Title: Last Friday Night
Pairing(s)/Character(s): Arthur/Merlin, Knights, Morgana, Gwen, Will, and others
Summary: Arthur’s a hipster, but not really. And Merlin is his normal, happy self who happens to listen to too much Katy Perry and other trashy pop music.
Warnings (if any): Gratuitous amounts of Katy Perry, a little language, and some sexual situations/content.
Total word count: 12,400
Original prompt number: 89 - Submitted by giselleslash
Disclaimer: This story/artwork is based on characters and situations created and owned by the BBC and Shine TV. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Beta(s): Thanks opie_black !
Author's/artist's notes (if any): This is kind of my first published Merlin fic, so I’m happy about that. Uhm, this started off cracky, but then turned into something actually kind of normalish with boys that have feelings. I actually like all the songs that are mentioned in here as well as the artists, so I’m not hating, but the Beach House hate on Katy Perry actually happened. I also might’ve gone overboard with Katy Perry being mentioned in the prompt.
Hipster Arthur is a combo of this kind of hipster: this, this, and this
Last Friday Night - Part I
Arthur is a hipster.
Okay, so he’s not a complete diehard hipster, but he’s got the clothes, equipment, and attitude. He wears purposely beat-up skinny jeans that may be a tad too tight sometimes; dirt- looking plaid button-ups and v-necks; vintage cardigans or sweaters; Converse and Doc Martens; fake, large, thick rimmed, black glasses; large beanies that only cover half his head; and plugs or tapers in his earlobes. He has all of the latest Apple products, a carrier bag and a bike that he has, but never rides. He’s sarcastic and acts like he’s too cool for school.
The part where he purposely bought all of those products in order to be a hipster is irrelevant.
People who know Arthur, and actually are hipsters, would say that he isn’t a hipster at all – just a wannabe, which they tell him frequently.
Firs off, Arthur is blond, slightly tanned, and muscled. Hipsters tend to be as skinny as twigs and pale. Sometimes they like to dye their hair dark, or weird colors, or to just leave it extremely grungy and dirty looking, which Arthur would never dream of doing to his hair. Arthur claims that he is a hipster; hipsters don’t define themselves. He doesn’t care much for causes and he has no idea what WWF even stands for. He doesn’t know any obscure, unknown indie groups like Walk the Moon and has never had the desire to fly to Barcelona or Madrid for the Primavera Club, even though he has the money to. And he doesn’t blog endlessly or even get remotely in touch with his artsy side (which is pretty non-existent anyway).
Arthur doesn’t see why he can’t be considered hipster because of those reasons. At least he knows whom The National and Fleet Foxes are, and that hipsters like to dance around randomly. He also has a Tumblr, a Flickr, and a Twitter account that he uses to subscribe to all things hipster that float around the internet.
So what if he likes to play football, drive fancy cars, and eat cows? He doesn’t care what anyone thinks about that. And that confirms that he’s a hipster, because hipsters don’t care.
Unfortunately, Arthur cares – not in the good way, god forbid – about this absolute idiot he’s met, named Merlin.
Merlin is not a hipster. Not by a long shot.
He wears shirts that are too large for his frame, smiles widely at random people, watches the Disney Channel when he’s bored, hugs people he’s just met, uses a tacky child’s Batman backpack, and listens to Katy Perry all day, every day.
And if Arthur was even remotely hipster, he’d know that Katy Perry stole the name Teenage Dream from Beach House. The bitch. But since he’s a wannabe, he can only snipe about how mainstream the pop star is.
“You’re an alien, your touch so foreign.”
“Merlin. Shut. Up.”
Merlin stops singing the music he’s listening to and grins at Arthur from across the table. Arthur pointedly ignores the flutter in his stomach and instead rolls his eyes before returning to the Classic’s essay open on his Macbook Pro.
“I don’t see what you have against Katy Perry,” Merlin comments lightly after taking a sip of his mocha, a drink that probably contained more sugar than someone should consume in a week.
“She’s an annoying bint with a whiny voice, that’s why,” Arthur fires back. “She’s not even that good. Have you heard her live?”
“So you’ve watched her live?” Merlin grins.
Arthur glares and huffs. “YouTube exists, Merlin. Ever heard of it?”
