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Like a House on Fire

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“I still can’t believe you thought you could hide a dragon in our flat.” 

Merlin rolled his eyes, and Arthur had to resist the urge to pinch him—or himself—as the dragon in question soared past them once again. Aithusa, as Merlin had called her, was roughly the size of a horse with a wingspan that extended to twice her own length, was covered in iridescent white scales that shimmered where the dawn light struck them, and, most importantly, could breathe fire.

I can’t believe it took you six months to notice something was going on,” Merlin said. “Did you really think I was sneaking around with some girl?”

Arthur, who had, in fact, assumed something of the sort, was silent. Merlin chuckled. 

“You do remember the conversation we had last summer, where I said, ‘Arthur, I’m gay,’ and you said, ‘cool’ and then we went out and had chips?”

Arthur narrowed his eyes. “Of course I do,” he said. “But I didn’t say I necessarily thought you were dating her.”

“Fair point. But I would've thought me coming out of my room with my hair singed and my clothes on fire might have clued you in.”

“You have magic,” Arthur said, although in retrospect, yes, that had been somewhat telling. “I thought you were practicing some kind of spell and it backfired on you. Besides, dragons were meant to have gone extinct hundreds of years ago. How was I supposed to know you were keeping one in your bedroom?”

Aithusa banked, dove, then let out a brain-rattling screech as she snatched an unlucky goshawk out of the sky and began tearing it to pieces with her teeth. She looked awfully big and feral to have been living unnoticed in Merlin’s tiny bedroom for as long as she had, but apparently dragons were very good at camouflage. They also grew slowly, Merlin had explained, and enjoyed playing fetch, and Arthur didn’t really have the expertise to argue with him—partly because he was about as magical as a brick but mostly because dragons were supposed to be extinct.

“Obviously, I’m just that good at keeping secrets,” said Merlin, who was possibly the worst at keeping secrets that a person could possibly be, and this time Arthur really did pinch him.

“You’re an idiot.” 

“But you love me anyway.” Merlin preened, leaning into Arthur’s side. 

Arthur looked down at the dark head, the slim, magician’s fingers tangled so warmly with his own, and had to concede the point. If it hadn’t been for Aithusa, he never would have barged into Merlin’s room the way he had that fateful afternoon, determined to figure out what his flatmate was up to, in which case Merlin would never have realised that Arthur was actually nothing like his father, and Arthur never would have had the courage to confess his feelings for him.

“There’s a distinct possibility that I am, in fact, moronsexual,” he said, and laughed when Merlin punched him in the arm.