Title: Till You Say When
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Arthur would stay until Merlin sent him away.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Sorry Merlin!
Arthur pushed his hands deep into his pockets as he strode along. His head was bent against the bitter wind and he was in a hurry to get home. Not because there was anything waiting for him there – he was fully aware that he had pushed away anyone who had tried to care for him. There wasn’t anything wrong with them – although Vivian had been both clingy and creepy at the same time – it was him. It was a cliché, he knew. But it hadn’t felt right and he wouldn’t live a lie. It wasn’t fair.
So although only emptiness awaited him, it was better than the raging weather. He would have picked up his pace, only the icy ground would prove treacherous and the type of day Arthur had been having so far meant he was sure how that one would end.
He was almost home, dreaming longingly of a cup of tea, when three men suddenly sprinted from the alleyway in front of him. Arthur only just stopped in time to not crash into one of them. They looked triumphant and a cold, nauseous feeling in the pit of his stomach stopped Arthur from walking on. He took a step until he could stare down the alleyway. Initially, he couldn’t see anything. Hoping he was just judging people too quickly again, he made to walk on. But as he did so, there came a low moan from within the alley.
Arthur quickly hurried down it, his hand reaching into his coat for his phone. It took him a moment to find the injured man. He was sprawled behind some bins, barely conscious. Arthur knew they must have dumped him there. He had been badly beaten and as Arthur moved closer, he tried to flinch back. Arthur didn’t approach, but instead called an ambulance as fast as he could. He knew the sight was a shock, but he wasn’t sure why he couldn’t stop trembling or sounded close to tears when he begged the ambulance to hurry. He felt as if it was someone he personally knew, although he was sure he had never met the man before.
Shutting his phone away after pleading with them to hurry, Arthur awkwardly clambered behind the bins as well. The man tried to jerk away and Arthur paused, holding out a hand the way he would to a skittish horse.
“It’s alright,” he said softly. “I won’t hurt you, I promise. I’ve called an ambulance.”
The man stopped shifting and Arthur found himself being examined by vivid blue eyes. When he shuffled forward again, the man didn’t try and recoil. He didn’t know why he was doing this – it was more than wanting to help, Arthur knew he wasn’t the most caring man around. But it felt right and he carefully sat on the floor next to the man. Then he shrugged off his coat and draped it over his shaking form. As he did so, he realised his own hand was shaking.
“My name is Arthur,” he said. He had no idea why he was talking. “I’m going to take care of you, I promise.”
“M-merlin,” the voice rasped. He couldn’t say anything before a coughing fit overtook him. When it subsided, Arthur found that he was holding the man carefully in his arms, soothing him gently. He had no recollection of moving, but Merlin was leaning back in his embrace and Arthur knew he was doing the right thing. As soon as the man had said his name, Arthur had felt something warm unfurl in the pit of his stomach. He had no idea what it was. But he liked the feeling.
“Do I know you?” Merlin whispered. Arthur glanced down and shook him lightly.
“Don’t go to sleep,” he warned. Merlin’s eyes opened again. Arthur smiled encouragingly before shaking his head. “No. We’ve never met. The men that did this… they ran out and I heard you.”
“I don’t remember making a sound.”
Arthur didn’t say anything. In Merlin’s state, it was amazing he was lucid at all. Arthur tucked the coat in further around him, feeling oddly protective of this stranger instead of answering. It wasn’t long before he heard the distant sound of sirens and knew that help was on the way. When he told Merlin that, the man stared at him in fear.
“I don’t want to be on my own.” He sounded so vulnerable that Arthur automatically stroked a hand down his back tenderly.
“You won’t be,” he heard himself promising. “I’m going to stay with you.”
“You’ll stay?” Merlin’s voice was a tentative whisper, lined with uncertainty.
“For as long as you want me too.” Once again, Arthur had no idea where the words came from. But they weren’t from his heart; they were from his soul. This wasn’t right; he had a badly wounded man in his arms – a perfect stranger – and Arthur was thinking about how good it felt to have him in his arms. He had never felt like this – not even when he had convinced himself he was in love with Gwen. This was different. This was right.
When the ambulance came skidding to a stop by the end of the alley, Arthur was forced to call out in order to draw their attention. Merlin had gripped onto his hand so tight that Arthur couldn’t move even he wanted to. But he had no intention of leaving the man. He had promised to stay, after all.
As it happened, he stayed by Merlin’s side for almost twenty four hours before Merlin’s frantic mother arrived at the hospital. Even then, Arthur went home to shower, grab a decent coffee and headed back to the hospital. He had promised to stay as long as Merlin wanted and as of yet, the man hadn’t sent him away. Arthur couldn’t explain it, least of all to himself. But he knew he was not going to be the first one to push away this time.