Disclaimer: This story contains attempted suicide, mentions of self harm, and a bit of harsh language. I do not own Merlin.
A/N: Well, hear we are, the final chapter. Thank you to everyone who has stayed with this story, read it, and reviewed. Your words mean the world to me. To those who are fighting their own depression, I wish you the best of luck, and my heart goes out to you.
Thank you for reading. Feedback is much appreciated.
(Also: I have a plot bunny rattling around in my head, so expect a new story soon!)
He gets visitors.
They range from trodden peasants from the far corners of the kingdom to highly esteemed nobles. Some bring gifts. Jewels, silver, gold. Trinkets, carvings, elegant boxes and daggers, clever toys. Amulets to promote healing. Velvet bags of natural crystals. Most, however, just bring their thanks.
Those he tended to under the care of Gaius, those whom he helped with a slight chore. Even people he simply said 'hello' to everyday in the market, a greeting presented with a genuine smile.
To those who lived in the villages closest to the citadel, he was known as Arthur's manservant, the funny fellow who always seemed to get himself in trouble (and in the stocks), inseparable from the prince years ago and now from the king.
A whole family is ushered into Merlin's room one afternoon. He wasn't under house arrest by the king any longer, but Gaius confined him to his bed.
The family consisted of a mother, a father, and a small girl clutching a husk doll. They thanked him, for he had blessed their crops many months ago, when magic was first legalized. Their fields had gone from dry, dead, and dusty to lush and plentiful in a matter of weeks.
He didn't even remember doing so, was almost sure the family was mistaken, but from the looks on their faces, so humbled and so eternally appreciative, he knew they weren't.
He could barely manage to utter a hoarse, "You're welcome."
Jesters come. Artists. Magicians. Poets and writers who tell tales of a great magician who helped the realization of a noble king and bring an always nameless kingdom to its height.
"Why are you doing this," Merlin asks Arthur one day, over lunch. (The king has threatened to throw him in the dungeons if he doesn't start eating.)
"Doing what?" Arthur teases.
Merlin gestures to his newly acquired gifts, perching on odd posts all around the room. "Telling people to send me things. It's completely unnecessary." Merlin furrows his brow. Living as a poor man for the majority of his life, he didn't have much, and even now found no time for frivolous collections. "I don't want anything."
"I didn't tell anyone to send you anything, ungrateful git."
"Then what did you tell them?" Merlin swirls his porridge around the bowl.
"I simply sent out a proclamation."
"––Announcing that Sir Merlin is ill, suffering from a rather potent bought of magically induced melancholia. And that he needs cheering up."
"Arthur." Exasperation is clear in his voice and the bowl almost goes tumbling to the floor. "Why?"
"Merlin," Arthur says, "you need to get better. And I'm all for anything to speed up the healing process. And so should you."
"It just seems so unnecessary."
"What, the proclamation? Well, I'll admit, perhaps it's a bit excessive, but many people have come to you, no? They bring their gratitude, because you have done so much for this kingdom over the years, as court sorcerer or just as a clumsy servant. You're needed here, Merlin, in Camelot." His eyes are pleading. "I need you to see that."
Merlin blinks slowly. Arthur clears his throat and continues.
"I need you to be able to see how coveted you are, in case the darkness ever comes back. In case you ever feel useless. Your people need you, Merlin." Arthur sticks a piece of food in his gob and looks directly at his friend. "I need you. And I'm not going to lose you ever again."
The king spoke casually, matter-of-factly, like they were simply discussing the weather or grain quota that month, but there is a harsh seriousness in Arthur's words, reflected back in his gaze.
Merlin swallows around the lump in his throat. The cold porridge has been discarded, one of his hands clenching around the blanket draped across him.
In the smallest voice he can muster, he says, "I'm not going anywhere, Arthur."
When he dares to look up, Arthur beams like sunlight.
The sun is warm on his face.
From the window of his bedroom, he can see Camelot thriving. People bustling in the marketplace, the cries of hagglers just barely reaching him. Those in the courtyard, coming and going and pausing and speaking. If he turns his head he can see the knights training in the distance, the sound clanking of swords distinct in the air. Mountains in the distance, a light smattering of clouds partially covering the sky, perhaps bringing with them rain later in the week.
Well, no, not quite. Arthur's kingdom. In a way, it's his, too, for all that he's done for it. Protecting and helping and molding it. He watches over it now just like the fates cast, forever and a lifetime ago when history was first being written. Emrys and the King of Albion. Merlin and Arthur.
