Title: A Sign of Things to Come
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin kept seeing Arthur. Every disaster that Merlin was trying to avert, every calamity that Merlin worked his magic in secret to help only raised more questions. Was Arthur back? And why did he keep running away if he was?
Word Count: 823
Camelot_drabble Prompt: # 396 Stalked and #394 doppelganger
According to wiki, A doppelgänger (literally "double-goer") is a non-biologically related look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a ghostly or paranormal phenomenon and usually seen as a harbinger of bad luck.
Author's Notes: I started to work on this under the doppelganger prompt, but I ran out of time. I do want to expand it a bit but am currently working on other things so we’ll see how it goes.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
The first time Merlin saw Arthur again, he had barely enough time to react before a car came careening down the street, heading for a gaggle of tourists. Merlin’s hidden talents saved the day, of course, but when he turned back, Arthur was gone.
The second time, as Merlin called out to Arthur, the building next to Merlin collapsed, spraying bricks and steel rods into the street. No one was hurt in the accident thanks to Merlin, but while Merlin was hacking out half a lung from all the dust, Arthur disappeared. And no amount of searching turned up any clues as to where he might have gone. At least, Arthur wasn’t dead as far as Merlin knew.
The next time, it was more appalling. A fire broke out and it was spreading quickly to the neighboring flats. There were cries for help, and for a moment, Merlin just stood there, ignoring it all, watching Arthur staring back at him. But when another scream echoed down the street, he shook himself clear of wanting to grab Arthur and never letting him go, and instead Merlin rescued the kids and the damn dog who started it all. Arthur didn’t wait around.
It drove Merlin crazy. Every time Arthur showed up, Merlin could never get close. There was always some dire emergency pulling Merlin away, and when everything settled again, Arthur would vanish.
He was beginning to think it was all in his head, that Arthur wasn’t really there, or maybe he was some malevolent ghost haunting Merlin, like a bad penny that turned up over and over again.
But by the 18th or maybe the 23rd time, Merlin had had enough.
Ignoring the flooding waters and the collapsing bridge, Merlin waved his hand, and everything stopped. Just stopped.
Arthur didn’t though. Instead, his eyes widened, and he looked as if he was going to run, but Merlin stopped that, too.
“Why are you here?” Merlin couldn’t keep his voice from trembling. He wanted to hug the prat so much and yet he needed answers. Now.
Trying and failing to escape, Arthur finally gave up. Instead, he stood there, defiant. “I’m not who you think I am.”
Merlin thought about it a moment, looked more closely at the man. There was a smoothness to his cheeks, a softness to his hands. The years of battle scarred into Arthur’s skin were missing.
The ages Merlin had waited for Arthur suddenly dropped onto his chest. It was all he could do not to snarl at the imposter. “Then who the hell are you?”
“No one, nothing.” Looking off into the distance, the false-Arthur shrugged. “A reminder of what you’ve lost.”
The cruelty of it left Merlin breathless. “Who would do such a thing?”
The doppelganger looked supremely uninterested, although he was gazing off into the distance, frowning a little as he did. Finally, he said, “You have many enemies. Choose one.”
Merlin glanced in the direction the false-Arthur was looking but saw nothing other than floods frozen in time and a bridge hovering near collapse, held in place with Merlin’s power. Turning back to him, Merlin said, “My enemies are all dead. Have been for centuries. So forgive me if I don’t believe you.” Merlin stepped closer, raised his hand, beginning to gather more magic in his hand. Arthur lookalike or not, he wanted answers. “Who are you?”
“A warning. A ghost of possibilities. A reminder that magic requires balance.” Arthur gave Merlin a little smile, cold and bored and malevolent. “The Once and Future King will rise again. Are you sure no one else will rise with him?”
With that, to Merlin’s horror, false-Arthur began to break apart, little bits flying off him, the fragments bleeding first blood-red, then black as they swirled around Merlin and up into the air before disappearing into the stormy sky.
“No!” Merlin shouted, leaping forward to try and stop whatever was going on. But it was already too late. The man, the ghost, the warning, was gone. And in the next instant, time began to flow again.
He wanted to howl at the wind and the rain, wanted to ignore everything and find false-Arthur again, make him tell Merlin what he meant, but the sound of steel twisting beyond its breaking point and the deluge rushing beneath the collapsing bridge stopped him. He couldn’t let people die just because he was furious and terrified and confused.
Turning back, Merlin sent magic into the bridge, strengthening the girders long enough that the few left on it were able to scramble off before it fell into the raging waters.
He didn’t notice the filthy water spraying high into the air, then pounding the pavement around him. He didn’t care that he was wet and exhausted and numb. His mind was twisting uselessly around unanswered questions.
Was it true? Was Arthur coming back? And if so, what enemies would he bring with him?