Plastic Swords and Screwdrivers
Helloooo! So here we are, the difficult second fanfiction! Thank you if you've read my first one 'The bells of Saint Merlin' and if you haven't, WHY NOT?! Anyway, this fic! I've been working on it for a while now so I really hope you love reading it as much as I've loved writing it. It's loosely based on the Doctor Who episode 'Closing Time' which i know aired donkeys years ago now! Contains some spoilers for Merlin series 5...well some big ones actually.
I won't bore any longer...ON WITH THE FIC! (and pleeease review at the end! Ta!)
"Okay seriously!" exclaimed Merlin, throwing down his broom as dramatically as possible and glaring up at his tormenter. "What is your problem?"
The teddy bear, who's oversized googly eyes had been following Merlin all afternoon, just stared innocently back at him. Merlin had no idea what wrong he had done this stuffed animal but the way it sat up on that top shelf taunting him was really setting Merlin on edge. He truly hated working in the cuddly toy aisle. In fact, he hated working in any of the aisles in this stupid toy department.
So the question was, how had Merlin ended up working at the Sanderson and Granger department store in Colchester?
In truth, it didn't matter where he went, he would always be lost and he would always be miserable. His life was a thousand years and a million miles from what he had in Camelot. He had never really realised how perfect it was until it had been ripped from him in Avalon all those years ago. The weight of his destiny had made him blind to everything that was so perfect about his existence.
The toy department of Sanderson and Granger's was a good a place as any, that didn't stop him hating everything about it though. Having to smile and endure screaming children all day, everyday, wasn't exactly Merlin's idea of fun.
He let out a shaky breath and returned to his discarded broom, trying to ignore his newest enemy. However as he turned his back, he still couldn't ignore those huge, plastic eyes burning into him.
Merlin spun round angrily. "Oh is that how you want it, huh?" When the bear didn't retaliate and continued to gaze down at him with that large toothy, rather terrifying grin, Merlin lost it. He rolled up his sleeves right up to his bony elbows, pushed back his mop of floppy black hair, cracked his knuckles and announced his plan of attack.
"Right! I'm coming up!"
Merlin sized up the shelf, nervously looking it up and down and realising just how tall the thing actually was, before finding his first foothold. He shook it slightly, testing its strength, and dragged himself up as he started his assent. It was hard work, and he managed to dislodge a few stuffed elephants on his way up, but finally he was face to face with the excessively furry bear that had been causing him so much grief.
"Listen you!" he paused a moment to get his breath back and gulped uneasily as he remembered that yes, this shelf really was high up. "I don't know who you think you are, but you really don't want to mess with me. You have no idea how powerful I am. I have lived, loved and lost for over a thousand years. If you had seen what I have seen, you'd want to rip those googly eyes right out of your sockets! You little piece of…"
"What are you doing up there mister?"
Merlin whipped his head round so frantically that he accidentally lost his grip on the shelf. He felt himself falling backwards and swung out wildly with flailing arms for something to grab onto. He ended up grabbing the blasted teddy bear and toppled back to earth, landing with a painful thud on the carpeted shop floor. He lay there for a moment, spread eagled with eyes squeezed shut in agony. Then, with great effort, Merlin turned his head in the direction of the distraction. His vision was blurry and his head was throbbing, so it took him while to focus on the little girl standing at the end of the aisle. She was dressed from head to toe in pink with a frayed sparkly tutu and a head of untamed curly blonde hair. She clutched a crayon defiled Barbie doll to her chest and had noticeable chocolate stains all round her mouth, which was currently in an o shape as she stared, bemused, at the barely conscious Merlin.
"Why were you talking to that teddy mister?"
"Me? I wasn't talking to the teddy bear" groaned Merlin, pushing himself slowly off the floor and into a sitting position. He realised that he was still gripping the bear round the neck and flung it to one side. "I was…" Merlin racked his brains as the girl waited for an explanation. In the end only one came to mind.
"I was looking for woodworm."
Merlin grimaced as the words fell clumsily out of his mouth. Woodworm? The shelves were metal for gods' sake! He barely got away with that excuse in Camelot, let alone here. He looked back at the girl to see if she had bought the story, but she had run off from the strange man who talked to imaginary woodworm.
Out of the corner of his eye, Merlin caught sight of the bear leaning lopped sided against the shelf.
"That was your fault" he pointed out childishly. Yet again, the bear didn't reply and Merlin decided that enough was enough. He looked over to his shoulder to check that no more curious children were watching, before raising his arm and aiming it at the defenceless cuddly toy.
"Last chance?" he offered, being the great and merciful warlock he was. But the teddy looked on, unimpressed, with the same cross eyed, irritating, googly eyes as it always had done and always would. Merlin sighed and felt his magic tremble to life angrily inside him. His nostrils flared and his eyes burned a furious shade of amber. The bear erupted into a small cloud of fur, fluff and googly eyes which scattered across the aisle.
Satisfied that he had got his revenge, he reached over for the broom he had been using to clear up the last two bears. The toys were really going to have to stop pissing him off soon, if he carried on blowing them up like this he'd end up losing his job and he really couldn't afford to be doing that. He was lucky to have gotten himself this one, his CV wasn't exactly sparkling. It seemed a warlock with no qualifications whatsoever wasn't very employable.
After Merlin had finished sneakily sweeping the remains of the bear underneath the shelf and out of sight, he decided to move on to work on a different toy, something he couldn't break so easily. He straightened his neckerchief and stuffed his hands deep into the pockets of his worn out, oversized jeans before trudging out of the aisle.
The Toy department's main walkway was a sensory overload. Everything from umbrellas to fairy lights to bunting hung from the ceiling, all of it excessively vibrantly coloured. Discarded toys and trolleys proved to be a health and safety hazard whilst energetic, bouncy and incredibly infuriating music played on repeat at very loud volumes. To Merlin, an all powerful sorcerer with heightened senses, this was enough to make him feel suicidal every time he had to walk down it. Wanting to spend little time as possible in the area that gave him the most migraines, Merlin hastily made his way down the shop's busier section. He dodged hundreds of hyper children, ducked to avoid miniature helicopters buzzing round his head and skipped over a number of remote controlled trucks swerving round his boots. Several aisles branched off from the main one and he now scanned the signs which told him their names as he ambled along, trying to find somewhere to make himself useful.
