Disclaimer: Nope, not mine, no way. I'm not the BBC, are you the BBC?
Author's Note: This was written for a fanfic challenge for the livejournal community merlinxarthur. We had to use a picture for inspiration, and I chose the crystal ball, obivously.
Summary: Arthur absolutely does not giggle. Nor does he believe in destiny, but tell that to the weird, big-eared fortune teller he meets at Mardi Gras.
Warnings: Spoilers up to 2x13, character death (mentioned in the past), reincarnation
"Come on Arthur. You're such a down-in-the-dumpity," Gwen said, a little more than a little drunk.
"Down-in-the…dumpity?" Arthur asked, maybe equally as more than a little drunk, as he had giggled when he certainly did not ever giggle. Ever.
"Yes, come on. You're always on about destiny and stuff and junk," Gwen said, tugging on Arthur's hand, pulling him towards a purple tent with paper lanterns strung up in front of it. "What's better for finding you 'destiny' than a fortune teller?"
"Fortune tellers are a crock. And I always tell you how I don't believe in destiny," Arthur fought Gwen's pull, and broke away, stumbling back into somebody in too little clothes and a too big mask that made Arthur want to giggle again but he didn't because he didn't giggle. "I'm not nearly drunk enough to go into a tent and listen to some old hag prattle on about how there's money in my future or love or disaster or whatever."
Gwen rolled her eyes and smacked her lips at him, "Fine. I'll buy you a drink and then we'll get our fortune's read, yeah?"
"If you're buying," Arthur conceded, and allowed himself to be lead away from the fortune tent. He glanced back once and saw a pale face with stupidly enormous ears peering out the flap at them curiously before quickly pulling back inside.
He was pulled into one of the numerous bars lining Main Street, all opened and decorated in purples and greens and reds for Mardi Gras. "Oh, look who's here!" Gwen shouted excitedly and too loudly. She was letting go of Arthur and rushing across the bar to throw herself at a tall, beautiful, alluring and bitchy brunette.
Arthur made his way over to them. "Morgana."
"Arthur," Morgana narrowed her eyes at Arthur, her lips pursed, as if she were sizing him up or something.
"What?" Arthur snapped, pulling a face at Morgana.
Morgana sighed and shook her head, "Nothing. You just…smell."
"I do not!" Arthur barked, discreetly turning away to sniff his armpit. Well. He didn't smell too bad, anyways. But he had been sweating and dancing and running around all night! "Like you smell like spring roses, anyways!"
"Come now, guys. We're celebrating, shut up, yeah?" Gwen was back with a tray of shots, her grin wide and too innocent-looking for somebody so sloshed and debauched. Arthur grudgingly took the proffered shot and downed it with the rest of them, then licked the salt off his hand. After a second round Arthur was comfortable enough to sling his arm around Gwen's waist and pull her warm to his side.
She was laughing at something Morgana was saying, and Arthur thought that was stupid, because Morgana was far from funny. But he wasn't going to start up again, because it upset Gwen when he and Morgana argued. And he was kinda looking to get laid tonight, so…
He finds himself thinking about getting his fortune told, and the weird face he saw at the tent that was definitely probably not the fortune teller, because it looked too young and not weird enough. "…and then I said, 'bugger off you ruddy eggplant!' Didn't I Arthur?" Gwen was asking, turning her warm smiling face towards Arthur and Arthur wanted to kiss her but he didn't because Morgana disapproved of all types of PDA. Arthur thought she hadn't even held hands in public before.
"Er. Yeah, sure, you did," Arthur said, nodding distractedly. Gwen seemed pleased enough by his answer and passed him another drink, then took two for herself. Gwen could hold her liquor like a sailor, and drank like one, too. But only on special occasions, she reminded him very angrily every time he called her a lush.
And they passed time, laughing and drinking and moving from bar to bar, collecting beads the wholesome way, because there was no way Arthur was letting Gwen or Morgana flash anybody. When Gwen had had enough, she showed it in a very unique way of removing her heels, chucking them at Arthur and announcing that she'd be going home with Morgana. And Arthur's plans on getting laid were dashed by his evil-stepsister.
