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Last Friday Night

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Arthur is a hipster.

Okay, so he’s not a complete diehard hipster, but he’s got the clothes, equipment, and attitude. He wears purposely beat-up skinny jeans that may be a tad too tight sometimes; dirty looking plaid button-ups and v-necks; vintage cardigans or sweaters; Converse and Doc Martens; fake, large, thick rimmed, black glasses; large beanies that only cover half his head; and plugs or tapers in his earlobes. He has all of the latest Apple products, a carrier bag and a bike that he has, but never rides. He’s sarcastic and acts like he’s too cool for school.

The part where he purposely bought all of those products in order to be a hipster is irrelevant.

People who know Arthur, and actually are hipsters, would say that he isn’t a hipster at all – just a wannabe, which they tell him frequently.

First off, Arthur is blond, slightly tanned, and muscled. Hipsters tend to be as skinny as twigs and pale. Sometimes they like to dye their hair dark, or weird colors, or to just leave it extremely grungy and dirty looking, which Arthur would never dream of doing to his hair. Arthur claims that he is a hipster; hipsters don’t define themselves. He doesn’t care much for causes and he has no idea what WWF even stands for. He doesn’t know any obscure, unknown indie groups like Walk the Moon and has never had the desire to fly to Barcelona or Madrid for the Primavera Club, even though he has the money to. And he doesn’t blog endlessly or even get remotely in touch with his artsy side (which is pretty non-existent anyway).

Arthur doesn’t see why he can’t be considered hipster because of those reasons. At least he knows whom The National and Fleet Foxes are, and that hipsters like to dance around randomly. He also has a Tumblr, a Flickr, and a Twitter account that he uses to subscribe to all things hipster that float around the internet.

So what if he likes to play football, drive fancy cars, and eat cows? He doesn’t care what anyone thinks about that. And that confirms that he’s a hipster, because hipsters don’t care.

Unfortunately, Arthur cares – not in the good way, god forbid – about this absolute idiot he’s met, named Merlin.

Merlin is not a hipster. Not by a long shot.

He wears shirts that are too large for his frame, smiles widely at random people, watches the Disney Channel when he’s bored, hugs people he’s just met, uses a tacky child’s Batman backpack, and listens to Katy Perry all day, every day.

And if Arthur was even remotely hipster, he’d know that Katy Perry stole the name Teenage Dream from Beach House. The bitch. But since he’s a wannabe, he can only snipe about how mainstream the pop star is.

You’re an alien, your touch so foreign.”

Merlin. Shut. Up.”

Merlin stops singing the music he’s listening to and grins at Arthur from across the table. Arthur pointedly ignores the flutter in his stomach and instead rolls his eyes before returning to the Classic’s essay open on his Macbook Pro.

“I don’t see what you have against Katy Perry,” Merlin comments lightly after taking a sip of his mocha, a drink that probably contained more sugar than someone should consume in a week.

“She’s an annoying bint with a whiny voice, that’s why,” Arthur fires back. “She’s not even that good. Have you heard her live?”

“So you’ve watched her live?” Merlin grins.

Arthur glares and huffs. “YouTube exists, Merlin. Ever heard of it?”

“Still doesn’t explain why you were watching a video of her,” Merlin practically sings.

Arthur avoids answering him directly, “Don’t you have a chemistry midterm to be studying for?” Merlin smirks, knowing he won the small battle.

A silence falls between them as Arthur edits his paper and Merlin taps out the rhythm of another Katy Perry song against the table. The sound of other customers chatting, blenders going off, and background music of the café filter through the air between them.

Merlin interrupts the silence as he usually did and points to the fake glasses sitting on Arthur’s face. “So remind me why you wear those things again?”

Arthur doesn’t even look up as he mumbles curses to himself for letting Merlin sit down across from him. Yes, the café is full, but he really should have known better. Out of the eight conversations they’ve had together in the past two and half weeks, his clothes and fashion sense were always, at some point, brought into the conversation.

“I don’t expect you to understand the latest fashion trends, Merlin,” Arthur replies evenly, keeping his eyes on the screen before him.

“Oh, but I do!” Merlin exclaims with a wry grin. “Skinny jeans, leggings for girls, flannel, plaid, stripes, and cardigans are in, but knits and those new Aztec, Native American looking designs are the latest trends.”

Arthurs stares at Merlin for a moment. “So you know all this, but still insist on dressing like a homeless person?”

“Mhmm. Just like you wear those glasses.” Merlin’s eyes are wide and innocent as he stares back.

Arthur promptly takes his empty coffee cup and tosses it at Merlin’s head with a minimal amount of force. Merlin flails awkwardly and yelps a bit, drawing attention to himself, as the cup hits his cheek. “Ow, you clotpole!” Merlin cries and rubs the spot when the cup hit him as Arthur laughs loudly.

Arthur stops laughing, but a smile remains on his face. “Clotpole? Did you seriously just use a made up word?”

Merlin colors partially, which of course does unwarranted things to Arthur’s insides, and opens his mouth to say something, but perks up and says instead, “I love this song! I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf.”

Arthur fights the urge to rub his temples and throttle the man sitting in front of him. But then he thinks better of the throttling, because touching Merlin would only lead to bad thoughts that Arthur did not want to have about Merlin. Because ever since Merlin had stumbled into his life, his emotions have run rampant, which rarely happened – if ever – especially for another man. And even though Arthur is hetero-flexible – meaning he’s straight, but shit happens sometimes (especially when he was drunk) – he knew his libido could have chosen someone better than Merlin to find likable or even attractive.

“You love every song, which you should, because they’re on your mp3 player,” Arthur retorts as he leans forward to grab Merlin’s mp3 player – and no, not an iPod, because Merlin refuses to buy anything from Apple – off the table. It takes him a few seconds to navigate the buttons to find the artists list.

He groans as he scrolls through them. “Justin Timberlake…Katy B…Katy Perry…Kelly Clarkson…Ke$ha...Lady Gaga…Leona Lewis… Maroon 5…Michael Bublé…Miley Cyrus…Nicki Minaj?!” he exclaims in disbelief. He then stares at Merlin with wide eyes. “Are you sure you’re not a twelve-year-old girl?”

“Nope,” Merlin chirps as he grabs his mp3 back from Arthur and stands up with his drink in hand. “Just gay.”

Merlin practically dances out of the café singing and grinning at Arthur. “You’re so gay and you don’t even like boys.”

__________


Arthur remembers the first time he met Merlin. Gwen had brought him with her to watch his and Lance’s football game. After the game, Gwen had given Lance a kiss hello and the idiot gave Lance a hug, sweat and all. He then grinned like a loon when he was introduced to Arthur. Arthur may or may not have found it cute.

What Arthur definitely did not find cute was Merlin’s Spanish Inquisition when he came out of the locker room.

With his duffle bag swung over his shoulder, Arthur left the locker room with Lance at his side, sporting sandals, his uniform footy shorts, loose black tank top, glasses, and plugs.

“What happened to your contacts?” Merlin asked as the four of them headed off to Arthur’s car to get some dinner.

“Don’t wear contacts,” Arthur answered shortly as he and Lance tossed their gear into the boot of his car. He then quickly moved to the driver’s seat and started the car.

Merlin climbed into the passenger seat as Lance and Gwen had already taken over the backseat, smiling and talking in low tones with one another. “Oh, so you only need your glasses occasionally then,” Merlin commented.

“No, I have perfect vision,” Arthur absentmindedly answered as he pulled out into traffic. He was steadily beginning to becoming annoyed with all of the comments and questions from Merlin.

The answer caused Merlin to frown. “So why are you wearing glasses, then?”

