For those of you who do not know, this one-shot is extended version of a drabble I wrote, about how come Merlin's always falling over but never getting hurt. It took longer than I thought it would to write, but I hope you like it. It's intended to show close friendship between Merlin and Arthur, not slash, but you can interpret it as you like :) I hope it lives up to the expectations of the people who read the original drabble :D PLEASE REVIEW, I shall love you forever :)
Sew it up
Merlin bounded into the room, smiling widely, to wake up the Prince. He darted over to the bed, and gave his royal highness a prod in the back of the head.
"Oi!" Arthur yelled, sitting up, and glaring at his servant.
"Sorry, Arthur, but I've got your breakfast." Merlin held up the plate, upon which sat a boiled egg, two slices of toast and several rashers of bacon. Arthur, who had been half way to reaching for his pillow and throwing it at Merlin, paused: he didn't want the idiot to drop the food.
With a sigh, he got out of bed and sat at the table by the window. Merlin smiled again and put the plate in front of him.
"Great, you need to eat. Big day ahead." Merlin told him, briskly.
"What big day?" Arthur grumbled, digging into his breakfast. Merlin shrugged,
"I don't know. Every day's big for a prince, isn't it? You probably have some training to do or something." Arthur rolled his eyes.
"You really have no idea, do you Merlin?" he said. Merlin frowned,
"What do you mean?" he asked, moving off to make Arthur's bed.
"What you just described is not a big day. What you just described is an average day where I could have stayed in bed for a few hours longer, and you could have avoided some chores." Merlin thought about it,
"Hmmm... no, I think not." He said, after a pause.
"You think not? Well, what do you think then, Merlin?"
"I think that, had I left you to have a lie in, Gaius would have given me a stack of chores to do instead. As it is, I'd rather have the pleasure of waking you up than cleaning out some leech tank." Arthur couldn't think of what to say to that, so he drained his goblet and threw it at Merlin's head, off which it bounced and clattered to the floor.
"Well," Arthur said, smiling as Merlin rubbed his sore head, "seeing as I'm awake now and this is a 'big day', for me, once I've finished eating, you can take this plate to the kitchens and fetch my armour." Merlin's jaw dropped.
"Couldn't you just come down and we can put your armour on in the armoury?"
"Nope." Arthur replied, firmly.
"Fine, fine! Whatever you say." And Merlin swept forwards, picking up Arthur's plate.
"Hey! I'm not finished yet!" Arthur exclaimed. Merlin sighed, picked up the last piece of bacon, and dropped it into Arthur's hands. Arthur looked down at it for a second, and then turned to yell at Merlin, but the servant had all ready left the room.
Merlin was sleepy. Merlin was pretty much always sleepy, no matter how much he tried to hide it. What with visiting talking dragons, hiding from paranoid kings, cleaning up after Arthur, saving Arthur, doing chores for Arthur and generally just keeping Arthur happy, sleep was becoming increasingly hard to come by.
But Merlin still got up early to wake his master because, no matter what he said, Arthur would have been annoyed if he'd gotten up late. And the prince complained and moaned and threw things at him, but he didn't notice the dark shadows under his servant's eyes. But then, could you blame him? Merlin never brought up his lack of sleep, and he didn't want to bring it up. Merlin saw it as his own responsibility to fit sleeping time around taking care of Arthur. That was just part of his job as manservant to the prince.
Merlin threw the dirty plate into a tub of soapy water in the kitchen, and then headed off to collect Arthur's armour. Gods, it was heavy. Merlin walked around it a few times, before attempting to lift it. He dropped it straight away, and cursed as the plates fell apart, rolling in all different directions. He glanced around, hoping no one had heard the clattering, and then began gathering the protective metal into his arms. He yawned widely.
Maybe he should take two trips? There was a lot to carry. But that would take forever, and he couldn't be bothered with Arthur laughing and calling him a weak little girl for the next hour. He considered wearing some of it: he could put the helmet on, for instance. He tried it, but it made him feel horribly claustrophobic and, besides, he might get in trouble if someone saw him wearing the prince's armour. With a sigh, he realised he was just going to have to lug the whole lot up with him.
Arthur paced, grumpily, up and down his room, waiting. Merlin was taking a very long time, as usual, but he was beginning to hear the sounds of his clumsy servant: the clanking of metal carrying up to his chambers. The noise got louder and louder and then, suddenly, there was an almighty crash. Arthur froze, a grin starting on his face. He waited for the sound of Merlin getting to his feet, maybe for a yell of "why can't you carry your own stuff, Arthur?"
