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Not Another Reincarnation AU

Chapter Text

Arthur Pendragon lived a perfectly normal life, thank you very much. He was blonde, blue eyed, and an athlete. His grades were above average and his friend group consisted of the rugby team. His sister Morgana was a bit odd, yes, but that hardly kept from the fact that Arthur was a perfectly average high school student.

At least, he thought he was. But the way recent events were playing out...he was prone to think differently.

~

A Few Months Earlier

~

There was a new kid in school.

Scratch that-there was a weird new kid in school.

Now, Arthur considered himself fairly accepting. Sure, he was a typical high school jock, but he prided himself on not being what others would consider a ‘bully’.

(Except he totally was.)

He didn’t push kids into lockers, or call out the school homosexuals, or be racist. In fact, he was even friends with a queer bloke - Gwaine, who was also the resident school manwhore - and a black bloke - Elyan.

(No one ever dared to tell him he was still close-minded and rude.)

Anyway, back to the strange new kid. He was tall, passing Arthur's height, with a shock of black hair and ears big enough to hear a pin drop in a crowded room. He was goofy and awkward, only really friends with a pretty girl named Guinevere and the LGBT+ society. There were rumors already flying around his head - that he was kicked out of his other school, that he was a stoner, that he was actually a Satanist - but nothing had been proven true yet.

And possibly the weirdest thing? His name. /Merlin/.

~

Arthur had managed to encounter the weird new kid on his first day at Avalon High. First period, Statistics. The teacher introduced Merlin to the class - ”I’m sure we’ll all make you feel welcome.” - and directed him to sit next to, you guessed it, Arthur.

When Merlin sat, he looked over at Arthur, and he stared. Hard.

His eyes, wide and blue and unblinking, looked Arthur over with an expression one would associate with just seeing a ghost.

Arthur shifted uncomfortably in his seat, struggling to pay attention as the new kids eyes bore into the side of his skull, the expression of shock and horror never leaving his pale face.

Eventually the period came to an end, and Arthur shot from his seat, desperate to leave Merlin behind. He was so quick in leaving, he almost missed the whispered “Goodbye Arthur’ that left Merlin's lips.

The blonde never questioned how the other knew his name.

~

“And he just kept staring at me, like he had just seen the dead or something!” Arthur replayed the events to the other players of the rugby team during lunch, outrage in his voice. “Or he was mad or something!”

Leon, a boy with longer blonde hair, listened with a mildly disturbed expression on his face. Elyan and Percival were engaged in another conversation entirely, while Gwaine attempted to catch the eye of some pretty girl from across the cafeteria and Lancelot read beside him.

“Maybe you reminded him of someone?” Leon suggested, one hand idly stroking his forming beard. Arthur shrugged.

“He seemed pretty damned disturbed by a remembrance.”

Leon merely shrugged back, and joined Elyan and Percival's debate on whether or not energy drinks were healthy for you. Arthur sighed to himself, and finished off his lunch, lazily looking around the cafeteria.

He caught a certain pair of blue eyes, blue eyes that had been staring at him.

“Leon! Leon, he’s doing it again!” Arthur hissed, causing his friend to look up. Merlin looked away hastily as the two stared him down, busying himself with Guinevere's chatting.

Yeah, the new kid was bloody weird.

Chapter Text

The weirdness didn’t stop there, no, it continued.

First it was Lancelot, who befriended Merlin in their shared Psychology class. “He’s not that bad.” He told Arthur, who merely shook his head and changed to subject.

Then from Morgana, who sat with Merlin and Guinevere at lunch. “He’s a sweetheart. Maybe he stared at you because he couldn’t comprehend what such an idiot was doing in a Statistics class.”

Gwaine then proceeds to start flirting with Merlin, making unnecessary comments about his arse and legs to the rugby team, often to be met by groans and thrown projectiles.
Then of course, there was Merlin himself, who still stared at him in class and would occasionally whisper the odd statement, usually then punctuated by more staring.

Today, for instance, in the middle of class, Merlin dropped his pencil, and it rolled to the other side of Arthur's desk. Arthur, being the kind person that he was, grabbed it and handed back to the other.

“Thank you, sire.” Merlin near-whispered, before abruptly freezing up and busying himself with his work.

Sire?

Arthur most certainly did not want to know what /that/ was about.

~

Oh no.

Oh no.

Arthur approached his usual lunch table with caution. There, sandwiched between Gwaine and Percival, was none other than Merlin.

