| Master: Extras
| Master: Thankyous
Merlin walked into work on Tuesday scowling, which had him immediately sent to the tea room with a rap on the knuckles and orders to make a new pot of tea. Gwen came in about three minutes after that with a new packet of biscuits.
"Bad day?" Gwen rubbed his shoulder gently and took a seat beside him. Merlin bit savagely into an oreo (no milk).
"Mam's pimping me out," he mumbled grudgingly, crunching noisily. "I had to call her up and not-shout at her to stop trying to fix me up. And also that she shouldn't be accepting dodgy invites from randy men of any age." He swallowed and wiped his hand over his mouth to clear it of crumbs, frustrated. "She didn't take it very well."
Which was a tiny understatement, because she had started not-crying on the phone, telling him very unsteadily about how she worried for him and that she could take care of herself just fine, which had him not-apologizing profusely and, after giving that up, calling Gauis and asking him to console his mam because he is a horrid child and son and should never have left Ealdor.
Gaius had told him to grow a pair, and then muttered about taking over some porridge before ringing off.
"Oh," said Gwen, sounding surprised. She said after a pause, "is that all?"
"What?" Merlin whipped his head from where it rested from the table, upset.
"I didn't mean it like— of course it's horrible that you and your mother are having problems, I obviously wouldn't wish that on anybody. I mean, not that having problems with her is a small problem in any way, because it's healthy for parents and children to fight, you see—"
"She means we thought you were upset because you found out you were Bar Guy and throwing a giant fit." Freya cut Gwen off, holding his laptop in one had and reaching down to cover Gwen's mouth with the other. "By the way, you are so totally get a raise for this Merlin."
"Um, yes. To the former, I mean. And, congratulations on the latter?" Gwen agreed a little confusedly, when Freya removed her hand to sit on Merlin's other side.
He looked at Freya blankly, and then swiveled his head slowly to stare at Gwen's once again earnest face. "What are you on about?" he asked slowly, like he did that time in the park, coaxing wild ducks from eating his precious circuits when he decided to take apart his electronic dictionary (he had been learning Japanese at the time).
"Look, right here!" Freya almost squealed, tapping at the screen.
"Um," Merlin looked at them both, confused. "I'm not sure which part of this is meant to convince me of being an internet phenomenon. I quite like Chai lattes."
Gwen looked at him like he was a dear stray kitten she wanted to take home and cuddle. Freya looked like she wanted to smack him about the face. "Merlin, of course that's you! How can you deny such blatant evidence?"
"Oh hold on," Gwen said distantly. "We've skipped a few pages. Here we go, right here Merlin."
That wasn't possible.
Merlin clicked on the links again and stared long and hard at the photos.
"They're awful photos," Gwen murmured, rubbing his back. "But that's what you were wearing yesterday. You know. At least, what he managed to frame of your outfit with his atrocious photo taking skills."
"The hungry hungry caterpillar was on my shirt yesterday." Merlin said, bewildered. His mind, normally extremely adept at handling information, seemed to have frozen and was in need of a reboot.
"Yup." Freya said, gnawing her lips in uncertainty. "Um, you seem sort of surprised?"
"I really don't think he knew, Freya." Gwen looked at him worriedly. Freya seemed, if anything, even more gleeful at the news. Merlin barely heard them.
"And you made me wear that headband and skirt."
"That's the scarf Arthur gave me yesterday."
Merlin looked down at his vest belatedly, a strange blue and white and pink unintentional tie dye, from his first ever attempt at laundry and forever stained, mirroring the photo on screen. The frilly sleeves went past the length of his hands, being two sizes too big.
"This is Lance's," he heard himself say, distant over the roaring in his ears. He picked at the ridiculous frills. "They're the only clean shirts left because we're both doing laundry today. This one had the least amount of frills on it."
No wonder he had been dressed like everyone else. No wonder everyone was reading P&P&Z
at uni. No wonder he couldn't get the next Autobot in the Happy Meal series!
He could feel Gwen murmuring at him indistinctly, but his mind had already stopped well before the point of human interaction. Held at a standstill, it was like he was looking at white text on a blue screen of death, his eyes like the cursor, blinking mechanically.
Merlin continued to blink. Then got up woodenly from his chair.
"I should fix that," he said blankly.
For the rest of his shift, he sequestered himself in the tea room and meticulously pulled out all the wiring, scattered his beloved chips and circuits in a donut shape around himself and ignored Freya when she tried to make him come out the front and serve customers, threatening to not give him the promised raise.
He was Bar Guy. BG.
People around the city were dressing up like him. People were reading the books he was reading. People listened to Penn go on about him and bought blue contacts.
Penn, the DriveThru's very own lovable nutjob, sort of admired him from afar.
Penn, the voice which lulled him into sleep most nights, sort of had a crush on him.Um.Huh?!
Gwen and Freya were two of the best people Merlin ever had the privilege of befriending. Gwen was forever worried about his health and things like his eating habits (and Freya was too, in the beginning. Then she forced him on the scales after a night of all-you-can-eat lasagna for a standard shop personnel health test, and since then had been entirely unconcerned. Very strange). Gwen was nice, almost to a fault, and actually helped to land Merlin his job at the shop the day after he moved in (she had spilt some coffee on him on her way to work, and taken him to the store to get him a new one. Honestly, the nicest person).
