Title:Like Fools We Rush In
Summary:Traveling during the holiday season is a feat attempted only by the clinically insane.
Author's Notes: I had fun writing this (went a little overboard with wordcount, whoops) and I hope it fulfills your request :D happy holidays!
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.
Traveling fucking sucks.
Merlin hates public transportation but unfortunately, it's his only way off this mountain, so he’s stuck outside in the freezing cold waiting for a bus.
When it finally pulls into the lot, travelers throw themselves at the luggage compartment, eager to stuff their suitcases beneath the vehicle and establish their places. Merlin squeezes his skinny frame through the people, eyes lighting on an unoccupied space just big enough for his suitcase. He lifts his bag, muscles straining, and is just about to shove the luggage in when he finds that another bag has comes out of nowhere and is somehow already occupying the space.
“Arsehole!” Merlin exclaims without thinking, and the heads of half a dozen mums whip towards him with a glare. He ignores them, and looks up to meet a pair of very blue eyes, whose owner has just taken Merlin’s luggage space. “I was just about to put my bag there!”
“Move a little faster next time, yeah?” says the man, already heaving a second suitcase into another open spot. “First come, first serve, mate, suck it up. Now move over, you’re blocking me.”
“That was the intention,” Merlin says, leaning further towards another open storage space, and quickly shoving his suitcase in it. At least, he tries to, as the stranger lunges forward and attempts to squish his carry-on into the same space before Merlin can.
“What’s – your problem?” grunts the man, sticking his head under Merlin’s arm and trying to push his bag forward.
“My problem?” demands Merlin, outraged. “You’re the one being a total prat about this! I was here first.”
“Care to repeat that to my face?”
“Prat!” hisses Merlin. They both end up pushing and shoving and Merlin gets a faceful of surprisingly soft blond hair, and the other man gets an elbow to the stomach. Merlin hears a startled oof and takes the opportunity to quickly stow his suitcase before the stranger recovers, making a beeline for the bus doors.
Inside the vehicle, the heater is running, and despite the conditions, Merlin is grateful to be indoors. He spies an empty pair of seats towards the back of the bus, and quickly makes his way towards it. Sitting, Merlin sighs and pulls off his snow-caked hat, cringing as his ungloved hand comes into contact with the cold, damp beanie. Closing his eyes, Merlin exhales, and lets himself relax. It’s just a short trip down the mountain, then he’ll be on a train to Gwen’s flat in no time.
~ ~ ~
This is why Arthur doesn’t take public transportation. The people are loud, obnoxious, and there are lots of children covered in snot.
Then he has to remind himself that anything else isn’t really an option right now, and he refuses to beg Uther for anything, even if he’s sure his father would certainly pay for Arthur’s fare out of the house.
Arthur squints over the mess of people and finds an window seat towards the back, and tries not to knock anyone over as he heads for it. There’s someone sitting in the aisle seat, but Arthur’s desperate enough to take what he can get. There’s no way he’s waiting for the next bus.
Approaching the open seat, Arthur begins to reconsider exactly how desperate he is, as the other passenger’s face comes into view.
“Fantastic,” he says, looking down onto the sleeping face of the man he’d exchanged blows with not five minutes ago. Arthur finally stops to notice of the man’s appearance, and takes in the mop of dark, unruly hair, curling slightly over the tips of his unusually large ears that somehow seem to fit him. They lend him the impression of some sort of ethereal creature, almost pixie-like, and his sharp cheekbones are tinged red from the returning warmth of the bus’s heater.
Arthur is just about find somewhere else to sit, when someone thumps him from behind and he stumbles forward into the dark-haired stranger, practically landing in his lap.
“Sorry,” grunts the man who’d pushed him as he scoots down the aisle. “Try not to loiter next time.”
The man’s eyes fly open wide to reveal stunning blue irises, and Arthur finds himself staring for a moment before he realizes that he’s still lying across the man’s lap.
“Shit,” he says, and scrambles to his feet. “I, er. Sorry.”
“You again,” says the dark-haired man, surprisingly unperturbed. He blinks and tries to get a hold of his bearings. “What do you want now? Are you here because I’ve stolen your seat, too?”
Arthur points awkwardly at the empty place by the window. “Well, actually…”
“Unbelievable.” The man shakes his head, but unbuckles himself and scoots over to make room. Arthur slides in gratefully, muttering a small thanks, and watches his bus mate turn pointedly to face the window.
Thank god this bus ride is only forty-five minutes long.
