Title: Touching Loss
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur hates the scar on Merlin's chest. The one that he always refuses to touch, to even think of.
Warnings: spoilers for s04e06 - A Servant of Two Masters
Word Count: 883
Prompt: #3 - Scars
Author's Notes: First time (fanfic) author, first time drabble, first time Merlin fandom. First time EVERYTHING.
Merlin’s body was bathed in soft morning light filtering through the badly closed curtains around the bed. Arthur had woken up several moments before and had been caught off guard by the way the light played on Merlin’s chest, on Merlin’s scar. That damn scar. The one that he always refused to touch, refused to think of, refused to even acknowledge. The light made sharp contrasts of all the ridges and the grooves of damaged skin. Arthur never wanted to think about that day, to think of that moment when he had turned around and saw him, Merlin, lying on the forest floor, unmoving. How in one brief, but interminable moment, he had been certain that the other man had been dead. How his heart had seemed to stop, a scream stuck somewhere in his throat, a sudden fierce pain at his temples. How he had known in that precise moment that this was love, and that this was loss and that this was the kind of pain he could never ever endure. And then Merlin had moved and in the end things had turned out all right, but Arthur had never forgotten. And the scar was there, a constant reminder of the pain that had almost been his. That could still be his one day.
He startled when a hand lightly brushed his right cheek. Merlin was awake and looking at him with bright knowing eyes. He hadn’t wanted Merlin to see what he now probably saw in his face. He felt naked and raw.
Merlin took Arthur’s hand with his own and brought it slowly to the scar on his chest, lying Arthur’s palm flat over it. Arthur’s breath hitched and he clenched his jaw. Every muscle in his left arm tensed and he had to fight the strong impulse to retract his hand. It felt like it was on fire. The effort of it made it tremble.
He knew Merlin was looking at him, could feel his steady gaze on him. He forced himself to breathe normally, to let out the breath he was holding, shaky, lungs burning, and to trust Merlin. With infinite tenderness Merlin took one of Arthur’s fingers between two of his and traced the edges of the scar with it. Slowly. Painfully so. Arthur tensed even more. He could feel the ridges, the bumps, the hollows of the distorted and maimed skin under the pad of his finger and it was killing him. He bit his lip and shot a worried and, possibly, a bit fearful (though he would never admit to it) glance at Merlin’s face, where it was only met but a calm and loving look. Merlin kept Arthur’s finger in motion, repeating the movement along the length of the scar. Back and forth. Back and forth. The tension in Arthur’s arm was becoming unbearable. He wanted to pull his hand away, wanted to retreat it to his side, to safety. Or to at least touch something of Merlin that wasn’t damaged, that was alive. His cheek, the soft part in the dip of his waist, the curve of his collarbone, his lips. Anything but this.
This, this was loss.
Arthur could feel it. He could feel it seeping from the ragged flesh, through his finger, all the way up his arm. Could feel it travel in his veins, like blood, like poison and come nestle itself in his heart. This was loss and Arthur couldn’t bear it anymore.
He made a movement to move away, but Merlin was quicker and shifted his hand and grabbed Arthur’s wrist instead. A tight, sure grip. Arthur sent him an angry look, though the slight sound of anguish that escaped his lips before he could stop it betrayed how he really felt. But Merlin was relentless. He kept Arthur’s hand over the scar.
Refusing to touch it with his fingers any longer, Arthur closed his hand into a fist and left it there. That was much better. A fist he understood, a fist he knew how to use and what it meant. Merlin seemed satisfied with that. He shifted slightly until he was lying on his side while still keeping Arthur’s fist tightly against his skin, and let Arthur settle on his side as well, facing him.
Merlin gave a small touch to Arthur’s chin with his free hand to make him look up. Merlin held his gaze, a small smile on his lips, comforting and trusting and so full of love, Arthur had to swallow hard, past the lump in his throat. He would never get used to being looked at this way. Merlin waited for Arthur to relax into the pillows, his thumb stroking the back of Arthur’s fist, his other hand brushing the hair off his forehead and lightly scratching his scalp behind his ears the way he knew Arthur liked.
“I’m still here.” His whisper barely piercing the silence of the room. “I’m still here”.
And Arthur let his eyes close. He could still feel the ridges of the scar against the back of his closed fingers, could still feel the pangs of loss traveling through his veins like burning rivers, but underneath it all, like a cure, like a balm, he could also feel the steady beating of Merlin’s heart.