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As Arthur maneuvered down the sidewalk outside a strip of shops, he reached for his iPhone to check the messages that had come in while he’d been jogging through the park. He wasn’t running as fast as when he was on unpaved ground since his doctor had told him to take better care of his joints, but if he kept that pace up, he could squeeze in a bit of work after a hot shower before he would meet up with Leon and the guys.

One moment, he was flicking through his email, the next he felt himself colliding with someone and landing on the ground in a heap. “Hey!”

Pulling his earbuds out, he scrambled for his iPhone. “This better still be working! Can’t you watch where you’re going, idiot? ”

When Arthur looked over, he noticed that the bloke who had stepped in his way was on the ground, too.

“Me? Fuck! How about you watch where you’re going? Clearly your fault, arsehole!” The guy shot back, frantically swiping at his ugly plaid winter coat, trying to get the coffee out that he’d poured all over himself when he fell.

Finding his phone and checking it while he was getting up, Arthur rubbed his dirty hands on his sweatpants. Great, they had a tear at the knee – how the heck could that happen when he had fallen onto his butt? – and the palm of his left hand burned where the skin was scraped. “Look at what you’ve done!”

“How on earth could anyone be so dense, lamebrain? You ran into me!” The dark-haired boy shot Arthur angry looks. “And fuck! You’ve ruined my new jacket, too.” The frown on the handsome face deepened.

“New? It looks like you got it from the Salvation Army.”

“Merlin!” Arthur was not done examining the damage when a dark-skinned beauty with black curls rushed out of the coffee shop towards the idiot on the ground. “Are you okay? Oh my God, Merlin, can you get up?”

“Listen, lady, he just ran into me and fell, the clumsy fucktard. And I’m sure that the aerodynamic drag of his ears softened the fall. No need to act as if he were dying.”

The man – he was probably a bit older than Arthur had assumed at first glance – growled. “What softened your fall? Your giant ego or your fat arse?”

For some odd reason Arthur liked that. As much as he wanted to blame the bloke for something that might – might – have been Arthur’s fault, the bloke didn’t give up and answered each comment with one just as sharp. And if you could get over the ridiculously large ears, he was kind of cute – all black hair and blue eyes, just the way Arthur liked.

“Hey, come on, I’ll buy you a coffee.” He held out his hand to Merlin, that was his name, right?

But neither the man nor the girl paid any attention to him.

“Merlin, can you get up? Is everything alright?” She pulled the hem of Merlin’s jeans up a bit and revealed an artificial leg.

The blood pounded in Arthur’s ears. Oh God, what had he done? Running over a disabled bloke, trying to bully his way out of the blame.

“I think so. Gwaine will be pissed if he has to do a new paint job, but…” Merlin scrambled up and took a few steps. “Seems okay.”

“You gotta have it checked.” The girl had gotten up. “And you,” she turned to Arthur, who stood there, unable to keep the shocked look off his face, “you better pay for all the damage you did here!”

“Hey, listen, I’m sorry, man. I didn’t know.” Arthur made a weak gesture towards the man’s leg. No, he hadn’t, how could he have known?

Huffing, Merlin brushed the dirt off his hands. “Yeah, you didn’t. And now you’re oh so sorry for running the poor cripple over.”

“No…yes, I mean…I probably shouldn’t have been checking my messages.” Arthur tried a smile. “Of course I’ll pay for everything. I mean, if there’s anything broken or needs…a repair.”

“Just leave me alone, tosser.” Merlin started walking down the street, mumbling insults, and all Arthur could do was stare after him. When he was walking like that, it wasn’t even visible that he was disabled, it looked…well, if you looked really closely, but…actually quite normal.

Only then Arthur noticed that the girl was talking to him. “Can’t you watch where you’re going? You better give me your name and number because you’re going to pay for anything that has to be redone or adjusted. Do you have the slightest idea what kind of work has to go into this?”

Blinking, he said, “Arthur. I’m Arthur Pendragon.” He still couldn’t tear his eyes off Merlin’s back.

“Does that thing still work?” The girl pointed at his mobile. “Gimme your number.”

Of course he would pay for anything he might have broken. Damn, a young fellow like this Merlin-bloke shouldn’t have to go through this. “What…what happened to your boyfriend?”

“He’s not my boyfriend and it’s none of your business.” Noting down Arthur’s number in the notepad she had dug out of her giant handbag and scribbling down her own, ripping the paper out and handing it to Arthur, she glared at him again. “And you better have called by tonight.”

“Gwen!” Merlin had turned. “Are you coming or what?”

Gwen threw Arthur a look and rushed after Merlin, leaving Arthur standing there. What had he done?

+++

“Can you believe that arse? So full of himself!”

Gwen let them into the flat they shared. “Calm down, Merlin. He didn’t mean it that way. Go, check on your leg, so we can…”

“Didn’t mean it that way? Didn’t you see the look on his face when he realized that I am a cripple?” Merlin tossed his jacket into the bathroom and pulled his sweatshirt over his head.

“You aren’t a cripple! Stop calling yourself that!” Gwen took the groceries into the kitchen and put on the kettle.

“Well, to him, that’s what I am. One moment, I’m the stupid fuck who didn’t look before stepping into his precious way and the next I’m just the poor pitiful guy who lost a leg and needs to be treated differently.” Merlin, still half in the bathroom, pushed his jeans down. Grabbing his zipped hoodie and a pair of cut-off sweatpants, he made his way back to the living room. When he was dressed again, he sat down on the couch.

“Want a tea?” Gwen already poured herself a cup.

“Yeah,” Merlin murmured absent-mindedly while taking his leg off, examining it for possible damage. “Fuck!”

“What’s wrong?” Gwen set a teacup in front of him and then sat down in the big arm chair. “Something broken? Good thing I got his number! I’ll call him right away.”

“It’s scratched badly. Look, here. Must have happened when I scraped the step to the shop when I fell.” Merlin examined the scratch on the socket. Damn, he was so proud of what Gwaine had done to it. The airbrush dragon looked so real and now it had an ugly scratch along its wings. “Call Gwaine.”

“Not Gwaine, dummy! Arthur.”

Merlin blinked. “Who’s Arthur?”

Sighing and rolling her eyes, Gwen tried to reach for her mobile. “Tall, blond, blue eyes, huge ego? Does that ring a bell?”

“Oh, his name is Arthur?”

“Yeah.”

“Don’t call him. I’m sure Gwaine can repair this. I don’t need yet another encounter with that pompous arse.”

“For hating him so much, you seem to have taken an interest in his arse. It’s the second time you’ve mention it.” Gwen giggled.

Merlin just shot her a look. “Didn’t you want to make veggie lasagna?”

+++

 

Arthur’s mind kept reliving the incident as he let himself into his place. Of course, it had all been his fault. He’d checked his mobile while running and didn’t pay attention to the world around him. He never saw the guy stepping out onto the street with the coffee cups in hand. His buttock hurt a bit from where he hit the ground and the scrapes on the palm of his hand stung. But he didn’t really notice. He had lashed out the moment they’d collided; that was just the way he was. Then he’d looked into the bloke’s face. True, the ears were ridiculous, but the black hair and the blue eyes and…damn, that guy was hot.

Usually it would have been the easiest come-on ever. Classic scene: running into each other, knocking coffee over, buying bloke a coffee and with a bit of luck, getting laid. But then the girl had pulled Merlin’s jeans up and revealed an artificial leg. He had run into a disabled guy and made him fall; and he felt horrible about that.

When Merlin stormed away, he’d wanted to run after him, but it didn’t look as he would have appreciated that. So Arthur had exchanged numbers with Gwen. Of course he would cover any cost that this encounter had caused. May it be the dry-cleaners for Merlin’s ugly jacket or some repairs to the leg. Or…a paintjob. Whatever Merlin meant by that.

He’d never met anyone with a prosthesis before and in his mind they were something for veterans or old people. But Merlin didn’t seem to be older than…what? Twenty? Twenty-two? He was too young to be a veteran, wasn’t he? Maybe he had been in an accident?

His phone rang. “Yeah?”

“Are you home?”

“Leon, you’re calling on my landline. No, I took my telephone along to the supermarket. Of course I’m home.”

Leon chuckled. “I’ll be there in thirty. You didn’t forget our pub night, did you?”

Arthur sighed. Of course he hadn’t forgotten that. Once a month, he met up with the guys for a beer or two and each time he didn’t feel like going at all. In the end, he usually had fun, but getting out of the house was the hardest part. Today, though, it might be a good thing. He could stop thinking about the cute bloke he’d run over and who hated him now.

Ending the call, Arthur pulled his sweatshirt over his head. After a much-needed shower, he still had to make a phone call before he left with Leon.

As he tried to wiggle his foot into his new sneakers, he checked the number and frowned at his mobile. Come on, Gwen, pick up already.

+++

“That bloody idiot!” Merlin was still ranting ten minutes after he entered Gwaine’s workshop.

Usually, Gwaine didn’t let customers into the workshop that was located behind the official business room at the shop front, but Merlin had become good friends with the technician who helped Uncle Gaius develop the G-leg. Not only was he the person who knew most about the complicated mechanism and microchip operated knee, he also was an artist and had decorated the socket with beautiful air brush art.

“Can you believe it? He just stared at me and only started to apologize when he saw that I have this.”

Gwaine nodded as he inspected the leg. “So you said.”

“So, how bad is it? Can Kilgharrah be fixed?”

Smiling because Merlin had named the big dragon that decorated his prosthesis, Gwaine shrugged. “I doubt I can fix this. I can try, but I think I’ll have to redo it completely.”

Merlin’s face fell. “It won’t be Kilgharrah any longer if you did him anew.”

“Oh, come on,” Gwaine looked up, “we’ve redone this a couple of times already. Every few months you come in and are bored of the old design.”

“But I especially liked this one.”

The pout on Merlin’s face was adorable but Gwaine wouldn’t tell him that. “I know.”

“And that blond arse thought he could get away just by looking at me with those blue eyes. He’s so going to pay for this!” Merlin dangled his foot angrily.

Trying to hide his smirk behind his long hair, Gwaine looked at the art again. Too bad, he had been so proud of this piece of art. “You like him.”

“Kilgharrah? You know I love him! He’s the best you’ve ever done.”

“The blond arse. You like him.”

Merlin’s eyes went wide. “Why would I? He’s just arrogant and rude and instead of paying attention, he rather pitied the poor disabled bloke later.”

“From what you told me, he did no such thing. Okay, he might be a bit full of himself but he saw his mistake. He never once said something that could let us think he pities you and…” Gwaine hissed when he realized just how deep the scratch was.

“Everyone does. As long as nobody knows, they’re all fine but as soon as someone finds out, everyone’s so eager to help me and treats me like a soft-shelled egg.” Merlin sighed but then looked up in alarm when Gwaine examined what he had only thought was a scratch in the paint.

“He didn’t. He just called Gwen to ensure he will pay for the damage.” Gwaine turned to reach for an instrument and scratched even more at the dragon.

“What are you doing that for? Leave Kilgharrah alone!”

“Merlin, I’m not sure it’s just a paint job. We might have to exchange the socket. If this scratch is deeper than it first looks, it might not support you the way it should.”

Merlin groaned. After some fiddling with these parts they had finally made one that fit perfectly. “We’ll have to make a new one?” He made a face.

“Probably. Let me check a few things first.”

Sighing, Merlin’s shoulders slumped. It was boring and took ages for it to be fitted. The clotpole had caused more damage than this whole thing was worth. Good thing Gwen had…”Hey, wait a minute. What do you mean, he called Gwen?”

