Merlin still felt unsure as he fished his keys out from the bottom of his backpack and unlocked the front door, stepping into the large house. He had been living here with Arthur for nearly three weeks now and he still didn't feel wholly comfortable, he felt unsure of the place and like he was intruding. It wasn't that he thought Arthur didn't want him here, because he clearly did, and it wasn't that he didn't want to be here. It was other things, especially with the way Will had gone on today and then the phone call from his mother, even Freya had had something to say.
"Yeah, I'm back," Merlin said tiredly.
"Great Gwaine, Percival, Leon and Lance are here," Arthur grinned as he stepped into the hallway, coming over to Merlin. Merlin tugged him into a tight hug, partly because he had been longing for Arthur's arms around him all day, and partially to hide his wince. He had wanted a quiet evening away from it all, just him and Arthur, but now Arthur's friends were here, likely for supper. He liked them well enough for themselves, it was just well…they didn't like him and clearly thought that he was some sort of gold digging twink that was taking advantage of Arthur.
It didn't help that despite Merlin's protests Arthur liked buying him things, sometimes little things which Merlin didn't mind, but sometimes they were quite large things and Merlin couldn't think of a way to tell him not to do it without hurting his feelings. Because he knew Arthur liked doing it to show how much he cared for Merlin, and complicated man that he was Merlin rejecting a gift would be taken as him rejecting Arthur. Money just wasn't a thought to Arthur, not in the arrogant way Merlin had first thought, but in a way that Arthur had plenty of money and couldn't see what was wrong with spoiling someone he cared about.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Arthur asked concerned running his fingers through Merlin's perpetually messy hair.
"Nothing, just been a long day," Merlin shook his head, tilting his head back for a kiss. Their lips had barely touched when someone cleared their throat from down the hallway.
"Sorry didn't realise I was interrupting," Leon smiled. But the look he shot Merlin told him that he knew exactly what he was interrupting.
"Not a problem," He sighed rubbing his forehead. He was starting to get a headache.
"I was just telling them about our trip to Rome next month," Arthur grinned starting to pull Merlin into the living room.
"Wonderful," Merlin said dryly. He had been looking forward to that trip as well, he didn't mind when Arthur spent his money on something for the both of them, and Arthur he reckoned needed a holiday away from his Father. Now though he was going to have to listen to pointed comments about the holiday that Arthur either didn't pick up on or chose not to.
"Merlin?" Arthur frowned at him confused for his tone.
"Sorry, just a bad day, I'll be fine once I've had a cup of tea," Merlin shook his head. It wasn't fair to take out the fact that Arthur's friends thought he was a gold digging whore on him.
"I'll go and put the kettle on," Arthur smiled.
"No! No its fine, I'll do it," Merlin said quickly. The last thing he needed was for them to think he had Arthur acting as his slave as well! And again he was hit with hurt, confused eyes. Whoever was home first always made the other a cup of tea or coffee, but Merlin didn't want to give them anymore fuel. "You go and talk to your friends, I'll be right through," he smiled weakly.
"Ok," Arthur frowned concerned but he leant down to brush their lips together. Merlin tried to get himself together as he made himself his tea, taking the time to take a few sips and relax back against the counters before forcing himself through to the living room.
All their eyes turned to him when he walked in, and he would like to imagine that he was just paranoid when he saw the distrust and annoyance in the eyes of Arthur's friends, but he really wasn't. It was enough to make him want to curl into himself and hideaway up in his and Arthur's bed. But he couldn't, these people were important to Arthur and he would smile and play nice for his sake. He sighed mentally when he realised that they had all sprawled out over the furniture in a way that meant there was nowhere for him to sit, childish but apparently effective as he felt the stab in his chest, but also the grinding pain of his migraine building in his head. Gritting his teeth he decided for once to screw Arthur's friends and do what he wanted.
Moving quickly just as Arthur realised the problem and started looking around for somewhere for Merlin to sit, the younger man made his way to where Arthur was seated in his armchair and slipped onto his lap much to Arthur's surprise, they only really did this of a night time when they were watching a movie together. But Merlin's head was banging, he was feeling emotionally raw after today and all he had wanted since practically leaving Arthur's side this morning was to be curled up in his arms, and he wasn't going to let Arthur's friends make him wait any longer. Arthur tensed for a split second before smiling warmly and curled his arms around Merlin's waist as their legs battled to find comfy places for all four limbs, Merlin's own gangly ones taking some careful manoeuvring before they were comfortable, it was clearly a familiar battle, as was the content smiles when they were settled.
