Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin has waited centuries for Arthur's return, but when it finally happens it isn't what he expected.
Warnings: Post 5.13 and not a happy fic.
Word Count: 539
Prompt: 62 Undeniable
Author's Notes: First attempt at any sort of Merlin fanfic. Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. I wasn't sure about whether to warn for the end or not so please let me know if I need to amend that. Hopefully aside from that this has followed the rules.
A thousand years was a long time, apparently.
He had laughed bitterly when the preparations came round to celebrate the new millennium, hearing people say that in the history of the world relatively few people got to live through one. He'd lived through two. It wasn't a happy recollection.
Sometimes he wondered if he had missed it, if Arthur had already returned as someone unrecognisable, had lived another lifetime somewhere else, died again and Merlin had never known. It wasn't as if he'd have got a call on his mobile or something. Arthur could have returned over and over again, somewhere in the world and Merlin missed it every time. It was a depressing thought. Still, if Arthur did return... when Arthur returned, he was sure he would know.
Most of the time he stayed in Somerset, preferring the green of the countryside to the ever-growing grey of the cities. But sometimes he left, went travelling, seeing the world. It was like a pilgrimage once a century or just when he couldn't stand it any more. Time to renew his body, walk away from that place and the endless waiting.
It was a shock when the call finally came.
Fifteen years into the new century, sitting in a cafe in Vienna watching the world go by, and suddenly he felt it. There was a pull towards home so strong that he couldn't have resisted it even if he'd wanted to.
The wait at the airport was maddening, the delay at customs unbearable. So slow. Where were the dragons when he needed them?
The lake was long since gone. The river had been redirected, the bed dried out. Only the isle remained, rising up, visible for miles. But there was nothing there, no armoured figure rising from the waters, no boat returning the king to him. Nobody sitting on what would have been the shore, waiting.
And yet the insistent tugging was still drawing him in. He could hear the old familiar voice now.
"You took your time."
Yes, he had. Interminable amounts of it. Millennia.
"I've been waiting all day, Mer-lin."
Still a prat. All that time, and still a prat. But it probably just felt like a little nap for him.
He walked out into what had been the lake, feeling the waters swirling around him even though he knew there it had been dry for centuries. And then he realised why he'd had to linger in his skin.
He had dreamed of Arthur's return, pictured it in so many ways. Never really understood why he had to wait, why he couldn't sleep alongside his king and let the centuries pass in a missed heartbeat so that they could rise together. This was something else, something demanding. It wasn't what he'd imagined, but he knew he should have seen it coming.
He always had been, they both knew that. Because of that he stepped aside and let himself be taken by the king in a way none of his memories or fantasies had ever envisaged. His turn to sleep, curled around Arthur forever, finding peace at last as he let the once and future king return in the only way open to him.
In Merlin's body.