Actions

Work Header

Stepping Up

Work Text:

As Arthur turns into the winding driveway of his family home, he can’t help but admire the view. The Pendragon estate is beautiful at this time of year, he has to admit. He has always loved the way the driveway leads up to the house, hinting at adventure and bygone times that by all rights should belong in the pages of a history book, and the way the stately gardens hug it on either side, followed by acres of land in the background. The trees are bare and barren, so unlike the way that they used to be when he and Morgana came home from boarding school for the summer. But that does not take away from their beauty.

Normally, driving down the road to the house would fill his heart with warmth, happiness and the deep-seated feeling of being safe and home. But today, after killing the engine and getting out of the car, his feet feel heavy. His palms are sweaty, and he has the urge to flee rather than knock at the door to be let in. He takes a deep breath and tries to swallow the lump that’s been forming in his throat. He can do this. He’s a Pendragon, and Pendragons cut straight to the point and don’t shy away from any situation. At least, that’s what his father had taught them growing up. His hand rests hesitating on the car door for a moment before he closes it and walks up the steps to the front door.

He stands there and closes his eyes in an attempt to gather all of his courage. Then he reaches out and knocks. He feels strangely alone and bereft, as if the house that he has loved and known for all these years has suddenly abandoned him and is now looking down on him, silently judging him.

Shortly afterwards, the door is opened by George, his father’s butler.

“Evening, George,” Arthur greets him, tucking his hands into his trouser pockets.

George nods stiffly at him, his posture held rigid. “Master Arthur,” he replies. “You are expected. Please follow me.”

Arthur does so, struggling to keep his amusement from showing on his face. It always tickles him when George calls him ‘Master Arthur’, as he suspects that his father’s butler is actually younger than he is. He follows George through the house and into the sitting room, where his father is sitting by the fire, a glass of whiskey in his hand.

“Ah, Arthur,” Uther says, placing his glass down on the side table. He rises from his seat and shakes Arthur’s hand, then pulls him into a quick, manly hug before gesturing for him to take a seat. “I trust that you had a pleasant drive?”

Arthur sinks down into the leather armchair—soft and comfortable, the cushions worn with age—as he watches his father fetch another glass from the sideboard and pour him a measure of whiskey. He passes it to Arthur as he sits back down in his chair.

“Yes, it was fine. A bit of traffic leaving London, but that was to be expected. I hope you’ve been keeping well?” Arthur takes a sip of the whiskey, relishing the heat as it burns down his throat. It distracts him from the enormity of the news he’s going to break today.

Uther crosses his legs casually and swirls the whiskey in his glass. “Yes, of course. The company has been performing well this quarter, and Morgana is getting on nicely learning the ropes of the business. She’s starting to take on the lion’s share of the work. I’d be lying if I wasn’t looking forward to a nice, relaxing retirement next year, and I’m happy to know things will finally be in capable hands. How is your snow-skating thing going?”

Arthur bristles internally. It’s so typical of his father to dismiss his career like that, as if he’s a lesser person for having chosen to do what he loves and follow in his mother’s footsteps, instead of joining Uther in the family business as he had planned. By all accounts, Ygraine du Bois had been a skilled and promising downhill skier who was headed for glory before her career had been cut short by her high-risk pregnancy and then her death during childbirth. One would think the fact that Arthur had won a silver medal in snowboarding at the last Winter Olympics, as well as numerous other world titles, would have pleased his father. But it had only served to make Uther colder and more distant. Morgana has told Arthur on more than one occasion that she suspects the reason Uther is so cold towards him is because Arthur is so similar to his mother, and that by taking up snowboarding he had reminded Uther of her loss. In her opinion, Arthur just needs to accept that nothing he does—short of quitting altogether and joining the family business—will ever win his father’s approval.

Arthur is starting to realise just how true that is, even if a part of him still wishes for a father that would be proud of him, just once; that Uther would congratulate him on his hard work and achievements. But in his hearts of hearts he knows that that will never happen. He came here tonight to tell his father the truth. He is so tired of pretending to be someone that he’s not and trying to live up to Uther’s impossible expectations. It’s likely that this could break their strained relationship, but he wants to do this on his terms. He has considered not telling him at all, but he knows that Uther will find out eventually and Arthur’s not so much of a coward as to let him find out through the papers or TV.

He looks over at his father, a neutral smile pasted on his face. “It’s going nicely, Father. I’ll be heading out to PyeongChang soon for the Winter Olympics, and I think I have a pretty good chance at medalling again this year.”

Uther nods briskly and finishes the rest of his whiskey. “Shall we have dinner?” he asks, standing up to signal that their brief period of small talk is over. Arthur follows behind him as they make their way down the passageway to the dining room. As they traipse through the large, empty house and past its many rooms, Arthur finds himself wondering yet again how his father can stand to be living here all on his own.

Dinner is served by George in an uncomfortable silence, and once he’s gone they continue their awkward conversation.

“So, Arthur. This trip of yours to South Korea must be exciting. I’m sure that there will be plenty of other young people like yourself there. You should put yourself out there more, see if you can meet someone suitable. It’s been years since you last brought a woman to dinner. I’d like to see you starting to settle down before I retire,” says his father, smiling at him as he sips at his wine.

Arthur freezes in the middle of cutting his food. He looks over at his father, feeling the blood draining from his face, and his hands are unsteady as he puts down his knife and fork. He feels a lurching sensation in the depths of his stomach. Well, it’s now or never he supposes.

He wipes his hands and mouth with his napkin, then he nervously clears his throat. “About that, Father...”

Uther suddenly beams at him, his face lighting up as he clasps his hands together. “Oh Arthur, have you met someone? How wonderful, you must bring her to dinner soon so that we can be introduced!”

“Father, please!” Arthur interrupts. “Please, let me finish.”

His father sits back in his chair and motions for Arthur to continue.

Arthur licks his lips, and his mouth suddenly feels incredibly dry. “Well, the truth is, Father, that I won’t ever be bringing a woman home for you to meet. Because I’m gay,” Arthur finally blurts out, figuring it’s best to get straight to the point rather than to stutter and trip over his words in an attempt to appease him.

His father stares at him as if he’s looking at him for the first time. Perhaps he is. Perhaps now that Arthur has told him, he is finally seeing the real Arthur, after all these years of lying to himself and others; after all this time trying to fake feelings and date women because it was what was expected of him, but always making sure to check out of the relationship before things got too serious.

“And you’re sure about this?” his father asks at length.

Arthur nods slowly. “Very.”

Uther is frowning at him now. “How long have you been homosexual?”

Arthur has to bite back the urge to laugh. He can’t really think of a time when he didn’t fancy boys. When all his friends were starting to notice girls and obsess about boobs, all Arthur could think about was footballers’ thighs and arses and how fit they were. He remembers the first time he’d wanked to the thought of someone else in his head, back when he was thirteen. Even then, he’d been picturing a bloke (David Beckham; god, he had been fit back in the day). But that wasn’t really something that his father needed to know.

“I, uh, I think I’ve always known really,” Arthur admits as he toys with his fork.

This causes Uther’s frown to deepen. “Then why bring all those women over for dinner? Mithian, Vivian, Elena? I guess I’m just having trouble understanding, Arthur.”

Arthur is frowning now too, but he lifts his chin defiantly as he tries to explain. “Well, I guess I did it because it was what everyone expected of me. But I can’t do it anymore. After the Olympics, I’m going to come out. I’m tired of lying about who I am and trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations. I need to do what will make me happy. I’m sorry if that disappoints you, Father.” Arthur looks down at his hands where he is wringing them in his lap, trying to calm his inner turmoil.

“Arthur, look at me,” Uther says, his voice kind and unexpectedly gentle. Arthur looks up, surprised at the tone. “Arthur, you are my son. I know that I don’t say this often enough, but I am proud of you. And while I will confess, I am disappointed that you will likely not be having any children to carry on the family name, I want you to be happy.”

Arthur can’t seem to comprehend the words coming out of his father’s mouth. “You’re—You’re proud of me?” he finally asks, his voice quiet. “I always thought I was a disappointment to you.”

Uther shuffles his chair closer to him and hesitantly places a hand on Arthur’s shoulder. “You’ve never been a disappointment to me, Arthur, and the fact that you think that you could be is my fault, not yours. I am proud of you. I know I’m not very good at these kind of things, but I really am. Your mother would be proud too. She...” He pauses for a long moment before he straightens himself up. “You remind me of her very much, Arthur, and she would be so happy and proud of you, too.”

They return to their meals, but neither of them are really interested in eating any more. Arthur is still reeling from the fact that Uther had been so accepting of his sexuality, not to mention the knowledge that his father is actually proud of him. He knows that he’ll still be surprised by it weeks from now, but he is thankful. He’d fully expected to be storming out of the house tonight after one of their infamous rows.

As it is, the rest of the meal is much more comfortable and Arthur manages to make his father laugh and smile more than once. It honestly feels like finally, finally, they might actually be able to make this father-son thing work.

After dessert, Uther finally returns full-circle.

“So, Arthur, if you meet a suitable young man, or if indeed you already have one, I would be very happy to meet them and I wish you all the best with your tricks and that skateboard thing. Is that what they call it?”

Arthur laughs loudly. “No, Father. It’s called snowboarding, and I don’t do tricks any more, I race. But you’re right, it does looks a bit like skateboarding, and some aspects of the sports do correlate with each other. Actually, I do still skateboard as part of training sometimes.”

His father nods and pats him on the back. “Well, I will endeavour to remember that, Arthur.”

They say their good nights and then Arthur heads off home, feeling a lot happier and freer than he has in a long time.

~

“Muuum, stop it! It’s just for a few weeks. I’m not going to die from starvation in South Korea!” complains Merlin as his mother stuffs yet more cereal bars in his suitcase.

“Merlin Ambrosius Emrys, I know you! You’ll be so obsessed with your skating that you’ll forget to go and eat. Just let me do this so that I can at least pretend you’re going to look after yourself properly.” Hunith smiles at him, and then seemingly out of nowhere produces a pile of thick wool sweaters, scarves and gloves. Merlin raises an eyebrow at her, which she returns with equal intensity.

Finally, Merlin just sighs and throws his arms up in the air. “Fine, it’s not like I’m a grown man or anything.”

Hunith’s face softens, and she pulls her son close to her and hugs him tightly. “Is it so wrong to worry about my only son?” she asks, as Merlin sighs and holds her to him. They’ve always been especially close. Merlin had never had the chance to know his father, who had died in a car accident before he was even born, so he knew that he was his mother’s whole world, and it was hard for her to let him go. If allowing her to over-mother him for the last few days before he went to PyeongChang would help her cope, then he decides that it’s worth nobly suffering through it.

He pulls away and smiles down at her. “No, it’s not.”

There are tears in her eyes as she looks up at him. “Merlin, you’ll be careful, won’t you, with your...” She waggles her fingers and gives him a significant look, which he’s learnt is supposed to symbolise magic.

“I haven’t been found out yet.”

She glares at him. “Will found out,” she says, curtly.

“That was an accident. Look, you know I’ll be fine. I can take care of myself. So no more worrying, okay? And if it makes you feel better, I will take all the snacks and clothes and whatever else you want to pack, all right? All I really need are my skates, anyway. You know that.”

~

Merlin’s earliest memory is a vague recollection of watching a grainy old video of his mother and father at an ice rink, laughing at something as they skated together hand in hand. He always recalls how happy they both looked as they glided over the ice with ease, weaving in and out amongst all the other people they shared the rink with. It was a short clip, and he still has the VHS tape on a shelf in his room—not that he has a VCR to play it on any more. When he concentrates, he thinks he can recall going to an ice rink once as a child to see his Uncle Gaius, but he can’t remember ever going on the ice himself.

The first time he remembers actually skating, it had been at Will’s ninth birthday party. It had looked so easy as he watched all the other people going around and around the rink. He’d stepped out onto the ice confidently… only to instantly slip over and land hard on his bottom. He remembers brushing away the tears and getting up again, determined that he would be the best one out there by the end of the party. He wasn’t, of course. But he did finally manage to get all the way around the rink without falling, and it felt like he was on top of the world. Everything had really just snowballed from there. He would go down to the skating rink with Will whenever he could, practising until he could replicate some of the twists and turns he’d seen figure skaters do on TV, the few times he’d been able to watch it. For some reason, his mother had never wanted to let him see them, changing the channel to something else when the Winter Olympics were on, so it was pretty rare that he’d actually get to watch any skating. But that didn’t stop him from trying to emulate them.

One evening after closing, when he was changing out of his skates (a tenth birthday present from his mum, who had finally given up on him losing interest in skating), his Uncle Gaius, who was the owner of the rink, came and sat on the bench next to him.

“So, Merlin, you’ve been coming here for a long time now,” he’d commented.

“Yes,” Merlin had said, excitedly. “I love coming here. It just… it feels so good to be out on the ice, I really enjoy it.” When he skates, it’s like his magic is humming, as if it’s as content as he is. But he can’t tell Gaius that.

Gaius nodded at him. “I hesitate to ask, but I feel I have to because you’re so good at it: have you ever considered figure skating competitively?”

Merlin felt his face light up. “I would love to, Uncle Gaius! I’ve been wanting to learn for ages, but I don’t know how to even get started. I mean, it looks so complicated, but I’m sure if I practised more I’d be able to get it.”

Then Gaius had explained how, back when he was younger, there were a few figure skaters that used to train at Ealdor, and Gaius had helped to coach them. He was no longer able to get about on the ice the way he used to, but he would be happy to give Merlin what help he could.

From then on, Merlin was skating mad. He snuck off after school every day to the ice rink to skate, telling his mum that he was over at Will’s house, and practiced all the moves Gaius had shown him on the TV in his office. Merlin was in his element. He even managed to talk his mum into letting him take ballet classes twice a week, as Gaius had said this would help with his figure skating as much as spending time on the ice.

He also remembers that one night he had come home to a dark house, and as he’d entered the kitchen he had discovered his mother sitting at the table in the middle of the room, crying her eyes out in the dark. He’d been so confused; he had never seen his mother so upset before.

“Mum?” he’d asked hesitantly from the doorway.

“Oh, Merlin. I’m sorry, I didn’t realise the time,” she’d replied, attempting to sound happy. She had wiped tears away with the sleeve of her cardigan and got up from the table, closing the book she’d had open in front of her. “Let me get dinner started. It won’t be too long, maybe half an hour. How was Will’s?” Then she’d bustled over to the fridge and opened it, pulling out some ingredients to cook dinner.

“Mum, what’s wrong?” Merlin asked, knowing she was deflecting. That tactic had worked when he was younger and hadn’t realised what was happening, but now he was older he wanted to know what had upset her. He switched on the light.

His mother sighed shakily. “Don’t worry about me sweetheart. I was just being silly. Now, stir fry or risotto? What do you fancy?”

Merlin crossed over to the table. He looked down at the book she’d just closed, running his fingers over the cover. Then he realised that it was a photo album.

“Uh, risotto?” he said as he looked at the album, not sure if he should open it or not. It looked old and well-worn, but he was certain he’d never seen it before. Merlin took a deep breath and glanced over at his mum, who was busying herself with cooking, and then he opened it.

His jaw had dropped when he’d seen the first photo. It was a picture of his mother and a man that he was sure was his father, skating together on the ice. Beneath it was a clipped out newspaper cutting. His eyes had quickly skimmed the contents of the article. It felt like his whole world was crumbling.

“Mum?” he asked, unable to control the shaking of his voice. “Is this true?”

“Hmm?”

Merlin tried to clear the lump in his throat, tears prickling at the corners of his eyes. “I said, is this true? Did you and Dad use to figure skate together?”

His mother had frozen, her back and shoulders tense as she turned around. When she’d looked over at him, her face was completely miserable and heart-broken. She wrung her hands and nodded. “Yes, we did.”

Merlin frowned and looked back at the photos through blurred vision. “W-why didn’t you tell me?”

“Merlin, I—I just. I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it. It was too painful. And then there you were, heading off to skate every weekend. I thought you’d just get bored of it and move on eventually if I let you get it out of your system, but you didn’t. You kept going, even if you did lie to me and tell me you’ve been going over to Will’s after school. Yes, I know, Merlin. Mothers always know these things.”

Merlin clenched his fists and took a deep breath to calm himself. “I had a right to know!” he said, his voice choking with emotion.

“Merlin,” Hunith said gently. “Your father’s death was difficult for me. I was so, so happy when we met. We were so in love and on the brink of success, and then suddenly I had it all snatched away from me in less than a day. And then I found out I was expecting you and I had no idea how I would cope. So I packed up all those feelings and put them aside and focused on you. You were the only thing that had made life worth living.” She sat down at the table again, tears glistening in her eyes. “I hope that you can forgive me.”

“No,” Merlin said, his voice growing hard. The overhead light flickered as his eyes flashed with gold. “You had no right to keep this from me.” Then, as he realised what he was doing, his voice softened a little as he repeated, “I had a right to know.”

The next few weeks had been difficult for them both, but they had made their way through it and since then his mum had become his biggest fan and most honest critic. If letting her pack his suitcase for the Olympics would help soften the blow of his leaving, then he’d happily let her do it.

*

Arthur rubs his eyes and yawns, hiding his mouth behind his hand as he stands in line at immigration in Seoul. He had boarded his flight to Seoul not long after midday, and now it’s around… well, fuck knows, because he hasn’t turned his phone on yet and he can’t see a clock anywhere on the walls of the immigration hall. It had been an 11 hour flight, though, so Arthur supposes it must be some time the next day, but he’s honestly too tired to try and work out if it’s morning, afternoon or evening. All he wants to do now is get through immigration, find the team’s driver and get to his room in the Olympic Village so that he can collapse on his bed and sleep for at least twenty-four hours.

The rest of the Team GB snowboarding team are still in high spirits, even after fucking around on the plane for most of the flight. Arthur hadn’t been able to sleep a wink, and that was on top of the fact that he hadn’t been able to sleep the night before either, due to nerves. He wants so badly to do well these games that the pressure is really on—and not just because he wants that medal.

Before he’d left, Arthur had stayed for a few days with Morgana in London. She had guessed straight away that he’d had something on his mind. They’d spent a night in, ordering a take away and Morgana had nudged him with her elbow as she ate her chicken bhuna.

“So,” she said as they watched The Voice. “Spill. What’s up with you?”

Arthur scowled at a particularly off-key singer on the screen. “Nothing,” he replied, taking a bite of his naan bread.

Morgana turned her head and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Really? You expect me to buy that? Arthur, you can tell me anything, you know that.”

Arthur scoffed at her and rolled his eyes.

“Okay. You can tell me the important stuff and I’ll be there for you. We’re family,” she said. Then she prompted him again. “So...?”

He had shifted uncomfortably on the sofa at that point, unsure whether he should just blurt it out, or if he should think of some way make small talk before making his confession. He wanted her to know before he left for the Olympics, though. And he would rather that Morgana heard it from him, rather than hear about it through the papers or social media. Not least because she would have killed him if she had.

He swallowed around the lump that had formed in his throat and struggled to clear it, trying to find the nerve to talk. Morgana placed her hand on his knee and squeezed it gently.

“Morgana,” he’d begun, his voice thick and foreign to his own ears. “I—Uh, I’ve been meaning to talk to you and tell you, but, well, it’s not really something...” He tailed off with a sigh, and then raised his head and looked her in the eyes. “I’m gay, Morgana.”

Morgana’s expression morphed from one of concern to one of huge amusement as she registered what he’d said. She laughed, picked up her curry again, and went back to watching The Voice. “Oh, is that what you’ve been so worried about? I’ve known that since you were twelve, Arthur.”

And coming out to his family had really been as simple as that. Coming out to the rest of the world? That was going to be much more difficult.

*

It takes a long time before the team are all through immigration. Apparently there’s an error on Elyan’s visa, a typo in his name or something. By the time they’re through, the team has to wait for their car to return. Gwaine scouts out a coffee place and they all lounge around trying to pass the time. Arthur spies something that’s actually in English in amongst a pile of ratty magazines, and so he pulls it out, figuring it’s better than nothing. He’s flipping through the pages, hoping that he will find something even vaguely interesting, when a headline catches his eye: ‘Homophobia In Sport: Is it getting any better?’.

Arthur glances around at the rest of his team. They’re all busy, so he allows himself to pause and skim-read the article. He’s witnessed his fair share of homophobic behaviour over the years, including a lot of the things that the article lists as endemic in the sporting world. The casual locker room talk, where his own teammates have thrown around slurs like, ‘queer’, ‘bum boy’, and ‘faggot’ with alarming frequency, is one of the big ones. Even those people he considers close friends have thrown around the word ‘gay’ like it was a bad thing to be: ‘oh that course was so gay’, ‘the weather today is so gay’, ‘my binding just broke, that’s so gay’. There have been times when he just wanted to throttle them and yell, “That’s not what that word means!” But he never has. Just the thought alone makes him too uncomfortable. After all, what would they think if they knew the word applied to him, too?

The article goes on to list the high instances of physical violence, and it reminds him of the time when he was at boarding school, and one boy had threatened Gilli, who hadn’t even said that he was gay, just been accused of it. Arthur had stepped in then, earning himself a black eye and bruised knuckles. He’d won the fight, but it stayed with him.

Arthur has never felt particularly welcomed in the snowboarding community, either; there’s always a lot of testosterone and boasting, with guys trying to out-do each other in displays of masculinity and boasts of sexual prowess. It’s not just the snowboarders—he’s heard similar things in the stands of football grounds, where it’s always been popular to insinuate that a player on the opposing team is gay. At times it had felt dangerous to even be there, even though no one knew about him. How much worse would it be if they did? Arthur closes the magazine, trying to rid himself of the unpleasant memories. He doesn’t want to deceive people; he just wants to be free to be himself. But his stomach lurches at the idea of facing all that and worse, and he wonders if coming out after this Olympics is the best decision after all.

~

Merlin collapses onto the bed in his hotel room with a sigh. God, that had been a long ordeal that he’d rather forget. The snowboarders at the back of the plane had made it near impossible to sleep with their raucous and immature antics, immigration had taken practically forever, and then he’d had to wait for well over half an hour to get a coach out to the Olympic Village. Thankfully sans the team GB snowboarders—apparently there had been something wrong with one of their visas. Now, he is finally here, and apparently he’s the first athlete to make it to his room. There is just one other bed in the room, which is even better, although it seems as if his room-mate is going to be one of the snowboarders from the plane: ‘A. Pendragon — Snowboard Cross’, the paperwork had said. But Merlin has no clue who he is as he’s never really been interested in the snow sports at the Winter Olympics. He had tried to get a look at the snowboarders on the plane, but they were too close to the back to see them properly. He just hopes that this guy won’t be too noisy on his own, and that he won’t be a complete and utter wanker once he realises he’s sharing a room with a figure skater.

Merlin’s suitcase and bag are safely stowed away, and for now he decides that he’s just going to get undressed and bury himself under the covers. Hopefully he’ll get a decent amount of sleep before the welcome party tomorrow morning. He sits up sleepily and starts to discard his scarf, hat, gloves, coat and jumpers. Then he tugs off his boots, socks and jeans. Normally at home he prefers to sleep commando, but sharing a room means that is completely out of the question. He debates putting on pyjama bottoms, but realises that necessitates getting them out of his suitcase and he really can’t be arsed to do that. His room-mate will just have to deal with it. Merlin pulls back the covers of the bed, gets in and snuggles down, tugging them over most of his head so that he won’t be disturbed when his room-mate arrives.

Then he is lost to a deep slumber.

*

When Arthur pushes his keycard into the slot by his room (number 2894), the card reader beeps at him and the light flashes red. Fantastic. Just what he needs, to have to go down to the reception desk at Team GB house and get a new card for his room. He tries the card again, and then once more. He decides to give it just one last try before calling it a bust, and this time, he has apparently hit exactly the right speed combination for pulling the card out, because the light on the reader flashes green and it beeps happily at him. Finally, he can get into the room. It’s dark inside and he’s about to turn on the light when the shaft of light from the hallway illuminates the sleeping form of his room-mate. Arthur forgets what his name is and at this moment can’t even begin to think of what it might be nor what sport he does. He just wants his bed. He decides against switching on the light and waking him. It wouldn’t do to get things off on the wrong foot. He remembers Val, his room-mate from Sochi, stomping into the room and turning on the light, before proceeding to make a huge racket and acting as though he were the wounded party when Arthur pointed out that he was trying to get some sleep. It hadn’t made for a pleasant two weeks.

He leaves the door open for a few minutes whilst he gets his suitcase into the room as quietly as he can manage and unzips it to pull out his pyjamas. Then he closes the door to the room and pads quietly to the bathroom to take a quick shower (he hopes that his room-mate is a heavy sleeper, or at least understanding that Arthur can’t live with the level of funk that travelling has generated) and gets ready to have a good long sleep.

When he emerges, relaxed, warm and clean, he curls up under the covers of the remaining double bed and within a few minutes he’s asleep.

~

When he wakes several hours later, Merlin squints at his phone and attempts to read the screen so that he can work out what the time is. He thinks it’s around six in the morning. Regardless, he’s starving and feeling pretty gross, not having had the energy to grab a shower or brush his teeth before he slept. He supposes he’d better get up and take care of the hygiene stuff first. Food can come later.

He pushes himself up and clambers off the bed. As he stands, he stretches his arms and scratches his stomach. Right. The bathroom. He grabs the stuff he needs from his bag and is startled when he hears someone moving across the room. He turns around just in time to see his room-mate turn over and face away from him. He can’t really tell much about him in the low light and with his back turned, but since the other man was considerate of him when he arrived, he figures he should at least return the favour here.

So he quietly goes off to shower and then gathers his skates before he heads on out in search of food. He hopes that Gaius has been able to arrange for him to get a quick skate in somewhere before everywhere gets too busy—not for actual practice, just for a bit of a mess about. He said that he would try, so Merlin crosses his fingers and hopes for the best. He’s not due to have official skate time until later in the day, but he’s itching to work out some nervous energy before all the real work begins.

*

Arthur walks into the room and looks around, trying to spot someone that he knows. Today is the Team GB athletes’ first full day in the Olympic Village, and someone has gone all out to welcome them all. There is Team GB paraphernalia everywhere he looks and food and drinks aplenty. Arthur gladly accepts a cup of tea, but declines the alcohol given than it’s not even 9am yet, and he’s not hungry, having just come from breakfast, so the food doesn’t really appeal either.

After having scanned the groups of people in the room, he concludes that there’s no one he knows here, despite the fact that Gwaine said he would meet Arthur here around this time. But then again, that’s Gwaine for you. He had said he was going to come to the party to see if he could hook up with someone. But, again, knowing Gwaine, he might very well have been sidetracked by chatting someone up at this very moment.

Arthur sighs into his cup. At least he has a proper British cup of tea to comfort him, courtesy of the Team GB sponsors.

Just as he is mourning being alone, he hears someone nearby clear their throat. He looks up from his tea and standing in front of him is a rather excited and altogether way too enthusiastic woman with adorable curly hair and a sweet smile.

“Hi!” she says. “I didn’t mean to intrude, but I couldn’t help but notice that you were here on your own without any friends and I can’t seem to find my friend today... So I thought, well, if I’m not interrupting you or annoying you or anything, maybe you might like some company? And maybe together we won’t be so lonely?”

Ah, it’s her first Olympics, Arthur thinks. That explains a lot. The enthusiasm, the fact she’s wearing every possible Team GB item she can possibly get her hands on, the nerves. Maybe her enthusiasm will rub off on him and he’ll start to get excited about his event too.

“Not at all,” he says, extending his hand. “Arthur Pendragon.”

Gwen blushes at him as she shakes his hand. “Oh, I know who you are! You got a silver last Olympics! Great performance, by the way. I really hope that I can get a least somewhere in the top 10 for my event—it’s my first Olympics and I know I’m not the best, but I want to do well and this Olympics is going to be so great for experience. I just can’t wait to get—um. Sorry. I’m babbling.”

Arthur grins at her. “That’s okay...” he trails off, silently raising an eyebrow as he waits for her to supply her name.

“Oh!” she exclaims, her eyes wide as a hand flies to her mouth. “So sorry! Gwen. My name is Gwen. Gwen Smith. I’m competing in the women’s individual figure skating.”

