Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: He had been waiting for Arthur. Arthur had been waiting for him.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Song Prompt #7 (Photograph)
Author's Notes: I'm sorry: I started a full-time job a couple of months ago and it's only been now that I'm starting to get my hobbies back. And I'm also sorry there is basically no plot to this, I'm out of practice!
Children were laughing in the forest, somewhere far behind him. They could have been miles away, centuries away, and they would have sounded the same. Their laugh was muted, distant.
Merlin couldn’t remember how to laugh. He couldn’t remember how to smile. Not anymore.
He shut his eyes for a moment, trying to remember how to breathe. He would have thought that after all this time, it would stop hurting so much. But it hadn’t. If anything, it was worse.
Opening his eyes again didn’t help. His blurred vision might have been because the wind was causing the lake to ripple, or it could be the tears swimming in his eyes.
He didn’t know why he had come here. But he had woken up with a need, an urge, to go to the lake and Merlin could never resist when the tranquil spot called him. He could pretend that something else was calling him here.
His hand slipped into his pocket. He hadn’t noticed he had pulled on old and battered clothing when he had dressed that morning. His jeans were ripped in numerous places, their edges too worn to pass off as fashion.
But he didn’t care. His fingers touched a well-worn piece of paper and Merlin pulled it out. It was smudged, torn and dirty. But the drawing on it was still life-like.
It was the only thing he had.
He had seen humanity advance beyond all recognition during his time. His magic was nothing but a distant spark now but it wasn’t needed. Not only did he not have anyone to protect, he also just didn’t need it. All of his old tricks had been reduced to turning on a switch.
Sometimes he hated it. But if there was one thing he wished had been around back in his day, back in their day, it would have been a better method to capture Arthur’s image. Not that his lover’s face had faded in the centuries he had walked alone, but this drawing was the only thing he had to look upon.
He never realised, back then, why his mother never spoke of his father. He thought, for most of his youth, that it had been shame. But now, staring at upon the one view that haunted his every moment, he understood.
Every moment alone was a sharp knife, every second another slice.
But as he carefully placed the parchment back in his pocket, Merlin felt a tingle run up his spine. His magic, while dormant, wasn’t gone, and Merlin breathed deeply as the power rushed through him. It wasn’t his lack of focus that meant the children now sounded far away; something was blocking them out.
But even as he tried to piece together what could be happening, his gaze was drawn back to the lake.
The water was rippling with more intensity now, thrashing this way and that.
Then Merlin realised the wind had dropped. Not even a breeze stirred the leaves.
But the water still raged.
“But what is this sorcery?”
“It’s not magic, love.”
Merlin put a hand on Arthur’s back, an easy smile on his face. He didn’t think he had forgotten any memories during the long years he had walked the Earth.
But he had. He had forgotten how to laugh. He had forgotten how to smile. He had forgotten how to love.
He had forgotten how to live.
The second Arthur had risen from the water and stepped into his arms, those memories had come crashing back into him with such a force that his knees had given way and the pair of them had ended up on the ground, neither having the physical strength to hold up the other; neither having the emotional strength to let go.
Looking over Arthur’s shoulder, Merlin kissed the exposed skin before focusing his attention on what had captured Arthur’s attention.
The first thing he had done (once Arthur stopped trying to kill technology) was to ask someone to take their picture. The man had agreed with a grin: he saw just another young couple acting as tourists.
But now, it was this photograph, capturing everything about them, that had taken the place of a worn-out drawing in Merlin’s pocket.
They were young, happy and in love. It also wasn’t blurred by tears or stained by the passing of time.
It was his fresh start.
“But I’m right here,” Arthur complained, “why do you need this thing?”
“I can’t explain,” Merlin muttered. But Arthur put the picture down and suddenly turned to face him. Looking into his eyes, in that moment, Merlin knew he didn’t need to explain. He hadn’t been the only one waiting, after all.
He had been waiting for Arthur. Arthur had been waiting for him.
Both of them had been waiting to come home.
Arthur nudged him until he lay back down before leaning over and kissing him. Merlin’s hand immediately rose, his fingers threading through Arthur’s hair as he pulled him closer, a soft groan escaping him as his body shifting position to draw Arthur nearer.
But Arthur didn’t come closer. He drew back, his gaze running the length of Merlin’s body. It wasn’t the heated look that Merlin was used to, though. It was something softer, something thoughtful.
“What is it?” He asked, the backs of his fingers brushing against Arthur’s cheek. His king leant into the touch.
“You’ve healed,” he said simply, before finally kissing him again.
But Merlin was only half paying attention this time. Arthur was right. Being able to love freely again had healed his soul of the wounds he wasn’t aware it suffered from. He closed his eyes, losing himself to the sensation of Arthur.
And he breathed.
This time, he felt as if he could fill up the world. There was nothing stopping him; no band of iron around his chest holding him back.
Opening his eyes, Merlin smiled at the sight of Arthur watching him again.