Heat beat down on them from the unforgiving sun. The hard packed earth underneath them was dry and brittle. Their boots thudded on the ground with a repetitive jolt of their bodies. Their eyes shifted about them all the time. Watching, scanning the landscape for any danger. Rifles held in front of them with one finger covering the trigger. Helmets felt heavy on their heads, sweat beading underneath them and trickling down. They all had packs, heavy lead weights on their backs. All their gear was the same dusty camouflage.

One man rose a hand and wiped his forehead with the back of it. He squinted through the glare of the sun to see the back of the solder in front of him. He huffed in the heat and placed his hand back on his rifle. His eyes never stopped moving. Any movement of the landscape was treated as suspicious. They couldn't take chances.

They walked in single file. A large gap between each of them. Every man walking in each others footsteps. The person in the front held a metal detector. The dusty barren landscape glared at them as they marched past.

A shout went up near the front and everyone stopped. They were allowed a break.

"Merlin!"

The man turned to the voice and called back, "Yeah? Did you forget your water again?"

A laugh rang out and Merlin grinned. "Aye, I did, Mate," A soldier grinned back.

"Gwaine," Merlin groaned, sliding his pack off his back and pulling out a water bottle, "When are you going to learn?" He chucked it towards him and Gwaine caught it easily.

"Never. Thanks, mate," Gwaine took a long drink out of the bottle as Merlin pulled out another from his pack. His eyes still scanning their surroundings.

Everything seemed peaceful for now. They were in Helmand Province. Not exactly one of the more peaceful places in Afghanistan. But it was steadily getting calmer now the Taliban were being pushed back.

There was another shout. Everyone packed up and got to their feet. Merlin calling to Gwaine to keep the water bottle. He laughed and called, "Thanks! You're a life-saver!" Merlin just rolled his eyes.

They walked for a bit longer. Everything was quiet. There was no breeze. The fields around them held nothing but dry cut stalks of dead crops.

Too quiet, he thought.

BOOM!

The ground shook. He was thrown back as a shockwave that sent up grit and dirt hit him. He screamed as the grit went into his eyes. He blinked to try and clear them but was only awarded with more pain. He rolled onto his side and rubbed a hand across his eyes.

Merlin yelled in pain. But he couldn't hear it. His ears were ringing from the explosion. Who had been hit? He had to get to them!

He tried to stand but staggered around helplessly.

He was blind!


"I'm sorry... won't be able to see again... no way to repair... discharge... hospital... we can't do anything else..."

Sorry.

What a stupid word.


He drew in the smoke. Letting the warm vapours fill his mouth, holding it then blowing it out. His hand slowly stopped shaking. He stared into his black nothing and dragged another draw from the fag. He twitched at every noise. He scratched his forehead and tensed his muscles as the sound of footsteps approached then passed him. His elbows on his knees, he ducked his head and breathed slowly.

The sound of cars passing and the occasional screech of a voice or laughter cut through his hearing like a knife. Wind buffeted him and roared in his ears, the first droplets of rain began to fall.

"Oi! Spaz!" There was a shout and a loud laugh coming from his right. A few other laughs joined the first and the crunch of gravel signified the approach of a number of people. Most probably a gang of youths.

Merlin swore silently and kept his head down. Hoping they weren't talking to him.

"Oi! I'm talking to you! Homeless piece of shite!"

"Shit," Merlin muttered, he dragged on the fag again before flicking it away. He raised his head just as the youth shouted again. They were right beside him now.

"I said, I'm talking to you!" The youth pushed him roughly, sending Merlin crashing to the ground.

He pointed his face up in the youth's general direction before saying defiantly, "Fuck off, you prick," He tried to stand again, but hands shoved him onto the ground again.

"Hey," A timid voice spoke up from the back of the pack, "He's blind, we should leave him,"

"Shut it, faggot!" The youth who had shoved him rounded on the timid one immediately. There was a chorus of agreement from the others.

Merlin tried to stand again, but he was shoved to the ground once more. He cursed as his hand twisted underneath him. A boot connected with his side and he grunted.

"Go on! Try and get up!" The youth kicked him again. Merlin had just gotten to his knees before he was sent to the ground again. There was a collection of jeers from the gang as the lead-youth laughed. "See? You can't, can ya? Piece of shit!"

