Of A Lifetime
A Merthur Fifty Sentences project. Or in Kari's case, a few are sentences but most of them are two or three paragraphs or sometimes a short story because she doesn't know how to stop at one sentence. B
Actually after a certain point I really gave up on the one sentence thing as you can see, but I feel it turned out pretty damn epic anyways. So instead of sentences there are just THEMES. HAHAHAHAHA. *is insane*
WARNING! Supreme angst mixed in with insane fluff! Emotional roller coaster ahead!
WARNING! 2. Possible Supernatural season 6 spoilers? I am not sure how that worked itself in there really but when I got to "Technology" as the theme the fact that Supernatural takes up 70% of my thoughts this time of year bubbled over.
Note: This is based on a premises wherein Arthur and Merlin are reborn throughout the centuries, over and over and over. Merlin always remembers their past, and Arthur almost never does.
01 – Comfort
Arthur didn't cry the day King Uther died, or the day after that. It was only after the funeral held before thousands, nobility and subjects alike, that he collapsed with only Merlin there to hold him steady, fingers running soothingly through blond hair, the prince-now-king's soundless sobs wracking his body well into the night.
02 – Kiss
In the first life they only kissed once, the rain cold and freezing as Merlin leaned over his king and claimed his last breath, ignoring the blood staining his hands, both his and Arthur's mixed together.
03 – Soft
Arthur's hair was soft, and Merlin let his fingers thread through it slowly when Arthur's head in his lap as he dozed off in the afternoon sunlight.
04 – Pain
"It hurts, Merlin," Arthur gasped, the words barely audible over the torrent of rain washing the blood away almost as quickly as it welled up.
"I know," Merlin whispered. His voice broke as he pressed his hands over his king's to cover the gaping wound in Arthur's chest. "I know . . ." And there was nothing he could do.
05 – Potatoes
"Merlin, eat my potatoes," Arthur commanded, glaring daggers down at the chopped slices of starchy white vegetable he despised.
Merlin raised an eyebrow, "They're good for you, sire."
"Merlin . . ."
06 – Rain
There were two rainy days Merlin recalled more than any others from the first life.
"Can you make it rain?" King Arthur had asked as he leaned on the overlooking wall of the higher castle, eyeing the dry ground below.
"I can," Merlin had smiled.
Arthur had laughed in utter astonishment when the first drops trickled from the sky, lightning breaking out overhead. He straightened up and grabbed Merlin's hands when he jumped at the thunder. And Merlin laughed too when he let Arthur twirl him around until they fell in a pile of dizzy laughter, the rain continuing to fall.
07 – Chocolate (Except there is no chocolate in Camelot so I'm changing it to the general term "Sweets.")
"Marzipan dragons?" Arthur questioned when he saw the plate of little confectioneries Merlin had brought him, his eyes shining. "How you got your hands on some at this time of year I don't even want to know." The prince hummed in glee as he stuffed one in his mouth, a contented sigh escaping him, "Merlin, your skills at getting me sweets are like magic."
At that, Merlin couldn't help but laugh.
08 – Happiness
Arthur once told him happiness was a warm fire and a full belly. But to Merlin, happiness was that, and watching Arthur nod off in front of said fire with his head on Merlin's shoulder as Merlin read aloud from a book of songs and poems he'd snitched from the court bard.
09 – Telephone
"Merlin! Arthur is on the phone!"
"I'll be over at his place in ten minutes, tell him that whatever it is it can wait until then!"
"Merlin! Arthur is on the phone!"
"I heard you the first time, Gwen, but I'm busy trying to get ready so we can make our reservation in time! Tell him I'll see him in ten!"
The cordless hit him smack dab in the middle of his forehead, and Merlin heard himself let out a weird surprised squeak before he toppled over backwards onto the floor of his and Gwen's flat. Blinking, he found Gwen staring down at him, her hands on her hips as she glared at the cordless phone that now rested on his stomach.
"He said it was important," She said, giving him a curt nod before turning on her heels with a barely stifled giggle.
10 – Ears
"You have big ears," Arthur said suddenly one day, straddling Merlin's hips where the younger sat on the sofa. He pulled at one of said ears, "I mean, look at these."
"Yes, Arthur," Merlin said in a bored monotone as he leaned around the blond to try and see the TV he'd previously been melding quite peacefully with. "Thank you very much for sharing the information I have known all my life, believe it or not."
Arthur tilted his head and studied the other for a moment before he tugged at the opposite ear, "No. I mean they're really big." Another thoughtful tug. "I noticed it the first time around too. Maybe you should grow your hair out, or wear a hat."
Merlin paused before setting down the remote and staring up at Arthur, "You don't like me the way I am?" He said this using his best pitiful, dejected face of course. It had never failed him before.
Arthur stopped pulling on his ears, frozen in place with said look. "Th-that is not what I meant!"
"Good," Merlin shoved him onto the floor and grabbed the remote once more, ready to go back to melding with the television. Except that he heard Arthur mutter, "You look like an elf," under his breath, and oh, that was it.
Later, he made a mental note that Arthur could scream like a girl when tickled in the ribs.
11 – Name
"What's your name?" the blond asked. In the gloom of the underground cell Merlin could barely see his eyes, a shade of blue just a tad lighter than his own.
"Merlin," he replied, voice cracking. He didn't have to ask what the other's name was in return, he never did.
Merlin nodded as he pulled his knees up to his chest, curling in on himself in the dark cold of the cell. How unfortunate that they should meet like this this time around. All the same though . . .
"It's good to meet you, Arthur," he whispered, his voice just barely loud enough for the other to hear. Tomorrow they would be dragged out to the guillotine and pronounced as traitors to the revolution in front of hundreds before their blood would be indistinguishable from the many who had stood there before them. "It's good to meet you," he said again, choking on his words.
"You too," Arthur swallowed, and he shifted closer in the shadows until their shoulders touched.
12 – Sensual
Arthur always knew just where touch him. Light strokes along his spine when they were at some hoity-toity restaurant with Morgana, a gentle caress on his cheek when Merlin cried during a movie (and Arthur would laugh because really, Merlin was such a girl sometimes), or a tight squeeze of his hand at Gwen and Lance's wedding when Merlin thought he would faint. And then there was the way Arthur kissed him, a small trail down his sternum and across his collarbone in a way that made Merlin's back arch as Arthur held him down, their fingers tangled together at the base of the headboard.
13 – Death
Merlin hardly ever went before Arthur, that was just the way it tended to work out. Only once before this life had he died before his king, first by just minutes under the swift slice of the guillotine. Unfortunately, this was neither a mere few minutes. Nor was it swift.
He couldn't feel Arthur's hands covering the hole in his side though he could clearly see them. He could see the blood, thick and hot, welling up between the blonde's fingers. Merlin could see the dirt and gunpowder under Arthur's nails, and he briefly thought, "Infection," as Arthur scrabbled at the wound in his side, trying to staunch the bleeding in vain. Merlin shook his head and grabbed the other's hands, holding them still. "Don't," he said softly with a small shake of his head.
"Idiot, I'm not going to let you die!" Arthur snapped as he tried to tug his hands away. Gunfire echoed overhead, just a ways off from the trench they were huddled in, and Arthur paused until it faded. "Please, Merlin, not this time."
Merlin couldn't help the smile that pulled at the corners of his mouth. This was one of the few lives where Arthur remembered, and now he was going to waste it. "I'm sorry," he said honestly, gripping Arthur's hands tighter to him when he realized he couldn't even feel that anymore. It was only by sight he even knew he was still holding them.
"Please . . ." Arthur begged, "You can't . . . We've only just gotten started this time . . ."
"I'm sorry," Merlin said again, but the words were lost in the nearby crack of more gunfire. "Next time . . . I promise . . . Next time . . ." Again his words were all but lost, this time under Arthur's anguished sob.
14 – Sex
Through dozens of lives they never kissed save for as Arthur died on Mordred's sword, and one other. So of course never once then did they have sex. Except for in what Merlin sometimes thought might be their last, if only because it seemed to be the first one where they finally, as Arthur said once, "Got their shit together."
