Title: Sing Me a Lullaby
Pairing: past Merlin/Arthur
Characters: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: “What’s that?” He asks, staring at the white petals (daisies, Merlin has called them) as if they might choke him in his sleep.
Warnings: Alternate Universe, young Merlin, ghost Arthur, illness, fluff, angst, implied character death, reincarnation, implied slash only
Word Count: 984
Author’s Notes: thanks to everyone who set up the 5th prompt!
“...Why haven’t you gone home with your mum and dad yet?”
Arthur, out of habit, turns around to see who is talking, because he has no better entertainment than to listen into to the conversations that occur in the hospital. He sees a skinny boy with brown curls staring straight at him.
When the boy repeats his question (still looking at him with intent blue eyes) Arthur realizes that he is being seen for the first time in years.
His heart speeds up.
“You wouldn’t happen to named Merlin, would you?” Arthur asks (hopes.)
His reply is the sweet smile he remembers and when the boy’s mother calls out to him so that they can go home, Arthur can’t keep the grin from his face. In a few more years, Merlin will be old enough to become a doctor or an employee in the hospital and they will meet again.
“You’re back again?” Arthur notes with surprise.
Little Merlin beams at him from his bed, “Yup. Uncle Gaius is taking some blood tests. He says they keep me healthy.”
There are tubes pinned to the child’s wrists, taking in liquids and nutrients. Not for the first time, Arthur notes how pale this latest incarnation of his lover looks, how small and frail. A fear enters his mind, but he pushes it away.
Merlin will be fine. He is always fine, he’ll grow up to be a fine young man and they’ll fall in love as always.
(Until they must part and Arthur is left behind, the curse leaving him cold and alone.)
When Merlin begins to babble about painting time with his teacher and his new pet dragon Kilgharrah, Arthur lets himself believe it.
A long time ago there was a king. He was a tyrant, who lost his wife to magic and declared all magic to be forbidden henceforth. His hatred caused the deaths of many magic users and the near extinction of magical creatures.
There was a young warlock and there was a young prince.
They fell in love.
Together, they tried to right the wrongs that the mad king had done, but it was not enough.
Eventually the leader of the rebel sorcerers demanded retribution.
To punish the mad king, they targeted his son.
“What’s that?” He asks, staring at the white petals (daisies, Merlin has called them) as if they might choke him in his sleep.
“Crowns,” Merlin holds them up, circles of daisies that are large enough to fit on his head. They appear in his hands, made from rivers of gold that seem to flow around the boy’s body. “I made them for you!”
“All with your magic?” Arthur can’t hold back his laughter. “Well, I suppose I should wear them.” He can tolerate a few petals for Merlin’s sake.
Tiny fingers place the ring of flowers on the bed of his hair. Arthur closes his eyes and enjoys the contact. Merlin is the only one who he can physically touch him.
“How do I look?”
“Like a king,” Merlin nods solemnly before they both burst into giggles.
He tries not to think of how rarely Merlin goes home anymore, of the sad looks his doctor Gaius gives to Hunith when she isn’t looking, of how thin the boy has become in the confines of the building that Arthur haunts.
“Are you lonely, Arthur?” Merlin asks him one day after he has told him another story about the warlock and the prince.
“What? Why would I be lonely?”
“...Because no one else can see you. And sometimes, when you tell me about the mad king, you look lonely.”
A pang runs through him at how observant his Merlin is. He puts a hand through the boy’s hair and ruffles it.
“I have you, don’t I?”
Merlin shakes his head, “But I won’t always be here, will I? I’ve heard the adults talking... they say I’m dying... and if I die, you’ll be alone again and no one will see you.”
You’re not going to die is what he wants to say. Because Merlin can’t die. Merlin is magic; he’s never died this young before. They’ve always had their time together so Merlin can’t die, not yet.
Instead he kisses Merlin’s forehead and tells him to go back to sleep.
“Can I stay with you after I die, Arthur? We can be together forever and you won’t have to be lonely anymore,” Merlin can barely whisper through his oxygen mask.
The doctors are scurrying, trying to bring his heartbeat back. It is only magic that is sustaining the young boy’s life at the moment.
“Of course,” Arthur shakes (believes, as always, that perhaps this time, Merlin’s magic is stronger than the curse, perhaps he’s regained his full power after so many centuries), “Yes, we will.”
The heart rate monitors let out a loud beeeeeep.
They destroyed the soul of son of the mad king, driving him into the depths of true despair.
But they did not count on the warlock’s wrath. They were cursed and cast out from the world while the warlock tried to save the remnants of his lover’s soul.
His magic was powerful enough tether the prince’s essence to the ground where he died but it broke the warlock, sending the balance of magic into chaos.
The warlock’s trusted companion Kilgharrah placated the balance with a curse.
A thousand times may the warlock be reborn and may he love the eternal prince. Until then, they will be separated by the ties of death, never knowing eternal rest. So shall the sins of the mad king be repaid.
And so it was.
The white petals have scattered across the room. Circles and circles of daisies lie between his hands, dried up and barren.
“You said you would stay,” Arthur whispers.
They blow away, all the flowers, and he waits again.