Title: Like a Fine Wine (7)
Pairing/s: eventual Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin’s remark had had the quality of an old joke about it, one that had been drawn from shared experience. It wasn’t the sort of thing you said to someone you had just met.
[ 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: 377 You're the worst cook ever
Author's Notes: Written and posted in the middle of the night, so please forgive its unedited state, lol.
Neither of them had their laptops with them, so they finished up at the pub and walked down the block to an internet cafe, where they used one of the ancient computers to print out the form Arthur would need in order to receive a copy of his original birth certificate. By the time they were done, it was beginning to get late, and Merlin had to leave to catch his train.
“Let me know what you find out, yeah?” he said, pushing back his chair. “Then we can figure out our next move.”
“Of course.” Arthur stood up as well, following Merlin as he headed towards the door. They both paused on the threshold, not talking but not ready to leave yet, either, until Arthur said impulsively, “The site said it'll take several days before I hear back from them, assuming I send the form in tonight. In the meantime, though, we could—we could do dinner?”
“I’d like that,” Merlin agreed, with a small smile.
“Good. Great.” Arthur smiled back, relieved. “How does 7 o’clock on Wednesday sound? I’ll even cook for you, if you don’t mind something pasta-related. I’m not much of a chef, I’m afraid.”
“Yes, I know. You’re the worst cook ever,” Merlin said, and then paused, frowning. “I’m sorry, I just—I don’t know why I said that. I’m sure it isn’t true.”
“That depends on who you ask,” Arthur said, trying to keep his tone light, but inside he felt as disconcerted as Merlin looked. It as one thing to feel as though you’d known someone forever; that could possibly be explained by having similar values or being from a similar background, or even just being similar types of people. But this was something more than just a sense of familiarity. Merlin’s remark had had the quality of an old joke about it, one that had been drawn from shared experience. It wasn’t the sort of thing you said to someone you had just met. “So. Wednesday, then?”
Merlin seemed to shake himself, coming out of whatever trance he had been distracted by.
“Yes, definitely,” he said, giving a cheerful nod, and just like that the strangeness disappeared. “Text me the address, and I’ll be there.”
To say that Arthur was nervous about their upcoming—well, date, for lack of a better word—would be to suppose that his feelings were capable of definition. On Sunday, he was not so much anxious as he was restless, and occupied his time by cleaning the flat with uncharacteristic vigour, attacking each room with vacuum and mop while Gwaine looked on in amusement. His resulting irritation was not helped by the half-dreamt, half-remembered echo of Merlin’s voice in the back of his head, teasing him about not even being able to dress himself properly. His mind conjured up the strangest things when stressed.
On Monday, Arthur returned to work, grateful for the distraction, but on Tuesday even the deeply absorbing business of IT support couldn’t hold his attention for long. He had woken up to a text from Merlin.
Wine, or dessert?
Arthur responded, Do I have to choose?
I meant, which one shall I bring, you prat.
Definitely the dessert, Arthur texted back, grinning. I’m not sure I trust your taste in wine.
The only reply he’d received was a series of rather rude emojis, which made him laugh out loud and then glance around guiltily, as though one of the other train passengers might be reading over his shoulder. The warm familiarity of this exchange, and indeed of all his exchanges with Merlin thus far, followed him off the train and all the way to his office, where he sat staring blankly at his computer for several minutes, wondering.
All his life, he had known he was adopted. His parents had never tried to hide it from him, and he couldn’t even remember a time when he hadn’t known that he wasn’t their biological son. He also couldn’t remember a time when he’d been at all interested in finding out anything more about it—until he’d met Merlin, and now suddenly here he was trying to track down his birth parents. Was he just hungry for some kind of connection? He couldn’t think why he would be—he had his job, his family, his friends. He wasn’t lonely. Or was there something more to it than that?
“You know, those things tend to work better if you turn them on,” a voice said, and Arthur jumped, turning in his seat to see Gwaine hanging over the cubicle wall. “They’re like me that way.”
“Very funny,” Arthur said, shaking his head. He hit the power button with one finger, trying not to act as though he’d just been caught daydreaming by his friend. Gwaine, however, wasn’t fooled.
“So, I guess I don’t need to ask what you were thinking about,” he said, smirking. “Or should that be whom?”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “It’s not what you think,” he said. “Not that you can talk, considering you were up and out of the house before I even woke up this morning. Meeting Percy at the gym again, was it?”
“Something like that.” Gwaine waved a hand. “But we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you and your mystery man. Have you heard anything back from the registry yet?”
“Not yet.” Arthur wrinkled his nose. “They said it'd take a while.” He hesitated briefly. “Gwaine, don’t you think it’s odd that I haven’t looked into this before? I mean, I’m nearly 30. Shouldn’t I have been, I don’t know, at least interested in finding out who my birth parents are?”
Gwaine’s expression darkened a moment before clearing. “Biology is overrated,” he said shrugging. “Why go looking for them when you have all you need right here?”
That was what Arthur had always told himself, but he wasn’t sure he believed it anymore. “Yeah,” he said, turning back to his computer. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”