I have become one of those horrible writers who takes aggggges and I am soooo sorry.
But the Series final broke me NO SPOILERS HERE BTW. Tho yeah I am a broken writer now :(
Also I now have to work for a living but that is neither here not there.
After much delay here is the chapter. Unbetad and unchecked because I know that I will not have time and this has been delayed long enough as is, so I am sorry for any and all mistakes and beg your forgiveness over the horrible no good delay.
Totally unforgivable but sorry all the same
I hope you enjoy.
His dream had changed. He didn't know how or why, or even when it was he'd fallen asleep. He just knew that this one was different somehow. He was in the woods this time, alone, for a change no one was screaming. He knew he recognised the area as somewhere in Camelot but it didn't occur to him as where exactly until he heard a small splash cut through the relative silence on the forest.
He turned, or drifted, he didn't feel entirely solid until he saw on the clear blue lake and the distant mountains, but the moment he saw his lanky servant standing there something heavy settled over him.
Merlin didn't react but continued to stare down at the water as his boots sank in to the wet soil. Arthur bit his lip and looked around, eyes scanning the scene for signs of the phantom that tormented Merlin on some of his previous dreams, there was no sign of the screaming.
But then he looked back at Merlin. A soft sob broke through the silence, so suppressed it sounded almost like a gasp as he tried to stop himself, but that one small sound was like a dam breaking. Merlin crumpled, water splashed around his calves as he folded in to a mess in the lake, head bowed and obscuring his face.
He made a noise, a pained rasp cry that turned in to a dry rasp and with that everything seemed suddenly very clear. It was as if his eyes had been cleared, the slight blur of his vision disappeared, making everything seem too defined, too clear. The darkness was replaced by clear daylight, too cheerfully normal for the tragedy that was taking place in it, and with a startling clarity Arthur realised, it was all too real, as if it was not a dream at all and Merlin…
"Merlin?" He called out, voice shaky and high, nothing like the brave leader he was supposed to be.
Merlin didn't react. His pale hands reached up and wound through his dark hair, tugging and pushing as if he had a terrible head ache.
Still nothing. Arthur started forward but he'd barely made a step when Merlin screamed. Arthur couldn't see his face but the pain was written all over him, his back bowed, his head falling back as the scream broke off as if there were no sound to truly express the agony he was in. He rolled forward again, his hands winding around his stomach his body slumped to the side.
Arthur rushed forward, the illusion of actually walking when he knew he wasn't there, -but just knew was real- barely distracting him from rushing to his friend who could be drowning in shallow water right before his eyes. He wasn't, the water wasn't quite that deep and thankfully he seemed to have the sense to roll just slightly on to his back, the water soaking his hair but his lips ghosting above the water and causing it to ripple with every struggling breath.
The water didn't react when Arthur crouched in it and when he tried to rest a hand on Merlin's shoulder he passed through him like a ghost, ineffective, useless. He needed to wake up now. But looking around he couldn't see or think of a single way to force himself awake.
The plea was a quite whisper against water and Arthur didn't know who it was too but no one was coming. The lake remained still and eerily quiet, no one appeared from the trees or bushes, Merlin was left to die alone. Arthur wanted to scream, to grab Merlin and shake him, make him see that he was there and he was sorry, so sorry for being such an insufferable idiot and that he did trust him and he needed him to stay by his side as his idiot friend. Arthur couldn't do any of that. Instead he rested his hand on Merlin's arm (or at least gave the appearance of it, he knew he wasn't actually touching him).
"You have to hold on Merlin, please." And he had never said that to his servant but the word left him now with an ease tinged with desperation, "I was wrong and I was a fool. I made a mistake- mistakes, I should have known-."
He reached for Merlin again with his other hand only to watch it disappear through his back. He groaned in desperation and felt tears start tracing their way down his face.
"Please Merlin, don't die."
It took him a moment to realise that it was not the tears that began to turn his vision foggy and then the world faded to black.
People who had seen King Uther in a rage did not soon forget the terror that he could inflict on a room, or even on the whole of Camelot. Uther's rage and grief had sparked witch hunts and wars , had killed on an epic scale, and the look in his eyes, the danger in his voice, would send even the strongest of men quivering on the inside. Uther was a terrifying man.
So it said something, that when Arthur stormed from the citadel that day, the old King had nothing on his son. Arthur's grief and guilt had quickly turned to terror and fear had always been quick to turn in to anger. Though he couldn't pinpoint what exactly he was angry at it seethed and boiled under his skin like a living thing, with the desire to both strike out and protect but with no clear target to harm and the man in need of protection dying out of his reach.
Knights who had scrambled to ask where he was going, with the idea to act as his ever present guards, were left stuttering and confused. Realizing their King was out of sight and protection far too late to do anything about helping him. On his part Arthur didn't want any help, didn't need any guidance other than the burning desire in his chest to find and protect, to get Merlin safely back behind the walls of Camelot and possibly lock him up somewhere to keep him from running in to further trouble.
He knew where the lake was and all that mattered was getting there is quickly as possible. He didn't realy pay attention to the means. He didn't take his own horse, that would require waiting for the beast to be saddled by stable boys that lacked any sense of urgency. Instead he approached the first horse that had been readied, distantly recognising it as Ishteir , Sir Leon's horse, before barking at the stable boy to let him lose before setting off in a gallop to the lake.
He didn't know how but as houses whipped by, becoming rarer until he approached the forest, as the world sped by around him but never quite fast enough, moment by moment it was almost as if he could feel Merlin fading, almost as if he could hear that terrible hitched breathing from his dream.