“Still doesn’t explain why you were watching a video of her,” Merlin practically sings.
Arthur avoids answering him directly, “Don’t you have a chemistry midterm to be studying for?” Merlin smirks, knowing he won the small battle.
A silence falls between them as Arthur edits his paper and Merlin taps out the rhythm of another Katy Perry song against the table. The sound of other customers chatting, blenders going off, and background music of the café filter through the air between them.
Merlin interrupts the silence as he usually did and points to the fake glasses sitting on Arthur’s face. “So remind me why you wear those things again?”
Arthur doesn’t even look up as he mumbles curses to himself for letting Merlin sit down across from him. Yes, the café is full, but he really should have known better. Out of the eight conversations they’ve had together in the past two and half weeks, his clothes and fashion sense were always, at some point, brought into the conversation.
“I don’t expect you to understand the latest fashion trends, Merlin,” Arthur replies evenly, keeping his eyes on the screen before him.
“Oh, but I do!” Merlin exclaims with a wry grin. “Skinny jeans, leggings for girls, flannel, plaid, stripes, and cardigans are in, but knits and those new Aztec, Native American looking designs are the latest trends.”
Arthurs stares at Merlin for a moment. “So you know all this, but still insist on dressing like a homeless person?”
“Mhmm. Just like you wear those glasses.” Merlin’s eyes are wide and innocent as he stares back.
Arthur promptly takes his empty coffee cup and tosses it at Merlin’s head with a minimal amount of force. Merlin flails awkwardly and yelps a bit, drawing attention to himself, as the cup hits his cheek. “Ow, you clotpole!” Merlin cries and rubs the spot when the cup hit him as Arthur laughs loudly.
Arthur stops laughing, but a smile remains on his face. “Clotpole? Did you seriously just use a made up word?”
Merlin colors partially, which of course does unwarranted things to Arthur’s insides, and opens his mouth to say something, but perks up and says instead, “I love this song! I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf.”
Arthur fights the urge to rub his temples and throttle the man sitting in front of him. But then he thinks better of the throttling, because touching Merlin would only lead to bad thoughts that Arthur did not want to have about Merlin. Because ever since Merlin had stumbled into his life, his emotions have run rampant, which rarely happened – if ever – especially for another man. And even though Arthur is hetero-flexible – meaning he’s straight, but shit happens sometimes (especially when he was drunk) – he knew his libido could have chosen someone better than Merlin to find likable or even attractive.
“You love every song, which you should, because they’re on your mp3 player,” Arthur retorts as he leans forward to grab Merlin’s mp3 player – and no, not an iPod, because Merlin refuses to buy anything from Apple – off the table. It takes him a few seconds to navigate the buttons to find the artists list.
He groans as he scrolls through them. “Justin Timberlake…Katy B…Katy Perry…Kelly Clarkson…Ke$ha...Lady Gaga…Leona Lewis… Maroon 5…Michael Bublé…Miley Cyrus…Nicki Minaj?!” he exclaims in disbelief. He then stares at Merlin with wide eyes. “Are you sure you’re not a twelve-year-old girl?”
“Nope,” Merlin chirps as he grabs his mp3 back from Arthur and stands up with his drink in hand. “Just gay.”
Merlin practically dances out of the café singing and grinning at Arthur. “You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys.”
Arthur remembers the first time he met Merlin. Gwen had brought him with her to watch his and Lance’s football game. After the game, Gwen had given Lance a kiss hello and the idiot gave Lance a hug, sweat and all. He then grinned like a loon when he was introduced to Arthur. Arthur may or may not have found it cute.
What Arthur definitely did not find cute was Merlin’s Spanish Inquisition when he came out of the locker room.
With his duffle bag swung over his shoulder, Arthur left the locker room with Lance at his side, sporting sandals, his uniform footy shorts, loose black tank top, glasses, and plugs.
“What happened to your contacts?” Merlin asked as the four of them headed off to Arthur’s car to get some dinner.
“Don’t wear contacts,” Arthur answered shortly as he and Lance tossed their gear into the boot of his car. He then quickly moved to the driver’s seat and started the car.
Merlin climbed into the passenger seat as Lance and Gwen had already taken over the backseat, smiling and talking in low tones with one another. “Oh, so you only need your glasses occasionally then,” Merlin commented.
