Title: Attention Seeking
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine
Summary: More date!
Word Count: 902
Author's Notes: This is too fun to stop writing...
“I’m Arthur,” he says, “I work at my father’s firm and in my spare time I buy and sell shares, and go on dates and have sex.”
“Anything else?” Merlin asks, clearly teasing, “Or is that the sum of your sordid little life?”
“I go to the gym,” Arthur says, faltering a bit, “I like working out.”
Merlin licks his lips a little. He can’t help himself.
“You look like it,” he murmurs, and he instantly regrets it. Because a wide, smug grin grows on Arthur’s face, and he’s insufferable like this.
“Oh, you like what you see?”
Merlin rolls his eyes and steals an olive.
“Tell me more about you. You’re pretty boring so far.”
Arthur takes a deep breath, and tries to think of something to say. He doesn’t know why, but he wants to impress Merlin. Perhaps it’s the constant derision, it riles him up, sparks the need to face the challenge in him. Whatever it is, he wants Merlin to like him; and that’s strange. He usually just wants his date to desire him. Arthur dismisses the feeling, telling himself it’ll make for better sex later, and remembers Merlin’s question.
“My father expects me to follow him as head as the business, but really I want to leave to make something of my own. I have a step-sister, Morgana, and she’d be much better suited. She’s much more ruthless than I am. The business sickens me.”
“Why? What do you do?”
“We buy failing businesses and sell them for spare parts.”
“Oh, I can see that being shit.”
“But that’s your work,” Merlin protests, “Not you. Come on. Tell me a secret.”
“I don’t have any.”
It’s a lie, and both of them know it. To be fair to Arthur, he does have plenty of secrets, but most of them he hides so well that they may as well be secrets from himself. Merlin glares at him, and it’s just then that Gwaine arrives to collect their empty olives plate.
Merlin is frustrated. Arthur’s not playing the date game, not properly, anyway. Oh, they have a fun sort of a teasing flirtation going, but Merlin would rather not sleep with a man he only knows the basics about. Yes, Arthur’s revealed that he’s fit, and that he’s not quite compassionate or brave enough to stand up to his father and leave a job he hates. But that just smacks of a line, and Merlin refuses to play the part; oh, Arthur, aren’t you so kind… and so rich! Won’t you fuck me over your silk sheets?
When Gwaine takes the olives plate and shoots him a secret smile and asks if he’s enjoying the meal, Merlin can imagine him revealing himself over a drink in a pub somewhere, can imagine himself climbing into Gwaine’s lap and-
Gwaine shoots him a wink and Merlin blushes bright red.
“Enjoy Arthur,” he says, and takes the plate, “The chicken will be out soon.”
He’s gone like that, and Arthur has a thoughtful expression on his face.
Arthur sees the way Merlin looks at Gwaine, and he doesn’t like it. Usually, it would just be a matter of pride, but there’s a coil of protectiveness that wraps around Merlin. Arthur doesn’t like him looking at anyone else. It makes him determined to find something to tell Merlin, something to catch his attention and hold it.
“My mother died giving birth to me,” he blurts. “Growing up, it was just Father, and an endless stream of nannies, and me. And Morgana, later.”
He doesn’t explain any more than that, doesn’t know how to, but from the look on Merlin’s face it seems he doesn’t need to. Merlin takes his hand and squeezes.
“Alright,” Merlin says, quietly, and the sound conveys all the understanding Arthur needs, and perhaps even more. Arthur breathes a sigh of relief.
“And I love chocolate ice cream and I watch the football in my boxers if I can get away with it, and I bring dates here because this place helps homeless people get back on their feet and I so nearly needed that help.”
Merlin starts laughing, then stops, abrupt.
“Coming out problems?”
“You could say that.”
“You’re here now.”
Arthur doesn’t mention what his father’s reaction would be like if he actually settled down with a man, but he thinks they’re had enough sincerity for one meal. That’s at least third date information, and Arthur will never let it get to the second.
“And you?” Arthur asks, “Favourite ice cream flavour?”
Merlin thinks for a moment.
“Thank God it wasn’t vanilla,” he says with a wink.
Merlin understands the double entendre, and laughs.
“Kinky, are we?”
“You’ll see tonight.”
Merlin grins. Arthur gasps at the sudden press of a socked foot to his inner calf, kneading with the toes and climbing steadily higher. Arthur raises an eyebrow and slips one of his own feet out of its shoe, stroking steadily over Merlin’s free ankle. He watches Merlin, smiles when he gasps at the gentle pressure.
Gwaine comes back with the chicken, and Arthur’s pleased to see that Merlin’s eyes stay trained on him, while he hooks his toes under Merlin’s knee.
When Gwaine leaves, Arthur drops his foot, and Merlin gives him an almost pleading look.
“I’ll carve, shall I?” he says, by way of explanation.