Title: On My Own
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Will
Summary: Merlin is a lost soul, and finds living on his own isn't easy
Warnings: Brief non nondescript mentions of drug use
Author's Notes: Modern, AU, written quick and in a different style than I normally do. But its fun to try new things, right?
Merlin was well aware that the half-full bottle of Coca Cola he’d found in the gutter and gulped greedily would disgust a normal person. Hell, it would have revolted him only two years ago. When his mother was still alive and he had a warm bed of his own to sleep in.
Never in a million years did Merlin think he’d be living on the streets after high school. But he hadn’t expected his mother to get cancer either. Her life and their finances waning to nothing before his eyes....
It was Will who'd suggested they run away to the city. Will hated his own parents. And Merlin hated them too, for giving Will the splotchy bruises and cigarette burns he covered up with thin sweaters and even thinner lies. So Merlin purchased their one-way bus tickets. Packed up his meager belongings and followed his best friend into the unknown.
Will said a lot of guys their age down on their luck hid in the city. He’d said there were soup kitchen’s that served hot meals, and shelters with clean beds they could sleep in and that was partially true. There were food and beds if you knew where to look. But the soup kitchen meals were stale and unpalatable. And the shelters smelt of mildew with shabby beds that creaked and stank to high heaven.
What really got to Merlin about the shelters were the drug addict’s loud verbal ticks and broken glares. How he could hear them fighting and dealing at night in hushed whispers.
Then one day his best friend began to whisper with them. The money they'd pooled together thinned. Merlin noticing the foggy glaze of Will’s eyes after he’d had his first fix. It terrified Merlin that his best friend was changing, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He'd seen less and less of Will, and what Merlin did see- he didn’t like.
Merlin split from Will the night he discovered their money and his radio missing. He knew Will had pawned it. And, to be honest, Merlin wasn’t even sure if Will would have come back for him if he’d waited.
Merlin still visited the shelter on occasion to do his laundry and use the public showers. Being homeless was shameful enough, why compound things by being dirty?
He set up a new home in the park, hidden in trees and a tangle of brush. Living in the park made Merlin feel adventurous instead of down and out. He wasn't homeless there, but a modern Robinson Crusoe; castaway on an island called life.
Merlin had everything he needed to survive. A sleeping bag and thick wool blankets. Candles, a lighter, and for entertainment the complete works of William Shakespeare he’d plucked from a free box on the street. But his most prized possession was a set of colored chalks he kept hidden under his pillow.
There were things Merlin was willing to do to get by, but asking for handouts wasn’t one of them. It seemed undignified to beg for money. Not that digging through dumpsters for leftovers was respectable, but at least he didn’t bother anyone when he did it. Didn’t face their judgment and the assumption that every coin thrown into his cup was going toward a fix.
He wasn’t Will. And he promised himself no matter how rotten things got; he’d never become that.
Whenever Merlin needed money he’d break out his chalks and head to a populated area of the park, spending hours drawing dragons, castles, and kings on the sidewalk. Creating scenes of fantasy to escape the shit reality of his life.
He was always careful. Careful not to look homeless so he wouldn’t put people off. Careful to put his cap on the ground instead of a cup, that way if the police tried to bust him for panhandling, he could say he’d merely placed his cap there and didn’t notice the money slipped into it.
It wasn’t the life Merlin had expected for himself, but he’d made it work. Found a way to get by, and everything was going fine.
That was, until the day some asshole ruined his drawing.
Merlin hadn’t noticed the Frisbee sailing over his head. He’d been hunched over the cement, shadowing the mane of a unicorn when the dolt plowed right into him.
Merlin yelped, freeing his spine of the hulking weight crushing it, then staring at his assaulter with contempt. The man was blond, and painfully good looking- his eyes bluer than the ocean.
“You clotpole!” Merlin cursed, rubbing his bruised limbs and surveying the damage to his drawing. “Look what you’ve done!”
The man frowned back at him. “It was an accident,” he snapped, dusting green chalk off his knees. “It’s not like I meant smudge it. Anyway, aren’t you a little old to be drawing fairy tales?“
Merlin’s jaw clenched. His artwork was ruined. All three hours worth of it, along with any hope he’d had of raising money for dinner tonight. Despair ripped at him; hunger gnawing as he glared back at the man with expensive clothes and movie star good looks. The prat that had probably never known hunger and seen fit to berate Merlin for ruining his art.
The blond man stared at Merlin, waiting for a reply.
Merlin knew he should yell back…or hit him. But he could feel the sting of tears in his eyes. Could see the blond man’s friends spreading like chess pieces on the green lawn.
So Merlin did the only thing he could do. The thing he was best at. He picked up his cap, snatched his set of chalks off the ground.... and ran away from his problems.