Hello my dear readers!
Here I am again! First, I want to say to .saxon that I didn't forget her prompt. In fact, I know I will fill it if only because Lysa seemed to be pretty popular out there (and, well, that was totally unexpected). But I just can't tell when because I take this story as a when-I-want-to-write-I-will and I just let inspiration take me.
And this is what happened with this story. I don't really know where it came from and I took an awful time to write it but I hope it will not be half bad. To be honest, I don't think it came out as it was supposed. In the first stages, Gwaine wasn't even supposed to feature but I miss him so I wrote him. (In fact, he will probably feature in most of my stories :D)
To the readers of A Universe Is Trapped Inside A Tear : I kind of have written a prologue when I was in Austria so there is a begining of a sequel. Patience is a virtue however :D
Well, this is a huge AN so I'd better shut up and leave you with the story.
I can't wait to know what you thought about it! Don't hesitate to review and Thank you to all who already have!
A study in worry
When Gaius once more woke up to find the plate he had left for Merlin the night before uneaten, he felt the familiar spike of worry burn in his stomach. He forced his creaking old bones to move and pushed himself up from his bed. Ignoring the dying fire, he went immediately up to Merlin's room to find an empty bed and no Merlin. It was expected, of course, but it didn't hurt less. Part of him was really annoyed with his Ward and wanted to go, find the boy and yell at him for disappearing once again and another just wanted to hug him. Not knowing now which part would win he only sighed and made his way back to the main room, hoping that nothing bad had happened to his almost son and resigned himself to wait. Again.
For the rest of the morning, he busied himself in his work, brewing Potions before making his rounds and then deciding to reorganize his cupboards. Just for the sake of keeping his mind occupied.
He was interrupted while closing the last one by a knock at his door. He called for the person behind it to come in and turned to see Sir Gwaine enter the room. The Knight looked around the room as if in search of something and Gaius already knew what the man would say.
"Gwaine, what can I do for you?" He asked nonetheless.
"I was wondering if you'd seen Merlin." The Knight said, finally fixing his attention on the Physician. "We found him in the forest yesterday as he was gathering herbs for you and Mordred told us he led him back to the bridge early this morning and, well, I wanted to talk to him."
Gaius scrambled for something to answer the Knight without giving Merlin's secret away or using the familiar Tavern excuse.
"Well… I have to say I didn't see him today but he left the herbs on the table so I guess he must be doing his Chores for Arthur. You should come back later, surely he will be back by then." He lied, praying for it to be true.
The Knight seemed to be hesitating for a moment, face anxious but, after a long minute, he smiled at the old man.
"Of course. It's stupid. I'll go then, I have taken enough of your time. Goodbye Gaius!" Gwaine said with a warm smile.
"Goodbye Gwaine." Gaius answered and waited for the door to close before letting out a relieved breath. "You better come back quickly Merlin." He added to the empty air.
For a long time, Merlin continued to stare at the point in the sky were Kilgharrah just disappeared. His mind couldn't wrap itself around the fact that the Dragon was dying. How was it possible that such a great creature could die? In a way, this possibility had never even crossed his mind. The Dragon had always seemed so strong, so undefeatable even if Merlin knew he was old. But yet he had been very wrong, and he didn't even know if he would see the Dragon again.
He closed his eyes tightly, willing tears away. The thought of Kilgharrah dying strangely hurt far more than he thought it would. He realized suddenly that he had come to lean very much of the Dragon's knowledge and Wisdom. Without mentioning the feeling of Kinship between the magical creature and its Dragonlord. Merlin realized only at this moment that there was truly a bond between the two.
Merlin hanged his head for a moment before pushing himself up from the ground. However, he fell back only a second later as pain made himself know again in his middle. He frowned, breathing deeply to make the pain fade. Once it had receded enough, Merlin took off his belt and pushed his shirt up. He was surprised to find, not a healed wound as he had thought, but a still pretty much recent looking wound that began oozing blood again. For a long minute, he stared at his side before understanding that Kilgharrah probably hadn't had enough energy to heal him completely.
