Arthur smoothed his hair in the reflection of the glass door, took a deep breath, and pushed it open. The shop was packed, the merry jingle of the bells over the door lost in the many voices of the customers.
The queue at the cash register was long and wound to the back of the room, and the pick-up counter was full of people chatting while waiting for their drinks. Every seat in the shop was full, from the little wooden tables to the quaint armchairs set up in the back.
Through the mass of heads, Arthur caught a glimpse of Merlin working furiously behind the counter, tongue caught between his teeth as he rushed to put together somebody's order. Gwen yelled something at him from her position at the cash register, and Merlin nodded, nearly throwing the drink onto the pick-up counter before snatching up another cup.
Arthur chuckled, shaking his head slightly before weaving his way through the crowd towards his boyfriend. He reached the counter and leaned over it, smiling at the back of Merlin's head.
"Large latte with extra whip! Hi Arthur!" Merlin called out, spinning around and snapping a lid onto the cardboard cup in his hands. Merlin's face split into an impossibly wide grin, eyes crinkling, before Gwen shouted another order at him and Merlin sprang back to work.
Arthur watched adoringly. No matter what he was doing, Merlin always seemed to have time to spare to smile at Arthur. It was one of the many things Arthur loved about him, because it made Arthur feel loved in return.
"So, Merlin, how's the day?" He asked nonchalantly.
"Busy," Merlin replied, passing someone their drink.
"I can see that," Arthur smirked. "Too busy for a kiss?"
"Yes," Merlin said, "I'm on duty. No kissing."
"Come on," Arthur pouted. "Just one?"
"I'm busy," Merlin said firmly, spraying whipped cream onto a drink.
"Just a quick one."
"Merlin!" Gwen yelled, "Three large mochas, caramel, no whip on two, extra chocolate on the other!"
"Got it!" Merlin called. "Arthur, you're holding up the line. My break is in half an hour, I'll talk to you then."
"But I need to talk to you now!" Arthur protested.
"It can wait–-Arthur!"
Arthur ignored Merlin's glare as he slid easily over the counter to land next to him, grinning.
"You're not supposed to be back here!" Merlin glared, elbowing Arthur softly in the side as he used both hands to work the coffee machine.
"Yet here I am," Arthur responded. Merlin huffed.
"Well don't expect any attention from me, because as you can see it's extremely busy in here and I don't have time to entertain you."
Arthur just grinned, watching as Merlin worked around the tiny kitchen, pulling syrups and powders from various stations.
Merlin's name tag was perched lopsidedly on his dark green apron, which sported an enormous coffee stain that hadn't quite dried yet. Arthur reached out to fondly ruffle Merlin's unruly hair, but Merlin batted him away as he set a tray of drinks on the counter.
"In all seriousness, Merlin, there is something very important that I need to talk to you about," Arthur said.
"Has someone died?" Merlin asked, quirking an eyebrow over his shoulder.
"No, but this is still rather important."
"So important that it can't wait half an hour?" Merlin said. Arthur nodded solemnly.
"It is crucial that we talk about this right now."
Merlin sighed. "I'm already breaking the rules by not kicking you out of here." He turned around again, touching various buttons and switches on the espresso machine.
"Merlin," Arthur said quietly, sliding to the floor, "I need you to talk to me."
"For god's sake, Arthur, can't you see I'm–-"
Merlin turned around and his voice abruptly faltered at the sight of Arthur kneeling before him.
"Arthur," He breathed, coffee momentarily forgotten, "What the hell are you doing?"
"Exactly what it looks like," Arthur replied. While Merlin watched with wide eyes, Arthur reached into his pocket and pulled out the little box he'd been carrying with him for the last week.
"You're not..." Arthur opened the box to reveal the plain gold band resting inside. "Oh god, you are. You're doing this now."
The crowd near the pick-up counter quieted as people began to realize what was going on. A loud beep sounded from the espresso machine as the cups began to overflow, but Gwen reached a single hand over from her spot at the cash register to silence it, before winking at Arthur and retreating to her spot.
"Merlin," Arthur began, moving the box with the ring to one hand, while gently taking Merlin's hand in the other. "It's been almost three years since the day we met in this shop, do you remember?"
Merlin brought his free hand to clamp over his mouth, nodding dazedly.
"I was every bit the stuck up prat you accused me of being, yet for some reason you decided to let me into your life and your heart anyway. I like to think you've changed me since then, since you've been putting up with me. I would like for you to keep putting up with me. For the rest of our lives, I hope." That earned a coo from the crowd, and a muffled strangled sort-of sound from Merlin.
"I love you, Merlin," Arthur said, as Merlin's eyes got impossibly wider, his hand pressing harder to his mouth. "And I would like very much to become your husband. Would you do me the honor?"
Merlin nodded wildly, vocabulary seeming to have escaped him. More "aw"s came from the crowd as Arthur slipped the ring onto Merlin's finger with shaking hands.
Then Merlin pulled Arthur to his feet and brought him in for a kiss, and fireworks exploded behind Arthur's eyelids. Merlin tasted of coffee and the blueberry muffin he had for breakfast, his lips chapped against Arthur's own. Merlin's hands found their way up to Arthur's neck where they rested there, and Arthur smiled against Merlin's lips when he felt the hardness of the ring pressing against his nape.
"AWWWWWWWWWWW!" The shrill voice of a young teenage girl pierced the air, and just like that the moment was broken. Arthur and Merlin pulled away to the sound of polite applause, some customers enthusiastic, others checking their watches impatiently.
"Congratulations to the both of you," Gwen said kindly, "But we are actually very busy, and Merlin needs to make coffee."
Merlin blushed and looked at the group of people watching their embrace.
"Right," Arthur said briskly, casting an unapologetic glance to the crowded shop. "I'll let you get back to work then."
He pecked Merlin one last time on the lips before regretfully pulling away. "Call me when you get off work, yeah?"
"Yeah," Merlin said breathlessly, words apparently having returned to him. "You better go for now."
"So eager to get rid of me already?" Arthur teased, earning himself a swat on the arse.
"Just get out of here," Merlin laughed, returning his attention to the espresso machine. Arthur stifled a grin as he saw Merlin covertly wipe the moisture from his face, and the small gasp that came when the ring brushed against his cheek.
"Bye, Merlin," Arthur said, sliding over the counter.
"Arthur!" Merlin called, and Arthur turned back.
"I love you!"
Arthur's heart nearly burst. "I love you too."