Title: Stuck on You
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, Gwen, Gaius
Summary: At least Arthur wasn't actually stuck there with a stranger. Although the fact that it was Merlin was in many ways more terrible, because he'd just had to watch his best friend almost pull the skin of his hand off, trying unsuccessfully to get free.
Warnings: Fluffy fluff
Word Count: 2680 (Um... I needed to fill a square and it took me a teensy, tiny bit over the limit - sorry)
Prompt: 110 - Strangers No More
Author's Notes: This also fills my trope_bingo square 'Friends to lovers' - that's 22/25 done. Thanks to celeste9 and deinonychus_1 for the beta.
Stuck on You
Strangers no more. It was a giant poster, intended for Fresher's Week. A picture of two hand prints on a wall, the idea being that you put your hand on the wall (or in this case the glass front of an external notice board because nobody could find the key to unlock it so that they could display it inside), someone else put their hand there too, you talked to each other and then you were friends.
It was rather sentimental and soppy, and only Gwen could have come up with it. And only Gwaine could have been so colossally thoughtless as to add superglue into the mix. Because of course that made things about a thousand times worse.
At least Arthur wasn't actually stuck there with a stranger. Although the fact that it was Merlin was in many ways more terrible, because he'd just had to watch his best friend almost pull the skin of his hand off, trying unsuccessfully to get free.
Arthur glared at the poster. Then he glared at Gwaine, who did at least have the decency to look shamefaced. Slightly.
"It wasn't supposed to soak through the paper," Gwaine offered. "I only meant it to stick to the glass. Anything else would've come off as soon as it rained. I was trying to help Gwen."
The poster had, in fact, stuck to the glass front of the notice board spectacularly well. So had Arthur and Merlin when they'd been messing about, trying it out. Merlin gave a little whimper of distress and Arthur glanced at him worriedly.
"If he has some sort of panic attack..." Arthur warned. Not that he could really actually threaten Gwaine because of the whole being stuck thing.
"Yeah, I know. But it's not a cave, we're outside," Gwaine pointed out.
Merlin hated caves for some reason. They'd visited one on a school trip years and years ago and he'd had a panic attack and needed to be taken outside in the end. Arthur had sat with him, on a little wall by the entrance, drinking coke and waiting for the rest of the class to come back out. He'd been teased about it for months, until Arthur had stepped in and put a stop to any of that. Merlin had told Arthur that he'd felt trapped. Well, they were definitely trapped now.
"But you're fine, right, Merls?" Gwaine checked.
Merlin just looked at him, then at his hand, then back at him.
"What does it look like?"
Arthur rolled his eyes, and was rewarded with a smile from Merlin which faded into concern a moment later.
"I think I just felt a drop of rain."
Arthur looked up. The sky had been overcast for a while, but was now looking ominously dark.
Their friend looked suitably guilty, but that was small compensation for the fact that Arthur and Merlin were about to get soaked. "I'll... er... go and get a brolly."
"Tell Gwen to hurry up with the nurse!" Merlin shouted after his retreating figure.
There was another drop of rain, rapidly followed by more. Arthur huddled closer to the wall, pulling Merlin with him, but there was little shelter to be had. It was that hard, heavy rain that came down in huge drops, splattering on the paving and drenching them both in moments.
"I'll kill him when we're free," Arthur promised.
Merlin was only wearing a thin t-shirt. He'd not bothered with a jacket, having not intended staying outside for more than a moment. He was hurrying between two buildings, after something he'd forgotten, when he'd been distracted by his friends and that poster. Merlin was shivering now, and Arthur tried to manoeuvre them so that Merlin's thin body was protected from the cold and wet just a little bit by Arthur. But that was difficult with their hands stuck where they were.
"Why didn't he just use sticky tape like a normal person?" Merlin muttered into Arthur's neck. The little huff of breath when he spoke felt good, warm. This was his best friend, Arthur reminded himself. He often had to remind himself of that fact these days. Being trapped so close together like they were was not going to help with that problem.
"Normal person and Gwaine... there's your answer," Arthur told him. He could feel Merlin's body shuddering against his. He wished there was some way he could get his jacket off so that he could give it to his friend. "Gwen won't be long." And then, to distract Merlin from how very cold and wet they were, he added, "Ring her, tell her to bring a blanket."
"No phone," Merlin replied. "It's in my bag back in the classroom."
Along with his jacket and anything else that might be useful, Arthur thought ruefully. "Okay, use mine. It's in my jeans pocket, on the stuck side. Can you reach it?"
