Title: Gone From Their Sight
Pairing: Merlin/Arthur - AU
Here there be: Very dark themes.
Word Count: 517
Characters: Merlin, Arthur
Prompt: #53 / Pretending
Summary: Merlin is indulging in a very particular pretense.
I have learned, recently, that a smile makes a world of difference.
He has been gone from their sight for weeks now. Even so, I have managed to keep my collective cool around our circle of friends in a way that I have to admit I am exceedingly proud of. There has been no breaking down in front of them, none.
I smile politely through the myriad of questions and the worried glances, explaining again and again that "Arthur was called away on business, overseas - sadly, he will be there indefinitely". Our friends simply nod, pat me on the back and ask me to give him their best as they pour me another glass of wine.
I say all the right things, I do all the right things. The excuses that I present to explain his absence are easily accepted and consumed without question.
It's a grand pretense, but one that is very necessary.
The smile only leaves my face when I enter the basement of our small home. As I descend into the dank darkness therein, it is replaced with a cold and steely sneer that envelops me like a tight, warm glove.
The door is concealed behind a panel and I am the only one who knows that it even exists. I unlock it and, with a small click, turn on the lamp on the floor. Arthur is asleep on the mattress in the corner, well, I say 'asleep' but it's actually more likely that he's simply passed out again.
For this, I am grateful. It means that I am able to examine the shackles around his wrists and ankles undisturbed. He's been trying to pull free again, it would seem; the angry, bloody welts on his wrists, in particular, are bleeding freely today. I sigh, irritated that he's made such a mess.
As I clean his wounds I bite my lip, wondering if our friends would even recognize him if they could see him now? Face beaten raw, his lips swollen, eyes practically swollen shut, he is nothing like the stunning man that they all know and love. The pounds have left his body en masse since the day I banished him to his prison, since the day I came home to find him in our bed with another man.
How long this will last, I do not know.
Only this morning Arthur spat at me through broken teeth, "They will find me eventually, you must know that, Merlin." He did it with such spite, with a smile on his mangled face, that I had no choice but to beat his insolent, cheating mouth into silence.
Perhaps someday they will find him, if he lives that long. If they do, I shall open my door and welcome them into my home. I will play my part, I will be the picture perfect worried and anguished husband as I answer all of their questions, and when they are gone I shall laugh at their ineptitude and stupidity when they leave without him.
And, I will do all of these things with a smile on my face.