Arthur got along with Merlin. The kid himself was all right, skinny and awkward as he may be. The problem lies with him and his boyfriend, Mordred making an absolute ruckus directly above his apartment. 24 hours a day. Merlin and Mordred were constantly dancing to loud music (with bricks for shoes, apparently) or singing or laughing or sometimes he heard the bed squeaking, which had made Arthur blush deeply the first time he heard it. By now, it was all white noise that he wanted to stop.
Arthur himself lived alone, not ashamed that his father could afford it, as he was set to take over the company as soon as Uther decided it was time to retire. But living alone had meant that he couldn’t send his sister Morgana to complain about the sound while he waited off the sidelines.
It wasn’t that Arthur was shy, thank you very much; it’s just that Merlin was kinda cute. Kinda really cute. The first time they had met, they came across each other getting the mail in the lobby. Merlin had given Arthur a wide, lopsided smile, and said “Lovely morning, isn’t it?” and gods, those cheekbones should be illegal.
But that didn’t change all the noise. Arthur’s tolerance had quickly vanished, and he and Merlin had kept up an exaggerated banter. Most everyday, Arthur complained, to which Merlin called him a clotpole (whatever that means), to which Arthur fired back some insult they both knew he didn’t mean.
Sometimes Arthur got to the lobby before Merlin, but he waited until he heard footsteps coming down the stairs before actually unlocking his mailbox.
The first time Arthur banged on his upstairs neighbors door, it was because it was 2 am and some obscure band was blaring from above, and Arthur could not sleep for his life.
He had wandered upstairs half-dead after a long day at Pendragon Enterprises. Arthur knew he was wearing 2 sizes too big sweatpants and his blond hair must’ve been sticking up in ten places, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care.
AND THAT WOULD BE IT FOR ME, MY HEART’S ANOTHER ABSENTEE-
Arthur banged against the door and swayed dangerously, almost falling asleep right in the hall. The music slightly lowered, and light footsteps headed towards the door. The door cracked open as far as the chain would allow, and dazzling blue eyes peeked out. “Oh! Arthur!” Arthur replied with the bitchiest face he could muster this early in the morning. However, this only prompted Merlin to grin even wider, which didn’t make his heart flutter, god damnit.
“Hold on.” The door shut.
But I’m trying to stick it to Freud, I’m lying low-
The door swung open this time, revealing Merlin dressed in a loose blue shirt. It was strange to see him without the red neckerchief he constantly wore in accordance with the cold weather. Now his neck was completely exposed, revealing sharp collarbones. “Can I help you, neighbor?” Merlin said in the most sarcastic tone possible.
“Merlin, could you be ever so kind to turn down that music? Some of us are important people that have somewhere important to be in the morning.”
“Oh, of course, my lord.” Bowing low, Merlin shot Arthur a mocking look.
Arthur rolled his eyes. “You don’t need to call me lord, Merlin. Sire will do just fine.” And with that, they bid their goodbyes and Merlin shut the door.
On the walk back downstairs, Arthur realized he was grinning like an idiot for no apparent reason.
The first time Arthur really got to know Merlin was at the block party. Everyone on the street had brought some delicious dish or a whole lot of alcohol and taken over the road, and it reminded Arthur of a grand feast. Everyone was friendly, neighbors bonding with neighbors they had never even learned the first name of.
Merlin was hugging tight to the makeshift alcohol stand, and had evidently had more than enough to be classified as unfit to drive. Arthur mustered up whatever courage he had, and headed over. Chances were Merlin wouldn’t remember this perfectly anyways.
“Hey, Merlin.” Arthur tried to lean casually before he realized there was nothing to lean on and awkwardly shrugged it off. Fuck.
Merlin only grinned stupidly at the act. “Ello’, Arthur. Lovely night.” He took another sip from the bottle in his long fingers.
“How’s… things?” FUCK.
“Things are good. They’re good.” Merlin quickly looked away.
Desperate to keep the conversation going, Arthur tried, “Is Gaius here? He’s always roaming the halls and offering everyone ‘herbs’”
Merlin laughed, “I believe our herb dealer is swapping conspiracy theories with Kilgharrah over there.” They both laughed over the spectacle, as the two whole men seemed to have entranced the whole table with some fable about old Kingdoms.
“How are things with Mordred?” Arthur regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth.
Merlin’s smile faltered for a beat. “Good. Mostly.”
Arthur frowned. “What do you mean, ‘mostly’?”
“Things with you and Mordred.”
“Oh. They’re good, mostly.”
