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Caring (M, Merlin)


groundcontrol

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Hello all :) Looks like I'm back with another Merlin fic. I wrote this after a period of stress and so it's just a bunch of fluff and sap as a form of release. But I think some of you will enjoy that, right? 

This is set like season 1-ish and it'll have two parts. No spoilers though, I don't think. Enjoy :) 


Merlin was in the middle of reading through his book of spells again when a knock came at the door to Gaius’ study. Hurriedly, Merlin shut the book and threw it beneath the loose floorboard under his bed. It was mid-afternoon and Arthur was to be training the knights until well into the evening, but even so it wouldn’t do for just any visitor to discover Merlin’s true nature. Such a thing was dangerous in Camelot; you never knew who would tell and who wouldn’t.


Merlin sat on his bed, listening to Gaius’s plodding footsteps making their way to the door. To be honest, Merlin was surprised Gaius hadn’t summoned Merlin to open it, but it was a rare day off for Merlin on account of all the training Arthur was giving, and Gaius had probably assumed Merlin had shut himself up in his room all day to catch up on sleep. Come to think of it, that wouldn’t be a bad way to spend the rest of the afternoon.


The lock clicked and the door groaned open. Muffled by walls and distance, Merlin nevertheless heard a sigh. “Gaius, I--I don’t feel well.”


Merlin’s heart sank to his stomach because he knew that voice, but it couldn’t be. The walls were too thick to hear properly, his lack of sleep was messing with his ears…


The door eased shut and there were two pairs of footsteps now coming back from it, shuffling ones in addition to Gaius’s. There was the sound of a chair scraping against the floor as it was pulled back from the table, and then the sound of someone collapsing into it.


Gaius clucked his tongue, and Merlin could practically see his brow furrowing “It’s no surprise, sire. You have a fever.”


Merlin squeezed his eyes shut. So it was who he’d thought it was, who he feared it would be. In all the time he’d worked for Arthur, he’d never seen the man sick before, but if his temper on a usual day were any indication, Merlin expected he’d be insufferable. Merlin suppressed a groan. Couldn’t he just have one day off from his destiny? Was that too much to ask?


Grumbling internally, Merlin rolled off his bed and opened his bedroom door, figuring that Gaius would fetch him soon enough anyhow. Merlin was expecting Arthur to be petulant, refusing any of Gaius’s ministrations as he always did when he was injured. What he wasn’t expecting was to see Arthur in the chair while Gaius prodded at his neck, hugging himself across the chest and shivering.


“Arthur?” Merlin couldn’t keep the note of disbelief out of his voice, and it came out louder than he had intended.


Immediately, Arthur winced and weakly massaged his temple. “Merlin,” he honest-to-God whimpered. “My head.”


“Sorry,” Merlin whispered. If Arthur weren’t so obviously miserable, Merlin would have teased him mercilessly about the undignified sound he’d just heard the prince make. He’d save the memory for when Arthur was well again. 


Gaius’s ear was pressed against Arthur’s chest, analyzing his breathing, when Arthur sneezed roughly without warning.

Hep’TSCHH!” Arthur had tried to hold it in, tried to keep his mouth shut or turn his head away or get a hand there to cover it, but ended up with a futile mixture of all three. “‘M sorry,” he croaked, and then shuddered.


Gaius, to his credit as a physician, didn’t even flinch. “Quite alright, sire.” He looked up. “Merlin, get him a blanket.”


Merlin nodded and went to his room to fetch the thickest blanket from his bed. It wasn’t very heavy at all, especially by Arthur’s royal standards, but anything would be better than his thin shirt. He came back and draped it around Arthur’s shoulders.


Arthur looked up at him tiredly as he burrowed into the blanket. He gave a hoarse little murmur that Merlin took as thanks, and it made Merlin warm inside.


“It appears you have influenza, sire,” Gaius said upon finishing his examination. “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?”


“This morning it was just a headache,” Arthur said, folding his arms on the table and resting his head atop them. His subsequent words and cough were muffled into his arms. “Then I thought it wasn’t so bad, but I kept feeling worse.”


Gaius rested a hand on Arthur’s back, over the blanket. “It’s not uncommon for the illness to come on quickly, sire.” He gave Arthur’s back a gentle pat. “Come, Merlin will take you back to your chambers."


Merlin nodded, as if the prince were looking, but Arthur nearly mumbled, “Could sleep here. ‘S nice.”


Gaius smiled. “I think you’ll be much more comfortable in your bed than at my table, sire.”


Arthur picked his head up slowly and nodded blearily. His sweat-damp hair was mussed from pressing his face into his arms and Arthur kept the blanket snug around his shoulders. Pity swirled in Merlin’s chest. 


