Merlin quickly threw another two pieces of wood onto the already roaring fire and inched as close as he dared for risk of sparks or actually ending up sitting in the fireplace, no matter how tempting that was right now. He was frozen through to the skin and shivering heavily, even though he had stripped off his soaked cloak and boots, his top and breeches were both soaked through themselves.
For the last two and a half months he had been rushed off of his feet and he was beginning to feel it. Arthur was demanding more and more of him both as a manservant and as an…advisor of sorts as Arthur took over the kingdom. But also with having to look after Uther's mental affliction that had been clear the minute the chaos from the sudden defeat of Morgana had been dealt with Gaius was extremely busy trying to cure him, look after the majority of knights who were suffering from their time under Morgana's rule and the everyday people, as well as keeping up with his normal patient list, because of this he also had been asking more and more of Merlin. He was also helping Gwaine, Elyan, Percival and Lancelot settle into Camelot by Arthur's orders but also as a friend and thanks for them helping Arthur. Between the three despite of his magic he was being pulled in too many directions with not enough time, he was exhausted.
And now he was soaked through to go with everything else, Gaius had sent him out for herbs which he had gotten totally soaked picked, he dropped them quickly off at their rooms before hurrying back to Arthur's room where he had been told he had to clean it that afternoon. It was now four o'clock and Arthur would be back any time now and he had barely done anything. As much as he and Arthur had a bantering relationship he was too tired at the minute to hear the useless comments that Arthur gave off, especially as they had more of a bite to them the more tired Arthur got with his responsibilities.
He groaned as a shiver wracked through his body fiercely enough that it actually hurt and he managed to force himself a little closer to the fireplace. His stomach chose that moment to add to his misery and remind him that he had missed lunch as well while out in the forest, the few berries that had managed to cling to the bushes in the torrential rain doing nothing to fill his stomach. Missing meals was becoming too common lately, he was barely able to grab an apple or slice of bread, three meals a day just weren't heard of.
Merlin wasn't even aware of lying down in front of the fireplace, never mind falling asleep, but the shivers going through his already exhausted body sapped the rest of his energy along with the dizziness and hot/cold feeling going through his body. Within seconds of his head touching the rug in front of the fireplace he was sleeping fitfully, shivers and trembles still going through his frame.
Arthur stormed into his room already feeling put out, Merlin hadn't been present for lunch with the knights and then he had had to deal with just another attack and insult on his inner circle of knights and so a question of his leadership. He had stayed calm but inside he was fuming. Gwaine and Leon winced when Arthur slammed into his chambers, both of them had been looking around desperately for Merlin but hadn't been able to find him at all.
"Oh for…Merlin! Merlin! You haven't even tidied my room! MERLIN!" Arthur shouted. Gwaine winced for his friend's sake and looked away but Leon heard the faint moan from the direction of Arthur's fireplace. Turning he felt a stab of worry and panic at the sight of the flushed normally pale face and the fact he barely even twitched in response to Arthur's shout of his name.
Making a noise of worry he hurried across the room catching Gwaine and then Arthur's attention as he quickly dropped to his knees beside the manservant rolling him onto his back.
"He's sleeping! This is ridiculous!" Arthur stormed forwards clearly furious.
"Sire I do not think he is well," Leon said quickly tugging his gloves off to feel Merlin's forehead.
"Geez he's burning up!" Gwaine cursed placing his own hand on Merlin's cheek.
"Of course he is, he's been sleeping in front of my fire!" Arthur snapped.
"Arthur, he's not well!" Leon said sharply capturing the king effective's attention. Leon still had trouble calling him Arthur, so for him to do it straight off meant something was wrong. Walking quickly forwards he caught a proper look at Merlin's face and promptly pushed Gwaine and Leon aside to kneel at Merlin's side cupping his face worriedly.
"Leon fetch Gaius now, Gwaine help me get him into the bed," Arthur ordered. Leon hurried to his feet and out the rooms as fast as he could manage, actually running through the hallways. "Why are his clothes wet!" Arthur frowned when he and Gwaine went to lift Merlin and found the back of his clothes still damp.
"He's shivering, we need to get him out of them," Gwaine went to untie Merlin's shirt only to find his hand gripped tightly by a glowering Arthur.
