Title:A Long Road
Summary:Merlin and Arthur are on a road trip. Things go wrong. Very wrong.
Prompt:346: No Exit
Author's Notes:Not beta'd.
Merlin has a very love/hate relationship with road trips. He loves stopping at cool, random places along the way. He loves sending postcard to his loved ones. He even loves the shitty roadside food for its unique charm. More than he loves any of that, though, Merlin hates driving and being stuck in a car.
It's not that Arthur hasn't been great company; he has been. He's also been great about the driving, doing more than his share just because he knows Merlin gets anxious about it. But they've still been on the road all day, and now it's nearly midnight and Merlin's cranky. He just wants to find a motel, tumble into bed, and call it a night.
But Arthur insists they're almost there, almost to the hotel they booked in Nevada. He can get them there tonight so they're on-time for their reservation. They can sleep in a real bed.
As soon as Arthur's finished saying that for the third time, it starts raining.
“Oh, brilliant!” Merlin exclaims.
Arthur sighs. “Love, it's just a drizzle.”
“That's how all thunderstorms start!”
“If it turns into a thunderstorm, we'll be fine. I can drive in that.”
“Are you saying I can't?”
“I'm saying you're not driving!” Arthur erupts, his grasp on the steering wheel a death grip.
They both take a breath. All right, maybe Merlin had sort of been trying to pick a fight. He's just so pent-up; he needs the energy to go somewhere.
“Could you please just look for the exit?” Arthur requests quietly.
“Fine,” Merlin responds, spiteful. Then, “Which exit is it again?”
“Sixteen,” Arthur answers calmly.
Merlin places his chin in his palm and looks out the window, watching the rain fall harder as the exit numbers increase one by one.
Twelve. Steady rain. Thirteen. Hard rain. Fourteen. The first streak of lightning, accompanied by soft thunder. Fifteen. A full-on thunderstorm, louder than the gods. Seventeen, up ahead.
“I know,” Arthur cuts him off, brow furrowed.
“But where did it--”
“I don't know.”
“Well, are you sure sixteen exists?”
“Yes, Merlin, I'm sure of it,” Arthur snaps. “That's what the GPS has been saying for miles.”
“Then what's going on?” Merlin pushes.
Arthur shrugs. “We must have missed it.”
“But I was watching!” Merlin protests. “It just skipped sixteen!”
“Well, I don't know, love,” Arthur shouts over the rain, which is nearly falling sideways now. “We'll just have to turn around, I guess.”
Merlin huffs. He considers mentioning they could just find a motel at the next exit, since the hotel us now officially out of their way. But he decides not to push it.
They drive on, waiting and waiting for seventeen to appear. Signs keep saying it's only a mile away, but it never actually shows up. Meanwhile, the thunderstorm only gets worse.
Eventually, they have to pull over on a shoulder, as the rain's simply become too much. Arthur shakes his head, saying, “I just don't understand it.”
“Me neither,” Merlin says. “Why don't we just spend the night here?”
“In the car?”
“The rain isn't letting up any time soon! And we're both too tired to drive at this point, anyways.”
Arthur looks like he's about to fight Merlin on it for a moment, then sighs. “Fine. Come on, let's get in the back.”
The next morning, Merlin thinks he's still dreaming when he wakes up. Because where he wakes up is not where he fell asleep.
Surrounding him and Arthur is rolling green landscape. People are pushing wheelbarrows full of hay. Everyone is wearing clothes out of the 1700s. And the car Merlin and Arthur has been sleeping in is now a horse-drawn carriage.
“Arthur, wake up!” Merlin hisses, shaking his fiancé awake.
Arthur startles awake, shouting, “What? What's wrong?”
Merlin gestures to their surroundings. Arthur takes it all in, then stares at Merlin with wide eyes. “Where are we?”
“Excuse me, sir!” Merlin calls out to a man in a straw hat. The man stops, smiling invitingly. “Where is exit seventeen?”
The man looks at Merlin like he's nuts before inquiring, “What is exit seventeen?”