After hearing about his lack of employment, Freya basically gave him a job on the spot, after a two question interview.
("So Merlin, do you do drugs?"
"And you're obviously twee, then."
"I-I don't think you're meant to ask me stuff like that—"
"I like him Gwen! He's hired!")
It was more of a one question interview really, now that he thought about it.
What he was trying to say was, the girls were very, very nice to him. Ordinarily. He was quickly discovering the niceness? Did not extend to times when they discovered he was somewhat famous on the internet.
"Bar Guy has a heart of gold!" Gwen chirped at him cheerfully, humming as she rinsed out her mug in the sink. She then simply bounced out of the room, ignoring Merlin's look of horror and despair and not caring in the slightest that he might have crushed a very important circuit the espresso machine needed in order to make horrible coffee in his shocked hands.
"Bar Guy has a smile that really ought to be classified as a WMD!" Freya sang out melodically on her way to the biscuit tin, jolting Merlin out of his rather uncomfortable sprawl on the tea room floor. "By the way, you know I'm paying you to work out front right?"
Merlin ignored her.
And so on and so forth it went, even after Merlin had to relinquish his screwdriver because his hand developed red grooves from gripping it too tightly. He dragged at his heels, re-assembling the coffee machine as slowly as possible after he took out the sound chip. Gwen and Freya's increasingly thin excuses eventually ran out until they made no attempts to mask their insidious glee at all.
"Bar Guy probably tastes sweet like oranges and cream, his favourite lolly stick flavour," Gwen read out. The girls awwwwwwwwww
-ed in unison and Merlin had had enough.
"It does not
say that!" Merlin threw his hands up, exasperated.
"No it does, right after Dusty says he's going to be sick." Gwen says, thrusting a printout in his face. "See, right here."
"Right under where Penn says he doesn't know what Dusty's on about," Freya chimed in unhelpfully. Printouts were not a good sign. Merlin looked at the innocuous white piece of paper in dismay. He hoped they weren't planning to decorate them with sparkly pens and put them up on their sewing room wall (like they did when they found the diary he had kept in grade school. Just a lot of stick figures and hungry caterpillars really, but embarrassing all the same).
He carelessly pushed the offending sheet away from him and narrowed his eyes. "You girls are having way too much fun with this. How did you even find out?" These questions probably would have been best asked right after they had 'shown him the light' (their words, not his) but Merlin had been overloading with information, and it was only now that he was fit for normal human enquiries.
Freya and Gwen exchanged a long-suffering look before both patting his head (he was still not a dog).
"We dress you Merlin. Every day," Freya said, enunciating slowly and clearly.
"And well, it was all a little too coincidental? Everything we dressed you in would fly of the shelves the day after. I mean, we sort of suspected something was going on but, we really didn't think of it until the coveralls," Gwen said soothingly, rubbing his arm.
"Oh," Merlin breathed out.
Freya nodded in agreement. "We designed them ourselves you know, and they weren't cheap to produce so, we never thought they'd sell that well at all. But after you wore them out of the store the other day, they flew off the shelf like brollies on a rainy day! I'm surprised you didn't notice."
Merlin decided it was better for everyone sitting at the table if he kept silent about his mantra of 'what goes on in the shop, stays in the shop', due to Gwen and Freya incessant treatment of him as though he was a mannequin in the front window. He wore what they wanted him to wear and scrubbed his mind clean of the gritty details. In fact, as far as he was concerned his clothes magically changed when he walked through the door, and never was he subjected to horrific scrutiny with comments such as "these pants require him to wear a thong," and "we should tape it down to his skin in case of nipple flash" (and he was immensely grateful that the weather was always so cold, because the thought of even less clothing sort of made him dizzy and in need of a lie down).
Anyway, in his mind? Work consisted of walking in, walking out, and biscuits in the tea room. Oh, and weird customers (those stories are great ice breakers at parties where he knew nobody and Will was busy making out with a girl in the darkest corner he can find).
The two girls sipped their tea. Merlin stared some more.
"So are you going to meet him?" Gwen asked finally, a worried crease appearing on her brow.
Merlin gaped, slamming the lid of the laptop in horror.
"What? Back up, back up!" Freya cried fretfully. "Who said anything about Merlin actually coming into contact with this bloke?" She settled her gaze on Merlin, eyes fierce. "Don't do it Merlin, he could slip you date rape drugs!"
"Oh, no he wouldn't." Gwen rubbed his arm a with a little more pressure than before. "He's probably just shy or-- or overweight or something. You know. Because he's been saying all these nice things about you but hasn't even introduced himself to you? He hasn't has he?"
"An obese drug pusher!" Freya gasped.
The girls were very lovely indeed. They always knew exactly the right things to say to him.
After his shift ended, he decided he needed a lollipop (one that wasn't handed to him by people wearing skinny jeans on his walk to work, but one he had to pry out of the begrudging claws of the girl who worked at the games shop).
He unwrapped his prize with relish, popping it in his mouth as he stepped back out into the rush three quarters of an hour later (it was one of those damn slidey puzzles where he had maneuver stupid small squares to get a big square out all right, don't judge him), and bumped right into Arthur.
"Fancy meetin' ya here Merlin, whadda coincidence!" The blond smiled broadly, clapping his icy cold hand onto Merlin's shoulder. He couldn't help but shudder at the shock of it.
