Sorry it's been so long, my lovely readers! Left the fandom for a while, but now I'm back!

Song: Tears of an Angel by RyanDan

Stop every clock
Stars are in shock
The river will flow to the sea
I won't let you fly
I won't say goodbye
I won't let you slip away from me

For a while, Merlin didn't know how long, he lay there, trembling and sobbing, Arthur holding on tightly to him while he tried to push away. Neither of them ever actually said a word – Merlin just shook and cried, and Arthur held Merlin close and continuously rubbed Merlin's back and arms in comforting circles, comfort Merlin did not want, but craved all the same.

"Please, let me go…" Merlin begged, even as he clung onto Arthur's shirt. "I can't do this anymore."

"Merlin, it'll be alright-"

"No it won't!" Merlin insisted. "It won't. For a few decades, it'll be fine, but one day, you'll grow old, and you'll die, and I'll be alone again!"

"I'll come back, Merlin, I always do!" Arthur said.

Merlin tried to pull away again. "That's not the problem! It's…it's…I keep having to watch you die, Arthur, and it doesn't hurt any less when I know you're going to come back!"

Arthur watched in shock as Merlin curled in on himself and started crying again.

Merlin's perception of time was different. 'A few decades' for him was a lifetime for Arthur. But how…Merlin had been so strong, so brave, for them all, so they could save the world over and over and over again.

"Merlin…" he breathed out, because he didn't know what to say. Instead, he slowly and gently wrapped his arms around Merlin's waist, pulling him close. Merlin didn't seem to notice.

Pressing his lips to the back of Merlin's neck, Arthur said, "We always come back, Merlin. I always come back. I'm never leaving you behind."

"You always do," Merlin choked out. "You always leave. It doesn't matter that you come back, you always leave!"

Arthur pushed himself back enough to roll Merlin over, so he was facing Arthur. Then Arthur pulled him close again, pressing his lips to Merlin's head and letting Merlin cry into his shoulder as he rubbed Merlin's back, relearning the feel of Merlin in his arms, the feeling of Merlin's muscles against his own, Merlin's breath against his neck, Merlin's skin warming his own. He relearned how to be Merlin and Arthur again, two as one.

He always felt so incomplete without Merlin. But Merlin had to endure that feeling for much longer than Arthur ever had to, and with full knowledge of what he was missing – Arthur, at least, spent his time before his memories came back missing something he didn't know and couldn't miss any further than his soul. It was little comfort, but compared to Merlin, it was all the world.

There was no silence to be broken as Merlin continued to cry, and Arthur never felt more helpless in all his lives as he held Merlin now.

Arthur had known handling Merlin's withdrawal wouldn't be easy, but he hadn't actually expected for it to be this difficult, either.

As per Lance's suggestion, he brought Merlin ibuprofen and Lucozade, but Merlin threw them both away.

"Merlin," Arthur pleaded, picking up all three of the ibuprofen pills. A little extra. They had no idea when Merlin last died, or how, to figure out what his drug tolerance would be, and Arthur had some misgivings about the dose but if Merlin was had been on as much heroin as the needles he'd seen in that hellholeseemed to indicate…

"I don't want your help," Merlin snapped, backing away to the other side of the bed. "Just let me go, Arthur. Every single one of your lifetimes I've been there for you, let me have this one for myself!"

"No," Arthur said. "We've been through worse, Merlin, we can get through this together. Just a week and you'll be fine-"

Merlin laughed, the sound chilling Arthur to his bones. "Yeah, because everyone junkie out there can be locked up for a week and cured. That's why they don't have such things as relapses-oh, wait.."

Arthur flinched at Merlin's scathing tone. But he knew Merlin, he could see all this was a ploy. The real Merlin was deep down in there, still, and he would do whatever it takes to get him out.

He picked up the sports drink and pills. "Look…this won't be easy, Merlin, not by any means, but we can start with this and work our way out of this, okay? We'll get you through withdrawals and deal with everything else as it comes-"

"Yeah and we'll leave a happy little life for the next happy few decades and then you'll die," Merlin said, voice harsh and rasping.

Day 1 and Arthur already felt tired. He held onto the drink and pills tightly and said, "Please, Merlin, just – let's do this a little bit at a time, yeah, just focus on the next two weeks and-"

"I am doing this a little bit at a time!" Merlin cried out. "In case you've forgotten, I'm over fifteen centuries old! A few decades is nothing to me." Arthur realized with a start Merlin's eyes were wet with held back tears. "Your lifespan is nothing to me. You'll leave me and come back and leave me and come back and I'm going to stay stuck right here and I can't do anything about it and I can't end it because I can't die."

