WARNING: Contains graphic descriptions of potentially life-threatening injuries. Do not read if you are affected by these medical images.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own, seek to make profit from or wish to steal away the characters portrayed within this text. However, I can under no condition promise not to violently shag them at the first possible opportunity. Oops, did I really write that?
COMPANY: I do not work for the BBC, Disney all the way. Sorry folks.

It was a late night, and Arthur was shattered. He had worked solidly throughout the day, tending to his patients, checking on the other doctors and nurses in his department, overseeing the dispensing of drugs and all the other duties which came before him. As Director of the Intensive Care Ward at Camelot General Hospital, Arthur was one of the most highly paid and highly sought after people around. Of course, all this attention also resulted in huge amounts of work being presented to him, as all his patients were in a state close to death.

Arthur loved his job most of the time. He enjoyed helping others and the sense of satisfaction he was rewarded with when they were finally able to leave his ward, knowing that they were on the road to a good recovery. Of course, any job has its drawbacks. In this case, death of patients was the most common issue. All the doctors in the ward hated losing a patient, but they also recognised that they couldn't save everybody, so life went on.

Tonight was a particularly hard shift. Arthur had been running around without a break since he began, nearly four hours earlier. The sun had now fully set, the orange ceiling lamps flickering softly into life. The soft beeping of the many life support machines cluttering each tiny patient room seemed almost soothing to the hectic bustle of the hospital staff. So far that evening, Arthur had dealt with three new patients, all in various states of emergency. The first was a walker who had accidentally got caught in a rock fall while hiking. He had been airlifted to the hospital, where he had been immediately rushed to an operating theatre to rectify what appeared to be a ruptured spleen, two broken ribs and a twisted shoulder. The next two casualties were women. One had been kicked by a horse while mucking out at her local stable block, whilst the other had apparently attempted to dive into the swimming pool where the water was much too shallow. Arthur had almost laughed, shaking his head in disbelief when he had heard about the exploits of the latter. There really was no end to human stupidity some days.

After a final round of his ward, Arthur walked back to his office at the end of the ward, looking forward to being able to have a brief cup of coffee and put his feet up for ten minutes, before he handed care of the ward patients over to the late night duty officer. He took care to peer through the glass slit in each door as he meandered his way along, smiling when he saw the family and friends that were gathered round some of the beds. The hospital had strange visiting times, he thought. Relatives were allowed in for two slots per day, one from six until nine in the morning, the other from six until nine in the evening. Arthur's shift finished at the same time as the visiting hours, so he would have to go round after his coffee break and shoo them all out.

Reaching the quiet of his office, he let out a sigh of relief and, crossing behind the overly cluttered desk, switched the kettle on and sank gratefully into the large revolving chair by the wall. Vaguely he shuffled his notes for the day into order, with the intention of filing them away, when he noticed the sound of an ambulance siren blaring from outside. He fervently prayed it was heading to another hospital. It wasn't. Just as the kettle began to boil, the emergency telephone (painted a vivid red for simplicity) began to ring shrilly, even as he heard the sound of hospital workers shouting instructions to each other from the ambulance bay outside the window. With a small groan, Arthur reached over to pluck the phone from its hook.

'We've got an intensive care casualty here, Mr. Pendragon.' The calm female voice informed him politely, knowing he would be listening carefully.

'He looks about twenty, found under a bridge. He's got a suspected broken leg, chest and back abrasions, extensive torso injuries and two very impressive black eyes; details coming through in a second'

As the women spoke, a screen lit up on his office wall, showing a string of complicated letters and numbers, which showed him the injuries of the casualty he was about to deal with.

'Do we have his name?' Arthur asked the voice on the phone. He wasn't asking out of curiosity; it was very useful knowledge, as people normally responded to their name better than anything else.

'According to his wallet his name's Merlin Emrys, but he's unconscious, so you may have difficulty determining the extent of his damage.'

'Thank you' Arthur said calmly, before slamming the phone down and hurrying out of the office once more, with one last wistful look towards the kettle as he went.

