Chapter 25 has been delayed 4 months now and I was just dying for some more AnS stuff. So I just made my own. Again. :P Plus I've gotten a few requests for a sick fic, so I hope you like it.
Warning: there may be some OOC-ness and senseless fluff but I really don't care ;3 Also, I really had no idea for a title this time, but this works, doesn't it?
Disclaimer: I do not own Akagami no Shirayukihime :(
The Prince And The Pharmacist
A cold breeze drifted over Clarines, signifying that Autumn had successfully begun to creep its way into the town.
The second prince had just been released from a meeting and was as excited to be out of the stuffy room full of politics as a child expecting a present would be. Exiting the room, he sauntered down the hallway, stretching his arms in turn as he went.
"Honestly," he mumbled to himself. "Why have a meeting so early in the morning?" It was not that Zen was not fond of rising early, but rather, he mainly only did so because he would use that extra time to go outdoors and roam the palace. However, having meetings early in the morning did have their advantages; now he was free for a good remaining portion of the day.
He let his feet carry him near the entrance of the castle, where pillars held up the levels above rather than walls, so that one may see the trees and feel the breeze. As he rolled his shoulder and smirked when he heard a satisfying pop, Zen sneezed at the same moment a rustling sound came from beside him. Looking up expectantly with somewhat of an irksome expression, he waited for the person to show themselves.
"Obi," Zen sighed as the black-haired servant emerged before the prince. "Haven't I told you not to use the trees as means of transportation at your leisure?"
"Right. Sorry, Master." Obi said, not sounding sorry at all. "Was that a sneeze I heard just now?" He asked, changing the subject rather quickly. "You're not getting the flu as well, are you? That could be troublesome..."
The flu he referred to was an annual sickness that struck the town of Clarines between the shift of seasons from Summer to Autumn. The flu was very common, even amongst the nobles, because it came on fast when the body was still relishing the warmth of Summer and was not yet prepared for the chill of Winter. The doctors had yet to find a prevention medicine that proved affective, and the medicines that healed the symptoms were scarce; most people could overcome it without the use of medicines, which were saved for more serious cases.
"Everyone gets it at some point," Zen answered, regarding Obi's question. "That is, except for you, it seems." Obi let a wide grin cross his face as he laughed once; probably the only thing he was extremely proud of was not having been sick a day in his life. "But I'm fine. Just a slight sneeze." Zen reassured.
"Good then." Replied his servant, satisfied. "How is Kiki-san?" He wondered then.
"It seems she's recovering slowly." Zen sighed regretfully.
The flu was rough upon the immune system, and seemed to affect females much more brutally than males simply due to their smaller build and lower metabolism. Zen often heard the younger boys in the town call it the Female Flu and they would often jeer at one another if they were to contract it; just thinking about their insincerity made Zen's eyebrows twitch.
"Well then, that's good too." Obi replied before switching the subject. "Have you seen the Little Miss yet?" He wondered.
"Not yet but I'll be getting around to her. She's in the gardens, I presume?"
"Yes. Lots of herb inventory before the seasons switch, it seems." Obi explained.
"Obi." Zen's tone deepened a notch, telling the servant that he was that much more serious with what he was about to say. "Please keep an eye on her. You know how she likes to overwork herself."
"Will do." Obi nodded before vanishing off into the trees once more. "He never learns..." Zen muttered irritably after him before resuming his walk, heading toward the gardens.
As he rounded a corner on his way there, he spotted two familiar figures just as they spotted him.
"Hey, Zen!" Mitsuhide called as he neared them; Kiki was at his side, looking a bit tired, but better than she had been.
Most residents of Clarines would contract the flu slowly and suffer mild affects until it gradually wore off. But some women only were affected by it for a few brief days, yet it came with a cost; they would suffer much stronger affects. Kiki had been one of the latter category this year, having gotten a fever and was unable to leave bed for several days, but it seemed she was on the road to recovery now.
"Good morning, Mitsuhide, Kiki." Zen greeted them. "Are you feeling any better?" He asked, turning to the girl. "This is the first time I've seen you out of bed this week."
"Yes. I'm much better than I was, that's for sure." But as she spoke, her eyes fluttered closed without her consent and she swayed. Both boys reached out with lightning speed to steady her.
"Take it easy." Mitsuhide helped her sit on the ledge of a nearby window, before Zen summoned him and led him several paces away.
"Why is she even out of bed?" Zen wondered, looking back at Kiki. "She's obviously exhausted."
"I don't know why either!" Mitsuhide replied, frustrated. "This is the first time I've seen her sick. The doctor tending to her said she should try to be more active to fight it off, but I think rest is better. Yet," his eyes softened a bit. "She wanted to be up and about, so I accompanied her. She's a bit pale so I was planning on taking her back now anyway."
