Malcolm Merlyn had died of far worse things back when he used to be Jack Harkness. The arrow Oliver had stabbed through his chest rated only a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10. The death had come rather quickly and so it didn't take long for him to revive. Luckily, nobody had been around, as Oliver already had gone God-knows-where and his bodyguard had been calling the police. It had not been difficult at all to get away from that roof unseen and leave the authorities baffled about the whereabouts of his corpse.
Now he is sitting hidden in one of his many secret places, watching the TV news.
“Tommy Merlyn, son of Malcolm Merlyn, the owner of Merlyn Global Group, is one of the victims of the heavy earthquake that hit Starling City earlier today. He died at the age of twenty-eight while helping to evacuate people from a collapsing building. Earlier this evening Moira Queen from Queen Consolidated claimed that Malcolm Merlyn had been planning an attack on parts of the city. If the earthquake was part of this attack, that would make him responsible for the death of his own son. We had so far no luck getting a statement from Mr. Merlyn…”
Malcolm watches motionless as the newsman goes on, his emotions buried so deep down inside him that he just feels numb. Then realization starts to set in. He never will speak to his son again. He has killed his own flesh and blood. Anger and shame and regret battle inside him, heat rises up his throat. An animal-like scream bursts from his mouth, and enraged, he hits the wall with his fist, hard enough to break his wrist. He doesn’t care about it one bit. His body is good at repairing itself. His soul, on the other hand...
His ragged breath turns into quiet sobs, as he mourns yet another death that he is responsible for. One more to add to the long list.
Alison… Alex... Suzie… Estelle… John… Beth… Tosh… Owen… Clem… Ianto…, Steven… Rebecca… Vera… Angelo… Esther… and many, many other names and faces. With every one of these deaths, he had died a little more on the inside as well, until he had become hard and unforgiving.
After Ianto’s death he finally had had enough. He only caused death and destruction wherever he went, and he figured people would be better off without him. And that he would be better off without anyone ever getting close to him again. Since nobody was there anymore to point out all the good that he also had done, he had severed all ties to Earth. He had then gone wherever a man who didn’t care whether he lived or died and who didn’t ask too many questions was needed. There was always a war to be fought on one planet or another. And somewhere among all the deaths and bloodshed, he had lost his soul.
He doesn’t miss it one bit. Life is easier that way.
Not being able to sit still any longer, Malcolm starts to pace, walking circles in the small room. He tries to concentrate on what he is going to do next, but the ghosts of the past keep haunting him.
One assignment from those years still stands out in his memory, as it actually hadn’t involved a war for a change. The owner of a nuclear power station which had exploded recently and was spilling radiation into the atmosphere, had needed someone to close the holes until it was safe enough for others to join in with the sealing of the power plant. Malcolm had volunteered.
It had taken place in one of the last corners of the universe that still used nuclear fission, instead of any of the modern ways to generate electricity. Seldom in his travels had Malcolm seen once-modern technology in such poor condition. And now it had bitten the people living on that planet in the ass.
In the end, nobody was able to tell anymore what had gone wrong. The wrong button had been pushed at the wrong time, and all too quickly they had reached the point of no return. The coolant system was not able to deal anymore with the increasing heat of the fuel rods, and only a few hours later the meltdown had started.
While the people living nearby were being evacuated, the workers of the power plant had tried their best, but had to admit defeat in the end. Soon after they retreated, the building had exploded.
That’s when Malcolm came in. Someone had to go to the core of the plant, and seal the holes in the containment sheets, as well as the holes in the outer concrete hull. The radiation was so strong, that not even robots could be used for these tasks. They just stopped working.
Some men in protective suits accompanied Malcolm to the outer area, to show him how to work the technical equipment and to start to construct a new hull, but he needed to walk inside alone to fulfill the task. To be able to move and use his tools more freely, he hadn’t bothered with any suit. It wouldn’t have done any good against prolonged exposure anyway, and he probably would have a hard time finding one that actually fit him, as the people on this planet were much taller and thinner than him. Therefore he could feel the tingling of the radiation on his skin, which soon turned into burning.
He only managed a few steps into the facility before he died for the first time. And that’s what the next days and weeks were made of – working a bit, welding the fissures in the sheets of the reactor vessel. Dying, waking up again, working some more, dying again. Starting to fill reinforcement and concrete into the holes of the containment building. Dying again. And again. And again.
