Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin's doing the laundry when he hears something
Word Count: 605
Prompt: I'm here
Author's Notes: none
It was the work of an instant, an impulse, an instinct, almost: the sound of a key in the lock. The scrape of metal on metal. The hush of the bottom of the door over the carpet. The thunk and clatter of keys hitting the bowl on the shelf. Footsteps, then the shush of socks on carpet. As soon as metal scraped on metal, before the door over the carpet, Merlin's abandoned his folding and has leapt into the laundry basket, curling and twisting his body, pulling the lid over his head.
He hugs his arms around himself and listens. Socks on the carpet, and fingers trailing along the bumped wall paper. The soft cascade of bells, the charms on the living-room door. The clunk of the refrigerator and hiss of a can tab. The bedroom door hits the shelf behind it, handle-metal against wood and spine. Merlin tucks his head in against his chest, waiting.
The thud of something dropped, in the hallway? The chu-nn of a window opening. A pause- silence, space, nothing. Merlin dares not breathe. Then the laundry room door opens, and Merlin can hear breathing. The tap of a can set on the washing machine. A sigh. The soft, barely there sound of folded clothes being added to piles. The pop of the washing machine door.
Merlin bites his lip. There's a cup of tea out there, on the dryer. He'd forgotten about it, but no long enough ago that it will be cold. A hot cup of tea, and no sign of it's owner. Merlin listens harder, chewing his lip. The click of the door closing on them. The rustle of someone moving across the room with clothes. Then a hush. Merlin frowns.
No movement, no sound. No breathing.
He shifts his head ever so slightly.
The basket lid is flung off. Merlin has a view of the ceiling. The light flickers.
“I'm here,” a deep voice says, grating, hoarse, and a shadow cuts out the light.
Merlin screams, shock coursing through him, chased by terror. He tries to leap up, but he's jammed right in and instead just topples over, onto his back, still caught in the basket. His heart is beating wildly, wildly, a stampede in his chest. Arthur grins down, then makes a stern, threatening face, then grins again, somewhere over Merlin's shoulder.
Merlin laughs hysterically, relief pouring over him in waves. He laughs harder and harder as he tries unsuccessfully to extract himself from the basket, then goes limp, still giggling, and smiles up at Arthur. Arthur bends and untangles Merlin, pulling him out and up onto his feet. He looks too smug.
“I knew it was you,” Merlin says.
“And yet you got stuck on your back like a turtle,” Arthur says.
“I was going to surprise you.”
“And yet, here we are.”
“Here we are.”
Arthur gropes for Merlin's elbow, then clicks his fingers until Merlin grabs his mug and Arthur's Coke can.
“You put the diet and normal Coke the wrong way round again,” Arthur says, explaining the silver, “and you left the living-room door closed. I walked into it. Again.”
“Sorry, sorry, I'm crap.”
Arthur, as they do the dishes side by side, Arthur drying (Merlin's not allowed, he puts things away in the wrong places and Arthur ends up eating cornflakes out of a mug, with a fork), points out the other things wrong with Merlin, his lips quirking up and up until Merlin has no choice but to kiss his amusement away and shut him up.