“Arthur!” Gwaine called with a wide, shit eating grin. “You know Merlin, right?” He wrapped an arm around the thin teen, drawing him further into his side. “I invited him to sit with us!”

Damn Gwaine.

Merlin waved shyly from his position under Gwaine's arm, an odd sort of glint in his eyes that Arthur really didn’t like. God, that kid was creepy.

“Hello.” Arthur murmured, annoyance creeping into his tone. Sure, the table wasn’t marked just for rugby players, but there was definitely an unspoken rule! Besides, Merlin? Of all people? Gwaine had definitely done this to get under Arthur's skin.

The blonde sat in the only remaining seat, across from Gwaine and Merlin, immediately striking up a conversation with Leon. Just because Merlin was there, doesn’t mean Arthur had to talk to him.

But soon enough, Gwaine called his name. “What?” Arthur responded, turning to face the shaggy haired asshole.

“Merlin is having issues in Stat.” Gwaine said, his usual easy grin in place. “You’re acing it, yeah?”
“Yes.” Arthur said stiffly. He didn’t like where this was going.

“So you can tutor him!”

Oh hell no.

But Merlin was staring at him with those huge eyes, and it would be terribly rude to flat out refuse, and Arthur Pendragon may be many things but he liked to think he wasn’t an arse.

…”Fine.”

Merlin smiled at him, and oh, he looked almost nice when he smiled...ignoring that thought, Arthur managed a small smile back and returned to his conversation with Leon.

Tutoring couldn’t be too awful, right?

Chapter Text

Tutoring was going awful.

It was as though Merlin didn’t understand basic mathematics, or he was so mind-numbingly stupid he couldn’t pick it up.

Every time Arthur tried to explain a problem, or show him how to get the answer, Merlin would just sit there with a vacant expression like he wasn’t even listening.

After half an hour of this nonsense, Arthur snapped.

“Are you bloody listening to me?”

Merlin blinked. “Of course I am.”

“Then why can’t you understand a simple question? What’s the probability of C?”

Merlin blinked again. “Um...two?”

Arthur groaned. “That doesn’t even make sense!” He muttered under his breath, before speaking up. “Merlin, you need professional help. I can’t do this.”

“I don’t want professional help, they don’t help either.” The other teen near whined, slumping down in his chair. “I’m just useless at math. I’m never gonna need it anyway.”

“Of course you’re not, but you still need to pass the class.”

Merlin merely let out an exaggerated sigh in response.

Arthur stood up. “No, you know what, I give up. You’re an impossible case, Merlin.”

Merlin snagged his sleeve as the other made to leave. “Please don’t! I really need this, cmon!”

“Let go of me!”

“Not until you agree to keep tutoring me!”

Arthur shot Merlin his most potent glare, but the younger boy didn’t even blink. Still glaring, Arthur sullenly sat back down, making Merlin beam.

And damn him if he didn't look nearly cute-wait, what the hell? Shaking away the thought, Arthur turned back to the textbook.

“Give me the percentage of one fifth.”
~

“I hate you.” Arthur casually informed Gwaine the next day at lunch.

Gwaine turned from his latest squeeze, turning to Arthur with a faux shocked expression. “You? You hate me? Why, I thought we were besties?”

Growling, Arthur turned away from his flamboyant friend, facing Leon.

“He can't do math for shit. I can't take this much longer.”

Leon nodded, already knowing who Arthur was referring to.

Arthur continued. “And I swear, everytime I look at him, he’s staring at me like I’m some bloody puzzle he's trying to figure out! You know I’m not homophobic, I’m friends with Gwaine for god's sake, but it's bloody gross!”

“Mate, you sound pretty homophobic to me.” Gwaine cut in.

“Fuck off.” was the eloquent reply.

Leon winced, knowing Arthur wasn’t going to like what he had to say. “Look, Arthur, I know you think you’re not homophobic, but if the idea of a bloke liking you scares you so much...I think Gwaine might be right.”

Arthur reeled back, staring at Leon. “I’m-I’m not homophobic!”

Leon didn’t respond.

“You know what, screw you guys.” And with that, Arthur stalked off to go the field.

~
As long as Arthur could remember, he ran. Ran when he was upset, ran when he was angry, ran when he was happy. It kept him in shape for rugby, it kept him healthy, it gave him a slight adrenaline rush without the danger involved.

So he went running.

Look, he wasn't a bloody homophobe. He wasn't. He just didn't want the poor bloke to get heartbroken when he inevitably discovered Arthur was straight, right?
Right?