He didn't go home right after Gwen announced she was leaving. Instead he wandered up and down Main Street holding her pumps and avoiding getting beer sloshed all over him and knocking down the stilt walkers. He passes by a fire-breather and leaps out of the way dramatically, and thought that he felt a little too crowded, and headed towards the more deserted parts of the street fair.
He wandered aimlessly a little bit until he found himself in front of the familiar fortune teller's tent. Nobody was around, but that didn't stop Arthur from glancing around, over cautious, before ducking into the tent.
It was dark outside, but it's darker in the tent, lit with only a couple of fake candles. Arthur blinks, his eyes slowly adjusting. He sees dim lights strung up, criss-crossing on the ceiling, and a small table in the middle with a chair on each side. There's a crystal ball, and Arthur feels as if he's just walked into a super-clichéd movie set. He hears somebody clear their throat and whirls around to face whoever had just came into the tent.
There's a boy standing there, zipping up his fly and eyeing Arthur curiously, "Arthur?" He wipes his hands on his jeans, his eyes roving up and down Arthur frame. Arthur doesn't answer and stares right back, starting at the ratty trainers, the tight, torn jeans and the blue t-shirt and the stupid red scarf. When he makes it to the face he frowns. It was the guy peaking out of the tent earlier. There a flash of recognition in the stranger's eyes as well. Then he crosses his arms and clears his throat again.
"Well, are you going to sit down?" he asks, eyeing the chair nearest them pointedly.
"Why?" Arthur asks dumbly.
"I can't very well tell your fortune when you're standing there like an idiot and gaping. Sit down," the stranger said, shoving passed Arthur to sit in the bigger chair, lit from below by some 'mystical mysterious' lighting rig underneath the table.
Arthur turned and blinked at the…fortune teller? This kid was the fortune teller?
"I'm not a kid. Sit down," the stranger snapped. Arthur blinked, had he been speaking out loud? He takes a seat like ordered, and stares expectantly at the guy across from him.
"Alright, what're you here for, then? Love-life, financial troubles? Anything specific?" the guy asks, sprawling ungracefully back in the mock-throne as he picks at a loose thread on his t-shirt.
"Wait. You're the fortune teller?" Arthur's voice is embarrassingly pitched an octave too high, and he lowers his voice to his 'manly' voice, "I thought they were all—"
"Old saggy ladies with a Russian accent and mustaches?" the fortune teller interrupted, rolling his eyes. "I've heard it all before, believe me. So, I don't think it's love what you're having problems with, 'cause I saw you with that girl earlier and you looked pretty cozy. She was pretty. And judging by your clothes and shoes, I don't think you're poor. But you seem a little stupid. Trouble at Uni, then. Want the exam answers or something?"
"You can do that?" Arthur asked, then shook his head, "Hey! I'm not stupid! If you're going to be insulting then I guess I'll take myself and my money to another, better fortune teller."
"I'm telling you, there's not one better than me, mate," he insisted.
Arthur arched his brows, "Yeah? Where's your hat and robe, then? I don't feel comfortable unless you look the part."
The guy snorted and reached under the table. He pulled out a comically large purple turban thing with a gaudy fake yellow jewel with orange tassels hanging down in front of his face. Arthur snorted in laughter, and the stranger glared at him, snatching the hat off his head.
"Shut up, give me your hand," he snapped, holding his hand, palm up, for Arthur. Arthur eyed it suspiciously.
"What, you're gonna read my palm or something?"
"No, I just need a bit of contact for this to work, kay?"
Arthur rolled his eyes and reached out, sliding his palm against the fortune teller's. He nearly yanked his hand back when he felt a spark, an honest to goodness electric shock. The guy felt it, too, and his eyes went all wide and surprised, and Arthur noted vaguely they were blue, even in the dark light. The fortune teller gathered his wits together and cleared his throat. "Alright Arthur, let's do this."
