Title: Never, Ever Saw It Coming: I'm the Hero Of The Story
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 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 chapter!
Thank You: To my sister, Kate-7h, who is awesome, and is my unofficial beta in all things Merlin. I owe you a treat!
I'm the hero of the story
Don't need to be saved
I'm the hero of the story
Don't need to be saved
"What happened?" Arthur said, worry in his voice, and Gwaine looked up.
"He's passed out."
Arthur laid a hand on the sorcerer's brow, wincing at the heat. His skin was dry and hot as charred wood. He sat back on his haunches, and looked around. Gwaine and Percival aside, the other knights were occupied with guarding the prisoners on the far edge of the clearing. Arthur stood.
"Percival, go start a fire. We'll set up camp here." Percival nodded, and strode off into the woods. Gwaine looked up at him from where he knelt beside Merlin's unconscious body.
"What now, Arthur?" Gwaine asked, quietly. Arthur cocked his head.
"What do you mean?"
Gwaine glanced back at the prisoners, a good sized group of five or six, it was hard to tell. "The prisoners outnumber us, even with Merlin on his feet. We won't be able to keep them subdued, and treat a wounded member for any length of time."
Arthur scrubbed a hand over his face. "What would you have me do, we can't leave Merlin."
"Not what I was saying." Gwaine said, rolling his eyes. "I'm just worried about what we'll do if they try to escape. We don't have enough people."
Arthur stared at the ground, thinking hard.
"We'll see what happens in the morning." Arthur did not think, if Merlin lives that long.
Percival had the wood burning, a small flame flaring up. Arthur bent and scooped Merlin up, arm around his shoulders, and under his knees and carried him towards the fire.
His movements caught the attention of one of the captives, a scraggy looking man with a long face and beard that made it even longer. His beady eyes followed Arthur and Merlin in his arms until the king lay his servant down beside the small fire, and gently covered him in his cloak.
"He hit by one of our darts, was he?" The man grinned. Arthur ignored him, focusing intently on making sure Merlin was completely covered by the cloak. The captive laughed. "He'll be dead by morning."
Arthur took in the words with sickening anger, and only his status as a captive protected that man from a painful end. Gwaine had less restraint, and shoved the man to the ground.
"You say one more word..." Gwaine said, darkly.
"Gwaine," Arthur called, settling down beside Merlin's prone form. Gwaine glanced over at him, a dangerous rebellion in his eyes, that Arthur dared reprimand him for punishing such talk. But Arthur gave him a wicked smirk. "Gag them with something pleasant for me, alright?"
Gwaine smiled, and Elyan and he had much fun in stuffing a single one of each of their own socks into their mouths, to enjoy throughout the night.
Merlin was shifting, meanwhile, and Arthur leaned forwards from his seat, getting into Merlin's line of sight.
"Merlin?" Blue eyes fluttered, and then opened slowly, and Merlin woke. His breathing was still laboured, and face flushed with fever, but it had to be good that he woke, didn't it? "How do you feel?"
"St'pid question..." Merlin muttered, eyes fluttering again, focused on nothing. Arthur had to smile.
"You're right, it is a stupid question." He said, and then he leaned closer. "Merlin, can you use your magic to heal yourself?"
Merlin's wandering eyes fixed on his for a moment, then he shook his head. "Can't. Told you...'s tricky. Self healing even more so." He took a deep breath, swallowing. "I think it's fighting, though...my magic...fighting the poison..."
Arthur felt a leap of hope. "Well, that's good, isn't it?" Merlin's eyes closed again. "Merlin?" But he was asleep again
The bandit's words proved to be false. Arthur watched over Merlin through the night, remembering another time he'd done so, in the war tents half a year ago. Then, Merlin's illness was entirely his own fault, and Arthur was able to shake his head at his careless, selfless, servant. Now, the blame fell on the captives behind him, but Arthur still felt that honest exasperation. And fear. He could admit it, he was terrified. Arthur did not want to imagine a life without the clumsy, annoying, surprising, and wise servant and sorcerer by his side.
"Merlin?" Arthur would call in intervals. Each time he heard the chuckling of the gagged captives, and their mocking eyes on his back. Merlin never woke. The other knights took turns sleeping around the fire, and standing menacingly over the prisoners, who themselves were all tied to each other and a few trees for good measure. They left Arthur where he was, sitting next to Merlin.
Arthur dozed as the sun rose, and when a beam of light his it face, he started up, disoriented, and strangely worried. Then, his memories of last night came back, and he turned to Merlin, his heart in his throat that he would find him already dead. But the man still breathed, and Arthur slumped in relief, laying a hand on Merlin's forehead, just to be sure. The fever was still there, but more importantly, life still pulsed beneath his fingers.