Arthur sighed, letting it go. Mostly. And that night he learned what Merlin’s favorite color was (red), his favorite band (Queen), and a riveting story about how he and his childhood friend, William, nearly flattened ‘Old Man Simmons’ with a tree.
Arthur could listen to Merlin talk for ages. His eyes seemed to glow with the vivacity of it all, the way he spoke like an adventurous tale. Every couple of minutes he would look over for confirmation that he wasn’t boring his audience, to which Arthur enthusiastically nodded, and he even laughed at all of Merlin’s horrible puns.
And if that night Arthur carried Merlin up to the apartment after he passed out while Mordred was getting another drink, he didn’t mention it to anybody.
Arthur was sitting on his futon, coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other, the next time he heard the bed moving. Normally, he was just annoyed, but this time, he was a new class of angry. He wasn’t angry with Merlin or Mordred really, more just- angry at the situation. Angry that he wasn’t in the situation, instead of Mordred.
He was jealous.
But there was no way that he, Arthur Pendragon, son of notable businessman Uther Pendragon, could possibly be jealous over some skinny kid from nowhere, with long lanky limbs and feminine eyelashes that brushed his high cheekbones whenever he looked down, or those plush lips-
Arthur decided he would handle this the same way he handled most of his emotions, and ignore them until he couldn’t any longer. So for now, he grabbed a broomstick, and hit the ceiling.
Arthur complained about the noise constantly, and he had every right to. He could always hear Merlin and Mordred dancing and singing and the bed squeaking and laughing and talking and he thought he hated it. He really did.
Until one day it stopped.
About two days in, Arthur noticed that there was no more noise at all, and that he had gotten a long, well-rested night of sleep.
He hated it.
Merlin stopped coming down to get his mail. One time he had knocked on Merlin’s door, a story about needing eggs all rehearsed, only to be ignored completely. Arthur told himself that he was overreacting, perhaps they were both out. Maybe on a date.
Another week passed, and then two, and the silence was unbearable. But the world carried on.
One Tuesday, Arthur had been watering his garden out on the fire escape. He thought a garden was dumb, of course. Why would he need plants? What would they even do? But his friend Gwen had insisted he get some, claiming they made people feel better and improved the ‘aura’ of the apartment or something.
He was watering the plants; humming some obscure song he didn’t even know the name to, when he heard a loud BANG from upstairs accompanied by a Merlin-sounding yelp. Arthur froze, heart pounding in his chest. Horrible silence engulfed him for two whole minutes, before he heard the unmistakable sound of the bed squeaking.
Arthur dropped the watering can. His mouth came up to cover his mouth, blocking the wail that was fighting to come out. This wasn’t good. Arthur didn’t want to jump to any conclusions, but that didn’t sound good. This couldn’t be good. His hands started shaking, and he didn’t know what to do, gods, he didn’t know what to do, but he had to do something- If he did something and ended up wrong about his suspicions, it would be rude. They would think he was intrusive.
He could live with intrusive
Slamming the door behind him, Arthur flew around the corner and up the stairs to the above apartment, a path once so familiar.
Arthur almost hesitated before knocking on the door, but couldn’t even consider leaving Merlin in (theoretical) pain for one more minute. He knocked incessantly, knocked and knocked and knocked until his knuckles turned red, but nobody came to the door.
Arthur frantically paced the dingy halls, head buzzing with anxiety and confusion. Arthur headed back down to his apartment, because he wasn’t helping anybody here. He could call somebody- like Gawaine or Leon or the police- but just as he was home with the telephone in his hand, he heard footsteps outside his apartment door. They didn’t stay on the floor for long, but instead headed down into the lobby. Arthur crept out and silently watched the person, who he quickly identified as Mordred leaving the complex. His shoulders were hunched over with his hands in his leather jacket pocket, the mop of dark untamed hair giving him away. Fire burned in Arthurs chest with a desire to make Mordred regret ever putting his hands on Merlin, but right now Merlin was presumably alone and scared and in pain.
Arthur turned on his heel and bounded back up to Merlin’s. He pounded on the door yet again. “Merlin, its me! It’s Arthur! Please let me in. Please, please Merlin. Let me help you.” Again, nothing but silence met his ears. “I know you’re in there. Just let me in. I just need to know you’re okay.” A lump in Arthur’s throats constricted his words, so he continued to knock. Arthur sank down. He really wished he knew how to kick open a door.
