Chapter 1: Emptiness
Arthur woke up still drunk, he lay there and tried not to move, maybe if he pretended to be still asleep his body wouldn’t punish him with a horrendous headache or an upset stomach. But he had no such luck, after lying there five minutes, ignoring the nausea that slowly crept into his consciousness, his stomach finally turned and he leaped out of bed, so he wouldn’t throw up on himself again. God damn it, he really should remember to put a bucket next to the bed next time. He only barely made it to the bathroom in time to get the poisonous content of his stomach into the sink rather than on the floor. He heaved for a while and kept spitting into the dirty washbasin. When he felt that nothing else was coming up right now, he cleaned the porcelain perfunctory with his hands and running water. After that he tried to clean his hands, but had to find out, that he was out of soap. He cursed a bit and then held his hands under the scolding water until he was sure that they where relatively clean. He contemplated taking a shower, well aware that he needed one since yesterday, but decided that he didn’t have the strength to deal with it now. Instead of brushing his teeth he just moved a bit of mouthwash around in his mouth. Being done with this rudimentary morning routine, he avoided to look at himself in the mirror and turned to go back to bed again, already exhausted and done with the day at 7 in the morning.
The place looked horrible and was starting to smell. The sheets of the bed needed to be changed and his personal hygiene wasn’t top notch either these days. He hadn’t shaved in weeks, not since the day he had plunged his fist into the bathroom mirror because he couldn’t stand to look at himself anymore. His bloodshot eyes and the ashen color of his face were too painful to look at. To shameful too. If Merlin could see him now…
Well, but Merlin was gone. For over nine months now his husband was missing. He just didn’t come home one night. And there was no trace of him, no clue where he might have disappeared to. The first few weeks, Arthur had feared that his body would be found somewhere, now he thought it would come to him as a relief if Merlin turned up dead. At least he would know, at least there would be a grave. He had nothing, nothing but an empty house, filled with all of Merlin’s stuff, just as if he would come home any minute. As if he would step through the door, rambling on loudly about his day, before he even stepped in properly. Arthur always had rolled his eyes at his husbands habit, most of the time he hadn’t heard half of what Merlin was telling him. Now he missed it desperately. The house stayed silent. Even if Gwen came to check on him, she entered quietly, with the key he gave her. Sometimes he didn’t had the strength to get up at all and he only noticed that she’d been there, because she left him something to eat or a note or some laundry she had done for him.
Sighing he closed his eyes, desperately trying to fall asleep again. The void Merlin had left was only bearable when he was asleep or drunk, while even in his sleep he wasn’t safe from nightmares and normal dreams about Merlin alike. The latter hurting so much more, because they tricked him into thinking, only for a second, that Merlin was still there, sleeping peacefully next to him. But the moment he opened his eyes, the illusion was gone.
He fell into a fitful sleep, weird, lucid dreams of Merlin and him in a strange dark place haunting him. Merlin was trying to tell him something, something important, but somehow Arthur couldn’t understand him. He was talking in a foreign language. He looked at him with sad eyes, disappointment shimmering throw his blue orbs.
“I need you to listen.” He said again and again. It was the only thing Arthur understood. He tried to tell him that he was listening, but the heavy awareness that this was just a dream pulled him back to consciousness suddenly.
Feeling suffocated, he threw the blanket off his sweaty body. Shivering from the memories of the dream he sat on the edge of the bed.
Swiftly he got up and walked into the kitchen. He ignored the casserole Gwen had placed on the kitchen table two days ago. It probably was spoiled now anyway, as he hadn’t managed to put it in the fridge. With shaking hands he pulled a can of beer from the fridge and took a greedy swig from it. He didn’t gave a fuck that it was only fifteen minutes after ten. He wouldn’t go anywhere today, so he could sit on the couch, watching daytime tv and drink himself stupid. There wasn’t much else in his life anymore. Merlin had taken it all with him. In the beginning he had felt so much, until all the feelings of desperate worry, sadness, anger and grief had numbed him into feeling nothing but an all consuming emptiness. Then he found out that he didn’t care anymore if only he drank enough.
