Title: This is where I heal my hurts
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine, Percival
Summary: Merlin take
Warnings: Fluff, and shirtless men. No beta.
Word Count: ~2230 (I regret nothing!!! *hides*) If you look at the average word count of the series it's well within the limits... Maybe...
Prompt: #111 Nepenthe
Author's Notes: This is what happens when a plot bunny gets stuck in my head and it takes ages to get to the point in the story where I can actually put the bunny. But I think this is the end. Also title is from God is a DJ by Faithless, because it suddenly popped into my head when I thought of nepenthe.
1: I thought I knew you,
2: More than one direction to choose,
3: Watch and learn,
4: You and I
5: Truth or dare
6: Fruit salad and chemistry
7: Ignorance was bliss
8: The Test
9: Eyes on the prize
10:Over my head
11.Dare to hope
12.Why don't we go there
Arthur tried to find a way to both sit and hold on to the bike. But the first jerk of motion made him feel like he was about to fall and instinctively he wrapped his arms around Merlin. This startled Merlin a bit, but he didn't swat him away or anything. So he held on, feeling Merlin move with the bike and getting a little lost in the sensation. It wasn't exactly a speed machine, but it held together despite appearance and he started to relax. He even closed his eyes a little while, just to savour the feeling. He wondered how many such moments they could have had if he hadn't been such a colossal moron for so long.
Had he paid more attention to the road he might have realized where they were heading. Perhaps he would have looked less like an idiot and Merlin wouldn't have looked worried and being overly concerned again.
It looked different in the day light. And while being completely sober. It also looked closed. But that's where the keys in Merlin's hand came in. Perhaps the logo on the window should have been a clue, Arthur simply hadn't given it any thought at the time, but the big green warrior had two large coffee beans on his shield. The Green Knight. Merlin had invited him into his hangout.
-We can go somewhere else, if your like. Gwaine asked me to open 'cause he might run a bit late. But it's no big deal, there's hardly anyone at this hour anyway.
Arthur just shook his head and avoided eye contact.
-I didn’t think you wanted me to come here.
Merlin didn't reply. Both felt they should say something, but neither knew what to say. So they said nothing. A very heavy nothing of guilt and unanswered questions wedged itself between them.
The lights flickered on and Arthur followed Merlin inside. This time the wardrobe had no broad chested terminator type guarding it, the seats had no people and the dance floor had tables and chairs with white table cloths. Perhaps this was another lesson in not judging from first appearances. Merlin moved behind the counter and Arthur fidgeted a bit near the door and didn't know where to go.
The tones of One Direction's first album suddenly slipped into the uncomfortable silence. He felt hope rise in his chest and he looked over at Merlin. He was throwing him a life line, playing music he didn't really like to show that he was trying. They both smiled tentatively to each other, the loud silence slowly drowning for now making room for... this new thing. This warm and good thing that might make the pain go away.
He helped Merlin move upturned chairs and barstools onto the floor and watched as Merlin fiddled with coffee beans and glasses and all that needed to be done, while casting the occasional self-conscious glance at Arthur. Arthur would hum along to the lyrics and Merlin would roll his eyes in a way that was alarmingly similar and yet not at all to the way Morgana would roll her eyes at him. Funny how he didn't mind at all to be Merlin's idiot.
Merlin told about uncle Gaius and aunt Alice and a wayward moody teen named Gwaine who needed a home and Merlin who was beyond thrilled to get a cousin, if only just for a while. He told about spending hours at Geoffrey's café with hot chocolate and scones, then staying in touch with letters and e-mail, facebook and phone calls. He told about how Gwaine came back and soon after took over the café, making it a gathering point once more. He didn't mention Freya, but he didn’t have to. She was family now. Arthur in turn told about Morgana coming to live with them when he was eight and she was ten and they had been arguing ever since. He told about his father who worked a lot, but who still cared if you just knew how to look. To which Merlin nodded like he knew it was true rather than the usual ' if you say so, you poor soul' manner Arthur was used to.
