Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing. Nada, nil, take your pick.
Meant to get this up at the weekend and ironically came down with a cold myself. Had the idea for ages, just apparently picked when I had a cold to start writing it. Spooky.
Hope that you enjoy.
"Merlin, you're going to be late."
"Go 'way..." Gaius sighed as he stared down at the heap of blankets that was his ward. Five years Merlin had been with him now, and the old physician knew they were the happiest years of his life, giving him the chance to experience fatherhood in a way he never thought he would. But there were some times when he would do anything for the peace and quiet of a life in solitude. Merlin may moan about having to wake his master up and the challenges of getting Arthur out of bed on a regular basis. What he didn't realise was that Gaius had to go through the same thing, every single morning to stop the young man from spending the day in the stocks. And with the weather what it was, thick blankets of snow suffocating the whole kingdom; that would not be a good place for the warlock.
"Merlin..." There was a warning note in Gaius' voice this time, accompanied by a sharp tug on the blankets, finally revealing the black hair they had been hiding. Merlin immediately yelped and leapt for the blanket, tugging it up to his chin again and shivering. He opened his mouth to complain at his guardian, and ended in a coughing fit.
"Not you as well?" Gaius sighed, perching down on the edge of the bed and letting his eyes run critically over his ward. The slight flush to Merlin's normally pale skin, how dull his eyes looked. A flurry of colds and flu type symptoms had kept the physician busy over the last few weeks, but he had hoped that because Merlin was always so busy, he wouldn't catch it. He never seemed to get ill, whether it was his powers or just because he didn't ever stop long enough for any bug to take hold. This time, however, he didn't seem to be so lucky.
"Feel horrid..." Merlin moaned, pulling the blanket back over his head. Judging by the way the lump under the covers moved, he had curled back into a ball.
"I have something that will help, my boy." Gaius said gently, his voice softening. He had heard even the knights moaning about how horrible this particular illness was. No lasting damage and only lasted a few days, but knocked people off their feet for those few days. If Knights were moaning, it must be bad. For Gaius had learnt over the years that the stubborn young men sworn to protect the Pendragons and the kingdom would never admit to feeling ill.
"But you know Arthur is still expecting you." The physician finished lamely. Cold or not, the prince of Camelot would still want his servant to attend on him. Of course, Gaius knew Arthur better than that. He would demand Merlin's presence, and then most likely shut him in his chambers with a roaring fire and give him some mundane job to do that would keep him in the warm and not take up too much energy. Merlin wouldn't notice and would moan about Arthur making him work, not realising that he would be in the best place he could.
"Prat..." The mumbled reply was barely audible, but Gaius stood back up as he saw the blankets beginning to move again. Merlin had never been able to say no to Arthur, even if he moaned about it afterwards. Unless, of course, he thought the young royal was being an idiot, then he had no qualms whatsoever about letting the prince know. But no matter how much he grumbled, Gaius knew he was as proud of Arthur as the physician was. After all, it had been nearly a year since the previously naive prince had discovered a certain secret his manservant had been keeping. But instead of turning Merlin over, he had protected him, even helping coming up with some of the stories to keep his father happy. There were only so many times that Uther would believe a creature Gaius had declared could only be killed with magic then supposedly dropped dead at Arthur's sword. More than once, it had landed the prince in trouble with the king, but no matter how much he had threatened Merlin afterwards, Gaius knew Arthur would never turn on the first true friend he had ever had.
"I'll get you something hot." Gaius walked out of the room, knowing by the slight movement that Merlin had given in and was getting up. He set about making breakfast, then drew together some of his tonics that hopefully would see the warlock through the day until he was able to get some rest again. When Merlin still hadn't appeared, Gaius slipped to his chamber doors and managed to get the attention of a passing servant.
When Merlin finally stumbled down the stairs (and even Gaius had to admit, he looked awful!), the physician had everything ready that he thought his ward might need to get him through the day. Of course, he wasn't going to admit that he had sent a message ahead to Arthur, warning him of Merlin's illness. There was one problem with Arthur knowing Merlin's secret. If the prince upset him or pushed him too far, and they were in the safety of Arthur's chambers, Merlin reacted magically. With the warlock ill, Gaius knew he would be lashing out more than normal.
It was just as Merlin sat down that Gaius realised that they had a bigger problem. Merlin had one hand gripping the table as he sneezed violently, groaning as he did so. But the physician's eyes slid past his ward. As Merlin had sneezed, a flickering candle caught Gaius' gaze. He was almost certain that he had put it out the night before. Was there a chance that he was mistaken..?
