There was a knock on the door, but by the time Merlin opened it, the person was gone. Instead, there was a small package waiting for him. Surprised someone would send him something, Merlin bent down to look at it.
It wasn't addressed to him.
A. Pendragon. It was his address, but it was flat no. 28. Merlin lived at flat no. 23. It was a mistake that'd often happened in the past, but it hadn't happened since A. Pendragon had shifted into his building. He didn't even know this A. Pendragon. He did know Lance, though, who'd lived at no. 28 before A. Pendragon.
Lance used to get mail dropped off at Merlin's door all the time. Merlin supposed people thought sometimes the "3" looked like an "8".
He grabbed his keys and picked up the package—it was heavy—and made his way up the stairs. Of course, the lifts were broken. Flat no. 28 was two flights up, and Merlin only just managed to not drop the heavy box by the time he'd arrived at A. Pendragon's door.
He knocked once and heard a shout before the door opened.
"Yeah?" the man said with frustration.
Merlin simply stared. Shaggy blond hair, tall, blue eyes, and the most kissable lips. And shirtless. Talk about lust at first sight, he thought. "Hi, I'm…"
"Oh, what is it?" the man snapped. "I've got some restless creatures in here, and if you don't hurry up, they'll run out, and I'll make you chase after them."
"I'm Merlin. You've got a box." Merlin quickly spat out his words, dropping the box on the floor, and ran away.
"Hey, wait!" Merlin thought he heard the man say, but he was already too far away to have turned back.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Merlin said to himself, when he’d locked the door to his flat behind him. Why had he become so tongue-tied? He was certain it had to do with the fact that the man had no shirt on. Well, he'd lost his chance of getting some holiday sex, it seemed. Not only was he spending Christmas alone, he was now going to be doing it fantasizing about the bloke from flat no. 28. If that was, in fact, A. Pendragon.
Well, Merlin was alone for the holidays.
"Yes, I'll definitely stop by," Merlin promised her. He was really missing his mum this year, but she was in France with his father, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary, and Merlin hadn’t had the heart to tell them he didn't want them to leave him alone.
His father had been missing for the most part as Merlin was growing up, and when his parents had finally reconciled, Merlin had been happy for them. It was as if they were a newly married couple, and Merlin wanted his parents to enjoy the love they had. They were going to be back in time for New Year's, so he wasn't going to be totally alone. And then, there was going to be a huge celebration at his cousin's; he needed to get over the sadness of being alone for Christmas for the first time.
"That's wonderful. You know a young man has shifted into the flat where Lance was staying. I've invited him, as well, but he seemed rather shy about it."
"Oh?" Merlin asked, feigning nonchalance, "In flat no. 28?"
"Yes. Arthur. It seems he's alone for Christmas, too. And he asked us if his friends could drop off their cats, as they were travelling."
"Ah…" Merlin said. Restless creatures. "Yes, I met him briefly. The mail carrier dropped off a box for him at my flat."
"Wonderful boy, really. Even if a bit shy."
He didn't seem that shy to me. If anything, he was quite hostile towards Merlin.
"Maybe I'll meet him then," Merlin said with a smile as he made his way up the stairs to his flat.
Merlin took a deep breath and picked up the box. He was heading out to get some groceries and figured he could stop off the box in front of door no. 28 and then head out. When he got to A. Pendragon's, flat—Arthur—his name was Arthur—he dropped the box and made his way down the stairs. No need to rouse the man and get yelled at for letting the cats out.
Still, the idea of seeing him again without a shirt on was enticing.
When he returned back from the market, Merlin found a note on his door.
**Alice told me you are the one who keeps bringing my packages up to my flat. Thank you for your help. Sorry if it's totally inconvenient for you. I'm very sorry for my behaviour when you'd stopped by. Hopefully, next time we see each other, I can show you that I'm not that bad- A.**
It was probably not going to happen, but a man could dream.
If there was a table. Merlin had no clue if Arthur was even gay or bisexual or whatever. Maybe he was a footie player who liked girls with big breasts and short skirts. Still, that had never stopped Merlin from going after what he'd wanted. He'd had plenty of action even from men who claimed to be straight.
Merlin heard his name and turned to find Lance calling for him.
"Oh my goodness, Lance!" Merlin exclaimed. He hadn't seen his friend for almost six months, not since he'd moved in with his fiancé, and was absolutely surprised to see him there. "What are you doing here?"
"Alice invited me, of course," Lance said with a smile. "You know I loved living here, so when I found I had the time I told her I'd stop by. Even brought her a small gift and everything. Of course, I have to run out soon because Gwen's family is waiting for me, but I wanted the chance to see you. You're still coming to the wedding, right?"
"Of course!" Merlin said, all smiles. "It's really good to see you. I didn't think I'd miss seeing you so much, but I've been so busy with work and…well, you don't live here anymore!" Merlin made a pouty face and Lance punched him on his arm.
"But, I hear you met my friend who has taken over the flat for me!"
"Oh? Arthur…he’s your friend?"
Lance nodded and then he motioned at something over Merlin's shoulder and Merlin turned to look. There he was: A. Pendragon. Gods, he was even hotter with clothes on. Merlin wondered how long it'd take for him to get the man to take them off.
"Arthur!" Lance said, sounding a little too excited, and Merlin raised an eyebrow at him. What was he up to?
"Hello," Merlin said politely to Arthur, who was approaching them with two plastic cups filled with red wine.
"Hi," Arthur said, and Merlin noticed his ears were turning red. "I…I only had two hands. Here, you two have these, I'll be right back!" And then he was gone and Merlin looked at Lance again.
"What's going on?" Merlin asked and Lance didn't reply. "Why do I feel like this is a set up?"
