Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. I only write made up stories about it for no money.
A big thank you to my lovely Beta Eris for sticking with this story through its un-planed hiatus. And since I just finished editing this I have to say she deserves even more praise then this! I'm in her debt for making sure my return to this story didn't suck. Seriously my last words will be 'Well, at least Eris made sure my fanfiction didn't suck.'
AN: So, It's been awhile. Now I could start rattling off excuses and reasons why I haven't been posting but I'm not going to ramble. What I am going to say is this:
Sorry, and I hope that you lovely readers will come back and help me breathe some life into this story again.
Chapter Eight: The Feeling.
Upon waking, the first thought that crossed Arthur's mind is 'Ugh.' Smacking his lips to get rid of the flavor of dead creature, he groaned in exertion as he stood and stumbled toward the bathroom for much-needed breath-fresheners.
'And perhaps a shower,' he realizes as he sees his horrid, deathly appearance. A tick developed under his eye as he saw his normally immaculate hair in disarray, and there were smudges under his eyes that were darker then Morgana and Merlin's hair.
And there it was—the reason why the normally immaculate captain looked like a…a pig.
He could still feel the lingering panic deep in his chest from when he was called down to the infirmary at 0100 hours by some frantic nurse—Godwin, was it? Yes, yes, Nurse Godwin, one of Gaius' better nurses. Arthur had, at first, just grumbled and told them to deal with it, but then Merlin's name came up and he had dropped everything to run to the infirmary.
Arthur thought the worst, and he couldn't help but recall that Merlin had some-sort-of-condition-that-has-his-mind-reaching-out-to-others'-mind, and damn that Romulan for having such a weird quirk.
What was wrong with him? He knew Morgana thought he had a crush on the Romulan, but there was no way that was true. Maybe he could just write it off as a sudden bond of friendship? No, no, that sounded like a lie, even in his own head. He knew his feelings for Merlin ran a little deeper than plain friendship, but he didn't know how to label it. And as captain, he had to keep these feeling under control. He needed to find a name for it, label it, and then tuck it away—and he better not act on it.
Arthur nodded to his reflection. He could sort this out—he knew he could.
It's what he always did.
Merlin jerked awake, his eyes opening instantly as he felt his senses snap into defense mode. The most poignant of sensations were the scratchiness of the blanket against his skin and the light from above that threatened to burn his eyes blind.
"Ah, Merlin, you grace us with your consciousness at last," Gaius said, whispering. Even whispering voices sounded unusually loud to Merlin and he shrunk away from Gaius'. "Oh yes," he added, "some new symptoms from your attack just settled in. It seems that while the telepathic center of your brain have gone back down to an acceptable level, your cerebral cortex has become over stimulated, it should go away in about an hour." Gaius smiled softly, nodding to Merlin before he walked back to his office.
And so Merlin lay very still in the bed for an hour, hoping that by avoiding movement, the symptoms would go away faster. They didn't, but eventually, the hour did pass, and Merlin felt better.
Still tired, but still also much better than he did when he awoke.
"Gaius?" he called, sitting up as he heard Gaius' chair scrape the floor. His still-slightly sensitive ears caught the old doctor's footsteps as he walked out of his office. "I feel better—do you think I can just nip back to my quarters and just sleep there?"
Gaius smiled, but his eyes held a familiar look of exasperation. "Yes, that's fine, I suppose. I want someone to walk you there though," he added quickly before Merlin could get up and waltz out of Sickbay with freedom-induced glee. "Wait here a moment while I call someone, and you can get some trousers and a shirt out of the replicator," he said, then pointed towardhis office. "You can change in there."
Merlin nodded and carefully pushed himself off the bed, gingerly feeling his limbs and appendages, which all seem to be in working order. Satisfied with his physical state, he walked over to the replicator and made himself something to wear, then ducked into Gaius' office to change. He had just walked back out of Gaius' office when the door to the infirmary slid open and revealed…
"Will?" Merlin said half-confused and half-ecstatic to see his old friend. "What are you doing here?"
"Haven't you heard? I just got transferred from the Combatant," Will grinned a shit-eating grin. "I guess your chief engineer just needed someone to hold his hand."
Merlin laughed, forgetting all about his physical woes in favor of focusing on the newest member of the Albion. "Oh, shut up, you arse. Now, what are you doing in the infirmary?"
"Well," Will drawled with a smug smirk on his face, "right now they need me to hold your hand." Merlin glared at him, and Will rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine. Gaius thought it be nice for you to see me, so he called me down and requested my assistance in getting your skinny arse to your room," Will said, his eyes glittering in mischief.
