Escaping Classification: Merthur AU. Merlin's new roommate, Arthur, is hard to label. He's built like someone who works out, has some rude tendencies, but is managing to escape both the categories of 'Jock' and 'Prat'. Add to that his mysterious family (he doesn't like to talk about it) and he's a verifiable mystery.
A/N: My grasp of British slang is slightly better than tenuous, at best.
"Blimey, you're a skinny little git, aren't you?"
Merlin looked up from unpacking his clothes to see a blond (whose body had obviously been crafted by angels) standing in the doorway of Merlin's bedroom in the small apartment he had been assigned to at Camelot U, holding his own box. 'Well, this roommate is entirely too pleasant for the eyes, and entirely too unpleasant for my disposition.' Merlin thought.
"And you certainly have a singular way of introducing yourself, don't you?" Merlin replied casually. He went back to his clothes, ignoring the blond. He could tell this semester wouldn't be easy. Maybe he could find someone to trade rooms with.
"What's that supposed to mean?" the blond demanded, frowning.
"It means that saying your manners are lacking would qualify me for some understatement award."
The blond hummed thoughtfully. "I'm Arthur."
Merlin felt a chagrined smile cross his face before he got up and went to shake Arthur's hand. Arthur had to shift his box to one hand as Merlin said, "I'm Merlin."
Arthur's eyes lingered on Merlin's rubber bracelets, one rainbow, and the other a purple "It Gets Better" bracelet for gay suicide prevention. "Are you gay, Merlin?"
Merlin's eyes narrowed and he cautiously took his hand from Arthur's grip. "Yes. If you have a problem with that, you'll want to get reassigned, pronto."
To Merlin's great surprise, Arthur smiled. "Nah. That's your business. Unless you try to make it mine, in which case we will have a problem."
Merlin grinned. "Fair enough. You're not my type anyway."
"Ow. Man or not, that's insulting to my ego."
"Well you aren't." Merlin said with a shrug. He returned to his box of clothes, then considered that maybe Arthur wouldn't be a repellant prat after all. "Do you want any help getting your things up here?"
"Your twig body would probably snap under the strain." Arthur said with a grin. "Thanks, Merlin, I'll be fine."
As Arthur moved away to do his own unpacking, Merlin mentally chastised himself. It wasn't necessarily that Arthur wasn't his type. Arthur was the type that he lusted after but could never have. Scratch that, Arthur was better than the blokes he had lusted after in the past. But it was a good way to reassure his straight roommate that his ass was safe. Merlin read somewhere that straight guys needed that security. 'Or at least the illusion of it.' Merlin thought.
Around lunchtime of that first day, Gwen came to see how Merlin was settling in. Gwen and Merlin had been friends since childhood, when Gwen would defend Merlin from bullies. When Arthur answered her knock on their apartment door, he took her in with pleased interest.
"Is Merlin here?" Gwen asked, smiling a little at his look.
Arthur blinked, then turned to call over his shoulder, "I thought you said you were gay!"
Merlin appeared from the door to his bedroom and rolled his eyes. When Arthur turned back to Gwen, she did not look amused. At her stony yet still hostile stare, Arthur held up a placating hand and said, "I was joking. I have no problems with Merlin."
"Then I shouldn't have too many problems with you." Gwen said, and she gently pushed past Arthur, dismissing him.
"Hey, Gwen. Are you all unpacked?" Merlin asked, stifling a smile at Arthur's petulant pout.
"Not entirely. But I wanted to make sure you were doing okay." Gwen said, raising her eyebrows and indicating Arthur with a flick of her eyes towards him.
Sighing, Merlin said, "I can stand up for myself, Gwen. I'm not 7 years old anymore."
"Still just as cute though." Gwen replied. "And predators go after cute, vulnerable men."
Merlin quirked an eyebrow. "Go after them in what way?"
"Rape, bullying, who cares?" Gwen shrugged in indifference. "If they hurt you, I'll have to get out my Castration Knife to defend you with extreme prejudice."
Merlin grinned as Arthur's eyebrows raised. "You're scaring my roommate."
"Good. He should be scared, or at the very least, wary." Gwen said, looking over her shoulder at Arthur.
"We've settled it, Gwen. We're good." Merlin assured her.
"Merlin, you are hopeless." Gwen stated with a sigh.
Blinking, Merlin asked, "Yes, in many ways, but which one brought on this comment?"
"It's not settled." Gwen told him. "Call it Woman's Intuition."
