Chapter 1: A Last Chance
I know that it has been a long time since I've spoken to you and I'm sure you probably don't want anything to do with me. We'd parted ways years ago with little promise to keep in touch. I'm not even sure why I'm writing to you, perhaps, it's because I'm about to embrace a new chapter in my life and I just wished to make amends.
I'm leaving the country for good. I've just received the final papers and will be moving to Toronto, Canada within the next week. It might already by next week by the time you receive this letter.
In any case, I just wanted to apologise for the way things had ended between us. I'm sorry that I didn't take your phone calls or replied to your emails -- and even going as far as changing my email address, but I just needed the space. I know that it wasn't your fault. You had told me from the beginning that you were going to marry her and I still freaked out when it was finalised and announced in the papers.
I knew that I needed to get my head out of my arse and it was a huge wake up call.
I went through a very bad habit of just clichéd alley sex and one offs for several months until I had to get you out of my system. I couldn’t talk to you over the phone, see your pictures, or read your emails during that time.
I'm glad that Will was there for me. As you may be aware, he was the only one who knew of my location and my contact information, and had kept his promise of never sharing them with any of our friends. I did receive messages from Gwaine, Leon, and Percy, but he'd made sure that there weren't any messages about you.
I can only hope that I say this with certainty, that I've got you out of my system. Perhaps, that is why I'm writing to you today. Just to let you know that I'm still alive, I guess, and that I'm finally moving on.
I hope you have a nice life, and that you and Gwen are happy together. I'm not sure if I want to hear anything about adorable children, if you have them, but I hope they are happy and healthy.
I know that you're not supposed to tell me anything about Merlin or pass on any messages from me. This is my final message to you and it is only a response to Merlin's correspondence to me. I'm sure you know that Merlin recently got in touch with me, so I need for him to know this!
Gwen and I split three years ago, only a few short months after our wedding. I still love Merlin. I've always only loved him. I need to see him. Please.
Chapter 2: Not Leaving It To Chance
Author's Notes: Author knows nothing of UK airport security or Interpol (ha, but seriously). Everything is made up, as is fiction.
I've told you before and I will keep telling you the same thing over and over again. I am NOT going to give any of your messages to Merlin. Merlin is like a brother to me and what you did to him, for the sake of your family, your father's reputation, his rules of your courtship, was nothing short of cruelty. I don't give a fuck that you're not married any more, the fact that you used Merlin like that was enough for me to know that you're not worth him.
I don't care that you still love him! He does not love you. He was broken for months, even years, after you left him. You deserve whatever you get, and you do not deserve Merlin.
If you want to find him on your own, you can, but I will not help you. I don't care if he finds out about this and I don't care if he won't talk to me for the rest of my life, but I don't owe you anything.
You can write to me as much as you want. You can have your friends send messages to him all you want, but I will never tell him what you have to say.
You'll never believe it. I ran into Merlin today at the airport! I was just about to board the plane to Los Angeles when I saw him from across the hall. He was on his way to check in through the airport security and I chased after him, screaming his name -- the security almost arrested me! Can you believe it? Of all the places! It's a good thing that Lance was there and he flashed his Interpol Identification Card to back the security off.
Merlin saw me just in time! He walked out of the queue to greet me and was surprised to see that Lance and I are married. I suppose he never did find out about the divorce! It's too bad. I told him all I could in the five minutes he spoke to me.
Anyway, I unfortunately didn't get a chance to get his contact information in Toronto but did find out that he's going to be working for Samsung! I hope that helps!
We'll be in Los Angeles for a few weeks before we start our US roadtrip. I'm not sure how available I will be, but I'll try to ring you up soon.
I saw Gwen at the airport a few days ago and was surprised to find out that she's now married to Lance! I'd always thought that Lance was such a catch--wait, I probably shouldn't have wrote that.
I spoke to Will recently and he informed me that you've been trying to get in touch with me for years. He, of course, is very against you and I communicating and didn't approve when I sent you my last letter. I hope that you're doing well, and maybe we can try to be friends again. Once I've settled in Toronto, I can perhaps send you my contact information. At the moment, I'm staying at the Hilton, who knew finding a decent flat in Toronto was such an ordeal?
Gwen had also told me that you resigned from your position at Pendragon Communications, and started your own firm with Morgana over two years ago! That's bloody brilliant. I always knew that there was more to you than what your father thought!
I'll keep in touch the best I can,
To: Kara Medraud
CC: Morgana Pendragon
I'll need you to find out information on all the Hilton Hotels in the city of Toronto, Canada, and find the one located closest to the corporate offices of Samsung, Inc. Additionally, I'll need you to book me a one way ticket to Toronto, ASAP. I've attached details of my passport and other legal travel documents that might be necessary to make the booking.
I'm finally taking that holiday you've been harassing me about for the past six months. I'm not sure when I'll be returning.
Chapter 3: Chances Are...
Merlin is relaxing in his hotel in Toronto
Written for prompt "I'm Here"
Merlin rested back against the headboard of the bed in his hotel room. He'd been in Toronto for a week and was going to be there indefinitely so finding a flat was number one priority -- besides doing a good job at his new work, of course.
His laptop rested on his knees as he had two windows open. One was open with the code he was reviewing for his co-worker and the other was a listing of apartment searches in the downtown Toronto area.
The perk of working for such a big company like Samsung was that their budget for providing housing was rather substantial. He could get used to this. He could even live in Toronto for a while. It was definitely his new home for the next six months, at least.
His hotel phone rang and he found that to be rather odd. Everyone from his work, his friends and family, all rang up his mobile. He checked the time and didn't think why someone would be calling him at half past four in the afternoon.
"Hello," Merlin said into the phone, half distracted. He was still looking over that code and had found an error.
Merlin's eyes widened and no...it couldn't be. How did he...what the hell?
"Arthur?" he asked into the phone. He gave a light tap to his face just to make sure that this wasn't a dream. Dreams of Arthur weren't something out of the ordinary but it'd been a while where it'd been something so real.
Chapter 4: Expectations
Arthur had no idea what he was expecting when he'd showed up at Merlin's hotel. He knew that the reception wouldn't just tell him Merlin's hotel room number so he'd hoped that they'd place a call for him letting Merlin know that he had a guest or let him call Merlin directly.
The woman behind the counter eyed him with suspicion when he'd inquired about Merlin at first. Then, she'd given him the receiver and dialled the number for him.
"Hello?" Merlin's voice...God, Merlin's voice was on the other line and Arthur nearly lost the feeling in his knees. Merlin's voice. He hadn't heard it in so long and it was still as amazing as always.
"Merlin..." he said, then bit on his knuckles because he wasn't sure if he'd laugh, or cry, or just completely lose it. Dear lord, what was wrong with him. Keep it together, Arthur.
Then...Merlin said his name. His name as if he'd know that it was Arthur after so long. As if he'd remembered Arthur's voice as they'd spoken yesterday. He couldn't wait any longer to see him, to hold him...just breathe the same air as him.
The woman took a step back as if she'd understood the raw emotion just by Arthur saying Merlin's name and wanted to give him some space. "I'm here," he said into the phone. "In the lobby, I mean. In Toronto." He had no idea what else to say. He wanted to tell Merlin that he was sorry. That he'd been a fool and that he loved him.
"Will you...I mean, um... Can I..."
"I'm in room number five hundred and thirteen. Will they let you come up or do I have to--?
Arthur turned to the woman behind the counter. "Five hundred and thirteen," Arthur said to her and she nodded. "Can I just go--" She nodded again, smiling. "Thank you." Arthur gave her a smile and then turned his attention on the phone. "I can just come up if that's alright."
"Yeah. Of course," Merlin said.
Arthur hung up the phone and the woman looked like she was hesitant to say something.
"Yes?" Arthur asked.
"If you'll be staying with us, then I'll need a photocopy of your identification."
Arthur smiled at her and happily gave her his passport so she could go in the back and make a copy. He respected her for her professional attitude.
"Do you need help with your luggage?"
Arthur shook his head. "I just have my bag," he said, shrugging at her. "One doesn't really have time to pack when they're following the love of their life halfway across the world."
She gave him a huge grin, and her cheeks blushed slightly. "Have a pleasant day," she said as she handed Arthur his passport back.
"Oh, I think it just might be," he said to her with a wink and made his way to the lifts.
Chapter 5: Face to face
When Arthur took the lift to the fifth floor of the hotel, his palms were nearly sweating. As the bell chimed and the doors opened, Merlin was waiting there for him.