Whatever Merlin had thought it might be like before, he was so, so wrong. He expected Arthur to be rough as he once was on the battlefield, commanding like he had been with his knights. But Arthur was gentle, and so very careful with him it made Merlin feel like he might actually break, though he knew well he was very far from shattering so easily.
Arthur held him close, taking time to trace each of Merlin's ribs with small kisses as they rocked. He held Merlin's face between his hands and wiped away the tears that welled in too blue eyes, stealing each breath away with kisses that made Merlin feel like he could die then and there forever and never regret it. Sometimes in the morning he would find tiny kiss marks on the inside of his thighs, strawberry red even though he could have sworn he'd never felt them being made.
And sometimes, he would pause before getting dressed and leave one of his own between Arthur's shoulder blades while he slept.
15 – Touch
When the nights were dark and not yet too cold, Merlin would sit at the base of the throne when Arthur called him, his back to his king. Arthur would lean down and curl around him, arms draped over the other's shoulders, his knees on either side of his body, and his forehead resting on the top of Merlin's head. They would sit like that for a long time, Arthur simply breathing, letting the stress of the day wash away, and Merlin letting him as he slowly threaded their fingers together across his shoulders. He told himself that was enough, that never getting to touch Arthur except for in the shadows, in no way more than two friends would, was enough. Sometimes, he was able to convince himself that it was.
16 – Weakness
Arthur was Merlin's weakness, and he would die for him over and over again, for hundreds, maybe thousands of lifetimes to come. Not once would he ever regret it.
17 – Tears
He could feel them, sharp warm drops hitting the backs of his hands that gripped the window ledge so tightly his knuckles were bone white. He choked back a sob before he swallowed it just as he did all of the others, the effort making his whole frame shake. A hand touched his shoulder and he jerked his head up.
"Merlin? Are you all right?"
Gwen looked stunning in her dress, a mixture of golds and pure whites that shone in the sunlight that trickled through the window and danced on the stone walls around them. Merlin forced a smile, "Y-yes, I'm fine. I'm just s-so happy for you and Arthur." It wasn't a lie. He was happy for them, happy for Arthur. Uther wasn't there to deny Arthur happiness anymore. And when Arthur was happy, Merlin was happy.
He scrubbed a hand over his eyes, making sure his smile stayed in place, unwavering, "Come on, my lady," he held out an arm and waited for Gwen to take it, "We have a wedding to get to."
18 – Speed
"How fast can you run, Merlin?"
Merlin twisted around where he was standing knee deep in the river, the cool water washing between his thighs and over his hands as he was bent over to clean the dirt and grime off his hands. "Uh . . ." he blinked, confused.
Arthur smirked and cupped his hands in the water and tossed the water at Merlin before his servant could react. "I asked how fast you can run," he laughed.
The screech Merlin let out when the water hit him was not something one would ever call manly, and he flailed back from the prince as fast as knee deep running water would allow. "Hey! No! I just got washed this shirt!"
"Really?" Arthur called as he followed him and kicked up more water entirely on purpose, splashing Merlin repeatedly, "I couldn't tell."
"If you don't want to get wet you better pick up speed and run!"
"You are such a prat!"
19 – Wind
There was an open valley tucked between a cluster of hills not more than a day's ride from Camelot. It was one of Arthur's favorite spots, and Merlin felt privileged to be the only one who knew that. He loved that he was the only one who got to see the way Arthur just spread out on the grass and relaxed, the tension draining from his muscles. He was the only one who got to see the way the wind dipped into the valley hard enough to nearly sweep poor skinny Merlin off his feet, and it whipped Arthur's blond hair just so out of his eyes, making him laugh. A laugh that would get blown away by the wind as fast as it bubbled up, loud and unrestrained by stiffening castle walls with only Merlin around to hear it.
20 – Freedom
"I was the one who placed the spell on the old lady."
Merlin strained against the ropes that bound him, twisting his wrists against them as he felt them dig into his skin, the blood beginning to drip down to his knuckles, "No! He's lying!"
"I was the one that did it," Arthur went on. He turned on the spot for the whole room to see, arms spread and hands open as he made his false confession. "It was I who did it, not Merlin. In fact," he glanced at the boy in question, bound and restrained by a handful of the much more bulky men of Salem, "I framed Merlin."
"No!" Merlin screamed, "Not like this, Arthur! Not like this!"
Arthur merely smiled, allowing his own wrists to be bound in place of Merlin's, the raven haired boy falling to his knees as the ropes around him were undone. "No, Merlin," he said softly as he was led away, "exactly like this. You're free, Merlin. You're free."
21 – Life
No matter how many lives he lived through, no matter how many times he and Arthur crossed paths, never truly meeting completely, Merlin never stopped loving Arthur. Not once, not ever. And ever day of every life, Merlin never went back on that. Not once, not ever.
22 – Jealousy
Merlin was never jealous of Gwen. He loved Gwen, she was one of his closest friends. But when he finally found Arthur in one of their many lives, a wealthy man in the middle of London, for the first time he was jealous.
Sometimes he almost felt like he could hate her, especially that night lifetimes ago when Arthur had found out of her betrayal with Lancelot. He felt like he could hate her each lifetime in which Arthur could not remember and fell in love with her all over again. But in the end he couldn't hate her, couldn't feel jealous.
Except just once. Just for that one life he thought his jealousy would consume him. Because Gwen had given Arthur what he could not.
"Hello beautiful," Merlin whispered, crouching down and balancing on the balls of his feet so that he was eye to eye with the little girl. It was almost impossible to tell she was Gwen's daughter at all, though Merlin could see it in the distinct shape of her face. Her hair was a dirty blond, falling over said face as she curtsied at Merlin, and he chuckled to himself. When she looked up at him, shy and biting her lip with her white and pink dress clenched in small four year old hands, he couldn't help but gasp. Her eyes were that same gentle blue Arthur's were, sparkling with mischief and untapped potential. He grinned, "And what is your name?"
"Marian," she whispered.
Gwen glanced at the clock on the wall absentmindedly, "Yes yes, introductions aside, Marian, this is our new butler, Merlin. Please don't cause him too much trouble. And Merlin, I have some business to take care of until late, can you fix her dinner? She doesn't eat much."
"Of course," Merlin smiled, ignoring the prickling at the back of his mind screaming at him that wherever she was going, whatever she was doing, was not business. It never was, not in any life she met Arthur in. Because for every life in which Gwen existed, so too did Lancelot. But he would ignore it. He always did. "Come on," he said, lifting Marian up into his arms, "let's get you something to have for supper."
23 – Hands
"These are the hands you do magic with," Arthur said softly as he took one of Merlin's hands in his own.
Merlin watched him, carefully, cautiously, breathing in as he considered the expression on the prince's face. "Yes," he said finally, trading in his fear of Arthur's reaction for the acceptance that it would have always come to this. He couldn't hide forever.
Arthur spread out Merlin's fingers one by one before lining them up with his own, staring at the way they almost seemed to meld together in the firelight. Each battle scar matching each nick from cutting herbs in the physician's quarters, each sword callus mirroring each callus won from hard work and a servant's labor. Slowly, Arthur let his fingers fall between Merlin's, slotting into the spaces as if they were made to it there all along.
"Okay then," he said, nodding. And that was that.
Merlin swallowed down a relieved sob and bowed his head as he gripped Arthur's hand in return.
24 – Taste
Merlin stared down at the cake and tried hard not to wrinkle his nose at the very sight of it.
"You don't like it?" Arthur asked. He bit his lip as he watched Merlin try and restrain a look of disgust.
Guiltily, Merlin looked up at him in time to catch the sight of an Arthur that was about to get very, very upset in a matter of seconds. Crap. "It's, er, purple," he said through gritted teeth.
Arthur blinked, "So?"
"If the frosting is purple, the whole cake will taste purple, Arthur," Merlin sighed, his lip curling at the very thought.
A laugh escaped Arthur then, "Merlin, purple isn't a flavor, it's a color!"
"It can be a flavor too!" Merlin said haughtily. "They say it's grape but in purple frosting, purple jellybeans, and purple candy hearts it does not taste anything even remotely like a grape. It tastes like chalk mixed with sugar and food coloring."
