Disclaimer: Merlin belongs to the BBC, I'm A Cyborg, But That's Okay belongs to whoever created that movie. Neither is mine.
Author's Note: So, this fic is based on the Korean movie 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's Okay.' It's a really good movie, and if you haven't seen it, SEE IT. It's one of my favorites. I was nervous about posting this story at first, because it deal with mental afflictions and asylums and I'm not very knowledgeable about all that, but I stuck pretty close to the storyline in the movie, except the main character think she's a cyborg, not a sorcerer. I hope I don't offend anybody with my portrayal of any character within. But yeah, really nervous. I mean, butterflies in my stomach, write too long of an author's note, nervous. Sorry if there's any errors, I'm working sans beta, and I'm exhausted, but I thought I'd put it up.
Summary: Based on the movie 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's Okay.' Merlin thinks he's a sorcerer, but nobody believes him. His mother has him admitted to the hospital, where he meets a charming kleptomaniac named Arthur.
Warnings: Deals with mental afflictions and disorders. Major character death. Potential spoiler for 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's Okay.' See end for details.
"You say he's not eating?"
Hunith sniffed, bringing a handkerchief to her nose and blowing mightily, "Nothing! He eats nothing!"
The doctor 'hmmed' then wrote something on her clipboard before setting it aside and leaning forwards on the table, a kind smile on her face.
"Has he been…acting oddly for long?"
"No…yes, maybe," Hunith let out a sob and blew her nose again.
"Shh, it's alright, Mrs. Emrys—"
"Right, yes, sorry. Ms. Emrys. It's going to be alright. When did these…changes start?"
"Well, you see, Merlin raised my uncle…I mean, my uncle raised Merlin. I was gone a lot during his childhood. My dear, sweet uncle Gaius. He thinks he is a dragon, you know," Hunith sighed, wiping at her eyes.
The doctor arched her brows, "A dragon?"
"Hm, yes. I walked in on him one day, feeding a bunch of lizards some radishes, and he looked at me and said, 'You see these lizards, Hunith? These lizards are like my nieces and nephews. They're just like you.' From that day on, he ate nothing but radishes."
"Step one: take bun, split it in half…"
"Step one: take bun, split it in half…"
"Step two: add cheese…"
"Step two: add cheese…"
"Step three: pickles, onion, lettuce…"
"Step three: salt, crystal, holy water…"
"Step four: fry meat patty…"
"Step four: fry the eye of newt…"
"Step five: make sure meat is brown, add to bun…"
"Step five: make sure eye of newt is chewy, add to potion…"
"Step six: add mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise…"
"Step six: add hazelwood, wormwort, and mortius…"
"Step seven: serve to customer with smile…"
"Step seven: consume for magic boosting…"
"Merlin! Oh my god, Merlin!"
"Has he tried to kill himself before?" the doctor asked, glancing up from her notes.
"No! Never, he's always been a sweet boy, a precious boy. So helpful and beautiful and kind," Hunith sniffed into her hanky, shaking her head.
"Does Merlin believe himself to be a dragon, as well?"
Hunith looked up sharply, glaring at the doctor, "No! Merlin is human! Nothing but human!"
The doctor nodded her head, nibbled on the end of her pen and sighed, "Thank you, Ms. Emrys, for your time. Merlin is in good hands, I promise."
Merlin followed behind the pretty dark skinned girl closely, his head ducked down. She was safe, he supposed. She was nice, at least, if not a little too talkative.
"You see the lady with the two scars on her face?" Gwen whispered quietly, looking over her shoulder at Merlin. Merlin nodded.
"She fought a bear. Said she was in the circus, and to become the ringleader, she'd have to fight a bear and win. She won," Merlin stared at Gwen wide-eyed, then glanced to the tiny woman that was repeatedly flipping a coin from hand to hand.
They passed through the cafeteria, and Merlin was quickly pulled out of the way of a man who was rolling across the floor, speaking Korean to himself. "That's Ralph, he was the in war. You know, the war." Merlin didn't know what war, but he nodded anyways. "They say he ran drills so much that he went absolutely loony. Say his drill-sergeant made him roll onto the battle field! Now he can't stop."
Merlin gasped, shaking his head in disbelief. "You better believe it," Gwen said, giving him a solemn look and he nodded rapidly. She led him into a long corridor, with a great big mirror at the end of it.
"They say there was a woman here, years ago. Before I was here, before Dr. Kim was here, even," Merlin leaned forwards to listen better, "She was obsessed with herself. And they say she escaped!" Merlin jumped at the sudden jump in Gwen's voice, "Yeah! She escaped. She broke all the mirrors in the hospital and ran away. But then, years later, they found her tucked away behind this mirror. The only mirror she didn't break…she was…" Gwen paused and Merlin nodded, "I don't think you want to hear it."
