"I have a patient for you, Dr. Emrys, straight from triage."
Merlin peeled off his latex gloves and threw them in the rubbish bin. It had been a whirlwind night. A night in which he'd diagnosed everything from appendicitis to Zygomycosis. With the caffeine in his blood wearing thin, every ounce of the young Accident & Emergency physician craved a decent cup of coffee over a new patient. He smiled at the attending nurse to mask his exhaustion, accepting the green clipboard she offered.
"Hypothermia, his temperature's 34 degrees Celsius," the nurse said, watching Dr. Emrys flip through the papers. "Not that it's my call, Doctor-"
Merlin scratched his head, giving the woman an appreciative nod. "There's no name on this chart."
"A John Doe, pulled out of the lake this morning by a good Samaritan."
Merlin's heart caught in his throat. He pursed his lips. "What was he doing in the lake in the middle of December?"
"Who knows? You have a good beside manner, Dr. Emrys," she continued. "Maybe you can talk some sense out of him? The nurses tried but the patient wasn't the most responsive."
Merlin straightened out his scrubs, slipped the clipboard under his arm and sprinted to a sparse room in the trauma center. His new patient lay curled in the fetal position on a metal gurney. A heart monitor chirped beside him, the twisted cord of an IV protruding at his exposed arm. Even wrapped in a pile of blue hospital blankets, there was no mistaking a king.
It was as if Merlin could breathe for the first time in centuries. The last time he had laid eyes on Arthur he was dying in his arms, his regal face awash in Merlin's tears. He'd been powerless to save he who mattered most to him. But Merlin knew as he set Arthur's funeral boat sailing towards the shore of Avalon, laden with herbs and the love of his life, that he would wait as long as it took. Tears welled in Merlin's eyes, burning his senses. It had been so long; so long he had almost given up hope. Spent the years using his powers and Gaius's teachings to save the lives of innocents where he could, until the age of sorcery became nothing but myth in the mind's of men.
How could he tell Arthur what seeing him again meant? How could he even begin to explain that he had bawled like a grieving widow at the mere mention of his name and their shared legend (much to the confusion of every university English professor he'd ever had?) How he loved him just as strongly, after all this time-
Merlin stared into Arthur's soft blue eyes. Cleared the emotion from his throat, and settled with a warm, "How are you feeling? Can you tell me your name?"
Arthur looked at him under heavy eyelids and said nothing. His confusion obvious as he shivered in the blankets the triage staff had wrapped him in. "I don't know."
"You're shivering, that's a good sign," Merlin said encouragingly.
"Good for you, maybe," the blond man chattered through his teeth. "I feel like I've gone to the land of the damned and back-"
Merlin's eyes lit up at the familiar sound of Arthur's voice. "You haven't, just Avalon. And I hear the lake water is freezing this time of year," He smiled gently. "I'm going to run some additional tests on you, just try and relax."
Arthur's skin was bleached; almost as pallid as it had been the day he'd passed. The memory of that death and the terror it brought burned raw in Merlin. He pushed that aside as he stood over Arthur. It wasn't common practice to touch patients without reason, but Merlin let his hand rest on Arthur's forehead, feeling his soft blond hair tickle his knuckles. He shone a light into Arthur's pupils, tapped his knee and watched it jerk in response. Arthur's reflexes were slow, but within the realm of normal. The nurse had been right with her hunch of mild to moderate hypothermia.
With a quick incantation, Merlin guided the exam room door closed and burrowed into the blankets that cocooned the once and future king. He let out a gasp as he realized Arthur was in the same tunic and breeches he had worn the night he had sent him adrift.
He would never lose him again.
"Lie still," Merlin whispered, gold illuminating his eyes.
The power of ages flowed through his hands. As warm as the first fire he'd conjured as a child, and as strong as the feelings he held for the man underneath him. He slid his hand under Arthur's tunic and over his heart. A blush of vitality returning to Arthur's face as Merlin's magic did its work. There would be time for explanation. To build their lives anew in this modern world thought Merlin, cradling the sleepy Arthur in his arms. But tonight in the sterile white room of a busy hospital there was only this. Arthur breathing steady into Merlin's scrubs. Threading his warmed calloused fingers between Merlin's as they lay together on the metal gurney.
It was a simple homecoming for a king, without splendour or prestige. But it was more then Merlin could have ever asked for.