Title: Memory Restored
Summary: Merlin didn't realize there would be repercussions from using the Pensieve. Post 5X13 Canon story.
Word Count: 1,081
Prompt: #43 ~ Photographs
Author's Notes: This is sort of a second part to k_nightfox 's story The Flash of Thought. Please read that first and this one will make a bit more sense, although it can be read alone. Also thanks to donutsweeper for jumpstarting my brain with her drabble!
Merlin was forgetting.
He knew he was, but Merlin didn’t want to admit it, even to himself. He didn’t want to admit that the most important person he would ever know was fading in his mind.
As hard as he tried, Merlin could no longer remember the exact shade of blue of Arthur’s eyes or hue of his flaxen hair; hear the timbre of Arthur’s laugh or the tone of warm exasperation when he would say, “Merlin!”
And it wasn’t just Arthur. He’d also forgotten the exact way that Gwaine would flip his hair and the precise quirk of Gaius’ eyebrow when Merlin had been caught out in a fib. His mother’s lovely soft smile and Lancelot’s final glance before he walked through the Veil had also been lost to time.
When he’d created the Pensieve (even now, he could imagine Arthur rolling his eyes at the horrible pun in the name), Merlin had been so relieved to finally, finally, be able to relieve the pressure in his head caused by several lifetimes of memories that he hadn’t considered there could be side effects from its use.
Merlin had been so quick to remove and store those memories that were the dearest, the most important; to make sure they were safe and stored and could be accessed with just a thought and a touch to the bowl whenever he wanted. However he’d discovered that, even if he immersed himself in the memory—tilting face down into the thought and bloody arriving in it—he didn’t remember it when he left. Yes, he remembered the watching of it, but it was if the memory was a copy of a copy. It never felt like it was his; that he’d been there and lived it the first time, even though he had.
And so, in the relieving himself of the terrible pressure in his head, he’d also removed his closest personal ties to the memories, and that pained Merlin greatly.
He’d tried to fix it, of course…tried to stuff the memories back in from whence they came. But sadly, Merlin found that once separated, the thoughts could not be replaced. It was as if the other memories simply sloshed forward like liquid in a cup and covered their tracks, obliterating their place, wiping them away. The thoughts no longer had a home to go back to.
Blinking back tears as he trudged back from his weekly trek to Avalon, Merlin felt his resolve harden. There had to be something he could do; something to keep the memories fresh in his mind. After all, he wasn’t Emrys for nothing…
After entering his modest cottage (situated on a hill not far from Glastonbury), he shrugged off both his coat and his disguise. While he preferred going out into the world as “Dragoon” (he’d found that less people disturbed him when they believed him a dotty old man), in the privacy of his own home, he preferred to be the Merlin that Arthur had known. Merlin felt as if it helped him to remember when he himself was as they remembered, at least a little. And so he was, as simple as a thought; as simply as taking a breath.
Wasting no time, Merlin crossed into his workroom, opened the door to his cupboard and retrieved the Pensieve.
Setting it onto the workbench, Merlin pulled up a stool and sat down. Then he stuck his hand into his pocket and retrieved a small oval frame and set it on the counter. It was meant to house a painted miniature; however this one was empty.
There was no spell, no incantation to do what Merlin wanted to do…but that had never stopped him before. Merlin had always found that, if he wanted something badly enough (short of Arthur’s return from Avalon, of course, for no one could bring back the dead), his magic found a way to make it happen.
Merlin closed his eyes, one hand over the frame, the other over the Pensieve. As he concentrated, the metal oval lifted off the table and floated in midair to hover over the Pensieve while a small stream of memories rose from the bowl in silvery white tendrils. In an elegant dance, the frame tilted and began to twirl as the shimmering vines wrapped gently around it tighter and tighter. As the oval spun faster and faster, more and more of the magical memories twisted around it, and it began to glow. Suddenly, there was a loud boom and a blinding light, as if lightning had struck right there in Merlin’s home. Startled, he and the stool clattered over backward onto the floor as the silver memories splashed back into the bowl in a rush, taking the frame with it.
Clambering to his feet, Merlin retrieved the metal oval from the Pensieve with a wave of his hand. Tentatively, he reached out to the hovering frame with long fingers. He was almost afraid to touch it, but once he did, he found it warm and inviting and so he clasped it against his palm and turned it toward himself. Now to find out if his little experiment had worked…
“Arthur…” Merlin breathed his name upon the frame, and then watched in wonder as a vortex of color spun in the empty space of the center. After just a second, the colors took shape and form, and there he was: Arthur. But this was better than a still, better than a painting, because this picture moved. Arthur turned to look at him (or in this case, straight out of the picture frame) with a smile and spoke. But what was wonderful…what was completely fantastic, was that Merlin could actually hear him, inside his head, but there, echoing between his ears as he said, “Thank you, old friend.”
Merlin blinked back tears at the sound of the beloved voice and the first clear vision he’d had of Arthur in ages. Then, with a blinding smile, he tried again. This time, it was his mother, and she shimmered into view with her soft loving smile and twinkling eyes and said, “I am so proud of you.”
Again and again, Merlin called a name of a long lost loved one, and there they were, in the frame and, more importantly, in his head again.
After centuries of being without these feelings, these people, he was so overwhelmed and relieved in their return that Merlin put his head in his hands and wept.