Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur takes care of Merlin after some bullies got to him.
Warnings: bullying, sad with a happy ending
Word Count: 863
Prompt: #251: Perfectly Imperfect
Author's Notes: unbetaed (will update/reupload once its betaed, I was running out of time, sorry)
Arthur knew he was too late when he heard the sound of gruel laughter ringing through the halls. He wanted to run after them, he knew the voices belonged to Valiant and Cenred, the two biggest bullies in school, but his priority was not catching these two in whatever cruel act they had just left. His priority was in the changing rooms at the beginning of the hall.
He entered through the first door, not seeing much in the darkened room but he could hear water running in the showers and his gut told him that’s where he was needed.
All the showers were running, steam diffusing his sight. It took Arthur a minute to see the figure curled up under the last shower. Merlin was fully dressed, his clothing wet and his hands pressed against his ears as if to protect his hearing aids from the water.
Arthur crouched down next to him, not caring about getting wet as well. He was just about to gently shake Merlin’s shoulder when he saw a bit of broken plastic on the wet tiles. He cursed when he realised they were Merlin’s hearing aids, broken beyond repair.
He carefully laid his hand on Merlin’s leg, making him jump nevertheless. Big blue eyes landed on him, scared for a minute before he recognized Arthur and his face relaxed a bit. His eyes were puffy and even though he couldn’t see tears due to the amount of warm water raining down on them, Arthur knew Merlin must have been crying.
“They broke my hearing aids,” Merlin signed once he had lifted his hands from his ears. They were red, as if someone had pinched them and Arthur could only guess it hadn’t been Merlin himself.
“I know,” Arthur signed back. “Let’s get you out of here.” He picked up the broken devices and shoved them in his jeans pocket before helping Merlin up, nearly carrying him back into the changing room.
He felt guilty for being so busy with football lately, he knew he hadn’t had much time for Merlin in the last few weeks and knew that’s why Valiant and Cenred chose to attack Merlin now. Usually he presented himself as Merlin’s bodyguard and had done so ever since the two had first met at kindergarten and had become best friends. Sometimes Merlin complained about Arthur’s need to protect him but Arthur usually just joked about being the brawn in their friendship as Merlin obviously was the brain.
Once in the changing room Arthur picked up his gym bag, he had left it there earlier before his football practice, to get his spare towel for Merlin. Merlin just kept sitting there on the bench, unmoving as Arthur tried to hand it to him, so Arthur took it upon himself to dry Merlin up. He wrapped the towel around Merlin’s shivering form before hugging him close; not minding his own wet clothes still sticking to his skin.
“My mom will be so upset,” Merlin signed after a few minutes of silence. Arthur only nodded, knowing what Merlin was talking about. Hunith hadn’t had much money since Merlin’s father had left them and Merlin’s hearing aids cost a small fortune. He briefly wondered if his father would realize if Arthur would use his family money to pay for new ones. Probably not.
“Don’t worry.” He signed, knowing they would find a solution together.
“They asked me how I couldn’t hear anything with ears as big as mine. As if I hadn’t heard that one before.” Merlin signed, snuggling up closer to Arthur.
That explained the red ears; they probably had grabbed him there.
“And then they asked me why someone like you would want to be friends with someone as imperfect as me.”
Arthur got angry, just as he always got when someone insinuated Merlin was anything but perfect because of his near deafness.
“You are perfect.” He simply signed.
“Perfectly imperfect.” Merlin replied.
“No,” Arthur turned Merlin towards him so he could both see him sign and say the words. “Just perfect.”
Before he could stop himself he crushed his lips against Merlin’s, realizing a second too late that that’s not what friends were supposed to do. They had always been close, closer than most boys their age were with each other, but they had never done anything that would cross over their friendship into something more, even though Arthur had often imagined it.
He was just about to pull away, apologize, as he felt Merlin hum against his mouth. Hesitantly Merlin began to reciprocate the kiss, shyly closing his eyes as his tongue darted forward. Arthur’s heart nearly exploded with love. Love for his perfect best friend, the person he had been crushing on for at least a year and the person he had probably loved since the day they had first met.
They had to end the kiss eventually, both breathless and unsure how to continue.
“Here, “Arthur wrapped the towel around Merlin again. “Let’s go home and figure out what to do about your hearing aids” he signed and grabbed Merlin’s hand as they both stood up and made for the door.