"See that you do that." Zen ordered, not unkindly. "And tell me if anything happens."
"I will. But the price for being affected faster means she'll be healed faster." Mitsuhide gave a small grin.
Zen watched as his close aide walked back to his companion and helped her stand. She leaned heavily against him as he took her back down the hallway, the prince watching them until they vanished before continuing forward. What a fine mess this is. He thought as he sighed aloud. It seems the flu's a lot worse this year.
At last, he approached the doors to the garden to find Obi leaning agains the crevice in the wall there, blending into the shadows as he peeked through the doors. Zen stopped beside him and nodded once, relieving him of his duty for the time, and Obi bowed briefly before vanishing.
Zen stepped into the gardening room and was overwhelmed by the scent of fresh plants and cool air, completely different from the stuffy air of the palace. He easily spotted what he was looking for, her brilliant, apple-red hair standing out like a tropical flower in a desert.
He made his way over to her, but she was so focused on her work, mumbling things to herself and writing things down in her log, that she did not notice his approach.
"Shirayuki." He called out, halting behind where she was kneeling down. She jumped and quickly looked up at him, the surprise on her face quickly melting into recognition.
"Zen!" She gasped, placing her notebook on the ground and standing to face him. "Good morning!" She beamed.
"Sorry I startled you. You were so focused." He chuckled, overwhelmed by her bright smile.
"It's fine." She said dismissively, then her emerald eyes flickered with concern and her smile faded. "How is Kiki-san?" She wondered. Zen knew their friend's condition would be the first thing on her mind, and so he had prepared in advance an answer that would not lie to her, but not worry her either.
"She's still a bit woozy, but she's getting better." He explained.
"That's good." Relief laced her voice. "I guess that's the good thing about getting sick so quickly; you get better just as quick."
Yes, but for the amount of time you are sick, it's as though you're on your deathbed. Zen thought morbidly because of certain cases he had been told about. But of course he refrained from saying such terrible things and merely nodded instead. Besides, there had been no instances of anyone ever dying from the flu in Clarines.
"She'll be better before long." He said reassuringly.
"I'll go and visit her later." Shirayuki decided. Then, despite his efforts to hold it back, Zen sneezed, earning her attention. "Are you okay, Zen?" Concern filled her voice as she looked up at him.
"Yes, I'm fine." He answered. But she was unconvinced and, straining onto her tip-toes, she pushed his hair aside and pressed her forehead against his. The prince was taken aback, but made certain to stay put, trying to hide his blush. Finally, she moved away. "You don't have a fever. Thank goodness." The way she sounded so genuinely relived for his health reminded Zen just how much he loved her and he smile. "Even Ryu was told to take the day off. I hope this passes over quickly."
"It always does." He told her. Zen glanced around the room, full of plants that had all recently received new soil and a watering. His eyes rested on her notebook and supplies before returning to her face. "Are you sure you're okay, doing all this work by yourself when this cold's going around?" He asked.
"Yes!" she responded happily. "I feel fine!"
He scoured her smiling face for any signs of exhaustion, but her flushed cheeks and lively eyes were the precise image of healthy.
"Besides," she added more softly. "Even if I wasn't, you know I wouldn't hide it from you."
"Good girl." He grinned, ruffling her hair as she giggled. "Aren't you cold out here?" He asked then, noticing that every window was ajar.
"Not at all." She replied. "In fact, it feels nice, to be honest. I feel like I can breathe easier in the fresh air."
"Just make sure you won't catch a cold."
"I'll try me best not to." She replied.
"...What kind of answer is that?"
"But I haven't been affected by it at all, yet." Shirayuki went on. "Maybe it's because this flu occurs in Clarines and my Tanburn blood is resistant somehow?"
"Let's hope that's the case." He murmured. "Hey, when you're finished here, let's go see Kiki together."
"Ah, sure!" She crouched back down and began scribbling in her notebook again, more quickly now that she had something to look forward to afterward.
Zen knelt down beside her and asked how he could be of assistance, and they finished the work before long.
Shirayuki put away her belongings before rejoining him in the hallway. When they reached Kiki's quarters, Mitsuhide let them in.
"Kiki-san!" Shirayuki exclaimed, rushing over to her friend who sat up in her bed. "Are you feeling better?" She asked, flustered.
Kiki smiled amusedly at the red-haired girl. "Yes, I am. Thank you Shirayuki. I'll be fully healed by tomorrow."
"That's great news." The younger girl let out a relived breath.