He sighed, kicking up dirt as he sprinted around the rugby field.

He wasn’t a bloody homophobe.

Chapter Text

Arthur skipped the rest of his classes that day, preferring to continue his laps around the field. As soon as the bell rang, he went to go find Gwaine.

Gwaine was at his locker, leaning against it talking to a pretty freshman in a skirt. Looking over her head, he spotted Arthur and grinned. “The princess returns!” He called out, pushing away from the locker and shooing the girl away, who went with a slightly hurt look on her face. Arthur approached the other boy, not quite making eye contact.

“Gwaine.” He greeted stiffly.

“Oh, someone's pissy.” Gwaine mocked, flipping his shaggy hair from his eyes.

Arthur sighed, really not wanting to deal with this. But he had to ask. “Look, as a queer person…” He paused.

“Go on.” Gwaine coaxed, a confused look on his face.

“Do you really think I’m homophobic?”

The look on Gwaine's face shifted from confused to thoughtful. “I don't think you are on purpose, if that's what you're asking. However...I think you have some issues with gay people you’re not dealing with.” A pause. “That, or you’re secretly queer and take it out on everyone else.” He grinned.

Arthur rolled his eyes, ignoring the slight sting of the words. “Look...I’m sorry if I ever made you feel like shit about being queer. I don’t mean to do it, I just…” He trailed off, not knowing how to continue. Gwaine seemed to sense this, and grinned again.

“Ah, don't sweat it mate. I know you don't mean to be a git.” He said, carefree as always. “If that's all though, I have a date tonight.” He turned and sauntered off, saluting Arthur as he went.

Arthur went to his own locker to grab his bag, mind whirling. He wasn’t queer, he knew that much. And he certainly didn't actively hate people. So what exactly was his problem?

Arthur shook it off, heading to the bus. It was something he’d worry about another time.

~
A few days later, and he was back with Merlin at the library, going over the same problem six and a half times.

“No, you divide that by the reciprocal.” Arthur explained again, frustration clear in his tone. Merlin just stared at his paper, tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth in concentration, eyes narrowed and dark.

“I don’t get it.”

“Of course you don't, you're doing it wrong.” Arthur took the pencil and paper, doing the problem himself. “See, you divide by the reciprocal and then multiply by two. It's not that difficult.”

Merlin groaned.

Arthur's eye twitched. “Honestly, what grade do you even have in the class right now? A bloody F?”

“An A.”

“Pardon?” Arthur didn’t believe him for a second.

“An A.” Merlin looked at him and smirked lazily. “I know how to charm the teacher well enough to pass.”

Arthur tried not to gape. Here he was, working his arse off for an A, and this prat could get away with not doing any work correctly and still sailing through the class?
Life was so unfair.

“Then why did you ask me to tutor you if you don’t need it?” He ended up asking.

“Charming the teacher wont help on exams.” Merlin shrugged, taking his paper back. “So...I divide by the reciprocal?”

“Yes.”

At least they were passed the second problem now.

Chapter Text

Merlin watched Arthur, careful not to be seen as he followed him through the hallway.

It would only be a matter of time before he found out.

SIghing to himself, Merlin stopped, allowing the blonde to get out of his line of sight.

Things would play out the way they were meant to. If there was one time Merlin had learned over the course of his life, it was that fate always had its own plan.

And Merlin would always be powerless to stop it.

~
The next day at school started out boring. A test in math, which Merlin bombed, a few worksheets for homework.

But lunch? That was where things got interesting.

~
Merlin sat with the rugby team again at lunch, at Gwaine's invitation. Arthur nearly smiled at him when he sat, but then abruptly ignored him for a boy by the name of Leon who Merlin didn't know very well.

So he began to talk to Gwaine about his latest hook up, some pretty boy whose name Gwaine couldn’t even remember, when it happened.

Gwaine kissed him.

~
Flashback

~
”Are you sure this will work?” Merlin asked doubtfully, gnawing at his lower lip.

“Of course.” Gwaine assured him. “Arthur's temper is awful, and his jealousy worse. If he fancies you, which I’m positive he does, he’ll do something drastic by the end of the week.”
Merlin nodded.

“Why do you want to piss him off so bad anyhow? I thought you didn’t fancy him.” Gwaine asked, shoving a handful of chips in his mouth.

Merlin shrugged. “Maybe he’s growing on me.”

“Like a tumor.” Gwaine snorted through his mouthful, and the conversation ended.

