Title: In ruin
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, knights
Summary: Arthur’s mind shuts as his eyes are opened.
Word Count: 383
Prompt: #10 Tangled
Author's Notes: Sequel to “Threshold” (#9 Tears).
Arthur is ashamed of the way his rage overwhelms his grief, and were it not for how the two emotions bleed into each other, his shame might have made him control himself. He shoves Merlin to the cold flagstones, hurling abuse at him even though he knows exactly what Merlin must be feeling right now, having just lost a man he loved like a father.
“Sorcerer! Liar! Traitor!”
In the winter-night darkness, Merlin is pale and fey, and before Arthur’s inner eye, Morgana’s sharp, white features impose themselves over Merlin’s. The world tilts as the claw around his heart squeezes tight.
Merlin is gasping, sprawled uselessly on the ground and twisting as if in pain, tears flowing relentlessly down his cheeks.
Arthur draws Excalibur, the sword screeching in his ears. “Stand, you wretch! I’ll run you through!” He longs to feel the violent rush of magic over his skin, to be hurled back and have the ground slam into him, releasing his choking emotions in one punched-out breath.
Merlin scrambles up, and Arthur would lounge at him if not for the strong hands that grip him and hold him back. Percival and Leon, on either side of him, damn them both.
Merlin dares to look relieved, and sways dangerously on his feet, there is a blur of red between them and then Gwaine is there, ever the loyal dog, with a shoulder for the wretch to lean on.
There are drums beating in Arthur’s head, hard enough to threaten to split his skull open.
He lets Excalibur fall from numb fingers. She is not Arthur’s, was never his, just another lie, and without her the crown grows heavy on his unworthy head. Too much the fool for his people to rely on. She whines pitifully where she lies.
Merlin faints in Gwaine’s arms, and Arthur lets himself sink to the ground along with them. The taint of Merlin’s magic pours through his mind like a river, flooding the chamber of his memories. It colours everything it touches with that unnatural gold and takes from Arthur the self that he has become over the years, because his self is tangled in Merlin’s, and Merlin’s self has been a lie.
Arthur looks up and sees the darkness between the stars rush down to envelop him.