A/N: Hello! This is my first Merlin fic and my first fanfic in about 6 or 7 years (not quite sure, really). Mostly I've been working on original fiction and doing insane amounts of reading, and then this fandom sucked me in. Been lurking around for 9 months, thought I'd finally do something constructive instead :) It's been a long time since I've loved something enough to write fanfiction for it.
Honestly, I've no idea where this story came from. It just sort of happened, and it turned out way different than I originally planned, and somewhere down the road, a plot showed up. I've got most of the story figured out, thankfully, so updates should come regularly, probably weekly (perhaps faster on occasion).
So, now that my introduction is over, I'll do this the LiveJournal way:
Title: Healing Spells
Rating: T for some violence and bloodshed later on
Characters/pairings: Only friendship here :) Lots of Merlin and Arthur, and quite a bit of Gwen too, with some Morgana and a little bit of Gaius.
Spoilers: Um...lets just say everything up through 2x07, but I don't think I'll be mentioning much at all, really.
Warnings: Okay, it's not in this chapter or any coming up real soon, but this story will contain a bit of non-suicidal self-harm, but only in one or two chapters, and I'll have a special warning up for them. Other than that, um...blood? Is that a warning? Not a ton though, and it's not too gorry, I don't think.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy, as I'm having a great deal of fun with this. Please leave a review if you feel so inclined. I've no right to ask, as I'm a terrible reviewer, but I do love them so.
There shouldn't be too many if any mistakes in here, as I've read through it about 10 times now (aspiring copyeditor, I am), but incase I missed something big, please let me know.
Disclaimer: Property of the BBC. Not mine. I own nothing but the plot behind this fic, and in all honesty, I'm pretty sure it owns me, not the other way around.
Here's the thing about healing spells: they're apparently difficult to cast and rather powerful. Therefore they require a great deal of practice. Unfortunately, the only way to practice a healing spell is to actually try to heal something. There really is no way around that, and injured people aren't all that easy to come by in Camelot, because first of all, going around asking people if they're injured might be a bit suspicious. Secondly, if they were to ask why it matters, telling them you'd like to practice healing magic by trying to treat their wounds would likely end in a rejection and a hasty retreat…not to mention a trip to the executioner's block if word got back to the king, which it undoubtedly would.
And unfortunately, no amount of practice in the art of healing would help to reattach a head once it's left the body, especially if the one trying to do the reattaching is the owner of said head.
It was a rather big problem, one that Merlin was trying to find a solution to while mulling over the healing section in his spell book. With everything that had happened as of late, he had decided that he really needed to learn a thing or two about healing someone with magic. He had already proven, much to his mentor's disappointment, that he was no physician, and therefore the only option left to him was magic. Gaius wasn't always around when someone was injured, like when he and Arthur were out hunting. Therefore he needed to find his own method for treating wounds.
The healing spells weren't all that difficult as far as the language went. The words themselves were easy enough, and there was no doubt that he had the magic to pull them off. However, he needed to practice to make sure that he could actually do it, so that he wouldn't fail when it mattered.
This however led back to the fact that he needed an actual injury to practice on, and he certainly couldn't go around trying to magically heal people, meaning there were only a few options available to him.
One was to leave Camelot and practice elsewhere where people might be more willing. That wasn't really an option though. With his luck, Arthur would find some way to get himself killed during the time that Merlin was gone, and that would completely defeat the purpose of learning how to heal in the first place, because he was pretty sure that no amount of practice would let him raise the dead.
The second was to find a participant who would be willing to get hurt for the sake of his education on healing spells. Again, not really an option, because he would be limited to the people who knew about his magic, and he wasn't entirely comfortable with the idea of asking someone a favor like that. It didn't help that the only two people in Camelot who knew were Gaius and Arthur. He could easily picture the look on Gaius' face if he were to ask his mentor to help him. There had been too many times already where Gaius had given him a look that suggested the warlock really was mentally afflicted, and he had no desire to add to that number. He had no doubt he would also receive a lecture about how dangerous healing spells could be and all the things that could go wrong. Not a pleasant thought.
And knowing that, he really couldn't ask Arthur. He just couldn't. While the prince had told him that he was comfortable with Merlin and his magic, after having found out due to another attempt on his life that was thwarted by the young warlock, he was pretty sure he wouldn't want to be experimented on with it. It had only been two weeks after all, and the whole subject was still a little touchy. He didn't want to jeopardize this new understanding he had with Arthur, not even for the sake of being able to heal him should anything ever slip past his defenses, and things had—too many times, too many close calls.
So really, he only had one option. If he couldn't leave Camelot and couldn't find someone to help him, then he would simply have to practice on himself.
"You will do no such thing!" said Gaius in a voice that brooked no argument, or at least it would have if the recipient of such a command had been anyone other than Merlin (and perhaps Uther). Arthur was always telling him that he apparently didn't know how to properly follow orders.
