Author's Note: Howdy everybody! So, this is my attempt at an angsty Merthur ficlet... I hope you guys like it! I planned for it to come out the day of or the day after Rememberance Day... but I suck and have terrible writer's block -.- Also, if anyone has read my other Merthur story 'The Woes of Art', I know it's taking a while but a sequel is in progress! :D Well, enough of me jabbering, on to the story!
Diclaimer: I don't own Merlin. If I did, he would cease to be on telivision and have a permanent residence in my closet :3
"…What? No, you're not leaving me! No- no, nononono NO! You're NOT going Arthur do you understand me? You're not bloody going!"
Gwen was weeping hysterically now, clawing at her fiancée's shirt and pulling him to her, tears streaming down her pretty face. Arthur cursed himself mentally; this was not the reaction he'd been hoping for.
Amidst her wailing and heart wrenching cries, he managed to pry her fingers off of him and took her delicate hands in his.
"Gwen," he murmured softly. She buried her face in his chest, body shaking with sobs. "Gwen, look at me." After a few tense seconds, she pulled away and gazed up at him; her beautiful brown eyes regarded him sadly, rimmed with fresh tears. "It'll only be for a few weeks. I can't not go; it's my duty to England. To us." He brought her hands up to his face and pressed soft kisses to them. Gwen shook her head in despair, face contorted with pain.
"I-, you-, you can't leave me," she said barely above a whisper. Arthur felt his throat tighten and his eyes started prickling. "I have to, darling," he replied hoarsely. "Besides, God knows we could do with some extra quid." He attempted a faint smile.
"Money won't mean anything if you're not with me Arthur." Her voice broke off and she latched herself onto him again, letting out a cry of pure anguish. His arms instantly wrapped around her as he fell apart too, not holding back the howls of pain that now wracked his body.
"I promise, once I return and we wed, I will never leave your side again." He pressed his lips to her forehead before capturing her mouth in a fierce kiss. After a few moments, she broke away from him and nuzzled into his chest again. He rested her head on top of hers, and a single tear made its way down his cheek and into her soft, curly, brown hair. He inhaled her scent deeply, imprinting it into his memory. How he would miss her.
"I love you," he whispered brokenly into her hair. Her only response was to let out a sob into his chest and dig her nails further into his back.
The next morning found Arthur at the train station, with only a rucksack that held some extra clothes, a little food, and a few toiletries. He was joined by about 300 other men, maybe more, that all milled around the train station, waiting. Waiting to fight. Waiting to live. Waiting to die.
Arthur looked around him at all the unfamiliar faces. Each man wore a grim expression, trying to be brave, but if you looked closely into their eyes, you could see the unmistakable sign of fear. How many families are these men leaving? Wives, children, brothers, sisters, parents? Would they ever make it home to them? Arthur closed his eyes and desperately wished, not for the first time, to be rid of this horrid nightmare. But deep down he knew he was trapped. They all were.
Suddenly, as he was scanning the crowd of men, a familiar face popped into his view. The tall man was standing, holding that day's newspaper, and was dressed in all brown clothes. He too had only a small rucksack on his back. His raven coloured hair shone brightly in the morning sun, and his cheekbones stood out a mile from the rest of his face. Arthur felt his mouth involuntarily split into a smile. Merlin.
Arthur and Merlin had been best friends since primary school. One day, when Merlin had been out playing in the grass, a group of other boys his age had come over and kicked dirt in his face. When his eyes began watering up, the kids decided to make a malicious comment on how abnormally large his ears were. Merlin had gone red and drew up into himself. Just as the boys were about to advance on him, who comes to the rescue? None other than Arthur Pendragon and his own little entourage of pre-schoolers: Leon, Percival, Gwaine and Lance. Since the boys were older, they scared off Merlin's tormentors easily enough. Arthur had extended a hand of comradeship, and Merlin had taken it without hesitation.
Over the years, Merlin had happily become a member of Arthur's group. The other boys liked him straight away, even if he was a bit slighter than the rest of them and didn't really share the same interests. Merlin and Arthur had become extremely close in no time, and were closer to each other than anyone else in their circle of friends. Over time, they began to be known as MerlinandArthur, one physical entity instead of two. That carried on from primary school, to secondary school, and even when they left school they were as close as two peas in a pod. And now it seemed that they were going to war together. The thought made Arthur feel a little lighter, while at the same time, chilling him to the bone.
Arthur walked over to his best friend, watching Merlin's face light up as their eyes met. Arthur noticed with a pang the red puffiness around his eyes, and his slightly pinker-than-usual nose.
"Hey," Arthur said, offering a tiny sad smile. They just stared at each other for a few moments before Merlin's grin faded and he turned his gaze toward the floor. Arthur frowned.
"So… I'm going to go out a whim and say that Freya didn't take it well?" Merlin's head shot up as he let out a huff of humourless laughter. His eyes darted up to meet Arthur's, then shook his head sharply, emitting a barely audible whimper. Arthur leaned forward as his friend collapsed against him, shoulders shaking in silent cries. He patted Merlin's back, attempting to comfort the younger man. He stared off into the distance, eyes glazing over. What awaited them across the sea?
It was getting dark now. The sunset would've been beautiful… if the burning red and orange ball didn't now remind Arthur of the blood that covered these lands by the acre.
He sat in the trench with Merlin and a few other men, yelling to each other while occasionally peeping over the edge of their trench to fire at the enemy, while trying not to get shot themselves. It had been over two weeks since Arthur and Merlin had started their involvement in the war, but it felt like two lifetimes for the both of them. Arthur's mind was in overdrive the entire time, scared shitless for himself, but also for Merlin. We could die any minute now. Then he'd look over to his best friend sitting against the trench wall, fear twisting his lovely features into someone unrecognizable. Arthur would approach him worryingly, and Merlin would put on his brave face. The blonde's heart swelled at Merlin's attempt to not concern him, but the damage had already been done.
