Day 13

Title: Day 13
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Merlin
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Merlin/MOC
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Merlin is sick and Arthur is bossy, as always.
Notes: Written during my 13 Ficlets in 13 Days in 2016 project for Empathic Mystery

It was always a wonderful feeling to come home to Camelot. Especially after a long, not-too-successful quest. Especially when you were soaked through from rain. And especially when you didn’t feel so well.

On horseback, Merlin followed Arthur toward the stable. They dismounted and led their horses into the barn, where it was at least dry. Merlin scrubbed his nose against his wet shoulder. His sneezes weren’t as loud as Arthur’s by any means, but they were still loud enough that they might spook the horses in the barn. “Make sure the horses get seen to,” Arthur said, shivering violently. “I’m going to go take a hot bath.”

Merlin bit his tongue, wishing Arthur would invite him to join in. But Arthur headed off without another word to Merlin. Merlin led Arthur’s horse to its stall and the one he’d ridden to an empty stall. He removed their saddle bags to take those up to the castle and started to undo the saddle and tack.

“Don’t worry. I’ll do all that.”

Merlin looked over to see a handsome stable hand standing outside the stall. He had dirty blond hair parted on one side and flopping over onto the other side. He had dimples for days and the deepest green eyes Merlin had ever seen. From the size of his arms and legs and torso—his whole body, really—he was strong and hearty and well built. Instantly, Merlin felt drawn to him. “Oh, um… thanks…” Merlin started forward, but a wave of dizziness seized hold of him. He reached out at once, hand finding the side of the stall and holding tight to a wooden post. He bent over and caught sight of himself in the reflection of the water in the horse’s water tough. His cheeks were bright red from the cold wind outside, and his nose wasn’t much better from all the rubbing he’d been doing. He looked pale and tired and drenched. And he felt worse.

“Whoa there,” came a soft, soothing voice. A hand came out of nowhere, gripping his arm, and another wrapped around him, holding him up. “Come here…” He escorted Merlin out of the stall and closed the door behind. He guided Merlin over to a bucket, kicked it over until it was upside-down, and then sat Merlin on it. “Are you all right?”

Merlin looked up into those emerald eyes. Sure he was all right. How could he not be all right? Those eyes… so kind and deep and sympathetic. “Sure,” he whispered. Then he sneezed. “ihhkshhew!” He clapped a hand over his nose and mouth, not wanting the man to see. Mortified, he opened his eyes. The man’s face was wet. “I’b so sorry!” Without another word, not being able to face what he’d done, he fled. He didn’t stop running until he was back in the room he shared with Gaius.

He stripped off his sopping wet clothes with some difficulty. He shook with cold as he pulled on warm socks. His teeth chattered as he pulled on a dressing gown. And he smothered a sneeze into his pillow the moment he had tucked himself into bed. “ihkkkphhh!


Gaius woke him up after a few hours. He was swamped with patients and needed help with delivering remedies. “What time is… ihhkkkshew!

“Goodness, lad! Sounds like you might need one of my remedies yourself. Caught yourself a cold?”

Merlin nodded, shivering. He dressed while Gaius retrieved something for him to take. The something turned out to be clear liquid in a small bottle that tasted minty and syrupy and burned a little going down. He didn’t want to ask what it was. “Where are the… the deliveries?” He cupped his hand over his nose and mouth. “ihhh… ih-KIHshew!

“Are you sure you’re all right to—“

“I’m sure.”  This task required carrying and walking, neither of which he felt up for entirely. But at least it was something he could do without Arthur bossing him around and constantly criticizing him. Gaius gave him a case of remedies and instructions about where to take them and who got what. Merlin tried his best to take it all in so he could remember it.

But by the time he was out in the castle and the village, done with the first three deliveries, his head was starting to get foggy. He ended up leaning against the side of a house, under an overhanging roof, and rooting through the remedies, hoping they would jog his memory. And hoping he could get his nose in check. It was practically streaming, though it was difficult to tell what was from his cold and what was from the rain. He took off his bandanna and snuffled into it.