Before long he came to one of the display cases. This one was advertising a new range of Lego castles which Merlin hadn't had the chance to look at yet. He'd always liked the little plastic figures, mainly because none of them flashed, buzzed, beeped, or randomly played annoying music like so many of the other toys did. He kneeled down and peered through the glass at the hundreds of tiny people, all of them staring blankly but smiling brightly up at him. The display case was made up of three levels, one castle per shelf.
The first, which sat at eye level, was obviously some sort of haunted castle. Ghosts and skeletons perched on the midnight black battlements with their arms above their heads, pulling comical faces. Mini planks of wood were nailed across the equally mini windows and turrets sat at odd, wonky angles, looking like they could topple off at any moment onto one of the unsuspecting zombies below.
The middle shelf consisted of a fairy palace. Merlin raised his eyebrows at the sheer amount of glitter which had found its way onto the bubblegum pink castle walls. Little plastic flowers and butterflies were scattered carelessly around and a prince and princess stood kissing sheepishly on the drawbridge.
Then Merlin turned his attention to the last of the three castles sat on the bottom shelf.
His heart, which had been beating steadily for over a thousand years, missed a beat. Not taking his eyes, which were wide with shock and glassy with awe, from the castle he fumbled with the ring of keys round his belt. On finding the right key, he jammed it desperately into the lock and flung open the glass window, very nearly smashing it. He hoisted the castle cautiously out of the cabinet and lifted it to his face, slowly rising from his kneeling position.
It was Camelot.
Every brick was placed perfectly. It was the spitting image, if slightly smaller, of the only place he would ever call home, standing maybe half a metre tall and the same wide. Even in Lego form it was just as striking and majestic as he had remembered it. Everything from the tiny crimson flags to the immense pearly white turrets screamed out at Merlin. The citadel, the market, the training grounds, the city gates, the lower town, it was all too perfect for words.
And the figures! Dozens of them dotted around the structure all seemed to remind him of someone he had known and loved whilst in Camelot. There was a grey haired man by the gates dressed in robes maybe a little too colourful for his age. With that grumpy expression and raised eyebrow, it was all too obvious that this was Gaius. A girl with undeniable beauty smiled sweetly from one of the turret windows. Merlin had forgotten just how stunning Gwen had looked in her royal gowns. Uther was looking as bored as ever on the balcony and even Morgana was grinning evilly from the battlements.
All the colour, the wonder and spectacle of the rest of the toy shop was forgotten as Merlin held with trembling hands this painful reminder of everything he had once had and since lost. If he closed his eyes, he could picture himself back in the city, walking through the streets, something he had missed doing ever since he had left Camelot for the last time all those years ago.
As Merlin stood clutching the castle, eyes closed and trapped in a peaceful trance of memories and fantasies, he didn't notice the screaming fat boy jogging up to him. By the time the high pitched wailing had reached his ears, it was too late.
He ran headfirst into Merlin's groin.
His eyes shot open, the castle tumbling out of his hands as the pain spread horrifically. He barely had time to scream before the traumatised child pushed desperately past him. He lost his balance, smashing his head awkwardly off the display case as his limp body plummeted towards the floor. The last thing he saw was his castle, lying in a million pieces, smashed and destroyed, on the ground in front of him. Then the world went silent and black.
Merlin was in no way a stranger to being woken up in strange ways, but he had to admit this was a first. Slapping, kicking, several buckets of water, dragons, ghosts, fires and smelling salts had all awoken Merlin in the past, but never in a thousand years had he been dragged back to consciousness by jammy dodgers.
As he came round, he slowly became aware of about five of the biscuits lodged clumsily in his mouth. It was also at about that moment that he realised he couldn't actually breathe. Panicking, Merlin forced himself to roll over onto his side and promptly began coughing up the powdery mess. Once he was satisfied that he wasn't about choke on Jammy Dodgers, Merlin collapsed back onto the floor. With a few deep breaths, he struggled to understand what was happening around him.
"Ha! See I told you! Jammy Dodgers can cure anything! And you lot didn't believe me! Never doubt the healing powers of the great Jammy dodger!"
Merlin heard the groans of a crowd of children, who were probably hoping to see their first dead body, and the sound of tiny feet scampering away from the scene. The next thing he knew, his eyelids were being savagely prised open and forced to look up at a huge face beaming triumphantly down at him. A pair of extremely high, prominent cheekbones (very similar to Merlin's own), several creases from too much mad grinning and a pronounced jaw line shaped his square face. Kind, murky green eyes frantically inspected Merlin, brow furrowed with worry.
"You alright? That was a nasty tumble you took there! No blood though! Thank goodness! I'm really not very good when it comes to blood…"
As the man babbled nervously on, Merlin swatted away the hand that had been poking and prodding away at his face before pulling himself up onto his elbows. Suddenly a sharp pain shot up his right arm causing Merlin to nearly fall backwards again. He contorted his arm round to find the source, a single white Lego brick stuck to his elbow.
"Oh" sighed Merlin slowly, plucking the brick from his skin and examining it carefully. He remembered that last awful image of his castle, his little Camelot, broken and scattered across the shop floor before he had blacked out. His heart sank right down to his stomach as he glanced over the shoulder of the man knelt opposite him. It was still lying in bits and pieces around the glass cabinet.
"I'm the Doctor by the way! Here to Help!"
He glanced back, irritated, at the man who was proudly brandishing his name tag in Merlin's face as if expecting him to be somehow impressed by this fact. 'The Doctor' was clearly not about to leave him in peace, so Merlin took a moment to get a full look at him.
His tawny brown locks had been styled back with precision, which he kept running his bony fingers through. He wore a faintly checked sky blue shirt supported by blindingly red breeches plus an equally bright bow tie to match. The colours were enough to give anyone a headache. Taking this all in, Merlin did some simple addition. Strange dress sense + faultless hair = probably gay.
Merlin had nothing against gay people, but the fact the Doctor had been so very eager to help a defenceless, unconscious, young man wasn't sending off great signals. Merlin was terrified he had attracted some serious unwanted attention and alarm bells were ringing in his already pounding head.
"The Doctor, huh?" inquired Merlin, very slowly beginning to shuffle backwards and away from the man. "Dodgy name to have working in a kid's shop, Isn't it?"
