Title: If You Can Reach Me
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, mentions of Freya
Summary: Arthur comes back to Merlin.
Word Count: 570 ish
Prompt: #171 'Come and See'
Author's Notes: This drabble kind of follows this, so it will make more sense if you read that one first.
This time, Merlin feels it rather than hears it. Come. Freya’s voice calls to him, and though it doesn’t say where, he knows.
Part of him doesn’t want to believe that Arthur could be back. It’s been so long that Merlin doesn’t know what false hope will do to him. He doesn’t think he could handle it. He’s too old now. Too fragile.
The other part, the more insistent part, tugs him towards the lake of Avalon. He’s always known that there would be no choice to make, that if Arthur calls, he would always come.
He sits down by the edge of the lake and tries to call to Freya with his mind. He’s tried it before, but he doesn’t know if it has ever worked. If it has, Freya’s never responded.
Nothing. Merlin’s eyes dart left to right, but there’s no soul in sight. The only movement is that of the lake, the gentle motion of the water. He sags a bit. Should’ve known better.
Merlin’s head shoots up.
Emrys, your king has returned.
Perhaps he imagines it, but the voice is warmer now; it chases the fear away - the fear that he’s dreaming this or that he’s wasting his time. The fear that Arthur won’t ever come back.
As Merlin watches, the water ripples. He can’t help it - he rips off his boots and robe and races into the water as fast as his ancient form will allow.
In the distance, too far for Merlin to reach in time, the shimmering blade of Excalibur breaks the surface of the water. Merlin wades through faster, toes protesting every inch of the way. The water is icy, the rocks are slippery, and Merlin keeps stumbling. The lake is too murky to be transparent; he has to guess his footing each time.
When he next looks up, Arthur’s there, sword in hand. The sight of him takes Merlin’s breath away. His eyes, just as Merlin remembers, are piercing blue, and his hair still shines in the light of the sun. Arthur’s time in Avalon has done nothing to dull his healthy glow, and Merlin briefly wonders how the time has passed for him, whether it’s been centuries for Arthur too.
For Arthur's sake, he hopes not.
His lips move, but Merlin cannot make out what he’s saying.
“Arthur,” Merlin shouts, his voice wobbling dangerously. He’s close now, just a few more steps. Waist deep in the freezing waters, Merlin shivers his way closer, and Arthur strides forward to meet him halfway.
“Merlin,” he breathes, running a hand up Merlin’s face. The other clutches fiercely at his shoulder. It hurts, but Merlin doesn’t care. His own hands reach up to Arthur, gripping him just as hard.
“You came back,” Merlin says. Merlin is treacherously close to crumbling. He forces each breath and traces Arthur’s jawline with his thumb. Arthur's lips lift in a fond smile. With Merlin in his grasp, he looks content. As if he hasn’t just tumbled into the future, leaving Camelot and everything he loved behind.
As he gazes at Arthur, in the corner of his eyes, he sees his thumb transform slowly. The old, wrinkled skin stretches taut, as young as the day he last held Arthur in his arms. Merlin watches as it spreads across the rest of his arm, watches as the disguise slips away at Arthur’s touch.