Warnings: Slash (Merlin x Arthur), AU (alternate universe)
First,I would like to thank my awesome beta devienta for her help. I've just send her the text yesterday and this noon was already fixed. Thank you darling! It means a lot ^^
Another thing is that this story is dedicated to every person who smiles even if he/she is aching inside.
Oh, and one more little thing: none of this characters belongs to me, but to the awesome BBC's Merlin. GO WATCH IT!
The problem with Merlin was always the same: he'd just get involved with people, too involved.
The first time was probably in kindergarten when he met Will. He'd lost his parents in a traffic accident recently and was now, according to Merlin's Mum, living with his aunt in Ealdor. Will had looked so sad that Merlin couldn't help but to offer him a shaky smile and part of his sandwich; a tiny grin appeared on the kid's face and Merlin felt a little proud of himself, and just like that, Will started to be kind of his shadow. They'd play together, eat together, and even sleep together most of the nights because Hunith is one of those people who can't say no to child.
And then, Henry appeared. He was the same age as them, had bright green eyes, a mischievous smile, and the same love for rockets that Will had, and when they started to hang around together and Merlin found himself sitting alone during lunch and pretending by himself to be a super hero; it was better when Will was there, they'd taken turns to be the evil villain who terrorized Ealdor until the hero beat the crap out of him; the great oak just didn't look evil at all.
The second time he was already in high school, and this girl, Freya, was sitting on her own in history class, drawing something behind her notes about the Roman Empire. She had beautiful eyes which seemed to contain the secrets of the world, though it turned out, this shy girl was just hiding from every bully in the school who considered her "a freak". It took a while for Merlin to make her smile confidently and they swore to be friends forever, just two teenagers who thought that they could change the world if they just stuck together and tried to make a difference.
They talked about maybe getting married when they were a thousand years old with no a decent boyfriends in sight, though Freya knew Merlin couldn't return her feelings, how could he when they had the same Hollywood crushes? She gave him the courage to accept that he had a big crush in Will, who was currently not even speaking to him, probably because he had totally fallen for Freya. When all finally settled, Freya and Will dated for a while. It didn't work out and Merlin just smiled awkwardly at her and hugged her until she felt better.
And then came college.
Freya had decided she was done with studying and had started work in a library while Merlin spent his time at the campus of the university, studying and meeting awesome people who were becoming his friends. They were just great. Gwen was the cutest thing on Earth, they had this connection that amazed everyone around them, and Morgana was witty and funny and had always the right words at the right moment. Leon who was probably the first heterosexual guy he met who appreciated him and actually treated him not like a friend. And Freya wasn't there to meet them, was always busy or tired or out with her friend Ed. Just never there, and even if they are still friends, they both knew that the sunny days joking about Johnny Deep's eyes were over.
Ed is good for her, Merlin knows. He just misses her a little, even if he doesn't say a word. He's just like that, he has to help people, but when it comes to him… Well, it's complicated. It's not that he doesn't want anybody's help, it's just… It's not that important. He has been keeping things (like missing his father, his disappointment with Will and every other male on the planet and all other things he doesn't want to talk about) to himself since forever. Because it would be awkward just to tell them to Gwen or his mother, he wants them to be happy and they don't need his problems on top of their own. Gwen is constantly whining about her crush on Leon, which always leads to nowhere but who cares?. She complains about that a lot and Merlin is always listening and never speaking of himself but really, wouldn't she ask if she really wanted to hear it? Leon leaves college for the police force and Gwen cries, Merlin hugs her and Morgana bites her tongue so hard she draws blood.
Their second year is just too confusing for Merlin. Gwaine, that guy who is always joking in the back of the class is Morgana's new boyfriend and well, he is also kind of awesome. He is the one to shoot looks at Merlin every time Gwen starts talking about Cedric, the selfish bastard who is currently playing with her heart. Somehow, Gwen and Merlin end up fighting and crying and Gwaine smiles sideways to Merlin "You have to let her learn of her mistakes, It's admirable that you feel so bound to her, to protect her, but you're hurting more than she is. Let her be…She'll realize it, you'll see".
She's heart broken until Lancelot comes into view. They're in their third year of college and Morgana's step-brother, that blonde prick who always over looks Merlin, introduces him a party. Lancelot looks into Gwen's eyes, she looks in to his…And the next thing Merlin knows is they're hooking up and Gwen is way too busy to hang out anymore. She's still sweet, she's still concerned when Merlin appears with a pale face because of the last flu, but the connection is gone. There are no more shopping trips to Picadilly, there are no more talking until 3 in the morning about their favourite shows…
He's there again. It's the third time now, the third time he gives his heart and soul for someone who eventually leaves him without even saying thank you. And to make things worse, the prat, which is kind of the nickname Merlin gave Morgana's brother, has decided that he's now part of her sister's group of friends. Awesome, thinks Merlin bitterly while in the cafeteria, surrounded by giggling couples and that bastard named Arthur, who stares pointedly at him while he answers the question Gwaine asked.
"So, how's your tomato sauce, if you know what I mean" he ask with a wink, looking at the spaghetti in Merlin's plate and then to his groin. Everybody waits for him to speak, because Merlin doesn't talk much about himself, and never of his sex life.
"There isn't much" he simply retorts, rolling some pasta in his fork.
"There has to be someone you like" Morgana assures, looking him in the eyes.
"I'm good by myself, you know, and I have the Internet for the necessities" he says before Gwaine has even open his mouth to ask.
"Everybody needs someone to love, Mer" Gwen smiles snuggling against Lancelot. Sometimes, Merlin wants to hang her, but only for a moment because of being so sickly sappy, before he remembers he loves her and couldn't live without her.