He didn’t go to work anymore, just left the business his father had left him in the competent hands of his coworker and best friend Lance. The first few months he still got to work every day, hoping that it would at least distract him, but the pain of coming back to an empty home was too much. So he started to drink in the evenings and soon he wast too sick to go into work on most days. His friends had been worried, checking on him. Everyday someone else came to see if he was still alive. But even that changed over the passing months. He had been nasty with them, he laughed at them when they expressed their concerns. He needed the drinking more then he needed them. And they finally had accepted that. They didn’t came by as often. Some of them he hadn’t seen in weeks. Only Gwen showed up every second day to harass him into eating or showering.
Mindlessly he chucked down one beer after another, in a rush to ban all his thoughts into the pleasant daze of intoxication.
He jumped a little when he heard Gwen’s voice behind him, he hadn’t heard her coming in.
She bustled through the house, picking up discharged clothes on her way over to him.
“Would it kill you to take a break from drinking to clean up a bit?” She huffed, “The house is a mess!”
Arthur shrugged his shoulders. “I know.” He said resigned. “I don’t care.”
Gwen sighed quietly and put her warm hand on his shoulder for a moment until Arthur shrugged her off. He didn’t liked to be touched these days. Gwen sighed again and walked past him into the kitchen. Moments later she came out again, hands on her hips and an angry expression on her face.
“Arthur, you barely ate something!”
“I told you that I’m not hungry.”
“Because you drink too much! You can’t live on just alcohol. Look at you.”
Arthur knew that he looked like hell, he had lost a lot of weight and he wasn’t working out anymore. But what was the point? Over the last three years he had lost the three people that where most important to him.
First his sister had gone awol and later they found out that she had joined a underground association of magic users. What was tantamount to betrayal, considering, that their family ran in the highest circles and his fathers company made its money by using magic users as lab rats. Then his father had become sick over the betrayal of his daughter and had died not long after. And now Merlin was missing too. Sometimes Arthur wondered what he had done to deserve all that pain.
“…Arthur? Arthur!” Gwen’s exasperated voice pulled him out of his dire thoughts.
“What?” He asked.
“I said it would be nice if you would join us at dinner tonight. Percy, Leon and Gwaine will be there too.”
Arthur groaned inwardly, dinner with his friends was the last thing he needed right now. They would monitor his drinking, frown over his lost appetite and worst of all they might be talking about Merlin.
“Gwen,…” he started saying, but the pleading look in her eyes made him shut up.
“Please Arthur, I’m really worried about you. You need to eat!”
“Only if I’m allowed to drink.” He said.
Her face twisted into a slightly disgusted expression, but only for a second.
“Can’t you go one evening without?” Her voice sounded as tired as Arthur felt.
He shook his head.
“Alright, keep drinking if you need to.”
With that he finished his current beer.
“But please take a shower before we go, yeah? And wear something decent.”
He looked down on himself, the dirty T-shirt and the sweatpants. There was a time in his life where he wouldn’t be caught dead in clothes like that, but now all his expensive suits and designer clothes were hanging untouched in the closet, next to Merlin’s stuff.
“Can you…” he stood, looking over to the bedroom. He couldn’t say it, couldn’t tell Gwen that opening the closet, seeing his husbands favorite sweater would likely result into a breakdown. She looked at him quizzically, trying to get what he was asking for.
“The clothes, I mean, his clothes...”
Then it clicked, he could see it in the sudden sadness that clouded her eyes.
“Of course darling, I’ll get them for you.”
When she walked by she embraced him swiftly, before she disappeared into the bedroom.
Chapter 2: See you again
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The anniversary of the day Merlin went missing came and went without anything happening. All of his friends had been there, one after another had come to show their support. Arthur hated it. He just wanted to be left alone, so he could drown the memories of that day on his own. He didn’t liked to be reminded of the growing panic with what he had called all their friends in the middle of the night. A year ago. Already.
Sometimes the time seemed to stand still, nothing happening, nothing changing for months and other times the months had gone by in a blur. He had lost his sense of time. Sitting on the couch, drinking all day was bound to mess up the feeling of the clock.
