Merlin and Arthur met when they were nine. The teacher introduced Merlin to the class a month after the new school term began. During lunch break, everyone was curious to know why Merlin started school late. Which was how Arthur found out that Merlin came from the grade below them. There was some delay in clearing his tests results which allowed him to skip a grade.
That made Merlin really smart. Arthur had thought.
But that also made Merlin a whole year younger than nearly everyone in class. Not nine like the rest of them. Valiant took that as permission to push Merlin around. Which then led to Arthur pushing Valiant back - Arthur would use any excuse to shove his annoying face after what Valiant did to Morgana.
Merlin took Arthur’s rescue as some unspoken permission to suddenly be friends. Which Arthur of course, did not bother to correct. Merlin was funny and a lot of fun to be with once he got over the whole awkward goofy thing he had going on.
And when Merlin smiled, his whole face lit up. Arthur couldn’t help but smile back.
Merlin was just ten when he decided that he would be with Arthur forever.
He was spending a week of their summer break at the Pendragon’s sprawling estate. According to Arthur, they only went there in the summer, since it was half an hour’s ride by train, then the car which picked Merlin up from the station drove for another half hour before reaching the mansion. It definitely was too far from the school they went to.
It was Merlin’s first time sleeping over at the Pendragon’s summer mansion and it would very well have been the last - if Arthur hadn’t rescued him.
They were playing in a creek that should have been safe and shallow except for that slimy patch of algae which tipped Merlin over right into a current that pulled him towards the deep end. Much panic and flailing did not help him. So it was a good thing that Arthur - who knew the creek well enough - ran alongside the flailing Merlin floating downstream to an outcropping of rocks where he managed to grab and pull Merlin to safety.
Arthur was inconsolable. Merlin had never seen his best friend cry like that. Even hours after they were both dry and sitting in Arthur’s bed, the older boy wouldn’t let go. He had stopped crying, but his eyes were all puffy as he stared at Merlin, not wanting to let Merlin out of his sight.
Arthur’s mood picked back up the next day, but Merlin knew his friend was still shaken. They never went near the creek again, not even the pool that had a guard watching it.
It took a long hour of consoling and promises when it was time for Merlin to go home. Hunith watched the boys with a slight frown on her face but promised Arthur - despite her confusion - that Merlin would call him everyday.
A week before school was due to start, Arthur returned and insisted on a sleepover at Merlin’s house. Uther, having heard of what had happened over the summer, relented without much fuss. Hunith was of course more than happy to have Arthur around.
It was during that sleepover that Merlin learned about Arthur’s mother.
Merlin knew Arthur didn’t have a mother, he just didn’t know why or how, but not having a father himself taught him that - if someone wanted you to know something they weren’t talking about, they would tell you when the time was right.
“Don’t leave me too.” Arthur sniffed, after sharing how his mother left him when he was just born, clinging tightly as Merlin hugged him back.
“I’ll never leave you, Arthur. I promise.” Merlin promised and etched it in his heart, he would never leave Arthur. He would be with Arthur forever.
The years went by and suddenly, they were teenagers. Hormonal fuelled beings competing against everyone and themselves. It was a right mess made of discoveries and experimentations.
Through it all, Merlin was one of the few who appeared unfazed. Maybe being the youngest of all their friends, it likely just hadn't hit him yet. Merlin was the same cheery and bright boy Arthur had always known, only now he was getting taller and taller.
Arthur wasn't sure which came first. Falling in love with Merlin. Or falling in lust.
It was one night, after a particularly intense imaginative session with his right hand. As he stared up at his ceiling contemplating the many things involving Merlin and him. After much thought he decided that it was love that came first.
It made sense, now that he actually gave thought to it. After all, they had known each other for so many years now. Friends, then best friends, and with it was the unshakable feeling of fondness for Merlin and the fierce need to protect him.
All the literature they've read and the world around them depicted love as a feeling, where you'd die for the person, who you'd want to spend all your life with, always having happy memories together, forever.
Yes. Arthur was sure now. He loves Merlin. But now, he wanted Merlin in all the new ways that a young boy who was becoming a man wanted- lusted- for.
