A/N: I'd like to use the excuse that English isn't my first language, but then I'd be lying. I'm sure there are many mistakes I missed, but please ignore them if you can. Also, I do not own Merlin. Otherwise, I would have ended it better.
Oh and spoilers for 5x13. Duh.
Aching Pains and Global Warming
Arthur was fourteen when the presence slowly overcame him. Or rather the absence of one. And it made him feel naked to the world. Being only a fourteen, he didn't exactly know how to deal with the feeling so he ate a tub of ice cream. And the next morning, while regretting his decision, he noted that the presence hadn't gone away, and was in fact, still there. The vague sense of vacancy didn't sit well with Arthur and he spent the next several years burying himself in school work and sports. Primarily football and rugby, but he somehow convinced his father he needed horseback riding lessons and found himself playing polo of all things.
He had told his half sister about it once while she was visiting. She gave him an odd, calculating look before confessing she too had a similar feeling.
"Here," she said, slipping a few somethings discreetly into his hand. "These help me when it gets a bit much."
Arthur inspected what was in his hand and then looked at Morgan with a raised eyebrow. "You expect me to smoke weed? You know they test for this on all my sports teams."
"Hey," she laughed. "It works. That's all I got."
And she was right. When he finally found an opportune time to use it, the marijuana blocked the feeling absolutely. And he hated it. The absents that sat heavily in his stomach most days disappeared, the hollowness vanished, as if it never was. And that's what bothered Arthur. He didn't want to pretend like nothing was missing. That someone should be there with him. The sports had dulled the feeling, distracting him, but he never forgot it was there. He realized, though he disliked the feeling, but he would rather fill the vacancy, find what had left him and had yet to return.
So he never smoked again.
When Arthur was twenty, he and his fencing team went to an out of the way village for a match. He had to be back in London the next day for for his father's birthday and so he had planed to drive through the night to get back. It started to drizzle half way through the day, and was pouring rain by the bucket-load by the time he was ready to head out.
"Arthur, you really ought to stay the night. The storm isn't supposed to let up until tomorrow morning sometime," reasoned Leon. "I'm sure if you call, your dad will understand."
Leon, who Arthur had know for a few years now, had in fact met Arthur's father, and knew the man was not very forgiving and had ridiculous expectations of his son.
"You know he won't," Arthur sighed.
"I know he won't," Leon agreed softly. "But that doesn't mean you should chance this weather. It's down right barmy out there!" He gestured at he unrelenting downpour outside in hopes that the imagery would help his words get to through to Arthur.
"It's just few hours, and you know how splendid a driver I am," Arthur bragged with a grin tugging his lips. "I'll be there a tad after midnight, at the latest!"
"Alright," Leon finally relented. "But be safe! We need you next week so we can get into the semi-finals! Or at least one of your arms!"
And with that Arthur ran out to his rubbish car with his coat over his head in hopes to prevent what little water he could from getting him sopping wet. He settled into the drivers seat and double checked he had all his things. With that he turned the key in the ignition, started his way back to London.
The entire time he had been in the town his odd feeling of absence had been acting up. At times it had almost felt...well...fixed. But that wasn't right? How could it be? He hadn't found—well—anything! Not a penny and not a pencil and most certainly not a person. He was certain now it must be a person. Maybe soul mates really did exist? And that would explain Morgan having the feeling too!
He was ten minutes out of town when he passed a house. It was the only house on the road, and had a good long driveway. Even through the torrents of rain, he could see the house. And shouldn't have been able to. But he could and it threw him for a loop for all of ten seconds. It was only ten seconds because after ten seconds he had missed the turn in the road and had quite promptly driven himself into the lake he hadn't noticed while being distracted by the very plain but for some reason distracting house.
The resulting car wreck could have been worse. Arthur could have been unconscious. But it definitely could have been better. For example: Arthur would have been pleased to find that he had driven into the lake and it was only two feet deep at that one part and escaped with minimal damages. As it were, this was not the case. In this case, he driven over a small cliff which dropped him off into the slightly deeper part of the lake which would make getting his car back rather difficult.
