Title: Like a King
Word count: 1925
Summary: Arthur and Merlin spend a weekend in France and go to visit a castle
Author’s notes: Not beta’d. I'm late, I'm late, sorry! Take my over-the-top word-count as peace offering. Alright, alright, I failed on both accounts...sorry!
It had been a great extended weekend so far. First, Arthur hadn't been sure about this little trip to France. He wanted to impress Merlin, so going to a country where he barely spoke the language and an area that didn't hold too many sights, aside from the countryside, hadn't seemed like a good idea. Of course Merlin had done his research and found out about little museums, special shops, the delicatessen of the region and the little castle they were about to visit now.
When he got out of the car on the carpark at the foot of the hill the castle was on, there was a strange sensation prickling in the back of his neck. Stretching a little and bending his neck from one side to the other, he waited for Merlin to get his backpack.
„Are you alright?“
„Just a little stiff from the drive. Nothing a hike up the hill can't cure.“ He smiled. How on earth had he managed to convince Merlin that he had to be his boyfriend? Merlin, with his carefree laugh, his concern for everything and anything, his wit and intelligence, his vast knowledge and several languages and last but not least, his wonderfully sticking out ears and hot body. He did not deserve the man, he knew. Compared to him, he was just a dimwit who happened to have inherited lots of money. And yet, Merlin wanted to be with him.
„What?“ Merlin looked curiously at him.
„Nothing.“ Arthur reached for Merlin's hand. „Do you want to look around the town a bit or should we check out the castle first?“
The little town around them was picturesque and looked as if it had fallen out of time. There was the typical town square which was plastered with tables and chairs from the adjoining restaurants and pubs, a flower shop, a bookstore and a little souvenir place. Driving in, they had seen a little lake with pedal boats that looked like swans, they could take a walk around the lake or try their luck with one of the swan-boats.
„How about...“ Merlin looked around. „How about we check out the castle first and if we escape the dungeons, we can have a late lunch here and if we're still up for it, go for a walk at the lake before we get some cake at that little bakery over there?“ Merlin sniffed the air.
Arthur had to admit that Merlin was right. Not only did the order of what their visit sound perfect, the smell coming from the bakery was heavenly. The hair on Arthur's neck stood on end and he pressed his eyes close for a moment.
„What's wrong?“ Merlin threw him a sideways look.
„Nothing...it just felt like I...oh, nevermind, let's go. The castle aways, mylord!“ He made a big gesture for Merlin to lead the way.
They climbed the hill on which the castle was built, thereby circling it almost completely. As Merlin had read out the Wikipedia article on the building to him over breakfast, Arthur knew that it was much older as it looked as it had undergone major restaurations lately. Somehow, the castle looked sturdy and trustworthy and...Arthur wheezed.
„Do you need a break? The pathway is rather steep.“ Merlin came close. „Wait, I have a bottle of water.“ He started taking off his backpack.
„Don't, it's not that.“ He mock-glared at Merlin. „You know I'm fit, this isn't even a real work-out.“
„Then what is it? You seem off.“ Merlin checked his face for signs of illness. „Do you want to go back? We can do this some other time.“
Arthur shook his head. „No, I'm fine. It's just...“
„Don't laugh, but it feels as if I've been here before.“ Which was weird, he knew he had never set foot into this part of the world in his entire life.
„Maybe you just don't remember a family trip here when you were really little?“
„My family didn't go on 'family trips'. Sometimes we were allowed to tag along when father had to go on business trips.“
„Let's continue.“ Arthur noticed that he had dampened the mood. He shouldn't have said this, but Merlin knew that 'family' wasn't the cozy feeling for him that Merlin associated with the word.
„Are you sure?“
„Yes.“ He put on his brightest smile. „I am sure.“ And even though the odd sensation didn't leave him for the rest of the walk to the ticket booth, he was curious to see what the castle would bring.
They bought the tickets and got some leaflets with info on the different rooms of the castle and Arthur let Merlin drag him to the entrance where he made them stop for a selfie. Which he did very often, there must have been a thousand photos of this weekend alone on Merlin's phone and Arthur knew that more than one would end up on his facebook or twitter or instagram or whichever other platform Merlin was on.
Walking over the wooden planks that made the bridge over the now-empty mote, Arthur shivered as he looked up at the walls. The odd feeling didn't go away as they entered the courtyard. There weren't many people, but Arthur thought he could hear the murmur of many more, the clopping of horseshoes on the cobblestone and was that man over there wearing a long red cloak? When he blinked, there were no horses and the person at the other side of the courtyard was just wearing a red t-shirt.
