The early morning sunlight bled through Merlin's window and settled onto his pale face when the next day came, prompting the warlock's eyes to flicker open. Slowly, Merlin began to awaken properly and judging by how he was feeling, he able to figure out that this was not his ordinary awakening hour.
His feelings of discomfort would fade, however, when he remembered one little thought that he went to bed with.
Merlin sat up in his bed as if he'd just been startled and made to grab a book off of the floor. The whooshing sounds of the sheets being yanked away were clear as day to him but that was not what he was listening out for.
Holding the book in his hand, Merlin very carefully traced a nail over the spine and listened out for the scratching sound he knew should've joined it.
He noticed the difference immediately.
Merlin recalled the sound of the quill's end from the older night as he wrote away at Arthur's speech. He recalled his own little elation at the idea of being able to hear finer sounds again as drifted to sleep. The quill he could just about make out but this, Merlin could hear completely.
There was no ringing or buzzing, not even a faint buzzing. His head jerked up in the direction of his window as one clear sound replaced another.
He'd heard bird songs outside his window over the last few days, each day's song being sharper than the older. This was the clearest they'd been since the hunt.
Exhilaration bubbled within the pit of his stomach at the revelation.
His magic had cured the rest of his hearing overnight, just like how he'd predicted.
"Thank God." he thought. Everything could go back to normal now. Well, as normal as life was for the man also known as the 'greatest sorcerer to ever walk the Earth' who was living in Camelot.
In his excited daze, Merlin forgot about the fact that it was still early in the morning and headed for the door to greet his mentor with the news. He flung it open expecting to see the older man mixing the same potion from last night, only to stumble into the main quarters on him still sleeping.
The ward was about to shout a cheery "Good morning!" which he hadn't done in a while but was able to stop himself upon seeing Gaius sleeping. As quietly as he could, Merlin turned on his heels to head back into his own room, not counting on a perched broom getting in his way.
With a loud clank, the broom hit the floor, making Merlin both cringe at the sound that should've surely woken Gaius, and smile at the fact that he could hear it with no issue.
"Merlin, what are you doing?" a calm but also distinctively annoyed voice called from across the shared quarters. Merlin slowly turned back around and met eyes with Gaius, who was now lazily sat upright in his bed. He couldn't believe how clear Gaius sounded given his distance from him, there was no buzzing accompanying his question either.
"Uhm, you know, getting breakfast…" replied Merlin, trying to conceal the knocked over broom that lay next to him.
Gaius raised an eyebrow at Merlin's terrible attempt at hiding what he saw him do. "That broom won't pick itself up, you know." he stated whilst lifting himself out of the bed.
Now it was Merlin's turn for the witty remark. "No, unless I make it." he turned and smiled at his mentor, hoping he wouldn't get slapped for the magic joke. Luckily, Gaius was too far away.
It took a second for the physician to realise that his ward didn't seem to be lipreading or pausing very much before answering him.
"You can hear me?" he finally said, hoping it to be true.
Merlin had bent down to pick up the broom and didn't bother to stand up again before turning to face Gaius. "Yes, all too clearly in fact."
Gaius felt his lips peel back into a smile. He was elated that Merlin's hearing was back, having full knowledge of the mental toll his ward had been through over the last couple of days. He could also plainly see the young man's quirk and cheeriness at this fact, even if he'd tried to sheepishly hide knocking a broom over.
But that was just what Merlin was like, and it was one of the reasons why Gaius loved Merlin as if he were his own son.
"That's very good, Merlin," Gaius admitted as he went behind a screen to change into his daytime robes. "I'm sure Arthur will be happy with the news."
"What, so he can take me on another hunt?" Merlin answered sarcastically from afar, deciding to actually start preparing breakfast for the two.
"I doubt you'll go on another hunt this week," replied Gaius, emerging from behind the screen. "But even if you do, Arthur will probably keep a closer eye on you."
Merlin didn't answer and continued making the breakfasts, carrying them over to the table once he was done. He sat himself down and waited for Gaius to join before starting.
"I wish that he knew I'm capable of defending myself."
Gaius paused a moment whilst rummaging through the many vials on his workbench and looked in Merlin's direction. A hint of sadness creased the young man's features and the older man knew all too well why.