“Because I like them,” Arthur replied peevishly as he dodged some teenagers crossing the street.

“But that’s just stupid.”

Arthur nearly growled when he pulled to a complete stop at the light. “Tell me, Merlin, do you happen to have any mental afflictions?” Arthur questioned, raising an expectant eyebrow.

“No, that would be you, thinking that those glasses actually make you look good. And by the way, are you a prat all the time?” Merlin fired back before noticing the light turned green. “Green light, mate.”

Arthur glanced towards the light before glaring at Merlin. “I’m not your mate.”

“You’re right. I wouldn’t be friends with such an arsehole.”

“Just keep your gob shut before I kick you out of my car,” Arthur threatened as he began to drive again.

“Boys,” Gwen’s voice chimed in with a stern tone, stopping them from insulting or threatening each other any further. “Do we need to separate you two?”

“We actually thought you two would’ve got on,” Lance commented.

“Well, you two have obviously forgotten that I don’t take to idiots too well,” Arthur replied mockingly.

“And I don’t like arrogant prats,” Merlin added.

Gwen just sighed and face palmed.

*

The second time Arthur met Merlin was also when he received his first hug from the other boy…or man, rather. Needless to say, Arthur was nearly drunk and Merlin was more than a few gulps past tipsy.

Merlin smiled so wide that Arthur could practically count every tooth as he yelled, “Arthur!” Many of the party goers glanced at Merlin, but seeming to be used to his antics, went back to what they were doing. Merlin stumbled across the garage, drink in hand, to envelop a stiff Arthur into a tight hug.

Arthur’s face was full of confusion, and a bit of disturbance, as he gently removed Merlin from himself, mindful of the alcohol that could spill out of the tilted cup. His red cardigan would not look good with alcohol stains.

The last time they had met wasn’t a very joyous occasion for either of them. Even though the beginning of that night started out with snarky comments, it ended better with resigned banter that left everyone more amused than annoyed.

“Still a glasses wearing prat?” Merlin asked, still smiling, the empty hand on Arthur’s shoulder. And if Arthur was completely sober, he wouldn’t have thought that Merlin sounded endearing instead of teasing. And he wouldn’t have thought the red hue to Merlin’s cheeks, below the sharp line of his cheekbones, was charming instead of funny.

Arthur took a few seconds to discern whether or not Merlin was stating this or not, before deciding not to dwell on it at all. “And I see you still haven’t fixed your brain to mouth filter,” Arthur countered, grinning rather than smirking. The alcohol made everything more entertaining; like talking to Merlin.

Merlin practically giggled and swayed in his place a bit. “That answers my question.”

Before Arthur could reply, a girl screamed Merlin’s name. “It’s our song!” she squealed and Arthur could hear the words before I leave, brush my teeth, with a bottle of Jack streaming through the door that led to the makeshift dance floor.

Merlin laughed and raised his cup to the brunette, “Coming!” He turned back to Arthur with a blinding smile. “Ke$ha’s calling. See you later, prat.”

Arthur just raised his eyebrows and watched as Merlin almost face planted on his way to the next room and waved to at least four people he knew along the way. He didn’t know he was staring at the doorway that Merlin disappeared through until his friend, and Gwen’s brother, Elyan called him back to their card game.

“Is he always like that?” he asked Elyan.

His friend laughed and nodded. “He’s like, I guess, the most popular uncool person I’ve ever met. Don’t talk to him much myself, but Gwen thinks he’s great.”

Arthur merely nodded and proceeded to get even more spectacularly drunk.

*

The next six meetings went much the same way. There was bickering, teasing, surprise hugs, and disdainful glares.

But Arthur laughed more with Merlin than he did with almost anyone else. A laugh that made him toss back his head, shake his shoulders in mirth, and feel giddy down to the tips of his toes. And Arthur was sure that that was not a good sign.

__________


Two days after meeting Merlin in the café, Arthur is not really surprised to see Merlin in his living room. Arthur had seen the 33 mutual friends they had on Facebook, and decided to overlook the fact that Merlin had 300 more friends than he did and 500 more tagged photos. It seems that Merlin is just determined to unknowingly worm his way into Arthur’s life.

His flat mates, Gwaine and Leon, are sitting and talking to Merlin about The Inbetweeners – the series and the movie. When the three of them notice that Arthur is there, they all grin at him.

“Princess!” Gwaine greets, beaming. “I think you know Merlin here.”

Arthur ignores the wink that Gwaine sends his way and rolls his eyes as Merlin waves happily at him. He notices the way Merlin seems to be at home on his couch and pays no attention to the feeling that it’s perfectly natural and normal for him to be there, because Merlin being in his flat is anything but normal.

“It seems like Merlin knows practically everyone that I know,” Arthur practically groans as he toes off his boat shoes and drops his satchel to the floor. He pushes up the sleeves of his multicolored striped jumper.

“Gwaine got beer,” Leon says immediately in response and holds out a bottle for him.

Arthur spies the two six-packs on the coffee table. “For once in his life,” Arthur grumbles. Merlin snorts, Leon laughs, and Gwaine yells in dispute.

Arthur grabs the bottle from Leon’s hand and passes him on his way to the only seat left between Merlin and Gwaine. Leon had claimed the armchair for himself the moment they all moved in, and due to his height, the chair seemed to suit him better than it did Arthur or Gwaine.

Gwaine gives Arthur a playful slap to the back of his thigh with his foot as Arthur passes by, which makes Arthur cuff the side of Gwaine’s head.

Arthur sits down with a sigh, takes the bottle opener that Gwaine hands him, and easily opens the beer. He settles back against the couch and takes a large gulp from the bottle. He glances over to Merlin on his right and sees him watching him. Arthur gives him a questioning look, complete with raised, sardonic eyebrows, causing Merlin to color slightly and smile at him. Arthur only smirks and shakes his head.

The four of them watch movies for the rest of the night, argue over what movie to watch, order two large pizzas, argue over what kind of pizza they want, talk about hilarious clips they saw on YouTube, argue over which one is better, talk about their friend’s lives like nosy teenagers, and again, argue about who is shagging whom.

Later, Leon begs off to go to bed, actually wanting to get to class the next morning, and Gwaine heads over to a party that has started just after midnight. The bugger smirks at Arthur and Merlin as he leaves a quarter of the way through Fight Club.

“Want me to go?” Merlin asks as soon as the door closes behind Gwaine, a bit of uncertainty in his voice.

Arthur looks over at Merlin, who looks soft and warm under the blanket they usually leave out for people who camp out on their couch, and finds himself shaking his head without actually thinking it through. “Nah, you’re alright,” he says softly and ignores the fluttering his stomach when Merlin gives him a bright smile.

If at the end of the night, Merlin falls asleep on his shoulder and Arthur doesn’t have the heart to shove him off, no one has to know.

*

Somehow Arthur ends up with Merlin’s number on his phone.

Now he gets inane texts at least every other day. As entertaining they may be, but nonetheless, are still inane.

Texts like:

i think ive met someone whos a bigger prat than u

whats with hipsters and triangles? do u like triangles?

my apple has a worm in it. thats bad right?


Arthur usually rolled his eyes, huffed in exasperation, or just laughed before replying with something that usually dripped in sarcasm.

But for the first time, Merlin calls him while he’s sitting at the pub with his mates just past midnight. Arthur debates answering for a few seconds before sighing and accepting the call.

“I thought I told you that you need to have matching shoes in order to get one left and right foot,” Arthur greets as he turns almost backward in his seat, away from the table.

“Ha, you’re so funny,” Merlin replies sarcastically. “Don’t know how I survived without you. Anyway, please tell me you’re at your flat.”

