kageygirl: (arthur puppy-dog eyes)
[personal profile] kageygirl
My darling [livejournal.com profile] shetiger was having an unfortunate day yesterday, so I wrote her some fluff. Best way to ring in the new year, right? *g*

Merlin/Arthur, PG, 1400 words.

Summary: Sometimes, "a close thing" becomes a closer thing.


Very Nearly


"So he's this stubborn about everything, then."

"I'm afraid so, sire."

And thus Merlin knew he wasn't dead, because in his (limited, and would that it continued to be so) personal experience, people did not mock the dead.

Then he tried to open his eyes, and he wished that he had been mistaken. Because the dead, he sincerely hoped, did not feel nearly so much pain.

A shadow fell over him, dimming the light boring into his skull, and a hand settled on his forehead. "Come now, Merlin, and reassure Arthur that your brain is no more scrambled now than it was this morning."

"Hey," Merlin said--quietly, though. "I thought the injured were supposed to get sympathy." But he opened his eyes, because--well. Not that he really believed Gaius about Arthur worrying. But--anyway, he opened his eyes.

Gaius was bent over him, of course, giving him a look that was part sympathy and mostly amusement, and shouldn't that have been the other way around? "Welcome back," he said, and offered Merlin a vial before saying anything else.

This, unfortunately, had happened often enough that Merlin accepted the potion without protest. He was even fairly certain that Gaius kept that particular blue vial on hand just for pain remedies for Merlin, which was a disheartening commentary on his life at Camelot.

Speaking of--he looked past Gaius, and there indeed was Arthur, watching him with arms folded over his chest, resplendent in his full armour. A little too resplendent, actually--the sun angling through the window glared off his plate. Merlin winced and closed his eyes.

"The injured," Arthur said, "only get sympathy when the injury is not their own fault." But Merlin heard him take a step to the side, mail links jingling softly. He remembered, then--they'd been sparring, which meant Arthur had been sparring and Merlin had been unwillingly learning about blocking. But it all went a bit hazy after that.

Merlin opened his eyes again. "What happened?"

"You managed to find the only rabbit hole on the entire training field. The hard way." Arthur's face was in shadow now, but there was no mistaking the sardonic tilt of his head or lilt of his voice. "Congratulations."

"Thanks," Merlin said. That explained why his ankle hurt, too, though he'd only just noticed it, as his head quieted a bit.

Gaius turned away to look at Arthur. "Your highness, might I ask you to fetch a compress? I left it on my workbench, and my knees are not what they used to be."

"Of course," Arthur said, nodding to Gaius.

He descended the steps, and Gaius leaned in close to Merlin. "From what I gather, he struck a blow to your helmet, and you tripped and knocked yourself into a stone--there's a nasty lump on the back of your head, though I daresay it could have been much worse." Gaius patted him on the shoulder, then gave him a more serious look. "Go easy on him, Merlin--he thought he'd done you a terrible injury."

"Go easy on him?" Merlin asked, disbelieving, but then Arthur was back, and Gaius looked about to unleash the eyebrow. So Merlin settled for frowning and trying to feel the back of his head without lifting his neck any more than he had to.

Gaius helped him get the compress in place--oh, there it was, Merlin thought, sucking in a breath, a sizeable lump, more tender than the rest.

After a smile and another shoulder pat, Gaius stood up and turned to Arthur again. "He'll need to rest a bit more, and to stay off that ankle for a few days." He looked between the two of them. "I don't think I need to explain that he should also avoid blows to the head."

"But you'll do it anyway," Merlin muttered, because why was Arthur getting Merlin's instructions? He was hurt, not insensible.

"Sometimes, I don't know why I bother," Gaius said, making a face at him. Merlin laughed, and then regretted it as his head throbbed. Gaius watched him for a moment, then waved him off and made his way down to his workroom, closing the door on his way out.

Arthur stepped closer, arms still folded, the ghost of a smile on his lips. "So, you've found a new way to slack off on your duties. Very industrious of you."

"I had help, apparently," Merlin said, raising his eyebrows at Arthur. Something solemn and dark whisked across Arthur's face, wiping away all traces of humour, and Merlin wished he could call the words back. He started to push himself into a sitting position, but pain spiked down his neck, and all his attention went to breathing through it.

When the pain ebbed, there was an arm around his shoulders and a hand on his chest, holding him up. Arthur had taken off his gloves at some point, and his hand was pale against Merlin's blue tunic. When he could keep himself steady, Merlin whispered, "I'm all right," in lieu of nodding, and Arthur leaned away from him. He kept one hand on Merlin's near shoulder, as if afraid he might topple over. Merlin didn't make an issue of it because he wasn't sure Arthur was wrong.

He gave it a moment before looking over at Arthur. His face was still serious, but the look in his eyes was growing lighter. "It's a good thing you decided to wake up when you did. I'd started considering all sorts of ridiculous things."

Merlin blinked at him. "Like what?"

There was a smile curling around Arthur's lips now. He dropped his chin and looked at Merlin through his lashes, and oh, Merlin very nearly hated that look, because it almost always got him into trouble. "There are tales that say a sleeper can be awakened by a kiss from a handsome prince."

"Oh," Merlin said, feeling his face grow hot. He swallowed, and put on his best polite, inquisitive expression, and asked, "Do you know any?"

Arthur broke out in a laugh, the kind that made him look boyish and carefree. "You're very lucky I've been given strict instructions not to hit you." His hand tightened on Merlin's shoulder, and his eyes narrowed. "For a while."

Merlin grinned back. "I'd be luckier if you'd decided to try out some of those ridiculous things you'd been thinking," and oh, look, there was trouble, right on schedule. Maybe he really had scrambled his brain. Maybe Arthur would believe that.

Maybe he needed to stop staring at Arthur, before Arthur got the wrong idea.

On the other hand, it did afford him a very good view of the look on Arthur's face, serious again, eyes wide. He felt Arthur's hand leave his shoulder and trail across his neck, over his chin, cupping his cheek with a warm palm. And he saw Arthur lean in ever so slowly, and Merlin turned into it, wetting his lips and drawing an uneven breath.

It was very nearly a chaste kiss, but then Arthur parted his lips, and it very much wasn't. It was heat and passion under the barest veneer of control, and Merlin let himself be lost in the rush of it.

Arthur finally pulled away and rested his forehead against Merlin's, both of them breathing fast and ragged. Merlin had gotten his hand wrapped around Arthur's wrist, and Arthur stroked his thumb across Merlin's cheek before letting him go. "Get some rest," he said, his voice rough. He didn't look at Merlin as he stood up. "Come see me when you've recovered."

"Arthur--" Merlin said, reaching out, bracing himself to stand. He wouldn't let Arthur leave like this, head and ankle be damned.

"Come see me when you've recovered," Arthur said again, in that same voice, low and strained, and this time he met Merlin's gaze. His eyes were blazing, hungry, and Merlin flushed hot at what he saw there.

"I will," he promised. Arthur gave a sharp nod, and then he was gone.

Merlin lay back down and recovered the compress from where it had fallen, though he'd come close to forgetting the headache entirely. For once, he had every intention of following Gaius's orders to the letter.

He had a recovery to make, and a prince to see.
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