Hidden Royalty Chapter Four
Merlin had gradually started to like Arthur more and more as the weeks progressed. It was now seven weeks since he first met Arthur and he had begun to see him more as this genuinely good person who would definitely trade everything he had just to help another person. Merlin liked that in Arthur and since the last two weeks he began to notice that he had developed some feelings that went beyond being just friends. But he knew he couldn't act on them, it was still impossible, because even though he saw Arthur as a normal human being, he still couldn't forget the fact that Arthur was a Prince and he just a normal person that was way out of Arthur's league.
He currently walked with Arthur through the hallways on their way to the History class. Arthur was talking about the History assignment that was due in a few days and Merlin absentmindedly listening to it while glancing down at the Chemistry planning in the open binder the he carried in his hands, Merlin found that a tad more important than an History assignment.
It somehow happened that he and Arthur had picked each other as project partners in every class they shared together, which weren't many, but they still asked each other whenever the occasion did arise.
Due to the fact that Merlin was so engrossed with the Chemistry planning, he wasn't really watching where he was going. Luckily Arthur was there to pull and push Merlin out of the way so that he didn't bump into any of his fellow students that swarmed the hallways on their way to their classes.
When Arthur saw that there was a particularly large group walking down from across the hallway he saw that there was little room to move Merlin properly out of the way and he ended up pushing Merlin's back up against the wall with his own chest pressed tightly against Merlin chest and his hands firmly wrapped around Merlin's upper arms. Their faces were just inches apart and Arthur looked deep into Merlin's widened eyes. Those bright blue eyes seemed to hold a story of their own and were now staring back into his own. Arthur was almost lost in them, but became aware of the situation, and he took a few steps back with a clearing of his throat. He realized that the just busy hallway was almost completely deserted at this point. There must've passed more time than he initially thought.
Merlin remained with his back against the wall and the binder flat against his stomach. Arthur didn't even felt that thing between the two of them when he stared into the bright eyes. As his mind caught up again he saw Merlin opening his mouth several times, but no words came out.
Merlin wasn't expecting that sort of move at all and it caught him off guard. And feeling Arthur's breath so warm onto his skin again gave him shivers all over, but in a somewhat good way. And that good way was felt by Merlin as his trousers felt a bit tighter than a few minutes ago. He was happy he held the binder at the right place, conveniently concealing his current state.
Arthur hadn't moved from his place now halfway into the hall and coughed once more before he said, "Err, we should… get to class." He vaguely gestured towards the direction of the classroom.
Merlin swallowed and then responded, "Yeah, I'll be right there, I just… erm nature calls." Merlin quickly fled to the nearby men's, not waiting for a response and certainly hoping that Arthur wouldn't follow him into the lav.
Locking himself up in one of the stalls, he put his backpack and the binder down on the ground and pressed his forehead against the door. He didn't want to think about the obvious bulge in his trousers and the source of why it happened in the first place. Surely didn't meant anything, I was just surprised by the act that's all, nothing that should indicate that Arthur's presence was the cause of it.
Merlin took a few deep breaths, feeling the restriction lessen enough for it to not be noticed by anyone. He grabbed his stuff, got out of the stall and looked into the mirror. Alright. He thought and glanced at his watch and he growled softly. Class should be in progress for eight minutes already and the History teacher was already such a grumpy man. He just couldn't wait to hear the remark.
Merlin walked in a quick pace through the hall and got to the right classroom within the minute. He opened the door and stepped in. The class didn't bother to look up to see who entered, but the professor briefly stopped his lecture to say in an annoyed tone," Ah mister Browne, so nice of you to grace us with your presence."
Class couldn't have gone any slower in Merlin's opinion. Firstly it was Professor Alined's boring lecture that went on and on about almost every war there had been in the past, that man clearly loved the subject War. But secondly he was painfully aware of Arthur's presence next to him… and was it him or did Arthur sat a bit closer to him this time? He could swear that there was knee touching at some point of the class.
