All recognizable characters belong to their respective owners (BBC, Dispatch). For a prompt on Kinkme_Merlin. Set sometime post season 2.
Warning: discussion of suicide/attempted suicide. Please read at your own discretion.
At first, I thought the "special training" wasn't worth the time it took. Then, a young girl, black hair and dead eyes, stepped up to the ledge.
I'm still ashamed to admit that I froze. Despite the talks and the practices and the scripts, I didn't move. She put a single bare foot over the edge, and I finally took a step forward, rushed for her, one hand out-
I didn't save her. Instead, she sat down on the ledge and cried. She saved herself.
We had a talk, though. I asked her, just as they told me to, why she was up here, why she was in pain. The story she told me—but you don't need to hear that. It's not my place to break confidences anyways.
Suffice it to say; I don't hesitate anymore.
Still, there's a special case. There always is, isn't there?
There's this boy, see. He's young and fair and far too thin, and more than a bit lost, I think. The first night he came up to the tower, he didn't see me. He leaned against the edge of the wall, but didn't climb up.
He didn't climb up. He thought about it, though.
He was back the next night, and he whispered his woes to the wind. The breeze took his words away, which is for the best, I think. I don't think I would've wanted to hear them anyways. He turned to leave, shivering—his coat really is ridiculously thin, you know—and he saw me.
He struck up a conversation; asked my name and about my life. I gave him the meaningless drivel he needed to hear, and he didn't so much as tell me his name. The only reason I noticed the scars on his wrists is because I've been trained to look for signs like that.
He came up to the tower a lot after that. He'd nod when he saw me, if he saw me. Sometimes he'd talk to the stars, and let the winds steal his words. A few times, he'd make that next step, and climb the ledge.
The first time he did, I almost had a heart attack. But he just sat down, and swung his legs into space. I came up beside him and stared out over the town with him, and we didn't say a word.
He's never told me much about himself, though, so it wasn't a surprise. He'd come up occasionally, sometimes days in a row, and sometimes not for months.
I'll tell you this, though; I'd never seen him smile.
Five years I've been on tower duty, and then, suddenly, I'm not. The invasion killed a lot of us, you see, so we've all been reassigned. I was worried about leaving the boy who haunted my tower alone, but I hadn't seen him in a while. I figured I'd still go up every now and again, just to check.
Then I got posted on the inside of the gates, on rotation. I was looking to left, where I was supposed to look, when I heard the laughter and the whooping.
My partner smiled, amused. "Looks like Merlin's in the stocks again," he said, smiling himself.
"Beg pardon?" I replied.
"The prince's manservant," he explained. "Cheerful bugger, terribly improper and more'n a bit cheeky he is. Prince puts him in the stocks every other day or so."
I wandered a bit closer, to take a look. I hadn't been to the square in daylight in quite a while. Heck, I was still trying to readjust from years of being nocturnal.
I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when, instead of this cheerful Merlin, I found the boy from my tower. He currently had his head down, because a little girl with adorable dimples had collected a basket of rotten fruit. She chucked the last one, missed by a mile, and he flashed her a mischievous grin from under his bangs. She ran up to him on chubby little legs and said hi to him, asked what he'd done this time.
He told her a story which was surely greatly embellished, with sound effects and as much gesturing as he could with his wrists manacled. That explains the scars, I suppose. To leave scars that bad, though, I think the punishments might be a bit extreme, but it's not my place to say, I'm sure.
He didn't see me, and I wandered back over to my post. He passed us later, noted we weren't the normal guards on the gate, and stopped to say hello. He caught my eye, recognized me, and smiled a sad, secret smile. I didn't like that smile any more than I liked his solemn face at nights.
I went up to the tower that night. I yawned my way through two hours before he showed up, acknowledged me with a nod. He hopped onto the ledge and sat, and I went over to join him.
"They don't know," he told me, quietly. "They can't know; they can never know."
"Know what?" I asked.
"I do it all for him," he said, and wrapped his arms around himself, a streak of misery against a starless sky. "And he can't know what I do, or what I've given up to do it."
"But you do it anyways?" I asked, feeling out of my depth.
"Of course," was the unhesitating answer. "I could never do otherwise."
"...Is it worth it?"
I'd say his smile was bittersweet, but there was no sweet to it. "It has to be."
We didn't say anything more, and we haven't talked since.
But he's been coming up to the tower nearly every night since we retook the castle, and it's bothering me. I need more sleep than I'm getting, but the giant fake smile in the courtyard keeps me on the tower at nights.
I think he needs to talk to someone about something he can't talk to anyone about; and I don't know what to do about that.
So, Prince Arthur, if you're reading this—and I dearly hope you are—I just thought you should know. It's not my place, and I neither know nor want to know what happened, but he's been getting closer to the edge every night, recently. But the look he had tonight, the way he stopped to say good night to his maid friend, the blood on his shirt cuffs, the paper he wrote, tried to put under your door, hesitated, tore up...well. I'm heading up there now, but I needed to put this under your door first.
I hope I'm not too late.