"H-hello Arthur, how are you?" Merlin said, after recovering from the sudden drop in temperature (except it sort of came out muffled because of the lolly).
Arthur opened his mouth to reply when a harried waitress suddenly appeared at his elbow. "You forgot your coffee sir!" she said irritably, almost shoving the styrofoam cup into Arthur's gloveless hands.
"Very kind of you," Arthur bit out tersely (the cold must have been getting to him). Merlin watched on curiously as the waitress rolled her eyes at him, before quickly retreating back across the street, muttering something about people standing around for no good reason under her breath.
They both stared after her until she finally slipped behind her coffee kiosk, going back to serving cold, unhappy Albionites. Locking gazes a moment later, they burst out into awkward laughter.
"What was that about?" Merlin said, lollipop hanging precariously from his fingertips.
"Who knows?" Arthur replied, wiping tears of cold (or possibly actual mirth) from his eyes. He took a few exaggerated deep breaths as if to calm himself down, which only set Merlin off again.
"Ya know, s' a bit chilly. Dya want?" He offered the take away cup in Merlin's direction.
"I think your hands need it more than I do," Merlin laughed, waving it away. "Plus, my mouth is kind of occupied."
He noticed Arthur watching the path his hand took to lead the sweet back into his mouth. Arthur didn't say anything for a while, which was also awkward, so Merlin cleared his throat and started ambling down the street, hoping Arthur would fall in step with him. He did.
"Cherry s'it?" Arthur said, eyes distractingly following the lolly's journey in Merlin's mouth as he blocked the chill coming in from the cars on the road.
"Um, yeah," Merlin mumbled. His mouth was tingling for no good reason.
"Dun'it taste like cough syrup," Arthur said, voice severe. The hand not holding the styrofoam cup was stuffed in his coat pocket.
"Mmm," Merlin agreed, pulling a face. "It's disgusting." That didn't stop him from eating it though, he'd earned the right to devour it with his blood, sweat and tears (well, no actual bodily fluids were present, though the girl at the games shop probably imagined his bloody, gory death every time he stepped in. Just a hunch).
Arthur grinned at his antics and Merlin felt his neck heating up under his scarf (there's no way his face was going to heat up, not in this weather). The blond looked away, rummaging in his coat pocket as he took a sip from his coffee. What he pulled out of his pocket stopped Merlin in his tracks.
"Ohmygod," he cheered. "BUMBLEBEE
He rolled his lollipop from side to side in his mouth with his tongue, delighted as he carefully took the yellow toy robot from Arthur's loose grip. Thanks to the— the revelation, he hadn't managed to get a toy with his happy meal in two weeks! He couldn't help moving its limbs, and may or may not have started making "pew pew!" noises.
"Oh, I love these!" Merlin gushed, looking at Arthur's coat pocket excitedly. "Is that a magic present giver or something? Is it a bottomless pit of presents?" Without thinking, he stuck his hand in to find out for himself. "Are you Santa?" he laughed, amusedly looking into Arthur's face.
Which had gotten inexplicably close.
Oh. Wait. That wasn't because of Arthur, that was because Merlin had shamelessly stuck his hand inside Arthur's coat,
breaking all sorts of personal space rules and also, incredibly rude. Mortified, he was about to step back and pretend it never happened, when a tentative hand wrapped around his trembling fingers, keeping Merlin rooted to the spot.
"Your hands are bloody cold," Arthur chuckled, warm coffee scented puffs ghosting Merlin's cheeks. Clutching the Transformer tightly, Merlin felt his mouth attempted to curl into a smile as Arthur gently drew the stick from Merlin's mouth, a wet noise as his lips released it. Arthur moved in very slowly.
Merlin felt his eyelids getting heavy, his mouth dry and his heart pounding double time in his chest. His hand was encased in Arthur's palm, warm and secreted away. He might have leaned down, just a tiny bit, miniscule really. He might have tilted his head a little to the side. He might've—
When a horn sounded shrilly behind him, he jerked his hand out of Arthur's pocket and took a large step back, forcing out a laugh as he ran the offending limb behind his neck, feet unsteadily carrying his weight.
He cleared his throat loudly. "Well, um, this is me. I turn off here, so..." he said hurriedly, not even bothering to see where he was. It was a complete and utter lie but Arthur probably wouldn't know that and Merlin knew he was going to embarrass himself horribly if he continued to stand there one moment longer because well, 'kissing' (that was what they were about to do right? He wasn't just imagining that?) and 'Merlin' didn't exactly walk hand in hand (and he needed to stop alluding to his hands so much, even if he could still almost feel Arthur's warm hand gently cradling his—)
And it shouldn't be such a big deal anyway. Those kids on that Gossip Girl thing practically kissed anything that moved so, really, not a big deal at all. But the thing was, Merlin was a touch nervous. Arthur...well, Arthur looked like someone who knew what to do with someone else's mouth once he had it and Merlin, well
— Merlin had kissed three people in his life: his mother, a boy who had come to Ealdor on holidays when he was fourteen (and that was really more of a shock than anything, because he hadn't even known he was gay then) and Will (who got Merlin to kiss him in clubs so that girls would come up to him later to cure Will of his 'confusion'. Call Will as many names as you like, his best mate was ingenious when it came to getting into the pants of the female persuasion).
