Title: Arms of an Angel
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: There were certain days where all Arthur could do was hold Merlin.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Well, this is cheerful...
The first time Arthur woke up to the sound of Merlin crying, he was shocked to say the least. He hadn’t returned that long ago and they had still been in what Merlin had been referring to as a “honeymoon” period. Arthur had no idea what that meant, but had gathered it to imply they were still madly in love. He didn’t see why that period had to end, not this time. Not when it seemed loving one’s manservant – or whoever Merlin was to him now – wasn’t anything to be avoided.
So when Arthur had seen the tears streaking down Merlin’s face, he wondered if it was all a dream. He had watched his love for so long from afar, Arthur thought he was still on the isle, waiting to return, longing to take Merlin into his arms and unable to do so.
But then he had reached out and touched him. Merlin was real. Arthur was here. He was back in the land of the living and rather than dragged him back to bed with heated kisses and promises of things to come, Merlin had simply rolled over and continued to sob.
He couldn’t stop himself. Every time Merlin tried to explain, every time he tried to speak, the words lodged in his throat and he couldn’t say it. Arthur was patient – a trait he knew he hadn’t been known for back in the day. But he didn’t have to put on a front now, didn’t have to pretend that everything else, however trivial, was more important than Merlin. This time, he could take him in his arms, hold him and whisper reassurances and kisses into his hair as Merlin shook.
Finally, he discovered what it was all about. It was an anniversary to Lancelot’s death. Arthur didn’t understand; they had all come back one way or another, and Merlin was as friendly with the man now as he had been back in Camelot. But Merlin shook his head, claiming it didn’t matter how many lifetimes they had met and parted again, he still felt the first time each year. It was as if his otherwise dormant magic refused to let him forget the grief when it had first happened.
It still scared Arthur when he woke to the sound of Merlin crying. But he had slowly figured out the dates and knew who Merlin was grieving for each time.
When he woke that Saturday morning to find the flat in darkness, he knew something was wrong. Very wrong. Normally, Merlin couldn’t get out of bed when he was having one of his days but the sheets next to Arthur were cold. Merlin had been fine the night before, laughing uncontrollably when Arthur had tickled him and gasping in pleasure when Arthur had made love to him, which was something considering the day before that he had been grieving Gwaine.
“Merlin?” Swinging his legs out of bed, Arthur drew a robe on – a dressing gown, he reminded himself – and went to look for his lover. It wasn’t just the flat in darkness, it was as if the whole world was. Arthur shivered when he glanced out of the window and witnessed the strength of the wind and the rain. It was lashing against the window and Arthur had to wonder if the glass would hold.
Reaching over, he switched on a lamp. Any other day, it would have made him proud that he hadn’t even hesitated. But this time, other pressing things were on his mind. He straightened up, and violently jumped.
Merlin was standing by the window, cast in shadow. Arthur had walked straight past him and not even seen him. Even now, with the light warming the room in its soft glow, Merlin was hard to pick out. He was rigid, arms hanging by his sides and hands balled into fists.
“Merlin?” Arthur moved closer and blinked when he saw Merlin’s eyes were burning gold. If he understood correctly, Merlin’s power had dwindled years ago. But there was no denying the force coming from him now. Arthur knew without asking that Merlin was responsible for the storm.
“Who is it?” He murmured softly, fleetingly touching Merlin on the arm. The man didn’t seem to feel his presence. He wasn’t crying this time, but Arthur wasn’t even sure that he was breathing. Frowning, he mentally ran through their friends and the dates he had managed to piece together due to Merlin’s emotions.
But he couldn’t figure it out. No one had died on this day. None of their friends but…
Arthur didn’t know what to say. It made sense. Nothing else would have made Merlin react this strongly. Nothing but the anniversary of Arthur’s own death. It was one of the few of the anniversaries they hadn’t shared together yet.
Knowing words would be lost on Merlin, Arthur wrapped his arms around him. He almost had to kick Merlin’s legs out from under him, but eventually he got them both kneeling on the floor. He still didn’t say anything, but held Merlin tight, letting him listen to the reassuring thud of Arthur’s heart and feeling his arms around him. He knew nothing he would say would make this pain go away.
When the tension finally begin to drain from Merlin’s body, Arthur put a finger under his chin and tilted his head back. He kissed him lightly, forcing Merlin to look into his eyes as he brushed his fingertips across Merlin’s cheek.
“I’m here,” he said simply. Merlin just stared at him before a trembling hand mirrored Arthur’s actions and traced Arthur’s face. Arthur let him, knowing that Merlin needed this. When Merlin’s hand finally came to a stop on Arthur’s chest, directly over his heart, the tears began to fall. After that, there was nothing Arthur could do but hold him.
He knew this was the first time Merlin had cried for his death. It was the first time the emotions hadn’t overcome him too strongly.