But finally class was over and he packed his stuff up in record time. But just as he stood up and the students drained out, the professor's voice piped up.
"Mister Browne. A moment."
"I'll wait outside." Arthur said in response to Merlin's sigh.
Merlin nodded to Arthur and turned back to the professor's desk. "Yes?"
"I hope that you won't disturb my lesson again with you coming in late."
"No sir, it won't happen again... sir."
"Good. Off you go."
When Merlin opened the door he saw Arthur standing there, waiting for him.
"What did Alined want this time? I swear that man isn't happy until every student is miserable. Just look at the amounts of homework he gives."
Merlin just hummed as he started walking, consciously creating a bit more space between himself and Arthur. Arthur noticed.
Arthur slowed his pace and almost whisperingly said, "Look, Merlin… that, moment that happened earlier was... just… I didn't want to make you uncomfortable or so. I just tried to avoid you getting knocked over. Well technically you still were…" Arthur trailed off nervously.
Merlin had slowed his pace too to keep up with Arthur's and hummed absentmindedly, but stopped completely once those words registered in his mind and he sharply jerked his head up. Arthur turned around to see why Merlin had stopped and frowned, but didn't said anything. He saw Merlin slightly blushing and heard how Merlin starting to babble.
"Wait, what? Moment? there wasn't a moment. I don't know what you talk about…" He chuckled. "Moment. You're funny Arthur, you really are, you know that?. There aren't any moments between us." There was a beat of silence. "Alright, well I have to run or else I'll be late for Biology. See you for lunch Arthur."
This time round, he was happy to not have a class with Arthur.
Arthur looked at the retreating figure. Merlin acted weird, well weirder than usually. He saw the blush that had spread across Merlin's cheeks and he knew that Merlin knew that he knew. There was a moment and Merlin knew that too, or maybe Arthur just hoped that it was indeed a moment between the two of them. It was just that… maybe he wanted to know what Merlin thought about the possibility of them…together.
Arthur shook his head. He couldn't think like that, Merlin might not even like him in that way and he didn't want to risk the friendship that had developed between them. He might have more feelings for Merlin than just friends, but he told himself that it was better to keep those to himself.
He sighed deeply as he started walking to the classroom where his next class took place and met Percival and Will on his way there.
"Merlin this guy is a bloody Picasso." Will announced with a slap on Merlin's back and plopping down onto the seat next to Merlin in the cafeteria. His bag being thrown casually onto the table, leaving hardly any room for any other stuff. "I mean, you should've seen him in Art class Merlin, all concentrated and serious."
Arthur took a seat across Merlin's and playfully shook his head. "Will, don't overreact. I'm decent, not Picasso."
Percival quietly sat down next to Arthur, but smiled. They somehow kept their seating plan as it was the very first day. "Come on Arthur, don't be modest, you're really good. I mean in comparison to what Will painted… wait, what was it again. A brown circle?" Percy said smugly, looking to Will with a comical smirk and pushing Will's bag away to make some room.
Will caught his bag and scoffed with a cocked eyebrow. He leaned forward and said, "It was, not, just a brown circle. It was a brown M&M, didn't you see the letters?"
Arthur and Percival laughed, with Percival saying, "Must've been very small letters."
Will narrowed his eyes to the two guys opposite of him. "Whatever." He said and started to munch on one of the plenty sandwiches he brought with him that day.
Merlin had been quiet, just sipping his coke. Being without Percy, Will and especially Arthur in class, he had time to think. Well time to overthink things. And of course, what else would it be, Arthur was the one that was keeping his mind occupied.
He knew that Arthur was right, there was indeed a moment. Dammit he had no other choice than to admit it. There was! But would there really be a problem if he acted on it? He was gay, Arthur was gay that was already something less to worry about. But it that wasn't enough for him. Merlin still hadn't forgotten about the fact that Arthur was a Prince and he couldn't even fathom his mother's reaction if he would come back home with the announcement that Arthur was his boyfriend. He still was angry at his mother for not telling him about what the hell was bothering her, but he knew it had to be something about royalty.