"He knows that you are, otherwise he wouldn't take you with him, Merlin."
The younger man didn't look up from his breakfast. "Yeah, he knows that I can swing a sword around or use a crossbow," Merlin broke up his thoughts and picked up a spoon between them. "But he doesn't know what I can really do."
"Not yet he doesn't," Gaius said firmly from where he stood, intending to get through to his ward. It made Merlin look up from his wallowing thoughts as he faced his mentor, unsurety reflecting in his eyes.
"But he will do, one day. He'll see you for who you are instead of what you are. And right now, I assume what you are is hungry. So, I suggest eating that before I do." Gaius said, pointing the vial in his hand to Merlin's breakfast.
Merlin took in what the physician had said carefully, knowing what he truly meant. Gaius may have been a stubborn old man at times, (or stubborn old goat, as he'd once called him) but he possessed a knack with words. A knack that seemed to work on Merlin, who was now feeling more uplifted thanks to his mentor's words. He knew that the time would come one day for Arthur to find out about his magic. And as confident as the man was in his thoughts, even if it didn't go that way, Merlin knew that Gaius would be there for him.
So, with that knowledge safely kept within him, the younger man smiled at the fatherly physician, which expressed the gratitude he was feeling inside. Gaius saw this and made to join Merlin for breakfast once he'd organised his vials.
During their breakfast, Merlin engaged in a full flowing conversation for the first time in days. It felt weird to him, which wasn't what he was expecting. Gaius performed a couple of mini-assessments at the table to test if Merlin could hear whispering or other sounds, all of which he passed. Giving him the confidence to say that Merlin's hearing had fully returned.
When the pair were almost done with their breakfast, Gaius broke the short silence between them.
"You're sure you won't need any potion to help with head pain?" he asked, referring to Merlin's bruise that appeared the other day.
"No, I'm telling you, that's gone too," Merlin started to answer. He ruffled his hair on the part of his head where they bruise once lay and showed his mentor that what he was saying was true. "See?" Merlin didn't even check in anything reflective to see if the bruise had actually gone, he could just sense that it was no longer there. His magic must've taken care of that too, he thought.
"I do hope Arthur doesn't become suspicious of that." Gaius stated, suddenly concerned about the matter.
"Trust me, he'll be too happy that I'm back to normal to question it." Merlin knew deep-down that he was right, but that didn't stop him from silently praying that the clotpole didn't ask. Even if he did, he'd just have to say that he got lucky, or it was a miracle.
"Fair enough then." replied the old physician to his ward.
Not much time had passed when their short silence was interrupted again, this time by Merlin. He'd been used to near silence for days and didn't like it. Now that he could hear again, he wasn't going to waste the air that was so desperate to be filled with sounds.
"Right, I'm off then." chirped Merlin as he stood to put his breakfast things away.
"You can't wake the King up yet, it's far too early," pointed out Gaius as he himself rose from his seat. "He'll be in a foul mood if you do."
"Believe me, I know that," responded Merlin truthfully. He'd been on the receiving end of Arthur's grumpy moods many times before and they weren't always amusing. Though sometimes, it was the prat's own fault why he was in such a mood in the first place. "And that's not where I'm going, not yet."
"Oh? Then where are you going, Merlin?" inquired the physician, almost in a judgemental tone. One of which Merlin could hear perfectly from where he'd gone. Gaius was confused as to where Merlin would go at this hour. After all, he never did what a servant in his position was supposed to do before awakening the King.
Merlin stumbled out of his own room for the second time that morning and opened his mouth to speak, eyes and ears fully synchronising with each other for the first time in days.
"I just have a few errands to run is all," he responded in honesty, Merlin would get to Arthur when he was ready. "Erm, have you seen my red necker?" Merlin asked, suddenly realising that he wasn't wearing it.
"It's probably in your room on the floor like it always is. One wouldn't believe that you have a cupboard in there." wittily responded Gaius, glad to be able to have a normal conversation with Merlin again. He'd missed it more than he thought he would.
Merlin ran back into his room once more and shouted "Ah, got it!" to his mentor once he'd found the necker in question. He came back out to find Gaius now stood at his workbench clutching the same potion from the last evening.