But it never came.
Arthur hesitated one moment longer and then, with a small, exasperated sigh, pushed the door open. Merlin wasn't there.
"Merlin?" he called, uncertainly, speeding up as he headed for the staircase at the end of the short corridor.
And there was Merlin, at the bottom of the stairs, a river of blood running down his pale forehead and Arthur's armour scattered around him.
So Merlin had fallen, Arthur thought, not unusual. He had tripped. Merlin always tripped. But he never got hurt, and he never stayed down. He jumped back up, blushing and grinning, hitching up Arthur's rucksack on his back, and walking on like nothing had happened.
So why wasn't Merlin doing that now? Why wasn't the clumsy idiot getting to his feet, and picking up the armour, looking embarrassed and apologetic?
"Merlin?" Arthur said again, running down the steps and kneeling beside the servant. He pushed away the pieces of armour and his hand hovered over Merlin's body. The boy's chest rose and fell, mercifully steady. Arthur wasted no more time. He heaved Merlin so that his torso hung over his shoulder, his feet dangling down his front, and then climbed the step once more, moving as fast as he could.
Once they reached his chambers, Arthur dropped Merlin onto his bed, grimacing as his body hit the mattress, and jolted a little. He leaned forward and brushed away the blood on his servant's blood, horrified to find that it simply reappeared the moment he got rid of it.
"Oh Gods," Arthur murmured, leaning back and taking a steady breath. Everything would be fine, he told himself, firmly. Then he thought about Morgana, when she had fallen down the stairs. She had recovered: she had been fine. So Merlin would be too, right? He didn't have to worry. No, he wasn't worried. He didn't worry about Merlin.
Gaius. He must get Gaius.
Arthur got to his feet and hurried to the door, relieved to find that Gwen was conveniently walking down the corridor, carrying one of Morgana's dresses.
"Guinevere," he called, and she spun around so fast that she almost dropped the dress: very Merlinesque.
"Yes, my lord?" she said, not coming any closer. Arthur sighed, wishing that she wouldn't call him that, but he really had no time to dwell on the matter.
"Could you fetch Gaius? It's Merlin. He... he fell."
"Fell?" the worry was pronounced in Gwen's voice, and she took a hesitant step closer to the prince.
"Yes. Like Morgana. Gwen, please," he said, desperately. When he had said 'like Morgana' Gwen's hand had flown to her mouth. She nodded, turned on her heels and hurried from the corridor.
Within ten minutes, both Gaius and Gwen returned.
"Gaius," Arthur stood quickly, from where he had been kneeling at Merlin's bedside, "his head, Gaius."
"What happened?" Gaius asked, at once, as he opened up the bag he'd brought with him, and pulled out a needle and some very fine thread.
"He fell down the stairs," Arthur explained, running his hand through his hair.
"How did he do that?" Gaius bent low over his ward, his face creased with concern. As he pushed the locks of dark hair from Merlin's forehead, Arthur told him, his voice laced with guilt:
"He was carrying my armour. I guess... I guess it was too heavy."
"You know that it's too heavy, Arthur!" Gaius tried to keep his emotions and voice under control, but upon seeing the gash on Merlin's head, it was hard, "you are constantly telling him how weak he is. Maybe you should listen to your own words, and think about what they mean!"
"Gaius!" Arthur exclaimed, shocked at this outburst from the old man. Gaius didn't reply: he didn't remotely feel like apologising.
"I need to sew the wound, sire. It would be of great help to me if you could hold it shut."
"I can do that, Gaius," Gwen volunteered quickly, but Arthur had been stung by Gaius' words, and didn't want to give the physician any more reason to be angry with him. Besides, he wanted to help.
"No, it's fine, Guinevere." He said, and Gwen stopped walking.
Arthur reached forwards and carefully, almost tenderly, placed his fingers over the wound, pressing the pale skin together so that Gaius could sew.
Somewhere, during the process, Merlin came round. His eyes darted around, wildly, and he struggled for a moment, gasping in pain as the thread pulled at his skin.
"It's all right, Merlin," Arthur said, delighted that Merlin had woken up, but still wary that his friend was injured, "stay still." Merlin stopped moving and concentrated on looking at Arthur's face. He lifted his hand and brushed at his forehead, where droplets of blood were forming from the needle.
"One more stitch, Merlin," Gaius said, wondering at the boy's silence, and praying that he wasn't concussed, although it was almost certain that he was: that had been quite a fall.
