Title: Time Enough and Now: Prologue - "Neatly Broken"
Warnings: blood-play, dub-con, non-con, torture, violence, mentions of addiction, violent death (OC), gore, descriptions of withdrawal
Parings: Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Brom(OMC), Arthur/Gwen
Disclaimer: The pretty boys don't belong to me - they belong to each other and the BBC of course.
SUMMARY: Sequel to 'All Bets Off'. Prologue: Sometimes you have to give yourself to keep your sanity. Sometimes it's just easier to adapt.
A/N: Herein begins the journey into the sequel to 'All Bets Off'It is recommended you read that fic before you read this one. Chapters will be updated slowly. I'm having things beta'd and am doing edits to make sure everything is cohesive. Bear with me, but I'm hoping for at least one a week or every week and a half. The "real" summary will be posted with chapter one. Also, it might be a little while for chapter 1, but I wanted to give you guys something to wet your palates. ;)
I hope you guys enjoy! Please let me know if you like it.
Prologue - "Neatly Broken "
" I am the voice inside your head . . . And I control you
I am the lover in your bed . . . And I control you
I am the sex that you provide . . . And I control you
I am the hate you try to hide . . . And I control you
I take you where you want to go
I give you all you need to know
I drag you down I use you up"
-- NIN, "Mr. Self Destruct
One year was a long time to fight. It was a lost battle from the beginning, regardless, and when he was dragged through Brom's door that fateful May morning he knew it. Merlin still fought, because that was what Arthur would have done.
Twelve months, however, was a very long time.
He tried to use his magic against Brom at first, in the rare moments of clear-headedness that sometimes descended upon him. To his shame, his magic betrayed him. It failed him at critical moments. It weakened him until he fell to his knees in front of Brom, his head bowed beneath the weight of his own magic's betrayal. Somewhere along the line, he'd bonded with Brom on a level he couldn't understand.
It was a level his magic understood, though. Slowly, the longer he stayed in Brom's presence, it bound them tighter, tangling them in its web…
He wasn't exactly sure when it happened - outside, the sky had begun to turn dark and grey, with the threat of early frost - but one day Merlin simply stopped fighting Brom and began to embrace his new life instead. He was just too damn tired to continue to the struggle any longer.
Too damn tired of all of it.
He was tired of the drugs that Brom forced into him, drugs that made his mind feel sluggish and his body throb with constant craving. He was tired of needing the drugs, because when he was deprived of them - a game that Brom liked to play when he'd been particularly disobedient - his head hurt, his hands trembled, and his skin stunk with the loathsome aroma of his own sweat.
The one good thing about the drugs, however, was that they made the days pass in a mindless haze, and for the several weeks Merlin was grateful for it. It kept the pain of his mutilated back at bay and sloughed the rough edges from the ache of missing Arthur.
It was a name he didn't say too often, but when he did, he spoke it carefully, as if the word were a precious thing that would break if it bumped too sharply against his teeth. Brom didn't expressly forbid him from saying it either, but Merlin had found that when he spoke Arthur's name in his presence, he was punished.
On those occasions, Brom generally liked to punish him by making him forget Arthur's name altogether and cry out his own while he was tied down to Brom's bed or bent over his table with a spreader bar fastened to his ankles.
Sex with Brom was always different then and it always left Merlin confused and wanting more - though more of what he was never quite certain.
On those occasions Brom was exceedingly gentle: his fingers feather-light along his spine; his lips soft and warm against his own, against his neck, his shoulder, his back; too hot when he sucked the tips of his fingers into the wetness of his mouth, too cool as he blew softly against the marks he left. Brom took his time to kiss every inch of Merlin's skin. His breath tickled the back of his knees and his voice swept velvet-soft against the flat planes of his stomach.
"I love you, Merlin," Brom murmured as he pushed his oil-slicked fingers into him, "and you'll learn to love me back."
Merlin replied by writhing against the delicious pressure, the haze of his mind overtaken by the burn of pleasure as he was stretched to the limit. When Brom seated himself he filled him until Merlin was certain he couldn't take anymore, until his arse pulsed with the thickness and hardness that was Brom. He stayed as still as possible, feeling the throb of Brom's heartbeat deep within him until his skin burned and his cock twitched with the sheer intimacy of the moment. Then Brom snapped his hips and sent his mind reeling.
And during the plucking of lips and teeth across his flesh like a maestro's fingers coaxing a note from their instrument, he would hear: "Forget Arthur," and, "Tell me you love me."
