Title: Cold Spell
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur scowled, and Merlin’s smile grew as he took in the picture he made. Here was Camelot’s fiercest warrior, sulking beneath Gaius’ ratty old blanket like a fractious child, brought down by a simple virus.
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 315 Art Prompt (Morning Light)
Author's Notes: This is basically pure fluff, okay?
Arthur was talking in his sleep when Merlin finished—long, rambling sentences that made no sense, his eyes still closed and his skin flushed hot with fever. He looked miserably ill, his hair in disarray and the tip of his nose a deep, irritated red, and when Merlin went to rouse him he snuffled for a moment into the cushions before blinking himself awake.
“Take this, sire,” Merlin said softly, holding out a vial of orange liquid and pressing it into Arthur’s palm. He and Gaius had worked all night to prepare the mixture, its surface gleaming slightly in the morning light, the last remnants of Merlin’s healing magic turning iridescent for a moment before disappearing into its depths. Arthur appeared too befuddled by sleep to notice, and Merlin had to resist a sudden urge to kiss him, he looked so soft and exhausted still. “It'll make you feel better.”
Arthur muttered something indistinct and downed the potion in a single gulp, making a face as the flavour hit his tastebuds.
“That was foul,” he said, hoarse-voiced, “even for you. What was it made of?”
“Oh, a little eye of newt and hair of bat,” Merlin said, and laughed when Arthur turned a trifle green. “It won’t hurt you, idiot. It’s just a few herbs and things that Gaius collected. It ought to bring the fever down and stop your head from pounding for a while.”
“But will it cure me?”
“I’m afraid not.” Merlin shook his head, hiding a smile as Arthur pouted visibly. “There is no cure for the common cold, sire. I’m sorry.”
Arthur scowled, and Merlin’s smile grew as he took in the picture he made. Here was Camelot’s fiercest warrior, sulking beneath Gaius’ ratty old blanket like a fractious child, brought down by a simple virus.
“Oh, how the mighty have fallen,” he said, which made Arthur’s pout deepen, and Merlin did touch him this time—he couldn’t help it—carding his fingers gently through his hair and curling his hand against the damp skin at the nape of Arthur’s neck, tugging him closer.
“You’ll be fine in a few days,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to Arthur’s burning forehead. “It’s only a head cold.”
Arthur just sighed in response, leaning into Merlin’s embrace with the sort of pliancy that he would never have displayed when sober. “I’d better be,” he grumbled. “What kind of sorcerer are you if you won’t try and cure one teensy little cold?”
“A sensible one,” Merlin said. “Gaius told me what happened the other brave souls who tried, and I don’t fancy being forced to cough up frogs for a few months, even for you.”
“Traitor,” Arthur mumbled. Already he was sounding less congested, and his face where it rested against Merlin’s chest was beginning to lose some of its hectic colour, returning to its usual robust hue. “I hate you.”
“I know you do.” Merlin petted him for a few moments longer, enjoying the unguarded way that Arthur submitted to the caress, then reluctantly shoved the king upright and hauled him to his feet.
“Up you get, sire,” he said, manoeuvring Arthur’s arm so that it was slung over his shoulder, allowing him to take most of his weight. “What you need is rest and fluids, and you’ll be more comfortable in your own bed than camped out down here.”
Upright, Arthur seemed to register where he was for the first time, glancing around the infirmary with a frown that was two shades too irritated to be adorable—though only just.
“What am I doing here?” he asked, sounding confused. “And where’s Gaius?”
“Gaius is over at Gwen’s,” Merlin said carefully; he had already explained this the last time Arthur was awake. “She generously offered him a place to sleep, since you were already occupying his bed. You, uh,” he said, biting his lip to keep his amusement in check, “were quite insistent on staying with me, as a matter of fact. Something about my being the only one who could keep the Wildeoren at bay.”
Arthur favoured him with a blank stare that somehow managed to be equal parts incredulous and bashful. “I did not,” he said, but not like he believed it. “You’re making that up.”
“I’m afraid that most definitely happened,” Merlin assured him, and Arthur looked thoroughly appalled at himself. “You can ask Gaius if you don’t believe me.”
“I was off my head,” Arthur said at once. “Raving with fever. If a Wildeoren saw you, it’d eat you alive.”
“I’ll remember that next time you drag me out to meet one,” Merlin deadpanned, and Arthur snorted in spite of himself, wincing a little as it caught in his throat. Merlin held onto him while he coughed, automatically registering the crackling wheeze of his lungs and the way he seemed to have difficulty catching his breath. People did die of silly colds, sometimes.
When Arthur had recovered somewhat, Merlin nudged him out the door and up the steps towards his chambers, letting the king lean on him most of the way as they shuffled along the empty corridors. Then he helped Arthur into bed and drew the curtains, plumping the pillows unnecessarily before heading towards the door.
“Wait,” Arthur said, catching his arm. Merlin turned back to him at once, raising his eyebrows in a question, and Arthur looked slightly sheepish as he said, “A kiss.” He cleared his throat, smirking faintly. “For my brave protector.”
“Ass,” Merlin said, covering Arthur’s mouth at the last moment and kissing the tip of his nose instead. “I’ll kiss you properly when you’re better.” He smiled at Arthur’s disappointed face, and with a simple gesture tucked the blankets closer around him. “Now go to sleep. I’ll be right here waiting for you when you get well.”
Arthur made a disgruntled sound as he subsided, his eyelids already drooping, and Merlin left him there, sleeping soundly, until time and Merlin’s tender touch could chase the shadows away.