It eased the guilt just a bit, of his night time erotic fantasy material. And it prepared him not one bit, for when his fantasies came true.
Arthur was always kind, always the gentleman. despite being a prat most of the time, he'd always set himself right if anyone called him out for it. Merlin did, often, resulting in their snarky banter that became commonplace in their relationship.
Then, the looks started. Merlin wasn't sure if Arthur was aware that he was doing it. But some time between breaking up with Mithian and getting together with Vivian, Arthur's gaze had started to wander. When Merlin thought back hard on it, he could only guess it started from the day of the school marathon.
Merlin always wore long trousers, even for physical ed, he favoured the full length tracksuits over shorts. It was just his style his and no one thought much about it as it wasn’t uncommon. After the school marathon, Merlin started thinking that perhaps he should have worn shorts and a sleeveless basketball jersey like Arthur was wearing.
He was panting, gulping breaths of warm air and dripping with sweat. Arthur on the other hand looked fine, so fine that even his fine layer of sweat made it seem like he was glowing. Not drowning like how Merlin felt and was sure he looked it too. Annoyed, Merlin flicked water from the fountain at Arthur. Which escalated to more water being generously flicked, then doused over each other.
Arthur’s hair was plastered to his head by the end of it. But so were Merlin’s track bottoms, soaked till they were literally stuck to his legs. Merlin had stomped off to the shower rooms - empty now as the students were all dismissed while they were having their water fight. Merlin was already slipping out of his tracksuit trousers when Arthur came in. Annoyed at his best friend, he had chucked his pants off as well and threw them at Arthur. Not catching the look that had crossed Arthur's face.
Ever since that day in the shower rooms, Merlin had caught Arthur staring at him more often.
Initially, Arthur would feign nonchalance and look away. Sometimes, he would blush. Eventually, he’d just keep staring even after Merlin quirked an eyebrow at him. Smiling softly, shaking his head as he laughed to himself. It left Merlin rather baffled.
Not that Arthur seemed bothered by it at all, he would just flash Merlin one of his wide smiles before carrying on like nothing was amiss.
A while after that, Merlin also noted that Arthur had gotten more tactile. At first he brushed it off, Arthur was always grabbing his shoulder, his arm, putting him in headlocks. The addition of wrist grabs and the now more often arm around his shoulders and half hugs shouldn't mean anything.
But it did. Because half hugs turned into full hugs, and wrist holds to hand holds. And when they were at either of their bedrooms, doing their revision or playing games, Arthur would always gravitate closer and closer until he was sitting flush against Merlin’s side.
Next Merlin thought it was because it had been the longest Arthur had spent not having a girlfriend. There wasn't a gap of more than half a year before Arthur moved on to the next one. Yet here they were a full year later after Gwen - Arthur’s latest ex. So maybe Arthur was just getting a little touch-starved.
When Merlin asked about Arthur’s lack of a girlfriend, Arthur chalked it up to the AS levels, citing stress with an over exaggerated groan as he leaned into Merlin. His head flopping down onto Merlin's lap, Merlin's hand coming up to run his fingers through blond strands, as he usually did. It was just another one of those tactile things that were becoming more and more commonplace between them.
Arthur fell asleep then, with Merlin's hands soothing against his scalp. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. So Merlin allowed his heart to hope.
It confused Merlin initially, because he had been so sure that Arthur was straight. He always had only looked at girls. Always talked about female celebrities. But now, he was looking at Merlin the same way.
Freya was the one who pointed It out to Merlin. Merlin who was still being deliberately oblivious (to save himself the pain he said), but happy that Arthur's new tactile habit of the week was to grab Merlin suddenly around the waist. Surprising him from behind, then slinging an arm around Merlin's shoulders tugging him close.
Merlin tried to brush it off. Blaming some delayed teenage hormones and his one-sided crush for Arthur (which he had solemnly swore to never let get in the way of their friendship) making him see things that weren't there. His hope had grew and grew, Merlin feared if he had let this hope go on for too long. Feared he was reading the signs wrongly.
