Summary: Merlin gets sloshed New Year's Eve and has to stay at Arthur's flat, which makes for an awkward night and an awkward morning.
Word Count: Just under 2.5k
Author's Notes: Thanks for the great prompt! I hope you enjoy it. Happy New Year! :)
Title from "Auld Lang Syne."
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Arthur might have fed Merlin one too many shots. Or perhaps Merlin was just more of a lightweight than usual tonight. Whatever the case, Merlin was extremely drunk.
Arthur nudged Merlin in the ribs, but Merlin only grumbled, his head slipping further into his arms on the pub table.
"C'mon mate, the Tube is closing soon."
Gwaine snorted from across the booth, draining the last of his beer. He'd drunk just as much as Merlin, but he was better at holding his liquor. "He won't be able to mind the gap in that state."
Arthur sighed, frustrated, and tried to shake Merlin's shoulder again. Merlin moaned piteously. "And how will you get home?" Arthur demanded of Gwaine.
Gwaine's grin was lazy and confident. "One of the women over there will surely help me out." He gestured in the general direction of the bar. Arthur rolled his eyes. There were over five women at the bar.
"Better get started then," he said, voice clipped as he fished out his wallet. "I'll just take Merlin home to mine."
Gwaine snickered, but wobbled to his feet. "Have fun with the three flights of stairs." With a wave and a "Happy new year," Gwaine was gone.
Arthur finally got the attention of a waitress, paid, and got a glass of water. Finally, he gently shook Merlin awake.
"Here," Arthur said, sliding the glass over. "Drink."
Merlin peered out with one eye, bleary, before lifting his head and snagging the glass.
"Careful!" Arthur caught it before it could spill down his front. "A bit slower please. I don't want you to get sick."
Merlin blinked at him slowly as he finished the water. "Thanks." He leaned back and rested his head against the booth.
"You ready to go?" Arthur tried to squash the affection in his gut that came from seeing Merlin with his hair askew, sticking out in tufts as if he'd been sleeping. "My flat's just a block away."
Merlin frowned. "I'm going to your flat?"
Chuckling, Arthur dragged a hand through Merlin's hair, flattening it out a bit. "You can't go home in this state. And the last train's probably left the station by now."
"Okay." Merlin yawned. "Take me home."
Arthur bit his lip, but pulled Merlin up out the booth and steadied him. "Alright?"
"Fine." Merlin took a wobbly step, but didn't brush off Arthur's touch. "Just-" He reached out and tugged Arthur's hand until it was curled around the small of his back. "There."
The cold air hit them as a shock in the face.
"Now that's how you sober up," Merlin muttered, but unfortunately he was still slurring his words.
"Mate," Arthur sighed as they meandered along, "you have got to stop doing this. Didn't you do this to Lance last week?"
Merlin was quiet for a minute. "Maybe," he mumbled. "But it is the holidays."
Arthur huffed a laugh. "Okay, okay. I'll give you that one. But if you want to just sleep over at other people's flats, just say so. We could have adult sleepovers."
Merlin laughed an actual laugh, hiccuping at the end. "That would be fun."
Arthur was grinning, Merlin's shirt soft under his fingers where his hand had slipped beneath Merlin's coat. It was warm there, and Arthur couldn't help but brush his cold fingers against that warmth again.
Merlin smiled at him, fond and totally out of it. "Why have we stopped?"
Abruptly, Arthur realized they were standing in the middle of the sidewalk, grinning at each other.
"Let's go," he said, pulling Merlin along.
The three flights of stairs weren't quite as torturous as Gwaine predicted, but it did involve a lot of pushing and tugging. Alcohol definitely affected Merlin's sense of balance and depth perception. Alcohol and stairs were not a good mix.
But Merlin was giggling by the time Arthur deposited him on the couch, probably because they'd fallen down at one point.
"Stay," Arthur warned, and Merlin saluted him back, flopping down and burying his head into the couch.
By the time he'd come back with a paracetamol and another cup of water, Merlin was snoring lightly into the pillows.
Merlin barely woke up as Arthur pulled off his shoes and wrestled him out of his jacket, snuggling deeper into the recovery position as Arthur put him on his side.
"Don't vomit on my couch," Arthur said gruffly, not being able to help the softness in his voice as he spread a blanket over Merlin, tucking him in.
He left the pills and glass on an end table nearby, and, thinking twice, a bowl on the floor by Merlin's head. The nightlight and the light from the street outside would be enough if Merlin woke up in the night.
Arthur couldn't help himself. He kneeled down on the floor by Merlin's head and put a hand to his cheek, stroking away a fallen lock of hair. Merlin shifted in his sleep, nuzzling into the hand before settling again.
'Home,' Merlin had called it. Arthur took a selfish minute to wish. When he first met Merlin, Arthur had been dating a girl, a not very nice girl, in retrospect, and Merlin had been seeing this one guy for years off and on. Arthur had been attracted to him immediately, of course, but there wasn't much to be done. And then they were friends, and Arthur got out of his relationship, and Merlin's 'friend' had moved away, and then it all got a bit complicated really.
At the beginning it would have been fine. Arthur would have offered coffee, then lunch, then drinks, and he would be able to kiss Merlin over the back of his sofa at midnight instead of halfheartedly cheering into his fifth drink in the pub.
Now it was just- Strange. Arthur's skin felt too tight for him, especially when Merlin smiled at him and asked his advice on clothes to wear out on his date that night.
Arthur shook himself, pulling his hand away from Merlin's cheek. Merlin murmured, unintelligible, and Arthur stood up, wishing away the vague guilty feeling.
He had only made one resolution this year: No regrets. If he wasn't going to date Merlin, so be it, but he would stop mooning over it.
His own bed was soft underneath him as he dragged off his clothing. Its weight was suddenly oppressive against his skin, and he clawed off his jumper and t-shirt before falling back on the coverlet in just socks and his boxers. It was too far to brush his teeth, so Arthur wrapped himself in the cool blankets and slept instead.
Merlin woke up in a warm, soft place, covered in pillows, head throbbing. It definitely wasn't his bed. Not wanting to open his eyes yet, he reached out. The other side of the bed was empty and cold, the covers pushed back.
Merlin opened his eyes and groaned as he recognized the maroon sheets on Arthur's bed. Why was he asleep in Arthur's bed?
He rubbed his eyes, still too bleary to deal with anything this hungover.
Pushing the covers back, Merlin saw that he was only wearing boxers.
"Great," he muttered, swinging his legs around to the side of the bed. Seeing a glass of water and a bottle of pills on the nightstand, he gulped down two paracetamols and drained the glass. It made him feel marginally better.
Arthur had an en-suite that Merlin made use of before venturing out into the hallway. Something smelled like breakfast. Along the way, he found a sock, his shirt from last night, his jeans, and another sock right outside the sitting room.
Merlin glared at the offending sock, poking it with his toe before walking into the too bright kitchen to find Arthur facing the stove. He was in a t-shirt and boxers, and barefoot, and that fact did way too many things for Merlin's already fragile state of mind.
He must have made a noise, and Arthur glanced over his shoulder, lips quirking at Merlin as he brandished a spatula. "You look like hell. Slept well then?" he asked, before turning back to what he was cooking- pancakes.
Confused, Merlin nodded and sat down hard at the little table. "Did we have sex last night?" he asked, voice rough and blunt. Arthur's shoulders tensed under his t-shirt, spatula frozen. Merlin closed his eyes, scraping at his face with rough fingers.
"No," Arthur said, voice careful. Merlin opened his eyes to see that he'd continued flipping finished pancakes onto a plate. "You passed out on the couch and then crawled in bed with me. Said it was too hot or something."
"Oh." Merlin didn't know what to feel. Last night was still a mess of Gwaine sharing his worst pick-up lines and counting down to midnight while trying not to laugh at the earnestness on Arthur's face. He would have been sad to miss it, but when he woke up he'd thought-
"It's fine though," Arthur interrupted his thoughts. "I have a big bed and it's not like you're, er," Arthur gestured at Merlin's naked torso, "shy."
Merlin scowled at him and crossed his arms across his chest. "I don't get naked that often," he muttered under his breath, but Arthur heard, if the chuckle was anything to go by.
Merlin bit his lip. "I didn't vomit all over you or something last night, did I?"
"You were fine," Arthur reassured him, voice soothing as he shot him a small, warm smile. "A little clingy, but we made it up the stairs fine."
Merlin propped his head up on the table, something sweet and sharp growing in his stomach as he watched Arthur scratch at a calf with his opposite toe.
