"Ouch!" Merlin exclaims.
"That looks bad," Gwaine says as he peels off Merlin's t-shirt and examines the reddening skin on his shoulders. "No sunscreen?" Gwaine is quite fond of Merlin's pale skin. It pains him to see it all pink and sensitive to the touch.
He presses a soothing kiss to Merlin's shoulder. It elicits a hiss. "I know, I know. Stupid," Merlin says. "I can hear my mum's voice right now. She always slathered me up at the slightest hint of a sunny day."
"Hence the lily-white skin."
Merlin chuckled. "Yeah. Maybe."
"I've got just the thing." Gwaine scrambles over to the window of his flat where he keeps a motley selection of plants, including a lucky bamboo that a long-gone cat chewed at the ends so it's frayed and ridiculous looking, but he can't bear to get rid of it. He has this feeling that throwing away a lucky bamboo is inviting ill fortune. He finds what he's looking for and snaps off a plastic-y frond. He waves it at Merlin. "Aloe. Good for all kinds of burns. I keep it in every kitchen I work in."
Merlin eyes the plant sceptically. "You couldn't just buy a salve at the chemist's?
"Noooo, this is the real deal, all natural." Gwaine trails a soft hand up and down Merlin's less-sunburned forearm, then twines their fingers together. Merlin grabs Gwaine's hip and reels him in closer.
"Let's just do that later," Merlin murmurs into Gwaine's jaw as he applies a series of light kisses along it.
"Oh babe, you need to do it when the juice is fresh. Just let me…" If he didn't do it now, they'd forget and rubbing all that sore skin against the sheets won't make it any better. Gwaine doesn't want to worry about hurting Merlin.
Merlin sighs. "All right, all right. As long as you promise to continue where we left off."
Gwaine gifts him with a kiss on the lips. "I promise. I swear. Do you think I'd pass up that kind of invitation?"
Merlin's eyes turn warm. "You like taking care of me, don't you?"
Gwaine keeps his gaze trained on Merlin's pink shoulder. He can feel his cheeks flushing as silence stretches. He supposes that's answer enough. Because Merlin is right. He can't help it; there's a vulnerability about Merlin that brings it out in him, even though he knows at heart Merlin's tough as steel. He hasn't had the easiest life, but you'd never know it from his optimistic disposition. A smile for everyone, Merlin has. It's one of his many endearing qualities.
"Just sit down so I can do this." He pushes Merlin down on the bed.
Merlin laughs. "Softy. Under all that macho chef routine, you're a marshmallow."
"Careful. I've got knives and I know how to use them."
"Do you now?" Merlin seems unimpressed.
"Watch it or I'll have to force feed you chicken soup."
"For a sunburn?"
"It's an all-purpose remedy."
Merlin muses. "Your chicken soup is delicious."
Gwaine smears the aloe on Merlin's tender skin as gently as he can. "That better?"
Merlin turns his head over his shoulder for a kiss. "Yes, darling. Actually, it feels really good."
"Excellent." Gwaine wraps his arms around Merlin from behind, taking care not to brush the sunburned part of his shoulders and back, moulding himself to Merlin's torso as much as he can. If he could keep Merlin like this always, safe in his arms, he would. "Now. Back to business," he says, hands already wandering down to Merlin's crotch.