His hair was still haywire as it always had been and he was wearing a loose pair of jeans with a striped shirt. He looked bloody brilliant.
Arthur had been just staring at him and the lift's doors started to close.
"Oh!" Arthur exclaimed and he stopped the doors from closing and stepped out. He ran a hand through his hair and smiled at Merlin. "Hi."
Merlin looked shellshocked. "What are you doing here?" he asked quietly albeit still sounding surprised.
"I came to see you," Arthur answered. It was the honest answer.
"When I got your letter, I realised I had to tell you the truth. I didn't know how to find you and I just—" The lift chimed again and the doors opened when an elderly couple walked out. They gave a curious look to Arthur and Merlin before walking away. "Can we go somewhere?"
"Yeah, this way," Merlin said and led Arthur to his hotel room.
He opened the door to the room and Merlin's bed was messy and papers were everywhere on the table and clothes on the sofa. "Sorry, I wasn't expecting company."
Arthur laughed lightly. It was the exact same Merlin from before. "Sorry to just spring up on you. I wanted to surprise you."
Merlin didn't answer, instead, he started to clean up just a little bit and Arthur took a seat on the sofa and watched him. "Gwen and I split two months after the wedding."
"I know, she told me."
"I looked everywhere for you."
Merlin stopped what he was doing and turned to look at Arthur. "I know, Will told me."
"I still love you."
"I was afraid of that," Merlin said and sat on the bed opposite Arthur; his clothes bunched up in his lap.
"I understand that you don't love me anymore—I mean that's assuming that you ever did but I just—" He took a deep sigh. "I just wanted you to know."
"You could have just called," Merlin said. "If you just wanted to let me know."
"No, I needed to come and see you," Arthur said.
Arthur shrugged. The whole bit of I still love you, was why. "You deserved better than what I did to you. And, I was an arsehole. I just—I couldn't live with myself if I didn't tell you in person that letting you go was the biggest mistake of my life."
Merlin's face was impossible to read. He waited a long time before he said anything. "There are more important things in life than love, Arthur."
Arthur nodded looking at the floor. Of course, Merlin was always the sensible one. He ran a hand through his hair and looked up at Merlin. "There are more important things in life than love, and maybe one day I'll find them. I'm doing well with my company, and Morgana keeps me on my toes with her ideas and we're doing good. Maybe now, I can move on and find those things. Like you have..."
"Right," Merlin said, his face was still firm.
Eventually, Arthur stood up and made his way to the door. "I'll just go then..." He had no idea where he'd go. Maybe he could just get a room at the hotel, or maybe he should take the flight back to London. It was clear that Merlin didn't want him to be there. Wasn't it?
"Where will you go?" Merlin asked, and finally Arthur saw a bit of concern on his face.
He smiled and shrugged. "I don't want to be a bother."
"You're not...a bother, Arthur." Merlin's mobile vibrated at the same time and he looked at it and read the message.
"You're busy. You're working obviously. I'll just—"
"No. Wait," Merlin said and in two long strides, crossed the room and approached Arthur.
Chapter 6: Pushing His Luck
Arthur continues to try to make Merlin understand about how he's changed.
"Is it really that simple?" Merlin asked when Arthur turned to look at him again.
"What's that simple?"
"You just came here to apologise. You flew to Toronto, from London, to say that you're sorry?" Merlin's voice quavered a little bit and Arthur knew that he still felt...something. Even if it wasn't the same passion as they'd once shared but this was proof that Merlin didn't completely hate him.
Arthur shrugged. "You know me. Or at least you used to claim that you did. I am still the same person. I am the reckless idiot who'd fly to another country without any other intentions except to tell you that I'm sorry. That I was stupid. That I—"
"The Arthur I claimed to know wouldn't have ever left Gwen," Merlin said.
"You're right. Maybe the Arthur you'd met before we hand our thing—"
"Our thing," Merlin said, chuckling as if he were in utter disbelief. "That's how you always treated it. How am I supposed to believe now..." Merlin turned around and sat on the bed. Maybe he was contemplating letting Arthur in, in his hotel room, in his heart.
"It was so much more than that. I loved you. Love you, but that's not the point." Arthur waved his hand in the air. "When I met you I was selfish but I was also under my father's grip. You changed that. You changed me. I know I just let you go and I went through the wedding, but there were two people at fault there."
Merlin looked up, clearly annoyed, when Arthur gestured for him to wait.
"Gwen and I were at fault. She didn't feel right marrying me, but she did out of obligation. I did it out of fear. When we both realised what a horrible mistake it'd been. When I told her the truth—she wasn't even upset. She forgave me for cheating on her. After everything, do you know what she said to me?"
Merlin shook his head.
"She said she felt sorry for me. That I had the best thing and I let it go. The woman was a total saint. I told her that I'd spend the rest of my life making it up to her. That I'd do anything. She could have anything she wanted in the divorce and she just told me to be happy."
Merlin was still quiet.
"You were the best thing I let go of, by the way. In case you were wondering." Arthur gave Merlin a shy smile. In the past, Arthur's smile was enough for Merlin to forgive him. He hoped that his luck would work this time, too.
Merlin shook his head. "You're still a prat."
"I know. You used to like that about me," Arthur said, nervously. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and just waited around for Merlin to do something.
"So, that's it?" Merlin said. "That's your intent. To apologise and leave?"
I never said anything about leaving. "Maybe dinner, too. Let me really make up for it."
Merlin looked hesitant.
"Apart from everything else, Merlin. We used to be friends, too," Arthur said. "Maybe just a friendly dinner. Let me catch up with you and your life. We can share some sushi and sake like we used to—"
"I don't eat sushi anymore," Merlin said, it was so quick, that Arthur couldn't help but feel guilty about it. Maybe Merlin stopped eating sushi after Arthur had left. He knew that every time he went to Shiori, he had only just think of Merlin.
"Okay. Burgers, then."
"You hate hamburgers," Merlin said.
"Hated," Arthur said, stressing on the past tense. "I developed an appreciation for them after—you know—"
"Fine," Merlin said, sounding amused. "I found a place just around the corner recently and they're quite decent—"
"Let me guess, you made friends with everyone that works there."
Merlin shrugged. "It doesn't hurt to befriend people who feed you."
Arthur smiled, feeling relieved. Merlin hadn't completely kicked him out and they were going to get something to eat. Things were looking up. Even if they wouldn't get back into bed together, which was really an unrealistic hope, at least they were well on their way to being friends again.
Arthur was about to ask if Merlin wanted to go right then or wait for a while, when Merlin's mobile chimed. He looked at it, and frowned slightly.
"Trouble?" Arthur asked.
"It's Will," Merlin replied.
"Oh. Are you going to—"
"I'll just tell him I'm working. I can tell him about the burgers after we come back."
We come back. Arthur did not miss that little detail, but kept his face impassive. He wasn't about to push his luck by letting Merlin see his true reaction.
Chapter 7: Writing Letters Back Home
Arthur and Merlin send emails back to their friends in Camelot
Subject: Re: How's your trip?
Hey Morgana, it's good to hear from you! My trip in Toronto so far is going well. At least Merlin's not kicked me out yet and Will hasn't shown up barging through the front door demanding a fight. Still, he's called Merlin almost every hour non-stop as if he's worried that he's going to catch us in the "act."
Speaking of the "act," I've been sleeping on the sofa at Merlin's suite. The first day I'd got here, I was pleasantly surprised that Merlin had wanted to spend time with me and then asked me to stay the night (on the sofa). I told him that I was perfectly fine getting my own room, but he said that the company was paying for his and there was no point.
We've been spending a lot of time together when he's not working. I've walked around the city on my own and it's quite beautiful. I've seen almost everything touristy there's to see here, except for the CN Tower which Merlin insists that I can't go without him. We've also been going to every single Burger joint we can find. If I thought Merlin's obsession with fast-food was bad, it's definitely become worse in North America. He claims after his contract is over, he's going to do a road trip through the States to all all the "world-famous" Burger places. You should see how obsessed he's with the American Television Show: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
Anyway, that's enough about me. I'm glad you forwarded me the last email from the Digital-Black case. I can't believe that client is such an arse. I'm happy that you finally took him up on his dare and that he's left the company. We don't need his business. If we were in the market for vulgar clientele who can treat us like shite, we should have still been working for Uther.
