Title: Come Away to the Waters
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: As a boy, Arthur's nursemaid warned him about the dangers lurking in the waters. As a young man, he threw all caution to the wind, for there were beautiful creatures that were worth it.
Word Count: 1k
Prompt: #321: Child. Spring. Window.
Author's Notes: Yaass, I finished almost in time xD Title comes from the poem The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats.
"Stay away from the waters, little child," his nursemaid said, tucking him into bed. "Never go near the river by your lonesome, or dip your feet in the spring, they will pull you in."
"Who? Is it the hidden folk?" Arthur asked, squirming and twisting the covers around his fingers. "Am I safe here?"
Alice smiled at him, kissed his forehead lovingly. "Do not fret, my little prince, you are safe. There are spells on these walls and the faerie folk cannot walk freely in here. Now go to sleep, it is far too late to be awake."
"But-- but. I can't. Not now," he protested, enlivened by her stories. Father hated her tales, said Arthur's brain would rot with every story about dragons and warlocks she spun, but Arthur could never get enough. "Tell me about the faerie who came from the depths of the lake."
"Hush now, my sweet. I will once the sun has risen in the sky and comes in through the window, for now I'll watch over your dreams." Alice smoothed the covers around him. Arthur couldn't hide his pout, but settled nonetheless, the sun couldn't be too far away.
He closed his eyes, said through a yawn, "Sing me a song?"
She settled next to him, carding her fingers through his hair, gentle and sweet, in the way he imagined mothers did. "I see the moon, and the moon sees me, shining through the branches of the old oak tree..."
Her voice lulled him into dreams of big white horses galloping near the rivers.
Arthur was thirteen and if he was good with a sword then he could bathe in the lake with no one around. Many times Alice had stopped him from jumping into a lake, a stream, and any body of water she deemed dangerous, because she said faeries longed for human children.
He was no longer a child. He'd grown.
He kneeled on the ground, letting his fingers dance in the water. The wind picked up, the tree's leaves swayed with a soft melody that came out of nowhere. Arthur frowned, he was sure there was no one else around, he'd checked. Looking up he was startled by a pair of bright blue eyes, gazing directly at him from the lake. Arthur gasped, falling backwards. The creatures body was hidden, submerged in the waters, only those shocking eyes and wet dark hair were visible.
"Who-- who are you?" Arthur asked, holding onto whatever thread of bravery in his body he could find.
The creature -- a faerie, it must be a faerie, he was sure of it -- disappeared without giving him an answer. The leaves stopped their dance and the melody could no longer be heard outside his head.
Back in the castle he found Alice in the kitchens, she was older too, but she still smiled at Arthur like she loved him more than anything, like a child of her own womb. He stole a piece of cheese from her plate, pretended to be annoyed when she ruffled his hair.
"Tell me about the faeries of the waters," he said. "Are they all evil?"
"Why? Where have you been my little prince?"
He shrugged, avoiding her knowing eyes. "Nowhere."
"Nowhere is somewhere," she said. "No, my dear. The answer to your question is no. The faerie folk aren't all evil, but you mustn't trust them blindly, for they know how to bend the truth without telling lies. Always be careful."
Arthur nodded. "I will."
Arthur returned to the lake, curious about the dwellers of those waters, one in particular. He didn't have luck, he went back home with dashed hopes. For a week he waited, observed the lake with attention, looking out for any sign of the magical. It wasn't until one afternoon after he'd fallen asleep under the shadow of a tree, that he heard the melody again.
He woke up, dazed with sleep, thinking he might have dreamt it, when he noticed the leaves, dancing, alive with the music.
There, in the edge of the lake sat a boy, a violin in his hands, staring back at him.
"It's you," Arthur said, leaping to his feet.
The boy's eyes went round, and quickly got in the water. Arthur rushed to him, said, "No, please don't go. I wanted to see you again."
"Why does a human want with me? I haven't harmed any of your kind."
"Never said you did, I like your music," he said. The boy's skin was paler than his, his hair reminded Arthur of a raven's back, and the water sticking to his body didn't seem to bother him. Arthur had never been so close to real, live faerie, and it thrilled him. This boy didn't look like the terrible creatures Alice had warned him about. He didn't appear to be the kind who would drown him.
"You do?" He asked with suspicion.
"I do. Will you tell me your name?"
The silence that followed Arthur's request was agonizing. In the end, all he got was a perfunctory, "Merlin."
Driven by his curiosity Arthur went to the lake every afternoon, hanging around in silence, listening to the music emanating from the violin's strings, plucked by loving fingers. Sometimes he'd asked Merlin about the other water spirits, getting blunt answers in return for his efforts.
Merlin was wild and rude, and so different from everything Arthur knew. It was inconceivable for him to forget about the strange faerie who played spellbinding songs, that could lure any mortal to meet their demise.
Soon, the summer heat died and the leaves fell from the trees, then winter came burying the world in white. Merlin had slowly come to accept Arthur would not go without a fight, he had made it clear from day one he wanted to learn more about the faerie folk.
"No, I won't ever drown a living soul," Merlin said. Two summers had passed and they'd become closer, Merlin had even taught Arthur how to play the violin, they'd grown and changed together. Arthur learned that Merlin got restless when he was far from the waters for long periods of time, and Arthur told him all about being a prince.
"I believe you," Arthur said, conciliatory. He hadn't meant to imply Merlin would pull any mortal who dared disturb him down to the freezing depths.
"If someone here holds more power, then that one is you. You know my name, should you shout it to the winds my life would come to an end," Merlin said, splashing water around them with his feet.
Arthur was horrified by the notion. "I would never do that. We are friends."
That was the first time Merlin smiled at him, unguarded and genuine.
It wouldn't be until the leaves turned again that their relationship changed again.
They were in the lake, Arthur had lost his fear of drowning because Merlin was with him, and the sun had warmed the days with balmy heat.
Merlin swam to the edge, where Arthur was lying down, one hand and one foot still in the water.
"Did you know you are precious to me?"
Arthur opened his eyes at the sound of Merlin's voice, the heat around them had grown in his belly, he'd nearly forgotten how to breathe.
Merlin nodded, came even closer, ran a finger down his cheek. "You are. One day I realized I do not know, nor do I want to know how to live without you."
Arthur closed his eyes, remembering how only last night Alice had asked, "Have you find love, my child?" And he'd answered, "I think I have."
He offered his hand to Merlin, who took it with no hesitation, and pressed a kiss to his knuckles. "Will you ask me to live with you?"
Arthur pondered the question, in his heart he knew there was nothing else he wanted. He plunged back in the water still holding onto Merlin's hand, bringing him down with him.
Underwater, Merlin was even more striking, his eyes rivaled the deep blues of the skies and seas. Arthur reached out for Merlin, the water pushed and pulled at their bodies, as they crashed together and met in a tender kiss, their arms firmly tangled over each other. They kissed until Arthur could only taste water, and his lungs were on fire.
Above water, Merlin's laughter anchored him. He took large gulps on air, willed his heart to settle down, but it was impossible with Merlin so close, still wild, yet his in ways Arthur had not dared to dream. He pulled Merlin into a hug, buried his face on his shoulder. Merlin's arms went around his waist.
"I'll live with you, you'll live with me," Arthur said, against the skin where his neck and shoulder met. "Here, there. Nowhere, somewhere."
Merlin nodded, kept them afloat.
The melody that has first attracted him soared above them, and Arthur knew that melody would always bring him home.