So, the decision here was obvious. He would retreat for now, have a nice little freak out and then maybe convince Lancelot to eat greasy fish and chips with him while he freaked out some more. He cleared his throat again. "Um right, so, I'm going to go now. Um, do you want the robot back?" Merlin offered, glaring slightly at the yellow Transformer, who had no business orchestrating kissing incidents whatsoever, and he made a mental note to give his Optimus Prime a stern talking to once he was home.
"S'alright, you keep it. Morgana said ya liked 'em anyway." Arthur smiled ruefully, sticking his hands back in his pockets. The coffee cup and lollipop had met an unfortunate end it seemed, contents spilled in the gutter when the car horn had startled them. "Sumthin' 'bout ya other one drownin' under a mountain 'a lolly sticks."
Merlin felt his mouth easily curving into a smile. How Arthur was able to retain stupid information about Merlin (of all people!) made something curl up pleasantly in his belly. Before he could talk himself into doing anything foolish, he hesitantly waved Bumblebee at Arthur, murmured a heartfelt thank you before shuffling off towards the corner.
"Merlin!" Arthur called out behind him. Merlin hoped he didn't look too enthusiastic when he turned around. Arthur looked like he wasn't quite sure why he had called out in the first place, opening and closing his mouth rapidly. "I— Merlin, I..." I didn't mean to do that? I'm sorry, that was my bad?
Anxiety clogged his throat.
"I'll see you later?" Merlin blurted out, voice too hopeful and feeling his bones recoiling at his eagerness.
Arthur stared at him incredulously, before breaking out into a grin. It felt like the sunlight streaming through the clouds after the rain.
"Yeah. Yeah definitely. See ya later Merlin."
Turning corners when he shouldn't obviously led to one thing.
"So, you're... on Courtyard." Lancelot's dubious voice said from down the line.
"And Stables. The intersection between Courtyard and Stables." Merlin replied chirpily.
"Why are you on Courtyard and Stables Merlin, that's nowhere near Quarters. Which, by the way, is where we live."
Merlin was actually quite cold, which consequently made him quite cross, and though it was of his own doing he just wanted Lancelot to perhaps be sympathetic and tell him how to get home without ripping into him about being absent minded and ripe for kidnapping, or other nonsense Hunith had delighted in telling him about ever since she'd known he was moving to the city.
"I wasn't really paying attention Lance," Merlin groaned. "Not after Gwen and Freya teased me all day about being Bar Guy— which I can't believe it but it's actually looking very probable— and then Arthur gave me a Transformer out of his Santa sack and almost kissed me on the—"
"Okay you know what? I'll be there in ten." And rang off on Merlin mid rant.
He didn't know why he was surprised when Lancelot rolled up with Morgana and Leon waving at him with shameless enthusiasm from the backseat. Honestly, he should have expected it with the day he was having.
---Single. Really ridiculously single.
His alarm clock was also buried beneath a mountain of lollipops along with Optimus, so he set his alarm on his phone. He set it down next to Bumblebee, which he had positioned to look as though the Transformer was going to shoot through his lollipop mountain to rescue his fearless Autobot leader. After rubbing Bumblebee's plastic head fondly, Merlin went to sleep with his own ridiculous smile plastered on his face.
Merlin's happy happy joy joy feelings were (unfairly) short lived.
He went into work scowling again, a sense of deja vu washing over him. He had yet another follow up conversation where he very firmly told his mam to please please please
, do not try to set him up with anybody else over facebook, please
(and ordinarily Merlin would have mentioned that something was actually happening between him and Arthur, but this time he was too scared his mam would actually try to help in some way, and if she did
then he'd have to make a Toast Launcher so big he could launch himself to the moon).
To Gwen and Freya's very exuberant, expectant faces, he only ground out, "No I do not know what to do about Penn, no I have not started reading any of his blogs or tweets again and yes, it is because I'm too afraid of what I'm going to find and no, I don't know if I want to date him!" He had then slammed the store room door and busied himself unpacking boxes and jumbling up clothes Gwen would have to fix up later for all of fifteen minutes, before dragging himself out and apologizing to them both for his behaviour, taking up his usual sprawl behind the register after letting them dress him how they liked.
He felt contrite for about five minutes before he noticed a thick scrapbook Freya and Gwen had thoughtfully left for him, entitled "Penn's Greatest Hits :D" (he didn't dare open it, and made his displeasure known by taking three biscuits at break time and eating them all himself instead of sharing them with the girls as he usually did. His stomach didn't thank him, and he suspects his great act of rebellion did not raise any eyebrows as intended).
He slipped out in a bad mood (and coincidentally, it seemed Gwen and Freya had also slipped the dreaded :D book into his canvas bag), and decided the remedy for it would be watching car chases and explosions with Lancelot, drinking horrible wine and popcorn with lots of salt in their trackies. He marched straight to the action corner, tossing up between Bruce Willis and Vin Diesel.
"I vote Die Hard 4.0."
The familiar harsh cockney accent jolted Merlin out of his intense concentration. He turned to see Arthur next to him, almost resting his head on Merlin's shoulder. The blond smiled at him, and Merlin's heart most certainly did not skip a beat or three.
"Hey. Ya look pissed."
That prompted Merlin to turn back to the dvd covers. "I'm not having a good day," he explained simply. "So I want big boom."
Arthur laughed. "Mythbusters?"
"Big boom with no science or realism," Merlin corrected. He conceded defeat for the moment and put the discs down to look at Arthur properly. "Fancy meeting you here."