At least they hadn’t told him to stop drinking.
They sat next to him, mostly in silence, sometimes talking about their everyday live that Arthur no longer was part of. But they never talked about Merlin.
The next day, Arthur woke up to Gwen making him Breakfast. She had spend the night on the couch, not willing to leave him alone. Only to make her happy he tried to eat a little. It was futile to explain to her that everything tasted like cupboard and his stomach was constantly upset from drinking too much.
“I have to go Arthur, I have an appointment for the first scan.” For a moment Arthur forgot his misery, intrigued by Gwen’s radiant joy.
He wrapped her into a hug. “I’m so happy for you. You’ll be a great Mom.” He meant it. He couldn’t imagine anyone to be better parents than Gwen and Lance. Shame he won’t be around to witness the little one growing up.
“Will you be alright?” She asked concerned. “Should I call someone to stay with you?”
Arthur smiled at her gently. “I’m alright Gwen. I thought I’ll clean up here a bit.”
“That’s a great idea love, say if you need any help. I’m sure Lance is happy to stop by after work.”
Arthur waved her off. “Na, that would be embarrassing. I think I need a few days for cleaning but I don’t want to bother anyone of you.” He explained.
Gwen looked at him, her chocolate eyes soft. “It’s a step into moving on. I’m proud of you.”
Arthur nodded smiling. It was a step into moving on.
He needed nearly a week to clean the house throughly. He stayed sober most of the time, thinking it all over. Since the day Merlin was missing for a year all hope had died. He hadn’t known that he still had hoped, but he had clearly felt it, when that little feeling was gone too.
Merlin wasn’t going to come back and he wasn’t going to keep on living without him.
He needed another week to finish the letter to his friends. He wasn’t so delusional to think he was doing them a favor by ridding them of his existence. Even if he’d turned out to be a burden, and he was ashamed of that, but he knew that they still loved him and that they would be devastated when they would learn about his suicide. He was sorry for that. Very, very sorry, but there was no way he could go on with this darkness and desperation inside him.
He scheduled the act itself to a Thursday, because this was the night Gwen had her yoga lesson and wouldn’t show up unexpected. One last time he walked through the house, touched Merlin favorite books one last time, and selected his favorite photo of Merlin. He would take it into the bedroom with him, so he could look at his smiling face while he was dying.
In the bathroom he showered and shaved, then dressed carefully and cleaned up after him. He took the two bottles of pills out of the bathroom cabinet. He shook them gently, listening to the rattling that told him that the containers where still nearly full. They where sleeping pills, prescribed to him by his doctor for his insomnia. He hadn’t taken them out of his fear for his nightmares. It was easier to wake up from them, if he wasn’t into a drug induced sleep. He had gone last week to get a new bottle, just to be safe.
He settled into the bedroom, a bottle of vodka and the pills by his side. He swallowed as much pills as he could in the first go. He hoped that they wouldn’t make him so nauseous that he had to throw up.
The first bottle of pills was gone within twenty minutes, the bitter taste chased down with the numbing quality of the vodka. He felt drunk, that was no surprise, but he couldn’t feel the effect of the pills just yet. He swallowed three more from the other bottle and the three more. He started to feel cold, his jaw clamping down and cramped. Then suddenly he felt hot, like every muscle burning inside his body. He kept drinking, with shaking hands. Spluttering, choking on the sharp liquid.
Finally sitting up was too straining, he curled into a ball, clutching Merlin’s red sweater to his stomach. It hardly smelled of him anymore. He turned to the framed photo he had placed on Merlin’s side.
“I love you.” He said to his husbands picture. “I know you would want me to be stronger, but without you I’m nothing. I’m sorry.” He closed his eyes, to tired to keep them open anymore.
Wherever he was going now, he hoped to see the love of his life again.
Thousands of Kilometers away a beautiful, pale skinned, dark haired woman woke from her sleep screaming.
“Merlin!” She cried out. “Merlin.”
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When he woke up, it didn’t take him long to realize that he was in the hospital. The light was too bright and the white bedding uncomfortably stiff. And if he still had doubts, the IV in his arm and Gwen sleeping in the chair next to the bed cleared things up pretty quickly.