But Merlin had worsened during the night. The fever raged beneath his skin, and his breathing was harsh and painful sounding. His face was white as bone, and there was a red flush staining high on his cheeks, strain and fever.
"How is he?" Gwaine came closer, having just been relieved from guard duty. His face was pale, worried, as Arthur was sure his own was. Arthur sighed, and rubbed his brow.
"He survived the night, thank heaven. But he's much worse. We must get him back to Camelot."
Gwaine took in Merlin's form with solemn eyes. "Will he be able to take the journey?"
"We must pray that he will." Arthur said, standing. There were still the prisoners to contend with as well. A harsher king would pass judgment and sentence now, and deal with them immediately. Arthur had done that before, and it was a mistake he would not repeat, no matter who the prisoners were or what they'd done. Everyone deserved a fair trial in Camelot, even though his heart said run them through there and then for the suffering they'd caused Merlin, Arthur would make sure these brigands got it what they deserved in due time. But it did cause some difficulties.
"Leon," The tall knight looked up, "You and the others stay with the captives. Don't try to move them, but guard them well. I will take Merlin back to Camelot, and send a force of men to help with transport. These men will receive trials for what they have done."
Leon nodded, but Gwaine looked mutinous. He stepped up closer, and whispered.
"I'm going with you."
Arthur shook his head. "They need you here. You said yourself we don't have enough men to ensure the captives containment. And, Merlin needs to get to Gaius, as fast as possible."
"Then send me with him." Gwaine still fought, but Arthur shook his head, his heart protesting.
"I will go, and that's the end of it, Gwaine."
Gwaine gave him a mighty glare, and turned away. Arthur sighed, and rubbed his brow. He hated this. It was never more apparent than when Merlin wasn't there, how much he held their little band together. Some days he felt as if half the loyalties of his knights were actually towards his servant. What was it about Merlin that made countless people willing to do anything for him? Did he realize the love people had for him? Arthur doubted it.
Arthur shook his head fondly at the unconscious sorcerer, and then knelt.
"Merlin?" He shook the man's shoulder, trying to get a response. Merlin's eyelids fluttered, and Arthur leaned closer. He pulled out his water skin, and unstopped the top.
"Can you drink this for me?"
Arthur placed the rim at Merlin's lips, and like a baby bird, Merlin turned towards the moisture and sipped a little. He coughed a little, and his eyes opened, hazy and confused.
"...'Thur?" Merlin murmured, and Arthur smiled a greeting.
"Merlin, we're going to head back to Camelot. Do you think you can ride?"
But Merlin's eyes fell closed again, leaving Arthur without an answer. Arthur sighed, and began wrapping him in his blankets and cloak. He packed both his and Merlin's packs, especially the medical supplies, and then Gwaine helped with without comment to lift and place Merlin on the horse, holding him there, while Arthur slid in behind him.
"Arthur," Gwaine placed a hand on Arthur's wrist, peering up at him earnestly. "Take care of him."
Arthur nodded, and then kicked the horse into a walk, wrapping his arms securely around Merlin's slumped body, and holding him steady.
They rode for ages, Arthur holding tight to Merlin's waist, feeling him shiver with fever, as they trotted as fast as Arthur dared go. Camelot was still hours away, when suddenly everything went to hell.
Merlin stiffened in his arms, his breath catching, head jerking back. A painfully sucked in breath, and then strange, powerful words spewed from Merlin's mouth. His voice was harsh, and loud, and Arthur got shivers down his spine to hear it.
"O drakon, e male so ftengometta tesd'hup'anankes!"
What was this?
The words were quickly followed by gagging noises, and Arthur felt Merlin's back convulse, and a stream of black bile came from Merlin's mouth, to splatter to the ground off the horse's side. Arthur reigned in the horse, and dismounted, quickly pulling Merlin to the ground after him. The man was limp now, and bonelessly slid to the forest floor, until he lay propped up in Arthur's arms.
Merlin looked terrible, so much worse than before. His face was white as clean snow, lips, and sunken eyelids showing tinges of blue. He struggled for even the tiniest of breaths; his chest rattled each time he struggled to draw air in.
"Merlin!" Arthur said, shaking him a bit. "What happened? What were those words?" He wondered if it was a spell to heal Merlin. If so, why didn't it work? "Come on, you idiot. Don't do this to me."
Merlin's head shifted, and his eyes slit open to meet Arthur's.
"Merlin, you're awake!"
The slightest groan answered, and Merlin closed his eyes again, grimacing in pain.
"No, no, Merlin. Stay awake."
"'M 'wake, you prat..." Merlin said hoarsely. Arthur almost laughed in relief.
