Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin.
Clouds are spread in a thin, faintly grey layer across the entirety of the sky. Sunlight occasionally filters through minor gaps. It gives the affect of divine outreach, paintings of winged figures cast to earth in a halo of gold. But then, with a gust of wind, the clouds would quickly gather once more.
The weather can't make up it's damn mind. Some days, the clouds clear and leave infinite blue sky, but other days, rain pelts the land in sheets, drenching everything. Then, there would be the in between days, like today. The light scent of potential rain addressed the air, but it did not hold the promise of a storm.
Today marks the seventeenth day that Merlin has spent asleep.
He currently lies on a bed in the corner of the chambers of the court physician, Gaius, who is out running errands at the moment. The hearth is unlit, a few candles and an open window the only sources of light. Merlin is not alone, however; he hasn't been alone in seventeen days. Sometimes it's Gaius, other times it's Gwen. But more often than not, it's prince Arthur that sits on the three-legged stool. He doesn't perch there as often as he would like, being the prince comes with its obligations.
Arthur stares at his hands, absentmindedly picking at his dirt-encrusted callouses. The King had been angry with him at first, impatient that he was so terribly distraught at the illness of a mere servant. He refused to let his son sulk, and sent him off on a hunting trip not five days ago.
It had troubled Arthur to be away from his friend for such an extended amount of time. He thought something would happen whilst he was in the forest––that Merlin would awaken, or, that he wouldn't.
Gaius hadn't provided an explanation for Merlin's coma. He conjured up the idea that being possessed had exhausted him, physically and mentally, in addition to his injuries, and his body reacted with the only way it knew how: to sleep.
"You can wake up now, you know."
Merlin didn't respond (Arthur didn't expect him to).
His chest continued to steadily rise and fall. The look on his face was not one of pain or peace, it was completely void of all emotion. Eyelids relaxed, mouth at a slight frown. No creases. Arthur didn't even know if he was dreaming or not.
"I'd like to order you to wake up, bit I dunno if it would work. Probably not."
At first, Arthur felt downright silly talking to his manservant's unconscious form. However, even if Merlin couldn't hear, it helped Arthur himself cope.
"It was quite a different experience going hunting with out you mucking about. Falling over and getting in the way, and sorts." He cleared his throat. "We actually got a decent hall. And it didn't rain much, either. It's been dreadfully gray the past week or so."
The whole time he talks, Arthur doesn't look at Merlin's sharply pale face. He looks at his hands, the cobwebs in the corners, the books bound in cracking leather on the crooked table.
"I really wish you'd wake up. The replacement manservant they've assigned me––well, he's as interesting as a damp log. Sure, he's adequate, but I'd rather have you stumbling about. At least you make things interesting." He almost smirked at that. He changed his mind halfway through and grimaced instead.
"I, er, better be off."
He starts to rise off the uncomfortable stool and looks up. A pair of crystalline blue eyes peer at him from under the many layers of blankets. Arthur freezes, not sure what to do. His own eyes widen. "Merlin?"
"Prat." The word comes out in a rasp so low, Arthur can't understand it at first. But realization crosses his face and he lets out a choked breath of relief. Merlin is awake. Merlin is not going to die.
He speaks again, lips barely moving, uttering something that sounds a bit like "wtr".
Arthur clatters around the room, filling a cup with lukewarm water. He brings it back to Merlin and helps him drink it, lifting the back of his head up slightly, holding the cup to his lips. Water spills out the corner of his mouth and Merlin sputters. Arthur recoils sharply. He offers water more slowly after Merlin stops his coughing, allowing him a few more small sips.
"How are you feeling?" Arthur asks, cautiously settling into the stool again. He steals a glance at the door, wondering where Gaius is.
"Like. Like I got. Trampled. By a beast." Merlin's voice is hoarse from disuse.
The prince allows himself a slight chuckle. "Yeah, I would think so."
Merlin begins to relax.
"––teen. Seventeen. Days. You've been asleep for seventeen days."
Blue eyes widen. Absolutely mortified. No way.
Arthur nods grimly. "Dunno what we would've done if you had slept for seventeen more. Dunno what I would've done." Runs a filthy hand through his hair. Draws the stool closer. Arthur's fingers go subconsciously to his neck, still lightly discolored by bruises.
The silence only lasts a minute or two, but it feels drawn out. Merlin's eyes remain half-open, watching Arthur curiously. He's never seen the prince so out of sorts; it's not befitting.
He withdraws his arm from the many layers of blankets, raising it as if to caress Arthur's face. He only gets halfway there, though, before it drops through the air, landing back on the coverlet. No energy. It's been over two weeks since he's been functioning. There's nothing left but an empty husk.
