Mary Margaret looked up from her newspaper to see David getting up, hand cupped to his face. He walked over to the counter and helped himself to a napkin from the container. He snuffled into it, blew his nose, balled it up, and deposited it in the trash can by the counter that was filled with coffee stirring sticks and emptied sugar packets. She studied him closely, seeing how tired his eyes looked, how flushed his nostrils were. He was sick, she knew. But she had a feeling he didn’t a want her knowing. So she dropped her gaze back to her newspaper and the toasted bagel growing cold on the plate.
She looked up again. Poor David was getting up again, sniffling into the back of his wrist, the cuff of his sleeve. He helped himself to another napkin. He cast a glance over in her direction, and she quickly turned the page of her newspaper to hide behind it.
This time, he blew his nose into one of the napkins and then took another one. He sat back down. He stirred his spoon around in oatmeal he hadn’t otherwise touched and seemed to have no appetite for. It only took about two minutes before he needed that napkin. He folded it over his nose and hunched over.
He stayed bent over in his chair, as if he were scared of moving. Sure enough, just seconds later, he sneezed again.
That was all Mary Margaret could endure. She abandoned the newspaper she wasn’t really reading anyway and settled into the chair beside David. He gave a start and turned away from her, hiding his face. “I can’t help but notice today you seem a little—”
“hehhh-Ihshffffff! Hehh… sneezy?”
She smiled. “Exactly what I was going to say.”
He looked up from his breakfast, fancy cloth napkin pressed to his nose.
“That was you.” Snow’s voice was light with amusement. “I thought maybe one of the dwarves had stopped by. But, no, that sneeze was entirely yours.” She leaned forward, elbows on the elegant lace tablecloth. “Are you ill?”
He wiped the napkin at his nose and nodded. “I think I may be coming down… heh… heh-Ihphshhh! Coming down with a cold.”
“Think?” Still smiling, she pushed her chair back from the table and walked its length to him, past the centerpiece of beautifully baked muffins, past the extravagant candelabras, past the vacant silver place settings. She bent and placed her lips on his forehead, finding it warm. Then she drew out a handkerchief.
It was thin and beautifully stitched, embroidered with her initials, and folded perfectly in fourths without a single wrinkle. It was almost a shame to ruin its perfection with something as uncontrollably messy as a sneeze. But, at the same time, it was a shame to have the poor man sneezing into napkins when there were handkerchiefs available for his nose. “Here.” She took his hand, kissed the back of it, and then pressed the handkerchief into it.
He smiled up at her. “It’s so nice. Are you certain?” She nodded and, as his breath hitched. Desperate for something, he quickly cupped it to his nose. “hehh… hehh-IHshfffff!” The sneeze came out all muffled and contained.
“Let me help you up to bed.”
“No.” He sniffed hard. “I’ve got too much to do today. The royal hunting party is—”
Snow finished it for him. “—is going to have to do without you today. You, Charming, are going straight back to bed. We can have them bring breakfast up if you feel a little hungry.”
He sniffled, rubbed the soft hanky one way beneath his nose, then in the other direction. “To bed?”
Snow nodded back and took her husband by the arm.
“Oh, bless you. Here…” Mary Margaret trailed away as he dipped her hand into her purse and rummaged around. She pulled out a small, sealed pack of tissues. Then she slid it over to him.
He hesitated then snatched it up. “Th-thanks. Just feel so sn-sneezy this morning…”Successfully having pulled a tissue out of the pack, he cupped it to his nose and mouth. “heh… hehh-IPTSchfffffff!”
“I hope you’re not suddenly allergic to coffee. What a tragedy that would be.”
A reluctant and amused smile came to his face. “Nuh-no.”
“Then you sound like you’re coming down with a pretty sneezy cold.”
“You should probably go home and get back into bed.”
He looked at her longingly, like he couldn’t stand not being there with her. “No, I need—”
“You need to take care, David.” After all he had been through, losing him now to a little head cold would be tragic. If she could march him right home now and tuck him into bed, she would.
David considered for a few moments then snatched another tissue from the packet. “HEH-hshffff!” He sniffled into it, rubbed at his nose. “I think you’re right.”
She scooted back, giving him room to stand up, slide off his chair. “Take the tissues,” she insisted. “Sounds like you’ll need them on the way home.”
He gave her a reassuring smile that stayed on his face for only three seconds. Then he turned to the side. “ehhh-Hshfffffff!”
She laughed, reaching out and patting his arm, wishing she could do more. And she saw in his eyes that he wanted the same. “You’d better leave now. There aren’t that many tissues in the packet and at this rate you’ll run out.”
Nodding, he left. But she saw him double over with another sneeze just outside the door.