Title: You've got (overdue) fine written all over you
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Libraries & bad flirting.
Prompt: #326 "I've been checking you out."
Author's Notes: I apologize for maligning trashy romances. (No such apologies are extended to Clive Cussler. Sorry, not sorry.)
So maybe – just maybe – Morgana was right. Maybe Arthur is a bit stressed out. Possibly even touchy, high-strung, and overworked. (He draws the line at conceding to any of the other choice references to therapy or daddy issues she had thrown at him during her latest hissy-fit.)
Point being, maybe he’s still being a little overly defensive, because when the librarian working the circulation desk takes his stack of books and says, “I’ve been checking you out. For, um, a while now,” Arthur’s first thought is excuse me?
He’s instantly ready to bite out a caustic response along the lines of so what if you have? Because who did this guy think he was, mocking him for coming in here? So what if he’s been in and out of the Tintagel Library almost everyday for the last few weeks; so what if he’s read his way through most of the Clive Cussler adventure dime novels and is moving on to the trashy romances (with half an eye on the melodramatic bodice rippers). He doesn’t need any commentary on his reading choices, on the way he chews his way through books, or on his intelligence. And certainly not on any implications of the former on the latter. He gets enough of that from Dad, thanks.
His head snaps up and he’s warming up to tell the idiot as much when he registers the expression on the librarian’s face.
It’s the cute librarian. The tall guy with the killer cheekbones and the ears – the one Arthur tries to avoid staring at for too long. Worse, he’s blushing, head ducked, and is pretty blatantly trying to avoid eye contact. Arthur watches with a distant and horrible sense of fascination as the other man worries at his lower lip. He swallows back his knee-jerk defensive reaction as the words replay in his head.
The other possible meaning of his words filters through and his brain short circuits. Is the guy he’s low-key been crushing on for weeks seriously flirting with him?
He scrambles for a response, torn between casual (“Oh, is that so?”), feigned (“What was that?”), or something more flirty (except he’s blanking on anything flirty to say and anyways, what if he’s reading too much into it, what if he isn’t flirting at all, and Christ, he just needs to say something––!)
“Er, sorry. Look, I’m sorry, could you please just forget I said anything?” Cute Guy stammers out. He fumbles for the next book in the stack, scanning more quickly.
“No, it’s–” fine, just fine, really endearing actually, except the words won’t come out. Who could think straight when confronted with cheekbones like that?
(Beep. Beep. Beep. The scans speed up like a bloody heart rate monitor.)
Hell, he thinks, in for a penny, in for a pound. He drops his voice and bats his eyelashes. “Did you like what you saw?”
That startles Cute Guy into finally meeting his eyes. There’s a stuttering, deer-in-headlights moment as they stare at each other, and Arthur is keenly aware of how patently ridiculous he must look. One part of him wants desperately to scrape up the remains of his dignity and retreat. That part cringes as the other half – the half that unironically loves soppy chivalric romances, that three weeks ago decided it would be a great decision to come out of the closet at top volume in the middle of a massive row with his father – says screw it and commits, leans straight-faced and seductive onto the counter in a pose that (he hopes) shows off his biceps.
Except, of course. This is his life.
So instead his elbow skids on the waxy vinyl surface straight into the pile of books, knocking them to the floor and leaving him inelegantly sprawled over the desk, blinking fish-faced up at his crush. Cute Guy blinks back.
(And okay, wow, eyelashes.)
Cute Guy’s expression twists, Arthur hears a tiny laugh of disbelief escape him, and suddenly they’re both gone – well over the edge – and dying of laughter.
“Oh my god,” Cute guy chokes out. “That was the best thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I can’t believe that just happened,” Arthur groans. He tries to lever himself off the counter.
Giving him an impish grin – dimples! – Cute Guy grabs his shoulder and helps him up, then reaches for the toppled books. “Me neither. Normally I’m the embarrassing one. I don’t think I’ve ever been upstaged like that before.”
“What can I say? I hate losing.”
“I can tell. Dear gods, we’re going to be a hot mess, aren’t we?”
“Excuse you. We’re going to be fabulous,” Arthur says, mostly to make him laugh again.
Putting the righted stack down (well out of elbow range, Arthur is glad to see), Cute Guy reaches out a hand. “Let’s start over. I’m Merlin, and you’re really cute.”
“Arthur. Pleased to meet you.”
“Oh,” says Merlin, managing the seductive-elbow-lean far better than Arthur had (and throwing in an extra eyebrow waggle for good luck), “you will be.”
(Which, of course, only sets them off again. They finally get shushed by the girl who comes to take over at the end Merlin’s shift.)