The Doctor stared back, baffled at the question. He straightened his bowtie defensively before replying "No one's said anything so far?"
"How long have you been working here?"
"About 10 minutes."
Both men laughed, Merlin completely forgetting about his escape attempt. This was already the longest conversation he'd had with any of his colleagues, most of whom spent most their shift smoking round the back of the shop. He'd forgotten how felt to have a friend, or something close to that.
"Well, erm, welcome to Hell! If you need any help, just shout." Merlin smiled warmly before lifting himself steadily onto his feet. He realised too late that his shoelaces had come undone in the fall. He took one step and very nearly tumbled into his second display of the day, this time a pyramid of neatly stacked Barbie dolls. The Doctor acted quickly, jumping forward and grabbing Merlin's sleeve before he could fall and cause anymore destruction.
"He said you were clumsy…but this?" muttered the Doctor under his breath, too quiet for Merlin to properly hear, whilst shaking his head in dismay
"Excuse me?" Merlin half shrieked, very much aware that the Doctor was still gripping his arm tightly.
"Nothing, Nothing, I really think you should sit down, that's all." The Doctor led a struggling Merlin over to a nearby pile of beanbags opposite the display case and shoved him down with a force Merlin hadn't thought the gangly man capable of. When he tried to jump up again, the Doctor grabbed both his wrists and pulled him down, kneeling beside him.
Merlin was close to tears, he was no longer worried that this man wanted to take his virginity from him, no, he was after something else. One proper look in those shadowy eyes told him that he wasn't someone to be reckoned with, despite first appearances Merlin had so easily fallen for. He was a master of disguise, a dangerous weapon, a man who had been hunted and outcast for being someone he had to be. Friends were not a luxury he could afford. The Doctor wasn't just some simple gay shop assistant. He was so much more than that. He was a man on a mission, a mission where he wasn't about accept failure just because Merlin didn't feel up to cooperating.
The Doctor was more like him than he could've ever imagined possible, which only succeeded in scaring Merlin even more.
Merlin yanked, tugged and pulled as hard as he could against the Doctor's grip, tear after tear rolling down his reddening face. However the Doctor just looked calmly at him with those Godlike eyes and a look similar to pity written across his features as Merlin struggled against him. Like a concerned parent to a panicked child, the Doctor leaned forward and spoke softly the cowering man before him.
"Its okay Merlin, its fine, please, I don't want to hurt you, you don't need to fear me Merlin."
Merlin froze, a horrified expression painted on his face. What had he just called him? Before he could stop himself, his pupils exploded gold with terror and the Doctor screamed out in agony, releasing his grip on Merlin. He stood up and shook his burnt palms frantically, trying to dispel the heat that had suddenly spread across Merlin's wrists. Merlin watched the scene in front of him, frozen to the beanbag in shock. He could've escaped, made a run for it and he never seen the Doctor again. But at the same time he couldn't, not now. The Doctor knew a lot more than he was letting on, how had he known Merlin's name?
Merlin looked down at his own plastic nametag and sure enough it read 'Here to help', just like the Doctor's. However Merlin's badge was older and he had had to write his own name on it, instead of the fancy computer processed font the Doctor's name was in. Written in faded black marker, in his own cluttered handwriting read the name…
Merlin hadn't used his own name since Gwen had sent out a search party to bring him back to Camelot after Arthur's death. He couldn't face the idea of returning to an Arthur-less Camelot, so had adopted the name 'Daegal' so his movements couldn't be tracked by the knights. After that he would change his name every few years or so to remain under the radar. He had been Gaius, Percival, Ballinor, Gilli, Leon, Tyr, Will and Lance among others until finally, he had become Arthur. Out of all his loved ones, Arthur's name seemed to have aged the best. So how had the Doctor known to call him Merlin?
He watched as the Doctor kissed his raw palms better before straightening and cautiously approaching Merlin, flopping down onto one of the other beanbags.
"I'm sorry" admitted the Doctor "Things weren't meant to happen like this, I swear." He leaned forward, staring into space and absentmindedly twiddling his thumbs. "Mind you, how were you supposed to react to a one thousand year old time travelling alien with two hearts eh?"
An alien? How could that be? He wasn't quite sure why but already he seemed to Merlin to be one of the most human-human beings he had ever met. His eyes sparkled with kindness and wisdom which surely couldn't be imitated by another race. Everything from the way his voice seemed to get squeaky when he was excited, to the way his left collar was turned up ever so slightly like an untidy school boy, was human.
"Don't believe me?" asked the Doctor, the corners of his mouth turned up in amusement at Merlin's sceptic face. "Watch."
He reached deep into his trouser pocket and drew out what looked at first glance to be some kind of wand. Merlin was about to politely point out that they weren't allowed to steal the toys and that the Doctor should probably return it back to the Harry Potter section, when he noticed strange engravings faintly printed into the copper segments. Little circles and spirals, some sort of language, decorated it along with various tiny knobs, dials and buttons. This was no toy, it was a weapon.
The Doctor flicked his wrist very naturally, obviously having done the same thing a million times before. Four claws suddenly twisted up from the body of the device and a small green bulb flashed to life between them. The Doctor waved it around until the light fell on the carcass of the LEGO Camelot lying at their feet. The Doctor threw a mischievous grin in Merlin's direction before flicking one of the miniature switches on the rim. A whirring sound pierced their ears and the gadget vibrated ever so slightly in the Doctor's grip. At the same time, the pieces of castle were vibrating ten times harder where they lay on the shop floor. Each and every LEGO brick danced with energy at the command of the Doctor's weapon. Merlin stared in wonder as the Doctor flung his wrist upwards like a conductor and his orchestra of LEGO bricks flew through the air towards each other. Tiny clicks met their ears as the pieces fitted together and the same LEGO Camelot Merlin had accidentally destroyed only minutes before was raised from the ground.
Before long, the Doctor pulled back the gadget and a newly rebuilt Camelot sat in front of them. Merlin flung himself down onto the floor to marvel at the castle, but it felt emptier, less alive than it had done earlier. It took a moment for Merlin to notice that the little LEGO figures were still strewn across the floor. He looked back at the Doctor in confusion, not understanding why he hadn't finished the job.
"I reckon you could probably do the rest for me Merlin." He remarked, smiling fondly back at his companion.
