A/N- Ugh, I am ill today, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to upload some Merthur tidbits which I've only posted on Tumblr so far.

Summery: "Don't send me away again, Arthur, I won't go, don't make me," and suddenly Arthur was enfolding Merlin's small frame with his own, immersing him and holding on tight, as he realised what Merlin's nightmare was about.

Uh, there are spoilers in here for 402, I think.

Please enjoy!

Ribs and Ladders

"I'll take him from here," Arthur told Gwaine, firmly, before taking hold of Merlin's arm. The pair of them had just stumbled out of the tavern... or rather, Merlin had stumbled, whilst Gwaine laughed. That was until he'd seen Arthur, "you know he can't hold his drink," Arthur glared at the knight, and Merlin, who had been giggling into Arthur's ear a second before, fell silent, looking resentful.

"Can too," he retorted, but Arthur just rolled his eyes,

"Go home, Gwaine," he said, wearily, before tugging Merlin along, heading back to the castle.

Merlin made to branch off, heading for the physician's quarters, but Arthur wouldn't let him. Instead, he pulled him towards the Prince's own chambers.

"Arthur?" Merlin mumbled, confused.

"You shouldn't drink," Arthur griped, as he opened his bedroom door, "you're not Gwaine," the truth was, Arthur didn't like the smell of the alcohol on Merlin. It didn't suit him. It felt wrong.

"So? I can do what I like," Merlin said, angrily, trying to pull free of Arthur's grip.

"There are better ways of handling grief," Arthur began, still not letting go and dragging him over to his bed,

"What would you know?" Merlin didn't sound angry anymore, just tired, and Arthur looked over at him,

"I lost my mother, remember?" he said, quietly. Merlin shrugged, now eyeing the bed hopefully, "get in," Arthur sighed.

Merlin kicked off his shoes, tripping over a few times, before pulling back the covers and climbing into the huge, deliciously warm, bed. Arthur watched fondly as the other man snuggled in deeper, curling his legs up to his chest, eyes already drifting shut.

"I've lost people too," Merlin murmured, and Arthur made a small noise of agreement, even though he had no idea to whom Merlin was referring.

It wasn't customary for Merlin to sleep in Arthur's bed, but the boy was a foolish drunk, and he had been looking so small ever since Lancelot's death that Arthur couldn't care less what was customary and what wasn't. He yawned as he stripped and then changed into his night things, leaving his top half bare, as usual. Then he lay down next to his manservant.

Merlin's body immediately seem to rearrange itself, like Arthur was its gravity, and the prince sighed, contented, as Merlin tucked his head under his chin, and tangled their legs together. Merlin's were shockingly cold, and Arthur grumbled a little, before settling, watching the way Merlin's alabaster skin shone in the moonlight.

His fingers carefully traced the ridges of Merlin's ribs, like a fragile ladder leading to his heart, over which Arthur splayed his fingers, enjoying the feel of the steady thrumming of life that had become like a drug to him; Merlin being alive was what kept Arthur functioning. He was addicted to it.

After a while, Merlin fell asleep, his head tilting ever so slightly upwards so he could breathe. Arthur felt the soft tickle of his breath on his collar bone, and let it lull him, so he almost drifted off...

"No," Merlin suddenly jerked in his sleep, his head banging painfully against Arthur's chin, "No, Arthur, please," Arthur tried to pull away, horrified by the broken tone in Merlin's voice, and wanting to look properly at his face, but Merlin reached forwards, jostling and struggling, his fingers scrabbling at Arthur's chest.

"Merlin," Arthur whispered, as Merlin's long fingers curled into his own night shirt, for something to cling onto,

"Don't send me away again, Arthur, I won't go, don't make me," and suddenly Arthur was enfolding Merlin's small frame with his own, immersing him and holding on tight, as he realised what Merlin's nightmare was about.

"Shush, Merlin," he breathed into his servant's hair, "I won't. I promise. I won't ever let you go again."

Eventually, Merlin stilled, and his breathing evened out once more, but Arthur didn't loosen his hold. They stayed like that all night, and well into the morning.