Gaius woke to the sound or rustling. He opened an eye, however, couldn't see anything in the darkness, but the more attention he paid the more he realized that something was moving in the night.
'I hope it's not rats again' – he thought to himself a bit annoyed, thinking of the herbs he had Merlin gather; would be such a waste if the rodent got to them.
He then heard muffed coughs.
And they weren't coming from the young warlock's room.
It became clear that it's not a rat, that's making the noises; there is someone in his chamber. The old man lifted his head a bit and tried to make out where exactly the sounds are coming from. He saw a thin silhouette crouching over the table near the wall, and once again there was coughing and the dark figure seemingly held both hands to his face to muff the sound as much as possible.
"Merlin?" – the physician suddenly spoke.
"Gaius!" – jumped the young man frightened, knocking something over; then he exhaled. – "I'm.. sorry I woke you.." – he muttered as he tried to set straight whatever he had messed up on the table.
"It's the middle of the night, Merlin.. What are you doing?" – Gaius sat up and a candle was lit so he can see the boy, in the same time relieved that it's neither a rat, nor an intruder.
"I.. erm.. I was looking for.." – the lad turned to the table, as if the answer was laying somewhere between the many pots and vials, but he wasn't sure what he was looking for. Scratching the back of his head he turned back to his guardian with an apologetic smile.. – "You remember a few days ago, you gave some medicine to a child in the lower town? He was coughing a lot.."
"Ah yes.." – Gaius nodded once he realized what the boy has been after. – "But it's not there. It's on that other shelf." – He said, and sluggishly got out of the comfort of his bed to go look for the right potion. – "Here, hold this for me." – he said and handed the candle to young man as he made his way to the other end of the room.
Merlin followed, lighting the shelf as the old man looked for the right bottle.
Once again there was coughing and the candlelight shimmered. Gaius stopped for a moment to listen then turned to face the young warlock, who looked at him curiously. He then reached again to the shelf and took down a rather dark bottle.
"Here it is." – he said, and made his way back to the table to get a cup. – "It sounds as if it has gotten worse."
"Oh… no. Just that Arthur wanted to go hunting yesterday and I was running a lot.." – the lad explained. – "I'm sure it will pass." – he added, trying to convince himself as much as the old man. He didn't want him to worry, but it was giving him a hard time.
Gaius poured some of the liquid in a small metal cup and handed it to him. The young man emptied it, then grimaced.
"Oah!… it tastes weird!" – but he felt a soothing effect immediately wash over his aching chest.
"What's important, is that it works." – said Gaius, while he made sure to close off the bottle well with it's cork and set it on the table amongst the rest.
"It does.." – the warlock agreed with a relieved smile. – "Thanks Gaius! Good night!"
"Hold on!" – the old man called after him motioning with his hand and taking a few steps towards him and the young man turned back. – "Lift your shirt."
Merlin knew what was coming and even if he felt reluctant, he did as asked, turning around and lifting his shirt up to the back of his neck
"Breathe." – said Gaius, once his ear came close to Merlin's back – And he obediently did. - "Again."– and so he did again. - "Any pain?" - Merlin hesitated - "A little.." - came the quiet reply.
"I'd suggest some other activities, then hunting to pass time for a little while; if you don't want it to get more serious." – he said after pulling back.
"You know how Arthur is.." – Merlin smirked bitterly while tucking his shirt in.
"I know, but it's your health, and I'm sure he's reasonable enough to understand, but only if you tell him."
The young man nodded silently.
"Now off you go! There's still something left of the night, we should spend it with sleep. We have a busy day tomorrow!"
The candle went out and once again silence fell on the court physician's chamber. Silence - that is, if one doesn't count the snoring of an old man.