Day 12

Title: Day 12
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Merlin
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Merlin and Arthur aren't able to be quite as sneaky as they'd like.
Notes: Written during my 13 Ficlets in 13 Days in 2016 project for Mr. Tea

Usually, Merlin was glad to have Arthur's knights along. Sure, it meant Merlin would have more people to cook for, more horses to tend to, and more clothes to scrub. But more people able to fight meant more people to keep Arthur from harm and fewer reasons for Merlin to need to use his magic. So that meant safety for them all. Not to mention that he liked all of Arthur's knights quite a lot. They might tease him from time to time, but they were honorable and just and would fight to the death to protect Arthur and Camelot. That was something he had in common with them.

So when Arthur started out on his latest adventure and enlisted five of his bravest, most trustworthy knights to accompany him, Merlin was pleased.

When those five knights managed to get themselves captured, however, Merlin was less than pleased.

Soaked and shivering, Arthur and Merlin ran. The guard was right on their tail. They passed dozens of good hiding spots before Arthur led the way into what looked like an old, abandoned barn. At least inside it would be dry. It didn't look like a great place to hide, however.

“D-damn!” Arthur said, staring up at the hayloft. “I thought there would be a way up.” He hugged his arms to his chest, trying to conserve his body heat. He spun in place, looking around for a ladder.

There wasn't one. But Merlin spotted a bit of rope on the edge of the open loft. When Arthur wasn't looking, Merlin commanded one end of it to secure itself to a beam and the other end to fall off the edge of the loft. “What about this rope?” Merlin asked, walking over to it and tugging it to make sure it  was safe.

A look of confusion appeared on Arthur's face for a moment, then he nodded and started up the rope. They made it up into the hayloft, pulled the rope up after them, and hid in the pile of hay just in time. The barn door banged open and they heard voices.

“I swear I saw them run in here.”

“Well then, where are they?”

Merlin grinned and looked over at Arthur to share in the moment. Only Arthur looked serious, not joyful. His brow was furrowed, mouth slightly open, nostrils flaring. Arthur was going to sneeze. And given how loud Arthur's sneezes were, there was no way the guards wouldn't hear it. All Merlin could do to help was clamp a hand over Arthur's nose and mouth. He gave Arthur a look that said 'If you sneeze, they'll hear us!' at which Arthur replied with a look that said 'I know, idiot!'

“Maybe they're up in the hayloft?”

“How'd they get up there without a ladder? Idiot.”

Arthur's nose twitched against Merlin's palm, and he felt a spot of wet. It wasn't working. Both of Arthur's hands pressed hard against Merlin's. The added pressure calmed his nose for a second or two. But that was long enough to keep him from sneezing.

“Must have used this building as cover and run through it to the woods.”

“Come on!”

The two guards left, but Merlin kept pressing. Arthur's sneezes were so strong, they'd still be able to hear them.

Arthur's nose twitched again, and he closed his eyes and held his breath for as long as he could. Eventually, the urge to sneeze was too much for him. “hahhh-EHHHTCHOOOF!” he sneezed into Merlin's hand, which barely muffled the sound.

They waited, breaths held, but the guards didn't return. They both relaxed, and Merlin wiped his hand on his pants leg. “Bless you. Did the hay tickle your nose?”

Arthur shrugged. “We should get some sleep. It's relatively warm and dry in here, and they're not going to recheck this place tonight.”

“It's not all that warm,” Merlin said, shivering. Hay wasn't really as comfortable as it looked. It was hard and bits were poking at him from all sides.

“C'mere.” Arthur pulled Merlin to him. Merlin lay mostly on top of Arthur, who was much more comfortable than the hay. And when they shared their warmth, it wasn't quite so cold in the barn. Merlin felt himself drift off to sleep in no time.



Merlin sat bolt upright, heart pounding, breath racing with panic. “Arthur!”

“Sorry.” Arthur rubbed at his tickling nose. “Must be a leftover itch in my nose from te hay earlier.”

“Must be...” he echoed automatically, though Merlin didn't entirely believe it. Arthur looked a little... off. It could be that the flush in his cheeks was just from the cold temperature, but maybe there was something more.

“It's almost dawn anyway. We should probably get going before it gets much ligh... lighter-hah HAHTCHOOOOOO!

“Bless... are you sure you're all right? Not allergic to hay, are you?”

Arthur looked at Merlin with an expression Merlin was more than familiar with. It said 'My servant-slash-lover is an idiot.' Arthur rubbed once more at his nose and pulled back with a shiver. “Let's go.”