~ ~ ~
This bus ride is not forty-five minutes long. This is what Merlin concludes after two hours of awkward, tense silence.
He's given up on trying to pretend that the blond man isn't there, but they haven't exchanged a single word since they'd gotten on the bus, and Merlin's head is ready to explode from the strained silence.
Though it's just after noon, the outside looks dark with the swirling clouds assembling in the sky, and he can hardly see out of the window. Merlin presses his face to the glass, and pulls back to see the shape his breath has left on the window.
He feels a pair of eyes on him, and turns around in time to catch the stranger's gaze. Merlin’s head snaps away.
There's a groan of frustration, and Merlin hears the rustle of the man's jacket as he reaches up to run a hand through his blond hair.
“Look,” he says, startling Merlin with the sound of his voice. “Can we not do this? The driver said the roads are backed up, and it’s already been two hours, and I’m going to go batshit if I have to stand one more minute of this. This holiday’s just been really stressful, and I'm – " he sucks in a breath, " – sorry that I got to the luggage space before you did."
Merlin gets the feeling that he doesn't apologize very often.
“Actually, I was there first,” is what comes out of his mouth when Merlin finally decides to respond.
“Are you joking?” The man looks so ridiculously exasperated that Merlin almost laughs at him, but decides against it.
“Okay, I’m sorry, too,” Merlin relents, “we were both arses.”
“Well, I wasn’t – ” the stranger begins, but stops at Merlin’s look. “We were arses.”
The man turns to reveal his profile, showing off a perfect jawline, curving upwards to shape a pair of lips, pinkish-red from the cold, and then Merlin realizes he’s staring and sharply averts his gaze. It’s been too long since he’s had a proper shag, and now he has a nice conversation with one model-worthy bloke and his libido goes into overdrive.
In need of something to do, Merlin pulls out his phone.
Acutely aware of an intense set of blue eyes watching, he dials Gwen’s number and presses the phone to his ear, waiting as it rings.
“Merlin?” Gwen’s familiar voice is a relief to hear.
“Hey, Gwen,” he says. “There’s been another delay.”
She makes an irritated noise that doesn’t translate well over the phone, but Merlin can picture her with a hand cocked on her hip. “Again? I know this agency isn’t exactly top notch but you’d expect their service to be a little less shoddy than this.”
“It’s not the agency’s fault,” he hastens to assure her. “My train just left two minutes ago.”
“I’m not on it.”
“Oh.” There’s a moment of silence on the end of the line.
“I’m still on the bus; there’s a block or something,” explains Merlin. “I’m not sure how much longer it’ll be.”
“Okay,” says Gwen, and he can hear the worry in her voice. “Keep me updated, alright? And bundle up, I know it’s cold over there and don’t you try to tell me it’s not.”
“I’ll see you soon, okay? Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
As Merlin hangs up, he can feel the man still staring at him.
“What?” he demands, not quite snapping, but close. He refuses to bow under the weight of two pensive blue eyes.
“Visiting your girlfriend for the holidays?” asks the man.
“Not that it’s any of your business…” Merlin trails off.
“Arthur,” he supplies.
“ – but no,” Merlin continues, “Gwen’s just a friend.”
Arthur relaxes – god, the name suits him well – and raises his hands in a gesture of innocence. “Sore spot?” he teases, but Merlin doesn’t detect any trace of malice in his tone.
“She’s my best mate,” he says. “Back in secondary school everyone used to be convinced that we were dating.”
“And you weren’t?”
“God, no! She’s practically my sister.” Merlin laughs. “Besides, I’m kind of on my way to meet her new girlfriend, if you needed anymore proof of our non-datingness. She’s almost as gay as I am.”
Arthur’s smile wavers slightly, and Merlin’s next words plummet to the pit of his stomach.
“You’re...gay?” he asks with something undecipherable laced in his tone, and Merlin hates the way he says the word, dangling it off the tip of his tongue as if he’s afraid to hold onto it for very long.
“Yeah,” Merlin says, and tries (not very hard) to keep the hostility out of his voice. “I am.”
“That’s...interesting,” says Arthur, with a funny look on his face.
“Christ, if I could go just one Christmas without having to fend off another homophobic twat – ”
“I just got kicked out of my house for being gay,” interrupts Arthur.
“Oh,” says Merlin awkwardly. Well, now he just feels like a bit of a tit. He coughs, and avoids looking directly into Arthur’s eyes. “Right. I’m an insensitive wanker, and I jumped to conclusions. I’m really sorry…” He trails off helplessly.
