Title: Saving Merlin in Twenty Short Conversations
by magique
Fandom(s): Merlin (BBC)/Sleeping Beauty (Disney)
Pairing(s): Arthur/Merlin
Genre/Rating: Romance, Drama/PG
Word Count: 2742
Summary: A sorceress curses Merlin into a deep sleep. It will take twenty conversations to wake him.
Warnings: Coarse language, implied sexual-but-ridiculously-fluffy situation.
Notes: Spoilers for 1x04.
Sleeping Beauty type stories have been done a few times in this fandom, I think, but it's totally my favourite fairytale and I couldn't have ignored this idea if I'd tried. It started out really small too, but it just grew and grew and suddenly Aurora just popped up out of nowhere and, yeah.
(This was in the crossover section before, but it's much more a Merlin fic than it is a crossover, so I decided to move it.)

this is how it begins

It began with Merlin in Arthur's chambers, as many of Arthur's days often did. Arthur was raising his brows and looking askance at Merlin, and Merlin was an idiot so this was common too. Merlin stood, shoulders curled in on themselves and eyes narrowed, and said, "Every woman who shows up at court trying to woo you wants you dead. Excuse me if I'm a little suspicious!"

Which wasn't really peculiar either. Merlin had this habit of thinking he was allowed to act like Arthur was his equal and not his master, and Arthur had a habit of letting him because it was all rather entertaining usually.

"You make it sound as if I'm completely undesirable," Arthur had said. He was seated in his chair by the fire, toes stretching towards the warmth.

Merlin gave him a look. "You're an arse," he pointed out.

"Merlin," Arthur said, trying not to let amusement enter his tone. "You can't speak to me like that."

"Planning on throwing me in the stocks again, Sire?"

Arthur rolled his eyes. "Oh, fine; if you're so desperate to see Lady Catherine's undergarments, go ahead. But don't think I'll vouch for you when you're caught."

Merlin had scowled, flushing red, and skulked off. He'd been found later, lying with his neck bent against the stone wall outside the lady's rooms. Lady Catherine had disappeared and Merlin would not wake.

He breathed even and quiet, but he had not stirred since.

the first

"Do you know what happened?"

"No, Sire. There were no witnesses."

"And Lady Catherine? Have you heard anything of where she has gone?"

"The guards saw nothing. If she left, she was disguised."

Uther's hands were pressed onto the table as if he couldn't stand to carry his weight. "So there is no explanation."


the second

"Gaius," Arthur said. "Did...did Merlin say anything of Lady Catherine to you?"

"Nothing," Gaius replied, eyebrows furrowing. "Why do you ask?"

"Merlin was peculiar this morning."

"In what way, Sire?"

"He—" Arthur paused. "He said that he was suspicious. Of her."

Gaius looked up then, the corners of his mouth turned down as if he wished Merlin were awake to scold, and said, "What reason did he have to be suspicious?"

Arthur frowned, not sure how much information he should divulge. "He wouldn't say directly. I believe he may have seen something he shouldn't have in his duties last night."

"And what did you say?"

"That I wouldn't defend him if he were caught poking around," Arthur said, and didn't like how Gaius's expression showed him what a lie that sentiment had been. He pressed on, instead. "I think...I think he suspected her of sorcery."

Gaius' eyebrows twitched knowingly. "Yes," he said, shuffling to Merlin's bedside in the main room of Gaius' chambers to begin his examination. He looked down at Merlin and smiled dryly. "That's often the case these days."

the third, only hours after the second

Gaius shook his head. "There is nothing wrong with him."

"What do you mean there's nothing wrong with him?" Arthur demanded. "He won't wake up!"

"I'm sorry, Sire," Gaius said. "I have examined every inch of him I can; there is nothing physically wrong with Merlin."

Arthur stepped forward; a reproach, an insult, some cruelty on his lips, but—but Gaius' shoulders were drooped and his face was drawn. Gaius loved Merlin like a son, must already feel a failure for being unable to help, and Arthur couldn't bear to worsen this for him.

He stared down at Merlin, who looked so similar to he had the night he'd drank poison for Arthur almost a year ago, and felt himself sag with defeat. "What will you do?"

"All I can," Gaius said, and it wasn't anywhere near the response Arthur was hoping for, but it had to be enough.

"Alright," Arthur said. "Alright."

He had reached the corridor outside Gaius' chambers when the old man's voice called, "If there are any developments..."

Arthur paused, nodded stiffly, and continued out.

the fourth

Morgana, much like Merlin, had a way of finding a nerve and picking at it as if it were a new scab. When Arthur decided he didn't wish to speak of something, Morgana would bring it up. When Arthur was specifically avoiding facing something, Morgana would throw it so deftly that he had to.

And when Arthur was trying with everything he had to act unconcerned over Merlin's wellbeing, Morgana crossed the training ground to stand beside him and asked, "Have you sleep at all since Merlin fell ill?"

"He's not ill," Arthur grunted, swinging his sword in a fierce arc.

"Have you been to see him?" Morgana pressed.

