Title: Bruises on Your Skin, Bruises on My Heart
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Hooker!AU. Merlin works for Arthur as a prostitute. Arthur's not too happy that Merlin always manages to attract the worst clientele.
Word Count: 805
Author's Notes: Kind of a fill for this kinkmeme prompt as well.
Merlin came back with new bruises on his arms.
Arthur gritted his teeth in frustration, fighting the urge to lock Merlin in his room and forbid him from seeing clients. But he knew Merlin would never listen and would never take Arthur’s money for free.
“I thought I told you to get out if they got too rough,” Arthur snapped, reaching for Merlin’s arm and gently caressing a bruise.
Merlin smiled tiredly. “But they won’t pay me if I don’t go through with it.”
Arthur shot Merlin a glare and tugged him closer, examining the cuts on his collarbone. “And I said that I would pay you whatever they won’t if you back out. I take care of my whores, Merlin.”
“And I told you that I won’t take what money I don’t earn, Arthur.” Merlin rolled his eyes and let Arthur fuss over him. This was an old argument. One Arthur never won because he couldn’t stop Merlin from letting his clients have their way with him. No matter how rough they got.
“You have the self-preservation instinct of a fly. And at least flies can get you sick. You won’t even say no when someone tries to take a knife to you,” Arthur muttered. He pulled out his first aid kit, the one he always had on hand whenever Merlin had clients, and started dabbing at the cuts that were still leaking blood.
Merlin winced. “None of them ever really hurt me. It’s just a couple cuts and bruises. I won’t actually break, you know,” Merlin tried to joke.
“They’re not supposed to leave any physical damage!” Arthur barked.
“I know,” Merlin said gently, touching Arthur’s arm briefly. “You always get rid of the ones who do hurt anyone.”
“Damn straight,” Arthur growled. “But somehow, you always manage to find new clients that want to hurt you. Can’t you find one nice guy who just wants to cuddle for a night? I swear, no one else gives me this much trouble. Do you ever come back unharmed?”
“You haven’t gotten rid of me yet, so I must be doing something right,” Merlin replied, a cheeky smile on his face.
Arthur sighed, putting away the first aid kit. “Why can’t you be as useless at seduction as you are at cleaning a room?”
“Because then I’d be out of a job?”
“I wouldn’t abandon you,” Arthur muttered under his breath.
“What?” Merlin asked, startled.
“Nothing,” Arthur said, turning away.
Merlin was at Arthur’s side in a second, wide blue eyes peering into Arthur’s face. Arthur stumbled back in surprise. “Merlin!”
“What did you say?” Merlin asked again, voice soft and pleading.
Arthur never could resist Merlin when his eyes went all big and doe-eyed like that. Not that he could usually resist him in any other state anyway. “I said I wouldn’t abandon you,” Arthur said, purposely avoiding Merlin’s gaze.
“I’m just a whore, Arthur,” Merlin said tiredly with a brittle smile. “You don’t owe me anything once I stop earning money.”
“God, Merlin!” Arthur exclaimed. “I know I don’t owe you anything. Is it so incomprehensible that I might just want you to stop getting hurt?”
“Why should it matter if I get hurt or not?” Merlin shot back. “As long as I bring you back a roll of cash, why should it matter if I have to shed some blood first?”
“Because that’s not the kind of business I run! And because you of all people are not allowed to get hurt, Merlin!”
“Me of all people?” Merlin repeated blankly.
“I – yes,” Arthur grudgingly admitted.
“Because every time you have a house call, I sit here waiting for you all night until you walk back through that door. Because every time you go to a client, I torment myself with imagining all the horrible things they might be doing to you. Because every time you walk back through that door, all cut up and bleeding, I want to fucking strangle the person who did that to you. Because every fucking time you say ‘yes’ when you should say ‘no,’ I feel like my heart’s being ripped out. Is that enough for you, Merlin?” When Arthur finished his tirade, he covered his face with one hand, breathing hard, mortified that he finally said the things he’d been dying to say for years.
“Arthur,” Merlin murmured. Arthur felt Merlin’s touch on his arm, tugging Arthur’s hand away from his face. He jumped when he felt Merlin’s fingers lace through his own.
Arthur looked up at Merlin, unable to mask the hope in his eyes. Merlin was smiling softly, a light in his eyes that Arthur had never seen before. And just like that, Arthur knew.
With a shaky smile, Arthur leaned forward and caught Merlin’s lips with his own for the first time.