Summary: Arthur isn't fooling anyone. Not even himself. He wants Merlin and he knows it.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Blood for camelot_drabble and ILLUSION (from last week)
Author's Notes: Unbetaed. Continuation of the "Reluctant" Series.
Part one: Watching Him Dance Part two: Buying Him A Drink Part three: Luck Let A Gentleman See Part four: Watching Him Teach Part five: Resisting The Charm Part six: One Quick Drink Part seven: Just Being Friends Part eight: Non-Dates
The film was good. Good enough to watch with a friend, Arthur reckoned. There was just enough blood and gore to keep him occupied and very little romance. Yeah, it was great.
From time to time in the film, Merlin’s knee would bump with Arthur’s, and then Merlin would apologise and pull away. Once, he didn’t. Arthur just felt the warmth of their knees resting together and he wondered why Merlin hadn’t pulled back. Was he waiting for Arthur? Did he want to see what Arthur’s reaction would be.
Eventually, when it got to be too much, Arthur did pull his leg away as he pretended to adjust himself in his seat. Then there was the popcorn sharing. He’d wait until Merlin had had a handful to reach into the bucket, and then Arthur knew that Merlin was doing it on purpose: he’d drop the lot that he was holding and then reach in to touch Arthur’s hand, and apologise.
Arthur eventually stopped eating the popcorn too, until Merlin was nudging him to take some.
“Did you like the film?” Merlin asked.
Arthur shrugged, refraining to make eye contact. “Yeah. It was entertaining. You?”
“Sure. I love going to the cinema. Just takes you away from your life, you know?” Merlin grinned at him as he opened the door to his car for Arthur to enter.
Arthur scowled. “I’m not a girl, Merlin.”
“I know. And you’re not my date, either,” Merlin said, winking. “Just habit. I’ll be sure to treat you like a jerk, then.”
“That’s not what I—” Arthur’s comment was lost as Merlin got in on his side of the car and slammed the door. Arthur huffed and settled himself in the passenger seat. He wished that he’d offered to drive, then perhaps things would have been less awkward.
It was a chilly night and it was near freezing in Merlin’s car; Arthur inadvertently started to rub his hands together. Merlin gave him a once over and raised the dial on the temperature controller. “Here,” he said and grabbed Arthur’s hand to put on the vents that were blowing hot air.
“Oh.” Arthur released an almost-gasping sort of noise. Their hands had all but brushed together for a moment and he felt a chill up his spine. “Sorry,” he said, almost immediately after.
“It’s an old car,” Merlin said, as if he hadn’t noticed anything.
“Right. That’s alright. I should’ve offered to drive,” Arthur replied.
“So my car isn’t good enough for you now?” Merlin asked, and Arthur struggled to find the hints of teasing in his voice.
“Of course not. I didn’t mean—” He sighed. “Sorry. I just can’t think when I am cold and I blurt out rude things without realising them.”
Merlin didn’t answer. He kept his eyes on the road. As he took a turn on Devonshire street, Arthur realised that Merlin was driving towards Arthur’s flat.
“Are we not going to Thirsty?” he asked. Shit, I sound so desperate!
“No. D’you know that shawarma place on Abigail?” Merlin asked.
“Yeah. I love that place,” Arthur said, excited.
“Fancy a bite then?” Merlin turned to look at him as they’d stopped at a red light.
“Sure. Sounds great.” Arthur smiled and placed his hands under his legs. It was warm enough in the car now that he didn’t need to heat them up on the vent.
No matter what Arthur told himself, he really was giving himself the illusion of the fact that this was a date. He initially didn’t want it to be one. He actually never wanted to see Merlin again after that first night he’d seen him dance, but he’d made the mistake of going back. Then he’d only run into him after that. He couldn’t believe his luck that Merlin wanted him, too. That was really weird, because, usually anyone who met Arthur didn’t really like him right away. But the first night they’d shared a drink, Merlin had kissed him. Arthur had wanted to continue that kiss so desperately but he’d stopped himself.
Like he always did.
They drove in silence and Arthur continued to think about what was going on with him. He liked Merlin and he wanted this to be date. And then he didn’t want this to be a date. Because he could never let himself get hurt again. Because eventually every one hurt him.
No matter what.
“Doing some heavy thinking over there?” Merlin asked as he pulled into the parking spot in front of Shawarmations.
“Not more than usual,” Arthur answered with a smile and got out of the car before Merlin came hurrying around and opened the door for him.
They placed an order at the counter and then found a table in the corner where they waited the waitress to bring the food. Arthur sat first; he had his hands spread on the small table and Merlin rested his hands next to Arthurs. He looked down at how close their hands were to each other, so Arthur moved his arms and placed them under the table.
“How do you know about this place?” Arthur asked, acting as if it was business as usual.
Merlin snorted, or scoffed, Arthur wasn’t sure as it was in such a hush that he wasn’t sure that Merlin wanted Arthur to hear it. “Gwaine’s brought me,” he said. “That’s when he told me about you.”
“Oh? When was this?”
Merlin shrugged. “I don’t know…maybe two months ago.”
"He'd never mentioned you to me. Not until—"
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "Until when?"
"I saw you at the pub on the night of his birthday party. You were dancing with that girl—that you teach classes with—"
"Huh." Merlin made a sound as if he was thinking something over. "Gwaine did say that his friend was there and he'd left early. I didn't realise it was you. Had no idea you were even there that night."
"Yeah. I usually like it that way."
"What way?" Merlin asked, straightening up. He too, had placed his hands under the table.
"I don't like being noticed."
Merlin scowled and then looked at Arthur as if he was trying to read something on Arthur's face. "What happened to you?"
Read the next part: Unkept Promises