The road Arthur Pendragon found himself driving down was not for the faint of heart. It twisted and turned on steep ditches and blind cliffs, its gravel loose and lethal. The forest that lined the sides hid any stray car or animal ahead, making each bend a nerve-wracking experience. Arthur’s knuckles were white against the steering wheel as he slowed to a crawl at a particularly nasty hundred-and-forty degree turn in the road. The road was disused, forgotten, and had weathered roughly from lack of care. Large pot holes darted the path, filled with recent rain water, and the sides of the extremely steep parts had started to erode. Arthur was careful not to get too close to the shoulder for fear of it giving away.
Cars weren’t too much of a problem. There was only one house at the end of this road.
As for the wildlife: Arthur had already had to stop for two deer, a racoon and porcupine.
The nearest town was twenty minutes in the other direction.
Perth might take ten minutes to drive through and that was being generous. The town was a mishmash of houses as if someone had just dropped random buildings in the middle of a forest and hoped it would work. All the streets were named after trees. Elm Street connected to Maple which was one way and even though the map said it met up with Willow Lane that part of the road had been torn up when a new grocery store had been built. Maps always forgot to update the streets of Perth – and Arthur figured it was partially because no one cared about Perth.
For entertainment it boasted a bowling alley that had four lanes which were smoke stained and smelled like cheap whiskey. The other was a community theatre that put on the same three plays every year with the same four people at the local high school. The main street had exactly twenty store fronts. Ten of them were closed, their doors locked up when the owners realised there were no tourists and not enough locals to sustain their business. The only stores still open were a bookstore, cafe that boasted the best coffee in Perth (the only one as far as Arthur could tell), three used clothing stores, a flower shop, a toy store, and three catch-all stores whose business model seemed to be carry everything because something will eventually sell.
Arthur wasn’t sure what bothered him the most: the fact that Perth was so small, or the fact it was the closest sign of civilization.
“Fuck,” he swore as his tires lost traction on the loose, untended gravel. Making sure to gently ease on the breaks and ignoring the impulse to over steer, Arthur managed to keep the car on the road … barely. He made a mental note to phone Lancelot and Gwen when he got to the cabin, they had been kind enough to volunteer to bring the moving van with the rest of his belongings tomorrow, but now that Arthur was faced with the conditions of the road, he didn’t feel comfortable letting them risk their lives delivering it.
It was with a sigh of relief that Arthur finally reached the last harrowing bend in the road and the cabin came into sight. It had been eleven years since Arthur was last there. At fourteen the cabin had seemed like a jail cell, keeping him far away from his friends, and the one land-line had been watched over by his father. Arthur felt the sharp stab of grief hit him at the thought of his father. Fourteen-year-old Arthur hated it here, twenty-five-year-old Arthur hoped it would save him.
The cabin was nestled in the dense forest. Its charming log frame had weathered over the years and the front porch which wrapped around two sides of the building was in a desperate state of repair. The furniture inside was covered in sheets that had a layer of dust two inches thick. The only true, stable part of the sloping three bedroom hut was the fireplace. The massive stone structure held the place together, as the floor sloped away from it at a precarious angle which was one step away from a fun house. The small garden which had once been tended with care in the back was now reclaimed by the wild, the delicate flowers overpowered by weeds and grass.
“Home sweet home,” Arthur muttered to himself, glancing at the ramshackle building in front of him.
What am I doing? Arthur thought, not for the first time. He had had the same thought when he sold his fancy, state-of-the-art condo. It had crossed his mind when he gave up his modern furniture, sold his father’s townhouse, Caribbean vacation home and his international downtown London flat, and gave up the share of his father’s company that had been willed to him.
“Arthur,” Gwen had said, gently laying a hand on his arm. “Don’t you think you should wait before deciding these things? Why don’t you stay with me and Lance for a while?”
But Arthur had been adamant. With the death of his father still a fresh wound, even all these months later, Arthur had given it all up. He was no longer that rich city-slicker with the fancy car and crazy nights out on the town. He was now that rich crazy guy that was going to sink all his money into a cabin which should just be torn down. He wondered if a mid-life crisis could happen when you were still in your twenties.
Staring up at the cabin, Arthur grimaced and ran a tired hand over his stubbled face. Murmuring to himself, he said, “Welcome home Arthur ... you’re insane.”
“He’s not insane,” Gwen said, not sure who she was trying to convince more: herself or Lance. Glancing over at her fiancée, Gwen smiled tightly. They were both worried about Arthur.
Glancing back out the front window Gwen closed her eyes as they took another tight corner. Lance had been silently making his way down the curvy path.
“I can’t believe Arthur moved out here,” Lance finally said.
“I wish he was closer,” Gwen admitted, the journey so far was at forty-five minutes and there was still a bit to go. It wasn’t a completely unreasonable distance, but there would be no crashing on each other’s couches or showing up with take-out for random movie nights. Gwen was going to miss him, but she could understand needing to get out.
Five more minutes and they were finally there.
Gwen wasn’t sure what she had expected. She knew Arthur had said it was a bit run down, but this was Arthur Pendragon. He had thought his old TV had been outdated because they had come out with flat screens that were a quarter of an inch thinner than his. Gwen had assumed that his concept of a “run down cottage” was what a normal person might consider a beautiful country home. Apparently she had underestimated him.
For a minute, neither she nor Lance moved, they were both just staring at the decrepit building in front of them. The silence was broken when Lance started to laugh.
“It’s not funny,” Gwen tried to scold through her own giggles. “He’s obviously having some mental break down.”
“Love, there is no way he is going to last two days here,” Lance said. “This is Arthur. The man can barely work a toaster. He’s going to be back, crashing at our place before you know it.”
“I hope your right.”
Gwen quickly hopped out of the truck. At the sound of car doors, Gwen could see Arthur’s blonde head peek out from behind the screen door.
“I told you guys not to bother driving up today!” He called out, jumping over the front steps.
“Yeah, well, when have I ever listened to anything you told me,” Lance said, grabbing Arthur into a one-armed hug.
“It’s …” Gwen tried to think of something nice to say about the place, as she hugged him “very rustic.”
“Here, let me give you guys the tour.”
As far as Gwen could tell the inside was not much better than the outside. It didn’t win her over any when she realized there was a very large groundhog that lived under the porch and would glare at them as they approached. The inside was small, a staircase greeting them. Off to the right was a small sit-in kitchen and to the right was a decent-sized living room with a massive fireplace which seemed to dominate the room. Through the kitchen, Arthur showed them the dining room which overlooked an overgrown garden which had been let go many years ago. The entire place felt abandoned. Gwen didn’t know how Arthur had stayed here one night alone. She would never have been able to, but then again, Arthur had come here as a child.
Upstairs there was a narrow hallway. On the one side three doors: one leading to a pink room.
“This your room Arthur?” Lance asked.
“This was Morgana’s, but I was thinking it would be a perfect room for you if you stayed over,” Arthur quipped.
Arthur was staying in the furthest door. The bedroom was very small, barely squeezing in the single bed, desk, closet and bookcase. It was a bit like stepping into the past. There were sports posters on the wall, and the bookcase had never grown out of the prepubescent books and toys on its shelves. It was a weird Arthur time capsule for his pre-teen self.
In between both rooms was a small bathroom which looked … disgusting. It wouldn’t surprise her if some animal had made its home in there. Gwen made a mental note not to use the washroom here.
“Yeah, the plumbing is a bit of an issue right now,” Arthur said, noting his friends’ dubious glance at the outdated fixtures.
As they finally made their way down to the living room Gwen had never been more worried about Arthur.
“Arthur, you know you can always stay with us, don’t you?” Gwen said, as they brought in the boxes out of the back of the van. Arthur just shouldered past her to help Lance with one of the heavier ones. “It’s just … if you needed a place to stay for awhile as you wait for this place to be habitable.”
“It’s habitable,” Arthur grunted.
“Really?” Lance asked, looking dubiously at the dirt stained windows and broken banister.
“Not you too. Come on, it’s not that bad,” Arthur argued dropping his edge of the box down onto the foyer floor, causing a large dust cloud to appear. “All it needs is a bit cleaning and a fresh coat of paint.”
“This place needs more than a fresh coat of paint Arthur,” Gwen said quietly.
“We’re not saying that you should give up on this place,” Lance said passively. “Just, maybe hire someone who could fix it up for you. This is a lot of work for someone who had to phone us up to learn how to fix light bulbs.”
“Hey that was some weird ass light bulb for that lamp,” Arthur defended himself. “I can do this. I need to do this. Okay? So stop worrying about me and just help bring in the rest of the boxes.”
In the end there was nothing Gwen or Lance could say. They dropped off the rest of the boxes, making sure to keep the conversation light. Afterwards, as Gwen hugged Arthur one more time and climbed into the truck, she sat in silence.
“Okay, maybe he’s a bit insane,” Gwen said, smiling slightly over at Lance. He lifted her hand up and pressed two soft kisses to her knuckles.
Arthur had a list.
The list contained the various tools that he would need to fix the cabin. Arthur wasn’t even sure what half of them were, but according to the wisdom that was Google, these were apparently the basic tools that everyone should own. His attempt to change the cabin into a place fit for habitation (not that it was inhabitable right now) was as overwhelming as the foreign words on the piece of paper. Perhaps Lance had been right; maybe he should just hire a contractor.
Turning onto Willow Street for the seventh time, Arthur tried to spot Fournier’s Hardware. According to his printed out sheets from Google Maps it should be halfway down this street. However, his slow crawl still turned up nothing. Arthur cursed Perth, with its stupid hidden hardware stores. Reaching the end of the street Arthur punched the steering wheel in frustration.
Glancing down at the map on the passenger side, Arthur barely had his eyes off the road for more than a second when there was a heart-stopping thud. He hit the brakes as something big tumbled off the hood of the car and hit the road below.
Arthur couldn’t move. His hands were glued to the steering wheel, his eyes wide and straight in front of him, and his heart beat loudly in his chest. He had just hit someone.
“Oh no,” Arthur muttered, his hands shaking as he tried to take off his seat belt. It seemed fussed with the seat, unable to come off as Arthur pulled against it. “Fuck, no, come on.”
With a final click he stumbled out of his vehicle, he could see some people start to wander out of their homes, wondering what the thud and screeching tires had been. There was talking, one of the men rushed over and told Arthur he had already called the paramedics, but Arthur could barely understand him. All of his senses were in shock. His gaze seemed to hone in and lock onto the crumpled figure on the road. Arthur could not look away from it. The crumpled figure wore a tunic, pants of a weird material and had some hipster-like scarf around his neck. None of that mattered though, because Arthur could only see the trail of blood dripping down the side of his face.
The entire content of his stomach turned over and Arthur had to close his eyes to keep from getting sick.
“Everyone needs to please back up,” a voice demanded. “Sir? You the driver?”
Arthur glanced up and saw two police officers. The one man talking was fairly tall, but nothing compared to the giant beside him.
“Um, yeah,” Arthur stuttered out, clearing his throat to try and gather his nerves. “I’m Arthur Pendragon.”
“Well, Pendragon, I’m officer Valiant,” the man sneered, making a show of flipping open his little black notebook and making notes. “This is officer Percival. We just have a few questions for you.”
“Okay, why don’t you just walk us through the incident,” Percival murmured, glancing nervously over to the prone body which was being tended to by the paramedics who had finally arrived on the scene.
“I was just trying to find the hardware store and I glanced down at my directions, it couldn’t have been more than a second. This guy just appeared out of nowhere. Honestly, it happened so fast I don’t … is he okay?” Arthur pressed a hand over his eyes, trying to remember something, anything. The last few minutes seemed to a blur in his mind.
“He just appeared?” Officer Valiant sneered. “Well unless we have Harry Potter over there unconscious I think you might need to come up with a better answer. If you were looking for the hardware store, why were you here? Fournier’s Hardware moved over to Maple Lane about ten years ago now.”
“I didn’t … Google maps said it was here,” Arthur said defensively, not liking Valiant’s tone.
“I’ll be sure to check that.”
“Have fun.” Arthur bit out.
“Valiant, why don’t you go talk to the rest of the witnesses and I’ll finish getting Mr. Pendragon’s statement,” Percival said, smoothly coming between the two of them. With a final sneer in Arthur’s direction the man stomped off into the crowd of people. “Sorry about him.”
“No, its fine,” Arthur lied, eyeing the massive man in front of him. “I just moved here, the map said the hardware store was on this street and I was about to give up when he just … appeared.”
“Ok,” Percival said calmly. He appeared much more accepting than his partner. As if reading Arthur’s mind, Percival quickly added, “Valiant likes to think he’s some big city cop. Not much happens out here in Perth, just ignore him. He likes to think he’s some action hero.”
“Right,” Arthur ran a tired hand in front of his eyes. “Is there anything else you need?”
“I think we just need your contact information and we’ll let you know if we have any extra questions,” Percival said. As he noted down Arthur’s phone number and address. “Okay, I think that will be everything.”
“Thank you officer,” Arthur muttered watching as the ambulance started its siren as it tore off down the street.
“Please, just Percival,” he said. He paused slightly before laying a hand on Arthur’s shoulder. “I wouldn’t worry too much. I’m sure he’ll be alright.”
It didn’t help the deep weight which had settled in the pit of his stomach. As Arthur got back into his car, he tried not to notice the glares of the locals. He had been here for not even three days and already he had almost killed one of their local boys. Maybe he had killed him.
As he started to inch the car forward he felt intensely aware of the car underneath him. His eyes darted frantically to both sides of the road, his nerves shot as he waited for something else to jump out at him. It took him two streets to speed up to just below the speed limit. As he got to the outskirt of town he stopped. The image of the blood dripping down the pale face haunted him.
Arthur didn’t even realize he had turned back into town until he was on the main street and frantically looking for a sign of where the hospital might be. Unlike the hardware store, there were plenty of signs which led Arthur to an aging hospital which sat nestled between the community rink and a senior home. It looked like a 1950’s reject, with pale-pink faded facade and peeled letters which proudly announced it was the hospital for the entire surrounding county. The visitor parking lot was gravel. Cars were parked along the edges and a few brave ones had simply parked in the middle where the owner had simply decided there should be a parking space. Arthur crawled along; trying to find a spot and avoid the ominous potholes.
The waiting room matched the outside facade of the building. Soft pink plastic seats made up the ER waiting room, with sea-foam green and white patterned floors and walls. Against one corner was a vending machine which was probably the most up to date part of the entire space. Leaning against it was one grey-grizzled man who seemed perfectly healthy except he winced whenever his right arm moved. A young woman was bent protectively over her baby, glaring at the man across the room that kept wheezing and coughing, as if her body could protect from any germs floating in the emergency room. Behind the glass partition was a middle aged nurse who was staring pointedly at her computer screen.
“Excuse me,” Arthur said, leaning against the reception desk.
“How can I help you?” the nurse asked, reluctantly tearing her eyes away from whatever she was doing on the computer.
“A man was brought in, he was hit by a car, I wanted to know how he’s doing.”
“Mmmhmmm,” the woman nodded non-committable and started to type frantically on the computer screen and click her mouse. “He’s with Doctor Gaius. Are you a family member?”
Arthur paused. He had seen enough movies and television shows to know that they usually had some arcane rule about family members only in situations like this. Arthur should just tell the truth and leave his contact information, or even phone Percival tomorrow and get an update on how the man was doing.
“I’m his brother,” Arthur blurted out. Then he remembered the dark hair and skinny, pale figure sprawled on the roadside. Knowing his luck everyone in town probably knew him. “Step-brothers.”
“If you just head up to the third floor, the waiting room is just beyond the elevators,” the nurse explained, much kinder now that she thought he was some poor family member. “I’ll let Dr. Gaius know you’ll be there.”
It wasn’t until Arthur was in the elevator that he started to worry if the man’s real family would already be there. He could just picture being surrounded by accusing glares. Luckily as the elevator pinged its arrival and the metal doors slide open the family room seemed to be deserted.
Arthur paced the room, refusing to sit in the couches which lined the room. The sting of disinfectant stung his nose and memories of the last time he had paced a waiting room waiting for his father to get out surgery came swarming back to him. Unbidden emotion clawed at the back of his throat. Arthur swallowed thickly trying to contain his emotions. He had always hated hospitals and the past year had only added to his phobia.
“Ah! You must be the brother?” A voice asked from behind him. Swirling around Arthur was greeted by an older man, with white hair and wrinkled face. “We’ve put your brother into a small coma due to his head trauma but as we wean him off the medication he should slowly come to. Probably in the next few hours. Is there any medical history we should be aware of? Allergies? You wouldn’t happen to have his health card, would you?”
“Actually,” Arthur fidgeted. Dr. Gauis’s eyebrows reached impressive heights as he regarded Arthur falter under his gaze. “I’m not actually his brother.”
“I see ... and who might you be then?”
“I’m Arthur Pendragon. I was the one who, you know, hit him.” Arthur admitted sheepishly.
“I see,” Dr. Gaius’s stare was unnerving. “Well, the man that was brought in had no ID on him so we’ve been unable to contact his family.”
“But he’ll be okay, right?” Arthur asked.
“He won’t be awake for a few hours, probably not until this evening. We won’t know the full extent of his injuries until then. If you leave your contact information with me, I’ll call you as soon as he wakes.” Dr. Gaius offered.
As Arthur walked back into his run down cabin, jumping over the broken middle step on the front porch, he dropped his keys on the kitchen table. Walking over to the sink to splash some water on his face, the pipes gave a struggling gurgle before the trickle of water died completely. Slamming his hands against the faucet, Arthur sank to the floor and tried to tell himself that everything was going to be alright. It wasn’t helping him at all though.
That is what they call him.
The hospital staff used hushed tone as they puttered around the bedside checking his “vitals”. According to the nurses until either his memory returned or a loved one was found that would be his name: John Doe. He hated the name. It felt wrong.
Everything he was had been is reduced to a twelve hour window. His doctor, who he wanted to call a physician for some reason because the term doctor seemed so foreign, had already started memory practices to help him remember. They were using “flash cards” on a glossy type of parchment. He seemed to intrigue Dr. Gaius with his ability to recall “dog, cat, apple” but not “car, telephone, or computer”.
John felt completely overwhelmed by the world around him. It seemed too loud, too rushed, and had an odd smell to it that stung his nostrils. Dr. Gaius had assured him that the confusion was linked to his amnesia. That was why the lights seemed too bright, the sheets too rough, the food too spicy and the smells overwhelming.
It bothered him though, made him feel helpless and childlike when the motherly nurse had to explain things like electricity, which seemed almost magical in nature. According to the doctor he seemed to have retained the knowledge normally found in an elementary school child. John didn’t understand what an elementary school was, but being compared to a child was frustrating.
He wasn’t completely helpless. He knew how to dress himself, showed the ability to make rational decisions and after being shown how running water worked he could bathe himself just fine (for some reason when he had wanted a bath he had asked where the nearest pump was to fill the buckets ... the nurses had explained plumbing after that). John felt perfectly capable. Though he did have tremors which would at times render his right hand practically useless, but Dr. Gaius promised that with something ‘physical therapy’ it would be working in next to no time.
The only thing wrong with him was the fact he was missing his memory of everything before waking up in the hospital with a pounding head and shooting pain. Apparently he had no friends or family who were looking for him from what he had overheard the police officer, Percival was his name, say (who had laughed especially hard when John accidently called him a knight). The officer had been talking to Gaius about his case, and it seemed to John that no one was missing him. It hurt, as if someone he cared about had betrayed him, which was silly. For all John knew maybe all his family was dead or maybe he was a complete prat and everyone hated him. It was frustrating not knowing who he was, but he had been nice to everyone around him so far and it hadn’t felt forced ... so John didn’t think he was some insufferable clotpole. Though, he had snapped at Gaius twice during their sessions.
“Don’t worry Johnny boy,” he had said kindly after calming him down with his dreaded eyebrow manoeuvre which always seemed to work on him, “mood swings are often found with this sort of post-traumatic stress disorder.”
John had grown to appreciate that Gaius seemed to know everything. The older man had laughed appreciatively when John told him that. He knew Gaius worried about him. With no credentials, no past, and no family or friends ... he didn’t know what he would do if he ever left the hospital.
So far, John had had no visitors. Another reminder that there was no one in the world who cared about him beyond the hospital staff and the two police officers who had shown up only to be disappointed that John was unable to answer any of their questions. He had a feeling that officer Valiant didn’t really believe he had amnesia.
Apparently John had simply popped out of nowhere only to be hit by a car.
He kept trying to remind himself that it had only been twelve hours. Maybe, eventually, someone would turn up.
He woke from a small nap as the pain medication started to wear off. As the blinding pain of the pressure in his skull began to become too much, John opened his eyes to a new sight. Standing at the foot of his bed was a visitor. There was no spark of familiarity, but since his own face was something brand new to him when he saw his reflection in the bathroom mirror, he wasn’t expecting anything. The man was very fit, with blonde hair and toned body, bright blue eyes and disarming smirk. He didn’t look anything like John’s reflection had looked, but perhaps they were cousins or friends.
“Hello,” he greeted groggily, trying to ignore the pain. “Who’re you?”
“I’m Arthur,” the man said.
“Should I know you?” John asked.
“No, uh, the doctor said that you have amnesia,” Arthur said tentatively.
“Can’t remember a second before this hospital,” John confirmed.
“It’s not your fault. Not like you put me in here,” John joked, missing Arthur’s flinch.
“Actually, I was driving the car that hit you.”
John looked over the man again. So this was the man who was behind his current predicament. John couldn’t find it in him to be mad at him; he looked so worried and sheepish. The entire thing just felt wrong. Arthur should be loud and brash, not this cowering person at the foot of his bed.
“So you are the one to hit me.”
“You appeared out of nowhere,” Arthur said defensively.
“Oh, so you’re blaming me!” John yelped. “You utter prat. Here I am, wasting away in this bed and you’re actually blaming me for your mistake.”
“Did you call me a prat?” Arthur asked, obviously not hearing a word of John’s tirade.
“No one uses that,” Arthur smirked, which only served to anger John. “Is it a British thing? You sound British.”
“Well, since I have no memory I can’t really answer that can I?” John said waspishly. “First you give me amnesia and then you insult my word choice. Perhaps you would like a go at my appearance before you leave?”
“Nah,” Arthur smirked as he sunk into the chair beside John’s bed. The chair had been empty for the past day, and it was odd to see it now occupied. Arthur looked way too comfortable and at home in that chair. John wondered if the nurses would up his pain medication just to deal with this man. “I don’t like to insult things which are too obvious.”
“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean?” John asked, blushing furiously as he ran a hand over his face to subconsciously check for any irregularities. He didn’t think he looked too bad, but then again before glancing in the mirror he had the horrible image of being some pimply, greasy looking person. He had been fairly relieved to see he didn’t look as bad as he had imagined while still confined to his bed with no memory beyond the few moments of his existence. “At least I don’t look like some conceited, self-centered, egotistical, clot pole.”
“First off, most of those words mean the same thing, and what is a clot pole?” Arthur looked much too pleased about being insulted. “I think you’re just making up words now.”
“Just because you don’t know what a word is doesn’t mean that I made it up,” John shot back. A part of himself that wasn’t annoyed by the man in the chair, enjoyed this friendly banter. Apparently he was somewhat witty, and John made sure to file that away with what little he knew about himself.
“Okay, educate me, John, what is a clot pole?”
“In two words?”
“Prince Arthur,” John supplied quickly. Arthur let out a barking laugh, tilting his head back and his eyes gleaming with mirth.
“I’m a prince am I?” Arthur asked. “You obviously hit your head harder than the doctors thought.”
John was flustered. The words had slipped out without thought. Luckily he was saved from any further embarrassment by the arrival of Dr. Gaius.
“John, are you ready to start your therapy?” he asked. John felt anything but sure, but nodded his head regardless. As he moved to slip out of his bed, sitting up slowly so as not to get too dizzy, he glanced at Arthur who remained lounging on the chair.
“Want to come?” It took a minute to realize that the question had come out of his mouth.
“Are you sure?” Arthur asked, looking very surprised at the offer. John couldn’t help it though, the man might be slightly annoying, but he was the only person outside of the hospital staff he knew in this strange and foreign land he found himself in. “Would that be okay?”
“That should be fine,” Dr. Gaius said slowly, glancing between Arthur and John, but hiding whatever he thought behind a mask of professionalism.
That is how Arthur found himself visiting the hospital daily. So far he hadn’t missed a single one of John’s therapy sessions. They tossed a small rubber ball between them as John tried to control his tremors and would get into silly arguments over John’s love for making up words as insults. Arthur still hated hospitals, but he couldn’t bring his self to leave John alone. After all it was his fault that John was stuck in the hospital with no memory. It had been over a week now and there was still no word on anyone looking for John. Percival would sometimes visit them, but each time Arthur noticed that John became more and more resolved to hear no news. He couldn’t imagine being alone in the world with no family or friends.
“Is it normal,” Arthur asked Dr. Gaius out in the waiting room mid-week, away from John. “This type of amnesia, is it normal?”
