Title: Stranded on a Mountain
Disclaimer: Not my characters! I make no money from this!
Summary: Arthur & Merlin are stranded on a mountain. And Arthur is ill.
Notes: Written for the Sneezefic Fest 2011 Prompt words: mountain, parallel, pain
Stranded on a Mountain
Merlin felt Arthur’s forehead once more before he groggily got to his feet. The prince of Camelot was still feverish, even after a night of resting. Merlin feared that if the spell did not break soon, they would be trapped up here in the mountains long after they had run out of food. Luckily, there was a small trickle of a stream about a dozen meters from where Arthur’s condition had forced them to stop. It required climbing down a small cliff face and trudging down an extremely steep incline with loose rock, threatening to get underfoot and make him slip. But it was worth it for the clear spring water that just *had* to be doing some good for Arthur. And, besides, getting down to the water wasn’t half as difficult as climbing back up again.
Almost halfway down the cliff, hands and feet finding the notches in the rock that he had struggled yesterday to memorize, Merlin heard a sneeze. It was Arthur’s, no doubt about that. He had heard the young man sneeze on plenty of occasions, including so many times the day before. Merlin froze, wondering if he should climb back up or not. Could people sneeze in their sleep? He didn’t know, but didn’t want to risk Arthur waking and worrying when he found Merlin not by his side. So up he went again, his muscles aching.
Awake. Definitely awake. Arthur occasionally talked in his sleep, but he never yelled in his sleep. Merlin winced and pulled himself up enough to peek up over the edge. He saw Arthur lying there, scrubbing the side of his hand beneath his sniffly nose.
Arthur noticed the top of Merlin’s head and frowned. “What are you doing?”
Arthur’s knack for having the worst timing was unparalleled. Not only did he seem to run into every possibly obstacle and attract attention from every magical everything in the kingdom and beyond, but it was Merlin’s duty to bail him out every time. All right, so he was usually strong enough to put up a good fight on his own, but the magic—that was Merlin’s department.
Using leverage and a tree root that protruded from the dirt above, Merlin managed to haul himself back up and then stumble tiredly over to Arthur. “I was… just going… for some water.” He wasn’t easily winded, but he was exhausted after staying up all night, tending to the ill and ailing Arthur. He had tried every spell he could think of to eliminate some of Arthur’s pain and misery; none had seemed to work. He had kept close to Arthur, letting the young man lie against him for warmth; who knew it could be so very cold up in the mountains in the middle of summer? And he had tried to figure out a way to send word to the castle to ask for help; he knew Arthur wouldn’t like admitting defeat, but Arthur was in no condition to protest.
“Oh,” Arthur said, running a tongue over dry lips at the mere mention of water. Then, all of a sudden, he was overtaken. “h’Ekktishhhhh!” The sneeze was fast but wet, and he rubbed his sleeve at his nose afterward. Knights didn’t exactly pack hankies on them when they went off on quests and Merlin had already been blamed for forgetting some. Arthur wasn’t even half finished rubbing at what seemed to be a fairly ticklish nose before his nostrils flared again and he sneezed right into the cuff of his sleeve this time. “heh-Kitschhhhh!” He blinked and glared at Merlin. “Aren’t you sniff going to say something?”
A brief flutter of panic overtook Merlin, and he blurted out, “Well done, my lord?”
Arthur looked angry for a moment, then the rage passed and he closed his eyes. “I was hoping for a ‘bless you’ but I suppose that will do. Honestly, Merlin. You’re Gaius’ apprentice. One would think you’d sniff have a better bedside manner.”
“I’m too busy sharpening your swords and scrubbing your underpants to learn much from Gaius lately,” Merlin snapped back at him, whishing he could have added a part about saving Arthur’s life on what was practically a weekly basis. He had already said too much.
“Just for that,” Arthur said, closing his eyes, “I promise that when we get back I’ll… I’ll…” He struggled, making a valiant attempt at speaking, before giving into the overpowering urge to sneeze. “heh-Erktshh! Ehtchhhh! Eh-hetchhhhh! Ekktchuhhh!” Arthur switched sleeves and coughed from congestion filling his head and from a tickle that must have been everywhere in him—nose, throat, chest.
“Bless you.” Merlin checked his forehead again. Still burning up. Then he rolled up his bedroll and stuffed it underneath Arthur’s head, to prop him up a little and make it easier to breathe. “Just rest a little while I go get some water.” Arthur was usually the one to issue commands, but this time Merlin whispered words so soft even he couldn’t hear them. His eyes glowed amber. And Arthur immediately fell to sleep.
Merlin sighed and threw himself forward, crawling back over to the cliff to try the climb again. He hoped that when Arthur woke, he wouldn’t remember the threat he hadn’t even managed to finish.