Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Gwaine/Percival, Morgana/Leon, Gwen/Lance.
Summary: After his break up, Merlin is spending Christmas weekend in a cabin with his friends. He's less upset about the break up and more upset about his stupid crush on Arthur that still hasn't gone away.
Warnings: Modern!AU. Mention of manipulative character(s).
Word Count: ~2670
Author's Notes: I've no idea where this story came from, but the angst was there and I just had to go with it. I hope you like the fluffy endings dylogger. I thoroughly enjoy your art and it makes me really really happy. It was a pleasure to write for you. Happy Holidays! The title is part of the statement: feelings (of love) are only intensified by absence.
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Merlin was in such a foul mood and he felt rotten for it. His actions. He didn't want to ruin his friends' holiday, but with the latest stunt Cenred had just pulled, he didn't know how to be in a cheerful mood. He couldn't believe he'd walked in on his supposed boyfriend with another man. The good thing was they had both stepped out of the shower, therefore had missed the gruesome details. He'd only caught Cenred in the "after the fact" act.
Still, it was hurtful.
Cenred had convinced Merlin to go out with him two years ago, when Merlin hadn't even liked him that much, and now two years later, he'd been caught cheating on Merlin. Was this all supposed to be a game to him? He'd played Merlin for his feelings, got him to give up his desire for—oh never mind that!
He took a deep breath and excused himself from the sitting room where his friends were gathered and playing Monopoly; Merlin had no interest. He simply wanted to curl up in his bed, and just sleep until the holidays were over.
He was pathetic. And he knew it.
Making his way to the back porch, Merlin's fingers twitched and he wished he had a cigarette. Instead, he looked out in the dark and pondered over when and where he'd gone wrong.
"Are you doing all right, mate?"
The voice startled him. It wasn't he didn't know who it belonged to, of course, he did. It was a voice that'd haunted him for ages; whenever Merlin had heard Arthur speak, he'd only retreated in his shell, trying to keep clear of the man. But now, Arthur was here. Alone in the back porch with him and Merlin was without his armour, his boundaries, or his friends protecting him.
"Fine," he said, his voice slightly shaking.
"Here." Arthur offered him a glass with what Merlin thought was whiskey. He looked at Arthur's hands and found he was holding two.
"You brought this out for me?" he asked and Arthur nodded; or he thought Arthur had nodded. It was extremely dark, he wasn't entirely sure. "Thanks."
Merlin finished the drink in one go, and then coughed with surprise. Shite, that stuff was stronger than he'd expected.
"Hey, slow down, mate..." Arthur said, stepping closer to Merlin and then placing a hand on Merlin's back. Then he rubbed his back slowly, and Merlin nearly lost all coherent thought.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. He wasn't supposed to be all flustered and idiotic over Arthur. Not again. This was how and why he'd got himself here in the first place. He squirmed away from Arthur who seemingly, instinctively, took a step back.
"Sorry," Arthur said, raising his hands in the air. "I forgot how you don't like to be touched."
"Right. Sorry." Merlin nodded, and somewhat relaxed. He'd always made it a point to tell people he didn't like to be touched, but the truth of the matter was—he didn't like being touched by Arthur. Because Arthur did things to him he couldn't explain, confused him in ways he wasn't able to comprehend. It wasn't normal.
Merlin wasn't normal.
"I should get back to the group," Arthur said after a few beats of silence. "I just thought...I thought you could use someone to talk to. I know you've had a few difficult days."
"I...uh...sure..." Apparently Merlin had totally forgotten how to speak.
"Well, then. See you."
Merlin wanted to stop Arthur. He wanted oh so very much for Arthur to stay, put his hands on him again, and make him feel all warm and fuzzy. But he simply stood there like an idiot as Arthur opened the door to the porch and walked back into the lake house they all had rented for the long Christmas weekend.
He was such an idiot.
An hour later, when Merlin thought he'd got himself all under control, he decided to join his friends. When he got to the common area, most of his friends were there but he immediately noticed Arthur was missing.
Trying not to dwell on Arthur's whereabouts, Merlin concentrated on the game. They'd moved on from Monopoly to Taboo. It was his favourite game. He loved the challenge of making his team members guess the word without using common phrases.
He joined Gwen's team with Lance, Percival, and Sophia. It was Gwaine's turn, and Percival was shadowing Gwaine to make sure Gwaine didn't fuck up and use the wrong word to describe the keyword, and he kept on hitting the buzzer.
Eventually, when Gwaine got flustered, he threw the card in the air and tackled Percival on the floor. It didn't take long before they both started snogging, and almost humping on the floor.