“No,” Gaius sighed, glancing towards John’s door. “Most times amnesia is very mild, sometimes lasting only a few hours with very specific holes in their memory. For John to have his entire memory wiped clean and for him to show no signs of regaining it after forty-eight hours ... it doesn’t look very promising.”
“So, he’ll never remember?” Arthur felt a horrible guilt, remembering the horrible sound of a body hitting the windshield of his car.
“It is too early to know,” Dr. Gaius cautioned him. “It would be highly unlikely that he won’t regain some of his memories. After all he seemed to have retained some ... odd procedural memories.”
“What do you mean?”
“Most cases where the procedural memory is intact would mean the patient can remember routines such as bathing, eating, driving. The everyday routines which are so ingrained that they are more of a muscle memory. John has most of his procedural memories still working, but they are very outdated.” Dr. Gaius tried to explain.
“Perhaps he was a re-enactor,” Dr. Gaius shrugged. “He seems to remember how to saddle a horse, but could not recall how a person might use a car either as a driver or a passenger. The same way he can remember foods and has decent literacy skills in reading and writing, but he has no recollection of how to use a computer or handle a remote control for the television.”
So Arthur had brought in his favourite little bits of technology, trying to show John how to use a touch screen and type on a keyboard. He seemed to catch on very quickly.
“So it’s a bit like magic,” John had asked, flipping through the pictures on Arthur’s phone with a single finger.
“Sure, only this actually exists,” Arthur laughed.
Midway through the week Arthur had picked up some clothes for John so he wouldn’t be stuck wearing scrubs or the awkwardly fitting hand-me-downs from the nurses. Arthur thought he looked rather nice once he was in proper clothing.
“I hate it,” John commented idly as he slowly picked up paperclips and shakily put them into the plastic cup. Arthur stopped bouncing the rubber ball to glance over at him.
“What do you hate?”
“My name,” John sighed, smiling slightly as he managed to pick up the last of paper clips; he had just started picking them all up without dropping any earlier that morning. Leaning back in his chair he ran a hand through his tousled hair. “I don’t feel like a John.”
“Well, since no one knows your name, I guess you could be called whatever you like,” Arthur said thoughtfully. “What do you want to be called?”
“I don’t know. Not John.”
“Well that’s helpful,” Arthur complained. “Should I just call you No Name then? Or just Not John?”
“Don’t be such a prat about it,” John griped.
“Maybe your name is actually prat, you use it enough,” Arthur suggested, before thinking about it a bit more. “Your name is probably something very British. Like George.”
“George is a British name?” John asked doubtfully. “Do you even know anyone from this place called British?”
“First off, the place is called England and I’ll have you know my parents were from there. Technically I have dual citizenship,” Arthur said smugly. “Oh, I know, you can be Oliver Twist.”
“Oliver? I think I prefer George,” John argued.
“Too bad Oliver,” Arthur said, smiling brightly and clapping a hand on Oliver’s shoulder. “It’s either that or Harry Potter.”
“Harry or Oliver? I think I’ll stick with Oliver.”
Oliver emptied the cup again and slowly started to pick up the clips again. He had halfway finished when an intense spasm in his hand made him drop the clip and knock over the cup. Cursing, he slammed his hand against the table, scattering a few of the clips against the linoleum floor.
“Hey,” Arthur said, gently gripping Oliver’s shoulders. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re doing great okay.”
“I just feel so useless.”
He looked so despondent that Arthur felt at a loss. Growing up in the Pendragon household hadn’t been the best environment to learn how to nurture and share feelings. So Arthur took a step back to let Oliver collect himself, as he picked up the clips from the floor. By the time he had found them all and put them back on the table Oliver looked a bit better.
“You aren’t useless,” Arthur said finally. “Even Gaius said you are coming along better than anyone could even hope for.”
“He told me that I’m going to need to move out soon,” Oliver said quietly. “The hospital can’t keep me forever, but I don’t know where to go.”
Arthur felt his gut clench.
“You could live with me,” He offered. “I mean, my place isn’t much but it would be better than some shelter.”
“I couldn’t,” Oliver shook his head. “You’ve already done so much for me. I don’t want to put you out.”
“You wouldn’t be,” Arthur argued.
“Besides, I don’t have any money. I couldn’t pay you back. You already got me these clothes.”
“I’m also the reason you’re in this situation to begin with,” Arthur pointed out, feeling the familiar weight of guilt deep in his gut. “As for paying me back, there’s a lot of work to be done around the cabin, you can help me fix it up. Besides you would be doing me a favour.”
“And how, exactly, would this be doing you a favour?” Oliver looked very doubtful, and Arthur was slightly alarmed that he seemed to have mastered Dr. Gaius’s intimidating eyebrow raising technique. This was just further proof that Arthur was doing the right thing about offering a place to live away from scary eyebrow influences.
“Because I could use the help,” Arthur said honestly, thinking of the broken steps and loose banisters and old plumbing. With vivid clarity he remembered the brown water that had been coming out of all the pipes that morning.
“You’re not just saying that so I don’t feel completely useless are you?” Oliver asked shrewdly.
“Believe it or not, Oliver, I would not just be offering you a place to live if you weren’t actually needed,” Arthur lied. “The only reason I’m going to be able to put up with your idiotic made-up words is because I could actually use the help. That’s all.”
“Fine,” Oliver said, smiling at him with a goofy, grateful smile that made Arthur feel very important. “Don’t be such a -”
“Prat?” Arthur finished the insult for him. He smirked as Oliver huffed in good natured annoyance.
Oliver had thought Arthur was exaggerating. His description of a rundown shack in the middle of nowhere had seemed to be an excuse to get Oliver to agree to move in with him without feeling too guilty. However, after one nerve-wracking drive in a ‘car’ (Arthur had laughed rather loudly when Oliver, gripping his seat as they flew past the countryside at impossible speeds, asked why they couldn’t just ride a horse like a normal person to get to their location). Apparently normal people actually used these metal contraptions which hurtled forward at unimaginable speeds. Oliver couldn’t remember the accident which had erased his life from his memory, but it was no wonder he had been so injured at the speed of these beasts.
When they arrived at their destination, Oliver was surprised to see that Arthur hadn’t actually been exaggerating. The cabin was large, but it had definitely seen better days. Arthur warned him that he needed to jump the second step as they walked up the front steps. The inside had a half-moved in feel to it. Arthur had not been too bothered about unpacking. While the bookcases were half full of books, there were still a couple boxes underneath them with more volumes to put on the shelves. The kitchen had three boxes on the table labeled ‘kitchen’ in thick black letters. The floors were wood, scrapped and worn. Upstairs wasn’t much better.
“This is my room,” Arthur pointed at the closest door on the landing. “This will be your room just right here. The bathroom is between them.”
Opening up his room Oliver and stood blinking in the doorway.
“What do you think?” Arthur asked.
“It’s very ... pink,” Oliver managed to say. He glanced back to find Arthur looking very amused the bastard.
“Thought it would suit you Oliver,” Arthur said smugly.
The walls were pink, the ratty drapes around the window were pink, the bedspread was pink and even the bookcase and dresser were a creamy whitish-pink colour. Oliver hoped that if he ever regained his memory that he had never had a room like this before.
“It used to be my sister’s room,” Arthur finally explained. “You can change it however you like. I plan to make a run into town to order some paint. There’s some paint chips downstairs for you to choose whatever colours you would like.”
“Right, thanks,” Oliver said, wondering what paint chips were. He only had one bag which contained barely enough clothes to fill out one drawer in the dresser. He dropped his back on the bed and sat gingerly on the bed, trying to get comfortable in such an alien environment.
“So, what room is that?” Oliver asked, pointing to the door across the hall Arthur hadn’t mentioned in his tour of the house.
“None of your business,” Arthur snapped.
Taken aback by the aggressive tone, Oliver raised his hands in mock surrender. “Sorry?”
“No, it’s just ... don’t go in there okay?” Arthur sighed, refusing to even look at the door in question as if it hurt to even think about it. Not wanting to be thrown out, Oliver nodded his understanding. “I’ll put on some dinner. You aren’t allergic to anything are you?”
“Not that I know of,” Oliver said sardonically.
“Who was that?” Lance asked, as Gwen joined him on the couch setting the phone back in the charger. “Arthur?”
“Yes,” Gwen said, biting her bottom lip. Lance sighed. Gwen only bit her lip when she worried about something important – usually Arthur related.
“What’s he done this time?” Lance asked, almost scared of the answer. Since Uther passed away Arthur had been acting different. Lance couldn’t find it in him to feel remorse at Uther’s passing; the man had been elitist, extremely judgemental and tyrannical over his children. The man had never made an effort to hide how much he loathed both Lance and Gwen for distracting Arthur. However, Arthur’s odd behaviour afterwards had been even more troubling.
“He hit someone with his car last week.”
“What?” Lance sat bolt up, horrified. “Are they okay?”
“Arthur said he has amnesia, and he doesn’t seem to have any family or friends so he’s moving in with Arthur,” Gwen said, looking as uneasy as Lance felt.
“You mean, he has someone he doesn’t know, who has amnesia because he hit them with his car, moving into the deathtrap of a cabin in the middle of nowhere where it will just be the two of them,” Lance summarized.
“That is not going to end well.”
Gwen cuddled up to his side, neither one of them paying attention recorded wedding show Gwen had become addicted to watching as they began planning for their wedding.
“Gwaine will be back in a few weeks. We should all head down and visit, make sure Arthur hasn’t been murdered. Meet this mystery person,” Lance suggested.
Gwen smiled at him thankfully, leaning forward to press a soft, lingering kiss to his lips.
“We shouldn’t tell Gwaine too much about the cabin though. I want to see his face,” Gwen said causing Lance to laugh.
Willow Street had not seen so much action since Old Home Week of 1951 when the youngest Percival had organized a massive streaking event and old Mrs. Harrow at the end of the street had a heart attack as fifty, young, buck-naked males ran past her front petunias. Now, however, the entire street was the focus of the largest scandal ever to hit Perth.
None of the town gossipers knew what to focus on more – the fact that a rich young man had moved into the abandoned cabin at the end of Pendragon Lane; or the fact that said young man had ran over someone; OR the fact that the young man the rich young man had hit had amnesia; OR the fact they were now living together.
“According to Mrs. Ireland the a-man-sa man just appeared out of nowhere! Whoosh!” Elena said dramatically, trailing behind her two sisters, trying desperately to get her sisters to talk to her again. The silent treatment had lasted a whole block.
“It’s called amnesia Ellie,” Vivian said snottily. As the oldest of the three sisters, she always knew everything. “And we don’t care; it’s your fault Chantry got out.”
“It was not,” Elena cried tearfully.
“Yes it was,” Sophia shot back. “You let her out!”
Elena felt tears well up at the thought of the little black and white cat. Chantry was barely two years old, and no one had seen her since Elena let her out three days ago. This was the third rescue mission the girls had launched in an attempt to find their favourite feline.
“So if some big bear or fisher or something ate her, she’s going to haunt you,” Sophia said waspishly, glaring at the youngest girl.
“But Chantry loves me,” Ellie whimpered, terrified images of ghost-cats attacking her at night. She gave an extra careful glance into the bushes, just in case.
“Stop it Sophie,” Vivian commanded, as she crumpled against the curb with a pitiful whimper. Sharing a glance with Sophia, they both joined Vivian on the curb, Elena wrapping an arm around the older girl.
There was not a single sign of Chantry all along Willow Lane.
“Chantry is the smartest kitty ever,” Elena said softly.
“Yeah, she’s probably on some big adventure,” Sophia agreed.
“She probably is eaten,” Vivian cried. “I heard Mom and Dad talking, and it’s not just Chantry. They think it’s some predator that’s been gobbling up all the cats on the street!”
Vivian’s blonde hair cascaded around her face as she broke down into sobs. With nothing else to do, Elena tried to wrap her arms around both her sisters and hug them as close to her as possible. The hydro pole beside them was filled with missing pets from along Willow Lane.
Arthur hadn’t lived with someone since university when he and Lance had shared a two bedroom apartment in their third and fourth years. Lance had been a quiet roommate, spending most of his time either at the library desperately trying to keep his scholarship or spending the night at Gwen’s place. Lance had been unassuming, always cleaning up after himself and extremely easy going. In the two weeks since Oliver moved in Arthur was beginning to realize how much of a saint Lance really was.
Oliver was a whirlwind of chaos. He left things in odd places. He seemed to fiddle with almost anything that was left out; picking it up without realizing what he was doing and then dropping it off at some unknown location. So far Arthur had found pens in the fridge, socks in the kitchen, towels in the living room, and the unicorn collection of Morgana’s childhood had found its way to the fireplace mantel and the front porch. Perhaps most annoying was how Arthur could never find the keys which migrated rooms with such frequency that he had simply given up trying to keep them in one place.
Unlike Lance’s easy going attitude, Oliver debated him on every little thing. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t remember how to make an omelette, Oliver was sure Arthur was doing it wrong. Same with the laundry, and stacking the dishes, and what colours the walls should be repainted. Luckily he seemed to have dropped trying to figure out what was behind the fourth door upstairs.
It was two weeks into living together that Arthur’s deep sleep was punctured by an almost inhuman scream of torture. For a split second, between sleep and wakefulness, he had thought it was some creature outside the cabin. It did not take long to realize the sounds were coming from Oliver’s room.
Running down the hall Arthur felt his heart pound loudly against his chest. The door into the horribly pink room was still open, and the sound of erratic movement and yelling echoed down the hall. Oliver was turning and twisting, yelling out in some made-up language. Grabbing his flailing arms, Arthur tried to keep Oliver from hurting himself.
“Hey, come on, wake up,” Arthur pleaded as Oliver whimpered beneath him.
Suddenly, Oliver jerked awake and for a split second Arthur could have sworn his eyes were a glowing gold which swirled around his iris. Arthur didn’t have long to dwell on it, since the window beside the bed burst inwards, causing Arthur to fall forward and shield Oliver’s body as much as he could.
Looking down at Oliver’s wide and scared gaze, Arthur quickly backed up so he wasn’t pressed full length against him. He was also suddenly very aware that he was wearing nothing more than boxers.
“What happened?” Oliver asked.
“I don’t know,” Arthur said. “Are you hurt?”
“No, I ... I had a bad dream,” he whispered, staring at the broken window and the shards of glass which littered the floor. Oliver’s fingers gently pressed against his side and Arthur felt a slice of pain shoot through him. Looking down he noticed Oliver’s fingers were coated in red. “You’ve been injured.”
“Gwen gave me a first aid kit when I moved in here. It’s in the bathroom.” Arthur could feel where the shards were embedded in his back. Hissing with every movement Arthur carefully made his way out of the room trying not to step on any of the glass shards in his bare feet. Oliver followed his lead, stepping gingerly out of the room.
The harsh light of the bathroom seemed too bright after running around the dark cabin. In its dazzling glow Arthur tried to make sense of what he had just witnessed. Obviously he was still tired; there must have been some sort of glare to make him think Oliver’s eyes had been a glowing gold.
“Let me,” Oliver said quietly as Arthur got the first aid kit out from under the sink. Arthur sat on the edge of the bathtub to give Oliver access to his back. Using the tweezers he gently started to remove the pieces of glass embedded in him. “They’re not too deep.”
Grunting in response, Arthur tried not to flinch as Oliver, as gently as he could, removed piece after piece of jagged glass. Oliver moved in closely to make sure he didn’t miss a single wound. Arthur could feel his breath against the nape of his neck and the other hand a pressing heat against bare skin. It had been so long since he had been with anyone, since before his father passed. He thought, for one tantalizing moment, how simple it would be to lean forward, press his lips against Oliver’s and sink into the body in front of him. Before Arthur could get too carried away, Oliver stepped back. Arthur felt a painful sting as Oliver cleaned the shallow wounds.
“I think only a couple of these will need to be bandaged,” Oliver commented, gently trailing a finger just beneath the wounds. Arthur just hoped he didn’t feel him shiver in response to the casual touch.
“I’m sorry about the window,” Oliver apologized after bandaging the few cuts which needed them.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Arthur pointed out. “There must have been a freak gust of wind or something. Besides I think we can add another thing you seem to remember.”
“I never had to tell you how to treat a wound,” Arthur pointed out, knowing how happy it always made Oliver when he could piece another clue about himself together. Sure enough, as Oliver sent a surprised look down at the First Aid kit a large, happy grin erupted on his face.
“You’re right, I mean, I didn’t really know what everything in here was, but I knew what they were probably meant for,” Oliver gushed. “Maybe I was a physician?”
“Don’t know about that,” Arthur said, thinking about how little Oliver was able to use any sort of piece of technology. “But you probably have some first aid training.”
Despite Arthur thinking that he wasn’t responsible for the window bursting as it had, Oliver couldn’t help but feel he was. He had felt something that night. Waking up from a dream filled with the heat of fire and screams of people and flashes of steel, he had felt something pulse through him. It had gone through him and suddenly the window had blown inwards. Oliver wasn’t sure it was a coincidence, but was too scared to mention it to Arthur. He had been kind enough to give him a place to live regardless of the amnesia, or the fact that they were little more than strangers. The last thing he wanted was for Arthur to think he was some sort of monster.
After the window incident, the pull would happen upon him at the most inopportune times. When he was searching for something, it would tingle at his fingertips. Oliver worked hard to suppress it, but the more he did, the more it pushed back, itching beneath his skin. The thought of the wounds on Arthur’s back stopped him from giving in. Whatever this thing was, it was dangerous.
It was fortunate that the warm June weather meant that a simple garbage bag over the window was enough for a temporary solution. Though it did make the house seem even more run down.
That Friday Arthur had finally picked up the paint they had ordered from Fournier’s Hardware in town. The young teenage boy behind the counter was a towering six foot something youth. Oliver and Arthur theorized that there must be something in the water that made giants such as the teen and officer Percival.
With newspaper and tarps covering the furniture, Oliver and Arthur began to tackle the living room first.
“Oliver,” Arthur stressed his name. “You are dripping everywhere.”
“I thought that’s why we put the newspaper down,” Oliver pointed out not bothering to make sure his roller was evenly coated, simply dipping it into the pale, mellow but bright yellow-gold they had decided on.
“That doesn’t mean you can go out of your way to see how incompetent you can be,” Arthur sneered. “You’ll leave streaks if you don’t do it right.”
Rolling his eyes, Oliver made a show of properly coating his roller with exaggerated motions.
“I don’t think I’m an Oliver,” He said abruptly a little while later.
“What do you think you are?” Arthur asked.
“Not sure, but definitely not Oliver. I think I hate it more than John.”
“You are doing it wrong again!” Arthur groaned as Oliver, or whatever he wanted to be called now, managed to splatter paint all over the place. Yanking his roller from his grip before disaster struck, Arthur demonstrated, “see you take the roller and coat it,” demonstrating rolling it in the paint, “and then you roll it up here so it doesn’t drip,” showing how to roll it properly, “and then you put it to the wall,” Arthur finished by smearing the roller against Oliver’s surprised face.
“You painted me!” He accused Arthur.
“Now maybe you’ll stop splattering paint everywhere.”
As Arthur tossed the roller back at him he wasn’t expecting Oliver to attack him with it. Grabbing his own paint soaked roller, he managed to dodge most of Oliver’s shoddy attacks. Realising that this wasn’t giving Oliver what he wanted, he surprised Arthur by dropping the roller and tackling him onto the couch. Laughing, he rubbed his paint smeared hands into Arthur’s face.
Flipping Oliver onto his back side, Arthur pinned his wrists above his head. There was momentary pause while Arthur realized once again how easy it would be to simply close the nearly nonexistent distance between their lips. Smirking down at the prone figure below him, the last thing either of them anticipated was the sharp, embarrassed yelp from the doorway followed by a slow applause.
Glancing up, Arthur saw Gwen, who was probably the one who yelped since she was covering her mouth looking highly embarrassed. Beside her was Gwaine who was looking a little too pleased at the scene in front of him as he slowly applauded them.
“Hot damn if they told me there was a free porn performance going on, I would have come back sooner,” Gwaine laughed.
Quickly getting off Oliver, Arthur rolled his eyes, grabbing Gwaine into a one-arm hug, thumping him on his back.
“When did you get back?” Arthur asked. The last time he had heard from Gwaine was a month ago when he had been backpacking through India.
“Flew in just yesterday and heard you got some boy toy hidden away at some creepy cabin in the woods. Thought I should come check it out,” Gwaine said, sending an appraising eye over Oliver, much to Arthur’s annoyance.
“Leave it,” Arthur warned.
“We’re sorry Arthur, we should have warned you, we didn’t mean to interrupt anything,” Gwen apologized.
“What did we interrupt?” Lance asked, shouldering his way through the front door. “Arthur, you should really fix your front steps I almost got my foot stuck on the second step.”
“It’s on the to-do list and you guys didn’t interrupt anything,” Arthur said.
“Really? Because it looked like you two were about to -” Gwaine started to say.
“So, you must be Arthur’s new housemate,” Gwen cut across Gwaine, having noticed Oliver’s confused expression. “I’m Gwen, this is my fiancé Lance, and this scoundrel is Gwaine.”
“Hi,” Oliver said sheepishly, giving an awkward wave.
“So what’s your name?” Gwaine asked, and Arthur cursed the fact that the man couldn’t ask anything without it sounding like a pick-up line.
“Don’t know, I was going by Oliver but I’m thinking of changing it,” Oliver explained.
“Ugh, no wonder, Oliver is a horrible name,” Gwaine shuddered. “Who was dim enough to think that was a good name for someone as gorgeous as you.”
“Hey!” Arthur said, affronted. “Oliver is a fine name. And stop it.”
“Stop what?” Gwaine asked innocently.
“You know what,” Arthur pointed out. “Don’t scare away my roommate.”
“So you need a new name,” Lance said thoughtfully, cutting across Arthur and Gwaine.
“We’ll need alcohol to make such a big life-altering decision,” Gwaine announced. “Luckily for you all, I brought enough to kill a small elephant.”
Oliver the Nameless and Arthur took turns washing up, unsuccessfully getting most of the paint off. The paint flecks in their hair were much more noticeable in Oliver’s dark locks Arthur was pleased to note. It was amazing how well Oliver seemed to click with his friends. His wide innocent stare had immediately won over Gwen’s motherly side. Lance loved anyone Gwen loved by default. Gwaine, Arthur was pleased to see, had finally settled into straight friendly ribbing. After a number of beers, Oliver’s new name was still not decided.
“Come on, you could be ... Pegasus!” Gwaine laughed, sloshing beer over the kitchen table they were seated around. “Or really outrageous and hippy-ish like Rainbow.”
“I am not being called Rainbow!” Oliver said, horrified by the expression.
“How about Ried,” Gwen suggested. “I always like that name.”
“That’s a last name, sweetie,” Lance said, cuing Arthur that Lance was officially drunk. The drunker he got the more pet names would emerge. It was what Gwaine, Arthur and Gwen called the Lancelot Drunk-O-Meter.
“It can be a first name,” Gwen argued.
“Cupcake, no, that is definitely a surname, chipmunk,” Lance gushed.
Gwen’s eyes narrowed dangerously.
“It should be British sounding,” Arthur announced. “Hear the accent.”
“I thought it sounded Welsh,” Gwaine commented.
“How’m I supposed to be able to tell,” Arthur waved a dismissive hand. “Regardless it’s UK-ish. We must find a name to reflect it.”
“No, no, I got it!” Lance announced. “We should add him to the collection.”
“Oooooh, the collection,” Gwaine whispered dramatically.
“Okay, you have the option of Percival, Leon, Elyan, or Merlin,” Arthur announced. “But not Percival because that would be awkward the next time we run into Percival in town.”
“Arthur! You met a Percival and haven’t added him to the collection?” Gwaine asked, pretending to be highly affronted. Or maybe he was, but Arthur was buzzed enough not to care.
“What’s the collection?” Oliver asked, peeling the label off his beer.
“Well, see, Gwen, or should I say the full name, Guinevere and Arthur here grew up together. Guinevere was the daughter of the maid in the Pendragon household. Then when Arthur moved into residence for first year university he met Lancelot, who fell in love with Guinevere. The following year those two boys were lucky enough to get an apartment across yours truly,” Gwaine said dramatically. “Get it? Guinevere, Lancelot, Gwaine, Arthur Pendragon?”
Oliver shook his head slowly. “Nope, sorry, still not getting it. Is that supposed to mean anything?”
“Wow you really must have amnesia,” Gwaine said.
“That’s what the physician says,” Oliver quipped sarcastically.
“The legends, King Arthur and his knights, his Queen and his Wizard!” Gwaine was starting to get into story-telling mode. “The greatest King ever known. In the magical kingdom of Camelot, King Arthur was married to Queen Guinevere who was in love with the knight Lancelot. His most trusted knights, the knights of the roundtable, included Lancelot, Gwaine – who I think was probably a very handsome man and the best fighter – Percival, Elyan, and Leon. And of course, the wise advisor to the King, his sorcerer Merlin.”