But then Merlin sneezed again, and again. By the time he had finished, every candle in the room was lit and the mop was hovering in the far corner of the room.
"Merlin!" Gaius said sharply, and the disorientated warlock looked around, confused. His eyes widened in alarm and he quickly waved his hand, making sure everything went back to normal.
"We need to get you to Arthur."
"Wh...achoo!" Another sneeze caused one of Gaius' potion bottles to go shooting off the table, but luckily, the warlock still had enough of his senses about him to react in order to stop it from hitting the floor.
"I can't walk around the castle like this!" Merlin protested, the effect lost by the way his voice seemed to break off into a croak halfway through the sentence and he coughed. Gaius tensed, but luckily, nothing seemed to happen. It appeared to be just the sneezes that were making Merlin lose his control over the magic.
"And you can't stay here! Do you know how many people turned up yesterday wanting my help with this illness? What am I supposed to do if you are in here making things levitate and spontaneously combust every time you sneeze?"
"Can't I just stay in bed?"
"Gaius, please..." As Merlin's voice took on a pleading note, the physician raised an eyebrow smoothly. Merlin glared back for a moment, before squirming and dropping his gaze, coughing again at the same time. At seeing how miserable his ward looked, Gaius moved around the table and rested a gnarled hand on the young shoulder.
"It won't last long, Merlin. And Arthur's chambers are safe; you can lock the door and know that no one will come in without his permission. You'll be able to sneeze all you like."
"He's more likely to lock me out and send me to muck out the stables." Merlin moaned, resting his head on his folded arms on the table with a long sigh, sniffing at the same time. Gaius rolled his eyes.
"On with you, you're going to be late. It's about time you had more faith in him than that. Now go on, you're in my way."
Merlin opened his mouth one last time, intending to plead his case. But then he caught sight of the look on his guardian's face and relented. Gaius had that stern expression in place, one that Merlin knew he had made up his mind. But there was also the concern burning brightly in his eyes, words the old man would never express. He wasn't only worried about Merlin being ill, but the consequences of said illness for the warlock. Much as he would never admit it out loud, the servant knew that Gaius had a point about Arthur's chambers being the safest place for him right now.
He sighed, stood up and sneezed.
"Sorry..." Merlin muttered miserably, once more allowing his eyes to flash golden and so stop the water spouting out of the jug as if it was a fountain. The water splashed all over the table and the floor, and in the process of going to get the mop, Merlin sneezed again. The mop came flying out of nowhere, missing his outstretched hand and smacking him on the forehead.
"Just get to Arthur." Gaius said firmly, taking the mop and ushering Merlin out of the door at the same time. "And if you feel a sneeze coming, hold your nose and run."
With that, the door closed with a snap behind the warlock, almost as if Gaius didn't trust his ward to actually make the journey to the prince's rooms unless he had no other option. Merlin rubbed the red spot on his forehead from where the mop had struck him and set off down the corridor. With any luck, he would be able to make it without something happening that would have him executed. He had had colds before, why was this one so different? Maybe it was something magical..?
Merlin had just decided that he was beginning to sound as paranoid as Arthur with magic being around when the next sneeze caught him by surprise. He was only halfway to Arthur's chambers, he didn't even have the chance to try and carry out Gaius' advice before the sneeze had ripped from him. For a moment, Merlin simply froze on the spot, not daring to even breathe. But nothing seemed to happen, and glancing around anxiously, the warlock had to admit he couldn't see anything out of place. Perhaps he would be okay after all?
Deciding not to hang around any longer, Merlin began walking again when he heard a shriek from the next corridor. Acknowledging the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, he cautiously poked his head around the corner, shut his eyes and groaned. He knew it had been wishful thinking in hoping that he had got away with it. Instead, some poor unsuspecting maid had found the tapestry she had been passing under had suddenly detached itself from the wall. A couple of guards were attempted to untangle it as Merlin watched, but the warlock could see in their expressions they had no idea what had made it fall.
Part of Merlin wanted to see if he could help. The other part knew that was just asking for trouble, so he whispered an apology to the maid that she had no hope of hearing, and ran. The sooner he reached Arthur's chambers, the better. He thought that he was going to make it, he really did. Arthur's door was almost in view, all he had to do was get around the next corner and he would have made it.
