Disclaimer: I have no connection at all with the BBC, and Merlin belongs to them
Prompt: 2104. Merlin, Arthur Pendragon, 'You're gay? But you're a guy's guy!' Somehow, it's harder coming out to new people when you don't look stereotypically gay.
Summary: Arthur's football team are playing an away match against a team they've not played before, and Arthur has to decide whether or not to admit that he lives with his boyfriend.
Warnings: (if any) none.
Author's Notes: (if any) Betaed by lycoris and also my faintly bemused flatmate. Because everyone likes to imagine Bradley James in that football strip. And that towel. Concrit welcomed!
Arthur loved playing away games. If the journey was more than an hour, the team usually hired a minibus just barely big enough for them all to squeeze into and travelled together, which reminded him of school trips. On the way back they usually drank, and then it felt like a holiday. When he got home he would be cheerful and expansive, and he and Merlin would get takeaway and cuddle on the couch, pretending to watch a DVD but really just being close. Merlin would laugh at him for being a sappy drunk, Arthur would feign offence and talk about how many goals he'd scored that day and how manly and strong he was, and Merlin would laugh and say that he didn't know how he'd ever got involved with someone deluded enough to think that footballing abilities were a sign of manliness.
Today's game was against a town just barely an hour away who were currently higher then them in the league. Despite them having an excellent goalie, Arthur was confident he'd be able to score some goals.
"At least two," he said to Merlin, as Merlin staunchly pretended to be asleep and not watching Arthur get dressed after his morning shower. Merlin gave up the pretence when Arthur took the towel from around his waist and stood naked to dry his hair.
"Your goalie will probably let in more goals than you can score," he said.
"We're trying someone new," Arthur said, dropping the towel over the back of a chair and reaching for his shirt.
"About time," Merlin said. "Now perhaps you'll stop ranting about that and just enjoy the game. It's supposed to be a hobby!"
"It's not my fault that you are totally uncompetitive," said Arthur, just to see Merlin's indignant expression. Merlin opened his mouth to argue and Arthur silenced him with a kiss.
"Have a good day," Arthur said softly, before heading off to catch the bus.
The journey out was uneventful and the match itself went much better than expected. Not only did Arthur score two goals, their new goalie only let in one. Arthur was feeling very pleased with himself as he walked into the clubhouse bar.
"Arthur!" Lancelot called, and Arthur headed over, slapping him on the back and taking the proffered pint.
"Nice goal," Lancelot said.
"Nice set up," Arthur told him. "Your goal wasn't bad either," he said, turning to the other side's striker, who was standing next to Lancelot. Arthur thought his name was Daniel, but he wasn't sure. "I couldn't believe that went in."
"Neither could your goalie," laughed Daniel.
"Poor Gawain, he's new," Lancelot said.
"He doesn't look too upset," said Daniel, looking at where Gawain was raising a pint to their victory.
"Well, we won," Arthur said cheerfully, and Daniel rolled his eyes.
The game had to be discussed in great detail, and the banter continued. By the time they'd been there an hour, Arthur thought he must have spoken to everyone in the room. Gradually however, the conversation began to veer off onto other topics.
"This'll have to be my last," Daniel said, looking at his fresh pint. "The missus is going to some gig tonight, and she'll kill me if I don't get home in time to take the kids off her hands so she can get ready. If the weather holds, though, I might do the garden tomorrow."
"What are you doing tomorrow?" Lancelot asked, looking at Arthur. "Are you two up for a barbecue?"
"Not sure," Arthur said. "Probably, but I might be coming alone - the orchestra has a big concert on Tuesday night, and you know what they say about practice making perfect!"
"Your girlfriend's a musician?" Daniel asked. "What does she play?"
Arthur felt a little tiny sinking feeling in his stomach.
"He plays cello," he said after only a tiny hesitation, automatically holding his head just that little bit higher and glancing over at Lancelot for support.
"You're gay?" Daniel's voice held mostly surprise. Arthur didn't think he sounded hostile, but he wasn't sure. He frowned slightly.
"Yup," he said shortly. "Merlin and I have been together three years – he's a professional musician. He says at least one of us is living the dream."
"Talent scouts could still come knocking if you keep scoring goals like today's," he said. "Maybe not Premier League, but they're not the only ones who get paid."
"Yeah, they were great goals," said Daniel. He didn't sound quite as enthusiastic as before to Arthur's ears, and when one of his own team mates called to him from the other side of the room he went, with only a nod at each of them.
Arthur glanced at Lancelot, who rolled his eyes and bumped their shoulders companionably.
"It's about time we were getting going anyway," he said. "Leon's started rounding people up."
Arthur drank the rest of his pint and put the glass down on the bar rather more sharply than he'd intended. He went through the usual round of half-hugs and backslapping that always accompanied leaving after away games, and tried to ignore the little voice in his head that said that Daniel didn't clap him on the back as they left.
He made up for it by being as loud as possible on the bus, laughing and joking with everyone and leading the singsong. When he was finally dropped off at home, leaving Leon to take the bus back alone, he was grinning and exuberant, but that faded slightly as they waited for the takeaway to arrive.
"You're unnaturally quite for the night of an away game," Merlin said, poking him. "You haven't made one remark about my lack of coordination, or my housekeeping abilities."
"What housekeeping abilities?" Arthur said, grabbing Merlin's hand to stop the poking. "You don't have housekeeping abilities!"
"That's why you love me," Merlin said cheerfully.
"Lance and Gwen are having a barbecue tomorrow," Arthur said. "Do you want to go?"
"As long as I've got time to get some practice in beforehand and you don't make me get completely drunk, then yes."
"Don't you want to go?" Merlin asked. "You usually love barbecues, especially barbecues with them."
"It's not that. I'm just being an idiot," Arthur said.
Merlin sat down and pulled him close.
"Cheer up chicken," he said. "You're always an idiot, especially after away games, but that's why I love you."
"Not for my mad footballing skills?" Arthur said. "I scored two goals today!"
"You are clearly the manliest of men," Merlin said. "We can have takeaway and then athletic sex, what do you say?"
"I say that sounds like a good plan," said Arthur. "We should get started on the second bit right away."
Merlin laughed and kissed him without hesitation. Arthur ended up having to pay for their takeaway topless, but it went cold before they had the chance to eat it.