Feared that maybe it didn’t mean anything.
It took some meddling friends, a party, and alcohol, for things to finally come to a head.
Somehow, Merlin suspected it was Morgana, they ended up playing spin the bottle. Of all games. Somehow, Merlin and Arthur were shoved in the coat closet. Somehow, they were kissing, and it was like a dream. Merlin’s head spun, he had never been kissed like that. It was really brilliant. They both broke for gasps of breath, each exchanging a shy smile, before more kissing was had. Then Arthur’s tongue was between his teeth, the invading appendage licking the roof of his palate, then it was a bit too much.
He had heard of french kissing, but kissing Arthur then having Arthur really kiss him back - suddenly it was too much, too soon, and he didn’t know what to do. Arthur must have sensed Merlin’s hesitation because he stopped.
They stared at each other, both not quite sober, then Arthur started confessing and apologising. It was all confusing really. Then they were interrupted by Gwen’s worried face coming between them and guiding them out of the closet. Leon drove them back to Merlin’s where Hunith force fed them water before allowing them to crash in bed.
The next morning, they suffered through their pounding headaches and Hunith’s lecture of responsible drinking before they were allowed the respite of breakfast, more water and a shower.
Later that afternoon, when they had the house to themselves, Merlin and Arthur tried to sort both their hazy memories of the night.
“Say, what do you remember of last night?”
“What do you remember?”
“I asked first-”
“No I asked first, you must have forgotten.”
“I have not.”
“So what happened last night?”
On it went in circles as they settled themselves on the worn settee just flipping through the same few channels on the TV. Random snippets of conversation and banter interspaced with the questions that were never answered. Merlin could tell that Arthur remembered some of it, but he wasn’t saying anything. So neither was Merlin - Merlin who was afraid it had all been a dream. But was it real?
Arthur’s eyes met Merlin’s again before they darted down to his lips. Merlin watched him, stolen glances as they pretended to watch the TV. They had sat down at the sofa already close to the other, but they were now even closer. So close that Merlin could feel the pressing weight of Arthur’s arm and shoulder as they other shifted to lift his leg up on the table.
Merlin always pursed his lips when he was stuck not knowing what to say. Arthur watched as Merlin’s lower lip was released from where it was pressed between his teeth. The whole motion just highlighting how moist they were. This time when Merlin glanced to look at Arthur, he paused, seemingly caught in the tension just as Arthur himself was. Arthur didn’t know what pushed him to do it, but when he came back to his senses, he was already leaning away with Merlin’s breath still hot against his lips.
With how red his lips were, Arthur can only guess that he had already kissed Merlin with more than a bit of enthusiasm. The thought of it making his heart thud faster and his head spin as he tried to come to terms with the fact that, yes, he did just kiss Merlin and he really wanted to do it again. Bright blue eyes looked up from where they were transfixed on red lips, meeting Merlin’s wide-eyed and shocked stare.
Before he could feel self-conscious about his actions or pull back any further, Merlin closed the gap and kissed him back. Uncertain, but earnest, as he pressed his lips against Arthur’s. His hands coming up to clutch at the front of Arthur’s shirt while Arthur’s buried themselves in raven locks, guiding Merlin’s head to angle them more comfortably.
“Arthur,” Merlin whispered, his voice quiet, pleading almost as they caught their breath several minutes later.
“What you said last night,” he began again after a few deep breaths, “did you mean it?”. His face pinched in nerves yet he met Arthur’s concerned gaze head on.
“What I said.” Arthur trailed off, trying to recall what exactly did he say last night before kissing Merlin in that coat closet. “I honestly can’t remember what I said-” he confessed as Merlin’s eyes widened in a way that didn’t look good.
“But!” Arthur quickly added. “I really liked kissing you.”
“Liked?” Merlin paled.
“Like! Still, like, kissing you, would like to and want to kiss you, again.” Arthur quickly amended, but Merlin didn’t seem consoled.
