Title: A Snowflake in Your Lashes
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, mentions of Hunith
Summary: Merlin and Arthur are on their way back to Camelot when it starts to snow.
Word Count: 860, or thereabouts
Prompt: #170: Expecting
Author's Notes: This was so much fun to write!
The first flakes of snow fall as Merlin and Arthur are setting up camp. They're on their way back to Camelot, exhausted from the long patrol Uther's had them on.
"Did it have to start snowing now?" says Arthur, glaring up at the skies in disgust. As if in answer, the snow flurries down harder.
Merlin ignores him. He's always loved the snow; the way it coats the world in white, like a soft blanket. It's so different, and when he was younger, he used to let himself believe, just for a while, that when spring came, there would be a whole new world out there, waiting for him.
He'd sit with his mother, every winter evening, clutching her hand or eating fire-roasted chicken, awaiting the snow. They'd stay out, Will, too, until their fingers and noses were numb with cold and their cheeks bright with colour. There was always laughter.
Merlin starts. Arthur's looking at him, leaning against a tree and watching him watch the snow. In his hair, is snow, caught among the fine, golden hair. Merlin steps closer, without quite meaning to. Arthur's gaze is softer now, in a way Merlin rarely sees. It makes his heart skip a beat, because he realises suddenly that the gaze is directed at him.
He reaches up, fingers brushing Arthur's hair gently. He's standing far too close for it to be proper, but he can't bear to think about propriety right now, not with Arthur's breath coming hot on his face. Merlin's fingers linger in Arthur's hair, touching lightly, almost stroking.
The intensity in Arthur's eyes is too much. His stomach jolts a little, as if a bolt of electricity is shooting through him. And if he leans a little bit closer...
Their eyes meet, and Merlin almost closes the distance between them. Almost. He stops himself, lets his hand drop to his side, ignoring the way Arthur seems to close up. The softness in his eyes dissipates slowly, just like Merlin knows the snow will, in a few weeks.
Merlin fancies he sees hurt in Arthur's eyes. He scolds himself inwardly. His love for Arthur can't ever mean anything.
He walks away and busies himself with his bedroll. The fire is crackling already, even though there is still plenty of daylight. Merlin lies back, staring up at the sky.
He wonders what Hunith is doing right now. What Will would be doing right now, were he still alive. His breath catches in his throat, and a familiar feeling burns in his eyes, but he forces himself to just watch the snow. Eventually he calms.
They seem to sparkle in the dying light of the day, before falling to the grass and disappearing completely. Merlin holds out a hand, catching flakes in his palm and watching them glitter and melt in the crisp air.
Arthur doesn't come. Merlin tosses and turns, restless, yet exhausted. His muscles are weary; they scream at him to lie back down, but Merlin ignores them. He's always been good at ignoring his desires.
Back in Ealdor, Hunith would let Merlin into her bed. It was so cold that huddling together was the only way either of them could sleep at night. Merlin feels a pang of regret at the thought, wonders how she's coping now.
He finds Arthur sitting by a spring. Arthur doesn't say anything as he sits down. For a while the silence of the night is simply punctuated by the rushing of the water. Then Arthur speaks.
"When I become king," he begins, sounding so unsure of himself that all Merlin wants to do is reach out and pull him into his arms, "you won't have to hide."
"What?" Merlin says, in shock. He heard what Arthur said, but surely he can't know...
"You won't have to hide," Arthur repeats, his hand reaching for Merlin's. "Your feelings or your magic."
Merlin lets his fingers curl tightly around Arthur's hand. His throat closes up, and he momentarily cannot speak. He can't believe this is happening; Arthur knows about his magic, and he's accepting him.
The naked trees surrounding them prevent them from feeling the chilly, probing fingers of the wind, and for that Merlin is grateful. He holds off a shiver and wonders when Arthur figured it out.
"I was never expecting you to take much notice of me. I was never expecting to get so close to you that lying became difficult," he admits finally, trying to be as honest as he can now.
Arthur rubs his thumb back and forth across Merlin's hand. "I never expected that I'd ever kiss, let alone want to, that bumbling, big-mouthed, equally big-eared fool who insulted me all those years ago. Guess we both were wrong."
And then Arthur's mouth is on his, gentle, yet sure. His lips are cold and chapped, but Merlin doesn't care. He feels like he's dreaming, and he wants to hold onto this moment forever. They pull back a minute later, gasping in the cold. Arthur smiles, and brushes a thumb across Merlin's eyelid.
"A snowflake in your lashes," he says, before leaning in and stealing Merlin's lips again.