ETA: now on ao3—edited &added some new stuff. Thanks for the nice feedback!
Arthur had watched him for weeks, watched the guy—Merlin—so gorgeous but so lonely, the silence always with him wherever he went, following him like a burden and scaring people off
Arthur wanted to change that.
He sat next to him on the next lecture, surprising Merlin, who just stared at Arthur agape for a moment before he frowned and turned his head to the other side
Arthur cleared his throat, took a notebook out of his bag and quickly scribbled in a white page I’m Arthur. Then, he nudged it to Merlin’s elbow, trying to get his attention
Merlin looked at him sideways at first, but when Arthur muttered a, “come on.” he sighed and turned his face to Arthur, glancing down. He stared at Arthur’s name on the paper for a moment, and then he grabbed the notebook and wrote a quick I know, raising an eyebrow at Arthur and adding, everyone does.
His handwriting was messy and curly and a bit illegible, and it made Arthur smile.
aren’t you gonna tell me your name? Arthur wrote, sliding the notebook back to Merlin’s desk. He already knew it, but he wanted Merlin to tell him himself; he wanted a proper introduction, even if it was on paper.
Merlin read it and his lips twitched. He took a hold of his pen and replied with a, no.
Arthur barked out a laugh when he read Merlin’s negative response. He was odd, and different, but he draw Arthur in for some reason. “Alright,” Arthur said just as the lecturer entered the classroom. Merlin passed the notebook over and back to Arthur’s desk, leaving it clear that the conversation was over.
So Arthur didn’t push it. He could go slow, he could do that.
“Hello there, stranger,” Arthur said two days later, falling down on his usual seat and feeling strangely satisfied that Merlin was occupying the desk beside Arthur’s
Merlin smiled down at the table, a full grin that lighted his whole face up, and Arthur’s breath caught a little because it was the first time Arthur had ever seen him offer anything else other than a quirk of lips. It was beautiful, and Arthur wanted to see it again.
“You’re in a good mood today, I see,” Arthur continued. “Or is it because you’re happy to see me?&rdquo
Merlin’s eyebrows shot up so high, they disappeared behind his dark fringe, and his eyes were a bit wide, cheeks slightly pink all of a sudden when he met Arthur’s gaze. Arthur laughed and got his notebook out.
“Ready to tell me your name?” he asked, hopeful. He wanted Merlin to trust him.
Merlin narrowed his eyes a little, pensive, but he was still smiling as he dragged the notebook towards him and wrote his name down on it.
They always sat together after that, filling the pages of Arthur’s notebook with silly pieces of conversations, little things they shared with each other and had them both smiling too much, forgetting they were in class.
Everything was going alright so far, more than alright. They didn’t talk, not unless they wrote on Arthur’s notebook, but they didn’t need to half of the time. Merlin’s eyes spoke all the words he couldn’t say and Arthur understood. And just when Arthur thought things couldn’t get any better, Merlin agreed to go out on a date with him when Arthur asked if he would like to get a coffee sometime.
But things didn’t go as Arthur had expected.
Hands shoved deep in their jeans pockets, they waited in an amicable silence. As soon as it was their turn, Arthur ordered his coffee, eyeing the blackboard behind the counter, and then asked Merlin what he wanted, forgetting for a moment. Merlin opened his mouth and his hands shot up in a bundle of gestures, speaking, but Arthur was at a loss. He couldn’t read sign language, never had had to because they always had their notebook with them
He stared, helplessly trying to figure Merlin out, but he couldn’t. Merlin’s shoulders sagged, a sigh escaping his lips.
“I—“ Arthur scratched at the back of his neck. “you like black coffee, by any chance?” he asked. Merlin nodded, but he looked miserable, making Arthur’s heart clench painfully. He had been so stupid. He should have taken them somewhere more private where they could have had pen and paper, or at least he should have looked up some basic signs on the internet. He should have known that as comfortable as he felt with Merlin, Merlin wouldn’t be as comfortable as Arthur was if he couldn’t communicate at all.