Sniffling wetly, Arthur followed Merlin out of Gaius’s chambers. Gaius called out after them that he’d be up soon with some potions that would help Arthur feel better. They were halfway down the corridor when Arthur’s ceaseless sniffling turned more urgent, and he stopped to brace himself against the wall with one hand.


Merlin stopped, a few paces ahead. “Arthur?”


Arthur’s mouth hung open, and he blinked rapidly. “Heh’NGSSHH! Heh’RSSH!” He pulled the blanket up from where it had slipped off his shoulder and, to Merlin’s horror, wiped his nose on it.


“Arthur, that’s my blanket!”


Arthur looked up at him, so bewildered and disoriented and ill that Merlin immediately felt guilty for having said anything. “Sorry,” he said, looking forlornly at the blanket. “I’ll get you a new one. I--hih’ISSH!”

Merlin went to Arthur. “It’s alright,” he said. He wrapped an arm around Arthur’s shoulders, surprised when the prince didn’t protest the touch. “I’ll get you some of your handkerchiefs when we get back to your chambers.”


As they walked, Arthur leaned into Merlin ever so slightly, just enough that Merlin could feel his body shivering against him. Merlin pulled him tighter, trying to give him warmth.


“Too close,” Arthur murmured. “You’ll catch this.”


“Don’t worry, I hardly get sick. It’ll take a lot more than you to bring me down.”


“I thought so too,” Arthur said bitterly, “but here I am.” He broke off into a fit of coughing, and Merlin leaned away.


“If you keep on that way I’ll be ill before nightfall!”


Arthur muffled the rest of his coughs into the blanket, and Merlin concealed his smile.


They were in sight of the door to Arthur’s chambers when the prince looked wearily at his manservant. “Once you get me those potions you can go back to your day off,” he said tiredly.


“What?” Arthur was dismissing him? No, Merlin couldn’t believe it.


But then that look came over Arthur’s face again, that look of confusion and fever that twisted Merlin’s heart, and he said, “It is your day off, isn’t it?”


“Well, yes,” Merlin stammered, “but you’re ill, sire, and need taking care of.”


“Not much to do,” Arthur grumbled quietly, but kept the door open for Merlin to follow him into his chambers anyway. 


“Nevertheless.”


Merlin swore he saw the ghost of a smile dance across Arthur’s lips. “In that case, get a fire going. It’s freezing.”


Merlin nodded and went to the fireplace. In truth, it wasn’t all that cold in the room. It was mid-autumn, and as such the palace hearths weren’t all ablaze, but Merlin knew his master was cold, if his shivers were anything to go by. 


Once he had gotten a fire going, he turned around and jumped, surprised to see that Arthur was slumped in one of the table chairs right in front of him. Arthur watched him through half-open eyes.


“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in bed?”


Arthur shook his head. “Warmer here by the fire.”


Merlin accepted that, perhaps because it was true (though he doubted that the bed, with all of its furs and downs, wouldn’t be just as warm), but more likely because Arthur looked too exhausted to move. Merlin fetched some handkerchiefs and laid them gently in Arthur’s lap. The prince’s eyes were fully closed now, and Merlin didn’t want to wake him up.


Merlin brushed featherlight fingers across Arthur’s hot forehead, and the latter blinked up at him through glassy eyes. Not asleep, then. 


“I’ll go see how Gaius is doing with those potions, alright?” Merlin said softly, tugging the blankets snug around Arthur. He was halfway to the door when a hoarse voice stopped him.


“Never thought you’d care so much, Merlin.”


If Merlin didn’t know better, he’d think there was something wrong with him, what with all the jumping and fluttering his heart was doing today. “Well you thought wrong,” he said with a smile. “As usual, you big prat.”


He heard Arthur snicker, which quickly caught in his sore throat and turned into a fit of coughing. Merlin’s own chest ached in sympathy. “I’ll be right back,” he said.

TBC 

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Poor Arthur! Despite Merlin’s prediction, he’s really rather meek when he’s ill, isn’t he? 

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On 9/30/2018 at 11:58 PM, queenie said:

Poor Arthur! Despite Merlin’s prediction, he’s really rather meek when he’s ill, isn’t he? 

Indeed he is. And unfortunately (or fortunately for us), he isn't out of the woods just yet. Thanks for reading!

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Part 2! More fluffy, sappy, hopefully not too OOC exploits follow!

When Merlin came back with an armful of vials and balms, he found Arthur slumped further, head hanging against his chest and his fist clenched loosely around a handkerchief. He appeared to be sleeping, and so Merlin tiptoed around and set the medicines down on the table as lightly as he could. But then Merlin’s hopes were dashed.


Heh’TSCHH!”

Merlin frowned. “I’d hoped you’d fallen asleep.”


“Can’t,” Arthur rasped. “Each time I get close I--I--ISSHH!”

Merlin clucked his tongue in pity. “I still think you’d be better off in bed. Come on, the room’s had time to warm up now.”