“Right,” Merlin agreed, crawling over to where they'd stashed the rope, under more hay.

Sliding down the rope was easier than climbing up it had been. But it was more miserable outside now than it had been last night. The ground was squishy and muddy, the air filled with a dense fog despite the chill. At least that would give them some cover. Maybe they'd be able to make it back to the fort without being seen.


Heard, however, was another story. By the time they were deep into the woods, halfway back to the fort, it was obvious that Arthur was coming down with something. When he sneezed, leaves on nearby plants shook. When he sneezed, startled birds in trees took flight. When he sneezed, Merlin was sure guards would appear out of nowhere and cut them down.

But before long, the fort was in sight and the two of them were miraculously still intact. “hahhh-HIHHSHOOOO!” Though not necessarily well.

Merlin helped the wheezing, snuffling, shivering Arthur sit down on a log to catch his breath. Merlin sat down next to him, leaning close to lend a little warmth. “If you're not feeling well enough to continue—”

“I never said that!” Arthur snapped. Then he coughed and coughed until Merlin pulled the pouch from his belt and lifted it to Arthur's mouth for some water. He took the opportunity to rub his hand up and down Arthur's back. “I'm... I'm fi-fine-IHHH-HIHTCHHHSHHHHH!”  

“Yes, you certainly sound fine.” Merlin gave him a look that said 'you can't fool me.' And Arthur returned this with a look that said 'I need you, but I'd never actually say that out loud.'

Arthur's mouth dropped open and his eyelids fluttered closed “huhhh HUHHH HUH-IHHHHTCHHOOOO!


HAH-CHOOOOOO!” The sneezes threw him forward with such force Merlin was scared Arthur was going to fall off the log or hurt his neck or both. He kept a hand on Arthur's back, patting and rubbing. “SNIFF! SNIFF!

Patiently, Merlin waited him out. When Arthur finally sat back up and leaned into Merlin's side heavily, Merlin slid his arm around in a hug. “We've got some choices,” he said. “We can go after the Tolitrine Stone first or rescue the knights first. Or you and I can split up to cover more ground. I'll free the knights while you find your personal glory in liberating the stone.”

Arthur shook his head. “Cad't...” he wheezed out. “I gotta... do this...”

It was painful seeing Arthur struggling like this, though it only made Merlin want to be closer to him. There was such an irresistible mix of stubbornness and heroism and adorableness right now. “All right, we'll stay together then. Let's get the knights first so we'll have their help when we go for the stone.” What he wouldn't say was that he had a feeling they were going to need more help than even a half dozen Knights of Camelot could provide, unless one of them knew how to instantly cure a head cold. And if Merlin's magic couldn't do it, he doubted anything could.

The south side of the fort was up against the thickest part of the woods and, therefore, there were fewer guards stationed there. A few arrows took care of them before they could raise the alarm. And the rope from the barn was useful in scaling the fort's wall. Normally at this point, Merlin would complain that he wasn't cut out for such a climb. But he was too worried about Arthur to do anything but cooperate. One poorly-timed sneeze or cough and Arthur might lose his grip and fall.

It was no better once they were at the top. Arthur's breath kept hitching. And though he rubbed at his nose, it only took one super loud sneeze to give them away. Merlin's heart raced as he followed Arthur down the halls. He'd felt worse about missions, sure, but not many.


“Arthur!” Merlin hissed, as if anything he said could keep Arthur from letting out a sneeze.

Arthur pinched his nose between thumb and forefinger. He leaned back against the stone wall, trying to control his breathing. But from the way his eyes were fluttering closed, Merlin knew Arthur was going to lose his fight. He pulled off the blue bandanna around his neck and held it to Arthur's face, over his mouth and nose and hand as well. Arthur's other hand, holding his sword at the ready, dipped a little as the sneeze came and he pitched forward. “hahhTIHchphhhhhhh!” The sneeze was strong; Merlin could feel it strike through the bandanna. But it wasn't as loud as he'd feared.

Blinking blurriness from his eyes, Arthur straightened up and shook himself free of Merlin's attempts at wiping his nose for him. “We have to hurry,” he croaked. “There's no time for your fussing.”

There wasn't time for Merlin to get angry with him either. So Merlin just clenched his jaw and followed behind again. Not three minutes later, Merlin heard his breath hitching again, naturally.

Of course they'd entered from the top of the fort and of course prisoners were kept in the dungeon at the very bottom. That meant a lot of hallways to navigate, every blind turn containing the potential of running into an army of guards.