Gaius spoke without taking eyes off the potion, staring at it deeply to see how much more he needed to mix it. "And what errands are you in need of running today? Aside from your usual duties." asked Gaius, genuinely curious.
"I'm getting some flowers for Gwen, as a way to say thank you for mine." Merlin stated, unashamed.
"Ah, yes. I was here when she dropped them off. It was most kind of her."
Merlin nodded. "Exactly, that's why I'm getting some."
"Well, make sure you're not late for Arthur," Gaius called as Merlin headed for the door, now ready to leave. "And Merlin?"
The man in question turned around just before the door, unsure as to what his mentor wanted.
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Gaius said, not alluding to anything in particular.
Merlin thought for a moment, and another moment, and another, until he grasped what Gaius meant.
"Ah, yeah," Merlin answered, confirming he and Gaius were on the same page at last. "I'll pick it up before I see the royal prat. He'll probably need it, after all." he replied, the speech would only get in the way of flower picking anyway.
Gaius gave an understanding nod to his ward and the scruffy haired manservant went on his way.
Not very long later, Merlin could be seen walking through the castle halls clutching a small bouquet of flowers. The occasional passer-by would think that the flowers were for a lucky girl that had wooed Merlin's heart, others thought that he was delivering them on behalf of King Arthur, and some even thought they were for the King himself. Whoever it was that was to receive flowers from Merlin, they were obviously worthy. Everyone knew that.
Merlin was turning a corner when he bumped into him. The brunette dark-haired knight, popular amongst the ladies of Camelot. It could only have been Sir Gwaine.
"Oh! Merlin!" Gwaine exclaimed excitedly like a puppy. "You're in a hurry," he pointed out. Then, he looked to the flowers in Merlin's hands. "I wonder who these are for?" the knight asked, making to pretend to grab them from the other man.
Merlin pulled the flowers, and his hands, away. "They're not for you, I can tell you that for free." he replied in a joking tone with not a second of hesitation.
Gwaine blinked. "You can hear me?" he asked, staring intensely and with anticipation at Merlin.
Merlin, on the other hand, didn't answer and proceeded to pull a confused face at the knight.
Gwaine's face dropped the second that Merlin's did. He feared that he was wrong.
"Merlin?" he uttered with clear concern showing in his voice. He would never bother to hide it where his friends were concerned.
The response he got was not what Gwaine had expected. He watched as Merlin's features creased into a smile and saw a laugh come after. It was a typical Merlin laugh, full of charm and sparky awkwardness.
He quickly caught on to what he was doing.
"Oh! You!" Gwaine jokingly scolded, punching Merlin lightly in the arm for the scare. He then joined Merlin in the laughter.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't help it." Merlin started once he'd done laughing.
"Don't do that to the princess," Gwaine said, composing himself finally. "You'll end up in the stocks for scaring him."
"Gwaine, you know I'll end up in the stocks either way." replied Merlin. Yet, he had full knowledge that he hadn't been in the stocks for years despite Arthur's threats, which weren't really threats at all.
"You make a good point, my friend," responded Gwaine. He looked again at the small bouquet that took up the manservant's hands. "So, who are these for? The princess?"
Merlin felt something warm erupt from his cheeks but whatever it was faded within seconds as he opened his mouth to respond.
"They're for Gwen, actually," he said, earning a confused looking eyebrow raise from the dark-haired knight. "She got me flowers the other day, this is a 'thank you'." the eyebrow slowly lowered itself on Gwaine's face at his friend's reason.
"Ah, well, that might be difficult for you, Merlin." he stated aloud.
Gwaine then started to explain to the other man. "She and Elyan were up early this morning, earlier than you no doubt," Merlin listened carefully. "Elyan did tell me where they were going last night, but I was at the tavern and…"
Merlin gave a knowing smile. "I can gather the rest," he said, adding another smile onto the end. "Did he say when they were going to be back?"
Gwaine gave his answer. "I think later this evening, around about the time you should be fetching his majesties royal dinner."
Merlin nodded in acknowledgment. "Well, there goes one part of my plan," he uttered mostly to himself.
He then had an idea.