"Go and get one of my nightshirts from the wardrobe," Arthur growled out slightly.
"Ok," Gwaine said as he stood. "Possessive bastard," he mumbled clearly amused.
"I heard that!" Arthur snapped as he made quick work of tugging Merlin's shirt off, scowling when he realised how thin Merlin was. He had to take a breath before he reached for the lacings of Merlin's breeches before he let it out and he quickly tugging them over bony hips and thin legs. He was thankful when Gwaine came back with his nightshirt, he wasn't sure he would be able to stop himself from touching any longer.
The two of them quickly managed to get Merlin into the nightshirt, his dislike for Gwaine touching Merlin put to the side at the shivers wracking through Merlin's exposed body. As soon as the shirt was on Arthur scooped his arms underneath Merlin's arms and legs and lifted him from the floor. Hurrying over to his bed he motioned for Gwaine to pull the covers down and they quickly slipped his thin body underneath them and covered him snugly with the cotton blankets and then the fur ones.
Gwaine stepped back to Arthur's table and watched as the blonde man sat beside Merlin, carefully brushing his fringe from his eyes and stroked his fingers down his cheeks.
"Why can't you be like that with him when he's awake, show him that you care?" Gwaine asked softly.
"Its none of your business," Arthur said quietly.
"It does when both my closest friends are miserable and want to be together. For whatever reason you won't say anything to Merlin, and he won't say anything to you because he believes there is no way you would ever want him like that. Maybe if you had…"
"What? Finish what you were going to say Gwaine," Arthur didn't look up as he grabbed one of his fur blankets and tucked it around Merlin's still shivering form.
"Maybe he wouldn't be like this," Gwaine snapped before wincing when he took in the expression on Arthur's face. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean that," He sighed.
"Its true though, this is my fault," Arthur frowned.
"No I am pretty much sure this is all our faults, we have all seen how hard he has been working, we are more likely to have meals with him than you are, and we have noticed he's been skipping them but allowed ourselves to be distracted and didn't say anything. He lives with a physician and Gaius didn't notice. This is pretty much a collective let down," Gwaine shook his head sitting on the opposite side of the bed to Arthur.
"He'd be better off with you," Arthur scowled, the possessive but gentle fingers stroking Merlin's scrunched forehead saying differently.
"Nah he wouldn't, I love Merlin sure, and yeah it could turn into being in love with him. Pretty sure anyone would find it easy to fall in love with him. But he's my best friend and we're both more than happy with it like that," Gwaine laughed.
"Besides that I believe Gwaine would go to the top of the hit list in the castle from the lowest stable boy to your council advisers if we had to deal with you both without Merlin's presence," Gaius said as he walked into the room making Arthur, Leon and Gwaine gawp at him shocked.
"Not to mention how jealous the princess will get, no one wants to see that!" Gwaine snickered.
"It was bad enough that time that Lord Jameson kept patting Merlin's bum when he was visiting," Leon added, managing to get everyone in the room to stare at him shocked, even Gaius who paused while checking Merlin to stare at him shocked. "I couldn't move my arms by the end of that visit," He shrugged.
"Training wasn't that bad!" Arthur protested.
"Of course not sire," Leon smiled politely.
"How is he?" Arthur chose to pester Gaius instead.
"Basically. Exhausted. I should have made sure that he changed out of his wet clothes and sat down for a proper meal this afternoon," Gaius shook his head, disappointed at himself.
"He's not sick with a fever?" Arthur asked, needing to know that first before he helped smooth the older man's guilt.
"He has a slight fever from staying in damp clothes after being out in the rain, but some medicine and rest and it is nothing to worry about. I fear that he is going to be asleep for a good day or more, his body has worn itself out. After that he will need care back to his feet. If one of you will help me take him down to my chambers I will…"
"No!" Arthur interrupted Gaius sharply startling them all. "He will remain here,"
"Arthur he needs care, while asleep and more so when he wakes up," Gaius said gently.
"And I will provide it for him. He is not leaving my side," Arthur said firmly.
"Arthur…" Leon started to speak but at the look he gave he bowed his head.
