Title: Your Song
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin and Arthur get to know each other better while on a nighttime waterside stroll.
Word Count: 1,270
Prompt: 425 first date
Author's Notes: I couldn't decide how to split this up to make it two shorter submissions. Apologies for the length overage. ... Coincidentally, this prompt is also one of my bingo prompts. Almost 10 bingo-compliant fics, and I still haven't made 5 in a row! XD
Arthur studies Merlin's profile next to him. He sighs. "I guess this isn't going very well," he says.
They're walking around the edge of the lake at night. The city lights are visible over the tree line.
Arthur's hands are in his pockets. Merlin's arms are crossed, and he's looking out at the lake.
"Hm? What do you mean?" Merlin asks. He doesn't turn.
"You haven't said anything in a long while," Arthur explains. "You don't look very comfortable. And I noticed that you couldn't stop your hands from fidgeting and your feet from tapping impatiently during dinner. If you want to call it a night and say goodbye, just say so. I won't be offended."
Merlin's arms tighten around himself. A crease forms between his eyebrows. "Is that what you want?" he asks.
"No, but you don't owe me anything, and I don't expect you to stay or do anything more if you're not interested," Arthur answers.
Merlin's arms seem to relax, but he still appears to be thinking hard.
They follow the lake shore in silence for another half a minute. To distract himself from Merlin's potentially disappointing answer, Arthur looks past Merlin to the water. There are still some birds floating serenely across it at this hour. He sees a duck sleeping on a nearby low rock.
Merlin finally faces him.
"It's not..." Merlin tries, but he loses either his train of thought or his nerve. Arthur's not sure which.
Arthur stares back, and he waits.
"I'm glad that's not what you want," Merlin says.
Arthur unclenches his fists in his pockets. He doesn't remember balling them in the first place, and some of the tension they held over Merlin's possible reply leaves him when they loosen.
"This is going better than you think," Merlin asserts. "Really!" he adds when he sees the skeptical look on Arthur's face. "I like you talking to me. You're captivating." Merlin searches Arthur's eyes. He smiles wickedly. "Even your arrogance is delightful."
Arthur laughs along with Merlin's dig, because even Merlin's goading is delightful.
Merlin turns introspective. "I feel..." he takes a breath, "expansive. Like there is suddenly all this space of possibility to fill, and with you I am equal to it." He uncrosses an arm and lightly – hesitantly – lays his fingertips on Arthur's chest. "Or maybe it's that together we are equal to it."
Arthur's heart speeds up beneath those fingers, a physical reaction pushed further by the heady visions of possibilities they might fulfill together as partners united in purpose.
Merlin gently removes his hand and recrosses his arms. He looks down and to the side, and Arthur wishes he could convince Merlin to keep eye contact.
"There's something else?" Arthur asks.
Merlin nods. "Remember you told me about your team?"
"Yes," Arthur replies.
"And I told you about my performing?" Merlin prompts.
"Yes," Arthur says again.
"There's more to it than what I implied. I also... I... I hear music," Merlin says.
Arthur doesn't say anything. He's puzzled. He doesn't know what to say.
"For places. For... people...." Merlin blushes hard. He looks pained.
"You hear music. As in songs?" Arthur asks.
"As in, one of the ways I experience the world, like when smelling a bakery from around a street corner or when seeing the wing colors of a butterfly, is by hearing music in my head. What I can sense, I interpret in the form of music."
Arthur, his understanding still somewhat obfuscated, asks, "Can you name some of it?"
"I write it out as sheet music," Merlin says. "You can see it, if you want to. I sometimes play it as warm up material in group rehearsals, though I shouldn't."
"You shouldn't?" Arthur asks.
"If anyone else in the group who writes music picks up what I play and uses it in a piece, then I haven't protected my creations very well, have I?"
Understanding finally falling into place, Arthur asks quietly, "What do you hear for me?"
Merlin's blush returns. "You require a lot of instruments to express. That's why I had to move so much during dinner, by the way. I had to release the music somehow, and I only had limbs to work with. I've found that establishments don't look kindly on random patrons singing at their tables. Other guests get upset. I've been kicked out of places before. Anyway, what I hear for you, it's something with plenty of string with intrusions by brass. The long lines of it probably come out of the set of your shoulders, or maybe the manner of your stride when you walk."
Merlin closes his eyes to listen better.
Arthur reaches out to touch the inside of Merlin's wrist, a touch question posed.
Merlin's eyes snap open to meet Arthur's. Arthur can see the city lights reflected in them for a moment, just a flash.
Merlin slides his hand fully into Arthur's. Their different calluses brush. Their fingers mingle.
"Are you interested in us kissing?" Arthur asks.
"Yes," Merlin breathes.
With half of their fingers still entangled together, Arthur raises both of his hands – and thus one of Merlin's hands as well – to hold Merlin's head steady where he wants it.
Their lips meet.
Merlin adds his free hand to the back of Arthur's neck to gain more control over the pressure.
Soon, Arthur has his hands running over Merlin's hair, neck, shoulders, arms, and back. Soon, Merlin has creative control over the angle and pressure of the kissing.
Soon, Arthur has them pressed together tightly. Soon, Merlin's tongue seeks Arthur's.
Merlin pulls Arthur's head away from his to breathe. Arthur tightens his arms around Merlin in a quick squeeze, then lets go enough to allow any kind of movement.
Merlin holds onto Arthur's neck; he is unwilling to part just yet.
"What do you hear now?" Arthur asks.
Merlin grins. Arthur gets him, and it appears that Arthur likes it. "A lot more brass. Some forceful woodwinds. Space for a rare vocal line. Intermittent piano. It feels hopeful. Like the start of an epic adventure. Like an announcement. It has a splash of the mystical, and it cyclically reveals a building magical element that eventually spills over. It's a bit like a refreshing light rain turning into the feeling of walking through a waterfall." Merlin pauses, then continues a little breathlessly. "It's beautiful. Thank you, Arthur."
"You can't thank me alone. You're half of the ingredients," Arthur says. "Nevertheless, I hope you'll play it for me when you have the chance."
"I'll play it for you right now if we can manage to wander across a piano, or perhaps the entire roster of a symphony loitering outside together with all their instruments ready to go."
"Then we'd best get to wandering." Arthur finds Merlin's hand again. As they turn to keep walking around the lake, this time leaning much closer to each other and with their fingers laced together, Arthur quietly sings, "If you don't mind, I'd like to join you by your side, where we can gaze up to the stars and be together," then hums the final lines of the song.
Merlin starts laughing. "Did you just sing from The Nightmare Before Christmas for me?"
"Not a fan?"
"On the contrary, I am a fan. I also very much appreciated your rendition."
Arthur leans over and kisses Merlin on the cheek.
With his free hand, Merlin holds onto Arthur's upper arm. He starts tapping out his notes there. He's still giggling. He nudges Arthur with his shoulder. "You see? I told you this was going better than you thought."