“No, I have perfect vision,” Arthur absentmindedly answered as he pulled out into traffic. He was steadily beginning to becoming annoyed with all of the comments and questions from Merlin.
The answer caused Merlin to frown. “So why are you wearing glasses, then?”
“Because I like them,” Arthur replied peevishly as he dodged some teenagers crossing the street.
“But that’s just stupid.”
Arthur nearly growled when he pulled to a complete stop at the light. “Tell me, Merlin, do you happen to have any mental afflictions?” Arthur questioned, raising an expectant eyebrow.
“No, that would be you, thinking that those glasses actually make you look good. And by the way, are you a prat all the time?” Merlin fired back before noticing the light turned green. “Green light, mate.”
Arthur glanced towards the light before glaring at Merlin. “I’m not your mate.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t be friends with such an arsehole.”
“Just keep your gob shut before I kick you out of my car,” Arthur threatened as he began to drive again.
“Boys,” Gwen’s voice chimed in with a stern tone, stopping them from insulting or threatening each other any further. “Do we need to separate you two?”
“We actually thought you two would’ve got on,” Lance commented.
“Well, you two have obviously forgotten that I don’t take to idiots too well,” Arthur replied mockingly.
“And I don’t like arrogant prats,” Merlin added.
Gwen just sighed and face palmed.
The second time Arthur met Merlin was also when he received his first hug from the other boy…or man, rather. Needless to say, Arthur was nearly drunk and Merlin was more than a few gulps past tipsy.
Merlin smiled so wide that Arthur could practically count every tooth as he yelled, “Arthur!” Many of the party goers glanced at Merlin, but seeming to be used to his antics, went back to what they were doing. Merlin stumbled across the garage, drink in hand, to envelop a stiff Arthur into a tight hug.
Arthur’s face was full of confusion, and a bit of disturbance, as he gently removed Merlin from himself, mindful of the alcohol that could spill out of the tilted cup. His red cardigan would not look good with alcohol stains.
The last time they had met wasn’t a very joyous occasion for either of them. Even though the beginning of that night started out with snarky comments, it ended better with resigned banter that left everyone more amused than annoyed.
“Still a glasses wearing prat?” Merlin asked, still smiling, the empty hand on Arthur’s shoulder. And if Arthur was completely sober, he wouldn’t have thought that Merlin sounded endearing instead of teasing. And he wouldn’t have thought the red hue to Merlin’s cheeks, below the sharp line of his cheekbones, was charming instead of funny.
Arthur took a few seconds to discern whether or not Merlin was stating this or not, before deciding not to dwell on it at all. “And I see you still haven’t fixed your brain to mouth filter,” Arthur countered, grinning rather than smirking. The alcohol made everything more entertaining; like talking to Merlin.
Merlin practically giggled and swayed in his place a bit. “That answers my question.”
Before Arthur could reply, a girl screamed Merlin’s name. “It’s our song!” she squealed and Arthur could hear the words before I leave, brush my teeth, with a bottle of Jack streaming through the door that led to the makeshift dance floor.
Merlin laughed and raised his cup to the brunette, “Coming!” He turned back to Arthur with a blinding smile. “Ke$ha’s calling. See you later, prat.”
Arthur just raised his eyebrows and watched as Merlin almost face planted on his way to the next room and waved to at least four people he knew along the way. He didn’t know he was staring at the doorway that Merlin disappeared through until his friend, and Gwen’s brother, Elyan called him back to their card game.
“Is he always like that?” he asked Elyan.
His friend laughed and nodded. “He’s like, I guess, the most popular uncool person I’ve ever met. Don’t talk to him much myself, but Gwen thinks he’s great.”
Arthur merely nodded and proceeded to get even more spectacularly drunk.
The next six meetings went much the same way. There was bickering, teasing, surprise hugs, and disdainful glares.
But Arthur laughed more with Merlin than he did with almost anyone else. A laugh that made him toss back his head, shake his shoulders in mirth, and feel giddy down to the tips of his toes. And Arthur was sure that that was not a good sign.
