Love is like a sin

Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
Summary: The complicated stripper Merlin meets the lawyer Arthur. Arthur is instantly infatuated, but Merlin isn't as interested.
Warning: SLASH. When do I ever not write slash anyway? There will be sex. So all of you naughty people, enjoy. Those of you who can't handle hot epic man sex, back off.
Disclaimer: I DO SADLY NOT OWN MERLIN. This is written for fun. The title is taken from the song Paradise Circus by Massive Attack.
A/N: Hi there. This is my first time posting an incomplete fanfic. This will be ongoing. Don't hate me if I'm slow on updates, I'm trying my very best to keep away from writers block.

oooo

"Please give a warm welcome for our next dancer on stage, Emrys!"

There's about twenty or so guys in the strip club, along with four women on a bachelorette party. Some of the men give applause half-heartedly and the four women giggle in unison. Nobody really gives a shit about giving the next stripper a warm welcome because they're only here because they're horny and none of the guys care about anything than themselves. But one man raises one eyebrow, instantly intrigued by the name.

A slim man with black locks and high cheekbones enters the scene to a sensual dubstep remix of Help I'm Alive by Metric. He wears nothing but a pair of black underwear and black boots. The manager told him from the very beginning it would be all he needed to capture the audience. With that pure beauty nothing else was required.

The young man took hold of the pole in the middle of the scene and swung himself around, one leg entwined around to keep himself steady as he slides down and grinds back up again against the cool metal bar. His face is as much as expressionless, but his blue eyes glow and pulls every one of the men (and the women) in. The manager uses to laugh about the way people throw money over his young stripper and absolutely loves the effect the dancer has on everyone. He immediately spotted the boy's potential when he came looking for work and didn't even bother checking he was of legal age before he hired him. Emrys is the star of the club, there's no denying it.

Emrys lets go of the pole and turns his back to the audience. He starts moving his hips slowly and flexes his back muscles with every movement. His arms reach up and let fingers slip through the very dark curls before sliding to the long, slender neck and over to his shoulder blades. He dips down and lets everyone get a good look at his ass, turns his head and sends a hot look at the audience before turning around, in tact with the music, and rubbing his thighs. His hands travel up to his stomach and then back up to that beautiful neck of his. He keeps his gaze cast low, occasionally looking up at the audience through heavy eyelashes, and moves like he doesn't know the other people are there. Like he's in a trance with the music.

You can almost hear the manager laughing with much satisfaction by the way his favourite dancer mesmerises them all. Money is constantly thrown and Emrys only picks the money up when he bends down, grasping the paper notes with it being barely noticed and then tucking it into either his boots or the underwear.
The song comes to its end and Emrys blows the audience a kiss before walking of the scene with confident steps.

"Give it up for Emrys!" the manager yells out again and this time everyone are clapping their hands enthusiastically. Some screams for more and makes dirty cat calls. The women laughs and drinks more of their champagne, thinking the money they threw was well worth it.
The manager yells out another name to enter the stage while Emrys goes in to get changed, thinking that if he's lucky he might be able to leave work early tonight.

"Hey, Emrys!" Sophia, the second in command calls before he can reach the dressing room, "You've got a customer in a private room. Lap dance. Room four."

Here, at Velvet Star, you are able to get your very own private lap dance in one of the private rooms. If any one wanted discretion, that's what they got.
Emrys nods and hands Sophia the money he received on stage. Then, without a word, he makes his way to private room number four, all the while cringing inwardly at YMCA being played for Robbie on stage.

He doesn't hesitate before he presses down the handle, with much decision, and enters room four. He's done this plenty of times already. Inside waits a blonde man in a dark suit and a blue tie, on a black leather chaise. He doesn't look very eager or amused as Emrys gets inside and lets the door behind shut with a soft slam, efficiently shutting all sounds out.
The private rooms are all soundproof and decorated differently. All customers get to choose the room matching their very own taste. And they get to choose the music as well. Currently Where Is My Mind by Pixies is playing. A good choice which doesn't at all fit the room the blonde has chosen.

"Hi", Emrys says in a gentle tone. Judging by the music, the man has a sensitive side, but judging by the dark blue room and the leather interior, he also likes it rough. Emrys decides to play sensitive first.

"I haven't seen you around here before. Are you new?" Emrys asks when the blonde doesn't answer him. The man is young, probably only a few years older than him, but still looks very businesslike.

"Is this your first time?" Emrys pushes.

The blonde seems to snap out of a daydream and meets Emrys' eyes. "No, no. This is not my first time", he says with a smile.

Emrys saw the blonde already from the stage. He's definitely not here alone, he had some company when he spotted him in the bar.

"Good", Emrys says and nods approvingly.

