Title: Left Behind
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Sometimes buying a gift can be a really hard thing to do.
Word Count: 830
Camelot_drabble Prompt: 362 – Locket
Author's Notes: Modern AU
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
They used to laugh about it. Arthur would get that constipated look on his face when he saw the trinkets and Merlin would mock him for it – although not in public because he wasn’t that stupid – but later, when they were alone, Merlin would make rude gestures and stick out his tongue and call Arthur dollophead.
It made sense. After all, coins were called sovereigns for a reason and Arthur was king. Of course, his head would be on it. But they were often minted lop-sided and sometimes Arthur looked like he was chewing off his own nose, but it was him mostly. All golden and royal and beautiful.
So Merlin could understand about the coins.
But the trinkets. Commemorative plates and mugs shaped like Arthur’s head and tunics with Pendragon Rules written on the front and Arthur’s clotpole face on the back. Earrings shaped like swords and rings with the Pendragon crest and dog vests in red and gold. Kids toys and adult toys, too – although Arthur didn’t know about those and Merlin wasn’t about to tell him although he did keep that one dildo in a secret drawer because Merlin thought it might be just Arthur’s size. Hell, it was even called Excalibur. But that was another story.
It was the locket that finally broke them both. A sweet thing, delicate and delightful, it opened up to Arthur’s face inside, done perfectly, too. Almost as if the artist had used magic to capture Arthur’s image and etch it into the metal. The other side was blank, as the locket-maker explained, waiting for the perfect likeness of Arthur’s perfect consort.
Merlin waited. He’d hoped that someday Arthur would realize just how much he was loved and turn to Merlin with the locket and a kiss and ask the artist to engrave Merlin there, too.
But Arthur just shook his head, putting the locket away, and telling the man that he’d someone in mind, someone special, and he’d bring them there, next time they were in town. Someone he’d not told Merlin about.
Arthur didn’t speak of it after that, either. Didn’t introduce that someone special to his staff or anyone else. It was almost as if they didn’t exist. But it didn’t make sense. Arthur had bought the locket after all for someone, someone not Merlin.
Merlin grew confused, then angry, then silent. Arthur matched his mood, often trying to lighten things up but when rebuffed, would turn sullen. Looking at Merlin, as if he couldn’t understand why Merlin was acting that way.
Things came to a head soon enough. There was yelling and quitting and accusations, scowls and arms waving and fingers pointing. And lots of insults, no longer funny but sharp and mean-spirited.
Finally, Merlin decided he was done. As he turned away, grabbing his carryall for the last time, heart-broken, about to leave and never come back, Arthur jerked him around once more, then thrust the locket into Merlin’s hand.
“Here, you arse. I tried to get my money back, but he said that it was one of a kind and there were no refunds. I hope you’re happy.”
Merlin looked down at the delicate thing. “What the hell? What is this?”
“A locket, Merlin. As if you didn’t know.” Arthur looked like he was about to explode, or maybe cry. It was hard to tell. But his arms were folded around his chest and he seemed a stone wall, solid as hell and just as forgiving.
“Of course I know it’s a locket. I’m not stupid.” He dropped his carryall, then when Arthur didn’t punch him one, he turned over the locket and opened it. Arthur’s face was there, and Merlin’s, too. For a moment, Merlin said nothing. There were too many words caught in his throat and he had to swallow a couple of times and get his brain to settle down before he could even reply. “But… you said it was for someone special, someone that wasn’t in town. Someone not me.”
“You are an idiot. Of course, it was for you. How could I say anything with you standing right there? It was supposed to be a surprise. Arse.” Arthur rolled his eyes. But at least he was no longer a wall. Instead, he seemed uncertain and sad and maybe about to cry, for real this time.
Merlin couldn’t breathe. He just stood there, blinking down at the beautiful thing, listening to the silence standing next to him.
Then he looked up into Arthur’s bright eyes, and launched himself straight into Arthur’s arms. Kissing him, not letting go for a second, whispering about stupid idiots and love and how dare he keep it a secret and kissing him again.
Then Arthur was laughing and pulling him up, wrapping arms around, him and half-carrying him into the bedroom.
And if the locket got left behind, glittering there on the hallway floor, well, Merlin, sore and satisfied, would find it again in the morning.