Title: Five Times Arthur's Sneezes Embarrassed Him and One Time They Embarrassed Merlin
Disclaimer: This is a fanwork. I received no money personally for its creation nor am I affiliated with Merlin.
Summary: In which Arthur catches a lot of colds and Merlin does a lot of lusting after him.
Word count: 15,100
Author Notes: Written for Mr. Ticklynoses as a thank you for donating on my fundraising page for the Walk to End HIV. The requirement was an 11,500 word fic but, once again, I got a bit carried away when writing.
Five Times Arthur's
Sneezes Embarrassed Him
and One Time They Embarrassed Merlin
“Berlid? Get be sub hot tea.” Arthur lay in bed, two fingers pressed under his nose, one hand pressed to his forehead, four feather pillows propping him up, and no fewer than ten blankets weighing him down. He was exhausted from fighting off one of the worst head colds he'd ever had, but somehow he still had enough energy to order Merlin around.
Merlin had been on call all day and all night, barely fitting in a few minutes of sleep in-between bouts of Arthur sneezing and Arthur requesting. All he wanted was a blanket of his own so he could curl up and take a well-deserved and much-needed nap. Instead, he had to go fetch the crown prince of Camelot some tea. “You might try saying please,” Merlin muttered under his breath as he crossed the room.
“What was that?” Arthur inquired. But before Merlin could think up a reasonable cover phrase (and he was sure 'Maybe you'd like some peas?' wouldn't do), Arthur's breath hitched. Instinctively, Merlin reached out for the door handle, bracing himself for the sneeze by holding onto the closest thing he could. “hahh... hah... oh I have to... hahhh... hah-sdeeze-hah-hahURHURSCHHOOOO!” The sound echoed just a little throughout the large chamber.
Merlin waited a beat to be sure it was only one sneeze this time. Sometimes Arthur's sneezes were tricky and came in pairs or triples even. But when he didn't sneeze again, Merlin thought it safe to finally speak up. “I said 'bless you, sire,' of course.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes and rubbed his two fingers under his nose as he sniffed. “Oh... 's what I thought.” He coughed from the congestion that filled his head. “Dow where's by tea?”
“I'm going to get it now,” Merlin promised before slipping out of the room and closing the heavy door to Arthur's private chambers behind him as he left. Instead of making his way straight to the kitchens, however, he lingered for a few minutes, falling back against a wall with a sigh. 'Merlin, get me tea.' And 'Merlin, get me another hot stone out of the fire; my feet are like ice.' And 'Merlin, get me a new handkerchief; I've sneezed my way through this one” Merlin shook his head. He would be hating this stream of constant demands if he didn't find them so damn attractive.
Or, rather, if he didn't find Arthur attractive like this. The man was amazing, the way he sneezed. For as long as he could remember, Merlin had had a weakness for sneezing. It was one of the reasons he hadn't minded leaving home to study under Gaius. Having to make deliveries throughout the castle and village meant occasionally coming into contact with someone suffering from a bad cold. And that sometimes meant sneezes. Some were stifled, short little things, holding back great force with expert ability; Merlin admired those. Some sneezes were well-balanced, some sneezed directly into layers of cloth to muffle their sound, some wet and spraying like sudden bursts. Some were swift, others took their time to build up to their exciting climax. And some, like Arthur's, were his favorite. These were the loud, unrestrained sneezes that seemed almost too big for the wet, twitchy, tickly noses they came from. It was almost like magic.
And Merlin happened to know a thing or two about magic. Luckily, he also knew a thing or two about keeping secrets. So he adjusted his garments politely to hide his favorable reaction to Arthur's last sneeze, and then Merlin made his way to the kitchen straight away.
The kitchen staff was cleaning up from the breakfast service still, and they didn't look the least bit surprised to see Merlin standing there, probably because this was Merlin's eigth trip to the kitchens this morning alone. First the eggs were too runny then they weren't runny enough. Then his toast tasted funny, and he didn't believe when Merlin tried to explain it was the congestion doing funny things to his sense of taste. Then—
“What's he want now? And, before you answer, I don't suppose there's any chance you'll believe we're out of toast?”
“No,” Merlin said, amused. “But this time it's only hot tea he wants. He likes it with just a dash of cow's milk in it.”
One of the cooks deposited a stack of plates into the wash basin then wiped her hands on her apron. “Oh, does he? Fancy that! Did you hear that, girls? The prince likes his tea with milk. Can y'believe it?”
“All right,” Merlin said, nodding, too tired to care that he was being mocked. “Just send the tea up when it's ready.”
“Oh, I will,” the cook said, her plump cheeks flushed with amusement. “I've been making tea for the prince since he was old enough to hold a cup in his hands. And not once have I forgotten his milk in it. Now, if you'll excuse us so that we can do our jobs here...”
“HUHSHoooo!” Merlin gave a start. All of Arthur's sneezes had been strong, of course. That was how the prince sneezed. But Merlin hadn't realized exactly how loud they were if they could be heard down here in the kitchens through doors and corridors and all other manner of things. He checked the doorway, just to make sure Arthur wasn't there; it would be like him to have lost his patience with Merlin and gone after him to ensure the tea was made properly. But Arthur wasn't there. Arthur was still back in his chambers, sneezing so loudly he could be heard all over the castle. That was unfortunate. And pretty hot. “UHRSHOO!” Make that extremely hot.
Merlin didn't want to be away from him for one more minute, but he tried not to look too eager as he headed back to Arthur. After all, the man was just going to order him to do something else. Still, Merlin felt a surge of elation when he walked through the door and saw Arthur lying in bed, sick and sniffling. And that excited, fluttery feeling was in no way diminished by Arthur's scowl. “Where's by tea?”
“On its way.” Merlin settled on the side of the bed and hoped his hand wasn't shaking too much when he reached out to feel Arthur's forehead.
“Just checking. Your fever's been down since last night. If you continue to improve, you might actually be fit to compete tomorrow.”
Arthur groaned, squeezing his eyes closed tight. “The tourdabedt is toborrow?” He coughed. “Doe it's dot.” One eye popped open and found Merlin. “Is it?”
A nod. “The opening night banquet's tonight at dusk and tomorrow the skills competitions begin just after dawn.”
Arthur groaned again. “Thed I have to get better fast. Where the hell is by... by...” Arthur's face changed. Frustration bled away as the corners of his mouth turned down. “ehhhhhhh...” Determination left as his eyes closed. “hehhhhh...” His body rocked slightly with each breath, head sinking back into the pillows and bobbing forward again. “hehhh-ehhhhhhhhhhh....” His nostrils flared wildly as his nose wrinkled. “ehhhhh... hehhhhhhhh! Ehhh...” Merlin was used to these build-ups, but that didn't make them any less exciting to witness. He was glad to have returned in time for these. “ehhhhh... HEHHHhhhhhhh...” Bigger now, the breaths tearing their way out of him, drawing him along toward one inevitable conclusion. “HEYEHHHhhhhhhh!” He froze, body pulled back, nostrils twitching, breath held. Then, finally, he pitched forward with a monstrous, uncovered “EHHHURCHUHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh!”
Having been thrown forward by the force, Arthur slumped back against his pillows, exhausted after just one sneeze. Unfortunately, there were plenty more left in him, including one that wanted to start up right away. “Ber-HEH! Berlid? Ehhhh HEHHH!” His fists clutched anxiously at his covers. “HUH! UHHhhhhhh! Helb?”
Merlin knew his place in all of this all too well. He reached out with two fingers and deftly pressed them to the underside of Arthur's slightly wet but wildly twitching nose. The nostrils fought against the touch but Merlin held fast. As much as he wanted this sneeze to happen, he knew for Arthur's sake it would be best to give him a rest. He wished there was some magic he could speak to keep the sneezes away, but his touch like this was one of the only things that ever worked. And this time, just like that, Arthur's nose gave up its intentions. “Are you all right now?”
Arthur pulled his head away and coughed. “Of course I ab. Really, Berlid, I ab the bridce after all. I'b dot cobletely useless.” He coughed again and sniffled. “Dow where's by hadkerchief?”
Merlin took one from the significantly diminished stack beside Arthur's pillow and, when Arthur did not move to take it, held it up to the man's face for him. “Go on then.” With a deep breath and his eyes closed, Arthur blew his nose. The sound was loud, somehow both wet and honking at the same time, though it was nothing compared to the volume of Arthur's sneezes.
There was a knock on the door moments later, and Arthur called out in a tired, congested, croaky voice that tried to sound regal, “You bay edter!”
In came one of the kitchen staff, a young boy carrying a pot of tea and a mug. The kid couldn't have been more than nine and looked a bit flustered to be in the king's chambers. Before Merlin could retrieve the tea from him and send him on his way, however, Arthur's sneeze finally came out. “harrrrhhUH-UHSHEKKKKoooooo!” It was sudden and shocking and so loud it caused the boy to squeak and jump and overturn the tray.
There wasn't time to rush over and save the tea, but there was time for Merlin to focus on the tray and whisper a word that made his eyes glow for a brief second. The boy didn't hear; he was too busy being mortified by what he'd just done. And Arthur didn't hear, as he was too busy snuffling into his handkerchief. But the spell settled the teapot and cup back into place on the tray. A bit of tea sloshed out of the spout and the top rattled in place. But otherwise everything was safe, much to everyone's surprise a moment later.
“I'll get that.” Merlin swooped in and took the tea.
“My apologies,” said the boy, still looking frightened and skittish. “I'd heard them all morning, of course, but I hadn't realized how loud your sneezes really were in person.” With that, he fled from the room before being dismissed. Merlin hoped that Arthur might somehow not have registered the comment.
But Arthur looked positively stunned. “Did he just say...”
“Your ears must be stuffed from congestion. You can't have heard him properly.—”
The prince didn't buy this for a second. “Cad beoble actually hear by sdeezes outside this roob?”
“They cad, cad't they?” And without waiting for an answer, or perhaps knowing too well what it would be, Arthur slid down under his covers completely. He pulled the blankets all the way over his head and called out through their many layers, “That's it! I'b dot cobig out udtil this cold goes away cobletely. I'b dot cobig out udtil I've sdeezed every last sdeeze.”
