When It All Comes Crashing Down by Emachinescat

A Merlin Fan-Fiction

SUMMARY: After the weight of his past and destiny becomes too much for Merlin to bear, Arthur comes to Merlin as a friend and Merlin tells the truth. Sort of.

A/N: Hey, guys! This sstory takes place between the second and third seasons, is a friendship fic (no slash), will be about 3 chapters long, and will be filled to the brim with angst, H/C, and bromance. XD Enjoy, and please review! :)

When It All Comes Crashing Down

Part One: Change

Arthur watched in silence as his servant sat on the floor near the hearth, polishing the breastplate of the prince's armor. The rag made a soft squeaking sound every time Merlin rubbed it across the metal. Arthur wasn't sure why Merlin was still scrubbing it; it was spotless and shining. The prince sighed as he observed the younger man.

Merlin had changed.

He didn't know when the change had started and hadn't really noticed until the difference in Merlin until the dark circles under his eyes had become black and the normally skinny serving boy had grown deathly thin. There seemed to be a constant air of sadness and despair around him – Arthur wasn't sure when he had last seen his servant smile one of those genuine, goofy grins he was known for. The prince cursed himself for not noticing sooner, but in his defense, after Morgana had disappeared, he had been upset as well – she was like a sister to him, after all.

"Merlin." Merlin looked up and Arthur was taken aback by the unbridled pain in those blue depths. How could Merlin have been in this much agony and Arthur not have noticed? Now that Merlin was looking straight at him, Arthur sucked in his breath at how sickly the boy appeared.

His face, normally pale, was ghastly white, the nearly transparent skin pulled taut over his prominent cheekbones. Arthur hadn't thought it was possible for the bags under Merlin's weary eyes to grow any blacker, but the ebony shade had deepened – it looked like Merlin was sporting two black eyes. Merlin's ears looked even bigger than ever because of how thin his face had become – they stood out prominently, unnaturally large for the emaciated face. When he spoke his voice was hoarse and sad, thin and reedy. Worry shot through every inch of Arthur's being. "What?"

With a shaking hand, Arthur motioned for Merlin to come closer. "Come here, Merlin." He really hoped his deep rooted concern wasn't too evident in his voice. After all, it wouldn't do for Merlin to find out that Arthur really did care about what happened to him. Then again, as he took in his servant's appearance, the crown prince realized that Merlin may have reached a point where what he needed more than anything was Arthur's compassion and concern, a real show of friendship even if Arthur refused to admit, even to himself, that they were indeed friends.

Eyes flickering in confusion, Merlin stood up but stayed where he was, eyeing Arthur warily. Impatiently, Arthur lunged forward and grabbed Merlin's arm, pulling him closer. Arthur gasped when he felt how thin Merlin's arm had become – Arthur could wrap his hand completely around Merlin's bicep. The servant had always been lean, but this was not just a matter of not being muscular. Merlin was skin and bones.

Arthur let his eyes travel slowly across Merlin's stiff frame, eyes widening as he really noticed for the first time how large the ratty shirt he wore was. His belt was cinched as tight as it could go and his clothes were still loose. The ever-present neckerchief swallowed the servant's neck. Arthur bit his lip. He had known that Merlin was more solemn, thinner, and more exhausted than usual, but he had never dreamed that it could have reached this point. Now that he saw Merlin looking so pitiful, so depressed, withdrawn, and dangerously thin, he couldn't help but brutally condemn himself for being so caught up in his own thing that he failed to notice this.

Voice shaking, and not even caring that tears were threatening to prick the corners of his normally dry eyes, Arthur heard himself whisper, "Merlin… what happened to you?"

A/N: The next two chapters will be longer; this is just the intro! ;) Please review; I'll put up part two soon! :D

~Emachinescat ^..^