Gwaine was unsure of how he ended up in these mists, only that he needed to keep moving. His feet guided him surely, as they always did, kept him upright when it mattered most. His sword was clenched in his hand, the other gripping the chainmail at his side, to staunch the blood he could feel flowing down his side where the dagger plunged there didn’t keep it in. There were still foes out here. Gwaine could feel it much like he could feel the mist as it seeped into the clothing under the mail and stole the heat from his very bones. If only he had some wine with him, he mused as he tripped over a root. He looked around warily as he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise like a dog’s hackles.
As he swept his sword around him, he surveyed the area, lush with the growth of flowers. It gave him hope that the fog would soon vanish here. It also made him uneasy, as if unearthly things hid in the haze that would eat him alive sooner than offer him aid. Gwaine focused as clumsy feet tripped behind him, and he swung around, only to confront another of their pursuers. The men had come from the fog quite a ways back, and since there were so many of them, the knights and their king had been forced to dismount their horses before too long and fight more viciously. They were forced apart, to run away from each other or face a worse fate than being alone. Gwaine had tried stalwartly to stay with Merlin as he hadn’t the protection of the king with him any longer, nor had he a weapon with which to fight.
Gwaine wished Merlin were here now, if only so he could give him the dagger from his side to defend himself with. A sword coming toward him brought Gwaine back to the here and now. He was forced to parry, which sent a large twinge from the wound in his side. His foe saw the pain on his face, and smirked like he’d already won.
Your mistake, Gwaine thought to himself as he ran the man through. He took longer to die than his comrades, and as Gwaine watched the life slip from the brigand’s eyes, his own caught a dart of red and brown amongst the purple flowers and green of the forest. Merlin.
Distracted for just that mere second, Gwaine missed his enemy’s hand moving toward him. It wasn’t until the vicious twist of the dagger in his side that he realized his mistake. He cried out in pain and let go of his own sword to nurse his side. There wasn’t much he could do as more blood ran down his skin and over his fingers, giving them a warmth that was rather nice.
He hadn’t realized he’d fallen until he felt the cool press of grass against his cheek. Gwaine could hear voices, and he tried to open his eyes, but they were so heavy. He needed to get up, he’d seen Merlin. Merlin, who had no weapon with which to defend himself from the other voices.
Through sheer force of will, he started to push himself up and away from the cool ground. His arms regrettably shook hard enough that he nearly fell back down, his vision dark at the edges. The beauty of the land taunted him silently until he heard Merlin’s distressed voice. “Gwaine!”
The voices increased in volume with their jeers, and Gwaine’s arms gave out as he heard the armor rattle distressingly close. He needed to get to his sword to protect Merlin. He began to crawl toward the now still body he can barely see, his sword gleaming red where it protruded from the bandit’s abdomen. A thrust to the gut wasn’t the best way to go, but he’d been so close, there had been no other option. He was halfway to his goal when he moved wrong, handle of the dagger catching on the root he’d tripped over just moments before. With a noise that would make a lesser man retch, the metal was ripped from his side and a larger stream of blood flowed from the wound. Gwaine could do nothing but let out another cry of pain and stop moving. He would have blacked out then and there if not for the fact that Merlin was still here. His gloved fingers scraped along the ground until they found the dagger and wrapped around the handle. He would do what he could do from here, as his body didn’t want to do what his mind was telling it to do.
But before he could gather the strength in his limbs to actually turn over and fight off the men that he could tell were far too close, Gwaine felt a monstrous wind on his back. It chilled him to the bone, like the air itself was filled with ill intent.
But as quickly as it had come, it faded as well, and Gwaine, cold as he was, felt a warmth that wasn’t from his own blood on his shoulders. “Gwaine,” came the soft voice, and as Merlin turned him over in the grass, Gwaine pressed the dagger forward so Merlin would no longer be unarmed. All Merlin did was set it aside, pressing his warm hands to the freely bleeding wound in Gwaine’s side, his angular, beautiful face set in fear and worry.
“They’re still out there,” Gwaine rasped. “Take it.”
“I’ll do no such thing. I’ve already taken care of them, Gwaine, please lie still.” Merlin pressed harder on the wound, and Gwaine gasped in pain, blackness encroaching on the edges of his vision once more. “No. No, no, no. Gwaine, stay with me, all right?” His voice held an edge of authority that he’d never heard before, and immediately he knew he had to listen to it. Like a tug in his heart that led him back to Merlin each and every time.
With one of his trembling hands, he reached up to try and wipe the worry from Merlin’s face. Instead he just left a streak of blood down the man’s cheek. Feeling particularly woozy at the sight, despite the fact he’d done worse to other people before, he just grinned and rasped, “Sorry, but not all of it’s mine.” His eyes slipped shut again, though when Merlin applied more pressure, they shot open again, as did his mouth, though no sound escaped it this time other than a soft, aborted squeak of displeasure.
“Hey, what did I say about napping, Gwaine?” Merlin’s eyes were filled with tears.
