Title: Breath in the World

Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and other associated parties. I do not make any profit from this story and the plot is purely fiction.

Summary: AU, slash, A/G/M, Merlin gets sick, and Gwaine and Arthur take the day off to look after him.

Rating: PG

Warnings: H/C, slash, implied threesome/moresome, fluff, cuddling, illness

Pairings/Characters: Arthur/Gwaine/Merlin, mentions of Lancelot, Gwen, Freya, Morgana,

Word Count: 1,594

Author's Note: I had just finished a sick/hurt/comfort fic and really wanted to write one for this little series. I'm in the middle of writing the main story for this series which starts just after 'Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover'. It will be a while before I post it for many reasons: a) I have a life outside of writing fanfiction (I do, when did this happen?), b) college stuff come first and my fall semester is jammed packed (6 classes, 16 credits this semester o_O') so I'm uber busy, c) I tend to get distracted by reading fanfiction (it's a curse sometimes :D), and d) although I know where I'm going with the story, it still takes time to put it into words. I want to have a large portion of it done (or maybe all of it) before I post it up. You'll just have to be patient and hope I can find time in my busy schedule and the words to get it down quickly. Until then, enjoy this little ficlet and the others I've already written up.

xXx

Arthur groaned as the alarm went off. Keeping his eyes tightly shut, he waited for Merlin to turn it off as he always did. When Merlin made no move to rise and stop the insistent noise, Arthur growled and turned over; fumbling blindly until at last he hit the button to switch it off.

Now fully awake, he glared down blurrily at Merlin. On Merlin's other side, Gwaine rose onto his elbows brushing his hair out of his face as he looked at Merlin as well. "Merlin, time to wake up," Arthur said, nudging the paler man in the side.

Merlin moaned softly, curling further into the bedding and Arthur's side, swatting ineffectively at Arthur's hand. "M'tired," he whined softly, voice rough and gravelly.

"Merlin?" Gwaine spoke up, leaning over Merlin.

"Nooo…" Merlin curled even more into the blankets.

Frowning, Arthur leaned down further, looking at the paler man's face. Merlin's cheeks were flushed, sweat beading on his brow. Frown deepening, he reached up and laid a hand on Merlin's brow. Heat radiated off of his skin in waves.

"Merlin, are you feeling well?" Gwaine asked, seeing the direction Arthur's thoughts were headed.

"M'head feels a little woozy and cottony," Merlin mumbled, curling further into a ball. He shivered, his whole body shaking subtly as more sweat beaded on his skin.

"Merlin, I think you're sick." Arthur motioned for Gwaine to get the thermometer from the bathroom while he tried to uncurl the paler man from his ball and nest of blankets and pillows.

"Can't be sick…got work…and class…" Merlin's voice tapered off just as Gwaine arrived back with the instrument. He spared Gwaine's naked body only a moment of his time before plucking the thermometer from Gwaine's outstretched hand.

Looking down, Arthur sighed in exasperation. Somehow, Merlin had curled into an even tighter ball from the one he'd pulled him from. Giving a low growl, Arthur wrestled the tangled sheets off of Merlin's torso and placed the thermometer under his arm.

They waited in silence as the little device got to work. When it finally beeped, Arthur dug back under the sheets, plucking it from under Merlin's arm. "37.7 °C*," Arthur said aloud. [* 37.2 °C is about 100 °F, for those who don't know Celsius.]

Arthur looked up at Gwaine. "We can't leave this idiot here alone all day."

"I know. I've got a class and work today. I can skip the class, but not work," Gwaine said, going over his schedule aloud.

"I've only got work today and I've still got some sick time to use. What about Merlin's work and classes?" Arthur asked, looking down at their sick lover.

"Call Gwen and Lance, they can take over his shift at the library and explain what's happened to Merlin. I'll call Freya and ask her to take notes for Merlin in his class." Gwaine stood back up, rummaging on the floor for his pants and walking out of the room to grab his phone. Arthur smoothed back Merlin's bangs once more before grabbing his own clothes and phone.

Merlin blinked groggily up at the ceiling. He felt terrible. His lungs ached and each breath rasped through a throat that felt like someone had taken sandpaper to it. His nosed was clogged and a headache pounded between his temples at the pressure.

Groaning, he turned over, glaring at the alarm clock to see what ungodly hour of the morning it was. Merlin jerked up in alarm, scrambling to untangle himself from the twisted sheets. He didn't get far as his chest constricted, the back of his throat tickled and then he started to cough, spitting phlegm onto the hand covering his mouth.

"Merlin, you shouldn't be up," Gwaine scolded, coming into the room. He helped Merlin from his hunched position, rubbing soothing circle on his back as the coughing subsided.

"M'late for class," he croaked out, fighting Gwaine's hold on him as he struggled to get out of bed.

