Title: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
Summary: Memories are the past, until they're not, and they're more alive than ever.
Warnings: A bit of angst
Word Count: 1, 200
Prompt: #222: The Unsent Letter
Author's Notes: At first I was out of ideas, running around in circles trying to come up with something for this prompt, until I watched The Notebook with my sister and this happened :0
There are two types of memories: the first ones are bright and happy, warm you from the inside out. And sometimes you have to suppress a secret little smile when you remember. The second ones are like paper cuts. Hiding somewhere in your being shaped like sadness. Like pain. Whether you share them or not is your call.
Arthur knows a lot about reminiscing. Memories are places, smells, sounds, people. Can be brightness or absence.
For instance he can recall when Gwaine and him got a flat together, away from their families. Got utterly pissed the first night there, they laughed the entire night, rolling around in the floor. Both young and stupid. High on freedom. Ready to take on the world. He can see the time his father finally told him he was proud of him. Arthur is particularly fond of that one. It felt like an achievement of sorts.
He also has a perfect recollection of hot and humid summers, a bright smile and blue eyes. Being turned down, getting no after no. Too baffled by the fact him, a Pendragon, had to chase after someone. But in the end he prevailed, worn him down. Got to take Merlin out on a date, kiss him by the end of the night. Soft but demanding, his tongue granted access after touching his bottom lips. Merlin pliant in his arms. He didn't went back after that.
Thinking about those days is like having his inside ripped out. Funny how joyful memories can turn sour.
Because summers and heat and sticky lips can go either way.
Merlin is a memory, good from time to time, a paper-cut running deeper than meets the eye most of the time. Or so he thought.
A week ago, no, two days ago Arthur would've laughed sardonically in the face of anyone telling him Merlin would come back. Because, no, Merlin is long gone. Packed his things, left, arrivederci forever. Not a hint he had ever existed.
Oh, was he wrong. Merlin walked back in his life like it's that easy. Like he can just show up at his door one evening expecting Arthur to let him in. Arthur did, spent the rest of the night answering questions he was to tired to answer, and getting little in return. He sat in his his living room, in the countryside house his father left him in his will -- the same house Merlin loved, one filled with moments and promises and firsts and skin, so much skin and -- with Merlin across from him. A ghost. An apparition. His nails digging into the skin of his palm to keep himself in the present. All the while wondering if Merlin's still proud, fierce, if he tastes the same. Sweet, acid, Merlin.
Arthur had clear images of Merlin being disappointed by him, Merlin believing in him. Loving him. Loving each other always was the most important thing. Until it wasn't.
It was a night of remembrance, and strained laughter and genuine smiles. The room feeling hotter than it was, of choking with his own breath. Merlin remains beautiful, looks older, maybe taller. Fills his clothes better. And Arthur...He probably looks like the shell of the man Merlin used to know. Neither were completely at ease, too much time and history between them to pretend it was a night for former friends to get reacquainted. They never were friend to begin with.
Merlin left as the sun was coming up over the horizon, leaving Arthur with his insides burning and his fingertips tingling. Pretending he didn't notice the spark in Merlin's eyes has dimmed, the heaviness in his step as he walked away with a promise.
Now Arthur's in his bed, eyes red from lack of sleep -- something else too. He's surrouned by a pile of letters, Merlin's scrawl in every single one of them. Letters Merlin never sent. Letters Arthur could've read months and months ago before they turned into years, to know he was welcome. Merlin was waiting for him.
Merlin left again, exactly forty-five minutes ago, leaving stack of letters, tied up with string, neatly arranged by date. A summary of his loneliness and Arthur's heartache. Time lost. Memories and history.
Arthur's numb. He takes one letter at random, rips the envelope. He can't be bothered to be careful now. He's wasted ages for him to be other than desperate.
I've written what have begun to look like a thousand letters, yet I never know how to start. I don't know if I still have the privilege of calling you dear much less my or mine. It would be presumptuous of me to assume, to take liberties--
Arthur stops, takes a shuddery breath. He can almost hear Merlin calling him mine. Whispering my Arthur right next to his ear, his skin hot and glowing with sweat. Arthur's open palm spread over his rib cage, both trying to come down. Sex thick in the air. Lips red and swollen. Arthur wan invincible back then.
His current version is worn out. A castaway at the end of his wits.
He goes back to reading.
I no longer posses. Will thinks I'm a masochist, that I should face the truth and you're not coming to look for me. I have to stop my heart from leaping up every time there's a knock on the door, to not break down completely when it's just a neighbor welcoming me back even when I've been here for six month already. Half a year. I never imagined I could spend so many days apart from you. I can't sleep and both mum and Will are worried. I think they sort of hate you now.
I lie awake at night and wonder why haven't you called. Why haven't you? Did you forget me so soon?
I'm an idiot like you always said, aren't I?
After the first letter Arthur can't stop, he's a madman on a mission, tearing envelopes and forgetting to breath when he catches sight of Merlin's longing, his loneliness. When he very plainly states he misses Arthur in way he never thought possible.
You can miss someone so much it physically hurts. Just ask him. Arthur's an expert.
Merlin felt the same. Merlin never stop, he never --
He devours the letters, black ink dancing before his eyes, at one point he falls asleep and dreams of heat and summers.
Memories are a moment gone. The past. But when Arthur opens his door the next day and Merlin smiles at him weary and tired, everything clicks back into place.
Arthur cuts him off, pulls him by his shirt and kisses him. Tentative at first, relearning, finding they still fit. Merlin grabs onto him, keeping him close like he wants to be sure this is Arthur kissing him, he opens his mouth, lets Arthur in and runs his tongue inside his mouth. Recognize his taste. Foreign. Familiar. Just right.
They pull away reluctantly, Arthur's hands poised over Merlin's hips, possessive, firm. Foreheads touching. They clutch onto the other, touching everywhere they can. Merlin's looking at him, trying to memorizes him, his face. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Them.
"Does this mean?" Merlin asks, unsure, testing.
Arthur nods. Takes a deep, deep breath. "Welcome home, Merlin."