Letting his shirt fall back and putting his belt around his middle, he sighed, resigning himself to endure the pain a little longer. At least until he could snatch a pain reliever from Gaius' shelves.
More slowly this time, he got up and began walking, deliberately keeping his mind focused on the way he went to stop him from thinking about Finna's death or Kilgharrah's approaching one.
The sun was already decaying when Merlin finally saw the white turrets of Camelot. He smiled, realizing how very close he had come to never see those white halls again. He quickly made his way through the Lower Town and in the Castle, all the while keeping his eyes open to avoid any Knights that might ask unwanted questions.
Thankfully, no one took notice of him, even if he was walking with a slight limp due to the fact that the wound on his side had began throbbing quite painfully some hours ago. When he finally arrived in the Castle, it was buzzing with activity, servant running to finish their chores or serve their masters their dinners. Merlin felt a bit unsettled with the normality of it as he stopped for a moment. He shook himself from the slight daze that had fallen over him and made his way towards the Physician Chambers. It was much calmer in this part of the Castle and he let himself relax a bit.
The stairs proved themselves to be a bit of a challenge as each steps sent a twinge of pain through his stomach. By the time he finally arrived In front of his door, he was breathless and sweating with a hand tightly pressed against his wound. He took a few minutes to regain a more normal composure before going in the room. He found it empty and breathed a small sigh of relief. At least this way he wouldn't have to worry Gaius. He made his way towards the cupboard at his right and opened it, hoping to quickly find a pain reliever. He was surprised to find the inside entirely reorganized and took a long time to find what he was looking for. When he finally did he quickly drowned the dark content of a little glass vial before jumping at the sound of the door opening. He turned towards it, hiding the bottle behind his back.
"Merlin!" Gaius exclaimed when he spotted his Ward and Merlin saw the relief in his mentor's eyes.
He felt a surge of guilt at the proof that he had once more worried his friend far more than he had the right to. He didn't had time to pounder that more as the Physician was already taking him in his arms, squeezing him against his heart.
"I'm glad you're alright! I was beginning to worry!" Gaius said and let his eyes roam over Merlin in search of injury. Of course he spotted the large dark patch on his shirt. "Is that blood? Where you hurt?"
Merlin sighed inwardly, cursing himself for having forgotten to wipe the traces out.
"No, no." He lied quickly. "It's… It's Finna's… She was badly hurt and… And died."
He finished, throat closing itself at the reminder of her sacrifice.
"Oh Merlin, I'm sorry." Gaius said.
Merlin nodded. There was nothing more to be said and both men knew it.
"I'd better go and fetch Arthur his dinner. I suppose he will not be in the best mood." He said after a moment, turning to go to his room to change.
"Probably. Oh and Gwaine was looking for you earlier. I told him you can back from herbs picking and then went to serve Arthur. He will probably want to talk to you later."
"Okay. Thank you Gaius."
The old man nodded before turning to his working bench. In the mean time, Merlin closed the door to his room and removed his shirt with only a slight hiss. The pain reliever was already beginning to work its magic which meant he could move nearly like normal again. He quickly found a abandoned strip of linen and bound it around his waist and over the wound, hoping it would be enough to catch and stop the little flow of blood that was escaping it, before putting another shirt on.
He addressed a wave at Gaius on his way out the room and then quickly made his way towards the Kitchens. Greeting the maids there, he gathered food for Arthur on a tray and left only a few minutes after having entered. Making his way towards the King's Chambers was an habit and it took him only a few minutes before he was standing in front of the wooden doors. As usual, he didn't knock but just opened the door and went in.
Arthur was sitting at his working table, reading one of the numerous papers that were stacked in front of him. He looked up at Merlin and his eyes narrowed and the servant knew that saying that the King wouldn't be in the best mood was a huge understatement. The King fixed him for long seconds as Merlin made his way to the table, deposing the tray he was carrying on it.
"So, Merlin, you finally decided to grace me with your presence?" He asked in a dangerous tone of voice that made Merlin shuffle awkwardly. "Care to explain me where you were all day? And yesterday evening?"