"What happened?" Merlin asked, softly.
"You tripped," Arthur told him. Then, after a pause and a look from both Gwen and Gaius, he added, "you were holding my armour. It, um, might have been too much for you to carry." At this Merlin frowned, indignantly.
"I could handle it," he said, even though he couldn't remember carrying the armour at all. Arthur smiled, fondly.
"No," he said, "you couldn't." Merlin pouted, and then heard a girl laughing. He propped himself up on his elbows, only to feel a jagged pain, flash through the cut on his hairline, and thud through the bump on the back of his head. He groaned, woozily, and fell back into a faint, before he could see Gwen's guilty expression.
Over the course of that day, Merlin only woke up twice more, and both times it was for barely a few minutes. Arthur didn't move an inch from his bedside, and every time Merlin so much as twitched, he would jerk forward, his eyes widening in anticipation, only to slump back in his seat, filled with disappointment, when Merlin didn't open his eyes.
Cool it down
Three days. Three days, Merlin lay there, shuddering and convulsing. That first evening, Arthur had carried his servant back to his own bed. He had wanted to sit beside him all night, but Gaius had persuaded him to leave.
On the third day, Arthur came down to Gaius' chambers to see if there had been any improvement. He found Gaius, crouching over his ward, applying a damp cloth to the boy's forehead.
"Gaius," Arthur hurried forward, "what's happened? Is he getting better?"
"Ar...Arthur," Merlin groaned, thickly, from the bed. Arthur looked down at him.
"Merlin, how're you feeling?" Arthur knelt awkwardly beside his servant. Merlin attempted to shrug, and then stopped abruptly: it wasn't worth the effort. You only needed to look at Merlin for a second to see how he was feeling: terrible.
He was trembling, his very eyelids shaking, and his skin was covered in a thin layer of sweat.
"He has a fever," Gaius explained, "his temperature... it's very high. I need to bring it down, but it's his entire body," Gaius shook his head, his brow furrowed with worry.
"What can I do?" Arthur asked, desperately, "he needs cooling down, so I'll get cold water. The coldest. Do you have a bath tub?" he enquired, hastily, deciding not presume like he had done last time, with Gwen. Gaius nodded,
"I'll fetch it," he said, "thank you, sire." Arthur nodded, and then practically ran from the room.
Arthur rarely fetched water from the tap himself. In fact, he never did. But, for Merlin, his image and pride faded, and he seized two buckets and filled them to the brim with icy water. The month was November and it was hard to get the water running: the cold had bitten at the tap, and it was stiff. Arthur was glad: the water was freezing.
Once he had it, he sloshed his way to Gaius' chambers, trying not to spill a drop. Gaius had the metal basin ready, and Arthur poured the water inside. They could almost feel the cold coming off of it, as it churned and splashed, half filling the bath.
"That'll be enough." Gaius said. The two men stared at the water. Then Arthur said,
"I'll go get Merlin."
Merlin couldn't stand by himself. Arthur bent down and carefully raised the boy to his feet, one arm around his waist, and the other holding Merlin's arm around his neck. Merlin's head rested heavily on his shoulder. Every part of Merlin's body that touched Arthur's burned, literally. The heat was unbelievable, and Arthur wondered how long the fever had been raging inside his servant.
"We're going to cool you down, Merlin," Arthur told him, gently, and then led him through to where Gaius, and the bath, were waiting.
Upon seeing the water, Merlin shuddered, and one of his hands clutched at Arthur's shirt, his head shaking frantically. Arthur bit his lip but Gaius gave him a firm nod: Merlin had to get in the water.
"Stop, Merlin. Stop now." Arthur ordered, and Merlin fell limp once more.
"I don't want to." He whispered, and Arthur understood entirely: getting into that bath would not at all be a pleasant experience.
"I'm sorry, Merlin, but you have to." Arthur told him, trying to sound authoritative, but his voice breaking a little at the sight of Merlin's face, scrunched up in fear, his eyes tight shut, "come on, Merlin. Don't be such a wimp. You'll feel better for it, trust me."
Merlin's head pounded, and his whole body burned, but he did not want to touch that water. He could only imagine the shivering and gasping it would entail and he was too sore and too scared to do it. He just wanted to go back to sleep, but Arthur was coaxing him forwards. He clung onto his master, trying to plead with him, but nothing worked. All that happened was Gaius walking forwards and removing his shirt. He tried to pull away, but Gaius wouldn't let him.
