polomonkey: (arthur boat)
[personal profile] polomonkey
Title: As I Lay Dying
Word Count: 1011
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Captivity, referenced torture

It had been eight days since Arthur had seen sunlight. His cell was underground, so deep in the bowels of this enemy castle that no light could filter through. He spent most of the day in darkness; only punctuated by the flicker of torches that announced the arrival of his torturers.

The same questions every day. About the fortifications, the tunnels, the hidden escape routes. Arthur never answered. He’d rather die than give up the secrets of Camelot, and it seemed today they would grant that wish. They had grown impatient with his silence, and the last two days had been worse and more painful than any that had come before. Their leader had spat on him before she left last night, and told him he would not live to see the sun set tomorrow.

He was not afraid to die in some ways. It could not hurt anymore than what had already been done to him here. But he was afraid to leave life behind. Leave the kingdom that he had built, the subjects that he dearly loved. Leave Gwen and Morgana and Leon and Gaius.

Leave Merlin.

The love of his life. The one person who meant more to him than anything in the world. They had danced around each other for years, denying the depth of their feelings, smothering longing with ritual and small talk until the dam had finally broken after Arthur had been crowned King. Merlin had come to his room one night and confessed that he loved him, but it could go no further until he was honest with him. Merlin was magic and he always had been.

It had not been easy to take in. But it had, in the end, been easy to believe Merlin when he said that his magic was used only for good. Harder was lifting the ban on magic, in the face of a sceptical and distrusting kingdom. Neither he nor Merlin got much sleep in the three months spent battling with Lords and calming down peasants before eventually his word became law.

Merlin had cried that day, and he had cried even more the day that Arthur had named him court sorcerer and official consort to the King of Camelot.

For nearly a year, they had been perfectly happy.

But he had been kidnapped whilst out walking in the woods alone, bound and subdued before he could even draw his sword. And now Arthur was to die in an enemy castle far away from home, and Merlin would never know what had become of him…

Grief clogged his throat and Arthur hugged his knees to his chest. He wanted Merlin’s arms around him and he wanted to hear that all was well. But he wouldn’t, not in this lifetime.

He scarcely noticed the tears were falling until he heard footsteps on the stairs and the familiar light flickered above. By the time the guards had affixed their torches to the sconces, Arthur’s face was dry again.

He would go brave into death.

When the first blow landed, Arthur drew his knees into his chest. The kicks that followed were painful, but not unbearable. He knew they were only warming him up, for their leader to come and finish him off once and for all.

But a noise from above made them pause.

Arthur could hardly hear over the pounding of his own ears but it sounded a little like shouting, then what sounded like rocks falling.

Then everything seemed to collapse.

The walls shook, the sound of screaming was everywhere, and the rumble was so loud that Arthur could scarcely bear it. He curled up tight in a ball, covering his ears, praying desperately.

Then the rumble subsided. Arthur raised his head enough to see the two guards turn towards the door, where footsteps were coming from above.

Silent, covered in the dust that still fell from above, they waited.

The figure, when it emerged, was dressed in a long black cape, hood drawn up. Even in his dazed state, Arthur could feel the power emanating from them, crackling and sparking off them like flames from a fire.

The figure raised its hand and the two guards… melted. It was as though their bones disappeared from inside, they simply slumped shapeless to the floor.

Arthur’s mind went blank with terror. He had not thought his end would be so grisly or so macabre. The figure walked towards him and Arthur raised his hands in a desperate plea for mercy.

“Please,” he whispered, throat hoarse from disuse. “Please don’t kill me like that. A sword… or a rope… not that, not like that…”

“Arthur,” the figure said.

“Please don’t,” Arthur babbled. “My friends will want my body, leave them a body, I beg of you…”

The figure was upon him now; it leaned out to rest one pale hand on his shaking back.

“Arthur…” it said again.

Arthur began to sob.

“Please,” he begged. “Let them have my body to bury.”

The figure lowered its hood and Arthur cringed away, not wanting to see what terrible countenance was underneath.

Two blue eyes blinked down at him. A pale determined face, tracked with dirt and sweat, two cracked and bitten lips.

A smile he would know anywhere.

“Merlin,” he breathed.

“I’m here, my love,” Merlin said, voice as gentle as summer rain. “I’m sorry I made you wait. I’m sorry, Arthur. I’m so sorry…”

As carefully as he could, he pulled Arthur into an embrace, enfolding his broken body with two strong arms.

For a few minutes they simply stayed like that, Merlin thumbing the tears that still fell from Arthur’s eyes.

“How did you… there were dozens of them… and guards all around…” Arthur said at last, though it was painful to even speak.

“I razed their castle to the ground and I killed them where they stood,” Merlin said quietly and Arthur trembled to hear it.

“For me?

“For you,” Merlin said, and pressed the tenderest of kisses to Arthur’s forehead.

Arthur reached out with a weak arm and seized Merlin’s hand.

“Take me home?” he whispered.

“Yes,” Merlin said, and then he helped Arthur back up towards the light.
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February 2017


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