In the two years that Dr. Arthur Pendragon had spent in the A&E, he had seen many people do some very dumb things. But this new patient had found a way to transcend all of that.
“Mr. Emrys,” Arthur looked over the chart at the patient. His face was still covered with bright red splotches though the swelling had gone down. It turned out that his ears were, in fact, that large. “Can you tell me what the last thing you ate was?”
“Peanut butter and banana sandwich?” he asked, his ears turning a shade that matched the rest his face.
“I’ve just been looking over your records, Mr. Emrys. Do you recall the last time you were hospitalized?”
“Sometime last year?”
“Exactly this time last year.” Arthur made a show of checking over the man’s chart. “Do you remember what it was for?”
Arthur cocked an eyebrow but Emrys was pointedly looking away. He mumbled nonsense at the direction of his vitals monitor.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch that. Is your tongue still swollen?”
“Tongue’s fine. You can probably even let me go home now.” Emrys said having the audacity to play coy. “But I’m assuming this has to do with my peanut allergy?”
“Your chart here says you have a SEVERE peanut allergy. I initially wondered if your attending physician didn’t do a proper job emphasizing just how severe the allergy was last time you were here. Except your medical records state that you’ve known since childhood. Do you have a death wish, Mr. Emrys?”
Emrys fluttered his lashes, and Arthur tried to focus anywhere but the teasing glimmer in those lovely blue eyes.
“I just really like peanut butter and banana sandwiches?”
Arthur couldn’t help the snort that breezed through his nostrils.
“If you intend on seeing your next birthday, I’d recommend finding a new favorite sandwich. As long as you manage to stay in good health, you’ll be discharged in an hour. I’d start arranging your transportation.”
Arthur headed out the door to let his freshly chastised patient get some rest.
“One more thing, Mr. Emrys.” Arthur popped his head back through the door. “You also have a mild allergy to bananas. You should cut those from your diet as well.”
Arthur chuckled as he heard his patient flop back onto his bed with a sigh.
Two weeks later, Arthur almost resigned when he saw the name written across his newest charge’s chart.
“This better not be a peanut butter or banana related incident, Mr. Emrys.” Arthur said as he greeted Merlin Emrys for the second time that month. Gone was the splotchy swollen man he had first encountered. Emrys’s skin was back to its normal complexion—too pale for Arthur’s taste, not that his taste ever included his patients. That would be unprofessional—his brow now lined with pain.
Emrys chuckled slightly. “I wouldn’t say its directly correlated.”
“You seem to be in good spirits. That means I can rule out near death?”
Emrys smiled up at Arthur, but it was tight-lipped and forced.
“I’m hoping that my cheerful demeanor will convince you that I’m not on a suicide mission which will allow you to euthanize me without a debate on morals as I am clearly of sound mind.”
Arthur managed no more than a confused grunt before Emrys followed up with a tiny “I’ve been preparing that.”
“And what exactly warrants a euthanization, Mr. Emrys?”
His ears and cheeks turned a deeper shade of crimson than they had been following the sandwich incident. Emrys mumbled—you’d think one wouldn’t mumble what was wrong during every visit to the A&E. Clear articulation seemed the best route in Arthur’s opinion—But even with the mumbling, Arthur was sure he hadn’t heard the man correctly.
“Could you speak up, Mr. Emrys. It sounded like you said—”
“I broke my dick.” Emrys said through gritted teeth.
It took every ounce of professionalism that Arthur possessed not to laugh at Emrys’s now purpling ears.
“No need to put you down for that I’m afraid. It’s most likely just some bruising. You’ll be out of here in no time, well on your way to recovery.”
“Can you prescribe something for my fractured dignity? Because it is never going to heal, especially not once my flatmate finds out.”
“I think time is the best prescription I can offer there.” Arthur said was he walked around to lift Emrys’s hospital gown to assess the damage done. Emrys chose this moment to become enraptured with a water stain on the ceiling.
