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If someone proposed to you...?

Chapter Text

“How would you want someone to propose to you?”

 

The first time Arthur asked him that was when they were four years old and barely knew what engagement was.

“Arthur, boys ask girls to marry them. I'll be doing the asking.”

“Well, if someone was going to ask you, how would you want it?” Merlin thought about if for a long time, then said:

“I would want it to be on TV, so everyone knew. And fireworks! And the ring would be huge.” He threw out his arms to show how big he wanted it.

“Merlin, girls wear the rings.”

“No, the boys wear them too. The wedding ring, remember, Gwen's dad wears one.”

“Yeah, but the girl wears the engagement ring.” Merlin pouted.

“If I'm being proposed to, then I get a ring. Wedding rings are so dull. Just... boring metal. Engagement rings are much prettier. They have diamonds and stuff. Girls get all the good things.” He and Arthur nodded, contemplating the joint suffering of all men and their lack of beautiful jewellery.

 

 

The second time Arthur asked him, they were twelve. There was a new girl in Merlin's class. Her name was Freya, and Merlin thought she was wonderful. Arthur, upon finding this out, had of course teased him mercilessly for days. But the teasing was on hold for now. Thank god.

Merlin looked up at him from his maths homework.

“This isn't the first time you've asked me, is it.” Arthur shook his head.

“No, but we were just kids when I first asked. I bet your answer has changed.”

“I guess. I wouldn't want it on TV anymore. But fireworks would still be awesome.” Arthur thought for a moment.

“Do you think you'll marry Freya one day?” Merlin frowned.

“We're not even going out Arthur.”

“Yeah, but you gotta marry someone. It could be Freya.”

“I don't have to marry anyone if I don't want to.” Arthur rolled his eyes and the topic was changed.

 

 

The third time Arthur asked him they were twenty three and Arthur had been dating Gwen for almost five years. They lived together, and Merlin could see them spending the rest of their lives with one another. He rather got the feeling that when Arthur asked him how he would want someone to propose, it was a far less personal than it had been in the past.

“I don't know Arthur. After a really amazing night out where I and... whoever was proposing had both had enough alcohol to be enjoying ourselves, but not enough for either of us to be so drunk that it impeded our judgement on what would, and should, be a very serious conversation.” He and Arthur stared, unblinking at each another for a long minute, before Arthur said:

“You got that out of the magazine Gwen left at mine the other night. I knew you read those things.” Merlin looked down at his laptop to hide a smile.

“Yeah, I did. But you recognised the reference. I'm not the only one reading them.” Arthur's face flushed red and he huffed. There were a few minutes of comfortable silence.

“So do you think you'll ever marry Gawain then?” Merlin was surprised by the question. He wrinkled his nose.

“Nah. Gawain's not a long-term thing. I only keep him round cos he's amazing at sex.” Arthur laughed and Merlin grinned. “He is. He really is. Oh! And you know how Percy's been hanging round a lot? That's cos Gawain really likes him. Percy's practically in love with Gawain already. I'm only still in the picture cos they need someone to make the breakfast in the morning. I expect I'll be let down gently within a month. You would have though a professional chef would be able to make bacon and eggs.” Arthur looked at him with a worried expression.

“Merlin. Are you really okay with that kind of relationship.” Merlin rolled his eyes.

“Oh shut up. Just because you've been with Gwen for half your life doesn't make you some sort of relationship guru. I'm not looking for the kind of relationship you have yet. Besides, the three-ways I get with Gawain and Percy are – amazing.” He gained a dreamy expression, Arthur could tell he was going to fall into an M rated fantasy soon. He would need to snap him out of it.

“Merlin. Merlin? Merrrrrliiiiin.”

Too late.

 

The fourth, and last time Arthur asked him, Merlin didn't answer for a long, long time. They were lying on the sofa, watching some of their favourite Doctor Who episodes. While Arthur liked Jon Pertwee, Merlin had always preferred David Tennant. Arthur said it was because he liked looking at his arse. Merlin never denied it.

“...I'm not sure Arthur. How would you like someone to propose to you?” Arthur glanced down. Merlin was leaning back against his chest, Arthur's arms wrapped round his middle, their fingers interlocked.

