Title: A Near Death Experience
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: They kept getting caught in rope nets. Merlin had to wonder why.
Word Count: 1468
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 450: Ropes
Author's Notes: I’d realised as I was writing this that I’d written about them in a rope net before, so I sort of made it a sequel of Another Fine Mess. https://archiveofourown.org/works/26760448.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
It wasn’t bad enough that they kept getting caught in nets. Merlin had lost count of the number of times they’d tripped over them or stumbled into them or just plain weren’t paying attention —no matter what Arthur said about being the finest hunter in all of Camelot, he was remarkably unlucky about net-traps.
Although wyverns couldn’t drag that confession out of him, it really was Merlin’s fault this time.
He should have known better. Rabbits, dead in the middle of the path, screamed set-up. But Merlin was tired, Arthur was insulting him and not in a good way, and he stumbled more than hurried to pick up the free supper.
Of course, it was a trap.
Now hanging several feet off the ground, it didn’t help that every time Arthur moved, the ropes tightened, damn him.
The net was woven well enough that it would take half the night to saw through the cords, even if they had Merlin’s knife which they did not since it fell out of Merlin’s hand as they were being pulled up into the air. The blade lay on the ground, accusing Merlin of incompetence. So was Arthur.
And Arthur’s sword was still uselessly attached to his saddle and the horses which were tied up nearby.
Seriously, every bloody time.
It took a while but finally Arthur ran out of insults or breath or fury. Merlin wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or bad. As long as Arthur was yelling at him, Merlin could have muttered a spell under all that ferocity and got them out, but it was distracting, too, what with Arthur’s mouth so close to Merlin’s.
But then Arthur was always distracting, especially when jammed up against Merlin, all his lumps and bumps rubbing Merlin in a way that would have been exciting otherwise. Honestly, though, Merlin was getting a little excited anyway, what with his bits being jostled every time Arthur moved.
And Arthur kept moving. Probably to get more comfortable. Or maybe to try and grab for his belt knife. But Arthur couldn’t reach back far enough to get it with his arms trapped around Merlin’s shoulders and he kept glaring at Merlin as if it was Merlin’s fault that Arthur wasn’t flexible enough.
The problem with the ropes and the net and Merlin pressed up against Arthur was that it kept happening. If he didn’t know any better, he would have thought Arthur arranged it. Because every bloody time, Arthur would get this dopey look on his face for days after.
He wouldn’t put it past the cabbagehead. Him with his repressed emotions and long sultry looks that never went anywhere.
Now, they were all tied up and caught fast, Arthur rubbing against Merlin’s enthusiastic chest and those thick thighs round Merlin’s waist.
Shit. He needed to concentrate, he needed to think about how to get out of the situation before it got too ridiculous, he needed to kiss Arthur.
Arthur looked at him, scowling. “Idiot, pay attention.” Merlin blinked at that, pulling back from his impossible fantasy. “Can you reach my knife?”
“Umm,” Merlin bit at his lip. As Arthur was speaking, his thighs tightened around Merlin’s waist, just like Merlin wanted, and Arthur’s arse was warm against Merlin’s growing interest. Clearing his throat, Merlin said, “If you pull your leg up a bit, I can reach over and get it, I think.”
Glowering at Merlin, Arthur said, “Don’t drop it or I swear I’ll have you in the stocks for a month.”
“It wasn’t my fault, you clotpole.” But when Arthur just stared at Merlin’s mouth, looking as if he was ready to shout or maybe kiss him, Merlin shifted a little, bending forward and sideways, reaching for said knife. Arthur’s leg was rubbing up against Merlin’s thigh as he tried to get close enough for Merlin to reach. Merlin could feel the muscles bunching there, Arthur leaning into him, still groin to groin, the net squeezing them tight.
It took a little time and Merlin was petrified he’d drop the knife, but at long last, he felt around Arthur, grabbing onto the blade and holding it for all that he was worth.