Fortunately, none of this was on his mind at the time, because frankly, he had more important things to think about, like his car sinking.
"Fuck!" Arthur yelped. "Bloody fuck, fuck, fuck! Shit, fuck, I need to get out!" He hurriedly undid his seat belt as water came pouring into the car. "Shiiiiit. How the fuck do I get out?!" Panic wasn't good on Arthur, so he decided to stop panicking and act.
He was about to open the door—because what else could he do—when the car began to lift itself out of the water. Too stunned to really do anything, Arthur just sat there, watching as the car floated above the water and over to the shore. He vaguely noted the blurry figure of a man standing on the shore. The man's arms may or may not have been raised, but Arthur really didn't give a damn.
Once the car had settled on the rocky beach, Arthur hurriedly opened the door and stumbled out into the downpour. He eyed the seemingly innocent vehicle wondering how he ended up in the remake of Chiny Chiny Bang Bang.
"Well," a voice began, making Arthur jump. "This isn't quite how I imagined it going, but I suppose that's OK. I thought I might have to go swimming again, or that maybe you'd just walk out of the water. But you just had to drive the car into the water! Barmy that. What the hell were you thinking anyway?"
Arthur turned to face the speaker and found a gangly man. He wore a big yellow rain poncho with the hood up. Water dripped from his nose, but the weather did nothing to dampen the giant smile the man wore. Raven hair clung to his forehead and glittering blue eyes examined Arthur closely.
"Do you know how hard it is to lift one of those things?" the man continued, gesturing behind Arthur. His head snapped back to look at the car. Had the man done this? "And the Goddess knows you haven't lost any weight," the man joked. Obviously it was funny to him because the man laughed when Arthur just gave him a dirty look. "Alright, Arthur let's get you inside. It'd be terribly annoying if you went and died on me from a cold." He reached for Arthur's arm, but Arthur stepped back out of reach.
Arthur was worried now. "I'm sorry. How do you know my name?"
The smile began to slip off the man's face, a confused expression replacing it. "Uh, it's me."
"Me? Yes, that's very specific."
The man pulled down the hood, letting Arthur see his rather spectacular ears. He wore now an almost desperate expression. "Arthur, it's me. Merlin?!" he almost yelled, the plea very audible in his voice.
Arthur just shook his head.
The man's entire appearance seemed to change with that. He shoulders slumped, his face turned blank and his eyes lost their sparkle and seemed to age a millennium in a second. He stepped back, and looked at Arthur again, as if seeing him for the first time.
"Oh," was all he said.
It was in that second that Arthur realized he hadn't felt the empty space in him. He had felt whole. Confused, but whole. But it was fading. Fading fast. And Arthur had a small inkling as to why. He was about to speak up when—
"Good day then."
—everything went black.
Arthur woke up in his flat feeling very odd. He had a strange dream tickling his memory, and no memory of when he had gotten home the night before. He brushed the dream aside and got up to get ready. He had a party to get to after all.
At the party was where he met her. She was serving drinks to guest, was in a boring uniform and yet she was the most beautiful woman there. Her coffee skin glowed and her dark curls were tamed into a bun, except for one strand, which bounced against her round cheek. Her eyes were like hazelnut chocolate, dark, deep and rich. And he had to know her name. His father would probably disapprove of trying to speak with any of the waiting staff, but honestly, Arthur didn't care.
But it did take him until near the end of the party to actually talk to her.
"Hi?" she said with a soft laugh. She continued to wash the table she'd been cleaning before he'd come over. "Do you need something?"
"Er...well. Um. My name is Arthur and I was wondering if I could have your name?"
She was smiling and laughing now. "My name is Gwen, if you must know." She winked at him and then walked to the next table.
Arthur followed quickly, hoping to continue the conversation. "Oh, it's Gwen is it? Short for Guinevere, perhaps?" he questioned with a smile. Maybe this wouldn't be so hard.
Gwen rolled her eyes. "Gwendolyn, actually. But I see what you did there," she replied, less than amused.
Genuinely confused and worried now, Arthur squawked a loud "What?!" and then more quietly continued, "Wait, what do you mean?"
