Mama Deb (mamadebfic) wrote,
Mama Deb

New Story: Princes are But the Breath of Kings (Arthur/Merlin, PG)

Written for the merlin_flashfic emo challenge. Character death.

"I can't do this. I'm not ready. I don't know what I'm doing."

"Yes, you can. I have faith in you." Merlin held Arthur tightly in the light of the bedroom fire.

* * * *

"He's gone, sire." Gaius' voice shook from grief and exhaustion.

"NO! He can't be! You - he trusts you with his life, Gaius! You're his physician! There must be something you can do - or Merlin!" Arthur, white and gaunt from three days without sleep and little food, turned to him. "I know you…I know you can do this. I know you have those gifts - use them! I order you! Save my father's life!"

Merlin could only shake his head, his heart hurting at the naked pain on Arthur's face. "If I could have - Gaius and I used everything we had, consulted everything we could." He gone to the dragon, who told him there was nothing at all to be done, that it was Uther's time. Merlin still spent hours muttering spells. "Please - " he reached to touch Arthur's shoulder. Arthur flinched then relaxed. "Believe me. Gaius is half-dead himself - you're barely holding on."

"No! It can't be! He's the KING! The king can't die - Camelot needs him. Our people need him. I need him. He can't be dead! He can't!" Arthur backed away from the bed where his father had lain unmoving for all that time and stumbled. Merlin caught him before he hit the floor. Arthur kept grasping Merlin's arm even after he'd been guided to a seat. "He can't be. He can't…" He trailed off, his burst of energy fading, but his hold was still firm.

Morgana, who had been weeping on the other side of the bed, looked up. "Gaius, I know you did your best, and Arthur will, too, when he has some rest." She hadn't reacted at all to Arthur's revelation about Merlin's gifts - what had she known?

"We all need rest, Morgana." Gaius looked at the body. "I don't know if my heart will let me sleep, but we have much to do in the morning." Gaius tried to stand, but his knees couldn't hold him, and Merlin was still trapped by Arthur's hands.

"I'll get some help." She went to the door and shouted for servants. In a few minutes, a strong groom was getting Gaius to his feet.

"Merlin, take Arthur to his chambers. And stay with him. I'll send Robin here with clothes for you."

"Yes, Gaius."

Merlin needed the help of another groom to get Arthur out of his seat, and then he protested. "I won't leave my father alone."

"He won't be, your…your majesty. I'll be here to keep watch and to help prepare him. Gwen and I will make sure he's not alone. Merlin, do as Gaius says and take the…the king to his rooms." Morgana gestured towards the two of them.

Arthur flinched at the title that was now his. "You will not leave him this night?"

"I promise."

Arthur nodded, and, leaning only on Merlin, allowed himself to be removed from the deathchamber. On the way to his rooms, they passed two elderly women with warm water and cloths. They had tears on their faces. Arthur gathered what had to be a last reserve of strength and acknowledged their grief with a nod and a touch, then walked the rest of the way alone. Merlin barely got him on to his bed in time.

The room was cold and dark. Merlin, no longer needing to keep hidden, used magic to light candles and start the fire. There was water available, so Merlin heated that, too and brought it over to Arthur, who was staring at nothing. By the time the servant arrived with clothes, plus some food, he had the new king tucked up in bed, clean and in his nightshirt.

He thought about offering some bread and cheese, but decided that the hot cider was the most he could offer - and blessed the cook for not sending wine. Arthur was fragile enough. Arthur took a few swallows and pushed the mug away. Merlin covered the food carefully so it would stay sweet for the morning, and got into his own nightshirt after a cursory wash. He was about to get blankets out to make a pallet on the floor when he caught Arthur's eyes by the light of the fire.

He had never seen Arthur looking so lost, so vulnerable. So alone. A pallet by the fire would be too far away.

He got into the bed, where Arthur let Merlin gather him into his arms.

"It's all right. I'm here tonight. I'm here as long as you need me. I'll always be here for you." And on those words, the most horrible thing happened.

Arthur - strong, self-assured, brave Arthur, Arthur who was born to be a king, was always a king under his mantle of pratdom, Arthur who never let anyone even know he was injured - Arthur buried his face on Merlin's shoulder and began to cry, terrible sobs just pulled from his body as if he had no control over them.

Merlin held him close, stroking his back and hair, murmuring nonsense phrases until he quieted. "All right, sire?"

"I can't do this. I'm not ready. I don't know what I'm doing." His voice was hoarse, but under control.

"Yes, you can. I have faith in you." Merlin held Arthur tightly in the light of the bedroom fire.

"You'll stay with me? You'll help me, Merlin?"

"I will stay by your side forever, Arthur. You won't be able to get rid of me." And then - he never knew what made him do this, but there was Arthur's face looking up at him, and it was so close and so easy, and when he touched Arthur's lips with his own, Arthur sighed and kissed him back.

They fell asleep tangled together.

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