"Purple," Arthur said, just to verify what Merlin meant.
"Yes," Merlin said, pointing at the offending purple frosting covered cake, "The taste can only be described as purple because it can only be found in previously listed purple things!"
Arthur just gave him a blank look before throwing his hands up in the air, "Well at least I know why there's always just purple jellybeans left in the bag when I find it! Sheesh!" He turned, his back to Merlin for a long moment before he muttered, "So much for your birthday then.
He was upset. Merlin could hit himself for making Arthur upset. "We could, uh, make a cake? The store bought ones are never that moist anyways," he offered.
Slowly, Arthur turned, "Can I lick the frosting bowl?"
"Can we have purple frosting?"
25 – Devotion
"Merlin," Arthur said quietly, batting Merlin's hands away from his armor, "You are no longer my servant. You don't need to do that."
Merlin barely cast his king a glance before going back to strapping on the breast plate over Arthur's chain mail. It was the eve before they were to meet Mordred and Morgana on the field of battle and the air hung heavy even inside the hopefully bright Pendragon red and gold tent. "This isn't about being your servant, you prat," Merlin ground out as he crouched to adjust Arthur's belt which was, quite clearly, twisted.
"Then what is it about?" Arthur asked as he watched Merlin move to slide his shoulder plates into place.
Silence reigned for a long moment before Merlin spoke again, "It's about . . ." He paused, "I can't really find a word for it, actually."
Arthur laughed, though Merlin could hear that there was little heart in the sound. "Merlin, what ever am I going to do with you," he smiled.
Merlin straightened before moving to Arthur's front to adjust the mail around the king's neck. "That's just it, isn't it," he said softly, letting his fingers run down the cool metal breastplate, "You don't have to do anything. Ever. You don't have to do anything with me because no matter what, I will always be here." He let his hand linger over the left side of Arthur's chest before drawing it away, "I'll always be by your side. In this lifetime, and the next and the next and the next until the end of time." He drew in a shaky breath, "And I . . . That won't ever change because I swear I won't ever leave you, or betray you."
Arthur stiffened and for a moment Merlin fear he had said the wrong thing, and took two steps back. What Gwen had done was still too fresh a wound on Arthur's heart, and Merlin should have known better than to even so much as allude to it.
Arthur reached for him then, taking Merlin's hands in his own and tugging the other close until they stood nose to nose. "That's called devotion, Merlin," he informed quietly, holding Merlin's hands tight between his own.
"Devotion," Merlin repeated.
"Yes," A smile lit Arthur's face briefly before it vanished as quickly as it had come. "And I thank you for it, Merlin. I'm glad you're here with me, here at the end of all things." Merlin nodded, unable to say anything around the lump in his throat. He wanted to say that it wasn't the end, but he knew it would be a lie. And he was so through with lying.
Arthur covered his mouth with a hand, shaking his head and taking a step back towards the door of the tent, "Don't." Again Merlin nodded, unable to do anything else as Arthur opened the flap of the tent, just steps away from meeting an unfulfilled destiny.
"Merlin," he said suddenly without turning back. Merlin looked up, watching, waiting. "I . . . And I, you." He whispered before walking out into the mist veiling the soon to be battlefield.
26 – Forever
Merlin had many years to contemplate what the title "Once And Future King" meant. He could only assume it meant that Arthur would be reborn into dozens, if not hundreds more lifetimes, over and over and farther into the future than he could ever imagine. And what was one side of the coin without the other?
For about a year, the thought terrified Merlin. Such a prophecy, such a destiny, meant that he would die, again and again, until the end of time. Worse, he would have to watch Arthur die in the same manner as well. It made him fell ill, when he gave it any serious thought, for months.
But in the end, as he gripped Arthur's blood-soaked Pendragon crest, unable to tell if the blood was actually Arthur's, or his own, he embraced it. Death and life, he embraced it all with open arms. For with every life came another chance to make things right. So many chances, infinite chances stretching on forever.
"I'll see you soon," Merlin promised as he drew back from their first, and final kiss, his words almost lost in the rain trying to wash the evidence of bloodshed away. And for once, it was a promise he could keep. Because for them, and them alone, they had forever.
27 – Blood
It always ended in blood. It was like a curse that followed them through each and every life as if it was somehow forbidden for them to die old and happy. Almost always Arthur was the first to go and Merlin could only watch, helpless and wondering if they were meant to suffer like this for eternity, living and dying in nothing but crimson blood.
28 – Sickness
Once, Merlin didn't find him until just days before he died.
Arthur was just one of many victims of smallpox when it raged uncontrolled at the height of it's time, and Merlin was just one of many physicians traveling to help where he could. Destiny never failed to throw them together. That life was one of the few in which Arthur remembered Camelot, remembered Merlin.
"Will it always be this way?" Arthur asked as he wasted away on his bed, covered in the pox sores Merlin could do nothing but cover in salve. He prayed as he worked that Arthur would be one of the few to miraculously pull through. When Merlin looked up. Arthur smiled, "This," he clarified, weakly waving a hand around the shadow covered, dank room, "Living and dying forever and ever without every having done anything worthwhile."
"You have done worthwhile things," Merlin protested, "You are the greatest king the world has ever known."
"Were, Merlin," Arthur corrected. "And now what am I? Useless. Sick. Dying. What good are any of those in this world?"
"You're not dying!" Merlin hissed, squeezing Arthur's all too limp hand.
A smile, "Don't lie to me, Merlin. And don't lie to yourself. It always ends like this. I only regret finding you too late."
"It's always too late," Merlin whispered, shaking his head.
"Maybe one day it won't be," Arthur said softly. He tilted his head towards Merlin. "One day, Merlin, I will find you before it's too late. And it won't end like this."
"I-I'll hold you too that," Merlin choked out, hiding his face in his sleeve.
"I'm glad you're here with me, Merlin."
29 – Melody
At night they used to sit on the castle wall overlooking the road down to the lower down, their legs dangling out into the nothingness that went on until the stone streets far below.
"Can you sing, Merlin?"
"Not with anything even remotely close to talent, sire," Merlin said warily, glancing at the prince out of the corner of his eyes.
Arthur laughed, "Come now, I'm sure you can sing just fine. Compose a little ditty or something for me. I know you can."
Merlin stared at him for a long moment before he looked out over Camelot again, the lights of the town below flickering in his eyes.
the walls we crashed through,
All the kingdom lights shine
just for me and you.
I was screaming long live
All the magic we made,
And bring on all the pretenders
I'm not afraid.
All the mountains we've moved,
I had the time of my life
Fighting dragon's with you.
I was screaming long live
The look on your face,
And bring on all the pretenders.
We will be remembered."
Arthur leaned back and studied his servant for a moment, "You have that written out somewhere don't you."
"Maybe," Merlin said sheepishly, looking away.
"It's quite nice."
"Really?" Arthur almost choked on the laugh that threatened to escape at the sight of the hopeful look that lit Merlin's face.
"No, idiot. That was terrible. This is why my armor is always late getting back to me polished, isn't it? You're writing poetry instead of working."
Merlin frowned before sticking his tongue out at him, "Well then see if I ever share anything with you ever again."
"If it keeps me from having to listen to the likes of that one more time then good riddance," Arthur shot back.
For a heartbeat Merlin just glared at him before opening his mouth, "LONG LIVE-"
30 – Star
When he was five, Merlin swore to everyone he met that he had seen a falling star.
"That was on new year's eve, Merlin," his mother said gently, "It was probably just a bottle rocket or some other firework."
"No," Merlin protested and he clenched his small fists stubbornly against his sides, "It was a star. I saw it," his voice wavered around the words and Hunith tried to contain the smile that threatened to form as he glared up at her, determined to be right.
"And what did you wish for?" she asked instead, holding back the smile and gazing down at her child in complete seriousness.
