Disclaimer: Funnily enough, in the few days since my last story, I still haven't gained ownership of anyone, all still belong to the BBC
This is kind of something to fit inbetween series 2 & 3, based on the epic trailer for series 3. I seriously cannot wait until the weekend!
I know I've used the same names for my Knights as i did in my last story, but they are not the same characters - as in, these ones aren't bullies!
Please let me know what you think?
"Arthur!" Softly calling his master, Merlin nudged his horse into a trot, determined to catch up with the prince. Luckily, the remaining Knights had fallen behind, exhaustion alone making their horses stumble, not to mention the numerous injuries they all seemed to be supporting. Arthur was riding alone ahead, snapping at nearly anyone who approached him. All of his men knew why though, knew he was feeling responsible for their recent losses on this never ending quest.
"Arthur, we have to turn back. Sir Owain's wound looks like it is becoming infected and Sir Gawain is struggling, his leg looks like it is broken."
"You're no physician, Merlin." Arthur snapped, not taking his eyes off the path ahead as he pushed his horse onwards, despite the fact that none of them had slept for days.
"For God's sake, Arthur, you'll kill us all if you carry on like this." That eventually got the prince's attention, causing him to reign in his animal suddenly and glaring at his servant.
"Who are you to tell me what will happen? You're not a Knight, not a scout, Merlin, you are a servant." Ignoring the stinging blow behind Arthur's words, Merlin reminded himself for the hundredth time that day it was just because the prince was tired and angry, he didn't really mean it. He just knew that he would have better luck taking out his frustrations on his servant than any of the Knights, they were more likely to just agree with him.
"Arthur, I know you." Merlin began softly, his blue eyes glittering with concern for the welfare of the men around him. Over the last few months, he had gotten to know them considerable well as they were sent on quest after quest, and they in return had begun to treat him as more than just Arthur's servant, especially as he had saved all of their lives more than once. Not that any of them knew how the clumsy boy had managed to do so, however.
"I can see the state of you, of all us. Even the horses aren't going to make it if we keep it up like this. When was the last time you slept in a bed, and had a proper night's sleep without having to stand guard for part of it?"
"Shut up, Merlin." Arthur growled, swinging his horse around and once again nudging the poor creature into moving forward. The steed's head was hanging low, holding it up took more energy than he had left.
Sighing irritably at the fact the prince was still as stubborn as ever, Merlin followed, wondering whether it was quite a good idea or not. Arthur didn't have the longest temper at the best of times, let alone when he was in this mood. But the warlock knew he had a point. None of them had slept in Camelot for more than a night in three months, and with the wounded among them, both the prince and the servant had to be included in the rota of keeping watch in order for everyone to be able to catch a little sleep. But the exhaustion was beginning to catch up on them, and considering it was still dark when they had broken camp that morning, Merlin knew winter was fast approaching. If they had any chance of succeeding, they needed time to recuperate.
"Sire, please, just listen." Hearing Arthur's irritable sigh as Merlin once more rode side by side with him, the servant bit his lip, wondering whether he was indeed pushing this too far. However, when Arthur didn't say anything more, he pushed on anxiously.
"If we go back now, we can rest for a week, gather winter supplies and head out in a few days. Give the men the chance to see their families and sleep in an actual bed and we can draw up a new plan. Face it, Arthur, we are no closer to finding her than when we set out all those months ago."
"How would you know, Merlin, you don't know the slightest thing about hunting. And besides, it was my father's orders that we don't stop until we find Morgana."
Shutting his eyes in dismay, Merlin sighed deeply himself, pinching the bridge of his nose wearily. He knew full well Arthur wasn't even sure if the Lady Morgana would still be alive, she had been unconscious in the arms of his enemy the last time he had set eyes on the woman who had been almost a sister to him. Merlin knew differently, however, and despite Arthur's concern for her, knew that they really didn't want to find her. There was no telling what Morgause had done. Morgana had been aware of her magic before she had disappeared, and had already been using the knowledge that Uther would execute her if he should find out as an excuse to join forces with his enemies. A year later, and under the guidance of Morgause? There was no telling what she would be like now. Not to mention the fact the last time the servant and the King's ward were together, he had poisoned her, something Morgause had been all too aware of. No, despite the King's orders, Merlin knew they really didn't want to find her.
