Merlin really quite adored his job, even though when anyone asked what he did for a living he would be forced to give the embarrassing explanation that began with “I make swords” and middled with “no one ever actually uses them—I just think they’re sorta beautiful,” before he quickly added “also, not an innuendo.”
It had started out as a hobby from his school days—a fascination with medieval history, that somehow mixed with his love of art and ended with him printing out endless pictures of ancient weaponry from Google images and filling up sketchbook after sketchbook with drawings and plans. He spent most of his adolescence alone in the art department, with his hands gluey with paper mache and chicken wire, or else smeared with clay as he shaped and sculpted, beaming when something sharp edged and interesting appeared before him.
It was a strange passion, but he felt he had as little choice in it as he did about being attracted to men and having the same name as a legendary, bearded wizard. And, like both of those things, Merlin simply picked it up and ran with it, hoping it would take him someplace awesome.
Luckily for him, he considered where he had ended up, which at that moment was in his own personal smithy at one thirty in the morning, with his face flushed from the engulfing heat of the place and bloody Excalibur being born from his fingers, to be supremely awesome
He found himself blinking in wide-eyed wonder at his own creation, teeth catching at his bottom lip as he observed the shining blade, and the twisting handle that still glowed and gleamed with a hotness that swirled beneath the surface.
He wasn’t sure what had inspired him to make it...just a sudden urge to do something pointless and cool, and now he had a replica of King Arthur’s sword in front of him.
“Holy shit, I am just the best thing. Thisis totally the best thing.” he muttered to himself, grinning as he said it, fully aware that he had dirt and sweat on his face, and that everyone else in the country was probably asleep by now.
Well. He assumed that everyone else was asleep, right up until there was a pounding on the door, and a loud yell of:
“Where the hell am I? This better be the twenty-first century or so help me that bloody dragon will be in for it...oh, Christ. In the name of King Arthur and all that is holy, open the fucking door!”
Merlin froze where he sat, gaping towards where the voice was coming from and quickly going through all he knew of self defence in his head. He was just going over the logistics of grabbing and twisting another bloke’s balls, when he remembered where he was, and how there was a crossbow within inches of his right hand, a dagger about a centimetre to his left, and let’s not forget the newly created Excalibur on the workbench in front of him.
“I’m going to be fine.” He told himself firmly, even as the pounding on the door continued and grew louder. “I am not about to be murdered by a lunatic who appears to know that I am also a lunatic who just stayed up till one thirty making a sword.” Perhaps, he thought wildly, this was like one of those times where he had organised something with Gwen and then forgotten about it at entirely the wrong time—maybe they had arranged for someone to drop by at an ungodly hour, and pretend to be King Arthur. But Merlin didn’t think that even hewas capable of forgetting something like that and, good Lord, this guy really was quite persistent, wasn’t he?
“GO AWAY!” Merlin shouted at last, when the noise became too much for him to bear. There was a pause—a brilliant moment of silence, and then:
“I want my sword! And I want my Merlin. You absolutely haveto let me in.”
Merlin’s mouth had fallen open to create a small ‘o’ shape, as he continued to just stare at the door. After a second, he silently mouthed ‘my Merlin?’ before getting to his feet.
“Okay,” he called, “I’m going to open the door. But I’m armed, and if you try to attack me I willstab you.”
There was a snort, that was clearly derisive even through the wood, but Merlin chose to ignore it as he carefully picked up Excalibur. Luckily, it had had time to cool down so the warmth of it didn’t burn, but merely sent comforting tingles through his palm.
“All right, I’m about to open it...”
“Just get on with it.” came the irritable reply, and Merlin rolled his eyes.
“Okay, okay. But before I do, I just want to establish that my name is Merlin but I most certainly do not belong to you, whoever you are.”
“Well of courseyou’re Merlin,” the voice scoffed, “you’ve already managed to be typically incompetent and I haven’t even seen your face yet. I’m guessing you’re still the same big-eared goon as before?”
Merlin’s fingers, which had been hovering just above the door handle, faltered. “Well,” he spluttered, “I...fuck you!”
“I’ll take that a yes,” the voice drawled, and Merlin bristled. “Seriously though, you couldn’t be going any slower—it’s freezing out here, I hope you know.”
“Good.” Merlin replied firmly, feeling distinctly unnerved at this point and slightly self-conscious, but steeling himself to press down anyway and wrench the door open.
Merlin looked almost exactly as Arthur remembered him, and he wasn’t even surprised by the rush of warmth that stole up into his chest at the sight of messy dark locks, that crept down over a pale forehead and caught on eyelashes when Merlin blinked. The bright blue eyes beneath flickered for a moment, alighting with a hopeful hint of recognition, before the look vanished to be replaced by one of high suspicion.