Merlin blinked up at her with wide blue eyes, taken aback in the face of the question. He turned his head down and stared down at his hands for a long moment, "I wished . . ." He fumbled with finding the words, words he couldn't yet pronounce let alone fully understand. But he remembered what they were supposed to mean, what they would always mean. He always remembered. "I wished," he said simply instead, nodding solemnly up at his mother, "I wished."
Hunith smiled and took Merlin's hands in her own. She pulled him close to place a kiss on his small chubby cheek while he squealed. "Wishes are beautiful things, Merlin," she told him as she placed him on her lap, "So hang onto them, and never let them go."
31 – Home
Arthur picked at the thick red of his coat, frowning down at it as he did so, "I hate this thing," he growled. "I hate this thing," he kicked the rifle at his feet, warily, barely touching the bayonet with the toe of his boot, "It's a horrible, cruel way to die." His hands went to his coat again and gripped it so tightly Merlin almost thought he meant to actually tear it off, "I hate it here! I hate this land, I hate that we're fighting for it because I know we're wrong in fighting for it." The blonde's head fell to his hands and he sighed, "We're never going home, are we."
Merlin couldn't help but chuckle softly and he nudged Arthur with his shoulder, the red of his coat indistinguishable from Arthur's upon contact. "Home? Arthur, the land that tyrant king rules is far from the Albion we called home."
"Aye," Arthur whispered, "And yet it still calls to me, Merlin. Always." He looked up, staring out at the dirt roads and outcroppings of small houses huddled together in the distance. "Do you think there will be war here, Merlin? I can feel it looming each time the people here lay eyes on us. They look at us like we are strangers, enemies."
Merlin tilted his head and considered the distant town, "Yes, I suppose there will be. But not for awhile yet. They haven't yet learned to fight for themselves, they rely on the military," he tugged at his own red coat for clarification, "far too much still."
Arthur shook his head, "Yes, we are so very, very far from home," he whispered. He looked up when Merlin stayed silent, "And you, Merlin?"
"Do you not miss it? Albion? Camelot?"
Merlin glanced at him, a slight smile gracing his features, "Both as we knew them are long gone, Arthur. Missing them will not turn back time." He shrugged when Arthur gave him an offended look, as if not missing Camelot was some sort of grievous crime, "Besides, my home has always been with you, Arthur. Wherever you are, then that is where I belong. To me, that is home."
Arthur stared at him for a heartbeat before he rolled his eyes, "Merlin, sometimes you are such a girl."
"So you have told me."
32 – Confusion
Merlin would never get over the blank look that Arthur would give him. He would never be able to shake the way Arthur would gaze at him when Merlin finally found him, in complete and utter confusion. In most lives, that was how it was. Merlin could count on one hand the number in which Arthur recalled Camelot, or recalled him.
"Arthur!" he couldn't help himself from shouting when he would catch sight of the man he had once called king. He had searched for so long, each and every time. And each and every time his heart leapt when his search would finally end.
But then Arthur would turn and stare at him with empty blue eyes, one eyebrow raised in confusion as he asked, "Do I know you?"
Just like the first time.
And just like the first time, Merlin would hold out his hand with a smile, holding back the wash of grief as he said, "Sorry, my name is Merlin." Each new beginning was harder than the last.
33 – Fear
After the first few times, Merlin stopped being afraid to die. But he never, ever, lost the fear he felt whenever Arthur's life was in danger.
"So you admit to not collecting the tax correctly," the soldier stated. He pressed the point of his bayonet against Arthur's throat and Merlin inhaled sharply, fear clawing at his stomach as he watched.
"If I had collected the amount the king ordered the colonists would starve," Arthur said calmly.
"It is not your place to decide what is better for the colonists!" the soldier hissed, pressing the blade just hard enough to draw blood, a thick drop staining the metal.
Arthur's gaze didn't waver, "And yet it is fine for the king to leave them to their deaths?"
"Arthur, stop," Merlin pleaded. It was too soon, it was always too soon, but he could feel death looming over them like a cloud now, inevitable.
"Merlin," Arthur whispered, "I would rather die doing what is right than as a coward who does nothing but follows a tyrant's orders." He raised his chin towards the soldier, a challenge in his blue eyes as he did so.
Merlin screamed as the rifle went off and Arthur slumped, falling back. The soldier who had been holding the gun was flung against the wall opposite as Merlin moved, what little magic he had left roiling with anger within him. Faintly, he registered the cries of, "Witchcraft!" that went up among the few soldiers gathered in the room as they helped their comrade up, but he didn't care.
Arthur lay unmoving and Merlin touched the hole in his head with shaking fingers, the warmth of the blood making him gag. "Well?" he snapped without looking up from the body. He could feel the other soldiers baring down on him, one by one. "Are you going to shoot me or not? You'll really be cowards if you return to your king after failing to stop a sorcerer," He turned dangerous gold eyes at them, completely unafraid, "Come on then, let's see what you can do."
34 – Lightning/Thunder
His magic never got out of control, but it came close to it once. Just once. It should have been just a simple border patrol not far from Ealdor, but within minutes it turned into a full blown battle as their small company was ambushed. There weren't many, no more than a score of bandits, and Merlin had seen bands much larger and more skilled. But they had only brought a few and had expected no trouble. Merlin had taken his eyes off of Arthur for only a moment as he fought back to back with Gawain, he'd only looked away when he heard Lancelot shout before another knight leapt into the fray at his side to help him.
He should have never looked away, for when he looked back it was only to see Arthur go down in the throng.
After that he remembered very little. He remembered the crack of thunder when he had howled in rage and the sparks of lighting when he had struck down the bandits who had taken his king from him, one by one until they were nothing but ashes and soot.
And then he found himself blinking open his eyes too bright sunlight and a cool cloth on his forehead.
"He's coming round! Lancelot for god's sake stop hording your waterskin and give it to me!"
Water trickled into his mouth and Merlin blinked the light from his eyes, trying to see more than just fuzzy shapes hovering over him. When he finally was able to focus his eyes he sat up so fast his head spun, "Y-you!"
Arthur rolled his eyes and placed a hand on Merlin's shoulder to try to get him to lay back down as he retrieved the wet cloth that had fallen into the dirt, "Don't sit up you utter fool. You have a concussion." He huffed as Merlin batted his hands away and stiffened in surprise when the young warlock threw his arms around his neck.
"I thought they had killed you," Merlin mumbled into his shoulder.
Gawain laughed then, his hands on his knees in an effort to keep himself standing. "That's what the lighting storm was about? I'd hate to see what would happen if he really did die."
"Don't even joke," Arthur warned, pointing a finger at him before he curled the same hand into Merlin's hair.
35 – Bonds
"Do you love daddy?"
Merlin blinked down at Marian, startled. He closed the book of Grim's Fairytales he'd been reading to her and folded his hands in his lap. He chose his words carefully, remembering a similar encounter long ago, lifetimes ago. "You could say there is a bond between us."
Marian gazed up at him with the same blue eye's as her father bore and Merlin met them head on, wondering if a child of her age could possibly understand.
"You love him," she said finally, pursing her lips as though daring him to avert the question again.
He smiled and lifted her up onto his lap, watching as she fiddled with the buttons on his coat. "I'm not sure love is the right word," he murmured when she glanced up at him again. "The way the word love is thrown around these days, I feel almost as if it isn't strong enough to describe what Arthur means to me."
Marian smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress where she sat, "What word works then?"
"I don't know," Merlin answered honestly, "What word is there for describing someone who means everything to you?"
36 – Market
"Can I ride in the buggy?"
Merlin cast Arthur a withering look, "Exactly how old do you think you are? Because I would be very surprised if a grown man could fit in one of these things." He continued rolling the shopping buggy down the aisle, Arthur trailing dejectedly after him.
"But Merlin . . . This is so boring!"
"You could actually help me find things on the list," Merlin suggested, waving the piece of paper under Arthur's nose while the other frowned at him.
" . . . Can I stand on the end of the buggy while you push?" He asked plaintively, "I can throw things from the shelves into the basket when we pass them. Please?"
Merlin sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Fine, go ahead," he said after a moment of consideration.
He couldn't help but smile when Arthur let out a whoop.