I'm sure once he's had the experience of dealing with companies that don't cater to his ridiculous demands, he'll come crawling back to us. Send me the end of the month numbers when you get a chance, and of course, on the work email. I've definitely got time during the day to keep up with the roster. Yes, I know, I'm taking care of myself, too.
I'll check in with you soon.
Subject: Re: Are you fuckin' kidding me?
Seriously, you've got to stop calling me all the bloody time, mate. My phone vibrated four times in the staff meeting at HQ yesterday and the VP of the company kept raising his eyebrows at me. You're gonna get me sacked before I even think of approaching for a promotion.
No, I'm not shagging Arthur. Yes, he's still here. He's sleeping on the sofa and that's just fine with him and me too. I'm not going to jump back into something so quick. I know what'd happened to me last time and I was stupid. Yeah? So back the fuck off.
I know you mean well, but I swear I'll change my mobile number in a heartbeat and make sure Mum never gives it to yeh.
Also, of course, I'm still in love with him but I'm not going to tell him that. I don't even know what it means that he's back and that he loves me. I'm not ready for a relationship and you've seen the kinds of blokes I went out with this past couple of years. I'm not ready to get back in there with him. But it's nice to have him here. I was kinda lonely and now you know, company's nice.
Stop rolling your eyes! I know you're doing it.
It'll be fine. I'm a big boy and I can handle myself. At least we're both on the same playing field and you know, if he asks, I'm going to tell him the truth. I don't know if I want to get back together, or anything, but I'm not completely against the possibility, either.
Okay, I've got to go now and sit through another meeting. So I'm shutting my laptop and my mobile off.
STOP. CALLING. ME.
Chapter 8: Making New Friends
Merlin invites Arthur to a pub with his Canadian friends, things don't go as smoothly, yet they do.
Arthur took in a deep breath and entered the pub. He could do this. He was sure he could. It was just a plain old Canadian bar with people having after-work drinks. Merlin had invited him since all of Merlin's co-workers were going out and Merlin wanted to bond with them.
He had no idea why he was so nervous. None of these people knew about his history with Merlin, he was sure of it because Merlin wasn't the type of person who shared his life with others. Or, he didn't used to be. He had no idea if and how much Merlin has changed in the last three years.
Still, even if Merlin told every single person at the pub that Arthur had broken his heart, this was no excuse to not go. Merlin invited him and that meant something.
He didn't see Merlin right away as he entered the Scholar. There were a lot of small groups gathered around the dark pub and they all seemed deep in conversation. Luckily, the bartender caught his eye and Arthur ordered a Jack Daniels on the rocks, and Arthur gave him his credit card asking him to leave the tab open. He had no idea how long he was going to be there for, and he was definitely going to need liquid courage.
This was a new beginning for him and alcohol could only make things a bit easier.
"Arthur, you made it!" Merlin approached him a minute later, followed by three or four people that looked to be his co-workers.
"Of course," Arthur replied and waved a hello to the group behind Merlin. "I'm Arthur Pendragon," he said offering his hand. Soon he met Merlin's friends, whose names he immediately forgot, and offered to buy them a drink.
"No, the boss is paying for us," one of the blokes from the group said, and pointed at a man in a suit standing by the door.
"Oh, that's very nice of him. You lot do this a lot? Get sloshed on your boss's dime?" He teased and the group of people laughed as Merlin placed an order for all of them, which wasn't hard since they were all drinking beer.
"So Arthur, what brings you to Toronto," the only woman in their group asked. She had a brilliant smile and her eyes were kind. She looked as though she was genuinely interested in what Arthur had to say.
Arthur laughed slightly and ran his hand through his hair. Though he felt a blush creeping up, he answered, "Merlin." When the woman smiled and bit her lower lip, he felt as though he should clarify so he didn't totally embarrass Merlin. "We haven't seen each other in a few years and I found out through a friend--he was here for a while, and I had some holiday time left, so I thought, you know..." He shrugged. "...Why not just catch up?"
"Aw, that's really sweet," the woman said and she was about to ask a follow up question when Merlin interrupted.
"Okay, then. Let's not waste all our night harassing my friend over here. Why don't you lot tell a bit about yourself to Arthur, and me?"
The group nodded and they all started, one by one, talking about themselves, and this time, Arthur knew all their names. Travis was the oldest of four children and he escaped his family in Ottawa and moved to Toronto when he was nineteen. Susan, the woman that had been super friendly to him, was married and her and her partner were going through adoption interviews for their first child. Todd, who had been looking at Arthur rather flirtatiously since he'd arrived (and Arthur had ignored) talked about the hottest club he'd just been to, and invited Merlin and Arthur for the next night. Finally, Mathieu, who was from Montreal said that he'd started at the company the same time as Merlin and was looking forward to making new friends.
All in all, they seemed like a nice bunch, and Arthur was happy to have met them. Except for maybe Todd, because he was sure that he'd been flirting with Arthur the entire time and everyone else was either oblivious, or completely ignoring it.
After a few more drinks, that Merlin insisted Arthur let the company buy for him, Arthur went outside for some fresh air. After the initial introductions, Merlin hadn't talked to Arthur at all. He didn't know if Merlin was cross with him because of Todd's flirting, or something else that upset him so much.
Outside, he ran into Travis, who was standing in a corner smoking. "Hey, man. You want one?" Travis asked Arthur offering him a cigarette.
Arthur knew he shouldn't. He barely smoked anymore, and Merlin hated it, but he'd been so nervous about this whole thing that he figured it couldn't hurt. Not really. Maybe Merlin would talk to him then.
"So, you and Merlin?" Travis asked as he lit up his lighter.
Arthur chuckled. "Is it that obvious?"
"No, man," Travis said in an assuring voice. "If it were obvious, I think Todd would have backed off. Now that's obvious."
Arthur laughed. "Yeah, it would have helped if Merlin was talking to me but the more he ignores me the more Todd thinks he has a chance—or something..." Arthur said shaking his head, unsure if it made sense. "So how did you know about me and Merlin—"
"Is there something going on?"
"It used to be. But like I said I haven't seen him in three years."
"And you came all the way from the UK because you found out he was here?"
"And he hasn't kicked you out?"
Arthur shook his head.
"Earlier today when he'd mentioned that he had a friend from back home visiting, he was just really odd about it, you know?" Travis asked, finishing the last of his smoke.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know, it was really weird the way he said your name. He's talked about his friend Will..." Arthur inwardly groaned at the name, and Travis laughed. "You can tell that they're like brothers or something, but with you, it was odd. I didn't know he was even gay until the way he lit up when he saw you tonight. Whatever it is, it's something special."
"I hope so," Arthur said and shook Travis's hand once he they were free. "Thanks, mate. It's really nice to meet you."
"Yeah, you too," Travis said, beaming. "I've gotta go so maybe I'll see you around?"
"I certainly hope so," Arthur said and bid Travis goodbye as he walked back into the bar.
Arthur stayed outside for a few more minutes and breathed deeply. He hoped that he could just go in and find Merlin to talk to and that Todd wouldn't be there. As nice as the bloke was, Arthur really wasn't interested and he knew that it wasn't the man's fault. He'd said that he and Merlin were just friends and there was no reason for anyone else to think otherwise. Unless there were as observant as Travis, of course.
When he went inside the pub again, Arthur didn't see Merlin right away so he thought about getting another drink and settling his bill. The bartender handed him his card back saying that everyone there was drinking on Charles's tab. Arthur assumed Charles was Merlin's boss. Arthur placed the card back into his wallet, and found some cash to tip the bartender with. The man gave Arthur a smirk and poured extra whiskey in his drink.
"Impressing everyone here, I see."
Arthur closed his eyes and turned to look at Todd. He was far too close to Arthur than he would have liked. "Just doing my share to keep the staff happy," Arthur said with a smile and tried to manoeuvre his way from under Todd.
Todd was really attractive. No doubt about it. He had amber eyes, a perfectly chiselled jaw, and a gorgeous smile. He looked fit, and his deep auburn hair was well kept. If this were a different lifetime, Arthur wouldn't have minded the attention from someone so good-looking, but in this lifetime, Arthur preferred a man with messy dark hair, blue eyes, and ears so big he could hear anyone from across the room.
"Hey..." Todd said softly and grabbed Arthur's forearm. "Why do you keep running away from me?"
