Title: Things Arthur Remembers
Genre: Modern AU
Also available on my AO3
The second time they met, it was in a pub. Arthur was pretty sure he should be the one receiving free drinks, but there was just something about the dark-haired boy. The way he was so embarrassed for accidentally hitting Arthur with his baseball bat, the sheepish grin that tugged at his lips when Arthur made a joke about it. Arthur awoke some time in the afternoon the day after the pub with a hangover. He had no memory of giving Merlin his number, or putting Merlin’s name in his phone, yet there was a new text from that very name. It was just a smiley face.
The third time they met was on purpose. To the pub again, with a group of their friends. Friends they had both accidentally ditched the last time. Everyone got on quite well. From there, Arthur lost track of the times they saw each other. For coffee, for movies, for plays, for watching footie on the telly (never baseball). He lost count of the brief touches, the fleeting glances, the secret smiles and the shared jokes.
What he did remember was their first kiss. It had been too quick and hurried and impatient. It was raining and cold and they’d just gotten back from a movie. Arthur had put his arm around Merlin’s shoulder about halfway through, which wasn’t uncommon between them but for some reason it quickened Arthur’s heart rate this time. They’d shared popcorn and brushed hands accidentally. Arthur walked Merlin to his building’s entrance and Merlin invited him up. Arthur had to decline, and Merlin looked disappointed. Arthur hated the look on Merlin and without even thinking, he dove in to kiss the frown from his lips. Arthur remembers that is had worked because when he leaned back Merlin has smiling brightly and Arthur momentarily forgot it was raining. It had been perfect in all of its imperfections, because it was Merlin.
Arthur also remembered the second time they kissed. It had been about 2 seconds later when Merlin leaned in and took Arthur’s face in his hands. It was slower and sweeter and tasted like Merlin and fresh rain. Then Merlin told him he’d better get going or he’d drag him upstairs. It took all of Arthur’s strength to walk away.
Arthur remembers how they both got sick after that. He remembers how all he wanted was to curl about around Merlin’s body and be sick together. But neither of them had the strength to get up. They watched crappy made-for-TV movies together over the phone. Arthur remembers falling asleep to the sound of Merlin breathing.
Arthur knew he’d never be able to refuse an invitation up to Merlin’s flat ever again. Merlin was like a drug, and he was hooked. Except it wasn’t the kind of drug addiction where you neglected your friends and family and work for it. So maybe Merlin wasn’t a drug at all. It was like he became a part of Arthur’s life, an integral part that fit so seamlessly Arthur sometimes wondered how he’d lived before Merlin.
Arthur remembers their first big fight. He remembers Merlin leaving and it felt like the whole Earth bottomed out from under him. Maybe Merlin had been more like a drug than he thought. Honestly, he can’t recall what the fight was about. But he does remember the aching pain in his chest and the sudden certainty that he could never live without Merlin. He went to Will’s where he knew he’d find Merlin. He remembered getting on his knees and holding Merlin’s hands and forgetting any uncertainty he ever had and asking Merlin to move in.
Arthur remembers the seconds passing like hours as he stared at Merlin, who didn’t immediately get excited and come back to him as he’d hoped. He remembers Merlin’s answer, but it seems too far away. It was like it came from the end of a tunnel. “I have to think about it.” Arthur doesn’t know how he got home, and doesn’t know how many days passed by in a blur.
He remembers waking up with the sun one day, peaking through wide open curtains he’d kept shut since Merlin left. He remembers walking into the kitchen and hearing Merlin humming and the smell of coffee and breakfast. He remembers thinking it was just a dream and he walked toward Merlin as slow as he could. Slowly and so carefully pressing his fingers just above the waistband of Merlin’s pyjama pants and just under the hem of his shirt, to find warm, pale skin. When he finally believed that it was real he pressed himself tight behind Merlin, wrapping his arms around the thinner boy’s body and resting his face on his shoulder.
He remembers they didn’t speak all morning. They ate in silence and Merlin read the paper while Arthur just stared at him. He was worried if he spoke his world might just crumble all around him again. The whole flat was clean and bright, Arthur was pretty sure he hadn’t left it that way. As the day wore on he began to get nervous and worry his lip. They were sat on the couch watching TV. Arthur was only paying attention to Merlin though, aware of his every move.
He remembers Merlin sighed deeply and turned to look at Arthur, Arthur was already staring back. Merlin turned his body and opened his arms and whispered, “Come here you prat.” It was the best sentence Arthur had ever heard.
He doesn’t remember much else, except for a whisper in his ear that night. “I can’t live without you either.”
He remembers a lot more too. A lot of happier things. He remembers their wedding day, and even better the night. And Christmases and friends and parties and holidays. It all blends together in a happy blur of smiles and colours.
Arthur remembers all those things. The pain, the joy, the hurt, the happiness. He smiles when he remembers it all because he knows that he wouldn’t change any of it. He knows their fates were intertwined from the start; that they were meant to be. They were two halves of a whole. Arthur smiles and he’s looking at Merlin. They’re holding each other lying in bed. They’re much older now, but they’re content. Arthur looks into the same eyes he’s loved for decades and sees one tear escape and Arthur wipes it away.They don’t wake up the next morning