“I’m not at my flat,” Arthur promptly says. “And don’t call me a liar ‘cause you can probably hear the background noise. Why?”

Merlin makes an odd humming noise on the other side of the line. “Will, my flat mate Will, decided to bring home some company for once, and explicit heterosexual activities that I can hear tend to make me squirmy, so I have nowhere to go for the time being. I’d go to Gwen’s, but I’m sure she wouldn’t want me intruding on her night with Lance.”

“Why, Merlin,” Arthur teases, “I’m so glad I could be your second choice.”

Merlin scoffs, and Arthur can practically hear him grinning. “Actually, you’re the only one I thought wouldn’t be busy on a Friday night.”

“You sure know how to make a bloke feel special.”

“That’s what they all say.”

“You do know you’re not getting any closer to finding out where I’m at, right?”

“You’re somewhere with Gwaine,” Merlin replies smartly and, as if on cue, Gwaine’s laughter rings through the pub. Arthur glares at the brunette beside him before hearing what else Merlin has to say. “I should’ve called him first. He actually likes me.”

“Gwaine likes anyone who’ll pay attention to his wiseass comments for more than two minutes.”

“Mmhmm,” Merlin hums through the phone. “And what about you?”

“What about me?”

“What’ll get you to like someone?”

Arthur pauses, feeling like he’s being tested. “Brains,” he replies tersely with a random answer. “We’re at The Duchess and leaving within the hour for somewhere else.” Arthur immediately hangs up and feels a bit guilty when Merlin texts him saying prat.

Twenty minutes later finds Merlin walking through the front door of the pub and immediately grinning at everyone sitting around the table.

Of course, Merlin would already know everyone there. It was Arthur’s usual group of friends, made up of Gwaine, Leon, Percy, Elyan, Elena, and his half-sister Morgana. Lance and Gwen would also be there, if they hadn’t been on a date at the time. Sometimes a few other mates would drop in, but the core nine usually remained solid.

Every person at the table greets Merlin happily (except Arthur, of course, who just raises his glass in acknowledgement) and shifts around to make room for him. Merlin drags a chair up between Morgana and Gwaine and sits with a sigh.

“How’d you know we were here?” Morgana asks.

Merlin shucks his faded black zip-up and jerks his thumb in Arthur’s direction. “Arthur told me.”

Arthur fidgets when everyone shifts their gaze upon him, looking at him like he belongs in an insane asylum. Merlin looks just as confused as he feels, so luckily it is not just him.

“What?” he bristles.

The people at the table glance at each other briefly before they shrug at Arthur and Leon says, “We didn’t know you and Merlin were such good friends.”

Arthur goes to respond, but finds that anything he says would make him sound like an ass. So in the end, he opts for looking stupid with his mouth hanging slightly open. His friends laugh at his expression and Elena almost snorts beer up her nose. He does his best to disregard all the jibes that are sent his way about his inability to admit Merlin is actually his friend, and downs the remnants of his beer. Though he can’t forget the few glances Merlin sends his way when there was no reason to be looking at him.

By the time they end their night two and half hours later, Gwaine is holding onto Leon (who is in little better shape) for support, Elena is flushed a bright red, Elyan is laughing at everything, and Merlin will not stop singing about some prophet or Jesus or something. Morgana, Percy, and Arthur are the most sober out of the group, considering it takes more than a few beers to get Percy anything but a bit fuzzy and Arthur and Morgana are the designated drivers like usual.

On the way back to their cars, Merlin stumbles close to Arthur and snatches his fake glasses off his face with a laugh. Merlin puts them on his face and turns to Arthur with a blinding grin. “How do I look?” he asks.

Arthur gives Merlin an indulgent smile, looking at the way Merlin’s ears stick out a bit less with the glasses. He stamps out the possessive feeling of seeing Merlin wearing something of his, even if it’s just a stupid pair of fake glasses.

“Ridiculous,” Arthur says in a tender voice. Merlin seems to notice and beams at Arthur.

Arthur doesn’t ask for the glasses back.

The group splits off into two, with promises to hang out together again soon, Merlin included. Percy, Elena, and Elyan go with Morgana to her Mercedes, and Gwaine, Leon, and Merlin go with Arthur, all three of them climbing awkwardly into his small Audi.

Merlin fiddles with the radio and lands a station that’s playing something that sings about dirty dancing. Instantaneously, Merlin starts singing along and Arthur groans when he hears Gwaine start singing. Arthur is tempted to change the station or shut it off, but he would rather not risk the drunken wails of his passengers.

“I need directions, Merlin,” Arthur says as he pulls onto the street in the direction he thinks Merlin lives in. Unfortunately, Merlin is much too into the song and Arthur is forced to grab Merlin’s shoulder and shake him.

Merlin squirms and bats at Arthur’s hand. “Wot?”

“Directions, Merlin,” Arthur says firmly. When Merlin just stares, Arthur fights the urge to slap him before saying, “Your flat? The place where I assume you sleep at night, but by the way you look most of the time, I wouldn’t be surprised if you lived behind Tesco.”

“I like living behind Tesco!”

Arthur takes a slow deep breath and tightens his grip on his steering wheel. Never again is he driving a drunk Merlin anywhere. “I’m trying to be nice for once by driving you home and rack up karma points, but you are not getting the idea that I need to know where you live.”

“Behind Tesco!” Merlin exclaims, his eyes comically wide.

“Merlin, I was joking!”

“No, I live behind the Tesco on Kingsland!”

The car goes quiet as the commercials play in the background. Gwaine has stopped singing and has instead chosen to watch the two men in front bicker while his eyes start drooping. Leon is already asleep, his head resting against the window and his breathing slow.

“Seriously?” Arthur questions.

“You think I’m joking?”

Arthur takes a second to glance over Merlin. While his body language conveys lethargy by having his long limbs sprawled everywhere, sluggish from the alcohol, his face shows annoyance, more annoyance than usual. He can only guess that Merlin feels defensive about where he lives. “Whatever,” Arthur sighs, because he doesn’t like to say ‘sorry’, and continues driving with a small downturn to his lips.

A short while later, they pass a Tesco and Arthur makes a turn off Kingsland, only to stop in front of the building behind the Tesco. The building itself looks a bit rundown, but Arthur doesn’t think it’s too bad for a university student’s salary.

The streets are practically empty, so he double parks and gets out of the car at the same time as Merlin, who almost trips and falls, but catches himself at the last second. Arthur looks into the backseat and sees Leon asleep and Gwaine tiredly waving Merlin goodbye through the window.

“I’ll be back once I get his arse upstairs,” Arthur tells Gwaine before he shuts the door and locks his car.

Arthur follows a slightly stumbling Merlin to the front door. He watches Merlin unsuccessfully punch in the code the first time until the door finally buzzes on his fourth try and Merlin lets out a sound of triumph.

“You don’t have to walk me to my door, y’know?” Merlin says tiredly as he heads up the staircase. All the adrenaline from earlier has drained from his system.

“I’m sure someone would punch me in the face if you happened to unfortunately crack your head open from falling down the stairs,” Arthur dryly states as he climbs up the stairs behind Merlin and he did not look at Merlin’s ass thank you very much.

They get to the third floor and Arthur waits patiently as Merlin takes a few seconds to find the right key on his key ring. Merlin opens the door and Arthur can tell that there’s a light on still, somewhere in the mess of a living room.

“Thanks,” Merlin says as he turns around in his doorway. “You’re not actually as big of a prat as you pretend to be. You didn’t even comment on how shitty the building is.”