"It's thanks to those herbs you've been caring for." The silver-haired attendant explained. "They're what makes the medicine."
"That's right! I was asked to tend to a certain group of plants recently because they make the cure, but we're running out so quickly due to the amount of serious cases. I'm glad you're feeling better though." She smiled.
"That's good to hear." Zen turned to Mitsuhide who nodded thankfully.
However, Zen felt a chilled breeze come over him then, and a flicker of uneasiness stirred inside of him, for every window in the room was closed.
The next morning, Zen awoke to a gray sky and a cold breeze, which must have been a harbinger for what was in store.
He rose early, and was patrolling the halls and was just thinking that the air was stiller than it should have been when he heard rapid footsteps approaching him.
"Master!" Obi yelled as he appeared before Zen, trying to catch his breath,
"Obi! What's happened?" He called, rushing to meet him.
"The...The Little Miss..." The servant grunted, his dark eyes full of fear. Zen's blood ran cold and time seemed to freeze along with the air.
"...What...What's wrong?" He forced himself to ask, despite the terrible feeling that rose in his gut telling him he already knew what it was.
"She's...She's sick." Obi announced gravely as he straightened up, meeting Zen's eyes with a seriousness that frightened the prince. "Really sick."
Zen did not even know if this was reality or not anymore. He prayed it was just an awful nightmare and that he was not actually hearing those horrible words.
There was no way she was sick. He had just seen her yesterday. She had been fine. She had been smiling. He had just seen her and she had been healthy as ever before!
It took him great effort to return Obi's gaze.
"Where is she?" He fought to keep his voice steady.
"In her quarters. She can't move." Obi replied grimly.
Without another word, Zen whipped around and dashed off down the hallway, not caring whether Obi followed or not. He raced around the corners and bends until he arrived at the door to the room he visited more than his own.
Mitsuhide and Kiki as well as several maids and guards were clustered around the entrance, muttering together quietly. They all became silent as Zen appeared, Obi not far behind. There was a brief moment of silence as the heavy atmosphere settled in. They all knew what he was going to ask, but none of them stepped aside from the door, so Zen took a meaningful pace forward. One of the guards stepped forward to meet him.
"Your Highness," he said respectfully. "The doctor is still with her. None are allowed to enter yet. Not even Your Highness." He explained awkwardly. Zen clenched his fists at his side, but did nothing more.
"I see." He gritted his teeth. "Then would you all please leave for the time being?" The maids and guards, having expected this reaction, all bowed before dispersing. Mitsuhide, Kiki and Obi remained, for they knew he wanted them to. Mitsuhide's eyes were shaded with worry, and though Kiki was recovered now, she looked just as miserable as she had been the past few days in her sickness. "So what happened?" Zen asked quietly.
"It happened overnight." Obi explained. "She had been fine last evening, but on her way to the garden this morning, she seemed unsteady. I was debating whether I should confront her about it or inform you first when..." he trailed off, pained at the memory of it.
"When what?" Zen asked patiently. "Let me know what happened." He insisted.
Obi met his gaze with unhappy eyes but continued with his tale. "She...without any warning, she just...dropped everything she was carrying and...went down." He winced, remembering the scene. "When I went over to her, she didn't try to get up. She just...laid there. Then I found Kiki-san and Mistuhide-san and led them to her before I went off to find you." He finished. There was a moment of weighted silence as his words sunk in.
"I don't understand." Zen growled. "She was perfectly fine yesterday..."
"But, if it's constant," Mitsuhide put in slowly. "Since Shirayuki got sick overnight, she should be better by tomorrow night, correct?"
"Yes," Kiki agreed. "But you know how this illness works; the shorter you have it, the more terrible the symptoms." She lowered her eyes to the floor as she struck the blow they had all been too afraid to state.
Just then, there were noises from the other side of the door and a second later it opened. The four outside tensed and looked eagerly up at the person emerging, a woman with thin black hair and glasses with a grim look on her face. She raised her head to meet the worried stares of those outside.
"Your Highness." She bowed to Zen.
"How is she?" He asked. The woman looked at him with tired eyes and carefully worded her response.
"Not well." The doctor said in a low tone. Despair crept over every face present. "Since it came on so quickly, it should leave her by tomorrow night, but..." she paused and sighed again. "But until then...it is not going to be pleasant."
"Do you know why her case is so serious?" Zen asked, clenching his fists again until they were sore.
"I would assume it's because she is from TanBurn and is not accustomed to the illness yet. She has not yet grown accustomed to it like those of us born here, therefore she was hit with its full force."
Zen flinched. It's the exact opposite of what Shirayuki had thought...Damn it! Why her?