"Todd," Arthur said, just as softly. "I don't want to take this the wrong way, and I don't want you to take this the wrong way but—"
"Do you want to come home with me tonight?" Todd asked, abruptly and then gasped as if he were acting that he couldn't believe he'd just blurted that out. "I thought you should just know what I'm going for."
Arthur smiled and ran a hand through his hair again. "Thank you for the offer, but I can't."
"You can't? Or you don't want to?" Todd challenged.
Their voices were still low and Arthur was sure that no one else could really hear them. He smiled. "I'm...not interested."
"Why?" Todd asked, as if he were insulted at being rejected. Arthur was sure that with his looks, he didn't get that a lot.
"I'm in love with someone else—"
"What does that have to do with—"
"He's the reason I'm in Toronto," Arthur said.
"Oh," Todd supplied. "I thought you were just friends— Until tonight I didn't even know he was gay."
"Yeah, that's not the first time I've heard that tonight," Arthur said, "maybe that's what he's trying to do so I'd appreciate it if you—"
"I won't tell anyone, and please, this is Canada. We don't care!" Todd said, his arms flailing about and that just made Arthur drop his head back and laugh.
"Thanks, mate. I appreciate that."
Todd smiled and took out a business card and wrote something on the back. "Here's my number, just in case it doesn't work out."
Arthur looked at Todd in confusion. Was it so strange for this man to offer him a shag even though he'd said that he was in love with Merlin. Hadn't he and Merlin got together in the first place despite the fact that Arthur had been in a relationship with Gwen?
No, he couldn't do that. Not again.
"Thanks, but, if it doesn't work out, I'll just be leaving. Don't sell yourself short, Todd. I'm sure you'll find the right man that wants you and only you," Arthur said, hoping he didn't sound like an old man or someone too straight-laced.
Todd rolled his eyes, taking the business card back. "Life's too short to waste your time waiting for someone to come around," he said.
"Maybe you're right. But I'd wait a lifetime for him," Arthur said. He patted Todd's shoulder and turned around, running right into Merlin. "Mer—"
"What was that?" Merlin asked, keeping his voice calm, but the fear in his eyes was just too evident to Arthur.
Arthur shrugged. "Just talking about loves and lifetimes," he said smiling, hoping that he'd ease off the tension from between Merlin's eyebrows. He didn't like seeing it there.
Chapter 9: Confessing Again
Arthur tells Merlin again about how he feels.
"What was he offering?" Merlin asked quietly.
"A compromise," Arthur said calmly, and gestured towards the door. Merlin nodded and turned around towards the exit.
When they were outside, Arthur turned to ask Merlin if he wanted to get back to the hotel or go somewhere else, but he didn't get the chance.
"A compromise for what?" Merlin asked.
"Why don't any of your co-workers know you're gay?"
Merlin shrugged. "It didn't come up. I'm not here to find someone to fuck. I'm here for work."
Arthur nearly cringed at Merlin's words as it was no doubt a jab at how Todd was so friendly with him tonight. "Is that why you were keeping your distance from me tonight? That people would think that I was here for— for more than being friends?"
"You were," Arthur said. "You ignored me all night and Todd had no idea that you and I are..." He paused for a brief moment. "Something. He wanted to take me home..."
"So why didn't you go with him?"
"You know why, Merlin."
Merlin scowled as if he was looking for some hurtful words but was falling short. "I—"
Arthur walked up close to Merlin, really really close, and wrapped his arm around Merlin's waist. He whispered in Merlin's ear, as if this were a secret, and he really needed Merlin to know. "I'm in love with you, Merlin. I'm here for you. If you won't have me, then I'll leave. I'm not here to shag another man, or talk to another man, or even look at another man. I'm here for you. If you don't want this then you can tell me and I'll get on a flight tomorrow and go back to Camelot and try to move on with my life. But, I'm not here for a consolation prize."
They stood there like that, all quiet, and close, and warm and it was beautiful, Arthur thought. It felt so good to hold Merlin in his arms like that, to feel his body heat against Arthur's. To feel his warm breath against Arthur's neck.
What he wouldn't do to just reach down, brush that hair off Merlin's forehead and then kiss him on his temple. Tell him, I've got you, Merlin. You don't have to worry about anything anymore.
"I can't trust you," Merlin said in such a matter-of-fact way that it crushed Arthur to pieces.
He thought about pulling away from Merlin. To look him in the eyes and try to convince him. To keep him. Instead, Arthur rested his head against Merlin's and slightly nodded. "I know. I don't blame you—"
"But I also think that letting you go will be a huge mistake," Merlin said, sounding like he was rushing the words in before Arthur had said something he couldn't take back.
"You can take all the time in the world to decide, Merlin," Arthur said softly. "Keep me at a distance for as long as you feel comfortable, put me through any hoops testing me—"
Merlin pulled back to look at Arthur. "You know I'm not like that," he said, sounding annoyed. "Don't you?"
Arthur gave him another smile. "I know. That's why I love you—"
"Stop saying that," Merlin said, annoyed still.
"Why? It's the truth."
"It's been three years."
Arthur chuckled slightly and pulled Merlin closer. His lips brushed against Merlin's hair as he whispered the words. "I knew it was a huge mistake in letting you go, and I've been paying for it. Just because you stopped loving me in the three years we were apart—"
"I didn't say that," Merlin said and freed himself of Arthur's embrace. He took a step back as if he'd realised what he'd been doing, leaning on Arthur, and thought better of it. Surely, someone from the pub could look out and see the two of them talking like that. Maybe Merlin didn't want to give the wrong impression to his co-workers.
"We should head back," Merlin said and turned away from Arthur. He started to walk towards the hotel and Arthur quickly picked up his pace to catch up with Merlin.
"You didn't say what?" Arthur asked a few moments later, when they'd nearly reached the front doors of the hotel.
"That I'd stopped loving you," Merlin said, exasperated. "That's the bloody problem."
Arthur bit his lip until they walked through the lobby, and entered the lifts. As soon as Merlin pressed the button for their floor, Arthur let out his breath. "Will..." he began.
"Will just doesn't want to be the one putting the pieces together, again. If and when the encore version of our fucking relationship went south," Merlin snapped.
"It won't," Arthur said calmly. He was slightly buzzed from the evening at the pub but now realised that Merlin was a lot more intoxicated than he was. He'd been short with Arthur since they'd started talking, and he only did that when he was drunk and frustrated with him.
"How can you know?"
"Everything worth having is worth fighting for," he said and Merlin gave Arthur another annoyed look. Arthur smiled at Merlin and remained calm. He knew that was driving Merlin wild. "Doing the right thing is easy."
"And what's the right thing?"
"Loving you," Arthur said and he opened the door to their shared suite.
"Stop saying that," Merlin said and headed towards the cupboard where he kept his clothes.
Arthur removed his sweater and threw it on his bag. "It's the truth." He went to the small fridge and took out a bottle of water to hand it to Merlin.
Merlin scowled at him but too the water and drank it in one go. He handed the empty bottle back to Arthur with a "thanks," and started to undress.
Since they'd started to sort of live together in this hotel suite, Arthur had made it a point to give Merlin his privacy. He either looked away, looked busy, or left the room when Merlin would be getting dressed. He did his best to be respectful so that Merlin wouldn't have to ask him to do it or show his discomfort.
"Arthur..." Merlin called out when Arthur started to leave the room with his things and change in the bathroom.
"Yeah?" Arthur asked, turning around and saw Merlin standing there with just his pyjama trousers. He was just as flawless as Arthur had remembered, he'd filled-in in a few places where Arthur had thought that he was too skinny, and his shoulders were somehow stronger, as if he'd worked out. Immediately, Arthur was self-conscious since he'd rather let himself go over the past few years. At first, drinking a lot because of not being able to be with Merlin, then, working on getting his company off the ground. Concentrating on himself and his body had been the last thing on his mind. What if Merlin didn't find him attractive, anymore?
He knew he was staring, but he couldn't help himself. Merlin was a tall drink of water, and Arthur was taking in his fill. This might have been his only chance.
"Come to bed," Merlin said, delicately.
Chapter 10: Sleep
"Come to bed."
Merlin's response was most unpredictable. He truly hadn't expected that. He had no idea what Merlin would have said when he'd called after Arthur but that...that was not it.
"Be there soon," Arthur said and made his way to the shower. He took his time, really thinking it over. Merlin was drunk. Arthur had just said all of those things to him, confessed, and confessed again. Going to bed with Merlin didn't mean sex with Merlin.