Merlin turned back to the castle, a large childlike smirk spreading across his face. Now it was his turn to show off. He breathed deeply and rolled his neck round his shoulders so it cracked purposefully. He closed his eyes and searched his magic for a fitting spell. The words shaped his lips as the right one entered his mind.
"Bebay odothay arisan quickum." Merlin's eye's shot open, glowing a brilliant gold. After a moment of silence the little figures, who had before been lying stiff and motionless on the floor around them, slowly began to stir. They sat up, blinking and rubbing their painted eyes sleepily. One after another they pulled themselves from ground, dusted themselves off and waddled towards the castle. Every kind of figure, from servants to knights to courtiers, emerged from their hiding places and converged on the castle like an army of ants. They scaled the castle walls, a couple of them loosing their grip and tumbling to the ground so having to start their assent again to get onto balconies and battlements. They rushed around manically until everything was just how it was and should be. Eventually, they all shuddered to a halt, smiles frozen on their faces and looking exactly how they had prior to the incident. Merlin beamed proudly at his work, watching as the last of the LEGO horses trotted into the stables.
Hearing the Doctor whisper behind him, he swivelled his knees around so he could get a good look as his face. Merlin had expected him to be grinning from ear to ear, but it was just the opposite. He looked very distant, his eyes shining with tears as he gazed at the castle in wonder.
"erm, sorry…was that a bit much?" was all Merlin could think to say as he shuffled a little closer.
The words seemed to snap the Doctor out of some sort of trance. He shook his head slightly, straightened his stance and refocused on Merlin sat cross legged below him.
"Oh no no no no no! It was mesmerising!" nodding reassuringly at Merlin. "Much better than this old thing" He twiddled the device round his fingers nervously. He hit a couple of the tiny buttons and the claws retracted as quickly as they had first appeared. Stuffing it back in to his trouser pocket and patting it happily, he added "She's the sonic, the sonic screwdriver! Handy, quick and useful, but nothing like your magic Merlin. That's part of you, it comes from deep in the cracks and crevices of the Earth." The Doctor had jumped up from his beanbag and had started pacing excitedly in front of Merlin, barely able to get his words out quick enough. "This is just sonic technology! All over the universe nowadays, but your powers! They're unique to you! I wouldn't be surprised if you were the last magical being in the universe!..."
They stared at each other, The Doctor out of breath from talking so much so quickly and Merlin feeling rather defenceless in his position on the floor. He was the first to blink, hanging his head ashamedly. He'd never thought of it like that before. All of his brothers, sisters and kin were dead, he was the last person the magic of the earth answered to. He'd been left to carry this burden on his own which made him feel more alone and exposed than was possible to describe.
Realising his mistake, the Doctor returned embarrassed to his beanbag. He awkwardly patted the other seat, inviting Merlin to join him. He ignored the offer, choosing instead to remain staring at the Lego Camelot and ask "Why are you here Doctor?"
"Good question" he agreed, replacing his hands in his lap "but I guess I could ask you the same thing." Before Merlin had the chance to look around and ask what he could possibly mean by that, the Doctor continued "What is Merlin, the greatest sorcerer to have ever walked the earth, son of the sea and the sky, MAGIC ITSELF…doing working in a toy shop?"
Merlin wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry at the question. It was a good one, no doubt about it, and therefore deserved a good answer. The truth was, he didn't have a clue how to answer it. He'd always told himself that it didn't matter where he was if it wasn't Camelot, but was it time to rethink this concept? Camelot was long gone, maybe he should be moving with the times now, making the most of his immortality instead of clinging onto a dead dream. The problem was he couldn't, he was an old soul being force fed life. He was still controlled by force he couldn't comprehend. Destiny wasn't finished with him yet, he still had a purpose.
He had to repeat the question over and over again in his head before he came up with anything like an answer, and when he did it seemed obvious. He mouthed the words silently a couple of times before speaking them out loud, just to be sure he did them justice.
"Arthur Pendragon" he breathed, physically feeling the love and pain spilling out of his mouth. His throat suddenly went dry and tears rose in his eyes once more. Gulping back the emotion, Merlin looked up at the glass cabinet just a few feet away from where he sat. In it, he saw the dulled reflection of the Doctor staring at the back of his head, almost like the way your average doctor would look at a patient. Now more than ever, his mad aurora was glowing and Merlin could feel it surrounding him.
"You're waiting…waiting for him?" He heard the Doctor say, his tone steady, authoritative and curious.
This time Merlin did turn around, in fact he stood up dramatically and glared at the Doctor square in the eyes.
"You tell me!" He heard his voice rising and couldn't stop his hands closing into fists defensively at his sides. "You seem to know everything about me, my name, my magic, how I feel, what I react to, who have you been talking to?"
The Doctor seemed unfazed by Merlin's sudden mood swing and instead slowly reared his head to meet Merlin's fiery stare, a smile playing on his lips. "Its not hard to hear a cry for help as loud as yours"
"…I wasn't crying out for any help" he stuttered, his aggression draining away.
"No…but I heard it, so it must be incredibly loud for me to hear all the way across the universe without actually making any noise."
Each held the other's wary gaze for a moment before that all too familiar feeling of suspicion crept into Merlin's mind. "That doesn't explain how you knew my name though."
The Doctor seemed to find this hilarious, throwing his head back and laughing so hard that Merlin flinched away. "You've had so many names it was hard to guess wrong! I bet you've been through the bumper book of baby names at least twice! And then there are your more exotic names! Mryddin … Merlinus … Emrys … Jethro"
The Doctor froze and screwed up his face, clearly annoyed with himself. He opened one of the eyes he had clenched shut and looked up at the baffled Merlin. "What century are we in?"
"The twenty first" He answered slowly.
The Doctor wrinkled his nose as he heard the words and mouthed sound kind of alien profanity. He grinded his teeth together and Merlin could see him frantically thinking of something to say that could rescue the situation, but the damage had already been done.
The Doctor had said he was a time traveller, had already lived through the future and seen the end of the story. He was just like Kilgharrah, telling him prophecy upon prophecy about a destiny he couldn't escape. Unlike the great dragon, the Doctor had a face he could actually reach to punch if he wanted to. It was people constantly telling him what might or might not happen that had been Merlin's downfall. However he resisted the urge to chin the Doctor. How many times had he thought about going back and asking Kilgharrah different questions, making better use of his time with such a source of wisdom? The Doctor was giving him this chance now, he couldn't waste it.