He doesn't bother teasing him, but approaches the blonde and takes the glass of champagne out of his hand. He puts the glass on a nearby table and starts stroking the blonde's thighs, all the while keeping close eye contact. Emrys straddles the guy and strokes one hand over the stomach and the other just below the man's crotch. He's not disappointed when he briefly touches his crotch and feels a slight hardness. It's the way it's supposed to be.
He pushes him back slightly and shuffles closer, his ass now touching the man's hardness. Emrys pulls at his tie and loosens it a little, trying to make him as comfortable as possible.

"What's your name?" the blonde asks and his eyes are slightly glazed over.

"You already know. You just asked specifically for me. My name is Emrys", Emrys answers and can't help doing so with a voice he uses when talking to little children or daft people.

"Yeah, I know that. But I mean your real name, what's your real name?" the man asks impatiently.

"I can't tell you that", he says and slides his hand down the man's chest to his stomach and back up again.

"But it isn't Emrys?"

The stripper allows himself to shake his head – he can at least be honest about that.

"Why did you take the name, then?" the guy continues to push and Emrys is starting to get fed up by this.

"Why do you ask? Really, you should relax and just let this go. Let me take care of you", he says as kindly as he can manage.

"I'm asking because", the blonde hesitates before he continues, "Because there is this book series called Art and-"

"Art and Emrys?", Emrys cuts off, "I know that, but... I've read them, but I've never found anyone else who has."

"They are my favourite books. I have all eight of them. I just heard your name and made the connection. I've never met anyone who've read them either", the blonde confesses.

Emrys is slightly impressed and is on his way to reveal that the books are also his favourites, but stops himself just in time. He does not talk about personal things with customers.

"You have a great taste in books", he simply murmurs in the man's ear and makes that the end of that conversation.

The lap dance last for whole fifteen minutes and they both know when it's about coming to its end.

"Have dinner with me", the guy says and Emrys stops all movements and frowns.

It's not the first time he's gotten a proposal like this, but hearing it from this guy... It doesn't fit him. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy to get lovestruck that easily. "I'm sorry, I can't."

"Come on. We can talk more about our love for the same books."

"I don't think so. Look, I know who you are. It's better if we don't have dinner."

Something flashes in the guy's eyes and he looks... surprised. "You've seen me in the newspapers?" he wonders and seems a bit cocky for being a minor celebrity.

"Actually", Emrys says and leans closer with lips not far from the blonde's, "Your name is written on your brief case. Arthur Pendragon."

The man frowns and looks down at the case on the floor and indeed, there is his name written in gold on it. "Nicely spotted", he compliments, "So what, you're afraid of having dinner with the son of the state attorney?"

"No – I'm not afraid – I just think it's wiser if we don't have dinner. It's the best for both of us. And besides, I don't date customers."

Emrys climbs off Arthur Pendragon's lap, knowing he has already paid Sophia for the lap dance, and decides this really is the time to leave before this gets unpleasant. He rushes to the door, but is stopped by Arthur speaking again.

"Have dinner with me. Merlin."

Emrys, or Merlin as his real name clearly is, turns back around and stares at Arthur with bare astonishment. He doesn't want to show how shocked he really is.

"You see, I took the liberty to ask your manager what your real name is in change for some money. He gladly told me."

Merlin can't believe this. They have been strictly told, by the manager himself, to never give out their real names. And now he has done it for only some extra cash? That is really low. It's pathetic.

"I'm going to tell you to have dinner with me for a third time and this time I want you to say yes, okay?" Arthur says, but doesn't wait for Merlin to agree, "Have dinner with me, Merlin."

Merlin glares at this stranger, a man he has never seen before. A man who is determined to take him for dinner only because they favourite the same books?

"What are you, some psycho killer? Picking up random strippers and then kills and cuts them up?" Merlin can't help his harsh voice, but Arthur only looks amused by his anger.

"No, I'm not. I'd find it a bit hard to be a serial killer with my father basically being the law and all."

Arthur seems smug by this, making Merlin seem stupid to not have thought of that.

"I won't take a no for answer", Arthur continues and changes his expression to a serious one, "I know your name now. I can easily find you. I won't stop until you say yes. At least you'll get a free meal."

Merlin makes his way back over to the now standing Arthur and swiftly puts his arms around Arthur's neck. He wears a victorious grin on his lips, probably believing it was really that easy to win Merlin over.

"So you don't think I can press charges on you for invading my personal life? For trying to almost blackmail me? You know, with your father basically being the law and all, he should see this very seriously", Merlin says and smiles warmly.

Arthur's victorious expression fades and is replaced by an annoyed frown. He had clearly not expected that comeback.

"You can press charges if you want, I'm still taking you for dinner."

