Elaine Davis yawned as she drove along the motorway. The term had ended and she anticipated a relaxing holiday. She soon left busy roads behind and found herself the lone car traveling along for a time. A blue lorry passed by, startling her out of a reverie. Pay attention, she reprimanded herself. She scrutinized the way ahead and was surprised to see a form walking to the side. She glanced through her window as she passed and the figure looked at her. It was an old man with long white hair and a beard, and if the bags he carried were any indication, one that had come to hard times.
Elaine continued to drive for a few meters, then slowed. She had never picked up anyone off the streets, but something about this old man stirred her compassion. She pulled over and stopped, rubbing at her temple. Stupid, Elaine. This is stupid. Old men can be killers, too. She looked over her shoulder through the back window. He was still coming this way. He looked worn. What would be the harm in asking?
Elaine pushed open her door and stepped out. "Excuse me." The man paused briefly, then continued towards her. "Can I drive you somewhere?" He stopped when he reached her.
"I'm going there," he mumbled, pointing back a little ways to a lake.
Elaine smiled. "Avalon. That's what my father always called it."
The old man's blue eyes lit up for a moment.
"I used to play in the ruins on the island."
The man raised his chin, his eyes grown strangely knowledgeable.
"I'll take you to a path."
He assessed her for a moment, then nodded. As she slipped back inside her car, he opened the passenger side door and joined her.
Elaine continued down the road. "I'm Elaine."
The man coughed, then answered. "Merlin."
Elaine raised her eyebrows. "Merlin? And you want to go to Avalon?"
He smiled. "And you're Elaine?" His eyes twinkled.
Elaine laughed. "My father was obsessed with the Arthurian legends. And Tennyson. Thus, Elaine... What about you?"
The old man shifted in his seat, fumbling with his bags. "My mother named me."
"Did she like the legends?"
"Probably," he murmured.
Elaine sensed she'd hit a nerve and backed off. She turned a corner, heading down a dirt road. "I've studied the legends for a long time."
Elaine nodded. "I used to pretend I was Queen Guinevere, traipsing all over our home and insisting everyone obey my commands."
The old man chuckled.
"My father's obsession stuck with me. I'm studying history as a post-graduate." She thought back to her childhood as the lake appeared through the trees. "Sometimes I used to think I caught sight of people from the stories when I played here... Maybe even Merlin."
The old man grinned. Elaine smiled back. She pulled into a grassy clearing. "You'll have to walk from here." As he opened the door, she felt compelled to speak up again. "Do you want me to go with you?"
"If you need anything, my family lives not too far away. There's a small town just down the road. If you ask for Elaine Davis, they'll know me."
The man nodded. "Thank you."
Elaine nodded, turning around and driving back down the road, feeling a little worried. She glanced in her mirror, wondering what an old man wanted at the lake and hoping he'd be safe.
Merlin hefted his bags, hiking down a narrow path. He smiled to himself, thinking of the woman who had just carted him around to the lake entrance. He knew her. He had seen her as a girl, playing on the island with her brothers. He shouldn't have let them, but their joy was so infectious he didn't interfere. And he knew her father.
Another year had come and gone. He hadn't traveled much this time. Instead he'd spent his days in his home—drinking tea, tending his garden, caring for his menagerie, and thinking. He hadn't pursued close relationships for some time now. This happened sometimes. His desire to be among people ebbed and flowed. When he got tired, he'd take a break for several years.
Merlin reached the edge of the lake. He dropped his bags and unrolled his sleeping bag, then turned to stare across the lake at the isle. "I'm here." He removed his knit cap and coat, glanced every which way, then spoke quietly. "Forbearnan." Fire lit in his palm and he set it to float in the air, providing needed warmth. He crouched down, opening a bag to pull out a book, then situated himself on his sleeping bag.
Merlin paused for a moment, collecting his thoughts. He eventually opened the book on his lap, turning to a blank page. Wouldn't Blaise have been proud of him. He'd lost track of the number of books he'd filled; the numerous shelves in his home contained far more than Blaise's works. He'd studied up on every subject, learning what only a man 1500 years old could.
A drop of water struck the blank page. Merlin looked up at darkening clouds and groaned. Not rain. He shoved the book quickly back into his pack as the rain picked up. He conjured a shield, keeping his small camp dry as raindrops sprinkled around him. He folded his arms across his chest.
