Disclaimer: This story contains attempted suicide, mentions of self harm, and a bit of harsh language. I do not own BBC Merlin.
A/N: This will most likely be a two- or three-shot. Thank you for reading. Review, please, if you would be so inclined.
Dread causes his insides to fall out onto the floor.
Legs move of their own accord, they cross the dimly lit room in four brief strides and deposit him beside the body. Blood soaks through the knees of his trousers and he takes care not to notice, but he does, and there's blood everywhere. Like twin rivers, it flows from vertical cuts on the marble skin of parallel wrists, pooling under them both. How much blood does a body contain? How much can one lose before they are irrevocably lost?
He puts pressure on the wound, tries to dam up the current, slow it somehow. He calls the name of the man on the floor, over and over, like a plea. "Merlin, Merlin, please wake up––" Blood-stained hands trying to shake the man awake but his head lulls and his eyes are open and unseeing. He tastes panic in the form of bile rising in his throat and he wants to scream, to cry for someone, anyone.
His voice is hoarse and by the time he realizes that he is screaming he can not stop. People fill the room in slews and someone is tearing the body from his arms, an urgent "Arthur! There's nothing more you can do––" in his ear.
Hands running through hair and the stifled sounds of Guinevere crying into a sodden handkerchief, he paces their chamber and Arthur, who had never been one for religion, prays with every fibre of his being. He prays to the force that makes the seasons change, that causes the sun to rise and set everyday. Whether that force is the result of magic or something Divine, he doesn't care. He prays to this power: please, let him live.
Arthur thinks that this is his fault. He he thinks that he should have noticed something, he should have confronted Merlin, should have talked to him more. For a brief moment he tried to reckon with himself that this, this incident––was unprovoked, and maybe it was, and maybe they were all complete blind, daft fools.
Arthur shakes so hard he fears he will absolutely fall to bits.
As time passes he starts to think that Merlin really has died. His trusted friend and advisor, the only man in Camelot that isn't the least bit intimidated of him, not since the first day their paths crossed forever. And at this point, Arthur starts to panic, because he doesn't know what he will do in a world without Merlin, without his right hand man standing patiently at his side. It's a dark world to think about and he wants to stop thinking about it, but every time he closes his eyes he sees Merlin on his chamber floor, the fire dying in the hearth as he dies before it. There's blood everywhere and the ornate dagger Arthur had given to Merlin months ago lay inches from his curled fingers.
Gwen notices his distress and goes to say something, but before she can there's a knock on the door and entersan angel in the form of a young woman. Her hair is pulled into a loose chignon, bits of hair escaping, and there's a spot of blood on her sleeve. She has the most peculiar eyes that Arthur has the composure to notice; a dark gray, almost silver. She falters at the sight of the king and Queen clasped together, looking towards her in earnest. Remembering her place, the woman drops into a deep bow. When she surfaces, she says three words: "Sir Merlin lives," and relief crashes over Arthur in heavy waves.
"Can we see him?" Guinevere asks, eyes red.
The young woman looks at them and she knows that nothing she says will stop them from going, and inclines her head respectably in submission.
He lays on the bed in the centre of the room. The same bed he had first laid on years earlier, writhing in pain from a goblet of poisoned wine. He laid there a number of times since then, being patched up from various injuries, bruises being bandages, fevers being checked. A hundred times over, they had nearly lost him. And a hundred times over, he had come back.
Merlin is so pale his skin is translucent, no color at all in his sharply angled face. Shadows, like smudges of coal dust, sit below his closed eyes and below that his cheekbones jut out more than they ought to. His arms are draped over the duvet, sleeves rolled to the elbow and clean, white bandages wrap themselves up to the middle of his forearm.
Arthur doesn't think he looks real. He looks like a glass statuette, beautiful but dangerously delicate. Merlin has always had a touch of that fragility to him, it shines in his impossibly blue eyes. Those who look upon him are always overwhelmed with the urge to protect him, to keep him safe. But Merlin is not so breakable. There is an unknown strength in him, one more than just magic.
Gaius is finishing washing his hands off in a basin in the corner of the room when they enter, briefly nodding his head to Arthur. "Sire."
Gwen detaches herself from Arthur and takes up the seat beside Merlin, hands clenched in her lap. She looks like she wants to take his hand, but decides against it, swallowing thickly.