“No, it’s alright!” Arthur amends. “I just wasn’t expecting it, that’s all. I don’t exactly come from a very, ah, accepting environment, and your openness caught me off-guard. It’s alright, promise.”
He places a hand on Merlin’s arm, but quickly withdraws it when they both look down. Merlin feels his face redden, and tries blame the bus’s heating.
“So I’m gay,” Arthur breaks the silence. “And you’re gay. And your best mate’s gay, and her girlfriend’s gay. And I still don’t know your name.”
He almost laughs. “Merlin,” he says. “I’m Merlin.”
~ ~ ~
Merlin is decent company, once they’ve overcome the brief hump from that first conversation. Arthur learns that Merlin is an art student studying in Camelot, and that he’s actually two years older than Arthur, despite his appearance.
Though shy at first, once Arthur gets him started, Merlin talks like a freight train; he talks about Gwen (“We’ve known each other since birth”) and about his mum (“She’s wonderful, and she makes the most amazing soup”) and about his professors (“Professor Catrina really needs to bathe more”).
Arthur lets him prattle on, content to watch the man so animated, his graceful hands gesticulating while describing god-knows-what in his most recent tale.
“Am I rambling again?” asks Merlin suddenly. “Sorry. You should stop me any time that happens. I ramble quite often.”
“No, it was fine, you – you were great,” Arthur reassures him. “I enjoy listening.”
The skin around his eyes crinkles as Merlin smiles, so open-faced and unrestrained that Arthur’s spirits are lifted from that one curve of his mouth, and he can't do anything but smile back in the hopes that Merlin can feel this, too.
~ ~ ~
Nearly five hours after departing the station, they are still on the road, and a blizzard has started up. Around Hour Four the heater had stopped working, and Merlin had pulled out his single glove again, and began blowing into his palms. After about twenty minutes of this, Arthur pulls off his scarf and winds it around Merlin’s collar wordlessly. Merlin tries give it back, but Arthur merely dimples at him and zips his coat up further.
Merlin tries to pretend like he’s not inhaling the scent of Arthur on the scarf, but is it really his fault if he just happens to catch a whiff of it on the circles of thick wool around his neck? Merlin burrows deeper into the scarf and ignores common sense.
“Alright, folks,” the bus driver had announced. “As you can all see, we’re backed up here. The snow has made it difficult to get down the mountain side, and there’ve been a few accidents up ahead, so sit tight. We’re not sure how long it’s going to be, but I’m afraid I can’t do anything else in the meantime.”
There had been some dissatisfied grumbling, but in the end, even the malcontents had realised that there really wasn’t anything to be done, and that energy was best conserved when one wasn’t complaining.
It just isn’t fair, Merlin thinks, as he watches Arthur apply chapstick to chapped lips, that the universe should trap him in such close quarters with such an unattainable, gorgeous bloke, and gay at that. When Arthur had said that he was a business student, Merlin had had to bite his tongue to refrain from asking why he hadn’t gone into modeling instead.
Around half-past three, Merlin’s stomach rumbles loudly enough to be heard by Arthur, who lets out a laugh.
“Hungry?” he teases, and Merlin flushes. “S’alright, so am I. Let’s see if I’ve got any food, yeah?”
Arthur rummages through his bag until he pulls out a sandwich in a takeaway bag. “I asked the motel kitchen staff to pack me something to take on the road,” he tells Merlin, and Merlin salivates. Arthur holds out the rest of the sandwich, still chewing, and puts it in Merlin’s hand.
“Eat,” he instructs, and Merlin’s too cold and hungry to argue with that. They continue the rest of the way like this, passing the sandwich back and forth until there’s nothing left but the crumbs on Merlin’s chin, which Arthur reaches a hand out to brush off his face. Arthur either doesn’t notice or ignores his sharp intake of breath, and pulls the scarf back over Merlin’s mouth.
Merlin refuses to pay any attention to the tingling feeling on his skin where Arthur’s fingers made contact.
~ ~ ~
It’s Hour Eight, and they are a little over halfway to the train station. Outside, the skies are already growing dark, thick clouds rolling low on the mountain and obscuring the remaining sunlight in the winter evening. The overhead lights have been dimmed to a mellow glow, and the blinds drawn closed. Up front, the driver has found blankets in a compartment under the vehicle and is passing them out to the passengers.
