Title: Fear of Flying
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana
Summary: It was the worst way to travel
Word Count: 1343 (Sorry)
Author's Notes: Written for camelot_drabble prompt 168 - 'impassive', and also fills the 'locked in' square of my merlin_writers trope bingo (that's 10/25 done) and the 'Looking after someone' square of my hc_bingo round 6 card (that's 1/25 done) and the 'au:mundane' square of my trope_bingo round 5 card (that's 1/25 done). Obviously this is bingo overkill and I sign up for too many of these things...
This is the fourth part of the 'Impressions' series, which can all be found on A03 here.
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Here on A03
Fear of Flying
Flying was, Arthur decided, the very worst way to travel.
It probably wouldn’t have been quite so bad if it had been a short flight. Or if Morgana had let him sit by himself like he’d wanted to. Or if it wasn’t such a small plane. Or if… Well, if Arthur hadn’t insisted Merlin come on the business trip to the States.
Merlin, apparently, had never flown before.
Eurostar trips and ferries were his preferred method of travel abroad on the couple of occasions he’d ventured overseas. The trouble was, this meant he was both apprehensive and excited at the same time. And Morgana had insisted Arthur sit with him so that he wasn’t alone for the flight.
Arthur hadn’t been entirely sure whether she was talking about himself or Merlin.
“The whole point of booking a private flight is so that we can work,” Arthur complained. “There’s a table, lots of room to spread out.”
“You’ll need your assistant close by if you’re working,” Morgana told him. “Besides, he’s a bit nervous about flying. Be kind.”
As if that evil witch had ever been kind in her life. Well, not to Arthur, anyway.
Anyway, Arthur thought he’d already done his bit. Merlin had wanted to take a picture of the outside of the plane, and somehow Arthur had got caught up in that because it was for Merlin’s mum. Apparently Merlin had been supposed to be going away with her that weekend and Arthur felt guilty. He was also secretly pleased that Merlin’s completely unsuitable courier boyfriend Gwaine hadn’t turned up to see him off. In fact, Gwaine had barely been seen in the office all week. Hopefully he’d find someone else while Merlin was away, leaving Merlin free for someone more suitable. Not Arthur, obviously, because they worked together, but… well, somebody who wasn’t Gwaine. Not Arthur at all. No.
Taking the photo had delayed them and by the time they boarded Morgana had already allocated everyone in their seats. Mithian had his favoured spot, her portfolio already spread out over the table. Lance was in the other really good seat, Morgana and Gwen had taken the pair behind him, and that just left two seats next to each other with a small table in front of them.
“This is amazing,” Merlin breathed as he sat down. “Planes don’t look like this in the movies. Not unless it’s James Bond or something!”
“It was an empty leg,” Morgana told him. “Gwen’s very good at negotiating a deal. Looks good when we arrive in LA on a private charter though. It’s all about image.”
Merlin, Arthur noticed, looked down at himself as soon as he heard that. He’d turned up in a hoodie, jeans and trainers because Arthur had told him to dress comfortably for the flight. Arthur’s idea of dressing comfortably, and Merlin’s idea though were worlds apart.
“It’s okay,” Arthur told him. “You can walk a few feet behind the rest of us.”
The uncertain look on Merlin’s face vanished, replaced by a glare. “I brought a suit to change into for when we land,” he told him. “Gwen warned me.”
“Actually, we’ve brought you one of Lance’s designs from the Spring range,” Morgana announced. “You’ll be wearing that. Good advertising, you’re the perfect build. Don’t you think he is, Arthur?”
“He’ll probably spill a coffee down it,” Arthur muttered, because yes, Merlin would look absolutely perfect in any of Lance’s designs. Mostly because when Lance was working up designs and couldn’t find a handy model he’d come down to Arthur’s office and make Merlin try them on. More than once he’d tried to steal Arthur’s assistant for proper, paid modelling. Something about Merlin having great bone structure. Arthur hadn’t noticed. Really. Especially not the cheekbones. No.
“Don’t crease it, and don’t eat or drink anything once you’ve got it on,” Lance called across, not even looking up from his laptop.
Merlin pulled a face, but didn’t argue. It wasn’t as if Lance didn’t have a point, Merlin could be horrendously clumsy at times.
The stewardesses, all smiles and helpfulness because empty leg prices or not they were still paying a hell of a lot for the flight, came along to help them settle in and do a few pre-flight safety checks. Lance grumbled about putting his laptop away. Merlin, of course, took the safety card and started to study it, until Arthur snatched it away.
“Nobody reads those. Don’t worry, if we crash it’ll be quick.”
Merlin gaped at him in horror, which was far more endearing than it should be. Arthur quickly reminded himself yet again that Merlin worked for him and there was never, ever to be anything more to it than that. Still, if Merlin was a little nervous it wouldn’t hurt to wind him up a little. Not if the result was so cute. He’d already exceeded his helpfulness quota, after all.
Except Merlin wasn’t just a little nervous. As soon as the plane started to move along the runway he was leaning forward, looking past Arthur out of the window and looking quite anxious.
“Are we flying yet?”
“No Merlin. Taxiing along the runway. You know, the clue’s in the name. Driving along like a taxi.”
“It’s very slow.”
“Why’s it turning round?”
“Because we’re at the end of the runway now.”
“It’s stopped. Is something wrong? Oh, no it hasn’t…”
The plane started to pick up speed, racing along the runway. Merlin sat back in his seat, still gazing out of the window, then giving a little gasp as the plane left the ground. That was the only sound he made, and when Arthur looked at him he could see Merlin had gone very pale.
“You’re not going to be sick?” he checked.
Merlin didn’t say anything, which wasn’t a great sign.
“Oh, tell me someone who’s named after a bird isn’t scared of flying,” Arthur groaned. “Come on, you’re not serious.”
They were still climbing, and there was the slightest bit of turbulence, not enough that Arthur really even noticed it, but Merlin grabbed his arm. “What was that?”
“Air? That wasn’t air, something hit us.”
“No, it was just air. Wind, if you like.” Merlin wasn’t letting go of his arm, Arthur noticed.
“I don’t like it. I want to go back.”
“Well you can’t. We’re stuck in here now for the next 12 hours,” Arthur told him. “No way out.”
“12 hours!” The grip on Arthur’s arm got tighter. “I can’t sit here for 12 hours!”
“Would you like me to ask if they’ve got a parachute so you can go back down?” Arthur asked a little sarcastically. Honestly, it was only a bit of turbulence. Barely anything at all.
Okay, the grip was actually getting painful. Arthur wondered if he should ask the stewardess for a sedative or something for Merlin. But then the plane hit another pocket of turbulence, again just the tiniest jolt, and Merlin gave a little whimper, let go of Arthur’s arm and grabbed his hand instead.
It was going to be a long flight. Shut in a small (admittedly luxurious) plane, with a frightened assistant sitting there holding his hand the whole way. Yes, it was definitely the worst way to travel. Possibly. Merlin gave his hand a little squeeze.
“Sorry!” Merlin whispered. “It helps. You don’t mind, do you?”
Arthur looked down at Merlin’s hand, tightly gripping his own. He kept his expression neutral, impassive, not wanting to give away how much he really, really didn’t mind.
“Well,” he said, trying to sound as patronising as possible, because he could feel Merlin trembling slightly and he was suddenly starting to feel quite protective and if Morgana got wind of that he’d never hear the end of it. And when she noticed them holding hands she was going to be horribly, horribly smug. But Merlin really was frightened, Arthur could feel it. “If you’re that scared, and it helps…”
The grateful, relieved look Merlin gave him was completely worth it.