For weeks, maybe months, Merlin held onto Arthur's name, trapping it beneath his tongue while he groaned in ecstasy, while Brom fucked him with a tenderness that made him want to sob. His magic would slip out, lured by Brom's gentleness, by his scent full in Merlin's nostrils. Perhaps it was because of the drugs, or maybe the connection he'd formed with Brom the first time he'd used it during sex, his magic embraced him. It wrapped around them both and drew Brom deep into him, until there were bruises painted onto the backs of his thighs and across his hips. His own blunt nails left a latticework of pale red scratches across Brom's back and shoulders, before trailing down to disappear in the dip of his lower back. Merlin was left feeling like he were split open, like his skin had been peeled back and his core laid bare for Brom to examine at his leisure.
He couldn't hold onto Arthur's name for very long. It fled him, slipping through him to leak out of the corners of his eyes. A new name replaced it.
"Brom!" he cried, stiffening as he tripped over the edge with no grace or sense of direction, just a wave of pleasure so intense he soared, high and full of something that overwhelmed him and drained him. When he crashed back down, it was Brom who caught him.
Still, he refused to say those three words that would betray Arthur completely.
He refused to say, "I love you."
Eventually he began to lose Arthur's name to sex, pleasure, and a desperate need for comfort that only grew as time went by.
The first time it happened, the first time he forgot Arthur's name entirely, the smell of spring was in the air, fresh and new. Merlin was so ashamed and guilt-ridden that he actually cried. Brom held him and spoke to him, his voice so cruelly gentle against his ear that it made Merlin hurt. It was a comfort he didn't want, not from Brom, and yet it was the only comfort he had.
Always, Brom coaxed him with the tip of his silvered tongue to say: "I love you."
And always, Merlin managed to deny saying it, even though his mind sometimes went blank on why he wouldn't.
They were dark days, filled with an intensity of emotion that never waned. It only grew, and Arthur's name, even thoughts of him, began to slip by like sand through a sieve.
Slowly, as the weeks rolled by, Merlin began to rely on the comfort of Brom's silky words and frightfully tender embrace, craving it almost as much as he craved the pervading haze that settled against the corners of his mind. Eventually, he craved it even more than that.
"I love you, Merlin," Brom breathed, his whisper heavy as it tickled his ears; it was a lie that Merlin discovered he wished to believe.
So he replied, "I know."
Merlin tried to run away only once, during the last days of summer when the trees had just begun to whisper of colder weather ahead.
It hadn't really been a question of whether or not he was going to try, but rather a question when. He had to try eventually. He had to try to get away from the haze of sex, drugs, and pain his life was fast becoming. He had to try and get back to Arthur. He had to try and go before he lost himself entirely.
A chambermaid by the name of Colette helped him.
An odd thing about the Aurelianus household was that, for all of his vicious notoriety, most of the manor staff adored Brom. He was charming, well spoken, and, while he was not exactly Adonis, had an allure that drew people in with an almost hypnotic quality. Merlin found he was conflicted at times; for Brom's smile was as likely to make a pang of keen longing lance through his gut as it was to turn his stomach.
There were those who didn't adore Brom, of course, though they were generally too fearful of his wrath to risk bringing it down upon themselves.
Colette was an exception.
She was dainty, yet her hands were calloused and strong from a lifetime of servitude. She wasn't pretty, not exactly, though Merlin did remember how her dark eyelashes would rest against her cheekbones whenever she looked down. And though she'd never said it outright, Merlin could tell she quietly disliked Brom - or at least his methods.
Initially, she was tasked with cleaning the 'artistic' lacerations on his back and changing his bandages. Later, when Brom would leave him bruised and bloodied in a post-sex haze, kneeling over some piece of furniture with a steel bar between his knees and a leather gag in his mouth, she became more than his nurse. She became his friend.
He remembered the first time she found him like that.
His back was barely healed, the skin raw and pink and stretched too tight, as if it had grown back a size too small. His body was numb with exhaustion and his mind was addled with drugs, making even the thought of moving pointless. When Colette entered, he didn't even have the will to be ashamed about how she found him.
Merlin thought she would leave. After all, the rule regarding him was quite simple: nobody touched him except Brom.
He was surprised, then, when Colette quietly closed the door and crossed to where he was kneeling. She crouched down next to him and removed the gag digging into the corners of his mouth, wordlessly rubbing the feeling back into his tired limbs, her fingers sure and firm as she kneaded his sore muscles. She washed the stickiness from his thighs with a warm, wet cloth in an almost clinical manner, and dabbed the spit and blood from his lips where he'd bitten his tongue and nearly choked.
Though his memories of those first few weeks were riddled with holes, he still recalled that moment, the moment when Colette had begun to mean something to him.
His mistake was in taking her comfort instead of pushing it away.