She sticks her hand out to shake his again, seemingly having forgotten that they’ve already done this bit in her flustered state. He takes it gamely and shakes it again.

“Oh God! I’m making such a fool of myself, aren’t I? I’m so sorry!”

“Gwen, you’re fine. Don’t worry. You’ve nothing to apologise for. I’m glad you came over and spoke to me and I’m glad you’re excited. Everyone should enjoy their first Olympics. When are you due to start practising?”

Gwen beams at him. “This afternoon! At least half of the GB figure skaters are going to be training this afternoon. I’m so looking forward to it. I’ve not had a decent skate in over a week because I went home to see my dad before I came over here.”

“Same,” said Arthur. “Except you know, with snow. I did still manage to make it to an indoor slope a few times when I was in London, but for the last few months most of the snowboarding team have been out in Italy.”

“Italy! Wow. I train at the rink near my university. I’m not sure that my sports funding will cover all my living expenses, so once I finish my degree I’ll likely have to get a job somewhere. I’m just hoping that it will be flexible enough. What to you do? Does your boss allow you all that time off to go and train?”

Arthur flushes. He’s always been a bit embarrassed that he has it so easy compared to so many other athletes, many of whom have to work for a living alongside training to get themselves in with a chance of winning a medal. He admires their determination and the passion that transcends all the tiredness and exhaustion that must come from working full-time, or even part-time, while also being a professional in their sport.

He’s never had to work. He did go to Cambridge and get a degree in Economics after he’d finished school, but he’s never used it and he’s never really worked a proper job in his life, if you don’t count the summer that his father had forced him to work at the local supermarket in order to ‘learn the meaning of hard work.’ His father had tried to get him to start working at the family business after he’d graduated, but Arthur was already in love with snowboarding at that point and even though Uther had threatened to cut him off, it hadn’t mattered, not really. He was already twenty-two, and the previous year he’d been given access to his mother’s money and the estate which had been held in trust for him by his Uncle Agravaine. Agravaine still ran the estate and looked after a lot of the business side of things there, making sure that it continued to generate funds. Arthur paid him handsomely for it. Meanwhile, Arthur himself had up and left the family home and relocated to Europe, where he’d had the time of his life snowboarding, messing around on the half-pipe and making up new tricks and mastering new skills. In the end, he had settled on crossboarding. Tricks on the half-pipe were fun for showing off, but he found himself loving the competitiveness and thrill that he got from snowboard cross. He knew he was lucky compared to many other athletes, and he was determined that this year he would get gold. There was no excuse for him not to—other than perhaps he just wasn’t as good as he thought he was.

“Oh, I, uh, I don’t have anyone to ask,” he replies, scratching his head. “I live in France for a lot of the year, so I just went off to be with the rest of the team for training. Maybe you’ll be able to get yourself some sponsors after this Olympics though. People always love watching figure skating and if you either medal or come close to it, they’ll be falling all over themselves to sponsor you.”

Arthur vividly remembers the media circus after the last Olympics when he’d won a medal. It had been silver, really, but that hadn’t seemed to matter to the British public; they were as proud as if he’d actually won gold. He wants to live up to the hype and actually bring back the gold this time. He has an agent now as well; he received so many offers and sponsorship deals, it was the only way to sort through them all and figure out what he did and didn’t want to do. And that was only set to explode again after this Olympics, if it all went well.

“I sure hope so,” says Gwen. She bites her bottom lip as she looks up at him and twirls a curl around her finger. “Say, Arthur… you wouldn’t happen to be free this afternoon, would you? Around, say, three o’ clock? It’s just, that’s when I’ll be doing my first skating practice, and it would be great to have you come and watch. You can let me know what you think of my routine!”

Arthur frowns at her. Was it normal for figure skaters to invite people to see their training like that? Maybe it got them used to having an audience to perform in front of. No use being able to do the routine in private but then fuck it up because you got nervous in front of people, he supposed. Arthur never really had that issue very often. He’s always been a bit of a show-off at heart, something that he knows for a fact has served him well. He thrives on surprising his competitors with his manoeuvrability and loves the adrenaline kick that comes from taking a particularly risky chance, knowing that if it goes the slightest bit wrong… that could be it. So maybe she just wants an audience for that reason, or because she honestly wants someone with no knowledge of the sport to give their opinion.

“Of course, Gwen. I’d be happy to,” he replies. He is British after all.

~

Merlin grins to himself as he glides around the rink. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Gwen waving a him from the barrier. He takes off from his left back edge and uses his right toe-pick to perform a cheeky quad lutz as if it’s no effort at all, then casually skates backwards towards her before dramatically skidding to a halt.

He wipes his face with his hand, feeling flushed from the exertion, his beanie pulled down over his head and ears in order to keep warm on the ice. He’s also wearing his fingerless gloves and thick red woollen jumper (okay, okay, maybe his mother hadn’t be completely wrong in making him pack all those layers). For practice, he’s picked one which is form-fitting, rather than some of the chunkier knit ones that Hunith had packed, to ensure less wind resistance when he practices on the ice, but combined with a thermal undershirt it helps to keep him from getting too cold.

“Hey Gwen, how’ve you been? Ready to practice?” he asks.

Gwen beams back at him and tugs on his arm to pull him close. “I’m great. I’m so excited. Can you believe it? We’re finally here! At the Olympics!” She squeals at him, hugging him over the barrier.

Merlin manages to extract himself from her bone-crushing grip and straightens himself up, tugging down his jumper.

“Uh, yeah. It’s great. Listen, I think I’m gonna take a break for a bit. I have a part of my routine I want to fine-tune later.”

Gwen grins. “That sounds good. Then I can have a turn. One of the Team GB snowboarders is going to be here soon to watch me. God Merlin, he is SO hot!”

Merlin skates to the gate to get off the ice, then grabs his bag from the nearby bench and sits down to start taking off his skates. When he looks up, she looks so happy and giddy that it makes him smile too. “Yeah? Why don’t you tell me about him?”

Gwen leans against the side of the rink and pulls the guards off her blades. “Oh, well. There’s not a huge amount to tell. I mean, we talked a little bit earlier back at the Team GB house, but I mostly babbled. You know I run my mouth when I’m flustered, I can’t help it! But he was really nice and said that he’d be here at three to watch my rehearsal.”

Merlin is genuinely happy for Gwen: she’s so sweet, and probably one of the most adorable girls that he knows. If he were straight, he would have asked her out for sure. As it is, they ogle cute guys together, and when they’re not able to get together, they often send quick pictures to each other of hot guys they’ve spotted (especially their arses; Merlin has a real thing for a good arse shot—one time they had a month long competition for who could find the best arse) and other things that they know will make the other one crack up. He’s happy that she seems to have met a guy that she’s hit it off with, especially if he’s going to be easy on the eyes. He knows Gwen well enough to know that if she says that a guy is hot, he will indeed be hot. They tend to have similar tastes.

“So, you want me to play your track for you?” he asks, pulling a speaker and his phone out of his bag.

“Yeah, I did my warm up already. Just let me have a few minutes before you start. I’ll give you the signal, okay?”

Merlin nods and packs his skates away. He places the speaker on the edge of the barrier around the rink and gets his phone ready to play Gwen’s track. This is just a casual practice for themselves today, to get familiar with their surroundings and to keep on form, so they’ve not bothered with the speaker system, nor with their coaches. Sefa and Gaius have advised them to take it easy, loosen up and have a bit of fun. Tomorrow the real work will begin, and both coaches will come along to work with them on their routines. For now, though, it’s more about enjoying themselves.

Once he’s sure the speaker is on and his phone is connected via bluetooth, Merlin climbs over a few chairs and picks a spot by a wall to settle down. From this vantage point, he can watch Gwen out of the corner of his eye whilst he reads a book on his tablet.

He’s so engrossed in his book, grinning inanely to himself at the Weasley twins’ exit from Hogwarts, that he doesn’t notice the man coming in until he’s leaning over the edge of the ice rink, watching Gwen. There’s no doubt that this must be Gwen’s guy: from where he’s sitting, the man looks really hot. Merlin glances over at him surreptitiously, keeping his head ducked so that if he happens to glance over at him, Merlin can pretend to be absorbed in his book. It’s a trick that he picked up long ago to avoid being beaten up for looking at guys at school. He can’t see much of the man from where he’s sitting, just his back and occasionally his side profile. Gwen said that he was Team GB though, so Merlin supposes he might recognise his face if he were closer. But in truth, he doesn’t really follow anything other than figure skating, so he doubts that will be the case.

The closest he had ever come to appreciating another sport was when Will had talked him into watching football with him, but Merlin had spent most of the time ogling the players rather than the game, so Will had given up on that. This guy though… Merlin can tell from here that he has a fantastic arse. He sighs to himself and tries to get back to reading Order of the Phoenix. Even if Merlin has already read it hundreds of times, it’s still one of his favourites. He tells himself that there’s no point wanting what he can’t have. Especially when he really needs to focus on his own performance.

He looks over at Gwen, who has given her guy a quick wave and is getting into her starting pose. Merlin grins. He knows exactly what she’s trying to do. She’s trying to signal to him that she’s ready for her music and at the same time, she’s intending to wow this guy with her routine. Well, no one can say Merlin’s not a good wingman. He fumbles with his phone for a few seconds before hitting play to start the track. The thumping bass shakes the speaker so much that it’s tipping perilously on the edge of the barrier. Shit. Before he’s even consciously registered it, Merlin’s magic has reached out and nudged the speaker back a few centimetres, enough so that it’s safe but not so that it would be noticeable to anyone unless they knew that he was doing it. Then he settles down to watch Gwen’s routine.

She’s improved quite a bit from last year, he notes. As Merlin watches her, he wishes yet again that he’d been better at the couples thing, like his parents. It would be so fun to skate with Gwen. But it has never really worked for him. He likes knowing that it’s all down to him how well he does or doesn’t do. There’s a lot of trust and hope wrapped up in a skating partnership, and from what he’s seen it tends to consume your whole life, and Merlin doesn’t want that. He wants to be the one in control of his routines, working with Gaius to decide on what moves showcase his skills the best rather than tailoring it to things that will work for the both of them. He just works better that way. Still, he and Gwen do sometimes skate together for fun, doing a few simple lifts and carries until they’re giggling so much that they have to stop skating.

Gwen is obviously trying to show off for Arthur; she misses a step when she glances over at him, which causes her to get off pace with the music, and she messes up her triple toe-loop, too, which is basically considered an easy move at this level. She does recover though and executes a cute triple salchow, and her artistry really is a joy to behold. He thinks that ultimately she’ll be pleased with her performance, considering it was just for fun.

Finally, the music fades out, and Gwen skates over to her Team GB guy. Merlin grabs his bag and heads off to the space around the corner to do a quick warm up before he skates. Hopefully Gwen’s guy will be gone by the time he’s had a chance to have a quick stretch and is ready to take to the ice.

Ten minutes later, Merlin feels that he’s sufficiently prepared. He’s gone through a few of the trickier steps of his new routine as well as he can off of the ice; now it’s time to try them on it. He goes to fetch his bag and turns to find Gwen’s guy watching him. He jumps and flushes as he wonders how long the man has been there and whether he’d been watching any part of his routine. He’s not normally embarrassed by it, but he knows that off of the ice it probably looks a bit… flowery given that without ice skating, it’s basically just dancing.

A few moments later, Gwen is there as well. Ah, Merlin thinks, so he’s probably not been there for long then. Thank goodness.

“Hey, Merlin. I was wondering where you’d gone,” says Gwen, as she peeks around her guy and stands close to him. “So I suggested we both have a look for you. I see Arthur was the one to find you. Arthur, this is Merlin, one of my best friends in the world. Merlin, this is Arthur.”

Merlin smiles at them both and extends his hand to Arthur who grips it firmly and shakes it. “Pleasure to meet you, Merlin. Gwen tells me you’re a figure skater too?”

“Yep,” Merlin says happily. He loves the sport, no matter what other people might think of him, and it’s always nice to meet new people who take an interest in figure skating. Or perhaps the figure skaters, in this case.

Gwen’s phone beeps and she opens the lock screen to see a text. “Oh God, I was supposed to meet Sefa and the others back the Village twenty minutes ago! I’m so sorry, Arthur! Look,” she grabs Merlin by his jumper and pulls him closer. “Merlin can look after you and see you back if you need it. I’m so sorry, I really have to go!”

Gwen shoves her phone back into her pocket and grins at Arthur pecking him on the cheek. “See you later, Arthur!”

Merlin and Arthur stand there together in an awkward silence, which Arthur finally breaks by clearing his throat.

“So uh, you don’t find the whole figure skating thing a bit...” The guy—Arthur—wrinkles his nose. “...girly? I mean it’s a girl’s sport really isn’t it? All that twirling and dancing. And all that… lycra stuff.”

Merlin shrugs, his shoulders tense and his mouth tight. “Not really,” he says, walking past Arthur and towards the rink. “There are plenty of guys who figure skate, and plenty of other winter sports where they wear lycra suits and people don’t give them a hard time about it. And it’s not ‘twirling and dancing’, it’s about your ability to interpret the music and your technical skills on the ice. Plus there’s also a lot of natural talent involved. Everything rests on you and your ability to skate. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be going and you can go back to beating your chest and getting all hot and sweaty in the snow like a ‘real’ man.” He spits out the words venomously.

Merlin knows that there will always be people who judge a guy who figure skates. Especially people like Arthur who do the testosterone-fueled sports, and he knows he should be used to it by now. But the way Arthur had said it had felt mean and mocking, and Merlin is bristling with anger by the time he gets to the rink. He’d genuinely thought that Arthur was interested, but instead it turns out he’s just like all those other Neanderthals out there. He pulls his skates from his bag and quickly bends over to pull on them on, eager to get onto the ice and let out some pent up energy. After tugging them on and quickly lacing up his boots, he straightens up and is startled to find that Arthur is still watching him.

“Look, I’m sorry if I insulted you, okay? I just meant that you must spend a lot of time around chicks. I was only teasing. Is it okay if I stay and watch?”

Merlin turns and frowns at him. He’d rather not be watched by Arthur, for a number of very good reasons. Firstly, he’s turned out to be a bit of an annoying prat, which is off-putting to say the least. And Merlin just knows that Arthur’s going to continue silently judging him whilst he watches him doing what he loves best. Secondly, despite said pratishness, the man is built like a Greek god and he can’t see Arthur being anything other than a distraction when he’s trying to focus on the trickier parts of his routine, and thirdly, Gwen has laid claims to Arthur, and what with him being a stereotypical straight skier/snowboard type, it means that he’s 100% off limits anyway. Merlin can’t help but think to himself that it will all be much easier to deal with if he can keep the other man at arm’s length.

“Don’t you have your own ‘manly’ outdoor sport to be practising, bruh? Like skiing or snowboarding or whatever?” mocks Merlin.

“Hey, it’s snowboarding. And no, I don’t start training until tomorrow. There’s no need to be rude.”

Merlin rolls his eyes at him. “That makes no difference to me. And yes, yes there is a need to be rude. Just like you were with the your blatant sexist stereotyping and the immature shit you guys were pulling on the plane yesterday. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

He walks away from Arthur and hurries to step out onto the ice.

*

“Merlin!” Arthur calls after him, but Merlin ignores him as he skates off in a slow meandering glide across the ice. And damn if Merlin’s arse doesn’t look good in those jeans, Arthur thinks as he watches. He had been going to leave, considering they’ve both been nothing but unpleasant to each other since Gwen left, but now he’s having second thoughts. He watches as Merlin goes through what appears to be another warm up routine, stretching and skating back and forth on the ice. He’s sleek and lean and slender, and Arthur thinks that it ought to be illegal to look that good in a just pair of jeans and a jumper. He smiles to himself as he recalls suddenly turning a corner and seeing Merlin dancing across the floor by himself. It really had been a bit girly. But maybe that was because he wasn’t on the ice. Now would be the perfect opportunity to see for himself.

Without even meaning to, Arthur finds himself standing there and staring as he watches Merlin skate. It feels as if he’s been glued to the floor or held by some kind of enchantment as he watches on curiously. There is something quite beautiful and ethereal about Merlin which he hadn’t expected from a male figure skater, and somehow Merlin manages to appear even more graceful than Gwen did as he glides smoothly across the ice. It doesn’t seem like dancing at all like this. It just seems like an expression of pure joy and happiness, as Merlin does some kind of jump up into the air where he spins and spins and spins until he lands gracefully and carries on gliding along.

From the other side of the rink, Merlin does a casual three-hundred and sixty degree turn, and as he glances across the ice their eyes meet in a look that is sharp and intense in equal measures.

It sends shivers down Arthur’s spine. Shit. Has Merlin somehow realised what Arthur’s been thinking? How could he know? Arthur doesn’t hang around to find out; he tears his eyes away from Merlin’s, and the moment that his back is turned, Arthur flees.

*

“Hey,” says a voice in Arthur’s ear as the weight of an additional person jostles the bench at the table and Gwaine sits down beside him. “How are you, Princess?”

Arthur grunts in answer.

“Aww, are you mad because I didn’t show up this morning? I’d be sorry about it, but Eira’s too fucking pretty to apologise for. Even prettier than you, I’m afraid.”

Arthur rolls his eyes and continues to twirl his noodles around his fork in an attempt to ignore him.

“Oh, you are mad. Not got girls any yet? I would have thought they’d be fawning all over you, ’Britain’s Golden Boy’,” mocks Gwaine as he leans into Arthur’s personal space and swipes his bread roll.

“Hey!” says Arthur trying to grab for the roll, which Gwaine was holding just out of his reach. “That’s mine. And also quite frankly none of your business. Not all of us are about broadcasting our sexual conquests to the rest of the world, Gwaine.”

Gwaine chuckles. “Touchy, touchy. Did you know that this Olympics they’re providing enough condoms for thirty-seven condoms per athlete? You’d better get going mate. I’ve used three of mine already. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Arthur flips Gwaine the bird and catches sight of Leon and Elyan coming into the dining hall. “Hey! Leon, Elyan!” he yells, standing and waving one arm in the air. Anything to stop Gwaine from going into detail about those three encounters, as he’s wont to do. The last thing Arthur wants to hear is Gwaine talking about fucking girls.

Leon and Gwaine spot Arthur in the distance and rush over to them, full of excitement about finally being at the Olympic Village. A lot of the Team GB athletes have gathered at various tables around them, but the snowboarding team now seem to have commandeered a large round table for themselves. Whilst Arthur is busying himself with attracting the others’ attention, Gwaine takes the opportunity to swipe his plate.

Leon sits down with a big grin on his face. “Isn’t this place amazing? I went up to see the slopes today and they look perfect. I can’t wait to get out there and get some ski time in.”

“Hey,” says Gwaine, wagging his finger at him as he chews a mouthful of food. “Not until you’ve seen us all through our events. Can’t have our team coach breaking his leg. We need you, mate.”

Leon rolls his eyes at him. “Please. I’ve been skiing since you were wee,” he retorts. “Now. I’m getting food. And I whilst I’m gone, I expect you all to be on your best behaviour.” He gives Gwaine a penetrating look.

Arthur calls after him. “Wait up, I need to get something too. Considering someone,” he shoots Gwaine a rather poisonous look, “stole my plate.”

Gwaine just grins at him. “That’s rough, mate. Should have gotten two.”

As Arthur follows Leon to the buffet stations, he gives Gwaine a two fingered salute over his shoulder and shakes his head, wondering why on Earth he and Gwaine ever became friends and why, despite all that he does, he actually still quite likes the man. He queues up at the Korean section, which is naturally quite popular, and spends his time people-watching while he waits for his turn. Once he reaches the front of the line, he starts to serve himself a repeat of the dinner that Gwaine stole from him, and he’s just about ready to head back to the table when he turns and his tray is suddenly shoved into his chest, hot soup and noodles spilling down his shirt. He drops his tray and hisses as he pulls his shirt away from his skin.

“Oh God!” exclaims a voice. “I’m so sorry. It was an accident!”

“You complete and utter IDIOT!” Arthur yells. “Do you have any idea how much this hurts? Watch where you’re going!”

Arthur is still flapping his wet shirt in order to cool off his skin when he looks up to see who the idiot is who’s scalded him. It’s some short guy with mousey blond hair, who looks completely and utterly mortified, his face frozen with shock.

“I—I—I’m so sorry,” the guy stutters.

Arthur’s chest is still killing him, and all he can think about is how this might affect his manoeuvrability on the course and therefore ruin his chances of medalling before the Olympics have even started. He’s always had a bit of a short fuse when it comes to injuries.

He gets right up in the man’s face and glowers at him. “You should be, you buffoon! Do you know who I am!?”

“Hey!” interrupts another voice suddenly. Arthur glances up from the man and oh, of course. It’s Merlin. He should have known. He looks at Arthur, amused. “He said he was sorry. And yes, I know who you are. You’re a prat. And if this guy had known you were going to be such an arse about it, I’m sure he would have made sure to pour the whole thing over your head to really give you something to yell about!”

Arthur reels with shock for a moment. How on Earth does Merlin have the gall to have a go at him, when it was this other man’s fault for knocking into him? He splutters indignantly and puffs out his chest. “Excuse me, Merlin, but I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe you should be, rather than picking on people who are too afraid to stand up to people like you.” Merlin stands his ground, glaring at Arthur, who returns it with equal intensity.

“When I want your opinion Merlin,” Arthur sneers, stalking closer to him. “I’ll ask for it.”

Merlin pauses for a moment and smiles secretively, leaning even closer as his lips ghost against Arthur’s ear. “Oh, I know it’s not my opinion you want. I saw the way you were watching me on the ice today.”

Arthur inhales sharply, and now it’s his turn to freeze. He straightens up and stares at Merlin for a long moment, trying to figure out if he was implying what Arthur thinks he was.

Finally, he turns to the man who had spilled his food. “You’re lucky I’m feeling generous,” he says, before he turns on his heel and storms out of the hall. He needs to get cleaned off and check the damage to his skin—and stay as far away from Merlin as possible.

~

Merlin collapses down on his bed. He’d tried his best to get a bit of food down him, but had ended up giving it up as a lost cause when he realised that he had lost his appetite after his encounter with the prat that was Arthur. He hopes that a bit of time out in his room will help take his mind off of things before he heads out to meet up with Gwen in a little while, or at least help him get things straight in his head. Merlin’s not stupid. He knows when a guy is interested in him, and he knows the difference between being watched out of interest and being watched because someone’s interested. Today at the skate rink Arthur had definitely been watching him, and not just because he was a fan of skating. But hadn’t Gwen said that Arthur had come specifically to see her skate? Perhaps that was the case, but Merlin is pretty sure the way that Arthur had been watching her was the same way he’s seen other athletes watching their friends, rather than a guy who’s interested in getting into a girl’s pants. Gwen had been the one who’d been making love-eyes, not Arthur.

He’d been ready to leave Arthur well alone and try and put some distance between him and his libido, leaving the snowboarder to Gwen. But what if it wasn’t Gwen that Arthur was interested in? The way Arthur had reacted in the food hall suggested that he was hiding something; the question is, is he interested in Merlin, or is he just in the closet?

Merlin hears a rummaging noise coming from inside the bathroom and sits up, startled for a moment before he remembers. Oh, yeah, his room-mate. He’d forgotten all about him in the excitement of the first day. But right now he is glad to have the distraction of getting to know him, whoever he is.

The door to the bathroom opens, letting out a cloud of steam. The first thing that Merlin sees is a bare chest, and what a chest it is. Of course, Merlin had known that his room-mate would most likely be fit—this was the Olympics, after all. But what he hadn’t realised was that the man would be almost exactly his type; thick and built with just the tiniest bit of extra weight around his middle. Well, Merlin is a professional. He has roomed with attractive guys before, and he’d survived it then (by having multiple wanking sessions in the shower each day), no doubt he’ll survive it again (most likely in the exact same way). Just so long as his room-mate isn’t… Oh shit.

As the steam clears, Merlin finds himself staring into a pair of startled blue eyes. Very familiar blue eyes. Then it hits him. A. Pendragon—ARTHUR Pendragon. Of course. Fuck his fucking life.

*

When he gets back to his room, the first thing Arthur does is strip off his shirt to examine his chest for damage. It’s a little sore, and there are a few red blotches here and there where the liquid made direct contact, but it’s a lot better than he’d dared hope. He pulls off his wet jeans to check his legs, but he doesn’t think that he will suffer any ill effects when it comes to his snowboarding, which is a huge relief. He sighs and grabs a change of clothes to place on his bed, riffling through his toiletries bag as he makes his way to the bathroom. Pouring the contents out on the counter, Arthur looks at them, wondering if he has anything with aloe in it to soothe his minor burns. He’d rather not have to find the team doctor, given it’s not really that bad. If he has something in here then he can just treat it himself after he’s had an ice cold shower. He searches through until he spots the aloe cream Morgana had given him for shaving—that would do. Arthur turns the shower on, making the water as cold as he thinks he can tolerate. He’ll stay in the cold spray as long as he can bear and then warm up afterwards.

Easier said than done. No sooner has he stripped off and stepped in the shower than Arthur has already started to shiver. His teeth start to chatter, and he rubs himself briskly with his arms. The water is so cold it’s like a glacier. If he can just stand this for a few more minutes, he’ll be good. He repeats it to himself like a mantra: Just a few more minutes, a few more minutes.... Finally, just as his fingers are beginning to lose all feeling, he turns on the hot water, slowly increasing it over time so that his body can adjust. It’s a relief as he starts to feel warm again, but then he realises that his brain has thawed out too and he can finally think, which he’s not sure is a good thing.

He’s so embarrassed now about the way he reacted to the incident in the food hall. He hadn’t meant to go off on the guy the way he had, but he’d already been pissed off by Gwaine being a food-swiping bastard and showing off about his latest shags. He only has so much patience, and let’s face it, being friends with Gwaine uses a lot of it. The hot food being spilled down his chest had been the last straw. And then Merlin had shown up. Arthur groans and presses his head against the shower tiles. He’d wanted to make a good impression on Merlin after the incident at the rink, to show him that he was wrong; that Arthur wasn’t one of the lads of the snowboard team, and he wasn’t loud, rude, obnoxious or entitled. So much for that.

And, Jesus Christ, Merlin. Merlin, with his cute arse, lithe body and dark hair. Arthur didn’t quite have a thing for twinks, but he did like guys that were lean, and he curses at himself for pissing Merlin off like that. He’ll never have a chance with him now. Not that he could act on it here, of course. It’s too risky. He wants control over his own life, and that means knowing when and how he’ll come out. Preferably after winning gold.

So it is probably for the best that he has put Merlin off, but that doesn’t stop Arthur from wanting him, or from thinking about him. God, how he’d like to take Merlin’s insolent mouth and just… He can see it in his mind’s eye, Merlin’s plump lips wrapped around his cock. Or, God, better still, Arthur shoving him against the wall and taking Merlin’s cock in his mouth. That would get him to shut up all right, at least until he started gasping and moaning, making beautiful noises as he gripped Arthur’s hair, telling him to take it in that dark, sinful, teasing voice he’d used in the food hall today.

Before Arthur knows it, his hand is on his cock, which is already half-hard just at the thought of Merlin’s voice. His head is filled with thoughts of what Merlin would sound like in the throes of passion, talking dirty to him, telling him how much he likes using his mouth and how he knows that Arthur likes taking it like a good boy. How, if he had his way, he’d have Arthur like this, on his knees in front of him sucking his cock all day, every day, for everyone to see. And it’s that little addition to the picture that pushes him over the edge as he comes with a gasp.

He watches as the water washes the cum away and sighs deeply. He can avoid Merlin, Arthur tells himself. He can put his head down and get on with it, work hard and win that medal. He has to if he wants to win gold. He just has to avoid Merlin, which surely shouldn’t be too difficult. The Olympic Village is a big place, after all, and it’s not like they’re competing in the same sport.

Arthur turns off the shower, stepping out to grab one of the towels to dry himself off with. He checks his chest again, and it’s noticeably better; you’d hardly know anything had happened. Once he’s dry, he wraps the towel around his waist and puts the cream on the fading burn-marks. Then he gathers up his things and heads out of the bathroom.

