corilannam: (Merlin - pendragon)
[personal profile] corilannam
Continued from Chapter 4

Merlin stretched out over his wrinkled sheets, body still humming with pleasure. Arthur kissed the inside of his thigh, smug grin smeared with Merlin's come.

"Guess you're not the only fast learner." Arthur wiped the corners of his mouth with a finger, and then hauled himself up the bed to flop down next to Merlin. "If we had more time, I think I could reach perfection tonight."

"We've plenty of time." Merlin reached over and patted Arthur's cheek before burrowing against his side. "You're absolutely staying the night."

Arthur snorted even as he kissed the top of Merlin's head. "I realize that you don't have a great deal of respect for my position, but you really don't get to give me orders."

"Get used to it. I always suspected I'd be a pushy bottom." Merlin propped himself on his elbow and looked down at Arthur's flushed face; his heart thumped out of rhythm just at the sight of him. "You're a little bit wrong, anyway," he said to cover his embarrassment.

Arthur grinned up at him and pulled at his arm until their chests pressed together. "That seems rather unlikely."

"No, I do respect you," he insisted. "Crown and all. Everything you've been doing."

"Really?" Arthur looked so surprised that Merlin's heart thumped so hard he thought Arthur must be able to feel it.

"You really care about people, and you're brave and willing to stick your neck out for what you believe in no matter what people think." Babbling, he was babbling praise for King Arthur, and he would probably never live this down, even if Arthur let him. "And it helps that you believe in the same things I do, of course."

"Well, we wouldn't want you to have to open your mind too far all at once." Arthur dipped upward to kiss him.

"Might all fall out, and you know I can't spare any," Merlin agreed and returned the kiss.

They went back and forth with the kisses until Merlin was melting over Arthur's chest, pursuing his lips so they would not have to part. Then Arthur pushed at his shoulder until he lifted his head. "Tell me more about how amazing I am."

That was Merlin's cue to take the piss, but Arthur's eyes were so bright and happy that when Merlin opened his mouth, sincerity came pouring out instead. "I do think you're amazing. I mean, I never thought that Britain needed a King anymore. But maybe we do need you."

Arthur blinked up at him, and Merlin did not recognize this new expression on his face. For a moment he thought Arthur was getting ready to say something, but Arthur just reached up, took hold of Merlin's face, and then did his best to snog it right off.

Merlin started to lose himself in Arthur's mouth and skin again. Arthur was making little movements as though getting ready to put Merlin on his back and cover him. Merlin felt wholly in favour of that idea.

Arthur's phone beeped three times and Merlin groaned. "Fuck your alarms."

"That's not the alarm." Arthur made his move, rolling Merlin onto his back and surging their hips together in a luxurious slide. "Just the text alert. Ignore it."

"I was going to ignore it even if it was the alarm." Merlin dug his fingers into the lush muscle of Arthur's arse and pushed up into his kiss.

Then it beeped again--and again, an astounding number of times until they had to stop kissing to stare at the phone on the night table. "It's probably just Gwaine drunk texting again," Arthur said.

"On a Monday?" Merlin wiggled out from under him and sat up. "Just check it and then turn it off."

Arthur huffed, but flopped over and reached for the phone. "Yeah, it's Gwaine." Abruptly, he sat bolt upright. "Where's your laptop?"

"In the kitchen, on the table, where it always is. Why? Wait, why are you getting out of bed?"

Arthur pulled on his briefs and left the room without answering. Merlin scrambled out of bed, grabbed his boxers off the corner of the mattress and carried them with him as he followed Arthur through his own house.

He found him hunched over the laptop, glaring at it like a vulture waiting for a particularly stubborn gazelle to die. "Shit. Shit."

Merlin came around to bend over his shoulder. "Why are you reading the Trickler Report? I'd think you'd be the last person interested in trashy celebrity--oh, bloody hell."

Arthur had angled the screen enough for Merlin to see the picture and headline: "KING FINDS LOVE IN AVALON?" it read over a photograph of Arthur with Merlin getting out of Arthur's car at the school. Merlin recognized the shirt he had been wearing just that morning.