"Well, you better hurry up then, yeah?" Merlin replies, eyes glittering as well. Bidding Gaius, goodbye, they walked down the hall to the turbo lift, exchanging stories and updating the other about the on-goings in their lives, and to Merlin, it was as if no time had passed at all since when they'd last seen each other.
As if their friendship had been held in stasis—perfectly preserved until once again needed.
They reached Merlin's quarters, and the young Romulan reluctantly stopped. "Well, this is me," he said unnecessarily, gesturing to his door.
Will smiled, a soft smile that Merlin didn't see often, but one he knew was reserved for only Merlin and Will's mum.
"I missed you," Merlin blurted out suddenly.
"I missed you too," Will replies, scooping Merlin up in stronger arms.
"When I first got on board and heard you were in the infirmary I freaked," Will whispered fiercely. "You probably took five years off my life…ass."
"When did you start getting all sentimental?" Merlin commented in an attempt to lighten the mood, ignoring the surge of warmth he felt in his chest as Will's affections for him travelled through their touching skin. Being a touch telepath sometimes had its perks.
"Shut up, you're like the annoying little brother I had and never wanted," Will griped, pushing Merlin away.
Merlin grinned, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he did so. "Want to catch some more up at breakfast?"
"Today? It's a bit late for that don't you think?" Will said, raising an eyebrow.
"Don't be daft," Merlin tells him, raising an eyebrow in retaliation. He felt that his pointed ones made more of an impression. "I meant tomorrow."
"I'm just teasing," Will grumbles good-naturedly. "I'll see you at 0830?"
"Sure," Merlin agreed. "That sounds good."
They stood there for awhile, Merlin bone-tired but happy to see his childhood friend, and Will relieved that Merlin was alive and semi-well. "I'll see you, then," Will said, finally waving and walking away.
Merlin shook his head and turned around, ready to open the door when out of his peripheral vision, he saw Arthur.
Arthur was going to go talk to Merlin.
Not about the feeling of course—he just had to tell him that instead of going to Wayne Three for a geological survey, they would instead be rendezvousing with the Hydra for what?.
Then he saw the hug. Merlin was hugging this scruffy engineer like he was his long lost lover or something, and Arthur felt something cold and heavy settle in his chest.
Who the hell had the right to hug Merlin like that? …And why couldn't Arthur have that right?
NO. Arthur was not acting on his feelings—he was filing them away and forgetting them. And he was pretty sure that wanting to go punch someone just for hugging Merlin counted as acting on feelings. Or rather, acting on the feeling.
He pressed down on that cold feeling with unbreakable control and ignored how it felt like his heart was ten pounds heavier. Looking at the hugging man and Merlin again, Arthur saw them finally pulling apart, and was finally able to catch a glimpse at the other man's face.
It was William Percival. Childhood friend, indeed. Obviously, they had been a bit more than just old chums.
William was walking away now, and before Arthur could stop himself, he made his way towards his science Officer.
"Merlin," Arthur said in what he was hoping was a cold, nicely detached voice.
"Oh, hello Arthur," Merlin smiled. Not as big as the smile that he had given to Will though, Arthur noted.
"I heard you were feeling better," Arthur states. Can't have him thinking that he was a complete robot, after all.
"Yes, I am." Merlin's smile stayed the same, but a hint of something foreign to Arthur crept into his eyes. "Is there anything you wanted to…talk about?"
Arthur shook himself mentally. What was he doing, making small talk? This was no more than him telling his science officer that the geological survey would have to be rescheduled.
"Arthur?" Merlin asked, looking concerned.
"Nothing, it's just that looked like you were about to have a stroke." Merlin's face was torn between confusion and concern.
"I'm fine." Arthur stood up straighter. "I'm just here to inform you that the geological survey to Wayne Three is going to have to be rescheduled."
"The Hydra is in the sector and she would like to rendezvous with us, give us a 'welcome to the fleet,' so to speak," Arthur said.
Merlin nodded. "Oh, okay then. I'll inform the rest of the science department, if that's alright with you?"
"That's fine." Arthur nodded. "Set a new date for the survey and have on my desk tomorrow by 0300, alright?"
"Okay." Merlin gave a small smile and a nod turning around to his door again until his face lit up in curiosity, and he turned around again. "Arthur, who is the captain of the Hydra?"
Arthur raises an eyebrow, but answers. "Captain Morgause Lothian."