As soon as he arrived in the assessment room, Arthur could tell the young man was in a bad way. It was obvious from the sheer amount of blood that was splattered on his face, and also leaking from under his light shirt, dripping off the stretcher trolley onto the clean floor. Arthur had been working in the hospital for quite a while, but his jaw still dropped open nonetheless when he saw the state of the patient. The ambulance crew had cut off his trousers and footwear, so Arthur could see his right leg was mangled, twisted to a horrific degree and with what looked a nub of bone poking through the flesh of his calf. His right foot was also bleeding, with a deep cut on the heel. Moving up to his face, Arthur recognised the two black eyes he had been told about. In addition to these the man was sporting a deep gash on his cheek and several more across his neck, one of which was dangerously close to his pulse point.

Merlin's leg was operated on immediately after Arthur gave the command. Following this, he was wheeled into the X-ray bay, where Arthur saw him once more, as he needed to assess the man's injuries before treatment could really begin. As the assistant doctors began to cut away Merlin's thin shirt (they could not peel it off for fear of disturbing him), Arthur let out an involuntary gasp. The man's skin was a canvas of injuries. Deep welt marks, some bleeding heavily but swaddled with temporary bandages, criss-crossed his rib cage, which had turned mottled purple, suggesting broken bones.

While the man was having his X-ray, Arthur had time to study him properly. He had a light frame, skin stretched tight over his bones in some places, but with a definite hint of muscle in others. He also had large ears which stuck out from the sides of his head and a long neck, but somehow these features combined to give him an air of mysterious beauty. Arthur supposed that he would have been attracted to this face, if it hadn't currently been covered in so many wounds. The man looked so delicate, especially in his weakened state, that Arthur felt a sudden surge of protectiveness towards him. He wanted nothing more than to help Merlin Emrys recover. However, there was a still a long way to go before that could be achieved, and he knew it. Immediately after the X-ray, Merlin was wheeled off to the operating theatre once more, to remove a sliver of metal which had become lodged deep in his stomach lining, and to re-align four broken ribs. Arthur peered through the tiny viewing window as the surgeons got to work, surprised to find himself showing such concern for a single patient.

Two and a half hours later the surgeons finally put down their tools, relinquishing care of Merlin to Arthur's ward, and the life support machines. The injured man was taken by his small team of doctors and nurses to a lift, and then wheeled into the Intensive Care Ward. One of the nurses called out;

'Wheel him into room G; it's just been freed up'.

When Arthur heard this he hesitated for a second, before replying; 'No, put him in room A, then I can keep an eye on him more easily'.

Room A was right next to Arthur's office, so that he could see the door through his window and even catch a glimpse of the bed if the room door was left open. The nurse looked at him questioningly, before shaking her head wonderingly and complying. This nurse was called Gwen, short for Guinevere, and had been one of Arthur's closest friends for a long time. They had both worked in intensive care for a long time, and had even tried going out at one point. That was before Arthur had discovered he was in fact gay. Gwen, however, had stuck by his side nonetheless, supporting him throughout the more difficult points in his career, until this point, when they were now close friends.

With Merlin now in Room A itself, a team of well-trained nurse nurses stepped forward and began to lift the sheet he was lying on carefully up. They hovered him over the hospital bed, then lowered the sheet holding his unconscious body down and gently slipped it out from under him. One of the nurses held up the sheet for the others to see – it was soaked in the man's blood completely.

Then began the great rush. In a matter of minutes Merlin was hooked up to many whirring, humming and beeping machines, with both his arms covered in many needle straps. After dashing wildly about for several minutes sorting the new casualty out, the nurses gradually dissipated, and Arthur was left alone. He stood at the foot of the bed, staring down at Merlin as the medication seeped into the man's system. The strange protective urge still had not gone away. In fact, it had grown stronger if anything. Arthur heaved a deep sigh, running his hands through his blond locks and admiring the beautiful face of the ill man once more.

'You like him, don't you' Came a voice from the doorway.

Arthur spun round to see Gwen leaning against the doorway with a pile of fresh linen in her hands. Arthur shifted uncomfortably, and then replied slowly;

'I don't know. I just feel like...like he needs to be taken care of'

Gwen smiled knowingly but not unkindly, before continuing.

'Then perhaps you could break off ogling the poor guy in his boxers and make him a little more comfortable?'

She passed Arthur the stack of linen even as he protested;

'I was not ogling!'

