27. Hide-and-Seek

Arthur, Percy, and Lance stood outside London Charing Cross as Gwen ran up to them.

She did her best to catch her breath. Lance went over and put a hand on her shoulder. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, we sure this is the place?" She asked.

Arthur nodded. "Merlin said Heaven. This is the only one I could think of."

Percy looked up at the station. "Isn't Heaven a gay club?"

Gwen paled. "Porn Idol Thrusday."

"What?"

"Just… Don't look up at the stage, alright?" Gwen led the way under the station. They passed through these big blue doors with Heaven written in gold at the top.

Arthur hit the call button on his mobile. The music was just a few seconds off but it was the same tune on the other end of the line. Inside bass pulsed through them, a thick techno beat. Arthur, without thinking, took a glance at the stage. A man was twirling an umbrella and scantily clad. Arthur turned a deep red. Strip tease? Aware he'd been staring a little too long he looked away.

"Let's split up!" He called over the music. The other three nodded and Percy followed him to the left while Gwen and Lance went to the right. Arthur saw the restroom and headed for it. Inside was full of guys coming and going, but one stall managed to not be opening and closing. "Merlin?" He called.

"Arthur?"

The door swung pathetically open and he entered while the other guys weren't paying attention. "Merlin, you idiot-" But he cut off when he saw the wet tear stains on his friend's cheeks.

"I'm sorry," he hiccuped, wiping his nose on his sleeve and sitting back on the toilet seat. "You came all the way out here to find me and I just- I just screw everything up. We were getting along and now you hate me-"

"How much have you had to drink?" Arthur asked calmly.

Merlin held up five fingers.

Arthur shook his head. "You could sniff a bottle and get drunk."

"You hate me now."

Arthur crouched down in front of his friend. "I don't hate you. Do you think I would push through a gay nightclub on the night of a stripping competition for someone I hate?" Merlin shook his head. "Good. I'm not angry with you for what happened Halloween. I am angry you would wander off with someone you didn't know-"

"Barely know," Merlin corrected. "I knew him… Sorta. We were in Physics together a while back. He was nice and I ditched him. Now he probably hates me too." Merlin looked about to cry again.

"Stop that." He softly brushed some of Merlin's messy hair out of the way. "Let's get you out of here."

"Can we… just sit here a little while? I don't know how well my legs work."

"Alright."

Merlin leaned forward and rested his head on Arthur's shoulder. "I don't usually do stuff like this. I'm not usually like this."

"I know."

"I don't want to go clubbing ever again."

"We won't."

"We?"

Arthur brought up his hand and stroked the back of Merlin's head. "Yes, we."

"I'm sorry I was stupid."

"I was stupid too, so I suppose we're even."

"Why were you ignoring me, if you weren't mad because you thought I slept with Gwaine?"

"I wasn't mad."

"Then why ignore me?"

Arthur wished he could take a deep breath to help him clear his head but the bathroom wasn't exactly the best place to do that. Luckily there was a knock at the stall door.

"Everything, alright in there?" It was Percy.

Arthur sighed. "You ready to test your land legs?"

"Yeah."

Arthur stood, and then helped Merlin to his feet. He opened the door and Merlin gave a tentative smile. Percy grinned. "So he did find you! Thank goodness. I'll text the other two to meet us out front." Percy went out of the bathroom quickly. Arthur got out of the stall and Merlin swayed a bit as he followed. "Hold onto my arm." Arthur offered it and Merlin wrapped his arms around it like a life preserver watching the pattern on the floor.

They made it out of the club and to the car. Percy and Lance sat in the front while Arthur, Merlin, and Gwen in the back. Merlin leaned on Arthur's shoulder, he wasn't asleep but Arthur didn't make him move. He was tracing the lines on Arthur's left palm with his fingers. It tickled but Arthur didn't pull away. Arthur just stared out the window remembering Merlin's question in his head. They pulled up to Merlin and Gwen's flat, Arthur and Percy helping Merlin to his room while Lance kept reassuring Gwen he'd be fine and he was just tired. Arthur slipped off Merlin's shoes and tucked him in while Percy went back out to the car.

"I was jealous," Arthur whispered. Merlin shifted a little, getting comfortable in his sleep and blissfully unaware of Arthur's confession.