A/N - This is my first Merthur fanfic, I hope you enjoy it.
I do not own Merlin *sobs uncontrolably*
Summery - Arthur and Merlin think they are hiding their relationship well, until Merlin gets hurt.
Gwen was wandering down one of the many long corridors of Camelot castle, carrying fresh blankets to Lady Morgana's room. The castle was quiet and empty as the warm weather drew everyone outside.
As she rounded a corner, Gwen saw Prince Arthur and Merlin in what seemed to be a private discussion. Something about the way Arthur's head shot up and the expression on his face told Gwen she was interrupting something important. Intrigued by Arthur's secretive manner, she quickly ducked into a doorway, opening and closing the door so Arthur and Merlin would think she had entered the room. Peering around the wall Gwen saw Arthur's eyes flit around the corridor, checking for watchers. Merlin stood silently in front of him, waiting.
As soon as Arthur was content that no one was in the corridor, he took two steps forward and gathered up the front of Merlin's shirt in his fists, dragging the servant closer. Gwen recognised the movement; Merlin must have done something wrong.
But instead of shaking the boy and calling him an idiot, as Gwen had expected, the prince lent down and pressed his lips to Merlin's. Gwen felt her mouth drop open as Arthur's hands slid up Merlin's neck and tangled in his raven-black hair. Merlin sighed, wrapping his arms around Prince Arthur's back.
Gwen stood, shocked, for a moment, watching the tender kiss until she heard footsteps coming down the hall. Arthur and Merlin hadn't noticed, still caught up in their own private world. Gwen panicked. She knew what would happen if anyone else saw what she was seeing now. If it got reported back to Uther. Arthur would most likely be disinherited and locked in the dungeons, and Merlin would be banished from Camelot. Or executed.
She didn't want to think about such horrors happening to her friend. Gwen reached behind her and grabbed the latch on the door, pulling it open then slamming it noisily.
The two boys sprang apart, Merlin staring down at the ground, colour flooding his face, and Arthur shifting nervously from foot to foot, glancing guiltily up and down the corridor.
The footsteps rounded the corner and several knights came into view. They bowed their heads to the prince and carried on down the hall. Arthur glanced at Merlin, a worried look on his face, then followed the knights. Merlin lingered in the hall, his fingers trailing over his lips. Arthur turned back at the courtyard door.
"Come, Merlin." He called. "Hunting trip, now, remember?"
Merlin stumbled to follow the prince and Gwen slipped from her hiding place, musing over the scene she had just witnessed, as she continued onto Morgana's chambers.
Sir Leon turned his horse and kicked it into a gallop.
"Retreat!" The prince was yelling over the noise of the heavy footfalls of the giant beast. The knights fled. There was a short scream and one knight fell. Prince Arthur turned, about to rush back but the beast was almost on top of the fallen knight now. The prince continued galloping, a pained expression on his face.
"We can't stop. Run. Don't look back." He ordered.
Sir Leon nudged his horse faster, his eyes searching for the edge of the forest. A terrible roar shook the trees as the beast took flight. It soared above the knights, its claws reaching down for the slowest horse, the prince's manservant. The creature lifted him from the ground and the boy screamed.
As soon as Prince Arthur heard the scream he dragged his horse to a stop and pulled his sword out. He disobeyed his own orders and looked back at the beast. Then charged at it. It threw the boy down and screeched at the prince, who lashed out with his blade.
Sir Leon hesitated momentarily, the prince had told them not to stop and they shouldn't ignore a direct order, but neither could they leave the crown prince of Camelot. Sir Leon gave a signal and all of the knights turned and circled Prince Arthur. The beast seemed to give up, merely snatching the servant's fallen horse and running back through the trees.
Prince Arthur dropped to his knees at his manservant's side. He picked the thin boy up easily and pulled his limp body onto his lap.
"No." he growled. "No. Merlin." He shook the boy gently and Sir Leon saw the boys eyelids flutter. The prince hugged him to his chest, muttering in his ear, so quietly that the knights surrounding him couldn't hear, but Sir Leon thought he heard the words "don't leave me" slip from the prince's mouth.
Why was Prince Arthur so concerned over a servant? He was an arrogant young man who never usually showed much compassion to any servants. But Sir Leon watched as Prince Arthur cradled his manservant in his arms, lifting him carefully onto his own saddle before mounting up behind him, an arm clasped tightly around the boy's waist.
