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Not Alone

20 Nov
Not Alone

This Merlin (BBC) fanfiction was submitted by Maggie.

“MERLIN!”
A boot flew from the other side of the room and hit Merlin upside the head, sending him and the armor he was polishing crashing to the ground. He lifted his head from the floor, his mouth open in shock.
“What was that for?”
“It’s for not doing your work, that’s what it’s for!” Prince Arthur yelled. “You’re just staring into space! Like you’ve been doing for the past week.”
Merlin rose slowly from the ground and picked up the armor. “Sorry sire,” he mumbled. “It won’t happen again.” He sat back down on his chair and began scrubbing away at a particularly stubborn spot.
Arthur’s face took on a look of disbelief.
“No sarcastic remarks? No insulting names?”
He paused, waiting expectantly for a reply. He was met with nothing but the sound of Merlin’s rag rubbing against his armor. “Not even an eye roll?”
“I guess not,” Merlin replied markedly, tightening his jaw and tilting his head to the side a bit. He scrubbed harder.
Arthur huffed in surprise.
“You know, Merlin, this depression is really starting to irritate me. I have even been considering getting a new servant. One that isn’t so gloomy all the time.”
Merlin jerkily shrugged his shoulders. “It certainly wouldn’t bother me if you did.” Sarcasm filled his voice.
Arthur threw his hands in the air and raised his eyes upward.
“You’re impossible Merlin! You’ve been like this ever since the dragon attacked.” He stared intently at Merlin, whose scrubbing had intensified. “Is that what’s bothering you? Everyone’s safe now that the dragons’ dead, and Camelot is being rebuilt. There’s nothing to worry about now.”
“That’s not what’s bothering me.”
“Then what is?”
Suddenly, it was if a light flickered to life in Arthur’s eyes. He shook his head.
“Merlin, please don’t tell me this is about that Dragonlord.”
Merlin gripped the armor tightly and fought to control his emotions. He couldn’t have Arthur guessing about who Balinor really was. As much as he wanted to tell him, he knew he couldn’t. He swallowed his tears and shook his head. “No, of course it’s not.”
As hard as he tried to control it, his voice shook a little as he spoke.
“Why is that still bothering you?” Arthur questioned.
“It’s not!” Merlin snapped.
“Well, obviously not!” Arthur growled, angrily gripping the back of the chair he was standing behind.
Merlin doggedly kept on scrubbing. Arthur heaved a sigh. Slowly, he walked over to Merlin and sat on the bench next to him.
“Stop,” he said, gesturing with his chin toward Merlin’s furious scrubbing. Merlin kept at it though, afraid that he wouldn’t be able to control himself if he stopped.
“Merlin,” Arthur warned, but he didn’t let up.
“Merlin, I said stop!” Arthur grabbed the rag from Merlin’s hand and stuffed it in his pocket before Merlin could take it back.
Silence filled the room.
Merlin stared fixedly at the armor, unwilling to look Arthur in the eyes. Arthur kept his gaze on the floor, thinking of what to say.
“Do you remember what I told you that day we came back to Camelot, after the Dragonlord died?”
Merlin nodded quickly, his lips pressed together.
“I meant it, and it’s true. No man is worth your tears. In times of war, men are going to die. It can’t be stopped. And your tears aren’t going to help anything. Merlin, I understand that you have had very little experience with battle and bloodshed. But it’s time you start getting used to the reality of it, harsh as it may be. So, stand up tall and be strong. That’s what my father has always told me, and it’s what I’m telling you now. Alright?”
Merlin nodded silently again. His heart felt like it was being ripped in two. And Arthur didn’t even care.
Against his will, a single tear slipped from his eye. He tried to turn his head before Arthur could see it, but he was too slow.
“Are you serious Merlin?” Arthur’s voice had an edge of frustration to it.
Merlin could feel Arthur glaring at the back of his head in a way that was very unnerving. He jumped up and strode to the window.
“Why can’t you just get over this?” Arthur asked. “You barely even knew the Dragonlord.”
Merlin gritted his teeth against the tears that threatened to spill over. He barely even knew Balinor, his own father, before he died. Arthur had no idea, the big, fat, clotpole of a simpleton. But of course he couldn’t know. He would tell his father, Uther would kill Merlin, and Arthur would never fulfill his destiny, or Merlin his. So Merlin wouldn’t say anything. Swiftly wiping the tears from his eyes, he turned to face Arthur.
“You’re right Arthur. It’s not a big deal.” It almost killed him to say it, but he had no choice.
Arthur pondered over Merlin for a moment, looking for sincerity. Merlin managed a convincing smile.
“Alright. That’s more like it,” the prince said, smiling back. “Now, I think you’ve done a good enough job on that armor, so why don’t you go muck out the horses stalls?”
It’s just one chore after another, isn’t it? Merlin bowed mockingly. “Whatever you say, Prince Prat.”
He marched out of the room, closing the doors to Arthur’s frustrated cry of “MERLIN!”

