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Title: Brought Your Heart to Me
Fandom: Merlin
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 3584
Summary: “I feel like I’ve been here before,” Arthur said, both palms on the boulder now. Merlin’s heart knocked against his ribs. “I felt the same way on that trail earlier. And at the castle ruins yesterday. It’s been happening more and more.”

Merlin’s throat felt clogged, his tongue like sandpaper in his mouth. “Deja vu?” he asked, his voice brittle.

Arthur lifted his hands away from the rock and straightened, looking back over his shoulder. “Maybe. I’m not sure. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”
Notes: Title from the "A Thousand Years" by Christina Perri, which was written for a Twilight movie apparently but is the best Merlin song I have ever heard in my life, and has spawned so many beautiful, heartwrenching fanvids.

I think everyone who has ever loved Merlin and Arthur has written or is writing a reincarnation fic after that finale, and with a lot of prompting and plotting by junkshop_disco, I decided to write one as well. It's not as silly as I wanted it to be, I got my feelings all over it, but I hope it does her idea justice.

Thanks to fr333bird for the speedy Brit-pick and read-through. Crossposted at AO3.


Avalon was not your typical souvenir shop. It certainly wasn’t anything like Camelot, whose tagline “ye olde gift shoppe” made Merlin gag every time he saw the advertisements. Camelot had plaster turrets painted a sickly beige color that looked nothing like stone and mortar, and the flags were blue. Blue! As if Camelot had ever flown a blue flag. Avalon was nothing like Excalibur either, the “foremost purveyor of Arthurian trinkets, gifts, and collectibles”, which sold tiny replicas of a sword stuck in a stone, and figurines of the great wizard Merlin in a purple robe with a flowing beard.

Merlin stroked his own beard, long but well kept and certainly not flowing, and looked around his own tiny, dusty shop. It was made of real stone, and squatted between two brightly lit shop fronts on a side road off the high street. It was drafty, and cluttered, bookshelves lining every wall and displays of pieces handcrafted by local sculptors and painters and potters filling the middle of the room.

He did have a few circular, spinning racks of the standard novelty items at the front, near the door, because he didn’t want to be Camelot or Excalibur, but he did want to attract customers. Tourists seemed to enjoy the dragon keychains with their names spelled out in licks of flame, and Merlin just hoped that wherever Kilgarrah was he would forgive him.

If Kilgarrah was still alive. Merlin still didn’t know, after multiple mortal men’s lifetimes, whether the dragon lived on as Merlin did, or if he was lost forever.

He tried not think about things like that, but the week had been grey and wet and he was tired of umbrellas and wet shoes and mopping the shop. That day was particularly nasty, the wind shoving fat drops of rain up against the front windows. Merlin glanced at the clock and wished he could close up early, go up to the flat he kept above the shop and sleep until the sun came back out.

He was distracted from that depressing train of thought by the tinkle of the bell over the shop door. A customer shouldered inside with a map unfolded over their head and stumbled directly into a postcard rack, sending it crashing to the floor with a clang.

“Buggering fuck, shit shit shit!” The customer cursed, toppling over the felled rack in a sprawl of limbs, and Merlin froze, staring down at the sopping wet blond head, his fingertips gone numb.

The man untangled himself from the rack and got to his feet, shoving his hair out of his eyes - shockingly blue eyes that Merlin had seen in his dreams, in his nightmares - and frowning at Merlin.

The look was so familiar, so dear that Merlin felt tears spring to his eyes, and he couldn’t make his limbs move, couldn’t lift a hand to wipe them away.

“I’m so sorry,” the man said, dropping to hands and knees and sweeping the scattered postcards into piles. Merlin felt a jolt go through him at the words, unfamiliar words from such a familiar mouth, and his heart clawed at his ribcage. “I feel like a buffoon, tripping in here and causing such a scene. I’ll pay for anything I’ve ruined.”

Merlin wanted to laugh, or cry, he couldn’t decide which. The man stood and righted the rack, reaching down for the postcards and holding them out towards Merlin.

“I should hope so.” The words were out of his mouth before he knew he was going to speak, and his voice was gravelly, as it always was when he was aged. He sounded gruff, like the old codger he pretended to be, and the man looked taken aback.

“It was an accident, I’m wearing the absolutely wrong shoes for this weather, I slipped.”

Merlin took the postcards and slapped them on the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. “The floor is dry, I just cleaned up.”

“I’m sure you did. Look, I’m not going to sue or anything, add up the cost of the damaged cards and I’ll pay for them.”

Merlin felt a thrill at the tone of the man’s voice, his posture gone stiff, a muscle jumping in his jaw. Merlin had missed that look, and fought back a grin. He waved his hand dismissively and took his seat behind the counter, sifting through the postcards and sorting them to be restocked. The man stood near the door, looking around and blowing out a sigh.

