Title: Like a Fine Wine (12)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Mordred
Summary: He scrubbed at his face with his sleeve, and said without looking at Arthur, “How much do you remember?”
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | AO3 ]
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 382 A Quiet Place
Author's Notes: Nearly there, now! \o/
Arthur opened his eyes to a different world.
He was lying on his side, arms and legs arranged in what some part of his brain dimly registered as the recovery position, and there was a dull pressure at his temples, as though his head might split apart at any moment. Thoughts, feelings, memories that were not his own crowded together inside his skull, all of them clamouring for his attention, and he let out a soft groan as he rolled onto his back. It was a bit like being hit by a truck, only to wake up and find that the driver had parked on top of you.
“I’m so sorry,” Merlin said. Arthur looked up to see him curled against the headboard, his knees drawn up to his chest as he stared blankly at the opposite wall. “I should never have done that.”
“Which part?” Arthur asked, attempting to sit up. The movement sent fresh pain lancing through his forehead and he winced, falling still. “Kissed me, or enchanted me in the first place?”
Merlin let out a shaky laugh. “Both, I think.”
He scrubbed at his face with his sleeve, and said without looking at Arthur, “How much do you remember?”
There was a lot to sort through, but Arthur was fairly sure he had most of the important parts in order. He remembered the Battle of Camlann, and his own arrival at the shores of Lake Avalon, where he'd been greeted as the Once and Future King. He remembered coming back once, twice, half a hundred times, always with some immense purpose that needed to be fulfilled, always with a slew of enemies who were hot on his trail.
He also remembered failing—not every time, but enough—and most of all, he remembered Merlin’s despair each time he died, and the desperate solution he had proposed in order to keep Arthur safe.
“You tricked me,” he said slowly. “You said you weren’t going to do it.”
“I’m sorry,” Merlin said again. “I thought—I thought it would be for the best. I was only trying to protect you.”
Arthur said nothing. There wasn’t really anything he could say that Merlin wouldn’t have thought of already. He had taken Arthur’s memories, his identity, deprived him of his family, and worse still enchanted them both, all in the hopes that they could avoid detection long enough for Arthur to fulfil his destiny. Alone. Yet, even then, they had ended up finding one another anyway, and Mordred had tracked them down as he always did, catching them off-guard and unprepared. It was a miracle they weren’t dead already.
“The reason I never looked into the adoption,” Arthur said. “That was magic, wasn’t it?”
Merlin nodded his head. “I used a disillusionment spell to keep anyone from investigating too thoroughly. Whenever it occurred to someone to try, their attention would slide away from the idea and they’d forget all about it. You were no different.”
“Until I met you.”
“Until you met me,” Merlin agreed. A wry smile twisted his mouth; it looked painful. “That wasn’t supposed to happen, you see, so I didn’t think about what it would do to the enchantments if I were around to negate the magic.”
“And the photograph?”
He looked down, and Arthur could see him swallow. “I wanted to keep something that would remind me of you,” he whispered. “Even if I didn’t know who you were, or what the significance of it was. We were so happy that time, do you remember?”
Arthur did. With a sigh, he ran a hand through his hair. “And to think, I was so adamant that reincarnation was bullshit.”
That earned him a faint grin. “It is kind of funny,” Merlin said, “when you consider that you didn’t have any problems believing in magic.”
“Shut up.” Arthur sat up again, and this time was pleased to find that his head only twinged a little bit. He could probably still use a couple of hours of rest and a quiet place to think everything through, but at least he didn’t feel as though his head were about to explode any time soon. “I had proof that magic existed. Reincarnation was just something that happened in stories.” He looked over at Merlin. “What happens now?”
Merlin shook his head. “I don’t know. I didn’t really have a contingency plan.”
As if to underscore this fact, there was a loud bang out in the street, and the house shuddered convulsively around them as though seized in a sudden quake. With a cry of alarm, Merlin bolted to his feet and scrambled over to the window, Arthur not far behind.
“He’s here,” Merlin said, unnecessarily. From their vantage point, they could both clearly see a familiar figure, his feet planted in the middle of the street, head tipped back to glare up at the room where the two of them stood watching. “He must've felt it when the spell wore off. I told you he was tracking you through my magic.”
“This is hardly the time for I told you so’s,” Arthur said. “Can he get in?”
“The house is warded,” Merlin answered, almost absently. He was trembling. “But it won’t keep him out for long. We have to get you and Alice out of here.”
Arthur didn’t respond immediately. The part of him that had been Arthur Kaye was terrified, still remembering how it had felt to be choked to death by invisible hands. But the part that had been Arthur Pendragon was already making battle plans.
The suit of armour that stood in the corner had a sword, and without thinking, Arthur strode over to it, prising the hilt from the fake knight’s grip and holding it aloft. Somehow, he wasn’t surprised to feel the heft of a real weapon in his hands, the blade humming to life beneath his touch.
“No,” he said, gripping Excalibur tightly and squaring his shoulders. “I say we stand and fight.”