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Crystal Creatures

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Boredom had set in fairly soon after Arthur's death, fairly soon being a relative term. In reality it had taken well over a millennia to pull himself away from that lake. Once humans discovered places outside of their solar system, that was when he first became interested in anything. He had long since given up hope on Arthur returning to Earth. In all honesty, with all the new colonies popping up around the universe being dubbed “Albion”, it was much more likely he would appear in those places. Eventually, though, he figured there was no point in actively searching out Arthur. Destiny had given them this grand second chance, and there was no way it would let Merlin walk away from it.

So he traveled. It made him feel better, the more he traveled. The only thing that brought him down nowadays was the thought of one day having to potentially explain all of this to Arthur. He couldn't decide which was worse: having to explain thousands of years of technological advances, or having to explain the magic that kept him alive and brought Arthur back from the grave.

For the last century, he had been roaming the surface of a planet with only one form of sentient life on it before human colonization. It had been a peaceful one. He had gained a lot of knowledge of the magic in that land. It was a magic form he knew would come in handy eventually, as it was the only healing magic so far that came easily to him.

His visit to the first planet after leaving Earth revealed to him that he was not only the embodiment of Earth magic, but of all magic to ever exist. He personally found it amusing (The planets, not his being some all-powerful creature. That scared him, so he tried not to think about that.). All of these planets had personalities far more open than Earth’s. For some reason, even he couldn't get her to quit her grumpy exterior for long enough to talk to him.

The planet he currently resided on was much more receptive to him. It felt much younger, nearly like a child: full of hope and kindness.

Unfortunately, he was leaving soon for the next planet. This one he had specifically chosen because of it’s next to nonexistent history. Who wouldn't want to explore an unknown planet?

There were several downsides to this planet, however. For one, his current alias wouldn't get him there. He was too old. They thought it too risky for a man as old as he claimed to be to visit a planet so dangerous. This was an easy fix. He would be able to find a couple to act as his parents to get him there. Shouldn't be too hard, there was a couple he knew that had wanted a kid for a while, and in his younger form, he had already gotten into their good graces. The other problem was the complete lack of air on the planet. He had faith, though, that his magic could sustain him. He still had a couple backup plans just in case.

------

This planet was so incredibly soft. There was no other word for it, it was a total pushover. For something made of such solid material, who knew it could have such a squishy personality. In the 10 minutes Merlin had actually been on the surface of the planet, it had already told him all of its secrets.

From the sound of it, he had spoiled his inhabitants rotten. He apparently felt guilty for the living conditions, and so had given them no reason to want anything, immediately giving into whatever whims the creatures unknowingly expressed to its home. Merlin saw where he was coming from, but he still had to scold the planet for it.

Children were already greedy enough, give them rewards for nothing, and they become little monsters. Merlin had a feeling he would be here a while trying to sort out this mess.

For a long time, Merlin sat in the room he was sharing with his ‘adopted’ parents, just listening to the planet chatter excitedly about his children. Truth be told, he was really just trying to ignore the couple he had traveled with while they bustled around the room. He would be moving to another room soon, but until then, ignoring Val and Biff was the most attractive course of action. They were very nice, but had too little respect for personal boundaries.

With such a young planet, however, the conversation started to annoy him as much as the couple did. He knew the younger planets acted like the children they were, but with the sheer amount of things he had to fix piling up, he just knew he would get a migraine. A very long lasting migraine.

Turning his mind to something, anything, else, he thought of his travels. Somehow, he just knew that this was important to his destiny, the whole learning magics of other planets thing. There was no telling where or when Arthur would turn back up, but he had a feeling that they would both need to be as prepared as possible.

Perhaps that should be his next project. He would surely go insane with just this planet around to talk to, so something to take his mind away from it was necessary.

It had been his fear, as time went on and the universe stretched out further and further, that Arthur just wouldn’t be able to handle any sort of fight anymore. There was only so much they could do with a sword and chain mail, even back in the time of Camelot. Now, it would be completely useless to use that type of thing. Excalibur might be able to help on occasion, but most weapons were long range now, so it wouldn’t be often.

He would have to work on a spell, or a bunch of spells, to help prepare Arthur for this future world. Weapons, knowledge, funds, supporters: he should be ready and waiting to hand it all over to Arthur. He would certainly need a lot of all of those things. No battle could be won without them.