That only made the blond's smile widen. "Well, ya know. I saw ya from outside, bein' so incredibly distinctive n' everythin'."
Just at that moment, two groups of teenagers walked passed them, chatting excitedly and dressed exactly like the Merlin-of-two-days-past (skirt, big belt, headband. They had 'Where the Wild Things Are' instead of The Hungry Caterpillar. Go team individuality!).
"Oh yeah, I'm a true original." He remarked drily.
Arthur shrugged. "Talkin' 'bout the scarf actually."
Merlin's hands flew up, stroking the fleur de lis at the ends of his scarf. "I-I like it. It's really warm." he mumbled, feeling the blood rush towards his face.
"Great." Arthur's eyes were smiling at him as much as his mouth was. He tentatively smiled back, feeling bashful. He supposed they must have looked like they had escaped from a mad house, smiling their heads off at each other without saying anything. Arthur opened his mouth, and Merlin didn't start leaning in at all.
"Um, so, I kinda wanted ta talk—"
Two girls walking by interrupted, shoving three lollipops into his hand and giving him a pat on the back. "We're rooting for you, man!" They said on their way past, clapping and cheering. Merlin thought about drawing up plans for his Giant Toast Launcher.
Arthur looked at their retreating backs, amused, before turning back to Merlin. "Mates?"
Merlin stuffed the lollies into his bag sheepishly, picking up the newest Rambo so he had something to do with his hands. "No, it's just— the thing on the radio." He flipped the dvd over and pretended to read the blurb. "A talkback host is following someone who um, I guess, looks like me and, I guess it's becoming a thing?"
"Really?" Arthur said, shock colouring his voice. "I heard yeah, but I didn't know the guy he's chasin' looked like you
Merlin put Stallone back on the shelf and stretched out his arms half heartedly, voice weak. "Ta dah..."
The blond laughed, then turned to look at the wall of dvds.
"So..." Arthur drawled. "Wotcher think of it?"
Merlin looked over to see Arthur examining the limited edition G.I. Joe with great interest. He looked up from case, catching Merlin's eye. His eyes were very blue under store lights. "Uh, well. Good on him, I think. A lot of people are rooting for him." He cleared his throat. "What about you? Are you rooting for him?"
Arthur chuckled, turning back to G.I. Joe. "Yeah. Heart 'n soul."
Merlin's chest stuttered. His fingers started fiddling with his scarf, the soft material gliding over his nails pleasantly. "O-oh?"
Blue eyes crinkled. "Yeah. S'like, the first time he's properly gone after someone. He really cares about the guy 'n— he'd treat him really, really well."
Merlin yanked particularly hard, and the scarf started tumbling to the floor. He started to retrieve it, but Arthur had already bent down. Straightening, he dusted it off and slung it over Merlin's neck a couple of times, his fingers singeing Merlin's collarbone as he fixed the fall of the material.
"So, I hope it goes well for him. I hope Bar Guy gives him a chance," Arthur finished, smoothing down the ends, brushing against Merlin's waist.
Merlin's throat worked uneasily. He could feel his Adam's apple brushing over the soft fabric. "Thanks," he murmured.
Arthur grinned at him, taking a step back. "No prob. Hey, catch!"
"Huh? Wh—" He fumbled with the dvd Arthur had thrown at him, finally turning to look at its cover. "My Little Pony?"
A blinding flash made his head snap up. Arthur grinned at him unrepentantly.
"I take awesome photos fer all my contacts. Wot's yer number? I'll prank ya."
He exchanged numbers (finally!) with Arthur teasingly, mood three times better going out of the store than going in. Not five minutes after he left, Arthur sent him a message.
Merlin spent the rest of the walk exchanging silly texts and smiling, tugging on his scarf.
But even Arthur's increasingly silly texts didn't not dampen the sound of Arthur's voice, going 'I hope Bar Guy gives him a chance, I hope...
', turning itself over and over again, on endless repeat all the way back to the flat.
With Merlin's phone going off incessantly during the many scenes of Bruce Willis brooding on screen, Lancelot finally threw a cushion at him and exiled him to his room so he could watch his explosions in peace.
Pouting where Lancelot could see, he dragged his feet and looked at him sadly as he slowly closed his door. Then he picked a vanilla flavoured lollipop off his mountain and bounced a little as he flopped onto the bed, rapidly exchanging more texts with Arthur.
They'd been sending texts for near two hours. Merlin hadn't even needed to dig out his nano on the way home, he was so absorbed in um, flirting with Arthur (um, and the endless repeat thing).
Well, if you could flirt through text.
He really hoped Arthur was flirting with him. Arthur was sweet, and funny, and even through phone messages he was making Merlin's ears red.
When Arthur hadn't responded for a few minutes, Merlin thought he must've put down the phone and gone off to bed or something. Still, he kept it beside him just in case. He rescued his Optimus from the mountain and made him wrestle with Bumblebee ("pew pew pew!"). He was entertained by that for a ludicrously long amount of time that he'd rather not discuss with anybody else ever, and when he was taking a break from it, noticed his canvas bag and had spilt onto the floor, the :D face on the scrapbook glaring at him accusingly.
He picked it up gingerly, running his fingers over the cover. Dare he look inside? Arthur had (unknowingly, but still) said Penn was pursuing him very seriously, with intent. That he should give the guy a chance. Would Arthur still have told him that, if he knew 'Bar Guy' was actually Merlin?
