It's been terribly long. I've been suffering from a huge writer's block for the first time in my life and it's been awful. I'm sorry for the people that are reading my other fic Jetsam, but I haven't been able to write anything down for a long time or simply didn't have the time. It's been really frustrating and sad because I really enjoy writing and I love all the reviews and support more than I can ever express.
But then there was this. This just came up to my mind all of a sudden. I just opened a new document and started writing. I wanted to publish this and ask what you all think about it. I'm not sure whether to continue this, so please review if you want another chapter.
Summary: It occured to Arthur - Merlin hadn't been lying. He really couldn't hold his breath as long as Arthur could.
Thank you! Please tell me what you think.
Story: In Deep Water (Chapter 1)
Merlin looked down. The cliff was quite high - not too high, because they would survive the jump from here but it would hurt. He swallowed and flickered his eyes to Arthur, unable to hide his hesitation and slight fear.
-I don't think this is a good idea." he said.
Arthur glanced to the trees, clearly anxious. They could hear Morgana's men from here, running and shouting, branches snapping in two and someone barking orders. There was a flash of worry for the other knights, but Arthur hid it - there wasn't simply any time for that. The rest of their patrol group - including Gwaine, Leon and Percival - had gotten separated from them in the attack, and that might be the only reason they were still alive. Four knights and Merlin against sixty of Morgana's men wasn't a fair fight, and it would have been suicidal not to escape.
But Arthur pushed those things from his mind quickly. They were running out of time. And fast. He turned his frantic eyes to the river below them - the flood was fortunately quite slow on the sides, so it shouldn't suck them into the main current. There were rocks sticking out here and there - Arthur only prayed they wouldn't hit them on the way down.
He turned his eyes on Merlin. Merlin was watching the woods, fingers twitching. He was thinking through the situation, tensed, even slightly scared. He was restless and nervous - even if he used this moment to reveal his magic and use it, he might not be able to hold back around thirty men that were chasing them. Not here, when they were literally on the edge of a cliff and they were surrounded from all directions. The voices were getting closer all the time.
-Merlin." Arthur called in a demanding voice. Merlin turned his eyes on him, biting his lip.
-You can swim, right?" Arthur asked in a hurried tone, studying Merlin's face. Merlin hesitated a moment, then nodded a little and looked away. Arthur instantly knew there was something Merlin wasn't telling him.
-Merlin?" he said with more loudly. -What is it? If you can't swim, we can't..."
-It's not that." Merlin cut in. He shook his head, glancing at the trees and then back to the river below then. The water looked cold, dark and uninviting.
-Well what is it then?! I think you understand the seriousness of the situation without any further explaining." Arthur said with a tensed voice, his every muscle stiff, already itching to leave the immediate danger. Their attackers had had archers. -So if you're just afraid to..."
-No. It's not that!" Merlin snapped. He took a deep breath and shook his head. -I can swim, yes, but the current is strong. Maybe you can get to the shore but I might not."
Arthur breathed out. -I can pull you away from the current if it comes to it. Besides, we are not going to swim to the other side. That's what they will be all expecting - I heard they already sent other men to the other shore to wait for us. So we are going to jump and then hide in the water until they leave."
Merlin turned to look at him, incredulous, mouth open. -What? Hide? We can't hide from them! Arthur, that's a river. The only way we can hide is if..." then Merlin's eyes widened and he shook his head. He looked at Arthur like the king had gone insane. Arthur gave him a meaningful look.
Then he glanced at the trees again - the sounds and voices were very close now, they could be here any minute now. Arthur took a deep breath, trying to calm his rapid heartbeat and the peak of adrenaline rushing through his veins. Merlin glanced nervously at the river, still looking incredulous. The king grabbed Merlin's arm and squeezed it to get his full attention. Merlin's eyes flickered back to him.
-So, when I say so, you will take a deep breath and dive." Arthur said, pronouncing every word clearly. -And you won't get up until I let you or they will kill us in seconds. Do you understand me, Merlin? You have to do exactly as I say."
Merlin just shook his head. -This is insane, Arthur. We have a much better chance if we try to swim to other side. " he said with a hurried tone.
Arthur was starting to lose patience. He was getting more and more restless because Morgana's men were getting closer all the time. He could hear them quite clearly even from here.
