Title: Worse for Wear
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius
Summary: The boys are a little delicate
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Just fluff really, no true plot.
Staggering down the steps, Merlin groaned.
“Gaius,” he said, pathetically, throwing himself onto a stool and burying his head in his arms. “I need a cure.”
“What ails you?”
Merlin didn’t need to see Gaius’ disapproving look to squirm under it. He didn’t look up – sunlight had declared war and Merlin refused to engage without reinforcements.
“My head’s going to burst.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“Really?” The eyebrow would be raised by now. Merlin nodded, regretted it, and fought the urge to be sick.
“He refused to retire until the last of the guests had gone,” he explained. “I had to stay.”
“And your duty was to ensure the prince’s cup never ran dry?”
“Something like that.”
It was half the truth. Arthur had refused to retire, but it had nothing to do with his father’s guests. The knights had found a secluded corner to themselves and as the night wore on, the competitions heated up. Neither Gwaine nor Lancelot were about to let Merlin stand around with a jug in his hand, and he had been pulled into the games. To his surprise, Arthur hadn’t said anything.
Merlin managed to raise his head long enough to see a beaker being held out. He took it and downed it without hesitation: thinking too hard about Gaius’ concoctions wasn’t a good idea. To his surprise – and disappoint – it was nothing but water.
“Gaius,” Merlin pleaded, “how am I going to deal with Arthur like this?”
The prince had drunk more than him – his ego had taken more of a battering. But Arthur could be a bear on the best of days, and if he felt half what Merlin was, he was going to be a nightmare.
“I don’t like to say ‘I told you so’-,” Gaius began, but Merlin – somewhat feebly – glared at him.
“Yes, you do,” he accused, “it’s your favourite saying.”
“-but you brought this upon yourself,” his mentor finished, voice stern. Merlin flushed, forcing himself to sit up and drink the rest of the water. It swirled unpleasantly but gave him a little clarity. Not that he was going to admit that to Gaius.
“Eat your breakfast,” Gaius said, sliding a bowl of porridge in front of him. Merlin took one glance, and looked the other way.
“I’m going to be late,” he said, climbing unsteadily to his feet. He was certain he didn’t imagine Gaius’ chuckle as he staggered out of the door.
Why had he ever thought that drinking with Gwaine would be a good idea? Although that wasn’t fair – they had all been as bad as each other. It had been a long year but the harvest had been good and the festives had been well-deserved. After a year of saving Arthur’s life time and time again, Merlin had figured he was entitled to join in.
He regretted it now.
By the time he reached the kitchens though, he felt steadier, the water doing what it needed. He snuck some bread when cook wasn’t looking and took Arthur’s tray, trying not to look at the contents, but nibbling on the bread as he headed to the prince’s chambers. It helped calm his stomach and he felt halfway human again by the time he slipped through the door.
Maybe a quarter human. If he was being generous.
Making to pull back the drapes, Merlin changed his mind and stoked up the fire again.
“Will you be quiet?” a voice grumbled. Merlin looked over to see Arthur had pulled the covers over his head.
“I didn’t say anything.”
“Well, stop thinking so loud,” Arthur complained. His voice was hoarse and Merlin could hear the pain in his voice. He opened his mouth, prepared to make some comment about the prince bringing it upon himself, but stopped, mortified.
He’d been around Gaius far too much if he’d been preparing the same lecture the physician had given him!
He poured out some water, taking it to the bed.
“This will help,” he muttered. Arthur groaned, but Merlin put it in reach.
“Trust me,” he said, “it helps.”
He moved away but not before a searching hand reached for the cup. Arthur managed to sit up. He looked as bad as Merlin felt but didn’t say anything as he gripped the cup, sipping at it while shutting his eyes again.
Merlin glanced at the tray, then put the cover back. He wasn’t going to ask.
“Do I have anything on today?” Arthur said. For a moment, Merlin couldn’t think through the fuzziness in his own mind, but shook his head.
“Nothing important.” At least, nothing important that he could remember.
“Good.” Arthur sighed, leaning back for a moment. “My stables need mucking out.”
Even the thought made Merlin feel sick again.
“That’s nice,” he said, tone mild. Arthur looked at him, then shut his eyes again.
“Do them,” he ordered, then relented, “tomorrow.”
They both sat in silence for a few moments, neither having the energy to say anything. Arthur broke it.
“Call for a bath, would you?”
Merlin was happy to oblige – it was better than Arthur expecting him to haul the water up himself. By the time he tracked down a servant with the prince’s request, Arthur had got as far as swinging his legs off the bed.
“Why did I listen to Gwaine?” he said. Merlin hid a grin. He’d wondered the same thing.
“Whatever that final contest was,” he offered, “I think you won.”
They’d all lost track of what the stakes were. But Arthur had been more upright than Gwaine, and that was enough. The prince looked pleased with himself as he stood and stretched. He staggered to the table, took the cover off the food, went green and replaced it.
“Find something to do with this,” he mumbled.
Merlin smiled. Even hungover, Arthur wasn’t brave enough to face cook’s wrath by sending it back uneaten. Whoever brought the bath water was going to be well-rewarded for their service today.