Just a random one shot story... set in the Knight In Shining Armour story just after Arthur and Merlin got together.
He knocked on the door. It seemed rude to use his key, although Merlin had taken it with him, when he had dashed off, wanting to avoid Arthur's anger. He didn't entirely comprehend what happened. Gwaine had been a tad full on with him when they had been introduced in the pub and Merlin hadn't known what to do. Flirting was not, Merlin decided, his forte. Unless, of course, it was with Arthur; in which case, flirting was easy. He hunched his shoulders as he heard footsteps running down the hallway and the door was yanked open. Arthur's expression went from panicked to relieved as he saw Merlin.
"Merlin! Oh, thank god you're all right!"
Merlin tried to talk but his teeth were starting to chatter. He had spent his time walking through the rain, not even thinking about it until he realised he had soaked himself down to his underwear. Arthur reached out to take his hand, pulling him over the threshold.
"You've been right out in that rain, come on, get in here, we need to make you warm up!"
As Arthur drew him into the hallway he pulled Merlin into a gentle embrace, but Merlin felt conscious of the fact that he was very wet, and Arthur had been angry.
"Get out of those wet clothes, I'll get you some towels, okay, just stay there. Get out of those clothes."
Arthur ran off, on a mission to get towels. Merlin slowly took off his coat and then realised he couldn't hang it up. He was dripping water everywhere.
"Merlin, I don't want you getting a chill," Arthur announced coming back with a bundle of towels. He dumped them down and pulled Merlin free of his hoodie and tee-shirt, both were plastered to him they were that wet.
"It's going to drip everywhere."
"I don't care," Arthur said, dropping the clothes onto the mat and putting a large fluffy towel around Merlin's shoulders, and then a smaller one on his head, rubbing his hair. Merlin's hands were shaking as he fumbled with his belt. He wasn't sure if it was cold, nerves, or more likely a bit of both. It wasn't quite the reception he had been expecting. Merlin now wondered, about himself and how he behaved. He had often dismissed Cain's treatment while he had been with him and did so even more now, but Merlin started to think that he hadn't really worked through it. Now he was with Arthur Merlin realised, he reacted in ways that told him he had been more affected that he would like to think.
Shit, Merlin thought to himself.
"Here, I'll do that," Arthur said, wrapping the small towel around Merlin's neck and reaching to unfasten the damp jeans, working far more efficiently than Merlin had been. But Arthur wasn't shaking. He crouched to peel them down Merlin's legs and unfastened his trainers before easing one foot up, and then the other to divest Merlin of his clothing and adding it to the sodden pile. Arthur grabbed the second large towel he had brought and wrapped it around Merlin's waist, securing it so he was bundled up.
Merlin let him, slowly processing the information, as Arthur took him completely by surprise, putting an arm around him and then with the other swept Merlin's legs out from under him. Settling Merlin in his arms Arthur carried him through the hallway into the lounge area. He carefully put Merlin down on the sofa, sitting close to him and taking Merlin in his arms again, hugging him close.
"Oh, thank heaven you're okay, you're all right?" Arthur demanded, pulling clear of the hug and taking Merlin's shoulders. Merlin slowly nodded, still feeling confused. He had only returned because it was raining and he had nowhere to go. Telling Arthur that would be horrible though.
"I'm sorry," Merlin said. Arthur smiled and hugged him again, holding him tightly.
"I think that's what I should be saying," Arthur said.
Merlin frowned to himself, not entirely understanding that. He was the one that had been caught flirting with Gwaine. Although, it was not exactly flirting but more that Merlin was not sure how to fend Gwaine off. Arthur had come across them and immediately left with Merlin. The berating had started in the car, and had escalated as they reached Arthur's flat. Rather than go in the building Merlin had run away.
