Title: Best Offer
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwen
Summary: Merlin hadn't recovered from last year's New Year's Eve.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: New Year's Eve Party
Author's Notes: Hope you enjoy. Happy New Year, everyone.
“Are you coming tonight?”
Merlin grimaced as Gwen slid into the booth opposite him, balancing her coffee with precision. If he had tried that manoeuvre, both of them – and probably the guy in the booth opposite – would have been covered in his drink. But that wasn’t the reason behind his face and Gwen sighed.
“Merlin,” she said. “You promised you would come out.”
“And I am,” Merlin said. “Just not with you lot. Will’s got something going on over at his place and I promised I would put in appearance.”
“You want to spend New Year with Will?” Gwen was never one to judge, but even she couldn’t keep the doubt out of her voice. Merlin sighed, kneading his forehead with his knuckles.
“I can’t face Morgana’s parties again,” he admitted. “Not after last year.”
“That was a year ago!” Gwen exclaimed. The man behind her shifted and she glanced around guiltily when Merlin failed to hide his smirk in time. “You can’t still be mooning over your tall, dark, handsome stranger?”
“He was blond,” Merlin said automatically. Even just talking about it was making his mind shift back to that night. How he had fallen over his own feet, just to land in the arms of said tall blond handsome stranger. The man’s hands hadn’t left his waist for the rest of the night.
“Merlin…” Gwen said, a hint of scolding in her voice. “We talked about this. You need to get out more, find someone else.”
“I’ve found plenty of others this year,” Merlin protested. He didn’t want to admit they had all been one night-stands and he couldn’t help but compare their kisses to the stranger’s. The look on Gwen’s face indicated she didn’t believe him in the slightest. But it was obvious she wasn’t going to pry into his love life and risk be landed with all the details she really didn’t want to know. At least, not in a public place.
“I worry about you,” she murmured. Reaching over the table, she took his hand and cradled it in hers. “I don’t want you spending New Year’s at Will’s. You know he’ll hook up with the first girl that catches his eye and leave you alone for the rest of the night. He doesn’t have a good crowd around him, Merlin.”
Merlin couldn’t meet her gaze. He didn’t want her feeling sorry for him. But maybe she was right. He had spent an entire year waiting for his stranger. More than once he had cursed Morgana for having a masked theme, meaning he had no idea who the man was apart from that he had the most gorgeous blue eyes that Merlin had ever seen. He wasn’t aware that a somewhat dopey smile had crossed his face until Gwen dug her nails into the back of his hand.
“You’re thinking about him again,” she scolded.
“I can’t help it,” Merlin muttered. “His eyes, Gwen… I could have looked into them for the rest of my life.”
“You don’t even know his name,” Gwen murmured. Merlin blinked. She was right. What was he doing?
He forced himself to sit up straighter, managed a smile and withdrew his hand, taking a sip of his scalding drink.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He meant it. “I know I haven’t been good company this year.”
“Nonsense.” Gwen sat back, clearly convinced he wasn’t about to slide under the table in a swoon. Merlin blushed at the thought; what was his life coming to?
They sat in silence for a moment and Merlin tried his hardest to stop thoughts of the previous year fill his mind. In the end, Gwen sighed.
“I’ll do you a deal. You tell me all about him right now, and then promise to let it go when we get to next year.”
Merlin wasn’t sure he would be able to let it go, but the chance to actually talk about his stranger and not have an eye-roll meet his words was too good a chance to miss. He immediately recounted how they had met, how the man’s hands hadn’t left his waist all evening. How they had danced and when midnight approached, the stranger had pulled him close.
“His body, Gwen,” Merlin said, feeling his blush deepen at the thought. “Everything was so perfect. Even…well, you know…”
“Merlin!” Gwen squealed. Merlin laughed, then realised the man behind her seemed to be having a coughing fit. When it didn’t stop, Merlin stood slightly.
“Are you alright, mate?”
The head – the blond head nodded but couldn’t seem to stop choking.
“Do you want some water?”
He shook his head this time. Merlin exchanged a concerned glance with Gwen and edged out of the booth. He rounded the table and came to a stop at the man’s. He was angled away, but Merlin was sure he had shifted just to avoid looking at Merlin. He supposed it was embarrassing choking on nothing in the middle of a café.
“Hey, it’s alright.” Merlin said, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder. He finally turned and Merlin blinked.
“No,” he shook his head, backing away. “You…”
He knew those eyes. He had been fantasising about those eyes for an entire year, asking Morgana who the man had been. Morgana hadn’t known, not having seen him. But there was no denying it. Merlin knew those eyes, he knew that hair and without being able to stop himself, his eyes ran down the stranger’s body. It had been in a tux rather than a shirt and jeans last time, but there was no denying it.
It was him. His tall handsome stranger.
“Merlin, what’s wrong?” Gwen had also twisted, watching him in concern. The man managed to stop coughing and Merlin realised what had set him off. After all, he had been implying rather specifically about certain parts of his body.
“So, Merlin,” he drawled, straightening up and flashing him a smile. “Sure I can’t persuade you to come to my sister’s party?”