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Ficlet: Humanity, Even in Death

Title: Humanity, Even in Death
Author: NightRider
Rating: PG
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Arthur/Merlin
Spoilers: None
Beta: The forever amazing souleswanderer. I tinkered so all remaining mistakes are my own.
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Merlin and no money was made from writing this story.
Summary: Every life has value, even a life that was meant to end.





The first time he watched Merlin take a life, several lives; it took little more than a flick of the sorcerer’s wrist before the witches burst into bright flames. Arthur turned away from their screams, yelling for his knights to fall back as the orange heat of the inferno licked the skies above.

Merlin did not turn away, his shoulders squared and his eyes gold, and not just from the reflection of the fire. Arthur swallowed the rising sensation in his stomach. This was not the first life his friend had taken. Somewhere between the rising flames and the acrid smoke, Arthur realized, once again, that Merlin really was a sorcerer.

There was no regret or remorse when Merlin turned and walked away, and Arthur watched him go.

Arthur wasn’t afraid of him, fear wasn’t an emotion he entertained, but Arthur was no stranger to battle, no stranger to watching lives ended at the edge of his sword. He was shocked to realize that somewhere along the way he’d lost count – ten men? Fifty? It was most likely more, many more, but he didn’t dwell on it. Still, he always remembered. The nearly black eyes of a dying man, the soft spoken pleas for leniency barely wheezed from a collapsed lung.

Later that night when Merlin was stretched out beside him, one arm folded behind his head and the other casually tossed over his eyes, Arthur spoke, his voice quiet in the darkness of his chambers. “Why did you watch?”

“Hm?” Merlin’s voice was surprisingly alert for someone who claimed to not have understood the question.

“In the forest, you watched them burn.”

He heard Merlin swallow and watched as his head rolled to rest against his bent arm. “Yes, I did.” There was no hesitation in his response.

Arthur turned on his side, curling one arm underneath his body. “Why?”

One candle burned on the table, and Merlin’s face was cast in eerie shadows. Arthur wished he could see him better, his eyes, his expression. Time crawled by, and Arthur figured Merlin wouldn’t answer, didn’t want to or simply couldn’t, as if he didn’t want Arthur to know the truth. Another thing Arthur tried not to dwell on – the power of Merlin. He didn’t know why he was surprised that Merlin had killed before. When Merlin had come to him and admitted he was a sorcerer, it was soon after Arthur had taken the throne. He’d said he’d been magic all his life, and for whatever reason, Arthur had let it go at that. Now he wondered if he should have extracted each and every detail of how Merlin had used his magic in the past. If Merlin had killed, Arthur knew it was most likely for him, but it was his callousness, the nothingness in his eyes as he watched them burn. It was an expression he’d never expected to see on the gentle face of his closest friend.

Merlin’s voice drifted through the darkness and sliced through Arthur’s thoughts. “Because I owed them that much.”

Arthur pushed up on his elbow, leaning over Merlin, unsure if he’d heard him correctly. “What?”

He saw Merlin blink, his eyes focus. “I owed them that much,” he repeated. “I killed them. It was the least I could do.”

“Do you regret it?”

Merlin laughed – it was more of a bark, inconsistent and short lived. “They threatened you. They would have killed you. No, I feel no remorse. None at all.” His voice wasn’t cold or harsh; he was simply stating fact, truth as seen by Merlin.

Arthur reached out, his hand gently shifting Merlin’s face so he could see his eyes. The embers in the fireplace rekindled, and they were bathed in warm light. “Better?” Merlin asked.

Arthur nodded, noting Merlin’s unwavering attention no matter the circumstances.

“I’ll always pick you,” Merlin continued, his eyes nearly black. “Make no mistake, King Arthur, it always was and always will be you.”

“But you watched,” Arthur repeated. “Why do that to yourself?”

Merlin glanced at the stone ceiling, searching for words to answers he didn’t know how to form. “Because it was the right thing to do,” Merlin said. “I took a life today – three lives – and it shouldn’t be easy. I don’t want it to be easy.”

Arthur pushed the hair off Merlin’s forehead, noting the tiniest shift as Merlin leaned against his touch. “Are you punishing yourself?”

Merlin caught his wrist and pressed his lips against the sensitive skin underneath Arthur’s forearm. “I’m not suddenly going to start flogging myself or developing masochistic tendencies if that’s what you think. I just…need to remember.”

“For being a great and powerful warlock, you’re more human than anyone I know,” Arthur said as he dropped his head on the pillow and wrapped his arm around Merlin, drawing him against his chest.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Merlin replied, his body naturally curving to fit against Arthur’s side.

“You should,” Arthur agreed. “I’ve never called you a great and powerful warlock before.”

The fire died down, the light vanquishing from the room as quickly as it came.

Merlin’s voice drifted through the darkness. “That wasn’t the part I was referring to.”

Arthur kissed him just behind the ear. “I know.”


~Finished~

Comments

( 51 comments — Leave a comment )
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alittlebrighter
Aug. 22nd, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
Oh that was lovely, in a sad way :-( wonderfully written, loved the tender bit at the end xx thankyou xxxx
nightrider101
Aug. 22nd, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
Wow! You're fast! :)

Thank you for the kind review. It was dark, I won't deny that, but I'm glad the tender ending worked for you.

