Title: Home Is the Highway
Summary: In the distant future, Merlin senses the approaching apocalypse and prepares to summon his king.
Word Count: 680
Author's Notes: It's a crossover, but not a crossover. Sorry, not sorry. If you have some time to throw some concrit at me (lack of clarity, too much purple) I'd deeply appreciate it.
He has waited out the centuries and watched the signs, forging patience from memories of his battles and blunders, burying his grief for the places and people of his youth. He has lived so long that even the sun seems strange to him, a wan shadow of the past. But so have all old men felt, he thinks.
When the first stirrings of that wild, hungry power begin to drip the blood of the world into his dreams, he feels young and new and frightened. He thinks this must be the hour to call his king, or there will be nothing left for Arthur to save. But he stumbles at first, chained with indecision. He was certain that Arthur's time would be filled with the monsters of their past, that the balance of magic would cant violently, leaving a turbulence through which the Once and Future King would lead Albion.
But the powers rising now are so old that they are new, and Merlin wonders what even his sorcery and Arthur's sword can accomplish in this dangerous new place his home has become. So he travels across the ocean, follows the slow pulsing of that looming darkness. He watches and waits, his power cloaked but never passive, deciding if this is where their long road ends.
It is in the New World that he meets the first warriors of the long war to come: Arthur's troops, though they know it not. He watches as they range these hot, empty roads, trading tales and weapons, clashing with a darkness only they can see. He helps where he can, keeping to the shadows, speaking little and listening always. It is a bloody business in Kansas that draws him out, fire and grief pouring into the foreign air. He's too late, just as he was too late for Arthur, too late for so many over the generations. But he sees a beginning that will end in a pyrrhic dawn.
It takes time to unweave the tapestry which Fate is winding about them, to see all the contortions of time’s threads, but he bends all his considerable power to the task. He sees the moment when everything changes; he sees the place where Arthur's eventual thanes will falter. But the pit-dwellers are moving apace and he is too late again, reaching the first bloodied boy - he's not a boy, you're just old - with just enough time to watch him slake the thirsty earth. It's the same scene that has played out in all these wars since the first, since he watched the life leave his king on a cold, wet morning when the world was a thousand years younger.
He's never been good at healing spells.
There is no shining armor on this boy - he's not a boy - and no kingdom to miss him. He was raised on gun oil and gasoline. His hands are stained with work, his face lined with road weariness. When Merlin leans over him, his eyes shift under closed lids, unconscious and restless. He murmurs something Merlin can't quite catch, but he can feel the meaning behind it as a ceaseless rhythm beating against his mind.
The rhythm says stay.
The boy - but he was never a boy - doesn't want an old, useless sorcerer who couldn't even save his own king. He is calling silently for a brother who may already be dead, wishing whole a family broken by war. But an old, useless sorcerer is all he has, so Merlin comforts him as best he can, with a kind illusion and the strongest words of healing he knows.
The faint beat of his dying heart rallies at the words, and that iron tapestry of time and destiny begins to yield, ever so slightly. This is the moment when the long song that will summon the Once and Future King begins. Merlin, servant and sorcerer, gathers Arthur's knight in his arms and leaves the field. In his wake, the western wind kicks up, and the earth drinks only the blood of fallen demons.