"Arthur, if we don't stop, he'll have to send out search parties for you too before long." The warlock said quietly, hoping to make the prince realise quite what he was doing.
"Sire!" The frantic shout from behind them had Merlin break off in trying to convince the prince and for them both to turn simultaneously back towards the rest of the Knights. The majority of them had dismounted, and rushing back towards them, Merlin saw why. Sir Owain was lying on the floor, beginnings of a fever ravaging his body as he shook with cold. The other men had tried to wrap a blanket around him, but the knight had thrown it off, declaring that he was far too hot. Immediately slipping from his horse, Merlin dropped to his knees beside the fallen man. Arthur was right in saying the servant was no physician, but having been living with Gaius all of this time, he was more qualified than anyone else present.
"Sir Leon, could you possibly fetch the willow bark from my saddle bag?" Merlin asked softly, his anxious eyes checking over the fallen man. He had managed to gather a few supplies on their travels, only the basics, but the ones he actually knew what to do with. The warlock knew full well if he tried something without being certain, it could spell disaster, Gaius had driven that into him. Leon jumped to do as he was asked, a clear indication of how much their view of the servant had changed in the few months. After Merlin had somehow pulled Gawain back from the brink of death when he had been assaulted by a fever, he had become a respected member of their group rather than just tagging along to cook the dinner.
"Here, Merlin." Handling the servant the bundle, the knight stepped back again, forming a circle around the pair with the rest of the men. It didn't escape Merlin's notice that Arthur had been left outside the circle, his reluctance to come forward meant the others had reacted without him leading them.
Crushing the bark in his hand to make more of a paste, Merlin then carefully slipped some onto Owain's tongue before wrapping the blanket back around him,
"Too hot," The knight muttered, trying to shrug it off again. The servant, however, stayed firm, keeping it securely around his shoulders.
"You have to sweat it out, you'll be fine if you keep the blanket on," he told him firmly, helping Owain up and back onto his horse as he did so. To the Knight's amusement, their comrade, whilst muttering sullenly, did as he was told. Despite the fact that the person giving the orders was the lowest ranking person of their party, was just a mere servant.
The party had just set off again, Arthur, silently fuming at the fact his men were listening to his servant more than him nowadays, taking up the rear this time. Merlin was just in front of him, clearly trying to work out whether or not he should resume trying to convince the prince they should turn back. To Arthur's relief, he didn't. He knew was running a huge risk keeping the men out for so long without a proper sleep or even a decent sized meal. But he knew his father was slowly losing his grip on sanity as the search for his missing ward continued, and Arthur was afraid that if he returned with no news again, the King would be lost.
The party hadn't been travelling long when suddenly, Sir Percival, who was leading this time, let out a shout of alarm seconds before a group of bandits jumped on the party. Three men were pulled from their horses before the Knights had time to react, but their comrades were only seconds behind, jumping down with swords drawn, coming to their rescue. Arthur calmly stayed on his horse, crossbow in hand as he used his remaining arrows to pick off as many of the bandits as possible, before he too was forced to jump down, sword in hand.
The fight lasted only a matter of moments before the remaining bandits fled back into the trees. They had only managed to succeed in getting the men from their horses in the first place because the Knights were wearied by their travels, but even they remembered their training in the face of an attack. Panting slightly with the rush adrenaline, Arthur sheathed his sword again, feeling more awake and vibrant than he had done for days. Glancing around his men, he could tell instantly they felt the same, wide smiles on their faces as they grabbed the reigns of their mounts before the horses were lost in the forest.