Merlin lowered himself down onto the beanbag and fashioned the warmest most innocent smile he could onto his lips. The Doctor returned it with a blank look, so blank that Merlin couldn't tell if he suspected that the smile was forced or not. He chose his next words carefully, trying to predict the Doctor's response.
"Soooooo, I'm going to be around long time then?"
The Doctor shrugged "Its one possible reality, definitely not a fixed point in time so it could still change."
"Are you here to change it?"
With that question, Merlin seemed to have hit his target. The Doctor swallowed uncomfortably and the sorcerer could tell that somewhere in one of those two hearts of his, he had struck a cord. Now it was his turn to think deeply about an answer. The Doctor rubbed his chin as the silence ebbed on and Merlin waited intently for a response.
Finally, he turned his head sharply towards the raven haired man and asked abruptly "You know about destiny, don't you Merlin?"
He smirked at the question "Destiny and I are old friends." The awkward grin slid off his face as he remembered how much pain his 'old friend' had caused him. He ducked his head and resorted to twisting the threads of his tattered neckerchief round his fingers insecurely.
"Well I have a date with destiny which I'm not getting out of. My time is running out and there's nothing I can do to stop the clock ticking this time. I want to right some of my wrongs before its too late, wipe some red off my ledger. Some mistakes I've made are too big to correct but I want to do everything in my power to make peace where I can." As the last word left his mouth, the Doctor shuddered a little and for a moment, Merlin thought that maybe the alien was about to shed tears. Instead, he smoothed down his bowtie and frantically scratched at his neck, all whilst tapping his feet to silent upbeat melody. For the first time, Merlin could really see the extraterrestrial side of him shining through.
"So why here? Why help me? What have I got coming down the line that's so terrible that you came to find me?" probed Merlin, shattering the silence.
"It's not what you will do, what you've done" Merlin pulled a face and tried to think back to when he could have possibly done something to catch the attention of the Doctor, but he continued before he could ask what. "You remind me of myself in so many ways, except you've got too much time and I don't have enough of it. No one should have to wait as long as you have…for anything"
"But we do, don't we?" he whispered, leaning forward on his beanbag and resting his elbows on his knees. He brought his palms together in a sort of prayer motion and buried his face in it. When he emerged, he was shaking his head. "We wait, we love and we cry for people we would probably be better off with out. We could be normal, just get on with our lives, but no. Certain clotpoles have to walk into the picture and we're happy for a moment, just a moment, and then they're gone. You're alone and desperate, frozen in time and not belonging anywhere or to anyone with no idea when or even if it will ever end! Why us Doctor? Why not someone else?"
After yet another moment of silence passed, he heard the Doctor's mumbled response. "Not sure…it's probably the cheekbones"
Merlin was expecting another long in-depth answer involving the meaning of life or something just as cryptic, but his friend's attention seemed to be elsewhere. Merlin bit down on his lip in frustration before shifting his position so he could see what could've possibly distracted the Doctor.
The Doctor was fiddling with a LEGO figure, one Merlin couldn't remember seeing on the castle before. He seemed to be deliberately holding at an angle so Merlin could see who it was a miniature version of. The Doctor risked a glance up at Merlin and was met by his startled expression. On seeing who it was Merlin's eyes had lit up, not with magic but with love. A feeling of complete numbness filled him, the power of it latching onto every muscle and bone in his whole body.
He instinctively cupped and held out his hands for the toy. As the Doctor dropped it into his outstretched palms, the thought crossed his mind that maybe it was slightly pathetic that this tiny likeness of Arthur Pendragon should make him feel like this. He couldn't help it though, the sensation was like a drug as he brought the tiny king in front of his beaming face.
A playful smirk was painted across his bright yellow face and a mane of golden blonde hair sat slightly askew on his plastic scalp. Merlin's smile widened as he fingered the painted armour and remembered just how many hours he had spent polishing the real thing. A thin stick of plastic, probably a mini Excalibur, protruded from his plastic fist and was levelled at merlin's nose.
Merlin fondly straightened his little plastic cape before closing his shaking fingers around the LEGO man and bringing his clenched fist up to his mouth, breathing in deeply.
Moving his hand down to his heart so he could talk, Merlin whispered "This is too much." He glared at the Doctor intently, not sure yet whether to inject any evil into the look. "This figure…the whole castle, it wasn't made by a LEGO company was it?"
The Doctor didn't even need to say anything, he just shook his head slowly, not taking his eyes off Merlin.
Merlin was sacred now, petrified even, "THEN HOW DID…" he stopped himself before he could shout any louder. It may have been close to closing time, but there was still a couple of kids left, dragging their exhausted parent around the aisles with them. What was happening to his emotions today? He hadn't had an outburst like this since he'd lost Arthur, In fact, he'd barely allowed himself to shed a tear since Avalon. Now the Doctor turns up out of nowhere and he's screaming and blubbering all over the place!
Merlin took a second to compose himself before starting again "Then how did the castle get here? You designed it? When were you in Camelot?" His tone was now demanding, he wasn't going to let himself be caught off guard again. Arthur's words were echoing in his ears 'No man is worth your tears'.
Merlin was not expecting the Doctor's response, he spoke calmly and without a trace of doubt to be found anywhere in his words or on his face. "I did not design this castle and I've never been to Camelot."
That one sentence seemed to shatter Merlin's world...well, what was left of it the Doctor hadn't already destroyed. "Doctor please, can you explain what's going on because I'm really not getting this…sick joke" his voice was shaking madly and every part of him was trembling in an attempt not show any emotion.
The Doctor remained so annoyingly composed and said "I have to show you something first" before hopping quite happily off the beanbag and walking away down the shop's main corridor.
Completely gob smacked, Merlin watched the Doctor skip off and disappear into one of the aisles near the far end of the shop. He willed his still shaky legs to support his weight as he slowly got up off the beanbag. The Doctor was probably lying to him, it probably wasn't wise to trust him either, but what choice did he have? Taking one last longing look at the little Camelot on the floor, Merlin marched, mumbling angrily to himself.