Did Arthur actually like Merlin like that anyway? Maybe he was just naturally flirty? Was he reading too much into it?
He groaned, tossing the book onto his desk and rubbed at his eyes furiously. Why had it derailed back to Arthur? Get your mind back on Penn, Emrys! Focus!
Penn and Dusty were awesome. He didn't know how many conversations he'd been able to wedge himself into by knowing about their show. How easily he'd been able to fall asleep with a familiar voice laughing in his ear as he replayed his podcasts when he was still settling in. And, if he hadn't been distracted by a billboard for their show, Gwen never would have bumped into him, he'd never had gotten his job, or met Freya, or Morgana or Leon (well he might have eventually, since Lancelot knew them, but anyway).
Merlin sort of felt like he owed Penn. Besides, Arthur could be wrong. The girls could just be teasing him and maybe Penn was really only interested in revenge and humiliation like he vehemently claimed.
He had tossed the :D scrapbook a little too far away, so he hauled his laptop onto his stomach and logged into the blog. He clicked on the first link, dated three days ago.
Merlin looked at the screen, and then at Arthur's messages on his phone.
There and back again. There, and back.I hope Bar Guy gives him a chance.
"Shit," Merlin whined. "Fuck my life."
So Merlin had been convinced that (somehow) he was Bar Guy, and consequently Penn was going to ask him out (hoshi—), and so now, dilemma. Obviously it was incredibly flattering that someone was willing to follow him around for weeks on end and really, that sort of dedication deserved a coffee date at the very least, didn't it?
At least, American telly sort of led him to that conclusion.
"But he's a stalker!" Freya had fretted, pulling the Toast Launcher to her bosom protectively. "What if he tries to make you do drugs!"
"Um, I really don't think they'd let him on the air if he was, um, using or anything." Gwen had said (both Freya and Merlin almost asphyxiated, they started laughing so hard). "But Merlin, it's not — I mean, it's a very nice thought, but there's never an obligation to date somebody. I mean, unless you want to. But, that is, don't feel like you have to do anything."
"Yes Merlin," Freya nodded furiously. "That's how girls get date raped! No means no!" And then she had stomped out of the room, recklessly shooting toast missiles at bewildered customers.
Merlin sipped his chai tea morosely and decided that he needed more advice, perhaps from someone of the male persuasion.
"—So what do you think I should do?" he said into his iPhone.
"I'm not sure Merlin. You do realise I'm not Will don't you?" asked the tinny voice from down the line.
"Sorry Gaius! Misdial," Merlin rushed out, mortified.
"Get shagged mate. You bloody fucking need it. I give you my fucking blessing to— Hey baby! I didn't tell you to stop suc—" Merlin had hung up on Will before the conversation could unravel any further. Then he turned off his phone just in case.
"But then there's Arthur, isn't there." Lancelot said later that night around his pad thai. Lancelot had been like his rock during his troubled times. Then he ignored how completely superficial his worries were, if his 'troubled times' consisted of him faffing about between two guys (one he had never met before and one who was totally out of his league that he well may be fantasizing about to the point that he might have made up entire detailed scenarios that involved Rambo and Transformers-- but still, two guys).
Merlin picked at his own szechuan beef and nodded. "I mean, it's a huge compliment and everything, but I think something good might come out of um, Arthur and me, you know, if I actually do something about it and... Maybe I'm reading too much into it. He probably doesn't like me that much anyway."
Lancelot put down his chopsticks, looking at Merlin steadily. "Look, has the radio program even contacted you?"
Merlin shook his head slowly.
"Then don't worry about it." Lancelot picked up his chopsticks again. "Date Arthur, and tell Penn that he missed his chance. Now pass me the soy sauce and give me Gwen's number."
"Nice try." Merlin said, sliding over the bottle.
Lancelot shrugged his powerful shoulder muscles gracefully. "Worth a shot."
The thing was — Merlin contemplated, as he bagged another set of coveralls and matching red and white cowboy scarf (Merlin might not have minded either way, but Freya wasn't letting such a golden money making opportunity escape her clutches) — he might have always had a crush on Penn, ever since he first listened to the show. He supposed it was a bit ridiculous, falling in love with someone's deep, cultured, sexy— wait, what was he doing again? He bid the latest customer goodbye and returned to hanging up the unwanted clothes outside the change rooms.
Penn was witty, and charming. Scathingly honest at times, but had a hell of a sense of humour. Maybe he wouldn't be as good looking as Arthur (God forbid there be any more devastatingly handsome men who caused traffic accidents and possibly, suicide sparked by unrequited love), but looks weren't everything. Not that Arthur was just about looks. He was clearly extremely observant, and sweet (if rather grating on his ears sometimes), and possibly, he had an interest in Merlin (God knows why, but at this point there was to be no more take backs, thank you very much).
Gwen happened on him in a corner at three o'clock, where he was despondently arranging their scarf shelf by colour and pattern.
"Why the long face Merlin?"
"I need to flip a coin," he said, folding extra carefully. "Can I borrow one?"
Unfortunately, Gwen was all out of small change.
And that was extremely precious. Merlin was literally aching, he thought it was all so cute and endearing. Arthur was clearly something special (and not in the sense that Morgana kept insisting he was either), which just made Merlin feel even worse.