Arthur shifts awkwardly, not knowing how to respond. He knows how much of an asshole he comes off as to people, cocksure and arrogant, and he knows how to cut people the deepest, something Morgana blames on their father. But he knows himself well enough to understand that it is actually a combination of false bravado and confidence. Fortunately, Arthur is aware of his own inclination of becoming quiet and awkward when he’s completely out of his depth or finds himself aware of how bad a situation is around him.

Merlin seems to get that he doesn’t know what to say and instead pulls him into a quick hug, which Arthur finds himself returning, finally starting to get used to Merlin and his hugging tendencies. Hugs, Arthur realizes, are better than punches to the shoulder and manly fist bumps. Arthur feels the way Merlin’s chest presses against his own; curve free, but slotting perfectly against him and it takes all his will power to not bury his face against Merlin’s neck.

Merlin pulls away with a tired grin and Arthur’s chest swells with something he would rather not think about.

Arthur claps Merlin on the shoulder and reaches up to pull his glasses off Merlin’s face. He says softly, “Get some sleep.”

Merlin nods dazedly and goes inside his flat. He turns around with one last smile. “G’night, Arthur.”

*

After that, Merlin is everywhere. Whenever he goes out with his friends, Merlin is there. When he takes a trip to his favorite café, Merlin is there. When he’s in the library, Merlin is there. When he’s at his flat, Merlin is there. Whenever Merlin is not trailing alongside him, people ask after him.

Arthur starts learning things about Merlin that he never knew before, like how he’s an only child, raised by his mother. His father had never known he had a son until Merlin contacted him two years ago and now they are slowly building a relationship. Merlin speaks fondly of his Uncle Gaius, who inspired him to choose a path in medicine and was always there as a father figure growing up. Merlin had met Will when he was six and they have been best friends ever since, even through that one awkward stage when Merlin had realized that he was gay and developed a small crush on Will, though it quickly went away a month later.

He learns that Merlin is actually ridiculously smarter than he looks, taking multiple chemistry, biology, and other hard science classes that Arthur could only hope to ever understand. He learns that Merlin has a fondness of staying in and watching nerdy TV shows and movies and is unashamed of that fact. He also learns that Merlin has an allergy to peanuts and dislikes eating berries. Merlin is that odd kind of person who actually likes change and likes to do something different whenever he can. And something that Arthur didn’t think was possible is Merlin’s penchant for dirty jokes and dark humor, which completely surprised Arthur because of Merlin’s usual go-lucky attitude.

And while Arthur learns all these things about Merlin, he also finds himself observing him Merlin. He notices the way Merlin’s eyes turn into small half moons when he smiles wide or laughs hard enough. He notices the way Merlin moves his jaw slightly and his fingers twitch when he’s uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say. He also notices that Merlin always likes to talk to everyone he can, not because he wants everyone to like him, but because he’s friendly and genuinely cares about people.

Arthur, in turn, divulges information about himself. He tells Merlin about how he and Morgana are related through his father, who had a brief fling with Morgana’s mother, before finding his mother and falling in love with her. The story of his mother’s death hours after his birth slips easily out of him. Arthur tells Merlin about his love for football and how he wishes he could go professional. He tells the stories of how he met most of his friends: he was roommates first year with Leon; he met Gwaine in a misunderstanding at a pub; Lance at football; Gwen, Elyan, and Percy he met through Lance; and Elena as she was tripping up a set of stairs.

He also tells Merlin about his father’s expectations of him, such as expecting Arthur to take over his multi-million dollar company. Arthur’s bachelor and pending master’s degree in Economics is for his father, while his other bachelor’s degree in English Literature is for himself, done in some sort of weird compromise he’s made with his father. Talking to Merlin makes him spill more information to him than he did with most people, friends included.

Soon, Arthur finds himself willingly hanging out with Merlin, without the rest of his friends there to put a buffer between them; and at the same time, he finds himself quickly falling for Merlin’s charms.

*

It’s raining, which isn’t unusual for October, but of course, Arthur muses, Merlin would forget an umbrella when the news distinctly says it’s going to be raining all week.

“I told you yesterday it was going to rain,” Arthur says over the pounding of water against the pavement with an unimpressed look on his face. His Doc Martens had kept out most of the rain and his dark grey pea coat along with his red scarf helped keep him extra warm.

Merlin flashes him a grin, though he looks wet and miserable where he’s standing under the awning of the science building, hiding from the rain. His hood is drawn up, but his fringe is plastered to his forehead and Arthur swears that his lips will start turning blue if he stands out here any longer. The thought makes Arthur want to bundle him up and wrap his arms around him to keep him warm, like some bad romantic comedy movie.

“My brully broke this morning,” Merlin replies, eyeing Arthur’s overly large umbrella that has kept him mostly dry for the morning.

Arthur sighs and nods in the direction of the parking lot. “Come on, we’ll stop by your flat before lunch.”

Merlin smiles and joins Arthur underneath his umbrella, standing close enough that Arthur can feel what little body heat Merlin has seeping through his clothes. Their shoulders knock frequently as Merlin tries his best to avoid getting in the rain on the way to his car. Arthur fights the urge to wrap his arm around Merlin’s waist and bring him closer to himself.

The walk takes only a few minutes and Arthur opens his trunk to grab a clean workout towel that he forgot to take out of the car. He somehow convinces Merlin to take off his jacket and throws it into the trunk so as to not get his interiors ruined and to prevent Merlin from a greater risk of coming down with a cold or something worse.

“I like how you’re making me sit on a towel,” Merlin comments cheekily as Arthur walks him to the passenger side.

“I’d rather not have your wet arse soaking my leather seats, alright?” Arthur replies as Merlin sets the towel down on the seat and does his best to get into the car without having his sopping clothes touch anything.

Once Merlin is safely inside the car, Arthur gets into the driver’s seat and puts the umbrella on the floor of the backseat. He starts the car, turns the heat up, and heads over to Merlin’s flat.

After Merlin changes into dry clothes, they head over to Tesco to pick up some lunch since neither is in the mood to drive around in the rain and Merlin doesn’t really have anything at his flat, like usual.

“No, Merlin, we are not getting the £2.50 meal deal,” Arthur argues. “These sandwiches are disgusting.”

“They’re perfectly fine!” Merlin points out as he grabs a spicy chicken sandwich off the shelf.

“Do you actually eat these? Because I’m pretty sure I’d puke it all back up if I ate this shit.” Arthur doesn’t even feel guilty for insulting the food when a middle aged man who is grabbing a prawn mayo sandwich glares at him.

“Sorry we can’t all afford shopping at Whole Foods or Waitrose,” Merlin fires back.

Arthur huffs. “I’m not talking about prices; I’m talking about quality of food.”

“Okay, Mister Economics Major, isn’t it generally: higher prices, better quality and lower prices, poorer quality?” Merlin asks, his eye brows raised and defensive.

Arthur stares at Merlin and starts to feel the guilt of growing up with the habit of always having the best in everything. He sighs and asks gently, “Can we get something else, at least? I don’t like the idea of someone’s grubby hands all over my food.”

Merlin sighs in resignation and puts the sandwich back on the shelf. “Fine. What do you want to eat then?” Merlin asks in an annoyed tone. “Almost everything else requires cooking of some sort.”

“What about pasta? You love it and I can cook it. You have pots I hope,” Arthur replies as he leads the way over to the uncooked pasta.

“Yes, I have pots,” Merlin grumbles as they stare and deliberate which kind they want.

Of course, they end up standing in the aisle and bickering for five minutes about which one would be the best before an elderly lady walks by and immediately plucks a package of angel hair off the shelf for herself. She notices Arthur and Merlin arguing with one another. “Are you two dears having trouble deciding?” she asks sweetly, glancing at Arthur and Merlin.

Merlin smiles in a friendly fashion and tells her the dilemma. “Yeah, actually, I personally want the shells and he thinks the tagliatelle would be better.”