“It’s probably one of the most famous legends ever,” Arthur said. “But they aren’t exactly common names, so when we all met each other it was like ...”
“Epic!” Lancelot laughed. “Isn’t that right sugar plum?”
“We then decided we would try to find people with the other names,” Gwen explained to a very confused Oliver. “So if you want to help us out with that then Leon, Elyan and Merlin are still available for the taking.”
“I think you’re a Merlin,” Gwaine said, his voice lowering into his husky flirting voice. “Because you’re magical.”
Lance and Gwen burst out laughing, while Oliver blushed and Arthur frowned.
“Yeah, be Merlin,” Gwen encouraged him.
“Isn’t that name kind of ... stupid?” The newly appointed Merlin asked.
“Exactly, so chances of us finding a Merlin are slim to none,” Lance said logically. “You would be doing us a big favour.”
“Who here thinks his name should be Merlin?” Arthur asked laughing as everyone except for Merlin raised their hands. “It’s official, you are now named Merlin!”
“Do I not get a say in my own name?” Merlin asked.
“No,” Gwen said, downing the rest of her beer.
“You heard my angel cakes,” Lance said.
Oliver woke up the next morning with a pounding headache and fuzzy mouth. It took him a minute to remember his name was no longer Oliver, but Merlin. He would need to remember to tell Gaius of this new development the next time he went into town for his physical therapy.
After a slow start in the morning, filled with hung over groans and strained laughter as they remembered random bits of the night before, Arthur eventually roped everyone into finishing painting the living room walls.
“This is the last time I will ever visit you,” Gwaine told Arthur sternly. “I can’t believe you would force us into this sort of labour while hung over. Isn’t that right Merlin?”
It took a minute for Merlin to realize who he was talking to, still not used to this new name. In the end, he just rolled his eyes and kept painting.
“I see you’re finally not dripping everywhere Merlin, maybe there’s hope you yet,” Arthur teased mercilessly.
A couple days after Gwaine, Gwen and Lance left back for civilization Merlin woke up from another nightmare. The sound of clanging swords and knights were snippets of sound and images which danced around the corners of his dream. He cursed Gwaine’s story about the legends of King Arthur, turning back over and entering into a dreamless sleep.
Sophia ran across Willow Lane and behind the large bush under Mr. Kilpatrick’s front porch. It was a dangerous choice and if Mr. Kilpatrick found her there it was sure to end in disaster. Everyone knew the one thing he hated more than children were children on his property. Myles had told her that one time Mr. Kilpatrick got so mad his entire face turned purple and he breathed fire down on all the kids, roasting them alive. Sophia knew better than to believe anything Myles said, after all she lived across from the old man and she had never seen him breath fire, but she still thought he was a bit creepy.
In the end, there was no better hiding spot, and she was sure Elena, who was currently It, would be too scared venture onto the perfectly manicured lawns. She held her breath in anticipation, heart pounding widely as she heard Elena finally count to thirty. Peering beneath the bush, she saw Elena’s bare feet march down the front porch across the street and stomp into the backyard.
The hot summer sun was blocked by the bush, but the overwhelming humidity still made it uncomfortable to sit still long. The longer she waited, the more anxious she got to be found. It was hot and she was bored.
“Merlin!” a man’s voice yelled down the road. Frowning, Sophia leaned down and tried to peer from under the bush. She couldn’t see anything from this angle.
The sudden sound of clanging metal scared her. Huddling back into a small ball under the bush, Sophia almost yelled when the voice boomed out another, “Merlin?”
She felt every inch of her body freeze in fear. Every limb seemed to shake with tension, locked into their frozen position. A cold sweat dampened her back. For some inexplicable reason Sophia was terrified.
“Merlin!” The voice yelled out, its tone commanding.
Gathering her courage she leapt to her feet and yelled out, “I’m not Merlin!”
“Found you!” Elena called out, running across the street. “Why’d you get up? I would have found you.”
“Didn’t you hear it?” Sophia asked, looking up and down Willow Street, trying to find any sign of the man. The entire street was empty except for them. Most of the driveways empty as everyone commuted into the nearby communities to work.
“Hear what?” Elena asked, joining her sister to look up and down the street, even though she had no idea what they were looking for.
“A man,” Sophia explained. “I heard someone.”
“Was it Mr. Kilpatrick?” Elena whispered in fear, her wide eyes looking up at the redbrick facade in horror.
“No I ... never mind,” Sophia shrugged. Standing beside Elena with the bright sunlight beating down cheerfully, it was hard to stay scared. “Just thought I saw someone. And I’m not It.”
The same July sun beat down on Arthur and Merlin’s tired and sweaty bare backs. The heat had caused them to long since shed their shirts.
After two months of living together they were finally trying to re-shingle the roof. Merlin’s room was now a lovely pale blue colour instead of the awful pink and finally had a new window installed. However, Merlin was hardly able to enjoy it thanks to the mini flood which forced him to sleep on the couch whenever it rained. Even though the couch was comfy, he was looking forward to sleeping in his own bed regardless of the weather.
“Shit,” Merlin cursed, as a tremor hit his hand and caused the nail he was trying to hold slide out of his grip and roll down the steep rooftop and off the ledge. He felt the pull again, a deep sensation in his gut which tried to shoot out towards the falling nail. Clenching his fist tightly, Merlin closed his eyes and tried to get it under control.
“You okay?” Arthur asked.
“It’s nothing,” Merlin tried not to show how mad it made him that his hand would still act up every now and again, and how unnerved he was at the tingling sensation which prickled his skin before something unexplainable happened.
“Is it your hand?” Arthur asked. Merlin hated when he did this. Not only did he feel utterly useless whenever his hand acted up, but he loathed the look of guilt Arthur would get even all these months later.
“It’s nothing,” Merlin repeated, grabbing a new nail once his hand had finally stopped shaking.
“You only have a few more sessions with Dr. Gaius, maybe we should ask him about what things we should continue doing at home,” Arthur commented, not letting the subject drop.
“Maybe,” Merlin said passively.
The roof was half done. Part of it was covered in tarp to prevent rain from penetrating the house. Arthur kept showing off his muscles by carrying full bundles of shingles up the ladder with impressive ease, while Merlin had to break apart his bundles to manage it. Whenever Arthur’s muscles got distracting, Merlin would just think of how annoying they could be when he used them to show off. It surprisingly did not work well.
That night, bone-tired from a long day of physical labour, Merlin grabbed his journal from under his mattress. Gwaine had made three more visits, and during the last one he had given Merlin the leather bound journal. According to Gwaine, he had picked it up somewhere along his travels, but wasn’t sure where.
“Figure you can use this more than I can,” Gwaine had commented, passing the leather-bound journal to him.
And Merlin had used it well. Every night he liked to write little truths about himself. It was if he were a huge puzzle he tried to figure out. Some entries were very short, such as “I know rats taste gross?” or “I like the colour red.” Other entries were much longer, such as watching the sunset on the porch drinking a beer with Arthur, and suddenly picturing watching the sunset on horseback. Though that entry was filled with details about how the land had looked, he could not tell if it was a real memory or not. For all he knew it was just a daydream. Just in case though, he wrote it down. His nightmares had calmed down, but it was rare to go a week without being awoken, usually by a scared Arthur, at least once.
The one thing he did not write down was the pulling sensation and odd occurrences happening around him. Merlin was too scared of it. For some reason it seemed paramount to keep it secret. The last thing he wanted was written proof that he was some kind of monster.
“Last load!” Arthur called out, as he climbed off the ladder onto the rooftop. The sun was just skimming the tops of the trees. They probably wouldn’t need the full pack to finally finish. “Hey, Merlin, I’ll finish these last ones if you grab a couple of beer for us.”
Not needing to be asked twice, Merlin rushed down the ladder before Arthur had a chance to revoke his niceness. Once in the kitchen which was so much cooler than the beating sun outside, Merlin stood with the fridge door open for a minute enjoying the cool air on his overheated body. The abrupt ringing of the telephone scared him.
Staring at the contraption, Merlin approached it slowly. He had seen Arthur use it many times over the past two months. He had explained that it allowed people from far away to talk as if they were right next to each other. With shaking hands Merlin picked up the receiver and tried to mimic how he had seen Arthur hold it.
“Hello?” Merlin called out into the device. For a minute there was nothing but silence. Merlin wondered what he had done wrong, but then a voice emerged from down near his chin. Flipping the phone around, he heard a woman’s voice talking in his ear.
“Arthur?” the voice asked him.
“Sorry, he’s on the roof right now,” Merlin explained, feeling slightly crazy to be talking to no one.
There was a pause, and Merlin wondered if the voice was gone. But then it asked, “Who’s this?”
“This is Merlin,” he explained. “Who’s this?”
“It’s Morgana,” the voice said, pausing slightly again as if waiting for Merlin to recognize that name. “I’m Arthur’s sister.”
“Arthur has a sister?” Probably not the politest thing to blurt out, but Merlin was severely confused. In the past two months, Arthur hadn’t mentioned any sort of family. There had been no talk of a father, mother, or possible siblings. Merlin had not even thought about it.
“I see my darling brother hasn’t mentioned me,” Morgana said waspishly.
“Oh, well, I have amnesia so maybe he didn’t want to rub my face in having no family,” Merlin tried to justify Arthur’s actions to his sister.
“... Who are you again?” Morgana asked.
“No, I mean, who are you to Arthur?”
“I live at his place.” Merlin explained.
“Oh, so you two are together?” Morgana asked.
“Um, sure,” Merlin shrugged before remembering Morgana could not see what he was doing. He was not sure what exactly Morgana was trying to ask, but figured it had something to do with them living together. The entire conversation was very awkward to have without a person in front of you to talk to. Merlin liked the telephone less and less the longer he was on it.
“So, can I talk to Arthur?” Morgana asked, sounding very impatient.
“Sure, I’ll go get him,” Merlin said. Glancing awkwardly at the phone he gently placed it back in the cradle it had come from and went outside. Climbing back up the ladder, Merlin popped his head over the edge. Arthur’s back was turned to him, pink from being out in the sun for so long, as he nailed in the final shingles.
“Arthur,” Merlin called out, “your sister is on the phone.”
Arthur spun around, hammer in mid-swing.
“What?” He asked, looking very non-pulsed.
“Morgana? Your sister?” Merlin said. “She’s on the phone.”
For a minute Arthur looked too shocked to move. Then with mechanical movements he jerkily placed the hammer and nails back in the toolkit, before following Merlin down the ladder.
As Arthur picked up the phone, Merlin tried to inconspicuously grab the beers from the fridge. He jumped when Arthur slammed the phone down. Barely having time to close the fridge door Arthur had backed him against the counter.
“I thought you said she was on the phone,” Arthur said tightly.
“She isn’t,” Arthur was so serious, brimming with anger that it took Merlin by surprise. This was unlike anything he could ever remember dealing with, and certainly had not dealt with in the past two months. “Are you telling me that you are so stupid, that you accidentally hung up on her?”
“I just put it back down where it came from to get you,” Merlin tried to explain. “I don’t understand what is wrong with-”
“No, of course you don’t. You can remember how to start a fucking bonfire, or tie ridiculous knots like a boy scout, but why should you know how to use a phone? Never mind that you’ve seen me do it hundreds of times since you moved in,” Arthur ranted. Merlin wished he hadn’t been backed into the corner; he would give anything to just be able to walk away. Right now there was little more that he could do then stand, red faced and clutching the cool bottles of beer in front of him like a lifeline. There must have been something in his face that gave Arthur pause. Sighing, pinching the bridge of his nose tightly, Arthur’s shoulder’s drooped. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Did she say where she was? How I could contact her?”
“No,” Merlin said carefully, not sure what to say to keep Arthur from getting mad. After awhile, when it was clear Arthur wasn’t about to move or explain, Merlin finally found the courage to continue talking.
“I didn’t know you had a sister,” Merlin observed lightly, taking in Arthur’s pinched expression.
“Yes you do, you’re in her old room, remember?” Arthur sighed, stalking towards one of the kitchen chairs. Merlin followed him tentatively, finally offering Arthur a beer.
“You never talk about her,” Merlin said hesitantly. “I guess I just forgot after so long.”
“It’s complicated, Morgana is my half-sister. I haven’t heard from her since our father’s funeral.”
Merlin wasn’t sure what to say. He wondered if perhaps he had a sibling out there, also estranged, who had no idea what had happened to him. It was hard to think of. Merlin’s entire existence was made up of the two months he remembered. Trying to imagine family and friends outside of Arthur, Gwen, Lance, Gwaine and even Dr. Gaius was useless. Two months and still the police could not figure out where he had come from or who he had been before the accident.
“I’m sorry I messed up the phone,” Merlin said, fiddling with the edge of the beer label.
“It’s okay. I should have seen this coming. You’re completely useless with technology. Maybe you were Amish or something … a British Amish,” Arthur gave a tired chuckle. Merlin didn’t quite get what the joke was, but smiled anyways, happy that Arthur seemed to be returning to his normal, slightly-prattish self.
“Still, I think this went better than the compudder thing,” Merlin stated sending Arthur a pointed look, knowing his misuse of the word would rile him up.
“Com-puter Merlin!” Arthur corrected him, not missing a beat. Seeing Merlin’s smirk, Arthur kicked his foot out, sending Merlin’s chair scraping across their scuffed floors. Throwing his head back laughing despite himself, Arthur shook his head. “I still don’t know what you did to it. My poor computer still doesn’t work properly whenever you’re in the same room. I think it’s scared of you.”
“Right, because compudders have feelings,” Merlin scoffed.
“Computers, Merlin, computers,” Arthur reminded him with exaggerated patience.
It was night when the dream came.
He was tied, splash of water, arms aching and she was approaching. ‘Let Arthur know … die happy’. Dark room. Dirt. Feet scraping the bottom. ‘Not going to make it that easy’. Dark hair, sharp eyes, pain. Morgana.
Merlin awoke so suddenly that he fell out of the bed. Where his hip hit the dresser, the small music box exploded beside him. Startled, he crawls backwards on the floor, keeping his head low as objects fly off shelves, objects explode and the window once again cracking and shattering. Barely heard over the commotion was the sound of Arthur yelling and banging on his bedroom door. The sound of his voice seemed too distant as Merlin shook in his corner, pulling his knees up and covering his head protectively with his arms.
Arthur slammed his shoulder against Merlin’s door. At first the muffled yelps and cries had woken him, as they did every now and again. Merlin didn’t get nightmares often, but they were a common enough occurrence that Arthur had stopped feeling the same desperate sense of urgency. It still shook him to his core to hear the yells when they came. This time was different though. Merlin’s door would not open. It was locked shut so securely that Arthur was now ramming his shoulder against it.
With an echoing crack, Arthur fell into Merlin’s room.
Merlin had obviously been having some sort of fit. All the books and left over items from Morgana’s childhood had been flung around the room. The window had once again exploded, small diamond like shards covering the bed and catching the moonlight. It was Merlin that caught Arthur’s attention through the destruction. Huddled in the furthest corner, mostly hidden from view by the dresser, Merlin was rocking back and forth, his head buried in his arms.
“Merlin,” Arthur tried to keep his arm soft, as if he was cornering a dangerous animal. Reaching out, he slowly got down onto his knees and reached out. Merlin flinched away from his shaking outstretched hand and Arthur quickly lowered it. “Merlin, it’s Arthur. Merlin?”
Trying to reach out once more, Merlin gave a strangled scream, backing further away from Arthur.
“Damnit,” Arthur cursed, backing away from him. There had been a few times that Merlin had woken up disoriented, but this was beyond anything Arthur had ever seen. Hesitating in the doorway, he needed to contact Dr. Gaius, but he didn’t know what would happen if he left Merlin unattended.
Quickly making up his mind, he ran downstairs to the phone and dialed the doctor’s home number, now ingrained into his mind after months of living with Merlin. Those first few weeks he had been consistently phoning to ask for advice about everything from what food was good for someone suffering from amnesia (“Believe it or not, memory does not affect the persons diet.”) or when they would argue over something silly (“I’m not a love doctor Mr. Pendragon.”).
“Pick up,” Arthur muttered, eyeing the staircase warily, as if he suspected Merlin would be tumbling down them at any moment.
“Hello?” A groggy voice answered.
“Dr. Gaius,” Arthur said recognizing his voice right away. “I’m sorry I’m calling so late. It’s Merlin, he’s had a fit or something. I don’t know what to do.”
“Where is he now?” Gaius asked, suddenly sounding very much awake despite the late hour.
“He’s upstairs. I woke up when I heard him screaming and his door was locked. By the time I got in the room was trashed. Just ... everything was completely … the window had broken and Merlin was huddled in the corner,” Arthur felt his still racing heart beat ever faster just remembering the scene. “He didn’t seem to recognize me, wouldn’t let me touch him …”
“Right, I’m on my way,” Gaius said.
“Are you sure?” Arthur asked, looking at the oven clock reading 3 o’clock in the morning in a red glow. “What should I do?”
“Get back upstairs, see if you can get him to make sure he wasn’t wounded by the glass, it’ll take me twenty minutes to get out there,” Gaius instructed. “Keep him calm.”
Upstairs Arthur once again crouched down and moved slowly towards the far corner. Merlin was still curled in a small ball, rocking back and forth, unaware of Arthur, completely out of it. Arthur reached forward once more, desperate to make a connection, to snap Merlin out of it. Merlin did not flinch or back away from his touch this time. Instead, as Arthur loosely gripped his shoulder, Merlin’s head snapped up and a pair of glowing golden eyes was staring back at him. Giving a strangled gasp, Arthur fell backwards, winded, onto his butt in surprise, as Merlin once again buried his head in his arms. Twenty minutes seemed to last a lifetime
Trying to catch his breath, Arthur watched in horrified fascination as Merlin kept rocking back and forth uncontrollably in the corner.
“Arthur?” Dr. Gaius called from downstairs.
“We’re up here,” Arthur called down. “Hurry!”
Gaius appeared in the doorway, a knitted sweater and worn jeans. It was weird to see the doctor outside of his normal scrubs. As if there was an element of his person missing without the hospital setting and doctor attire. Arthur stood up to allow Gaius to squeeze into the tiny room.
“How long has he been like this?” Gaius asked setting down his medicinal bag and taking the position Arthur had been in before he had seen the golden eyes.
“Not even half an hour,” Arthur said, “that’s if he woke up around the time I did. But Doctor Gaius … his eyes … there’s something wrong with his eyes.”
“What do you mean something wrong with his eyes? Are they bloodshot? Dilated pupil?” Gaius asked, the consummate professional, even kneeling in the half-destroyed bedroom in the middle of the night.
“No, they were glowing,” Arthur said, still feeling a bit shocked at that eerie glow.
Gaius paused where he was hunched on the floor. Slowly Dr. Gaius turned to face to look at Arthur incredulously, as if trying to verify that Arthur wasn’t trying to be funny. At the sight of Arthur’s distress he nodded and turned back to Merlin.
“We need to find Johnny boy a bed that’s not covered in glass,” Gaius said, deep in thought as he examined Merlin. Only Gaius would still call him Johnny boy regardless of Merlin’s many name changes.
“He can sleep in my bed,” Arthur suggested. “It’s just down the hall.”
“Right, help me lift him up.”
Between the two of them, they were able to half carry Merlin down to Arthur’s bed. Once he was seated on the bed, he turned on his side, away from Arthur and Gaius.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I’ll examine him,” Gaius said. “Why don’t you wait downstairs, maybe put on the kettle while you’re down there. I feel like some tea.”
“Right,” Arthur said absently, hovering at the doorway, unable to take his eyes off of Merlin’s curved back. It was odd to see someone who was so full of life so listless. At Gaius’s pointed cough, Arthur nodded again. “Right. Tea.”
Downstairs, with the kettle on, Arthur sat at the table, staring with unseeing eyes at the wall opposite him. He felt that familiar fear, like watching his father collapsing in front of him. That complete vulnerability and helplessness. In a fog, he heard the distant whistling of the kettle.
Getting up, he pulled out a tea pot from the cupboard and placed two Red Rose tea bags in it. The routine was somewhat comfortable as he waited for the doctor to finish his examination. This didn’t require thought.
Finally, after the tea was steeped and two mugs had been pulled out of the cupboard … freshly painted cupboards. Merlin had decided the colour for them. The same man who was having some sort of eye changing fit upstairs. What on earth would do that to some one’s eyes? Perhaps there was something radioactive in the water? Staring down at the tea pot warily, Arthur was tempted to toss the entire thing out just in case.
Why was Gaius not down here yet? Should he have just called the ambulance? Surely Merlin needed a hospital or someone who would be able to care for him better than Arthur. What did Arthur know about this sort of thing? Merlin wouldn’t even let him touch him.
“Ah, seems the tea is done,” Gaius said happily as he entered the kitchen.
“How is he?” Arthur asked, quickly launching to his feet.
“He’s fine. It would seem he managed to exhaust himself,” Gaius smiled a bit. “He’s very fortunate that whatever caused the window to burst like that didn’t seem to have even scratched him.”
“So … he didn’t break the window?” Arthur asked. After all, what were the chances of the same window being broken twice from some rogue gust of wind?
“Like I said, he was completely unharmed physically. There wasn’t even a scratch on him. My best guess would be that the window breaking as it did triggered some left over post-traumatic stress that induced the state we found him in,” Gaius said, sipping out of his cup, and grimacing slightly. “Would you happen to have any sugar?”
“Sugar? Right, sugar, um, just beside the microwave there,” Arthur pointed to the container labeled ‘sugar’. “But, Dr. Gaius … what about the eyes? What would cause that?”
“Mr. Pendragon, when I examined John, sorry Merlin, his eyes were highly dilated. The light from the hallway probably caused it to seem that his eyes glowed in the dark, much like an animal’s eyes will seem to glow in headlights when you’re driving,” Gaius explained patiently.
“No,” Arthur argued. “It wasn’t the whole eye. Just the … you know... iris thing. Instead of being blue they were this swirling gold.”
“You’ve been through a lot tonight, Mr. Pendragon, Arthur,” Gaius said kindly, taking another sip of his tea now that he was satisfied with its sugar content. “Your mind is probably just playing tricks on you. Believe me, I checked. There was nothing wrong with Merlin’s eyes.”
“I wasn’t seeing things,” Arthur said. He felt his cheeks heating with anger at being treated so dismissively.
“Listen, if you ever see it again, then bring him into the hospital and I will give him a more thorough examination, but if the only time Merlin’s eyes have seemed to glow is tonight, when you were woken from your sleep to find your roommate having a mental breakdown and you were under extreme duress, I think it would be prudent to wait before we jump to conclusions about eye abnormalities.”
Arthur nodded, something holding him back from mentioning the one other time ... the other time the window had mysteriously burst.
“Now, I’m expected at the hospital for six, so I need to leave if I hope to have time for a shower before my shift,” Gaius told him. “You have my number, and the number for the hospital. If you need anything. If Merlin is still distant and suffering when he wakes up, phone me and we’ll get him in right away. If you need anything Arthur, call.”
“Right, thanks Gaius,” Arthur said, feeling completely exhausted. His entire body seemed to ache.
After Gaius left, Arthur made his way up the staircase. The banister was still broken. Two months and they still needed to fix it. Arthur wasn’t sure when it happened, but it was impossible to think of possibly working on the house without Merlin by his side. How was Arthur supposed to work without Merlin’s incessant chatting to keep him company?
Entering his bedroom, which had also remained untouched since he had moved in, he stared down at Merlin sleeping peacefully on his small bed. Merlin was no longer rocking, with glowing eyes, unresponsive and flinching away from Arthur. His features were soft, beautiful, half in shadow from the harsh hallway light. Kneeling down beside the bed, he gently brushed his fingers over Merlin’s cheek bone, lightly cupping his head, careful not to wake him.
“I can’t lose you,” Arthur whispered. He didn’t know when it became true. He needed air, food, a roof over his head, and Merlin by his side. Those were the basic facts of life. Somewhere, deep inside, it felt as if it had always been this way.
“I can’t lose you,” Arthur repeated, pressing his lips against Merlin’s forehead. Grabbing extra blankets from the linen closet, and Arthur slept on the couch downstairs.
Merlin woke and everything felt a bit off. For one, he wasn’t in his room. Sitting up, feeling extremely disoriented, Merlin realised he was in Arthur’s room … in Arthur’s bed. Stumbling to his feet, Merlin wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed to find Arthur wasn’t in the bed as well.
Arthur had always been very private of his room, and Merlin was curious about everything. Going to the bookcase, there was still a lot of dust on it. That wasn’t surprising, Merlin only ever saw Arthur reading How-To and Do-It-Yourself books and magazines. Merlin’s favourite, currently residing on top of the dresser was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Trouble-Free Home Repair (2nd Edition) - mostly because whenever he saw Arthur reading it, every other day, he could tease him about how good it was to see him embracing being a complete idiot. Unlike the books on the bookcase, this one was well worn, dust-free and had several brightly coloured parchment pieces sticking out of it. On the bookcase were several miniature cars, shrunk down in size so that several of them could fit in Merlin’s palm. Merlin wondered why anyone would want a car that size, but then determined that they were probably toys.
