AN: Anything you recognize I don't own. Medical and historical innacuracies are probably everywhere, so I apologize for that. This piece is pretty much plotless, so if you're looking for a riveting adventure story, this is not the place to find it.
"Arthur?" Merlin blurted out. "What are you doing here? At this hour, no less." Arthur wrung his hands nervously, his eyes kept determinedly on the floor. "Sire?" It was then that Merlin noticed the prince's red-rimmed eyes, blotchy cheeks and pallor. "Sire, are you alright?" Arthur made no indication that he had heard his servant's words. "Sire?" Merlin tried again, feeling a jolt of worry at the prince's lack of response. "Arthur!"
Arthur seemed to pull himself out of his stupor. "Yes… My apologies. I don't know what I… I don't know what I was thinking. I don't know why I'm here, I shouldn't be. I'll just… I'll just be leaving th-"
"Sire?" Gaius, having been woken by the commotion, frowned at the two boys, before his gaze focused on the prince's downturned face. Confusion, followed by realization and sympathy flashed through his eyes, and he slowly made his way over to the young prince. "Sire?" His voice was gentle, and he put a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. Arthur's gaze roved around the room, looking anywhere but at Gaius or Merlin. "Merlin," Gaius turned to his ward, "a little privacy, if you don't mind." Merlin nodded, clearly confused, and turned and walked back to his room, shutting the door gently behind him but immediately pressing his ear up against the wood, straining to hear.
"Sire?" Gaius murmured, the question clear. Arthur shook his head.
"I… I'm… Sorry, I'm sorry… I don't…" the prince sighed, straightened his shoulders and made to turn to leave, but Gaius held him firmly in place. "I'm sorry Gaius. This is ridiculous. I shouldn't have come," he said as firmly as he could.
"Arthur…" the physician said softly. Gaius put his hand gently on the prince's chin, bringing the boy's gaze up to meet his eyes. "What happened, Arthur?"
The prince seemed to crumple visibly then, his gaze darting back to the ground. "I… I had the dream again, Gaius. The same one, from all those years ago. I…I just… I don't know, I didn't realize what I was doing, and then I found myself here. I'm sorry, I really am. It won't happen again, I promise."
"Arthur," Gaius murmured sympathetically. Keeping a firm, but gentle grasp on the prince's shoulder, the physician led the boy over to the table, picking a small bottle off one of the shelves. "Sire," he said gently, placing it in front of the prince.
Arthur glanced at the bottle, before frowning and swirling it around slightly. He looked up at Gaius curiously. "Is it the same one?"
Gaius nodded. "Yes, sire. I kept it stocked, should you ever have need of it. I shall make a new batch tomorrow, but this should do for now."
Arthur turned the bottle slowly around in his hands, running a finger along the cool glass. "Thank you Gaius," he murmured softly. "I should be going…" he fell silent.
Gaius sat down on the bench beside the prince. "Is something troubling you, sire?"
Arthur continued to fiddle with the bottle, picking at the cork. "No… no, I'm fine."
Gaius looked at him shrewdly. "Are you absolutely certain, sire?"
"Yes…" Arthur started softly, then louder, "Yes."
"Be sure to take the tonic, sire," Gaius told the prince firmly.
"Thank you, Gaius. I'm sorry."
"There is nothing to be sorry for, sire."
Arthur looked down at the floor, his hands continuing their nervous fidgeting, and turned and left. Gaius's gaze remained on the closed door, his thoughts straying to a much younger prince, a tiny blond boy who would latch onto his neck and sob into his shoulder after nightmares. He thought of nights when he'd been called to Arthur's bedside in the middle of the night by a frantic nursemaid, exclaiming that the prince was ill, saying that he'd woken screaming and promptly been sick – the numerous times he'd had to reassure a panicking household that the young prince was fine – that he had merely been dreaming. Terrible, horrifying dreams, but dreams nonetheless.
He was pulled from his thoughts by Merlin's voice. "What was that?"
Gaius shook his head. "The prince had need of a tonic."
Gaius looked intently at his ward. "Where you eavesdropping, Merlin?"
Merlin looked abashed for a moment, but still replied with a vehement "No."
Gaius shook his head exasperatedly, but answered the boy's question anyway. "The prince has nightmares."
"Yes," Gaius replied absently.
"He… he's never said anything about it," Merlin frowned.
"I dare say he's of the opinion that he should be able to deal with them alone."
"But Morgana has them, why should he avoid treatment?"
"That is because the boy has some strange idea in his head that while it might be unfortunate and unavoidable for Morgana to suffer so, that a prince and a knight should go through the same thing is utterly unacceptable."
Gaius nodded, his eyebrow raised. "And Arthur has the audacity to call you slow," he said sarcastically.
"Wait…" Merlin said, a curious thought having come to his mind, "Are his dreams like Morgana's?"
Gaius shook his head. "No, they are normal dreams, to my knowledge. Terrifying dreams, sometimes so much so that he is physically ill upon waking, but dreams they are." The sun was peeking out over the horizon, and Gaius sighed, knowing that they wouldn't be getting back to sleep. He turned to his ward. "Get started on breakfast, Merlin. I'm going to start brewing a fresh batch of the tonic for Arthur."
Merlin frowned, confused, his eyes scanning the rows of vials and bottles on Gaius's shelf. "But we have three full bottles already."
Gaius shook his head. "I only had one vial of Arthur's left."
"We can't just give him some of that?" Merlin pointed to the bottles.
"What about…" Merlin scanned the room, looking for the several other tonics that he thought worked for nightmares.
"The prince has tried all of those. Some are not strong enough, and the others make him ill themselves." Gaius kept his gaze on the pot he was stirring as he answered.
"Well then… Perhaps I should get to work. It's so early I might actually be on time for once!" Merlin smiled tentatively.
"Mmm," was Gaius's reply. "Give the prince a little respect today, Merlin. He'll likely not be feeling very well."
Merlin adopted what he hoped was an innocent expression. "Respect? I treat my lord with utmost respect at all times! Whatever abuse he wishes to throw at me I-"
Gaius cut him off with a raised eyebrow. "I know you, Merlin. A little less impudence today, if you would."
"Always, Gaius. I will be the most obedient, attentive, perfect, quiet, respect –" His words were cut off by the closing of the door behind him.