"May we see her?" Mitsuhide wondered, but his voice suggested he already knew the answer. The doctor looked around at them evenly.
"I don't think it would be contagious at this point, but I think it would be best if you avoided her for the time being." The crushing words hung over them like the dark clouds outside. "However," the woman went on. "She will need an aide to get through the next 36 hours until tomorrow night." She looked meaningfully up at Zen. "I believe, if you are not too busy, that His Highness would be best suited for the task." His three companions slowly nodded in agreement; not only did they all know his affections for the red-haired girl, but they also knew that he was immune to almost every kind of poison in the country; the flu was no concern.
"Absolutely." He replied instantly. "Mitsuhide, let everyone know I won't be attending any duties tomorrow. Kiki, tell my brother I won't be able to attend the banquet tonight."
"Yes, sir." The pair bowed.
"Don't worry," the prince gave them all a small, yet somewhat regretful smile. "I'll let you all know when she's better." With those dismissive words, Kiki and Mitsuhide bowed before taking their leave, and Obi flashed one last look over his shoulder as he headed off as well, leaving only the doctor and Zen.
"Does she have any medicine to take?" He asked.
"That is the most troublesome thing." The woman replied. "There is currently a shortage in those particular herbs, and the next batch of medicine will not be prepared for usage until tomorrow."
"What?" His voice came out louder than he had wanted it to.
"I am very sorry, Your Highness. If that department was under my control, I would be sure that some was ready at any given moment."
"No, I'm sorry." He apologized. "You've done everything you could. Thank you." Stepping toward the door, he opened it slowly before the doctor spoke again.
"You won't know she's recovering until she feels cold." The woman told him. "In this weather, as long as she's feeling warm, you know she's still unwell."
"Yes." He blinked, looking at the floor.
"Also, don't let her eat much. Only water."
"It's not going to be easy to watch." She warned.
"I know." He replied in anguish as he entered the room and closed the door behind him.
Though the lights in the room were on, the darkness from the weather outside seeped into the windows and shrouded sections of it in shadows. He expected to hear nothing but the wind blowing outside, but was appalled when he heard ragged breathing coming from her bed. Rushing over quickly, to her bedside, he found her lying there on her back, the covers pushed down to her knees.
"Shirayuki..." his voice choked as he got a good look at her; she was dressed in a soft, short-sleeved nightgown, but she did not seem comfortable in the slightest. The lively blush that he had seen only yesterday had completely faded from her cheeks, leaving only a pale, sickly, color there. Sweat covered her forehead, neck and collarbones and her eyebrows were furrowed with pain.
He gazed down at her miserably as he sat in the vacant chair at her bedside. There was a small table beside him where a bucket of cold water, a glass, and several cloths sat. He dunked one into the water before wringing it out and positioning it on her forehead. As the material made contact with her skin, Shirayuki seemed to relax just a tiny bit, and managed to open her eyes, looking to him.
"Z...Zen..." she panted.
"Hey there." He said softly. He was about to ask how she was feeling, but he bit back the words. "Is there...anything you need?" he asked, picking up her right hand, which was light and limp.
"Mm mm." She shook her head from side to side and tried to smile, but it did not last long.
"Okay." His voice was soft as he reached forward with his free hand to touch her cheek, which was hot. A few more moments passed as Zen listened uncomfortably to her harsh breathing, as her eyes slipped closed again. If only there was some form of medicine... He thought, gritting his teeth.
Another moment passed before Shirayuki forced her eyes open again.
"Zen..." she rasped.
"What is it?"
"Don't you have...work to attend to...?"
"Don't be ridiculous." He chided lightly. "Do you honestly think I could leave your side for a second when you're in such a state?"
"But...won't you be scolded?"
"I've gotten it taken care of." He reassured. "You should stop worrying about other people. You're not looking so good yourself right now, you know." He rubbed his thumb over the back of her hand.
"I'm sorry..." she said quietly.
"Don't start that. It's not your fault you got sick." He stopped her gently. Her bangs were plastered to her forehead and he gingerly brushed them aside for her. "You should just try to sleep. This will all be over soon." He promised.
"Okay." She said, her determined eyes filled with trust. But that very trust made him grow uneasy; she was putting faith in words he could not account for.
As her eyelids closed once more, Zen tried to drown out her uneven breaths so that they would sound less painful. Rain began to hiss outside as the room darkened more. The prince stayed put for about half an hour, still holding her hand, before Shirayuki reopened her eyes.
"It's no good." She croaked. "I can't sleep."
"I'm sorry." He sighed.
"Why?" she attempted to giggle.
"Because...I don't know I just...I'm sorry that there's no medicine...that you have to suffer alone like this."