"Please, don't make me," Merlin said, barely embarrassed at the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes. It wasn't his fault. He was confused. He had been unconscious for three days. He was tired and ill and concussed and he wanted to disappear. Arthur kept on talking to the servant, distracting him while Gaius took off his trousers, so Merlin stood in his underwear. He blushed a little, upon finding himself in such a state of undress before his master and guardian. He wore and expression of awkwardness that would usually have made Arthur laugh but, today, he found nothing about the situation remotely funny.
Merlin was so stubborn. He wouldn't take a step closer to the bath, so Arthur had to result to using sheer force, grabbing hold of Merlin's skinny wrists and dragging him, struggling and whimpering, to beside the tub.
"Arthur," he whispered, and Arthur sighed.
"For crying out loud, Merlin," he said, through gritted teeth and, for a moment, Merlin thought he was going to be sent to bed; that they were going to find another way. But no. Instead, Arthur did something Merlin never would have expected.
He pulled off his own shirt, and got into the water.
The shock of cold shot through him, piercing him like an arrow, but Arthur refused to show any discomfort, for Merlin's sake. Merlin watched, in horror and awe, his knuckles turning white as he stumbled to the table, and clung onto its surface. Gaius walked to his ward, and helped hold him upright.
"Get out, Arthur," Merlin managed to say, thickly, "you don't need to do that."
"If I get out," Arthur said, forcing his body to stay still, and not react to the temperature, "will you get in?" Merlin stared for a moment, before nodding. The moment he raised his head, Arthur clambered out of the water and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around himself but still refusing to shiver.
"Come on then," Arthur gave Merlin an encouraging smile, taking off the towel and handing it to Gaius. As Gaius took the cloth, Arthur took his place by the manservant's side, and helped lower Merlin into water.
Merlin immediately began to tremble, tremors running through his body. His fingers tightened around Arthur's arm as he shook and gasped, great ragged breaths tearing through his body. Gaius was there in a second with a cloth, dipping it into the water, and gently running it over Merlin's face and hair. Merlin wondered if he felt better: the heat vanished, and he could feel his temperature sliding, down and down, but he didn't know whether he preferred being hot or cold. Both were horrible.
After five minutes of sitting there, tense and shaking, Gaius told Merlin he could get out. Arthur reached forwards and had to lift his servant bodily from the water, as the boy seemed incapable of moving. Together, he and Gaius dried Merlin, then Arthur moved away so Gaius could change him into clean, warm clothes. Somewhere, during the process, Merlin passed out from exhaustion, and once again had to be carried by Arthur, so as to be put to bed.
Make it better
Somewhere, inside Merlin's bruised and addled brain, swam a spell. A whisper of hope which tried to reach the boys eyes, to turn them gold, but couldn't. When the fever had taken over Merlin's body, the magic had fought against it: Emrys had battled with all his might, but Merlin's life was slipping away.
And then, the shock of cold had awoken something. Unlocked that power the dragon had bestowed, oh so unwillingly, upon its Lord. Emrys had revelled in it, felt it fill him up, but then Merlin had passed out, and Merlin was needed to say the spell, say those words that would heal him. Emrys could do nothing but wait, gliding through Merlin's veins. Emrys was Merlin. Merlin was Emrys.
Yet, they were as separate as two human beings on other sides of the Earth.
Finally, after many hours, Merlin's eyelids flickered. Arthur had gone to bed, but Gaius sat by his side, and looked up at the tiny movement.
"Merlin?" Gaius leant forwards, "Merlin can you hear me?" Merlin nodded, groggily. He felt ill, like he might be sick at any moment, and his hands rose to his lips as he tried to keep it inside him.
Emrys had seized his chance and, suddenly, Merlin was roaring words in another language, his eyes shining a brighter gold than Gaius had ever seen. The sound of the words entered Gaius' soul, and sat there for a long time, making him stare in awe at the power his ward held. And Merlin felt as if his head had exploded, and then the pieces had joined together once more, giving him a moment of excruciating pain followed closely by one of relief and comfort.
The spell ended. Emrys had finished. Merlin gasped, tears pouring down his face, and then fell backwards onto his pillow, instantly asleep.
"He's better? You healed him?" Arthur only just managed to keep his voice level, to stop it from raising an octave in his excitement.
"We healed him, sire. Although, it was a little down to fate, I believe. Stairs simply seem unable to kill those of us residing in this castle." Gaius smiled. Arthur looked past him to Merlin's bedroom door.