"No you're not. You're staying in this bed until you're better." Gwaine's strength won out and he had Merlin back on his back, sheets tucked back around him. "Stop worrying. I called Freya and she said get better soon and that she'll bring a copy of today's notes around for you."

"What about work?" He accepted the glass of water from Gwaine, gulping the cool, soothing liquid down. Although it hurt to swallow, it helped the scratchy feeling at the back of his throat fade some.

"Arthur called Gwen and Lance. They'll inform your boss and pick up the slack. For god's sake Merlin, you work in a library. It can't be that difficult," Gwaine grumbled, but smiled fondly down at his sick patient.

Sitting on the bed, he leaned back against the headboard next to Merlin. The paler man sighed and leaned against his thigh. "Where's Arthur?"

"We didn't have any cold or cough medicine, so he's gone to the store to pick some up as well as some tea and honey since we're out of that. He's also picking up takeout for later." Gwaine carded his fingers through Merlin's sweat slick hair, listening to Merlin's breathing steadily growing heavier as he fell asleep again.

The sun was nearing the horizon when Merlin roused again. He was awake only briefly as he asked what time it was. Answering, Gwaine handed him some cough syrup and cold medicine. Merlin swallowed grimly, making a face at the taste. He gulped down the warm honeyed tea, sighing as it soothed his aching throat some more and chased the bad taste from his mouth. Merlin was soon asleep again, drifting off to the sound of Gwaine's quiet voice as he spoke to someone on the phone.

As Arthur walked back into the room, Gwaine shut the phone. "Work?" Arthur asked, sitting on the side of the bed.

"Yeah, I can't get tonight off." Gwaine gave a tired sighed, running a hand through his brown locks, ruffling them a little. "You sure you can look after him yourself?" Gwaine asked, looking up at Arthur with a cocky grin.

"I know how to take care of a sick person. No need to worry about us," Arthur grouched, glaring at Gwaine.

"If I didn't worry, I'd not have much to do." Standing, he walked around to the other side of the bed. Bending down, he brushed a soft kiss on Merlin's brow and Arthur's lips before standing and leaving the room. A few minutes later, Arthur heard the door shut as Gwaine left for work.

Merlin woke again to darkness. Squinting, he made out the red glowing numbers on the alarm clock: 10:30 p.m. Groaning, he turned over, untangling himself from the sheets again. Standing on shaky legs, he made his way across the room to the loo, his bladder demanding relief the whole way.

He wasn't surprised when he opened the door to see the bedside lamp was on and Arthur was waiting for him on the bed. "Hey, how do you feel?" Arthur asked as Merlin wobbled over to the bed.

Collapsing on it, Merlin let out a breath. "Like shit." His arms and legs shook from the effort it had taken to get across the room and back. He'd almost not made it. "I hate getting sick."

"I'm sure you do. Come up the bed." Merlin complied, dragging himself until he was pressed against Arthur's side, leaning against his solid length. For a moment, the room swam dizzily, but it settled once he was still again.

Merlin hummed as Arthur brushed a hand over his brow. "Well, it feels like your fevers gone down. Lift up." Merlin raised his arm and Arthur positioned the thermometer under it. They waited in silence, Arthur running soft finger tips over the back of Merlin's neck, feeling the silky hairs at the base of his skull.

The thermometer beeped and Arthur pulled it from under Merlin's arm, looking down at the digital numbers. "36.1 °C*, looks like you fever's broken." [*36.1 °C is about between 96 °F and 97 °F.]

"Where's Gwaine?" Merlin asked, leaning into Arthur's touch.

"Work, they wouldn't let him off. Are you up to some food?"

"Not sure, could try some." Merlin rolled onto his back as Arthur got up to get some of the take out. He was nearly asleep again by the time Arthur finished heating it back up and bringing it in on a platter.

"Come on, you need to eat." Sighing, Merlin pushed himself up. Setting the platter down, Arthur bunched the pillows behind Merlin's back, helping him lean back against them and pulling the platter closer.

Merlin worked slowly through the warm soup, inhaling the scent of the spices used in it. Eating the bread with it, he was soon full and pushed it away. Arthur finished up for him, setting the platter on the floor beside the bed when he was done. "Go back to sleep, Merlin."

Complying, Merlin let Arthur maneuver him until he was flat on his back, a few pillows propping him up a little. Arthur lay next to him, curled around his body, running a hand down Merlin's side. It wasn't long before Merlin was asleep again.

Arthur soon followed. Neither woke as Gwaine slipped into the room the next morning, sliding under the covers to take up the space next to Merlin. He too was soon asleep, curling around Merlin's other side, and his hand atop Arthur's where it rested on Merlin's stomach. None woke until late the next morning.

End.