"Back to the castle. Now." Prince Arthur called as he kicked his horse into a gallop. Sir Leon led the other knights after him, watching the prince and his manservant. The prince's face had paled as much as the servant's. His eyes looked tortured and he constantly muttered to the boy. Sir Leon was amazed at the gentle tone the prince used; he had never heard the likes from the young man before.
He rode closer to him, trying to catch the words, but the prince glanced up at him, almost guiltily, and stopped talking. Almost as if it was a response to the loss of Prince Arthur's voice the young manservant's eyes opened slowly.
"Arthur?" He murmured, as relief washed over the prince's face.
"Merlin, I'm here, you're alright." The younger boy's lips pulled up into a tiny smile as he lent back against Prince Arthur's chain-mailed chest and shut his eyes again.
Morgana strolled through the courtyard, watching the wall guards open the gate as Arthur's hunting party returned. She stopped by the open gate but Arthur rode straight past her at a gallop, his horse skidding to a halt at the bottom of the steps leading up into the castle. Arthur hurriedly dismounted and Morgana noticed a small, slumped figure lying on his horse's neck. She rushed to Arthur's side as he pulled a limp Merlin off the horse. He held Merlin tightly in his strong arms and began running up the stairs. Morgana picked up her skirt and ran after him.
She followed him through the castle and into the royal wing. Rounding a corner she saw Arthur struggling with the door to his chambers, his arms still wrapped tightly around Merlin's shoulders and legs. She stepped to his side and pushed his hand from the door latch. Morgana quickly opened the door for him and Arthur stumbled to the bed, gently laying Merlin's still figure onto it.
"Arthur," Morgana whispered, "what happened?"
"He was attacked, by a beast – magical, I think." Arthur's voice cracked at the end and Morgana saw him blink rapidly as if to clear his eyes of tears. But that must have been her imagination, she knew Arthur, he would never cry, never show any sign of weakness, especially not for a servant who he complained about almost constantly.
"I'll get Gaius." Morgana mumbled and slipped out of the room. She turned to close the door when she heard Arthur's soft whisper.
"Merlin, don't leave me, not now, not after this morning."
Morgana was curious, she wanted to stay and listen but felt wrong for intruding on Arthur's intimate moment – she considered the prince to be her brother.
She hurried to Gaius's rooms and explained to her old friend the little information Arthur had told her. Gaius grabbed a bag and followed her back to Arthur's chambers.
When Morgana quietly slid into the room Arthur was leaning over Merlin, his lips hovering just over Merlin's cheek, one hand gently smoothing the thick, black hair off Merlin's forehead, the other on the younger boy's chest. Merlin's eyes were open but he looked weak and tired, his hand was white where it lay over Arthur's tanned one, and there was a sheen of sweat on his face.
When Arthur heard Morgana and Gaius enter the room he sprang back from the bed, dropping his hand from Merlin's hair. Merlin groaned at the sudden movement and gripped the hand that Arthur still had lying on his chest, looking up at the prince with wide blue-grey eyes.
Gaius rushed to the bedside and Morgana watched as he gently pulled the neckscarf from Merlin's throat, placing it on the pillow beside his head. Arthur reached over and picked up the red fabric then held it to his face and breathed in deeply.
"Sire?" Arthur's head jerked up at Gaius's voice, "perhaps we should move him to my chambers, I have all my books and medicines there." Merlin's eyes drifted closed, then opened again, he seemed to be weaving in and out of consciousness.
"No!" Arthur snapped. "I-I just mean, um, this bed is more comfortable," Morgana eyed him curiously.
"Whatever you say, sire." Gaius continued examining Merlin, a worried look on his face. Merlin tried to smile reassuringly but winced as Gaius's hand ran over his shoulder. "Help me get his shirt off please."
Morgana bit her lip as Arthur easily lifted Merlin's torso off the bed and Gaius slid the shirt over his head. His shoulder was torn and bloody, deep gashes where the creature's claws had sliced through his pale skin ran down his chest. Morgana gasped and saw Arthur clench his jaw.