+++

“Yeah, so?” Percy looked at Arthur expectantly.

“Seems that what he thought was just a scratch destabilized the leg and now he needs to have a new one made.” Arthur slung his towel around his neck after he slipped his hoodie over his sweaty jersey.

“Maybe they’re just trying to get a new device from you?” Percy had listened patiently to Arthur telling them about his encounter for the third…oh wait, the fourth time and rummaged through his sports bag for his water bottle.

Shaking his head, Arthur pulled his socks down to remove his shin guards. “It didn’t sound like it. And what if? I mean…you know money’s not an issue.”

Percy drank from his bottle and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand before he answered. “Maybe they found out and just rang to tell you that the leg is broken?”

“I don’t care. I…it’s…I don’t know, it’s just…I made a mistake and now he has to go through all this hassle.”

Shouldering his bag, Percy threw him a look. “See it like a car accident. He has to get the car repaired. Yes, it’s annoying and it takes time, but that can’t be helped. And you’ll pay for everything, so what’s his problem?”

Arthur took a deep breath. That was the question, what was Merlin’s problem? He had refused to even talk to him since he first called. Since then, he’d talked to Gwen almost every night and sometimes sent messages. It slowly became an obsession, even though he wanted to let the incident go. Maybe he would be able to if he could at least apologize to Merlin and to make sure he was alright?

+++

Merlin heard the doorbell and that Gwen was answering it, so he didn’t pay attention and kept checking his email.

“Merlin!”

“Gwen?” He yelled back but didn’t even move his eyes from the screen.

“It’s for you.” She hauled a package into his room and dropped it on his bed.

“I didn’t order anything. What is this?”

Shrugging, Gwen slumped down next to the package. “Open it and we’ll know.”

Merlin got up and hopped over to his bed. He opened the box and blinked. “My…jacket.”

Gwen grinned when he pulled a jacket out that was just like his. “There’s a note.”

“Salvation Army had a second one. It looks marginally better without the stain.” Merlin read and then threw Gwen a look.

“What?” She failed miserably at trying to look innocent.

“Traitor.” It was clear that Gwen had been in contact with Arthur again. How else would he know Merlin’s size and where to get the jacket? Or that the outlines of the coffee stain just didn’t want to wash out of the old one?

“Come on. Arthur has been nothing but nice. He called the same night to ask if he caused any damage and how he could pay for it.”

Merlin looked at the jacket. “Pay…rich prat.”

“Don’t be like that, Merlin.”

“I don’t need his charity.”

Sighing, she got up. “Why is it pity when he wants to replace the things he destroyed? It’s just fair.”

“He wouldn’t do it if I weren’t like this.”

Rolling her eyes, Gwen took the empty box. “Can you get over it already? He snarled at you, yes, but I think he would do this for anyone. He’s actually pretty nice, you should talk to him.”

“He’s an arse.”

With a smirk on her face, Gwen left the room. That Merlin ran his thumb over the soft fleece lining in his new jacket and still held on to the handwritten note didn’t go unnoticed.

+++

Arthur felt stupid. He hadn’t managed to get Merlin on the phone since he ran into him, even though Gwen assured him that Merlin liked that he sent a new jacket and had kept the note. So he waited at the coffee shop for the third day in a row. Maybe today was the day that Merlin would show up?

Irritated, he sighed and stirred his coffee for the seventh time. What was it about this bloke that wanted to make him talk to him so badly? From what Arthur remembered, Merlin was pretty hot; all black hair and sparkling blue eyes – even though they had glared daggers at him - tall and lean, just as Arthur liked his blokes. What made him so sure that Merlin was into men, too? Maybe he was totally wrong and, even though Gwen had told him several times that she wasn’t Merlin’s girlfriend, Merlin liked girls? And why on earth was he having such thoughts when he didn’t even know Merlin at all?

Arthur almost jumped when someone stepped up to his table.

“Err…I think I should say thank you for the new jacket, so…thank you.”

Merlin! Arthur couldn’t keep the wide smile off his face. “Don’t worry about it. It was the least I could do.”

“Well, then…” Merlin stood about awkwardly.

“Do you have plans? Why don’t you…” Arthur gestured towards the empty chair across from him.

For a moment, it looked as if Merlin would turn and leave, but then he hung his jacket over the back of the chair and sat down.

“Hey, listen, I was an arse. That’s just who I am. I would have snarled at anyone, don’t take that personal, okay?”

It looked as if Merlin had a hard time not to laugh. “Yup, that’s what you are. An arse.”

“And yet you’re here, having coffee with me.” Arthur smiled.

“Oy! It’s more like I bought my own coffee and you happened to be here.” Merlin looked at Arthur for a while. “Oh, you didn’t just happen to be here, did you?”

Shaking his head, Arthur turned his coffee mug in his hands. “No, not really. I thought you might be coming here once in a while, so…you had to show up eventually…”

“You…” Merlin blinked, “you’ve been waiting here?”

“I didn’t camp here if that’s what you mean, but…kind of?” Arthur felt a bit stupid, it all came out wrong.

Merlin wasn’t sure what to think. “That’s creepy.”

“I was going for enduring and charming?” Arthur flashed him a smile and batted his eyelashes.

Despite himself, Merlin chuckled. “I’ve never had a stalker before.”

“I’m not trying to stalk you. I just…you ran away the other day and whenever I call Gwen, you’re not at home or don’t want to talk to me.”

“Yeah, that’s because you’re an arse and just want to say ‘sorry’ to the guy with only one leg so you can sleep without a guilty conscience. I don’t need your pity.” Merlin reached for his jacket.

“I don’t pity you. I just want to apologize for running you over. It was my fault.”

Merlin looked at him, trying to figure out what all of that meant. Why did Arthur wait here for him even though he always refused to talk to him on the phone? He must feel really guilty if he went through all this trouble. And that was something Merlin didn’t need. He didn’t need pity, he didn’t want people feeling guilty just because one of his legs was one he wasn’t born with.

Arthur saw the little frown on Merlin’s face. “Hey, you know what? How about…I don’t know…we’ll go out for lunch? Or dinner? Or the movies? Movies is good, isn’t it?”

“Wanna buy your way out of this?” Merlin put his coffee mug down.

“No…not at all. Listen…I….” Usually Arthur was anything but shy when he wanted to date someone but somehow Merlin was different. He was reluctant and it seemed he didn’t let people in easily. “I want to see you again.”

“I’m not a charity.”

“No, you’re a gorgeous bloke I would like to take out for dinner. Or…,” he tried a crooked little smile, “…to the movies.”

Merlin had never been asked out on a date before, if this was what Arthur was asking. Even though he wasn’t sure about Arthur’s intentions, it felt nice, so Merlin couldn’t hold back a little smile.

“There, I see it.” Arthur smiled widely. “Don’t even pretend you didn’t smile. So…movies? What kind do you like? Action adventure? French film? Chick flick?”

Laughing now, Merlin shook his head. “I like most anything that doesn’t have subtitles. They’re annoying.”

“I’ll find something that you’ll like.” Arthur’s mobile beeped and with an apologetic smile he checked the message. Sighing, he got up. “Sorry, gotta go. I’ll pick you up at seven, okay?” He shrugged into his jacket and didn’t even notice the frown that was back on Merlin’s face.

+++

“Can you believe it!” Merlin tossed his jacket on the back of a chair and paced the living room where he found Gwen on the couch, reading while the TV was on but muted.

“Merlin!” Gwen smiled, the book forgotten.

“He comes here, picks me up, decides on the movie and pays for my coke and popcorn! After the movie, he makes me go to this pub and didn’t even ask if I…”

Gwen’s laughter pulled him out of his rant. “What’s so funny?”

“You, sweets.”

“Me?” Merlin frowned and dropped down in the big armchair.

Nodding, Gwen closed her book and put it on the couch next to her. “You go out on a date which you obviously enjoyed and then come back and complain about every little detail.”

“I didn’t enjoy it.”

“Oh yes, you did. I’ve heard you say ‘no’ and ‘I don’t want that’ many times before, Merlin. You’re not a person who does stay quiet when he doesn’t feel comfortable about something.”

Fiddling with the seam of his shirt, Merlin couldn’t disagree. Because people always tried to tell him what he was supposed to do, assuming he couldn’t do stuff on his own and tried to do it for him before he even got a chance to try, he was quick to glare, object and show people that he was very capable of most everything. Sometimes he knew that people just meant it nicely. Like that girl last summer who had held a door open for him after she had a quick glance at his leg. Admittedly, he had been packed with shopping bags and yet he rudely told her that he could do that himself and she should leave him alone.

“And yet you let him pick you up,” Gwen continued, “you let him choose the movie and you didn’t say you wanted to go home after. You enjoyed being around him and you liked talking to him. You even liked the coke and the popcorn. Come on, Merlin, you always have coke and popcorn at the movies.” Gwen grinned.

Merlin worried his lower lip. “Well, okay, maybe I enjoyed the evening a bit.”

“A bit? It’s 12:30, you liked it a lot.” She winked.

“He’s not so bad. The movie was fun and it was nice to not have to pay for the food and the drink afterwards.” Merlin threw her a sideways glance and couldn’t suppress a smile.

“Arthur’s nice to talk to, too, isn’t he?”

Nodding, Merlin almost beamed. “I feared that he would take this evening to apologize over and over again, but he didn’t mention it once. He didn’t ask about my leg, we just talked; about the movie, about what we like. He has an Xbox, too!”

Gwen laughed. “Well then, a match made in heaven.”

“He even made plans of things we could do together.” Merlin blushed.

“So, when will you see him again?”

Looking up, a brilliant smile spread across Merlin’s face. “We’re going to the zoo tomorrow.”

 

+++

 

“Damn, you’re in a good mood. Got laid on the weekend?”

Arthur smiled at Leon. “Can’t I be happy for once?”

“After that last disaster with…okay, I won’t even mention his name…you deserve to be happy. Who is he?” Taking their bags for football practice out, Leon closed the trunk of his car.

Readjusting the weight of his bag on his shoulder, Arthur started walking to the club house. “Remember the bloke I ran over at the coffee shop?”

“You’re…you’re dating the guy with the leg?” Leon blinked.

“Yeah. And for your information, Leon, he has two legs as we all do.” Holding the door open for his friend, Arthur made an impatient gesture with his head for him to go inside.

Leon said nothing for a moment. “How will that work? I mean…you’ll run into problems sooner or later.”

“Are you saying I shouldn’t date him because of his…” Disability. That seemed to be the official word, but Arthur couldn’t bring himself to say it. Merlin might have problems because of his artificial leg – G-leg as he called it, Arthur still needed to find out what that meant exactly – but he was a normal bloke, wasn’t he?

“No!” Leon shook his head. “Anyone who can put that smile on your face is so worth being dated by you.” He grinned. “So, what have you done?”

“We’ve been to the movies the other night. And to the zoo yesterday.”

“The zoo?” Leon’s eyebrow shot up. “You romantic!” He grinned.

Sighing, Arthur dropped his bag on the floor and opened his locker to stuff his jacket on the top shelf. “Wasn’t one of my better ideas.”

“Why not? Is he one of those environmentalists who claims that zoos are torture?”

Arthur chuckled. “We’ve actually discussed the whole idea of keeping animals in captivity. But no, he also thinks that as long as animals are kept in an environment that is at least close to their natural habitats, zoos can do a valuable job educating people.”

“Wow.” Leon smirked.

