Title: Twice Fated and Forever Loved
Character/s: Arthur Pendragon, Merlin
Summary: Merlin is not the only one who waits.
Word Count: 1200
Prompt: No. 281 Word Limit Month - 1200
Author's Notes: none
Arthur rubbed the grit between his thumb and fingers. Dull grey, it floated into the air like ash.
Arthur gazed up at the inky pool of black sky that stretched above the trees.
In this realm, finding a fallen star was nothing short of a miracle.
The forest did not change, nothing grew, and everything was still. Only orbs of light, spirits of the wood, whistled by him, illuminating the unending night.
No living thing dwelled here.
Arthur arrived at the lake, water still as glass, and his heart started to throb in his chest.
He’d done it a thousand times before, but this would be his last.
He walked out onto the dock, the wood groaning in familiar protest. He crouched down and dipped his fingertips into the water.
“Freya,” he called. The motes in the air echoed the name and a thousand whispers filled the air.
The centre of the lake boiled and frothed like a caldron, and from the sparkling mist a pale woman stood atop the water, her bare feet making ripples as she moved gracefully towards Arthur.
“Dearest King.” She smiled. Her white dress trailed behind her like rolling waves as she stood before him.
Arthur grinned back. She’d been his only companion in the Forest of Avalon. “I think it is time.”
“It is,” she said, her eyes sparkling with mirth.
“This is goodbye,” Arthur said, still kneeling.
Freya held out her hand. “As long as this sword is with you, I will be as well.”
Arthur reached to grasp her hand and instead felt the grip of a sword he hadn’t touched in over 800 years.
He pulled back to withdraw it from her hand and pointed the sword skyward. He stood upright as water fell from its blade like drops of moonlight. The golden runes glowed, as if in greeting.
“Keep it safe,” Freya said. She turned away.
“But how do I find the star—”
In a burst of light and drizzle, she was gone. Her voice remained, a gentle whisper in his head.
“Destiny will show you the way, Once and Future King.”
Arthur ambled through wood for what felt like days when a spirit whirred past him and down a path where the trees began to glow an eerie blue on either side.
He took a deep breath and followed. At the end of the trail lay Freya’s lake.
It was now bone dry.
A man with stormy grey eyes and snow-white hair appeared from behind a tree. Golden vines moved like snakes along his glowing, bare skin.
“I am a fallen star,” the being said. He circled around Arthur, appraising.
“Yes.” Arthur swallowed. “I know.”
The fallen star laughed. “And I already know you, Arthur Pendragon. My twin fell this way eight-hundred years ago. May I ask why you are still here, neither living nor dead?”
Arthur had wished for something he'd wanted above all else.
“I’d heard from the first star someone I loved would perish in the battle for Camelot should I not intervene. I wished for him to live a full life.”
“Oh.” The fallen star stopped his pacing and looked at him, bewildered. “Not many sacrifice so powerful a wish on another.”
Arthur fingers flexed over Excalibur’s pommel. “Is there anything wrong with that?”
“No,” the fallen star said. “There is not.”
“I just wanted him to be happy,” Arthur said, failing to keep the pain out of his words.
“That is not possible without you by his side. I’ve been watching him, your sorcerer. He waits for you as you do him.”
Arthur's mind went blank.
All these years, he hadn’t been alone in waiting.
“He’s still alive?”
The fallen star arched an eyebrow. “He who is born of magic can only be slain by magic. In this time, there are few who truly know how to destroy him utterly, and fewer still who would dare challenge his might.”
“Who are you?”
“Luck does not begin to describe this meeting. This is no coincidence—it is fate.”
“Are you here to grant my wish?”
The fallen star shook his head. “I am here to fulfil one.”
The fallen star raised his hand and placed it in front of Arthur’s eyes. “Sleep, King of Kings. When you awake, the wish will be fulfilled.”
He gasped—his whole chest ached with the movement, like he hadn’t taken a single breath in a thousand years.
In a way, this was true.
Excalibur gripped in one hand, he was neck-deep in bone-chilling water. He blinked away the moisture from his eyes and took in his surroundings. He was in the centre of a giant lake. The sky was misty grey, and not an endless black.
He was back in the world of the living in the Lake of Avalon.
His body was numb with cold and Arthur wanted to cry tears of relief—he hadn’t felt cold in so, so long.
Arthur, still in his armour, swam with great difficulty towards shore until the tips of his toes touched water.
Then he heard it—a cry. It was not a name, nor any word he could understand.
He squinted and looked into the distance.
There was an old man, grey and wizened, who stood at the top of the hill that led down to the lake.
Arthur watched with his teeth chattering as the man scrambled down the hill with alarming quickness, throwing down his bags to the ground, ripping off his cap and tossing it into the air.
And then the most extraordinary thing happened—Arthur scrubbed his eyes with a wet glove to make sure it was real—the man’s grey hair shortened and dyed itself black. Even his clothes changed, from a blue, bulky jacket to a light, brown one, and despite the distance Arthur could spot a red neckerchief—
He did not waste time to think.
Arthur trudged through the water, chilled to the bone as it dripped off his fringe and eyelashes. His heart pounded in his ears.
His legs screamed in protest, filled with needles and heavy like columns of stone as the water met his chest, then his waist. He was almost there.
With a frustrated sob, he fell to his knees, the water now lapping around his belly. He pierced Excalibur deep into the sand, his hands gripping it so tight he could almost feel his fingers again. He had to get up. He grunted, teeth ground together. He couldn’t move.
He waited, agony mixed with fervent hope. His eyes never left the figure who came rushing towards him, moving around his sword to finally be next to him. The one he’d only dreamed of for hundreds of years stood above him, his face one of shock and relief.
Half of Arthur still believed it was a dream.
But when he was suddenly swept into the man’s arms, he knew it couldn’t be anyone but Merlin. No one else could fill him up so completely with joy, fit in his arms so perfectly, and call his name over and over like he was worth all the stars in the sky.
He was home.