In which the author tries hard to write an AU fic for the first time. Forgiveness is welcome.
Arthur had started reading bad gay fanfiction when he was a teenager.
This is part Crack, part smut (though not really because, like Arthur, I just can't write that for some reason), both genres' I've never really visited before, along with AU. So yeah, enjoy the weirdness of my brain.
Arthur had started reading bad gay fanfiction when he was a teenager.
It had happened accidentally, when a ragingly gay friend of Arthur's sent him an email by mistake when they were fourteen, but the young Pendragon was soon pouring over the startlingly black and white pages of or particular livejournal accounts avidly of his own accord. It was always the same way, Arthur sitting in a darkened corner of his own bedroom, his breathing shallow and his face flushed and with half an English essay tucked away in a Word document to bring up should his father come into the room and peer over Arthur's shoulder at the screen. The internet, with its vast resources and infinite knowledge had just opened itself up to the new generation, but Arthur had found more satisfaction in badly-skinned forums and blogs than he could have in the online Encyclopaedia Britannica. During the days of curved heavy monitors and slow modem connections it had always been important to keep up the decoy – he couldn't simply press Home and pretend he'd been Googleing some current event or a very female glamour model as was his habit now when his roommate strayed too close to the screen of Arthur's shiny new laptop.
Back then, of course, the fanfiction had been rarer, rougher, as the joys of slash writing dawned on a generation of teenaged girls, and Arthur in his hormonal haze had not cared about spelling mistakes or the overuse of certain words as his face, lit only by the glow of the screen, grew tense with the excitement and fear that coursed through him. The fear of discovery was part of the fun, though Arthur had been disturbed far too many times at the height of a story by the knocking on his door that meant his father wanted 'to talk' meaning 'to stare at Arthur for twenty minutes and leave without saying a word'.
Something inside him recognised that it was a little sordid – for all the literary pretension, some of it was just plain porn – and this was probably the same part of him that suggested every now and again that his interest in gay fanfiction might have more than a little to do with Arthur's sexuality, but until Arthur turned seventeen and met Harry, a jovial soldier who Arthur utterly failed to recognise( though he still likes to indulge in the thought he might have been Prince Arthur), in a club one Saturday night, that voice had been easy to ignore – but Harry is another story, and almost entirely irrelevant now. Arthur had frittered away whole nights clicking away, though never daring to pen a story himself, and in later life he would blame his only A at GCSE in a string of A*s on a bloody good Star Wars fanfic that had kept him up all night, rather than the fact he was crap at Chemistry.
Arthur hadn't been obsessed. His screen time was severely rationed – he couldn't do it at school, dear God no, the threat of exposure far too great for the ever popular Arthur, and since most of his time at home was spent with his father, trying to form some kind of bond beyond the financial, it was a rare occurrence. Perhaps that was why when he did get a chance to dial up the connection in the dead of night Arthur looked more like a fevered junkie than a normal teenage boy enjoying one of life's simple pleasures. Eventually the passion had faded as the boy discovered that having real sex, though perhaps not as poetic or as glamorous as he had been led to believe, was infinitely better than reading sex. Girls, and then boys, had distracted Arthur and his fanfic account, Cantwaittobeking (poor boy had joined at eleven on a Lion King kick) had been left to rot in the furthest reaches of cyberspace.
Five years had passed since a seventeen year old Arthur had closed his last fanfic web page in the smug knowledge that he would be 'getting some' that night, and the boy was now a twenty two year old man, pretty much openly gay, barring his father who was now a ranting old fool, and his roommate, who was just too idiotic to realise. Arthur was content in his own skin, satisfied with his sexuality, and looked pretty content, except for the frustration that could be spotted when he rubbed his temples or grimaced at his sister over a catch-up coffee. No one around him seemed to be able to figure it out - the guy ran a successful IT business, could buy pretty much anything he wanted, ate well, was healthy and looked fantastic. No one could guess what was wrong.
Well, no one, except Morgana.
"So, you've not been getting any," she stated, blowing lightly across the foam of her coffee before looking straight at him over the white cup, eyes showing not a whit of sympathy. Arthur spluttered, setting his cup down with a smack against the saucer and slopping hot black coffee over the table and his fingers.