That only seemed to make his nose tickle more. “ihh… ihhh HIH-shew! Hihtchew! Ih ih ihhhhhShew!

“Bless you.”

Sniff! Thank you.” Bandanna pressed to his nose still, Merlin looked up, and his eyes widened. It was the stable hand again. Although this time he wasn’t at the stables. Merlin felt his whole face flush. “Hi…”

“Hi yourself. We didn’t have a chance to properly meet earlier.”

“Earlier… like when I sneezed on you? And completely sniff! humiliated myself? I can’t believe I did that.”

“Just a little sneeze. No harm done unless I end up with a horrible, miserable cold.”

Merlin’s eyes opened a little wider and his stomach sank. “Um…”

“That was supposed to be a joke. I can tell you’re not feeling well. It’s not your fault. Besides, half the stable hands are sick right now. The humors are out of balance lately.” He extended a hand. “I’m Geoffrey by the way. Just moved to Camelot last week.”

“Merlin,” Merlin replied, shaking the offered hand.

Geoffrey smiled brightly, and those dimples just about did Merlin in. “So the prince has you doing deliveries now?”

“I also work for Gaius, the castle healer,” Merlin explained. “Though not for much longer, I’m afraid, if I mess up these deliveries. And I can’t… hih ih-Tishew!

Geoffrey scooped the crate up at once. “Let me carry it for you. I’m still learning my way around town, so it would help me if you point things out as we go.”

Merlin nodded and sniffed. “Right, okay… I think… I think we need to head the cobbler’s next. It’s on the other side of the town where most of the craftsmen are.” Merlin raised a fist and coughed a few times. He felt a hand on his back, patting comfortingly.

“And if there’s a time you need to pause and rest a moment, let me know.”

Merlin gave him an appreciative smile.


Arthur had him up far past dinnertime polishing and repairing his armor, which had been dirtied and dinged in places during the last quest. And then Arthur had him up early to deliver breakfast, dress him, and serve as target practice outside. Merlin felt exhausted, hot with fever, full with stuffiness, and completely miserable every moment he wasn’t in bed.  The only bright spot in all of it was that there was once again a bright spot to be seen. The rain they’d had for the previous three days had finally cleared up and let the sunshine out from behind the clouds.

“C’mon, Merlin! Stand up straighter or I’ll never be able to hit the target!”

Arthur was practicing accuracy while jousting. And that meant Merlin had to stand there, holding a pole lengthwise with a target dangling from it. The pole was so long that he needed to hold it with both hands to keep it at the right height for Arthur.

So Merlin stood up straighter and did his best not to move. But his cold wasn’t making that easy. Coughs and sneezes kept sneaking up on him.

Arthur slammed his visor down, raised his lance, and dug his heels into the sides of his horse to signal it to start forward.

Melin probably should have been worried that Arthur might run him through by accident. But all he was worried about was his nose. It was running and tickling and no matter how he rubbed his nose into his shoulder. He tried to keep his eyes on Arthur, tried to stay in position. But he couldn’t manage it. “ihhh-Tichhew!

Arthur went for the target just as Merlin sneezed, snapping forward. So the lance missed the target by a good deal. His horse’s gallop slowed to a trot. Then he flipped the visor of his helmet and turned. “Merlin, you idiot!”

“Just… trying to give you a… ihhh Hitshew! Sniff! A moving target.”

“Did I ask for a moving target? No. No, I did not.”

“I… ihhh!” Merlin dropped the whole apparatus and cupped both hands to his face. “Ih-Hihshew! Ihhshew!

“If it’s a jouster you need to practice against, why don’t you use me?”

Merlin wheeled around to see Geoffrey approaching. He tried not to blush, knowing Arthur would surely call attention to it if he did. Luckily, his face was mostly blocked by his cupped hands anyway. “ihhhCHshew!