“What?” Arthur pulled his jersey out of his bag and started to get changed.

“This is different. All your previous relationships started between the sheets and usually weren’t more than that – based on sex. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you being with a bloke you actually wanted to talk to and discuss stuff with.” Leon nodded.

“Ah, cut that out. It’s just…I don’t know if he…” Surprisingly, Arthur hadn’t given this much thought. But by the way Merlin reacted to him wrapping his arm around him, Arthur doubted that Merlin had been with many people before.

“Come on, it’ll happen when it happens. You know I’ve been dating Percy for four months before we moved to that next level.”

Arthur groaned. They all had heard that story often enough and Leon could really get preachy when it came to the topic of ‘sex on a first date’. “Anyway. The zoo wasn’t too much of a good idea. It meant walking around a lot. Merlin was really tired when I took him home. I don’t know why he didn’t say anything.”

“Come on, you said he wants to be treated like everyone else. He probably thought it sounded whiny when he said that he was tired. Maybe you should take him places where he doesn’t have to walk so much.”

Arthur wasn’t very concentrated during practice. Leon had actually made some suggestions he could work with.

++

“Pass me the jam, please?” Gwen held out her hand but didn’t take her eyes off her paper.

“You know, Gwen.” Merlin handed the jar over. “If you keep reading, I could have breakfast at my computer while working.”

She looked up and smiled. “You hate crumbs in your keyboard, but you’re right. It’s very impolite of me to keep reading. So, how was your date last night?”

Merlin blushed slightly. “It was nice.”

“Just nice? Come on, give me all the details!”

“He did it again.” Merlin put his toast down and plucked at the crust.

After spreading the strawberry jam generously on her own toast, Gwen looked up again. “He did what again?”

“He picked everything. He chose where we went, what we did. Gwen, he even chose what to have for dinner and simply ordered for me!” There was a little frown on Merlin’s face.

“And you complained all the way through.” Gwen grinned.

“You bet I did!”

“What did he say to that?”

“Well, you would expect him to apologize, wouldn’t you? But all he said was ‘Merlin? Shut up!’”

Gwen burst out laughing. “And you just sat there and let him decide for you. He’s good for you, honey. He knows that you can do all that stuff on your own, decide for yourself. And yet, he takes it from you and doesn’t give in when you complain about the stupid stuff.”

“You think it’s stupid?”

“Sometimes, Merlin, sometimes you just need to let go. You are comfortable around him, aren’t you? Isn’t it nice that he surprises you with all that stuff?”

Merlin played with his knife on the table for a moment before he gave Gwen a small smile. “Yeah. It’s especially nice that he…”

Looking at him expectantly, Gwen waited.

“I don’t know. I’ve never had anyone in my life this way. It’s like I have to get used to it first. But I really like the way he touches my hand or puts his arm around me or…” Merlin blushed deeply. “That good-night kiss…”

“He kissed you good-night?” Gwen couldn’t hold back a giggle. “That’s wonderful.”

Worrying his lower lip, the smile vanished from Merlin’s face. “What if I get too used to it?”

“What do you mean?”

“What if…I mean…he’s never known anyone with just one leg, he’ll be appalled by it once he finally sees it. And then I’m used to all the nice things and he will be gone.”

“Merlin...”

“I’ll never be able to show him this.” Merlin pointed to his stump. “It’ll drive him away. I can’t let it get that far. I’ll have to end it before he gets any ideas. I mean, what would he want from a cripple? “

Gwen set her tea cup down with so much force that the tea sloshed over the rim. “Merlin Emrys! Do you even listen to yourself talking? It’s not like he doesn’t know about your leg. If he found that icky or didn’t know how to handle it, he wouldn’t want to spend time with you. Give him a chance!”

“But what if it ends badly?”

Groaning, she jumped up. “It could end badly if you had two legs. Merlin, don’t destroy this before it even started. If he can’t handle seeing your leg, he’s not worth it. But not even letting him find out is not fair! From the very first moment on, he was interested in you, you as a person. Not you as the ‘poor guy with only one leg’. He doesn’t care about this, don’t you see? Allow yourself to be happy for once in your life!”

With that, she stormed out of the kitchen and left Merlin sitting there, deep in thought.

+++

 

They hadn’t seen each other in more than a week. Merlin was busy with programming and Arthur had been on a little business trip.

“Hey.”

Merlin jumped when he heard the voice. “Hi!” His face lit up. “What are you doing here? We weren’t…we didn’t…did we?”

Laughing, Arthur came closer, tossed a few things on the coffee table before he shrugged out of his jacket and then sat down. “No, we didn’t. I just caught an earlier plane and was facing a lonely evening. So I thought I’d come here.”

“What if I hadn’t been at home?” Merlin couldn’t help but beaming, it was good to see Arthur.

“Was worth the risk.” Arthur got up again. “Mind if I get myself a Coke?”

“I can do that, you’re the guest.” Merlin got up, happy that he hadn’t taken his leg off when he came in earlier.

Sighing, Arthur turned and went to the kitchen. “I’ve been here before. Want something, too, while I’m at it?” He came back and put a bottle of Coke in front of Merlin while opening his own. “See, simple as that.”

“But…!” Merlin frowned. Arthur didn’t have to do everything. He was perfectly capable of being a good host and getting the drinks for the visitors!

“Merlin?”

“Huh?”

“Shut up, sit down and pick a game. I brought a couple of new ones and I’m so going to beat your arse.” Arthur laughed.

Slowly, Merlin relaxed, sat down and went through the games before he decided on a football game.

+++

 

“What?”

“You look so fluffy with that beard, Mordred.” Arthur grinned.

“Fluffy?” The younger man glared at him.

“Yup, fluffy. Strange, somehow.”

“So grown-up.” Percy laughed while Mordred pouted.

Snorting, Mordred tied up his cleats. “You’re all just jealous because what you call a beard is just a few hairs here and there. At least I’m able to grow a proper one. And it’s winter, I’m entitled to a beard!”

Laughing, they all teased Mordred a bit more and when they were all done getting dressed, they walked onto the football field together.

“So, when will we meet your ominous Merlin?” Percy asked.

Arthur shrugged. “When he wants to meet you?”

“Bring him, we can play football.” Mordred kicked a ball across the field towards the goal.

“You know he can’t. He said he loved it as a kid, but his G-leg is not made for sports and that he doesn’t want to wear out his other joints by doing sports.” Arthur put his gloves on.

Mordred stopped and turned. “So he can’t do anything?”

Frowning, Arthur shook his head. “He works out, you should see the muscles in his arms.”

Even though he was wearing his goalie jersey over a hoodie, Percy tried to show off his biceps and Arthur groaned. “Not like that. Just some nice definition in his upper body. But he can’t do any running about.”

“Then bring him to the pub on Saturday,” Leon suggested. “We’d all love to meet him. He sounds like a decent bloke, no need to hide him.”

Arthur started his warm-up routine. “I’ll ask him if he wants to come, okay?” Yes, why shouldn’t Merlin be introduced to his friends? So far, things were going good and Arthur could really see them being together in a long-term fashion. He knew that it was still too early to talk about this, but it was important to him that Merlin got along with his friends, too. Not that he needed their approval or anything, but maybe, if he found the right moment, he would ask Merlin about this.

+++

“I like this.”

Merlin looked up. “What?”

“That smile on your face.” Gwen ran her knuckles gently across Merlin’s cheek.

“I do smile once in a while, you know?” He couldn’t keep the grin off his face and the slight blush off his cheeks.

Gwen put a kiss on top of his head. “Once in a while, I know. All the time is new. And it suits you.”

Merlin waved his hand as if to shoo her away but she didn’t let off.

“He’s good for you.”

“It’s got nothing to do with him.” Merlin deliberately didn’t look at Gwen at that apparent lie.

She just laughed. “No, of course not. It’s got nothing to do with how he picks you up and takes you places, how he chooses things for you and how he just is there when you need him.”

Merlin’s face fell. “I don’t need him.”

“Sure you do, sweetheart. He finds the right balance between doing things for you and giving you space when you have to do your ‘I’m independent and I don’t need anyone’ act. Trust me, he’s good for you.” Gwen smiled so encouragingly at him that Merlin couldn’t help but smile back.

Yes, maybe Gwen was right and Arthur was good for him.

 

+++

Merlin took a deep breath and opened the door of the pub. At first, he hadn’t been too thrilled at the idea of meeting Arthur’s friends. Even after two months that they had spent together – every waking moment as Gwen had insisted, going to the movies, for walks, out to dinner or just playing some games – Merlin still thought it was a bit too early for that. In the end he had agreed and now he walked into the place, his hands sweaty and his heart beating faster. Most of the people Arthur called friends were on the football team with him, that meant they were fit and capable of doing sports, and Merlin had had more than his fair share of being bullied by sports guys when he was a teenager.

That he hadn’t walked into a pub all alone ever made him even more nervous. The few times he’d been out like that, he was with Gwen. Sometimes Gwaine came along and Merlin was always happy to have back-up. But now he was on his own, where was Arthur?

“Merlin!”

When he turned, he was faced with Arthur who beamed widely. “Hi! Arthur…I don’t think this is a good idea…”

“Nonsense!” Arthur put his arm around him. “They can’t wait to meet you. And if they are as horrible as you think, we can still leave after a beer, okay?”

That was what they had agreed on. If Merlin felt uncomfortable at any point, they would leave.

“Guys, this is Merlin.”

The steadying hand on the small of his back felt good and Merlin nodded at the assembled crowd. “Hi. Nice meeting you.”

Arthur introduced them all, but Merlin wouldn’t have needed an introduction. He had heard the names often before and the descriptions fit. The giant with the short hair was Percy, the one with the curls Leon and the smaller bloke with lots of hair on his face Mordred. Three people, three new people at once, he could handle that, right?

Watching closely, Arthur didn’t even notice that he held his breath. This was important. Everyone liked their partner to like their friends. He knew how shy Merlin was around new people who knew about his leg, and of course he had told Merlin that they knew. But he needn’t have worried. His friends all treated Merlin the way he wanted to be treated: Like any other bloke.

Even though Arthur’s friends were all good-looking and most of them intimidatingly tall – and Merlin wasn’t small to begin with – it didn’t take long for Merlin to relax. They were nice. Someone had bought the next round and automatically included him, they asked him questions about his job and how he could bear being with Arthur in a way Merlin assumed they did amongst themselves and he really liked that they made him feel like he was part of their crowd.

When Arthur walked him home after the last call, he reached for Merlin’s hand. They hadn’t done that before in public, Merlin always pulled back, claiming he needed his arms to balance out his walk or somesuch. Maybe it was the alcohol or Merlin felt really at ease that he allowed it now. “So?”

“So?” Merlin threw him a sideways look, an amused twinkle in his eyes.

Arthur felt nervous. What if Merlin hated the guys? “What do you think?”

“This is important to you, isn’t it?” Merlin shoved the beanie a bit deeper onto his head.

“I just want you to get along.”

“I think I like them. They’re…good.”

“Good?” Good was…was it really good or was there something bothering Merlin?

“Yeah,” Merlin squeezed his hand. He wanted to reassure Arthur that his friends were okay. “Nice guys.” And all of them sexy as hell in their own way and around Arthur a lot. Merlin bit his lower lip, he had no right to be jealous. He’d had a nice evening, met some new people and Arthur was still at his side.

They had reached Merlin’s house but Arthur didn’t want to let go of Merlin. So he pulled him close and brushed his lips against his. “They all love you, you know?”

