Title: Wake Up Call
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Lancelot
Summary: There was something about hospitals. Arthur had always hated them, ever since he was a child and he’d spent far too many weeks there, staring at the white-painted walls and wondering why his mother wasn’t coming home yet.
Word Count: 1440 (Oops!)
Prompt: 121 - Shocked
Author's Notes: This also fills my hc_bingo square 'Heart trouble' - that's 2/25 done. It's all hurt comfort bingo fills for the rest of the year I'm afraid. Not betaed, sorry. Please let me know if you spot an error.
Wake Up Call
There was something about hospitals. Arthur had always hated them, ever since he was a child and he’d spent far too many weeks there, staring at the white-painted walls and wondering why his mother wasn’t coming home yet.
She hadn’t ever come home. He’d not been in one since.
Arthur wasn’t entirely sure why he was in one now.
The last thing he remembered was being in the board room, being shouted at by his father because they’d lost the Mercia contract and then… nothing.
No, he could remember the floor coming up to hit him in the face, and Morgana’s panicked expression as she grabbed at him. Then nothing. Until he woke up here, in a white room, wired up to machines that bleeped at him constantly. There was a drip digging uncomfortably into the back of his hand, and a heart rate monitor clipped on his finger.
“Hello, Arthur.” A nurse was leaning over him, smiling down kindly at him. “How are you feeling?”
He felt shocked, confused… if he was honest he felt a little bit frightened. But he wasn’t going to be that honest.
It wasn’t the most brilliant thing he could have come up with, but it seemed to be the sort of thing she was expecting from him.
“It’s natural to be confused. You’re at Albion General, you were rushed here when you collapsed.”
“I don’t remember…”
“Don’t worry about that now. I’ll call the doctor, he’ll want to run some tests. And your family are outside, they’ll be relieved you’re awake.”
Arthur doubted that, at least in his father’s case. It was probably just one more way that Arthur had disappointed him. Morgana would probably be huddled around a cup of coffee, black and strong. And Merlin… Would Uther even have bothered to call him?
“He’s wearing a hole in the carpet with his pacing,” the nurse told him. “I can let one person in to sit with you, but you need to stay quiet, calm. Your body’s been through a huge shock.”
“I want Merlin.” He knew it sounded plaintive and childish, but all he wanted was to see that familiar, reassuring face. He watched the nurse walk across to the door, open it and call to his lover. And then there was Merlin, pale and drawn, slipping past her, his worried face focused only on Arthur.
“Quietly, please,” the nurse reminded him. Merlin nodded, and hurried over to Arthur.
The door closed, but Arthur could still hear his father bellowing his outrage at not being the first one in there. But then he had never liked Merlin.
“Hey there,” Merlin whispered, a nervous smile playing across his face, leaning over to gently kiss him on the forehead. “You gave us a fright.”
“I just fainted,” Arthur shrugged. “I skipped lunch.”
“And breakfast, unless you grabbed something on the way to work this morning. You need to be more careful, Arthur. What am I supposed to do if something happens to you?” He sat in the chair beside Arthur’s bed, then carefully reached out to take the hand that wasn’t attached to the drip. “I couldn’t bear to lose you.”
“It was just…” Arthur found he couldn’t actually say what it was. He didn’t know. He’d never fainted in his life. Well, there was that one time in school, but he’d been overdoing the training for the regional track finals and it was a long time ago. There had been nothing since. “I’m fine,” he said eventually.
Merlin didn’t say anything, because clearly that wasn’t true. But the nurse came back then, accompanied by a tall, dark-haired man who Arthur supposed from the white coat and clipboard must be the doctor. That was confirmed a moment later when he introduced himself as Dr Du Lac. Despite the clipped English accent, Arthur could imagine his father would be complaining about foreigners when he heard the name.
There were tests, lots of them. Arthur suffered them all mostly in silence, and that was largely because Merlin was still looking so worried, and was intently watching everything the doctor did. He was also straining to look at the notes that were being made on the clipboard, although Arthur doubted Merlin could see anything as he’d been told to sit as far away as possible. Apparently the only reason that he was allowed to stay was because Arthur wanted it. And possibly because the medical staff didn’t want Uther insisting on coming in instead.
When Dr Du Lac finally finished, they both looked at him expectantly. Merlin had hurried back to the chair and taken Arthur’s hand again.
“You have arrhythmias.” Arthur looked at the man blankly as he continued. “It’s an abnormal heart rhythm.”
“His heart?” Merlin gasped. “What, you mean he had some sort of heart attack? He’s only 27!”
Arthur was glad Merlin was there. The questions were too frightening to ask himself.
“Shouldn’t I have chest pain?”
“It wasn’t a heart attack,” the doctor reassured them. “This sort of thing is often a sign of heart disease, and we’ll need to do more tests, but at the moment we think it’s been brought on largely by stress. Too much caffeine, not enough sleep… it’s not uncommon in the modern businessman, Mr Pendragon, though you are younger than most. I would take this as a warning, something to shock you into rethinking your lifestyle.”
That was probably rich, considering that the doctor had dark shadows under his eyes and looked as if he could easily sleep for a week.
“What were you doing before you collapsed?”
“I was in a meeting,” Arthur told him.
“He was in a meeting being yelled at by his father… that’s the purple-faced man outside who keeps shouting about moving Arthur to a private hospital,” Merlin explained. “After he was working solidly all weekend on their latest advertising campaign… and I’m fairly sure you didn’t actually come to bed last night either,” he added, looking at Arthur reproachfully. “Your job, that company… it’s not worth it.”
The doctor nodded. “Try to talk some sense into him,” he told Merlin. “Your condition isn’t life-threatening, not if you take care of yourself.” His pager beeped in his pocket, and he was heading for the door even as he was speaking. “I’ll be back later. Rest, relax, and think about what I’ve said. I see too much of this sort of thing.”
“He can talk,” Arthur grumbled. “Look at him. If anyone’s stressed…”
“Really?” Merlin just stared at him. “Arthur… you’re not going to be stupid about this, are you? We don’t need you to work so hard. Resign. Let Morgana be deputy CEO for a while, she’ll eat Uther alive in any argument.”
“She was the one who called you, wasn’t she?”
Merlin didn’t need to answer that one. They both knew what Uther thought of him. A penniless artist who had latched onto a good thing in Arthur. Uther complained about the smell of paint whenever he visited their flat even though Merlin’s studio was well-ventilated.
“She’s worried sick. I need to go out and reassure her. But think about it, we could sell the flat, move out to the country to somewhere smaller, somewhere affordable. My paintings are starting to sell now enough to get by on if we’re careful, and you could do anything, anything at all. Something you like instead of something your father wants.”
“You’d hate it. It would be like going home to that little village you’re from.” He’d heard Merlin’s grumbles over the years about how cut off from civilisation it was, although he never seemed adverse to visiting his mother.
Merlin shrugged. “I’m a country boy at heart, Arthur. And I don’t care where we go, all I care about is you and making sure this never happens again. I don’t see enough of you any more, I’m asleep when you get in, and you’re up stupidly early, and I hate that. I miss you.” He leaned over, careful not to dislodge the wires monitoring Arthur’s heart, and kissed him. It was all far too chaste for Arthur’s liking, but he supposed that’s all he would get for a while. “And Ealdor’s not a bad idea while you’re recuperating. Mum adores you almost as much as I do.”
Outside, Arthur could faintly hear Uther shouting again.
Merlin’s suggestion had definite appeal.
“Just for a few weeks…”
Merlin beamed at him. And Arthur realised just how much he’d missed seeing that smile recently. Perhaps, frightening as their current situation was, things might turn out for the best.
He hoped so.