Merlin sneezed for the sixth time in the hour. His head pounded, his throat ached, his nose felt stuffed and kept running, his feverish glassy eyes burned, every single part of his body ached, he felt hot but he was constantly shivering. He had woken up this way and had stayed like this throughout the whole process between morning and evening, misery and pain etched on his face. Gaius' disgusting potions alleviated quite little of his discomfort, but at least his guardian tried. He received no company throughout the spent time, except from Gwen for only a small while since she had her own duties to attend to, so boredom was another one of his problems on his list day.
This was not turning out to be a good day.
"Slacking off as usual, Merlin?" Arthur's voice cut into his thoughts, and he felt his heart jump with joy at the thought of company from at least someone, even if that someone happened to be a stupid prat.
Merlin felt a smile twitch on his lips as he turned his head towards the prince weakly.
Arthur didn't ask how he was feeling, since the answer was quite obvious judging by his deathly appearance. "Wow, you look terrible," he commented instead as he pushed himself off from where he was leaning against the tiny doorway, and made his way inside. He could see the prominent dark circles under his idiotic manservant's eyes, his flushed cheeks and the visible suffering on his expression. "I think I actually feel sorry for you."
It was pretty much the truth. He did feel a very slight twinge of pity, but no concern. Nope, not at all. He wasn't worried that his servant's (no, not friend. Shut up, subconscient) fever will get worse. It's just a simple flu. Everyone gets it, right? It's common. And almost everyone gets out of it alive.
That's rare though, isn't it?
"Thank you, sire," Merlin says hoarsely, his voice cracked. But a small smile formed on his lips nonetheless.
"You must be very sick if you called me that," Arthur joked.
"Prat," Merlin said, pouting slightly.
"Idiot," Arthur replied automatically, his voice fond at his stupid, puppy-like servant.
Arthur slowly reached over an old, creaky chair and tugged it towards the side of Merlin's bed, the furniture screeching slightly against the rough ground, causing the young sick boy to flinch against the sound. The prince felt a bit guilty for that, knowing the sound must have agitated his headache. He had tons of experience with that, so he could sympathize. He sat down on the chair, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his thighs.
"Where were you all day? It was so bloody boring here!" the younger boy exclaimed, or at least tried to since his voice was still hoarse.
"Language, Merlin," Arthur mock-scolded him teasingly, as if he was a child.
"I can say whatever I want. I'm eighteen years old for god's sake!" Merlin said proudly, smiling.
"But you don't look like it," he said.
Merlin looked slightly offended. "Yes I do. I'm almost as tall as you too," he pointed out.
"That's not enough. You need to have muscle on your bones as well to look that old," the prince replied.
"The prince," Arthur retorted, grinning.
"Haha, very funny," Merlin said sarcastically.
He began to cough hard, for one whole minute, before they stopped. And he was left panting heavily at the exertion, his body feeling weaker than it did previously.
Merlin closed his burning eyes, sighing softly and letting the peaceful silence relax him.
But he startled when he felt a cool hand on his warm forehead, and his eyes jerked open instinctively.
"God, you're burning," Arthur remarked, and then smirked slightly as he added, "You could fry eggs on that."
"You wouldn't be smiling if you caught it," Merlin threw back. "Speaking of, aren't you afraid that my sickness will spread to you as well?"
Truth be told, Arthur had acknowledged that risk before he came here, but he found himself uncaring of it. Sure, the king wouldn't be very happy if he caught it, but he knew if it was the other way around, Merlin would've been more worried about him rather than catching it himself, and so he felt the same way. And maybe, the small smile that he saw on Merlin's face when he walked inside was definitely worth it (not that he'll ever admit that out loud).
"Just as long as you don't cough or sneeze on my face, Merlin. I think I'll be safe."
"So you should be careful about annoying me. It's not fun, but it's good for revenge," Merlin retorted, grinning weakly.
"Shut up, Merlin. And go to sleep. You look exhausted." Arthur said, seeing the way Merlin's eyes kept slipping shut even as he tried to stay awake.
"M'not," He slurred sleepily, yawning as his eyes begin to slide shut once again.
"Yes you are."
He didn't receive another reply after that, other than the noises of gentle snoring.
And Arthur knew Merlin was asleep.
"Idiot," the prince muttered fondly, his voice soft.
Smiling softly at the innocence in his calm features, he stood up, reaching over for the blanket draped half-way on his thin body, and raised it all the way higher to his neck.
And before he could stop himself, the tips of his fingers brushed over the heated skin on his forehead, swiping the thin stripes of his raven-black fringe away.
"Sleep well," Arthur whispered.
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