Title: The God of Death
Characters: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: What are you doing? Arthur wants to say. Don’t make that promise for us, Merlin, don’t! But Merlin can’t hear him anymore. No one can.
Warnings: reincarnation, angst, mistakes, creepiness, spoilers for canon
Word Count: 1 000
Prompt: whispers in the night
Author’s Notes: This is the sequel to “The River Styx,” followed by “The Broken Muses.” There’s also a prequel, “The Bitter Pomegranate.” There is one more part left of the Immorality series. Thanks to everyone who set up the 6th prompt, it’s absolutely perfect!
He doesn't remember much. Screams. Cold numb pain, like liquid ice filling his veins before it solidified all of his cells, turned every bit of flesh into hard stone. How he reached for Merlin's hand, saw his warlock's terrified blue eyes, and then...
Something warm is trailing down his cheek. Blood, he thinks at first, panicking (has Merlin been hurt?) But no, it is not the right temperature. It is too cool to be blood. Arthur hears several sobs, feels familiar hands cupping his cheeks, lips kissing his brow and he knows that it is Merlin.
Instinctively Arthur moves to embrace his lover, but he cannot will any of his limbs to move forward. He tries again. Nothing happens.
Arthur can see Merlin's broken form and he wants to call out, touch, feel but he cannot.
He wills (forces) calm upon himself Merlin will know what to do. Merlin will fix this and everything will be alright. It always is.
Merlin looks directly at him, making Arthur believe that perhaps he has come up with a counterspell. But no, there is something in those golden eyes now, something he has never seen before, something that frightens him more than the dayMorgana took the throne, more than dying.
No, he thinks, Merlin is never defeated. He's always been Arthur's constant, his rock of salvation, ever believing in him—but you have been turned into stone, whispers a darkness within him, who is to say that your precious Merlin won't leave you now?
Merlin will never abandon me, Arthur argues.
Exactly, is the reply, and now you will witness the great Emrys' downfall.
Suddenly, the heavy weight of what Arthur has chosen comes to mind. No. It can't be...
“I promise that I'll make you well again, Arthur,” He hears the dreaded words from his lover's mouth, “no matter what sacrifices that I have to make.”
What are you doing? Arthur wants to say. Don't make that promise for us, Merlin, don't! But Merlin can't hear him anymore. No one can.
He doesn't remember his days. They blur together, grey as the body he wishes would crumble into pieces, while the taunting voice in his head never seems to stop goading him.
The only dash of colour that Arthur sees is Merlin. Merlin's eyes. Merlin's sad smiles. Merlin's touch. The curse is only bearable because he has Merlin and his warlock seems to pore out all his worries and apologies to him.
“I'm sorry,” says Merlin.
“I tried to make you immortal once, and it destroyed you.”
“I should have told you, trusted you.”
“I'm so sorry.”
“Damn it, I can't find a cure for this!”
“...I need you so much it hurts...”
Arthur drinks them all in, listing down every word that he wants to say to his beloved in return.
I'm sorry and I forgive you and thank you and please don't cry, don't sacrifice yourself, give up on me, stop loving me, keep me are all meshed into one.
Especially on the nights when Merlin just stares at him and whispers, “I promise.”
“Let me take his place,” Arthur hears one day and everything seems to stop.
But something else answers. It's the voice, cold and amused.
“That is not an acceptable sacrifice.”
“Then what is?” Merlin asks coolly, all while Arthur is trying to rip his mouth open, to yell, to stop the exchange.
“Something you value higher than yourself, that you treasure equally as you treasure this mortal soul.”
“My immortality then, or my magic...?”
“No. Those are required for the balance of the old religions and we both know that you, unlike the other gods, do not revel in your nature as others. You are Emrys. You must exist.”
“But Arthur is the once and future king! He must exist as well!”
“Then you know what you must offer in return.”
Merlin pales, “You mean... our relationship.”
The deity seems to shiver. “Yes... he will not recall you nor will he see or hear you. You will be a ghost to him, to all others, silently guarding him until the end as neither a mortal or immortal. Do you accept this?”
No, you idiot, don't do this, I can't forget you (every smile, every encounter, every tear and every touch) no, don't do this--
Merlin doesn't hesitate.
“Yes,” he says.
“Then, with a kiss, he will be freed.”
I don't want this, anything but this! Arthur tells the voice inside him, as Merlin (not Merlin) approaches. The price is mine alone!
It laughs at him, reminding him of gun powder and stained blades.
Two halves intertwined...
Arthur is screaming, banging against the walls of his stone prison, while Merlin seals his promise with a kiss.
The answering machine is running again (he thought that that he had turned it off before...) There is a message from Gwen.
“...Hi Arthur, Merlin, I didn't see you two at Lancelot's party this weekend. Are things alright? Still on holiday? Not that things aren't alright between you two, I mean you're the perfect couple, it's just that...” Beep!
He frowns, feeling empty and rolls to his side, facing the empty half of the bed (feeling something sink when he sees the naked sheets.)
The question echoes off the wall, like the whispers in the night that he half-dreams and forgets.
Beside him, there is a young man with soft curls and a sad smile, whose wings brush gently against his charge's shoulder, unseen and unheard.
“I love you,” he says.
For a moment, Arthur pauses in the doorway, a puzzled expression on his face, before he shrugs and goes off to work.
His guardian follows ever faithfully.
“I love you,” he says again.
This time, it is to fill the silence.