Arthur stared at Merlin trying desperately to think of something to do through Merlin's tirade.

"What happens if you 'fix me', Arthur?" Merlin shouted.

"What happens if we don't?" he challenged. "How long are you going to wander around London whoring yourself for your next fix?"

Merlin smirked. "I was here before London was anything but an abandoned Roman trading settlement. I'll probably be here loooooong after this damnable city is gone."

"And where will you and your precious heroin be then?"

"I'm sure there will be other things to get high on by then. In all my time alive, if you can call me alive, people have never run out of finding new ways to truly fuck themselves up. That's the thing about people. They'll chase pleasure to their deaths, and I'll just keep on watching and watching and watching and watching and watching-"


"That's just it, Arthur, I can't!"

There was a momentary silence, before Merlin turned around to stare at the wall, breathing harshly.

"Do you really think withdrawal will do anything, Arthur?" Merlin asked. "You can just kill me and when I wake back up I'll be good as new again, no drugs in my system as all. Easy detox with no withdrawal."

"Is that how you've been doing it?" Arthur asked. "If you ran low you just killed yourself so that you could skip the withdrawal? Skipping the pain of withdrawal and risking sobriety for the sake of your next hit?"

Merlin didn't respond.

Coming up behind him, Arthur said, "Merlin," and laid a hand on his shoulder.

He hadn't anticipated just how much of a nervous wreck Merlin would be.

"This isn't healthy," Gwaine said, when he came by to help Arthur.

"Heisn't healthy," Arthur said. "I have to help him. I…I wasn't there for him."

"His health shouldn't come at the cost of yours," Gwaine said as he pressed some ice over Arthur's black eye. "When did this happen anyway?"

"…we were talking," Arthur said curtly.

"This, Arthur, isn't just talking!"

"Well it will have to make do," Arthur said.

Gwaine swallowed. "In more than a thousand years I don't remember him being like this. He's fallen into alcoholism three times and he's been addicted to drugs twice. But he was already quick and happy to jump off the wagon once we found him! Why's he like this now?"

"Because he dreads being here when we die," Arthur said. "He wants to be away before that can happen."

Gwaine shut his eyes with an almost pained look on his face. "Merlin…" he practically whimpered out.

"Exactly," Arthur said, smiling at him gratefully as he pulled off the ice and went to brave his room, clutching at his Lucozade and ibuprofen as if they could substitute for his sword and shield of their first lifetime of legend.

Arthur threw Gwaine one last wish-me-luck look, before quickly stepping into his room and shutting the door behind him before Merlin could even realize it was open.

A moment later, Gwaine tried not to wince at the screaming he heard coming from Merlin, demanding to leave, but it wasn't easy.

"What has happened to you, my friend?" he murmured to the kitchen at large, before moving to stand by the door. For all that Merlin always seemed like he needed protection, it was who really needed it, right now.

Gwaine stared at the doorknob as he heard Arthur say, "Merlin, please, you need to drink something."

"No I don't!" Merlin snapped. Gwaine wondered when the last time he drank something was. It could be days for all they knew.

"You haven't drunken anything since you got here, or before that! That's twenty-six hours I know you didn't have anything. Please, just take this. You need to drink, and eat."

Merlin laughed, cold and heart-wrenching, and said, "Why bother? It's not like it matters if I die!"

Gwaine flinched, and wondered how Arthur seeing Merlin's face as he said that. Gwaine didn't even want to imagine it.

"Yes it does, Merlin," Arthur said.

"I've died dozens of times since your birth, Arthur, trust me when I say it doesn't matter!"

"Please, stop this, Merlin," Arthur pleaded.

"You think I haven't asked that? You think I don't want this to stop?"

Gwaine shut his eyes and turned away. He thought back to their first life time, their original one, long before they were legends.

When Merlin was just a cheerful servant and Arthur was a dutiful prince and Gwaine was a vagabond who wasn't nearly as amoral as he'd liked to have been.

Magic, Strength, and Courage.

He supposed there was a reason why Arthur was Courage. But he wondered how right that bridge-keeper could have possibly been about him as he turned away and fled to the kitchen, trying to prepare some sandwiches for Arthur and himself.