His whole body hurt, the ache reaching deep down into his organs. His limbs where so heavy he thought he never would be able to move again. His head felt twice the size than usually and even if he had his fair share of hangovers over the last months he had never felt something quite as painful as this. The pressure behind his sinuses made his eyes water.
Disappointed flooded him. Disappointed to be still alive.
His attempts to move must have woke Gwen, because suddenly her eyes flew open and she stared at him. He could see pain and sadness and furious anger too. She said nothing, just kept staring at him until a single tear rolled down her face. Angrily she wiped it away.
Arthur tried to say that he was sorry, but only produced a pitiful squeak.
“Don’t bother.” Gwen said.
Arthur must have looked as confused as he felt, because she stooped to elaborate.
“Don’t say that you are sorry. I know that you are not.” Upset she grabbed a piece of paper and waved it in front of Arthur’s face. It’s his his suicide note and he closes his eyes in shame.
“I read your letter.” Now she was really crying.
“I am sorry,” Arthur croaked out. “Not for trying, but for doing this to you.” He thought she deserved at least that much honesty. It made her only cry harder.
“I’m sorry.” Arthur whispered reaching out to her. She threw her arms around him, cried into his shoulder. He let her, even if her weight on him was almost painful on his already hurting body.
After Gwen had calmed down a bit, she called for a doctor, who took a few minutes to make sure that he hadn’t done any damage to his brain. It appeared to be fine. That much couldn’t be said for his liver. That poor thing had been through so much lately and was badly in need of a detox, if it hadn’t been damaged beyond repair. They would know soon. The doctor left after ordering the nurse to take a few more tests. Then Arthur fell asleep again.
When he woke up again it was night and he was alone. It surely was past the visiting hours, but he couldn’t help but to feel abandoned, he had become a bit over sensitive in that department. He stared into the shadowy half darkness of his room and wondered how his life would proceed from here. He had no intention to stay alive, but he knew that he had blown his chance for now and he was under strict surveillance.
He sighed as unwelcome memories of Merlin crept into his mind. How he had always picked him up with his silly jokes and puns. Before Merlin nobody ever had talked to him like that. Nobody had ever called him names and held him accountable for his actions. Because he was his fathers son, nobody was so disrespectful and came so close to him as Merlin did. Before Merlin he had been lonely without really knowing he was, but now it was painfully obvious. Suddenly silent tears where running down his temples, disappearing into the pillow. He could feel their wetness pooling at his neck.
Over the next few days, people came and went. He learned that Lance was the one who had found him, coming round to ask if he wanted to watch the game. He should have never gave them his keys. Looking into the haunted eyes of his best friend, Arthur was only glad it hadn’t been Gwen. He felt awful. He had done that to them and they still came to sit with him. He pretended to be asleep most of the time.
“Look, there’s a new card.” Gwen said to him on his third day in hospital. They wanted to keep him until they where sure his kidneys not his liver would collapse.
The table next to his bed was already overflowing with get-well cards.
She pulled a white card from a white envelope.
She read what was written to herself and scrunched up her nose, puzzled.
“That’s strange.” She said.
“What?” Arthur asked tiredly, he couldn’t care less about these pretencious cards.
“Stay strong. I love you.” She read to him. “That’s all it says, no sender no name, nothing.” She frowned.
Arthur extended his hand to look at the card himself.
The second it touched his fingertips, he was overwhelmed with feelings. Feelings that weren’t his own. They were very close to his own; the same sense of desperation, sadness and longing, but they were somehow different. And under this wall of grief he could feel something else.
He could feel Merlin. Like an echo of his character he could feel his warmth, his compassion, his sensitivity and his humor. He could feel love.
He dropped the piece of paper as if it had burned him.
“It’s from Merlin…” he said, completely stunned.
Gwen stared at him like he had gone totally crazy right before her eyes. And maybe he had.
“What the hell are you talking about Arthur? It’s not signed, its not even handwritten, how’d you know?” She tried to reason with him.
