Okay, so, again, if you haven't seen my profile recently, I'm going through and beta-ing all chapters of "What Happens". It's a slow process, but it will happen. Also, something went majorly wrong in replacing the chapters, and so all of the AN's and quotes are gone. I'm slowly replacing those as well, but I'm not rewriting all of my AN's. One reason being that I can't remember what I wrote anyway, and the second reason being as I don't have enough time as it is. :P
Anyway, I hope you like the replaced chapters just as much-they're the same, I promise. I just scanned it and fixed any spelling/grammar errors that I missed previously.
Or at least he would.
Soon. Very soon.
They would all know: all of them. Well, the rest of them. Gaius already knew so he didn't count. But they would find out soon, Merlin could feel it. It was time. He was inwardly panicking, he had been earlier too when his friends were in danger, but it was nothing like now – well, it was worse when his friends lives were in danger – but that was beside the point. This was a different brand of anxiety. Now he was worried for his safety. His friends were out of danger, so now he had to worry for himself. They would know soon. His life was in danger now, in more than one way.
And his side hurt. It hurt. It was burning, and stinging, and bleeding. The very air smelled of charred, burning flesh. It hurt so much, it felt like it had when Nimueh had shot a ball of energy at him, they were the same circumstances after all, but this was worse. So much worse. Morgana was powerful, yes, but it was the combination of his magic and her magic that made it so much worse.
Oh, his head!
He heard shouting, yelling, and whispers all at the same time; the forest was a blur of motion - greens and browns and reds all clashing and blurring together as his eyes unfocused. His eyes were playing tricks on him, surly. Something in front of him, blue and gold mixing together, twirling and twisting around each other, reverberated around a group of people. He could see Arthur's blonde head a few feet away, but something was stopping him from getting to Merlin. Something that swam with gold and blue hues. He could see a swirl of colors, from what he could only imagine was their chainmail, mixing into the kaleidoscope of color variations. He saw a swirl of lavender. Gwen? Why was she here? He saw a flash of blue robes. Gaius. But why…?
And then he remembered.
He had put up a shield to protect them, and it was still holding, even after the threat was gone. It would collapse soon, he knew that too.
That brought on a whole new set of questions. Why were any of them here? This place was supposed to have been deserted. Or at least mostly deserted, maybe just a bandit or two, but he had never counted on his friends being here! Why were they here? How long had they been here? How did they get here? They were safe now, Morgana was gone. But she would be back, she had promised as much. He could still feel her magic around him, pooling in his side, infecting his wound.
Oh, his head! His head swirled, pounded, and vibrated as blood pushed, pumped, and pulsed through it. The light became too bright for his eyes, and he swiftly shut them as the sun's brilliance assaulted them. He forced them open again as the yelling became louder. He saw quick, agile movements as swords beat against the shield he had put up.
He groaned again, the pain in his side doubling and the pain in his head tripling as he fought to stay conscious. He was weakening, he knew that, it was clear But how would they react? Merlin wasn't sure if he could hold the enchantment if he lost consciousness, it's not like he had ever tried. Yes, there had been the time that he had helped Arthur in the caves after he was poisoned, but a spell like that was child's play compared to the spell he was using now. Merlin had only just mastered it a few months ago! He was sure he'd lose hold of it. Soon.
His side was still bleeding, a dark crimson ebbing into the forest floor. He could feel the warm stickiness of it as it soaked through his blue tunic, and then on through the red robe that Gaius had lent him so many years ago. He had grown quite fond of it actually, but he was sure that it was ruined now. Not even Guinevere's stitching could fix it.
It was true as his curiosity got the better of him and he raised his head just a bit. His specked grey and white beard was the only thing he saw though. But beyond that, as his eyes slowly focused and the small movement of his neck made his head ache even more, he could see the shredded material of the robe. Around the wound, it was ripped, most of it missing altogether. He could see smoke rising from the material and his skin, he could only imagine what condition his flesh was in. The material around the wound was horrid as well, all charred and burnt. The rest of it though was fairly decent, a bit dirty – ok, a lot dirty – but that was the forest's fault, not his, it also wasn't his fault he was bleeding. If anything the robe should be blamed for soaking up the liquid.
He let his head fall back onto the leaves as his eyes rolled in the back of their sockets, exhausted from their short adventure. He could still hear swords beating against his shield and turned his head to face in that direction. He could still hear yelling, and he knew the shield wouldn't hold for much longer; he hadn't the strength to keep it up. It didn't help that all the Knights were beating their swords against it, but it wasn't like Merlin had the strength to stop them, much less call out to them. And sure enough, he was right.