Maybe Merlin missed being around Arthur. Arthur surely missed wrapping his arms around Merlin and falling asleep. How for days, weeks, months, he'd missed Merlin that it was hard to breathe sometimes.
Finally, he went back to the room, the lights were off, and it was quiet.
Arthur fetched for his trousers and a t-shirt before he went up to the bed. Merlin always slept on the left side so he crawled under the blanket on the right. As soon as he was there, Merlin turned and pulled Arthur close. He wrapped his arm around Arthur's waist and his head rested in the crook of Arthur's neck.
"You smell good," Merlin mumbled.
Arthur smiled and kissed the top of Merlin's head. "Thanks."
"You always smelled so good. I missed that when I slept alone or..."
Arthur's stomach tightened. The idea of Merlin being with someone else, and what, missing Arthur? He took in a deep breath. "I'm here now," he said.
Merlin kissed Arthur's neck and turned around again. Arthur held him from behind and it wasn't long before he heard Merlin's even breaths, his relaxed body against Arthur's and everything was quiet again.
Arthur closed his eyes and tried to sleep. "Thanks for letting me in, Merlin," he whispered to no one in particular and everything else drifted away.
Chapter 11: Late night interruptions
Arthur had been asleep only for an hour when the pounding on the door woke him up. He felt Merlin move, and immediately went to grab him by the arm.
“Just go back to bed, I’ll see who it is.”
Arthur turned over to his side and closed his eyes. He didn’t sleep though. He wanted to know who it was that was banging on the door of the hotel room so loudly. Who had let this person up from the lobby?
“What are you doing here?” Merlin said when he opened the door.
There was a long beat of silence.
“I thought you said he slept on the sofa.”
Will’s voice. It has to be. It’d been years since Arthur had heard it, but he knew that voice anywhere. It’d haunted his dreams as Will was always the one who told him Arthur didn’t deserve Merlin.
“It’s a new development,” Merlin said, and from Arthur could gather, they were still standing by the door. Merlin’s voice was hushed but Will’s was not.
“Fucking him already?”
“Keep in down!” Merlin snapped.
“Invite me in.”
Arthur finally got up and went to the door. Will watched him as he approached as Merlin had no idea.
“Merlin,” Arthur said placing his hand on Merlin’s shoulder. “Hi there, Will. Do you want to come inside?”
“You speak as though you own the fucking room. I know you’re just staying here for free,” Will said with the harshest tone possible.
“I have a room,” Arthur said.
“What?” Merlin asked.
“After the second day, I got my own room, but I haven’t used it. It was just in case I made you uncomfortable, I could crash there. But, I’ve wanted to stay here…”
“Obviously,” Will said.
Will pushed his way in and Merlin followed him as Arthur closed the door. He was trying to stay calm. He was trying to think that Will only had good things in mind; he only cared about Merlin. Too much maybe and that’s why he’d just showed up.
“I—” Will began to speak but he only crashed on the sofa and started to sob. “I thought after all this time you’d see it. You’d see me.” Merlin immediately went to Will’s side and placed an arm around his shoulder. Arthur had no idea why the man was sobbing.
“The way we were…I thought that meant something,” Will said and Arthur finally understood.
Will was in love with Merlin. Of course, he was. He’d always been. But…was there more? Had they slept together?
“It was a mistake. I thought you’d agreed—”
“I never agreed to that. I thought I was there to comfort you and that you’d see that I’d always be there. Not that he’d come back and everything…it’s all ruined now.”
“Will…” Merlin got to his knees in front of Will so they could be face to face. “I love you. I always will… but not like that. You know that I can’t. You’re my friend. You’re the best thing ever but…”
Arthur stood in the back, as silent as he could. This was a moment between Will and Merlin, and he didn’t want to be there…ruining it. He started to move out of the way, maybe he could go to the loo and just hide there until this was all over. It felt like a bad dream.
Merlin had had sex with Will. Will thought it meant more. Arthur was the one who’d created all of this drama.
“We can talk in the morning.” Arthur heard Merlin speak and he turned around to look at them. “Arthur, can I use the spare room for…”
Arthur was waiting for it. Merlin was going to kick him out. Will was going to take his place.
“Sure,” Arthur said, before Merlin could finish the sentence.
“Great. Do you have the key? I’ll show Will to the room.”
“Oh,” Arthur said, trying to hide his surprise. “Are you sure you don’t need more time to talk and—”
“No. We will talk in the morning. It’s a good thing I don’t have to work tomorrow. We can all catch up on breakfast.”
Arthur fetched the keys from his coat and handed it to Merlin. A moment later, Merlin and Will were out of the door and ten minutes later, Merlin was back. Arthur was sat up on the sofa, stunned in silence.
Merlin looked at Arthur and he looked conflicted. “Now you know,” he said.
“That you had sex with Will?” Arthur asked and Merlin hesitantly nodded. “It’s not my business.”
“For fuck’s sake, Arthur. That means nothing to you?”
“Did you do it so it would mean something to me?” Arthur asked, confused. He stood up and closed the distance between him and Merlin. “If you’re asking me whether it bothers me, then yes, it bothers me a whole lot. I never want you and Will alone in a room ever again. But, if Gwen and I can moved past it, then Will and I can move past it. I want to be with you and the only thing matters is who you want to be with? Me or Will.”
“What if I don’t want to be with either one of you?” Merlin asked.
“Then, that’s your decision. I’ve told you before, if you want me here, I’m here. If you want me gone…well, it’ll hurt like hell and I don’t think I could ever get over it, but I’ll go.” Merlin opened his mouth to say something but Arthur placed his fingers on Merlin’s lips. “No. I don’t want to go. I want to stay. With you. But I just want you to know that I will do whatever you want because the only person here that matters to me, is you.”
“I want you…to stay.”
“Good, then that’s settled. Let’s go back to bed.” Arthur leaned in and nuzzled against Merlin’s ear before he added, “I miss the warmth of your body.”
Chapter 12: Early Morning Reminders
It happened at six o'clock.
Arthur was having trouble sleeping all night anyway and he got up to go to the bathroom to wash his face. What he'd found out about Will and Merlin had been shocking. Never had he imagined the two best friends comforting each other like that but the guilt of what Arthur had done to cause pain for everyone involved was overbearing.
He returned to bed soon after and slid under the covers. Merlin was on his side, and Arthur could just make out his profile in the dim light.
"You okay?" Merlin asked when Arthur wrapped his arm around Merlin and pulled him close.
"Yeah," Arthur breathed as he nuzzled into the dip of Merlin's neck. His skin was just as smooth as Arthur had remembered it.
Merlin pushed back into Arthur, his arse teasing Arthur's groin, before he locked their legs together. Arthur didn't know how he should have responded. Before, back when they were just casually fucking, he would have rubbed up against Merlin. Snaked his hand under Merlin's shirt and pinched his nipple.
What if he did that now? Did Merlin want that...is that why he was teasing Arthur?
"I can hear you thinking," Merlin said as he turned around and faced Arthur. "Your thoughts are practically screaming themselves out of your head."
Arthur immediately missed how their legs weren't twined any more. "Yeah?"
"I thought you wanted me?"
"You have no idea how much, but, I just want you to be sure. I--I'm just nervous, is all."
"Nervous?" Merlin asked, his voice squeaking slightly. "Why on earth are you nervous. You're here in my bed and I'm--"
Arthur kissed Merlin then. They hadn't kissed since Arthur had arrived in Canada. Merlin was talking about them having sex or something to that effect, for the first time in years. He was willing to give Arthur everything, for the night, at least, and all Arthur had wanted to do was just kiss him. Hold him.
Know that Merlin was his.
Merlin kissed back slowly. Arthur could tell that he was hesitant at first, but eventually, he opened up. He parted his lips as Arthur's tongue swirled around and gently sucked on it--with Merlin moaning slightly. The little whimpers he used to do that Arthur remembered so well.
They shifted closer together and Arthur wrapped his leg around Merlin, holding him tight. Merlin's hands went up Arthur's shirt, around his waist and then up his back. His nails dug into Arthur's skin and Arthur smiled slightly. He knew exactly what Merlin was doing. What he was asking.
When they used to have sex in the past, Arthur never allowed Merlin to leave his mark on Arthur. Merlin was a fighter in bed, a biter, and Arthur always told him to stop before it got too far. At that time, Arthur was being and had been unfaithful to Gwen, and if she'd see the scratch marks on Arthur's skin--she'd know.
