Title: Like a Fine Wine (11)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Alice
Summary: Regardless of his attraction to Merlin, there was still so much about their circumstances that he didn’t understand, and the last thing he needed was to get more tangled up in it than he already was. Then again, maybe that was exactly what he needed.
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | AO3 ]
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 381 Eternity
Author's Notes: *skids in 15 minutes late, spilling Starbucks everywhere*
“There’s only one bed, I’m afraid,” Alice said, opening the door to the guest room. Like the rest of the house, it was overflowing with strange objects, from the rows of glittering crystals in front of the dressing-table mirror to a faux suit of armour lurking in one corner. “We’ve never really had many visitors, even when my husband was alive. I do hope you boys will be all right to share.”
“We’ll be fine, Auntie,” Merlin assured her, shooting Arthur a sidelong glance. Arthur tried to keep his face impassive, but he couldn’t suppress the sudden flutter of nerves in the pit of his stomach. He’d almost forgotten that tonight was meant to have been their first date. Before Mordred had burst in and ruined everything, he’d thought—hoped—that he and Merlin might end up in bed together, but now he wasn’t sure it was such a good idea. Regardless of his attraction to Merlin, there was still so much about their circumstances that he didn’t understand, and the last thing he needed was to get more tangled up in it than he already was.
Then again, maybe that was exactly what he needed.
Alice loaned them both some of her husband’s old things to sleep in, and they changed with their backs toward one another, neither of them saying much as they prepared themselves for bed. Arthur finished first, and turning found Merlin just pulling his shirt off over his head, exposing the creamy white skin of his back and throat. His breath caught, not so much from the unexpected intimacy of the sight as the perfect, three-pronged triskelion tattoo that marked the back of Merlin’s neck, and Merlin glanced up at him, meeting Arthur’s eyes in the mirror. Their gazes locked and held.
The pain that jolted through Arthur’s head this time was not quite so intense as it had been downstairs, but it was still enough to make him flinch. He blinked, trying to orient himself around a confusing double image, and then the pain was gone, leaving his ears ringing, his heart pounding out a stuttering rhythm against his chest.
“Arthur?” Merlin turned towards him, frowning in concern. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” Arthur lied, shaking off the sensation. It made no sense for the enchantment to be acting up now—he hadn’t even been thinking about the photograph, let alone attempting to talk about it or its connection to magic. “What’s—what’s with the tattoo?”
“Oh, this?” Merlin reached up to touch the back of his neck, one finger tracing the shape of the topmost spiral. Arthur had a sudden flash of sense memory: his own finger against that mark, then his mouth, biting playfully against Merlin’s skin. He dug his fingernails into his palms to ground himself. “I got it done when I was sixteen, in a fit of teenage rebellion.”
He grinned, but something of Arthur’s disquiet must have shown on his face because the expression faded almost at once, replaced by a searching look.
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Just tired.” Arthur forced himself to smile, and after another second Merlin nodded and pulled on his pyjama top, apparently satisfied.
“Me too. It’s been a rough day.”
They got into bed and turned out the lights, pulling up the covers as they settled in to sleep. Merlin was lying on his back, about a foot away from Arthur, who stared up at the ceiling and did his best to ignore the supreme awkwardness of the situation. He really was tired, but there were so many questions knocking around inside his head that he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he got some answers. There was also the overwhelming awareness of Merlin only inches away from him, and what had been a manageable—if confusing—attraction before had sharpened to something far less innocent now that the lights were out. He could tell from the uneven sound of Merlin’s breathing that he wasn’t feeling very sleepy either.
At last, Arthur rolled onto his side, propping himself up with his pillow so that he could look over into Merlin’s face.
“What’s it like?” he asked, giving voice to something he had wondered about for a long time. “Having magic, I mean.”
Merlin’s cheeks dimpled. “It’s brilliant,” he said, shifting so that they could see one another properly. “It’s like…being connected to everyone and everything, all at once. Here, let me show you.”
He brought a hand out from beneath the covers and muttered something Arthur didn’t catch. A moment later, a ball of white light bloomed between them, chasing away the shadows into the corners of the room. Arthur sucked in a breath.
“You can touch it,” Merlin said. “If you want. It’s called a witchlight.”
“It’s beautiful,” Arthur said. His eyes stung from the sudden brightness, but once his vision cleared, he reached out and laid a hesitant hand against the witchlight’s outer surface. It felt fragile and slightly stretchy, like a bubble, and it buzzed against his palm with the tickle of static electricity. “I thought—I mean, I’ve only ever seen it used to destroy things, before.”
“It can do good things, too.” Merlin murmured another phrase, and the light vanished, leaving them in darkness.
The press of Merlin's lips against Arthur’s felt like an extension of his magic: soft and warm, setting off a slow frisson of heat in Arthur’s gut that made his entire body tingle. He deepened the kiss at once, and Merlin welcomed it, letting out a quiet moan as Arthur licked his way inside his mouth.
For a small eternity, all Arthur could feel was Merlin: Merlin’s tongue, Merlin’s hands in his hair, the push of Merlin’s thigh between his legs as he rolled Arthur over onto his back.
Then the pain returned, and the moment splintered as suddenly as if a set of invisible claws had torn it straight down the middle.
Arthur didn’t even have the breath to scream.