The two of them were in Gaius' chambers, with Merlin sitting at the table and Gaius moving around gathering up a few things. He was grabbing all sorts of books, herbs, some vials, and anything else he would need for the trip he'd be taking. There was a sickness that had broken out in some of the surrounding villages, and for fear that it may spread into the city, it was decided that Gaius would head out and try to put a stop to it before it could do any more damage.
Merlin was to remain behind and see to the rounds that the physician often made (as well as look after Arthur), and he had thought it would be a good time to start practicing healing magic, when it was unlikely that anyone other than Arthur would be coming to the physician's chambers.
Apparently his mentor disagreed.
"I said no, Merlin. It's far too dangerous. You're not yet experienced enough to be experimenting with that kind of magic."
I really should've seen this coming. He sighed, remembering why he had thought this conversation would be a bad idea. He had known that Gaius would disapprove of his desire to practice healing magic, but he hadn't quite thought he'd be so absolutely against it. He had been expecting a lecture, surely, but nothing quite like this, although it all seemed rather understandable, really.
In hindsight, he should've thought this through better. Maybe he should have gone with his original idea of not telling Gaius at all. A bit late for that though.
"But if I don't practice, how will I learn?" he asked, trying to push his point. Really, he had only wanted someone to know about what he was doing just in case it all went horribly wrong, and out of the two people he could tell, he had thought that Gaius might be a bit more understanding and helpful. He hadn't wanted to have an argument about it—funny how that turned out—and he certainly hadn't wanted to have to go about learning behind his mentor's back. He was rather terrible at hiding things from Gaius, and he was pretty sure the physician would have been even angrier upon finding out than he was now after simply being told.
"I'll be careful," he promised, stopping Gaius from going further with his lecturing. "I know healing magic is dangerous and powerful, but I'll take it slowly. I'll practice on bruises and cuts. I get enough of them working for Arthur, so it's not like I'd be intentionally hurting myself. Please, Gaius. This is something I need to learn, for Arthur's sake and my own. Please?"
The physician just stared at him long and hard, as if trying to decide whether his ward could really be trusted with this. Honestly, the answer to that was likely no, but he was hoping that Gaius would trust him anyway.
"…Alright, Merlin," he sighed, but before the grin on the warlock's face could turn into a full-blown smile, he added, "as long as you promise me that you'll be careful. Don't exhaust yourself and don't draw suspicion. I know that Arthur has accepted what you are, but if someone were to see you and tell Uther, I doubt even he could help you."
"I know. I promise I'll be careful."
"And please, Merlin, try to make it to work on time while I'm away. Get enough sleep and make sure you eat properly. I won't be there to remind you, and I don't want to come back to hear how you collapsed due to your own carelessness."
"Wha—you make it sound like I can't take care of myself!"
That earned him a quirk of the eyebrow, and he just sighed, because he had known it would be coming sometime during their conversation. His mentor's expression said exactly what he thought of that statement, and Merlin couldn't help feeling a little insulted. Sure, perhaps part of what Gaius had said was true. Maybe it was hard for him to be on time, and on occasion he did get carried away with whatever he was doing and skip meals or lose sleep, but it was only every once in a while.
He was perfectly capable of surviving without the physician for a few weeks, maybe even a month. He'd be fine.
"Just be careful, Merlin," said Gaius as he picked up a few vials and left to do his last rounds before his departure.
As Gaius made his way across the courtyard, he couldn't help worrying about his ward. He hadn't even left yet and already he was concerned. Merlin was rather careless, and what he wanted to do while the physician was away was extremely dangerous. If something were to go wrong, there would be no one there to fix it, and a lot could go wrong when using healing spells. He could only hope that Merlin would be careful and start small, and hopefully he wouldn't get too carried away.
When he reached the stairs leading up to the castle, he came across Gwen carrying a bucket, obviously going to fetch some water. She stopped when she saw him, offering a smile.
"Good morning, Gaius," she greeted, always the polite one.
"Good morning, Gwen."
"You're leaving today, aren't you?"
"Yes, as soon as I finish my rounds. His highness said there'd be a horse ready for me once I'm done."
"I hope whatever it is, it isn't too serious."
"You and I both."
The maid was about to take her leave, but Gaius stopped her for a moment longer.
"Gwen? Could I ask you to keep an eye on Merlin while I'm gone, make sure he takes care of himself properly? You know what he's like."
"Of course," she said. "I'd be happy to. I'm sure he'll be fine, Gaius. It'll only be for a few weeks."
"I hope you're right."
He bid her goodbye as he made his way into the castle, and even with the reassurance, he was still a bit worried. It had been over a year since Merlin had come to Camelot, and the boy had managed to land himself in trouble far too many times. Albeit it wasn't entirely his fault; Arthur had a great deal to do with it, but all the same, Merlin always found a way to make the old physician worry. Also, in that time Gaius had only been away from the boy for a few days at a time, usually when Merlin was out on some manner of quest or hunt with Arthur. It was never Gaius who was leaving and never for so long. It would be two weeks if he was lucky, possibly a month or so at the longest.
