AU: Modern!Merlin, some of the past.
Notes: My first Merlin/Merthur fic! Complete. [music]
Summary: He dreams about being pelted with rotten fruit and old leather boots walking toward him. He dreams of metal armor under his fingers and cobblestone streets, and one man who says he loves him.
“The next life, you’ll still be mine. Yes?” the man is asking him, touching his face. They’re in a battlefield somewhere and the man is in armor. He’s looking into his eyes desperately and he finds himself nodding urgently, his own hands grasping the other man’s.
“Of course, Arthur.” he promises quickly. Sounds of clanging swords and screaming men are in the background, thunderous clomps of horses coming closer by the second.
“I love you,” Arthur tells him and pulls him in for a kiss, mumbling against his lips, “We’ll find each other. You have my word.”
“Next life, you and me.” He agrees before they’re standing and running with intent.
Merlin startles awake, dream of that beautiful man’s face going away in a wisp in his mind’s eye.
His name is Arthur. After all the dreams he’s had, all the times this man has starred in them, he finally knows his name. Arthur. He feels as if it could never had been anything else.
This Arthur is taking up his life. And that’s a good thing. He’s always felt as if a piece of him was missing. It’s like there’s this hollow in his chest but thinking of Arthur fills it up just enough.
Good Lord, he’s fallen in love with a figment of his imagination. But Arthur feels so real. So close but just not there with him. He can feel the ghost of his hands on him when he wakes up from his dreams, his lips pressing against his so real while he sleeps. It always feels, as if Arthur was real, that he’s just pulled away. That moment when someone isn’t touching you anymore but you can still feel where they were. That’s how Merlin feels all the time.
He dedicates paintings to Arthur, and always ends up creating him in a castle corridor or dense woods in old leather boots and a sword case on his hip. He doesn’t know why, really. It just ends up coming to his mind, looking so clear that it inspires him to follow through with his brush and canvas.
It makes him feel - not good, because he already feels good. He’s fine. He’s not a sad person. But it just makes him feel spectacular. It puts a fond little smile on his face that has everyone he sees smiling back. It’s just nice.
But today he’s trying something different. While at work in the bookstore, when it’s just a few people who know what they’re looking for, he tries to draw Arthur in more modern clothes; a sweater he saw in a shop window on his way to work, a beanie to help in keeping his ears warm against the fast coming New York winter. He thinks he’d give anything to actually see that.
The bell dings, signalling someone’s entered the shop and he just glances at the guy’s boots then ducks his head more again to keep drawing Arthur. One person buys a couple of books and compliments him on his drawing. He smiles, bags them up all nicely and tells him thank you.
He listens to the sound of pages turning and slow, thoughtful steps as people look for the right book. He’s always loved books. So much to learn. He runs a hand through his hair and starts in on Arthur’s smile. He’s got a lovely smile. Merlin’s dreamed of it, directed at him, him being the cause.
Someone leaves the shop and someone else comes up to the counter, setting a blue hardcover journal and a Doctor Who book on the counter. He smiles and looks up at her, “You know, there’s a new stock of River Song journals just under that section in a box. You can get one, I just haven’t put them out yet.”
“Really? Thanks.” She smiles and heads back over to the table, kneeling down to grab one from the box on the floor. He rings it up, since he knows how much everything is from being here so long, setting the regular blue journal in the little bin that he uses to put books in when people change their minds.
She pays and as he bags them and gets her change, she asks, “Do you know him?”
“Who?” He glances up at her.
“The guy in your drawing. He came in but you didn’t say hi to him.”
It takes Merlin a moment, then, “He… Was here? In the shop? You saw him?”
“Uh, yeah. He was looking for books on dreams I think, but you guys are sold out.”
“Dreams? I—Him? You’re sure?” He shows her the drawing right side up and she still nods.
“Seemed like him.”
“Oh, my God.”
He gets up from his stool and jogs over to the door, going outside onto the street. Could it actually have been him? His Arthur, existing outside of his dreams? He looks around anxiously, then tests it, “Arthur?!”
When no one comes, his chest aches a little, “Arthur?”
He dreams the most vivid dream he’s ever had that night. It’s a few different things that he remembers.
He’s in these old prisoner stocks, head and arms trapped, which should be terrifying but it’s just not. He knows he’s been pelted with fruit and vegetables, and it’s kind of funny. The potato wasn’t, though. But he’s alone now, everyone gone from the courtyard. He doesn’t know who’s coming to get him.