"But Zen...I'm not alone. You're here with me." She reminded him sweetly, and he gave her a small grin.
As the rain continued outside, the humidity in the air increased. Shirayuki felt as though there was a huge weight pressing down on her chest, and she found it harder to breathe with each gasp. She tried to stifle her breaths and make them less desperate, as not to worry him further, but in her efforts to restrain herself, she only made things worse. She felt more sweat gather on her forehead and run down her cheeks and Zen too noticed the change in her condition.
"Ah! I'm sorry," he said. "Are you feeling hot?"
"Y...Yeah." She smiled weakly. "Just a little." But in truth, she felt as though her entire room was on fire and she was slowly suffocating. Even when Zen removed the cloth from her forehead and refreshed it with cold water, she only felt better for a fraction of a second. Her breath hitched awkwardly then, and she inhaled with a massive shudder, a small whimper escaping her throat. Zen's grip on her hand tightened and she cursed herself inwardly. She's getting worse. He thought.
"Hey," he spoke up softly. "Didn't I tell you not to hide this kind of thing from me again?"
She gasped lightly as she remembered the promise, and realized she had broken it.
"I-I'm so sorry..." she panted, panicked. "I d-didn't realize..."
"Shh. Silly girl." He said, sliding one finger over her lips. "It's okay. I'm not mad. Just make sure you get better as quickly as possible."
"Okay. I promise." She brushed her hand against his arm and he smiled in understanding. Moving his hand to hers, he wound their pinkies together.
"Alright. Now then, can you sit up?" He asked, removing the cloth from her forehead and putting it back into the water. Shirayuki tried her best to push herself up, but her arms were unreasonably feeble.
"I...I can't." She replied, embarrassed. Zen's shoulders stiffened; he did not think she would be that weak.
"R-Right. Sorry." He was a bit unnerved, but hid away his uneasiness. He took the damp cloth in his right hand and slid his left arm beneath her shoulders, helping her sit up. He was taken aback at just how light she was, even though he was supporting half of her weight. Her shoulders were trembling slightly and her breathing was still harsh.
He ran the cloth over her warm forehead and he felt her exhale as her eyes closed. He then ran the cool material over her cheeks and then down her neck and across her collarbones. She still looked uncomfortable to him, but to her it felt heavenly. Zen cooled her down one more time before he put the cloth back on her forehead and gently laid her back down. "Do you feel any better?"
"Yes, very much." She blinked thankfully up at him.
"I'm glad. Do you think you could try to sleep now?"
"I can't make any promises..." she sighed.
"Okay. Just try." He pleaded. She nodded and closed her eyes, but no matter how many minutes went by, her breathing remained ragged, never once slipping into the deep, rhythmic breaths of slumber. The rain had stopped falling by the time she decided to open her eyes once more, her face set into an expression of irritation.
"It's no use." She murmured in defeat.
"Okay." Zen patted her head. "You'll fall asleep when you're tired enough."
"You're right. It's...just so boring..." she sighed. Then she realized it could have easily been misunderstood and she corrected herself. "I-I don't mean it's boring being with you, Zen!" She explained quickly. "I...I just meant...lying here...unable to do anything useful..."
"Calm down. I know what you mean." He chuckled. "But don't worry about work or whatever it is you have to do; that comes later. Right now you just have to focus on keeping your promise and get better as soon as possible."
The afternoon passed by without much change in her condition for the better or for the worse. However, just before sunset, Shirayuki felt as though the invisible weight on her chest increased a bit. Her throat suddenly began to itch and she coughed once.
Almost instantly afterward, her body shook as bouts of coughing washed over her in furious waves. It happened so quickly and without warning that Zen was completely taken off guard.
"Shirayuki?" He quickly reached forward and helped her sit up. "Hey, what's wrong?" He fretted. She shook her head from side to side by means to tell him she did not know. Her body jerked forward with each cough until she was doubled over with her head in her lap, trying to stifle them.
"No, here," Zen brought her shoulders back up. "You need to sit up straight. You'll breathe easier." He supported her shoulders with his left hand and placed his right on her chest to prevent her from leaning forward. "Shh. It's okay. Just breathe." He patted her back soothingly, knowing that he needed to keep calm, lest she become even more frightened.
Shirayuki felt her throat close up, and before long she was choking out sobs in between breaths. Zen watched with a pained expression as she tried to fight off the assaults on her body. Time seemed to expand, every second longer than it should have been, almost as if to make her suffer more.