A lot could happen in a month, and he didn't want to return only to find that his ward had done something foolish and possibly life-threatening. He was terrified of coming home to find his chambers empty of the young warlock, to hear that his recklessness had finally landed him in a situation that he couldn't escape from.
There were just so many things that could go wrong.
Once he finished handing out all his medicine for the morning, Gaius returned to his chambers and collected his things. Merlin had already left, and he couldn't help feeling disappointed at being unable to say a proper farewell, but there wasn't time to track the boy down. His workload varied day by day, so there was no telling where he was at the moment.
With one bag full of provisions for himself and another containing his work supplies, he made his way down to the stables where his horse would be waiting for him. He was a little surprised though to see that it wasn't a stable boy who was standing near the animal but the crown prince of Camelot himself. Indeed, Arthur had told him he'd have one of the best horses ready for the physician, but he hadn't been expecting the prince to see him off.
"Gaius," said Arthur in greeting, one hand holding the horse's reins.
"Sire," he replied with a slight bow.
"Do you have everything you need?"
"I believe so. Hopefully it won't be anything too serious."
"If it does turn out to be dangerous, make sure you send word immediately, and we'll do what we can to help."
"Of course, Sire."
"Also, you will be accompanied by a few knights. The roads are dangerous, and father and I figured you could use the help since you're leaving Merlin behind. They will be entirely at your disposal."
"That's quite generous. Thank you."
They both remained silent for a moment as Arthur helped to get the bags situated on the horse. It didn't last long though, as there seemed to be something bothering the prince. True, he wasn't always that forthcoming with information when it came to his own concerns or anything else personal for that matter, but at the same time it wasn't in his nature to let his questions go unanswered.
"Gaius," he began just as the physician was about to mount the snow-white mare. "Why aren't you taking Merlin?"
Ever since it had been announced that Gaius would be leaving to see to the sickness that was plaguing the nearby villages, Arthur had been wondering why the physician was going alone. In the city, if Gaius was dealing with any sort of serious illness, Merlin was always right there with him, acting as an assistant. He never did that much, but it was common to see him with the physician, helping in any way he could, most commonly whenever it was suspected that sorcery was involved (and Arthur now knew the reason for that).
He couldn't quite understand why Gaius was leaving the warlock behind when there was a good chance that this newest problem could also be related to magic. Wouldn't having him along be more of a benefit than a hindrance?
"Merlin's place is here in Camelot," he said quietly, looking around to make sure the two of them wouldn't be overheard. "I would hate to drag him away only to have something happen in his absence. Besides, he will be safer here. As much as I've cautioned against it, Merlin tends to try and save people by whatever means necessary. The last thing we need is him trying to cure this illness with magic. I'm afraid that wouldn't end well for anyone, certainly not for Merlin."
"It's not really any safer for him here," the prince muttered, but he got the feeling that Gaius had heard him anyway. The physician was watching him with a rather inquisitive look, almost as if he were sizing the prince up, and it was a bit unnerving. He shifted uncomfortably, waiting for whatever it was that Gaius was going to say.
"Arthur," he began in a hushed voice, "I know I've no right to ask, but could you please keep an eye on Merlin? I've asked Gwen to do so as well, but seeing as how she doesn't know his secret, I can't very well ask her to make sure he doesn't do anything too careless with his magic. You know as well as I do that Merlin is always getting involved in some sort of mess, so will you please try to keep him out of trouble for me?"
The prince heaved a put-upon sigh and didn't answer. Trying to keep Merlin out of trouble was like trying to win an argument with Morgana. It could be done but only with a colossal amount of effort, usually resulting in a headache. His servant was always doing something that someone would disapprove of (mainly the king). It would certainly be a hassle to keep watch over the idiot so that he didn't do anything stupid while his mentor was away. The boy was far more trouble than he was worth, especially now with the knowledge of his magic.
Perhaps if Arthur had still been angry about the whole sorcery thing (he hadn't been angry at all, really, given the circumstances at the time), then he might have refused and told Gaius that his no-good lying servant could just take care of himself. However, that would be the biggest lie ever muttered in all of Camelot, because practically everyone knew that Merlin was reckless and clumsy and was always finding ways to get into trouble without even trying. He needed someone to look after him, and that someone was usually Gaius. The physician was always making excuses and offering explanations in order to cover up whatever mess Merlin made of things, with and without his magic. The warlock was likely only still alive thanks to Gaius.
And for some inexplicable reason, Arthur wanted the idiot to keep living, so there was really only one answer he could give.
"Of course, although I can't promise anything," he said, crossing his arms. "You know how he is."
Gaius mounted his horse and took a deep breath, preparing himself for his journey. He had no idea how long this excursion would take. He could only hope that everything would be fine while he was away.
He glanced back at the young prince.
"Thank you, sire."
And with that said, he was off.