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He always said he would protect him or die at his side. Now it looked like he couldn’t protect him anymore. It was time to fulfil the other half of the promise, whether it was to himself or to Arthur he wasn’t sure.

Merlin pulled Excalibur from where it was sheathed at Arthur’s hip and firmly wrapped his king’s fingers around it.

“What are you doing?” Arthur groaned with all the outrage he could muster. Mostly it sounded like a strangled whisper.

“It’s over,” Merlin said. “I was always supposed to do this.”

He’s lying – sort of. The truth of it is, he can’t imagine the world without Arthur – not one where there’s just a Merlin on his own, at least. He’s been everything to him for so long. The idea of waking up tomorrow and not hearing his laugh or voice or seeing him smile was unfathomable and gut wrenching all at once. His life was always marked out by destiny, if he was meant to die, he would die. If he did die then he was always supposed to do this, so maybe it wasn’t really a lie. He’d told enough of those anyway.

“Merlin, don’t-”

But it’s too late. Merlin had already guided his hand forward and the blade of the sword was embedded in his chest.

Arthur shook his head furiously, tears streaming down his face.

“Merlin.”

“Shhh, don’t think about it.” He soothed and stroked Arthur’s hair. Arthur reached up and did the same. Merlin managed a tentative smile.

Arthur was fading fast. Merlin had to repeat to himself that this was temporary, that he’d be dead soon too and this didn’t matter. It would be alright, it would be alright - then it happened, Arthur’s eyes slid shut and it felt like Merlin’s heart had been ripped in half. This is temporary, he repeated. Temporary. But it didn’t stop the tears or the desperate feeling of loneliness that crept in for his final moments.

The blade in his torso was catching up with Merlin. The world started spinning and he pulled Arthur towards him and pushed their foreheads together. He took a deep, final, painful breath. And then there was nothing.