Title: Not Meant to Be
Characters/pairings: Merlin/Arthur, Cenred
Summary: Arthur thinks about a time when he thought he was in love. Of course, he hadn’t any idea what true love was until Merlin reentered his life.
Prompt 197: Unrequited Love
A/N: Part eighteen of my reincarnation series Merlin and Arthur Live Again.
“Sorry,” Arthur said quietly as he looked at Merlin, who was checking himself in the mirror, possibly making sure that he didn’t look flushed and as if his boyfriend had only seconds before kissed him and nearly done more. Arthur enjoyed the view; he thought Merlin looked thoroughly kissed, flushed cheeks, mussed hair and all, and it was a good look on him.
“Hm,” was Merlin’s noncommittal reply as he turned and smirked, looking pleased with himself. “I’m not.” He had a goofy grin on his face. “I expect you to do more of this later, Arthur, so, please, keep the apologies to yourself,” he added as he approached Arthur and smoothed out his shirt. “How is it that you look so composed? I look like we’ve been doing more than kissing.”
Arthur ignored that question. “I’m not sorry about kissing you, you prat, I’m sorry about saying Father was thinking about disinheriting me. I don’t know why I said it.” And the thing was, Arthur really didn’t understand why he’d made such a remark. He rarely teased Merlin. In fact, if anyone did the teasing, it was Merlin. Arthur, if he was honest with himself, knew he wasn’t brave enough to tease anyone, because he wasn’t sure if he could take it, even if it was Merlin who did it. He really did need to work on that. His father was wrong about so many things, but his assessment that his son’s self-esteem needed work was spot on. “You didn’t deserve that, Merlin.”
“Maybe not, Arthur, but you were just trying to keep it light,” Merlin said as he leant in and gave Arthur a peck on the lips. When he pulled back he took both of Arthur’s hands in his and gave them a small squeeze before he let out a small laugh. “I was losing it and you brought me back. You don’t have anything to be sorry for. Really. I guess I should be happy you feel safe enough with me to be cheeky. I know that’s how you are with your friends, but with me you seem overly reserved sometimes, as if you’re worried how I’m going to react. You never need to worry about that, Arthur. I want you to always be you. Don’t ever change. Not for me, not for anyone."
Arthur nodded and wanted nothing more than to pull Merlin to him and hug him for dear life. Merlin would never understand how much those words meant to him. Arthur had once tried to change himself and that had been a mistake. He swallowed, unable to speak. All he could do was nod, but he did manage a small smile and he mouthed, “I love you.”
Merlin closed his eyes and grinned. “What did I ever do to deserve you? I’ll never know, but I’m thankful, Arthur. Now, before we get too serious, I’m going to talk to Mum for a few minutes before she talks to us together, Okay?”
“Yeah, I need to call my father and tell him we’ll be there early tomorrow morning,” Arthur said, retrieving his mobile.
Once the call was made, Arthur sat on Merlin’s bed and took a deep breath as he allowed his memories to take him back two years.
It had been his first day at uni. He’d been out of his element, not knowing what to expect, but then in his first class he’d met Cenred, and suddenly Arthur’s day had improved immeasurably.
The two had become friends. Not best mates or anything such as that, but they’d got on well enough. The relationship, however, was, from the beginning, decidedly not a healthy one for Arthur. Where Cenred had seen Arthur as a mate and as someone whom he could go get a pint with, Arthur had seen Cenred as someone whom he would fall for if he wasn’t careful.
He’d fallen hard. Leon and Elyan had repeatedly told Arthur that Cenred had baggage and that he wasn’t who Arthur needed to be obsessing over. Arthur had known they were telling him the truth, but how was he to tell his heart that? Gwaine had told Arthur he felt the way he did because he thought he could change Cenred, but that wasn’t going to happen.
Arthur had scoffed at his friends attempts to help him get over his unrequited love. He’d thought that if he waited long enough, Cenred would wake up one day and discover that Arthur was the one.
Before term ended, Arthur had written Cenred a letter and left it in his car, hoping he’d find it and come to Arthur.
He hadn’t. Term ended, Cenred moved, and that had been that.
No more Cenred.
Until a year later, when Arthur had received a phone call from Cenred.
There were apologies, excuses and platitudes. Arthur had listened, he’d talked, his voice calm, his heart beating a mile a minute.
It’d been good to hear Cenred’s voice, but the call itself had confused Arthur. He had the idea Cenred was trying to play coy. It had hurt, but when they’d hung up, it was with the hope of a possible future call. Arthur had said he’d call Cenred back.
He never had.
It’d been for the best.
Arthur wondered what had become of Cenred. Was he happy? Arthur hoped he was.
As much as Arthur loved Merlin and couldn’t wait to see what their future held for them, he knew there’d always be that small part of him that would wonder what it might have been like had he and Cenred got together.
It wouldn’t have been as good as what Arthur had now, and that was all that mattered.
Arthur was a better person for having known Cenred and for having gone through that heartache. It had made him stronger. He still had miles to go before he felt comfortable with himself, but he’d survived that harrowing journey called unrequited love.
“Mum’s ready for us,” Merlin said, his head poking around the door.