Merlin leaned into Arthur. “So I didn’t ramble on about stupid stuff and was good enough to party with them?”

“You haven’t really seen those guys party yet,” Arthur chuckled. “But when you were at the loos, they all gave me a thumbs-up.”

Grinning, Merlin pulled back a bit. “Does that mean you’re allowed to come play Xbox again?”

“I think so.”

“Then come over tomorrow?” Merlin’s heart jumped a bit. It was good to know that he hadn’t made an utter fool out of himself and that they weren’t secretly laughing behind his back. This hadn’t been important to him at the beginning of the night, but now it felt important that Arthur’s friends could imagine being his friend, too.

Arthur gave a short nod, leaned in for another good-night kiss and then reluctantly let go of Merlin. “Night, Merlin.”

+++

“So? What do you think?”

Merlin examined the new socket closely. He had driven Gwaine crazy when they made the mould, whining about how boring it was to wait for the stuff to dry. Later, when the leg was done, he had walked in it a while to get a feeling for it and then made Gwaine make a few minor adjustments for it to fit perfectly. Now he was seeing the new airbrush on it for the first time.

“Aithusa,” he whispered, running his index finger along the fine details of the white dragon’s wings.

Smiling, Gwaine came over. That Merlin already had a name for the new dragon was a good sign. “That’s his name?”

“Her name.” Merlin looked up from where he sat. “Clearly a girl.” His eyes were shining.

Gwaine laughed. “If you say so. You’re the expert on dragons, I just paint them.”

“I love her. She’s more delicate and fragile than Kilgharrah was, but I already love her. Thanks, Gwaine.”

Patting Merlin’s shoulder, Gwaine turned to the papers Merlin would have to sign. “Glad you like her. But it’s more important that the leg fits. If you feel any discomfort or…”

“I know the drill, Gwaine, it’s not my first G-leg. I’ve been the guinea pig for your and Uncle Gaius’ invention, remember? I had a G-leg before it was even a registered trade-mark, you made changes according to my opinion of it.”

“I know, you’re the one and only Cyborg-boy, the original.” Gwaine grinned and shoved the papers over. “Thanks to you, it’s a huge success. So, how’s Arthur?”

Merlin blushed and cast his eyes down. “Fine, I think.” He tensed when he felt Gwaine hug him.

“It’s nice seeing you in love.”

Shaking his head, Merlin freed himself. “I’m not in love. It’s just…it’s nice to have a friend who isn’t also the guy who makes my leg.”

Chuckling, Gwaine shook his head. “Whatever you say.” He handed Merlin his copy of the papers. “Take good care of Aithusa, will you?”

“Count on it.”

+++

“Hey!” Arthur carried a bag with Chinese take-out in.

“Hi.” Merlin wasn’t sure about this. He should probably have called the evening off, he wasn’t at his best tonight.

“I got that new game you wanted to try.” Arthur pulled it out of the pocket of his jacket before hanging the jacket up.

Even though Merlin liked that Arthur felt so at home in his place now, he felt like he would rather be alone. He hardly listened to Arthur talking about the movie they’d seen last as he went to get a bottle of Coke and some water for himself.

“Not funny?” Arthur looked at him expectantly.

“What?” Merlin shook his head. “I’m sorry, Arthur. I didn’t want to cancel on you but…”

Arthur reached over and pulled Merlin close. “Not one of your better days, huh?”

For a moment, Merlin allowed himself to relax against Arthur. “No. Work’s rather demanding at the moment; there’s deadlines to meet and when the weather changes like it is now, my leg hurts. I need to give it a massage later.” He took a deep breath.

“Why later?”

The soft whisper made Merlin lean his face against Arthur’s shoulder. Maybe it was good that he was here after all. As much as he still could be an arse and a dense clotpole, sometimes he just knew what to say to make Merlin feel better. “You don’t mind?”

“Why would I?” Arthur rubbed little circles on Merlin’s back.

Merlin slowly drew back. “I’ll be right back.”

Arthur felt like following Merlin but knew better. Even though he was sure he wouldn’t mind seeing Merlin without his leg, he was sure that Merlin would mind exactly that. So he busied himself with arranging the food on the coffee table and reading the description on the back of the game he brought.

In his room, Merlin took a few painkillers before he took his leg off and sighed in relief. With practiced strokes he loosened the remaining muscles and when he felt them relax, he pondered putting the leg back on. But he knew that would only cause more discomfort. Hopping over to his closet, he went through it. What did he have to wear, so Arthur wouldn’t see him like that? He might run anyway when he would see him hopping around. So he decided on one of this not-cut-off sweatpants and tucked the hem up in the waistband, that would have to do.

But Arthur didn’t even look up when he came back and carefully slid onto the couch next to him. “What did you bring?”

“The game or the food?” Smiling, Arthur pointed to the dishes and explained why he liked them. When he saw Merlin hesitate, he offered “How about, you try each of them?”

They were eating in silence before Arthur looked over. “Are you feeling a bit better?”

Nodding, Merlin sat his plate down and leaned back. “A bit, yeah.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Hmm?” Merlin closed his eyes as he leaned his head against the back rest.

“Don’t answer if you don’t want to. But…was it an accident?” Arthur held his breath. He had never asked before or pressed Gwen for information. He felt he needed the answer from Merlin when he was ready to provide it.

“No, osteosarcoma.” When Arthur didn’t say anything, Merlin opened his eyes and added “Bone cancer.”

Trying not to suck in his breath too audibly, Arthur bit the inside of his lip. Merlin lost his leg to cancer.

“Yes, Arthur,” Merlin looked over, “I was sick. They diagnosed it when I was fourteen. It was either the leg or me.” He shrugged. “They took the leg before it took me.”

“I’m…”

“If you’re saying ‘I’m sorry’ now, I’ll throw you out.”

“I…I don’t know what to say, to be honest. Everything I’m thinking might come out totally wrong.”

Merlin leaned back again. “The sarcoma was at my knee. I was constantly in pain. And when they finally made the decision, the tumor had eaten away too much of my knee, it couldn’t be saved. So after surgery, I woke up and it was gone.”

Swallowing hard, Arthur bit his lower lip. What a horrible thing for a boy to go through! Well, horrible for everyone, but at such a young age…he was at a loss of words.

“And then I got my new one. Learned how to walk with it. ‘s not bad for a spare part.”

“Didn’t that hurt?” Arthur knew it was a stupid question, but this was no small surgery, it had to hurt like hell.

Merlin seemed to ponder this question. “Actually, not much more than before. And it got better instead of worse, so…” He shrugged again.

Taking a sip of his drink, Arthur looked at Merlin. “Is it still there?”

“The leg? No, we didn’t make a big deal out of it. No burial or anything. It’s gone.”

“No, I mean…”

“The cancer? Not at this point in time. I’m what they call a survivor.” Merlin chuckled drily. “We all know that it might come back. Who knows, maybe it’s already back and I just haven’t noticed yet.”

They sat in silence for a while.

“You know,” Merlin didn’t know what made him do it. He had never talked like this with anyone but maybe Gwen. “I’m a wreck. My cancer can come back any second. Since a stump is not made for being walked on all the time, it might get infected or whatnot, they might have to take more off of my leg in the future. Something might happen to my sound leg, it’s not made for the additional exercise it gets.” He looked over at Arthur again. “Sooner or later, I might end up in a wheelchair.”

Arthur didn’t know what to say. He felt so much for Merlin right now. He was sorry that he had to go through all this and thought it was weird how matter-of-fact-ly Merlin talked about it. But maybe that was Merlin’s way of dealing with this? State the facts so that he didn’t have to think about the emotions that came with them?

Merlin expected Arthur to get up and leave any second. Why would he stay? A man like Arthur could have anyone, he didn’t need a cripple like him, someone who would become a burden much likely sooner than later. He had no reason to stay. Merlin was too worn out to fret about the reaction. He could still think about it later after Arthur walked out of his life.

He still didn’t know what to say, but maybe there was no need to say anything at all? Wrapping his arm around Merlin’s shoulder, Arthur pulled him close and nuzzled into his hair. Even though his chest was heavy with the emotions running through him when Merlin painted such a dark picture of his own future, he knew that he would be there. If Merlin let him.

+++

“What did I tell you?” Gwen stirred the new pasta sauce she had made.

“What do you mean?” Merlin was setting the table and just put the water bottles next to their plates.

“Glasses, Merlin, we do use glasses in this house.”

Sighing dramatically, Merlin opened one of the cabinets and took two glasses out. They weren’t having a dinner party, what was wrong with drinking the water from the bottles? But Gwen was like this and she would snarl at him all evening long if he just put the bottle to his lips.

“Will Arthur be over later?”

“No, we’ll go to the pub tomorrow.”

“See, he didn’t run.” Gwen seemed very content with herself as she put the spaghetti on the plates.

“Not yet.” Merlin didn’t want to have this discussion now.

It didn’t look as if Gwen would give up, though. “Why would he? You told him your story. You let him see that deep down you’re afraid. And he didn’t just get up and leave and he wants to see you again.”

“He will, once he sees it.” Putting more parmesan on his meal, Merlin hoped he wasn’t right.

Rolling her eyes, Gwen poured her water into the glass. “Don’t you think he didn’t do some Google search yet? And there’s enough stuff out there to give him at least an idea of what your leg looks like.”

“You think he did?” Merlin’s fork was dangling the spaghetti dangerously somewhere between his plate and his mouth.

Gwen shrugged. “It’s what I would do if I met the man of my dreams and he had something like this. You’re not usually telling people about the issues that come with it, so I would want to be prepared.”

“You did that before we moved in together?” The food was forgotten.

“To be honest, yes.” Gwen put her fork down. “How long have we known each other for now, Merlin? Since second grade? I have been there when it happened, I sat with you when you tried out artificial leg after artificial leg and weren’t happy. And still you never talk about what’s going on inside, where the problems are.”

Merlin worried his lower lip. It was true, the issues he had with the leg…he basically just talked with Gwaine about them and sometimes with his osteopath. Nobody else needed to know, he didn’t want to be one of those blokes who had no other topic than their sensitivities.

“I know you want this to be your main topic. You want to show the world that you can do everything on your own. And it’s not that I say you can’t, Merlin.” Gwen reached over and put her hand on Merlin’s. “Sometimes it would just be a bit easier if you let people in and not leave them to figure out what it is.”

“You think, he…”

Squeezing his hand, Gwen started to curl spaghetti up on her fork again. “Yes, I think he wants to be let in. Do you really think he would still come back all the time after you did your ‘independent-woman-act’ when you first met?” She smiled.

+++

“Nice of Merlin to stop by.” Leon slapped his towel in the general direction of Arthur’s butt on the way to the locker.

“Yeah.” Arthur felt stupid when he felt himself blushing a bit when he saw Leon looking at him. “What?” Merlin had come over to the football practice and watched for a while under the pretense of bringing him a sweater he forgot at his place. Arthur couldn’t really concentrate anymore and when practice was over, he went over to Merlin and was rewarded with a small kiss.

Leon grinned. “How many times have I told you before? If I didn’t have Percy, I’d go for him myself.”

They had cleaned the football field up and everybody else had already left as they entered the locker.

“He’s sweet, but…”

Putting the balls into their basket and the other utensils in a locker, Leon looked over. “Having second thoughts?”

“No. I just don’t know if he’ll ever let me be with him.” Arthur sat down and took his shoes off.

“Why?” Taking his jacket off and rummaging for his shower stuff, Leon had his head inside his locker.

Sighing, Arthur just looked over and told Leon what Merlin had told him.