Whatever it took, Merlin would not be losing his best friend again.

------

He knew the least he could do was go sightseeing with his adopted parents since they got him here in the first place, but after a week of teaching Middy how to properly be a parent, he really wasn't in the mood. Middy was the name he had given the planet. He was such a young thing, he really hadn't known any better, but the constant conversation and endless questions were getting on his nerves.

“Come now, don't be silly. Come sit with us. Look, we've got slippers!” Speaking of getting on his nerves…

“Jethro, do what your mother says.” They were so nice to be pretending to be his parents, but he hoped they realized they weren't his actual parents.

“I'm sitting here.” He supposed that was rather rude of him, but at the moment, he was fighting off a massive headache.

“Oh, he's ashamed of us, but he doesn't mind us paying, does he?” Merlin scoffed. He was paying for them. They couldn't have afforded this if they had started saving when they both turned 10. He was grateful for the parent act, though. Perfect cover.

The hostess began speaking about something or other, so Merlin plugged in earbuds in, tuning out his surroundings and the world around him. Literally.

Some length of time after, Merlin finally tuned back into what was happening on the shuttle. He instantly wished he hadn't. His fake father was telling the pool story again. He knew this by heart. The punchline was not nearly so funny by the hundredth time.

Something caught his attention though. They were going through mimic territory. Middy had talked about this species.

Apparently, when it got bored, it liked to go stealing other beings’ bodies. The klydians were its favorite prey, because they scared so easily. This did not bode well.

Humans were quick to scare, easy to throw into a frenzy. Merlin knew this from experience. They were near the edge of the territory, so he hoped they wouldn't bother the shuttle. These people didn't need that kind of experience.

Keeping his magic out to feel for any of them, he resigned himself to observing the people around him, judging who would do what in the event that one did attack. One man in particular seemed to be extra fidgety. Watching him for a while, Merlin could see he would likely make a good leader, and was definitely someone he would like to make friends with. Something was off though.

He managed to figure it out once the professor had dragged out his slides. The man was a Time Lord. He hadn't met one of those in ages!

Gallifrey had been a marvelous planet to visit. He had only spent a total of seven hours there, but that was all that he needed. Time was somewhat of an easy concept for Merlin. The space thing was a tad more difficult to navigate, hence his alias. Then, there was reincarnation, directly after the death of the last body, but that was completely useless to him. He hadn't the heart to tell Gallifrey that, though. He had liked Gallifrey a lot. Gallifrey had been a jolly grandfather type, and even though he had immediately revealed all to Merlin, he still tried giving off a mysterious vibe. It didn't work, of course, but that was besides the point.

Poor man. Merlin had heard that there was only one Time Lord roaming around anymore. Must be lonely.

The professor was spouting some rubbish about there not ever being a living thing on Middy before humans. So egocentric.

“How do you know? If no one can go outside-”

“Oh, his imagination, here we go.”

“He's got a point, though.” Hmm. Open minded. Good.

He heard the professor say something else, but just then he felt it. A mimic.

Rolling his eyes, he flicked it away with his magic, but not before it stopped the shuttle. Shit. Here, he was faced with two options. Either he could manipulate everyone's memories of the event, or let it play out, teach Middy a lesson. No one would get hurt. Mimics never held onto a victim for long; they got tired and bored easily.

He decided, in the long run, the second option was better. Quickly, he threw up a shield around everyone, ensuring that no matter what happened, they would survive. If there were any disappearances, however, that was something he couldn't fix. He'd have to create a new life for them from scratch.

Not wanting to deal with the inevitable chaos, he threw up a quick illusion of himself to speak and act as a normal teenage boy would. Leaving the fake-him in his seat, Merlin moved over a few rows. This was going to take most of his concentration.

And the chaos begins. This mimic was strong. When it ripped the cockpit off the front, Merlin had to be quick to catch the pilots. Now that was rude. He would be sure to tell it so after all this was over. Though he supposed it wouldn't know that humans didn't have reflective skin like all of the other creatures on this planet. They had never encountered humans before.

It was clever though. Got in through the air vents from the cockpit to the main cabin while everyone was distracted. Merlin was the only one to see it, and only because he could sense its life force. No one else had even noticed it now, inhabiting the strict looking woman.

Panic was obviously setting in, especially with his fake parents. Of course they would perpetuate this hysteria. His illusion pointed out the woman, Sky. Good lord, even as an illusion, he was still the most observant person.

