Title: Echo

Author: Kitty O

Rating: T

Summary: In Morgana's mind, Merlin got his just desserts. In Arthur's mind, she finally crossed the line. Oneshot, not intended slash/no pairings. Slight spoilers for 2.12. Death.

A/N: I have not written character death in a while, and I missed it. Besides, I have a reputation to keep! Well, no, not really, but I really did just want to write this oneshot. What do you think?

He found him in Morgana's arms. His neck was stretched back and his head had fallen to the side. If it wasn't for the blood on his shirt and the irregular way his breaths were ripping through his chest, he might have been enjoying a good sleep.

But he wasn't. He was reclining in the enemy's grasp, and he was hurt. He needed Arthur to help him; he needed to get back to Gaius and be cared for. He did not need Morgana holding him close to her and the black, ripped dress she wore while her thin, pale hands twisted around him in mock affection.

Arthur was alone. He was the only help he could see in the woods where he'd gone to look for Merlin. The rest of the knights were picking up from the latest aftermath. But he was armed, and she wasn't—not physically anyway. He would try his luck. He'd have tried no matter the circumstances. Merlin was wounded.

Hefting his sword into the air, Arthur dove forward to attack, to wrench her and her ice-white arms away from his manservant.

He never got that far.

She looked up and her lips twisted as he bore down on her. Morgana lifted a hand lazily, palm out, and Arthur couldn't move his arms or his legs anymore. His sword was still out, and he still felt the strength in his muscles, but in that moment he was powerless.

Frustrated, he snarled, "Morgana! Stop!" As if they were children again and her joking had gone too far.

"Why?" she answered in her new, singsong voice. "You would only attack me. That's not chivalrous, dear brother."

When she spoke, her stomach moved, and Merlin's head lolled farther to the side with the shifting. He groaned, his hand snaking over the gash in his stomach, which was barely visible through the shirt.

"What did you do to him?" Arthur replied, struggling and afraid of Merlin's continued unconsciousness.

She put down the hand she used to cast the spell and began to stroke the servant's dark hair soothingly. Looking down briefly, she gave a little gasp as though of surprise and said, "Why, you don't think I did that, do you, Arthur? I didn't wound the little snake." On the last word, she gritted her teeth and closed her hand in Merlin's hair, giving it a yank. He didn't make a noise, but his face twitched.

Arthur glared. She had changed so much from the sweet but headstrong woman he had known well.

"I just took the opportunity," she continued, "to ensure that the water he drank had a little ingredient from me – hemlock. It seemed fair."

Arthur's stomach was in his throat as he tried harder than ever to break the spell she had on him. "Knights!" he shouted as loudly as he could. "Men!"

Morgana waved at him to be quiet and not bother. "They can't hear you," she said. "It's part of the containing spell."

"Alright," growled Arthur. "Heal him. Fix what you did. What do you want? What is it you want from us?"

She shook her head. "I'm not here for anything from you this time, brother, except your protector. I just came for this, and stayed to watch."

"To gloat," Arthur corrected, but his hand was spinning. There had to be something. Some way out. He would continue yelling, but if they hadn't heard the first time…

"If you want to call it that," Morgana said agreeably. "Oh, look, his breathing is slowing." She continued petting Merlin, watching him with rapt interest.

Arthur's eyes flickered to Merlin's chest. The smaller man's face was contorted; every gasp took effort. This was desperate, Arthur thought. This couldn't happen. Not while he was three feet away. Morgana could not let it happen. Could not.

"Morgana, please," he said quickly.

She rubbed a finger across Merlin's eyebrow. "Poor Arthur doesn't want to be left defenseless," she cooed.

Merlin was so white he was gray. Time, time; there wasn't time. "You have to stop, Morgana! You have to stop!"

"I do?"

She didn't care. Her voice showed her boredom.

"What has he done to you to deserve this?" Arthur tried, but he knew as soon as the words were in the air that his choice of defense was poor. He wished he could unspeak the words. Her face had simply grown harder.

"It's fair," she said. "But there is no Morgause to save him—he killed her. It's fair."

Arthur didn't know what that meant, but he didn't care because Merlin was emitting whimpering little sounds and his legs were twitching on the greenery.

Where were those knights? They could help. The battle hadn't been so far away. The woods were not so thick! Arthur needed aid, because Morgana didn't care and—was Merlin's breathing slowing? Oh, no, nonono…

Was Merlin going to die without awakening? Was the last face he saw going to be Morgana's? What was the last thing he and Arthur had spoken about; had there at least been a goodbye? It had been something about a good king and dirty boots. Well, he'd be a good king for his friend's sake if nothing else, and Merlin would never have to touch another boot again, Arthur swore, if only Morgana's heart changed right now.

"Well, look at that," Morgana whispered, tilting Merlin's head back, her eyes shining like those of a child watching dancing flames. Merlin's breaths were so slow now…

"Morgana, please!" Arthur screamed, putting all his will into those words.

She appeared not to have heard him.

"Morgana, heal him!" His voice went up an octave. "MORGANA!" He struggled. Nothing.

Merlin gave a little gasp – and in her excitement, Morgana echoed it – and then he let out that one last breath and didn't draw in again. There was no color on his face. Morgana watched Merlin's new corpse for several more seconds, still cradling her old friend, and then she gave a little laugh.

Arthur's rage and grief boiled over and he saw red, but before he could make a noise, the spell on him dissolved and he collapsed onto the ground painfully. By the time he scrambled to his feet, Morgana was gone.

Arthur stumbled to his best friend's side, dropping to his knees and grabbing Merlin's face, checking for a breath, a pulse—any kind of life. His body was black and white and red. Black hair, white skin, red blood and neckerchief. It was as though someone had decided for death he should be more vibrantly colored. It wasn't right that Merlin should die now, after he'd survived every time against the odds. It wasn't right that Merlin should spend his last moments held by someone who hated him, when he had friends and family who would mourn. It wasn't right that Morgana should be able to steal all their good times, all their jokes, all their quarrels and insults. It wasn't just, but it was true, and Merlin was gone.

I'll kill Morgana for this, Arthur swore to himself. He didn't care about shared blood now. She'd murdered Merlin. Arthur would find her and run her through; he'd kill her for this.

Arthur gathered his friend's body in his arms dazedly, feeling like the whole world (which just consisted of Arthur, Merlin, and the air) was made up of lead. Heavy and stiff lead.

It was time to return to Camelot. Back to Camelot so he could watch Gaius's and Gwen's hearts break in their chests and not be able to fix them, on account of his own pain. Arthur stood, holding his friend.

And that, of course, some part of him commented sarcastically as he heard hoof beats approaching, is when the knights finally make their appearance. Too late.