Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing.
Warnings: Some violence, partly a reveal!fic, main character death, possibly a bit sad
Spoilers: Supernatural: Allusions to 2.21 All Hell Breaks Loose, General Season 2 Allusions
Setting: Merlin: Sometime in Season 4 (I'll admit I haven't seen Season 5 so I'm kinda of ignoring it)
A/N: I believe it was AuroraKnight who expressed a desire for longer chapters. I won't be able to oblige every time, but this was one of those times when inspiration slammed into me and I really got into writing. I hope ya'll enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it.
"Arthur, we need to retreat! There are too many!"
Arthur deftly swung around and cut down his attacker with a quick, brutal stroke. Around them the knights desperately fought off the raiders charging from the trees.
Te bright feeling of danger and (better yet) being alive thrumming through him, Arthur whirled to block another attack. "Nonsense, Merlin! You should get out more. Our training exercises are harder than this."
Behind him, Arthur could hear Merlin muttering and felt a smile creep onto his face as he envisioned the irritated expression he knew would be on Merlin's face—the expression that said, "You're a supercilious prat and at least half of your breakfast is going to be missing, compliments of your truly who is going to note how your clothes are getting a 'bit tight about the middle,' but I'm gonna stick with you through this whole battle anyways."
For a moment, Arthur was so caught up in his thoughts, he almost missed the downward stroke that came out of nowhere. The man he twisted to face, raider or not, knew how to fight and for several minutes the outside world slowed into a throbbing blur as the their rapid blows crystalized into clear definition. Arms shaking, Arthur locked blades and violently pivoted, causing a jarring pain to scream down his arm as he slammed his boot into the side of the raider's knee. He more felt than heard the deep crunching as the joints shattered. The warrior staggered into the ground, one hand desperately clutching at his knee, gibbering incoherent words. Pausing to catch his breath, Arthur shift his grasp on his sword.
And the man smirked.
Idiot! His mind screamed at him. Idiot! Your surroundings! Why weren't you looking? Behind you - behind - BEHIND BEHI—
Even as he turned, raising a sword to block the axe of the warrior who had snuck behind him, Arthur knew it was too late. He'd let his guard down, focused too much on one thing, and - here it comes - out of everything, it was the man's teeth Arthur saw the clearest. They were so white, polished looking, almost gleaming at him as if to say, "See, Arthur? See how clean we are, smiling at you? Take a gander at these while our owner chops your head off."
Which is why he was so surprised when those perfect, straight teeth shattered out in a crimson wave. The raider's head snapped back with a distinct crack as something unseen but still so very solid picked him up and crushed him into a nearby tree with utter mercilessness.
Arthur staggered, almost falling. Around him, smoke formed a blanket of blurry fog, cloaking the screams of horses and men intermingled. The man, half-wrapped around the tree, slid to the ground. Everything was turning, disoriented, disjointed.
And there was Merlin. Merlin, who had one arm stretched out towards Arthur's attacker. Merlin who had a look of such fury, he was barely recognizable. Merlin, whose eyes still swirled a damning gold.
No, thought Arthur, no no no nonononono. He can't - He's not -
And why not? snidely shot back a corner of his mind, you saw him. You might try to convince yourself that you made it up, but we both know that's not true, now don't we? Good 'ole idiot Merlin's got magic. Men don't contort into broken pieces and wrap themselves into trees all by themselves.
Not magic. Not evil he's not evil I won't believe I refuse he's not evil.
His eyes slid over to what left of his would-be sneak attacker. The man's limbs were grossly disjointed, white pieces of (teeth) bone poking out of saggy skin. He looked like a wooden doll whose owner had decided to jump up and down on it, then left it lying on at the base of tree. And Merlin's look of fury… He had never seen that look on anyway's face before, but even so, he knew what it was.
Oh yes, his mind replied, You know that look. Betcha Merlin's more than your average, arrogant wizard. That's the look of a man who could end the world if he wanted. The look of a man who knows he can do it. Give him the right reason and he'll saunter right down and end this world the moment it pleases him.
A movement in his peripheral vision startled Arthur out of his haze. Merlin's arm was now outstretched towards him, that look of cold, distant rage still etched into his expression. There was nothing of Arthur's friend left on his face.
"Merlin, please," Arthur started to say, when a pulsing force shot past him, ruffling his hair as it passed, and slammed something into the ground.
Shocked, Arthur turned around and saw the first raider lying, the sword he had apparently been raising to strike Arthur from behind now only warped metal, eyes staring upward, surprised and empty.
(Still think he couldn't destroy everything?)
Arthur turned back to Merlin. That empty, rage-filled look was gone now, leaving Merlin with a nervous, almost embarrassed expression, like he had been caught filching food Arthur's dinner plate and was trying to figure out which joke would make Arthur roll his eyes and go back to his work.
And that expression, more than anything else, was what made Arthur lose it.
"You didn't tell me," Arthur thought, hands quivering fists by his side, "You've got magic. You could end the world for all I know. Years I've trusted you. Years! And you didn't tell me? After everything, you couldn't tell me? I trusted - you didn't - you were my—"
"Brother," the corner of his mind finished for him.
Merlin's expression twisted painfully (can he hear what I'm thinking?) and Arthur could see his own name form on Merlin's lips as Merlin took a step forward.