But luck had never been on Merlin's side. No sooner had he entered the corridor to Arthur's room, he felt another sneeze building. This time, it didn't feel like just one, but a whole load of them. And there were guards stationed outside of Arthur's door since his latest disagreement with his father. There wasn't a lot Uther could do, not without undermining everything he had tried to teach Arthur about being an active Crown Prince and getting the people to trust him. And thanks to bandit attacks in the forest, he couldn't even stop him from attending training. But what he could do was let Arthur know that agreeing with his servant rather than his father in front of the entire court was not acceptable and that the prince would be monitored until Uther saw fit. Arthur had pretended to protest, but Merlin had seen the relief in his eyes that Uther had bought their story. It would have been Merlin's neck otherwise.
The guards, however, were now more of an issue to the servant than the master. The sneeze was building as Merlin tried to walk casually down the corridor, his nose wriggling slightly as he tried to keep it in.
"Morning, Merlin." One of the guards had seen the servant coming. They were only there because they had been ordered too, and Merlin had found that on a good day, he could have quite a conversation with them. This morning, however, he merely nodded stiffly in response, afraid to open his mouth in case something other than words came out. He still had a dozen paces to go, but knew that he wasn't going to make it. His eyes were beginning to water, and Merlin finally took Gaius' advice, pinching his nose as he made a run for the door.
Luckily, the guards were so stunned by his behaviour they let Merlin through without saying a word, the startled expressions on their faces might have been amusing if Merlin hadn't been so preoccupied with trying to stop himself getting executed.
The warlock hurtled through the door, slamming it shut and sliding the lock into place, leaning back on it and breathing heavily. Arthur was up and dressed, something that should have been a surprise and yet strangely wasn't.
"Merlin, what do you think you are doing?" The prince said in exasperation, his eyes running over his servant critically. When he had received Gaius' message that morning that Merlin was ill, he hadn't expected him to literally throw himself into the room with that much energy. Not to mention it didn't explain the locked door in the slightest, nor why his servant was looking scared.
"I'm...I'm... achoo!" The sneeze Merlin was trying to hold back finally exploded out of him. One of Arthur's pillows shot off the bed, hit the canopy above, split and flopped back onto the bed in a shower of feathers. Unfortunately for Merlin, Arthur was standing in front of his bed, his back turned to the destruction his servant had just caused.
"That was why you ran?" He asked, tone decidedly unimpressed and Merlin could already see his brain thinking something along the lines of mucking out stables. Before either of them could say anything else, Merlin sneezed again.
This time, the fire sparked into life, thankfully in the fireplace. Great flames shot up before settling back down and crackling happily. Once again though, Arthur had no idea Merlin hadn't meant for it to happen. Since finding out about his servant, he had become accustomed to Merlin carrying out his chores whilst they both lounged by the fire behind the safety of a locked door.
"Thanks, but wasn't cold. Now, what the hell are you..."
"Merlin!" This time, Arthur couldn't ignore what had happened as his sword shot from his belt and began to hover in front of him. The prince lunged for it, grabbing the hilt and finding that he had to pull quite hard in order to get the weapon to come back under his control. He was panting by the time he managed to return it to the safety of his belt, and finally stared at Merlin, understanding in his eyes.
His servant was leaning heavily against the door, eyes shut in what appeared to be exhaustion at having the magic exploding out of him so out of control.
"I can't stop it," Merlin muttered hoarsely. Now the sneezes had passed for the moment, he felt the cough building once more, and before he could stop it, found himself hacking rather uncontrollably. There were tears in his eyes by the time he stopped, and when he finally looked up, he was surprised to see Arthur had moved forward. Merlin made to back away.
"You shouldn't, you might catch it, I might do something..." His babbling did nothing and he couldn't even take a full step backwards before the door stopped any progress.
"Don't be an idiot." Arthur's voice was soft and Merlin was so stunned by Arthur actually sounding like he cared that he didn't protest as a hand landed on his shoulder and he was steered into the room and shoved into the chair by the fire.
"How long does Gaius think it will last?" Arthur prompted, seeing the way Merlin's eyes had glazed over as he felt the warmth of the fire. The servant looked exhausted, and quite frankly, ill. The prince was surprised that Gaius had let him come to work like that. Merlin hadn't seemed to have noticed how protective the physician had become since Merlin arrived in Camelot. Whenever Arthur had had colds as a boy, he had been told to just wrap up warm and get on with it. Although something told him that was Gaius trying to stop Uther saying anything more than toughening Arthur up.
"He doesn't know." Merlin muttered, staring into the fire and feeling suddenly sleepy as the warmth washed through him. His eyes felt so heavy and sore and his throat hurt. He really didn't want to have to work...
Arthur didn't respond, just grabbed a goblet, poured out the water from the jug and thrust it at his servant somewhat roughly. Even so, Merlin's grateful smile caused him to soften slightly.
