Title: Always Here
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (if you want)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Hunith
Summary: Merlin always spent some time here. He just wasn't alone today.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: For an Hour
Author's Notes: Back in business!
“You know, there is really nothing new to tell you since last month,” Merlin said. His eyes were locked on the flowers he had left lying by the tree and he sighed. “I know you won’t like them, Will. But Freya does, don’t you, Frey?”
Silence met his question. The same as always. Merlin combed his fingers through his hair. A year had passed since his two best friends had been killed in a car accident and Merlin was finding it harder and harder to say anything when he came to this spot. It was secluded and peaceful and they had spent many hours in their childhood playing here. It was where he felt closest to them.
But this month, visiting as he always did on the first Sunday, Merlin found the words stuck in his throat. He didn’t know what to say. Telling them about the new kid at school seemed pointless. Merlin rested his elbows on his knees and his head in his palms. Shutting his eyes, he tried to forget the reason why he was here and instead imagined his friends were still alive.
“Oh!” The exclaim was soft, but Merlin sat up sharply. The very same new boy he was just thinking about was standing in front of him. He looked thrown-out to find someone else here. Merlin sat up, eyes locked on the flowers in the boy’s hand.
“It’s Arthur, right?” Merlin said gently, standing up. The starched uniform of the boy’s home looked uncomfortable and it didn’t fit him well. From what Merlin had heard, he was used to money. Then the father had gone down for tax evasion and multiple frauds and Arthur had ended up in the care system, transferring from the private school to the public one and generally having his life turned upside down.
“I’m Merlin.” Merlin stuck out a hand and Arthur awkwardly shook it. “I come up here to talk to my friends,” Merlin explained, gesturing around them. Arthur frowned, then his gaze rested on the flowers by the tree. Merlin followed where he was looking and grimacing, wondering if Arthur would think he was peculiar for talking to his dead friends.
What he didn’t expect was for Arthur to smile and put his own flowers next to Merlin’s.
“I always feel closer to my mother here,” he admitted. Merlin gaped and Arthur blushed. Arthur was here for the same reason as him? He sat back down on the bench – he was here first, after all – and Arthur sat on the other side. They glanced at each other and then looked away awkwardly.
“How are you finding school?” Merlin asked. Inwardly, he cringed. What a stupid question! But what else did you say to a seventeen-year-old who had lost everything and was here to talk to his dead mother? Arthur shrugged.
“It’s different. And the food is disgusting.”
“Tell me about it. My mum always says there can never be anything nutritious in what they serve. She’s always been about healthy eating, guess it sort of rubbed off. I can’t touch that stuff.”
“I don’t get much of a choice,” Arthur said bitterly.
“I can bring you something.” Merlin froze as soon as the words left his mouth. He had seen Arthur a few times across the common room at school but never spoken to him until now. And here he was, offering to make him lunch. Arthur must think him to be a complete idiot! But there was a small smile on Arthur’s face when Merlin dared to glance at him.
“You’re the first person to actually be nice to me,” Arthur admitted. “It’s why I’ve been coming out here more and more over the last few months.”
“I’m surprised I haven’t seen you. I tend to come out once a month.”
“What were they like?”
For the first time in a year, Merlin realised he didn’t mind the question. It didn’t hurt to talk about them the way it had, and he knew Arthur would only feel empathy. Merlin had had enough of being pitied; his friends were dead, not him. But he felt better than he had done for a long time, chatting away freely. In return, Arthur told him about a mother he didn’t remember and both boys had red-rimmed eyes before Arthur said that he had to get back.
Merlin put out a hand to stop him from leaving. “Maybe we could meet here again?”
Arthur looked astonished and Merlin hurriedly pressed on.
“I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed this. Even if that makes me twisted and weird. Maybe it’s better to spend the time here with the living remembering the dead rather than the other way around.”
He didn’t know what he was saying. The emotional whirlwind of the last few hours had left him feeling drained and Merlin wondered if he was talking complete nonsense. But Arthur smiled and nodded.
“I’d like that. You said the first Sunday of the month?”
“I’ll be here then.” Arthur left and this time, Merlin watched him go. He gave it a few minutes before walking home himself. His mother was waiting for him; the same way she always was. But she gave him a suspicious look when he walked through the door.
“Are you alright, love?”
Merlin knew he must look a mess, and she always knew when he had been crying. But his heart felt lighter than it had for months. Arthur was the first person his age he had had a proper conversation with since Freya and Will had died. Merlin hadn’t realised how much he had missed the companionship until now and he smiled at his mother.
“Yes, Mum,” he said gently. “I’m just fine.”
He moved to his room and crashed down on his bed, thinking about what had just happened. If only a few hours with Arthur made him feel like this, then Merlin was looking forward to spending more time with him.