“Well, I’m the one cooking, I don’t think you should have any say in the matter,” Arthur declares.

The woman smiles pleasantly, “I think it’s sweet that you’re cooking for your boyfriend.” Whether or not the woman sees Arthur’s wide eyes or Merlin’s blush at the word boyfriend, she keeps on talking, “When my husband and I started dating, he would never cook for me; it was always me in the kitchen. Oh, but you don’t need to hear about that. The shells would go good with marinara sauce, but take a bit longer to cook, and the tagliatelle would be good with alfredo sauce. So if you have a preference on sauce you want, that might help you decide. I hope that helps.”

Both of the boys smile at her and stutter their thanks. After she leaves, there’s an awkward silence and some shuffling from both of them as they avoid looking at each other.

When he notices Merlin is not going to say anything, Arthur clears his throat. “Shells it is,” he says in a dismissive tone as he steps forward and pulls the package off the shelf. He turns sharply and heads toward the sauces, hearing Merlin following him. Arthur grabs a jar of marinara, doesn’t even consider getting any meat, and joins the queue.

The awkward silence kills Arthur as Merlin is usually always talking about something. So Arthur asks about something neutral, at the same time relevant, to get the conversation rolling again and put the older woman’s comment behind them.

“So how’s the lab report?” he asks and overlooks the way Merlin works his jaw in a slight back and forth motion and the way Merlin throws him embarrassed glances.

“Um, good so far,” he replies slowly. “Should have it done soon.” Arthur nods as Merlin loses the embarrassment that he was showing earlier, telling Arthur what he has left to do and he does not really understand much of it.

Fifteen minutes later, Arthur is cooking lunch for both of them and neither of them mentions being called boyfriends. And Arthur tries not to think about the idea of actually being Merlin’s boyfriend and all that it would entail.

*

It’s almost Merlin’s birthday and Arthur has no idea what to get him for a birthday present. He knows that Merlin doesn’t really want anything at all, says that if they absolutely must, it couldn’t cost more than twenty pounds. Merlin would accept a pair of socks if that’s what someone decided to get him, but Arthur wants his gift to be special. Now that Arthur has developed feelings (that he vaguely acknowledges sometimes and is sure that most of his friends know about by now, without him telling them, since they can’t seem to stop giving him cheeky grins and knowing glances whenever Merlin’s around him), he can’t give Merlin a bottle of wine and let that be that.

He contemplates clothing, but knows that Merlin would complain about how much it would have cost and where he got the item. There’s no way he’s getting him anything electronic because Arthur only likes Apple products and Merlin would just complain about how ridiculously expensive the present would be. He contemplates a gift card, but quickly realizes how impersonal that would seem. Then for a fleeting second, Arthur thinks about them sitting together across from each other at a fancy restaurant and Merlin giving him that squinty eyed grin, but dismisses the idea when it turns out to look like a date.

Arthur sighs and stretches out across his couch, trying to think of a good present that he could get before the weekend while he mindlessly watches Doctor Who.

The front door opens and Arthur can hear people walking into the flat. He looks up and sees all his friends, sans Morgana, walk into the living room. He frowns at them when they look at him weirdly and glance around the flat.

“Where’s Morgana?” Arthur asks as he sits up to make room on the couch. Leon takes up his usual seat, which Elena perches upon the arm of, Percy sits on the opposite end of the couch, and Lance sits between him and Arthur, pulling Gwen to sit half in his lap and half on the couch.

“Where’s Merlin?” Gwaine counters smirking as he and Elyan grab two of the chairs from the dining table and bring them over by the couches before he grabs beers from the fridge and starts passing them out to everyone.

“Morgana’s with Morgause,” Gwen says placating as she opens her can of beer.

Arthur nods at Gwen and glowers at Gwaine. “I can be somewhere without Merlin you know.”

“Just a little weird to see that he isn’t here with you, is all,” Elena says as she tucks her feet underneath Leon’s thighs to keep her toes warm.

“You’re going to his birthday on Friday, right?” Lance asks. “He’s turning 23.”

“Yes, I’m going to his birthday,” Arthur parrots.

“Oh, what’re you getting him?” Elena asks excitedly.

Arthur groans and tilts his head back against the couch. “No idea.”

All of them start giving him suggestions, and say what they got him: a set of books that Merlin has never got around to buying from Lance and Gwen, alcohol from Gwaine, a scarf from Elena, and a joint gift of Glee Seasons 1 and 2 from Percy, Elyan, and Leon. Arthur bemoans the fact that they’ve all got their presents sorted already, especially Gwaine of all people.

“Well, is there anything that just you two have bonded over?” Percy asks. “Or like an inside joke?”

Arthur frowns a little. “Yeah, but nothing I think that can be put in gift form.”

“Ah, sexual favors then!” Gwaine interjects cheerfully. “I’m sure he’d appreciate those.”

Leon and Elyan both grab something and throw it at Gwaine. A pillow from Leon and a dirty sock Elyan found on the floor.

Everyone laughs and Arthur is left still trying to find the right gift for Merlin.

*

Friday comes faster than Arthur realizes. He had finally thought of the perfect gift two days earlier, but took an extra day to convince himself that it was a good idea before he purchased them. He knows that Merlin will laugh at his first gift and hopefully love the second one. Because, yes, Arthur has finally admitted to himself that he fancies Merlin, and it would probably kill him, or make him mope around for weeks, if Merlin doesn’t like either of the things he got him.

Now, he’s standing in Merlin’s flat with his friends and about ten of Merlin’s other friends, a few that Arthur’s only met briefly. Will is there, of course, who glares at Arthur more often than not. Then there’s Freya, who Arthur believes is scared of him. Then Nimueh, who frankly just ignores him most of the time, which Arthur doesn’t mind. There’s Edwin, who has a nasty scar on the side of his face and gives Arthur the creeps. Then finally there’s Mordred, who barely talks and freaks the hell out of Arthur when he sees him just staring at him. All the rest, Arthur doesn’t know and doesn’t really care about.

Earlier, Merlin had gone out to lunch (and did some other things Arthur doesn’t know about) with that group of friends and came back to his flat to hang out some more and open presents. Arthur and his friends came around this time to give their presents at the same time. After that, they would take Merlin out to dinner and then head to a club for the rest of the night.

Arthur anxiously waits for Merlin to get to his present. He watches from the edge of the living room, Percy and Elyan flanking him. So far Merlin has opened all the gifts from the first group (gifts that don’t even compare to what he got), given them all blinding smiles and enthusiastic hugs.

Arthur misses a good portion of Merlin opening presents because Morgana insists on shoving her way beside him and talking. “You’ve been all hush hush about your present,” Morgana says lightly.

“Just don’t want to ruin the surprise of getting something better than you did,” Arthur replies as he takes a sip of his mixed drink.

Morgana smirks, “I sure hope you got something better than me. If you didn’t, I might just have to tell Merlin about that one incident with the hairdryer.”

“And I’ll tell everyone about that one time with the lotion when you were sixteen,” Arthur steadily says.

Morgana simply laughs, “Oh, don’t you know by now that I have more dirt on you than you ever will have on me?”

“Morgana!” Merlin practically yells from across the room. Both Morgana and Arthur look over to see Merlin holding up a black pea coat that Arthur knows cost more than 50 pounds.

Merlin has a look of shock on his face as he walks over to where Morgana and Arthur are standing. “I can’t accept this,” he says and holds the coat out towards Morgana.

“Of course you can,” Morgana replies with a kind smile. “It’s called a gift for a reason.”

“I thought I told you nothing more than twenty pounds,” Merlin points out.

