Title: Inherited [Part 3]
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur learns more about the ghost and his mother.
Warnings: Ghosts, haunting, mentions of death, mentions of murder
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: 329: Random dialogue 4 “Did you enjoy yourself last night?”
Author's Notes: My brain won't let this story go....
[Part 1 & 2]
Turns out, the door to the basement wasn’t all that hard to find. Arthur had assumed it nestled was just a broom closet, nestled underneath the stairs. But it opened up to reveal descending wooden stairs that led to a cold concrete floor illuminated by a soft light from deeper within the space.
As he descended, the smell hit him first, and overpowering aroma of smokey wood and pepper, overlaying an equalling strong sweet vanilla scent. It wasn’t wholly unappealing in comparison to other ghostly dens he had ventured into, but Arthur wrinkled his nose at the odd combination, trying to ward off the need to sneeze.
“Hello?” Arthur called out down the stairs. He paused, listening. “Ghosty?”
He really needed to ask for the ghost’s name. This was getting ridiculous.
Stepping off the final stair and onto the floor, Arthur just barely caught a glimpse of concrete walls covered in what looked like paper and cutouts before the boy appeared out of thin air in front of him.
“Merlin,” he said with a tilt of his chin.
Arthur jumped, taking an instinctive step back and almost tripping over the bottom stair. “Jesus fuck don’t do that!”
The ghost laughed. “Serves you right.”
Arthur straightened, giving himself a minute to quell his racing heart before answering, “Touche.” If they were going to be living together, they needed to set some ground rule though. First and foremost was no more appearing without warning. Otherwise he would likely be joining the ghost in an early grave. “Sorry, what did you say before?”
“Merlin. That’s my name.”
“Oh.” Arthur gave the ghost—Merlin—a nod in greeting and instinctively stuck out his hand. “Arthur.”
Before Arthur could so much as blush in the wake of his mistake, Merlin chuckled, laying his incorporeal hand in Arthur’s. It was cold, like sticking a hand in the refrigerator. Arthur forced himself to keep his hand out but Merlin made no other move. “Yes, I had garnered that for myself, thank you.” He pulled his hand back, a grin still on his face. Arthur quickly looked away, hoping the heat in his cheeks wasn’t too obvious.
Arthur looked beyond Merlin, finally able to take in the space. Concrete brick walls lined the basement, a few pipes and wiring dipping in and out of the underside of the ground floor above. A water heater was situated in the far left corner along with other plumbing and electrical necessities.
But it was the far wall that drew Arthur’s attention and his eyes widened with shock. From floor to ceiling the entire wall was covered in news articles and copies of old photographs, charts and printouts, and hand written notes and letters. Some pages seemed newer than others, only aged to a pale yellow rather than the curling darker yellow of some others. Black and white photographs were taped up here and there, some places with more love than others. A group of them in the center bottom seems to be the focal point, the ones that shine with care and affection.
All in all it was reminiscent of a detective's crime map from those shows Gwaine loved so much.
“Did you enjoy yourself last night?” Arthur asked, his eyes roving from the intensive map to the strewn papers and half-burned candles and incense. It looked like the aftermath of a demon’s summoning. Was that possible? Given Arthur’s own affliction, he wouldn’t be surprised.
Merlin followed Arthur gaze and shrugged. “They smell good. And they keep me grounded.”
Arthur nodded, understanding. This was by far one of the least disturbing ghost hoards he had found. The man haunting the top floor of a diner topped that list. Mountains of rotting fruit and meat, the flies, the mold, it was a sight and smell Arthur was still trying to shake. At least Merlin had the decency to use less repulsive methods to try and offset the hyposmia that all ghosts were cursed with.
“So, this where you are all day?” Arthur asked never taking his eyes off the map. It was an impressive piece. A work of curiosity began brewing in Arthur’s gut the longer he
Arthur hummed before tearing his eyes away and focusing on Merlin. “I thought all ghosts preferred attics.”
“Do they?” Merlin cocked his head, and shrugged. “I really wouldn’t know. This is just the place I feel drawn to.”
Dread began pooling in Arthur's gut. “Why is that?” he asked.
“This where I died,” Merlin said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Oh.” Arthur’s heart sank. He had come across several ghosts in his lifetime that had felt drawn this intensely to the point of their death and all of them had one thing in common. Painful, gruesome, violent deaths.
Arthur swallowed past the lump in his throat and the ache building in his heart. “Do you mind if I ask how it happened?”
“I was murdered,” Merlin said, looking away and walking over towards the cluster of candles and incense on the floor. “Stabbed and strangled here.” He toed at a spot in the middle of a few candles. “That’s all I remember. I don’t know why or how I came to be here and frankly, I hope to never find out. Everything else I learned from these,” he said, gesturing toward the paper trail map on the wall.
Arthur schooled his features, trying not to show how much Merlin’s revelation was affecting him. In reality, his stomach was clenching so hard he thought he might be sick. No one deserved that sort of death. No one.
“How did you get these?” Arthur asked to distract himself. And Merlin. The ghost had been staring at the point since he spoke, his eyes far away, his form flickering. He was losing himself.
Arthur’s words seemed to break the spell and Merlin tore his eyes away and met Arthur’s with a small smile. “Your mother printed them out for me. When she moved in, I didn’t know anything beyond my own name and how I died. I mainly spent my days stuck in a loop, reliving the moment of my death over and over again. She helped me break out of it and find myself.” Merlin paused, his eyes downcast, brow softened. “Find the reason I’m still here,” he finished in a whisper.
Arthur’s heart clenched, but whether it was for Merlin or for the mother he never really knew, he didn’t know. Perhaps both. “Sounds like she was an amazing medium,” Arthur said.
Merlin looked up at Arthur and gave him a sad smile. “She was everything to me.”