"Why, worried about me?" Merlin eventually muttered with the smallest hint of a twinkle in his eye. True to form, Arthur smirked and cuffed him lightly over the head.
"My stables need mucking out, I want to know how long until you can do it." He responded flippantly, turning away and finally seeing the mess of his pillow. The prince sighed, rolling his eyes. Merlin knew what he was doing even though Arthur's back was turned and he forced the magic out again, clearing away the feathers and replacing the pillow.
"Now I know why he sent you to me," Arthur muttered under his breath as he heard Merlin sniff again behind him. He too knew that most of the castle had come down with this particular illness, meaning the physician's chambers were no doubt a flurry of activity. Having Merlin in there when knights were dropping by unannounced was just an execution waiting to happen.
"You're just going to have stay here until you can stop sneezing." Arthur announced, but his servant simply looked at him in horror.
"Stay here? Arthur, I can't..." Merlin's protests were cut off by another coughing fit. Only this time, he was unable to catch his breath, the coughs wouldn't stop coming even when the warlock had tears running down his face as he struggled for breath.
"Merlin." There was a commanding note in Arthur's voice this time, one that was underlined by concern as he tried to force his servant to listen to him. "Merlin, stop. You're okay, listen to me. Deep breath..."
"C..can't..." Merlin gasped, continuing to cough. Arthur could immediately see what the problem was. Merlin was working himself up as he continued to panic about the fact he couldn't breathe properly. But in doing so, it was making him worse. Never one known for tact, Arthur slapped him.
It did the trick. Merlin stopped coughing, sucking in a sharp, ragged breath. But then he sneezed. The chair he was sitting promptly collapsed, leaving the warlock sitting in a pile of wood on the floor. To Arthur's dismay, he then began to laugh. Merlin himself didn't even know what was so funny. He guessed it was something to do with the fact that he was supposed to be the most powerful warlock ever to walk the earth, and yet a simple cold was reducing him to this.
"Merlin?" The servant looked up, now unable to stop laughing as he watched Arthur hovering uncertainly above him, clearly not sure how he was supposed to react to the giggling warlock now sitting on his floor, tears still leaking from the corner of his eyes. In response, Merlin sneezed again, causing the windows to be ripped open. Unfortunately, Arthur now knew they had a big problem. Merlin almost seemed oblivious to what he was doing, clearly finding nothing funny yet was so out of it that he could no longer control himself. For once, Arthur couldn't blame him. They fought so hard to keep his magic hidden, and yet here it was, clearly wanting to show itself off at every chance it got. Merlin had no control over the force being torn free of him, and it was being that out of control that was making him hysterical.
As Merlin sat there, still laughing, Arthur grabbed hold of him and dragged him over to the bed. As the windows had opened, the full force of the winter weather had been let in. As the wind ripped around the room, the fire jumped in response, flaring outwards and sparking dangerously close to where Merlin had been sitting.
"You need to pull yourself together." Arthur ordered sharply. Merlin, however, clung onto the bed post weakly, now crying more than laughing as another sneeze caused all of Arthur's armour to topple off its stand and onto the floor with an almighty crash.
"I can't! Arthur, I can't s..stop it..." Merlin was practically gasping for breath and Arthur slapped him again, hoping it would work for a second time. It did.
The laughter immediately stopped and Merlin sat down heavily on the bed, wiping his eyes weakly with the back of his hand.
"Thanks." He muttered somewhat bitterly, his cheek stinging ever so slightly.
"Can't you magic it away?" Arthur asked tentatively, knowing that they were lucky Merlin had locked the door when he had first arrived. No doubt the guards were already suspicious by the noises they could hear within. Merlin shook his head.
"I don't know how. And with it being like...uh oh...like..." Merlin's nose wiggled again, and before either of them could say anything, he sneezed. It was Arthur who felt the force of his servant's magic this time as he was thrown across the room and pinned to the wall.
"Mer...lin..." He grunted, trying to pull away from the wall but finding the spell was still active. Merlin barely spared him a glance as he sneezed again. To Arthur's horror, the dagger that was sitting on his bedside table rose and shot towards him, slamming into the wall inches from his head. Thankfully, Merlin's third sneeze only made the newly created pillow flop feebly off the bed before it was clear he had regained some sort of control and Arthur was let away from the wall.
"We need to find you a cure." Arthur announced to the now deadly silent room. Merlin was sitting on the edge of his bed, staring at his hands in horror, clearly trying to comprehend how his own magic had turned against him so much. At Arthur's words, he looked up, a scared expression on his face.
