it sort of only now occurred to me that in 4x02 when arthur sends merlin off with lancelot, it’s not just that he thinks he might not see merlin again because of merlin’s condition
it’s that arthur is going to his death, and he just sent merlin back to camelot, where arthur will never return
they’ve come all this way, and for every step of it, merlin’s been right there with him. now arthur thinks he’s about to take the final step, lay down his life for his people, and merlin’s not going to be there.
merlin isn’t going to be with him at the very end.
he’s not going to have even the comfort of his best friend and the man who means more to him than anything. and it’s not like we saw arthur scared to make that sacrifice for his people, but—but who wouldn’t be? who wouldn’t want at least one last smile from their other half, from the one person who knows him better than anyone, even if arthur would never admit it?
that look he was giving merlin as lancelot and merlin rode away? that wasn’t just a look of god, i hope he’ll be all right. that was a look of so this is goodbye, then.
he was fully aware that that was the last time he would ever lay eyes on merlin, this man who stumbled into his life years earlier and, without so much as arthur’s permission, completely changed arthur for the better. this man who’s polished his boots but paused to throw some teasing insults at arthur the way no one else ever would, because no one else has what they have.
and arthur is never going to see him again.
all that being said, it kind of sheds newer light yet on that wonderful, impossible, utterly beautiful moment when… he does.