„There was a well right here.“ He said more to himself, in wonder that it wasn't there anymore.
Merlin looked up from the leaflet he'd been scanning. „What? How did you know?“
„There actually was a well over there.“ Merlin held out the yellow piece of paper to show him the old photo that was printed on the side. It showed a well, just like his mind had produced an image of the moment he said it. „How did you know?“
„I...I don't know. I must have seen the photo when the lady at the ticket booth explained the leaflet to you.“ He shrugged and plastered a smile on his face. This place was odd.
„Let's go inside. There's the dungeons and a room with stone sarcophagi and here's a model of the castle, so we can look at it from way up. Oh...“ Merlin pouted at the leaflet. „We can't go up to the towers, they're still under renovations. Bummer.“
Arthur swallowed hard as an image of the view over the little town flashed up in his mind, far up high, as if he stood on one of the towers and looked out over the land. The town looked much older in that vision, too. Was he going crazy? They didn't stand on the tower and he had never been there. Where did all these images come from?
At least Merlin hadn't picked up on it this time and dragged him through narrow corridors and wide hallways, reading explanations from the leaflet which were quite funny sometimes as someone had used a lot of google to translate from the original language.
They made their way into the throne room and it felt as if an anvil from a cartoon hit him. He knew this place. He had been here before. Straightening up a bit, Arthur carefully climbed the few steps to the little platform at the far end of the room, turned. This felt so familiar. The colours of the wall paintings were vibrating, the room was full of people, some in long red cloaks and chainmail, others in ancient clothes, all of them looking expectantly at him. It felt as if something heavy pressed on his head and a huge responsibility weighed on his shoulders. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed a big, artfully carved, wooden chair with furs in it. Behind this chair, there was Merlin, in a blue linen shirt and the red scarf he loved so much.
„Even though you would look great in a crown, I doubt the people of this country will make you their king.“ Merlin nudged him in the side and grinned. „This room is impressive. Have you seen the...“ Merlin babbled on about details he had noticed and Arthur pulled himself out of his stupor to follow his boyfriend through more rooms and up and down spiral staircases. He knew he should have felt lost, but it was as if he instinctively knew exactly where in the castle they were.
„And opening this door should lead us into...“ Merlin checked the little map again.
Merlin once again threw him a sideways look before he pulled him into the room.
Standing there, Arthur couldn't move. His mind produced images of him kneeling at the front, praying to old gods and new ones. He was never a religious person and couldn't remember a time where he had attended services, but this place...what was it about this place?
Blinking, Arthur tried to shake the image of him and Merlin standing at the altar with some kind of priest...or druid or whatever he was, performing a ceremony that involved lots of incenses and a ribbon made of flowers and leaves. There was the feeling of being surrounded by friends and a crowd cheering in the courtyard when the person in front of them nodded at them with a smile.
Merlin stopped in his tracks. „What?“
„Will you...marry me?“ Arthur swallowed. He did not know what had made him say it. He hadn't even had the thought before, they weren't together for that long yet.
„Is that why you were so off? You knew that our tour would end here and you...had planned this?“
„I didn't plan this at all...don't worry, it was just a thought.“ He needed to give Merlin a way out of this without it being awkward.
Merlin looked at him for a long time. „So you feel it, too?“
„That we should be together? Yes, of course.“
„That's not what I mean, Arthur.“
„What do you mean then?“
Merlin took a deep breath. „Ever since we came here, I had the feeling that we had done this before. Not like tourists, but as if we...I don't know...in a former life or something...“ He shrugged.
„Like déjà vus? I'm having them all over the place. It's so odd.“
A small smile showed on Merlin's face and soon it had taken over and his face was one huge smile. „Maybe we've been living here before? In very ancient times. Like cave!Arthur and cave!Merlin...“
„This can hardly be considered a 'cave'“
„Well, then castle!Arthur and castle!Merlin.“ Merlin grinned.
Arthur looked around the chapel again. „Probably.“
Merlin tugged at his hand. „Are you going to buy your fiancé lunch now? I'm hungry.“
Blinking, Arthur turned to Merlin. „You don't have to feel obligated to say yes. It was...“
„I think I understand what it was.“
„And you're still saying yes?“
„If you're still asking.“ Merlin nodded. „I'm saying yes.“
They had the decency to wait until they left the chapel into the courtyard before kissing deeply.
Leaving the castle hand in hand, Arthur felt like a king.