<b>Title:</b>Goodbye To You
Merlin wrang his hands in the kitchen as he watched Gwen and Lance take their usual seats. Will was already sitting across from Freya in the booth next to them. All of them were dutifully listening to Gaius tell them the specials of the day, even though Merlin knew that Gwen would order lasagna, Lance would order some type of chicken, Will would have the second thing Gaius said, no matter what it was, and Freya would dither around over one of the specials and soup and salad. She would eventually pick something that she hadn’t debated out loud. The four of them had done this routine every noon for the last two years. And now Merlin had to destroy their perfectly synchronized routine.
His nerves tied his stomach into one of those Celtic knots, incredibly twisty and never-ending. He didn’t want to go out there. Walking into the dining room, seeing the decorations that his mother had picked out when she was finally realizing her dream, and worse of all, seeing the expressions in everyone’s eyes when he told them was almost too much. Taking the first step out there would be the moment that everything changed.
Gaius looked up from their tables, saw Merlin in the swinging door’s window, and nodded at him. It was time. He could dither around anymore.
He wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans and walked out into the dining room. His friends turned to face him when they realized he was standing next to them.
“I have some news,” Merlin said, his voice catching a little on the last word. He took a deep breath and rushed out, “I regret to inform you that Ealdor will be closing its doors at the end of next week. The landlord raised the rent, and we just can’t afford it.”
“Oh, no, Merlin,” Gwen said, her large brown eyes filling up with tears.
“What happened? Is there something we can do to help?” Lance asked.
“No, you’ve done enough. You come in here every day for lunch. All of you are here at least twice a week for dinner. Let’s be honest, the cooking isn’t good enough for you to spend that much time and that much money here,” Merlin said, “This was a hard decision, but we had to make it. I’m sorry, guys.”
Freya stood up and gave him a huge hug. She was followed closely by Gwen. Merlin held back the tears he could feel forming in his eyes when Lance and Will joined in. Even Gaius wrapped his arms around the group. Merlin knew then that the restaurant hadn’t been an entire failure. What he had lacked in cooking skills, he had made up in friends.
As he relaxed into the hug, something made him look up. A cabby was looking into the windows. He looked straight into Merlin’s eyes and nodded. As he turned to go, the dragon tattoo that covered most of his bald head winked at him. And though he knew that closing the restaurant was inevitable, that there was no possible way for Gaius and him to raise the money to cover the rent, Merlin was suddenly flooded with hope.