"Merlin, what was that? What did you say?"
Merlin met his eyes again, pained blue on blue. His gaze looked tortured, but also terribly sad.
"'M sorry..." Merlin's voice trailed off, and he closed his eyes again. Arthur felt a lump of ice slide down his stomach; Merlin's tone sounded far too final.
"Sorry, Merlin? For what? If it's for being the worst servant I've ever had, then I heartily accept." Merlin did not respond to Arthur's attempt at a joke, and Arthur's breath quickened. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Merlin. Nothing at all."
Arthur could feel the tension leaving Merlin's body as he fell into unconsciousness again, but this time, Arthur felt somehow that he wouldn't be waking again.
"Merlin, no. Please, don't leave..." Arthur whispered, and felt hot tears burn his eyes. "Don't go."
Then, a strange sound filled the clearing, a beating that seemed to pulse in his very core. He heard his horse shy and flee, as wind picked up around him, and Arthur's hair and clothes fluttered. Then came a great thud, and the ground shuddered. He raised his eyes, curiosity getting the better of him, and his jaw dropped.
There, standing before him and staring into his eyes, was a dragon. The Great Dragon, if he had to guess, the one he'd thought he killed all those years ago. It held his gaze, and seemed to peer into his very soul.
"Young King Arthur, we meet again."
It spoke. The dragon spoke, and addressed him by name. Arthur could not answer, could find no words.
"Now, if you have nothing to say, I ask you to move aside. Merlin may not yet be beyond help."
"I- , wha-you, you know Merlin?" Of all the questions that poured through his mind, that was the one that fell from his lips. Arthur supposed it wasn't the worst thing he could say. The dragon nodded.
"He and I are kin. Now, I ask you again. Move aside." The dragon's voice was a warning, but Arthur could not just let a dragon, a dragon, have full access to Merlin's dying body.
"What are you going to do?"
"I may be able to heal him." The dragon snapped, urgency colouring his tone. And honest worry, Arthur noted with surprise. It was this, more than anything, that made Arthur comply. Gently, Arthur laid Merlin down flat, resting his head on a lump in the blankets he was wrapped in. The dragon came forwards, and almost against his will, Arthur stepped back. The beast was massive up close. Arthur couldn't imagine how he was able to fight him the last time, for his stomach fluttered in fear now.
The Great Dragon raised his head, arching his neck above Merlin's prone body, and then breathed out a fine gold mist. For a moment, Arthur was genuinely afraid the creature was about to roast poor Merlin alive, but the gold shimmered and dissipated, leaving Merlin unharmed. Better than unharmed, Arthur realized.
For Merlin was breathing now, not the jagged sounding gasps, but clear deep breaths. His face was no longer pained, and his colour was already better.
"You healed him!" Arthur exclaimed, stepping forwards, and slamming to his knees beside his friend.
"He was not too far gone. His wound was well treated." The dragon gave him an appraising look, and Arthur looked back, unaccountably honoured.
"Merlin told me what to do."
Almost as if he were answering, Merlin shifted then, turning his head. His eyes fluttered, and blue flashed as they opened completely, shining in the morning light. His eyes came to rest on the dragon above him, and he smiled, sighing slightly.
"You came..." He rasped, his voice rough. The dragon nodded.
"I was nearby. I sensed your distress, young Warlock."
Merlin swallowed. "Thank you."
"We've been through this before, Merlin. I would not ignore your call, even if I could." Merlin nodded, and the dragon continued. "The poison was powerful, but together our magic was stronger. You will regain your strength in a few days. And now, Merlin. I think you have some explaining to do."
The dragon finished his words with a smile, and turned his eyes towards where Arthur still knelt, speechless. Merlin's eyes followed, and met Arthur's.
"Arthur," Merlin said, and smiled. Arthur swallowed, and lunged forwards, pulling the sorcerer into a fierce hug. Merlin's arms came up to encircle Arthur's back, and for a moment, they were just glad of the other's continued heartbeat.
"If you ever do that again..." Arthur said, voice rough as Merlin's was, but for a different reason. Merlin nodded against Arthur's shoulder, understanding.
They pulled back, and Arthur cleared his throat, trying to regain some of his lost dignity. Merlin, still weak, leaned back against the blanket roll beneath him, lacking the strength to stay upright, no matter how much he wanted to.
"Thank you, Arthur."
Arthur smiled, and then noticed the way Merlin had grown pale again, though not as alarmingly as before. "Get some rest, you're still weak." Merlin nodded, and closed his eyes.
Arthur then turned his face upwards, where the dragon still stood, watching them with what seemed to be a reptilian smile. Arthur nodded deeply to the creature, gratitude in his face.