“What about the tournament tomorrow?”
“It'll have to go od without be,” came the muffled response.
“But your father—“
Arthur sounded sad, but unconvinced. “By father will be disabboidted. But it cad't be helbed. I dod't wadt adybody listedig to by loud sneezes. So go away, Berlid!” This was followed by another booming sneeze, not remotely lessened by his being under the covers. “Ehhhhh... ehhh-HEH-HAHHHHHKTSHUHHHHhhhhh!”
Reluctantly, Merlin left the room. But he didn't go far. Most of his body told him he should be grateful for the reprieve and slink home to his warm, comfortable bed. But there was one part of him, right below the belt, that made him lean against the door and slide down to the floor. He closed his eyes, knowing he wouldn't fall asleep, not with the sound of Arthur's sneezes still breaking the silence.
“HAHUHSHUHHH!” There was one. “HAHSHIHHHHH!” And another right after. Merlin's breath caught. A double. Arthur hardly ever— “HUHH-AHHSHUHHHHH!” Three. Three in a row. Merlin felt himself going weak and growing hard both at the same time. It would be an exceedingly poor idea to shove his hand into his trousers now, but there was nearly nothing he wanted to do more. Just a stroke. Maybe two. No one was around to see. “HAHHHhhhhh-HAH-EHPTSCHHHOOO!”
Merlin nearly died just then. He was sure his heart had forgotten how to beat and his lungs to breathe. Even though the door, the sneeze had been exquisite. If only he'd been able to see it in person. He could just imagine the way Arthur's nose would quiver and nostrils would flair with perfect—
He feel backward so quickly, with a rush of air on either side, and couldn't stop himself before the back of his head cracked against the stone floor of the inside of Arthur's chamber. Wincing painfully, Merlin squinted up to see Arthur looking at him from above, though appearing up-side-down.
Arthur had a hand clapped to his face, covering his nose and mouth. “I chadged by bide.”
“What?” Even well-versed in Arthur's stuffy-talk, Merlin hadn't been able to figure that out. He sat up, rubbing the back of his head.
Arthur squatted down and helped pull Merlin up. Then Arthur closed the door to the bedroom. “I deed you here after all.”
“I thought you didn't want anyone hearing you...” Merlin couldn't quite bring himself to say the word. Not now. Not when his cock was already hard and throbbing with arousal.
“I dod't, but if I'b dot goig to leave by roob until this cold is over, I'll deed subode to get be tea for by throat add hot bricks for by feet add... add hahh... hag... hahhhhhhh-hadker... hah-hahhhhh-HAHHH! HAH! HAHHHHH-AHH-HIHSCHUHHHHHHHH!”
“And handkerchiefs for your nose?” Merlin finished for him.
Arthur nodded wearily and let Merlin tuck him back into bed. Luckily, Arthur was too tired and too keen on burrowing under the covers again to notice the grin Merlin couldn't wipe from his face, not even if he'd used magic.
Merlin sat up straight. He hadn't been sleeping. No, not at all. Not for one second. Okay, maybe for a second, but just one. Only one. Arthur had been sniffling like mad the entire day long, and he'd been bossier than usual. 'Merlin take the lead.' 'Merlin gather firewood.' 'Merlin take first watch.' And so Merlin had, of course, because he had known this meant that Arthur was getting sick.
Normally, this would be a thrilling revelation for Merlin. But, this time, Arthur needed to get over this illness quickly if possible. There were soldiers on their trail from the kingdom to the south they'd just left. They'd been tracking a necromancer who had made a mess of Camelot, and Arthur had promised Uther he'd see to it that the man was found. And he'd been found all right... along with a small army from the kingdom that had employed him as well as a slightly larger small army of protectors he'd raised from the dead. The escape had been a difficult one; if Merlin hadn't used magic, they never would have made it even this far.
But there was no spell to keep Arthur's symptoms at bay. Magic could cure magical illnesses, yes, but this was your garden variety cold. Lots of sniffling and sneezing from a perpetually runny nose and lots of coughing from an unbearably sore throat. The best thing for it was rest. And so Merlin had insisted Arthur get some.
All right, Merlin might have insisted and also said a word or two under his breath that had made the protesting prince fall asleep, slumped forward with his back to a boulder. Merlin had felt sure rest would do Arthur good, so he stood watch or, rather, sat watch.
“hahh... hahhhhhhhhhh...” Arthur's tired hand came up to cover his nose and mouth. “hahhhhhhh... HAHHHHH.... HAH-AHHhhhhhhh... AH-HAH-HAHHHH-HAHHHHHHH-HAH-AHKITSHOOOOOOOO!” Arthur was thrown forward, snuffling and coughing and sounding quite miserable, all in all. Apparently this cold had been bad enough to wake him from a magically-induced sleep. And it had been enough to wake a possibly dosing man on watch. Merlin wondered if it had been enough to attract the attention of the men pursuing them.
He couldn't believe he had to say this, and even winced as he thought about saying it, but out came his warning, “Maybe you should be quiet if you don't want them to find us.”
This earned him such a glare from Arthur that Merlin had to look away to keep it from hurting. Poor Arthur had no idea how much Merlin loved hearing these strong, booming sneezes. That last sneeze, the way it had built itself up from nothing into this monstrously gorgeous sound, the way it had completely taken Arthur over... if circumstances were very different, Merlin would have had him on the ground, stripped of his clothes, writhing around with intense tickles filling his nose as Merlin tickled it. Oh, how he longed to tickle Arthur's nose, especially when it was already sensitive and filled with cold tickles.
But he hadn't been able to admit his affection for Arthur to the man himself, let alone confide about his strange little interest. So for now, he still had to admire from afar, and try not to make him angry.
“I know, you can't help it,” Merlin sighed. “You're sick. But if we want to get home safe, we—”
“I'm not sick.” Arthur gave a giant sniff that made his nostrils flare widely. “Princes don't get sick during quests.”
Merlin laughed quickly and silenced himself just as quickly. “Good,” said Merlin. “If you're not sick, then you'll be able fall right back to sleep without another sneeze that could get us found out. Right?”
Arthur considered this then closed his eyes. The only sounds Merlin heard, apart from Arthur breathing heavily through his mouth because his nose was already getting runny and stuffy, were those of the nighttime. Crickets chirping. An owl hooting. A light gust of air fluttering the leaves. And Arthur's breath hitching. “huhh.... hahhhhh...” Not good.
“Arthur... you shouldn't....”
“hahhhhh!” Arthur looked up at Merlin just long enough to communicate that he knew damn well he shouldn't but he didn't have a choice in the matter.
“At least try to be quiet?” Merlin couldn't believe he was saying that. He thought about reaching over and holding fingers at Arthur's nose to see if that would help. But his hand wouldn't have made it in time. “hahhhhhhh-hahhahhh-ahhhHAHUHHHHKTSHOOOOooooooo!”
The crickets were quiet. So was the owl, wherever it was. Arthur's sniff was strong but pitiful. It was also the last sound Merlin heard before horse hooves came out of nowhere. Merlin grabbed Arthur's spare sword from the pile where he'd stashed their gear. Merlin wasn't as good with a blade as the prince, obviously, but with some luck and maybe a bit of magic, he would do all right. The same couldn't be said for Arthur.
Arthur was taking on two soldiers that had appeared from the darkness, weapons raised. But the prince's movements were slower than normal, heavy, dulled. Merlin couldn't fight for both of them, but maybe there was something he could do to improve the odds. He drove his knife into one of the attackers and was shocked to find the soldier laughing in reaction. No pain. No blood either. Damn necromancer. There was only one way to fight magic, and that was with more magic. But before Merlin got a chance, the butt of a sword came down and conked him right on the top of his head.
When Merlin woke, he tried to put his hand to his head to survey the damage but found that he could not move it. Opening his eyes gave him a visual he had neither wanted nor expected. At least they were still alive. But they were also tied to trees. Merlin's hands, bound at the wrists with thick rope, were high above him. The rope wrapped around a branch in such a way that any amount of pulling on his part would only tighten the knot rather than work against it. Besides, he was already starting to lose feeling in his hands, his fingers feeling tingly and going numb from being raised above his head for so long. He was bound at the ankles to the tree trunk behind him. The rope's function did not end there, however, as it wound its way up the trunk, pinning him back and holding him there tight.
Merlin looked to his right. Not three feet away hung Arthur on a tree of his own, head drooping, his eyes still closed. Before Merlin could call over to wake him up, a hand came out of nowhere, striking him across the face. It stung, and Merlin's eyes filled with tears in reaction. He tried blinking them back, though one escaped and trailed down his cheek.
“hahhh-Hih-HIHHHSCHUHH!” It sounded like Arthur was awake.
There was only one soldier that Merlin could see, though he heard the voices of others nearby. If they had gone to so much trouble to bind their prisoners, it must have been because they needed something. So the only way to keep themselves alive long enough to escape was to not give the soldiers that something, whatever it was.
The soldier squared off in front of Merlin, legs spread, arms folded over his chest. The part of his face that wasn't frowning in disapproval was, shockingly, gone. This Necromancer had done better work than Merlin had given him credit for. “Which of you is Prince Arthur?”
Just about the only part of Merlin's body not entirely immobile was his head, so he took advantage to look down at himself. He was wearing his normal trousers with a red shirt and blue scarf around his neck. There was also an indication that the other part of his body not immobile had enjoyed seeing and hearing that last sneeze. With any luck, it would stay relatively hidden under his loose clothing. Clothing that looked nothing like Arthur's. Arthur wore his chain mail and dark red cloak. His belt and sword lay on the ground by his feet, tantalizingly close but still unreachable.
“Sorry,” Merlin said to the soldier. “I know you've only got one working eye, but are you blind?” This turned out to not be the answer the soldier had been aiming for. It earned Merlin another slap across the face, though he had been expecting that one, so it wasn't as bad.
