Title: Rule One
Pairing/s: implied Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana
Summary: Arthur accepts an invitation to an underground magic duel arena – a decision that has absolutely nothing to do with a certain boy called Merlin.
Warnings: Extremely mild violence
Word Count: 789
Prompt: #73 Attraction
Author's Notes: Beta'd by the ever-wonderful keire_ke!
It was a shabby little coffee-shop in a run-down part of the city. Everything about it – from the carefully uninspired interior design, its unimaginative selection of drinks and an oddly quiet clientele that was too busy radiating innocence to pay attention to their drinks – screamed that there was something fishy going on.
In Arthur went.
He drummed his knuckles on the bar and caught the attention of Mary-the-barista. With a disarming (or so he hoped) smile, he flashed her the card that he had swiped from Morgana's handbag a few days prior.
She narrowed her eyes and nodded.
He followed her behind the bar and then via a set of oh-so-ordinary-not-at-all-suspicious door. Then it was a short trip down the stairs, into the basement.
Another door revealed a room - the room, coffee-shop proper, loud and overcrowded. The middle was a large, open space, painted with two concentric circles and some rubbish magical symbols. They glowed faintly.
Arthur found himself a small table off to the side of the room and a jug of beer, trying his best to look innocent and inconspicuous. It worked, too. Until it suddenly didn't.
First there were sharp fingers sinking into his shoulder, and dark hair hitting him in the face, carrying the scent of lavender shampoo. Then a voice, low and snake-like, hissing in his ear.
"What are you doing here?"
"Watching," Arthur said, not missing a beat.
"Did Uther send you?"
"Father doesn't know I'm here."
The grip loosened, but only fractionally. Morgana's face came into view, pale and angry.
"Shh," he told her. "It's starting."
Two figures entered the circle and she was forced to shut up when the crowd cheered. Even underneath the mismatched protective gear Arthur could recognize Merlin – his lanky form, and the ears.
All lights dimmed, and the figures took on a fighting stance. It would almost look ridiculous, except—
Merlin moved as soon as the gong (gong, seriously?) sounded. Whatever grace the real, non-magical world sapped from him returned ten-fold, his movements sure and smooth. He fought mostly with his hands – his long, elegant fingers twisting to form the signs or symbols or whatever, Arthur wasn't clear on the details. The thing was, he made tongues of flame erupt out of thin air and they bloody danced around him.
The other guy, this Gilli, was much more physical and tried knocking Merlin out of the inner circle with a flashing orb of energy. Merlin cast his arms out and the magic dispersed around him, only to form back into a bright jet of light that hit Gilli squarely in the chest.
He stumbled, but did not fall. The crowd cheered.
The next attack came with Gilli throwing his whole body into it, quick jabs of energy that knocked through one of Merlin's shields and managed to singe his shoulder. But that only brought him closer to the flames.
Strategically, it wasn't the best move.
Fiery tongues curled around his legs and hands like cheap Day-Glo lassos. He tried knocking them off but the only thing left to do was for Merlin to push him out of the circle with a lazy flick of his wrist and a sudden gust of wind.
Applause was deafening. Arthur couldn't keep the grin off his face while he clapped along with everyone else. His eyes were stuck on Merlin's face, visible now that he pulled off his helmet, as Merlin waved and smiled awkwardly.
"Oh my god," Morgana said suddenly, wide-eyed. "You like him!"
"What? No, I don't!"
"You do! Oh, gods," she cackled. "This is precious. Arthur Pendragon is crushing on a sorcerer!"
"I am not—" he began.
Merlin was coming closer. Sweat has plastered dark hair to his forehead, his eyes were crinkled and his smile was way too bright.
"Wasn't sure you would come," he said, helping himself to Arthur's beer. He gulped it down, too. Arthur didn't mind, too busy tracking the movement of his Adam's apple while he swallowed.
"Well, I did. Congratulations, by the way."
"Thanks," Merlin smiled.
It wasn't fair.
"Precious," said Morgana, clapping him on the shoulder.
"What is?" said Merlin.
"It's nothing," said Arthur, loudly.
Morgana left after pressing a kiss to Merlin's cheek and a congratulatory shake of his hand. For Arthur she only had an evil chuckle, her lips mouthing something behind Merlin's back.
Ask him out.
He was going to. He would. Eventually.
Meanwhile Merlin smiled at him, like he hadn't just won a magical duel in a secret basement underneath a coffee-shop. Like there weren't people coming from every side to offer their congratulations. Like Arthur wasn't the son of the enemy.
And Arthur—Arthur was very much in love.