“Hey,” Arthur pulled Merlin in a tight hug, “hey, Merlin, I would never fool around like that. Not with you, not with anyone, okay. I’m not like that, you know .”
“I know.” Merlin said after awhile, sighing in Arthur’s arms.
“I like you Merlin, and I really want to kiss you. That’s all.” Arthur huffed against dark curls. “Well, that’s not all. We could go on dates and stuff, but like we sort of already are doing that. I mean we could still go watch movies-”
“That’s what you said.” Merlin cut in, pulling back to look at Arthur, grinning so wide his eyes crinkled. Arthur paused, confused.
“What?” He was sure they weren’t talking about movies last night.
“In the closet, last night, that’s what you said!” Merlin exclaimed, grinning and looking positively excited. Arthur was torn between rolling his eyes or just kissing Merlin silly.
“That’s what I said.” Arthur repeated, clearly not quite getting it yet.
“Arthur!” Merlin laughed. “And yes, I’d like that. The dates and movies too.”
“Good to know.” Arthur snorted, amused but smiling fondly at Merlin who hadn’t stopped grinning.
“Now, can I kiss you again?” Arthur asked, smirking at Merlin till he blushed. “I really liked doing that, the kissing.”
“Yeah?” Merlin’s smile turning bashful as the colour spread up to his ears.
“Yeah,” Arthur’s lips curling in that way Merlin recognised as Arthur’s mischievous streak showing itself. “Besides you could use the practice. I’m more than willing to show you the ropes.”
Merlin laughed, pushing Arthur off the settee, before he was pulled down onto the floor too. They tousled then chased each other all the way up to Merlin’s room where they practised till Hunith called them down for dinner.
Merlin and Arthur began Year 12 as an official couple.
Their friends took the news well, meaning that, the assigned homework on the first day of school held more importance and discussion than Merlin and Arthur’s announcement of their new relationship status.
Gwen, Freya and Lance did give them their congratulations. Gwaine messed up Merlin’s hair before flashing him a grin with two thumbs up. Morgana looked so smug, Arthur’s murderous glare did nothing to dim it. The rest of them took it in stride and carried on like nothing had changed.
In many ways, nothing did change.
And in other ways, especially when they were alone in their bedrooms, quite a lot changed. To Merlin’s dismay, their usual revision sessions were no longer productive when they were alone. Not much academic learning was done, instead Merlin learned that he actually did like french kissing with Arthur. He liked it a lot.
To Arthur’s dismay, Merlin shifted their usual revision sessions to the library. Because, “We have A levels Arthur!”, so Arthur would groan his frustrations (quietly) and dug into his books, checked all the boxes on Merlin’s ridiculous chapter revision list. Then dragged his boyfriend home to snog him senseless.
Over their few teenage years, Arthur had his share of rolling in the hay. Arthur used to talk to Merlin about it in the past, but his friend had always brushed him off. Seemingly uninterested or annoyed on the topic of sex. Now though, in the days of their new and blossoming relationship, Arthur learned that Merlin’s feign lack of interest was actually a lack of experience.
Any topic of conversation between them that had anything remotely related to sex, would have Merlin blushing up a storm. Much to Arthur's delight, and Merlin’s mortification. He had no idea why the thought of doing naked things together flustered him more than a thorough snog.
Learning more about this side of Merlin was exhilarating. This person, whom he had thought he knew inside out, yet here he was discovering more. It was exciting. Arthur learned that Merlin’s silence and beet red face, was actually Merlin being genuinely shy. Arthur never thought he’d use the word demure to describe his snarky and oftentimes eccentric friend, but it was apt. Not that he’d ever say that out loud, lest Merlin throw a textbook at him.
It took a long time for Merlin to feel comfortable being in just his skin, likely because it took some time for Arthur to realise that their usual snark banter and teasing wasn’t the way to go to get his boyfriend naked. Merlin wasn’t comfortable in his skin because he was self-conscious. One of the reasons Merlin hadn’t been in a serious relationship was because of this. The hurtful words people like Cenred often called him - when Arthur wasn’t around - didn’t help matters either.