“It was only twenty pounds,” Morgana lies. Merlin stares at Morgana, taking in her poker face. They both know that the jacket cost more than what she says, but Merlin knows that Morgana isn’t going to take it back now.

So Merlin sighs and pastes a joyful smile on his face. “Well, thank you for the twenty pound coat,” he says, pecks her cheek and pulls her into a tight embrace.

When he pulls back, he looks at Arthur and grins, “Yours is the next and last.”

Arthur smiles back and thinks about what it means that Merlin left his present for last. “Open the wrapped part first,” is all that Arthur says as Merlin goes back to the couch where there’s ripped wrapping paper littering the floor around him.

Arthur watches as he takes the small package attached to an envelope in his hands and carefully rips apart the poorly wrapped package. He watches as Merlin pulls out a pair of fake glasses identical to his, reads the small note taped to the bridge saying, ‘So you don’t have to be jealous anymore’, and laughs. Instantly, Merlin takes off the note and slides the glasses on his face. Others start laughing at the joke gift, Will protests loudly at how stupid they make Merlin look (as well as Arthur, but Arthur doesn’t really give a damn what Will ever says), Arthur’s friends all make teasing comments about how they could be twins now, and Morgana elbows him with a calculating look.

He watches in trepidation as Merlin opens the envelope next and pulls out the small paper clipped bundle inside. The note on top of the bundle reads, ‘Happy Birthday Merlin. Enjoy, but don’t even think about taking me. –Arthur’. Arthur’s heart beats a little faster and finds himself biting his lip in anticipation as he sees Merlin pull off the paperclip and remove the note. Merlin’s jaw drops and Arthur can see his eyes widen.

“Katy Perry?! You got me tickets to see Katy Perry?” Merlin exclaims with a maniac grin as he looks over at Arthur who shrugs nonchalantly in response, trying to act like it didn’t mean anything, and fight off the grin threatening to appear. Most people in the room start commenting on Katy Perry, especially Will who says that Merlin will be even more insufferable now, and how nice it was for Arthur to get him tickets to see her.

Merlin starts laughing as he jumps off the couch and makes his way as quickly as he can toward Arthur. Arthur knows that the smirk he has on his face doesn’t seem very cheerful, but he is actually incredibly happy that he received this kind of reaction from Merlin. Any chance to see Merlin grinning so hard that his eyes practically disappear is always something Arthur looks forward to. His stomach is in knots by the time Merlin rams into him, his lanky arms wrapping around his neck like a vice and his ear pressed firmly against his. Arthur envelops his arms around Merlin’s waist, mindful of the drink in his hand, and squeezes him tight, leaving no air between them, stamping down the want of burying his face in Merlin’s neck.

“Thank you so much,” Merlin says, his voice is unclear, but Arthur can feel him speaking with the vibrations moving through Merlin’s chest into his.

Arthur tries to stifle his amused grin into Merlin’s shoulder, but is sure it didn’t work when he sees Gwaine making an obscene motion with his hips and Elena taking a picture. He glares at Gwaine and flips him off.

“What? No telling me off for spending too much money?” Arthur jokingly asks as Merlin pulls away, but still stands close.

Merlin shakes his head, a grin never leaving his face and a flush staining his cheeks. “I knew you’d spend however much money you wanted, no matter what I said,” Merlin replies chuckling.

“How do you know that? I could’ve gotten you nothing at all,” Arthur retorts, aiming for serious, but coming out more flirtatious than he’d like. “What made you think you deserve anything anyway?”

Merlin ducks his head and glances at the tickets again. Arthur’s breath hitches when Merlin smiles brilliantly and looks up at him through his lashes.

“Oi! Merlin! Stop flirting and get your skinny arse over here! Some of us are leaving!” yells one of the boys Arthur doesn’t know. Arthur glares at him and Merlin coughs awkwardly and looks away, a blush appearing across his cheeks.

“Well,” Merlin says before giving him a lopsided grin, “Thanks again for the tickets. I’m gonna try my best to convince you to be my plus one.”

Arthur groans, “I said not to take me.”

Merlin snickers as he starts taking steps backward. “Just admit you secretly got the second ticket for yourself.”

“In your dreams, Emrys,” Arthur counters and watches Merlin return to his other friends to say goodbye and take pictures.

As soon as Merlin is gone, his friends descend upon him.

“I see you’ve managed to find your heart and do something nice for once,” Morgana loftily says.

“Katy Perry tickets? That’s so sweet,” Gwen says.

“I thought you hated Katy Perry,” Leon points out.

“He does,” Elyan answers. “A lot.”

“He’s just cock-whipped already,” Gwaine smirks, which earns a punch in the shoulder and some expletives from Arthur.

A few hours later, the group of ten is eating dinner at Nando’s, one of Merlin’s favorite restaurants. Elena takes pictures frequently as Gwaine, Percy, and Elyan often pose for silly pictures for her. Arthur sits on the booth side of the table next to Merlin, which he thinks the others planned that way, and mainly talks to Merlin for most the time. He doesn’t feel bad for monopolizing the birthday boy.

If Merlin was a girl, Arthur is sure that he would be able to tell if Merlin was into him, but since Merlin is most definitely male, Arthur isn’t exactly sure how to read him. He has a notion that Merlin might have some feelings for him, but Arthur is not sure if it is actually real or if Merlin is just being his normal friendly self.

After dinner, they take the twenty five minute bus ride to the area where the club is. They head over to a pub first, to start off the night buying drinks for Merlin. They’re loud and obnoxious, but everyone seems to get that it’s a birthday so they know that there is at least a reason for the noise.

Merlin is started off with only a beer because they all know that he’s a little better than a lightweight and they want him to last most of the night. Percy and Gwaine chug their first beers like it is only water and quickly get a second pint. The others go slow like Merlin seeing how they have over an hour before they want to go to the club.

As soon as the hour passes, with more photos taken by Elena and where stories everyone’s heard before are retold, everyone takes two shots (three for Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, Percy, and Morgana) at the bar before leaving for the club.

They timed their arrival perfectly at 10:20 to get in just before crowd starts to come around 10:30, who try to get in before the club starts charging at 11. None of them brought jackets since they didn’t trust the coat check and didn’t want to lose them in the sweaty club, but the late November night is freezing so all of them stand close together as they wait. The alcohol coursing through their veins only warms them so much. Arthur is happy to note that Merlin stays close to him, but he makes no move to bring him any closer than their arms pressing against each other.

The group only has to wait twenty minutes before they get into the club with stamps on their hands. By now the shots they had taken earlier are starting to affect them more and the thrumming of the house music beats through their chests as they head toward the main dance floor. They manage to grab one of the larger booths that made up the edge of the half-filled dance floor.

Arthur ends up pressed between Merlin and Elena on the left corner of the booth. It’s a tight fit to get everyone situated since Percy, Leon, and Arthur are broader than everyone else and end up taking more room than the rest. As the group talk about what drinks they want next, Arthur moves his arms so that they rest on top the seats in a more comfortable position behind Merlin and Elena’s shoulders. Elena doesn’t notice, but Arthur can see the way Merlin freezes for a moment and quickly glances over at Arthur before settling back.

“Shots first!” Gwaine yells so that everyone can hear, if not lip-read, over the pounding music. “Then whatever you want after!”

Everyone agrees, mainly because Gwaine has an unhealthy love for shots and a good relationship with the bartender to get a discount. They pull together their money, once again paying for Merlin’s drink, and send Gwaine, Percy, Leon, and Elyan for the drinks.

Arthur watches the crowd and talks to Elena while they wait. He periodically looks over to see Merlin telling Lance something behind Gwen’s back, and Morgana and Gwen are drawn into conversation, Gwen leaning on the sticky table to get closer to Morgana.