Two days after meeting Merlin in the café, Arthur is not really surprised to see Merlin in his living room. Arthur had seen the 33 mutual friends they had on Facebook, and decided to overlook the fact that Merlin had 300 more friends than he did and 500 more tagged photos. It seems that Merlin is just determined to unknowingly worm his way into Arthur’s life.
His flat mates, Gwaine and Leon, are sitting and talking to Merlin about The Inbetweeners – the series and the movie. When the three of them notice that Arthur is there, they all grin at him.
“Princess!” Gwaine greets, beaming. “I think you know Merlin here.”
Arthur ignores the wink that Gwaine sends his way and rolls his eyes as Merlin waves happily at him. He notices the way Merlin seems to be at home on his couch and pays no attention to the feeling that it’s perfectly natural and normal for him to be there, because Merlin being in his flat is anything but normal.
“It seems like Merlin knows practically everyone that I know,” Arthur practically groans as he toes off his boat shoes and drops his satchel to the floor. He pushes up the sleeves of his multicolored striped jumper.
“Gwaine got beer,” Leon says immediately in response and holds out a bottle for him.
Arthur spies the two six-packs on the coffee table. “For once in his life,” Arthur grumbles. Merlin snorts, Leon laughs, and Gwaine yells in dispute.
Arthur grabs the bottle from Leon’s hand and passes him on his way to the only seat left between Merlin and Gwaine. Leon had claimed the armchair for himself the moment they all moved in, and due to his height, the chair seemed to suit him better than it did Arthur or Gwaine.
Gwaine gives Arthur a playful slap to the back of his thigh with his foot as Arthur passes by, which makes Arthur cuff the side of Gwaine’s head.
Arthur sits down with a sigh, takes the bottle opener that Gwaine hands him, and easily opens the beer. He settles back against the couch and takes a large gulp from the bottle. He glances over to Merlin on his right and sees him watching him. Arthur gives him a questioning look, complete with raised, sardonic eyebrows, causing Merlin to color slightly and smile at him. Arthur only smirks and shakes his head.
The four of them watch movies for the rest of the night, argue over what movie to watch, order two large pizzas, argue over what kind of pizza they want, talk about hilarious clips they saw on YouTube, argue over which one is better, talk about their friend’s lives like nosy teenagers, and again, argue about who is shagging whom.
Later, Leon begs off to go to bed, actually wanting to get to class the next morning, and Gwaine heads over to a party that has started just after midnight. The bugger smirks at Arthur and Merlin as he leaves a quarter of the way through Fight Club.
“Want me to go?” Merlin asks as soon as the door closes behind Gwaine, a bit of uncertainty in his voice.
Arthur looks over at Merlin, who looks soft and warm under the blanket they usually leave out for people who camp out on their couch, and finds himself shaking his head without actually thinking it through. “Nah, you’re alright,” he says softly and ignores the fluttering his stomach when Merlin gives him a bright smile.
If at the end of the night, Merlin falls asleep on his shoulder and Arthur doesn’t have the heart to shove him off, no one has to know.
Somehow Arthur ends up with Merlin’s number on his phone.
Now he gets inane texts at least every other day. As entertaining they may be, but nonetheless, are still inane.
i think ive met someone whos a bigger prat than u
whats with hipsters and triangles? do u like triangles?
my apple has a worm in it. thats bad right?
Arthur usually rolled his eyes, huffed in exasperation, or just laughed before replying with something that usually dripped in sarcasm.
But for the first time, Merlin calls him while he’s sitting at the pub with his mates just past midnight. Arthur debates answering for a few seconds before sighing and accepting the call.
“I thought I told you that you need to have matching shoes in order to get one left and right foot,” Arthur greets as he turns almost backward in his seat, away from the table.
“Ha, you’re so funny,” Merlin replies sarcastically. “Don’t know how I survived without you. Anyway, please tell me you’re at your flat.”
“I’m not at my flat,” Arthur promptly says. “And don’t call me a liar ‘cause you can probably hear the background noise. Why?”
Merlin makes an odd humming noise on the other side of the line. “Will, my flat mate Will, decided to bring home some company for once, and explicit heterosexual activities that I can hear tend to make me squirmy, so I have nowhere to go for the time being. I’d go to Gwen’s, but I’m sure she wouldn’t want me intruding on her night with Lance.”
