Disclaimer: All characters within this story do not belong to the author. They belong to the BBC. Dangit.Author's Note: This story was inspired by a picture over on deviantart by the user ObsidianSerpent titled 'Stained Glass Window.' Go check it out! The idea for the story is also credited to ObsidianSerpent. I just had to write it though. And it's much darker than what I usually write. And I'm kinda nervous, 'cause I hope I do the picture justice.
Summary: A sorceress scorned traps Arthur and Merlin in beautiful stained glass windows. And while Arthur is unaware of the time passing, Merlin has to live through ever agonizing second of the 50 years.
Warnings: Um. A squirrel dies. And it's dark.
Merlin used to count the days. And then they got too numerous to do so, so he started counting the weeks. Weeks became months, and months became years. Years of which every agonizing moment was spent in deafening quiet.
This 23rd year held little significance to him. Nothing notable happened, but it was perhaps the turning point of his battle for sanity. He had long ago run out of things to say to Arthur. Arthur, who would never answer back, of course.
The 23rd year was the year when Merlin finally realized that he was used to being glass. It was so familiar to him now, the quietness, the unfeeling feelings, every sense but sight and hearing gone. It was no longer strange to him. And realizing this was almost a comfort to him. And realizing that it was a comfort made him think that perhaps he had finally crossed the line into insanity.
"I know you can't hear me Arthur, but I'm sorry this ever happened. And I know you'd probably say this wasn't my fault, but I think it was. If I hadn't been there, if we hadn't been together…"
Merlin sighed, leaning against the edge of his frame. He pressed the palms of his hands into his eyes. At first he thought it was weird, talking to Arthur. He knew, he knew, that Arthur couldn't hear him. He wouldn't react. But he wasn't so desperate to start talking to the squirrels and birds that scampered through the abandoned church.
It had only been a fortnight since the enchantress locked them up in here. Merlin still held hope for the search parties finding them. And then they'd bring along somebody wise, who could undo this. His magic was ineffectual in here. He'd tried, he'd tried fiercely for days.
There was a massive squirrel infestation in the church, Merlin noted. Sometimes a squirrel would scamper up to his window, and he'd sit very still, which wasn't too hard. And then the squirrel would look up, and he'd make a sudden move. The squirrel would startle, shake violently, and run fast, fast away.
It was entertaining for a while. Very few things were entertaining lately. He was suffering from crippling boredom. And the squirrel game was quite fun, and he imagined it would be for a few more weeks, until winter was fully upon them.
And it was fun, until he frightened one squirrel so badly it didn't have time to run before it dropped dead, a yard from his window. The other squirrels didn't care as they side-stepped the body of their furry mate. Merlin felt horrible, more horrible than he had in a long time. He said a quiet prayer for the squirrel, and apologized, before turning his back to the scene for a whole week, unable to look at the decaying body.
A man on horse passed by, and Merlin screamed himself hoarse. He knew the man wouldn't be able to hear him. But he screamed and screamed and banged on his glass and panes anyways.
The man on the horse didn't blink an eye as he passed the old decrepit church. Nobody looked. Nobody ever looked.
Merlin would have looked. Arthur would have looked.
"Do you know what I miss? Wine. Oh god, I would kill for a glass of wine right now," Merlin spoke facing the panel of glass he knew was Arthur, even though he knew Arthur would remain unmoved.
"I would even drink that horrid kitchen wine, you know the really watered down type you always complained I drank. Oh! Or roast pheasant. Mmm, roast pheasant."
Merlin hadn't eaten or drank in a very long time, but he didn't need it. Inside the glass, he didn't feel anything like hunger or thirst.
It was his birthday today. He'd be 32, if he actually aged. But he didn't. His hands remained smooth and unlined, as did his face. His hair didn't grow, neither did his fingernails or toenails.
He had watched families of birds build nests in the rafters of the church every year. Every year the birds would lay eggs, sit on them, and raise the babies. The chicks would eventually grow, and take flight. He'd watched this every year, yearning for the feeling of growing.
Merlin cried for the first time on this day. And he was surprised to see that his tears were actually wet on his hands. Though when he brought them to his lips, they didn't taste like anything. He cried harder.
Merlin discovered meditation. Of course, he didn't know it would be called meditation. But he was able to think himself into nothingness. This was a long awaited and very welcome reprieve. He spent most of the year meditating.
