Title: No Goodbye
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin's thoughts while he and Arthur journeyed to the Lake of Avalon.
Warnings: character death
Word Count: 781
Prompt: #159 "Time of Our Lives"
Author's Notes: I shamelessly used dialog from the episode. Enjoy! :)
Arthur is dying. Arthur is dying. Arthur is dying. Arthur . . . The second Gaius said, “Its fatal power will not be denied,” that depressing mantra had started running through his mind. And every time he looked at Arthur, it started up again. It didn’t seem to matter that Arthur looked back at him with a mix of betrayal and confusion.
They didn’t talk much as they traveled to the lake, so Merlin had plenty of time to think. Would the Sidhe actually help them? He’d angered them twice. What if they didn’t listen—like Arthur was refusing to do now. The evening was awkward; Arthur sounded like he was softening, but closed back up again. He didn’t want to believe what Merlin told him, that Camelot was nothing without him and there would never be another king like him. Had he given up already?
The next day, they had to stop several times. Arthur was fading fast. But he began to open up and asked Merlin out of the blue why he hadn’t told him his secret. He really didn’t know? “You'd have chopped my head off at the beginning. Later, I didn't want to put you in that position.”
Arthur looked at Merlin in disbelief. “That's what worried you?”
Merlin thought for a moment before he replied. He remembered every time he’d saved Arthur and their adventures together. So he told him how everyone was born to be something, he was born to serve Arthur and would never have chosen otherwise. Arthur just stared at Merlin. What was going through his head now? But he couldn’t contemplate that now; they had to go.
By nightfall Arthur demanded weakly, but prat-like, that they stop to rest. Merlin allowed it, and laid the King against a log. He built a fire for warmth, but Arthur didn’t go to sleep. “Merlin, whatever happens . . . I don't want you to change. I want you . . . to always . . . be you. I'm sorry about how I treated you.”
He’s struggling hard. That made it hard to remain cheerful, but he joked about getting a day off. Arthur ran with it, and for a moment it was like old times. But then Arthur's head fell and Merlin checked his pulse. He was very worried. The mantra had not left his mind and Arthur was so weak; he wasn’t supposed to be like this. Would they make it to the lake in time?
After a couple more hours, Merlin reluctantly woke Arthur. They traveled through the rest of the night and stopped uphill from the lake. Arthur was done, so Merlin propped him up against another fallen log. Before he could tend the horses, someone spooked them away—Morgana. She tossed Merlin aside, but he took Excalibur and snuck behind her while she postured. Then, when she least expected it, he stabbed her. Arthur looked up at him, a little awed. Merlin replied by picking him up and half-dragging him down closer to the shore. “Come on. We have to make it to the lake.”
Arthur dropped to the ground and landed on Merlin. “Merlin . . . We can't, it's too late.” He looked up into his eyes.
He’s giving up . . . “No.”
“All your magic, Merlin, can't save my life.”
Oh Arthur. “I can. I'm not going to lose you.”
He attempted to stand, but Arthur patted his hand in a pacifying gesture. “Just . . . just stop. Please.” Merlin obeyed him for once. “There's something I want to say . . .”
No . . . “You can’t say goodbye.”
“No, Merlin . . . Everything you've done. I know now. For me, for Camelot. For the kingdom you helped me build . . .” Silent tears began falling from Merlin’s eyes. “I want to say . . . something I've never said to you before . . .” He turned to look directly at Merlin. “Thank you.” He reached up and touched Merlin’s head, but only held it for a moment before his hand fell.
Was he gone?! “Arthur . . . No! Arthur!” He felt his pulse; it was slow and weak. “Arthur! Arthur. Come on.” He tried to move Arthur but couldn’t. “Arthur!”
Merlin called out to Kilgharrah, who miraculously responded. He could tell the dragon thought this flight was useless, but obeyed his desperate dragonlord anyway. When they landed, he immediately pulled Arthur off and began dragging him toward the water. The ancient voice rang out, “Merlin. There is nothing you can do.”
No, I can’t believe it . . . “I've failed?”
“No, young warlock, for all that you have dreamt of building, has come to pass.”
But what about the golden age, the freeing of magic, uniting Albion? “I can't lose him! He's my friend!”
“Though no man, no matter how great, can know his destiny, his life has been foretold, Merlin . . . Arthur is not just a King—he is the Once and Future King. Take heart, for Arthur will rise again when Albion needs him most. It has been a privilege to have known you, young warlock—the story we have been a part of will live long in the minds of men.”
Kilgharrah flew off while Merlin watched. He lowered Arthur to the ground then stared out over the lake, holding Excalibur. He chucked the sword into the lake where it was caught by Freya, who pulled it down with her. Next he laid Arthur in the boat, and placed a hand on Arthur's forehead. It was then he broke down, crying his heart out.
After a few moments he calmed himself to say, “Arthur. In sibbe gerest*.” He pushed the boat out into the lake and watched it drift, then collapsed to the ground, weeping again. Come back soon, my friend.