Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius.
Summary: Only one sort of peace lasts forever.
Word Count: 652
Prompt: #9 Tears
Author's Notes: -
Merlin bounces up the steps up to Gaius’ door. The path under his feet is so familiar that he forgets each step the moment he has taken it, and the handle of the door has come to fit under his palm like it was moulded there once upon a time, though it belongs to a far older hand. Outside, the sun has faded behind the clouded grey sky of evening, and Merlin is late for dinner, having been kept busy all day by his King. The creak of the door as it swings open is the same as it has been all these years, but in times of peace and prosperity, especially enduring ones, one forgets how important, how dear, the creak of a door, or the press of an old hand can be.
For a moment the room looks empty, as empty as it ever is with its cluttered shelves and scattered books; all the signs of a busy, distracted life making up for the actual presence of the bent back and shuffling feet that must sometimes be elsewhere.
A small pot hangs over the hearth, banked fire keeping the pot and its contents warm, and Merlin is drawn there by hungry curiosity. He lifts a full ladle from the pot to breathe in the aroma of stew with mushrooms and spices, smiling as he puts it back. Has Gaius eaten yet? Merlin looks around the tables for a telltale used bowl and spoon, or half a loaf of bread not yet put away. Instead, his eyes alight on the bed in the corner, cradling the modest form of his teacher.
How odd of him to be in bed so early. Merlin approaches quietly. Gaius is lying on his back, one hand on his stomach and the other by his side. He’s wearing his blue robes and even his shoes. Merlin kneels down next to the low bed and places a hand on Gaius’ shoulder, shaking him gently.
In this lofty room, cluttered shelves and scattered books continue to give the impression of an active, distracted life, but with a muted, somber air. The bottles on the shelves, the mortar and pestle, and the fire in the hearth, only whisper what they remember of old hands that didn’t use to tremble so, and shrewd eyes that have struggled increasingly to stay focused on small writing by candlelight.
Merlin backs away until he hits the wall, his vision blurring until the colourful, cluttered room is also gone. He sinks down until he finds the floor, and for a very long while he is unaware of time, rocked by convulsions of shocked grief, hollow with loss, unable to see or breathe.
The room whispers, and every whisper is a memory that stings like a needle.
Far away, the King has waited long enough for Merlin, whom he needs always, and so he sends a girl to look for him. She finds Merlin and she finds Gaius, but Merlin does not see her, so she runs back to the King.
For Merlin, the world does not move again until the King is pulling him out from behind his veil of tears.
The King is bright and steady. His presence muffles the whispering of the room.
“I’m alone,” Merlin says, voice choked, fingers digging bruises into his King’s arms. “I’m all alone.”
There is sorrow in his King’s blue eyes and in the slope of his lips, lips that form wondering, soothing words that rain down on Merlin’s upturned face, but Merlin cannot hear him. He weeps to be once more alone under the burden of destiny, the weight of secret power and tremendous guilt. He weeps to have lost the press of an old hand on his shoulder.
He is unaware that through his tears, his eyes blaze gold, like the old heart that has faded away into the fallen night.