Arthur swallowed, feeling uncomfortable.
“I know.” He said, trying to sound brave. Instead, it came out quietly, merely a whisper.
He went back to looking at his feet again. Silence hung in the room, and Arthur ignored the feeling to take a few steps and comfort Merlin. It’s not as if he didn’t want to. At a time like this he would reassure everyone in his district that he would protect them.
But what would he tell them? Everything’s going to be okay? That would be an outright lie. He felt as if he was falling, trying to grab on to something to keep him sane.
He closed his eyes. “I know.” He whispered again, mostly to himself this time.
Merlin could see the pain etched into Arthur’s face and wanted - no, needed - to do something about it. He took a deep breath
“It’s not your fault,” he choked out, “and it’s not all bad. We could win! There’s no guarantee that it’s going to be a twelve year old boy and girl, it could be you, or a knight or… or… me…” He trailed off. Merlin hadn’t properly thought about the idea that it could, in fact, be him chosen to fight to the death. Of course, he would have an advantage. He could use magic if he needed to, but the thought of killing other children - innocent children - made him feel sick.
He turned and threw up in an empty vase, embarrassed that Arthur was watching.
Arthur made a face but slowly walked closer to Merlin. He swallowed.
“Hopefully it won’t be.” He spoke louder then before, his usual façade back. “The twelve year olds would last longer than you.” His voice shook at the last word. He shook his head, looking inside the vase.
“Right. Well, you better… Better clean that up then.” He said, turning to face the window once again.
He didn’t want to think about any of this. Even if they won, others, others who were forced to do the same would be killed. He should be able to stop this. But… but he can’t. Gazing outside the window, he saw crying mothers hugging their children, and people rushing about, as if they could hide from everything that was happening. Arthur turned away and sat down on his bed, staring at the wall in front of him.