Title: The House Guest, part 1
Pairing/s: Arthur/Gwen, past mention of Arthur/Merlin and of Merlin/Will
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine
Summary: Merlin has an unexpected house guest
Word Count: 1186
Prompt: 354: All I Ask
Author's Notes: This got a bit longer than I planned.
Dr. Who was cued on the tele. A drink and a bowl of popcorn on the coffee table. He had just sat on the couch with a blanket in one hand and remote in the other when the doorbell rang. He considered not answering it. He was tired and really just wanted quiet. Whoever it was, however, wasn’t going away as they rang the bell again. He sighed getting up. As he walked toward the door he hoped his sloppy sweats would send a clear message and send them on their way. The bell rang a third time before he could get to the door. As he unlocked and opened the door he started, “No need to…”
Merlin stood in his doorway staring. Despite looking tired and a bit put out, Arthur looked as golden as ever. The setting sun managed to bend its way through the windows of Merlin’s building highlighting his sun kissed skin and form a halo about his blond head. That, of course, might have been Merlin’s imagination. “Arthur,” he said with surprise trying to remember the last time Arthur had been to his place.
Arthur’s whole body seemed to sigh. He shifted a large bag on his shoulder shuffling a bit as he spoke. “Hi Merlin, Can I come in?”
“Yeah, Of course.” Merlin pulled the door open to allow him to pass. He couldn’t help but wonder what had brought Arthur here. Sure, they were friends but the closeness they had once shared had waned after they graduated uni and Arthur had married. The only time they saw each other anymore was at gatherings with friends and even then they didn’t talk much.
“Thanks.” Arthur made his way into the alcove by the front door setting his bag on the floor. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and stared at the floor.
Merlin looked out the front door for a moment then took his time closing and locking the door before he turned to look at Arthur. It was clear that something was wrong by the way he stood, stiff with his hands in his pockets. “Are you ok?”
Arthur looked up with a frown on his face. “Yeah.” He took one of his hands out of his pocket and rubbed the back of his neck. “I was wondering if I could stay here for a few days.”
Merlin sighed in his head. As much as he wanted to say no he couldn’t. This was Arthur after all. Man of both his dreams and nightmares. Beautiful, tall, blond, broad shouldered, muscular, bi-sexual Arthur. A year, well almost two years ago, before he married Gwen, this would have been Merlin’s fantasy. Arthur showing up at his door asking to spend the night. But now it felt like torture for his sad, pathetic crush. Although, maybe this was what needed to finally get it through his thick skull .. “If you rather I didn’t.”
Merlin realized he had waited too long to answer. “No. I mean it’s ok if you stay.” He looked away from the golden light. “Sorry, I’m just a bit tired. Let me show you to the guest room/office.”
Arthur followed Merlin through the great room into a short hallway. They stopped in front of an open door. “Here you are. Bed has clean sheets. If you want to use the computer user and password are m e w guest. The loo is across the hall.”
Arthur moved the bag around on his shoulder. “I’m sorry if I interrupted anything.”
“You didn’t. I was just going to watch some Dr. Who. You can join me if you want.” Merlin rubbed a hand through his hair.
“Ok. That sounds good actually. Just give me a moment,” Arthur smiled. “Oh, and Merlin, all I ask is that you don’t tell anyone I’m here.”
“Yeah sure.” Merlin turned back toward the living room. The last thing he wanted was to spend an evening talking with Arthur so he grabbed him a coke and a package of chocolate digestives from the kitchen in hopes that he would just stuff his face and watch. It didn’t take Arthur long to take a seat on the far end of the couch. They sat through a couple episodes of Dr. Who and then Merlin excused himself to bed before they could have an awkward conversation. As he climbed into bed he carefully kept his thoughts away from Arthur. He turned his sound machine to thunderstorm, picked up his dog-eared copy of Momo and read until he fell asleep.
Merlin woke to the smell of fresh coffee. He stretched and looked at the time thinking he didn’t have to get up yet when he remembered the night before. Of course Arthur was already up, trained as he was by his father. He laid there not wanting to get out of bed as Will’s words reverberated through his head, You can’t commit to us, to the future because you are still living in the past hoping he will return. It wasn’t the reason he couldn’t commit fully to Will but it had been easier to let him think that than the truth, that he just didn’t truly love Will. Still. there was some truth to Will’s words. He had held onto a small fantasy that Arthur would remember their time together and decide he was the one. But that’s all it was, a fantasy good for a wank in the shower. He sighed to himself as he got out of bed and forced himself to take a shower just long enough to wash and get out.
Merlin entered the kitchen to find Arthur staring into his coffee as if it would solve all his problems. He poured himself a cup and watched. He could ignore Arthur and his constipated emotional process, stretch things out by days until he got to the root of his problem or he could just ask. He didn’t really want to know. “Just tell me what’s wrong Arthur.”
Arthur looked up at him and made a face. “My father said something nasty to Gwen, I didn’t tell him off enough so Gwen asked me to leave.”
Suddenly things were making sense. Arthur was a bit of a minor celebrity, partly in his own right but mostly as the son of Lord Uther Pendragon. He couldn’t check into a hotel without paparazzi being all over it. He also couldn’t go to his father’s house or his sister’s house as they followed them as well. He had come to Merlin not because it was his first choice, but because they wouldn’t think to look for him here. “Oh.” He really didn’t know what to say.
Arthur apparently decided a change in subject was called for. “So how’s Will?”
Merlin set about making toast so he wouldn’t have to look at Arthur as they spoke. “We . uh.. broke up a few months ago.”
Arthur looked surprised, “Oh, I thought you two had something. What happened?”
“Apparently he didn’t think so.” Merlin stuffed a piece of toast in his mouth so he didn’t have to say more.