“Sorry,” Gwaine said, and the only warm place on him now were Merlin’s hands, soaked in Gwaine’s blood. He wanted nothing more to apologize for inserting himself in Merlin’s life here in Camelot, only to go against his word and abandon him once more. But all he could articulate was the one apology, and hoped it would encompass everything Gwaine wanted it to.
“You’ve nothing to be sorry for,” Merlin choked out. He tugged off the cloth at his throat to press more firmly against the wound, and Gwaine could see the slender fingers coated in thick blood. Gwaine shivered, feeling colder than before. “Hey.” Merlin’s firm voice brought Gwaine’s eyes back toward Merlin’s face, but he had trouble focusing. “Hey, it’s going to be fine, Gwaine. I can’t- I won’t let you die, do you understand?” Gwaine was sure he tried to nod, but when Merlin’s tears broke free and spilled down his face, Gwaine knew he had failed miserably. Merlin took his one hand away from the wound to press against Gwaine’s cheek. What else could he do but lean into the touch? If this were to be the time the world got the better of him, he wanted to spend every last second with Merlin.
When it became harder to draw breath, Merlin seemed to snap out of his trance, and fear flickered in his eyes again. “ Gwaine, ” he nearly sobbed, leaning to press their foreheads together. “Do you trust me?”
Gwaine would have nodded, but he lacked the strength, so he rasped out a barely audible, “‘Course.” A kiss was pressed gently to his lips.
What happened next was something Gwaine knew he would never forget, even if his life were to end presently. Merlin’s eyes glowed the lovely golden color of mead in sunshine, or perhaps of honey. The air around them began to fill with the warmth of spring. Gwaine was sure there were words coming from Merlin’s lips, though he couldn’t make them out. The fog around them dispersed, and Gwaine could have sworn he smelled honeysuckle on Merlin’s breath.
A burst of warmth at his side had him gasping for air like a fish on land. It hurt, but Merlin held him steady, one hand on his face, the other on the pain in his side. Fingers stroked at his cheek as if to lull the pain away. Slowly, it did ebb, though it didn’t completely disappear.
When the gold slipped away from Merlin’s eyes, Gwaine could breathe again, the fog almost gone from his mind as well as their little glade. “You’ve been keeping secrets.” Gwaine couldn’t help the first words that spilled from his lips since his apology.
“Yes,” was all Merlin said, their faces still mere inches apart, though it was Merlin’s turn to look pale. “I had to, Gwaine.” His voice was pained, as if he had been the one stabbed.
“I know,” Gwaine said and offered another smile. “Still wouldn’t trade you for all the mead in the five kingdoms.” When Merlin laughed, Gwaine did the same. Though he clutched at his side, felt the tacky slide of blood still there, and was confused. He winced and lay still, looking up at his supposed savior. “You know, you’re right rubbish at this healing lark, love.”
Merlin had the decency to blush. “I know. But I had to try, Gwaine. I couldn’t lose you. Not like this. Not without a chance to have a proper goodbye.”
Gwaine’s brow furrowed as he felt his stomach sink. “You mean to say you’ve only bought us time? This is our chance to-”
“Oh, no, Gwaine, no! ” Merlin was quick to place his hands back on Gwaine’s face and urge him into a kiss. “No.” This time it was a bit more vehement. “Well, yes , but no !”
Gwaine was confused, and now he couldn’t tell if it was because Merlin was making absolutely no sense, or he really was dying and just couldn’t make sense out of Merlin’s words. And Gwaine was pretty sure his brain just confused itself with that thought. Worrisome, that was. “Which is it?”
“Yes, I bought you time, but not to say goodbye! I could never say goodbye to you, Gwaine. You and I … you...” Merlin broke off in what looked like fond exasperation. A look he often got around Arthur when he was being particularly thick. “Gwaine, the wound is smaller, bleeding less. It’s enough to get you back to Camelot where Gaius can have a proper look at you.” Merlin’s fingers again stroked over Gwaine’s face. He was sure he was covered in his own blood at this point. It made him laugh inwardly. Imagine the look on everyone’s faces when they saw him.
But for now he was exhausted. “Oh,” is all he uttered. “Why am I still so cold then, and how did you find me?” Even wounded such, having lost so much blood, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut for long. “You’re rubbish at tracking, too.” He laughed, before the pain blossomed inside of him.
“Shh, shh, keep still,” Merlin soothed, brushing his fingers gently across Gwaine’s brow now. “We’ll talk later, yeah?”
Gwaine nodded, the fingers on his face like little brooms that brushed away pain and lingering fear, leaving only weariness and the feeling of being loved behind. It was... well Gwaine would say magical, but really, it was just Merlin. And didn’t that say it all?
“Just sleep now, I’ve got you.”
Gwaine obeyed, those strings connected to his heart tugging in just the direction Merlin indicated, like always.
He never had been able to resist Merlin, after all. Why start now?