That also made it absolutely clear. Arthur was
He'd also encouraged Merlin to give Penn a chance.
It was becoming unequivocally logical to make a decision or something.
So he decided fuck it,
and went to the pub.
"Goodness Merlin, are you gone already? You're bright red."
Leon and Morgana (about 90% in Morgana's favour, really) had taken it as their duty to beef up Merlin's alcohol tolerance (Merlin was sort of under the impression that Morgana had mistaken the wine bottle for a decanter of water at some young age, and had never gone back since). Merlin worried a little for his liver, and prayed he wouldn't become a raging alcoholic.
Freya and Gwen had declined Morgana's invitation, the fire of inspiration and thoughts of putting Merlin into frilly outfits raging like madness in their eyes as they scampered off into the night. Lancelot's whole body slumped miserably when he slid into the booth once he ascertained Gwen wasn't there.
"It's nothing." Merlin insisted, hurriedly sliding his phone back into his back pocket, fanning his face with his hand as he did so.
Quicker than a blink of an eye (although, Merlin was a bit drunk so 'quicker' was relative here), Morgana had fished his unguarded phone out of his jeans pocket and shifted through his message bank.
"Morgana!" Leon objected. She held him at bay with a very sharp and pointy manicured nail. The sound of a whip naturally emitted from Merlin's mouth without his knowing. Startled, he frowned at his drink. He might be a bit further gone than he had thought. Lancelot valiantly offered up his shoulder for his drunken head to rest on (someone may as well get some use out of it since Gwen wasn't around).
"Oh this is precious. I will never let him live this down," Morgana cooed maliciously.
"Is it from Arthur?" Leon lifted the phone out of Morgana's hands and looked through it himself. Merlin swayed, frowning. He might have misdiagnosed aspects of their relationship (see whip cracking noise). He always thought Morgana was the top dog in their relationship, which sort of made Leon a dog handler? Merlin liked dogs.
"Excuse me, I have to do something." Leon said after a moment, turning in his seat. He took out his blackberry and started to tap furiously. Merlin ignored this and started talking to Lancelot.
"Lance, if you were gay, you wouldn't be an indecisive tart like me, would you?" he mumbled against Lancelot's shoulder.
"Alright, I'm cutting you off," Lancelot responded, gently prying the glass from Merlin's loose grip.
Morgana stroked his cheek fondly with scarily sharp nails. "Oh Merlin, what's the matter? Just date both of them," she said reasonably.
"Ummmm," Merlin mumbled. "I'm not really... I'm not a person who can do that. I'm a horrible multi-tasker." He righted himself precariously and steadied himself with his elbows on the rather sticky table top. "And it just doesn't... I can't do that to them. I'd feel like a wishy-washy, waffly... tramp." He rested his head on the table despondently and tugged at Lancelot's sleeve. "I'd like my drink back please."
Instead of returning his glass as he had so nicely requested, Lancelot slid the drink further away from Merlin and crossed his arms resolutely.
"Right, that's enough. I don't like this game anymore," Lancelot declared. "Merlin's wonderful and extremely straightforward and all around nice and I feel like crap because I am lying to him and I do not like it."
Merlin lifted his head a little too quickly for his body's liking, and felt nausea creep in at the abrupt motion. "What? What are you on about?"
"Hold your horses LoverBoy." Morgana interjected. She swiveled to face Merlin and propped his head up with her terrifying manicured hands. "All right Merlin, out with it. Do you like Arthur?"
He felt himself flushing and tried not to squirm under her gaze. "Yeah but..." he said quietly.
"And you're not into Penn because he's a celebrity right?" Morgana persisted.
"It's stupid." Merlin sniffed. "I don't even know what he looks like. Gwen thinks he's probably fat and Freya reckons he's a date rapist."
"That's good enough for me." Leon announced, but Morgana wasn't finished yet.
"And are you in any way in this for the money?"
"Morgana!" Leon and Lancelot shouted.
"I'm just making sure!"
"I don't get what's going on." Merlin said woozily, body swaying because his head was being held at an uncomfortable angle. And he really felt like now would be a good time to express his inebriated feelings through text. He fumbled for his phone but then remembered Leon still had it.
"Alright then." Morgana said firmly, removing her hands abruptly. Luckily Lancelot was there to stop his chin from impacting badly with the table. "I'll call Arthur."
"Wait." Leon cleared his throat, and when he started speaking again, Merlin's eyes widened because it was incredibly familiar.
"I've got a better idea."
Freya and Gwen were called. Some things just shouldn't be heard through the radio.
"Well, introduce our next guest then Dusty, since you've been so shockingly secretive about it."
"Thank you Penn. Our next guest is someone who has had a lot of mention in the news and on our very own Drivethru. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together— for Bar Guy!"
"You're kidding! Wh—"
"Help him put on his headphones Penn, I know you want to."
"Listeners, this is probably a once in a lifetime occurrence, so I would like to point out to you that this is what it sounds like when Penn is not listening to the sound of his own voice."
"Um, is this on? H-Hello everybody."
"Hello BG! Looking very well I see. I like your scarf."
"Thanks. A— um, Penn got it for me."
"Is that right?"
"...Yeah there's, there's some truth to that statement."
"As a very good co-host, I have prepared some questions for Penn to ask you. Penn, if you will?"
