Title: Forever and Always
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gaius, Leon
Summary: Arthur was sure having his fortune told would be a waste of time.
Warnings: Rated for strong language.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: This is really weird, I'm not sure it even makes sense.
“This is stupid,” Arthur protested. Leon rolled his eyes and shoved his friend in the back.
“A bet is a bet. You lost, mate. Time to get your fortune told.”
“I know my fortune. It comes from my father, not some weirdo in a tent.” Despite his grumblings, Arthur let himself be pushed along. Leon was right; he had lost the bet and knew this was the price he had to pay. That was the last time he voted against Gwaine in a drinking contest. In Arthur’s defence, Percival was huge and Arthur had truly believed he would be able to hold his own.
“You are such a bore sometimes,” Leon said. That was enough to shut Arthur up and he let himself be manhandled towards the tent. The fair was only in town for another day and Arthur knew there was no getting out of it. Believing it was best to get it over and done with, he reached out for the tent flap and gave Leon a stern look.
“I’m not going to run out the back, I promise. But I don’t need witnesses to me being made a fool off by some old woman in robes and a pointy hat.”
Leon smirked and shook his head, but stayed where he was as his arms folded. Arthur ducked inside the tent, squinting in the darkness. There was a boy – well, a man – around his age sitting cross-legged on the floor. He was wearing jeans and had a messy mop of hair. Arthur cleared his throat.
“Um… I’m here to have my fortune told.” He winced, knowing he sounded like an idiot.
“Great.” The boy jumped to his feet and beamed. Arthur smiled back before realising he was being ushered further into the tent.
“Don’t you need to…I dunno, get someone?”
“Why, want someone to hold your hand?”
“You do the readings?” Arthur exclaimed, wide-eyed as the man settled himself behind the table and pulled out some tarot cards. The man grinned.
“Merlin by name, Merlin by nature. Sit.”
His tone brokered no argument and Arthur sat.
“Pick a card. Actually, pick three.”
Arthur did as he was bid. He barely refrained from rolling his eyes as the man – Merlin – declared that he was going to be rich and successful. Arthur already knew that. His father was a millionaire and accepted nothing less than the best from his son. Even now he had graduated, Arthur was constantly pushing himself to do better to drive that disappointment from the man’s eyes.
But then Merlin turned over the third.
“Holy fucking hell!”
Arthur had never seen someone pale so fast. He craned forward to get a look, seeing what looked like a sideways figure of eight on the card.
“What?” Arthur asked. Merlin shook his head mutely, pale and wide-eyed. The hand holding the card trembled. He slowly looked up at Arthur.
“This card has only been drawn once before,” he said. Arthur would have said this was all a sham, theatrics to make him believe. But no one was that much of an actor they could mimic Merlin’s reaction.
“For who?” Arthur said. He already knew the answer.
Merlin swallowed, blinked and twisted around where he sat. “Gaius!”
The old man who appeared was closer to what Arthur had had in mind for Merlin. Wordlessly, Merlin handed him the card. Gaius looked at it and lifted an eyebrow.
“What’s your name, young man?”
“Arthur,” Arthur said. He wasn’t sure why but he felt nervous. Nervous in a way not even his father had made him. His hands were sweaty and his mouth dry. “Arthur Pendragon.”
This time, he thought Merlin was going to faint. Gaius placed a hand on Merlin’s shoulder. When Merlin looked up at him, he very clearly nodded.
“Do what?” Arthur stood, preparing to bolt from the weirdness. But Merlin reached forward quicker than Arthur had given him credit for and grabbed his wrist. Arthur could feel his pulse going wild beneath Merlin’s touch. The man might look slender, but his grip was strong as he drew Arthur back down. Arthur’s knees crumbled and he sat.
Merlin leant forward. Arthur tried to squirm back as a hand was placed on his forehead, but Merlin appeared not to notice.
“Remember,” he breathed. Arthur swore it was a trick of the light, but for a split-second, he was convinced Merlin’s eyes flooded gold. Nothing happened and Merlin sat back. Disappointment was written on his face.
“The cards don’t lie, Merlin,” Gaius said softly. Arthur jumped to his feet.
“This is going too far,” he snapped. He turned on his heel but before he could take a step, Arthur felt himself falling again. He hit the ground hard, but Merlin was there, crouching over him before Arthur had the chance to get up. The dizziness slowly passed, but before he could regain his senses, pain exploded through his head. Arthur cried out, his back arching.
And the walls around his mind, his memories, came tearing down and suddenly, Arthur knew precisely who he was. Who Merlin was. Who they were to each other.
It was like two people were crowded into his head and he stared up at Merlin’s wavering form. A hand touched the side of his face gently.
“Arthur? Can you hear me?”
“Where have you been?” Arthur murmured, not being sure which part of him was talking. “You complete idiot.”
The beaming grin that split across Merlin’s face confirmed that he also knew who they truly were. Arthur wondered if all of his friends were the same people from back then; the names were the same if nothing else. He propped himself up on his elbows. The card had fluttered to the floor when Merlin had moved and Arthur grinned this time at the sign for infinity.
“You always said forever,” Arthur whispered. There were tears in Merlin’s eyes as he leant down to kiss him gently.
“I meant it, prat.”