Arthur sees Merlin hesitate as they're given their blanket, seemingly debating whether or not to ask for a section of it for himself. Arthur throws it over both of them, though it's not quite big enough for two grown men, barely stretching over their shoulders. Arthur shifts closer, trying to get comfortable, then turns to lift the armrest. The absence of the blockade between them suddenly leaves too much room for them to do anything except press their bodies together, in a manner almost too painfully intimate for near perfect strangers. Arthur tries to stop his heart from pounding, certain that Merlin can hear it, and wondering if he's the only one selfish enough to want this.
They sit curled up in their seats like children, facing each other, foreheads almost touching from the proximity. In the darkness, Arthur can only see the brightness of Merlin's eyes.
“Hell of a way to spend the holidays,” says Merlin quietly, as if he might break something by raising his voice.
“I really bollocksed this Christmas up,” Arthur says, and he's not talking about the bus ride.
Merlin is quiet for a moment, nosing at the blanket, which has fallen just below his collarbone. Arthur reaches between them and tucks it around his chin, relaxing his head against the seat as Merlin smiles at him. “It gets easier,” he says. “It's about finding the right people to surround yourself with.”
“Thank you,” says Arthur, and the word carries more weight than a simple appreciation. When Merlin matches his gaze, he can almost pretend that it's just the two of them under a small woolen blanket.
Merlin's eyes are beginning to drift closed, but beneath the covers Arthur feels a cold hand grasp his, and Merlin, with his eyes still shut, smiles at his surprise. Arthur feels the tip of Merlin's nose nudge his forehead, nuzzling him in a way that is decidedly unmanly, and as if sensing his thoughts, Merlin lets out a huff of laughter. The puff of warm air hits Arthur's face, and Merlin's breath smells like granola and winter.
“I'm going to sleep,” he murmurs into Arthur's hair, “right here. Okay?”
“Can’t believe you'd fall asleep on a total stranger like this; you're completely useless, d’you know that, Merlin?” But it sounds too fond.
Merlin mumbles something that sounds suspiciously like “prat” and then buries his face into Arthur's neck, and he can't find it in himself to complain.
It's a long time before Arthur can fall asleep.
~ ~ ~
Merlin awakes around Hour Fifteen, surprised that he’s managed to sleep so fitfully despite the circumstances.
“Morning,” whispers Merlin, into the curve of Arthur’s neck.
“Is it?” returns Arthur with casual inquiry.
“Just about.” Merlin shows him the time.
Their faces are a hair’s breadth apart, breathing shallowly in the same space of air. Merlin watches Arthur’s mouth part slightly, the tip of his tongue darting out to wet his lips. When the impulse to kiss Arthur hits him, he doesn’t resist, but leans forward to close the gap between them.
It’s chaste at first, hesitant, and Merlin thinks he can feel Arthur’s mouth trembling beneath him, but unsure of the reason why. Then Arthur seems to come alive, reaching his hands out from underneath the blanket and cupping the sides of Merlin’s face, thumbs stroking his sharp cheekbones. His hands are shaking as well, either from the nerves or the intensity; Merlin doesn’t know but he understands, and his hands press into Arthur’s firm chest and wind up into his soft hair. There’s a flood of something too close to happiness when Arthur finally opens himself to Merlin, and suddenly it’s all a mesh of mouths and tongues and tender teeth. He can taste the ardour on Arthur’s lips, sweet like winter cherries.
Then the bus halts abruptly, bags and people toppling out of their seats. Merlin is thrown forward and hits the seat in front of them, groaning as he clutches his head.
Concerned and still slightly dazed, Arthur looks just about to ask Merlin something when all the lights flicker on, and there’s a collective noise of disgruntlement.
“We’ve just arrived at the train station – ” shouts the bus driver.
The rest of his words are lost in the din, as travelers scramble for their belongings. Arthur looks torn between joining them and pushing Merlin back to talk.
“Look,” he tells Arthur. “Whatever this is, we can sort it through later. Let’s just get the hell off this bus first, yeah?”
Arthur visibly swallows, nods, and grabs his bag.
Outside, the blizzard has relented, slowing to a light snowfall. Merlin and Arthur somehow manage to grab their suitcases and emerge from the fray unscathed, but upon entering the train station, Merlin starts to think he’d rather take on the herd of holiday-stressed mums from the bus.