"I will go and get everything he needs and some of his things for when he wakes," Gaius smiled patting Arthur's shoulder before hurrying out with Leon.
"So, not leaving your side. That while he's recovering or for good?" Gwaine asked slowly when there had been a few moments of silence between them. Arthur twitched slightly before glaring at the knight who was making himself comfortable on his bed.
"That's none of your business," Arthur snapped.
"Actually it is, Merlin is my best friend, and as you pointed out I could have him if I wanted him. He doesn't know how you feel about him, and because for some reason in your over dramatic and idiotic mind you have decided to make him believe that you are in love with Gwen and plan to marry her, it would not take much to have him in my arms," Gwaine for one of the few times since Arthur had met him was looking completely serious.
"For good. I will need a new man servant, and I will have to think of a title for him that covers his place in my court. Court Sorcerer perhaps," He blinked before he started laughing when Gwaine actually fell off of his bed.
"Sorcerer?! Merlin!" Gwaine choked, his head poking over the side of the bed to stare between him and Merlin stunned.
"You hadn't noticed yet? He's very good at hiding it I suppose," Arthur hummed.
"But you…he…what…who knows?!" Gwaine dragged himself onto the side of the bed staring shocked at the King.
"Well, Gaius obviously, I seriously doubt that he wouldn't know, and not to mention there are times that he is clearly covering for him. I'm presuming Lancelot knows. I think before he came back this last time, if not pretty much definitely from when we retook the castle. What did you think he and Merlin were up to?" Arthur snorted, resuming his stroking of Merlin's brow when he mumbled and shifted anxiously in his sleep.
"I….what were they doing?" Gwaine frowned.
"My best guess something to do with that damned cup," Arthur sighed.
"How long have you known?" Gwaine frowned.
"About two years now, one too many coincidences, and a lot of fire popping up whenever Merlin was around and we were in danger of losing. He has quite the thing for fire," Arthur smiled amused.
"Why haven't you said anything?!" Gwaine choked.
"At first? I was being petty, he hadn't told me so I wasn't going to let him know I knew and just watch him suffer. Then I pushed and pushed to try and get him to tell me the truth especially when I knew he was lying. Then I realized why he didn't tell me," Arthur shrugged.
"He was scared?" Gwaine guessed.
"Yes, partly, but he knew…" Arthur sighed and ran his fingers through Merlin's hair, the expression on his face revealing everything that he felt for the man. "Even if he doesn't know the extent of my feelings for him, he knows I care, that he is one of the few closest to me. He knew he could tell me and I would protect him, keep his secret,"
"So why didn't he?" Gwaine frowned.
"Because he's Merlin and an idiot, because he didn't want to put me in the position where I had to hide such a big thing from my father. And he's not told me now because after Morgana, he is scared what the revelation of someone else keeping things from me will do to me and how I will react to him," Arthur smiled sadly.
"So Court Sorcerer huh," Gwaine said before smirking. "Those duties include warming your bed?"
"Out, now," Arthur glared at Gwaine who finally stood holding his hands up.
"Alright fine, but don't be shocked when we turn up to see him tomorrow!" Gwaine smirked before running out the door when Arthur hurled a pillow at him. Shaking his head and wondering how he had managed to surround himself with these people Arthur turned his attention back to soothing his fingers through Merlin's pitch black hair, stroking over his brow and running his thumb over those sharp cheek bones.
"I have everything here Sire, he will need these two potions administering right before you go to sleep and when you wake first thing in the morning. I will come to check on him around nine Sire. May I check his temperature?" Arthur hadn't even been aware of Gaius and Leon returning. He took a little pleasure in glaring at Leon until the knight managed to battle back his amused look and looked at Arthur with a blank face. Though he was quickly distracted when Merlin let out a groan.
"What's wrong! Is he in pain!" Arthur demanded crowding over Gaius's shoulder.
"What is it my boy?" Gaius asked concerned leaning closer to try and make out what Merlin was muttering.
"Ur…thur…Arthur!" Merlin groaned thrashing slightly against the pillows.
"I'm here Merlin," Arthur winced apologetically at Gaius when he practically shoved the old man out the way to hold Merlin's hand and start running his fingers through Merlin's hair as it seemed to sooth them both.