Merlin nodded more, eagerly, "I warned you. She was…dead. And they say that if you look into the mirror, sometimes you see her reflection. You know, her face and everything." Merlin sucked in a sharp breath and Gwen laughed, "But don't worry, it hasn't happened in years. In years."
Gwen led him to the games room next. There were two men in the middle of it, on a foam mat with foam swords, batting at each other. One was wearing a knight's helmet made of thin, cheap plastic. He stepped back and twirled his wrist, the fake sword swinging around before he stepped forwards and thrust it into the gut of the other man. The other man let out a frustrated scream and fell to the ground as if he were really slain.
"They say he's the worst of us all," Gwen said, gesturing to the one in the knight's helmet. "Say he was locked in a closet at age 5, that's why his hair's so blond and his eye's so blue. They say he can't go out into sunlight 'cause of that. And he killed his mum! His own mum, you know."
Merlin stared with wide eyes at the knight-man, who was currently during a victory dance on the matt, crowing his delight. He frowned and turned away, and Gwen led them back to the room they shared. Dr. Kim was waiting for them there with a scowl on her face.
"Guinevere! What did I tell you about taking new patients around?" she snapped, and Gwen looked rightfully ashamed.
"Not to," she mumbled, her head ducked.
"Merlin, whatever Gwen told you about the other patients, they were all lies," Dr. Kim said, as if she had had to say it multiple times before.
Merlin just frowned and nodded, and Gwen whipped around to face Dr. Kim. "Don't tell him that! He's my friend! He's not going to ever talk to me now! It's all your fault, Dr. Kim! You jerk! I…wait, I didn't mean that. I'm sorry."
Dr. Kim just shook her head and told Gwen to go lay down and wait for the meds. Merlin sat on the edge of his bad, looking at the palms of his hands with a frown. He could see golden swirls in them, and he tried to push his magic out, but it just fizzled. He closed his eyes and tried again, but it just fizzled all over again.
"Merlin?" Merlin snapped his head up, and Dr. Kim sat on the edge of his bed next to him. She took one of Merlin's hands, "Are you hungry?" Merlin shook his head. "Sleep then, and we'll talk more tomorrow." Merlin nodded and shifted obediently on his bed until he was lying down. Dr. Kim stood up and bid the room goodnight, turning the lights off and then leaving.
Merlin lay in the dark, staring up at the ceiling. He didn't belong here, he thought. He really was a sorcerer, but Mum said not to tell anyone, not even the doctors. He couldn't use his magic anyways. He needed potions and tinctures that only Uncle Gaius could make. But Uncle Gaius was gone. They took him away. The same people who took him away, took Uncle Gaius away. But he wasn't here. Merlin frowned and glared at the ceiling.
"Merlin…" Merlin shot up in his bed, head whipping around to see if somebody in the room was speaking to him. Everybody was sleeping, or pretending to. None of them seemed to notice the voice.
"Merrrlin," it purred.
"A dragon," whispered Merlin, "Uncle Gaius!" he hissed, flinging his legs out of the bed, ignoring the draft in his hospital gown. He fastened his red neckerchief around his neck and stood shakily from the bed. He was still a little weak from having his stomach pumped three times a week ago. He had only just woken up from his 'suicide cocktail,' they called it, three days ago. No matter how many times he told these doctors that he wasn't trying to kill himself, only heal himself, they didn't believe him. They continued to walk on eggshells around him. The only people he felt that understood him were the nutters all around him.
He flung his brown canvas bag over his shoulder and crept out of the room, closing his eyes and tilting his head. "…Merlin." He followed in the direction of the deep rumbling voice until he reached a boiler room down in the basement. He pressed his ear to the concrete floor, his arse up in the air and wiggling.
"Uncle Gaius?" he breathed.
"Merlin, my boy. It's good to hear your voice again."
"Uncle Gaius! Oh! You are here! Mum said…but she said that you were gone. Gone gone. Why would she lie?"
"Your mum knows nothing right now, Merlin. She's confused. She doesn't understand us."
"I miss you. I don't want to be here. They say I'm crazy. You know I'm not crazy."
Merlin didn't notice a particular knight hiding in the shadows, watching with rapt attention as Merlin had a conversation with the ground.
It was group therapy time. Dr. Kim sat everybody in a circle around the griffin fountain. The griffin didn't have the horrifying mean face anymore. They had an artist come in a replace it with a smiling bird's face, and it looked silly to Arthur.