“And you are?” Arthur asked with the same sort of irritation he usually reserved for Merlin.

“Geoffrey, Your Highness. The stable master sent me here to collect your horse when you’re done with it.”

Incredibly, Geoffrey spoke with ease to the prince, as if he and Arthur were fast friends. “How about I get a horse from the stable, and you can practice your aim with me?”

Arthur sighed and swung his arm out in a sweeping gesture. “Fine. But be quick about it. I’m not going to sit around here all day.” 

Geoffrey gave him a charming smile. “I’ll be right back.” As he headed out of the courtyard, he went past Merlin and slowed, giving him a meaningful look.

“Merlin!” Arthur called, trotting back over to where Merlin stood. “Sometimes you’re completely useless, you know that? Maybe you’ll do better at cleaning my chambers from top to bottom right now.”

Merlin nodded obediently. He followed Geoffrey out of the courtyard, quickening his pace to catch up. “Clotpole,” he muttered under his breath.

“What was that?” Arthur called after him.

Merlin turned, walking backwards. “Nothing. I was coughing.” He coughed a little. “This cold…” He coughed again, this time for real.

Arthur didn’t look like he believed him, but he let it drop and let Merlin go. As soon as he was through the archway and around the side of the wall, out of sight, he found Geoffrey waiting there for him. “Thank you for the rescue,” Merlin told him. “Though I’m not entirely sure you know what you’re getting into here. Arthur can be a bit of an ass sometimes.”

Geoffrey laughed. “Thought you deserved a break. Let him be an ass to me for a while, I can take it.”

Merlin smiled. He knew one of the reasons Arthur kept him on was because Merlin wasn’t afraid to tell Arthur off every once in a while. Well, that and the fact that bad situations always seemed to work out all right in the end when Merlin was around, but Arthur didn’t know why and Merlin wasn’t about to tell him. “Then good luck. I… I hope… ihhhh!” Merlin brought his hands back up. “ihhh-HIHTchhhew!

“Bless,” Geoffrey said softly. “You’d best hurry and get back inside. The wind is miserably cold today. Don’t want your cold getting any worse.”

Merlin gave him a nod and slipped inside through the nearest door.


The laundry was spread out across Morgana’s bed. Merlin folded Arthur’s sheets, towels, shirts, and so forth while Gwen tackled Morgana’s.

“I’m telling you, Gwen, there’s something strange about that new guy, Geoffrey.” Merlin paused to press his nose into his sleeve. “Oh no… I’m gonna… snihh-Tishhew-uhh Sniff!” He scrubbed his nose into his shoulder. “Sniff! Sniff! Sorry. What was I saying?”

“You were talking about Geoffrey. Again.”

“Right! Sniff! The guy is everywhere!”

Gwen laughed. “Not possible. Unless he’s using magic.”

Merlin went cold as everything suddenly became clear. Of course he was using magic. And he probably knew that Merlin had magic as well. That was probably why he was following Merlin around everywhere.

“But that would be crazy, right? What person in their right might who can do magic would actually choose to come to Camelot, knowing how Uther is about magic?” she laughed again.

Merlin gritted his teeth but tried to laugh. “Right. That’d be… crazy…” Mercifully, a sneeze snuck up on him, letting him drop the subject. “hihh… ihhhh… ihhHIHshew! Hihshew!

“Bless you!” Gwen stopped folding and turned to him. “You’ve been sneezing so much.”

“I feel awful. My head’s all thick and cloudy and runny and hot.”

“Won’t Arthur let you off a few days to rest because you’re ill?”

Merlin narrowed his eyes. “Have you met Arthur? The only time he’d let me go is if I actually sneezed on him.”


Merlin couldn’t blame Gwen for her reaction. But he also couldn’t forget how Geoffrey had reacted. Geoffrey had been sweet and understanding and reassuring.

ihh-Tishhewww!” His hand snapped up, covering his nose and mouth afterward.