“Merlin! Not a good idea to get the nice, undead soldier angry.”
“I hate to tell you, but he's already angry. And who can blame him? He's so ugly. If someone's going to go to the trouble to reanimate the dead, at least they could choose someone with a full face.”
The man snarled but didn't spend any more time on Merlin. His sights were set on Arthur. Arthur's eyes, however, snapped shut. “ehhh-hehhhhhhhhi-hah-HAH-CHOOOSHHHHhhhhhh!” Instinctively, he tried to rub his nose, but he couldn't pull his arms free. So he snunffled into his bicep, the only thing his nose could reach. But what he needed was to blow his nose. Merlin could hear in his breaths that he was just going to sneeze and sneeze until he got some relief.
Which meant he wasn't going to be answering any questions any time soon.
And it also meant it was going to drive Merlin absolutely crazy.
Arthur merely hung there, unable to stop himself from sneezing, even unable to cover his nose. Merlin was unable to take his eyes off the man.
“ahhh... hahhhUHSChuhhhhhhh! Hehhhhh...” His body swayed back and then jerked forward with another strong sneeze. “hahhh-AHSHIHHHHHH!” Arthur sniffed helplessly, trying to catch his breath. But the sneezes kept coming. “hah-HAHUHPTSHCHHHHH! HAHCHHHOO! Hah-AHHHKSCHOOOO!”
The soldiers didn't even have to do anything to torture them. Arthur was probably going to pass out from sneezing so much and Merlin was nearly dead from desire. Every bit of him cried out to help Arthur, to go to him, to hold him, and to let Arthur sneeze those great big sneezes into his shoulder. Oh, the feel of that twitching nose and the short, halting breaths against his skin. And then the force of those impossibly loud sneezes that just couldn't be contained and couldn't be resisted... Merlin had no choice but to use magic and escape.
He waited until Arthur was winding up for another sizable sneeze. “hahhhh! Ahhhhh!” Then Merlin tilted his head back and directed a spell toward the ropes binding his hands.
Nothing whatsoever happened.
To the ropes, that is. Arthur, on the other hand, sneezed. “HAH-AHSHUHHHHHH!” And Merlin felt his stomach flip excitedly, his whole body crying out in longing. He had to make this work, if only to be able to get to Arthur. Watching the man sneezing and not being able to get to him was torture far beyond what these undead minions had counted on. His will stronger than ever now, Merlin looked up at the ropes and whispered the word again.
This time, the hold loosened. The rope unwound enough for Merlin to pull his hands free. Though his muscles screamed for rest and he longed to curl up and cater to them, he instead bent down and worked on the knot there. The moment his ankles were free, he charged at the soldier.
It saw him coming at just the last moment, but by then it was too late to stop Merlin slamming it back against a large boulder. It screamed as its skull cracked against the rock and then again when Merlin shattered its bony kneecaps with a swift and powerful kick. He ran to Arthur, getting there just in time to see Arthur's head tilt back, eyes closed, nostrils flaring, mouth dropped half open.
There was no time to savor that delicious visual; there were others after them, and it wouldn't take long to draw their attention, not with the tremendously loud sneezes Arthur usually gave. But he did smile to himself as he undid the ropes at Arthur's ankles and felt the light spray on the back of his neck when Arthur sneezed violently, uncovered, and unrestrained. “HAHHH-UHPTSCHOOOOO!”
Merlin rose and set to work on the ropes around Arthur's wrists, hearing those delightful sniffles in his ear the whole time.
“How'd you get free?” Arthur asked, congestion filling his tired voice.
“Um, I had a knife in my sleeve I was able to wriggle free.”
Arthur frowned, looking up. “Where is it?”
“The dife, Berlid. What are you, thicker thad usual all of a sudded?”
Even Arthur's insults sounded wonderful when said with such a stuffed-up nose. Merlin wanted so badly to kiss it and massage it with a handkerchief to loosen the congestion. But he had a fictional knife to explain. “The soldier took it from me when I attacked him. Besides...” The rope went slack and Arthur slumped forward, into Merlin's tired arms. “I've got you now,” he whispered.
Arthur leaned on them as they made their retreat, grabbing Merlin's bag and Arthur's sword as they slipped out of the soldiers' camp and into the woods. Arthur kept his hand clapped tight to his nose and mouth. And by the time he sneezed again, they were both fairly certain there was no one nearby to come after them. Soon enough, they'd be back in Camelot with full force behind them. That couldn't happen quickly enough as far as Merlin was concerned.
He was fairly certain Arthur must feel the same way, though they barely spoke about anything on their trek, partly because Arthur's voice was starting to fade and talking while trying to keep up a steady pace made him cough.
But there was one moment when they were resting that threw Merlin's head into an unexpected spin. It started with Arthur sneezing a gloriously perfect triple sneeze that made Merlin go so weak all over he was glad to be sitting down. “hahh... ahhhh... ahhhhh-hah... hah-AH-HUH-UH-HUHKTSCHOOO! HEHKTCHOOOO! hah-HAH-AHTSCHUHHHHHHHH!” Then it was was followed by so soft and stuffy, “I dow what you did back there.”
Suddenly, Merlin's panic was very real, and not a single excuse popped into his head. If Arthur had actually seen him do magic, this was the end of everything. Merlin looked up, dark eyes full of trepidation. He might have to defend himself against an attack, which wouldn't be too difficult, given the sate Arthur was in, but Arthur wouldn't be able to leave him alive, not with his father's edict in place.
Arthur sharpened the blade of his sword with a small stone he held in his hand, the glimmering steel dancing like a warning in-between them. Then the corner of Arthur's mouth turned up as the beginning of a smile formed upon his face. “You love be.”
As half his body relaxed, a whole different kind of panic took hold. “Oh?”
Arthur nodded thoughtfully, standing over him now. “There was do dife, was there? You pulled free because I was id dadger add you had to rescue be. You gathered up the stredgth to do it because you love be.”
Merlin couldn't deny it to Arthur's face. But neither could he come right out and admit it. This wasn't the place and definitely wasn't the time. For all he knew, the necromancer's army could leap out at them at any moment.
“It's all right,” Arthur said, sheathing his sword and settling down beside Merlin at the base of the tree. He took hold of Merlin's hand. “I feel the sabe. I...”
But Merlin knew he couldn't feel the same. There was so much between them, a bond stronger than honor and duty and even beyond love. But Merlin also felt his undeniable attraction to Arthur and this lust and desire that Arthur's sneezes brought out in him. Arthur couldn't possibly understand that.
“HUHHH-KIHHTSHOOOOO!” Arthur mopped his nose with his sleeve, probably glad to have the ability to rub his nose dry now that he wasn't tied up. Then he spoke softly again. “If I did't have this terrible cold, do you dow what I'd do right dow?”
Merlin's heart pounded so fast he thought he might it might explode and take them both out in the process. “No,” he whispered.
“I'd show you. I'd kiss you.”
Merlin closed his eyes, not sure he could stand another second of this being so close to being something but not having it yet. “Don't let your cold stop you.”
Arthur shifted, moved in closer. The tip of his nose brushed Merlin's cheek. “But what if I sdeeze od you?”
Merlin stopped himself before a moan could escape his lips. He turned his head and found his lips nearly against Arthur's. The man's warm breath fell upon his mouth. He wanted nothing more in that moment than to kiss Arthur. He didn't care about what it might mean or that there was an army on their tail or that he was holding so many secrets back from Arthur. All he wanted was that kiss, that confirmation, that sensation. But he couldn't explain this, couldn't say this out loud.
And so he closed the distance and made the kiss happen. Suddenly, Arthur's lips were on his and everything was right with the world. It was what he had dreamed of for so very long, and even more-so when Arthur's breath hitched and, instead of pulling back, Arthur buried his face into Merlin's shoulder and sneezed. “Hah-Hah-CHISHHHHooooo!”
“So cold...” Gwaine said, his teeth chattering around the words. “Merlin, are you s-sure there aren't any other blankets?”
“I'm sure,” Merlin replied. Even the horses were going without blankets tonight. There was a dangerous chill in the air, but the animals would be all right. Merlin wasn't sure the same could be said about King Arthur and his men who sat huddled around a fire in blankets and still shivered violently.
“Maybe you could go check?” Though Gwaine's long, dark hair hid half his face, his eyes still looked up with hope.
“Doe!” Arthur protested, tightening his arm around Merlin's waist to hold him closer. Merlin had started out on the fallen log beside Arthur and was now practically sitting on Arthur's lap. “He's by servadt, and I deed hib here.”
Merlin swiveled in place a bit, until he was sort of looking at Arthur. He put a hand on Arthur's shoulder, wishing he could touch some other part of the man instead. Merlin spoke softly, so that none of the other knights could hear. “I know you don't feel well. But I also know you care about your men more than yourself. And...” And the last bit went unsaid but understood: and it was Arthur's fault they needed help right now. Because it was Arthur's cold they'd all caught.
It had started with Arthur as they'd begun their journey home, sniffling and sneezing those great big sneezes of his. Of course he'd given his cold to his men, one by one. The first to catch it had been Percival, whose sneezes hadn't exactly been quiet either; more like sudden, strong bursts. Not an hour later, Gwaine had started to show signs that he was coming down with the cold as well, sniffling into his sleeve every few seconds and coughing when he wasn't sniffling. And then came Lancelot's inevitable but gorgeous sneeze. And, try as they might to be the tough, strong knights of Camelot, each gave into the misery of having a particularly bad cold stuffed into their heads.
Only Merlin had not, of yet, fallen ill. Which meant it was up to Merlin to take care of not only Arthur but the rest of the knights as well. They'd made camp somewhat earlier than normal for the day, the horses willing but their owners weary. Merlin had set to work making a fire, collecting what he hoped was enough wood to last the night and then herding the sneezy, shivery knights over to it in order to keep them warm.
It had been difficult to keep his mind on his work, however. Trying to keep all of the knights comfortable was one thing, but trying to keep his erection in check was another. Any normal person wouldn't be so entirely turned on by being surrounded by a handful of sneezing men. Any normal person wouldn't be breathing hard at the prospect of coming face-to-face with a fantasy. But any normal person would probably also be annoyed by so many sick people demanding care.