At last, Shirayuki's sobs died away into labored breaths, and her shaking shoulders went limp in his arms. Tears hung onto the corners of her eyelashes and each breath was hitched, her chest heaving under his palm. Zen removed his right hand from her collarbones and reached for another wet cloth, pressing it against her forehead again before running it down her neck to the base of her throat. Then, he replaced the cloth with the glass of water and held it to her lips. "Here. You need to drink something." He insisted.
She blinked her teary eyes open and stifled her gasps as best she could before nodding to him. Her hands were too shaky to hold the glass, so he held it for her, having her take small sips. The cool liquid drizzled down her sore throat like a healing spring and the girl drained the entire glass. The prince placed the empty glass back on the table as he carefully laid her back down, her head sinking into her pillow and her silky, red hair pooling about her. Her eyes had already closed again and Zen brushed the back of his hands against her cheek tenderly. Her breathing had become less shallow now, but that could have just been because she was so exhausted.
It was now completely dark outside and Zen flicked on the lamp at her bedside before he got to his feet. At the sound of his movement, Shirayuki sensed his presence begin to shift and her eyelids flew open.
"Zen?" Her voice was so small that he barely heard it, but there was fear in her tone he could not miss. He turned back to her and patted her head.
"Don't worry. I'm just going to turn off the light." He murmured. "I'm not going to leave you." He swore. His words seemed to comfort her a little and she blinked once in understanding as he slipped away from her. She watched him with anxious eyes as he crossed the room and flicked off the light. The only light now was from the small lamp, along with a faint glow from the bathroom attached to the other side of the room.
He went back to her and took his seat, taking her hand in his again. Then, he leaned forward and rested his forehead on hers; she was too tired to even feel embarrassed. "Your fever's gotten a bit worse." He said with a helpless smile.
"I'll...be better soon." She whispered. Judging by her voice and how her eyes were struggling to stay open, he assumed she was finally worn out enough to get some sleep. Shirayuki met his eyes briefly before she closed them, her body relaxing a tiny bit. Zen pulled the covers up from her knees to her waist before he patted a wet cloth over her face once more. Tossing it aside when he had finished, he noticed that she had finally fallen asleep. He smiled with relief and sat back in his chair, stretching his arms above his head.
Then, he grasped her hand again and leaned forward, resting his head on the mattress beside her stomach and closing his eyes, falling asleep almost instantly.
Shirayuki awoke to an excruciating pain in her chest.
Her eyes flew open and she gasped from the pain to find herself looking at the dark ceiling of her room. Off to her left, the moon hung in the sky, but she could not tell what time of night it was. Turning to her right, she saw Zen illuminated by the lamp light, hunched over and sleeping, his hand holding hers loosely. A tiny smile crossed her lips for a second before another wave of pain crashed over her, running up from her midsection to her throat. She clamped down on an agonized cry and swallowed it back with great effort. Her aching body felt no better at all, even after her rest; in fact, she felt even more pressured than before, like she was slowly suffocating.
Then, the throbbing pain in her stomach attack with renewed force and she moaned out in tortured voice. She flipped onto her side, and slid her hand out of Zen's before turning onto her stomach, muffling her cries into her pillow.
But as if knowing something was wrong the instant her warm hand left his, Zen opened his eyes and groggily lifted his head. He blinked a few times before his eyes adjusted, stiffening at the scene before him.
Shirayuki sobbed into her pillow as more terrible blasts of pain exploded within her; she felt as though her insides were being twisted the wrong way. She felt hot and short of breath; tears were streaming down her face and she trembled all over.
"Shirayuki!" Zen was on his feet in an instant, his eyes wildly searching around the room, looking toward the door and praying someone would pass by. But it was the middle of the night, and leaving her to fetch help was his last option.
As he debated whether it would be best to get her real treatment or to do what he could on his own, Shirayuki flipped onto her back again, whimpering painfully as more aches shook her body. Then, she cried out in sheer anguish as the pain seemed to stab at her heart. "Shirayuki!" Zen called out again, unsure of what he should do.
She turned onto her side again and gasped desperately, not sure if her lungs were still functioning properly. Then, the pain ceased for a split second and she took advantage of it to somehow use all the strength present in her body to push herself up where she looked down at the mattress beneath her, her tears staining it as she panted frantically.
"Z...Ze...n..." she choked as her arms began to shake uncontrollably.
"What? What is it?" He asked, tears swelling in his eyes. He would rather be stripped of his title and his kingdom rather than watch this any more. Shirayuki managed to look back over her shoulder across the room and he understood.
Trying to move quickly, he pulled her right arm across his shoulders as she swung her legs off the bed, her bare feet hitting the cold floor. With his right arm holding her wrist and his left supporting her weight, he slowly walked her over to the bathroom. When they reached the sink, Shirayuki dropped both of her arms onto it and stared down, huffing as the throbbing continued. Before long, her entire body convulsed with spasms that shook her so badly she almost lost her footing.