But he wasn’t giving up yet. Returning to his own apartment yet again, Arthur scaled the fire escape up to the adjacent window. Blessing every known deity that he found the window unlocked, he climbed into the apartment. Arthur instantly felt like he was invading their privacy. “Merlin?” he shakily called out, but there was no reply. He peered into the bedroom, finding nothing but clothes strewn about and a rumpled bed. Searching the small apartment, Arthur noticed the light in the bathroom was on. Hesitantly heading towards it, he asked “Merlin? Its Arthur.” Before entering.
And there was Merlin, sitting curled up next to the shower, looking like he had caved in on himself. Tears streaked his face, eyes watery and red. On his face a large red handprint stood out in contrast to the pale skin. He clutched onto a towel that covered him, and he was visibly trembling. “Arthur.” Was all he could squeak out before Arthur was running to him, dropping to his knees and clutching a helpless Merlin to his chest.
A new wave of sobs overtook Merlin, and Arthur only pulled him closer, hugged him tighter as he cried into his chest. “Gods, Merlin. It’s okay. I’ve got you now. Everything’s alright. I’m not gonna let anyone hurt you.” And Arthur didn’t know how long he sat there, rubbing soothing circles into Merlin’s back and whispering comforting nothings, and he didn’t care.
However longer later, Merlin’s sobs subsided and he looked up at Arthur, rubbing his eyes. “Hey, how about we go back to my apartment and clean up, yeah?” Merlin nodded, and Arthur planted a kiss on his head before heading into the bedroom to fetch sweatpants and a t-shirt.
Arthur led Merlin down the stairs, clutching his hand the whole way. Merlin seemed so distant though; he wondered if he’d even remember it.
Arthur swung open the unlocked door and led Merlin in, shutting it quietly behind them. “You should clean up, okay? There’s a shower back there; I’ll help you get setup.” Arthur gently coerced Merlin into the bathroom. He didn’t want to make him feel uncomfortable, but he knew he had to make sure Merlin was clean and any injuries tended to. He barely trusted Merlin to take a shower by himself, but considering what just occurred, Arthur thought it was best to just leave the door open.
As Merlin showered, Arthur put water on the stove, and minutes later had a steaming mug of tea. This was all so messed up. As lost as Arthur felt, he knew he would never let Mordred come close to Merlin ever again. Suddenly paranoid, Arthur clicked on all the locks on the door.
Merlin sheepishly emerged from the bathroom, looking still shaken up but clean, dark hair soaking wet. Arthur smirked. “C’mere” and taking the towel in Merlin’s hand, scruffed his hair up to dry it. Taking the towel away, Arthur revealed a messy-haired Merlin. They both sheepishly smiled at his ridiculous hair, Merlin blushing slightly pink. “I haven’t seen you smile in three weeks.” Arthur commented, to which Merlin only looked down. “How about a movie night? Lets see..” Arthur trailed off, going to his small collection of movies. “Big Hero 6, Pacific Rim, or… Spiderman 3?”
Merlin smiled again. “Any would be good.” Arthur led Merlin over to the couch, wrapped him up in three different blankets, and placed the warm mug in Merlin’s hands. As Tadashi saved Hero from angry bot fighters, Arthur pulled Merlin into his arms until he rested against his chest and under his chin. They ended up watching all three movies, sniggering at Tobey Maguire’s terrible dancing.
Arthur couldn’t remember when they drifted off, but he was awoken sometime in the early morning by a twitching Merlin. Arthur looked down at the sleeping boy in front of him, pale skin illuminated by the moonlight streaming through the window. His closed eyes were dancing back and forth, seeing something that wasn’t quite there. His lips started moving, trying to speak words that were caught on the edge of his tongue. Then Merlin’s whole body started moving above him, getting more intense with every second. “No. No…”
“Merlin, sweetheart, wake up.” Arthur gently shook him, but he didn’t wake. Instead, the trembling turned into thrashing.
“No. I said no. Stop. Stop. Stop it!”
“Hey, hey, Merlin! It’s okay, everything is okay.” At this point, Arthur picked Merlin off of himself and turned around to face him, it wasn’t hard to grab his slender wrists to avoid either of them suffering an accidental punch to the face.“Merlin! Wake up!”
Merlin froze. Arthur still held tight to the wrists in his hands as Merlin opened watery eyes. “Arthur?” and he collapsed back into Arthur’s chest, staining the shirt with tears. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
“Hey, hey. Don’t you dare say sorry. None of this is your fault. None. I’m more than happy to help you, you absolute fool.”
Merlin smiled, eyes drying. “Did you call me sweetheart?”
