Pairing/s: Mild Arthur/Merlin
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Apparently, falling in the lake was no laughing matter.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: This was fun!
Arthur shivered as he turned up the collar on his cloak and snuggled further into the warmth. His breath was steaming against the frigid panes of the window as he stared down into the courtyard, watching a few spirals of snow attempt to make their home on the stones below before they dwindled away to nothing. Of course, he would never admit to snuggling, but there was no one here to mock him for it. Merlin was out with the knights, and although having Merlin and Gwaine in the same place was normally a cause for alarm for the prince, he was just relishing in the peace and quiet for a while.
But he should have known that it was never going to last.
He had been looking down into the courtyard simply because that was the way his eyes were pointing rather than truly paying attention to what was happening. So when three horses came cantering back in, leading a fourth, Arthur jumped violently. It was Gwaine, Percival and Elyan he could see, meaning the empty horse had to belong to his hopeless servant. He had already turned to move, realising that there was someone sprawled across the horse in front of Gwaine when he saw them talking to a young page, sending him hurrying into the castle before they dismounted. Percival lifted the figure, and Arthur swore when he realised that it was indeed Merlin and that the lanky man seemed to be unconscious.
Before his men had taken so much as a step towards the castle, Arthur was moving. He met them halfway down the corridor, hearing Gaius approaching from behind him as he did so.
“What happened?” Arthur barked, his mind full of bandit attacks, blood and Merlin dying out there while Arthur was inside relishing in the warmth. Elyan looked at him seriously.
“He slipped and fell into the lake.”
Relief greater than anything Arthur had ever felt coursed through his veins and he let out a laugh.
“Of all the idiotic things he could do, he had to…”
“Get him to my chambers immediately but don’t put him too close to the fire.” The knights nodded and hurried off, knowing not to disobey that note to Gaius’ voice. Arthur felt his amusement slip, something telling him that it wasn’t supposed to have come as a relief upon hearing what happened. Arthur turned to face the physician and was met with a face so grave Arthur’s heart gave an uncomfortable thud. The old man looked at him sternly.
“I would have thought you knew the dangers of falling into water in these temperatures. This is no laughing matter, Sire.” With those words, the man was gone and Arthur was left rooted to the spot, feeling like he was the idiot.
As he watched Gaius walking away, memories began to come back to him of a young child who had fallen in when Arthur was just a boy himself. There had been instant panic and his mother had wailed in such a way that all the other children around had been scared by it. Gaius had been called to the scene, but they had been unable to raise his temperature and the boy had died in the night. Merlin often needed more layers in the winter anyway because he was so skinny.
Arthur felt his heart drop with a thud when he realised the danger that his servant was in and swiftly hurried after the rest of them.
The knights had taken over Gaius’ chamber, practically smothering Merlin in blankets under the physician’s instructions, but making sure they did it gradually while Gaius explained the dangers of warming him up too quickly and his body going into shock. Elyan was building a small fire, the heat just being enough to drive away the chill in the air but not being strong enough to truly warm the room and therefore be a danger to Merlin.
“The best way is shared body heat,” the old man explained as he held a beaker over the flame and clearly warmed whatever liquid he was swirling inside. “It will balance out his temperature, but not take it too far.”
“You mean someone has to hug him?”
“Just hold him,” Gaius responded sternly, his tone telling Gwaine that he didn’t appreciate the man making light of Merlin’s predicament any more than he had liked Arthur doing it. The prince decided in that split second that the Gaius was the only one who could make his knight looked abashed as the rest of the men all glanced at each other. Arthur could see they all wanted to help Merlin, but didn’t really know how to volunteer themselves. Eventually, Arthur just rolled his eyes and walked forward.
He pulled away the blankets that had been wrapped around Merlin as he sat on the floor. Pulling him back so that his arms were wrapped around the man and Merlin’s back was pressed to Arthur’s chest, the prince found himself shivering at just how cold Merlin was. The knights piled the blankets back on and Arthur wasn’t sure how long he could sit like this for, he was absolutely roasting even with it feeling like Merlin was stealing his warmth.
Gaius dismissed the rest of the knights, telling them to go and get warm themselves before they caught a chill as they too had been outside and then handled a wet Merlin. He managed to tip whatever it was he had been warming down Merlin’s throat, but the young man didn’t stir. Arthur shifted as he tried to get more comfortable, realising that it was scaring him that he might lose Merlin.
“Wake up,” he implored him softly, finding Merlin’s hand. He told himself it was to just improve the circulation as he took it in his own and gently began rubbing it. Merlin seemed to twitch in his arms and Arthur continued. Eventually, Merlin’s eyes opened.
“Welcome back, idiot.”
“Are you hugging me?”