Title:The Comfort of Sleep
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin sends Arthur to sleep
Word Count: 400ish
When Merlin entered Arthur's chamber, it was to find Arthur at his desk. Piles of parchment sat either side of his seat. Writing instruments lay parallel to the escritoire's legs. Signs of toil were everywhere. Even on Arthur. His eyes were puffy and red around the rims. There was a stoop to his back and he blinked often.
“You need to sleep, Arthur,” Merlin said, putting his tray down on a side table. “You can't go on like this.”
“No.” Arthur squinted at the document before him. “I need to finish this speech before tomorrow's magnates' assembly.”
Merlin didn't think Arthur would manage to stand on his own two feet if he didn't sleep tonight either. He hadn't caught a wink the night before. Merlin had left him at two and found him awake at dawn, the bed made, his night clothes untouched, and thereupon Arthur had confessed to not retiring at all.
“I can finish for you.” Merlin had his letters. His mother had taught him. And he believed he had a few ideas regarding the state of the nation. He thought he was up to scratch. “So you can sleep.”
Arthur looked him up and down, then sideways. “You're a servant, Merlin, what do you know of politics?”
Merlin had observed enough to have learnt more than a little. Watching Arthur in action had been very informative. Besides, his mother had infused him with good sense. He could apply it to the administration of the kingdom. But that wasn't what he meant to say to Arthur. “You really think a commoner can't do the job? I mean look at your knights. Look at your institutions.”
Arthur appeared taken aback. He licked his lips. “I suppose you're not entirely wrong, Merlin. Though I wasn't referring to your class when I expressed my doubts.”
“You had doubts about me then?”
Gazing downwards, Arthur shifted papers on his desk. “You must admit you're no statesman, Merlin. Though I believe--” Arthur reddened. “--that your heart is in the right place.” He moistened his lips. “You're not entirely devoid of sense when you concentrate hard. So perhaps, though you're not the fittest for the job, you won't botch it.”
Placing his hand on his heart, Merlin said, “I swear I won't.”
“Well.” Arthur yawned against his fist. “Let's say I trust you with this. I couldn't go to sleep knowing you're doing all the work.”
Merlin put a hand on Merlin's shoulder. “You need sleep so you can read that speech tomorrow. You wouldn't want Camelot to look bad, would you?”
“No, of course not.”
“And you can't look like a strong equitable king if you're dozing off on your feet.” Merlin heaved Arthur upright. “Come, let me walk you to your bed.”
“I'm perfectly capable,” Arthur said, head drooping, “of getting there myself.”
“Right, Arthur.” Merlin patted his shoulder. “Right.”
Having tucked Arthur in, Merlin blew his candle. His body cradled by the soft mattress, Arthur's face relaxed and he fell asleep right after having said, “Thank you, Merlin.”
Merlin went to work knowing Arthur would now have a good night's sleep.