Inferno

A/N: So, Los Angeles is on fire again. And I live pretty much in the center of it, or at least near the middle (I don't think there is a center), and the moon is turning weird colors as the density of ash in the air gets thicker and thicker. There are fire alerts, ridiculously high temperatures as the ash makes green house gasses look like the fucking ice age, and we are among the people packing emergency bags in case evacuation waves go through our area again.

This happens pretty much every year, though normally later, which means this entire thing will likely happen again, but worse, in October, when the Santa Ana winds come in. :-| As you can see, I'm very panicked and scared shitless and whatever the hell else it is I'm supposed to feel about these fires but can never muster up the emotions and fear for, and so I've decided to write fic about it…

like I do every year.

Bon appétit!

(No, Jusmine, I could not wait to send this to you, and yes, feel free to send me the mistakes).


Camelot was burning.

As Arthur looked out his window and watched his city burn, watched the flames engulf the small houses and thatched roves and stables and piles and piles of firewood, he sighed, feeling like a traitor to his people, safe up here in the stone castle.

"They'll be all right, Arthur," Merlin said, reading Arthur's mind. Maybe he was.

"I should be down there, helping," Arthur growled.

"You're the heir to the throne," Merlin said, easily, from cleaning the table by candlelight. "Your life can't be risked for just one fire. Besides…none of us want to lose you."

Even in the castle, the people were jumpy about fires, avoiding them when possible. The room was chilly and dim, but Arthur felt his nerves at least marginally smoother.

"My life can't be risked for my servant, my sister, my father…now my people? I'm the prince! My life is supposed to be for the people! I should be out there…I should be standing by those houses and putting the fires out, myself! In the middle of the flames, I should risk my life!"

"When necessary," Merlin said, placating, bending to check the table from multiple angles before nodding, satisfied it was clean. "But they will be fine, down there."

Arthur scowled, again, before striding to his wardrobe.

He didn't always listen to his father. Sometimes it was stupid. Sometimes it wasn't.

This time, it would be both.

As he flipped through his clothes, looking for his leathers – least likely to catch fire – he felt his blood rushing at finally, finally, finally being able to do something to help.

"Arthur," Merlin said, hand resting on Arthur's shoulder, calming the prince down. Bloody idiotic manservant. "Stop. The people will be fine. The almost all knights are all out there, helping, as with the Ladies, and most of the castle staff are helping, too."

Even as Arthur felt the taste of stale food on his tongue, as Uther let the staff go help in favor of serving the now mostly-empty castle, that didn't make him feel any better, and he continued searching.

Merlin sighed. "At least let me come with you."

"No-"

"If you die, I have no future value without you. But you can still move on to be a great king without me."

Arthur yanked out his leather jacket, and leather breeches normally reserved for hunting.

"Fine," Arthur cut out. "Tuck in your shirt and button up the jacket – we want the least amount of flammable material out on your body."

As Merlin worked on his own clothes, Arthur's clothes jumped out of his grasp and donned themselves on Arthur, and clasped together with an efficient snap.

Nodding, Arthur turned, but Merlin grabbed his arm and said, "Wait."

"What?" he asked, turning around.

Merlin focused on Arthur's clothes, and murmured something under his breath, and he felt a slight brush across him, like the barest of breezes, and Merlin gave a satisfied half-smile. "That should make it fire-resistant, at least somewhat…but don't worry – not suspiciously so."

"Do that for yours, as well," Arthur said. "Is it permanent?"

"I only made it last a day or so," Merlin said. "You should probably make sure you're soaked in water before going out to help, anyway. Less suspicious, more helpful."

"See if you can do that for anyone who might need it…but make sure not to get caught."

Arthur glanced out the window, and hoped the flames would hide the gold of Merlin's eyes.

He felt Merlin's hands on his face, and knowing what to expect, shut his eyes as Merlin pressed his lips against Arthur for just a moment, before leaning back and saying, "I don't want to lose you."

Arthur opened his eyes and smiled. "That makes two of us."


It was chaos.

Arthur had gone straight out to help his knights with the fires, but Merlin went through the halls, finding as many other servants as he could and yelling, "Blankets! I need blankets, wet ones!"