But Arthur didn't look at the statue today. Instead he just stared at the wide-eyed new comer that he had seen talking to the floor last night in the basement. At first he had been outraged that Merlin had found his secret hideaway, but he soon found out that Merlin had no idea he was there. He kept talking to somebody named 'Uncle Gaius' as Arthur watched and frowned.
"Arthur, helmet, please," Dr. Kim reminded him, and he removed the knight's helmet, settling it in his lap, all the while not taking his eyes off Merlin. Merlin stared right back at him, but didn't seem to be looking at him, but through him.
"Today, we're going to talk about—"
"Arthur stole something from me!" cried Pellinore, standing from his chair, knocking it back and pointing angrily Arthur, his fat fingers shaking.
"Pellinore, please, sit down. If Arthur has taken—"
"Not if. He did take something from me! He stole it, he stole it all!" Pellinore was hopping up and down now, shaking his finger at Arthur. Arthur was unmoved. He just sat quietly and stared. He probably had stolen something from Pellinore at one point in time, but he always gave what he stole back. Always. He didn't mean to hurt people, he just couldn't help it.
"Arthur, did you take something from Pellinore?" Dr. Kim asked quietly. Arthur shrugged.
"Pellinore, what did Arthur take?"
"My technique! He took my bloody technique! Took it all and now I can't even use it because he stole it," Pellinore had spittle flying from his lips as he howled in outrage.
"Arthur took my hand cream! He took it!" cried an extremely tall woman. She held out her hands, "Look how horrible my hands look!" she bemoaned. They looked perfectly fine to Arthur, if not a little discolored. "And look at his hands! Look at his hands!" she hissed. Arthur held out his hands, which looked quite normal. But everybody in the circle, except Merlin, gasped with horror.
"He stole my toothpaste!" cried one.
"He stole my socks!" cried another.
"He stole my hairbrush!" Everybody in the circle fell into a hush. That one was true. He stole everybody's hairbrushes. It was a nervous habit. He had about three miniature hairbrushes hidden on his person at the very moment.
"Thief!" they all cried out in unison, except Merlin. Dr. Kim was trying to get a handle on the situation, but they ignored her. "Thief! Thief! Thief!" they chanted. Merlin got up and left, nobody except Arthur noticed. Arthur stood up from his seat and jammed his helmet on with a steely expression.
He bowed deeply, "Good day, Dr. Kim," he said, his voice a pleasant tenor, before he followed after Merlin. He followed Merlin all the way to the cafeteria. He knew Merlin wouldn't eat, but Merlin went through the food line anyways, eyeing every bit offered up with distaste. He let out a frustrated sigh and stormed out of the cafeteria. Arthur followed him carefully and quietly. He was quite good at that. He ended up following Merlin all the way to the basement, where he promptly dropped to all fours, tied his red neckerchief around his neck, and proceeded to talk to his 'Uncle' again.
Arthur let it go on for a bit, stealthily going through Merlin's dropped pack, finding a comb, and stuffing it into his pocket before standing up and clearing his throat. Merlin jumped up and whirled on Arthur, holding his hand out in front of him, palm down and fingers spread. Arthur just tilted his head as Merlin continued to glare, his left eye twitching. Merlin's shoulders slumped then, and he sighed.
"What are you doing?" Arthur asked. Merlin shrugged. "Why don't you talk to other people?"
"I've got to conserve energy."
"Energy to do what?"
"For," Merlin paused, his eyes shifting left and right, "magic. Don't tell anybody."
"Magic? That's ridiculous—!"
"Cross your heart right now and promise not to say anything!" Merlin shouted, and Arthur swore his eyes flashed. Arthur nodded and crossed his finger in an 'x' over his heart. Merlin sighed a sigh of relief. He slumped to the ground, leaning up against a boiler. He gazed up at Arthur curiously, "Are you really a thief?"
It was Arthur's turn to shrug, "Only sometimes. But I always give back what I steal."
"So you really stole that guy's technique?" Merlin asked, watching as Arthur dropped to his knees in front of Merlin.
"Yes. But only because he was abusing it," Arthur said solemnly.
"And that lady's hand cream?"
"She was too vain," Arthur explained.
"And you'll give them back?"
"Of course," Arthur sniffed, as if it were ridiculous that he wouldn't.
"I guess that's okay then," Merlin said, tilting his head back and closing his eyes. "They say I'm crazy," he muttered, and Arthur leaned closer to hear him, "But I really can do magic. They don't understand."
