Song: "Hurt" by Johnny Cash

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I hurt myself today

To see if I could feel

I focus on the pain

The only thing that's real

Your blood opens the mouth of the cave with a rumble.

Your hands tremble as they haven't for centuries, dropping the old rusted dagger from days long past. You flinch, actually flinch, when it clatters to the forest floor, disturbing the runic symbols drawn from the cut on your wrist, meant to break his ancient wards. By then you're already laughing, a mirthful cackle echoing into the dark of the early morning, a sound that hasn't left your lips in eons.

"Even from in there…" Your voice cracks with anticipation, bringing with it the lilt of the old tongue, clawing its way back up from where you thought you'd buried it. "…you can still make me break."

The needle tears a hole

The old familiar sting

Try to kill it all away

But I remember everything

Crack, goes the rocks, like eggs breaking over a saucepan, as they shift and churn with an unnatural flare you haven't seen in… oh, so very long. It's magic, you try to whisper, lips quivering like a child, and you have the strangest thought then about your lipstick, wonder if the deep red is too much, because you can't remember if they had lipstick when you knew him and…

And you want to look beautiful for him, you realize; to make him look at you in awe the way he used to across the courtyard, before together the two of you began the end of it all.

And you hate that he can do this to you, even after all this time… make you feel like you're not good enough, like you've become something ugly and no matter how you style yourself or hold yourself you'll never get to see that look again… because all your looks are now exchanged across the battlefield.

And you love that you want, and hate, and laugh, and hurt again… because it's been so many years of winter, and even when he was killing you he was always your warmth.

What have I become

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know goes away

In the end

A tree of oak has grown over his prison, feeding off the slumbering force beneath… you hated that power, you remember, as it promptly stands with a crumble of stone and begins to trek gingerly on its long roots out of the path of the old cave's entrance. They've proclaimed it the largest on Earth- you know because that's how you found him again- measuring it with their cold instruments and tiny science, as if they can grasp it's magnitude with pure reason. Gaius' children, all of them; and you laugh because you can remember him suddenly, old and white-haired and with that stupid eyebrow you could never match… unable to do anything but watch and gape at the mad power that surpassed even the word 'sorcerer' itself.

"You're all coming back to me…." You hear yourself whisper as the tree settles itself a few miles clear of the cave entrance, now blossoming open like the flowers he used to bring you.

You can remember them all now… wise Gaius, sweet Gwen, brave Arthur, broken Uther, misguided Morgause, manipulated Mordred…

Most of all you remember the gentle warlock Merlin… and the mad witch Morgana.

You lost all of them, by the time you finally brought Camelot to ruins… the great loves and hates of your life fled you until even your own lunacy snuffed itself out, and your magic left you for him as he took back the gift the Crystal Cave had tried to give.

And you were no longer her... you had no madness and you had no name… you were merely a ghost to haunt a world fast leaving you behind. Leaving them all behind. Twisting their triumphs and their losses into farcical legend, into crass entertainment, but Merlin took all your fire and all you can do is watch and listen to the tales they swap in a world without magic.

And you could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

It was your world, you realized quickly, brushing smoke from your curls as the bizarre machine drives past you on the England road. You did this, burned the soul out of the world, finished Uther's work long after he had finally passed. You don't even remember why anymore; even as everything else comes back you can't understand what you were thinking. You try to recreate your failure in this new world, begin to seek out people that look or act like the ghosts that haunt you, hope to try again and understand what went wrong. How to rise above your sins, like Merlin did.

But you fail them again, every time.

You don't understand them and they certainly don't understand you. It's a new age, their faces seem to sing in your eyes, and you are just a living antique to them.

Swallowing your thoughts, you take a hesitant step forward, into the bowels of magic itself.

I wear this crown of thorns

Upon my liar's chair

Full of broken thoughts

I cannot repair

Ancient rock gives way to even older prisms, and you hide from your reflection like a scared animal, could never stand to see what you look like this decade, if it's time to change your hair or your clothes just so people will talk to you because you can't remember what made them ever talk to you in the first place…

You deceive them, as you deceived oh so many, but unlike him you never learned how to become honest. Never took a breath and opened yourself wide to your friends and your enemies and the whole damn world… you remember how you screamed that day, when you learned who he really was.

You remember how the only thing that hurt more than him being as foul a liar as you, was how unfair it was that he was becoming more.

You remember how he'd look at you, accepting of his crimes but not excusing them, guilty for what he'd done to you and condemning what you'd done all at once. Sinner and saint, servant and master, Merlin and Emrys. A whole world of mistakes lay in those eyes, just like you, but somehow he had learned from them.

While you made little thrones to sit on and pretended not to want him to show you how to find redemption.

While you bat away the hand stubbornly offered between battles, and deafen your eyes to his pleas, and to your own.