~
Merlin hesitantly kissed back, ignoring the slight discomfort from Gwaine's stubble against his skin, feeling the stares of the other rugby boys on his back and side.

Gwaine broke off the kiss, grinning roguishly at Merlin and not saying a word. Merlin tentatively smiled back, and the two kept eye contact until the silence was broken.

“What the fuck?”

The two turned to Arthur, who was looking at them with an unreadable expression on his face. “When the hell did this happen?” The blonde asked, tone as unreadable as his face.

“Last night, when Merlin came over. “Gwaine replied nonchalantly.

Arthur gritted his teeth, looking like he wanted to say something else, but then muttered something and turned back to Leon, who looked slightly amused by the whole ordeal.

Gwaine winked at Merlin, and Merlin grinned back.

~
Arthur sat, infuriated, listening to Leon prattle on about positions and games.

He had no right to be angry, he knew that. He didn’t even know why he was. But a heated rage had settled in his stomach, and didn’t seem to want to leave anytime soon.

What the hell was coming over him? Had he really been super homophobic this whole time and not realized it? No, he had seen Gwaine kiss blokes before, and that hadn’t bothered him in the slightest, other than mild disgust at the PDA.

So it had to be something else.

But what?

Chapter Text

Arthur couldn’t get that damned kiss out of his head.

Every time he shut his eyes, there it was, playing over and over in high definition, crystal clear. And every damn time, that angry heat would curl in his gut like lead.

God, he could even remember there being tongue. What the hell was wrong with him?

He was probably just concerned. Yeah, concerned. Gwaine is a notorious playboy, he’s not one to settle down or stick to one person. And Merlin is pretty naive in Arthur's eyes, so he could easily be deceived by Gwaine's good looks. Yeah, Arthur was definitely just concerned.

But when the hell did he start caring about Merlin's well-being anyway?

~

Merlin was happy.

No, screw happy.

He was bloody overjoyed.

Arthur's reaction? His red face, his yelling? That, my friend, was jealousy at its finest.

Bless the world, bless the gods Merlin didn’t believe in, bless Gwaine and his fantastic plans.

Merlin was gonna get his boy.

~

Arthur silently stalked up to his target in the school halls.

Guinevere.

“Did you know about Merlin and Gwaine?” Arthur asked once he was directly behind her. Sher jumped, turning to face him with an expression of shock on her pretty face.

“Arthur! Don't sneak up on me like that!” She scolded. “And yes, to answer your question. Aren't they sweet?”

Arthur grimaced. “Aren't you worried? ABout Gwaine's reputation?”

Guinevere cocked her head, thinking, and Arthur took the chance to look her over. She was cute, but he couldn't help imagine her with bluer eyes or player skin, higher cheekbones or a more masculine figure...wait, what?

“I don't think Gwaine will hurt him.” She said slowly, eyes boring into Arthur's own. “Either way, I certainly believe Merlin knows well enough not to date someone that would end up hurting him.” She smiled. “Don't get me wrong though, it's nice to see you caring so much for someone other than yourself.

“Excuse me?”

Guinevere giggled. “Sorry, but you’re rather prattish most of the time. Its nice that you care so much for Merlin, is all.”

“I don't care for him.” Arthur scoffed. “I merely don't wish to deal with a messy breakup.” Yeah, that was totally it.

“I'm sure.” She smiled, a small understanding smile that left Arthur more confused than ever. What did she know that he did not?

“Alright then...just watch out for him, will you? I don't want the idiot skipping any tutoring sessions because he has a date.” Arthur turned and walked off.

“Will do!” Guinevere called out after him, still smiling. She knew exactly what was going on.

If only Arthur did as well.

~

Well, that conversation was a bust.

Chapter Text

Merlin sat nervously on Gwaine's bed, watching as the other boy casually lounged.

Of all the things Merlin had done in the past, this was one of the things he knew he’d regret.

“Do we really have to do this?” Merlin whinged. “It's not like they have to see us full-on snogging!”

Gwaine looked at him as though he were an idiot. “Have you met me, Merlin? I full-on snog everyone. They won't believe it otherwise.”

Merlin pouted. He hated it when the cocky prat was right. “Fine. Let's get this shit over with then.”

Gwaine smirked, pulling his hair back before leaning in. Merlin leant in as well, and the two met in the middle, lips clashing in a rather awkward fashion.

Merlin pulled back. “I can't do this.” He moaned, flopping backwards. “You're not him. You're all scratchy.”

