Uther's the only father figure that he has, so when the fight between the Knights and the Warlocks is announced, Arthur steps forward with a hard look and volunteers to be the champion. Kay, Uther's second in command questions why.
"Because they insulted Uther, and I want to get back at the twink Gilli for taking me out last time."
Kay looks to Uther and Uther grins at Arthur. "Accepted. Next Saturday."
Arthur nods and knows to be ready.
The two gangs meet, Sophia standing in front of her band of misfits, Uther's arms folded firmly across his chest.
"So. Who's yer champion then?" She flicks her fag off to the side before dropping it and smushing it beneath her wicked looking heel.
"We have Arthur."
He steps forward, chest puffed at the pride and responsibility that Uther's placed in him. Excalibur rests in his back pocket, an extra clip in his front. As well as the knives stashed in his boot, his right pocket, and a side pocket.
Sophia snorts. "And our champion?"
There's some shuffling among her boys, Arthur picking out Gilli and giving him a fingered salute.
The boy licks his fingers suggestively.
Arthur curls a lip and looks away.
"Merlin," comes a murmured suggestion.
Then a boy is shoved to the front, skinny and long limbs he'd yet to grow in to. He looks around, shocked and not quite certain where he is. "What? Wait... What?"
Arthur can't help it. He laughs. Looks back at his brothers with an incredulous look and they laugh too.
"Why does everyone always laugh like that whenever it's my turn to fight?" He complains, shoulders slumping.
"Lookit you, mate! You're... you're a twig!" one of Arthur's brothers jibes.
The boy looks sulky, his hair terribly like a nest on his head, blue eyes sharp beneath the dishevelled locks. It only makes him look more ridiculous.
"Sorry, mate, but I don't think I can do this..."
"Chickening out already!" Merlin chirps, brightening. "Good! I really didn't want to fight."
Arthur snorts. "You'll break."
"Actually, I was afraid of hurting you." He smiles widely, looking completely mental.
"Sophia, is this all a joke?" Uther steps in, brow furrowed.
Sophia only smiles. "No, dear. This is the real deal. You hurt my boy Edwin some time back. And you've been sniffin' 'round our territory for a while now. Time to put you back in your place."
"With that...that child."
"Oh dear, don't you be worryin' about Merlin. Our boy will perform."
Merlin winces and waggles his fingers.
Uther rolls his eyes, clapping a hand on Arthur's shoulders. "Blow on him. He'll fall over."
Some of Sophia's people titter, and the woman narrows her eyes, smile sharp and calculating.
"Anyone actually see this bloke fight before?" Arthur steps back to say to the guys. Maybe there is more to him than he thought. Or maybe Sophia's just psyching him out. Not unlike the bitch to play mind games.
"Rumour's he's a pacifist."
"Rumour's he's mental." Someone snorts.
"Just kill 'im, Art. Get rid of him."
Arthur nods. "Well I'm ready when you are," he calls to the boy.
Merlin looks dejected. "I'll try not to hurt you..."
Arthur pulls his gun and shoots.
"Oi! That was dangerous!" He complains, dropping out of the way.
"That's the point, dolt!"
Merlin sniffs. "I wasn't ready." And straightens his too-big leather jacket.
"Draw your weapon."
He smiles. "Take care of yours."
Arthur frowns, shooting again before dropping it into his back pocket and drawing the knife. He always liked hand-to-hand better anyway.
Merlin side-steps him and the jeering begins. They circle and Arthur makes some jabs and swipes, the blade just missing him every time.
"Stay. Still. Stupid. Bint," Arthur grits out.
"What would be the point of that?" Merlin says breezily. "Then you'd kill me."
"That's the point, idiot."
"Now you're just being a prat."
"Where did you come from?" Arthur lunges at him and misses. Again. "What are you? Twinkle toes? Lady ballerina?"
Merlin jumps back and glares hard. "Now you're just being rude."
The whole situation has Arthur incredulous.
"Arthur! What are you waiting for! Kill him!"
Arthur glares at Uther. "You don't think I'm trying?"
"He can't be that hard to kill..."
"Great lot there," Merlin grins wryly.
"Fantastic. So why don't you just die already." He swipes again. "And you know what, it's really killing my mood that you're not even taking this seriously."
"You don't want me to take this seriously."
"Yes. Yes I do." Arthur grunts, jabbing him again, sure he got him in the kidney. But just air. "What the hell, mate! Take me the fuck seriously!"
Merlin's grin falters. "R-really...?"
"Yes, because otherwise, I'm going to shoot you!"
"You seem to be doing a lot of talk and not a lot of action!"
"You're just missing it," Arthur mutters darkly.
The boy's loud laugh surprises him then. Young. Real.
"God, Merlin, just stop playin' with the boy already. I want a chinese," Sophie complains, pulling out another fag.