He opens the door and is startled to realise that his room-mate has finally showed his face. Oh good God, it’s a good thing he’s not shy—he works hard to look as good as he does—as he’s going to have to greet the man almost completely naked. He looks over at his new room-mate, opening his mouth to introduce himself, but is stopped cold as realisation hits. Dark hair, slim build, killer cheekbones, and yes, he can just make out the curve of that perfect arse sitting on the untidy bed, as if Arthur’s fantasies somehow conjured him into existence. It’s Merlin. For fuck’s sake, his room-mate is Merlin.

All of a sudden, avoiding Merlin just became much more difficult.

*

Arthur swallows nervously as Merlin flops back onto his bed with a groan. He wants to groan too, but instead contents himself with glaring at Merlin’s oblivious form, before he sidles over to his bed to grab his clothes. He’s going to ignore it, that’s what he’s going to do. The best way to deal with this is to pretend that the scene at the lunch hall had never happened, and act like he hadn’t been such an arsehole, unless Merlin brings it up. It’s bad enough that he has to get dressed in front of the man; there’s no way Arthur is going to let him know how much he wishes that they hadn’t got off to such a bad start. He glances over at the other bed surreptitiously. Merlin seems to be absorbed in his tablet, so Arthur quickly drops his towel and scrambles into his underwear. God, he’s sure that his face is so flushed with embarrassment that they could power the entire Olympic Village from it. Why on earth could he not have been given a single room? His underwear on, he grabs his jeans. They’re his favourite, even though they’re nearly worn through at the knees, and he’s never been able to bring himself to throw them away. He tries to calm himself as he zips them up. Why the fuck is Merlin able to get him so worked up like this, anyway? He’s never been bashful before, especially not from the mere presence of a room-mate.

As he turns around to get his t-shirt, he catches a sudden flurry of movement out of the corner of his eye. Has Merlin been watching him? He glances at Merlin, watching him for a few moments. But Merlin seems to be focusing intently on the tablet in his hands as he leans back against the headboard, his ridiculously long legs pulled up towards him. Suddenly Merlin looks up at him, his eyes dipping down to look at Arthur’s chest before flicking back up to his face as he licks his lips. Arthur feels himself blush and looks down at the t-shirt in his hands. He turns away to pull it on.

He’s sitting down to pull his jumper over his head when Merlin casually asks, “Good shower?”

Oh God. The mortification he had felt a moment ago comes rushing back. Had Merlin heard him in the shower? Is he teasing him again, taunting him with the knowledge like he had in the food hall? Arthur has no idea when he came in—maybe he heard the whole thing. He racks his brain and tries to remember if he’d actually uttered Merlin’s name, but he doesn’t think so. In fact, he thinks he was remarkably quiet. It generally takes a lot to get Arthur to be loud in bed. He looks over at Merlin again, realising that he’s waiting expectantly for Arthur to answer.

He clears his throat and sits on his bed, busying himself with pulling on his socks. “Uh, yeah. Fine, thanks.”

Merlin nods. “Cool. Is there any hot water left? I might take one too.”

Before Arthur can reply, Merlin has scrambled off of the bed and is rummaging through his bag. He rushes off to the bathroom, the door closing with an audible click.

Arthur sinks down on his own bed with a sigh. He grabs his phone to check for messages, and when he finds none, he fires off a quick text to Morgana letting her know that he’s settling down fine in the Olympic Village. That takes only a few minutes, so he opens a game and settles back to play, trying to redirect his thoughts from the fact that Merlin is showering just metres away from him at this very moment.

~

Once he’s safely inside the bathroom, congratulating himself for not popping a boner at the sight of Arthur’s perfectly round, firm arse (why did it have to be so perfect? Why couldn’t he have had no arse to speak of? Or better still, a saggy one?), Merlin pulls his phone out of his pocket and immediately texts Gwen.

Gwennie Gwen

Today 03:15 PM
Merlin: OMFG GWEN! You have to RESCUE ME. I AM ROOMING WITH WORLD’S BIGGEST PRAT.

Gwennie Gwen: Rly? Sure ur not just being worlds biggest drama queen?

Merlin rolls his eyes as he starts typing his reply. Of course he’s not being a drama queen. Arthur is an arse, he really is. He debates for a moment whether or not he should tell Gwen that it’s Arthur.

Merlin: Gwen, I am serious. My roommate is Arthur and he’s a prat.

Gwennie Gwen: Omg! R u srs? Y didnt u tell me @ sk8 practice?

Merlin: I didn’t know. How on Earth was I supposed to know who A. Pendragon was? Gwen, you have to rescue me. He is an arse and has a *great arse*.

Gwennie Gwen is typing...

As soon as he’s hit send, he starts to regret it, especially when there is no pause between the message being received and the bubble on his screen that indicates Gwen is typing a reply.

Gwennie Gwen: !!!

Gwennie Gwen: U R ROOMMATES. DID U SEE HIS BUM!?

Gwennie Gwen: IF SO PICS! NEED PICS PLZ MERLIN. GIVE THEM TO ME.

Merlin: I did.

Merlin: Did not take any, blinded by perfection of it. Can no longer see.

Gwennie Gwen: Lies! Show me 2nite. See you at 6, k?

Merlin sighs as puts down his phone. Okay, so he realises that Gwen probably knows him a bit too well, because it’s definitely possible that maybe he did manage to snap one or two (dozen) pictures of Arthur’s arse (especially when he’d bent over) with his tablet when his finger had just happened to slip... He hadn’t been able to help it, an arse like that needed to be recorded for posterity. But that doesn’t mean he is going to share them with Gwen. If she wants to get a show of Arthur’s arse, she’ll just have to use her feminine wiles on him and try to see it that way. He feels a bit petty when he realises that, even though they’re best friends, he’s not all that eager to help her out.

He turns on the shower and steps inside. God, two whole weeks sharing a room with a prat sporting the world’s most exquisite arse? He strokes a hand along his cock. Well, his dick hadn’t fallen off when he was a teenager, so he’s fairly sure it won’t fall off now. Though it’s likely that he’s going to be clocking a lot of shower time. He groans and braces himself with a hand on the wall as he fucks into his hand. What wouldn’t he give for his hand to be Arthur’s arse? He’d happily give up one of medals. Maybe two, even. All the painstaking years of practice? Done. God, it’s been ages since he’s wanted someone this badly.

If Merlin closes his eyes, he can almost imagine that his hand is Arthur, and he grips himself tighter as he allows his imagination to run riot. He thinks about shoving Arthur down on his bed, examining that wonderful, peachy arse up close, taking his time to make sure that Arthur was good and ready for him. And then he’d place his hand on the dip of Arthur’s back and just… slowly ease his way in, inch by excruciating inch. What kind of noises would Arthur make? Would he be loud? Or would he try to hold everything back in a stoic British manner? If he was quiet, what could Merlin do to make him cry out and scream? He would tease him, drive him to distraction with his lips and tongue, finding out all the secret places on his body that made him writhe. Then Arthur would beg for his cock, desperate for it. Imagining Arthur’s voice breaking as he calls Merlin’s name when he comes sends a bolt of magic through him, and the heat that’s been pooling in his groin goes straight through his cock, wringing his orgasm from him. He hears the light bulbs blow, and the room is plunged into darkness.

“Oh, shit.” How is he going to explain this to Arthur?

*

Arthur grins to himself as he takes in a big, deep breath of fresh mountain air. Ah, he’s really missed this the past few days. He could do without his first practice session being at the break of dawn, but there is something nice and serene about it too. The food hall had been almost completely empty, thankfully, and the ride to the mountains had been peaceful and calming, with Gwaine having been too tired to be too much of a pain in the arse. Arthur had put his ear buds in and listened to his chill out music, and now his mind was clear after the turmoil of the previous day. He’s feeling calm and in control, ready to do a test run on the course here at PyeongChang, and he can already visualise that win.

He had studied the course design intensively before getting here, discussing strategy with Leon, but now it was time to get a feel for what it was going to be like come race day. Most of his on-snow training was going to be on a similar, but not identical slope not too far from here, but they were allowed several sessions on the actual slope before the races started and Arthur intended to make the most of them. All he needs to do is make sure that he gets the holeshot and he’ll be golden.

He hauls his bag onto his back and grabs his snowboard to follow Gwaine, who is a little way ahead of him because Arthur had stopped to admire the view.

“Looking forward to it?” asks Gwaine as he straps on his boots and checks his clips.

Arthur grins at him. “Yeah, I really, really am. I’m ready for this. Think you can catch me today?”

Gwaine chuckles and ruffles his hair. “Someone’s confident, Princess.”

Arthur raises an eyebrow at him and eyes Gwaine’s hand with distaste. “I don’t need to be, I’ll thrash your arse easily. Just watch. Come race day, I’ll be the one wearing the red bib!”

They walk over to the starting line, helmets on and ready to go. As they click into their boards and adjust the clips to their liking, Arthur takes a moment to breathe deeply and visualise the start that he wants to achieve. A clean break will ensure that he gets that holeshot and thereby make sure that Gwaine doesn’t have the slightest chance of winning. As he glances over, he catches Gwaine doing the same thing out of the corner of his eye. For a moment they’re frozen in time, tense and waiting; then the starting machine beeps, the start line drops, and they’re off.

Arthur gets a good start over Gwaine, and he holds his focus, running through the features of the course in his head as he traverses them. First there’s a bank to the left, then a series of ramps where he needs to step-up and step-down several times in quick succession. He tries to keep his mind sharp and eyes forward to concentrate on the next part, so that he can anticipate the way he will need to react, but he can’t help letting a small part of his mind wander, reflecting on just how good it feels to be back on his board. He was made to race, to be the best, to win. A thrill runs through him as he hurtles down the track with exquisite speed, dominating the obstacles in his way with ease. He hazards a small glance over his shoulder to see Gwaine, and feels a burst of joy inside him, as he observes that he’s some distance behind him, having not cut as good a line down the course as Arthur had. Within minutes, it’s over, and Arthur is skidding along the snow and coming to a halt at the bottom of the slope. He doesn’t know what his time was and at this moment he doesn’t care. He just knows that he’s flushed with warmth and success, and that he’s beaming like an idiot.

Right now, it doesn’t seem to matter that he was an arsehole to Merlin and the guy in the food hall yesterday, it doesn’t matter that he’s found himself going through the biggest crush he’s had in ages, and it doesn’t even matter that it was awkward as hell being around Merlin last night before the two of them had gone to bed. He’s here at the Olympics, and that gold is just his for the taking.

~

“Hey! You’re here!” exclaims Gwen, placing her tray down next to Merlin’s. “That party last night was good, wasn’t it?”

Merlin grins at her. “Yeah, it was fun. Glad I turned in so early, though. I’ve no idea how you carried on going. Do me a favour though and don’t text me next time?”

“Oh, but I had to, Merlin. You had to see Percival flexing his biceps like that. If you can look me in the eye and tell me that was not a thing of beauty then I promise I won’t text you in the middle of the night again."

She turns and looks at him, one eyebrow raised and a sly grin on her face. Merlin sighs at her and grudgingly admits that she’s right; the video she’d sent him was truly impressive. He’s half a mind to track this Percival down and see if the man pings his gaydar. After all, Merlin’s willing to bet good money that his biceps aren’t the only thing that’s impressive about him.

“All right, fine,” he agrees. “That really was impressive. But only for fit guys, okay?”

They carry on chatting about the party and their plans for the rest of day as they eat breakfast. Gwen continues to try and wrangle pictures of Arthur’s arse from him until finally she gives up, knowing that this is one thing Merlin is not going to crack on.

“Fine. Have it your way. I still think it’s unfair that you get to room with all my crushes,” she says mournfully through a mouthful of toast. “By the way, I asked him to come to practice again today.”

Merlin splutters, spraying his mouthful of porridge all over the table. “You did what?”

Gwen bites at her lip. “I invited him to our practice time. Should I not have?” Gwen wrings her hands and looks at him, distressed. “Oh, I’m sorry Merlin! I just thought that you were being dramatic when you said he was a prat, I didn’t realise that you really meant it. Do you want me to un-invite him?”

Merlin sighs into his bowl as he slumps towards the table. “No, Gwen, it’s fine. We’re rooming, so we ought to try and sort things out, I suppose. Last night was so awkward when I got back; it was filled with this weird tension. You don’t need to modify your plans on my behalf, you know that.”

Gwen perks up and pounces on him to give him a hug. “Well then, if you’re done, we should get going. We wouldn’t want to be late for Sefa and Gaius.”

Merlin and Gwen head off to the ice rink, where they have an hour long slot in which to practice. They’ll have another practice later to work on any pressing issues and to work through their routines off the ice, but there’s nothing like actually getting on the ice to make sure you’ve got your moves down to a tee.

They’re both chatting whilst they change into their boots, Sefa and Gaius discussing how they’re going to share the rink nearby, when Arthur arrives. He hangs back and scuffs at the floor with his trainers. Gwen gives him an encouraging wave, and he slowly makes his way over, eyeing Merlin cautiously. Gwen yanks him down to sit next to her and opposite Merlin.

“Now, you two,” she says, waving a hand between the two of them. “I know you’ve both had a bit of a bad start, but you’re both my friends now and you’re sharing a room, so you need to just put things behind you and get along. Why don’t you shake hands and make nice, okay? For me?”

Gwen flutters her eyelashes at them both and gives Merlin ‘the look’; it’s the pathetic one where she looks all sad and makes her eyes big, the one she’s used to get him to do countless things in the past.

He glares back at her and hisses, “You can’t use the look! That’s not fair!”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, Merlin,” she teases. “Arthur, do I have a ‘look’?”

Arthur’s lips twitch with amusement. “No, I didn’t see any look.”

Gwen turns to Merlin. “See? Now, act like you’re actually adults and shake hands.”

Merlin extends his hand with a scowl. “Fine.”

Gwen grins happily when Arthur shakes it. “There, that wasn’t too hard was it? Now, let’s go skate.”

*

Arthur settles down in a chair further up in the stadium, as Merlin and Gwen make their way over to the rink. His eyes track Merlin’s face as he smiles good-naturedly at something Gwen is saying. The way Merlin’s eyes crease and his cheeks dimple makes Arthur’s heart skip a beat. Watching him with Gwen, if he didn’t know better, he’d think that they were a couple, they seem so in sync and happy when they’re together. But they never show any signs of PDA like you’d expect if they were a couple, and Merlin, well, he’d have to have been blind not to see the way Merlin had been watching him in their room last night. He’s sure that Merlin thinks he was being subtle, but in actuality he is terrible at subtlety. Arthur has always known when Merlin’s watching him; he can feel Merlin’s eyes searing into him as soon as his back is turned or he’s looking the other way. So even if Merlin dislikes him personally, he still seems to find Arthur attractive. Arthur isn’t sure what to do with that information. Should he make a move? Or should he ignore it? He had never intended to look for anyone at the Olympics, despite his father’s suggestion. He needs to focus on his event, not on guys and whether or not they like him.

Not to mention, there would be consequences if people found them out. I mean, sure, he’s planning on making it public eventually, but it’s got to be on his own terms, when he has that gold medal firmly in his hands. And even then, coming out is still a risk. Will his sponsors all abandon him, concerned about the impact a gay snowboarder could have on their brand? Will his fans turn on him? Arthur’s not really into the whole social media thing like a lot of the other athletes are; he has an Instagram account that Morgana has shown him how to use, but he never checks the comments. He did that once and that was enough. And of course, he has a Twitter account and a Facebook page, but that’s strictly personal. Arthur’s not really worried about his popularity, although it is nice to have the fans’ support, but sponsors have always had a tendency to shy away from controversy, or anyone who they don’t feel represents their brand. The worst case scenario is that it could spell the end his career.

Will any of that matter, though, if he gets to be his real self? At least if he has the gold, he’ll be going out on a high note, and it’s not as though he relies on sponsorship money to live. But if they find out some other way....

No, Arthur shouldn’t even be entertaining the thought of hooking up with Merlin, but there’s just something about him… he just can’t quite put his finger on it. It makes him want to take the risk.

Once they reach the ice, Merlin and Gwen go their separate ways, Gwen with a brown-haired woman who looks barely older than she is—Arthur assumes this is her coach—and Merlin with a man who looks old enough to be his great-grandfather at the very least. Their heads are bowed together as they talk and skate alongside each other, and Arthur has to wonder at the way they’re able to skate and carry on a conversation at the same time.

He has to smother a chuckle when he recalls the last time he went ice-skating. He and Morgana had gone to the rink outside the Natural History Museum a few years ago. It had been Morgana’s idea to go in the first place, but she had been absolutely furious that she couldn’t stay on her feet for more than a few seconds at a time before falling flat on her arse. Arthur hadn’t fared all that much better. But his years of boarding had helped with regards to keeping his balance and he had been able to skate around at a leisurely pace by the end of the session. Morgana, meanwhile, had given up in frustration after the sixth time she’d fallen, and spent the rest of the session propping up the bar as she sulked.

How on Earth people manage to dance whilst skating is beyond him, however. He couldn’t even skate backwards without falling over, let alone jumping or speeding around without seeing where he was going. Perhaps he’s been doing figure skaters an injustice. Merlin had been right, yesterday: it was about a lot more than just dancing. The skill and talent involved was what made it a whole.

Even though he’s supposedly here to watch Gwen, since she’s the one who invited him again, Arthur spends most of his time watching Merlin, wishing for what he just can’t have. Merlin looks like a swan as he extends his body gracefully, arms out and one leg raised as he glides, but his coach doesn’t seem pleased. The older man speaks to Merlin for several minutes, then waves him off onto the ice to repeat the move. There’s no difference to Arthur’s untrained eye, but Merlin’s coach seems satisfied, so he supposes that it’s an improvement. They move on something else—Arthur wishes that he knew what the technical terms were—and Merlin does a startling series of jumps and twists in the air that are seriously impressive and seems to land each one successfully. His coach in particular seems extremely happy with them, and then he steps off the ice and watches from the side as Merlin runs through what appears to be an even more complicated part of his routine.

At some point, Arthur glances over at Gwen and realises that he’s missed pretty much the entirety of her training session. He pulls himself together and tells himself that he will focus on her for whatever time is left. It’s a lie, though, as he finds that his gaze constantly shifts to Merlin, and he’s thankful when the session ends.

~

After training, Gwen invites Arthur to go with them to get lunch. They each grab some food from the various buffet sections and meet back at a table in the food hall, their trays in hand. Arthur’s is laden with the sort of healthy foods common to most of the athletes: lean proteins, complex carbs and leafy greens, to keep him in top form. Similarly, Gwen is carrying a Caesar salad, whereas Merlin’s tray is crammed full with a bit of everything that took his fancy. He’s never had an issue with gaining weight—if anything he has the opposite problem, especially when he’s gearing up for competitions. His body burns through the calories he eats like a wildfire tears through a forest. He and Gaius have discussed a diet plans before, but aside from increasing his protein to build muscle and repair tissues, he seems to do well eating whatever he likes.

“So Arthur, Sefa and I are going to explore the Olympic Village this afternoon—I was wondering if you wanted to come with us?” ask Gwen as she stabs at her salad with a fork.

Merlin watches as Arthur glances up at her from his food. “Oh, uh. Thanks, but no, I don’t really tend to do that until I’ve finished my event,” he explains. “I think I’ll hit up the gym, have a good work out and then take a nap. I want to keep to my schedule.”

Gwen is smiling, and she nods at him. “Oh yes, a schedule is important for sure. But you shouldn’t stop having fun because of it, surely? Are you sure I can’t persuade you? It would only be for an hour or two.”

Arthur shifts in his seat, looking uncomfortable as he pushes the food around on his plate. Merlin can’t tell if he’s just nervous about talking with her—which seems unlikely, since Arthur has been a bit of a prat to say the least, and he doesn’t really seem all that shy when it comes to making himself, or his opinions known—or if he’s just not interested in her.

With a sudden, fake-looking smile, Arthur takes a bite of his food and talks through it. “Nah, I’m good.”

“Oh okay,” she says, her face crestfallen for a moment before she continues trying to get Arthur to talk. “Were you at the party last night? I looked out for you, but I didn’t see you.”

Arthur’s eyes flicker over to meet Merlin’s for a second, and Merlin wonders if he’s recalling how fucking awkward last night was in their room. Merlin had gone to the party for the first hour to check things out. But the jet lag had really started to catch up with him, and after he caught himself yawning several times in short succession, he had decided to call it a night. Arthur had still been awake when he’d got back, and they had exchanged polite, but uncomfortable greetings, feeling obligated to make a little bit of small talk, and avoiding talking about earlier in the day at all costs. Of course, it had been unavoidable that they would need to get changed for bed and they had both taken great pains to turn their backs on each other as they did so. Merlin’s face had been hot with embarrassment when he finally slipped between his covers, and he hadn’t bothered to answer when Arthur had said a curt ‘good night’.

Now, Arthur is shrugging his shoulders. “Didn’t feel like it.” He busies himself in cutting his chicken and chewing carefully. How can he still look gorgeous when he’s eating? Ugh.

“Merlin, what are you going to do?”

Merlin starts a little when he realises that Gwen is talking to him. “I don’t know,” he ponders. “Probably give Mum a call and then get some sleep.”

“Oh!” says Gwen, clapping her hands. “I love your mum! She’s so lovely.” Gwen sighs longingly, Merlin knows that her own mother died of cancer when she was a kid; consequently, his mother has taken Gwen under her wing as one of her own, much like she did with Will. “Let her know I said hi!”

Merlin smiles and nods as he takes a bite of his sandwich. “Could tell her yourself,” he says around his mouthful. “You know she’d love to talk to you.”

Gwen grins as her eyes flick over to Arthur for a moment before returning to Merlin. “You know, I just might.”

*

Arthur’s muscles are sore and he’s soaked with sweat from his exertions. But he’s thrumming with energy still, the sort of high that you can only get when endorphins flood your body and your blood is still pumping from a decent workout, and he’s feeling pleased with himself as he goes to change out of his gym clothes. It would have been so easy to skip out on today’s session, especially given that he’s still adjusting to being here. He knows that Elyan has—the other snowboarder had WhatsApped them all and told them no one was to wake him upon pain of death. He’d always been a bit dramatic when he was tired. But Arthur hadn’t given in to the jet-lag, and he feels all the better for it.

He uses his key to open the locker where he’s stashed his clothes and pulls out his bag. He regrets not bringing a towel today; it would have been nice to have taken a shower here so that he could just go back to his room and sleep. He closes his locker and is startled by the sudden appearance of someone next to him.

Arthur’s hand shoots out reflexively. He pins the person against the locker, gripping their shirt in his hand as he pulls his arm back, ready to protect himself with a punch. It’s instinctive, borne of years of witnessing fights and aggression in the locker room.

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Arthur snarls

The man makes a surprised noise and holds up his hands. “Arthur, it’s me.”

Arthur finally focuses on the man’s face, and as he registers his voice and the startled blue eyes, he realises that it’s Merlin. He forces himself to relax, slowly releasing his grip on Merlin’s shirt.

“Hmfph,” says Merlin smoothing his shirt where it had rucked up when Arthur had grabbed him.

“Merlin, you idiot!” He lets out a relieved breath. “What on Earth did you think you were doing, sneaking up on me like that? I could have hit you.”

Merlin looks flustered as he blinks at him and rubs the back of his neck. “Sorry,” he says, pulling himself up to his full height. “Look, I came to ask you something.”

Arthur throws his bag down on the bench and pulls off his workout shirt. “And you couldn’t have asked me this when we were back at the hotel?” he asks testily, tugging it over his head.

“I, uh. I, erm.”

Arthur grabs his clean t-shirt from his bag and sticks an arm in. He glances over at Merlin, whose cheeks colour as he looks away, and Arthur grins. Turnabout is fair play, he thinks smugly.

“Yes, Merlin?”

Merlin sits down on the bench and leans forward, clasping his hands. “I wanted to ask you about Gwen,” he says hesitantly.

“Gwen?” Arthur tugs off his trainers and puts them in his bag. What is Merlin on about? Gwen is very kind and sweet, if a little too giddy and excitable for Arthur, who tends to be a bit more relaxed about things in general. But she’s a nice girl. “What about her?”

“I came to ask if you’re serious about her.”

Arthur blinks and swallows against the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Oh. He’s pretty sure he knows what’s coming next, and he already hates it. “Serious about Gwen? I’m… I mean, what do you mean?”

Merlin lets out a breath and rubs his face with his hand. “Oh dear. So you’re not interested in her, then?”

Arthur hesitates as he changes out of his shorts. Fuck. He needs to do better than that if he’s going to persuade Merlin, who he knows already has his suspicions about him.

“Interested? Oh! Oh, erm. I guess. Yeah, I mean, she’s nice enough.”

Merlin groans next to him. “Oh God, ‘she’s nice’? Arthur, she’s head over heels for you. That’s why I asked.”

“I didn’t say I wasn’t interested,” Arthur protests. He tugs on his jeans, frowning as he tries to think of what to say. “She’s just… not really my type,” he admits, rather lamely. He shoves his clothes and shoes into his bag, getting ready to leave.

Merlin stands with him and looks at him with a raised eyebrow. “I would have thought that Gwen was everyone’s type.” He leans closer to Arthur. “Maybe you have your eye on someone else? Or you have a girl back home? Or maybe, girls aren’t even your type.”

And there it is. As Merlin’s mocking voice echoes in his head, Arthur recalls his last Olympics, where he’d been cornered in the locker room in much the same way. Val had narrowly missed out on a medal place, and he had ranted and raved at them that the judges were ‘so fucking gay’ for marking him down on his scores. At least the Russians had the right idea, he’d said, scaring off all the ‘faggots’ and ‘queers’ so they wouldn’t screw up the competition. What the fuck was wrong with guys who let themselves be bummed when they could be fucking girls?

Stuck trying to retrieve his own gear, Arthur had been upset and frustrated, and more than a little afraid. All he could think about was how Val would react if knew that Arthur was gay. That he sharing a room with one of those ‘faggots’.

Val had noticed him staring in disbelief (he’d been unable to believe that someone could be such an obnoxious, homophobic dick) and snarled, “Were you looking at my arse, Pendragon?”

Arthur hadn’t been able to help himself. “Oh I was looking at an ass all right,” he’d said. ”But I think that ass was you.”

It had taken Elyan, Gwaine and another snowboarder to hold Val back from hitting him, but the damage had already been done. Arthur had spent the next few days dealing with the room-mate from hell.

How dare Merlin mock him like that? He doesn’t know Arthur. They’ve barely even met. Just because he thinks that he’s seen Arthur watching him, it doesn’t give him the right to jump to conclusions. It could mean anything.

He growls at Merlin and uses a hand to shove him roughly into the lockers. Narrowing his eyes at the figure skater, their faces mere centimetres apart, his voice is low and dangerous as he says, “How about you shut the fuck up?”

Merlin stares back at him, tilting his chin defiantly. “Why don’t you make me?”

Arthur leans forward, pressing his weight against Merlin. Trapping him.

“You ought to watch what you’re saying, Merlin. I could take you down, just like that,” he says with a click of his fingers.

Merlin glances down at Arthur’s finger. His eyes are dark, and a small grin flickers on his face. “I could take you down with less than that.”

Fuck. Is Merlin flirting with him?

“If you so much as breathe a word...” Arthur warns through gritted teeth.

Then Merlin lifts his eyes to meet Arthur’s, and Arthur finds the breath punched out of him at the jolt of want that floods through. Fuck. Merlin is flirting with him. How can one man imply so much with a single look? Merlin has already made him break his golden rule: never make extended eye contact in the locker room, let alone touch someone. Now Arthur wants to kiss him as well, even though his instincts are screaming at him not to get caught. Yet, he still wants this. He feels Merlin, warm and solid against him, and his anger fades away.

Can he really do this? He wants to be his true self, but is he ready to get that kind of abuse from meatheads like Val?

Merlin is staring at him with softened eyes, as though he understands Arthur’s fears, and before Arthur can even process it, Merlin has tugged him closer and is ravishing his mouth, his fingers digging into Arthur’s scalp in the most delicious way. His tongue slides hot and wet along Arthur’s, and after a brief pause, Arthur finally gives in. Fuck the golden rule, fuck all those homophobes who’ve made him scared to come out. This is so good and so perfect, he’s willing to risk it all, and he lets go.

