Summary: When Merlin becomes badly ill, Arthur has to help him.
Word Count: 4,155
Author's Notes: I hope you enjoy this, alilypea. I tried to include most of what you asked. Happy Holidays! Thank you to my awesome beta for looking this over. Any other errors are mine. Thank you to the camelot_drabble mods for hosting this fun exchange. This was my first time participating in this one, and I very much enjoyed being a part of it.
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
~ * ~
Arthur had planned it perfectly. He was going to tell Merlin he loved him at the top of the London Eye. After a kiss that left Merlin breathless, of course.
Arthur woke up, however, to Merlin coughing and sneezing loudly.
The two of them shared a room at the university. Though they had only been together for a few months, Arthur felt like it’d been longer. Like he couldn’t imagine a time when he wasn’t with Merlin, living together and learning each other’s quirks and habits.
“Merlin, you all right?”
“Hmm, yeah, yeah,” Merlin said.
“No, you’re not. You sound like you have a cold.”
Merlin turned around to face him. He looked paler than normal, his nose was red and his eyes were bloodshot.
“No, you’re not.”
Merlin waved him off. He flashed him a grin. “Don’t worry about it, Arthur. I’m okay.”
Arthur raised his brow at him. He was especially doubtful when Merlin broke out into another coughing fit.
“You should go to the doctor. You might have pneumonia.”
“I never liked doctors. Well except for Lancelot, but he’s a friend, so…”
Merlin sat down on the bed, looking exhausted.
“Well, there’s the answer. Either that, or take some Theraflu.”
Merlin shook his head. His eyes glowed golden. His magic went to work as colour returned to his skin and he looked rested and not like he had tossed and turned with little relief the night before.
Arthur sighed, making his displeasure known.
“What?” Merlin shot out, his tone defensive. “I don’t want to ruin our day together feeling miserable.”
“I just don’t think you should use your magic so casually like this. Sometimes it’s better to treat a cold the old-fashioned, non-magical way.”
“All right, Grandpa,” Merlin said. His sarcasm wasn’t missed.
Arthur gave him a warning look. “Is that what you think?”
Arthur put his hand on Merlin’s face, caressing his cheek, which quieted Merlin as his blue eyes darkened in what Arthur believed was anticipation.
He’d only been with Merlin for close to six months, but Arthur felt that he was destined to be with him.
No matter if they came from two different worlds and Arthur had risked almost everything to remain with Merlin.
It was worth it, without a doubt, it was worth what he had lost.
With that thought, Arthur pressed his lips to Merlin’s, kissing him thoroughly, tasting the bit of cinnamon and chocolate from the hot cocoa Merlin had had last night. Somehow the sweet, spiced taste had lingered and left Arthur wanting to devour him.
Reluctantly, Arthur released Merlin.
“So what’s the plan for today?”
“The London Eye. We’ll have a whole capsule to ourselves. Pulled in a favour and reserved one.”
“Now I know why you’re my boyfriend.”
“I hope that’s not the only reason,” Arthur said.
“It’s your endearing stubbornness too.”
Merlin stuck his tongue out at him.
Arthur punched him in the arm in response.
Rubbing his arm and grimacing in pretend pain, Merlin then pulled him by the hand. “Well, the day isn’t getting any younger. We got to get ready.”
Arthur let himself go along with Merlin, smiling a little to himself at Merlin’s enthusiasm.
~ * ~
The view of the city was breathtaking with Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Buckingham Palace in their sights.
Arthur couldn’t help but notice Merlin’s face paling. Merlin was smiling, but he was leaning heavily on the railing.
“Merlin?” Arthur asked. Since he’d been ill not long ago, Arthur couldn’t dismiss what appeared to be a return of his symptoms.
Merlin turned to Arthur, his smile widening and his eyes brightening. Whatever was going on with him, he wasn’t letting it dampen his enjoyment. That was one of the things he loved about Merlin.
“We’re at the top, Arthur,” Merlin said.
Before Arthur could make a move, Merlin was facing him and cupped his face with his hands. He kissed him soundly on the lips.
“I was hoping to do that,” Arthur said, which he knew came out petulant but he couldn’t stop himself.
“I know, that’s why I did it.”
Merlin grinned, laughing when Arthur crossed his arms and frowned.
Then he sobered, admitting, “I’m feeling off balance a bit. I love being up here with you, but lying down in bed sounds like a good idea.”
Arthur nodded to the bench. “What about there?”
