Disclaimer: Do not own Merlin.

Warnings: Graphic violence, murder, brief sex, disturbing themes

A.N. This is horrible and I don't know where it came from and I will have to write ten hours of fluff to counteract it...

~III~

They leave the motel at dawn; Merlin still hazy eyed with sleep, and Arthur leading him by the hand across the deserted car park. They couldn't stay another night; the girl on reception looked at them far too long, her eyes dragging over the bruises on Merlin's face, the scar on Arthur's jaw. She met Arthur's gaze accusingly, and he almost rolled his eyes because they always thought that, didn't they? Thought that he was the violent one; that he was the abusive boyfriend terrorising the thin pale boy with the messy hair.

It's enough to make Arthur laugh. Especially after that day's events, when Merlin had hit the mark so long and so hard that Arthur had to physically restrain him, make him stop long enough to see the distorted mess of the man's face, the blood, the fragments of bone.

He never loses control like that. Merlin has something inside him Arthur doesn't have; some wild deranged part that spills out of him like a tidal wave, taking down everything in its path. He's seen Merlin bite a man's ear off, seen him stick his thumb in another's eye; seen him commit such outlandish acts of violence that they felt cartoonish and unreal.

Arthur doesn't mind being the sensible one.

The sun is rising as Arthur drives down the motorway, heady shafts of pink and orange cutting across the sky. He feels breathless for some reason, slightly dizzy as they speed along, Merlin half-awake beside him, fingers tracing a lazy circle on Arthur's knee.

Arthur is suddenly gripped by need and want and some kind of overwhelming fear; the fear of losing all this, the road and the money and Merlin, losing Merlin, losing the very thing he breathed for…

Arthur shakes his head, clears his mind. The fear dissipates. They were here and they were invincible and he doesn't believe in karma, doesn't believe that the things they do will ever catch up with them.

They stop at a service station and eat breakfast in a dimly lit greasy spoon café. Or rather Arthur eats, and Merlin sips at a cup of black coffee, scratching the back of his hand until it bleeds. Arthur tuts, takes him to the restroom, runs his hand gently under the tap. He pats it dry and kisses it and Merlin gives him a rare smile, though it looks odd on his face.

Merlin used to smile more, Arthur is sure, but there are a lot of things they both used to do, and Arthur hates looking back.

~III~

They don't stop driving again until it's nearly dark, and Merlin randomly picks a turning and Arthur swings off the motorway. They end up in a small town; the kind with cutesy signs telling you to drive carefully, and three separate bowling greens. They check into the first place they see, a bed and breakfast with chintzy furniture and roses on the wall. Arthur makes Merlin wait in the car this time, and turns the charm on with the middle aged owner. He'd rather not arouse suspicion. He wouldn't mind staying a couple of days this time, doesn't want another dawn dash so soon.

Arthur has a vague idea they might take a night off but Merlin has other ideas, and so at nine they head out to the town centre and into the roughest looking pub Merlin can find. Arthur buys the drinks and sits, sipping, while Merlin makes his rounds.

It always strikes Arthur how much Merlin looks like an animal in these moments; his whole body primed and alert, his eyes bright, taking in everything at once, seeking out his prey. He enjoys the sight with the familiar twinge of unease in his stomach, a twinge that is just as much a part of the pleasure as anything else.

Merlin slides back into the seat opposite him.

"Far side of the bar. Black shirt, blonde hair."

Arthur looks and sees him, an average looking bloke nursing a pint of lager with a couple of mates.

Merlin has that look on his face, like he wants Arthur's approval, but this is the part of the game Arthur never really understands, why Merlin picks the marks he does. He assumes Merlin has some specific criteria in mind, some logical reason, but he's damned if he can ever see the similarities between the men Merlin chooses.

Maybe he's overthinking it. Maybe it's random every time.

Arthur nods, and Merlin grins.

Then they wait.

~III~

It's surprisingly quick tonight. Arthur thinks maybe even Merlin's bloodlust was sated by the gore fest of the day before, because he doesn't draw it out. Arthur leans against a tree, an observer tonight. The man isn't strong enough to put up a fight, Arthur doesn't need to intervene. Sometimes he prefers it like that, prefers just watching Merlin do what he does, able to just enjoy the show like he's viewing it from far away.

But tonight he has a brief urge to help, to be side by side with Merlin, to feel like a vital part of this man's final moments.

Merlin pulls the belt tight around the man's neck. The feeling passes.

~III~

Merlin is impatient as Arthur digs the grave, his toes tapping a restless rhythm on the ground. He used to help but now he acts like the whole ritual is a minor inconvenience, rather than an essential part of not getting caught.

Arthur knows why. Merlin has ceased to care whether they get caught or not. He doesn't want to hide the evidence. He wants fate to take its course.

Arthur won't let that happen. He will hang on to this as long as possible. He can't see another life for him anymore, can't see anything beyond Merlin and this and now. He will painstakingly cover their tracks and drive them on at dawn and keep them both alive. Until the day comes that they are found and then will take Merlin's head in his hands and he will snap that beautiful neck before he lets anyone take him away.

He thinks Merlin wouldn't mind that, if he knew.

But these are not thoughts for tonight. Arthur concentrates on heaving the soil from the earth, feeling the ground hard and resistant beneath him. When they're done here, he will drape his jacket on Merlin's thin shoulders and walk him back to the B and B. He will peel Merlin's clothes off in the darkened room and kiss every inch of his always-cold skin. Then Merlin will ride him until they both cry out and Arthur will put his hand over his lover's mouth, so as not to disturb the sleeping town around them.