"Okay, I'm not nearly drunk enough for this!" Merlin announced and decided to make his way to the kitchen to grab a few more beers from the fridge.
On his way there, he nearly stumbled upon a conversation. It was coming from the kitchen. It was a man and a woman talking. Merlin stopped immediately to give the two people their privacy. Except, when he noticed it was Arthur, he was only more curious.
"I'm telling you, I don't know what I did, but he won't even look at me," Arthur was saying.
"Just give him time. He's sensitive. He needs some time to recuperate from his break up. The man fucked with his head, brother."
Arthur and Morgana were talking. But about what?
"I don't know how much longer I can wait. I've been waiting."
"But if you act rashly, you might scare him off forever. He already didn't want to come here for the weekend and now—"
"Hey," Merlin said, walking into the kitchen and pretending as if he'd not heard anything Arthur and Morgana were discussing. On top of that, he also didn't want to stand by the door and keep listening in. It didn't feel right.
"Oh, hey!" Arthur said, taking a step back and Morgana looked flustered as well.
"Is everything all right?" Merlin asked, tilting his head. Now he was extra curious to know what they were discussing.
"Yes. Yes. You know, just brother-sister stuff."
"Oh, which reminds me, I think Leon was looking for you, Morgana."
"Right!" she said quickly and was out the door before he or Arthur could get another word in.
Merlin stood awkwardly for a few minutes; Arthur was blocking the door to the fridge where the beer was. He didn't want to be rude and tell Arthur to move but what was he going to do now?
"How are you feeling?" Arthur asked. He turned around and opened the fridge door a second later. "Do you want one?"
"Yeah, sure. I was going to get a couple for the lot."
"Right, of course," Arthur said. Why was there a great deal of tension in the air? Merlin couldn't figure it out. "Here..." Arthur offered him a few bottles to carry and they made their way back to the common area where they had resumed the game.
When Merlin woke up the next morning, it was still early. He and his friends had been up late last night and most of them had been drinking until they'd passed out, consequently, he believed he was probably the first one awake. As he made his way to the kitchen, he was startled to see Arthur there.
"Oh. Sorry!" Merlin said, not knowing why he'd apologised. Maybe it was due to the fact Arthur was only wearing a pair of red flannel pyjama trousers.
He turned around to look at Merlin and smiled—completely unaware he was shirtless. "Morning," he said.
Merlin struggled to keep his eyes off Arthur's torso but he was having the toughest time with it. His eyes kept raking up and down Arthur's body, taking in every muscle, every curve, every freckle, and—
"Shite! Sorry. God, I'd almost forgot how hot you are..." What the actual fuck, Merlin? Had he really just blurted it out? Gods, on top of being annoyed at himself, hung over, and devoid of caffeine, he could add absolutely embarrassed to the list.
"I'm sorry?" Arthur said, chuckling. "I didn't think anyone was going to be up this early. I can put on a shirt if—"
"No. It's fine!" Merlin said, biting his lip again. "I mean, do whatever you want. Aren't you cold?" His eyes darted towards Arthur's nipples to confirm and then he quickly looked away.
Eventually, he just turned around all together. "I'll just go."
"Wait..." Arthur reached out and placed a hand on Merlin's shoulder. "Here, take this." He offered Merlin his coffee and then, still with his hold on Merlin, continued to pour himself another cup. Unlike last night, when Merlin hesitated, Arthur didn't pull away. He must have truly wanted Merlin to stay there with him.
"Thanks," Merlin said, turning around and they stood quietly — in the middle of the kitchen drinking coffee — with Arthur's hand on Merlin's shoulder.
"So you think I'm hot?" Arthur asked and at the same time Merlin spoke.
"Did you sleep okay?" Merlin's eyes widened at Arthur's question but Arthur replied him first.
"Yes, I slept fine," Arthur said with a smile. "I wasn't the one who had to share a room with Gwaine and Percival."
Merlin rolled his eyes. "Why do you think I'm up so early? I figured they'd start going at it the moment they'd wake up and I wanted to be out of there before it could happen."
"That's a smart move."
"Why are you up? Merlin asked. He took a step back from Arthur and Arthur let his hand fall down to his side. Arthur touching him was getting to be too much.
"I couldn't sleep. I had—Morgana and I talked for a bit last night and I've just had some thinking to do."
"Is it personal or business?" Merlin asked. He remembered walking in on the conversation and it sounded like it'd been personal. It could have might as well been about him.
