Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Merlin knew it wouldn't work but oh, how he tried.
Word Count: 1290 (sorry!)
Prompt: #224 Anything you want
Author's Notes: none
Disclaimer: I do not own the BBC version of Merlin; It and Shine do. I am very respectfully borrowing them with no intent to profit. No money has changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended.
He knew it wouldn't work. After all, Stonehenge had been there, looming over the Salisbury Plain, long before Camelot was formed. It had its own power and the Druids used it when they could, worshiping as they danced amongst the stones, their priests and acolytes moving in lines of ecstasy on festivals and name-days and sun risings, for a thousand years or more.
Merlin had tried everything else, tried necromancy and begging and fury, tried herbs and elixirs and madness, but Arthur was gone. He had been gone for more years than Merlin wanted to count.
The Druids had been unhelpful, of course, shrugging his anger away. They said that Arthur would return when he was needed and not before. In soft tones and disappointment, they urged Merlin to accept it and learn to live again.
But Merlin didn't want to live again.
Yet there he was, standing near the centre of Stonehenge, alone and miserable as he waited for dawn's rising and yet another summer solstice. The tourists might be excited for the sun to appear, were in fact packed around the standing stones, cell phones at the ready. The Druids in their robes and beads and carved sticks muttered incantations as the sky began to lighten. But to Merlin's mind, it all seemed so useless.
He wanted to turn away, but as the sun's light began to shine through the stones' gateway, the boisterous crowd proved too much, and he found himself tripping, his body dropping, palms-down onto a fallen sarcen stone. Sacred, the modern-day Druids called it, but underneath his hand, it was nothing but rock and too-long-held grief. Eyes watering, he pounded his palm down again and again against it, heartsick enough to ignore the mob around him, wanting to pour his anger and loss into the earth. His magic was spinning out of control as he begged whatever gods remained to take the pain from him. In one corner of his mind, he could feel people stepping away and murmurs of worry, but he didn't pay attention, just kept hitting the stone until it was slimy with blood.
Then he sat back, holding his hand, sobbing out his grief for all to see.
It seemed a lifetime later but must have been only a few moments before a not-too-gentle voice said, "You can't stay here. Come on. Let's see about that hand."
Merlin could only nod. He knew he'd made a mistake coming to Stonehenge but what was done was done. He let someone, a man by the bulk of him, grab his arm and slowly lift him to his feet, and docile, he stumbled out of the crowd and into an A&E tent. He didn't look up, didn't say anything as the man, muttering under his breath about drunken idiots, cleaned Merlin's hand, bandaged it, turned away.
"I'm not drunk, just…." His voice trailed off. It didn't matter anyway what the man thought. In another hundred years, Merlin would still be alive, still be alone, and everyone else gathering to celebrate this day's solstice would be dead. In a small, resigned voice, he said, "Are we done?"
When the man didn't say anything else, Merlin glanced up. He could only see the back of his head but it was gilt, so like Arthur's that, for a moment, Merlin couldn't breathe. He couldn't help himself. "Arthur?"
"Yes?" Turning around, bandages still in his hands, he looked so much like his lost king that Merlin wanted to cry again, or laugh or jump up and hug him. But there was no recognition in this Arthur's eyes. "Do I know you?"
Merlin hesitated, not wanting to scare him off. He said, slowly, carefully, "I'm Merlin."
"Then I don't know you." Arthur started to roll his eyes then he must have realized that Merlin was serious. Putting the rest of the bandages away, he said, "I assume that you are not the Merlin who brought the stones from Ireland at King Arthur's command."
"No, that's just a ridiculous myth." It was amazing how, over the years, the stories had grown. Sometimes a kernel of truth remained, sometimes the legends were made of whole cloth.
Apparently this Arthur didn't believe any of it. His mouth quirked up a little, as he nodded, amused. "And the rubbish about the Druids building them?"
Now Merlin did roll his eyes and shook his head. "Stonehenge was here long before the Druids." Arthur's smile grew a little wider but that turned quickly to a frown when Merlin said, "But there is power here."
"Magic. Of course." With the dismissive tone and the way Arthur's face hardened, It would seem that Merlin had failed whatever test Arthur was trying to give. It would appear, he didn't believe in magic at all. Waving his hand at the tent's opening, Arthur said, "I cleaned your hand up as best I could, but if it begins to fester, don't hesitate to contact your physician about it."
Merlin couldn't let it end like that. Arthur might not remember but Merlin had waited too long to let him go so easily.
"Arthur, do you… do you sometimes have dreams of Camelot?"
The look Arthur sent Merlin could have melted Stonehenge. Scowling, his face hard and furious, he said, "Look, I don't know who you are, Merlin, but I'm busy. I've more drunken idiots to see to so run along."
Merlin's heart began to race. Ordinarily, someone would have laughed it off or mocked him for being a fool. But Arthur's irate reaction was not ordinary. Merlin pressed the point. "Is that a yes?"
If anything, Arthur only got angrier. Drawing himself up, his posture ramrod-straight, his hands busy clenching and unclenching as if he wanted to throttle someone, he said, "Leave or I'll have security remove you from these premises."
Merlin wanted to dance or sing or throw his arms around Arthur and give him the hug of his life. With that reaction it was clear that underneath it all, his Arthur was there, somewhere, no matter how much Arthur might want to deny it. But it might take more than conversation to bring his king out into the light.
Knowing that he couldn't press the point, not yet, Merlin lifted his hands in apology. "Arthur, I… I've overstepped my bounds. My apologies." He gave Arthur a little smile, which was not returned. "I'm sure you've been teased about your name over the years as have I. I hope there are no hard feelings."
Nodding, eyes still narrowed in suspicion and worried fury, Arthur said, "You don't know me and I don't know you. Leave now and I will forget this ever happened."
"Deal." As Merlin stood up, he put out his uninjured hand, hoping for a handshake. He'd need to touch Arthur to make it work.
When Arthur hesitated, Merlin said, "I don't have the plague, you know." That seemed to shake Arthur loose of whatever was haunting him. Giving a great put-upon sigh, he clasped Merlin's hand in his.
It was enough.
Skin to skin, Merlin gathered every bit of magic he could, longing and desperation and the love he'd had for Arthur all those long years, and together with the power growing as the sun rose over Stonehenge, he thrust it all into the space between them. "Arthur, beþence."
Time seemed to slow, then stop a moment. But as Merlin breathed out, solstice light burst through the tent's opening, lighting up Arthur's face in sun-gold brilliance.
For the first time in a millennium, he saw his Arthur smiling at him.
Of course, in the next moment, Merlin wanted to strangle him when the prat said, "What took you so long?"
Then, some things never change. Thankfully.