Merlin first met Arthur during Spring Break, but getting to know each other isn't as easy as either of them had thought. From the tumblr prompt: just keep running into each other everywhere AU. Written for kaylizle.
The first time Merlin saw him, he was on the beach. The other man was a radiant sun kissed demi-god playing some kind of tackle sport with four of his friends in the sand. Merlin was sitting on the pier close to the beach, with his feet hanging off the edge and just touching the waves. Gulls were calling and a fish darted past Merlin's submerged toes, tickling him, and the sound of laughter and family was everywhere. It was like a scene from a movie, and Merlin was only watching it.
The second time, he actually spoke to the blond man. Or rather, the blond man spoke to him. Merlin was at the outdoor bar of the hotel where he was staying for the week, Gwen having just taking Freya to the bathroom when she reacted badly to a drink, leaving him alone with two empty seats beside him. It only took a moment for the demi-god to slide onto the next stool and order a Cuba Libre like it was his usual.
As the bartender mixed the drink, the man turned to Merlin and said, "Enjoying Spring Break?"
"What makes you think I'm here on Spring Break?" Merlin found himself replying. "Maybe I'm just on vacation and I'm pissed that all these stupid college idiots are clogging up the beach."
Without missing a beat, the guy said, "Then you picked the wrong beach to vacation at."
Handsome and witty. Merlin gave a half smile. "I'm here on Spring Break, same as you," he revealed. "Though I'm still not sure we didn't pick the wrong beach."
"We?" the blond asked.
A nod. "I'm here with-" The bathroom door opened to reveal Gwen and Freya, who looked much better now, if a little shaky. "Oh, there they are."
Gwen and Freya walked up and stood behind Merlin, sizing Arthur up almost in synch. It was funny.
"These are my lovely ladies, Gwen and Freya," Merlin introduced. "Are you feeling better?" he asked Freya. She nodded.
Arthur's drink was slid across the counter and he took a stiff step back once it was in hand. "Well then, I'll let you enjoy your trip with these beauties and I'll go hang out with my rough and tumble teammates and see if we can't find some equally as fine company."
Then with an amiable nod, he was gone. It wasn't until Gwen and Freya asked him who that was that Merlin realized he'd never gotten a name.
They bumped into each other again two days later at a restaurant. Merlin and the girls were coming in, the blond and his team were heading out. They only saw each other long enough to say hey and for one of Arthur's teammates, with shaggy hair and a roguish smile, to give Freya a surprisingly lovely compliment about her eyes.
After that, Spring Break ended without another meeting. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Merlin must've spent half his time looking around himself trying to catch a glimpse but caught nothing. So he, Gwen, and Freya went home to start classes again without Merlin having any amazing stories to tell.
Only a week later, Merlin was rushing to class, already five minutes late. He was checking his watch as he sprinted across campus and crashed into someone else. His hands scraped, Merlin blurted out an apology about how he was late and hoped the other guy was alright but he really really had to go, then kept running. Just as he snuck into the back of the lecture hall and sat down, it registered who exactly he'd knocked down.
Blond demi-god guy.
"God dammit," he muttered, pressing his face into his open notebook and cursing his life.
The first time Merlin saw the guy in the grocery store, he nearly had a heart attack. They waved at each other and Merlin was about to head over when a woman's voice called "Arthur!" and a bombshell of a lady with dark hair grabbed him by the arm to drag him away.
Well, Merlin thought, at least I know his name now. Though it seemed he was dating a supermodel.
Then they spotted each other at a school track event. Merlin was in the stands and Arthur on the field, but they both let their mouths hang open for a moment before smiling and waving at each other.
There was a bookstore and cafe on campus where a lot of students liked to spend their free time because it was quiet. Merlin was darting in from the rain and found the place packed with people also escaping the weather.
"Arthur," he heard the barista call out, and his head jerked up, sending drops of water flying. And it really was his Arthur reaching out for the cup. What were the chances?
This time, Merlin thought, this time we can actually sit down and talk and get to know one another.
Except Arthur turned around, saw him, smiled, then frowned deeply, which made Merlin frown deeply. Hurrying over, Arthur shook his head. "Sorry. I keep wanting to hang around and chat, but I've actually got a class right now. I just stopped in for some coffee to warm me up from the rain and keep me awake for my night class."
Merlin shook his head. "That's alright. Some other time. Oh," he said, holding out his hand, "My name's Merlin."
"Arthur," Arthur said, giving Merlin's hand a firm shake. Merlin didn't tell him he already knew that.
"You should hurry. I think the weather's just gonna get worse. We can meet up later," he offered.
With a nod and a grim smile, Arthur squared his shoulders and then pushed through the door and into the downpour. Almost immediately, Merlin snapped his fingers and cursed. They hadn't exchanged contact info!
He spotted Arthur at the store a few times after that, but one of them would get dragged away or distracted and there simply wasn't the chance to talk. He saw Arthur running one day but by the time he'd recognized it as Arthur and decided to intercept him, Arthur was already too far away to hope to catch. One memorable event was when Merlin was catching a bus from near his dorm with the girls to go to a specialty shop in town. The bus was stopped at a red light and Merlin turned his head when he heard a small sound. Arthur, in an ostentatious red sports car, of course, was waving at him. Just as Merlin was waving back, the light changed colors and the bus jolted forward. The last he saw of Arthur that day was a petulant pout.
It was infuriating and Merlin was ready to pull his hair out, which only caused Freya and Gwen to laugh at him. Then Gwen revealed she'd met someone and Merlin tried to focus on that happy news instead of his doomed relationship.
It really was happy news because Gwen's new boyfriend Lance invited them to a party and that was where Arthur and Merlin actually got to know each other. Arthur was in the kitchen getting a soda when Lance brought Gwen, Merlin, and Freya in to show them where the drinks were.
Merlin gasped "Arthur!" and Arthur nearly dropped his soda can spinning around to face them.
"Finally! Lance, I'm stealing this one," Arthur announced, grabbing a second soda and link his arm with Merlin's so he could drag him away.
That night, they spent the whole party chatting. Arthur introduced him to his teammates and Merlin did the same with Gwen and Freya (properly this time). Arthur admitted he had thought Merlin had two girlfriends, or conquests or something, when they met at the bar. Merlin laughed so hard he nearly spit soda from his nose, then called Arthur an idiot. They talked about their majors and life goals and families and soon the party was dwindling and people were leaving or passing out around them.
And they finally exchanged phone numbers before saying goodbye. It was a step in the right direction if Merlin had ever taken one.
Merlin was checking his phone, reading his latest in a long string of texts from Arthur. They were making plans to get lunch tomorrow since neither of them had classes. Then Merlin bumped into someone and dropped his phone. He apologized, bending down swiftly to snatch his phone off the concrete, when he heard a laugh and looked up to see he'd once again bumped into Arthur.
"Fancy bumping into you," Arthur said.
Merlin grinned. "That seems to be our thing."