"He's pretty though," Merlin whines, shoving his hands in his pockets.
"End it already!" Some of Merlin's mates are yelling.
Arthur grits his teeth, thinking the boy distracted and darts in, thinking to take him down and shank him.
Instead, the world turns over, stars explode, implode, and he's got his face ground into the pavement, arse in the air, Merlin sitting on it and wild yells exploding from everyone.
Arthur struggles, managing to flip over, Merlin stumbling and landing in his lap. "Hello, sweetie," he grins and pats Arthur's cheek.
Arthur sees red. He drops his knife and shoves—the boy rolling to his feet beautifully, leaning forward on his toes. His boys are yelling for him, telling him to take Merlin down, and he dives, catching him around the waist and scrabbling so he's straddling his waist to hold him down.
Merlin just grins, the corners of his eyes crinkling, and Arthur wonders if he has some sort of mental affliction.
"I'm going to drop you so hard..." he growls.
"Ooh, kitty wet?"
"Where is your head? In fact what do yo—oou!" He jumps off Merlin as the boy rolls his hips up into Arthur, kicking his side and hitting hip bone. "Shit! What the fuck, mate! What's wrong with you!"
"Shut up, harpy!" Arthur hisses.
"Don't insult her!"
"I'll insult whoever I want! Screw you and your mother too!" Arthur finds himself abruptly on the ground again, limbs twisted painfully, his own knife resting at his jugular.
"Please don't insult my mother." The boy's knee is in his spine, and breath hot over his ear. "Do you give?"
"No," Arthur begins to retort but swallows against the blade, a warm drip flowing down his neck. He doesn't even swallow.
"Do you give?"
"I...I give," he rasps and then the pressure's gone. Merlin is standing over him, holding out a hand.
"Got away without killing, again," one of Merlin's mates mutters. "Barely even drew blood. Weak, Merlin!"
Arthur ignores the hand and gets to his feet, immediately one leg giving out. "Shit!" But Merlin has him, embarrassingly, in his arms.
"I've got you."
"I don't want you to 'got' me. Get off, you idiot." Arthur shoves and flails. Also embarrassingly.
Merlin shrugs. "Sorry 'bout the fight, mate."
"Sorry! You're sorry! You don't play fair!"
"So, Uther," Sophie interrupts. "I believe that means High Street is ours?"
Uther looks thunderous and gives a tight nod. "I concede."
"Uther! That's a load of bollocks!" Arthur shouts. "He cheats."
"Our Merlin doesn't cheat," Sophie drawls. "He's skilled. He cam to the fight with his weapons, just as you came with yours. Don't be a sore loser, Arty."
"Don't call me that," Arthur hisses. He turns his glare on Merlin and brushes past him roughly, pausing his step to whisper, "11:00, Cornwall, the corner by Doken's Pub. Be there. Or else."
Merlin just smiles.
Arthur prowls around the area, full of shame, full of anger, and full of the need to...to do...something. The fight replays through his mind endlessly, every move, every action. All seeming to stop when the Merlin kid rolls his hips up into Arthur's. He hisses, half-hard.
"Been waiting long?"
Arthur whirls, fists up.
"Relax," Merlin says, hands up, harmless. "Just me. What did you want?"
"Why did you come here?"
He blinks. "You asked me to."
"Yeah, but why would you come, knowing that I'll probably kill you."
"I don't think you want to kill me."
"Oh really?" Arthur steps closer, grabbing Merlin's shirt. The boy doesn't move. Only smiles.
"Then what are you waiting for?"
They stand there a moment, nothing happening.
Then Merlin kisses him.
Arthur flails back, but Merlin follows him, lips still locked to his.
"God, get off!" Arthur yells, pushing Merlin away. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Kissing you. You so obviously want it."
Sputtering, Arthur lunges for him, face aflame. "You think you can insinuate things about me! You don't know anything about me, mate."
"I know you watch me. All the time. I've seen you," Merlin whispers breathlessly.
"Like I know what you're doing with a bunch of fighters when you're just a wimp in the back."
"But now you know that isn't true," the boy teases, brushing his hips close.
"What are you?" Arthur demands, breath coming harsh now. His arms quiver at his side as Merlin noses around his mouth, breath touching where lips do not.
"I know you'll like me," he says, confidently quiet.
"I want to punch you," Arthur says flatly.
"No." His grin is mysterious and promises him something that he can't figure out. "Call me out, Arthur, when you've figured out when you're in love with me." Merlin darts in to kiss him, hands sneaking around the back of his head, through the hair at the nape of his neck. Slides his tongue between Arthur's lips and then his warmth is gone, the boy darting away around a corner.
Arthur chases him, but he's gone. Gone and out of his sight immediately. Leaving him to wonder. To hate. To tremble. To curse. And strangely? To want.