Oh my GOD. I can't believe this is done. I honestly, honestly canNOT believe I did it. First fic I have EVEREVER finished in my life.
This is for Love is a strange thing, who very calmly and very bluntly helped me sort the Shit from the Fit. She deserves more than a mention and a dedication, she deserves a frickin' star named after her. Love you, Sadie!
A solid 'T' for some strong language (Arthur drops the F-bomb a fair bit :/), mentions of suicide and abuse, implied adult situations.
Allow me to present to you my precious Inevitability. Broken Merlin. Unbreakable Arthur. Both seemingly predestined to find each other again, and again, and again until they finally, finally click. It's going to annoy you. It may make you cry. It's slow and it's agonizing and it's completely fragmented, but that's life, isn't it? Life is a mess of coffee and biros and rosin and snow and crazy friends and scary pasts, and it's the moving forward that finally makes you come ALIVE. And sometimes your life is governed by one thing
"Spread your wings and fly away
Fly away, far away
Spread your little wings and fly away
Fly away, far away
Pull yourself together,
Cos you know you should do better,
That's because you're a free man…."
Some things really are inevitable.
13 November, 2004, 08.42
Arthur hates the rain. He ducks low against the heavy shower, turning the collar of his trenchcoat around his neck and holding his briefcase over his head. He hates how desperately empty it makes him feel.
He curses as a gust of wind blows needles of rain across his face, raising his hands to cover his cheeks from the stinging wind. Unexpectedly, the movement of his arms causes his foot to stutter on the curb, and Arthur hovers in the air for a moment, his arms wind-milling, before he stumbles awkwardly out into traffic.
A horn blares directly in his ear, and Arthur, half-crouched in the road, is caught up in the way the raindrops seem to freeze before the headlights, catching their yellow glow and glittering in the air. His heart aches, and suddenly his mind goes entirely blank. His eyes drift shut peacefully. Would it be so bad to just—?
A body hits him sharply in the side. He rolls into the flooded gutter, his briefcase flipping open and spilling documents over the gritty water.
Arthur breathes. He breathes deeply for a moment, caught in the arms of his savior and the side of his face pressed into the icy water. Cars continue to honk, drivers leaning out of their windows to yell at him, but Arthur just breathes.
He marvels in the sensation.
The person holding him is panting roughly; deep, rasping gusts that disrupt the tempo of Arthur's smooth breaths. It's a young man, painfully thin and surrounded by thin, sprawling limbs and an enormously long striped scarf. His eyes are deeply shadowed and his dark hair—in the rain, it's impossible to tell if it's black or brown—is sticking up madly on one side and drenched to his skull on the other, a bit too long and hanging in choppy clumps around his strikingly narrow face. Striking…his eyes are incredibly blue, a deep and uncommon color that seems to drill right into Arthur's head.
He's also holding a wad of Arthur's papers, which he's evidently fished from the gutter.
Terribly important papers. Arthur stares at them. The world snaps back into focus
"Jesus Christ!" Arthur stumbles to his knees and snatches the waterlogged papers from the dark-haired man, straightening them desperately against his trousers. The ink words are smeared and unintelligible, the legal stock they are printed on breaking apart against his wool slacks. "Fuck!"
The man watches him, still splayed half-on the curb and half-off of it, and Arthur lashes out at him, wanting to cry but forcing his increasing frustration on this innocent stranger instead. He towers over the man, his anger making him taller.
"You idiot! Do you realize how important these papers are?"
The man cringes, his very-blue eyes flicking to the road. Arthur follows his gaze and notices for the first time that the muddy pavement is littered with shiny papers that flutter desperately beneath the rolling treads of splashing tires. One is kicked up from the road and skids towards the curb, and Arthur sees what once had probably been a black and white photograph of a mother and child. He feels a twisting sensation in his stomach as the man pulls it towards himself with one long finger, briefly holding it before his elfin face before letting it drop into the puddle. Arthur swallows, crumples his ruined documents in his fist, and walks on.
He pretends that he doesn't feel guilty for leaving the man in the road without so much as a 'thank you'.
He listens to the pounding of his heart. His eyes are trained on the angry, possibly suicidal blonde man's retreating back, a back covered in a wool gabardine trenchcoat that is stained with dark patches of dirty water.
His fingers itch, his chest squeezing as the inspiration settles quietly over his mind and he realizes a missed opportunity. His camera is on his breakfast table, but he can't ignore the feeling that this photograph, of this angry, awkward man with his bright head down and his wet shoulders hunched as he fords through the otherwise emotionless businessmen, would be his best photograph in a long time.