And with that cryptic statement she waved and left. "That bird is crazy." Arthur said as he closed the door behind her. "I like her."
"You like her? After she indirectly threatens to castrate you?"
"Well, yeah." Arthur shrugged.
"And you say she's crazy." Merlin mumbled, rolling his eyes.
"Well, yeah." Arthur said, with more emphasis. "Is she the only person you know on campus?"
Merlin felt embarrassed for some reason. "Yeah. Gwen and I both did two years at a community college. So I'm technically a junior, but I'm new to campus."
"Want to come have lunch with some of my mates? Then you'll know some faces, at least."
Merlin felt nervous. "I get the feeling I wouldn't fit in with your friends."
"Well, no, obviously not. But that doesn't mean you can't hang out with us." Arthur said. He seemed perfectly at ease with the notion of bringing a skinny gawky gay guy to hang out with his friends, who were probably jock/fraternity types.
"I won't hide that I'm gay, but I try not to go into situations where I'll be targeted because of it." Merlin said.
"Naturally not." Arthur agreed, nodding. Merlin was feeling more and more at odds with Arthur's good-natured-ness about this.
"Arthur, you don't seem to understand that I'm not comfortable with this notion."
"I do." Arthur contradicted. "But I don't think it's called for. One of our friends admitted he was bi, a while back. Our group thinned then, losing anyone who wasn't okay with that."
Merlin blinked, surprise evident on his face. It made Arthur grin. "Ha! I could see you labeling me 'Barely Non-hostile Jock-Type' when I asked if you were gay. Fitting me into a category and filing me away. Well, Merlin, I won't fit into your box so easily."
The accuracy of Arthur's assumptions and his gloating over disproving Merlin's assumptions was astonishing. Merlin wasn't certain what he should say. "Do you want to come to lunch?" Arthur asked with a chuckle, still grinning.
A small smile lit up Merlin's face before he said, "Sure, that sounds like fun."
As Arthur and Merlin approached the table at the diner where Arthur's friends were waiting, Merlin couldn't help but try to pick out the bi guy. It was pretty damn hard. They were all muscular, like Arthur, and they all dressed in the "normal" guys clothes. But Merlin was thinking it was the handsome latino whose hair was longer and cut in an almost girlish style.
"Sorry we're late, guys, but I had to disarm my roommate." Arthur said. Merlin felt himself flush. Was he going to tell them about that?
He could see them appraising him. Then, a dark haired man with a long oval-shaped face, asked, "Was it melee or ranged?"
"Did he ambush you when you brought in your stuff?" the square-jawed man sitting across from the latino asked.
"I'd recommend a spear for killing Arthur." the latino said, this comment directed at Merlin.
Merlin smiled despite himself and nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."
"Hey, I think I'd do fine against a spear." Arthur protested. After a moment's thought, he added, "Since I'm so skilled, I think you'd have to rig a trap."
His friends groaned and the blocky man said, "You're insufferably arrogant."
Arthur just rolled his eyes and took one of the two unoccupied chairs. This meant Merlin had to sit in between Arthur and the latino. "Merlin, that's Lancelot next to you. Percival is across from him, and then that's Gwaine next to him." Arthur said, pointing at each of his friends in turn.
"Why do you introduce me with my full first name?" Percival whined. "Percy isn't great, but it's better than that."
"It makes you sound terribly pretentious, that's why." Arthur said with a grin.
"It's better than when he wanted us to call him Perce, before we explained to him that's what women carry their things around in." Gwaine laughed.
"I hadn't thought about it like that!" Percival snapped defensively. "Anyway, shouldn't we be teasing the new guy? Why did you have to 'disarm' him, Arthur?"
Merlin felt the blush creeping back into his face. "Eh, he's shy." Arthur said.
That surprised Merlin. When Arthur had made the statement about disarming, he had assumed Arthur would share that Merlin liked to classify people (essentially making himself a judgmental prat) and alienate him from Arthur's friends. Instead, Arthur condensed their conversation to Merlin's motives for classification, and left it at that. Arthur was observant and insightful, and he was very considerate of Merlin to boot. Much as Merlin loathed to admit it, those were all very attractive qualities. But Arthur was straight.
"I can see." Lancelot said, giving Merlin a friendly smile.
The waitress came and took their orders. She brought Arthur and Merlin their drinks a moment later; the others had already received theirs. "So, who are you, Merlin?" Gwaine asked simply.
