The graveside funeral service is gloomy, befitting the mood of those who attend it. It was a windy morning, threatening to pour, with dark clouds gathering ahead. But thankfully the rain does not fall at all throughout the funeral. The priest chants Psalm 23 as the attendees sit quietly, listening to the priest. Gwen sits اگلے to her brother Elyan and his friend Percival. Morgana sits on the other side of Gwen while Gaius sits اگلے to Morgana. Gwen didn’t watch the service; neither did she listen to anything recited سے طرف کی the priest. Her thoughts were still on the دن her father was killed, سے طرف کی that reckless driver. She knows he survived the accident and is lying in the observation ward, but he is still alive! He is still breathing while her father is confined to that coffin forever! What did her father do to be condemned to such painful death? And why? Why does her father have to die when all he did was save her life while the driver who almost to ran her over is still alive? She is mad, gutted and bloody angry with the turn of the events. She is completely in rage with God, questioning the Almighty’s decision to snatch the one person matters so dearly in her life. Why didn’t God punish the driver? Why didn’t he take his life instead? Someone told her the driver was trying to kill himself. Isn’t that a sin? Enough for a punishment in the eye of the Almighty, yet her father is the one who ends up paying the price! Elyan touches her shoulder and she looks at him, tears drying on her cheek.
“It’s time to say goodbye,” he says, his own eyes wells in tears. Gwen fears this part of the service. They have to say their goodbyes سے طرف کی kissing their father’s forehead. It’s called the last kiss. Gwen trembles.
“Gwen… come on,” Elyan helps her up yet she feels weak. This isn’t happening. No, it’s too early, too fast. She isn’t ready to let her father go. Elyan wraps his arms around her shoulder and walks beside her as they head towards the coffin, the cover laid open with their father lying in peace in it. Gwen cannot watch her father like this. She has seen him alive all her life and to suddenly find him lifeless is… a torment. Elyan helps his sister سے طرف کی the side of the coffin, removes his arms from her shoulder and bents down to place his kiss of goodbye on his father’s forehead. Gwen hears his sniffs and silent sobs as he straightens up.
“Goodbye, Father,” he says, tear rolling down his own cheek. Gwen watches her brother sadly. It was hard for her to tell Elyan the circumstances سے طرف کی which their father was killed. She didn’t even have the courage to tell Elyan that Tom was dead. Morgana did the favour and later informed Gwen that Elyan broke down the moment he heard the news. It breaks Gwen’s دل to realise Elyan was deprived of his final moment with his father. She was lucky as her father died with her beside him, but Elyan? Her brother loves his father dearly and no son should go through what Elyan just did.
“I love you, and I promise I will take care of her, just like آپ wanted me to,” Elyan says and closes his eyes in silent prayer. Then he reopens his eyes and looks at Gwen.
“Send him off, Gwen,” he says softly. Gwen looks back at her father and soft sobs escapes her throat.
“It’s all right, Gwen… I’m here,” Elyan comforts her.
Gwen wipes her tears, bents down and kisses her father’s forehead. Her pearly tears drop on his temple. She wipes it off and straightens up.
“I will not forget this, father… I will not let this matter go easily,” she says softly, clenching her cheek. Elyan shoots her a shocking look but she ignores him.
“I will not forget him,” she says and blows him a kiss before turning on her heel and walking back to her seat. Elyan looks stunned but he says nothing. Morgana has stepped آگے and he nods at her as he walks back to شامل میں his sister at their seat. Percival is talking to Gwen when he arrives so he decides to let the matter go for now. He’ll have plenty of time to discuss this at home. After everyone has کہا their final goodbyes, the priest says a final blessing over Tom’s body and instructs the coffin to be closed. Gwen closes her eyes. Fresh tears rolls down her cheek. Elyan reaches and clasps her hand in his. Their father is gone, forever from their life and all that remains is just the two of them. It’s their life from now on. They have to look after each other, listen to one another’s council and decide what’s best for their life alone. Things are going to be different from now on; there’s going to be one less member in their life and an empty space in their house. They will have to learn to adapt to that life. It will be difficult and take time, but it will have to be done, nevertheless. Like it یا not, they must let their father go.