He's been feeling better, as of late. He talks and eats and laughs and jokes. He smiles.
But there are some bad days. Days where everything is gloom and gray and the darkness with it's tendrils, luring him back. He sleeps for hours and dreams of red and feelings of despair and hate and heaviness. But he can fight it, now, knock away its hold on him, remove some of the weight from his chest.
He sits in front of the window now, blanket draped across his shoulders, head leaning back. Arthur's heart almost stopped when he first walked in on him like that, sitting quiet and still. It stirred up memories of his father after Morgana's betrayal, when he had become lost to the world. But this was a good sign, he had to remind himself. Merlin is coming back to them.
There's a sound in the hallway, a bit of a muffed scuffling, but it doesn't register to Merlin. The door opens but there's no greeting, so it's not someone he knows. A bit of irritation crosses his mind, he hopes it's not another person paying their respects, he made it clear that today he does not want to be disturbed.
Merlin turns in his seat to see who it is and is slightly surprised.
By the door stands Gaius's apprentice, a tray of food in her arms. Both their gazes shoot to the food on the bedside table, already half-eaten. Merlin blinks. So does the girl.
Something is not right. That much is obvious.
Merlin frowns slightly and gathers his blanket, rising on shaking legs. "Gaius's memory going, then?" he suggests with a gesture to her and the tray. "Or is he just really adamant about me eating?" He approaches a table in the centre of the room, the girl, Delilah, opposite him.
She gives a bit of a sigh, glances at the food, and shrugs. She drops the tray on the table where it clatters and spills. "Neither." A string of words leave her lips and Merlin is blown backwards into the wall.
He doesn't lose consciousness, at least not fully. Everything goes dark but for just a moment. Shake it off, he tells himself, blinking back to the present. He's on the ground, staring at the hem of a skirt and a pair of dusty shoes.
"Why are you so hard to kill?" she asks.
Merlin bites back the urge to groan and slowly slides into a somewhat upright position. "Fair question," he says, holding his head. "You're the one who enchanted me, I presume?"
"Took you all long enough to figure it out." She rolls her eyes. "I was getting bored waiting for it to take affect. Your mentor, the old man, he never shuts up."
Merlin freezes. "What did you do to Gaius." His voice is stone cold and deadly serious.
"Wouldn't you like to know."
He reaches for his magic, plunging into the seeming inexhaustible source within. He grasps around, but everything is clumsy, uncertain. It slips through his grasp. The enchantment, and lack of use causing this.
"You have magic," he deduces. "Why do you want to kill me?"
"Why do I want to kill you?" she laughs. "What, you think that because you forced the King's hand and he instilled some shabby, vague laws involving magic, you're exempt from all assassination attempts?"
"I'm a bit confused, is all." Merlin gingerly feels the back of his head. "Seeing as, magic is legal, and all––"
"You're a traitor!" She screams, silencing him. "You had magic all those years you worked for Uther Pendragon, the bane of us all, yet you did nothing. You sat by and watched him slaughter even more of your own kind, hell, you probably aided him!"
"I work with Arthur. Not Uther. Besides, Uther Pendragon is long dead, and his laws repealed. You live in the past––"
"He is Uther's son. Your relationship with the king doesn't undo twenty years of genocide, Emrys."
"I know that!" His voice is louder, louder than hers, and his holds power where hers lacks. "This vendetta you hold is unwarranted, stupid girl. Your logic is tragically flawed, as are your methods. Enchanting a man to become so depressed he kills himself? Not quite foolproof. Cowardly. Unconfrontational. Would a dagger not suffice? Did you want to discredit me? Please, I so wish to be enlightened of the logic behind your process."
Her steely eyes are focused solely on the man on the floor before her and she takes several steps back. Merlin thinks he can shake some sense into her yet.
But her features become a mask and she tilts her head slightly. "Do you know what the penalty for treason is, Emrys?" Her eyes glow gold and he cries out, but she seems not to hear him. "Death. Ástandan."
Merlin is wrenched upward, feet barely touching the floor. His world spins.
"I want you to burn, Emrys. Like so many did before you. Forbærne yf––"
There's dull successive sounds and a shnk and the blade of a sword suddenly protrudes from the chest of the young magician. She looks down, surprised, then back up at Merlin. The words are stuck in her throat and she chokes, eyes rolling backward. The sword is drawn from her body and she collapse in a pile on the ground. As she dies, Merlin is relinquished, hitting the floor two moments after her and everything goes dark.
