Title: The Edge
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur had only been back in Merlin's life for a month. He couldn't lose him again.
Warnings: Post 5-13 but it's modern au reincarnation fic so probably doesn't need a warning.
Word Count: 937
Prompt: 102 - Fool
Author's Notes: This also fills my trope_bingo square 'Presumed Dead' - that's 10/25 done. Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. I was going to write about yummy desserts, but this angsty thing came out instead.
Arthur had been back for a month.
Strictly speaking, he'd been back for nineteen years. However, Arthur had been growing up in a small town in Kent whilst Merlin had been busy holding a vigil in Somerset. So, for Merlin, it was just a month.
He was taking it slowly, carefully working his way into the reincarnated king's life. Arthur was young and careless and had no idea that their relationship was anything other than something very new, or that Merlin was anyone other than a new student at his university. Merlin often wondered how he was going to tell him, or if he even should. For now he was just enjoying the fact that Arthur was back in his world.
Arthur's family lived on the coast, and he'd brought Merlin back with him for the weekend. Arthur had a happy, loving family life this time around, though Merlin knew it would probably be scant recompense for whatever national disaster had heralded the king's return. Merlin had watched him laughing and joking with his father and brother, and decided that ignorance was bliss.
Spending time with Arthur was bliss as well. Arthur wanted to show him around the area where he'd grown up, and took him out on a cliff walk. The path wound perilously close to the edge and Merlin shied away, pulling Arthur away too.
"Don't be such a baby, Merlin!" Arthur deliberately walked off the path and very, very close to the edge, waving his hands. "I've been coming up here since I was a child, it's perfectly safe."
"It could give way. Please, Arthur, don't stand that close." He had a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach, seeing Arthur there like that.
Arthur's brother had obviously seen this before. He rolled his eyes and strolled on ahead with his girlfriend while Arthur continued to clown around on the edge.
"You're not funny," Merlin told him, turning away. He hoped that without an audience Arthur would give up on his dangerous antics. It had been bad enough a few weeks ago when they had just started dating, and Arthur had decided that a good way to impress Merlin would be with a frankly terrifying ride on his motorbike. It hadn't quite ended in a crash, but that was luck more than anything. And perhaps a little of Merlin's magic. Arthur didn't seem to understand how precious his life was.
"Come on Merlin, live a little! Come on, it's perfectly...Oh!"
Merlin spun round, horrified. There was the sound of something hitting the rocks, falling. Arthur was gone. Merlin ran to the edge of the cliff, panic-stricken.
Far below him, where the sea was pounding against the rocks, there was nothing to see. Only a few loose stones still falling gave any indication that anything at all had gone over.
"Arthur! Arthur!" His voice echoed down the cliff, coming back at him mockingly. He pulled his jacket off, trying to recall the spell that would slow his fall. Right at that moment, being dashed against the rocks seemed an acceptable option, but it would take away any chance he had of finding Arthur before it was too late.
One look at the way the waves were crashing against the rocks told him that it was already too late.
It was unthinkable that he could have lost Arthur again, so soon. After so long waiting this was too much to bear. He scanned the waves, trying to see some sign, somewhere to focus his magic. It was difficult, with tears already starting to well up in his eyes.
"I can't lose you again," he breathed.
"Hah!" Arthur leapt out from his hiding place looking far too pleased with himself. "Fooled you!"
Merlin stared at him in horror. The prat was laughing as if he'd managed the most amazingly hilarious joke. Merlin hadn't even thought to look around and check for anyone hiding, because what kind of person would pretend they'd gone over a cliff? Judging by the speed at which he'd managed to throw whatever it was over and then hide, it was a practiced trick. It wasn't even remotely funny.
"Idiot!" Merlin snarled. "You stupid, stupid idiot!"
Arthur's smile froze on his face, but Merlin didn't stop.
"What kind of moron does something like that and thinks it's funny? I already watched you die once, what on earth would make you think I'd ever, ever want to go through that again?"
"What?" Arthur was frowning now. "Merlin..."
"You haven't changed a bit. You're still just as much of a self-centred clotpole as you always were! How can you even begin to joke about it? I've waited so long for you to come back and you... you're just... just so... so..." He stopped, his breath catching in huge sobs, making it impossible to continue speaking. He knew Arthur was standing there staring at him in confusion but he didn't care. "Stupid," he gasped. "So, so stupid..."
"I'm sorry," Arthur whispered, contrite. He stepped up and put his arms around Merlin, pulling him close. "I'll never do it again. I'm sorry."
"I can't lose you," Merlin mumbled into Arthur's neck, breathing in the scent of him, feeling his pulse throbbing warm and vital, reassuring Merlin that Arthur was very much alive. He managed to stop himself saying 'again', but that was probably a little late anyway after everything he'd already let slip. Later, he knew, Arthur was going to ask for an explanation. "I can't."
Arthur didn't let go. And it warmed Merlin's heart a moment later when he heard him whisper: