Arthur's fingers scraped nervously against his thigh. He hadn't felt this agitated since the press release of Uther's hospitalization.
His mobile vibrated to his knee, lighting up with an alert.
It vibrated again, seconds after Arthur picked it up—or maybe, he was only feeling his hands tremble. A photo message of a large cup of shoppe-made coffee, and right beside it, two pale, spindly fingers arced.
The rude gesture struck Arthur's gut, fueling anger and embarrassment.
Gwaine could be decent company, sober or otherwise.
Gwaine's infuriatingly gorgeous flatmate, however, had no such friendly inclination. Arthur could nearly hear Merlin's eyes rolling as Gwaine roughly clapped his shoulder and beckoned Arthur in, ignoring the building tension and nicking some junk food from the little, corridor-style kitchen.
The material of the scratchy furniture had an odour like dried salsa. The cushions were worn-out.
And purposely not talking to Merlin when he was right there—fitted in a grandpa jumper, locks of curly, dark hair peeking around his ears, a bit of toothpaste on his upper lip—was even more infuriating than the knowledge that Arthur wanted to drag him somewhere out of view and plead for a good reason to continue this.
Arthur did not fancy having a go with Merlin.
There was always something between them that riled the other up, either superficial—Mithian's harmless flirts at the restaurant, or completely uncalled for—Arthur outing Merlin to Hunith without asking, though she took it with radiant and loving positivity, unlike Arthur's father.
Sometimes, it felt like he and Merlin were standing in the opposite directions of each other, faced away. Like a two-sided coin.
Meeting, touching, but never truly going down the same path in their own minds.
Merlin wasn't like anyone he had ever known before. He didn't care about propriety, or tradition, or about appearances to the public eye. When Arthur first met him, Merlin was nearly penniless; some wild-haired bloke from the countryside looking for a stable job in Bristol. Wore a stupid-looking, over-sized scarf his Mummy knit him last Easter, bluer than his eyes.
His smile—Merlin's smile—could only be described as infectious, all big teeth and all natural charisma. Arthur should have hated those teeth. Crooked in the front, nothing like the models or high-profile celebrities he had bedded, and starting to yellow from a smoking habit.
But his lips. Merlin's lips were made for long nights of kissing, suckling and biting while they stretched cozily on a throwaway futon, or his flushed, damp lips wrapped to Arthur's prick.
Arthur was doomed from the very start, to be heartsick and obsessed, the moment he crashed into him outside. Merlin had the nerve to call Arthur Pendragon, the sole heir to the CTO of the prestigious Albion Group (responsible for buying out some of the largest manufacturers/telecommunications service companies in the UK)… a prat.
Like he was the bumbling idiot.
And that was it, Merlin never saw Arthur as superior to an average person walking down the street.
He just wished Merlin could see that Arthur didn't believe it anymore.
But, that was hardly what Arthur could concentrate on at the moment. His face kept being pelted by stale, hard gums.
"Gwaine," he said warningly, staring at the laughing man in the next recliner across from him. "Sod off or I'll run you through. I mean it this time."
Gwaine wiggled the plastic bag of cartoonish-shaped bears in the air, reopening it.
"Your sword collection is back at your place, mate," he pointed out.
Arthur fiddled with the television remote, eyes back on the game and definitely not watching as Merlin emerged from the hallway, making his way to the loo. More like darting to the loo, as quick as he could. "I'll manage," Arthur said, lip still curled. "You have a fishing rod, don't you, Gwaine?"
"Slain with a fishing rod, eh? That'll make the papers."
The plastic bag crinkled as Gwaine aimed a neon green gum at Arthur, smacking his cheek. One brown eye squinting. "No—open your mouth and hold still, princess."
"What the HELL are you doing?"
"Trying to get you to catch one!" Arthur made an exasperated face, hands flopping and Gwaine badgered on, snorting, "Where's your sense of competition? If you can catch ten in a row, I'll buy drinks tonight."
"You never buy drinks."
A door creaked open. Merlin's blue eyes—stupidly gorgeous—peered over to Arthur, perhaps on instinct as he stepped out of the loo.
"Fine," Arthur said, eyes on the other man who frowned. "You have a deal."
"If you think I'm vacuuming up all that rubbish later," Merlin snapped, face pinched, and the rest of him turning for the kitchen. "Then you're wrong!"
"No one asked you to, Merlin!" Arthur shouted back, heart battering to his throat. Features reddening slightly, back rigid. "I doubt you could tidy up well as you can flail through whatever menial task you attempted!"
What sounded like a heavy, stainless steel pan banging on the counter, invading everyone's ears and tightening jaws.
Gwaine whistled low. "You lot are going to have the best make-up shag," he said, chuckling.
To interrupt, Arthur's nose was hit by an orange gum. He retaliated with a couple of the beer mats, and then the bag of garlic crisps, furiously tossing a handful.
Gwaine returned fire. Somewhere between laughing high-pitched like a childish git, and leaning over to capture whatever bear-shaped gums he was able in his jaws, one went straight for Arthur's windpipe.
His throat clenched up and Arthur shook in place, head to foot, gasping inhales.