Arthur shook his head. “I can feel it. I can feel him.” He caressed the smooth paper that had landed in his lap. The burning urgency of the feelings had faded, but he could still feel them, like the glow of the fire, even hotter than the flames itself.
Gwen laughed hysterically. “Arthur, please, you know that’s all in your head, you feel something because you want to feel something. You know that, right?” She pleaded for his sanity to make a reappearance.
Gingerly he picked up the card and handed it to her.
“Just hold it, you’ll feel him.” He had no doubt that she would believe him, once she felt it too.
Cautiously, as if it might burn up in her hands Gwen took the card.
She held it and Arthur saw how she tried to concentrate, she even closed her eyes. But after five minutes she shook her head and put the card down on the bedside table. Arthur would have preferred that she gave it back to him, but he was wise enough not to say anything.
“I don’t feel anything, I’m sorry love.” She said sincerely.
Arthur shrugged his shoulders.
“Maybe it’s our connection. You know?” He said suddenly unsure of the whole thing.
Gwen moved closer to him and took his hand.
“I’m sorry Arthur, I know you hope he’s still alive. But if he is, why would he send you a note instead of coming himself? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Maybe he can’t, maybe he’s been held prisoner somewhere?”
“And then he is able to send you cards?” Gwen objected. And Arthur had to admit that she was right, it didn’t make any sense. Sighing he closed his eyes.
“I would like to be alone for a bit Gwen.” He asked her.
“Of course.” She said. “Are you going to be alright?”
He opened his eyes and looked at her. “I’m not going to try and off myself. There isn’t anything here I could do it with, in case you haven’t noticed.” It came out a lot more bitter than he had intended it to.
“Oh Arthur.” Her eyes were shining wet. “Don’t talk like that.”
“And why not?” He asked her angrily. “Why the hell not?” He yelled after her when she left the room crying.
When she was gone Arthur fished for the card again, stretching the IV tube to its limits.
He cradled it close to his heart and it nearly felt like Merlin was resting his head on his chest, like he had done a million times before.
An hour later Lance, Gwen and a doctor Arthur hadn’t seen before walked into his room.
Lance smiled, almost apologetically. “How are you doing, mate?” He asked gently.
“I’m fine. My doctor said I could be discharged tomorrow.” He looked at the new doctor inquiringly. “Right?”
Gwen butted in, “About that, love…” she looked at Lance for help, but he refused to look at her. “We thought it might better if you stayed a little longer…?”
“What do you mean?” Arthur asked suspiciously.
“Look, you clearly still need time to deal with the fact that Merlin’s missing and I think you could need some help with that. Professional help.” She explained.
Arthur just stared at her in disbelief.
“Look Mate, your doctors agree that you could need a bit more time, somewhere safe.” He paused awkwardly, “you know?” He looked at him pleadingly.
Arthur shook his head vigorously. “No way I’ll let myself be looked up in the loony bin.” He protested.
“Mr.Pendragon, I’m afraid this is not only a recommendation.” The doctor said seriously, “your psych evaluation doesn’t clear you to go home just yet. We’ll transfer you to our psychiatric ward in the morning. I’m doctor Aulfric, I’m going to be your therapist. I’ll see you tomorrow Mr. Pendragon!”
In Arthur’s ears it sounded like a threat.
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Arthur, come on.” Elena sighed when she saw him sitting all by himself in his room.
“Don’t you have group right now?” She asked with a short glance to her watch.
Arthur only shrugged his shoulders. He had successfully avoided to participate in any form of therapy since he came to the station a week ago. Elena sighed again and sat down next to him. She was the only nurse he liked around here, because she was sweet and genuine friendly and not fake like all the others, and she was adorable clumsy, what reminded him of Merlin. It was a bittersweet feeling.
“I don’t want to, I don’t need to talk to a bunch of strangers.” He said petulant.
Elena took his hand in hers. “Look Arthur, you might think you don’t belong here, but you tried to end your life, right?” She wasn’t done talking, but Arthur interrupted her.
“That was before. Before I knew that Merlin’s still alive. I don’t want to die anymore, I want to be out of here, so I can start looking for him.” He already was getting upset again.
