Summary: He hasn’t slept since Arthur died.
Word Count: 375
Prompt: #283: insomnia
He hasn’t slept since Arthur died. He knows he needs to; he’s exhausted, mentally and physically. His vision is more gray than color, even in the bright sunlight. He stumbles unsteadily when he walks, his legs moments from giving out.
But every time he closes his eyes, all he can see is Arthur. Arthur’s golden face, Arthur’s bright crimson blood, Arthur’s body sinking below the dark waters. It’s just too much. He’s not ready yet, not brave enough to face the enormity of the loss. So he forces his eyes open. Concentrating on the world around him makes the images slip away, at least until his eyelids try to drift shut against his will again.
There’s so much to be done, it’s easy to throw himself into helping and put off sleep just a little longer. He can be useful, and even if that doesn’t quite ease the aching or weariness inside him, it’s still a comfort. It's the only thing that keeps him moving forward when his body wants to collapse onto the nearest flat surface: there’s still work to be done.
So he pushes on, tells himself he can hold out just a bit more while they still need him. Soon; he’ll sleep soon. He just needs to wear himself out to the point that he won’t see Arthur’s pained grimace in gruesome detail the moment he tries, more vivid than anything else he’s seen since. Once he’s so tired that he can slip past reliving those moments and drop straight into unconsciousness, he’ll get some rest.
“Hey, watch out!”
A hand around Merlin’s arm yanks him back a step, forcing him out of his thoughts. He looks at the ground in front of him, then back at the man who’d pulled him out of harm’s way.
“Thank you,” he says, and the world dims further around him as he puts on a smile.
“Are you okay?” the man asks him, returning Merlin’s pale smile with a concerned frown. “You don’t look well.”
Merlin shrugs. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little tired.”
He turns back to his path, and this time he pays enough attention to wait for the light to change and the cars to stop before he continues on his way.