Title: A Minor Detour, Part 27
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine
Summary: At that exact moment, all his care was consumed by the man in front of him.
Word Count: 897
Prompt: #356: I’m Here
Author’s Notes: Previous parts on AO3
Morgana and Uther vanished through the door, and Arthur—
Arthur didn’t care.
He would, later. He would have to. It was his father and his sister and his home and his fate all hanging in the balance, and he wasn’t the type of man to ignore those stakes. He was also done letting other people make decisions about them, so eventually he knew he would find himself in a room with some number of involved parties trying to work out next steps and long-term plans. Arguing was all but inevitable, more violence hopefully less likely but not necessarily unavoidable. He’d have to think about all the consequences of all the things that had happened since he and Merlin got stranded. Since he stranded them. And all the consequences of all the things that could happen moving forward.
Just… later. He’d care later.
At that exact moment, all his care was consumed by the man in front of him.
“I thought I’d never see you again.” He didn’t try to hide the tremor in his voice, slight as it was; he never wanted to hide anything from Merlin again, least of all the strength of his feelings. Merlin deserved that and so much more, and on top of that, Arthur could trust him with it. True, they gave each other a hard time about everything they possibly could and he didn’t see that changing, and he was even more certain that Merlin would never stop calling him a smeghead as long as he lived, but that was just how they were with each other; he wouldn’t have it any other way.
When it came to the big things, the important things, Merlin would never use his vulnerability against him. Merlin would never hurt him.
Merlin pulled his hand out of Arthur’s and used it to hit him.
“And whose fault would that have been!” He sounded just as shaken as Arthur was, his eyes wide and bright as he shoved at Arthur’s chest. There was some force behind it, which Arthur easily avoided being moved by, and his fists stayed there after, clenching and unclenching in Arthur’s shirt. “You smegging selfish, reckless, martyr of a smegging smeghead!”
Maybe it was the warmth he could feel from Merlin’s hands through his uniform, maybe it was the unusual lack of creativity in Merlin’s insults, but Arthur felt steadier. Grounded. Settled enough to smirk and ask, feigning surprise, “Am I getting the impression that you’re a little bit upset with me, Merlin?”
“I’ve never been angrier in my life!” Merlin yelled. Tried to yell. His reluctant smile got in the way. But when his voice lowered into almost calm, that faded into a hurt frown. “What the void were you thinking?”
“That Uther wasn’t bluffing about murdering you and I couldn’t let it happen.”
“You could’ve told me,” Merlin muttered mutinously. “You didn’t need to try and handle it alone. I mean, you shouldn’t have at all, because things never go right when you do. But even if you weren’t completely helpless on your own, Arthur, you’re not alone! Did you forget our entire squad defected with you? And you have me. Kriff, if you have to be stubborn about everything else, at least remember that. I’m here and I’m not going anywhere. Uther can’t change that, you can’t change that, so let me help you. I’ll do it regardless, but it’s so annoying to have to work around you.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. Fondly. “Merlin, I am not helpless on my own. But,” he added quickly, before Merlin’s pout could turn into words, “I would be lost without you in more ways than one. We all would be.”
“So no more stupid plans like throwing yourself at Camelot’s mercies or stranding us on lifeless planetoids?”
“Oh, I don’t know. That seems like a reckless promise to make, doesn’t it? We can’t predict what sort of strange circumstances we’ll land in. What if stranded on a lifeless planetoid becomes our best option?”
“I hate you,” Merlin said, but he was laughing. “You are absolutely the worst. You’re not funny, you know, not even a little bit.”
“Merlin, you are by far the galaxy’s worst liar.” Smirking, Arthur took half a step closer; Merlin tried and failed to scowl and didn’t move away. “I’m charming.” Another step and his lips were inches from Merlin’s. “You are charmed by me.”
“Not even a little bit,” Merlin repeated, his voice a whisper as his mouth moved even nearer.
They were so close that Arthur could feel Merlin’s lips, even though they weren’t touching yet. It was like a charge, like their very molecules were yearning for each other as much as Arthur yearned for Merlin. He remembered the feel of those lips from when he’d stolen what he thought would be his only kiss, hours that felt like days before, and even in that desperate moment it had been better than he’d ever imagined. Getting to taste them again in a less tense moment, when they could take their time and Merlin’s mouth was curled in a sweet grin—
The door burst open behind him and Arthur spun, pushing Merlin behind him on instinct. Leon stood in the doorway, Percival visible over his shoulder, and stopped there with a confused look on his face. Unseen behind them, Gwaine declared, “We’re here to save you!”