He gripped Merlin’s arm and steered him to the bench to sit. “Is this from your flu? Is your magic wearing off?”
“My magic doesn’t wear off,” Merlin shot back albeit without heat. He put down his head on Arthur’s shoulder. “Prat.”
Arthur smiled, shaking his head. “Whatever you say.”
~ * ~
They made their way back to the university. Arthur made Merlin promise not to use magic to stop his dizziness. But Arthur wasn’t confident that Merlin didn’t sneak in a non-verbal spell when he wasn’t looking.
In the campus Quad, they found Gwen, Gwaine, Freya and Percy in the midst of a snowball fight.
Merlin suggested to Arthur that they join in especially after Gwaine, seeing them, called them over.
Arthur was reluctant, more concerned about Merlin’s health. At some point, battling the symptoms with his magic had to have an unwanted side effect. While Arthur wasn’t a wizard and didn’t claim to be an expert on magic, he couldn’t deny that warning feeling inside him.
Magic wasn’t a cure-all. He’d learned that from his father. Despite Arthur generally disagreeing with his father’s views, he had to agree with that one opinion.
Merlin grabbed his hand, pulling him forward.
He looked impatient. “Come on, Arthur. It’s not often we get enough snow for snowball fight. Where’s your holiday spirit?”
Arthur was close to stumbling due to the force of Merlin’s pulling, such was the strength of his enthusiasm.
“Hopeless.” Arthur muttered under his breath.
“How are you feeling?” Arthur gave him a pointed look.
Merlin grinned. “Never better.”
Arthur sighed. He relented and joined Gwen and Gwaine’s team while Merlin went on Freya and Percy’s side.
Dodging big snowballs thrown by Percy, Arthur let out a laugh, enjoying himself so much that he forgot about his worry about Merlin.
Gwaine shouted, “Hey Arthur! Watch out!”
Arthur was a moment too late when he saw Merlin’s snowball zooming toward him.
The snow grazed his face before he managed to gain the wherewithal to drop to the ground. He was grateful he had done so, as Merlin continued his attack. Arthur watched the balls of packed snow shoot over his head.
“I think he’s using some magic,” Gwen said.
She giggled as she too just missed being struck in the shoulder.
With her mittened hands, Gwen pulled her purple-white wool hat further down her head as if it would protect her from the snowballs.
Arthur saw Freya high-fiving Merlin.
“Some magic,” Arthur said, narrowing his eyes.
Oh Merlin, he wasn’t going to know what hit him. He dived when Percy threw another snowball in his direction. He shot a quick thanks at Gwaine when he got a solid aim in Percy’s face as retribution.
Arthur prepared a snowball and he put his arm back, getting ready to launch the ball.
“Merlin!” He heard Freya exclaim in alarm.
The snowball fell from Arthur’s hand, forgotten, as he rushed to Merlin. He had collapsed to the ground.
“Why did he fall?” Arthur asked Freya urgently.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gwen and Gwaine reach him, standing by as Arthur took charge of the situation.
Freya looked anxious, shaking her head showing she had no helpful answer. “He was okay, smiling and laughing, and then he just fell.”
Percy nodded. “There was nothing out of the ordinary before the fall. It was abrupt.”
Arthur checked Merlin over. He was unconscious. When he took Merlin’s wrist to check his pulse, he was relieved to find he still had one. “Merlin? Merlin?”
Gwen’s brow was knitted in worry. She knelt down. After taking off a mitten, she touched Merlin’s forehead, frowning afterwards. “Oh Arthur, he’s burning up. We really should take him to the hospital. Lancelot must see him.”
“He wasn’t feeling well earlier today,” Arthur said.
He pulled up the sleeve of Merlin’s puffed winter coat. The lightning bolt he had on the inside of his left wrist was glowing red.
“Gwen, you’re right.” Arthur said, looking at her. “Gwaine, Percy…I need your help in carrying him back inside.”
“I’ll call for the ambulance,” Gwen offered.
Freya looked lost, but Gwen took her hand and reassured her that Merlin would be all right. Gwen always had a way with others, assuaging their fears no matter how anxious she was herself. Arthur couldn’t ask for a better friend than her.
In the end, Percy alone managed to carry Merlin in his arms.
“Lancelot will find out what’s wrong. He’s the best there is,” Gwaine said to Arthur.
“He’s the only one Merlin will trust with his health.” Arthur sighed.
