Title: Things You'll Never Say
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius
Summary: Merlin knows his name is Merlin because Arthur tells him so. [ prequel ]
Warnings: Angst, amnesia.
Word Count: 750 words.
Prompt: Camelot Drabble Prompt #282: Word Count Month (750w) and this sketch.
Author's Notes: Okay, I think I made it better...
Merlin knows his name is Merlin because Arthur tells him so.
“You’re Merlin,” he says, his face screwed up like he’s holding something back. “And I’m Arthur. Remember? Don’t think pretending you don’t know who I am is going to stop me from being angry, even if you did save my life.”
They are standing by a lake, which is odd. Merlin doesn’t know how he got here. Arthur is covered in blood and wearing chainmail, but he doesn’t seem to be injured. How has Merlin saved him?
“Merlin?” Hands are on his shoulders now, bright blue eyes looking deep into his own. “Are you all right?”
“I think so,” Merlin says truthfully. “What are we doing here?”
Merlin remembers some things: he can walk, talk, and feed himself. Other things come back to him with the familiarity of muscle memory: riding a horse, for example, or catching himself at the last moment when he’s about to fall down the stairs. The man they call Gaius tells him that it is possible the person he was before will never return, that his mind has been wiped clean by magic.
He looks at Merlin carefully when he says this, but Merlin can’t for the life of him imagine why.
Sometimes, he thinks there is something missing. It’s not a feeling he can put his finger on, just a hesitation sometimes before he moves, as if his body isn’t quite his own. He tries to push the thought aside, to bury it as something dangerous, but the question lingers.
He drops three dishes and an antique vase before the first week is out, and the next week Gaius clucks worriedly when he lets a vial of valerian extract shatter because he can’t move fast enough to catch it. At least he doesn’t seem angry. He leads Merlin over to a bench and sits him down, then looks into his eyes and ears and checks his body with meticulous care.
“I can’t see any reason for it,” he says to Arthur, the two of them apparently pretending Merlin can’t hear. “I can only surmise it must be part of the spell.”
“Then how do we undo it?” Arthur is impatient, half turned away from Merlin. “He can’t go on like this.”
“Are you sure that’s what you want, sire?” There’s something in Gaius’ voice Merlin can’t read. “If he regains his magic but not his memory— ”
Arthur’s shoulders stiffen. “Just tell me what to do.”
The crystal cave is the first place that actually seems familiar, and Merlin knows he mustn’t go inside.
“No,” he says, digging in his heels as Arthur tries to drag him across the threshold. “You don’t understand, Arthur, she’ll kill me!”
Arthur stops short. “Who’ll kill you?”
“I don’t know.” Merlin bites his lip, and Arthur’s face softens. It’s the closest to gentleness that Merlin has seen from him, and inexplicably, it hurts.
“She’s gone, now,” he says, with quiet certainty. “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
It takes some coaxing, but Merlin follows him into the cave.
“What do we do now?”
The king shrugs, leaning uncomfortably against a plinth.
“I have no idea,” he says. “I suppose we wait.”
“That’s your brilliant plan?” Merlin snorts, but Arthur’s face goes hard, and he looks away.
“All right,” Merlin says, after a moment. “Waiting it is.”
It happens that night, when Arthur is fast asleep and isn’t watching – later, Merlin remembers that’s how he’s missed so many things. He can’t find sleep on the rocky floor so he gets up and wanders through the cave, reaching out an idle hand to touch the nearest crystal.
It comes upon him in a flash of breaking light.
Your name is Emrys, the stone says, in a voice that is as deep as a thousand years. Remember who you are.
He doesn’t, in the end, wake Arthur, but watches him in sleep: the small frown between his eyebrows, his steady, even breaths. When the first, faint light breaks through the cave opening, Merlin waits for him to stir.
“Let’s have you, lazy daisy,” he says softly.
Arthur’s eyes fly open.
“Merlin,” he says, his voice breaking on the second syllable. For a moment, they simply regard one another, each waiting for the other to make the first move.
He's braced for anger, but to Merlin’s astonishment, Arthur hugs him.
“I have,” he says,” so much to tell you.”
“It’s all right.” Merlin holds him tighter, closing his eyes. “I already know.”