Title: Passing Time
Rating: R, to be safe
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Other
Summary: Arthur is dead, but Merlin isn't. It's just something he has to live with.
Warnings: Language, reference to past major character death
Word Count: 450
Prompt: #71 Despair
Author's Notes: I swear I meant to write something fluffy, but then this happened – four hundred words of pointless angst, basically. Happens post series.
“When a man is in despair, it means that he still believes in something.”
― Dmitri Shostakovich
Time drags on like a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing to do and nowhere to go, and the grim knowledge that no matter how hopeless it is, the next day is always going to be Monday.
So he goes places. Meets people. That's what his life is now, travelling and fucking attractive strangers. And when Albion – Britain – grows too small, well, then he buys a boat.
South. Yes, south, he never liked cold much. He sails the coasts of France, Spain, then Portugal, and then Spain again. Goes east. It's actually kind of nice, pointing the bow towards the rising sun and pretending that he has a purpose.
He finds himself on the Ionian Sea, on a tiny sun-burnt island that seems to be nothing except olive trees and goats and perfectly turquoise waters. There he speaks Dragon language for the first time in centuries and is delighted to discover that, while the people find his speech archaic and odd, he is soon able to understand them.
So he stays.
Three years later, in Vathy, Ithaka, he runs into a man who looks like Arthur.
That's not unusual. It has happened before. There were men and women he thought he recognized – by their smiles, their voice, their laughter, and one time, on a face that was slightly more than twenty, by the particular raise of an eyebrow.
This man – he has Arthur's eyes and square jaw, and his stance. His skin and hair is slightly darker, his nose all wrong; but the curve of his lips is painfully familiar.
Oh, Merlin knows better. He is, after all, an old man himself, not—
(The stranger buys him a pint, and he says yes. They talk about things, silly things, unimportant things – he is a tourist, too, but Merlin soon forgets where he came from and why, busy drinking in the sight of him, mentally correcting all the details that don't fit.)
(They laugh. They chat.)
--Merlin's not an idiot.
(They sail to a tiny deserted bay and swim in the sea until the air cools and it gets dark. Merlin fucks that man, the man who isn't Arthur, on the deck of his boat underneath the starry sky; breathes the wrong name when he comes, and by the look in his eyes, the guy hears him. Merlin doesn't apologize, because his throat is tight and he can't force himself to speak.)
He knows better. The very next day, back in the harbour, he stocks up on provisions and leaves for good.
England welcomes him with misty, dizzy weather. He feels wrung out, can still taste the bitter despair on his lips.
It's almost like coming home.