"Well done, men." Arthur called over, his own smile firmly in place.
"We showed them, Sire!" Percival called back, helping Gawain back onto his horse. How on earth the Knight had managed to not get hurt considering he was restricted to using only one leg was beyond Arthur, yet him and Owain had a pile of bandits by their feet. It was indeed true that nothing could hold a Knight of Camelot back when there was a threat. Watching as his men remount, Arthur suddenly frowned. Out of all of them, there was one who would not have a wide grin on his face after a fight, more of a disapproving frown as he watched the men congratulate each other for killing the enemy. But Merlin was nowhere to be seen.
"Merlin!" Arthur yelled into the clearing, sensing more than seeing the rest of his men turn towards him, their smiles disappearing as they too realised the absence of one of their number.
"Merlin, where are you? Stop being such a girl, the fight is over. Merlin!" Despite his words, Arthur's tone was one full of concern. Whilst the warlock had been a great help to them on their travels, the prince still felt responsible for him, he had promised Gaius to take care of the clumsy fool, and despite being in the presence of so many knights, the servant had yet to master using a sword.
"Merlin!" True fear beginning to lace his tone as Arthur began scouting the area around them, the prince paused, trying to remember exactly what happened at the beginning of the fight. Percival had called the alarm, and many of the men had jumped from their horses. Arthur had been preoccupied pulling his crossbow out, but he was sure he hadn't seen Merlin jump down. Double checking behind him, Arthur confirmed his suspicions, the servant's horse was still in front of his own, just missing its rider.
"Damn it, Merlin, what have you done now?" The prince muttered quietly, trying to hide from his men how worried he was. Merlin had been trying to make him turn back, if he had only listened, the servant would be safe.
"Don't worry, Sire, we'll find him." Laying a comforting hand on the prince's shoulder, Leon swiftly began giving orders to the men, spreading them out in all directions to search for the missing boy. Watching them spread out, Arthur couldn't help a small smile making its way onto his face, he had certainly chosen the twelve of them well. Not all of his Knights would have been prepared to look for Merlin, some would have wanted to leave straight away and leave the boy to the wilderness.
Beginning his own search, the prince looked under every bush, behind every tree, but to no avail. He felt like he had been searching for hours, trying to keep down the horrible thoughts regarding the fact the warlock may already be dead when a shout from behind him caused Arthur to go sprinting in that direction.
"I found him!"
Barrelling his way through his men, Arthur dropped to his knees beside Leon, his breath catching in his throat as he caught sight of the motionless figure sprawled on the ground.
"Merlin?" Arthur whispered, not caring if the men heard the small crack in his voice. Crawling forward, he grabbed the still hand in his own, desperately trying to feel for a pulse.
"It's alright, Arthur, he is alive." Leon muttered quietly, being close enough to see the anguish in the prince's face. "He's bleeding though, do any of us know what to do for a head wound?"
"No, only Merlin." Biting his lip as he watched the pale face, Arthur desperately wanted his servant to wake up and tell him what he was supposed to do. And then, as if someone had lit a candle in his mind, the prince knew. Merlin had told him, he had been telling him for days, only Arthur had been too focused on their mission to listen.
"We need to get him to Gaius."
"But Sire," Leon protested, confusion evident in his eyes. None of them had dared mention returning home apart from Merlin, they knew how much this quest meant to Arthur. "That would mean going back to Camelot."
"Indeed it would. But Merlin is the only one with any medical knowledge, and much as it pains me to admit it, we need him. And we all need a break." Adding the last part on under his breath, Arthur stood up. Bending over Merlin's fallen form, the prince slung his servant across his back before striding past his Knights and back to the horses.
"We ride for Camelot immediately," he called over his shoulder at the men, almost feeling a wave of relief radiating from them. He couldn't blame them though, he too was more than desperate to seek the sanctuary of his own home, they had been in the forest for far too long.
