Title: Time for Healing
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Merlin couldn't keep his wound hidden as well as he would have liked.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Kidness of Strangers
Author's Notes: These prompts are fun!
Merlin spun at the shout, grimacing as the bandage began to unravel itself. He used magic to stop it and hastily tied it off around his midriff. Although Kilgarrah had healed the internal damage, there was still a gaping wound in his side. Merlin knew enough about medicine to know it would not kill him but he was also aware that unless he kept it clean and controlled the bleeding, he would be in trouble.
He had just dropped his shirt back into position when Arthur barged in.
“All these years, Merlin, and you still can’t be on time.”
“Sorry, Sire.” Merlin tried to grin even as he began putting the medicines away. He shrugged as Arthur frowned. “I was helping Gaius and said I would get this cleared up while he went to treat a patient."
“Instead of doing your actual job?”
Merlin had been around Arthur long enough to know when the king didn’t mean his words. Arthur would never pull him away from Gaius if he could help it, fully aware that these days, his servant was practically acting as a physician when age made things hard for Gaius. He wouldn’t stop Merlin from helping his own people.
“I’m done now. And look, you even managed to dress yourself.” Merlin put everything on the shelf and turned to face his master, expecting a list of chores to be thrown his way. Arthur simply stared at him, a frown on his face.
“You’re hurt,” Arthur stated. Merlin stared at him, wondering for a wild moment if the king had suddenly become perceptive despite all these years together. Then he looked down and realised his hasty job was backfiring – blood was spotting his shirt. Cursing himself for wearing blue instead of red, Merlin turned his back to Arthur and lifted his shirt.
The bandage had slipped, resting more on his hips than his stomach where Merlin’s clumsy knot had come undone.
“Damn,” Merlin breathed under his breath. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to hide this from Arthur. Before he could even begin to think of an excuse that might work, Arthur’s hand landed on his shoulder and he was spun around.
Merlin couldn’t meet the king’s eye as Arthur quickly assessed the injury.
“Shirt off,” the man ordered. Knowing he had no choice – the wound had to be treated again – Merlin complied and perched on a stool as Arthur picked up Gaius’ bag again. To Merlin’s surprise, he opened it and began pulling out the correct ointments and a roll of fresh bandages.
“I’m assuming you don’t want Gaius to know?” Arthur asked after instructing Merlin to lift his arm so he could gain better access to the wound. Merlin shook his head, biting his lip against the sting as Arthur smeared ointment over the wound. He knew the man was being gentle but any contact was going to hurt.
“He’ll worry,” Merlin said. Arthur nodded distractedly and Merlin knew Arthur would want to protect the old man as much as Merlin did. “Look, I-,”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
“But I can explain.”
“I said no, Merlin.” There was a firm note in Arthur’s tone and Merlin felt as if he was being scolded. He bit his tongue while Arthur wrapped the bandage around his torso and tied it off with expert fingers.
“Really though,” Merlin said quietly. If he was honest, he still had no idea what he was going to say to Arthur.
“I know you’ve been lying to me,” Arthur said softly, refusing to meet Merlin’s gaze as he stepped away and gestured for him to put his shirt back on. “So whatever you’ve been doing, at least stay quiet rather than spinning another tale of drinking in the tavern or secret rendezvous with barmaids.”
Merlin stared at him as Arthur put everything away and moved towards the door. Arthur could have pushed for an answer, could have demanded to know the truth. A deep sadness settled into Merlin when he realised that Arthur wouldn’t believe him anymore even if Merlin did tell him the truth.
What he couldn’t explain, however, was why Arthur didn’t sound angry. When he asked, Arthur shrugged.
“You’ve always pushed me to do what is right by the kingdom and myself, more than anyone else. I can’t believe you will ever do anything against Camelot or against me, so you can keep your secrets.”
Arthur turned to leave and Merlin hopped awkwardly off the stool. He literally had no idea what to say and knew full well if it was any other situation, Arthur would have made a comment about that.
“Bring supplies with you tomorrow morning, I’ll re-dress it then.”
“Thank you, Sire.” This time, Merlin meant his words with the utmost respect. Arthur was a trained warrior; he knew how to treat injuries like this. Arthur dipped his head and left.
After a moment, Merlin jogged after him.
“So go on,” he said. His voice was light and if it sounded fake to Arthur as much as it did to him, the king didn’t comment on it. “What long list of chores have you got for me today? Something horrible, no doubt.”
“Oh extremely,” Arthur said. Merlin caught Arthur’s gaze and gave a small smile of gratitude. Arthur returned it and Merlin felt his heart lighten. If this was how Arthur was reacting now, when he already knew that Merlin was hiding something and trusted him regardless, maybe Merlin could tell him the whole truth?
But for now, he knew the best thing to do was to agree with whatever Arthur said for the next few days and wait until the time was right. With Mordred in the castle and Morgana getting ever closer to succeeding in her plans, Merlin knew they both needed all the friends they could get if they were going to survive this.
He just hoped he didn’t leave it too late to come clean to his king.