Merlin still holds on around Arthur's neck and they develop a kind of staring game, neither wanting to break the eye contact first. Merlin sighs, annoyed, and gives up. He wants to go home and go to bed, he's been here for too long already.

"Fine. What time?" he asks and pulls away from Arthur.

"Tomorrow at seven", Arthur says and his face lights up, "La Roche?"

"Yeah, whatever", Merlin says and notes that is the most expensive restaurant in Camelot. Of course this guy would be a show off.

He doesn't bother staying and listening to anything else Arthur might say, but leaves the room quickly after, the door slamming loudly as he goes. The club is now playing Personal Jesus by Depeche Mode and Merlin hears Charlie getting called on stage. He sees Sophia coming for him, probably to give him his share of the money he earned tonight. He waves her off and goes to find the manager.

"Edwin!" he calls and the manager turns around to see Merlin coming at him, looking furious, "What the fuck was that? You gave him my real name? For some extra money?"

"I'm sorry, Merlin. He paid greatly and I couldn't say no to that", Edwin says and doesn't at all look like he's sorry.

"I don't care if he paid you a million pounds, you don't give away my name!" Merlin shouts and hears Sophia come running from behind.

"What's going on?" she asks and tries to stand in between the two men to prevent any possible fight.

"He gave away my name", Merlin spits and glares at the manager.

Sophia looks at Edwin like she can't believe what Merlin is saying. "You did?"

There's not enough anger in her voice for Merlin to be pleased, but of course she wouldn't get mad at Edwin. They're fucking each other and that's the only reason she has this job. If she takes Merlin's side she'll be fired.

"I told him I'm sorry, but this guy paid us really much. We've never gotten this money before", Edwin says and tries to make both Sophia and Merlin to understand.

"I hope I'm getting my fair share of it. I want it now before I'm leaving, because I'm not coming back", Merlin growls.

With quick and angry steps he makes his way to the dressing room, with Sophia running behind him and begging for him not to leave like this. Merlin doesn't give a shit. He's had enough of this.

oooo

"I didn't think you would come", Arthur says honestly and gets up from his chair, like a real gentleman, when Merlin arrives to La Roche.

"I said I'd be here, didn't I?" Merlin says with raised eyebrows.

Merlin gets his coat off and gives it to one of the restaurant workers and Arthur glances at him up and down. They clearly don't match in their clothes.
Arthur's dressed in yet another, probably custom-made, dark suit. This one isn't entirely black, but has a few grey shades in it. He's got a white shirt and a purple tie, with polished black, expensive shoes. Merlin's dressed in dark-grey jeans and a black, v-necked t-shirt with white converse.

The pair really don't match at all, in fact they match so badly even a few of the customers in the restaurant notices it. Normally someone dressed like Merlin wouldn't be let into the restaurant, but since he's Arthur Pendragon's company he's allowed to.

"You're a bit late so I ordered for you. Hope you're not allergic to shellfish? I ordered lobster", Arthur says when they've both finally sit down.

Merlin immediately dislikes the restaurant and hates the way people are looking at them, or looking at him. It's as if Arthur doesn't even notice it.

"It's fine", Merlin says even though he hasn't really learned to enjoy the taste of shellfish. But lobster's expensive and why not let this guy spend as much money as possible on him?

A waiter comes up with a bottle of wine and shows it for Arthur, with much grace, who seems to be actually reading the text on the bottle. Merlin rolls his eyes, it's not like it matters what it says about the wine, it won't taste any differently. Arthur nods to the waiter and he pours some wine in his glass. Arthur tastes it and looks pleased.

"This'll be good."

The waiter pours wine into both their glasses and then leaves them alone. A silence settles between them while a violin can be heard playing. This restaurant is too upper-class to be true. It makes Merlin want to gag.

"Have you been here before?" Arthur wonders and Merlin thinks the question is stupid and has to restrain himself from laughing.

"Do I look like a rich guy to you? Do you think I've afford to eat here daily with the job I have?" Merlin asks.

"As I recall, people literally threw money over you. And it was all paper notes. And there's no denying you're the favourite at the club. You completely captivated everyone when you danced", Arthur says, with slight impressiveness, "I wouldn't be surprised if you've eaten here before."

"Well, sadly I haven't", Merlin says and can't believe Arthur really thinks working as a stripper is that glamorous, "And it's only temporary. The stripping. It's not like I'm planning to make a career in it."

He's impressed Arthur doesn't try and shush him when he says 'stripping' a little louder. Arthur smiles like he totally knew Merlin had expected him to shush him and is now proud he didn't do so. Merlin carefully leaves out the fact that he quit his job right after he gave Arthur his lap dance.

"What are you planning on doing then?" Arthur wonders and looks genuinely interested. But Merlin won't spill his secrets that easily.