Giving him a short sidelong glance before replying, "You know, the Arthurian legends." When he just shrugged his shoulders, she raised an elegant eyebrow at him. "You don't know the Arthurian legends? Knights of the Round Table? Morgan le Fay? King Arthur?" She sighed. "Not even Merlin?"
Pouring Rain. Yellow poncho. Old eyes.
"Um," Arthur thought for a second, "Merlin sounds familiar, I guess. Pointy hat and and a beard, yeah?"
"If you watched only Disney movies, then yeah," she grumbled. "Do you honestly not know anything? You were born in England for god's sake, that's like, one of our things! And the king is probably you namesake!"
Arthur shrugged again. "So," he started, scratching his chin, "What does that have to do with the name Guinevere?"
"Well, I thought you were using it to hit on me, since it was Queen Guinevere married to King Arthur most of time. Though honestly it wouldn't be a very good line because Guinevere runs off with some bloke named Lancelot in most of the stories."
"Huh. I know a Lancelot. Though he goes by Lance," Arthur mumbled, thinking back on his teammate from his football team.
"Really," Gwen joked, a big smile stretching her lips. "Is he pretty?"
"Relatively, I suppose, not as pretty as you," Arthur replies. "And I must be honest now. I am hitting on you."
And with a straight face she responded, "Really? I hadn't noticed at all."
They were interrupted when a coworker came to tell Gwen she was wanted back in the kitchen.
"Here," he blurted. He handed her a card. "That has my number, if you want to go for a drink sometime. Um...Good night then." He promptly turned around to walk away when Gwen spoke up.
"How bout tomorrow night then? I don't have work then."
Arthur nearly swaggered all the way home that night. He was very glad he hadn't stayed in that tiny little village. Though the emptiness still bothered him, he was still very glad.
It was on his twenty-fifth birthday that everything came back. There was no magical glow or flash of light. Just a few seconds of dizziness and then utmost clarity. He had been in the middle of lunch with Gwen—oh how he'd missed her—and when they made eye contact, he knew she was aware as well.
"D-d-id that all just back for you too?" she stuttered quietly.
She stood up quickly and moved towards him and slapped his face.
Startled and holding a hand to his aching cheek, Arthur looked worryingly up at his wife. "Um. What was that for?"
The queen crossed her arms and sneered at him, "What do you think?" Arthur shrugged and Gwen rolled her eyes. "For dying, you idiot! That wasn't fair! At all!" She then leaned forward and placed a kiss on his forehead. "But I forgive you."
Rubbing his aching cheek some more, he grumbled, "It was Mordred's fault I'll have you know. Merlin probably told you I tripped and hit my head." With some worry in his voice, he added, "I hope you took care of him, he was a right mess when I died."
Gwen also looked worried. "Arthur. Merlin never came back to Camelot." She sat back down across the table from him. "We feared he'd perished along side you."
Something dropped in Arthur's stomach. "A-and I haven't had contact with him in this life. I know I met with the other knights. Leon and Lance are around and I think Percy has a flat with Gwaine...but I think his name is Wane. Which is really strange. Morgan is in Wales, so it should be a bit before we have to deal with her. And—"
His phone rang at that second. He glanced at it then answered it.
"Hullo Dad. What do you need?"
"Merlin is a sorcerer! That's what I was trying to say before you blew that blasted horn. Sorry about that by the way. That horn did a number on my psyche. And do you have Morgan's number? I really ought to apologize to her. And other things."
"Yes, Dad, I know. And I'll text you the number." He hung up with a sigh. "So, we aren't the only ones to get our memories back. But where's Merlin? Surely he would have been reincarnated like us as well!"
"We could call the knights and see if they've had contact with him?" Gwen suggested. "And do you think it's possible he didn't reincarnate?"
"No. He has to be here," he stated, though to him it sounded like a plea.
"Do you think it's possible...that he never died?"
'Well,' a voice began, making Arthur jump. 'This isn't quite how I imagined it going—'
"And he did have that disguise," Gwen though aloud. And with a grin she added, "Had any interesting conversations with strange old men recently, Arthur?"
