Title: Winter solstice
Summary: Merlin attended the winter solstice at Stonehenge, hoping against hope to see Arthur again.
Word Count: 1067
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 431: In winter the dark creeps up on you.
Author's Notes: depression, suicidal thoughts
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
The sky was full of stars. Merlin looked up, staring off into the east, waiting for sunrise, surrounded by thousands of onlookers and Druids and sellers of cheap knock-offs eager for a day’s profit. He’d hoped it would be quiet, but there was a low hum of constant conversation, over-tired kids and annoyed elders and lovers exchanging promises, all of them whispering about the shortest day of the year and how once the sun rose, winter would slide back into longer days and happier times.
But Merlin wasn’t there for the celebration. It wasn’t called Alban Arthan, Light of Arthur, for nothing.
He was hoping for something more. A return of his king.
He’d waited so many lifetimes by the Lake of Avalon and nothing ever came to pass. So this time, he thought of Stonehenge, praying that the light of the sun shining through the menhirs might call Arthur forth. That magic and ritual and a thousand worshippers might be enough this time.
At least his heart hoped for it. His head was firmly telling his heart that it was all ridiculous, that Arthur was never coming back, that all his waiting and longing and love meant nothing in the grand scheme of things.
The crowd was buzzing louder now, drums and singing and calls for the sun to rise, that darkness should flee before such a new beginning. As the sun tipped over the horizon and shone through the megaliths, the standing stones glistened and glittered, light catching the rock crystals, solid beautiful things but still as old as magic itself.
Daylight brightened the sky, and the crowds began to disperse, the rituals and carnival over. Kids were whining about food and hawkers selling postcards and Druid symbols and paintings of knights and kings and fair maidens as the crowd walked slowly toward the trams and the visitor’s centre car park.
But there was no Arthur, no light of the sun turning his hair gold, no welcoming grin or playful insult. No buffoon or girl’s petticoat or daffodil. Nothing but the wind whistling through the winter grass.
The night had been full of stars and while the sunlight promised spring, Merlin’s heart was frozen solid. Locked in a winter of knowing that he would be forever alone.
He slid down, sitting next to one of the standing stones, his back hard against the rock. Wanting to cry but the grief stuck in his throat, and so he just breathed, not caring if he stopped, not caring at all.
The crowds were gone, and soon the clean-up crew would come and pick up all the trash left behind and likely make him move. But for the moment, he was alone, as he always was. A living ghost.
Listening to the wind, he didn’t hear the footsteps, nor the sound of fabric rustling against the rock. So he started when a voice behind him said, “Place is closed, mate. Time to leave.”
Merlin just hummed at that. The man sounded familiar, but Merlin wasn’t in any mood to think about where. “In a minute. I’m….”
“Communing with nature?” He sounded amused, whoever he was.
“Waiting for someone to come and rescue me, I guess, like I’d rescued him so many times before.” Merlin was tired. All he wanted to do was sleep until, as with some kind of fairy tale, a prince would wake him with a kiss. That wasn’t happening either but still, it was a nice dream.
“Can I call someone?” Whoever it was certainly was persistent but then it was probably his job.
“He’s not coming back. No one to call. No one to love. No one to grow old with,” Merlin whispered. “No one to die for.”
Merlin could only see the trainers on the man’s feet, scuffed a little and muddy from all the wet soil, then a hand, solid, calloused, workman’s hands, reaching out to pull him up. “Hey, there’s always hope. I know that sometimes things can look pretty grim, but spring is coming. The solstice reminds us that there are better days ahead.”
Merlin stared at the hand a moment. There was a ring on one of the man’s fingers, silver and gold, reminding Merlin so much of Arthur’s that he ached with it. “Not for me.”
“I understand that things seem hopeless at times.” He hesitated a bit, then said, “I’d no idea who I was last year. Car accident and it wiped me clean, but with help, I picked myself up and learned to live again. You can, too.”
At that, Merlin looked up. It was like a lightning bolt hit him square in the chest.
Blue eyes, golden hair and that Roman nose. “Arthur? Is….?” There were differences. Scars on one side of his face, and his mouth crooked from the accident but solid bulk of him, was the same.
Surging up, Merlin threw his arms around Arthur, pulling him into a desperate hug, all the while babbling about clotpoles and how long he’d waited and how much he loved him.
Arthur didn’t hug him back but at least he didn’t push him away, either. “Sir, I don’t….”
“Merlin, my name is Merlin and I’ve been waiting a lifetime for you. Oh, gods, Arthur, is it you?” Merlin pulled back, staring at Arthur’s face, trying to drink in the idea that Arthur was finally there. With Merlin.
Arthur blinked, frowning a little. “That’s my… how did you know?”
“We knew each other in days past. I’ve been looking for you for a long time.” Merlin didn’t want to scare him off, now that Arthur was back. “We were….” How to explain what they were to each other. It was impossible.
“Were we friends?” Arthur said.
“More than friends.” Gazing at him as if he was still in a dream and afraid to wake up, finally softening his voice, Merlin said, “I know it’s a lot and I won’t push it, but if we could at least have a coffee? Maybe it might help jog your memory?”
Arthur nodded. “I’d like that. The coffee back at the visitor’s centre is shit, but the scones are good.”
“Scones it is, then.” Merlin gave Arthur a little smile and got a grin back.
With that, Merlin’s heart began to thaw.
It was a start but at least now the long winter was finally over. At long last.