Title: To Suffer Dreams
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Morgana
Summary: AU. Dreams plague Merlin.
Word Count: 596
Prompt: #337, cemetery
Author's Notes: This started out as something experimental, and then halfway through I realized the emotions totally fit into my series, Watch and Learn, as a flashback. So even though the style is different, I'm going to say it's part of that.
The darkness smothers – but of course, it does, that’s its job – and he cannot breathe let alone see. The only sense to remain trustworthy is his hearing, because there it is, that bark of laughter, the one that sounds like mocking but masks the torture it had taken Merlin too long to discover.
“Arthur?” His own voice is faint, as if it travels farther to reach his ears than the other (and he doesn’t question why he can shout when he feels like he’s choking because all that matters is that he can).
There is no answer. And no more laughter.
“Arthur! I’m here! Don’t go!”
His flesh has found momentum. He breaks into a run, crashing blindly forward only to pitch to his hands and knees when the path betrays him. His skin splits, stings, but Merlin lurches back to his feet to stumble along again.
Find him. Find him. Find him.
His steps echo the screams inside his skull, beating tattoos that he prays will someday heal. They haven’t before. Blood wells up at the most inopportune moments, staining his memories no matter how hard he tries to preserve them.
(Or forget them.)
When he finally falls, the ground doesn’t open its arms to cushion the blow. That only happens in fairy tales and bad action movies. Reality is a bloody nose and a dislocated wrist. It’s dry heaving because he still can’t find enough air. It’s crumpling and crying and clawing at the earth and –
Merlin’s eyelids shoot open. The world is sideways, and it takes a moment for him to feel the cold grass against his cheek, the same grass tickling his nose where a slight breeze ruffles the blades. Shadows loom in the distance, too indistinct for him to make out, but he doesn’t need them identified. He knows where he is. Why his face is wet.
His muscles protest as he pushes up to a sitting position. Falling asleep on Arthur’s gravestone hadn’t been the plan. He just wanted to talk. So he did. And then laid down to stare at the dusky sky as he caught Arthur up on everything that was going on at work. All the people. All the stress. (Not Morgana, though. Never Morgana. That still hurts too much.) He doesn’t remember dozing off.
But he remembers the dreams. Those are not new. Or limited to the cemetery. (Or dreams at all, but thoughts all too real.)
“Don’t say it,” he says with a shaky laugh, scrubbing at his face until it hurts. “I’m know it’s pathetic.”
Then do something about it.
He can practically hear Arthur chiding him, which both helps and hinders. “Like what? Forget you died?”
Not forget. Forgive.
There is only one person who needs forgiveness, but she doesn’t care about it. If she did, she would’ve reached out long before now.
You act like you’ve never actually met Morgana before. She’s Uther’s daughter, through and through.
Yes, she is. Proud. Stubborn. Beautiful. Just like Arthur was.
His fingers tremble as he reaches out to trace the etchings on the gravestone. “You’re still an insufferable know-it-all.” But he says it with a smile that doesn’t feel forced. Because Arthur is right, and if Merlin wants the dreams to stop, if he wants to move on, he has to find peace with the person who hates him most.
It won’t be easy. It might be impossible. But if he doesn’t take steps to at least try, the cycle might not ever end.
Arthur wouldn’t want that.
But the question remains…does Morgana?