WARNINGS: Possible attempted suicide?
The first clue was just Merlin's attitude. Oh, usually it was fine. He still acted like himself for the most part; he smiled and joked and talked. Merlin still made fun of his master and disappeared for reasons that he was very vague about.
But sometimes, when Arthur made a joke, he wouldn't laugh. He would just stare at him as though he didn't get it. Sometimes Merlin's smile would fade when he thought no one was looking, and his shoulders would slump and his eyes would almost close.
Arthur didn't notice for a while, but when he picked up on it, he didn't do anything. The way he figured it, either the problem would go away or Merlin would bring it up.
The second clue was the changes in Merlin's behavior. He stopped doing Merlin-like things. Once, Arthur asked about Gwen and Merlin replied that he didn't know: he hadn't spoken to Gwen in weeks. Merlin stopped following Gaius around, and he stopped talking as much, as though the effort was too much. He had circles under his eyes now, and though he didn't act tired, Arthur knew he wasn't sleeping much. Merlin rarely played immature jokes, as though he just couldn't be bothered to.
Basically, a lot of the things he did weren't like him.
The third clue was a little hard to miss. Merlin tried to throw himself off the wall. He was walking beside Arthur, talking about something completely pointless the way Merlin did, when suddenly his mouth snapped shut. Arthur glanced up from where he had been looking on the ground, and glanced towards Merlin only to see that the man's eyes were glued onto the part of the wall that dipped down. If a person fell down there, they would end up in pieces on the road. Arthur couldn't believe his eyes when Merlin, who had half a second ago been chatting happily, suddenly lunged for the edge of the wall.
"Merlin!" hollered Arthur, reaching out to grab the man back. Merlin stopped, though, right before he reached the wall, and didn't throw himself off as it seemed he was going to. It was as though he'd performed a strange dance move in the middle of his walk.
Arthur's hand latched onto his shoulder and jerked him back, and Merlin turned with a perfectly calm face to look at the prince. "Yes?"
"What was that about?" Arthur nearly shrieked, his heart thudding away about a million beats per second.
"Tripped? Merlin, you nearly threw yourself off the castle wall!"
"What? Why would I do that?" Merlin looked perplexed.
"How would I know? Merlin, what just happened? Why did you do that?" Arthur gasped it all out in one breath, feeling somehow both frozen in horror and livid with fury.
"Arthur, I don't know what you're talking about!" snapped Merlin, looking angry. "If I fell off the wall, I'd probably die!"
Arthur stared at him. Obviously. What did Merlin think he was upset about if not that near death situation?
"That would be really stupid, Arthur. I just tripped. I'm clumsy, alright?" A bit more huffy than he had right to be, Merlin stormed off.
Arthur watched him go, eyes wide. It occurred to him that Merlin hadn't been very careful lately. He didn't hold the shield very high during Arthur's practice. He didn't make enough of an effort to duck things Arthur threw. When the hunting party was attacked by bandits, Merlin didn't seem concerned by the arrows. Arthur had written all that off to being clumsy.
What if it wasn't?
Merlin said that he had tripped.
It looked like he had tripped… But then why had Arthur thought that he was trying to – Arthur had to pause before he thought the un-Merlin words – commit suicide?
The question haunted Arthur all day and stole his sleep. He laid in his bed, eyebrows drawn together, trying to understand.
And he was unaware that elsewhere, Merlin was on his stomach on his own bed, face stuffed in a pillow, beating his blanket with a fist and crying out, "Stop! Just… go away! Get out! Leave me alone!"
A/N: I warn you, I have no idea if I'll continue this. I may. I may not. If no one likes it, I might even delete it. It just came into my head, so I wrote it down and decided to publish. I'm posting it as Complete, but who knows? And if I do continue, I'll probably do it after I finish another story; I'm working on 6 now. Okay, well, just let me know what you think of the story or what you think is going on.