"Well, you see, it's really a funny story…" Merlin began as Arthur raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms over his chest. "Gaius sent me picking really rare herbs and I wanted to get them back to him as soon as possible so I left before the Knights woke up and wanted to make my way towards Camelot but… Well, it was dark and… I kind of got lost…"
If Arthur had seemed sceptic before, it only seemed to get worse though Merlin's story.
"So you're telling me you were lost in the forest the whole day?" He asked and Merlin nodded. "Of course, Merlin. Well, since you're so intend to hide where you truly were I suppose you won't mind mucking the horses out."
Merlin opened his mouth to protest but Arthur was already ignoring him. He turned on his heels and went out, towards the stables.
More than one hour later, Merlin finally moved in the last box he had to clean, cursing prattish Kings under his breath. His side had began burning again some time earlier but he knew he had to finish this because otherwise Arthur would truly be mad with him. So he carried out as night slowly crept up on him, telling himself that he soon would be able to go home and catch some much needed sleep.
The horse in the box eyed him curiously when he got in and Merlin took the time to pat it on the nose before giving it and apple and tying a rope around its neck to pull it out. The horse went willingly enough and Merlin rewarded it with another pat before turning back to finally do his job.
It took him even longer than the other boxes. He felt tired and sore and he had trouble lifting the fork because of the pain in his side. He had just stopped to wipe the sweat on his forehead when he heard the stable doors open and footfalls coming his way.
"Merlin?" The surprised voice of Gwaine asked when he turned the corner of the box the Servant was in.
"Oh, hello Gwaine" The Warlock answered, forcing a smile on his face. "What are you doing here?"
"I saw light and I was wondering who would be working at such a late hour."
"Well, only me." Merlin said before picking up his fork and continuing his work.
He felt Gwaine's eyes on him and willed himself to move normally and without wincing despite the pain that burn through him. Luckily enough it took only two more forks before the box was finally clean and full with fresh hay.
"So, where did you hide today? I had been looking for you." Gwaine asked, casually leaning against the stable wall as Merlin came next to the horse to lead it back to its home.
"Well… You know, here and there, doing chores…" Merlin lied pretty badly, even in his ears.
Gwaine raised an eyebrow at him and opened his mouth to contradict him but he was interrupted by the loud clash of someone hurting the stable wall with a drunken laugh. The sound made both Gwaine and Merlin jump and spooked the horse Merlin was holding. The horse reared back forcing Merlin to follow the move by lifting his arms suddenly which caused a flash of pain more intense than any other and he found himself letting out a cry of pain. He let the rope go and squeezed his arms around himself, bending in two against the pain and closed his eyes tightly, forcing himself to breathe deeply.
"Merlin!" Gwaine called from a place next to him, sounding as if he was struggling. The Warlock heard the horse being moved and a few minutes later a hand landed on his shoulder. "Merlin! Are you alright? What's wrong?"
Merlin wanted to answer but the pain was still blinding and he couldn't think about anything other than just breathe deeply.
"You should sit down." Gwaine said when it became clear that his friend couldn't answer.
"No." Merlin managed to gasp, trying vainly to shake Gwaine's hold of his shoulder. "No, I'm… Fine… I just… Need… A moment."
To prove his point he tried to straighten himself but he had only moved half way before his vision started to swarm.
"Oh…" He said before his vision blacked out and he felt himself falling in oblivion.
When Merlin didn't come back in time for dinner, Gaius didn't worry. He knew that Arthur would have been mad with his Servant and have a list of chores waiting for him. A small part of Gaius agreed with that. However, he wished he would have been able to eat with his Ward, because he knew the young man needed his support after Finna's death, even if the secret Warlock would probably deny it.
He had settled down in front of the fire to read and wait for Merlin's return when the door banged open. Gaius jumped out of his sit, a reprimand on the tip of his tongue but stopped short when he saw Gwaine carrying a very unconscious Merlin.
"What happened?" He breathed, panic surging through him before his Physician training took hold. "Put him on the bed, quickly."