Colette tried to help him escape late one night after drugging Brom with something in his wine. She led him out through a narrow servants' passage in the kitchens, swaddled in a heavy cloak that felt as if it were lined with lead.
He was clumsy but determined; determined to find his way back to Arthur.
It wasn't enough however. Not in his state. Not with Brom's very essence tattooed into the scars on his back and flanks, slowing him, fueling his uncertainty with memories so strong he felt his knees go weak when he smelled him on his skin. Even absent, Brom was there, his scent braided into the roots of his hair, lingering behind his ears and along the bow of his lips. Merlin heard Brom's voice call to him from the darkness, a whisper and a moan that tickled the back of his neck.
A voice that whispered only one thing in a throaty mantra: 'Mine, mine, mine.'
Merlin's magic faltered at a crucial moment, just when the moon peeked its eye from behind a bank of dark cloud, washing him and Colette in pale, ethereal light.
Leofrick, the steward, caught them as he patrolled the grounds. His many keys, on their thick brass ring, slid together like the clamor of metal teeth falling onto the floor. Each loud clink had felt like a nail driving into his chest.
Brom was roused with some acrid concoction that burned Merlin's nose from across the room. Leofrick, in no minor detail, relayed to him what had happened and, through it all, Brom's expression had been blank, almost disinterested.
Merlin was sure that Brom would have punished him right then but, oddly, all Brom had done was lock him in his room without a word and disappear for the rest of the night.
Merlin had counted himself lucky.
Of course, he should have known better.
His punishment came the next day, when Brom woke him after a scant few hours of sleep. He sat up, eyes gummy with weariness, to see that Colette was in the room with them.
She looked terrified and, when she turned her eyes upon him, Merlin could feel a weight settle uneasily in his stomach.
He internally berated himself. He should never have taken her help. He should have known that something like this would happen. He knew Brom, therefore he knew better - or at least he should have.
"Brom," he said, conscious of the notes of anger and fear twisting his voice, "it was my idea. Punish me, not her."
"Oh, but Merlin," Brom purred, turning to him with a small disappointed smile, "you are being punished."
Brom pulled a fire poker from its holder near the fireplace. The metal glowed red hot as Brom waved his hand over the glowing tip to test how hot it was. He smiled at Colette, who flinched back from the expression as if it had stung her, her slender shoulders trembling with fear when he approached her. Brom's footfalls were muted and ominous against the thick carpeting, and it matched the dull beat of Merlin's heart as it thudded against his ribcage. Colette made a muffled noise around the gag in her mouth and had begun to cry when Brom cupped her pointed chin with sooty fingers and hummed, "Shall we begin, my dear Colette?"
He ran the pad of his thumb across her jaw with deceiving gentleness, leaving a streak of ashy residue daubed across her pale skin. Brom glanced towards Merlin, and there was something too cunning and too bright within the corner of his eyes. It immediately set Merlin's teeth on edge. Brom shifted his eyes towards him and Merlin stilled beneath the weight of his glare. "If you interfere, I will kill her." Merlin didn't doubt Brom's seriousness. Brom maintained eye contact with Merlin as he stroked Colette's cheek with the back of his hand. "Shh, no more tears, my dear." He ripped out Colette's gag and used it to wipe the moisture that trailed down her cheeks. She choked on a sob as she began to cry harder. "Hold up your hand, Colette," Brom said in a soft, velvety voice. Trembling, Colette barely raised one slender hand and uncurled her fingers.
Brom pressed the red hot tip of the fire poker lightly against Colette's palm. The smell of burning flesh filled Merlin's nostrils. Colette's scream filled his ears, though it was undercut by the sound of Brom's laughter. Merlin stood and took a step forward. Brom raised a hand to stop him. "I'm warning you," he said. Before Merlin could reply, he pressed tip of the poker to Colette's temple and dragged it slowly down the side of her face. The wound was cauterized as it was made. Colette's skin sizzled as the hot metal seared her, crackling and bubbling with each pass of the poker.
Colette's screams were long and agonized. She screamed with her whole body, limbs jerking against her bonds as she twisted wildly away from the source of her agony, from the burn of hot metal pushed against her flesh. Her cries bounced off of the walls, ragged when her throat grew dry - they burrowed into every corner of the room and lingered. Occasionally her screams would be cut off midway, pain too intense stealing her air as Brom became...creative. Her sharp gasps were worse; Merlin could feel her suffering in his own body with each strangled breath.
"Shut up," said Brom with a pleasant smile, as he forced open Colette's mouth and burned a hole into her tongue to quiet her screams. Colette began to gurgle sickly, choking on her own tongue and blood as Brom pushed the hot metal against the back of her throat.