"And then there was that time Will and I set fire to the oak tree behind his home. Mum was so angry with us. But I put it out by pouring a bucket of milk all over it. Mum was even angrier that I wasted milk," Merlin chuckled at his own story. He imagined Arthur's eyes crinkling around the edge, as they did when he was trying hard not to laugh at Merlin.
"It would be okay for you to laugh at me right now," Merlin sighed, "I know you want to." He imagined Arthur's laugh, deep and genuine. A laugh that made Merlin's stomach do flips and made him warm.
"I love your laugh. You have the best laugh. But not the one that you put on for visitors. Polite and forced. No, the real one. The one that only I've heard," Merlin pressed his face against the frame of his glass, the one close to Arthur. He imagined Arthur's snort and his 'you're such a girl, Merlin' speech.
"Girl I may be, but I'm you're girl," and then Merlin snapped his mouth shut. "I mean. Wait, I didn't mean it like that. I'm not a girl. I know that, you know that. You definitely know that." Merlin paused to allow Arthur's imaginary snorting laughter. "But…I do mean that I'm yours. But I suppose you already knew that."
He could hear Arthur's possessive 'mine' in his mind.
"ARTHUR! Oh god, Arthur. It hurts!" Merlin banged his fist on the side of his frame, facing Arthur.
"I miss you. I miss you so much." He pressed his face to the frame, tasteless tears running down his cheeks. "I miss you, I miss you, I miss you."
Arthur was silent.
"Damnit! Why don't you answer me?" he shouted, banging his fists like a petulant child. "I know you're there!"
Merlin continued to sob, "It's so hard. It's so hard without you. I miss you." He slid down the frame, his face still pressed to it, though it didn't feel cool or warm. "I miss you, I love you."
No answer, Merlin sobbed even harder.
"I hate you," Merlin said vehemently through his tears. "I hate you!" he sobbed, "I HATE YOU!" he screamed, fists pounding again on the pane. "…I hate you," he whispered. "Arthur, Arthur. I…I hate…"
With one last wretched sob, Merlin finally just collapsed, a small ball on the bottom pane of his window, "…I love you. Sorry, sorry. I don't hate you. I love you."
The church was falling apart. The roof collapsed in the winter of the 39th year. All of the other windows were cracking and falling apart. There were holes in the ground, and rust on whatever metal that wasn't dust already.
The altar of the old church was rotting with termites, and in the middle of the stone ground, there were little sprouts of trees and plants bursting forth. New life. Merlin welcomed the new life. He whispered a greeting to it, and to the vines that grew on the walls and over his and Arthur's windows.
He ran his fingers over the crack in his own glass, no longer wishing it could cut him, like he used to. New life. New life shouldn't have to see pain like his. He turned his back on the chutes of grass and new trees, and went back to his meditating.
Merlin threw himself bodily at the glass, shoving with his shoulder. It didn't budge, didn't even shudder. He let out a frustrated grunt and tried again. "Please! Please!" he whispered, like a pray, and beat his fists against the glass, trying, trying.
No movement. He pressed his face and craned his neck to see out of the door, which was falling off its hinges. He could see the sun and the grass, and the trees bending to a fierce wind. He balled up his fists together and swung at his glass, trying to break through it again.
He muttered and shouted spells at it as he swung and swung. He cursed and swore and kicked. He beat it like a child throwing a tantrum. He imagined himself one of Arthur's knights and fought with it valiantly.
Everything he tried was futile. He felt useless, for perhaps the first time in his life. He had failed Arthur. Arthur would never forgive him. If they ever got out, that is. If they were ever freed.
He let his forehead fall forwards and bump into the glass. He heard the small 'creeeeak' of a crack appearing and leapt back, staring with absolute fascination at the small crack that appeared. He didn't try to break the glass anymore after that.
"When we get out, I'll kill her. I swear I will, Arthur. I know you…you liked her. Well, kind of," Merlin sighed, his chin cupped in his palm as he spoke, sitting cross legged on his bottom pane.
"I'll hunt her down and kill her. With my bare hands. I won't even use magic," Merlin glanced at the bird picking at pebbles in hope of finding seeds and shook his head.
"Or maybe, maybe I'll lock her up in glass just like this. Except I won't ever let her out. I mean, we've only got what? 49 more years now? She'll be locked away for eternity." Merlin tapped his fingers on the pane, though it didn't really make a sound.
"I can't believe her. I mean, you've barely been king a year!" Merlin snorted, "And in she waltz. 'Oh Arthur, Arthur,'" Merlin mimed, "'Arthur, darling. Can't you see? You need me. You need someone like me,' Yeah. Right. As if you'd ever need some crazy sorceress, some crazy witch, in your court," Merlin pressed his palm flat against the glass watching his fingers spread out against the colors.