Arthur sat down beside him and hooked an arm around Merlin's drawn up knee. Merlin would turn and bury his head into Arthur's chest, sobbing quietly as the blonde stroked his hair. Many of the men passing by gave them funny looks; it wasn't normal for two men to be entwined in that way. But Arthur didn't care. He was comforting his friend, and if that was frowned upon then so be it.
He didn't know what he would do if Merlin wasn't there with him. He'd most likely go insane; slowly losing his grip on reality like so many other men in these God damned trenches. It was Merlin, his best friend on this entire planet, that kept him grounded, kept him sane. At the same time, he wanted to do anything in his power to send Merlin home, to keep him away from danger and the horrors of war. He'd tried to tell Merlin that the day he'd enlisted, but the stubborn idiot insisted on coming with him. He'd seen the terror in his friend's eyes; he had known Merlin long enough to notice it right away. Merlin was petrified, frightened of the terrors war would bring, and of leaving his own fiancée, Freya, behind. But Merlin had come anyway. That thought alone was enough to bring him to his knees and thank whatever God was up there for his best friend.
Now Merlin was shaking against him; a shell of the witty, clumsy, innocent man he once was. Arthur gripped him tighter, burying his face in Merlin's ebony coloured hair, inhaling his scent. Suddenly, Merlin went still, his shallow breaths becoming eerily quiet. Arthur tilted his head so he could get a better look at his friend, eyebrows furrowing in confusion.
"Merlin, wha-." Arthur never got to finish his sentence. A stray shell had found its way to their side of the trench and exploded a few meters above Merlin and Arthur's heads. Merlin was violently thrown forward a few feet, Arthur not far behind him. They both crashed to the ground, landing awkwardly on the opposite side of the trench. The last thing Arthur remembered before he blacked out was the sickening crunch Merlin's body making impact with the trench wall.
Almost a full day had passed since the stray bomb incident, and Arthur ached all over when he finally regained consciousness. Turns out he was fine for the most part, expect for a few bruised ribs and a minor concussion. He had been lucky, the pretty red-haired nurse had told him, but that wasn't the case for some of the other men in the same squadron as him. She frowned, eyes gleaming with sadness and sympathy.
Arthur felt the blood rush from his face as his eyes widened, feeling as if the breath had been sucked out of his lungs. With a strangled gasp, he practically leapt off of the bed and swayed slightly when he got to his feet. His vision blurred for a moment, the nurse's voice telling him to lie back down was only a slight buzzing in his ear. He whipped his head around wildly, eyes rolling in panic. Where's Merlin??
He pushed past her with a frantic whimper and stumbled toward the tent opening. Throwing open the flaps, he looked sharply around for something, anything, that would tell him where his Merlin was. Suddenly, a larger white tent loomed into his still clouded line of sight that bore a huge red cross over the entrance. He staggered over to it as quickly as he could, still ignoring the voice of the nurse attempting to coax him back inside.
He barged inside the tent, eyes hysterically scanning bed after bed of fatally wounded men dead or dying. Finally he caught sight of a scrawny, pale looking young man, with midnight-black hair sprawled against the off-white coloured pillow. He lurched over to the unconscious Merlin as fast as his broken body would carry him. A strangled, anguished moan crawled its way up Arthur's throat as he took in his best friend's state; his right leg was almost fully wrapped in white gauze, an ugly cut had been made across his lovely cheekbone, and many bruises littered his alabaster skin.
Arthur collapsed on his knees beside Merlin's bed, finally giving into the grief that had been eating away at his insides. Thank God, Merlin was alive. A loud sob choked him as he grabbed Merlin's hands with both of his, kissing the porcelain knuckles. Tear after tear slipped off of his nose and wetting their entwined hands. He lost track of how long he'd been at Merlin's side, just sitting there, caressing the pale, still fingers, willing them to move. After an hour or so, Arthur got his wish.
Merlin let out a quiet moan and Arthur's head shot up as if he had screamed, gripping Merlin's hand harder. The raven haired man opened his eyes groggily, then focusing in on Arthur. Blue eyes clashed fiercely; so many emotions they saw in the other's eyes. Fear. Anger. Trust. Companionship. Love.
Finally, Merlin's face broke into that stupid, goofy grin that Arthur loved so much. The smile Arthur thought he'd never see again. The blonde smiled back faintly before weeping again, harder this time, into the blankets covering Merlin's frail frame. He sniffled loudly into the sheets as Merlin stroked his long fingers through Arthur's hair.
"Arthur." Merlin's voice was barely audible, still raspy from sleep. Arthur raised his head and looked into the never-ending sea of blue. So beautiful, so deep… Arthur didn't realize he was moving forward until he was practically sitting on Merlin's lap, staring intensely into his best friend's eyes. He leaned in till their noses were touching, a hot flush crawling its way up his neck. Ignoring the blood pounding in his ears, he tilted his head a bit and their lips brushed lightly. Then again. And again. Finally Arthur curled his fingers into the hair at the nape of Merlin's long, pale neck, and opened his mouth against Merlin's.
They kissed earnestly for a few moments, like two teenagers on their first date, until a loud cough caused Merlin to pull away. Arthur turned his head around to find almost everyone in the tent just staring at them. Some in shock, some in confusion, some in revulsion. Arthur blushed hotly and turned back to Merlin, burying his nose in the crook of his neck.
They didn't think about how they were in a war camp. They didn't think about how they almost died yesterday. They didn't think about their girlfriends or what they would do about their revelation when they returned home. All they thought about was that they had the other, and that was all that really mattered.