But of course the moment Arthur changed tactics to gentle cajoles and sweet honest praise of every physical aspect he loved about Merlin - it had pushed him a step back, as Merlin flustered and sputtered before hiding himself behind a pillow or his hands. After the initial embarrassment at Arthur’s outpouring of poetic compliments, Merlin’s self-consciousness began edging away.
Arthur took what Merlin could give, and often suffered through blue-balls, cold showers, or when the latter didn’t help - his right hand. With their friendship being one already based on open communication - albeit, snarky, blunt and often debative - it did help them overcome a number of the usual hurdles new couples faced.
Such as, how comfortable Merlin felt with trying out certain things. Things Arthur wanted to try with Merlin. If Merlin was agreeable or not agreeable to it, if he was unsure, or had no idea what Arthur meant. Because honestly, frottage sounded more like a dessert than a sexual act. Whatever it was, they talked it out, while smashing the gaming consoles with their thumbs or while watching TV.
Once any uncertainties were sorted and out of the way - they’d try it out. While curled up on the sofa or in bed, even on the floor that one time. Sometimes the trying out goes successfully, other times either one of both of them would come to fast. And on the rare occasion, it would go a bit badly, like when Merlin was learning how to give head and Arthur, in his haste to pull out, had shot his load in Merlin’s eye.
Arthur still cringes thinking back on it even though Merlin was well past the disastrous incident. Enough so he’d crack an importune joke just laugh over the face Arthur made when he grimaced.
What was usually more than enough for Merlin, wouldn’t be quite enough for Arthur. But ever the gallant knight, he would wait it out. While Arthur caught his breath thinking of dissected frogs and Merlin buried his face till his cheeks were their usual pale again.
Merlin was sure he was gay for as long as he knew the meaning of the word. The pseudo dates he had, like going to the local fair with Will, the prom with Freya, or even the few dates with Gwaine before they both decided they were better off as friends. Those only confirmed in Merlin’s mind that he was gay.
Arthur obviously knew that Merlin had never really dated anyone - never really done anything much but kissing. They were both young after all, everyone in their school only just beginning the phase of sexual exploration and acknowledging their identity and orientation. The fact that he was Merlin's first - in everything but kissing, which Arthur refused to acknowledge - Damn you Will - it filled him with something warm and fierce. It made him swear an oath to himself, that above everyone else, it was Merlin he would protect and cherish.
The end of year 12 was the last break they’d have before the madness that was The A Levels. Merlin learned that Arthur’s libido was sometimes too much for him. And Arthur learned that guilt, Merlin’s unimpressed look and corresponding flaccid penis was enough for his own stiffening problem to soften.
Because Merlin was all for a snog-cum-jack off session before they hit the books. He even gave in to the mutual blow job intermission every now and then. But if Arthur pushed for the third time in the same the number of hours - when they should have been studying - that was a bit too much for Merlin.
For Arthur, being with Merlin always made him want more than he did with any of his previous girlfriends. He’d honestly wondered at his increased libido. Previously, it was always more posturing and sexual release was usually like a treat at having ‘won’ over his girlfriends. With Merlin however, Arthur never felt the need to show-off, not when his best friend could easily see through his bullshit. Instead of a need to prove, came the intense need to envelope and devour this new side of their relationship.
Their friendship had always felt like a sure thing, a constant comfort, easy and indestructible. This new side, with feelings that delved deeper and entwined so tightly with their raging hormones, it often felt overwhelming. Where Arthur wanted to dive head first into its deepest abyss, Merlin was reserved, content to just swim.
Arthur knew it wasn’t just the A levels, Merlin would never admit to it, but Arthur liked to think he could read well into what his friend wouldn’t say. There were so many things to consider, Merlin’s nerves and self-consciousness just to name a few. Arthur wanted to go all the way, and repeat the process over and over again. But more than that, he wanted Merlin comfortable with what they were doing.
Besides, they did have the looming examinations to worry about, leaving little time in the months leading up to it to do anything but prepare. Arthur would very much prefer their first time to be special anyway. It provided a much needed motivation to get over the A’s and something to look forward to too.