"Marry some ridiculously rich guy. How do you think I'm doing so far? Have I got a chance?" Merlin smirks and takes a sip of his wine, holding the eye contact over the edge of the glass.

"So I'm a ridiculously rich guy then?" Arthur laughs, "Is that a compliment or an insult?"

Merlin doesn't feel like answering that and instead take another sip from his wine. "I get it", he says when he puts the fragile crystal glass back on the table, "You're rich. You don't have to take me here and order lobster for me. I get it. I bet it's all daddy's money?"

"No, it's my own, actually. I have my own law firm", he explains and Merlin doesn't know if he fully believes that.

"Oh, really? You're a lawyer? And how old are you exactly? Twenty?" Merlin asks with the scepticism clear in his voice.

Arthur chuckles and shakes his head. "Twenty-three, but close. I started my studies earlier than everyone else."

"And then you got help from your father to start a law firm, am I right? Because there's no way you had all that money it required."

"Yes, you're right. But I've paid it all back. Don't want to owe him anything."

It's clear to Merlin that Arthur respects his father, the state attorney, enough to choose the same line of work as him, but they clearly don't get very good along otherwise Arthur wouldn't have wanted to pay him back that quickly. Oh, the daddy issues. But who doesn't have them, honestly? Merlin's own father might very well be downing his fifth scotch right about now and finishing the last chapters of Pioneers of Psychology.

As Arthur ordered early for them both it doesn't take very long for them to get their food. Merlin can smell garlic from the lobster and really hopes it won't add any distaste.

"Since we're talking age and everything, how old are you anyway?" Arthur wonders and takes a bite of his lobster. Merlin chews on some lobster carefully and to his surprise he actually likes it. He swallows and looks up at Arthur and figures he'll do a small test on him.

"I'm twenty-one", he says clearly and Arthur's eyes finds his. His expression is completely blank for a few seconds and then he looks thoughtful.

"You're lying", Arthur states and passes the test. It's as Merlin thought. Arthur can read people and the way they act very easily.

"Yes, I am", Merlin confesses, "I'm nineteen, actually."

Arthur's eyes widens slightly, and he's clearly shocked even though he doesn't want to show it. His gaze falters a bit and then he stares at Merlin a bit more intensely.

"Okay. That's a bit young for stripping, isn't it? You must've just left school."

Merlin shrugs. "Isn't being twenty-three and having his own law firm a bit young?"

"It's entirely different and you know it."

"Whatever. As I said, it's only temporary", Merlin repeats again and looks back down at his lobster.

He can feel Arthur's eyes on him though, burning hot like fire, but he decides not to feel uncomfortable by that. He doesn't give a fuck what other people think about his job and his age. He's made this choice for a reason.

"Wow, you certainly turned awkward. My age didn't seem to matter as much when I gave you a lap dance yesterday and felt your boner against my ass", Merlin says frankly. He looks back up at Arthur and meets his gaze, like he's daring him to judge him.

"Um. No, that's not it. I just find it interesting", Arthur says like Merlin has hit him spot on. Perhaps he's telling the truth, it's kind of hard to tell. Merlin decides he doesn't give enough fucks.

"Anyway, I promised talk about Art and Emrys, didn't I?" Arthur says and changes the subject quickly before it gets too awkward.

That's right. Merlin had almost forgotten about that. It's the reason for all of this, for this dinner, in the first place.

"Favourite book?" Arthur continues.

Art and Emrys – a series of eight books about prince Art and his friend the wizard Emrys on several different adventures. The books are written by Ana Jeadon, but anyone who is a fan of the books knows that's only a pseudonym. Nobody really knows who wrote the books. It's not like there's much to take credit for anyway, the books never became very famous, and as both Merlin and Arthur stated earlier neither of them has ever found anyone else who has read them.

"The fifth book, obviously. Art and Emrys in the February Desert", Merlin says like there's nothing to argue about, but for the sake of it he continues, "And your?"
"The third. Aft and Emrys and the Golden Handle."

Arthur looks a bit like a small boy when he talks about the books, it's obvious he loves them as much as Merlin does. He knows every chapter of every book, and he can tell quotes by heart. Just like Merlin.

"I've always felt like I connect with Art in some way. I can see much of myself in him", Arthur says and somehow he seems a bit ashamed by this and Merlin doesn't get it.

"The same for me. I've always seen myself in Emrys. Hence the stage name."

Arthur smiles, like he's finally found someone who truly understands him, and Merlin feels a bit weird by this.
Their conversation runs smoothly after this and they end the dinner with some desert and coffee before leaving the place. Merlin has to admit the dinner wasn't as horrible as he thought it would be. It was fine.

"So, my car is right around the corner. I can go get it and then we'll head to my place", Arthur says and begins moving, but is stopped by Merlin laughing.

