The explosion was heard halfway across the house. It rattled the windows and knocked several of Arthur’s pictures off the walls of his bedroom. He sat up with a start, yanking his headphones out of his ears and yelping loudly when his bed vibrated.
“Christ!” he shouted, scrambling off his bed and sprinting down the hallway. “Merlin!”
When he finally reached the library (yes, Arthur’s house had a library; his father had many estates around the globe and didn’t skive off about anything), there was purplish, shimmery smoke curling out from underneath the door. Wrenching it open, Arthur was accosted by a wall of the glittery violet smoke. It smelled sweet with the fresh, electric zing of magic as an undertone.
“Merlin!” Arthur called again, coughing as it began to clog his nose and lungs. Taking a step back, he waved the translucent smoke away. “Merlin, are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” Merlin called back. He sounded extremely confused and if Arthur hadn’t been worried for his life, he probably would have laughed. It was hard, getting used to your best friend having magic. Especially since you’ve known said friend since primary school, and for all those years, thought he was as plain and ordinary as the stray black cat down Arthur’s street.
Thankful that Merlin was actually alive, if not unharmed, Arthur let out the breath he was holding and let his fists uncurl in relief. “You’re an idiot,” Arthur proclaimed for the millionth time. “What were you even trying to do? Summon Willy Wonka?” he demanded, stalking through the slowly dissipating smoke.
“No! Arthur, don’t come in here!”
Arthur frowned at the desperate note in Merlin’s voice. “Why? What did you do, Merlin?” he asked, concerned again. He wouldn’t have his friend, who had somehow become even more important to him now he knew all of his secrets, hurt or upset. Merlin had already become a permanent fixture in Arthur’s life; the man knew everything about him, and had acted as a lifeline for Arthur more than once. He wouldn’t let his stupid, dangerous magical experimentations change that.
“N-Nothing!” Merlin said, sounding much closer to Arthur now. There was a nervous tilt to his voice. “I-I, I may have done something very stupid and it’s not at all flattering. I mean, I didn’t damage anything, but it’s really not something you should be looking at.”
Arthur scoffed. “Like what? Did you grow an extra head?” Suddenly, he was filled with the images of Merlin’s face, burned or disfigured. And then the joke wasn’t so funny anymore.
Merlin didn’t seem to hear Arthur’s hesitancy, however. “No, you prat,” he snapped, and through the disappearing smoke, Arthur could just make out his slender form and wringing hands just a foot or so away. “I just… Did an oops.”
“You did an oops,” Arthur repeated, taking a step forward. “Let me see, you idiot, it can’t have been that bad,” he said, his voice taking on that imperious tone that meant no matter what Merlin said or did, Arthur would get his way.
Merlin made a decidedly unmanly squeak when Arthur stepped through the last, thin veil of purple smoke. Merlin managed a few quick steps away from him, but ultimately Arthur’s hand clasped around his wrist and anchored him in place.
Letting out another indignant noise, Merlin struggled until Arthur had to grab the second of his wrists, his grip going from persistent to iron.
Merlin whined, keeping himself shrouded by the smoke until Arthur gave him a sharp look. It was odd; some days, they had to talk about every little thing to make sure they were both on the same page (those days often led to both of them stalking off in a huff before one of them caved and apologised). Other days, apparently like this day, they were able to communicate through simple glances or wordless noises.
When Merlin finally uttered a “fine, but you’re not going to like it” and unveiled himself, it took everything in Arthur not to laugh hysterically.
Merlin glared at him and yanked his hands out of his slackened grip. “You’re a fucking prat,” he said seriously, his voice dangerously low.
However, that just made it twenty times more hilarious.
“You… You have…” Nearly choking, Arthur waved his hands over the top of his head. His face was red with the effort not to laugh. “You have… Cat ears.” And that’s what did it. Arthur almost doubled over, cackling, holding his stomach.
Merlin took a deep breath and was probably counting to ten. When Arthur looked up again, his friend’s eyes were closed and he still had black triangular ears sticking up out of the dark mop he called hair. They were pulled back, like an annoyed cat. His embarrassment was portrayed by the scarlet that painted up his neck and cheeks.
When Arthur’s laughter finally subsided, he was in tears and Merlin looked like he was going to commit murder-suicide. Smiling fondly, Arthur was reduced to breathless giggles. “Are you… Do they work? Like you have cat-hearing?” he asked, snorting at the thought.
Merlin gave him the most long-suffering look that he’d ever seen. It only managed to make him laugh harder. “Yes, they work, but I don’t know if I have cat-hearing, seeing as your obnoxious, braying laugh keeps covering up anything useful I’d be able to hear.”
Arthur knew it was meant as an insult. But the only reason why he bristled was because he thought that the after-effects of the last transfiguration spell Merlin had been practicing had faded. “I thought you said all of the side-effects were gone,” Arthur scowled.
At that, a sneaky grin crossed Merlin’s face as his ears perked up again. “No, they are gone. You’ve always laughed like an ass.”
At that, Arthur let out a growl and barrelled toward Merlin. They ran around the library, both of them laughing. However, Arthur had the advantage; playing football kept him fit, despite Merlin’s endless teasing of being a foot fairy.
When Arthur finally caught Merlin and pulled him in for a headlock, rubbing his knuckles against his scalp (mindful of his ears), Merlin cried, “Fine, fine! Mercy!”
Arthur grinned and relented, but he didn’t let Merlin go far. He slung his arm around Merlin’s shoulders despite his grumbling. Arthur’s eyes were drawn to the ears. They were large, like Merlin’s human ears, with small tufts of black spiking from the top. They twitched and swiveled and mesmerised Arthur.