The station is packed with people in all states of weariness, ranging from newly disoriented to comfortably settled into life as hobos. The stores are all closed, and slumbering travelers line the walls and the shop doors. There are people handing out squares of cardboard, which others have opted to sleep on instead of their presumably fragile suitcases, slouched over each other with beanies pulled tightly over frost-tipped ears. A scuffle catches Merlin’s attention and he turns to see two young people sitting atop one of the vending machines, holding on tightly to the sides as two more travelers rock them back and forth, trying to dislodge them.
“What the hell is going on here?” Arthur says as he surveys the wreck. “Where’re all the station officials?”
“Home, presumably,” says Merlin, checking his watch. “Ten past one in the morning.”
Merlin makes a quick call to Gwen, who sounds bleary but insists he hadn’t woken her. “I’m glad you’re alright,” she says. “Do you know when the next train out of there is?”
He tells her he doesn’t, but that he’ll keep her posted. Hanging up, he turns around to see Arthur with his back to Merlin, phone pressed to his ear. He waits until Arthur’s finished before asking if his situation is looking any better.
“Not particularly,” Arthur grimaces. “I’m supposed to be staying at my mate’s place until I can get back on my feet, and he offered to drive out here to get me.”
“And I told him not to. He lives a few hours away, and with the roads so blocked he’d be insane to try and brave the storm now.”
“Looks like you’re stuck with me for a little while longer, then. Help me grab a piece of cardboard? The floor’s filling up fast.”
He and Arthur end up taking turns dozing against each other for the next few hours, doing their best to ignore the chaos as a fresh wave of travelers comes pouring through the doorway. Even asleep, Arthur looks impossibly handsome, something out of a medieval fairytale, and Merlin allows himself to tuck his arm gently around Arthur’s shoulder. He unwinds one section of the borrowed scarf and wraps it halfway around Arthur’s neck. It’s a long scarf; they can share.
~ ~ ~
“I’ve never kissed a bloke before.”
“I’m glad it was you.”
“Arthur, we met eighteen hours ago. You don’t know me.”
“But I’d like to.”
~ ~ ~
At six in the morning, Arthur tells Merlin that his mate has informed him that he can’t pick him up at the station.
(“Really sorry, Wart,” Gwaine had said. “Check into a hotel for now? Hang in there.”)
On impulse, Merlin invites Arthur to come stay with him in the meantime, somehow forgetting that he, himself, is a guest in Gwen’s flat, and probably shouldn’t be inviting strangers into her home. Arthur protests, but once Merlin’s called and explained the situation, Gwen’s motherly instincts take over and she insists, and Arthur can’t bring himself to say no.
There’s a certain thrill he gets when asking the ticketmaster for, “Two tickets to London, please,” that Merlin can’t quite explain.
Their train leaves at eight, leaving them with a little over an hour to kill. Arthur checks them into a nearby motel and Merlin hadn’t realised how starving he was until he gets a whiff of eggs and sausages at the breakfast buffet.
“After,” Arthur tells him, having to practically drag him up to the room. “Shower, then eat. You can even go first.”
Merlin hadn’t known how dirty he was until he’s scrubbing himself with hot water and he comes away feeling a few kilos lighter. Towel around his waist and shaking his hair dry, he’s almost humming as the exits the restroom in a cloud of steam.
“It’s all yours,” he says, stepping into the bedroom, shaking the water out of his ears. “I left you some hot water…”
He trails off as he spies Arthur perched on the edge of the bed, looking frozen and staring at Merlin with an odd look on his face. Merlin stops moving and finds that he’s holding his breath, uncertain of what he’s waiting for but sure that it’s important. He can feel the tips of his wet hair dripping down his back, and the falling droplets seems to echo in the silence between them.
Wordlessly, Arthur gets up from the bed and walks slowly over to Merlin. He cups his face, expression fierce and determined, and Merlin searches his eyes for a trace of hesitance. There isn’t one.
Arthur is the one to bridge the gap and this time there’s no pretending to hold back. Merlin feels himself hit the wall as Arthur pushes him up against it, warm and open and intense, hands tugging on the wet strands of his hair as his lips capture Merlin’s in a breathless kiss. Before Merlin’s next breath, Arthur is already mouthing up his neck, teeth scraping over the sensitive flesh between his jaw and his earlobe that makes Merlin’s knees nearly buckle and his eyes roll up into his head. His palms stretch over Arthur’s back, fingernails digging into the fabric of his shirt and stomach clenching until he gasps Arthur’s name, wanting him so terribly that he surprises himself with the force of his desperation.
“Arthur,” he says, breath hitching, all too aware of how little separates them.