He extended his hand over the cheesy crystal ball, and Arthur thought it was just some stupid prop for show, but the guy was staring intently into it. Arthur expected him to start chanting in Latin and going on about the 'fuuuuture' and its eventual graveness and saying things like, 'I see change in your fuuuture' or 'I see a fortune coming to you…in the fuuuuuture!' And Arthur would roll his eyes and walk away knowing money was well wasted.
It was a long time, just sitting there. It felt like hours, when in reality it was probably only three minutes as the guy stared into the crystal ball. Then he gasped and jerked away from Arthur, his eyes wide again, and Arthur found himself mimicking the action, hand gripping the edge of the table. The guy went all red in the face for a second, looking away nervously, as if he were embarrassed.
"What is it?" Arthur whispered, because he was still a little more than a little drunk, and he was feeling dramatic.
"It's…you're Arthur!" the guy exclaimed, as if it were some kind of grand reveal.
"Er…yeah," Arthur nodded, feeling confused. He looked down at his shirt to check for a nametag, then, remembering he had never told this guy that his name was Arthur. "How'd you know my name?"
The guy waved his hand in a vague gesture between them, "Because I'm Merlin," he said, bouncing excitedly in his seat.
Arthur rolled his eyes, "You're barmy is what you are. If you think I'm paying for this—"
"Shut up!" Merlin snapped, "Listen, listen! You're Arthur, like Arthur with the sword Excalibur and a douche father and I'm Merlin. M-E-R-L-I-N, like the sorcerer. I was your servant, when you were a prince and a king. We fought a dragon together. And that dragon is a right dick. You united all of Albion, and I helped. With magic and stuff. And then you died, and I was like, 'sleep until it's time' and then here you are. And and… God, I should have known."
"Uh…" Arthur was a little overwhelmed. He was almost 99% sure that this guy was having him on and his name was probably something normal like Tom and that he was just having a bit of fun with him, but he remembered the genuine surprise on Merlin/Tom's face, and the spark he felt that could very probably be magic.
"Arthur, Arthur, don't you remember?" Merlin/Tom asked.
"…no. You're bonkers, I'm leaving," Arthur stood up, but was stopped in an awkward crouch as Merlin/Tom reached out and snagged his hand with surprising speed. He pulled him down so Arthur's chin was almost on the table while his arse was still in the air.
"I'm not bonkers. I'm the real deal Merlin. And…Jesus, I do sound crazy, 'specially to a drunk. Okay, okay," Merlin/Tom scrambled up out of his seat, letting Arthur go, "Don't go anywhere, I'll be right back," and he scrambled out of the tent. Arthur knew he should take this chance to run out while he could, but instead he leant forwards to peer into the crystal ball. He knew he wouldn't see anything, it was just a gut feeling, and he wasn't too disappointed when nothing happened. He was going to lift it up to see what was under it, but then Merlin/Tom came back in, garnishing a pencil and a piece of paper.
"Hi. Back," he slams the pencil and paper down on the table, then carefully tears the paper in half. He writes his name, and then his number and address down on the paper. "So, you're a little drunk and I think maybe springing this on you was a bit crazy. But if you write yours down, and I give you mine, we can call each other or whatever tomorrow and we can meet up and talk, okay?"
Arthur eyed the piece of paper,
'Merlin, 555-3439, 30989 Old Village Aprts #178'
"Is this your crazy way of asking me on a date? Because I've got…"
"No! It's just…well maybe it's kind of a date, but more like a, uh…meet-up. You can bring Gwen, too! If you want."
"How'd you know about Gwen? How'd you know her name?" Arthur asked, a little creeped out now.
"Because she's Guinevere, married off to Lancelot and all that. And I know about Morgana, and how she was all evil and stuff," Merlin said excitedly.