The repeating started. The Time Lord revealed that he was the Doctor himself. That was impressive. Unfortunate that he was the next target.

He knew the first possession was never very strong, so his first rule of thumb was to never engage an animal that wasn't moving. The second was to cease engagement if accidentally he were to start the interaction. The Doctor had just broken both rules.

He shook his head at the foolish Time Lord. Merlin really couldn't be less surprised. The Doctor was notorious for his need to fix anything and everything he came across. The situation could have been safe in his hands, if he hadn't stupidly tried to talk to the possessed woman.

He mentally turned to scold Middy. Didn't he see what his children could do without supervision. He had to have balance. At the moment, all of Middy’s inhabitants were bored from the lack of a challenge. Merlin sternly told the planet’s consciousness to advance one or two of the common species, stir the pot, as it were.

Next he looked back to the poor confused group, they were arguing amongst one another on the other side of the carriage. She was talking with them now. Must be closing in.

Just then, she stopped copying the others, moving to her chosen target. The Doctor gave some long-winded speech about why it had chosen him, which of course made it worse. It ended with the mimic taking over.

Well. There it was. It would now try to scare the rest of them. Throw them all into panic, which was going to be much too easy. Merlin cast a mental probe throughout the cabin, finding the one most panicked to be the Doctor. He couldn't understand what was happening. He was just getting himself more and more worked up.

For a moment, Merlin debated his next course of action. It wouldn't be long before this mimic got too tired to continue and just left, but they didn't know that. Already, some were getting ready to throw the Doctor out of the carriage. It must have learned how weak they were to the sun from Sky, since now it was attempting to get him thrown out.
They really did have a tendency to go too far. More often than not, someone got hurt because of their games.

Just then, as he was about to put a stop to this, the clever Doctor figured out how to work around the mimics games.

“Molto bene!”

Clever man. Merlin could let it go on. Humans were smart. The hostess already had figured it out.

The hostess dragged the possessed woman out into the atmosphere. Oops. Maybe he should have taken into account the human tendency for self sacrifice.

Catching Sky and the hostess, Darla, he found out, he scolded the terrified mimic. It attempted to take him over, before realizing how big a mistake that would be. It got a real big talking to from Merlin for nearly killing visitors.

He turned his attention to the Doctor. He was glaring at the rest of them. Served them right.

-----

Back at the station, Merlin cornered his fake parents.

“Val, Biff, I wanted to thank you for what you've done. I'm very grateful. That being said, I think it’s time we separate.”

In obvious motherly concern, Val asked, “Will you be alright? All alone on this planet?”

Merlin smiled at her. “Yes, I'll be fine. I've got work to do here.”

Biff nodded. “You'll stay safe, won't you son? Won't go 'round, getting into trouble?”

“Of course,” he reassured.

Just as he was walking out of the room, he turned and said, “oh, and stay as long as you want. Nice second honeymoon, don't you think?” Merlin winked.

-----

“What do you think it was?” Merlin heard a woman ask in an otherwise silent room.

“No idea.” Oh good, the Doctor! Just who he was looking for.

“Doctor! Hello! Glad I caught you.” Merlin grinned at him. The red haired lady looked a bit annoyed about being interrupted. On the other hand, the Doctor looked much more wary of Merlin than he would have liked. For the moment, Merlin ignored him, turning to his companion. “ I don’t believe we’ve met. Hello, I’m Jethro.”

“Donna,” the women said bluntly, “now would you mind? We are kind of in the middle of something.”

“Oh yes, right. Well, I actually needed to talk you about it, Doctor. The thing? You know, on-”

“Yeah, well not much to talk about.” Yikes. Merlin’s clone must have done something pretty bad.

Clearing his throat, Merlin said, “Actually, I do have quite a lot to talk to you about that. Might we go somewhere a bit more private? This isn’t really a discussion I want to have out in the open.”

The Doctor stared at him for a long moment, then sighed. “Donna? You mind sticking around for a bit?”

She narrowed her eyes at him, then relented, saying, “Alright, spaceman. But don’t think you get to leave me out of this conversation.”

He nodded. “Of course! Come on then, lots to talk about,” Merlin grinned at her.

He lead them to his room, one not shared with his ‘parents’. He didn’t want to disturb their lives any more than was necessary, after all.

