Wide eyes watched in fear as the man rose to his feet, grasping at the fallen dagger. Merlin panted, hunched on the ground, still winded from the injury he'd just received not five minutes ago. He couldn't move; his lungs empty and his head light. His vision was going, he knew what was going to happen next. He'd collapse, the bandit would rise fully and strike Arthur while he was busy fighting another enemy. Merlin gritted his teeth and forced himself to his feet. He took a few unsteady steps forward when the dagger armed bandit moved towards the prince. Before Merlin could think about what might happen other than Arthur lying dead at his feet, he dashed forwards towards the would be killer.
He felt his eyes burn and everything around him slowed, Arthur was swinging his sword so damn slowly while Gwaine was swinging his hair at the same speed, fighting with two bandits at once. Merlin brought his thoughts back to the matter at hand and reached Arthur and turned to face the oncoming man and dagger; he was wracking his brains for some solution to the problem when time sped up without his permission. He cursed silently as the sounds of battle filled his ears and pain shot through his stomach. He really should work with that talent to try and make the suspended animation last longer. Lifting his gaze slightly brought him face to face with dark brown eyes, scruffy shoulder length hair and a stubbly beard.
He heard himself gasp as though he had been standing off to one side. The man was stood still, stunned for a moment before he pushed the dagger deeper with an evil smirk. Merlin couldn't help the yell of pain the escaped his lips as he felt his flesh and muscle rip and tear. His vision blurred again and a warm sensation ran down his lower abdomen and then continued downwards, making for the ground. It was like time had slowed down again as the dagger was pulled agonisingly slowly from him. He felt his legs give way, a cloak of darkness embracing him as his body hit the ground with a thud.
Arthur parried the blow from his attacker, stepped backwards, turning and thrust his sword forwards, only to have that blocked in return. He shot a look over his shoulder. Merlin was hunched over on the floor. Fear flooded through him at the sight of his manservant. Arthur wretched his gaze from the dark haired man, swung again and then all of a sudden he felt himself slow down. With a jolt he felt frozen not cold but just, frozen, with no feeling throughout his body. There was a sudden silence, the clanging of swords were gone as were the angry shouts of both sides. Arthur stared ahead, unable to move at all, simply moving forwards with his sword arm at a horribly slow pace. He watched his attacker in front of him, sword out to one side, no defence in place, practically begging for an attack.
Arthur would have gladly complied during the bandits moment of motionlessness had he been able to move to deliver the fatal blow. Instead he had to watch in confusion and fear as the bandits' sword began to move to parry Arthur's blow. The movement was still dreadfully slow but Arthur's heart pounded in his chest. Was it just him experiencing this? Was his brain slowing everything down? Was he about to be struck down? He had no idea if he was going to be able to deflect the blow moving this slowly. Suddenly he felt his blood run cold perhaps he was already lying on the ground, sword having pierced his chest during his moment of delusion.
With no warning what-so-ever, Arthur felt himself moving much faster and his sword clashed with his attackers. He stood for a moment, dazed. The bandit seemed to be doing the same and was taking much longer. Arthur took his chance, lunging forwards and skewering the man with a frown. As the now dead enemy fell Arthur felt his blood running cold again when a yell of pain came from behind him. He turned swiftly to see Merlin, stood between Arthur and another person. Arthur's gaze dropped slightly to the drops of blood that hit the ground. Realisation hit him like a metal bucket right in the face. The person drew back, pulling something with him. Arthur saw the dagger glint in the light, the blood trickle down to the hilt, and the evil look on that ugly bearded face. Arthur took one step forwards just as Merlin fell, pitching forwards onto his front. He didn't move to get back up; he didn't laugh and call out to let everyone know his was fine. Instead he was silent as blood pooled beneath his thin frame. Arthur's attention was brought back to the bandit when he let out a shocked gasp, glancing down to the sword that was sticking through his right side, just beneath his ribs, the tip pointing slightly upwards. Arthur let his own sword fall from his grip as he stumbled over to Merlin. He fell to his knees and pulled the servant into his arms, pressing his large hand over the wound in Merlin's stomach, "Merlin
" he felt a hand on his shoulder but did not look away from the pale face of his closet friend, "
Merlin?" Arthur glanced to the young mans chest it was rising and falling in sharp pants, "Merlin!"
Without opening his eyes Merlin responded, "Arth
Arthur felt his heart twist painfully at the week reply, "You bloody idiot. Why did you do that?"
"Because," Merlin murmured, "You have to live and I don't."
"Idiot!" Arthur repeated, "Don't go throwing your life away for me!"
"Prat." Merlin muttered with a small smile, "Don't
Arthur shook his head, "What? Remember what?"
told you before." Merlin breathed softly, eyes still closed.
"You're not making any sense." Arthur grumbled, moving his head so he could rub his face on his shoulder trying to stem the flow of silent tears that were streaming down his cheeks.
"I'm happy to be your servant, and I will protect you
" Merlin smiled again and then he was silent for a horribly long moment, "
my life is forfeit for that to happen." He paused again and took a few more sharp breaths, "
happy to be
" he trailed off and then his eyes fluttered open.
Arthur felt more tears threatening to spill as he looked into Merlin's impossibly blue eyes, "No. No you're not going to die Merlin. I didn't give you permission to quit your job." He paused and let out a breath, "Dammit Merlin
Merlin offered him one last smile, "Sorry Arthur
this to happen."
Arthur tightened his grip around the man and bowed his head.
"Sleepy." Merlin mumbled.
"It's okay." Arthur said after a moment, moving his hand from the wound to Merlin's face, caressing his cheek, "Sleep. You've earned it." Merlin gave a half hearted nod as his eyes gazed up into Arthur's and his chest grew still. Arthur closed his eyes and allowed his emotions to fully flatten him into submission, "It's raining."
The knights who had long since finished off the remaining bandits, stood in silence and glanced at each other in confusion. The sun was high in the sky; the summer had brought no rain for weeks. Arthur pulled Merlin further into his embrace.
He could hear the idiotic manservant babbling in the back of his head;
"Yes, it's pouring."