“And that bothers you?” Leon sat down across from his friend, his shower apparently forgotten.

“No.” Arthur shook his head. “I couldn’t care less. Hell, what if he gets sick again? I’ll be right there. So what if he will end up in a wheelchair? I can push him around.” He shrugged.

A huge smile spread on Leon’s face. “It’s great to see you in love. And nothing else matters.”

Arthur smiled wryly. “I know. Now I just have to make Merlin see.”

+++

Merlin liked nights like this one. They were snuggled up on his couch, watching a movie. He loved that Arthur hadn’t run after their talk and enjoyed leaning against him. It was very considerate of Arthur to automatically sit on the side of his sound leg and that he gently stroked the nape of Merlin’s neck with his thumb sent shivers down Merlin’s spine.

The movie was actually boring, but having Merlin so close was exciting. Arthur wasn’t sure how Merlin would react, he just knew he needed to do this now, to move this whole ‘them-thing’ to a new level, he’d waited long enough. So he gently pulled Merlin even closer and when he turned his head and looked at him, Arthur just pressed his lips onto Merlin’s. Those fantastic full lips he wanted to kiss since almost the moment he’d first seen them.

It wasn’t as if they hadn’t kissed before. Usually when they parted after a night like this, a quick peck on the lips when they met somewhere, so Merlin leaned in. He liked kissing Arthur. It showed that they could be a bit more than just friends.

Arthur flicked his tongue out and caressed the outlines of Merlin’s lips and when they parted for him, he slipped his tongue in, trying not to moan. They had never done anything so intimate before. It was a simple kiss, a kiss he would have exchanged with any bloke at the club that he tried to take home, but this was Merlin. Merlin needed time to adjust to things he was too stubborn to believe were impossible for himself. Very carefully, Arthur deepened the kiss.

So this was what being kissed felt like. Really kissed, not just some brushing of lips together. Merlin tried to catalogue all the tastes and sensations and…but no. He made a little noise and put a hand on Arthur’s chest, his heart beating wildly. They couldn’t go into this, this was not right. Arthur didn’t want him like that, they were just friends.

When Arthur felt the shove, he tried not to move and continued kissing Merlin, who probably just had a little freak-out that would go away when he just kept doing what he was doing.

Merlin panicked. He was trapped against Arthur who didn’t seem to have any intention to let him go. He pushed harder and jerked his head back. It felt so good to kiss Arthur but it wasn’t going anywhere. What was the use of doing it now only for him to mourn its loss later?

“Merlin,” Arthur whispered as he opened his eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“I…I can’t. Arthur, I can’t do that. It’s not what you want. It’s…” Merlin turned away, tears forming in his eyes. He could live his life alone and he would. There was no need to pull Arthur into this mess of missing limbs and probable illnesses.

“Merlin, I won’t leave. No matter how hard you push. I want you. I want to be with you.” Arthur had given Merlin room to pull back, but kept them connected with his hand against Merlin’s neck.

“But all your friends are so beautiful and you are so perfect and…” It didn’t even make sense to Merlin himself, all those mixed emotions rambled out of him.

“And so are you” Arthur moved a bit closer again and cupped Merlin’s face with one hand. “That was my first thought when I looked at you. That I had never seen such a gorgeous man.”

“I’m not perfect. Hell, Arthur, I do have spare parts!” Merlin got up. He needed some distance between them to make Arthur see that he was making a huge mistake.

Arthur followed Merlin and put a hand on Merlin’s hip to pull him a bit closer. “So do I. Do you really think my teeth are this straight? Lost two of them in a little footie accident, so…”

“But…I’m sick!”

“No, you are not.” Arthur smiled. Somehow he had known that this would be an issue for Merlin but found that it wasn’t one for him. Merlin wasn’t sick. He had a leg that had to be made for him but else he was perfectly healthy. And who knew what the future would bring? It could as well be him who got sick. But if Merlin ever had to fight this again, he would be at his side.

“I’m…” Merlin pushed him back again. “Arthur, why on earth would you want to be with me? I’m a wreck.”

“You are wonderful, funny, sarcastic, independent. You know what you want. You’re clever, educated and witty. And damn hot. What’s there not to want?”

Merlin looked at Arthur and swallowed hard. There was nothing false in Arthur’s face, it sounded as if he hadn’t rehearsed these words but as if he just thought of them and it took Merlin’s breath away. Arthur wanted him. With beating heart, he watched Arthur stepping closer and shivered when he felt Arthur’s hands on him again, careful, gentle, but determined. And when Arthur’s lips touched his again, he didn’t struggle and for once, just enjoyed.

+++

 

A strange sound made Arthur look up from where he tried to find the Xbox game they wanted to play. He saw Merlin fumbling with his leg.

“What are you doing?”

Alarmed, Merlin’s head shot up. “Have to take it off. Don’t look!”

Arthur had a hard time not to jump up and run over. “Does it hurt?”

“Nah, ‘s okay. Just…after a while…you know…” Merlin shrugged and turned so Arthur couldn’t see.

“What was that noise?”

“I have to let the air in so I can take it off. Break the vacuum.”

Blinking, Arthur frowned. “So that’s how it works?”

“Yeah.” Merlin looked at Arthur. This was the first time he ever asked about this. Was this the time to show him? He put it back on and turned. “Heard that? The air going out? That’s how it stays where it has to. And when I want to take it off, I push this button.” Merlin pointed to it before pressing it. “It lets the air back in and I can take it off.”

“Neat.” Arthur tried not to smile too widely. Usually, Merlin did everything that had to do with his leg in his room when he was alone or at least didn’t let him watch. That he explained it now meant a lot to Arthur. Of course he had done some research online and found a few videos on youtube, but it was different now. This was Merlin. Merlin, trusting him enough to tell him about something so intimate as his G-leg.

Merlin’s heart was beating even faster. “Wanna see?”

“If you want me to.” Arthur got up and came over, leaning against the dresser.

“’s okay.” Swallowing nervously, Merlin knew this was it. As soon as Arthur saw his stump, he would turn in disgust and run for the hills.

Arthur shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and looked at Merlin. This was a big moment for him, he knew, but it was also big for him. A lot more exciting than a lover just taking their clothes off. Not that he got off on missing limbs, that was a very strange concept and not his thing. But it was something important for Merlin and that he was allowed to finally see Merlin do it sent a shiver down his spine.

With practiced moves, Merlin took the leg off and leaned it against the wall next to his bed. Then he fumbled with the liner and finally pulled it off his stump. He didn’t dare to look up at Arthur, who hadn’t moved. Was that a good sign?

“Is it…is it sensitive? I mean…you don’t have to answer, I know this is a very personal question. I just always wonder if it doesn’t hurt when you walk on it.” Arthur knew he was rambling. But those questions had run through his mind quite often. He didn’t want to make Merlin do anything that would hurt him even more.

“Sometimes, kind of. Some days more than others.” Merlin started to massage the muscles and then lifted his stump up. “See, here’s the bone, here’s where they sawed through it.”

Arthur swallowed. The image that produced in his mind made his stomach feel funny, even though the surgery didn’t have anything to do with rusty tools in shabby back rooms of some run-down hut. “Would you tell me when it hurts?”

“It only hurts when I overdo it.” Merlin let go of it and pulled the leg of his shorts down. Arthur was still here. He felt a slight blush spread across his cheeks and didn’t even know why. Maybe because he had been more naked in front of Arthur than ever before. Maybe Arthur would have to think about what he’d seen and then never come back?

“Will you ever tell me when you overdo it?” Arthur held out his hand and pulled Merlin up. He used a bit more force than necessary which made Merlin almost lose balance and fall against his chest, which felt good.

Merlin just looked at Arthur. Usually, he would have freaked if someone just pulled him like that and made him lose balance. But Arthur caught him, he felt safe. Would he ever tell Arthur if he overdid it and his leg was hurting?

“Thought so.” Arthur put a little kiss on the tip of Merlin’s nose. “Didn’t you want to beat my arse in that game?”

+++

“I let him look.”

Merlin sat on the bench in Gwaine’s workshop while Gwaine had his leg attached to the laptop, downloading some kind of info from the microchips.

Looking up, Gwaine smirked. “No need to tell me that you wanked for your boyfriend, but good for you! Did it turn you on?”

“He’s not my boyfriend and I didn’t wank for him!” Merlin blushed all over and tried to glare at Gwaine.

The other man grinned as he tossed his hair back. “Come on, Cyborg-boy, what else would you call him? You’re spending all your free time together and you snog every chance you get. He introduced you to his friends. He’s serious about this and you like him, too. That’s what I’d call a boyfriend.” He laughed.

“It’s not like that.”

“Then tell me how it is.” Gwaine crossed his arms in front of his chest and leaned against his workbench.

“It’s…I don’t know. He shouldn’t want someone like me.” Merlin sighed. Yes, he had let Arthur see his stump, explained how he put his leg on and took it off and that was a bloody big step for him. He’d never done that for anyone since…

“How did he react?” The smirk had made way for a serious, interested expression.

Merlin shrugged. “He asked stuff.”

“What stuff? Creepy stuff like that horrible…what was his name? Edward or something? The name alone sounds creepy.”

“No, not at all creepy.” Merlin shuddered at the thought of the guy he’d let himself be picked up by on the internet. One of them creeps who seriously got off on amputations. He hadn’t cared about him at all, all he ever wanted was photos of Merlin’s stump or see it on skype. When Merlin had finally shown him, he’d wanked and that was when Merlin closed his computer and had never gone back on any of those dating sites. “Arthur’s different. He asked how it worked and if the bone is sensitive and if it hurts to walk on it. Stuff like that.”

“Sounds very reasonable.”

“He could have gotten that info from the internet.” Merlin didn’t look at Gwaine.

“He wanted it from you. He cares about you. Not about some anonymous bloke on the web.” Grinning, Gwaine got back to work.

Merlin sat in silence for a while before he spoke up again. “You think so?”

“Yes, Cyborg-boy. It’s you he wants.”

“I’m not a robot.” They had this little banter every time Merlin was here. Gwaine would call him Cyborg-boy and he would insist he wasn’t a robot, even though he knew that a cyborg wasn’t a robot to begin with. In the beginning, Merlin had hated it until it dawned on him that it was Gwaine’s way of dealing with this. He hid his caring nature behind a rough and confronting shell, calling people names that could be offensive when in fact, he was just trying to help.

Making some little adjustments to Merlin’s leg, Gwaine smiled. “I know. That heart of yours is way too big to be anything but human.” He handed the leg back. “Here, try it.”

While Merlin put it back on and walked about the workshop with Gwaine watching his every step, he nodded. “Yeah, better. What was it?”

“Oh, just a tiny little thing. Glad that I could be of help.” Gwaine made a big gesture.

“Thanks, man.” Merlin signed the papers about the work Gwaine had done. He knew that Gwaine needed these signatures or else he wouldn’t get his money. They shook hands and Gwaine pulled him close for one of those one-armed man-hugs. “See you.”

When Merlin was already at the door, Gwaine called out for him again. “Merlin? Have you looked at the links I’ve sent you?”

Blushing all over, Merlin shook his head. “No, I haven’t. I won’t need links on sex advice for amputees.”

“Liar!” Gwaine’s laughter followed him out the door and Merlin was certain he could still hear Gwaine laugh when he rounded the corner to head for the next tube station.

+++

Taking two steps at once, Arthur made his way to Merlin’s place. He knew it was Gwen’s place, too, but she had found herself a new boyfriend and he hadn’t seen her in ages. Not that he minded, he wanted to spend his time with Merlin, not with Gwen.

