So, it took me about a month to post this. :| Sorry. It didn't come very easily and I still feel kind of discontent with it, plus most of it was written mostly through the hours of 12:00 am to 7:00 am last night, er, earlier today, so please forgive any mistakes or OOC-ness. And for some strange reason I kept imaging the tenth Doctor when I was writing Merlin and Arthur. Probably because I had just watched Midnight.
Anyways, I would like to thank you all for sticking with me and waiting for this chapter. It's still kind of hard to believe that 72 users are following this. So, thanks a bunch you guys!
And as an apology for taking so long and a thank you for waiting so nicely and sticking with me, I present to you my longest chapter for this story yet.
Word Count: 4,691, excluding author's notes.
Arthur awoke to the sound of birds chirping. It was rather loud and obnoxious chirping if you were to ask him, and it was being sounded much too early in the morning. He opened his eyes and immediately closed them again when the sunlight streaming though window made contact with them. He groaned as he stood up and tried to shake all of the creakiness out of his stiff joints. He had fallen asleep in the chair by Merlin's bed and his body was really not okay with that decision.
After drowsily looking around at his surroundings and remembering why he wasn't in his own chambers, he walked to the door while ignoring the tingling sensation spreading throughout his legs due to his blood flowing back into proper circulation. Once he reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw that Gaius was still sleeping. He made an effort to walk as quietly as possible out of the room, as to not disturb the sleeping old man. His mission was successful, and he made his way down the halls of his castle to his room.
Arthur loved walking about the castle at dawn. The people were just starting to tend to their work, and a somewhat calming feeling of peace overtook him when he watched the hustle and bustle of the day begin. Once he reached his room, there was a servant already waiting for him (Thankfully for Arthur's sake, not George.) with breakfast on the table and his clothes laid over the changing screen. Arthur quickly ate and got dressed. He had a trying day ahead of him and he couldn't help but feel that he was unprepared somehow. He shrugged off the feeling and thought about what he needed to do. He had meant to do it last night, but he seemed to have drifted off into sleep before he had the chance. He needed to talk to Mordred...again.
Arthur was at a loss of what to do when it concerned Mordred. Was he really out to kill Arthur? If so, it didn't seem safe to have him accompany himself and the knights of the quest, but it felt even less safe to leave him at the castle with Guinevere and Merlin. Especially Merlin. Guinevere could take care of herself for the most part, and she was the queen. She had guards with her at almost all times. But Merlin, Merlin is able to hold his own with a sword against most bandits and ruffians that they encounter in the woods. But Mordred is a trained knight, not to mention that Merlin's blind now. Arthur still couldn't entirely wrap his mind around that concept. Merlin. Blind. The two words just didn't really fit in a sentence together.
So it felt downright dangerous to leave Merlin anywhere near the castle. He sighed when he reached Mordred's quarters. He hesitated slightly before he knocked loudly on the thick, wooden door, and entered when he heard Mordred answer.
Arthur opened the door and peeked his head through before stepping fully into the room.
"Sire," Mordred said with a slight bow of his head.
Arthur waved his hand dismissively before speaking. "I need to talk to you about the Merlin's quest."
"What about it?"
"You're needed elsewhere. You won't be able to accompany us."
Mordred couldn't help but let his face and entire demeanor fall when he heard these words. What had he done wrong? He was finally coming to terms with Merlin's distrust, but now Arthur, too? He tried to clear these thoughts from his head. Maybe Arthur really did just need him somewhere else. He was a knight after all. It would make sense if he had more important things to do. But really, this is Arthur we're talking about. More important than Merlin? "Where do you need me to go?"
"There's a village by the western border that is claiming signs of sorcery. You're to go investigate it with Sir Arnold and Sir Coleville."
Of all the bogus excuses. It was now clear that Arthur just didn't trust him. It was as plain and simple as that. Anyone could help them poke around an old village. It didn't make sense to take Mordred off of the quest for Merlin, which was much more important than some sneezing and coughs in some random village. It didn't make sense unless Mordred was somehow a danger or liability to them.
"What have I done?" Mordred couldn't stop his voice from wavering slightly. "If I have wronged you in some way, please tell me so that I may fix it!"
"You haven't done anything wrong." Arthur tried to reassure.
"Then why? Why does Merlin hate me? Why do you distrust me so?" Mordred stopped his outburst and lowered his gaze to the floor. "I'm sorry, my lord. I spoke out of turn." After a small pause he continued. "If there's nothing more that you require, I'll prepare for the journey with Sir Arnold and Coleville." With that Mordred bowed politely and left the room, wiping away the tears that had been welling up in his eyes once he was out of Arthur's line of view.