"What is it?"

Merlin's laugh may be a bit exaggerated, but he can't help himself. "I'm not coming with you", Merlin says and calms himself.

"What? Why not?" Arthur asks, frowning.

"Because I don't want to", Merlin shrugs.

"I thought you wanted to-"

"No", Merlin cuts off before Arthur can finish his sentence, "You want to fuck me. I haven't said anything about wanting to fuck you. You gave me a free meal and that's it, remember?"

Arthur looks utterly confused, almost like a puppy, and Merlin can't help but feel a bit bad for him. He shouldn't have flirted like that, he shouldn't have teased him and not given him anything. Merlin rolls his eyes and walks over to him. The chilly autumn wind ruffles their hair and Merlin pulls his jacket tighter around him.

"This would've been much easier for you if you just paid a little extra and asked for more than a lap dance from the beginning", Merlin says and studies Arthur's hands buried in the pockets of his black winter coat.

"I don't pay for sex", Arthur says and tilts his head slightly.

"Too bad", Merlin mumbles and then places a firm kiss on Arthur's lips. He gives him a small smile before turning and heading home in the cold wind making his ears freeze.

oooo

Arthur takes his jacket off angrily and pulls his tie loose. He buries his head in his hands for a short moment, before turning and gazing out his window. He's stuck. They're in the middle of a very important case and they're stuck. This man can face the death penalty if they don't come up with anything fast. And it's frustrating, because Arthur is sure the man is innocent, but he can't prove it. There's not enough evidence.

He stares out at the pouring rain and the dark clouds and briefly remembers the dinner with Merlin. He doesn't know why it pops into his head, it's been weeks since the date and he hasn't heard from Merlin or tried to find him. He actually did try and find his number and address, but no such luck. It's a bit hard when you don't know the surname. He went back to the strip club, but found out Merlin had quit, and the manager didn't want to reveal anything else about him. It had, apparently, been bad enough the first time. He gave up and figured it perhaps wasn't supposed to be. Arthur has never believed in love at first sight or finding one's soulmate just like that. Those are only ridiculous fairytales.

"John is still waiting for a call back", his secretary, Gwen's, voice can suddenly be heard through the speaker.

"I know, Gwen!" Arthur snaps and puts two fingers and the bridge of his nose. He tries to think, he tries to collect his mind. There must be something he has missed, some minor detail.

He goes through the case; a murder of two teenage girls. The man had been spotted on the scene, but no murder weapon had been found. The man claims he saw the girls get stabbed, that he's a witness, but no one believes him. Arthur sighs and sees the man's heartbroken face in his mind. No receipts to the restaurant he had been to and Arthur suspects some of the restaurant staff have been paid off. Somebody wants this case closed, quickly, and they don't bother if the right man's punished or not.

"You can't go in there- Wait, Morgana, he's busy", Arthur hears Gwen's voice try desperately and he turns around just in time to see Morgana storm into his office.

"You don't seem happy", she notes.

"I'm sorry, Arthur, I tried to stop her", Gwen says behind Morgana.

"It's okay, Gwen."

Morgana gets into Arthur's office and closes the door behind her. "Are you losing the case?" she asks as gently as she can and it annoys Arthur.

"No! No. It's just a bit hard. It's a tricky one."

He doesn't like to explain himself to her, but for once she looks sympathetic. "Yes, I read about it in the papers. A real tragic case."

Arthur nods, his mind somewhere else for a moment, and then he frowns. "What are you doing here anyway?" he wonders and notices how nicely dressed she is. Not the she isn't always dressed nicely, fashion is a very important thing for Morgana.

"I was in the neighbourhood and thought I could catch a lift with you to the restaurant", she explains, but it doesn't make more sense to Arthur. She rolls her eyes and notices his bafflement. "To La Roche? We're supposed to meet father there and have dinner?"

"Fuck", Arthur spits and remembers it now. With the work almost burying him, he had totally forgotten about the dinner. The dinner is mandatory and very important to Uther. At least once a month he and his children meet for dinner. Arthur doesn't know if it's some publicity stunt or if it really is important for him to see his kids.

"We're supposed to be there in thirty minutes. I can't believe you forgot about it", Morgana says with an accusing voice.

"I've got loads on my mind. Not everyone has the luxury to only have to worry about what clothes you'll be wearing for the day", Arthur says with a grimace, and places the insult perfectly.

"That's not the only thing I do", Morgana says defensively, "I am, as you very well know, studying at CU."

"You're studying art, Morgana", Arthur points out.

"Whatever", she says irritated, "Are you ready to go or not? I'll be waiting outside."