He didn't even bother to eat or drink, as usually he died before he felt hunger or thirst. The longer it went on, the longer it took for him to revive each time. Also, the more painful it became. Still, he longed for those short periods of blackness, as they were the only times he did not have to think. There was no brooding then; there was peace and quiet in the darkness. These short bits of relief were all that kept him sane. Whenever he awoke anew, for a few seconds he hoped that he had just been dreaming and that he was at home again, with Ianto and the rest of the Torchwood team, fighting Weevils and Blowfish and not caring what the next day might bring.
But he never was, and slowly the memory of them faded, like it had with all the people he had met and loved and lost in his life before. It was a never-ending circle which he was not able to break or escape.
Yesterday, when he had held Oliver captive in his cellar, trying to convince him to join the battle for the greater good, he couldn’t help admiring the scars on Oliver’s upper body. Thinking about them now, he realizes how much he envies them. They are reminders of all the things Oliver has endured and done in his life; each scar could probably tell a whole story of its own.
Malcolm himself has nothing to show for his struggles. Whenever he dies and comes back to life, his body goes back to its default - the way it had been before his first death by that Dalek on Satellite 5. Of course, he has some minor scratches from his life as a Time Agent, including one he always has wondered about – several small dots in a half circle on his thigh, looking like an animal bite in fact. He must have obtained it in the two years that later got deleted from his memory. But they all are so old and almost faded now. He longs to add a few new ones to the collection.
Why go through all that trouble with battle and war if you have nothing to brag about later to your grandchildren?
Malcolm suddenly stands very still and stares into space, having completely forgotten where he is and what he is doing for the moment. That last thought had come out of the blue and pierced his heart in such a physical way that at first he thinks he is having a heart attack.
Grandchildren. He had killed his grandson Steven while trying to save the rest of the children of the Earth, and now he had killed Tommy and therefore any chance to become a granddad again.
He always has the best intentions and the worst outcome.
He grabs the picture frame that holds a picture of Rebecca, Tommy and himself, all three smiling into the camera. He remembers the day it was taken – they had celebrated Tommy having been selected for the baseball team at his elementary school. His son had been so happy and proud that day after the trainer had said that he was the fastest runner on the team.
While staring at the picture, another memory of another baseball game many years later arises. One Malcolm had failed to attend.
The phone rang. Malcolm gingerly picked it up. The caller ID told him it was Tommy, but he had known that even before looking at it. He had expected that call. In fact, he should have been the one calling Tommy, and all afternoon long he had tried to think of the right thing to say. What did someone say to his son after breaking a promise like this?
“Where have you been, Dad?” Tommy’s voice sounded a little slurred, as if he were drunk. Malcolm heard the voices of others in the background. A party, then. That meant they had won. That also meant he would have to have the conversation about fake ID cards and alcohol and responsibility again. But not now. Now was not the right time.
“I’m sorry, Tommy, it was not possible for me to come.” Because last night the Dark Archer had almost been caught by the police and his only way out had been jumping from the third floor through a window. “Because something happened at the company and it was important that we act immediately.” It was important that nobody saw his face, which had many little cuts from all those sharp pieces of broken glass. “Also, I think I’m getting the flu and I didn’t want you to catch it too.” Also, he had some broken ribs which made it quite difficult to talk normally without gasps. Not to mention the broken leg which made it impossible to drive. His body had failed him, not healing in time to make the travel to Tommy’s college.
He should have never gone out last night, and he regretted it deeply. But there was nothing he could do about it now.
“I’m really sorry I couldn’t be there.”
“You knew how important that game was for us. You promised, Dad. You couldn’t leave your company for one lousy day?”
His accusations hurt Malcolm more than he wanted to admit. If only he could tell his son the truth, things would be so much easier between the two of them. But it was too early yet. He had to wait for the right time. Tommy needed to be ready before he was let in on his big secret. Malcolm had to be patient. He had learned to be patient, he could do it.
“Did you win?” he asked, trying to steer the conversation into a lighter direction.
“Thought you would never ask. Of course we did. I hit a home run. Mr. Queen filmed it. In case you want the video.”
Malcolm had to close his eyes. Of course, Robert would have been there as well. He never failed to attend his son’s activities. Even though Oliver never stuck with anything for long. Robert and Oliver were always there to support Tommy as well. He could hear that Tommy wished his Dad was a little bit like Mr. Queen. He had wanted to avoid one minefield and had stepped right into the next. Great.
He gripped the phone harder than was necessary, his knuckles standing out white. His voice betrayed nothing though when he answered, “That would be great, thanks. I’ll try to be there next time, okay?”
“Yeah, whatever. I don’t care.” And with that the line was dead.
Malcolm stared for a long time at the phone in his hand, before slowly laying it at the table in front of him.
To be continued in chapter 2