Well, certainly sounded like he knew Morgana. She really was evil. He wrote down his name and number, but not his address. "O…kay. This is all a little weird, but here." He knew he probably shouldn't have given this dude his number. He'd probably stalk him and kidnap him and try to eat his innards. But then again he was drunk and intrigued and so he shrugged and pocketed Merlin's number. They stood there awkwardly for a little while more, Merlin looking like he wanted to say more or reach out to Arthur or something, but he finally just stepped back, shaking his head.
"Call me when you're sober," he said, then turned away.
Arthur furrowed his brows, then shrugged and made his way out of the tent, pulling out his cellular to call a cab. He went back to the crowded part of Main Street to wait for his cab. And since it was mardi gras, it took forever for the cab to get there. It took him home, and it wasn't until Arthur was paying the disgruntled cabby (all cabbies were disgruntled, of course. Arthur wasn't being a prat) that he realized he hadn't paid Merlin. Which was odd, because the whole point of being a fortune teller was to swindle people out of their money and Merlin hadn't even brought up payment. Or Tom. Whoever he really was, the weirdo. He pulled the slip of paper out of his pocket and read it over once more as he went into his room.
Arthur didn't think on it anymore and just kicked his shoes off when he entered his flat, then collapsed face down on his bed, practically asleep and snoring before he hit the sheets, and still clutching Merlin's number in his hand.
He dreamt of swords and dragons and neckerchiefs all shoved into a purple tent that night.
Arthur woke with a nasty headache and a dry mouth. He had been drooling, he noticed, and he had the marks of sheets pressed into his face. He got up and stumbled into the bathroom, brushing his teeth first and foremost, and then going about all other bathroomly duties.
He made himself some coffee, then went back into his room to tidy up the mess he had made coming in. That's when the note on the bed caught his eye, and he vaguely remembered falling asleep with it, and the events leading up to getting the number. "Merlin," he mused aloud, sitting on the edge of his bed. He set the paper next to his thigh and reached for his phone. He had four missed calls from Gwen and a missed call from Morgana, and a missed call from his father. There were three voicemails. And there was nothing from Merlin. He frowned.
He listened to the voicemails, the first from his mother reminding him she'd be in town in a week and to make sure he had everything sorted at the hotel for her, and gave him flight numbers and car companies that were trustworthy enough for her.
The second was from Gwen, obviously drunk, going on and on about all of Arthur's shortcomings, like how he was too noble sometimes, how his nose was kind of crooked, and not at all like Lance's (Arthur had no idea who Lance was, except that he thought about Lancelot, from the legend, and then thought about Merlin mentioning Lancelot last night. He shook his head and kept listening), she went on to say that he was horrible in bed (Arthur scoffed at that; he was excellent in bed), he never took her seriously, and never listened when she spoke (only partially true!) and that 'sometime I really wished you were a brunet!' Arthur shook his head, puzzled, as the voicemail cut off, then went to the one from Morgana.
"Hey, little brother," Arthur scowled at his phone, "Gwen's phone died, and um. Well, this is pretty awkward for me to be saying, instead of her, but she's found someone else. I mean. She found him a while ago. And I only kind of sort of knew about it. But like, they're totally macking it on my couch right now and I guess that last message was to let you know it's pretty much over. Sorry. But hey, did you see Merlin last night?"
The message ended there, and Arthur quickly deleted the last two messages.
Really? Was that really how things ended with Gwen? He knew that they weren't going to last forever, but over a phone call? And she had been sneaking around behind his back with a guy named Lance? Why did this sound familiar?
'You're always on about destiny' Gwen had said the night before. And really, Arthur didn't believe in destiny, despite his father always going on and Morgana always going on and Gwen always going on. But then he met a Merlin and, Peter's sake, that was a little too eerie for coincidence. And Morgana had mentioned Merlin, how had she known about Merlin or Tom or whoever? He glanced at the paper next to him, then to his phone. Before he could think what he was doing he was dialing the number and pressing 'talk.'
"Arthur?" Merlin sounded like he had been asleep, groggy, yet excited.
