It is said that a butterfly is a sign of the king’s return.
Merlin first glimpsed the flash of red wings floating over grey umbrellas that afternoon. He’d sprinted out of the crowd, throwing aside people with shouted, hysterical apologies. He didn’t remember thundering up the stairs to his flat, hardly recalled racing back down the street with the staff in hand. All he could think of was Arthur. Heedless of the chill wind and the icy waters of the lake, Merlin threw himself into the water, shouting Arthur’s name.
Merlin gulped down air, the cold burning at his lungs. He shouted for his king again. A few people gathered on the bank of the lake, pointing at him.
“Arthur!” shouted Merlin, shoving his staff into the water. His chest heaving, a knot tightening in his throat. He fought it back down, choosing instead to bellow, “You great bumbling clotpole, I swear, if this is some kind of trick, if you-“
“You swear what, Merlin?” drawled a voice behind him, and Merlin could have picked that voice out of thousands, unmistakable in its lazy arrogance and gentle humor. “By the gods, you’d think someone had died with the way you’re carrying on.”
Merlin didn’t dare to turn around. Not now. Not after so very long. He felt Arthur’s hand on his shoulder, the touch cautious, but so very warm and alive. Arthur could feel Merlin’s shoulders trembling, watched the curl of his skinny, white fingers tighten around the staff. Merlin turned abruptly, throwing his arms around his friend and the centuries of grief and loneliness came out of him in a tiny, strangled noise.
“Merlin, are you-…?” Arthur froze.
“Just hold me. Please.” Merlin gasped into Arthur’s armor, ignoring the bite of wet, cold steel into his cheeks. His teeth chattered and he shivered violently.
“Nice to see you too,” and Arthur threw his arms around Merlin, pulling his sodden cloak around them both. “Now. Are we going to stand in a freezing cold lake all day, or did you have something else in mind?”
Commission for NauticalNymph. Here it is on my dA.
Ficlet and art inspired by this piece: dA / tumblr. Thanks to Ptelly!
Photoshop CS-4 / Wacom Intuos 3.