Title: Sweet Song
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwen, Gaius
Summary: Merlin had to fight. Arthur found a way to help.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Enjoy!
Arthur sighed, gnawing at his nail in an uncharacteristic display of nerves. Merlin moaned slightly, head tossing from side to side and Arthur reached over. He picked up the cloth that should have been resting over Merlin’s brow, re-wetting it before draping it back in position. It wasn’t doing any good though. This was no normal fever, but a magical one.
And it was all Arthur’s fault.
Merlin shouldn’t have done it. He could have used magic to defuse the situation rather than grabbing Arthur’s cup and downing the contents, just as he had done all those years ago. The result had been the same; a moment of hesitation before Merlin had fallen writhing to the floor. Arthur had left Leon to deal with his attempted murderers and got Merlin to Gaius.
The old man had been graver than Arthur had ever seen him. He identified the poison and announced there was nothing he could do. Merlin had to fight it off on his own. It was magical – and the only cure was Merlin’s own magic. There was nothing they could do but wait.
“Fight it,” Arthur murmured. He leant forward, his hand keeping the cloth in place as he tried to cool Merlin’s temperature. The warlock was restless in his unconsciousness and Arthur knew if he didn’t rest, he wouldn’t have the strength to carry on the fight. But there didn’t seem to be anything they could do – Merlin hadn’t reacted to any of the sleeping draughts that Gaius had managed to trickle down his throat.
Not knowing what else to do, Arthur slumped forward. His upper body was cushioned on the bed, his hand still loosely on Merlin’s forehead. With his free hand, he took hold of Merlin’s. It was limp and clammy in his grip and Arthur felt more lost than ever when there was no reassuring squeeze. Merlin was always the one to tell him everything was going to be alright, and this time he was just lying still and quiet.
“How is he?”
Arthur barely lifted his head at the voice. Gwen had been coming and going all evening and Arthur hadn’t reacted to her presence even once. Things had finally moved on from the awkwardness that had settled between them when Gwen had announced she knew Arthur loved Merlin more than her. But now things had settled and Arthur knew she was happy for them. She moved further into the room and Arthur started when he felt a blanket being draped over his shoulders. Touched, he let go of the cloth and grabbed Gwen’s hand.
“He can’t die,” Arthur murmured. He surprised himself by how hoarse his voice was. He hadn’t been crying, but the pent up emotion was having the same effect. This was killing him far more than any poison might have done. Arthur was a man of action; sitting here watching Merlin fight for his life and know there was nothing he could do was destroying him.
“He won’t,” Gwen soothed. “Talk to him, Arthur. He might be able to hear you. Let him hear your voice and give him something to cling on to. And don’t forget to have something to eat.”
She kissed the top of his head and left. Arthur was aware that she lingered in the doorway for a moment, but his eyes were locked on Merlin.
“Is she right?” He asked. “Can you hear me, love? Are you there?”
He curled his free hand around the one holding Merlin’s.
“Come back to me.”
He didn’t know what to say without sounding like an idiot. But he didn’t blink as he stared at Merlin’s feverish face. Very quietly, Arthur began to hum under his breath. He didn’t notice he was doing it. But softly, words began to form and before he realised what was happening, Arthur found himself softly singing a lullaby.
It must have been something from his childhood. He had very few memories of the nurses assigned to him, but the words came from his heart. Somewhere deep inside, they had taken root and stayed with him all this time. Now he was letting them out, hoping it would show Merlin how much he meant to the king and how lost Arthur would be without him.
When he finished, Arthur swallowed against the lump in his throat. Not because of what was happening with Merlin, but because of everything he had lost. How was it he remembered a song that clearly meant a lot to him yet he had no idea who had sung it to him? Sighing, he stretched forward and brushed Merlin’s hair back from his face.
But his hand lingered as he drew away. Arthur sat up straighter. Merlin seemed more relaxed. His face was no longer gripped in pain and he wasn’t trying to move away from Arthur’s touch. Unable to believe what he was seeing, Arthur stared. But there was no denying it. Merlin had slipped from unconsciousness into sleep, his breathing easier than before. Arthur quickly adjusted the blankets around him and pressed a kiss to Merlin’s forehead.
“Fight for me,” he whispered. But then he started the lullaby again. He sung until his voice gave out, then he continued humming. Gaius had been wrong. Merlin didn’t have to fight this on his own. They had never been alone, not since Merlin had arrived in Camelot all those years ago and realised he had a destiny.
All this time, Merlin had been saving Arthur’s life. Now there was only one thing for Arthur to do. He had to save Merlin’s. And if that meant sitting here, keeping Merlin soothed, then that was what he was going to do.
Even kings had their limits though. When Gaius returned an hour later, it was to find both young men fast asleep. Arthur was clutching Merlin’s hand even in sleep and the old man smiled as he adjusted the blanket over Arthur. Merlin would be fine. Arthur would make sure of that.