"Let's sit." Arthur gestured for Merlin to follow him and they walked into the warm sitting room where the fire was burning and he sat down on the sofa first and then Arthur turned to sit next to him, facing him.
"So you and Cenred, was that serious?"
Merlin was a bit taken back by the question; not that it was invasive, but because it was not what he'd been expecting. He shrugged. "I suppose not if he could just cheat on me. I mean, I know we weren't connecting for a while, but I'd much rather he'd told me he wanted to end things than to act in such a way. I mean, I wasn't — I mean, it just hurts. You know?"
Arthur nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure. It's a coward's way to treat someone this way. You deserve much, much better." Arthur raised his hand as if he were going to touch Merlin's face but then he dropped his hand.
"What do you have to tell me?" Merlin asked, watching Arthur's hand, and wishing Arthur had touched his face.
Arthur's eyes widened with surprise before he schooled his face. "What do you mean?"
"I heard you and Morgana speaking last night. You were talking about someone, but from the sound of it, I think it could have been me...So what is it?"
"You were listening to our conversation?" Arthur asked; he didn't sound annoyed but almost relieved.
"I didn't mean to. As soon as I realised it was too personal, I let you guys know I was there."
This time Arthur did touch his face. He didn't seem to hesitate for even a second now. "You're so...pure. Is that the right word to say?"
"Pure?" Merlin almost snorted.
"You're such a good friend to everyone; you take care of us all. You've always been honest and forthcoming and to tell you the truth—we were all surprised when you started dating Cenred because he was just so...not."
"What do you mean?" Merlin asked, realising he was leaning into Arthur's touch and this was all getting too weird but he also couldn't stop himself.
"Maybe I just have a different opinion of him than everyone else because even if we all thought Cenred wasn't good enough for you—I was just jealous. I thought it was a joke—especially since I'd told him how I felt."
"How you felt?" Merlin asked, stiffening up. "What did you tell him?"
Arthur shrugged. "I was drunk. I told him I fancied you and was going to tell you how I feel, and then the next thing I knew was you two were going on a date. Then...you two were together. It was around the time my father was sick; I didn't have a lot of time to see any of my friends. I was always at hospital. I just got news in snippets via SMS or Facebook updates and then—you were boyfriends."
"I had no idea," Merlin said and before Arthur could say anything, Merlin took his and Arthur's coffee mugs and placed them on the floor.
He'd wasted two years being with someone when he could have been with Arthur. He'd no idea Arthur fancied him just the way Merlin was crazy over Arthur. And it was all Cenred's fault. Cenred had played his game and exploited information for his own use only to toss Merlin aside like a used rag.
Merlin didn't have time nor the desire to discuss anything about Cenred with Arthur anymore. He ran his fingers through Arthur's hair and Arthur closed his eyes, almost moaning into Merlin's touch. Then, Merlin kissed him. It was soft at first, but as Merlin climbed into Arthur's lap, his arms wrapping around Merlin's waist, he deepened the kiss.
Merlin straddled Arthur's lap as Arthur's hands grabbed him by his arse and squeezed. Merlin let out a small laugh of surprise before he started biting and licking on Arthur's lower lip.
When they broke apart for air, Merlin rested his forehead against Arthur's.
"Part of me doesn't want to believe this is just a charity kiss—"
"What?" Merlin asked.
"You're only kissing me because you feel bad for me. Or maybe you want to feel better and kissing me is just doing—like maybe you're using me—"
"But the other part, doesn't care. God, Merlin. I want to be used by you. I want you in any way you will have me. I've waited so long to have you like this. To make you mine—even if it's just for a short while—even if you don't mean it—"
"Arthur," Merlin said, firm and then he grabbed Arthur's chin to make sure they were both looking in each other's eyes, before he added, "I do feel better kissing you and that's not because I'm hurting and you're a quick fix or whatever. I feel better because I'm finally kissing you. It's what I've wanted for years too. The thing with Cenred—it was a minor detour. This..." he said rocking his hips, "is where I want to be."
"You do?" Arthur asked, still sounding unsure.
"I love you," said Merlin. "I always have."
Then they started to kiss again and before Merlin knew it, his shirt was also off and he felt Arthur's warm body against his and everything was perfect.
"Oh, I see how it is..." Gwaine's loud voice echoed in the tiny sitting room. "We aren't allowed to have sex on the sofa but you and Arthur can totally have a snog session in the morning. Half naked, I might add—"
"Gwaine!" Arthur whined in annoyance.
Merlin rested his head against Arthur's shoulder and laughed. It felt good to laugh; he'd not done it in a while it seemed. And it felt especially good to be in Arthur's arms.