Arthur sighed in frustration. Was this all just an act? Was Mordred really out to kill him and take over Camelot? It was hard to believe, but Arthur still couldn't rule anything out. And maybe Mordred wanted it to be hard to believe. Maybe this had been his plan all along. If he was in league with Morgana, she would tell him how to earn a spot in the king's heart. Morgana knew Arthur too well.
After he had been properly dressed in his chain mail and armour with Excalibur strapped safely to his hip, Arthur met with Guinevere. He warned her that Mordred shouldn't be back for a few days, and told her to try to keep him as far away from Camelot as possible until Arthur's return. She asked him why, but he didn't tell her. He kissed her tenderly on her cheek and they said their goodbyes. After one more heartfelt hug, it was almost time to depart and Arthur had just one more thing he needed to do. He left her in her private quarters and made his way to Merlin's. When he got there, the main door and the door to Merlin's room were already open. He went inside and looked around. Gaius wasn't there, but he could see someone holding Merlin's hand through the open door.
"Just...just get better, alright?"
That voice wasn't Gaius'. It was Gwaine's. "Get better for me, and for Gaius, and for all the knights. But especially for Arthur. He needs you." His voice was breaking and uncharacteristically high from crying. "We all need you. And if you can't get better on your own, then hold on for us. We won't let you down, I swear."
Arthur walked further into the room and heard Gwaine sniff a little before standing up. The king quickly darted behind one of the tables to avoid being seen by him. He hadn't meant to eavesdrop, but Gwaine was obviously having a personal and private minute with Merlin. Arthur didn't want to spoil that. He held his breath as he saw Gwaine walk from the room while wiping tears from his eyes. He closed the door softly behind him and Arthur didn't move until he could no longer hear Gwaine's footsteps receding down the hall.
Arthur stood up cautiously and walked up the stairs to Merlin's room. There was a wet cloth draped over his forehead and, not surprisingly, bandages wrapped tightly across his face. Arthur couldn't help but smile as memories of the past years flitted across his mind, mainly the more amusing memories. Like how sometimes Merlin would get up before breakfast to search for woodworm in Arthur's bed. He wondered if that was just an idiotic excuse to keep from getting caught from sneaking around, or if his servant really just was a wee bit mental and liked to search for woodworm in his spare time. Arthur preferred the latter of the two options.
"I'm sorry, Merlin. I'm so, so sorry." Arthur whispered gently. "I'll fix this. You'll get better, I promise." He picked up the cloth on Merlin's head and soaked it in the bowl of water that was on a table beside him. He wrung it out and began dabbing Merlin's face and neck with it, before placing it back onto his forehead. He picked up his hand in his and placed it in between his.
"I'll be back before you know it. You'll be cleaning my room in no time." Arthur waited for a second before continuing. "Just wait long enough for us to come back. Please, Merlin. Hold on." He saw Merlin's mouth form into a grimace and feared that he had agitated his sensitive skin when he was dabbing it with the cloth. Merlin opened his mouth slightly but no words came out.
"Water," Arthur muttered. He ran down the stairs and quickly filled a cup with water and brought it up to Merlin. He held the cup in his right hand and slid his left hand under Merlin's head, propping it up slightly. He slowly poured the cool liquid down Merlin's throat and was pleased to see Merlin swallowing it without a fuss. Arthur placed his head back down on his pillow when Merlin started spluttering it back out, unable to take in any more. Merlin coughed wretchedly as Arthur put the cup on the table and tried to calm Merlin down a bit. After he had calmed and his coughing had temporarily subsided, Arthur dried some of the spilt water with a towel.
He allowed himself a few minutes to stay there before he forced himself to leave. He was already late and the sooner he and the knights got moving the better. He stood at the doorway and looked back at Merlin again before turning again and leaving.
If he had stayed just a few seconds longer he would of heard Merlin whisper his name.
Arthur met up with the knights in the courtyard where there was a horse waiting for him. They were already all there and mounted with supplies ready for departure. Arthur hefted himself upon Torento and made a quick scan to make sure that he had everything he needed. Yup, it was all there. Still though, he knew that this whole trip would feel empty without Merlin there. Mordred being gone would make a difference too. Speaking of which...
"Where's Mordred?" Percival asked.