It was a pattern he was familiar with. Not with Arthur. But he had often fled the scene when Cain started. Merlin hadn't been able to help the reaction, although part of him rudely informed him Arthur had no right to be shouting at him. Cain hadn't either but he hadn't bothered to show remorse. Merlin had dragged around the street, with the rain pounding down on him. He had wandered for a while, but the rain was getting too heavy, he was cold and wet. And as previously, he couldn't think of anywhere to go, so he had trailed back to the flat with his tail between his legs, self-esteem plummeting again, prepared to face whatever Arthur threw at him.
Merlin knew it wasn't likely to be a punch, as he could expect with Cain. But concern and care had not been at the forefront of his thoughts. He had felt utterly miserable after the incident, thinking he had completely messed everything up with Arthur. That clearly didn't seem to be the case and Merlin didn't say anything to question it for a minute. Arthur's hand ran up and down his back, pausing to assess the feel of Merlin's skin under the towel.
"I'll turn the fire up, you need to get warm."
"You're doing an okay job."
It made Arthur huff with laughter, but he gently disengaged himself, setting Merlin back on the huge squishy sofa.
"The fire can help as well, and I'll make you a warm drink."
"Just coffee," Merlin said. Arthur smiled, brushing Merlin's damp hair back off his face.
"I'll put some whiskey into it," Arthur said, getting up to turn up the fire, then he turned to head into the kitchen area, picking up the whiskey bottle from the drinks tray. Merlin watched as Arthur moved around his very sparse, clean kitchen. It was a little more cluttered now, since Merlin had been using it, and actually cooking in it.
He knew there were things that annoyed Arthur. Merlin worried every time that Arthur reacted, even if it came across as mild irritation. He just felt so wary, not only because he knew how easily it could turn but also because he felt very conscious that he didn't want to mess things up with Arthur. Arthur was brilliant, and wonderful, and romantic, but there was a side of him that wanted everything exactly as he expected it. He lived alone, and did things alone, and had never really been in a couple before. Trying to accommodate another person was hard for him. Although Arthur made it very clear, he wanted Merlin in his life, Merlin had got through boundaries that he didn't think really existed.
Merlin was the first person to move in with Arthur and to not be told that Arthur wanted his own space. That certainly did not justify some of his behaviour but Arthur had to fight against a lifetime of habits, and he was doing it, and really trying. And hating himself for scaring Merlin.
"Thank you," Merlin said taking the drink of hot coffee, thick with whiskey. He gave a light sip feeling the burn of the heat, and alcohol. It certainly warmed him up.
"I'd better phone round and tell them that you've come back."
"Phone who?" Merlin asked.
"Well, Gwen, and Lancelot. I thought you would go there, and Lancelot said he might go out and look for you. Gwaine said the same, in case you went back to the pub. And I called your mother, and Will, just in case I needed people to try looking for you."
"I've only been gone half an hour," Merlin said.
"I worried," Arthur said. "Here, your mother first."
Arthur held out the phone and Merlin obediently took it, listening as it rang and then got picked up.
"Mum, it's me. I'm all right, I'm back at Arthur's."
"Are you all right? It was raining."
"I'm wrapped up in towels and drinking the most Irish coffee in history. I'm fine."
"Is Arthur all right?"
"He's being very nice, and anxious."
"He's not doing or saying anything that makes you nervous. Honey, please tell me."
"I'm fine, I just got a bit wet. And he's being all worried and fussy, and you can't tuck that in any more than you already have Arthur."
"Let me talk to him," Hunith said.
"Okay," Merlin said holding the phone out to Arthur who was tucking in areas of towel that couldn't possibly be tucked any more. He took the phone without hesitation.
"Hunith. He's fine. Wet, well, not so wet now. I know, I know, I really didn't mean to … and I didn't expect him to run off like that…" Arthur grimaced during a pause. "I know, I should know… I… he wants to talk to you again."
Merlin took the phone back and put it to his ear.
"Mum, this is Arthur, not Cain. I'm fine, I'll call you tomorrow. Yes, we can come over for lunch on Sunday."
Arthur nodded enthusiastically as Merlin glanced in his direction.