Thanks again!
tetsubinatu
Aug. 22nd, 2009 09:58 pm (UTC)
I liked this. Simple but elegant and with something to say. Thanks for sharing it with us.
nightrider101
Aug. 22nd, 2009 10:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I don't think anything I've written has ever been called elegant before. :)

Thank you for taking the time to respond!
draig_glas
Aug. 22nd, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
I really liked this. Merlin wouldn't take a life without a care, he'd only do it when he needed to, and he'd never let himself forget it. I loved Arthur's reaction, and the tender moment at the end, well done.
nightrider101
Aug. 22nd, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
I agree completely with your thoughts on Merlin. :)

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond!
souleswanderer
Aug. 22nd, 2009 10:28 pm (UTC)
Personally, my favorite part was the bit about Merlin's focus with the tiny detail of the fire burning brighter. I had to stop and reread that the first time and smiled. One of the best descriptions you could have added!

As I said, it was a great distraction from scheduling, and a wonderful insight into each of their thoughts.
nightrider101
Aug. 22nd, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
Aww! Thanks, dear!

I really appreciate your speedy beta work this morning. You're always there to offer your support. :)

I'm glad this ficlet could provide a small reprieve for you today. Thanks again!
sweetestel
Aug. 22nd, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
Beautiful ficlet, quite short but powerful! I like the angst linked to the extent of Merlin's abilities, and the way it may change him, make him darker. You did a really nice job with these boys ;)
Thanks for sharing!
nightrider101
Aug. 22nd, 2009 11:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I trying to keep things short these days. It seems my WIPs drag on forever. Must work on that. :)

I like the angst linked to the extent of Merlin's abilities, and the way it may change him, make him darker.

I'm glad you pointed that out. :) It wasn't what I was thinking, but it makes perfect sense. I don't see how you can have that power and take lives along along the way and not get a little darker.

Thank you so much for the lovely review!
sallyna_smile
Aug. 22nd, 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
I LOVED it!! *_*
nightrider101
Aug. 22nd, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :)
eosrose
Aug. 23rd, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
I love the contrast between how unashamed Merlin is with what he has to do and how he forces himself to remember and respect each life he takes. Arthur's concern for Merlin is quite sweet to see too...
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
I love the contrast between how unashamed Merlin is with what he has to do and how he forces himself to remember and respect each life he takes.

Yes! Exactly!

You've managed to summarize what I was trying to get across perfectly.

Thank you so much for the wonderful review! You've made my evening!
frames_in_aria
Aug. 23rd, 2009 12:54 am (UTC)
♥ ♥ ♥
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
Thank you!
fresica
Aug. 23rd, 2009 01:27 am (UTC)
I love that, especially the very end of the exchange.
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
Thank you!
jujuberry136
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
That was lovely. Thanks for sharing :D
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:55 am (UTC)
You're very welcome!

Thank you for reading and commenting!
romankate
Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
Thank you! This is deep and thought-provoking and very well written.
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:23 am (UTC)
Thank you for the kind review!
srin
Aug. 23rd, 2009 04:20 am (UTC)
I really like this. Merlin does seem very straightforward about killing those who threaten the people that are important to him, but at the same time I think he's too good a person to be completely callous about it. This was a great exploration of that issue, and I think your take on it was perfect, that he doesn't regret the killing but doesn't want it to be easy either. And I love Arthur's care and concern, as well. :D
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
Merlin does seem very straightforward about killing those who threaten the people that are important to him, but at the same time I think he's too good a person to be completely callous about it.

I noticed that on the show too. Merlin doesn't seem to dwell on it nor does he give it a lot of thought when he's put in a situation where someone he loves is in danger.

I'm really glad you liked my take on this issue. :) Thank you for the kind review!
kathyh
Aug. 23rd, 2009 09:27 am (UTC)
This was lovely. A very thoughtful look at Merlin's ability to kill and how he deals with it. Terrific use of Arthur too and their different viewpoints of killing in battle and killing with magic.
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
shinodabear
Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
“For being a great and powerful warlock, you’re more human than anyone I know,” Arthur said as he dropped his head on the pillow and wrapped his arm around Merlin, drawing him against his chest.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Merlin replied, his body naturally curving to fit against Arthur’s side.

“You should,” Arthur agreed. “I’ve never called you a great and powerful warlock before.”



Aw! I love this bit of easy banter in the middle of this semi-dark fic. (Merlin killing people isn't exactly sunshine and puppies, now is it?) But I love how you've stressed that he's sill human. Lovely.
nightrider101
Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
Merlin killing people isn't exactly sunshine and puppies, now is it?

lol No, it definitely isn't. I should write about sunshine and puppies more often. Two of my favorite things! :)

Thanks, as always, for the wonderful review! You're a star!
(no subject) - shinodabear - Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - nightrider101 - Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - shinodabear - Aug. 23rd, 2009 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
aeroport_art
Aug. 24th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)
*wibbles* I love their interaction in this. They're so established and good together, and Arthur is adorably affectionate while Merlin is powerful and thoughtful. It's fresh characterization for the both of them and greatly appreciated. Will rec :D
nightrider101
Aug. 26th, 2009 01:25 am (UTC)
It's fresh characterization for the both of them and greatly appreciated.

Wow! Thank you! I'm so glad you found this idea and characterization different and fresh. That really means a lot.

And thank you for the rec! I'm flattered!
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