Title: Escape to Nowhere
Pairing/s: possible Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: “It’s rude to ask a person about their past,” says Arthur. “That’s why I asked where you’re going, and not where you’ve been or why you’ve come here.”
Word Count: 880
Prompt: #196 Escape
Merlin walks alone with a small sack hanging across his body. The road is dusty; Merlin’s once-blue sneakers have turned brown. The fields to either side are flat and extensive; the edges are unfathomable to a boy of twelve from a town with definite borders. Merlin sees only himself at the center of an empty landscape, an empty world.
Merlin sits in the shade of a bush.
“What are you running from?” says the sparrow overhead.
Merlin ignores it. He keeps walking.
Merlin can’t sleep.
His sleeping bag is warm enough. His body is tired. The air is not wet. There is no danger from anything around him.
He can’t sleep.
He gets out of his sleeping bag to stand and stretch.
“What are you running from?” says the earth beneath his feet.
Merlin puts out his nighttime fire and moves on before the sun has even had a chance to turn the horizon gray-blue instead of black.
The road that Merlin is traveling on comes near a bend in a river. It has been so long since he washed himself and his clothes. He leaves his bag on the bank and submerges himself. He swims through the water for a little while, rubs his clothes against the skin underneath as an alternative to using soap that he does not have, and dunks himself one more time.
When he comes up, the sun is in his eyes. Everything is too bright. He blinks to adjust his vision.
“Where are you headed?” asks the boy who materializes in the sun glare.
There shouldn’t be anyone here. Merlin is too stunned to say anything back.
The boy stares at Merlin.
Merlin’s mouth hangs slightly open. Water drips off Merlin’s hair to make small ripples on the surface of the water. Thin water plants wave across his toes.
Eventually, the boy’s expression changes from politely curious to disapproving. “Well?” he asks. “Speak,” he demands.
“I-“ Merlin tries. It comes out as a rasp. How long has it been since he left the world of people? Not long enough for his voice to disappear entirely, at least. He gulps.
“You can call me Arthur, if it helps,” Arthur, who is possibly a hallucination brought on by sun stroke, tells him.
Merlin feels like he has forgotten how to interact with other humans. His mind tumbles over half-formed sentences that it then discards as quickly as it thought them up. In the end, he says, “What are you doing here?”
It isn’t an answer to Arthur’s question. It isn’t an answer to anything, except maybe Merlin’s surprise.
“It’s rude to ask a person about their past,” Arthur counters. “That’s why I asked where you’re going, and not where you’ve been or why you’ve come here.”
Merlin thinks he hears an implied alone at the end of that sentence, but he might just be projecting. He thinks of the right answer to Arthur’s question and finally settles on, “It doesn’t matter.”
“Ah, you’re one of those ‘go my own road to get to the end’ types,” Arthur says. His put-on "Wise Man” voice is condescending.
Merlin can’t let condescension slide without challenge. “Just because I’m not going the way people think I should, it doesn’t mean I don’t have plans,” he retorts.
“So you are going somewhere,” Arthur says.
Merlin crosses his arms and looks down and to the side at the water.
“Can I come with you?” Arthur asks.
That would be against the point. “You can’t,” Merlin replies. He’s still looking away, but something in his tone must give more away than he intends.
Arthur says, “I’m not so fragile.”
“What?” Merlin says. What does Arthur mean by that?
“You can’t hurt me,” Arthur assures him. “There’s no need to be afraid of who and what you are.”
Did he hear that right? “What?” he says again.
“I’m telling you, Merlin--” and how does Arthur know his name? “--that there is nothing you can possibly do that would injure me.”
Merlin is a little unnerved by what Arthur seems to know about him. This journey and distance was supposed to be his escape.
“In fact,” Arthur continues, “I’ll tell you something about me, since you seem to be having a hard time with this entire conversation.” At that, Arthur brings his palms together above his head. The tips of his fingers are obscured by the bottom edge of the sun for a moment. He slowly pulls his hands away from each other, and a small ball of light and heat forms and grows between his palms as the sky above them gets darker.
Merlin’s heart hammers in his chest. “What are you?” he asks breathlessly.
Arthur reverses the motion until his palms come together again and the daylight is back to its former brightness. He breathes out and drops his arms back down to his sides. His hands create perfect ripples in the water.
“Some have called me a spirit. Some have worshipped me as a god. The only definition you really need, Merlin, is ‘immortal,’” Arthur replies.
Can I come with you?
Merlin changes his answer. “Yes,” he says.
Arthur understands him.
Merlin left to escape the harm he would bring to other people. Merlin escapes into Arthur.