“Rude.” Gwaine said good naturedly, scooching closer to Merlin. “Just pretend I'm him, yeah?” Snickering to himself, he put on a ridiculously deep voice, puffing his chest out and posing like a git. “Merlin, you idiot. Math this, rugby that. I'm not gay. Blah blah blah.” Merlin bust out laughing, and Gwaine grinned widely, dropping the act.

“See? Easy.” He laughed, reaching out and ruffling Merlin's hair. Merlin pushed him away with a slight scowl, trying to fix the mess that sat upon his head.

“I dunno, it just feels...wrong, almost.”

Gwaine's face softened a little at that, and he placed a hand on Merlin's shoulder. “I doubt it'll ever not feel wrong with me. But until Arthur gets his head out of his ass, you're stuck with me, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Merlin smiled, a bit sadly. What if Arthur never came around?

Gwaine, sensing the mood, gave Merlin the best advice he had. “Look, Merlin, don't think. Just do.”

Don't think.

Just do.

Merlin sighed, before leaning over and kissing Gwaine once more.

~

Arthur was not sulking, thank you very much. He was sitting in his room, thinking about something he didn't like, and not really doing anything to fix it.

It wasn't sulking, damnit.

Morgana poked her head in at around noon, one perfectly plucked eyebrow raised. “Are you still pouting?” She asked. When Arthur didn't reply, she walked in, making herself and home on his bed. “Talk.”

“Bugger off.” Arthur replied sullenly.

Morgana raised her other eyebrow. “Wow, you're genuinely upset.”

Arthur didn't reply.

She sighed. “Alright,” she said, voice uncharacteristically soft. “Either you're gonna tell me what's wrong, or I’ll find out myself. I'm the only one allowed to fuck over my brother, you know?” She nudged him with her shoulder.

He still didn't respond at first, staring blankly at the wall. Morgana sighed again, standing up to leave, when Arthur's voice rang out.

“What the hell is wrong with me?”

“Pardon?” That didn't sound like her typically arrogant brother.

He turned to her, an odd sort of expression on his face. “Merlin and Gwaine. Why the hell am I so against it?” He looked almost despairing. “I never cared before about who Gwaine dated.”

Morgana smiled to herself, sitting back down. “Because you care about him, you numbskull.” she said.

Arthur pulled a face. “I don't care about him, he's an idiot who, for some reason, bloody attached himself to me.”

Morgana stifled a laugh at the indignation on her brothers face. “Really? So you don't have a big, gay crush on the poor bastard?”

“What?!” Arthur spluttered. “I-I do not-that's disgusting? I'm not bloody queer!”

A shit-eating grin overtook Morgana's pretty face, the grin she only used when she knew she was right. “Oh my god.”

“Shut up.” Arthur abruptly hissed. She started giggling as his face turned redder and redder. “Get out of my room!”

“Fine fine, don't get your panties in a twist.” She blew him a kiss and left, still laughing to herself.

Arthur could feel horror growing in his stomach.

He couldn't like Merlin.

...Could he?

Chapter Text

Their next tutoring session was...awkward, to say in the least. Arthur avoided any and all eye contact, was stiff and detached, and managed to avoid touching Merlin at all throughout the entire thing.

Merlin was confused.

Had he done something to make the blonde angry? No, Arthur’s wrath was easily invoked and loud, Merlin would definetly know if he were angry.

Whatever it was, it was impacting his teaching skills.

“Wait , so, the percent is 0.5%?”

“Uh, sure, yeah. Whatever.”

“Ok, so the answer is 25, yeah?”

“Whatever you say, Merlin.”

Merlin was more lost in math than ever.

~

Arthur felt like utter shit.

He liked Merlin.

Like, /liked/ him.

He was a bloody pouf.

Jesus Christ.

Arthur shook his head as Merlin left the library, stuck on his own thoughts. He wasn’t a pouf, he had never liked blokes before. Merlin was just very effeminate, that's all. Full lips, big eyes, those ridiculous cheekbones…

Arthur stopped himself before he could reach full ‘fantasy’ territory. Merlin had Gwaine. Thats was that. Arthur wasn't about to ruin that for him over some ridiculous crush. He wasn’t that kind of person.

No, he would just wait it out. It was just a crush, it would go away on its own soon enough.

Right?

Right.

He had to be right.

~

It wasn't bloody going away.

Arthur tried everything. He snagged a few girls, ignored Merlin for a while, but all he got was rumors that Gwaine had competition for being the school manwhore and awkward tutoring sessions.

He had no choice but to give up.

He knew he'd never date Merlin. Pendragons weren't gay, Merlin didn't even like him like that. So why was Arthur so hung up over this stupid crush?

In the meantime, he should probably apologize for ignoring Merlin…

Or pretend it never happened. That works too.

~
Merlin was beyond confused now. First Arthur was ignoring him, now he was being extra nice to him? It was just weird.

“So the answer is...6?”

“Yes! See, you’re not that much of an idiot after all!”

Well, he was being nicer than usual, at least.

Which was why Merlin found himself sitting at the foot of Gwaine's bed once more, ready to have a serious conversation.

“I think we should pretend to break up.”

Chapter Text

Gwaine blinked.

“Any particular reason why?” He asked, perfectly calm.

Merlin relaxed a little. Of course Gwaine wouldn't be offended or anything. “I just...it's not fair to Arthur, you know? We’re like, manipulating him. And I’m still really uncomfortable snogging you and shit.” He rushed out, still slightly worried about hurting the other boys feelings.

Gwaine threw his head back and laughed. “Aw, you're concerned about the princess’ feelings! You're in so deep for the bloke!” He continued laughing for a few minutes, and Merlin considered hitting him. Finally, he stopped. “Merlin, he's a big boy. He can take care of himself. But if you really wanna ‘dump’ me I won't stop you.”

With a relieved sigh, Merlin smiled goofily at Gwaine, getting up from where he had been previously sitting. “Good. Great.” He saluted the other and walked out of the room, calmly beginning to head home.

That was one weight off his chest.

Now for the other two things he was hiding…

~

Merlin didn't sit with the rugby team the next day at lunch. Or the day after that. Or the day after that.

Arthur turned to Gwaine after the third day, one eyebrow jokingly raised. “Finally scared him off, did you?”

“Yeah, he dumped me.” Gwaine said casually, shoving food into his mouth to keep from smiling.

Arthur's jaw dropped. “Oh, um, sorry.” He didn't sound very sorry. “He dumped you?”

Gwaine hid a smirk. The princess really did have it bad for Merlin. “Yeah, little prat decided he didn't like my ‘flirty tendencies’ and that I was a git. Ergo, dumping me.”

“Don't call him a prat for not putting up with your sorry arse.” Arthur grunted, causing Gwaine to raise an eyebrow.

“And why shouldn't I?”

“He's a damn better person than you.” Arthur retorted, face turning slightly red.

God, he was pathetic.

“Is that so?” Gwaine challenged.

Arthur's face went an odd ruddy color. “Yeah, it is.”

Leon was giving the blonde a strange look now, and Elyan and Percival were beginning to tune in on the conversation. Even Lancelot had put his book down to listen.

“And why is he so much better than me, hmm?” Gwaine was having fun now.

“Well he’s not a problematic twat for one.” Arthur said harshly, looking like he wanted to stop talking but couldn't. “And he's actually a decent human being, unlike you.”

“Erm, Arthur?” Leon rested a calming hand on Arthur's shoulder. “Do you need to tell us something?”

“No!” Arthur practically yelled, obviously having some sort of internal crisis. He stood, and left.

“So…” Gwaine began, ignoring the looks he was being sent by the other members of the team. “When do you think he’ll tell us he’s queer?”

~

Merlin was definitely confused now. Arthur had popped up at lunch, asking if it was true he had broken up with Gwaine. When Merlin confirmed it, Arthur went quiet, then said Gwaine didn't deserve him anyway, before walking away slowly to the sound of Guinevere giggling into her hand.

“Care to share what’s got you so happy?” Merlin poked at her as Arthur left.

Sher shook her head and smiled, a mysterious little smile that suggested she knew more than she let on.

Merlin sighed in mild frustration as he went back to his lunch.

Hopefully Arthur went back to normal before their next tutoring session.

Chapter Text

Arthur wasn’t back to normal.

Merlin sighed in frustration at Arthur's bland expression and fake smile, at his deceptively calm demeanor and professional attitude.

God, it was annoying.

Merlin missed the bickering, the easy conversation flow, hell, he missed being insulted with every breath.

And by the end of the tutoring session, enough had been enough.

“What is your problem?” Merlin eventually asked, eyes not leaving the textbook in front of him.

Arthur looked up. “Pardon?”

“You’re acting like a bloody Ken doll. What is your problem with me all of the sudden?” Merlin was getting angry now.

