For all the times Merlin had risked his own life for Arthur's, Arthur never truly expected something to happen. Somewhere, in the back of his mind he'd convinced himself that Merlin had been this invincible man who would always come out the other side. It was like some sort of magic that he always seemed to do just that.
Except, not magic. Merlin would never hide something like that from him.
Or would he? Arthur held his head in his hands, resting on his bed. If Merlin were really a sorcerer, would he have confided it in Arthur? He knew the answer, but would never bear to admit such out loud; Merlin couldn't have.
He wanted to kick himself. So many times Merlin had reassured him that magic hadn't been as awful as his father had put it out to be; hell, for all he knew, it had probably saved his life numerous times.
It all made too much sense.
Of course, any person who hadn't known Merlin would have advised him that a new manservant could be hired within the day. He supposed that was true, but the same could not be said of friends.
A knock came at the door, a voice – he didn't know or care whose – called out to him.
"SHUT UP MERLI-" he yelled instinctively. Of course, he had just wanted peace, but realizing it couldn't have been Merlin, well his mind certainly wasn't getting peace any time soon.
He now regretted cutting Merlin off all those times.
Arthur turned to see a glimpse of Gaius' saddened eyes, turning out the door.
"Gaius, wait," he jumped up, pulling the door back open. Maybe what he needed was a distraction.
"Sire, I see that you're... busy," Gaius replied, obviously watching his words.
"Gaius, you've been as good a friend to me as any and I know..." What right did Arthur have to mourn when Gaius stood before him? Merlin had been like a son to him and surely he never thought he'd see the day he'd out live him. A wave of guilt rushed over Arthur.
"This is all my fault... I'm sorry," Arthur rested his hand on Gaius' shoulder. "He went out there for me."
"I assure you, there's no one he'd rather have gone out there for."
Arthur looked down. He knew Gaius was right, but that hardly made things any better.
"I miss him, Gaius."
"So do I."
His voice seemed to catch in his throat and his eyes seemed to burn. What a sight it must have been to see a king getting choked up over his servant. Merlin would be laughing if he were there, Arthur was sure of it.
Gaius pulled him into a hug. He had always been a fatherly figure to Arthur, but he'd never done so before. Hell, Uther rarely had either. But then again, Arthur reminded himself, Gaius always seemed to know what he needed.
And maybe, just maybe it was alright for a king to shed a few tears for a friend.