Arthur buried his face in Merlin's chest, sniffling. “All right. But cobe back as sood as you cad. I'b cold too.” He pulled the blanket from around his shoulders and pressed it to Merlin's chest. “Give this to Gwaide.”
Merlin kissed Arthur's forehead both in promise and in gratitude. Then Merlin pulled away and stood up. The moment he did, Arthur gave a violent shiver. And his nose twitched badly with the need to sneeze. “hahhh-ahhhhh-AHHHHKTCHOOOO!”
Before Merlin even had a chance to fully appreciate the sneeze, another came from the other side of the fire. “heh-EHTChooo!” That was Lancelot's. Merlin didn't even need to look over to know that.
Merlin walked over to Gwaine and wrapped the blanket around the man. Then he rubbed his hands up and down the knight's arms. “Better?”
Gwaine sniffled and nodded. Then his eyes rolled up and eyelids slammed down. He snapped forward, burying his nose into his sleeve. “Eh-t'chhhh! EH-Tihshh! h'tshhhh! hehtshhh!” Gwaine's sneezes weren't strong, but they were rarely singular. “ehhTihshhh! Heh-T'chhhh! Eh-EHKtshhhh! Uhhh...” He moaned, dragging his nose against his sleeve and wrist. “Not better enough,” he finally answered. “And still cold. Eh-ehT'chhh! Heh-K'tchhhh!”
Percival slid off the rock on which he'd been sitting and sat down on the ground so close beside Gwaine their bodies touched. “Give Merlin's fire a chance, and you'll warm up soon. You... oh no... I'm going to-hah-TSHAHHH! Huh... sneeze,” he warned a bit too late, flashing a sheepish grin. Sniffling, he wiped his nose on his sleeve as well.
Merlin hadn't packed many handkerchiefs. From the way Arthur had been when they left—exhausted, run down, tired—and the chill in the air, he'd guessed he might need a few extra, and he'd stuffed them into his bag as a last thought when leaving. But seven hankies didn't go very far among four knights who couldn't stop sneezing. “hahh-hah-hah-ha-ha-hahhhhhhhhhhh-AHHGIHSHOOOOOO!” Especially when one of them had such powerful sneezes as Arthur Pendragon. Merlin had cut his spare shirt into pieces, buying them some time and giving them all one more dry thing to bury their dripping noses into. But those had been well used as well. And considering they'd all caught this cold anyway, there was almost no reason to bother covering their sneezes now.
“Still c-c-cold,” Gwaine said with a shiver, leaning forward to get just a little closer to the fire.
“I thidk we deed a bigger fire,” Lancelot declared.
Arthur nodded his agreement. “Berlid, see to it.” He turned and pulled his legs up onto the log in front of him, hugging them against his chest with his chin on his knees. Merlin had saved Arthur's butt so many times over the year, but rarely did he see the king this lonely, helpless, and embarrassed to have done this to his knights. Merlin wanted to go to him, to comfort him, to warm him. But he couldn't obey an order, either. So he set off into the woods again, collecting an armful of sticks that had nothing at all to do with the wood he already possessed.
It was hard to see by the moonlight, but Lancelot looked tired. He hugged his arms to his chest and coughed.
“Go back to the fire,” Merlin told him. “Stay warm. I'll be all right out here.”
Lancelot shook his head. “I told the others I was goidg to helb you out, but really I deed a word.”
“Berlid, we're dot doidg well.”
“I dod't dow if we'll be able to get back to the castle like this. We deed helb.”
“I'm trying.” Merlin was doing everything he could think of to make the knights more comfortable, but his resources were limited.
“Isd't there subthig... else you could do?” Merlin sighed with frustration, about to explain, when Lancelot continued. “Or are you edjoyig this too buch to wadt to rush us back to health?”
Lancelot knew his secrets—all of his secrets. Lancelot knew he could work magic, but he also knew that sneezes made Merlin's knees go weak, his stomach flutter, and his cock stand. He also knew that Merlin was especially fond of Arthur's sneezes, and he'd probably guessed that Merlin would like nothing more to retire to Arthur's tent for the night to lie there with Arthur sneezing while snuggled up to him all night long. But Lancelot must also have known that Merlin's duty to Arthur and to Camelot always came before any personal desires. He didn't mean those words out of spite.
“This isn't a magical ailment. There's no spell I can say to drive this from you or even lessen your symptoms a bit.”
But Lancelot was already shaking his head again. “Berlid, you studied udder Gaius for years. Surely you leard of sub rebedy that could helb eved a little?” He sniffed and scrubbed the back of his hand at his nose. “All I wadt is a little rest add a chadce to fight this cold off. But with all of us sdeezig so buch, I dod't thidk ady of us will get the sleeb we deed.”
This gave Merlin a thought. “There's a woodland plant, an herb, that will dull the symptoms. I've brought it to many of Gaius' patients. If I can find some, I know just how much to use to make the tea. This cold is pretty terrible, so it might not help much. But at least the herbal tea will be warm and it might just help you all fall asleep.” Inspired, he was already starting to look around, as though he might find it right before him. He started off, prepared to look as long as it took to find this herb.
“Wait, Berlid!” Lancelot exclaimed. His breath hitched uncontrollably. Then Merlin felt the wood tumbling from his arms and felt himself being pulled forward. Lancelot's arm wrapped around him, holding him close as the hitching breath increased in pitch and speed. Then Lancelot drew a sudden, huge breath, and out came “ehTICHooo! EhShooo! TChooo!” He breathed out heavily afterward and sniffed.
Merlin was so close he thought he might be able to make out the way Lancelot's cheeks were suddenly flushed... but maybe that was from the cold air or a light fever. Merlin's heart raced, his cock not only aching for action now but leaking a little in his britches. Because he'd felt the sneezes. The quick rising of the knight's chest against his, the force that had made Lancelot lean forward into him a little, and the light mist on the top of his head and back of his neck. Breathing hard, afraid he might actually come right then and there, Merlin still bravely looked up at his friend.
“I'b sure you'd have breferred I were Arthur just thed. Sniff! But I could't helb it. This cold's bakig be so sdeezy add those sdeezes... those odes were just for you, Berlid. To thadk you for tryig to take care of us today.”
A soft moan escaped Merlin's lips. He placed a hand on Lancelot's chest, feeling the man's breathing again, as if trying to conjure up a sneeze that would finally push him over the edge and do him in. But Lancelot pushed him away lightly then bent down to collect the fallen sticks. “I'll take these back to the fire while you look for those herbs.”
“What herbs?” Merlin deadpanned.
Lancelot laughed and gestured with a tilt of his head. “Go od.”
Merlin went. But he did look over his shoulder, watching the man sniffle and cough his way back through the forest toward the others.
Merlin found a small patch of Silverway plants after about a quarter of an hour of searching. The leaf structure left no doubt in his mind that he'd accomplished his goal, and he gathered up as much of it as he could carry, cradled in his red scarf. Arthur had sneezed into Merlin's scarf a few times that day, while Merlin had still been wearing it, desperate for something to contain his sneezes. Merlin's hands trembled just thinking of it now. The sooner he put these men to bed, the sooner he would be able to duck back into the forest and perhaps take himself in hand; nothing else would alleviate how worked up he felt right now.
As Merlin boiled the water in his kettle over the fire, he noticed the men had moved even closer together in an attempt to stay warm. They were sharing blankets now with arms draped around each other's shoulders. Gwaine's teeth still chattered. Lancelot still sniffled. Percival still sneezed in sudden bursts. And Arthur still looked lonely without his arms around Merlin.
Water had never taken so long to boil. He thought of using magic to help it along, but he was worried even a soft spell might be overheard now. Besides, he had work to do, grinding the herbs with the butt of his knife into just the right size and just the right amount. When the water was finally ready, he added the herbs and let them simmer like that, keeping a mental count so that the potency would be perfect. If it was one thing Merlin had learned over the years working for Arthur, it was how to cook.
Merlin poured the tea and distributed it, one cup at a time. He offered the first to Arthur, who insisted his knights get theirs first. Then, as though to prove he was in no state to drink anything that moment anyway, he pulled out a sodden handkerchief and rubbed at his nostrils with it. The rubbing seemed to be of no help at all. “hahhhhhhhhhhh.... hahhhhhhhhh.... Uuuuhh-HITCHSOOOOOO!”
Merlin hurriedly dispensed the rest of the tea, both wishing it would help the men and kind of wishing that it wouldn't, at the same time. But all too soon, Percival's eyes shut. Gwaine's were soon to follow. Lancelot yawned heartily as he handed his drained cup back to Merlin. Merlin suggested they all lie down in front of the fire and get some rest. They already had their cloaks and blankets about them, so it was mostly just a shift in location, one that brought them a few inches closer to the warm flames. Even that was tough for some of them, as they were already nodding off, Merlin managed to get them all down, even Arthur, who clung to him afterward and did not let him go.
So Merlin found himself snuggled in close to Arthur, trying to lie down in such a way that Arthur wouldn't feel Merlin's hardness. Merlin stayed awake, listening as the knights' breathing slowed and deepened. This really was the best thing for them. They would wake rested though probably still a little sniffly, and they would continue the four-day journey back to the castle in better spirits.
Merlin's ears perked up. He'd been sure Arthur had been just about to fall asleep like the others, but here his breath was, catching once more. “Don't,” Merlin warned in a whisper, stroking his hand along Arthur's hair. “You'll wake them.”
“huh! Hahh... cad't... cad't seeb to hahhhh! to stob it...” Wearily, he raised his hand and gave his nose a hard rub... that suddenly seemed to have the opposite effect. “Uhhhh... hahhhhh-HAH....”
“Arthur!” Merlin glanced over at the others, still sleeping, though not for long. He pressed his fingers under Arthur's nose, hoping this time it would help.
