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Merlin Fic: In Sickness and Health

Title: In sickness and health
Author: astri
Fandom: Merlin
Rating: PG-13
Wordcount: ~ 1.200
Disclaimer: Don't own anything about them.
A/N: More Arthur/Merlin emo-porn.
many thanks to nachekana for a super-speedy beta and encouragement

Summary: This is a prequel to Whipping Boy. Once more Merlin has to step up to be Arthur's protector.



In sickness and health

There is a bounce in Merlin’s steps - one that, with the recent state of affairs in Camelot, has been missing for the past weeks – when he enters Gaius’ chambers.

“Good news, I just visited Gwen, and some people in the lower town seem to be on their way to recovery.” He smiles to himself. “Can’t wait to tell Arthur, with Uther being on the mend himself, this is going to be a burden off his shoulders, and I…”

Merlin stops his babbling when he instead of an answering smile, he only finds a sombre look on Gaius’ face. He can feel his own spirits beginning to deflate again, dread taking a hold once more. “What is it? Has Uther gotten sicker again?”

Gais sighs. “No, the King is making steady progress. It's—“

“Morgana then?” Merlin already knows it isn’t the Lady Morgana that has Gaius so worried again, but if he has to name every last person in Camelot before a certain someone. No way he got sick, no way.

The next words out of Gaius’ mouth swiftly tear through Merlin’s denial. “It’s Arthur, I just received word that he has fallen ill as well.”

A bitter taste gathers in the back of Merlin’s throat. He shakes his head, trying to deny the words Gaius has just spoken – and their meaning. “You…you must be mistaken. I saw him this morning out on the fields, he was fine.”

“Merlin, you’ve seen how quickly this fever strikes. The victims can look healthy in the morning yet enter a near delirious state by nightfall,” Gaius reminds him gently, busying himself with gathering his medical tools, which neatly allows him to avoid eye contact with Merlin. “It’s quite possible he has been sick for a while but we didn’t catch the signs.”

“But—“

“Merlin, I have to hurry. See how bad it is.”

There, a ray of hope. Merlin grasps for it. “Then you haven’t examined him yet? Maybe this is a misunderstanding?”

Gaius is already standing by the opened door. “I’m afraid not, the Lady Morgana found Arthur unconscious in his chambers.”

The old man walks from the room and, after a moment of standing frozen in place, Merlin hurries after him. “Let me come with you.”

“That is not a good idea, Merlin. You are lucky to have escaped the fever thus far. Lets keep it this way.”

“But you’re going as well,” Merlin protests. “Besides, I am his servant, I should be with him right now.”

Shaking his head in exasperation, Gaius keeps on walking urgently. “In what way do you propose to serve him now? You aren’t a healer to help him, nor a relative or love to offer him comfort. Be sensible, boy.”

Merlin has no idea why he should feel a sting at Gaius’ words – they are true, are they not? – yet nevertheless it is there.

They are still arguing back and forth when they reach Arthur’s chambers, Morgana pacing restlessly in front of them. She acknowledges Gaius with a nod, while all but dismissing Merlin’s presence. For once, Merlin doesn’t mind to be overlooked because he can’t really blame her and it warms his heart to see such concern for Arthur. Briefly, he wonders if Uther has been told yet, and, if the Kind were well and here, there would be such an obvious display of care for his son. At least when said son isn’t awake to see it.

Still, Merlin figures that there will be time later to ponder such issues and, ignoring Gaius’ angry call for him, he nimbly squeezes right by Morgana and into Arthur’s room.

The sight awaiting him there leads him to swallow heavily. Arthur has been laid out on the bed, violent shivers wrecking his broad frame. Without further thought, Merlin walks forward to put a comforting hand on Arthur’s shoulder. He can see the beads of sweat on Arthur’s brow, leading wet strands of blond hair to cling to the skin. Arthur is terribly pale, a striking contrast to his usual vibrant looks, and Merlin’s fingers clench into Arthur’s flesh in response. The same way an invisible fist seems to clench around Merlin’s own heart.

He whispers a name, hoping it will yield a reaction. “Arthur?”

Meanwhile, Gaius appeared by the bed on the other side of Arthur. He frowns slightly at Merlin but doesn’t further dissuade him from his actions. Quickly, yet thoroughly he examines Arthur - Merlin’s eyes never leaving him in this task. And while Merlin removes his hand from Arthur’s arm to give Gaius the proper room to work, his concession doesn’t extend as far as to not kneel beside the bed and let his fingers rest close to Arthur’s slack ones, not quite touching but close enough just in case.

Time passes and Gaius doesn’t speak a word.

It drives Merlin crazy and he starts fidgeting. “So?”

“He is quite ill,” Gaius announces glumly.

Never did Merlin want to slap the old man, but God help him, he does now. After all, a bit of positive thinking never hurt anyone. “But you can cure him, right?”

“The fever has hit him harder than most.” Gaius sighs, worriedly stroking his chin.

“But the… the towns-people, they…they are getting better,” Merlin stammers, protesting against this sudden gloom, so unlike Gaius.

The physician starts rummaging through his tools, picking out various herbs and a small viol with a clear pale blue liquid. “You did say some of them when you came in earlier, did you not?”

“Yes, but—“

Now Gaius looks up at Merlin with concern. “Arthur wasn’t sick often as a child but he always used to run a dangerously high fever.” He looks down at Arthur’s prone figure. “That he would contract this fever is most troubling indeed. He must have visited his father when I strongly advised against it.”

