Summary: Gwen notices a lot of things bartending in the bar where Merlin plays piano.
Disclaimer: Sadly, not mine. pianist!merlin belongs to grim_lupine.
Author’s Note: Tribute fic to grim_lupine’s two brilliant drabbles Loneliness and Fulfillment. Please read those first. When I finished reading Fulfillment I was struck with the inspiration to write a drabble in third person POV, about how Merlin and Arthur’s relationship might look to other people, namely Gwen. Takes place through Loneliness, Fulfillment, and beyond.
Gwen is the bartender at the little bar where her friend Merlin plays piano on Tuesday and Thursday nights. She likes to listen to Merlin’s expert fingers tickle the ivories while she serves up drinks to the sullen and lonely patrons who sit at her bar.
One night she notices that Arthur, one of the Thursday night regulars who listen to Merlin play as they drown their sorrows in whiskey or beer, is watching Merlin with interest through the blond hair falling limply over his eyes. He looks so lonely slumped down in his chair that it makes Gwen want to go over and just give the man a hug or something.
She looks over a little while later as Merlin is finishing up his set and sees Arthur walk up to Merlin and say something. Merlin answers immediately and they quietly leave together, no one else noticing them except for Gwen. She doesn’t think much of it. Merlin regularly goes home with some of these lonely souls. She knows Merlin’s lonely too but he hides it behind his music.
That was two weeks ago. The following Thursday she saw Arthur come in, sit in his regular spot, order a whiskey, and sink down into his chair as usual. But when Merlin arrived and began playing, she looked over and saw that his eyes were now riveted on the pianist while the rest of him remained slouched over in his chair.
She’d look over now and again and each and every time she would find him watching Merlin play. She couldn’t recall refilling his glass and later that night as she was clearing the tables she found his whiskey untouched, the condensation on the outside of the glass unmarred by fingerprints.
Last Thursday night she was feeling particularly uplifted by Merlin’s music when she suddenly realized why: all of the songs he had been playing were love themes from different movies and musicals. She looked up to see how the normally wistful crowd was taking in this oddly hopeful musical performance. Some were oblivious, some were swaying gently in their chairs, and one in particular was watching Merlin play, mesmerized, an almost peaceful look on his suddenly handsome face.
Today is Tuesday. At least Gwen thinks it’s Tuesday. She has to go check the calendar in the back room to be sure because Arthur just walked in and sat down. He orders no drink. Arthur has never come in on a Tuesday. Nor has he ever not ordered his habitual glass of whiskey. She looks to Merlin who has just finished a song and is glancing around the room as he takes a drink of the water he keeps by the piano. He sees the man and they smile at each other. A small smile. A secret smile. Their smile.
Merlin turns back to the piano and strains of “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the musical ‘Camelot’ start dancing their way off the stage.