But his protests were in vain – she simply laughed and walked out. The Ward Director draped a sweat sheet over Merlin's unconscious body, before placing hospital towels under his feet to dispel any leaking blood. He then fetched a couple of pillows and proceeded to carefully lift Merlin up to insert the pillows under his head and shoulders. As he did so, Arthur couldn't help noticing how soft the other man's raven black hair was under his touch. He stepped back, letting his hand linger on the man's head just a little longer than was necessary. This was crazy – he could not develop feelings for someone he had never even spoken to!

Arthur did get home eventually. He stayed in Merlin's treatment room for a long time, just watching as he lay there, chest rising and falling shallowly. He helped the nurses to change the bloodied bandages four or five times, even fetched some grapes and a glass of water in case the dark haired man came round while he was away. Indeed he only thought about leaving when the night duty officer poked his head round the door and asked if Arthur had seen the time.

'Holy crap!' He shouted as soon as he did so. It was two in the morning! Arthur was sure that he would have sat there comfortably all night, had the duty officer not spoken to him. With one last long look at the peaceful Merlin, he ran out of the room, throwing his white coat into his office as he left. When he eventually fell into bed, it was a little past two thirty.

Arthur slept fitfully, his dreams plagued by visions of his new patient with his chest split open, crying in pain and unable to stand because of his leg. The blond woke several times in the night, and each time resolved afresh to make sure Merlin was alright in the morning, and to find out what had happened to him. After waking up for the sixth time, his body caved in, and he slept soundly from then onwards.

The morning light streaming through the window was harsh and unforgiving, as was the noise of Arthur's alarm clock, which seemed to be having a miniature seizure on his bedside table. He groaned, opening his eyes fully, squinting blearily, then shut them again.

He could afford just another ten minutes of sleep...

...considering last night had been such a late night...

...why on earth hadn't he got home earlier?

Merlin!

It all came flooding back to him as he sat up hurriedly, remembering the events of the previous night. He also remembered the vicious dreams he had been subjected to and shuddered. With the return of the dreams came his resolve to help the man. Arthur didn't think he had got up so fast in the morning for a long time.

Arthur was in to work much earlier than normal. As he entered the ward, several of his fellow staff looked shocked, but Gwen just smiled knowingly, and carried on. Every morning, it was his duty to inspect the patients in each room of the ward, and look over any new ones which may have come in during the night. He was dying to see if Merlin was conscious, but forced himself to work down the ward in reverse order, starting from room K, at the end opposite his office, as he knew he was likely to spend much longer in room A than in any of the others, which would be unfair to all of his other patients.

The rounds seemed to take forever. First of all the bed-bound woman in room K was vehemently insisting that she needed to talk to her family immediately, and could she please have a phone. Of course, that meant Arthur had to find her a phone, which took rather a long time. Then there was an elderly gentleman who had arrived in the night, and whose blood sugar had fallen dangerously low. Only after adjusting his blood feeds and seeing that he would be alright could Arthur move on. Just when he had gotten to room B there came an emergency call from the ambulance bay, and he had to rush out to help assess the damage to an overly enthusiastic kayaker. Arthur felt like screaming in frustration. Eventually however, the emergencies subsided and he was finally able to enter room A.

His breath hitched as he laid eyes on the silent Merlin once more. The dark haired man was even more beautiful than he remembered. It may have had something to do with the early morning light streaming in through the window, illuminating his face and throwing the strong cheekbones into sharp relief. Just then, his moment of wonder was interrupted by one of the less desirable nurses, Nimueh, who was going round with the breakfast tray. He seized the opportunity to question her.

'Nimueh, do you know if he's been conscious at all?' He asked, jabbing a thumb in Merlin's general direction.

'Nah, sorry love' she replied, in her coarse accent. 'Officer says he's bin out like a light all through. Dunno when he'll wake up, but i 'ope it's not too soon. Don't need another mouth t' feed round 'ere, do we?'

Arthur avoided the insensitive question.

'Where's his folder? I haven't seen it about'

'Dunno that either. 'Parrently no-one knows anything about 'im, so they ain't brought it up yet.'