Merlin took another thoughtful swig of his coke. Eyes quickly moving up to Arthur who was in a conversation with Percival, but suddenly looked over to Merlin. Maybe he felt someone staring, you know… that feeling that someone is staring at you and you just have to look. Arthur smiled but Merlin couldn't take it and stood up, swinging one strap of his backpack onto his shoulder.
"Merlin, where you going?" Arthur tried, but Merlin already walked away.
"What's up his butt. He's been like that for some days now" Will said, looking how Merlin walked away and secretly looking from the corner of his eyes to Arthur's reaction. He then shrugged and said, "Well I have seen that face, better to leave him alone for a while."
Arthur found out that Merlin had called in sick at the registry office after lunch.
And now that school was finished for the day, Arthur found himself in the back of the black SUV on his way to Merlin's house. He wasn't sure what he would say or do when he got there, but he'd figure that out when that time would come. At least he wanted to try to clear up that thing.
Leon slowed the car and when it came to a stop he turned his head slightly and said, "We're here Arthur. Number 328."
Arthur breathed in. "Thank you Leon, would you mind just waiting outside instead of coming in. I'll be fine."
Leon nodded. "Of course. Just give me a ring when you need me."
"Will do." Arthur replied as he opened the car door and slipped out of the car, slowly walking towards the front door. Why he walked slowly he actually didn't know, it was just that Merlin was making him act differently and he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was about the guy that made him do it.
He lifted his hand to push on the doorbell and waited. He didn't had to wait long though, because within ten seconds the door opened and Merlin stood there with his head down and ruffling through his wallet. When he lifted his head he frowned and cocked his head.
"You're not pizza." He said, surprised.
"No. Just Arthur." Arthur replied, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
Merlin shook his head and blushed slightly. "You're not just Arthur." He paused after realizing what he said, and hoped Arthur would perceive it as something different than what he actually meant. "Anyways… what are you doing here?"
"I'd just… I want to talk, no… can I talk to you?"
"Err…" Merlin rubbed the back of his neck and contemplated it for a second. His mum wouldn't be home for hours, so here shouldn't be a confrontation between her and Arthur. "Sure, why not. Hope you're in the mood for some pizza. It should be here any minute."
"What are we having?"
"Pepperoni." Merlin said, stepping back and holding the door open some more for Arthur to enter.
Arthur flashed a smile and said, "My favourite." He swept his feet on the 'welcome' doormat and entered the house. It was a cosy little hallway with a mirror on one wall, a coat rack on the other wall and a staircase leading upstairs. There was enough room to put your shoes neatly away, but there was nothing more that could be put there.
Arthur followed Merlin through the door leading to the kitchen after toeing his shoes off and hanging up his jacket. The kitchen was bigger than he'd expected, but that might be because it was a kitchen dining combination. The kitchen part itself was decent sized and it even had a cooking island with a small bar with three stools. On the countertop of the bar stood a glass filled with orange juice.
"You want something to drink?" Merlin asked, his head already buried in one of the cabinets.
It took a second for Arthur to respond. "Sure."
"What do you want? There's water, orange juice, apple juice, erm cola, err…"
"Orange juice is fine." Arthur commented quickly when he saw Merlin overthinking the variety of beverage present in the house. "Nice place by the way."
Merlin placed the filled glass next to his on the bar, then he took a seat on one of the stools and said, "Err, thanks. Mum and I fixed this place up ourselves when she bought it about four years ago. It's probably the opposite of what you're used to, but I like it. It's home you know… well one of the many." He finished with a small chuckle.
"What you mean?" Arthur asked with his head tilted.
