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Standing Sentinel With You

Just a little snippet I wrote the other night at kinkme_merlin.

Author: MarInk (MarInk1485 in the English fandoms)
Title: When I Wake Up I Find You're Gone
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin (bromance)
Genre: snippet (I know there's no such genre but I suck at defining them and I'm too tired to do it right now)
Rating: RG (for some mild swearing)
Summary: Written as a fill for this prompt at Merlin kinkmeme: RPF, Arthur/Merlin, Arthur/Other where other is Elizabeth II
Arthur and Merlin are re-incarnated during WW2, and have an interesting encounter with Second Subaltern Elizabeth Windsor (http://www.flickr.com/photos/castlekay/2421062681/ - photo and short background on Elizabeth II's military service). I'm not looking for porn, though it doesn't need to be strictly gen, just a chance for a meeting between two people with a similar sense of duty.

Word Count: ~ 1,100
Status: Complete.

Do your duty, and leave the rest to heaven
Pierre Corneille.

The sun is shining down on them mercilessly. Arthur scrambles to his feet, stretches his arms and spine ‘cause they feel stiff all over, and looks up at the sky, squinting; it’s clear and blue, so clear like it has no clue what’s going on underneath. Probably not. Arthur doesn’t know much about the sun apart from the fact that it gives people life; he leaves the details to Merlin. It seems only logical that a warlock is the one to know such stuff, not a king. Well, he’s not really a king these days; his kingdom is long gone. But he still feels like one, anyway.

Warlock. War-lock. Arthur glances at Merlin who’s sitting beside Arthur’s feet, his knobby knees drawn to his chest, his face dirty with the streaks of sweat in the layers of dust. He doesn’t have a gun – he doesn’t need it. The word “warlock” seems fitting: Merlin has been to far too many wars than he’d probably like, and he looks at ease in his battered uniform, the last of a long line of those.

“I think I’m gonna melt into this road,” Merlin mutters. “’S bloody hot.”

“Observant as always, aren’t you, Merlin?” Arthur prods him with his foot clad in a heavy boot; he’s not quite used to these shoes, to be honest. It’s the hardest part, the shoes. Every time they are different, much more so than clothes, or language, or food. Or wars.

All wars are pretty much the same by now. And they all demand that Arthur do his duty and fight, so he does.

Sometimes he wonders what it’d be like to be awake again one day in this world without a war at his doorstep. Maybe, that would be nice. He doubts he’ll ever know.

A truck appears far away; they can’t see it properly and can’t hear the engine yet, but it’s definitely a car.

“Hope that’s the one that’s collecting us to the stupid headquarters,” Merlin is being grumpy today. Arthur is used to this stage – Merlin never likes it when it just starts. After the first battle he goes back to his habitual cheery self, but before that he must feel like it’s his sacred duty – to bitch about everything on his way and annoy the hell out of Arthur.

The start is always difficult, and Arthur isn’t sure he’d make it through smoothly every single time if it weren’t for crabby Merlin by his side.

“Who else would it be?”

“Who? Let me think – maybe, Nazis? Out for a drive, looking for some British soldiers to kill. You look so British that they’d shoot with their eyes closed. You smell British. You sound British. You probably taste British too. Erm… Let’s forget I just said that.”

“The only sensible thing you said today,” Arthur rolls his eyes. “And it’s not Nazis, for Christ’s sake, the truck is British. Anyway, they’d never come this far into the British territory.”

“They are planning to,” says Merlin, suddenly quiet and serious.

“I know,” Arthur replies. “But not on a single truck, don’t you think?”

The truck stops; the engine is shut down, the noise dying slowly. The door opens, and a girl in uniform hops out of the cabin.

“Arthur Pendragon and Merlin Emrys, I presume,” she says.

“Quite bloody right,” Merlin says, not getting up from where he’s sitting. He gives her a scrutinizing look, and then a wide grin literally splits his face into two. “Nice to meet you, Your Highness.”

“Highness?” Arthur echoes.

“Why, yes.” Merlin stands up and dusts his trousers briefly under the girl’s inscrutable look. “She’s your grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand – well, you probably got the idea, yeah? – daughter, it seems. Nice to meet you, princess Elizabeth.”

“Nice to meet you too, legendary warlock,” she says, quite skeptically.

Merlin sighs.

“Arthur, is it in your blood, or something? You underestimated me when we first met, just like she’s doing right now.”

“Stop being cranky, Merlin.”

“I’ll be as cranky as I want,” Merlin tut-tuts. “I’m legendary, after all, I get to have some perks for that, don’t I?”

“Can you two really help the war? Or are you going to just entertain everyone with your banter?” She asks. Her features are sharp, and the uniform doesn’t really fit – like she’s lost several pounds lately. She looks tired and worried.

Arthur is surprised that women go to war as well now – but so far she’s the only woman in the armed forces he’s met during this particular war, so maybe she’s just special.

Then again, maybe she’s just doing her duty. Like he and Merlin do. Like everyone does.

“If Arthur tells me so, I can crack the Earth into halves,” Merlin says, sharp, and stern, and almost predatory. “And if he tells me so, I’ll glue it back the way it was.”

Arthur knows Merlin says the truth. They did this once – almost did, actually, Merlin was a bit cranky at the time too, but he wasn’t completely out of his mind. Still, not the memory the two of them are proud of.

Princess Elizabeth looks Merlin in the eye for a second and then nods curtly. She believes him – believes them, in them.

“Thank you,” she says calmly.

“Don’t,” Merlin shakes his head.

“We do what we ought to do,” Arthur adds.

“Doing the duty is not about gratitude,” Merlin finishes. They are used to saying this by now. Although they usually reserve the Gratitude Speech for the end of a current war, when they are thanked for having actually done something.

“I know,” she smiles. She has a beautiful smile, shining unrestrainedly like the sun. Arthur is secretly a little bit proud of his grand-grand-grand-grand-grand-grand – well, you probably got the idea.

“These stuck-up Pendragons,” Merlin mutters fondly. “They know everything about their duty, don’t they?”

“Come on,” Elizabeth says. “I’ll take you to the HQ. We have a war to win.”

“We bloody well do!” Merlin chimes in and climbs into the bed of the truck, clumsy but enthusiastic nonetheless.

“Come on, then,” Arthur says to Elizabeth. “No war is won by standing around, indeed.”

She squeezes his shoulder briefly and gets back behind the wheel while Arthur joins Merlin.

They feel the deep, purring vibration of the engine; then they start moving.

“Weird things, the cars.” Merlin yawns and slides down until his head is in Arthur’s lap. He looks like a big pile of Merlin-shaped dirty and tired goo. “Gotta get used to them, I guess.”

“Go to sleep,” Arthur says. “When Elizabeth brings us to the HQ, I’ll wake you up. You need rest.”

“I know, I know.” Merlin yawns again. “Need rest to help you win another war, sure. Consider it done.”

He falls asleep very soon after that. Arthur cards Merlin’s hair lazily, letting the time flow past him as easily as Merlin’s soft hair flow between his fingers.

The sun is still shining down on them, heavy and hot.