Title: Never, Ever Saw It Coming: Right, it's Alright.
Summary: Things had only just gotten back to a semblance of normality, when a crisis flips their world upside down.
Word Count (whole thing): 6,035
Warnings: (General) Wounds, blood, gore, potentially dangerous, and perhaps not thoroughly researched medical practices, tiny bit of swearing. No slash intended, but friendship can look like more from the outside. You're free to take my words however you like. (This part) Wound treatment, blood and gore.
Disclaimer: Obviously I am not the owner of BBC or Shine. I'm a college student! Title and song lyrics are from Regina Spektor's "Hero".
Series: Part 6 and finale of the Physician's Apprentice Series (formerly titled Five Times Merlin Had To Heal Someone Else, and One Time He Had To Heal Himself). Merlin has gotten tired of never knowing what to do in emergencies, and heaven knows his healing magic is unreliable at best. So he begins to study medicine under Gaius, just in case.
A/N: The final instalment (barring deleted scenes and add ons...) of my Physician's Apprentice Series. Thank you for your reception of this massive undertaking! You all were great! Look for my next story soon! And please, read, review and enjoy this last story!
Thank You: To my sister, Kate-7h, who is awesome, and is my unofficial beta in all things Merlin. I owe you a treat!
He never, ever saw it
Coming at all
He never, ever saw it
Coming at all
He never, ever saw it
Coming at all
It's alright, it's al
It had only been a few weeks since spending those days in the healer's cottage with Arthur, telling him the truth of his magic. In some ways, things had gone back to being exactly the same. Merlin was still doing his job, mostly by hand, and Arthur was still king, and thus was quite occupied with running a kingdom.
But Arthur knew.
There was a load of stress off Merlin's shoulders that he hadn't even fully known was there. The knowledge that Arthur knew about his magic, and accepted it was amazing to think of.
So, for the most part, things were back to normal. Since the ebbing of his curiosity, Arthur didn't speak of his magic much. Merlin didn't mention it, nor did he tell anyone else, no matter how he wanted people like Gwen or the knights to know. Arthur accepted his magic, true, but there seemed to be a new status quo that Merlin didn't want to tip.
Arthur was back to full health, though there were scars on his back and leg that would never fade. Merlin knew that Arthur's leg ached, and he walked with a slight limp when he was over tired or the weather was wet; the fact filled him with guilt. Gaius had looked at Merlin's healing work and declared it very skillful. Merlin just wished Gaius had been there; perhaps Arthur wouldn't have been left with further pain. However, as Gaius told him again and again, Merlin should be glad Arthur survived, in spite of his inept hands.
The days cooped up in the castle until he was completely healed had left Arthur feeling restless, and so the minute Gaius declared him fit, he ordered a patrol.
Thus, they were yet again on horseback, riding out to some place unknown, and probably dangerous, with Arthur only just recovered. Merlin sighed, fond exasperation filling him. He rode behind the king, watching as Arthur subtly shifted yet again on his mount. His leg was hurting him, but he refused to stop out of some misplaced sense of pride. Merlin didn't know what he had to prove, it was only him, and the round table knights here. None of them would judge him for stopping to rest.
A horse came up alongside him, and Merlin looked over to see Gwaine looking at the king with the same expression Merlin had. He then met Merlin's eyes, and grinned.
"He does need a rest, doesn't he?" Gwaine muttered, and Merlin smiled, and then nodded.
"He's too proud to ask for one." Merlin said, shaking his head.
Gwaine straightened up. "Well, then. We'll just have to give him a reason to stop, won't we?"
Gwaine then suddenly leaped off his horse, shouting something about an animal or other nonsense. Arthur turned back, a curious gaze on his face.
"What was that, Gwaine?"
"I, uh, saw something in the woods. I think that we should stop, while I investigate."
"What did you see?"
Gwaine floundered a bit, and then slumped his shoulders. "I lied,"
"So you didn't see anything?" Arthur said, still atop his horse, and staring down at Gwaine like the king he was. Gwaine shook his head.
"No, I didn't see anything, but...I still need to go into the woods."
Arthur sighed, and rolled his eyes.
Gwaine edged closer to the trees. "Nature calls. So, get down, sit, rest. It'll be a while, if you know what I mean." Elyan made a face.
Arthur waved Gwaine off, and he made a show of hurrying into the forest. The other knights dismounted, as did Merlin, but Arthur stayed atop his horse for a moment.
Merlin came closer.
"Arthur? You alright?"
"Yes, Merlin. I'm fine!" Arthur snapped quickly, and began to dismount. Merlin could see his pained grimace, but Arthur refused to make a sound, and shortly Arthur was on the ground, and walking out his stiff muscles. Merlin shook his head at Arthur's stubbornness, and turned his attentions to his horse, rubbing up and down the soft nose.