Arthur cringed as he saw the poor man’s state of affairs. He was definitely about to end up on Emrys’s shit list.
“This may hurt a bit.” Arthur warned before feeling for damage as Emrys let out an extraordinarily colorful string of expletives.
“Was this a coital injury?” Arthur probed trying to distract his patient.
Emrys huffed out a laugh. “My dignity would be slightly less wounded if I broke my dick having sex.”
“Overly forceful masturbation?”
“Can’t even say I managed that one.” Emrys inhaled sharply as Arthur hit a particularly sore spot. “No, little Merlin decided to help close the bathroom door before my morning piss.”
Arthur covered Emrys back up and grabbed his chart to make a note to have him transferred to outpatient surgery. “Well, ‘little Merlin’ is indeed fractured. Depending on how busy the surgical schedule is today, you should be ready to go home tonight or early tomorrow.”
“Thanks, Doc.” Emrys gave Arthur a weak smile. “Maybe I’ll tell Will that the hot blond doctor broke my dick.”
“Whatever helps your wounded pride, Mr. Emrys.” Arthur sent a quick text to Lancelot to see if Emrys could be moved up the outpatient list. “Though I’d recommend not sleeping nude for some time.”
Arthur was sure he heard Emrys mutter “prat” but he already had another case file in hand as soon as he was out the door.
The next time Arthur saw Merlin Emrys he was slumped over the shoulder of the slurring and panicked man that would later turn out to be his flatmate.
“What the hell happened?” Arthur’s professionalism was tempered by his instinct to protect his most frequent visitor.
“Merls never could hold his booze, you know?” the man swayed dangerously causing Arthur to grab Merlin from him and bark commands for the nearest orderlies to bring him a gurney.
He pushed the drunken man out of the way and left him there for the nurses to deal with as he followed the barely breathing body of Emrys down the hospital corridor. Very clearly suffering from severe alcohol poisoning, Arthur wasted no time getting him on a saline drip and inserting a ventilation tube in an effort to get the man’s breathing evened back out. It had been weeks since Arthur had to have a patient’s stomach pumped and he hoped Emrys of all people wasn’t the one to break that record.
It was nearly a day before Emrys blinked wearily into consciousness.
“Wha’re you doing here?” Emrys smacked, evidently displeased with the taste in his mouth.
“Mr. Emrys, I normally try to remain more professional. But you are by far the dumbest patient I’ve ever had. Do you have any idea how much alcohol you drank?”
Emrys looked down where his hands were knotted in the sheets, tears welling in the corners of his eyes.
“You’re lucky your flatmate was sober enough to get you to the hospital. He’s the only reason you’re alive right now.”
Emrys’s broken face pulled at Arthur’s more compassionate side, but he didn’t want this lecture he was trying to give erased by softness.
“I recommend leaving your uni binge-drinking days behind you, Mr. Emrys.”
After receiving a curt nod, Arthur left to give Emrys’s flatmate a similar spiel. He had barely closed the door to the room before the man was under his nose.
“How is he? Is he okay?” The man reeked of tequila and the dark circles underneath his eyes and the crinkles in the corner suggested he was sporting one hell of a hangover.
“Are you the flatmate?” Arthur asked blankly.
“Yeah, I’m Will.” Will extended his hand, but Arthur didn’t take it.
“I’ll tell you the same thing I told Mr. Emrys. You saved your friend by bringing him here tonight, but allowing him to consume that much alcohol in the first place was incredibly dangerous.”
Will rubbed his hand over his face as he looked in on his friend that was now curled in a fetal position. “I thought taking him out would be a good way to cheer him up. I had no idea he had been sneaking shots.”
“Has Mr. Emrys shown signs of alcohol abuse before?” Arthur asked. “There are facilities that can offer him help.”
“Merl never drinks. He just lost his mum.” Will looked in sadly on Emrys. “I knew he wasn’t handling it well. I just didn’t know it was that bad.”
