Characters: Leon, Gaius, Guinevere, Merlin
Warnings/Triggers: Illness, and deaths of background, unnamed townsfolk.
Spoilers: Generalized spoilers for the Series 4 finale and a bit for Gwen and Leon's backstories, which I think is covered in the Coming of Arthur (Series 3 Finale)
Pairings: Background Gwen/Arthur, otherwise gen
Word Count 1540
Summary: When Gaius falls ill to a plague that's hit Camelot, Leon finds himself being forced to play caregiver to the person who's always given the care.
Author's notes: Written for consci_fan_mo, and the prompt 'Gaius, Sir Leon; You really should take more care'. This was written before Series Five started airing here, and it has not yet finished airing, so please forgive any continuity errors.
Leon came quietly into Gaius' chambers, making a small bow to the Queen as she watched over to him. Gaius was asleep on his cot, looking flushed. He looked much worse than the other victims of the illness. It seemed to hit the very young and the very old the hardest.
“I was wondering if you might like a break?” he whispered to Guinevere. “I can sit with him for a few hours. You should try and sleep. He's still in the first stages and that has lasted for days in some people.”
Guinevere smiled at him. “I didn't think the knights of Camelot had nursemaid listed in their duties."
“Neither does the Queen of Camelot, but she has done more than her share,” Leon pointed out.
“She has more experience,” Guinevere said. “Did Arthur send you?” Leon made a non-committal gesture with his head. “I thought so. Are you sure you'll be all right?”
“I had this illness as a child, the last time it came through,” Leon said. “Gaius said it offers me protection against its return. The same as you. I can be of use, and I want to be.”
“I remember that,” Guinevere said. “Your mother brought me meadowsweet and yarrow tea.”
“It tasted awful,” Leon said, making a face at the memory.
“It did!” Guinevere said with a laugh. “But it helped. She was a good woman, your mother.”
Leon bowed his head in acknowledgement. “The king is very anxious,” he said, pointedly.
Guinevere smiled and stood up, making a show of it. She bent down to rearrange Gaius' blankets and then left the room. Leon took a seat in the chair she'd vacated. It wasn't exactly what he had envisioned when he asked the king if there was anything he could do, but he was happy to be of some service. Nearly all of Camelot was ill with the sickness, and every person who was healthy was doing something out of his or her normal purview.
Gaius stirred as the door closed. His eyes opened. He looked confused for a moment, as though he were trying to place Leon and failing. “Evrard?”
Leon shook his head, gently. “Leon, his son,” he corrected.
Gaius seemed to recognize him now. “Yes, of course, you are,” he said, as though it had been Leon who made the mistake. “Why are you in my chambers? Are you ill?”
Leon smiled. “Not me,” he said. “You are. I've come to have you tell me to go away.”
“I'm fine,” Gaius declared, and tried to sit up.
Leon put a hand on the man's shoulder and kept him lying down. “No. You really should take more care,” he said. “You need to rest.”
Gaius frowned, but he stopped struggling. He didn't seem to have much strength. He put a hand to his forehead. “What stage am I in?” he asked.
“The first,” Leon said. “You fell ill last night. The fever hasn't reached its peak, yet. I'm afraid you have some time to go. Is there anything I can get you?”
“No,” Gaius said, dismissively. “What about Arthur?”
“He's past the rash stage now,” Leon said. “And the chills. He's weak, but he'll live. He's ordering everyone around from his bed. Merlin is at his wit's end.”
Gaius looked relieved. “And the others?”
“In various stages,” he said. “Percival is in the chills and Gwaine fell with the fever last night. He's in the highest peak now and he seems to be managing it. Elyan is with them both—he's immune like his sister and myself. There have been ten deaths in total. Two children and eight adults—three of them already ill with chronic complaints. Merlin is fine. He seems untouched completely, though he says he's never had it before. Everyone else is coping.”
“I shouldn't be lying around,” Gaius said, trying again to get up. “I need to be making the teas and medicines.”
“You need to rest,” Leon insisted. “All is well. I promise. I have a direct order from the king to keep you resting by any means. Don't make me use those means.”
“Who's protecting the castle while you're here guarding me?” Gaius grumbled.