"He couldn't come with us." Arthur said grimly while looking at Gwaine. If Arthur hadn't just seen him doing so, he never would've guessed that Gwaine had been in tears not only ten minutes ago.
No one commented on Mordred's absence. It was obvious to see that Arthur was disappointed with it and no one wanted to nor felt the need to press things further. They had just started to spur their horses forwards away from the castle when they heard a voice that made them all stop instantaneously.
Blackness. There was just an echoing chasm that contained only darkness, pain, dreams and voices. So many voices. It felt like an eternity that Merlin spent there, drifting briefly in and out of consciousness. Eventually though, he heard a voice. It wasn't screaming or cruel like the others that he had been trapped with. It sounded familiar.
"We're going to leave soon. To go on the quest for the amulet." There was a pause, and Merlin wanted nothing more than for the comforting voice to keep talking, but he couldn't find the strength within him say anything. Then the voice continued. "People say that people can hear you if you speak to them when they're sick. If that's true, please listen to me, Merlin. Just...just get better, alright? Get better for me, get better for Gaius, and for all the knights. But especially for Arthur. He needs you. We all need you. And if you can't get better on your own, then hold on for us. We won't let you down, I swear."
Merlin was comforted by these words, even though in his state of incoherence he had no idea what they meant. But it was soothing nonetheless, which is why he really hated to hear the footsteps of the man leaving the room.
Merlin could feel himself start to drift away again. His mind seemed to distance itself from the rest of him as he began to wander into the depths of the black chasm again. He was abruptly pulled away from his slipping into sleep when he heard another voice talking.
"I'm sorry, Merlin. I'm so, so sorry." This voice was different. It was softer. Less rough than the one before. "I'll fix this. You'll get better, I promise." Merlin felt the coolness of water on his skin as his visitor dabbed his fevered face and neck with a wet cloth. He vaguely wondered who it was who was doing this. "I'll be back before you know it. You'll be cleaning my room in no time." There was more hesitation now. "Just wait long enough for us to come back. Please, Merlin. Hold on."
Arthur. Something clicked in Merlin's drowsy mind as he made the connection between Arthur and the voice. He couldn't help but grin slightly at Arthur's joking behavior. Ha! Like he was doing any cleaning any time soon. He opened his mouth to say this, but he couldn't get his voice to work. His throat felt like it was on fire and it only burnt worse when Merlin tried to talk. He fell into despair when he heard Arthur whisper something and then leave, but his hopes were quickly renewed when he came back again just as quickly as he'd left. He felt his head being lifted up and tried to protest, but soon stopped when he felt water reach his lips. He had only been trying to talk, he hadn't actually wanted water at all. But it did offer his throat some comfort from the fierce burning, so he gladly accepted.
Soon enough, there was too much water, and Merlin found himself spitting it back out again and falling into another coughing fit. That had done just wonders for his throat and lungs. When it was over, he then felt a towel being pressed against his chest, soaking up the spilt water he supposed. He tried to form words again, but any help that the water had provided had just been taken away by the coughing scratching up his throat again.
He spent the rest of the time that Arthur was by him trying to say something, anything, but the words just didn't seem to form. His heart sank when he heard Arthur standing up. He felt so alone. He needed someone with him. He heard Arthur's footfalls pause, and tried desperately to speak, and only succeeded in barely whispering his name after Arthur had already left the room.
He slumped down in his bed, content just to lie there in his somewhat delusional state and mope, but then he started to wake up more and begin to more fully enter the world of consciousness. He remembered the earlier voice, the first one, before Arthur came in. He recognized it now as Gwaine's. He had said that they were leaving to go find an amulet.
Any willpower that Merlin had had just minutes ago when he was trying to get Arthur to hear him was magnified tenfold as he became increasingly more panicked. Even though he was conscious now, at least more than he was before, he still was having a difficult time remembering why he was injured in the first place, why the knights were going on a quest for him. And then it hit him. Suddenly all of the memories of the fire and the knights talking in the room downstairs came back to him. Merlin struggled to keep his breathing under control as he started to hyperventilate. He might be fully conscious now but he was still kind of out of it. He stumbled out of bed and fell to the floor on his hands and knees, trying and failing to ignore the pain radiating from his broken wrist.
He reached his hands forward until they touched the bed. He used this to hoist himself up and stood there for a second or two, trying to regain his balance. Once he felt sure that he could walk again for awhile without falling over, he began moving to where he thought the door was. He kept tracing his hand over his bed as he moved along, but once he was past the edge of it, he had to stumble around a bit and blindly move forward towards the door with his arms outstretched in front of him.