Gwen sighed and lowered the towel she was folding. “Merlin, why don’t you just go back to your room? I can finish up here. We’re almost done anyway.”

Merlin still had his hand cupped to his face. He surveyed the pile of laundry, which was only a little smaller, not remotely done. But she was being kind to offer. And he was feeling rotten enough to take her up on it. “Thags, Gwed,” he said, muffled behind his hand. “I abbreciate it. I’d kiss you but… by dose…”

Gwen held up a hand, laughing, “I’ll pass, thanks.” The faraway look in her eye told Merlin she was thinking about who she wanted to kiss her. He didn’t need magic to figure out who she was thinking of. “Feel better, Merlin.”

“Thags.” Once he was out of Morgana’s room and into the hallway he pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket. It was pretty well used already, but he didn’t have much of a choice. It was this or his sleeve again. He folded the damp cloth against his raw nose, closed his eyes, and blew, wincing at the gurgling sound.


Merlin recognized the voice. And it wasn’t Arthur’s. He wiped his nose as dry as he could get it and, slowly, opened his eyes. “Geoffrey? Sniff! What are you doing here?” Unless Arthur’s horse had suddenly dropped dead, there was no reason for a stable hand to be anywhere near the royal chambers. This man either meant harm to the Pendragons or was truly stalking Merlin with ill intent. Merlin’s pulse quickened. He wasn’t sure he had the strength to protect himself right now, but if he had to fight, he’d give it his best shot. For Arthur. And for Camelot.

Geoffrey smiled that irresistible, dimple-filled smile but looked down at the stone floor of the corridor, not into Merlin’s eyes. “I was looking for you.”

Merlin’s hand balled into a fist and he got ready to summon his strength to do whatever magic he would need.

“I went by Gaius’, but you weren’t there. I wanted to see you.”

“Oh?” It came out as more of a squeak than Merlin had intended, but he was holding his breath.

Shifting from one foot to the other, Geoffrey kept his gaze on his feet. “Gaius said you’d probably be here, even though you should be in bed taking care of yourself.”

Merlin softened, but only a little. “He said that?”

“No…” Geoffrey looked up, shyly. “That last part was all me. Seems like you’re always working and looking after others instead of yourself. Maybe you need someone to take care of you?”

Merlin was too stunned to reply. But he didn’t have to. His breath started to hitch and his eyes closed. “hihhhhhhh ih hihhh—

“Oh, no, here.” Soft, warm, and dry cloth was pressed gently to his nose.

Hihtshew! ihhShew! ihhhhTshew!” Merlin sneezed into what he realized was a handkerchief. “ihhhh-HIHSheeew!

When it looked like Merlin wasn’t going to sneeze again, Geoffrey rubbed his nose for him and lowered the handkerchief. “There you go.”

Merlin opened his eyes, though he still wasn’t quite sure what to say.

Luckily, Geoffrey did. “I’d like to be that someone to take care of you right now.” He swallowed, sounding nervous. “If you’ll have me.”

“So…” Merlin said slowly. “Just to be clear, you’re not here to murder the prince or take over the realm? You’re not going to lead me into a room, knock me over the head with a candlestick, put on a chambermaid outfit, sneak into Arthur’s bedchamber, and smother him with a pillow?”

Geoffrey let out a laugh that came with that smile of his that made Merlin weak. “I’m only standing here right now because I like you, and I think I read that look you gave me yesterday right and that you like me just as much. And I can’t stand to watch someone so kind and striking feel so miserable when I can work my magic and make him feel better.”

“Your… magic?” Merlin’s heart began to pound hard again.

Geoffrey pulled a few handkerchiefs from his pocket, showing that he’d certainly come prepared. Then he stepped forward and took Merlin up in his warm arms.

“Oh,” Merlin said, hunched over a little so that he could nuzzle into the man’s chest. “That sort of magic. That would be fi.. fiiii… I… I hih! HihhTShhhhew!” Somehow, Geoffrey had managed to get a handkerchief to his nose in time. The man truly was magical.