Before Arthur could even fully process what his brain had picked up, he was running towards Merlin and screaming both mentally and out loud, "Merlin! Look out!"
For a brief moment, Merlin's expression just became confused. His head tilted slightly, not understanding what Arthur meant. Then just shocked pain as the sword ripped out of his chest with an ugly tearing sound.
Everything was moving, not enough time to act, to get there. There was an awful slicking noise as the sword withdrew, and Merlin dropped to his knees, arms outstretched, then he was falling, falling backwards. And Arthur reached him, only now realizing that he'd been yelling "No no no no no no" the whole time.
"Merlin! Merlin, look at me," Arthur grabbed the sides of Merlin's head, "Merlin, hey, c'mon. I'm gonna take care of you. It's not even that bad, all right?"
Merlin's eyes were unfocused slits now, but Arthur heard the beginning of a slurred "R'thur" before the words caught in something thick, and clogging.
"Hey, it's going to be okay. We're gonna get you back to Gaius. You'll be as good as new. I've got you." Pulling Merlin closer, Arthur reached around to the feel the hot blood trickling down Merlin's back, mocking his words.
"I'm gonna take care of you," he whispered, "That's my job, right?" Merlin's head lolled on his shoulder and Arthur can't, can't deal, can't accept, can't allow, he can't—
The healers he encountered as a young prince and a warrior, Gaius included, had told him that at times like these, things become vague and disconnected. The guilt of survival, the overwhelming knowledge of failure, the emptiness—"It causes you to shut out the world," they said.
It's biggest amount of bullshit Arthur has ever heard.
Staring at Merlin's pallid, dead face hurts.
Because it's real.
There's nothing "disconnected" about this. It's the most real thing Arthur has ever seen and he wants to scream, destroy, kill something, because this is real real real real. Instead, he just sits very very still and stares, and (after a long time) talks.
"When you first came to serve me, I hated you, you know that? I hated your cheekiness and how you acted like we were equals."
(Uther used to tell stories when Arthur was young. Most of them Arthur ignored. His father had something of a penchant to lecture over-long about the horrors of magic. But he still remembers a few.)
It's been three days now. Dull lines of decay are beginning to surface on Merlin's skin.
"At first I was insulted that you would try to raise yourself to the stature of a prince. But then I realized that wasn't it. You just treated everyone the same. Like they were your friend, worthy of attention and help."
(Even now, Arthur remembers his father's stern voice. "Some people do not accept the way of life. They reach for higher things, things beyond the life allotted to them. Commoners who would become kings. Servants who would overthrow their masters. Magicians who would conquer all that is good.")
His body has started to stiffen. Joints settling into rigid lines which can no longer be bent.
"You're my friend, Merlin. That's one for the songs, huh? I don't know when it happened, but one day I woke up realizing that if you weren't there to be irritatingly cheery in the mornings, or to steal food and suggest I'm getting fat, or to follow and advise me wherever I went, then the best part of my life would be gone."
("In order to achieve their evil desires, they would do anything. Forsaking all wisdom and sense of duty, they made a pact with a being of power.")
He looks like he could be sleeping, but for the dark veins hardening under his skin in stark contrast to the pale color of everything else.
"You follow me into war and death everyday. And the day I realized that, I promised myself that I would protect you."
("They found a Priestess of the Old Religion.")
All the healers told Arthur it would be hazy and empty.
"It's like I had one job."
("They offer their very soul.")
"And I screwed it up."
But it's so very real.
Gaius would kill him for doing this. Arthur knows that, but as he steps into the roughened ruins he also knows that it doesn't matter because Merlin is gone, and as long as Merlin is gone, nothing—not the cost, not even the magic (Merlin's magic, whispers his mind)—nothing matters without him.
The woman who appears wears the simple, elegant gown of a noblewoman and the sharp smile of a coiled serpent.
"Interesting to see what makes a righteous man willing to sell his soul," she murmurs as she runs her fingers along his arm, causing tense prickling to skitter down his back, "Gives a girl such tingles all over to see Arthur Pendragon at her feet."
"Bring Merlin back and my soul is yours."
She quirks a slick smile once more. "Your soul? Tempting, but I'm afraid the bargain for your soul must be saved for a future date. I had something else in mind."
"Please," says Arthur, desperation entering his voice, "What do I have to do?"
"What I want..." she answers, tone slow and cloying, "...is permission to claim your descendants. To mark them for greatness and purpose."
"What purpose? What do you mean 'mark them'?"
Her movements are slick and smooth. "It doesn't matter. That's my offer. Give me permission to claim your line and I will bring Merlin back."
Arthur swallows, shifting his weight. "And what of Gaius and the others? They saw him die."
Her laughter is shockingly light. For a moment, Arthur is almost tempted to believe she's human. Almost.
"They won't remember. Neither will Merlin. Everyone will forget. Even you."
He stalls for a long moment, sensing danger even if he doesn't understand where. But really, Arthur knows the answer, already knew the answer even before the question was ever posed. Yes, he'll give anything—his soul, his memory, or the safety of his future descendants—because Merlin is his (brother) friend.
"Yes," he answers. Then her eyes shift (yellow) gold and Arthur can feel the curve of her smile as she kisses him, tasting of ash and sulfur, and he knows the trap has closed, some plan has been set in motion, something has started that he won't be able to stop, but it doesn't matter because Merlin, Merlin is what matters.
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