It didn't “I... hahh! I... HAH! Hahhhhhhhhhhh-hahhhhh... HAH-AH-HAHHH-HAHHHHHHH!” He buried his nose in Merlin's tunic, apparently hoping to quiet a sneeze that refused to be quiet. “HAHHHUHPTTTSHHHHHOOOO!”
Lancelot sat bolt upright. Percival woke with a start and grabbed his sword. Gwaine opened his eyes and groaned as he shivered violently. “Arthur!” Gwaine complained.
Arthur kept his face buried in Merlin's shirt for a few moments longer, “Sorry!” came his muffled reply. “I really had to sneeze. Tried to stop it and I couldn't.” Merlin rubbed the king's back comfortingly, as if the touch might somehow lessen the embarrassment. “My nose is just so... so... hahhhh...” And another was upon him already. “hahhhhhh-HAHHHH-HAH-UMMPTISHHHOOOO!” Merlin felt the force of the sneeze against his front and felt the warmth in his trousers becoming even more of a problem now that he and Arthur were snuggled close together. Any second now Arthur might brush against the erection and not only discover its presence but set Merlin off. It wouldn't take much for Merlin to lose it now.
“We know, but your sneezes are so damn loud!” Percival laughed. “With you sneezing like that, how will we ever... mmph... get to sleep?”
“Sorry,” Arthur murmured again, nuzzling closer to Merlin. And that was when Merlin felt it. Instead of Arthur discovering Merlin's erection, it was suddenly the other way around. That was definitely no dagger or sword in his pocket—it was warm and hard as it pressed excitedly into Merlin's thigh.
“Not sure I want to sleep any more,” Gwaine said softly. Then there was the rustle of blankets and soft clink of a buckle. And another groan, though this one of a far different nature.
“Ah, Berlid?” Lancelot said hurriedly, reaching over and squeezing Merlin's shoulder. “There isd't edough wood to last the dight.”
As Merlin moved his leg slightly, feeling Arthur's cock respond to the touch, he was fairly certain wood was not something of which there was a shortage at present. But the tone of Lancelot's voice and another hard squeeze on the shoulder made Merlin pull reluctantly away from Arthur. He left with the promise to return quickly.
It was almost painful to leave the fireside and Arthur to follow Lancelot deep enough into the woods that they could not be overheard. Lancelot would not stop sniffling the entire time and the sound, though soft, seemed to fill the woods. Finally, the knight stopped and turned to Merlin. “What did you give us?”
“Simple herbal tea with something called the Silverway plant.”
“And what sniff are its side effects?”
Merlin tries to remember the page from Gaius' book. “Fatigue, dryness of mouth... I cannot recall any others...”
“But dot sexual arousal?”
Merlin's eyes went wide. “No, of course not! Nothing of the sort! For something like that, you'd have to take something like Peyatrix. Which... looks... exactly like Silverway except for the root system. Oh no.”
“Oh yes.” He took hold of Merlin's hand and guided it over to show him. Lancelot's erection was strong and insistent. “Add I still... ehhhEhptchoo! I still feel as sdeezy as ever. Sniff! But dow I'b hot too. Whed will this feelig go away?”
Merlin bit his lip and pulled his hand back. “Twelve to twenty hours minimum.”
The shock in Lancelot's eyes was impossible to miss. “Is there ady way to get rid of it?”
“Just one.” Merlin stepped forward and kissed him. Lancelot pulled back an instant after their lips touched in order to cough. But the solution was conveyed clearly enough. The knights were going to need release. “Arthur's going to kill me, isn't he?”
“If he tries, just have hib rebeber that he's the ode who gave the rest of us his cold.”
By the time they got back to camp, the others were more than excited to see them. Gwaine had his hand down his trousers and had Percival on one side and Arthur on the other. Lancelot settled himself down on his knees in front of Gwaine and started tugging wordlessly at his trousers. Feeling awkward intruding on this moment, especially as he'd caused it, Merlin hesitated.
Until Arthur sneezed again. “hahhhhhhhhh-UHKSHUHHHhhhhhh!” And he sniffed pitifully. “Sorry.” Then he looked up at Merlin and extended a hand. “Berlid... I deed you.”
Merlin went to him in an instant, squeezing himself in-between Arthur and Gwaine. The blankets that had formerly kept the knights warm lay spread over the ground in front of the fire; apparently everyone felt too hot to stay wrapped in them, including Gwaine. In fact, several of the knights were already beginning to undress.
It was as if there were some plan here that everyone knew and understood except for Merlin. He watched, fascinated, as Gwaine helped Percival off with his tunic and then began kissing his chest. Lancelot, still sniffling, worked on Percival's boots then trousers before turning toward Merlin and Arthur. With a smile and a well-timed “ehhhh-IHPTshhhh!” that made an already weak Merlin weaken further, Lancelot pulled the two of them closer.
Merlin felt the kiss to his neck first. He closed his eyes, savoring the cold, wet nose that brushed against his skin above those warm lips. He felt his clothes being stripped away until he lay naked on the blankets with one knight sucking on an earlobe and another nuzzling at his crotch. Hands caressed him lightly, traveling over every exposed inch of him and from all directions. There were fingers teasing at his hole and a soft velvety cock teasing his lips. These men did not waste any time.
He was overwhelmed with sensations, yes, surrounded by men who so desperately needed to come. But what he savored most of all were the sneezes, because they were nearly constant. No one was stopping to cover their noses now or restrain themselves in any way at all. So the result was a nonstop cacophony of the most delicious sounds Merlin had ever heard. And even though he'd grown to be able to identify each of the knight's sneezes pretty well, there were so many—and some at the very same time—that he wasn't entirely sure where each was coming from.
“Eh-T'Chh! Tishhh! Ktishhh!”
At this rate, Merlin wasn't going to last long at all. And that was even before someone wrapped a mouth around his cock and started sucking. Merlin writhed in pleasure, looking down to see a dark mop of hair. “ehhhT'shh! Ehhh-eh-IHtshhh!” Not Arthur, obviously. But the sensation of thrusting into someone's—Gwaine's---mouth and then feeling those sneezes against his skin in rapid succession was amazing. Merlin saw that Gwaine had one hand on his prick still and his ass up in the air. It didn't take long for Percival to claim it, kneeling and thrusting into him.
And when he sneezed “ehhhIGihxxttshh!” spray caressed both Gwaine's back and Merlin's front.
Someone pressed into Merlin's side, a hand sliding down to tweak his nipple, as if more stimulation was really what Merlin lacked at the moment. It was still thoughtful and arousing and Merlin wondered if it were Arthur. “hehhh-EHTSchhh!” Apparently, Lancelot then. A hot mouth found his neck, kissing, licking, followed by a cool spraying “hahh-EhhhKTschhhhhh!”
Merlin felt his whole body tense with excitement and need. Release was already so close. But where was Arthur? Merlin looked around, seeing pale peach flesh, bodies moving, grinding, thrusting desperately against each other. The only accents were the flashes of eyes, dark hair, and flushed red noses from so very much sneezing and rubbing and sniffling and even more sneezing.
“eh-Tshh! Hehtshhh! T'chhhh!”
And just when Merlin wasn't sure he'd be able to hold on any longer, a forceful hand seized his other shoulder and shoved him over. Merlin's cock slipped from Gwaine's mouth but almost instantly found its way into Lancelot's obliging fist. Lying on his side now, Merlin looked over his shoulder to see Arthur, cheeks flushed but brow knitted in determination, just about to put his own cock right where it belonged. Merlin relaxed just in time, though it was still a tight fit without their usual preparation. Arthur grunted with satisfaction when he was in as far as he could go. He pulled back, getting ready to find his usual rhythm. But then he sneezed. He sneezed a huge, absolutely glorious sneeze that somehow managed to put all others to shame. “hahh-HAHHHHKITTCHUHHHHHHHHHHHH!”
Merlin felt the sneeze on the tender skin of his back, and that was enough to send tingles of desire straight through his body, down to his toes. But at the same time, Lancelot sneezed against Merlin's chest. And simultaneously Gwaine cried out, his seed spilling violently from his cock, spattering upon the ground and Merlin's bare hip as well.
It was Arthur's sneeze that did Merlin in, however. The strength of it right against him, the way the sound had filled his ears so completely, and how it had thrown Arthur forward into Merlin, going in so deep that he hit that one spot inside that made Merlin's toes curl and eyes roll and cock explode with pleasure.
Percival's cry of delight was lost amidst Gwaine's sneezing fit. Lancelot came, nestled up against Merlin, sniffling as always as he gasped with pleasure. And Arthur was the last to come,as though waiting to be sure all of his knights were satisfied, his hand on Merlin's side, his runny nose at Merlin's neck, his sneeze loud enough for everyone to hear but still, somehow, belonging to Merlin alone in that moment. “Hahhhhh-HAH-AHHHTSHOOOOOOO!”
When it was over, Merlin lay back on the blankets, his head on Percival's warm chest, Arthur's head in his lap, and everyone tangled together in a mess of limbs and torsos and terribly sniffly noses. If Merlin had thought they'd been sneezing nonstop earlier, it was nothing compared to now. Not a second went by that didn't have a sneeze in it, shaking the tightly woven group slightly each time.
“HAHHH-Uhhhh... UHHHHUHHTCHOOOOO! HAHKETCHOO!”
Merlin felt for the knights, he really did. This was a miserable cold Arthur had given them, and Merlin's cure had probably done more harm than good. But living out such a fantasy was something Merlin would cherish forever, even if it meant he would come down with this cold as well.
Gwaine lifted a hand from where it had been resting against Lancelot's cheek and he fanned himself. “So hot.”
Lancelot pulled back from his position, having been wrapped around Arthur from behind, and instead pressed himself against Gwaine. “You are.” His hand slid downward, and Merlin realized he had known that sensation, the way Lancelot's fingers felt upon his skin. He was content to lie here, stroking Arthur's head, but in a way he was also jealous, wanting that touch again. “You look ready for a second round.” Lifting his head, he saw to his surprise that Gwaine's member was stirring with excitement again.
