Arthur Pendragon was a complete and utter prat, and every day Merlin wondered why the hell they were not only still friends, but roommates as well. The thing was too, one would expect a posh git like Arthur to be immaculate when it came to his living space, but nooo. Apparently the royal arse had grown up with a thousand servants at his beck and call, each one trained to handle his every whim.
(Okay, maybe “a thousand” was a bit of an overstatement, but considering Merlin grew up in a dingy two-bedroom flat with his mother and started working manual labor as soon as he was sixteen, he thought having just one maid was a little excessive.)
So once Arthur got thrust into the real world, where, you know, people actually cleaned up after themselves, Merlin swore he saw sparks flying the first time Arthur tried to process the idea behind “chores” and failed. Eventually, Arthur just hired a laundry service to freshly wash and press everything (including his boxers, which was something Merlin didn’t want to think about) and had a cleaning crew visit the shared flat a few times a week.
In the meantime, this meant Arthur would leave his dirty dishes in the sink, even though Merlin would not-so-subtly point out that the dishwasher was indeed empty. Every morning, Merlin had to scrub out the sink where Arthur left toothpaste spittle (eww) and hair trimmings (gross) in the porcelain bowl. Merlin didn’t even bother to try to get into Arthur’s room any more; it was walking into a literal death trap between visits from the cleaning crew, and it usually ended up with Merlin gagging for air as Arthur rolled his eyes and claimed it wasn’t that bad.
So when Arthur caught a cold, instead of being sympathetic, Merlin just pointed and laughed, blaming Arthur’s poor life choices up to that point in time. And when Arthur coughed into a tissue that would probably need a hazmat team to properly dispose of, moaning under a plethora of blankets, “Stop laughing Merlin, this is serious. I’m probably dying,” Merlin just laughed even harder. With more exaggerated pointing as the cherry on top of his “I told you this would happen, you slob” sundae.
But of course, being a bleeding-heart-that-cries-at-all-the-Disney-movies-and-those-adverts-for-homeless-animals type of person, Merlin couldn’t just ignore Arthur. No really, he tried, but Arthur's pained groans just carried through the flat wherever Merlin went. He even tried to putting some Chopin on the stereo, trying to
block Arthur outcalm Arthur down, but that just seemed to make him groan louder.
There was just no appreciating the classics, Merlin thought with a sigh.
“Arthur, I’m coming in,” Merlin said as he carefully pushed the door to Arthur’s bedroom door open, fully prepared to jump out of the way in case an avalanche of snotty tissues rained down upon him. Thankfully they had been designated to the wastebasket by Arthur’s bed, with only a particular few spilling out onto the ground for their chance at freedom from the rest of their mucus-drenched brethren.
(Merlin knew he was bit of an odd duck if he was personifying used tissues, for God’s sake.)
“Mmrph,” responded the Arthur-shaped lump in the middle of the bed, which could translate into a variety of things, from “Merlin? What do you want?” to “Oh dear God in heaven, I’m pretty sure I’ve caught the last known strain of the bubonic plague, please tell my family I loved them. Except for Morgana; I’m still mad at her for the stunt she pulled at the last office Christmas party.”
“I brought you some soup,” Merlin explained, making some room on the bedside table to place the bowl down before it scalded his hands any further. He then turned his focus on Arthur himself, unable to hold back his grimace at the sight. “You look like utter shite.”
“...Thanks, Merlin, why don’t you just tell me how you really feel?” Arthur at least had the decency to turn his head as he suddenly coughed, a long, drawn out rasping sound, making Merlin regret all his earlier comments. Even if Arthur probably got what had been coming to him, it wasn’t right to keep kicking a man when he was down. Or kicking a man when he was stuck in bed with a high fever and runny nose at least.
Merlin reached over to brush Arthur's sweat-soaked bangs out of his eyes, bending over to instinctively press his lips against Arthur's heated brow. It was only when he felt Arthur tense underneath him that Merlin realized what he had done, and drew back quickly in embarrassment, his tell-tale blush spreading all the way to the tips of his ears. "Sorry! Just my mum used to do that when I was sick, so it's just sort of habit, and erm, maybe I should go make some tea, yeah?"
"Merlin, stop," Arthur said, looking like it took actual effort to roll his eyes. "It's fine... It felt kind of nice actually."
Maybe Arthur's condition was one of those viruses where you started to feel the onset of symptoms rather quickly. Because Merlin had no other excuse except for the beginnings of his own fever for why he then bent down and placed his lips against Arthur's dry and chapped ones.
Out of the top ten best kisses Merlin had ever had, this was definitely not one of them. For one thing, Arthur tasted too much like cough syrup and throat lozenges, so it was like making out with cold and flu section of a chemist's shop. Secondly, the angle was all weird, so they ended bumping noses together, which would just make Arthur's runny one leak even more so with an indignant squish. It was hardly romantic, let alone attractive for that matter, but Merlin found he had a hard time stopping himself, just because this was Arthur, the prat. His prat.
They finally had to break apart when Arthur was seized with another coughing fit, and Merlin just rubbed Arthur's back while his brain was still scrambling to catch up on what the flippity-fuck just happened. "...Get some sleep, yeah? You're not as fun when you're a living paracetamol advert."
Just as Merlin was about to turn to leave, a seemingly strong hand for an ill person ensnared his wrist and dragged him down into the bed. “Stay with me,” Arthur whispered, his breath hot and doing dangerous things to Merlin as it hit his ear. “We don’t have to do anything else... I mean, we can just find something to watch on the telly if you’d like.”
Merlin agreed, which was how they fell asleep to the sounds of a Doctor Who marathon, curled up in each other’s arms.
(Of course, when Merlin ended up catching Arthur’s cold a day or two later, the ungrateful arse just laughed and said it was Merlin’s own fault for going around and kissing sick people. Merlin just grumbled in response, secretly thinking that the kiss was still worth it.
He also later forced Arthur to scrub the loo for a week. That helped too.)