Pulling out random books and looking at the titles, flipping through them, Merlin tried to imagine a younger Arthur, holed up in this very room, reading them. Most seemed to be some sort of series of books. Each one proudly showed a gooey looking word ‘Goosebumps’ and each seemed to depict some sort of scary monster on the front. Merlin crinkled his nose a bit. He wondered why anyone would want to read something like that.
As he grabbed another book, a glossy piece of parchment caught his eye. It seemed to be hidden behind all the books. Curiosity getting the better of him, Merlin reached in and pulled it out. Merlin’s heart stopped and all of the colour drained from his face.
This was a magazine, but unlike the home repair magazines Arthur frequented nowadays, this one had a mostly naked man barely covering himself with an artistically placed towel. His mouth was parched. Licking his lips, Merlin tried to calm himself. Suddenly he was overwhelming aware of the fact that he was holding a magazine filled with naked men that Arthur would look at in this very room. Suddenly he imagined Arthur, lying on bed, flipping through this magazine, pleasuring himself. Merlin’s pants got uncomfortably tight.
“Merlin, you awake?” Arthur asked, knocking lightly on the bedroom door.
Flinging the magazine underneath the bed, Merlin jumped back into the bed, quickly grabbing a pillow to hide the bulge in his pants.
“Yeah, come in,” Merlin said, trying to sound nonchalant.
Arthur entered, carrying a bowl of porridge and coffee.
“I, uh, brought some breakfast,” Arthur said, setting it down on the dresser. “How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine, perfectly fine,” Merlin said brightly. It seemed like there was a large sign above him saying ‘Dirty Magazine Stealer’. “Nobody’s finer than me!”
“Are you sure?” Arthur asked. To Merlin’s mortification, he placed a hand to his forehead. The last thing Merlin needed was bloody Arthur touching him as he sat in his bed, after seeing his indecent magazine, feeling more turned on than Merlin could ever remember being in his life. Which Merlin had to admit was limited to a two month window and perhaps he was always this horny. He hoped not.
“You look flushed,” Arthur stepped away, thankfully giving Merlin space. “Maybe I should take you to the hospital.”
“What? No! I’m fine Arthur,” Merlin yelled.
“I don’t want to take any chances after last night,” Arthur said sternly.
“Last night?” he asked.
“Do you not remember?”
Merlin shook his head. But then there was a flash of something … a window bursting, that pulling-pushing sensation Merlin worked so hard to contain, and a face, a woman’s face, twisted with cold hatred towards someone … towards him. A feeling of cold washed over him, dashing his arousal faster than a cold shower.
“Merlin, you destroyed your room,” Arthur said, eyeing him warily as if just talking about it would send Merlin over the edge. “I had to break down your door. You were huddled in the corner and wouldn’t let anyone near you. I had to phone Dr. Gaius to help me.”
“Dr. Gaius was here?” Merlin asked, shrinking back on the bed. “I don’t …”
“You really don’t remember? Anything?” Arthur asked, sitting tentatively on the edge of the bed.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, clasping his hands in front of him tightly.
Placing his over Merlin’s hands, Arthur squeezed them gently. “You have nothing to apologize for. You did nothing wrong.”
“You took me in and I keep just destroying rooms,” Merlin muttered.
“Well, only the one,” Arthur admitted. “You make up for it helping rebuild the other ones. Oh, the window broke again.”
“Yeah, apparently we need to get those high pressure airplane windows or something,” Arthur teased lightly, but it sounded off. Finally gathering enough courage to look Arthur in the eye, Merlin smiled weakly.
“Thanks,” he muttered.
“For looking after me,” Merlin said, smiling sadly.
“I just don’t know what to do,” Arthur’s voice sounded stressed as he recounted last nights adventures over the phone. Gwen sighed and couldn’t help but feel worried about Merlin. The man was a member of their little, oddball, tight knit family. Gwen was half tempted to pack up and leave for the cabin right then.
“And the doctor thought it was brought on by the window breaking?” Lance asked.
“Is that Lancelot?” Arthur asked.
“He’s on the upstairs phone,” Gwen explained offhandedly.
“Oh,” Arthur paused. “Yeah, he thinks it was the window.”
“And what did he say about the glowy eye thing?” Gwaine asked.
“Wait, Gwaine?” Arthur asked.
“I have you on speaker phone,” Gwen explained.
“Why’s Gwaine there?”
“Gwen was making her infamous omelet for me after I crashed at their place. See I was checking out this new bar when this girl with an enormous pair of-”
“Can we get back to Merlin?” Gwen interrupted, having heard, in mentally-scarring detail, the many talents of said girl three times now. There was a definite downside to being ‘one of the guys’.
“Right, I’m just not sure what to do,” Arthur lamented.
“Where is he now?” Lance asked.
“He’s working on the garden,” Arthur said. “He said he needed some time out of the house.”
“Maybe that’s the problem,” Gwaine said through a mouthful of omelet.
“What was that?” Arthur asked.
“He said maybe that’s the problem,” Gwen translated.
“What do you mean that’s the problem?”
“Well,” Gwaine said, “It’s just; you two haven’t really left that cabin.”
“We leave the house,” Arthur argued.
“When was the last time you left for something besides errands?” Lance asked.
“Lance, come on! You were my friend first; you’re supposed to take my side.” Arthur reprimanded.
“You’re too far away, I’m corrupting them in your absence,” Gwaine informed Arthur cheerfully.
“Ignore him Arthur,” Gwen rolled her eyes. “But he does have a point about getting out of the house.”
“Ha! I got Gwen too!” Gwaine hollered at the phone.
“Nah, Gwen loves me too much to ever betray me. Isn’t that right Gwen?” Arthur asked.
“But alas,” Gwen sighed dramatically. “If only I had a penis to keep you satisfied.”
The sound of Lance laughing echoed oddly from upstairs and over the phone.
“That’s it, Gwaine is converting you!” Arthur complained. “But, yeah, penis is slightly a deal breaker. Sorry.”
“I’ll live,” Gwen smiled.
“Back to the actual topic on hand,” Lance interrupted. “Get out of the house.”
“Take Merlin on a nice romantic date and then have so much sex that he doesn’t have the energy for a mental breakdown,” Gwaine suggested.
“We aren’t like that,” Arthur denied. Gwen shared an exasperated look with Gwaine.
“We know you aren’t,” Gwen lied. “But Merlin obviously needs to unwind. Just think about it, for you, it’s just been a couple months since you relaxed and had fun outside of your place. For Merlin, that’s all he remembers. I probably would have had a breakdown after staying more than a couple nights at that place.”
“It’s not that bad,” Arthur defended his place. “And besides, you forget where we’re living. The only place around is Perth. Perth. What is there to do in Perth?”
Gwaine shrugged helplessly at Gwen, unable to think of anything that shabby, blink-and-you-miss-it town could offer for entertainment.
“Arthur Pendragon,” Gwen scolded. “I don’t care what you do. I am hanging up and when I call you tomorrow morning, you had better have a detailed account ready for me about taking poor amnesiac Merlin into town for some fun and relaxing! And if you don’t, so help me god, I will post those naked pictures of you on the internet.”
“You don’t have naked pictures of me,” Arthur said, sounding highly unsure.
“Do you really want to test me?”
“Fine! Fine, we’ll go into …Perth,” Arthur moaned.
“I’m hanging up now,” Gwen said.
“Okay, okay - and stop hanging out with Gwaine. It’s only been two months and the sweet little innocent Guinevere is gone!” Arthur commanded. “Next thing I know Lance will have a mohawk.”
“Did I not tell you?” Lance teased.
“We’re hanging up!” Gwen said, trying and unable to suppress her giggles. “And don’t make fun of my fiancee’s mohawk.”
“I hate you all,” Arthur told them happily, before they hung up.
“Wait, did he ever say what the freaky glowing eyes were?” Gwaine asked.
“No,” Gwen said, sitting back down at the kitchen table and digging into her own omelet. “Maybe there’s something wrong with their water?”
“Ugh, good thing I only drink beer when I’m visiting.”
Merlin had been into the town of Perth six times since he had started living with Arthur. Each time they had gone to either the grocery store or the hardware store. The entire town was completely foreign to Merlin, and every time he was there he wondered what he had been doing on that street when Arthur had run him over. What had brought him to Perth? Was he just passing through? Was he here for an important reason? Was he a drifter that had simply ended up there by chance?
Now, dressed in the only nice pair of jeans he owned that had been Arthur’s when he was younger, and a shirt not ripped, stained, or covered in paint … Merlin couldn’t remember ever looking as clean as he did now.
It was with wide eyes that Merlin looked down every new street they passed. This time, he also kept an eye out for that face; the woman from his dream, the one that hated him. Every face and street they passed was studied carefully. Seeing if perhaps something would jog his memory, but every street was just as unfamiliar as the last. Swallowing his disappointment, he kept an eye out for the bowling alley sign.
“I see it,” Arthur said cheerfully. “And look at that, if we end up getting into a fight, the municipal courts are right above it. How handy.”
Merlin looked at the place suspiciously. The building had the same faded, worn facade as the hospital. To get to the bowling alley, you needed to go around the back of the building and enter a door next to two large garbage dumpsters. Through the door was a steep staircase that seemed to be a discoloured white, now yellow with age and already there was an overwhelming smell of second-hand smoke which clung to everything.
Merlin was happy Arthur looked just as disconcerted as he felt.
Entering the bowling alley, they were faced with an old man behind a counter and four empty bowling lanes. With no idea what to do, Merlin shot a panicked look at Arthur and nodded at him to go first. Giving Merlin a look that clearly said ‘traitor’, Arthur bravely stepped forward.
“Good evening sir,” Arthur said winningly. The old man just grunted and pointed at the printed out sheet of paper with the prices that had been duct-taped to the desk.
Getting the bowling shoes (“Why do we need new shoes?” “Because we do.” “But why do they look so stupid?” “Shut up Merlin.”) and their score card, Arthur quickly herded Merlin to the farthest lane. It felt very odd to be the only ones bowling.
Arthur went first, being sure to go slowly so that Merlin could see everything Arthur did and would be able to mimic it. Merlin tried to pay attention, but he couldn’t help but think that Arthur had a very nice ass when he bent down like that. Which of course brought Merlin’s mind screaming back to the magazine under Arthur’s bed. What if he realized it was missing? Then again, if he did, it would mean that he used the magazine regularly, with Merlin just a couple doors down.
“Your turn,” Arthur said.
“What?” Merlin blinked.
“Your turn,” Arthur repeated slowly, smirking down at Merlin’s flummoxed expression. “Just do what I did.”
“Right,” Merlin got up. Going over to where the balls were lined up, Merlin picked up the first one, a nice blue swirly one. Walking over to the line Arthur had said not to cross, Merlin looked down to the many pins at the end of the lane. It seemed like such a pointless game to knock them down. Winding his hand back he threw the ball, it landed with a deafening thud, surely denting the worn wooden lane, before it crawled its way into the dips on the side of the lane.
“No throwing the balls!” The old man hollered from the desk. His frizzy grey hair seemed even more wild, several teeth missing as he bared them towards Merlin.
Laughing, Arthur walked over, carrying another ball for Merlin to throw.
“Here, let me show you,” Arthur suggested. “You hold the ball like this, okay?” Moving Merlin’s hands around the bowling ball.
“Then you kind of lean down a bit,” Arthur said softly, his breath ghosting over the back of Merlin’s neck as his body bent with Merlin’s so that they were pressed so closely together, Merlin had problems catching his breath. Arthur’s one hand pressed against Merlin’s hip seemed to playing with Merlin’s nerves.
“Then you wind up,” Arthur explained, bringing Merlin’s hand that held the ball back.
“Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the pins,” Arthur reminded him. Merlin dimly wondered what pins he was talking about. The heat from Arthur’s body seemed to radiate through their clothing. It was impossible to think of anything beyond the touch. In his minds eyes, he could see Arthur stripped down to cut offs working, in the summer sun, hammering the last of the shingles up on the roof. He thought he could almost feel all the muscle through the shirt that he knew was there.
“And then you let go,” Arthur instructed, so close to his ear that Merlin let out a startled yelp, brought out of his day dream so suddenly that he threw the ball forward. Once again there was a deafening thud as it landed midway down the lane made its way into the trough.
“Hey! No throwing the balls! You keep that up; I’ll kick you kids out. I don’t put up with youngsters destroying my lanes,” the old man threatened. Merlin blearily wondered how this place could possibly be destroyed when it was in such shambles, but then he thought of the cabin and decided that he and Arthur probably couldn’t say anything.
“Maybe I should show you one more time,” Arthur smirked down at him.
“I can manage,” Merlin squeaked, quickly creating some distance between them and getting his third ball. He managed not to throw it like he did the last two ones, but he still didn’t managed to get anything more than what Arthur called “gutter balls”.
It wasn’t until they were almost through the game that Merlin knocked over his first pin.
“Did you see that!” Merlin yelled, grinning brightly back at Arthur, and grabbing him in a quick hug. “I did it! I did it!”
“Congratulations!” Arthur laughed. “You are going to lose horribly but at least you have a point now.”
Merlin did lose horribly. His single point was the only one he got in the entire game. Still, Arthur was laughing and Merlin felt lighter than he could ever remember.
“Let’s celebrate this,” Arthur said, swinging an arm around Merlin’s shoulder’s as they returned their shoes and, ignoring the glare from the old man, exited the bowling alley. “We should commemorate the worst game ever played in bowling history.”
“Hey, I bet there are tons of people who do worse,” Merlin argued, but couldn’t help smiling along with Arthur.
“Yes, toddlers,” Arthur pretended to be deeply serious. “But Merlin, no one over the age of ten can possibly do what you did tonight. You are the King of Anti-Bowling. You destroy that sport with a grace all your own.”
“It’s a talent,” Merlin teased.
“Oh, look, a bar!” Arthur pointed out across the street.
The building was stand-alone, red brick with big storefront windows that looked into a fairly busy scene. Most of the tables were filled and there were a few bartenders working. Unlike many other businesses, this one seemed to be well maintained. A string of white mini lights were hung around the window edges. A neon sign claimed they were open with flashing letters. The sign overhead and stenciling on the windows called it The Town Watering Hole.
Entering the premise, it did seem like a watering hole. A collection of people from all walks of life were located there. A collection of old, white haired women were at the farthest table, each with a glass of beer and their knitting out. Youngsters who seemed to be suspiciously close to the legal drinking age were hovered around another table and seemed to be trying to coerce one of their members into taking a shot of some vile looking beverage. There were men in business suits, women slouched in sweats, a few dressed up girls who were eyeing Arthur and Merlin in ways that made Merlin highly uncomfortable.
“Hi there,” a voice said behind them. Turning around and looking up, they were greeted by Percival.
“Officer Percival!” Merlin smiled brightly, it was a nice feeling to know someone like this. It was a new sensation to run into a person he remembered like this. He liked it.
“Please, just Percival,” he said. “How are you doing John?”
“Not John anymore,” Arthur laughed.
“Oh right, heard you changed it to Oliver?”
“Actually, it’s not Oliver now either,” Merlin blushed.
“Oh,” Percival blinked, before calmly asking, “so what are you going by now?” As if he was used to someone constantly changing names.
“I’m Merlin now,” he explained.
“Merlin … is that because you live with an Arthur Pendragon?” Percival smiled.
“Wow, you weren’t kidding about that legend being famous were you?” Merlin asked Arthur, surprised that someone would automatically think of some old, obscure legend.
“So, you guys went bowling?” Percival asked.
“How’d you know that?” Arthur asked.
“Well, either you went to the bowling alley or you’re a chain smoker,” Percival explained. Merlin sniffed his t-shirt and coughed on the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke which had embedded itself into their clothing.
“We’re celebrating Merlin’s game,” Arthur explained. “I’m driving, but he deserves to have a drink.”
“You’re good at bowling?” Percival asked kindly, looking a bit uneasy when Arthur burst out laughing.
“Apparently I’m the world’s worst bowler. I only got a single point, for the entire game,” Merlin explained, blushing slightly. He frowned at Percival when he joined Arthur laughing.
“Well, that definitely deserves a drink,” Percival said jovially.
Arthur thought, much later, sipped at the fruity non-alcoholic beverage that Merlin had brought (“Look it comes with an umbrella Arthur! A little umbrella!”). He was more relaxed than he could remember being in ages. Perhaps he would sometimes worry when Merlin was out of his sight, the memory of last night still raw, and sometimes he would lay a hand on Merlin’s shoulder or knee just to remind his self that Merlin was okay. Overall though, Arthur felt himself relax and enjoyed seeing Merlin laugh and talk and charm his way into the hearts of each townie that approached them.
He sat across from Percival, who he learned had grown up in Perth, only leaving briefly for the police academy. He lived two houses down from his parent’s house and five houses down from his sister, brother-in-law and nieces. He played on every sports team there was in town, and was in the middle of convincing Arthur to join the lacrosse team, when Merlin appeared back at their table, dragging a very bemused bartender behind him.
“You know Merlin, you don’t have to kidnap the bartenders, they will give you alcohol without that,” Arthur explained, sending the bartender an apologetic look.
“Arthur!” Merlin exclaimed, highly intoxicated after almost everyone in the bar had offered to buy him a drink as word got around about his bowling score. Arthur wouldn’t be surprised if someone put it into the local paper. “We can add him to the collection!”
“Um, is this a cult thing?” The bartender asked, sounding both amused and suspicious.
“He’s our Leon! I found the Leon,” Merlin pronounced happily. “Gwaine will love it; he’s a bartender and a Leon.”
“I’m confused,” Percival said.
“It’s this thing between my friends and I,” Arthur explained. “See I’m Arthur, then there’s Gwen, Lancelot and Gwaine. We made it a joke that we would find others with names from the legend. That’s why Merlin goes by Merlin.”
“So I guess I’m Percival then,” he nodded. “That’s kind of neat, how we all met each other with names from the same legend.”
“Yeah, but your name isn’t actually Percival, that’s your last name,” Arthur said. “That’s only half a point really.”
Leon the bartender started to laugh.
“Actually my first name is Percival,” he said sheepishly.
“Oh, then what’s your last name?” Merlin asked.
“It’s also Percival.”
Both Merlin and Arthur looked at him for a second. “You mean,” Arthur said slowly, trying to make sure he understood. “You’re name is Percival … Percival?”
“It’s a family name,” Percival defended. “Technically I am Percival Percival the fourth.”
“Your initials are PP,” Merlin giggled hysterically into his latest drink, causing both Leon and Arthur to laugh. Percival just shrugged helplessly.
Later that night, as Arthur helped Merlin out of the car and helped carry him up the stairs, he decided to let him sleep in his bed again. Curling back up on the couch, Arthur could not have imagined a better night.
That night Merlin dreamed of Arthur, but a different Arthur. This one wore chain mail and and was a king. Merlin knew he was a king even though he was wearing no crown, the same way he knew that this Arthur did not know about telephones or cars. This Arthur let Merlin undress him, and prepare a bath the way he remembered how to prepare baths, with buckets of heated water. This Arthur kissed him gently with a towel around his waist, only to take the towel off and ask Merlin if he thought if there was enough room for two in the tub. Merlin awoke confused and disorient.
It’s just a dream, Merlin told himself. But it felt so realistic, like a memory. But Arthur didn’t wear chain mail, and he would have said if they had met before, especially in such an intimate way. Still, the next morning when Arthur asked him to butter the toast while he finished the eggs Merlin automatically replied, “yes sire.”
Percival liked walking home from the bar. It had a nice buzz to it. Each corner and house was as familiar to him as his own family. Each step had a memory; where he had fallen off his bike, where he had kissed Lamia for the first time in grade nine, and where he had played with his nieces.
Turning onto Willow Lane and passing by his sister’s house, Percival stumbled a bit over the sidewalk. By the time he straightened up, he blinked in confusion when he thought he heard Arthur Pendragon calling his name.
Looking around, up and down the street, there was no one else in sight. Frowning, Percival felt a small chill creep down his spin. Picking up his pace, he quickly made his way back home and made sure to lock his door and all the windows.
With a gasping jerk, Merlin’s eyes snapped open.
“Arthur,” he whispered, the newest memory still ingrained into his mind. He knew the dreams were memories. He might not understand how they were memories or why he knew they were, but they were and he did know. Unlike the foggy impressions left by dreams, these memories were crystal clear. They left him with emotions and thoughts he remembered experiencing, though he might not understand in what context.
Each dream memory was stored safely away in his mind.
Reaching under his mattress he pulled out his journal.
Merlin’s journal was now full. Every page was covered in notes, each note more and more detailed. He was able to remember going by two names; Merlin and Emrys, no last name. But he didn’t like going by Emrys, he liked being Merlin. He remembered serving Arthur, and he remembered the knights. There were still large chunks missing, but Merlin felt them coming together faster and faster. As if he was sprinting at the end of a very long marathon.
He didn’t dare tell anyone about what he remembered. In the light of day it seemed so impossible that any of these things might be real. That linking memory, the one which would put all the puzzle pieces together, whatever it was, was still missing. Until Merlin had that, he felt Arthur would just worry.
Besides, there was no time to obsess over his bizarre memories. Not with the unmistakable smell of bacon wafting up stairs from the kitchen.
Merlin slipped from his bed and found the fluffy slippers Arthur had given him after Merlin had complained about cold feet. The beginning of September had brought with it cold nights, which seeped into the cabin in whistling gusts.
Making his way down the stairs he smiled into the completed living room. The hardwood floors were shining, the fireplace was surrounded by two comfy chairs, there was a new built-in bookcase, and the new couch sat proudly in view. Leaning against the mantle on the fireplace was a framed photo of Gwen, Gwaine and Lance the night that Arthur and Merlin introduced them to Percival and Leon down at the Watering Hole. As was predicted, Gwaine loved the fact Leon was a bartender and would now usually stay with him in his small apartment during his biweekly visits (“Sorry Arthur, it’s the easy access to the bar. It can’t be denied.”). The living room also boasted Arthur’s flat screen television, and a small desk where the computer and printer were set up. Merlin leaned against the fixed banister. The wallpaper in the entry way was still discoloured and peeling off with age.
Turning his back on the one finished room, he entered the disaster zone which was their kitchen. The kitchen was stuck midway through construction, half the things done, many things left to fix.
“I’m thinking we should rent the sander again and finally do the floors in the kitchen and dining room,” Arthur greeted as he saw Merlin come into the kitchen. He was holding out a cup of coffee made exactly the way Merlin loved it.
“It would probably make sense to do that first before we start anything else,” Merlin commented, accepting the coffee. The aroma alone seemed to kick his senses into gear. It was a wonder that Merlin had ever managed to wake up without his caffeine fix.
Arthur nodded, flipping the sizzling bacon. “By the way, Mrs. Fournier wanted to make sure you knew they were working on sweaters this Tuesday, she called at six this morning. Six. On Sunday, about Tuesday.”
“She goes to the early church service,” Merlin reminded him. “It was probably her sneaky attempt to rope us into one more thing.”
Merlin shuddered at the thought of the Arts and Culture committee the elderly Mrs. Fournier had forced them into. Arthur, in a desperate attempt to get out of it, had ended up personally funding all their upcoming programs if they promised never to bother them again.
“Is that the same way the minister kept coming up to me and going on about how accepting they are of all kinds,” Arthur said.
Merlin laughed, remembering very well having to save Arthur from being converted in the frozen food isle.
“Are you training this afternoon?” Merlin asked, glancing at the crowded calendar on the fridge. The calendar was filled with reminders for Arthur’s lacrosse and rugby practice, the town committee meeting that both Merlin and Arthur had been dragged into and which both of them were still unclear as to what exactly the committee was supposed to do (only that Arthur had been unsuccessful in his attempt to buy their way out). There were reminders about Merlin’s knitting club, the old ladies in the pub had practically adopted that poor amnesiac, practically orphaned boy. Now every Tuesday night he would go with his knitting and get ridiculously drunk with Mrs. Percival (Percival’s grandmother), Mrs. Ireland and the infamous Mrs. Fournier (who had heard all about them from her son who owned the hardware store - and had very much approved of their choice of paint for the living room).
It was now impossible to go grocery shopping without an hour long delay with people stopping them constantly to talk about things ranging from town gossip, sports, news, the weather, and knitting patterns.
“Yeah, I can pick up the sander afterwards,” Arthur commented.
“Phone Rob ahead of time then,” Merlin reminded him about the impressively tall teen that seemed to run the hardware store more than his parents. “The store is closed on Sundays but I’m sure that he would open it up for you.”
“Because we’re the only reason the store is doing well,” Arthur laughed, draining off the crispy bacon and placing it on a plate. “According to Mrs. Fournier the entire family is thinking of going on some Caribbean vacation this winter thanks to us.”
Merlin stole a piece of bacon before Arthur could pull them out of his reach.
“Have you ever worn chain mail?” Merlin asked, abruptly.