They waited in quiet for a while, until Arthur finally turned from tying up his water sack again, and impatiently glanced around.
"What's taking him so long?"
Percival looked up. "I'm not sure I want to know."
Arthur exhaled noisily. "We're losing time. Merlin, go find him."
"Me?" Merlin protested, looking disgusted, though he knew well enough that Gwaine was not experiencing the bowel problems he'd implied. He was probably napping.
"Go, Merlin. And hurry it up!"
Merlin rolled his eyes; nothing really had changed with his magic revealed to Arthur. Merlin wasn't sure if he was glad or disappointed of the fact.
"Alright, alright." Merlin shambled to the forest edge, but before he reached it, a figure came barreling out, and slammed straight into him.
"OOF!" Merlin tumbled to the ground, an armoured lump landing on top of him.
"Gwaine?" Arthur's voice called, and the knights gathered around, pulling the both of them up, while Merlin tried to get his breath back. Gwaine was gasping as if he'd been running a long while, and gesturing wildly back towards where he'd come from.
"Bandits, robbers, something...coming this way." Gwaine got out, and Arthur immediately looked from where Gwaine had come. Sure enough a blur of movement could be seen in the distance. Seconds later the clanging and shouting of a group of men could be heard.
"Mount up, and draw swords." Arthur ordered, and they all sprinted back to their horses, readying themselves for whatever was to come.
There was a minute of waiting, so Merlin perched himself atop his horse, preparing himself for the fight if that's what was coming. Arthur wouldn't attack without provocation, but meeting groups of ruffians in these woods hardly ever turned out well.
Merlin realized it would be the first time that Merlin fought using magic with Arthur's knowledge; he was determined not to let him down.
The yelling grew louder, and then the men burst out of the trees in a strong attack. Immediately, the knights took up fighting; swords clanging and people shouting in the sun dappled forest. Gwaine was fighting a scruffy looking man, when Merlin saw another charging from behind him. He took him out, a dropped sword flying up to slice at his legs, sending him down.
Merlin watched from his saddle, stragglers falling to his magic. He caught Arthur's eye at one point, and couldn't interpret the look on his face. He gave the king a swift nod, and turned to another fighter, crashing a rock to the top of his head.
Finally the men were too close, and Merlin was forced to dismount, as the other knights had. Peering around, he saw the slashes and swings made by Camelot's knights were gaining ground over the bandits. Many had fallen, some to his magic, and others to expert swordsmanship. Turning, he saw Arthur engaged with a large man, and then he noticed that there was another sneaking up behind him. Merlin ran, hand out, and whispered a few words. The other man flew backwards, hitting a tree, and Merlin took a place directly behind Arthur. They fought the last men surrounding them, sword and magic hand in hand, until back to back, they stood, breathing heavily.
Arthur turned around, and clapped Merlin on the shoulder, a proud smile on his face. Merlin, still panting, smiled, and nodded. Arthur turned to the rest of the men, seeing that Leon and Percival had a few already tied up, and all who weren't prone on the ground were carefully guarded. It was a fight well fought, with what looked like no casualties for their side, though Elyan did have a scratch down his face that Merlin would probably have to look at.
"Arthur?" Merlin said suddenly from behind him, and something about his voice struck Arthur as strange. He turned to see Merlin fingering his neck, left side, just above his neckerchief. "There's something..." He suddenly swayed, and Arthur lunged forward, catching him around the waist in time to save him a trip to the ground. He lowered him until Merlin knelt in front of him.
"Merlin! What's the matter?" Merlin was still breathing heavily, though Arthur's breath had long since slowed from the fight's exertions. The servant still had a hand to his neck, and Arthur pulled it away, looking closely. There was an impossibly small feathered tip, protruding from the pale skin. A black shaft, with a tiny swelling of blood staining the end.
"There's a dart in your neck, Merlin." Arthur swallowed back his dread, turning to call back over his shoulder. "Men, there have been feathered darts shot here, check all your exposed skin, and thin clothing; black feathers and shafts. Gwaine, bring me Merlin's pack. I need the medical supplies."
Shifting and alarmed voiced came from behind him, and in moments Gwaine was behind his shoulder with the pack.
"What happened?" He asked urgently, but Arthur did not answer, taking the pack and dumping it out. Then his hands hovered over the supplies, not sure what to do.
"Sire," Leon came behind him, holding two darts. "These were embedded in Percival's and Elyan's armour, but none punctured the skin."
"Don't touch the tips." Arthur warned. Leon nodded, and looked down at Merlin, kneeling on the ground, with Arthur's hand on his shoulder. His head hung low, but he was still awake and aware. "Merlin's been hit."
"See if you can find some mint, or yarrow. It will help with the poison." Merlin said, not looking up. Arthur leaned forwards.
"How do you feel?"
Merlin snorted, "Like I've been hit with a poisoned dart."
