Guilt. Wonder. Anxious. Elation. Fear. Thrill.
All these emotions creating an emotional cocktail in Arthur’s stomach as he makes his way down to the harbor. The one place his father had said never to venture to, unless he had no less than three squadrons to watch his back.
To take down the main base of the biggest crime lord in this day and age; Balinor. The man had dealt in everything under the sun, though from the reports Arthur had seen, he was mainly suspected of smuggling though nothing ever concrete enough was attached to his name to bring him in.
And he also knew that had his father knew what he was here to do, he would be very very dead. Because it wasn’t to find the evidence needed to bring Balinor in. It wasn’t to stop the smuggling, or to destroy the hideout in an effort to smoke them out. No, he wasn’t there as an officer of the law.
He was there as Arthur, to see his lover. Balinor’s son, Merlin.
Oh yes, he could just imagine the different colors his fathers face would turn if he knew. Could imagine the pitch his voice would reach as he berated him for hours. Could all but feel the tight grip he would undoubtedly have on his arm, his shoulders, the back of his neck as he tries his upmost to shake some sense into him. And, in the more extrem worried visions, he could feel the handcuffs that would dig into his skin as his own father had him arrested for colluding with criminals. The fact that Merlin himself has absolutely no record to speak of wouldn’t matter one wit.
Yet, as well as he know that he also knows it’s not going to stop him from taking every chance to be with him. Because despite what his father so adamantly believed, Merlin is nothing like Balinor. He’s sweet, funny, compassionate, a little on the smart-ass side but always ready to help Arthur at a moments notice. And he just... brings out Arthur’s better side.
Because despite what Morgana seems to think, he’s well aware of his own faults. Or well, he is now at least. Thanks to Merlin. Though, he’s man enough to admit he wasn’t all that grateful when they were first pointed out. About drove Merlin up a wall, the way they’d always be at each others throats because Arthur refused to listen to anything he didn’t want to hear, and Merlin refusing to play along with a game that can only ever lead to someone getting hurt.
And in their lives, that was only if they were lucky.
But, finally and with a lot of headaches and arguments and threats of being brought into the station -- which, really, just proved Merlin’s point to begin with and he had had no problems with ruthlessly pointing that out -- he got to the point where he could admit Merlin had had a point. And from there, their arguments and taunts had lost their edge. The threats of being taken down to the station - and Merlin’s eventual rebuttal of making Arthur go sleeping with the fishes (because apparently the man watched way too many mob movies as a child and it showed) - became more of an inside joke between them.
And that gorgeous, wide smile that always had hints of mischief in it always managed to turn him to goo. It had when he first saw it, and it still does now, seeing him running towards him and straight into his arms.
It must be a good day, because ordinarily he waits for Arthur to walk all the way to him before walking into his arms. Says he likes watching him speed walk towards him, because ‘obviously running would be below your precious Pendragon pride’.
“What’s the occasion?” he asks after stealing a kiss.
“You’re alive,” Merlin says, thumping his head against Arthur’s chest, “Did you honestly think I wouldn’t hear about that close call. You almost died in that shoot out!”
“Ah, that,” Arthur winced. He had been hoping he wouldn't hear of it. Not that Arthur regretted it for a second, he knew going in that this was a dangerous job but someone had to do it. But he knew how much Merlin worried, and knew that when he got worried things started going... up in flames. Apparently he got a bit of a pyromaniac streak when he was stressed, and that was not a fun afternoon when he learned that the reason ten cars had gone up in smoke was because Merlin decided the best way to aleve his stress -- about his father at the time, who had gotten into a rather nasty brawl with a rival crime lord -- was to mix and twist every wire he could get his hands on in a test to see which gave way first. “What got destroyed this time? Please tell me not another car.”
“No, I didn’t go exploding any cars. Believe me, I’d be a lot calmer if I had. No, I’ve had to keep my worries all internal, thanks to some nosey prats who keep calling in noise disturbances. Been twitcher than a particularly stressed out rabbit because of it,” Merlin pouts, and Arthur knew that had he been willing to let Arthur go from his current death grip he’d have his arms crossed and face turned away to try and hide it. Probably since Arthur loved teasing him about it, because who else other than toddlers actually pouted? But since Merlin was genuinely upset and with an admittedly good reason to have been worried, Arthur kept it to himself.
Instead he simply held tight to him, and let him bury his face into his chest to reassure himself that this was real, that Arthur was truely alive and right in his arms and not going anywhere any time soon. Arthur only wished he could promise that would remain true once he left again. But he knew he couldn’t. Knew since this started that there were hundreds of different ways that they could be torn apart. Some in death. Some in legal matters. Some in just life getting in the way, no matter how much they wished it wouldn’t.
This relationship had always been a ticking bomb, and they both knew it. And time was quickly ticking down -- and god only knows what the number the counter is on -- but this bomb hasn’t gone off yet. He’s going to enjoy every moment he can steal with him. Because this? This warmth, this comfort and sense of security? It was more addicting than any drug, and he wasn’t letting it go without a damn good fight.
Because this may very well be love.