Summary: Merlin goes on an adventure and Arthur has to warm him up.
Word Count: 1043
Prompt: #74 - Warm
Author's Notes: Fluff
Merlin looks around the darkening forest for the glowing orb he followed out of the castle. Leaves crackle under his feet. It’s colder than he thought. Ice creeps into the air and frigid water drips from the branches overhead onto the back of his neck. He walks awhile longer, leafless undergrowth snagging in his trousers like claws holding him back, until he sees the glow again, circling around the trunk of an oak tree.
“Ahha, got you,” he thinks, hurrying in the direction of the ball of light. It had summoned him out of the castle with cryptic words that resounded in his head: “Seek the magic key and you shall twine the master.” Its command was irresistible and his feet followed of their own accord, giving him no time to think.
The light moves faster; Merlin speeds between the trees like a hound after a scent. He almost stumbles on a log but catches himself just in time, looking up to see the light has abruptly stopped. It hovers in a clearing that opens up in front of the black mouth of a cave, one Merlin’s never seen. Strange, because he knows these woods well. Hidden in the low branches of a pine tree, he waits and watches with a racing pulse.
Into the cave the light whooshes, illuminating the wet grey walls briefly before disappearing into the darkness. Within seconds, a woman’s scream splits the looming dusk.
Merlin rushes into the cave.
Cold, so cold, like he can never get warm. His head is cradled against something toasty and alive, a softness that gives when he burrows his head into it. He smells a familiar tang of leather, spice and sweat; strong muscles support his neck and legs. He cracks opens his eyes and sees a shirt of Pendragon red. Blue eyes look down at him.
It’s Arthur, holding Merlin in his arms. He gathers him in more closely now that Merlin’s awake.
“What happened?” Merlin asks. He’s wrapped in a thick blanket and they’re sitting by the fire in Arthur’s chamber, Merlin draped over Arthur’s lap in a completely undignified fashion, as if he were a child.
“The guard found you half frozen to death. Gaius said you needed body warmth, so here we are.”
“I had to go to that cave.” He frowns, trying to remember. “There was a weird light, and a woman screamed.”
“Cave? You were found in the woods.”
“What? The last thing I remember was running into the cave.”
“You sure you weren’t in the tavern all afternoon? There’s no cave near where you were found. And there was no woman.”
Merlin’s teeth clatter. Even with the thick blanket, he’s freezing.
“You’re shivering. Come on.” Arthur carries Merlin over to the bed. “Into bed with you.” He plops Merlin down and strips off his own shirt, then his trousers and boots, as Merlin watches with wide eyes. He slips under the blanket with Merlin, buck naked. “Budge over. Come on, give me some room then.”
It’s at that moment that Merlin realises he’s also naked. When did that happen and who did it? He shudders to think.
“Don’t look at me like that, this is the best way to warm up,” Arthur says, pushing up against Merlin’s icicle of a body and wrapping his arms around him. His chest is broad and firm against Merlin’s. “I have it on good medical authority.”
“Erm, okay.” Merlin has to admit Arthur gives off plenty of heat. Helped along by the flush of embarrassment, Merlin’s finally starting to warm up. He tentatively scoots closer, protectively folding his arms and hands up against his chest. Arthur rubs his back and Merlin almost purrs.
“I knew you were an idiot, Merlin, but what were you thinking? It’s no time of year to go running around in the dark without a coat,” he scolds, but with an undertone of affection. He tucks Merlin’s head under his chin, gathering him in closer, and Merlin’s again struck by his unique scent as his nose brushes against Arthur’s clavicle. Giving in, he flattens his palms against Arthur’s pectorals, where warmth radiates from the skin stretched taut over hard muscle, lightly brushed with hair. Merlin nestles his head into Arthur’s neck and he feels Arthur’s hand smooth up into the hair at the back of his head.
“I think I’m finally starting to warm up,” Merlin says, feeling like he’s wrapped in a wonderful, safe cocoon.
“You’re no longer shivering,” Arthur says in a low voice that rumbles like warmed mead in Merlin’s ear. Arthur slides a leg back and forth over Merlin’s calf. Merlin’s paralysed for a moment, but relaxes when he realises it does help warm him up. He traps Arthur’s leg under his own. The hair prickles against his skin but it’s strong and reassuring.
“God, your feet are like blocks of ice,” Arthur says. “Promise me you’ll never do this again, alright?”
Merlin’s feeling good enough that he can laugh about it now. “Yes, sire,” he says with his usual impertinent tone, which does a good job of chasing the lingering worry look off Arthur's face. Of course, he plans to go investigate that cave as soon as he can, but he’ll be sure to bundle up well when he does.
“Seriously, you scared Gaius.”
And Arthur, it's clear. Arthur lifts up Merlin’s chin and looks into his eyes. “You’ll be more careful in the future, won’t you?”
Merlin’s surprised at Arthur's intense expression. He drops his smile. “Of course. Freezing to death in the forest isn’t my idea of fun.”
Arthur gazes at him for a beat, then grins. “Good. Because it’d be hard to find a servant worse than you.”
Merlin’s eyeroll is interrupted by the brush of Arthur’s lips against his. “What are you…” The increased pressure of Arthur’s mouth cuts off his protest. He finds his arms twining around Arthur and pulling him closer so their bodies meet head to toe, straining to feel all of him.
“I forgot to tell you,” Arthur says, resting their foreheads together. “The best way to warm up is by kissing. I’m sure there’s a medical tome that says that somewhere.”
The kiss had certainly kindled a flame in Merlin’s loins. “Mmm, I think you’re absolutely correct. Let’s make sure, though.” Merlin leaned in to continue the kiss. “I don’t think I’m quite warmed up enough yet.”