A/N : Hi everyone! I know that I've been absent for a while, and I'm sorry - I just haven't felt inspired to write anything, at all. But I do promise that I'll do anything I can to finish up some of my old stuff. I'd hoped season 4 would inspire me to write some Merlin&Arthur stuff again and THANK GOD IT HAS. I'm so emotionally clogged from not writing. It was past time to start again.

That being said, I'm not entirely happy with how this turned out. But I just thought I'd put it out there, see what you guys think. Let me know, yeah? :)

xo, as always

He would only remember the clear details of the moment after it had passed: the way Merlin had – rather forcefully – pushed him back and rushed out to meet the danger, how he'd seemed not to even care about what would happen when he did. As if he'd planned it, somehow; not seconds, but years in advance, mulling over situations long before they'd even happened. Let's say me and Arthur are facing death by ghost, in the small hours of the pitch-black night. Arthur knew that the idiot wouldn't even hesitate in thinking on his next course of action. One of these days, he was going to give his friend a good shake on that account, until he got it into that big skull of his.

For some reason, Merlin felt it was his duty to protect him, no matter the risk to his own life. He'd proven that, time and time again. The poisoned chalice. The labyrinth. Even the mere fact that Merlin was so willing to accompany him on every quest he took, even (and maybe more so) when Arthur didn't want him to. The merest mention of Arthur facing danger had Merlin packing, a quick, reassuring smile cast his way.

"I always thought, had things been different, we'd have been good friends."

It had led to this. Merlin, frozen and wide-eyed, his pulse seemingly gone. His friend had become a ghost of his own, going where he could no longer reach him. Only Arthur wouldn't let him, not for one second. He was mindful of Lancelot sitting beside him; and he felt the cold hard ground pressing against his knees where he knelt beside the body. If he thought he'd been freezing before, touching Merlin's skin certainly didn't help, nor did the swift sense of panic rushing through his systems. He'd have thought that'd be warmer. "Merlin." Arthur pulled the body closer, his hands gripping Merlin's arms. He pressed so hard that, if there was any warm blood still rushing through those veins, there would be bruising for sure. He frantically searched for marks that would not appear.

"I'm sorry, sire." He heard someone say behind him. The voice sounded soft and apologetic, and Arthur hated it. Hated everything those words represented and dreaded their unspoken sequel.

"No." Arthur turned to where that one word of hope had come from and encountered Lancelot, who looked at him as if for the first time, sending him a clear message while he was at it. Don't you dare give up on him now. "Merlin's strong, sire. I believe he can find his way back to us. We just have to watch over him."

Right. "We need to get him warm."

Over the course of the next hour, they tried practically everything. Arthur even – and he would honestly smack anyone who made any comment about this – wrapped Merlin in his arms, allowing what little body heat he had to wash over him while he silently prayed to anyone and anything that would allow Merlin to return to the land of the living.

Arthur had been faced with Merlin dying once before in all the time they'd spent together, only this time it seemed infinitely worse than it had before. They'd known each other for mere weeks at the time, (in fact, they'd only just stopped despising each other), but even then the image of Merlin fighting to stay alive had knocked the breath out of him. Yet it was all so different then. Merlin had been shivering with fever, for one. So different from this still and broken body, lifeless in his arms.

If there was any kindness left in this world, Merlin would not die. He was sure of it.

The knights around him were sympathetic, all in varying degrees.. some of them knew Merlin even better than they knew him, and he could see the worry in their eyes. They thought him desperate and insane for not accepting the facts they believed could not be changed…but they hurt.

Only Lancelot was different. He sat beside Arthur all through the lonely, painful minutes, not saying a word, only prodding the fire when it was on the verge of dying out. But that was okay; the both of them had the same thing on their mind, so no words needed to be spoken.

It was the prince himself who eventually broke the silence. "Merlin shouldn't have done what he did."

Lancelot shook his head. "Maybe he shouldn't have, but you know he would have anyway. Nothing you or I could have said to change his mind."

Arthur rubbed Merlin's limbs once more (was it only his imagination or was the skin getting warmer under his touch?) and honestly, he recognized the truth in that statement. "You're probably right. Stubborn little idiot."

"Great friend."

"Yeah." Arthur had to crane his neck to look up at the night sky from his place on the grass, his back firmly pressed against Merlin's. "It feels like we've been waiting an eternity for the dawn to break."

It sounded poetic, even to his own ears; and he knew Lancelot had caught the symbolism as well from the small smile that flitted across his face. Come on, Merlin. At that exact moment he imagined he felt Merlin twitch underneath his fingertips and so he kept on talking, if only in thoughts – he teased his friend, appointed him court jester and told him he had a promise to fulfil. They'd conquer this evil together, remember?

Wake up, Merlin.

And then, slowly but surely, he did.

Okay... so... what did you think? Please let me know?

xo, as always