"I understand," Arthur said, shifting closer, laying his hand on Merlin's ankle. He then stood up, jammed his helmet back on his head and nodded to Merlin, turned, and walked away. He wasn't lying; he always did give things back. He pulled out the comb he just filched from Merlin and ran his fingers over the teeth as he walked through the halls. He almost ran into a man walking backwards, nodding politely at everybody and apologizing.
He always gave what he stole back, except for the combs and brushes. Without the combs and brushes, he was nothing. He was nothing.
"Mr. Pendragon, your son is in big trouble. Big trouble."
"I know, I know. But he's just a young boy, understand…"
"No, Mr. Pendragon. Grand theft auto is not a grey area of the law. He stole the Prime Minister's son's car."
"…he's only five years old, understand…"
"Mr. Pendragon, is there a Mrs. Pendragon?"
"I'm sorry for that. Are there any relatives Arthur would be safe with while we…"
"No, he's got no one. Just me."
"There's homes that are very suitable for children like Arthur."
"I will not have my son put in juvenile detention! He's five years old, damnit!"
"Mr. Pendragon…He. Stole. A. Car. At five years old. I think this is out of your hands."
"Don't you dare try to tell me what I can and cannot do with my son! He's the reason his mother is gone, and now we're all each other has got!"
"Understand this, officer, you'll have to pry my son from my cold. Dead. Hands!"
"What are you doing?" squeaked the hand-cream-lady, "What are you doing?" she shouted. Arthur put a finger to his lips and narrowed his eyes.
"I'm helping, so shut your gob," he hissed, tying a blindfold around her eyes. "I promise everything will be alright," he whispered. She whimpered but sat still. Arthur reached out and took her hands in both of his. His hands were cold and wet with water mixed with a bit of flour, to make it thick. The woman sucked in a sharp breath.
"What's this? What's this?" she whimpered.
"It's the most expensive hand cream in the world," Arthur said, the lie coming easily, "It's from China."
"Oh, China, they make the best stuff in China. The best," the woman said, smiling dreamily.
"Only you can't look at it," Arthur said, rubbing his hands over hers, "It's so magnificent that it'll make your hands glow brighter than the sun. And your hands will be softer than the softest down feathers of a baby…penguin."
"Penguin, you say? Baby penguin?"
"Oh yes," Arthur said, letting go of her hands to pull out a filched pair of black silk gloves. He rinsed most of the 'cream' off with normal water before pulling the gloves onto her hands. "You can't take this off, not for a month. Or else you'll go blind." He pulled the blindfold off her eyes and she stared down at her hands in wonder. "I promise they'll be beautiful when you take them off."
"Beautiful," she whispered reverently, "Beautiful."
Arthur grinned at her and handed her her old hand cream. She looked at it with distaste and immediately threw it in the bin. "No thank you, I don't need that anymore. No thank you."
The next day Arthur approached Pellinore, offering to sword fight him again. "But before we do, I have a present!" he said. He stepped back and twirled his wrist, then pretended to throw something at Pellinore. Pellinore, without missing a beat, pretended to catch it in his flabby hands.
"My technique! It's back!" he chortled, dancing around in a circle.
"You can have it," Arthur said, pretending to spit on the ground. "It makes me sweat, and my hand slips on the sword every time." Pellinore laughed at him as if he were stupid for giving the whole thing up.
"On your guard, Pendragon! Let's do this!" Pellinore said, stepping on the mat and drawing his foam sword. Arthur drew his as well and they bumped tips before going at each other. Arthur lost spectacularly, dying with much theatrics. He cracked one eye open to see Merlin standing in the door way, watching him carefully. He grinned and winked at him.
Merlin frowned and left the room. Arthur leapt up and followed him stealthily. Merlin went to the basement to speak to his Uncle Gaius, strapping on his neckerchief and bending down to talk. "I can't do it, Uncle," Merlin whispered quietly, and Arthur could hear tears in his voice.
"Yes, yes, I know, number five. But I can't…It wouldn't be fair…Yes. I know. Number three…I'm sorry…Yes Uncle…Goodnight."
Arthur frowned and slipped out of the room before Merlin noticed him there, scratching his head and rubbing his hand on his uniform pants nervously. He worried for Merlin. He was getting skinnier still. He kinda actually liked Merlin. But only a little.
—Dr. Kim's Story—
She knew what she was getting into when she took the job here. Her husband had begged her not to. But the move from Korea to England had her searching out a place where her skills would be appreciated. And so what if the people she dealt with on a daily basis brought her home in a state of depression. She did good work.
Things were boring, as boring as working in a place full of eccentrics could be, until Merlin Emrys arrived. He showed no actual suicidal tendencies, except that one time that landed him here in the first place. But he wouldn't eat. They had to force him with shot and miniscule little things. She had tried to speak to him about it, but all he said was that they didn't have anything he was allowed to eat.
