Summary: While they're out hunting, Merlin reopens a serious wound he got recently. Despite Merlin's warnings, Arthur keeps going, unaware of the gravity of the injury. After almost dying, Merlin will have to find it in his heart to forgive Arthur for disregarding his wellbeing.
Warnings: Major character injury, mild descriptions of pain and blood.
Word Count: 2073
Author's Notes: Thank you elirwen for your amazing prompts and I hope you enjoy this story and that it makes your holidays just a little bit better! Also, thank you to the mods and everyone who participated in this amazing fest. Happy Holidays to everyone!
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
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“Merlin, going on a hunt with a wound like that could kill you, ” Gaius had said, and now Merlin was starting to see where he was coming from. “If you open it, you could bleed out or it could get infected. Not even your magic might be strong enough to help you then, ” he'd said right before they'd left.
Now, running behind Arthur, seeing him chase and kill helpless animals, he wished he'd listened to Gaius's wise words.
“Could we slow down a little? I'm still hurt, Arthur.”
“Oh, stop being such a girl, Merlin. You're fine.”
“Right. Fine, ” he said pressing his hand against his wounded side.
Arthur was true to his word and continued to chase after the stag at the same pace as before. Merlin doubted that bringing up his situation again would do anything to change Arthur's mind, so he decided to suck it up and withstand the pain.
At first, he managed to contain it pretty well, not willing to surrender to his sharp and pulsating discomfort. But soon every step became excruciating, like getting wounded all over again, and he was forced to slow down.
Then, a burning sensation shot up his wound and he couldn't stay quiet anymore.
“Arthur, I can't go on.”
“Shut up, Merlin. You're scaring the game.”
Arthur rolled his eyes and went back to aiming his crossbow. Merlin pressed on the injury again but, this time, his hand touched a patch of moisture. Upon looking at it he confirmed that it was, in fact, blood. A rush of dizziness overcame him and he had to hold on to a tree to keep himself from falling to the ground.
“A-Arthur, ” he tried one last time wanting him to at least pretend to care.
“Merlin! You useless-” His eyes landed on his figure and his words died out in his throat.
The last thing Merlin remembered before succumbing to the darkness was Arthur's shout of “Merlin!”
He didn't stay conscious long enough to feel a pair of arms holding him and cradling him or to hear the anguished cries that followed.
A sharp jolt of pain woke him up.
“Merlin, you need to stay still if you want me to clean the wound.”
Merlin looked down to where Arthur's arms rested over his chest, his hands hovering over his injury. In the back of his mind, he noted that his back was pressed against Arthur's front and thought how comfortable he was, how warm.
“Hurts,” he said brokenly when Arthur went back to dealing with the bloody mess that was his side.
“I know, but we don't want you to get an infection. I'm no physician, I wouldn't be able to treat that.” Despite the certainty in his voice, he hesitated to touch the wound again, as if he truly cared about hurting him. “Here, take my hand. Squeeze it when the pain is too bad. It might help you,” he said and intertwined their fingers. Merlin didn't know if the heat of his face was due to their closeness or if he was coming down with a fever.
With his free hand, Arthur went back to treating Merlin and Merlin found himself making use of Arthur's hand so much he was sure he'd left bruises.
Merlin's cries of pain lingered in the quiet of the forest even after Arthur released him from his hold.
“Here, you have to drink something, ” he said offering Merlin the waterskin. It hit Merlin then that his mouth was very dry and that he did need to drink so he took a large gulp, not caring about the droplets trickling down his chin.
The adrenaline rush he'd felt while Arthur cleaned his wound was now starting to subside and the exhaustion taking over. His vision went blurry again he laid back down against the prince's chest.
“You can sleep now, I'll take you to Gaius in the morning.”
As Merlin started to doze off, Arthur thought he heard him mumble something. “What did you say?” he asked him.
“Y' almost let me die,” Merlin repeated and fell into slumber, unaware of how his words had shattered Arthur's heart.
Voices around him.
“Sire, you can't just…”
“...can and I have to, Gaius. It's my fault he's…”
Coming and going, fading in and out.
“The King requires your presence.”
“Tell him I won't be there for dinner tonight.”
He didn't know how much time had passed.
“I can't do it without him, Gwen. I just can't.”
He just wanted the pain to stop.
The brightness of the room was painful and foreign to Merlin's eyes. He didn't know how long he'd been asleep for, but it had to have been a while. The door to his room opened and a gasp came from the other side of the room.
“Merlin, you're awake!”
“My boy. Here, take this.”
He took the vial Gaius offered him and downed it but had to fight his gag reflex when the foul taste invaded his mouth.
“I know it's bad, but it'll help you with the pain.”
“What happened?” Merlin asked.
“You didn't listen to me, that's what happened. You went to that hunt with Arthur despite me advising you not to do so. You've been in and out of consciousness for a week.”
“And Arthur?” A soft smile appeared on Gaius's face.
“He's fine, but he blames himself for what happened.”
Merlin nodded. “Yes, well, he should.”
“Why?” he said, taken aback by Merlin's comment.
“I told him that I couldn't go on, but he kept pushing me.”
“So he is to blame for this?”
At that moment, Arthur barged through the door. As soon as he registered that Merlin was conscious once more, his face turned into one of pure relief, all the tension of the past week leaving his body.
“Merlin. Thank God you're awake. How is he, Gaius? He's going to be fine, right?”