"Er…yeah. Hi. I'm sober now," Arthur said as means of a conversation open. Merlin laughed on the other end.
"That's good. How're you feeling?"
"Better…but uh. Not so good. Could we…talk?"
Merlin hesitated on the other end of the line, as if he were thinking real hard about something, "Yeah. Sure. Okay. Where do you want to meet? I know a coffee shop…"
"No. No, could I just come to yours?" Arthur asked, fiddling with the edge of the paper.
"Uh…sure. Okay. Yeah," Merlin had a weird habit of affirming things three times, Arthur noticed. It was oddly…endearing. Never mind that Merlin was still a complete stranger and nothing should be endearing to him about Merlin because he barely knew him. "Just wait 10 minutes before leaving. I gotta clean up, my flatmate's a bit of a slob."
Arthur knew Merlin was lying. He didn't know exactly how, but he knew Merlin was a bit of a slob himself without even knowing him. It was like it was some kind of common knowledge to him. He frowned. "Okay. I'll be there." And he hung up without saying goodbye.
He paced his room a bit, wondering if he should change from the sweats and pull-over he had put on. It wasn't like he was trying to impress Merlin or anything. And he felt like complete and utter shite, and he was confused, so confused, about everything, so he dressed how he liked, and left five minutes early. He typed the address into his phone, and followed the address on his GPS, driving slowly to take up the time for leaving early.
Merlin lived in a less appealing apartment complex than he did, kinda shady. Arthur locked the door to his car, then double checked to make sure it was locked, before finding Merlin's name on the call box and pressing the button.
"Hello? Arthur?" It was Merlin's tinny voice, more alert than it had been on the phone. "Come on in, I'll buzz you in."
The door buzzed and Arthur pushed it open. He went slow down the hall, glancing at the numbers on the door, thankful that Merlin's apartment was on the ground floor, because the elevator was one of those old rusty ones with the grate in front of it that Arthur didn't trust one whit. He reached the door, plain wood with the gold numbers '178' hung on it. Arthur raised his hand and hesitated before knocking firmly.
The door was opened almost immediately, and Merlin was there with both arms full of clothes, leaving Arthur wondering how he had opened the door. "Come in," Merlin said, stepping aside, the door closing on its own as Merlin lead him in. Arthur shook his head, trying to clear it. He was going nutters, too, it seemed.
"Sorry it's a mess," Merlin said, unceremoniously depositing the clothing onto an armchair, leaving the couch free.
"You always were a bit of a mess," Arthur said, the frowned. Where had that come from? He shook his head again, ignoring Merlin's weird look as he sat on the couch, kicking his feet up on the coffee table. His feet shared space with old magazines, a coffee cup filled with paint, and the crystal ball from the night before. He nudged it with his foot, "So, does it really work?"
Merlin was bustling around, picking up more things and throwing them in a pile, just making things look messier. "Hm?"
"The ball, does it really work? Is that how you…knew?" Arthur asked, watching as Merlin stopped and eyed the crystal ball.
"That rubbish? Nah. It's a piece of crap. A prop I bought at a flea market. It's not even real crystal. Real crystals do have magical qualities and stuff," Merlin added sagely, dropping more clothes on the armchair then dropping next to Arthur on the couch. "Do you…remember anything?"
"About last night? Vaguely. I remember you saying you're Merlin and I'm Arthur, and that I didn't pay you. That's about it," Arthur shrugged, carefully avoiding looking at Merlin and mentioning his dream the night before.
"I didn't mean last night. I meant about…"
"About me being King Arthur? Uh. No," Arthur shifted, dropping his feet back down on the ground, "I don't' believe in destiny and all that mess. Or I didn't. But then Gwen left me this message saying she's leaving me for some bloke named Lance, and then Morgana asked me if I had met you last night, and I have no idea how she knew about you and it got me thinking, when I was sober, about what you had said last night and I thought 'wow, this is just a little too much.'"
