Fic: It's Only a Flesh Wound (Merlin, Arthur/Merlin)
Title: It’s Only a Flesh Wound
Characters: Arthur, Merlin (Arthur/Merlin)
Rating: PG / standard
Spoilers: nothing specific
Genre: fluff, hurt/comfort
Warnings: lots of blood, medieval medical procedure
Summary: Merlin underestimates how sharp Arthur’s sword in and slices his hand open, right up the arm. Arthur is definitely not worried by this, no, not at all.
For this kinkmeme prompt: Arthur/Merlin, fluff: Clumsy Merlin has to polish Arthur's sword and cuts his hand in the process. When Arthur comes back, just to find a bleeding Merlin in his chamber, he's all overprotective of his servant.
Arthur’s sword hadn’t looked that sharp. And to be honest, it hadn’t felt that sharp until it was most of the way through Merlin’s hand and traveling down his wrist, and then suddenly it felt a bit strange; painful and numb at the same time. Merlin pulled the sword away from his hand and looked at the tattered remains of the polishing cloth, neatly sliced down the middle.
Then he looked at his hand; neatly sliced down the middle from top to bottom, right into the big vein in his wrist and welling up blood that was threatening to tip and spill from his hand and onto the floor, and Arthur would be furious if he got back and there was blood everywhere and a bloody sword. Arthur hated blood being left on his sword, or on his armour — he was fond of repeating that blood is red because it causes rust, even if Merlin thought that probably wasn’t true, if you looked at Natural Philosophy, because rain wasn’t red. Usually. Except for that time with the Grand High Warlock of Umbria, and that had been a misunderstanding.
Merlin was suddenly aware of something damp running down his wrist. Oh balls, he had got it on the floor just by daydreaming and not cleaning up right away. There was a lot of blood. A lot. And his head was blank when it came to mending spells, and he wasn’t sure mending spells worked on humans, anyway; it’d be too close to healing magic. He shoved his hand into a fold of his shirt, awkwardly trying to mop up the blood with his own clothes, aware that he was shaking, and feeling a bit light-headed.
Just as he was about to try to deal with the sword with his good hand, the door was shoved open and Arthur breezed in.
“Tell me you’re finished, Merlin, and then we can go and see if we can get another skin of that wine from the—” he began, and then he stopped.
“There’s been a bit of an accident,” said Merlin, hot and cold all over, knowing that he was blushing right to the tips of his ears.
Arthur was crouching in front of him quicker than thinking, and didn’t even bother with niceties — he tore Merlin’s bloody shirt, looking for the wound.
“Where is it?” he asked. “Where are you hurt?”
“My—my hand,” said Merlin, and Arthur grabbed his wrist, gingerly pulling away the sodden fabric.
“Did someone do this to you?” he asked. “Who did this? How did this happen?”
“I, um,” said Merlin, closing his eyes. “I was polishing your sword. Like you wanted.”
He was feeling shaky and off-kilter, his heart pounding very fast. Too fast. He’d seen a man die before from losing too much blood, and Merlin didn’t want that to happen to him. Not for the first time, he wished that he could do healing magic, proper healing magic, but the balance had to be kept — to heal one person, you had to take from another. And Merlin couldn’t do that, not in any good conscience, and his conscience was black enough already.
“It’s okay; I just want to see,” said Arthur, his voice soft, and Merlin felt like he was looking at himself from outside his body — it wasn’t hurting so much anymore, and he could see the little things, like Arthur’s hands shaking as he took Merlin’s bloody hand between his own. The tips of Merlin’s fingers were already drying off to brown, but the palm of his hand was still livid red, bright blood welling up through the deep cut that ran all the way down the centre of his palm and into his wrist, the pale skin flapping nauseatingly open where the edges of the wound were. Arthur winced.
“You’re lucky you didn’t take your whole hand off,” he said, and Merlin tried to dig his arm into his shirt again to stop the bleeding — he was going to get blood on Arthur, he was going to— “No, stop; we don’t want to get dirt into the wound,” Arthur continued, “and your shirt, Merlin, is liable to make your hand rot and drop off.”
“Wouldn’t want that, would we?” asked Merlin, hearing the tremble in his voice. Arthur shook his head.
“Hold on. I’ll get you something clean, and then we’ll get you down to Gaius.”
“I don’t think I can walk,” said Merlin, as Arthur got up, rummaging through a drawer.
“Ridiculous,” said Arthur, his gentle touch as he wrapped a scarf around Merlin’s wound belying his gruff words. “Of course you can walk. It’s just a scratch, Merlin. Gaius will be furious with us for wasting his time.”