“You’re a brute,” Merlin said unhappily, not noticing that Arthur was staring at his ears. “A big, brutish foot fairy that thinks he can run me over whenever he wants. An entitled, self-important--”
“I think “brutish” and “foot fairy” contradict each other, Merlin,” Arthur drawled, but he didn’t put any real force behind it. Tentatively, he reached up to touch one of the ears. He didn’t realise he did it, at first; he just really wanted to know what they felt like.
Merlin tensed under the contact, but didn’t tell Arthur off, either. He just stared at his friend with wide eyes as Arthur stroked him.
It felt good. Not in a sexual way, but it made him feel warm on the inside. Before he knew it, Merlin was actually leaning into the touch.
Arthur stopped when he noticed. His fingers remained, and when Merlin opened his eyes, Arthur was blushing hard. “I-I, um… I didn’t--”
“Don’t stop,” Merlin blurted, feeling his own blush creep up his cheeks.
Arthur stared at him in disbelief, his mouth parting slightly. “Merlin…” he started, but Merlin wasn’t having any of it. He could feel Arthur retracting his hand, and there was no way he was letting him do that.
It really shouldn’t have surprised him when he surged forward and captured Arthur’s lips with his. The kiss was soft and a little dry, but it was pleasant if a bit chaste. It was forceful, too, and Merlin’s nose knocked with Arthur’s uncomfortably. When Merlin realised Arthur wasn’t responding, he pulled away, feeling panic settle in his chest. “I’m sorry, Jesus, Arthur I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean--”
Arthur grabbed the back of Merlin’s neck and pulled him forward, barely listening to his apologies. “Shut up, Merlin,” he murmured, fitting their lips together more comfortably. He didn’t know where this had come from; he only knew that it felt right and felt good. It felt amazing kissing Merlin, who yielded against his touch and responded eagerly, parting his lips for Arthur and clutching at his shoulders.
The kiss turned from chaste to hot and wanting, now that both parties were on the same page. Arthur backed Merlin up to one of the tables, his hands carding through Merlin’s hair and playing with the silky strands. One of Merlin’s hands had rucked up Arthur’s t-shirt and stolen its way inside, and was now splayed over Arthur’s side.
Merlin shivered when Arthur’s fingers grazed the base of one cat ear. Smirking against his lips, Arthur stroked it until he felt a vibration underneath his hand on Merlin’s chest. Pulling away, and trying to ignore the disappointed sound Merlin made, he asked, “What was that?”
Merlin’s gaze was unfocused at best when he opened his eyes. “What was what?” he countered. He hitched his hips impatiently against Arthur’s, causing the other boy to suck in a gasp and make him smile wickedly. “Why did you stop?”
“Because I felt something,” Arthur snapped, pushing lightly against Merlin’s chest.
Merlin raised an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Well, that’s good, seeing as how kissing is primarily felt,” he said snarkily, but Arthur growled at him.
“No, you idiot, I felt your chest vibrate, or something.”
Merlin frowned. That was definitely odd, no wonder he stopped. Even though Merlin would have rathered he not stop. Ever.
“Well… Why don’t you start touching me again, see if it happens?” he suggested, grinning cheekily. Arthur gazed at him a few moments, but then eventually snorted and smiled at him.
“Fine,” he said quietly, his tone gentler than Merlin was used to. “But if it happens again, I’m going to stop.”
Merlin was just about to let out a whine of protest when Arthur’s hands started moving again, and then the noise was lost. Arthur’s fingers were playing with his hair again, running through the locks and twisting them in his grasp, drawing out a noise that came from Merlin’s chest. Arthur’s eyes widened when he felt the vibration under the hand that was placed firmly in the centre of Merlin’s chest.
“Merlin… Are you…?” he trailed off, watching Merlin’s face. His eyes were closed, long black lashes a contrast to pale skin. A smile tipped his slightly parted lips, red and a little swollen from when they were kissing. And a sound escaped him, rumbling up from his chest as he leaned his head into Arthur’s hand.
A sliver of blue peeked out from heavy-lidded eyes when Merlin opened them, his brows knit in confusion. The noise stopped as he noticed the bright grin that broke across Arthur’s face, and he groaned. “Shit.”
Arthur laughed, but the sound was smoky and low, not like his earlier uproarious laughter. “You know,” he started, leaning forward a bit to kiss Merlin’s cheek, “I think the ears are kind of cute. But they eventually have to go,” he said, as if it was a hardship, and Merlin laughed even as Arthur’s lips trailed toward his jaw.
“I’m sure it will be a terrible loss,” Merlin said, amused. As Arthur’s lips trailed even lower, his hands found Arthur’s hair, running his fingers through the silken blonde strands.
Arthur made a sound of agreement as he sucked a bruise on Merlin’s neck, making Merlin moan. “Heartbreaking,” he said, kissing the abused skin tenderly. “But the purring… The purring can stay.” He said, kissing back up Merlin’s neck to his jaw.
Merlin chuckled, the sound a little shaky as Arthur pressed his lips to the corner of his mouth. “I sense a condition to that,” he said, turning to face Arthur a bit better and brushing his lips against his.
Arthur hummed happily and kissed him more firmly. “As long as I’m the only one who can hear it.”
Merlin smiled. “I think I can agree to that,” he murmured, dimpling when Arthur grinned and gripped his waist, hoisting him up onto the table. Merlin only had a few seconds to laugh before Arthur kissed him again, leaving him to surrender against the onslaught.