rocknvaughn (rocknvaughn) wrote in camelot_drabble,
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The Last Laugh

Author: rocknvaughn
Title: The Last Laugh
Rating: PG-13
Pairing/s: Canon, but could easily be read as Merthur, if you're so inclined.
Character/s: Merlin and Arthur (mentions of other Canon characters)
Summary: It's always the little things that mean so much...
Warnings: Post-Reveal, Post-Camlann, Major Character Death, Angst
Word Count: *coughtoomanycough* ~1,215 (post edit, I wasn't recounting)
Prompt: #32 ~ Laugh
Author's Notes: Okay, so I decided I wanted to do something ironic for this prompt...I thought a scene post-Camlann ought to do it. I choked up writing this (yeah, I cried), so you may want to keep a tissue handy, just in case.


[The Last Laugh]

The Last Laugh

Merlin stood at attention, resplendent in his ceremonial garb and the dark blue dress cloak that Arthur had gifted him with the day he’d made the warlock his Court Sorcerer.

Banners of scarlet red emblazoned with a rearing dragon of gold surrounded their little clearing, paying homage to their fallen king. Arthur deserved to be laid out in the Great Hall of the Citadel in Camelot, like his father before him. He had earned the right for the masses and his allied kings and queens to pay their final respects to the High King of Albion…but it was not to be.

Despite the fact that Merlin had vanquished Morgana for good on that windswept plain, and Arthur had, with the last of his strength, delivered the killing blow to his murderer, Camelot had fallen. A new warlord now controlled the once-fair city…and there were no more Pendragons for which to seize it back.

And so Merlin had brought Arthur to the only place that could be as hallowed as Camelot, the only place that could possess the same grandeur, the same echo of eternity, albeit for different reasons: the Lake of Avalon.

Behind Merlin, the few Knights of Camelot that had survived the horror that was Camlann stood proud and strong. Among them was Percival, his towering presence surprisingly soothing on such an occasion; and Leon, who, despite his rather advanced age for a knight, had escaped the bloodbath with only a gash to his forearm that, in time, would fully heal.

Merlin’s heart still felt the ache of those who, by all rights, should have been by their side: Elyan and Lancelot, who had both passed many years ago in service to Arthur, and Gwaine, who had died on the blade of the traitor Mordred in a vain attempt to keep Arthur from his fate.

Hell, even Merlin, with all his great gifts and power, hadn’t managed that. Sometimes, no matter what, destiny must have its due.

Merlin looked down at the stone slab that he’d erected on the shore, stared at the now-peaceful face of his beloved king--his closest friend, the other half of his soul--until his vision blurred with unshed tears. Reaching down beside him, Merlin grasped its hilt and lifted Excalibur high above his head, letting the sunlight reflect off the gilded runes striped down the side: Take me up, cast me away.

Then he reverently laid the sword forged only for Arthur upon its master’s chest, gently moving the gloved hands to rest upon on either side of the hilt.

Merlin lingered, brushing nonexistent lint from the sleeve of Arthur’s gambeson, fixing his hair just so, trailing the back of his knuckles down the cooled cheek, thinking--of all things--of that day in the marketplace so long ago:

“I can take you apart with one blow…”

“I could take you apart with less than that…”

“Are you sure?”

Merlin stubbornly grabbed the lapels of his jacket and yanked it off, while Arthur laughed at the sight of the scrawny peasant kid challenging him.

It was the first time he'd ever heard Arthur Pendragon laugh.

In the years since, with the gift of hindsight, that moment became quite the source of mirth for the old friends. Arthur often wanted to know what Merlin would have done to him, had magic been allowed then, and Merlin would come up with more and more inventive responses until their legs would give out and both of them would sink to the floor in hilarity, each leaning against the other, tears leaking from both of their eyes.

Arthur had such a loud, boisterous, booming laugh, so full of joy and light. Arthur’s eyes would twinkle and Merlin could not help but smile in response. The gift of laughter had gotten the two of them through many horrible times: Arthur's frustration over the lack of an heir and his desolation after Gwen’s abandonment in favor of the nunnery, the never-ending cycle of pain caused by Morgana’s attacks against her only living kin, Merlin's abject loneliness after Gaius’ passing…even the last few moments of Arthur’s life.

Merlin knew the moment Mordred stabbed Arthur, felt it as deeply as if he’d been stabbed himself; sensed destiny closing the circle, ending their chapter, the Golden age of Albion crumbling to dust. Exhausted and injured from his mortal battle with Morgana, Merlin still managed to magic himself to Arthur’s side just moments after Excalibur had been thrust hilt deep in Mordred’s gut. He caught Arthur in his arms before he could fall, gently lying him down upon the trodden grass beneath them.

Merlin’s focus sucked in to a pinpoint: to Arthur. He was Merlin’s whole world in that moment.

“No…no…” Merlin breathed; kneeling beside Arthur and placing his hands over the mortal wound, trying again and again to heal what would not be healed…Mordred’s magic had seen to that. But still Merlin kept trying…until finally Arthur scrabbled for Merlin’s hands and pulled them away.

“Stop. Stop, Merlin…” Arthur coughed and blood spattered his blueish lips. “You know it won’t take.”

“It has to!” Merlin yelled, half-mad from agony, tears pouring down his cheeks, dripping onto Arthur’s shoulder.

“It won’t,” Arthur responded gently, his voice hoarse. The dying man grasped his hand along Merlin’s forearm like a pledge and Merlin clasped back, staring silently at his dying king.

 “Well…” Arthur coughed again, a wet, squelchy sound, “It looks like that damned lizard of yours was right after all, eh?” And, of all things, Arthur laughed. It came out more like a wheeze, but Merlin knew, and he smiled, even through his tears.

“Yeah, he’s annoying that way…”

“Does he ever talk in anything but riddles?” Arthur grimaced at the pain, but then his face settled into a fond smile.

“If so, I’ve yet to hear it,” Merlin grumbled, more for effect than actual feeling. He couldn’t feel. He was numb.

Arthur snickered and laid his head back upon the ground and his eyes closed.

“This is it, old friend…” Arthur rasped, his hand’s squeeze on Merlin’s arm barely registering. “This is where we say goodbye.”

Merlin leaned his forehead against Arthur’s and nodded, tears flowing freely, dripping from his cheeks and chin into Arthur’s matted golden hair.

“Well, if I need a servant in the next life…” Arthur whispered, and a ghost of a chuckle brushed past Merlin’s damp cheek.

“…don’t ask me…” Merlin replied, his lips curling into another smile despite himself, remembering when, in another time and another place, they had said those same words to one another… and, though they would not have admitted it, meant the feelings behind the banter just as much then as they did now.

Arthur huffed, a mere trickle of air now…his last laugh. “Idiot,” he mouthed, and it was only detected because Merlin’s cheek was pressed against the side of Arthur’s mouth.

Merlin could not see at all through the veil of his tears as they threatened to choke him. As he turned his head to press his lips to Arthur’s ear, he put every emotion he never got a chance to express into the one beloved word, “Prat.”

Merlin shook his head in half-disbelief at the memory. Only Arthur would literally laugh in the face of death.

And in that moment, Merlin knew: of all the things about Arthur; it was definitely his laughter he would miss the most.






Tags: *c:rocknvaughn, c:arthur, c:merlin, pt 032:laugh, rating:pg-13, type:drabble
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