“I don’t-”

“Don’t deny it, Pendragon.” He near-hissed, standing from the table. Arthur could only watch as the taller boy walked away, clearly fed up.

Ignoring the looks he was getting from other students, Arthur let his head fall onto the table with a resounding ‘thud’.

He had screwed up.

~

“And on top of that, he keeps acting like a bloody robot! It's like he's not even human anymore!” Merlin ranted to Guinevere, who listened with a sympathetic look on her face. “God, I just want to punch the stupid prat!”

God, it was worse than...no, best not to think of that.

“Have you ever considered how he's feeling?” Gwen suggested. Merlin looked at her funny. Of course he had considered how Arthur was feeling.

“That doesn't excuse his behaviour.” He pouted, crossing his arms over his chest.

Gwen laid a hand on his arm. “Of course not Merlin, but it probably explains why he's been acting this way.”

“So what, you think he's mad Gwaine and I broke up?”

“Mad? No,” she laughed. “I think he doesn't know what to do in this situation.”

Merlin cocked his head. “What do you mean?”

She sighed. Boys. “It means, he probably likes you and doesn’t know how to act around you, not knowing how you’re feeling right now.”

“So, you think he’s just being thick.” Merlin surmised.

“Basically, yes.”

They both smiled at that.

“Thank you, Gwen.” Merlin said, pulling her into a hug.

“Anytime dear.” She responded.

~

“Morgana, I fucked up.” Arthur announced, barging into her room.

Morgana rolled her eyes. “I know, I just got off the phone with Gwen. Merlin's been complaining about your dumb arse.”

“Guinevere and you gossip about us?”

“Unimportant. Sit.”

Arthur sat.

Morgana turned to him, a slight smirk on her face. “So. You realize you like Merlin, in a very gay way. Correct?”

Arthur nodded.

“So you proceed to act like an idiot, and Merlin is mad at you.”

Arthur nodded again.

Morgana sighed.

“You, Arthur, have an apology to make. Understood?” Her face softened the tiniest bit. “And maybe try just telling him how you feel.”

“I couldn't possibly-” Arthur began, but Morgana cut him off with a shushing noise and a motion towards her door.

“Leave. Go talk to him.”

And so Arthur left.

Chapter Text

We need to get those idiots together.

Guinevere smiled at the text she received from Morgana, quickly typing out a reply.

Agreed, though I wouldn't say they're complete idiots. You said Arthur has at least noticed his feelings.

He’s still an idiot. Morgana replied, causing Guinevere to giggle to herself. Merlin, who sat next to her, leaned over to try and see what was on her screen.

“What's so funny?”

“Nothing of your concern.” Guinevere reprimanded, laughter still in her tone.

She and Morgana had planning to do.

~

“Merlin.”

Merlin looked up from the textbook he had been trying to read, only to see Arthur standing there, a blank expression on his face.

“We need to talk.”

“Do we now?” Merlin said curtly, closing his book and standing. He had the height advantage dammit, and he would use it if he pleased. “Because strangely enough, I don't want to talk to you.”

He turned to walk away, but Arthur's hand shot out and grabbed him by the arm. “Merlin, please.”

Merlin froze. That may be the first time the prats ever used proper manners with him. “Fine. Two minutes. Then I’m walking out.”

Arthur sighed in relief and sat, smiling slightly when Merlin did the same thing.

“First of all, I need to apologize.”

“Mmhmm.”

“I was a complete git-”

“You’re not wrong.”

“And I treated you unfairly and-”

“Yeah, you did.”

“Will you let me finish?”

Merlin sat back, a smug grin on his face. “Sorry. Continue.”

Arthur took a deep breath. “As I was saying. I acted like a right twat, and I’m not surprised you were upset with me. I deserved it. And, I hope we can still be friends.” He made a face. “If we were even friends to start with.”

Merlin couldn't help but soften. Arthur legitimately sounded sorry, and Merlin was never one to hold a real grudge. “Fine. We can be friends.”

Arthur smiled at him, bright and beautiful, and Merlin couldn't help but fall a little more in love with that smile.

“Now either shut up or help me, because I can't study by myself.” Merlin said, causing Arthur to laugh in an only slightly derisive way.

Improvement, I suppose.

“Only because I’m your tutor.”

~

It was nearing the end of the impromptu tutoring session that Arthur remembered.

”And maybe just try telling him how you feel.”

Should he really bother risking their newly forged friendship over a stupid crush?

No, that would be ridiculous.

Wouldn’t it?