"No. Well, no one named Dragoon anyway."
Gwen looked over to the window and noted the the graying skies. "Arthur, it's going to rain, help me close the windows."
Pouring Rain. Yellow poncho. Old eyes.
"That's it!" Arthur exclaimed. "That village I went to for a fencing match! It was the night before I met you again! I was driving home in the rain and then drove my car in to the lake—"
"You did what?!"
"—and then he was there and lifted me and the car out of the water, Gwen! He was so happy to see me! And—" And then Arthur realized what had happened. "And then I asked him who he was, Gwen."
There was silence for a few seconds.
"You need to go find him."
"You think I don't know that? I've had this aching emptiness in me since I was fourteen. I've known, even if I couldn't remember, that there was something I needed to find. And that's Merlin." The statement hung in the air before Arthur tried to correct himself, "That is, in a much different way then with you, um."
A small smile tugged Gwen's lips. "Arthur, I could never compare to your bond with Arthur. We work very differently than how you and Merlin work. I like to think you couldn't have been great without me, but we all know that job honor belongs to Merlin."
"I could have done it on my own," he pouted.
"No you couldn't have."
"No...not really," Arthur agreed. "I have to go. Now."
"I hope by the 'I' you mean 'We', dear."
Arthur gulped. "Of course," he stammered. "I just have to call Leon and ask him what the place was called."
"You don't remember where Merlin is?!"
"To be fair, I was there for less than twenty-four hours five years ago and Merlin made me think a good important chunk of it was a dream."
Arthur and Gwen drove up to the house that viewed over the lake. The lake was pristine as ever, and there apparently there was an island in the middle he had failed to notice due to the rain when he last saw it. The house on the other hand had seen better days.
"It didn't look this bad five years ago..."
"I'm sure it was just the rain." Gwen paused for a bit before asking, "Are you sure he's here?"
"I'm sure. I was drawn to the house, which by the way is the reason I drove into the lake. He must have been inside it at the time."
They drove up the driveway, the gravel was sparse, having likely been washed away by a few years worth of English rain. The lawn was overgrown and riddled with weeds. What once must have been a beautiful garden, was full of holes and half eaten plants.
"Looks like he has a bad case of rabbits," Gwen murmured trying to lighten the mood.
"Or laziness," Arthur grumbled. "Gwen..."
"I think I'll stay in the car while you too sort things out. But if I see or hear anything like a fight, I'm coming right in to sort you both out," she warned.
Arthur nodded to her and then got out of the car. He moved over to the front door and knocked. He then noticed the bell, and chose instead to ring it instead of hurting his hand. He waited a minute, before trying the bell one more time. When that didn't work, he tried the door and found it unlocked.
He moved into the front hall, examining his surroundings. There was a narrow table that followed the wall with post sprawled across it. To the left was what looked like a nice sitting room, if it were tidied up a bit. Lighting would help too. To the right was a stairwell that had what looked like many nights worth of dishes and various tea times were sitting on the steps. A yellow poncho hung on the bottom post. Further down he could see a door that had a tiled floor peeking out, possibly the kitchen.
"Merlin?" he called softly. "Are you here?" The ceiling creaked. "Up the stairs it is."
He navigated his way up the stairs and at the top was met by a strange cat, giving him the evil eye. It's golden eyes bore into him, making him nervous. It's fur was a soft grey and hints of stripes could be seen, so it was a tabby of sorts. It stopped glaring at him, and walked away from him into the first door on the right. Arthur figured he'd best follow the cat.
He pushed the door open and stepped into it, expecting to find Merlin working in a study, or even sleeping. He didn't expect the old man slouched in a sitting chair nursing a bottle of whisky by a crackling fire. The old man glanced at him before going back to watch the fire. Which was in the fire place, but there were no logs to burn. Arthur saw the crisp blue eyes in the glance and it hit him like a sledge hammer.
"Merlin. W-what are you doing?" The horror slipped into his voice. He couldn't help it.
"Drinking. What does it look like?" came the easy reply. The gravely voice delivering made it seem sinister. Maybe it was supposed to.