Arthur noted the sword Merlin was clutching in his hand, and he instinctually reached over to pluck it from his grip.
“Honestly,” he began, “you and swords have never been a good combin—”
Unfortunately, at that point, he was cut off by Merlin lowering his head and battling Arthur to the ground with a cry of “GIVE THAT BACK!”
Arthur struggled with the wiry mess that was Merlin, his manservant in another world and who knew what in this one, wincing as a palm pressed into his face and knobbly knees knocked against his hips. “Ow, you numbskull, get off me—” he gave a shove, pushing until Merlin rolled off him and sat kneeling on the floor, his breath fogging the air in front of his face. “It’s my bloody sword, you idiot!”
Merlin merely gaped at him, sitting there in a pool of light spilling from inside the blacksmiths and onto the pavement. “It ruddy well is not,” he finally said, indignant. “I made it! And I don’t even know who you are!”
“I’m Arthur,” Arthur told him with a put upon sigh. “King Arthur, of Camelot? You know, the one of legend.” He gave Merlin a weak smile, “I’m sure you’ve heard of me. Uh...you and I are bound together by fate...that kind of thing...”
“I...” Merlin appeared lost for words, which was certainly a first no matter which life they were in. Arthur didn’t have long to savour the moment. “You’re insane.”
“Right.” Arthur closed his eyes for a moment. The Great Dragon had explained to him that Merlin would probably remember very little, if anything of the years he had spent as manservant to the King. He would perhaps recall nothing of how he helped unite Albion, and then pressed tentative kisses to Arthur’s jaw. Maybe he had no recollection at all of how he had sacrificed his own life to save the Kingdom—how his body had rested in the King’s arms, fingers clinging to his robes in a desperate attempt to hold on.
The Dragon had gone on and on about not telling Merlin everything at once—it wouldn’t do to overwhelm him. But Arthur had waited over a thousand years for the idiot to learn how to forge a stupid sword, and he really wasn’t prepared to hang on any longer.
“Okay, I’m insane,” he nodded, “and you are coming with me.”
It turned out that Merlin was just as easy to pick up and swing over his shoulder as the last time.
Merlin had barely a second to react before he was being lifted off the ground and held so that his bum was sticking up in the air while his torso hung down over the stranger’s back, and his feet waved wildly around his stomach. The position, although definitely mortifying and slightly scary, gave him ample room to kick, which he did with enthusiasm.
“Put me down!” he cried out, pounding his fists helplessly against Arthur’s back. “Please, put me down—I haven’t a clue who you are! I haven’t locked up the blacksmiths, oh my God—”
“Stop kicking me,” Merlin was pleased to hear the way Arthur seemed to be forcing his words out through gritted teeth, “you were the one who called me back, so youhave to deal with the consequences. I just need to find a way to help you remember...”
Merlin found that he didn’t have the strength to struggle, or try and decipher what Arthur meant, anyway. A sudden exhaustion was sweeping through him—no doubt it was due to a combination of the hour, the fact he had worked himself to the bone all week making Excalibur which now, he noticed, was hanging from Arthur’s belt, and the excitement of being bodily lifted off the street and carried away by someone he’d never met before.
“Are you going to kill me and eat me?” he mumbled after a few minutes, desperately trying to keep his eyes open. Arthur chuckled.
“Merlin, there’s nothing of you toeat.”
“Please don’t kill me.” He said, anyway.
There was a pause. “I would never do anything but protect you.” Was the answer that came, softly spoken and, Merlin thought, laced with an underlying regret that he didn’t quite understand.
It was uncomfortable being held over Arthur’s shoulder, and he could feel all the blood rushing to his head, but he sensed there would be no use in asking to be let down. Besides, he was too tired to walk now.
His last thought before he sank into unconsciousness, was how good Excalibur looked strapped around Arthur’s waist. He reached over to touch it; fingertips ghosting lovingly over the hilt. Arthur grunted, shifting him slightly so that his hand fell away.
Merlin wasn’t sure if he imagined the quiet, barely spoken, “I missed you.” That Arthur uttered, but it didn’t matter anyway as he fell asleep.
Arthur was the only one who had had to waitto be born again.
Well, Arthur and the Dragon. But that was only because Kilgharrah had never died to start with: he was still living the same life as a thousand years ago and had been kind enough to keep Arthur company as he floated up in the clouds, watching the world evolve without him, and wishing that he could go down and join it.
Everyone else he knew had simply appeared, popping up on the Earth like flowers.
Kilgharrah said that it was unusual for reincarnation to go so very wrong. The laws of creation had obviously been twisted slightly out of shape, for Arthur, and it was with some horror that he learnt how it was Merlinhe must depend on to bring him out of this in-between space.