Now, there was no Gwen. There was no one. If Merlin wanted to leave his mark on him, Arthur didn't mind. He was Merlin's and only Merlin's.
If anything, this was just another reminder of how fucked up Arthur was, and how good it felt to be with Merlin.
"At the risk of sounding like a girl, Merlin...I just want to know if you're using me. I want you; want you so damn much, but I don't know if I can survive having you and then finding out that you only wanted me for this moment. If you turn away from me tomorrow--"
Merlin released his hold on Arthur and pulled back slightly. It wasn't withdrawal, though, Arthur quickly learned. Merlin started to rake his fingers through Arthur's hair and he was simply staring at Arthur, smiling.
"I could never do that. Not to you," Merlin said; his tone was sorrowful. No doubt, he was thinking about Will.
Arthur kissed Merlin again to get his mind to be on the present. He didn't want to lose this moment, didn't want to lose Merlin to Will. "I don't have any lube, or condoms," Arthur said. He hadn't thought that they'd get this far. He was figuring that there'd be a lot more grovelling and begging to do. Not that this was a complaint though. Perhaps he didn't pack condoms because he didn't want to jinx himself.
"I have some," Merlin said, turning around. A moment later, he was gone from the bed and Arthur missed his presence immediately. Maybe he should have just sucked Merlin off. At least that way, he'd still be in bed with Arthur.
When Merlin returned, Arthur immediately pulled him down and got on top of him. "Let's get to those later," he said and almost ripped Merlin's shirt off. "Right now, I just want to kiss every part of your body, every patch of your skin that I've missed all these years."
Chapter 13: Chancing It
Arthur wakes up in bed alone. Also: Sneaky Arthur is sneaky.
Arthur woke up in bed alone. He turned to his side to look at the hotel clock and found the small jar of lube, and the unopened condoms. They hadn't ended up using them after all.
It felt good to be with Merlin the night before. They'd not done more than kissing for the first half hour, and then Arthur made Merlin come with his hands. Merlin's arched up so beautifully and he'd gasped Arthur's name as he spilled himself all over Arthur's hand before they'd fallen asleep again.
Arthur was still hard from his encounter with Merlin a few hours ago, and the memory of what'd happened.
Now, at nine o'clock, his heart sank just a bit. He felt stranded. Why didn't Merlin wake him before leaving the room? Surely, he went to see Will, but he could have told--he probably didn't want to wake Arthur. Probably wanted to have breakfast alone with his friend.
Arthur needed to get his head out of his arse. He was here for Merlin and was so very very close to getting his man. Now, it was his job to finally try to be on Will's good side. Again.
It wasn't a competition, and he needed to make sure of that. He couldn't mope about, feel bad for himself, or let his vulnerabilities show. He needed to be strong for Merlin. Be Merlin's friend as Merlin was trying to console Will.
For some stupid reason, Arthur wasn't sure, he got an idea. He didn't know if this was a good idea at all - most likely it wasn't -- but Arthur had to do something.
He looked at his mobile and found Todd's number. He rang him up.
Arthur dressed quickly and went to the hotel's dining area. He didn't have to look too hard to find Merlin and Will sitting in a booth. Thankfully, it was big enough that Arthur could have easily slid down next to Merlin instead of making them change seats.
When he got there, he found Merlin holding Will's hands across the table. Will looked up at him uncomfortably, and Arthur gave him the warmest smile he could muster up.
"Sorry, am I disturbing? I just really wanted some coffee. I'll have it to go--"
"No, Arthur. It's fine," Merlin said looking up at Arthur, too, but he hadn't let go of Will's hands.
Thankfully, the waiter arrived right then and fumbled about confused, which caused Will and Merlin to finally let go of each other.
"Coffee and whatever the breakfast special is please," Arthur said, taking a seat next to Merlin who shifted a bit to make room for him. "Are you sure you really don't mind?" he asked Merlin next and then looked at Will.
"It's fine," Will said, sounding calm but looking annoyed.
"So I was thinking of taking a day off on Monday so I can show Will around Toronto," Merlin said. He looked slightly apologetic, and Arthur wondered if it was because he hadn't taken any time off for Arthur, but was willing to do so for his best friend.
"That's a brilliant idea," Arthur said. "I'll need to find a café with Wi-Fi connection so I can finally get some work done. I'm sure Morgana is going to kill me if I don't reply to some of her emails. There's a lot of new projects coming up for the next year and we still haven't found the Lead Designer.
"Morgana?" Will asked, interested.
Arthur sighed with relief at finally getting a look from Will that didn't mean he wanted to kill him.
"I thought you worked for your father?"
"No, I left his company a few years ago. Morgana and I have joined forces and opened up our own consulting firm. We're utilising my business background and her graphic design background to venture out to small businesses. Our prices are lower than others in the market and most of our team is made up of interns we don't have to pay so it's working out well."
Will nodded and Arthur could see the wheels in motion. He was going to ask the same question everyone had asked him.
"Morgana and I had money saved up from when we were under our father. We'd made sure it wasn't anything he could touch, and we're using that to start the business. We're practically breaking even to how much we spend on our projects, but hopefully in a few years we'll be known enough to charge at market rate. Right now, experience is key."
"You're lucky," Will said.
"I know." Arthur smiled and turned to look at Merlin. "You have no idea how lucky."
The waiter arrived with Arthur's coffee and their breakfast. Apparently, Arthur and Will had ordered the same thing, the breakfast special consisting of bacon, sausage, pancakes, and scrambled eggs, as opposed to Merlin's who'd just stuck to a huevos rancheros burrito.
Arthur tried not to dwell on how similar he and Will, yet again, were.
Enough time had passed and Arthur wondered if Todd was going to do what he'd promised. He had half a mind to bring out his mobile and send a message to him when Merlin's mobile chimed.
"Oh, this is weird," Merlin said, looking at his phone. "I just got a message from Todd. He's having a party tonight and invited me."
"Really?" Arthur said, hiding his face behind his coffee cup.
After he'd decided to get his act together in the morning, Arthur rang Todd up to ask him a huge favour. He made some story about Merlin's friend just showing up to surprise him when Todd guessed that Arthur wanted said friend out of the way. Arthur had chuckled nervously and managed to say that Will was not only gay, but very good looking. Apparently, that was all Todd had needed to decide to help Arthur. Evidently, he was a sucker for the British accent.
They'd made the plan that Todd would, out of the blue, invite Merlin, and Merlin would have no option but to bring Will to the party. After that, who knew where things would go, but at least, Merlin and Will wouldn't be entirely alone together, leaving Arthur behind.
Sure, it was a terrible plan, and Arthur felt like he was being a terrible person, but the idea of losing Merlin to Will was too much to bear What if Will broke down and begged Merlin to not be with Arthur? Merlin was the stupid sod to do whatever he could for his friends, and he would have left Arthur behind. Especially since Arthur deserved that
Arthur had to wonder if hours before, Merlin wanted to have sex with Arthur was also about that. What if Merlin wanted to have sex for the last time before letting him go? Even if Merlin said he wouldn't do something like that to Arthur, things could always change.
"What are you going to say?" Arthur asked.
"He didn't message you?" Merlin asked, sounding suspicious.
"He's your co-worker. Maybe it's a small shindig for co-workers only. You should ask him that. If you have to go, I mean, are you going to leave Will behind?"
"What about you?"
Arthur shrugged. "I can manage on my own, I've been here long enough to get around the city--"
"I'm not an invalid," Will said, sounding aggravated. "If you have to go--"
"No," Merlin said. "If I'm going, then we're all going." He picked up his mobile and typed up a message to Will. "There," he said a moment later. "Todd said it's not a work thing and that I can bring friends."
"Brilliant. You two will have fun," Arthur said.
"Arthur, don't be daft," Merlin said, and ended the conversation right then and there.
They ate in silence after that, and when Arthur went up to the till to pay for their breakfast, Will joined him a moment later.
"Why do I get this feeling that you're the cause of this?"
Arthur looked at him point blank. "I have no idea why you'd think that. I don't know this Todd fellow, how and why would I have caused anything?"
Will shook his head. "You're still an arse, Pendragon."
Arthur smiled. "My best feature."
Chapter 14: In The Shadows
Ever since Will had learned to love, he'd loved Merlin. At first, as one of his best friends, and eventually, as something more. When they were young, Will watched Arthur waltz into Merlin's life and demand all of his time. Even then, he could see how infatuated Merlin was with Arthur, and how Will was always left in the shadows.
