corilannam: (Merlin - pendragon)
[personal profile] corilannam
Title: Forever
Author: Cori Lannam ([ profile] corilannam)
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1100

Summary: Merlin returns to Avalon

Notes: Couldn't sleep until I found a way to be all right with this in my head. Then I wrote it down.

Merlin trudges briskly up the road, much more briskly than the cloud of white whiskers around his face would indicate possible. People comment on it sometimes, want to know his secret for staying so spritely at his obviously advanced age.

"Glucosamine!" he usually declares with either a scowl or a manic grin, depending on his mood and the effect he wants to evoke. Sometimes he tweaks their noses, just because he can. They won't remember him two minutes after he's gone.

The lorry passes him, horn blaring, and he grumps at it without pausing. Rude, loud things these modern vehicles are, with none of the charms of a horse nuzzling your palm for an apple. Not that Merlin objects to technology. He couldn't get by without his laptop or iPad. But those have elegance.

He does pause as the Avalon Tor comes into the view. It only takes a brief, habitual scan to assess the state of things there--Arthur is still sleeping.

That's good, because Merlin's forgotten to pick up the newspaper and Arthur will be cross if he comes home without it. He still likes reading the footie scores the old fashioned way.

He picks up one of every paper and also some milk, because he'd forgotten that as well. Then he trudges on, around the lake to the spot where the boat will meet him.

As he scrambles down the bank from the road to the lake shore, he sees the boat gliding in. He stands for a moment, watching it, and as he does every single time he returns to the place that is now home, he remembers the first time.

The first time he stood here, watching this boat, was centuries ago, lifetimes ago, far beyond any memory but his. He could still feel the weight of Arthur's dying mortal body in his arms. He could still feel the shattering loss of it as he laid Arthur's comatose form in the boat, the anguish as he let Arthur slip away from him, across the lake into the care of the fickle Sidhe, who might have the power to save Arthur, but not the love.

When the boat disappeared from his sight (and his Sight), his legs gave out from under him. He sat in the mud, lake water soaking his boots, for three days, unable to move under the crushing grief and guilt of his failure.

On the third day, he finally stirred and lifted his head. He could have sworn he heard someone calling him. Gaius and Gwen must have sent the knights for him, but it didn't matter. Merlin would never set foot in Camelot again.

"Merlin," the voice called again, and this time it was achingly familiar--especially when it turned sharp. "Merlin!"

"Arthur," he breathed, and then scrambled up and out into the lake to meet the boat as it glided back for him. "I'm coming!"

Today he smiles a little at the memory and swings the heavy messenger bag with all his shopping into the boat before he hops in himself. As the boat takes him home, he lets his disguise fade. Arthur has never been fond of the old man--he tends to want to whap him with things, even after all this time.

He doesn't call out as he enters their home beneath the hill. He doesn't really need to, as Arthur is right there, on the bier in the front chamber, right where Merlin had found him all those years ago.

The bier hasn't changed and can't be moved. Arthur likes to nap on it sometimes, though Merlin wishes he wouldn't. Seeing him lying on it still reminds Merlin of Arthur laid out for his funeral boat, even though now Arthur is breathing easily and is wearing an Arsenal t-shirt and jogging bottoms instead of the armor that rusted away centuries ago.

Arthur stirs as Merlin stands there watching him. His eyes open, and even though they're still a little blurry from sleep, they hone right in on Merlin. Arthur smiles. "There you are."

Merlin grins back. Seeing Arthur still fills him with a near-overwhelming joy. He's never tried to describe it to Arthur, but he'll never take it for granted. "Where else would I be?"

There had been a time when Arthur had tried to make him go, to spend his immortality on better pursuits than serving a king whose only realm was a hill he couldn't leave. But that hadn't gone well, so now Arthur only shifts over and lifts his arm to Merlin. "Come here."

Merlin shakes his head. "I have to put the shopping away."

"Nah. Leave it. Come here." When Merlin still hesitates, Arthur wags his fingers impatiently. "Really, Merlin. It's quite comfortable."

Heaving a put-upon sign, Merlin drops his messenger bag on the floor and leaves his hat, scarf, and coat in a heap on top of it. Sidhe magic still radiates from the bier. Arthur finds it comforting; Merlin does not. "I dragged that tempurpedic mattress all the way around the lake because you just had to have it."

Arthur grins as Merlin settles next to him. "That's better. Now, what news from the outside?"

They have a flatscreen telly and the internet, but they rarely bother with the news because they like it better this way. Merlin tucks himself against Arthur's shoulder, and feels himself start to relax. "Well, the new princess is pregnant."

"Ah, excellent. So at least they won't be bothering me to ensure the line of succession."

They both snicker at that. Arthur is the Once and Future King, and someday Albion might call on him again, but they've both given up trying to figure out when or why it might happen. Privately, Merlin thinks perhaps they're in the clear. The world has changed too much; through war after war they waited, but Albion has done well enough without them.

In the meantime, Arthur is happy. They both are. Arthur has his garden and some sheep, the quiet life he always longed for. And Merlin has Arthur, the only thing he has ever needed.

Arthur yawns and his warm breath stirs Merlin's hair. "So I take it the apocalypse didn't happen this time, either? It's past the solstice now, so surely we would have noticed."

They both snicker at that as well. They have lived now through more predictions of the end times than they can count. The first few times they'd been worried about it, trying to figure out if Arthur was supposed to do something to prevent the end of the world, how he should prepare.

Now they simply go on with their happy life. And if the world ended, it is entirely possible that they would not notice at all.
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Cori Lannam

October 2017


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