Title: Don't run away again
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, Mithian
Summary: More talking between Merlin and Arthur.
Warnings: Modern!AU. Angst.
Word Count: 1530
Prompt: Belonging for camelot_drabble
Author's Notes: Part 21 of the "divorce!fic"
1. All too familiar 2. Leaving the past in the past 3. That Familiar Feeling 4. We laugh and we cry (And we break) 5. Busy was always better. 6. The need to stop the hurt 7. Despite our estrangement 8. And you would smile, and that would be enough 9. We Have To Win 10. The Calm Before The Storm 11. A Glimpse 12. The First Time 13. Risking It All 14. Comfort 15. Decisions 16. More Than This 17. The Patience Game 18. Part of the truth 19. Dodging Calls, 20. What Arthur Wants
"What are you thinking about?"
Gwen asked Arthur as he sat on the bar-stool next to her. He'd arrived at the pub she'd told him about, as it was Friday evening and he'd said he'd be there. Mithian had just excused herself to go to the loo, and Merlin hadn't shown up yet.
"Just wondering if we'll ever stop this song and dance," Arthur admitted, more to himself than anything else.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"I want him, I don't want him. I want him, he hurts me. He wants me, or does he feel bad for hurting me? I invited him to the hotel thinking I could do casual sex…"
"Can you? Do casual, I mean?" When Arthur didn't reply, she continued, "I couldn't do it. Not with Lance. I mean, if we ended things and had the opportunity to get back together—I mean, I love him so much, so I don't know if I could just have him in one way and not another. Not knowing who else he could be seeing, what he'd be sharing with others that he doesn't share with me."
"I used to think like that," Arthur said, finishing the last of his whiskey, and making a mental note of slowing down. "Then he left me. Because he wanted to make a name for himself and I was… I don't even know what I was doing? Taking care of him?" Arthur laughed. It sounded bizarre. He needed Merlin to explain it to him.
A few minutes later Mithian returned, and their group was joined by Merlin. He looked good. He was wearing a dark blue shirt with jeans that hung low on his hips. Arthur wanted to groan at how hot Merlin looked, how hot Arthur felt, but he kept his face impassive. He simply gave Merlin a nod, and then looked at Mithian, as if asking her to take charge.
"We should get a table," Mithian suggested looking around the room, "look there!" And she sprinted away as a woman on a mission.
"Mithian said her boyfriend might come by later, and Lance might stop by too, so you know, we'll have a big group."
"Great," Arthur said, not wanting to argue. Even if he felt like he was totally being set up on a date.
And then here he was again, contradicting himself. He wanted to see Merlin, but didn't want to be considered his date?
"Will Charles be joining us?" Arthur asked, because he was an arsehole.
Merlin gave Arthur an amused look, "No. I didn't invite him."
"So, do you want to talk?" Arthur asked, as they all picked up their drinks and walked towards the table Mithian had claimed in the corner of the pub.
"I don't know, are you going to run away again?"
"I don't know, are you going to tell me you never loved me, and you've actually started a small savings account to pay me back for every gift, or dinner, I ever bought you because apparently my money was too good for you?"
Ethan was so going to kill him.
They were quiet for a while and then Merlin started laughing. Arthur couldn't help himself, and joined in. Both Mithian and Gwen looked at the two of them as if they had multiple heads.
"What—what's so funny?" Gwen asked as Mithian continued to look bemused.
Arthur bit the inside of his cheek and looked over at Merlin who looked equally flushed. "It's how we are," Merlin said, not taking his eyes off Arthur.
"How we were," Arthur said, clearing his throat. "Us. We were never cordial. We always fought. It was sort of our thing." Arthur ran a hand through his hair and took in a deep breath. "Merlin never apologised—"
"Arthur never let up—"
"Merlin's always brash—"
"And Arthur's always a prat—"
"The only time we had been nice to each other were the times we didn't know each other. If I'd known that the boy on the skateboard I thought was "cute" was going to be the biggest pain in my arse, I would've immediately forgot about him."
