He’d forgotten over the summer how exhausting fencing was, and how hot the armour was to wear.
Speaking of hot, Emrys. Something had happened over the summer, something involving a growth spurt, cheekbones, and a homosexual tendency Arthur didn’t know he had. Not that he minded, really, because looking at Emrys, who would?
And he was a much better fencer than Arthur had anticipated. He’d won their first bout 5-1, the second 5-3, and that was not a result acceptable for a Pendragon. Emrys would get what was coming for him next time.
Morgana called them up to the piste, and two two boys saluted each other, Morgana, and pulled on their masks.
“En garde!” called Morgana, “Fence!”
And so the tension started. Arthur feinted forward, and then parried as Merlin counterattacked, throwing in a quick riposte that Merlin easily dodged. They continued back and forth in this manner, never pausing, never scoring until Arthur finally got an attack to land and they stepped back. Merlin gave Arthur a nod, straightened his mask, and took his stance again, looking more serious this time.
And it was more serious. The attacks were stronger, the parries were quicker and they just didn’t stop. The score slowly crept up; 2-0, 2-1, 3-3, 4-4, never more than a point’s difference between the two.
It came down to the very last point, with only 15 seconds left on the clock, and Arthur wasn’t going to let this one go. As soon as Morgana called “Fence”, he lunged in for an attack and somehow managed to hit Merlin before the other man could react. Morgana called it, and Arthur breathed a sigh of relief. He may have lost the whole match, but at least he hadn’t failed overall.
The two of them pulled off their helmets, and Arthur couldn’t keep his eyes off Merlin’s flushed cheeks, or the sweat dripping from his hair as they shook hands. He walked back to the end of the piste, placing his mask and epée on the ground before attempting to unclip the wire from the back of his lamé. But before he could do anything, there were a pair of hands warm at the bottom of his back, unclipping the wire.
“Don’t worry,” said Merlin, leaning over his shoulder to whisper in his ear, “I’ll get you from behind.”
Arthur whipped around, spluttering, searching for something to say in response to that, but all he could come up with was: “That- that would sound very suspicious out of context.”
Merlin smirked, already walking away from Arthur.
“I can mean it in any context you like.”