Beneath the stains of time

The feelings disappear

You are someone else

I am still right here

The tunnel opens into a great cavern, and on a bed of crystal there lays Merlin.

You feel small now, surrounded by buzzing magic of the kind only he could ever produce, standing in your out of style bellbottoms and blue blouse. You can't be bothered to try again in this new era, not after you tripped and hurt so many last time. You are as you always were, an old woman desperate to be young, while Merlin is frozen as he was… cheerfully embracing age.

Closer you step, feeling and relishing timidity for the first time since Camelot, and take him in.

Longish salt-and-pepper hair looks as badly groomed as ever, making his trim beard look neat in comparison, while laugh lines and the deep grooves of that dumb smile weather his face. He wears to bed what he wore in life when he resolved to be the white magic to counter her black, having abandoned the ratty clothing of the liar and donned the extravagant garb of the honest man.

Even now his robe shines, its surface ruffling with the swirling blue and black gasses of the Milky Way in the midnight sky, countless stars twinkling amber like his eyes… Merlin's favorite code of dress had become as familiar in popular culture as magic itself, but no depictions of the starry fabric could ever put it to justice. Like he had stripped off a piece of the heavens and started sewing, like the whole damn world could be inside those folds.

You had worn rough black back then, offering oblivion to all those who beheld you. He had worn all of the color of the cosmos, promising life and wonder to all those who would normally be terrified. In the end, it was Merlin that had made magic accepted again, not through violence or murder or royalty, but through simply a warm smile and pretty tricks to wow the children. And suddenly you weren't magic's champion anymore, suddenly you were the one making it feared. Of all that Merlin had taken from you, that had been what you hated him the most for.

What have I become

My sweetest friend

Everyone I know goes away

In the end

But now you couldn't understand why you wouldn't just take the hand he was offering.

Was it because he killed you? Lied to you? Abandoned you?

Or was it because he overcame those things, and wanted to help you do the same?

"Oh, Merlin…" You're saying now, stroking young fingers over his warm face, tracing over sculpted cheekbones and fine eyelashes, down across full lips and bristly chin, to slide under the bright red scarf around his neck. You search, vainly, begin to panic as you haven't ever before, "Please I'm alone… please…"

When you find a slight pulse its tiny rhythm has you almost sobbing, and the shock of the warm tears and the even warmer hope almost destroys you. You've been so cold for so long…

"Wake up." You whisper, and bring your shaking lips to meet his still ones.

He does.

And you could have it all

My empire of dirt

I will let you down

I will make you hurt

You get the feeling this is a kiss that should have happened a thousand years ago.

He tastes like Camelot, like magic, like the summer breeze and the sun setting over the horizon. You feel him responding, wonder what you taste like… try to tell him with your kiss how much time you know you've wasted, how vacant you were since you lost him as a friend and how hollow you've been once you lost him as even an enemy.

There's a hand on your chest, gently, pressing against your dancing heart. He's trying to push you away and you fight back, pull closer until you're almost on top of him, moving your lips and your tongue more insistently. You are demanding, you realize, you want something and you're taking it and it's been so long since you've been you that you're openly crying all over him.

When he thrusts you away, sleepy eyes opening wide and discerning and so, so loving, you know who you are again. You have a name again.

"Morgana…"

It carries a million words from his lips, joy and loss and confusion and most of all, fear, because this isn't the first time you've tried to make him believe in you again. It's only the first time that you've meant it. And there are no words for how sorry you are, you realize, not a single apology that could ever make it up to him. So you settle for just looking at him, accepting but not excusing.

He looks at you hopefully, but there's still wariness in him that threatens to pull them back into their black dance. There's still history, yawning like the maw of a beast beneath and between you both, and it would be so easy to make those same mistakes again.

But you can see the way out now, finally, after all these wasted years…

You're too old for lies anymore.

If I could start again

A million miles away

"It doesn't have to be like this."

Merlin's eyes widen at your whispered plea, and the mistrust in them melts in the tears that well up. You smile weakly, encouragingly, caressing the side of his face like the living antique that he is, knowing what this means to him and hoping he knows what it means to you. Your forehead comes to rest on his, and those eyes fill your vision, begging you to finish.

"We could find… another way."

And when he at last kisses you, you know that you have at long last come home.

I would keep myself

I would find a way

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This can also can work with the original Nine-Inch Nail's version of the song, since it's just the lyrics, but honestly Cash's version is what this was written too. Cash's "Hurt" is about a very old soul lamenting their mistakes and lost chances, and that's what "Find a Way" is about. Not gonna lie, this is probably the most personal story I've ever written, and the most AU while I'm at it, so I know it's very far removed from the source material. Hopefully not too much to be unrecognizable. Anyway, I'm not quite sure how to feel about this one... but I hope you liked it! :/

For anyone reading "Throw Out the Script", yes, this is why the new chapter is late. Sorry~! :(