Suddenly, he felt extremely awkward.
"I believe he would like to see you, sire," Gaius said, watching the prince closely. Arthur's fists clenched and unclenched, agitatedly. He no longer looked excited or pleased. He looked scared.
"Of course," he said after a moment, smiling stiffly at the physician, and then walked into Merlin's room.
Merlin sat up abruptly when Arthur entered, noting with pleasure how his head didn't spin and he didn't feel ill.
Arthur regarded his servant, taking in the man's eager expression, his wide smile, as though he was actually pleased to see Arthur. After a few moments of simply staring at him, Merlin's smile faltered.
"What is it?" he asked, sounding a little confused, "aren't you pleased I'm all well again?" the smile returned, jokingly playing on his lips, although his eyes betrayed that he was worried. Worried about Arthur.
"Of course I'm pleased." Arthur managed, grudgingly, but still not approaching his servant.
"Are you afraid I can't work? I promise I can, look," and Merlin swung his legs out of bed and stood up. It was the first time he'd gotten to his feet since the bath, and he teetered dangerously.
"Don't be an idiot, Merlin," Arthur's instincts to protect Merlin kicked in and he rushed forward to stop him from falling over, and pushed him so he was sitting up on the bed. Then he sat beside him.
"I'm fine," Merlin insisted, "and I'm not an idiot." Arthur didn't contradict him, and Merlin was taken aback by his silence.
"Arthur," he said, gently, more serious, "what's wrong?"
Arthur turned to look at Merlin. Looked at his wide, startled eyes, the fading smile, the sunken eyes from days of illness. Looked at the man who held no resentment or anger or even the smallest bit of annoyance towards the prince whom he worked for, and who had forced him into falling down a flight of stairs. The prince who had almost got him killed.
"You almost died because of me," the words broke from him before he could stop them, in a strangled hiss. He turned away again and stared at the wall. Merlin gaped at him, in shock.
"No. No, Arthur, I didn't. I fell. Tripped. That's all, and it wasn't your fault, I promise it wasn't," as Merlin spoke, Arthur pressed his face into his hands, "I'm sorry," Merlin cried, desperately, wondering how on earth he could comfort his friend, "don't put any of the blame on yourself, Arthur. It was me-"
"Shut up, Merlin," Arthur sprang to his feet, and Merlin flinched, so that now both of them felt frightened and guilty. Arthur bit his lip for a moment, and then ploughed on, "none of this was your fault. Don't you dare say that it was. What on earth are you apologising for? I...I'm..." he trailed off, his eyes red rimmed.
"What?" Merlin asked, his voice very small. Arthur shook his head.
"I shouldn't have made you carry all that armour. It was stupid of me. And I'm-"
"It's ok," Merlin ended Arthur's struggle to find the word, "I forgive you."
Arthur nodded, slowly, his hands twisting together, his fingers forming knots. Then he said,
"You can take the next few days off. To recover."
"Thank you." Merlin said, softly. They looked at each other for one more second before Arthur strode from the tiny room.
"He cares about you a great deal," Gaius said, with a sigh, as he came and sat beside Merlin.
"Yeah, I know," Merlin agreed. Gaius put an arm around his ward.
"He barely left your side. He didn't want to."
"It was only because he felt guilty," Merlin said, although he didn't feel that was true. Gaius certainly didn't:
"It was because you are the best friend he has, Merlin. There's no point believing otherwise. And he is also your best friend."
"What?" Merlin spluttered, "don't be ridiculous! Arthur is not my best friend. Don't smirk like that, Gaius. He isn't!"
However, when Gaius left the room, Merlin allowed himself to smile. He had a couple of free days ahead of him, and he had Arthur. Sure, he was a prat, but Merlin could have done a lot worse.
And that's it. I'm quite proud of it, if I do say so myself, although I'm aware that it's ultra long and could have been posted as a couple of chapters, but it doesn't really make a difference... I PROMISED A ONE-SHOT AND HAVE DELIVERED A ONE-SHOT! oh, wow, sorry about that outburst :s
Also, I don't really like the ending. I don't feel I'm very good at endings.
And, the thing about putting Merlin in the bath wouldn't have actually cured him. It would have cooled him down, but it might have made him more ill in the long run. BUT, the point was that it awakened his magic :)
I REALLYREALLYREALLY hope you liked that! As I said at the top, please review :D
Oh and if you want to find the original drabble, it's in my series They Told Me it was Catching :D