Arthur’s breath stopped at those words. “Merlin… what?” He had been thinking long and hard about what he would say to Merlin when he awoke, but all his wise words left him upon seeing those accusing blue eyes.
Merlin turned his head away.
Arthur reached out to touch his friend’s shoulder, hoping to calm him the same way he had when he was asleep, but the young man startled away from his touch, almost falling off the bed. Arthur withdrew his hand and held it up in surrender. Merlin stiffened and Arthur slowly lowered his hand to rest on his knee. They sat in silence a few moments, Arthur trying to figure out what to say, and Merlin trying to ignore him.
“Merlin, I have to know.” he said, calling his servant gently. He was almost completely sure that Gaius’ conclusions were true, especially after what Merlin had just said, but there was still part of him hoping they weren’t, and he had to ask. Merlin glanced back at him not quite meeting his eyes. His hands were clenched in fists and his breathing was a little faster than normal, but not fast enough to be concerning. “Did you try to kill yourself?” he asked.
Merlin didn’t answer and the affirmative silence made Arthur feel like his whole world was crashing down around him. He stood up pushing his hands through his hair and turned around, limping slightly on his injured knee. “Why? Why, Merlin? Why?” It seemed that his mind could only form that one coherent question which he shouted at Merlin.
Merlin still did not look at him, but Arthur could see there was some kind of internal struggle going on inside of him. “Did…” Arthur hesitated not wanting to say Garlock’s name, “he torture you? Did he mess with your head, make you feel like your life wasn’t worth living?”
This time Merlin did look at him in surprise. “No…” he breathed. “Nothing like that.” His eyes strayed away again quickly.
Out of all the things he expected Merlin to say, that hadn’t been one of them. He collapsed back into the chair. “Then why?”
Merlin had relaxed some and his fingers played with the frayed edges of the blanket. He seemed to be struggling with some kind of answer.
“He showed me something.”
“What?” Arthur asked his voice taking on a more demanding tone.
Merlin hesitated. “A sort of prophecy.” Arthur frowned.
“What sort of prophecy?” his voice easing a little.
Merlin was silent. “It doesn’t matter.”Merlin stated turning his head away, obviously trying to end the conversation.
“Like bloody hell!” Arthur practically shouted standing up suddenly, his chair falling backwards behind him, letting his anger overcome him. “Merlin, you just tried to kill yourself! Whatever reason you decided to do that must have been pretty serious if you were willing to give up your life!”
Merlin looked up at Arthur, straight in the eye, as if challenging him as he responded. “He showed me a future where I cause your death.” Arthur was floored. He didn’t know how to respond to that. He stared at Merlin, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging slightly open. Merlin had always been fiercely loyal to him, and like Gwaine had said, everything he did was for others. It suddenly made sense that this would be the reason that Merlin would go to such extreme lengths, but while Arthur knew Merlin could be self-sacrificing, he never would have thought he would take it this far.
“The only way out of this is if I die.” Merlin said and he took Arthur’s silence for understanding. “That’s why I did it. That’s why I’ll do it again. I have to die. I would gladly sacrifice my life for yours, Art—“
“Shut up.” The words, though quiet, seemed to make the room colder.
Merlin tried again, frowning as if he didn’t understand. “Arth—“
“NO Merlin! Shut up! I don’t want to hear this anymore! There is no reason that you would be the cause of my death. You are the most loyal friend I have, and I refuse to lose you because some stupid sorcerer told you some prophecy, and you were idiotic enough to listen!”
Merlin’s mouth was closed, pressed together, his eyes wide as he listened. “Arthur you don’t understand! I can’t…” his voice faltered and his brows furrowed in concentration but he didn’t continue.
“No more, Merlin. You won’t do this again.” He knew that ordering Merlin wasn’t going to stop him, but frankly he was just too frustrated to care. “This is stupid… When have we ever gone through something that we didn’t get out of together?” he asked.
Merlin stared at Arthur but didn’t say anything, his mouth opened and closed but he couldn’t find the words.
“Promise me, Merlin. Promise me you won’t try again.”
Merlin just stared at him. Arthur could see an internal struggle going on. It was a long time, but he finally said, “I promise.”
Arthur relaxed, righted the overturned chair, and sat down. He didn’t completely trust his servant, and he still expected to have people watching Merlin for some time to come, but it was a bit of a relief nonetheless. Merlin closed his eyes and leaned back, his fists clenching again, and his breathing coming quick. He seemed to be struggling still, but soon his hands relaxed and he breathed more deeply, not asleep just resting. They sat quietly like that for a long time, and then Merlin cleared his throat. Once and then twice, then smacked his lips together.
“Um… Arthur?” he asked. Arthur looked at his friend. “I’m kind of thirsty; sorry to ask but do you think you could…” The young man smiled awkwardly, his cheeks reddening in a blush. Arthur looked around, but there didn’t appear to be anything in the room to drink. He got up and walked to the door, turning and giving Merlin one last look, but the young man looked too weak to even stand up.
He hurried down the steps and quickly found a water pitcher and cup with his back to the door. As he reached for them, he heard the door slam and something heavy being dragged in front of it. His eyes turned back to the now closed door with fear, and he raced up the steps.
“Merlin.” he called, pounding on the closed door. “Merlin!”
Gaius was awake by now. “What happened?” he asked.
“He’s locked me out.” Arthur huffed.
“That door doesn’t have a lock.” Gaius said, his brain still sleep addled.
“He’s put something in front of it.” Arthur guessed. “Though how he moved so quickly in his state I don’t know.” Gaius was strangely silent, but Arthur didn’t have time to ponder why.
Arthur threw his shoulder against the door, but it didn’t give. “Merlin!” he cried. There was no response. “MERLIN!”