“hahhhhhhhIHHB-TSHUHHHHHHHHH!” Arthur sneezed on Merlin's cock, which began to stand again as well. This was going to be one long and glorious night.
Merlin had been numb with cold before, but this was a little different. He couldn't move. He couldn't breathe. And if he couldn't, he knew Arthur definitely couldn't. Trying his best to not panic, Merlin gathered up what little strength he had and channeled it right into his magic. Slowly... painfully slowly... the snow around him melted enough for him to have use of his arms. As it continued to melt, Merlin dug, coughing and sniffling, as his head emerged. Then he dug harder and faster at a feverish pace, the snow melting bit by bit around him.
Around them both. Merlin saw the hood of Arthur's cloak, followed by a bit of blond hair. Merlin dug and tugged, pulled and shoveled, until Arthur was mostly free of the snow. Was he breathing? Merlin couldn't tell as he yanked Arthur free, falling back onto the snow, breaking their fall with his own body.
Magic drained Merlin of energy on a normal day. But on a day when he already had a cold... he stood no chance. He tried to wriggle free, but Arthur was too heavy and too warm on top of him to budge. Merlin felt consciousness slip away from him and embraced the restful, welcome darkness.
When Merlin opened them again, he found himself huddled by a fire with Arthur's cloak around him. Merlin sat up, blinking, sniffing. “Are you all right?” he asked.
“Fine. No thanks to you,” said Arthur, throwing a fresh log onto the fire.
Merlin's brow furrowed. Had he or had he not pulled Arthur from certain death? He had a distinct memory of it.
“After we survived the avalanche, I had to carry you halfway down the mountain so safer ground. You were shivering in my arms, so I built a fire. It's been hours, I thought you'd never wake up.”
Merlin felt like going back to sleep already. His eyes were tired. His body hurt, probably because the urgent digging had been so hard, taken so much out of him. Shifting so much snow so quickly was enough to drain anyone. But he wouldn't have had to do that at all if it hadn't been for someone's especially loud sneeze that had brought the mountain's wrath down on them both.
It had been one of the only times Merlin hadn't been thrilled to hear Arthur sneeze. And this... just now... was going to be another.
“hahh...” Arthur's nose twitched so adorably though, telling Merlin he felt a sneeze coming on, something strong and uncontrollable, something that was going to sound amazing and Merlin had better be ready for it.
“Arthur...” Merlin looked around, warily. They were under trees, but still surrounded by snow. Surely they were still on the mountainside somewhere. Which meant it was still a terrible idea to sneeze. “Perhaps you shouldn't sneeze again.”
But that was like telling a fish not to swim or a bird not to fly or a certain servant not to lust after his cold-ridden King. It was going to happen. It was inevitable. “HAHHH... HAH-AHHH-AHHHHHH-URSCHUKKKKKUHHHHH!” The sneeze, though strong, did not make the ground shake or the snow slide down to meet them. It made Merlin warm with desire and made Arthur sniff miserably, but that was it. This time.
“Bless you,” said Merlin. “At least we were saved from an avalanche that time.”
“That wasn't my fault.”
Merlin just stared at Arthur, the disbelief palpable.
And Arthur's red cheeks revealed he didn't really believe what he was saying. “You've got this cold as well. It could have been your sneezes that triggered the avalanche.”
“My sneezes?” Merlin had to laugh. “My sn... my sneh... my-ehhhh... ehh-ehngxxstttt!” He buried his sneeze in the crook of his arm and turned his head back and forth, wiping it before lifting his head. “My sneezes couldn't hurt a fly.”
Arthur rubbed at his nose, a strange expression on his face. Merlin almost laughed to himself when he realized Arthur was actually lost in thought. It was actually a good look on him—wrinkles on his forehead, head cocked to the side, a slightly vacant expression, and those kissable lips slightly open. “I can sneeze like you do.”
Merlin did laugh this time. “Forgive me, but I don't believe you can. Your sneezes are just too...” There were a thousand words Merlin wanted to use to finish that sentence, among them: sexy, brilliant, astounding, overpowering, and sexy again.
Merlin nodded. That would do well enough. Plus, he didn't really feel well enough to fight Arthur on this. “Do you really think you can?” Merlin sniffed and shivered and suddenly found Arthur at his side, ducking under the cloak and moving in close to warm him. The only good part of having a head cold was sharing it with Arthur.
“I'm a king. If I want my sneezes to sound quieter, I'll do it. Can't be that hard to stifle them, right? It's just a matter of pushing them to the back of my throat and holding the release in. I bet I can make mine even quieter than yours.” He wiggled his nose, as if trying to invite a sneeze, though all it did was make Merlin hot. Not the sort of hot you got when someone snuggled up to your side but the sort you got when someone with amazing sneezes threatened to sneeze right then and there. “Except... huh... hnnn... huh... No. Sniff! How can I practice when I can't... hah... huhhhhh... huh-hnnn! Eh! Hehh! Hnnn! Uhh...” He sighed, shaking his head. Then he buried his face against Merlin's neck and spoke words that whispered against Merlin's skin. “Merlin... do you know a way to make me sneeze?”
Merlin nearly died. Just like that. All the magical attacks, all the adventures, all the slaving around doing mundane tasks for Arthur over the years and what nearly did him in were those little words and Arthur's warm, heavy body and slightly wet nose. All Merlin could do was nod. He feared any word out of him would sound like a whimper and reveal too much of his interests. He leaned to the side and plunged his hand into a snowdrift. For the second time that day, he dug down, searching. And what he found was the ground beneath.
Not just dirt and rocks, though there was some of that, but grass. It was nearly brown and frozen, but dormant and lying in wait for the springtime. Merlin plucked a few pieces and held one up in front of Arthur's face. “Do you trust me?”
Arthur nodded and sniffed so that his nostrils flared widely, invitingly. Merlin's whole body wibbled and burned with need as he inserted the piece of grass into Arthur's nose. Arthur gave a sharp gasp and his eyes began to water. But it wasn't until Merlin started wiggling the piece around that the build-up started. “heh! Eh!”
“Now, when the sneeze comes, remember what you're trying to do.”
“Nngh!” Arthur said, bobbing his head up and down in an attempt at agreeing. “Gonna... gonna sn-sneeze... ehhhh quiet-huh quietly. Heh! Hehhh!” Merlin gave Arthur's beautifully twitching nose one more jab with the blade of grass and that was all it took. “Hah! HAH! AHHHHH-HAHHKKKTGNXXttttttttt!”
It was, without a doubt, the worst attempt at reigning in a sneeze Merlin had ever heard. And, at the same time, he had never wanted Arthur more.
“Didn't... hahh... didn't work that time. Sniff! Try again.” He rubbed two fingers boyishly at his nose to ready it, then tilted his head back, waiting for Merlin to tease his nose again.
Merlin did not hesitate. He switched nostrils, spinning and tickling, and this time the sneeze came faster. “hah-engg... ehh-ngg... heh-hah-hah-HAHHH-EHPTSchptccccccc” Arthur gasped and moaned, rubbing his forehead and the bridge of his nose. “Harder than I thought,” he murmured. “Do it again?”
His hand almost shaking with his excitement, Merlin inserted a blade of grass and twirled it around, but Arthur did not sneeze at once. His nostrils flared and eyes watered. Then he tilted his head and his nostrils flared more violently. “I can feel it... heh! Feel the tickle way back in... hah! Back in my n-nose. Hah! Yes... that's.. hehh! That's it. Hah! Hah! Just... like that... heh-eh! Ehhh! Make me... hahhh! Make me sneeze! Hehhhhh-ehh-EHHH-HEHHHHHH-HAHAHHHHPTSCHOOOOOOO!” Arthur wiped his hand at his eyes and then his nose. “Was that any softer sniff do you think?”
Chewing on his bottom lip, Merlin shook his head. “I'm sorry.”
Arthur huffed in frustration. “Show me how you do it?”
“It's just the way I sneeze. I can't help it,” Merlin replied. He took another blade of grass and invaded his own nostrils. Already sensitive from his cold, it didn't take a second to feel that tell-tale tickle rise up. His tongue pushed against his bottom teeth as his mouth dropped open. “eh-eh-ehhhh-ehgptshhhhh!” He caught the sneeze in his scarf, but only just in time. His nose dripped and itched, and he rubbed at it as he noticed Arthur staring longingly at him.
“I want to sneeze like that.” Arthur practically pouted.
Merlin's heart raced hard and fast. He couldn't believe Arthur might actually be able to hear his words above its thumping when he replied, “Your sneezes are perfect just as they are. You just... need to stay away from mountains when you have a cold.”
This earned Merlin a sniffle-filled kiss. He nearly passed out a second time.
Every royal family from every kingdom Merlin had ever heard of were in attendance tonight. Camelot's hall was so packed with tables, it was hard for the servants to move in-between the rows to do any serving of the food. There were so many guests in attendance that every spare servant was serving, even Merlin. There were a hundred things he'd rather be doing than carrying vegetables, drumsticks, soup, and buns to a bunch of kings and queens. But he was glad for the job now so that he could keep an eye on Arthur.
Because King Arthur had a simply terrible head cold. But this event was of the utmost importance, so couldn't call off the event and he couldn't be absent from it. Which meant he had no choice but to attend and try to pretend he wasn't as sick as he felt.
Merlin glanced Arthur's way and felt the need to rescue him. Poor Arthur's red nose twitched even as he scrubbed his knuckles repeatedly against it over and over again. No wonder it was so red and angry-looking. Merlin dropped the plate he'd been carrying onto the table more hastily than he'd intended then walked back to the kitchen by way of the grand table in the center of the hall. He caught Arthur's eye and Arthur looked imploringly back at him. Merlin leaned over and said, softly, “Gaius has a balm to reduce the soreness. I can apply it to your nose later.”
Arthur nodded, looking grateful. He had asked Merlin for every remedy available, and Merlin had done what he could. But the only real cure for a bad cold was rest, and Arthur wasn't getting much of that, not with an all-night banquet tonight and an all-day meeting tomorrow. So Arthur sniffled and snuffled through the meal and the longest ceremony known to man.
