Title: Words to Speak Before I Sleep
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin has some doubts. Arthur rectifies the situation.
Word Count: 933
Prompt: #65 - Flaws
Author's Notes: Modern AU, PG for a tiny swear word and mentions of verbal harassment.
“He's a little strange, isn't he?”
“Arthur's too good for him.”
“Did you see the size of those ears?”
“He's so pale...”
“What does Arthur see in him...?”
The words echo viciously in his mind over and over again. They speak in hushed whispers, stolen glances and haughty giggles. He hears them all the time, never makes a face, never thinks about it, just grips onto Arthur's hand a little tighter, and pretends that he never paid them any mind.
Merlin's eyes have already adjusted to the darkness of their room, the faint glimmer of green numbering on the alarm cloak reading 3:31 AM. It's late. He needs to go to sleep, but he finds that he can't. Classes start in a little more than five hours, and he hasn't slept a wink. He closes his eyes, but sleep doesn't come to him.
He rolls over, finally, and looks over his boyfriend's sleeping form. He takes a moment to take in the tousled blond hair, a small smile forming on his lips, knowing he'll undoubtedly tease him about it in the morning. Merlin glances over his face, taking in tanned skin, a major contrast to his own, pale complexion, sharp but strikingly normal features, unlike his own. He's always been under the impression his face was strange, cheekbones making him out to be some sort of oddity, and subconsciously, he trails a finger over his own face, and sighs.
What is it, really, that Arthur sees in him?
“You're thinking again.”
Merlin jumps, and his eyes snap to Arthur's face, who has one eye wrenched open. (One, impossibly blue eye.) He sticks out his tongue, huffing.
“How do you know?”
“Honestly Merlin, you think so loudly I'm sure Morgana can hear you from Italy,” Arthur says, then sighs, shifting to where he props his head up using his hand, elbow supporting it. “What's going on?”
Everything, he thinks, but instead, shakes his head. “Nothing.”
“You know, you were right about one thing,” Arthur goes on, poking him in the nose. “You always look shifty and nervous when you lie. Eyes darting around, biting your lips a lot...”
“Fine,” he rolls his eyes. “It's nothing important.”
“Wrong again, little bird,” the blond continues, then his expression softens. “It's not nothing if it's keeping you awake. Talk to me, Merlin.”
Merlin shifts uncomfortably, offering a small shrug of his shoulders. He meets his eyes at first, then, unable to look him in the eye while saying it, he focuses on the empty space next to him. “Why do you like me?”
He blushes in embarrassment at the incredulous note in Arthur's voice. “Nothing, nothing,” he mumbles, then makes a move to roll over, deciding to curl into himself when Arthur's hand catches his shoulder, pulling him back to face him.
“No, none of that,” Arthur states firmly, then fixes him with a hard stare. “Did you just ask why I like you?”
Hearing it, the whole thing sounds silly. But still... “Yeah.”
“Why would you ask me that?”
Merlin offers another shrug in return. “Look at me, Arthur,” he waves a hand up and down himself as much as he can. “I'm...me.”
The blond quirks a brow. “And...?”
“And what?” he bites out, before he can stop himself. “Look at me, Arthur. Really look. I'm a dork. Freak. Nerd. I look like a vampire or something. And I'm...awkward. Gangly. Weird. I look strange, Arthur. Think about it, with someone who looks like you, you can practically--”
“Merlin,” Arthur breaks in, stopping his rant. “Merlin. You really are an idiot, I swear,” he says, then brings a hand up to pat his hair. “I don't care about that.”
“How can you not? I mean, have you even heard what people have said--”
“Damn what other people say!” he hisses, then stops abruptly, sighing. “Merlin...” he starts again, drawing his eyes up and down his face, before meeting his eyes. “You are a nerd.”
Merlin feels his stomach drop.
“You're a nerd who spends all of his time staying indoors and reading, who can quote more Doctor Who episodes than should be healthy, your ears, Merlin, God, have you seen the size of those things?” he puffs out a laugh. “Your skin is much too pale, you're so skinny, for heaven's sake, Merlin. One would think your mother never fed you.”
He thinks he might cry if Arthur goes on. But Arthur smiles, brushing his hand along his cheek. “But I like all of those things about you. I like that you have a quote from the Doctor about everything. I like how at about how at one in the morning, I can hear you crying over a book in the living room. I like your ears, despite their size. I find them positively endearing, really,” his lips quirk into a bit of a smirk. “Of course, though your elbows could possibly murder me in my sleep, I like your skinniness just fine. I don't care about what anyone says, I like you because of everything they say. I love you, Merlin, because you are you. When we love someone, we accept their flaws as part of them, and grow to love them all the same.”
Merlin is still pretty sure he's going to cry, and Arthur must notice this, because he quickly pulls him in for a hug, Merlin's face buried in his chest as Arthur strokes his hair soothingly.
“You have class in the morning,” Arthur mumbles quietly into his hair. “Go to sleep, idiot.”
And he does.