Title: Deafeat your Demons
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: All Merlin wanted was a second chance.
Warnings: Drug abuse, character death
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Second chances
Author's Notes: Bit heavy going. Rated for themes
Arthur looked out of the window as he moved to the door. He contemplated sitting back down when he saw Gwaine’s car outside, but knew that would result in his sister being on his case. He opened the door.
“Right then,” Gwaine said cheerfully, “I’ll leave you two to it.”
He turned and sauntered back down the drive. Arthur stared as Gwaine drove off without a backwards glance. Then he turned his attention to the man Gwaine had left on his doorstep.
“Hello, Arthur.” Merlin was nervous.
He should be, Arthur thought, he should be quaking.
“Where have you been?” Arthur kept his voice cool. The last time he had seen his boyfriend, Merlin had been so high he hadn’t recognised Arthur. He hadn’t been apologetic about the money he had stole or the damage he had caused, deciding to draw all over the walls.
But that hadn’t been the last time Arthur had heard of Merlin. Gwaine had told him how the young man had been rushed into hospital, along with a friend, after they had both OD’d. Arthur knew Merlin’s had been accidentally; he loved life too much. Will, on the other hand, hadn’t pulled through and Arthur knew it was the escape he had been looking for.
By that point, though, the bridges between them had been burnt. Arthur had offered his help, his support, his love and everything else Merlin might have needed. Merlin had chosen the drugs.
“Can I come in?” Merlin asked, his feet shifting against each other. Arthur thought about saying no. But Merlin looked so small, so vulnerable standing out there in the cold that he opened the door wider. Merlin shuffled into the hall, toeing off his shoes and relaxing in the warmth.
“Go through,” Arthur muttered. He walked through to the kitchen and flicked the kettle on. His hands were shaking as he clasped at the worktop. It was Merlin who had walked out, Merlin who had shouted that he never wanted to see Arthur again. He had broken Arthur’s heart and right now, he was sitting on his sofa.
Arthur had no idea what to do.
Not knowing what state Merlin was in (had he come for money?), Arthur made both teas decaf. He took them through, hoping Merlin didn’t notice how the liquid sloshed in the cup as Arthur’s hands continued to tremble. He looked like the one out of control now, not Merlin.
But Merlin didn’t look out of control. He was sitting quietly on the sofa, his head in his hands. Arthur placed the tea down and took the chair opposite. Merlin had broken through his defences and crushed his heart. Arthur wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.
“Thank you,” Merlin whispered. He lowered his hands, looking Arthur straight in the eye. Arthur had the feeling Merlin was referring to the fact that Arthur had let him in rather than the tea, but he nodded and picked up his own. Merlin followed suit and an awkward silence stretched.
“You asked where I had been?” Merlin asked. His voice still trembled but Arthur nodded curtly. Merlin looked up, took a breath. “Rehab.”
Arthur couldn’t conceal his shock. Merlin had always made it clear that he hadn’t wanted any help. When Arthur voiced that out loud, tears filled Merlin’s eyes.
“I thought I was okay,” he whispered. “I thought I was in control. Then after…” He trailed off but Arthur didn’t need him to continue, although he was surprised that Merlin remembered their last fight.
“I came back to see you after the hospital. I got to the window and you were sitting in here. I could see you. You… You were crying. You looked so heartbroken and I knew…I knew I had done this to you.”
Tears ran down Merlin’s cheeks as he finished. Arthur had to put his tea down and sit on his hands to stop him from reaching out. He remembered that, although couldn’t place what day it was. There had been many times when he felt Merlin had been the one who had died, not Will. His partner had been so far out of his reach; Arthur hadn’t known what to do.
“I knew I had to change. So I did.”
“I’m clean,” Merlin said. He too put his tea down, not looking away from Arthur. “I have been for months, but I’ve been too ashamed to come and face you. I love you and yet I treated you appallingly. I see that now. I understand if you never want to see me again, but I had to face you. I had to apologise, to tell you I still love you and ask…”
Merlin looked away. Arthur bit his lip, trying to keep his emotions in check.
“To ask if you would give me a second chance.”
Arthur exhaled, sinking deeply into the chair. “I don’t know,” he said. Merlin looked up and the all-too familiar heartbreak was written on his face. He nodded slowly and made to rise.
“I know I still love you,” Arthur admitted. “I know those months…before… were the happiest of my life. But you broke my heart, Merlin. You could have died.”
“I know. And I know there is nothing I can do to make up for it.” Merlin moved from the chair to kneeling by Arthur’s, taking his hand. Arthur didn’t pull away. Just like before, his skin felt electric at Merlin’s touch and his fingers instinctively tightened around Merlin’s. He knew, in that instant, that what he had said was true. He did still love him, just as deeply as before despite the pain and heartbreak.
He resisted, he told himself to be strong. But eventually, Arthur’s free hand came up and he traced Merlin’s cheeks. He had lost weight, a lot of it.
“You overcame it for me?”
“I didn’t want to lose you.”
Arthur nodded. His fingers curled around Merlin’s cheek. “Yes,” he said. “Everyone deserves a second chance.”