"No! I mean yes I- No I– What is that supposed to mean?!" Arthur asked, apparently having finally settled on a sentence he could complete. Holding his scalded fingers tightly he tried to look his sister in the eye, but found himself reddening – for Christ's sake, he was twenty two, he didn't blush – and instead focussed on her red nails that looked capable of gouging out his eyes.
Morgana sighed and elaborated in simple words of one syllable, saying, "You. Sex. None. You haven't got laid in months. You have not screwed, buggered, rogered, slept with, bonked, laid, shagged, humped, had carnal knowledge of, fornicated, made the beast with two backs with or in short fuc-"
"Morgana, shut up!" Arthur hissed, glancing round the coffee shop for fear someone might be listening to his sister's remarkably foul mouth. The normally cool and collected Arthur Pendragon, who never let anything get to him, had been reduced in a matter of seconds to a paranoid gibbering wreck by his sister. Morgana had always known how to push his buttons. "What the hell makes you think that?" he asked indignantly, but received only a raised eyebrow in response. "You're wrong," the Pendragon golden boy protested, but the words sounded feeble even to him. For about half a minute he had remained silent, staring at the packet of sugar he always took and never used, willing it to explode in his sister's still smirking face before he gave a grunt of acceptance. "How do you know these things?"
"Women's intuition," the dark haired woman replied, her voice saccharin sweet. "Now, why has my ickle wikle baby brother had trouble getting laid, hmm? I find I have no problems-"
"Oh, shut up," Arthur snarled back, blowing on his coffee in great snorts of anger. "I don't want to hear about whatever gay idol you managed to corrupt and take over to the dark side this time." Arthur sounded angry, but there was a hint of a smile on his face, concealed by the coffee cup.
"Have you still not forgiven me for Owain? Get over it, darling." Morgana drawled her words as she sipped her cappuccino slowly, eyeing her younger brother with something like pity.
"We'd been broken up a month! A month and you snatch him to the dark side-" Arthur was suddenly channelling his nineteen-year-old self, his amusement at the situation he had found himself in lost as the irritation returned, however briefly.
"I prefer the 'hetero' side. Sometimes, my dear, you are more than a little heterophobic. Anyway, the boy was gorgeous and clearly not good enough for you. My current beau, since you asked, is one hundred per cent hetero, so please don't accuse me of stealing from the ranks of the young and fabulous, but seriously, back to the situation in hand. How long has it been? Two months? Three?" Morgana was fixing him with the stare Arthur knew she used to interview stars and now under its power he felt distinctly uncomfortable.
"Five. Five months," he gritted out, shooting her a glare. "And before you ask, yes, that includes groping, pulling, blow jobs and anything else your filthy mind can think of that comes under the banner of not full sex."
"Well, I wasn't going to ask, but thanks for the information. At least it explains why you've been walking around like the golem of Prague. If only your employees knew how right they were when they called you a tight-ar-" Morgana's grin was large enough to rival the Cheshire cat's as she spoke, her eyes glinting. This was precisely the reason Arthur had chosen to work from London while Morgana went to LA – too much time with the woman and he'd go insane.
"Is there any point to this inane chatter, or are you merely amused by my total lack of sex life?" Arthur asked as he flung down a tenner to pay the bill that had materialised on the table. He was angry enough not to notice the startled expression on the girl that had brought it as she slipped away, or the man at the next table turning round in interest, only to be distracted by Morgana's cleavage – if he had though, Arthur would have probably punch the guy.
"Sweetie, I need to know a little more before I can help. I'm guessing this isn't self inflicted?" Arthur began to shake his head, then stopped, and then tilted it to the side, confused. Morgana looked, for once, surprised. "Oh. Well, you can only blame yourself for a vow of celibacy – or is it more complicated?" She rolled her eyes as the two strolled out into the bitterly cold winter street. "Of course. You can make anything complicated."
"I'll take that as an insult," Arthur huffed defensively. "But it is complicated... It's just.... Merlin." For a moment Morgana wondered if her brother was maybe too fond of Harry Potter, until she remembered Arthur's roommate, a skinny waif of a man who, after some big gang bust, had turned out to be the rightful owner of Arthur's flat in a tale that resembled something out of a TV movie. Arthur hadn't bothered to understand the legal jargon, he had simply addressed his rent cheques to Merlin instead and told him he wasn't going to move. Morgana guessed the Pendragon probably hadn't expected his new landlord to smile, tell him he'd been homeless before the bust thanks to the gang and that he would now be staying in Arthur's spare room, if he didn't mind – those were apparently his exact words, as if he had no right to remove Arthur from what was, after all, his flat.
And now Arthur had gone and fallen for the man. "Ah. So, why no sex?" Arthur coloured again, and Morgana giggled at the sight, earning herself a glare.
"It's not that simple. He has a girlfriend." A really nice kind nurse of a girlfriend called Gwen – so nice that Arthur had to hate her on principle, despite her inability to flaunt her boy candy. "He's not gay." Much to Arthur's consternation, the last part of his speech came out a little like a wail, and a few shoppers gave him odd looks, as if they expected him to start crying like an overwrought stereotype. Morgana tutted, and looped a comforting arm through his as they continued down the high street.
"Leave the girlfriend to me, little brother. I'm good at dealing with girlfriends. And don't let a trifling matter like a man's sexuality get in your way – I know I don't." Sometimes Arthur had a faint suspicion his sister was actually the Devil incarnate, as she threw back her head and cackled, earning the pair yet more stares. Still, Arthur protested.
"Don't do that! I don't want – I don't want to hurt him." Realising he had never sounded sappier in his life, he cleared his throat. "Anyway, I'm not sure I like him that much. I'll get over it. Get back in the sack, eh, Morgs? Well, great to see you, bye!" And setting off almost into a run, Arthur dodged down the street away from his sister, looking like he was running from death itself.
Morgana's simple (and EVIL!) solutions just wouldn't work, because the situation was far too complicated for that. Not only was there Gwen – and oh, how Arthur hated Gwen's beguiling, innocent smiles, and causal questions about his wellbeing – but Merlin didn't even know Arthur was gay. It wasn't like Arthur had kept it from him, more just that he hadn't bothered to mention it earlier, and now it would just be... awkward to do so. So, Arthur kept to the status quo, catching glimpses of his roommate after a shower, or getting dressed, or just that pale patch of skin above his jeans that appeared when he reached into the high cupboards, and torturing himself with them.
It had started the first time they met, when the police informed him, rather bizarrely, that the flat he had been renting had been stolen from its real owner. The case had never gone to trial after a snap confession, but of all people Arthur hadn't expected a young elf-boy to be his new landlord. The flat after all was top end, a top floor with loft conversion in Notting Hill, and Merlin looked, well, scruffy, hardly the heir to a property empire, however small. When it emerged that Merlin owned the entire building and, up until the police investigation, only one pair of jeans, Arthur was even more confused, but the man was engaging, if worryingly thin, as he hovered on the doorstep.
When he'd opened the door, Arthur thought he was being confronted by some student activist, asking him to get involved in a campaign, or worse, that some two-bit journalist wanted him to do an article on being gay in the electronics business or had discovered his little royal cock up from back in his youth. he certainly wasn't expecting the scruffy man, scarcely older than he was, to be his landlord.
"Oh, Mr Pendragon. Oh, maybe I should have called first. Guess I can't no. Oh, right, you don't know who I am. I'm Merlin." Arthur's blank look made the man stutter for a moment, before he added, almost timidly, "Merlin Emyrs? The Landlord?"
"Call me Arthur. Mr Pendragon is my father. So, you're my rightful lord and master, eh?" Even then Arthur felt his smile was too bright, his comments too jovial, and tried to reign himself back. Merlin looked startled.
"I suppose so. Um, is everything alright? With the flat? I haven't seen it since I was nine, maybe."
"Oh, yeah, it's fine." Arthur had just been having an important call he was eager to get back to – in his effort to stop acting like a school girl he'd become brusque. "Was there anything in particular you wanted?"
"Er, look, Mr Pendragon, oh, sorry, Arthur, you said, Arthur, sorry, sorry. Erm, well, the thing is I'm sort of broke. Very broke. Always have been, actually, so not much of a change, but well, you see. Um, how to put this-"
Arthur had laughed, amused at the way the man shifted from foot to foot like an excited puppy. "Why don't you come in?"
"Ah no, I'd rather not. You might throw me out if I did, because, well, I'm going to live in your spare room. Maybe. Well, probably. If it's ok with you. I have all this property, but it's all rented out and there's no actual money because the gang took all the rent and spent it, so until I collect a few cheques I have none and I didn't want to throw anyone out and you're the only tenant with a spare room." Merlin gasped for breath, his eyes wide as they flicked around Arthur's face, trying to find some sign to go on. "It'll only be a couple of weeks, I promise."
By the time Merlin had stopped speaking, Arthur didn't care if it was a couple of weeks or a couple of months. He'd started the long fall down.
Because Merlin was fucking gorgeous, even if the rather idiotic boy didn't seem to get it and Arthur had never wanted anyone more. Slightly taller than Arthur – and hadn't that been a surprising turn on, the first time he'd noticed – the pale man looked like the archetype emo, if it weren't for his constantly sunny expression, a source of puzzlement of the Pendragon. Arthur had had a life ten times easier than Merlin, and yet his ability to be happy was ten times less. As Merlin got used to being in a home again, got used to being the equal of people like Arthur again, his confidence grew, and a sarky cheeky side that pushed Arthur's buttons in all the right placed developed that just made it harder to let his fantasies go. Arthur knew he was entering dangerous territory when he began to appreciate his roommate's personality and honesty as well as his body, but it was still his lust – never had that word been so real, so true to Arthur, because he did feel like a tongue of fire was blowing along his spine, like something from the Gospel – his unslakable lust that meant time spent around Merlin was a kind of blissful agony. Just glimpses were enough to send him half-insane, and at twenty two, Arthur really didn't like feeling like a hormonal teenager again. He needed a release, an escape.
Thus was Arthur Pendragon, CEO of Dragon Enterprises Ltd, reintroduced to the world of slash fanfiction. He wasn't proud of his rediscovered habit, but it got the job done, capturing his lust and focussing it on other targets, cleansing him so he could spend the day with Merlin without needing to rush to the bathroom every hour or so to crack one off. That wasn't to say that it was exactly like his teenage years, though the circumstances were largely the same, in that there was no possibility of sex, not while he was infatuated with Merlin (he had tried, after that coffee with Morgana, to get laid, but no one else was attractive, which was fucking weird), and Arthur couldn't deny he was more horny than he had been since he was a teenager. Still, the world of fanfiction had changed – everything was more graphic, more detailed, and more, well, more. Arthur had to hand it to the younger generation of female fanficers – they certainly liked and knew how to write a good slash story, even if some were rather needlessly poetic. Arthur doubted he would ever kiss a man's eyelids on the first lay, or announce his love in a tremulous voice across a crowded hall, but then he wasn't a character in a medieval fantasy television show.
Arthur soon found a comfortable routine that suited him and stopped him feeling the need to jump his landlord's bones every time he looked at him. It wasn't all about wanking, in fact, hardly any of it was – just having a time and a way to let off his frustration without having to think about Merlin once was enough to relax the young businessman. By reading a story every night and one in the morning at breakfast, when he pretended to check his emails at the table and so avoid spotting Merlin with bed hair, Arthur could keep his thoughts at bay. Merlin remained none the wiser, and Arthur still found his lip curling when Gwen came over to watch a film and insisted on snuggling up to her friend while Arthur glared at her over the glow of his laptop screen. Arthur had started thanking God for his laptop too – it made a convenient cover when Merlin intruded on his thoughts, though this was happening less frequently now he had television characters to focus on.
About two weeks after discovering his new technique, Morgana rang up from LA to check on Arthur's progress. Getting ready for another night in with Merlin and Gwen, and taking more time over his hair than was really appropriate, Arthur answered the phone half dressed and Morgana's voice greeting him hardly improved his mood.
"How goes the chase?" She might have been back in LA, but apparently the Atlantic Ocean wasn't enough to keep Morgana out of Arthur's private affairs.
"I'm not chasing him- Girlfriend, remember?" Arthur replied through gritted teeth. Morgana laughed on the other end of the line and Arthur heard the key turn in the lock as he strode out into the living room, as if to flee the phone still firmly pressed against his ear. Merlin entered, alone for once and Arthur frowned, mouthing 'Where's Gwen?' as Morgana sniped to a secretary to get out of her office. At the question Merlin audibly gulped, not looking at Arthur's face.