The folder he was referring to was Merlin's 'Patient Background' folder, which gave details of how he had received his injuries, anything he said or any requests he had made since entering the hospital, as well as basic details. Arthur frowned. It seemed that the man was just as mysterious as he looked. He turned to Nimueh before she could leave.

'Will you let Gwen know I've gone down to reception please? The ward is hers for ten minutes.'

'Will do, love.'

And with that, Nimueh and her squeaky trolley moved on to the next room.

Arthur hurried down to reception. The main problem with the Camelot General Hospital was, in his opinion, the lack of communication between departments. This was a typical example. No-body had thought Merlin's folder contained anything important, so they hadn't bothered to pass it on to his ward, even though by all rights it should have been there. Arthur waited impatiently at the reception desk as people swarmed around him. The morning visitor session had just begun, and the entrance hall was already dangerously close to packed. Bringing his hand down sharply down on the 'Ring for Attention' bell, Arthur glared at the receptionist on duty as she sauntered deliberately slowly towards him. He might have known her, Morgana, for a very long time, but that didn't mean she could be any less annoying.

'Morgana, can you hurry up for once? I've got work to do!'

'All in good time' the beautiful dark haired woman replied sweetly, in a voice calculated to drive him mad. She knew all his flaws.

'What is it you want now? Though really I shouldn't be asking you, since you seem to dislike me so much this fine morning'

Arthur ignored her.

'I need the 'Patient Background' folder for Merlin Emrys'

He watched as the woman's eyes lit up mischievously at the mention of that name. He braced himself mentally and waited for the onslaught to begin. It did.

'Ah, yes. Gwen mentioned him to me. She was told by the night duty Officer that you stayed for hours in his room just watching him after everybody else had gone home.'

Arthur grimaced. It seemed news travelled fast in the hospital. He grabbed the folder she held out and made to leave, but felt her grip his shoulder.

'Do I suspect, Arthur Pendragon, a hint of love is in the air?'

'Must be that foul perfume you tried on at the weekend. I sense nothing of the sort.'

He tried to wriggle out from her grasp, but she was too strong.

'I think I do, so don't even bother telling me that you can't possibly like him because you've never spoken to him, ' she said as he opened his mouth. 'Come on. Admit you like him and I'll let you go'

Just wanting to be free, Arthur gave up.

'Fine. I do feel a certain...attraction for him, even if I have never spoken to him. There; are you satisfied now?'

'Very.' She flashed him a slightly intimidating grin and with that, released his shoulder and disappeared behind the desk once more.

Arthur retreated to the comfort of his office before opening the folder. He had sneakily ensured that Merlin's door was wedged open all the time, so that he could sit in his swivel chair, looking out across the ward to see Merlin's head propped up on a veritable mountain of cushions, with his dark hair splayed out. How Arthur longed to be able to run his fingers through those silken strands. He shook his head and got down to business.

Upon opening the folder, two pieces of paper fell out. One was a factsheet, which read as follows;

NAME: Merlin Emrys
KNOWN RELATIVES: Mother, location Ealdor, California, USA
AGE: 22
PREVIOUS MEDICAL HISTORY: Unknown
INJURIES RECIEVED: See reference sheet
CAUSE OF INJURIES: Unknown

Of course, the sheet contained many more stings of patient identification codes and suchlike, but those were the only clear facts that Arthur could make out. The other piece of paper in the folder was of course the reference sheet of injuries. It was so long and contained such horrific descriptions that Arthur shuddered involuntarily and replaced it quickly.

At first he had been surprised to find that no relatives or friends had been to visit Merlin, or stayed with him, but as he realised that Merin's only relative, his mother, was in California, he understood that she may not have even known her son was ill at all. Even if she had, Arthur wasn't sure whether or not she would have flown over to England to see him; his own father certainly wouldn't have bothered in her place. Arthur sighed, placed the folder on his desk and got up. He was determined to find out who, or what, had caused Merlin these injuries.

Arthur spent the rest of the day, and the whole of the next, trying to complete his tasks as quickly as possible with minimal effort so as to be able to find an excuse to stay in Merlin's room, or in his office staring through the window, whenever he could. On the next day after that, Merlin still hadn't regained consciousness and Arthur was beginning to get truly worried.