“Is he magic in this life, too?” he had asked, frustrated that he could never spot Merlin amongst the masses of people below.
“In some ways.” Kilgharrah replied, cryptic as ever. Arthur huffed, frustrated, because Merlin had alwaysbeen magic in more ways than one.
When Arthur hadfinally felt the strange tug, like a ribbon had been threaded through the centre of his heart and was now being pulled on, he barely had time to stutter “goodbye!” to the creature who had been his only company for so many years, before he was falling, falling, falling down to Earth.
He landed outside the blacksmiths, and in his head he was running through all that he had been told:
“There is a slim chance that you may land in a different place to the one we have been watching—it could take so long to reach the ground that you don’t arrive until thirteen-thousand, or perhaps you’ll go so slowly you’ll end up going backwards through time. It really is impossible to tell...best to just close your eyes and hope for the best, I say. Remember though, you’re aiming for the twenty-first century. If you go there, everything you want and need will be waiting for you.”
That was why Arthur had slammed his hand desperately against the door, demanding to know where he was.
Now, he knew where to go without having to think about it: his feet brought him to a small house, with a strangely heart-shaped lawn and a wooden front door that was peeling paint. Arthur hesitated before pushing through the entrance gate, and walking quietly across the grass, knowing without a doubt that the house was Merlin’s.
Merlin made a soft, snuffling noise behind him, before moaning slightly and twisting.
Arthur felt his lips tilt upwards in a smile, and then he nudged at a loose stone in the doorstep, grinning more broadly when he saw the glint of a key concealed beneath. It took some manoeuvring and many whispered curses, but Arthur managed to pick the hand crafted piece of metal off the floor, shove it in the lock and twist.
Half an hour later, both he and Merlin were bundled up in Merlin’s double bed, snoring contentedly.
When Merlin woke up the next morning, it was to the smell of breakfast cooking. He yawned into his pillow before propping himself up on his elbows and looking to his left.
He was baffled to see a human-shaped dent in the mattress. Like another person had slept beside him.
What hadhe gotten up to last night?
It all came back to him, of course, in a disorientating wave and he scrambled out of bed with a yelp, glancing down to see that he was still in the same clothes as yesterday.
“Oh my God,” he whispered, breaths coming in quick gasps as he glanced around him. “Oh my God there’s a madman in my house.”
“Merlin!” the madman’s voice drifted through the bedroom door, and Merlin whimpered quietly. “Are you finally awake?”
“No?” he squeaked, as his brain was cajoled with memories of being lifted by someone claiming to be King Arthur (someone who certainly had the looksof a typical, fairytale Royal, but Merlin was determining not to dwell on that in his current condition of hysteria.)
“Do I need to pick you up again?” A head poked around Merlin’s bedroom door, and Arthur raised an eyebrow upon seeing him standing very awake and flustered in the middle of the room.
Merlin glared back, folding his arms across his chest. “Will you please explain who put you up to this? Was it Gwen? Or, God, it was Gwaine, wasn’t it? I am going to murderhim. Also, I want my sword back!”
“It wasn’t either of them,” Arthur assured him before sighing. “Look, I’d be happy to explain everything right now, but I’ve just finished cooking and it’d be great if we could eat so that all my hard efforts weren’t for nothing, and then you can ask me all the questions you like.”
“And my sword?” Merlin pressed, hands moving to hips.
Arthur closed his eyes, and seemed to be trying hard to keep himself in control. Merlin wanted to hit him—the nerve!The guy had practically kidnapped him and—
“Holy shit!” Merlin clapped a hand to his forehead, and Arthur jumped, his expression of exasperation falling away. “Shit, the blacksmiths, I didn’t lock up. Crap, if I have another break-in I will actually shoot you, Arthur. If that’s even your real name. Argh!”
“No! Don’t talk to me, you overbearing prat,” Merlin shoved past Arthur, rushing into the kitchen where the home phone was. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t even have to worry. Do you know how much those twatfaces stole last time? I’m not made of money you know,” he began punching in Gwen’s number, praying that she still had the spare keys to the smithy.
“I spent months on all this amazing shit for a film—it was only some indie production thing, but I made fucking lances and swords and even random stuff like goblets, you know? And the bastards just broke in and grabbed anything they could find.” He lifted the receiver to his ear, turning to look at Arthur with his heart in his throat. “I suppose I should just thank my lucky fucking stars that you decided to bring Excalibur with you. Whyare you looking at me like that?”
Arthur was standing there with an expression that hovered on the borders between undeniably fond, and incredibly frustrated.
After a few moments, it relaxed into something of resignation. “I woke up early, and went back there to lock up, before I made breakfast. As far as I’m aware, nothing has been lost at this point—apart from your dignity, of course. But then, there wasn’t much of that to begin with.”