He refused to say anything else.
She also noticed Arthur, a regular in and out resident, taking a keen interest in Merlin. Arthur didn't have a lot of friends, since he was anti-social, and a kleptomaniac. She did notice he gave back what he stole. She had tried to talk to him about that, too. And his obsessive hair brushing. He, fortunately, was a bit more forthcoming with the information.
He told Dr. Kim that when he was fifteen, his father took him to a doctor. A head-doctor. He refused to call the previous doctor a psychiatrist, because psychiatrists did good work, this other man did. He said that the head-doctor wasn't nice about asking him question. He called Arthur crazy, called him stupid and dull and a little demented.
Dr. Kim recalled the tears springing to Arthur's eyes as he said, 'I'm going to disappear, one day. People grow old, you know. When people grow old, they lose their hair, and people stop realizing they're there at all. That's why I need to take such good care of my hair. The head-doctor, he said that one day, I'm just going to shrink, shrink, shrink until I become a dot and disappear, and nobody would miss me.'
Dr. Kim was disturbed by that, and took a special interest in Arthur ever since. But after that, Arthur didn't talk. She still watched him carefully, though. Him and Merlin. She watched as Merlin followed Arthur around, quiet and unnoticed, observing Arthur carefully. She watched as Arthur followed other's around, helping them, taking on their ailments to make them feel better about themselves.
Merlin seemed impressed, but Merlin never spoke to Arthur, and Arthur never spoke to Merlin. But there seemed to be some sort of camaraderie between them.
And then one day, Merlin collapsed. He hadn't been eating. They had to take him to a recovery room and force feed him with a tube through the nose. He didn't like that one bit. He fought until he realized there really was no escape. So he lay there and took it. But he didn't like it. And neither did Arthur.
Arthur burst into the room, fighting his way passed the orderlies. 'He doesn't like it! He doesn't like it!' he had yelled, until he was thrown into a recovery room himself. Dr. Kim frowned at this. Arthur had never blatantly acted out like that. She frowned and made a note on her clipboard as she observed Merlin, who was watching her with careful, wide eyes.
And then Dr. Kim left the room, and Merlin had sighed. She frowned at the sad sound.
"Cho Kim! Put that cookie back right now!"
"Good girl, dear. Now come eat your noodles."
"I don't like noodles, mom."
"Yes you do, eat."
"Mom, I don't like noodles. I like cookies."
"No cookies, only noodles. Eat."
Dr. Kim reflected on the mother issues in most of her patients. Arthur never had a mother, and Merlin's mother was in denial. She knew it was terribly cliché to blame the mother, but there was always some truth behind it.
She blamed her own mother for her choice in career. She wouldn't have to deal with this difficult stuff on a daily basis. Merlin was steady, and Arthur was wound down. But they'd stay in the rooms overnight. She sighed and pinched the tension from her nose before clocking out for the night and heading home, ignoring the fact that her mother had called her three times in the past hour.
Arthur leapt up from his bed and shoved it away from the wall, pressing his face to the wall that just thumped at him.
"Merlin!" Arthur ran to the windows that let in fresh air. "Merlin, come to the window!"
"Arthur!" Merlin went to the window, pressing his face to the bars, "Oh god, Arthur. They're going to take my magic away. They keep giving me all this food."
"I know, I'm sorry," Arthur frowned. "Put your hand out the window," he ordered. He waited a few seconds before pulling out his tin can phone he made, and tossed one end to Merlin.
Merlin pressed the tin can to his ear and waited for Arthur to talk. "I'm sorry they put you in there, Merlin," Merlin smiled sadly.
"I don't want my magic to go, Arthur. I just need a special food, Gaius says," Arthur pressed the tin can to his ear tightly as Merlin spoke.
"What kind of food?" Merlin listened, his forehead pressed against the bars.
"Radishes," Arthur noted the answer and stored it in his mind.
"If I can get radishes, you'll eat?" Merlin thought about the question.
"Yeah. I'll eat everything and anything if they just give me radishes once," Arthur bit his lip.
"I'll get you radishes then. What happens when you eat radishes?" Merlin contemplated answering with a lie, but he like Arthur.
"I get my magic back," Arthur sucked in a sharp breath.
"And then they'll know you're not crazy," Merlin nodded, and then remembered Arthur couldn't hear a nod.
"Yeah. And then I'll convince them you're not anti-social, just misunderstood. And then we can leave together. We'll live in an apartment, and you can take real sword fighting lessons, and I can be a famous magician," Arthur laughed at the image of Merlin in a top hat and cape.