The sight of the lake would haunt him to his dying day. Trees towered over him on all sides, close enough together to make it difficult for the horse to pass. But there was something else as well, something eerie about the way the leaves moved as if every subtle flick of a branch had been slowed to the point it was almost as if everything were underwater. Arthur could see the glittering off the lake through the gaps and even that seemed slower somehow, almost blurred like the edges of his dream. Arthur dismounted cautiously, running an eye back over the trees as they all bent in the direction of the lake, all slowly leaning as if to an imaginary breeze that he couldn't feel.
Ishteir whickered at him, tossing her main uneasily behind him. Usually Arthur would calm her but he could feel the urgency bubbling under his skin, fear turning his stomach with every step he took towards the lake. One slow step got him moving, two more and he broke out in to a run. He didn't even think to tie the horse he'd left behind.
He weaved between the trees until the glittering strips of lake opened out until they filled all of his vision all the way to the distant mountains that had se intrigued him as a child and there, crumpled on the very edges of the lake, water lapping at his sides, lay his loyal servant as pale and unresponsive as Arthur had last seen him.
It was as if his body belonged to a different person, he could barely feel as his feet stumbled over uneven ground. His eyes never left Merlin and so he could barely keep his feet in his hurry. He stumbled before he got to him and ended up falling, his knees sunk in to the wet earth sending water splashing over Merlin's pale face as Arthur fell bedside him. Without thinking he pulled the young man up in to his lap, dark hair dripping water down his front. He tried to shuffle back but the position was awkward, his mind was just clinging on to that first fear 'what if he drowned? Drowned face down in shallow waters all because they had been so stupid-' Merlin hadn't been drowning but it was the first danger and possibly the only one Arthur could do anything about.
Arthur's arms strained to lift him higher until the younger man's head slumped back against Arthur's shoulder. He was still berthing, raged breaths brushed against Arthur's face but he didn't as much as flinch at Arthur's movements.
"Merlin!" He shouted.
No response. Arthur felt lake water dripping down his face, must be the lake water-
"Merlin wake up!" Arthur tightened his grip around Merlin's shoulders but when nothing happened he had to clamp down with his jaw to keep the whimper from slipping out, "That's an order Merlin!" He snapped when he had proper control.
It didn't sound like an order, even to his own ears he knew he was pleading, because this couldn't be happening, it just wasn't possible for this to happen to Merlin. He didn't even know what 'this' was but it had to stop now. Rage began to turn within him at that thought, because this was Merlin, this was his manservant and his friend and this was not going happen to him. The water that slipped over his cheek was warm, not lake water then.
Arthur choked back a strangled noise that he refused to let escape and buried his face in his servants hair, tucking his face beside his until his lips brushed against one of those ridiculous ears.
"I will not ask you again, Merlin." Arthur said doing his best to make his voice sound low and dangerous even as it shook with the force of his sorrow, "Wake up now, please."
There was a shuddering gasp that Arthur barely realised didn't come from him before Merlin's back bowed, driving his head back harshly in to Arthur's shoulder. Arthur pulled his face away just in time to look down in to wide blue eyes.
"Merlin?" Arthur gasped relief hitting him in a wave.
Merlin simply stared back at him, shock and confusion clouding his vision as he eyed his friend warily.
"Arthur?" He croaked, voice trembling. His eyes roved in his head as he took in the scene around him but he didn't move.
"Gods." Arthur whispered bowing his head over the servants shoulder once again.
"What's happening?" Merlin whispered, drawing Arthur back from his relief.
"I'm afraid you are going to have to tell me." Arthur murmured in reply.
He pulled back so he could see his servants face but didn't move to release him. Merlin had angled his head to the side so that he could look back at Arthur and the fear turning in those blue orbs was enough to turn his blood cold.
"I-" Merlin stuttered, looking out over the lake, "I'm supposed to be dead."
If Arthur hadn't already been scared out of his wits the finality in that sentence would have broken him. Instead he reached an arm around the front of Merlin's chest to grip his left arm tightly.
"Well you're not and you aren't going to die. I should have listened to you before and I'm sorry, but I'm here now and you are going to get better. We'll get back to Camelot and- and we'll stop this."
Arthur stared hard at Merlin, as if trying to force the truthfulness of the statement. But they needed to move and lying around in a cold lake was going to do more harm than help.
Arthur was so focused on trying to shift them in to a better position to move that he didn't see the way Merlin's eyes lowered. A small smile tempered by the gathering tears in his eyes. Dread and pain flickered across his features as Merlin realised what was going to happen. Apparently he couldn't be allowed to just die in peace, he had to see this through to the end, watch as Arthur found out the truth and suffer his anger before death. Unless, of course, he didn't kill him, unless-
Now, Merlin realised, if Arthur did turn against him after this, after all of this, then the death of this budding hope would kill him long before the fire reached his body.
I know I am horrible. Sorry. Hope the spelling/plot/wtever wasn't too bad (tired I cant tell)
One more chapter and then it is the end! My plot bunnys have returned to me after long absence for this particular fandom and I am rearing to go.
Reviews are loved even if it's to scream at me for the long wait :P I'm not realy sureee how well that chapter went so advice would be lovely. I am blessed to have such wonderful readers and reviewers so far so I hope I am not too hated right now :P
Thanks again and I hope everyone is recovering well!
I haven't yet decided who should break the news to Arthur about how he is the one killing Merlin… bit of a tricky topic. But if anyone has any preferences do let me know :D