“Did you put the game in yet?” He brushed past Merlin after a quick hello-kiss and tossed the crisps he had picked up on his way on the night stand. They had a serious date tonight. A serious game date. He would so kick Merlin’s arse! Arthur toed his shoes off and sat next to Merlin on his bed. Merlin’s TV was just so much better for playing than the one he shared with Gwen in the living room.

“Yup!” Merlin’s eyes were shining. Not that he got too much practice in this game, but he would so show Arthur who was the better player!

After their usual preparations of getting drinks and opening the crisps and such, they started playing.

Two hours later, they still didn’t have a winner, but Arthur had a lot of fun. A year ago, he only played Xbox as a guilty pleasure, thinking it was only for geeks, something you’d do at home, hoping that nobody noticed. But playing with Merlin was fun. Whenever he looked over, Merlin had that concentrated look on his face, his nose slightly crunched, the tip of his tongue stuck out and it was just endearing.

“Ha!”

Damn, he hadn’t paid attention for a moment and that was time enough for Merlin to beat him. Arthur tossed his controller onto the bed. “Congrats, you won.”

“Told you I was the better player.” Merlin turned and beamed.

Arthur leaned close. Merlin was so adorable when he was excited like this, he just needed to kiss him. So he simply pressed his lips against Merlin’s. Gosh, he wanted him so much.

First, Merlin kissed back eagerly. He had won and this was his prize. But something was different than usual, Arthur seemed so earnest and determined. Would he…no…no, he couldn’t!

Arthur didn’t pull back when Merlin did and broke the kiss. He nuzzled into Merlin’s hair and put little kisses against his ear.

“Arthur…I…I can’t…”

“Sshhh, you can. You’re so hot, Merlin and…really, I need you.”

Merlin pulled back and looked at Arthur. “You really want to…?”

“Yes.” Arthur knew that Merlin could run any second now. He’d never allowed more than kissing and the fear in his eyes was clearly visible.

After long moments, Merlin nodded and averted his eyes. So that was it, Arthur wanted more. He had known that the moment would come, but he wasn’t really prepared for it. With beating heart, he just waited.

Going back to kissing Merlin’s ear and neck, Arthur’s hand found Merlin’s and he entwined their fingers. The simple slide of skin against skin made his heart jump and his dick twitched.

 

 

When Arthur found a very sensitive spot on Merlin’s neck, Merlin jumped. “I’m…I’m sorry…I’m just…a bit nervous.” The blood was rushing in his ears and even though he was scared as hell, his dick clearly showed interest. “I’ve never…,” a little moan escaped him, “that is…to say”, he sucked in a breath when he felt Arthur’s teeth slightly scraping his neck, “no one’s ever wanted…mmm….” Merlin’s eyes fell shut under the onslaught of totally new sensations. “No one’s…ever wanted…yknow?”

If Arthur’s mind had been able to detach itself from the smell and taste that was Merlin for a second, he might have laughed at Merlin’s ramblings. But he knew he wanted Merlin and he wanted to make it good for him. “Merlin?”

“Hmmm?” Merlin tilted his head to give Arthur better access to his neck and moaned slightly when Arthur’s hand slid down his front and found its way under his t-shirt.

“Shut up.” Arthur took good care of doing that himself. His lips sealed Merlin’s and kissed away the surprised little yelp when his fingers found Merlin’s erection in his pants.

Merlin tried to…he didn’t even know what he tried. He just let Arthur pull him back and wiggled a bit because it felt so good and he wanted to be touched everywhere. Never before had he felt anyone’s hand on him like that. Each touch tingled and sent jolts through him and his dick tried to shove its way out of his pants.

Shoving Merlin’s t-shirt up, Arthur was pleasantly surprised when he saw the dark scattered chest hair. He’d never seen Merlin without his shirt before and smiled as he pressed his nose into it and found Merlin’s nipple with his tongue while his fingers found Merlin’s prick inside his sweatpants.

Not knowing what to do with his hands, Merlin fisted the sheets before he brought one hand up to his mouth and bit it to keep from making those embarrassing sounds that he couldn’t hold back. He’d wanked so often, pretending it was someone else’s hand, thinking that it would feel exactly like that, but how wrong had he been. Of course he knew precisely what he liked, doing everything with the right speed and the most pleasurable pressure to come as fast as he wanted or to draw it out if he felt like it. But feeling Arthur’s hand on him was totally different. Arthur of course wasn’t as efficient as Merlin would have been, but that made it even better.

Arthur kept kissing Merlin’s chest. He wanted to see what he was holding, the hot thickness he was caressing, he wanted to give Merlin a proper blowjob, one that would make his head explode. But he suspected that the second he interrupted what he was doing to shove Merlin’s pants down, Merlin would get too much time to think. And thinking was not good in this situation. So he just kept stroking, applying pressure differently, changing speed once in a while and rubbing his thumb over the leaking head.

It was all too much. Merlin felt his orgasm building and grabbed Arthur’s hair with one hand, knowing he should probably give him a warning, but it was too late already. With a hoarse whine, he came.

Smiling against Merlin’s skin, Arthur stroked him all through his climax. Fuck, Merlin was just as hot as he’d imagined. Slowly letting go of Merlin’s deflating cock, he scrambled up a bit, nuzzling into Merlin’s neck and putting his come-covered hand on Merlin’s stomach.

Panting, Merlin hardly noticed what was going on. He only felt that Arthur was there and as he slowly got his breath back, a goofy smile spread across his face. “Wow.”

Chuckling, Arthur put a big smooch on the smile and got up.

“Wha…where…?” Panic crawled up Merlin’s spine. Had he been so disgusting that Arthur left right away?

“Just getting something to clean you up, doofus. You’ll thank me for it later.”

+++

“Someone’s in a good mood.” Gwen smirked.

Merlin didn’t even try to hide the goofy grin on his face. “Yup.” He knew he’d been humming and whistling all morning long.

“What happened?”

From her tone of voice, Merlin knew that Gwen knew exactly what had happened. “Things.” He felt the tips of his ears heat up.

“You’re adorable when you blush, dear.” She came over. “And I’m glad you’re having fun.”

Merlin didn’t say anything and wasn’t fast enough to close the website down he’d been looking at.

Gwen laughed out loud. “Hot undies, Merlin? That’s cute.”

Blushing even more, Merlin scrolled around on the site. “I was just looking.”

“And that’s why there’s already stuff in the basket.” She giggled. “Come on, let’s see what you got there.”

Holding on to the mouse, Merlin hesitated.

“Come on, you’ve only been wearing ugly boxer shorts since you were old enough to escape little boys’ underwear. Let me help you with that.”

Merlin clicked on the basket icon, trying to keep the blush off his face.

Gwen blinked, threw him a look and then blinked again. “That one’s damn hot, Merlin.”

“You think so?” He blushed.

“Definitely, but those are not you.” She pointed to the second pair he’d chosen.

“You don’t think so? I won’t look good in these?”

Putting her hand on his arm, she leaned over and pressed a wet smooch on his cheek. “You always do, but you don’t have to play dress-up and pretend to be someone else. Come on, let’s look for some stuff that is you and that lets you look even hotter than you already are. We’re going to knock Arthur off his feet!”

Merlin chewed on his lower lip. “You think he will like it?”

“He’ll jump you the second he sees it!” With a practiced look Gwen scanned the website. “Oh, this is tacky, not that!”

But Merlin didn’t pay attention. Of course he loved what Arthur had done to him and he wanted to be sexy and hot for him. But Arthur hadn’t really experienced what his leg felt like, he’d only ever looked at it that one time when Merlin had taken his G-leg off. He hadn’t even touched it last night.

“What now?” Gwen sighed and turned to him.

“Nothing.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re really great at that, aren’t you?”

“Great at what?” He wasn’t great. At nothing.

“At ruining good things before they even get real good. Come on, Merlin! What else does it take to convince you he’s in it for you and that he won’t wake up one morning deciding that he is squicked by your leg?”

“I…I don’t know.”

Gwen gave the back of Merlin’s head a quick slap. “But I do. Trust me. And now concentrate on how he made you feel last night and get back to our task at hand.”

Maybe she was right, but Merlin didn’t really dare to believe it. Still, he turned his eyes back to the screen. “Do you think the red ones up here…?”

“Ew. Horrible. Let’s go for those tight dark blue ones here.”

+++

Arthur stepped out of the shower at the hotel he was staying in for the conference. The timing was most unfortunate, he much rather would spent the weekend with Merlin, but this thing had been planned and arranged long before they had met.

He rubbed the scratchy hotel towel over his upper arm and caught his grinning image in the mirror. Finally, he had taken that step further with Merlin. He knew he surprised him but Arthur was also convinced that, had he talked about it before, Merlin would have pulled back. It might have been a bit unfair to just take him by surprise there, but it wasn’t exactly as if Arthur had planned it. He just wanted Merlin, not only as a friend.

The little scene played on repeat in Arthur’s mind and he couldn’t help but be excited about the fact that he had been the first one ever to touch Merlin like this – other than Merlin himself, of course. And that thought brought new images to his head. Images of Merlin touching himself, bringing himself off, probably even fingering his hole?

Arthur groaned and reached for his hardening cock. He was supposed to meet Percy for dinner in ten minutes, but what the heck? Percy could wait, his body couldn’t. So Arthur leaned his back against the tiles and started to stroke slowly, his eyes closed, his mind only seeing one thing: Merlin.

Twenty minutes later, he showed up at the hotel’s restaurant. “Sorry about that, things came up that needed attending to.”

Percy laughed. “So, how’s Merlin?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

“Ooooh, such a long time.” Percy chuckled.

Arthur grinned back. “Yes, a very long time.”

“And things are progressing nicely, I suppose?”

Reaching for the menu and pretending to be busy choosing the right dish, Arthur nodded. “Yup, no complaints from my side.”

“I just wondered…not that it’s any of my business…but…how…?”

Arthur might have frowned at anyone else who asked this question. But this was Percy, the man didn’t have a single bad bone in his body, he was just curious and honestly interested. “Well, this was a first time, so we didn’t…”

The waiter came over and they ordered.

“You didn’t?”

Arthur waited for the bloke to be out of earshot. “You should be familiar with the concept of handjobs, Percy.” When the tall man blushed, he continued. “Everything else…I’ll have to find out.”

“There must be websites about this.” Percy sipped his water.

“Yeah, I should look into it. He’s really self-conscious, so I need to know what we can do and what not.”

Percy frowned and shook his head. “Nothing to be self-conscious about. He’s a great bloke, good-looking, nice body. Why does he make such a fuss about it? Most of the time when we are out together I don’t even think about the leg. I just…I don’t know, forget it, you know? It’s like…Merlin is Merlin and not like Merlin is the bloke with the G-leg.”

Arthur smiled warmly at his friend. “Can I tell Merlin that you said that?”

“Sure, why?”

“People tend to reduce him to the leg, to what he can’t do instead of focusing on who he is and what he does. So…stuff like that is important to him.”

Nodding, Percy set his glass down. “I’ll tell him myself next time.”

 

+++

“You know, Cyborg-boy,” Gwaine took a sip of his juice, “the main thing is to enjoy. Don’t concentrate too hard on the how and the technique or what it might look like. Just relax and enjoy.”

Merlin couldn’t believe that he was having this conversation with Gwaine over lunch. He’d just brought sandwiches and salads over because he was in the area, but…oh, who was he kidding, he knew that Gwaine was the only person he could talk to and who knew what he was talking about.

