Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Morgana
Summary: Merlin forgets and remembers, all at once.
Warnings: mention of drug addiction
Word Count: 777
Prompt: Nepenthe #111
Author's Notes: Modern AU, reincarnation.
There’s a routine to these things. He knows the guy, he just has to show up at his house. He’s always got the stuff. Merlin waits until most people have gone home, the rush hour is through. He allows himself one beer, then he sets off on the tube, just a few stops and he gets off.
The neighborhood’s a little sketchy, one block nice, the next not so much. His guy’s block is average, not posh and not down at heels either, just in between. He climbs the stairs to the front door. Some effort was made in garden, but not much. There’s a pansy or two looking kind of pathetic, purple and yellow, an expanse of bare dirt in between. The recycling’s piled with beer and wine bottles, a couple of larger ones balanced on top, vodka and whiskey. Merlin looks away. His skin feels like ants crawling under it. God, how he hates dealing with people, having to do this.
There’s no response when he knocks on the door. Christ, come on. A moment later the door opens. The guy’s on his mobile, he waves Merlin in, then heads to the back of the long, narrow house. As he passes under a skylight, a beam of sun illuminates his hair.
The house is impressive, Victorian detailing and expensive-looking modern art, but ill-kept, dust and clutter everywhere. There’s the faint scent of incense, like someone just opened a scrapbook from the 60’s. On cue, a vision in long black hair and pale skin, lanky limbs clothed in wrinkled Indian cotton, emerges to wrap her arms around Merlin’s dealer. She kisses him on the cheek and he absent-mindedly takes her by the waist, their heads golden hair against black.
She’s beautiful. Eyes like a May morning take in Merlin, his threadbare trainers and jeans hanging from his hips. Merlin’s gut churns with pain. The guy needs to hurry up.
While the fit girl opens the refrigerator and pulls out orange juice, pours herself a glass, Merlin’s man rummages in a drawer. The whole time he’s been on his mobile, barely giving Merlin a glance. “Yeah, mate, twenty to one odds on that one,” he says into the phone.
He tosses Merlin a glassine envelope. “That enough?” he says.
Merlin hesitates. He wants more, but he shouldn’t. He really, really shouldn’t. “One more.”
The guy catches his eye for a second, then hands him another one. “Sure thing.” For a moment, his profile is caught in the light. A noble aspect to his jaw, the bluest of eyes. Merlin’s head swirls and he puts a hand on the counter to catch himself. It’s always this way, you’d think he’d be used to it by now. He should find someone else, someone who doesn’t make him feel this way, but some flicker of hope spurs him on, for what, he doesn’t have a clue. He returns again and again, compelled by a ganglion of needs that resists detangling.
The dark-haired beauty leans against the worktop and sips her orange juice. She regards Merlin coolly.
A curiously familiar scent works its way into Merlin’s consciousness. He breathes it in deeply. “Do I know you?” he says to her.
The merest suggestion of a smile, a glance down her nose with probing eyes, and she flicks a hank of glossy hair behind her shoulder. “I doubt it.”
Merlin’s dealer turns to look at her. “You never met before? He’s here often enough. This is Merlin.”
“Sounds familiar, but no, I don’t think so.”
The dealer looks flatly at Merlin. His full lips quirk. “Merlin and I go back. Way back.”
But Merlin’s not listening any more. The glassine envelope with its white powder is singing to him, his own private siren, music that drowns out the fact that the dealer’s name is Arthur.
The first time they met, the name was like a window opening in a dark room. Arthur’s features had recombined into a familiar pattern, the faintest glimmer of another time and place vibrating at the edges. But instead of sunlight and air, only pain came through that window, loss and loneliness and endless, winding years, and Merlin knew he couldn’t go down that path again.
Yet he keeps coming back.
He clutches the bag of powder with a sweaty hand, turns without a word, and walks back down the long hallway. He hears their voices, quiet conversation, the woman’s soft laugh and Arthur’s joking response. He rushes out of the house, away from them and their eyes that see too much, toward home where he can immerse himself in the drug’s serenade and forget it all.