Arthur gave a sore sounding groan but got up to stagger over to the bed anyhow, collapsing in a limp heap upon it as soon as he was close enough. He was half-on and half-off, and Merlin, rolling his eyes, went to maneuver him fully onto the bed when he realized that Arthur still had his boots on from training.

“Off with these,” Merlin said, and tugged them off. “And then we’ll get you into your nightclothes. You’ll be even more comfortable.”

Merlin did just so, and though Arthur was limp and floppy, he was compliant. Merlin was still surprised at how not-awful of a patient Arthur was. The whole time he’d worked for him, a small bit at the back of Merlin’s mind had been dreading the day Arthur would first fall ill, because he expected any disease to come with magnified pratness as a primary symptom. But, rather unbelievably, it wasn’t like that at all. If Arthur weren’t so miserable, Merlin would say he preferred him like this, all subdued and passive. Something about it all just made his heart skip.

Merlin gave Arthur doses of all the medicines Gaius had prepared, and rubbed a balm on Arthur’s chest to alleviate some of the congestion. Arthur had moaned a bit at that relief, and Merlin had to focus vehemently to hide his blush. He had the kitchens send up some hot broth and tea for Arthur’s dinner, but Arthur took a few sips of the tea and none of the broth and said he’d probably throw up if he had any more. 

“Can I get you anything else?”

Arthur turned on his side, facing Merlin. “Draw the curtains,” he said quietly.

The sun was setting, but Merlin closed the heavy curtains anyhow. He came back, drawing a chair up to Arthur’s beside and wetting a cloth in the pitcher at his nightstand. With it, he wiped some of the sweat from Arthur’s brow, and the prince made a small, contented noise.

“Get some sleep, Arthur,” he whispered, and settled back in the chair. He would stay until he was sure Arthur was asleep, and then he’d tiptoe out of the room. He relaxed into the chair, tired, but not enough to fall asleep himself. Anyhow, it was a bit too early for that. 

There was nothing much to do in the dark room, and Merlin couldn’t risk the light required to read, and so he found himself lost on the rolling waves of thought. He thought of Gaius, of his mother, of Gwen, but mostly of the times when Arthur had laughed, when he’d slapped him on the back as though he were one of the knights, when he had been glowing and well and princely and even ever-so-slightly prattish. Merlin thought on this for a long while as the room grew darker  and darker around him. 

“You’re still here.”

Merlin jumped, jolted from his reveries. “Arthur,” he gasped. “I thought you were asleep.”

Arthur's fever-bright eyes pierced him through the darkness, and his voice was pitiful. “Can’t sleep. I ache everywhere.”

“It’s too soon for you to have more medicine.” Merlin bit his lip, desperate to do something to help. An idea niggled its way into his mind and Merlin threw caution to the wind to follow it. “Can you flip on your other side?”

Arthur looked even more puzzled, but shut his eyes and answered in what sounded like the affirmative. “Hmm.” 

Merlin waited until Arthur had indeed flipped, thankful that his back was to him so he couldn’t see how red Merlin’s face was. He was fairly certain he was a glowing beacon in the night. “I’ll rub your back for a while. My mother used to do this when I was sick, and it helped me sleep.”

Arthur didn't protest, and so Merlin began rubbing his back gently. He could feel the heat radiating off him and the shivers coursing down his spine, but he also could have sworn that he felt Arthur relax minutely at his touch. 

Then Merlin felt his muscles tense up beneath his hand. “Heh’TSCHHH! Hihh’ISHHH!” He could feel Arthur’s body shake with the coughs that followed, could feel the soft groan and the rattling exhale. 

“Oh, Arthur.”

Merlin carded his fingers through Arthur’s hair a few times before returning to his back, all traces of self-consciousness vanished. If this was what helped Arthur get the rest he so desperately needed to be well again, Merlin could hardly bring himself to be embarrassed. 

“Never had someone stay with me like this before,” Arthur murmured sleepily, and, damn fluttering, Merlin's heart just broke in two. 

Of course he hadn't, Merlin realized. He never had a mother, and it wasn't as though Uther was big into physical affection. He had had Gaius and nursemaids probably, but they too had left once they had done their job and administered their medicines. It all made sense, but it broke Merlin's heart all the same. 

“Never too late to start,” he whispered. “I'll stay with you, Arthur, as long as you need me to.”

It was only when Merlin spoke the words that he realized how true they were. He kept rubbing Arthur's back until he felt his congested breathing slow into the deep rhythm of sleep.  

 

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This is so so absolutely wonderful and I can't even tell you how much I love the way you write those two! Thank you so much for sharing this!!:hug:

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@HakunaMatata Thank you so much that means a lot!! I was striving hard to keep their interactions faithful to their relationship in the show, while delivering a little more :) Glad you enjoyed reading it as I've enjoyed writing it!

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