Title: Tip of My Tongue
Summary: For as long as Merlin could remember, tomorrow was something tasted.
Warnings: mentions of death
Word Count: 609
Prompt: #325 Adopt-a-Prompt: 5 Senses - Taste
Author's Notes: AKA the "how many times can I write the word taste before I drive myself bonkers" fic. The concept of tasting tomorrow is something I stole from a collection of short comics, but for the life of me I can't remember which one.
For as long as Merlin could remember, tomorrow was something tasted. It was a sense memory, echoing forward like the stubborn ghost of an amputated limb.
Gaius didn't know anything about it. Or at least, Merlin didn't think he did, since he had no direct way of asking besides "is it normal to taste things hours before you eat them?" which, no, he was different enough as it was, thanks.
According to his book of magic, divining the future was one of the rarest and most difficult magics to master. Several pages were devoted to a treatise on seers and their natural-born gifts, followed by discussion of prophecies, scrying, the practical application of the dynamic division theory of relative time (which he read, but could make no sense of), and the use all-seeing crystals. Of his particular gift there was only a single passing reference. It read: "incidental occurrences of anomalous sensory premonitions have been reported but never verified."
That was alright. He didn't need the book to tell him what he already knew. Merlin had been an anomaly long before he came to Camelot. It was just a kinder word for monster.
It didn't bother him, for the most part. It was just another secret, a harmless quirk, eclipsed by his magic. He put it to good use where he could. He always knew which days the blackberries growing in the Darkling Woods would be ripe, and which mornings to rush to the kitchens to grab the first of the cook's best tarts, fresh from the ovens.
There were, of course, complications. On the mornings before he went herb-picking, he took to writing himself little notes to jog his memory - 'spit out the first one,' or 'don't pick the third bunch, it's bitter.'
He also learned quickly not to trust the taste of mead, however tempting - this after one miserable day of teetering unsteadily through his chores and suffering more of Arthur's abuse than usual. It helped that by the time he actual sat down to drink all he could taste was bile and hangover breath.
Most importantly, he learned to read danger with his tongue. When the Mercian party arrived, Merlin could barely focus on anything but the achy, displaced feeling in his gut and a bittersweet sting unlike anything he'd ever tasted. The long hours of Anhora's curse tasted like dust and itchy dryness and something pungent and weirdly like chicken. The following years bring more bad tastes, bad memories - rain, gaia berries, lightning, tonics, and often, always, the edge of magic.
The worst were the days that taste like ash and something burnt that clawed in vengeance at the back of his throat. The first time it happened he wanted to run, wanted to gather up everything and everyone he cared about and take them away from this city and its mad king. Some part of him wanted to let it all burn. Instead he stayed in bed a quarter hour longer than he really should and cried. The taste in his mouth could not name the dead.
When Morgana took his magic, he tasted nothing at all. Perhaps that would have scared him the most, had he not been too distracted to notice. Then dawn found the fields of Camlann and there was no turning back from it.
He wonders, sometimes, what it will be like on the day Arthur returns. Will he know, before? Will he wake some morning to the taste of lake water, of tears or sweat or joy? What will he think? He can't begin to guess.
It hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, he waits.
Tomorrow tastes like strawberries.