After the incredibly long wait for the last chapter to be posted, I'm so darn proud of myself for getting this one up a bit quicker! This one's shamefully short though, so I apologise in advance for that. Also I've kind of switched between characters loads here, so I really hope you don't get whiplash!
Before I stop preaching, one last thing; 'Roseh' has sent me a prompt idea to post and it's be great if one of you felt like taking on the challenge. The prompt is thus: 'Arthur goes to visit Armagh in Ireland and somehow ends up bumping into Merlin, who lives there'. Not the world's most complicated prompt, so fancy a go?
It was another 27 hours before Merlin woke up again. Arthur knew, because he had felt each one pass with the dragging monotony of an ongoing tragedy. Once again he'd sat by the bed in that little ward room, long past the time when he should have gone home. Once again he'd fussed over his unknowing patient, taking extra care of him and going so far in his attempts to make him comfortable that he worked himself to the bone without realising it. His eyes were red-rimmed and puffy from lack of sleep, his fingernails were all but nonexistent and his hair was untamed and slowly beginning a full scale rampage down his forehead.
When Merlin's eyelids at last fluttered open, at first Arthur just assumed he was imagining things. After all, he had been sat in that chair staring at the lanky man before him for a very long time and tiredness was beginning to play tricks on him. In fact, it was only when Merlin coughed (a dry, unnerving sort of cough) that his brain leapt into action.
"Merlin!" He exclaimed excitedly, getting up from the chair so fast that it almost toppled over. "You're awake!" All the time he watched carefully so as to catch any suspicious change in eye colour, but saw none.
Merlin forced open his eyes and immediately regretted it. His vision was all blurry, like when you go to take a picture but the focus is all wrong. His head was pounding, his mouth was very dry and his limbs were so numb that he wasn't sure if they were even there at all. Worst of all though, the strange cooling sensation which he had felt moments before losing consciousness the previous time was still somewhere inside him. In fact, to be more honest, it was everywhere inside him. Merlin could feel it, like cool oil trickling through his veins, through his heart, even through his lungs. Strangely however, he did not feel threatened by this invading presence. Despite the somewhat unnerving effect it produced, the strange sensation was calming rather than uncomfortable.
A few seconds passed, before he thought to try out his voice. He tried a simple "Hello", but somehow the only noise that came out was a strangled cough which sounded awful. He was going to try again, but was startled by a sudden movement to his left. With his vision now much improved, Merlin could make out a blonde haired Doctor stumbling around to his left. A barrage of sound hit his ears and he winced, trying to make out the words.
It was no use. Instead, he focused on the face now carefully examining his own visage. It was a strong face, with sharp, defined lines, but a hint of softness around the lips and the eyes, as if there was a child's face just below the surface and waiting to break out in casual moments. Merlin noticed slowly that the eyes, a pastel blue colour, were looking decidedly worse for wear. He also noticed that the golden hair was hanging in clumps over the smooth expanse of forehead. All in all, he decided, the face was beautiful but definitely suffering from a lack of sleep. A lot of sleep, by the looks of it.
The lips began to move again entrancingly and this time Merlin made a real effort to understand what was being said.
Arthur realised that he had been a little loud in his approach, but somehow couldn't help himself from leaning forward until he was staring directly into Merlin's eyes. He waited a few seconds until he was sure that the other man was conscious enough to understand him, then he tried again, quieter this time.
"Yes..." The reply was very faint and Arthur's heart leapt disconcertingly when he heard it. Merlin's voice was higher than his, but not as high as he had expected. It sounded scratchy and raw from disuse.
"My name is Arthur", he paused to make sure he was being understood. "You're currently in Camelot General Hospital and you're in my care for the time being."
The words sunk in and he could see almost immediately that Merlin had not connected himself to being in hospital, to having major injuries or to being on life support. Arthur sighed. It was not uncommon for patients to simply accept whatever they saw when they first woke up, without ever putting any meaning to it. This is because often the patient's brain is so disorientated, injured or just overwhelmed that it can only process basic tasks, such as recognising objects like doors, windows or other people. After this initial stage, however, the brain begins to apply what it has recognised and work out the meaning of it all. This stage is often the hardest as many patients cannot understand why they are in hospital or how they even got to be there at first. Merlin was obviously only just beginning to interpret things and already Arthur could see panic building in his eyes.
'Did he say hospital?' Camelot General Hospital?'
The full significance of the situation sunk in and Merlin began to panic. He looked about wildly, noticing the clean, sterile room he was in for the first time. He glanced down at his body and almost passed out again. His right leg was encased in plaster, easily visible since it propped up at the foot of his bed. He could now feel himself dressed in a kind of loose, airy gown of the type favoured in wards. There was a beeping sound coming from a large bank of machines crouched ominously in the corner. Frantically Merlin raised his arms (which thankfully weren't in plaster) to lift up the light bed sheets and the gown. His muscles were sluggish to respond and felt weak. He groaned. His torso was bandaged, so thoroughly that no part of his chest or stomach was visible at all.
Lastly and most horrifically to Merlin's mind, he could feel a pair of tubes going up his nostrils and disappearing somewhere inside his throat. Was that the reason for the weird cooling he felt inside? Were his insides being pumped full of liquid drugs? Desperately, he raised his hand to try and yank the tubes out, but a gentle hand caught his wrist. It was the doctor again. Holy crap the doctor! He turned his head to see the blonde beauty calmly watching him. What really struck Merlin was the look of care radiating from the other's eyes. It was more than the care offered by a doctor to his patient. It was the kind of care offered by a mother to her child. A kind of self-sacrificing, loving care... Merlin's insides suddenly felt soft and he became very aware that underneath his hospital gown he was nearly naked. With a quick blush, he wrenched his wrist from Arthur's hold and fell back against the mound of pillows, waiting for the doctor's next move.
It would be wrong to say that Arthur was not expecting Merlin's reaction to his environment. Waking up in hospital is a horrible experience, especially if you're connected to a drip constantly feeding nutrients. So it was no surprise that his patient immediately attempted to pull out his nasal feed. Arthur caught his wrist and was surprised that seemed to shoot up his arm from the brief contact. Perhaps Merlin felt it too, or perhaps not. Either way, Arthur's hand was quickly empty once more as the other man reclaimed his wrist and simply lay there, staring at him warily with those big, soft blue eyes which Arthur had so recently become acquainted. He was falling for those eyes already, and he knew it.
I hope that chapter was alright. Either way, let me know please! If everyone who has subscribed in some way to this story just left a single comment, I would be a very happy person indeed...