"When Morgana was the biggest bitch to me," Merlin said, "Arthur came to my defence, and immediately after, insulted me. As if his sister wasn't doing a stellar job on her own."
"I was nothing like Morgana. I was trying to make you understand—"
"And I didn't need you to come protect me from her. I could take care of myself, you know!"
"Right. That's why you were crying in the toilet—"
"I was NOT crying!" Merlin yelled, exasperated. "I. Was. Not."
"Gwaine told me you were."
"Well, Gwaine's a lying liar that lies."
Arthur rolled his eyes and turned towards the table to grab his drink. He hadn't even realised though Merlin and Arthur were sitting next to each other, they had actually turned to face each other. Their knees touched, and Arthur had felt like they were the only two people in the room—something he'd not felt for a very long time.
Gwen and Mithian were staring at them. Again.
Gwen quickly diverted her gaze and grabbed her mobile. She started typing into it frantically, and Mithian simply gave him a knowing smile.
"What?" Arthur asked and Mithian shook her head.
Arthur would've said something but his mobile vibrated and he fetched it out of his pocket. It was a text message from Gwen.
>>Are you fucking kidding me? Take him home right now, Arthur. Before someone else steals him away.<<
Arthur scowled at his phone and then looked up at Gwen who seemed so nonchalant as if she'd not done anything.
>>What are you talking about?<<
Arthur placed his phone down and took another sip of his drink. Merlin was doing the same, looking confused, and something else…His eyes were dark, his cheeks flushed, and…oh, Arthur realised. Arguing had always been there foreplay.
His mobile vibrated again.
>>If I have to tell you what I'm talking about, then you are the stupidest person I've ever met. And you're not my boss anymore so I can say this to you. You obviously belong together. Whatever was in the past, it can sort itself out, but you'd be really really really stupid to let this go. Really.<<
Arthur stared at the phone for a while, feeling speechless. He wasn't sure he would be able to control his emotions if he looked up and saw Gwen. He'd always felt like he belonged with Merlin, and after all this time, that feeling hadn't gone away. Gwen had so easily seen through him and it was incredible. After all, she had set them up for that blind date to begin with.
He bit the inside of his cheek, something he did when he was nervous when Merlin placed a hand on his knee.
"You all right there?" he asked softly.
Arthur nodded. "Yeah, fine," Arthur said with a smile. "So, you wanted to talk?"
"I…" Merlin seemed to hesitate for a second. "It's a long winded story, and you sort of know the gist of it…"
"Yeah," Arthur said, drawling his words.
"We can always get into the details of it later, but before you run away again—"
"I won't run away," said Arthur.
"Yeah, but let me get this out okay?" Merlin asked and Arthur nodded. "It was the biggest mistake of my life. What I thought? Was wrong. The fact I let Morgana's words get to me, was probably the most moronic thing I could've done. I thought my art, my integrity was suffering because we were together, and that was far from the truth. I ran away because I was scared — because what if I was always going to be mediocre. I'd never be good enough to be with someone like you."
"I know. I know. I know what you're going to say. And you're right. I have everything I want now, the fame, the money, everything. But when I saw you at the cafe after two years, Arthur, nothing mattered. Because I didn't feel the thrill—you weren't there to share it with me."
"And where does Charles fit into all of this? If you saw me and you wanted me back—if I'm reading this right—you were on a date with him. You were dating new people—"
"I guess I was still trying to get over you," Merlin said with a soft smile.
"How's that working out for you?" Arthur asked, cheeky grin and all.
"Not very well," said Merlin.
Arthur couldn't believe it. Ethan had been right.
"By the way, I really have you know," Merlin said, yanking Arthur out of his thoughts.
"Started a savings account to basically pay you back for everything you ever did for me. But it looks like you might need it now."
"What'd you mean?"
"Given you're unemployed an all." Merlin winked and Arthur laughed.
When Arthur returned his attention to Gwen and Mithian again, he'd almost forgot that they were still there, both the women had tears in their eyes.
"Oh no," Arthur said.
"Oh, shut up," replied Gwen.
End Notes: If you don't have a huge grin on your face by the time you finish this chapter, I've not done my job right.
READ PART 22