"Do you make a habit of starting conversation by being rude to your matches? What a prat!"
Arthur read the message on his iPhone and smiled to himself? Should he tell the bloke that he was relatively new to Tinder that he didn't really do "hook-ups" with other men via a smartphone. Of course, it all he wanted was an arse, he would have gone to Grindr, given there were plenty available there.
"Oh, don't run away!" Arthur wrote back, still grinning. It was clear that Merlin had a good sense of humour and that was sexy in a man.
"From you? Ha!"
"I could take you apart with one blow."
"I could take you apart with less than that... You prat."
Arthur laughed to himself, he was definitely having a great time. Should he continue chatting with the man, or should he try to make plans of meeting up?
What was the social construct around dating via smartphone? He didn't want to move too fast, look desperate, or worse, get played. Merlin's profile picture was sort of normal, and he looked like down-to-earth. Still, the picture Arthur had put on his profile was something Morgana had picked out and he thought it made him look like a tosser. Didn't it? But Merlin seemed to like it.
"Did I scare you away, already?" Merlin asked when Arthur clearly took too long to reply.
"No. Still here."
"Oh, chatting with other blokes too, then? ;)"
Arthur smiled again. Should he be honest?
"No. Just you. :)"
"You don't have to lie, I'm not a girl."
Arthur laughed again. "That's good, because that'd be awkward," he wrote and then quickly changed screens to look at his calendar. "Say, are you free for coffee on Thursday?"
"I'm free for coffee right now." Oh Merlin was straightforward. Always a good thing.
"Want to see how long it'd take you to blow me apart?" Arthur teased.
"There are other kinds of blowing I'm better at. ;)"
Arthur's cock hardened at the words. Shit, he was going to lose it with Merlin before he even got himself together.
"You know Avalon café?"
"Which one?" Merlin asked.
Arthur had completely forgotten that they were a chain now. Of course. "The one by the castle?"
"Yeah! I don't live too far away from there."
"You don't? That's strange. So meet me there in ten minutes?"
"Why is that strange?"
"Because I don't live that far away, either. I haven't seen you around. I mean I would have remembered."
"I just moved here. So, yeah. See you in ten minutes."
Arthur smiled staring at the iPhone screen and then started to look through the rest of Merlin's pictures. He'd leave his flat in a few minutes and wait outside the café for Merlin.
"Wait. Before anything else, I just want to say something." Arthur quickly typed a message.
"You're actually straight and experimenting?"
"Then what is it? I've already started walking towards the café. They make a mean espresso."
"I know. I love it there. Really strange that I've never seen you. How long ago did you move here?"
"What were you going to tell me, prat?"
"Right. All jokes aside. I wanted to say that I'm not a casual hook-up sort. So..." Arthur bit his lip nervously.
Merlin took a long while to write back and Arthur wondered if he should have left his flat. What if he was going to tell Arthur that he was wasting his time.
"Sorry. I just ordered you an espresso and cake. You're still at home?"
"Just about there," Arthur replied and placed his iPhone in his pocket. Maybe Merlin didn't want to tell Arthur that he was a complete loser. Maybe he liked doing that sort of thing face-to-face.
When Arthur entered Avalon he spotted Merlin right away. He was sitting at the corner table with two espressos and two coffee cakes on the table. He didn't see Arthur since he was looking out the window in the opposite direction of the street.
Arthur stood there for a minute and just watched Merlin. Merlin would straighten up if he saw someone on the street, and then his shoulders would slump when he realised it wasn't Arthur.
Arthur bit his lower lip, ran a hand through his hair, and made his way to the table.
"Hi," Arthur said and seemed to have caught Merlin off-guard.
"Oh, definitely not," Merlin said, as if he were talking to himself.
"Right. Sorry. I'm Merlin."
"Definitely not, what?" Arthur asked, confused. Was he indicating that Arthur wasn't his type and what a nerve--
"Oh, I don't think I could ever do anything casual with you," Merlin smiled and took a sip of his espresso. Arthur saw a glint of mischief in his eyes and made a mental note of letting Morgana sign him up for Tinder.
Their knees bumped under the small table as they sat there, neither one pulling away. It felt so warm and comfortable to have his leg pressed against Merlin as Arthur took a bite of the coffee cake.
"So, you're okay with taking things slow?" Arthur asked when his hand brushed against Merlin's since they both reached for their espresso cups simultaneously.
Merlin threaded his fingers with Arthur's before he let go and took another sip. "Yeah," he said with a genuine smile that reached his eyes. "I don't really date a lot, and honestly, I was a bit sceptical of doing it like this but--yeah. I'd be up for anything."
Arthur felt a great relief wash over him and felt as though his heart had just skipped a beat. Maybe it was destiny, or maybe it was just really good coffee. He looked down at his empty plate and licked his lips. When he looked up, he caught Merlin doing the same.
"Do you want to get out of here?" Arthur asked and Merlin nodded as if he didn't need to think it twice.