Gaius nodded, his expression measured and contained. “Yes, sire. I do believe that he will make a full recovery soon.”
“I'm glad.” The physician agreed and then thought it wise to leave the two young men alone. When the door closed, Arthur rushed to Merlin's bed and sat on the edge. “I'm sorry for not listening to you when you told me you were hurt. You almost died and it was my fault,” he said.
“Yes, it was.”
Merlin's statement of agreement brought something sour to Arthur's face, but he tried to shrug it off by saying, “I know. But you'll be okay and polishing my armour in no time.”
Merlin crossed his arms over his chest and looked away. “Right,” he said, the sarcasm evident in his voice.
“Do you really think that I still wish to be your servant after what happened?”
Arthur panicked. “Wha- No, you can't be serious,” he said in an attempt to get Merlin to say it wasn't true, that it was all a joke. But Merlin didn't back down. “Merlin, I said I'm sorry.”
“And apologizing will make up for me almost dying.”
“No, I know but-” Arthur reached to grab Merlin's shoulder, but Merlin dodged his hand, twisting his body away from him.
“But nothing. Please leave.”
“Merlin-” Arthur tried again but to no avail.
Arthur nodded, his movements reluctant, and moved away from the bed. Merlin watched the Prince as he left through the wooden door alone.
Not even a week later, Merlin was up on his feet. His side still hurt and his legs were weak, but he'd much rather be able to work than to spend his days trapped in his room.
Since he'd stopped being in Arthur's service, he'd started to help Gwen with her chores. He was carrying Morgana's bath when Arthur appeared from one of the rooms. Upon seeing Merlin, he made to go to help him, but Merlin just looked away from him and raised his head defiantly. He didn't want any help. He didn't need it. Arthur, dejected, turned around and left.
“Merlin, don't you think this is a bit too much?” said Gwen, who had seen the exchange from Morgana's room.
“What?” Merlin asked.
“Arthur has been miserable for the last week.”
“I know. He deserves it,” Merlin acknowledged, trying not to pay attention to the heavy and twisted feeling settling at the bottom of his stomach.
“He does, but I think you're going a bit too far. You should forgive him.” At that Merlin gave in and decided he couldn't lie any longer.
“I'm not actually mad at him. I just thought he had to be taught a lesson,” he admitted.
“Merlin!” Gwen said, appalled.
“Yes, well, I almost died because of him. I think it's only fair,” he tried but she was having none of it.
“Go and apologize.”
“What? Why- Ow! What was that for?!?” he cried out, holding his arm where she's just punched him.
“Go!” He got up, running away from Gwen's unrelenting hits.
“Alright, alright. Bloody hell.”
Merlin knocked at the door for what probably was the first time since he'd come to Camelot.
“Enter,” came Arthur's response from the room. Merlin made his way inside and looked at the state of the room. Merlin could only think how much it reminded him of Ealdor after a big storm, broken objects scattered around in patterns of rage and ire.
“Hey,” he said only to catch Arthur's attention from where he was sitting on his desk. It worked, for his head snapped up immediately.
“Merlin!” he said, but upon noticing the excessive enthusiasm in his own voice, he recoiled. “I mean, Merlin. What brings you here?”
Merlin walked up to him, confident. He stood before him, the prince of Camelot, and stood tall, proud, Arthur would even dare say intimidating. Looking at him straight in the eye he said, “I'm still mad at you. You disregarded my warnings and let me go on when I told you three times I was wounded.” Each accusation was like a ruthless stab to Arthur's heart.
“I-” he started, but Merlin raised a hand, interrupting him.
“But. That being said, I'd like to go back to being your manservant.”
A sneaky smile made its way into Arthur's face, but he tried to contain it to say, “Really? Does that mean you forgive me?” He might have sounded more hopeful and excited than he intended because Merlin laughed.
“Yes, you clotpole. I forgive you-”
But before he could get any more words out of his mouth, two strong arms wrapped around him. Arthur's head rested where shoulder met neck, cheek pressed to his own face, nose to his hair, like breathing him in.
“Thank God. I was getting tired of George's talk about polishing,” Arthur said, not releasing his hold.
Merlin could only think that he wanted to stay like that forever, warm, comfortable, at home. But then Arthur tightened his grip and his still-not-healed side definitely felt it.
“Ouch, you idiot. It still hurts,” he said and Arthur released him as if he'd been burned.
“Sorry, sorry. I didn't-” Merlin's laugh stopped Arthur's awkward string of apologies.
“I don't think I've ever heard you say sorry quite this much,” Merlin said lightly but a wave of shame took over Arthur and his expression became guarded again.
That was not what Merlin had intended at all.
Merlin took a couple of tentative steps towards him until their feet were almost touching and said, “Well, if you really are sorry I guess there is something you could do.”
“This,” he said and pressed his lips to Arthur's.
Merlin's boldness took the prince by surprise, causing him to freeze for a few seconds. But it wasn't long before he responded to the kiss, the gentle nature of his embrace contrasting the deep and heated movements of his mouth. Merlin hadn't been kissed by that many people, but he could tell there was something special to what they had, a connection deeper and more meaningful than any other. Arthur must have felt it too because not one minute later they were both breathless, their foreheads pressing against each other to keep contact, to stay together.
Arthur moved his face to press kisses to the sensitive skin of Merlin's neck and whispered, “Don't leave me, Merlin. Even if I'm an idiot. Stay with me.”
“I will. I'd never leave you, Arthur.”
And he never did.