He was sitting by Merlin's bedside at the end of his shift, meaning to go home, but unable to drag himself away from the dark haired man before him. He had already tried calling Merlin's name, causing a sudden disruption in front of him and blowing on his eyelids, but to no avail. Eventually he gave up, understanding that if Merlin's body wanted him unconscious, then it was probably for the best. By now, all the staff in the ward knew of his obsession for the patient, so they just worked around him as he sat there.

He sighed to himself, frown lines etched deep into his forehead. It was one of the hospital's policies to make sure at least one relative knew of the situation of each respective patient in the intensive care ward within forty-eight hours. This meant that somebody would have to phone Merlin's mother, all the way over in California. Arthur normally expected one of the lesser doctors or nurses to do this job. He hated doing it himself, as most of time the family members on the other end of line were liable to sudden breakdown, daft requests or just endless questions. Besides, he was a busy enough man as it was.

When it came to Merlin however...

Arthur decided that he would call Mrs Emrys himself. He had a burning curiosity to find out what kind of a character she was, and also if she could tell him anything about how her son received his shocking injuries. Dragging himself away, he crossed to the international phone on the opposite side of the ward. Whenever they made international calls, patients had to pay extra to use the phones in the wards, since crossing national borders incurred a heftier fine than normal. He could have gone down to reception or used his office, but somehow Arthur felt that this particular conversation might be easier in the middle of a busy area, with lots of distractions around him in case things got too serious. He swallowed and dialled the number 456.

BEEP

"Camelot General Directorate, how may I help you?"
"I'm looking for a Mrs Emrys, Ealdor, California"
"Hold for one moment please"

There was the sound of heavily manicured nails brutally attacking a keyboard for a few seconds, then;

"Mrs Emrys, now widowed, insert 20p, press 134 and we'll connect you."
"Thank You"

Arthur dug out a grubby 20p coin and fed it to the phone booth reluctantly, before pressing 134 as the voice had instructed. It was common practice for the hospital not to provide numbers for those they had searched for, since it was quicker and easier by far simply to patch the conversation right through.

Arthur waited patiently.

BEEP

The dialling tone seemed to drag on for an age as Arthur began to bite his nails without realising.

'You've reached the Emrys household. Erm...Fluffles! Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, leave a message and I'll try and get back to you soon, though I can't promise anything because the cats keep chewing through the answer phone cable. Never mind.'

BEEP

Arthur thought that was easily the most bizarre answer phone message he had ever heard, especially since it was accompanied by a loud and constant purring noise, but he decided to leave a message nonetheless. After all, he had spent 20p on this call!

"Hello, Mrs Emrys. My name's Arthur Pendragon, I'm a ward director at Camelot General Hospital and I'm afraid I have some rather bad news..."

He went on to outline Merlin's injuries, grimacing as he did so and finished by asking if the woman had any idea of how her son received them. All the while the answer phone listened sympathetically and Arthur was relieved that no-one had answered, as it would just have made things harder.

He hung up, locked up and went home.

The next day was much more interesting. After finishing his rounds at lunchtime, Arthur snuck in to see his favourite patient once again. The dark haired man was still lying on the bed with a look of serene calm upon his face, as if he were untroubled by the world around him. Arthur sighed and sank into the visiting seat next to him. Looking across, he could see that a thick strand of Merlin's black locks had fallen across his forehead and, overcome with tenderness, the ward director reached forward to brush it away. He was just revelling in the silky smoothness of Merlin's skin, when his patient made a tiny whimpering noise.

At first Arthur thought he had imagined it – after all Merlin had been unconscious for a very long time already, but out of curiosity he brushed another finger across Merlin's forehead and waited for the results. Almost immediately, the look of serene calm disappeared and his patient made a horrible groaning, sighing sound. Then his eyelids began to flutter and, to Arthur's surprise, he managed to crank open his weary lids.

A/N: So there you have it guys and girls – I hope you enjoyed reading! Please do me a favour and review, because it took me long enough to get round to posting this and without a little encouragement I may just give up hope altogether. I'll try to update fairly soon, but I'm literally only doing this is my spare time, which I'm very short of!

The references to hospital life and operations are taken from my own experiences and believe me I've had enough of them, but if I've got anything seriously messed please let me know. Erm...that's it for now I guess :)

ExtraordinaryFlux