*     *     *

Merlin dragged his tired feet down the hall to his and Gaius’ chambers. Carefully and quietly, he opened the door and slipped inside.
“Are you here Gaius?” He called. No reply.
He leaned against the closed door and sighed in relief. He hadn’t had a moment’s peace all day. After his near breakdown in Arthur’s chambers, he had been bogged down with chores and errands for both the prince and Gaius. Not to mention the things nearly everyone else in the castle had asked him to do.
But now Arthur had had enough of him, Gaius was helping a patient, and Merlin was finally alone. Though he wasn’t sure he wanted to be.
He had purposely kept himself thoroughly busy over the last week. He didn’t want to think about the dragon’s attack, or anything else that happened. It felt like it was too much for him to handle. And he’d done well not thinking about it until Arthur said something to him this morning. All that day, it had been nagging at the back of his mind. Every little thing reminded him of it. But he had to admit it didn’t feel totally bad to think about.
Hesitatingly, he stepped over to the windowsill where he had left the dragon his father had carved for him. He picked it up and let his fingers run over its lines and curves. Memories of the short but precious time he had spent with his father went through his mind. Learning his father was alive. Meeting him and introducing himself to him. Learning he was a Dragonlord. The carving. Then the attack. The sword. All the blood. His father saying he was proud of him. Then breathing his last.
Merlin shook his head, trying to get rid of the images, but he couldn’t. His father was actually dead and he couldn’t get away from that.
Anger flared suddenly inside of him. Why had he been taken from him so quickly? Was it so wrong for Merlin to finally meet his father? Clutching the dragon in one hand, he paced across the floor, telling himself to calm down. That just made the anger burn hotter, and with it the power inside him rose. Furiously, he slammed his hand against the wall, his magic flashing out of him. The room shuddered beneath it.
He stood there, his hand against the wall, his gasps for air the only noise to speak of. He didn’t feel angry anymore. Just a horrible, deep grief. He blinked and a tear ran down his cheek. Couldn’t he have had just a little more time? Another tear followed the first. A shuddering sigh that was closer to a sob escaped his mouth. He backed up to the nearest chair and sunk into it. Grasping the dragon with both hands he looked at it through his tears. It was all he had left of his father. But it was better than nothing.
A knock sounded from the door, interrupting his thoughts. Though it was quiet, Merlin jumped at the unexpected noise. He didn’t do anything, unsure if he should ask who it was, or just ignore them. But before he could make up his mind, the door opened. Gwen poked her head in through the crack and spotted Merlin. She smiled.
“Hello Merlin. Is Gaius here?”
Merlin leaped out of his chair, hiding the dragon behind his back so Gwen couldn’t see it. He shook his head.
“No, he’s out with a patient. Can, can I get you something?” He stammered. His voice was thick from crying, and tears still blurred his vision. Maybe she won’t notice, he thought.
“Arthur asked me to get the king his medicine.” Concern furrowed her brow. “Is everything alright Merlin?”
Of course she noticed. Nothing ever got past Gwen. He nodded and summoned up a weak smile.
“Everything’s fine. Um, I think Gaius has it prepared. It should be over here somewhere…” He swiveled around, shoving the dragon as gently as he could into his pocket, and walked over to the table where Gaius had put Uther’s medicine.
He wiped the tears from his eyes and rummaged around the bottles, his emotions making his hands shake. He had to get control of himself. Gwen couldn’t know anything about… He knocked one of the glass bottles off the table and onto the stone floor, instantly shattering it. He grunted in frustration and bent down to clean it up.
A hand touched his shoulder. “Let me get it Merlin.”
He looked up into Gwen’s face. Her kind smile pulled at her lips and lightened her eyes. He rose up and stepped aside, nodding his thanks. He couldn’t look at her any longer, so he turned back to the table and searched through the bottles with more careful hands. Gwen’s very presence made his emotions harder to control. There was something about her that made him want to tell her everything. But he wouldn’t tell her. He couldn’t.
Finally, he found the right bottle. “Here it is,” he said, handing it over to Gwen, who had finished cleaning up his mess.
“Thank you,” she said. She looked at Merlin for a moment, studying his red-rimmed eyes and tear stained cheeks. “What’s wrong Merlin?”
Her gentle voice picked at his resolve and brought the tears back to his eyes. “It’s nothing Gwen,” he mumbled, dropping his eyes to the floor.
“Merlin, I know something’s wrong. You haven’t been yourself lately. You can tell me, you know.”
He struggled with what to do for a moment. He was so tired of keeping secrets from everyone. He could tell Gwen, couldn’t he? She would never tell Uther. He looked back up at her caring face, opening his mouth to speak. Then closed it again. If he told her, it would put her in danger. If Uther somehow ever found out because of it, Merlin would surely be put to death, and Gwen with him.
“It’s nothing.” He said it with conviction this time.
Gwen knew he wasn’t going to say more, so she nodded her consent.
“Alright Merlin,” she said quietly.
A real smile lifted the corners of his mouth. He was glad she understood. She smiled back, but her face quickly grew serious again as she looked at him.
“Merlin, I understand that you feel like you can’t tell me this. But I want you to know that I am more than willing to listen to you. Whatever your problem is. And I speak for Arthur too, even though he doesn’t act like it. We’re your friends, Merlin. And as long as you have us, you’re never alone.”
She reached over, and gently grasped his hand.
Tears pricked at his eyes as he listened to her. It took him a moment to regain control, but a smile finally broke through.
“Thanks Gwen,” he whispered.
She smiled back at him again. Giving his hand a last comforting squeeze, she turned and left the chambers, closing the door carefully behind her.