“You must be having auditory hallucinations, Merlin”
The second time Arthur woke up, it was because his alarm went off, marking the time he was supposed to get ready for work. He shut it off, and checked to make sure Merlin was still asleep and warm in his arms. One day off wouldn’t get him fired. He put his phone down, and pulled a sleepy Merlin closer to him.
The third and final time Arthur woke up, it was to the smell of banana pancakes and the sound of gentle humming.
Later that day, when Merlin and Arthur were playing a game of 21 questions, a loud bang at the door nearly made Merlin jump out of his skin. The banging continued. Arthur motioned to Merlin to stay there while Arthur answered the door.
A quick look through the peephole confirmed Arthur’s suspicion. “What do you want, Mordred” Arthur spat the words like his name was a curse.
“What do you think, you arse? I want my boyfriend back. Obviously he ran scared here last night.” Mordred tried to shoulder past Arthur and into the apartment, but Arthur shoved him back.
“Merlin’s not your boyfriend anymore. And if you come crawling back again, I can make sure that you cant get a job in the whole fucking city. I can make sure you’re treated like dirt. Like the scum you are. You will not be touching Merlin ever again. I don’t want to ever see your face again. Are we clear? Have a nice day” And Arthur slammed the door on his face before Mordred could reply.
By the end of the week. Mordred had moved out of the building. “Merlin. You could maybe…stay here awhile.” Arthur had suggested one day while putting away groceries. “So you don’t have to pay for that big empty apartment.”
Merlin had stopped in his tracks, considering. “You don’t have to move in or anything, just while you apartment hunt. I wouldn’t mind.”
Merlin chewed his bottom lip, before deciding and saying, “Yes. But only until I find a smaller apartment. Then I’ll be out of your hair.”
Three weeks later, Merlin officially moved in with Arthur.
Arthur and Merlin didn’t date all at once. They went out on dates, buying each other flowers and fighting to be the one to hold the door open. They went to the boardwalk where Arthur tried to win Merlin a stuffed dragon, and in turn Merlin successfully won it for Arthur. There were long nights spent talking and sharing secrets in hushed tones, buzzed off of wine. There were suggestive looks given by Morgana and Gwen and Gawaine and everyone, come to think of it. And one night, Arthur nearly broke his hand trying to uphold Merlin’s dignity after some guy at a bar had gotten a little too lewd. “My knight in shining armor.” Merlin had commented, while wrapping up his knuckles in bandages.
Sex wasn’t even brought up until three months into the relationship. Arthur wanted to make sure he was ready, emotionally and physically. He wanted it to be entirely on Merlin’s terms, to make sure he felt like he was loved and cared about, because he was.
The first time, it had been after a long night at a bar, in which Merlin and Arthur couldn’t keep their eyes or their hands off of each other. They had escaped the bar and arrived at the apartment in record time, stripping each other as they tumbled onto the bed.
Then the mood changed. They were no longer rushed, but slow and sensual and madly in love.
Arthur made sure to open Merlin up, take everything slow and gently. Arthur had made his boyfriend promise to tell him when anything hurt. Arthur distracted from the strange sensation of being spread open by leaning down to kiss his lover, deep and lovingly. He peppered kisses on his cheeks, down his neck, his collarbones.
After Arthur prepped himself, he looked deep into Merlin’s eyes. “We don’t have to do this, you know. We can stop at any point.”
Blue met blue. “Of course I want this you clotpole.” Merlin smiled. “But seriously. Yes, I’m good. And I’ll tell you if I’m not, okay? I just want you, Arthur. I want you so much.”
And Arthur couldn’t say no. Arthur slowly entered Merlin, causing him to gasp and scramble at Arthurs back. Arthur paused for a minute, allowing Merlin to adjust before continuing. “Gods, yes.” Merlin moaned. Arthur smiled, completely overcome by the presence of Merlin. “Get on with it, then.”
The next couple minutes were filled with panting and sensual gasps, accompanied by the sound of skin on skin. With every roll of Arthurs hips Merlin felt a new wave of pleasure, and eagerly matched his boyfriends pace.
Just as Arthur felt his climax upon him, he stared deeply into Merlin’s eyes, overcome with emotion. “I love you.” In return, Merlin reached up and pressed his mouth onto Arthurs, and they reached their climax together. And it was like a firework or some other stupid cliché, and the world felt right as they collapsed next to each other, breathless.
“I love you too.” Replied Merlin, before drifting off into a peaceful sleep. Arthur looked over at the boy he loved, admiring each curve of his silhouette. I want to give you everything. I want to give you the whole world. He thought. And he was going to deliver.