“Not a total buffoon, then.” Arthur tightened his arm, curled as it was around Merlin’s shoulder, and Merlin leaned in, his mouth just hovering over Arthur’s collarbone, so damn close, and stretching past him, began to saw at the rope.
It seemed to be working. Slowly, the threads of the rope were fraying although it would take most the night at this rate. Plus Merlin kept getting distracted having Arthur breathe on him. It didn’t help that the wind was picking up and the net swayed. Arthur kept bumping against Merlin, his lips on Merlin’s neck, his chest rubbing against Merlin’s. And something was poking at Merlin’s stomach, something long and hard and eager, Arthur’s desire.
Not that Merlin would notice. Except that he did.
It was impossible not to notice. But neither of them said anything, just rubbed against each other as the net rocked back and forth. And if there was groaning involved, well the wind was loud enough to hide most of it.
Merlin was getting close – at sawing through the ropes, although he was getting close another way, too. “Arthur,” Merlin groaned, his tongue tasting Arthur’s sweaty skin, “Arthur, I’m… oh, I’m about to….”
Arthur bit down on Merlin’s throat. “Spit it out… you… idiot.”
“The rope, it’s….” Merlin never finished that sentence.
With a heave and a snap, the rope parted. Merlin’s arm tightened around Arthur’s waist and they were about to fall but Arthur was faster. He grabbed onto the rest of the net, and as they broke free, they hung there, feet above the ground.
Merlin let go, tumbling down and then scrambling out of the way as Arthur followed a moment later.
Breathing heavily, both of them on the ground, staring up at the net, then Arthur got up, slowly as if he were having a difficult time walking or crawling or doing anything that involved hard pricks.
Arthur had that dopey look on his face again, too. Almost satisfied and yet smirky.
As Merlin watched, Arthur looked at the net-trap, tutting at the frayed edges, then nodded for Merlin to follow him back toward the horses, walking carefully as he did.
There was something not right about all this. Too many times, they’d been caught in a rope net, too many times Arthur and Merlin had rubbed against each other and after they’d escaped, Arthur seemed smug.
Turning back to the net, Merlin looked at the ropes, following the lines of knots and strands and noticed something odd. Higher up, there was one knot different than the rest. One where if pulled just right, the whole thing would unravel, one where if someone knew of it beforehand, there would be no danger of being trapped. At all.
Merlin turned around to see Arthur with a flash of guilt on his face before turning impatient. “Come on, you simpleton, we haven’t got all day.”
His eyes narrowed, Merlin reached out, and pulling at the net, undid the knot. A moment later, the ropes lay in a mess at his feet. Arthur looked guilty as hell.
Merlin picked up the end of the rope, waggling it in Arthur’s direction. “Is there something you’d like to tell me?”
His face shuttered, that imperious tone in his voice, Arthur said, “And what would that be? That I’d like a competent day’s work on occasion? That you not dropping the knife was a miracle?”
The man was unbelievable. Arthur was lying and embarrassed at being caught out. Merlin could tell by the flush in Arthur’s cheeks and the way he glared and then looked away.
Stalking up to Arthur, then looping one rope coil around Arthur, Merlin said, “You have a rope kink, you incredible clotpole.”
“I do not.” The denial was immediate, and Arthur’s cheeks turned a deeper pink. “A king would never stoop so low as to want to be tied up with a mere servant, tight and hard and…. ahem… and even if I did, I don’t have to answer to the likes of you.”
Merlin pulled, hard, and Arthur stumbled into Merlin’s arms. As Arthur struggled to get the rope off, Merlin tightened it, then whispered into Arthur’s ear, “I don’t mind, you know. Although I prefer a warmer bed after.”
Then he let the rope fall to the ground.
Arthur stilled, looking at Merlin as if he couldn’t believe his ears, then he turned smug. “I have no idea what you are talking about, Merlin. Let’s go.” Then as he started to walk away towards the horses, he turned a little and said, “And bring the rope.”