Tying the reigns of Merlin's horse onto his own, Arthur then placed his servant over the animal, making sure he wasn't going to slip from the saddle. Little did he know he was doing exactly the same thing his servant had done for him when they were searching for Balinor. Giving his own horse a small tap with his heel, Arthur turned the animal around, heading back towards home. The horses almost seemed to have realised they could return to their nice stables, and it took all of the prince's control to keep his horse going at a trot, he didn't think it would bode well for Merlin if they began to canter.
The Knights rode all through the day and all through that night as well, their desperation to reach home and collapse in their own beds meant they were not prepared to stop again. Even Owain, his teeth chattering dully as he shivered, didn't complain once, knowing it was partly thanks to the unconscious boy that he was still in as good as shape as he was.
They made good time. By dawn the following morning, Percival gave a shout of glee, sounding like a little boy as he spurred his horse on, bringing the welcome sight of Camelot into their vision. Without a word, Arthur glanced over to check on Merlin, who had yet to regain consciousness, and then the whole group broke into a canter. Sir Tristam quickly pulled ahead, his boyish enthusiasm quickly rubbing off on them all as they hurtled towards their destination, racing and laughing the whole way. As soon as they entered the gates, however, they all slotted back in behind Arthur, trying to act like Knights rather than boys, yet the grins could not be wiped off their faces. The news of their arrival spread through the city like wildfire, and the party was given a warm welcome as they trotted through.
Whilst he was enjoying seeing his Knights so laid back and relaxed after the hardships they had been through, Arthur could not smile. He was not only dreading his father's reaction, but also that of Gaius. He knew that whilst the physician would never say in words he blamed the prince for his ward being hurt, Arthur knew he would be thinking it. They should have returned weeks ago when the weather began to turn, replenished their almost nonexistent supplies and gone out prepared.
"Sire," Leon suddenly said softly, riding up alongside his prince. As Arthur glanced over, the Knight nodded in the direction of the castle steps. Arthur had been so wrapped up in his thoughts he hadn't seen the King stride out onto the steps, a fierce hope burning in his eyes when he saw them approach. As Arthur watched, his eyes scanned over the men, and on not seeing his ward present, Uther disappeared back through the castle doors, not even staying outside to greet his son. Before he could say anything though, a small girl ran in front of his horse, making the prince react quickly to not trample her.
"Daddy!" She squealed happily, and before Arthur could so much as blink, Percival was down from his horse, scooping his daughter into his arms and spinning her around, laughing gleefully. As the child's delighted laugh bounced around the courtyard, the other knights dismounted, greeting their families who had followed them into the courtyard, but waiting until their loved ones were formally dismissed.
"Owain and Gawain, I want you to both see Gaius before you return home. The rest of you, meet me on the training field in three days time to discuss what happens next."
His last orders given, Arthur wearily lead his horse through to the stables. Handing the reigns over to the eagerly awaiting boy, the prince then slid his servant from the back of the animal before handing over Merlin's reigns as well. Tossing the boy the last gold coin in his pocket, Arthur smiled at the dumbfounded look on his face.
"I want you to give them the best treatment you've ever done, understand?"
"Yes, Sire!" The boy exclaimed happily, tucking the coin into his pocket and leading the beasts into the stables. For a moment, Arthur felt sad having his horse out of his sight, but soon pushed the thought away. Once more slinging Merlin across his shoulders, the prince made his way up to the physician's chambers, knowing if his father had wanted to see him immediately, he would have waited on the steps.
The walk to the physician's chambers was a lot longer than Arthur remembered, his weary legs almost threatening to give out on him more than once, not helped by the added weight he was carrying. Not that it was a lot, in fact, Merlin seemed skinnier than ever. Another thing to have emerged with being away from the castle for so long. Nudging the door open with his foot, Arthur backed into the room, only pulling up short when he was Owain and Gawain were both already there.
