Title: Love Me Blind [Part 3]
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: All Merlin wanted to do was prove he could be independent, that he didn't need to rely on anyone, that he could venture into town by himself. But all that resulted in was a panic attack and him sitting in the mud with no idea where he was or how to get back.
Warnings: Victorian AU, blind!Merlin, pianist!Merlin, panic attacks, shame and loss of self worth
Word Count: 900
Prompt: 331: First line: He kept absolutely still as the footsteps got louder
Author's Notes: So this takes place before the other two parts, somewhere before them. I'm very much writing these out of order, sorry. All you need to know is that Merlin is blind and Morgana is his sister and not related to Arthur in any way.
Part 1 & 2
He kept absolutely still as the footsteps got louder, splashing through the puddles as they approached. Merlin prayed whoever it was would pay him no mind and simply pass by without a thought. It wasn’t enough that he was trembling, soaked through with the sudden rain and disoriented by his panic, now someone had to stumble upon him in such a distraught state. A drunk, please be a drunk. Or better yet, let them think he’s a drunk. He didn’t think he had the energy to feign his way through pleasantries without arousing suspicion. His appearance alone, the mud caked into his trousers and boots partnered with the weighted feel of his sopping clothes as the clung to his skin, he knew he looked unseemly. Unsuitable for public appearance, his mother would say.
“Mr. Emrys?” Merlin’s teetering panic nearly came back in full at the sound of Arthur’s voice. His luck was truly the worst. “Merlin, are you alright?”
No, not in the least bit.
But by god would Merlin rather sit here in god knows where in the middle of town soaked to the bone, filthy, and completely lost with only the ever surrounding grey and panic for company than bury his pride in the mud. It was all he had left at this point.
“I’m fine,” he said, voice shaky, cracking down the seams like the rest of him.
Arthur huffed, footsteps splashing through the muddy puddles as he came closer. “What are you doing out here? Where is Miss Morgana?”
Merlin turned away to hide his shame and hurt. “She’s not here.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Arthur’s voice was closer now, at level with where Merlin sat against the brick wall. Perhaps a building. He wasn’t entirely sure. Somewhere between Mr Jefferson’s estate and the fountain in town square he lost his direction. Clearly, he hadn’t memorized the way into town as well as he had thought. So much for validating his independence.
All he had done was prove he would never stop relying on others. For as long as he plagued this earth.
Merlin slumped further against the wall, feeling tears of despair and humiliation fall and pull him down into the mud.
“Do you know where she went?” Arthur continued, shuffling closer with a small splash. “I can fetch her for you...”
Merlin shook his head. “She’s at home. I—” he mustered up the last of his pride and plastered a small smile on his face, lifting his head toward Arthur. “I apologise, Mr. Pendragon.”
“For—what are you talking about? Merlin you’re shaking.” There was a rustle of clothing before a warm weight settled across Merlin’s shoulders. It did little to ward off the chill his soaked clothes had instilled in his bones but came as a welcome comfort and protection from the rain.
“That she’s not here,” Merlin said, gesturing at their surroundings. “I’m sure you’d much rather converse with her.”
There was a pause, one Merlin couldn’t read. Then finally, Arthur’s arm settled across Merlin’s back, his other hand on his waist. Improper, furverently so. “Nonsense. Come on, let’s get you somewhere dry.”
Anger and shame washed over Merlin, heating his neck and cheeks. “I’m fine,” he said, leaning back and pushing Arthur’s hands away. “Please, just leave me be. I’ll be on my way soon.”
It wouldn’t work, he knew it wouldn’t work. Arthur’s heart, despite the often hard arrogant exterior, was too soft to leave him to drown.
“You know,” Arthur said, tone so soft and sincere that it fed Merlin’s fire even further, “it’s alright to accept help. You have nothing to prove to me.”
“I said I’m fine,” Merlin growled. He made to stand, bolstered by his crumbling pride and anger but his legs were wobbly, trembling on the last vestiges of adrenaline sparked by his panic and unable to support his weight. He pitched sideways.
And right into Arthur. Arms wrapped around his torso, strong and warm, keeping him afloat amidst the pouring rain and sea of exhaustion.
“Easy there.” Arthur’s face was so close, his breath tickled Merlin’s ear, sending a shiver down his spine to get lost in the tremors wracking his body. “What happened? Are you hurt anywhere?”
And with that, Merlin’s anger ebbed like the tide, leaving only the dregs of his self-worth behind. He felt drained, exhausted, useless. “No, I’m not hurt. Just—” but he trailed off, unable to put words to all the things he felt.
Arthur tightened his hold as he helped steady Merlin on his feet. Even when they started walking, Merlin stumbling, but capable, he didn’t let go. Merlin was grateful with no more energy left to waste on being ashamed. He was done, he knew what he was now, knew his limits and what his future held. This was it, dependent on others until the day he died. Just like the physicians had said when he was a kid, like his family said in whispered tones, like the rumors and gossips spoke of in town.
They were right, all of them. He had been just too stubborn to believe it.
Arthur didn’t press the matter, just nodded like he understood and took more of Merlin’s weight as they ventured into town. “Come now, we best get you warm and dry before you catch your death. I’ll send word to your mother that you’ll be lodged with me until the storm passes.”