Arthur smirked when Merlin’s cheeks turned a charming and familiar shade of pink as he muttered, “oh.” And put the phone down.
“As for Excalibur,” Arthur picked up the plates he’d already slid the omelettes onto (Kilgharrah had taught him how to make them during the wait) and placed them on Merlin’s little wooden table. “I put it in my room.”
Merlin hesitated, and then took a seat, eyeing the omelette in front of him warily. “You don’t have a room.” He said.
“Well,” Arthur sat down opposite him, pleased by the way Merlin no longer seemed inclined to rant or yell or kick, “I thought the spare one next to yours would suffice. I really don’t have anywhere else to go.”
There was a moment when Merlin opened his mouth, looking completely bewildered, before he just shook his head and, with the air of one throwing caution to the wind, started eating.
Arthur simply sat and observed, his own food remaining untouched as something inside him ached. He had forgotten much of his past life, over the years, but never Merlin. Never this lithe young man who was alwaysyoung, until the day he died because, dammit, he hadn’t really had the chance to live yet. He could remember the bright, soul-baring smiles and the stupid comments and the instants where he said things that’d make Arthur’s heartbeat speed up and his mouth go dry.
Arthur had been terrified he’d never be able to see Merlin again, and now he was only scared he wouldn’t be able to get everythingback: he wanted the lazy afternoons, and that first kiss that Merlin had initiated with a huff of frustration.
It was just as Arthur thought this, his hand twitching on the tabletop as he restrained himself from simply reaching over and catching Merlin’s fingers in his, that the other spoke up through a mouthful of omelette:
“If you don’t eat that, I’m going to assume you’ve poisoned me.”
Merlin watched as Arthur heaved a put upon sigh, and began to eat. Once the plate was empty, Merlin had to quickly look away before Arthur could glance up and assess that yes, Merlin did have an abnormal fascination with his throat. And his mouth. And his eyes, hairline, jaw—
Well. Merlin coughed into his hand and muttered something about tidying up, giving him an excuse to get to his feet and hurry to the sink.
It wasn’t his fault, anyway. Arthur was an attractive guy, and Merlin was really quite gay—it was only to be expected that his hormones would go into ‘let’s make this as embarrassing for Merlin as possible’ mode. For fuck’s sake.
“You said,” he began, as he squirted washing up liquid into the basin, refusing to turn and look at Arthur, “that you’d answer any questions...”
Arthur sounded mildly amused when he replied with: “I did, yes.”
“Okay. So. Who are you then? And I mean, who are you really? None of this ‘King Arthur’ bull.” He finally twisted his neck to look over his shoulder at Arthur, who was biting his lip.
“Look...” he began, “I don’t know what to tell you. Over a thousand years ago, I really wasKing Arthur of Camelot. You were this annoying peasant who—”
“—turned my life around. God, Merlin, I...” Arthur trailed off, his eyes moving to gaze somewhere near Merlin’s left ankle. “You just haveto remember.”
Merlin gave up with the washing, aware that he hadn’t really started apart from the splash of fairy liquid, and turned fully back around, scrutinising the handsome man at his kitchen table with care. There was nothing obviously familiar about him, apart from perhaps the way he had looked yesterday...Merlin had been hanging upside down at the time, but there had been a faint stirring of...of somethingin his gut, when he saw Excalibur swinging from Arthur’s waist.
“Hang on.” He said, pushing himself away from the sink and darting from the room.
When he returned, Arthur was still sitting at the table with a bemused expression, and Merlin was clutching the sword.
“Stand up,” he instructed, feeling a little awkward as he watched Arthur obey. Once they were both on their feet, he held the sword out to Arthur. “Just...I don’t know, hold it, or something.”
Arthur looked like he was trying to refrain from rolling his eyes, as he took the sword from Merlin and held it upright, so the point was reaching for the ceiling.
“Er...” Merlin blinked, chewing the inside of his cheeks. “Try and swing it. Or just do what you’d have done when...” he frowned, “when you were ‘King of Camelot’.”
Arthur really did roll his eyes this time, as he complained, “Merlin. I’ll just hit something! Your house is tiny.”
“Oi!” Merlin glared at him, “stop whining, and swing it! I’m trying to see if it’ll bring back any memories. God, I feel like an idiot.”
“You are an idiot.” Arthur quipped, instantly, and the corner of Merlin’s lips twitched.
“All right, all right!” Arthur held the hilt more firmly, appreciating the balance and feeling an adoring sense of pride when he looked at Merlin who had made it himself. Then he raised it a little higher, before swinging it down in an arc and...chopping the leg of Merlin’s table off.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Merlin danced forwards, brushing past Arthur with his hands wringing as he observed the damage. “Was that really necessary? This table’s antique!”