37 – Technology
Merlin was screaming. He was actually screaming. And Arthur was ten seconds away from freaking the hell out because in all of his collective memory, Merlin only ever screamed when something was seriously wrong. "Merlin!" he yelled, grabbing the other by the shoulders from where he was crouched in front of the television, "Merlin, what on earth is wrong?"
"The-the-" Merlin gestured at the TV, "It didn't record the Supernatural season finale!"
Arthur just stared at him in disbelief, "Uh . . ."
"How am I supposed to find out what happens now?" Merlin screeched.
Okay. Arthur, let his grip on Merlin's shoulders loosen before he let his head fall onto one in a mixture of relief and exasperation. "Merlin, it's just a show. For a moment there I thought you were dying or something. Bloody hell."
"You don't understand!" Merlin exclaimed, his voice still an octave too high for Arthur's ears. "Castiel betrayed Dean and was working with Crowley and Dean said he'd have to kill him and in the trailer that stupid Lisa woman was back and Sam's wall was breaking and Raphael-"
Arthur put a hand to his mouth, "You have an unhealthy attachment to that stupid American show, and we are going out to dinner because I have no idea what you just said. And I also don't care."
"But I need to know if Dean and Castiel-"
The blond pulled him to his feet and silenced him with a kiss, waiting until Merlin, as per usual, utterly melted into him before pulling away. "You can find out what happens to Dean and C-" he frowned, "Ca . . . Cack-a-lack-a-poo-poo or whatever after dinner. I'm sure Gwen recorded it."
Merlin frowned at the utter mutilation of the character's name but decided against taking time to correct Arthur. "You think she recorded it?" he asked instead.
"I would be surprised if she didn't. And," he glanced over Merlin's shoulder at the DVD recorder on the shelf below the television, eyebrows raising as he took in the sparking wires and the little wisp of smoke starting to rise from it, "Was killing the recorder really necessary?"
"I hate technology," Merlin grumbled, smiling when Arthur threw back his head and laughed.
38 – Gift
"So where's my midwinter gift?" Arthur asked as he threw his cloak over the chair in front of the fireplace.
Merlin glanced up from where he was smoothing out the blankets on the prince's bed, "Oh, was I supposed to get you one?" He put on his best innocent face, watching as Arthur's expectant smile faltered, "I just can't afford anything that would suit someone like yourself on my measly servant's salary."
Arthur glared at him before stalking closer, "You-" Merlin interrupted him with a laugh before shoving him backwards onto the bed. "Merlin!" the blond yelped as Merlin climbed over him, "This is indecent!"
"Oh shut up, you prat," Merlin hissed in his ear before flopping down beside him across the blankets. He clapped his hands and raised his fingers towards the canopy of the bed, still far out of reach from where he lay. "Watch."
Arthur turned his eyes to where Merlin's fingers were tracing through the air, "What-"
"Will you just watch?" Merlin asked, exasperated. He shoved Arthur with his shoulder, smirking when Arthur shoved him back. "Just watch."
Slowly a pinprick of light blinked into existence on the canopy over Arthur's bed, so bright that for a moment the prince thought Merlin had set the hangings on fire. Another appeared not far from it, the little points of light multiplying before his eyes at each place Merlin pointed to with his upraised hands. After a heartbeat or two, Arthur realized he could pick out familiar patterns he would recognize anywhere. He easily made out the swan, the hunter, and the bear, and he inhaled as he found the brightest of what he now realized were stars above his pillow. "Merlin . . ." He breathed, awed.
"Wanna see something even better?" Merlin twisted his wrist. The stars began to drift towards each other, beginning a step-less dance around the canopy as Merlin directed them, in circles and spirals, forming shapes Arthur never thought stars could make, more intricate and detailed than any actual constellation. They spelt out words and mapped out familiar pathways and roads, each new design leaving Arthur breathless.
With a wave Merlin put them back as they had been, an exact replication of the sky outside the castle. "If you'd like, I could leave them there."
"That would be . . ." Arthur couldn't find the words. He pushed himself up onto his elbows and glanced down at Merlin, "My father might see though, and what would I tell him then."
Merlin clapped and the stars flickered out, "Just clap your hands, and they will come and go as you wish them to." He smiled when Arthur looked taken aback by the forethought he'd put into it. "Is that a good enough midwinter gift for you, sire?"
"Considering that now I feel bad for only getting you that knife, I'd say it does," Arthur said, surprisingly serious.
"That knife is one of the most expensive looking things I have ever seen, Arthur," Merlin laughed.
"Yes," Arthur agreed, "But expensive gifts hardly compare to giving someone the stars." He smiled, ruffling Merlin's hair, "You really are something, Merlin."
"Something?" Merlin asked as he shoved Arthur away before running a hand through his hair to try and fix it. "What sort of something?"
"Something weird," Arthur decided. He laughed as Merlin somehow managed to make a piece of hair in the middle of his head stick straight up. 39 – Smile
There was a certain smile Arthur only wore around Merlin. It was different from the one he used when speaking to crowds, a false thing plastered on for duty alone. It was far different from the one he had worn when he first fell in love with Gwen, that gentle smile that had seemed, to Merlin, so easy to break at a moment's notice. And it was not the grim smile he wore in the face of battle or other such dark circumstances.
"What is this smile?" he asked one day of what he had come to consider as the "Last Life."
Arthur tilted his head, the smile fading into utter confusion, "What sort of question is that?"
"It's different from your other smiles," Merlin said, trying to describe it. He leaned across the coffee table towards him and watched as the faint smile lit Arthur's features again as he did so. "There! That smile! You only smile like that at me, and I've never asked what it means before."
Arthur laughed when Merlin traced his lips with a finger, "This? This is the smile that says, 'Merlin you are a complete and utter idiot,'" Merlin frowned, but Arthur went on, " 'but I still love you, for some ridiculous reason that can not be described.'"
Merlin froze, hand still raised towards Arthur's mouth, "But you . . . You've worn that same smile since Camelot," he protested.
"And?" Arthur inquired, catching the upraised hand and bringing it to his mouth. He placed a kiss to Merlin's palm.
Merlin shook his head, tears welling in his eyes, "Nothing . . . It's nothing."
Arthur looked down, "I'm sorry I took so long," he whispered against the lifeline of Merlin's hand, smiling when Merlin simply hiccupped in reply.
40 – Innocence
"Why is mommy leaving?"
Merlin let his eyes fall to Marian, the little girl clinging to his leg so hard he knew that later he'd find that the thread of his pants would be torn slightly where her nails dug in. He knelt down where he stood in the hall, taking her hands in his own, "Your mother . . ." He stopped, unsure of how to explain adultery to a child, let alone the concept of an illusion driven love. "Your mother," he tried again, "Is tired of living a lie. She loves your father dearly, she really does. But it is a love held up by fantasies and rules, and it's not as real as she wishes it was."
Marian blinked up at him, and Merlin knew she didn't quite understand. "Merlin, you're not leaving too, are you?"
"Never," Merlin promised as he squeezed her hands reassuringly, "I am your father's servant, and I will stay at his side until the day I die." He smiled when she nodded as if that was all she needed to make everything right in the world again. She was still so small, so innocent, so pure. Merlin bowed his head and bit his lip as he found himself wishing he could share such innocence in times like these.
41 – Completion
The first time Arthur hooked his leg underneath Merlin's, making him tumble over backwards onto the bed behind him, he'd been so shocked that for a moment he was convinced his heart had stopped. "What are you doing?" he asked as Arthur crawled over him, the blonde's hands sliding over his skin underneath his t-shirt.
Arthur pulled back slightly, giving a Merlin a look that quite clearly translated to, "What does it look like, you idiot," before he ducked down caught Merlin's mouth with his own once more.
It took a moment for Merlin to regain his bearings from that, and when he did he shoved at Arthur. "No, seriously," he said, trying to keep his tone even, "What are you doing?"
"Well," Arthur began, pushing Merlin's hands away and pinning them under his own, "I was going to start by taking off your shirt, then making my way down to your pants and undoing the zipper with my teeth." He grinned as Merlin went beet red, "And after I got your pants off I was going to make love to you."
"Arthur . . ."