"Wait, you'll see Elyan when he gets back right? That means you'll see Gwen," Gwaine nodded as he followed Merlin's words. "Would you give these to her and say they're from me? I need to head back to my chambers to fetch something before I wake Arthur."
Gwaine didn't even have to know Merlin's request in full detail in order to agree to do it. "Yeah, don't worry, I'll give these to her." he smiled at Merlin as the other man handed him the flowers.
"And make sure you say they're from me and why." Merlin added, knowing what Gwaine was like.
"Of course, Merlin. Where are you headed now?" the knight asked the servant as he watched him move off to leave.
A beat could've sounded between them. "The armoury. Well, after my chambers, that is."
Gwaine nodded. "Ah, of course," he said. He then called out to Merlin who had walked off in a sort-of hurry. "Will I see you later?"
The raven-haired man called back. "Probably, it depends if that prat lets me go early." Merlin didn't care if the other servants could hear him call Arthur a prat, they knew that he did that all the time. He was the only one that could get away with it unpunished.
Well, sometimes unpunished.
Gwaine laughed in response and went on his way, intending to keep the flowers in his own quarters until he saw Elyan and Gwen later.
Over the last few days, Arthur had been waking up on his own accord, without Merlin dragging him out of bed, or blinding him with the sunlight, or stuffing food into his mouth.
He couldn't lie, ever since the deafness revelation of his manservant, Arthur had been on edge. He would never tell anyone, not even Merlin, of the dreams, no, nightmares he'd been having of the situation.
The picture was always blurry but Arthur could see what was happening just fine. He'd see Merlin on the ground again, that same patch of ground he lay on as the bandit made to swing for him. Although this time, the bandit's weapon swung in full force, and it would cut out there, leaving Arthur looking at an even blurrier picture encased in a terrible ringing noise. He imagined that the noise was similar to what Merlin had been hearing recently and he didn't like it.
He supposed the edginess and intensity from the nightmares scared him enough to wake up before Merlin got to his chambers. Every time he woke up from them, he'd remember that it was just a dream, and in reality, that hadn't happened.
It didn't stop him from worrying though.
The cycle had repeated itself again. Arthur's eyes shot open to his empty chambers, scanning for the familiar form of his manservant, who should be there holding his version of 'breakfast' or even looking for woodworm.
"Oh yeah." Arthur thought in his slightly delirious thoughts from just waking up.
He wondered if Merlin had written it yet or if he'd remembered that he said he would.
As Arthur started to get dressed by himself, he concluded that his scruffy manservant wouldn't be turning up to help. So, the King decided to find his friend himself.
It seemed that for a few days now, Arthur had been chasing, (or stomping around,) to find Merlin.
He was definitely the only person he would ever do that for.
Around the same time that Arthur was waking up earlier than usual, Merlin was just entering the armoury with a well-written on scroll in hand. He'd been to fetch it from his chambers and discovered that Gaius wasn't there. Apparently, he'd been summoned to a young man that had broken his leg somewhere in the citadel.
In Merlin's head, he knew he hadn't done a proper job of sharpening Arthur's sword the other day. He just so happened to be distracted by the lack of one of his senses. He also knew that Arthur would probably need it soon, whether it be for training or patrol, or even another hunt.
Merlin shuddered at the thought.
The next time Arthur dragged him along to another hunt, Merlin vowed to be more vigilant. The loss of his hearing for a short while had taught the warlock to rely mostly on his vision to interpret anything. Words, other people's actions, and possible danger.
Plus, it would stop the clotpole from fretting over him if they were ever attacked by bandits again. In a way, he was doing it for both Arthur and himself.
Merlin gazed upon the empty armoury and sat himself down, placing the rolled-up scroll next to him. His plan was to sharpen Arthur's sword and then go and get him up. It was pretty simple, but things never always went to plan in Camelot.
Arthur entered the castle hallways with meaning. He was not angry; he could never be with Merlin given the situation he was in. He was just concerned as to where he was, again.
Merlin should've recovered by now. Arthur knew this. He had to see if it was true.
His feet took him in the direction of Merlin and Gaius' shared chambers as Arthur's instinct told him that he must still be there. What he didn't interpret was bumping into Sir Gwaine. The feeling of déjà vu struck again within the King.