“Like, have I ever dressed up as a knight?” Arthur asked. “When I was eight I was a knight for Halloween, but was very disappointed to find my chain mail was really just a shiny metallic shirt. Oh, and my sword was plastic. Why?”
“Nothing, just a dream I had,” Merlin muttered, putting on some toast as Arthur started cracking eggs into the frying pan.
“Scrambled or fried?” Arthur asked.
“Do you mind if it’s scrambled?” Merlin smiled when he looked over as he saw the eggs had broken in the pan.
“Scrambled is fine.”
“So you were dreaming about me in chain mail?” Arthur’s voice sounded oddly strained.
“It was nothing, just felt really real,” Merlin said hoping the conversation would drop. It was getting a bit too close to the very things Merlin didn’t want to talk about. “I was thinking after we finish the kitchen and dining room we might want to tackle the rooms upstairs.”
Arthur looked at him sharply. Merlin held his breath, hoping he wouldn’t ask more about the dream. With a sigh, Arthur turned away to focus on scrambling the eggs.
“Yeah, the bathroom needs a lot of work,” he finally said, frowning at the eggs.
“And we’ve worked on my bedroom twice now, we should finish yours,” Merlin commented. “Plus, we still haven’t even seen what’s behind that one door up there. Who knows how much work will be up there.”
Bits of eggs flung onto the white surface of the oven with the force that Arthur attacked them with. A tense silence descended on them, and Merlin cursed himself for mentioning the stupid fourth doorway upstairs. Every single time it was mentioned, Arthur would cut himself off. In the place of the usual Arthur was the one who would stoically eat without a word and ignore Merlin for hours. But the longer that Merlin lived there, the more he was curious about what was behind that closed door. Merlin held his breath that this might be the time Arthur finally explained why he was so protective of the stupid fourth door.
As they finished eating in silence, Arthur finally spoke. “Are you coming in town with me today?”
“Yes,” Merlin said, trying to hide his disappointment that Arthur was still not going to tell him. “I was thinking of seeing if there are any new books.”
Vivian hated anything out of the ordinary. Unlike Sophia and Elena, she was old enough not to be worried about ghosts and witches and things. They were just babies. Vivian was all grown up. She was nine years old after all.
That was why she found herself highly annoyed as Kay Henderson told them all about the haunting on Willow Street. All the kids had gathered in the park, celebrating the lack of school on Sunday by piling together to play a mix-match of tag and made-up games.
“The spirit walks up and down the street at night and just waits for a kid to wander out,” Kay said dramatically, his face gleaming with excitement as he looked down onto his captivated audience. “And if he finds one? He gobbles them up!”
Vivian snorted as her cousin Grace Ward gasped in fright.
“You don’t believe me?” Kay asked. “What do you think happened to Kenny Smith?”
“I heard his Dad got a job in the city and they moved away,” Vivian replied. “Willow Street isn’t haunted. I live there.”
“What about the cats?” Kay demanded getting angry that someone hadn’t been scared by his story. “All the cats are gone. It was the ghost!”
“It was just some wild animal,” Vivian told him. Kay was only eight and he always acted like he knew everything. Vivian hated him. “Besides, no one has ever died on our street.”
“Oh yeah? Last spring someone did! That guy was hit by a car, and his brain exploded all over the pavement, and he died!” Kay yelled.
“No he didn’t,” Ricky Knight frowned. “My Uncle Leon is friends with him. His name is Merlin. Like the wizard.”
“See, no one died,” Vivian said smugly.
“Fine. You don’t think it’s haunted? I dare you to sneak out and summon the ghost!” Kay said dramatically. All the kids watching with rapt fascination to see what would happen.
Vivian frowned; there was no way to not take this dare without being called a chicken. Swallowing down some uneasiness, she straightened her shoulders and glared down at Kay.
“Okay,” she said. “Tonight, but nothing will happen. There’s no such things as ghosts.”
It was a beautiful September day, with crisp blue skies, and a strong sun that tried to beat off the chill that clung to the air. The trees still held valiantly onto their green leaves, even as the weaker ones began to golden. The groundhog under the porch was getting fatter and fatter, watching Arthur and Merlin’s comings and goings with beady eyes.
The people of Perth were out enjoying the day. The main street held a steady stream of people wandering between store fronts and walking aimlessly while they could still go outside with only a thin spring jacket. Businesses had their doors propped open and windows open. Arthur honked and waved as they passed Leon who was busy helping move a table into the antique store.
“Hey Merlin!” Percival called out as Merlin and Arthur got out of the car. “You finally going to join?”
“I thought we wanted to actually win in the game next weekend?” Arthur yelled back, causing several of his teammates to snicker.
“Very funny.” Merlin rolled his eyes. “Sorry Percival, I’m just heading into town to check out the bookstore.”
Waving his goodbye, Merlin tried to ignore the stab of guilt as he walked right past the bookstore and made his way towards the hospital. Keeping his head down so he wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone he might know, Merlin moved as fast as he could. If he wanted to make to see Dr. Gaius without Arthur knowing, then he needed to be fast.
He snuck in, giving a quick wave to the nurse and ran for the stairs.
“Merlin,” Gaius greeted him, looking shocked to find Merlin standing in his office door. “I didn’t expect you. We don’t have a meeting scheduled do we?”
“No, I was kind of hoping that you might have a few moments?” Merlin asked, hoping Gaius wasn’t too busy.
“Well, I don’t really have that much time … you can walk with me as I head down to the East wing,” Gaius offered.
“There’s an East Wing?”
“It’s the hallway that goes left at the stairs,” Gaius explained.
“Oh,” Merlin nodded, “I just had some question about my memories.”
“Walk and talk boy,” Gaius admonished, gathering his clipboard and a small stack of files from his cluttered desk. “Now, what is this about memories?”
“I think I might have started to remember things, but … it doesn’t make any sort of sense,” Merlin admitted. “I mean, I know I remember these things. But I don’t understand how I could remember the things I remember. Do you understand?”
“Nancy, please make sure these charts are sent to room 231,” Gaius instructed to the nurse they passed, before turning back to Merlin. “Well, Merlin I think I’m going to need a bit more to go on. What confuses you about these memories you’re having?”
“Well, for one, Arthur is in them,” Merlin explained, a faint blush rising and stinging his cheek as he remembered some of those memories. In particular the ones with writhing bodies and pounding hearts popped into his mind. “In these memories we are … in some kind of … you know … relationship. But he’s a King and I’m his manservant.”
Holding up one weathered hand Gaius looked slightly pained. “Merlin, I do not need to hear about your sexual fantasies with your significant other.”
“But it’s not a fantasy, this happened,” Merlin whispered urgently.
“Then I do not need to know your sexual exploits,” Gaius said, looking highly unnerved.
“No, listen to me,” Merlin begged. “I’m a sorcerer and I need to hide my magic. I mean, it’s a bit muddled in my head, like some of the memories are floating just out of reach or they’re fogged over and distorted somehow. But a few nights ago, I dreamt of you, but you weren’t you, I mean you were you but you weren’t.”
“I was me but wasn’t me?” Gaius asked.
“I lived with you, you were the physician and you knew about my magic,” Merlin explained. “I didn’t see more than us having dinner, you had made some stew, and you were telling me that Arthur must never know about my magic. Gaius, what’s happening to me?”
“My boy,” Gaius sighed. “It is normal for someone with your condition to suffer from false memories. Sometimes we want to remember things so hard that our mind will play tricks on us. You want to remember, so your mind is taking things that you are familiar with to create its own narrative.”
“You say most of the dreams are about Arthur?” Gaius prodded. “Perhaps your subconscious is trying to tell you something.”
“But what about the magic?” Merlin asked.
“Well, I’ve yet to see anything in my life that did not have a scientific explanation behind it,” Gaius said calmly. “Have you told Arthur about these dreams?”
“I think it might put your mind at ease to talk to him about these memories,” Gaius suggested. “After all if these were real memories then he would be able to verify whether they actually happened or not. As for what you thought you remembered about me, I can tell you that as far as I can remember that never happened.”
“What if it is you that can’t remember?” Merlin asked. He knew that Gaius must be wrong about the magic, even now he could feel it pulse through him, just waiting for an outlet.
“Merlin, I need to get to my patients,” Gaius sighed. “But there is no such thing as magic. It is much more logical that you were perhaps obsessed with a certain history prior to your accident and are now transferring that knowledge and superimposing it onto the people you know.”
Nodding silently Merlin watched him walk away and felt the deep uneasiness settle in his gut. Gaius was wrong about the magic. Perhaps he was wrong about the rest of it as well. Merlin might not be able to understand how it could happen, but there was something wrong here, he could feel it deep in his bones.
“That should do it,” Arthur grunted, as they got the heavy sander into the back seat of the car. He patted Merlin on the shoulder as he opened the passenger side door. They gave a small wave to Rob who was locking up the hardware store once again.
“Good luck with your science fair project!” Arthur called out. “Thanks for the help.”
“You too Mr. Pendragon,” he replied politely.
Driving back home, Arthur could tell something was wrong. As he started to review the to-do list out loud which included putting up the plastic and removing furniture, Merlin stared listlessly out the window watching the forest whip past them.
“Okay, it’s been ten minutes and you haven’t said anything. What’s wrong?” Arthur asked.
“It’s nothing,” Merlin murmured.
“Right, that’s why you’re being all moody. Is it …” Arthur swallowed thickly. “is it about this morning, about the … door upstairs?”
“No,” Merlin said quietly, and Arthur couldn’t tell if he was just saying that or if it was the truth.
“Then what is it?” Arthur demanded.
“It was just … a dream,” Merlin admitted, so deep in thought that his eyebrows seemed to furrow together. “Gaius said something, and now I’m just trying to make sense of it.”
“When were you talking to Gaius?” Arthur asked.
“Um,” Merlin suddenly shifted in his seat nervously. “Maybe during your practice today?”
“You went during practice?”
“You told me you were heading to the bookstore, you lied to me?” Arthur said, feeling a bit hurt that Merlin would feel the need to lie about something as simple as going to see his doctor.
“I just didn’t want you to worry,” Merlin tried to explain.
“Why should I be worried? Is your hand acting up again? Are these dreams your memory returning?” Arthur asked.
“My hand hasn’t acted up in a couple weeks,” Merlin reminded Arthur. Silence rang out in the car and Arthur waited for Merlin to continue.
“And?” Arthur prompted roughly. “Are these dreams memories?”
“I … they feel like memories, but Gaius said that they’re just fake ones,” Merlin said bitterly, unable to hide his disappointment. Arthur felt a stab of relief that was so strong, it made him feel a little bit guilty. He knew he shouldn’t be happy that Merlin wasn’t remembering, but once he remembered, who was to say that Merlin would actually stay with him?
“Fake ones?” Arthur tried to sound nonchalant. “Why? What are these dreams about?”
“Remember this morning when I asked if you had ever worn chain mail?” Merlin asked.
“You’re saying that you dream of me? In chain mail?” Arthur asked, risking a glance over at Merlin and was fascinated by the blush that was erupting over prominent cheekbones.
“They’re memories,” Merlin said.
“I’ve never worn chain mail. Merlin … these aren’t memories,” Arthur said softly, sending a worried glance. “It’s just dreams. You know that right?”
“That’s what Gaius said, but you don’t understand,” Merlin sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
“What don’t I understand?”
“They aren’t. I remember them. There are things I remember, like my mother’s name being Hunith, I might not remember what she looks like but that’s her name. I know it as sure as your name is Arthur.” Merlin tried to explain, but Arthur still held doubts.
“Well, maybe parts of the dreams are true,” Arthur said logically. “But I think I would remember being dressed like a knight. Maybe you’re just really into the whole medieval ages.”
“What’s that?” Merlin asked.
“It’s the time period. Back in the time of Kings, Queens, knights and stuff,” Arthur explained. “Maybe you’re really into it and you’re remembering that.”
“That’s kind of what Gaius was saying,” Merlin admitted.
“There you go.”
“He said magic doesn’t exist,” He stated calmly. Arthur sent Merlin a severe glance, trying to understand what his crazy friend was even trying to ask.
“I would be worried if he said anything else,” Arthur teased, but Merlin was still frowning.
“You don’t think magic exists?”
“Of course I don’t,” Arthur scoffed. “I’m not crazy.”
Merlin turned to glare moodily out the window. Running a tired hand through his short blond hair, Arthur turned into their lane-way. He eased down the bumpy gravel path. Merlin silently got out of the car, the front door slamming before Arthur could even unbuckle his seat belt. By the time he had got inside Merlin was holed up in his room, refusing to come out.
Vivian stood in the middle of Willow Street, her flashlight clutched tightly in her hand. Swallowing thickly, she tried to remind herself that there was no ghost. It was simply Kay’s imagination and need to tell the most dramatic story.
She had sneaked out the back staircase long after her parents had gone to bed. The flashlight had been tucked under her pillow waiting for the opportune time. It was only as her father’s snores had echoed down the hall that she had taken her chance.
Now, in the cold September night, wearing only her nightgown and housecoat, she shivered in the night air. Each shadow seemed otherworldly, as if reaching out to grab her.
This was stupid. She didn’t even know how to summon a ghost – not that there was a ghost to summon.
“Hello?” She whispered softly. There was no reply.
Closing her eyes trying to gather her courage, she took a deep breath.
“Hello?” She called a bit louder this time, and then decided she might as well do this thing right. “I summon you! Ghost of ... Willow Street? I summon you!"
The silence seemed thick around her.
Smiling slightly, glad to be proven right, Vivian turned around to start walking back home. She hadn’t even got two steps when she heard it.
“Merlin,” the wind seemed to whisper. Freezing in her place, Vivian was unable to move, terrified about what she might see if she turned around.
She let out a blood curdling scream as something brushed against her leg. Jumping away and swinging her flashlight down, she felt her jaw drop at the sight of their long-lost kitty. The black and white cat was unmistakably Chantry; she was still wearing her bright pink collar. Dropping to her knees, she picked up the cat and pressed her face against the dirty fur.
“Where were you?” Vivian demanded.
That’s when she noticed the rough fabric and odd shaped coin tied around Chantry’s neck.
“Hello?” Merlin answered the phone, nervously placing it to his ear. He hated phones.
“Merlin? It’s Gwen,” her voice told him. “Arthur left a message saying that there was some sort of emergency. Did the house finally fall down? Are you guys alright?”
“Arthur sent you a message?” Merlin asked a feeling of slight guilt over hiding in his room last night.
“Yes, he sounded worried. Is everything okay over there?” Gwen asked.
“Yeah it’s just … I was just … I thought I remembered something but then everyone kept telling me I wasn’t and … I just needed some space last night. I didn’t mean to make anyone worry,” Merlin explained, hoping Gwen would understand.
“Oh … but you’re okay now right?” Gwen asked.
“Of course I am,” Merlin reassured her.
“Well … we’re planning on coming down this weekend,” Gwen reminded him. “But you can call us anytime. I mean it; Lance and I are always available for emergency calls. Even if it’s just to complain about living with Arthur.”
“Thank Gwen,” Merlin smiled into the phone.
“Okay, well, I better go get ready for work.”
“Right … and Gwen?”
“Do you believe in magic?”
“Magic?” Gwen hesitated over the word. “I guess that depends on what kind of magic you’re talking about. Love is a kind of magic; it has the power to bring families together, tear worlds apart and create new life. I believe there are some things that can’t be explained. But if you’re asking if I think that if I yell out accio some chocolate frog will zoom into my hand … no. I don’t think there is that sort of magic. Why?”
“Nothing, just curious.”
Merlin and Arthur were two ghosts. The white dust from the sander had covered their hair, clothing and skin. The masks over their mouths were hot and moist. Every now and again, they needed to stop and wipe the front of their work goggles to see. The sander buzzed loudly as they worked.
“Stupid small town Perth with their stupid old school sanders,” Arthur griped. His voice oddly muffled by the mask.
“I didn’t realise there would be this much dust,” Merlin commented.
“Well according to my book most sanders have a bag that catches the dust. Apparently Perth only has the rejected throw dust at you version.” he complained.
“We’re almost done,” Merlin pointed to the small portion of the dining room which was waiting to be finished. He was down on his hands and knees on the kitchen floor. The corners and tight spots were too small for the large sander to reach and required a handheld sand paper to buffer. Merlin had been scrubbing for hours and his knees were aching. “It shouldn’t be too much longer.”
The floor was quickly stripped to the bare wood. Taking a break, Merlin was relieved when he was finally able to take off his mask. The paper had been chafing around his mouth, and the moist heat had been unbearable. Peeling back the goggles so that they made his hair stand straight up, Merlin flung himself down onto one of the porch chairs.
Arthur sat down in the other chair, propping his foot up against the porch railing. Merlin wondered how anyone with goggles on their head, a mask around their neck, ripped t-shirt and faded jeans could look so good covered in dust and grime.
They hadn’t talked about Merlin’s memories.
Instead they had tackled the floors with a silent passion. The goal was to finish the floors for when Gwaine, Lance and Gwen showed up in a few days. Now sitting on the porch, Merlin fidgeted as he tried to think of something to say.
“Should be able to finish the first coat of varnish tonight I think,” Arthur commented.
A fresh breeze brought with it golden leaves that fluttered down from the changing forest. It was an odd feeling. Merlin knew this happened, but it was the first time he could remember how the trees would look as their leaves coloured and dropped from their branches. It was too cold for Merlin and Arthur to stay outside for long, the last of the lingering summer heat vanishing quickly. They would need to head back inside soon.
Merlin wished he could explain his magic to Arthur, show him why he wasn’t sure what was real anymore. Maybe if Arthur knew that magic was real, he would believe in Merlin. If he could just reach over the two feet between them, close that distance and make him understand. Merlin wasn’t even sure what was holding him back. Why shouldn’t he show Arthur his magic? Arthur was the best friend he had ever had (that he can remember). If he could trust anyone it would be him.
Yet still Merlin felt the words choke in his throat, unable to escape.
“We should head in,” Arthur finally said.
They left a layer of dust on their seats.
The Watering Hole was busy.
Leon was behind the bar, mixing drinks and helping out, even though he had been given the night off. Gwaine kept offering to help. Gwen had a stack of wedding magazines spread over their table. Merlin and Arthur were trying to block the pile of them from the sight of the knitting ladies. If they were to see them their night would turn into a wedding planning frenzy.
The bar was filled with people calling over to acquaintances and hugging people who passed by. It would seem with the chillier weather, more and more people sought the warmth of the local bar. A number of tables were filled with appetizers that people were willing to share with the folks they knew. A band consisting of the town mayor, minister and lawyer were crammed into a corner as they played classic rock hits which were too loud for the crowded place. Despite the loud music, it was near impossible to make out any lyrics over the din of voices. The Saturday night rush was in full swing.
“I’ve been thinking of either this white one or the ivory, what do you think Merlin?” Gwen asked, shoving two pictures towards Merlin. “Between everything going on, you and coming down every other weekend to help with the cabin we are so far behind on the wedding. Not that it’s your fault. I’m not … you know.”
Merlin could not tell what the differences were on the flowers. They looked exactly the same. Letting Gwen ramble in the background, Merlin tried to send a panicked look towards Arthur, but he just smirked at him. The bastard wasn’t going to help him out at all.
“They’re … nice,” Merlin said, hoping it would be enough.
“Nice? Just nice?” Gwen frowned looking down at the flowers.
“Is nice not good?” Merlin asked.
“This wedding is supposed to represent something,” Gwen fretted, flipping frantically through the magazines in front of her. She gave a frustrated huff at Merlin’s blank stare. “It represents me and Lancelot. It’s supposed to show everyone our love and devotion. But if people are just looking at these flowers and going ‘hmm … those are nice’ then that’s what they’ll think our relationship is like. Nice. As in settled for, or plain.”
“What about the red ones?” Merlin suggested weakly.
“What? And have people think we’re either sex addicts or extremely angry all the time?” Gwen shrieked.
“Okay, not red. Um … what about the blue ones here?”
“Mellow.” Gwen sighed. “It’s impossible. We’re so far behind on everything. It’s practically October, and we have six months to get it right. We haven’t sent out invitations, or figured out the colours, and I don’t even have a maid of honour yet.”
“Okay, Gwen, you are talking to the guy who can’t remember the first thing about weddings,” Merlin reminded her softly. “What’s a maid of honour? I thought you all laughed when I asked about getting a job as a servant.”
“It’s not a job, it’s … Lancelot will be standing up at the altar with his best man, Arthur, and his usher, Gwaine. And I’m supposed to be standing up there with my closest friends, my maid of honour and hopefully one bridesmaid to even it out.” Gwen explained.
“And you don’t have anyone that would be a maid of honour?” Merlin asked.
Gwen glanced worriedly at Arthur, who was now in a heated debate about the latest lacrosse match with Leon, Percival and Lance. They were happily ignoring the wedding talk.
“I always figured it would be Morgana but … well, it won’t be now,” Gwen said quietly, leaning forward across the table so Merlin could still just barely hear her over the din.
“Morgana? Who’s Morgana?”
“Has Arthur not told you?” Gwen asked. “Not that it’s terribly surprising.”
“Wait … his sister?” Merlin suddenly remembered why the name sounded familiar. “She phoned us.”
“Really?” Gwen looked shocked. “What did she want?”
“Don’t know. I might have, accidentally, hung up on her. Accidently,” Merlin hastened to stress. “She never called back. Arthur just said it was complicated.”
“Complicated is one word for it,” Gwen said darkly. “Morgana and her father weren’t exactly close. Not that anyone was ever close to Uther. Couple of years ago, this woman turns up claiming to be a half-sister of Morgana’s from her mother’s side. And things just got steadily worse. By the time Uther died, Morgana was completely cut out of the will.”
Merlin wasn’t sure what to say, so he simply took a long gulp from his drink. He thought back to Arthur’s tense face and abrupt anger followed swiftly by withdrawn sadness the last time she had been mentioned. Glancing over to make sure Arthur was still busy (Gwaine was convincing him to take tequila shots), he was relieved to see he was thoroughly preoccupied.
“Uther thought Morgause, the mysterious half-sister, was only after the Pendragon fortune. We didn’t know it at the time, but Uther knew he was dying by then. I guess he became paranoid, there were a few really ugly fights.” Gwen whispered her eyes glazed over, lost in the memory.
“How did you two end up … sorry, you don’t need to tell me,” Merlin felt self conscience asking about something so personal. It felt weird. He had known Gwen for so long now, she had been one of the few people in his life since the accident and if his fuzzy dream-memories were to be believed, then he had a feeling he had known her for much longer. It was odd to realize there was so much to the people around him that predated him.
Gwen reached across the table. Gently laying her hand over his, she gave a soft squeeze.
“You’re a part of this group Merlin and you’re my friend,” she told him. “If I want you to know what happened between me and someone I used to be best friends with, then I will.”
“Okay,” Merlin nodded.
“Morgause … she brought out this side of Morgana. It was like … I don’t know how to describe it. Morgana just became this other person. She became ruthless. It was suddenly so much larger than Morgana versus Uther. It became Morgana versus the world. Suddenly it was as if everyone from her old life was against her. She was my best friend and I would have done anything for her, but she got so distant. Last year, when Lance proposed, she came to the engagement party. It was the last time we talked. She cornered me in the kitchen and yelled at me for inviting Arthur. She said I betrayed her. I tried to explain that even if we were friends with Arthur, it didn’t mean we agreed with Uther; hell, Arthur didn’t even agree with Uther. But Morgause had twisted her so much …”
Gwen broke off, her eyes watering a bit. Merlin tightened his grip on her hand, trying to offer what comfort he could.
“I begged her to just put a hold on everything that one night. I just wanted everyone there to celebrate, but she told me that she didn’t know why she even bothered showing up. She left not even twenty minutes after she got there. Never returned any of my calls. Saw her briefly in passing at Uther’s funeral. It’s sad. Never thought I would be planning my wedding without her.”
“What are you guys talking about?” Arthur asked, sliding into the seat beside Merlin.
“Nothing,” Merlin said, giving Gwen’s hand another tight squeeze and reassuring smile before letting go. “Just wedding stuff.”
“Yes, what have you done with my fiance?” Gwen teased as she tried to discreetly wipe her eyes with the back of her hands.
“Sugar plums,” Lance slurred. “Darling of beautiful perfection.”
“How many shots did you force on him?” Gwen asked laughing shakily as Lance tried to sloppily kiss her hand. “I told you not to give him tequila shots.”
“Hey, he could handle it,” Arthur defended, slinging an arm around Merlin’s shoulder. “Isn’t that right buddy?”
“That’s right,” Lance agreed. “So don’t you worry honey lips.”
“That’s it, next time you get to be the designated driver,” Gwen threatened, but couldn’t help but laugh as Lance pressed kisses to her shoulder.
“It’s decided,” Arthur said, as Merlin and he tried to climb upstairs. Gwen and Lance were passed out on the couch downstairs. Gwaine had once again stayed over at Leon’s.
Merlin was finding it near impossible to stop giggling.