Merlin reached around Arthur's arm to hit the page down button. He scrolled past more pictures of them at the school today, standing close together with casual, affectionate touches, smiling to the point of besotted lunacy. Everything about it seemed exactly the opposite of how published photos of Arthur usually looked, with his formal bearing and personal space boundaries.

"Bloody fucking shitballs," he said. His heart pounded in his chest, making him lightheaded. His boss would see this; Will probably already had. Someone at work would show his mother, his postman, his next door neighbour.

"Breathe, Merlin." Arthur steadied him with a hand on his hip. "It's not that bad. I know how to deal with these sorts of things."

"Right. Of course you do." Merlin took the chair to Arthur's right. "Nothing to worry about, yeah?"

"No, but...."


Arthur gave him an uncertain look. "Would it be so bad? If people knew about us. We wouldn't have to sneak around, at least."

"I want that. I really do." And if it was just their family and friends, like any normal gay couple, he could have worked himself up to it in no time. But Arthur's family and friends included the entire fucking world. "I'm just not ready yet. Is that okay, or do you think I'm a sniveling coward?"

"It's all right. I didn't come out until my father was dead, so I can hardly judge you." Arthur closed the laptop and pushed his chair back. The few inches of distance hurt. "It just means we'll have to cool things down for a while until interest dies down, or you're ready to take the leap."

That Arthur was right just made Merlin feel worse. "I'll figure it out. I promise. I'm not going to ask you to go back in the closet forever."

"I don't think I could if I tried." Arthur grinned, rueful. "But that's different. We haven't even been together for that long. It's not fair to ask you to make a life-changing move when we might not eve—what?"

Merlin kept shaking his head. "No. That's not the reason. I don't have any doubts about what I feel for you, even if who you are is fucking inconvenient."

Happiness lit Arthur's face, with that smile that had doomed Merlin from the beginning. "I don't have any doubts, either. I suppose it sounds foolish, but I've known for a while. My father was a terrible womanizer, but the minute he set eyes on my mother, he never looked at another woman again in his life."

"My mum was the same way. A week after she met my dad, she quit her job in London and moved to Cardiff with him."

Arthur leaned over and kissed him. "Don't worry. I won't make you move just yet."

"I can't really see my couch fitting into the décor at Buckingham Palace." Real doubt lurked beneath the joke. He could not imagine ever fitting into the royal image. Even now, people probably expected Arthur to find a lord or film actor or at least someone's polo instructor. Merlin would work much better behind the scenes.

"I've never fit in there, either." Arthur's gaze went hazy with thought. "I was thinking I might just open the entire palace to the public, even the private levels. For tours, of course, and our charities could use it for functions."

"Seriously?" Merlin tried to sound casual. The things he was not prepared to come out about included the long post he had written—

"I mean, I don't actually own the place. Why shouldn't the people who pay for it have use of it? And the admission fees should go a long way to helping pay for the upkeep, which is considerable, believe me."

--that he had written on exactly that topic. "I couldn't agree more."

"Maybe I'll take apartments over in St. James, where my offices still are, for when I need to be in residence on state business. Or maybe I'll just buy a new house in town."

"With Gwaine again?"

Arthur lifted his eyebrows and leaned close to Merlin's face. "Actually, I was rather hoping it wouldn't be with Gwaine this time."

Merlin grinned and started to close the tiny bit of distance between them. It was easier to imagine a future with Arthur when they talked about houses, not palaces.

Then Arthur's phone started beeping again. This time it was the alarm, and the reality of their situation crashed right through his inchoate images of the future.

Arthur's smile lost its joy. "Still want me to stay?"

"Yes," Merlin answered as firmly as he could, because he did, so much. "Of course I do."

"But it wouldn't be a good idea," Arthur finished for him. "I know, I know."

He got up and went to retrieve his clothes from the bedroom. Merlin stayed at the table, still clutching his boxers, until Arthur reappeared. As always, he looked better groomed than any normal man could after rolling around in a bed for hours.