She left his office to probably go and find Gwen. Arthur always felt a bit strange about hiring Morgana's best friend as his secretary. But Morgana had nagged, and almost begged, for him to give Gwen a chance. And he has to admit, Gwen's doing her job perfectly.

He turns his computer off, promising himself he'll have come up with something for the case to tomorrow. Perhaps if he gets a chance to sleep on it, he may come up with something. He adjusts his tie and puts his jacket back on and glances out at Gwen's secretary spot where Morgana indeed is standing. They laugh about something and chatter with much intensity. Arthur rolls his eyes and gets his coat before leaving his office.

It's ten past five, they'll make it to half past.

"You ready?" Morgana asks when he approaches the two women.

Arthur simply nods and then turns to his secretary. "Gwen, call back to John and promise him I'll call him immediately tomorrow morning. Tell him I'm sorry."

"Sure", Gwen replies, "Have a nice evening."

"You too", Morgana says, but Arthur only gives Gwen a small smile.

There's a slight tension between the half-siblings as they make their way out to Arthur's deep blue Jaguar. The car was a birthday present from Uther when he turned eighteen. It's the one thing he values the most in his life. Probably the most expensive thing he owns, except his two-storey apartment.

"Did you watch father's speech on TV yesterday?" Morgana wonders in a low voice as Arthur starts the engine.

"Yeah", Arthur answers and remembers the speech about keeping friends and family close and take care of those closest to you. He wonders if anything of what Uther said was his real, own words. Probably not. It was probably Belinda Mayheart, Uther's PR manager, who had come up with it.

"It was impressive how he left out anything about our mothers. He didn't even answer that one question about mine", Morgana continues in her low voice.

Arthur's mother died when he was born and he never knew her. Uther only talked about her on small occasions. Arthur never got very proper answers when he asked about her as a kid. Morgana's mother had disappeared when Morgana was six years old. Uther and her mother had never been a couple, only a one-night-stand which resulted in a pregnancy and the birth of Morgana nine months later. Morgana always lived with Uther, but saw her mother from time to time. Then suddenly she was gone with only a note left behind which said she was sorry. They never heard of her again. Morgana never talked about it.

"Father has never been one to talk about the women in his life", Arthur says, like it's supposed to be comforting when he knows it's not.

Morgana keeps silent.

The rest of the drive is continuously quiet, which isn't very usual when you've got Morgana in the car.
Maybe it's the smattering rain on the windows and the steady rhythm of the wipers that's dulling them both into some sort of daze. Or maybe it's the thought of spending an awfully slow dinner with Uther that's making them too miserable to speak. Or it's the fact that they just had a minor discussion on the sore object that is their mothers.
Whatever it is that shut them both up is making the car drive seem even slower than it usually does.

When they arrive to the restaurant Arthur glances at Morgana, silently hoping she'll suddenly feel ill and he'll have to give her a ride back home. But Morgana doesn't notice his glance and last time Arthur checked she doesn't have the ability to read peoples minds.
Arthur checks his expensive Rolex watch and they're right on time. Of course, Uther is already there when they get inside the restaurant. Uther looks up at his children and beams at them. Funny, he almost looks genuinely happy. Arthur barely remembers his father ever looking genuinely happy.

"Morgana", Uther says and gives his daughter a kiss on the cheek followed with a hug for his son, "How are things?"

"Fine", Arthur mutters and sits down by the table in the corner by the window. They always sit at this table. The Pendragon family are regulars to this place, they have been coming here since Arthur learned how to use fork and knife. They know the whole staff by first name, along with the owner. Sometimes they don't even have to pay for their dinners.

"Arthur is pissed because he's losing a case", Morgana 's like the small talk about their mothers in the car didn't happen. Morgana is back to her old self again, chattering non-stop.

"Really?" Uther asks and waves the waiter over, "That case about the two murdered teenage girls?"

"I'm not losing it", Arthur snaps, a bit too fiercely, "It's just a bit harder than I thought."

He glares at Morgana who smirks back happily. Uther doesn't notice it. They order their food, but Arthur isn't hungry any more.

"You know I can't help you, Arthur. But if it helps, I'm still completely supporting you", Uther says, trying to be caring, but it doesn't sound right coming from him.

"Thanks", Arthur says politely, because he knows better than to be impolite towards his father. He isn't some childish teenager.

"So, anyway, how are you, father?" Morgana asks.

"There's a lot right now going on, we're already planning the next campaign and taking on more supporters."

"Wow, already?" Morgana asks with what can be faked interest, "But the next election isn't until three years."

"Well, you know, Alined never sleeps and he already has a lot more supporters then during the last campaign. Next election will be very hard to win", Uther explains with a slight frown.