For the first time, Arthur didn’t exactly know what to say.
“When he’s discharged, make sure he gets plenty of rest and fluids. And no alcohol for a while.”
Will rambled on about swearing on his life, but Arthur didn’t hear any of it. He was texting Gwen in psych to see if she had a grief counselor they could spare.
After a solid month of Emrys-free incidents, Arthur was surprised to see him strolling calmly through the door of the A&E.
“Emrys, I didn’t expect to see you back so quickly!” If asked, Arthur would vehemently deny the feeling of warmth in his belly when he saw the dark haired man walk through the door.
“Dr. Pendragon, can I talk to you? In private?” Emrys looked over his shoulder, the tips of his ears a light shade of pink.
Arthur looked around at the waiting area. There were other attending physicians on call and there were no major emergencies to be dealt with. He motioned for Emrys to follow him into an empty room.
“What can I help you with, Mr. Emrys?”
Emrys held up a hand. “Please, call me Merlin. If we weren’t already familiar enough to be on a first name base, we sure as hell are about to be.”
“I’m sorry?” Arthur tried to stop a fantasy of the man pushing him against the wall and making him beg for it from flashing through his brain, but he didn’t quite succeed.
“There’s a dildo stuck in my arse.”
Arthur just stared at Emrys—Merlin’s blushing face. “Is this a come on?” he said after a moment of tense silence.
“Given my track record, you probably have every reason to think that I would indeed believe that to be an appropriate come on, but there is currently, as we speak, in this very moment, a dildo up my arse that I cannot remove.”
“How did you...?” Arthur was momentarily dumbstruck as he felt his own face begin to heat.
“I lost a bet! How the fuck do you think it got stuck up there?!?”
“Calm down! Tensing up like that is certainly not helping the situation!”
Merlin looked as if he was about to grumpily sit on the bed but caught himself a split second before.
“Can you get it out?” Merlin looked at him with what he likely thought was a puppy dog face and would’ve worked if not for the embarrassment written across his cheeks.
“This circumvents the usual protocol. I should probably take you down to get x-rays taken…” Arthur faded off as he caught Merlin’s frantic hand motions. “What?”
“Can’t you just take it out here? Please, don’t let this end up on the chart with all the other dumb things I’ve done.”
“Merlin! I can’t exactly bend you over and pull your dildo out! I am supposed to maintain some professional doctor-patient distance and this doesn’t exactly fall under that distance!”
“Please, please, please don’t make me go out there and hobble up the receptionist and tell her why I’m here. Because then they might pass me along to someone else and you’ve already seen me and little Merlin at our worst. Please, Dr. Pendragon, I am begging.”
Arthur sighed. If anyone ever found out about this, he would be in seriously deep shit. But then Merlin was looking at him with those big, pleading eyes and he couldn’t imagine himself doing anything other than agreeing.
“Fine. But you’re consenting to an anesthetic and you’re going to owe me big time.” Arthur was startled to find Merlin wrapping his arms around him.
In an attempt to retain some semblance of professionalism, he extracted himself from Merlin’s grasp. While he used his quick exit to pretend to grab the necessary equipment, Arthur paused for a moment in the hall to gain his composure before he was forced to face a naked and exposed Merlin bent over a bed and waiting for him.
He could likely convince Gwaine to smuggle him the drugs. Though, he’d probably have to give him a monetary incentive to never mention this again.
It had been only been a week since Arthur had seen Merlin Emrys saunter, hobble, or be rushed through the doors of the A&E, and he was definitely not pining.
“You should probably go on a date, Arthur.” Mithian said to him over their usual Friday lunch date. “Stop thinking about some bloke who got you to pull a dildo out of his arse. It’s not healthy.”
“Did Gwaine tell everyone?” Arthur looked around the hospital cafeteria hoping to find the accused so he could shoot daggers his way.