“What is decided?” He asked giggling as they once again bumped into the wall. “Shhh, we’ll wake Gwen and Lance.”
“I’ve decided,” Arthur whispered loudly, laying his hand against Merlin’s. “That it’s okay that you’re slightly crazy.”
“Oi, I’m not crazy, you prat,” Merlin would have shoved him away, but their arms were too entangled. Instead he bumped his hip against Arthur causing them to once again thud against the wall.
“You’re dream things,” Arthur explained. “It doesn’t matter that you’re confused and think it’s real. You’re still the best thing to ever happen to me.”
Merlin laughed. “You’re so gone.”
“No, well yes, but I’m serious,” Arthur said, stopping at the landing to face Merlin. Despite swaying slightly on his feet, Arthur looked completely serious. “You … you’re amazing.”
“You’re not going to turn into a drunk Lancelot and call me honey lips are you?” Merlin asked warily.
“No,” Arthur whispered, but his eyes seemed to drift down to his lips with a quiet intensity that left Merlin feeling weak and exposed.
“Come on, let’s get you to bed,” Merlin said, dragging Arthur across the landing to Arthur’s room. At the doorway, Merlin pushed Arthur in.
“I’m drunk,” Arthur said. He seemed very pensive.
“Yes,” he agreed.
“If this is a mistake I could just say I’m drunk.”
“You are drunk.”
“You might hate me.”
“What are you thinking of doing?” Merlin asked, stepping into the room. “Are you okay Arthur?”
“I don’t know,” Arthur said so quietly, Merlin felt his heart skip a bit with worry. “I’m sorry.”
Suddenly Arthur was so close to Merlin that there was barely an inch between them. Merlin swallowed thickly. He remembered doing this, standing this way with Arthur. Suddenly, standing before him wasn’t a jean-wearing, tequila-smelling Arthur, but the King with ale on his breath after a feast. The room wasn’t small and sad looking with its sunken cot and peeling wall paper. Merlin could only see the dark stone walls, the magnificent scarlet bed. Feeling the world tilt beneath him, Merlin clutched desperately at Arthur’s arms to balance him.
Softly, Arthur reached up and cupped his cheek, brought Merlin’s mouth down to his. The first brush of their lips was new and so very familiar. How many times had Merlin felt this same touch in his dreams? It was fleeting and Arthur quickly drew back.
“I think I’m going to puke,” Arthur moaned, pushing past Merlin and stumbling into the bathroom.
Merlin could just barely make out Arthur cursing tequila through the closed door and his own thumping heart.
With a thumping head and fuzzy mouth, Merlin woke to Gwen’s yelling. Groaning, he wondered how such a sweet person could be so mean when three quarters of the household were completely hung over.
Stumbling out of his bedroom and into the hallway, he was met by a bleary eyed Arthur. His blonde hair went every which way.
“Feeling better?” Merlin asked, trying to duck his head to hide his blush.
“What?” Arthur groaned. “Oh, yeah, not really.”
They stood feet apart, unable to think of anything to say but neither one wanting to leave first. Merlin just bobbed his head, even though each bob seemed to pound against his head. Swallowing roughly, Merlin’s mind whirled through all the possible topics.
“I just have a headache, but I only drank half of what you did.”
Arthur just nodded. Feeling awkward, Merlin gave a pathetic shrug and went to pass Arthur to head downstairs. He wanted nothing more than to return to the safety of Gwen and Lance’s company.
“Wait,” Arthur called out, just as Merlin reached the stairs. “I just wanted you to know, I might feel like road kill, but I remember all of last night.”
“Oh,” Merlin hadn’t even thought of the possibility of Arthur not remembering their very brief kiss of the other night. The way he had said it, Merlin was still unsure of what Arthur was hoping for him to say. “Me too?”
“If you don’t regret it, then I don’t regret it either,” he said in a rush. Arthur looked so small standing in the hallway with his bed head, bare-feet and wrinkled jeans. “Do you regret it?”
“No,” Merlin admitted, wanting to tell Arthur that he remembered other kisses, impossible kisses, but he kept his silence.
“Then I don’t either,” Arthur smiled shyly. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
Merlin wasn’t sure what was happening with them, but his brain seemed to have shut down completely. On auto-pilot he drifted down to the kitchen where a hung over Lance was hunched pathetically over the table and a perky Gwen was puttering around the kitchen.
“About time,” Gwen commented, handing Merlin plates. “Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s okay this morning.”
“You weren’t drinking last night,” Merlin reminded her. “But it looks like I’m feeling better than Lance or Arthur.”
“Where’s your salt?” Gwen asked.
“Corner cupboards, first shelf, but make sure you kind of twist the handle as you open it or else it will fall out,” Merlin instructed. “But don’t twist too much or it will get stuck … you know what? I’ll get the salt.”
“Thanks,” Gwen said, looking more than happy to let Merlin deal with the cupboard.
“Here you are,” Merlin passed the salt.
“Merlin, by the way, do you remember last night? The conversation we had?” Gwen asked. Merlin nodded. “Well, I’ve been thinking. Maybe you could be my maid of honour? I mean, I know we’ve only known each other for a few months, and you completely don’t have to. And you aren’t a girl, which is a good thing. Not that it would be a bad thing if you were a girl. It’s just … it would be nice. If you would be my maid of honour, or is it called something else when it’s a guy?”
“Gwen,” Merlin cut into her rambling, grinning widely. “I would be honoured. Besides, I’ve know you as long for as I’ve known just about anyone.”
“Oh, thank you!” Gwen gushed, hugging him tightly.
Smiling, Merlin started to set the table around a half-conscience Lancelot. As Leon and Gwaine arrived just in time for breakfast, Merlin did not even think of his distant memories. Between Gwen gushing about her wedding plans, and Arthur sending him heated gazes from across the room, Merlin was completely content with his life in the present.
Elena loved her new yellow rubber boots. They were pretty and bright. Her mother had bought a new pair for each of the girls. Sophia’s were blue, and Vivian had pink, but yellow was by far the best.
“Look at that one!” Sophia said gleefully, pointing to a nice big puddle just off the sidewalk. Laughing, both girls took off with a run and jumped, both feet, into the puddle.
“You two are so immature,” Vivian sniffed. Elena rolled her eyes and grinned with Sophia. They waited until Vivian got closer and then stomped their feet furiously against the puddle, creating a large tidal wave to soak the bottom of Vivian’s new jeans.
“You’re so stupid!” Vivian cried, jumping back out of the way. “I’m telling mom!”
“Elena, look at that one!” Sophia laughed, and both girls happily giggled as they skipped away from the eldest sister. Elena’s backpack bounced up and down with each skip.
She ran around the street with Sophia, bouncing from puddle to puddle. Her beautiful new yellow boots made the perfect splash and didn’t get her feet wet at all. It wasn’t until Elena was jumping in a smaller puddle that she realised something was wrong.
She had been so preoccupied with puddle jumping she had forgotten she had gotten closer and closer to the haunted spot. All the kids knew that Willow Street was haunted. Their parents might think it was an animal or some freak of nature, but Elena had heard the ghost calling out “Merlin” and various others had seen and heard things like that. Vivian had even heard it call out.
Then there were the pets. Cats and dogs would go missing and show up with random necklaces tied around their necks weeks and sometimes months later. Elena still had the coin they had found on Chantry. She kept it safely in her pocket.
Most of the time, Elena would run past this spot along Willow Street and get home as quick as possible. This time though, it felt different. The air was heavy and cold. Much colder than it should be this early into the autumn season. She was vaguely aware of Sophia splashing in a puddle down the street, and Vivian already heading into the house.
But all thought was driven from her mind when suddenly she saw something flicker out of the corner of her eye. Holding her breath, she slowly turned her head. Instead of seeing Mr. Kilpatrick’s front yard there was a blurry image of a castle. It was as if someone had painted the whole scene and then threw water on it. It shimmered and flickered, as if it were some illusion.
The blurry man stood there watching her. Elena felt her entire body freeze in fear.
With his step towards her, she let in a shuddery gasp, not realising she had stopped breathing. She didn’t know where Sophia was, but she couldn’t turn away from the ghostly figure coming towards her.
Not even a foot away from her, the ghost toward over her. Like the castle, it was blurry and indistinct, as if he wasn’t really there at all.
“Merlin,” it said. The voice was muffled.
With shaking hands, Elena clutched the coin in her pocket. The image seemed to be getting clearer, brought into a sharper focus, the harder she held onto the coin.
It knew. The ghost knew she had the coin. It was the first time Elena had ever heard of the ghost not calling out for Merlin and it filled her with dread.
“You have the coin?” the ghost asked.
Slowly, Elena nodded; bring the coin out and holding it for the blurry figure to see. She could see he had blue eyes now, and seemed to be wearing metal, like a knight from a fairytale.
“Give it to Merlin.”
The ghost reached out, moving closer to her.
“Get away from her!” Sophia cried, rushing forward and swinging her backpack at the ghost.
With one swish of her back pack, the ghost vanished. Mr. Kilpatrick’s house stood as if there had never been a watery castle in front of it. Elena trembled, still clutching the coin.
“Hey, Elena, it’s okay,” Sophia said, wrapping Elena into a tight hug. “I’ve got you. I won’t ever let anyone hurt you. I was so scared. I saw him there and I thought he was going to take you like Chantry and I didn’t think I would get here in time and ...”
Elena just trembled in her arms. She clutched her older sister tightly. Closing her eyes and burying her head in Sophia’s jacket, Elena tried to calm down.
“He looked familiar didn’t he ... the ghost?” Elena whispered. “Didn’t he look like someone?”
“Where’s your Arthur today?” Mrs. Percival asked. Mrs. Percival was a tiny woman with wiry white hair that was cut short to her head. Merlin often wondered how such a small woman could be responsible for the giant that were the Percival family males.
“I think Percival convinced him to try out for the curling team,” Merlin said, distracted as he tried to count his stitches across.
“Merlin, dear, you’re drink is almost done,” Mrs. Fournier admonished. “How are you supposed to knit if you don’t have a drink?”
“Right,” Merlin nodded.
With his head bent down, concentrating on his task, he completely missed the shared look between the elderly ladies.
“Is everything okay?” Mrs. Ireland asked.
“Yes,” Merlin lied.
“Because you know you can tell us? We’ve been around the block a few times, not much would surprise us,” she pressed a bit more.
“I’m sure Mrs. Ireland,” Merlin said.
“Please, it’s Irene,” she reminded him.
“It’s just,” Merlin started, glancing around the pub to make sure there was no one who would over hear them. “I have this friend.”
“A friend?” Mrs. Fournier asked with her deep throaty voice from years of smoking. When Merlin nodded, she sighed. “LEON?! Bring the hard stuff!”
As Leon dutiful brought them a bottle of whiskey and four tumblers, he gave Merlin a curious raise of the eyebrow. Merlin tried to shrug that he wasn’t sure what was happening, but the ladies were already pressing the glass into his hand.
Mrs. Fournier took a large gulp and smacked her lips satisfactorily. “That’s the good stuff. Leon, you darling boy, here’s a tip.”
“Now Merlin, what’s this friend of yours going through,” Mrs. Percival prodded.
Coughing over his mouthful of whiskey as it burnt its way down the back of his throat, Merlin waited for his eyes to stop watering to begin.
“My friend,” he coughed out. “He’s … he has this secret. Right? And he really cares about someone so he tells this person the secret, because you can’t really have a relationship if there’s a secret. But the person doesn’t believe the guy. So now, the person is trying to start a relationship with m, I mean, my friend, but there’s still kind of this secret, which the other person refuses to even open his mind to the possibility that it might be true.”
“So your friend tried to tell their significant other a secret, but that person won’t believe the secret,” Mrs. Percival pondered over the dilemma.
“Ah, who gives a rat’s ass,” Mrs. Fournier waved her whiskey around. “If you’ve already told Arthur your secret, and he doesn’t believe you, then it’s his fault if it bites him in the ass.”
“I never said it was about us,” Merlin denied. His entire face felt red hot from the combination of whiskey and embarrassment.
“Merlin dear, there is never a friend,” Irene said, laying down her knitting.
“Is the secret something really important?” Mrs. Percival asked kindly.
“Yeah, it’s … it’s kind of something which sounds completely impossible, but it’s not. I don’t know how to convince Arthur that I’m not crazy and I don’t want to start anything with it unresolved,” Merlin explained.
“Well, people usually need some sort of proof,” Mrs. Percival said, thinking it over.
“Maybe there’s a different way to tell him you’re secret?” Irene said. “Depending on what this secret is, maybe there would be a way to show it, like a picture or a diagram.”
“I could … but then what if he does believe the secret and then he hates me?” Merlin asked quietly, his hands absently tugging at the ball of yarn on his lap. The half-done sweater he was making for Arthur in red and gold hung over his arm.
“You need to decide what’s better, living with a lie or the consequences of the truth,” Mrs. Fournier grumbled. “And honey, believe me, there’s no easy way. It might seem impossible, but things have a way of working out regardless of how stupid people can be.”
“Arthur’s been so good to you,” Irene reminded him. “I don’t think he’ll be scared off too easily.”
“Right, thanks,” Merlin muttered.
“Everything alright here?” Leon asked, coming up behind them. “You okay Merlin?”
“Yeah, just needed some advice,” Merlin said, waving off the concern. “I’m good.”
“Okay, well, if you need anything,” Leon offered. As he left the bar door opened, and in came Percival and Arthur, with three little girls with them. Smiling slightly he went over to say hello to Percival and his nieces.
“Hello there,” Merlin greeted.
“Girls, do you remember Merlin?” Percival asked. They had only met in passing one night when Percival’s sister and brother-in-law had been out the Watering Hole for a family dinner. Merlin wasn’t even sure they had been introduced by name.
“Merlin?” The girls asked, all looking up at him with fearful glances. Percival seemed surprised by their automatic fear of Merlin, and shrugged apologetically.
“Are these my favourite great grandkids?” Mrs. Percival greeted. Hugging each girl, except Elena who refused to let go of Percival’s leg.
“Nanny P, Vivian won’t believe us,” Sophia complained. “She thinks we’re making it up. Tell her she’s wrong.”
“That depends, what does she think you’re lying about?” Mrs. Percival asked.
“We were walking home from school down Willow, when Elena and I saw a ghost!” Sophia explained, glaring at everyone as if daring them to call her a liar.
“Please, I was with you the entire time,” Vivian scorned. “If there was a ghost I would have seen it too.”
“You were went into the house before it happened and besides, you’ve heard the ghost. You said so yourself,” Elena said, muffled by Percival’s pant leg pressed against her face.
“Ghosts are for babies. I’m not a child. You two are just liars!” Vivian yelled, causing the people eating at the table over to look over at them.
“Vivian, indoor voice,” Percival reminded her. “Otherwise there will be no ice cream.”
“Elena and Sophia are the ones who shouldn’t have ice cream, they’re the liars,” Vivian said, sticking her tongue out.
“I’m going to curse you!” Sophia threatened.
“Arthur? You’ll protect me from the ghost right?” Elena asked, as she looked up at him with her big hazel eyes. Apparently, while Merlin was terrifying, Arthur was not. “You won’t let anything bad happen to us?”
“Of course,” Arthur promised. “Besides you’re staying tonight with uncle Percival over there, and have you seen the size of him? Your uncle can kick some serious butt. No ghost will try anything with him around. I promise.”
Elena looked over at her Uncle. Percival gave a faux-mean face which made the girls giggle.
“He is the strongest man on the whole world,” Elena whispered loudly to Arthur, as if sharing a deep secret. “Last summer, old Mr. Walker fell in the pool and Percival just hauled him out like it was nothing. And Mr. Walker is the size of an elephant!”
“Well, we need to go,” Percival said, herding his nieces together. “Just wanted to stop in and say hi to Grandma. See you at practice Wednesday?”
“Be ready to have your ... butt kicked,” Arthur said, being sure to censor himself around small children.
As the girls started to leave, Elena made a mad dash back to their table. Merlin was surprised when she pressed something into his hand and quietly told him, “He told me to give this to you.”
“He?” Merlin asked thoroughly confused.
“The ghost of the knight. He calls for you. He wanted me to give this to you.”
With a swish of her messy blonde hair, the little girl turned and ran out of the bar, leaving a bewildered Merlin in her wake.
“I didn’t realize Percival was going to bring his nieces,” Merlin commented as they finally made their escape from the pub an hour later.
“He didn’t either. I guess his sister kind of dumped it on him, and he wasn’t about to miss curling so he brought them along with the promise of ice cream afterwards,” Arthur explained to a half-listening Merlin. It was hard to pay attention with Arthur slipping his hand against his. Merlin shivered at the contact. “We should get you a warmer jacket; it’s only going to keep getting colder.”
“Right,” Merlin muttered.
“I still say you’re making the sweater too big,” Arthur said. “It’s twice your size. It’s going to be swimming on you.”
“Like you know so much about knitting,” Merlin teased.
“Please, I probably know more than you do, Merlin. The only reason it’s coming out even slightly decent is because those poor old ladies have been completely enchanted by you,” Arthur teased. “By the way, I noticed how serious all you seemed when we came in. Is everything okay with the knitting ladies?”
“Yeah, they’re fine,” Merlin said, getting into the car, he waited for Arthur to join him before continuing. “I just had some questions for them.”
“About what? New knitting pattern?”
“Just … relationship stuff,” Merlin admitted.
Arthur grimaced as he pulled onto the main street, heading out of Perth, heading back home.
“Relationship stuff?” He asked. “As in … us?”
“Kind of,” Merlin shrugged. “I just needed to figure something out.”
“About us?” Arthur prodded.
“Yes about us,” Merlin sighed, leaning against the window. “There’s something I need to show you when we get home.”
“Is it bad?”
“I guess it depends,” Merlin said quietly, staring out the window.
“On what?” Arthur asked.
“On how you react,” he admitted.
“And you can’t just tell me right now? We’ve got a twenty minute drive ahead of us and now I’ll barely be able to concentrate,” Arthur said, his hands gripping the steering wheel tightly.
“Arthur, please, just … wait until we get home,” Merlin begged. Leaning forward he turned on the radio to take away some of the tension. As Arthur’s favourite local classic rock station played one of its familiar tunes, Merlin leaned back and drummed his fingers against his knee.
“Arthur mustn’t find out about you Merlin.”
Gaius’ voice drifted back to him, same as the smell of potions brewing and mouldy hay beds. He shook his head, the doctor Gaius here and now had encouraged him to talk with Arthur. The one from his dreams might not have even been talking about his magic.
The car ride was awkwardly quiet, despite the music playing. The windy, country road seemed to be as silent - only one porcupine sighting for the entire trip. As if the awkward tension had been enough to scare away even the wildlife. The final bend in the road leading up to the cottage caused Merlin to sigh in relief. Not looking at Arthur, Merlin jumped over the still broken front step and into the house.
“Okay, we’re home,” Arthur announced. “What’s this about?”
“Magic,” Merlin admitted.
Arthur looked at him for a moment, his eyebrows scrunching together. Merlin prepared himself for any reaction, except the one that happened. Shrugging off his coat, Arthur laughed loudly.
“Magic? That’s it? I thought you were going to say that you didn’t feel the same way or … crap Merlin, are you trying to give me a heart attack,” Arthur laughed.
“This is serious,” he argued, following Arthur into the kitchen where the hardwood floors gleamed beautifully under his socked feet. “You said there was no such thing as magic, and that’s why my dreams couldn’t be real.”
“Right,” Arthur agreed, obviously not getting the point. He was too preoccupied with grabbing the jar of pickles from the fridge.
“But magic is real. I know because … because I have it, in me,” Merlin admitted, his heart beating so fast and hard against his chest it felt bruised.
“What do you mean, in you?” Arthur asked, leaning against the counter. His laughter seemed to die quickly as he looked at Merlin’s serious face. Even the pickle jar was left forgotten on the counter. “You’re serious about this.”
“I am. Arthur, how else would you explain my window breaking twice when I had bad nightmares?”
“Some freak gust of wind or something,” Arthur said, gently as if Merlin would bolt if he spoke too suddenly. “Merlin, you don’t … you can’t have magic in you. It’s impossible.”
“But I do,” Merlin yelled in frustration. “It’s always there, like a part of me. Those legends, the one your friends talk about, I think I am Merlin.”
“You think you’re … you think you are the mythical wizard Merlin?” Arthur asked his voice hollow and rough.
“Yes, and you, I remember you, you’re the first thing I really remembered,” Merlin told him. “I remember cleaning your chambers and watching you fight in tournaments and …. I remember you.”
Merlin blushed as he thought of his most frequent memories; the ones of pressed flesh and racing pulses. He couldn’t bring himself to say it aloud.
“Merlin, you aren’t actually Merlin,” Arthur said, raising his hands out in a calming manner as he moved towards Merlin. “I’ll call Doctor Gaius and see if he can set up another appointment with us. Maybe there’s a therapist or someone we can get you to go see.”
“I’m not crazy Arthur,” Merlin snapped.
“I’m not saying you are,” Arthur tried to reason with him. “But you’re obviously confused. I’m no king and you are no wizard. We are just two guys. Two guys who care about each other and don’t want to see the other hurt.”
“But that’s the thing,” Merlin said. “I am a wizard.”
“No you’re not,” Arthur ran a frustrated hand through his hair.
“I can show you. I don’t remember how to control it, but I’ve been practicing moving things around in my room.”
Merlin watched Arthur pause. Merlin’s wide blue eyes pleaded with Arthur, hoping that he would listen.
“Okay,” Arthur finally said. “Okay, but Merlin, if this doesn’t work, then we are talking to Dr. Gaius about this. Is that understood?”
“Just … let me concentrate,” Merlin asked, before pointing to the renovation magazine on the couch. “Watch the magazine.”
Closing his eyes for a split second, it was easy to draw up the energy which pulsed against him, eager to be used. It was almost too simple to snap his eyes open, the magazine went flying and hit Merlin smack on the forehead. It was not anywhere near as graceful as Merlin had imagined it going on the long car-ride up.
“That … that was … your eyes,” Arthur stuttered. It was now Merlin’s turn to cautiously approach Arthur. “Your eyes turned gold.”
“Did they?” Merlin gave a weak chuckle. “I’ve never seen them when I use magic … obviously.”
“I saw that before. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me … Dr. Gaius said it was just a glare … it was the night the window broke the second time. It was you. It never made any sense, but now … you have magic,” Arthur rambled, cautiously sitting down at the kitchen table.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you,” Merlin said. He was unable to help the large grin which broke out, causing his cheeks to hurt with its ferocity. “I’ve wanted to tell you for so long. You’ve had no idea. But I kept remembering Gaius telling me not to, that I needed to keep it secret.”
“Dr. Gaius knows?”Arthur spluttered.
“No, the Gaius I remember from my dreams,” Merlin corrected him.
“Oh, of course, dream Gaius,” he muttered. Arthur seemed to have run out of things to say. Sitting in complete shock, he stared out the window in a trance.
“So … do you hate me?” Merlin asked softly. “Do you think I’m a monster?”
“Of course not,” Arthur snapped back to the man sitting next to him. “I couldn’t … you’re not a monster. You’re too Merlin to be a monster.”
“Thanks?” Merlin tilted his head, trying to work out what being ‘too Merlin’ even meant.
“It’s just a lot to take in,” Arthur muttered.
Merlin nodded. “That’s why I wanted to tell you before anything happened. Before anything more happened. I understand if you want me to move out.”
“Don’t be ridiculous Merlin,” he admonished. “This doesn’t change us. I mean, it does, obviously, I mean, when we need to get something out of reach we won’t need to get a ladder. And when the remote control is out of reach - no longer need to get up.”
Merlin smiled as Arthur got more and more excited about the possibilities.
“Oh dear lord, no telling Gwaine!” Arthur ordered. “He would be unbearable. He’s bad enough without having a magical friend.”
“So, we’re really okay?” Merlin asked nervously.
Arthur looked at him intensely, then leaned forward and brought him down into a kiss. Unlike the last alcohol induced brushing of their lips, this one was hard and urgent. Crawling over onto Merlin’s lap, Arthur straddled him as he continued to deepen the kiss. Merlin decided that a lap full of Arthur was probably the best thing in the entire world. Especially, as Arthur continued to pepper kisses down his throat and nip at his ear.
“Merlin, you could tell me that you’re a pink unicorn masking as a human and I wouldn’t care. Right now, the only thing I care about is getting you upstairs, naked, so we can finally have sex.” Arthur’s voice beside his ear caused Merlin to groan.
Kissing Arthur once more, cupping his jean clad bottom and pulling him even closer. Arthur was having none of it though, getting to his feet he gave Merlin a saucy wink and sauntered up the stairs. It took a split second for Merlin’s brain to catch up to everything happening. Then he was sprinting up the stairs, and crashing into Arthur’s room, dragging the smirking prat towards him and kissing him deeply.
Falling backwards on Arthur’s bed, Merlin whacked his elbow against the wall.
“Ow,” he complained, rubbing it tenderly.