In all honesty, Arthur couldn’t be less interested in the antiquity of Merlin’s furniture. “Did it help?” he asked hopefully, as Merlin picked up the wooden leg and looked at the splintered end mournfully. “Do you remember anything?”
“No,” Merlin grumbled, “you’re just mad, and you kidnap people and break things, and I don’t know...you’re into role play or something.”
Arthur let out a strangled noise and whirled around so he could slam his fist against the wall, seeing as the table was no longer an option. “I am not mad. You are—were my manservant, and the bravest man I ever met in my life, even if you were rude and insubordinate and completely uselessa lot of the time. You were in love with me, Merlin.” He sucked in a breath, feeling suddenly, overwhelmingly, helpless. “And I was too. Uh. In love with you, I mean.”
Merlin blinked at him, his eyes framed by those long dark lashes. There was a silence, and for a wild second Arthur thought his confession might have sparked something in Merlin’s mind—might have jogged something locked away long ago. But then Merlin just shook his head, shrugging.
“Doesn’t ring a bell. Sorry.”
Arthur felt his shoulders slump as he sank back into one of the chairs.
“But...” Merlin continued, and Arthur’s gaze snapped back to his face. “I like you. So, if you wanted to...I mean...if you wanted to go out or something...as Arthur and Merlin from now, like 2012 Arthur and Merlin...I wouldn’t be totallyadverse to the idea.”
Arthur felt his breath catch in his throat. “You...likeme? Even though I kidnapped you?”
“And you think I’m mad?”
Arthur nodded slowly, wondering whether he should be thanking someone for this unlikely reprieve. “Okay. Okay, I can work with that. But I don’t know the city very well—I’d have no idea where to take you.”
“It’s all right,” Merlin shrugged, depositing the table leg back on the floor. “I’m honestly more of a stay in and eat Chinese takeaway kind of guy, anyway. Unless...I can show you round where you found me properly, if you like? The blacksmiths.” His face was suddenly heartbreakingly hopeful, and a tentative smile was curling around his mouth.
Right. Like Arthur was going to say no to that. “Of course it’s all right, idiot.”
Merlin was beginning to wonder if Arthur wasn’t the only one out of his mind.
It had been two weeks since he had arrived like a round-the-bend hurricane in Merlin’s life and, on the one hand, there was no way that the blond-headed git was actually from a thousand years ago. It was impossible and ludicrous and Merlin spent hours on the phone with his uncle Gaius, asking over and over “do you really think something like this could just...happen? Surely the probability of this is the same as, I don’t know, Doctor Who turning up and asking me to be his next companion...wait, where is Arthur now? Lord, I think he’s in the garden with Excalibur. He keeps saying that he needs to keep fit in case he’s called to go on a quest. I mean honestly, is that likely...what do you mean, possibly?”
But then, Arthur was simply adamant. He insisted that he wasn’t crazy and, if he wasn’t also insisting that he felt most comfortable when wearing armour, and that Merlin’s own dress sense obviously hadn’t improved over the centuries, Merlin might be very much inclined to believe him because, in every other way, the man was pretty much perfect.
Sure, he could be a bit of a dickhead at times, but he was clever and funny and when Merlin dragged him over to Gwen, to demand of her once and for all whether she had a hand in all this nonsense, he was positively gallant.
Most importantly, though, Arthur was immovable.
He had set up camp in Merlin’s spare room, practically oozing determination as he sprawled out on the bed, with Excalibur propped up against the wall, and Merlin was surprised that he didn’t even really wantArthur to leave.
In fact, as the days slipped by Merlin found himself spending hours at a time, perched on the edge spare bed which had somewhere along the line become Arthur’sbed, listening to the man recount tales of their lives in Camelot that were sometimes so reminiscent of the life Merlin was living now, so parallel, that he caught his breath.
During the day, the pair of them spent a lot of time at the blacksmiths. Arthur didn’t really have anything else to do, so he would trail behind Merlin to work in the mornings, and Merlin would let him test out the different things he made.
Arthur handled everything expertly, all the while regaling Merlin with yet morestories of how he had defeated this and that, fought here and there, tracked down him and her. He mentioned how Gwen was from this other time, too, and talked a little about how someone called Lancelot might be along soonish. Merlin could only gape as he thought back to the phone call he’d had a few days earlier, when Gwen had squealed breathlessly down the phone about her gorgeous new yoga instructor, Lance.
It was like, Merlin decided, Arthur had appeared and all the loose edges of his life were tightened, and drawn together. Things that hadn’t made sense before began slotting neatly into place, and the pictures Arthur painted for him with his words became akin to memories.
He couldn’t actually remember them, but parts of him had always yearned for those medieval times, and it was sort of understandable that thatwas where Merlin really belonged. Not here, when he made weapons for film sets rather than to actually be held by princes, and knights.