While normally, yelling in the hallways would be met with admonishment, this time it was almost appreciated, as people handed over whatever they could.

Even Uther, who was meeting with his councilors on where best to direct the city's sand and water, stopped to order the steward to help Merlin with the blankets.

Making sure they were all at least damp, if not soaked, Merlin and a few others hurried out of the castle gates and across the courtyard as fast they could, all of them with wet scarves over their faces – Merlin with his own blue neckerchief, having already forked off the red one to Arthur – and doing their best to breathe shallowly, anyway.

"Merlin!"

Merlin turned at Morgana's voice. He turned to see her and Gwen, easily identifiable, despite both being dressed as more knights, with some of Gwen's scarves over their faces, and clothes wet.

With the Lady's help, Merlin and Gwen got the blankets well distributed, Merlin casting light charms on blankets and clothes when he could as he searched for Arthur, after getting his own body soaked for the marginally extra protection.

"Where's Arthur?" Merlin asked a knight, who shrugged, and hopefully would chalk up Merlin's flashing eyes to the flames as Merlin charmed his clothes.

"Out by the pump," a different one behind Merlin yelled out.

"Thanks!" Merlin yelled back, charming his clothes, too, in subversive gratitude, before heading towards the lower city's water sources.

The water pump…? He fought back a frown, wondering why Arthur would be there instead of out by the fires, and found Arthur helping to lift the full buckets from under the pump, handing it off to one of the knights, before taking another empty bucket from a woman beside him, and filling it.

"Arthur!" Merlin took the woman's place, managing the line of buckets as he asked, "What're you…doing…here?"

"Helping!" Arthur growled out. "Are you that thick?"

"What happened to 'standing by the houses and putting out the flames yourself'?" Merlin asked, as he handed another empty bucket to Arthur.

"Camelot can't risk losing me," Arthur said, deadpanned, before looking at Merlin straight on. "And I can't take that risk with you."

Merlin nearly dropped the next bucket.

Arthur has already turned back towards the merchant, taking the bucket with a, "Thank you, sire, god bless you," and running off, no doubt towards his wife and family, while Arthur took yet another bucket from Merlin.

Thank you, Merlin murmured in their heads, only for them, and Arthur smiled and shook his head fondly, in the way that only comes on his face after he's called Merlin an idiot and thumped him over the head for it.

And they turned their attentions back to the inferno raging around them.


It's dawn before the fires are out.

The official story that everyone happily believes is that a rainfall came to save the day, with people thanking the Father of Christ and the Old Gods for it, not really caring exactly who it was.

In actuality, Arthur had been with Merlin when they had headed towards the next pump that needed their help, when they saw all the damage the fires were causing, when Merlin spat between them, "Enough!", and when Merlin's eyes flashed gold in the flames as the ash and smoke in the air rolled into clouds and water began to fall. No doubt the much of the water itself would disappear soon, conjured as much of it was, and the people would chalk that up to sun and flame evaporating it, and no one would want to question it, let alone have the gall to do so.

As the few bodies wrought of the fire are brought to the courtyard for the priests to give each body the Prayer of the Dead, Merlin shied away from it all, and muttered, "I should've done it sooner."

"You did it soon enough," Arthur said. "I've seen fires like this, before. There could've been dozens of people dead! Instead, there are only five."

"Five too many!" Merlin said, sharply, to which Arthur dragged him into the empty armory and pulled Merlin close to his chest.

"You saved Camelot from burning to the ground, you saved dozens, if not hundreds, of people from dying in the fire, and staved off months of potential aftermath crises in the process. Yes, a few people did die and a lot of damage still managed to occur, but compared to what would've happened without you…you saved Camelot, and saved me from the insanity of trying to hold a burnt city together."

Merlin leaned in and pressed his face against Arthur's throat, wrapping his arms around his waist, and murmured wetly, "Thank you."

Arthur ran his fingers through Merlin's hair as he said, "Now c'mon, you idiot – we need a bath, badly."

Merlin laughed, and muttered something in the Old Tongue under his breath. "There, you prat. Now there's one waiting for us in your rooms."

Smiling, Arthur grabbed Merlin's wrist and tugged him up to his room.


A/N: *shrugs* More fluff.