Lance looked guilty. Merlin thought about how you couldn’t live in the same building with a man for over three years and become good friends with him without noticing and recognising his guilty face.
"Lancelot…" Merlin drawled.
"Okay, so maybe I stopped by to make sure the two of you meet," Lance said.
"Why? I already met him once, when I got that… you didn't!"
Lance shrugged. "Every time I'd talk to him about his new place, he never mentioned anything about meeting anyone. So I asked him if he knew you and he said he had no clue who you were so I kind of remembered you used to get my mail and thought it'd be a great idea—"
"You were setting us up."
"And I was right to do so. One look at you and Arthur was all about asking me questions about you. He asked me if I knew the bloke with the dark hair and the dreamy eyes."
"He did not say that."
"Okay, he said dark hair and big ears, but still, you only spent fifteen seconds with each other and he wanted to know who you were. He even went out of his way to ask Alice about you, and then she told him about the mix up with our flat numbers and…"
"He left me a note thanking me."
"I had to send four packages until the last two which I delivered myself to make sure the two of you met."
"I can't even believe you!" Merlin said, sounding distraught, when in reality, he was delighted.
Arthur was interested in him. This meant the chances of him being gay were high. Happy Christmas, indeed.
"Hi," Arthur said as he approached Merlin and Lance again.
"Hi," Merlin said, feeling nervous.
"Hi," Arthur said with a grin.
"Oh my God, get a room already," Lance said with an exasperated sigh. "It's obvious to see my work here is done."
Merlin turned to glare at Lance and when Lance started laughing, Merlin saw Arthur's face; he was doing the same thing.
"Well, like I said before, Gwen is waiting for me. So, shall I tell her to seat the two of you at the same table at the wedding?"
"Presumptuous much?" Merlin asked, and at the same time Arthur said, "Don't make an arse of yourself, Lance."
"Oh, you two are adorable!" Lance said before he tapped them both on their shoulders and walked away.
They had talked at the party for a little bit, but mostly everyone was stopping by to say hello to Merlin and to be introduced to the new tenant in the building. It was getting exhausting. All Merlin wanted to do was speak to Arthur, get to know him, but he wasn't getting the chance to.
"So," Merlin said turning to Arthur. "I'm going to leave now. I live in flat no. 23, and if you wish, you can stop by."
"Oh, okay…" Arthur said, hesitating.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like—all I meant was, I'd like to speak to you and maybe we can be friends. But here, it doesn't seem like we'll get the chance. But I don't want us to leave together, because that'll certainly start rumours and—"
"No, it's fine," Arthur said, quickly. "I completely understand. I'd love to stop by. In a few minutes…"
"Excellent." Merlin smiled and then he made his way to Alice and Gaius to thank them for inviting him to the party.
"So what do you do for work?" Arthur asked Merlin, when Merlin had poured them both a glass of wine and sat next to him on his sofa. They were close, but Merlin had been cautious about keeping a bit of distance between them. Even though all Merlin wanted to do was crawl into Arthur's lap.
"I…I do video editing for a marketing firm. It's nothing amazing, but it pays the bills."
"Yeah? And what do you want to do that would be amazing?"
Merlin shrugged. "I don't know, make documentaries. But I don't know what of, yet. I did a bit of travel and shot some videos for my YouTube channel. It has a decent following, but I don't—still trying to find my niche, you know?"
Arthur nodded. "Yeah. That's how I ended up taking care of four cats over Christmas break."
Merlin laughed. "What do you mean?"
"I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. But I wasn't sure if I had the time for it, what with going to University and putting in the five to six years of study. I mean, there are only a number of places that offer veterinary courses each year, and I'd still have to apply and be accepted. So I started to volunteer at an animal shelter first. And since I don't have my family's support anymore, and I moved out here and rented a flat, I wasn't invited anywhere for the hols. So all my friends who were travelling with their families decided to dump their cats on me."
"And is that going okay?" Merlin asked, feeling for Arthur. He wanted to reach over and take Arthur's hand in his and comfort him.
Arthur smiled. "It's fun. I'm lucky the cats all get along with each other. So far. But we'll see."
"And pursuing your career as a veterinary surgeon?" Merlin asked.
"I think I'm going to go for it. I like animals far more than I like humans anyway."
"All humans?" Merlin asked with a hint of flirtation in his tone.
Arthur smiled. "I particularly fancy humans who wear those jeans…" Arthur drawled.
"Oh, these?" Merlin asked, embarrassed. Now he felt silly for having put on such a show because Arthur was genuine, and nice, and kind, and he was not superficial as Merlin would've originally thought. "I don't know what I was thinking. I thought of seducing you is all…"
"Hmm," Arthur said, turning to face Merlin. He placed his wine glass on the coffee table. "I have to go soon because it's almost time to feed the cats—"
Merlin nodded and tried to hide his disappointment.
"But I'd like to make you dinner tomorrow, if you're available."
"On Christmas day?" Merlin asked, his voice squeaking slightly.
"Yes. I told you, I don't have much family, but I don't know your situation…"
"My parents are in France, having a honeymoon…" Merlin said and when Arthur looked confused, he added, "it's a long story."
"One I hope you'll tell me tomorrow over Christmas dinner?"
Merlin smiled. "Yes. Of course. That'd be lovely."
Arthur gave Merlin a brilliant smile and leaned in closer. "Do you mind if I—?" Before Arthur could finish his sentence, Merlin kissed him. He'd been waiting a long time to do that. It felt like he'd been waiting a lifetime to do it.
All of a sudden, Merlin wasn't feeling so sad about being alone for Christmas anymore. And he wondered if Arthur would be willing to meet his parents for the New Year's party.