Title: A Better Way
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: On the anniversary of Arthur's mother's death, Merlin shares a better way to remember her.
Word Count: 934
Prompt: #193, Remembrance
Author's Notes: Latest in my modern Merlin the Bodyguard series. First one. Previous one.
A few days after Merlin started his bodyguard training, he and Arthur went for a walk on palace grounds. The Prince seemed out of sorts and Merlin picked up on that even without the use of his magic. “You seem down today, Arthur.”
Arthur sighed. “It’s . . . it’s a day I’d rather forget,” he replied.
Merlin stopped him. “Now I know something’s wrong. Tell me.”
“I’d rather you not know.”
“Arthur, I could just read your mind and find out.”
The Prince looked stunned. “You can do that?”
“Maybe. I really haven’t tried before.” He smiled wickedly.
“Fine . . . today is the anniversary of my mother’s death.”
Merlin’s smiled faded fast. “I’m so sorry, Arthur, I wouldn’t have made fun if I’d known.”
They started walking again. “Who would think to tell you? Anyway, I usually end up sneaking out early to the pub.”
“You get drunk on your mother’s death day? That’s so cliché.”
Arthur stopped again to glare at Merlin. “Are you kidding me? Do you know of a better way to forget?”
“Don’t forget. Remember. That’s what I do with my dad.”
“You lost your dad?”
“When I was five.”
“I wasn’t even two.” There was silence for a moment after that.
“I think it hurts no matter what age you are.”
Arthur grimaced. “I’m sure you’re right. But still—how do I remember? I have no memories of her.”
“Surely your father has told you something?”
“Some. But I have to ask. He won’t talk about her on his own.” He paused for a moment. “Hey, wait. A few years ago he gave me her diaries. They go back to when she was twelve.”
“Nice! So what are you waiting for? Go dig them out.”
Arthur took off at a faster pace but stopped after a few steps. “You’re coming with, aren’t you?”
“I didn’t want to intrude . . .”
“Come on, Merlin. It was your idea, after all.”
Merlin grinned. “Okay.”
He and Arthur quickly walked back to the palace, all the way to Arthur’s rooms. Staff gave them odd looks at their excited pace, but the two men ignored them. Once there, Arthur went to an ancient-looking wardrobe and began rooting around inside. A short while later, Merlin heard an “aha!” and Arthur backed out with a box in his hands. “Here they are!”
He carried them over to a small living area and sat on an ornate sofa, placing the box on a table. Merlin sat next to him and watched as the Prince lifted the box’s lid. Inside were several diaries of various colors and sizes. Arthur took the top one out and handed it to Merlin. He grabbed the next one and opened it to begin reading. When he saw that Merlin hadn’t moved, he glared. “Start reading! When you find something cool to share, just blurt it out. I’ll do the same. Got it?”
Merlin nodded and opened the journal. He’d gotten one from Ygraine’s sixteenth year, which proved to be a fascinating read.
Every now and then, he’d read out loud a funny or poignant passage. Arthur did the same. At times the Prince smiled and laughed, at others his eyes grew shiny. At those times, Merlin reached for a tissue from the end table nearest him and handed it to Arthur without comment.
Lunch came and went and still they read the diaries. Eventually Arthur got to the last one, which held tales of her courtship with Uther and their marriage. Merlin merely moved the box of tissues to the table in front of them and watched a variety of emotions flicker across his friend’s face. But when Arthur finally closed that last book, he was smiling.
“Thank you,” he said.
“A good idea.” He looked at his watch. “It’s still a few hours until happy hour. What now?”
Merlin thought for a moment. “Do you think there are any staff who remember your mother?”
“Maybe the older ones. Gaius, the steward, the head butler, the head chef . . .”
“Excellent! You can go around and ask them to tell you stories about her.”
“I’m sure they’re far too busy to talk to me . . .”
“Arthur, you’re the Crown Prince. You’re number two around here, so you can order them if you want.”
“I won’t do that, but it’s an idea.”
The two men left the room to seek out those whom Arthur had mentioned. Gaius told them several stories about Ygraine’s pregnancy and how she’d come to him with every little, minor concern. The head chef shared how she’d ask for the oddest dishes when she was pregnant, but when she wasn’t, she had the most exquisite taste. The others they could find told them all about the little things Ygraine did to bring a breath of fresh air to the palace. And everyone told Arthur how much they missed her and how like her he was.
By dinner, Arthur had laughed and cried a lot more. But mostly laughed. He’d learned how amazing his mother had been, how funny, strong, free-spirited, and beautiful. And he was so very glad Merlin had suggested how to spend the day. Because now he had more wonderful memories than he knew what to do with.
And after dinner, Arthur and Merlin snuck out of the palace. They went to Arthur’s favorite watering hole where they retold each other some of their favorite stories of Arthur’s mother. Right before they went home, they toasted to Ygraine and all that she’d meant to so many people.