“I... I really don't know. I guess, on a night like this?” It sounded like a question more than an answer. Merlin tilted his head up to look at him in surprise.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Think about it. Spent the whole day either in bed or in the shower.”

“Or in each other.” Arthur grinned.

“We managed to cook supper without burning it, and haven't moved from the sofa since. It's been pretty much a perfect day.” Merlin gazed at him for a long time.

“So, you wouldn't want it in some amazing restaurant then? Or, even in front of our friends?” Arthur chuckled, the vibrations making Merlin shake a little on his chest.

“That was always what you wanted Merls. Fireworks and TV recordings and millions of people watching you as someone got down on one knee. People may believe that I'm the dramatic one, but I've never been interested in making big life decisions in front of a huge crowd.” A beat of silence.

“Good thing you're not the CEO of some huge, multi million company. Someone like that would need to go to big meetings and talks with repoooorters and caaaameras and who knows what else. They could even be in the newspaper. Thank god you just work at a desk in a tiny little company that will never go anywhere.”

“Funny.” Arthur dead panned. Merlin grinned like a Cheshire cat. They fell silent again, and Arthur forgot about the original question. But Merlin didn't. They got through two more Doctor Who episodes before Arthur glanced at Merlin and saw he was frowning. “What is it?”

He didn't take his eyes off the screen as he spoke:

“Just like today?” It took Arthur a second to realise what he meant.

“Uh. Yeah... sure I guess... Just like today, yeah.” Merlin thumbed the small box he had in his pocket. He had spent months agonizing over the perfect time to ask Arthur. He had worried over flowers (too feminine for Arthur's taste), restaurants (mostly too expensive for Merlin) and wording (it all seemed either too cheesy, or not meaningful at all). But, if he said this was the best time then-

It really had been an amazing day. And, now that he thought about it, Arthur had never been one for public displays of affection. He was rather stunted in the romance department, always had been.

And... it really had been an amazing, wonderful day.

Under the guise of reaching to check the oncoming episode, he pulled the small box from his pocket.

“Arthur? I– ”

 

 

Chapter Text

Arthur was happy with Gwen. He had been for five years now. She was lovely and kind and beautiful and had the biggest heart of anyone he knew. Except perhaps Merlin.

Arthur had asked Merlin about proposing. Not proposing to Gwen herself. Just in general. The answer hadn't really been very helpful. Merlin had always preferred the extravagant side of things. Gwen was quiet, almost timid at times. But even when silent, she lit up the room, and Arthur loved her for it.

And he wasn't the only one.

It was the emotion in Lance's eyes when he looked at Gwen. It hadn't been hard to figure out. Arthur wasn't worried. He knew both of them and there was no chance they would ever do anything behind his back. H e probably wouldn't have given it another thought. That sounds cruel, yes, but Arthur was also a good person and if he and Gwen were happy together then there would be little point in saddening both of them by breaking it off.

But that wasn't all.

It was the emotion in Gwen's eyes when she looked at Lance. It hadn't been hard to figure out.

Maybe that was why Arthur had put off buying Gwen a ring.

He went round London, to every jeweller y shop he could find. Some were to o fancy, other too simple. Some too big and chunky, others so small that you could barley see them. I f he was to propose, then he would find the perfect ring. Gwen deserved perfection and nothing less.

At least that was what he told himself. If he asked her to marry him, she would say yes. He knew that. But if she said yes, who knew how long it would be before she regretted it.

He wandered aimlessly down small allyways. Another day spent looking with nothing to show for it. No perfect ring. It wasn't long before he gave up and went home again. He opened the door and heard Gwen's tinkling laughter. Confused, he stepped in and closed the door quietly behind him.

The flat they lived in was close to all their friends. It was nice, but not too expensive, and it suited them perfectly. He stepped lightly down the hall and peered into the kitchen. The first person he saw was Merlin.

Merlin spent half his time in their flat. Arthur could never get rid of him. He smiled fondly. Not that he ever really tried that hard.

Gwen came into sight, and she was smiling brightly at someone Arthur couldn't see. But he knew who it was. She only ever smiled like that for Lance.