It also seemed understandable that it was in the blacksmiths that Merlin decided that, as long as you weren’t alone, being out of your mind really wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Gwen wasn’t ashamed to admit that, at this stage in her life, one of her top priorities was finding her best friend someone who deserved him.
Sure, her focus had been slightly diverted lately by the yoga classes she’d been going to, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t completely invested in the whole ‘Merlin and Arthur’ scenario, that had suddenly been brought to her attention.
That was why, when Merlin turned up on her doorstep three days after she had been introduced to the mysterious reincarnate, with a desperate look on his face and an explanation of “Arthur’s fascinated with showers—he’s going to be in there for at least an hour and a half, and Gwen I need to talk to you so bad I think I’m gonna explode,” she had stood back and let him in without any further ado.
“Just, tell it to me straight: have I, or have I not, been dating Arthur? As in, the crazy person who basically broke into my house, took over my spare room, and asks me how the Harvest’s fairing?” Merlin sat on Gwen’s sofa with his hands wrapped snugly around a mug of camomile tea, gazing intently at her face. She bit her lip to hide her smile.
“Well...you have both been going out a lot. And he’s been practically glued to your side since he got here so...umm. Yes?”
He let out a strangled noise, feet tapping in agitation against the floor. “But he’s...he’s...”
“A bit odd?” Gwen suggested, “Convinced you’re his boyfriend from medieval times? Totally head over heels for you?”
“Yes! I mean...no! Ugh, Gwen!”
“Merlin,” she rested her elbows on her knees, and her chin in her hands before leaning forwards. “I don’t know where he came from—no one knows where he came from. But he’s here, and he obviously knows you from somewhere. You get on with him more easily than you get on with anyone, apart from me, obviously.”
“Obviously.” Merlin echoed in agreement, then removed one hand from his mug so he could pass it tiredly over his face. “So...so, you think I should just run with all this madness?”
She sighed, mouth lifting in an affectionate smile. “You’ve been running with madness all your life—I really don’t see the point in stopping now, just when it seems to be paying off.”
It was midday, and Arthur had gotten out of the shower after a perfectly reasonable amount of time, thank you very much, to find Merlin waiting outside the bathroom and bouncing anxiously on the balls of his feet, wearing the expression of someone steeling themselves to do something drastic.
Now they were at the blacksmiths, and Arthur was trying to give Merlin enough time to get to the point of all his jitteriness. It was hard though—having to wait while Merlin sat on a workbench, with his long legs swinging back and forth as he prattled distractedly, giving enthused explanations about what this was based on, and how this would have been used (as if Arthur didn’t know how to use every weapon in there already, honestly.)
“Why do you make them, anyway?” Arthur asked, when Merlin paused to take a breath, caught in a moment of honest curiosity as he wondered how his clumsy manservant had transformed into this artist.
Merlin shrugged his shoulders, his face prettily decorated by the light that shafted in though the narrow windows. “It’s always interested me—all this medieval stuff. It’s probably because of my name,” he laughed, embarrassed, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck, “gave me an Arthurian legend complex.”
Arthur picked up a small dagger, expertly crafted with detailed engravings that snaked around the blade. He could almost hear Kilgharrah’s gravelly voice, saying into his ear: you must be prepared for changes, this time around.
Frustration built in his chest at the thought of the Dragon, and all those years they had spent together, and he burst out desperately, “You can’t honestly think this is all a coincidence, Merlin! You make Excalibur, and then someone called Arthurknocks at your door.”
Merlin’s eyes were fixed on the dagger when he spoke, but his hopeful expression conveyed a stronger message than his words when he said: “I know. But being told that you’ve lived before...that’s just mental, Arthur. I don’t know if canbelieve you. I don’t know if it’s possible to believe something that big.”
Arthur stood still, taking in Merlin’s downwards gaze, before reaching over and placing a finger beneath his chin, to tilt his head up.
“Look at me.” He said, voice low and commanding, and something hot seemed to boil over inside him when Merlin’s eyes finally met his. He looked afraid, and excited, and on the brink of acceptance if he was just pushed the right way. “What if...” Arthur broke off, and licked his lips. “What if I could tell you things about yourself that no one else could know? Or, what if I could showyou?”
Merlin exhaled loudly, appearing uncertain with his lips parted ever so slightly, and Arthur found that he couldn’t bear to wait for an answer, not even for one more second.
The dagger slid from his grip and clattered against the stone floor as he gathered Merlin into his arms instead, practically lifting him down from the workbench.
“Please, let me show you.” He murmured, bending close so he could press his mouth to a spot just beneath Merlin’s jaw, and suck gently on the skin there, teeth grazing, like he’d wanted to do again for so many years.