Arthur moans into the kiss. He can’t ever remember kissing being such a turn on before. In fact, although he’s always found kissing to be nice, he’s never been that big of a fan. He’s mostly seen it as a prelude for something better to come. But Merlin… Merlin is kissing him with such ferocity and passion and feeling that Arthur now understands what it means to go weak at the knees. He kisses Merlin back, giving as good as he gets as they wrestle tongues, each trying to dominate the kiss.

Merlin rubs his leg up Arthur’s and along his side, and Arthur finally pulls away, wrecked and breathless as he breaks the kiss. “Fuck, Merlin… I’ve never...”

“Oh God!” interrupts Merlin, his lips red and his eyes going wide. “You’ve never kissed a guy before? Shit. I shouldn’t have—”

Arthur glares at him. “Shut up, idiot. Of course I have. I just meant I’d never really felt… well, kissing always felt so… almost perfunctory. I mean, it’s felt good before, but not like...” He moves in closer still so that Merlin can feel exactly what he means, pressing his obvious arousal against Merlin’s hip.

“Yeah,” gasps Merlin, his hips giving a sudden jerk against Arthur’s. He leans in again, his nose brushing against Arthur’s before he takes Arthur’s lips with a gentle, teasing kiss. He starts to pull away as Arthur kisses back, making Arthur chase the kiss, and grins, effectively ruining the moment. Arthur presses his nose into the crook of Merlin’s gorgeous, tantalising neck and inhales the scent of him, moaning appreciatively.

Merlin writhes under him. “A-Arthur… why don’t we...”

“Mm, yes. Our room. Come on.”

Arthur grabs his bag and they both head out of the gym as fast as they can without it looking like they’re rushing off together. They make it to the lifts and are about to get in when someone calls Arthur’s name behind them.

“Arthur! Hey, wait up!”

Goddammit, Gwaine. He always seems to do his utmost to mess up Arthur’s life, but somehow this accidental, oblivious cock-block feels worse now than when he deliberately seeks to annoy Arthur or interrupt him.

He sighs under his breath and slowly turns around with what he hopes is a pleasant smile on his face. “Hey Gwaine. What is it?”

Gwaine almost bounces up to them. “Hey Arthur, who’s this handsome guy then?”

Arthur frowns at him. “He’s my room-mate,” he replies. Arthur has become used to this over the past few years. When people ask him things like this, or about a significant other, he tries to reply with a partial truth, rather than flat-out lying. It’s easier to appear honest if there’s an element of truth to what he says. Merlin is his room-mate, even if he hopes he’s about to become a whole lot more than that.

Gwaine grins at him. “Gwaine Greene, snowboard cross,” he says as he extends his hand to shake.

“Merlin. Merlin Emrys, figure skating,” Merlin says, taking his hand.

“Oh, a figure skater, huh? You know what they say about male figure skaters, don’t you?” He nudges Arthur slyly with his elbow. Arthur closes his eyes and wills Gwaine not to say it, not to even go there. He’s so sick and tired of these stupid stereotypes about what makes someone gay. Gwaine should know better, especially as Arthur suspects that he’s been with men himself on the odd occasion. They always joke that Gwaine will hit on anyone with a pulse, and that pisses him off too. What the fuck is wrong with being bi? “That they have the most tiring sport in the Winter Olympics, of course! What did you think I was going to say?”

Arthur laughs nervously, and he knows it’s too sudden and loud, but he’s done it before he even realises it.

“Anyway, Arthur. You have to come with me. I met a gorgeous girl this afternoon and both she and the girl she’s rooming with are so pretty they’ll make your head spin. Come be my wingman and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to land the best friend. And God knows you need it, my friend. Those thirty-seven condoms aren’t going to use themselves.”

Merlin looks over at Arthur with a small, amused smile. Arthur glances back at him. Apart from his reaction to Gwaine’s condom comment, Arthur can’t tell exactly how he’s feeling about the boisterous interruption.

“Ah, you know what, Gwaine, I’d love to, but...” he tries, groping for an excuse that will allow them to escape from Gwaine’s clutches. He really, really wants to go with Merlin, but he can’t tell Gwaine he’s not interested in hitting on girls, can he? Gwaine seems to take his pause for assent, since he claps Arthur on the back so hard it almost knocks him off his feet.

“Perfect, my friend. I knew you’d come through for me. A pleasure meeting you, Merlin,” he says, patting his shoulder.

Arthur staggers a little, and once he’s steadied himself he realises that this is Gwaine when he’s at his most unstoppable, like a tsunami racing towards the shore. He shoots Merlin an apologetic glance, and Merlin gives him an annoyed look in return, as if he can’t believe that Arthur is going along with this.

“Likewise,” Merlin says with a strained grin. “I’ll see you guys later, yeah?”

And with that, Merlin hops into the lift, sliding his hands into pockets after he’s selected his floor as if he’s decided to ignore them. Gwaine drags Arthur off to see the new girls that he’s just charmed, oblivious to the fact that, all the while, Arthur is wishing he were somewhere else completely. He looks back over his shoulder, hoping for a last glimpse of Merlin to try and tell him again how sorry he is, but Merlin doesn’t even spare him a glance as the doors close.

~

As he opens the door to their room with his key card and kicks off his shoes, Merlin can’t help but worry that he’s overstepped the mark with Arthur. He knows that he was wrong to goad Arthur like that and imply that he knew he was gay—or at the very least attracted to men—but it was like he hadn’t been able to stop himself from saying it.

He’s a bit disappointed in himself, really. He should know better than that. He knows how dangerous it could be to be outed somewhere like the Olympic games. Not as dangerous as it would have been in say, Sochi, but the fact remains that there are still problems. Especially for a guy in a sport like snowboarding, where the athletes all seem to like metaphorically jack off to how masculine they are (although Merlin likes to imagine them doing it literally better).

It’s not as big a deal in figure skating, where everyone automatically assumes that he’s gay anyway, just because he’s a guy (they’re not wrong, but still!). He has no idea what the reaction would be like from the supporters and other athletes in the snowboarding world, but he can imagine there might be some people, competitors and fans alike, who would not take the news well.

What had he been thinking pouncing on Arthur like that? Okay, that’s a bit of a silly question. He knows exactly what he had been thinking of, and they had been this close to actually getting there until Gwaine had come along and cock-blocked them. And it was quite literally cock-blocking in their case. Merlin sighs and strips off to his underwear. He’d promised Gaius he would take a nap today, to try and get his body clock adjusted to local time. He doesn’t know how long it will take for Arthur to get back, but he’s suddenly extremely tired. He’s struggling to keep his eyes open even as he lays back on the pillow, so he glances over at the open curtains and with a conscious push of magic, they draw closed and the room is swathed in darkness. Hopefully Arthur will wake him when he gets back.

~

A noise wakes Merlin sometime later, and he sits up, the covers pooling around his waist as he rubs the sleep out of his eyes.

“Arthur?” he asks, his voice croaky with lack of use.

There’s a shuffling noise in the room, and as his eyes adjust he can pick out Arthur’s silhouette standing by the door. He goes to Merlin’s bed and the mattress bows under his weight as he sits.

“Yeah,” he replies. “Look, I’m sorry about earlier.”

Merlin’s heart sinks. At the back of his mind, he had been afraid of this. Afraid that since Arthur had made a decision in the heat of the moment, now he had been given the time to think about things he was going to put a stop to whatever the hell it was that they had started. Perhaps it will be for the best. Let’s face it, neither of them needs the distraction. Yesterday Arthur had been talking excitedly with him and Gwen about how he was aiming to get a gold medal for Team GB this Olympics, and Merlin was pretty set on medalling himself, even if he hadn’t said so. A messy friends with benefits or relationship or lust or whatever this was would hardly be conducive to the high level of concentration needed for them to achieve their goals.

“Arthur,” he says, interrupting him again. “It’s okay. I understand. I mean, I just pounced on you and took advantage of the moment, so let’s just pretend it didn’t happen, yeah?”

Arthur’s head turns towards him sharply, but it’s too dark in the room to really make out the expression on his face. “Is that what you want?” he asks, his voice uncertain. So at odds with the image he usually portrays.

“Isn’t it what you want?” Merlin replies, puzzled. “You said you were sorry about earlier. I just assumed...”

Arthur sighs into the darkness. “You really are a blind, oblivious idiot, aren’t you Merlin?”

“I...” Merlin starts, then his eyes flick to Arthur’s face, wishing desperately that there were more light so he would have more than just the tone of Arthur’s voice to go on. “What?”

Arthur makes an exasperated noise. “What happened with us earlier. I don’t regret it, Merlin. I was trying to apologise for Gwaine.”

“Oh,” says Merlin, suddenly feeling a bit silly for jumping to conclusions and essentially blurting out his insecurities.

“Yes, oh.” Arthur shifts a bit on the bed and Merlin hears the ruffle of clothing. “Move over a bit.”

Merlin grumbles under his breath. “All right. Fine.”

“So,” begins Merlin as Arthur lies down next to him, his heart beating rapidly as he feels the heat of Arthur beside him. He wants to move closer, but is not yet brave enough to attempt any contact. “You’re not out yet, are you?”

Arthur lets out a deep sigh. “No, not yet. Well... only to my family. No one else knows. Except you now, I guess.”

Merlin stares up at the ceiling to avoid looking over at Arthur. “Do you want to be?”

“Yes. But not yet. Once I’ve won gold.”

Merlin relaxes. He can live with that. If they pursue this, and it ends up becoming something more, he will be much happier knowing that they won’t have to hide their relationship forever. “Let’s hope you do then,” he replies.

Arthur doesn’t reply, but he feels for Merlin’s hand in the dark and squeezes it. They lie in silence together for some time, Merlin’s heart beating away in his chest so loudly it’s a wonder that Arthur hasn’t commented on it. Finally, he shifts onto his side and shuffles a bit closer to Arthur, freezing for a second as his hand touches skin. Arthur feels warm and soft. The ruffling of noise earlier must have been Arthur taking off his shirt. Arthur moans at the contact and turns toward him, wrapping his arm around Merlin’s waist as their lips meet in a kiss.

“Mmm, Merlin, I swear you’re going to be the death of me,” Arthur murmurs against Merlin’s lips.

Merlin snickers as he props himself up on his elbow and looks down at Arthur. “Or at least the ‘petite mort’ of you.”

Arthur snorts and pulls Merlin down into a slow, devouring kiss. Merlin hums into the embrace as he settles on top of Arthur, the material of his boxers doing nothing to disguise his hardening cock as it twitches and jumps against Arthur’s. He starts to thrust against Arthur tentatively, watching his face. He wants this so badly, but he’s not sure how much Arthur is going to be comfortable with. Has he ever done this before? Arthur’s hands scrabble at Merlin’s sides as he throws back his head and gasps, his hips bucking up and up. Deciding that’s a good sign, Merlin seizes the opportunity he thought he’d never have and takes to exploring Arthur’s neck, licking, kissing and nibbling. He finds, much to his joy, that Arthur is particularly sensitive where his clavicle meets his neck (a favourite spot of Merlin’s too, especially from behind), at his pulse point under his jaw and also behind his ears.

“You know, I saw the way you’ve been watching me. You’ve wanted me since the first time we met, haven’t you?” he whispers into Arthur’s ear. “So desperate to keep your secret, but your eyes… they gave you away. They told me everything I needed to know. You wanted me to have my way with you, and now that I do, I wonder just what I should do with you?” He relishes the way that Arthur shudders beneath him and returns to sucking at his neck as he rolls his hips against Arthur’s groin.

“Oh God, yes.” Arthur cries out. “Shit, Merlin...”

Fuck. That cry, almost exactly how Merlin had imagined it, except better. Merlin hurries to push his boxers down over his hips, and his cock springs free from its confines. He takes it in hand to give it a quick stroke, smearing pre-cum down the shaft. Within seconds, Arthur is pushing at his own underwear and they’re skin to skin, their cocks slip-sliding against each other. As they both thrust and lunge and grind their bodies together, Merlin takes a quick moment to thank the planners for the Olympic Village. The addition of double beds in the rooms? Genius. He presses his hands into the mattress either side of Arthur for better leverage, knowing that there’s no need to perform a balancing act to avoid slipping off the edge. This is so much better than his first time, when he and a boy called Morris were squished together, two teen boys, on the tiny single bed in his bedroom, trying not to fall off whilst fumbling and exploring as they tried to get each other off.

He presses his forehead to Arthur’s, looking into his eyes to check that this is okay, that he’s not taking this too far, too quickly. Arthur stares back at him. His eyes are dark, pupils blown so wide that Merlin can barely make out that they’re blue. He looks hesitant, but there’s a glint in his eye that’s defiant and determined. Merlin smiles at him and rubs Arthur’s nose with his until Arthur is grinning too. Merlin nods at him, silently asking if this is okay, and Arthur smirks at him grasping at his arse to pull him toward him and increasing their pace, as they chase the climax. Merlin can barely believe that this is happening. Arthur, who had been such a prat, and yet somehow not, who when they first met seemed so deeply in the closet that his address was in Narnia, is writhing beneath him like he can’t get enough.

He whimpers and bites down on Arthur’s neck, feeling his orgasm build and pool in his groin. “Ah—Fuck, Arthur. I—Ah!” cries Merlin as a wave of pleasure and magic crashes through him. Spots of light dance at the edge of his vision as he spills, hot and wet between them, and as he opens his eyes, he sees the lights all around the room flickering madly.

Merlin bites his lip in alarm. Shit, shit, shit. He hurries to grasp Arthur’s cock in his hand and works it up and down, rubbing his thumb over the head and then back down the shaft as Arthur sighs and his eyes flutter closed. God, he hopes that Arthur didn’t notice, or that he can make him come quickly enough that he’ll forget about the lights altogether. Maybe he can chalk it up to the electrical system in the building? He keeps running his hand along Arthur’s straining arousal, milking the shaft until he’s groaning, spilling hot and wet over Merlin’s hand. Merlin can’t help but be relieved when the lights remain static. God, if what if they’d both had magic? How fucked up would that have been? Merlin reaches out to the bedside table for tissues, his magic bringing them to his hand so that he can make a half-arsed attempt at wiping the two of them clean, before he collapses onto Arthur, where they both try to catch their breath.

Arthur yawns and Merlin relaxes as Arthur wraps his arm around him. He lets out a small sigh of relief. Arthur hasn’t run screaming from the room, or even so much as looked at him funny. Perhaps he hadn’t noticed or Merlin had successfully distracted him after all. “Sleep,” Arthur murmurs, pressing a kiss to Merlin’s hair, and Merlin does so.

*

The next morning, Arthur thoughts are hazy, he feels comfortable and content. As he snuggles backwards into a warm, firm chest, his eyes fly open and he’s startled out of his sleep-addled state. A small smile teases at his lips as he starts to recall the events of the night before. Well, at least that means Merlin hasn’t changed his mind, then. He sucks in a sudden breath as he feels Merlin shift behind him, his erection poking at Arthur’s arse. Merlin presses into him, his bare cock rubbing along Arthur’s crack, and another small gasp escapes from Arthur’s lips as the sensation goes straight to his dick.

“Sorry,” mumbles Merlin sleepily, one arm sliding around Arthur’s waist as he nuzzles into the back of his neck. “So, a shower? Or...”

“Wha’ time is it?” replies Arthur, his voice thick with sleep.

Merlin leans over him, his cock sliding insistently along Arthur’s crack as he reaches for his mobile phone. Arthur can barely hold back a moan at the thought of Merlin’s rock hard arousal being so close to his hole. Merlin grunts as he switches his phone on. “5:46,” he says and drops back into the bed, no longer flush against Arthur’s body.

Arthur rolls over onto his back as well, finding himself slightly disappointed as he scratches himself and starts to stretch. Looking down, however, he spots Merlin’s erection tenting the covers and starts to grin. “Plenty of time for round two, then?”

“Mmm,” hums Merlin in agreement, and, fuck. Arthur can see his hand pumping underneath the covers. He hurries to kick them off and rolls onto his side to watch the show. Merlin smirks at him. “You liking it?” he asks with a groan.

“Mm, definitely,” says Arthur. He drinks in all the details of Merlin’s cock in the faint morning light; it’s thick and long in his hand, and definitely bigger than Arthur expected. He shivers in anticipation. Last night had been great, but Arthur can’t wait to do more. He can’t wait to get his hands on Merlin’s cock. Fuck, to feel it jump and twitch in his mouth, and to feel it driving deep inside him—he almost aches for it. It’s been too long since Arthur’s allowed himself to be with someone properly. He’s always had to be careful with his previous relationships, if some of them could even be called that, making sure to pick guys who had no clue who he was, aside from the fact that he liked to go snowboarding on the weekends. It had been much easier when he was younger, before he’d started to be successful, sneaking in short relationships with guys in between dating women, trying to maintain that straight man image for his father and friends. And then there had been that dark, self-destructive phase where he’d go to gay clubs for casual hook-ups, deliberately disguised so as not to be recognised. He shakes his head slightly to rid himself of those thoughts. Arthur wants this to be different, and it will be, once he’s shown the world just what a gay man can do. He kisses along Merlin’s shoulder, muscled and lean, and down his chest, pausing to enjoy the light dusting of chest hair, before he licks and bites at one of Merlin’s nipples.

Merlin sucks in a breath, his back arching towards Arthur as if being he’s being drawn up by a string. Arthur presses a kiss to his chest before he before he sucks at the nipple, drawing it into his mouth and feeling it pebble further, his fingers seeking out Merlin’s other nipple and pinching at it.

“Oh, shit! Arthur!” Merlin cries out. “I can’t—That’s—” Arthur pulls away and grins, not letting up as he makes his way down Merlin’s chest and abs, caressing with his lips.

“So what should we do first?” he asks, nibbling at the v of Merlin’s beautifully sculpted abs. He’s so lean and fit, he makes Arthur want to worship his body forever.

“You honestly... Ah—expect me, to be able to—Ah—be able to answer when you’re doing that?” Merlin gasps. Arthur smirks and mouths at Merlin’s cock. Merlin’s breath hitches and the knuckles of his hands turn white where his hands are fisted in the sheets. “Fuck, Arthur. I don’t care. Just do something before I explode like a rocket. Either get your cock inside me, or fuck yourself silly on my cock!”

Arthur feels his cock jerk and spurt pre-come at that last command. He wants it. But honestly, even the idea of fucking Merlin has his cock twitching. He wishes he could do both, ride him and fuck him at the same time. Still, they have plenty of time yet. He remembers how it felt just a few minutes ago to have Merlin’s cock pressed against his arse, and that settles it.

Arthur hasn’t bottomed a lot in his life, and when he has, it’s been because he trusted his partner implicitly. He’s always worried that enjoying being fucked somehow makes him more gay. He knows that’s silly, but the idea has persisted in his mind. He’s also found that most of his male partners have expected him to top, not even considering that he might want to bottom. The fact that Merlin hasn’t placed any expectations on him is so refreshing.

“Have we got stuff?” he asks.

Merlin give him a look, the sarcasm showing so clearly on his face that Arthur’s surprised that Merlin has managed to refrain from rolling his eyes. “Arthur, your friend told you there were thirty-seven condoms per athlete in the Olympic Village. Of course we’ve got stuff. In the drawer.”

Oh, right. Arthur leans over him to root around in the nightstand, fishing out a condom and a packet of lube. He chucks them down on the bed and settles down to straddle Merlin’s waist. Merlin raises an eyebrow questioningly at him as runs his fingers run over Arthur’s arse, kneading his cheeks lightly. Arthur just smirks in response.

He rips open the lube, letting it drip over his fingers before reaching around behind himself, meeting Merlin’s gaze and gritting his teeth as he breaches his hole with his finger. It’s been a few weeks since he’d last fingered himself, and at least a year since he’s taken a cock. It shouldn’t be any more difficult than his dildo at home, but having Merlin inside him will feel so much better than any toy ever could. The heat and feel of flesh that moves and adjusts with him, that actively participates; Merlin’s gorgeous long cock hitting his prostate again and again—He tilts his head back, his breath hitching as he feels Merlin’s finger slip in alongside his own, then yelps with surprise as Merlin’s other hand gives his arse a resounding slap and his cock once again jerks of its own accord.

Then Merlin rubs a hand along Arthur’s side. “You are amazing, Arthur. You’re going to look absolutely perfect taking my cock,” he purrs approvingly, as his finger pumps in and out alongside Arthur’s. Arthur shivers at Merlin’s voice. His thighs start to tremble from holding himself up and Merlin pulls his finger out.

“Stay there,” Merlin tells him as he twists and reaches into the nightstand, sticking out his tongue as he concentrates on finding more lube. Arthur grins and fucks back on his finger. He cries out when Merlin smacks his arse, hard again, with his free hand. “No. I said, stay. Still.”

Arthur shudders again, his muscles quivering with effort as he tries to not move.

There’s a squelching noise as Merlin adds more lube to his fingers before he slides in two in alongside Arthur’s.

“Better. Such a good boy for me,” Merlin murmurs softly.

“Yes, Mer—Merlin,” stutters Arthur. He’s never really realised before, but he loves it when he’s being praised during sex. It probably comes from a lifetime of being deprived of it, but it makes him desperate to please Merlin any way he can.

He hesitates, and Merlin nods encouragingly at him as he cants his hips forward to find the right angle. Thus emboldened, Arthur rocks himself back onto Merlin’s fingers and starts to ride them, so desperate to get off he’d be willing to come from Merlin’s words and fingers alone.

Merlin smirks up at him, and when he speaks it’s as if he can read Arthur’s mind. “Maybe I should just do this,” he says, crooking his fingers inside Arthur, and Arthur arches his back, his mouth dropping open with a moan. He wraps his fingers around Merlin’s biceps as he uses them as leverage to work himself up and down as he fucks himself on their combined fingers. Merlin drags Arthur down for a kiss as he wriggles in a fourth digit, and Arthur moans.

“Shit. Yes. Oh, fuck.” He closes his eyes, overwhelmed by the sensations. How he has gone without this for so long? He wants to do it forever, hovering here on the edge of bliss, being teased and tortured in equal measure by Merlin. “I—I need...” he manages to gasp.

“Yes, I know what you need,” agrees Merlin, pulling his fingers from Arthur. He gives Arthur’s arse another hard spank before he feels around next to them for the condom. When his fingers prove incapable of opening it, he rips it open with his teeth, though not without his arm narrowly missing hitting Arthur in the face.

They both huff out a laugh, too frustrated and desperate to let it stop them for long, and soon enough Merlin is rolling the condom down onto his cock, his hands gripping Arthur’s hips like a vice as Arthur guides Merlin’s cock inside him.

As Arthur slowly sinks down onto Merlin, it’s as if every last bit of breath is being pushed out of him. It burns as Merlin breaches him, as if he’s being slowly split in two, and Arthur revels in the exquisite pleasure-pain it brings with it, his own cock jutting out proudly and achingly hard. He wants to touch it and bring himself off, but he knows that when he does he’ll go off within seconds and he wants this to last.

“God, Arthur...” whispers Merlin. “You look perfect. So perfect. I mean, just look at you, taking my cock inside that sweet, tight hole of yours, like the perfect slut.”

“Nnnggh,” groans Arthur as he bottoms out, his arse flush against Merlin’s hips. “Feels good.”

Merlin ghosts his fingers reverently over Arthur’s hips. “It really does. God, Arthur. Screw me being the death of you, you’re going to be the death of me.”

Arthur starts to snicker. “Le Morte de Merlin,” he manages to get out, and then they’re both cracking up. It has to be just about the most ridiculous thing that’s ever happened to Arthur during sex: to be laughing uncontrollably with a cock up his arse. But it’s also one of the nicest.

When their laughter finally subsides, Arthur shifts his weight forward to kiss Merlin. It’s deep and yet soft as he tries to pour all the emotions he’s feeling into their embrace. He’s so relieved and happy that he can be himself here, that there’s been no judgement between them, no ridiculous expectations. Their only focus enjoying the moment and being able to laugh at themselves along with it. He lets Merlin’s cock start to slide out of his arse and Merlin pumps his hips up, jolting Arthur into action. He breaks their kiss, rolling his hips and beginning to ride Merlin nice and slow, looking down at him as he takes in the flush on Merlin’s face. He looks wrecked, his lips deliciously swollen and red, his hair a mess. Arthur did this. Arthur is the one making this gorgeous, gorgeous man fall apart. He feels a tingle travel down his spine as he wonders what people would think if they could see him now, riding a man’s cock and loving it. He wants people to know he's gay, he does. Maybe they’d look at him differently, or make assumptions about him for loving another man. But at this moment in time, Arthur just doesn’t care.

He slides himself up with his thighs until his arse is grasping just the tip of Merlin’s cock, teasing him, and then he drops back down, taking him in one quick movement. “Mm, Merlin, let me fuck your cock.”

It’s been so long since he’s done this, Arthur has forgotten just how perfect it is. It almost feels like topping, but with all the sensations of bottoming, and there’s something innately powerful about having this kind of control. Quirking an eyebrow at Merlin and giving him a wink, he proceeds to grind himself down on Merlin’s cock, swiveling his hips as he groans deliberately. He presses his hands to Merlin’s chest, grinning as he looks down at him. It’s his turn to be in control and his turn to tease. But Merlin seems to have other plans. He looks up at Arthur, his eyes dark, and a strong, determined look on his face as he pushes himself up on his arms and starts to buck his hips up and up and up. Arthur’s eyes roll back at the unexpected flood of stimulation, moans spilling out of his lips at every thrust Merlin makes below him. He can’t stop them, and he’s never usually very vocal in bed. He utters a series of “Uh, uh, uh’s,” as Merlin keeps hitting that sweet spot inside him over and over again.

Merlin grunts, sweat starting to bead on his face and chest at the strain, and Arthur traces his fingers admiringly over the straining muscles on Merlin’s abs and up along the his pecs. He strokes along his beautiful, bulging shoulder and arm muscles, before gripping them hard and deciding to meet Merlin with equal force, slamming himself down as Merlin thrusts up. He barely manages it a few times before he comes with a cry and such a huge burst of pleasure rocks through him that it makes spots dance in front of his eyes. In fact, he thinks his mind must be fucking with him, because he could swear the air feels charged with electricity, making the hair on his body stand on end. And the bed—is it floating? His eyes dart around at the clothes that are swirling madly in the air around them, then back to Merlin. Is he seeing this too? Merlin’s mouth is open as a gasp is torn from him, and Arthur can feel Merlin coming inside him, but it barely registers in the light of what he’s just seen.

Merlin’s normally blue eyes are a startling, shining gold. What the actual fuck?

~

Arthur scrambles to get off Merlin, and in his haste he tumbles backwards off the bed.

“Shit, Merlin. What the fuck!?” Arthur exclaims as he falls to the floor with a loud ‘thunk’. Merlin cautiously pokes his head over the edge of the bed, hoping his eyes look normal now; he doesn’t want to frighten Arthur further.

Arthur is staring up at him from the floor, fear and confusion clouding his eyes. He looks like he’s about to flee at any moment, and Merlin finds that he can’t stop shaking. What the fuck is right. He’s had sex before without his magic freaking out like that. Sure, there had been the odd occasion where he’d had to be sure to close his eyes and really tamp down on it, holding on tightly to stop it from escaping when he came. But those times had been nothing like this. He’d been like a man possessed, desperate to get deeper and deeper into Arthur until there was no Arthur and no Merlin, there was just them. He would have tried to keep a lid on his magic if the thought had even occurred to him, but it hadn’t so much as crossed his mind. He had been so completely overwhelmed when he came that he wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it anyway. And now they’re here and Arthur is looking at him like he’s some kind of two-headed monster. What the fuck can Merlin say in order to calm him down and reassure him that everything’s okay?

“Arthur,” he manages finally. “Look, I—”

Arthur glares at him suspiciously and holds up a hand as Merlin tries to move closer. “Are you… are you a demon? Or like, an incubus or succubi or something?”

“What?” Merlin asks, offended. “Of course not. I—I’m a—well, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t want to go all Harry Potter on you, but...”

Arthur huffs at him. “Yeah right, Hogwarts is real. Pull the other one,” he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“What?” says Merlin, repeating himself. “Of course I know it’s not real, you clotpole! What I meant was, I’m kind of like him. I mean...” He sighs, rubbing his head with his hand. “Look, I’m really not explaining this well, but I have magic. I can do things. Sometimes without even knowing that I’m doing it. Like with...” he gestures around the room and between them, “all that stuff. I’m sorry Arthur, I really am. I was going to tell you at some point, but it didn’t really feel like the kind of thing that should be blurted out without warning. I didn’t know that was going to happen. It’s never been like that before, I swear. I’m sorry, and...and you can stop me from babbling any time now.”