“Was there something I could help you with?” Merlin asked.

“I’m looking for Emrys? I was told he ran this shop?”

Merlin’s hands stilled over the postcards and he tilted his head at the man. “I’m Emrys.”

“I’m Arthur.” He stuck out his hand, his jaw set, and Merlin gaped at the silver ring on his index finger. He took Arthur’s hand, his mind flooded with memories as he slid his fingers against Arthur’s palm, and he searched Arthur’s face to see if he felt it as well. It didn’t seem as if he did, he didn’t flinch a bit, while Merlin felt like he’d been punched in the gut.

“Arthur, eh?” Merlin said, coughing a little to hide the extra roughness in his voice. In his head Arthur’s eyes fluttered closed, his heartbeat stilling under Merlin’s fingers. “In an Arthurian knick-knack shop? Quite the coincidence.”

Arthur gave a rueful chuckle and scrubbed a hand through his wet hair. It was longer on the sides and in the back than Merlin’s Arthur had worn it, but it fell across his forehead in the same way, and Merlin’s fingers itched to reach up and brush it aside. “Not a coincidence. That’s why I’m here. My parents named me after the legends, and I’ve always been interested in them. I decided to take a little time off from uni and go looking for the real Arthur. I’m staying at a hostel not far from here and the clerk pointed me in your direction. Said you were the local expert.”

Merlin’s eyes roved over Arthur’s face as he spoke, taking in the rueful curve of his mouth, the crinkles by his eyes. He still couldn’t quite believe that after so many years Arthur was finally back, stood in front of him with rainwater dripping off his nose, and totally ignorant to the situation.

“Are you alright?”

Merlin shook his head to clear it, brushing wetness from his eyes. “Fine, just fine. I have some books, if you’d like.”

Arthur frowned, and the lines that formed between his eyebrows were so familiar to Merlin he wanted to leap up from behind the counter and throw his arms around Arthur. “I was rather hoping I could get a little more hands on while I was here. I’ve read so much on the subject already.”

“The books I have here are much more in depth than most you’ll find elsewhere.”

“I have no doubt that they are.”

Merlin tugged on his beard, an idea forming. “Why don’t you take a few of them back with you tonight and look them over. If they don’t give you what you’re looking for, come back tomorrow and we’ll figure something out.”

*****

The bell over the shop door dinged twenty minutes after Merlin flipped the open sign, and when he looked up from behind the counter Arthur was deliberately side-stepping the postcard racks with a grin. Merlin could feel a blush creeping up under his beard, and ducked his head to smile down at the cash register.

“Good morning,” Arthur called, his voice robust. Merlin’s shoulders hunched under the weight of a flashback, a vision of the round table, Arthur in his mail.

“Morning,” he replied, his voice gruff.

“You were right about the books.” Arthur slid them across the counter, his fingers tapping on top. “Much more in depth than the ones I’ve read. But still not quite what I’m looking for.” When Merlin looked up Arthur’s eyes were hopeful, and Merlin thought his chest might cave in. “You said we’d figure something out?”

Merlin had come up with an idea, but he wasn’t sure it was wise. Arthur clearly had no memory of his previous life, their previous life. Merlin didn’t know if he ever would. But he desperately wanted to try. “I have a nephew. Rather more spry than myself. He may be able to take you around, show you some things.”

“That would be great. Would you ask him if he’d mind? All the tours I’ve found you have to ride on a coach with American tourists and the guides wear wizard hats or carry plastic swords.”

Merlin laughed like it was pushed out of him, a gust of noise and breath that he turned into a cough. “I could,” he said, rubbing his knuckles against his mouth. “He’s actually in the back, let me go ask him now.”

He pushed to his feet, keeping his back hunched. As he rounded the counter he paused, and blurted out before he could talk himself out of it, “His name is Merlin. Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

Arthur held up a hand, his other laid over his heart. His face was solemn but Merlin could see a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. “I swear I won’t.”

Merlin leaned against the counter in the tiny bathroom, both hands wrapped around his beard. He hadn’t dropped the aging spell in so long he wasn’t sure he remembered how. What had once taken up much of his concentration was now easier than breathing, and to let go of it would be difficult. Not to mention the fact that he hadn’t seen his young face since the day he’d let Arthur’s body go.

He let the spell slip away slowly, eyes fixed on the backs of his hands as the wrinkles flattened out, skin tightening up until it was smooth over bumpy knuckles. He could feel his body straightening, and soon he was grasping at air as the beard disappeared. His eyes stayed squeezed closed, and his heart thumped in his chest.