Arthur ordered Merlin’s coffee, frowning at the pitying gaze the girl behind the counter gave Merlin, and then he searched Merlin’s hand in a silent apology, offering some comfort and squeezing it softly between his fingers.
Merlin flinched a little, his own fingers shaking softly
Arthur held on tighter.
Merlin’s shoulders shook with silent laughter, head thrown back over the pillows of Arthur’s bed
Arthur still couldn’t believe Merlin had agreed to come to his place to revise for the final exams approaching. They were going slow, really slow after three months, but every little moment Merlin spent with him was like a treasure; much more than Arthur had bargained for.
“What are you laughing at?” Arthur asked, swirling in his desk chair a little.
Merlin shook his head, lips pressed together in an attempt not to laugh again, book resting beside him over the bedcovers. “Oh, come on, Merlin.”
Merlin rolled his eyes and then motioned Arthur to stand up and come over. Arthur did, until his knees hit the mattress between where Merlin’s open legs were dangling over the edge. Arthur swallowed at the contact. This was probably the closest they had been to each other—aside from the occasional hand-holding.
Merlin smiled, and fisted Arthur’s shirt at the front, gazing up at him with a fond look on his face that made Arthur’s heartbeat race. He wasn’t sure if they were still only friends, or if they were in their way to be boyfriends or already were, but Arthur was alright with either as long as Merlin didn’t leave his side
Suddenly, Merlin tugged down and Arthur fell forwards, atop of Merlin in a sprawl of limbs, trying to catch himself with his hands and planting his knees on the mattress as not to fall square on Merlin’s chest.
Merlin’s breath stuttered and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he stared a bit wide-eyed at Arthur. He wanted to ask Merlin what he was doing, but Merlin seemed a bit surprised himself.
“Merlin,” he said instead, when the silence had stretched for far too long and he was still hovering over Merlin uncertain.
Merlin’s hand came up to his hair and smoothed it down, fingertips massaging Arthur’s scalp. It felt so good, and so right, and Arthur had been wanting for Merlin to touch him in any way for so long that Arthur's mind reeled now, and before he realised what he was about to do, he had already learnt forward and slanted his lips over Merlin’s in a soft peck.
Merlin’s stuck in a breath and then he pushed at Arthur’s chest. Arthur moved back immediately, muttering apologies as he tried to dislodge himself from Merlin and climb out of his lap. But Merlin grabbed his arms to keep him in place, and then he was the one who sought Arthur’s mouth in a real kiss, a kiss that had Arthur’s belly flipping and fluttering, and his his resolve crumbling.
Merlin panted puffs of air against Arthur’s mouth, and his hands grasped and twisted fistfuls of Arthur’s shirt, bringing their bodies closer.
Arthur pulled back, just when Merlin’s tongue slid against the roof of Arthur’s mouth, making his body shake. “I’m crazy about you,” he admitted, feeling his face and body flame. He had to be brave on this, he knew, if he didn’t want to lose Merlin.
Merlin’s eye were darker than his usual blue, and there was a spot of red on each cheek. His lips curved in a gleeful smile and he yanked Arthur back down, kissing him and laughing and kissing him some more.
‘I really really like you, Arthur. Leave me a message if you’re still interested after you wake up. Thanks for giving me last night'
Arthur read. Merlin’s number phone was scribbled at the bottom of the page, just beside his name.
He stared down at the piece of paper, and then at the side of the unmade bed where Merlin had been sleeping for the past hours, beside him, with him, silent and perfect and finally his.
Arthur knew what was going through Merlin’s head now. He probably thought that all Arthur had wanted from him was sex—but that wasn’t right. Arthur wanted so much more than that, he physically ached when Merlin was away.
Dialing Merlin’s number, Arthur didn’t hesitate for a second to ring him instead of texting, to say yes, and yes and yes, because even though Merlin couldn’t reply, the slight hitch of his breathing when Arthur told him he genuinely liked him too, that the thing between them had not ended last night but just started, and the huge grin he couldn’t see, were all Arthur ever wanted to hear.