Title: Summer Liberation
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: They had spent months dancing around each other.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Picnic in the Sun,
Author's Notes: I'm sad. I've just realised that the stupid schedule thing didn't work and my drabble from last week never posted :( I had written it, honest. Can be read on Ao3 here now though.
The car slid to a stop and Merlin had his seatbelt off before Arthur took the key out of the ignition. Weeks – months even – of being cooped up studying had left him feeling a little crazy and he scrambled out of the car. It was a gorgeous summer day and Merlin breathed in deeply, feeling the fresh air flood his lungs and drive the cobwebs from his mind.
“Stop gawking and give me a hand, would you?”
Bounding back to the car, Merlin grinned at his best friend. He knew Arthur was feeling the same as him. Neither of them had slept properly in weeks, snatching a few hours as they prepared for final exams. But it was over now. It was over and they were free. That freedom, however, was having a curious effect on their friendship.
As Merlin’s fingers brushed over Arthur’s in order to take a bag from him, Arthur blushed. Merlin turned away to hide his smile. He knew Arthur was thinking about the clumsy kiss he had landed on Merlin’s cheek the night before. They had been drunk. But the look in Arthur’s eye had said he had meant it.
Merlin certainly wasn’t complaining. He knew he had been seeing Arthur in a different light for a while now. He hadn’t done anything, not wanting to distract him from the exams. But now…Now they were free to explore what was potentially blossoming between them.
For now, however, Merlin shouldered the bag with the blankets and watched Arthur strain to lift the food.
“How much did you bring?”
“Don’t look so shocked,” Arthur muttered. “You might be as skinny as a rake but I know how much you eat.”
Helping Arthur balance it all while he locked the car, Merlin led them away from the car and into the trees. Before long, they were surrounded by nature and Merlin breathed deeply again. He felt like he was stepping back in time and there was a smile on his face as he looked around the clearing they were currently standing in.
Arthur nodded, dumping everything down with a long suffering groan. Between them, they managed to get the blanket spread out and enough food out they wouldn’t have to move for some time. Kicking off his shoes, Merlin crawled onto the rug and stretched out with a satisfied sigh. He moved when Arthur toed him in the ribs and shuffled over to make space for both of them. But space was restricted and he smiled gently as their arms brushed together.
For a while, nothing changed. They ate, they laughed and joked and they messed around the way they had always done. Merlin didn’t want to lose this for the world. But he also knew he couldn’t keep lying to himself – and to Arthur. He felt more than friendship towards him and he was almost convinced Arthur felt the same. But it was up to him now. Arthur had initiated the kiss. If Merlin wanted to confirm it hadn’t been a mistake, he would have to take the next step.
Plucking a strawberry from the bowl, he bit into it and sighed as the taste erupted across his mouth. He made to eat the rest when an idea hit him.
“Here.” Shuffling closer, he held the fruit against Arthur’s lips. The man obediently bit into the rest. But before Merlin could pull away, Arthur’s tongue darted out to chase the juice, sucking Merlin’s fingers into his mouth. A soft exclamation of surprise escaped Merlin but he looked up to find Arthur watching him closely. He moved closer, pressing his fingers further into Arthur’s mouth as he rested a hand on his thigh, too close to his crotch for it to be the casual touches they had shared as friends.
Drawing out his fingers, Merlin’s eyes were locked to Arthur’s lips. He finally glanced up to find Arthur watching him intently, his eyes dark. Knowing he wasn’t mistaken about Arthur’s feelings, Merlin shuffled forward and very gently pressed his lips against Arthur’s. It was a fleeting touch and he sat back after a second, flushing deep red. But Arthur came after him, cupping his cheek and drawing him into a deep one that got messy very quickly.
When his mind finally caught up with him, Merlin was sprawled on his back, his fingers in Arthur’s hair while Arthur’s hand was splayed across his stomach under his shirt.
“How long?” Arthur muttered, his voice hoarse.
“About three months,” Merlin admitted. Arthur closed his eyes and sighed.
“You mean I could have had you in my bed for three months and I’ve lost all that time?”
“Who’s to say I wouldn’t have you in my bed?”
“Your bed, Emrys, has far too many springs.” Arthur’s fingers moved across his stomach and Merlin flailed, screeching with laughter. Damn Arthur for knowing him too well and knowing all of his ticklish spots. But then Merlin damned himself. If only he had acted sooner, he might have been able to hold Arthur during those long nights of stress and worry rather than daydreaming over it while staring at his history notes.
They didn’t kiss again while they were out. They went back to being two best friends finishing university and celebrating. But Merlin knew he was not the only one stealing glances when the other wasn’t looking. Merlin pulled out his book when Arthur fell asleep, but his hand was toying with Arthur’s hair gently. When they packed up to head back to the car, Merlin got the giggles over how little food was left and Arthur just rolled his eyes in a knowing way.
But Merlin curled his fingers around Arthur’s as they made to walk off. After a second of hesitation, Arthur returned the grip and they went back to the car hand in hand. They had a whole summer of picnics ahead to find out the true depth of how they were feeling. There was no rush.