Arthur blinked down at the conflicted look that crossed Merlin's face, "Why does it seem that you have a problem with that?" He sat up and let go of Merlin's hands as he drew back.
"I just . . ." Merlin followed him, brushing Arthur's bangs from his eyes as he did so, "Arthur, we have dancing around each other for hundreds of years, and dozens of lifetimes. I . . ." He bit his lip, "I'm almost scared of how this is turning out, you know? It's almost too . . ."
"Perfect?" Arthur finished. He framed Merlin's face with his hands as he leaned in and kissed him. "Don't you think, after all this time, that we deserve it?" He smirked when Merlin stayed silent, uncertainty still in his eyes, "Also, I am ninety-nine percent certain that you are, dare I say it, an eternal virgin. And it is thus my sworn duty to fix that."
"What? Who told you that! That is a lie!"
"He doth protest too much," Arthur crowed as he tackled Merlin down onto the mattress again, ignoring the other's indignant squawk.
And they did deserve it. Merlin watched Arthur work his way down his body exactly as he had described with glazed eyes. He watched him leave a carefully placed mark on his hip that wouldn't fade for nearly a week. He watched the way their fingers tangled together on the sheets, and how Arthur bent his head just so, breathing ragged against Merlin's collarbone. And he watched the way his own nails dragged down Arthur's back, leaving red lines as he arched his whole body beneath the blond and closed his eyes, finally feeling complete.
42 – Clouds
"Why are we stopping?" Merlin asked when Arthur dismounted from his horse suddenly.
Arthur smiled, the smile Merlin wouldn't know the meaning of for lifetimes to come, before he rolled his eyes. "Sometimes, Merlin," he said in exasperation, "It's okay to take some time and just watch the clouds go by." He gestured to the open plain of grass ahead.
"You can't be serious," Merlin gasped in disbelief.
"Completely," Arthur replied, smacking Merlin's leg as he passed, "Now get off your horse and come on. That is unless you want to sit there all day."
43 – Sky
Merlin looked up, startled, and rubbed his sleeve over his eyes when he saw Arthur standing over him. "H-how . . . What are you doing here?" he glanced around the shadow filled stables, at the hay he was sitting on and the horses only a few meters away.
Arthur crouched in front of him, patience and concern all but written across his face. "What happened, Merlin?"
"N-nothing," Merlin denied, looking away and squeezing his eyes shut, knowing his eyes would be as red and puffy as they felt.
"Merlin . . ."
"I couldn't save her . . . I was too scared to use magic, and because of that a little girl died, Arthur." He glared up at the prince, "She shouldn't have died! I could have cured her but if I did I would have certainly been found out and then I would be dead, and if I was dead I couldn't protect you and-" He inhaled as Arthur covered his mouth with a hand, cutting him off.
"It's not your fault, Merlin," he said softly.
Merlin grabbed his hand and drew it away so that he could speak again, "I know. It's just . . . I want it to be over." He bit his lip and wished the tears wouldn't well up, though he could already feel them doing just that. "I hate this. I hate hiding and being scared of what consequences my magic will bring upon me and those around me. I hate it!" He shivered when Arthur moved his hand to the side of his face, tangling his fingers into the dark hair above Merlin's ear.
"One day," he promised.
A nod was all he got in response before Merlin looked up, "Arthur . . . Why did you come find me?"
Arthur smiled sadly and shrugged before jerking his head towards the stable doors, "I've started to notice that whenever you cry, the sky cries too."
For the first time that day Merlin heard the thunder crack and the light patter of rain against the roof, and he couldn't help but laugh. Just a little.
44 – Heaven
"Do you have to go?" Merlin asked as he fisted his hands into Arthur's military coat. He took a moment to glare at the British flag on the shoulder before he turned his eyes to the blond, pleading.
"Merlin," Arthur huffed and tried his best to look annoyed though faint laughter danced in his eyes. "Merlin, it is my duty."
"Haven't you done your duty time and again?" Merlin snapped. "When is it going to end?" Arthur tilted his head in obvious confusion, and Merlin froze, realizing what he'd said. "S-sorry. It's nothing. I . . . You wouldn't understand I guess. Not this time."
Again, Arthur just gave him a bewildered look. "Whatever, you say, Merlin," he smiled, reaching up to ruffle the other's hair.
"Come on, Pendragon!"
Arthur glanced over his shoulder to the window where the truck was waiting to take him away, already stuffed with other more than willing soldiers ready to defend their country. "I have to go," he said but he paused when Merlin made a soft noise and only clung to his coat tighter. He turned back, smiling gently, "The war won't last forever, Merlin."
"You don't know that," Merlin whispered.
"And if it's not over in a year you'll be old enough to come join me," Arthur went on. "We can trade stories of battles won and other such things." Merlin continued to give him that same, hopeless, lost look. "Merlin . . ."
Merlin's brain halted whatever thought he'd been thinking as Arthur grabbed him by the collar and tugged him forward, their lips colliding. He inhaled sharply, stunned. Arthur was kissing him. Arthur was kissing him. In all the lives they'd lived, this was a first. This wasn't the anguished filled kiss Merlin had given him as they died, and it certainly didn't feel like a dream. He twisted his hands tighter into Arthur's uniform an found that he couldn't help but think, "This is what heaven must feel like."
Arthur drew away, "I will come back," he promised before he pried Merlin's hands off his coat, turning and heading out the door without another word.
45 – Hell
Merlin should have known better. He should have known that heaven, of all things, wasn't meant to last. He willed the tears not to well in his eyes as he read the list over again, just to make sure he hadn't been mistaken. It must have been the hundredth time he'd done so in the past hour. They'd been so close this time, and now . . .
He swallowed, fighting back the tears that threatened to well up with everything he had as he turned. He took a step towards the table not far away, and another and another until he stood over it. Without hesitation he presented his information, name, date of birth, height, weight, etcetera, waiting as he was handed a green uniform of the same shade Arthur's had been as well as instructions on when and where the truck would pick him up.
He cast one last glance at the list on the wall behind him.
Casualties Of War:
For every heaven, there was a hell. And he refused to cry. Not this time.
46 – Sun
Merlin hated winter. He hated the cold, he hated the snow, and he hated the way Arthur whined about the cold and the snow.
But he loved the Midwinter festivities. He loved the feast where for one night servants and nobility dined at one table together. He loved the dances and stories, and the way Gawain always managed to drink far too much and ended up clinging to Lancelot and sobbing about how they were both so alone and that it was just so unfair. He loved the gifts he got from Arthur, little things he kept close like the finely crafted knife, or intricate things he gave a special spot in his room like the crystal dragon.
Despite that, however, he didn't much like the tradition of staying up on Midwinter night to watch the sun rise. Whoever thought that was a brilliant idea, to stay up until dawn on the longest night of the year wherein they partied and feasted and danced and drank until they were about to pass out, was an idiot. At least in Merlin's opinion.
Somehow though Gwen always ended up being too busy to go watch the sunrise, either helping the nights off the floor (many ended up there before the night was over more often than not), gossiping with her ladies in waiting about who had kissed who while they were drunk out of their minds, or falling asleep long before sunrise. Which meant that for an hour or so, for one night a year, Merlin had Arthur all to himself.
Too bad he was usually too tired to really care.
"Come on, Merlin, quit dozing off!" Arthur said, shaking him awake. They were sitting on the wall overlooking the main road out of Camelot, and Merlin scooted back from the edge a bit more as he snapped awake again. One of these years he was going to fall right off. He would be fine if he did, of course, he was sure his magic would prevent him from dying such an utterly stupid death. But Arthur, he feared, might die of a heart attack or something if he did.
"M'not sleeping," he said finally, rubbing at his eyes. "I'm just blinking really, really slowly."
Arthur snorted, "Really now. I haven't heard that one before," he said sarcastically.
"Shut up," Merlin muttered, shivering as the wing whipped up. Stupid winter, stupid waiting for the sun to rise tradition. "Arthur," he whined, leaning heavily against the king, "It's too cold for this."