Arthur exhaled, and then turned to Leon. "Well, you heard him. Take someone, find those herbs. And then do something with the captives. Tie them up, I don't care." Leon nodded, and hurried off. Merlin suddenly shuddered.
"You must take it out." Merlin tilted on his knees, and Gwaine grabbed him, wrapping his arms around him, and steadying him against his body. "The poison is getting into my blood...I can feel it..." Merlin's voice was pained, raspy, and Arthur grabbed his shoulder in worry.
"What do I do?"
"Pull it out." A ripple of pain ran through Merlin, and he winced, sucking in a breath. "Please."
Arthur tore off his gloves, and placed his bare finger and thumb against the thin shaft. His gripped it, and tugged. Suddenly he lost his hold, shifting the dart, and causing Merlin to tense and whimper.
"Careful," Gwaine said, tightening his grip on Merlin's body.
"Sorry." Arthur murmured. He gripped it again, and this time it came out, the tip black with blood and something else. Merlin went limp as it exited his skin, and he closed his eyes against Gwaine's chest, his face pale, breath quick. "I got it."
"Don't touch it." Merlin breathed. He swallowed, and then turned his head, meeting Arthur's eyes. "The poison's fast, I can already feel it..."
"What do I do now, Merlin?" Arthur asked again, staring at Merlin, before meeting Gwaine's worried eyes above the sorcerer's head. Merlin inhaled shakily.
"Cut and drain the wound, in an X...squeeze it to get the poison out. Snake bite treatment...seems applicable." Merlin gave a little huff, that was perhaps meant to be laughter, but merely sounded pained.
Arthur swallowed, and then pulled out his dagger, and readied some clean bandages from Merlin's supply. Carefully, he placed the tip against Merlin's neck.
"Wait..." Merlin said, and Arthur quickly pulled away.
"What is it?"
"I forgot," Merlin said, with another breathy huff. "Lay me down...blood should drain away from my heart. Basic."
Arthur quickly shucked his red cloak, and spread it out on the forest floor, while Gwaine situated Merlin down on his side, the side of his neck lying exposed. Gwaine then laid his own cloak on top of him.
Merlin meanwhile, was weakly tugging at his neckerchief, the red fabric twisting in his fingers.
"You want this off?" Gwaine asked, gently taking it from him. He untied the knot, and pulled it away from Merlin's long neck, stuffing it in his pocket for safekeeping.
Arthur, knife still gripped in his hand, took a deep breath. He'd cut people before; injured and killed many. But this seemed undeniably different. A cut to a friend, meant to heal: his hands shook a bit.
Gently, he laid the tip again against Merlin's wound, the puncture mark already swelling up, and reddening. Arthur pushed slightly, and Merlin stiffened. Gwaine put his hands on Merlin's left shoulder, and forehead, stopping him from moving. Then Arthur made a thin slice, about two inches long, across the wound. Merlin made a muffled noise, holding in a cry of pain, and Arthur winced. Then he quickly placed the blade for another cut, and pulled it across, making the full X.
Merlin tensed further, and then relaxed a bit, breathing heavily.
"Squeeze, get the poison out." He gasped.
Arthur put a finger tip on either side of the wound, and pushed together. To Arthur's horror, Merlin yelled in pain as he did it, kicking his legs, and causing Gwaine to struggle to hold him still. Percival appeared from nowhere, pushing down on Merlin's thigh's and calves.
Blackened blood ran from the cuts, dribbling down Merlin's neck and dripping onto the red cloak beneath him. The sight sickened Arthur, and he had to fight his roiling stomach for a moment. Then he squeezed again, wincing at the pain Merlin was in.
Finally only a stream of clear red blood ran from the cross of cuts and Arthur pressed a bandage against the wound.
"Where are those herbs?" Arthur called out, and Percival, still with a steady hand on Merlin's legs, though the sorcerer had relaxed once the wound ran clear, reached a hand into his tunic and pulled out the packet.
"We found mint, but no yarrow, sire."
Arthur took them, the sharp smell of the leaves already drifting upwards, clearing his nose from the scent of blood and poison.
"Merlin, we have the mint."
Merlin shifted, and rolled slightly over onto his back. His breathing still hadn't slowed, and seemed to be getting worse. Gwaine rested his hand again on Merlin's brow and frowned.
"He's getting warm, Arthur." He murmured, and Arthur felt the beginnings of panic; they couldn't treat a fever out here...
His head turned again, and then Arthur could see the side of his pale face, and one blue eye blink open.
"Mm...crush it...press to the wound..." His words were barely audible. Arthur hurried to do as he'd said, crushing the delicate leaves between his fingers, and wrapping them underneath the bandages. The mint lingered after, and Arthur didn't think he'd ever be able to smell the scent without thinking of Merlin's blood under his fingernails.
Suddenly, with a sigh, Merlin's body went completely limp under Gwaine's hands.