It was another typical Friday afternoon at the Pendragon estate. Arthur was left alone in the mansion and would remain like that until eight when his parents usually returned home from work. The Pendragons were one of the most well off and well-known families in England. Their law firm was one of the best in the country. Therefore, since he was young, Arthur had been put under a lot of pressure until one thought had been grilled into his mind – he was to inherit the family business and do everything in his power to preserve their refined name.
Arthur knew that he was asking for trouble when he cancelled his private tutor. He was aware that not attending the meeting this afternoon would not be taken lightly. His mother would understand, but his father would think that it was some stupid type of rebellion or useless attempt at defying him. Arthur would undoubtedly be punished severely, but right now he could care less. Right now all he could focus on was the boy in front of his door and his idiotic grin that always managed to make Arthur's heart skyrocket into his throat.
"Are you going to continue standing there and gapе like a fish or will you let me in?" His best friend, Merlin, asked.
Arthur rolled his eyes and stepped back, giving Merlin enough room to enter, but not enough to avoid the slight brush of their fingers. Both of them could not help the smirk. Neither could resist looking back and smiling. They continued to gaze at each other until Merlin forgot that there was a staircase behind him and ended up tripping. The boy stumbled, but managed to lessen the impact with his palms and knees. His backpack fell to the floor and its contents spilled on the pristine tiles because Merlin had been stupid enough to leave it unzipped.
Arthur dashed to his fallen friend and helped him up, smacking his arm and scolding him for being so careless. Merlin, naturally, complained, but Arthur ignored him in favour of inspecting every inch of Merlin's body to make sure the boy was not lying. Merlin tried to shoo him away, but he was no match for Arthur's perceptive gaze.
"Idiot," Arthur murmured as he grabbed Merlin's arm and led him toward the bathroom.
"Arthur, I'm fine. It's just a scratch." Merlin tried to reason with his furious friend, but Arthur ignored him.
"It's not just a scratch. You're bleeding." Arthur replied, still holding onto Merlin's bleeding palm and mentally cursing the stupid maid that had not cleaned the staircase well enough. Last night there had been a family gathering and one of the guests was so intoxicated that they dropped their glass on the floor. Apparently a few shards, albeit quite tiny, had not been picked up and thrown away and Merlin had become their victim.
After a good five minutes of Arthur trying to bandage Merlin only to have the boy pull his hand away and insist that he could do it himself, Arthur lost it.
"Stop pulling away, damn it!" Arthur yelled.
Merlin stilled. Arthur rarely cursed verbally. Usually the blond-haired boy would scowl or mumble, but he would never audibly utter foul words, especially not in front of Merlin. Was he angry at Merlin for tripping? No, it could not be that. Merlin had been clumsy when they first met - he had always tripped once or twice when the two went out and he would probably continue doing so in the future. There was something else. It certainly was not the fact that a few drops of Merlin's blood had tainted the glimmering white tiles. Then what was it?
When Arthur finished bandaging the frozen Merlin, he looked up and their gazes met. Merlin gasped. He could not believe that the prat still had the tendency to blame himself whenever the people he cared about got injured.
"Arthur," Merlin murmured. The boy in question looked away, but Merlin used his uninjured hand to direct Arthur's chin toward him. While stroking his cheek, Merlin repeated, "Listen to me and listen to me well, I am fine."
The blond-haired boy scoffed only to have Merlin glare at him and raise his voice when he spoke, "Damn it, Arthur, stop feeling guilty about things that are out of your control. There is no way you could have predicted what would happen and even if there had been, there is no way you could've stopped it from occurring."
Arthur lowered his head. They were no longer discussing Merlin's lack of grace and the glass shards scattered across the lower parts of the staircase. Arthur clenched his fists. He could not hear it. He could not handle an injured and heartbroken Merlin at the same time. Even though their wounds were not fresh, it was clear that it would take time for both of them to fully heal. Arthur internally scoffed. Was that even possible?
"I have to clean the pool." Arthur suddenly said.
Merlin merely stared at him, rolled his eyes, but did not stop caressing his cheek. Their eyes locked when he replied, "If that's what you want."
Merlin then withdrew his hand and sidestepped Arthur. Arthur did not say anything. He did not move for a good few minutes. With clenched fists he growled and aimed to punch the mirror only to stop himself when his knuckles were a millimeter away from his reflection. Arthur held onto the sink and continued staring at his glistening eyes.
"Idiot. I am such an…idiot." He whispered before he managed to pull himself back together and headed for the pool.
Merlin was using the net to gather as many leaves as he could and pull them out of the water. He had already cleaned one-third of the pool when Arthur showed up. Merlin noted with worry that one of his hands was bandaged. Before Arthur could start helping Merlin the black-haired boy snatched the net away from his friend's hands. Arthur looked questioningly at Merlin as he threw the net away. Confused blue irises met smoldering angry ones.
"What are you doing?" Merlin asked.
Arthur shrugged. When Merlin's gaze fell to his bandaged knuckles Arthur hid them from view and said, "Don't worry. I did not punch the mirror again."