"What bloody for?!" Arthur shouted. He might have not done that if he had known what would happen.
Everything in the room began to shake. The windows, the scattered dishes on the floor, the tubes of questionable liquids and the impossible fire in the fire place. The cat, which had been under Merlin's seat, yowled and scampered out of the room. Merlin stood slowly and turned to face Arthur. His eyes were molten gold.
"You," he bellowed, "You bloody know well why! I've told you thousands of times! You left me and died in my arms! And then I had to wait fifteen hundred while everyone I loved died around me. While everything changed...just for you!" Merlin bared his teeth and ground out, "And then you had the fecking nerve to get bloody fucking reincarnated of all the fucking things to do." Things were flying wildly around the room and Arthur had to duck a few tea cups. Merlin swallowed, his voice lowering to almost inaudible. "But that wasn't all, sire. You," he took a breath and thundered, "YOU FORGOT ME!"
The bottle Merlin had had clenched in his hand shattered then. Everything floating fell to the floor in a big crash. Merlin collapsed with it. "You weren't supposed to forget me." Arthur almost didn't hear the whisper. But he did see the muscle spasms work over the small frame of his old friend.
Arthur quickly moved over to Merlin. He saw the blood, likely from the exploding bottle, but it was very little and nothing to worry about. He took hold of Merlin's shoulders, lifting him up until he was kneeling on the ground.
"That's still no reason to throw a temper tantrum. You scared you cat! Let's not do this again," Arthur implored.
Merlin's head shot up, eyes meeting Arthur's. They were bloodshot, but blue. He reached up with a shaking hand to touch Arthur's face. "You're," he stammered, "Y-you're real."
Arthur's brow drew together in concern. "You didn't," he began, but then it dawned on him. "You thought I was a hallucination. A ghost." He drew in a shuddering breath, as he saw the tears well up in Merlin's eyes. He grabbed Merlin, trapping the frail man in a hug. "Merlin, I'm very real now. And I remember you."
They sat there as Merlin sobbed into his shoulder. When Merlin seemed to be over the more dramatic parts of his breakdown, Arthur gently pushed away.
With a very serious face, he made sure to keep eye contact with Merlin. "I do have one question. You've magicked yourself to look like Dragoon, even with the hair cut?" Merlin nodded. "Change back. I don't want to look at your wrinkly face anymore. It hurts."
Merlin let out a watery laugh but complied. His eyes flashed gold and he de-aged in seconds right before Arthur's eyes. He let out a groan, and slumped a little against Arthur.
Worriedly Arthur examined Merlin. "What? What's wrong? Was that too much magic?"
Merlin huffed out a laugh. "I just haven't felt this comfortable in years," Merlin assured the blonde. "I forget how nice it is to be young after staying in that form for half a decade." He leaned back away from Arthur, stretching.
Arthur stared. "You've been like that since we met five years ago." It wasn't a question.
Uneasily, Merlin nodded.
A stupid grin stretched across his face at that. "So, you're back from Avalon. Was it nice there?"
"Huh. I don't actually know. I only remember up to when I died."
"What? That's lame," the warlock complained. With a sigh, he sagged a little. "I guess we have to figure out why you were brought back now, as well."
Arthur sat up after hearing that. "Wait. You mean there is a reason we all were reincarnated?!"
"We all? Who all?"
"Gwen. And the knights. Oh and my dad. Probably others as well I suppose," he listed. "Gwen's actually out in the car and she's very cross with you. But, Merlin, the reason?"
A little thrown at the thought of a good portion of Camelot being reincarnated, he retorted, "Something wicked this way comes."
"Shakespeare? I think it's a little late to deal with that ponce."
"No you clotpole! Though I'm very impressed. I expected something like 'harry potter?' at the worst. No, just that there is something evil for you to defeat of some such. But the really, the dragon didn't tell me anything about any of the others coming," Merlin trailed off.
Arthur pouted. "That's lame."
"Tell me about it."
They sat in silence for a bit.
"Maybe I'm supposed to stop Global Warming?"