Title: If I Didn't Have You
Pairing/s: past Merlin/Gwaine, Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Sometimes he couldn’t work out why he was still friends with Merlin either—then Merlin would do something so completely stupid, so completely Merlin, and Arthur would remember. Oh, yeah. Because I’m still head-over-heels in love with him.
Word Count: 1000 words.
Prompt: 302 What Would I Do Without You (Heartbreak Month #3)
Author's Notes: Because this song and that quote from SPN were all I could think about as soon as I saw the prompt.
Arthur got the text a little after four, but it wasn’t until he was on his way home that he had the chance to read it.
“Oh, shit,” he muttered, doing an immediate u-turn. He’d been looking forward to getting home and spending a quiet night in for a change, but some things took precedence. Especially Merlin, and especially when Merlin had just broken up with his long-term boyfriend.
When Arthur let himself in to Merlin’s flat, a plastic bag of Chinese food in one arm and his briefcase in the other, he found Merlin exactly where he’d expected him to be: curled up on the sofa watching Die Hard and digging a teaspoon into a container of Neapolitan ice cream.
“Ice cream?” Arthur said, cocking an eyebrow at him. “Isn’t that a little cliche?”
“Shut up,” Merlin said, scowling. “I just got dumped, again. I’m allowed to be cliche if I want to.”
He was obviously trying to act like his usual self, but his eyes were red-rimmed and he was already in his pyjamas: two crucial warning signs that Arthur couldn’t ignore. He set down his briefcase with a thump and started unpacking the takeaway bag.
“You look awful.”
“Gee, thanks,” Merlin sniped. “You really know how to cheer a bloke up.”
“I’m not here to cheer you up, idiot, I’m here to make sure you don’t drown yourself in chocolate sauce.” Arthur yanked the Neapolitan out of Merlin’s hands and replaced it with a box of Chinese food and a plastic fork. “Eat. Real food, or an approximation thereof. You can have this back later, if you’re good.”
“Why am I even friends with you?” Merlin whined, but he opened the carton anyway, ignoring the fork to pick out one of the steaming dumplings with his fingers. “Fuck, hot-hot-hot!” He caught the dumpling in his mouth, shaking out his burned fingers, then let out a moan that bordered on orgasmic as the flavour hit his taste buds. “Omigod, you went to the Golden Dragon for me. Never mind, you’re the best friend ever.”
Arthur shook his head, dragging his eyes away from the bob of Merlin’s throat and making a beeline for the kitchen. Sometimes he couldn’t work out why he was still friends with Merlin either—then Merlin would do something so completely stupid, so completely Merlin, and Arthur would remember. Oh, yeah. Because I’m still head-over-heels in love with him.
It was a problem, but not one he could see himself trying to correct any time soon.
“So, what happened?” he asked, when he’d stowed the ice cream safely in the freezer and rejoined Merlin on the couch. He picked up his own carton—unlike his best friend, he could handle chopsticks—and dug in. “Was he a cheating bastard like Cedric, or just a dick, like Val? Or did he—which one was it who decided to ditch you for a career in advertising?”
“Gilli. And if you must know, Gwaine was none of those things,” Merlin said primly, although that didn’t disguise the tiny tremor in his voice. “He said he thought we’d be better off as friends, that’s all. And do we really have to go through my past dating failures right now? You’re supposed to be supporting me, not reminding me how hopeless I am.”
“Shut up, Merlin, I’m trying to determine whether I need to passive-aggressively unfriend Gwaine or not. On a scale of one to ten, how much of a arsehole was he?”
“Mrgh.” Merlin let out a garbled sound and face-planted into Arthur’s shoulder. “Three? I don’t know, it wasn’t his fault. I just—I was really hoping it would work out this time, you know?”
“I know.” Arthur reached up and petted Merlin’s hair with his free hand, then promptly undermined the gesture by stealing one of Merlin’s dumplings. “I’m sorry.”
“I said I was sorry,” Arthur said, smirking. Merlin rolled his eyes, stealing a forkful of Arthur’s fried rice in exchange, but since Arthur had bought enough for both of them, it didn’t really work as a retaliatory gesture. Sulking, he settled back to watch the movie, and Arthur smiled to himself. He wasn’t above admitting he liked quiet nights in with Merlin even better than quiet nights alone, when he could get them.
They had both seen the film a dozen times already, which meant they spent most of the evening taking it in turns to ad-lib over the dialogue at increasing volume. When they both shouted, “YIPPIE-KI-YAY, MOTHERFUCKER!” at the top of their lungs, someone upstairs went so far as to hammer on the ceiling to quieten them down, which sent Merlin into hysterics. The sight made Arthur’s heart hurt, but in a good way, and he wished there were some way to make the moment last forever.
“Seriously, though,” he said later, when they were watching the credits roll up the screen. The room was dark and quiet without the sound of gunfire, Merlin a warm weight against his side. “Are you okay?”
Merlin sighed. “Yeah, I’m okay. Better now, actually. Thank you.”
“All part of the service,” Arthur said lightly, suppressing a shiver at the ghost of Merlin’s breath on his neck. He disentangled himself from Merlin’s hold and got to his feet, pausing when Merlin caught his hand and looked up at him.
“I mean it, Arthur. What would I do without you?”
“Crash and burn,” Arthur deadpanned, one side of his mouth quirking up in a grin. He leaned in to press a kiss to the top of Merlin’s head, cupping his cheek in a way that was just a little more intimate than their usual goodbye. When he drew back, Merlin’s eyes were closed. “I’ll check in tomorrow and we can have lunch or something, yeah?”
“Okay.” Merlin opened his eyes and smiled, and as always Arthur’s heart did a backflip in his chest. “It’s a date.”
If only, Arthur thought, and let himself out.