"Sire," the both said in unison, bowing their heads respectively. A fresh bandage was tied around Gawain's leg, but judging by the way he was holding it, Merlin had been wrong in his prediction of it being broken, something Arthur was thankful about. Owain too had a fresh set of bandages, the empty goblet and the grimace on his face showing he had been treated to one of Gaius' vile potions. The physician himself was in the corner of the room, his back to the door as he searched for something meaning he was not aware of the prince's arrival until the Knights spoke.
Spinning around as quick as his aching bones would let him, Gaius barely seemed to notice the prince, his eyes locked on the unconscious form swung over Arthur's shoulder instead.
"Merlin?" The physician whispered, his voice betraying his concern as he stumbled across the room. Between the two of them, they soon had the servant lying down on the bed, Arthur inwardly wincing when he saw just how pale he was.
"How long as he been unconscious?" Gaius snapped, his worry meaning he had forgotten who he was talking too. Arthur didn't mind though, he too was more worried about his servant than about formalities.
"Just over a day." The prince muttered quietly, although to his surprise, Gaius seemed to sag in relief at that.
"I was expecting worse. From what your Knights have told me, none of you have slept for a while. That is probably why he has yet to wake up. The wound does not look bad."
"So Merlin's basically asleep?" Arthur asked, eyebrows raised in incredulity. He was going to kill the black haired boy. He had been practically out of his mind with worry that the warlock was dead, and in actual fact he had been having a rest.
"Not quite, but technical yes. Sir Owain, you are free to go. Come back to me tomorrow to change the bandages, plenty of food and rest and you will be fine. And can you help Sir Gawain home as well?"
As the two Knights stood and walked – or in Gawain's case- limped out of the room, Arthur suddenly stopped them at the door. Putting a hand on each of their shoulders, he smiled at them gratefully.
"You did well."
"My Lord," they acknowledged, smiles of their own appearing as they left. As soon as they had gone, Arthur felt his own exhaustion crashing back down on him now he had no one watching. Gaius didn't count, he had seen the prince at his worst almost more times than Arthur himself had, what with more often than not being unconscious at the time. Expecting the lecture from the man about his responsibilities regarding the way he had pushed the men, the prince studied his boots, not having the courage to face him. He knew it was his fault Merlin was out cold, he had promised to look after the clumsy fool, and look at what had happened. He just wasn't sure whether he could hear it coming from of the few people in Camelot Arthur had the deepest respect for.
So when a comforting hand suddenly appeared on his shoulder and a stool was shoved roughly behind his knees just as his legs gave way, Arthur was more than surprised. Finally looking up, Arthur was amazed to see Gaius crouched in front of him, concern etched into his face, no blame at all present. And that was what proved to be the prince's undoing.
As he gazed into Gaius's concerned face, Arthur, to his shame, felt his eyes fill with tears. Two of his knights were injured, as well as Merlin, three had been killed since they left on the quest, he hadn't eaten or slept in two days and even before then, it hadn't been enough. His father was disappointed in him and he had yet to find Morgana. And on top of all of that, Gaius didn't blame him for the injuries inflicted upon his ward. Angrily brushing the tears away, the prince rested his head in his hands, feeling utterly spent. A headache was beginning to build behind his eyes, and despite his body craving sleep, Arthur knew it would not come, he was too exhausted to be able to surrender to the pull of it.
"Here, drink this." With a sigh, Arthur pulled his head upright again, his eyes just about being able to focus on the small bottle Gaius was waving in front of his face. Taking it, Arthur registered his hand was shaking before the bottle fell from his weak grasp, splintering onto the floor.
"Sorry," Arthur muttered, feeling ashamed once again. What was going on with him at the moment?
