Title: Sickly Servants
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (if you want...)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: If Merlin wasn't coming to him, then Arthur would just have to go to Merlin.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: So loving being back in the swing of this.
“What do you mean, he isn’t coming in? Where is he then?” Arthur stared at the servant standing nervously in front of him. The servant, he might add, that was decidedly not Merlin. The boy spluttered something about Gaius sending word that Merlin was sick and for another servant to attend on the king so he didn’t come into contact with it.
Dismissing the lad with a wave of his hand, Arthur sat down at the end of the bed and sighed. He knew Gaius. He knew full well that had been the man’s diplomatic way of telling Arthur it didn’t matter how much he moaned about it, Merlin would not be coming in. If he twisted around to make it seem as if it was a physician concerned about his king’s health, there wasn’t really a lot Arthur could do about it. Arthur knew how unlike Merlin it was to get sick, especially badly enough that he didn’t try and blunder around doing his duties until Arthur ordered him to be gone. If it was badly enough that Gaius was confining him to his bed, Arthur knew it had to be bad.
Now that he was thinking about it, Merlin had seemed pale and not quite himself the night before. But they had all been stressed about the upcoming treaty and Arthur knew his servant had been working as hard as he had. But the treaty had been signed the night before…could it be the relief that it was over was what had caused Merlin to simply crash? Arthur had heard of it happening before, although it never made any sense to him. Why would a body be able to keep going through exhaustion, and then succumb to illness once it could relax?
Realising that sitting there all day thinking about it was not going to get him anywhere, Arthur stood and began to dress. But rather than putting on his formal attire he had been planning to wear while dining and entertaining their guests all day, Arthur instead pulled on something simple. Wrapping his belt around his waist as he left his rooms, Arthur found that he was checking the coast was clear like he was a child sneaking out.
But there was no one around and Arthur managed to slip down the corridor in the wrong direction to where he should be going. He knew the castle well, knew how to get around it unseen. As he neared Gaius’ chambers, Arthur realised he still had to take care of the visitors and cursed. Stepping out of the shadows, he immediately made himself known to a servant. The girl was loitering around Gaius’ rooms, so Arthur could only assume she had just been in there.
“Sire,” she dropped a quick curtsey, but Arthur didn’t notice as he made sure they couldn’t be seen.
“I need you to take a message to our guests. I regret to inform them I must postpone today’s festivities for I fear I am sickening with something.”
“With what, My Lord?” The girl asked nervously, clearly seeing that Arthur was in full health. The king cast a look towards Gaius’ door.
“Whatever it is that Merlin has,” he mumbled, not knowing what else to say and quickly resumed his journey. He didn’t want to be seen and told that he had to put his duty first. Without Merlin there pulling faces throughout all the boring speeches, it really was tedious. He saw the maid’s smile out of the corner of his eye as she hurried off, but he put it from his mind.
“Arthur? What are you doing here? I told you…”
“I know, I know,” Arthur muttered, waving his hand to stop Gaius from ranting about how he shouldn’t be here. He knew full well Merlin wasn’t bad enough for it to be contagious, Gaius would have told him if he truly wanted Arthur to stay away. He had just used that as an excuse to stop the king ordering Merlin back to work. Seeing that Gaius had a bowl of weak broth in one hand (Arthur knew that was his favourite thing to give a patient to regain their strength) and a bowl of water with a cloth balanced on the edge in his hand, Arthur closed the distance between them.
“Are these for him?”
Without waiting for an answer, he took them out of Gaius hand and climbed the stairs to Merlin’s room. Candles were lit the whole way around it, clearly trying to warm the small room and Arthur found his servant asleep under a pile of blankets. It was clear he had some sort of fever, for although Merlin seemed to be shivering, sweat beaded his brow. Gaius had followed him up the stairs.
“What did I say?” The man muttered to himself and when Arthur glanced around, it was to see him eyeing the candles with disbelief. At Arthur’s questioning look, the old man shook his head.
“If you have other patients to see…” Arthur hinted, knowing how busy the physician had been lately. Merlin hadn’t been the only one to sicken recently. Gaius’ face softened and he dipped his head in acknowledgement to the king before leaving the room. Arthur dipped the cloth into the water after putting the broth to one side, rung it out and placed it on Merlin’s forehead. His servant instantly moaned, tossing to one side and dislodging it.
“Oi. Do as you are told,” Arthur muttered sternly, replacing it and holding it there this time. Merlin frowned in his sleep, but gradually relaxed. Arthur knew should he have been awake, then there was no one way he would be doing this. But what Merlin didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him, and he was only protecting his kingdom by helping free up the physician’s time.
At least, that was what he told himself.
It didn’t really provide a reason why he sat by Merlin’s side for three days, even when Merlin had woken up.