"Have you seen Merlin?" Arthur asked his knight after their short greetings with each other.
Gwaine nodded knowingly. "Yes, actually. I saw him not too long ago,"
Arthur studied the other man, trying to see if he was alluding to where Merlin could be. He got nothing from it.
"He told me he was heading to the armoury, probably to sharpen your sword no doubt." he finished.
Gwaine gave no tone that submerged his words in a bad pit. Yet, panic started to build within Arthur.
After all, the last time Merlin was in the armoury by himself, it hadn't gone well, at all.
"If you'll excuse me, princess, I have my own things to do." Gwaine said, giving him a smile and walking off. Arthur thanked him for his servant's whereabouts and started walking to the armoury.
A little while later, a happy Gwen would receive a small yet gorgeous bouquet of flowers and the knowledge of where they came from. She wasn't upset that Merlin hadn't given them to her himself since she knew how busy he was, running around after Arthur all the time.
But she knew that over the last few days, it had been more of the other way around.
Arthur turned the final corner before the armoury and prepared himself, hoping to God that he didn't see a repeat from the other day.
His thinking was illogical, he knew this. Merlin's hearing would've healed fully by now, as far as he knew he hadn't left the castle since he last saw him so nothing could've possibly hindered that. So, there was no reason that Merlin would be crashing two swords together that were heavy even for a battle-hardened knight once he entered the armoury.
Gods, he just didn't want to see that again.
Step by step, Arthur became closer to the open door. His ears listened out for the dreaded sound of the chiming swords but they were left unfilled. As he grew closer, he noticed that the only sound he could hear was the distant sharpening of a sword.
Without realising it, Arthur picked up the pace. He took a hold of the wall around the door and swung his body to face the inside of the armoury.
There sat Merlin, calm, and collected for about half a second until he spotted Arthur, which led him to become startled by his sudden appearance.
"Do you like scaring me or something?" Merlin quipped from where he was sat. This led to Arthur giving him a questioning look as if he wasn't entirely convinced of something.
"No, you just happen to be a bit of a wimp." replied Arthur, trying to ignite their usual banter. He made his way to sit next to Merlin.
The image was almost identical to the first day in the armoury after the incident, only it was mirrored. Arthur sat on Merlin's side and Merlin on Arthur's.
"I was coming to wake you up once I'd finished this. I didn't bank on you coming to find me."
"Well, I certainly didn't expect to find you here." Arthur said honestly.
"I can't avoid the armoury forever, it's part of my job, you prat."
The small exchange between them was enough for Arthur to conclude that Merlin could fully hear again. He didn't hesitate, he didn't look up from the sword, and his answers all made sense. Well, as much sense as Merlin could make.
Arthur rapidly changed the subject at hand. "Your hearing, it's come back, hasn't it?" he uttered, trying to mask the excitement within his voice.
Merlin still picked it up anyway, as observant as ever. He smiled downward and looked up at Arthur. "I think it might have since I can hear a clotpole next to me just fine."
Arthur wanted to shout "That's wonderful!" or "I'm so happy you're okay!" but expressing himself completely in front of others was still something that Arthur Pendragon was working on, even if it was to Merlin, the person he could be himself around the most.
"That's great, Merlin," he finally replied. "It really is. Now, we have to make sure it doesn't happen again."
"Yeah, let's just hope we don't run into any bandits next time." expressed Merlin.
"Unlikely. But still, we'll be more ready. Myself included."
The two shared a moment where they just stared into each other's eyes, both unsure what to say. The unstated words that lay in-between filled the silence. One was eternally grateful to have the other back to his normal self, fully recovered. The other was grateful for the other's presence and unspoken promise of protection.
Arthur broke the silence when he noticed the scroll next to Merlin.
"Ah! Is that what I think it is?" Arthur motioned next to Merlin where the scroll lay.
Merlin nodded. "Indeed. It only took the better part of an hour, which is quicker than any speech you've ever written yourself."
"And longer than the time it usually takes you to 'correct' them." acknowledged Arthur as he was handed the scroll by Merlin. The other man shot him a playful glare. While his usual banter with the prat over the last few days had been fun, it hadn't felt entirely the same on his end. Now, however, it did, and it was a very welcome feeling.