"Thank you, dragon." Arthur said, and the dragon nodded back.
"It is I who am grateful for your protection of him."
"Merlin is a common interest of ours, it seems." Arthur replied. The dragon chuckled.
"It is true. I have much invested in the boy, and much lies upon his shoulders. As I said, he is kin to me, and I would not lose him."
"Though there is no blood between us, he is as kin to me as well. Neither would I lose him." Arthur returned, formally. The dragon's yellow eyes pierced his heart, and Arthur knew the two of them had found a connection.
"Then we are in an accord, young King. I will remember this."
With a final tender look towards Merlin, the great dragon took flight, causing the wind to blow up around them. When the dust settled, the dragon was gone.
When Merlin awoke, the sun was going down. This puzzled him for a moment, for that was surely backwards, wasn't it? He blinked, and turned his head to find Arthur sitting across a small fire, carving a piece of wood with his dagger.
"Arthur?" Merlin murmured, and Arthur immediately jolted up, and came around the fire to kneel next to him.
"Merlin, you're awake!" Arthur sounded delighted, and Merlin wondered what had happened. Then images of a battle, of a unbearable burning in his neck, of chills and fever, and then of the calming voice of the Great Dragon above him, all flashed before his eyes.
"Where's Kilgharrah?" Merlin asked, looking around. Arthur blinked.
"The dragon? He left soon after you were healed. And when were you going to tell me that you're friends with the dragon you told me I killed?" Arthur demanded, and Merlin winced.
"Ah, right. I was…planning on it?" Arthur rolled his eyes good naturedly.
"Idiot," Was his fond retort. "How are you feeling?"
Merlin shifted around, but found no pain though there was still some weakness. "Fine, nothing hurts."
He raised his hand to the place on his neck where the dart had been, and found nothing but the soreness of the cuts Arthur had made, under the bandage. The deep burning of the poison was gone.
Arthur grinned, and held out a hand, which Merlin took, lifting him to a sitting position. But, when Merlin went to let go of Arthur's hand, the King tightened his grip, and looked at him with a suddenly intense look.
"I made you a promise, which I have failed to keep, Merlin."
Merlin looked at Arthur quizzically. "You did?"
"I told you that once I was king, things would be different. That you wouldn't have to live in fear." Merlin vividly remembered that moment in the charcoal maker's cottage, and the happiness that had filled his heart at those words, said to an old sorcerer in return for a magical cure for Uther. "I swear to you now, Merlin, that that will be. I will keep my word. You and your people will be free to live as they choose."
Merlin looked at their clasped hands, and then raised his eyes to Arthur's face. Happiness and disbelief warred within him, and he found it hard to catch his breath.
"You truly mean it?" Merlin whispered. Arthur, a solemn gaze holding his own, nodded. Tears filled Merlin's eyes, and then spilled over, tears of joy. He could hardly believe it. Even after Arthur had found out about his magic, not much had changed in his day to day life. He hadn't even realized until now, how much he'd wanted it to, wanted this. Wanted that not only Arthur know about his magic, but to accept it and repeal the ban. His hands tightened around Arthur's.
"Thank you." Merlin breathed.
Arthur smiled, and then pulled back, giving Merlin a moment to compose himself.
"You know what this means, Merlin?" Arthur said with a smile, throwing another log on the fire. Merlin wiped his face, and turned to the king.
"I might just have to get you a new job."
Merlin's brow furrowed. "A new job?"
"And new clothes, definitely. Can't have you looking so scruffy all the time, not if you're representing magic in front of the whole kingdom."
Merlin was dumbfounded. "What are you talking about?"
"I hear that every kingdom needs a Court Sorcerer. Even my father had one, before the purges. And I know no other sorcerer I'd rather have as part of the court."
Merlin was speechless. "Me?"
"Yes, you, Merlin." Arthur said, a more normal tone colouring his voice.
Merlin's eyes widened, and he stared at Arthur. "The whole kingdom..."
Arthur finally broke into laughter, and his delight was so contagious that Merlin couldn't help but join in. He still could barely believe all that had happened. Hours ago, he was dying. Now, he was soon to be appointed Court Sorcerer. It had happened so fast, and Merlin wondered what had happened to have made Arthur decide so quickly. But, whatever the reason, Merlin was glad of it.
Though the thought of going public with his magic in front of the whole kingdom made his stomach a flutter with nerves. Arthur seemed to be able to tell, watching the warlock's face in the dimming light.
"Perhaps we'll start with telling the knights, and Guinevere, and work our way up, eh Merlin?"
Merlin smiled nervously, and then let it widen into a grin.
"Sounds perfect, sire."
"Good." Arthur answered. Then he clapped his hands together. "Now, tell me about this dragon."