“Why, Merlin,” Arthur teases, “I’m so glad I could be your second choice.”
Merlin scoffs, and Arthur can practically hear him grinning. “Actually, you’re the only one I thought wouldn’t be busy on a Friday night.”
“You sure know how to make a bloke feel special.”
“That’s what they all say.”
“You do know you’re not getting any closer to finding out where I’m at, right?”
“You’re somewhere with Gwaine,” Merlin replies smartly and, as if on cue, Gwaine’s laughter rings through the pub. Arthur glares at the brunette beside him before hearing what else Merlin has to say. “I should’ve called him first. He actually likes me.”
“Gwaine likes anyone who’ll pay attention to his wiseass comments for more than two minutes.”
“Mmhmm,” Merlin hums through the phone. “And what about you?”
“What about me?”
“What’ll get you to like someone?”
Arthur pauses, feeling like he’s being tested. “Brains,” he replies tersely with a random answer. “We’re at The Duchess and leaving within the hour for somewhere else.” Arthur immediately hangs up and feels a bit guilty when Merlin texts him saying prat.
Twenty minutes later finds Merlin walking through the front door of the pub and immediately grinning at everyone sitting around the table.
Of course, Merlin would already know everyone there. It was Arthur’s usual group of friends, made up of Gwaine, Leon, Percy, Elyan, Elena, and his half-sister Morgana. Lance and Gwen would also be there, if they hadn’t been on a date at the time. Sometimes a few other mates would drop in, but the core nine usually remained solid.
Every person at the table greets Merlin happily (except Arthur, of course, who just raises his glass in acknowledgement) and shifts around to make room for him. Merlin drags a chair up between Morgana and Gwaine and sits with a sigh.
“How’d you know we were here?” Morgana asks.
Merlin shucks his faded black zip-up and jerks his thumb in Arthur’s direction. “Arthur told me.”
Arthur fidgets when everyone shifts their gaze upon him, looking at him like he belongs in an insane asylum. Merlin looks just as confused as he feels, so luckily it is not just him.
“What?” he bristles.
The people at the table glance at each other briefly before they shrug at Arthur and Leon says, “We didn’t know you and Merlin were such good friends.”
Arthur goes to respond, but finds that anything he says would make him sound like an ass. So in the end, he opts for looking stupid with his mouth hanging slightly open. His friends laugh at his expression and Elena almost snorts beer up her nose. He does his best to disregard all the jibes that are sent his way about his inability to admit Merlin is actually his friend, and downs the remnants of his beer.
But he can’t forget the few glances Merlin sends his way when there was no reason to be looking at him.
By the time they end their night two and half hours later, Gwaine is holding onto Leon (who is in little better shape) for support, Elena is flushed a bright red, Elyan is laughing at everything, and Merlin will not stop singing about some prophet or Jesus or something. Morgana, Percy, and Arthur are the most sober out of the group, considering it takes more than a few beers to get Percy anything but a bit fuzzy and Arthur and Morgana are the designated drivers like usual.
On the way back to their cars, Merlin stumbles close to Arthur and snatches his fake glasses off his face with a laugh. Merlin puts them on his face and turns to Arthur with a blinding grin. “How do I look?” he asks.
Arthur gives Merlin an indulgent smile, looking at the way Merlin’s ears stick out a bit less with the glasses. He stamps out the possessive feeling of seeing Merlin wearing something of his, even if it’s just a stupid pair of fake glasses.
“Ridiculous,” Arthur says in a tender voice. Merlin seems to notice and beams at Arthur.
Arthur doesn’t ask for the glasses back.
The group splits off into two, with promises to hang out together again soon, Merlin included. Percy, Elena, and Elyan go with Morgana to her Mercedes, and Gwaine, Leon, and Merlin go with Arthur, all three of them climbing awkwardly into his small Audi.
Merlin fiddles with the radio and lands a station that’s playing something that sings about dirty dancing. Instantaneously, Merlin starts singing along and Arthur groans when he hears Gwaine start singing. Arthur is tempted to change the station or shut it off, but he would rather not risk the drunken wails of his passengers.
“I need directions, Merlin,” Arthur says as he pulls onto the street in the direction he thinks Merlin lives in. Unfortunately, Merlin is much too into the song and Arthur is forced to grab Merlin’s shoulder and shake him.