"And then, and then, to so much as imply that she loved you! Love! What does she know about love? And you, you were even considering it!" Merlin banged his fist against the glass lightly.
"I knew you wouldn't have gone through with it. I know. Especially after she challenged me. But…Okay. So I admit it, yes. I was jealous. But I swear, you do not get to make fun of this," Merlin ran his finger along the edge of his frame.
"Only 49 years to go."
The church was almost completely collapsed around them now. The wall across from Merlin was completely gone, and he could see the outside world at last. It looked so…so different. But yet, the same. Like nothing had changed while the king and his sorcerer were locked away, except that it was older now. Merlin wondered after Camelot. He wondered if, without them, Albion was formed.
He wondered about the dragon, if it had ever returned, or if it laughed, sensing the trouble Merlin got them into. He wondered after Gwen, and Lancelot. Of Morgana and Morgause and Mordred. They'd all be old now. He wondered if there was anybody who'd remember them at all. The newly crowned king, showing incredible kindness and promise, even so early on. Or his sorcerer, his friend, his former servant, Merlin.
"We'll see," he whispered. His voice was hoarse from years of disuse. "Only one more year to go."
"No! No, please, please—"
"Too late, sweet."
"Arthur! No no no, Arthur!"
"Be careful, little warlock, you'll shatter him."
"You. You won't get away with this!"
"On the contrary, pet. As I have to live without him, so shall you. But unlike me, unlike me, you'll be near him. You'll be near him and never touch him. For fifty years, you'll suffer as I've suffered without him. Every agonizing day, minute, second…You'll suffer."
"Like hell I will—"
"Ah ah ah, little warlock. You shouldn't have done that. I was going to have pity on you, you looked so pathetic. But now…"
"You'll become like him, pet. And oh, how beautiful you'll look next to each other. Pity nobody will ever see you."
"Stop! Stop it! Arthur! Help! He…"
"What's that, love? I can't quite hear you?"
"Oh, shame, I can't hear you. Glass is meant to be seen, not heard, don't you know?"
"Oh, aren't you pretty? Ha. Your little magic tricks won't work, pet. See you in fifty years, or half a century, if you want to be macabre."
For the first time in 50 Years, Merlin felt something. It started as a tingling on the back of his neck. Then it spread to his shoulders and down his arms to his stomach and legs and feet. His hands prickled, his fingertips almost ached. He gasped as 50 years of hunger and thirst and exhaustion hit him all at once.
The crack he had made so many years ago began to split, to fork off. He was seeing multiples through the colors. Suddenly a feeling more overwhelming than his hunger or thirst or tiredness took over. Arthur was there. Dozens of Arthurs, split by his cracking glass. He was as beautiful as ever. He was staring at Merlin, glass Merlin, in alarm. He was still dressed in his armor, a smudge of dirt on one side of his chin, his sword drawn. He didn't move otherwise, just stared.
Merlin drew himself up and stepped forwards, pressing his palms to the glass, leaning against it. It gave way, and he fell forwards. He landed on his hands and knees, and they split open. They bled. Merlin raised a hand in wonder, his eyes wide. He was vaguely aware of Arthur calling his name.
He went up obediently when Arthur tugged on his arm and pulled him to his chest. "Merlin. Merlin, what's wrong? Where'd the sorceress go?"
Merlin was pushed back so Arthur could stare at him. Merlin blinked dumbly at him. "Sorceress?"
"Yes, the sorceress," Arthur snapped impatiently, "She led us here and attacked us. She couldn't have gotten far though. Which direction did she go?"
Merlin shook his head. Arthur…Arthur didn't remember a thing. Merlin felt like crying and laughing all at once. He raised a shaky arm and pressed the back of his hand to Arthur's cheek, shaking his head. "No," he whispered.
Arthur blinked, "No? What do you mean no?"
"No, don't…don't go after her," Merlin whispered, and then bent his head to press his forehead to Arthur's shoulder. "Home. Let's go home."
Arthur, who was not as stupid as he seemed, sensed something was wrong. And he finally looked around, noticing the decay of the church, their destroyed glass, and figured that later he'd ask Merlin. But right now, Merlin needed him.
"Yes, home," Arthur agreed, and looped his arm around Merlin as Merlin's knees gave out. It was surprisingly easy to hoist the slenderer man into his arms and trudge outside into the changed world, who would welcome its king back with open arms.