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A Helping Hand (BBC Merlin, modern!au, sick!Arthur)


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It was the type of day for staying indoors.

Merlin thought this to himself as he flipped the page of the book in his lap, one of Gaius’ seemingly ancient tomes, smuggled home to his flat with him from a forgotten, under-appreciated corner of the bookshop where he worked - under the protective cover of his coat. Hadn’t thought to bring his bag with him for some reason that morning. He’d woken up drowsy and forgetful with Arthur’s side of the bed still sleep-warm from his body, even though he’d reluctantly left for work over an hour before.

He blamed the weather for such a mood, as if it set the tone for his whole day, as he lumbered through it half-asleep and very much went with the motions. He didn’t consider himself particularly romantic, but in all honesty staring out the shop window at nothing in particular, as it was pelted mercilessly with rain gave him warm, commanding yearnings to be nowhere else but back entangled in the duvet. Preferably with a dozing, fluffy-haired boyfriend - who at Merlin’s guess was probably in the process of getting a cold, despite vehemently denying the accusation.

Up until about noon, that is, when Merlin’s phone pinged with a text from the silly git himself reading “can you remember if we have painkillers in the house?”. It was by no means an admission of anything but Merlin knew him well enough to hear the subtextual resignation. He also knew Arthur well enough to translate it to “okay, you were right, I need the paracetamol because I’ve a headache, I’m accepting my fate”. And that was good enough for him, being well-accustomed to Arthur’s moods and quirks.

The wind howled ferociously at the bedroom window, making the frame creak slightly, bringing with it harsh sheets of rain from the grey, wintry London sky as it took its turn to pound against the glass. Merlin had to admit, this ‘Storm Deborah’ or ‘Storm Barbara Windsor’ or whatever they’d decided to name it this time - it was a cosy backing track and the type of weather he’d easily fall asleep to.

He was halfway through a sip of tea and glancing over a paragraph detailing something or other about ancient runes (the book wasn’t so much the enthralling read Merlin had hoped when he’d picked the book pretty much at random) when he heard the front door open, then push shut; followed quickly by an urgent, desperate sneeze.


Merlin winced slightly at the sound. The fact that he’d heard it, even from down a hallway and through a closed door proved it must’ve been as painful as it sounded.

He set the book aside and took one last mouthful of tea, before embarking to the living room.

What he found, predictably, was Arthur. Not so predictably - the fact that he’d appeared to have just come straight in and thrown himself down onto the sofa in his work clothes, which wasn’t like him. Usually he couldn’t wait to be rid of the stiff restrictiveness of ‘smart formal’ dress clothes the second he stepped foot back in the flat, instead quick to don a comfortable rugby jersey and sweatpants. People seemed to have the idea that Arthur was vain and somewhat materialistic - both didn’t happen to be untrue, but the difference was that he knew comfy, slobbish clothes didn’t make him look /bad/.

At least he’d seemed to toed his dress shoes off at some point between the door at the couch, as they lay abandoned in the middle of the floor.

Merlin, by habit, picked the shoes up as he approached him - and okay now that he got a good look of him it was very clearly obvious the cold had now properly taken hold.

Arthur’s complexion was pasty, only accentuating the dark circles and the poor, abused skin around his nostrils and down onto his upper lip that were coloured a sore dark pink - most likely from incessantly rubbing. Pale blue eyes were red and full of irritated tears. Not to mention he was absolutely soaking wet from head to toe, as a result of the walk from the tube station.

“Christ, you don’t look well…” Merlin commented softly, moving to sit down on the floor beside Arthur’s head.

Arthur shook his head noncommittally, any potential words stolen from him by the hitch in his breath - bringing steepled hands up to cover his nose and mouth, snuffling heavily behind them as his eyes slipped closed and his nostrils flared towards another sneeze.

ehhh…heh'eitsssshuhh!! h'ehcsssshuh!!”

Or two.

They weren’t quite as loud as the last one, but still wrenched from him and sounded damp, and awfully congested.

“God…” Merlin expressed with a furrowed brow, as Arthur pulled a rather used-looking ball of tissue out of his pocket, and let out a chesty cough into it, before going to work dabbing carefully at the leakage around the sensitive skin of his nose. He looked every inch like the weather had just chewed him up and spit him out, wet, freezing, and full of cold. “Bless you”

“That’s twice you’ve referred to mbe at Jesus ndow; I kdow I’m ambazing, but every mban has his limbits” Arthur smirked cheekily, then hurriedly directed another burst of coughs into his elbow.

Merlin rolled his eyes, but couldn’t help but smile all the same. He’d let him have that one - being sick after all. Merlin brought a hand up to Arthur’s face and wordlessly thumbed away a tear that had leaked out into the corner of his eye.

“Work was shit?” It was more of a statement than a question. Mostly because of the miserable-looking cold he was currently battling with, of course, but it was no secret to Merlin that something more lurked beneath the surface on a more long-term basis. After having known Arthur intimately for quite a few years, it was clear to Merlin that the other man was not completely content with office life, or spending his days sat behind a desk (no matter how swanky or upscale said office or desk were) where he could not see or feel the tangible impact he made on the world. Arthur was in a privileged position, but Merlin wondered (or rather worried) about if he should be doing something else with his life. To make himself happy.

“Whole ndew level of shit. Couldn’t codcentrate on adything all day. Half the bloody office have this thidg so loads of people weren’t there and those that were there were being adnoying”

Merlin laughed incredulously and reached out to push Arthur’s damp, blond fringe off his forehead.