Merlin squirms and bats at Arthur’s hand. “Wot?”
“Directions, Merlin,” Arthur says firmly. When Merlin just stares, Arthur fights the urge to slap him before saying, “Your flat? The place where I assume you sleep at night, but by the way you look most of the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if you lived behind Tesco.”
“I like living behind Tesco!”
Arthur takes a slow deep breath and tightens his grip on his steering wheel. Never again is he driving a drunk Merlin anywhere. “I’m trying to be nice for once by driving you home and rack up karma points, but you are not getting the idea that I need to know where you live.”
“Behind Tesco!” Merlin exclaims, his eyes comically wide.
“Merlin, I was joking!”
“No, I live behind the Tesco on Kingsland!”
The car goes quiet as the commercials play in the background. Gwaine has stopped singing and has instead chosen to watch the two men in front bicker while his eyes start drooping. Leon is already asleep, his head resting against the window and his breathing slow.
“Seriously?” Arthur questions.
“You think I’m joking?”
Arthur takes a second to glance over Merlin. While his body language conveys lethargy by having his long limbs sprawled everywhere, sluggish from the alcohol, his face shows annoyance, more annoyance than usual. He can only guess that Merlin feels defensive about where he lives. “Whatever,” Arthur sighs, because he doesn’t like to say ‘sorry’, and continues driving with a small downturn to his lips.
A short while later, they pass a Tesco and Arthur makes a turn off Kingsland, only to stop in front of the building behind the Tesco. The building itself looks a bit rundown, but Arthur doesn’t think it’s too bad for a university student’s salary.
The streets are practically empty, so he double parks and gets out of the car at the same time as Merlin, who almost trips and falls, but catches himself at the last second. Arthur looks into the backseat and sees Leon asleep and Gwaine tiredly waving Merlin goodbye through the window.
“I’ll be back once I get his arse upstairs,” Arthur tells Gwaine before he shuts the door and locks his car.
Arthur follows a slightly stumbling Merlin to the front door. He watches Merlin unsuccessfully punch in the code the first time until the door finally buzzes on his fourth try and Merlin lets out a sound of triumph.
“You don’t have to walk me to my door, y’know?” Merlin says tiredly as he heads up the staircase. All the adrenaline from earlier has drained from his system.
“I’m sure someone would punch me in the face if you happened to unfortunately crack your head open from falling down the stairs,” Arthur dryly states as he climbs up the stairs behind Merlin and he did not look at Merlin’s ass thank you very much.
They get to the third floor and Arthur waits patiently as Merlin takes a few seconds to find the right key on his key ring. Merlin opens the door and Arthur can tell that there’s a light on still, somewhere in the mess of a living room.
“Thanks,” Merlin says as he turns around in his doorway. “You’re not actually as big of a prat as you pretend to be. You didn’t even comment on how shitty the building is.”
Arthur shifts awkwardly, not knowing how to respond. He knows how much of an asshole he comes off as to people, cocksure and arrogant, and he knows how to cut people the deepest, something Morgana blames on their father But he knows himself well enough to understand that it is actually a combination of false bravado and confidence. Fortunately, Arthur is aware of his own inclination of becoming quiet and awkward when he’s completely out of his depth or finds himself aware of how bad a situation is around him.
Merlin seems to get that he doesn’t know what to say and instead pulls him into a quick hug, which Arthur finds himself returning, finally starting to get used to Merlin and his hugging tendencies. Hugs, Arthur realizes, are better than punches to the shoulder and manly fist bumps. Arthur feels the way Merlin’s chest presses against his own; curve free, but slotting perfectly against him and it takes all his will power to not bury his face against Merlin’s neck.
Merlin pulls away with a tired grin and Arthur’s chest swells with something he would rather not think about.
Arthur claps Merlin on the shoulder and reaches up to pull his glasses off Merlin’s face. He says softly, “Get some sleep.”
Merlin nods dazedly and goes inside his flat. He turns around with one last smile. “G’night, Arthur.”
After that, Merlin is everywhere. Whenever he goes out with his friends, Merlin is there. When he takes a trip to his favorite café, Merlin is there. When he’s in the library, Merlin is there. When he’s at his flat, Merlin is there. Whenever Merlin is not trailing alongside him, people ask after him.