Everything was going fairly smoothly compared to how things normally went when Arthur's friends were around, mainly due to the fact that because of what was becoming a steadily pounding migraine Merlin wasn't really paying attention to what they were saying. But then just as his head gave a particularly vicious throb, enough to make black spots dance in front of his eyes, Gwaine made a comment about Merlin being Arthur's toy boy that had Merlin flinching hard enough in Arthur's arms for him to feel and Merlin's temper to finally snap.
"Oh fuck of the lot of you! You know what you might be Arthur's friends but that doesn't mean you know a thing about us! You all assume that I am just after his money! Have any of actually given a thought to the fact that I see Arthur for himself and not for his money! That I see him for the amazing, kind, generous, strong brilliant man that he is, even if he is a bit of an oblivious spoiled prat at times! I've had enough of everyone judging our relationship! And the only person that actually realises that its our relationship and not everyone else's and being supportive is Gwen! And that's only because the woman can't actually see the bad in anyone! So just butt out and leave us the fuck alone!" He snapped before yanking himself out of Arthur's arms and upstairs.
The silence after him was echoing, he didn't dare look at Arthur's face after he had spoken to his friends that way, he was probably going to be furious with him for snapping at them like that and embarrassing him. He slammed the bedroom door shut after himself and stormed over to the windows to yank the blinds and curtains shut before stripping his jeans off.
He didn't know how long he had been lying curled up in a ball under the covers, his eyes closed as his head throbbed, frustrated tears were choking him up but he tried to fight them back feeling pathetic enough. Then their bedroom door opened and he was able to recognise easily Arthur's footsteps making their way over to the bed. The mattress dipped when he sat down and there was silence for a few minutes before a hand rested on the lump of fabric that was his shoulder.
"Lance has told me everything. Why didn't you say how they were treating you?" Arthur said into the silence of the room.
"They're your friends, they're concerned about you," Merlin muttered into the mattress. "I shouldn't have lost my temper with them,"
"Yes you should have, and you should have told me," Arthur said firmly gently pulling back the covers until he could see Merlin. "Baby…" He groaned seeing the obvious signs of a migraine. He stood and quickly made his way to their bathroom, the sound of muttered voices outside the bedroom door making Merlin childishly grab the covers and yank them back over himself, he could hear the anger in Arthur's tone and closed his eyes. This wasn't what he wanted, he didn't want Arthur to fall out with his friends because of him. Arthur was back pretty quickly, the covers being drawn back again as Arthur sat down and one of his migraine tablets with a large glass of water was help out to him.
"Thank you," he muttered not meeting Arthur's eyes as he handed the mostly drained glass back to him. Arthur however ran his fingers gently through Merlin's hair before taking his chin and lifting it to make Merlin meet his eyes.
"That's wasn't just about them, I know you, if you have been holding out on saying anything for this long then something else has happened, and for you to come home with a migraine means someone else has wound you up. Speak to me," Arthur's words were demanding, but his tone and eyes were pleading, a mixture Merlin would never be able to resist.
"Will hasn't really gotten any better about us, he's been going on and on at me all week how you are just using me as a live in sex slave and that you are going to dump me as soon as a better offer comes along, someone richer or when you are bored with me and then I will be stuck with nowhere to go but him. And that I could put up with, but the Freya 'expressed her concerns' as well. And then my mum called me, Will had called her up 'concerned' and told her that I was living with a thirty year old man, and he made it sound like you were mistreating me or something, so of course she was all worried and wouldn't listen to me when I tried to tell her what was going on and how I feel for you! And I just! I just wanted to come home and sit with you but then they were here and they were making all their comments and I just…why can't everyone just leave us alone to our relationship!" Merlin groaned at the end of his rant dropping back onto the bed.
He blinked when he heard the sound of Arthur's clothes hitting the floor but before he could force his tired body to sit up Arthur had slipped into bed behind him and was tugging him against his body, reaching over to throw their covers over their heads.