Arthur notices his father looks tired. He's been state attorney for one year, he can't be tired of it already? But sure, the job does come with a lot of responsibility. And already worrying about next election and believing it'll be hard to win must put some more weight on his shoulders. Arthur is about to say something comforting when he notices a slim, dark-haired, young man standing over in the bar. He can't see his face, but he's sure it's him. It must be Merlin.

"I'll go and get us some drinks", he says as an excuse and gets up from his seat. Morgana and Uther barely notice him leave, too deep into their conversation about re-election.

"I thought you said you never came here?", he asks, approaching the bar and watching, indeed, Merlin turn to face him. He hasn't dressed properly for this restaurant this time either. It makes Arthur smile.

Merlin seems a bit surprised to see him, obviously not expecting him to be here. "Hi", he says and runs a hand through his hair.

"Yeah, hi", Arthur says and nods. Merlin looks like he's been caught doing something stupid or illegal, and smiles sheepishly. "So, what? You're here with another rich guy hoping you can marry?" Arthur wonders when he doesn't get a respond to his earlier question.

"Actually, no. Kind of gave up that idea. I'm here with my friends", he says and points his thumb over his shoulder at a table slightly behind him with one guy and one girl by it. They both look up at them and the guy gives Arthur a dark look. Jealous boyfriend perhaps?

"I thought you couldn't afford this place?"

"I don't. I'm not paying, Will is."

The sheepish grin on Merlin's lips is gone, but it's clear he's had a bit to drink. Maybe a bit too much.

"What are you doing here? Out with another stripper you've picked up? I mean, with me standing you up you must be behind schedule. No slicing and chopping up for you", Merlin says and shakes his head.

"I'm not a serial killer. I fight for the law, not against it", Arthur reminds him and Merlin snickers, "No, I'm here with my father and sister. Family dinner, I suppose."

"Daddy's paying, I guess?"

"Just this once", Arthur says and orders his drinks. He glances over Merlin's shoulder and notices the guy is still glaring at Arthur.

"What's the deal with your boyfriend?" he wonders. He uses the word 'boyfriend' mostly because he wants to figure out if that's really what the guy is to Merlin. Inwardly he curses himself for not letting this go. Merlin is clearly not interested. He shouldn't be prying. He should forget about him and move on.

"Oh, he's not my boyfriend... exactly", Merlin says and looks over his shoulder. The guy seems to notice and he immediately looks away.

"That's vague", Arthur notes, "What is he then?"

Merlin suddenly seems troubled and he looks away for a short beat. When they make eye contact again his eyes are steely blue, shutting away all kinds of emotion. Arthur notices the change so much he almost gasps.

"It's complicated. Look, I shouldn't talk personal life with a client", he says and goes to leave, but Arthur catches his arm and pulls him back before he does.

"Except I'm not a client any more. And last I heard you're not working at Velvet Star."

Arthur can't help it. He wants to know so badly what Merlin's keeping from him. Damn, he doesn't even know this guy. They've only had dinner once and Merlin's given him a lap dance. They are total strangers, they know nothing about each other. And Arthur shouldn't force anything out of Merlin when it's clear he doesn't want to tell. But Arthur simply can't help himself. He needs to know.

"But I don't know you", Merlin says and points out exactly what has just been through Arthur's mind, "I don't have to tell you anything about my personal life."

Merlin's look is so cold it makes Arthur see sense and he releases his grip on him. "You're right. I'm sorry, you're absolutely right", he apologizes and feels awful.

Since when is he this obsessive?

Merlin nods and his gaze seems to melt. "It's all right", he says and looks over at his friends again, "Look, I need to get back. It was great seeing you, Arthur."
Arthur receives his drinks and smiles back. "Yeah, you too."

He goes back and joins Morgana and Uther, noticing they haven't yet finished their conversation about re-election. He slumps down in his seat and pretty much downs his drink immediately. He needs food and he needs sleep. He doesn't need thoughts of Merlin, the stranger, he needs to focus on his case. He can't promise himself anything, but he's going to try.

oooo

"Who was he, then?" Will asks back at their small flat. It doesn't take a genius to know who Will is talking about. As soon as Merlin had joined his friends by their table again he had asked. Merlin only said he was an old customer, but realized that only made it worse. Merlin has only been a stripper and nothing else, and Will knows this.

Will had continued making snide remarks about Arthur, going on about his rich, fancy ass and what a dick he must be. Merlin hadn't bothered to defend Arthur. Why would he? He doesn't know him, he doesn't owe him that. But he had grown really tired of it. It's always the same story as soon as a guy hits on him when Will's around. He'll never hear the end of it. Freya had gingerly asked who Arthur was because she recognized him from somewhere. Merlin had told her he was the son of the state attorney and Will had laughed out loud.

Merlin blamed Will's mood on too much alcohol, like he always does, because Will just isn't like that when he's sober. Really. Merlin wouldn't be best friends with him if he was.