He looks at the scattered portfolio and feels like crying.
16 November, 2005, 07.24
One unremarkable winter Thursday, Arthur wakes up with a crick in his neck and a flush of goose pimples across his bare arms. He rubs his hands over his face, gingerly prodding the tender circles beneath his eyes. He hates that feeling of unexplainable dread one sometimes gets upon regaining consciousness after a night of too much Gouda cheese and hard ale.
He hisses as his toes brush over the cool white tile of his bathroom floor. Today will not be a good day.
Merlin Emrys sits on the subway, a cardboard cup of Costa ristretto in his left hand and the broken bits of his life in the other.
The photographs he holds are slivers from moments of his past, choppy glimpses of the road he has walked. They show a girl, her dark hair tangled and curling out of the knit hat she wears, her lips and cheeks slapped red from the cold. Her hand, linked in his, and the paintbrush they draw across a canvas together. Their legs, his long and pale and hers soft between them, folded together on a white landscape of sheets. Her pain, laid bare even as she hides from it, eyes turned to the sky and tears tinged with kohl on her cheeks. Suitcases, and her back as she pulls them away from him, her arm raised and hailing a cab with a desperate swing, and his hand extended to her, palm up with his fingers curled loosely over her key.
He closes the portfolio with a flick of his wrist and sets it neatly on his lap, taking a sip of his bland coffee as he fishes for a felt-tipped pen in his carrier. He uncaps it with his mouth and scrawls her name across the scrap of tape running the length of the portfolio's leather spine.
He crams portfolio and pen into his carrier and takes a long pull of his coffee, trying to steel himself from emotion. Freya is gone now, just images wrapped in another black folder. Just another name to add to his lonely shelf.
He groans, and lets his forehead drop against the window. His face is reflected back at him, warped and twisted in the vandalized surface. He smiles slightly. Warped and twisted, just like him—just like the negatives tucked into his breast pocket that burn against his heart.
The slip of paper frowns at him, sharp, typeface words slashing his heart as his eyes drift over them.
How can he, Arthur Pendragon, be fired from his position as MD of Pendragon Incorporated? Can you even fire a MD?
He groans, and picks himself up from his seat on the back steps of his former workplace, staring straight ahead as the smokers leaning against the dumpsters watch him with cold, calculating eyes.
He doesn't know what to do with himself, so he goes to the park. He sits on a bench and holds his head in his hands. The incriminating paper sits next to him and flutters in the slight breeze, adamant that it not be forgotten.
Impeached. His employees have impeached him. He isn't sure if that's possible, but they have, and now he has no pride and no job.
He releases his hair and takes up the slip, stretching it to its paper limits and reading the words once more.
…selfish motives have led the corporation into demeaning lawsuits and…
…improper use of power...
Arthur grits his teeth and tears the paper with one solid motion. The satisfying rip drives away the sounds of his possessions clattering off of his desk and into the rubbish bin against the sweeping arm of his brother Mordred. He smiles slightly and rips the two halves again, imagining they are Mordred's face.
"You're wiped away, Arthur. Gone. Pendragon Incorporated begins again today."
"Always father's little boy, weren't you, Arthur? Did what he said even when you knew it was wrong. You're just a pawn, Arthur, a playing piece under his thumb, and look where you've dragged our company."
"He's dead, Arthur, and you're as good as it, acting like his ghost, the bloody tyrant. Get out."
Mordred. Arthur remembers his birth, how his mother and his father alike fell for the crystalline eyes and fragile complexion. How his father, at last, could show off his biological heir to the world. How he had ignored Arthur from that point forward.
Arthur's mother had loved him. He was sure of it. He was born of another man, yes, but not falsely. His birth father had been a painter, French, and beautiful, just like his mother. Arthur had been created out of pure love on a starry, starry night where the sky was black pricked with blue and the Seine had laughed against its dark banks. His mother had been young, painfully so, and delicate as lace, her life centered around her little boy from the mysterious painter who came with the spring and was gone by summer. He vaguely remembers their small apartment with the river view, and his mother who loved him holding him up to the huge window in their empty loft and naming the stars.
Uther had been twenty-seven years older and kind, understanding of her bastard child and their low economic stature, entirely in love with her beauty and her paints. When they married she was twenty-two and Arthur wasn't mentioned to Uther's family.
