Title: Lady's Favour
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: It began with the football field fiasco, and escalated from there.
Word Count: 1037
Prompt: #88 Breathless
Author's Notes: Hi! This is a continuation of my previous entries – here is Part One and here is Part Two. I'm planning on writing one more part to wrap it up. Hope you enjoy!
It began with the football field fiasco.
Merlin made himself comfortable in an upper row of the bleachers, a book in one hand and a cup of cheap, vending-machine coffee in the other. He wasn't really paying attention to the game, save for the occasional cheer. No matter how much Arthur harped on about it, football wasn't that interesting.
Couple of rows below, Gwen and Morgana sat huddled together, much more invested in the game – or, as the case may be, in the boys playing it. There was, Merlin remarked, rather a lot of ogling going on.
He adjusted his book in smug superiority, pausing only a second to send an appreciative glance towards Arthur's well-muscled legs.
Arthur's team was doing well. It usually did.
Right now, Arthur was executing the kind of move that he referred to as "dribbling" and Merlin preferred to call "ballet". Valiant, captain of the opposing team and a colossal douche, looked pissed at being outmanoeuvred, but such is life, and what with one thing and another Arthur kicked the ball firmly between the goalpost, bypassing the goalie and being generally awesome.
Merlin whooped loudly.
There was shoulder clapping and manly hugging. Valiant kicked up dirt and sent Merlin an evil glare.
"Hey, Pendragon! Tone it down, your girlfriend's getting excited!"
It took a moment for Arthur to process what has been said. He caught Merlin's gaze; Merlin felt his cheeks burn.
"Shut up, Val," Percival said amiably.
People usually listened to men of his posture. Valiant, it seemed, wasn't half that clever.
"I'm not judging, mate. It's not my business if he likes that little faggot."
Merlin was halfway down the bleachers when Arthur grabbed Valiant's shirt and yanked him forwards, and halfway down the field before Arthur's fist connected with Valiant's face.
"Stop it!" he yelled, grabbing Arthur's shoulder and dragging him behind. This was, apparently, his lot in life – to hang onto Arthur's arm and keep him from getting in trouble. "It's not worth it."
"Damn right it's not," Arthur said, breathing heavily. Valiant looked slightly green around the edges; Arthur's team surrounded them in a tight circle, practicing their menacing glares.
Arthur was hot and sweaty from the exertion, his shirt soaked through. Merlin let it go, faintly disgusted. Meanwhile, Arthur stared down Valiant like he was a cockroach not worth stepping on.
"Come on, Pendragon. You don't want to beat me up in your lady's honour?" Valiant taunted, his fists already poised to guard his face.
"Merlin doesn't need defending," Arthur said. Merlin, who could sense a disaster in the making, opened his mouth—
"He can beat you himself."
Ah. And of course he was right.
"What possessed you to say that?" Merlin asked for the umpteenth time.
"Oh, come on. I took boxing with Valiant. He is strong and his technique is solid, but he is slow. You should easily land a punch or two—"
Merlin gritted his teeth. The "duel" was scheduled for tomorrow afternoon and Arthur insisted on taking Merlin to the gym for a practice session. He was holding up pads that Merlin was supposed to hit, but he would not stop moving them around like the bloody karate kid.
Next ineffectual punch nearly made him loose his balance.
Arthur lowered the pads.
Merlin glared. When that didn't do the trick, he grabbed Arthur's wrists and kicked his legs from under him. It may have been sloppy, but the sheer effect of surprise was enough to send Arthur down on the mattress.
"You can't do that!" Arthur spluttered. "It's boxing, you idiot! There are rules!"
"Your rules," Merlin said. "Not mine."
Arthur stared up at him. Then he was moving, and it was slightly surreal. One moment Merlin was up, and the next he was lying flat on the floor, the force of impact knocking the breath out of him. What was more, there was a pressure on his chest – Arthur was smirking right over him, pinning Merlin's wrists to the mattress and straddling him like something straight out of a wet dream.
"How is that for no rules?"
Merlin felt that really hot was not the answer Arthur expected.
"How are you so fast?" he said instead.
The longer they lasted like that, the more breathless Merlin felt. It went right to his head, leaving him dizzy.
"Seriously, though? You've never been in a fight?"
"Nope," Merlin replied, shutting his eyes and inhaling deeply.
"See," Arthur said. "This is why people call you gay."
It was silly. Merlin couldn't breathe.
"I'm pretty sure that's not the only reason," he mumbled.
In retrospect, there were better ways to confess to one's (decidedly straight) best friend that one is wee bit gay than when said best friend is kneeling directly on top of you.
The silence stretched uncomfortably long.
"What? How do you know—"
"I kissed a guy, once," Merlin said. He blamed it all on oxygen-depravation. "It was pretty obvious afterwards."
"You kissed a guy? Who--Gwaine," Arthur groaned.
Merlin wanted to say something witty but Arthur's head dropped and rested on Merlin's shoulder. All of a sudden he had a face full of Arthur's stupidly golden hair and a burning hope that Arthur couldn't hear the wild hammering in Merlin's chest.
"Now you know," he said stupidly.
"Shut up, Merlin," Arthur said.
In the end, Arthur took matters in his own hands.
They met Valiant in front of whoever decided to show up, which was everyone.
"Okay, listen up," he said calmly. "Merlin is my friend. You were a dick. By mutual agreement, and not at all because of his complete lack of eye-hand coordination and general incompetency, I'm going to beat you up."
There was some general booing, but for the life of him Merlin couldn't decide who the target was.
"I prefer reasonable," Merlin said.
"You're twice his size, who's the coward here?" Elyan said helpfully.
"Exactly!" Arthur said. "You guys are here for a fight or for a one-sided beat-down?"
"It wouldn't be that bad," Merlin murmured, but no-one was listening.
Arthur did fight. And he won, fair-and-square – no cheating, no kicking, no underhanded tactics. It was quite glorious.