Arthur glowered at her. "What point is there in that?"

She sighed and said, "He isn't dead, Arthur. Perhaps he needs company." She looked at him shrewdly. "Perhaps you need company."

"Stop being ridiculous, Morgana. Go away."

Morgana lifted her chin defiantly. "You're an idiot," she said, but left him anyway.

the fifth

He wasn't here because Morgana told him to. He wasn't. Who knew how sentient Merlin was beneath the veil of apparent sleep? He was here in case Merlin was getting bored and not because of anything that Morgana had said.

"Merlin?" Arthur asked, standing by the bed in Merlin's tiny room.

Merlin lay silently. Of course.

Arthur had never thought he could want Merlin to speak; he had always thought he could live happily with Merlin muted, if only because the awkward, angry flailing as Merlin tried to make his point clear would be hilarious. But Merlin was also still, and it was unnerving.

Merlin was clumsy and loud and stupid beyond measure, but he was always animated. Always doing something, always moving; even if it was just shifting from foot to foot or picking at a loose thread as he tried to stand unnoticed at a banquet.

"I should have gone with you," Arthur said. "Or distracted her."

And then he stopped, scowling and feeling foolish. Morgana had no idea what she was talking about; this was a stupid idea.

the sixth

Guinevere was sitting by Merlin's bed when Arthur returned. She jumped to her feet and stumbled into a curtsey when she finally saw Arthur in the doorway.

"I—I'm sorry, Sire. I didn't realise that you would come today," she said quickly.

Arthur nodded stiffly. "It's alright, Guinevere. You have as much right to be here as I do. Merlin is your friend."

"Oh! Yes, he..." Guinevere turned back to the bed. Her eyes softened the moment they set upon Merlin again. "Will he ever wake up?"

She looked on the verge of tears, Arthur suddenly realised. He thought about the last time a woman had broken down near him and decided that she'd be much better off without him. "Gaius is doing all he can," he offered and escaped.

the seventh, eighth and ninth all go something like this

"He's on time every morning, Merlin," Arthur said, flopping into the chair beside Merlin's bed. "I haven't had a sleep in since—since he replaced you."

Merlin said nothing.

"I keep waiting for him to drop something on my foot or trip over things or eat my food," Arthur said.

Merlin lay silently.

"I keep forgetting he's not you."

the tenth, incidentally it is also the shortest

Arthur stood, hands curling into fists. Blood rushed through his veins and his heart thumped loudly in his chest. His worry turned into anger. He wasn't used to feeling so helpless.

He glared down at Merlin, who still looked so fucking peaceful as if he could wake up at any minute, and had to push down the urge to lash out; shout, hit, shake him into consciousness.

"You idiot," he snarled instead and left.

the eleventh

Arthur sat, one week after the last time he saw Merlin, and sighed. It wasn't as if Merlin had heard him before, or would this time, but he bent forward regardless, fingers curling in the sheets beside Merlin's arm and said, "I—apologise." Stiff and formal, the way Merlin hated him to speak, because he couldn't quite face apologising to Merlin and sounding like he meant it.

"You are an idiot though."

The ease of speaking had left him during the past week and it felt awkward and strange to talk at someone who wouldn't respond. Arthur leaned back, letting his face tip upwards, and noticed what he had not before. Vines were beginning to creep into the room, curving through the window, crawling across the ceiling and down the walls.

"Gaius!" Arthur called, leaping up and taking the stairs down to the old man's chambers two at a time. "Gaius, you must see this."

He came to a stop suddenly at the base of the stairs. A serving girl was standing with Gaius, curtsying low at Arthur's appearance, and Gaius looked sombre.

"The king wishes to see you, Sire."

Arthur thought he could guess why.

the twelfth

"Arthur," Uther said. "I understand that you have grown...attached to your manservant."

"I don't know what you—" Arthur began, breaking off as Uther raised his hand to silence him.

"I understand that, but you must realise that if anything can be done, Gaius will do it. It is not appropriate for you to be visiting a servant so frequently. People will start to get the wrong impression."

Arthur ground his teeth. "Are you forbidding me from seeing him?"

Uther looked at him sharply. "I—no. But take what I have said into consideration."

"Of course, Sire. Is that all?"

"Yes, you may go."

the thirteenth

"It was your mention of the vines that reminded me," Gaius said, bustling across the room. "Look at this."

Arthur followed him, looking down at the thick volume laid out on the table. The page open showed a beautiful woman with gold hair asleep and a castle tower surrounded by thorn-covered vines, both images surrounded by a tiny script.

"It is a legend. A princess cursed to a deep sleep from which she couldn't wake." Gaius glanced up at Arthur, pointing at the page. "I think this is the spell that was used on Merlin."

"What happened to her?"

"She woke, but it doesn't mention how. Her name is what's curious though; Aurora."

Arthur stared, uncomprehending, for a moment and then—oh.

the fourteenth, where Arthur probably begins to get déjà vu really badly

"You have forgotten; he is your servant, not your equal," Uther said. "You shall not go."