"I'd like that. And then we can get your Uncle Gaius out," Merlin was silent after that. "Merlin?" Merlin still didn't answer. Arthur frowned. "Anyways, I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay. Goodnight, Arthur."
That night, they dreamed a dream together. The same dream.
They were in the Alps, a giant field of flowers and the greenest grass you could imagine. Merlin and Arthur clasped hands and smiled the biggest smiles at each other, before laughing and running and tumbling.
Arthur acquired a sword, a real sword, and had fake sword fights with invisible foes. Merlin was making fireworks bloom in the sky and shapes out of the clouds.
"Merlin!" Merlin whirled around to see his Uncle Gaius.
"Uncle Gaius!" Merlin ran unnaturally fast towards his uncle, Arthur right on his heels.
"Arthur!" Gaius greeted, and Arthur smiled at the man he had never met before.
A pair of dragons' wings sprouted from the white haired man's back, and Arthur and Merlin gasped, their hands linked once more.
"Uncle Gaius, what are you doing here?"
"I've come to tell you something very important, Merlin, listen carefully. The purpose of life is…"
It got quiet. Merlin and Arthur exchanged a look before looking back to Gaius. He was slowly raising off the ground, his wings beating.
"The purpose of life, Merlin, is…"
"What, what is it?" Merlin called up to his rising uncle.
"Merlin! The purpose of life is—!"
Suddenly he was shot into the air, and didn't come back down. Merlin frowned. Arthur frowned. They woke up.
—Their Story Continued—
Merlin and Arthur were released the next day. But they were kept apart. The doctors believed Arthur was encouraging Merlin not to eat. Arthur didn't like this, and neither did his friends. They decided they'd go on a hunger strike. Until Dr. Kim explained that if they didn't eat, they'd all have to go into recovery rooms like Merlin had. That quickly got everybody, except Arthur, up to the lunch line.
Arthur frowned, and waited until everybody had left, to sneak up to the lunch line to talk to the servers. He negotiated for about ten minutes, before he was handed a note. He left with a wide smile on his face, then stuck his helmet on and went back to his room, hungry.
Merlin had the lunch after Arthur's, and he did manage to eat the crackers they gave him. He protested weakly, but loathed the idea of going back into a recovery room. He ate them like he was eating glass. When lunch was over he chose to go back to his room instead of the games room. He laid there by himself, staring up at the ceiling, until late at night, when everybody was asleep.
Then he crept downstairs to his and Arthur's spot, and sat curled up against the boiler. He tied on his neckerchief and tried to talk to Uncle Gaius, but he didn't answer. He didn't hear Arthur come in, and didn't notice he was sitting in front of him until Arthur's hand closed over his hand, pulling it from his hair.
"Merlin, what's wrong? Don't pull on your hair, you'll go bald," Arthur said, pulling the other hand from his hair.
"Uncle Gaius isn't answering. I think I've lost my magic completely," Merlin sighed, hanging onto Arthur's hand tightly.
"It's alright. You'll have it soon, I promise," Arthur squeezed Merlin's hand, and Merlin tried to smile.
"Arthur, I need you to steal my heart," Merlin said quickly.
Arthur blinked at him, "I can't just steal your heart, Merlin. It's not stealing if you want me to steal it. That's just giving."
Merlin frowned, but didn't reply.
"Besides, it takes weeks of planning to steal somebody's heart. I have to follow you around, figure out how to do it, you know. Spy stuff," Arthur shifted closer to Merlin. "Why do you want your heart stolen, anyways?"
"My heart makes me feel love. I can't love people if I'm to use magic. Uncle Gaius says love makes people weak, and being weak means you have no strength for magic," Merlin explained. "There are seven cardinal sins that limit you from using magic," Merlin's voice was somber.
—The Seven Sins, and the times Merlin failed—
Guilt: One must never feel guilt over using magic.
Merlin was hungry, and so little. He thought maybe, just maybe, if he could have one biscuit, it would be alright. So he raised his hand, and down came a biscuit. "Merlin! No cookies before dinner!" Mum snapped. Merlin floated the cookie back to the jar, went to his room, and cried because he had disobeyed his mum.
Sympathy: One must never feel sad for others, because you should be sad for yourself.
Merlin saw the little boy with big blue eyes chase after his puppy. The puppy kept running until it reached the woods and the little boy couldn't chase anymore. The little boy burst into tears, and Merlin cried with him.
Restlessness: It's important never to be restless. You've got purpose, with magic.
