Title: Mischief Part 20 – Awkward
Rating: R for language
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Morgana
Summary: Their first not-so-secret meeting after Merlin had changed back. Arthur doesn’t know what to say and neither does Merlin
Word Count: 1340
Camelot_drabble Prompt 483: Secret meeting
Author's Notes: unbetaed. I'm really really on a roll. Plus it's mini-nanowrimo month. But holidays are coming up so the posting might slow considerably.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Arthur thought about cleaning his flat, but he just couldn’t find the energy. Aside from maybe kicking some of the toys under the sofa, he was as ready as he could be when Merlin knocked on his door.
The man was pale, his face drawn, and hints of sleepless bruising under his eyes. Still vivid blue, those eyes, not yellow as his demon cat’s had been, and normally, Arthur would have been interested in Merlin the man. He was just Arthur’s type, fit, with soft dark hair and a full mouth. But in a way, Merlin had taken his cat from him and ridiculous as it was, Arthur resented him for it.
“Ah, Merlin, right on time, I see.” Arthur moved to let him into the flat, then gestured toward the sofa. “My sister said that you wanted to see me.”
Merlin took off his coat, draping it over the sofa, then sat down, Arthur sitting next to him. “Your sister is a force all her own. She badgered me into this.”
Arthur blinked surprise. He had thought Merlin wanted to see him. “The old ‘I know what’s best for you and you better do it or else’ routine. Yeah, she can be quite persistent.” At least in that, Merlin and Arthur were both her victims.
For the next few moments, neither of them said anything.
Finally, spotting the feather toy that Arthur had only half-hidden, Merlin leaned over, picked it up and jiggled it in his hand. “This was my favourite. You were always so happy yanking it away from me and I loved playing the game.”
Arthur could just picture it. His cat jumping in the air, catching it, then batting it around until Arthur grabbed it and threw it up into the air again. He couldn’t help smiling a little at the thought. “I could always divert your attention away from my ships with that. Plus after, you would purr up a storm and snuggle… umm, yeah, it was your favourite.”
Merlin gave a little laugh, juggling it from one hand to another before giving it back to Arthur. Merlin said, “I wasn’t in my right mind most of the time. The cat instincts kept taking over, but once in a while, I would think clearly again. It was hard, though, because I kept slipping back.”
“Were you human when you ruined my ships?” Arthur asked, remembering the wreckage scattered all over the flat and then later the broken ships in the sealed bottles. He still had them.
Merlin grimaced a little, looking a bit guilty about it. “No, that was all cat. After, I was horrified. I tried to fix it but sometimes my magic still gets a bit wonky. Especially when my mind kept going between cat and human.” He reached over, patting Arthur’s arm a second. “I am sorry about it. I know how much they meant to you. All that work.”
“At first I was furious but then I just laughed about it. You were too cute to stay mad at for long.” Arthur shrugged, then nudged Merlin with an elbow, giving him a quick grin.
Merlin nudged back. “You were always cute. You snore, you know. On your back, on your side. I kept putting my butt in your face to make you stop but it never worked.”
Clutching his hand to his chest, pretending to be horrified, Arthur said, “That explains so much. Shit, you were an arse.”
Merlin didn’t even look sorry, just grinned back at him. “And you were a prat, refusing to feed me the best cat food. Some of the cheaper stuff tasted like shit.”
“And you never let me hear the end of it.” Narrowing his eyes, Arthur shook a finger at him, but Merlin just laughed more.
“All part of my job,” Merlin said, sounding unapologetic and rather pleased that he’d bested Arthur once again.
With that, things got quiet a moment, then Arthur asked, “So what is your job? Human-wise.” After all, according to Morgana, Merlin had a mansion and those didn’t come cheap.
Merlin shrugged as if it were nothing to boast about. “I own a chain of magic and holistic medicine shops, among other things. You know, magic for the unwise.”
“Sounds right up your alley.” Arthur had to wonder if it was more than just fake magic. Before, he would have just passed by a shop like that and thought nothing of it. They were for kids or theatre magicians or at worse, delusional crackpots who believed in that sort of thing.
But now he knew better. There was magic in the land, more than he’d ever realised. While he didn’t want to get involved, his sister and now his once-cat had already dragged him into it. Just how much more there was remained a mystery. Arthur wasn’t sure he wanted to know.
“If it helps magic users, then more to the good.” Merlin said, then changed the subject. “And you work far too hard at that firm of yours. Bringing home spreadsheets, ignoring me in favour of ‘just one more thing and I’ll be done’. You’d only stop when I jumped on your lap and started reminding you that I was there with head bumps or a tail in your face or else racing around the flat and seeing how far I could go before I knocked something over.”
“Is that what that was, you dollop-head? I had work to do.” Arthur scowled at him.
“You always had work to do.” Merlin rolled his eyes, then bumped Arthur with his shoulder, light and quick. “I did enjoy the part when you started petting me or calling me ridiculous names. Lord Muckitymuck, indeed.”
“I miss…” Arthur started to say, then thought the better of it. He missed his demon cat so very much, but he also would have missed talking to this intriguing and not-bad-on-the-eyes man. He couldn’t say that, though. It was far too soon. “Well, now you can buy your own damn tuna. The good stuff.”
Merlin was more perceptive than Arthur would have liked. Instead of passing over Arthur’s slip as nothing, Merlin turned to him, put his hand on Arthur’s arm and squeezed a little. And he didn’t take it away, just let his warmth seep into Arthur’s skin, much as his troublemaker might have done once upon a time.
“Look, Arthur, I understand that losing your cat is hard. But I’ve lost what I consider a friend. I know I’m not him but can we, maybe, hang out sometimes? I miss you, too.” Merlin seemed to choke at that, all caught up in emotion, maybe, and his voice softened. His eyes, too, were searching Arthur’s face, looking for who knew what.
In a way, it was too much. Arthur still didn’t know this Merlin, but his once-cat knew just about everything about him. He seemed to want to be around him, too. Maybe Morgana was right. Maybe Merlin was pining for Arthur, just as much as Arthur was pining for his cat.
“Well, you seem alright. Sure. But no shoving your tail in my face.” Arthur fake-glared at Merlin.
Merlin laughed, letting go of Arthur and raising both hands in surrender before pointing to his arse. “I don’t have a tail, you prat.”
Glancing at Merlin’s arse a moment, admiring the view just a little, Arthur nodded. “I’ll give you that, but I bet if I waved this cat toy in front of you, you’d chase it.” Taking up the feathered thing, he threw it into the air, waiting to see what Merlin would do.
Merlin was quick. Before Arthur could move, Merlin caught the toy in his hand, then shook it before giving it back to Arthur. “I might, just to see your face.”
Shaking his head, Arthur grinned, then said, “So, you hungry? I can order takeaway and maybe we could give this friendship thing a go.”
Leaning back, looking so much more relaxed than when he’d arrived, Merlin said, “I’d like that.”