The A levels came and went, and in what felt like a long time coming, they were finally graduating. University decisions aside, it was mutually agreed that they'd all be taking a grad trip together.
Planning said trip that would be agreeable to their large and disagreeable group was another thing. After hours of discussions - and many arguments - only the date of their trip was decided on. It would be several weeks yet, which left them time to sort out all the other details.
Such as room arrangements. Arthur and Merlin would room together, obviously, which presented the perfect opener for Arthur to ask Merlin the question he'd been holding out on. The question that Merlin had already anticipated Arthur asking. Arthur on the other hand, was not prepared for Merlin’s readiness to even talk about it.
The blushing he expected, it was a given really by this point, what with everything all new and unexplored with Merlin. The focused gaze, earnest bright blue eyes, as Merlin took a deep breath before saying, “Okay, but let’s talk about it first.” That - Arthur was not prepared for.
An edge of seriousness tinged the discomfiting topic Arthur had broached. And Merlin, in his obvious fluster, resolutely trying hard to maintain a level head as he put into words the things be obviously had given serious thought about.
It kindled a warmth of pride within Arthur. His usual default to tease or share a cheeky grin at those big ears turning red erased in light of Merlin’s genuinity. Arthur nodded, giving him his undivided attention, observant to the subtle cues he had learned over their many years together, bolstering the other’s fluster with encouraging prompts as he stammered out his part of the ‘talk’.
Merlin confessed to having done research on it, wanting to be ready to discuss it with Arthur. About the importance of discussing, and communication, using protection, preparation what with them both being guys, safe sex and STDs. Merlin really did cover nearly all the bases, Arthur humming and agreeing at intervals.
At the end of it, Arthur thought he felt quite light headed. Overwhelmed not only by Merlin’s agreement, but also at his obvious forethought and readiness for it. The mere idea of Merlin and his research .
The slight pause he took to compose his overwhelmed self had Merlin’s brow knitting in doubt. Arthur practically gushed out his reassurance that everything was alright. When Arthur's blood returned properly to his higher brain, a wide blinding smile the only response that was forthcoming at Merlin’s bewildered, “What?”
“You!” Arthur laughed, shaking his head fondly.
“Yes, you. Merlin.” Arthur wasn’t sure what sort of expression was showing on his face, but it must’ve been something good. Merlin ducked his head, in that slight way he always does when he’s embarrassed, peeking up beneath the fan of his lashes, smiling bashfully.
They both just grinned, staring into each other's eyes, until Merlin felt tickled by something or other and snorted a giggle. They laughed, clutching at their sides, elbowing each other, and the tension of the conversation fell away. Both comforted by the understanding that they were both open to talk it through, now that they’ve decided on it.
The days that followed went about as they usually would.
Chatting about nothing and everything and interspaced between this and that they did talk about it . Arthur did manage to share at some length, how what he knew and had tried were limited to the girls he dated. At Merlin’s insistence, he gave his account of what sex was like for him the first time. The good and the not-so-good parts of it.
Merlin came over one day, burying his face in Arthur’s chest as he retold of his mortification about how Hunith had given him The Talk, and on the same mortified note, about the various items that he thought would be necessary to get before they tried it. Merlin looked like he would quite literally have a nosebleed with how red his face had become. So Arthur spared him from combusting by tossing him in the decorative fish pond to cool down.
A bit of research later and some online shopping - Arthur handed the purchases to Merlin during their next sleepover.
Merlin - while totally avoiding eye contact - read through the instruction sheets of every item, with Arthur peering at it from behind his shoulder. Arthur learned, through a stilted and mumbled confession on Merlin’s part, that he had never even tried fingering himself before. Arthur’s eager offer to finger Merlin earned him a pillow to his face resulting in a pillow fight and no fingering that night.
That changed a week later, when Merlin asked Arthur if maybe he was doing it wrong because “I thought sticking my fingers in there was supposed to feel good?” Which lead to Arthur giving Merlin a demonstration and Merlin discovering that he could in-fact - thanks to something called the prostrate - come untouched.