He felt guilty creep up on him. He wondered if he should have done more. Given him some medicine before Merlin used his magic.
But it hadn’t been that bad. Had it? Arthur never imagined he would collapse like this, and lose consciousness.
He was impatient for answers. He needed to fix this. And he needed Lancelot to help him do that.
~ * ~
“What’s wrong with him?” Arthur asked Lancelot.
Lancelot was an A&E doctor who specialized in dealing with magic users and magical ailments. He had the position because he was the only one willing to examine patients with magical abilities. When Merlin was small, sometimes Lancelot had looked after him when Merlin’s mum worked. Because of this, Lancelot had grown an understanding and acceptance of Merlin and other magic users like him. Arthur thought it wasn’t too hard for someone as noble and well, righteous as Lancelot.
Now, he didn’t like Lancelot’s grim expression.
No, he wouldn’t accept this. Merlin had to be okay.
Lancelot sighed, granting Arthur a small smile. “The good news is that Merlin is awake.”
“And the bad news?”
Lancelot relented. “I think I really should speak to Merlin’s mother.”
“I don’t want to worry her. What is it?”
“It’s protocol. She is his next of kin.”
“Please, just tell me. I know I haven’t been with Merlin long, but I care about him deeply, Lancelot. I need to help him. I have to help him. So if you can tell me what’s wrong, I’d appreciate it. If I can do anything to make him feel better, I would.”
Lancelot nodded, still looking reluctant, but conceding to Arthur’s demand as he led him to a more private corner of the waiting room.
“I believe Merlin’s magic is preventing needed treatment of his flu symptoms. And his magic isn’t healing him, at least not for long. It appears to be a virus where a person’s magic turns against them. In a way, it’s like an autoimmune disease where—“
“The immune system attacks healthy cells in the body instead protecting them. I know. That’s how my mum died.”
“I’m sorry, Arthur.”
“No, don’t apologize. How can you help him?”
“Maybe you should see Merlin. He wants to talk to you.”
Lancelot gave him a look, showing that this time, he was not going to budge.
Arthur backed down, though he was not happy about it. “All right. I’ll go see him.”
He turned away from Lancelot, but needing to say one more thing, he turned back, and he said, “But you will tell me what can be done. No matter how risky it is – based on your not wanting to tell me, I can assume it is -- I still have to know.”
“Very well, Arthur. See you later. I have other patients to see.” Lancelot said, polite as can be with a nod in his direction.
~ * ~
Arthur entered Merlin, feeling anxious, as he saw Merlin lying so worn out – nearly deathly white and fading into the bleach white hospital sheets.
Merlin’s eyes were open. He turned his head when Arthur came in.
He gave him a weak smile. He looked as uneasy and worried as Arthur felt.
“Hi. Did Lancelot tell you?”
Arthur nodded. “He didn’t say what treatment you need.”
“I need to get rid of my magic,” Merlin said, his tone flat. He sounded grumpy yet resigned. “I have a fever, it’s low now, but Lancelot is concerned it will go up. Unless my magic is stopped, the fever won’t go away. And more symptoms to make me feel miserable will come along for the ride.”
“I did recommend to use Theraflu or some other non-magical med.”
“I know. I messed up,” Merlin conceded. “I have you saying “I told you so,” on repeat in my head. Don’t worry about that.”
Merlin sat back against the bed. “I just hate living in a world where most everyone is freaked out by magic users. I sometimes can’t help act recklessly. Like that will make it better. I should listen to you more. I’m such an idiot.”
“No, don’t say that, Merlin. I wish it was easier for people like you, but I have to believe everyone just needs time. And the right people to defend the interests of magic users.”
“Like him, Gwen, Gwaine, Freya, Percy…me, obviously. The list keeps growing.”
Merlin slipped back down into his bed, resting his head against his pillow. “Who turned on the heater to full blast?” He said.
He put his hand on his brow. “I don’t feel good at all… Arthur please… it’s too hot.”
Arthur saw sweat dripping down Merlin’s face.
“Merlin, it’ll be okay. I’ll get help.” He said.
He clicked the button to call for the nurse.
After five minutes, no one came.
Arthur went out into the hallway. “This patient has a high fever. He needs help! Where is Dr. Du Lac?”
Arthur was annoyed when no one really paid attention to him. Nurses and doctors passing by granted him a cursory glance, then they went on their way. In frustration, Arthur was sure it didn’t help that he’d mentioned Lancelot. That was a giveaway that the patient had magic.