“But…it will look stupid.”

Rolling his eyes, Gwaine poked at the salad in front of him. “None of us ever looks like the blokes in porn with a dick up our arses, so don’t worry about that.”

He would die of embarrassment any second now, Merlin just knew. “But…”

“Listen, Pat and I have experimented a lot…”

“Too much information,” Merlin murmured into his tea cup, the tip of his ears felt like they were in flames and the blush on his face was probably a category of its own.

“You wanted the info, you’ll get it. It’s…Merlin, you worry too much about the leg. Arthur has seen it, he’s still here, he wants you. And you want him, so don’t make a big deal out of it. If it makes you feel better, let him touch it before you advance. This way you can find out what it feels like and he gets an idea of it, too. Then just do what feels good.”

Merlin nodded and looked around the workshop just so he wouldn’t have to look at Gwaine.

“I’m sure you thought about leaving the leg on, didn’t you?” Gwaine shook his head. “I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a bit for the advanced. You can do that later.” He grinned. “Save it for quickies.”

Coughing violently as he swallowed his tea the wrong way, Merlin gasped for air. “So…what do you suggest?”

Smiling, Gwaine pointed his plastic fork at Merlin. “You, my friend, will have to find out for yourself. I can’t tell you what you will like. But you know, anything that will make you balance on your stump will not be much fun. You’ll concentrate too hard on not losing balance to be able to enjoy. At least that’s what Pat said. There are some positions where he’s just not…in it, you know? That’s how I know, too, that he isn’t having as much fun as he could have.”

Merlin didn’t really need to hear all the things Gwaine and his boyfriend did, but he was glad for the basic info. “So…you’re saying…I mean…like…doggie style…?”

Gwaine shook his head. “You can try, maybe it’s different for you, but if I were you, I’d start with things that make you lie on your back. There’s enough you’ll have to get used to.” He smirked.

Nodding, Merlin shoved some olives around the paper container his salad came in. “And I’d really like to see his face, too.”

“Romantic,” Gwaine teased. “But yeah. You can be on your side or ride him. You might need a bit of support from him then, but it’s really fun. Or he can ride you.”

Merlin’s head shot up and he blinked a couple of times. He had always seen himself as a bottom, imagined a cock up his arse, had played with dildos and stuff, but…what if…what if Arthur…what if Arthur wasn’t the top Merlin thought he was?

Gwaine laughed. “You will have to find out. And who knows? Maybe you’ll enjoy that, too?

+++

When Arthur came out onto the football field a bit late, he stopped in his tracks when he saw Merlin. He hadn’t known that Merlin wanted to come over to watch, but to see him on the pitch, kicking the ball back and forth with Mordred totally took him by surprise.

“Merlin!” He jogged over.

“Arthur!” Mordred shouted, “Look what Merlin can do. Merlin, show him!”

Grinning widely, Merlin started to kick the ball up, bounce it up with his knee, get it even higher by bouncing it on his head and then catch it again with his foot before he kicked it over to Mordred again. He put a bit too much force into the shot and wobbled for a moment, but caught himself quickly.

“Wow, you’ve never told me…”

Merlin beamed widely, a twinkle in his eyes. “I didn’t think I still knew how to do it. I’ve told you that I played football when I was little.”

“But that was before…” Arthur shut up. Merlin was so happy that he hadn’t forgotten how to handle a football and he, the stupid clotpole (one of Merlin’s words, not his), had to remind him of all the things he couldn’t do any more.

“Yeah, but in rehab they made us try things that we loved to do before. And I worked with a football until they had to take it away from me.” Merlin didn’t seem to have noticed, his eyes were shining and he talked excitedly. “I just never went out on a field again in all these years. Thanks, Mordred!”

Mordred came over. “I did nothing. It was you.”

“You kicked the ball my way.” Merlin almost laughed.

“If you ever feel like joining the team, you’re more than welcome.” Mordred picked up the ball. “Gotta go and start my warm-up routine before the coach snarls at me again.” He winked and trotted over to the others.

Arthur didn’t know what to say, he just smiled and put a quick kiss on Merlin’s cheek. “I should…”

“Yeah, go, warm up. I’ll be at the side-line, watching.” Merlin shoved his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “But watch out, I’ll be your worst critic.” He winked and watched Arthur following Mordred.

+++

Merlin hadn’t been to Arthur’s place often but he had agreed to spend the night and he knew this was it. After that first time, Arthur had stayed over a few times but most nights, they had just been cuddling and talking. Once or twice, the night had ended in handjobs and that one blowjob that had totally melted his brain, but Merlin had never felt he was ready to let things advance. But tonight seemed to be the right time and the right place, so while Arthur was in the bathroom, he had changed into one of those sexy underpants he had ordered. After he’d taken his leg off, he crawled into Arthur’s bed and pulled the sheets up to his hips, carefully arranging them, so the waistband of his undies showed as he leaned back against the headboard. With beating heart, he waited.

“You know what, Merlin? Tomorrow we can…” Arthur came out of the bathroom, about to put on a t-shirt and stopped in his tracks. He didn’t even notice that his mouth hung open as he took in the picture before him: Merlin, in his bed, obviously waiting for something to happen.

“We can do what?” Merlin didn’t care what they could do the next day, he swallowed hard as Arthur just stood there and said nothing. He reached for the sheet, starting to pull it to his chest. Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea after all?

“Don’t…” Arthur still looked. “Please, don’t. This is…fuck, you’re hot.” He dropped the t-shirt and was over at the bed in two strides.

Merlin relaxed when Arthur sat next to him and leaned in for a soft kiss. He loved that Arthur only approached him from his left side, knowing how insecure he could be about his right leg. But even though he was nervous, he knew he would allow Arthur to touch him there tonight.

Pulling the sheet down a bit, Arthur licked his lips. This was like unwrapping a present. And what a present Merlin was. “I haven’t seen those sexy boxer briefs yet, have I?” He leaned forward to nuzzle into Merlin’s neck, pressing little kisses on all the sensitive spots he had discovered so far.

Slightly shaking his head, Merlin closed his eyes. “No…I saved them…oh, this is good…I saved them for a special occasion.”

Arthur pulled back. “What do you mean?” His heart sped up. Did Merlin mean…would he…?

Merlin opened his eyes and threw Arthur a shy look. “I thought…maybe tonight…we could…if you want to…”

“If I want to?” Arthur chuckled and kissed Merlin’s cheek. “I’m dying to.”

The blush on Merlin’s cheeks wouldn’t go away. Damn, he was twenty-five and technically still a virgin and yet it was so difficult to talk about it. “Can we just…I don’t know…not talk…just do?”

Arthur turned and got a few things from his nightstand. “I want you to talk. I want you to tell me if I do anything you don’t like, okay? Or something that you can’t do.”

“I can do anything!” Merlin frowned.

Smiling at Merlin’s stubborn look, Arthur kissed the tip of his nose. This was Merlin’s normal reaction when someone assumed there was something he couldn’t do. “I just want it to be good for you. I’ve read up on it a bit, you know?”

Merlin blushed even deeper. “You…you did?”

“Of course I did. I don’t want to do anything that puts you off or…I don’t know…that hurts you. I want you to like it.”

Swallowing hard, Merlin reached over to cup Arthur’s cheek. “I’m sure I will.”

“I need to know that you will tell me if there’s anything you don’t like.”

Merlin nodded slowly. If he trusted Arthur enough to sleep with him, he would trust him enough if there was anything causing his leg discomfort.

Smiling, Arthur crawled over him and leaned in for a deep kiss.

+++

Arthur was snoring softly behind him, his heavy arm around Merlin’s middle, but Merlin couldn’t sleep.

He hadn’t been too sure at the beginning of that night. He wanted it, finally wanted to do it, wanted to be sexy for Arthur, but he had been scared as hell. Not so much about the pain of being stretched, he had toys that were bigger and loved the initial discomfort; it was still very different from having a real man do it.

Arthur had been so gentle, caressing his whole body, even his right leg or what was left of it. Merlin’s heart had been beating up in his throat, but Arthur had treated his stump like he had his sound leg and Merlin had been able to relax and not think about it for a while.

When he had been too tense when Arthur’s slippery fingers breached him, Arthur had given him another one of those fantastic blowjobs and Merlin could let go and first allow the fingers and then Arthur’s cock inside him.

And he had loved every second of it. The weight of Arthur’s body on him, the heat between them, his cock trapped between their bodies, sliding along Arthur’s skin, being tickled by his hair…and that wonderful dick sliding in and out of him, making his whole world narrow down to it, Merlin never wanted it to end.

But it ended eventually and Merlin had yelled out Arthur’s name.

He had never thought it would feel this way and it could happen to him. Merlin had never thought anyone would want him this way. But Arthur did and Merlin thought he would never be more happy in all of his life.

Even though his eyelids started to droop and he couldn’t hold back a little yawn, Merlin didn’t want to sleep. He needed to enjoy this moment just a little bit longer.

+++

With a sigh, Merlin took his leg off and leaned it against the wall next to his bed. It had been a long day with lots of walking, so he was happy to be rid of it for now. He didn’t have time to check his email all day long, so he hopped over to his desk as the door opened.

“Hey.”

“A…Arthur!” Merlin’s face lit up. “You’re here already!”

“Gwen let me in on her way out.” Arthur came over and wrapped his arms around Merlin. “Hey, how are you?”

Merlin let himself be kissed. “’m good.” He smiled.

“No discomfort? Everything good?”

Blushing slightly, Merlin nodded.

“No second thoughts?” Arthur searched Merlin’s face.

Merlin chuckled and beamed. “No, no second thoughts, no regrets. You?”

“Never.”

Leaning in, Merlin pressed his lips to Arthur’s and totally took him by surprise. Usually, it was Arthur who had to initiate their kisses. That Merlin started it now made Arthur’s heart jump a little. He let Merlin take what he wanted, moaned when his tongue carefully played with his and couldn’t keep the pout off his face when Merlin pulled back.

“You came over to play.” Merlin leaned his forehead against Arthur’s shoulder and laughed. “Xbox, I mean.”

“I wouldn’t mind a different kind of game either, but if you want to play Xbox, Xbox it is.” Arthur grinned. “The winner gets…hmmm…to choose what we do next?”

Nodding enthusiastically, Merlin let go of Arthur. “Put the game in, I’ll get some drinks, okay?”

Arthur smiled. For once, Merlin hadn’t scrambled for his G-leg or tried to hide using his crutch, just hopped over to the kitchen like he would if he were alone. Slowly, it seemed, Merlin let him be part of his life. And that felt damn good.

 

They played for a while, throwing insults about the other’s driving skills back and forth and bumping shoulders once in a while.

“So, what will I get once you crashed your race car?” Merlin grinned, his eyes sparkling, as Arthur barely escaped a defeat.

“What will I get when I overtake now and take the win?” Arthur chuckled.

“What would you want?” Merlin was still laughing and didn’t notice that Arthur threw him a sideways look. He howled when Arthur’s race car exploded into a thousand digital pieces on the screen as it crashed into a wall. “Hahaaaaaaaa!”

Arthur set the controller aside. “I’d want you. But you won. Your call. What do you want from me?”

Slowly turning his head, Merlin looked at Arthur, swallowing nervously. “I want you.”

“You have me, I’m not going anywhere.”

“No, I mean…,” Merlin blushed, “like last night. I…I really liked that…last night.” He didn’t even notice that he fiddled with the controller.

“So did I.” Arthur reached over and pushes some hair back behind Merlin’s ear.