Each kingdom had brought a tribute to share with everyone. There were bards singing songs, jesters doing tricks, platters of delicacies, elaborate dances, stories of heroism, displays of fighting skills. And through it all, Arthur tried to not sneeze.
“hahhh...” But he couldn't stop every sneeze. And they both knew how good Arthur was at sneezing quietly. From across the hall, Merlin could hear Arthur's build-up. “HAHHhhhh...” Scrubbing desperately at his nose was of no help. And Merlin, surrounded by people, couldn't go over and press his fingers to Arthur's nose, not that that always worked to help him. “HAHHHH! AHHH! UHHHH... HAHH-HAH-EEESCHHOOOOO!”
Everyone in the hall heard. Everyone in the hall either jumped or looked at King Arthur or both. He pressed a handkerchief to his nose and raised a hand to all in apology, but his cheeks flushed red from unwanted attention. Arthur looked determined to not sneeze again. He tried to focus on the dancers twirling in front of him.
Merlin knew from experience that, no matter how hard Arthur tried, he wouldn't be able to hold in his sneezes for long. He'd been doing a decent job in not sneezing much, in heading the urge off with some proper attention to his nose, rubbing and scrubbing the tickle away. But now he faced a challenge Merlin was absolutely sure would do him in: flowers.
They were not just any flowers. These were chrysanthemums. To the best of Merlin's knowledge, there were no other flowers on earth that made Arthur sneeze as much as chrysanthemums. He remembered all too well the time Gaius had some of them in their quarters when Arthur stopped by with a request. Arthur's nose had twitched the second he had walked in. Watching Arthur sneeze in rapid-fire, nonstop uncontrollable sneezes, Merlin wished every room in the castle could be decorated with these exotic flowers. But as wonderful as it would be to hear Arthur completely lose it again and sneeze his head off, Merlin knew this wouldn't end well in front of so many people.
Merlin saw Arthur's eyes widen in recognition as the flowers were presented. Two young maidens from one of the kingdoms carried bunches so big you couldn't see the women behind them. They placed the flowers on a pedestal not far from the table where Arthur sat, gave a polite curtsy, and retreated.
Arthur's poor, sneezy nose didn't stand a chance. Already it was twitching. Already he was rubbing it and trying to look like he didn't have to sneeze when it was obvious that was all he was thinking of doing. Merlin knew he had to do something, or Arthur would die of embarrassment in front of all. The only solution was to distract everyone with even more embarrassment.
grabbed an empty platter to return it to the kitchen, by way of the floral
display. He timed it to coincide with Arthur's next sneeze. “hahhhh...”
Merlin could tell he was trying to hold it back, but the sneeze was just too
big to be denied. He loved that about Arthur's sneezes, though he knew Arthur
dreaded sneezing in front of so many people in such a formal setting. “HAH!
People jumped or gasped in surprise. Merlin, however, pretended that the sneeze had really caught him off guard. He angled his foot in just the wrong way and tripped, sending it flying backward and crashing to the floor not far from where he hit the floor. The stone was hard, cold, and actually smarted a bit, though not nearly as much as he pretended it did. Merlin writhed around, moaning and clutching his leg. When he looked up, he was pleased to see Arthur on his feet, looking down at Merlin with unbridled fury that did not extend to his eyes. In those blue eyes there was amusement and something like gratitude, even as he called Merlin all sorts of names beginning with “clumsy oaf” and ending in “pathetic excuse for a servant.”
“I can clear him off, Sire,” said Percival, rising to his feet as well.
However, Arthur threw out a hand to hold him off. “I will deal with him. I'll be but a moment.” He made a great show of angrily storming around the table, grabbing hold of Merlin, and hauling him out of the hall.
Merlin limped and kept up pretenses until they were out of the hall and round the corner. Then Merlin began laughing and Arthur wasted no time in burying his nose in Merlin's red scarf. “hahh-CHIHSHHHH!” The sneeze was strong and booming, but muffled enough that Merlin suspected no one back in the hall could hear it. At least, he hoped that was the case, because he didn't stop with just one sneeze. “hah-UHHKTCHHOOOOO! Hap-TIHSHHHHOOOO! H'KTCHOOO!”
Merlin stroked the back of Arthur's head, providing what comfort he could and reassuring him that this was all right, that he didn't mind being sneezed on, that the important thing was just to let these sneezes go to satisfy the tickle in his nose.
“Those... those flow... hah-UMMPHSHOOO! Flowers... I just cad't helb... hah-hah-EIHHTCHOOO! helb it. By dose burds!”
“Oh Arthur.” Merlin's fingers massaged the back of Arthur's scalp. His own breath came in short gasps.
“hah... hahhhhhhh... deed to... hahhhhhh! get the huh tickles out... hahhhh! AH! AH! AHH! AH-HAH! Ahhhhhhhhhh... HAH-HUHSHOOOOOOO! HAPTCHOOO! HUH-KUHTCHOOO!” He turned his head slightly to get a new, dry spot and ended up with his nose against Merlin's neck. Merlin's heart raced as Arthur wound up again. “hahhh... HAH... UHHHKTCHhhhhhhhhhh!” The spray was cool and wet and so strong. He wanted Arthur so bad now, banquet be damned.
At once, Arthur jumped back from Merlin, coughing and sniffling and not being able to look up at Lancelot, who had found them.
Lancelot had a knowing smile on his face. “They are waiting for you.”
“You will be all right,” Merlin told his king. “Everyone catches cold from time to time. They'll understand if you have to sneeze, even if your sneezes are so loud they startle servants into dropping things and destroying floral arrangements.” Careful to avoid touching Arthur's poor nose, Merlin swooped in and pressed his lips to Arthur's. “I will return in a few minutes, limping a little, to keep an eye on you.”
Arthur gave Merlin a grateful smile.
Merlin rushed into the king's chambers, eyes wide with urgency. “Arthur, we have to go right now. There isn't a moment to lose.” He began rounding up some of Arthur's clothes and putting them in a bag.
From under the blankets, there was a cough and a light sniffle. “Berlid?”
It sounded like his cold had gotten worse during the three hours Merlin had been gone, making arrangements. And even though Merlin wanted nothing more than to drop everything and crawl under the covers of his bed with Arthur, wrap his arms around his lover, and let him sneeze until this cold was out of his system, what Merlin actually did was finish packing the bag for Arthur and start on one for himself. “We have to go right away. I'm so sorry.”
After another sniffle, Arthur's head appeared above the blankets. “For odce cad I dot be ill id beace?” Peace was not easy to find for a king. “Why does it always have to be a toudabedt or a badquet or sub quest? Cad't ode of the dights take care of it?”
Merlin shook his head. “It's a crisis. It's got to be you. But I'll come with you.” He dumped an entire stack of soft, white handkerchiefs into his back. “And I'll try to keep you as comfortable as possible.”
Selfless and noble, Arthur pulled himself out of his sickbed and shuffled about, getting dressed in the warm clothes Merlin had laid out for him, even though it was a beautiful, balmy summer day in Camelot. Twenty minutes later, they were on horses, riding out through the castle gates. Arthur clutched the reins in one hand and a handkerchief in the other. To Merlin's eyes, he looked determined but utterly miserable.
“hahhh!” Arthur screwed up his face, trying not to sneeze. Apparently he didn't want to be seen riding through his kingdom, sneezing. Merlin dug his heels into the sides of his horse to quicken their pace. It would help a little, but not enough. “hahhh!” Merlin looked over his shoulder just in time to see Arthur pitch forward in the saddle. “hahh-HIHTCHUHHHHHhhhhh!” Merlin had been expecting it, but the horses had not. Merlin's startled, racing ahead a few steps. Arthur's, however, reared and tried to throw him off. But Arthur held on tight, already leaning forward in his saddle from the sneeze, and he stayed on as his horse calmed back down.
After the third time this happened, Merlin stopped his horse and dismounted. He walked back to Arthur and held out a hand, gesturing for Arthur to join him on the ground in the middle of the village they were passing through. After a bit of hand-squeezing and urging, they carried on, with Arthur's horse weighed down with their bags and Arthur seated in front of Merlin on Merlin's horse. When Arthur felt the need to sneeze, breath catching and racing, Merlin rubbed his arm through his cloak reassuringly and held him close to keep him on his saddle. And even though Arthur's reaction was still to try to hold back, his sneezes, as usual, could not be contained. “HAHHH-UHHHPTShhhhhhhhh! Hahhh-KIHTCHOOO!”
They rode for most of the afternoon with few breaks. Finally, Merlin slowed them and stopped. “This is it. This is the spot.” He slid off the horse and helped Arthur down as well. The man was shivering, despite the warmth of the day. He pulled out his sword, wanting to be ready. “You won't need that.”
“hahhh-HAH-AHHTCHUHHHHHHH!” The sneeze was so loud, it frightened a bird out of a nearby tree. It took flight, heading toward the sun, which was slowly sliding down toward the horizon. Arthur snuffled against the side of his hand, confused, then slid his sword back into its sheath. “What are we doidg out here, Berlid?”
It was telling how ill Arthur must feel, because this was the first time he had actually thought to ask what was going on.
Merlin began unpacking the saddlebags. “Well, I don't know about you, but I'm setting up camp before it gets dark.”
“But what is the big ebergedcy?”
Merlin turned to Arthur with a self-satisfied smile. “There is none. I just wanted you out here.”
Arthur's blue eyes widened then filled with outrage. There was no arguing with him when he used his commanding tone of voice. “Get those bags back od the horse. If we start back ibbediately, we still wod't be back at Cabelot before sudset.”
“That is the point.” Merlin made absolutely no move to pack back up. “We have the whole woods to ourselves. You can sneeze as much and as loudly as you need to. There's no one to be bothered by your sneezing as far as the eye can see.”
“I said no one who will be bothered by it.”
“You're dot bothered by it?”
“Bothered is not the word I would use to describe how I feel about your sneezes.”
Arthur considered this a moment, not understanding. How could he possibly understand? “Well... what word would you use?”
