Harlequin's Slash Fic

Smitten

Title: Smitten
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Merlin/Arthur
Category, Word count: Short story; 1931 words
Rating: mild R
Summary: Arthur walks into a coffee shop on a quest for a triple latte. He doesn’t expect to fall in love.
Notes: This is a birthday pressie for my dear friend the_muppet. ♥ Hon, this is almost but not quite entirely unlike your prompt… except that at least it’s a modern AU! (I will try to do better next time.)

Smitten

♦ 

Arthur headed off campus and into what seemed to be an independent coffee shop on a quest for a triple latte. He hadn’t expected to fall in love. But as he turned, gaze wandering, hands shoved into his trouser pockets in the way that his father couldn’t stand – as Arthur waited for the coffee to be made, his gaze fell upon an intriguing sight.

A narrow stretch of male body was folded into the window seat between various ramshackle plants, the early evening sun streaming in on lanky limbs askew, long fingers as pale as the page they turned, unruly dark hair backlit until it almost became a halo, a long face – all of him long, which made Arthur wonder if… Well. The planes of a long face broken by plump pink lips and astonishing cheekbones. And all of him, all of him, curving around the book he read as if cherishing it.

Without moving any more than necessary, not wanting to risk breaking the spell, Arthur delved a hand into his satchel and pulled out the compact camera he’d gotten into the habit of taking with him everywhere. With a couple of flicks of his thumb he reset it to the highest resolution, and then casually took a few shots, zooming in until the young man filled the screen, the borders of the image gently enclosing him, cradling him, with just room enough left to show the sunlight, the green of the plants echoing the green of his t–shirt, the blue denim jeans, and the dark–gold background of panes with the unbelievable bonus of a reflection – yes, the reflection providing another angle on that amazing profile –

‘Triple latte to go!’

‘Oh. Um…’ Arthur grabbed at it, fumbling enough to be glad they’d already put a cardboard sleeve on the cup. ‘Thanks.’

‘Thank you, sir. Have a nice day.’

‘Um. Yes.’ It has just become very nice indeed. Arthur thumbed off the camera and shoved it away, headed for the door. Resolutely not looking at the young man.

But then once he was outside, as he walked past the front windows he couldn’t help himself, he was already wondering what meetings he had at this time tomorrow, hoping he could accidentally find himself back here; the man had seemed so comfortable there, no doubt he came here every day. Arthur glimpsed in through the window, and saw – nothing. Nothing. He looked back, but it was the right window. The man, lost in his book only a moment before, had vanished. Or perhaps… Nonsense. Arthur shook his head, but thought it anyway: Perhaps he hadn’t even existed at all.

Hey! What’s your story?!’

Somehow Arthur knew that he was the one being addressed, and he even knew who it was addressing him, for even the man’s voice was gorgeous – and Arthur’s heart was pounding, and his mouth was stretching into a helpless grin as he turned, despite the fact that he’d already managed to seriously piss off the man with whom he was smitten.

And there he was, standing on the pavement, lips narrow now and twisted in anger. Tall and gorgeous, all gawky angry angles. ‘Gwaine said you were taking photos of me.’

‘Um… Well. Yes.’

‘You were?’ He seemed mystified but also furious. ‘Why?’

He had to think of something good, really fast. Something that would not only placate this man but make it seem as if it were a good idea for them to see each other again. ‘I’m Arthur,’ he said, extending his hand. Buying himself a moment.

‘Merlin,’ the man responded, though a tad churlishly.

Buying himself a name. Merlin… ‘Well. I’m in the book trade.’ He tilted his head, quibbling. ‘We’re in the book trade. My father – The family business, you know. My name’s Arthur –’

‘Yes,’ Merlin said impatiently.

‘Arthur Pendragon.’

‘What?!’ But then Merlin held up a hand in an unsuitably imperious manner. ‘No, I heard you. Remember that awesome little independent bookstore, used to be just down there on Old Kent Road?’

‘Yes?’

‘My, uh… my mate Gaius owned it.’

Oh crap. ‘Ah.’ He sighed. ‘And Pendragon opened a big new branch on campus, and your friend went out of business.’

Merlin just stared at him for a long moment, but then he shrugged, and said easily enough, ‘Anyway, maybe he was looking to retire. He’s not – unhappy. He’s not bitter.’

‘Good. I’m glad.’

‘But what were you –’

‘Marketing campaign,’ Arthur smoothly announced. ‘Ordinary people, lost in their books. Loving reading. Reading with all of themselves, not just their eyes. Doesn’t even matter what the book is; doesn’t have to be on the bestseller list or even new, and –’

‘Ordinary?’ Merlin echoed, musingly.

Arthur spelled it out: ‘Ordinary beautiful people –’

Merlin guffawed. ‘Beautiful?’

‘Hell yes. You should have seen – You should see yourself – Look,’ Arthur said firmly. ‘You need to see these pictures. All I did was focus – point and shoot. God, I hope I focussed. They’re going to make incredible ads. You need to see – I mean, in business hours, we should make a proper appointment, and –’

‘An appointment?’ Merlin shrugged. ‘What are you doing now?’

‘Making a complete fool of myself, I should imagine.’

Merlin laughed then, a genuinely happy laugh, and Arthur found himself smiling oh so very foolishly indeed.

‘I was just heading back to the office,’ Arthur said. ‘It’s a ten minute walk. On Lexington?’

And Merlin fell into step beside him, as if he belonged there. There was this strange sense of… rightness, and comfort, as if everything was already understood between them. Merlin’s head was down, but after a moment a shy grin tilted in Arthur’s direction. ‘This is going to be…’

‘Awesome?’

‘Hope so, cos then it’ll be worth all the trouble.’

Perhaps he was meant to ask, What trouble? but instead he said, ‘Of course it will,’ with a scathing tone counteracting Merlin’s doubt. ‘It’s going to be the most successful marketing campaign in the entire history of the book trade.’

‘Prat,’ Merlin responded with a laugh. ‘You know very well I was talking about you and me.’

‘Ah… You and I are going to be…’

‘Epic,’ Merlin supplied in a rough kind of tone.

‘Epic, yes,’ Arthur agreed. He’d been epically smitten. This sort of thing never happened to him. But thank god it had now.

They rounded the corner onto Lexington – and Merlin chose that moment, that very moment, in full view of the Pendragon receptionists, security and homeward–bound employees, to turn into Arthur’s space, press forward, grasping an elbow in his hand so that Arthur couldn’t back away – and he met Arthur’s mouth with his own.

It held. The kiss held for moments, for ever, for now. Not the most amazing kiss in the world. Not yet. But it promised power as well as peace, and a new era began.

‘Awesome, yes…’ Merlin agreed in a whisper.

‘Then it will be worth all the trouble.’

Arthur carefully hung the canvas print in the place he’d allotted to it months ago, straightened it, and then stood back to consider the effect.

Merlin wandered past, open book in one hand and mug of coffee in the other. ‘No advertising stuff outside your study,’ he grumbled, without even looking properly: ‘we agreed. Anyway, Gaius is coming over soon, remember? No need to rub his face in it.’

Arthur rolled his eyes, having long been convinced that Merlin resented the loss of Gaius’s bookstore far more than Gaius himself did. ‘It’s my brilliant marketing campaigns that help pay for the Pendragon Rare Books and Manuscripts department, so I hardly think Gaius is going to complain.’

‘Huh. Just cos you think the Evil Empire bought out his principles –’

‘He’s as happy as a pig in mud,’ Arthur smoothly interrupted; ‘although that’s not literally true, as pigs are actually quite fastidious creatures, but the metaphor stands. He loves what he’s doing, and my father gives him free rein to do it, so I really don’t think there’s any need to try sparing his feelings.’

Merlin had curled up on the sofa. He commented darkly, ‘You just keep telling yourself that if it helps you sleep at night…’

Arthur let a beat go by, knowing they’d never reach the end of that argument. ‘Anyway,’ he eventually said, ‘it isn’t advertising. It’s just the photo. The very first one I took of you.’

‘Oh.’ Merlin looked up with mild chagrin. ‘So it is.’ He put the book and the coffee down, and unwound to come over and stand by Arthur. ‘Well,’ he allowed, ‘it is a good photo.’

‘That’s entirely due to the beauty of the subject.’

Merlin snorted inelegantly.

‘I am hardly the only beholder in this case… Gwaine still hardly ever takes his eyes off you, and Gaius is almost as bad. Even my father called you captivating.’

‘He so did not!’ Merlin was gaping, almost too shocked to be horrified. ‘No way.’

Arthur’s mouth quirked into half a smile. ‘Well, I suppose what he said was, Yes, I can see what captivated you…

‘That would have been just before he uttered a deep dark However, and warned you off me.’

The smile took over, and Arthur acknowledged the truth of Merlin’s supposition even while he drew the man into his arms.

‘D’you see why we can’t get married?’ Merlin murmured into Arthur’s hair.

‘No,’ he replied, quietly though sincerely.

‘Uther wouldn’t give you away. At least, not to me.’

Arthur let out an amused breath. ‘He’d stand by me regardless, if you gave me cause to ask him. The problem would be that we’d never find anyone to give you away. Everyone wants to keep you for himself.’

Merlin didn’t reply, but his arms tightened around Arthur, and his head tucked in closer.

‘It’s a year to the day since I took that photo,’ Arthur mused.

‘You do remember…’ Merlin murmured with a betraying hint of surprised satisfaction.

‘Well. I double–checked the date on the image file, but I did remember that it was mid May.’

Merlin had lifted his head to smile at him, wry and gorgeous and – yes – captivating.

‘Marry me,’ Arthur asked again. ‘We’ll each give ourselves away. Which is how it should work, anyway.’

The smile was growing irresistibly into a grin. ‘Maybe.’

‘Oh… we’re making progress. That’s better than a no.’

Merlin shifted out of Arthur’s embrace, stepped back. Started pulling off his t–shirt, long torso stretching pale as he lifted his arms, and took another step back. ‘Where’s your camera? I think we need some new photos… just for us.’ The t–shirt was discarded, revealing a cheeky grin.

Arthur was the one gaping now.

Merlin winked. Stepped back again towards their bedroom while his hands went to the button of his jeans. ‘Come on, then. Me and a book. Nothing but a book… I’ve got the perfect one in mind, too.’

‘Oh dear god…’ Arthur prayed, and he went to scrabble around in his satchel. ‘But Gaius will be here soon!’

‘Better get on with it, then. Point and shoot, remember…?’

Arthur finally clutched the camera in desperate hands, and he looked up just in time to see the corner of a delightful grin, then a glimpse of the long planes and narrow curves of that delicious back, as Merlin disappeared round the doorway. ‘I’m coming,’ Arthur called. He never deigned to chase after anyone but Merlin.

‘Soon, lover,’ came the promise from the bedroom they’d shared for a year now. ‘Soon… and it’s gonna be…’

‘Epic,’ Arthur supplied.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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16 responses to “Smitten”

  1. avatar Laura says:

    AAAAAAAAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWSSSSSSSSOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMEEEEEEEEEE LLLLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEE

  2. avatar Brunettepet says:

    Arthur’s reaction to the picture Merlin painted on that first sighting was wonderful. Long everything wrapped around that book would catch anyone’s eye. I love that Merlin catches him out and demands an explanation and ends up playing right into Arthur’s hands and heart.

    It’s lovely to find them a year later, happy and living together and on the cusp of getting engaged. It all made for a charming love story.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Brunettepet – Thank you for your thoughtful comment! I’m delighted to know that you found that initial image of Merlin so vivid, and that you enjoyed where they were a year later. If I charmed you with my little love!fic, then I’m happy. :-) ♥

  3. avatar hpfangirl21 says:

    This maybe one of the best Merlin AUs I’ve ever read, if not the best! I LOVED it so much!!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      hpfangirl21 – Thank you so much! That is a massive compliment – which I’m sure I don’t really deserve… but oh my it’s nice to hear. :-D

      I’m delighted that you enjoyed the fic so much. Thank you again. ♥

  4. avatar trill_gutterbug says:

    The whole image of Merlin in the window was so perfect and well-formulated, I could picture it in every detail. And the end made me wibbly. :)

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      trill_gutterbug – What a wonderful name you have there! :-)

      Thank you so much for your kind comment. I’m delighted that I managed to convey something of that image of Merlin, which was of course the original inspiration for me as well as Arthur… ♥

  5. avatar gomusing says:

    Beautifully written. I love how much connection they realized as soon as they’d met.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      gomusing – Thank you so much! I’m particularly delighted to know that almost-immediate sense of connection worked for you, as I felt it rather strongly, but wasn’t sure it was really credible, even in a ‘verse so full of destiny. Thank you for your reassurance, and for your kind words about my writing! ♥

  6. avatar Jessica says:

    This was so cute and amazing :)

  7. avatar BrighterLove says:

    AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW, that was so damn cute and awesome. I love the way they first met and that picture that Merlin painted in Arthur’s eyes on their first meeting. You totally captured how it is when you first see someone you have feelings for that explosion. Oh and I loved Arthur being a bit of a stalker, found that cute as well.

    anyway this was all love

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      BrighterLove – Thank you so much for your comment! I’m delighted you enjoyed this one so much. Only my second ever modern AU! But I enjoyed writing it – a lot! – so I’m guessing there’ll be more. :-) I’m particularly glad that you felt I’d captured that initial burst of love. Hurrah!

      Thank you again. ♥

  8. The problem would be that we’d never find anyone to give you away. Everyone wants to keep you for himself.’
    Truer and more adorable words have never been spoken! ^_^

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