"...I— right. Okay. Well."
"Any time today. It's not like I've got other things to do."
"This is unreal. You're as mean to each other off air as you are on."
"You say the nicest things BG! Ask the questions, Penn."
"Uh... so. M— Bar Guy."
"...Hi. So. Are you — oh Dusty, you mongrel — Are you going to sue me for following you around—"
"—like a lovesick puppy."
"I did no such thing!"
"Can you be professional about this and read the questions in their entirety thank you, Penn."
"Dusty spent so much time preparing them you know. I watched him do it."
"Thanks for the backup BG."
"—Are you going to sue me for following you around, in a fashion that was not at all similar to a canine of any kind?"
"Um, no. That's not what I— I actually feel like I'm really behind because you know all these things about me and um, I hardly know anything about you so... I plan on catching up, I guess."
"Wow. YEah, okay then. I'm good. With that."
"I know. BG is like, the nicest guy ever."
"Oh, no! N-not really? I feel like I'm failing quite spectacularly at this actually."
"See? This is what I'm talking about. To think you made, sweet, lovely BG so angry he threw a drink in your face? Shame on you Penn."
"Let's not bring up bygones Dusty."
"And if it makes you feel better, I don't remember doing that at all."
"You're a terrible liar, so I'd pay that. Next question Penn."
"Alright, so... Do you think— that I portrayed you accurately on the blog twitter widget thing?"
"...Well, frankly I feel like you've talked me up too much so — I don't think I live up to those expectations."
"I haven't. I haven’t talked you up at all."
"What you are now hearing, Drivethru fans, is the sound of every girl in the building making cooing noises outside the booth. Penn?"
"...Are you disappointed with how I turned out to be?"
"Well, you know. I'm willing to give you a chance."
"For all of you playing at home, Penn is grinning his head off and the girls crowding around the window have started clapping quite vigorously. That was the last—"
"—Would you let me kiss you?"
"Okay, no, this appears to be the last question."
"Um... Now? Really?"
"That's a yes, right?"
"Are you really— um, can we do that?"
"Well, we've just got the okay from the producers and Penn certainly looks willing."
"Yes. Yes to everything."
"Oh. Well... Alright then, I'll just—"
"...Sorry, that was my—"
"No no, that's okay, just keep your head still..."
"I suppose I better fill up this dead air by myself then shall I? If everyone outside the booth could stop whooping and cheering, as it is very distracting— We'll be right back after I've Gotta Feeling by the Peas, here on CamelotFM's Drivethru on your way home."
Leon had muttered in disgust and shooed them out of the booth when it became evident that Arthur was not going to dislodge his hands or lips from Merlin's person anytime soon. They were still on the couch in the green room twenty minutes later when Leon had ended the show sans co-host. He had entered the room, taken one look, and immediately about-faced (after snapping a picture on his blackberry of course).
"So you don't like scarves?" Merlin managed, once he could stop himself from parting his lips for Arthur and Arthur's tongue long enough to speak.
Almost immediately after they had fallen on the couch, Arthur had ripped the offending garment from his shoulders, climbed on top of him and latched onto his neck, promptly grinding his hips down. Merlin wasn't quite sure what happened after that, only it was slick, and wet, and very very good. Arthur was sucking the length of his collarbone, a hand under his shirt, long since warmed up from their combined body heat. It stayed above the belt, very gentlemanlike, though his lips and tongue were anything but.
"I like them," Arthur breathed on his neck, nuzzling where his neck met his ear. "But I like seeing your neck more." And proceeded to mouth the shell of Merlin's ear (for starters).
He was probably going to be very angry with Arthur about the pretending, and the thing where he lied to him all this time (going so far as to put on an accent, of all things!); and Leon (him too! Perpetual cold Merlin's arse) and especially, especially
Morgana. Later. Also Lancelot definitely wasn't going to get anything out of him pertaining to Gwen, at least for a while.
But right now, Arthur was looking down at him adoringly, blue eyes soft and charming mouth bitten and swollen and terribly red — exactly how Merlin's felt, licking his own puffy lips. He could feel the bruises forming on his neck, knowing he'd have to wear the scarves Arthur so detested for as long as Arthur kept putting them there, lest he expire from sheer embarrassment.
His fingertips hesitantly traced Arthur's chest, his stomach, the curve of his elbows and shoulder blades, until he had enveloped Arthur into a firm embrace, smiling into fluffy, fur-like blond hair.
"What is it?" Arthur rumbled, slowly flipping them until he was supporting Merlin's weight on his chest, hands languidly exploring Merlin's warm sides.
"Your voice," he whispered into Arthur's ear, wondrous. "I like it much better like this than on the radio. Much, much better than that horrid accent you were putting on."
Which only prompted Arthur to capture Merlin's kiss-swollen lips anew, aching and ravenous. They did not part again until Morgana waltzed in, complaining about missing the show and demanding a re-enactment, or at least a link to the inevitable clip on youtube.
| Master: Extras
| Master: Thankyous
All the beautiful images were created by the magnificent curvasud
. They are truly beyond anything I could have possibly imagined.
The absolutely amazing, goddamn AMAZING "youtube video" created by the wonderful, extremely talented yue_ix
You can also download the MP3s of all 8 of the podcasts embedded in the fic here
Comments and criticism will be read over and over endlessly, in an overwhelmed haze. Thank you all so much ♥