"Mum and I… well we travel a lot. Ever since I can remember we moved from country to country every so much time, sometimes we stayed somewhere for years and other times we stay just a few months. I can still remember that one time it was like six months, but I was like seven or so at that time so it's a bit of a vague memory. But still, it's a wonder we've been in England for four going on five years now. That having said, I won't even be surprised if she told me to pack up my stuff next week."
"That must've sucked." Arthur replied, taking a sip from the glass.
Merlin shrugged. "A bit perhaps, but then again I've seen so much of the world these last few years so it wasn't really that bad."
"Okay, fair enough." Arthur said.
There was silence, the two of them just sitting there and drinking their drinks. Arthur started to feel uncomfortable by the long pause and asked, "Is there a reason why you and your mum travel around so much?"
Merlin opened his mouth, but then closed it. He furrowed his brows slightly and waited a moment to response. "I… actually don't know. I've never questioned it because I was so used to moving around all the time." He started to chuckle lightly. "Huh, it's weird now I have to think about it, I have absolutely no clue. Well no clue… it's probably because my mum wants to help people all over the world. Like now here in England she's an activity supervisor in the elderly home a few blocks away from here. But we've also lived in Africa for hmmm about a year and a half I guess, to help a village with building homes and such. And before we moved to England we lived in Italy where we helped homeless people in finding a place to stay…" Merlin shrugged once more and added, "And a few more countries, but I won't bore you too much with this."
Arthur had been fascinated by Merlin's story, and he loved that he learnt a bit more about Merlin. He was amazed by how this person next to him was actually such an helpful and such an unselfish person. He almost felt ashamed that he hadn't done as many good deeds as Merlin did, but maybe he could talk with his father about certain projects that could be done. He's sure that his father as the King would only have the best of interest in the people of this country.
And bore him? Never.
"Merlin, wow… I had no idea that you were so helpful. Okay, no wait that came out wrong and sounded harsh. I didn't mean that you weren't normally helpful… argh I mean..."
The doorbell rang.
Merlin jumped off his stool and sent Arthur a wink. "Saved by the bell." He commented as he walked out of the kitchen and didn't witness how Arthur put his forehead on the countertop.
Merlin came back with the pizza box in his hands and placed it on the bar before moving away to one of the cabinets and returning with two plates.
He put one plate in front of Arthur and looked at him with a tilted head before asking. "You don't mind eating with your hands do you? I mean… pizza."
Arthur rolled his eyes in response and told Merlin, "No Merlin. Gods, even my father eats pizza with his hands." Arthur shook his head and tore off one piece and placed in on Merlin's plate and then tore another piece off and put it on his own.
Arthur turned back to look at Merlin and his face said it all. Arthur snorted softly. "Merlin, how absurd it might sound to you. My father is a normal human being."
"I didn't say anything!" Merlin defended shamefully and quickly took a bite of his slice.
Arthur's lips quipped up. "No, not in so many words, but your face spoke volumes."
They ate in silence for a little while. When Arthur was finished he wiped his mouth and hands off on a sheet of the kitchen roll that was just an arm's length away. "Well I'm full." He mentioned.
"Me too." Merlin admitted, shoving his plate out of the way.
"So…" Merlin said, fingers drumming on the countertop.
"So." Arthur repeated.
"You said you wanted to talk?" Merlin said a bit uncertainty in his voice.
Arthur bit his bottom lip. "Err, yeah. About… what happened… this morning." Arthur took a deep breath. "Look, I didn't mean to, but…"
Shit he was nervous, he was stammering. Pull it together! Arthur reprimanded to himself.
Merlin lightly shook his head, he really tried to keep the blush as undetectable as possible. Arthur surely did had that effect on him. "Arthur, really it's fine. You were trying to help, I get it. No reason to explain."
"No wait that's not what I meant-" Arthur's attempt to explain himself further was cut off by Merlin standing up and getting another plate to put the remaining slices on. When he put the plate in the fridge he tried to ignore Arthur's fruitless attempts in getting a sentence out of his mouth. Maybe he just didn't want to know what Arthur actually meant, maybe he was just not ready for it to hear it. It was just not possible to get involved with Arthur.