"Gaius?" Arthur's voice came out in a strangled whisper, "You can heal him." It wasn't a question, it was a demand. Morgana placed a soothing hand on Arthur's arm but he didn't seem to notice, he just stared down at his manservant's face, tears beading in his eyes, his knuckles white as he clenched his fist around Merlin's neckscarf.
"My Lady?" Gwen rushed to Morgana's side as she stumbled from Arthur's chambers. Her face was slightly green and her eyes looked terrified and anxious.
"It's Merlin. He…" Her voice trailed off but Gwen saw her eyes flick back to the open door behind her. "The blood…" And then Gwen understood. She had heard two knights murmuring about a beast attack on her way to the royal wing of the castle. They had said something about a servant getting attacked. Gwen had brushed it off at the time but now realised the servant in question must be Merlin.
Morgana gestured into Arthur's room and Gwen peered around the door. Merlin was lying unmoving on Arthur's bed, his head cradled in the prince's arms. Gaius was carefully wrapping bandages around Merlin's shoulder but Gwen saw the blood seeping through the cloth. It was a bad wound and Gwen drew in a sharp breath.
"How's Arthur?" She knew this must be hurting the prince emotionally as much as it was hurting Merlin physically, if the scene she had encountered this morning was anything to go by. She knew she was right the second she looked at Arthur; his face was pinched with distress, pain and fear. He held Merlin's neckscarf in one hand, holding it to his face where it was slowly soaking up the tears coursing down his cheeks. The other hand was clutched in Merlin's tight grip.
"Unusually panicked," Morgana commented, "I know he likes Merlin more than any other servant, but I have never seen him this upset." Gwen didn't know whether to tell her mistress what she had seen that morning. It was not her secret to tell, she decided as Morgana continued mulling over the situation. "It's as if at the thought of loosing Merlin, Arthur looses a bit of himself. Does that even make sense?"
"They do have a close friendship." Gwen chose her words carefully.
Gaius watched the prince as he tended to Merlin's wounds. He had known the prince since birth and had never seen such raw, unbridled emotions from the young man. The tears had dried up but left his face water-stained and red, his eyes staring down at the blood leaking through the bandage on Merlin's shoulder. Arthur lent down and pressed his forehead against Merlin's.
"It's my fault," he muttered into his ear, seeming totally to forget that Gaius was in the room, "I made you come on the hunt. I shouldn't make you come; you're useless, too noisy. But I like you being there. I'm selfish. I don't like it when you're not near me." Fresh tears welled in his eyes, spilling over to land on Merlin's cheek. Arthur gently reached out and wiped them off the younger boy's face, stroking his cheek with his thumb.
Gaius left the room to collect more supplies from his own chambers.
When he returned he saw that Arthur had fallen asleep, lying next to Merlin. Merlin was still on his back, in exactly the same position Gaius had left him, but the prince was on his side, one arm resting across Merlin's chest, the other still clutching Merlin's neckscarf to his face. The prince's golden hair was tangled on the pillow with Merlin's raven-black hair, their heads both turned to face each other.
Gaius placed the little bottle of potion on Arthur's table along with a note saying, "For Merlin when he wakes" then left the room, shutting the door behind him.
"Arthur?" Arthur woke to the soft sound of his name, he blinked, and then remembered what had happened and shot up.
"Merlin? Are you alright?" He panicked, both hands flying to Merlin's face, cupping it gently.
"Arthur." Merlin breathed a contented sigh, and Arthur relaxed, his lips settling into a smile. He stroked the pale skin beneath his fingers, and Merlin turned his head to nuzzle into Arthur's hand. Leaning down Arthur pressed a small kiss to Merlin's lips, then another and another.
He slid his arm beneath Merlin's back and carefully pulled him up, propping him against several pillows. Then he straddled Merlin's legs and put both hands on the headboard of the bed, trapping Merlin between his arms. Merlin gave him a gorgeous smile and Arthur swooped in, licking Merlin's lips teasingly before settling into a sweet kiss that made Merlin shiver. Arthur ran his hands through the thick, dark hair at the nape of Merlin's neck, pulling his head closer and holding his lips with his own. Merlin sighed and Arthur lent back, tenderly running a hand over the wound on Merlin's shoulder, then looking deep into the large blue-grey eyes.
"Don't ever scare me like that again." The prince ordered his manservant.
A/N - Please review to tell me what you thought of it!