"About twelve-ish. Bye."
"I have to phone Gwen, and Will," Arthur said.
"Oh no, it's fine," Gwen cooed two minutes later. "Lancelot had put on some of his stuff to go looking for you, but I knew you'd be fine. Arthur's… well… he doesn't do this relationship thing easily, or ever really. And he feels bad."
"Yes, I'm getting that Gwen. He didn't need to ring round the entire world."
Merlin glared mulishly up at Arthur, who just looked wretched, so Merlin couldn't be mad at him. Arthur had only shouted. Merlin got the feeling he had overreacted, which had made Arthur overreact; really, really overreact. Gwen however wasn't overreacting in the slightest.
"Merlin, I'm now looking at a half-dressed fireman, I'll get over it."
"Gwen! Eww! And send some pictures!" Merlin said before hanging up. "Gwen's kinky, Lancelot's got some fire-fighting gear on!"
"Before you get excited, we have one last call to make."
"Do you have a death wish or what?"
"… because if he's saying anything or making you do this… I'll make sure he regrets it…"
"No… erm… I'm fine… Morgana… he just over…reac…ted," Merlin tried to say and then looked at Arthur helplessly.
Fortified by the fact that Merlin was endlessly forgiving and was accepting apologies in the way of much fussing, promises of meals out and Sunday dinner with Hunith Arthur girded his loins and took the phone off him to deal with his irate sister, who appeared to be stressing Merlin out more than Arthur had.
"Morgana he's fine," Arthur said. "Yes, I might very well say that but I do so because it's the truth. Like he said, he's only been gone half an hour…" Arthur paused and rolled his eyes. "Yes, I know I made five minutes sound very dramatic. I worried about him."
"I think this goes beyond worrying," Merlin informed him, sipping his coffee again, kind of starting to like the alcohol in it. Arthur glared at him, and Merlin ducked his head. Arthur could sort out his own mess.
"Look Morgana, I've got Merlin back safe and sound and I have no intention of upsetting him..." Arthur rolled his eyes. "All right... I don't want to upset him again, I already have once, I know that! Morgana, I am hanging up and turning off my phone!"
"Jesus Christ!" Arthur yelped as he turned his phone off and threw it across the room as if it was a live grenade.
"You called her, you clotpole!" Merlin announced as Arthur glared at him. Arthur looked down at him, going rather gooey eyed as far as Merlin could tell. He remained encased in the pile of towels and felt warm, and tingling all the way through. He tingled even more at Arthur's expression, and even more so as Arthur knelt down.
"I'm sorry, I really am."
"I got that. I didn't mean to... I over-reacted." Merlin paused and bit down on his lip. "I think that, what happened... with Cain. I think I might still... I thought I would be able to forget it and I guess it's not that easy."
"I know, I know that, I've seen it, before now, with you. I just worry that you might get bored of me, that you might find someone else, that..."
"That I might be on the rebound."
"No, I don't think that," Arthur said. "I just know how hard I am to live with; even I can't stand myself sometimes. I just don't want you... and Gwaine does that... and he's charming and far more polite and..."
"Heavily drunk," Merlin said. "His breath stunk, and quite frankly I can't be doing with all that facial hair."
"So you didn't think..."
"I'm not saying that he doesn't look attractive, but... really not for me. He seems like a good mate, but I think original thoughts get lonely in his head."
"Merlin, that really is a bit mean!"
Merlin grinned. "Gotcha!"
Arthur huffed and looked away. Merlin sniggered.
"No, you got all fired up to defend him, what were you going to say."
"I love Gwaine, I really do, but he is incapable of managing himself. It's like having a child, with more pain than labour could ever produce. Anyway this is not about Gwaine, it's about making it up to you after my shitty, appalling behaviour."
Merlin leant forward, tightening his arms around Arthur's neck.
"You have made it up to me, but if you want to carry on, you can carry me to bed."
Arthur, like the knight he was, happily obliged.