Arthur poked at the deformed cubes of chocolate with the end of his fork. They gave way a little and melted into smaller chunks. Nodding in approval, he put them back in the microwave. He peered through the mesh of the microwave door with a somewhat suspicious look on his face, as if he were expecting some sort of trickery. Merlin opened the kitchen door and sniffed the air.
"I'm melting chocolate to go with marshmallows." Arthur stated, a grin spreading across his face. Probably out of pride.
"That doesn't smell like chocolate." Merlin lowered his eyebrows, and his mouth hung slightly open. Arthur frowned too.
"It's chocolate. I bought it, put it in a bowl, and now I'm melting it,"
"Did you stir it half way?" Merlin edged a little closer and sniffed the air again. His nose wrinkled and he jabbed at the stop button on the microwave. The bowl, even though Arthur had apparently been watching it quite intently, was decorated with the black congealed remains of what may or may not have been a bar of dairy milk.
Arthur looked over Merlin's shoulder. "Well, I don't know how that happened."
Merlin shook his head, first at the bowl, and then at Arthur, who was finding it difficult to keep eye contact. "You burned it."
"Maybe that's how it's meant to be, and just everyone else has been getting it wrong." Arthur snatched the bowl from Merlin's hands and began prodding it again with his fork. The lumps were hardening as they cooled, and a thick layer of black crystals was stuck to the bottom.
"A likely story…" Merlin muttered, a smile creeping onto his face. He laughed, and Arthur jumped back in astonishment. "Well, I guess it's the thought that counts."
Arthur nodded vigorously. It was definitely the thought that counted. Especially as his thought had been to prepare a feast of marshmallows and chocolate to eat whilst watching a cheesy rom-com. It had been an excellent plan. And the most recent on a long list of 'Ways To Get Merlin To Love Me,' none of which, to Arthur's knowledge, had been successful. "We could probably eat the bits that aren't black." Arthur suggested, scooping an un-charred crumb up with his fork and pushing it in the direction of Merlin's mouth. Merlin recoiled and clamped his lips shut. "Merlin, for God's sake, it's only chocolate."
"It's a crumb of chocolate. Chocolate is not meant to be in crumbs." He sniggered, before seeing Arthur's wounded face and succumbing to his request. Merlin, though he didn't have to admit it, thought that it still tasted pretty good. Even better considering it had been fed to him by Arthur. Triumph puffed out Arthur's chest when he saw that Merlin's face wasn't crumpled by disgust.
He ruffled his fingers through Merlin's hair and remarked "see? I told you that's how it's meant to be done," before quickly leaving the kitchen in case the hair-ruffling made him want to move on to other things… Merlin groaned, but followed nonetheless.
The host's bedroom had been completely revamped since Merlin had last been inside – which had only been an hour before then – which Arthur confronted with no small degree of awkwardness and, in hindsight, regret. His face flushed, and he scratched the back of his neck, refusing to make eye contact with the boy stunned-to-silence in his doorway. The door eventually swung shut and pushed Merlin inside. "Wow." He said, taking in the blankets that hung from the ceiling and the mound of duvets that cushioned the walls around Arthur's bed. "Hang on," Merlin's brow furrowed, "you're using the light to hang the duvets up?" He turned to Arthur, "is that at all safe?"
Arthur looked up at the belt threaded around the ceiling light. "Why wouldn't it be safe? The light is screwed to the ceiling."
Merlin remained dubious, and chose to sit as far from the impending catastrophe as possible. Arthur grabbed two teaspoons from his cutlery pot and joined Merlin on the side furthest away from danger. He handed one to Merlin, who took it gingerly.
"Don't be such a girl, Merlin. It's chocolate, for God's sake." And he took a large spoonful of lumpy brown and black mush. He chewed for a moment – not much more than a second – and Merlin leaned in closer to see his reaction. And, sure enough, Arthur begun to cough and splutter and mumble in pain. "The black bits are so bitter!"
"I knew they would be."
"How did you know?"
"Because I've done it before." Merlin chuckled, before pointing at the television in a way that indicated it was time to put the film on.
"In a minute – So you've burnt chocolate too then?" Arthur smirked, pleased that he wasn't the only one to have made this mistake; pleased that someone as otherwise perfect as Merlin could make such a silly mistake.
"Yes. I have." Merlin folded his arms in defence against Arthur's accusative look. "You should have let me do it this time, because I've learnt from my mistakes – something I doubt you'll ever be too good at."
Arthur shook his head, and the smirk disappeared for a moment. "I wanted it to be a surprise," the words, it seemed, were out of his mouth before he'd even decided whether or not they were true. It happened, however, that they were. Humiliatingly so.
"A surprise? Who were you trying to surprise?"
There was a faint moment where Arthur realised that he couldn't really, and didn't really want to, get out of this tricky situation, before he took a deep breath and continued with his explanation, "you."
"Me?" Merlin pointed at himself, as if there might have been two 'yous' in the room. "Why were you trying to surprise me?"
"I just thought it would be a nice thing to do." Arthur flushed and turned his head down to the bowl of ruined-afternoon. He thought, in a frantic attempt to rectify what could only really end in horror, "should I get the marshmallows?"
"No. Not yet. Maybe later." Merlin could feel his body fighting his decision not to breathe. His chest was tight with something not unfamiliar, and his palms had begun to sweat, "it was a very nice thing to do, Arthur."
Arthur glanced up.
"But why would you want to do something nice for me?" Merlin's face, Arthur thought, made him look like a terrified rabbit, or a terrified mouse. Definitely something small and cute and furry and terrified. He laughed a little, feeling that really, whatever Merlin's reaction to finding out how he felt would be, they were friends enough to get past it. He got up and grabbed the unopened bag of marshmallows on his bedside table and tore it open. A pink one first, he began pelting Merlin with the soft, gooey sweets. Merlin raised his hands over his face, "Arthur, what the hell are you doing?!"
"It's because I love you. That's why I wanted to do something nice for you."
"But why are you pelting me with marshmallows?"
"Because I'm not very good at serious conversations, so I want to keep it light-hearted." He sighed, realising that Merlin was not finding this hugely entertaining. A chuckle, Arthur proudly observed, did slip out of Merlin's mouth; either that or he was choking on rogue ammo.
"Stop, Arthur." Another marshmallow hit Merlin's nose. "Arthur please!" One hit Merlin's right palm. "Arthur, I want to talk about this!" A pink one actually brushed Merlin's eyeball. "Arthur! Okay! I love you as well." The last few words sort of tumbled out with very little definition, but the marshmallow stampede ceased.
"What was that last bit?" Arthur stood stock still, the sweet between his fingers was being slowly crushed and the gooey insides oozing out into his hand.
"You know what I said."
And Arthur did. He knew what he'd heard, even though part of him was reluctant to admit that it might be true. Merlin sat amongst the marshmallows and duvets and waited for Arthur to respond more coherently. Arthur's mouth remained agape, but he ventured a step forwards, and Merlin tried to smile encouragingly, not denying himself the pleasure of knowing that his feelings were reciprocated.
Arthur shook the broken marshmallow out of his hand and onto the floor, before carefully sitting back down next to Merlin on the bed. He inched closer, completely lost for any words that might mean anything other than what had already been said, and Merlin mimicked his action. They closed the gap between them.
Just as Arthur's hand went to find its way through Merlin's hair, a snap resounded through the room. The room went dark, and a heavy entanglement of blankets pinned them to the bed. Arthur wriggled free and looked at the gaping hole in the ceiling. Merlin's head popped out from underneath the marshmallowy mess, "I told you that was a bad idea."