"That's the only thing that makes me wonder if you really aren't somehow above us mortal men." Merlin stood up and swiped his hand over Arthur's hair. "It's like an invisible angelic valet follows you around."

"You should hire one. Would do you a world of good." Arthur rubbed his thumbs over the scruff on Merlin's cheeks. "Take a few days off and google some grooming tips."

"Days off?" Normally Merlin lived for the school holidays, but the only thing that made this discretion bearable was that he would still spend the days with Arthur in a perfectly legitimate setting.

"There's nothing to do at the school while the demolition is going on, and I need to be in the office. I would have brought you to the office in the meantime, but better to take the opportunity to not be seen together for a while."

"And what's a while, in royal PR-speak?"

"It'll be a few weeks before we're back at the school, but we'll see how well I can do damage control." Arthur pinched his side. "You shouldn't complain so much about some days off, or I'll make sure it never happens again."

"Right." Merlin tried to match his tone, but his banter gear seemed to be out of commission tonight. "It's just that I'll miss you."

"Yeah." Arthur kissed him, running his hand down Merlin's back and brushing his fingers over his arse in a wistful caress. "Call me tomorrow?"

"Yeah." Merlin stood back from the door as Arthur let himself out. If any enterprising paparazzi had concealed themselves in the shrubs, he was not keen on giving them a glimpse of him starkers.

His world had just become very weird.

"So I take it that it's time for another leak from the Anonymous Palace Insider?"

"If you wouldn't mind rearing your ugly head. Sorry, Gwaine."

"That's all right. Sophie D'Aulfric owes me a drink anyway."

"I just can't believe I was that stupid. I knew they'd be watching me."

"Yeah, the stupidity is what tipped me off that it was true love."


"Nah. You're that stupid most of the time, actually."

The Google alert pinged his inbox, interrupting Merlin's aimless morning internet surfing as he tried to figure out what to do with himself all day. It was his Avalon alert; he winced at the thought of more speculation about him and Arthur, but clicked anyway in the hopes of a good vid of the wrecking ball going through the window of Gaius's office.

Instead he found a new post from his own website, which he had mostly forgotten since discovering the more personal joys of royalty. He certainly had not written anything, which meant—Will.

The timing made Merlin suspicious. He had already thought it strange that he had heard nothing from Will last night or this morning, even though he knew Will at least scanned The Trickler every night, and had Google alerts of his own.

He suppressed his trepidation and clicked. The post read like any of Will's rants, except completely different.

It's a ridiculous consequence of our celebrity-obsessed culture that some guy doing something perfectly normal like making a new friend at work or offering a coworker a lift home is pounced on and ripped apart for any hope that it could be a secret affair.

But let's say it's true that Arthur fancies this dirt poor, common, completely unattractive school teacher.

"Hey," Merlin said out loud.

I'd say that it's the most normal, human thing he's ever done in his life. Can you imagine Uther ever lowering himself like that? Or allowing his son to slum it for more than a casual fling?

Inasmuch as I care about his love life, which isn't much, I have to say I approve. Maybe all the noises he's making about being a different sort of king aren't just smoke up our collective arses—or maybe not.

Either way, I think he's earned the chance to sink or swim without the likes of me harping in his ear. I suspect my esteemed colleague and co-writer will agree with me. From now on, I'll leave the social critique to the professionals and focus on my new passion for hydroponic gardening. Peace out.

Merlin stared at the last two paragraphs until he had to blink and realized that some sort of dampness had invaded his eyes. He reached for his phone, typed in all but one digit of Will's number, but then stopped.

Instead he pulled up a text message and typed: Do I even want to know what you're growing in your fictional hydroponic garden?

He sent it and waited, knowing Will would have his phone at hand at work today. Sure enough, it buzzed a few seconds later.

You really don't. :-P

And no more needed to be said between them than that.

Arthur found the alert in his email over lunch as he tried to tune out Gwaine and Vivian sniping at each other at his conference table. Why they had to do this in his office, he had no idea; if anyone should be acting out one's sexual frustration, one really felt it should be him.

