There was something wrong with Merlin. The King looked down at his servant, sleeping, ashen faced, involuntarily clutching his side. Arthur had asked the young man after the brief fight the knights had dealt with if he had been injured, but was met with assurances that Merlin was fine. Yet his actions as they set up the camp had been slow, his face slightly pained. Arthur's man-servant lived to complain, why would he be hiding a wound?
Merlin shivered and woke, his eyes slow to adjust to the sight of the King standing over him. "Did I oversleep, sire?" Merlin tried to sit up in an effort to stand but Arthur quickly knelt and stopped him.
"There's obviously something wrong with you," Arthur gave his servant a stern look.
"That's not very nice," Merlin gave a half smile.
Arthur sighed, "Let me see your side," reaching out and grabbing Merlin's jacket to pull it aside, Arthur caught the servant off guard, the blue shirt underneath suffered a circular dark stain just beneath Merlin's ribcage, and though the King could not see much more before Merlin knocked his hand away, it was enough to confirm that Merlin had in fact been injured. "Why on earth would you lie to me about being hurt?"
"It's nothing serious," Merlin made a motion to get up, but stumbled and caught his breath, "I'm fine, really."
"What happened?" Arthur reached out to stop Merlin from rising to his feet, but the young servant was too fast.
"Just a small defensive wound," Merlin closed his jacket and stood before Arthur, "Nothing worth mentioning," Merlin cast a look around the camp, Gwaine, Percival and Leon were fast asleep- it was Arthur's watch. Merlin fought the urge to bring his hand up to his side in a supportive gesture. They had been ambushed by a small group of bandits, nothing the knights of Camelot couldn't handle. Merlin had stayed close to Arthur as usual; fighting just as honorably as any knight of Camelot would, protecting his King. It had been difficult to watch Arthur and guard himself, though usually he was pretty successful at such duties. This time, however, his attention on Arthur had blinded him to a bandit's side swipe. Sliced in the side before he even knew what had hit him, Merlin pushed his attacker back and into a tree with a golden eyed glance, but fell to his knees with the sudden shock of injury. He scrambled a little ways away from the brawl. No one noticed, no one ever did. Making sure Arthur was well protected by his knights; out of sight Merlin had tried to heal himself with magic. He was rubbish with healing magic and was only partially successfully. The young warlock used traditional medicine to take care of what remained- which was a smaller wound that allowed the servant to go about his duties, albeit more slowly. By the time Merlin had made his way back to the knights and their King he was just in time to be spotted by Arthur and be good naturedly chastised for running away from danger.
"If you really must know, I got hit while I was watching out for you," Merlin replied. The swift rise to his feet had not been advisable and he felt his wound start to bleed again.
"You're bleeding." Arthur kept his voice low but firm, "Why wouldn't you let someone know you needed help?"
"I don't need help."
"Merlin, you're being ridiculous."
The young Warlock was suddenly light headed, "This is an important quest," Merlin stated simply, "I have to go with you." He looked at the King as if Arthur had any idea of what he was talking about.
"Merlin you're already on the Quest with me, now sit down and I'll change whatever bandage you've haphazardly put on that wound."
Merlin went very still, placed his hand on his wound and looked down at the ground, "I don't wish to be left behind or sent home."
Confused, Arthur asked, "What are you talking about? Why would I leave you behind or send you home?"
Merlin looked up and met the eyes of his King, "when I've been hurt in the past, you assign a knight to send me home," Merlin continued, "I know it's for my own good, but I can't be left behind Arthur, I can't let you face this thing by yourself."
Arthur placed a hand on Merlin's shoulder, "Let me see your wound so I can help you tend to it properly." The servant sunk to the ground in defeat and gingerly removed his jacket and pulled his shirt up to reveal a deep gash in his side. Arthur retrieved his water skin and proceeded to clean out the injury. It looked as if Merlin had been in a hurry when he had tended to his injury. "Let's add self-preservation to the list of things that you don't do quite well."
"I told you it wasn't that serious," Merlin gritted his teeth against the pain of Arthur's ministrations.
Arthur finished wrapping fresh cloth around his servant's torso, "Merlin, I would only send you home to keep you safe when it would otherwise be impossible to do so. You are… important…. to me."
"So, you're not going to send me home, then?" Merlin's mouth quirked into a half smile.
The King returned the smile, "Quite honestly Merlin, if I sent you home now, who on Earth would carry my bags?"
"Get some sleep, Merlin. You'll not be left behind tomorrow."