Following said discovery, Merlin was more than a little eager to talk about the step that followed fingering. Arthur may or may not have swooned, he would never admit it, of course, when Merlin said he wanted Arthur to be the one inside him, when they tried it first.
After they both recovered - from some enthusiastic snogging and rutting reminiscent of their earlier too-eager days - Arthur made sure to check and double check that Merlin was sure. Merlin’s reassurance that yes, he’d like Arthur to be his first, had filled this blond head swelling with so much pride - Arthur himself attested to the truth behind his best friend’s jibes of his over inflated ego.
That Merlin was trusting him with this, Arthur felt like he was being given an honour. It felt like a privilege, and Arthur would be damned if he didn’t treasure it so.
Leon grinned and patted Arthur on the back. Lance gave some useful pointers Gwaine teased him endlessly - Arthur didn’t care one bit.
Merlin and him discussed it, they decided that their first time would be planned. They would be ready for it when they decided for it to happen. Should it not happen they would be ready for it too and they’d plan again.
They chose a weekend Merlin could stay over. A weekend where Uther was away on business. And Morgana conveniently informing Arthur she would be away too spending the weekend partying over at Dublin. Arthur tried not to think too much of the knowing look his sister gave him. He was feeling nervous enough as it was and he hadn’t the faintest what he was so bloody nervous.
Despite all the planning and all the talking and Arthur repeating over and over in his head ‘It’s just Merlin, get a hold of yourself ’. The nervous excitement didn’t fade or go away.
Arthur went all out with their date that evening, nice restaurant that was just the right amount of privacy and class that Merlin was comfortable with. Merlin poked at Arthur’s nerves with gentle jibes till they fell back to their usual banter and Arthur seemed more like his usual self. Interspaced with the perfect combination of shy grins and blushing from both parties involved.
They got back to Arthur’s house early that night, watched some TV with a bit more of the TV watching them as they kissed each other, slow and unhurried on the couch as the heat that simmered within them both slowly rose. Arthur let Merlin use the bath first, saying he felt like a quick jog, more so that Merlin could take his time and not feel embarrassed about the extra time he’d need to do the needful.
When Arthur came back, Merlin was just done, so he jumped in the shower. Thinking for a few minutes if he should do anything about his erection - the thought of Merlin just awhile ago getting ready in his bathroom - before he blanked out and rubbed off a quick one. Better to keep his head clearer, he reasoned, blood needed in the higher brain first before the lower one.
Tonight was the night. He needed to focus on Merlin.
Arthur stared at himself in the swiped part of the fogged up mirror and gave himself a nod.
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“Arthur!” Merlin exclaimed. One blond head looked up, blue eyes looking fondly into Merlin’s.
“Yes, my love?”
Merlin opened his mouth to retort, but closed it shut again as he took in the sight before him. Arthur gleaming, looking positively radiant.
“Love?” Merlin repeated, testing the endearment on his lips.
“Yes, Love ?” Hearing it from Arthur’s lips again, the word filling him with the feeling of it so much so he thought he would burst.
“There there love.” Arthur dipped his head down again, kissing the corners of Merlin’s eyes where tears had pooled at the sides again. Their lips met, chaste, but repeatedly. Enraptured as he was, Merlin barely noticed as Arthur carefully slipped out of him.
“I’ll get us cleaned up,” Arthur’s lips returning for another lingering kiss before reluctantly drawing back, “Wait here.”
“I’m not an invalid.” Merlin mumbled, petulant. Arthur couldn’t resist kissing that pout away, so he leaned close and kissed him. Then again, till Merlin lay boneless, spread out on Arthur’s bed.
“Humour me, love?” Arthur’s grin only widened as the blush crept back across Merlin’s cheekbones.
Arthur returned with a damp flannel, stroking it over Merlin's stomach, careful as he wiped between Merlin’s legs, pausing to kiss him at the slightest grimace. Gathering Merlin in his arms and pulling the duvet over them, they cuddled close. Arthur’s gaze not leaving Merlin’s until dark lashes eventually blinked close in sleep.