*     *     *
After a hard day’s work, Gaius and Merlin were eating their supper. The silence that permeated the room had only been broken by the muffled sound of chewing and the occasional request for something to be passed over.
Merlin kept his gaze firmly fixed on his food. He just wanted to finish his meal, and go to bed. The day had been long and trying, and he was ready for it to end.
Gaius had kept looking up at Merlin, studying his somber face. He had wanted to speak to him all evening, but was waiting for the right time. But now was as good a time as any.
“Merlin,” he began.
For the first time that evening, Merlin glanced up at him.
“Yes Gaius?” he asked, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible. He felt rather ashamed at the lack of self control he had shown that day. He knew that’s what Gaius was going to talk about. He’d say no one could ever know about his father, or who he was, or who Merlin was. So he looked back down at this food, unwilling to look him in the eyes.
Gaius took a moment to think of the right words.
“I spoke to Gwen today. She knew something was bothering you, but said you were unwilling to talk about it. Did she speak to you sometime today?”
Merlin nodded. Seeing that he wouldn’t get anything else out of him, Gaius continued.
“I told her that you’ve been going through some difficult times lately. She wanted me to remind you that she was there for you. Arthur said something similar to me as well. He said that you were a good friend, and that he didn’t want you to feel that you were alone.”
Merlin smiled through his tears. “Arthur said that?”
Gaius nodded gravely. “He meant it too. Even though you cannot tell Gwen and Arthur exactly what’s wrong, you can let them be there for you.” Gaius smiled a bit, and put his hand on Merlin’s. “Just as I am here for you.”
Merlin showed his thanks through a crooked grin. A tear slid from his eye as he looked at Gaius, struggling to find the words.
“I know they’re there for me. And I know you are too Gaius. Just as you’ve always been.” He swallowed, trying to bring his emotions in check. “It really means a lot to me.” More gratitude than he could put into words shown in his eyes.
“And I always will be there, no matter what.”
Gaius gave Merlin’s hand an affectionate pat. “You’d better finish your supper. It’s getting late, and you’ve got a lot to do tomorrow.”
Gaius rose from his chair and began preparing for bed. Merlin was left sitting alone at the table, but not feeling alone at all.

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Posted by on November 20, 2014 in *Le Submissions

 

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