Disclaimer- Just writing for fun, thanks.
Summary- Companion piece to LovesAngst's: How I Remember It. Arthur's POV, as Merlin fights for his life. Two-shot.
Thanks to: First, to my beta Miles333 for being plain magnificent. :D Second, to the marvelous LovesAngst for letting me do a companion piece to her Merlin fic in Arthur's POV. :^)
And last but not least to: Miles333, FireChildSlytherin5, Nobody'sLove, LovesAngst, To lazy to log in, EtherealBeliever, ruby890, Rosie99, AlyceeLanet, bluedragon1836, Cliocat, parinumal07, and Merlinfan93. You guys are absolutely the best. Hugs for everyone. Thanks so much for the amazing feedback. It really means a lot to me. :D
Picking up from where I left off yesterday:
Picking up from where I left off yesterday:
I don't know how I managed to get Merlin to Gaius's, but I somehow did, him pale and feverish and hanging limply in my arms. Not bothering to knock, seeing as that it was it was an emergency, I used my shoulder to push the door open. It banged loudly against the wall behind it.
I strode inside, just as Gaius came out from one of the back rooms. His gaze first caught mine then fell to Merlin. He paled and his expression was a mixture of something almost unreadable, but I for certain saw a mixture of worry and fear.
He shook his head as if he was coming out of shock before striding over to us, his face composed, becoming the physician and not the mentor. "Lay him there, Arthur." I did what I was told, lying him on a worn mattress before by the fire. Gaius was then next to me, motioning for me to step back.
I did step back beside the table, though reluctant about it, my palms clammy for some reason. I'm guessing the nerves. I averted my gaze from the other two men, looking to the floor.
I swallowed hard before speaking, keeping my voice as even as possible. "He wasn't feeling well, and I sent him here. I went hunting and when I got back, he was in my chambers and close to passing out. He was burning to the touch…" I couldn't continue, for once in my twenty years not having the words to finish. Swallowing again, I tried once more but what I said wasn't actually what I was planning on. "I think he has meningitis, Gaius."
A moment passed as Gaius froze, before he slowly stood up, clenching his robes as if trying to steady himself. But he didn't turn to look at me. "Why?" With that one word, I knew.
He wasn't talking to me. He saw it. The bruises, everything. I had to clench the table to steady myself as the room swirled around me. I closed my eyes and fought to even my breathing. I swore, rather not like the Crowned Prince of Camelot, clenching the table so hard I felt the wood dig into my palms.
The next few minutes passed in a blur; I think I talked with Gaius, I'm not sure. Words barely registered with my mind. I felt numb. Merlin and meningitis. Two words I had never wanted to hear in the same statement.
I sank to the ground beside Merlin, clenching his clammy hand between both of mine. Now all I could do was wait.
I have no idea how long passed, moments or hours. It was all the same to me, though Gaius said later it was about an hour or so. The only thing I knew at the time was that Merlin had meningitis and he might not survive to see the next week.
The next thing that happened after I sat there with Merlin for a while was dreadful, which coming from me was strange, since I had faced beasts and demons for most of my life.
I was sitting on the floor beside Merlin, waiting for something, anything, to happen, and drinking a glass of tea, hoping it would help my nerves.
Everything, I realized, was starting to fall apart around me, and I was powerless to stop it. First Morgana's dreams, those nightmares that I was starting to believe deep down were prophetic, though I would never admit it to anyone. And now Merlin was so sick…I was powerless to stop two of the people I cared most for from struggling.
I was carefully watching every movement of Merlin's when it started. I had removed both my coat and vest along with my several hunting knives and knife holster that I usually had tied around my chest and held the cup of cold tea in one hand. Gaius was checking through his books and I was listening to the steady flip of the pages. It was almost…calming.
Then, suddenly, Merlin's lids flickered up to reveal dull, unfocused blue eyes before he started choking and retching. I was up in seconds, standing back, and Gaius was beside him.
Gaius was fussing frantically, though I couldn't make sense of his words, my attention focused solely on Merlin. If there was any doubt in my mind that he had meningitis…it was gone now.