He discovered the Doctor in the Fancy dress aisle, running around excitedly just like one of the children might do. When he spotted Merlin standing awkwardly at the end of the aisle, he bounced over wearing a policeman's helmet which bobbed up and down as he ran. The hat slid over his eyes as he skidded to a halt. "I wear a police helmet now! Police helmets are cool!" he announced, striking a pose in the direction of one of the nearby mirrors which Merlin might've laughed at if the situation was less serious.
Merlin snatched the helmet off the Doctor's head and with little magical assistance, flung it half way across the store. He turned back to an insulted looking Doctor. "So this thing you were going to show me that would explain everything, can I see it now please?"
Apparently forgetting about the lost helmet, the Doctor leaped into action roaring "Ah yes!" and bounded down to the other end of the aisle. Merlin trudged after him, not sure as to how he hadn't already lost the last of his patience. The Doctor was pointing eagerly at one of the cardboard stands as Merlin approached. He could see that it held about 12 plastic swords in each of the holes and across the front of the cardboard were several photos of children playing happily with the swords. The reduced price of £4.99 was scrawled on brightly coloured paper which had been stamped across the front, but Merlin really couldn't see anything else other than a few cheap plastic sticks.
"What am I looking at here? He whispered, with just a hint of sarcasm added.
The Doctor sighed impatiently and blurted out "Look at the hilts! You know? The best place to hide a tree is a forest and all that! Go on look!"
Merlin released a shaky breath of annoyance before reluctantly turning back to examine the plastic hilts. To his surprise though, they weren't all plastic. One of the hilts roughly in the middle of the others was definitely different. For a start the grip was wrapped in worn brown leather and both the cross guard and pommel were far more intricately decorated than the other plain plastic ones. Now that he thought about it, it was calling to him, one magical being to another. This sword was alive, always had been and always would be. Merlin should know, he was the one who had felt the immense heat on his skin as he held it up to Kilgharrah's vast jaws to be forged in his flames…to be born.
Merlin reached out and curled his fingers one by one round the hilt. It felt good, just as it had done a thousand years ago. Holding his breath, half out of fear and half out of pure exhilaration, Merlin began counting to three in his head.
One…he tightened his grip and felt his magic bursting at the seams of his heart.
Two…He closed his eyes and let the feeling fill him and define him.
Merlin's eyes shot open and he carefully drew the sword from its cardboard stone. As the artificial shop lighting collided with the ancient metal blade it glowed with a remarkable energy that touched both the Doctor and Merlin's very souls. It was even more magnificent than he remembered, if that was even possible.
This was Excalibur.
Merlin clutched it in front of his face and examined just how untouched and spotless the metal was. He caught sight of the Doctor stood beside him, looking just as enchanted as he felt. He had some serious explaining to do.
"How is Excalibur here? I don't understand, it should be at the bottom of the lake of Avalon." He didn't want to take his eyes from the sword but listened closely for the Doctor's explanation.
"Its here for the same reason the LEGO castle is" murmured the Doctor from over his shoulder, also not wanting to look away from the legendary weapon. "There's only one person who could've designed that castle, someone who had walked its streets everyday, known and loved the people who lived there and would give his life a hundred times over to save it. There is also only one person who could recover that sword from the bottom of Avalon, someone who has been lying with it for over a thousand years."
Merlin's knuckles were growing whiter by the second as both the hand clenching Excalibur and the one by his thigh fought to restrain his anger. He wasn't hearing these words, he was feeling them. Every syllable felt like a blow to the head and he could start to see the black dots forming in his vision. Why was the Doctor saying these things? He didn't want to believe what he was hearing, he couldn't bare to build up hope only to have it dashed later.
With the speed and agility that would match any knight of Camelot, Merlin brought the sword down through the air and held the tip of the blade at the Doctor's exposed throat. As the cool metal make contact with his skin, the Doctor jerked backwards and appeared to fall over his own feet. Hitting the ground with a face that expressed surprise but not fear, he immediately tried to push himself onto his elbows but Merlin was quicker. He jumped forward and slipped the blade down to his chest, using it to gently lower him down again.
"Blimey!" chocked the Doctor, trying his best to laugh off the shock. "Arthur never said anything about you being good with a sword!" He tried a nervous grin which quickly disappeared when Merlin applied more pressure onto the sharp edge.
"You're lying" urged Merlin in a strangled whisper. "You've never met Arthur Pendragon…If you had…You'd know if he ever returned…He'd come and find me"
Merlin clenched down on his bottom lip to stop himself from both screaming and crying. He was having to take several breaths every few words just to stop himself from suffocating. The blade was quivering as Merlin shook uncontrollably, but the anger which had possessed him was not about to loosen its grip.
"Listen to me Merlin" reasoned the Doctor desperately "He is looking for you, That's why I'm here."
It was then that Merlin's eyes starting flashing. The gold flickered furiously in and out of his pupils like a faulty light bulb. Merlin didn't seem to notice as toys began flying off the shelves and the lights began to blink on and off.
The Doctor was powerless to stop the chaos around him and was very much aware that there may still people inside the shop. He made one last attempt to get through to the out of control sorcerer. "The castle Merlin, think about the castle! Arthur knows you're the only person in the world who would recognise it for what it truly is. I helped him make it and brought it here, to where I heard you were hiding. Not even a sorcerer can completely cover his tracks. We made it to get your attention Merlin, that's why we brought Excalibur as well, we had to make sure it was you."
Merlin still had to remember to breathe through his anger. He wasn't acting like a human being anymore, more like an animal. So many years alone had meant he'd forgotten how to cope with upset and anger. As he stood leaning over the Doctor ready to finish him off, not a trace of the young warlock who had arrived at the gates of Camelot all those years before remained.
He noticed the Doctor glance anxiously over Merlin's shoulder at something behind him. Merlin didn't dare turn around though, he wasn't about to be caught out and give the Doctor the opportunity to get up and have the better position. He lifted the sword above his head and prepared to drive it home when out of nowhere, two enormous arms wrapped around his waist and the air was knocked from his lungs as he was tackled to the floor. He and his attacker skidded down the polished surface, away from the Doctor. The sudden jerk as they screeched to a halt meant Merlin lost his hold on Excalibur and it clattered to the ground. Merlin made a blind grab for it but his opponent batted away his hand and snatched the weapon for himself. Merlin panicked and drew back his outstretched palm ready to let loose a large blast of magic to get the man off him. He was sat on top of him, pinning his left shoulder to ground with one arm whilst poised and ready to strike with Excalibur using the other.