"Sorry, you know, about the Gwen thing. I mean, should have seen it coming. It's one of the things they get right about the legend. Except you know, you didn't really exile them in real life," it was weird, hearing Merlin talk about a life that he didn't even know really existed but sounded so familiar.
"So we're all…back?" Arthur asked, brows furrowed.
"Kind of. Most of us won't remember. I remember, of course, 'cause I guess I set it all up. You'll remember, eventually, I'm sure of it. Gwen might or might not remember. It's hard to say with her. And Morgana is just weird," Merlin said, his fingers twitching as if he wanted to reach out for Arthur.
"When do I remember?" Arthur asked, wondering why he was even playing along. "Why am I even asking questions? This is crazy. Reincarnation or whatever isn't real. And neither are destiny nor fortune tellers or crystal balls."
Merlin rolled his eyes, "I'm not really a fortune teller."
"But you're magic."
"Yeah. A little, I guess. Sure. It's nothing real 'pow!' big," Merlin explained.
"God, this is all…I don't even know if I believe any of this. This is just…" Arthur leant forwards, hands on his knees as he stared hard at the fake crystal ball. "I don't believe in any of this stuff. Or I shouldn't. But it feels real, and you're real, and I feel like I know you, but I don't know you. And…I don't know. Gwen's broken up with me and maybe I'm just grief stricken."
"I'll go make some tea," Merlin offered.
"Coffee, please," Arthur requested, Merlin nodded and moved off to the kitchen.
Arthur was left alone with his personal crisis. He wondered, if this was really all real, what he and Merlin were back in the day. Merlin had mentioned being his servant, with him as a prince and a king. He wondered at being a prince and king, and who his father had been, and if he had been a good king.
"You were a great king," Merlin said, coming back into the room.
"Are you reading my mind?" Arthur asked, taking his coffee hastily from Merlin.
"Sort of. It's like, you're projecting or something. It's a magic thing. We're kind of connected like that," Merlin explained, sipping at his own tea.
"Weird," was all Arthur had to say. "You mentioned my father? He was the king?"
"Yeah, he was a total dick, but I mean. I guess he was okay," Merlin shrugged.
"I don't…know my father, now. It's just me and my mum," Arthur said, staring at his hands.
"Shit, I'm sorry," Merlin said, quickly setting down his cup and shifting towards Arthur, "Guess you didn't want to hear about that, then. He was a good man, though. Just a little…misguided, disillusioned."
"Well, he hated all and any magic, and would kill anybody who even looked at something magic, for one. But it was to protect the kingdom, and because…" Merlin stopped, "I'll tell you some other time. Not now. It's a tender moment, right here."
Arthur chuckled, the sound hollow but genuine, "Yeah. It's real tender, finding out you're not who you think you are."
"You're who you are, Arthur. You just don't remember, yet. And even when you do, you'll still be this Arthur, too," Merlin said, reaching out to place his hand on Arthur's knee. Arthur stared at in, and then Merlin. It was too soon to make a move, Arthur knew, but Merlin looked so inviting in his weird striped polo and too big jeans. He reached out and covered Merlin's hand with his own. "I'll help you remember," Merlin promised, his voice low and close to Arthur's ear.
Arthur swallowed as Merlin flipped his hand over, running his fingers along the lines of Arthur's palm, watching his face curiously. "Are you really reading my palm now?" Arthur asked, laughing a bit to break the weird tension.
"Nuh-uh. I just like the feel," Merlin said, his fingers tips running over the inside of his wrist now. "Let me help you remember," he whispered, bringing Arthur's hand up to his lips, pressing a kiss to Arthur's wrist, "Please."
Arthur tried to look away, and really, Merlin was a horrible person to be seducing him right after a break-up, and it felt a little disloyal to Gwen, because she had been drunk. Then he remembered that she had had a bloke on the side for a while now, and he shouldn't feel guilty, but angry. So he nodded at Merlin, twisting his hand so that it was cupping Merlin's neck, pulling him in for a kiss.
