Chapter 20 Faces of the Past
Gwen gasped. Tears ran down her cheeks as she watched Merlin. Grief took Gaius and was also crying. "Oh my poor boy," he placed a hand on his shoulder. Leon and Percival only bowed their heads in respect. Since they didn't know her as well.
Merlin still hasn't come out from his shock. They stayed by Merlin, not leaving his side. Arthur and Gwen were on the left, along with Gaius. Gwaine, Percival and Leon were on the right. The only movement Merlin made was the rise and fall of his chest with his steady breathing. Tears were still flowing, they didn't seem to stop. "Merlin," Gwen tried, "Merlin please come back." Nothing. "Come on Merlin," Gwaine coaxed, "We know this is hard for you, but you're not alone." No response.
Merlin's state reminded Arthur of his father after Morgana's betrayal. He never escaped the trap of his mind. Arthur didn't know what he'd do if the same thing would happen to Merlin. No. Merlin was strong, Arthur knew that. He would pull through.
Merlin's closest friends stayed with him. They missed the evening meal. No one wanted to eat anyway. Hours pressed on, the castle went to sleep not too long ago. Gaius was the first to leave. Reassuring them that Merlin would come out of his shock eventually. He just needed time. Gaius gave a sorrowful look at Merlin before leaving the chambers. Remembering when he first came into his life, and how many lives Merlin has changed since then. Another hour passed. Gwen rested her head on Arthur's shoulder, feeling sleepy but not yet wanting to leave Merlin. Arthur saw Gwen's eyes starting to drop. He knew she'd fallen asleep by her even breathing. "I'll take her to bed," announcing softly to Gwaine across from him. A brief nod, was all he got from the knight. Arthur gently picked up his wife, careful not to wake her. "I'll be right back." Leon left with them so he could open and close the doors for them. Arthur made Gwen comfortable on their bed, before pulling the covers over. Smiling at her sleeping form. A quick kiss on the forehead, Arthur silently left the room, heading back to Merlin. Percival started yawning next when they got back. Leon soon after. "You two should get some sleep, I'm not carrying either of you to bed."
"Will you be alright?" Leon asked.
"Yes, besides, I've got Gwaine to keep me company."
"All the more reason to worry," Percival said chuckling.
"Hay I'm a joy to be around!" Gwaine defended lightning the mood a little when they all laughed quietly.
Leon and Percival left after that. Leaving Arthur and Gwaine alone with Merlin. Arthur sighed when he watched his friend's chest rise and fall. Noticing the tears have stopped coming. Maybe that was a good sign.
"He'll be alright Arthur" Gwaine said catching the sigh.
They became silent after that. Watching Merlin carefully for any movement. Arthur let his mind drift, zoning in and out for what felt like even more hours. It wasn't until a small sound coming from neither of them brought Arthur back to Merlin. Gwaine was attentive as well. He didn't imagine it. Leaning closer to Merlin, Arthur heard it again. Two words, just two. "I'm sorry." Merlin muttered again"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"
Merlin was lost. Trapped in his own mind, unable to escape. All he could think of was death. The people he failed to save flashed behind his eyes. It seemed the people closest to him died. He couldn't take it anymore. "I'm sorry" he said to them. That's all he could say. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Merlin's vision started to focus when he felt someone shaking him. Blinking rapidly, Merlin saw Arthur hovering over him, his face full of concern. "Merlin! Merlin can you hear me?"
"It's my fault" Merlin whispered brokenly.
"No Merlin! It's not, you couldn't have known" Arthur said strongly.
"There's so many. So many dead because of me."
"You can't think like that Merlin" this time it was Gwaine.
"But it's true" Merlin said softly. "I can't protect any one, they all die." The tears started flowing again.
"Will, Freya, my father, Lancelot, my mother. Arthur died and so did you. Because I couldn't protect them. Like I'm supposed to. So much death Gwaine, so much death. I killed Morgana, all those who died in the dragon attack. Their deaths are on my hands." Arthur's never seen Merlin like this. So lost, so broken. Arthur grabbed Merlin's shoulders. He was going to tell him none of its true. That it's not his fault as he claims it to be. As soon as he touched Merlin, Arthur felt a wave come over him. A never ending pit of despair he didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel. It reminded him of what he felt the night he lost his father, of Morgana and Agravaine's betrayal all at once. Arthur took his hands off of Merlin, sitting back in his chair, feeling overwhelmed. As soon as he did though, the despair went away as quickly as it had come. Arthur was horrified. He just felt what Merlin was feeling!
Arthur quickly turned the question away. He'd figure that out later. Arthur had only been consumed by the void for a few seconds. Merlin was still under it. Arthur missed the curious look Gwaine gave him. Merlin was falling back into his trance. Arthur panicked. He hovered over his old friend, his best friend, who needed him desperately. "Merlin look at me!" he did, Arthur was glad to see his eyes weren't glazed over like they were before. "Merlin, if you haven't come to Camelot when you did, I would be dead ten times over. Camelot wouldn't be where it is today. You were the one who brought the round table together Merlin. You! I probably would be an even bigger prat if you hadn't come along. You have done so much, let us help you Merlin. You're not alone. Never again."
Gwaine just watched the scene in fount of him. Pained that his best friend was hurting like this. "Merlin" he began. Merlin slowly turned his head towards him. "You were my first friend, my whole life I had been alone, wandering aimlessly without a purpose. You helped me find my purpose. You're not the only one with blood on your hands. We all do, it comes with being a knight. When you were a servant, you've had as much dedication and loyalty as one. Even more." Merlin stayed silent for a few minutes. Soaking in the words his friends were saying to him. He took a deep shuttering breath, "Thank you."