But he soon hears old boots coming for him. They walk up and then around to in front of him. He looks up and there’s Arthur, looking down at him with amusement. Arthur tells him he’s cute and gets out the keys. He smiles, thinking he’s going to be let out, but at the last moment Arthur pulls away and leans down, kissing him. He feels like it’s risky but it’s so worth it.
He can feel the unforgiving hardness of the wooden stocks and all the rotten food on him, then Arthur’s lips, pressing full and quick even if he’s like this. And that’s the last thing he remembers about that certain piece.
Next thing he remembers is metal in his hands. Armor. It’s cold but warming under his fingertips. He’s putting it on a table, aiding in taking it off Arthur. Is that what he is in these dreams? An aid? Maybe that’s what he’s supposed to be, but after all the bulkier armor is off, Arthur is pulling off his gloves and touching his skin, taking off his scarf just to glide his thumb up along the tendon in his neck. Easy, smooth, slow. He asks him if he’s okay and Arthur only shakes his head, then steps closer and envelopes him in a hug.
Then, it’s a rerun of their goodbye. There’s more of it this time. More feeling; panic, a readiness, the urge to protect. He doesn’t fully understand it all when he wakes up, but Arthur was there, and it puts him at ease.
He goes through work and hopes who that girl thought was Arthur comes back, and is disappointed when he doesn’t. He feels like they had a date and he just didn’t show.
After work, he heads to the coffee shop that’s on his way home and orders tea. They know him by now, and have a special blend for him. The barista jokes that it tastes old; not expired old, just very old fashioned. Merlin likes it that way.
As he walks home, he’s bumped by a stranger walking opposite him on the sidewalk, and something happens that never has before. He feels like he’s in one of his dreams; everything flashes to that courtyard again, sounds of the city gone. There’s a man walking away from him, those old leather boots and sword case at his hip. No armor, but a red jacket, buttons shiny. Blond hair.
Merlin blinks, then rubs his eyes. He’s definitely still awake. He feels like his head is spinning, “Arthur?”
The sounds of the city come back to him at full force and the cobblestone is back to smooth gravel. He puts a hand to his head, eyes catching on a figure in a dark brown jacket, looking a bit wobbly on his feet. He turns slowly and Merlin’s taken aback, air leaving him in a stunned exhale.
Bright blue eyes, looking at him confused. He takes a few steps back to him, “…Do I know you?”
That’s the voice from his dreams. That’s the face. That’s… Everything. That’s Arthur. That’s his Arthur.
“You have to. Yes.” He takes a hold of Arthur’s arm and looks into his eyes.
“I… I’ve seen you somewhere. Where have I seen you?” Arthur tells him and Merlin nods quickly.
“Y-Yeah, yes. I think so, yes.” He’s shoving his tea into Arthur’s hands and tugging off his own gloves, going to grab a drawing from his bag. He fumbles with it slightly, smoothing it out. Arthur reaches for it when he holds it out and their bare hands touch, a spark of electricity bursts between them, something magical.
Merlin’s head is filling with flashes of moments between them, in the woods, in a castle, every feeling they could have ever had together. He’s with Camelot’s king; Arthur Pendragon. They are two sides of the same coin, fates weaved together. He understands everything now.
Together a whole, an ancient and wise voice echoes.
He can see it’s happening to Arthur, too. Their past lives coming back to them at full force and then they’re gripping at each other, startled laughs as they try to keep upright.
“I told you,” Arthur says with a grin, “You’d always be mine.”
“Now’s not the time to be a prat, my Lord.” Merlin hugs him tight, tea being lost to the ground. Arthur holds him just as close.
“Not anymore. We are not like that anymore.” He pulls away and takes Merlin’s face in his hands, looking him over, “So, I can do this in the eye of the public.”
He brings him in and it’s every bit like it Merlin’s dreams - his flashes of their past - only better. The slide of Arthur’s lips against his, touch of tongues and nip of teeth. He holds to Arthur’s wrists, chuckles at the crumple of paper against his ear because he’s still gripping the drawing.
“Did you dream about me?” Merlin whispers when they pull away, foreheads pressed together.
“For such a long time. Dreams where I was the Knight who fell in love with his servant. His friend,” Arthur rubs his thumb against Merlin’s jaw, “My very best friend.”
“Oh, now aren’t you glad your destiny is laced with mine?” He smirks and Arthur rolls his eyes, smiling at him.
“Shut it, you idiot,” He turns Merlin around and wraps an arm around his shoulders, starting to walk them down the street, “You beautiful idiot.”