So, I was writing a one-shot about Arthur's return, set during the Second World War and since it's very long I wanted to write something shorter. This one is written from Arthur's POV and it's with the 'you'-thing (how do you call it?) - for example: "You walked for a long time..."

It's an AU to 5x12, in which Arthur searches for Merlin and finds him in the Crystal Cave, but Merlin dies due to the wounds he received in the rockfall caused by Morgana. I had read a one-shot in which Merlin died in Gwaine's arms (still in the Crystal Cave), but I haven't been able to find it again. If someone knows it, could you please tell me the title?

Warnings: major character death (that was pretty obvious, wasn't it?)

DISCLAIMER: I don't own Merlin, but one day I will. Right now, it belongs to BBC Network and blah blah blah.

Thanks to EchoRose480 for beta-ing this, and to Lolaangelbunn and AlxM for their constant support.

I hope you'll like it!

Lots of love,

-MildeAmasoj ❤

When Gwaine had burst into your chambers yelling that Merlin was alone in the woods doing God knows what, you had taken it lightly.

After all, you - Arthur Pendragon, King of Camelot - were a really busy man, what with Morgana's declare of war threatening the peace of your kingdom and Mordred's recent betrayal still stinging in your heart.

You could not waste your time chasing after a wayward - and not at all brave, as you had said to him, even if you thought he was braver and more loyal than your best knights - and clumsy servant, who was known for disappearing often.

But something felt wrong. Maybe, it was something you had seen in Gwaine's eyes that went beyond simple worry; maybe, it was the strange weight in your gut that had been there since that morning, since the moment Merlin had told you that he would not follow you in the oncoming battle - you did not know what it was, but something was definitely out of place.

Therefore, you let Gwaine guide you to the place where he had left Merlin - the Valley of the Fallen Kings, you should have expected it - just to find the entry of the cave in which the man should have been blocked. It was completely covered in debris and fallen stones and it was almost impossible to surpass. Almost, for whenever the words 'Merlin' and 'danger' end up in the same sentence, there has always been little that could stop you - or Gwaine, for that matter.

So you, the king, with the help of your unusually silent knight, began to dig with your bare hands in search of your friend - your heart beating painfully fast in your chest with every moment you spent out there, and that he was probably spending buried alive in that stony grave.

You had almost given up, when you noticed the handle of a sword - a sword with Camelot's emblem etched onto it - and your hands began to work faster, to dig deeper, not caring if they were hurting and bleeding beneath your ruined leather gloves.

After some painfully long moments, all the stones had been removed, and the entry was made clear. That was when you saw him - lying face down on the ground as the lazy idiot he was - and you prayed to every deity you knew to let him be alive.

You fell ungracefully on your knees beside him, turning him around with shaky hands - and you almost collapsed in relief when his eyes opened and lit up in recognition as they met your face.

But something was still wrong - his breaths were too short and labored and there was too much time between one and the next for him to be alright - and dread began to fill you, making your insides churn painfully.

You met Gwaine's desperate eyes and the strangely sober knight was gone in an instant. It did not matter if it was to call help, to gather supplies, or to let you stay with Merlin alone - you were unbelievably grateful for the short time you had been allowed to spend with your brother in all but blood. Just you and him, like it had always been, and like it would always be.

You looked down at your friend - your oldest, closest, your best friend - who was looking up at you, wide-eyed and most likely confused by your presence.

I always thought you were the bravest man I ever met...

You remembered what you had told him the same morning - it seemed as if centuries had passed - and you knew that you had to apologize for your mistake, because wronger words had never been spoken.

"Merlin?" you called, shaking him carefully - as if he were made of glass, as if he could shatter by merely looking at him too intensely.

Guess I was wrong...

He looked up at you, and you could see the sky shine into his bright blue eyes, coupled with the strong brotherly love that was equally reflected in yours.

"Mmh?" he hummed weakly in response, his eyes trying to focus on your face.

You took in a deep breath, "You really are the bravest man I've ever met," you said, your voice breaking and thick with unshed tears.

Merlin grinned weakly. "Really?" he breathed, blinking owlishly - and you knew that he was going to leave you in a short time, that his soul would no longer be a part of the cruel living world. You knew it would be the last time you saw him, at least in this life. But you would not admit it to him, or to yourself.

You nodded eagerly, hoping against hope for him to stand up and joke and tell you that he was perfectly fine and that you should have stopped acting like a mother hen, and a watery smile lit your face up. "Yes, you are. I'm sorry for what I said earlier. I'm sorry for..."

But your last words to your brother would never be heard by him, because his eyes had slipped closed and - no matter how hard you shook him, how loud you shouted his name - a painful silence was his only answer as the life left his body, a tiny and relieved smile lingering on his pale and bruised face.

You looked at the sky with glistening eyes as he stopped breathing and a loud sob shook your muscular frame, while your hold subconsciously tightened around his body. The pain was almost crippling; losing him was something you had never thought about, but when his death caught up with you, the breath left your body in a rush, leaving you brokenhearted once again. No, it can't be, your heart whispered into your ear. It just can't.

But your brain knew that what your heart didn't want to acknowledge was true - that your brother was gone and he was never coming back - and it hurt so badly that you thought you would die with him in that Godforsaken place.

Your tearful whisper of 'goodbye' was carried away by the wind, and you regretted not having ever told him how much he meant to you - he was just like a part of you, a part that completed you and made you whole. A tear slipped from your eye, followed by many others.

And in that moment - while absentmindedly stroking his dusty mop of hair - you knew that no matter how the oncoming battle ended, you had already lost.

Everything had been over in the moment Merlin's golden heart had ceased to beat.