I bit down so hard on my lower lip that my teeth drew blood. Gaius's expression was more worried then I had ever seen before, and I knew that he was thinking the same horrifying thoughts that I was.
Gaius said something in my direction but his words came out as a jumbled mess to my ears. It was like the world stopped spinning for a moment as I watched Merlin retch and struggle against an unknown force, tossing and turning, fighting his bedding like he was feeling trapped. I think it must have been then that I dropped my cup and it shattered on the floor. Gaius then said something else, I think he was talking to Merlin, reassuring him maybe, and Merlin was choking and coughing again.
It felt like my muscles decided to kick my body into action because then I was at Gaius's side, my knees hitting their floor with a crack which I barely noticed, clasping Merlin's hand in mine. I gave him what I hoped to be a reassuring smile, muttering words of comfort. He grabbed the bedding in one fist, almost like he was dizzy and trying to steady himself. It was at that moment that his eyes rolled back in his head, and he went limp against the mattress.
Time passed, I suppose. It started blurring senselessly together after the first few hours.
I probably fell asleep then, because the next thing I was aware of was the door banging open. I was immediately on my feet, hand reaching automatically for the sword I didn't have. But it turned out that I didn't need it. There stood Morgana, dressed in a long green coat, face pale beneath her hood.
"Morgana?" I was surprised to see my father's ward there. It took me a quick minute to remember that she and Merlin were friends of sorts. I guess it had never registered with me to tell her about Merlin's sickness.
She stepped inside, pulling her hood down. Her face was hardly composed, with worry making dark circles stand out beneath her eyes.
"Morgana," I whispered, trying to cover up any emotion I felt. Her eyes searched the room, not landing on anything until they found Merlin. Morgana's lower lip trembled, and she paled again.
I reached out my arms and in seconds she was falling into them, clutching my shirt tightly with her fingers and burying her face against my chest. I wrapped my arms around her and started stroking her hair, trying not to think of what Gwen would say if she could see us.
We stayed like that for several moments before I could feel dampness soaking my shirt. And then I realized she was crying. I stiffened then slowly hugged her tighter, trying my best to allow her the chance to let everything out.
We continued hugging for a few more minutes before she pulled away, wiping at her bloodshot eyes with one hand and brushing idly at her dress.
"You need to go back to the castle, Morgana," I told her firmly, firmly griping each of her shoulders. I had never told her this, but she was the sister I had never had, and I always tried to protect her as best I could. And right then, the best way to protect her was to send her back to the castle. Her health had always been frail from the nightmares that plagued her most nights, getting worse with age.
She sighed, a look of hesitation crossing her features, and I could tell she was torn between doing what she knew she needed to do and staying with Merlin. I knew they were friends of sorts but…for a split second, I wondered if there was something more than met the eye between the two.
I shoved the thought from my head, and focused back on Morgana. I didn't need to go down that road at the moment. Both were smart, and they knew they couldn't ever be more than then friends while my father ruled over Camelot. Just like Guinevere and I knew we had to wait for the time we could openly show our love for one another…
"Please, Morgana," I pleaded, knowing that when her mind was set on something, she was beyond stubborn.
"He's right, Lady Morgana." I startled, having forgotten that Gaius was still in the room. He gently took Morgana's arm as I dropped my hands from her shoulder blades. He steered her to the door, looking back at Merlin with such heartbreak that I had to look away from him.
"You need to keep your strength up," he continued, his gaze catching my own. I knew this was hard on him, seeing Merlin so sick, and he needed fresh air. I nodded shortly, knowing that as he took care of Morgana, I would take care of Merlin the best I could.
Morgana sighed, shoulders slumping as she let him take her to the door. "But, Gaius…"
"Merlin wouldn't want you here," I said. "He wouldn't want you to see him like this, Morgana."
Gaius nodded at me, ushering Morgana out the door. The last I saw of him was an expression of mingled weariness and apprehensiveness, then the door closed behind him with a muted click.
I waited for a moment then sighed. Walking over to the table, I picked up a porcelain bowl of water and a worn rag. I walked over to my manservant and crouched beside him. A brief touch to his cheek revealed that his skin was burning. I hated seeing him this way.