The faint blush that coloured Merlin's pale features made Arthur smile fondly until he realised what he was doing and stopped in case Merlin thought he was smiling because his friend (he reminded himself again) was pawing around his arse.
Merlin almost dropped the phone, but managed to get it between them so that Arthur could unlock it. There was a picture of the pair of them as the wallpaper, a selfie on a beach somewhere last year, both of them grinning like idiots. He knew Merlin had something similar on his phone, though it was of the pair of them as kids, Merlin all skinny arms and legs, and Arthur with the horrible haircut that never failed to make Merlin laugh whenever he looked at it. One day Arthur was going to get that phone and delete the picture. Replace it with one of Merlin with a silly haircut instead. It wasn't as if Arthur didn't have lots to choose from over the years.
"I'm freezing," Merlin whispered, almost as if he were ashamed of the fact, then gave a little gasp as Arthur pulled him in close again, pressing as much of his body against Merlin's as he could. Although he wasn't sure for how much longer that was going to be a good idea.
Merlin nodded, and Arthur felt the gentle brush of hair against his cheek.
"Much. You're warm."
"And wet," Arthur pointed out. There was a steady trickle of rain coming off the roof now and running straight down Arthur's back. Which, although unpleasant, was at least cooling him down and maybe Merlin wouldn't notice that parts of Arthur weren't entirely hating having him in such close proximity. "What I wouldn't do for a hot shower right now."
Merlin looked at him shyly from under his eyelashes. "We could... when we get out of here... get back to our room..."
And he didn't mean it like that, of course he didn't. Arthur quickly tried anything to distract himself, and the easiest thing was his phone. He couldn't even look at Merlin because he was sure he'd give himself away, and then it would be awkward and Merlin would probably want a new roommate, and anyway he couldn't risk their friendship, he just couldn't.
Gwen wasn't answering her phone. He was about to try Gwaine when the pair of them emerged with Dr Gaius, the head of the Medical Science department, in tow. Gwaine was holding a huge umbrella over them all. Dr Gaius didn't look very happy but then he never did. Always getting called whenever there was any sort of medical incident on a campus full of students probably wasn't the most fun job in the world. He could well imagine what he'd said when Gwen had explained that two students were superglued to a notice board. Why did Gwen have to go to him instead of the nurse's office, Arthur wondered.
"I ran into Dr Gaius," Gwen explained brightly. "He's going to help you."
Merlin, who unfortunately was studying Medical Science, huddled even closer to Arthur and groaned. Arthur tried not to let the sound go right through him.
"It was an accident," Arthur attempted.
Gaius was dousing their hands in some sort of liquid. It smelled a lot like nail polish remover.
"An accident?" he repeated. "The two of you both managed to accidently glue yourselves to the wall? Really, Merlin, I expected better of you. What kind of example is this to the new students?"
Merlin squirmed a little uncomfortably, probably thinking of the coming year and all those As he usually got being downgraded to A minus or horror of horrors a B plus. "Sorry," he whispered.
Arthur glared at Gwaine, who had the water from the umbrella running over him. That probably served him right. But he was already on several warnings and this wouldn't help.
"It was my fault," Arthur said. "I... didn't wait for the glue to dry and got stuck and then Merlin was trying to help me and he got stuck too."
Gaius muttered something grumpy that sounded like 'idiot' but Arthur couldn't be sure. It didn't matter anyway, Merlin was looking at him adoringly and mouthing 'thank you'. Well, it was what you did for someone who had been your best friend pretty much forever, wasn't it? Also Arthur didn't study any form of medicine, and it didn't really matter too much what Gaius thought of him. What Merlin thought of him, on the other hand, mattered a lot. Enough that the pair of them had scoured every university in the country for one that had a good curriculum in both their chosen subjects. Because there was no way they were going to be split up.
Gwen stood watching Gaius work for a few moments, then asked if she should help Arthur. Arthur was glad to hear that at least someone was considering him. But then, Gwen knew it wasn't Arthur's fault. And anyway, she wasn't as mean as Dr Gaius. He wondered how Merlin coped, being under the disapproving glare of that eyebrow all the time.
Gaius was bent over Merlin's hand, very carefully trying to prize it from the glass without breaking the skin.
"Hmmm? Oh, yes." He handed something over to her that looked like a nail file, then went back to work. "Not the cleverest thing to do right before a practical test, Merlin," he scolded. "What does Acetone do to sensitive skin?"
"Causes dryness and irritation," Merlin told him miserably.
"Quite. So how stupid was this?"
