Title: Stroke of Midnight
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Percival
Summary: Merlin's late home, and completely wasted.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Hope you enjoy!
Arthur took off his glasses, drained the last of a cold coffee and sighed. Sitting back, he glanced at the time, before blinking in surprise. It was later than expected. Rolling his neck, he grimaced at the stiff muscles. He was going to feel sitting hunched over for so long.
Picking up his phone, Arthur was surprised there was nothing from Merlin. His partner had gone to their usual pub evening with their friends, despite Arthur having to beg off because of work. It was the first time it had happened in a long time and Merlin knew what kind of week he had. He made Arthur promise not to work too hard and that he wouldn’t be back late.
It was gone midnight now though. Arthur had only worked this late because he expected Merlin to have turned up a few hours ago. With no interruptions, he had simply lost track of time.
The phone in his hand suddenly started ringing. Arthur jumped, then smiled when he saw Merlin’s name flash up.
“You coming home?” He said, a teasing note in his voice as he picked up.
“Arthur? It’s Percival.” Arthur wondered what it said about their group of friends that they were on first-name terms with the barman and he knew them just as well. Percival often joined them for a drink or two if it was quiet.
Arthur rested back in his chair. “What’s he done?”
“He’s wasted. Can you come and get him?”
“On my way.”
Hanging up, Arthur chuckled fondly even as he picked up his car keys. Merlin was a light-weight at the best of times, but without Arthur there to distract him, it appeared he had forgotten just how much he could handle before it went to his head.
It only took Arthur five minutes to reach the pub. There was no traffic at this time of night and he was able to park the car directly outside. Pocketing his keys, he opened the door.
Merlin was sitting on a bar-stool, although how he hadn’t yet fallen off, Arthur had no idea. He knew the slump to Merlin’s shoulders and knew that his boyfriend wouldn’t be walking out on his own. Percival saw him come in and grinned. Merlin saw the movement and turned.
Arthur managed to close the distance between them while Merlin was still attempting the manoeuvre, reaching him in time to grab his elbow and stop him from falling off his seat.
“Come on,” Arthur muttered, “time for bed.”
He half-supported, half-carried Merlin out of the pub with an apologetic wave to Percival. The barman just rolled his eyes and gestured for them to get going. Their group never caused any problems and Percival knew they would be back the following Friday.
After securing Merlin in the car, Arthur got in and gave him an amused look.
“Did you forget you can’t hold your drink?”
“S’not my fault,” Merlin said, resting his head against the window. “Gwaine’s.”
Arthur wasn’t surprised and he started the engine. Merlin hadn’t finished talking though.
“Mine? How is it my fault?” Arthur instantly felt guilty; he had promised that he wouldn’t let work come between them. Merlin reached over and poked him in the cheek.
“For being pretty.”
“Excuse me?” Merlin might have been slurring his words, but Arthur was certain he had heard him correctly. It just made no sense.
“Gwaine said Percy was hot. Not as hot as you. Said you’re prettier…he said no…”
“You and Gwaine argued over who had the hottest date and it turned into a drinking competition?”
“Clever too,” Merlin murmured, nodding approvingly. Arthur snorted and pulled away. The sooner he got Merlin into bed, the better. He should have known not being there would have some interesting results. Gwaine had been lusting after Percival for months.
“I hope you won,” Arthur muttered. He didn’t realise Merlin had heard him until his partner patted his hand clumsily.
“Course. Got to defend your honour.”
“How do you even think of stuff like that when you’re drunk?”
The only answer Arthur received was a loud snore. Chuckling, he quickly drove them home, leaving Merlin in the car until he got the door open. Merlin came around enough to let Arthur pull him up to the bedroom, where he sat him on the edge of the bed.
“Stay there,” he warned. Then he disappeared to fetch a glass of water, a bowl and some aspirin. Merlin was going to feel this in the morning.
Luckily, Merlin had stayed where Arthur had left him. It took almost no effort to make him drink the water before Arthur managed to get him into bed.
By the time Merlin was snoring again, Arthur was exhausted. He fell into bed himself and slept deeply. But Arthur had always been an early riser and by the time Merlin stumbled down the stairs the following morning – looking awful – Arthur was on his fifth report and third cup of coffee. He looked over his mug at Merlin.
“Still think I’m pretty?”
“Shut up,” Merlin said, sinking into a chair with a long-suffering groan. “I really hoped I dreamt telling you about that.”
“Here.” Arthur passed over a cup of tea and Merlin relented.
“Sorry,” he muttered and Arthur knew he was apologising for making him come and get him.
“Don’t be,” Arthur said. “I quite like having my honour defended.”
“You’re never going to let me forget this, are you?”
A few companionable moments passed but Arthur couldn’t help himself.
“Seriously? A drinking competition with Gwaine?”
Merlin snorted, wincing as he did so. “I had a point to prove. And I think I won.”
Arthur wasn’t sure whether he should be touched or not that Merlin had competed for his sake. Or that he had managed to keep going just to prove he was right.
But as he passed Merlin, he squeezed his shoulder.
“As long as you think I’m hot sober as well.”