Title: Taking Care
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur if you want.
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine
Summary: It wasn't as if he had the chance to explain.
Word Count: 999
Author's Notes: Finally! After battling Livejournal all night, I can finally post. Yay!
“Merlin, are you even listening to me?”
“Of course.” Merlin spoke automatically. Arthur had taken long enough to realise his servant wasn’t paying him any attention as he rambled on about how unfair the council meeting was. Merlin didn’t see why he should listen. Arthur didn’t know the meaning of unfair. He had never gone a winter without enough food, never a summer without water… Merlin stopped there. Arthur was a good man. There was no point in blaming him for things he couldn’t control.
“Well, good,” Arthur said. Out of the corner of his eye, Merlin saw the prince lean back on his bed, not knowing what to do now training had been cancelled because of the rain. Merlin went back to the boots he had been polishing, letting his mind tune out Arthur. His chores were building up and he knew if he didn’t start to catch up, Arthur would notice. The last thing he needed right now was a session in the stocks.
Finally, he realised he was on the last boot. There was still a pile of chores that needed to be done before he returned to Gaius however. Gaius needed him too. Sighing, Merlin got to his feet and stretched. He rested a hand against the wall in order to take a moment to steady himself.
“Are you alright?” Arthur was sitting up now. Merlin just about acknowledged the movement. But he had only half understood what Arthur had said, his hearing going fuzzy. He shook his head, hoping to clear his ears.
“I…” Merlin tried to make a flippant comment about Arthur caring. But as he turned, he felt a flush rising in his cheeks. He was too hot and the ringing in his ears was growing louder. Before Merlin had a chance to say anything, his stomach rolled with nausea and as he took a step away from the wall, Arthur’s room spun alarmingly.
“You’re ill.” When Arthur had suddenly reached his side, Merlin had no idea. The prince pulled the cloth out of his hand but before he could do anything else to help, Merlin felt himself falling. He was vaguely aware of snatching at Arthur’s sleeve to keep himself upright, but the material slid through his fingers and he knew no more.
“He’s waking up!”
“Thank you, Arthur, I can see that for myself.”
“Wha-?” Merlin blinked, forcing his vision to focus. For a moment, he thought something was seriously wrong as the only colour swimming before his eyes was red. As he blinked again, he realised he was lying on Arthur’s bed, with said prince just off to one side and watching him intently. Merlin jerked up. He didn’t have time for this.
But before he could think of moving, a gnarled hand rested on his shoulder and forced him back down again.
“Easy, Merlin,” Gaius scolded. Merlin forced himself to look at his mentor and grinned.
“I’m fine. I need to get up. Your plants won’t collect themselves…”
“They can wait.”
“But I only got half yesterday…”
“When did you do that?” Arthur exclaimed. “You were with me all day.”
“After? You didn’t leave until nightfall.”
Merlin felt himself flushing again and this time it wasn’t because he was ill. He avoided looking at both his master and his mentor, realising they were figuring it out for themselves.
“When did you last have some time off, Merlin?” Gaius asked. Merlin kept his grin; it was a question he could answer honestly.
“The other morning. You didn’t need me, remember?”
“The same morning I found you helping Guinevere with the laundry and made you clean out the stables?” There was a cold note to Arthur’s voice and Merlin winced.
“Yes?” He said tentatively, finding his hands were tugging at the covers as if he wanted to pull them over his head to escape their stares.
“Have you been working for both Arthur and I and helping out Gwen in your spare time?”
“Not exactly, I don’t really have the spare time to help her out…”
“Stop it, Merlin.” Said warlock fell silent, knowing he wasn’t going to be able to bluff his way out of it. His grin faded and he hated the fact his eyes seemed to be filling with tears. He stared intently at Arthur’s bedspread so that neither of them saw.
“Neither of you exactly give me a moment,” he murmured. His voice was soft and uncertain, but then dropped lower. “And neither of you listen when I say I’m busy.”
“Because you never tell me what you are doing!” Arthur exploded. To his horror, Merlin felt himself bodily flinch. He knew Arthur wouldn’t harm him, but he was just so tired! The prince’s intake of breath revealed he had seen and Arthur’s weight suddenly dipped the bed as he perched on it.
“You have to take better care of yourself.”
“Damnit, Merlin, I’m not joking. You should have told me how much you were doing for Gaius as well. What if I hadn’t been here? You fainted and no one may have found you for hours.”
Merlin didn’t know what to say. Not because of Arthur’s words, but because there had been fondness and exasperation in his tone.
“I really fainted?” he settled for muttering, grimacing as he did so.
“Like a girl,” Arthur responded, his voice returning to its normal, cheerful tone now Merlin no longer sounded like he was about to break down. Merlin blushed, knowing he wouldn’t be able to live it down. Slowly, he forced himself to look at Gaius.
“Sorry?” He said sheepishly. He should have fought to make himself heard. The old man rolled his eyes.
“What am I supposed to tell your mother?”
“Please don’t!” Merlin yelped. He then decided it was unfair Arthur could both laugh at him and hold him down at the same time. That alone was enough for Merlin to accept he needed to take better care of himself.