Merlin scoffed. "It's true!" Arthur tried to defend himself vehemently, but he could not hide from the person who knew him best. All it took for his will to crumble was Merlin's touch. Cold fingers came into contact with Arthur's wrist and brought the boy's hand up. Merlin carefully undid the bandages and winced when he saw the fresh wounds and the dried blood. With an internal sigh of relief Merlin noted that at least this time Arthur had not left any glass shards embedded in his skin.
"Why are you doing this, Arthur?" Merlin questioned as his solemn eyes met Arthur's tired ones. There were dark circles under the blond-haired boy's eyes. Merlin winced at the dark shade those sickles had adopted.
"I don't know." Arthur whispered. A dry chuckle escaped his lips before the corners twisted into a grimace. "I should probably stop."
"Yes, yes, you should, but you're not going to." Merlin replied as he held onto the injured hand, carefully caressing the torn red skin.
"Do you have so little faith in me?" Arthur asked matter-of-factly.
Merlin sighed. He tightened his grip on Arthur's wrist and pulled the boy forward. Arthur's eyes widened slightly before they returned to their normal size. Merlin stared directly into his friend's confused yet hopeful blue eyes. The dark-haired boy smiled and leaned in to brush his lips against Arthur's. Merlin gazed at Arthur one final time before capturing the prat's lips once more in a slow kiss. Their lips moved in synch. Arthur followed Merlin's movements with practiced ease and precision. Neither used their tongue to invade the other's mouth. They simply continued their sensual dance, content with getting reacquainted with each other patiently instead of recklessly.
Merlin was disappointed when Arthur pulled away yet he was grateful that his friend always seemed to know exactly when to take things further and when to stop. If their kiss had been prolonged, Merlin was certain things would have escalated far too quickly. Needless to say, neither the boys, nor Arthur's family would be pleased.
"I should get going." Merlin uttered as he stepped away. Arthur simply tugged at the boy's arm, signaling that he did not want this to end. He felt Merlin loosen his grip on Arthur's hand. Arthur took it as his cue to take the lead which he did. He gently pulled Merlin toward him so that his back would rest perfectly against Arthur's front. The blond-haired boy felt his friend relax in his hold, while he wrapped his arms around Merlin who covered parts of them with his fingers. Merlin started tracing different shapes on Arthur's arms. Soon Arthur started humming a tune the two of them knew all too well. It was the first song they had danced to – Right Here Waiting for You by Richard Marx.
It was ironic. Arthur was still waiting, despite what his friends and parents told him. Even if it took them years, they would find each other again, Arthur was certain of it. Their love was far too strong for it to disappear simply because they had been separated by his parents', mainly his father's, prejudice.
"Can't you see it, Arthur? We're both going crazy." Merlin murmured as he watched the half clean pool become dirty when a slightly chillier wind blew a few rose petals their way. The crimson colour made Merlin cringe.
"I'm not going to give up because I don't think it's crazy to fight for the right to be with the one you love." Arthur professed as he tightened his grip around Merlin. They just needed to wait a few months, until Merlin turned eighteen.
"You're still hung up on our insane plan to run away so that we can be together?" Merlin asked as he turned his head Arthur's way so that he could look the idiotic prat he loved in the eyes. Merlin smiled when Arthur glared at him and answered:
"I thought I already told you that our plan is not insane. It will work out. You'll see."
The conviction in Arthur's tone contradicted his current state and recent behaviour. Merlin knew that Arthur's exterior had not changed much. He still smiled as much as he did before. He was still the captain of the football team. He still received one of the best grades among their peers yet when he was left alone he would do things, bad things which harmed him. Arthur did not participate in acts of vandalism. He did not commit crimes. He simply hurt himself, took out all his anger and frustration on the only person he knew that could take it and would not hate him afterward – himself. However, Arthur had made one grave miscalculation – humans could hate others, but they could also hate themselves.
"I should go." Merlin said as the two watched the sun set. The red colours faded and the dark blue ate away whatever golden hues had remained.
"You should stay. My parents won't be home for another two hours." Arthur replied as he caressed Merlin's cheek. The two were currently lying on the grass. Arthur's back was resting against the solid bark of an ancient tree, whereas Merlin was lying in Arthur's lap.
"I can't and you know it." Merlin responded as he got up. Arthur made no move to stop him. His gaze darkened. His fists tightened. His whole body felt numb. However, Arthur did not miss the way Merlin's form steadily became smaller. He heard the echo of the footsteps. He could see the way Merlin craned his neck so that he would be able to look at Arthur when he uttered the words that sealed Arthur's fate.
"I'll see you on Monday. Have a nice weekend, prat." Merlin bid the other goodbye before disappearing into the mansion.
"Yeah," Arthur answered, even though Merlin was long gone, "I'll see you on Monday."
He then rose, dusted himself off and entered the mansion. He cleansed his wounds and bandaged them. That night Arthur Pendragon slept without having dreams that would seem blissful during the night yet tug ruthlessly at his heart strings in the morning.
Disclaimer: I do not own the tv show Merlin.