Arthur starts learning things about Merlin that he never knew before, like how he’s an only child, raised by his mother. His father had never known he had a son until Merlin contacted him two years ago and now they are slowly building a relationship. Merlin speaks fondly of his Uncle Gaius, who inspired him to choose a path in medicine and was always there as a father figure growing up. Merlin had met Will when he was six and they have been best friends ever since, even through that one awkward stage when Merlin had realized that he was gay and developed a small crush on Will, though it quickly went away a month later.
He learns that Merlin is actually ridiculously smarter than he looks, taking multiple chemistry, biology, and other hard science classes that Arthur could only hope to ever understand. He learns that Merlin has a fondness of staying in and watching nerdy TV shows and movies and is unashamed of that fact. He also learns that Merlin has an allergy to peanuts and dislikes eating berries. Merlin is that odd kind of person who actually likes change and likes to do something different whenever he can. And something that Arthur didn’t think was possible is Merlin’s penchant for dirty jokes and dark humor, which completely surprised Arthur because of Merlin’s usual go-lucky attitude.
And while Arthur learns all these things about Merlin, he also finds himself observing him Merlin. He notices the way Merlin’s eyes turn into small half moons when he smiles wide or laughs hard enough. He notices the way Merlin moves his jaw slightly and his fingers twitch when he’s uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say. He also notices that Merlin always likes to talk to everyone he can, not because he wants everyone to like him, but because he’s friendly and genuinely cares about people.
Arthur, in turn, divulges information about himself. He tells Merlin about how he and Morgana are related through his father, who had a brief fling with Morgana’s mother, before finding his mother and falling in love with her. The story of his mother’s death hours after his birth slips easily out of him. Arthur tells Merlin about his love for football and how he wishes he could go professional. He tells the stories of how he met most of his friends: he was roommates first year with Leon; he met Gwaine in a misunderstanding at a pub; Lance at football; Gwen, Elyan, and Percy he met through Lance; and Elena as she was tripping up a set of stairs.
He also tells Merlin about his father’s expectations of him, such as expecting Arthur to take over his multi-million dollar company. Arthur’s bachelor and pending master’s degree in Economics is for his father, while his other bachelor’s degree in English Literature is for himself, done in some sort of weird compromise he’s made with his father. Talking to Merlin makes him spill more information to him than he did with most people, friends included.
Soon, Arthur finds himself willingly hanging out with Merlin, without the rest of his friends there to put a buffer between them; and at the same time, he finds himself quickly falling for Merlin’s charms.
It’s raining, which isn’t unusual for October, but of course, Arthur muses, Merlin would forget an umbrella when the news distinctly says it’s going to be raining all week.
“I told you yesterday it was going to rain,” Arthur says over the pounding of water against the pavement with an unimpressed look on his face. His Doc Martens had kept out most of the rain and his dark grey pea coat along with his red scarf helped keep him extra warm.
Merlin flashes him a grin, though he looks wet and miserable where he’s standing under the awning of the science building, hiding from the rain. His hood is drawn up, but his fringe is plastered to his forehead and Arthur swears that his lips will start turning blue if he stands out here any longer. The thought makes Arthur want to bundle him up and wrap his arms around him to keep him warm, like some bad romantic comedy movie.
“My brully broke this morning,” Merlin replies, eyeing Arthur’s overly large umbrella that has kept him mostly dry for the morning.
Arthur sighs and nods in the direction of the parking lot. “Come on, we’ll stop by your flat before lunch.”
Merlin smiles and joins Arthur underneath his umbrella, standing close enough that Arthur can feel what little body heat Merlin has seeping through his clothes. Their shoulders knock frequently as Merlin tries his best to avoid getting in the rain on the way to his car. Arthur fights the urge to wrap his arm around Merlin’s waist and bring him closer to himself.
The walk takes only a few minutes and Arthur opens his trunk to grab a clean workout towel that he forgot to take out of the car. He somehow convinces Merlin to take off his jacket and throws it into the trunk so as to not get his interiors ruined and to prevent Merlin from a greater risk of coming down with a cold or something worse.
“I like how you’re making me sit on a towel,” Merlin comments cheekily as Arthur walks him to the passenger side.
