Title: A Minor Detour, Part 2
Pairing/s: None (pre-Arthur/Merlin if you squint?)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: “I’m going to smegging kill you.”
“I’m going to smegging kill you, sir,” Arthur corrected.
Word Count: 753
Prompt: #209: Stranded
Author's Notes: Unexpected serialization of A Minor Detour (Part 1 here).
“I’m going to smegging kill you.”
“I’m going to smegging kill you, sir,” Arthur corrected, though there was a trace of uncertainty in his usually smug voice.
“I’m not kidding this time. If I do it, I’ll have twice as much oxygen and more than enough food to last past that. I mean, you’re probably enough for a week at least.”
“Are you...” Arthur’s face twitched somewhere between hurt and horrified, and Merlin waited for the overly dramatic disgust at his suggestion. But instead of balking at Merlin’s casual mention of cannibalism, Arthur put on a pout and asked, “Are you saying I’m fat?”
With a strangled scream, Merlin threw a tin of preserved dustfish at Arthur’s head. There wasn’t a lot of force behind it, sadly, and Arthur tilted aside to avoid it easily as it soared past him and bumped against a wall.
Artificial gravity had been the first thing to go when they’d reached a week and a half with no rescue.
“Walking’s stupid anyway,” Arthur had declared as he fiddled with the settings. “What’s the point of making ourselves work harder when we’re on vacation?”
But Merlin knew that underneath the careless excuse, Arthur had done the same calculations he had. Shutting off the non-vital functions of their life support could make it last a week longer. Temperature control couldn’t go off completely, but it had been sliding slowly colder for the past few days.
At least the chill air made it harder for scent to travel; showers had been completely out of the question for over a week.
They had four days of food left, but that didn’t really matter. Their air would run out in just over four hours. Arthur either didn’t understand that or didn’t care. With an inward sigh, Merlin admitted that wasn’t fair—though he didn’t know why he cared about being fair to Arthur anymore, since it was his fault they were in this mess.
Arthur clearly knew how serious their situation was. Yes, he kept making blithe comments and ignoring Merlin when he tried to talk about what they were going to do, but he’d also lost the boyish glow of happiness that had come with their impromptu holiday, and Merlin knew he wasn’t sleeping again.
Arthur sat in his captain’s chair and snagged the tin Merlin had thrown as it drifted past him again. “I guess I might as well,” he said casually as he opened it and wrinkled his nose at the smelly, mushy mess inside—preserved dustfish was the most emergent of emergency rations, as nutritious as it was appalling.
He tried to smirk as he lifted a gelatinous fin and saluted Merlin with it, and it was such a terrible impersonation of himself that Merlin felt guilty at Arthur’s guilt. Which was ridiculous. Arthur deserved to feel guilty.
“They’ll probably make a holo about us, you know,” Merlin mused glumly. “And not a flattering one, either.”
“Merlin,” Arthur began, and he looked so devastated that Merlin couldn’t take it.
“Oh, calm down.” Merlin flapped a hand and grinned at Arthur. “We do a stupid, dangerous job in a tiny metal box in the frozen vacuum of the universe. It was bound to happen sooner or later.”
Arthur released the can of disgusting fish, letting it float away, and stared after it forlornly. “This isn’t the job, though. This was me being selfish and reckless because I can’t stand up to my father.”
“Well, who can, really?”
“You.” Arthur turned back to Merlin. “You’ve never been afraid to talk back to him. Or me.”
“First of all, you don’t scare anyone except Owain. And second, I think we’ve established that I’m an idiot with no sense of self-preservation.”
Finally smiling a little, Arthur asked, “Did you really have to sneeze on him right after he finally let you out of quarantine? Twice?”
Merlin laughed and Arthur joined him, their troubles momentarily forgotten at the memory of Uther’s struggle: caught between rage and worry, half sure Merlin was infected with bubonic flu after all but suspecting he was being deliberately insubordinate.
As they calmed down, Merlin leaned forward earnestly. "Arthur, I mean it. It’s been an honor to serve with you. If this really is the end, there’s no one else I’d rather spend it with.”
Arthur was about to respond, eyes glittering with a threat of tears that Merlin had never seen before, when every speaker in the ship crackled to life around them with a harsh voice:
“How disturbingly touching.”