"It's just a cold, Arthur. You know what Gaius says, that there is no cure." He muttered glumly, swallowing hard before standing up. He coughed again, but luckily this time, it was no more than clearing his throat. Sniffing and blinking his tired eyes, Merlin moved towards the door.
"Where are you going?"
"Somewhere away from you, I'm too dangerous."
Arthur was in front of the door like a shot, causing Merlin to jump as he glanced up at his master. He could have killed Arthur just then, that was how out of control he was. The first thing Merlin had said when Arthur had revealed that he knew was that he would never use his magic to harm the prince. Merlin wasn't about to let a cold break that promise. Instead, he was forming some sort of plan about going to see the Dragon. If he didn't have any remedy, at least Merlin's magic wouldn't be able to hurt him. It would be better than being around people, but it appeared Arthur wasn't going to let him leave.
The prince grabbed his protesting manservant by the elbow and almost forcibly pulled him back over to the bed.
"There is a cure." He announced, and Merlin felt a rush of hope shoot through him.
"What? Arthur, what is it?"
"Rest, warmth and food." Arthur declared proudly, and Merlin simply stared at him as if he had lost his mind.
"And what if I kill you before then?"
"Don't be so stupid, Merlin, you're not going to hurt me. You're going to be asleep."
"I can't, Gaius won't let me back in..."
"Just shut up and lay down." It was only then that Merlin realised he had been steered back over to the bed, and that Arthur was looking at it rather pointedly.
"No way! Arthur, I can't! It's just not..."
"Oh for god's sake, Merlin, just get in the damn bed."
"N...achoo!" It seemed that Merlin's magic was for once agreeing with his prince and master. Even as the warlock made to protest further, the latest outburst of magic had him falling backwards, straight into the very place he had been adamantly refusing to go. Arthur didn't waste a moment and yanked his servant further up onto the bed before almost depositing a blanket over him.
"Do as you're told for once."
"But I can't stay here... I have to...do things!" Merlin didn't even know why he was protesting, or why he was struggling to get out from under the blanket. All he had wanted to do all morning was sleep, and Arthur was actually letting him. So why wasn't he keeping his mouth shut and following orders? Apparently, even ill, Merlin had to make sure he had the last say.
"Tell you what," Arthur began, beginning to lose his patience with Merlin. "You can stay here and sleep or you can come with me on an inspection of the guards." He knew that Merlin hated doing that on the best of days, let alone where every sneeze had magical consequences. Merlin glared at him.
"Idiot. Now sleep." Arthur didn't say another word, but strode towards the door. Merlin looked like he was still trying to get up as Arthur unlocked the door. "I mean it, Merlin, stay there."
So saying, Arthur let himself out and locked the door behind him. It wouldn't stop Merlin from leaving should he so desire, but it would stop anyone else entering. Snuggling into the bed, Merlin smiled faintly at the door, knowing why Arthur had done it. He never would have thought that the Crown Prince of Camelot would be protecting a sorcerer, especially one as out of control as Merlin was at the moment. Maybe Arthur finding out really was the best thing that could have happened, even if it meant he was at the prince's mercy now that he was ill and really not able to chase after Arthur now. He just hoped the prince didn't try and do anything rash. Just as sleep overcame him and a sleepy sneeze forced its way out, Merlin couldn't help but wonder what would happen to anyone that tried to mess with his destiny when considering how explosive his magic was right now. He had a pounding head, scratchy throat and was still shaken up from the coughing fit. No one would stand a chance.
Smiling fondly, Arthur shook his head at the closed door and made his way towards Gaius, faintly hearing a thud as what sounded like his chair fell over as Merlin sneezed again. Merlin had been fine the day before, so how on earth had this come on so quickly? Maybe it was something to do with his powers, illnesses emerged a lot quicker in the warlock than they did in other people? Arthur could just pray that it meant that it would go just as quickly. He couldn't quite believe that a simple cold could make his clumsy servant just so dangerous. This was the boy who had promised Arthur with tears in his eyes that he would never hurt anyone with his magic. This was also the boy that Arthur knew for a fact could destroy a life as easily as Arthur blinked. It was a miracle that it had taken as long as it had for Arthur to realise. But he knew that unless Merlin got better quicker, the rest of the castle would soon realise that something was wrong. Just as he always had as a boy, Arthur went to the one person who might have the answers. He turned to Gaius, knowing one thing.
Merlin was going to be the death of them all if he didn't get rid of this cold.
More coming soon! Hoping to get back to my Saturday updates if I can, so with any luck, part two will be then. This won't be long though! Let me know what you thought?