His sweat-soaked bedding clung to him and I hoped that meant his fever had come down slightly. Sighing, I wet the rag in the cool water. I placed it across his forehead. All I could do was hope the refreshing liquid would soothe his raging fever. Or at the very least, make him more comfortable.
I briefly recalled doing the same thing for Cousin Nancy before shaking my head. I didn't need to go down that road now. Merlin wasn't going to die like my uncle and his family. He couldn't.
Placing the bowl beside me, I took one of my hands on his right wrist then placed my other hand slightly beside it. "Come on, Merlin," I urged him, watching his chest rise and fall with every fragile breath. "Don't you dare leave me. If you do, Morgana and I will never forgive you, and I'll kill you myself." My grip automatically tightened, as if emphasizing my words.
"Don't you dare, Merlin. Don't you dare give up," I continued, though doubting he could even hear me. But it did make me feel somewhat better. "You can't." I swallowed hard, a lump suddenly forming in my throat. "You just can't, Merlin."
Then I was forced to let go of his wrist when his neck and back suddenly arched from the bed, as tight as a bow string. He fell back to the blankets with a muted thud, and for a long moment, I was motionless. The only thing I could think was that his condition would only get worse. I didn't know how I would survive the next few days of him slipping further and further from the land of the living.
I stayed there beside Merlin for a long while, dozing off and on. Gaius came back and told me he had made sure that Morgana was in her chambers, and had given her a sleeping potion while telling my father to make sure someone kept an eye on her.. He also told the king what happened and that I was set upon staying here with Merlin. For once, Father actually said it was okay and he would find someone to fill in for me, training the knights.
But after Gaius told me this, I figured Father had only allowed me to stay because when I was set on something, I was immovable about it. It probably helped that he was good friends with Gaius too. But, whatever the reason my father allowed me to stay, I was grateful. Besides, even if he didn't allow me, I wasn't about to leave Merlin.
I think it was maybe an hour or two later when Gaius offered me some food, but I declined. I couldn't even think about eating while Merlin was lying gravely ill beside me.
After a while, I found myself watching Gaius bustle around me. It was far from relaxing, but I hated watching Merlin when my hands were tied. Watching him, I saw he was clearly exhausted, both physically and emotionally. After all, Merlin was obviously more then an apprentice to him; more along the lines of a son. Now as I thought about it, I hadn't actually seen him sit down and rest for more than a minute.
"Gaius," I began, eyeing him carefully. "You need to rest." I raised my hand up, keeping him silent. He hadn't been the Court's Physician, my father's adviser and friend for all my life not to know how he thought. "One, you won't do Melin any good if you're dead on your feet." I stood and walked over to the table, picking up a cup.
"And two, he wouldn't want you to risk your health because of him," I pointed out, taking a sip from the cup. The hot tea burned my mouth but I fought the grimace and stealthily slid the cup back onto the table. Gaius sighed then nodded shortly.
"All right, Arthur," he relented finally, clearly haggard. "But wake me immediately if anything changes." He waited for my answer of a nod before leaving the room.
I shook my head then settled down beside my manservant. I decided, it was the only thing I could do without going crazy with the restless energy I seemed to be facing all the time while I was here.
I don't know how long I sat set there watching Merlin occasionally tossing and turning, and muttering something under his breath, but I realized I had needed to sit down for a while and calm down. Merlin would have laughed if he'd heard me say that I, Arthur Pendragon, needed to calm down about something, but I realized that I wasn't doing anyone any good pacing and waiting. Now I was sitting and waiting.
Then that calmness shifted in the blink of an eye. One minute Merlin was lying there mostly still and the next he was seizing. I was up in a second, clearing anything away that he could hit. I pulled a bandanna from my pocket and stuffed it into his mouth. Then the only thing I could do was watch as his body heaved and twitched. It was almost if my own muscles were paralyzed with fear.
Eventually, he went still.
By this time, Gaius and I had an agreement. I ate some when he offered and he rested when I advised it. Merlin, I know, would have laughed at us, the Crowned Prince of Camelot and the Court's Physician having a bargain like this, but it worked. However, Merlin was barely clinging to life. I sat there beside him for most of the time, only leaving when I had to.