Merlin’s words were shaky when he spoke next, and Arthur felt long fingers moving to stroke though his hair—a palm coming to rest at the base of his skull. “Okay, Arthur.”
Arthur didn’t waste time in pulling back, and lifting his shirt over his head. Merlin had made a soft noise of disappointment, or possibly annoyance (knowing Merlin, it was probably the latter) when Arthur’s mouth vanished from his throat, but when he realised what was happening he quickly began to divest himself of his clothes, too.
“Wait!” Arthur stopped him, placing a hand over Merlin’s to prevent him from tugging up the hem of his shirt. Merlin frowned.
“What do you mean, wait? Arthur—”
“You have a scar, on your chest.” Arthur interrupted, looking into Merlin’s eyes. “A burn.”
Merlin’s breath hitched. “Yes.” he whispered, although it hadn’t been a question.
“And a birthmark,” Arthur’s fingers slid from the back of Merlin’s hands and came to rest just above where his belly button was, “here, in the shape of a cherry.”
Merlin’s laugh was startled and breathless, “Gwen always said it looked like an apple, but I...yeah. The shape of a cherry. But how—”
“Another scar, here,” Arthur cut across him again, seizing Merlin’s upper forearm, “It starts...” he pressed a thumb at the spot where he knew the slim line of white began, “and ends.” He dragged down to the point it where finished.
Merlin was trembling. He could only nod.
At the same time, Arthur let out a little moan of relief, and gasped, “God—get this thing off.”
Another burst of laughter from the man opposite him, and the shirt was gone. A smile broke across Arthur’s face, his hands moving to find Merlin’s hips and push him back against the wall, crushing their mouths together as soon as he was able, pressing as close as he could.
Merlin kissed him back, fingers fumbling at the front of Arthur’s trousers, his whole body seemingly taught with want.
“I believe you,” he managed to get out, when Arthur tilted his head to breathe. “I don’t quite remember, but GodArthur, I believe you.”
Merlin wouldremember, of course, in time. Kilgharrah had assured Arthur of that—the only issue had been Arthur’s impatience. He hadn’t wanted to find out how long it would take for Merlin to recall his past life, and now he didn’t have to. He would be there for Merlin, when the memories all flooded back in a heady rush, and Merlin would go through the confusion of not knowing who he was, or what he was meant to be doing.
There would be a week where Merlin started running Arthur’s baths, and demanding to know how ‘training with the knights’ had gone, when Arthur returned home from the pub. There would be days when Merlin curled against Arthur’s chest, his eyes squeezed shut as he relived times of pain that Arthur wished he hadn’t experienced in the first place.
There would be the moment when Merlin looked at the still broken table in the kitchen, and his eyes would burn brightest gold, before the thing fixed itself in seconds.
But, for now, it was just Arthur, growling into Merlin’s ear:
“I wantyou so bad, Merlin.”
And Merlin’s wet gasp before he sank to his knees, nosing familiarly at Arthur’s crotch and mouthing at the fabric of his pants, before pulling them quickly down to bare skin—they were both too desperate to do any teasing, and Merlin only looked for a second before swallowing down Arthur’s cock.
Arthur’s fingers wound tightly in Merlin’s dark hair, and he pulled it without thinking, then cradled the back of Merlin’s head as carefully as he could. Merlin moaned, drawing Arthur even deeper, and looking up at him through his eyelashes which where shimmering with tears that gathered but did not fall.
Arthur panted as his hips jerked forwards the tiniest fraction, and it had been so long that he was afraid he’d forgotten what Merlin liked, until the man hummed in encouragement, his hands moving to palm at the fleshy parts of Arthur’s thighs.
Arthur got the hint, and began fucking Merlin’s mouth in earnest, revelling in the sounds that vibrated up his cock and chased something deep in his belly. “Not gonna last,” he managed to force out, feeling at this point like he might shatter completely, he’d ached for this for so long. Ached for Merlin.
At his words, Merlin pulled back, sucking at the head of Arthur’s prick before he pulled off entirely, his own breath coming in short gasps.
“I need you to fuck me,” he said from where he knelt, and Arthur stared as Merlin unbuttoned his straining jeans and drew out his own cock, his touches quick. “Don’t wanna get off yet—just want you inside me.”
“Okay,” Arthur’s voice was thick as he bent down slightly, to hook his hands beneath Merlin’s arms and help him up. They kissed again, then, their cocks hard between them and whenever they touched Merlin would jump slightly, writhing against Arthur and letting out high, needy whines.
“You really haven’t changed much,” Arthur told him with a grin as they broke apart, and he nipped at one of Merlin’s earlobes.
Merlin batted ineffectually at Arthur’s chest. “Come on!”
