Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Merlin never asked to be looked after. Arthur just expected to do it.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: I know nothing about having an appendix out so might have this wrong!
Merlin sneezed and instantly winced. His hand pressed to his side and he shifted, trying to find a more comfortable position.
“What is it? Can I get you anything? What do you need?”
“Nothing.” Merlin found a soft spot and smiled up at his boyfriend. Arthur was hovering over him with such concern in his eyes that Merlin reached out a hand, letting his palm rest against Arthur’s cheek. “I’m fine.”
“You’ve just come out of hospital, Merlin, you are not fine.”
“I had my appendix out, Arthur. I wasn’t dying. I didn’t get shot or stabbed, or have some terminal illness. I’m fine.”
“You weren’t though.” There was none of the usual mirth in Arthur’s eyes and Merlin hated him looking so worried. He didn’t know what to say. Arthur was right; he hadn’t been fine. He couldn’t pretend otherwise, not considering Arthur had found him on the kitchen floor crying in pain.
“I am now.” Merlin dropped his hand from Arthur’s cheek and squeezed his fingers. “Go on, I know you were working.”
“You’re more important.”
“I’m just going to sleep, Arthur. Go back to your writing, I’m fine.”
It was the sound of Arthur’s fingers tapping away that lulled Merlin back to sleep. It was familiar and safe. It was home. How many times had he woken up in the night to find Arthur typing away, hit by a sudden burst of inspiration? When Merlin next awoke, it was to a gentle hand on his shoulder.
Peeling his eyes open, he focused on Arthur’s face and a dopey smile split over his lips.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he murmured, unable to stop himself. Arthur laughed and the sound mad Merlin’s smile widen.
“I’m sure they made your meds too strong,” Arthur said. He put something down on the bed before helping Merlin to sit up. Merlin was cursing in his head – not wanting to worry Arthur more – by the time he was in a position that moderately resembled upright. Then Arthur moved what had previously been in his hands and Merlin smiled.
“I love you,” he said simply. Arthur winked and put the tray on his lap before perching further down the bed. Merlin ate slowly, savouring the taste of his favourite tomato soup. He hadn’t felt hungry, but he could feel the good the food was doing.
“Here.” Once he had finished eating, Arthur handed him a glass of water and some tablets. Merlin downed them, hoping they would kick in quick. He winced as he shifted position and Arthur was immediately there, taking the tray from him.
“Do you need to get up? I can help you…”
“Arthur, no. I’m fine. Just help me lie back down, will you?” Merlin had barely finished asking before Arthur was aiding him again. This time, he needed no encouragement to go back to sleep – he was gone as soon as his head hit the pillow.
He woke on his own next time. But it was to see everything he might want – and not want, since when had he liked coffee? – right beside him. As he shifted, Merlin saw why the coffee was there. Arthur was sitting on the floor, leaning back on the bed and reading. Merlin danged his hand down the side, stroking his hair softly. Arthur jumped as if Merlin had hit him.
“How long have you been awake? What do you need?”
“You to relax,” Merlin said. He knew he had to address this before it drove him utterly mad. “I know what I can and can’t do, Arthur. You don’t have to wait on me every second of the day.”
“But…” Arthur put his book down and knelt up until they were on the same level. “I have to look after you.”
“What is this about?” Merlin couldn’t help but feel like he was missing something. Arthur had always been an attentive partner. Once a person got under his somewhat cold exterior, Arthur was the warmest and most loving person Merlin had ever met. But this was taking things to a whole new level.
“Morgana.” Arthur sighed, running a hand through his hair. “She said she was expecting me to take care of you, no matter what.”
“And you are…”
“And then you go and collapse and end up in hospital. I can’t help but feel that it’s all my fault somehow, that I didn’t look after you.”
“I’m not a child, Arthur.” Merlin stared at him. “Hang on… she said this before I had surgery? When?”
“When we got together. She was convinced that I would break your heart and told me she expected me to treat you right or… Well, let’s just say they were threats.”
“And you’re here to attend my every need because your sister told you too?”
“No, you dork.” Arthur lent forward and kissed his nose. “Because I love you. And I don’t want to let you down by not being here when you need me the most.”
Merlin reached up, cupping Arthur’s face with both hands and forcing him to look him in the eye.
“The only thing I’m expecting of you, Arthur Pendragon, is fantastic sex when I’m feeling up to it. I know you are there for me, I know you would do anything for me. You don’t have to prove it, not to me and certainly not to your sister. I’m a grown man, Arthur, I hardly need babying.”
Arthur’s gaze dropped and Merlin tightened his fingers until he looked up again.
“Am I clear?”
There was reluctance in Arthur’s nod, but he gave it nonetheless. Merlin wondered how long he had been feeling like a failure for. If there was one thing he knew about Arthur, it was that he expected too much from himself.
“Now why don’t you come up here so you can hold me properly and tell me other ways you’ve been an utter cabbage-head?”
Arthur laughed, but did as he was told. It made Merlin feel much better.