He almost deleted the email without clicking. If the post had anything to with the Merlin rumours, wisdom suggested not risking it. But the small part of him that still felt attached to the counsel of his mystery blogger moved his mouse hand without his consent.

His mystery blogger had not written this post; he knew that within the first sentence. It was the other guy, and it was about Merlin, but he kept reading anyway.

At the end, he shook his head. "Crazy bugger," he muttered, but couldn't help a little smile.

All too soon Merlin had gone so stir crazy that he showed up bright and early at Avalon's temporary campus-within-a-campus at Mercia Primary. "Miss me?" he inquired with a flourish as he stepped into the caravan housing his former class.

"Merlin! I mean, Mr. Emrys!" Elena tripped over two book bags in her haste to come throw her arms around his neck.

For his pupils, he had only been gone a short while, since they had been on holiday for most of his time with Taliesin. But within seconds he had his arms full of shrieking girls and oofed as the grinning boys came to pound at his back.

"I thought you'd still be with the King." Elena's face went through several contortions, as though she could not decide whether she wanted Merlin to take over again or not.

"I am, but he gave me a few days off while we destroy the old school." Merlin paused to let the kids alternately boo and cheer. "But why would I want to have time to watch telly or go to the pub when I could be here helping Miss Gawant try to cram some knowledge into you lot?"

They all cheered at that, allowing Merlin to talk to Elena quietly for a moment. "They're still your class. I just needed to get out of my house. Can I be your assistant?"

She nodded with vigour and shoved the lesson plan for the day into his hands. "Oh yes. Thank God you're here."

As she shooed the pupils back to their seats, Anna Lisanor sidled up beside him and took his arm in a conspiratorial gesture. "So is it true, Mr. Emrys?"

"Hm?" He scanned the lesson plan with most of his attention; he could do these science activities in his sleep, which would give Elena a little extra planning time, if she wanted it. "Is what true, Anna?"

"Are you with the King?" She bumped him with her hip in the way of an eleven-year-old girl pretending she was sixteen. "Like, with him with him?"

Merlin froze. How on earth had he not seen this coming? Of course his kids would have heard the rumours by now. They were probably hooked into the internet in their sleep.

He arched his eyebrows, trying to play it cool and not let his palms get sweaty. "And where did you hear that?"

"On the internet," she replied with a distinct tone of duh. "So, are you?"

"That, my darling girl, is a very inappropriate question. Off with you." He steered her towards her seat and went to hide behind Elena's desk to grade papers, hoping that he could stop blushing before anyone had reason to look at him again.

Once they settled into their work, the morning flew by, and his time with Arthur seemed almost distant and unreal enough to dull the ache of missing him. No one else asked him about Arthur. He knew they were still whispering and wondering, but at least he did not have to think up any lies yet.

When Elena dismissed them to queue up for lunch, a few of them eyed him and tried to veer his way. They stopped and veered away again when the door opened and the head teacher stepped in. He gave them an avuncular nod and motioned for them to process out the door.

"Hello, Dr. Gaius." The ragged chorus went on until the last pupil had passed him and left.

After a look from Gaius, Elena followed them out. Merlin wove through the desks to meet his head teacher. "Er, surprise?"

Gaius's mouth twitched even as he tried to give Merlin a stern look. "Skiving off from your new post already, Merlin?"

"Not skiving," Merlin protested. "Actually, if I were skiving by showing up here, I think I'd be doing it wrong."

"That is a fair point." Gaius pushed open the door. "Come along. I'll buy you lunch and you can tell me all about how the project is going. Mr. du Lac has been gracious enough to send me regular reports on the progress, but of course, it's hardly the same as being there."

Merlin followed him down the steps. "It's going fine, as near as I can tell. They're ripping up the old building now, so it doesn't really look like progress, as such."

"Is that why they gave you the week off? Or did you finally insult His Majesty one too many times?"

Under the sardonic threat of Gaius's eyebrows, Merlin hemmed. "Yeah, nothing really for me to do at the moment. Arthur said he might want me at their office next week, though."

Gaius nodded and they walked in silence until they reached the road. "Good. I had hoped it wasn't to do with what's been in the papers this week."