I was sitting beside him in one of the kitchen chairs, listening to the fire in front of me quietly crackle, and to Gaius flipping through the pages of one of his books. I was lost in thought, more exhausted then I had ever been but not daring to sleep, for fear of losing every second with Merlin that he still had left. I was afraid he would soon join the cast of my clandestine nightmares. No one knew this, but I suffered from nightmares on most nights. Unlike Morgana's, mine were about the men I'd lost, the men that I'd killed because they'd refused to back down. I didn't want to see Merlin dying before me every single night. It would be the worst torture imaginable.
One hand covered my eyes. A headache was pulsing angrily at my skull, probably from fatigue. I don't know how long I set there, listening to Gaius and the fire, praying that Merlin would pull through and trying to get past my headache, but the nest thing I knew was a firm hand on my shoulder.
Sighing, I dropped my hand and was rewarded with a cup of warm liquid from Gaius.
I had suffered from headaches most of my life and Gaius had always treated them, ever since I could remember. I took the cup, offered him a slight smile, then took a sip, my gaze moving back to Merlin. The soothing smell and taste of catnip instantly relaxed me and I felt better than I had before. The only thing that kept me from feeling completely better was Merlin. What if he didn't make it?
The next thing I knew, Gaius was gently shaking my shoulder. My eyes flickered open and for a moment I was disorientated. Then I remembered. Merlin. My gaze swung past Gaius's weary face and then to Merlin, who still lay motionless. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
"How is he?" I asked, quietly, shifting my position in the chair. I was dreading the answer, but I had to ask. It was one of those times when you know the answer had a strong possibility of being bad but you had to ask the question because you needed to know the answer even though you were dreading it.
Gaius sighed, shaking his head. "The same, I'm afraid, Arthur." As soon as the words left his mouth, the seizing began again.
For a spilt-second, I knew that he was going to die right in front of me, even though he hadn't yet reached the final stage of the illness. How strange it is to write those words while I watch Merlin stammer and fumble around Morgana, alive and slowly but steadily leaving the road of recovery, when he was so close to death's welcoming door not so long ago.
Any road, I can only dimly recall the next few moments. My mind had become hazy and it almost felt like my body was acting on its own initiative. I remember that I swiftly stood and was at his side and was clearing things away from him that he might strike in his seizing state. Gaius was putting a handkerchief between his teeth.
And for only the second time in my life, I was terrified. I had faced terrible beasts and demons that people could only imagine, but when faced with the certain death of someone close to me, I was completely at a loss.
It was a feeling I hated.
I was stuck standing there because I knew that you couldn't do much for a someone convulsing. It was one of the longest times of my life because I had to stand by and watch. I hated not being able to do anything, especially when it was someone who was my friend.
I don't know how long his body seized, to me it felt like forever that his muffled screams of agony tore through the small room, but I know obviously it couldn't be. Eventually he stilled and went limp on his mattress. I was momentarily frozen in place, but I finally managed to work my muscles and make them move down to him. Taking the handkerchief from his mouth, I stayed crouched beside him for another long moment.
I assume my expression grim; I stood up and handed the cloth back to Gaius. The look on his face was filled with such pain that I was myself filled with sympathy.
"How about you go rest, Gaius?" I suggested, brushing off my pants. Seeing that he was about to say something, argue probably, I pressed on. "You're exhausted and you'll need a clear head to think later."
For once, he gave in swiftly and after an agreement that I would wake him if anything changed, he left to his sleeping quarters. Sighing, I sat set down by Merlin. I took his limp hand in mine and sat there, watching his chest struggle to draw in air.
It was torture but it was something that I needed to do. Each moment of his life was slowly ticking by and I felt if my hands were tied. And the only thing I could do was wait by his side and hope that God would save him.
I dropped my position and was standing in a fraction of a second, more out of instinct then response to the voice. But when I saw who it was standing in the door, soaking wet, her clothes hanging from her thin frame, I opened my arms.
After shutting the door behind her, Guinevere was in them in a matter of seconds, and I without thinking wrapped my arms around her and pulled her tightly to my chest, not minding that my clothes were getting wet, in a more inappropriate position than it was allowed in proper society, savoring the feeling of her skin against mine.