The blond let out a long, suffering sigh. "Honestly, Merlin," he huffed in exasperation before he threw an arm around Merlin's shoulder's dragging him closer. Merlin let out a satisfied hum.
As warm and comfortable as he was, Merlin wasn't surprised that he drifted off to sleep just like he did every year. And as with most years, he woke up when Arthur whispered, "Merlin, the sun is up," in his ear. Shortly followed by, "Merlin, get off and wake up already! The sun is up," when Merlin didn't fully wake up after the first time.
And Merlin may or may not have just pretended to be asleep when Arthur complained and finally grew tired of his own complaining and picked Merlin up. He also probably pretended to be asleep when Arthur carried him to his room. And he most certainly pretended to be asleep when Arthur set him in his bed and tucked him in before deciding that his own room was, "Just too far away," and that he was, "Just too tired," to go all the way there before collapsing beside him.
He pretended to be asleep and didn't comment that Arthur's room was, as it had been since Uther's death, right next door.
47 – Moon
Merlin knew his magic was slowly fading over the many lifetimes he lived through. Maybe fading wasn't the right word though. He could still feel it, all of it, coiled up inside him untapped, but the amount he was able to access became more and more limited each time he was reborn. Sometimes he wondered if it had to do with belief. He wasn't able to even touch his magic during either of the great wars, but it surged within him now, nearly as powerful as it had been in Camelot. He chalked it up to how much people believed in such things. That and Harry Potter.
While he could find little use for it outside of making Arthur trip and blaming it on the blond just being clumsy by nature, he did enjoy the feeling of it coursing freely through him.
Currently, he was playing with the moonlight that was leaking in through the window. It had fallen like a veil across Arthur's chest while he slept, and Merlin smiled as he shaped it into whorls and waves, making the light dance and ripple across Arthur's chest.
"While I'm sure you find this highly entertaining," Arthur grumbled without opening his eyes, "If you get any of the light in my eye one more time, I will hurt you."
Merlin just hummed in response and shapeed a unicorn out of the moonbeams before sending it galloping over Arthur's chest and onto his face.
"Merlin . . ."
The unicorn was followed by a dragon, it's silver moonlit wings enveloping the whole room in light as it took off, crashing into the ceiling and exploding into thousands of tiny moonlight drops.
"Merlin! It is two in the morning!" Merlin shrieked as Arthur tackled him down into the mattress, his cry dissolving into peels of laughter as Arthur dug his fingers into his ribs.
48 – Waves
Merlin loved the summer. He especially loved it in his more recent lives wherein it did not involve tournaments, mucking stables, and long border patrols. Rather, he found himself enjoying things like lack of school in his younger years, and family trips in his latter. Or in this case, trips with Arthur.
There were rules set in place about trips with Arthur, however. One being that if they let slip they were going anywhere, it turned into a trip with friends. Another was that Merlin was not, under any circumstances, allowed to drive. He should have expected as much seeing as he'd never been particularly brilliant at riding a horse in the past, and cars rather tended to scare him when he was behind the wheel. The third rule was the if it turned into a trip with friends, neither Gwen nor Gawain was allowed to pick the destination. Ever.
He'd learned his lesson when Gwen had driven them to a candle making place, and he'd learned an even bigger lesson when Gawain had tricked them into going to a cheese factory. Neither of which had been an experience Merlin would label as fun. Especially the cheese one.
But going to the beach, as suggested by the ever clever Morgana, was a great idea. Letting her suggest it meant everyone had to come, however, which left next to no alone time with Arthur.
They played in the water for a good hour or so, during which they discovered that Gwen freaked out when the water got too deep or if you screamed "Shark!" Even though, really, why would there be sharks in England? They also realized that while Lance looked good in a bathing suit, his water fighting techniques were utter crap, and after a few minutes had him retreating. Gawain didn't like swimming and preferred to sunbath, as did Morgana. But if you splashed Morgana she would chase you and dunk you until you were all but drowned.
Merlin also discovered that the best way to win during a water fight was the drag Arthur under the waves and kiss him until all the air left him and he was forced to forfeit.
"You're going to get a sunburn," Arthur said above him when he noticed Merlin stretched out on a towel across the sand.
"Neergghh," Merlin grumbled, not really in the mood to move.
Arthur smiled and stretched himself out over the raven haired boy, tangling their fingers together as he leaned down to kiss him. "I'll just give you some shade then," Arthur grinned.
It was then that Morgana dumped a bucked of sea water on them.
49 – Hair
"Your hair is getting long," Arthur said one day while Merlin was tying the laces on his tunic.
"I hadn't noticed," Merlin said semi-honestly. He hadn't noticed until Gawain had pointed it out the day before and offered to cut it for him. And then pulled out his sword. Merlin had run.
Arthur watched him for a moment before reaching up and fingering a lock of his servant's hair, "I could cut it for you, if you want."
Merlin glanced up at him warily, "With a sword?"
"No, of course not," Arthur laughed, "Who does that?"
"Gawain, apparently," Merlin grumbled.
The prince shook his head and sat down on the edge of his bed, "There's this thing, Merlin, called a pair of scissors. Go and get some from the tailor, would you?"
When Merlin came back Arthur was holding a small basin filled with water, which he promptly dumped over Merlin's head as soon as he saw him before moving back to the edge of the bed as if nothing had happened.
"A-Arthur!" Merlin sputtered as he tried to wring out his shirt, "What was that for?"
"Wet hair is easier to cut," Arthur stated. He lifted up a comb, "Now come over here," he pointed at the space of floor by his feet, "And sit."
Reluctantly, Merlin sat with his back to Arthur. Though he took special care to drip as much water on Arthur's feet as possible. Arthur snaked a hand around him and tilted his chin up as he ran the comb through Merlin's hair. Merlin winced when he hit a snag a moment later and Arthur rolled his eyes behind him.
"Merlin, don't you ever brush your hair?"
"Not with fancy wooden combs like that," Merlin grumbled, hissing as Arthur started to pick at another little knot.
Once Arthur was done combing through his hair he took up the scissors Merlin had retrieved for him. Merlin twisted around to glare at the blades of it before Arthur could start mangling his hair, "Are you absolutely sure you know what you're doing?"
Arthur simply gave him a wry grin, "Merlin, don't you trust me?"
Merlin swallowed, "Ummm . . ."
"Turn back around," Arthur ordered, and Merlin did.
In all seriousness, Merlin half expected to have his ear chopped in half or end up bald at the end of the whole experience. But neither happened. Arthur took different sections of hair between his first two fingers and stretched them out fully, cutting them with the same expert skill he wielded in battle. He tilted Merlin's head back when he cut Merlin's bangs, brushing the fallen hair out of his eyes as he worked. Oddly enough, Merlin felt almost relaxed, even with Arthur brandishing a pointy object so near his face. He hardly noticed that though. Instead he noticed Arthur's legs on either side of his shoulders, Arthur's hands in his hair, and the gentle touches to the back of his neck or the sides of his face when Arthur needed him to turn his head a certain way.
And all in all, his hair came out looking quite good, if he said so himself.
50 – Supernova
Merlin was sitting in the airport lobby, waiting for Gwen to get back from her exchange student program. It was their first year of university, and he was more than a little upset that for the second half of it he'd had to come home every day to an empty flat. Of course when she said she'd wanted to spend a semester abroad in America, he'd encouraged her. He just hadn't realized how lonely it would be. Gwen was all he had. Well, her and Lance. But in all honesty Lance was utterly useless with her gone and most of what should have been fun times out as mates going to a game or a bar was spent listening to Lance sigh a lot. Actually, that was what Merlin had come to call him under his breath. Lance-sigh-a-lot. He thought it was quite catchy.
Lance, however, had to work that day. Something he protested heavily against because he wanted to go meet Gwen at the airport as well but apparently his boss was, quote, "An evil, evil being who doesn't understand true love." Merlin had just rolled his eyes at that.
Sighing himself, Merlin leaned back in his seat and glared daggers at the gate, wondering just how long it took someone to get off a plane, go through international, checking, and then grab their bags. He checked his watch; it appeared it took at least an hour. His sigh turned to a groan. Women.