“Well you surely weren’t much better!”

A natural, companionable silence fell over the warm, dimly lit and slightly cluttered living room just then. No noise was heard besides the whistle of the wind and rain outside, and Arthur’s stuffed mouth-breathing. They just sat - Arthur’s eyes closing slowly as Merlin continued to card his fingers through his hair. Domesticity hung potently in the air around them like a comfort blanket.

In that quiet moment of brief contemplation, an errant thought ran through Merlin’s mind that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for Arthur. Nothing particular prompted it - it simply came out of nowhere and filled his chest with a warm, uplifting feeling he’d learned to associate with his boyfriend. Yes, he could be a bit of a prat sometimes - everyone in their life knew that, but for as much as it got on people's nerves it was also strangely part of his charm. But he was also noble, open-minded, and deeply caring about those he loves. Everyone has their flaws - and Merlin knows at the end of the day that Arthur loves him too. And that he would do anything for him as well. So that made it alright, and not quite as daunting of a thought as one would think.

With heartfelt emotion stirring in his chest Merlin stood up on his knees and leaned forward, taking Arthur’s face in his hands and pressing a long, tender kiss on his lips.

Arthur responsed sincerely, his hand coming up to hold Merlin’s wrist, before pulling away with a blocked-up sniffle and a vaguely (but not completely committed-to) partly disapproving, partly questioning look.

“Shut up; we sleep in the same bed and this flat is small - I’m gonna get it either way” he argued cheekily, then shoved lightly at Arthur’s shoulder as he moved to stand up “Sit up a second, would you?”

Arthur complied languidly, allowing Merlin to sit down on the sofa, and bring his boyfriend’s head back down to lie in his lap. He continued stroking his fingers through his hair in what he hoped was a comforting manner, as Arthur's tired eyes couldn't help but flutter closed.

“You should probably get out of those wet clothes…”


“And I should get probably order in some food because I can already tell neither of us will be arsed cooking tonight”


Arthur’s eyes were still closed, and Merlin could tell by the tone of his voice he was nearing sleep. Merlin briefly considered just letting them both doze, the sleepy atmosphere consuming and almost carrying them away to some other realm entirely. When all of a sudden, a spark of recollection from earlier cut sharply through the sleepy fog threatening to cloud his mind.

“Your head still sore?” he inquired lightly, trailing his fingertips featherlight across Arthur’s forehead absentmindedly “I remember you texting me about painkillers earlier…”

Arthur’s eyes opened reluctantly and fixed Merlin with a squinted, watery gaze.

“Absolutely killing. Cad’t be bothered to mbove and get sobe /sdfffl/

Merlin smiled knowingly, the near-constantly thrumming of magic under his skin becoming all the more recognisable as his mind flitted to using it. The very essence of his magic had always seemed to like Arthur for some reason, ever since they met in their first year of uni despite the fact that Arthur had a habit of making a bit of a twat out of himself at first. It was attuned to him; his needs, his emotions, his physical presence. It was a hard phenomenon to explain, or even put into words outside of some weird abstract concept, but it was sort of like his magic fell in love with Arthur before even he did. Knew he was special, and worth knowing and having in his life. 

Merlin placed his hands on either side of Arthur’s head.

“Do you want any… help at all?”

It was an awkward way to phrase it, because Merlin was never really sure how exactly to talk about magic in a normal, everyday context. It felt weird, so he tended to skirt around it with vague phrases and weird euphemisms sometimes. Arthur's initial confused squint passed quickly as he cottoned on though, the confusion giving way to understanding and a hint of desperate relief.

"Be mby guest" he said with a lazy flick of his hand "Please".

Merlin closed his eyes alongside Arthur now, though unlike him they did not droop from exhaustion, but in order to fully concentrate on what he was doing.

It was a wordless spell, so the room fell back into comfortable quietness. Merlin felt the power humming away right down in his fingertips, as they transferred the mild healing magic down into Arthur. The link worked two ways - so as Merlin worked to release some of the pressure built up into his head, like a calming breath of fresh air, he was fed back with a sort of ‘muffled’ sensation of extra fatigue and bone-deep weariness coming back from the other man. He felt a twinge of sympathy as he continued to work. Merlin knew he couldn’t necessarily cure him, but giving him a little bit of serenity and peace in the middle of what looked like an awful headcold when he was able to was close enough.

The room was silent with the exception of their breaths.

Eventually Merlin opened his eyes, only catch sight of Arthur struggling with a sneeze. His mouth hung open just a little, eyes narrowed and streaming as rubbed-raw nostrils quivered and flared. His breath came in short huffs that Merlin could feel against his wrist, letting out a whimper as the urge seemed to crescendo as he took in a gulp of breath-

Only to be met with a shaky exhale as the sneeze escaped him. He snuffled thickly with an irritated groan and scrubbed his face with his hands.

Hate whed that happeds…” he grumbled quietly, with a thick, unproductive sniff. He returned to his position in resignation, steeling himself for all that was to come, but not finding it quite so harrowing now that he was home, warm, and treated with a caring hand.


((A/N: hi there!! it's been aaaages since i've written for the forum so i decided to pop in with this little thingy. i wrote it over the space of a spare couple of hours after i'd been essay-writing all day and my anxiety was acting up so i just needed something sorta plotless and fluffy including my Boys™ to get my mind off things. hope you like it!!))

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