He knew he had to look, he had to make sure that the spell was fully lifted. He opened his eyes, and felt them immediately prickle with tears. There, staring back at him, was the Merlin that had watched the love of his life die. His cheekbones were more prominent than they’d ever been, and he had hollows under his eyes the color of storm clouds. But he was young again, and Arthur was there, and he needed to change his clothes and go back out in the shop.

Arthur was looking at a display of neckerchiefs, lifting a red one up to himself and checking his reflection in the mirror on the wall. He caught Merlin’s eye in the reflection and turned, still holding the fabric up to his throat.

“You must be Arthur.” Merlin rushed forward, stumbling slightly, his newly-young limbs getting away from him. He ended up with his hand jammed up against Arthur’s stomach, and he backed away so quickly that he almost fell over a table full of ceramics.

Arthur cocked his head, his eyes squinting, and shook Merlin’s hand. “I am.”

“I’m Merlin. Emrys’s nephew. He told me you were interested in the legends.”

“Nice to meet you, Merlin.”

The emphasis made Merlin grin, despite having told Arthur not to make a big deal. It was exactly the way Arthur had said his name before, and it drove a spike of warmth right through Merlin’s gut. “Nice to meet you, Arthur,” he replied, and they both laughed. Arthur’s eyes stayed squinted, as if he was studying Merlin. He brushed a hand over his cheek, making sure he didn’t miss a wrinkle or whisker, but felt nothing but smooth skin.

“I had hoped to see some of the sights, though I know some of them are further away. Even if I only get to the Tor, or maybe go to Queen Camel.”

Merlin reached up to stroke his beard, remembering at the last second that it was no longer there and pinching his chin instead. The movement was awkward, and Arthur’s head tilted further. “I can show you those places, and a couple more. How many days do you have?”

“I’m here a week, and then I was going to move on, but I could extend it if I need to.”

A week. A week wasn’t nearly enough. But it was so much more than he’d ever dared hope. He cleared his throat. “Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. So you haven’t been to the Tor yet?”

“I haven’t. I was hoping to get your uncle to show me, but he nominated you.”

“He has a hard time with the hills, bad knees.”

“You don’t mind then?”

“Not at all. But I do think we should save the Tor. We could drive out to Tintagel?”

Arthur’s eyes lit up. “Tintagel. Yes, let’s start there.”

*****

They spent their days driving around in Arthur’s tiny rented car. Merlin spread his map out on his lap and traced routes with his finger, and Arthur navigated the sodden roads with one hand on the wheel and the other wrapped around a cardboard cup of tea.

Burial places, birthplaces, woods where battles against sorcerers and Saxons took place, Merlin took him to every one in a 200 mile radius. He told stories of Arthur and Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, the knights of the round table. He showed Arthur the place where Percival dropped the rockslide on Morgause’s army, and the place where Arthur had been struck by the questing beast. He lay on a bed of leaves and moss and recounted nights spent the same way, riding out on hunts.

They sat on the beach where Anhora administered his last test, and Merlin brought wine and goblets from the shop. They ate lunch in a cave where they’d once hid from bandits, Merlin unpacking hard bread and grapes and stew.

Arthur showed up at the shop every morning, the bell dinging and making Merlin’s skin heat under his beard, and he’d flip the shop’s sign to closed, ducking into the stock room to let the aging spell slip away and change his clothes. Each day Arthur would cock his head when Merlin emerged, a brief hesitation before he smiled and clapped a hand on Merlin’s shoulder.

On the fourth day they stood in a forest, in front of a boulder with a slit in it, covered in lichen.

“Arthur didn’t believe he could do it,” Merlin said, laying his palm on the stone, his fingers in the space that Excalibur had once occupied. He could picture the scene so clearly in his mind, and his eyes slid closed as he spoke. “Merlin told him a story about the first king of Camelot, but he knew Arthur didn’t believe a word. It wasn’t until he saw Excalibur sticking out of this very stone that he started to believe. Merlin knew that if he could pull the sword from the stone he would accept his destiny, that he would know in his heart he was the king that would someday unite all of Albion, the harbinger of peace and prosperity.”

Merlin felt Arthur come up next to him and opened his eyes. Their shoulders brushed as Arthur leaned forward to run a finger around the split in the stone. Merlin watched him out of the corner of his eye, his jaw clenched and the sunlight limning his hair.

“I feel like I’ve been here before,” Arthur said, both palms on the boulder now. Merlin’s heart knocked against his ribs. “I felt the same way on that trail earlier. And at the castle ruins yesterday. It’s been happening more and more.”

Merlin’s throat felt clogged, his tongue like sandpaper in his mouth. “Deja vu?” he asked, his voice brittle.

