Title: We Need to Talk About Merlin [Part 2]
Rating: G [this part]
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Edwin
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Morgana, Gwaine, Edwin
Summary: Merlin has a new boyfriend. Morgana doesn't like him. Somehow, Arthur winds up stuck in the middle.
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | AO3 | Merlocked18's Art | Sequel ]
Word Count: 1300 words (sorry!).
Prompt: #249 Blind Date.
Author's Notes: Happy (early) Valentine's Day, darlings :)
For some unfathomable reason, Merlin thinks a Valentine’s Day masque is a brilliant idea. He even seems somewhat flattered to have been asked, which means that Arthur can’t do what he had intended from the beginning and advise him to run while he still has the chance. Instead, he finds himself offering to send a company car round to Merlin’s flat to collect him, in case he wants to impress his date. Because God help him, Arthur is a sucker and a masochist and would apparently do anything to see Merlin smile.
“You’re pathetic,” Arthur tells himself in the mirror on Saturday evening, tying his tie too tight and having to unpick it again before he strangles himself. “Absolutely pathetic. You need to get yourself together and move on.”
His reflection looks as nonplussed as he feels, and he sighs. This really is getting ridiculous. Anyone would think he and Merlin had had some kind of epic love affair, instead of a three month on-again off-again college romance that had fizzled out before it even had the chance to go anywhere. They had both agreed that they were better off as friends, and at the time, Arthur had actually meant it. The problem was, he hadn’t really known Merlin very well, back then; they hadn’t really hung out much aside from having the occasional class together and having a vaguely overlapping circle of friends, and even then they had argued more than they talked. They had drifted apart after graduation, with Merlin going on to postgraduate study and Arthur taking a job in his father’s company. Then, a few years ago, Merlin had come to work for Pendragon Enterprises as Arthur’s PA, and Arthur had finally gotten the chance to spend time with him on a more regular basis.
And promptly fallen head over heels in love.
It’s ironic, he supposes, that after all this time Merlin would turn out to be the one person who actually gets him — who understands his sense of humour and can read his moods from just his coffee order. It’s probably no surprise given how closely they work together, but sometimes it feels like there has to be something more to it; that all the late nights and lingering touches have to mean something, and not just that Merlin is his closest friend. But Merlin has so far shown no signs that he regrets breaking up with Arthur, or that he might like to give their relationship a second chance, and so here he is, scheming with Morgana to set Merlin up on this crazy blind date when all he actually wants to do is keep Merlin for himself, break-up and boyfriend be damned.
“Pathetic,” he reiterates, with a shake of his head.
When Arthur finally makes it to the old Camelot Hotel — chosen as the site for the Masquerade Ball primarily due to the fact that it had been designed to look like a medieval castle — he’s late, and already not in the mood to socialise. The fact that Morgana pounces on him as soon as he steps inside does not help matters.
“Arthur! There you are. I was beginning to think you’d deserted me.”
“Leave off, Morgana,” Arthur says wearily. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
“Fortunately for you,” Morgana says, arching a brow. Arthur accepts a glass of champagne and she links her arm through his, nudging his shoulder as she directs his attention to where Merlin is standing to one side of the dance floor. He can tell it’s Merlin because of the hair; everything else about him is different, from the sleekly tailored blue-grey frock coat to the delicate, almost translucent fairy king mask that covers most of his face. The artfully lowered lighting casts dramatic shadows across his cheekbones, making his pale skin glow as if it’s covered in luminous body glitter. Arthur nearly chokes on his drink.
“Delicious, isn’t he?” Morgana purrs. “I may or may not have given him some pointers on his costume.”
That much Arthur has already guessed. Merlin may be many things, but fashion-conscious is not one of them; his outfit has Morgana’s fingerprints all over it. No wonder she had been so adamant about letting Merlin know it was a fancy dress party — he must have gone straight to her for advice, exactly as she’d planned. Suddenly Arthur feels distinctly underdressed.
“And where’s Edwin?” He asks, scanning the room for Merlin’s partner. It’s hard to see in the dim light, but he’s fairly sure Morgana shrugs, the peacock-feathers of her own mask bobbing as she waves a hand vaguely at the sea of dancers.
“Last time I saw him, he was dancing with George,” she says. “Which means now is the perfect time to spring my little trap.”
Arthur sighs, but trails gamely after her as she drags him to Merlin’s side, swallowing the rest of his champagne in one gulp and snagging a second glass from a passing waiter as he goes. If he has to be here, at least the steady supply of alcohol will ensure he isn’t totally miserable all night.
“Merlin, you look lovely,” Morgana coos, making Merlin jump. “I knew that outfit was meant for you the moment I saw it.”
“Thanks,” Merlin says, smoothing his jacket nervously. He looks at Arthur's costume and swallows hard “You don’t think it’s a bit much?”
“Definitely not,” Morgana says. “It’s perfect, isn’t it, Arthur?”
“It’s — fine.” Arthur clears his throat. “You look fine.”
Morgana rolls her eyes. “What he means is, you look ravishing,” she says, smacking her brother's arm. “I’ve been fielding questions about you all night. In fact, there's someone I particularly wanted you to meet, if you’re agreeable.”
“I don’t think — "
“He’s new in town,” Morgana continues, ignoring Merlin’s attempted demurral with practiced aplomb. “And I promised I’d introduce him around tonight so that he doesn’t get lonely. You don’t mind, do you?”
“Would it matter if I did?” Merlin asks drily. Arthur hides his smile behind his drink.
“If you don’t like him, I'm sure there are others who'd love to meet you,” Morgana says sweetly, although from her it sounds more like a threat. Arthur swallows a snort at her total lack of subtlety, and Merlin flicks an uncertain glance at him from behind his mask.
“You might as well give in,” Arthur advises him, shaking his head. “She won’t let up until you agree to at least one dance.”
“Fine,” Merlin says, although he still sounds slightly confused. “I guess one dance won’t hurt.”
“Excellent!” Morgana reaches out and taps the shoulder of one of the men behind them. Arthur has to hand it to his sister — her choreography is as flawless as her style is outrageous. “Gwaine, darling, Merlin here wants you to ask him to dance.”
Gwaine turns. He’s immaculately dressed in an old-fashioned tuxedo with a sleek, silver fox mask that sets off his dark eyes and tanned skin, and Arthur watches as he gives Merlin a blatant once-over before running a hand through his over-long hair. “Well hello, gorgeous,” he says, grinning. “I’m Gwaine.”
Merlin blushes bright red. “Merlin,” he squeaks. “Um. Pleased to meet you?”
“Would you do me the honour of this dance, Merlin?” Gwaine offers his arm, and after a moment’s hesitation Merlin takes it, allowing himself to be swept away onto the crowded dance floor. He doesn’t spare Arthur or Morgana a second glance, and Arthur takes a deep breath, forcing himself to loosen his hold on his champagne glass before it shatters.
“Gwaine Greene?” he mutters, stepping closer to his sister so that he can be heard above the music. “Are you serious?”
“Trust me,” Morgana whispers back, raising her own glass to her lips with a knowing smirk. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”