Thankfully, Arthur had closed the door behind him, so Merlin successfully found it and opened it without falling headfirst down the stairs, carefully gripping onto the wall as he made his way down them. He just barely made it to the bottom of the stairs before his legs gave out from underneath him. He found the nearest wall and leant against it, panting with intense pain that seemed to burn everywhere. He couldn't wander about the castle like this, Merlin knew that. But he had to get to Arthur before he left.
It could just be Merlin's fever, forcing him to feel like he needs to stop the knights before they go. Or, it could be Merlin's magic instinctively working up inside of him, warning him. Whichever one it was, Merlin was determined. And not much could stop him when he felt that his friends were in danger.
He forced himself to stand up, groaning and gritting his teeth in pain. He leant against the wall, trying with all of his might to not fall down again. He tried to take deep breaths and calm himself down, but each second that passed just reminded him that Arthur was going further away from him.
His mind's eye. Queen Mab had told him to use it once, and it had worked quite well. Merlin took the bandages off and let them fall to the floor, trying and failing again to ignore the pain. He slowly opened his eyes, but they were so swollen that he couldn't really open them more than a crack. But a crack was all that he needed. He still couldn't see anything, but once he muttered the spell, there was just the faintest outline of shapes and shadows. I guess the magic brought something of his sight back.
Merlin looked around and calculated the steps to the door, making sure to notice what was likely for him to trip on. The magic of the spell faded away, leaving Merlin sightless again. He pushed himself forward from the wall and started walking to the other side of the room, crying out with pain as his broken wrist impacted with the corner of a table.
Once he had finally left the room, he tumbled down the stairs outside the door, effectively bonking his head against the wall. That was the worst of the damage though, and Merlin had much more important things to worry about than whether it would bruise or not. He fought away sleeping and exhaustion as he carried on like this for as long as he could, running his hands against the walls of the castle halls and muttering the spell again when he needed to know where to turn. Finally, he made it to the exit doors of the castle. He cringed as the wind blew against his burns when he stepped outside, but kept walking forward, preparing himself for the first step in the stairs.
He heard Leon urge his horse to walk and the clicking steps of multiple horses hooves against the stone. Merlin all but collapsed from the draining feeling that took over him when he muttered the spell under his breath again. He saw the horses riding away, but he knew that he couldn't make it down the stairs. Running around the castle and using magic in his state of exhaustion had taken its toll on Merlin. "Wait!" He called. His voice was hoarse, and his raw throat wasn't grateful in the least for the yelling. It showed this by even fiercer burning. It felt like fire licking around inside of him.
The knights all turned around just in time to see Merlin begin to fall, only to catch himself at the last moment by gripping onto the rail for dear life. "Merlin!" They immediately dismounted and ran towards Merlin as fast as they could. They reached him in a matter of seconds, and it was obvious that Merlin was about to pass out.
"Merlin, lie down." Arthur instructed. He enveloped Merlin in his arms and gently laid him down upon the steps, propping his neck up against the rail. "What are you doing out here?" He couldn't help the anger in his voice, but it by no means masked the overwhelming concern.
"I told you," Another coughing fit, this time coughing up blood. "Told you not to go." Merlin's heart felt like it was beating so hard that it would pound it's way out of his chest and he could feel blood trickling down his lips. He leant his head back and tried to ignore the massive stitch in his side as well as his wrist and throat. Surprisingly, his face and arm didn't hurt much. They were nothing more than a dull throbbing. He figured that Gaius must have given him something for them. "And we told you no." Arthur answered. He looked up to the knights. "We have to get him back to Gaius."
"I'll do it."
The knights all looked behind them to where the volunteer was standing at the top of the steps. It was Mordred. The knights shared confused glances with each other as they all noticed that Arthur seemed to grip Merlin tighter in his arms at Mordred's suggestion.
"Thank you, Mordred, but that won't be necessary. I'll take him." Arthur shifted his arms further under Merlin's upper back and legs, lifting him off the steps him bridal style. There was no way he was leaving Merlin alone with Mordred, especially when he was in the state he was in.
"You must leave for your quest without further delay, sire." Mordred persuaded.
"You're half his age, Mordred. You can't carry him." Arthur said while standing. Everyone noted the impatience in Arthur's tone of voice.
"Sir Arnold can help me, then."
"Arthur, it would be best to let Mordred help." Leon put in.