Someone is shaking him, gently but urgently. There's a yelling in his ear and Merlin blinks his eyes open, though he cant recall closing them in the first place.
"Arthur?" he asks because yes, of course.
The king is crouched on the floor in front of him and Merlin watches as the fear on his face is replaced with sweet relief. "Are you alright?"
"No, not really. I was almost killed. Again."
"Yes, I noticed. We really must stop doing this," Arthur says.
"?" Merlin asks, head aching too much to form a coherent sentence.
"You, on your chamber floor. Me, saving your life. Thought by this point you'd be independent enough, but clearly. Clearly. That is untrue."
A realization crashes down on Merlin. "Arthur, shut up. Arthur, Gaius––? W––"
"Yes, of course, he's on the way."
"No, no, wait. You mean, he's––? Unharmed?"
Arthur gives him an odd look. "Yes, of course. Though, I'm afraid he'll be a bit cross I killed his apprentice. We really must start doing some sort of background check on these people. Gaius is fine, Merlin. Why do you ask?"
"Something she said." Merlin shakes his head and regrets it, instantly. He winces.
Arthur's expression softens. "What is it? What hurts?"
"No, no, calm down, I'm fine. Got my head knocked around a bit." His ears are ringing. Okay. Not fine. But in one piece.
"What did she, ah. Want?"
"Why did she try to kill me, you mean?"
"Well. Yes. That too."
Merlin swallows and stares straight ahead. "Oh, you know, the usual. Feels I've betrayed magic users because I had magic the whole time I was your servant and didn't, you know, kill you or Uther, or anything."
The corners of his mouth twitch. "Yeah."
Gaius declares he's concussed and Merlin is yet again confined to bed. He sleeps long stretches for a few days, long enough for his head to stop aching and the room to stop spinning and his ears to stop ringing, and for him to regain himself. He's shaken after almost dying twice within the span of a month.
He tries not to let what Delilah said get to him, tries not to let it hinder the healing process, or what have you.
He thinks of it often within the next three days.
He awakens violently from a nightmare, all sweating and gasping and sitting up in bed. He was being burned at the stake in the dream, his assailants unseen. Dreams like that had been common enough when he was still hiding his magic, nightmares about being found out and and being killed at Uther's hand, sometimes Arthur's.
He dreams of his king when he finally gets back to sleep. Nothing too specific, flashes of his coronation and him wielding a blade against some fierce creature. When he awakens next, he's warm and comfortable. He opens his eyes to Arthur himself at his bedside, dozing in the wooden chair.
Merlin breaks out in a grin. "Prat," he calls and Arthur flinches awake, almost knocking his chair over.
Merlin allows himself a laugh and Arthur shoots him a look. "Laugh it up. I've been waiting for your lazy arse to wake up for hours."
"Well. My sincerest apologies, your majesty. If I had known that your serene highness had been waiting on me, I would have awoken sooner."
"No, you wouldn't have."
"You're right, I probably would have slept longer."
"Oi!" but Merlin just laughs.
"What do you want, anyway?" he asks.
"To see how you're doing, of course. You know, assassination attempt and all."
"Oh, right, that. Yes. Almost dying. Extremely unpleasant, I must admit."
"You're alright, though?" Merlin doesn't think he's talking about the concussion.
A small, slightly sad smile. "I will be."
Arthur gives him a small smile, but a whole world is in that look. Relief and hope and he is so damn grateful that he still has him. "Now, Merlin. If you ever get those feelings, at all. Hell, if you feel sad in the slightest, I don't care if the pretty girl at the tavern dumped your ugly arse, or anything, just. Let me know, okay?"
They share each other's gaze. Then, Merlin, "Are you encouraging me to whine to you?"
Arthur heaves a sigh. "Merlin––"
"Sorry! Yes, Arthur, I'll talk to you."
"Good." He swallows. "Glad to hear it."
"Are you really going to make me say it?"
Merlin grins widely into his lap. "Thank you for saving my life. Twice. And, for being there for me.
"I'm not going anywhere, Merlin. And hell, neither should you. I'm exhausting my self trying to save you, and you know, I might not readily be there with a sword one day."
"I don't think that'll be a problem, Arthur. You and I, we're not really the dying type."
"...The hell's that supposed to mean?"
Merlin laughs. "No idea."
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