That was when Gwen burst through the crowds milling through the gate and nearly tackled Merlin to the ground, still holding her bags by the way. "I've missed you so much!" she squealed. "America was amazing! I have so many stories to tell you and Lance and oh! I've missed Lance so, so much!"
"He's working," Merlin reminded when she glanced around for said man.
"I was hoping he'd scrap that and come anyways," she admitted with a laugh.
"I'm afraid he's much too noble," Merlin huffed. He smiled at her, watching as she practically bounced up and down as she started telling him about something or another that had happened in America, and he leaned down to grab her suitcase from the floor, about to suggest that they continue this conversation in the cab.
His eyes latched onto something familiar behind her as he leaned down, however, and he froze.
A young woman was standing not too far away, talking with a man who was pushing a trolley of what was, Merlin supposed, her suitcases. Her long dark hair flowed down a little past her shoulders and was being tugged on by a small boy of no more than two with striking blue eyes and hair just a shade lighter than hers.
Never once, in all of his lifetimes, had Merlin encountered Morgana and Mordred after Camelot. Once or twice he'd heard of Arthur speak of a sister, or Gwen of a dear friend. But he had never actually seen her. And god forbid he should ever see those cold blue eyes of Mordred again for as many lifetimes as he lived. But there was no mistaking the child or the woman holding him.
However, after blinking a few times, Merlin found that he wasn't looking at what he expected. Morgana's smile as she cooed at the child was not the calculating, utterly cruel smile he'd seen her wear in the years before he died in Camelot. Nor were Mordred's eyes cold. Instead, the child's eyes were filled with nothing but laughter as Morgana made a face at him, her own expression made of only love and joy.
"Merlin, you've been bent over for five minutes now, are you all right?"
Merlin shook himself, straightening as Gwen peered down at him with concern, "No, I'm fine," he said sheepishly, "I just sort of, um, zoned out there for a bit."
Gwen just shook her head, "Sometimes you are so strange, Merlin."
"So I've been told," he muttered before he reached for her bag again, this time keeping his attention on the task at hand.
"Hurry up, brother dear!"
Merlin froze at Morgana's voice, unexpectedly loud as he stood and hefted up the bag at his side. He hadn't heard it like that, so carefree, since his first days in the castle so many lifetimes ago. Smiling to himself he turned, ready to lead Gwen out to the car park to hail down a cab. Then Morgana's words registered in his mind.
His heart leapt to his throat and he willed himself not to look, not to get his hopes up. So many lifetimes he'd been too late. Why wouldn't this be one of them, despite his promises? They always found each other too late. It wasn't as if he hadn't searched, Merlin was constantly scanning the crowds as he walked through them, wishing, hoping, praying to see the glint of blond hair or the flash of sky-blue eyes.
And there he was, pushing through the people milling aimlessly about the gate holding a toy train above his head as he worked his way to Morgana's side. He handed the train to Mordred as he reached them, rolling his eyes when Morgana thanked him with false praises about how brave and noble he was to go back into the crowd to retrieve the toy.
"Merlin?" Gwen put her hand on his arm and Merlin realized he was standing utterly still as people steered around him, giving him odd looks as they passed.
But how could he move? In every lifetime, each and every time, he and Arthur would meet and then they would die. Without fail. What if they didn't meet this time? Would Arthur live? Would Merlin? If he just walked away right now maybe they would continue down separate paths and for once live out full and healthy lives. Or maybe they wouldn't.
He didn't get a choice, however, for at the exact moment Gwen had latched onto his arm, calling his name, Arthur had looked up. The blond stiffened where he stood with one hand on Mordred's head in mud hair-ruffle, and Merlin found he couldn't breath as their eyes met across the space as if the people between them no longer existed.
Slowly, almost as if he was afraid walking too fast would dispel the illusion, Arthur crossed that space. Merlin watched each step, his mind racing. He must be coming over here to meet Gwen, isn't that how it always starts? Or maybe I have something on my face, or my shirt is on inside out and he's just being a good pedestrian and coming to inform me.
Arthur stopped right in front of him. He couldn't have been much older than twenty, Merlin thought as he stared. And then he realized that, yeah, he was staring, so he promptly turned his gaze to the floor instead, his ears burning with embarrassment.
It wasn't even a question, just a statement as if it was something he already knew long before he'd set eyes on the younger boy across the room. Merlin shivered at the thought.
Suddenly Arthur's hands were on his face, tilting his head up and forcing him to meet his eyes, "Do you know who I am, Merlin?"
As if he could ever forget. Merlin swallowed and squinted his eyes to keep himself from crying. "You're a prat," he said as he smiled shakily, "And a royal one."
A slow smile spread across Arthur's face. Merlin held his breath, willing himself not to hope. But then Arthur's hands had moved to cup his cheeks and his lips were on Merlin's. It was entirely different from their two previous kisses throughout their dozens of lives, and it wasn't in the face of death or born of a fervent hope. It was made of nothing but passion, finally fulfilled promises, and something that tasted just a little bit like destiny. It all coiled up inside of Merlin and exploded as Arthur pulled him close, like a supernova hitting every nerve in his body and eliminating any reasonable thought from his mind other than closer and finally.
He twisted his fingers into the front of Arthur's t-shirt, dragging him impossibly closer. Faintly, in the background, he could hear Gwen's startled gasp and Morgana's excited squeal mixed in with the mutterings of the other people in the waiting area. But frankly, Merlin didn't care.
After a heartbeat or two more Arthur pulled back and rested his forehead against Merlin's as he caught his breath. "I finally found you," he murmured, the words turning into a broken laugh as Merlin sobbed in response and flung his arms around him.
A/N: And DONE. Holy crap wtf is this.
So, let's see. All of this is bits and pieces from a multichapter I planned out when I first started watching Merlin. But I have way too many unfinished multichapters as it is so I never got up the guts to write it. However, I've been messing with various fifty themes projects and decided to shape said multichapter into one of them, which I think turned out quite nicely. :D
I shall now, for your convenience, make a list of which themes are in the same time period/lifetime and what years approximately incase it wasn't quite clear.
01 – Comfort, 02 – Kiss, 03 – Soft, 04 – Pain, 05 – Potatoes, 06 – Rain, 07 – Chocolate , 08 – Happiness, 15 – Touch, 17 – Tears, 18 – Speed, 19 – Wind, 23 – Hands, 25 – Devotion, 26 – Forever, 29 – Melody, 34 – Lightning/Thunder, 38 – Gift, 42 – Clouds, 43 – Sky, 46 – Sun, 49 – Hair All take place in the original, Merlin universe. AKA, Camelot.
16 – Weakness, 21 – Life, 27 – Blood, 32 – Confusion Are all general ones that apply to all timelines.
28 – Sickness takes place sometime around 1500 during a blight of Small Pox. Arthur DOES remember the past.
20 – Freedom takes place during the Salem Witch Trials. Arthur DOES NOT remember the past.
31 – Home,33 – Fear Take place around the year 1750 in America, thirty years before the Revolutionary War. Arthur DOES remember the past.
11 – Name Is set in 1794 during the French Revolution. Arthur DOES NOT remember the past.
22 – Jealousy, 35 – Bonds, 40 – Innocence All happen sometimes around 1850- 1863 (The later being the year in which Arthur and Merlin die in that specific lifetime.) This part of the verse also features, god forbid, an OC child. Actually, I've had Marian in mind as Gwen and Arthur's child for ages, despite my utter disproval of the pairing that produced her. B Arthur DOES NOT remember the past.
13 – Death Takes place in the first World War, Arthur DOES remember the past.
44 – Heaven, 45 – Hell Are set in the second World War. Arthur DOES NOT remember the past.
09 – Telephone, 10 – Ears, 12 – Sensual, 14 – Sex, 24 – Taste, 30 – Star, 36 – Market, 37 – Technology, 39 – Smile, 41 – Completion, 47 – Moon, 48 – Waves, 50 – Supernova Are the fluff pieces, and take place in the present day, or as Merlin calls it the "Last Life," and in Arthur's terms, "The one where we finally got our shit together." Arthur DOES remember the past in this one.