An awkward silence descends on the room.

“Can you really do magic?”

Merlin gestures around them again and gets cautiously off the bed to help Arthur up. “What do you think?”

He pulls Arthur up off the floor and rolls his eyes at him when he realises that Arthur’s biting his lip, trying not to laugh at the condom hanging off his softening cock.

“Shut up,” he says as he pulls it off and chucks it towards the bin. “Shower?”

“Yes, you idiot,” says Arthur as he pulls him close for a kiss. “Sorry I overreacted.”

“You didn’t,” murmurs Merlin. “And I’d have been more worried if you hadn’t.”

“Fucking magic,” says Arthur, shaking his head. “Show me some more later?”

Merlin nods and pulls him towards the bathroom so that they can get clean.

~

Later that night, when they’re curled up in bed together, Merlin rests his head on Arthur’s chest, running his fingers through his chest hair.

“So, you’re really not mad then?” Merlin tentatively asks.

Arthur hums. “More... surprised. I mean, the magic thing...” He pauses. “I think I’ve seen stuff like that before. My sister. She used to have nightmares when we were kids, and sometimes they came true. I didn’t really think much about it—I just thought she had an overactive imagination. But it still freaks me out a bit. Even now, she sometimes tells me things she couldn’t possibly know. I’ve just never seen anything like what you did earlier. It startled me.”

“Sorry,” apologises Merlin softly.

“It’s not like you could help it, right? There was one time, when we were kids, there was a fire at our house. It started in Morgana’s room. She was hysterical. She told me that she was the one who did it, with her mind. I didn’t believe her, of course, but then she showed me.”

“Oh,” says Merlin. “Like this?” He holds out a hand, and with a little push of his magic, a small flame flickers in his palm.

Arthur glances down at him, his eyes flickering with something that looks a bit like fear, and he shifts uncomfortably. “Sort of. It makes Morgana tired when she makes a flame though, and she can’t do it for very long. She says she can move things sometimes by thinking about them. But not often. Can you do that too?”

Merlin closes his hand, extinguishing the flame, and snuggles against Arthur, hoping the closeness will reassure him.

“I think we proved just what I can do earlier, when we…” Merlin raises an eyebrow suggestively and Arthur huffs a laugh. ”But honestly? I can’t remember a time that I couldn’t move things with my mind. Mum says I’ve always had magic. She said I looked up at her when I was practically newborn and my eyes turned gold. Her favourite story is how I didn’t start walking until I was two, because I could float whatever I wanted over to me without having to move.”

“You lazy thing,” chuckles Arthur, wrapping an arm around Merlin’s waist. “God, I don’t know what I’d do if I have a kid who could do that.”

Merlin snickers under his breath. “Me either. I must have driven Mum potty with all the risks I took with my magic.”

Arthur starts to run his fingers through Merlin’s hair, and Merlin closes his eyes at his touch. He’s pleased that Arthur has taken things so well and is asking him questions. It eases the awkward atmosphere that’s hung between all day, like a foggy haze that’s just starting to dissipate.

“Have you ever told anyone?” Arthur asks quietly.

“No. My mother told me not to, that it was too dangerous for anyone to know. If they did, she said they might take me away from her. The only people who know are Mum, Gaius and Will. But he found out by accident.”

“And now me.”

“Yeah,” agrees Merlin. “Now you.”

There’s a long pause in the conversation then, and Merlin listens to the calm thud, thud, thud of Arthur’s heart and the regularity of his breathing. He had wanted Arthur to know, and on reflection, he probably should have told one or two of his exes as well. He might have found it easier to do if his mother hadn’t imprinted on him the importance of keeping it secret from such a young age. Magic has always been part of his life, but it’s never been something he has talked about so openly. At least now, he can.

“How was she when you came out?” Arthur asks, breaking the silence.

Merlin huffs out a laugh. “I don’t think I ever really needed to do it—I think we’ve both always known. But I did try and do the whole announcement thing, once I’d figured it out properly. She just hugged me and ruffled my hair.” Merlin grins to himself. “She said she was worried it was something serious.”

“I only came out to my father a couple of weeks ago. He was… surprisingly accepting. I pictured it going much worse in my head. My sister said she already knew too, like your mum. I think they both accepted it better than I did. I mean, I’ve acknowledged to myself that I was gay for a several years now. But before that, well, I had a few relationships, but they were never anything serious. I carried on dating women the whole time through, to maintain the illusion. It...kind of messed with my head.”

Merlin looks up at Arthur. He understands what it’s like to have to deny such a core part of yourself, to pretend that it doesn’t exist. If he hadn’t have had people to confide in about his magic and acceptance for being gay, he’s not sure he wouldn’t have felt the same. “You don’t have to tell me, Arthur. Not if you don’t want to. You have me now, and your family. You know that I’ll support you no matter what.”

Arthur shrugs. “I went off the rails at one point. I was silly and self-destructive, and did some things that I’m not particularly proud of. But eventually, once I realised that it wasn’t bad to be gay, that there wasn’t something wrong with me for being attracted to men, I let myself start to try things. Then I realised that I didn’t want to lie anymore, not to myself and not to my family. So I stopped dating women, focused on my snowboarding, and eventually gathered enough courage to come out to them.”

“I’m sorry,” says Merlin. “I know what it’s like to hide things.”

Arthur dips his head to kiss Merlin’s forehead. “Well, now we won’t have to. At least, not from each other.”

Merlin smiles into Arthur’s chest as he hooks his leg over his thigh, and then he uses a push of magic to extinguish the lights.

~

Merlin is cold. He’s so fucking cold. So cold that he’s seriously worried that he might lose something important as he hops from one foot to the other, waiting at the bottom of the slope. How cold would it actually have to be for his balls to drop off? He likes his balls. He has plans for his balls. He thought Arthur did too. Why would Arthur want to inflict this level of cold on himself each and every day, let alone inflict it on Merlin?

‘Come watch me today, Merlin. You’ll love it, I promise,’ Merlin mocks under his breath.

Of course, Arthur has come to watch Merlin skate quite a lot since they got to PyeongChang, but sitting in the stands watching when it’s a little bit chilly is completely different to being huddled in layers of thermal clothing, wearing a beanie and with a jacket hood pulled up over his head, and still being miserably cold.

He tries to snuggle even deeper into his coat, where he has found at least a small pocket of warmth, but his mood doesn’t improve until he spots Gwen, hot chocolate in tow, and she passes him one.

“This is so exciting isn’t it?” she asks him, grinning and bouncing excitedly on her feet. “It’s just the kind of thing I envisioned when I thought about the Winter Olympics as a child. All the cold and the snow and the skiing! Okay, so in this case, snowboarding. But still! It’s incredible, I think I might want to spend the rest of my life here. Maybe Arthur needs a groupie or something.” She winks at Merlin good-humouredly.

Merlin shifts awkwardly and tries to think of a way to change the subject. Neither he nor Arthur have spoken with Gwen yet about their relationship. They’re both too scared to hurt her feelings, and Arthur sure as hell doesn’t want the news to get out there before he’s ready to disclose it. So every time the topic of Arthur comes up, Merlin has tried to carefully steer the conversation away.

“So,” says Gwen as she snuggles into his side. “Which snowboarder do you have your eye on, Merls?”

Merlin chokes on his hot chocolate. “I—Uh...”

“Oh, shh, shh!” she hushes him. “They’re about to start their runs. Gosh, look at Arthur, he looks so handsome up there!” Gwen sighs dreamily.

Merlin follows Gwen’s gaze and picks out Arthur at the top of the slope, his helmet tucked under his arm. He has to agree with Gwen; Arthur looks amazing up there, like this he’s some kind of warrior getting ready to lead a charge into battle.

Up on the slope, the two snowboarders are getting ready to start. The man next to Arthur is from the Canadian team (Merlin can tell because of the big red maple leaf emblazoned on his chest). Today is an open session for all the snowboarders doing snowboard cross. Arthur has been excited for it all morning, because it’s his first chance to size up his competition and show them what he’s got.

Unlike figure skaters, who try not to perform a new routine in front of their competitors for fear of having their routines stolen, snowboarders have no such secrets to keep, so Merlin supposess it makes sense. He can definitely see how it would be useful to see your competitors form.

It was supposed to just be Merlin coming to watch Arthur today. Arthur had invited him to join him over breakfast, but Gwen had come along just as they were discussing it and it had turned into a group affair. Merlin feels a bit resentful for the intrusion, even though he knows that it’s unfair.

Gwen doesn’t realise that she’s being a third wheel. In fact, he knows she’s going to end up being the resentful one between the two of them, with good reason. She’s his best friend and he has effectively stolen Arthur from under her nose. Just thinking about it makes Merlin’s gut churn with guilt, so much so that he even feels a little sick with it. He wonders if Gwen will forgive him when they finally get brave enough to break the news to her.

Up at the top of the slope there is a tense stillness, a sense of something waiting to happen, and then all of a sudden, Arthur and the Canadian practically explode out from the starting line and whiz down the slope. Merlin can’t tell at this point who is ahead, but remembers Arthur telling him how important it was to be the first one out, ahead of everyone else on the course.

Gwen grips his arm tightly with both hands, almost wringing it as she watches on anxiously. “Is he winning?”

“Dunno,” says Merlin, his eyes glued to Arthur as he careens down the hill and out of their sight. “It looks like he is, but you know yourself you’ve never won until the score is officially on the board.”

She nods at him. “True. But he’s going way faster than the other guy. Go Arthur! GO TEAM GB!” she yells.

“Gwen!” Merlin chides with a laugh.

She bats him on the arm. “Shush. If I want to cheer for Arthur, I will. I happen to think I’d make a rather fetching cheerleader.”

Merlin grins with her. “Go on then. But I can’t say I fancy freezing my arse off in a skirt to cheer on a prat like him.”

Soon after, Arthur is skidding along the snow and coming to a halt not too far from them. He bends to release his snowboard and Gwen grins at Merlin, nudging him in the side as she tries to get a glimpse of his arse. Merlin has to have a secret smile at this.

Ever since Merlin told Gwen about the ‘room-mate incident’ (or ‘Arsegate’ as she now calls it) and the pictures of Arthur’s arse, she’s been trying her hardest to get a good look at it. What she doesn’t know, and can never know, is the noises that Arthur makes when Merlin has him on the bed in front of him on all fours, exploring every wonderful centimetre of it; caressing it and worshipping it. That he’s able to give some harsh, resounding smacks to that delectable arse just to hear Arthur give a little gasp and moan just for him. That he knows the noises that Arthur makes when Merlin bites at his cheek as though it were a nice ripe peach, and all the incoherent little choking sounds he makes when Merlin starts to trace his rim with his tongue, taking his time until he has Arthur gibbering meaningless incomprehensible things with his tongue alone.

Merlin pulls himself out of his daydreaming and can’t help but grin as Arthur flips up his board and starts to stride over.

“Say his name and he shall be summoned,” he murmurs to Gwen.

Merlin loses a lungful of air to Gwen’s sharp elbow. “Shut up, I know you love him really.”

And as he looks up at Arthur and their eyes meet, Merlin feels a wave of emotion flood through him as though his heart is overflowing and he realises that yes, he does. He really, really does.

*

They find themselves a nice, secluded corner in the ice rink, tucked up underneath the stands, and Arthur crowds Merlin against the wall, determined to snog the life out of him. Merlin had done a full run through of his routine today, and Arthur had found it a real tease, watching him as he shaped his lithe body and sailed across the ice. The smouldering looks Merlin had sent Arthur whenever he caught him looking hadn’t helped—as if Arthur could look anywhere else! His cock had twitched in his trousers every time they’d exchanged these silent glances, and now that the practice was finally over, he could honestly say that he couldn’t wait another moment longer to get his hands on him.

“God, Merlin,” he says, sucking on Merlin’s lower lip, drawing it into his mouth before slowly releasing it. “You drive me crazy, you know that? Skating around out there, flirting with me.”

Merlin splutters. “Me, flirting with you? You were the one making eyes at me! I almost fucked up my triple axel, triple toe, and triple loop, all thanks to your hungry eyes.”

“Oh, I’m hungry, all right,” says Arthur, his hand creeping under Merlin’s jumper and shirt. He slides his hand down the front of Merlin’s trousers into his underwear, running his fingers through his treasure trail and into his pubes to fondle Merlin’s cock. Merlin sucks in a breath between his teeth. Is it just him? Arthur wonders. Is it strange to enjoy running your hand through someone’s pubes as much as he does? Merlin nuzzles his face into his shoulder and presses his mouth against the side of Arthur’s neck, and Merlin’s cock hardens against the palm of his hand as Arthur plays with it. His own hips start to rut against Merlin’s in a gentle, rhythmic motion, mirroring Merlin’s thrusts as Arthur slides his hand up and down Merlin’s hot, silken length.

God, he loves how damn responsive Merlin is to his touch, how much he enjoys everything that they do together. Arthur knows that it’s only been a short amount of time, but he’s never been as crazy for any of his previous partners, and never really given much thought to a long-term relationship until now. Now he just wants Merlin, all day, every day. Whenever he’s not thinking about snowboarding and getting out on the slopes, he’s thinking about Merlin. Merlin, Merlin, Merlin. His fingers curl around Merlin’s cock and he jerks him faster at the thought of having him always, being free to be together, to hold hands, to kiss. Merlin lets out a cry as he pants into his neck, his hips faltering.

“Oh! There you guys… are...” Arthur’s head swivels around as they both glance over his shoulder, the moment broken. Gwen is standing in the doorway, her mouth forming a small ‘o’ as it suddenly dawns on her what she’s just walked in on. Her eyes flick down to where Arthur’s got his hand shoved down Merlin’s jeans, and Arthur can see them starting to fill with tears. She lets out a strangled sob as she turns on her heel and the sound of her footsteps echoes around them as she runs off.

Merlin looks back at Arthur, his face pale with shock.

“I thought you said no one ever came back here!” Arthur hisses at him. Fuck, this is bad. How the hell had Gwen found them? She was supposed to have left already.

“I thought no one did!” Merlin hastily straightens himself up, trying to free himself from Arthur’s hold.

“What are you doing?” Arthur asks, letting him go reluctantly.

“Arthur, sorry. I—she’s my friend!” says Merlin. He sounds guilt-stricken, biting his lip as his eyes flick in the direction Gwen had fled in. “I have to—”

“Fuck. Yeah. Of course. Go, Merlin, and tell her I’m so sorry.”

Merlin nods at him, taking a quick moment to adjust himself in his trousers before rushing off to find his friend.

As he watches Merlin sprint away, Arthur bites his lip at the realisation that Gwen knows. The thought that she might go around telling people out of spite sends chills down his spine. But no, Arthur doesn’t believe that Gwen would be so petty. Neither of them had meant to hurt her, especially not when she and Merlin are so close, though it had been obvious that she was upset just the same. How can they possibly fix this?

~

“Gwen? Gwen!” calls Merlin, breathlessly calling her name.

He spots her moving quickly across the plaza and towards the building where they catch the bus back to the Team GB house. He finally catches up with her when she has to stop to wait for the next transport to arrive. He rests his hands on his knees, bending double to catch his breath.

“Gwen, look, I’m sorry. I’m so, so, sorry,” he says, looking up at her. She folds her arms and looks away, her chin tilted up high and her mouth a firm line.

Shit, this is really bad, Merlin thinks. Of course it is, it couldn’t not be. All this time Gwen has been swooning over Arthur and now she’s finally found out the truth: that her supposedly best friend has been sleeping with him the whole time.

“Please, Gwen,” he begs. “Just, let me explain. We never meant for this to happen!”

Her head whips around so fast to glare at Merlin that he shrinks back a bit against the wall of the bus stop.

“What, you never meant for me to find out? To find out what? To find out what a fool I’d been, spending all this time flirting with Arthur in public and fawning over him in private with you? Oh, you both must have been having a great laugh I’m sure! Haha, look at Gwen, she’s so stupid, all this time she thinks that Arthur is actually interested in her and instead he’s been FUCKING YOU WITH HIS COCK!”

She screeches the last part at him, her eyes bright with tears. Merlin cringes as the people around them stop for a moment to stare at them.

“Gwen,” he hisses at her, his eyes darting around to try and determine who’s heard them. “Look, I know you’re upset right now and with good reason, but could you just… keep it down a little? Please? Let’s go somewhere so that we can talk in private and I can explain.”

He shivers and rubs his arms as he looks around the plaza. In his rush to get to Gwen, he had left his coat and bag behind, and it’s starting to snow. He tries to find a shop-front that looks like it could be a tea room or coffee house, anywhere they can go and sit down to discuss things and praises a God he’s not entirely sure exists when he spots a familiar sign for the BonBon Roastery, which he recognises from inside the Olympic Village.

“Look, the coffee place over there? Please, Gwen.” He looks at her with the most convincing, sorry-I’m-such-a-selfish-inconsiderate-prick-of-a-best-friend expression he can muster, and finally she relents, giving him a curt nod before she power-walks across the plaza to the coffee shop.

*

When the door opens, Arthur looks up from where he’s been sitting huddled on his bed, waiting for Merlin to return, and eyes him cautiously for any signs of how it went with Gwen. It doesn’t look good. Merlin looks sad and his eyes are red-rimmed, as if he’s been crying. Arthur just wants to pull Merlin into his arms to give him a bone-crushing hug in an attempt to comfort him, but he’s not entirely sure if it would be welcomed at the moment. He wouldn’t be surprised if Merlin is angry at him.

“How’d it go?” he asks, finally breaking the silence.

Merlin shrugs noncommittally and kicks off his boots. “About as well as could be expected, I guess,” he sighs. “And probably better than we deserve. I feel like such a dick about the whole thing. I mean, I knew how much she liked you. I listened to her telling me how much she wanted you and didn’t say a thing. Even worse, really, I would listen to her while thinking about all the things that we were doing together. Not in a mocking way, but still. I just feel like the lowest of the low. I’m such a shit best friend.”

Merlin perches on the edge of the bed next to Arthur and rubs at his head with his hand. Arthur sits up beside him, not sure how best to support Merlin right now. He’s always been a bit awkward when it comes to comforting people, having never really received any nurturing from his father as a child. Besides, it’s all his fault really; he’s the one who had insisted that they keep their newfound relationship a secret. But he really hadn’t realised just how much Gwen fancied him. He’d just thought she was being enthusiastic and excited—she’d certainly seemed that way every time he’d met up with her. And why had she been inviting Merlin along everywhere, if it was him that she wanted? He frowns as he recalls that, actually, she had tried to invite him to have breakfast or lunch with her a few times, and he’d agreed enthusiastically, telling her that he would bring Merlin as well. Well, Morgana didn’t call him obtuse for nothing.

Finally, Arthur places a hand on Merlin’s back. “You shouldn’t feel bad, Merlin. I’m the one who asked you to lie. If anyone is the scum of the earth it’s me. Do you think she’ll forgive you?”

Merlin sighs and looks down at his phone and its unanswered messages. “I dunno. Maybe, eventually.”

“I’m sorry to have come between you like this,” Arthur says, meaning it. He pulls Merlin toward him, feeling him relax and melt into his touch. This is good. He can do this, he can absolutely be the comfort that Merlin needs. “I’m sure she won’t be mad at you forever.”

Merlin grunts and lays back on the bed, pulling Arthur with him. He snuggles up into Arthur’s arms and rests his head on Arthur’s chest, and Arthur can’t help but feel a huge surge of warmth and happiness at such a gesture of trust. He’s starting to realise that he wants to protect Merlin from all kinds of hurt and harm for the rest of his life.

He strokes idly Merlin’s hair as he wonders just how they can possibly apologise to Gwen for leading her on, albeit unintentionally. As Merlin shifts his leg to wrap it around his thigh, Arthur feels his traitorous cock give a twitch of interest. Jesus Christ, he shouldn’t be thinking about sex at a time like this! But he can’t help remembering what Gwen had interrupted earlier and how he hadn’t been able to scratch that itch.

Merlin nuzzles his nose against his neck, and he can’t help but arch his head back, letting out a quiet moan. He hears Merlin’s breath hitch, his lips latching on to the sensitive skin of Arthur’s throat, sucking firmly in a way that has him writhing as his cock rises in his trousers. He feels Merlin’s hand creep down his chest and slide inside to cup him with his hand.

“Mmm, someone’s happy to see me,” Merlin says with amusement in his voice.

“Well, we did experience coitus interruptus earlier. Can’t blame my cock for still being ready to go.”

Merlin swings around Arthur’s waist to straddle him and leans forward to capture his lips in a kiss, as he swipes his thumb across his cheek. “In my experience, you’re always ready to fuck. So insatiable and ready for me.”

God, how does Merlin know how to get Arthur so hot, in so few words? It’s so fucking infuriating. He wants to show Merlin that he’s not the only one who can control their dance. As much as he enjoys Merlin bossing him around in bed, he’s not a pushover either. Arthur scrambles up to a sitting position and pulls Merlin forward so that he’s perched directly atop his clothed cock.

“Please,” he says, with a hint of derision. “Like you’re not always gagging for it too?”

He enjoys strangled noise that Merlin makes, as he tilts his hips and humps up against Merlin’s arse. He bites and sucks on Merlin’s earlobe with a smirk.

“I’m not—” Merlin moans out loud. “As bad—Ah!” Arthur curls his tongue around the shell of Merlin’s ear and feels him shiver as he clutches at Arthur’s shirt. “Oh shit, Arthur. Fuck, you’re not playing v-very fair.”

Arthur grins.“All’s fair in love and war,” he breathes into Merlin’s ear, slipping a hand down the back of Merlin’s jeans to grope his bare arse. He tugs at Merlin’s waistband. “I think these should come off, don’t you?”

Merlin starts to fumble at his button and zipper, standing to kick his jeans off and tugging off his shirt for good measure, almost tripping in his enthusiasm. God, he’s so fucking gorgeous, even if he is a bit of a klutz. Arthur wonders how someone can be so controlled and graceful on the ice, but then act like a newborn foal in his everyday life. Then again, there are a lot of things about Merlin that puzzle him. The way he’s able to be so honest and open with people, for one thing. Where Arthur keeps himself to himself in an effort to protect himself from harm, Merlin just puts himself out there and doesn’t give two fucks about what the world thinks of him. Arthur wishes he had more of that confidence. Well, no time like the present to be confident. Arthur knows he’s good looking, he knows Merlin likes him and everything they’ve done so far has been so perfect. There’s no need for him to doubt himself anymore.

He stands and predatorily walks Merlin backwards until he’s got him pressed against the door of the room, Merlin’s cock poking out of his boxers obscenely. He catches Merlin’s wrists with his hand and pins then above his head, using his free hand to push down Merlin’s boxers so that his cock springs up and bobs between then. Merlin lets out an indignant squawk.

“Arthur!”

Arthur silences him with a deep kiss, their mouths and tongues entangled, then releases him to run his hands through his silky, dark hair. Merlin’s fingernails scratch at his back through his shirt, and they continue to fight for dominance with their kiss, until finally they’re forced to break for a breath.

Forehead pressed to forehead, Arthur helps Merlin to tug off his boxers and rips open the packet of lube from his pocket. He coats his fingers before tracing two of them along Merlin’s stomach and over his cock and balls.

Merlin throws his head back against the door. “God. Arthur. Shit.”

“You want this?” Arthur asks, low, pressing kisses to Merlin’s long, elegant neck as he slides his fingers along Merlin’s taint to find his hole.

“God, Arthur, yes. Fuck me, please.”

Arthur presses in, breaching him with his fingers. Merlin hisses and bucks at the intrusion, wrapping himself around Arthur and hooking his legs around his waist. When Arthur crooks his fingers just right inside him, Merlin lets out a moan that is positively filthy.

“Fuuuuck! Arthur… I—”

Arthur pulls out his fingers, and he is trying to tug his belt undone when all of a sudden he’s wearing no clothes at all.

“Hurry up and get your cock in me, you prat,” Merlin cries, the gold already fading from his eyes.

“All right, all right. Just a…” He realises that his trousers, and consequently his condom, have quite literally vanished into thin air. “Merlin, you vanished the condom, you idiot.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” Merlin retorts.

Arthur groans with frustration, stroking his own cock as he steals a kiss. He’s desperate to just fuck Merlin there and then. It would be so easy to just... grasp his cock and push himself in... But no, they shouldn’t, they really shouldn’t. Their relationship is too new for that level of trust.

Maybe he can just… if he really stretches… Arthur reaches out his arm, groping towards the bedside cabinet but it’s way too far away. Then the drawer opens seemingly of its own accord, and a flurry of condoms fly towards him. He snatches one out of the air and growls at Merlin, whose eyes are molten, “All right, no need to over do it.” Merlin just grins.

Arthur rips the packet open with his teeth and within seconds he’s rolling the condom onto his cock. Almost as quickly, Merlin is sinking down onto him, opening up and swallowing his cock with his hot, tight heat. Arthur has to squeeze his eyes shut for a moment as he takes a few deep breaths.

“Yes, Arthur, yes!” Merlin pants out between breaths. God, he’s so fucking beautiful like this—like a masterpiece, his eyes closed and head tilted as he makes breathy commands, so focused on them that nothing else around them matters. Not the Olympics, not being discovered, not Gwen.

Arthur grinds his hips into Merlin and presses his head to Merlin’s as he slowly starts to thrust. “Let me show you why it’s you I choose to be with, Merlin,” he says as he grips Merlin’s cock and flicks his thumb over the head, earning a low whine. “Why it couldn’t possibly be Gwen, why it couldn’t even be another man.”

He pumps into Merlin again and places a chaste kiss to his lips, but Merlin pulls him back, his hands tangling in Arthur’s hair as he slides his tongue into his mouth, thrusting it in time with Arthur’s cock.

“Fuck, Merlin,” Arthur gasps. “I choose you because...” Merlin arches his back as he continues to sink down on Arthur’s cock again and again, using Arthur’s broad shoulders to lever himself up and down, and it’s stealing Arthur’s thoughts from him. He’s sure he can’t possibly have an ounce of blood left in his brain, overwhelmed as he is by lust and the animalistic need to grind and thrust and rut, claiming Merlin as his. His hand is working Merlin fast now, and he attempts to continue to talk as he pushes his cock into Merlin one more time before pulling it out slowly, drawing out a breathless cry from him. “I choose you because you’re you. Not Gwen. And I want you to always be you.”

*

The day after Gwen had discovered them, Arthur sets about hunting her down.

When Arthur finally finds her, late in the afternoon in the Team GB common room, he manages to persuade her to come with him to a quieter space so that they can talk.

“Thanks, Gwen,” he says, taking her hand as they sit across the table from him.

She looks a him. Her eyes are stony, a direct contrast to her usual self—and then she politely but pointedly pulls her hand out of his.

“Please, please don’t blame Merlin for this,” Arthur begs, ducking his head to try and catch her eye.

Gwen lets out a disbelieving scoff.

“It’s not his fault, truly Gwen. I made him promise. He swore to me that he wouldn’t tell a soul.” Arthur looks around, then moves in closer and lowers his voice. “Look, Gwen, I will level with you. I’m gay. I’ve always known that I’m gay. But I wasn’t ready for you to find out, and I’m really sorry that you had to find out the way that you did. Neither of us meant to deceive you.”

Gwen drums her fingers on the tabletop as she watches him, her eyes critical and her face still guarded.

“I just don’t understand why you felt like you couldn’t tell me,” she says, her voice quiet. She turns her head suddenly, her chin quivering as she wipes her eyes with her sleeve.

There’s a long silence as Arthur shifts uncomfortably in his seat. God, he’s terrible with woman and crying. He’d best just lay it out there and get this over with. He licks at his dry lips before he starts to speak. “Gwen, I’ve spent so long, pretending to be someone I’m not, keeping up the appearance of being straight, all for the sake of an easier life. I was scared of what people would think if they found out. I guess it was just easier to go along with it. Let you, and everyone else, think that I was straight, at least for a little bit longer.”

As she bites her lower lip and then lets out a sigh, she nods. “I guess I can understand that.”