Merlin jumped a little. "It's made the papers already?" He knew damn well Gaius had never so much as heard of Trickler.

"Of course it has, my boy. Many people are quite interested in any hint of King Arthur's romantic prospects, although I realize you are not among them—at least, I hope you aren't."

The words and the tone raised a tiny alarm. "We've become friends. Why shouldn't I be interested?"

"The company of royalty can be a heady thing, and normally you could only benefit from the association." Gaius hesitated.

Merlin could feel him picking delicately through the minefield of potential words, and that made Merlin bristle. "What are you trying to say, Gaius?"

"Nothing, nothing. Only that King Arthur brings a... particular sort of scrutiny onto his friends now. As you've seen, assumptions can be made."

"Assumptions?" He tried to control his voice, but it started tightening with anger. "Why should I care what anyone assumes about Arthur or me?"

"You're not so naïve as that, Merlin." The sharp tone made Merlin angrier at first, but then Gaius sighed and patted his shoulder. "I only say any of this because I care about you."

"I know," Merlin replied, and he did know, even if the concern infuriated him for too many reasons he could not discuss with his oldest friend and mentor.

"Someday Arthur is going to go back to London, and you'll still be here. I just don't want to see you get mixed up in anything that's going to hurt you in the long run. Now, let me tell you how well Elena has been doing with the children."

As they ducked into the village café, a cold, hollow feeling that had nothing to do with hunger settled into Merlin's belly. And Arthur wondered, Merlin thought with a hint of bitterness, why he was not open about his sexuality here. Some things really were different for the simple folk.

Arthur dragged himself home Friday evening, sluggish from the summer heat, ready to shed all his responsibilities and spend the night on the phone with Merlin. He ached to see him in person, but they had already risked a couple of ill-advised trysts this week and dared not press their luck.

Maybe tonight he would finally ask if Merlin would talk dirty with him while they got off – the thought made him blush and hurry to unlock the door. Gwaine had disappeared from work early and his car was not in the drive, which probably meant Arthur had the house to himself for the night.

Or so he thought until he walked in and found Mithian, dressed for going out, lounging about in the sitting room. "Mitzi? What on earth are you doing here?"

She waved to him from the couch. "Hello, darling. Vivi's in the toilet, she'll be back in a titch."

He could see his evening of long-distance privacy with Merlin evaporating and felt himself getting crankier. "That's not an answer. What are you doing on my couch, and what is Vivian doing in my toilet?"

"Ah, I see Gwaine didn't bother telling you about our plan." Mithian nodded slowly, as though Gwaine's negligence had solved one of the mysteries of the universe for her. "We've decided it's time for your boyfriend to meet the family."

A noise came out of his throat without any intention or coherence. "What?" he tried again. "That's—I—"

"I have to say that you're handling this about as well as your adorable little commoner, based on Gwaine's last text."

Arthur was wincing at what Merlin's reaction must have been when Vivian emerged from the toilet, looking quite different than she had when Arthur had seen her at the office half an hour ago. "Arthur! You sly thing." She stalked over to him and whapped him on the chest with her Gucci clutch. "If I'd had any idea you fancied that Merlin boy, I wouldn't have been nearly so hard on him."

"You're always gracious like that, Viv." He rubbed his chest in exaggerated pain while she gave a pleased laugh.

"We decided he might as well get used to the entirety of our special little coterie, warts and all," Mithian said in a dry tone. "Now, go change. Gwaine's gone to get your boy, and Leon's already on his way to the Rising Sun with Lancelot."

"Lancelot as well?" Arthur's curiosity was mostly on autopilot, since most of his brain stayed occupied with the information that Merlin was going to be here, in his house, very soon. His fingers had already started undoing his tie as he moved toward the staircase.

"Big group of your friends and work colleagues out to dinner; what could be suspicious about that?" Mithian waved him off with a little smile that let him know whose idea it had been and that she would be accepting his thanks in a tangible material fashion at some point in the future.

