Warning!: depressive themes and thoughts of self-harm

Closing his eyes and allowing himself to rock back and forth on his heels, Merlin allowed himself this short reprieve from his exhaustion.


His eyes snapped open and he tried to focus. He was standing with his back to the wall as Arthur, the knights and councillors discussed recent disturbances on a border with… somewhere. Honestly Merlin couldn't care less as he let his mind sink into a fog. No thinking, no feeling, just the comforting sway as he rocked on his heels again. Sinking, floating, slee-


Shaking his head in an effort to wake up he placed the heel of his free hand against his forehead. His head was aching dully and there were acute pains flaring behind his blood-shot eyes. It was hard to focus like this and he was having trouble smiling and being his usual cheery self, if he wasn't careful the King Prat might notice…

He was so wrapped up in his own befuddled musing he didn't notice the afore mentioned King raise his goblet in askance of more wine. It was only after a sharp "Merlin!" echoed through his skull he looked up and realized Arthur was scolding him for his lack of attention.

" – should really learn to pay attention! You- "

Ahhh, he was so tired and that shouting wasn't helping his head, surely Arthur should have noticed he wasn't feeling well? Merlin was sure he had told him as such this morning?

" – worst manservant ever! I ought to-"

Then again Arthur was under a lot of stress wasn't he? Something about bandits they were on about? But aren't there always bandits?

" – ask for more wine, I expect you to-"

So why hadn't Arthur noticed he wasn't well? Didn't he care? No, they were friends (even if the Prat wouldn't admit it!) so why the inattention? Perhaps because he was a prat? Yes that must be it –

"- you even listening?!" Arthur finished boredom induced annoyance colouring his tone a shade harder than usual. But really, he hated siting through these meetings they were very tedious and repetitive. It made the fair King reminisce of days passed when he could go gadding about the countryside at will, the wind in his hair and the sun lighting his heart. Instead he had to suffer through grain reports, finance reports (that one had been debilitating in its dullness) and news that bandits still prowled the Northern borders. Whereas his lazy oaf of a servant only had to lounge around at the back and hold a jug, how hard could that be? Yet he still managed to mess up!

Narrowing his eyes at the manservant he noticed only the glazed look on his face and assumed it to be gormlessness rather than exhaustion. He huffed as Merlin quickly stepped forward and refilled his cup before quickly melting into the shadows at the wall, like a perfect servant. Obviously the boy was trying to get back into his good graces again.

Distracted from his mind's wondering by Gwaine who had decided the meeting was done and had begun one of his 'Tavern Tales', he quickly forgot Merlin standing at the back as the hours dragged on.

In the end the councillors had left, leaving Arthur and his most trusted knights laughing at their round table, eating, drinking and swapping exaggerated conquests until late in the night. All the while Merlin had stood at the back, silent and uncomplaining.

In all honesty the boy felt he couldn't complain.

He feared Arthur.

Ever since that… incident, he had been left feeling vaguely numb with shock and horror. Arthur was the Once-and-Future King wasn't he? He was supposed to bring back magic and restore peace to Albion wasn't he? So people like merlin wouldn't feel dirty and guilty for his very existence.

And yet, and yet!

Merlin gasped as a tendril of pain snaked its way up from his stomach to claw at his lungs. The insidious pain was brought about by his own misery he knew, but it didn't make the pain any less real. Curling, coiling, roiling, boiling. Boiling? Fire?

Fire! Licking, burning, climbing, consuming!

Slipping into a little used servants corridor Merlin slumped down the wall and curled into a ball, drawing his knees tightly against his chest as he bit down on his hand to stifle his broken cries.

Not now, not now! He wasn't on a pyre, but the other was, the other burned, the other called for him and screamed in his mind. Calling, calling, calling, calling-

Stop! No more, no more! Please no more! Please stop calling to me, it hurts it hurts. Oh Arthur why? Why why why-

I thought you were good! I helped you capture the sorcerer, you were supposed to listen to me and realize the error of your father's ways and lift the ban on magic-

Oh Gods, it's my fault! I killed an innocent man! I killed, murdered, destroyed –

Tasting the salty tang of blood as his teeth broke the surface of his fist he felt the wave of despair recede, washing the pain back with it leaving only nausea in its wake.

Standing stiffly he made his way back to the rooms he shared with Gaius. The old man would be asleep already, Merlin knew his nightmares tired the physician out more than he would admit. Guilt added to his feelings of nausea. He didn't deserve any one's kindness or pity.

He was just a dirty sorcerer.

Was this what fate had planned for him? Really he had tried, he had always guided Arthur to be a good King. But why did he do that to the poor sorcerer?

"Thanks Merlin. I know I'll always be able to count on you to help root out sorcery…"

Arthur's parting words that day still haunted him. Arthur trusted him, yet he was a sorcerer. What should he do? If he was completely loyal to Arthur shouldn't he give himself up? But he was needed to protect the King and the kingdom…

Merlin picked up an old hand-mirror, marked with age and gazed into his reflection searching answers for half-formed questions. What should he do? Hollow eyes gazed back at his own giving no reply. Should he stay beside his friend, lying and betraying him with every breath? Or just burn himself in the courtyard?

No. he was needed. He needed to stay. Even if he didn't deserve it. With this resolve Merlin curled up under his thread-bare blanket waiting for nightmare infested sleep to pull him under. As he squashed this guilt for betraying his King and the unknown sorcerer he resolved to punish himself somehow because really, it should have been him burning.

He should be burning too.

A/N hehehe, hi? sorry for such a long gap between updating but well, yeah, depression's hard. On plus side I'll be referred to councilling soon ^^ So please review so you can tell me if you liked this chapter or not. It's quite introspective and I was thinking in the next there would be more interaction with other characters? If there's anything you want included just drop me a line and I'll try to get it in ^^

Now hold on tight and grip the edge of the precipice, it's a long fall down...