Then both men looked to see who they were about to kill.
It took less than a split second for the pain and suffering of a thousand years to rewind and dissolve, leaving a gaping hole ready to be filled with an image that would stay with Merlin for the rest of his days. Merlin found himself looking into cold steely blue eyes that were surrounded by strong defined features that hadn't aged a moment since Merlin had last looked upon them. Sandy locks of hair feel over his pale skin and a red checked shirt clung to his bulging biceps as he held his sword over his head.
The man blinked several times but there was no emotion on his face, none. Merlin was feeling the same, he wasn't feeling anything expect maybe exhaustion as the energy from his rampage trickled away. He'd expected fireworks, some amazing indescribable feeling when he finally got to see this face again, but there was none of that. They were both breathing deeply from the scuffle but neither of them could move, scared that if they did then the other man might disappear.
It was Arthur Pendragon who spoke first.
"Merlin" he breathed. There really was no better way to describe it, he breathed the words. There was no emotion to be found anywhere in the two syllables. No commanding or sarcastic tone like Merlin was so used to, no happiness, no pain, it was just the word. It was like Arthur had been waiting a thousand years to get it off his tongue, just to be able to call the name again.
"Arthur." Merlin felt the same sensation, complete numbness. Unlike Arthur though, he couldn't help a shaky smile breaking across his face. It had to happen like this, it was never going to be in Avalon or Camelot or anywhere that would seem even remotely significant or important. Arthur and Merlin were always going to be reunited somewhere as random as a toy shop in Colchester, Arthur jumping on him and trying to slice him in half with Excalibur.
Destinies really were troublesome things.
Not daring to take his eyes off Merlin, Arthur cautiously lowered the sword and let it lightly drop to the ground beside them. With his free hand he delved into the chest pocket of the shirt he looked incredibly uncomfortable in, obviously much more at home in the armour and chain mail he'd worn for most of his life. With a thumb and forefinger, Arthur tenderly pulled out yet another LEGO figure.
This one had a mop of sooty black hair which nearly covered the black dots that were his eyes. His cheekbones had been painted on as two thick lines and a pair of absurdly large ears sat on either side of his head. Complete with red tunic, dark trousers, tanned jacket and little matching boots, Arthur held in his hand a LEGO Merlin.
"You really haven't changed at all Merlin." He laughed, glancing back and forth from the LEGO to the real version of his friend. At the same time, Merlin remembered that somehow he still held the LEGO Arthur in the clenched fist of his left hand, despite all the drama that had taken place since it had come into his possession. It must've been instinctive, it had always been his duty to protect the king, even in LEGO form.
Merlin relaxed his grip and let his palm fall open to reveal a somewhat battered LEGO figure. He compared the LEGO king to the one leaning over him before deciding. "Neither have you Arthur." Arthur's eyes crinkled as he found that Merlin's little grin was contagious, revealing his mouth of large crowded teeth. It was mainly out of relief that nothing had happened to his oldest friend that he started laughing manically.
His first thoughts as the Doctor had dragged him, coughing and spluttering, from Avalon had been about Merlin. He had remembered Merlin's tear stained face shouting at him before he had been consumed by oblivion. Arthur had definitely sensed the time pass as he slept, he wasn't quite sure how though. He felt exhausted like he'd lived through each and every year. He hadn't been surprised when the man who had just saved him from drowning sat with him on the banks of Avalon and explained he'd been dead for over a thousand years, coming to terms with it incredibly quickly. He didn't care about how he had somehow been resurrected, he had only wanted to know where Merlin was. It hadn't been easy to accept that it wasn't Merlin waiting on the beach for him when he had returned, but the Doctor was surely the next best thing. He had given him his solemn word that he would help him find the sorcerer, no matter the cost. Arthur really had no choice but to trust the Doctor, he may've alien, but then again so was everything now to Arthur.
It had taken them months to firstly design the LEGO Camelot and even longer to search out Merlin. Arthur had come dangerously close to giving up hope and accepting that Merlin was dead just like everyone he had ever cared about, but the Doctor had always been there to smooth out any doubt. He'd been a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on when their chances seemed too small or the new world seemed simply too big. He had really enjoyed his time with the Doctor, the pain of the manhunt had made them close friends and he had to admit, the TARDIS was something else! It wasn't Camelot though, and the Doctor wasn't Merlin. Merlin, with his big ears, quirky grin and strange sense of humour. Merlin, with his great destiny, dark secret and undying loyalty. When Arthur thought about just how much Merlin had sacrificed in his name, it made him ever more determined to find his friend and properly thank him. Merlin's words had been circling his mind for months 'I do this because you're my friend and I don't want to lose you.' They have driven him to carry on the search even when one by one their trails went cold. Arthur had no idea how long he had left, whether he was going to suddenly collapse and die again. Time was running out and he was becoming increasingly desperate. To make things worse, the Doctor was on a clock too. He was going to be killed at a fixed point in time, a date set in stone. If they didn't find Merlin soon, then the Doctor would be dead and Arthur would be alone for however long left he had on Earth.
It was almost by chance that they had come across the Sanderson and Granger department store. The Doctor was saying goodbye to old friends, people he had helped in one way or another. As Arthur shook more and more hands, it became more and more worrying that the Doctor was going to be dead in a matter of days and Merlin might be lost forever. It was as the Doctor was visiting his final friend, Craig Owens, that Merlin showed his face. The Doctor had insisted in being dramatic, actually getting himself a job at the department store to surprise Craig. The Doctor had been enjoying the spectacle of robot dogs and remote control trucks in the toy department when he came across a man who fit Merlin's description exactly, lying unconscious around pieces and chunks of a LEGO Camelot.
Arthur had been getting worried. The Doctor had assured him that after he'd found Craig he'd be right back and yet he'd been sat waiting in storeroom outside the TARDIS for hours. Concerned that something might have happened to his only hope of finding Merlin, he ventured out into the department store. It didn't help his nerves when the products started attacking him. An Iron and tennis racquet had very almost smashed into his head, both missing him by merely inches. As he reached the toy section, the attacks seemed more frequent. He broke into a run, dodging angry birds, troll dolls and Rubik's cubes. When he finally swerved round a corner to see the a gangly man standing with his back to him, towering over the Doctor with a sword in hand, he hadn't thought twice about rushing forwards and taking him out.
