Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin
For those of you reading "Contrary to Popular Belief" don't worry, I'm still working on the next chapter but I had to get this out of my system first. Sometimes I'm only in the mood to write tragedy. Anyway I hope you enjoy it!
"We did it!" Arthur yelled, laughing with relief as he glanced at the bodies littering the road in front of him. It had been touch and go at first but, in the end, the assassins were no match for Arthur's superior swordsmanship.
He and Merlin had been heading back to Camelot when they were ambushed. Just as they reached a fork in the road the woods had exploded with motion, men flooding down the hill towards the unsuspecting pair, unleashing a deadly hail of arrows. Arthur had leapt from his horse immediately, using it to shield his back as he met the oncoming hoard of attackers.
Merlin's quiet word barely registered in the prince's mind as he took in the scene of destruction before him, twenty-three men, he had singlehandedly slain twenty-three men. He raised his eyebrows and gave an appreciative chuckle, the most he'd done before was fifteen. Well, no one could deny that he was, by far, the best swordsman in Camelot now.
This time Merlin's voice held a little more urgency and it cut through Arthur's thoughts.
"We did it Merlin," the prince said without turning around, "they're all dead."
At the note of panic in his servant's tone Arthur spun around, sword drawn, ready for another attack but nothing could have prepared him for the sight that met his eyes.
"Merlin, no!" He cried, sword clattering uselessly to the ground as he rushed towards his servant. Merlin was swaying dangerously on his feet, the feathered shaft of an arrow protruding from his thin chest. Arthur didn't know how the boy was still breathing, let alone standing and all of the relief he'd felt just moments ago fled, replaced with despair.
He reached his servant's side just in time to catch him as his legs gave out and he collapsed.
"It's fine Merlin, everything's going to be fine." Arthur said, hands fluttering helplessly over his servant's chest. "I can fix this, don't worry."
But Arthur knew, even as he reassured Merlin, that there was nothing to be done. Years of exposure to battle wounds had taught him that Merlin was dying and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.
He cradled the boy's head in his lap, carding his fingers through Merlin's dark hair to comfort him. The servant's breathing was labored and pain filled his eyes as each shallow inhale shifted the arrow, causing it to cut further into his chest.
Blood was pouring steadily out of the wound, soaking the boy's shirt and spilling over onto Arthur but he paid it little notice. "It'll be okay, I promise." Arthur said, a tear quivering for an impossibly long moment on the end of his long lashes before breaking free and splashing onto Merlin's forehead.
Merlin nodded slowly, his complete faith in Arthur shining through the pain in his eyes. "I… trust you." He whispered, bringing his hand up to grip Arthur's and squeezing weakly.
Arthur squeezed back, more tears sliding down his cheeks as he held his manservant's gaze. Suddenly Merlin's breath hitched and he began to panic, clutching at his throat and arching his back off the ground in a desperate attempt to draw air into his lungs.
"Sshhh." Arthur said, rocking back and forth as he hugged the boy to his chest, "It's okay." He could feel Merlin's heart fluttering wildly against his hands and he rubbed small soothing circles in the boy's back, focusing all his attention on the methodical movement to hold his emotions at bay.
After what seemed like an eternity Merlin's body went limp in Arthur's arms, the boy's head lolling back until his once-vibrant blue eyes stared unseeing into the sky. Arthur laid him gently on the ground, tearing a strip from his shirt to wipe away the blood that trickled lazily from the corner of Merlin's blue-tinged lips, the vibrant red contrasting gruesomely with the servant's too pale skin.
Once he had done all he could to arrange the boy more comfortably Arthur allowed his emotions to break free; they raged through his body, ripping open his very heart and soul, and he let them because Merlin was gone and he knew that nothing would ever be the same again.
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