Maybe it was the alcohol still in his system from last night. Maybe it was the reckless abandon that came with a new year and a fresh new start. Or maybe it was the way Arthur was humming to himself as he poured out more batter for pancakes.
Whatever it was, it drove Merlin to get out of his chair, walk across the kitchen, and slide his arms around Arthur's waist to hug him from behind.
Arthur took a breath, surprised, but easily leaned back into the hold. Merlin liked to hug people, though he usually didn't do it half naked and this early in the morning.
Merlin burrowed his nose in the collar of Arthur's shirt, inhaling a faint hint of cologne mixed with sweat.
"Why didn't we have sex last night?" he asked quietly.
Arthur stiffened in his arms, holding perfectly still, just for a moment, and then he was turning to look Merlin in the face. His eyes were narrowed into slits.
"You were completely off your face Merlin! Do you really expect that I would take advantage of you like that? You couldn't even walk."
Merlin swallowed and pulled back, heart sinking. "Yes, sorry- Thank you. I didn't mean- I'd never think you were-" Merlin stopped. "I'm sorry."
Arthur visibly calmed down, taking a deep breath before turning back to the stove.
"I meant- Not last night though, I meant why haven't we had sex at all?"
Arthur was very still. "Are you still drunk from last night?" he asked, voice measured.
"Maybe. Just a little. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is-" Merlin fumbled his words, grasping for coherence. "The point is that we should have sex and we haven't. Wait. That's not what I meant. I meant that I like you. And-" He reached forward to hug Arthur to his chest again, lifting one foot to rub down the inside of Arthur's calf.
"And when I woke up," Merlin said softly as Arthur gave into his touch, "I was sad. Not because I thought we had sex, but I thought I'd missed it. I forgot it and now it would be weird between us and I'd never get it back."
Arthur leaned his head back against his shoulder, hands resting on top of Merlin's around his waist.
"It's not weird," he murmured, voice a rumble against Merlin's front. "We didn't have sex, you didn't forget it, and it's not weird."
"Good," was all Merlin could manage, breathless, pressed softly to the hollow of Arthur's cheek as he ran his nose there.
They were quiet for a moment, Arthur tracing little circles on his fingers while Merlin pressed their cheeks together to feel the morning stubble catch.
"We should do dinner," Arthur mumbled, words hushed. "Just the two of us. Maybe a movie afterwards?"
"Not drinks," Merlin answered, firm. "No getting drunk. Dinner. With food."
Arthur laughed, a low quiet thing, and then turned in Merlin's arms. His eyes were bright blue and playful. "Dinner with food, and then- what? Come back here, maybe use the bed for something other than sleeping?"
"I don't put out on the first date," Merlin said, sticking his nose up even as he smiled.
Arthur put on an exaggerated hurt face. "There are other things to use the bed for," he said seriously, and Merlin couldn't help laughing at his earnestness, cut off only when Arthur leaned forward to kiss him.
It was soft, a light pressure of lips until Merlin kissed back, licking over Arthur's bottom lip. And then Arthur's hands found Merlin's hips and pulled him forward, deepening the kiss. Merlin's mind reeled as lust surged to life in his groin, and he groaned into Arthur's mouth as their tongues slid together, hand reaching up to curl into Arthur's hair. His hips hitched minutely and Merlin pulled away, trying to control his breathing.
"God," he said, reckless with adrenaline. "You have no idea Arthur. I've been wanting to do that for..." he trailed off, trying to think.
"I think I know," Arthur answered, just as breathless, and leaned forward to rest his forehead on Merlin's shoulder. "Trust me, I know."
Merlin couldn't help it. He knew it was too affectionate, but he couldn't help placing a kiss on Arthur's ear.
Arthur pulled away, smiling. "Now, unless someone is going to end up bent over the kitchen table-" he gently pulled off Merlin's hands and turned back around. "Pancakes are ready." Picking up his discarded spatula, he flipped the last of the pancakes onto the plate. They were a little overdone.
Merlin stared at him, slightly amazed. "We can rethink the bending people over kitchen tables thing if you like."
Arthur picked up the finished plate of pancakes and turned to face him, smiling. "Sex later, food first, love," he said, cheeky, pecking Merlin on the cheek before walking over to the table.
Merlin bit his lip, swallowing the giddy feeling growing in his chest as he sat down to breakfast.
Also on AO3