Merlin paced the floor, back and forth, back and forth. His friend will was sick, his heart was hurting. Merlin didn't know what to do. He wished he could see him, to help him, but the doctors wouldn't let him through. He continued pacing.
Hesitating: A hesitant sorcerer is a vulnerable sorcerer.
Merlin shifted from foot to foot as he stood in front of the large school. The move to secondary school was a big one. He was afraid maybe he wouldn't make friends. His foot was half in the air, hovering on the edge of the first step that he didn't want to take.
Giving without taking: It's always nice to give, but always expect to receive in return.
Merlin frowned at the bell ringing man dressed as Father Christmas with a wooden leg. His friends laughed at him as he dropped all the spare change he had into his red bucket.
Being sad: Sadness gets in the way of more important emotions.
Merlin didn't leave his room for the three days after Will died. Every night he dreamt of his best friend, and every night he woke up crying. His heart hurt with phantom pains of memories of Will. He missed him.
Love: Loving someone is dangerous. Never love, unless you wish to be weak.
This one Merlin had not experienced yet.
—Their Story Continued—
"I will steal your heart, Merlin. So you can have your magic back," Arthur promised, clasping Merlin's hand tightly. Merlin smiled shyly. "But you've got to promise not to like it, okay?"
"I promise, Arthur," Merlin promised, before bouncing to his feet. Arthur followed him up, sliding his helmet back on his head. "Why do you wear the helmet?"
"It protects my hair, when I can't brush it," Arthur said, stroking his hand over the helmet. "Also, it makes me look like a dashing knight."
"I don't like it. I can't see your face," Merlin said, walking by Arthur's side back upstairs. "And I rather like your face."
Arthur was thankful the helmet hid his blush. But from that day onward, he didn't wear the helmet ever again.
It wasn't until a week later that Arthur stole Merlin's heart. He quietly snuck into Merlin's room, slid the red neckerchief from Merlin's bag, and snuck back out. He tied it around his ankle and wore it under his pants. The next day during group therapy as they all sat around the fountain, Merlin looked devastated.
They all went around, sharing something they had lost and missed the most. When it was Arthur's turn, he reached down to scratch his knee, pulling his pant leg up.
"Thief!" Merlin cried, and launched himself at Arthur, beating down on Arthur's chest with his fists, "Thief! You stole it!" he shouted, he cried, then collapsed and sighed, his head tucked under Arthur's chin as Dr. Kim tried to pull him off of Arthur.
Arthur remained unmoving through it all, and when he felt tears on his neck, he smiled at a job well done. Merlin eventually was pulled off of him and escorted back to his room. The rest of them were dismissed for lunch. Arthur left lunch that day with a plastic container. He met Merlin at their place that night.
"I've brought you something," Arthur said, setting the container in the middle of them. "Two somethings, actually." Arthur unwound the neckerchief from his ankle and handed it to Merlin. Merlin smiled and tied it around his neck, placing a shy kiss on Arthur's cheek before settling back and watching him expectantly.
Arthur snapped the lid off the container with a flourish and Merlin's smile widened. "Radishes!" he chortled in pleased surprise. "Arthur! I'll have magic! And we can move out of here. I promise. First thing I do—!"
"Wait!" Arthur cried as Merlin reached for a radish. Arthur slapped the back of his hand. "Let me feed them to you. They'll only work that way." Merlin nodded solemnly, then opened his mouth.
Arthur picked up a slice of radish, then carefully fed it to Merlin. Merlin crunched on it noisily, then swallowed, opening his mouth for another. Arthur dutifully fed him another. Merlin ate and closed his eyes, humming to himself. Arthur continued to feed Merlin, and Merlin continued to hum until his hums filled the whole basement with echoes of a pleasant song.
When the radishes were gone and Merlin opened his eyes, they were glowing gold. Arthur sucked in a sharp breath, and then laughed. And Merlin laughed. They stood together and danced and talked about where they'd live. The beach, Merlin said. No! Arthur said, a city! A big city. With lots of department stores.
They both went to bed that night, pleasantly awaiting their future together, once Merlin showed everybody he wasn't a liar. Once he told them he was a sorcerer.
But that moment never came. The next morning, Arthur bound into the cafeteria for breakfast, eagerly searching out Merlin. He wasn't there. He went to the games room, and Merlin wasn't there. He went the injury ward, and Merlin wasn't there. He went to their spot, and he wasn't there.
Arthur sought out Dr. Kim and asked where Merlin was. Dr. Kim frowned and explained that Merlin's mum was visiting, they were in the gardens. Arthur crept out to spy on Merlin and his mum, because that's what he did best.