Elena shook her head sadly. “And what if you are wrong about this? I get that you want your husband back, but is your life really that worthless without him? You are young and healthy, despite what you have done to yourself and you don’t deserve to be in so much pain. Maybe talking to someone and sharing that pain could help you. And besides, if you want to get out of here fast, it would be better if you’d participate, refusing treatment won’t get you anywhere around here. They have more pull than you do.” She got up. “Just think about it.” She walked away.
Arthur thought about her words for a bit and then decided that she was probably right. Playing along would get him out of here faster.
The group therapy had already started twenty minutes ago and so he walked in on his roommate sharing his story. They hadn’t talked much before. Irritated silence made him feel embarrassed for his insensitive interruption. He remained by the door, waiting for an invitation to join the circle he certainly didn’t want to belong to.
Dr. Alufric showed him a cattish grin.
“Welcome Mr.Pendragon, how nice of you to join us.” He said friendly, but with obvious sarcasm underneath. “Chairs are on your left.”
Arthur grabbed himself a chair and dragged it over to the gab, where they had made room for him. He tried not to blush as he was aware that everyone was staring at him. A young woman in particular, starred at him with burning hate in her clear blue eyes. Arthur blinked and told himself that he was imagining things and as he looked again, she was looking down at her hands.
Hesitantly they resumed the setting. Arthur just listened to them, he wasn’t comfortable talking just yet. It made him sad, listening to these stories of missed chances, fear and despair, but at least one thing Elena had been right about, he forgot his own pain for a while and he felt emphasis for the others, something he had thought he wasn’t capable of any longer. Sitting there, he felt more human than he had in months.
Afterwards he helped to put away the chairs, deeply in thought.
The young woman he had noticed earlier walked past him and whispered “murderer”.
Arthur was too perplexed to react to that, he only starred after her, chair hanging mid air and his mouth open. Then he got angry. He had not killed Merlin, even if some papers had speculated that he had indeed killed his husband. He had been the prime suspect in the beginning of the police investigation, but he had been ruled out pretty quickly. He let the chair crash to the floor as he sprinted after her, ready to confront her about the ugly accusation.
She hissed like a cat when he grabbed her elbow and turns her around to face him. There was the same hatred burning in her eyes that he had seen earlier.
“I did not kill him. I did not murder Merlin. Why would you say such a horrible thing?” He yelled at her.
Surprisingly strong for such a delicate women she pushed him away.
“I don’t know who Merlin is, but you and your lot killed hundreds of us. Or worse, you tortured us, made your little experiments and then you robbed us of our gift.” She spat back.
Arthur had no idea what she was talking about, but then again they where in a psych ward, maybe she was just crazy.
His confusion must have shown on his face, because she shook her head and her eyes suddenly where dead again.
“And you don’t even know it.” She said quietly.
“What are you talking about?”
“Your Arthur Pendragon the owner of Pendragon Cooperate, right?”
Slowly he nodded his head.
“Then you should know what they did to us in your science labs. How they experimented on us, trying to make our magic compliant to their command. Magic is a part of nature and like nature it’s neither good or bad, it depends on how it is used. But those who are not capable of doing magic, they are afraid of it. And that’s why they killed mine, they poised it with chemical drugs and now it feels like a piece of my soul is missing. And now they expect me to live on, as a respected member of this society. But it hurts.” She hit herself in the chest,- hard. “It feels like what they call phantom pain, it’s not there anymore and it hurts so much.” She broke down crying and all Arthur could do was to stare at her horrified until a nurse came and lead her away.
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Chapter 5: On my way
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When Gwen picked him up the day he was finally released, she’s positively glowing, even though she made a serious face. Arthur’ has heard of this pregnancy glow, but has never experienced it. Not really surprising as he was married to a man. Merlin always had wanted kids. He himself had wanted to wait, for what he didn’t know anymore.
But it was wonderful anyways to see Gwen radiant like that. Her belly had grown since he last saw her and he was painfully reminded of the wasted time he had spent here. He breathed in a sigh of relief when the door closes behind them with a quiet clicking sound. Finally he was free.