"Let's try again?" Gaius asked soothingly, his voice light and relaxed. Reaching into the small cupboard, he pulled out a new one, only this time helped the prince down the contents. For a moment, he watched Arthur with narrow eyes, before the young man suddenly slumped forward in his seat. Diving forward with a speed he didn't know he possessed, Gaius caught Arthur around the chest, stopping him from falling. Rolling him over and checking his airways, the physician nodded in satisfaction as Arthur fell into a deeper sleep. It hadn't originally been Gaius' intention to send Arthur to sleep, but he could tell the headache that was building for the prince and how broken he was looking. He could also see in his eyes that Arthur blamed himself for everything that had happened to his men and the fact that Morgana had not yet been found. Gaius knew that was because what had once been a fiery, yet passionate young woman did not want to be found, not because of lack of trying on the prince's behalf. Gently cradling the his head in his lap, Gaius called for the guards to help him carry Arthur back to his own chambers, hoping that some time in his own bed would mend the haunted look in his eye. It was still only early morning, but with the aid of the potion, Gaius knew Arthur would sleep straight through until the following morning. It would just be up to the physician to tell the King he could not speak with his son.
Just as the guards carried the prince out, a low moan sounded throughout the chambers, causing Gaius to turn sharply on his heel to see Merlin beginning to stir. Within an instant, he was by the warlock's side, encouraging his ward to open his eyes. With a sigh of relief, Gaius sat back in his chair as Merlin did indeed comply, the welcome flicker of blue relieving the physician more than he realised. He had told Arthur that his servant was going to be fine, yet if he was honest, he had not believed it himself until he was his ward peering in confusion back at him.
"Gaius?" Merlin croaked, his voice dry from not drinking for two days. He must have hit his head harder than he had thought, for he was sure he was staring at the physician.
"What happened? Where am I? Where's Arthur…I have to find Arthur!" Starting to get slightly alarmed, Merlin quickly pushed himself upright, only to have a firm hand on his shoulder stopping him from going any further. Strangely enough, the hand felt remarkably real.
"Shh, my boy, it's alright. Arthur is asleep. And yes, you are back in Camelot, you are home, Merlin. As for what happened, from what I gather, the group was set upon by bandits and you were knocked out. The Knights then returned home, and here you are."
What Gaius didn't say, however, was how the prince was nearly beside himself with worry that there was something really seriously wrong with Merlin. Nor the fact that both Gawain and Owain had been telling him about how Merlin's skills as a physician had grown during their travels, something Gaius could see for his own eyes. If it wasn't for the way the wound on Owain's arm had been cleaned, infection would have set in long ago. Blinking his suddenly misty eyes, Gaius turned away, clearing his throat in a self conscious manner. There were still times when he found voicing his pride for his young charge slightly awkward.
"Gaius?" Turning back again, Gaius frowned in concern as Merlin's words slurred more, his eyes shutting again.
"Stay awake for me, Merlin, I need to check you over."
"M'fine," Merlin muttered, not being able to resist the pull of sleep any longer. Relaxing back into the pillows once more now he knew the prince was safe, Merlin sighed deeply, allowing the strains of the quest to leave him.
"You sleep, Merlin. I'll be right here when you wake up." A small smile made its way onto Merlin's face before he completely sagged, a deep sleep claiming him immediately.
"I'm proud of you, my boy." Gaius whispered, running his hand through Merlin's untidy hair in an uncharacteristic display of affection. The group had been gone so long Gaius truly thought he had lost the boy this time, especially seeing him come back in the state he was. It would be good to have him home.
Checking he was definitely asleep, Gaius silently stood. He meant what he had promised the warlock about being there when he woke up again, but knowing that was going to be a while, the physician had a report to deliver to the king, hoping it would make him realise the danger he was sending his heir into each time they left Camelot.
Arthur couldn't remember the last time he had felt this warm or content, sleep just beginning to wear away for the prince. He was slowly becoming conscious of things going on around him, but had not yet plucked up the courage to open his eyes. He knew there was someone else in the room, yet assuming it was Gaius, Arthur was more than happy to just return to his dreams.
Suddenly, a gentle hand carefully brushed his hair back from his forehead, the hand resting momentarily atop his head in a tender gesture. That's weird , Arthur couldn't help but think. There was no way it was Gaius in the room with him then.
