He's not sure what wakes him, but the moment he opens his eyes, he knows something isn't right. He rolls over, squeezing his eyes shut and hoping he's wrong.
He breathes through the first wave of uneasiness, pulling the blanket tighter to his body. 'Go back to sleep,' he tries to convince his brain. Unfortunately without success. As the second wave of dread spreads through his stomach, he sits up, quiet “fuck” leaving his lips.
His hands are shaking and his mind tells him to run, to hide from danger. Big, unspecified, totally catastrophic danger.
'Not real, not real, not real,' he repeats in his head, stumbling from the bed and making his way to the kitchen on slightly shaky legs.
“Fuck,” he curses out loud, leaning against the kitchen counter as the third, and so far strongest, wave of anxiety slams through him.
Everything seems just a bit unreal. He feels like there's something he's missing, something that needs to be done to prevent something really bad from happening.
“Not real,” he reminds himself, pressing his fingers to the pulse point on his right wrist. A bit fast, but steady. At least he doesn't have to deal with arrhythmia on top of everything else.
Next, he needs a glass. His legs take him in the direction of bathroom for no logical reason, but he snaps out of it and heads back and straight towards the right cupboard.
The fourth wave hits while he pours the water into the glass. Strength leaks out of his arm. He has to set the glass down and breathe deeply to fight the urge to run. No matter where. Just run.
He reaches for the tube standing in their vitamin corner right next to fridge, uncapping it with shaking fingers and fishing out one tablet. He lets it drop into the half full glass, watching it disperse. They say magnesium has calming properties. He doubts the drink is potent enough to affect his mental state, but he hopes placebo effect will help.
As he sips his drink, standing in the middle of their kitchen, the world gradually gains back its realness. It will take much longer for the after effects of the adrenaline rush to subside, but they're easier to deal with, even if not very pleasant.
He's even able to smile weakly at Arthur as he enters the kitchen, yawning.
“Are you okay?” he asks, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Yeah,” Merlin says, but it doesn't sound very convincing.
“Should have woken me up,” Arthur says, taking the now empty glass from Merlin's fingers and depositing it in the sink.
“I wasn't exactly thinking straight,” Merlin says, not protesting when Arthur hugs him from behind.
“Nightmare?” Arthur asks.
“Panic attack,” Merlin says.
“Are you sure you're okay?” Arthur asks, rubbing warmth into Merlin's cold hands.
“The worst is over,” Merlin says.
“It's still early. Do you want to come back to bed?”
“I don't think I'll be able to fall asleep any time soon, but I think I'll read for a bit.”
Merlin curls under the blanket with his e-reader, Arthur spooning him from behind. He gets lost in the magical world of his favourite fantasy series, enjoying the soothing movement of Arthur's hand on his stomach. Eventually, Arthur's hand stills, his arm grows heavy, draped around Merlin's torso.
When he feels his own eyelids sliding shut, he doesn't fight it. The e-reader slips from his fingers, landing on the mattress, but he doesn't bother putting it to its proper place in the nightstand. He's content and panic free in the arms of his husband, and that's all that matters.