When Gwaine came through the door they were deep in conversation at a table where ten or so minutes earlier Arthur had put in new the candle and Merlin had come to light it. Merlin bounced up as the sound of the little bell over the door.
-Shit, I forgot to get you coffee!
Gwaine laughed out loud.
-Get over here, I'll get it.
They moved over to the barstools by the counter. Merlin doubled back and lit the candle and shared a quick glance with Arthur. Meanwhile Gwaine changed the music to something more standard coffee shop music. He frowned a bit as he put the 1D cd into the cover and slid it toward them it on the counter. So far 'coffee' was going great, though having company made it a bit awkward, at least for Arthur. So Gwaine initiated Operation Small Talk with Merlin.
-So Merls? How was your day?
-It was fine, seems I’m done tutoring for now.
Arthur noted how neither him nor Val was mentioned and wondered if Gwaine knew anything about it at all. Gwaine nodded in reply to Merlin, and turned his back to work the machine. The conversation continued despite the noise from the coffee grinder and steamer. Their voices raising and dropping like they both knew exactly how long each noisy moment would last. A well-choreographed routine. Another part of Merlin he had no idea about. Also Gwaine seemed to be generous with the chocolate, which seemed promising.
-SO, MERLS, IT’S BACK TO TESCO THEN? shouted Gwaine.
-YEAH! WHOOP DI DO! I CAN HARDLY wait, especially the work hours.
-Your mum will be happy to have you back though. That SOPHIA GIRL KEEPS MAKING A MESS OF THE REGISTER AND COULDN’T TELL A CANTALOUPE FROM A BEACH BALL. SHE WAS here yesterday complaining about it.
-No, Hunnith of course.
-Ah. Well you should chip in from time to time, you certainly know you melons.
-Haha! Funny. Voilà! Here you go!
Gwaine grinned proudly as he sat one tall glass down and dropped two straws in it. Then he planted his hands at his hips as to punctuate that his work was done and that he was mighty pleased with it.
Merlin arched an eyebrow, not quite as convinced.
-What? Argued Gwaine. It's romantic!
-The Green Knight, now also a sixties diner. Or you are just being cheap.
The bell over the door chimed again and the Terminator walked in, Gwaine beaming wide and welcoming him. Arthur quickly found out that, besides making sure the Knight had the safest coats in the galaxy, Terminator T2014 was called Percy and he had a deep, warm laughter. He gave Arthur a benign welcoming pat on the back that nearly sent Arthur to the floor.
-In better shape today, I see! Hahaa! We've all been there!
Arthur really hoped that wasn't the case. He coughed out an awkward laugh and moved a little bit closer to Merlin, hoping it looked like he was after the drink rather than searching protection. Merlin tried to mask his amusement by clamping his lips around the straw. The other two started talking about crates and things that needed lifting. And maybe football. Arthur was too preoccupied by Merlin's little dimples to pay too much attention.
However, it was rather obvious that Gwaine wasn’t far behind Percy in strength. Arthur quietly noted that Merlin had two pseudo older brothers who both could easily squash him to unrecognisable pulp and most certainly would have done so if Merlin had asked. He swallowed hard, barely tasting the coffee. Merlin was too kind to do something like that. He was not the vindictive sort; if he had been then Arthur would be an ice figure now, instead of sitting in Merlin's favourite place with Merlin's favourite people sipping brilliant coffee mocha from the same glass. His heart clenched and wished nothing more than to wrap Merlin in cotton and keep him somewhere safe where dumb and cruel people like himself couldn’t get to him.
Merlin looked at him funny, but luckily he realized he had some Jelly bebies left. Slightly warm and squishy from spending time in his jeans pocket, but a distraction good as any.
-Why thank you, dear.
Both chuckled like idiots.