“We need bigger beds,” Arthur said in-between kisses as he peeled off Merlin’s shirt. Trailing his lips upwards, Merlin was desperate when they finally got to his lips. Licking past Arthur’s lips he caused Arthur to groan.
Merlin needed Arthur’s shirt off too; there were too many layers between them. His free hands wrenched Arthur’s shirt up and over his head. Breaking away, breathing heavily in the race to undress, Arthur’s hand and then his head hit the wall.
“This isn’t funny,” Arthur scolded, finally flinging his shirt far away. He glared down at the laughing Merlin beneath him.
“We definitely need a bigger bed,” Merlin said, still giggling slightly.
Merlin stopped laughing when Arthur slowly slid Merlin’s zipper down, his fingers brushing along the straining bulge.
Staring up at Arthur, in all his golden glory, Merlin felt a deep emotion rise up. He could remember seeing this so many times. Raising his hips, he allowed Arthur to take away the last piece of clothing that separated them. Sitting up, Merlin hooked his finger around Arthur’s jeans and brought him closer.
This was the moment. This was what Merlin could remember so clearly. If his memories were right, if they were real, then Arthur would have a scar on his right side. Merlin checked ... nothing. Bringing his lips there to touch the unblemished flesh, Merlin looked for the other marks he knew so well.
Lowering his pants, his cock was as he remembered it. A gentle kiss to the tip made Arthur hiss his name out, but Merlin wasn’t done checking.
The scar just beneath the groin, on the inside of his thigh was gone. Merlin marked the skin with his mouth, sucking and nipping at it, to make it match what he remembered more closely.
The moon crescent shaped scar on his calf was also gone. There was a new one just below the knee that Merlin had never seen. It was old, and white looking, obviously had been there for a very long time - but Merlin couldn’t remember it. He pressed another kiss there.
He brought Arthur down onto the bed, and settled between his legs as his exploration moved upwards. Gone was the ugly wound above his heart. In his dream-memories Merlin had always hated that scar, though he couldn’t remember why. Now it was gone, replaced with golden chest hair. He kissed there too, making sure to flick at the nipple.
He felt lost without the scars. As if his map to the body under him had been taken away and he was left with no instructions. It suddenly felt new, in a way that not even the kisses had. This really was their first time together.
“Merlin,” Arthur moaned, grabbing his head and bringing him upwards. Mouths so wide that jaws hurt, Merlin pressed their bodies together head to foot. Arthur sounded desperate as he said, “There’s stuff in the drawer.”
Nodding, Merlin stumbled out of bed. He opened the drawer and then drew a blank. He could remember, or thought that he remembered, having sex. But there didn’t seem to be any oil - fragranced or otherwise, and Merlin was suddenly wondering what ‘stuff’ Arthur had been talking about.
“I’m not sure …” Merlin hesitated. “Where’s the oil?”
“Oil?” Arthur asked, sounding slightly unnerved. “Like hell we are using oil. If your dick is going up my ass there will be lube involved.”
“Right …” Merlin nodded, once again looking lost. “What does lube look like?”
“Oh for the,” Arthur groaned, getting out of bed to grab a tube of something and a small wrapped, square looking package. “You’re hopeless Merlin.”
Merlin would have argued that, but Arthur had pushed him back onto the bed, and sunk down to envelop his cock with his mouth. His brain seemed stuck on the sensation. This, unlike the scars, was exactly how he remembered Arthur doing this. The same tentative beginning, the eagerness and then the brutal pace as he bobbed his head furiously and jacked off the parts he couldn’t swallow.
“Arthur, I’m gonna,” Merlin moaned. With an obscene pop, Arthur jerked backwards and refused to finish him off. “Please, Arthur, please.”
“Not until you’re inside me,” Arthur said. He broke into the square pouch and rolled some thin plastic glove onto Merlin’s cock. “We’ve waited so long; we’re going to do this right.”
Sitting back on his heels, he squeezed a substance out of the tube and reached behind him. Merlin watched Arthur open himself. He tried to memorize how his head tilt back and his breath hitched. For a split second, Merlin could see the prince, the candle light flickering against his flushed skin, but then it was gone.
Arthur squeezed out more of the lube and covered Merlin’s plastic wrapped cock. Before Merlin had a chance to blearily ask what exactly Arthur had put on him down there, Arthur was guiding Merlin’s cock to his entrance.
Reaching out to grab Arthur’s hips, his elbow smashed against the wall. But the pain was dull compared to the feeling of Arthur lowering himself so slowly on him. Taking him in inch by inch.
Finally, fully seated, Merlin could do little more than look up in wonder at Arthur. Leaning up, he brought Arthur down so that he could kiss him tenderly, gently stroking his cheek as they broke apart and Arthur began to move slowly above him.
Snapping his hips up, the pace spiraled quickly out of control. As Merlin felt his release approach him, with every thrust and moan and nip, he reached between their bodies and started to stroke Arthur’s cock. Every other thrust an elbow or knee crashed into the wall. Merlin was distantly aware of a painting falling down from above the bed.
Crying out, Merlin dug his fingers’ into Arthur’s hip as he climaxed. Arthur wasn’t far behind. His hot release streaked across Merlin’s chest. With a last groan, Arthur slumped forward.
Like a big, warm, sweaty blanket, Arthur covered Merlin. Merlin didn’t have enough energy to complain.
“We need a bigger bed,” Arthur said.
“Yeah,” Merlin muttered, playing with a strand of Arthur’s blond hair. “We’ld need a bigger room though.”
“Mmm,” Arthur muttered.
“You’re really heavy,” Merlin complained when his breathing was fairly normal and Arthur showed no signs of moving. With a grumble, they tried to rearrange their bodies so that both could fit on the bed. Merlin, taking the inside, whacked both elbows and his head, trying to get comfortable. Finally, with Arthur’s leg hooked over his, and Merlin’s arm flung around Arthur’s midsection, they could face each other in bed.
“That better?” Arthur asked.
“Much,” Merlin smiled, leaning across the space to kiss Arthur’s frustrated frown. Closing his eyes, Merlin felt exhausted. Figuring Arthur would be doing the same, Merlin felt himself start to drift off to sleep.
“It’s my father’s room” Arthur suddenly whispered. Merlin blinked his eyes open.
“Sorry?” he asked.
“It’s my father’s room” Arthur said again. He looked at Merlin and stroked his cheek absently. “The room, behind the door you ask about. It belonged to my father.”
“Oh,” Merlin said. Not sure what had brought this on, Merlin waited for Arthur to elaborate.
“This place, when my parents moved here from England, they built it. I guess it was my mother’s dream home. She had this fantastic garden out back. She even gave birth to me here, I guess they had been snowed in and couldn’t get into the hospital. When she died when I was one, my dad packed up everything and moved us into the city. It always seemed like a piece of him had been left here. We would make a visit once a year, for about a week, and he would walk around like a ghost. Just drifting between the gardens and forest paths. I hated it here, as soon as I could, I never came. I never understood why my dad would keep coming back here when it made him so miserable.”
Arthur broke off, pausing with a thoughtful furrow in his brow.
“He died and suddenly everyone was looking at me. He had left me everything. The company, the houses, the money … everything. His lawyer was listing off everything and all I could think was how much I hated it. I hated the money and the houses and the company and all I wanted was my dad back,” Arthur paused and looked away finally.
“Then the lawyer said I had been left his place. And all I could think was how I never understood why he kept this place when so much bad stuff had happened here. But I had never asked him. And now I never could ask him. And between the funeral and dealing with Morgana and everything, I just kept obsessing over it. I guess I hoped that if I came here, if I could live here, maybe I would understand. Maybe I could find that missing part.”
“Arthur,” Merlin muttered, reaching out to stroke Arthur’s cheek and thread through his hair.
“But I’m not ready to open that door yet,” Arthur admitted, looking back at Merlin. “I’m not ready to step into that room. It’s the last space of my father’s and I can’t give that up yet.”
“I understand,” Merlin whispered, peppering small kisses against Arthur’s temple and mouth. “I understand.”
“But when I am ready, I want you with me,” Arthur said. His blue eyes seemed to penetrate deep into Merlin and he could feel his breath leave him.
Smiling slightly Merlin could only nod, unable to think of word to say. Instead he stroked along Arthur’s jaw line and kissed his lips tenderly.
It was too hot. His arm was prickling with pins and needles as it lay trapped under the heat source. Merlin woke with sweat dripping down his back feeling as if he were lying on a furnace. The blanket stuck to his body awkwardly and with a deep groan Merlin opened his eyes.
Arthur was already awake.
Smiling up at him, Merlin moved to capture Arthur’s lips with his own, but Arthur leaned away. Trying to mask the hurt, Merlin raised a questioning eye brow.
“My breath tastes like something died in my mouth,” Arthur said, grimacing as he untangled himself and started to get out of bed. “I’m covered in sweat and dried come, and right now we are doing nothing until I have a shower.”
Smirking up at the naked Arthur, Merlin nodded, grabbing his leg before he could leave and bringing him closer to the bed.
“Merlin, seriously, I’m all gross right now,” Arthur whined.
Merlin just gave him a brilliant smile, before swinging his body up taking Arthur’s half erect cock in his mouth.
It did not last long.
Arthur stumbled into the shower with a laughing Merlin and then down to the kitchen where they burnt the eggs because they had been otherwise occupied. Sprawled out naked on the couch, Merlin could not remember feeling so content.
“Why did we take so long getting here?” Arthur asked, one lazy hand absently stroking up and down Merlin’s arm. “We could have been doing this for ages.”
“I guess we need to make up for lost time,” Merlin pointed out.
“Ugh, but not right now, you’re a furnace,” Arthur said, pushing Merlin off of him.
“I’m a furnace? I thought I was sleeping with coals or something last night,” Merlin complained.
“See, this is what they call projection,” Arthur mocked. “Unable to deal with the fact that you have unnaturally high body heat, you say I do. Which I don’t.”
“Because you’re too perfect for that,” Merlin agreed tongue-in-cheek.
“Finally you see the light.”
A quick peck and Arthur was off to find clothes. And change the bed sheets.
Gwaine sat at the kitchen table with Lance and Gwen. Between them Lance had cooked up scrambled eggs and bacon. The very smell of them seemed to dim Gwaine’s hangover. The phone rang just as they were about to begin eating. Gwen slapped Gwaine’s hand away from the food.
“Oi!” He cried, sending Gwen a hurt look which had softened many a wicked heart.
“Wait until I get back,” Gwen scolded, completely unaffected by Gwaine’s immeasurable charm. “I know you. I want to actually have breakfast, and there will be nothing left if you get into it.”
“I can’t believe you think so little of me,” Gwaine shook his head, and peered over at Lance only to find the man was no help. He was too busy laughing to defend Gwaine’s honour like a proper friend.
Gwen picked up the phone and smiled saying, “Hi Arthur.”
A gunshot starting a race was less effective than those words. Lance and Gwaine sprung from the table and ran to the stairs. There were three phones in the house, all connected to the one line. The kitchen and the upstairs phones were nice new phones. The third one was from Lance’s parent’s house, was ancient as the hills, and the cord kept falling out and you would miss half the conversation.
Luckily Gwaine had been sitting closest to the door, and he made it to the upstairs phone a split second before Lance. Shooing off the loser, Gwaine victoriously raised the nice phone to his ear.
“... okay with you guys,” Arthur was saying.
“Nothing too new,” Gwen replied. “Lance and I are thinking we’ll need to build a guest house for Gwaine, so he can grow old there.”
“He still crashing on your couch,” Arthur asked.
“You bet I am,” Gwaine broke into the conversation. “But as I’ve already told Gwen and Lancie-boy, I plan to be moving in with Leon next month anyways.”
“Don’t … me … Lancie-boy,” Lancelot’s voice came brokenly over the other line.
“Oh, Lance, remember you need to push up and sideways on the cord,” Gwen reminded him.
“I didn’t realise you and Leon would be moving in together,” Arthur commented.
“Well, he has this amazing trick with his tongue when he-” Gwaine started to explain.
“We really don’t need to know,” Gwen interrupted. “Please stop.”
“Didn’t … you and him … thing,” Lance tried to say.
“I think what Lance was saying was that we didn’t realize you were a thing,” Arthur translated.
“What did you think we were doing all those times I slept over at his place?” Gwaine laughed, shaking his heads to wonder how he ended up in such an innocent group of friends.
“What the hell?” Gwaine asked, rubbing his ear.
“Hello?” Merlin’s voice came through the phone.
“I’m on the phone Merlin,” Arthur explained.
“Oh, sorry,” Merlin apologized.
“Oh, don’t worry it’s just with us,” Gwen said before Merlin could hang up.
“Me,” Lance’s voice crackled.
“And gorgeous old me,” Gwaine announced. “We were just talking about some epic sexy-times in Perth.”
“What?” Merlin squawked. “Arthur was telling you about us?”
“What is this Arthur?” Gwaine asked smugly, following Gwen and Lance’s shocked exclamations. “You two finally figured out what your dicks were for. About time. Way to go! Now details. Who did what to who and how many times and in what positions.”
“Gwaine was telling us that he and Leon are together,” Arthur explained.
“Oh, so they didn’t know about us?” Merlin asked sheepishly.
“No, not until you told them,” Arthur sighed.
“I’m so happy for you two!” Gwen gushed. “We all thought you two would figure it out ages ago and then nothing happened and - oh! I’m so choked up now.”
“Good … you … don’t … we …. happy,” Lance said.
“I have no idea what you’re saying, but I think you mean something positive so thanks,” Arthur said.
“I’m still waiting for details,” Gwaine said impatiently. “Come on, give us the down low. Or better yet, just tell us who was down low.”
“Well … I guess the first time Arthur was-” Merlin began to explain.
“Merlin!” Arthur cried. “We ignore Gwaine in these circumstances. We do not give him what he wants.”
“I can’t wait to tell Percival and Leon,” Gwen continued to gush. “Everyone is going to be so happy!”
“What are you planning to do? Put an ad out in the paper ‘Congratulations on Arthur and Merlin for finally having sex’?” Arthur asked.
“Now there’s an idea,” Gwaine said thoughtfully.
“I was kidding,” Arthur groaned.
“It’s just, you were practically a couple for so long,” Gwen explained. “Everyone was kind of just waiting for it to happen.”
“Everyone?” Merlin asked, sounding very overwhelmed. “This was a topic of conversation?”
“Dont … Merlin … out of … you guys,” Lance said.
“I think Lance is saying … no I have no idea what Lance was trying to say,” Gwen gave up trying to decipher her fiance. “Lancelot just come into the kitchen. I’ll put it on speaker phone.”
“As I was saying, Merlin - you shouldn’t worry because it’s out of love for you guys,” Lance said reassuringly just seconds later. “That phone is awful, we really should just get rid of it.”
“But it’s pretty,” Gwen argued. “I love how it has the circular round thing - like Cruella de Vil!”
“Who would want to have a phone because it reminds them of Cruella de Vil?” Arthur asked. “She tried to kill all the puppies.”
“Someone tried to kill all the puppies?” Merlin asked, scandalized.
“It’s a kid movie,” Gwaine explained.
“You make kids watch the murder of puppies?” Merlin did not sound reassured.
“It’s called 101 Dalmations, we’ll watch it this weekend,” Arthur said dismissively.
“And I don’t like the phone because of Cruella de Vil, I just like old phones. Like the one she has.” Gwen tried to explain.
“As fascinating as this is, I believe Merlin was saying Arthur was - what was that again Merlin?” Gwaine brought the subject back to what’s important. “I don’t think I caught the end of that.”
“Gwaine,” Arthur growled warningly.
“I don’t think Arthur really wants to talk about all the times we’ve had sex,” Merlin said apologetically.
“Merlin!” Arthur exclaimed.
“All the times? How long have you two been holding out on us?” Gwaine demanded.
“Not that it’s any of your business Gwaine, but it’s only been a couple of days,” Arthur admitted.
“We need to celebrate,” Gwaine decided.
“Oh, yes, we can head down this weekend; make a party out of it!” Gwen agreed.
“Seriously?” Arthur asked.
“Who doesn’t love a ‘Yay! My Friends are Shagging’ party?” Lance laughed.
“I do not know why Merlin and I are friends with you people,” Arthur grumbled.
“Because we share the unfortunate weight of being named after a legend?” Gwaine pointed out.
“That’s the stupidest reason ever,” Arthur said.
“It’s because you would be lost without us,” Gwen said softly. “Now put clothes on when you wake up on Saturday. I have no wish to see you naked again.”
“You’ve seen Arthur naked?” Merlin asked, and Gwaine had to stifle a laugh at the jealous undertone.
“We used to have baths together when we were children,” Gwen said gleefully.
“Gwen, I have tried to repress those memories,” Arthur pleaded. “Please never mention them again.”
“Saturday - we will be there. Don’t be naked!” Gwen commanded as she hung up the downstairs phone.
The druids call me Emrys.
I am the manservant of Prince Arthur.
I have magic.
Magic is outlawed.
I must never tell Arthur about my magic.
My destiny is to protect Arthur.
I have to protect Arthur from the warlock.
The stream of thought poured through his conscience. His eyes snapped open and instead of being faced with the stone walls of his small room off of Gaius’ work area; he was faced with blue walls.
A feeling of panic over took him at the feel of someone’s arm wrapped around his waist ... his naked waist. He was naked, in an unknown room, with a stranger wrapped around him. Barely containing his panicked yelp, he bolted out of the bed. Spinning around, he watched in confusion as Arthur blinked awake. He waited for the prince to demand where they were, or how they got here, or what the hell Merlin had done this time.
Arthur did none of those things. Instead he climbed out of bed, stretched widely and circled his arms around Merlin. This was wrong. Merlin never knew Arthur to cuddle. He stiffened in his arms, unsure what to do.
“Everything okay?” Arthur asked.
Merlin nodded slowly, very aware that both of them were naked, and that Arthur wasn’t in a rush to dress in case someone were to stumble across them, and he wasn’t attempting to bring him back to bed either.
“I’ll head ahead down and start making breakfast if you want to shower first,” Arthur suggested as he stepped away to pull on trousers. The thought of Arthur cooking was terrifying. He still pictured the chicken fiasco when he had attempted to cook a dinner for Gwen.
“Where is everyone?” Merlin asked. He couldn’t feel any magical presence, but there was obviously something very wrong happening here.
“Don’t worry, it’s still Friday,” Arthur laughed. “We have another day of freedom before Gwen, Lance and Gwaine show up.”
“Right,” Merlin muttered, as Arthur left the small room and headed downstairs. Swallowing thickly, he put on the other pair of trousers and followed Arthur out the room and into the hallway. It looked familiar. He could remember walking in this hallway, but he couldn’t place when or why he had.
On the stairs he stopped midway down, his eye caught on a picture. He was in this painting, done in so much detail that you felt you could reach out and into it. Never before had Merlin seen such craftsmanship. In the picture he was laughing, surrounded by Arthur, Gwaine, Gwen, Lancelot, Percival and Leon.
“Come on, we need a picture to document this occasion!”
“Grandma, would you mind taking it for us?”
“Percival, just let me finish this one row of knitting. Once second dear.”
“We need everyone to crowd in.”
“Leon! Get your fine piece of ass over here!”
“I’m in my work apron still.”
“Come on, we have almost a complete collection now. We should start a manhunt for an Elyan.”
“Okay, I can take it now.”
Shaking his head, he tried to clear it. He could still hear the laughter in the pub, the smell of beer and greasy food. What was happening to him?
Entering the kitchen he watched as Arthur broke eggs into a frying pan and seemed completely at home in the kitchen.
“What’s happened to us?” Merlin asked.
“Hmm?” Arthur turned around. “Are you not going to get a shower?”
“Get a … Arthur, where are we?” Merlin demanded.
“We’re at home. Merlin, are you feeling okay?” Arthur asked.
“We aren’t at home. We aren’t in Camelot. Arthur, where … where’s your scar?” Merlin asked, feeling ice enter his veins.
“What scar?” Arthur asked. “Merlin, maybe we should call Doctor Gaius.”
“Hello there, I’m Doctor Gaius, could you happen to tell us your name?”
“I … I’m … I don’t remember.”
“Stop it,” Merlin yelled, grabbing his pounding head. “You aren’t Arthur.”
“I’m Arthur,” the other man said, sounding worried. “Merlin, I need you to talk to me. What’s wrong?”
“Actually, I was driving the car that hit you.”
“Hey, hey, it’s okay. You’re doing great.”
“You are doing it wrong again! See you take the roller and coat it, and then you roll it up here so it doesn’t drip, and then you put it to the wall.”
“I, uh, brought some breakfast. How are you feeling?”
“Let’s celebrate this. We should commemorate the worst game ever played in bowling history.”
“When I was eight I was a knight for Halloween, but was very disappointed to find my chain mail was really just a shiny metallic shirt. Oh, and my sword was plastic.”
“If this is a mistake I could just say I’m drunk.”
“I’m no King and you are no wizard. We are just two guys. Two guys who care about each other and don’t want to see the other hurt.”
“You’re not a monster. You’re too Merlin to be a monster.”
“But when I am ready, I want you with me.”
“Stop!” Merlin cried out, his head feeling like it was being split in two. “Stop!”
“I’m calling Gaius,” Arthur said. “Don’t move, I’ll get Gaius.”
Merlin was barely aware of Arthur, the fake-Arthur, leaving the room. Crying out, he sunk to his knees as the pounding in his head intensified.
“Gaius will be here in twenty minutes,” Arthur said. “Can you stand up? Can you make it to the couch?”
As the hand touched him, Merlin instinctively back up, using his magic to push the intruder away from him. Arthur landed roughly across the room.
“You’re not Arthur,” he cried.
“I am, I am Arthur,” the man pleaded. “Merlin, it’s me.”
“I don’t understand. What happened? Where’s the knights?” Merlin asked. His brain hurt so bad, it was impossible to piece together every fragment of memory.
“I’m Arthur Pendragon, your boyfriend, and this is our house. We live just outside of Perth. You’re part of the knitting group and I play on the lacrosse team, well, now it’s curling. Don’t you remember?” Arthur asked.
Merlin did, he could remember the old ladies he knit with, watching Arthur play with odd sticks running around a field, working on the floor he was crumpled against, and how this Arthur loved when he kissed the areas the other Arthur had scars. All of these memories clashed with being a servant, of hiding his magic, of loyalties to the crown, of camaraderie and hidden trysts. He remembered jumping in front of a spell. A spell that had been meant for Arthur.
“Come on, let’s get you to the couch,” Arthur pleaded, slowly picking Merlin up and carrying him to the couch. He was winded by the time he was setting Merlin down. “I think we need to cut back on the pizza, you are practically a thousand pounds.”
“I’m still lighter than you,” Merlin muttered.
Giving a strangled laugh, Arthur pressed his lips against the top of his head.
“I’m not crazy,” Merlin added.
“Merlin,” Arthur couldn’t meet his eyes.
“I’m not. Something happened. It was during your feast. We were celebrating your first year as King. There was a warlock who slipped in, I think with the carnival. He cast a spell at you. I jumped in front of it, and I can’t really remember what happened next,” Merlin explained. “I remember waking up this morning, and I can kind of remember this house and this life … but I need to go back.”
“Go back?” Arthur asked.
“I can’t leave you, I can’t leave King Arthur unprotected. I don’t know why I’ve stayed here for so long. I need to get back to Camelot.”
“Merlin,” Arthur pleaded. “You need to calm down. Okay, yes you obviously have magic and I can believe there might be other people out there with gifts. But King Arthur? Camelot? These are bedtime stories. They aren’t real.”
“How can you say that? I’m not making this up,” Merlin snapped, trying to sit up, but Arthur kept him lying down.
“I know that you believe it, and honestly? That scares me a lot more,” Arthur admitted.
A knock on the door interrupted them. As Arthur left to answer it, Merlin sat up.
“Merlin,” Gaius said, entering still in his white over coat. It was odd to see him with no hair, the main of white and grey mane gone completely. “Why don’t you tell me what happened?”
Merlin spied Arthur pacing by the door.
“Nothing,” Merlin said. “I just got confused.”
“Confused about what?”
“I couldn’t remember how I got here,” he finally said.
“As in, you couldn’t remember how you got home last night?” Gaius asked.
“He didn’t remember here at all,” Arthur interrupted. “He kept saying I wasn’t Arthur.”
“Arthur,” Gaius reprimanded. “I need Merlin to tell me what happened.”
Nodding jerkily Arthur ran a tired hand through his hair and leaned back against the doorway.
“I remembered being … I remember before coming here, and then I woke up … here,” Merlin said, he could remember this Gaius trying to tell him his dreams were impossible. There was no way that he would believe him now.
“So you remember before coming here?” Gaius asked. “Do you remember Arthur? Do you remember this place?”
“It’s coming back to me, but I didn’t this morning,” Merlin admitted. “I can remember before and after, but … I don’t know … I can’t remember why I couldn’t remember.”
“It’s highly unlikely you’ll ever remember the accident. It’s a miracle you were able to remember so much despite how long you’ve been living with your amnesia. It’s perfectly normal,” Gaius reassured him. “How about any symptoms? Did you experience any pain?”
