Title: Hear Me Out
Character/s: Arthur, Gwen
Summary: Modern AU. Gwen is tired of Arthur being such a bad influence on Merlin.
Word Count: 1470
Prompt: #440, hangover.
Author's Notes: This got way out of control because I think it's the start of a much longer fic.
Fury boiled through Gwen’s veins as she pounded on Arthur and Merlin’s door. This was the last straw. She was sick and tired of Arthur taking advantage of Merlin’s friendship by treating him so poorly. Merlin kept insisting it wasn’t Arthur’s fault, but Gwen knew better. She’d had to watch spoiled boys with too much privilege get away with murder her whole life. Arthur was cut from the same cloth, whether Merlin wanted to acknowledge it or not. It was time for someone to finally put him in his place.
When no immediate answer came, she knocked again. “Arthur Pendragon, you let me in this second!” She pressed her ear to the door, but heard absolutely nothing. Had he left for the day? She’d checked with his assistant to see if he was in his office, but George hadn’t heard from him. She’d assumed that meant he was as hungover as Merlin, but being the owner’s son gave him leeway to call out from work that she and Merlin didn’t possess.
“Spoiled jerk,” she muttered, then dug into her pocket for the spare key Merlin had given her for emergencies. If anything counted as such, it was this.
The flat was silent as a tomb when she slipped inside, the blinds still drawn against the morning sunshine. Empty beer bottles littered the coffee table, while a stack of pizza boxes sat on the floor next to it. The telly was on, but muted, and a trail of clothes disappeared down the hall toward the bedrooms.
Her mouth firmed. Women’s clothes. Not only had Arthur thrown a party last night that left Merlin looking like hell, he was apparently still celebrating with whatever girl who was foolish enough to fall for that bloody crooked smile and twinkling blue eyes.
With her resolve buoyed, Gwen followed the path that culminated in a lacy purple bra dangling from the doorknob on Arthur’s closed door. She didn’t think. She just opened the door, ready to give Arthur a piece of her mind.
“You arrogant, selfish son of a—”
She stopped at the sight of the pair of naked bodies, entwined on the bed. The woman was closer to the door, curled on her side, with her long dark hair a tangle hiding half of her face, while her partner was draped over her back, just as out of it, just as obscured by his dark hair flopped over his cheek. Neither was who she expected. Morgana had spent the last year complaining about the new guy in Sales, about how he was all talk, how he couldn’t keep it in his pants, how he could charm almost anyone—including Arthur—into forgiving his—according to Morgana—many, many, many transgressions. And now here they were, in the same bed, passed out in the aftermath what had very obviously been a wild night.
As silently as she could manage, Gwen backed out of the room and shut the door again. She flinched at the click it made, then froze as she waited to see if it had disturbed anyone inside. Nothing happened. She tiptoed back to the living room and surveyed the mess.
Arthur might not be around, but the least she could do was clean up so Merlin wouldn’t have to deal with it later. She’d have to be quick about it, though, because she didn’t want to have to explain her presence if either Gwaine or Morgana woke up.
She was just bagging up the last of the bottles for recycling when she heard a key slip into the door. When she lifted her head, Arthur stood in the open entrance, frowning as he glanced from the lock to her.
He didn’t look nearly as bad as Merlin had. In fact, he didn’t look hungover at all. His T-shirt was slightly rumpled but clean, and his hair had its usual boy band, slight disarray style. Even his eyes were alert as he gazed at her, leaving her shifting uncomfortable from her crouch next to the couch.
“Gwen? What’re you doing here?”
Though some of her initial anger had dissipated in his absence, she refused to let him cow her. “Cleaning up for Merlin. Someone has to look after him since you obviously don’t care what effect your recklessness has.”
“My…” He shut the door behind her. “What on earth are you talking about?”
“This.” She swept her arm around the room. “You behave like you’re still at uni, while the rest of us are trying to be adults. Just because you can play hooky from work doesn’t mean Merlin can, you know.”
“I’m not…” He shook his head. “Look, I don’t know what you think happened—”
“You had a party.”
“Gwaine crashed my weekly dinner with Morgana with a handful of his friends.”
“And then you proceeded to get so pissed, Merlin can barely stand straight this morning.”
“When I left, Merlin was still on his first beer.” He ventured a step closer. “Is he all right?”
Gwen cared more about his first assertion than his query. “What do you mean, when you left?”
“My father called. We lost an important bid to a Shizuoka company so we were up half the night with our Tokyo team, trying to see where it went wrong. It was so late when we finished, I slept at his house.” Coming around the end of the couch, he took the bag from her hands and headed to the kitchen. “You still haven’t answered my question. Is Merlin all right?”
“He’ll live,” she acquiesced. Her head was spinning. She’d been so sure Arthur was the one at fault here, when he hadn’t even been present. “Merlin didn’t tell me you’d left.”
“Why would he? I told him and Morgana not to worry about anything so they could still have some fun.” He reappeared in the kitchen doorway, his arms folded over his chest. “You thought this was my fault, didn’t you?”
Gwen stiffened. His tone wasn’t nasty, but there was no mistaking the accusation. “I didn’t say that.”
“You don’t have to. I know what you think of me.” Arthur sighed. “I’ve only ever tried to be your friend, Gwen. I wish you’d give me the chance to prove that.”
“You only tried for Merlin’s sake.”
“At first, sure. He adores you. Why wouldn’t I try to get along for his sake?”
When he phrased it like that, it seemed perfectly reasonable. And she couldn’t blame him for Merlin drinking too much if he wasn’t actually here.
“I’m sorry I assumed the worst,” she said, deflated. “I’ll just let myself out.”
She was halfway to the door when his hand caught her elbow. “Merlin is lucky to have you as a friend,” he said when she looked back at him. “I wish you’d think the same about me. If I’d been here, I never would’ve let him get that drunk. I know how bad his hangovers can be. Gwaine’s a terrible influence on him.”
On that, she could agree, though she had to wonder if Arthur had any inkling that Gwaine had turned his charms onto Morgana. “All I can say is…I’ll try to better about not jumping to the wrong conclusion,” she said quietly. “That’s the best I can do.”
His mouth thinned. He clearly didn’t like her response, but after a moment, he nodded and let her go. “Will you do one thing for me?” he asked.
She just wanted to leave, but propriety demanded she hear him out. “What?”
“Let me take you out to dinner tonight.” When her eyes widened, he held up his hands. “As friends. Something casual without a Merlin buffer so we can clear the air, once and for all.”
Dinner with Arthur and no Merlin was a terrible idea. She wasn’t sure she could hide her feelings for an entire meal if nobody else was around. The smart decision would be to turn him down with a lie about other plans, but something told her Arthur wouldn’t let it go. He might even drag Merlin into it when Merlin only wanted everybody to get along.
“There’s an Indian place around the corner of the office where we get lunch sometimes,” she said. “I’ll be there at 6:30.”
Her hopes that Arthur would pass because he couldn’t handle spicy food were dashed when he grinned. “6:30,” he repeated. “I’ll be there. Without Merlin.”
“Don’t you want to know the name of the restaurant?”
“Gulati,” he said without hesitation. His smile widened. “The best butter chicken I’ve ever had. Great choice.”
As she left Arthur behind, Gwen’s head was awhirl. Arthur wasn’t responsible for Merlin’s hangover. He knew she judged him negatively. He wanted to be real friends.
What on earth had she got herself into with this dinner tonight?