A/N: Ack. So I had an author's note typed up, saved it, and posted the story. And just now when I looked at the story I was like "yo, where'd my author's not go?" Apparently it didn't save the first time, grr. Let me try to recreate it. This one-shot is a ball of cracky fluff and fluffy crack and fairly light established relationship slash. It was born from a little idea of Arthur coming home from something and finding Merlin asleep in his bed, thus prompting the line "why are you in my bed?" And from that came this, which turned out both crackier (is that a word?) and fluffier than I had intended. But I like it that way. Arthur and/or Merlin may be OOC in one or more places, but I don't care. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Not mine yet again!
Discussions of the Sleep-Deprived
"You can't keep doing this. You'll end up killing yourself."
Merlin tries to glare, but he can't lift his head high enough off the table to do so, nor can he get his eyes to work properly. He can't really respond verbally either, just kind of grunt in something that vaguely resembles protest. He's pretty sure that Gaius is giving him that you're-an-idiot look, but he can't be sure.
"Merlin," Gaius says patiently, "you cannot continue at this rate. You are exhausted, physically, mentally, and probably magically as well."
He manages to flop his head to the other side so that he can see Gaius. His mentor is giving him the you're-an-idiot look. It's a particularly good one too. Very impressive. He sighs and licks his lips.
"I can't stop, Gaius."
"You must. If you don't rest you'll take sick, or worse, and then what good will you be?"
He tries to lift his head a little, and then it thunks back down against the table. He winces a little, and closes his eyes. "I can't stop until I find Arthur."
Gaius touches his arm gently. "Everyone is worried for Arthur, my boy. The duty for finding him does not fall to you alone."
"He disappeared from right in front of me. He disappeared right into thin air." He shakes his head—which is really just the process of tilting it from side to side while pressing his forehead against the surface of the table. "I have to find him."
"You cannot find him if you are sick. You cannot find him if you have no magic left to use, if you have no strength with which to stand."
Gaius folds his arms. "Lift your head."
"Who needs to be able to raise their head?" He asks, as Gaius gives him one of those other looks. "I'm fine, Gaius, really."
Gaius shakes his head. "Just rest, Merlin. Just for a night."
Merlin closes his eyes again. "I can't."
"There is a difference between cannot and will not."
"Fine. I will not, but I also can not. I can't sleep Gaius."
"Try," his mentor orders, and then walks away, muttering to himself. Merlin groans and bangs his head on the table once more.
He lays in his bed, staring at the ceiling, for what feels like three years. In actuality he thinks it's just over an hour. He's so tired, but every time he closes his eyes he sees Arthur and has to watch him disappear right into the air.
He finally heaves himself out of bed. His head feels heavy and his limbs don't quite work at his command and his eyes refuse to focus. He stumbles out of his bedroom and heads for the door. He's not really thinking, just walking through the corridors like a ghost.
He would be surprised to find himself standing in front of the door to Arthur's chambers, but he's too tired to feel surprise. He stares at the door for a moment, then touches it with one hand. He touches the handle gently, and then opens the door. It's not locked, although it probably should be. He shambles into the familiar room, half-expecting to see Arthur sitting there. But the room is dark and empty, just as it has been since Arthur's disappearance.
He crosses the room to Arthur's bed, and doesn't so much lie down as he does collapse onto the bed. The sheets smell like Arthur and the pillow smells like Arthur, and the prince is so present that Merlin can forget the fact that he's not actually there.
The exhaustion takes over and he closes his eyes, and this time Arthur doesn't disppear. This time Merlin sleeps.
He wakes abruptly to the sound of footsteps, flailing a little, reeling in confusion because his room so does not have a canopy over his bed and where the hell is he? He finds himself staring bleerily up at Arthur, who looks bruised and tired and certainly less then his usual. Said prince is staring back with an expression of weary confusion.
"Why are you in my bed?"
He blinks, then frowns. "I'm dreaming, aren't I?"
Arthur doesn't seem to register what he says. "I mean, it's nice to see that you're holding a vigil. That's proper servant behavior. But did you just think that you could help yourself to my bed? You should be sleeping on my floor. You should be sleeping in front of my door, waiting for my return. But no, you're asleep in my bed, using my covers, taking up space where I could be sleeping."
Hmm…he feels awake. He feels tired and groggy and completely exhausted, which is what he should feel like when awake, unless he's had a chance to sleep for a few days. And he's fairly sure that the Arthur in his dreams doesn't ramble on quite so much.
Perhaps it's time for an experiment.
He reaches up and catches Arthur's arm, pulling the man off balance so that he pitches forward, landing on the bed and consequently almost entirely on Merlin.
Yeah, that hurt way too much for him to still be dreaming.
"Bloody hell, Merlin, what's wrong with you? I've been missing for days and when I return you're sleeping in my bed and trying to knock me over—are you trying to kill me? Is that what you're up to?" Arthur scrambles to stand, but essentially just kind of rolls so that his body is no longer crushing Merlin.
"I thought I might be dreaming."
"Dreaming about me while sleeping in my bed."
"I couldn't sleep in my own bed," he explains.
"Well of course not. My bed is clearly superior. But just because I'm not there doesn't mean you can just waltz in and abuse my property. God knows what else you've done while I've been gone."
"I've been running myself ragged looking for you, prat. You disappeared. Into the air."
"I know. I was there, remember? God you're an idiot sometimes."
He makes a face and then curls up into a ball, pulling one of the pillows closer. Arthur stares at him.
"And what do you think you're doing?"
"Going back to sleep. I'm bloody exhausted."
"You're going to go back to sleep, in my bed. You should be groveling in front of me right now! You should be fetching me water for a bath and tending to my wounds and getting this bloody chainmail off of me, and then you should be turning down my sheets and fluffing my pillows and—."
"Oh shut up. Dump the chainmail in the corner and come to bed, you silly ponce." Arthur struggles out of his chainmail and then slips beneath the covers next to him.
"You're going in the stocks. And I'm providing the people with potatoes. And carrots. Hopefully they'll put your eye out with a carrot."
"I can't polish your chainmail with only one eye."
"Yes you can. You don't need two eyes to polish chainmail. You need two hands. Actually, you could do it with one hand if you tried. But you don't need eyes at all."
"You're talking nonsense. Go to sleep."
"You're talking up all the room. This is my bed, not yours. Stop taking up all the room."
"I'm aware that it's your bed, Arthur. And it's a big bed. I'm not taking up all the room."
"Yes, you are."
"I can make you disappear again, my lord."
"Potatoes and carrots, Merlin. Maybe beets. They should stain your skin a nice red."
"I'm allergic to beets."
He thinks that murmurs some nonsensical reply, but really he's floating away. He's been awake for three bloody days straight, and if Arthur's home there's really no point in staying awake anymore, now is there? Everything is okay now. He can rest.
He's going to need it if Arthur carries through on his threats. Those bloody potatoes hurt, and he doesn't even want to think about carrots.
Hmm…maybe he should stop thinking. Yeah, that'd probably be a good course of action. He faintly feels Arthur's arms go around him and he snuggles in closer. He can think in the morning. Right now it's just not as important.