Zen rested one hand on her back and with the other, pulled her hair away from her face. He closed his eyes, unable to watch as she vomited, her body becoming thinner with every second. He traced soothing circles on her back and between her shoulders with left palm, while his right found a clean cloth on the side of the sink, which he used to pat her forehead dry of sweat.
After what was dragged out to seem like hours, Shirayuki's quivering shoulders went still and relaxed, and her pain was quelled, as though expelling everything from her body was supposed to be the solution to make her feel better.
Zen wiped her tears and her mouth before tossing the cloth aside. She raised her head to give him an completely exhausted smile, her eyes a bit more calm now that the pain had finally subsided. Her emerald irises thanked him silently before they closed and she slumped into his arms.
It only took one arm to hold her up, and with his free hand he washed the sink and his hands before he lifted the girl up bridal style and carried her back over to her bed. He laid her down and her eyes fluttered open again to gaze up at him.
"Thank you..." she breathed; her voice was the very embodiment of fatigue.
"Anything for you." He murmured, running his fingers through her soft hair. "Do you feel any better?" Is that even possible after that? He wondered.
"Yes, I really do. It doesn't hurt anymore." She smiled.
"That's good." He replied, taking her hand once again. He then leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Close your eyes." He urged and she obeyed.
Taking his seat again, he pressed his fingers against her wrist, thankful to find that her pulse had dropped. Zen pulled the blanket up over her stomach and placed her hands on top, holding them both in one of his. He rested his head beside her chest and let her steady breathing lull him to sleep.
"Good night, Shirayuki." He whispered.
Zen awoke the next morning when sunlight warmly lit his face.
Raising his head, he was relieved to find the girl still sound asleep. He touched her cheek, which he believed to be slightly more colored than it had been the day before.
Shortly after, a knock came on the door and he forced himself to leave her for a moment, letting go of her hands. The prince was met with the doctor from yesterday and reported all of Shirayuki's symptoms to her.
"That is awful." She sighed regretfully. "But after all that, she should be fine by tonight if she just sleeps. Here,"she rolled a small bottle into his palm. "I made it myself last night." She smirked and Zen smiled back. "Give it to her when she wakes up." He was about to ask if she would check on his friend, but the medicine logs in her hands suggested she had other patients and he refrained.
Bowing gratefully to her, Zen re-entered the room and closed the door.
Shirayuki looked like a doll sleeping with her hands folded neatly, her chest rising and falling slowly. As he leaned down to rest his forehead against hers, she stirred beneath him and Zen cursed himself.
"Zen...?" she mumbled, her voice cracked with sleep.
"Sorry," he heaved a sigh as he sat back down in his chair. "And you were sleeping so peacefully too..."
"It's fine." She laughed lightly.
"Do you feel better?" He was unsure of just how many times he had asked her that in the past day. Shirayuki was silent a minute, as though she were consulting with every part of her body before she answered.
"Yes! In fact I feel great now." She pushed herself up determinedly, but a wave of dizziness crashed over her and her head began to throb. "Ah!" she whimpered as a sharp pang went through her temples.
"Take it easy!" Zen pushed her back down. "Your fever's gone but you're still sick." He then looked to the bottle in his hands before showing it to her. "Here. Your doctor gave it to me."
Shirayuki's eyes widened. "But that's the medicine! We were supposed to have run out until tonight."
"She said she made it herself. So take it. Please." He begged.
But she did exactly when he knew she would and shook her head.
"The worst of it is over for me." She told him. "Use that for someone else." Then her voice dropped down a notch. "I don't want anyone else to have to suffer that pain..."
The words of a true pharmacist.
But Zen was not about to let her feel more pain herself by giving up this medicine.
He uncapped the bottle and raised it to his lips. Before she could ask what he was doing, he placed his hands on either side of her head and kissed her, transferring the medicine and also fulfilling his desires of the past 2 days at the same time. She sputtered as he pulled away, her face tinted pink; seeing that she was able to blush again made him smile.
"There." He said triumphantly as he sat down again. "Now please," he begged earnestly. "Get better."
She turned her face toward him slowly before she exhaled. "Of course I intend to keep my promise." She informed him.
"You'd better." He said, ruffling her hair gently, as to not make her headache worse. He settled for caressing her hair for an extended period of time, his fingers brushing lightly against her cheek and she let her eyes fall shut. After a time, he noticed her shiver, and she blinked into consciousness again. "Are you cold?" He asked hopefully.
"Yeah. A little." She responded. "Why?"
