THIS FIC GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING I BELIEVE IN AND I HATE MYSELF A LITTLE BIT FOR WRITING IT.
The reason for this one is a song called 'Hero of War' by Rise Against. Truly depressing, just like this little ficlet. Listen to it while reading this if you really want to ruin your day.
You charge forward with a guttural war cry, your sword held high, and it is brought down in a deadly arch at the first enemy that dares to cross your path. You barely slow and immediately aim for the next one in your way. Your body almost moves of its own accord, moving with the rhythm that has been drummed into you from the moment you could hold a sword. Your mind has narrowed into a tunnel vision of what is important - you are focused, you are practiced, you are deadly. They don't stand a chance.
Your knights fight around you and for you with the same fierce determination that flows through your own blood. You are a team, one synchronised unit, an unbeatable force. You may lead the battle, but you are far from alone in it. You trust them to have your back, just as they trust you to do the same.
There is one anomaly to your parchment-perfect group of fighters. There is one that would not be found in any other army or patrol, something that every band of bad guys lack. One person that somehow, you think, keeps everything together better than you do yourself.
That one person, while he may not be able to fight like the others, or quite hold his own in battle, is the one closest to you of all. Your narrowed focus has gradually expanded over time to include him in the equation; it is no longer just about defeating the enemy, but about keeping him safe from it. Because he is who you rely on the most.
You cut down another nameless adversary, drive your sword through another faceless fighter, and their numbers are dropping as you knew they would. There is no defeating your perfect army of knights, despite that anomaly amongst them. You are too strong, too well trained, all of you. You have helped to build an army of heroes, and they are once again proving their worth beside you.
The last of them fall and you remain tensed for a moment longer, your sword held at the ready, your breathing heavy. Just in case. But none come from the trees around you or try to attack you from behind. It is another perfect victory.
Or so you think. Until you turn around, ready to cheer in victory. And you see the one thing that can unravel it all.
I am lying on the ground, grateful that it is on my back so I can still see the blue sky through the canopy of trees. There was pain, I know there was pain, somewhere in my chest, I think, but it is gone now, my whole body left feeling a numb kind of cold that makes my limbs heavy. I can barely twitch my fingers. I know I must be looking more pale than usual, which confuses as me, as all I can see of myself, if I force my eyes downward, is red. So much red.
Suddenly there is movement above me and your face fills my vision. I wonder why you look so pale; you're not lying deathly cold on the ground, after all. Prat has to go and steal my thunder one last time, I think fondly.
"Merlin! Merlin, can you hear me?" It looks as if you are yelling, but your voice sounds distant, as if I were underwater. I wish I could surface for air, but I still feel so heavy. "What the hell happened, Merlin?"
My mind flashes back to someone getting too close to you, someone with a sword and ill-intent. I remember flinging my hand out, the words flying out of my mouth before I can consider what they mean, the forever chant of 'protect Arthur' thrumming through my mind. And then I remember the sharp pain out of nowhere, the one I didn't see, the one I was too slow to stop. The knife in my chest. The pain. So much pain.
It makes me almost grateful for the cold nothing I feel now. And then I remember you asked me a question. I know I should answer. I try, but what I cough up isn't words, just more red, red that coats my throat and makes it hard to breathe as it dribbles down my chin. You look terrified, and I wonder why that hurts the most.
"Oh gods, Merlin…" one hand reaches out to rest in my hair and I close my eyes at the touch, grateful for the comfort. But a moment later I'm snapping them open again, because you're yelling, you're distressed, I have to help…
Your face is closer than before, and now there are others behind it. Gwaine, Leon, Elyan, Percival, they are all there. They block out my view of the sky, but I don't mind. I think I prefer this anyway. You're still yelling.
"Don't you dare go to sleep on me, Merlin! Don't you bloody dare!"
I stare at the tears in your eyes and making tracks down your cheeks, and I so wish I could bring my hand up to brush them away. But I feel even heavier now. Everything feels heavy. My eyelids feel heavy, and I feel them closing again, despite your protests. My chest feels heavy, and I slowly stop making it rise and fall. It's too much effort. My lungs feel heavy, and I slowly stop trying to fill them with air. Too much effort. Too much…
You shout and curse and shake me as my eyes close once more, because you know they won't be opening again. The one anomaly, the one person that didn't fit into the equation, and you know, you just know, without that one person, everything else will fall apart. Nothing will make sense ever again. Your team, your army, will never be quite so perfect without Merlin.
I am beginning to still. You lean forward with a cry of utter distraught, your head finally coming to rest on my chest, not caring about the blood that stains your hair. You knew I couldn't fight like your knights, or hunt, or follow orders like them. You knew all my flaws. You had, in the past, silently compared them to your own, and you had always seen me as the better man, in the end. You know I would disagree, but you also know I'm wrong. It's just another one of my flaws.
My chest stops moving. My breath stops ruffling against your hair. The quirky, strange, anomaly that is your best friend is suddenly gone.
And life will never be so perfect again.