For a while he was treated exquisitely well. They were a perfect family, a dark-haired father and a light-haired mother with their beautiful blue-eyed child. Arthur loved his new father with all of a son's adoration. Igraine was weak and unable to have a child, so Arthur was named heir to the Pendragon line, and the Pendragons were happy.
Then, by some miracle, there was Mordred. He was all milk-colored skin and dark hair and silver-blue eyes like his father. His mother loved him with the force of a hurricane, and by that time she hadn't the strength to do so. Igraine died shortly after Mordred could handle solid foods, and that was the end of Arthur's happy childhood.
Arthur wasn't the true heir anymore, but he was eager to please and always tried to make his father proud. He turned out top in his class, graduated from Cambridge with honors, and worked his way through the business ladder at Pendragon Incorporated. He was the logical successor when Uther fell ill and Mordred was still fresh from secondary school.
Uther died the next year, and Mordred did not attend the funeral.
Sibling rivalry had always been high between the two. Still, Arthur felt a sense of brotherly compulsion to put Mordred to work at a midlevel job in the family business. After that, it was easy for Mordred and his blue Pendragon eyes to sneak up the business ladder and worm his way into the hearts of the workers. He'd been elected chairman and had held the position for less than a week before striking Arthur down.
Now Arthur sits on a bench in a park, watching children playing in the purple lawn and being led away from frosty flowerbeds by their mothers. His heart gives a sad twist; he's given up this, a family, a sense of belonging, to please his father—his dead father, a father who gave up loving him twenty years ago.
Someone sits on the bench next to him. He glances up and sees an angular man folding into himself. Arthur considers asking him why he's curling around his heart, but decides against it when the answer creeps down his spine like ice water.
Everyone is broken in some way. Everyone has issues, and most people can't solve them. The whole damn world is full of sad fuckers like Arthur and this nameless man, living without a purpose and without a future, sitting on park benches breaking under the blue arch of the sky. Arthur cracks a smile and releases his tight fists, letting the pieces of his past fall like confetti onto the frost-hardened ground.
The man turns his head to look at Arthur from beneath his bent arms. Arthur would later say that he looked like a frog when he did this, but the man does it with such awkward elegance that he would be lying.
"Life sucks," the man says, a small smile flickering over his dark lips.
Arthur laughs, and it feels wrong and empty in his twisting stomach. "Yeah, it does."
"Coffee?" the man says, straightening his back but drawing his knee against his chest as he does so. He reaches around himself and produces a rather beaten commercial coffee cup. "It's a ristretto, but it's from Costa so it's shitty and all."
Arthur takes it, his bare fingers touching the man's holey gloves as they briefly hold the cup together. He pulls in a long drag of the coffee, and the man is right. "Disgusting," he says as he passes it back.
The man smiles again, and Arthur notices something with much surprise. This is the man, who, months before, had pulled him out of traffic. He is the very same man, down to the singular bone structure and the unnecessarily long scarf, and is now cocking his head and considering Arthur intently. His eyes are narrowed but not in an unfriendly manner—he appears to be judging Arthur in some way.
Arthur swallows and looks at his hands. The skin there is dry and cracked and dusted with light hairs that catch the cold sunlight but seek invisibility. He flexes his fingers and the cracks widen momentarily. He imagines that in that instant, he can see down into the cells, into the very atoms that he is made of.
"Thanks," he mutters, and the man nods. The acknowledgement is not for the coffee and they both know it.
Arthur is suddenly afflicted with a desire to produce some sort of tribute for this broken man who stepped out of his world to save another's life. He stands and offers his hand. The man stares at it in mild shock. He doesn't take it, but Arthur doesn't recall his gesture.
"Want to get some lunch?" he asks, and he is unfamiliar with having the time or desire to offer a meal to someone other than himself or his father.
The man shakes his head and draws a soft leather carrier into his lap, extracting an elderly SLR camera and cradling it between his gloved hands. "I have a previous engagement."
Arthur nods, presses his hands hesitantly against his trousers, and walks away uncertainly, as if he doesn't know where to go next.
Merlin watches him walk away again, and this time he is armed. He smiles as he raises the camera to eye level. It is just how it should be; the blonde man in his trenchcoat, head down as he walks with uncertain purpose, standing out from the mothers and children who part to his stride.
Mmm, sorry if the horizontal rulers are annoying, I never know what to put for page breaks -_-
Please REVIEW! I will update next Monday.