Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: "For God’s sake, you’re lucky I found you when I did, or you might have—” He broke off, his lips forming a grim line for a moment before he went on, more calmly, “There’s a lot of blood, Merlin, okay? I don’t think waiting for Gaius would be the best idea.”
Warnings: Brief mentions of blood and gore.
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 335 Frightening
Author's Notes: Inspired by this cute ficlet on AO3.
“Merlin? Merlin, you dolt, where are you?”
The sound of Arthur’s all-too-familiar voice startled Merlin from his doze; with a groan, he peeled his eyes open, staring at the ceiling for moment as he tried to figure out where he was. He and Gaius had been working late the night before, trying to save the life of a young man whose leg had been crushed in a wagon accident. The job had been a bloody one, as in the end they had been forced to amputate; the last thing Merlin remembered was telling Gaius to go ahead and see to the rest of his rounds while he cleaned up the mess in the surgery. He must have fallen asleep.
“Merlin, so help me, I—what have you done?”
Arthur’s shocked exclamation made Merlin sit up abruptly, startled, but before he could process what was happening the prince was kneeling at his side, his hands clutching Merlin’s shoulders.
“No, lie still,” he said, his voice changing from frightening to commanding in a moment. “You’ve lost a lot of blood, but the bleeding seems to have stopped for now—if you move, it might start up again. Where’s Gaius?”
“I—what?” Still groggy from his impromptu nap, Merlin could only blink at him. “He’s out in the Lower Town.”
“And he just left you here like this?”
“He was busy. There was a patient—” Merlin gestured vaguely with one hand at the chaos that surrounded him. “It’s all right, Arthur. I’ll have this cleaned up before he gets back.”
Arthur made an odd choking noise and looked away for a moment, his grip tightening convulsively on Merlin’s arms. Merlin frowned at him.
“You’re an idiot,” Arthur said gruffly, turning back to face him. He gave Merlin a little shove, pushing him back onto the floor, and got to his feet. “Where does Gaius keep the bandages?”
“Second cupboard on the left,” Merlin answered automatically. Arthur was already walking away before the question fully penetrated Merlin’s brain, and he sat up again, wincing a little as his skin stuck to the floorboards in places. “What do you want them for? Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” If Merlin didn’t know better, he’d almost have thought that was a wobble in Arthur’s voice. “Clean bowls?”
“One cupboard over.” Merlin watched with consternation as Arthur gathered all the supplies necessary for cleaning and bandaging a wound. As near as he could tell, the prince was unhurt, but he was acting strangely; his movements were quick and jerky, and though he wasn’t shaking, he seemed inordinately clumsy as he rifled around in Gaius’ cabinets, as if he knew he were pressed for time and was fighting to remain calm.
“Arthur,” Merlin said slowly. “Is something wrong? Only—I’m sure Gaius won’t be gone long; if you like, we can wait until he gets back and—”
“No!” Arthur whirled on him, sounding more than a little frantic as he slopped water all down his front. “This can’t wait. For God’s sake, you’re lucky I found you when I did, or you might have—” He broke off, his lips forming a grim line for a moment before he went on, more calmly, “There’s a lot of blood, Merlin, okay? I don’t think waiting for Gaius would be the best idea.”
Merlin glanced around the infirmary. There was a lot of blood left to clean up, and Gaius likely wouldn’t be best pleased to find the place was still in such a state when he returned, but somehow he didn’t think that’s what Arthur was talking about.
“Arthur, you do realise—” he began. But the prince was kneeling next to him, taking hold of Merlin’s jacket and peeling it from his shoulders, and this sufficiently distracted him before he could finish. “What are you doing?”
“Where is it?” Arthur asked, clearly not listening. “Was it a sword wound, or did you cut yourself on something? If it’s your chest, you could still be all right, provided it isn’t too deep, but if it’s your belly…”
“Arthur,” Merlin repeated, more forcefully this time. He batted Arthur’s hands away from his belt, where the prince was apparently attempting to disrobe him in order to inspect his imaginary injury (not that Merlin would have objected to this at any other time) and sat up properly, ignoring Arthur’s inarticulate noise of protest. “I’m fine. Honestly. I’m not hurt.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Merlin, you’re bleeding—”
“Arthur.” Merlin caught at Arthur’s wrist and leaned towards him, torn between amusement and exasperation. “This is an infirmary. It’s not my blood.”
This seemed to get through to him, finally, as Arthur stopped what he was doing for a moment and stared, first at Merlin, and then at the gore-crusted floor surrounding them. Merlin saw him swallow hard, his throat working, and on closer inspection he realised that Arthur was looking unnaturally pale.
“You’re okay,” the prince said finally. It both was and wasn’t a question, and Merlin squeezed Arthur’s arm reflexively in response to the roughness of his voice. “You’re not—?”
“I’m fine,” Merlin said gently. Usually he would have teased Arthur over such a blatant display of human emotion, but somehow that would have seemed cruel when faced with such genuine fear. “Gaius had an amputation to perform. He left me here to clean things up.”
“Oh.” Arthur exhaled audibly, and Merlin could see the tension ebbing gradually out of his broad frame. Then his gaze snapped up to Merlin’s, as though he had just registered what all of this actually meant. “What the hell were you doing, then, falling asleep in the middle of all this mess?” he asked, indignant. “I thought for sure you must be dying!”
“Sorry.” Merlin grinned sheepishly, the audible relief in Arthur’s voice stirring something warm and fluttery in his belly. “I was tired!”
Arthur huffed. “Only you, Merlin,” he said, annoyed, before hauling Merlin close and kissing him soundly on the mouth.