Title: No Apology Needed
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur or Merlin&Arthur
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur reads some apology letters that Merlin's therapist told him to write.
Word Count: 580
Prompt: #454 Absent
Author's Notes: Details that are absent: Arthur has recently returned from Avalon. There are a bunch more letters than these two that you see, and Arthur reads them all.
I am sorry that I was not there for you in the way that you needed me to be. I could have been your ally, and perhaps you would have been mine. Instead, I let the advice of a mentor persuade me to keep you at arm's length. You were never absent from my heart. I never explained that to you, and so you felt that you were alone. I could have been more supportive of your needs. I wanted to be there for you, but I wasn't. For that, I hope you will forgive me.
Your old friend,
"No mention of when you ran her through with a broadsword," Arthur quips.
Merlin stares at him wide-eyed.
"Fine. Give me that." He puts out his hand to summon the paper to him, scribbles on it with a writing implement he pulls from behind his ear (that Arthur swears wasn't there a moment ago), and then reads aloud:
"P.S. I am sorry that your death was by my hand. Again, had I made a less fearful choice in the beginning and been your friend as fully as I wanted to be, maybe we never would have been on opposing sides of the war. But we were, and I did what I had to do. I just hope you know that I would have preferred to fight for what's right alongside you instead of against you."
"A little passive-aggressive at the end there, don't you think?"
"Give it a rest, will you? I think it's pretty good for less than a minute of forethought. Besides, I can't say, 'I'm sorry I killed you,' because I'm not sorry I had to stop her to keep you safe. I'm sorry her path diverged from ours, but I'm not sorry we tried to stop her because of it. I'm sorry it was me who had to poison her, and I have always wished I was never put in that situation, but I'm not sorry that my doing so saved the rest of us in the process."
"You poisoned her?"
Merlin takes a breath. "The whole of Camelot was asleep. Uther was unconscious and dressed as a servant. You fought bewitched knights in the corridor after I slapped you awake. Kilgarrah had told me Morgana was the source of the spell, and that she had to die for the spell to break. In the end, Morgause lifted the enchantment in exchange for the name of the poison. Morgause used Morgana to destroy us, but she also saved Morgana when the end looked near."
"I know. It's terrible."
"It.... I'm sorry you had to carry these burdens alone for so long."
The corners of Merlin's mouth turn up. He says, "I had Gaius to talk it out with back then, so I was not entirely alone. And I still had you, even if you didn't know all the details. You supported me as a friend whenever you saw I was down about something."
Arthur nods and smiles back.
Arthur turns over the final letter. It's short, and it's unsigned. The letters were clearly formed by a shaking hand.
I am sorry that I could not save you in the end.
Arthur places the last letter on top of the others. He meets Merlin's sad eyes, but Arthur's eyes are blazing with something else. There's the burning need to make himself clear.
"Merlin, there is no apology needed. Death is part of life, and you loved me through it all right to the very end."
Tear tracks form down Merlin's cheeks.
Arthur stands up from his chair so he can kneel next to Merlin's seat.
He coaxes Merlin to uncross his arms. He holds Merlin's right hand palm-up in his left.
Merlin's hand uncurls and relaxes as Arthur glides his fingertips down Merlin's fingers and palm.
Then, Arthur grips Merlin's wrist hard.
Merlin takes a sharp breath in and meets Arthur's eyes. Merlin looks at him with fear, but there is no malice in Arthur's kind expression. Arthur's eyebrow quirks in a challenge.
Merlin's gaze flicks down to their hands, then back up to Arthur's face.
Merlin slowly takes Arthur's wrist in return.
Arthur smiles gently at Merlin.
Another tear falls down Merlin's cheek, and he sniffles.
Arthur wipes at Merlin's face with his free hand.
They hold that position with their eyes locked and their wrists gripped tightly.
The message is clear: We are together. We are a team. We are one.
The blaze in Arthur's eyes is love.