A mist rose up, sweeping along the lake and kissing the shore. Merlin narrowed his eyes when he caught the form of a boat. Confound it! He'd not warned away a fisherman in years. He'd thought he'd secured the site with strong enough wards. Apparently not.
Merlin grumbled as he stood. Why did no one pay attention to "no trespassing" signs? This was private land—his land. He'd purchased it two centuries ago just to legally secure it. He left the shielded camp, caring not a jot as the rain dampened him.
The boat moved closer and he could make out a man at its prow. He must have finished his catch; he held no rod, just stood straight and still. Proudly, Merlin thought. Well, he'd bring that pride down a peg or two.
Merlin stomped towards the shore. "You! This is private property!"
"Take your boat and get out of here."
"I...don't think I can."
Merlin's eyebrows met. What nerve! He trudged to the edge of the lake. "Look. You have no right..." His words died in his throat as the boat came close enough for him to scrutinize its occupant—a blond man, formidable, broad-shouldered, square of jaw, blue eyes, and clothed in armor, a sword at his side. All thoughts fled from Merlin's mind as he gawked.
The boat hit the shore and the armored man leaped over its side, ignoring the fact his boots sloshed in the water. He walked up to Merlin, glancing back and forth. "I'm looking for someone."
Merlin tried to speak, but couldn't get out a word. Instead, he flung his arms around the man, holding him so tightly, afraid if he let go, all of this would become a dream.
"Um, hey, uh..." The man wriggled within his grasp. "Are you alright?"
Merlin's chest heaved and his vision blurred. The man used all his strength to wrench Merlin off of him. Merlin sank to one knee. His voice came out broken through tears. "My...king." He looked up.
The man narrowed his eyes, then cocked his head. He reached down and pulled Merlin up by his shoulders, searching his eyes. His own widened. "Merlin?"
Merlin nodded, the force of his emotion bringing forth a large sob. Now the man wrapped him in a bear hug. "Arthur," Merlin spoke the name he'd cherished so very many years. "Arthur."
Arthur didn't let go for several moments. When he did, his eyes were wet. "Merlin." He looked his manservant up and down. "What happened? How long have I been gone?"
Merlin whispered. "I've waited over 1500 years."
Arthur swayed. Merlin gripped his arm to steady him. "Fifteen...hundred?"
Merlin nodded, pulling Arthur to the camp which was still protected from the rain. They passed inside his shield. Arthur let himself be guided to the sleeping bag. Merlin gently pushed on his shoulders. Arthur sat, staring blankly.
Merlin knelt in front of him. "Arthur?"
"She said it had been a long time."
"A woman. She told me I had to return now. She warned me, but fifteen hundred years." Arthur's eyes darted back and forth. "That means Gwen and Leon and Gwaine and all of them..."
Merlin grasped Arthur's neck, forcing him to look at him. "They're gone."
Arthur locked eyes with him. Merlin's glowed gold for a moment as he infused strength into his friend. Arthur jumped and pulled back. "You're a sorcerer. I remember." He ran his hand through his hair. "I died." He glanced around. "Here."
"I won't hurt you."
Arthur smiled suddenly, breaking through his shock. "I know that. She told me to find you. That you'd explain everything, what I am and why I'm here." Arthur paused. "You look just like the sorcerer at Camlann. It was you."
"Wait... How are you alive?"
Merlin grinned. "That's a long story."
"Honestly, Merlin, seeing you like this..."
"Here. Gehiwe geongan." Merlin watched Arthur's eyes grow round in amazement. He knew what he'd see—an old man melding into a younger one, one he knew far better. It hadn't been that difficult to work out an aging spell in reverse.
Arthur held out a hand. "Merlin."
Merlin gripped his wrist. "I'm ready. I'll teach you everything. There's so much."
Arthur nodded, a hint of amusement in his eyes that resolved into conviction. "So I am your pupil. Tell me."
Merlin sifted through memory. What to start with? There were so many stories and adventures, so much history and change. If he chose one starting place, his mind backtracked one step farther, then another and another. Finally, one memory rose above the others—a babe in his arms as he stood at a window bathed in moonlight.
Merlin smiled and met Arthur's gaze. "I want to tell you about your son."
Author's Note: A huge thank you to everyone who favorited, followed, private messaged, and encouraged me as I wrote this fic! I never anticipated it becoming this long, but I've had a blast writing it and bringing some development and closure to Merlin's life. Thank you so much for reading and joining me in the journey!