He watched Arthur destroy Merlin's hope, his love, his spirit. Still, his friend was resilient and bounced back from everything Arthur had ever done to him.
And now? All these years later, Arthur was back in Merlin's life, and Merlin was welcoming him with open arms.
It was true that Will was still in love with Merlin. Even though they'd only shared that one night together, and Merlin had said it was a mistake, Will had still be hung up on him. Just like how Merlin was hung up on Arthur. It was a bloody mess. Their life.
Maybe it wasn't the best idea in the world to put in for emergency time off and pack his bags to fly to Toronto just because Arthur was there. Will knew he was being desperate, but at the same time, he couldn't help himself. If Arthur could make this gesture, then so could Will. Will loved Merlin just as much as Arthur. He needed to show Merlin he had a choice. Even if he didn't pick Will, he still had a choice. There wasn't much he could do in way of showing Merlin that he was worth it.
Deep down, Will had admitted to himself he could never amount to much compared to Arthur, but he was so torn between doing the right thing for his friend, and giving it all just one last time. It was an absolute failure, of course. Arthur was just as bloody handsome and charming as ever and Merlin was head over heels for him.
And the latest stunt he pulled? Getting some bloke named Todd to invite them to party? Will had no idea what the purpose of it was, but he was certain nothing good could come out of it.
"Come on, Will. You have to come with us," Merlin said. Us. As if bloody Arthur and Merlin were already a fucking item. Again. Did he really want to tag along and be the third wheel all over again? How were they seventeen all over again? At least this time, Arthur wasn't fucking a girl on the side, also. Maybe Will should have said that. No, that would only make him look like a wanker, so he refrained.
"Are you sure? I mean, I could just stay here--"
"You can't stay here," Merlin demanded. "Come on. I haven't been a party in forever and this'll be fun. We'll meet new people and you'll see some of the people I work with. I bet you'll have fun."
Yeah, he was going to have fun, all right. Have fun watching Arthur try to pull Merlin in front of him, flirt with him, and be that damn charming self and Will would just simply stand in a corner and feel sorry for himself.
"I don't know..."
"Fine, I'll tell Todd we're not going," Merlin said, turning around and pretending to take his mobile out.
Will rolled his eyes at his stupid friend, and his stupid, yet adorable pout. "Fine!" he groaned and from the corner of his eye, saw Arthur fucking Pendragon smiling.
Merlin gave him a grin that could have lit a Christmas tree. Besides, what was Will going to do anyway? He'd travelled all the way to bloody Canada on a whim to see Merlin, and if Merlin wanted to go to a party, they'd go to a party.
When Merlin went around the room introducing Will, it was a little better. Will liked the attention Merlin was giving him, his arm around Will's neck, and the enthusiasm of introducing his "best mate," was well received. By everyone. Except for maybe Arthur, and that made it loads better.
Finally, they met the host. Todd Cloutier. When Merlin made the introductions, Will nearly forgot his own name. Todd Cloutier had amber eyes, and skin so smooth it could put caramel apple to shame. His skin was dark, but in way of hazelnut coffee mixed with heavy cream and Will wanted a taste. He'd never met a man he'd compared to an after dinner dessert coffee combination before. He was certainly losing his mind.
"When did you start speaking like this?" Merlin asked, sounding amused, and Will caught Arthur laughing as well.
"Well, you told me you had a friend visiting and I just had to practice my QC upbringing," Todd said. "It's not every day I get three hot British men in my apartment, darling."
"Oh, where are you from?" Will found himself asking.
"My family's from Quebec, but we're also third generation French Creole, and I lived in Paris for a few years doing study-abroad in University. I'm a gentleman of the world!" Todd said, waving his hand in the air, as if he were on display at a Broadway show.
"So what are you doing in Toronto?" Merlin asked, sounding unimpressed.
"Same as you, darling. I go where they pay me," Todd said smiling, and then he looked over at Will and winked. Will felt his cheeks burning so he looked away and found Arthur staring right at him. Will scowled at Arthur and returned his gaze towards Todd.
"But enough about me! Let me give you the grand tour of my place." Todd grabbed Merlin by the elbow and led them down a long corridor.
Arthur and Will obediently followed.
Chapter 15: Distracting Will
Arthur watched the way Will was looking at Todd, and he felt a bit of relief at knowing his plan was working. At the same time, he felt slightly guilty for doing this. He'd thought that if he got Will to meet Todd and then also some of his other gay friends, Will would get distracted. But was that really a moral thing to do?
When they got the tour of Todd's flat and returned back to the sitting room, Todd had grabbed Will by the arm and took him to the kitchen.
Arthur was finally alone with Merlin.
Merlin took Arthur's hand in his and led him outside to the backyard. There were a few people gathered there by the heat lamps so Merlin and Arthur huddled together to keep warm.
"I think Todd's taken a fancy with Will," Merlin said.
"Yeah? You think so?" Arthur asked, pretending he'd not noticed anything. He'd asked Todd to distract Will, but not to fake anything or give him any sort of false hope. He didn't want to hurt Will, just keep him away from Merlin.
"Didn't you notice the way he kept touching Will's shoulder when we were on the tour?" Merlin asked, as if Arthur were just so thick.
Arthur shrugged. "I noticed that Will couldn't keep his eyes off Todd." He'd honestly thought that his mission to keep Will away from Merlin was going to be more elusive than that.
"Hey, here you two are!" Todd said and then looked at Merlin and Arthur's joined hands. "Oh, are we disturbing something?" He looked back at Will and gave him a wicked grin. "You leave your poor friend alone with me so you can snog outside in the cold?"
"We're not snogging," both Merlin and Arthur said at the same time.
"Merlin isn't much for crowds," Will said, his tone sombre.
Arthur saw the look on Will's face, seeing the two of them together, and realised that no matter how he tried to distract Will, those feelings weren't going to go away. If they'd not gone away for Arthur, they'd not go away for Will so soon, either. Even if Merlin didn't want him like that.
"You know what, I'm going to get us some drinks. Todd, do you want to come and help me--show me where they are?"
"Sure thing, mate," Todd said, his fake French accent turning into a fake English one. He winked at Will and then grabbed Arthur by the arm and dragged him in.
When they entered the kitchen again, Todd cornered him in. "What are you doing? I thought you wanted me to--"
"Distract him," Arthur said in a hushed tone. "Not flirt with him like crazy and give him false hope. I mean the bloke's been in love with Merlin for who knows how long. I don't want him to get hurt by some other--"
"I wasn't going to give him false hope," Todd said, rolling his eyes. "It was harmless flirting and besides, the distracting him wasn't working that well. I mean, I can tell he's interested in me. I mean, come on!" Todd gestured towards his body and gave a knowing smirk. "But all he does is talk about Merlin. All the fucking time, dude."
"What do you expect? They're best friends, and maybe you should just tone it down a bit."
"Okay, I'm going to pretend you didn't say that," Toddy said, looking offended, and this time, Arthur rolled his eyes.
"Let's just get some beers before they think something's wrong and we're up to something."
"We are up to something, darling," Todd said.
"Not the bloody point, mate."
Chapter 16: Old Habits
As the night went on, Todd's flat only got more crowded. Arthur hadn't known this many people in a lifetime as Todd had known almost every single person in his home. It also amazed him at how good Todd was at playing host. He greeted almost all of his friends, but still managed to have conversations with the ones that were already there.
He'd even designated one of his guest rooms as the "entertainment" room where there was a bloke had set up his iPod and speakers and a few people were dancing.
In order to avoid the crowd, Merlin had managed to pull Arthur and Will to the dancefloor.
To say it was awkward, was an understatement. Will kept looking around the room to avoid eye-contact with Arthur, and Arthur wondered how long it'd be until Todd would come back and rescue them.
He didn't have to wait long, though. Two songs later, Todd was in the room with his arms around Merlin's shoulder as he joined their little group and started dancing. A few moments after that, he'd pulled Will aside to dance with him alone.
"Wow. Todd really seems to like Will a lot," Merlin said.
"Yeah," Arthur said, agreeing. He'd asked Todd for the favour of distracting Will, but with the way he saw Todd acting around him, he wondered how much of it was an act, and how much was, in fact, genuine interest. "But you know how Todd is," Arthur said looking away from them and at Merlin, "He's interested in everyone."
