Merlin drank the chalice, knowing it meant certain doom, and slipped into unconsciousness.
Except that he wasn't unconscious. Merlin looked around. He was in a plain, empty, white room. There was a man lying on a table and covered with a white sheet. Another man that looked identical to him was standing over the body. The man's brother, perhaps? The man turned and saw Merlin. "What are you doing here?" the man asked.
"I'm dying. You?"
"I'm dying, too. I'm Sherlock, and Molly here hopefully has a plan to stop me from dying."
He pointed to a woman there with her hair up in a tight ponytail. She was wearing a white lab coat. Merlin wasn't really sure what to do, so he just stood back and let the scene unfold.
"It's all well and clever having a Mind Palace, but you've only three seconds of consciousness left to use it," she said. Merlin wondered what a Mind Palace was. He suspected it had something to do with magic. Perhaps the poison had made him visit this 'Mind Palace'? It was all very strange. He kept listening as she continued talking. "So, come on – what's going to kill you?"
Sherlock looked down at the man on the table for a moment and then raised his head again. "Blood loss," he said confidently.
"Exactly," she replied, as if this was of the utmost importance. Had this man been poisoned, too? Merlin looked at the man on the table. It was the body of Sherlock, the man who was still alive. The body had a small, circular wound. Not poison then. But this Sherlock was apparently still dying. Merlin and Sherlock looked back at Molly.
"So, it's all about one thing now," she said. "Forwards, or backwards?" The three of them moved to a room, and again there were two men, identical. Except that the one who wasn't moving was merely frozen in time. "We need to decide which way you're going to fall," Molly continued.
Merlin watched as Molly continued to tell Sherlock what to do. The scene changed many times as she and others coached Sherlock through all the aspects of not dying. Finally, Sherlock was gone, and Merlin was left alone with Molly. "Hi," he said.
"I'm Merlin." He thought for a moment. "You sure were helpful to that man."
She nodded. "I care about him very much."
"I know the feeling," Merlin said, thinking of Arthur. "Not that feelings matter much to me right now. I'm dying, too."
"I was poisoned. I can only be cured by this really rare flower that only grows in a cave, and the conditions around the cave are really dangerous. Arthur went to go get the flower to save me."
"That was very brave of him."
"Oh, he's a very brave man. Unlike the coward who poisoned me." Merlin jumped up in shock and gasped. "Whoever poisoned me knows that the cure can only be found at the cave. They'll have an ambush planned or something." He gasped for breath, trying to get his message out as best he could. "Arthur, it… it's a trap. It's a trap."
"That's all well and good, but what sort of man is he?" Molly asked, walking towards Merlin.
"I don't understand. Why does that matter?" Molly just looked at him. "He's a brave and courageous man. He'd run off into danger at a moment's notice."
Merlin thought for a moment. "Oh, I see. Even if Arthur knows it's a strap, he'll still go on. He'll rely on his strength and his 'wits' to save him."
"So you need to come up with a different strategy," Molly told him. Merlin nodded. "Now think. What do you have? What can you use to your advantage?"
"Um, I don't know." Molly looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Magic! I can use magic."
"Good. Now what can you do with your magic?"
"Well, I need to help Arthur get the flower right?" Merlin said slowly, his mind moving like molasses as the potion kept working its way through his body.
"Yes. How can you use magic to help him?"
"Where did you say he was going to get the flower?"
"He's in a... cave. Caves are... cold... And dark. He might not... He might need help... to... see." Merlin panted with the effort of speaking for so long.
"It's all right. Just breathe. Focus on your breathing. You can't go into shock. You need to relax, calm down, and just breathe," Molly told him. She pulled over a chair Merlin hadn't seen earlier, and he sat down for a moment. "Good. Now then, you said he needs help to see? Can you use your magic for that? Make a light, perhaps?"
Merlin nodded. "Fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme. Fromum feohgiftum," he said. Then he collapsed. Molly pulled a bed over just in time.
The scene changed. Merlin was back in Gaius's chamber, looking at himself lying in bed. Gaius and Gwen were standing nearby, looking very worried.
"You're dying more quickly than they expected. You can't afford to waste your energy," Molly told him. Merlin nodded. "No, don't even nod. Save your energy. What else can you do?" Merlin began to open his mouth. "No, don't tell me. Just do it." Merlin told Arthur to follow the light and moved the light to show him the way.
Molly looked at Merlin. "Well done."
"Before I go,"
"Don't say that! You need to keep up your strength."
"Before I go, I just want to say, you were fantastic. And do you know what?"
"What?" Molly asked as Merlin gasped for breath.
"So was I," Merlin said with a smile before slipping back into unconsciousness.
Merlin woke up to see Gaius hugging Gwen as she cried in his arms. "That's disgusting," he said. "You should be ashamed of yourself. You're old enough to be her grandfather."
"Merlin. You're alive," Gaius said with a giant smile on his face.
"No. I'm the ghost come back to haunt you," Merlin replied. He had made a full recovery, snark included.
Gwen ran up to Merlin and kissed him. Merlin was pleased and surprised, though he hoped Gwen wasn't actually in love with him- that might be too much to handle.
"Sorry, I'm just... I thought you were dead," Gwen apologized, breaking the spell. If a kiss can be called a spell. It certainly was an enchanting experience for Merlin.
"It's fine. It's more than fine," Merlin replied. He was back. Merlin was alive, thanks to Arthur, Sherlock, and Molly. He would probably never see the latter two again, but he would never forget them. He smiled, ready to face the world again.