At first he could barely believe that the petrified and panicked face he was looking down at was Merlin's, but then he was overtaken by complete and utter relief to see his friend unharmed, if slightly nervous about the fact he was being threatened with an immortal blade. Merlin was a survivor, always had been and always would be. He never seemed to be hurt on dangerous patrols or perilous quests that seen many great knights meet their end. He knew now that it was because of his powers that both he and Arthur were still alive, but somehow there seemed more to it. You just couldn't seem to kill Merlin.
Merlin grunted uncomfortably as he realised that Arthur was still perched on top of him and had been for quite a while now. He got the message, carefully dismounting and jumping up energetically. Still conscious of his appearance despite no longer having to look or behave like a king, Arthur proudly dusted himself off before offering a friendly hand to Merlin who was still lying on the floor. He tilted his head backed and laughed to himself thinking just how mad and miraculous the whole situation was, but eventually reached out and grabbed his friend's arm. He staggered as he was yanked to his feet by Arthur's immense strength which hadn't faded at all. Arthur caught him before he could fall back to the floor.
"Still as clumsy as ever I see" blurted Arthur, amazed at how brilliant it felt to be able to tease Merlin again after a thousand years, yet another little thing he'd taken for granted at the time and since missed terribly about his manservant.
"And you're still as…Clotpolish as ever Sire." retorted Merlin, also feeling a similar pang in his chest as remembered how much he's missed their banter. There was no need to call him 'sire' anymore, Arthur had technically lost his throne and title when he died but it felt right, after all he was born to serve him and he must never forget that. Merlin smiled to himself, remembering just how proud he was of that fact.
"A thousand years Merlin! You had a thousand years to come up with a better insult and yet you stick with Clotpole! It still isn't even a word!" Arthur folded his arms egotistically, getting into his stride.
"Well it still suits you perfectly Clotpole" Merlin grinned childishly "Unless you prefer dollophead or cabbadgehead or turniphead or how about just plain prat?" Merlin laughed to himself at his own joke, It had been such a long time since he'd felt anything like this and now he was drunk on the feeling. However he quickly sobered up as he caught a glimpse of Arthur's face. All that was left was the ghost of a smile as her stared intently at Merlin laughing madly to himself.
"God I've missed you" he realised. He'd been expecting Merlin to be angry with him, upset even. He had been forced to wait a thousand years for someone he didn't know would ever come back for him, someone society had forgotten and thought didn't exist. He must've suffered so much, it would've been so easy to end it all. Take his own life. Here he was though, standing in front of him giggling like no time had passed at all. That was what made Merlin…Merlin. He really was the bravest man he'd ever met.
Merlin tried to form words but couldn't. It was in that moment that he truly understood what Arthur had gone through. He'd assumed that Arthur had had the easier ride which may've been true, but that didn't mean he hadn't suffered. Arthur had endured so much more that Merlin had first thought, and all of it for him.
They stood watching each other, finally feeling and knowing what the other had been through. Both sniffed back tears and stifled laughter but were snapped back to reality when they heard someone clearing their throat purposefully. They flinched, having forgotten about the Doctor. He'd somehow managed to crawl in between the two of them without being noticed and was currently sprawled out on his back beaming up at them. Arthur rolled his eyes at the show but Merlin tilted his head in confusion as the Doctor ripped an envelope from his trouser pocket and flourished it madly at Merlin.
"Sorry to break up the flirting boys" croaked the Doctor whose throat was still tender after the run in with Excalibur "but I have something for the young warlock." He ignored Arthur's outraged pout and looked up at Merlin with wise and forgiving eyes, handing him the envelope.
Arthur was instantly defensive "one, we were not flirting! I'm quite happily married! And two, why do we need an envelope?"
"It's always we we we with you Arthur Pendragon! Although you're two sides of the same coin that doesn't mean you're physically joined at the hip!" Merlin smirked, watching the gawp on Arthur's face get bigger and bigger with every one of the Doctor's words. He turned his attention back to Merlin "You remember what Kilgharrah told you about Arthur's return?"
"Take heart, for when Albion's need is greatest, Arthur will rise again" he recited effortlessly. How could he forget the words? They'd only plagued his dreams for the last millennium! Merlin twisted the rectangular envelope through his fingers. It was thin, white and plain, nothing alien or magical about it whatsoever. In the top left hand side was the tiny logo of the department store, Sanderson and Granger, printed in faint grey ink.
"The story isn't over Emrys" The Doctor spoke softly and in a hushed whisper, succeeding in making the words more mysterious and inticing. "You've been reunited with the once and future king of Camelot which can only mean a new chapter is beginning. It means Albion is in grave danger and you two are the only hope she has. There's going to be more blood, sweat and than ever before but I have a feeling that this adventure is going to be bigger and better than ever!" he smiled knowingly at him. Merlin knew he was right, he'd missed the pain as well as the good times and would do just about anything to get another taste of it.
"You still haven't explained what the envelope means." Huffed Arthur impatiently, a thousand years asleep had left him with a lot of energy and he was now eager to get his sorcerer and go, to start this exciting new chapter. However Merlin had learned the definition of patience inside out and back to front, that didn't mean he wasn't curious though, so they both waited to understand the significance of the envelope.
The Doctor heaved himself onto to his elbows and shuffled back slightly so he could inspect the odd pair "Why you've got a kingdom to save haven't you? I doubt you'll mange it sat here in this department store, so you'll be needing that envelope."
His lips curled into a smug grin. He sat looking at the king and his sorcerer, safe in the knowledge that no more interference was needed here. Both their destinies now lay in safe hands, each others. He could go to his death and lake Silencio quite happily knowing that one day, the events that were about to unfold would make one hell of a story, he was only sad that he wouldn't be there to see them.
He looked at the pair, the friends who had waited, waited a thousand years for one another, and laughed at their blank and innocent looks.
"That envelope Merlin, is your resignation."
WOOO! Finished! Hope you liked! please review, praise and criticism welcome...although i prefer praise ;)