"She's not coming. Blew me off for a guy from some film they're shooting in her hospital." Arthur gaped at him for a moment, before the puzzle pieces started to slide together. Gesturing bizarrely to Merlin, Arthur moved quickly back into his own room and shut the door.
"What did you do?" he hissed down the phone to his sister, furious and pleased, but not willing to let her know the latter. A throaty laugh met his ears.
"I sorted it, darling, and don't pretend you're not guilty. Anyway, all I did was ask Lance to keep an eye out for her and treat her kindly. If they hit it off and she ditched your boy, well, that's nothing to do with me."
"You. Are. Evil."
"I know, but you love me. Anyway, if she had her head turned by Lance, she doesn't deserve Merlin." It might have been Morgana's stock excuse for seductions, but right now Arthur didn't really mind. Until...
"Wait, Lance? Lance Lake? You got the biggest star in Hollywood to ask out a nurse? No wonder her head was turned!"
"I'm Morgana le Fey nee Pendragon, casting agent extraordinaire. I can do whatever the hell I want and turns out Lance wants a part in the next Bond film, which I'm casting as luck would have it. And as for all that rot about her not being able to say no, for God's sake Arthur, this isn't the fifties, we don't all fall into bed with powerful men. Well, not unless we want to. Would you trade in Merlin for Lance?" the question hung in the air, but both siblings knew the answer.
"Thanks, Morgana. Love you, hell demon."
"Love you too, you ridiculous poofter."
Putting down the phone Arthur moved to the kitchen and made the popcorn, forgetting for a moment Gwen's absence and making enough for three – well, it would do Merlin good to fatten up, and it might distract Arthur from the now very available landlord if he was stuffing his face. Arthur had hoped that without Gwen he might be able to talk to Merlin, flirt a little, or a lot, but as usual his predictions and hopes had been way off the mark. Of course, Gwen's absence didn't make things any easier. In fact, Arthur began to wish she was there for though he could carry on a perfectly friendly, even intimate conversation with Merlin over breakfast sitting next to him on a sofa in the dark watching Jonathan Creek was less simple. Gwen used to ask questions, keep the conversation going, despite Arthur's gruffness and Merlin's generally intent interest in whatever was being watched. Eventually though, Arthur managed to speak.
"So Gwen.. Gwen is definitely going out with this guy?"
Merlin didn't look away from the screen as he replied, "Yeah, I think so. She sounded pretty excited."
"So that means you and Gwen... well, you're not, you know, anymore?" It felt to Arthur as if he was trying to speak with some of his old sports socks rammed down his oesophagus, but it got a reaction. Merlin looked like he'd been electrocuted, jerking half a foot out of his chair as he turned to face Arthur, stunned.
"You don't mean you thought that me and Gwen...?" Arthur nodded, and Merlin looked torn between shock and disgust. "Eww. I mean, Gwen is lovely, but we're mates. Close friends. She used to take care of me when I was homeless, you know, help me when I got rabies –" Merlin laughed at Arthur's strange look, "I've never had rabies, Arthur. But me and Gwen? No. If she wasn't on a date I'd call and tell her, she'd piss herself laughing. Oh, that is classic. Hey, where are you going?"
"I'm, uh, going to go to bed. See you tomorrow, maybe." Arthur sounded distant, his mind racing. Well, on the plus he'd not broken up an amazing couple and he had got Gwen a date with a superstar, which even though it all turned out to be unnecessary, was a plus, and possibly made up for him treating her so badly all the time. Then again, he was now more confused than ever, and Merlin was shouting something after him, still glued to the sofa, about how he would have told Arthur if he'd known Arthur liked Gwen – Fuck, this was messed up, and he needed a good fanfic to take his mind off it.
Arthur was still reading the fic at breakfast the next morning, having snatched some fitful sleep in the night before giving up and barely glancing up from the screen as Merlin yawned loudly and settled himself opposite him at the table. The fic, a piece of trash about a computer class that degenerated into smut pretty quickly, even for a fic of that calibre, was just about keeping his mind off Merlin, though it didn't stop him catching the yawn and suddenly being jerked out of his seat y the insistent ringing of his mobile. It was Morgana and knowing her filthy mind, Arthur deemed it best to take the call in private, pretending it was a business colleague.