"We're going to cook," Merlin couldn't help laughing.
"Don't care. Merlin I'm so…"
"Don't," Merlin rolled over in Arthur's arms to glare at him. "Don't its not your fault!"
"They're my friends, and I chased you. If I wasn't so selfish and just left you alone you could be living a normal student life, not shacked up with an old man," Arthur sighed.
"You are not an old man!" Merlin laughed despite the situation and his pain. "You prove that most nights, and mornings, and lunch times," He grinned.
"Still I am the one that could have said no to you, I could have told you I wasn't interested. But I was and I am, and I would rather be here with you, with all this than 'living a normal student life'" Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Even with your mum?" Arthur frowned.
"Even then. I'll ask Uncle Gaius to speak to her, he'll make her see reason, we'll meet with her and she'll fall in love with you and see exactly why I am with you," Merlin smiled stroked his thumb over Arthur's cheek.
"I just…you shouldn't have to put up with this," Arthur grumbled snuggled against Merlin.
"Its worth it," Merlin shook his head leaning up to softly kiss Arthur, smiling slightly into the kiss when Arthur quickly reached up to cup the back of his neck to stop him putting any pressure on his head.
"Are you sure?" Arthur asked quietly, their foreheads pressed together as they parted from their kiss. He didn't have to say the words out loud though, Merlin heard what he really meant loud and clear. 'Am I worth it?'
"Always, you're worth everything and more," Merlin said firmly gripping Arthur's face tightly.
"Not sure I am," Arthur sighed dropping his head onto Merlin's shoulder. "I knew maybe people wouldn't understand straight away, that they might be confused about our relationship, but I thought after a while they would see…"
"Arthur…" Merlin said slowly, worry suddenly creeping up his throat. "You know I'm not with you for your money right? That you don't have to buy me things to keep me,"
"Merlin!" Arthur sat up looking faintly horrified.
"I'm sorry! I just…" Merlin bit his lip looking away from Arthur.
"You just what?" Arthur asked, gentling his tone and face.
"I don't want you thinking that it's the only reason I am with you," Merlin said miserably. "They have probably said it to you when you're with them and I just don't want you to believe it one day,"
"Are you one day going to believe Will and think that I am with you just to have some young boy toy around?" Arthur said.
"No," Merlin said feeling even more miserable now.
"Hey, I'm not angry, well not at you. I'm angry at them for putting in your head that I could think that about you. I know that's not who you are Merlin, I know you don't care about money and if I can buy you pretty things. And that's why I like to spoil you, you're the first person I have been with that hasn't expected me to buy them things just because I have money, I enjoy spoiling you because I know you don't expect it and because that's not why you're with me," Arthur smiled.
"I'm sorry," Merlin sighed.
"You're tired, and sore. Go to sleep," Arthur urged him.
"We're going to have to go and meet my mum you know," Merlin said tiredly after a few moments of silence.
"I'll make sure to put forward my best not a sugar daddy using your son as a sex slave vibe," Arthur said seriously getting giggles from Merlin as he had planned.
"She'll love you, like…me," Merlin muttered drawing off as he went to sleep. Leaving Arthur to stare down at him wide eyed. He knew his idiotic and soon to be dead friends were more than likely gathered outside their bedroom door listening to every word. He also knew that as penance for potential driving away the best thing that had happened to him he would accept them scaring the living hell out of Will for going on at Merlin and for betraying his trust and telling his mum before he was ready for her to know.
But right now, here, with Merlin in his arms, lying on their bed under the sheets that they had chosen, knowing Merlin was in his life for good, and possibly loved him even though it had only been three months. Knowing that he was in love with the fey, gorgeous, clever, witty man in his arms, they could overcome anything, and the small thing of the age gap between them would be nothing. He would go with Merlin to meet Hunith and he would charm the pants off of her and let her know how much her son meant to him. Eventually he would have to introduce Merlin to Uther, but he would make sure that Morgana was there, the woman practically adored Merlin from the moment Arthur told her that during their first meeting he had called him a prat. They would be fine, more than fine. He was fairly sure that they were settled in for the long hall, and he was more than ready to give up the single life he had clung to and enjoy life with Merlin by his side. After of course he had broken the legs of a few of his eaves dropping mates who he could hear attempting to sneak back down the hallway.