"Because, for one thing, it means you're getting better." Zen pulled the blanket up to her shoulders. "And, it means I get to do this." He sat down on her bed and carefully wrapped his arms under her, and leaning down, he rested his head on her chest. He heard her heart skip a beat and chuckled to himself.
Part of Shirayuki wanted to politely ask him not to be so close to her so that he would not contract the sickness, but that part of her was soon won over by reason.
Plus, he had technically also take the antidote already.
"Zen..." she whispered. "You're so warm." She slid her arms from beneath the blanket and wrapped them around his neck, pulling him closer to her. "But..." she noticed how his legs still dangled off the side of the bed. "Aren't you uncomfortable?"
"Of course not." He replied blissfully. "In fact, this is the most comfortable I've been in a long time."
With his words of sincerity, Shirayuki let her eyes close again, as she relished his warmth before her mind faded into the realm of slumber.
Zen woke up again almost around noon, but did not move himself from his warm position for a while.
Though stilled from sleep, Shirayuki appeared to be completely healthy once more and he held her a little tighter. He nestled his face into the crook of her neck and was relieved to find that her heart rate had dropped and her breathing had returned to normal. He then pulled his legs onto the bed as well and turned sideways, playing with her silky tresses. With one arm under her shoulders he draped the other lightly across her abused stomach, and started making plans to take her to get something fine to eat once she awoke.
She continued to sleep soundly, and he knew she deserved it, considering she probably had not gotten an ounce of real sleep that past night. She quivered once in her sleep and turned onto her side to face him, unconsciously seeking his warmth and he wrapped his arms around her small back. She cuddled into his chest and he rested his chin atop her head.
He was unsure of whether he dozed off or not, but the next time he opened his eyes, she stirred not a moment later. With an adorable sound escaping her lips, she opened those beautiful emerald eyes he had come to love so dearly and she looked up at him.
"Good morning." He grinned.
"M...Morning." She replied bashfully. He let her go reluctantly as the two of them sat up.
"Does your head still hurt?" He asked, offering his arms for support.
"Nope!" She chirped proudly. "I think I really am all better this time."
"Don't jinx it." He said, half seriously, as he slipped off the bed. "Can you stand?" He took her hand and helped her onto the floor. Her balance was unsteady for a moment before she nodded happily. "Okay. I'll be just outside if you need anything."
"Thank you." She dipped her head cutely.
Zen left her to freshen up and was listening closely from the other side of the door to make sure she did no fall, when he heard familiar footsteps and looked up. Mitsuhide, Kiki and Obi stood before him, their worried expressions fading as they saw the grin on their prince's face. He told them about the worst night in his life, during which explanation all three of their faces were horrified at what he described. But they soon turned eased again as he spoke of her early recovery.
"But I want to get her to eat something first and foremost." He finished, getting nods all around.
A moment later, Shirayuki's door opened and she stepped out, dressed in her normal attire.
"It's good to see you're well again."
She received warm greetings from her friends and reflected all of their smiles tenfold with her own.
"Now then," Zen said once they had finished welcoming her back. "Let's get you something to eat."
"I'd like that." She mumbled, embarrassed as her stomach growled loudly.
Her companions laughed before Zen suddenly lifted her into his arms.
"Z-Zen!" she protested, throwing her arms around his neck. "Not out here, where the entire palace can see!"
The other three chuckled. "Just how often do you two do this when we can't see it then?" Mitsuhide laughed. But Zen ignored their chortles and leaned down to peck her swiftly on the lips.
"You need to take it easy for now." He declared.
"That's a fine lie." She narrowed her eyes in a playful challenge. "We both know I'm better but you just want a chance to hold me like this, right?"
More laughter exploded as the prince was called out on his intentions.
"Well it's not like you hate it, you know." He muttered, trying to regain some of his pride as he nodded to her arms securely hugging his neck.
"Alright, enough you two." Kiki smiled.
"Yeah, you lovebirds, let's go eat." Mitsuhide added.
"Master, I never knew you were so shameless." Obi snickered. Zen attempted to kick him but missed.
As the five of them began walking, Zen kissed Shirayuki again.
"I'm glad you're better."
"Thank you for staying with me the whole time." She smiled, sweeter than honey.
He hugged her close for a moment before Shirayuki buried her face into his shirt, trying to hid from the approaching people in the palace.
Zen laughed at her adorable shyness and kissed her head lovingly.
The prince then followed his friends down the hallway, carrying his beloved pharmacist in his arms.
A/N: Sorry if it seemed a little rushed; I was writing this for 2 hours straight XD Let me know what you thought! Maybe Shirayuki will have to nurse her prince back to health next time! Opinions?