He had no idea what to wear. He scolded himself for being ridiculous, but Merlin had only ever seen him in business clothing or naked. Going out on a Friday night for the first time, he could not shake the need to astonish Merlin with how good looking he was.

But when he heard the door slam shut downstairs and Gwaine's familiar guffaw, he grabbed the dark grey shirt he had just taken off and pulled it back on before heading back to the stairs. He was halfway down them when he realized he had forgotten to comb his hair. It did not make him feel any less like one of the debutantes at the balls his gran used to throw as he descended the stairs and saw Merlin look up at him from across the sitting room.

Merlin had been talking to Mithian, looking like someone had hit him over the head, but when he saw Arthur, his face lit up with joy and relief, and he walked away from her like he had forgotten she existed. "Hello, stranger."

Arthur grinned back until his cheeks hurt. He felt like he had not seen Merlin in weeks instead of just days. "Hello. Am I astonishing you with how good looking I am in this?"

Merlin's eyes crinkled and he ran his hands across Arthur's shoulders, smoothing the soft fabric. "Absolutely," he murmured and then wrapped his arms around Arthur and hung on.

Arthur closed his eyes and returned the embrace. Merlin's hugs were warm, enveloping comfort, thick with the simple joy of being together. He stood with his face tucked against Merlin's neck, until their breathing fell into the same, slow rhythm.

"Bloody hell, you weren't joking," Mithian hollered at Gwaine, unnecessarily loud given that they were standing less than a yard apart.

Arthur groaned into Merlin's shoulder, but took the hint and forced himself to straighten up. The air around him felt chilly when he stepped back from Merlin's arms. "Are you staying?" he whispered as the others came towards them. "Please stay."

Merlin looked back at him, wide eyed with the same realization Arthur had just had: now that they were all here, there was no reason this little social camouflage could not keep Merlin here all weekend. "I don't have any clothes."

Arthur grinned and kissed his cheek. "You won't need any," he promised into Merlin's ear.

He was sending Gwaine home with Vivian tonight. He wished he could send them all away right now and have Merlin alone in his arms and his bed. Blissful solitude hovered just out of reach, and the presence of his friends grated on his nerves, as grateful as he was for what they were doing for him.

At the restaurant, Leon waited outside with Lancelot and his fiancée. None of them ever waited outside for anything, but tonight they lingered over their greetings, letting the couple of paps who always lurked outside the Sun snap their fill.

Arthur greeted Lancelot with a handshake and embrace and kissed Guinevere's cheek. "I understand I have you to thank for one of the more interesting evenings I've ever had." He would have felt bad for the way she gasped and tried to stammer out an apology, if the tiniest bit of humiliation had not still lingered in the back of his ego.

Over dinner, he spent most of his time watching Merlin, who had gotten over his initial shock at being thrown into the shark pool of Arthur's inner circle and was chattering cheerfully away between Mithian and Lancelot. Arthur looked between Lancelot and Merlin as they talked, and wondered how he could ever have found Lancelot attractive at all.

Merlin fit into their group as though he had been born into it as much as the rest of them had. Gwaine had clearly harried him into what Arthur suspected were the nicest shirts and trousers Merlin owned, but he doubted the clothes made much difference. Merlin had a way of talking to people as though everyone he met was no more or less important than he was. It honestly made no difference to Merlin that he was dining with a King, a Princess, a Duke, an Earl, and a future Duchess.

Arthur suspected that quality was part of what made Merlin such a popular teacher. And it would also make him....

He finally let himself think the word that he had tried to keep out of his mind: consort. It would make Merlin an excellent consort, able to connect with every level of the British public.

Assuming he could get Merlin to stand still long enough to get a crown on his head.

Now that he had a relationship, the source of his resistance to Gwaine's attempts at arranging hook-ups for him over the years clarified in his mind. He had no desire for a casual relationship. Now that he had Merlin, he very much wanted to keep him.

Merlin looked over at him at that moment, and the smile he had been directing at Lancelot softened. Arthur held his gaze for as long as he could, aching in his hands and his cock to reach across the table and touch him, any part of him.

