Title: Cooking with Love
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: While making breakfast, Merlin dwells on his huge crush on his flatmate Arthur.
Word Count: 934
Author's Notes: Part 3 of "After You, Who?" Follows The Start of an Adventure and A Narrow Path.
Merlin woke up feeling well-rested on Saturday morning. His gallery opening was that night, but the afternoon was going to be spent at Arthur's weekly football game with their mutual friends.
Arthur had fallen asleep on the sofa again. After Merlin went to bed, it seemed that Arthur had stretched out and covered up with a blanket that was far too small for him. One side of Arthur's face was pressed against an armrest, and his expression was calm. His bare feet and ankles poked out, and Merlin wanted to wake him up by touching them, gently. He wanted to rub the arches until Arthur made satisfied sounds.
Instead, Merlin got started on making breakfast, knowing his cooking always brought Arthur pleasure and sometimes even elicited those same kinds of noises. Arthur was lovely and generous, and Merlin enjoyed showing his appreciation. Arthur was also a very heavy sleeper, and cooking while he slept in the next room was never a problem.
Everything involved in preparing meals had long been a soothing ritual for Merlin. His shopping routine took him to several different stores, in search of the best ingredients and the most value for his money. Today, he was making egg salad on raisin bread. He put all of the eggs into boiling water, chopped up onions and a clove of garlic, and measured out the dry mustard and sour cream. When the eggs were done, he peeled them and mixed everything up. The raisin bread was store-bought, but very high-quality.
It was already 9 AM, and Arthur didn't like to sleep too late, even on weekends. Merlin moved to the sofa and smiled. I should get out my sketchbook the next time I catch him sleeping, he thought.
Arthur's eyes opened and met his. He tossed the blanket aside and stretched languidly, and Merlin bit his lip at the glorious image of Arthur in nothing but a threadbare t-shirt and a pair of boxers.
Arthur scrunched up his nose. "I smell something, but it doesn't quite smell like breakfast," Arthur said. "Good thing we've established some trust here. I know it's going to be delicious, even if it's a mystery at the moment."
Merlin laughed. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, mate."
Arthur went to get dressed for footie, and Merlin made some coffee.
Arthur was indeed happy with the meal, spreading himself at least four sandwiches. "This is amazing, seriously," he said. "You've only been here a few weeks, and I don't even know how I lived before that."
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "It's nice that you enjoy it, but I like to eat good food, too. It's got very little to do with you," he teased.
"Oh, it's like that, is it?" Arthur said. "Maybe I'll just go back to eating what I used to eat before. Wait, I can't even remember what it was. Cereal? Probably not, I never could manage to keep milk from spoiling. Well, I guess I'll just have to keep you around, then, even if my enjoyment is only some sort of accidental side benefit of cooking gourmet meals for yourself."
I wish you'd keep me forever, Merlin thought. He cupped his chin in his hand and gazed at Arthur, who hadn't bothered to comb his hair yet. It was a complete mess.
"Why are you staring at me like that? Remember what I was saying about establishing trust, Merlin? That can easily disappear if I can't rely on you to let me know when I literally have egg on my face," he said.
"That was some horrible wordplay, Arthur," Merlin said, shaking his head. "It's just that your hair is sticking up. It's kind of cute."
"Little children are cute, Merlin," Arthur replied. "I am an adult."
"Right. An adorable adult, who still likes to watch cartoons," Merlin said.
Arthur scoffed. "As though you don't watch them right along with me," he said. "I do believe that Adventure Time boxset belongs to you, not me, mate."
"Guilty," Merlin said. "Listen, I'm going to take a shower. Since you're playing footie today, I have to get myself together, you know. You boys can't have any grotty-looking cheerleaders."
Arthur pointed a finger at Merlin and furrowed his brow, obviously trying to think of a comeback and failing. Merlin smiled, happy to have finally won one of their bantering sessions.
The trouble was, all of Arthur's expressions were cute. Merlin had never seen him look unattractive. This crush had gone far beyond Merlin's usual habit of ogling a friend's arse when the opportunity presented itself. Living with the object of his lust had not been the best decision Merlin had ever made.
Merlin had already known that Arthur was funny, kind, and respectful of everyone he met, but Merlin wasn't prepared to learn that Arthur was also the type of person who appreciated Merlin's cooking and companionship so much that he was charging him only a pittance in rent. Cooking had always been Merlin's favourite pastime, but the extent of Arthur's gratitude, along with his constant compliments, had turned his little hobby into an absolute joy.
The flat really felt like home to Merlin, in a way that no place other than his mother's house ever had. He hoped that Arthur felt the same way. Merlin was content with Arthur's friendship, and if at some point Arthur reciprocated his romantic feelings, he'd be content with that, too.
I swear that I'll never stop trying to make him happy, even if he never sees me the way I see him, Merlin thought, as he headed for the shower.