The blond-haired man unraveled the scroll and began reading its written contents whilst Merlin continued to sharpen the sword in his hand.
Merlin started rambling about something that he found interesting. Arthur was trying his best to keep up but unfortunately, most of Merlin's words washed over him. He was far too engrossed in the speech he was reading.
Of course, the speech was perfect. Too perfect in fact to be written by the likes of Merlin when he was still injured for God's sake. He could just picture Merlin reading it to the massive crowd instead of him. Arthur imagined how his voice would curl around the words, giving the ones that needed emphasising the most the power they needed. Merlin would do that and do it greatly.
He hadn't realised that he was basically daydreaming until the other man in the room snapped him out of it. When Arthur returned to Earth, he looked to Merlin and saw that his free hand had snapped its fingers together in an attempt to get the King back. Any other servant would've been punished for such rudeness, but not Merlin. Never Merlin.
"I assume it's good then?"
Arthur paused for a moment before responding. "I suppose it'll do, I'll have to use it now since you've gone through the trouble of writing it," Arthur jested, knowing that Merlin would understand what he really meant. "Thank you, Merlin." he added to the end unconsciously.
Merlin looked up. "Oh, you know, all in a day's work, or night's if you want to be precise."
Arthur laughed at that and Merlin joined him, turning back to continue with the sword.
Sometime later, Arthur was still with Merlin in the armoury. They were just talking about anything, literally anything. It didn't matter to Merlin, because talking meant he was listening, and listening meant he was hearing at last.
"You're not to hide anything like that from me again, do you understand?" Arthur said with a hint of command lingering in his voice, he did mean it, after all.
Merlin hesitated a little, thinking back to his many reasons as to why he'd tried to hide his deafness at first, especially from Arthur. He decided that now wasn't the best time to fight him on the matter, it would only lead to confusion at the royal's end.
"I won't, I'm sorry that I did." the manservant responded to his King.
"That's quite alright, Merlin. Although I will take some of the blame, I failed to protect you."
"Don't beat yourself up, prat. I'm still here, aren't I?"
Arthur blinked. "Yes, you are. Back to your usual incompetent self." It wouldn't have been Arthur speaking if an insult wasn't uttered after a heartfelt statement.
"Exactly," Merlin responded, accepting it. "And that's down to you and the others being by my side, I'm thankful for that."
"Well, you'd do the same for them as you would for me." Arthur expressed truthfully, knowing full well that Merlin would've done the same if it were the other way around.
He was about to say more when another servant appeared at the door, his attention completely on Arthur.
"Sire, you're wanted by the council. They have a few questions for you regarding the matters from the last meeting."
Arthur nodded to him, acknowledging his service. "Tell them I'll be there shortly." the servant bowed from the door and went on his way.
Arthur turned back to Merlin, who had been watching the other servant too. "Duty calls," he started as he rose from where he sat. "Will you join me?"
Merlin looked to the sword he was still holding. "This wants doing. I'll finish it first, then I'll be there."
"Fair enough," Arthur said, rolling the scroll back up and heading for the door.
Just before leaving, Arthur wanted to make something clear to Merlin, for the idiot's sake as well as his own. After all, Arthur would never let anything bad happen to his closest friend and couldn't stand the idea of Merlin hiding things from him.
"I hope you were listening when I said you're not to hide things like this from me again?"
Merlin smiled since he knew that Arthur's underlying intentions in his words were only concerned with his personal safety. "Yes, don't worry, clotpole, I know."
Arthur smiled in relief in Merlin's direction, finally taking in that his Merlin was back to normal.
"That's good. We can't have you walking about injured, can we?" Arthur said playfully.
Merlin smiled again, this time looking up at Arthur from his seat. "No, I suppose not." he said in sarcasm.
Arthur revisited Merlin and punched him lightly in the arm, earning a look from the other man. "Remember," Arthur started as he turned for the door. "You can't hide anything from me, Merlin." he finished with a spark of tenderness. Afterward, Arthur gave one of his infamous sunlit smiles and exited the armoury to the council where he was needed.
Merlin watched Arthur and his smile disappear from sight, he felt a small one of his own form on his lips with only a tiny hint of remorse accompanying it.
"Wouldn't dream of it."