"How––" Arthur clears his throat. "How is he?"
With a slight sigh, Gaius sets down the towel on a potion strewn table. "He lost a lot of blood, but I am confident he will live. If you hadn't found him, Arthur..." He trails off, unwilling to elaborate.
"Gaius," the King starts, voice low. "What could have––could it––could he have been attacked? Made to look like––?"
The physician gives him an even look. Despite the aching sadness is his eyes, his gaze is steady. Arthur can only imagine what this must to doing to Gaius. Merlin had been like a son to him. He had seen him hurting too many times. "The mind works in mysterious ways, Arthur. I do not know of incident in particular that could have set this off, but there does not necessarily need to be a reason." He grows quiet and Arthur recognizes that he is searching inside for a memory, something said by Merlin, an offhand quip, perhaps, with darker intentions. Arthur reckons he will not find one.
The truth is, Merlin had been fading for a while now. A dimness had grown in his eyes, starting out as a pinprick and spreading. Recently, he had seemed all not there, absent not always physically, but Arthur found he had been trailing off mid-sentence, coming to with a dazed look, skipping meals, having little to offer at council meetings. He had grown distant, but shrugged off all displays of concern. Arthur figured he had just been moody, and then, that very night, at the celebration, Merlin had laughed. He had smiled and spoken and been present, returning to himself for an evening.
A calm before the storm.
Arthur cant bear to be there any longer, even though he's only been there a moment. Not in the death room.
Before he leaves, he turns to the young healer, the one with eyes of steel, and asks her her name. She looks taken aback to have been addressed directly by the King himself. Eyes wide, she manages to answer. "Delilah, sire."
With a nod, he excuses himself. Guinevere does not follow.
Arthur finds himself wandering the castle. He realizes that he is hiding, and is overcome with shame, face flushing red. He's sure that his knights are worried ill over Merlin, Sir Gawaine especially. They had always been overly fond of Merlin, even when he had been Arthur's manservant, cleaning his boots. But Arthur can't face them, not now, anyway.
He with a jolt of realization, finds himself back in front of Merlin's chamber door. He does not remember how he got here. He does not want to be here. This may be, in fact, the last place on earth he wishes to be.
He does not want to open the door.
He does not want to see the puddle of impossibly red blood––Merlin's. Impossibly. Red. Blood.
But instead he pushes open the door.
Inside, the fire has finally died. No candles are lit, the only source of light being the risen moon that shines in through the window. Arthur skirts around the shadowed pool of blood, past the splattered blade and sits himself down on the edge of Merlin's bed. He lets his head hang in his hands and wonders what would drive his beloved friend to take his own life. He is baffled. Completely, utterly baffled. He had thought that ever since steps to legalizing magic had been taken, everything would get better. Evidently not.
God. What a time that had been. Arthur is not proud of what he had done when it had been revealed that Merlin had magic, but he had felt so betrayed by his dearest friend. Time after time, he had found those closest to him to be traitors, and then Merlin had magic––forever! Merlin, the bumbling idiot, the clumsy, endearing servant was actually Emrys, the omnipotent warlock, a prophecy in his name.
Who would have guessed?
Suddenly frustrated, Arthur punches Merlin's pillow, knocking it onto the floor. Why'd the blasted idiot always have to be so damn infuriating? Why had it been so hard for him to say something, tell him or Gaius or Gwen that he had been feeling sad or hopeless? Why had it taken him so long to trust Arthur? God damn you, Merlin.
Arthur lets out a strangled sigh, tears stinging his eyes. His anger is misdirected, of course. He shouldn't be angry at Merlin; he should be angry at himself for not noticing. For failing to realize signs in front of him, clear as day. Maybe if he had been more perceptive, he would have realized ages ago that Merlin had magic. Maybe if he had been more perceptive, he could have stopped the blade from opening his veins.
Determined not to cry, Arthur bends down to gather the pillow. As he goes to replace it, he suddenly freezes.
There, in the space where the pillow should be, sits a cloth bag. It's tied with a silken ribbon and is smaller than the span of Arthur's palm. Heart in his throat, Arthur picks it up with a shaking hand and brings it close to his face, holding his breath.
On the bag and ribbon are burned the shapes of tiny runes.
He let's the pillow fall and is out of the room before it hits the floor.
Suicide is preventable.
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