-It's too risky." Arthur said. -It will take too much time to cross it - the main current is strong and for a weakling like you it's definitely too strong. The archers will shoot us down before we can reach the other side. It's better if we trick them to think we ran towards east or have already crossed the river."
In any other situation, Merlin would have protested to be called 'a weakling' but their situation was far too serious for that. And their time was running out. He just stared at the king. He hesitated for a moment.
-I can't hold my breath for very long." Merlin stuttered out.
-What?" Arthur asked, his voice pitching. The wave of frustration washed over him. Arthur took a deep breath and shifted his weight restlessly. -Please tell me you just made that up or..."
-No, I didn't." Merlin said. -When we were eight years old, me and Will went swimming and he taught me to dive. Then we made a competition about who could hold it the longest and I lost every time. And then Will teased me about it so one time I wanted to win and...I just forced myself to stay underwater."
Merlin didn't mention he had used magic to do so. It had been one of the worst ideas he had ever had to use magic for. He swallowed. -And I almost drowned."
Arthur blinked, staring at him for a moment in surprise. He quickly wondered how stupid and stubborn Merlin had been even as a child and how easily Merlin could have died long before they even met. The king hesitated a moment, thinking quickly. Their attackers could be here any second now.
-Arthur, I'm serious." Merlin said quietly. He might have been able to block the arrows with some kind of spell if they tried to cross the river - but using magic to stay underwater was something he had sworn to his mother to never do again. It had almost cost him his life once.
Arthur looked at him, clearly torn between two options.
Merlin took a breath, flashing a weak smile. -You can leave me behind. I can run to another direction and distract them..."
-No. Not a chance." Arthur said immediately. Then suddenly the first few men could be seen between the trees, running towards them, and they both knew they had to make the decision very fast.
There were three long seconds when they just looked at each other, bodies tense, eyes locked, the river running deep below them. Then Arthur just shook his head.
-No. We have a much better chance to survive this by doing it my way." he said and pulled his sword belt quickly off with rushed movements and threw it to the side. His sword and the hilt made a small clanging noise while hitting the ground. They would only cause problems if he jumped with it.
-Arthur..." Merlin tried once more.
The king shook his head. - No, Merlin. Do exactly as I said and we will get through this. Alright, ready?"
Merlin just stared at him with slightly widened eyes, wondering if this was the moment he should just turn back and try to fight their attackers with magic. But in the back of his mind, he knew that he couldn't hold them all back. It would be a suicide. But jumping into the water and going along Arthur's plan seemed drastic thing to do. There were too many risks - hitting the rocks, getting seen, getting sucked to the main current or simply running out of air. But for a brief moment, Merlin realized he wasn't even afraid for his own life - but risking Arthur's by doing this.
Arthur turned towards the river. -On the count of three, we jump down. Whatever happens, do not panic, Merlin. And don't let go of me, because it will be dark in the water and you can get sucked into the current. So stay close to me. And take a deep breath."
-Arthur." Merlin said. There wasn't a lot of things he was afraid of, but he could still remember how horrible the feeling of drowning had been. He knew Arthur could hold his breath for a long time - he had even bragged about it in some feasts. But for Merlin that was a whole another thing - after he had almost drowned, his mother hadn't let him dive at all. He was on a thin ice with this.
The king's eyes locked with his. Arthur tried to look calm but Merlin could see the slight hesitation and fear through his facade.
-I really can't hold my breath for very long." Merlin said, feeling irritated and anxious towards himself that he couldn't.
-Yes you can. You have to." Arthur said in a tensed voice. Their attackers were already running fast towards them, shouting orders to the others, pulling their swords out.
-Alright, one." Arthur said, starting to count. Merlin felt his magic to shift restlessly - he had a bad feeling about this and his magic hardly ever got it wrong either. Merlin's heart took pace and the adrenaline bumped through his veins loudly. Arthur took a grip so tight from Merlin's left arm that it hurt. -Two. Take a deep breath." he said.
Merlin squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, hoping desperately that they would survive this. Then he opened his eyes again and he caught a glimpse of Arthur leaning forward.
And then Merlin drew a deep, long breath and before he had time to register it, he was already falling. The water got closer in a fraction of seconds, and Merlin could see a flash of the trees before he hit the water.