This time Merlin was ready, he heard the crunch of the gravel as the youth stepped forward, the drawn in breath as he prepared to lash out with his boot again. Merlin leaped to his feet and snapped out his hand. He grinned as his hand connected with the youth's t-shirt and he tightened his grip.

"Who are you to call me a 'piece of shit'?" Merlin growled, leaning in closer, "The only shite pile here, is you,"

"Fuck off!" The youth spat in his face, "You're looking over my shoulder, you shit!"

The youth struggled against his grip and shouted at his followers to do something. Merlin just cocked his head, listening to the footsteps surrounding him. This was going to hurt.

Merlin gritted his teeth, then pulled the youth towards him sharply then shoved him away. He had a second to enjoy the grunt and curse as the youth hit the ground before he was attacked. The entire gang, even the timid one, grabbed him and sent him flying to the ground. They kicked and punched him as he wrapped himself into a ball and waited for it to end. He heard a snap as a rip cracked. Pain was everywhere. He heard whimpering, it took a while to realise it was him. He stopped himself immediately. Squeezing his damaged eyes shut and his mouth into a tight line.

"Stop! Leave him!"

Merlin frowned in confusion. The kicking paused.

"Get away from him!"

An angry voice was fast approaching them. The youth's muttered amongst themselves before the crunch of gravel signaled the youth's walking away from him.

"Yeah, that's right!" Merlin growled after them, "Keep walking, you bastards!"

"What was that?" The lead youth stopped. A boot wacked him in the head, sending Merlin sprawling.

"I said - Get away from him!" The footsteps had reached them. It was a man by his voice. The youth turned tail and scuttled away.

Merlin gasped as he got up, shaking where he stood.

"Are you alright?" The voice was filled with concern.

"Why do you care?" Merlin spat back, rubbing his face - wet metallic liquid was dripping into his face. Blood.

"Maybe I just want to help -"

"I don't need your help!"

"You know that is a lie," The ground crunched under the other man's boot's as he stepped towards him.

"I'm fucking blind, mate! Not a spaz in need of hospitalising!"

"Won't you calm down and talk to me?"

"What are you?! A fucking shrink? Leave me alone!"

There was a pause before, "I can't do that,"

"Why not?! Feel like you're meant to help me? Feel like a fucking hero?" The other man was so calm it was irritating, "This isn't a cheap movie - this is real life and in real life we don't get twats like you helping blind guys like me!"

"I didn't mean it like that -"

"I don't give a shit about what you meant!"

"Just let me help -"

"NO!" Merlin turned to leave. But he was too hasty. He knocked into something and staggered back. "FUCK SAKE!" Rage was swelling in his being until he felt he was going to explode. Everything was pressing in on him and he hated it. A hand grabbed his elbow and kept him on his feet. Merlin hissed in anger and yanked his elbow out of the hand. "Get off me, you fucker!"

He fumbled about until he found his stick and clicked it open quickly. His spine tingled in discomfort and rage as he imagined how weak he must look. He tapped the ground in front of me, locating the path under his feet and stormed off. He had to get away from that twat.

"Wait!"

Merlin clenched his jaw as he heard the man call after him. He ignored the call and kept walking.

"Wait!" Loud, quick footsteps were following him. He was running.

"Get away from me!" Merlin yelled, whirling around and raising his stick threateningly. Grimacing as his cracked rib protested.

"Whoa!" The footsteps stopped suddenly, "I was just giving you your pack back,"

Merlin snarled before spinning around again and walking away quickly - calling over his shoulder, "Keep it. Bin it. Who cares? I don't give a shit about that stuff anymore,"

"But -" The man tried to protest.

"No!" Merlin kept walking. The footsteps didn't follow.


AN: So this is my first Modern AU. It has been inspired by Colin Morgan's amazing performance in Parked. I loved the raw emotion in the movie. If you do spot similarities, it'll be because of that but I'm trying really hard not to write a story exactly like it! :)

The thing I love about this is that I can do whatever I want with the characters. Merlin isn't going to be the usual happy-go-lucky self. As you've seen, he is a very angry man. And I'm also debating the involvement of magic, they will probably be none. Then the other characters will be different as well. Okay? Awesome! :D

Hope you join me for the rest of it! Please review!

Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin!