kumquatix: Merlin smiling (merlin)
[personal profile] kumquatix
Title: Arthur and Merlin get caught in a snowstorm
Author: Kumquatix
Fandom: Merlin
Pairing: Gen
Spoilers: None
Rating: G
Word count: 1900
Summary: Arthur builds them a cozy little nest, and Merlin makes a fire.

Notes: This is a remix of Snow by [livejournal.com profile] 42footprints

It was snowing, hard, cold and gusting. When they had ridden out, the remains of the snow from last week had lain in hollows and lees, glittering like quartz in the sun light, and the sky had been a perfectly clear icy blue. It had been freezing enough to burn his nostrils if he didn't breathe through his scarf, but with no wind and in his thick, padded coat Arthur had not felt cold.
Merlin looked to be wearing all his clothes, and his usual red kerchief wrapped twice around his neck, but he had been grinning ear to ear and claiming too feel almost too hot with the vigour of riding.

Now he leaned forward into the wind, and buried his ungloved fingers deep in the horse's fur. Arthur could see ice clinging to his brows and the lashes of his nearly scrunched closed eyes. The snow felt hard, little razor sharp knives cutting into the bare skin of Arthur's cheeks and forehead, and clumped together flakes that bounced off him like hail.

The dark grey clouds which had gathered so fast covered the sky from horizon to horizon, and the wind whirled up the drifts of snow to mingle with the thick, driving curtains of precipitation. Arthur tried to give Merlin some lee with the bulk of his taller horse, but it was very little use. They would have to seek shelter until the weather settled.

He knew exactly where they were, and the horse-shoe shaped thicket of spruces close by he had been using as a landmark would serve well to keep them warm and dry.

"This way, Merlin," he told him, and steered his horse in that direction. The fuzzy pony Merlin was riding was no fool and stuck by her side like a burr.

---

"I will make us a shelter, so we can wait out the snowstorm," said Arthur. "You take care of the horses."

Merlin nodded his assent, and Arthur crouched down and crawled under the low hanging branches of a large tree. The spruces grew thick and close here, and under the tree he had chosen the ground was completely dry and he could feel no wind. He took the small axe from his pack and cut off branches until he had a hollow roomy enough to sit up on his knees. Then he laid the branches in a criss-cross pattern on the ground.

He backed out from under the tree, and saw that Merlin was sweeping snow off the ground with a large bough. Even out in the open the wall of trees kept most of the wind at bay, and Merlin soon cleared a patch of earth. The horses stood huddling together close by, hobbled and wearing only woollen blankets.

Arthur sought out several more springy branches for his pile, then spread the furs and blankets over them. It had taken no more than an hour, but the shelter he had built would keep them safe and warm for a week if need be. He congratulated himself on his foresight in bringing emergency camping supplies on what was only supposed to be a day trip.

"It was wise of me to pack the axe, and the furs and blankets and the food and water," Arthur told him. "See what I told you? Even for a day trip, in this uncertain weather is pays to be prepared."

Merlin turned and looked at Arthur emerging from under the tree. "I packed the axe and the furs and blankets. I got up before the kitchen even opened this morning, and I was the one who remembered to bring food."

If Merlin was grumbling he couldn't be too worried about their situation. Nor should he be, since Arthur had everything well in hand. Arthur saw that Merlin was crouching over a pile of twigs, and had a large stack of dry branches mostly free from needles stacked nearby. It was amazing how he had found all those so quickly.

"Yes, well, I am an excellent hunter. I can live off the land, Merlin," he said.

Merlin had his flint and tinder out. Arthur didn't know how he expected to light a fire in this cold.

"Yes Sire," Merlin said in the tone that meant he was humouring him, and struck the flint. Immediately a large spark landed on the tinder, and the twigs caught fire as soon as Merlin held the tinder to them. Soon he was merrily adding branches to a growing fire, and the warm golden glow lit up the trees and horses and glinted off his eyes.

The sky was black as night, and Arthur couldn't see anything outside the circle of light. It looked like the snow appeared out of the sky as if by magic six feet above the fire, and if Arthur wasn't mistaken it was falling faster now than before, but the fire burned strong and steady, without even a hiss or a pop from the water or resin.

"Come under the tree with me, before we're completely soaked through," Arthur said. "The fire helps, but it won't keep us warm. Take off your wet clothes before you get in the blankets."

He led the way, pulling off his boots, trousers and jacket and laying them next to the saddles and packs, which Merlin had stowed under the protection of the trees next to Arthur's shelter. He shivered with cold in only his shirt and hose, and hurried to climb between the two large furs. The branch mattress was hard and lumpy, but did not shift when he lay down. It did not feel as if he were in contact with the ground anywhere.

Merlin followed him, crawling around and undressing clumsily. From his muffled exclamations Arthur guessed he was getting his hair caught on twigs. Undressing in the dark while on your hands and knees was an acquired skill, and while Merlin might have staggering amounts of practice lighting fires as part of his servant duties, he did not have Arthur's experience with travelling.

"You'd be lost if you were caught in a snowstorm without me," he said.

Merlin laughed, and eeled his way under the top fur.

Arthur did not see why that was funny, but he graciously limited himself to explaining to Merlin how they would double the blankets and roll themselves up in them like fillings in a sausage. Because Merlin couldn't see his gestures it required a lot of shoving.

They settled with Arthur curled around Merlin's back, his knees bent with Merlin's knees, and his nose in the nape of Merlin's neck. Merlin wiggled around, and muttered to himself, and Arthur let him without complaint. The springy, lumpy insulation of cut of branches seemed to grow more comfortable as he relaxed, and the thin sewn together patchworks of rabbit furs were surprisingly soft and warm. He would have assumed they would have been bothered by icy drafts, but he felt as toasty and comfortable as in his own bed.

Maybe even more so, he considered, as Merlin sighed and went limp in his embrace.

---

When Arthur woke up he was alone on a disgustingly hard and uneven bed. It felt like he was lying on a pile of branches. Oh right, he was. Arthur always woke up alert and ready for any situation, so he had the presence of mind and the coordination to wrap the woollen blanket he was lying in more securely around himself and crawl out in search for Merlin without getting tangled in anything or poked in the eye.

It was still dark out. Merlin was crouching by the fire with his back to Arthur, arranging a shirt over a little trellis. His scarf was hanging pathetically next to it, steaming wetly, and Arthur spotted all of his own clothes already hung to dry on the far side of the fire. That was good thinking by Merlin.

Arthur moved stealthily up right behind him, and asked "Where's my breakfast?", breathing down Merlin's neck.

Merlin tensed up, and flailed his hand back wildly. His cold and slightly clammy fingers got Arthur right on the hip where his shirt had ridden up, making him curse and jump. Luckily for Merlin, he was close enough to the fire not to feel cold when his blanket flapped open, but just for the sake of principle he gave him a light whack across the back of the head.

The insolent boy laughed at him, and picked up the shirt again he had accidentally flung to the ground with his flailing.

"It's in my saddlebag. I brought your favourite, pickled eggs!"

Only once, one time only, had he said that he didn't mind pickled eggs, and now it was forever "his favourite". But Arthur was not a squeamish or picky eater, as a knight he ate to fuel his body for combat, not for indolent hedonism. Yes, he had often partaken of sumptuous feasts at court, but those were necessary for diplomacy, and to uphold the dignity and standards of a regent who was a powerful unifying symbol, for sake of the people.

He pulled out the saddlebag and opened it, and unwrapped the package of waxed cloth he found in it. It contained a chain of 10 hard little sausage links, two lumps of different cheeses, two portion size ceramic jars of pâté, four bread rolls, and no pickled eggs. In the other compartment of the saddlebag was a wineskin.

Merlin had pulled their bed out from under the tree, and they sat side by side on the fur covered pile, wrapped in blankets and warming their feet by the fire as they ate and drank. The sky had cleared, and the rose coloured rays of dawn were slowly paling the stars and revealing the soft, fluffy mounds of snow capping the trees and covering the ground around them in dunes. The highway was visible as a shadowy line cutting slightly into the ground.

The horses woke up, and shouldered their way out of the more widely spaced spruces further downhill, causing small avalanches of thawing snow to thump to the ground. They stood blinking sleepily at him, whickering a soft greeting but not approaching the fire. His horse was not the brightest of them all, and tried to share breath with Merlin's horse with her feedbag still on her muzzle, before they settled for leaning against each other.

Arthur relaxed into Merlin's warm and firm side, and accepted the wineskin Merlin had just finished with, taking a leisurely sip from it. This was a rather nice way to spend a morning. Their clothes were not yet dry enough to safely wear in this temperature, and they were not needed or expected back at Camelot until tonight. There was no reason to get up.

Merlin grinned his doofy, happy grin at him, and it was light enough to see his sparkling blue eyes. Arthur smiled back at him.

"You make getting caught in a snowstorm much more pleasant than usual, Merlin," he told him magnanimously. "And not just because you are clever with packing."

Merlin's jaw dropped slackly in a very unclever look indeed, and Arthur couldn't help smirking. But he constrained himself to giving him a short nod, and turned to look at the fire again. Merlin stayed quiet and didn't ruin the moment.
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