Summary: It needs a fever for Arthur to realize a few things
Word Count: 1019 *looks guilty*
Author's Notes: Thanks to tambear13 for the beta! You rock!
First, he hadn’t even noticed it. Merlin had sneezed a few times, but had done his work and made the wintery hunting trip as comfortable as possible. Even though he was still an incompetent idiot, Arthur had gotten used to it and wouldn’t want it any other way.
When the heavy snowfall set in, Arthur decided to get back to Camelot. They had wandered very far from the castle and Arthur hoped they would make it back in a day.
The night before had been very cold and he could hardly sleep because Merlin’s teeth had been clattering so loudly. So he didn’t mind that his manservant wasn’t as chatty as usual as they rode side by side. After a few hours, he started to miss the remarks.
“What is wrong with you? No complaints about the cold and the long way back?”
“No, Sire.” Merlin croaked out and then keeled over and slid off his horse.
“Merlin!” Arthur stopped his own horse and jumped off to hurry to where Merlin lay. “Merlin!” For a split second, he hoped that this was only one of Merlin’s schemes to show him how much he hated the situation, but Merlin didn’t move.
Pulling his glove off, Arthur felt Merlin’s forehead and cheeks which were burning. “Merlin, you’re the worst manservant I’ve ever had! Falling off your horse with a fever!” He scolded him when in fact he was worried. It was a long ride back to Camelot and Merlin needed to see Gaius soon. So he hauled Merlin onto his horse, tied the reigns of Merlin’s horse to his saddle and mounted his own steed.
Wrapping an arm around Merlin, pulling him to his chest and covering him in his own cloak as much as possible, he rushed his horse as much as he dared.
Merlin’s head rolled back onto his shoulder and Arthur could feel the heat of the fever radiating from him.
“Merlin…,” Arthur didn’t know what to say, but started babbling nonsense. He knew Merlin wouldn’t hear him. “Hold on, alright? Just hold on until we’re back. I’ll call for Gaius as soon as we’re there. Just…don’t do this to me. You know I can’t do this without you. I need you. ” As soon as the words had left his mouth, Arthur took a deep breath. He’d never dared to admit it before. Whenever the thought had come up, he’d tried to convince himself that he was just so used to Merlin that he didn’t want any other servant. But he knew it wasn’t true. In the two years since his father had forced them onto each other, he’d started to develop feelings for the bloke with the funny ears and wonderful smile. He’d do anything to see this smile again.
“Please, Merlin. I can almost see the castle from here. Hang on in there. For me, for us.” He spurred his horse on even more.
It seemed to take forever before his horse finally skidded to a halt in the courtyard.
“Send for Gaius!” He bellowed at one of the guards as he carried Merlin up the stairs.
Sir Leon came rushing towards them. “Let me help you, Sire.”
Arthur refused to let go of Merlin. “Clear the way to my chambers.” If there was a little confused look on Leon’s face, Arthur didn’t want to notice and only let go of Merlin once he had laid him down on his own bed.
“Help me to get him out of these clammy clothes.”
Leon obeyed right away, found one of the prince’s shirts and they managed to get Merlin under the blankets before Gaius arrived.
Arthur knew he should give Gaius room to work, but he could hardly stay away long enough to remove his cloak and boots and get himself into dry and warm clothes.
The old man turned and looked at him. “It was a wise decision to bring him here so quickly, Sire.”
“If the fever breaks by morning, chances are that he will be back with us soon. May I suggest we move him to his own room, so I can administer the medicine every four hours.”
Arthur shook his head. “No, it’s much warmer in here, he’ll stay.”
When he saw the look on Gaius’ face, he added, “I’ll take care of the medicine myself.”
Everybody left and Arthur moved his chair to the bed. He didn’t get up when a maid brought his dinner, his eyes never leaving Merlin’s face, watching for any change.
He made Merlin drink the medicine on time and exchanged the cool cloth on his forehead once in a while.
When he noticed that Merlin had stopped shivering and seemed to be in a deep slumber, Arthur got up and renewed the candles. Sitting back down, he reached for Merlin’s hand. “Come back to me,” he whispered, “I can’t lose you. I can’t go on without you. Please, Merlin, get well.”
Arthur didn’t even notice that he’d fallen asleep. He woke up to fingers in his hair and blinked. His back ached from his uncomfortable position, still sitting in the chair, his head on the bed, but when he looked up into the blue eyes of his manservant, he couldn’t care less about his own condition.
“Merlin!” A laugh escaped him and he reached for the other man’s hand again.
“Arthur,” just croaked out, “I’m sorry…”
“Shhh, don’t talk. Everyone can get sick. You should have taken a heavier tunic along. Here, take some medicine. Gaius said it’ll help you get well again.”
“I know.” Merlin’s voice was hardly audible and the words were followed by a coughing fit. “I heard.”
Arthur helped Merlin take the concoction. “You…you heard?”
Merlin nodded as his head sank back into the pillow. “Heard everything that’s been said all night.”
“You…” Oh dear, so Merlin had heard all of his ramblings. But he’d meant them, every word.
A small smile tugged at Merlin’s chapped lips. “I will…anything for you, Arthur. Anything.”
Arthur kissed the back of Merlin’s hand and then pressed it against his cheek. “Sleep now.”