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30 April 2012 @ 09:59 am
Underneath, Part 3  
Author: alby_mangroves
Title: Underneath, Part 3
Rating: PG-13
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin and Arthur
Summary:  Merlin loves life drawing, especially when a particular model poses for the class. Asking Arthur out for coffee seems a no-brainer, until Merlin realizes he has to talk to him. In words.
Warnings: None
Word Count: 998
Prompt: Surrender
Author's Notes: Continuation from Prompt 3: Scars, Underneath, Part 2

... to Merlin’s mind there is neither a sight nor a sound for miles, only white teeth and red lips moving, and Arthur’s husky voice.
“Well, I figure we need to start somewhere.”


Merlin huffs a confused, “Ah,” checking Arthur’s face for facetiousness. All he finds are frank, unwaveringly sharp eyes.
Firestarter eyes.

He has no idea what to say, feeling as though he just plopped his heart on the table and it’s quivering there in a pool of its own juices, waiting to be put out of its misery. Or something.

Arthur seems oblivious to his distress. “What’s in there, then?”

Merlin blinks stupidly, Arthur’s mouth making a sentence he doesn’t understand. He would be happy just watching it pucker over the ‘w’ and seeing a hint of pink tongue in the depths of ‘th’, but for some reason, it feels socially unacceptable to just stare at a person’s mouth, damn polite society and all its stupid rules.

Although he has seen Arthur starkers so maybe—

Lost in the quagmire of his mind, Merlin is unprepared when Arthur reaches toward him. He straightens so abruptly that his vinyl seat squeaks like a tiny fart.

OH MY GOD, his brain screams from somewhere between mortification and hilarity. Arthur snorts.

This can’t be happening. Merlin closes then opens his eyes very slowly, wondering what kind of unholy bastard he must have been in a past life to deserve this humiliation.

He looks down at Arthur’s hand paused in mid-air, and follows its intended trajectory to Merlin’s iPod, lying on top of his messenger bag.

Relentless, Arthur continues to reach for it. “That bad? What’s in there, Nana Mouskouri?” He looks up at Merlin’s shocked face and snaps his mouth audibly closed. “Oh God. It is, isn’t it? It’s Nana Mouskouri and Tubular Bells and—wait,” he continues excitedly, snapping his fingers like he’s onto a breakthrough. “Waitwaitwaitwait. It’s Theremin music, isn’t it? It is, isn’t it? You’re some kind of Theremin genius. You probably build them for a living, from blocks of cheap cheese, and snot and old toothpaste tubes, in your underground lair which backs onto a scenic family crypt.”

Merlin’s laughter is surprised out of him with such brutality that a tiny drop of spit flies out and splats on Arthur’s cheek. He stares at the shiny little blight for a second, hoping against hope that Arthur didn’t notice this latest horror. Which of course he did, because this is an episode of Fuck Merlin’s Life.

And then, Merlin can’t help it, he’s laughing so much that he feels like he can’t ever stop, maybe stuck in throes of guffawing like a madman forever. He convulses so hard that the muscles of his stomach ache and tremble, howls with it so compulsively that Arthur can’t help but laugh, too, wiping at his wet eyes. They ease down to untethered giggles and then helplessly start up again, only to do it again until Merlin’s face feels permanently damaged, though strangely, he feels no pain as he submits.

No pain at all.


Ripe afternoon sun stings Merlin’s neck as they walk out of the cafe hours later, Arthur’s magnetic presence beside him with his corona of hair refracting light like a shield. Merlin feels as though he might fall right out of his own orbit, like gravity suddenly pulls Arthurward instead of downward.

Measuring his steps carefully, Merlin’s never been this ludicrously nervous in his entire life. It’s stupid, but he feels like a conspicuously uncoordinated mess, all feet and elbows. What the hell does one do with one's elbows, anyway? Merlin’s never had to think about this before. It’s completely insane to feel so self-conscious. He tucks his arms in a little more, just in case one spasms and takes Arthur’s eye out.

“How’s the rest of your week?” Arthur glances over, apparently oblivious to Merlin’s ridiculousness.

“I’m working for the next three days, then some studio time, I guess. You?”

“Studio time meaning your art?” It doesn’t escape Merlin’s notice that Arthur hasn’t volunteered his own plans.

“Yeah. I rent a space. I’ll probably... yeah. I’m just gonna hang there.”

“Give me your phone,” Arthur commands, and Merlin finds himself reaching for it, before squinting his eyes and thinking to ask, “Why?”

Arthur just tuts and holds out his hand, fingers snapping at Merlin to hurry up, which he does, somewhat suspiciously.

When it’s returned to him, he has Aaarthur as a new contact. He smiles, about to touch Edit, when Arthur slaps his hand away.

“Leave it.”

“But it’s—“

“—on purpose, so you won’t have to look far.”

Merlin feels the creep of pink over his skin as it burns to the very tips of his ears. He wonders how exactly spontaneous combustion works, and if this is the early onset of one.