A few minutes later, the four men came back with the shots. Everyone grabbed a glass and raised them in the center, clinking their glasses together and screaming with a bit of a slur ‘Happy Birthday, Merlin!’. Arthur knocks his glass against Merlin’s last and keeps eye contact as best as he can before tipping his heads back and pouring the alcohol down his throat. After that they slam their glasses down on the table and try to get rid of the aftertaste.

Immediately Gwaine grabs Leon and heads back towards the bar to find the girls they were flirting with earlier. Elena manages to persuade Percy to dance with her and they get lost in the growing crowd on the dance floor in a matter of seconds. The last six sit and wait a little while longer.

Arthur has dropped the arm that was hanging over Elena’s shoulders, but keeps the one behind Merlin up, not even moving over now that there was more room. The alcohol was making him more relaxed and open to human contact. He would try to talk to Merlin, but he sees that Merlin looks like he’s in a heated conversation with Gwen and tries not to feel annoyed or jealous.

He watches the dance floor as all different kinds of people move around to the music. Some are more in tune with their bodies and their movements are fluid and natural. Others clearly try their best to dance, but can’t seem to do more than move side to side, hoping that they stay on the beat. There’s still room on the dance floor to move around, but Arthur predicts in half an hour, bodies were going to be pressed up to one another and hands and mouths were going to be everywhere.

A hand on his knee brings him out of his stare. Arthur turns his head towards Merlin who grins at him and leans in toward his ear. “We’re all going to go dance, you ready?” Merlin asks, his breath brushing against his ear and neck, sending a small shiver down Arthur’s spine. Arthur gives him a nod and all six of them get out of the booth and onto the dance floor.

The dance floor is hot and stuffy. Arthur starts sweating already and is glad for the white v-neck he chose to wear since it wouldn’t show as many sweat stains as a colored shirt would. He has to dance close to his friends since the room is filling up with more people, and he feels people brushing up against his back frequently. His body feels heavy with the bass of a David Guetta song, singing about a club, hammering through him and the alcohol affecting him.

Arthur looks up and watches Merlin get lost in the music with a large smile on his face. Merlin isn’t a natural dancer with his gawky limbs moving in different directions, but he makes up for it with his enthusiasm. He watches as Gwen dances between Lance and Merlin and laughs when Merlin does a funny dance move. Arthur quickly glances over at Morgana and Elyan, who both happen to have quickly found dance partners for the time being, which wasn’t uncommon with Morgana’s good looks and Elyan’s dance moves.

There are girls who come up to Arthur and dance with him. Arthur indulges them, lets them press up against his front and a few even go as far as pressing their backsides into his crotch, but most of the time he watches Merlin over their shoulders. A few girls also start dancing with Merlin, but not with the same lustful moves that they put on Arthur. It seems even they can tell Merlin’s gay without him telling them.

It may have been half an hour, it could have been an hour or two, but Arthur feels himself starting to sober up just enough to know he can handle more alcohol and can’t see anyone in sight except for Elyan and Merlin. He moves over to Merlin, practically puts his face against the side of Merlin’s and says into his ear, “Want more drinks?”

He feels Merlin nod and grabs onto Merlin’s wrist with a sweaty hand, making sure to keep his fingers wrapped around Merlin’s bony wrist and not sliding his hand down any further. Arthur leads Merlin out of the crowded dance floor and toward the bar. His clothes stick to his body as well the loose fit jeans he chose to wear, his hair sticks to his forehead with sweat, and his glasses keep sliding down his nose. When he looks back, he can see the same has happened to Merlin’s form fitting navy shirt and fringe.

They make it to the bar and settle in for a bit, waiting for a bartender to become available.

Arthur stands sideways and Merlin’s tilted inward toward the bar leaving a small breath of space between them, so Arthur finds little trouble leaning close to Merlin and talking into his ear. “Are you having fun yet?”

Merlin smiles and nods. He hesitates a second before leaning towards Arthur and says with a light slur, “Probably the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

Arthur can only smile uncontrollably before he quickly waves a bartender down as she passes by, grabbing her attention. He orders another round of shots and he can see Merlin groaning. Arthur laughs and tells Merlin that the point of the night was to get him pissed, knowing that this drink will probably be Merlin’s last.

They down the shots quickly and Arthur drags him over to a large seating area away from the dance floor that has cushions, which have been slightly torn up, to rest a bit. Neither of them talks, but Merlin leans into Arthur’s side and bounces his leg along with the beat of the song.

Three songs later, Arthur is feeling the shot when he hears a familiar beat start playing over the speakers. Beside him Merlin literally jumps up and sways a bit before Arthur settles him by pulling on his arm. He turns to Arthur and screams, “This is my favorite! You have to dance with me, come on!”

Merlin doesn’t give Arthur a choice and grabs his hand. Arthur doesn’t resist as Merlin pulls him back onto the dance floor. He laughs as Merlin goes a little crazy and jumps around when there’s no room to. They’re forced to dance close together, so every few beats his blood spikes when Merlin’s hand brushes against his shoulder or when Merlin’s hip brushes along his arm. Arthur lets go and sings along to the song that he definitely should not know the words to. ‘It’s a blacked out blur, but I’m pretty sure it ruled. Damn. Last Friday night. Yeah, we danced on tabletops, and we took too many shots, think we kissed but I forgot. Last Friday night.’ Arthur knows Merlin catches him singing along when Merlin’s jaw drops slightly and he starts laughing before getting back into the words.

The whole crowd chants ‘T-G-I-F’ over and over again and bounces up and down to the beat the DJ puts behind the music when it lowers. They get crazy when the song gets put back up to full volume and start singing along with the words again.

When the song comes to a close, Arthur realizes how close to Merlin he’s gotten, only a few inches separating them. Merlin wraps an arm around Arthur’s neck with a smile and says into his ear, “You are such a liar.” Arthur only laughs and put his hands on Merlin’s hips as the next song starts, a song that was strangely fitting for the night. ‘Tonight, I want all of you tonight. Give me everything tonight.

Arthur’s heart is pounding furiously as Merlin moves closer and wraps his other arm around Arthur’s shoulders. Merlin pulls back just enough to look at Arthur in the eyes. Whatever he is looking for, he finds, when he grins and starts moving along to the music. Arthur follows his lead and starts dancing too. When Merlin rests his forehead against Arthur’s, he wraps his arms around Merlin’s small waist and slowly brings Merlin’s hips closer to his. Naturally, their legs slot together and their groins end up grinding against each other’s hips, causing Arthur to gasp.

Arthur’s breath wavers as he feels every inch of Merlin’s chest to hips pressed up against him, putting his body on fire. Their bodies move back and forth to the beat, making his heart pound in his chest and arousal start to stir. He can smell Merlin’s sweat, but doesn’t really care. Being so close to Merlin makes him want more and he can’t help but drag his nose down the side of Merlin’s face and ghost his lips over Merlin’s jaw. He lingers below Merlin’s jaw, waiting for a sign that he doesn’t want this, and finds none. Arthur feels Merlin shiver the moment his lips press against Merlin’s pulse point and he leaves a trail of open mouth kisses down the side of his throat. He makes his way down to Merlin’s clavicle and feels Merlin tip his head back slightly. Arthur trails back up to Merlin’s Adam’s apple, nips at it lightly before soothing it over with his tongue and moving up the other side of his jaw. He kisses lightly across Merlin’s cheek and hovers over Merlin’s lips.

