A/N: As with all of my oneshots, unbeta'd, so I don't always catch all my mistakes. Point them out for me? It's been a while since I wrote anything but crack, so… Here's some romance/friendship/whatever the heck this is.
Merlin lounged back on the steps outside the castle, watching the sun paint the sky vivid reds and oranges. He relaxed. Oh, it had been a long time since he truly relaxed, just let his body melt into the structure he sat on, becoming part of the scenery. He always hoped that if he became enough of the background, no one would bother him… He was busy letting his soul sigh out his pent up stress. Right now he didn't think an army of immortal soldiers and a legion of angry Arthurs could get him to stand up.
No, if anyone wanted him to move, they could just deal with it.
He smiled a little, letting the dying sunlight warm his face. His back ached as all the pressure seemed to escape it and had he been standing, he'd have collapsed. No one was moving him today.
The click of heels and swish of skirts came from behind him, and he recognized them immediately for the assured vibe they seemed to give off.
She's not moving me, he thought comfortably as she sat down a little above and to the side of him. For a second, he wondered if she was going to stab him; but no, that would be a little hard to explain in public.
He went back to watching the sky turn as gold as his eyes when he used magic. Maybe it was magic.
Though, for obvious reasons, Uther never tried to execute the sky. Merlin smiled a little.
"Amused, Merlin?" said a sharp, bitter voice from behind him. How it had frozen in the year since she left. He wondered why no one else noticed it. She went on, "Planning to stab someone in the back?"
"I could ask you the same question," he pointed out lazily. "You are sitting behind me."
She huffed a little. "I never poi—"
Merlin cut off what he was sure would be a very unoriginal comeback, his head lolling to the side, casually exposing his neck to any and all weaponry. "Morgana, why are you here?"
The calm way he said it shocked her into answering truthfully. "To watch the sunset." Curses—she really needed to work on that natural truthfulness.
"Me too. I didn't know you liked watching the sunset." His blue eyes – so simply blue, so deep – stared into hers, and again she spoke the truth.
"I do. It's fiery."
He grinned. "Almost destructive?"
"Yes," she snapped defensively. "It destroys the day."
He nodded, closing those frightening – frightening? Now what had made her think that? – eyes, and letting his head rest on the step next to her thigh, completely unconcerned about everything. "You know," he said, his tone empty, "we don't have to fight, if you don't want. Just for tonight."
She nearly gasped, but his slack face lead her to think that he hadn't meant the words the way they sounded—of course he hadn't; she wouldn't ever agree to something like that, and he knew it. Then suddenly she realized, looking at him, that he was completely vulnerable, not even his ratty neckerchief for protection. And he didn't seem concerned that she could hurt him. He thought that she would agree not to fight with him today.
Why would he think that?
Rather stupid of him. She'd attacked his home, she'd kidnapped his master, and she'd hurt his friends. Why would she agree to a truce?
But, surprisingly enough, she found that she rather wanted to. She spent all her days in Camelot fighting battles; real ones and emotional ones, battles for power over the king and battles for power of her own facial expressions. Merlin was offering her a night off. Not even Morgause, who would give her anything, had ever thought to give her that.
And, truthfully, she had just come down here with the intent to watch the sun paint its bloody revenge against the sky. She hadn't seen anybody around until she was just a few feet away.
Sighing a little, she leaned back herself, letting Merlin and that tempting – tempting? Where in the world was she getting these adjectives? – open neck alone. She pulled her legs close to herself, enjoying the smooth way that they brushed against the stone steps, and let her eyelids cover her eyes, turning her vision purple.
After a moment, she heard him speak. "How's Morgause? Was she injured when the ceiling collapsed?"
Her eyes popped open and she glared at him, but he didn't seem like he was gloating, just asking.
"What's it to you?" she snapped, but then remembered that they weren't fighting, sighed, and said, "She's fine."
"And your ankle?"
"Fine. Merlin, just be quiet. I don't particularly want to talk to you. Actually, I don't want to at all."
"Of course, milady."
One day, she decided, she would figure out how he managed to make the words, spoken in such a polite tone, sound so teasing. Perhaps she would ask him before she killed him; she planned to do it slowly, so they would have plenty of time to talk. Of course, maybe he wouldn't tell her. That would be just like him. Maybe, she thought, maybe she would ask Arthur instead…
She let her thoughts drift off on a pink cloud near the horizon, distantly dreaming about being queen, but at the same time rather glad she was just sitting here, now, next to her unthreatening enemy.
