(Merlin, post-finale, reunion, slash (merthur), G, 995 words)
Don't you go,
Away, I know,
Without your love,
I'll never find my way back home
- Find My Way Back Home; Priscilla Ahn
Arthur stared up at the canopy of his four-poster bed – the red of Camelot sounding him. Merlin had tried to keep the bedroom in the small stone cottage as true to Arthur’s chambers in Camelot as possible. “To help with the transition,” he had said. The room had been already prepared when Arthur had returned. Arthur had expected to find a layer of dust coating everything, to match the layer of dust he felt covered him – but no, the room was clean. Perhaps a bit too clean, really, as it made Arthur feel like he was the one that was dusty.
He had only asked later, when he pulled his finger through a layer of dust on window sill in the kitchen. That was when Merlin told him that Arthur’s was the only room he cleaned every day... because he was Arthur’s manservant, after all, and it was his job.
“But I wasn’t here,” Arthur had said.
“I needed to remember that you would return,” Merlin had replied, and then fidgeted and left the room. No doubt to use that computer-device for research. They still didn’t know why Arthur had returned now, of all times.
Merlin moved beside him on the bed, turning onto his side facing Arthur and burrowing further under the covers. Merlin had his own room, of course, and until Arthur had returned, Arthur knew that Merlin had actually slept in it... but that too had changed.
It started almost immediately. Arthur would wake sometimes during the night to find Merlin standing in the doorway. “Sorry, just checking, go back to sleep,” Merlin would say, and Arthur would obey. In the mornings, Merlin would look tired, yet strangely manic... in the evenings, before bed, Merlin would grow nervous and reluctant to sleep.
When Arthur cornered him about it, Merlin admitted that at night he lay awake in bed, worried that if he slept, he’d wake to find that Arthur’s return had been only a dream. “I assure you, I am not. I know what dreams feel like Merlin and we are not in one.”
“That’s just what a dream would say,” Merlin replied, smiling.
So, Arthur let him sleep on the floor beside his bed.
Of course, that meant that several times during the night, Merlin’s head would pop up over the side of his bed like groundhog... and Arthur wasn’t too sure that was an improvement. So, he’d talk to Merlin until Merlin fell asleep to the sound of his voice. He’d talk about his sorry at the news of Gwen’s passing – even though it had happened centuries before, to Arthur, it was a fresh wound. He recited proper eulogies for his fallen friends, as he would have done as their King had he lived to see their deaths. He talked about his hopes for this second life, as well as the confusion that came with it – the new technology, the progression of knowledge that he needed to catch up on if he was meant to be king again.
And sometimes Merlin would talk, like he had tonight – and he’d tell Arthur about the years of waiting, the lives he had lived start to finish, only to change his name and begin again. He spoke of the different rulers, of the changes within the people, the system of government. He spoke of greater world events, some fantastic, some more horrible than Arthur could imagine.
Merlin spoke of the time in the 20th century when he had lost hope and tried to take his own life, only, at the last moment, to stay his own hand. It was this, not the wars, not the deaths of millions, not the suffering of the people, that horrified Arthur most of all.
Arthur had asked Merlin to lie beside him on the bed, instead of the bedroll on the floor. Suddenly, it was Arthur who felt as though Merlin might disappear if he did not have eyes on him, could not hear him breathing steadily, could not feel the warmth from his body.
He thought of rising from the lake, suddenly finding himself in the shallow water, like a sleepwalker awakened mid-stride. The warm glow of the rising sun was at his back, and he did not recognise his surroundings. A hard stone road ran along the edge of the water. Strange buildings scattered along it, odd carriages sat still in front of them. And yet, in this new unrecognizable world, Arthur had felt a pull deep in his gut... a yearning that let him down the road... as though someone had split him in two and the other half was calling to him from where it had been secreted away.
His walk turned to a run as the call only seemed to grow more intense inside him – and then he saw a figure appear from the morning mist ahead... a figure buried in an oversize jacket, long silver hair and beard blending into the fog around him. Neither broke stride, as Arthur approached he could see that the silver beard was not blending into the fog, but disappearing into the fog – and as it left, it revealed the face of Merlin - His eyes as blue as Arthur remembered, his hair as midnight black, and as they embraced, Arthur found familiar strength and safety in his arms. The desperate yearning inside him vanished and he felt whole.
If Merlin hadn’t been there...
Arthur turned to his side and looked at Merlin, who was lying with eyes closed, on the verge of sleep. Carefully, Arthur wrapped an arm around him, and pulled him into an embrace, putting his lips to Merlin’s ear.
“Don’t ever go where I can’t find you,” Arthur whispered. “You are more important to me than Camelot, than Albion, than anything in this world or the next.”Merlin’s breath hitched, and embraced Arthur in return, hiding his face against Arthur’s chest... and Arthur knew, that neither of them would sleep alone again.