He could hear Morgana's voice and Merlin's laughter. It wasn't long before he could see Lance. He looked at Gwen like she was brighter than the sun, the moon and all the stars combined. And she looked at him the same way.

Watching them hurt Arthur's chest, so he turned his attention to Merlin, who was leaning on the granite counter, a diet coke in his hand, conversing with Morgana.

Merlin had been round longer than any of Arthur's other friends. He was always there. When Gwen had been introduced into their group as Arthur's girlfriend, he had welcomed her like an old friend. Both Gwen and Arthur had appreciated it more than they could say. He and Gwen had bonded at once. If Merlin hadn't already been going at it with Gawain, Arthur would have been jealous.

That was another thing that Arthur wondered about. Though Gwen clearly loved and thought wonders of Lance, Arthur wasn't jealous.

Maybe b ecause Gwen deserved perfection, nothing less, and perhaps perfection for her was Lance, and not him.

 

Arthur didn't end it with Gwen that night, or that week or even that month. Looking back on it in later years, he wasn't sure why. Instead, he continued to look for a ring. After five weeks of searching, he gave up.

He and Gwen sat at the table, eating pizza. Neither had felt like cooking that evening.

“Are you alright? You've been very quiet today Arthur.” He gave her a small smile.

“No, I'm fine.” There was a few minutes of slightly awkward silence, before he broke it again, “Actually, I'm not fine.” She looked at him, confused. “There's something I want to talk to you about. I've... I've been meaning to talk to you about it for a while now, really. I don't know what's stopped me.” She set down her pizza slice, and after wiping her hands on a napkin, put them in her lap, watching him expectantly.

Now that he was going to confront the issue, Arthur found he had no idea what to say.

“I, uh. We, I mean...” He sighed and buried his head in his hands. “I really don't know how to say this.” Gwen was starting to look rather nervous by this point. “Lance likes you.”

He wasn't sure how this was in anyway shape or form an appropriate way to begin this sort of conversation, but he'd had a brain fart, and the word-odor that had leaked out formed those three words.

Gwen's eyes were misty and her mouth was open slightly in shock.

“I-I know.”

“You like Lance too.” she looked close to tears, and Arthur, somewhat alarmed, stood and walked round to pull her into a hug.

“Arthur, Arthur I'm so sorry, but you need to understand we didn't do anything. I promise we would never-” Arthur cut her off quickly,

“I know. I know. I know you wouldn't do that. Neither of you, not even if I gave you permission.” she sniffled, looking rather shame-faced. “Gwen, I think we should break up.” She turned her face up to him in shock, her mouth moving silently. “I promise it's not because I think you were cheating on me, really, I know you. That wouldn't happen. I think... Lance would be better for you. He makes you so happy, and I realise that if I weren't there to keep you apart you would be together.” Gwen made a choked noise, but said nothing. “I've known for a while now. So, I'm sorry, I should have ended it a long time ago. It was selfish of me to remain between you for so long.” She shook her head.

“No, Arthur, if I was unhappy with you I would have ended things. I just-”

 

The conversation went on late into the night. By the end of it, they were both single. It went better than Arthur could have ever hoped. They weren't going to let this get between them, and while they knew it would be odd and uncomfortable for a while (seeing each other naked did things to your friendship) they were going to do the best they could. And they were both extraordinary people, so the best they could do was pretty fucking amazing.

Arthur convinced Gwen that she should stay in the flat. It had taken quite a while, but she wandered back to what had been their bedroom and helped him pack a couple of bags.

Merlin opened the door, scowling. Who the fuck knocked on the door at three in the morning? When he saw Arthur the scowl deepened, but once he noticed the glum expression on his best friend's face, he stepped to the side and let him in without a word. Gawain took one look at Arthur, walked into the kitchen and pulled out a beer, offering it silently.

No words were spoken as Arthur's bags were dropped in the spare room and a bed was set up. In fact, no one said anything till Arthur was lying in bed, and Merlin brought in a glass of water filled mostly with ice. He looked at it curiously, and Merlin grinned a little.

“You can't sleep without some water, remember? When we were younger and you forgot to get one you never slept. So, here you go.” It was placed on the bedside-table and Merlin left with a soft goodnight.