Merlin froze. The defining title he tended to be known by was not something he announced. "Who is anyone? Nobody is completely sure who they are. There is always another dark corner to prod, another weakness to assess. Self-awareness is a never-ending chore." Merlin said, feeling it was a sufficient dodge.
They just stared at him for a moment. Then Lancelot said, "I like this guy."
"Definitely." Percival agreed.
Gwaine nodded, but he wasn't going to be thrown off track so easily. "Okay, I'll be more specific, lest you wax philosophy again. What are you majoring in?"
"English. I'm minoring in business management." Merlin said. He tried not to think about why he had to minor in business management.
"Is that why you're so well-spoken?" Lancelot asked.
"No doubt." Arthur said disparagingly.
"Hey, you could take a lesson from him." Percival teased. "A powerful man like yourself could use good verbal skills like his, down the line."
Arthur shot Percy a glare and Percy abruptly fell silent. Merlin had thought Percy had been teasing about Arthur being a powerful man, but Arthur's reaction made him reconsider. Arthur didn't want Merlin knowing something about him. Fair enough, there were things Merlin wanted to hide as well. And while he acknowledged to himself that mutual respect of privacy was best, he had a fierce curiosity as to what Arthur was hiding.
Lancelot cut through the growing awkward silence by asking, "Merlin, do you do any sports?"
Merlin barked out a laugh. "Do I look like I do any sports?"
"Running, maybe swimming." Lancelot said, his gaze assessing Merlin's frame.
Merlin tried to ignore the glorious chill that gaze gave him, and asked, "What sort of sports do you fellas play?"
"Swordplay and various other melee weapons, martial arts, a little archery..." Lancelot trailed off, trying to think of something he might have missed.
"Horseback riding." Percy threw in.
"That's not a sport." Gwaine corrected.
"So you're all fighters?" Merlin guessed.
"Knights." Percy said.
At a quirked eyebrow from Merlin, Arthur sighed and explained. "Because of our particular set of interests, our group has acquired the title of Knights. It stuck, and there are worse things to be dubbed."
That made Merlin smile. "Almost makes it sound as if you're superheros. Why not go out and defend justice, use your talents to fight crime?"
"I plan to." Lancelot said. "I'm going to be a police officer. Maybe I'll even make command, one day."
"Fight crime with swords and bows?" Merlin wondered.
Lancelot laughed. "If only! No, I'm also trained with guns. Unfortunately, I still have a lot to improve on in that area, whereas I'm quite skilled with swordplay."
"Lance has a lot to live up to." Percy explained.
Gwaine cuffed Percy on the back of his head. When Percy protested, Gwaine said, "If we were superheros, you'd be the idiot who ripped off our masks on accident."
"What?" Percy whined. "Arthur brought Merlin, so what's the harm?"
His statement earned him another cuff. "Take off your own mask, and let everyone else wear them as they will." Gwaine said, his tone one of stern reprimand.
"Um..." Merlin didn't know if he should leave or just remain silent.
"I like Merlin, I'll trust him." Lancelot said. "My father's the Chief of Police of Camelot."
"Oh." Merlin said, careful to keep his face neutral and hope that no one noticed him breaking out into a nervous sweat.
"See? He's fine." Lancelot said, gesturing to Merlin. Percy nodded, but Gwaine and Arthur didn't look convinced.
"That must be rough then, trying to break into the same world as your father without being seen as riding his coattails." Merlin said, trying to regain his composure. He realized that Lancelot might be offended by the last bit, and added, "Sorry if that was rude. I just can't imagine the myriad of dilemmas that you have to deal with to distinguish yourself from your father."
Lancelot had been listening intently to Merlin, his face also a careful mask, but then he smiled warmly. "You sound like you know a lot about it."
'Calm, keep calm, this is a trap, and you need to stay calm.' Merlin told himself sternly.
"Not really, I'm just very good at viewing perspectives." Merlin shrugged.
"Our waitress is bringing the food out." Gwaine said. He looked at Merlin a little less critically, but Merlin could feel Arthur's intense interest focused on him. It was unnerving, given the clues that Arthur was someone in power, or going to be, and the fact that all the men seemed to be connected and not wanting to talk about family would indicate that it wasn't just Lancelot and Arthur who had powerful connections.
Merlin realized that he had just walked into the dragon's den.
Well, I finished the first chapter. Not sure if I can promise the same for the second. Also, I forgot to mention, Merlin is a sorcerer in this. Hopefully I can elaborate better in the second chapter, if it ever exists in its entirety. XP