Don't Cry. You're Going to Be Fine.


“Don't cry. You're going to be fine.”


“I'm not crying,” Merlin insisted, dragging his sleeve across his face as he sniffled. “It's that powder. Got... blasted in the face...” He was having trouble breathing. The powder had struck his eyes but had also invaded his throat and windpipe and who knew what else? It could be settling in his lungs. It could be killing him right now.


Arthur shrugged, not the lest bit sympathetic. Typical. “Well, you should have ducked like I did.”


Merlin blinked at him. “You ducked... and... and hid behind me.”


“I didn't hide!” the prince protested. “It was a strategical move.”


“It was a... strategy to... shove your servant at the... the... the danger... hah-CHOOSH!


“Ugh...” Arthur pulled a face. “Cover your nose at least?”


Merlin's eyes watered and burned. His throat hurt and burned. And his nose tickled and, yes, burned also. All he wanted to do was find the nearest rain barrel or stream and dunk his head in. “Arthur, I... I-hah!


“Cover your nose, Merlin. You remember your nose, don't you? That big thing in the middle of your face?”


hah-SHOO! HuhhCHOO! Hah-huh-UHSHOOO!” Merlin sneezed, his nose trying to expel what lingered of the powder. The sneezes were stronger than he was used to, doubling him over. He clung to a wooden railing with one hand and pressed the other to his chest where it just plain hurt. His body was fighting back hard.


“I don't especially fancy getting sprayed by one of your sneezes.”


hah-SHEOO! ahh-SHOO! AH-SHOO!” Finally, the tickle let up, and Merlin gasped for breath.


“You done?”


Tears ran from the corners of his eyes, brought about from the force of the sneezes. He drew his sleeve back and forth across his face again, even though his sleeve was growing damp. He knew Arthur had a nice, clean, white handkerchief in his front left pocket, because Merlin had equipped him with it before they had left. Merlin could really use it now, but he couldn't ask for it. And Arthur was too thick-headed to know to offer it.


Merlin sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve. “Not quite done,” he said, his voice weak now. “I could use a... a hand.” He waited, hoping Arthur would take the hint and remember the handkerchief. “hehh...” Another sneeze begun, tickling his nose. And he looked imploringly at Arthur before his eyes were forced shut.


No handkerchief was pressed to his nose, but something else was. And before Merlin could do anything about it, he sneezed again. “hah-hah-CHISHOO! Hah-CHOO!


Tentatively, Merlin opened his eyes. Arthur wasn't smiling. If anything, he looked like his usual impatient, jerk of a self. Except for the fact that his hand was clamped to Merlin's nose and mouth. “Feel like you need to sneeze again?” Arthur asked.


Watering eyes wide with surprise, Merlin sniffed. “No.”


Arthur nodded. “Glad to hear it.” He removed his hand and then wiped it down Merlin's front a few times, until it was dry. “Didn't I tell you that you'd be fine? Now come on. We have a long way to go.” This time, Arthur led the way. And Merlin, still stunned, followed behind.