After dinner, they did not go back out the front door. A flurry of vehicle exchanges later, Arthur started his own car as Merlin slid into the passenger seat and shut the door.

They sat for a moment, in silence except for their breathing and the purr of the motor. Arthur shut his eyes, savoring this first moment of being alone with Merlin.

Then Merlin's hand settled on his thigh, caressing him up and down. "Do you have condoms at home?" Merlin asked. "Or do we need to stop somewhere?"

Blood pounded between his legs at the question and its meaning. He had wanted to fuck Merlin, properly fuck him, since the first time they had kissed. He knew Merlin wanted to be fucked. They had just never had enough time to do it right.

"Yes." He managed to sound nearly as calm as Merlin did, though his voice had roughened. "I asked Gwaine if I could borrow a couple of his, just in case. He went rather pale and then went out and bought me my own box."

Merlin gave a high-pitched giggle that belied his calm veneer. "Guess he didn't want you running through his supply."

The idea of using up an entire box of condoms with Merlin—preferably all this weekend—made him a little crazy. Merlin's fingers kept rubbing his thigh. Sex was all he could think about all the way home; the people of Cardiff probably would have preferred him to think about the laws of the road, but he was only human.

By the time he pulled into the driveway and up to the house, he was so hard he could not bear to touch Merlin as they got out of the car. He waved a quick good night to the overnight protection detail, grateful for the erection-concealing shadows, and ushered Merlin into the house.

"Did Gwaine give you the tour earlier?" Arthur took pride in the steadiness of his voice as he locked the door and set the alarm.

"He sort of waved around at stuff when we walked in." Merlin waited in the shadows by the staircase. "After that, Vivian was too busy kissing my arse for me to get a look at anything."

"Do you want me to show you around?" Even as the words left his mouth, Arthur gaped at himself in horrified amazement. What was he doing? Why would he say that? What if Merlin actually took him up on it?

"To be honest," Merlin said, stepping forward and catching his hand, "I'm really only interested in your bed."

They were kissing hard before they made it upstairs, stumbling over the last few steps. Arthur was determined not to let go of Merlin again; undressing took some manhandling on both their parts.

Once they were in bed, they spent a long time kissing and touching, as they always did. The urgency had not faded, but Arthur let it simmer while he reacquainted himself with Merlin's body and let Merlin do the same. He never tired of the way Merlin's tongue curled against his tongue, or the way his skin pebbled when Arthur's fingers brushed it just so.

Eventually, he reached for the lube that until now he had only used on himself. Quite a bit of this bottle had gone to thoughts of Merlin, but enough remained for Merlin now.

Merlin rolled his head to watch Arthur wetting his fingers, already half-blissed out the way he usually got by the time they needed to slick their cocks. He spread his legs wide; Arthur reached between them and felt the heat on his fingers before he even touched Merlin's skin. He had played a bit with Merlin's arse before while they made love, but he had not been trying to open him up the way everyone said to do before fucking. Merlin had clung warm around his fingertip--now he felt even tighter as Arthur's well-lubed finger pushed deeper.

"Can't quite get the angle," he grunted when his knuckle caught awkwardly. "Could you--?"

"Yeah. Not that I was complaining, mind."

They had to try a few positions. Merlin kneed Arthur in the face twice and Arthur nearly sprained his wrist before they got it right. He knew they had it when two of his fingers slid into Merlin and made him let out the right kind of groan.

"I guess that's the prostate." He tried to remember the diagrams he had studied online.

"No shit, Sher--oh, yeah, there it is again. Yeah, you definitely got it." Merlin's cock twitched, heavy against his belly, as Arthur crooked his fingers to massage the tender spot. "Ah, fuck. Just get in me, would you?"

"I think it's too soon." A couple of the gay sex for dummies websites had scared the bollocks off him with descriptions of what could happen to his partner if he was too tight or dry when Arthur entered him. "I want to get you wet and relaxed first."

A high-pitched snort of laughter burst out above his head. "Relaxation is not really an option here, trust me. I'm fine. I've stuck things up there before, you know."

