Title: There Is No Grief like the Grief That Does Not Speak
Characters/pairings: Merlin, Hunith, Old Man Simmons
Summary: Canon-era. Merlin grieves the loss of Arthur.
Warnings: Grief, Past Character Deaths
Prompt: 243 - Looking Back
A/N I should probably apologize for the excessive grief I am about to subject you to. This past week has been one of those weeks – one of my favorite singers died on Christmas and a few days later we witnessed a mother’s love for her daughter that was beautiful (tragic, but oh so beautiful) – so of course I was going to write something sad and angsty for this prompt. The title is a quote by Henry Wordsworth. Happy New Year!
As far as years went 538 had been a complete and utter disaster. Most everyone in Camelot thought that 539 couldn’t arrive fast enough, but Merlin knew that a change of year meant very little. The world would continue as it had. It certainly wouldn’t stop breaking hearts or wounding souls.
He shivered at the thought as the wind gusted and tried its best to send him tumbling down the steep hill he stood on. He wrapped his arms around himself and thought he had been rather foolish to leave the house without his cloak and gloves. His mother would no doubt have something to say about that.
The thought made Merlin crack a small smile as he surveyed the familiar grounds of his childhood.
Winter was hard on the inhabitants of Ealdor, but as he looked down at the house where Will had grown up, he thought that it was the most beautiful place he had ever seen.
Of course that was only because of the freshly fallen snow that blanketed the countryside like a carpet of satin—during the warmer and rainy months of the year the muddy ground would become rutted with hoof and cart marks, as well as the results of battles and skirmishes—but for the moment Merlin allowed the peaceful, pristine surroundings to lull him into a false sense of contentment and happiness.
Footsteps crunched through the deep drifts. When Merlin saw his mother approaching, all bundled up, his old and worn cloak in her arms, it brought back memories of all those times she had trudged through the snow to hand him and Will their cloaks, gloves, and scarves, exasperated that her son and his best friend were so foolish.
Many years had passed since those days, but some things never changed, and such familiarity heartened Merlin. He didn’t know what he’d do without his mother.
“Merlin, you will catch your death out here, love. At least put on your cloak and gloves,” his mother said, puffs of breath mingling with the windy gales that had been assaulting the area for the past several days.
Merlin quickly put the warm cloak on and then the gloves, thankful for the immediate improvement in how he felt. His mother said nothing, but she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the forehead before returning the way she’d come.
It did more to warm Merlin’s heart than words or winter-wear ever would.
As a tear fell he made no move to wipe it away. He silently thanked his mother for being there for him. If not for her he would have never made it this far.
Losing Arthur had just about killed him. It was a loss that nearly took his breath away every day. It hurt so damned much, and what made Arthur’s death so much harder to face was the fact that the one person (other than Gwen or his mother) who could have helped Merlin get through this had also met his untimely end.
When Percival had told him about Gwaine it was as if someone had extinguished a flame within Merlin. His tears for Arthur had stopped, as had everything else. He’d shut down and had barely spoken since. In fact his mother had been the only one able to coax a word out of him.
Looking up toward the sky Merlin roughly wiped at his tears as he marveled at the beauty that surrounded him—there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, birds flew above him on their journey to some far off place, and the distant mountains glistened in all their glory—but he couldn’t appreciate any of it.
It was days like this when he missed Arthur the most because Arthur had so enjoyed being outdoors. His duties as prince and king hadn’t allowed him much freedom but when they’d been out on a mission or patrol, the ease with which Arthur had carried himself had been impossible to miss.
“Should you be out in this weather, young man?”
Merlin, not expecting anyone else, was momentarily startled, but when he turned and saw that it was Old Man Simmons, he shrugged. No doubt the man had been sent by his mother. Merlin appreciated the sentiment, but if the old man thought he was going to get Merlin to open up he was mistaken.
“Your mother is worried about you, Merlin,” he said softly. “She thinks she’s losing you.”
Merlin shook his head and mouthed never. His mother was the one person he had always been able to count on. She would never lose him. Merlin needed her like he needed to breathe.
“She told me that you were with King Arthur when he died. That is a sorrow I wish you had not had to go through. No one should have to watch the one th—erm, someone they care about die.”
Merlin swallowed as he realised what Old Man Simmons had been about to say. It hadn’t been his place to insinuate such, but that really was neither here nor there, was it? Merlin wanted to turn and run.
“Merlin, my Lily has been gone sixty years and not a day goes by that I don’t ache physically and emotionally at the loss of her. When she left me she took with her almost everything that made me happy, but she did leave me with memories, and it is those that keep me going.” He then looked around and pointed toward the woods. “Ealdor is filled with her imprint and as long as I can feel those I will be fine. Not happy, but content.”
Merlin took in a deep breath. He didn’t want to hear this. He couldn’t fathom sixty years without Arthur. It was overwhelming and the thought made him weak in the knees. He swallowed and nodded curtly as he turned and began the short trek back to his mother’s house.
He felt like falling to the ground and beating his fists in the snow. It was unfair. What had Arthur done to deserve what he’d got? He’d been a great king and had done so much for his people. He’d gone to Camlann to save Camelot. He’d done everything right. And still he had died.
And death had taken far more than a body. It had taken Merlin’s happiness and had ended promises, hopes, and dreams.
When the tears began to fall he didn’t try to stop them, and when he felt his mother’s arms wrap around him he sobbed like a baby.