Title: Damsels in Distress
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: In which there are many, many issues
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Not sure how I wanted this to come out, but this will do. And I hope you enjoy, because this is all you'll get of Camelot Dating for two weeks! Because this time next week I'll be in the lovely Italy.
Merlin snags a bit of chicken to taste, while Arthur’s dishing out. A rich taste fills his mouth, and the sound he lets out is almost orgasmic.
“This is really, ridiculously good.”
“This place has advantages other than morals.”
He does look genuine, Merlin thinks. Perhaps all along it was just his too-pretty face, acting as a frame for his words and his expressions. Perhaps it was the easy confidence, even while he was admitting the death of his mother, that had set Merlin on edge. Whatever it was, Merlin cannot now sit easy, even if he can acknowledge that Arthur does seem like a decent person, even if perhaps he’s not trying to coil Merlin around his finger.
The truth is, he’d expected this to be more like a celibate first date, with the sex just tacked onto the end. Arthur is too comfortable with the actuality of the situation for Merlin to remain comfortable. There is a reason he hasn’t gone straight into the dating game, after all. Merlin doesn’t want to think about this. And now he finds himself up against lust-on-a-stick Arthur, absorbed in mental images of what they could do, and worrying far too much about what Arthur will think.
He hasn’t had sex with anyone other than his hand in over a year. He’d chosen Arthur because of his experience, because of his looks, because that would make it easier. But Merlin has his doubts. He’s rusty. He’ll be awful. He’ll think of Will halfway through and chicken out. And now he finds himself caring about that, dreading Arthur’s laughter or worse, his sympathy. He doesn’t want to disappoint Arthur. And if he can’t impress Arthur, he finds himself thinking that he’d rather not have Arthur at all.
“Arthur, I don’t think I can continue with this. I’m sorry.”
“What is it?” Arthur asks, “Sudden stomach ache?”
Merlin shakes his head.
“At least you’re not just leaving through the toilet window.”
“That’s happened to you?”
“There was a very nervous girl. But you don’t have to go. I’m sure we can work it out.”
Merlin takes a deep breath and shuts his eyes. This will be a lot easier if Arthur isn’t there and gorgeous and almost approachable.
“When I lost Will, he didn’t just die. There were months of waiting, of not knowing whether he was ever going to wake up. Eventually I had to tell the doctors they could turn off the life support. So I haven’t slept with someone in over a year. And there’s a lot of Will issues wrapped up with that. I thought this way, it would be easy.”
Arthur watches him for a moment. Merlin cracks an eye open to look at him.
“Ok, wow, that’s- that’s a long time, and a lot of issues. But I’m not about to abandon a damsel in distress,” Arthur says, slowly, “Tell me what you need from me.”
Merlin sighs in something like relief.
“I don’t suppose you could turn down the confidence and charisma? It’s really not helping, when it’s an act from me. And less of the sex, until we get into bed.”
“But you were doing so well with the sex stuff.”
“What can I say, I’m a good actor.”
Arthur passes him his plate.
“Eat up. You’re going to need your strength… after that confession, I mean.”
Merlin laughs. It surprises both of them. Perhaps- perhaps just saying the words helped, getting the truth out there.
“You just can’t stop, can you? I’m jealous of you, you know. The way you can just sit there and know what’s going to happen and know we’ve barely met and we’re not going to see each other again, and be fine with it.”
Arthur smiles, but he doesn’t mean it. Because the thing is, he’s a better actor than Merlin, even if only in that he doesn’t admit to the pretence. He’s not fine with them never seeing each other again. He likes Merlin. He never actually likes any of his little conquests, not their personalities, only their physical attractions.
But Arthur has his rules. The most he can have from Merlin is tonight, and he will fight tooth and claw to get that. He wants to take care of Merlin, wants to make him come undone, wants to watch. He wants to be Merlin’s first since Will. Any other date, after a confession like that, he’d just let them leave, but Merlin’s worth the effort to get him to stay. And if he really isn’t ready, well, Arthur suppresses that thought. And he’s good at suppressing things.
Merlin seems a little more relaxed now, perhaps. Arthur’s never been in a situation like this before. He’s not great at telling.
He’s a little envious of Will, if he’s honest. That Will has this hold over Merlin, even in death. That he’s made such an impact on Merlin’s life. In the grand scheme of things, Arthur will only be a footnote. It’s never worried him before.
Merlin smiles up at him from under his lashes, a little shyly. Arthur wishes he knew what it does to him. Or rather, no, he doesn’t.
“Favourite sport?” Merlin asks.
Arthur double takes.
“We need some form of conversation, or we’ll both brood,” Merlin says.
“Football,” Arthur shoots back.
“Obviously,” Merlin says, with a quick shake of his head.
“You’re just saying that to be different.”
“You bet. I hate sport. Always picked last.”
“Gawky kid, were you?”
“And let’s stop there,” Merlin says, with a laugh.
“Favourite place?” Arthur asks.
Merlin takes a bite of his chicken, and thinks for a while.
“My local library, when I was a kid. There was a corner with bean bags, in the kids’ section. I could pick out any book and sit there and read it from cover to cover.”
Arthur doesn’t even sound patronising now. It’s got to be a good sign.