And everyone was probably well aware what room any magic user was residing in. It was like Merlin was in a quarantined room – best to avoid contact lest they contract something.
Even if it meant Merlin was suffering as he burned up with fever. Arthur thought none of them should be in the profession of aiding ill patients if they couldn’t treat those with magic. Just because the general opinion was anti-magic users didn’t mean they had to be too.
Fortunately a blonde nurse came over to him. “You say the patient has a fever?”
“Yes, a bad one. He needs medication – something to help him. Dr. Du Lac needs to see him now.”
She nodded, rushing over to help. “I’ll give him something to get the fever down. And then I’ll contact the doctor. My name is Elena by the way.”
“Thank you, Elena.”
Elena gave Merlin some medication through his IV. Merlin was barely awake. He was vainly trying to keep his eyes open, to look at Arthur, but it was a futile effort.
“It’s all right, Merlin. You’ll be okay. Get some rest. You’ll feel better afterwards. I promise.”
Arthur tried his best to smile reassuringly at him. Merlin didn’t look like he was buying it.
Going over to him, Arthur bent down to kiss him on the forehead. He saw less sweat on his face and he wasn’t shivering from the chills. The fever reducing medication must be taking effect. Arthur hoped Merlin’s magic would give Merlin some peace, allowing him to be treated without magic. At least long enough for Merlin to get a full night’s rest.
“I can’t help but be curious…but why are you helping him? You must know like everyone else I’m sure that he has magic.”
Elena gave him a sad smile. “My grandmother had magic. I loved her very much.”
Arthur nodded. “I’m glad you were here at the right time. I appreciate it.”
It was then that Lancelot came into the room. Elena updated him about Merlin’s condition and treatment. She saw herself out after a small wave in Arthur’s direction.
Merlin had lost his battle to stay awake as Lancelot turned to Arthur. Hearing Merlin breathe in and out, in the midst of a calm sleep was a relief to Arthur, but he knew a permanent solution was needed.
“What can I do?” Arthur asked Lancelot. “I don’t care how risky it is or if it’ll kill me. I just want Merlin to be okay.”
“Arthur, you haven’t even been with Merlin a year. Are you sure you’re willing to put your life on the line for him?”
“Yes. Tell me what I have to do.” Arthur answered right away.
He didn’t need time to think of his answer. It was as ingrained in him as his own name.
Weary, Lancelot looked down at Merlin’s chart in his hand. He looked like he’d aged about 10 years when he returned his attention to Arthur.
“We can only treat Merlin so many times with medication before his magic stops its effectiveness completely. I’ve been researching this experimental treatment. Magic is removed from the patient, which will allow Merlin to be treated successfully without interference. And once I believe that Merlin is well again, I can return his magic back to him. You can understand how dangerous this could be.”
“Merlin said that he’d have to get rid of his magic. But I know he’d want it back. It’s a part of his being.”
“I know. Merlin is in danger of serious complications if his fever keeps going up. We need to do this now as I don’t want him having a persistent fever for days. That’ll weaken him and he won’t be strong enough to handle his magic being removed.”
Arthur nodded. “Of course. Can I help?”
“His magic will need a place to be stored. Unfortunately a box won’t do. A living being is needed, human at best.”
Lancelot raised his hand before Arthur said a word. “This has only succeeded one time. And that involved a child possessing magic. With Merlin’s level of magic, I worry how your body will receive the magic. It could very well kill you.”
“I said I was willing to do anything, and that still stands. I trust you, Lancelot. I’m sure as long as it’s done carefully, everything will turn out okay.”
Lancelot still looked willing to argue, but Arthur gave him his most stubborn look.
“Do I need to sign something?” Arthur wanted to know, determined to continue on with the transfer no matter how experimental it was.
“I’ll get you the consent forms.”
~ * ~
Arthur asked Gwen to be with him during the transfer. He wanted a friend by his side, and she was his first choice. Hopefully she would distract him from the anxiety he felt about this procedure. Not so much about how it would affect him, but if it would succeed in helping Merlin. And also if Merlin would be able to get magic back.
Merlin hadn’t been too happy with the proposed transfer. He had been worried about what would happen to Arthur. Arthur tried his best to reassure him. He’d thought Merlin would be more concerned about never getting his magic back.
But Merlin had told him, “My magic isn’t as important as the life of someone I care about.”