When they arrive at the racks where Merlin has locked up his bike, he expects an awkward goodbye and maybe a weird handshake where one of them wishes he’d squeezed harder because it’s always good to have a firm handshake. What he doesn’t expect is for Arthur to grasp him surely by the bicep, and pull up close for a light breath of a kiss on Merlin’s hot cheek.

“I’ll call you, alright?” he murmurs against Merlin’s ear, the breath which carries the words warmer than the afternoon sun. Merlin’s eyes flutter helplessly as the scent of Arthur’s skin carrying faint remains of aftershave unfurls in his nostrils, and then, he’s gone.

“Hang on—“ Merlin starts, but Arthur’s already crossing the street, sunlight following him like a lovesick groupie. You didn’t get my number, he wants to shout, but already the distance is too great.

Later at his studio when he picks up his phone and taps Messages, there is a text, sent to Aaarthur, still open on the screen.

Oh yes, I did.

Merlin stares at it for several long moments, smiling like a loony and tasting his own surrender.

(Deleted comment)
alby_mangrovesalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 12:31 am (UTC)
Oh YAY! I'm so glad you liked it, I'm having so much fun writing these. Thank you for reading and commenting ♥
rufflefeatherrufflefeather on April 30th, 2012 12:51 am (UTC)
hahaha Nana Mouskouri OH MAN I was forced to listen to that as a child ALL THE TIME. On 16 hour drives to France. We had vinyls and everything.

This is so adorable. Awkward!Merlin is my favorite. I want to shake this story to see what else falls out <3.
alby_mangrovesalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 01:03 am (UTC)
UGH. It was Nana and Karel Gott at my house. I am, in fact, scarred for life, and yes, ALL THE VINYL. My aunt also listened to Boney M, though I'll be honest in saying I still love them! LOL

Thanks for reading and commenting, lovely, I'm glad you like this verse x
Neyahneyah444 on April 30th, 2012 01:19 am (UTC)
What's wrong with Nana Mouskouri? I kinda like it:) *ducks* This was sooo incredibly sweet. I loved that he saved his number as Aaaarthur, lol (reminds me of me saving my mom as Zzzzzz in my first phone, not that I don't like her, but, you know:).
And the 'Oh yes, I did' was hilarious at the end. I loved it.
alby_mangroves: Bradley kissing Colinalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 03:59 am (UTC)
HAHAHA! I love that you do these things in real life, too :DDD
Thank you so much for reading, pretty!
Bunny: colinbunnysworld on April 30th, 2012 03:46 am (UTC)
This has me smiling like a loon now. Great update! Can't wait to read more from those two adrobale boys!
alby_mangroves: Bradley kissing Colinalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
Oh YAY! Smiling is WIN :D Thank you very much for reading!
Deborah Henning-Huff: Merlin/Arthur Lookhogwartsvixxxen on April 30th, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
♥ YAY! This was a fun read. I always enjoy Awkward! Merlin
alby_mangroves: Bradley and Colin on-setalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 04:36 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you liked it :)
Deborah Henning-Huff: Bear Hughogwartsvixxxen on April 30th, 2012 04:41 am (UTC)
♥ :) *hugs*

Edited at 2012-04-30 04:41 am (UTC)
(ノ⊙ω⊙)ノ~『✧~~✧』fuckyeah on April 30th, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC)
Oh god, the bit with the theremin had me laughing so hard; I love your humor so much! And awkward!Merlin is positively adorable! Great work~!
alby_mangrovesalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
Theremins. I mean, WTAF.

To be honest, I've never done anything funny before. I'm usually the maudlin and angsty type, so this is as much a surprise to me as anyone, it's nice to write something different. Thanks for reading! <3
Yenny: Fic Soo Good/Speechlessyenny2206 on April 30th, 2012 08:21 pm (UTC)
Did I mention that Im loving this verse because I am! I feel like Merlin falling in love and being in that awkward Merlin, adorable. And Arthur is just briiliant!
alby_mangrovesalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
Nawww!! Thank you! I love this awkwardness between Merlin who has all these walls and nervousness about him, and Arthur who just plows through life, reaching for whatever he wants. I should have called this fic "When Boys Collide" ;)

Edited at 2012-04-30 09:38 pm (UTC)
archaeologist_d: Bradley and Colin in tuxsarchaeologist_d on April 30th, 2012 10:14 pm (UTC)
I loved how Arthur put his number in MErlin's phone with the misspelling so it would be first. Oh, Arthur.
alby_mangrovesalby_mangroves on April 30th, 2012 11:11 pm (UTC)
I have a feeling that Arthur's the take-charge kind :D
wanderlust48wanderlust48 on May 1st, 2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
This is so lovely and sweet! merlin's extreme self-consciousness.. Like the tiny sqeak of the vinyl seat when he straightens! Don't you hate those awkward sounds when you're trying to act totally cool ( and every squeak is magnified.... )
alby_mangrovesalby_mangroves on May 1st, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, that's exactly it. It's all so awkward when you're trying to make a good impression ;) Cheers and thanks for reading and commenting.