Title: Hey, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Aithusa
Summary: Despite the lack of interest Arthur shows, there's nothing Merlin can do to change his feelings for him.
Warnings: Obliviousness, a sprinkle of angst, and sick kids.
Word Count: 752
Prompt: #197 unrequited love
Author's Notes: Part 5 of the Lab Coats & Scrubs Series, you can find right here or here on AO3. (Edited because I messed up the word count before, sorry.)
On a Wednesday afternoon Merlin can't take two steps away from the pediatric wing of the hospital. Not only because Aithusa keeps asking him to please, please do another magic trick, and he happily obliges. But because Arthur is there, his tiredness masked under a bright demeanor that doesn't fool Merlin. He's tempted to follow him around and be there to catch him if he falls. They're both attending to Aithusa, doing routine check ups while both reassure her time and time again she is their favorite patient. The words put a grin on her face.
Arthur is sweet with the girl. Although during the auscultation to listen to her heart the serious and professional Arthur is there, he goes back to being soft while he lets her listen to her own heartbeat with his stethoscope. He dutifully guides her small hands to the right place on her chest.
He even makes jokes, both laughing in delight. Merlin could stay with them the entire day.
The sight makes Merlin ache because he's never going to have that. Arthur's smile won't be his, nor his dreams. He'll never share a quiet moment with him where their words are spoken through their bodies, and their mouths will trade slow kisses. Arthur's nights and days sooner or later will be someone else's. Merlin dreads that day more than anything. When Arthur gives himself away to someone other than him. But it's something he can't stop from happening.
"Are you feeling well Merlin?"
Arthur and Aithusa share the same look. Frowns and mouths slightly open. Merlin wishes he could see pure indifference instead of a touch of care. It'd be easier to forget him if they were just work mates instead of being friendly. Rather than car rides and staring contests which lead nowhere in the end. Then he'd put out the flame of hope he still carries around.
"We thought you had gone cuckoo. You weren't moving," Aithusa says, holding onto the felt dragon Merlin had given to her as a birthday present the year before. Even when he shouldn't, he cares too much about her.
"I'd say you were petrified," Arthur intervenes. His smile doesn't waver. Arthur looks too good. Merlin would die to touch those lips, to feel his hard, warm muscles underneath his touch. Even once. Even if it's only for a night and he'll only have the memory left. He takes a deep breath, Arthur is driving him mad.
"Merlin? Am I going to have to send you home on a sick leave?" Arthur waves his hand in front of him, and Merlin realizes he completely zoned out. He can feel heat rising to his cheeks.
"No, I'm fine. Everything is fine." He jumps from one foot to the other, plastering on a smile so fake it'd be impossible not to see through the cracks.
Arthur furrows his eyebrows. "Are you sure?"
Before he has the chance to answer again or protest, Arthur's open palm is on his forehead. If he didn't have a fever before he's caught one now. He's going to be sick, pass out on the floor if Arthur doesn't stop touching him. Hell, he could just press against the touch, feel him closer, steal a kiss until Arthur catches the same lovesickness.
But he doesn't have time to act — not that he would've — because Arthur is retreating, pulling his hand away as if he's been burned by invisible fire. Merlin is breathless.
Now Arthur is the petrified fool.
Merlin shuts his mouth, noticing his surroundings once again, seeing Aithusa's curious look going from one to the other. That one is clever.
"So, I need to. I'm going to. Some exams..." Merlin says, trying to gather his thoughts together. He's a weak mess whenever Arthur is around. He truly hates himself.
"Right, I'll see you later, Merlin." Arthur has gone back to being businesslike. His eyes glued to the floor. Aithusa's hand wrapping in his.
She jumps a bit on the bed, eyes bright. "Oh, me too! You still have to teach me that trick!"
He nods before he leaves the room in a hurry and the last thing he sees is Aithusa's grin.
Merlin shakes his head, forgets everything about steady kisses, and the feel of another warm body pressed against his. He should give up, look around. But no matter how hard he tries Arthur is always there, in the back of his mind.
Arthur is going to be the death of him.