"STOP IT!" Merlin shouted and lashed out with his magic. There was a flash of light and the smell of ozone permeated the air. Brom issued a startled cry and dropped the fire poker. When Merlin looked, he saw that Brom's hand was blackened, like it had been singed. Merlin rushed to Colette's side and tried to figure out which leylines of magic needed to be sewn to heal Colette's scarred body. Perhaps if he wasn't so weary, or still held pinned by the fog in his mind, he might have been able to help her.
Behind him, he heard Brom pick up the fire poker. "Move, Merlin," Brom said in a low, dangerous growl. Merlin physically shielded Colette with his body. Colette's face was bloody and burned. Her body was slumped in the chair and she was limp, but Merlin could hear her pained, labored breathing. Her breath came wetly, blood bubbling on her lips with each exhale, and after a moment he realized she was speaking. Merlin wrapped his hand around her shoulder tightly: Colette was praying to die.
"No," he repeated. He couldn't chase the tremor from his voice. Brom lowered the poker and reached out for him, gently. Merlin flinched back from his touch, but remained resolutely in front of Colette as Brom laid his hand lightly on the side of his neck.
"I love you Merlin, you know this. This is for your own good." And fast as quicksilver, Brom gripped him tightly by the throat and shoved him violently aside. Merlin's fingers locked around Colette's shoulder as he was shoved and he nearly jerked the whole chair over with him. She was as limp as a rag doll as she was yanked forward, her head lolling to the side as if she had no more strength left in her. Merlin couldn't keep his grip and he stumbled back, a piece of Colette's dress tearing in his hand as he fell back. His world listed like a ship tossed in a storm when he fell and hit his head hard on the corner of the table.
Blood trickled down over the curve of his cheek as pain exploded behind his eyes. He tried to crawl away on his hands and knees but his head was swimming. There was a crippling pain pounding like a blacksmith's hammer between his temples.
Brom turned away from him. Without another word, he began to break every bone in Colette's body with the fire poker, the first blow resonating through the room with a sickening crunch. Colette made a terrible gurgling noise but it soon faded to nothing. Merlin thought the silence was worse and wanted nothing more than to hear her screams again.
After what seemed like a long time, Merlin heard Brom toss the fire poker down carelessly and walk over to him. Brom wrapped his strong arms around Merlin's body, his hands staining his shirt red, and pulled him close.
"What is the lesson you've learned today?" Brom asked as he rolled the lobe of Merlin's ear between his lips. Merlin shuddered involuntarily as a tingle of sick pleasure shot through him, mixing with his guilt, and providing an easy means of escape.
He was numb with shock. He didn't want to think. Merlin looked down and saw blood on his hand from where he had touched Colette. He began to shake, the complete reality of the situation settling onto his shoulders fully. This was his fault - his. He should never have tried to leave Brom. If he hadn't, Colette would still be alive.
Brom held him close as he shook. Merlin could feel his warm breath ghost over the back of his neck, followed by the wetness of his tongue. His lips were soft as he kissed a sensitive area behind Merlin's right ear.
He was disgusted with himself. He was disgusted by the physical response of his body when Brom palmed him through the material of his pants, coaxing his flaccid cock into sleepy wakefulness. He was sickened by the smell of death in the room, mixed finely with the scent of cooked flesh. He was confused by the throb between his temples, unable to think straight with the conflict of feelings and sensations assaulting him.
Merlin didn't want to think about what had just happened. He couldn't bear the guilt of Colette's death.
"What have you learned?" Brom prompted.
"I," Merlin began haltingly, his voice thick with self-loathing and muted by pain, "I caused Colette's death." His neck lolled helplessly to one side as Brom pressed a kiss to the underside of his jaw.
"Yes," replied Brom, as he dragged the tips of his fingers across Merlin's flat belly, "you did. She has been duly punished, but your punishment is not over." He hauled Merlin up to his feet and Merlin caught sight of Colette's bent, broken corpse not a few feet away. Merlin felt his stomach turn and he bile rise in his throat at the sight of Colette's face. It was simply a slick, bloody pulp - Merlin didn't recognize her at all.
He vomited onto the floor.
Brom clicked his tongue in disapproval and then shoved him over the desk, slamming him down hard onto the wooden surface. Merlin didn't fight back as Brom pressed his cheek roughly against the desktop and undid his belt.
This was all his fault.
Merlin never tried to run away again.
Brom's lesson had been clear: His disobedience would only get other people hurt.
So he gave into him.
Living with Brom wasn't a perfect life by any means, but it was what it was. Merlin adapted because he had to, if he were to have any hope of preserving some part of himself.
