Title: Turniphead in Love, part 4
Summary: Merlin tries to save Arthur's life
Warnings: temporary character death, all the cliche drama
Word Count: app. 1040
Prompt: “What will I do without you?”
Author's Notes: This is the first time I've ever gone over the word limit, but I liked the words the way they were. I'll be better in the future! This is a continuation of this story: http://archiveofourown.org/works/10190072
“No, no, no, you turniphead! No way are you dead. No! Who else will help me practice magic? Who else will I steal comic books from?”
Merlin grabbed Arthur's limp shoulders and shook them. No, no, that wouldn't help. He needed medical assistance, he needed professionals… But it was too late, he knew that it was, Arthur was too long gone for a doctor to revive.
Tears streamed down Merlin's face. “Just stop this, prat, stop pretending! It's not funny anymore.” He sucked in desperate mouthfuls of air. “Stop making me try to lose control of my magic, Turniphead! Look! My magic is behaving! It's too sad to run wild! So stop trying to test me and wake the hell up!”
Frigid air blew past Merlin, freezing his external body even as his heart iced over. Now that the glass walls had shattered (along with the rest of his life), he was essentially outdoors, alone with his dead friend. There were shouts in the distance, coming closer, but what did it matter? Nothing could matter, ever again.
“What will I do without you? I— I just can't…” Merlin lowered his forehead to Arthur's. Security guards burst into the arboretum, but Merlin barely noticed them. All of his focus was on Arthur, his Turniphead, lying so uncharacteristically still, completely devoid of life.
Arms grabbed at him, tried to pull him away, but Merlin kicked and fought against it. A vaguely familiar voice said, “He's dead, Merlin. There's nothing you can do.”
No, no, no! Arthur could not be dead. Merlin would not allow it. His magic pushed the person away from him, and Merlin crouched over Arthur's body. He placed both hands over Arthur's heart, and then pushed… He pushed life back into it, frantically, desperately. Darkness crept up on him as he pushed. He paused, just a moment, just so he could do it right. He couldn't mess this up, not now; it was much too important. He could hear echoes of Gaius’ instructions: breathe, calm yourself, concentrate, don't be an idiot! Merlin inhaled deeply and let himself feel everything around him. Arthur's limp, lifeless body; the vibrant life pulsing in the security guards; the strong and steady presence of the trees, shrubs, and flowers of the arboretum.
He couldn't pour his own life into Arthur… he would pass out before he'd succeeded, and then who would finish the job? Arthur would still be dead, and that was not what he wanted. He could pull energy from the people around him—as security guards, they were sworn to protect the prince unto death. But Merlin still wasn't sure that would be enough. He doubted his ability to transfer life force, and he might end up killing everyone in the room, including him and Arthur.
But the trees…
The trees in the arboretum had been there for decades, slowly soaking up energy from the sun and turning it into fibers. Trunk, roots, leaves, blossoms… they were all stores of expansive amounts of trapped energy. Plants were less mobile than people, more rooted. It would be harder to coax the life out of them. But if he could…
If he could, the power he could muster and funnel into Arthur would be immense.
The closest tree to Merlin was a red cedar, all splintery bark and lacy evergreen needles. Merlin had loved the feel of that tree, the contrast of reddish brown wood with dark green foliage, intricate horizontal patterns splashed over the vertical lines of the trunk.
The tree hummed with life, but it was more of a constant vibration than the pulsing fire of a human heart. Merlin listened to it, discerning the rhythm, inserting himself into the cadence. Once he was fully immersed in it, he tugged, and the vibrating energy followed him eagerly. Follow me, follow me, Merlin whispered to the soul of the tree. I have an important job for you, a wonderful new home, a great king who needs you.
Arthur wasn't yet a king, only a spoiled prat of a prince, but even as he said the words, Merlin knew they were right. Arthur would be a great king, perhaps even this Once and Future King that Sophia had mentioned. If only he would live.
Come, tree, come help your king. Merlin called and pulled, encouraged and enticed, and the life of the tree flowed through Merlin and into Arthur. But it was not enough, not nearly enough. Once that tree was drained, he tapped into the next, a small Japanese maple with tangled branches and brilliant red leaves. It was easier for Merlin to slide into the rhythm of this tree. It was almost as if the plant were ready for him and eager to be of help.
After that, he went through the rest of the trees and bushes, one by one, asking and coaxing, begging and pleading, summoning the energy and pouring it all into Arthur.
And still Arthur did not breathe.
Merlin would not panic, would not give up. He moved on to the flowers, the ferns, the ornamental grasses… every last bit of life that he could find he drained. He thought Arthur might be growing warmer, but still there was no heartbeat. Merlin could feel his desperation growing along with his exhaustion. He had already fought off Sophia, and now all this…
His vision was dimming again. Time was growing short. He would have to finish this, now. Merlin took a deep breath, and then sucked at everything living that he could reach. He pulled from the guards, he pulled from the insects that made homes in the plants, he pulled from the birds and other critters that lived on the palace roof.
But most of all he poured his own energy into Arthur, his own heart and soul. His vision went entirely black and his ears were filled with static, but he kept up the stream of energy. Someone inhaled deeply, and it took Merlin a moment to realise it wasn't him. There was coughing and spluttering. Good. The turniphead is awake. I can die victorious.
Just as darkness chased away the last of his conscious thoughts, he heard someone mutter, “You idiot. What would I do without you?”