Title: Back To Life
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Morgana
Summary: Merlin is gone, wiped clean of the code Arthur had written to make him sentient, but Arthur refuses to give up. He brought him to life once, he can do it again.
Warnings: mentions of Android death, angst, loss
Word Count: 1200
Prompt: 359: defeat
Author's Notes: Honestly didn't think I was going to be able to write something for the week's prompt. And then I vomited this out during the hour lunch break and well, yeah it's not the best but it's here anyway.
Arthur scrubbed the crust from his eyes, his fingers shaky and clumsy as they returned to the keyboard. The harsh blue light from the screen in front of him cut through the dim darkness of the room, throwing his features into sharp relief and his eyes scanned the specs running across the screen. He frowned at the numbers.
“No, no that….no that’s not right.” His voice was little more than gravel now. After all the yelling and screaming he’d done just mere hours ago. Days? Had it been longer? He wasn’t entirely sure. Didn’t matter, nothing mattered anymore. He wouldn’t give up. This wasn’t the end, after all he had done, after the years of coding and decoding, tinkering and rebuilding, frustration and relief, it couldn’t end like this.
He tapped in a few more commands, deleted a bit here and there, and finished off the latest code before turning to the figure laid out on the table beside him.
Merlin’s eyes were closed, his body still and cold with various wires running in and out of head and torso. His dark hair was an unruly mess, fanning this way and that on the pillow Arthur insisted he have.
It was a sight Arthur always hated to see. No life, no shine in his eyes. This was the first time he had seen him completely shut down in more than three years. It was a state neither of them enjoyed, Arthur for having to see him “dead” and lifeless in a human sense, and Merlin for having missed time. He hated missing things, anything, described it as having programmed amnesia. If his energy got too low or something short-circuited or cut out, his body shut off, made to preserve his core over keeping him functioning. That had happened a few times unexpectedly when Arthur had first woken Merlin up, gave him an illegal consciousness that he had built himself from the ground up. It wasn’t until he installed a new battery core in him, that the “fainting spells” ceased. His original cells couldn’t handle the new energy that maintaining sentience required. Arthur had tweaked and updated and reworked more of Merlin over the years, just to keep him up to date and give him improvements when needed, but for the past few years, he had been running at peak, nearly perfect in every aspect of his function and programming.
He was proud of him, more than proud. He loved him.
Arthur peeled himself out of the chair, his knees wobbly at best but enough to support him as he stood over Merlin. This was it, this had to be it.
The door behind on the far side of the room squeaked open on unoiled hinges causing Arthur to nearly lose his precarious footing as he jumped in surprise.
“Don’t do that!” he shouted, head shooting up to face the intruder. But he already knew who it would be.
Morgana stood in the doorway, arms crossed, head tilted in a disapproving fashion backlit by the fluorescent hall lights with her head tilted in a disapproving fashion.
“What? Enter the room?” She flipped the switch by the door, the overhead lights coming to life above Arthur, bathing the small room in blinding harsh white light that contrasted the darkness he had grown used to. Arthur blinked the pain from his eyes, trying to adjust while simultaneously glare at his sister. Morgana was unfazed, her heels clicking over the linoleum floor like a death march. “I can do as I please. This is my lab after all.”
“Just, leave me be Morgana. I don’t have time for this.”
“Arthur,” she said, tone softening, “it’s been days.” Ah, so it had been….longer than he expected. No wonder he felt like roadkill warmed over. “You need to rest.”
“What I need is for this to work,” Arthur growled, slamming his fists on the metal table, the clang reverberating around the room like a shotgun blast. “I don’t understand why it’s not working. I’ve deleted the bug, changed his code, rewritten the pieces they overrode, installed the old parts and some new ones. I don’t understand why he isn’t….back.”
A heavy silence fell across the room and Arthur hunched over Merlin’s lifeless form with the weight of it all.
“Maybe, there’s nothing left to get back.”
“No,” Arthur spat behind gritted teeth and a warring heart. “He’s still here, he has to be. They couldn’t have deleted him entirely. ”
“Arthur. They know what you did. They had months with him to do with as they please.” Arthur flinched. He didn’t want to be reminded of what they made Merlin into, what they forced him to do and be. Months. They had him for months while Arthur was stuck in a cell serving his time for giving Merlin life. And now… “All the androids, new and old have a new update now. To ensure nothing like Merlin ever happens again. They know what you did and they took precautions against it.”
“I brought him to life before, I can do it again. Damn their precautions.”
He tapped the button at the nape of Merlin’s neck, a soft gentle chime greeting him as the wake-up process was initiated. Arthur held his breath, his confidence in his own abilities warring against the odds he knew was stacked against him. He couldn’t give up hope, not now, not ever.
Merlin’s lids opened, his deep blue eyes focused ahead for a beat before shifting over to Arthur’s face.
There was no life behind them, none of the spark Arthur had grown so used to seeing. To cherishing.
“Hello sir, how may I be of assistance?”
His heart splintered, even as he scrambled forward and tapped Merlin’s nape again, shutting him down. Before another forced line of servitude could spew forth from his lover's lips. Before Arthur’s heart could shatter completely.
Merlin fell back, once more still and cold and dead. Despite how much Arthur despised this state, it was a thousand times preferable to the other. No choice, no free will, no personality. Just, nothing.
And Arthur didn’t know how much more of this he could take, honestly. He was falling apart at the seams every time this shell of Merlin woke up, every time he arose, devoid of the life Arthur had fallen in love with. Defeat was not an option, but to lose himself trying to retain what had been lost?
Was it worth it?
Arthur looked down at Merlin, his lips that had smiled and laughed and kissed, the skin that beat with warmth and life and that Arthur had mapped with his eyes and fingers and lips. The hands he had held and that had held him and run over his skin with love and care and affection. The legs that danced and twirled and skipped with life and happiness. And his heart, his beating core that held all of Arthur’s secrets, his dreams, and a half of his own heart. A piece he would never give back and no longer wanted back.
No, he would never give up.
Arthur turned back to the monitor, seating himself back in the chair and tapping a few commands into the keyboard to bring back up the code.
“That’s your greatest strength Arthur, and your biggest flaw,” Morgana said, softly, her voice tinged with sadness as she turned back toward the door. “You don’t know when to admit defeat.”
Arthur ignored the tears blurring his sight, trying to find comfort in the gentle tapping of the keys as he willed himself to write Merlin back to life.