Arthur tried several times to come up with coherent sentences, but his head was a cluttered chaos right now.
Merlin continued to bustle around the kitchen, tidying it up. When he reached out to pick up the dirty glasses and plates to wash up, Arthur curled his fingers around Merlin's his wrist and Merlin looked down, his eyes slightly widened at seeing the look on Arthur's face. His features were so gentle and his eyes seemed to sparkle even more than they already normally did.
Arthur raised himself off the stool. "Here, let me." He let go of Merlin's wrist and picked up the dirty dishes and made his way to the sink. Arthur opened a few cabinets before he found some soap and a sponge. Merlin stood numbed for a moment but then moved quietly towards Arthur, picking up the dish towel on his way. He leaned with his hip against the counter and his hands awkwardly shoved into his pockets, the dish towel was hanging for the most part against his leg.
He continued to watch how Arthur checked the water temperature before putting in the water plug in. Arthur continued by squirting a dollop of dish soap in the rising water and the bubbles started to appear.
The tension between the two of them was palpable in the air and Arthur glanced sideways and caught Merlin's look. In an attempt to lighten up the mood, he jokingly asked, "What?" Never seen a Prince do dishes before?"
It seemed that it worked as Merlin chuckled and shook his head. "Nope. And I must say that I'm impressed. Thought you were spoiled and had a dozen of servants to clean up after your royal arse."
Arthur scoffed mockingly and put his hand on his chest as if his feelings were being hurt. "Well, Merlin. For one, yes I am spoiled and two, there are servants – although we prefer to call them butlers and maids. But seriously when we just have a normal dinner me and my mum and occasionally my father, just do the dishes afterwards. In fact we love it, gives us a chance to talk. Okay, okay, I'll grant you that the food is prepared by cooks."
Without Merlin realising, Arthur dipped his hand into the sink to get some water and soap bubbles and threw it at Merlin's direction, it landed on his upper arm and wetted a bit of his shirt. Merlin laughed and tried to hit Arthur with the towel but he didn't got enough force after it so it merely landed on Arthur's arm. With Arthur's quick reflex he grabbed the end of the towel and pulled it, simultaneously pulling Merlin with it and suddenly they found themselves quite close against each other's chest again.
'Oh." Merlin breathed out. He looked straight into Arthur's azure blue eyes and momentarily forgot everything around him. He felt an hand curl around his neck and before he knew it Arthur pulled him even closer, crashing their lips together in a sloppy and chaste kiss.
Merlin melted into the kiss, but his mind quickly caught up with him and he realised what he was doing. His hands pushed lightly against Arthur's chest, trying to create more room and he broke the kiss. "Arthur wait, no." He breathed out, his hands still placed on Arthur's chest. He couldn't look him in the eye, not yet.
Arthur's mind seemed to have caught up too and he stepped back, shaking his head. "Oh god. I'm… oh god."
Arthur started to quickly walk out of the kitchen, well more like stumble. Merlin followed him instantly and when he came into the hallway he saw Arthur already shoving his feet into his shoes, he didn't even bother in tying them.
"Arthur. Wait." Merlin said, advancing quickly. Arthur did stop and turned to face Merlin.
Merlin continued. "Sorry, it's just that you're you. You're a Prince and I'm just-"
"Just forget that I'm a goddamn Prince! Is that all I am to you?" Arthur looked heartbroken and turned to the door to open it. When he stepped outside Merlin grabbed his hand and even though Arthur looked down to their hands being held together, he freed his hand and softly said, "Merlin, I'm sorry but I have to go."
Merlin stood in the door opening, watching how the bodyguard held the back door open when he saw Arthur walking out the house.
Arthur didn't turn back to look at him and all Merlin could do was to watch the car drive down the street and disappear around the corner.
All this time, he didn't noticed the person guarded with a camera.