Oh, damn it all to hell.

As Arthur stood to leave, he tossed a smile over his shoulder. “Oh, and Merlin?”

“Mm?” Merlin didn't look up from the textbook.

“I love you.” And Arthur ran for it.

Coward.

Chapter Text

”I love you”

“I love you”

“I love you”

The words echoed in Merlin's brain as he stared where Arthur had stood, ignoring the looks he was receiving from other students.

Arthur...loved him?

”I think I may love you, Merlin.”

“Sire?”

It was winter, and Arthur's room was lit by a fire, the dull light playing off of the masculine structure of his face and making him look that much more intimidating.

“You heard me, Merlin.”

Merlin stared in awe at his king, his friend, processing the words he had just said. “You...love me?”

“Yes, you idiot. And it’s something I should have myself beheaded for.”

“No, sire!” Merlin exclaimed, earning himself a look from Arthur. Right, no interrupting the king.

“I said, should, not will.”

A small silence passed before Merlin spoke up.

“Sire...I love you as well. Surely you must know that.”

Arthur smiled, before turning away. “Of course I do. Now run me a hot bath, it's freezing in here.”

Merlin shook his head as to physically get rid of the memory, staring at the spot Arthur had occupied once more. He could never know. He could never know they had done this dance before. Could never know who he was and still is.

Merlin stood, gathering his books and walking out of the library.

Maybe the story wouldn’t end the same way as it did those hundreds of years ago.

~

Arthur sprinted through the halls, desperate to get as far away from Merlin as possible before he could process what he had said.

Stupid, stupid.

Why on Earth had he confessed? What possibly could have possessed him to think that was a good idea?

Morgana had gotten into his head, had twisted him into thinking maybe Merlin loved him too, but Arthur didn’t want to face the truth anytime soon.

So for now, he would run.

Run and not look back.

“Woah woah woah princess, what's got you in such a rush?”

Oh no.

Gwaine.

“Move.” Arthur said instead of answering, trying to push past him. Gwaine continues blocking the way.

“Not until you tell me what you're running from.”

“I don't have time for this Gwaine, move!” Arthur finally shoved past Gwaine, continuing his mad sprint down the hall while Gwaine looked on in bemusement.

Guinevere and Morgana approached Gwaine cautiously. “Did he tell you anything?”

“No.” He answered. “But I’ll bet anything he’s running away from Merlin.”

“Idiot.”

Chapter Text

Arthur ran the rest of the way home.

Heart racing, legs pumping, lungs burning, adrenaline thrumming through his veins. Breath heavy, head pounding, sweat dripping down his back.

The neighborhood went past in a blur, his bag heavy on his back, and his thoughts raced faster than he could outrun them.

Stupid, stupid, stupid

Merlin didn't like him back, of course he didn't, much less love him back. How could Arthur just ruin the possibility of a real friendship there? Why did he let his stupid sister talk him into confessing?

God, this was such bullshit.

He kept running.

~

Merlin tried to keep studying at home, he really did, but he couldn't help but keep thinking about what had just happened.

Couldn't help but wonder what would've happened if Merlin had said “I love you too”.

Eventually he gave up on studying, packing up his books, wondering to himself if there was any chance of finding Arthur at school tomorrow. The blonde would probably be trying his best to avoid him, but Merlin always was good at finding people. And he could rope Morgana into helping, which was convenient.

Wait.

Texting. He could text Arthur.

Merlin almost fell off the bed himself scrambling to get to his phone. Grabbing it, he typed out a quick message.

We need to talk.

~

Arthur stared at his phone, four words glaring at him from the screen. He started to put his phone away, electing to ignore it, when another message came through.

I realized how ominous that sounded, whoops. Text me?

Biting his lip, Arthur began staring at the phone once more. Should he text back? Or was Merlin just trying to ridicule him? No, Merlin wouldn’t do that.

Would he?

Biting harder, he slowly typed out a response.

~

Merlin grinned widely as Arthur responded, only for the grin to wilt as he actually read the message.

And if I don’t want to talk?

Merlin replied.

I’ll get Morgana to make you.

~

Arthur groaned, flopping back onto his bed as he read Merlin's response. Of course Morgana would help Merlin.

Fine. Library at lunch. I’m not having this conversation over the phone.

~

Deal.

Merlin hit send and beamed, nearly dropping his phone in excitement.

Tomorrow he’d tell Arthur he loved him.

Tomorrow, all would be well.

And this time? No one could take that away from Merlin. No, not this time.