Merlin hit the ground and it hurt. Just surprisingly not the area on his side where the knife should have caught him, but his elbow that he landed ungently on and his temple that connected with the floor. It made him see stars and he felt like throwing up. The most important thing, though, was that Arthur was alright. Merlin tried to scramble up, expecting Arthur fighting with the cloaked attacker but there was no such chaos.
“See, I told you he would try to protect you.”
Blinking, Merlin just saw Arthur staring at the man next to him, while the attacker just next to him, the hood pulled back, grinning widely.
“You arse! You complete and utter dick! I said not to!”
Gwaine stormed into the kitchen, laughing. “Did it work, Val?”
The others came in as well, Charlie immediately running over to where Merlin was still sitting on the floor, wagging his tail all over the place.
“Oh yes,” Valiant laughed. “The maiden in distress was rescued by the knight with sticking out ears.” He held his hand out to Merlin. “Come on, get up and have a drink. Oh, and Happy Halloween.”
Merlin ignored the offered hand and stared at Arthur. Arthur had been in on that! This was nothing but another cruel prank! And now he had made a total fool out of himself by revealing that he liked Arthur so much that he would take a knife for him.
At least Arthur had the decency to look uncomfortable. “Come on, Merlin, it was just a joke. Don’t be such a girl.” The insult wasn’t flung at him with its usual vigour.
Swallowing hard, Merlin finally scrambled up. Holding his elbow that really hurt, he glared at Arthur and hoped he could hold the tears back long enough until he had made it out of the kitchen. Shoving Percy, who was trying to check on him, aside, Merlin ran, not even stopping to get his jacket. He just needed to get out of the house, away from the people he had thought were his friends, away from the boy he thought he had liked. Stupid Halloween, stupid blokes, stupid Arthur and stupid, stupid him.
Merlin ran until his lungs were burning and then leaned against a tree and just slid down, for the first time wiping the tears from his cheeks. His elbow hurt in all sorts of ways and there was a throbbing on his temple but it wasn’t half as bad as the shame and humiliation that burned deep inside. Merlin ignored the cold and didn’t care about the fog moving in.
Not looking up, Merlin sniffed and wiped his nose on his sleeve.
“Here.” Arthur stood a few feet away and held out Merlin’s jacket to him. “You must be cold.”
Now that he mentioned it, Merlin noticed that he was shivering so hard that his teeth chattered. “No.”
Arthur came closer. “Your teeth chattering are waking the dead.” He sat next to Merlin and wrapped the jacket around his shoulders. “Here you go.”
They didn’t say anything for a while.
“Come on, let’s go back to the house.”
“Is that all you are saying now? Come on, Merlin, this wasn’t my idea. Well, the part with the fake blood and pretending to be slaughtered while you were getting fresh drinks from the kitchen, I was all in on that. But that Val would…this wasn’t me. The footie blokes came up with it, saying that they knew you like me and wanting to prove it since I didn’t believe it. But then I saw your face when you told us about the man in the kitchen and it was too funny, so I went with it.”
Merlin let Arthur babble.
“But then it wasn’t funny anymore…Merlin, I can’t believe that you threw yourself in the knife. You could have gotten hurt!” Arthur turned his head and looked at him.
“I got hurt.” Merlin didn’t look back, he didn’t want Arthur to see that he was…he wasn’t even sure how he was feeling.
Arthur was on his knees in no time. “What’s wrong? It was just a rubber knife! It can’t have injured you.”
Merlin sighed deeply and sniffed again. “I thought you liked me. But nobody who likes somebody does something that cruel to them.” He threw Arthur a little sideways look. “And my elbow really hurts.”
What happened next, Merlin couldn’t really remember much of later since it all went by in a blur. First, they were in the park, then in Leon’s car and they spent the next couple of hours in the A&E.
“Alright, Mr. Emrys.” A young, tired-looking doctor looked at the X-rays. “That must have been quite the fall there, but fortunately nothing’s broken. We will give you a fetching sling you can rest your arm in for a few days and then you’ll come back and we’ll check it again. That little cut on your temple isn’t that bad. Nurse Ellie will clean it up and put a plaster on it and you’ll be fine in no time. I’ll give you a prescription for a few heavy-duty pain killers, so you can sleep tonight and then I’ll see you by the end of the week.”
Merlin just sat there and didn’t react. He was just tired and wanted to go home, so he didn’t even listen to the speech the doctor gave Arthur, who had patiently waited with him.
“…you better rethink your actions. Now take him home and take care of him.”
The doctor nodded at Merlin and then left, mumbling under his breath. “If I have to treat one more victim of well-meant Halloween pranks, I’m going to scream.”
The nurse cleaned Merlin’s wound and he didn’t even flinch, even though it stung. He had to wait for her to bring the sling and silence fell around them.
“Call me a taxi.”
“Merlin…please.” Arthur stepped really close to where Merlin sat on a cod. “As I said, it wasn’t my idea and I didn’t want this to happen. I don’t like you being hurt.”
“You don’t care, you don’t like me anyway.” Merlin looked up, tears in his eyes. They had turned and bent and stretched his arm and it all had hurt, but it wasn’t as bad as the ache in his chest.
“I do. And I do. Let me take you home. I’ll make sure you have everything you need.”
Merlin shook his head. “I won’t be setting foot in your house again. Ever.”
“I won’t let you mess up my room with your muddy jeans anyway.” Arthur tried a crooked smile. “I’ll take you to your place and stay with you.”
“Mam will stay with me.”
Arthur huffed. “I know your mom isn’t at home and it’s doctor’s order to not leave you alone.”
“Doctor’s order.” Merlin said bitterly. “You don’t have to feel obligated just because some doctor said so.”
“I want to.” Arthur carefully cupped Merlin’s cheek. “You know…I didn’t picture this night to end like this. Do you want to know what I had hoped for?”
Merlin shrugged. Arthur’s hand on his face felt good but he wasn’t sure if he was willing to forgive him just yet.
“I thought after we miraculously came back from the dead, we would all have a good laugh and then I could convince you to sit close to me and I could put my arm around you to protect you from other evil Halloween things like scary pumpkins and ghost decorations. And that…maybe…you would thank me for it with…” Arthur blushed. “A little kiss or something.”
“You really expect me to kiss you now after all that’s happened?”
Arthur slightly shook his head. “No, but I still need to thank you for rescuing me…from a rubber knife but we didn’t know that.” He leaned in and brushed his lips over Merlin’s.
When he pulled back, Merlin just closed his eyes and leaned his head against Arthur’s shoulder. He was way too worn out to fight any longer. He liked Arthur, a lot more than the clotpole deserved. But for now, he just liked the warmth that Arthur was radiating and the feeling of him being close.
The nurse came back. “It’s good that he has you.” She smiled at Arthur and then turned to Merlin. “Here you go, gorgeous. A fetching little sling for your arm.” She put it on Merlin and explained how to handle it. “And off you go.”
Merlin slid off the cod and tried to put his jacket on. Arthur immediately helped him finding into one sleeve and hung the jacket over the other shoulder.
“And next time, you take better care of your boyfriend. Happy Halloween, boys.” The nurse winked and left.