“Not anyone important. Just the ones he knew would tease you relentlessly about it.” Mithian smiled as she took a bite from her salad. “He’s been your patient too many times. It’s why you can’t quit thinking about him.”
“I’m not sitting around thinking about him all the time like some sad, lovestruck teenager.” Arthur huffed in a very adult fashion.
Mithian rolled her eyes at Arthur but her attention was on her phone that had just pinged.
“Shit.” Mithian lept from the table leaving her meal behind. Arthur grabbed it and tossed it in the bin as he followed behind her.
“Anything I can do?” He asked staying a few steps behind.
“Call Lance.” Mithian tossed him her cell phone. “He should be on standby. Tell him its a collapsed lung.”
Arthur had barely hit the call button before Lance was confirming the availability of the OR room closest to Mithian’s section of the ICU.
“I’ve never seen you so worked up, Mith.” Arthur said trailing dutifully behind Mithian who was yelling at every nurse and orderly in the vicinity to either clear a path or get to the ICU as soon as physically possible.
“I’m not letting this one die on me, Arthur. Even if he is particularly stupid.”
Arthur’s breath rushed out as he turned the corner to see that unmistakable tuft of black hair poking out from beneath the bandages plastered on his face and the tubes connecting him to a ventilator.
“Arthur!” His head snapped over where an angry Mithian had been yelling at him. “I either need your head in the game or I need you to leave, understand?”
Arthur mutely nodded, his ears ringing as he turned and walked away from the ICU.
When Gwaine found him a few hours later in the cafeteria, he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the news.
“Mith’s pretty mad at you. Said you bailed on her.” Gwaine said sitting beside him and passing him a cup of tea. “I didn’t believe her at first. It’s not really like you. I’ve seen you deal with some pretty gruesome shit in the A&E. Who knew all it took to make you squirm was a little breathing trouble.”
“A LITTLE breathing trouble?!?”
Gwaine chuckled. “Relax, Pendragon. He definitely looks a lot worse than he is. You should’ve seen him when they first rolled him in. The parts that weren’t burned matched the sheets he was so pale. I thought Mith was being too optimistic, but evidently the kid either has nine lives or a guardian angel working overtime.”
“Does she think he’ll recover?”
Gwaine eyed him curiously. “Why are you so invested in this? Is it because you bailed? Emrys has a whole team looking after him. It’s fine that you weren’t there.”
“It’s not—” Arthur knew he was breaking some hospital rule. But what harm was Gwaine really? “He’s...I don’t know how to say…”
Gwaine’s face lit up. “Is Emrys your frequent flyer?”
“He’s not that frequent. I’ve only been his attending ph—”
“What are you doing here? Go stand outside his door all mopey like the besotted idiot that you are.” Gwaine interrupted. He began to tug on Arthur’s arm as an attempt to push him back towards the ICU.
“Gwaine, it’s unprofessional! He’s my patient.”
“Fuck professionalism!” Gwaine yelled causing an elderly couple dining on jello to start. “You’ve been moping around this damn hospital since you pulled a dildo out of his ass. I am not having you sink even lower because you were too professional to go see how he was doing after he nearly died!”
The older woman was now choking on her jello cube and Arthur was torn between running to her aid and punching Gwaine square in the jaw because he was right. It would be rude to not go see how Merlin was doing, especially after he had abandoned him.
When Arthur arrived at Merlin’s room, Mithian was standing outside quietly observing.
“How is he?” Arthur whispered. Merlin’s eyes were squinted shut and his breaths were falling erratically and shallowly.
“He’ll be fine. He’s not actually asleep, though I think he wants to be.” Mithian took her eyes off her patient and looked at Arthur. “You can go in if you want. He asked for you when he woke up.”
Mithian gave him a gentle smile. “Don’t let him overwork himself.”