The sound of hinges squeaking, a door shutting, shuffling footsteps. Pause. "Sire?"
Gaius, at last.
Arthur turns. "He's awake, Gaius."
Merlin is refusing visitors.
It's been five days since he woke up.
"Don't let them in, Gaius!" He retreats under blankets when fists come pounding on doors.
"Merlin? Gaius? Let us in!"
Not even Gwen is permitted inside. Arthur is furious, but there's nothing he can do, short of breaking down the door.
"You'll have to face them eventually, Merlin." Gaius is gentle, voice level as he mixes something in a porcelain bowl.
"No. No. Absolutely not."
He's pressed up against the wall, blanket draped around his shoulders. He's trembling. There's something wrong with his eyes, like they've changed color. Or radiance. Yes, that's it, they've lost their sparkle. "I'm never coming out of here, Gaius. I'd rather die."
"No, I mean it!"
Merlin's lost something.
Well, not a thing, really. And not a thing that can be replaced, either.
"You haven't lost your magic, Merlin. It's still there––"
"Then why can't I do anything, Gaius?" He's close to tears, sweat beading at his forehead. He's thin, terribly thin, whatever food he choses to consume coming right back up. His injuries aren't healing as fast as they should. The old physician feels his heart breaking for his beloved ward. "I used to be able to use it without even thinking, now––. It's gone. I'm useless. I can't continue on like this––" He scrabbles at the window, which Gaius had taken liberties of locking.
"Merlin!" he roars, and Merlin freezes immediately.
"Merlin." Gaius continues at a reasonable volume. "You suffered a brutal magical and physical attack. You can't just expect to bounce back like it was nothing. Now please, right yourself; I don't need you breaking anymore ribs."
Merlin sinks back onto the bed.
"You'll get your magic back in due time, I assure you. We need to be patient, and you need time to heal and regain your strength. Now, drink this."
It takes Merlin a month to recuperate.
A month, to coax food into an unwilling stomach. A month, for the worst of his injuries to heal. A month, until the magic comes back. Little by little, he works everyday. And then, after a solid month, he stand on his own, still a bit pale, still a bit too thin, but he's growing restless. Gaius wishes he'd allow himself more time, but it's been a month since Merlin has seen Arthur. By choice, of course. He hoped the prince would understand.
On his first day back, Merlin is already thrown out of balance. He comes into Arthur's room, heart pounding, balancing a plate in his hands. But the prince is already awake, perched on the edge of his bed, his back to the door. Merlin falters. "Good morning, sire."
Arthur turns slightly, part of his profile illuminated. "A 'good morning', hmm? Who decides if it's a good morning, hmm? You?"
"'Spose so, sire."
"What makes it so good, then."
Merlin blinks. "Well, being awake, for once thing." He places the play on the table and cautiously approaches the prince. He almost retreats.
There's pain in his eyes.
"You slept for seventeen damn days. And then, Gaius said I couldn't see you. For a goddamned month, Merlin." His head shakes lightly. "Why?"
Merlin swallows, throat tight. "I couldn't have you see me like that, Arthur. So––so––"
Merlin turns awake. "I couldn't do it, sire. I couldn't have you regard me when I was in such a state. I needed to protect what little dignity I have left."
"Damn it, Merlin, you could have at least said that."
A touch of confusion. He turns round again.
"Did you really think I would be repulsed by you?"
"It was a matter of self-worth, sire. I didn't––I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."
"I thought you hated me."
"Why would I hate you?"
"How––How am I supposed to know that? I would come to visit and you would just scream, Merlin, such terrible things. And don't think I didn't eavesdrop."
Merlin's blood turns to ice. "I––"
"'Kill me, Gaius, just kill me? I'm useless?' I heard you, Merlin."
"What do you want me to say, Arthur."
"I don't know! I can't––I can't be angry at you, can I? It's my fault you were put in such a state in the first place––"
"You were possessed––"
"That doesn't mean I can't feel guilty, Merlin."
"Yeah? Well, what about me? I damn near killed you!"
More silence. Merlin continues.
"Can we just––not blame each other, or ourselves for any longer? It was neither of our faults, can we agree on that, please?"
A shrug. "Fine."
"I'm sorry I shunned you out, Arthur."
"Just––Dont forget. You're valuable to me, alright? Despite being a total, utter, daft, clot."
"Sir Pratiness, of the dollop kingdom!"
"That didn't even make any sense!"
How sweet it is to be awake.
A/N: Thus concludes my first Merlin fic! I hope to write more in the future. Thank you for reading, please feel free to review and tell me what you thought!