Title: Often So Much
Summary: Freya gets sick of Arthur and boots him back into the world a decade ahead of schedule.
Disclaimer: I own nothing
WARNINGS: 5x13 spoilers
AN: For my 300 Followers Fic Fest on tumblr. Requested by Jammeke. Sorry it's kinda short.
"I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them."
― E.V. Lucas
Avalon isn't so bad, if a little boring. The tower is fun to climb, but loses its charm about a year in. The grass is thick and green, the woods towering and ancient. Arthur wants to punch the Sidhe in the face, more often than not, but at least they keep things interesting. Freya – who knew Merlin, apparently, before she was an ethereal woman in a lake – mostly manages to keep Arthur out of trouble. Except for when he ran into Sophia.
He wonders if Merlin used magic then, too. It seems more likely than knocking Arthur out with a lump of wood.
Avalon has fine, white sandy beaches surrounded by rippling waters. When Arthur looks down into those waters, he can see his friends being reborn again and again, no idea of the glory of their former selves. He can see Merlin, slowly waiting and slowly bending beneath the weight of so many years, of so much waiting. It hurts, watching Merlin try to stand tall as the world turns around him. It hurts that Arthur knows there's nothing he can do.
And so, yes. Maybe he takes it out a little on Freya. But he's the once and future king, or so he's been told, and so he figures he's entitled to be a little bit trying.
He's been dead for one thousand, four hundred ninety-two years, one month, two weeks, and three days when Freya walks up to him and says, "Look, Arthur. It's not you, it's me."
"What?" he says.
"I just really think we should go our separate ways," she says. "And by we I mean you, of course. This is my lake."
"What?" says Arthur.
"It's just," she says, and for the first time since Arthur met her she won't look him in the eye. "Well, you're hardly the easiest person to get along with, are you?"
"What?" Arthur says, getting to his feet. He brushes the white sand from his trousers and crosses his arms. "I will have you know that I am a perfectly lovely person and –"
"The first time we met, you stabbed me," says Freya, her voice flat. She doesn't sound angry about it, only vaguely annoyed. "Remember?"
"Yes, well," says Arthur, and he does feel bad about that one. "You were a bloodthirsty flying cat at the time and I thought you were going to eat me and my men. I can't be held responsible."
"All the same," she says. "I can't deal with you anymore, Arthur Pendragon. I'm sending you back to Merlin."
Everything sort of stops, at that. "What?" he says, for the fourth time.
Freya looks smug, at that, and maybe even a little bit jealous. But Arthur still feels like someone's clobbered him over the head. It's been one thousand, four hundred ninety two years, one month, two weeks, and three days since he last spoke with Merlin, last saw him face to face without a ripple of water over everything. And, hell, Arthur has had people to talk to who knew all that he was during that time, but Merlin's been all alone. It makes his bones ache, the thought of going and actually standing next to Merlin, being able to reach out and tussle his hair, to poke him in his bony shoulder until he smiled.
"You said it would be an even fifteen hundred years," says Arthur. He's gone numb all over.
"It was," says Freya. "But then – oh, for the love of God, Arthur, I can't take you anymore. You're in paradise and all you do is complain. You're an insufferable pain in the neck half the time, and another quarter you're moping because you miss Merlin and your friends, and the final quarter you think you rule my lake. I had to stop the Sidhe king from trying to hang you, and you're dead. I'm sick of you, and since Merlin clearly wants you he can have you. I'm done."
"Oh," says Arthur. He doesn't know what else he can say.
"You're being let out early. You'll get some time to just be friends with Merlin for a few years before the real work begins. Aren't you pleased?" asks Freya.
"Of course I'm pleased," says Arthur, automatically. But then he's smiling, wide and real, and says, "When do I get to leave?"
Freya gets a wicked smile on her face that makes Arthur ill at ease.
"Say hello to Merlin for me!" she says, and pushes him face first into the water in front of them. Arthur sinks, and sputters, and his mouth fills with water, but then he's rising up and breaking through the surface.
He splashes around, coughing and spitting up water, before paddling the short distance to the shore. It's dark, probably very late in the night. He wades from the lake, and turns, and gives Freya a half hearted salute. "Thank you!" he bellows.
A spurt of water hits him in the face. He almost falls over.
Then he turns, and follows a path that was trodden down by Merlin's feet over the centuries until he comes to the house Merlin has been living in for the past hundred years. He knows, because he has watched. Merlin was not the only one who was waiting.
He knocks on the door. No answer. So he knocks again. And again. And again. And he keeps knocking and knocking and knocking until suddenly the door is wrenched open and he's face to face with a wrinkled old man with a long white beard and a thunderous expression. "Do you have any idea the time?" the man snarls in Merlin's voice, and starts to continue, but stops. He stares at Arthur, unblinking, and then slams the door in his face.
Arthur worries that he's broken Merlin.
He knocks again, quietly this time, and calls out, "Merlin? Merlin!"
He stands there for nearly half an hour, knocking and trying to coax Merlin back to the door. Arthur wonders if he should've went and found flowers or something. Just what did you give to your immortal best friend upon returning from the dead, Arthur asks himself. He wishes there were some instructions that came with all of this.
Eventually, Merlin peeks out from behind the door again. He looks young, now, not the grizzled old man who answered before. He's dark haired and exactly the same as the last time he and Arthur spoke, right down to the shaking hands and panicked eyes.
"Arthur?" Merlin whispers.
"Um," says Arthur, and he's not surprised at the lump in his throat. "Freya says hello."
And then his arms are filled with a sobbing Merlin, and maybe Arthur's crying a bit, too, but that's okay. They have time, now.
They have time.