"I told you, he's an old client", Merlin forces out between gritted teeth. Too much alcohol or not, this is getting really annoying.

"And we all know what kind of people your old clients are, don't we?" Will spits. He's really angry, his eyes bulging out.

Merlin shouldn't have recommended that place when Will asked for a fun place to get drunk. Merlin remembered them having nice wine, he hadn't expected meeting Arthur there. He had been long forgotten.

"I can't help if they come up and talk to me!" Merlin says with raised voice. He hopes Will will realize how out of hand this argument is getting, but sadly he doesn't.

"You don't have to talk back! Just walk away, Merlin. Walk away."

This is really ridiculous. Merlin doesn't owe Will any kind of explanation. They are nothing but friends. Who occasionally happens to fuck. But Merlin's made it clear it won't be anything more than that. Will's his best friend and that won't change. Merlin doesn't do relationships. But that doesn't stop Will from getting jealous, and it doesn't matter how many times they argue about this because Will just won't get it.

"Whatever", Merlin mumbles and chooses the easiest way out, "I'm going to bed."

But Will blocks his way, acting like some stupid seven-year-old, and crosses his arms. "Have you slept with him?"

"Why does it matter to you?" Merlin snaps.

"Why don't you answer my question?" Will asks with a shrug.

It takes everything Merlin has not to shove Will away, or lie and say he has slept with Arthur. It'll definitely hurt Will is he says that, and right now that's what he wants the most. But he knows, deep down, that he'll regret it.

"I haven't slept with him", Merlin sighs.

Will stares at him for a good ten seconds, while Merlin waits for him to move out of the way.

"You're lying", he says with an accusing voice. Merlin buries his face in his hands, he can't believe this never ends. It's always the same fucking argument.

"Actually, I'm not. If I had slept with him, I'd tell you. I don't have to keep that from you because I'm not doing anything wrong. You and I", Merlin says and points between them, "Are not a couple. When are you going to understand that? We're just friends."

This throws Will a bit of guard, like he hadn't expected that to come from Merlin. It's so weird, it's like Will is still believing Merlin will one day simply change his mind and declare his undying love for him.

"Get out", Will says.

"What?"

Merlin frowns because he didn't at all expect that to happen.

"You heard me. Get out", Will repeats.

"Are you fucking- Whatever."

Merlin throws his hands up, showing he doesn't at all give a shit any more. He leaves the apartment with the door slamming loudly, shaking the the walls of the outer corridor. He's breathing heavily and doesn't bother to wait for the elevator. He takes the stairs, hoping it'll get some of the frustration out of him. It doesn't work at all.

When he gets out of the apartment building, he realizes he has no idea where to go. He won't go to his parents place, that's out of the question, and he doesn't really feel like going to Freya's. He has slept there before after fighting with Will, but she always gives him a long speech about how Merlin should stop toying with Will's emotions and how this is really his fault from the beginning. He doesn't want another guilt trip.

But where the fuck is he supposed to go?

He shoves his hands in his pockets and walks down the street. It's past eleven and it's dark and cold outside. Autumn in Camelot is always rough and extremely cold. At least the rain has stopped. He usually enjoys walking in rain, but right now isn't the time.

He suddenly thinks of a really stupid idea. It wouldn't have crossed his mind if he wasn't so damn angry. What he's thinking about mostly right now is revenge and making Will hurt. And this is blinding him.
Merlin stops and without thinking pulls out his phone. He calls directory and gets the phone number for Arthur Pendragon. He doesn't hesitate before dialling the number.

Three signals and then it picks up.

"Hello?"

Well, this is only slightly strange. Merlin isn't interested in Arthur, but somehow he has just looked up his number and is now calling him after eleven o'clock in the evening. They are strangers.

"Hi", Merlin says and damn, does he sound broken.

"Who is this? Wait, is this...?" Arthur asks and sounds too hesitant to fill in the name.

"It's Merlin."

Merlin gathers force to his voice, he won't tell Arthur what happened. "Merlin?" Arthur uses a voice which sounds like this is too good to be true for him.

"Yes. I've just left La Roche", he lies, "And I was thinking that maybe we could meet up or something? I know it's a Tuesday night, but I'm really bored and-"

"Okay", Arthur says and cuts Merlin right off. This is really too easy. Merlin almost feels bad. Almost.

"Great. Well, I've already walked a bit, but you can meet me up by Crystal Cave?" Merlin says and bites his lip absentmindedly.

"I'll be there in five", Arthur promises and hangs up.

Merlin stares at his phone for a few seconds, wondering if this is right. He knows it really isn't, but he's still a bit intoxicated, and right now he needs this. He starts walking the short walk to his and Arthur's meeting spot. He really needs this.

oooo