" She smiled, taking a drink of her latte, and Merlin felt his heart leap into his throat - Aria used to give him the exact same sideways look whenever she took a sip of her drink.
He nodded. "You guess my name, and I know that all my questions - and yours - will be answered."
The woman nodded. "I enjoy a good challenge." She chuckled, setting her drink aside and leaning onto her elbows on the table, looking straight across the table and deeply into his eyes. An inquisitive smirk was pasted across her lips, tugging them upward in the same way that his love's mouth once did. "Hmm...I'm getting something like an 'M'. Does your name begin with an 'M'?"
Merlin smiled and nodded, leaning himself onto the table as well to get a bit closer to her and look deeper into her eyes. "You're very good."
"There's something behind your eyes, some door I can't open."
"Just be careful. A door once opened may be stepped through in either direction."
The woman took heed of his word, but continued to stare into his eyes in every attempt to unlock the secrets he was keeping from her and find out the truth behind the eyes of this mysteriously familiar M-named man. It was then that Merlin shifted his gaze a bit, the familiar shade of gold glazing over his hues as they once did, and the woman's gaze changed slightly. He hoped he hadn't blown his cover and that Aria would wake up within her. Given the look that she had just given him, it was probably for the worst.
"Are you alright?" he asked, hoping she would give him a better answer than a slap across the face and an arrest.
The woman moved back a bit, her eyes wide as they changed their color. When Merlin had approached her at the counter, her eyes had been a hunter shade of green - now, they were a bluish-green, the color of Aria's eyes. Merlin watched in shock and slight surprise as freckles popped up across the woman's flesh, on her face and arms. Her nose shape-shifted and her jawline restructured itself as he watched on in silence.
Her hair became slightly frizzier in texture and the length and consistency of her fingers was altered. All across this woman, her features were changing into features that Merlin hadn't seen since...
"Where..." her voice said, and Merlin could see familiar teeth peeking through her mouth, straight but slightly whiter than Aria's. "...how..." Touching her fingers to her face and her arms, she examined herself. "How in the blazes..."
"What's your name?" he asked, eyes wide and his heart nearly ceasing to beat.
"My name is..." She paused, her eyes cast downward as her mind was suddenly and instantly overwhelmed by a flood memories, everything stemming from a past she had once known. She remembered her father and her sisters and the sudden death of her mother. She recalled hearing of her brother's murder and she could call back the moment she was accused of being a sorceress. "...Aria. Aria Glinn." Turning her gaze upward, she looked into his eyes, eyes so familiar. They were swimming with memories of the two of them, of everything from their first meeting to the night they spent holding each other in her home to her moving into the castle. Her mind could recall their glorious wedding day, of the day of their third miscarriage, and of the day she departed from him. All of the memories she had of him - how his skin felt beneath hers, the warmth of his eyes. "M-Merlin? Is that you?"
Merlin smiled brightly, feeling the tears stream down his face. "It's me, my love. I'm here."
The woman - the one who had brought Aria back to life - looked straight into his eyes and her chin quivered. Merlin reached across the table and took her hands into his, kissing each of them repeatedly as he was reduced to nothing but sobs. "Oh, Merlin!" Standing from the table, she crossed over to his side of it and he stood, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her flush against his body in the tightest embrace he could absolutely muster. Her arms circled tightly around his neck as she buried her face into his sweater and, too, wept for joy. "I've been sleeping so long - I have missed you so."
"I've waited fifteen-hundred years for you." He could barely speak he was so ecstatic to have her in his arms again, to feel his fingers push through her hair. "I swore I would find you, and I have."
"I'm here now." She nodded, pulling back to look him directly in the face and stroke his cheekbones, ones she had longed to see once again.
"That's all I've wanted." He smiled at her, one of his hands sliding up her body to caress her jawline and her face.
"All I've ever wanted is you," she whispered, leaning up and connecting her lips with his tenderly. Even after all that time, the many hundreds of years he had searched for, Merlin's lips - forever parched from missing hers - were still hers, they were still carved from the same bit of marble and were still meant to be.
Merlin had finally found her and with all that he had learned since he lost her the first time, he knew he could never - would never - allow himself to lose her again. If he had to die with her or if they lived together forever, it would always be Merlin and Aria, Aria and Merlin. And he had been right that day down in Kilgarrah's cave - she was worth saving.
We're like fire and rain. My magic is unpredictable, uncontrollable like fire. Your magic is clear, controlled like rain. Whenever my fires are lit at a danger to others, you rain down and push it back under control.