They did pass a chambermaid, who gasped and threw herself into the nearest room, bolting the door behind her. Merlin was surprised she hadn't screamed, but their streak of luck continued. Arthur exchanged a look with Merlin that said he was just as surprised as well, though pleased. And just as they had overcome that challenge, they came upon two guards. Arthur crossed swords with the first, though his strength wasn’t what it should have been. He kept dropping his arm too low from fatigue, opening himself up for a fatal blow. And the other guard started after him as well.

The only thing Merlin could think to do was to use his magic. Even well, Arthur would have had a tough time taking on two opponents simultaneously. But, ill like this, Arthur didn’t stand a chance. Given that the three men were locked in combat, no one noticed Merlin’s eyes glow gold for just an instant as the tapestry suddenly detached itself from a wall, falling on top of the guards.

At the same moment, Arthur let loose with one of his sneezes, shaking helplessly in place from the force, eyes tightly shut. “HAHH-UHHHHTSHOOOOOOOO! If Merlin hadn’t chosen that time to intervene, Arthur might have been hurt. Or worse. The tapestry blinded the guards for long enough for
Arthur to recover his senses and then bring the hilt of his sword down on each of their skulls, knocking them right out.

Sniff! Well,” Arthur said, rubbing at his nose. “That was lucky, wasn’t it?” He looked down at the tapestry with the two body-sized lumps beneath it. “Guess my sneeze must’ve blown it off the wall.”

Merlin clenched his jaw, trying not to laugh. “Must have.” Merlin and Arthur left the guards that way and continued onward, not sure they were going the right direction but knowing that encountering guards meant they were probably on the right track.

Sure enough, one set of stairs and two hallways later put them just around the corner from the cell where the knights were being held. And, sure enough, Arthur’s nose began tickling again. He scrubbed at his nose viciously with the back of his hand.

“I can sneak over and open the cell,” Merlin suggested. “But I’ll need a diversion.”

huh!” Arthur’s breath caught, and he fought against closing his eyes, fought against sneezing.

Slowly, Merlin smiled a great smile as the plan took shape in his mind. “And I think I know just the one.” He tugged Arthur’s arm, pulling him back, and placed a hand over his nose and mouth. “Don’t sneeze just yet.”

huh! HAH! Try-hahh! Trying…”

Merlin pulled him back past several doors, standing him in the middle of the hallway. Merlin patted his chest and gave him a quick peck on the cheek for luck. “Remember, wait for me to get into position before you sneeze.”

Arthur, breaths hitching, mouth dropping open, nostrils flaring, nodded. “Hahh! Hahhh-HAHHH!

Hurrying, Merlin snuck behind the door closest to the cells. Fearing too much noise would alert the guards there, he didn’t close the door all the way. When the time came, he would be able to slip out all the faster anyway. He found himself in a store closet with cleaning supplies, extra blankets, and so forth. Luckily, it was also where they seemed to keep the prisoner’s possessions. He found himself face-to-face with shields bearing the Pendragon crest and gleaming swords forged in Camelot. Lucky indeed! He took one up, for safety, hoping its owner would not mind if it meant freedom. Standing close to the cracked open door, Merlin listened closely, not wanting to miss his chance.

As it turned out, he didn’t need to strain to listen at all. Arthur’s sneezes were as loud as ever.


Merlin heard the sneezes. And he heard the clanking of weapons and armor, heavy footfalls rushing past, raised voices directed toward Arthur. Hoping that Arthur could take care of himself for once, Merlin rushed out of his hiding place, taking the lone guard at the cell entirely by surprise. There were cheers from the knights as Merlin lifted the large ring of keys from the guard’s hip.


In addition to the loud sneezes, Merlin could hear the clash of sword against sword down the hallway. Arthur needed his knights.

Merlin found the correct key and turned it, springing the lock with a click. “Three cheers for Merlin!” one of the knights called out from the back of the group—Gawain, perhaps?

“Never mind that!” Merlin said. He pointed back toward the closet he’d found. “Weapons are in there. Hurry!”

The knights leapt into action, going to Arthur’s aid. Merlin hoped it wasn’t too late.


Sounded like Arthur wasn’t dead yet, at least. Merlin relaxed and let the knights protect the king. Now all that was left for Arthur was retrieving the stone and journeying back home. But Merlin’s responsibility was just beginning. Arthur would need fresh handkerchiefs and tea and someone to keep him warm. And he would need someone able to do all of this without embarrassing him in front of his knights. That would take a special kind of magic indeed.