BBC Merlin: A Shoulder To Lean On Chapter One

You listen when I have a problem, and help dry the tears from my face. You take away my sorrow, and put happiness in its place. AU fic, friendship/hurt/comfort.

Arthur watched as the boy he had known all his life threw his black hat up in the air to be joined with the hundreds of others that were momentarily suspended in space.

Merlin had finally done it. Merlin had graduated.

The dark haired teen pushed his way through the cheering crowd to where Arthur was standing, clapping heartily along with all the other friends and family who were applauding the newly graduated young men and women. 

For a moment, the bustling crowd thinned a little and Merlin squeezed through them towards his friend who grinned and clapped him on the back before beginning to walk down one of the aisles between the rows of chairs, hands in his pockets and Merlin bouncing around with excitement at his heels.

“Look, they even gave me a certificate and everything!” Merlin squeaked, waving the piece of paper around as if it were a flag and grinning like a lunatic.

Arthur sighed. He knew Merlin well enough to know that he got excited over even the smallest of things.

Their mothers had been friends and had even almost given birth on the same day. Arthur had been born first, but about a week later Merlin had come along and their mothers had gotten together a few months after to exchange mother-like gossip. That’s when he’d first met Merlin.

They did now, but they hadn’t always got along…

According to Merlin’s mother, as soon as Arthur had caught sigh of him, he’d clubbed poor Merlin over the head with a rattle. Merlin had then begun to bawl and Arthur had hastily tried to calm him down.

Hunith said it was very sweet. When they had gotten older, both the boys had strongly disagreed, started blushing like ten year olds would and scuttled off to play Cowboys and Indians, muttering something about ‘parents’ under their breath. 

So, even after the first impression rule had been thrown out the window, they’d both had soft spots for each other ever since.

They’d grown up together, gone to school together, gone to collage together (until Arthur had graduated) and now they even lived together in the same flat somewhere in the heart of London.

It was quite a roomy apartment. Arthur had been able to afford it, seeing as his father was the biggest business tycoon in the whole of London…probably. However, the same couldn’t be said for the beaten up old Ford Focus Arthur drove, which they had reached now.

Arthur pulled a hand from his pocket and reached out for the certificate Merlin was still fluttering around.

“Let’s see, then. Give it here.”

Merlin handed him the precious document and preceded to pull the dusty window of the old Ford down so he could climb in. Arthur had lost the keys months ago and had never been bothered to get a replacement. Besides, only a deranged fool would ever want to steal the bashed up old car, which had numerous – perhaps immeasurable – amounts of scratches, scrapes, dents and rust patches.

Inelegantly, and tripping over his silky black graduation robes, Merlin fell into the passenger seat and straightened himself up to face Arthur who leant on the sun-bleached roof of the car and looked at the certificate carefully, before handing it back to Merlin, smiling.

“I’m proud of you, Merlin,” he said as his friend opened the driver’s door for him (the handle was jammed) and he sat down on the tattered old seat that had several threads missing. “I really am.”

While Arthur started up the juddering engine with two wires under the wheel, Merlin kicked the lever under his chair with the heel of his Converse All Stars and slid back before resting his legs on the dashboard.

“Yeah? Well, you can show me just how proud you are when we get home,” he said, pushing the button of the radio and turning the dial to Radio One, deciding he didn’t like it and switching it off again. “The match is on tonight.”

“Yeah, I know!” Arthur retorted indignantly, pushing his foot down on the pedal. The old car began to chug down the road.

“You need to get a new car, you know,” Merlin said, leaning back in the flimsy chair and putting his hands behind his head, looking smug.

“You always say that…” Arthur sighed.

“Well, that’s your fault for never listening - WATCH OUT FOR THE GRANNY!!!”

Arthur veered around the old lady, swerved onto the curb, almost mowed down a toddler waiting for an ice cream, and got the car back on the road again.

“Anyway, as I was saying,” Merlin went on, unperturbed, as this was a near daily occurrence, “you should get your dad to buy you a new car. I’m sure he can afford one.”

“We both know he can, but he said the flat was all he was paying for,” Arthur responded.

Suddenly, the phone that was in his pocket began to vibrate and Uther’s alarm tone blared out loudly.

“Speak of the devil…” Merlin said philosophically as Arthur dug the mobile out and handed it to him, “Yeah, ‘ello.”

Merlin,” Arthur glared at him and gave him a look. Merlin sighed, stuck his tounge out and turned to face the window.

“Sorry,” he cast Arthur a meaningful glare, “I mean; hello, Merlin speaking. How – are – you – Uther?”

Arthur watched as Merlin’s brash expression slid slowly off his face. He could hear his father on the other side of the phone but couldn’t tell what he was saying.

“He wants to talk to you,” Merlin was quite pale as he handed Arthur the phone.

“Well, tell him I’m driving!” Arthur hissed as Merlin tired to hold the awaiting mobile to his ear. 

“This is Uther,” Merlin replied in a low voice. “Just take the phone!”

Begrudgingly, Arthur let him hold the Nokia to his ear and waited for his father to speak. Merlin watched on, biting his lip.

“Yes…no…” Arthur started talking to the mobile, growing increasingly pale. “Why? No…not yet…yes…yes…not today, no…yesterday. Yeah…yeah…I don’t know…erm…Merlin, where are we?” he turned expectantly to his friend who looked helplessly around for a signpost.

“Passing The Science Museum,” Merlin hissed after seeing the famous landmark.

“Passing The Science museum,” Arthur repeated. “What? Oh, yeah, he did. No…maybe…what, tomorrow? Yeah, yeah…I’ll do my best…yes…oh, good…yeah…bye.”

Merlin snapped the flip phone shut as Arthur took his head away and swallowed, flexing his fingers on the worn steering wheel.

“What’d he say?” Merlin asked tentatively, holding the phone in a sweaty hand and giving Arthur a wary eye. Uther’s phone calls never ended well and Arthur looked edgy.

“He wants to meet us at the flat. Says he wants to catch up…” Arthur replied, his lips forming a thin line.

“That’s good, right?” Merlin inquired, thinking it would be good for Arthur to see his father – something his friend rarely did these days.

“Who knows?” Arthur sighed; looking icy, but then seemed to brighten up and nudged Merlin with an elbow. “Lets just hope he won’t still be there when the match starts, eh!”

Laughing, Merlin looked around for the pile of clothes he’d left in the car when he discovered he wasn’t allowed to wear them for the graduation. He found his jeans and T-shirt, but there was something missing…

“You seen my scarf anywhere?” he asked, turning around in his seat and rummaging in all the old junk that filled the back seats.

“Erm…don’t think so, no,” Arthur replied. “Why do you wear that thing, anyway?”

“Well, why not?” Merlin muffled; his head buried in an old golf bag. He found the red scarf and pulled it out. “Are you saying you don’t like it?”

“Well, I never understood why you wear it,” Arthur said as Merlin expertly knotted up the neckerchief.

“Morgana likes it,” Merlin said airily. “She said it was iconic. Oh, c’mon, Arthur!” he said, bumping his friend on the arm when he said nothing and just stared at the road. “You’re supposed to be my best friend. That means you have to compliment me every now and then!”

“Well…it’s a…” Arthur was clearly trying to find something good about the scarf as he gave it a glare and waved his hand vaguely. “It’s a nice colour…I guess.”

“There, that didn’t kill you, did it?” Merlin laughed, leaning back in his seat again.

“It’s got a delayed reaction,” Arthur muttered. 

The End

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