Title: Take Two
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Merlin's new boss wants a word.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: We Need to Talk
Author's Notes: Hope you enjoy!
Don’t show weakness.
The thought echoed through Merlin’s head as he hid. He tried telling himself he wasn’t hiding, just steeling himself for a meeting with his new boss. But that didn’t explain why he was practically behind a plant, hoping that no one saw him.
Taking a deep breath, he straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin. He was good at his job and an excellent team leader. He had nothing to fear and walked forward, bursting in.
“You can’t summon me like some dog,” he said, sitting stiffly in the closest seat.
Arthur looked up, reproach in his gaze, but he didn’t reprimand Merlin on his lack of manners. He clearly knew this was the wrong time and place.
“I thought we should talk.”
“You thought wrong.”
“Let me rephrase that: we need to talk.”
“About what?” Merlin folded his arms defensively across his chest.
“You’re the one who is new here, Arthur, not me. If you’ve got a problem, you can leave.”
Merlin only wished he felt as brave as he sounded. He had known the company was up for sale, they all had. When they had been reassured their jobs were safe, Merlin hoped the new boss would be a kind one; one who would let them carry on with their way of working.
Then he found out it was Arthur Pendragon. Billionaire with several companies under his belt.
Also, Merlin’s ex who had left him broken hearted because he was such a work-aholic.
Arthur ran a hand over his eyes and Merlin tried to pretend he didn’t notice the man looked drawn and worn out.
“I don’t,” Arthur said, “have a problem, I mean. I’ve only heard positive things about you. Sounds like you are one hell of a team leader.”
Merlin didn’t say anything, determined he wouldn’t blush.
“I’ve also heard you put in a lot of extra hours.”
“The projects have to meet the deadlines,” Merlin snapped defensively. There was a knowing smile on Arthur’s face and Merlin cursed him in his head. This was different; he had a job that needed to be done. Arthur, however, only ever put work first, regardless of how busy or quiet it was.
“Merlin, I-,” Arthur trailed off and it was that more than anything Arthur had said that made Merlin realise he was being genuine in their need to talk. He had never seen Arthur at a loss for words before, especially not when he thought back to their last fight.
Merlin sighed, brushing his fingers through his hair before standing up.
“If you have no complaints about my performance, then I would like to get back to my team.”
Arthur didn’t say anything and Merlin took that as an invitation to leave. His hand was on the handle before Arthur spoke.
“I haven’t had a failed relationship since you,” he said. Annoyance rose fast in Merlin and he shot a withering look over his shoulder.
“Bully for you,” he muttered. He had had several. Mordred had turned out to be a bastard and Gilli had been too clingy. They were just the ones that had lasted for longer than a month.
“I haven’t had a relationship at all.”
Arthur’s words were quiet but Merlin’s eyes widened. He was gorgeous, successful and wealthy – who wouldn’t want him? He looked over his shoulder and slowly turned. When he sat back down this time, he lent forward.
“It’s been five years, Arthur.”
Merlin could see in his expression that Arthur did know. He had felt each and every one of those five years, lonely and empty, without someone to share them with. Merlin knew, because it was how he felt himself. Attempts at relationships weren’t the same.
“What did you need to talk about?”
“Don’t you know?” Arthur said quietly but Merlin shook his head. He wanted to hear whatever Arthur had to say, not guess, get it wrong and end up feeling the fool again. Arthur had put him through that before and Merlin wasn’t going to fall for it twice.
“I knew you worked here,” Arthur admitted. “I thought if I took over, you would have to talk to me.”
“You thought becoming my boss would be a good way of making me talk to you?”
Arthur flushed when Merlin put it so bluntly. But Merlin didn’t look away and eventually, Arthur shrugged sheepishly.
“I never made the best decisions when you were involved, Merlin.”
“Is that a compliment?”
“I have no idea,” Arthur said, laughing slightly. Merlin felt his lips twitch in response – Arthur’s laugh had always been infectious. But he forced himself to remain calm. He had to know for sure what Arthur was trying to say.
“Arthur, what do you want?” Merlin repeated, a hint of firmness in his voice. Arthur looked at him, then down at the table. He couldn’t hold Merlin’s gaze.
“Five years, Merlin,” he said. “And I never stopped loving you.”
Merlin closed his eyes and took a breath.
“You broke my heart, Arthur.”
“And I’ve regretted that ever since. You have to believe me.”
The trouble was, Merlin did believe him. He knew Arthur better than anyone and could see the true regret in his expression. He could see the five years of pain and the hint of hope, the promise in Arthur’s eyes that he did still love him.
Merlin would be lying if he told Arthur that he had moved on. He too was still caught in feelings of the past.
“If you ditch me again,” Merlin said, trying to sound casual. “I will make your life a living hell.”
“You’re right; we need to talk. One step at a time, Arthur. Maybe we can be friends again?”
Arthur smiled shyly and Merlin had to resist the urge to lean across and kiss him. He stood up and moved towards the door.
“I need to get back to my team,” he said. “But maybe dinner? Tonight?”
Everyone deserved a second chance.