“Yes. My head was pounding and some dizziness,” Merlin said.
“It’s normal to feel disorient or dizziness. We’re still uncovering so much about the brain, and no one recovers from traumatic brain damage the same way. So we need to work with what we have. If the headache persists or intensifies, I want you to come into the hospital, is that understood Johnny boy?” Gaius told him. “Is there anything that you’re concerned with?”
“No, I understand,” Merlin agreed.
“Okay, Arthur, if you’ll see me out,” Gaius said. “Merlin, take it easy today. I was not kidding, if there is any intensifying of the symptoms, you come straight to the hospital.”
“I will, I promise,” Merlin couldn’t help but smile as Gaius’ eyebrow rose quizzically. It was nice to see something so familiar.
“I guess I should ask what your name truly is, now that you remember you’re past,” Gaius chuckled.
The Gaius eyebrow rose higher. “Hmm, I guess Arthur and his friends are better at naming people than originally thought.”
Arthur walked Gaius out to the porch. His stomach still in knots from the panicked look Merlin had sent him, as if looking at a stranger. The back of his head throbbed from where it had been cracked against the kitchen wall. The invisible force that had swept him away had been far more intimidating then Arthur cared to admit.
“Is he going to be okay?” Arthur asked, desperate for some sound advice. He just needed something to do, some plan of action. He felt completely useless in his inability to help.
Gaius sighed and shivered against the cool fall breeze.
“I’m not sure,” Gaius said. “What do you think Merlin meant by saying you were the wrong Arthur?”
“He …” Arthur hesitated. A part of him worried that by telling the doctor what it was Merlin had said that Arthur might lose him. “I don’t know. He was just out of it.”
“Very well,” Gaius said. “Keep a close eye on him, and at the first sign of any pain or dizziness, you bring him in.”
“Of course,” Arthur agreed.
Gaius’ small car pulled out of their drive way and left a small cloud of dust settling behind it. Arthur shivered as he noticed the forest held more and more yellow and orange leafs. He breathed in deeply and went back into the cabin.
“Merlin?” Arthur called out, entering the living room to find Merlin pacing.
“I told you I’m not crazy,” Merlin tried to smile, but it was a bit too wide and innocent looking, completely forced. Arthur preferred the other smiles, the ones which made his eyes became slivers and his grin seemed to eat his whole face.
Arthur walked up to him, and slowly, he reached out to Merlin’s waist and pulled him closer.
“So you remember me now?” Arthur asked, running a hand up and down Merlin’s arms to remind him that he was still there and right now he seemed okay.
“I never forgot you Arthur,” Merlin said.
“What do you call what happened in the kitchen?” Arthur asked. “You said I wasn’t Arthur.”
“I was … just confused,” Merlin muttered, stepping away from Arthur.
“You used your magic to send me flying,” Arthur accused.
“I didn’t mean to …” Merlin said sheepishly. “Arthur, I think I remember everything now or at least the important bits.”
“And you’re some time travelling medieval wizard,” Arthur said, crossing his arms.
“But, I do remember us,” Merlin reassured him. “When we painted in here, you attacked me with paint.”
“You were dripping it everywhere,” Arthur complained.
Merlin’s grin was much more natural now, smiling at the happy memory.
“So … you remember us?” Arthur asked.
“Mmmm,” Arthur moaned, stretching out on the couch the following afternoon. Merlin tried not to stare at the patch of skin that was shown between his jeans and the sweater rising up. Merlin was only human though, and the sight was too tempting to pass up. If Merlin ever made it back to his Arthur, he would miss these modern clothes. They were so much easier to disassemble when they were in a rush to get naked.
“Good morning,” Merlin greeted, wishing that last night had ended with the two of them naked upstairs and not passing out on the sofa watching a particularly cheesy, old romantic comedy. However, after a tense day with neither one sure how to act around the other the movie seemed the safest thing to do last night.
Arthur had started snoring halfway through it.
Merlin had left him on the couch, covered him with a blanket and slept in Arthur’s room by himself.
“Why didn’t you wake me?” Arthur asked, groggily rubbing his eyes and blinking around the room.
“You looked too peaceful,” Merlin said. “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Oh, but my neck is so sore now,” Arthur complained. “What happened in the movie?”
“Boy and girl ended up together,” Merlin informed him. “They always do at the end of those.”
“Have you had breakfast?” Arthur asked as he stumbled to his feet.
“No, I just woke up a few minutes ago,” Merlin said, following the staggering Arthur into the kitchen.
“I don’t want an actual meal, you up for cereal?” Arthur moaned, digging through the cupboards.
“That sounds good,” Merlin said, sitting back and watching as Arthur pour the cereal. He shuffled through the memories, now that he had them all back. Smiling, he enjoyed the irony of Arthur making him breakfast and not the other way around.
A sound from outside made both of them jump. Merlin sent Arthur a confused glance. Both of them ran to the door, eager to find out what had caused the noise. Two other thuds came in quick secession. Glancing out the kitchen window, past the front porch and down the lane-way, Merlin could see the sleek silver car Lancelot drove parked in front of their house. With a casual arm around Gwen, Lance was laughing to some sort of story Gwaine was telling.
Feeling his stomach tighten with unease at the sight of his friends, both past and present, Merlin shied away from the window.
“I forgot they were coming,” Arthur said. He stood there in his crumpled clothes. He looked as tense as Merlin felt. “I forgot to call them after yesterday.”
“It’s okay,” Merlin lied.
“No it’s not,” Arthur argued, but they could no longer discuss it, for at that moment the front door burst open and in came the smiling, laughing trio.
“Damnit man, you need to fix that step,” Gwaine announced. “You’ve been living here for long enough. Between all the work you’ve been doing you would think that you would have fixed a stupid step.”
“He tripped again,” Gwen laughed.
“Not my fault,” Gwaine argued. “It was the step’s fault.”
Lance immediately started to put beer in the fridge and a few groceries into the cupboard.
“We keep saying that you shouldn’t do that,” Arthur reminded them when he saw the bags of food.
“We want to,” Gwen gently admonished him. A swift half-hug and she was sweeping past Merlin to help Lance unpack.
With his memories now fully returned, he could see the similarities and differences of the people around him. It was as if he was seeing everyone through frosted glass. There was Gwen, still sweet, but more assured. Lance was still loyal but laughing more often. Gwaine was still travelling the world but without the bitterness. Arthur was still the leader but without the pressure of a kingdom.
Merlin felt a pang of sadness.
“Are we making breakfast?” Gwen asked. “Did you two love birds have a late night last night?”
“Yes, Merlin, I believe you were going to explain the sexual pursuits in more detail?” Gwaine asked, draping an arm over his shoulders. Merlin felt shaken, still used to thinking of having to hide that side of his relationship with the king. But there was no king here, just a group of friends.
“Leave him alone,” Arthur snapped. He glared at Gwaine, until the other backed away in mock surrender.
“For someone getting some on a regular basis, you seem awfully cranky,” Gwaine complained.
“Yesterday was a bit crazy,” Merlin apologized for Arthur.
“Everything okay?” Lance asked him.
“It is fine,” Arthur told them. “Doctor Gaius said it was fine.”
“Doctor Gaius?” Gwaine asked, his face scrunching in worry as he glanced over Merlin, looking for any obvious wounds.
“Are you two okay?” Gwen asked.
“We’re fine,” Arthur said.
“I remember my past,” Merlin announced, perhaps a bit too loudly. Their three friends stood and stared at Merlin with wide eyes. Gwaine was the first to break his trance. He jumped forward to congratulate him. Gwen sent a concerned glance between Arthur and Merlin. Lance just stared thoughtfully at Merlin.
“Well, you remember something,” Arthur corrected him. “We can’t be sure that it’s actually true.”
“It is true,” Merlin argued. Arthur was like a brick wall, unable to budge on the fact that this could even be a possibility.
Gwen looked even more concerned.
‘So what’s your name?” Gwaine asked, seemingly unable to feel the tension that was mounting in the room. “Please, please tell me it’s not Oliver.”
“It’s not Oliver,” he promised. “I’m Merlin.”
“Seriously?” Gwaine laughed. “You mean we guessed it right?”
“What’s your last name?” Gwen asked.
“Don’t really have one,” Merlin frowned. “We don’t … the druids call me Emerys.”
“Druids?” Lance asked sharply.
“You’re not one of those New Age freaks are you?” Gwaine groaned. “I am not allowing you to become a vegan.”
“We aren’t sure if his name is actually Merlin,” Arthur said stubbornly.
“Actually, I think I do know that,” Merlin snapped, wishing he could just force Arthur to get it through his thick head that this was real. Feeling a bit too trapped, he turned on his heel and stormed out onto the porch.
The two Adirondack chairs him and Arthur had spent all summer sitting on overlooking the wild garden. From those seats they had seen countless sunsets and spent many early mornings nursing their coffees. Merlin hadn’t bothered to grab his coat and he shivered against the brisk autumn wind. Coloured leaves tumbled from the treetops, leaving the upper half bare. Merlin watched the orange, red and yellow leaves dance in the wind and tried to calm his frustration.
Lance sat down in the other Adirondack chair. Merlin said nothing, his eyes determinedly refusing to even glance away from the tree-line.
“No griffins this time at least,” Lance finally said.
Merlin started to nod, before he realized what Lance had said. Whipping his head around so fast that he cricked his neck, he stared wide-eyed to the calm looking Lance.
“Griffins?” Merlin asked.
“That’s what you remember isn’t it? You remember Camelot?” Lance prodded, giving Merlin a acquisitive glance. “Either that or you probably think I’m crazy now.”
“No, I do,” Merlin said breathlessly, completely unprepared. “But how do you know?”
“Obviously I remember it too,” Lancelot shrugged.
“When did you remember?” Merlin asked.
For a minute, Lancelot simply stared at the same tree-line that Merlin had been only moments before.
“When I was a kid, about five or six, do you know what I told my parents?” Lance asked. “I told them I was a knight from King Arthur’s court. They laughed it off, of course. They thought it was a cute phase.”
Merlin felt as if he couldn’t breathe.
“Lance, what are you telling me?” he asked.
“I’m saying the reason Arthur doesn’t seem to think your memories are actually memories is because they seem impossible - but they aren’t,” Lance stated.
“Even if my memories say that I’m a medieval sorcerer who’s the manservant for King Arthur?” Merlin asked sardonically. Lance huffed out a strangled, half-laugh.
“God, when I met Arthur and Gwen all I could think was - this is it!” Lance admitted. “Finally I had proof that I wasn’t going mad and that my dreams were true. But they didn’t seem to remember. You should have seen me Merlin. I thought I had once again missed my chance with Gwen.”
He leaned back against the chair, sending Merlin a slightly amused glance.
“There we were in university and who’s my roommate, but Arthur Pendragon. Then I met Gwen and those two were so inseparable. They had this intense bond. You have no idea how happy I was when I came home from the library earlier than usual and found Arthur with his pants around his ankles and this guy, who was definitely not Gwen, just going to town on …” Lance broke off, shrinking away from Merlin’s intense glare. “Well, I was just happy I still had my chance with Gwen. My first one was cut so short.”
“So, you’re Lancelot. You’re actually Lancelot?” Merlin grinned widely and was tempted to pull him into a hug, if just because he finally had the proof that he wasn’t just crazy. “But how do you remember? Arthur doesn’t seem to remember anything. How?”
“I don’t know,” Lancelot admitted, looking a bit lost. “But I didn’t exactly die a normal death by any one's standards.”
“Neither times,” Merlin muttered, as he remembered the wooden boat, laden with leaves and branches as it torched the corpse nestled within upon calm waters.
“Maybe that has something to do with ….” Lance shrugged. “I don’t know. You would know more about how this works.”
“Why would I know how this works?” Merlin asked.
“Well, it’s all magical isn’t it?” Lancelot suggested, looking pointedly at Merlin. “So, how did it happen for you?”
“How did what happen?” Merlin asked.
“How did you die?”
“I didn’t die,” Merlin denied vehemently.
“But isn’t that what this is?” Lancelot questioned. “Growing up I researched all I could about past lives.”
“That might be what’s happening to everyone else, but I didn’t die. I was sent here,” Merlin explained. “We were at a feast and a warlock got in. He tried to curse Arthur.”
“And you jumped in front of him,” Lancelot guessed, sending Merlin a tired but fond glance. “Of course you jumped in front of him.”
Merlin shrugged awkwardly. Of course he had done everything he could to protect Arthur.
“And you’re sure this curse couldn’t have killed you?” Lance asked.
“Yes,” Merlin said. “I do know a bit about magic.”
“If the legends are true then you know more than a bit,” Lancelot teased him.
Merlin tried to ignore the legends comment, it made Camelot and his king seem so far away and unattainable.
“I need to get back,” Merlin said quietly. He felt the need pulse through him as it had on and off again over the past twenty-four hours. Camelot seemed to be calling to him; the coin that Elena had given him seemed to burn in his pocket. With the return of his memories, he felt the pull.
“What about Arthur?” Lance asked. “This Arthur. He loves you.”
“I know,” Merlin sighed. “But I feel it Lance. I can’t stay.”
The wind swept across the porch and whipped against his bare arms.
“What do you need me to do?” Lancelot finally asked.
“Can you take me back to Willow Street? Back to where my accident was?” Merlin asked, remembering Percival’s three nieces going on about the ghost – the ghost that called out for him.
“Of course I can,” Lance said loyal as always.
“Right now?” Merlin prodded further.
“Yes,” Lance did not even hesitate.
“Then let’s go,” Merlin said, desperate to get moving now that he had a half-formed plan. The pulsing need to get back seemed stronger, pushing and pulling him back to where he belonged.
In the car, Merlin ruffled through the console. He pulled out a flowery stationary pad and pen. With shaking hands he wrote a letter, just in case. When they got to the street, he passed the note to Lancelot, who solemnly took it.
“Keep looking for your Merlin,” Merlin instructed Lancelot. “Who knows, maybe you aren’t the only one to remember.”
Arthur had seen Merlin and Lance pull out of the lane-way and felt a deep panic hit him.
Without explaining anything to Gwen or Gwaine, he bolted from the door just as the silver car turned out of sight. Running back inside, he grabbed his car keys. He fumbled through three rooms trying to find the stupid keys.
“What’s happening?” Gwen asked, running after him.
“Arthur!” Gwaine called out.
But Arthur was too far gone. He saw the keys on top of the bookcase. Grabbing them, he quickly ran out the door. With a frantically pounding heart, he simply tore out of his drive way, leaving a cloud of dust behind him.
He sped the entire way into town, the car sliding dangerously close to the steep curves and blind corners.
He knew - somehow - where to go.
Merlin had not been back to Willow Street since this Arthur had hit him with his car. He had no memory of what the street looked like. It was a quiet residential street. The town houses were nice, but very close together, with small front yards and mostly red bricked. It was completely deserted.
No one was out for a walk on the sidewalk. Merlin figured most people would be inside, probably enjoying a nice Saturday brunch with no idea of what was happening in front of their houses.
“I don’t see anything,” Lance said. He looked carefully both ways, he squinted his eyes as if that would help him find whatever it was they were looking for.
Merlin took the coin from his pocket and recognized the symbol of the old religion etched into it. Stepping out onto the street Merlin called out, “Arthur.”
He stood there. Arthur, in his full armour, stood before him. Merlin could not help the smile at the sight of his King. He saw Camelot behind Arthur. Homesickness washed over him with a fierceness that was painful.
He looked back once.
“I guess this is goodbye, make sure Arthur gets my note,” Merlin said.
“Of course,” Lancelot promised, staring wide-eyed towards the castle.
“And tell him ... tell him I’m sorry.”
Before his nerve could leave him, Merlin turned back to Arthur, who seemed very impatient. Closing the distance, as soon as Merlin grabbed his shoulder he could feel him being pulled back into the right timeline. Amidst the pulling and the rushing in his ears, he felt Arthur pull him closer and kiss him desperately.
“Don’t ever leave me like that again,” Arthur threatened as he tightened his grip.
“I won’t. I promise.”
Turning onto Willow Street, Arthur could only see Lance standing in the middle of the street clutching a piece of paper. Not bothering to turn off his car, he simply bolted out towards Lancelot and grabbed him tightly by the shoulders.
“Where is he?” He demanded, the uncontrollable fear pulsing through him. “Where’s Merlin?”
“He’s gone back,” Lancelot said. “He’s sorry.”
Arthur punched him. His fist throbbed from where he had decked Lancelot, but the other man did not fight back. Instead he grappled Arthur into a tight hug and there was nothing Arthur could do.
Gwaine moved in.
He said it was because he didn’t want to overwhelm Leon so early in the relationship.
Arthur knew he was really there to babysit him.
The first snow hit hard that year. It was the type of snow which seemed to appear in the blink of an eye. Going to sleep on night with no snow and then waking up the following morning to a thick blanket of the stuff. Arthur had wanted to glare at it moodily. It was all he seemed able to do nowadays. He wandered around the cabin and hated how Merlin had left a part of himself in every nook and cranny.
Gwaine didn’t let him though. Leon had slept over and the two of them attempted to drag him outside for a snow fight. Arthur ducked back inside when they weren’t looking. He hated how happy they sounded as they ducked and weaved around each other.
They spend Christmas at Gwen and Lance’s, it was a bit tense because Arthur still hadn’t forgiven Lancelot and Lance still looked at Arthur with intense pity.
He gave Arthur a note that Christmas, but Arthur refused to open it. He tucked the flowery paper with its untidy scrawl into his underwear draw.
January was bitterly cold.
Gwaine had finally moved into Leon’s. The cabin felt too large without another occupant. He remembered his large penthouse condo and wondered how he had ever lived there.
A month later he found himself outside of his father’s door more and more often. He would simply stare at it for a long time and then walk away. Every day he lingered for longer, but today he wasn’t walking away. Instead he was taking a step towards it. With a hand pressed against the door, he took a deep breath.
The door squeaked when it opened.
Arthur was hit with a scent of must, dust, and the faint whispers of his father’s favourite aftershave. It was like a punch to the gut. It left him disoriented and Arthur desperately wished Merlin was there with him.
He took a step into the room, where large windows at either end of the room allowed the weak morning sun to light up the room and the swirling clouds of dust.
The room was mostly bare; the mattress did not even have a slip over it. The dark mahogany dressers were coloured grey with dust. Arthur felt a bitter lump form at the back of his throat. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but there was no treasure chest of his father’s dearest possessions, no explanation for why he had kept this place, no note for Arthur, no momentos, no Uther Pendragon scowling out at the back garden.
Suddenly, everything the grief was as fresh as it had been just a year ago, Arthur was back to standing in the hospital and the pain hit him hard and deep. Sinking to his knees, he bit his lip to keep from crying out, even though he was alone.
Blinking furiously, Arthur noticed a box pushed far under the bed. Not caring how he would look, Arthur crawled forward and laid flat on his belly to reach it. Pulling open the cardboard box, he coughed at the dust cloud.
Smiling up at him was a pile of random pictures. Some were of him and Morgana as children; the others were of his mother. As Arthur desperately pawed through them, he couldn’t make any sense of them. There didn’t seem to be any theme. He found his parent’s wedding photo, one of his many sports events, Morgana at the spelling bee, his Mother eating at a fancy restaurant, Uther with some official looking man cutting a red ribbon, and one of his father holding a small baby.
He let the pictures fall around him, so that he was surrounded by happy faces. He kept digging through the box. At the very bottom was a binder labeled “Our Dream House.” Opening it curiously, he found clippings of different interiors and landscaping plans. Beside each one was his mother’s handwriting where she had made notes about different plans for the cabin.
Nice yellow paint like this would be wonderful in the living room!
With a strangled laugh, he saw it was the exact same colour he had picked out.
Surrounded by the many pictures, Arthur never felt so alone.
Arthur cleaned out the room and turned it into the master bedroom. He still couldn’t sleep there though; it was too big for just him.
Spring arrived early. By mid-March days would fluctuate between freezing and extremely hot on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
Arthur was driving home from staying the night with Leon and Gwaine when he spotted a car pulled off to the side with the four ways on. A man was bent over the engine, and another was mostly hidden behind a very large road map. Seeing as the only place this road took them was Arthur’s place, these people were obviously very lost. Pulling over, Arthur approached the beat-up car. The man working under the hood looked up as he approached.
“Need any help?” Arthur asked.
“Have a cell?” the man asked. “I think it’s finally kicked the bucket this time.”
“Yeah, here,” Arthur offered his phone.
“Thanks,” the man said. “Uh, you wouldn’t happen to know where we are?”
“Lost?” Arthur asked.
“No, well, not really,” the man shrugged. “I’m Elyan.”
He offered his hand and Arthur couldn’t help but smile a bit.
“I know,” Elyan sighed. “Just like the knight. My friend has it much worse.”
“No, I get it,” Arthur said. “My name is Arthur Pendragon.”
“Holy shit,” Elyan gasped, looking up at Arthur with wonder.
“It’s not that bad,” Arthur said defensively.
“No, sorry, it’s just … my friend has always had these weird stories about past lives and time travel and … I’m making him sound insane,” Elyan laughed. “He’s really not.”
At the words past lives and time travel, Arthur mind went blank. He thought back to that desperate autumn day. As his heart picked up, he tried not to get hopeful. Merlin was gone.
“Who’s your friend?” Arthur asked his throat completely dry.
The voice was so familiar; Arthur had heard it every night in his dreams.
And there he was, standing in a plain t-shirt and jeans. His dark hair messy and impossible, blue eyes bright and crinkling slightly in happiness at the sight of him.
“Merlin,” Arthur felt the breath whoosh out of him.
“I’ll … just … go over there and, you know … phone people,” Elyan said awkwardly, edging his way past them.
“What are you? How?” Arthur’s brain seemed to have stalled.
“So, we’ve met? Good, I was worried I was too early,” Merlin said. “But I’ve waited for so long. And I just couldn’t any longer.”
“I don’t understand,” Arthur said, moving closer to Merlin, almost afraid to touch him unless he was to disappear again.
“I needed to go back. I am so sorry Arthur,” Merlin apologized. “But I couldn’t leave you, past you, by yourself.”
“I thought you loved me,” Arthur said.
“I do,” Merlin reached out and pulled him closer. “I love every part of you, and every version of you.”
“But you left.”
“Only to be with you,” Merlin said desperately. “This would be so much easier if you could remember. But I could never manage to get Elyan to remember and we’ve grown up together. I promise you Arthur, the only reason I left was because I didn’t belong to this time, and you needed me. I had to protect the past you. But now, now I was born here. I won a poetry contest in grade school and when some kids started to bully me about it, Elyan beat them up for me. I went to university for psychology, even though I hate psychology and am currently am just working designing websites. I am from here.”
“So you aren’t disappearing?” Arthur asked.
“No, I kind of hoped never to leave you again,” Merlin said, leaning down to capture Arthur’s lips with his own and tease them open. Arthur was helpless against him. It was everything he had been hoping for and as Merlin slipped his tongue past Arthur’s parted lips, he felt a sense of completion that had been missing from his life.
“What do you say?” Merlin asked.
“That I still have a broken front step,” Arthur said, “if you wanted something to work on. And …”
“There’s this wedding next week for a couple of my friends and I still don’t have a date. Maybe you would like to come?” Arthur asked.
“I would love to.”
Gwen was radiant in her white dress. She and Lance made their rounds between the various tables, trying to politely get to each of their wedding guests. Merlin watched them, and smiled at how happy they seemed.
“There you are,” Arthur said, making his way towards where Merlin was leaning against the bar. The past week Arthur always needed to know where Merlin was, what he was doing. It was annoying, but Merlin could understand why.
“I’m happy Gwen found a Maid of Honour,” Merlin commented, nodding towards the brunette Merlin did not recognize.
“Yes, Katie’s nice. They know each other through work.” Arthur said. A slow song started to play and Merlin laughed as Gwaine grabbed Leon and forced him into a ridiculous twirl.
“Would you like to dance?” Arthur asked.
“Only if you promise not to dance like that,” Merlin said, pointing as Gwaine proceeded to try to dip Leon.
“I’ll try to resist,” Arthur promised, leading their way out onto the dance floor.
It was nice, being in Arthur’s arms again. Merlin had been waiting his whole life for this.
“Don’t ever leave me like that again,” Arthur whispered. Merlin closed his eyes and pressed his forehead against Arthur’s.
In the cabin just outside of Perth a crumpled note was in the bottom of a drawer.
I know you must be confused, but believe me when I say that there is no other option. You are probably not going to believe me, but I am not leaving you. I know I am not from this time and you, the past you, is waiting for me. I wish I could stay, but even now I feel this pull back home. I must return. As much as I wish I belonged here, I don't. Seeing you, Gwen, Lance, Gwaine, Leon and Percival give me hope that I too am somewhere in your time. Look for me. I cannot guarantee that I will remember but you have always been the one regardless of where or when I am. I must go now.
"I love every part of you, and every version of you."