It's hard to see it from the top now
When the light is just blinding
No time to close your eyes now
No time for hiding
[Keep yourself together- Tyler Ward]
Merlin blinks against the constant flow of lights and faces and buildings swimming outside the bus’ windows. Now and then he manages to catch a glimpse of his reflection- his lips tingle and his heart aches.
He spends the rest of the day sitting on a bench in a dusty and grey park nearby Turnpike Lane’s tube station. His eyes feel heavy as he lets his gaze slide over the tarmac. Something hard and compact presses behind his sternum; Merlin has learnt long ago that it means he needs to cry. He can’t bring himself to do it, though; shock and desire still sliding against each other along his veins.
He tilts his head back and looks at the pale sky dangling over his head like a worn out blanket. His lips twitch slightly at the memory of Arthur’s.
Arthur- his best friend, his constant, Arthur the boy who inhabits his dreams with his crooked teeth and those eyes of his. In those dreams Merlin is in cities he has never seen, but he is never scared, because Arthur is there, holding his crowned head high. Sometimes, instead, he dreams of looking at Arthur from far away, as he kisses his queen, as he struggles to become a good king. Merlin hates those dreams the most, because he feels trapped in something bigger than him, he feels that his love could eat him from the inside out for how raw and sacrificed it is.
Merlin sits on that ruined bench and hates himself for leaving after having waited for years, his feelings too cumbersome to store them away.
There have been moments, awake at night, sneaking glances at his best friend in class or looking for Arthur in crowded rooms at random parties, when he has wondered if maybe he wasn’t born to do just that, to reach for Arthur hoping that the time would come when he could hold onto him and not let go. If somehow the fact that he was meant to love his best friend hadn’t been engraved somewhere hidden and dark at the centre of his bones.
And yet, when Arthur kissed him he was so scared; there was such pain and confusion in Arthur’s eyes, as though he was somewhere else, somewhere distant and painful, and Merlin felt useless, helpless.
His phone vibrating in his pocket brings him back to reality.
I am sorry.
It’s then that the tears come. Merlin hides his face in his hands and cries until he doesn’t realize why he is crying anymore. It’s not only because he has hurt Arthur being so scared and selfish; there is something more that he cannot pinpoint, but it’s heavy and dark and tears keep flowing because of it.
At night Merlin curls under the blankets and prays whoever is up there to not let the dreams comes tonight.
“You will be late for the council’s meeting.”
The summer light slid over Arthur’s smile and Merlin forced himself to avert his eyes. He wasn’t allowed to feel like that anymore; they had decided that locking their feelings away was for the best, in a world that wouldn’t let them be together.
It didn’t prevent Merlin’s heart from aching as If someone had carved a hole right at the centre of it.
A shadow crossed Arthur’s features and Merlin knew that he felt the same- the tension coming from keeping their emotions in check, to fight the onslaught of memories and shredded what-ifs every time that their hands accidentally brushed or every time their gazes lock.
Arthur looked at him, a vulnerability Merlin had rarely witnessed in his eyes.
“I wish we could remain here and never go back.”
Merlin wished his magic was strong enough to do that.
He didn’t kiss Arthur; he only allowed himself to take hold of his hand, gently rubbing circles on the back of it as they walked towards their horses.
It wasn’t enough, but it was something. It was them.
Merlin wakes up with a start, gulping down air. When his eyes get used to the darkness of the room his breath stutters. There’s a man standing right in front of him. Merlin takes in his dented armor, his red cloak and finally his pale face. Clear eyes look straight at him from under blond hair. The man’s lips stretch into a smile, revealing slightly crooked teeth. Merlin swallows around the lump in his throat.
The man nods once before stretching his arm and cupping Merlin’s face. His fingers are cold and barely real; they make Merlin’s skin tingle and his mind buzz. When he speaks his voice is barely a whisper and Merlin has to strain his ears to hear.
“I’ve been waiting for you, love. It’s time you come back to me.”
Merlin blinks against the tears that are starting to form into his eyes even though he doesn’t know why.
The pale reflection of the Arthur Merlin knows and loves smiles once more before slowly dissolving right in front of him.
It’s as though the world has just crashed down over him. Merlin curls on himself, shaking even though his skin feel s unbearably warm. He doesn’t understand what has just happened; the only thing that he knows is that he feels as though he hasn’t seen Arthur in ages. Every cell in his body is screaming that he misses him.
After having forced himself to breathe, Merlin reaches for his mobile phone.
I need to see you, please.
He falls asleep waiting for an answer and he wakes up with whispered words echoing in his ears.
“If…if we were born in another time, if things were different…”
“Yes, Merlin… I would never let you go.”
He wakes up but there’s no one else in the room, the only sound is the one of his heart slamming against his ribcage and threatening to fall apart. He briefly wonders if he is going crazy, his dreams mixing with his memories so that he doesn’t understand anymore what he has truly lived and what he has only dream to experience.
Lowering his gaze on his mobile phone, he realizes that there’s a new text waiting. He tries not to hope, he tries hard not to panic.
Can you meet me at Hampstead Heath tomorrow afternoon?
Merlin takes a deep breath before typing back an answer with shaky fingers.
See you there.
He almost types I miss you, but he catches himself on time.
Outside the sun is just rising and Merlin closes his eyes against the pale and shy light, as if closing them could stop the battle going on inside of him. Memories of kisses and pleas, of crushed dreams and hopes cram his mind and he feels like screaming because he can’t tell anymore where what he feels for Arthur- the boy whom he has known since they were kids- ends and what he felt for Arthur- his destiny, his king- centuries ago begins.