If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love, decidedly, is all around—
Merlin crumpled the paper, hurling across the room only to miss the wastebasket and buried his head in his folded arms. He, of all the writers at Camelot, had been asked to write, of all the articles that were going to exist, a holiday fluff piece! Merlin Emrys did not write fluff pieces. He wrote scintillating commentary and scathing reviews, not this bullshit. This was Stark’s territory, not his, but apparently Sansa was too busy writing an emotional analysis of the treatment of war veterans.
“Bad day at the office?” Magnus asked, carrying two mugs of tea, one of which he offered to his self-decided world-weary roommate.
“You could say that,” Merlin replied, accepting the mug from Magnus’ beringed and glitter laden hand. “I’m supposed to submit a fluff piece for the Christmas issue.”
“Let me guess, it was Pendragon’s idea?”
“Who else would pull this?”
Magnus flopped onto their couch, a ridiculously pumpkin orange, microfiber beast that Magnus had claimed was simply divine. Merlin had only agreed because it was the cheapest couch they could find when they moved in. “If you need sickening romance just phone up Freya and ask about her holiday plans with Percy. That should be more than enough ammunition.”
“Do you want to sit through that phone call?” he shot back, taking a sip of his tea. “Because I’ll pass. How are things with the blue eyed beauty?”
“You’re playing dirty, Emrys, but no, I have not yet made contact. It’s utterly shameful.”
Merlin cracked a tight smile, “I know, a college student bringing the great Magnus Bane to his knees without even knowing it. Positively disgraceful.”
They lapsed into an easy silence as Magnus turned on the television to Project Runway reruns and he attempted to swallow his pride and think better of the numerous creative, holiday themed ways he could imagine to kill Arthur Pendragon. His tormentor, a self-styled liege lord, and an all round pain in the ass. However, as Magnus would often point out, that pain in the ass paid the bills. Bane. The Bane of my existence, Merlin called him, lovingly insulting as friends are. If his roommate was feeling a particular urge of affectionate ire then he would say that Merlin would be a virgin well into middle age because he was too high strung for a good fuck. To this Merlin would say at least he had standards and so on until they dissolved into a pillow fight using those peacock feather pattern throws that Magnus had insisted on which wouldn’t have been so bad if the sofa hadn’t been orange.
If the Merlin that had met Magnus had seen them living together so amicably he’d likely die of shock. Understandably so, they hadn’t begun on the best of terms when they were jammed together in a dorm room Freshman year. Their personalities clashed, their schedules conflicted and Merlin inadvertently may have caused Magnus’ girlfriend, Camille to break up with him. Eventually, it had boiled down to the pair of them getting slightly drunk and sharing life stories for them to see each other as human. And Freya. Sweet, lovable, helpful, infuriating Freya who had saved their friendship more times than Merlin could count. He liked to think setting her up with Percy, who luckily had turned out to be the love of her life (her words not his), was his way of repaying her for everything she went through with them.
Now, the graduates were renting an apartment in Brooklyn trying to make ends meet between Merlin’s degree in journalism and Magnus’ in fashion merchandising and design, and Freya was engaged to her huge Prince Charming who she was set to marry on the Winter Solstice. Magnus hadn’t dated anyone since Camille Belcourt, preferring hook ups instead of relationships. This is, until he came face to face with the blue eyed confiseur at Tread Lightly, the home of some of the finest chocolates in New York. Tread Lightly operated in conjunction with Turnabout is Fair Play, a used bookstore, and the Morning Star, a bistro lately improved by coming under new management. Merlin had tried relationships, but none of them lasted long. He’d gone out with Gwaine Lotson, a friend of Magnus’, but they just ended up getting on at a platonic level. Then there was Podrick Payne. Admittedly the best sex of his life, but not exactly something to build lifelong romance on. Last he heard, Pod was secretary to Brienne Tarth, one of the litigators of the Lannister & Son law firm.
“Merl, be a dove and get the door would you?” Magnus called from the couch, breaking his reverie.
“Says the one who isn’t working,” he muttered, navigating the veritable maze of odd furniture and fabric piles and half finished projects. University days Merlin would never have put up with this mess. He jerked the door open without checking who it was to see their newest neighbor.
Fine, he’d been living across the hall since early October, it was now mid-November, but Merlin still didn’t know his name and that made him new. The dark haired boy shuffled slightly before holding up the UPS box.
“This was in my mailbox, but I think it’s yours. It’s addressed to M. Bane, anyway, and that’s one of the names on your box,” he said, speaking almost too quick for him to understand.
“Oh, yes, Magnus was wondering when this’d show up,” Merlin replied, accepting the package. “We haven’t been properly introduced, I’m Merlin Emrys.”
“Stiles. Stiles Stilinski.” They shook hands, and Stiles left, darting down the hall toward the stairs, not even waiting for the elevator which promptly opened, revealing the third and quietest resident of their floor: Derek. Merlin only knew Derek because he’d been the one to scare their landlord into fixing the water pressure in their shower. And also because he occasionally banged on the wall when Magnus played his music to loud while he was “in the zone”. He was basically an old man in the body of a twenty-something with a perpetual scowl that looked like he never missed arm day at the gym.
Magnus had shown some interest in him when he first moved in, replacing Nancy, or Old Nan, and her strange stories and amazing snickerdoodles. Soon enough, the green eyed diva had pronounced Derek to be a fine piece of ass who wouldn’t know how to relax if you knocked him out with chloroform. Which Merlin had not allowed him to try.
Merlin dropped the box onto the couch. “New neighbor got our mail.”
“Did you get a name? Letter opener, now.”
“Stiles. Your letter opener is on the end table beside your thick—”
“Careful how you end that sentence, darling. What the hell is a Stiles?”
“Skull, you gutter rat, and hell if I know. Dear lord in heaven what is that?”
“Merlin, I am going to make mesh acceptable to the general public, just you watch.”
“Jackets, fine. Vests, fine. Shirts, fine. Dance shorts, are you out of your mind?”
“I have vision!
“You have an ego the size of Staten Island.”
“And something else to match!”
“Not really, no.”