Title: Honor Bound
Character/s: Mordred, Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Sequel to The Healer. Merlin overdoes it. Mordred steps in. Arthur glowers a lot and also cuddles a lot.
Warnings: Lots of cuddle fluff and h/c.
Word Count: 1668 (I swear, when I sat down to write this story it was supposed to be under 1k, but some details snuck in there in some attempt to set up things for the future)
Prompt: #83 Commitment
Author's Notes: Cuddle fluff is a new term for me. I can't get enough of it. I also have a thing for Merlin pushing past his limits and having others look after him. *Shrugs* What can I say? I write what I like. :-)
Mordred strode along the corridors, winding his way through the castle toward the royal chambers. He was a man on a mission to be sure but he was in no hurry.
Lord Merlin had saved the life of a little girl yesterday. Her fall down the stairs would have been fatal had it not been for Merlin's intervention.
Mordred slowed his steps, pondering that thought for a moment. Merlin was the only healer Mordred knew that could bring someone back from the brink of death. Mordred had seen it happen twice now and both times had left Merlin ill and exhausted. It worried Mordred almost to the same extent it worried the king. Would there ever come a time Merlin would not be able to conquer death and instead death would drag him away along with the intended victim?
It didn't bear thinking about and Mordred gave himself a little shake. As a court physician with a few healing gifts of his own, he'd checked up on Merlin soon after the incident. The Court Healer had been sleeping, color already seeping back into his pale cheeks. It was a sure sign he was on the road to recovery.
Mordred nodded at the two royal guards standing sentry to the king's chambers. "I'm expected."
One of them spoke up. "Yes, Physician Mordred. The king wished for me to inform you that His Consort, Lord Merlin, has been sleeping. He has not, however, been eating. The king hopes you'll be able to persuade Lord Merlin to eat."
Mordred frowned. If Arthur could not convince Merlin to eat, then there was no hope Mordred could do so. "I shall speak to the king about it."
"He is in a council meeting," the other guard said.
Mordred's eyebrows rose in surprise. Merlin was confined to bed for the next few days. Arthur would not leave him.
The guard seemed to read his mind. "There is a possible threat rising in the west. The king had no choice but to attend the meeting. He will return as quickly as he is able."
Mordred had heard of the potential uprising in the west, but hadn't given it much thought. Over the years, Arthur had begun to cultivate allies, uniting the surrounding kingdoms. The unions were prosperous, the people happy. It was strange to think there was a threat to all Arthur had done, but it must be serious to drag Arthur away from Merlin when he was ill.
"I will only be a few moments," Mordred murmured, knocking lightly on the door. "Lord Merlin is most likely resting."
Mordred slipped quietly through the door, hoping Merlin was indeed sleeping. Once he'd closed the door behind him, he realized he was very much wrong about that. He folded his arms and watched Merlin who had no idea he was being observed.
Merlin was sitting at Arthur's desk, books and papers strewn about the surface. He was hunched over a piece of parchment, quill in one hand. The other was rubbing at his temple. His brow was furrowed and he was squinting.
Mordred stared grimly at him, knowing Merlin's head ached. Furthermore, any color he'd had in his cheeks was gone, leaving him pale and wan. Slight tremors wracked his body.
"Lord Merlin," Mordred said, his formal tone hiding the frustration and anger he was currently feeling. "You should not be pushing yourself so hard."
Startled, Merlin jerked around to look at Mordred, pain twisting his features before smoothing out again into a mask of exhaustion Merlin simply couldn't hide. "Mordred? Everything alright?"
"No. Everything isn't alright," Mordred said in exasperation.
Merlin looked alarmed at that and got to his feet. He swayed dangerously, hand shooting out to clutch a corner of the table. "What? What's happened? Is it Sarah? No, no she was fine. It's someone else. More trouble. Who? Where--" Merlin's eyes flashed gold, breath quickening.
Mordred was already across the room. "No! Merlin, no!"
But it was too late. Magic burned through Merlin's overtaxed body and weakened shields. He cried out, clutching his head as he fell to his knees.
"Merlin!" Mordred was kneeling next to him, arms going around him as he started to shake, body arching as another cry flew from his lips.
The door to the royal chambers flew open and the guards filled the doorway, swords at the ready. They looked dumbfounded at the scene before them.
"Quickly," Mordred shouted. "I need some help."
One of the guards rushed forward to help. The other turned and fled.
Mordred didn't have time to wonder as Merlin went rigid in his arms before collapsing bonelessly with a groan. "Merlin?" Mordred shook him gently. "Merlin!"
"Is he--" the guard started to ask anxiously.
"No!" Mordred snapped at him. "He'll be alright. Help me get him into bed."
The guard stared at him with wide eyes. "But--but he's the King's Consort."