Arthur had managed to convince him in the end to go through with the transfer. There had been no real alternative after all. Following another spike in fever – at 40 degrees Celsius, Merlin had recognized that he had to do something. Even at the risk of Arthur’s life.
So the next morning, consent forms signed by the both of them, the transfer was underway.
Lancelot had sedated Merlin before the transfer to keep him stable during the procedure.
Arthur was wide awake with Gwen sitting beside him.
“I’m sorry, Arthur, but this will hurt. I can’t give you anything now for the pain as it might damage Merlin’s magic. If the transfer goes well, I’ll see what I can do for the pain.”
Arthur nodded. “I understand. Just do it. I don’t want to wait any longer.”
Lancelot definitely hadn’t been lying. Arthur had to bite down hard on his lip to stop from screaming out. He could feel the blood coming from his lip. A pained yell escaped a few times, and he probably wasn’t doing any favors to Gwen’s hand as he gripped it tightly. Arthur hoped he didn’t break any bones in her hand.
Merlin’s magic was a wave of gold intertwined with blue as it travelled from Merlin through Arthur’s skin into his body. The magic, being forced out of its host body, was not happy about the change in location.
Which resulted in a level of pain Arthur had never experienced before. And he hoped to never again.
He prayed to himself that this would work, that Merlin would be able to get the treatment he needed and be healthy in time for Christmas.
The transfer took just under an hour, but to Arthur it felt like an eternity. He imagined he looked like a ghost as he shivered afterwards. His body reacting to the unexpected intrusion by giving him chills. His forehead felt a little too warm.
“The fever and chills should pass,” Lancelot told him. “I’ll give you a fever reducer though. Fortunately Merlin’s magic in you won’t stop treatment from working. Being in a foreign environment makes a difference.”
“And will Arthur be able to use the magic?” Gwen asked.
Lancelot shook his head. “No. Merlin’s magic will only answer to him, as far as I’m aware.”
“Considering the trouble his magic has caused, I definitely don’t want to use it. I want Merlin to have it back as soon as possible.”
~ * ~
“You look like death warmed over,” Merlin said from his hospital bed. “Sorry about the pain… Gwen told me you screamed.”
Arthur shrugged, sitting down in the empty chair beside Merlin’s bed. “I guess I’m not made of stone after all.”
He smiled. He was grateful to see Merlin looking much better. He was less pale than before, colour returning to his cheeks. He hadn’t had a fever spike in almost twelve hours. Still, Arthur carried his magic inside him. Lancelot wanted to observe Merlin longer to make very sure he was well enough to get his magic back.
“I guess so. Got your lip sutured?”
“Yeah, just a flesh wound.”
Merlin laughed. Then he sobered. “Arthur, I don’t know what to say. This whole thing is my fault. I was reckless, and--”
Arthur put his hand over Merlin’s mouth. “Don’t. I don’t want to hear it. It doesn’t matter. I’m just glad to see you looking better.”
He removed his hand from Merlin’s mouth. He kissed him briefly there, lips touching lips. Arthur wanted to do more, but he also felt tiredness settle heavily inside him. Carrying Merlin’s magic and dealing with the pain of the transfer left him wanting to sleep for a long time. But he had been so worried about Merlin that he forced himself to stay awake. He wasn’t going to rest when Merlin needed him.
Arthur was grateful that he had been able to get some painkillers from Lancelot. They helped, but Arthur didn’t doubt that getting some sleep in would help even more. Lancelot had recommended that to him with Arthur waving him off with a distracted agreement. He knew soon Lancelot was going to force him to get rest even if it took sleeping pills to do the job.
“Look up,” Merlin told him.
A sprig of mistletoe floated above their heads.
“How did that get there? I can’t use your magic,” Arthur said, puzzled.
“Doesn’t matter,” Merlin said. He looked at Arthur expectantly.
“Mistletoe! Where’s your holiday spirit?” Merlin almost cried out.
Arthur obliged and took his face in his hands, his injured lip grazed Merlin’s skin. It tickled, but it wasn’t unpleasant.
He moved to Merlin’s mouth and kissed him like he was dying, and Merlin was the only one anchoring him to the world of the living.
Afterwards, Arthur said, “I hope the both of us get to leave this hospital before Christmas.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
Arthur relented. Maybe it was too early to say it. But they’d been through so much these last few days, and he felt he had to say the words…
I love you.
Merlin spoke up before Arthur could form the words out loud. “I know.”
~ * ~