Merlin was talking to his mum, they were shouting at one another. Merlin had his neckerchief curled around his hand, and he was wiping tears from his eyes. Arthur wanted to wipe the tears from his eyes. Merlin's mum said something quietly, and then Merlin snagged something from the table, shouted and ran away. Arthur stumbled out of the bushes and exchanged a surprised look with Merlin's mum, before chasing after Merlin.
He found Merlin kneeling at the foot of a tree, his hands digging in the dirt frantically, messing up his pants and dirtying his fingernails. Without a word, Arthur dropped to his knees next to Merlin, watching him carefully. Merlin wrapped a little bag full of grey powder in his neckerchief, then stuck it in the hole before covering it quickly with the dirt, patting it down with angry fists. He sat back on his bottom then, stretching his legs out in front of him.
"He's dead," Merlin said, closing his eyes and tilting his head back, his cheeks tear stained. Arthur didn't have to ask who 'he' was. He knew it was Uncle Gaius. He laid his hand on Merlin's knee, shifting around so he knelt between Merlin's legs. "I told Mum my magic is back. She didn't believe me. She yelled at me for telling you I was a sorcerer. She won't let me tell Dr. Kim."
"But Merlin, that isn't fair!" Arthur wanted to shout it, but he didn't. He whispered it. Merlin opened his eyes to stair at Arthur. He swallowed thickly.
"Yeah, I know," his hand closed over Arthur's and he smiled sadly. "But she's my mum, I can't go against what she says."
"Sure you can, Merlin. I went against what my father said loads of times," Arthur said earnestly, leaning forwards.
Merlin shook his head, and his eyes flashed gold briefly. Arthur felt himself be tugged back with a pull of his shirt. "And you can't tell anybody either, Arthur, or I'll never, ever forgive you."
"But…We were going to live together, remember? We can even live on the beach, I promise I won't even complain."
"'m sorry, Arthur," Merlin said, then reached his hand up to curl around the back of Arthur's head, running his fingers through Arthur's hair. Arthur sighed. "I'm sorry."
"Me too," Arthur said, before jerking forwards and mashing his lips to Merlin's. It was a clumsy kiss that hurt at first, until Merlin tilted his head the proper way and they could move their lips. It was over quickly, and Merlin leapt back, his eyes flashing again. He stood and ran, and when Arthur tried to stand and run after him, he was being held down. He let out a frustrated cry, and was released only when Merlin was out of sight.
Arthur didn't see Merlin until the next day at dinner. Merlin came in and sat right next to him, his knee bumping Arthur's. Arthur just scowled at him and continued shoveling the stew into his face, made with some kind of soy supplement that tasted like dirt and rat. Merlin pulled out a plastic contained and sat it on the table between them, turned to Arthur, and opened his mouth expectantly.
Arthur frowned and shook his head. Merlin kicked his shin under the table and opened his mouth again, clearing his throat. The whole cafeteria seemed to be staring at them with wide eyed wonder. So Arthur sighed and faced Merlin. He reached into the contained and pulled out a slice of radish, then raised it to Merlin's mouth. He glanced to the side to see everybody in the cafeteria turn to the person to their side, offering bits of food in the same way.
Merlin nodded his head eagerly, and Arthur slid the slice into his mouth. Merlin immediately began to chew. Everybody else began to chew. The process was repeated until Merlin declared himself full, grabbed Arthur's hand, and pulled him towards the doctors' offices.
"I'm telling Dr. Kim," Merlin announced.
Arthur grinned. Merlin pressed a kiss to his cheek. And then Arthur frowned.
"What if…what if they won't let me out, Merlin?" he asked quietly, his head ducked.
"That's crazy, of course they will!" Merlin laughed, and then frowned. "Why wouldn't they?"
"Well, what they say about me is true. I do steal, and I am anti-social and all those bad things. I'm here because I belong here," Arthur admitted. "You're here because people didn't believe you."
Merlin paused, "Then I won't go," he decided, and turned to Arthur. Arthur smiled.
"Okay," Arthur said, and then Merlin was pulling him along behind him, to the outside. They sat under the tree Merlin buried his Uncle Gaius near and held hands. Merlin made it rain. Arthur laughed to see it.
"I know what the purpose of life is," Merlin said quietly.
"This," Merlin said, squeezed Arthur's hand, and made it rain a little bit harder.
Author's Note Part Deux: So yeah, if you've skipped all the way to the bottom to see who the character that dies is, it's (SPOILER FOR FIC ALERT) Gaius. I guess maybe it could be a spoiler for 'I'm A Cyborg, But That's Okay', as well, since the corresponding character dies in that movie as well.