“If you want to be mad at anyone about this, please, be mad at me.”

She sighs and plays with a strand of hair. “Oh, trust me I am. But still I’m mad at both of you. He should have told me.”

Arthur grimaces and gets up from his chair. “All I can say is that I’m sorry, truly I am. I hope that with time you can at least forgive Merlin. It’s tearing him up to know he hurt you.”

“I’ll think about it,” she says.

Arthur doesn’t know if he’s done any good. But it helps him to draw a line under the guilt, allowing him to re-focus on his training and the races to come in the next few days, and he hopes that it will help Gwen get closure too.

The next day, Gwen finally texts Merlin back. It’s a one word reply. But Merlin is delighted with it, and they return to kissing, touching and getting each other off as often as their schedules and their bodies allow them to.

~

For Merin, the next few days pass in a blur of excitement. By day he dreams of triple lutz, quad lutz, spins, toe-loops and salchows. He trains hard and focuses on the work he needs to do. He and Gwen no longer share a training slot, but she has finally started to respond to his texts. He listens to Gaius advice carefully with his routine, and with things just about perfect technically, he focuses on letting the music guide him.

It’s not all perfect though. He and Arthur continue to annoy each other, especially when Merlin takes to humming his routine music almost constantly, driving Arthur to distraction.

“I’m warning you Merlin, if I have to listen to you hum that blasted tune one more time...” growls Arthur from his bed across the room.

“Hmm?” says Merlin, looking up from his book.

“You’re humming it again.”

“Oh, was I?”

“Yes.”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to.”

Arthur rolls his eyes. “Just like you didn’t mean to all the other times I asked you to stop.”

“I said I was sorry. No need to be a prat about it. It’s not like I can help it.”

Arthur raises his eyebrows at him. “Oh, I think you can help it. You just don’t care to stop doing it.”

Merlin narrows his eyes at Arthur from across the room. God, he’d forgotten what a pompous arse Arthur could be. He’s lived with this routine for months now. Thought about it, performed and dreamt about it until it’s like an old friend. It’s something that he’s always done, ever since he first started competing, and it seems to work. Visualising his routine being executed flawlessly again and again, as though the mental imprint will manifest itself in his physical performance, is how he prepares for a competition. He can’t exactly help humming along.

“I’m trying. But it helps me. Why does it bug you, anyway?”

Merlin glances over the top of his book at Arthur, just catching the quirk of his lips before he straightens out his face. Oh, it’s like that is it?

Over the past few days, Merlin and Arthur have taken to having small fights. At first, it was just petty bickering, sometimes with a kernel of truth to it. But, in retrospect, most of their arguments have been getting sillier and sillier, fights just for the sake of fights, always ending up in some kind of mind-blowing sex. Merlin has started to realise that the sex might be a big part of the reason that they’ve been picking the fights to begin with.

“It bugs me,” says Arthur curtly, “because you never stop humming it.”

“Yeah?” Merlin replies, barely able to hold back a smirk as he raises an eyebrow. “Why don’t you make me shut up then?”

Merlin swings his legs off the bed and Arthur stalks over to him, still pretending to be annoyed. “Oh, I’ll make you shut up all right!”

“I don’t think you will!” retorts Merlin, goading him on.

“Let. Me. Demonstrate,” says Arthur fiercely as he pulls Merlin up by his shirt and yanks sharply on his hair to tilt his head. Merlin gasps into the searing kiss, pleasure zinging through him at the way Arthur dominates it completely. His tongue fucks into Merlin’s mouth deep and fast, taking what he wants and stealing Merlin’s breath away.

The humming is all but forgotten now as Merlin scrabbles at him, hooking his leg around Arthur’s hip and letting Arthur bear his weight. “Fuck, the bed,” Merlin pants as he breaks the kiss. He wraps his arms around Arthur shoulders as Arthur turns them and sits back on the mattress, Merlin in his lap.

As he smirks down at Arthur, it dawns on Merlin just how quickly he can turn the tables in his position. He raises and lowers his hips on top of Arthur’s sizeable erection, drawing a sharp inhale from Arthur at the friction it creates. He tilts his head up to kiss Merlin, his fingers clumsily pulling at the buttons of Merlin’s shirt and pushing it from his shoulders. Merlin shivers with anticipation as Arthur’s hands run over his bare skin before he tugs off his t-shirt too.

Merlin presses himself against Arthur’s chest with a contented sigh. Arthur is so warm, and as he holds him close, Merlin can feel his heart beating against him. He loves how solid and real Arthur feels, and a flood of emotion hits him as he realises that he never wants to lose him. He lets out a shuddering breath as tears prickle at his eyes.

“Merlin?” asks Arthur, looking up at him, his eyes filled with concern.

“I’m okay,” Merlin says, his voice not entirely steady. He kisses Arthur, pouring all his emotions into the kiss; his worries, his passion, his affection, and yes—his love.

As he pulls away from the kiss, Merlin pulls at his jeans. “I want these—” he says.

“Yeah,” replies Arthur, helping him tug them off.

Arthur strips off his own jeans next, and as he clambers onto the bed, Merlin is back in his lap again, bare skin to bare skin. He cups Arthur’s neck and draws him closer for a kiss. Merlin feels like he could get drunk just from this, delirious from kissing Arthur. He reaches between them and takes them both in hand.

“I want you in me,” Merlin murmurs against Arthur’s lips as he slowly pumps them together, Arthur’s cock hard, hot and velvety smooth against his. He pulls with his magic, and with a condom in hand, he tears it open and rolls it on. He shudders as he lets his magic tingle down his spine, feeling the way it opens and stretches him, making wet and ready for Arthur in seconds.

As he positions himself over Arthur’s cock, Arthur goes to stop him. “Merlin, wait. You’re not…” Arthur rubs his finger against Merlin’s hole and finds that it slips in easily, the way already slicked. He looks up into Merlin’s eyes with astonishment. “Fuck,” he breathes, pumping his finger in and out. “You’re dripping wet.”

He slides in a second finger, and it sinks in with such ease that he immediately shoves in a third.

“Uh,” huffs Merlin. “Yeah, so good.”

Arthur pushes his fingers deeper and curves them. Merlin moans in response, his legs trembling from the effort of bearing his own weight as he battles against the sensation of Arthur’s questing fingers. He wraps his arms around Arthur’s neck and pulls him closer, until they’re chest to chest.

Merlin grasps Arthur by his biceps and grinds down on his fingers. Arthur hesitates for a second before cramming in a fourth, and Merlin just takes it, his hole engulfing Arthur’s fingers greedily. “God,” groans Arthur, tucking his head into Merlin’s neck. “We are going to have to explore that. I can’t wait ‘til we’re home. Then I’ll see exactly just how much you can take. I want to make you slowly lose your mind.”

Merlin scowls at him and fucks himself on Arthur’s fingers. “You’re going the right way about it.”

Arthur’s lips curve into a smile that Merlin can feel against his neck, and he replies, “Now you know how crazy you’ve been making me with that humming.”

Merlin snickers before bucking on his fingers again. “If it leads to this I’ll make sure to do it even more. Come on, Arthur. No more teasing.”

Arthur pulls out his fingers and kisses Merlin’s cheek, then rubs his cock tauntingly along Merlin’s taint, causing Merlin to make a choking sound. “I don’t know, I quite like teasing you…” says Arthur. His voice is deep and sinful, and it makes Merlin’s cock twitch against his stomach as he realises he quite likes it too. And Arthur is way too good at it.

“You mean you like being an insufferable prat?” he says. “Get on with it. Please.”

“Oh, the magic word! Well, since you asked so nicely.”

Arthur presses the head of his cock against Merlin’s entrance. Placing a hand on the mattress to steady himself, Merlin arches his spine. The sensation of Arthur slowly pushing into him overwhelms him. The fullness, the connection, the feeling of completeness.

Arthur splays his hand on the small of Merlin’s back. “Look at you,” he says admiringly. “You love taking my cock, don’t you? Just as much as I love giving it to you.” Merlin feels his face heat and he shivers as Arthur’s fingers ghost his rim, tracing where they’re connected.

With a grunt, Arthur thrusts upwards, jolting Merlin into action. Merlin cants his hips, rolling them up and down, impaling himself on Arthur’s cock. He tips back his head with silent gasp as Arthur shifts and is suddenly fucking into him, hitting just the right spot.

“Ah yeah, yeah,” Merlin cries, his shoulders straining as he holds himself in position. He grasps the back of Arthur’s neck and gazes down at him. Arthur looks as wrecked as Merlin feels, his hair sticking to his forehead and lips red as his teeth worry his bottom lip and he drives into Merlin over and over.

Arthur wraps his arms around Merlin’s back, pulling him close. As he fucks up into him, Merlin keens at the friction against his cock where it slides between them. Arthur keeps thrusting up in small sharp jerks of his hips, and it’s not enough, not nearly enough. But the way that Arthur is looking at him... It makes him breathless, makes his heart soar and his magic sing. Sliding his arms around Arthur’s neck, Merlin draws him up into a kiss that is so vulnerable and sweet that Merlin thinks he might melt into nothingness.

Merlin rocks himself gently back and forth, like a seesaw, and Arthur grins at him, slowly pushing him backwards until Merlin falls to the mattress with a soft “Oof!” He glares up at Arthur indignantly. “What the fuck was that–”

He’s cut off abruptly when Arthur pulls him up by the hips, plunging his cock deeper into him.

“Oh,” Merlin says, his eyes rolling back as Arthur hits his prostate.

“Mmm, yeah,” moans Arthur, throwing back his head as he thrusts his hips experimentally. It has Merlin seeing stars, and he starts to move with Arthur, his thighs trembling. “Touch yourself.”

Merlin wraps his fingers around his cock and tugs. Soon he is helpless to do anything by lie back and feel Arthur pound into him, a perfect rhythm, hitting his prostate over and over, as he takes himself in hand, matching Arthur thrust for thrust. “Oh, fuck, fuck. Arthur, I’m going to—I’m gonna—”

Merlin can feel the air swirling with his magic, whispering and gliding over him and Arthur, caressing and kissing their skin. It makes them both shudder involuntarily as the power rocks through them.

“Shit, Merlin, that’s—” Arthur grips his waist and pulls Merlin backwards onto his cock, pistoning his hips as Merlin’s magic reaches a crescendo. Arthur stills, flush against him and Merlin feels him throbbing his release inside him. With one more quick tug on his cock, Merlin follows, cum spurting out in hot, white ribbons on his chest. As the lights flicker, the air glows golden, and a bulb shatters behind them. “You can fix that right?” Arthur murmurs as he dips his head to kiss Merlin, his lips lingering as he runs his fingers through the cum on Merlin’s chest and then brings them to his mouth to taste.

“Oh, God,” exclaims Merlin, slinging his arm cross his face as his cock gives a half-interested twitch against his stomach. “Yes, yes. I’ll fix it.”

He pushes himself up with his elbows and looks over at the shattered bulb. He pictures is whole again and pushes with his magic, forcing it to start to repair itself. Once done, he lets himself fall back on the bed and pulls Arthur down with him so that he can hold and kiss him.

It’s fair to say, Merlin has become quite proficient at forcing his magic to fix the things that their lovemaking has cracked or broken along the way. This is just another thing to add to a very long list.

On the days when Merlin and Arthur are separated and can’t meet properly before bed, they steal kisses and risk quick hand and blow jobs wherever they think they can get away with it. Even after the incident with Gwen, they can’t keep their hands off each other.

By night, Merlin lets his passion for Arthur consume him, and they stay awake for hours as they kiss and fuck and fuck some more.

*

Arthur sighs as he leans against the headboard of his bed. It’s the night before his event and he isn’t sure that he can even attempt to sleep right now, given the level of anxiety he’s feeling. There is so much pressure on him this games to do his best and make the country proud. He fiddles with the ring on his thumb, rolling it between his fingers as he contemplates his event tomorrow.

Merlin is lying on his stomach on the bed opposite him, reading on his tablet. There is a sense of peace and comfort that quietly radiates from him, and Arthur is thankful for it. He tries his best to absorb it, as though through osmosis, like it’s something that he can drink in from the air. Finally, after deciding that he’s sat there long enough toying with his ring, he gets up and grabs his snowboard and wax. He needs to do something to distract him from his endless thoughts about the races tomorrow: what could go wrong, what he might have forgotten, what will happen if he messes up and slips. Waxing will help. It’s something that needs to be done, and it’s something familiar and mindless. It’s become a become a ritual over the years, the night before a big race, to check all his equipment piece by piece for any damage or adjustments, to make sure he can get the best out of it. He saves his snowboard for late in the evening, for occasions just like this, when he can’t silence his thoughts and self-doubt.

He pulls his snowboard into his lap as he settles down on the bed and unscrews the tin of wax. He dabs the cloth into the wax and lets out a deep breath as he watches it glide smoothly over the board. He focuses solely on the movement of hands and wrists as he rubs the wax on with one cloth and polishes it to a fine shine with a clean one; as though he’s preparing a weapon for battle. His mind goes thankfully blank as he works. Wax, rub, polish, repeat. Wax, rub, polish, repeat. It soothes his worried mind, and finally he’s calm enough that he can focus and move beyond the niggling doubts. He will be ready for the upcoming races, and he will do everything it takes to win.

After a while, he feels Merlin’s eyes on him and he looks up, the spell of the polishing broken. Merlin is looking at him, his eyes trace along his hands and arms and back up to his face. As their eyes meet, Merlin’s mouth quirks with amusement. Arthur rolls his eyes a little. He doesn’t expect Merlin to understand this ritual of his. How can he? His doesn’t really have much equipment for skating and what he has needs little care or maintenance, save for the sharpening of his blades, which Gaius gets done for him the day before he skates. His body is his equipment. Although, it is quite an impressive piece of equipment.

“What?” Arthur finally asks, annoyed at being made fun of by the sparkle of mirth in Merlin’s eyes.

Merlin just grins for a moment, then clears his throat and says slyly, “I was just thinking… You know, we could have fun making something else shiny, if you'd put that down for a minute.”

Within seconds, Arthur’s snowboard has been abandoned on the floor, and Merlin crosses to Arthur’s bed to kneel in front of him, ready to do some polishing of a different kind.

Merlin mouths at the outline of Arthur’s cock visible through the thin material of his pyjamas, rubbing his lips against the smooth cotton as he uses his hands to push Arthur’s thighs further apart. Arthur let’s out a grunt, his cock starting to twitch and fill further at Merlin’s touch. Good God, Merlin has best ideas. His breath is hot through the thin layer of fabric separating Arthur’s cock from his mouth, and Arthur is helpless to stop the deep throaty moan that escapes his lips, his head falling back as he threads his fingers through Merlin’s hair to cradle his head in his hand. What has he done to deserve Merlin in his life?

Merlin hooks his long, slender fingers into the waistband of Arthur’s pyjamas and pulls them down until Arthur’s cock bobs free. Then those long, slender fingers are closing around him, stroking Arthur slowly as Merlin tongues and kisses it at the base. Arthur hears Merlin inhale sharply, then let out a deep groan. And god, that is such a turn-on; just hearing Merlin get off on how he smells makes heat and desire flood straight to his cock. If he’s not careful, he’s going to come before they even get started.

Taking a steadying breath, Arthur casts his eyes down at Merlin, who is now wrapping his lips around the head of his cock, his cheeks hollowing out as he sucks. It’s the most exquisite thing Arthur has ever seen, and with a helpless buck of his hips he thrusts his cock deep into Merlin’s throat. Merlin chokes and gags for a moment before he adjusts, but then he just takes it: Merlin, normally quite dominant and demanding when they’re fucking, just kneels down at his feet, submissive and pliant, silently using his eyes to will Arthur on as he fucks his mouth. When Merlin looks at him like that, nothing else seems to matter. Arthur closes his eyes, feeling his arousal continuing to build as he pumps himself in and out, losing himself to the sensation of Merlin’s tongue pressing along the underside of his cock, the flutter of Merlin’s throat as he sucks him down. And then Merlin moans around him, and the sound reverberates down Arthur’s cock like a mobile phone set on vibrate.

“Ah, yeah! Fuck, Merlin...”

No one has ever given him head like Merlin. He can hear the tell tale sounds of Merlin wanking below him, the familiar sound of skin-on-skin, and it sends a shiver down his spine, knowing that Merlin is getting off on this as much as he is. Arthur opens his eyes and watches Merlin’s hand between his legs, pumping hard and fast. Merlin is looking up at him with his intense, blue-gold eyes, and that’s all it takes to send him careening over the edge as his release splatters down Merlin’s throat. Merlin splutters and coughs as he pulls off Arthur with a pop, then wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Come here,” Arthur says, pulling Merlin into his lap. He kisses him with tongue, savouring the taste of his own release in Merlin’s mouth, trying to capture every trace. Then Arthur’s hand finds Merlin’s erection, and he strokes him a few times before shoving him down on his back on the bed and engulfing his cock with his mouth in one fell swoop.

“Ah, shit!” Merlin claws at his head and tugs on his hair, wailing as Arthur pins his hips down and works his mouth along his cock. He takes him him all the way down his throat and buries his nose in Merlin’s dark thatch of pubic hair. He loves the way Merlin smells, deep and musky, a scent that is pure Merlin. He wants to make Merlin feel as good as he does, as a thank you for making him forget his worries.

He swallows around the tip of Merlin’s cock and that has Merlin arching off the bed with a loud cry. As he shoots his load, the air crackles around them. Arthur swallows every drop of cum, licking Merlin’s cock clean until Merlin is keening at the back of his throat and pushing him away from his crotch with his hands.

Arthur flops down next to Merlin and bathes in the afterglow.

“So,” says Merlin. “You feeling better about tomorrow?”

“Mm,” Arthur replies. His whole body feels tingly and light, yet at the same time heavy and tired. Right now, he really can’t imagine why he was even worried about his races in the first place. “Yeah. I needed that.”

Merlin turns to kiss him and smoothes the hair from his forehead. “Don’t worry, you’re going to be great tomorrow. I’ve decreed it.”

Arthur smiles into Merlin’s neck, and as his eyes start to close, and he can’t help but believe him.

~

Merlin shivers and pulls his coat more tightly around him, congratulating himself on wearing his Team GB winter coat instead of the one he usually wears to Arthur’s training sessions, since it’s a lot warmer even if it does make him feel a bit conspicuous (which is why he’s been avoiding wearing it until now). He hopes that it will be too busy here today for anyone to do more than take a cursory glance at him, and with a beanie pulled down over his distinctive-looking ears, he hopes he’ll be disguised enough that he can get around without being disturbed by fans. Although, surely there aren’t going to be any figure skating fans here watching the snowboarding, are there? He can’t imagine there being much overlap between the two.

He weaves through the crowds, making his way to the front so that he can stand near the barrier at the bottom of the slope, and squints at the scoreboard in the distance. Arthur is going to race in the first seeded race, which is due to start in a few minutes time. He had left early that morning, and Merlin had kissed him and caressed him, Arthur’s body hard but yielding under his curious hands as they jacked off in the shower together before he left. Merlin had returned to bed for an extra hour or two of sleep—Gaius had ordered him to take things easy and rest before his skating event started the next day. He had made sure to get up in time to grab a quick breakfast, though, before heading up to the slopes for the first race. It had been a close call, but he had made it.

He hopes Arthur isn’t too nervous. Merlin knows how much pressure he’s putting on himself to win, and he doesn’t know how Arthur can stand it. Merlin does his best never to think about winning or others’ expectations, largely because he knows he’d crumple under the weight of them if he did. But Arthur seems capable of shouldering it all, using it to drive himself on to greater heights. It’s inspiring.

He closes his eyes and tries feel out Arthur’s location with his magic. In a crowd like this, he usually has to concentrate, but it turns out not to be a problem as his magic only has eyes for Arthur. It starts to stretch out beyond him, slowly rolling up the slope as though eager to reach its destination. Arthur is up there, shining like a beacon, and as Merlin wraps his magic around him, he can suddenly feel all the things that Arthur is feeling. The way his heart is thumping away in his chest at an accelerated rate; his shirt is clinging to his back, wet with sweat. The increasing level of panic and anxiety that is causing Arthur’s breath to hitch in his chest. Merlin pushes his magic a little more, trying to infuse himself into Arthur. He focuses on being calm, confident and determined, drawing out all these qualities he knows Arthur has in abundance. He surrounds Arthur in his love, and he can feel Arthur’s heart rate start to slow as the anxiety begins to recede. Then his magic starts to slip away from him, as the strain becomes too much. He’s stretched himself too thin and too far, and the sense of Arthur fades as his magic pours back into him. He’s done all he can; the rest is down to Arthur now.

As he comes back to himself, he feels someone bump into him. He glances around and sees that it’s Gwen.

“Gwen!” he says with a grin. “You came!”

Gwen has been doing her best to avoid them both ever since she walked in on him and Arthur together; he hadn’t expected her to come to Arthur’s event. He hopes the fact that she’s come to seek him out here of all places means that they’re turning a corner in their friendship.

“Merlin,” she greets him coolly. “Of course I did, Arthur’s my friend. How is he doing?”

Merlin tries to bite back his smile, because Gwen is talking to him again. Actually talking to him! He clears his throat and stands a little straighter. “He’s doing all right. Lots of nerves, of course. But I have faith in him.”

She nods and then her face brightens, as a rather dashing-looking man with eyes as dark as his hair makes his way through the crowd towards them. He’s wearing an Olympics coat emblazoned with a flag, and Merlin tries to figure out what country it represents. Is it… Chile, maybe?

“Guinevere,” the man says with a hint of an accent, passing her a hot drink. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were meeting a friend, or I would have brought another.”

The man takes a moment to look at Merlin, and there’s a look of realisation along with a momentary flash of anger on his face before it’s all smoothed out and happy again. “You’re Merlin Emrys!” he exclaims. “I saw your short programme at the ISU World Championships. Very impressive. I’m a big fan. I can’t believe that this is only your first Olympics! You skate like you’ve been doing it your whole life!”

Merlin flushes bright red and ducks his head at the compliment. “Thanks,” he says.

“Are you ready for tomorrow?” the man asks, blowing on his coffee.

Merlin tucks his hands into his pockets and shrugs. “As ready as I can be. I mean, I’m not nervous and you can only practice so much. If you do too much you’ll start to overthink it... That tends to be my biggest flaw,” Merlin confesses.

The man makes a disbelieving sound, and Gwen watches him with happy eyes. “It must be nice not to get very nervous. When I get nervous I can’t stop shaking and I mess up. You’ll have to share your secret.” He pauses and extends his hand. “I’m Lancelot by the way. Lancelot du Lac.”

Merlin grins as he takes his hand and shakes it firmly. “Good to meet you,” he says, and he means it. He’s happy that Gwen has found someone who makes her smile again.

As Gwen and Lancelot start talking again, Merlin lets his attention wander. It’s a bit past eleven now and the first race hasn’t started yet. But these games have been notorious for late starts to their events, especially in the mountains, so he supposes he shouldn’t be too surprised. He looks up the hill and finally sees some signs of movement near the starting line. It looks like they’re getting ready.

Merlin’s mouth goes dry. He knows how important this is for Arthur, how much pressure there is on him to do well. He crosses his gloved fingers, and when the race starts, he thinks that he might have forgotten how to breathe altogether.

All eyes turn to the large screen at the bottom of the slope, and it’s quieter now than it has been all day as the snowboarders line up, ready for action. As the highest ranking competitor, Arthur is easy to pick out in the red bib, and Merlin watches him as he waits for the race to begin, a flurry of snowflakes swirling around him.

The tension at the top of the slope is palpable. Then, suddenly, they’re off, tearing down the hill in a blaze of colour. Arthur takes an early lead, leaving all but one of the snowboarders behind him as they head over the rollers. It’s difficult to tell from the angle on the screen, but it looks like the black bib is starting to gain on him, the two of them skipping and hopping over the jumps like pebbles skimming a pond, and Merlin gnashes his teeth anxiously.

As the camera get closer, however, he sees Arthur is still ahead, making a sharp corner jump. The distance between the two snowboarders is decreasing rapidly, but the finish line is fast approaching. It’s a close thing—so close. But thankfully, Arthur streaks past the finishing line first, his arms raised in victory as he skids to a halt, and Merlin can finally breathe again. Arthur nods— so slightly, it’s barely even noticeable—at Merlin when he spots him in the crowd, before he checks out the scoreboard and punches the air joyfully when he sees his time.

Merlin looks around at Gwen, who answers the big grin plastered on his face with a matching one. The race had taken mere minutes; now it’s a waiting game, as the next one won’t start for a good two and a half hours.

Arthur wins the next heat with ease, and then there’s another half-hour wait until he races again. Merlin can’t help but be annoyed by it. How can the athletes stand it? He just wants it to be the final already, so that all this tension can be over. The wait is killing him, and he can only imagine what it must be like for Arthur.

Time passes far too slowly. Merlin catches up with his mum and Will, his best friend, via text while he waits, then stands around staring at the clock, metaphorically biting his nails. Another half hour later and the quarterfinals start, and Arthur obliterates his competition, a vision in his red bib and blue jacket.

Soon after that, Gwen and Lancelot take their leave, having decided to watch the coverage from somewhere where it’s warm and comfortable. Merlin half wishes he could too, but he remembers Arthur explaining how the competition works, how it’s a test of endurance as well as technique and skills on the slope. Now that they’ve hit the quarterfinals, the competition will really kick into high gear and the pace will be fast, leaving a much shorter recovery time between races. Surely that means it won’t be long now.

Arthur doesn’t win all his races, but he is always in the top three each time, and before Merlin knows it, he has made it through the quarterfinals. Merlin watches the screen anxiously when Arthur’s next race starts.

This race is a lot rougher than the previous ones, and there’s a lot of pushing and shoving as the competitors try to pass one another. As far as Merlin can tell, they’re pretty evenly matched, with no one able to really pull ahead. He scans the screen for the red bib, and bites down hard on the thumb of his glove, hands held to his mouth as he sees Arthur in the middle of the pack.

The camera cuts to him. Arthur is being rammed into by another snowboarder, who is attempting to overtake him. Arthur banks, leaning precariously to one side to block his way. Surely he’s leaning too far! Merlin holds his breath. Is this it? Is everything going to be over, just like that? He almost can’t bear to watch. But then, Arthur twists, using his body weight to bring himself upright. Just behind him, the green bib does it again, this time to another competitor who is trying to overtake him. Merlin gasps as he brings down the snowboarder in the yellow bib. In his haste to catch up with Arthur, green bib wipes out. The crowd lets out a collective groan as he goes crashing into the safety netting, missing Arthur’s board by inches.

Fuck. That was close. Way too close. Merlin feels like he’s run a race, sweat pooling at the back of his neck and his heart beating furiously. His body gets a chance to recover, however, as the rest of the race goes smoothly and there are no further incidents. The other competitors are cautious, given the previous falls, and Arthur is safely through to the semi-final.

Then, the moment is suddenly upon them; “the big finish”, as Arthur had called it. There are a lot more people gathered around the slope now than there were earlier in the day. Merlin watches the screen nervously as the camera focuses on the competitors at the barrier. They’re all lined up, preparing themselves for the beginning of the race. As he stares up at the close-up of Arthur, he wonders just what Arthur is thinking. His face is strong and he looks so completely determined that Merlin feels an unexpected wave of calm engulf him, much like he does when he’s the one performing. This is it. Arthur’s ready. Merlin can’t wait to see him get his gold.

The snowboarders burst from the starting line as they race to see who can get to the first turn the fastest. Arthur had said that was called the ‘holeshot’, and Merlin had fallen apart laughing. He still can’t suppress a grin, even now, as they speed down the slope. It looks like Arthur is stuck a little bit behind the leader in yellow, who seems to be purposely slowing down and blocking him from getting past. There’s some pushing and shoving, and they both nearly go tumbling halfway through the race. Merlin holds his breath, watching anxiously. But Arthur quickly recovers from their tussle, and he slips past his competitor. As Arthur enters the last stretch of the race, Merlin bites his bottom lip, willing him to hang on to his slim lead. Arthur glances over his shoulder and Merlin curses at him. Win the race first, you clotpole! But it seems to give Arthur a boost, as he pushes himself further, faster. The finishing line is so close; they’re almost there. Finally, Arthur crosses the line first, his competitor only a few inches behind him.