“Yes?” Arthur says, grinding his hips on Merlin’s towel, and Merlin can feel the length of his cock pressed against his own through the fabric of his jeans, and he groans.
“Train,” he bites out as Arthur’s hands stray further down south, “we have a train to catch.”
With a frustrated noise, Arthur tugs at Merlin’s nipple with his teeth and finally pulls away to head for the showers, leaving Merlin trying to remember his own name.
~ ~ ~
When they finally reach Gwen’s flat three hours later, she throws open the doors and flings her arms around Merlin’s neck.
“Merlin!” she exclaims. “I’m so happy to see you! Oh, god, you’ve been through so much.” She pulls back abruptly to grab his face and pat down his arms, checking that everything is intact, and Merlin eases himself out of her grasp, laughing. Arthur feels a momentary pang of envy, wishing he had someone that pleased to see him.
“I’m okay, Gwen,” he reassures his friend. “This is Arthur.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” says Arthur smoothly, and shakes Gwen’s hand in both of his own, years of private etiquette lessons taking over. “Thank you so much for letting me stay here for the night, Miss Guinevere, your home is lovely. If there’s anything I can do to repay you for your hospitality, please let me know.”
“Oh,” says Gwen with a surprised blush, and Merlin rolls his eyes.
“Lay off my girlfriend, she’s taken,” teases a new voice, and a familiar dark head turns the corner, smiling. When she catches sight of Arthur, something flashes across her delicate features and she steps back, startled.
“This is – ” Gwen begins.
“Morgana?” Arthur blurts, a thousand thoughts running through his head and none of them making sense.
“You!” They stare at each other, dumbfounded, while Gwen and Merlin look on confusedly.
“Arthur!” shrieks Morgana, and the spell is broken as she launches herself into his arms, and Arthur staggers under her weight, but manages to right himself as he returns her embrace.
“What are you doing here?” laughs Arthur breathlessly, releasing her.
“I bloody live here!” Morgana says indignantly. “Gwen’s my fucking girlfriend, you absolute knob!”
“Language, Morgana,” chides Gwen, and Morgana kisses her impatiently on the mouth.
“What are you doing here?”
“I invited him,” says Merlin, and they turn to look at him. “Now can one of you explain what the hell is going on?”
“You must be Merlin!” exclaims Morgana delightedly, “the famous mister Emrys, we meet at last!”
“She’s my sister,” Arthur tells Merlin.
“You never told me you had a brother,” Gwen says accusingly to her girlfriend, who shrugs and tries to kiss her again. Gwen ducks, and Morgana’s lips end up on her ear.
“Half-brother,” she corrects, “and we haven’t seen each other in years.” She addresses Arthur. “Has Uther finally kicked you out, then? He must have, if your boyfriend here is any indication.”
“Why would you assume he's my boyfriend?” protests Arthur.
“Then you're shagging,” she says, wrinkling her nose. “Or at least, you'd like to be. You both reek of sexual tension.”
“That'squiteenoughthankyouMorgana,” says Gwen, glaring, and begins pushing a red-faced Merlin and Arthur towards the guest bedroom. “You both must be exhausted, why don't you go lie down for a bit? Morgana and I will wake you later. Great! Have a nice nap.”
“Did she just lock us in?” asks Arthur as the door shuts with a suspicious click.
Yawning, Merlin shrugs. “Probably,” he says, and doesn’t check. With heavy-lidded eyes, he collapses on the bed. “Come,” he mumbles into the pillows, and Arthur does, because nothing sounds better right now.
His weary bones to relax into the cushion of a real mattress, and as he buries his face into the soft mess of Merlin’s hair, he allows himself to be enveloped in the scent of cheap motel shampoo. Still fully dressed, Merlin loops a jean-clad leg around Arthur’s ankle and tangles one hand under the hem of his shirt.
“We’re sleeping through Christmas Day,” he murmurs into Arthur’s neck, and Arthur feels the warmth of his breath against his skin.
“You know, for some reason I’m okay with that.” He feels Merlin’s smile on his collarbone.
“What are your plans?” he asks uncertainly, and Arthur knows he’s not just talking about tomorrow.
“Don’t have any.” The steady hum of the fan sounds deafening in their silence. “You?”
Merlin’s quiet laughter rumbles through him, warming Arthur like a crackling fire. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily.”
He sucks in a shaky breath, and presses a chaste kiss to Merlin’s forehead. “Good.”
So Arthur sleeps, not knowing what his future will bring, but content with the knowledge that Merlin will still be curled up next to him when he wakes.