Merlin knew a thing or two about keeping secrets from Arthur Pendragon. And, just now, he knew it was time to tell one of them. “I would call them arousing,” he said toward the saddlebags, his cheeks flushing as violently red as Arthur's did when he had to sneeze in front of anyone else and couldn't help it. But Merlin couldn't help this. Surely Arthur would understand? Taking a chance, Merlin glanced back at Arthur.
And Arthur smiled back at him. “Really? You like theb?”
Merlin let out a deep breath he hadn't even realized he had been holding. “I love them.”
Arthur stepped closer. “Add you brought be out here to have theb all to yourself?”
“I brought you so you wouldn't have to be embarrassed.” Merlin flinched as Arthur reached out suddenly and stroked his finger against Merlin's flushed cheek. Then, as if struck by inspiration, he moved in closer and touched the tip of his nose to Merlin's cheek. When Merlin made no move to stop him, he nuzzled in even closer, hands at Merlin's waist, and his sniffly nose against Merlin's warm skin.
Merlin's body reacted instantly, rising and yearning and lusting. He grew so warm and tingly he thought he might be on fire. But the cool wetness on his cheek kept him grounded. “I need to... to set up camp. Then... then I need you. And I'll need you to sneeze for me. Can you do that?”
Arthur pulled back, showing Merlin his smile. “You were right. By dights could't have dode this.”
“It needed to be you,” Merlin agreed. “You with this amazing cold in your nose.” He put his hands on Arthur's arms and steered him to a tree, helping him to sit down. “Rest while I unpack?” He pressed a clean handkerchief into Arthur's hands. “All right?”
Arthur snuffled into the cloth and nodded, agreeing. He looked beat, just from the ride. Merlin wasn't too surprised; Arthur's head colds always took a lot out of him. For a minute, Merlin started to doubt that this was a good idea at all. But then... “hah-ah-uhhhh... huh-ehhhhhhh! Uhhhhhh-HUHSHHHUHHHHHH!” The involuntary sound of lust that Merlin uttered made Arthur chuckle. “That exblaids what I felt pressig agaidst be while we were riding.”
Feeling reassured, Merlin unhooked their bedrolls from the horse and spread them out across the ground. He opened up his pack and rooted through it, pulling out cups and cooking gear, food, and other things they would need.
“It seebs you brought all of Cabelot.”
Merlin looked over to see Arthur spread out on the blankets, already getting comfortable. Already welcoming Merlin to join him.
From his bag, Merlin finally pulled out a roll of parchment. He unrolled it and a quill pen fluttered gracefully to the ground. Merlin snatched it up and twirled it between his thumb and forefinger. “I brought handkerchiefs and tea and blankets and everything but ink.”
It took a second, but Arthur's eyes widened again in realization. His nostrils flared both with excitement and to sniff a strong sniff. “By dose is so ticklish,” he told Merlin. “You'd be careful with that feather.”
“Mmm,” Merlin agreed, settling down by straddling Arthur. He angled the very end of the fluttery feather toward Arthur's nose and slipped it in. “Oops.”
Arthur gave a shudder and an involuntary “huff!” as his body tried to expel the tickly irritant. The sharp prick and tickle made his eyes water. But, after a second, it seemed to also make him need to sneeze.
As he wiggled the feather about, Merlin took out a fresh, soft handkerchief. At once, Arthur went for it, but Merlin held it out of reach. “Tell me when you're about to sneeze, and I'll hold it to your nose for you... if I am convinced you've earned it.”
Arthur groaned, and Merlin moved the handkerchief back even further. He remembered tickling Arthur's nose before, with the blade of grass, but that had been at Arthur's urging. This time it was Merlin's idea and Merlin was in complete control, a rare occurrence in their relationship. So he was determined to enjoy every second of it.
“ohhhhhhh” Arthur exhaled, trying to hilt his head back to get away from the feather, the the ground beneath him did not give. “I feel it ticklidg. It cad't... it wod't stob. I'll sdeh-sdeeze hahhhh... if you do-hahhh! He blinked up at Merlin, locking his gaze with watering, needy eyes. “If you dod't stob, I'll sdeeze so hah so hard add wet add...”
“Loud,” Merlin finished for him on just a single, soft breath.
“Yes,” Arthur agreed. But there was no trace of embarrassment in his face now, and suddenly Merlin was overcome with relief that he had finally confessed this secret. Arthur was not only willing but... was that a smile? Was he enjoying this? Well, not for long. Merlin pulled the feather. out
Its light touch as Merlin danced it around the outside of Arthur's nose made the man gasp, but not sneeze. This was torture—though the best kind. The kind that made Merlin so hard he wanted nothing but to lean forward and press his erection into Arthur's thigh and cling there, listening to sneezes as he came. The kind that made Arthur hard as well. Every time Merlin stroked his cheek or squeezed his arm or let that light, fluttery feather tease his nose, Arthur's cock gave a great twitch, straining in his pants.
“hahhh! Hahhhh-ahhh! Sniff!” He began, then backed off, shaking. “Berlid... I wadt... I wadt to sdeeze so badly. Hahhh! Uhuhhhh! Hehh-Uhhhhhhhh!” Merlin pulled the feather back and Arthur groaned in frustration. “I'b... I'b...” But what he was was lost to a sudden, explosive sneeze. “hahhh-GIHTSCHHHHHOOOOO!” Followed almost immediately by more. So many more that Merlin could hardly contain himself. “Hahh-UHHHTCHHHOOOO! KUH-HUHSCHHHOOO! UHGTSCHHHHH! HAHHP'TIHSHHOOOO!”
Both gasping, weak, and needy, Merlin was entirely unprepared when Arthur wrapped his arms around him and rolled him over onto the blankets. Then Arthur took advantage of Merlin being stunned to bury his nose squarely in the handkerchief. He gave a soft, delicious sniffle then blew his nose. This time, Merlin moaned. And Arthur smiled slyly. “Could't helb it. This cold... add your touch. Oh, Berlid, I have to sdeeze so buch bore.”
Arthur reached down, not for the handkerchief, but for the buttons on Merlin's shirt. “I deed subthig to sneeze idto.” Merlin raised the handkerchief, but Arthur shook his head. “I already used that. I deed hehhh subthig dew. I deed... I... I ahhhhh I deed... hahh-AHHHH... AHHHHHH!” He leaned forward and buried his nose in the folds of Merlin's open shirt. “HAH-HAH-TISHCHOOOOO!” The spray caught Merlin's bare chest, and the trail of Arthur's sniffy wet nose down his chest afterward had Merlin dropping the handkerchief and burying his fingers into Arthur's thick blond head of hair with an encouraging touch.
“So sdeezy,” Arthur murmured. “I cad't hold theb back at all dow.” Arthur raised his head just enough to look up at Merlin. “You dow I cad't.” Then his head snapped down, nose pressing into the crotch of Merlin's pants. “Hahh-HAHKTCHHHOOO!” Sniffling, Arthur's fingers undid the strings of the pants, loosening them before pulling them down carefully but hastily to reveal Merlin's hard member springing up at him. It was only a second before Arthur felt the next sneeze coming on, so he nuzzled his face into the dark nest of hair at the base of Merlin's cock and let loose. “UHHH-HIHHHGTCHOOOO! HEHSHOOO! Hahhhhhh... Hahhh-IHHBTSCHOOO!” Nose still twitching, he raised his head and dragged his nose along the tender shaft of Merlin's cock. Then “HAHHH-AHSCHUHHHH! HUH'TSHUHHHH! Hehh-IHHH... It's... it's big... hahhhh! So tickly.” The tip of his nose teased the tip of Merlin's cock, both just a little wet and both just a little quivering with anticipation. “I... I have to... hahhhh! Have to sdee... sdeeeee-HAHHH-HAHHHHHH-EH-EH-EHHHHH-HEHHKUHTCHSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh!”
Merlin came crying out with unrestrained passion. Arthur was holding him. Arthur was touching him. Arthur was sneezing on him. Arthur was letting him live out his most private desire. And Arthur was still sneezing.
Gasping again, Merlin grabbed the handkerchief and pressed it to Arthur's nose and mouth.
“HAH-IMPTSHHHHHHHH! HEH-KUHTMMPHHHHHH! HEHSHHHFFFFFFFFF!”
Merlin massaged Arthur's poor nose for him, rubbing out the very last of the tickles, at least for now. Then he pulled at Arthur's shirt, yanking upward until Arthur lay beside him, arms wrapped around each other. “Bless you,” Merlin said, his face buried in Arthur's shirt. Arthur laughed, making both their bodies shake. Stroking the back of Arthur's head and tending to Arthur's nose with the handkerchief, they spoke in hushed tones. “You know, it wasn't all your fault.”
Arthur blinked back at him. “What wasd't?”
“All those times you were ill... getting captured by the necromancer's army, the avalanche... it probably would have happened even if you hadn't sneezed. And then there was that time with the knights and that herb...” None of them had ever spoken of that time. “I gave you all the wrong herb by mistake. That was my fault.”
“So I cad codtidue to blabe all of by failures od you? Very good.”
Merlin smiled. “You can use me in whatever way best pleases you, my king.”
Arthur makes a sound that was not quite a groan and not quite a growl but was completely filled with lust. Lust... and a sniffle as well. “Do you have ady of that herb?”
Shaking his head, “I promise you... we don't need it All we need is for you to keep sneezing like that, Every time you do, it does such things to me. So don't stop, don't hold back, and don''t try to quiet them.“
“That's huh... the easiest quest I've ever udertaken. Huhhhh...” He snuffled past the handkerchief, pressing his nose into Merlin's neck. “Frob dow od... HUH! I wod't. HUHHHH... Frob dow od, I'll sdeeze every HUHH! every sdeeze just for hah for you.” Merlin tingled with desire as he felt Arthur's nostrils twitch against him, then let out another, loud “HAH-UHTCHHUHHHHH!”
In the middle of the woods, no one else was around to hear Arthur's sneezes. And, likewise, no one else was there to hear Merlin's moans of pleasure.