Arthur fought back a smile as he drank deeply from the glass. He would explain everything tomorrow. But for now, it could wait.

Chapter Text

“'N't it nice that we boof had sush great break ups?” Merlin was drunk. Very drunk. “I mean, most people argue and fight and nef- nef- neffffff... don't see each uver 'gain. But, you 'n Gwen 'n Lance are still great friends, like, like tight, BFFs 'n all that.” Arthur giggled,
“Yeah, like BFFLs. Best friends for light, no, fight, no, flight? Best friend for flight? That don't sound right. Ha! That rhymed.” Arthur may have been a little tipsy too.
“Rhymed is spelled silly, it's like, rHymed. Rhhhiiiimed. What's with the H?” Arthur shrugged, still smiling stupidly into his empty glass. The sober Morgana sat, her chin resting on her fingers and bored expression on her face. But the phone (recording) on her lap showed quite how interested she was in this. She wasn't sure why Arthur looked so happily at an empty glass. If it were her, she would have smiled at Merlin's almost full glass, and then stolen it.
“What were we saying?”
“You were talking about how well you two broke up with my friends.” Morgana spoke up.
“Oh yeah,” Merlin beamed at her ear, which was what he was looking at instead of her face. She had a very nice left ear, he decided. “Gawain's with Percy now, so, yay!”
“No Merlin,” Arthur spoke slowly as though talking to a child. “This is sad. You're sad when you break up with someone. Remember? I was sad.” Merlin looked dejected at the idea that he couldn't be sad, and consequently became sad. Deciding that this wasn't interesting enough to waste her phone memory on, Morgana spoke again.
“If you're both sad and single why don't you just get together?” Merlin frowned,
“We can't do that.”
“Why not?”
“Because... because... Arthur? Tell her why not.”
“Because I want a long-term thing and Merlin wants a fuck.”
“Do both. I know about asexuals and stuff, but I've found that the long-term bit is a lot more fun with the fucking bit.” This, in their drink addled minds, make perfect sense to Merlin and Arthur. Merlin shrugged, and Arthur lunged. The kiss was sloppy and confusing. Once Morgana showed them the video, they would spend the rest of their lives haunted by the image of Arthur trying to figure out why Merlin's ear wouldn't kiss him back. Arthur defended himself by saying that both Merlin's mouth and ear were so big that it was easy to confuse one for the other. Merlin would later say that he had wondered why his ear was dripping with saliva the nest day.
Morgana, temped though she was, decided that she would vacate the area once they began pulling off their clothes. There was only so much of her brothers backside that she could take. She wasn't sure quite how far they would be able to go, so drunk that they were. If Arthur thought that Merlin's ear was his mouth, then she hated to think what he thought was his arse. Merlin may wake up the next morning with a sticky armpit.
As it turned out, they did figure out which bit went where, and thanked god that Merlin couldn't get pregnant, because condoms had been the last thing on their minds at the time. Arthur, who had always been an early riser, woke up first, and had the hard task of figuring out why they were lying naked on the floor covered with a sticky white substance. His first thought was that maybe someone had spilt slightly off milk over them as they slept. But one sniff of the substance told him it wasn't off milk. His next idea was that maybe they had gotten so drunk that they went out and got gang fucked by a bunch of strangers. He immediately begin to look for tattoos. It wouldn't have been the first time he had gotten a tattoo when sloshed out of his mind.
Once he had assured himself that his skin was blemish free (except of course the T-rex he had tattooed on his ankle from the last time) he set about remembering what had happened. The gang fuck thing was a silly idea really. Anyway, it wouldn't explain the pogo stick. After sometime, he decided that he couldn't and wanted some tea instead.
He wandered into the kitchen, where his laptop was fired up and had a note stuck to the front that said:

I doubt you'll remember what happened last night
so watch this, sadly I didn't get the interesting
stuff, but it should give you an idea of what you two did
xxx Morgana

He watched the video with growing horror. As the video came to a close, the memories of what he and Merlin had done last night after Morgana had left slowly came back. Well, at least it explained the pogo stick. He winced, Merlin was going to be very sore when he woke up.