"I don't know Gaius! We were in the stables and one of the horses spooked! Next thing I know Merlin was crying out and doubling over. He told me he was fine but when he tried to move he just collapsed… I brought him here immediately." Gwaine explained, sounding worried as he stood back to give Gaius room.
The Physician first put his hand on Merlin's forehead and noticed the unnatural warmth of the skin there. He then took the young man wrists and felt the rapid pulse there.
"He has a fever and his pulse is a bit fast." He informed Gwaine. "Did the horse somehow injure him?"
"No… Not that I saw." The Knight answered.
Gaius frowned but suddenly he remembered. When Merlin had come home earlier, he had blood on his shirt. Without waiting another second, he took Merlin's belt off and pushed his shirt up. He heard Gwaine gasp behind him and he himself felt shock spread through him at the look of the angry wound. He took a deep breath to keep his emotions down before applying his hands on Merlin's abdomen and inspecting the old looking but still bleeding wound. However, he froze when Merlin let out a groan and shuffled beneath him.
"Merlin." He called worryingly. "Do you hear me?"
It took a few minutes but finally Merlin's eyes fluttered open, squinting in the light.
"Gaius." He asked groggily. "What happened?"
"I think it is me who should ask you that question."
Merlin frowned at him for a few seconds but then his mind seemed to catch up with him and he looked sharply down himself. "Oh. It's nothing. I'm fine really!" He tried to push himself before groaning and falling back down.
"Stop being stupid and lie still." Gaius reprimanded. "I will need to clean that wound of yours, you have a fever."
Merlin opened his mouth to protest but Gwaine stopped him in his track.
"Just do as he says Merlin."
Merlin's eyes went to the Knight as if he hadn't noticed him before and widened.
"Gwaine? What are you doing here?"
"Well, I carried you here when you fainted. And, for the record, I am also interested in how you got that wound."
Merlin looked in panic at Gauis when he returned. And the Physician understood that magic was probably part of the explanation.
"I think this can wait for later Gwaine. For the moment, I will take care of Merlin. He needs rest. You better go home."
The Knight hesitated but finally nodded and got up, leaving Merlin and Gaius alone. The Physician turned towards his Ward and dipped his hand in the mixture of honey he had prepared.
"So… What happened?" Gaius asked as he began applying the mixture on the wound making Merlin hiss.
"I… Um…. Got shot with an arrow…" Merlin said.
"You got shot with an arrow?" Gaius repeated, incredulity coloring his voice. "But that wound is nowhere near deep enough…"
"Kigharrah healed me." Merlin cut in. "But… He was sick… So… I supposed he didn't have enough energy to heal me completely…"
Gaius only nodded, feeling this was a touchy subject. He finished to put honey on the wound then helped Merlin up to wrap linen around his torso. Merlin grimaced at the movement so Gaius went to retrieve a pain reliever.
"Drink this. I will warm your dinner and then you can go to bed."
Merlin obeyed, pulling a face at the acrid taste before washing it down with water. A few minutes later and Gaius brought his meal to Merlin. He watched as the young man ate slowly. Gaius wanted to ask him the complete story of what happened to him but he felt now wasn't the time to ask.
"Can you walk to your room?" He asked instead when Merlin finished.
"I think so." Merlin answered and Gaius helped him get up before guiding him to his room.
Gaius helped Merlin out of his shirt and made him lie down, watching as Merlin's eyelids already fall sleepingly.
"Good night Merlin." He said fondly, covering the young man up.
Merlin didn't answer and Gaius thought he had already fallen asleep so he blew out the candle and made his way to the door.
"Gaius." Merlin called out. "I'm sorry for not telling you… And… Thank you."
"You're welcome my boy. Now sleep, you will feel better in the morning." Gaius said softly and left the room.
Once alone, he sighted. Never had he thought he would spend so much time worrying about someone, but he would not exchange it for anything.
So... How was it? I kind of feel it was a bit fragmented...
Anyway, another thing I didn't talk in my AN is that I also began translating my huge Doctor Who story... Anyone interested?