Arthur grins delightedly and flips up his ski visor, tugging off his helmet as he stops his board right in front of Merlin. He winks roguishly, and Merlin’s heart skips a beat. He’s done it. Arthur has really done it!

Out on the course, Arthur takes in the crowd around him and throws up his arms in celebration. Then he chucks his helmet into the outstretched arms of a nearby fan and pulls his feet off his snowboard, leaving it in the snow.

“Hey Merlin,” he says, his face beaming as he walks over.

“Hey Arthur,” Merlin breathes with an echoing grin.

Arthur’s smile grows bigger as he reaches towards Merlin, and Merlin’s heart thuds in his chest. Is he going in for a hug, maybe? They could get away with a hug. Then Arthur takes Merlin’s face in his hands, his fingers rubbing tenderly over Merlin’s cheekbones, and Merlin almost chokes in surprise as Arthur places a chaste kiss on his lips. Merlin closes his eyes, his heart swelling as he loses himself in the feeling of it. Arthur’s lips are dry and warm and his fingers feel searing hot as they brush delicately over Merlin’s wind-chilled face. He can taste the salty sweat from his efforts on the slope as Arthur’s lips linger against his, but Merlin doesn’t care. Then the moment is broken as photographers and camera crews hovering nearby spring into action, and they’re suddenly blinded by a sea of flashing lights, the photographers knowing that they’ve landed their picture of the day. Arthur Pendragon, Team GB gold medalist, kissing a man in celebration of his win!

“I did it!” Arthur says delightedly as he breaks the kiss, his hands still cupping Merlin’s face. Merlin thinks that his cheeks might fall off from the way he’s grinning so hard.

“You did,” he agrees, and then whispers to him, “You do realise what you’ve done, don’t you?”

Arthur kisses him again and pulls him into a hug. “I’ve let the world know who I love,” he says into Merlin’s ear, giving Merlin one more kiss before the BBC Sports reporter who’s been hovering nearby hesitantly interrupts them.

“Arthur, I’m sorry, I hate to interrupt, but would you be able to take a few minutes to talk to us at the BBC?” asks the presenter.

Arthur looks at Merlin, who smirks back at him and raises an eyebrow. “Go on then. Your admiring public awaits,” he mocks, before his voice grows softer. “I’ll see you later, yeah?” Arthur nods and squeezes his hand before he turns to the presenter for an interview.

“Of course, John,” Merlin hears Arthur say smoothly. Merlin stifles a smile at this sudden shift to his ‘professional’ voice. Arthur is quite used to post-race interviews now, having won a medal in the last Olympic games. Plus, you know, he’s Arthur. Merlin’s pretty sure he was just born that way.

Merlin hangs around for a few more moments, long enough to watch Arthur turning on the charm for the camera, before turning and making his way through the crowd. He grins yet again as he hears the interviewer ask: “So Arthur, how does it feel to bring home the first gold medal—in fact, also the first Olympic medal of the games so far—for Team GB?”

~

That night they lie together on Arthur’s bed. Merlin is on his stomach facing the foot of the bed, a grin plastered on his face as he watches the highlights from Arthur’s race for the fifth or sixth time—he’s lost count. Arthur is lying at the head of the bed texting someone on his phone. There’s been an almost constant stream of calls and texts since they got back to the hotel and got a decent phone signal. Merlin has had to field a few awkward phone calls and WhatsApp chats himself, one of which had featured a screeching Hunith demanding to know why she hadn’t been informed that he now had a boyfriend, who just happened to be Arthur Pendragon.

Now things are quiet and calm, however, and Merlin is the perfect mindspace for his own competition tomorrow. As he thinks about the next day, he absent-mindedly starts to hum his routine music under his breath again, until Arthur’s foot taps him on the shoulder.

Merlin turns to look at him. “How’s everyone taking it?” he asks.

Arthur snorts. “Well, my father wants to know when you’re going to come over for dinner. Morgana is unbearably smug, and Morgause only said she wants to tear my balls off, as opposed to saying she’s going to tear them off, so that’s better than expected.”

Merlin grins as he hits Arthur’s legs. He’s still a bit giddy about the way things unfolded today. He’d been prepared for Arthur to win the gold. He was sure that Arthur was good enough to. But he’d never expected Arthur to acknowledge them in such a public manner, let alone kiss him in front of what amounted to the entire world. Merlin had been glad to get straight back to the hotel and into their room before the news spread at Team GB house. “I still can’t believe you did that, you prat.”

Arthur laughs. “You loved it really. You’re a hopeless romantic.”

“Oi! I am not!” Merlin says, hiding his grin in his shoulder. “I’m just big on sharing my feelings, that’s all.”

Arthur’s eyes and face grow serious. “You really are, Merlin. And you deserve someone who will openly acknowledge that they love you. I didn’t want to sneak around any longer, like you were some dirty little secret that I was ashamed of. You deserve so much better than that. I said when I won gold I would do it, and so I did.”

Merlin blows out a breath. He’s happy for Arthur, he really is. But he hopes that this isn’t a spur of the moment decision that he’ll come to regret later. After all, there’s no putting the cat back in the bag.

Merlin had never really known what it was like to be in the closet. He hadn’t exactly advertised that he was gay at school—he didn’t have a death wish, nor did he wish to be beaten up every day—but he hadn’t denied it when people confronted him about it. He had been quite young when he’d asked his mum why he liked boys when Will liked girls, so while he hadn’t realised what it meant at such a young age, it was just the way he’d always been. That wasn’t to say that he hadn’t had some struggles, or gotten into trouble for being gay. But the fights had been minimal, limited to a bit of rough-housing and shoving, the occasional name-calling, and he hadn’t felt too traumatised by it. He had been lucky, as he always had his mum to rely on when things got to be overwhelming. But he worries that this might all be a bit much for Arthur, given his level of fame. He’s pretty sure the internet is going to go crazy, and much as Arthur likes to pretend that he’s indifferent, Merlin knows that he can be surprisingly sensitive, deep down.

Still, what’s done is done, and all Merlin can do now is support him however he can.

When he looks over at Arthur again, Arthur is shuffling down the bed a bit with a mischievous look in his eyes.

“Last night,” he begins, “you made sure that I was super-relaxed so that I could get a fantastic night’s sleep before the races.” He cups his hand over Merlin’s flaccid cock through the thin material of his pyjamas. Merlin starts to scrabble to get up, but Arthur presses a hand to his chest and pushes him back down. “Tonight, it’s my turn. Let me take care of you.”

Merlin’s cock twitches at Arthur’s words, and he sucks in a breath, lying back to let Arthur continue with his ministrations. Arthur straddles him backwards and tugs Merlin’s pyjamas down to his knees, freeing his erection. It’s interesting being like this, just laying back and letting Arthur do what he wants. It feels a bit strange and altogether different. From this angle, Merlin can’t see anything other than Arthur’s strong, muscular back and the curve of his arse, the ripple of muscles under his t-shirt as he leans forward to grasp Merlin’s cock. He lets his head fall back and his breath catches in his throat. God, Arthur has good ideas. Wonderful ideas. They’ve tried out a lot of positions so far in the two weeks they’ve been together, but they haven’t tried this yet. Clearly that was a grievous oversight.

Merlin closes his eyes and focuses on deep, even breaths as Arthur’s hand starts to slide up and down his cock. Warmth starts to pool in his gut, his heart racing. Then he jumps a little as he feels the wet heat of Arthur’s mouth close around the head of his cock.

“Oh, yeah,” Merlin moans, only a little breathless.

Arthur’s clever mouth moves further down, and it feels a bit strange to have his tongue curling around the top of Merlin’s cock, rather the cupping the bottom of it. But it’s an amazing kind of strange. Then Arthur begins to suck firmly, making Merlin keen and grip Arthur’s hips in front of him. As he does, he opens his eyes a sliver and groans at the sight of Arthur’s arse so close to his face, the fabric of his boxer-briefs all that separates Merlin from that glorious, golden skin. To think, that first time he’d seen that arse, Merlin had thought that he’d never have the chance to get up close and personal with it! That was before he’d known for certain that Arthur was gay and interested in him, and things had been a bit of a whirlwind from there. Now Arthur, along with his delectable arse, is right here in front of him. So close that he can touch him, yet still not quite close enough for Merlin’s liking.

He hooks his fingers into the top of Arthur’s underwear and tugs it to down to Arthur’s knees, exposing all that lovely pale skin, and the strong, thick thighs that Merlin loves. He groans as he strokes his fingers over Arthur’s round, toned buttocks, and Arthur does this incredible thing with his tongue as he runs it underneath Merlin’s foreskin. It’s no use. He knows that Arthur wanted him to lie back and enjoy it while he got him off, but how can he say no to this? He pulls insistently at Arthur’s hips to jerk him backwards, helping guide his legs either side of Merlin’s head, so that now Arthur’s on all fours right above his face. Merlin can’t help the grin that spreads across his face. Let’s see how well Arthur can suck cock whilst he’s getting rimmed.

Merlin crooks his head up a bit and licks a single stroke across Arthur’s arsehole, feeling Arthur shudder above him. Arthur falters in his rhythm as he groans, sending vibrations down the length of Merlin’s cock. Merlin’s breath hitches, but he grins as he places a kiss to Arthur’s hole, which causes Arthur to chuckle around his length. Then Merlin decides to become more serious and uses just the tip of his tongue to circle around Arthur’s hole, over and over, as his hands massage Arthur’s buttocks and hold them apart. Arthur’s answering moan reverberates again along his length, and it triggers a helpless reaction in Merlin as he bucks his hips up into Arthur’s mouth. Breathless, Merlin stabs his tongue into Arthur’s hole, wanting to really give him something to moan about. He waggles it inside as best he can and causes Arthur to gasp around him, before he pulls off of Merlin’s cock and curses. Merlin rejoices internally: he’s won this round.

He continues to stab at Arthur’s hole, feeling it flutter and quiver around his tongue, and then seals his lips around it to suck.

“Oh, shit—fuck, Merlin!”

“Mmm,” Merlin hums against Arthur’s hole in response. He licks, sucks and nibbles at him, causing Arthur to whimper and writhe as he leans forward, and Merlin feels his thighs tense around his head as Arthur digs his fingers into the sheets.

“Uh- God. Merlin! How am I supposed to focus on making you feel good when you’re doing that?” Arthur says, his voice deliciously husky from sucking cock.

Merlin pulls away from his arse and smirks—not that Arthur can see it. “Just do it, you clotpole. But I bet I’ll make you come before me,” he says, issuing a challenge he knows Arthur will be unable to resist.

Arthur growls and slaps the side of Merlin’s arse, then takes him all the way down in one go. Right to the root. It makes Merlin throw his head back, his concentration shattering. Shit. Does it really matter if he comes first? No, he can’t let Arthur—Oh, fuck. His thoughts derail again, and he almost chokes on his own spit as Arthur works his throat around the head of his cock, swallowing and releasing, then swallowing again.

Merlin feels Arthur shifting on his hands and knees, gripping Merlin’s hips as he rolls them over onto their sides, and then he really starts to go to town, licking and sucking Merlin’s cock like it’s some kind of lollipop. Merlin feels his eyes rolling into the back of his head. Shit, Arthur is so good at this. He just wants to sit back and enjoy it, but he can’t. Then Arthur will win, and Merlin can’t let him get away with that; he’d crow about it for the rest of the night. He licks and sucks his own fingers in his mouth, until they’re dripping wet. Then he rubs his nose all the way along Arthur’s erection before taking the head in his mouth and flicking his tongue against the slit.

He feels Arthur gasp, his breath hot against Merlin’s cock as he helplessly mouths at it. Good, thinks Merlin as he reaches his fingers behind Arthur’s balls and rubs teasingly along his taint, earning a choked off moan. He picks his timing well, and moves his head to swallow Arthur down to the base just as he slides a finger into his hole. Arthur lets out a strangled cry. He bucks and rolls his hips forwards, choking Merlin as he pumps himself in and out. Merlin pushes his middle finger in alongside the other one, and then he crooks them, searching for Arthur’s prostate. He knows he’s found it when Arthur cries out again, and presses more firmly, until Arthur trembles as he comes with a loud cry and floods Merlin’s mouth with his warm, salty release. Merlin swallows it down eagerly. He’s always loved giving head. As he pulls off, he wipes his mouth, licking his lips.

“Guess I won,” he croaks, his throat raw.

“Mm, shut up Merlin,” Arthur drawls, his fingers wrapping around Merlin’s cock. “Always so fucking competitive.”

He tugs on Merlin’s cock and Merlin hums contentedly. He could live here in this sweet spot between desire and need, spread out next to Arthur. He glances down and watches as Arthur’s mouth opens and engulfs him upside down. He’s about to giggle at how funny looking it is, but then Arthur swirls his tongue around the head of his cock and sucks him, and Merlin gasps. He wishes that Arthur’s head were closer so that he could grip his hair and fuck into his perfect, soft mouth. As it is, on his side like this, all he can do is rock his hips in time with Arthur’s lips sliding up and down. It feels great, but suddenly it’s not enough. He’s drifted past the point of contentment he was experiencing earlier, and into the realm of desperation. Arthur rolls them over again, groping at the nightstand. He knocks the lamp and several other things off it before pulling off of Merlin’s dick with a pop. Merlin hears the click of a tube being opened, then the soft squish of lube rubbed by fingers. He holds his breath as he waits to see what’s going to happen next.

The little huffs and grunts along with small squelchy noises clue him in. Arthur’s prepping himself. Merlin lifts his head and slides his own hand down between them to wank himself to the image it makes. God. Arthur’s back and shoulders as he’s fingering himself, the muscles rippling as they tense and relax—it’s mesmerising and hot in equal measures.

“Nnngh, Arthur!”

“Shh, Merlin. Stop wanking and get us a condom.”

Merlin reaches out with his left hand and wills his magic to open the drawer, pulling a handful of condoms towards them. They scatter over the bed. Arthur rips one open and rolls it down onto Merlin’s aching length with his mouth. Shit. Merlin hisses at the unexpectedness of it, his back arching. He didn’t know that people could actually do that; it’s the kind of thing he thought only ever happened on pornos. And it’s so fucking hot, Merlin fights not to come there and then. He hums approvingly when Arthur rubs his lubed hand up and down his dick to adjust the condom. Then Arthur holds Merlin steady as he positions his hole over Merlin’s cock.

Merlin has to squeeze his eyes shut and bite his lip to keep his magic in check as Arthur’s heat swallows him up, inch by inch, until he’s fully seated. Then Merlin digs his heels into the mattress and starts to buck up into Arthur, thrusting hard.

“Uh, fuck. Merlin.”

“Mm, you like that don’t you?” Merlin finds himself asking. “You like it when you ride my cock like this, and I drill into you. Deeper, deeper and deeper.”

Arthur cries out in response as Merlin punctuates each of his words with a sharp thrust of his hips, hitting just the right spot inside him.

“Imagine this being your victory parade, sitting on my cock for everyone to see you on an open top bus. I think I’d like that, showing everyone how much of a whore you are for cock. But they can’t have you. It’s just for show, because you’re mine. Mine, mine, mine.” He drives into Arthur with ever more force and effort, his magic building and building, slipping out of his control until it crests and rides out his orgasm as Arthur rides his cock.

Merlin falls back on the bed and the bed falls back to the floor with a thud, mirroring the first time that they fucked. Arthur is groaning, working his hand fast on his cock until he’s coming again with a sharp gasp, and his muscles clenching around Merlin.

“Arthur!” he whines as he pushes him off. That much pressure is hell against his sensitive cock.

Arthur wipes his hand on the duvet and then falls down next to him, saying nothing. Shit. Merlin can feel his face heat with embarrassment. Fuck, that was way too much. Especially since Merlin knows how much Arthur had feared coming out. He’s barely out of the closet, and it’s obvious that he’s worried about what people are going to think. It’s hardly the time for Merlin to start airing his most exhibitionist fantasies. He doesn’t know where the words came from, only that he couldn’t help them from spilling out his mouth as his baser instincts took over. He should probably apologise.

“Um, sorry if that was all a bit much,” Merlin offers lamely.

Arthur curls into Merlin’s side and kisses the corner of his mouth.

“S’okay.” Merlin can feel Arthur smile against his cheek. “I actually think I kind of liked it. Being yours.”

Merlin glances over at Arthur in surprise and realises he’s blushing a beautiful shade of pink. God, he just wants to lie here forever with this wonderful man by his side, so amazing and perfect for him.

Arthur looks away self-consciously, twisting towards the nightstand to reach for his phone. He checks the time. “Let’s get some sleep. Big day in the morning.”

*

Arthur slouches into the booth of the coffee house. He’s hoping that he hasn’t drawn any attention to himself, especially as he’d made sure to choose a coffee place in the Olympic Village that was as far away from the Team GB house as possible. He’d snuck out with Merlin early in the morning in order to escape any media attention, and so that Merlin could start to prepare for his competition today.

Arthur’s wearing a beanie hat pulled low over his brow and sunglasses, as well as Merlin’s coat, which is a little snug on him, even though it almost hangs off Merlin. Not that Merlin is skinny; he’s actually deceptively strong, with muscles in all the right places. But where he is slim and well-defined, Arthur is stocky and broad-shouldered, so the coat isn’t exactly a perfect fit.

As Arthur waits for Gwaine to arrive, he drums this fingers on the table. He’s taken special care not to wear anything at all that would mark him out being an Olympian, let alone his country colours. They were lucky enough to get out this morning without being caught, but Arthur knows it only a matter of time before he gets tracked down by the British media.

He glances at the time on his phone to check the time. Gwaine’s late. Not that that’s a big surprise. Arthur goes over to the counter and orders what he hopes is coffee and some kind of breakfast sandwich, then takes it back to the booth. He starts playing a game on his phone and sighs as he gets a message from Morgause. She wants him to do a news conference, in return for the press leaving him alone. He texts her back saying he will give a paper an exclusive interview, but he doesn’t want a press conference. He knows that he’s the one who has the power here, no matter how scary Morgause tends to be.

“Hey,” comes Gwaine’s voice, as he drops down into the booth. “Did you have to make this so early? Our event is over and some of us were up late last night having our own personal celebrations.”

Arthur lips curve into a sneering smile. “Oh, yes. What’s the condom update now?”

Gwaine leans back in his seat, his arms folded behind his head. “Nineteen, mate. I’m over halfway there. What’s yours? And just so you know, any you use on your own cock whilst you wank don’t count. So that’s probably all yours discounted there.”

“Haha Gwaine, very funny. My count is...” Arthur pauses. He thinks back and tries to count up all the times that he and Merlin have used a condom. It’s not as high as it could be, because they also like blow jobs and hand jobs when they need to be quick, and sometimes even when they don’t. He reckons that it has to be at least twenty-three condoms, but he doesn’t know for certain. Is he really going to sink to bragging to Gwaine about his sexual exploits? Yes, Arthur decides, he is. Gwaine is always so full of himself and ready to boast about his conquests. Arthur just can’t resist one-upping him. “Hmm, God. It’s got to be at least twenty-three. But to be honest it’s difficult to keep track of it all. And if you add all the times we didn’t need to use a condom, well. It’s quite a bit higher.”

Gwaine raises an eyebrow and leans in closer. “Bullshit,” he says with a grin. “There’s not a girl out there who wants sex that often. Well, except for a few…” He pauses to grimace as if he’s remembering something. “...choice ones. Then there’s also the fact that you’re not one to sleep around. I call you on it, Princess. There’s no fecking way.”

Arthur smirks knowingly at him. “Didn’t watch the final did you?”

“Nah, mate. Congrats on the gold though. Since I flaked out big time in the heats, I decided to try and pull that hot Curling guy on our team. You know the one, really big and tall. Have you seen his arms? I mean, it’s been a while since I’ve been with a guy, but damn.”

Arthur raises an eyebrow at how easily Gwaine admits to being with a guy. He envies him, but only a little. After all, Gwaine hasn’t got Merlin.

He gets his phone from his pocket and pulls up the picture that’s been circulating in the media since the final. He smiles as he passes the phone to Gwaine, who stares at it for a moment before using his fingers to zoom in. He waits anxiously for Gwaine’s reaction. This is the first time he’s openly outed himself to someone who wasn’t family.

“Holy fuck!” he exclaims, glancing up at Arthur and then back at the picture again. Arthur feels his stomach churn a little, is that a good ‘holy fuck’ or a bad one? He can’t tell. “This is really you?”

Arthur nods. “Yes, and keep it down will you?” He may have finally come out, but that doesn’t mean he wants to draw unnecessary attention to himself.

Gwaine leers at him. “Is that your room-mate? The figure skater?”

“Gwaine...” says Arthur warningly.

Gwaine swipes his coffee and drains it. “Next time, add more sugar.” Then he sits back again, a smug grin on his face. Arthur is relieved. He lets out a breathe he didn’t even realise he was holding. Gwaine seems to have taken the news completely in his stride. “So, you and the twirly boy then? How did that happen?”

“Fuck off, Gwaine.” Gwaine cackles and does something with Arthur’s phone. Arthur tries to snatch it back, but it’s too late, and Gwaine pushes him away as he finishes typing one handed. “Oi, what are you doing? Gwaine, give me my phone back!”

When Arthur finally wrestles his phone back from his friend, using a well placed knee to the balls, Gwaine is laughing at his own prank. Arthur checks through his phone to see what he’s done. Apparently he had sent a text to Merlin, detailing some of the dirty, dirty things that ‘Arthur’ wants to do to him.

God. Gwaine is a sick, sick man. But… Arthur tilts his head as he thinks about a few of the things Gwaine has typed. He pockets his phone, but not after sending a message to let Merlin know that the previous ones were sent by Gwaine. He’s still debating whether or not to add another text later suggesting that they try at least one of the things that Gwaine texted.

“So, we gonna go watch your wonderboy skate or what?” Gwaine asks Arthur, as he waggles his eyebrows.

Arthur throws the empty cup at him.

~

The atmosphere at the stadium is electric. Merlin has competed in front of some fairly big crowds before, but this is insane, and part of him wonders how the hell he’s supposed to cope with all the people. He pushes the thought from his mind, though, and runs through a few meditation exercises that Gaius had him learn to help calm himself. He wills himself to think peaceful and calming thoughts, like how good and right it feels when he falls asleep in Arthur’s arms. That’s the kind of contentment he wants to channel; that feeling where everything is perfect, and there’s not a single thing wrong in the world.

He knows that his routine is ambitious, but if he can just pull it off, he has a chance of medalling. In the past, people have said that watching him was like magic, which had made Gaius raise a bushy eyebrow at him and ask sternly if he was using his gift to cheat. But he never had. Sure, his magic hummed with contentment when he was on the ice. But it had never assisted him with skating (well, he might have cushioned a few falls on occasion. But if it saved him from a major injury he counted that as fair game).

Backstage was a flurry of activity, with other skaters stretching, rehearsing and talking. Merlin can feel the pointed gazes of a few people looking at him. Obviously they’ve heard about yesterday’s moment on the slopes and are showing their disapproval. Merlin pushes down the urge to react. The last thing he needs is to pick a fight at the Olympics. He’s waited way too long for this. He’s worked too hard. And he knows they’re not worth it anyway. So he ignores them, opting only to speak to the people who are nice and respectful toward him. Over the years, Merlin has grown used to ignoring the people who snub him or act awkwardly around him when they find out he’s gay. It’s sad that it’s still an issue, and he can’t wait for the day when it’s not, when people don’t have to announce to the world that they’re gay when really, it’s no one else’s business. But today is not that day. He pushes the scorn and spiteful glances from his mind and tries to focus on the competition ahead.

His skates are perfectly sharpened, and he has… Merlin looks up at the electronic clock in the waiting area. He has about forty-five minutes until his performance time. He wrings his fingers and tries to take some deep and calming breaths.

“Nervous?” Gaius asks, sitting down next to him. Merlin nods. He isn’t usually, but the frosty atmosphere has shaken him a little, despite his best efforts. Gaius claps his shoulder affectionately. “Don’t be. You are the best technical skater I’ve ever seen, Merlin, and your artistic performance has really grown spectacularly in the last five years. Have faith in yourself. You can do this. I know that you can.”

Merlin smiles at him weakly. “I know I’ve done the best I can to prepare, Gaius. But that doesn’t mean a thing if I mess things up on the ice.” God, it’s almost unimaginable to Merlin, to make it here and be able to compete, only to throw it all away over a silly mistake. And yet, he can’t help but worry about it.

“Well, if you do, just adapt. You’re a natural at knowing what makes for an interesting and appealing performance—your choreography talents exceeded mine long ago, and you know how the judges score things. Change your routine and go for the points.” Gaius smiles kindly at him, and Merlin can feel himself starting relax at his words. Gaius has a point. He’s messed up before in competitions, and it’s not been the end of it. He needs to stop doubting himself. “I’m just here to make sure you believe in yourself, Merlin. That and because you can’t bear to let an old man go.”

Merlin looks at Gaius in surprise. “You’re much more than that, Gaius! You’ve been like a father to me for so long. You know that there’s no one else I’d rather have coaching me.”

“Well, let’s see how you get on today. I fear after this, you’ll have no choice but to move on to a better coach. But with my blessing, my boy.” Gaius smiles at him proudly and pats his hand. “Now go and warm up, you’ll be called to get ready soon.”

~

Merlin paces back and forth, his bag sitting on the bench next to Gaius.

“Find your centre, Merlin. Think about what makes you happy and go to that place. The place where you’re truly content,” says Gaius.

Merlin can’t help but grimace. He needs Gaius to stop talking. Immediately. Being with Arthur is what makes him happy and content, especially after they’ve just had sex, but he doesn’t need to hear those thoughts with Gaius’ voice. He shudders. God, no.

Merlin closes his eyes and breathes in through his nose, then exhales noisily through his mouth. He can do this. He’s a professional. He’s always been able to be calm and collected before. He’s dealt with arseholes trying to put him off before, too. He doesn’t know why this is so different. Why is it so difficult to be calm and focused? Is it just because this is the Olympics? Possibly. Merlin just knows that he wants to do well. He wants to go home with his head held high, especially after yesterday. He wants to show the world exactly what he can do.

Since Arthur’s PDA the day before, Merlin can’t help but feel as though there are going to be thousands more eyes on him than there would have been otherwise, all wanting to see how Arthur Pendragon’s boyfriend is going to do. The pressure he feels has ratcheted up another notch. Before now he was just a new skater for Team GB, and while some people might have been interested in his performance given that he’d done well in the World Championships, most people wouldn’t have really cared either way. At least until he’d gone out and skated, and hopefully medalled.

His phone beeps. He pulls it out and spots the text straight away on the screen.

Arthur Pratdragon

Today 10:36 AM
Arthur Pratdragon: I’ll be watching you. You got this.

Merlin’s face breaks out into a huge grin, and all of a sudden, the pressure he feels is lifted. He can do this. He really, really can.

~

‘And now… skating for Great Britain, Merlin Emrys.’

Merlin is frozen in his starting pose, his arm held in front of his body. He closes his eyes and breathes deeply, counting the beats as his music begins, waiting for his cue to start. As the tempo quickens, he extends his arms and begins his step sequence, slowly gliding backwards over the ice. He doesn’t even picture his moves as he goes through his routine—he just does it. He pulls his arms in to start a fast spin and uses his toe-pick to launch himself, pulling his arms and legs in tight and rotating, rotating, rotating, rotating. He executes the quad lutz flawlessly, and his heart, along with his magic, soars.

Merlin has always wanted to skate, and he’s dreamed of skating here at the Olympics since he was a boy. He wasn’t even born when Torvill and Dean won their gold for Bolero, but ever since he’d seen it on TV, he’s wanted that for himself. He is one with the ice, magic bubbling and zinging through his veins, in a way he’s never experienced on dry ground (until Arthur, his mind whispers to him).

He takes off from his left back inside edge, and brings his arms in tightly around his chest. The quad salchow goes off without a hitch, with such ease he could be out for a casual stroll. As he skates around the rink, gathering speed, he takes a deep breath and steels himself. He needs these next two jumps to be perfect if he wants even a chance of winning a medal. He manages the next two elements without a problem—a quad flip, triple toe and a quad toe—except for a little bit of wobbling when he lands the last jump. Then it’s time for the fourth element, his most difficult move, one dreaded by many skaters but amazing if executed well: a triple axel, triple toe, finishing with a triple loop. As he prepares himself for the jumps, Merlin briefly reflects that it was probably a bit insane to even attempt it. But it’s too late for that now.

