Title: Dogged Determination
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gaius
Summary: Merlin was fed up of being treated like he was breakable.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Handle with Care
Author's Notes:Nothing much to say about this one.
Merlin glared at Arthur. He knew the king was only trying to help but it made things worse. Arthur had risked so much discontent amongst his nobles by staying at Merlin’s side for the past month. Everything they had worked for was going to crumble if Arthur didn’t stop playing the concerned lover and started acting as a king. Merlin didn’t know how to tell him that though.
“I can manage,” Merlin grumbled. He ignored Arthur’s helping hand, setting his palms against the bed and hoisting himself upright. By the time he was able to lean back against the pillows, he was sweating and breathless, teeth gritted against the weakness of his own body. Tears swum in his eyes.
“How long?” Merlin whispered, hating the way his voice betrayed the emotions coursing through him. “How long until I can at least move?”
“Gaius says you’re getting stronger,” Arthur murmured. He hoisted himself onto the edge of bed, reaching over and brushing Merlin’s hair back from his forehead tenderly. “You wouldn’t have been able to stay upright like this a couple of weeks ago.”
“I’m leaning on the pillows, Arthur.” Merlin didn’t care if he sounded rude. It had been a month. A month of being stuck in bed, every ounce of his strength fleeing before he had the chance to use it. He would have been able to cope with that, if his magic hadn’t also become dormant. Gaius had warned him not to use it, but Merlin had only understood why after he had tried and his heart had almost stopped. The fear in Arthur’s eyes had meant he hadn’t tried again.
“Merlin…” Arthur trailed off, not knowing what to say. He glanced away and Merlin instantly felt guilty. Arthur was risking his kingdom being here and Merlin rested a hand on top of his love’s.
“I’d do it again,” he said fiercely. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Arthur looked back at him and Merlin wasn’t sure what emotion was most prominent. The love Arthur felt for him, or the fear that Merlin would indeed put himself in harm’s way to protect the king again. The spell had never been meant for Merlin. Gaius had also made it clear that Merlin’s magic was the only reason why he was alive and if it had indeed struck Arthur, he would have been dead before he hit the floor.
“Go on,” Merlin sighed. “Go and run your kingdom.”
“Go.” Merlin pushed Arthur off the bed. At least, he would have done if he had the strength. All he did was nudge him gently, but Arthur was kind enough to get the hint and stand.
“I’m sending Gaius,” he said, clearly reluctant to leave Merlin alone when he was in this sort of mood. Merlin didn’t argue, knowing it was the only way Arthur would leave. But he dozed a little while waiting for the physician and started awake when Gaius entered.
“You look better,” Gaius remarked, putting a pile of scrolls on the end of the bed so he could reach into his bag. He pulled out several tonics to help with the pain and the fatigue. Merlin pulled a face, but his old mentor looked at him sternly.
“I won’t have you complaining.”
“I can’t use my magic. I can’t protect my king, I can’t serve him and I sure as hell am not a decent lover to him right now. Why shouldn’t I complain?” There was a time when Merlin blushed at discussing his relationship with Arthur to Gaius. Those days were long gone.
“You can live,” Gaius said sternly, “and you can stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
“Merlin, we all know it is hard. But there are those out there that have to deal with this sort of thing every day, and don’t have a physician or a king on hand to tend to their every need, nor can they hope to recover. And there are those that witch killed getting to Arthur. There will be no recovery for them, either.”
Merlin flushed, unable to meet Gaius’ gaze. The physician was right. He had been so wrapped up in his own pain that he had forgotten what it was he was fighting for. Arthur. Arthur’s people. Their people. He swallowed and locked his arms, forcing himself into a more upright position as he reached for the first tonic. Gaius nodded approvingly.
It took a while for Merlin to drink them all. He could feel the effects instantly though and his head felt clearer. He knew it wouldn’t last and glanced at the scrolls on the end of the bed.
“Are they for me?” He asked. Arthur had insisted that Merlin be given some work to do now that he was the Court Warlock even if he was bed-bound, but every time Gaius had attempted to give them to him, Merlin hadn’t been able to muster the enthusiasm.
“I don’t want you wearing yourself out though,” Gaius warned as he handed Merlin one. “There’s a line between recovery and stupidity.”
Merlin quirked a grin. “You know me, always on the right side of that line.”
Gaius harrumphed, but he made sure the rest of the scrolls were in reach as he left on his rounds, clearly satisfied that Merlin wasn’t going to try anything daft. Merlin only read one scroll before he fell asleep. But for the first time in a month, he didn’t have dreams of blood or fire. He dreamt of a peaceful Camelot and felt stronger emotionally when he woke.
He might have got in the way of that spell. But he meant what he said to Arthur; he would do it again in an instant. And while he thought like that, Merlin knew he was in no position to moan about his state.
No more would he be treated like he was fragile and breakable. He was going to help his lover the best he could, no matter what.