But Arthur’s hands were shaking, and he was pale — Arthur knew as well as Merlin did that too much blood lost could mean the end of a man, even if the wound was not mortal. Arthur put his hand under Merlin’s chin, running his thumb over Merlin’s jawline, making Merlin look at him.
“I’m not having you walking the corridors with me while you’re half-naked and shivering and bleeding,” he said, and Merlin knew what he was doing — what Arthur always did, tried to make things better by being blustery and affectionate. Arthur smiled weakly. “So, come on. Arms out.”
Merlin held out his arms and let Arthur pull one of his own shirts over Merlin’s head, his black one, woven from fine wool, far too fine for a manservant, but warm against Merlin’s cold body. Arthur tugged the shirt down.
“Better,” he said, brushing Merlin’s hair back from his forehead. “Come on. Up.”
Merlin was still shivering, his legs wobbly like a new-born colt, and Arthur caught him by his good arm, keeping him on his unsteady feet.
“There,” he said. “Now walk. You remember how to walk, don’t you Merlin? Or did your brain leak out of your hand along with most of your blood?”
“It wasn’t most of my blood,” said Merlin, as Arthur’s scarf turned red in the palm of his hand. “It was just some of—” He swayed, nearly falling, and Arthur shook his head.
“All right,” he said, and as Merlin’s legs failed him and he crumpled again, he picked Merlin up. Merlin gasped and spluttered — he wasn’t a maiden — and Arthur made a couple of nondescript noises that could have been ye gods, my back, and then flung Merlin onto the bed. He vanished, as the canopy gently wobbled and spun over Merlin’s head.
He heard Arthur, as if it were in a dream. “You there! Go and get Gaius for me! Run! Tell him to bring poultices to staunch the flow of blood!”
Arthur returned and sat with him, holding the bloodied scarf tight on the wound, and Merlin listened as Arthur spoke.
“Who would have known you’d have so much blood in your damn hand?” he asked, quietly. “You’re not to run out of it, you hear? You’re not to run out of blood for something so silly as polishing my sword. You’re too important to run out of blood. I won’t have it.”
“Mmm,” said Merlin, meaning to say “I’m not going to,” but the words got tripped up somewhere between his throat and his tongue.
“My lord!” said a voice. Gaius. Merlin could feel Arthur’s hands on his own, the pressure of Arthur’s fingers on the wound the thing that was keeping him grounded and safe.
“Gaius,” said Arthur, and his voice sounded thick, a bit fuzzy. “Help me.”
“Oh, Merlin, what on earth has happened this time?” asked Gaius, and Merlin opened his eyes, wetting dry lips, but he didn’t quite manage to say anything.
“Sssh,” said Arthur, brushing Merlin’s fringe back. “It’s all right. You can explain once you’re well.” He paused. “I think he cut his hand open polishing my sword. It’s a clean cut, along the palm and into the wrist, but he’s hit something in his wrist that’s gushing like a damn fountain.”
“Ah, yes,” said Gaius. “Wrists are tricky things. Come on, then, let me look. If he’s lost a lot of blood, his humours will be out of balance, too — I don’t think he’s lost enough to put him in any danger, but he’ll be weak and cold until he gets back to rights. Blood is very heating, and the shock of hurting himself badly is enough to make it run cold for a while.”
“I left him for only the shortest time,” said Arthur, as Gaius prodded at Merlin’s wrist. Merlin made a little noise of complaint, and that was enough to get Arthur’s hand on his forehead again, soothing and gentle. “I should have known that the idiot would get himself hurt indoors, on his own.”
Arthur sounded more confident now that he’d been told Merlin wasn’t in danger, Merlin thought, and Gaius chuckled.
“My lord, may I suggest you send a servant for some water and a cloth? You both look as if you’ve been trying to kill one another up here,” he said. “This is a deep cut — I shall have to stitch it closed, and…”
“No,” said Merlin, everything managing to line up for a few seconds, sudden panic cutting through the numbness and the strangeness. “No, I’m okay, we’ll just bandage it and…”
“Man up,” said Arthur, not getting up to fetch servants or water at all. “You can drink some of the wine I didn’t finish last night, and I’ll hold your hand so you’ve got something to grab, and if you cry on me then I’ll stitch you myself.” He leaned close. “And I don’t know how to sew.”
He got up, then, and Merlin felt the absence of his warm body keenly — he was cold, now, except for his wrist, which was burning like fire where Gaius was prodding at it.
“Merlin,” he said, quietly. “You must be still while I sew it, or else the blood will not stop, and you could very well…yes. Let Arthur give you some of the wine to calm your nerves, and then bite down on something hard, and you will be all right. If it’s possible for you to ease the way, then I suggest that you —”
“Water is on its way,” said Arthur, and Merlin closed his eyes, wracking his brains for a suitable spell, and coming up with nothing. “And new bedlinens; you’ve ruined these ones. Now, open.”