“I’d rather not have your wet arse soaking my leather seats, alright?” Arthur replies as Merlin sets the towel down on the seat and does his best to get into the car without having his sopping clothes touch anything.
Once Merlin is safely inside the car, Arthur gets into the driver’s seat and puts the umbrella on the floor of the backseat. He starts the car, turns the heat up, and heads over to Merlin’s flat.
After Merlin changes into dry clothes, they head over to Tesco to pick up some lunch since neither is in the mood to drive around in the rain and Merlin doesn’t really have anything at his flat, like usual.
“No, Merlin, we are not getting the £2.50 meal deal,” Arthur argues. “These sandwiches are disgusting.”
“They’re perfectly fine!” Merlin points out as he grabs a spicy chicken sandwich off the shelf.
“Do you actually eat these? Because I’m pretty sure I’d puke it all back up if I ate this shit.” Arthur doesn’t even feel guilty for insulting the food when a middle aged man who is grabbing a prawn mayo sandwich glares at him.
“Sorry we can’t all afford shopping at Whole Foods or Waitrose,” Merlin fires back.
Arthur huffs. “I’m not talking about prices; I’m talking about quality of food.”
“Okay, Mister Economics Major, isn’t it generally: higher prices, better quality and lower prices, poorer quality?” Merlin asks, his eye brows raised and defensive.
Arthur stares at Merlin and starts to feel the guilt of growing up with the habit of always having the best in everything. He sighs and asks gently, “Can we get something else, at least? I don’t like the idea of someone’s grubby hands all over my food.”
Merlin sighs in resignation and puts the sandwich back on the shelf. “Fine. What do you want to eat then?” Merlin asks in an annoyed tone. “Almost everything else requires cooking of some sort.”
“What about pasta? You love it and I can cook it. You have pots I hope,” Arthur replies as he leads the way over to the uncooked pasta.
“Yes, I have pots,” Merlin grumbles as they stare and deliberate which kind they want.
Of course, they end up standing in the aisle and bickering for five minutes about which one would be the best before an elderly lady walks by and immediately plucks a package of angel hair off the shelf for herself. She notices Arthur and Merlin arguing with one another. “Are you two dears having trouble deciding?” she asks sweetly, glancing at Arthur and Merlin.
Merlin smiles in a friendly fashion and tells her the dilemma. “Yeah, actually, I personally want the shells and he thinks the tagliatelle would be better.”
“Well, I’m the one cooking, I don’t think you should have any say in the matter,” Arthur declares.
The woman smiles pleasantly, “I think it’s sweet that you’re cooking for your boyfriend.” Whether or not the woman sees Arthur’s wide eyes or Merlin’s blush at the word boyfriend, she keeps on talking, “When my husband and I started dating, he would never cook for me; it was always me in the kitchen. Oh, but you don’t need to hear about that. The shells would go good with marinara sauce, but take a bit longer to cook, and the tagliatelle would be good with alfredo sauce. So if you have a preference on sauce you want, that might help you decide. I hope that helps.”
Both of the boys smile at her and stutter their thanks. After she leaves, there’s an awkward silence and some shuffling from both of them as they avoid looking at each other.
When he notices Merlin is not going to say anything, Arthur clears his throat. “Shells it is,” he says in a dismissive tone as he steps forward and pulls the package off the shelf. He turns sharply and heads toward the sauces, hearing Merlin following him. Arthur grabs a jar of marinara, doesn’t even consider getting any meat, and joins the queue.
The awkward silence kills Arthur as Merlin is usually always talking about something. So Arthur asks about something neutral, at the same time relevant, to get the conversation rolling again and put the older woman’s comment behind them.
“So how’s the lab report?” he asks and overlooks the way Merlin works his jaw in a slight back and forth motion and the way Merlin throws him embarrassed glances.
“Um, good so far,” he replies slowly. “Should have it done soon.” Arthur nods as Merlin loses the embarrassment that he was showing earlier, telling Arthur what he has left to do and he does not really understand much of it.
Fifteen minutes later, Arthur is cooking lunch for both of them and neither of them mentions being called boyfriends. And Arthur tries not to think about the idea of actually being Merlin’s boyfriend and all that it would entail.