"Anything?" Morgana asked when she dropped by later on with some groceries.

Gwaine shook his head. "Just more of Merlin trying to talk Arthur into letting him go and Arthur refusing. Your wards are all that's holding him in now…"

"And they won't for long," Morgause said, coming up behind her (full, in this lifetime) sister with the other groceries. "There is only so much we can do, but if Arthur isn't able to talk Merlin down soon, then we will need to dose Merlin with the pseudo-opiates Lance was talking about – even our magic combined is no match for Merlin."

Gwaine looked mournfully at the door to Arthur's bedroom, where he was still locked inside with Merlin. "I hate this."

"I'm sure," Morgause said curtly. "But we have to face reality. Merlin's snapped and we're stuck fixing it."

Gwaine turned his head back to direct a withering glare at her. "You sound like you're blaming him."

"Well, he's the one that went off and became a junkie, isn't he?" she challenged.

"Morgause," Morgana said quietly, stilling her sister. They shared a long look that Gwaine was sure contained an entire conversation, before Morgana looked at Gwaine.

"Do you think you can check on them?"

"Not yet," Gwaine said. "At this stage I think it would be better to wait for Arthur to come out."

Merlin itched.

Not just his skin, his muscles, his bones. Though those certainly itched, thank you Uncle Mac.

No – his magic itched, too. And he knew why, he could recognize Morgana and Morgause's wards keeping him in. Their magic couldn't compare to what they had in their first lifetime – no one's did – but until he made it through withdrawal, Merlin knew it would be enough.

He didn't wantto make it through withdrawal.

His soul might've itched a bit, too.

"…you can't keep me here forever," Merlin said bitterly to Arthur.

He had a nice, dark corner. Nice, dark corners were good.

It was away from any of the light cast by the windows, opposite to the walk-in closet door. He sat on the floor with his knees folded up to his collarbone, his arms crossed under his thighs and hands holding onto the opposite ankles.

There needed to be more nice, dark corners in the world. Easily accessible ones, anyway.

Arthur was seated safely over by the bed. Merlin's heart twisted a little every time he took note of just how haggard Arthur looked, the black eye he'd given him, but if wearing him down was what it would take to get him to let Merlin go, then so be it.

Merlin would do anything short of truly hurting Arthur.

(He tried not to see the bruise, he really did.

Because for all the fifteen hundred years of agony Arthur's caused him, Merlin still couldn't bear to hurt him.)

"I'll try," Arthur said softly, almost weakly. "I'll spend my whole life if I have to, Merlin."

Between them the bottle of Lucozade lay on its side where Merlin had thrown it when Arthur tried to get him to drink some.

Merlin shut his eyes. "Then you'll die and then where will we be? Just let me go and we can all go on with our lives-"

"No we can't, Merlin," Arthur said. "I can't do this without you."

Merlin clamped his hands over his ears, but it couldn't block out Arthur's, "We need each other."

"No we don't," he lied. "We can get on just fine without each other."

Arthur snorted. "Because you were doing so well."

"I was, before you interfered!" Merlin snapped. "And look at you, Arthur, you were obviously doing brilliantly without me. If I were able to recognize you based on a photo I would've known you since you were a child!"

The downside of Merlin's magical recognition was that he had to see them in person for it to work. It didn't matter what they looked like, whether nearly identical to their original lifetime like now, or nothing like it, like the time they'd all been reborn in India.

Carvings, paintings, photographs – none of those worked.

Which was a pity, because Arthur had been on movie posters for more than a decade, now. Merlin could have been seeing him all over London's theaters and billboards.

But now that he knew, now he could say, "You're rich and famous and everyone loves you, Arthur, you were clearly doing brilliantly without me."

Arthur shook his head. "Doing brilliantly is not the same as being brilliant and you know it. I always felt like I'm missing something and that something was you."

"You'll live," Merlin snapped.

"Would I want to?" Arthur offered.

Merlin had no answer for that.

Gwaine wished he was more surprised than he actually was when Arthur came out alone.

He glimpsed the bright bottle and the little pills strewn across the dark, plush carpet of Arthur's bedroom floor, before the door closed on the last vestiges of his king.

Cover my eyes
Cover my ears
Tell me these words are a lie...

I've undertaken a quest recently to improve my writing, so any and all concrit is much appreciated - every little bit helps! And of course, any other feedback is loved as well. :)