Title: Like a Fine Wine 
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: The bloke he’d met hadn’t seemed like anything special, at first—fit, yes, in the lean and rangy way that Arthur liked, but it wasn’t as if there were a shortage of slim, dark-haired men in London. Then Arthur had seen his eyes.
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | AO3 ]
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 323 Opportunity, Glasses, Beer.
Author's Notes: Hehe this was fun.
“I have two words for you, mate,” Gwaine said, sitting down next to Arthur and shoving one of the glasses of beer towards him. “Beer goggles.”
“Shut up, Gwaine,” Arthur said, elbowing his friend hard between the ribs. “I’m telling you, he was gorgeous.”
“Yeah, and you were how many sheets to the wind that night?” Gwaine snorted. “You were probably making eyes at that lamp over there.” He gestured with his glass at the far corner, where a shabby antique lamp kept watch forlornly over a couple of battered old armchairs. It looked to be at least a hundred years old, moth-eaten in places and sporting several bald patches along its velvet trim, like a skinny old man gone slightly to seed. It was definitely not the man Arthur had fallen head-over-heels for only a couple of days ago.
“Are you forgetting which of us was the one who got blind drunk and started making out with the mop at Lance’s going-away party?” Arthur asked, taking a sip of his drink. He grimaced—the brew was foul, but it was that or some fancy name brand he’d never heard of. “Of the two of us, I think the lamp is definitely more your type.”
“Oi, that was one time,” Gwaine whined, but he subsided a little after that, joining Arthur in scanning the crowd.
In all honesty, Arthur wasn’t sure why he’d come back here—The Dragoon wasn’t his usual sort of pub, being old and kind of run-down, and catering to a very different sort of clientele than the places he typically frequented. It didn’t even serve good beer. And yet, he couldn’t seem to get last week’s encounter out of his head. The bloke he’d met hadn’t seemed like anything special, at first—fit, yes, in the lean and rangy way that Arthur liked, but it wasn’t as if there were a shortage of slim, dark-haired men in London.
Then Arthur had seen his eyes.
They were deep, vibrant blue, fringed with dark lashes, and when his gaze met Arthur’s across the room, he had felt a frisson of something—something more than the usual run-of-the-mill physical attraction that drove most of his short-term hookups. Even plastered as he was, Arthur had been determined not to leave without learning the man’s name, and he'd made his way over to him on unsteady feet, hoping for—well. He wasn’t sure what, exactly, but he felt in his bones that something important was about to happen.
But it never did. The man had seen Arthur approaching and turned pale, scrambling to his feet as though intending to escape. Arthur sped up, only registering the fact that one of the servers was in his way when he'd knocked the man’s tray to the floor with a crash.
Glasses and beer flew everywhere, and by the time the mess had been cleared away, the man Arthur had been staring at was gone. Arthur was shepherded out of the door by his friends, who were eager to hit the next stop on their celebratory pub crawl. He didn’t really remember much about the rest of the night, but he did remember the man, which was why he had come back to The Dragoon tonight, exactly one week later—same day, same time, but now painfully sober and with only Gwaine for company. Although he was starting to regret this latter fact immensely.
“Is that him?” Gwaine asked, for the umpteenth time, pointing at a squatly built man with a thin black beard and receding hairline. Arthur scowled at him and shook his head.
“Stop helping,” he said. “You’re the opposite of a good wingman, did you know that?”
Gwaine chortled into his drink. “Does that make me your ball and chain?”
Arthur rolled his eyes, and was about to deliver a stinging retort when he felt the prickle of eyes on the back of his neck. Turning, he felt his stomach flip over—it was the man from last week, sitting in the same booth near the rear of the pub, watching him. Arthur turned back towards Gwaine, his eyes wide.
“Don’t look now,” he said. “But he’s here. Table at the back, wearing the blue jumper.”
“That’s him?” Gwaine whistled, craning shamelessly over Arthur’s shoulder. “I take it back, mate. You have excellent taste. D’you think he’d be up for a threesome?”
“I’m going to talk to him,” Arthur said, ignoring this last remark entirely. He downed the last of his drink and stood, keeping a weather eye out for any passing waiters or other obstacles as he made his way across the room.
When he stopped in front of the other man’s table, those dark blue eyes were already on his, steady and searching. The directness of that look, the familiarity of it, stirred a faint chime of recollection deep inside Arthur’s mind.
“Er, hi,” he said, momentarily breathless. “I'm Arthur. Erm—this is going to sound like a line, but do I know you from somewhere?”
The man snorted, but he held out his hand. “I’m Merlin,” he said. “And I don’t think so. I’d remember.”
“I suppose I am quite memorable,” Arthur agreed, grinning lopsidedly. “Still. It’s a shame. I was hoping I might take the opportunity to buy you a drink, for old time’s sake.”
Merlin stared at him for a long moment—long enough that Arthur rubbed at the nape of his neck, opening his mouth to play it off as a joke. Before he could say anything, however, Merlin blurted, “Are you serious?” and blushed to the tips of his ears. Arthur’s heart leapt.
“Deadly,” he said, trying to arrange his face into a suitably solemn expression. It was difficult when all he wanted to do was jump up and down in triumph. “Why, you interested?”
“Maybe.” Merlin looked up at him through his eyelashes, a slow smile blooming across his face that was equal parts shy and mischievous. “Why don’t you ask me and we’ll find out?”