“Do you mean he…” Merlin trails off, unable to even speak the words.

Gaius doesn’t answer, just keeps mixing more herbs. “I will do my best so it doesn’t come to it,” he says gently.

It’s as close to a promise Gaius is probably willing to make on this matter, this much Merlin knows. But only one thought is ringing throughout Merlin’s mind just then: not good enough. His hands ball into fists, but he does his best to keep his voice calm when he speaks. “I’ll let you work in peace then.”

Gaius hmms distractedly, turning towards Arthur again.

After a last look at Arhur’s ashen face, Merlin practically runs from the room, bypassing Morgana who frowns briefly at him, but doesn’t call him out for such behaviour.

Breathlessly, Merlin tears into his room, clawing for the magical book hidden under his bed. He flings it open, desperately looking for a spell, an enchantment, something that could be used to help Arthur. Back and forth, back and forth he goes through the book, ignoring the ache in his limbs, the suddenly unbearable heat in the room and the way the letters start to dance in front of his eyes.

Still, for once, magic fails him. Or at least knowledge thereof. There are healing spells alright, but only if the illness is of magical origin, as it was when the sorceress Nimueh sent that plague to Camelot. If only she had done so this time as well, then Merlin would know what to do. But for all intents and purposes, this new disease seems to be completely of natural causes.

He makes his way back to Arthur’s chambers, hoping for some good news to be had there. Maybe Gaius’ science can prevail where magic cannot. Yet when Merlin sees Gaius talking quietly with Morgana, her shoulders slumped in defeat, he knows that science won’t be the answer. It has to be magic that saves Arthur. Because the alternative is unthinkeable. And Merlin is the one to whom this task falls, as that dragon never fails to mention.

The dragon. An ancient creature of magic itself. Maybe It can help where the book could not. Maybe with Arthur’s life hanging in the balance, the thing will finally give Merlin more than cryptic remarks. If not, Merlin figures that, this time, he will simply have to be more convincing. With a renewed sense of purpose, Merlin sets out for the caves.

Hold on, Arthur.

Comments

( 23 have dazzled me — Dazzle me )
abbyleaf101
Oct. 29th, 2008 03:13 pm (UTC)
*broken sob* Seriously, my lips are trembling.
You wrote this so well! Merlin's desperation and heart-ache, and the image of Arthur you threw up to dance before my eyelids *shudder*
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:22 pm (UTC)
You wrote this so well! Merlin's desperation and heart-ache, and the image of Arthur you threw up to dance before my eyelids *shudder*

Aww, thank you so much. I'm really glad you liked it. Sickbed-schmoop is one of my kins. :)
abbyleaf101
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
My pleasure! I live for Hurt/Comfort
kat_fanfic
Oct. 29th, 2008 03:27 pm (UTC)
Very nice! Poor Merlin... *g*
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Also, Merlin has his work cut out for him when it comes to protecting Arthur. :)
duskwillow
Oct. 29th, 2008 03:45 pm (UTC)
Great fic.
I love Merlin's determination to find a way to cure Arthur. :)
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you muchly. Those two are just so protective of each other, it fills me with glee.
nachekana
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
Those boys just keep saving each other, it's all they can do!

I told you how much I loved already, emo-porn is really the best!

PS: In the third paragraph starting from the end, you left the (his?) that I wrote in ignoring the ache in (his?) limbs. =D
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
I told you how much I loved already, emo-porn is really the best!

Deep down beneath my cynical exterior beats the heart of a true schmooper. *g*

PS: In the third paragraph starting from the end, you left the (his?) that I wrote in ignoring the ache in (his?) limbs. =D

Thank you. My mind is all over the place today. :)
bleu4bleu
Oct. 29th, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, poor boys. :(

Very nice.
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
Oh, poor boys. :(

We only hurt the ones we love, don't we? :)

Thank you muchly, glad you liked.
demon_faith
Oct. 29th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
That's a lovely piece of back story to Whipping Boy - thank you.
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 07:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. Merlin is eating my brain at the moment. Glad you liked. :)
_profiterole_
Oct. 29th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)
Oh, poor Arthur! And poor Merlin being all worried for his Prince! *cuddles*
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 07:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, poor Arthur! And poor Merlin being all worried for his Prince! *cuddles*

Awww. Just how I love them best. Thank you muchly, glad you enjoyed it. :)
julesoh
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:48 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure how I missed this oiginally but it's fantastic - really gripping, and oh! Merlin is so worried! Great fic, thanks for posting!
astri13
Oct. 29th, 2008 09:34 pm (UTC)
and oh! Merlin is so worried!

Poor thing. *pets him* Thank you so much. Glad you enjoyed.
jade_dragoness
Oct. 31st, 2008 10:56 am (UTC)
I adore protective and worried Merlin. *sighs happily*

Excellent prequel!
astri13
Oct. 31st, 2008 03:37 pm (UTC)
Awww, thank you so much. Glad you liked. :)
tamid_levad
Oct. 31st, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
Hurt Arthur + Worried Merlin = WIN WIN WIN! XD Great fic!
astri13
Oct. 31st, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
Awww, thank you muchly, glad you thought so. :)
dotfic
Dec. 30th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)
Oh, Merlin. You get his desperation and his worry across strongly.
astri13
Jan. 2nd, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you muchly, glad it worked. :)
( 23 have dazzled me — Dazzle me )

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