So far Merlin was smart, funny, he seemed to get along with Arthur’s father which was quite rare. Unheard of, even. Morgana had been more than eager for them to get along. And he was smoking hot in tight t-shirts. There had to something wrong with Merlin, and suddenly he found what it was. Merlin had friends who were much, much hotter than Arthur.
He would have complained about it to Merlin, but he had gone to the loo. Arthur had certainly not been temporarily distracted while watching him leave. He had vaguely heard something about a stain and a shirt and blam! There was T2014's shirt spread out on the counter and a finger vigorously pointing at something.
-See? I can't wear that to dinner!
Gwaine made a hmm noise and dabbed the shirt with a wet cloth, without getting the wanted result.
-Go without, Mithie won't mind!
Gwaine grinned from ear to ear, convinced of his brilliance once again. Percy frowned and said with gloom.
-It's with her parents.
Gwaine winced, then promptly pulled his own shirt over his head and handed it to Percy. Which Arthur had to admit was rather chivalrous. Except that there now were two rather well built shirtless men within an arms length of Arthur pushing a shirt back and forth between them and Arthur couldn't help but stare.
-No, I couldn’t! It's your favourite and I'll just stretch it!
-Dude! Shut up and take it. It's the least I can do, you two have worked so hard to make them see sense. I will not allow a lousy shirt ruin anything!
Percy is close to tearing up, Gwaine is trying to be cool. Arthur turned his attention to the bottom of the glass, moving his straw around and pretending to read the cd cover. There were brofists and fond exchanges of manly bromancing before Percy left wearing Gwaine's shirt. Clearly this was the teddy bear edition of terminators. Perhaps this was what happened to all who got to know Merlin? Morgana seemed kinder when they talked about Merlin. Arthur certainly had gone all mushy. Father had also taken a liking to Merlin it seemed. This reminded him of his father’s phone call to Merlin. He tried to imagine Uther using Merlin's methods in the board room, simplifying the budget with poorly drawn fruit and Beethoven playing in the background.
He jumped as he suddenly heard Merlin's voice behind him.
-Gwaine! What... the... hell? Nevermind, don't wanna know...
He sat down besides Arthur again
-What? Me and Percy changed shirts. His had a stain, see?
Merlin waved the shirt away.
-Alright, alright. And you wonder why people think the two of you are a couple. Get dressed!
Gwaine stuck his tongue out at Merlin and pulled the shirt over his head.
-FYI, mother, your prince charming here barely looked at us and kept gazing at the skinny boys on the cover. Just saying.
Merlin groaned, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. Maybe that meant he wouldn't notice Arthur's ears turning red.
-Ok thank you Gwaine, that's not at all embarrassing.
Gwaine made a big deal about moving over to the tables furthest away.
-Well, that was Gwaine and Percy, two of my nearest and dearest and most subtle friends.
-I was going for nice, but yeah now that you mention it.
They laughed a bit and grew silent, a much sweeter silence this time. Until Arthur's phone started vibrating again for the millionth time, he quickly
silenced it. But Merlin's look told him that he should stop pretending like it was nothing,
-It's just Father nagging about dinner.
-He won't mind that I am late... cause it's you.
-Right... I can drive you home?
-I'll just call a cab... Or else he'll just invite you in and we'd be stuck there socializing politely about politics and sports instead of... uh.
A dangerous spark glittered in Merlin eyes, and Arthur wished the dinner to Hell.
-Some other time then.
-Yeah... Some other time.
They walked outside together, not saying much as Arthur called for a cab and sent a quick text to his father saying he'd be there shortly. Seven women with strollers came marching toward them, talking loudly to each other and began to battle with the door to the Knight just as the cab came. Merlin nodded towards them and started to move reluctantly and slightly sideways towards them.
-I should go help, do my duty you know?
-Ok, I'll call you?
Merlin turned around sporting a smile far more lively and vibrant than anything he had seen, and that was answer enough.
When he got home, Uther stood there, tall and stern.
-About time you showed up. How did your test go?
-I think I passed.