The ground is over a hundred feet down, washed in pine trees and cedars—a seemingly unending abysm of green bathed in sunlight.
And all that keeps Arthur's heart and stomach from plummeting is the expression on Merlin's face.
Vulnerable. Open. Trusting.
It's hard to miss, he supposes—that bleak, awful knowledge of being strapped against Merlin's torso and chest, their feet buckled together.
Warm, hearty gusts of Merlin's breath mingle his, sweeping to Arthur's lips, overly sugary. It fleetingly reminds Arthur of raspberry fizz drink, and he can see that vibrant, blue-speckled tip of Merlin's tongue nudging his bottom lip. The platform hoisting them to the tippy-top of their destination quivers to a stop, and leaving the echo in Arthur's knees.
"Ready when you are, lads," their safety instructor monotones, doing a poor job of hiding his peeking glances to his wristwatch. If Arthur's very life didn't depend on the fact that this man has… well, their lives in his '10+ years experience' hands, Arthur may have sarcastically demanded for the man's printed credentials and list of references.
He shoots Merlin a warning glare when that stupidly maniac grin appears.
"Having second thoughts?" Merlin asks, sounding just the level of concern that doesn't push into hesitation and Arthur knows so much better than to underestimate this tosspot.
Merlin's hands outspread, arms going out like a T-shape to his body. Arthur grips harder onto Merlin's too-skinny waist, fingers clawing into Merlin's own harness, nearly squeezing the life out of the other man. "Oh my… God," he says, going wide-eyed. "You can't be serious. Merlin. Merlin, you buggering git—I want off this bloody contraption—!"
The grin reveals slightly crooked teeth, and Merlin's eyes close serenely. He hums in pretend thought, goes backwards into the air, and then it's done.
Wind slams into Arthur's face, makes his tear ducts water, roars like an approaching hell-storm in his ears as they fall. Somewhere mid-air he must have shouted Merlin's name because those long, pale arms hug him tightly, for Arthur, as they weren't already bound together in the first place. Merlin's laughter deep and joyous in his left ear.
The yellow bungee goes taut, and then loosens, repeats and repeats as they bounce rhythmically safely in place.
Vertigo tugs at him, crawling like a heat up Arthur's spine and right into his head, as an upside-down Arthur removes his face from Merlin's neck and stares at treetops.
Something like a tickle of a laugh wiggles its way up Arthur's throat, instead of bile, and he releases it, full-belly laughing as Merlin reduces to giggles, eyes crinkled.
The enormous yell cranes back Arthur's neck, and that's the photo moment they take home from Stratford. Along with the honeymoon champagne.
Edited repost from my Tumblr account. Written on really just a pure whim because the imagery was so gosh-darn adorable and the dedication is still to my ever darling little goober Kit ("ofkingsandlionhearts" on Tumblr) because you are such a goober, ily. Any comments/questions are, as always, deeply appreciated!