Arthur feels his head throbbing. The pain at the back of his head is torturing him and he just feel like reaching inside his head and removing the pain with his bare hands. He can’t open his eyes, as there seems to be something wrapped over them. He slowly reaches up and touches the cloth on his eyes, patting it gently. Funny, he thinks. What possibly could have happened? Has he injured his eyes? Did something poke him? As far as he could think back, he didn’t have anything puncturing his eyes. So, if then… why is his eyes bandaged? Perhaps the doctors might have the answers. Then he reaches up and feels his head. The bandage on his head is obvious and he knew instantly he has hurt his head bad and if he is right, they must have operated on him. He then slowly brings his hand to his left arm and feels the cast.
“Damn!!” he curses, as he seems to make out the extent of his injuries. He drops his hand and sighs. He woke up today and didn’t know if it was morning یا night because of the لپیٹ, لفاف کریں on his eyes, but so far no one had approached him. It seems like he’s been hibernating and just woke up to face the world. But why does he feel different? Like he’s been dead and woke up in heaven?
“Arthur?” someone calls him and Arthur recognises the voice instantly. He can never forget the voice. It’s the one voice that still keeps him sane. How he misses Merlin. Arthur reaches out and Merlin catches his hand, grasping it warmly in his.
“Arthur… Arthur, you’re awake. Oh God! I need to call the doctor…”
“No Merlin, please… stay with me now,” Arthur pleads. Merlin agrees and sits beside Arthur’s bed, holding his friend’s hand.
“Arthur… what happened?”
“I… don’t know Merlin. I don’t remember much,” Arthur says truthfully. Merlin sighs. He knows he shouldn’t be asking Arthur anything about the accident but he still needs to know. He knows Arthur too well and believes his friend wouldn’t commit such an unforgivable sin, especially to another human being.
“How bad am I?”
“My injuries… how bad are they?”
“Oh.” Merlin is divided. He doesn’t want to lie to his friend yet how much can he actually reveal about his injuries, especially now? Merlin keeps mum. Arthur gets worried.
“Merlin? What is it?”
“It’s not as bad as آپ think, Arthur. آپ broke your arm, injured your head pretty bad and there’s some pretty bad bruises all over your body, but your pretty face is intact. آپ still can flaunt your looks when آپ get out of here,” Merlin jokes, laughing silently.
“What about my eyes?” Arthur asks. Merlin’s smile fades.
“Why are they bandaged?”
“Hmm… it seems like you… injured your eyes. But it’s nothing to worry about, Arthur. It’s just some minor injury…” Merlin didn’t get to finish his sentence.
“You’re a bad liar, Merlin!”
“Huh, what? No, Arthur… it’s true!”
“I know آپ well enough to realise that tone, Merlin. آپ struggle when آپ have to lie, so don’t attempt to. Just tell me the truth, will you? What is wrong with my eyes?”
“Nothing, Arthur… you’re getting excited about this, yeah. Your eyes are fine, just something in that accident hurt it that’s all and they operated to ensure you’re not troubled سے طرف کی it later. Believe me…” Merlin laughs nervously. “It’s fine” he adds. But unfortunately, Arthur isn’t convinced.
“Operated? Why? I don’t feel anything like that. I can’t remember injuring my eyes, Merlin. I passed out, yet I didn’t have anything in my eyes. Are آپ sure they are operated, Merlin, یا are آپ pulling my leg?”
“Arthur, come on. It’s not important now… your injuries will heal, what’s important is that آپ are alive.”
“Merlin!!” Arthur snaps.
“What happened to my eyes!!” he asks, his tone raising.
“Merlin, please … I beg you, please!”
“Fine. Then remove my bandage. I want to see you.” Arthur demands.
“What? Are آپ insane? آپ need to recover first… besides, your …”
“Remove the bloody bandage, Merlin… now! یا I’m removing it myself.”
Merlin hates his life. He knows Arthur damaged his eye sight but refuse to believe his friend could be blind. The doctor کہا it was based on some رپورٹ and he too needs clarification that can only be done after Arthur wakes up. So here they are. Arthur has woken up, but is Merlin ready for the truth? He doesn’t know. And he wants to wait another دن یا two, but Arthur is being pesky about it. How will he handle the truth? What if the doctor is right? No, Merlin doesn’t want to deal with that now… it has to wait. But how will he persuade Arthur?