He squirmed off Arthur's fingers, making it clear he was done with preparation. That was just as well, since the image of Merlin working some vague object into himself nearly finished Arthur.

His hands lost their coordination as he opened the box of condoms, nearly scattering them across the bed. Lube made his fingers too slippery to open the packet; he had to use a corner of the bed sheet to tear it.

The condom slipped out into his palm. He had never put one on before. He had never even had a sex ed class. Fuck, he had no idea what he was doing, at his age, and Merlin--

A warm hand closed over his palm and swept the condom from his hand. He looked up, startled, into Merlin's smiling eyes.

"Let me," Merlin said. "I want to put it on you."

Merlin moved Arthur's foreskin back gently and put the condom to the tip of Arthur's cock, pinching the tip to create a reservoir for his come. He used his fingertips to roll it down his shaft and stroked the length of him a few times.

Arthur took a ragged breath as he watched Merlin's work. Then Merlin cupped his jaw to lift his face.

"I love you," he said.

Warmth washed through him, a happiness separate from the erection jutting between them. He swayed into Merlin and kissed him.

They kissed until Merlin pushed him onto his back and straddled his hips. He lifted himself up over Arthur's cock. Arthur gripped the base on instinct and fit the tip to Merlin's entrance.

He held it steady as Merlin pressed down. It slipped a couple times until the head pushed through into Merlin.

"Oh, God." He fumbled for Merlin's hips to hold him steady. "It feels so good."

"Yeah." Merlin put his hands over Arthur's and closed his eyes as he sank down another inch. "Feels amazing, having you inside me."

He could not help pushing up a little further into Merlin, to get just a little more of Merlin around him. "Is that all right?"

"Oh yeah. More of that, please." Merlin pushed down to meet his thrust until Merlin's balls pressed snug into the hair at the base of Arthur's cock.

Merlin lifted himself up just enough to get some friction. Arthur echoed his groan. He did not know how he had lived his whole life without this. The condom provided just enough remove from the sensation to keep him from embarrassing himself--but his brain wanted orgasm.

"I'm not going to last long," he admitted after they had rocked together a few times. Pleasure was already tugging at his balls, tingling from his cock deeper into his groin, calling for him to come.

Merlin nodded without breaking his rhythm. He moved one hand to his cock and pumped himself in time with their fucking. "I want to come, too. It feels so good."

Arthur's fingers dug into the grooves of Merlin's hips as he ground up into him. He was not sure Merlin understood just how much Arthur wanted to come, but he would not do it, he would not, not until his partner had his pleasure.

Then Merlin choked out something unintelligible and a jet of come hit Arthur's chest. The hot splash sent a bolt of pure pleasure through his groin, tumbling him out of control for good.

He felt nothing but the pulses of his climax, confined within the clenching grip of Merlin's flesh. Nothing in his life had ever felt this good.

The orgasm faded out and left him buzzing with contentment and heavy with the need for sleep. He grinned up at Merlin, swaying above him, through his lassitude.

Merlin grinned back, then winced as he lifted himself off Arthur's softening cock. Arthur started to slide the condom off; Merlin caught his hand and showed him how to pull it free and tie it off without making a mess.

As Merlin reached for a handful of tissues to clean them up, a memory hit Arthur through his sleepy haze. "Damn." He pushed himself up on his elbows. "Where are my manners?"

Merlin looked at him with amusement. "I don't mind cleaning up this time. I'll make you cook me breakfast in the morning if you want to make it up to me."

"No." He reached out and caught Merlin around the back of his neck. "You said you loved me. I didn't say anything back."

Merlin's expression turned uncertain. "I didn't think anything of it. Well, not until just now. You don't have to say anything."

"But I do. Because I do love you." He stroked along Merlin's jaw, let his fingers play in the soft hair at the nape of his neck. "That's not something I'm used to saying to anyone. But I think I'm going to like saying it to you."

This time it was Merlin who looked at him with no words. Then he stretched out on top of Arthur and kissed him.

The only thought Arthur had left to spare for the rest of the night was gratitude that Gwaine had bought the large box of condoms.

Chapter 6
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Cori Lannam

October 2017


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