Arthur lifted his hands away from the rock and straightened, looking back over his shoulder. “Maybe. I’m not sure. I can’t quite put my finger on it.”

*****

Merlin planned the trip to Glastonbury Tor for the last day of Arthur’s visit. He walked by it every day, taking the route that circled where the lake had once been, pausing at the place where he’d set the boat in motion to let sorrow rush over him before pushing it down and carrying on. He didn’t know what it would be like to go there with Arthur at his side, but he knew it was time. Not only because Arthur was meant to board a train for the north the next day, but because Arthur had been having his “deja vu” more and more, and Merlin was hoping that seeing the tower would be the final push he needed.

If he didn’t come into the memories himself, Merlin was going to tell him. Even if it resulted in Arthur thinking Merlin was crazy, he couldn’t let Arthur leave without at least trying.

They packed a lunch and Arthur brought his sleeping bag, and they drove out to the Tor.

Merlin felt the familiar despair clawing up his spine when the tower first came into view. He reached out to adjust the volume on the radio and let his hand brush against Arthur’s on the gear shift, the brief touch grounding him.

“There it is,” he said. Arthur ground his teeth in the driver’s seat.

They climbed the hill in silence. Merlin felt unsettled, and his hands shook as he helped Arthur spread the sleeping bag out on the grass. Arthur looked at him expectantly, and Merlin knew that he was waiting for a story.

Merlin opened his mouth and started, his voice quivering as he began the story of Arthur’s last days.

The sun had set by the time Merlin was finished, and he felt a tear slip down his cheek when he told of Arthur’s request for Merlin to just hold him. The Arthur there with him on the sleeping bag reached out and brushed it away, and Merlin ended the story with Arthur’s hand warm on his shoulder.

“Merlin stood on the shore and watched the boat float away, not knowing when or if he’d ever see Arthur again.”

Merlin tipped his head back and looked up at the stars, and beside him Arthur exhaled, his fingers tightening in Merlin’s shirt.

“But he does,” Arthur said, and Merlin turned to find the shine of his eyes in the dark. “He does see him again.”

“How do you know?” Merlin asked, and the moment felt suspended, like moving through honey, and Merlin couldn’t catch a breath.

“Because I’m here right now.”

Merlin stared, and all of his nerve endings felt frayed, too close to the surface. The air was pressing down on him, warm and sticky against his skin, and Arthur’s fingers were creeping over the collar of his shirt to press against his neck.

“Arthur,” he said, his voice creaky, and then Arthur leaned forward to kiss him.

Merlin laughed at the shock of it, a burst of noise that made Arthur pull away. He could feel his eyes prick with tears, and he laughed again, wetly this time, and sniffled. “I’m sorry, I just can’t quite believe this is happening. Do you actually remember?”

Arthur touched the tips of his fingers to the hollows under Merlin’s eyes, and nodded. “I don’t know how, or why, but I remember.”

Merlin felt like his smile would split his face in two. Arthur slid a hand around the nape of his neck and grinned.

“Let’s try that again.”

Merlin squared his shoulders and blinked away his tears, and pressed his mouth to Arthur’s.

It felt like he’d been struck by lighting, all the hairs on his arms standing on end and his skin buzzing. Arthur’s tongue slid against his own and Merlin felt a jolt up his spine, heat pooling in his stomach. He couldn’t help but moan against Arthur’s mouth, and Arthur’s lips curved into a smile against his.

The kiss seemed to go on forever at the same time it seemed to be over in an instant, and Arthur pulled Merlin down to lie on the sleeping bag with his head pillowed on Arthur’s chest.

“I want to go back to your flat, see where you live, get you out of these ridiculous clothes,” Arthur said, and Merlin curled his fingers in Arthur’s shirt. “But first” he hesitated, and Merlin lifted his head to look at him. “Make me a dragon, like you did in the forest.”

Merlin lifted his hand and conjured a shower of sparks, shaping them into Kilgarrah with a lick of flame coming out of his mouth, making them soar through the air before the blew away on the wind.

*****

Merlin woke up from a nightmare, a nightmare he’d had many times. In the years past he’d woken up grasping at empty air, reaching out for something or someone that was always floating away from him. But that morning his fingers were curled around a wrist, warm skin and solid bone, and when he opened his eyes Arthur was there, his hair stuck up in the front and his chest bare.

“You’re really here,” Merlin said, and Arthur reached out to curve his palm against Merlin’s cheek.

“I am,” Arthur said. “And I’d like to stay.”

Merlin turned his head to press a kiss to Arthur’s palm. “I’d like you to never leave again.”

“Then I won’t.”

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
darlulu
Dec. 29th, 2012 01:45 pm (UTC)
Lovely, absolutely lovely.
popfly
Dec. 29th, 2012 10:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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