[ Ariel shook his hand enthusiastically, before gaping and pulling her hand back away quickly. ]
Oh, my goodness, I’m so sorry, I think I just made you sick.
[Arthur frowns, looking at his now-empty hand before shrugging and dropping it]
It’s alright. I’ll just make sure I don’t touch my face or anything until I can go wash my hand. You’re fine.
[ Ariel laughed, her usual tinkling laugh made nasal from her cold. ]
I’m fine, thank you. It usually wears off after a few days, right?
I’m a trooper.
And, my name’s Ariel, by the way! I probably should have said that first. What’s, um, yours?
[he nodded reassuringly]
I’m ninety-nine point nine percent sure it’ll go away soon.
[he grinned, offering his hand]
Nice to meet you, Ariel. I’m Arthur.
[ Ariel blinked at the blonde young man in front of her. ]
I’m sorry—that’s never happened before.
[ She blew into her nose again, carefully and slowly; she knew she looked ridiculous but she couldn’t risk sneezing like that again, especially now that somebody had noticed. She cleared her throat, attempting to explain herself. ]
It’s, um, pretty cold.
So, yeah, lots of sneezing from colds. The cold.
[Arthur winced in sympathy when she blew her nose—she did look rather sick.]
Oh. I hope you get better. I’d offer you chicken soup or something but I will burn water, so I think we’re better off without me cooking anything.
[ Merlin nods. He lifts the paper up so that Arthur can clearly see, as Merlin begins to point at several parts of the paper. ]
Here, are the themes that you have to include in the paper.
Here, is the criteria. The bibliography must be perfect, research has to be sound—all that jazz. Make sure that you adhere to the stuff in the criteria and you’ll be right as rain.
Do you want to start with the hard themes or the easy themes?
[Arthur gives Merlin a funny look]
Mm, I think easy themes would probably be best.
[he sighs, patting a pile of books]
I’m pretty sure we have enough research material, don’t you?
[ Ariel marched down the main street of town, wearing a puffy coat with a large scarf covering her neck. She sniffled her nose, took out a handkerchief, and as she sneezed, the entire street seemed to reverberate from the power of the ACHOO!
She looked around worriedly, her face pale. ]
Oh, my goodness.
[Arthur’s coming back home from class, more than ready to sleep for at least two nice hours. He’s reminded of the zombies, and he’s pretty sure he must look like a zombie by the way he’s walking—short, slow shuffling steps. He can’t quite bring himself to care. He’s somewhere between the dreamworld and the real world when a sneeze breaks through the haze, and he snaps back to reality, eyes huge.]
Wow. I think that’s the loudest sneeze I’ve heard in my whole life.
I getcha. It isn’t easy asking for help. I suck at it too.
[he reaches out and pats the guy’s arm]
At least you haven’t reached the pit where I’m in.
*rolls her eyes* Holy fricker-tickers, man! Stop studying and go have an adventure!
[he glances at his books, and then longingly out the window]
But… that’s what I’ve been doing and look at the mess it’s got me into!
[he points accusingly at the towers of books on his table]
[ Merlin nods, moving over to sit in front of Arthur. He places his teacup and saucer on a little space on the table and clear his throat. ]
Nope, no, you’re fine. This is the research assignment, right? And you got…
[ He takes the assignment sheet from under Arthur’s books and reads it. ]
Oh! The Byzantine Army—that should be interesting. And, don’t worry, you don’t have to write about all the things the army’s done. This is just the introductory assignment.
[he nods when Merlin asks him about the assignment]
Yeah, I just chose what sounded less intimidating.
I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking then.
[he brightens up when Merlin says not to worry]
Oh, okay. I’m following so far.