“There are lookouts,” Leon said. “There's been no trouble in some time. If something happens, I'll go to tend to it but, for now, I am not about to disobey my king.”
Gaius made a face, looking even more grumpy than usual. “Bring the bottle on the table there, with the blue liquid,” he said, pointing. “I'll take a dose of it. It should help the fever break more quickly.”
Leon retrieved it and followed Gaius' directions on how it should be given. His cheeks were starting to flush again, and Leon guessed he was having another bout with the fever. The first stage of the illness started out with a mild fever which rose and fell, getting more severe with each cycle. Once it hit its peak, it broke, and, if a person survived that, he was more likely to make it through the rash that followed and then the vicious chills.
The medicine seemed to make Gaius sleepy, and he drifted off again. Leon sat quietly, a bit fidgety. He did not consider caretaking to be in his skill set. He preferred to be attacking danger or warding it off, not sitting next to an unseen enemy and feeling helpless to stop it. He kept a cool cloth on his charge's forehead to combat the fever, as he'd seen Guinevere doing for Arthur. There was little else to be done.
The fever rose and fell, Gaius lucid for brief moments between each cycle. Leon stayed, trying to reassure or provide what comfort he could. Gaius had spent so many hours doing the same for him, both as a child and as an adult, that he felt it right to return the favour. When Leon's mother was dying, Gaius was there to ease her passing. If this was to be his own last hours, then Leon would stay to see that he wasn't alone.
When the fever grew to that deciding point, when Gaius was so hot he couldn't keep still and his words were nonsensical ramblings, Leon sent for Merlin, who came running in a mad dash.
“Oh no,” he said, his voice full of despair.
Leon stood so Merlin could have the chair next to Gaius' cot. Merlin seemed exhausted. He'd been attending to a dozen little things at once over the last week. For all he lacked in strength and skill in battle, Leon thought they often overlooked just how capable Merlin was in his own way.
“We should know soon,” Leon said. “I think it's reach its peak now.”
Merlin nodded and leaned forward, whispering urgent words to Gaius. Leon moved himself discreetly to the window, giving Merlin his privacy.
“Could you fetch some more water?” Merlin asked, after a bit. “I think... he needs to be cooled down. It might help.”
Leon thought this was futile, but agreed to the request, taking the bucket out to the pump. The courtyard outside was deserted, everyone either ill or tending to the ill. He hoped the enemies of Camelot would not take advantage of the weakness. Peace had reigned for some time now but this would be the perfect moment to strike.
He returned and found Gaius lying in a pool of sweat. Merlin had his head in his hands--in relief, not sadness. He looked up and grinned at Leon.
“It's breaking,” he said. “I think he'll be all right.”
Leon grinned back.
He stayed a while longer, to make sure that Gaius was really through the fever. The rash started to show about an hour later and Leon thought no one had ever been so happy to see a spread of pox than Merlin was. Leon was about to go and see about the rest of the castle when a servant arrived, asking for Merlin.
“Err...” Merlin said, looking to Gaius and hesitating.
“I'll stay,” Leon offered. “Go to the king. I'll send for you if there's any drastic change.”
Merlin thanked him and hurried out of the room. Leon sat back down in the chair, idly flipping through one of Gaius' books on herbs. It made no sense to him, but it was something to do.
“If you're planning on taking my job, I would hold off,” Gaius muttered, sometime later. “I am not gone yet.”
Leon smiled. “I'd be next to useless,” he said. “How are you feeling?”
“Thirsty,” Gaius said.
Leon fetched him some water. Gaius took a few sips and examined the spots on his hand.
“Stage two, I see,” he said. “I should be fine to get up now.”
“No,” Leon said, firmly. “We need you at your best. If you relapse, we'll all be lost.”
“I am not that important,” Gaius said.
“Perhaps not, but if you aren't around, we'll be stuck with Merlin,” Leon joked
Gaius chuckled. “You're right,” he said. “That would be a tragedy, indeed.”
He lay back on the cot and seemed inclined to rest. Leon made sure he was comfortable, relieved that he looked to be through the worst of it. He couldn't picture a Camelot without Gaius. For as long as he could remember, it Gaius who tended and mended and cared for everyone. He was pleased to be able to give a little of that in return. He owed it to him.
And perhaps he wasn't such a bad nursemaid, after all.