Title: And I Do Believe You Look Like Art
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: unmarked skin, a blank canvas, muscles and sinews at Merlin's disposition (tattoo shop au).
Warnings: None that I can think of...
Word Count: 1k
Prompt: #257: Work - Artist Appreciation Month
Author's Notes: The art was soooo gorgeous ❤️
A nice breeze carries along the street and the smell of wet pavements from an earlier rain wafts around, the smoke of Merlin's cigarettes blending in, it's a comforting mix he inhales deeply feeling his lungs are about to burst before he lets go. He closes his eyes, his head falls back against the brick wall digging into his back, the discomfort of his sore muscles from being on the same position for a long time persistent.
"Tired?" Freya asks. He peeks one eyes open to see her, her ankles are crossed one over the other. She rolls her shoulders up then down, the dull sound of her spine cracking reaching his ears.
"No more than you," he answers, taking one last puff he drops the but and scuffs it with the heel of his boot. Freya gives him one of her looks, he sighs bending down to throw it in the nearest litter bin. She mouths a thank you.
"It's been a long day, " he tells her picking up their thread of conversation. The Avalon Tattoos sign perched above the door gleams under the orange sunlight nearing dusk, when he faces the shop. He loves the place.
Freya nods, a pout on her lips manifesting her tiredness. "I don't think I ever spent as much time staring directly at a girl's bum as I did today."
"Aha, sure, I know some people who'd beg to differ," he teases her, "How's Mithian?"
He saw coming the punch against his arm before Freya's fist was even raised, she laughs at him, eyes full of mirth. Her lips forming a taunting smirk.
"Seems your day's gonna be longer."
"Your last appointment just arrived."
Merlin whirls around, catching sight of him, the wind tousling his blond hair. His stomach does this free-falling kind of thing it does whenever Arthur is around. A smile already creeping up his face. Beside him Freya is snickering, enjoying his obvious foolishness.
"Hi," Arthur says when he's in front of them. Merlin flexes his fingers, his arms hanging at his sides.
"Hey," he breathes, his skin prickling under the fiery warmth of Arthur's gaze.
"Hello, I'm also here in case you haven't noticed," Freya says attracting Arthur attention to her. He leans down to kiss her cheek, she makes a show of fanning herself making Arthur chuckle.
"Taking a break?" He asks.
"Something like that."
Freya looks between, rolls her eyes pats them both on the back, saying, "I think I'll continue my break somewhere else."
They watch her cross the street and get lost inside the pale yellow of Mithian's antiques shop.
"You do realize she isn't coming back, right?"
Merlin lifts a shoulder uncaring. He gestures towards the door with both hands, Arthur walks into the studio first, the little bell he and Freya put first as a joke jingles above his head. Arthur's step are sure, echo on the floorboards, he takes his bag off his shoulder dropping it in a nearby sofa with a familiarity and ease that has Merlin itching with the need to reach for him. A hint of ink poking from under the rolled sleeves of his shirt. Merlin pauses taking another long look at him, he turns changing the OPEN sign on the window so now it reads CLOSED.
"I see you're planning on keeping me here," Arthur comments, lifting a brow.
"That's the general idea, yeah."
In two strides he's chest to chest with Arthur. "Hi, again."
Arthur's lips are a bit dry, a small thing he notices before Arthur's tongue is pushing his own lips apart, his arms go around Arthur's waist keeping him close to kiss him and kiss him, slow and languid. He pulls away, leaving tiny kisses on Arthur's jaw, his throat, teeth grazing the skin without leaving a mark. Arthur's low chuckle vibrating against his body.
"Someone missed me today," Arthur notes.
Merlin makes an agreeing sound not voicing the I always miss you running in his head. It's hard to disentangle himself from Arthur, when he manages, his fingers works deftly over the buttons of his vest pushing it out the way, he continues with the shirt underneath.
"Is this how you treat all your customers?" Arthur asks in his raspy breathless voice Merlin knows so well.
"Only the ones I like."
Merlin grabs him by the wrist. "Come on, let's see about that tattoo." Arthur follows him, their steps heavy on the wood, Merlin stops to turn on the lights not letting go of Arthur, the lamps above his station come to life bathing the studio in their flame-like glow. They round the screen separating Merlin's station from Freya's and Gwaine's, giving a sense of privacy. He maintains he got lucky by being relegated to last spot, he's got space and the big, blue-tinted windows over the back wall illuminate his working spot with natural light, casting shadows and intricate patterns like polychromatic art painting the surfaces.
"You should sit down while I get everything ready," he instructs, Arthur pulls him pushing his lips against Merlin's, the simple contact of skin on skin. It still makes Merlin feel as though he's catches fire.
Arthur sits, leaning back in the chair letting Merlin do his work. He goes to wash his hands, letting the warm water run over his soapy hands, using sanitizing wipes next to be thorough. He puts on a fresh pair black latex gloves, grabbing an antibacterial to clean Arthur's skin. He swallows, stops his thoughts and actions, under the glare of the incandescent lights Arthur is a sight to behold. His flaxen hair almost golden, his skin reminiscent of melting butter. The edges and swirls of his tattoos clearer, brighter. Arthur remains silent making Merlin wonder what he thinks when Merlin looks at him like he's Merlin's favourite person in the world.
Merlin thinks back to the first time Arthur step through the door of his shop, lost and unsure as if he had walked into a different universe full of humming machines, ink, prog-rock and lively chatter.
Then he felt something simmering beneath his skin--much like he does now with Arthur's impassive gaze burning him--when the needles touched Arthur's unmarked skin, a blank canvas, muscles and sinews at Merlin's disposition. Arthur had trusted him, allowed him to mark him forever. Black and grey carnations down his shoulder--in remembrance of his mother, materializing like magic on his skin. Little did he knew Arthur would leave his a mark of his own on him.
He's the only one who's had the privilege of tattooing Arthur. He kept coming back, smiling at Merlin, pushing his buttons, kissing him as if his sole purpose was robbing Merlin of breath and sanity. His tattoos aren't yet the statement of Merlin's full sleeves or the ink across his chest. But there's the carnations, the sword on his bicep, and his personal favourite, the merlin mid-flight on the left side of his chest. Knowing it's there, permanent, drives him up the wall. Arthur's belly muscles quiver under his scrutiny, the rise and fall of his chest hypnotic. He needs to touch so badly he lowers his lips to the ink, tastes salt, nuzzles the heat and hard muscle. He barely restrains himself from licking. He likes that, his mouth fussed to the warm inked skin, open and wet.
Arthur laughs, forever ticklish. "I though you were supposed to clean the skin, not rub more germs."
Merlin huffs, rolls his eyes. "Prat, you're ruining the mood." And maybe it's good Arthur broke the spell, he was starting to feel like a drowning man.
"Sorry," Arthur whispers, he reaches to touch the side of Merlin's face, thumb brushing his cheek. A terribly fond look on his face. "Come here."
The kiss settles deep on Merlin's bones, the former intensity less stifling. Breathing gets easier and he moves dutifully to prepare things again. He pours antibacterial liquid on the skin, finishes the cleansing with iodine swabs, brows knitting in concentration.
"I'm--I have work to do."
Opening a sterile bag he assembles the machine to add the colour Arthur insisted is missing from the bird. The shading needle safely on his grip, he steps on the pedal firing the loud drone of the tattoo machine. He sets to work, enjoying their proximity, Arthur regaling work stories appreciating Merlin's input. He wipes excess ink, focuses. Skin and muscle and sinew, ink and needles, a buzz under his skin.