Things grayed out at the corners and blurred, and suddenly he was heaved clumsily onto his feet, hands around him and compressing his diaphragm. Panic snatched his consciousness, slow-tormenting. A grunt in his ear, someone's warm breath trailing his neck, and Arthur gagged out a breath. And then it released fully, sick trailing onto the carpet and his shoes.
"Easy, easy now," Merlin shushed him, hands letting him go and rubbing Arthur's shoulder-blade and middle of his back. "Take deep breathes. Let it out." He waited until the gagging stopped, Arthur's full-body shudders calming before guiding him into the cramped loo, sitting him on the fluffy seat-cover. And reaching over to switch the sink faucet on.
"You were choking." Arthur took a cool, wet hand-towel from him, pressing it against his sweating face. "Think you're fine now."
Merlin raised an eyebrow at the questioning look.
"I'm a primary school instructor in training to be an EMT… trust me, I've seen enough vomit to hold down my own," he explained. "Don't think Gwaine is taking it so well, though." From outside the room, they hear renewed sounds of someone gagging loudly. Arthur's stomach mimicked a dangerous gurgle.
"How do you have any time off?" he asked, voice hoarse.
"Just lucky, I suppose," he said, watching blankly as Arthur wiped at his mouth. "And even more importantly, lucky for you."
"…Indeed." Arthur nodded, eyeing the other man. "Very lucky."
Merlin's fingers swept over Arthur's temple, gently pushing away strands of blond hair. There was no mistaking the relief in Merlin's expression. Nor the gratitude in Arthur's own. Arthur's heart was pounding again, harder than ever. "Does… that mean coffee is out of the question?"
The amused quirk to Merlin's lips, full and ripe-pink, dropped. "I already gave you my answer, remember?" he said, quietly.
A scoffing, awkward laugh. Merlin shook his head, looking away and shutting off the faucet, grandpa-sleeves rolled up. "Do you understand the meaning of 'breaking up' or are you that thick-headed?"
He hesitated, looking back as Arthur's hands grabbed his.
"God, just—Merlin, stop, I miss you," Arthur said firmly, squeezing them. "More importantly, I think you miss me as well."
"How the hell would you know tha—" Merlin groaned, shutting his eyes and grinding a palm over his forehead as he dipped his head. "Gwaine."
A smirk crept over Arthur.
"The fact that you trusted him with sensitive information like that might indicate you being thick, Merlin." He playfully tweaked Merlin's nose with his thumb and index finger.
"Bugger off," Merlin retorted, batting the hand away and smiling cheeky. The genuine, unselfish nature of it made Arthur feel a two thousand times better. Even if his previous meal from Morgana and Leon's pre-wedding banquet was now decorating the living room floor. "So what if I did miss you? I've been told I look more attractive when I'm brooding."
"More like pouting," Arthur said, casually, turning the faucet back on and cupping his hands under it, taking small sips of water and rinsing out his disgustingly slick mouth. Merlin crossed his arms, shooting him an unconvincingly offended look behind him.
"I don't pout."
"It's quite… adorable, to be honest."
Merlin grumbled, "shut it," burying his fingers into Arthur's hair and yanking him forward.
This was familiar. Bodies lined up and pressed together, demanding and accepting. The too-prickling hairs of Merlin's stubble grazing Arthur's chin, like invisible sparks of pleasure. Arthur opened up the kiss, sliding his lips over Merlin's tongue flicking out.
"Ugh. Mouthwash, now," Merlin complained, shoving him lightly, and nuzzling back into the side of Arthur's face against his.
"…What were we even fighting about?" Arthur whispered, mouth lowering down Merlin's neck, hand shifting away the sweater's multi-colored collar for better access, feathering many tiny kisses.
After a weighed, silent moment, Merlin muffled a short, barking laugh into Arthur's scalp.
"When don't we?" he answered. "There's one at least every other week, but it's stupid and it never lasts."
"Three weeks, Merlin. The longest it's ever been." Arthur glanced up. "I don't want that anymore. You know… how I feel about you."
Merlin's lips thinned.
"I do," he said, cradling his hands to Arthur's face. "I know you're afraid of that because of your father. You're not him. You're better than Uther." A sigh. "Better than me, definitely."
"No, you're better," Arthur murmured, pressing their mouths briefly together. Merlin's hands to his face disappearing, lowering to grip at the sides of Arthur's hips. "I certainly don't deserve you."
Merlin grinned, agreeing, "Yes, I know—" He squealed out a noise as Arthur's teeth sank to the joint of his pale neck and shoulder.
Arthur's hands jiggled his flat's keys. He hadn't felt this tense with anticipation since asking Elena to drop the engagement, only to celebrate with a bottle of imported wine and Merlin's weirdly beloved collection of dragon-themed movies. And, of course, the weird bloke himself.
His mobile vibrated, once, twice.
A photo message of an empty, white sheet bed. Arthur's bed. Well, not completely empty. He could practically taste Merlin's smugness.
Do you one better.
BBC Merlin isn't mine. I PROMISE I'M STILL DOING MORE CHAPTERS FOR "THE CATALYST" I PROMISE. BUT HEY YOU GET MORE FIC, RIGHT? B-day dedication to Alex (babyintrenchcoat) on Tumblr, and this is also the fic she won/requested! Any thoughts and comments from you guys are SUPER LOVEDDDDDD.