"You have sacrificed yourself for this boy too many times already, Arthur. He is not worth the danger you continue to place yourself in."

Arthur opened his mouth to protest further, but was cut off; "You have disobeyed me in this before," Uther continued, his face twisted with fury. "Do not think you shall be so easily forgiven if you do it again."

the fifteenth

"Go," Morgana said, standing in the doorway to his room. "Don't ever think you shouldn't."

the sixteenth

Morgana crossed the throne room in quick, short steps. "You wanted to see me?"

"Where is Arthur?" Uther demanded immediately, and Morgana had already prepared for this.

"He went hunting," she said.

"Don't lie to me, Morgana."

"You have told Arthur not to watch before," Morgana replied easily. "He is taking your advice."

Uther's hand slammed down onto the table. "Morgana."

Morgana stared him down, chin lifted and eyes cold, until Uther sighed and waved his hand to dismiss her.

the seventeenth

"I am she," the queen agreed, her voice like a song. "Why have you come here, Prince Arthur?"

Arthur bowed. "The same fate has befallen someone in Camelot. The only hope we know is that what woke you might wake him."

Queen Aurora rose from her throne and moved forward. She was regal; aged, but beautiful still. "There is but one cure for the curse," she said. She held her hands out and grasped Arthur's own, looking deeply into his eyes. "True love's first kiss."

the eighteenth, when the Great Dragon finally decides to help

He couldn't just go around getting every woman in Camelot to kiss Merlin. It was a stupid idea. And what if Merlin's true love wasn't even in Camelot. What if she were back in Ealdor or somewhere in Mercia or further? What if she was too young or hadn't been born yet? What if she was already dead?

Arthur, a voice called, and Arthur twisted around in his chambers, looking for where it had come from. But there was no one there. "Where are you?"

Arthur, the voice called again. It sounded almost amused. Come.

Arthur glanced around again, hoping to catch some shadow or shape that could be the source, but there was nothing. "Where are you?" he asked again.

Follow my voice.

Not entirely sure of why, Arthur did.

the nineteenth

"You're Merlin's destiny," the dragon said, but Arthur was still kind of reeling over the fact that there was a dragon in the dungeons.

"Right," said Arthur. And then; "Wait, what?"

The dragon let out a little puff of smoke that may have actually been a disappointed sigh. "You are Merlin's destiny."

And Arthur caught it this time, but it didn't make any more sense than it had before. "What do you mean?"

"Only one person can wake him."

"I know that," Arthur said.

"Merlin is only one half of a whole, Prince Arthur," it said. "You are the other."

the twentieth, skipping right over Arthur's Massive Internal Crisis

The vines had surrounded Merlin's room entirely. They blocked the staircase and had begun creeping through Gaius' rooms. Arthur had to take his sword to them in long swipes to get through to Merlin.

He was covered in deep scratches by the time he reached Merlin's room, blood flowing freely down his arms and seeping through his tunic. Merlin was still and silent, just as he'd been when Arthur left, but his arms had been moved so that his hands overlapped on his chest, and Arthur wondered who had bothered to do that.

The chair had been moved as well, pushed against a wall and layered with the thorny vines, so Arthur sat carefully on the edge of the tiny bed. This was ridiculous. He was taking the word of a dragon. He was about to kiss his servant; he was about to kiss Merlin.

Merlin's lashes were dark against his cheeks, his lips were pink and rough like he hadn't had a drink in days; he wasn't moving and he wasn't talking and, damnit, Arthur wanted the idiot back already, even if it meant trying something that was suggested by a dragon locked up in the dungeons below the castle.

He placed a hand on Merlin's other side to steady himself, leaned forward, and brushed their lips together. As he drew back, Merlin's eyes fluttered open and the vines wilted.

"You just kissed me," Merlin said slowly, wonderingly, and Arthur rolled his eyes.

"Well, it's about time you woke up, Merlin," he said. "You've been neglecting your duties for months."

this is how it ends

It ended with Merlin in Arthur's chambers, as many of Arthur's days often did. This day, however, Merlin's eyes were wide and dark, his hair a stark contrast to the pillows of Arthur's bed, and his skin luminescent. This day, Arthur leaned over Merlin, capturing his lips in a chaste kiss as he fumbled with Merlin's belt.

"Should I be suspicious of you?" Arthur asked Merlin's neck, pressing a languid kiss there.

Merlin huffed a laugh, tilting his head back to allow Arthur easier access. "I'm not a woman," he said. The lump in his throat stirred with his words and Arthur followed its movement, biting it softly when it stilled again.

"Not a noble one at least," he affirmed.

"Hey!" Merlin protested, shoving at his chest, because he had a habit of thinking he was allowed to act like Arthur was his equal and not his master, and Arthur had a habit of letting him.

"Idiot," Arthur said affectionately.

Merlin grinned. "Prat."

Arthur revelled in hearing Merlin's voice, in him shifting, moving, smiling. I missed you, he offered silently, because this was Merlin and because it was easier to feel something than say it.

But Merlin's grin widened like he heard it anyway and he dragged Arthur closer so their lips could meet again.