"What have I driven you too, Arthur?" A concerned voice whispered above him , sounding close to breaking. "I've pushed and pushed you, and look what has happened."
Forcing his eyes open, Arthur found himself staring at his father, perched on the edge of the bed, but gazing off into space, not seeming to notice his hand was still resting on his son. The King was looking worse than Arthur remembered, and he hadn't exactly been looking good the last time the prince had lain eyes on his father, driven to desperation in searching for his ward.
"Father?" Arthur croaked quietly, shifting slightly under the covers. His covers. Frowning in confusion, Arthur didn't notice the hand disappear as Uther looked down at his son, relief in seeing him awake apparent in his eyes. Arthur, however, was too busy looking around his room in confusion.
"How did I get here?" he asked, somewhat thickly. "I thought I was at Gaius'. And then I think I fell asleep."
"You did, Arthur. The guards carried you back. And Gaius may have had more of a hand in you falling asleep than you perhaps realise."
Smiling in amusement, Arthur pushed himself upright, propping his pillows up behind him and leaning back on them with a sigh. He still felt exhausted. Glancing towards the window, Arthur blinked in surprise at the early morning sun coming through the drapes. It had been early morning when they had arrived back in Camelot, meaning he must have slept for an entire day. No wonder he felt hungry.
"I shall leave you to rest, Arthur. Report to me in four days time." And so saying, the King strode from the room, the affection he had shown when Arthur was asleep once more buried within him. But the prince didn't mind, for he had felt the touch, heard his father's words. He had shown enough to make the young man realise quite how concerned his father had been about his welfare.
A few hours later, and Arthur once more found himself outside the door to the physician's chambers. He had had a leisurely morning, eating a huge breakfast before sinking into a bath, thankful to be washing the dirt and grime from the quest away. Dressing in warm clothes, the prince couldn't help but feel a lot more light hearted now he was home. Maybe Merlin had been right, maybe they should have returned weeks ago, then the injuries everyone had sustained would have been less if the Knights had been well trained. Running a hand through his hair, Arthur knocked softly on the door, letting himself in before Gaius had a chance to answer.
The physician was sitting at his workbench, his quill scratching away as he filled in reports. Glancing up as the prince entered, he smiled in welcome, pushing a stool over with his foot. Arthur, however, ignored it, glancing over at the bed where Merlin still was, his eyes shut.
"Is he still-?"
"No, he is just asleep. He has woken up a couple of times over the last few hours, he is fine, just exhausted."
"He isn't the only one," Arthur muttered, sitting down on the stool wearily. He had slept for over a day, and yet still had no absolutely no energy whatsoever.
"It'll take a couple of days before you are back to your full strength, Sire, it has been a trying few months."
"I guess," Arthur sighed, rubbing his hand over his eyes and trying to stifle a yawn. "Gaius, I wanted to apologise. I promised I would look after him, and look what happened. I should have turned back when Merlin told me too. I didn't listen to him and he paid the price."
"And he has done so well, not only keeping up with us, but his medical knowledge, Gaius, it's amazing. He saved all of our lives more than once, cured Percival when he ate poisonous berries, stopped numerous infections…"
"No, Gaius, I want you to know how much we are indebted to him."
"That was quite some speech, Sire." A cheerful voice sounded from behind him, causing Arthur to spin around sharply, the top of his ears going red. Merlin pushed himself upright, leaning on his elbow as he regarded the prince in amusement. His eyes, however, gave away what he was really feeling, gratitude at the prince for appreciating his talents on the quest.
"He's awake." Gaius finally managed to say, chortling at the embarrassed look on Arthur's face. As Merlin joined in, Arthur eventually too started laughing, causing Gaius to lean back in satisfaction. It was indeed good to have them home.
Why does Merlin always get hurt or end up unconscious in my stories? Ops!
Anyway, you know what to do, there is the magic button!