Arthur blinked, and slowly, hesitantly, looked up at Merlin. He sighed.
“Tomorrow.” He said simply. As if it didn’t change anything. It didn’t really, because no matter how much time they had left with their loved ones, the dread and fear of the Reaping would hang over them like a dark cloud ready to rain.
He swallowed. “As long as it takes.” He said, answering the second question. He didn’t have to say specifically how long it would take to do what, but he knew Merlin would understand.
“And…” He looked down at his hands.
“Yes. Every… Every year. For who knows how long.” He raised his gaze from his hands and looked at Merlin once again, as if he was hoping Merlin would contradict him, and tell him that this was all a joke. A cruel joke.
But, he knew it wasn’t. He knew this was real. He knew he could not escape it.
“Tomorrow…” Merlin whispered, voice hoarse. He glanced up at Arthur. He looked broken.
Sod it, Merlin thought, closing the gap between them. He wrapped his arms around Arthur’s shoulders, pulling him close.
“It’s going to be fine, I promise.” He said, trying his hardest to reassure himself as well as Arthur. “It’ll be okay.”
Before, contact with Arthur had been limited to friendly shoves and punches to the arm. This hug broke all their boundaries, but the Fandom Games were changing everything, and Merlin knew he would have regretted not trying to comfort Arthur if one of them was chosen the next day.
“It’ll be okay,” he repeated, quieter, pulling Arthur even closer.
Arthur took a long time to react.
Arthur stood still, his thoughts taking longer to form and make sense than usual. A side effect of shock. When he finally realised what was happening, he felt his body tense up. Feeling Merlin’s grip on him begin to ease away, he pulled him back into a tight embrace.
He felt like crying, but, no, that wasn’t something Arthur did. So he blinked away the tears. They stood like that for a long time, and Arthur eventually relaxed.
When he finally pulled away, he realised he was crying. He quickly wiped the warm water from his cheeks.
There was a silence. Arthur thought back to what Merlin had said. It’ll be okay. Except, he knew it wouldn’t. He also knew Merlin knew it as well. It will never be okay again.