“Merlin, I am waiting.”
“Arthur, the doctor gave your eyes some droplets that make your eyes sensitive to light یا something, hence the bandage to protect it. He doesn’t want آپ to disturb them… so I think آپ should leave it alone, for now.”
“First it was an operation, now it’s droplets. I’m not buying anything that comes from your lips, Merlin. Get the doctor now. I want this bandage removed because I don’t feel operated یا دیا anything. I just feel normal”
“Now, Merlin!!!” Arthur demands. Merlin really doesn’t know what to do. He wants to tell the truth to Arthur but fears he might hurt his friend’s feelings. Yet, now he seems to be stuck in the middle. Arthur, realising his friend isn’t doing what he’s been told, reaches up with his right arm and fiddles with the bandage.
“What are آپ doing?” Merlin scolds as he reaches and peels Arthur’s hands off from his bandage.
“Let me go, Merlin, I mean it, bloody hell!!” Arthur says and fights with Merlin. But the latter uses both of his hands to pry Arthur’s fingers off from the bandage.
“Merlin… let me go! Remove it… now!!!”
“Stop being such a stubborn arse, Arthur… why don’t آپ just leave the things as they are?”
“You’re the arse, Merlin… I want to know what happened and you’re not helping at all. I thought آپ were my friend?”
“I am, and that’s why I’m not allowing آپ to peel that bandage off. Just leave it!!” Merlin snaps and pulls Arthur’s fingers off and holds them tightly. “There, it’s محفوظ for now,” he says proudly.
“I want to see you, Merlin… get the doctor!! DOCTOR!!!!” Arthur shouts and it startles Merlin.
“What are آپ doing Arthur?”
“DOCTOR!!!!” Arthur ignores Merlin and shouts again. A nurse peeks in, her expression changes when she notices Arthur and Merlin. Merlin throws a quick apologetic look at the nurse and back to Arthur, holding his hands in his. The nurse hurries off.
“Arthur… you’re embarrassing yourself… please be quiet.”
“DOCTOR!!!” Arthur shouts again and tries to wriggle free from Merlin’s grasp. But Merlin holds on stubbornly.
“DOCTOR!” he shouts again and the nurse returns with the doctor. It was the same doctor who treated Arthur since his operation.
“What are آپ doing?” the doctor asks, his face furiously looking at Merlin. Merlin releases Arthur’s hand and steps back. The doctor circles the بستر and reaches Arthur. His eyes never straying off Merlin.
“He’s trying to peel the bandage off,” Merlin points out. The doctor seems surprised now. “He wants to know what happened to his… eyes,” Merlin stresses the last word and it made sense to the doctor. He turns back to Arthur.
“You’re not allowed to remove the bandage now, Arthur. Your eyes have been دیا treatment and should not be disturbed.”
“What happened to them?”
“Nothing, just some knocks on your head affected your sight…”
“Bullshit!! Get the bandage off me…” Arthur tries to peel the bandage off again and this time it was the doctor who holds his hand off.
“No, آپ can’t remove the bandage.”
“Get it off …” Arthur peels the bandage off and throws it away. Without wasting his time, he lifts his lid open. Merlin covers his mouth while the doctor steps away, his face curious and nervous.
At first there is a white light and Arthur thinks it is normal as it usually happens when someone opens their eyes for the first time. It will soon wash away. He opens his eyes wide yet, the whiteness still lingers. He’s surprised. Shocked to be honest. This is odd, he thinks. He rubs his eyes and the whiteness fades. Arthur feels better. Soon he will be able to see again. The whiteness fades off completely only to be replaced سے طرف کی a black veil.
“What the…” Arthur rubs his eyes again; still the veil covers his eyes. It hasn’t left him yet.
“Doctor… why can’t I… it’s like something is covering my eyes, something black… have آپ دیا me droplets یا something?”
“No, Arthur… I didn’t give آپ anything,” the doctor admits, looking at Merlin who now shakes his head in disbelief as he walks over to the window.
