Title: In Hot Water
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin sneaks a bath.
Word Count: 865
Prompt: Amnesty Post (Prompt #1 ~ Skin, Prompt # 3 ~ Scars, Prompt #11 ~ Temptation)
Author's Notes: Set during S4 sometime after 4x06. I had originally wanted this to be a longer/scar reveal story, but I ran out of time. Hopefully, you'll still like it!
[In Hot Water]
In Hot Water
Merlin sighed as he stepped into the steaming water of Arthur’s tub. Yes, technically he was supposed to be cleaning Arthur’s room, but it was so rare that Arthur went out on patrol without him that he just couldn’t resist the temptation. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t use his magic to finish the job in about 30 seconds once he was done…
After all, it had been ages since his last bath! Certainly Gaius did not have a tub of his own and while there were ones provided for the royal household staff to use, they were in public bathhouses. Merlin was a bit modest, sure…but that would not have ordinarily stopped him from using such a place. However, it was what someone would see on him if they walked in while he was bathing that caused him to shun them.
In the seven years since Merlin had become Arthur’s manservant, he had certainly accumulated quite a lot of scars from foes both magic and mortal. Too many and too showy to go unnoticed…and noticed led to questions, questions that Merlin could not easily answer.
So when the knights would strip down at the edge of a lake or river too cool off after a hard day’s ride while on quests or patrols, Merlin reluctantly had to content himself with simply taking his boots and socks off and dipping his toes in the water while they all teased him for his bashfulness.
Merlin reached around on the bottom of the tub for the bar of soap. After retrieving it, he slicked down his neck, his arms, and his chest before sinking himself down neck deep in the water. Of course, this meant he had to scrunch his legs up so that his knees stuck out, but he didn’t mind that so much. Getting his sore shoulders into the warm water was definitely worth it.
Gods! This is just so cozy! Merlin thought as he fought back a yawn. He couldn’t stay in here much longer. He needed to get his work done before Arthur got back. But the morning sun took that moment to come out from behind the clouds and bathe Merlin with warm, golden light and he thought, Just five more minutes…and closed his eyes.
It felt as if the sun must have gone back behind a cloud, blocking out the warmth of the rays and Merlin shivered. Cracking an eye open drowsily, he yelped and startled, sloshing a good amount of water onto the floor; because a very, very Arthur Pendragon shaped cloud was staring stonily down at him.
“Merlin…what the hell are you doing?” Arthur bellowed.
Suddenly aware of his very bare (and scarred) state, Merlin tried to surreptitiously slide his chest back into the water before Arthur’s ire abated enough for him to start noticing things. “Um…taking a bath?” he squeaked sheepishly.
“Yes, Merlin. Your gift for stating the obvious knows no bounds,” Arthur snarked. “However, I am rather sure that you were supposed to be cleaning my room this afternoon.”
Merlin suddenly noticed that the bathwater was now tepid and felt a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Surely it hasn’t been that long since you left?”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Merlin, it’s been three hours.”
Merlin shook his head in disbelief. Of course, it was always his luck that things never went to plan… “I’m sorry, Sire. It was meant to be a quick wash. I must have fallen asleep…”
Arthur let out a long-suffering sigh. “And?” He motioned with his hands. “Out!”
Scandalized, Merlin squawked, “What? Now? With you standing right there?”
“Merlin, I do it with you almost every day…surely you’re not that bashful. We do have the same parts, after all.”
Beneath the surface of the water, Merlin’s pruned fingers rubbed against the edges of the burn mark in the center of his chest. Panic began to rise in his throat. Nevertheless, he tried to keep his voice calm. “Yes, actually, I am that bashful, Arthur.”
Arthur gave Merlin the ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ glare and crossed his arms impatiently across his chest. “Then consider this your punishment for misappropriating my bath. Out. Now.”
Gathering his legs under himself, Merlin reluctantly pushed to a stand. Water cascaded in sheets off his wrinkled body. Merlin hunched forward and crossed his arms across his chest in a vain attempt at hiding the worst of the scars, praying that Arthur was too irritated with him to notice the rest.
But it seemed that the gods hated him today. Before he’d even gotten one leg over the side of the tub, Arthur sucked in a sudden breath. Merlin felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder and spin him around. “By the gods…” Arthur breathed. “What the hell happened to you?”
Merlin rubbed at the bottom of his nose self-consciously and looked anywhere but at Arthur. “Uh…nothing?”
Arthur grasped Merlin by the other shoulder as well and shook him. “How can you stand there looking like you…were mauled by a bear and tell me it’s nothing?”
Merlin took a deep breath as he finally met Arthur’s eyes. “Trust me, Arthur…you really don’t want to know.”