Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur's phone phobia just makes everything harder.
Word Count: 1207
Prompt: #193, Remembrance
Author's Notes: One of my best friend died recently and because of my phone phobia, I hadn't talked to her in months. I regret that so very much. But I didn't want this to be too angsty (and it would have been very easy to go down that road) so I tried to make it lighter.
Disclaimer: I do not own the BBC version of Merlin; BBC and Shine do. I am very respectfully borrowing them with no intent to profit. No money has changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended.
Arthur hated phones. Calling someone seemed like such an intrusion on his time and their time and he'd rather his PA do it. Not that he had a phobia about calling people, no not him, not the consummate businessman. A Pendragon didn't admit to such weakness, not ever.
Merlin didn't understand it. He'd natter along, calling friends, collogues, his old drinking mates, even his mum's neighbours. Laughing with them, giving advice, lending an understanding ear – if a large one – but people seemed to respond to it.
Arthur and he would fight about it, of course, but it seemed a silly inconsequential thing until one day when Merlin expected Arthur to call him back and he didn't. He'd tried, even reaching for the phone once or twice, but then something else caught his attention, and before long, it was far too late.
Why Merlin couldn't fathom out such a simple concept without Arthur having to spell it out for him was a mystery. Merlin had been so observant about other things, well not about Arthur's growing need for him, but still, he'd noticed how Arthur liked his tea and whether Arthur's father had been particularly obnoxious that day and that had to count for something.
It was just that he couldn't… admit to that one little weakness, and it blew up in his face.
Merlin thought it was a deliberate snub in a long line of deliberate not-calling snubs. Which it wasn't.
Of course, Arthur couldn't let Merlin's ridiculousness go, had to mock him for it just one too many times.
And Merlin stopped calling.
Arthur let it go a few days, thinking that Merlin would cool down and call him back, telling him some ridiculous story, and everything would be fine. But days turned into weeks. He'd tried email, texting, even bloody Facebook, but Merlin was ignoring him. He'd even had his PA call but Merlin hung up on him.
It would seem that something so inconsequential wasn't any more. And he couldn't take it.
Arthur tried, he really did, but the phone lay in his hands mocking him. He'd look at the pictures he'd taken with Merlin, all bright eyes and goofball grins, good memories that he didn't want to lose over something so simple. He'd start to call, even swiping through his contact lists, looking at Merlin's name glowing up at him, and he'd almost push the button. Almost.
Until he couldn't stand it any longer.
So he came up with a plan. It wasn't a very good one and he'd mostly be playing it by ear, but he knew he had to see Merlin and try and fix this, whatever it was. So he cornered Merlin coming out of the Rising Sun late Friday night.
Merlin was obviously a little pissed, but not enough to jerk back when Arthur closed in. But before Merlin could say anything or do anything, Arthur wrapped his arms around Merlin and held him close.
Muttering into Merlin's hair, Arthur said, "Listen, just listen because I'm only going to say this once,"
But Merlin was being decidedly uncooperative, struggling a little. "Let go of me, you prat."
There were sounds behind Arthur like maybe some of Merlin's mates weren't too thrilled with Arthur at the moment. But that wasn't important. Merlin was.
Arthur didn't let go.
"I'm sorry." That should have been enough. Merlin knew that Pendragons never said they were sorry and here Arthur was saying it. "I'm sorry that you didn't understand and that I can't…."
"I understand perfectly well." Arthur could hear the scowl in Merlin's voice. "You think I'm an idiot and not worth your time. You made that abundantly clear last time we spoke. I get it. I just don't need to hear it again."
As Merlin tried to pull back, Arthur's arms tightened around him, "Merlin, no, it's… I can't… that wasn't it at all."
"That's bollocks, Arthur."
It would seem that it wasn't enough to apologize, that Merlin really didn't understand. And if Arthur didn't tell him the truth, he'd lose him forever and that just wasn't going to happen.
Taking in a deep breath, as Arthur let it out again, he dropped his head to Merlin's shoulder as he said, "I'm phobic."
At least Merlin stopped struggling. "What? What does that even mean? You have a phobia for me?"
"No, not you, idiot. Phones." He took another deep breath, trying to quell the rising panic at even thinking about it. "As in not being able to call people. It's… I can't."
"But it's a phone, not some kind of scary snake." Merlin still sounded like he didn't understand, that maybe Arthur was just making it up. "Besides you use email and text and…."
Arthur shook his head, pressing his nose into Merlin's throat. He could hear a little hitch in Merlin's breathing but he put it down to annoyance rather than something more intriguing. "That's easy. I can do it ahead of time, think it through first but calling someone, it's nearly impossible."
"Are you serious?"
"I wasn't snubbing you. I just… please understand. I miss you."
Merlin seemed to soften under Arthur's touch, seemed to realise that maybe Arthur wasn't being a prat this time. "So let me get this straight. You didn't call me any of those times that you said you would because you couldn't?"
Arthur nodded into Merlin's neck.
Merlin let out a little sigh, exasperated and sounding almost fond. "Then why didn't you say so before?"
"Pendragons don't admit to weakness." Arthur wasn't happy about it but he needed to say it, if only to let Merlin hear the truth.
"Yeah, that I knew." Merlin chuckled, then ruffled Arthur's hair. "Are you going to let go of me now?"
Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Besides, the feel of Merlin's warm, much wanted body was wonderful against his. Arthur said carefully, "Do you want me to?"
There was a long, long silence, long enough that Arthur began to worry that maybe he'd misread the situation, that he'd pushed Merlin too far – again.
Turning his head, Merlin breathed into Arthur's throat, a warm promise. "No."
Arthur's arms tightened around Merlin, and he nudged that gloriously large ear of Merlin's with his mouth, nipping at it a little. "Then maybe something good can come out of this mess."
There was another hitch in Merlin's breathing and Arthur could feel a bit of Merlin's excitement stirring against Arthur's thigh. His own trousers were getting a bit tight as well, and that was all to the good. Things were looking up indeed.
Leaning against him, Merlin squirming a little as Arthur began to suck on his neck, Merlin said, "I'll still expect texts. And emails. And bribery for everything you put me through. And maybe we'll work on that phobia of yours." He pulled back then, looked into Arthur's eyes, and gave him a tentative smile. "Together?"
Arthur tried to not laugh at the joy of it. "Together."
And then he dove back into his embrace, trying to crawl into that glorious mouth of Merlin's, flushed and wanting and it was brilliant.
He might still hate phoning people but with Merlin at his side, anything was possible.