Title: Shared future
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur comes back to Camelot. Merlin is till not better.
Word Count: 1203 (sorry, got carried away with this one)
Prompt: 72. Acceptance
Author's Notes: Thanks to derenai for the beta. Follows Life changing surprise and Shadow and Desperate measure
As soon as he dismounted, Arthur went to Merlin’s chambers. He still didn’t know what he was going to tell him but he had to see him. He knew that his friend was probably worried as he was half a day later than prevised.
When he entered Gaius’s chambers, Arthur found nobody inside. He went to Merlin’s door and opened it, afraid of what he was going to find behind.
The cry nearly deafened him and before he had the opportunity to move, Merlin had stood up and thrown himself at Arthur.
Arthur felt Merlin’s arms circling his shoulders as he gently put his hand on his friend’s hips. But his heart clenched when he felt how thin Merlin was. Arthur drew him away and looked at him more intently. He was so frail. His skin was even paler than three days before. His jaws were hollow, his eyes puffy and red.
“Merlin… How are you feeling today?” Arthur asked as he guided his manservant back to his bed.
“Tired… And… You said you’d be there yesterday!”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“But now you're here!” Merlin hugged Arthur again and the King held him close.
“Merlin, you should rest. I assume you didn’t sleep that much when I was away.”
Merlin looked sheepish and it was enough for Arthur to know he was right.
“Let me tuck you in bed.”
Merlin nodded and let Arthur manhandle him. As Merlin lay in his bed, he took Arthur’s hand in his. So Arthur decided to stay as long as Merlin would need him. He also took the decision not to tell him about Gwaine. It would only hurt him even more.
In the end, Arthur spent the entire day in Merlin’s room. That gave him an idea and, after he tried for nearly an hour to make Merlin finish his supper, he decided to ask his friend.
“Merlin… I was thinking you could perhaps move to the antechamber adjoining my rooms… It’s very comfortable and I could spend more time with you. Of course, Gaius could come as often as necessary and…”
Arthur hesitated. He wanted to suggest that he could help Merlin when the baby would be born. But he wasn’t sure Merlin wanted to discuss that. He never talked about the baby if someone else didn’t start the conversation. It was like he was trying to forget about it. He probably was.
“Wouldn’t I be a burden for you?” Merlin asked.
“You will never be, Merlin! And I wouldn’t ask if I thought it could be a problem… But if you prefer to stay here…”
“Will I have a mattress as soft as yours?”
“Anything you want,” Arthur promised.
And then, for the first time in weeks, Merlin smiled and the smile reached his eyes.
A week later, Merlin was settled in his new chambers. He had gotten used to it quite easily. But, unlike what Arthur had hoped, his health hadn’t really improved. Gaius was still worried, mostly about the baby. He kept feeding Merlin with fortifying potions and Arthur spent hours trying to make him eat more.
In between, Merlin spent most of his time sleeping or reading. He had only left his chambers to go for a walk with Gwen but he had to come back soon as he felt too tired to continue.
Arthur was felling more helpless each passing day. And that morning, when he was awaken by his new manservant, he felt more depressed than ever. He sat at his table after asking the servant to bring Merlin’s breakfast, too and ate gloomily.
As he finished his plate, Merlin came in. He was still wearing his night shirt, his hair was disheveled and he looked like he had cried again.
“Merlin?” Arthur asked worried, “Are you okay?”
Merlin shook his head and Arthur came to take him in his arms.
“Merlin, tell me… What’s going on?”
“I… I’m a monster!”
“Don’t say that!”
“I… I’ve ignored it! I… I can’t love it!”
Arthur guessed he was talking about the baby.
“Merlin, you need time to accept it, it’s alright…”
A sob escaped Merlin’s lips.
“I… I felt it move,” he finally confessed.
Arthur understood. Merlin had tried to forget about the baby’s existence and today he couldn’t continue. Not when he felt it move inside of him, when he realized it was alive. He gently stroked Merlin’s back, to help him relax.
“Merlin… You’re not bad or heartless. You were not prepared. And… You were left alone to cope with it.”
“I wasn’t alone!” Merlin protested, finally looking at Arthur. “You have been there for me… And… Gaius, too. And I wasn’t even able to take care of myself! How could I take care of a baby?”
“Like everything else you’ve done, Merlin. With the help of your friends. I… I won’t let you down. And if you let me, I’ll help you as much as I can with the baby.”
“Even if it’s Gwaine’s?”
It was the first time Merlin talked about Gwaine since the day he had let Arthur feel his bump.
“It’s yours, too and it’s the only thing that matters for me.”
They were interrupted by Arthur’s servant bringing Merlin’s breakfast. The King asked him to put it on the table. He didn’t let go of Merlin. He didn’t care if rumors spread in the castle. Only Merlin’s and the baby’s health mattered.
“Merlin… Will you eat, today? For the baby?”
Merlin nodded and sat at Arthur’s table.
Merlin’s cry made Arthur jump and drop the report he was reading. He turned to see Merlin sitting in his bed, his hands on his belly.
“What’s happening? It’s the baby?”
Arthur kneeled on the bed next to Merlin. Just a minute before, the manservant was dozing in the King’s bed and now he seemed so upset.
“Give me your hand!” Merlin ordered.
Arthur obeyed, too worried to object.
Merlin took his hands and slid it under his shirt to place it on his stomach.
“Can you feel it?”
And yes, Arthur could feel it. The slight movement under the skin, like a wave or a flutter, he couldn’t tell. But there was definitely something moving in there.
Arthur was in awe when he looked back at Merlin. Merlin who was smiling like he hadn’t in months.
They stayed like that for a long time, trying to feel the baby’s movements till they faded.
“Arthur… It’s not too late, isn’t it?”
“Too late for what?”
“For learning to love it.”
“No it’s not Merlin. You still have a little less than six months to prepare,” Arthur reassured, stroking Merlin’s hair.
“Will you help me?”
“I’m not leaving you. Not now, not ever.”
Arthur put a small kiss on Merlin’s forehead. But, when he wanted to draw back, he felt Merlin’s hand in his neck, keeping him close. And then, Merlin’s lips were on his. A simple touch that meant so much.
Arthur knew it wasn’t a sign of desire nor a confession of love. It was a promise, an oath. A proof of trust. And a hope for the future. Their shared future.