"Well I don't" he states convinced, eyeing everyone in the table to make it clear the conversation was over, until that asshole just had to open his stupid mouth.
"So, your life plan is to work until you die of exhaustion while helping everyone around you with transcendental problems such as 'how could he dump me for that skinny bitch?'" Gwen glares at him, recognizing the imitation of her voice and words.
"Do you have a problem with that?" Merlin exclaimed bursting out all his frustration. Who the hell did this guy think he was?
"I'm just stating what I've observed during the three years that I've known you." The bastard said very calmly.
"You don't have a fucking clue of how my life is, you, you…Clot pole!" he yells, jumping up from the chair and leaving the room with tears in his eyes.
"What the hell was that?" Lancelot whispered when he was able to get over of the general shock in the room. Arthur stared down at his plate and closed his eyes slowly.
"That" Morgana said rising from the table "was my brother being an insensitive jerk"
Merlin was nowhere to be seen and he wasn't in class the next day either. Gwen called Freya in case she knew something, but she is as oblivious as anyone. Arthur had also disappeared since that lunch two days ago. Everyone wass pretty concerned because Merlin wasn't the kind of guy to skip a day of class because of a hurtful statement. Hell, they've seen him go to class with fever!
There's something very wrong with this situation, the worst part being that nobody knew how to act about it. Gwen had heard a few of Merlin's problems a while ago, she'd hugged him but didn't know what to do next, because it was always Merlin who was the one giving advice, so she just hugged him tighter, even though Merlin was the kind of independent person who solved the troubles in his life by himself and then appeared with a big smile to cheer up everyone else.
This had never happened before and no one was sure what to do. Do they leave him alone to think? Do they sit outside his apartment door until he opens it and tells them the problem?
Morgana had spent two hours sitting in the hallway and before she gave up, slipping a note through the crack telling Merlin to call her when he felt ready.
Gwaine tried to reach him through Facebook, filling his wall, photos and mail asking him what's the matter.
Gwen makes the delicious brownies that Merlin loves and leaves them in his hall with a note stating that he will find his soul mate soon and that Arthur is a jerk.
It had been a week since Merlin stormed out from the cafeteria and he was still not giving any signals of being alive. Lancelot spoke again with Arthur, who shrugged it off.
"Leave the kid alone. You had no problem with that until a week ago, why are you so obsessed now?" he spat bitterly.
"Would you open the door?" the blond ground his teeth and knocked for the eight time that evening.
With no response.
"I know you're in there. I can hear the buzz of the TV" he hissed at the door. "And I can see your trainers under the crack!"
The silence of the corridor is the only reply. Arthur sighed slowly and sat, leaning his back on Merlin's door.
"I'm sorry about the stuff I said the other day" he admitted looking at his feet. He stretched out on the floor before talking again. "I didn't intend to say you were a freak without a life who just centred in work" He heard the other boy's shallow breathing on the other side of the door.
"Is just that every time I see you, you're helping a little girl get up the floor, or an old lady cross the street, or listening Gwen problems, but I think I've never seen anyone help you before" Arthur mumbles, still looking at the laces of his shoes. He's pretty sure he'd heard Merlin sniffling and sighing and can almost imagine tears rolling from blue eyes down the cheekbones he has been secretly staring at three years. "It's not fair…" the blonde whispers, feeling his own eyes watering. "And the worst part is that no one seems to notice…!" his voice cracked and he felt Merlin lean against the door, sliding down to sit on the floor like Arthur.
"I do, Merlin. I've noticed it since the day Morgana introduced you and you kept smiling even though I was a douchbag" the boy on the other side stifled a laugh and Arthur smiled a little " I was. I am. Every time you smile, a real smile, not the polite one you give everyone, my stomach clenches. But it's never for me. And I really need it, you know? It's like fucking heroine, once you try it, you can't stop yourself… I've spent three years watching you give that smile to everyone but me, and I'm possibly the only one of those people who has even noticed that you need help, so much more than anyone around you. You are screaming for it, but no-one hears you. Why is that, Merlin? Why am I the only one who can see you're broken?"
"Why?" Came the sobbed mumble behind the door.
"Because your smile blinds everyone, they see what they want to see, as long as you keep smiling, you are okay. But you are not! And that day, I just wanted to break the enchantment and for everyone to see that you are just as human as everyone. I just needed to break down your smile for them to notice. I just wanted to help" Arthur confessed under his breath.
"Why are you doing this?" Merlin asked, clearing his throat.
"I do care for you, you know? No matter what my sisters says, I'm not as self-centred as everyone keeps claiming. Maybe, just…Maybe you could smile for me some time…Even if I'm a clot pole…" a husky laugh pours through him and he almost hits his head on the floor as the door supporting all his weight is opened by a smiling Merlin. Arthur watches in awe as the others man's hand reached for him and helped him to his feet.
"Thank you" the dark haired boys said as he sniffed and wiped tears with the hand not wrapped around Arthur's own.
"Don't even mention it" retorts the blond as that fuzzy feeling invaded his stomach again. Stupid Merlin…Idiotic moron who always thinks of everyone before him… Whose hand is still holding mine… Whose skin is so soft… Whose lips quirks in that smile which makes me want to kiss him senseless…
"I don't remember helping old ladies cross the street" the dark haired boy stated looking anywhere but at Arthur's face
"Well, it was just a figure of speech really but I can imagine you doing it. Is not that I follow you everyday… Or any day…I'm not trying to stalk…"- the blonde babbled, still holding the other's boy hand.
"Shut up, Arthur" Merlin said slowly, closing the distance between them in a swift movement and capturing the other boy's lips.
Hope you've enjoed it ^^ (I appreaciate any kind of review, by the way...)