Arthur knows of three Camelot Coffees between his flat and his office at Pendragon & Gorlois, and of these, the one located across the street from St. Mary's Hospital is certainly the least conveniently located. He would never have stopped there had he not encountered an unusual traffic fuckup of epic proportions one day, necessitating a detour from his usual route. That explains the first time he visited, but now there is another reason he goes out of his way to stop there every morning on his way to work, and it’s not the quality of the coffee or the service.
The real reason walks in the door every morning at half seven. White earbuds rest inside his ears, and when he reaches the front of the line he deftly plucks one out with long, slim fingers before placing his order. He never fails to have a friendly smile for the barista, along with a generous tip. His tousled dark hair is always on the right side of the line between “I just rolled out of bed after having fantastic sex” and “I don’t own a brush.”
Arthur imagines that if he had a single poetic bone in his body (he doesn’t) he might compose a sonnet to the deep blue of the man’s eyes, or an ode to his sharp cheekbones and perfect lips. The man is too bloody gorgeous; he’s exactly Arthur’s type, and this is getting ridiculous.
For six months Arthur has been seeing Tall, Lean and Gorgeous order coffee (black, two sugars and a blueberry scone on Fridays), and for six months he has failed to approach him even once. This has never been a problem for him before. Arthur doesn’t believe in false modesty. He knows he is uncommonly attractive, and he has always easily charmed men and women alike into drinks and dates and long nights in his expensive, tastefully decorated flat in Canary Wharf. There’s something about this man – Arthur can’t quite put his finger on it – and somehow he knows the usual approach won’t work with him. For the first time in his life, Arthur Pendragon is nervous about asking someone out.
Arthur spends all weekend convincing himself that wanking himself raw imagining Coffee Shop Guy’s lips wrapped around his cock is not a viable long-term plan (pleasurable though it may be) and decides that Monday is the day. He will simply walk up to the man, introduce himself, and ask him out for coffee.
Except he might already have coffee. Scratch that. Arthur will just have to introduce himself the old-fashioned way and say…what? What will he say? What is it about this man that robs him of all sense and reason? Arthur realizes he’s overthinking it and tries to go back to more enjoyable thoughts.
Monday arrives as it always does, and Arthur walks into Camelot Coffee at precisely seven AM. It is much busier than usual, and Gwen-the-Barista gives him a harried smile when she hands over his customary caffè macchiato.
“What’s with the crowd this morning?” He asks as he drops his change into the tip jar. She acknowledges his contribution with a more genuine smile before replying. “Some kind of medical conference at St. Mary’s, I think.”
“The Society of British Neurological Surgeons,” says someone behind him.
Arthur turns and very narrowly stops himself from gaping, because the person who spoke is none other than the man he’s been positively stupid over for the past six months. This ongoing stupidity is surely to blame for the next words out of Arthur’s mouth. “You don’t mean to tell me that you’re a neurosurgeon?”
“Foundation Doctor, actually. Year 2.” The man cocks his head and looks at Arthur curiously. “Is there something in particular about me that screams ‘this man is most certainly not qualified to perform complex surgery on my brain’ that I should know about? Because I haven’t picked a specialty yet.”
“Not at all,” Arthur replies smoothly. He rapidly considers how he might be able to salvage this conversation, and steps closer with a smile on his face. “I just thought you looked a little young for an advanced specialty. I meant no offense. I’m Arthur, by the way.” He holds out his hand, and he certainly does not feel a little tightening in his chest when the other man shakes it with a bemused expression.
“Merlin. And none taken.”
Merlin’s eyes crinkle around the corners when he smiles, and the feeling in his chest that Arthur can no longer deny is growing stronger. It’s really the oddest feeling, he thinks, and Merlin is looking at him with concern in his eyes that are so damn blue.
And then the memories hit.
Many different versions of Merlin flash before Arthur's eyes, but no matter the variation in hairstyle or clothing the ardor in his gaze remains unchanged. Their eyes lock; Arthur's fingers clamp down reflexively on Merlin's and he is overwhelmed by the intensity of the memories. A fierce, wild joy overtakes him as he suddenly feels a sense of completeness he never knew he was missing.
“Merlin,” he finally breathes out. “What took you so long?”