Arthur’s دل thumps fiercely when the doctor denies having دیا him anything. But didn’t Merlin just say he was دیا droplets? Did Merlin lie? Is this why his friend was preventing him from removing the bandage? The black veil still looms large over his eyes like a cloud, and Arthur can see nothing. He tries to rub his eyes but the doctor catches his hand.
“No Arthur, please don’t rub your eyes again.”
“But… I can’t see, doctor.”
“Arthur… please listen to me, and listen carefully. What you’re about to hear may be very painful for آپ to endure, yet it is your right to know. The accident cost آپ very severe head injuries and that in turn wrecked your nerves in the orbital socket. The orbital socket is where your cornea resides, so, with the nerves damaged, آپ are now deprived of your eye sight.”
“But it will only be temporary. There are alternatives; operations, therapy and so on, but it will take time and آپ need to heal first. But please do not think it’s permanent,” the doctor says immediately. But Arthur isn’t listening. His mind races back to the accident. He can hardly remember anything but he remembers passing out. He saw the faces circling his car, peeking inside for a look. Those were his last memories. Those were his last images.
“I’m blind?” he asks.
“Am I یا am I not, doctor!!” Arthur stresses.
“Yes, but …”
“Oh God!!! Oh GOD!!!!” Arthur slams his head back against the تکیا a couple of times. Tears wells in his eyes. He’s blind? For life? His mind floods with سوالات and he doesn’t even know where to start یا what to answer. Someone touched his shoulder. He heard Merlin’s voice.
“Arthur, please… calm down,” he hears his friend saying. But how can he calm down when he just lost everything? His life depended on his sight; he wanted to get out of his father’s clutches and now he has no option but to stick with him forever. ‘You will never make it out there, Arthur. Mark my words… آپ will not succeed without me!’
his father’s final words ring like a گھنٹی, بیل in his head, reminding him how controlling Uther will be of him, now مزید than ever. He has just دیا his father full access… one Uther will be smirking about. There is no way he can make it out from the wretched place anymore, not with this shortcoming. Who’d want to accept a blind man? Who’ll hire a blind man? Who’ll marry a blind man, except Elena? She’d marry him blindly even if he has lost both his legs, because he comes packing with cash. And that’ll ensure her happiness. His father must be really happy now. He has won the battle. He has scored full points, whereas Arthur stays nil. A tear rolls down his cheek and he slams his head again. His head throbs, مزید painfully than before yet the pain piercing in his دل seems harder to برداشت, ریچھ than his head.
“Arthur, please… don’t do that” Merlin whispers softly and Arthur’s دل breaks. Merlin has been his true and loyal friend, staying سے طرف کی his side all along and Arthur has been an idiot today, shouting at him. He feels guilty and ashamed. He wants to see Merlin, hug him and tell him sorry but he can’t. He’s blind… as a bat.
“I’m sorry, Merlin,” Arthur says and cries. Merlin reaches down and hugs Arthur. Arthur holds him tight and cries silently.
“Why me, Merlin?”
“Everything has a reason, Arthur. Only time will tell what yours is. Till then, please… I beg you… be patient,” Merlin says again and wipes Arthur’s tears. Arthur turns to his left, covers his face and quietly sobs, much to Merlin’s dismay.
Later that evening, Gwaine comes for a visit. He is Arthur’s and Merlin’s childhood friend and had been out of town for a couple of weeks, attending a work conference. Merlin informs him about Arthur’s unfortunate accident and he flies back to visit his friend. He rushes up the stairs and asks on of the nurses for direction to Arthur’s ward. As the nurse point out, Gwaine sees Merlin. Thanking the nurse, he hurries towards his friend.
“Merlin…” Gwaine says as he reaches him and immediately they embrace.
“Oh Gwaine… thank آپ for making it here in such short time. I didn’t know what to do… where’s Leon?”
“He had to stay back, Merlin… the conference requires either one of us and he offered to stay behind. How is he? And what in the name of God happened?”