It was awkward at first, since neither seemed used to kissing each other. But then Merlin's hands came up and curled around Arthur's biceps and he sucked in a sharp breath through his nose before pushing into the kiss. It wasn't like kissing Gwen, or any of his other girlfriends. Merlin was pushy and demanding, and his tongue came out too soon, and his lips were too clingy, but Arthur liked it. It was…familiar. They found a common rhythm and stuck with it for a while, a dance their tongues had done before, Arthur was sure, because he had never kissed anyone like he was kissing this weird stranger who called himself Merlin.
They pulled back, and Merlin had his eyes closed, his head tilted slightly and his lips shiny with shared spit. Arthur had to smile, because he looked kind of funny with his hair all over the place and his ears peeking out of the hair and his face thoughtful. He opened his eyes to stare at Arthur, and they were gold. Suddenly Arthur's head hurt. It hurt badly.
He let go of Merlin to raise his hands to his face, pressing his palms into his eyes. There were flashes of memories that he didn't remember seconds ago. It was like he was a third person viewing some other people's memories. As if he had dove into the King Arthur's head and relived the memories vicariously through him. He remembered times before and after Merlin, but not in chronological order. He saw a whole kingdom asleep, and menacing knights in black, and then flashed back to meeting Morgana the first time when he was just five and she was seven and they hated each other at first sight. Then there was Gwen, who became Morgana's maidservant, and Arthur remembered thinking she was ugly, but growing to like her anyways. And then there was meeting Merlin, years and years afterwards, and their famous first fight. Flash forwards to his father dying. His father, whom Arthur had never know. At least, not in this life. There were no memories of his mother. Then there was a fight between Merlin and Morgana and some blonde woman…Morgause. He saw Morgana die in the duel. Arthur felt anger and remorse boil up in him. And then there was a battle, he was back to back with Merlin, and fighting fighting fighting. And then he was stabbed and Merlin was shouting and there were lightening flashes going off everywhere and then nothing else.
"Arthur! Arthur!" somebody was shaking his shoulders, patting his cheek, tugging his hair, tossing water on him.
"Damn it, Merlin! What was that for?" Arthur asked, swiping the water out of his eyes. "You idiot."
Merlin was eyeing him cautiously, "Ar…thur?"
"Mer…lin?" Arthur mocked.
Merlin laughed and flung himself at Arthur, knocking him back on the couch and landing on top of him in an undignified heap. Merlin was running his fingers across Arthur's cheeks and lips and nose. "Arthur, god, I missed you."
"I didn't go anywhere," Arthur huffed, "You're not exactly as light as you used to be. Could you get up?"
"Are you calling me fat?"
"Serves you right, all those times you insisted," Arthur said, shoving Merlin off him, letting him land on the floor before sitting up and offering his hand to help him up.
Merlin glared but took the hand anyways, straddling Arthur's lap when he was balanced again. "You're not freaking out anymore?"
"No…a little, maybe. But really, everything should be good in a few," Arthur said, his hands resting on Merlin's hips; familiarly pointy and warm and his. "What's it mean, then, now that I'm back?"
Merlin shrugged, "'m not sure. It could mean nothing," he said, bending his head to press his lips along Arthur's jaw. "Or it could mean the apocalypse is coming and you need to save us all again. Magic is dumb like that."
"No pressure then," Arthur said, rubbing warm circles into Merlin's hips.
"No pressure. Sure, yeah. Okay," Merlin laughed, his nose running along Arthur's bristly jaw line.
They spent a few minutes just relearning each other, then Arthur pulled back, an amused smirk on his face.
"You spent your time waiting for me as a fortune teller. A fortune teller, Merlin," Arthur gave him a disapproving look that dissolved into one of wry amusement, "What a waste of talent."
"Whatever. You spent your time with girls, Arthur. Girls."
Arthur laughed, and because he could, he pressed lips to Merlin's, "What did you see in the crystal ball last night?" he asked, his fingers sliding up underneath Merlin's shirt.
Merlin laughed against his jaw, a breathless sound, "You'll find out soon enough."