She buried her face against my chest and for the first time in hours, days probably, I felt at ease. She fit perfectly, and this time, I didn't have to pull away. Gaius was resting and we were alone. Except for Merlin.
"Oh, Arthur," she wept, voice muffled against my shirt. I released the breath I hadn't even realized myself to be holding. I of course knew it would kill my reputation if someone saw us like this, but I unconsciously relaxed and for the life of myself, I couldn't let her go.
We stayed like that for a while. I was just happy to have her to hold, the smell of her lavender soap filling my lungs. But we eventually broke apart, with some reluctance, Gwen's gaze straying towards Merlin. ,
Then she was crying again, and holding both hands over her mouth, trying to muffle her sobs. I pulled her against my chest again and tried to swallow around the sudden lump that had formed in my throat.
Finally, she composed herself and pulled away, wiping at her eyes. I cleared my throat.
"Guinevere, Morgana needs you in the castle," I announced, seeing that she was on the verge of falling apart again. I knew that she her and Merlin were like brother and sister and it was killing her to be here. "She's not doing very well with this." Gwen bobbed her head once, chin quivering slightly with suppressed sobs.
"You're…you're right," she agreed, giving me a shaky smile. "My…" Her voice broke. She quickly cleared it before trying it again. "My lady needs me." She glanced away for a minute then her gaze caught mine.
"He's strong, Arthur, he'll pull through this." Though her words were meant to reassure me, I could tell that she was just trying to put on a brave face for me.
I gave her a tight smile, then brushed a quick kiss across her cheek. Her face flushed. "Thanks," I whispered.
"You need to have faith, Arthur." She shot me another smile before covering her mouth with one hand and hurrying to the door. She rushed out into the rain and darkness, shutting the door behind her.
I was left alone, and for once, I hated it. I hated not being able to do anything, being stuck on the sidelines as I watched Merlin die slowly. I could do nothing but wait.
Sighing quietly, I settled down beside Merlin again, clasping his hand in my mind, realizing for the first time that his skin was surprisingly rough. The hand of a servant.
To this day, I know that I'll never forget his screams of agony.
I still don't now how long I sat set there by Merlin, waiting for something more to happen. Something preferably good, even though I knew such a hope was unlikely. I wasn't even aware of Gaius anymore.
My only purpose was to sit and wait. The only thing that mattered was Merlin. Everything else seemed to dim, everything else besides Merlin seemed not to exist anymore. Even training with my knights, which I have to say, is a favorite pastime of mine, didn't mean anything to me.
The only thing I could focus on was Merlin, who was fading to death way too quickly. I knew the signs, I knew when the last stage, the fatalist of them all, took hold. And Merlin was sinking very swiftly to it.
I must have fallen asleep at one point or another because suddenly I was awake and feeling the worst sense of fear I had ever felt before. My eyes jerked open and I knew that this was it. That Merlin was there. To that final stage. That Merlin had his hand in death's.
My eyes automatically went to his chest and for the moment, it felt if my heart forgot how to beat. Because his breathing was coming out in short, shallow gasps with extremely long pauses in between.
I think it was then that I started crying.
Just to be clear, there was only one time in my life that I had cried before then, and that was when Morgana had taken down with a nearly fatal illness and was fighting for life.
I could feel splashes of wetness running down my face and hitting my arm. Merlin's breathing was becoming dimmer with every minute that ticked slowly past, and I knew he was dying. I had known before, but then it hit me. Merlin was dying.
I don't know when I did it but between my next recalling and then, I had him in my arms, his check pressing against my rumpled, musty-smelling shirt.
I felt as if the whole world was on pause, giving me one last moment with Merlin before he died. I don't know how I knew, but he was hanging on just for me to have one last moment with him.
"Merlin, I'm so sorry," I choked out between sobs. I tightened my hold on him, as if somehow I could keep his life force inside his body. I know, the very thought was foolish. But for some reason, it made sense at the time.
I think it was probably about then when I noticed that I was shaking. And even as my mind connected with the action, I couldn't stop. The grief overwhelmed me and I was sobbing, much to my later mortification.
