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True Love's CPR

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“Arthur, don’t-!”

Too late. Merlin watched in horror as Arthur threw back the shot glass, downing the burning liquid in one go. For a long moment, nothing happened, and Merlin allowed himself a sigh of relief as Arthur glared at him.

“Really Merlin,” He scoffed, but that was as far as he got. Whatever insult he was about to hurl was cut off as he coughed, his hand flying to his throat as he began to choke, unable to take in the air he so desperately needed. Merlin flung himself forwarded, elbowing a grinding couple out of the way, but there was nothing he could do. With a final gurgle, Arthur collapsed, landing in Merlin’s arms and sending them both crashing down onto the sticky nightclub floor.

“Arthur!” Merlin shouted, barely audible over the pounding base as he slapped Arthur across the face. “Arthur, you idiot. Wake up!”

“What happened?”

Merlin looked up, blinking against the flashing lights as Gwen crouched down next to them, holding the hem of her long skirt gingerly as she noticed the state of the floor.

“He’s been poisoned!” Merlin shouted.

“What?!” Gwen yelled back, pointing at her ears.

“Arthur’s! Been! Poisoned!” Merlin repeated frantically, leaning as close to Gwen as he could. This time she heard him, clasping her hands over her mouth in shock, forgetting about her dress as she stared at Arthur in horror.

“The wicked witch!” Gwen shouted into Merlin’s ear, “She must have followed us into this strange world. We must find her!”

Gwen made to stand, only to almost fall completely as Merlin grabbed her by the sleeve, forcing her back down.

“No time!” He said loudly, shaking his head. He didn’t know anything about first-aid beyond a one-day course he’d taken in university, but he was fairly sure Arthur’s pulse was supposed to be faster than it was.

“How do we save him?”

“Only true love’s kiss can break a witch’s curse.” Gwen answered, gazing down at Arthur with tears in her eyes. Merlin just stared at her.

“So kiss him!”

“What?”

“You’re his princess, aren’t you? Getting married and all that?” Merlin groaned as Gwen stared blankly at him. “You followed him through a magic portal! If you aren’t his one true love, well it’s not going to be anyone else, is it?!”

“I- me?”

“Kiss him!”

Whether it was because she’d finally realised Merlin was making sense, or just startled into action by his furious yell, Gwen finally moved. Quickly, she leaned down and pressed a soft, lingering kiss to Arthur’s lips. Merlin breathed a sigh of relief, grinning at Gwen as she sat back up. Together, they looked back down at Arthur, and waited for him to wake up.

Except he didn’t.

“Why isn’t he waking up!” Merlin said, slapping Arthur again as if it would somehow help.

“I mustn’t be his true love.” Gwen whispered, inaudible over the booming music. There was no hiding the heartbreak on her face, and any other time Merlin would have pulled her into a back-breaking hug. Right now, however, his arms were full of an unconscious, quickly dying prince, and he was having a hard time focusing on anything else.

“Who else could it be?!”

“Maybe-” Gwen began, but Merlin couldn’t wait.

“Bugger this!” He yelled, “If CPR is good enough for drowning, it can bloody well be good enough for magic curses!”

Desperately trying to remember the multiple-choice quiz he’d only just passed all those years ago, Merlin lowered Arthur to the disgusting floor, ruthlessly pushing away a couple that dared to dance too close, and began to thump his chest with the palms of his hands. The pounding base was probably throwing him off rhythm, but he kept going anyway, counting to thirty before taking a deep breath and pressing his mouth to Arthur’s, preparing to exhale.

He didn’t get the chance. The moment their lips touched there was a shuddering gasp, and Merlin was thrown backwards as Arthur suddenly sat up, glancing between Merlin and Gwen with confused amusement as if he hadn’t been almost dead mere seconds ago.

“Why am I on the floor?” He demanded, looking around him, “And where did my drink go?”

“Oh, Arthur!” With a loud sob, Gwen flung herself at her prince, throwing her arms around his neck as she embraced him. Arthur returned the hug, eyeing Merlin over her shoulder.

“What?” He mouthed, and Merlin, still in shock, just shrugged.

“We thought you were dead!” Gwen exclaimed as she drew back, still keeping her arms on Arthur’s shoulders as if he’d die again should she let go.

“Dead?” Arthur yelled, unsure if he was actually hearing correctly over the ridiculously loud music.

“The witch poisoned you,” Gwen explained through tears of happiness at Arthur’s miraculous revival, “But true love’s kiss saved you!”

“In that case,” Arthur said, gently taking one of Gwen’s hands in his own and lowering it from his shoulder, “I owe you a great deal, my lady.”

He made to kiss Gwen’s hand, but to his surprise she pulled away.

“It, well, it wasn’t me.” She muttered, and Arthur had to lean in to hear her over the still-pounding bass. “It was Merlin.”

“Merlin?!”

Completely floored with shock, Arthur dropped Gwen’s hand and turned to stare incredulously at Merlin.

“YOU’RE my one true love?!”

“Apparently?” Merlin shouted.

“But you’re a complete clotpole!”

“And you’re a dollophead!” Merlin retorted, but he couldn’t stop the grin that had spread across his face as Arthur yelled at him. Apparently, Arthur decided there was only one way to respond to that, and Merlin suddenly found himself grabbed by his ratty t-shirt and yanked in to kiss Arthur for a second time. This kiss immediately surpassed the last, partly because it lasted longer than a fraction of a second, but mostly because this time Arthur was an active participant. Merlin couldn’t help the moan that escaped as Arthur’s tongue swiped across his upper lip.

Neither of them noticed Gwen leave, and it was only when someone dropped a cup of warm beer over the both of them that they realised the floor of a dingy nightclub wasn’t really the place for any of this. Grinning, Arthur got to his feet, holding out a hand to help Merlin, who was slipping on a particularly sticky patch of flooring. Together, they wormed their way through the crowd of sweaty dancers, deftly avoided the man trying to sell them drugs by the toilets, and slipped out into the night. Neither of them knew where they were headed, although Merlin rather hoped it was somewhere with a bed and a lot of privacy, but it didn’t seem to matter all that much. The fairy-tale prince had found his one true love, and as Arthur glanced down at Merlin’s joyous smile, he realised he had never wanted it to be anyone else.

Even if Merlin was an idiot.