He takes off on his forward left, outside edge, and starts to rotate. It’s as if time stands still, his heart thudding furiously in his chest as his magic swirls and dances around him. He counts: half, one, two, three, and then he lands. The crowd explodes, but it’s all muted to Merlin’s ears, like an old out-of-tune radio.

He spins into the triple toe to another gasp from the crowd, and when he manages to land the triple loop as well, the spectators jump to their feet, whistling and clapping like mad. Merlin allows himself a small smile and as he continues his step sequence. It feels as if he’s not actually there performing; it’s as if he’s floating high in the sky over himself like a dream. A quad axel is his next element, and Merlin twirls above the ice like a child’s spinning top.

He finishes with a camel spin as the music winds down, and as Merlin stills and the music fades, the crowd are on their feet again. This time, he can acknowledge them, and he beams so brightly that he can feel his eyes crinkle, ducking his head shyly into a kind of bow.

As Merlin comes off the ice, Gaius pats him excitedly on the back. “Well done, my boy! Well done!”

They’re directed over to a bench in front of the camera, and Merlin grins, a little dazed, as he sits down with Gaius to wait for his score. Gaius elbows Merlin and he smiles awkwardly at the camera as he does a little wave. Finally, the score appears on the screen: 109.68. Merlin’s jaw drops, and for a moment he forgets how to breathe. That’s incredible. The highest score so far for the competition.

He and Gaius watch the rest of the competition from the back rooms, but as the event winds down, it becomes apparent that no one else is going to touch Merlin’s score today. Merlin stares down at his phone as it starts to blow up with messages. He’s already spoken with his mother, who had squealed down the line at him, and with Arthur, who had been watching with Gwaine in the stands. Arthur is thrilled for him, as are Merlin’s other friends, including Gwen, who have been messaging him throughout the competition.

As the last score is called, the room, which has slowly filled with the other Team GB figure skaters (but sadly no Arthur) erupts in a huge cheer. Merlin finds himself being crushed in a big group hug, the air literally squeezed from his lungs. Gwen is at the centre of it, and she pulls him down to kiss his cheek

“I knew it, Merlin! I just knew it from the moment you started your routine. You did it!” she screams.

Merlin winces and rubs at his ear, and it feels just like old times. He’s so happy he and Gwen have started to patch things up again. They’re both busier now than before, what with Lancelot and Arthur, but they’re back to texting each other and giggling over silly memes. It’s nice to be getting back to normal. And before too much longer he’s being extracted from his group of friends and being lead off for the medals ceremony, waving to Gwen who’s beaming at him, and the fact that they’re friends once again makes his impending gold medal even better.

~

Merlin is standing just off stage near the medal podium, dressed in his Team GB tracksuit, coat and hat (the hat helps make him feel more secure). The other medalists—Yuzuru Hanyu, who he’s met once before at the World Championships, and Javier Fernández, who has always had an encouraging word for up-and-coming skaters such as Merlin—are standing beside him, and Merlin thinks he might have to pinch himself. He can’t believe that this is actually happening; that he’s standing here next to these two men who are superstars in their own right in the skating world.

Merlin is excited and nervous at the same time, and he’s slightly worried that if the wait goes on for much longer, he’ll be sick. Just when he’s entertaining the thought of fleeing and hiding away in his room forever, the organisers prompt Merlin and his fellow skaters to walk out onto the podiums. Merlin waves anxiously at the camera as he passes it, following the Yuzuru Hanyu (he really does pinch the back of his hand then, to make sure that it’s actually true) as they make their way to the podium and line up.

Merlin swallows his nerves as they stand waiting and his eyes scan the faces in the stadium, hoping he might see Arthur, but the audience is too far away for him to identify individual faces. As the officials approach with the medals, Merlin finds himself trembling uncontrollably and he lets out a shaky breath. Never in all his time of figure skating has he allowed himself to visualise this moment, to think about how it would feel to be here on the podium. And now, here he is. Merlin’s hands are shaking as he leans forward and they put the medal put around his neck. All he can think about is how heavy it weighs there, and when he feels it tentatively, it’s cold to his touch. He looks down at it, his fingers tracing the imprinted words and logo. He’s still not sure that it can possible be real—that this medal is actually his. Suddenly all those years of practising, failing and falling seem worth it, when he can have this.

He turns to watch as the Union Flag is raised and God Save the Queen sounds throughout the stadium. Overcome with emotion, he feels his breath catch painfully in his chest and there’s a lump in his throat. A few stray tears fall from his eyes. He’s worked so hard for this, sacrificed so much. He had hoped for a medal, but he hadn’t ever allowed himself to dream of gold. As he wipes the tears away with his sleeve, he gives Gaius, who is standing nearby, a wobbly smile and raises his arms into the air. The crowd is cheering.

They’re cheering for him, Merlin realises. He laughs a little with the euphoria of it. As the music fades, Merlin is pulled into poses for the world’s press, all calling for him to look at them: “Merlin!” “Merlin, here!” “Merlin!”. It’s overwhelming, and yet, somehow it’s as though he’s not even there as he hugs the other skaters and drapes himself in a Union flag, smiling at the camera all the while. By the time Merlin walks off, he’s dazed by it all and his vision is filled with spots of light from the all flashes.

Oh god, wait until he gets to show Arthur. He won. He actually won!

*

The next day, the headlines of all the UK papers are insane. DOUBLE GOLD GLORY FOR TEAM GB’s FIRST SAME-SEX COUPLE! proclaims the Guardian. GAYING FOR GOLD is The Sun’s headline, which Merlin angrily rolls his eyes at, but it’s nothing he didn’t expect from such a rag. Meanwhile, The Daily Mail seems determined to skip over he and Arthur being a couple altogether in both their headline and their article: TEAM GB’s PENDRAGON AND EMRYS BRING HOME GOLD. If it weren’t The Daily Mail, Merlin would have been quite pleased with that, not having had his achievement pushed aside to highlight the fact that he’s dating a man. But it is, and he knows it’s because they’d rather pretend that they’re not even together.

Merlin and Arthur have been holed up together in their room ever since the night before, when they’d both gotten merrily drunk at the victory party celebrating their respective golds. They might have been caught making out in the hallways more than a few times—one time resulting in a blazing row where Gwen had defended them after someone called them a pair of fucking queers.

“How many gold medals have you won, you homophobic arsehole!?” she had demanded angrily at top volume. “Go the fuck away!”

The person responsible for the slur had been promptly thrown out of the party, and Arthur was sure Gwen was already in the process of ensuring that they would never get to be part of Team GB ever again.

Gwen and Lancelot had come by at midday with breakfast/lunch for them, having pushed their way through the media waiting outside, and Gwaine had stopped in earlier with printed out copies of the UK papers that had not long been published online. Arthur was sure Gwaine had been ready to crow about his night with Percival, the Curler, until he noticed their joint state of dishevelment, and his eyes had flicked down to Arthur’s stomach where there were traces of dried cum from the night before. Arthur flushed with embarrassment and hurried to pull on a shirt.

“Jesus Christ, you really weren’t kidding about the condoms. You’re a lucky man, Pendragon,” he said, shaking his head as he made his departure. “I’ve got to get things moving with Perce.”

After an enjoyable shower together, wherein Arthur had thoroughly explored every inch of Merlin’s body as he soaped him clean, they finally got around to eating the food, and now they’re settled down on Merlin’s bed doing not much of anything, basking in their hard-won glory.

Arthur watches Merlin, admiring his beautiful profile in the electronic glow of his tablet. He has already checked his own email, and there are two epically long emails from Morgana and Morgause that he needs to reply to, but he studies Merlin for a few moments longer, admiring his smooth, milky skin and straight nose, the sharp cheekbones that sweep across his face, and his full plush lips, all framed with dark, ever-so-slightly curly, hair. The overall effect is enchanting. He feels so lucky to be with this man, that he gave him a chance after their initial altercation and that their attraction was mutual. Neither of them have said the ‘L’ word yet, at least not properly. But Arthur knows that’s what he’s feeling, and he knows that Merlin feels it too.

He’s startled from his reverie by Merlin’s phone beeping.

“Oh, fucking hell!” he exclaims, reading the message.

“What?” asks Arthur, scrambling over the bed to see his phone.

Will is the best

Yesterday 08:15 PM
Will: OMFG. WHAT DID I JUST SEE MERLS?

Will: Was that you kissing Arthur Pendragon?

Will: How the fuck did that happen? Thought you said he was a tosser?

Merlin: :) Things change, Will. Got to know him and he’s actually quite nice.

Merlin: Plus have you seen his arse? Have pics, can share...

Will: Ew, Emrys. No thanks. K, going to bed now. Good luck tomorrow!

Today 01:47 PM
Will: AHAHAHA! MATE. YOU AND ARTHUR HAVE A HASHTAG! You’re trending, mate! LOL, I’m NEVER going to let you live this one down. #merthurmania

Arthur stares at the phone on horror. He’s not entirely sure what it means, but he doesn’t think that it can be anything good. “What the fuck? Mer-thur, I don’t..?” Merlin groans as he opens up Twitter on his tablet. Arthur watches over his shoulder curiously as he types. “What do they mean by Merthur?”

Merlin sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “It’s a portmanteau. Where people combine two words together to make one. In this case it’s names, Merlin and Arthur. Merthur. It’s like those all those celebrity couples; Brangelina? Kimye? Jedward?”

“Oh, fucking hell!” Arthur echoes Merlin.

“Yeah. Look, come on. Let’s see what the damage is.”

Merlin’s Twitter page loads and he scrolls down to United Kingdom trends, and sure enough, trending third after Team GB and Marr: Merthur.

“Click it,” Arthur says, as he settles down behind Merlin.

Neither of them are prepared for the onslaught of comments, pictures and GIFs. They flick through them, half the time boggled by what people are writing, the rest of the time falling over laughing.

One picture has them squinting and tilting the tablet.

“Oh my God!” exclaims Arthur, taking it from Merlin for a closer look. “Is that a picture of you doing… with my arse?!”

Merlin leers at Arthur. “Mm, yeah. It’s a good approximation, but they’ve obviously not been looking at your arse enough if they think that’s even close. They’ve done a nice job of my cock though. Even if I’ve no clue how we’d get in that position. There’s flexible and then there’s flexible.”

Arthur snorts as he looks at the picture. “I can’t believe there are people out there who are even thinking about us doing this, let alone drawing it and sharing for the world to see.” Merlin’s shoulders are shaking with silent laughter. “What?”

“Remind me to never let you lookup our hashtag on Tumblr.”

“Tumble-R?”

“You really don’t want to know.”

They scroll through a few dozen more pages, and Arthur is thankful yet again that he only has his Instagram account as his sole public representation. His other social media accounts are anonymous, not highlighted by a verified tick. Finally, Merlin throws the tablet down on the bed and flops down next to it with a dramatic sigh.

“Good God, they’re prolific.” Merlin groans in despair. “My mother’s going to see that stuff. Will will make sure of it.”

Looking down at him, Arthur grins. “No such worries for me!” he says gleefully, as his eyes scan Morgana’s email once more. “My father never touches social media. Oh God!” Arthur realises, his head snapping up. “Morgana will though!” He puts his laptop down and rubs the bridge of his nose. “She’s never going to stop teasing me about this. She and Will must never meet. Promise me.”

Merlin looks up at him with a delighted grin. “I have a feeling I’m going to love your sister.”

“Shut up, Merlin,” Arthur says, a little exasperated as he realises that it’s true. Merlin and Morgana will definitely get on well. Between them, they might just be the death of him.

~

Merlin lies on the bed with Arthur in comfortable silence. It’s really too early for a nap already, and Merlin’s not exactly tired, at least not physically. But it’s been a draining few days emotionally. So much has happened in the past 48 hours, it’s difficult to process it all. Hell, so much has happened to him in the past two weeks. Meeting Arthur. Falling for Arthur. Actually getting to have Arthur. Arthur’s gold. Arthur coming out the way he did. Merlin’s own gold. The media frenzy that followed all that… It makes his head spin to think about it.

“I can hear you thinking,” comes Arthur’s voice from beside him. He feels Arthur turn to spoon him. “And it’s way too loud.”

Arthur kisses his neck, and Merlin moves his head to allow him more access, sighing contentedly. Yes, this is good. This helps. Merlin closes his eyes and loses himself in the feeling of Arthur, solid and firm behind him as he lavishes Merlin’s neck with attention. It makes him shudder, moaning softly as he feels his cock stir and fill. God, this really shouldn’t be such a turn on, should it? Some neck kissing? Merlin feels his cheeks heat. Frankly, it’s a bit embarrassing, the fact that Arthur can get him so hot under the collar with so little. As Arthur presses himself closer to him, though, pushing Merlin further into the mattress, he can feel Arthur’s answering arousal against his arse. Merlin smiles. At least he’s not the only one being affected.

“Mm, definitely not thinking anymore,” he mutters, as Arthur gently ruts into the crease of his clothed arse. Shit, that’s somehow more exciting than feeling Arthur’s bare cock against his skin. He reaches back to grab Arthur’s hip and pulls him close against him so he can feel every inch and the exact shape of his cock, now pressing insistently against him.

“I know some more stuff we could do. Just to make sure. We can make sure that you won’t even be able to remember your name,” murmurs Arthur into his ear, before he takes the shell into his mouth and sucks and nibbles on it.

Merlin lets out a sharp gasp as a wave of arousal shimmers through him. His ears have always been sensitive. “God, yes,” he groans as he pushes back into Arthur’s thrusts.

Arthur rolls him onto his front and kisses his neck, shimmying down to tug at Merlin’s t-shirt. “Off,” he commands, and Merlin complies. With the barrier of the shirt out of the way, Arthur makes his way backwards down the bed, kissing each exposed inch of skin as he goes, including each arse cheek and down the back of Merlin’s legs as he pulls off his pyjamas and discards them on the floor.

There is quiet and a lack of touch for a few moments, and Merlin shivers from the chill of the room and the noticeable lack of warmth from Arthur. He listens for the tell-tale rustle of clothing, but there is none. What he does hear is the noise of Arthur slathering his fingers with lube. He trails a wet finger questioningly along the crease of Merlin’s arse.

“Maybe something like this will take your mind off things,” he teases.

Merlin starts to relax into the mattress, knowing what will happen next and how it’s a gateway to bliss.

“Please,” he breathes.

Arthur slides his slippery finger down until he reaches Merlin’s hole and slowly presses the tip of his finger inside. Merlin groans at the feel of it breaching him—uncomfortable, but also somehow pleasurable. Arthur’s grinning; Merlin knows he is without even looking at him. He pushes his finger in further until it’s all the way in, and Merlin exhales noisily. Within a few deep breaths, he’s forced himself to relax after the initial instinctive clenching against intrusion. It’s easy to do now after so many years of experience. Arthur moves his finger in and out before pushing in again slowly, this time with two fingers. Merlin feels a sharp slap to his arse, and it makes his skin tingle, sending a hot wave rolling up his spine.

“Why don’t you get up a bit? It’ll be easier.” suggests Arthur. He kisses the small of Merlin’s back and pulls him up onto all fours by his hips. Then his fingers plunge back in, and he’s right: it’s easier. Merlin moans softly when Arthur’s questing fingers find his prostate, brushing against it, his cock hanging heavy between his legs as Arthur starts an enthusiastic pace, pumping his fingers in and out, in and out. Occasionally, he will thrust his fingers in at an angle that makes Merlin gasp and tremble, pleasure and magic flooding through his veins. He doesn’t even realise when Arthur pushes in a third finger—he’s already so far gone just from this—and he whines when Arthur pulls out, clenching around nothing. He feels like he’s empty forever as he waits for Arthur to act, even though he knows that it’s really only for a few seconds at most.

“Arrrrthuuur, come on!” he calls, drawing out the word as he hears Arthur fumble with the nightstand drawer.

“All right. Just grabbing stuff.”

Merlin chuckles lazily. “You can call it a condom, it won’t bite you.” Arthur scowls at him as he steps out of his trousers, fisting himself a few times before he starts to roll the condom on. Merlin rolls his eyes. “Arthur. Just fuck me already. Come on.”

Arthur laughs at him, which should be ridiculous since he’s standing there naked with a condom on his erect cock, but it’s not. Arthur is gorgeous and hot and a frustrating prat all rolled up into one, and all Merlin can think about right now is how much he needs him inside him. Right now.

“Arthur, if you don’t fuck me right now, I’ll go get someone else to do it for you.”

“Touchy,” replies Arthur, running a hand down Merlin’s back as he walks casually behind him. “And bossy.”

Merlin sighs and hangs his head between his shoulders. He can feel Arthur climb onto the bed behind him, getting into position. Arthur presses the blunt head of his cock against Merlin’s hole, and Merlin arches his back approvingly, waiting for more.

“Arthur!” he says, his voice low and threatening.

Arthur strokes Merlin’s flank and then slowly, slowly, pushes in. Merlin moans happily as Arthur sinks in. Fuck, he loves doggy-style. It’s not as personal as being face-to-face, but they’re fucking, not making conversation. He loves how deeply his partner can fuck into him this way, and the feel of their weight pressing down on him. Arthur does it magnificently given the way he’s bulkier and stronger than Merlin.

Arthur presses his hands down next to Merlin’s, his wonderful, delicious chest flush to his back, and once he’s all the way in he pauses.

“Go on, you prat,” Merlin tells him, thrusting his hips backwards.

Arthur nips at his shoulder. “All right, you idiot.”

Arthur starts to roll his hips in a lazy, undulating fashion, which frustrates Merlin to no end. He needs Arthur to be faster, damn it. Merlin pushes back against him and tries to increase the pace, but Arthur won’t budge.

“Uh-uh. Patience, Merlin.”

“I have. Been fucking. Patient,” Merlin says, punctuating his words with a push of his hips back flush against Arthur’s. “It’s you. That’s being. A tease.”

Arthur presses his face into his neck. “I love it when you get all demanding and pushy,” he moans. “Tell me to fuck you. Command me to.”

Merlin breathes deeply, and something deep inside him starts to surge and bubble to the surface that feels a lot like his magic. When he goes to speak, his voice comes out harsh and guttural, and he tells Arthur to fucking move, to fuck him like he means it.

“Oh, shit!” Arthur breathes. “That… what did you say?

Arthur hips start to pound into Merlin hard over and over, the sound of skin slapping against skin making a backdrop for their harsh pants and low moans.

“Fuck me, Arthur!” Merlin calls out again, his voice sounding foreign to his own ears. He’s too far gone to think about it, but he’s not even sure it was English.

Arthur growls and bites his shoulder hard, causing Merlin to yelp in pain. His hips piston in and out as if of their own accord as he ruts with into Merlin with wild abandon. Merlin keens his approval, almost breathless.

“Yes, I will fuck you so hard,” snarls Arthur, “you’ll still be able to feel me next week.”

“Yes, yes!” agrees Merlin with a cry.

Arthur continues to drill into him as though he can’t stop, shoving Merlin forward with every sharp thrust, with a lack of control that he’s never had before.

“Oh, shit. God. Fuck. Fuck. Fuuuuck!” Merlin babbles as Arthur pounds into his prostate. Merlin wraps his hand around his cock and strokes it fervently, overwhelmed by the sensation. “Come for me,” he commands in his strange voice.

And Arthur's hips stutter and thrust, thrust, thrust, and he gasps out “Merlin!” as he comes. Merlin follows him a few tugs later with an “Arthur!” as he tumbles over the edge into orgasm. His magic follows with him as the window cracks, the bedside lamps shatter and the bed collapses underneath them.

“Oh fuck,” Merlin groans. “Not again.”

~

SIX MONTHS LATER

The sun streaks across the room, painting it in long broad stripes as it peeks into their flat from the kitchen window. It bathes parts the front room in golden light, but hasn’t quite reached the sofa where Arthur is lying sprawled out in his underwear watching Sunday Brunch.

Merlin turns the corner, towel in hand, in the middle of drying his hair. “Hey Arthur, have you seen my…?”

Arthur looks up at Merlin, his arm slung casually above his head, and Merlin is momentarily breathless. He’s still surprised and bewildered that he managed to end up with the gorgeous, beautiful man laid out in front of him. His skin is pale but golden, and his hair is bright and shines like the sun that is just starting to hit the arm of the sofa, illuminating it.

“Hmm?” Arthur asks, scratching at his chest.

God, that chest hair. Merlin loves running his fingers through it when they’re curled up together at night, ready to fall asleep. Even here, sprawled out on the sofa in nothing but his pants, Arthur is still the most attractive thing that Merlin’s ever seen.

“Never mind,” Merlin mumbles, dropping the towel on the nearby barstool and crossing over to the sofa to press a kiss to Arthur’s lips.

“Mmm, hello to you too,” Arthur says. He grins at Merlin, and God it makes his heart beat faster, his breath catching in his chest in a way that is all too familiar. Sometimes he doesn’t think Arthur realises just how wonderful he is. How he fits Merlin as if they were made for each other. As he studies Arthur’s face, he sees it soften, and Arthur reaches for him, pulling Merlin down on top of him by his hips as he kisses his lips. Merlin gives an indignant squawk but melts into him, leaning in for another kiss just as Arthur’s phone beeps at them from the coffee table.

“Arthur, no. Don’t look at it!” Merlin warns him.

“Merlin!” Arthur protests, glancing at the phone and then up at Merlin. Merlin knows what he must look like, his cheeks flushed and his eyes dark with the sudden surge of lust that’s gone straight to his cock, all from being pressed up against Arthur. “Fine. But it could be Morgana texting about the baby. If I miss out on an important message, I’ll let everyone know it’s because you’re an insatiable sex fiend.”

Merlin laughs against his cheek. “Your father already knows I’m an insatiable sex fiend, after that time at the mansion...”

“Oh God, Merlin.” Arthur groans, pressing his face to Merlin’s chest. “We agreed never to bring that up again.”

Merlin smiles, burying his face in Arthur’s hair as he says, “You agreed we’d never mention it again. I agreed to nothing of the sort.”

Arthur pulls away and tilts his head back to look up at him. “You infuriating little…"

Merlin just grins and bends his head down to kiss Arthur deeply. His hand sneaks under Arthur’s head to cradle it, burying itself in Arthur’s soft, golden hair. Merlin uses his other arm to steady himself for a moment, before wrapping it around Arthur’s side to stroke the warm skin there. Any thoughts of the phone are long forgotten.

Arthur hooks one leg around him, effectively trapping Merlin in place as he splays his hands possessively over Merlin’s arse. He grabs both cheeks, pulling Merlin down against his crotch to show him how hard he is. Merlin hisses into the kiss, feeling Arthur’s cock pressing insistently against him. Fuck.

He presses his forehead against Arthur’s and moves his hand from Arthur’s head to brace himself, rutting against Arthur’s hips as Arthur encourages him along by gripping and massaging his arse in equal measure. The way that Merlin tips and rolls his hips has them grinding their cocks together in a deliciously smooth slide, the material of their clothing providing just the right amount of friction. Arthur moans and raises his hand to spank him, delight showing clearly in his face at the little gasp that makes Merlin break their kiss.

“God, Arthur,” Merlin growls, his voice dipping down to that deep and guttural tone that they’ve never quite figured out, but which always drives Arthur crazy.

Arthur throws back his head with a gasp, the muscles in his neck straining. Merlin groans and fastens his lips to the tendons there, sucking on the spot in a way that makes Arthur buck himself upwards with his foot, fucking into Merlin’s undulating hips.

“Fuck, oh God,” he cries as Merlin sucks a bruise into his neck, marking him possessively as his magic swirls around them. Ever since Merlin has learned a spell which protects things from breaking, he’s let it have a free rein around Arthur, even if it does lead to seemingly unexplainable power surges in the area with alarming frequency. “Shit!” Arthur shivers as Merlin’s magic dances over him and Merlin can feel his the hairs on his skin start to rise in response to it, giving him goosebumps.

Merlin returns to kissing him, and they make out like they’re teenagers, desperate, messy and hot, as their tongues clash and battle for dominance. Merlin keeps moving his hips as Arthur pulls him against him, the heat between them building and building until Merlin comes with a gasp, his eyes flaring gold and bathing the room in light. As Merlin starts to come down, he smiles and smoothes his hands through Arthur’s hair.

“Come for me, love,” Merlin whispers, pressing his forehead against Arthur’s. He reaches his hand between them and rubs the heel of his hand along Arthur’s cock beneath the fabric, adding just a touch of magic that sends Arthur over the edge.

They collapse on top of each other as they pant and start to regain their breath. Merlin’s eyes idly flick over to the TV, where they’re tasting different kinds of cocktails on Sunday Brunch. Must be midday, he registers in the back of his mind, resting his head on Arthur’s chest with one hand wrapped loosely around his waist.

Arthur is trying to grab his phone, but can’t quite reach it. Merlin stretches out with his magic and wills it into Arthur’s hand.

“Thanks,” Arthur murmurs, pressing a kiss into Merlin’s hair. “Love you, you know.”

“Yeah, I know,” smiles Merlin, snuggling his cheek into Arthur’s chest and enjoying the way Arthur’s chest hair tickles his face. “Love you too, you clotpole.”

Arthur hmphs his disapproval at the nickname, swiping his phone open. It’s a text message from his father. Merlin cranes his neck to look at it.

Father

Today 11:36 AM
Father: Don’t forget, family dinner tonight at 6pm. Please bring Merlin.

“Father wants us over to dinner tonight,” Arthur tells him unnecessarily.

“Mmm,” hums Merlin. “That’s nice.”

“I’m glad that he accepts us,” says Arthur, after a long pause.

Merlin chuckles, thinking of all the interviews and chat shows they’ve done together since they got back from PyeongChang. “Would be kind of hard to deny us these days.”

“True,” Arthur replies.

It had been a bit overwhelming at first, being thrown in at the deep end like that. Initially it had caused more than a few fights between them, with Merlin not wanting to deal with the additional publicity and Arthur arguing that if they did the chatshows and a select few interviews, they’d be far more likely to be left alone.

But they were never the sort of arguments that would have split them up permanently, and the make-up sex is always good. Right now, they’re looking into ways that they can train together, rather than having to live apart for months at a time. The hashtag #merthur continues to trend whenever they make a public appearance together, and Gwaine delights in reading or messaging Arthur random snippets of RPF—Real Person Fiction, apparently. Arthur never knew that was even a thing—from some place called ‘AO3’ where apparently there lots of stories all about him and Merlin. They’ve both made a solemn vow never to go there. The only way Arthur can get Gwaine to shut up is by threatening to write his own story about Gwaine and his Curler, Percival. It amuses Merlin no end.

“Gwen’s going to be in London next week,” comments Merlin.

“Yeah?” Arthur asks, throwing his phone back on the coffee table. “How are she and Lancelot working out?”

Merlin grins. “Just as in love as the day they met. They’ve started training in pairs skating now. Lancelot is looking into the possibility of becoming a Team GB athlete, since he’s half-British through his mother.”

“Mmm, that will be nice for them,” Arthur says.

Merlin stretches on top of him. “Ugh, we’d better change and maybe shower again. Got to meet Mum in an hour for lunch. Come on.”

Merlin hauls himself off the sofa, pulling Arthur up with him. His underwear is sticking to him already, and Merlin can see him grimace as he adjusts himself.

“Fine, fine,” he grumbles, feigning irritation. “Since it’s your fault I’m dirty in the first place.”

Grinning, Merlin kisses him again, long and sweet, silencing his protests. Merlin is so glad that every has turned out so well for them both. Arthur has really come into his own since he came out, with covers on both Attitude and Gay Times, along with extensive articles where he talks about his decision to come out and the toxic homophobic culture in sports. They’ve done The Graham Norton Show, Jonathan Ross and The Last Leg together, to name a few, and the press seem to be happy with the little slice of their life that they’ve shared with them. And they’re still training hard, even though they sometimes spend more time apart than they’d like because of their training schedules. But they’re still together as much as they can be, reveling in each other’s company.

Merlin really can’t help but think that this thing with Arthur is the real deal, that they’re in this together for the long haul. And as he smiles at Arthur, he feels everything slotting into place in his life just so, whole and complete. It’s almost like destiny.