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Exhausted

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Merlin had been so stressed out lately that Arthur couldn’t really be mad when Merlin decided he would go to the anime- and manga convention that was happening in town. He had been working hard and the long hours got to him. Nobody knew better than Arthur. Merlin rushed out of the house early only to come back hours late and so exhausted that the only things he did, was lying on the couch and trying not to waste too much energy on breathing.

If Arthur managed to engage Merlin in a conversation, all he heard about was a lot of people who apparently didn’t know what they were doing and a boss who didn’t have a spine. If only half of what Merlin told him was not exaggerated, Arthur was happy that he didn’t work there.

What Arthur hated most was that even though Merlin needed his nightly rest badly, he couldn’t really sleep. It took him ages to fall asleep and then he tossed and turned, groaned and kicked and woke himself up with this again and again. It wasn’t healthy.

He just wanted his Merlin back. The Merlin that came home on time, the one that cooked and the one he couldn’t watch a movie with as Merlin constantly chatted all the way through. The Merlin that slept like a rock after a long day. Arthur didn’t say anything, though. He knew it was hard enough for Merlin to hold everything together and didn’t need the additional pressure.

So when Merlin had mentioned the convention, Arthur had encouraged him to go. Of course, his office was so busy that he couldn’t go the day it opened since he couldn’t take the day off.

What Arthur hadn’t thought about was the fact that you had to get up really early to stand in line for a day ticket. Instead of finally sleeping in, Merlin had gotten up even earlier than on a work day, put on his costume and had left quietly. As none of the ‘usual suspects’, i.e. Merlin’s convention-going-friends were available, Arthur had even offered to come along. He hated these things, they were too loud, too colourful, too Japanese – not that he minded the country or the people there, those were lovely, but this was all a bit too much for his taste. Merlin loved it and he loved Merlin, so he would have skipped footie practice to go. Merlin didn’t have it. He kissed the tip of Arthur’s nose and told him to have a wonderful Saturday.

Now, Arthur stood in the doorway of the bathroom and admired what he saw. Merlin was in the shower, with his back to him and put shampoo in his longish hair. He could get lost in the sight of soap bubbles sliding down Merlin’s back and the way the muscles in Merlin’s arms moved as he worked the shampoo in. It would have been all too easy to just shed all his clothes and step into the shower with Merlin.

But he knew his boyfriend. He had tried to cramp everything into that one day that the schedule would allow, had seen all the merchandising and toys and DVDs and comic books – oh, sorry, mangas – in the entire building and been outside a lot as well, judging by the slight sunburn on Merlin’s nose and arms. Arthur knew, Merlin was shot.

He should be angry that Merlin countered exhaustion with even more exhaustion, but he also knew that this day had pulled Merlin’s mind away from work and as exhausting it might have been in the past hours, it did Merlin good.

So he left an extra soft towel for Merlin, who hadn’t noticed him standing there for a while, and took the aloe lotion from the top shelf of the cabinet and placed it on the sink, so Merlin would find it.

Then he went and pulled some of Merlin’s favourite delicatessen out of the fridge that he’d gotten on the way back from footie practice and got one of Merlin’s old hoodies out of the closet. Merlin would insist he didn’t have a sunburn and he sure wasn’t freezing after applying the lotion, but Arthur knew him better.

When he entered the bedroom, he found Merlin face-down on the bed, sound asleep.

Arthur pulled the blanket up to his shoulder, brushed a still-wet strand of hair off Merlin’s forehead and switched off the lights.

Merlin could tell him all about his exciting day in the world of animated and drawn characters tomorrow morning.