When he gave in, when he dropped in exhaustion and simply stopped fighting, his "rehabilitation" began. Or at least that's what Brom liked to call it.
He slowly began weaning Merlin off the drugs. It was one of the most intensely painful experiences of his life. There were times when he simply knew that death would have been preferable over the ache of his withdrawal.
Brom sat with him and read aloud as Merlin shook and sweated, huddled in a thick blanket damp with his own stench and fluids as he convulsed. He begged Brom for more drugs, for anything to stop the cravings that made him physically ill; for a reprieve. Brom always denied him, licked his thumb, turned the page, and continued to read.
Merlin's mind was often far away, delirium a comfort against the consuming pull of his withdrawal, but he was at times lucid enough to capture snatches of what Brom was reading. He sat and shivered, the smooth roll of Brom's voice captivating as it dripped slowly down the length of his spine.
There was a lady dwelt in York:
She fell in love with her father's clerk,
Down by the green wood side.
She laid her hand against a stone,
And there she made most bitter moan,
Down by the green wood side.
She took a knife both long and sharp,
And stabb'd her babes unto the heart,
Down by the green wood side.
As she was walking home one day,
She met those babes all dress'd in white
Down by the green wood side.
She said, "Dear children, can you tell,
Where shall I go? To heav'n or hell?"
Down by the green wood side.
"O yes! dear mother, we can tell,
For it's we to heav'n and you to hell."
Down by the green wood side.
When the power of his own craving became too hideous to bear, when he began to slide away and to fold in upon himself, Brom's voice was the one to seize him and draw him back.
Brom often whispered dark promises into the pale skin of Merlin's neck; insidious words that were edged in the softest satin. "You and I will be great, Merlin," he murmured as he fisted his hand in his dark hair and pulled back, ever admiring of the manner in which Merlin's scarred back arched with cat-like flexibility. He said, "I love you, you know that. I protect you," and pushed himself deeper and deeper into Merlin's body.
Brom also cut, carving pain into sex. The sight of Merlin's limbs ribboned with blood undoubtedly stirred him, but what drove him to even greater heights of pleasure was when Merlin began to need the pain in order to come.
Merlin himself was unsure when it began to happen, when lacerations and bruises became a trigger for his pleasure. He began to crave the sting of the razor's edge. He began to beg for the prick of Brom's teeth hard on his skin. He began to like the ache of bruised skin, the ugly marks that started scarlet, faded to mottled black and blue, and burned so sweetly for days afterward. Brom often traced the paths of the bruises and cuts tattooed across his skin in the darkness, a blind man reading a book beneath the tips of his fingers and the heat of his palms.
Merlin wondered if it were possible to become addicted to pain, the rush of adrenaline and the desire that burrowed into the base of his spine, ripping his orgasm from him almost violently, every single time. He tried to hide it, afraid that if he let slip that he actually liked what Brom was doing to him, then he would stop.
He couldn't hide it from Brom forever, and when he figured it out, he made Merlin beg for it.
In many ways, it was a relief for Merlin to give up the struggle. It was a relief to let Brom shape his new life, his hands surprisingly gentle and firm as he carved Merlin a place at his side. But there was always something within him that railed against the change, urging him to fight and stay true to himself - and true to Arthur.
"Say it, Merlin, and you can come," Brom growled, his voice low and menacing as it curled around his teeth. He bit down harder on the nape of Merlin's neck, the flesh yielding beneath his bite before the first layer of skin broke neatly, giving him the barest taste of metallic warmth.
Merlin, straining for contact, for any stimulation against his swollen cock, couldn't do it. He couldn't say it. His voice caught in his throat even as his body screamed for release.
"It's easy," Brom whispered, his voice a husky rasp that made a jolt like an electric current shudder down Merlin's spine. "Just tell me - I know you do."
Rebelliousness beat against his ribcage with urgent fists, furiously struggling against the words that crept along the edge of his lips. Merlin looked up at Brom curved above him - really looked at him. He let his eyes trace the damp tendrils of auburn hair that clung to his forehead. His gaze lingered over the swollen redness of his lips, before tugging up to look into Brom's deep green eyes.
Merlin felt something twist and shift within him and then, at last, he gave up the last piece of himself he'd been holding onto. He locked it away, burying it deep within where it couldn't hurt him anymore. He needed to live now. He needed to learn how to thrive. It was the only way he could survive this.
"I love you," Merlin said finally, and meant it with every part of himself he had to give. It was all Brom's now - it had to be, if this was going to work. "I love you," he repeated and came with a sob that was swallowed by the sheets.
(To be continued...)