"As I thought, he has a mild chill, not even a fever, he was just cold from his wet clothes. He is improving already. I will give him this now, all we need to do is let him sleep, give him water regularly and wait for him to wake. Then I want him on bed rest for a good four or five days after he has woken. We will start him on light but filling foods before building him back up till he's on his feet," Gaius told him, feeding Merlin a potion before settling back.
"Good while you are here I will put into place some of the changes I was going to wait a week or more to do. Gaius I have had rooms prepared for you closer to this floor, you will have your own set of rooms separate to your physicians rooms, and I am granting you a higher wage…"
"My Lord!" Gaius gawped at him stunned.
"I am not finished. I wish for you to put together for me a list of all the magic users and what factions they belong to, from who are likely to be the most receptive to peace talks to the least. I also wish for you to start putting together some ideas on how best to regulate magic, to put laws into place that keep magic from being misused but also to protect those who wield it. When Merlin is better and further into his bed rest I want you two to work on it together. He will be taking over most of it with his position as Court Sorcerer," Arthur winced as Gaius went pale and swayed on his feet, but Leon was quicker and had a chair under him just before his knees went.
"Know. Yes, and I understand why you kept it secret, both of you. Leon, you knew?" Arthur frowned at his knight.
"I was semi conscious for one of Merlin's rescue missions. I am loyal to Camelot and as loyal as I was to your father, it was you I served under. I was not going to reveal someone who would clearly lay down their life to protect you. I apologies for keeping it from you my Lord," Leon said politely, but amusement and happiness were clear on his face.
"You never believed in my Father's treatment of Magic users did you?" Arthur asked.
"I had my strangest doubts Sire yes. But after seeing Merlin and how powerful he was, and yet using that magic to protect and look after you…and do some of his chores, I realized that not all magic could be evil," Leon nodded.
"Thank you. Will you have the Chief Steward come to my rooms tomorrow to organize a new man servant and to ensure that the new rooms are ready a little quicker. Also I will be working from my rooms for the next few days, I won't see anyone except on extreme importance, I will however be doing all my paperwork and going over documents and such from in here. Leon I want you and Lancelot to take over the training of the knights tomorrow. Gaius, my father explained some of the…restrictions my father placed upon you to 'trust you' when the purge began. You should know that Merlin will no longer be remaining in your chambers, old or new, and Geoffrey has been complaining about the coldness of his chambers," Arthur smiled as Gaius opened and closed his mouth before he dropped his head as tears started filling his eyes.
"Thank you sire," He barely whispered.
"You have nothing to thank me for, your loyalty has too long gone properly unthanked. You may want to have Geoffrey start writing up the declaration for the abolishment of the law of execution for magic users, and the declaration of magic being welcomed back into Camelot," Arthur said not taking his eyes off of Merlin.
"Its was love that drove magic from Camelot, and now it is bringing it back," Gaius said softly, surprising Arthur when he placed a kiss on his forehead before leaving the room in what appeared to be a state of delirious shock.
"I will look after him," Leon smiled squeezing Arthur's shoulder before quickly leaving the rooms, shutting the doors behind himself.
"I should not have waited so long before putting these things into place. But I did not want to putting too many changes upon the people at once. And I was scared, of how you would react. But no more secrets, and lies, and hiding between us Merlin, I mean it!" Arthur spoke as he got himself ready for bed before lifting the covers and sliding under. He hesitated for a minute before blowing out the candle and turning to pull Merlin into his arms and against his body. You will think you have slept for years when you wake up to all this," he chuckled before brushing a gentle kiss over Merlin's cheek.
Lying down with Merlin in his arms, in his bed, where he belonged Arthur allowed his eyes to close and for him to get the first night of proper sleep he had had since Uther had died. He had taken his first steps towards the changes that he had wanted to put into place since he was fourteen, he knew it would be difficult, and he knew he would face opposition, he knew the lies that his father had spread about magic had scared people into believing them. But he had his loyal knights by his side who he knew would stand at his side and guard his back through the most hopeless of situations, he had Gaius for advise and Gwen for the voice of the people. And he would have Merlin, at his side, in his rightful place. They would create the Camelot that the people deserved, the Camelot he dreamed of.