Disclaimer: I do not nor will I ever own Merlin or the characters displayed by the show. This writing is meant strictly for entertainment purposes.

WARNING: Contains implied self-harm, depression, and a rather unsatisfying ending

Merlin had always been a genuinely happy person, and that hadn't changed when he came to Camelot. He was happy to study magic with Gaius, and he was happy to make friends, and he was happy to serve Prince Arthur. It was a part of who he was. He was just happy.

Except he wasn't.

Merlin wasn't happy. Not all the time, at least. Some mornings he would wake up with a pain in his chest so intense that he had to stay in bed until he could breathe normally again and by that time Gaius was yelling for him to wake up because he was already late as it was.

And the worst part was that he didn't understand. Merlin didn't understand why some days he felt as though his heart and soul had been torn forcefully from his body. He didn't understand why he sometimes felt the need to make sure he was still whole because it seemed as though he was slowly being ripped apart. He didn't understand why lately it had been getting harder and harder to convince himself that there was even a point to getting out of bed in the mornings, that there was even a point to living anymore. Nothing had changed. So why was this happening? He couldn't figure it out for the life of him.

But there was no way he could possibly tell anyone about this. Oh no. Of course not. It didn't matter anyway. There was no need to worry anyone. Absolutely not.

And it got easier, as it got worse, not to even want to tell anyone. Because, as he got increasingly lonelier, he found that he wanted nothing more than to be alone. Because, as the emptiness slowly consumed him, he found that he was more comfortable with being empty. And though Merlin knew that by keeping all this pain inside of him he was surely killing himself, he found that the idea of telling other people about it scared him so much that he simply didn't care. He was perfectly happy with being the only one who knew about this sudden and unexplainable despair that was destroying him from the inside out.

Except people were beginning to notice.

They kept asking if something was wrong.

He kept telling them that he was fine.

But they kept asking.

And asking.

And asking, until he lost his temper and shouted at them shut up and leave him alone and stop asking these stupid questions because he was perfectly fine and even if he weren't he was more than capable of taking care of himself.

And so then they just looked at him with these expressions on their faces like they were alarmed and concerned and cautious all at the same time, by which point Merlin had to leave the room lest he start shouting again.

For a while, no one asked him any questions.

But then Gwaine — Gwaine, curse him to the ends of the earth — came up one day and asked Merlin what was wrong and wouldn't take I'm fine for an answer.

"Gwaine, please, just leave me alone," Merlin sighed after some time of incessant nagging. "I have my own ways of dealing with things. I don't need to talk about it."

And of course, of course, Gwaine caught the way Merlin tugged the sleeve of his tunic down a little further over his hand. Of course he grabbed Merlin's arm and yanked the fabric out of the way before the younger man even realised what was happened. Of course the knight started shouting about how the hell could you do this to yourself and what were you thinking and of course Merlin jerked his arm away and started shouting back.

"Leave me alone!" he yelled, trying to find some way to escape.

"And let you to your own devices? Like hell I will," Gwaine growled, slinging Merlin over his shoulder as though he was nothing more than a half-empty sack of grain.

To say that Arthur was a bit surprised when Gwaine barged into his chambers carting the struggling manservant over his shoulder and looking livid would be a gross understatement. He stared as the knight dumped Merlin onto his bed and then turned to him, seething.

"It seems that our dear friend here has found a new way to cope with his problems that involves experimenting with physical pain."

Arthur blinked. His gaze shifted to Merlin and his thoughts shifted to the strange way he'd been acting in the past few months and — oh. Oh.

"Show me," the Prince demanded.

Merlin shook his head.

"Show me."

He shook his head again.

"Dammit Merlin, let me see!"

"No," the younger man said stubbornly.

Soon enough Gwaine was pinning Merlin down as he fought and yelled and Arthur was pushing his sleeves up and revealing everything Merlin had been working so hard to hide. Then Arthur started yelling just like Gwaine had, and Merlin closed his eyes and wondered why this had even happened to him in the first place. He still didn't understand.

It took him a minute to realise that no one was yelling anymore. When he opened his eyes, he found Gwaine sitting at the edge of the bed with his head in his hands and Arthur standing there staring at him with the strangest expression on his face.

"What happened to you, Merlin?" Arthur asked finally, his voice breaking the slightest bit.

And so Merlin told him the truth.

"I don't know."

I would be honoured if anyone thought this was good enough to write a sequel or alternate ending to, and I would love to read them if written! I know that this ending leaves a bit to be desired. I did that on purpose ;)

What I meant by sequel or alternate ending was that other people wrote them. That would make me very happy. I would love to read them!

I have written one sequel called No Light, No Light. Happy reading! =)