Title: A Minor Detour, Part 14
Rating: Let's move it up to R
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine
Summary: Everything about Merlin ought to have been awkward. His ears were too big, his smile too wide. Bare, his body was the same.
Word Count: 845
Prompt: #251: Perfectly Imperfect
Author's Notes: Part 1 | ... | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 || All Parts on AO3
Arthur tried not to look as Merlin stripped out of the contaminated jumpsuit. He’d seen Merlin naked before—recently, even—but he’d able been to react to the circumstances instead of Merlin’s body.
As Gwaine’s prisoners, he’d had the distraction of their plight and plotting out all the ways he could murder Merlin. A good thing, too, since he wouldn’t have been able to hide his reaction if anger and fear hadn’t prevented him from really taking in and appreciating the sight. Merlin, pale skin on display, long limbs spread right in front of Arthur—imagery like that featured prominently in his guiltiest fantasies, nights he spent alone in his quarters with his eyes closed and his hand on himself. He didn’t give in to that urge often; it made it very hard to look Merlin in the eye the next day.
Things had gotten tenser on the bridge with the Knights, with Arthur in a better mood and Merlin still bare. Then he’d said—well, Gwaine had said. And Gwaine was just as much to blame for the current situation, Merlin undressing himself mere breaths away from Arthur. Much as he wanted to focus on being angry over that, and maybe hit the scavenger a few more times for good measure, he just couldn’t ignore a naked Merlin.
Especially after the conversation they’d had.
So he gave in. He looked.
Merlin was safely clear of the suit and had dumped it in a pile that shifted and fell as the acid wore its way through layers of fabric. Probably it would burn itself out before getting to the floor.; there definitely hadn’t been enough to eat through inches of solid metal and cause damage to the ship. But even if there had, Arthur wouldn’t have been able to focus on it at the moment.
Everything about Merlin ought to have been awkward. His ears were too big, his smile too wide. Bare, his body was the same. Square shoulders didn’t suit his lanky frame, which was far too pale despite the artificial sunlight that even the small shuttle’s life support system provided. Curls of dark hair spread across his chest without covering the blush that went all the way down—
Arthur had to drag his eyes up from that lower patch of hair, but he hadn’t missed a glimpse of what was there, or how it twitched and started to flush as pink as the rest of Merlin. Instead of looking strange, he just looked like Merlin. Like everything Arthur wanted.
No. He had self control. Just because there was an attraction there, more than an attraction, that was just shy of being mutually acknowledged, didn’t give him the right to take advantage of the situation. Especially not when he’d been the one who needed more time. As always seemed to be the case, there were more pressing matters.
“Are you all right?”
Merlin nodded. Though his face was still painted crimson, he met Arthur’s eyes and set his jaw, and that was when Arthur realized he wasn’t making any move to cover himself. He didn’t move to stand behind one of the stools or the counter, he didn’t even have his hands up in front of himself. That thought dropped his eyes down again without his permission, and by the time he clawed his way back to Merlin’s face there was a smirk on it.
“I’m doing just fine, Captain Pendragon. How’re you doing?”
It was ridiculous enough, them enough, to transform the moment into something less charged. Arthur laughed, grateful not to have ruined things with his momentary descent into creepiness, and patted Merlin on the shoulder.
“I’m fantastic, Merlin,” he said. “Very warm.”
“Oh, are you?”
“Extremely. Utterly comfortable all around, really.”
“Would you just shag already!” Gwaine yelled.
Arthur had mostly forgotten about him, and from the way Merlin jumped and hurried to cover his privates, he had too. They both looked over; Gwaine hadn’t bothered to get up from where Arthur’s punch had landed him on the floor, and in fact managed to make lounging there look like exactly where he wanted to be.
“Do you want his clothes?” Arthur offered after a moment’s thought. “Probably fit you better than the last ones.”
“Yeah, but void knows where they’ve been. And I think he’d like that too much.”
Judging by Gwaine’s grin, and the fact that he’d said as much to Arthur before, that was bound to be true.
“If I can’t find any spares,” Merlin started.
Gwaine interrupted with a far too gleeful, “You won’t!” and dodged the half-hearted kick Merlin aimed his way. Any more serious attempt would’ve exposed him again.
“Then I’ll cut some holes in a pillowcase or something until we can find something better. Captain.” He saluted, his other hand still protecting his modesty, then spun on his heel and showed off his ass all the way down the corridor.
Arthur watched it bounce until it was out of sight, then turned back to Gwaine.
“You’re welcome,” he told Arthur with a cheeky grin.