Well, not entirely, as Gwen insisted that he stayed with Lance an her at their house. He had tried to protest against it, but Gwen was having non of it and Arthur had never been strong enough to go against her wishes.
So he sat on the bed in their cosy guest room and felt like he tainted the pure and friendly atmosphere with his mere existence. He didn’t belong here. To this little happy family, he was like a malignant tumor. He tried to tell himself to stop it with the self-hate, but he couldn’t. It was his second nature by now.
Gwen throughly had removed every picture of Merlin and Morgana. They used to be shattered all over the house. It’s like they’ve never existed and it hurts Arthur so much more than to look at their smiling faces on old photographs. But everyone griefs differently and he had to accept that, although he suspected that they disappeared for the sake of his sanity.
He made an effort to make himself presentable for dinner, but he failed miserably. He still looked like shit.
Obviously Gwen had the same thought too, as the dinner table was beautifully set and she had his favorite salmon lasagna in the oven. For a moment it just felt like home. But dinner itself was a tenacious matter, too much horrible things had happened lately and suddenly his best friends seemed more like guardians than friends.
„Look Gwen,“ he started, drawing invisible patterns in the table cloth with his knife, „I appreciate you offering me a place to stay, but you know, I have things to do.“
Gwen frowned. „Like What? Getting drunk again?“
„No.“ Arthur wondered why he felt offended, he was an alcoholic and he actually was longing to get drunk right now. “I have to check these Labs I had no idea of.”
“Arthur,” She was getting exasperated, “there are no Labs where they torture people. That’s delusional.”
“Well Nimueh said…”
“You met that woman in a psych ward, Arthur. Do you believe her?”
“Yes, I do Gwen! I looked at the files. There’s money going to an unofficial research facility in the middle of nowhere. Can you explain that?” He challenged her.
“I don’t know Arthur, but you have enough people who could take care of that. You still need to rest!”
“What I need, is to find out what’s going on with my own company and to find my husband an bring him home.”
Until now, Lance had listened to their fight silently, but now that Arthur became more and more aggregated, he tried to interfere.
“Arthur, please.” He said calmly.
But Arthur was too upset to listen.
“Why don’t you understand that I have to look for Merlin? I know that he’s still alive. I just know!” He just couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t believe him. He could feel it now. He never had felt that Merlin was dead, but he hadn’t felt that he was alive either. But now he was sure that his husband was out there and he was going to find him, no matter what.
“Shut up!” Gwen suddenly yelled.
“Shut up Arthur, Merlin’s gone and he won’t come back. It would be good for you if you could accept that. So please, stop talking about Merlin.” Protectively she laid a shaking hand over her belly. It pained Arthur to realize that instinctively she thought that she needed to protect her child from him. He should be the one protecting her from all these painful things happening.
Without another word he got up and left the table.
Later that night Lancelot came to talk to him.
“I’m sorry Arthur, about before. It’s hard for her, you know? I mean it’s been hard for every one of us, but she lost her two best friends just a few months apart. And then we nearly lost you too. I know your lost your husband and your sister and I can’t even imagine what that must feel like….” He paused. “I don’t know if Merlin is still alive or not, but I know you believe that, I’m just asking you not to talk about it for a while. Just till things have calmed down a little. Can you do that? For Gwen and the Baby?” Arthur could see in his face that Lance knew what he was asking of him.
“Yeah, sure.” He said defeated. His desire for a stiff drink was like an itch he couldn’t scratch.
When Lance had left he pulled out his bag and shoved all his stuff haphazardly into it. He knew he would hurt Gwen again by leaving like that and that she would worry about him, but there was no way she would agree to let him go on his quest to find Merlin.
He waited until the house was dark and quiet, then he crept downstairs, placed the note on the kitchen table and fished for Lances car keys from the bowl by the entrance.
He threw his stuff in the back of the car and turned the key. The old Jeep started to hum and rattle beneath him. Maybe he should go to his house and change cars? But he felt like he had no time left for such petty things. He already had wasted too much time.
“Merlin, I’m on my way.” He whispered to the dark sky above him.