"I said, I'll take him." Arthur shot an almost threatening glance at Leon and proceeded to pick up Merlin and carry him up the stairs, leaving a baffled group of knights behind him.
After Arthur had gone, Gwaine stood up from his crouching position and walked over to where Mordred was standing.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
Mordred nodded almost angrily before leaving again with Coleville and Arnold, the knights he was going to travel with on his journey to the border. Which, as Mordred had noticed, was coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally) the furthest place from the castle that you could go while still being in Arthur's kingdom.
The rest of the knights joined Gwaine at the top of the stairs. "What was that all about?" Percival asked.
"I don't know," That was Gwaine talking now. "But something's going on between Mordred and Arthur."
On his way back to Merlin's room, Arthur had instructed a servant to find Gaius and bring him as fast as possible. Arthur just hoped that it would be soon.
Merlin had left the door unlatched, so Arthur kicked his foot against it to open it further. He sighed when he saw the pile of semi bloodied bandages that used to be around Merlin's face left in a pile on the floor. He hadn't really noticed that Merlin wasn't wearing them earlier.
"You're never going to learn, are you?" Arthur made his way up to Merlin's room and laid his servant down on the bed once he had reached it. He noticed that there was a bruise high up on Merlin's forehead. He must have gotten that somehow when he was wandering about the castle. How had he managed that, anyway? Maybe someone found him and helped him to the courtyard. Arthur leant forward to pull the covers over Merlin when his sword knocked the cup off of the table behind him. He muttered something to himself turned around to pick it up.
"Strangeth." He heard behind him. Well, he didn't actually hear what the word was, but he thought he heard Merlin whispering it.
"Merlin?" Arthur turned around quickly and looked at Merlin. Strange, the covers were pulled up now. Arthur shrugged it off and placed the cup back on the table before sitting down in the chair. Eventually, Gaius came in holding various pastes and potions of sort, along with some new bandages.
"What happened?" The old physician asked.
Arthur explained what had occurred while Gaius rubbed some sort of green salve on Merlin's arm and face.
"What are we going to do?" Arthur asked. "We can't just keep him sedated until we return, but every time he awakes, he gets up again."
"Then I'm afraid we'll have to restrain him."
Arthur sighed and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. He didn't like the thought of strapping Merlin to the bed, but if they didn't, he would just hurt himself again.
"We'll do what he have to. But can't we give him one more chance?"
"What would change? He would still go looking for you and I'm not always here to make sure he doesn't leave."
"But the knights and I will be gone by then."
"Sire, he's delusional and has a fever. He's incredibly loyal and would never want you in danger without knowing that he's with you to help. He would try to follow you anyway."
"Because it's his destiny." Arthur said exasperatingly. "No, because you're his friend. Don't ever lose sight of that, Arthur." "But, he does know?" Arthur questioned.
"What the druids say about him."
Gaius hesitated slightly before answering. "Yes."
"For how long?" Arthur was starting to get worried. Was that the only reason he became his servant? At the beginning with the witch who threw the dagger, Merlin pushed him out of the way. Did he only do that so Arthur would live to be king? Was Merlin only pretending to be his friend so he could influence him to rule the right way?
All of these thoughts were honest concerns of Arthur's, but soon after he thought of them, he felt overwhelmingly guilty for thinking of Merlin that way. Merlin was his friend. His best friend. He'd been his friend for eight years, and it didn't take long for him to become his best one. His only real one. Whatever Merlin was hiding away, whatever the rest of his destiny entailed, it could never be enough to end his relationship with him. Arthur knew that.
Don't ever lose sight of that, Arthur. The words Gaius had just spoken rang in Arthur's mind. So Gaius knew that there would be hardships to face once Arthur knew. Once he knew exactly about the destiny and prophecy. That couldn't be all that Merlin was hiding though, could it? There had to be more explanations. There had to be even more problems that Arthur had never even known about.
Arthur was snapped back to reality when Gaius didn't answer his question, because the knights interrupted their conversation. "How is he?" Gwaine asked.
"Not well." Answered Gaius. "He's developed a concussion. He must have fallen over on something earlier."
"But he'll be alright?" Questioned Percival.
"He's not much worse off than he was before, but ultimately, his fate rests upon the outcome of your quest."
"Speaking of which," That was Leon. "We need to go, sire."
Arthur stood up in response and followed behind them as they all shuffled out the door, leaving behind Gaius to tend to the dying Merlin. Using so much magic that day had only caused Merlin's body to become weaker. He wouldn't be able to last for much longer.