.

.

Thunder begins to crash outside.

The heavy, low-hanging clouds darken to purple and thicken when a jagged arch of lightning flashes, chasing away the shadows of nightfall.

Arthur's in the entrance-way by then, crowding it, winded and tightly expressioned.

He drops his keys on the tablestand, gorgeous and flushed and Merlin's never seen a better sight in his entire life.

Not even that concert in Bristol where he stumbled, gut full and swaying queasy with expensive beer, into his favorite death-rock singer Kilgharrah attempting to sneak out through the alley for a cigarette. Merlin couldn't believe how lucky he had been then — also to not throw up spectacularly all over his boots.

"Where the hell have you been?" Merlin prickles anyway, despite his shaken nerves, his voice harsh.

Arthur shakes his head, embracing him, surrounding Merlin with pure body warmth and the faint odor of cologne.

"I came as soon as I heard," he says, a touch frantic, keep one arm snugly round Merlin and with the other brushing his fingers to the deeply mottled bruise on Merlin's face. "I got held up at Father's meeting. Lance wouldn't tell me what was happening..."

Merlin bats his hand away, earning a disgruntled noise from the other man.

"You weren't there when you promised you would be," he says, jaw clenching, eyes gleaming wet and narrow. "That's what happened!" Arthur has the decency to look crestfallen. "You were supposed to be at the gallery. I told Gwen that you were coming, and when it got late, I turned down an offer for a ride with her. I had to call my Mum and you know how she feels about driving at night!"

Merlin shoved hard at Arthur's chest, angrily.

"You selfish prat!"

Arthur catches a stray fist, but doesn't twist Merlin's arm, doesn't yell back.

"Christ," he mumbles, examining Merlin's scowl, the bruise covering the left side of his face and his ugly, swollen lip. Arthur says evenly, though Merlin knows it is only on the surface. Below the oddly calm exterior, Arthur's ready to snap and lash out. "Why aren't you and Hunith in the hospital?"

"Don't need to be," Merlin replies curtly. "The paramedics want us to go to Gaius tomorrow. The hospital is too much money, and her car is wrecked on top of it and—" Arthur's hand finds the back of his head and Merlin is dragged forward, exhaling sharply, Arthur's chin tucked over his head. The height difference helps.

Arthur feels strong and warm and everything Merlin desperately needs.

"I'm sorry," he breathes into Merlin's hair, lips pressing gently to his scalp. "I'm so sorry, Merlin. I cocked it all up."

Merlin wants to kick and fight and scream at him, but at the risk of waking his mother resting upstairs, and just too scared and too tired for it, Merlin's hands slide around Arthur's back, gripping into his jacket. His next exhale sounds too close to a sob.

Arthur lets him lean completely on him, rocking them together and pressing gentler kisses on Merlin's head.

.

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BBC Merlin isn't mine. I WROTE THIS BACK IN 2013 AND KINDA JUST LEFT IT HANGING AROUND. And now I am here to share some fluffy angst! :D If you liked this, I'll always love hearing it and comments/thoughts are def always appreciated. It's a weird birthday month, but at least there's fic right!