Title: So Close That I Might See (1)
Character/s: Arthur, Elena, Merlin, Morgana
Summary: After an accident Arthur goes to limbo, but gets one opportunity to go back and set things right.
Warnings: temporary character death, panic attacks,
Word Count: 1k
Prompt: #318: Naughty
Author's Notes: I did not mean to start yet another WIP, but alas, here we are. It got longer than I expected 😞
The first thought Arthur has upon waking up is that the glass of brandy at dinner time was a mistake, the second is that Merlin cocked it up, yet again, and he forgot to set the alarm on his way out, because he's been robbed, his belongings are gone. He's just given Arthur one more reason to fire him come Monday.
Worst personal assistant in the history of humanity.
He gets up from the floor, hazy on the details as to why he was even lying there in the first place. He brings a hand to his head to check if he has any bumps or cuts, maybe the robbers knocked him out. His head and limbs are fine, he hasn't suffered any harm. Arthur pats his jeans looking for his mobile, just in case, but there's nothing.
He looks around frowning, the room he's in is bare, there's nothing left, not even a sock. The furniture is all gone and the walls are an empty canvas that scream at him.
Belatedly he notices there are no doors either, no windows, no way of getting out. His throat closes up, his chest constricts. An invisible hand strangulates him.
"Oh, no, no, no," Arthur says, running around knocking at the walls with desperation. He needs to get out of here. He kicks at one of the walls before he falls to his knees, he can't breath. The ceiling is caving in, the space is shrinking around him.
"This isn't real."
"You're right, it isn't."
Arthur freezes. He isn't alone. As slowly as he can he turns around. He stares with wide eyes.
A blonde girl with a toothy grin greets him, from-- from midair. She's sitting cross-legged, a hand on her cheek while she stares that him serenely, like the fact she's hovering above him, in the air, defying the laws of gravity is normal.
"What-- who are you?" Arthur manages to get out.
Her smile gets even wider and she jumps down, landing right in front of Arthur. "You don't need to sit in the floor," she says. Suddenly the entire room is shifting, changing, and Arthur somehow ends up sitting on a swing of all things, with her in front of him, as she kicks her legs to gain momentum on her own swing. Arthur laughs desperate.
"Where am I?"
She stops, her smile slipping. "Oh, dear. I'm sorry, I should've introduced myself sooner. I'm Elena, and I'm here to help you."
"Help me? With what? And you haven't answered my question yet," Arthur accuses, he has never been as confused in his life.
Her face takes on an air of mystery, she says, "You're in limbo." The swings disappear with a snap of her fingers, the white walls and roof disintegrate.
Stars and galaxies surround them, they're standing in the very heart of the universe. "I-- I'm."
Arthur brings a hand to his forehead, shakes his head. It can't be. "But how?"
"I'm afraid you had a little accident getting out of the tub." Elena sounds sad, her eyes sparkle with unshed tears. "I didn't want to see you here so soon."
Arthur remains silent for so long he's not aware of them returning to the room he woke up in. Jumbled thoughts race in his head, they go from his work, to the party Morgana promised he'd go to, to his parents, and even spares a thought for Merlin.
"Arthur," she says, lying a hand on his shoulder. "Please, don't be sad. This isn't--"
"Why am I here? Isn't there like, a heaven?"
"You've been naughty," she informs him, wide-eyed and apologetic.
"Your track record isn't the best, honestly, I tried to guide you in the right direction, but you can be stubborn. You've made mistakes, Arthur."
Arthur nods. Sure. Okay. He's dead and doesn't qualify for paradise. Brilliant. "So, limbo it is, then?"
"It's better than being stuck in purgatory. There's always an infinite line to get in, there's no wi-fi and the tea is always cold." She shudders, her face set on a grimace.
"Wi-fi?" He asks surprised. "Tea? Do they also offer catering?"
Elena scoffs. "The Afterlife is much different than what you thought it was. Each person has their own interpretation."
"Dante was wrong?"
Arthur is still shocked, confused, angered. This can't be it. It just can't.
As if reading her thoughts, Elena says, "This isn't the end. You have one more chance."
His heart thumps wildly. He laughs, he has a heartbeat. "What do you mean?"
"I've been by your side since the very moment you took your first breath, and I know the kind of man you grew up to be, sure, you erred your way, but you can set things right."
Arthur blinks, his mouth falls open. "Wait...are you? You're an angel."
"No," Elena says like he's the crazy one. Arthur scoffs. "I'm a Guide. Your Guide. Always here for you."
Arthur takes her in, one eyebrow raised. Elena looks nothing like an angel or guide or whatever she calls herself. She's barefoot, her hair's a mess and she keeps tripping on the hem of her long, flowy skirt, which gives her the appearance of a lost, love child of the sixties.
Someone out there in the universe has a twisted sense of humour.
"Okay, you're my Guide." He makes air quotes, Elena steps on his foot. "Ouch."
"This isn't a joke," she warns. "After tonight you'll have a clean slate, and I expect you to make me proud."
"You're sending me back? I'm not really dead?"
"Oh, you are, but there was a mistake, you're here before your time. Every single person on earth has a destiny to fulfill, and you haven't fulfilled yours."
"I can leave," Arthur says, giddy to see his room, his flat, even his sister again. He needs a hot bath, a nice meal.
Elena sighs long suffering, probably knowing what he's thinking. "Arthur, this was real. I am real. I'll be choking up on you. I don't want you back here until you're old and gray, and most of all happy."
Arthur is struck by her words. Happiness. That's something he never considered before. Elena steps forward, kisses his forehead tenderly, something in his chest sizes up, the echo of his mother's love flowing through her. "Don't mess it up, Arthur. Find your destiny, your happiness, and remember, love is the key."
When Arthur comes back to his head hurts, it feels like someone took a rock and threw it at him. He groans in pain, blink up at the white, artificial light hurting his eyes.
"Oh my god, he moved. Morgana he's--"
Arthur regains his focus, tries to move, Morgana and Merlin are kneeling on either side of his body, he'd on the bathroom floor and both are wearing expressions of worry and fear. Arthur is shocked to find Morgana has been crying as she wipes a tear away. Then she smacks him om the shoulder.
"Ouch, what was that for?"
"You arse, I thought you were dead, there's blood in your head and you wouldn't answer me, and you, ugh, Arthur," Morgans says in one breath, her voice breaking on his name.
Merlin is pale, looking at him as if he's just seen a ghost, and then he throws himself at Arthur, his arms thighs and warm around him. "Oh, Arthur, I'm so, so happy you're fine. I almost. I don't know what I would've done--" Merlin sobs against his shoulder. Arthur pats him awkwardly on the back.
"Eh, Merlin. Do you think you could let me go?"
Merlin gasps, moving away from him in an instant. "I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?"
"No, you utter idio--" Arthur bites his tongue, the mocking words dying in his throat. Elena is there, sitting on the tub, shaking her head at him.
"No, you didn't," he says instead. "But, I'd like to get up from here."
Merlin gives him a teary smile.