He looks into Merlin’s eyes; the lids are heavy, but the pupils are dilated, leaving little of the blue of Merlin’s eyes visible. Merlin licks his lips and Arthur surges forward, capturing Merlin into a kiss that Merlin eagerly responds to. Arthur licks his way inside Merlin’s mouth and entwines his tongue with Merlin’s, tasting the alcohol.

They have stopped dancing, and Arthur pays no attention to the other bodies that knock into him or the music that’s playing. His whole world has narrowed down to Merlin’s lips brushing against his, Merlin’s fingers in his hair, and Merlin’s body pressed as close as they could get at the moment. Arthur’s fingers trail under Merlin’s sweat-soaked shirt and flitter lightly across the waistband of Merlin’s skinny jeans. His hands move down to rest low on Merlin’s back, his fingers splaying over the top of Merlin’s ass.

The need for air becomes overwhelming and Arthur pulls back to give Merlin a series of pecks along Merlin’s upper and lower lip, occasionally sucking on each and nipping them, only to soothe them a moment later.

Arthur moves away from Merlin’s mouth to pay attention to Merlin’s jaw line and he practically groans when he hear Merlin say into his ear, “Take me home, yeah?”

The question causes Arthur to pull back and look at Merlin’s hopeful expression, only to nod quickly and pull him out of the club as fast as possible.

He grabs Merlin’s hand and brings him closer to himself as the cool air hits their soaked shirts, chilling them and making them sober up faster. They silently wait at the bus stop and Arthur mulls over how fast everything had happened that night. He doesn’t think he would change a thing, though. If he was true to himself, he had been waiting for this for a while. The thought that Merlin was almost finally his made his chest feel tight and his stomach twist.

As if hearing his thoughts, Merlin looks over at Arthur and throws him a tentative smile which Arthur readily returns. Merlin slowly leans over and gives Arthur a string of slow kisses that don’t go any further, but still manages to leave Arthur breathless. When Merlin leans back, Arthur holds back the small whine that erupts in the back of his throat.

Their bus comes a few minutes later and they sit silently holding hands all the way back to Merlin’s flat.

After they get off the bus thirty minutes later, Arthur starts to slightly panic about what will happen once they get in Merlin’s flat. Sure he has made out with other men, and one time rubbed off against one when he was completely plastered, but he never really got any further than that. And while he’s sure Merlin wouldn’t judge him on how awkward he is on their first night together, Arthur wants it to be perfect.

They make it up the three flights of stairs, their fingers still laced together. The alcohol is starting to work its way out of his system and Arthur can analyze the situation by thinking that going to bed with Merlin too soon may not be a good thing. He didn’t want Merlin to think that this was all he wanted from him. This wasn’t going to be the one shag that they look back on and say ‘Hey, remember that one time…’. Arthur didn’t want that. He had his fair share of one night stands, and Merlin wasn’t going to be a part of that.

Arthur quickly makes use of the toilet once they get inside Merlin’s flat to get rid of the alcohol that swept through his system. When Merlin gives him an odd look when he says this, Arthur reassures him that he isn’t going into some gay crisis by kissing his cheek and promising only a few minutes.

He leaves the bathroom as quickly as possible and waits in the living room, shuffling awkwardly as Merlin uses the toilet too. Arthur notices that Will isn’t around and that the mess that their gathering made earlier is still around. He finds the two gifts that he gave Merlin sitting on top of the pile on the coffee table and glances over all the other gifts.

“I like your gift the best,” Merlin says and Arthur jumps from the proximity. He looks up to see Merlin standing and smiling beside him.

“I know you do,” Arthur arrogantly says with a smirk.

Merlin huffs and rolls his eyes before grabbing the back of Arthur’s neck and bringing him into a desperate kiss to shut him up. Merlin’s hands slowly massage their way down Arthur’s chest, hover at the edge of his shirt before slipping under and running them across the muscle he finds. He moans as Arthur runs his fingers through his hair and pulls on the strands to tilt his head back and attack his throat.

With a sigh, Merlin takes a step away and says, “Bed.”

This causes Arthur to freeze. “Aren’t we moving a bit fast?” He would be fine with snogging like teenagers on the couch all night if Merlin wanted.

Merlin shrugs. “You do know that we’ve been practically dating for the past month and a half right?”

“We have?” Arthur asks confused.

“Yeah, you ask me out to coffee and then the cinema. Then you always pay for dinner and lunch and give me rides everywhere. We talk on the phone at least three times a week and we text each other every day. I mean, if you think about it, those were all kind of dates,” Merlin explains, hesitancy apparent in his voice.

Arthur frowns as he thinks it over, because it was true. Arthur always asked Merlin to get a coffee with him or go out to see a movie. Or he’d ask him out to dinner and pay for the whole meal before Merlin even got the chance. He always gave Merlin rides even if it was only a few minutes away. “How did I miss all that?”

Merlin shrugs with a small grin, “You’re not known for your observation skills. Actually you were kind of driving me crazy with all that. I didn’t know if you were actually asking me out or if you did that with all your mates. Then you’d kind of flirt with me and touch me, but as far as I knew you were completely straight.” Merlin stops in his babbling and his eyes widen. “Shit, this isn’t because you’re drunk right? I mean you seem alright to me, but back–”

“No, Merlin,” Arthur interrupts. “I’m not that drunk to know that I want this, okay? Unlike you, I can hold a couple shots.” As soon as he said it, he knew he should have left the last part off. It wasn’t time to crack jokes or tease. His words cause Merlin to give Arthur a crooked smile, one that doesn’t reach his eyes.

Arthur rubs the back of his neck. “I’ve never fancied a bloke before, but I know that I like you and I should have said or done something about that a long time ago,” he admits softly. Merlin smiles a more genuine smile, one that lightens Arthur, too.

“Don’t worry, I’ve had a crush on you for a while,” Merlin replies with a nervous laugh.

Arthur raises an eyebrow and begins to smirk. “And how long is a while?”

Merlin does his best to glare and wraps his arms around his own waist. All Arthur does is smile wolfishly and slip his fingers through the front of Merlin’s belt loops, pulling Merlin closer to himself. Arthur tilts his head closer to Merlin’s ear and whispers, “How long, Merlin?”

He sees Merlin’s shoulders slump and hears him groan in defeat. “You’re such a prat.”

“Come on, tell me,” Arthur goads as he pulls his head back. “I wanna know.”

Merlin huffs as Arthur slips his hands under Merlin’s shirt, feeling the soft skin beneath his fingertips and squeezes lightly, loving the feeling and the fact that he could do this now.

“Since March,” Merlin grumbles.

Arthur looks at Merlin with shock, “March? I didn’t even know you back then.”

“I know,” Merlin groans and runs his hands over his face. “I saw you talking to Lance and Gwen, and you left before I caught up with them. And after that I saw you and your stupid face everywhere around campus.”

“Is that why you came to my football match?” Arthur asks, partially stunned the admission that made him feel giddy and warm in his chest.

Merlin nods slowly. “Gwen said it was a good idea,” Merlin explains quietly. “Then I met you and you were such a wanker, but I couldn’t help liking you anyway. Even with your ridiculous glasses.”

Arthur grins blissfully, thinking that Merlin didn’t give up on Arthur when he was a jerk to him. He doesn’t complain when Merlin reaches up and takes off Arthur’s glasses before throwing them haphazardly on the couch. Arthur chuckles as he steps forward to bring Merlin into a kiss, running his hands over Merlin’s sides. “I think I’d like to see your bedroom now,” he laughs.

Merlin pulls Arthur back toward the bedroom as a laugh escapes him and an enormous grin breaks out. And to Arthur’s horror, Merlin starts singing, “I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock. See your peacock, cock.”

“Merlin!”

*

Arthur ends up seeing Katy Perry in concert; against his will, no matter what anyone else says.