Morgana began by politely asking if Arthur could still walk straight and reminding him to brush his teeth if he still wanted his lover to like him, and when Arthur replied that he wasn't exactly walking gay and that he hadn't kissed anyone, thank you very much, she wondered why Arthur hadn't got around to screwing his landlord senseless, which had pretty much ended the conversation. Still, Arthur did immediately go and brush his teeth, annoyed that it was Morgana's suggestion – if he was going to start trying t 'turn' Merlin like she had originally suggested, he was going to have to look – and smell – his best.
When Arthur returned, minty fresh, he realised with a jolt of panic he'd left his laptop open on the table, his interesting little fetish open wide for all to see. Thankfully Merlin now had his own laptop out – A Dragon Enterprises model, which always pleased Arthur – and was tapping away at it innocently. Or perhaps not. As Arthur re-entered the kitchen/breakfast room, Merlin slid his chair backwards so he was bent forwards over the table, eyes fixed on his screen and perfectly formed arse in the air, and Arthur had to bite back a groan. It was exactly like the start of the fic he'd been reading to take his mind off Merlin and now... Arthur's eyes narrowed as he watched Merlin stroke the keys he tapped. The man couldn't know what he was doing. then Merlin looked back at him, his eyes full of mischief. Oh yes, Merlin knew what he was doing.
In three strides Arthur had crossed the room and moments later had Merlin pushed up against the wall, his arm across his chest like a steel bar, and was snarling at him. He'd never been so angry, so humiliated, and oddly, so hurt. He'd had people mock his sexuality before, even hurl abuse at him, it came with the territory, but it had never hurt before – he'd thought Merlin better than that. Now, however, the boy was firmly knocked off his pedestal as Arthur tried to feel only anger and not lust as he slammed his former friend against the wall, hard to make it hurt. "Think this is funny? Think this is fucking funny? Mock the faggot who isn't getting any because he can't even fucking look at anyone else, let alone screw them? You and Gwen, laughing together at the queer? You fucker, you little weasely bastard, you arse, you think it's funny?" Arthur's roving eyes found Merlin's steady ones and he saw that the boy's pupils were dilated – fear, or anger? He didn't care, so long as it hurt and-
Arthur's thoughts were cut off by Merlin's reply. "No, I don't. I think it's fucking hot." Arthur had never heard Merlin swear before and seconds later found his collar being pulled up – God, he loved that Merlin was taller than him, he really did – and his own head hit the wall as Merlin turned the tables on him, sliding one hand through his hair and one into Arthur's trousers. "Waited – far too – long," he panted between sucks on Arthur's neck. "Been trying to- seduce you for –ohGodyesplease- months."
Growling in frustration, Arthur pushed away the laptop. He couldn't write anymore, couldn't write it- the part he'd wanted so much, the part he was waiting for. He always got to the same place and stopped, unable to visualise it, write it down. He knew he'd be crap at it, but he thought he could at least express his wish fulfilment on the page, even if he never published it. A dark head peered over his shoulder and a voice clucked in sympathy.
"Thought you wanted to give something back to the 'community'-"
"Right, right, the FANDOM, after it helped you through the whole sexual tension thing. Or rather, didn't help. Why are you doing this again?"
"I wanted to. But I can't, I can't write it. I can't put it into words."
"I could give you some pointers."
"Shut up, Morgana."
"Or I could."
And Arthur allowed Merlin to lead him away to their bedroom and show him all over again why sex with him was utterly inexpressible, while Gwen and Lance rolled their eyes over the Chinese food and Morgana thumbed through Arthur's address book and picked out a name she liked – Harry. Princess Morgana had a nice ring to it. The laptop was left, blinking in the dark, the badly written scenes stark against the white flickering background until the power died, and it was lost. Nobody cared. It was real enough already.
Blarg. Happy endings to oneshoters make me feel odd. This was rather sappy too, as much as I tried not to be.
I'll probably revise it soon, particularly the last bits, when my exams are over.
Tell me what you think should be done to it, or if I should kill it etc.