The shield collapsed, the golds and blues all dissipating into the air as if they had never existed. The yelling ceased for a moment as the group gathered their wits and realized they could in fact move forward. Merlin saw them run towards him as his eyelids fluttered, and his head rolled, his eyes wanting so badly for his eyelids to close, but he wouldn't let them. Not yet. Not when so much was at stake. He needed to explain, to tell them everything was going to be alright. That he wasn't their enemy, he was their friend. Would they believe him? Would they care? Would they hate him? Would they try to kill him? Merlin wasn't sure he could handle rejection from those he considered family. But he would have to stay conscious to find anything out, so his mind fought his tired body as it tried to drag him down into unconsciousness.
They finally reached him, and after what seemed like hours, he saw a glimpse of blonde hair, fair skin, and blue eyes looking down at him, kneeling at his side, inspecting the damage. He saw a lavender dress, with darker skin, and dark, curly brown hair swinging the hems of her dress, upsetting the sleeping leaves, kneeling on his other side, trying to clear the area around his wound to get a better look. He saw a man come up behind Arthur, pulling him away. He wanted to know why he was being denied his king's company. Did the enchantment fail? Did they already know? He reached inside himself and knew that the enchantment was weakening, but it hadn't failed him yet. He heard tense voices, loud voices. He could sense the wariness from everyone, even Gaius.
"G-Gaius?" He managed to croak out, his head swiveling on the floor, trying to will his eyes to focus. Tears were rolling down his face now, Merlin no longer able to hold them back as the pain increased.
The warlock saw Gwen looked down at his face, wondering how he knew their court physician. Her eyes full of sympathy and curiosity. Her face pinched in concern for the man she was sure was dying. The pain was getting worse, and Morgana's magic pooling in the wound, making it fester and bleed even more.
Sure enough, he saw a blue robe descend onto the grass and leaf strewn floor, white, shoulder length hair bouncing against a pale face as his knees touched the ground by Merlin's side.
"Don't worry, I'm here, you're going to be alright." His voice cracked, that was never a good sign. Merlin knew that as much as he was trying to detach himself from the situation, to only think of him as a patient that needed treatment, and not his ward, his foster son, that lay quite possibly dying on the ground, he couldn't. He could see Merlin was in so much pain, and it broke his heart. Merlin looked horrid, his face etched with pain as tears rolled calmly out of his eyes and onto his too pale face. Merlin was always pale, but this was so much worse. This was pale because of blood loss and shock, and his side was in a very bad way.
A tear escaped his eye, rolling down onto his cheek where it let go of his face and fell onto Merlin's red robe. Gaius remembered the first time he had given Merlin that robe: when he was trying to save Gwen once more from being condemned for sorcery.
A blonde head came into focus once more directly above him, several others gathered around said man, all with swords drawn, though not completely directed at Merlin, they didn't see a threat from him; he was too weak to do anything.
Merlin mumbled out something unintelligible as his eyes rolled in their sockets and his head scattered leaves, a slight breeze blowing crumbs of leaves and dirt into his thinning snow white hair, and staying there. Merlin allowed more tears to escape his eyes, this time in the effort of clearing specks of dirt from them.
"Is there anything you can do for him, Gaius?" he heard someone ask. It was too deep to be Arthur, so Gwaine? Maybe.
"I don-" Gaius was cut off as they heard running and turned towards the noise. Merlin saw a man with dark skin running toward them, holding a bag in his hand. Elyan.
He could hear running and skidding, the sound abruptly stopping as Elyan handed Gaius the bag and went to stand at Merlin feet, closer to his sister. He didn't have his sword out at all, Merlin faintly thought of it as a good sign, and a bad sign. A good sign because they didn't think his was a threat, a bad sign because they didn't think of him as a threat because of how weak and feeble he already was.
He heard Gaius taking out his medical supplies, gauze and vials. He handed the white gauze over Merlin to Gwen, who was still looking at the warlock's face. There was a glint of familiarity in her eyes, and Merlin could practically see her brain churning as she tried to understand who he was. She always was clever, after all.
"Gwen?" Gaius pried gently, bringing her out of her concentrated stupor. She instantly pushed the though into the back of her mind, bringing forward everything she had learned from working with Gaius.
"Put pressure on the wound," the physician instructed. Merlin mumbled something to the wayward group, but they only caught bits of it. Something like '-m sorry,' '-not holding,' 'too weak,' and 'it hurts.' And then again '-m sorry.'
Gwen balled up the gauze and applied it to the servant's wound. As soon as the cloth touched Merlin's skin however, the pain intensified tenfold. So he did the only thing he could do before he lost the battle for consciousness and before the spell wore off.
The servant's back arched, and he screamed in agony.