“So bossy,” Arthur licked up over the rim of Merlin’s ear, and then tugged him around so that he was pressed against Merlin’s back, with his cock nestled between Merlin’s arse cheeks.
He smoothed his hands down Merlin’s sides, then gripped his wrists, lifting them before placing them flat against the stone wall.
“You can hardly talk,” was the grumbled reply, and in that moment Arthur only wanted to hold Merlin and never let him go.
“You don’t understand,” he managed to choke out, casting his eyes to the Heavens, “how fucking muchI’ve missed you.”
There was a pause, and Arthur took the opportunity to kiss the back of Merlin’s neck, tongue across his shoulder blades and the first few knobs of his spine. Then, Merlin said softly: “I think...fuck, I think I’ve missed you too. Just...where the hell have you been all my life?”
Arthur smiled, feeling unrestrained emotion riling up into his chest and threatening to spill out of his eyes.
Merlin seemed to sense that Arthur was a bit out of it because he added, with his body still finely trembling with desire: “Also, if you wanted to fish the lube out of my trouser pockets, that’d be awesome.”
Arthur huffed against Merlin’s skin, pressing a final kiss to the very base of his spine before stumbling to where Merlin’s trousers lay, discarded. The lube was there, and a pack of condoms. He picked them up, uncertainly.
“Don’t use one,” Merlin said firmly, without looking. “If...if all of this is true, I trust that you haven’t been with anyone else while you were hanging around.”
Arthur wondered whether this was some kind of test—whether Merlin was waiting for him to throw up his hands and admit that the whole thing was a gag, and condoms would in fact be a necessity. But he didn’t and they wouldn’t be, so Arthur dropped the box and squeezed some of the lube into his hand, using it to slick up his cock, which was already slippery with Merlin’s spit from the blowjob.
“Well, I certainly haven’t been fucking the Dragon,” he mumbled under his breath, as his hands found home once more against Merlin’s skin.
“What?” Merlin glanced over his shoulder, and Arthur pulled a face.
“Nothing.” He said, then quieter, “you ready?”
Merlin’s only answer was to thrust back, his bum wiggling, and Arthur laughed. “Okay then, eager beaver.”
He used his fingers first, pulling Merlin’s cheeks apart and pushing in with his thumb, sighing as the tip slipped inside, engulfed by warm skin—the burning walls of Merlin’s body.
“Arthur,” Merlin croaked, his hands curling into fists against the wall as he drew in breath after ragged breath.
“Sorry, love,” Arthur whispered, taking his fingers away and trusting that Merlin would be ready for him. Trusting himself to go slow, if slow was needed.
His prick had alreadybeen throbbing, when Merlin’s lips stretched around it and now, as he lined up and pushed in with a snap of hips, and a low groan that Merlin synchronised, he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to hold off coming. Merlin rocked back against him, urging him on with whispers that grew into yells when Arthur reached around his waist and fisted his cock, bringing his hand up roughly from base to tip.
It was when Merlin looked down, obviously taking in the way his dick looked with Arthur’s fingers wrapped around it, that he bit down on what little meat there was of Merlin’s shoulder, the flesh soft against his tongue as he came.
Merlin kept on moving, his whole body jerking erratically as Arthur continued to stroke him, licking over where his teeth had left marks until Merlin’s body stiffened.
The motion was so familiar that Arthur couldn’t breathe.
He felt the lines of Merlin’s legs and back and neck; the hard length of him in his palm, and his hair tickling his nose. The second he hadn’t been able to wait through earlier came back to haunt him—a final, heart-jumping moment.
Then Merlin went limp against him, like someone who had been stretching him thin suddenly let go. Arthur moved slightly, so that his chin was propped on Merlin’s shoulder and he could see when he came, all over Arthur’s hand and the wall, just before he twisted and his lips clumsily found the corner of Arthur’s mouth.
“I’ve got you,” Arthur said, splaying his fingers across the small of Merlin’s back to keep him upright, and remembering in that instant, the times when they had been together before.
In Arthur’s chambers, with the fire blazing in the hearth, and Merlin’s eyes like gems as he stripped to reveal the scars and the wiry muscles beneath his skin, before pouncing onto Arthur’s bed and laughing into his mouth.
On the open forest floor, when they touched noses in the moonlight, breathing each other in and out, keeping each other warm.
Secreted moments in empty corridors, up against doors and at the top of winding staircases.
On the battlefield, when all Merlin’s magic was drained from him and he had tears glittering over the shadows beneath his eyes.
NowMerlin smiled hazily up at him, exactly the same and entirely different with his blacksmith’s hands, and his little house in the town.
Arthur held him a tighter, just because he could, unable to think of anything apart from how lucky he was to be able to finally get beforeall over again.