"No…no…no," I moaned, sobs catching on every word. I barely registered the fact that my other hand had moved to his hair, barely felt the feel of it against my open palm. The only thing I knew was that I had lost Merlin and nothing else mattered anymore.
My breath snagged and I was sobbing worse than before, if that was even possible. The only thought I had was why? I unconsciously tightened my grip, tears rolling heavily down my checks.
And just to add, if anyone – that means you, Merlin! – ever reads this, I'll kill them myself.
Anyway, I …uh…think I might have pressed him against my chest at this point…
I prayed to anyone who would listen to bring Merlin back. I wasn't ready for him to leave yet. Even though he was one of the most annoying men alive, an idiot at the best of times, he was still a close friend, though I would never tell him that. And much to my surprise, I realized that I didn't remember a time where Merlin wasn't there, helping me somehow.
I didn't know how much time passed as I held Merlin's still form in my arms. It seemed like forever since his chest had last risen and fallen for a breath. It was actually probably only a few moments, but it seemed like eternity.
His body was had become unnaturally heavy and still. But I continued to hold him, still shaking with unsuppressed silent sobs.
"Please, Merlin," I begged him, my whisper coming out as strangled croak. "Don't go."
For another long, terrible moment, it seemed that I had lost the man I considered a brother and for a brief split second, I wondered how I would survive with him gone.
He was gone, and there was nothing I could do about it.
I think that was one of the worst moments of my twenty years. A hard lump formed in my throat and I had to fight not to choke on the misery that I felt flooding me. Merlin was gone.
Then, incredibly, it seemed like God decided to listen to my pleas, because Merlin took the smallest and shallowest of breaths.
At first I thought I imagined it. But as I stared at him through blurry eyes, I saw his chest rise and fall once more.
I think my heart stopped then. Merlin was back. And I knew somehow this time he wasn't going anywhere else, that he was going to stay. I think that moment was one of the happiest of my life.
"Merlin," I whispered, choking on his name."Don't ever do that again, understand? Don't you ever try to leave m–us again."
As if he was listening to me, his breathing became slightly stronger and he mumbled something incoherently under his breath as he settled down further into the blankets and my hold.
For a while, I was satisfied just to watch his chest raise and fall with every breath.
Hours passed before Merlin woke up. He looked the same as he had did, pale and with such sharp bruises under his eyes that it looked like he had gotten them blackened in a fight, but he didn't look any worse, which was better than nothing.
I guess I fell asleep sometime because the next thing I knew, I heard the tiniest of noises. I had no idea where Gaius was then, and call it a sixth sense, but I knew who had made the noise. My eyes snapped open and I dropped my hands, which I had apparently been resting my face against.
I had never felt as much relief as I did then until I saw Merlin wake up.
His blue eyes were dull and I could tell he was exhausted. His throat obviously ached and his voice was extremely weak but he was clearly determined about something. I had a strong idea on what he was so resolute to tell me. Apologize? Of course. He was Merlin. I quickly held up a hand to silence him.
It took me a moment to get my voice to work, much to my great chagrin, and when I finally managed to get my voice, it came out as a watery croak. Then I told him firmly that everything was alright – and that he'd nearly scared the life out of Gaius and Guinevere. I was not about to add myself or Morgana to that statement. I swallowed thickly. Then again. I gruffly added that Gaius wanted him to keep resting.
Then I told him to go back to sleep and that I would still be there when he woke up next. He gave me a sort of hazy smile, and then for once, did as he was told. Which I have to say, that alone was pretty impressive.
To quote a famous saying: And that's all there is, folks. lol I hope you guys enjoyed it and I look forward to posting more in the wonderful world of Merlin one day soon.
To quote a famous saying: And that's all there is, folks. lol I hope you guys enjoyed it and I look forward to posting more in the wonderful world of Merlin one day soon.
And another thanks to LovesAngst who as everyone knows gave me the permission to do this and let me do my very first Merlin story. I hope this did her original work justice and thanks again. Also, thanks to all my wonderful reviewers who put in their time to drop me a review by. They all meant a lot to me. :D I hope to see you guys soon. ;)
Cho for now, -BlueEyes444