Title: I Remember
Characters/pairings: Merlin and Arthur
Summary: Five-year-old Merlin has wonderful dreams that turn into nightmares. He doesn't understand. Then he does.
Prompt 177: Remember
A/N: The other night I requested prompts and
rotrude gave me a gem of one: Arthur and Merlin as kids. Then today when I saw the prompt for this week's
camelotdrabble, I knew I could combine the two.
Merlin Emrys had the most amazing dreams, in which he did extraordinary things. He rode on the backs of fire-breathing dragons; defeated massive armies--whose numbers were never-ending--without lifting a finger; healed his ill mother; made beautiful butterflies appear in his hand on command; and perhaps the most spectacular feat that Merlin's dreams had him accomplish was his ability to create magnificent, magical images using smoke and fire. He never tired of watching dragons dancing against a tapestry of blue sky and wispy clouds.
When Merlin first told his mother about his dreams, she smiled, happy in the knowledge that her son, who was sickly and had few friends, could find solace in his slumber, but she worried. He wasn't like other children and she knew she could only protect him for so long. One day he would have to go out into the big, bad world and face others his age. Would he be able to hide his differences? Hunith doubted it. Her boy was special and had gifts that he shouldn't have to keep secret, yet, if he wanted to live, he would have to.
When the five-year-old finally told his father, who seemed to be gone more than he was home, the elder Emrys had grinned and patted his son on the head, then told him he was proud of him and that he should never stop believing. Merlin had scrunched his nose and furrowed his brows; he hadn't understood, but he knew that adults often said things he didn't understand.
When Merlin decided to tell his only friend, Arthur Pendragon, about his dreams, the seven-year-old was just as excited as his best friend, and after some thought suggested they needed to invent a new game about a magical boy who brought happiness to a sad world. Merlin, of course, thought this was the best idea ever.
Whether they were at Arthur's home or Merlin's, the mother on duty would happily help them build blanket forts that the boys then played in until someone's mother or father would reluctantly tell them it was time for them to eat or leave.
Within these blanketed walls, Arthur played a king, and Merlin, a knight, who just so happened to know how to do things that no mere mortal should be able to do. Arthur pretended to not like that Merlin could do these things and he would banish Merlin to a far away land, but then Merlin would produce a strawberry, which was Arthur's favorite food in the whole wide world. Merlin's crime was pardoned and magic made legal.
They repeated this ritual daily for almost a year… until Merlin turned six and his special, safe world, filled with wonder and no limitations, turned upside down.
The night after his birthday party, he had a nightmare, and it wasn't merely scary--it was terrifying. In it, an adult Merlin had been holding someone who must have been close to him. He had begged the other not to die, but despite his pleas, his friend closed his eyes and left Merlin alone.
Merlin woke up and screamed. His mother ran into her son's room, but the first person Merlin's frightened eyes fell upon was Arthur, who had stayed over. He sat on Merlin's bed and hugged his best friend, telling him he had just had a bad dream and that his mother was there. Hunith then held her son and rocked him until he fell back asleep. When she left the room some time later, she asked Arthur to come get her if her son had another bad dream. Arthur nodded, then turned his head and watched Merlin as he slept.
The following morning, as Merlin sat at the kitchen table, eating his cereal, Arthur asked him what he had dreamed about. Merlin wanted to tell him, but he couldn't. He didn't want to think about it, much less give voice to the terrible images he couldn't get out of his head. He had watched that other person, whom he knew he had cared about very much, die, and it had left Merlin more distraught than he remembered ever being. If anything like that ever happened in real life, and Merlin had to watch Arthur die, well, that wasn't anything Merlin wanted to think about. It was the scariest thing ever, well, except if he lost his mum or dad. That would be so scary that Merlin had to stop thinking about it because he was beginning to panic.
These constantly terrifying, horrific dreams lasted for a year, and it seemed as though they were just as bad as that first one, but not really. Poisonings, betrayals, and loneliness were not ideal dream material for a young boy of six, but none of them had him watching someone he loved die.
Then, when Merlin turned seven, the nightmares seemed to get somewhat better, but he still had nights when his mother rocked him and told him it would be alright and that she wasn't going anywhere. Luckily, the worst of these were few and far between.
Although Merlin longed for the dreams where he had made butterflies appear and dragons materialize out of smoke, at least he wasn't having those horrific dreams that made him want to never sleep again. One of his worst fears was that the bad dreams would return and never leave him. His mother and father assured him that he had nothing to worry about, but he noticed the furtive glances between them. He knew better… and he was right.
The night he turned ten, he awoke, unable to breathe. He reached his hands up and felt his neck as he screamed. His mother ran into his room and held him in her arms--he knew she would sit with him for as long as it took for him to stop crying--but, instead of this calming him, his sobs only increased as he looked at his mum, sheer terror in his eyes.