Arthur cautiously entered the room, silent except for Merlin’s pained breathing and the beeping of the monitors. He grabbed the chart at the foot of Merlin’s bed and laughed.
Merlin’s uncovered eye shot open and he slowly took in the sight of Arthur. “Dr. Pendragon?” he rasped out.
“No talking, doctor’s orders.” He waited a moment to see if Merlin would try to protest. “Though I suppose when you are allowed to talk again, you might as well call me Arthur. We’ve been through a lot together.”
Merlin smiled widely but it quickly fell as his faced shifted to more of a grimace. His eyes flicked to the chart in Arthur’s hand.
“Wondering what the diagnosis is?” Merlin gave a soft nod. “Turns out you’re a right idiot. Terminal, I’m afraid.”
Merlin rolled his eyes but made no motion to speak up for himself.
“Running back into a burning building? Over an old woman’s cat? That’s a new level of stupidity, even for someone who gets a dildo stuck up their ass.”
“You’re an arse.” Merlin said hoarsely.
“I thought I said no talking?” Arthur chuckled as Merlin gave a contented sigh. “When you’re all healed—I intend to carefully monitor your progress, by the way—I think you still owe me from your last visit. I was thinking you could make me a nice home cooked meal provided you can manage to do so without landing yourself in the A&E?”
Merlin’s eyes had begun to droop, but he reached out to give Arthur’s hand a quick squeeze. He took that as confirmation as he let Merlin drift off to his healing slumber.
He was probably going to have to thank Gwaine for this later.
The one thing Arthur didn’t expect when his boyfriend walked through the door of their flat was for the first words to come from his mouth to be “What are you doing home?”
“I took the day off, Merlin. To celebrate!”
Merlin’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What are we celebrating?”
“Our anniversary!” Arthur gestured to the dining room where he had slaved away over—sometimes referred to by Merlin as “ordering in”—a delicious three course meal, lit with candles and adorned with roses.
“Arthur, we’ve only been dating for three months.”
“Officially? Yes. But there was your recovery time in the hospital that I think we should count.”
“That still doesn’t add up to a year.”
Arthur sighed. “I know. But it is the anniversary of the day I first saw you in the A&E.”
Merlin watched Arthur for a moment and then burst into laughter. “I’m not really sure that counts. I was barely breathing, and you were lecturing me on what I could and could not eat.”
“I say it counts because you completely upended my life after that day. Though, if you prefer, we could count the day you came in for the dildo extraction?”
Merlin groaned. “You promised to never mention that again.”
Arthur’s laughter at Merlin’s discomfort quickly faded as he noticed Merlin moving towards and attempting to slide a small bag of groceries underneath their couch.
“Hmmm?” he asked innocently.
“What are you hiding?”
“Absolutely nothing. What would I have to hide from you?” Merlin gave a less than subtle kick sending the bag deep into the darkness beneath the couch.
Arthur crouched down and pulled the bag out.
“This better not be what I think it is.” He rounded on Merlin, who had angled himself towards the front door, ready to make a run for it.
“It’s not?” Merlin asked, smiling widely.
“Why on earth would you go out and buy a jar of peanut butter? And if you say sandwiches, so help me, God.”
“It’s my mum’s birthday.” Merlin said quietly so that Arthur almost didn’t hear it. “Dad used make peanut butter and banana sandwiches for her when I was younger because we couldn’t afford all the ingredients to make a cake. It’s how we found out I was allergic actually.”
“Is there a reason you keep eating them?”
Merlin frowned. “Not really, no. It just reminds me of them, mom and dad, when we were all together. Even though I probably shouldn’t, its nice for those two seconds before my throat closes.”
“If it makes you feel better, I was only going to use a teaspoon and I had two epipens ready.”
“Come here.” Merlin walked hesitantly towards Arthur who pulled his skinny frame into his arms and kissed the top of his head. “You’re a complete idiot.”
“Yeah,” Merlin smiled back. “But I’m your idiot now.”