"You didn't have anything to do with this, did you?" Merlin asked; he'd stopped dancing and stood still in the middle of the floor, staring at Arthur.
"I--uh--" Arthur thought about changing the topic, deviating from the question, or simply lying, but he didn't want to do that. Not with Merlin. He took in a deep breath, and told Merlin the truth. "I called Todd this morning asking him if he would...distract Will. I said that he was your friend, and he was here because he was kind of in love with you and since I'm also in love with you...it was all fucked up. He told me that he was having a party tonight and thought it'd be a good idea for Will to see that there were plenty of other opportunities out there. Maybe have a fling in Canada before going back to Camelot."
"This is always just a game to you, isn't it?" Merlin said in a low tone, perhaps so no one around them could hear him, and turned around to leave the room.
Arthur rushed after him.
"Is everything okay?" Will came out of nowhere and grabbed Arthur's elbow.
"Yeah. Merlin just needs some air. I'm going to go see if he's all right."
"I'll come with you," Will said.
"No." Arthur turned around and placed a hand on Will's chest. "It's my fuck up. Can I go and fix it, please? Why don't you..." He gestured towards Todd who was standing by the speakers looking at them intently.
"I'm not here for--"
"Will," Arthur said firmly and Will scowled at him.
Both Will and Arthur turned to look and Merlin was standing by the entrance of the room. He didn't look completely pissed off so Arthur softly sighed with relief.
Arthur was about to say something to Merlin, apologise perhaps, or ask him if they could go outside to talk when a rush of people flooded through the door, pushing past them, and Merlin nearly toppled over towards Arthur. Arthur steadied him with a tight hold and Merlin looked up at him, smiling.
"Are you cross with me?" Arthur asked, more mouthing the words than actually saying it.
Merlin shook his head. "No, I just--"
"I was such an arsehole, wasn't I?" Arthur asked, crestfallen. It was just like him, his old self rather, who would play round about games to get what he wanted. This time, he wanted to keep Will away from Merlin, even if he was certain that Merlin didn't see Will like that. Especially since last night and this morning when he and Merlin had been together.
"I guess some things will never change," Merlin said, looking disappointed.
"Except I promise to never lie to you. Never play any games that hurt you, Merlin," Arthur said.
"Merlin, are you okay?" Will asked, as he came by Merlin's side and glowered at Arthur.
Merlin laughed lightly. "Just fine, Will." He was going to say something else but Todd came around them and grabbed both Will, and Merlin's shoulder.
"Is this a party or a funeral?" Todd asked, pulling them to the dancefloor. "Come on, boys. The night's still young."
A moment later, Arthur, Merlin, and Will, along with some other people stood in a circle as Todd danced in the middle. And just like that, all the tension seemed to leave the room, and Arthur was glad that Merlin was having fun again.
Chapter 17: Arthur's Thoughts
Arthur had one job. Handle Merlin's heart with care, and he'd all but fucked it up. Of course, it was hard to do anything right when Will was around. He was Merlin's best friend, he'd been it since the day Arthur had met Merlin, and Arthur always felt as though he could never measure up.
Still, he took a deep breath and wrapped his arm around Merlin and pulled him close.
"Do you want to go outside for a bit? With me, I mean."
Merlin leaned into Arthur's touch slightly and nodded. He looked over at Will who was dancing with Todd and smiled. Will smiled back; there was a silent conversation there that Arthur would never be privy to.
Seeing Merlin and Will like that made him miss Leon. Leon was the best mate one could ask for and it'd been a while since Arthur had had a nice chat with him. Maybe tomorrow he'd ring his friend up. He'd not even told Leon that he was in Canada. No doubt Leon probably found out through his Facebook check-ins or from Morgana.
"Still want to go?" Merlin asked, yanking Arthur out of his thoughts.
"Yes. Let's go. We should talk, and by that I mean, I should probably apologise more profusely until I'm sure you've forgiven me."
Chapter 18: Distractions
Will's POV: Todd and Will talk
"So. You have a thing for Merlin."
Todd had his arms wrapped around Will's shoulder, pulling him close, as they moved to the music. Todd was doing most of the moving while Will simply stood around awkwardly.
"I...what?" Will asked, feeling unsure. "Arthur told you."
Todd shrugged. "He might have suggested so but it's pretty obvious, my friend. Everyone here at the party has asked me if Merlin brought two dates because there are two guys looking at him with adoration. While some of us can't even get attention from one."
Will smiled and was glad for the darkness in the room so Todd wouldn't see him blushing. "He's my best mate. Known him since we were five. And Arthur...Well, he's bit of a complication."
"How so?" Todd asked, looking and sounding very interested.
"Well he broke Merlin's heart when they were -- well it's a long story and I was there to pick up the pieces. I was nothing more than a comforting blanket. I mean, it meant more to me but I always knew it meant nothing to Merlin."
"I'm sure it was more than nothing. I mean, you're his best friend right? He values your opinion, and Arthur is scared shitless of what you will do or say to Merlin. Sure, Merlin might look like he only has eyes for Arthur, but you have his ear. It's all very...intriguing."
"Intriguing?" Will nearly laughed. "I'm glad my heartache, my dilemma, and my best friend's poor choice in men intrigues you."
Todd slapped Will's shoulder playfully. "You know what I mean."
"Do I?" Will asked, and couldn't believe that he was flirting. Flirting with another man while in the same house as Merlin. For the past decade, if not more, Will had only been after Merlin. Sure, he'd had a fling here or there, but it was always about Merlin. And now--it was all very intriguing, indeed.
His hands roamed up Todd's back as he pulled Todd closer. He wasn't going to get Merlin tonight. Hell, he knew when he arrived at the hotel room that he was never going to get Merlin, ever; so there was no harm in flirting with another willing bloke, was there?
Will wasn't stupid. He was an idiot for falling for his best friend who was in love with someone else, but he wasn't dumb enough to keep pursuing that knowing how the ending to that story was going to play out. Maybe...Arthur would be ok. Maybe Arthur would be a complete wanker and hurt Merlin again, but it was more obvious than anything else that Merlin was going to make his own mistakes, no matter what Will did to avoid them.
"Do you wanna go up to my room?" Todd asked, pushing his knee in between Will's legs and rubbing it against Will's thigh.
He'd be lying if he said that he wasn't attracted to Todd since the moment he'd walked into the house. Todd had opened his mouth to speak, and Will's cock had stirred. It was good ol' honest lust and he wanted to give into that. He'd craved attention like Todd was giving him for so long, albeit, from the wrong party, and now he was having it.
"We can just talk," Todd said, his warm breath on Will's ear as he leaned in close. "If you're uncomfortable..."
"You know, I live in another country. Like it's hours on a plane, requires a passport and all that--"
"It's a fuck, Will. Not a marriage proposal," Todd said, almost chuckling.
"Fuck? What happened to talking?" Will asked, feigning mortification.
Todd shrugged. "You can talk to me while I suck your cock."
Will pressed their hips together grinding their groins as he moved on the dance-floor. "God, you're something else." A blow job sounded pretty good at the moment. Fuck, it sounded downright fantastic. To feel Todd against him, without any clothes on was far too tempting.
"I'm not sure if that's such a good idea, though," Will said, finally. His brain countering everything his body was doing. "I came here with friends, and I don't want to--"
"Stay the night with me, then," Todd said. "Stay with me when Merlin and Arthur leave. I'll drop you off at the hotel in the morning tomorrow. You don't have to tell me now. I mean, think about it. I just thought I could help you out."
"Help me out?" Will asked, confused.
"Do you really want to be the third wheel with the love of your life and the love of his life?" Todd asked, point blank. His expression didn't give anything away.
"Not really," Will said.
"Good. Spend your vacation with me. How long are you here for?"
"About five days," Will said.
"Excellent. I'll take you sightseeing." Todd smiled and kissed Will's cheek; his hand also crept up Will's shirt. Todd was clearly always playing an angle.
"You're always this bossy?" Will asked, liking the idea of spending time with Todd, more than just in the bedroom. Excited for the night, too, though. He wasn't sure how it all looked, and how it sounded. He'd come here for Merlin, but Merlin had rejected him again, so now he was going to shag a local. He would never stop loving Merlin, but he also didn't want to seem like a loser tagging along with Merlin and Arthur all the time. It would be like he was eleven years old again.
"I can be. If you like that," Todd said before grabbing Will by the back of his neck and pulling him in for a kiss.