Two second into the journey, and he already hated the silence. “So…. What’s a Time Lord doing here? Not much has happened yet, historically speaking. What’s so interesting that the Doctor himself so interested?”

That was a mistake, Merlin decided. Probably not the best idea to provoke one of the most guarded men he had ever met while he was already so wary of him. Really, after so many millennia, one would think that Merlin would have learned to keep his mouth shut. Alas, being shoved against the wall was a common experience for him, usually because of his mouth.

“What do you know about me?” the Doctor spat into Merlin’s face. Merlin rubbed his head where it had collided with the wall.

“Gods above, was that necessary?” The look on his face told Merlin that he thought so. He continued, “Do so few people know about time lords nowadays? What with your gallivanting all across time and space itself, you’d think more people would know you on sight. Or is this a new face of yours? I’ll be honest, it’s so hard to tell, what with all that reincarnation shite you lot do. Can’t ever tell how old you are.”

By now, the Doctor had backed off, having released Merlin. Donna was looking confused at both of them, but not enough to ask any questions. He took this to mean that she knew most of what he was talking about, and was more curious about the Doctor’s reaction than the subject itself.

Not expecting a response, he walked on. When he heard them following, he said, “You know, if you were looking for a vacation spot, might I suggest a different plant? Like, pretty much any other planet. Especially if you’re gonna do stuff like you did today. I personally suggest Earth, some time in the early 2300’s. Far as I heard, it was pretty peaceful then. Nice weather in Florida. Or maybe somewhere in Brazil. You know, after the civil wars. No need to get into that mess.”

They moved into his small room. He stopped only a moment, allowing the door to close behind them and for his wards to go up before continuing, “By the way, why did you get involved? Today, I mean. Things would have turned out much better if you’d left it alone. And talking directly to it for as long as you did? What were you hoping to achieve? Change its mind? Nearly got yourself thrown overboard for that.”

“You weren’t really a help, were you, Jethro,” the Doctor said, venom in his tone. “The way I remember it, you were right there with the rest of them, ready to chuck me out. If it hadn’t been for Darla-”

“If I wasn’t there, Darla would be dead! You nearly got her killed!”

The Doctor paused in whatever retort he had prepared. “What do you mean ‘nearly’?”

Merlin took a deep breath, closing his eyes briefly. “I mean that everyone that was on that shuttle is alive and well. The ones that were thrown from the ship will need to start a new life, and Sky will need some serious counseling, but they’ll all live.”

----------

The part he hated most about meeting people like the Doctor was explaining his own past. He couldn’t hide behind his alias forever, and some people, like the Doctor, deserved to know about him, especially after what he put them all through.

The easy part of the conversation was over. It took some convincing that it hadn’t actually been him that was ready to kill the Time Lord, but he did it. After that, explaining what he knew about the planet was a quick affair. The Doctor was a scholarly man, so of course he gave Merlin his full attention.

Eventually, the Doctor asked, “How do you know all of this, Jethro?”

“Emrys. You can call me Emrys,” Merlin told the pair in front of them.

“No,” the Doctor said, “that’s not a name that is given to just anyone, and you certainly can’t just claim it.”

Merlin laughed, “My name is Emrys just as much as yours is The Doctor.”

Merlin watched the man consider him for a long time. What he’d said was no joking matter, not to a Time Lord. “I don’t suppose you’d tell us what your name is then?”

Merlin sighed, suddenly feeling the full weight of his age and his destiny again. He thought for a moment, then said, “When you’re half as old as I am today, then I’ll tell you. By then, I reckon you’ll start to understand truly what my names mean. All of them.” He gave the man a pointed look, then continued, “Until that day, I will give you this: my home planet was Earth, but you will never find me there. My parents were both human, but I am the first and last of my species. My name is the most well known across the galaxy, but none have known me since my first lifetime ended.”

Man, Kilgharrah had really rubbed off on him.

Channeling his old fire-breathing friend for a little bit longer, he smiled mysteriously, then stood to leave. He had to take care of the people from the ship, after all. Plus, he still had so much work to do with Middy.

When he was standing in the doorway, the Doctor called out to him, “How old are you?”

Merlin looked back. “Today? I’m about 4348 years old. It’s almost my birthday, you know.”

Merlin left, sure that he would see the Doctor again, possibly very soon.