Arthur looked down at his own hand in some alarm. Gwen was working it free, but not fast enough for Arthur's liking. He grabbed the file from her, ignored her indignant cry, and started jabbing it at his hand himself.
Gaius did finally look across at him then. "Oh don't worry, Mr Pendragon. Your skin is probably about as sensitive as a sledge hammer."
And really, Arthur thought, there was no need for that.
The one good thing about it all was that Merlin (who was definitely Dr Gaius' favourite student, Arthur decided as he stood there dripping wet and neglected beside the teacher's pet) got wrapped up in a blanket and ordered to spend the day keeping as warm and dry as possible. Which meant they (because obviously he meant Arthur too, didn't he?) got to skip the rest of their classes and go back to their room.
There obviously wasn't a lot wrong with Merlin because he didn't stop talking the whole way back. Pointless, irrelevant things about what they should clean their hands off with and then (worse) a long waffle about whatever exam it was he had to take and all the details he was supposed to be remembering. He didn't stop talking until the door had closed behind them. And then he stood in the middle of the floor, his damp hair sticking up at every possible angle, the rest of him still dripping slowly.
"Shower," Arthur reminded him, because Merlin seemed to have forgotten what he was supposed to be doing.
"Yes." Merlin just stood there, looking at him expectantly. Arthur wondered what he was waiting for.
"Don't take all the hot water," he added.
That, apparently was what Merlin was waiting for. Or not. His face fell, and he headed for the shower, shedding blanket and wet clothing as he went.
The great thing (well, one of many) about being the son of the stupidly wealthy Uther Pendragon was that he didn't have to share the communal bathroom at the end of the hall. No, he and his roommate had their own en suite facilities in one of the better rooms. They weren't the only ones, but Arthur certainly wasn't complaining about it. Not until that day, anyway.
He could hear Merlin splashing around in the shower, though he wasn't singing (tunelessly) like he often did. Arthur shed his own wet clothes, donned a warm, dry bathrobe and then walked around picking up the items Merlin had left lying on the floor. At least, he did until there was suddenly a loud crash from the bathroom and a yelp of pain.
Arthur rushed in to see what had happened. Merlin was sitting in the shower holding his head. Arthur didn't even think, just climbed in after him.
"Are you okay?" Arthur tilted Merlin's face up towards him. There weren't any obvious injuries. And Merlin was naked, but he absolutely was not even going to think about that.
"Yeah, just slipped. Ow!" That last was when Arthur poked at the skin just above Merlin's eye. "Hit myself on the knob going down."
"The knob?" Arthur raised an eyebrow and Merlin swatted at him.
"The shower control thing! Are you five?"
"Not me. Perhaps we should get you a safety mat?"
"I'm not a child," Merlin grumbled, getting to his feet.
No, Arthur thought, trying not to look but failing miserably. Merlin definitely wasn't a child. Neither of them were any more, and that was the problem. "It's probably just the shock from earlier. You getting so cold, I mean." He was glad he had the robe on, even though it was getting wet now in the spray. It hid things that it was best Merlin didn't know about.
"You kept me warm."
There it was again, that look from under the eyelashes. Shy and uncertain, yet just a little coy. If Merlin had any idea what that look did to him... But he couldn't know. Arthur reached over and turned off the shower, but when he straightened Merlin was still looking at him.
"I'm still cold."
Arthur doubted that because Merlin's skin was flushed, and the bathroom was warm and damp from the shower, and when he reached out to pull Merlin close he didn't feel cold. Not at all.
"Arthur." Merlin's breath was hot on his neck again. "I want..."
Arthur never got a chance to ask Merlin what it was that he wanted, because he suddenly dived at Arthur, shoving him against the wall and kissing him firmly. For a moment Arthur froze, startled, and then he was kissing him back eagerly, both of them suddenly on the same page.
"God, I've wanted you for so long," Arthur breathed. The robe seemed to have slipped off, lying on the floor of the shower, but that really didn't matter now, not when he could feel Merlin pressed up against him, wanting this as much as he did.
"I was scared," Merlin admitted. "You're my best friend. I couldn't risk losing you."
"Idiot," Arthur told him, even though he'd been terrified of the same thing. "Idiot..."
It was wet, messy and desperate, and the hot water was almost gone by the time they were done but neither of them cared.
Later, when they were curled together in Arthur's bed, their damp hair drying on the pillows, Arthur snuggled closer, one arm kept possessively around his lover.
"You'd never lose me, you know that, right? We're forever together, Arthur and Merlin."
Merlin just hummed contentedly against him.
"Forever," Arthur repeated more softly, and let him drift off to sleep.