“I don’t know much myself, Gwaine. I went back to visit my mother in Ealdor and received Uther’s call, saying Arthur has met with an accident and was being treated here. He sounded pretty scared to me and I rushed back. When I did, Arthur had completed his operation but he was still in the observation ward. Uther seemed distraught and he doesn’t want me to leave Arthur’s side.”
“But I spoke to him before he went for that interview! He sounded fine to me!”
“And to me, too… Gwaine, I called him منٹ before he was interviewed and he sounded pretty excited. I thought all went well, and now this…” Merlin shakes his head and sighs. Gwaine squeezes Merlin’s shoulder.
“He should be fine now; I believe… آپ sounded terrified over the line, Merlin. Leon is still troubled سے طرف کی the way آپ spoke to us.”
“Actually, Gwaine … it’s not all that smooth. Arthur’s operation is a success, but he’s not the same Arthur anymore.”
“Merlin… don’t scare me now …”
“He’s injured his head and that in turn cost him his eyesight. He’s temporarily plagued سے طرف کی blindness.”
“He’s blind, Gwaine.”
“I… what… he can’t…” Gwaine suddenly feels his words choking. He is struggling to get the words out and Merlin reaches out to comfort his friend.
“He’s devastated, Gwaine… he’s broken.”
“Merlin? Are آپ sure about this? Did the doctors کریں تصدیق it …”
“Oh, my… oh, Lord have mercy.” Gwaine couldn’t stand anymore. He drags himself towards the bench and sits down, holding his head. Merlin nears his friend but he says nothing.
“Why does he have to endure one trouble after another?”
“There’s more, Gwaine. When آپ hear this, you’ll be stunned”
“More than I am now?”
“Yes. From what Uther tells me, it seems Arthur was driving real fast and rammed against a دیوار someplace, and…” Merlin looks at Gwaine who now seems مزید دل broken than Merlin had been a while ago.
“And he killed a man!” Merlin finishes, his voice soft yet, still in shock. Gwaine didn’t blink neither did he spoke.
“He killed a man, Gwaine! And soon the police will be here to investigate him and if found guilty…” Merlin sits down beside Gwaine and sighs, leaning against the wall. He didn’t how to continue. His words dry up as he is still recovering from all the shocks he’s been encountering today. Gwaine sits numbly and he didn’t say anything. He turns back and buries his face in his hand.
“What did Uther say?” Gwaine asks after a long while. Merlin takes a deep breath.
“Like always, he’s going to wave his money under the noses of those involved and get this settled soonest without any hassle.”
“What about the man who died? Does he have any family?”
“I don’t know, Gwaine, but I advised Uther to speak to the family of the deceased, and ask them to consider their options… if there are any, of course.”
Gwaine turns towards Merlin quickly. “You کہا what?” he sounds bewildered.
“You asked Uther to speak with the family of the man Arthur killed, why?”
“Because I believe they may have lodged the رپورٹ Gwaine! If Uther can’t persuade the officers with his power یا influence then he should speak with them… get them to consider Arthur’s condition and be reasonable enough to him.”
“But didn’t Arthur just kill their family member? He wasn’t reasonable, was he? Why should they be considerate? Why should they even entertain Uther?”
“What’s wrong with you, Gwaine? He’s our friend and you’re backing some unknown stranger? Where’s your loyalty?” Merlin is bitter. He knows what Arthur did is wrong but دل rules over head; Arthur is his friend and he’ll stand سے طرف کی his friend’s side anytime, regardless what Arthur has done.
Gwaine scoffs and waves his hand briefly in front of Merlin. He can’t believe hearing this from Merlin, of all people. It was just like what Uther had done before; using his influence and wealth as his trump card to get his son out from his mess. And Arthur, hasn’t he learned enough? He has کہا time and time again he didn’t want his father interfering in his affairs yet, he is allowing his old man to poke his nose once again? What is going on? Gwaine loves Arthur and would give his life if asked, but he hates when Arthur succumbs to Uther’s puppeterring control. He feels Arthur is lenient towards his father, allowing Uther to loop his rope around Arthur’s neck and pull him away anytime he wishes so. He just wishes his friend had enough nerve to put a stop to Uther’s control.
“I understand what you’re trying to do Merlin, but … do آپ think it’s fair?”