Merlin opened his eyes a crack to see Arthur brandishing the wineskin from the night before, and then he felt it against his lips, the metal rim cool against his skin.
Unwatered, the wine was strong and bitter, and he choked a bit on it, but he could feel it warming him down the length of his spine, out to his chest, up to his cheeks. Gaius was organising something off to the side, but Merlin could only see Arthur; Arthur, who was coaxing him to have just a little more, and then who gave him something to bite that tasted of leather and salt, and took his hand.
“All right,” said Gaius. “Just relax, Merlin, and this’ll be done quickly.”
It wasn’t done quickly. It felt like a year passed between the start of the stitching and the end, Merlin crushing Arthur’s hand under his and Arthur stroking Merlin’s hair like he was some sort of frightened animal. The threats of sewing it himself were gone, replaced with a gentle murmur of praise and cajoling; you’re doing so well, almost there, just a little more. Merlin barely registered when Gaius finished, and Arthur coaxed his stiff jaw apart to remove the thing between his teeth, and then there was warm water that stung a little being gently sponged across his arm.
Merlin looked at the stitching, through a haze of pain — Gaius had done a good, clean job. There was no alarming flap of skin anymore, and Gaius spread salve on it, bandaging it tight.
“Sit up,” said Arthur, pulling Merlin up and carrying him again, settling him on a large chair. Merlin was vaguely aware of other servants in the room, someone changing the bed, someone else cleaning the sword as Arthur washed the blood from his own hands, pulled off his ruined shirt and wiped off any stray streaks. Merlin was sleepy from the wine, and still cold, and the pain in his wrist was terrible. Gaius cleaned the blood off Merlin’s other hand, his hands firm and practiced where Arthur’s had been a little shaky and tentative.
“He’ll be all right,” said Gaius. “I don’t think we should move him for another few hours; he needs some rest before resuming his duties.”
“Very well,” said Arthur. “Have the kitchens send two dinners up here. Someone needs to keep an eye on him; I’m sure he’s clumsy enough to injure himself in his sleep.”
“I’m not clumsy,” said Merlin, but it came out more like “Mnnnnr,” and Arthur shook his head.
“I know,” he said, “Now, all of you, leave us. If Merlin needs rest, then rest he shall get. I dislike being without a servant.”
Gaius hugged him before he left, with an admonition to be careful, and Arthur closed the door, helping Merlin to his feet.
“Really,” he said. “Do you enjoy terrifying me?”
“I live for it,” Merlin said, and Arthur laughed.
“Take off those bloody trousers. I’ll give you some of mine to wear. You don’t seem to have messed up the shirt too badly, so you can keep that on if you’re cold.”
“I’m freezing,” said Merlin, resting against Arthur’s shoulder.
“Good for you,” said Arthur, “get changed. You’ve caused me quite enough trouble this afternoon without explaining two sets of bloody bedsheets.”
Merlin burrowed under the covers once he was changed, realising belatedly that Arthur was changing too, even though it was still light outside. He pulled on the loose trousers he liked to wear for sleep, but didn’t bother with a shirt. The bed dipped when Arthur sat on it, and he had a book in his hands, a marker sticking up about half-way through. Arthur’s back was smooth and warm, and Merlin reached out his good hand to stroke Arthur’s skin.
“I didn’t want to go to that feast, anyway,” said Arthur, climbing under the covers, holding out an arm so that Merlin could snuggle in against his side. “Good grief, you’re freezing.”
“I told you,” said Merlin, as Arthur pressed his lips to Merlin’s forehead.
“Don’t you ever do that again,” he said, his voice low and tight. “I mean it, Merlin. If I have to chain you to me to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, I will.”
“You wouldn’t dare,” said Merlin, because Arthur was wonderfully warm, and his bare skin was soft under Merlin’s cheek.
“I’ll wake you for dinner,” said Arthur, resting his head on Merlin’s, and picking up his book. “If you’re lucky, I’ll make you stay up here for a week.”
“Mmm,” Merlin sighed. “And if I snore?”
“There are some things a prince must bear, for the protection of those more fragile and stupid than himself,” said Arthur, and Merlin yawned. “Rest, Merlin. Gaius was right; that much blood loss will mean your humours are out of whack, and I don’t need you more unbalanced than you normally are.”
Merlin snuggled in and let himself drift, as Arthur tangled his fingers in Merlin’s hair. Arthur adjusted his grip to hold Merlin closer, and he pressed his lips to Merlin’s forehead again, putting down the book and holding Merlin with both arms; and even though his hand was hurting and the shakiness of cold fear was only just leaving his body, Merlin fell asleep, feeling safe, and warm, and loved.