"So, how's that next plan coming along?"
She sighed in irritation. "You are just honestly incapable of shutting up, aren't you?" Okay, scratch out all previous plans, she would have his tongue cut out first, so they wouldn't have any time to talk.
He chuckled, the sound made more guttural by his bent-over-backward throat. His grin was quite sweet; actually, so cute that it would be a shame for her to have to rip it off his face permanently. Maybe she wouldn't kill him slowly, but just force him to sit there and smile at her all day. Surely that would be cruel enough… She nearly giggled at the silly turn her thoughts had taken.
"You sound like Arthur, now," he told her, still relaxed.
"I thought we weren't going to be mean to each other?"
His grin grew, and even she shared the smile. Enemies or not, Arthur was always fun to pick on, even if the prince didn't like it himself. Maybe that would be what she would do with Arthur when she had him at her mercy; pick on him until he was just a quivering mass of self-consciousness. She smiled a little. Even Merlin would find that funny.
"Now will you be quiet?" she asked after a moment of unspoken amusement.
"But I want to hear how it's going."
She groaned. "Go die slowly and painfully for me, will you?"
"I think I'll pass," he replied, rather more seriously, but still smiling.
"It's going fine," she found herself saying, rather shockingly. "I'll get you this time. All of you."
She watched his smile leave, a little sad to see it go.
"Good luck with that," he told her. "I'll have to find another way to stop you, I suppose. Like always."
She smirked, but quickly let the expression fade. It didn't feel right in the fading light of day. It was too dishonest.
"Or maybe you won't," she said.
A single word flickered through Merlin's mind.
He really had an unfair advantage. He already knew that he would find a way to defeat her. He would find ways for many years to come, until she teamed up with Mordred and brought a good kingdom to its knees—unless someone killed her before then. It wouldn't be him. He'd tried. And if she did win someday, he supposed she would cut his ears off or whatever she had planned for him, and he would have to watch that dreaded smirk.
It was all down to destiny.
By all rights, destiny decreed that he shouldn't be sitting peacefully beside his enemy, talking to her as though they were friends. Perhaps destiny expected them to fight every waking hour. Perhaps it thought that he should be threatening her right now, and she should be waving a knife at him.
Destiny could take a hike; he really couldn't be bothered to feel any enmity towards her now. Leave that for later, when she was trying to kill his friends again. Right now, he couldn't help but be reminded of when they were friends. Back when they didn't try to hurt each other, and he thought her hair was lovely, and she smiled at his goofiness.
He realized with a shock that the air around them was dark, dusk; the sun had disappeared behind the earth and left them sitting in the almost-night. He hated to see it go.
Sighing, Merlin climbed heavily to his feet. She watched him with narrowed, sparkly eyes. Turning around and pulling his shirt into a better position, Merlin looked toward the lady on the steps.
"Until next time?" he asked her, extending a warm, strong hand to help her to her feet.
She took it, trying not to be placated or caught off guard by the funny way his ears stuck out, or the intense way his eyes burned. "Perhaps," she told him. If he wasn't dead before then. Because perhaps she should stick to her original plan and have him die slowly… But with his tongue, because he was much too funny to render mute.
He nodded and she inclined her head slightly, an almost civil goodbye.
As she climbed the steps, making her way towards the castle that she would one day own, he watched her go. A thought struck her—was he looking out for her? The idiot. Perhaps she would pluck out his eyes instead. Serve him right…
Merlin watched until she was safely inside, and then strolled onto his own room and bed, whistling a little, remembering better days when they could've sat together like that, and it wouldn't have been a lie.
Because he knew that was what the peace they'd declared for the night was. A lie, all a lie. He would attack her and she would kill him without a second thought, and yet they had the nerve to sit in silence and defy destiny. But it was beautiful lie, and it made his heart, broken so many times that he'd stopped noticing the pain, feel just a little healed. He would take the fake relief for now, without question, even if it made him hurt worse later.
He smiled. He just couldn't take the future seriously in the shadow of his attractive, traitorous lie.
And the murky gray dusk faded into inky night.