"Yes," Mordred said impatiently as he hooked his hands under Merlin's arms and started to lift. "Get his feet."
But before the guard could do as he was told, Arthur was there, filling the doorway, looking anxious and menacing all at the same time.
"Sire," Mordred said, "we must get him to the bed."
Mouth set in a grim line, Arthur reached down and pulled Merlin toward him, tucking the court healer against his chest and slipping an arm under his knees. He stood, cradling Merlin in his arms. "What happened?" he growled.
"He overdid it," Mordred said succinctly.
Arthur glared at him for a moment, clearly wanting a more in depth explanation.
"Please, Sire," Mordred said wearily, gesturing to the bed. "Let me look after him first. Then I will answer any questions you may have."
"He was doing well this morning," Arthur said with scowl. "Granted, he wasn't eating, but at least he was awake."
Mordred looked at him, feeling guilty, knowing it was he who had brought this on despite the fact Merlin should have known better.
Arthur's frown grew dangerous. "Mordred."
"I will explain, Sire," Mordred said hastily, "but Mer--Lord Merlin needs my attention first."
Arthur didn't move. He continued to hold Merlin, unconsciously cradling him closer as he continued to stare at Mordred. Finally, he seemed to gather himself and he reluctantly laid Merlin gently on their bed. He sat down next to Merlin, taking his hand in his own.
Mordred touched Merlin's temple and closed his eyes. Merlin's life force was strong, but there was a steady thrum of pain Mordred felt radiating through his fingertips. He whispered a few words and the pain dispersed, breaking up into fragments before dissolving into nothing.
Merlin sighed as his eyelids slowly rose. He blinked in confusion.
Arthur leaned over him. "Merlin? How do you feel?"
Merlin looked bewildered, reaching up with a shaky hand to touch his head. "The pain is gone."
"Pain?" Arthur asked with a frown.
But Merlin was looking at Mordred. "Thank you."
Mordred nodded. "You should have said something about your headache sooner."
"Yes, you should have." Arthur didn't sound happy.
Merlin must have thought so, too, because he smiled sheepishly at Arthur. "It really wasn't that bad."
"Probably not," Mordred agreed. "But then you decided to do some work."
"Work, Merlin?" There was an edge to Arthur's voice.
Merlin shot Mordred a tired glare.
Mordred went on, despite the warning he saw in Merlin's eyes. "He was working, Sire. And he tried performing magic. It was what caused his collapse."
Arthur gathered Merlin into his arms, drawing him up toward his chest.
Merlin squirmed, but soon settled when it became apparent he wasn't going anywhere. "Arthur, listen," he began.
"Mordred," Arthur spoke, ignoring Merlin. "It is time for you to leave. I will send for you if your services are again needed."
"Yes, Sire." Mordred rose from the bed. "Lord Merlin needs plenty of rest. He's exhausted. He should also eat soon. Something light."
"I will see that he does both," Arthur promised.
"I can take care of myself," Merlin muttered.
"No, you cannot," Arthur replied, giving him a withering look. It spoke volumes and Mordred knew Arthur would be talking to Merlin about it later.
"I can," Merlin said stubbornly.
"We'll discuss it later," Arthur said, tone stern.
"We don't need--" Whatever Merlin read on Arthur's face caused him to stop mid-sentence. He sighed and skimmed his fingertips along Arthur's cheek. "Alright, Arthur."
Arthur looked back to Mordred. "You are dismissed."
Mordred bowed and moved toward the door. He chanced a look back.
Arthur and Merlin were bent toward one another, foreheads touching. They were sharing light kisses.
"Sorry, Arthur," Merlin mumbled between kisses.
"I should have known not to leave you to your own devices," Arthur said.
"Prat," Merlin murmured, slapping him lightly on the shoulder. "You make it sound like I can't be trusted."
"I trust you with everything, love, except your own health."
Merlin laid his head on Arthur's shoulder, turning his face into Arthur's neck. "I'm sorry," he said again.
"I know," Arthur said. "Now get some rest. We'll talk more over supper."
Merlin yawned. "Alright."
Arthur pulled the blankets over them and settled back against the pillows. He looked up at Mordred, eyebrow raised.
Mordred offered another bow and quickly left the room.
Once upon a time, he thought as he walked through the castle back to his own chamber, King Arthur and I might have been enemies if not for Merlin.
Mordred entered his rooms. If not for Merlin, the Druids would never have been accepted in Camelot at least to Mordred's way of thinking. Being able to move freely throughout the kingdom, having an honored place in the royal household, and having Merlin for a mentor was certainly something he never dreamed as possible when he was a boy.
For that, Lord Merlin (and by extension, King Arthur) would forever have his loyalty. He was honor bound to look after Merlin. Mordred had made that commitment long ago.