“I really don’t care about that right now, Gwaine … all I do is care about Arthur, because he’s my friend and needs us, now!”
“Even if he has killed someone?”
“That is preposterous, Merlin!!!”
“Gwaine, look, I understand how آپ feel about this issue. I know it was wrong of him to… and Uther’s interference and all that. But surely, آپ don’t want to see Arthur behind bars, do you? Not like this, yes?”
“Of course not!! But… at least we need to be fair to the man who died, Merlin. Asking them to be reasonable about lodging the report, yes, I can live with that, but… waving bills under the enforcement’s noses just to buy Arthur’s freedom isn’t the way I live, Merlin… it’s just not the code my father taught me. I’m sorry.”
Merlin has to agree with that. Gwaine is a man who always respects the laws of life and has always been the one who gives fair trial even if it involves those closest to him. And he hates it when justice isn’t served in proper.
“Gwaine…” Merlin didn’t even know where to start یا how to make his friend understand. Gwaine looks away and sighs in frustration.
“I know what you’re thinking… and I assure you, this isn’t Arthur’s idea at all. It’s Uther’s and mine, so… if there’s anyone آپ need to blame, just blame it on me. Arthur doesn’t know he killed a man yet… and I don’t know what he will say یا how he’ll react when he does… but trust me when I say he’s not going to be happy when he finds out about his father’s interferences in this matter.”
“What are آپ saying, Merlin? He doesn’t know? But I thought آپ کہا he…”
“He doesn’t remember anything at the moment, Gwaine. The last thing he remembers is passing out.”
“Christ!!” Gwaine closes his eyes.
“It’ll make him feel guilty, yes, but he will also be devastated. And it’s going to be another blow in his life… and he could do without one at the moment,” Merlin adds.
“What was he even thinking!!! God damn it!!! Arthur… why?”
“The doctor tells me that… there is a possibility that Arthur was trying to end his life.”
“They traced high levels of alcohol in his blood and found bottles scattered in his car. He was stinking with the odor when the pulled him out from the Lamborghini. He was drunk driving, Gwaine”
“And that’s why he lost control of his car and killed the man?”
“I believe so…”
“He is trying to commit suicide, why? And why now? Did something happen Merlin? Something you’re not telling me?”
“I don’t know, Gwaine!!! Uther isn’t talking and Arthur can’t seem to recall anything… I’m as clueless as آپ are”
“Crap!!! Bloody crap!!!” Gwaine curses and punches the دیوار beside him. His knuckles tremble in pain yet he ignores it. Merlin understands Gwaine’s bitterness as he feels it himself. He is angry Arthur would attempt such a cowardly course of action without letting his دوستوں know.
“It has to be him… Uther! Arthur will never give up his life in such poor manner. He will never attempt this without letting us know… he must’ve been hurt, Merlin. Very hurt. یا he would never do this. Arthur isn’t a coward. He may still have a soft spot for his father, but he isn’t one who gives up easily”
“I think you’re right, Gwaine. I suspect very much so.”
“And آپ still want him to interfere?”
“I do… that’s the only way Arthur will be free of this. And please, Gwaine, I think I’ve heard enough of your preaching for a day. I know my actions will not go down well with آپ یا Arthur, but I don’t care. In this matter, I really don’t. I just want him to be relieved of this burden and don’t care how it’s done,” Merlin says. Gwaine sighs and shakes his head.
“Then leave me out of this, Merlin. Don’t ask me any favours, yeah! I hate lying to my conscience and wish to be true to it,” Gwaine warns Merlin.
“No… I respect your wishes, Gwaine, and knowing how strict آپ are in matters like this… I wouldn’t even dream of it. But please think I’m doing it for Arthur’s sake, not Uther’s.”
“That’s why I’m still listening, Merlin.”
“Thank you,” Merlin says. “Would آپ like to see him now?” he asks.
“Yes. Is he awake?”
“No, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind a visitor.”
“Sure,” Gwaine says and gets up, pulling Merlin along with him.
“Gwaine… I understand that آپ disagree with the decision, but please at least pretend you’re going with me. I could do with some support,” Merlin asks.
“Sure…” Gwaine agrees and follows Merlin into the ward.