Merlin shivered. “Then we can…do it again?”

He looked so hopeful that Arthur chuckled as he pulled Merlin close. “Are you sure? Not too sore?”

Shaking his head, Merlin carefully put his hand against Arthur’s chest, but not to push him away as he had done so many times before. He closed his eyes and pressed his lips to Arthur’s face wherever he could reach him, he didn’t care that he missed the lips. “Can’t wait.”

Arthur already tried to get Merlin out of his hoodie. “Gosh, you’re so hot when you’re like this, Merlin.” He pulled the t-shirt over Merlin’s head, too.

There was still a moment of insecurity, but the look in Arthur’s eyes made Merlin close his eyes and slump back on the bed. When he looked up again, Arthur was pulling his sweater off and was busy with his belt, so Merlin shoved his sweatpants and boxers down before he turned and got some condoms and lube from his nightstand.

When Merlin opened the drawer, Arthur’s eyes went wide in surprise. “You’ve never told me you’ve got toys, Merlin.” He scrambled over. “Let me see.”

Blushing furiously, Merlin closed the drawer quickly. “No.”

Arthur crawled over Merlin and looked down at him, a smirk tugging at the corners of his mouth. “One day, you’ve gotta show me how you do it.”

“I…you…” Merlin stared up at Arthur, his hands grabbing Arthur’s biceps a bit harder, “you want to watch when I…?”

“Yes.” Arthur started to kiss along Merlin’s collarbone. “One day, I would love to watch you do it, you sexy thing.”

Merlin didn’t have much time to think about this or ponder how embarrassed he would be if Arthur ever saw him with one of his dildos up his arse as Arthur found his nipple and started to tease it with lips and teeth. His dick, that had been half hard since Arthur had gently pushed that strand of hair behind his ear, sprang to attention. “Arthur.”

“Merlin,” Arthur murmured against Merlin’s skin.

“Need you…I mean…I…would you...” His hands on Arthur’s shoulders, he tried to push him further down, not really knowing what exactly he wanted from Arthur. Everything they had done so far was great and Merlin wanted to do all of it again. He spread his legs.

He wiggled and writhed, moaned and grabbed at Arthur when he slowly prepared him.

Arthur was sure his skin would show some bruises the next day from where Merlin’s fingers dug in, but he loved every second. While last night, Merlin had been shy and careful, he now showed what he liked and what wasn’t too pleasurable for him.

“Arthur…I can’t wait any longer. I’ll…I’ll come if you don’t….”

Quickly rolling a condom on his hard cock, Arthur looked down at Merlin. “Ready?”

Merlin swallowed hard, trying not to break eye-contact as Arthur put his leg over his shoulder, positioned himself and then he yelled out loudly when Arthur finally pushed in. “Yes!”

It was still a very tight fit, but Arthur noticed he didn’t have to go as slow as the night before. Yet, he took his time, loving the way Merlin’s body grabbed at him and held him tight.

Last time, it had felt great, but Merlin had been very busy thinking that he was finally doing it, that he was finally having sex and with a gorgeous bloke like Arthur, too. Now he had a bit more time to just enjoy the sensations.

“You okay?” Arthur stopped his movements when Merlin’s breath hitched.

“Wha…?” Opening his eyes, Merlin wondered why Arthur had stopped. “Go on.”

“You’re not hurting?”

Shaking his head slightly, Merlin didn’t want to admit that being stretched like that stung, especially since his body didn’t have much time to recover from the first time. But the new angle brought different sensations and all of them were overwhelming.

Slowly, Arthur continued to roll his hips against Merlin. Fuck, this was great. Merlin was tight and hot and the way he dug his fingernails into his arms only spurred Arthur on. He bit his lower lip to not just pound into Merlin, but to take it slow.

Merlin tried to move, but noticed that with his foot on Arthur’s shoulder, he couldn’t do too much. He pressed his thigh against Arthur’s hip. “More!”

Grinning, Arthur pressed a kiss on Merlin’s calf. His little shy boyfriend could be quite demanding, he liked that. Even though he didn’t have a second foot to pull him in with, he knew exactly how to communicate what he wanted. And so Arthur picked up some speed and tried to push deeper into Merlin.

“Yes…yeah…that’s it…” Merlin didn’t even notice he was babbling, his mind couldn’t grasp a single thought long enough. All he knew was that Arthur was doing things to him he couldn’t even imagine before as his orgasm started to build. “Ar…Arthur…”

“Let go, Merlin…let…” Clenching his teeth as Merlin tensed around him, holding his prick so tight he could hardly move, Arthur loved the look on Merlin’s face as he came. When he slowly relaxed, Arthur picked up speed again and with a few more thrusts, he came, too.

+++

As much as Arthur loved it when he had Merlin writhing underneath him, he loved doing stuff like this, too. They were at a little local fair, looking at the things people offered in their booths and Merlin seemed to be very relaxed and happy. It was still cool for the time of year, so Arthur could wrap his arm around Merlin’s waist, pretending he had to keep him warm. But Merlin didn’t seem to need excuses.

“Oh, look at these.” Merlin pulled Arthur over to the next booth where a wide range of braided leather bracelets in all kinds of colors were spread out. He wasn’t big on jewelry, had never worn necklaces or rings like other guys did, but there was something about these bracelets that he liked.

Arthur smiled at Merlin’s shining eyes as he took up a bracelet and looked at it, running his fingers over the soft leather, the even braid work and the silver clasp. “You like that one?”

“They are all very nice, but…”

“But? Which one do you like best?” Arthur rolled his eyes and hoped Merlin wouldn’t see it. He knew Merlin would claim they were expensive, sure worth their price, but still…and that he wouldn’t want to buy one for himself.

“Arthur, I won’t get one. The craftsmanship is excellent, but they’re really pricy.”

“Okay.” Arthur smiled and winked at the booth owner. He turned. “Why don’t you find us a seat over there and I’ll get us some tea and something…I don’t know…cookies? Fudge? What do you feel like?”

Merlin nodded. “Tea sounds good. And whatever you find, just nothing with raisins, okay?”

Laughing, Arthur shook his head. He had made that mistake once, only to find out how much Merlin hated raisins, he would never get anything like that again. When Merlin was out of sight, he turned back and paid for the bracelet Merlin had admired.

When he found Merlin sitting at a bench, he balanced the little tray with the tea and the cookies over. They sipped their tea, looking at the people passing by, sharing the cookies, not talking much. The moment Merlin set his empty paper cup down, Arthur took his hand and ran his thumb along Merlin’s wrist. “You know, something’s missing here.”

Merlin frowned. Missing? What was missing at his wrist? He never wore a watch, he had his mobile in his pocket. All he could say was “Huh?” before Arthur dangled the leather bracelet in front of his face. “Arthur!”

“That’s me.” Arthur grinned. “Let me give that to you, don’t say no. It’s…”

“…way too expensive! And it’s not my birthday!”

“It’s just a little thing. You liked it so much, forget the price tag.” Even though Merlin struggled slightly, Arthur held on to his wrist. “I just…I don’t know, I just want to give you something that reminds you of me, you know?”

Merlin blushed and stopped struggling. He watched with wide eyes as Arthur fastened the bracelet around his wrist. It fit perfectly, the silver clasp shining in the late winter sun. “I…I don’t know what to say. I don’t have anything for you.”

“You’re enough for me.” Arthur sounded very sappy in his own ears and was tempted to take that back. Then again, it was true.

“It’s…” Merlin looked from the bracelet to Arthur and back. “Thank you. I love it.”

“I love you.” Holding his breath, Arthur searched Merlin’s face for a reaction. He hadn’t even meant to say it, he had planned on some huge dinner at a fancy restaurant for the big reveal, but it had just slipped out. In the past weeks, he’d thought it so often and never dared to say it. He loved Merlin. And he wouldn’t take that back.

Merlin swallowed nervously and blushed. He had never heard those words before. Okay, his mom told him she loved him all the time and so did Gwen, but that was different. Nobody had ever said it like this. What was he supposed to say now? He knew he liked Arthur a lot more than it was good for him, but…

Arthur saw Merlin’s nervousness and felt his hand starting to sweat where he still held it. That Merlin hadn’t pulled his fingers back and taken the bracelet off was a good sign, wasn’t it? “Merlin…you don’t have to say anything. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…I…I mean, I mean it. I do love you. But you don’t have to say it back, you know?”

“I…Arthur…nobody ever…this is…” Merlin was utterly confused. How could Arthur say he loved him? “You never…when we were…you know.” There were people around, he couldn’t say ‘while we had sex’ in public.

“Doesn’t mean I didn’t want to. But had I said it then, you might have thought I only said it to get that from you.” This didn’t really make sense to himself, but Arthur hoped that Merlin understood.

Merlin got up from his seat far enough to be able to lean over the small table and kiss Arthur. He didn’t want to cheapen the meaning of the words while saying them as they fucked. Or made love, that was more what they were doing, wasn’t it? And he felt so much for Arthur right now, but the words to express all those emotions just wouldn’t come. He sat back onto his bench and smiled. “Thanks for the bracelet.”

+++

“You haven’t turned a single page in your book in an hour, Merlin, what’s wrong.” Gwen wiggled her toes that she had stuck under Merlin’s thigh on the couch and closed her own book.

“Nothing.”

“And that ‘nothing’ takes you an hour to think about?”

Merlin sighed. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“What did Arthur do?” Frowning, Gwen was ready to rip Arthur’s insides out, Merlin knew the look on her face.

“He told me he loved me.”

Gwen huffed out a laugh. “You make that sound as if he…I don’t know…admitted that he was a mass murderer. What’s wrong, Merlin? It’s wonderful that he has such strong feelings for you, isn’t it?”

For the first time, Merlin turned his head to look at her. “I don’t know how to handle it.”

“Embrace it, enjoy it, love him back.”

“It’s not that easy.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

“It is.”

“You know, I never thought…it’s…I never thought anyone could love me. That I would be alone for the rest of my life. I tried to make myself believe that it was okay to be a loner and that everyone finds me appalling. But now Arthur said he loves me and I have such a hard time believing it. It’s just…it doesn’t fit into…I don’t know.”

Gwen scooted closer. “Hon, I see him looking at you, I hear you two talking. Not for a second I doubt that he really loves you. I know that you built walls around your heart in the past years, trying to convince everyone that you don’t even want someone in your life, including yourself. But you were so lonely that it broke my heart.”

“Gwen, don’t…”

“I never pitied you. Yes, I cried when you lost the leg, I cried when I saw you struggle adjusting to the new situation. I am your friend, that’s what friends do. But never ever have I pitied you, Merlin Emrys. I think you are the strongest person I’ve ever met and I’m proud that you are part of my life. But I also think that you deserve a bit of happiness. Arthur loves you, Merlin, allow yourself to love him back.”

Merlin sighed. “I just…nobody ever…nobody…it’s hard to believe. I mean…why? Why would he even consider loving a cripple?”

Gwen wacked him over the head. “If I hear that word from you one more time, I’m going to…I don’t know yet, evil things to you! Arthur doesn’t care about the leg, he cares about you. And he doesn’t strike me as a person who goes around telling everyone he loves them. He doesn’t take this easy. Merlin, not everyone is lucky enough to find someone to love, it’s fucking hard.” She drew a shaky breath. “But it’s so obvious that you love him, too. You should be happy that this happened and not question it all the time.”

They sat in silence for a while.

“What should I do?”

Groaning, she punched his upper arm. “You do love him, don’t you? Then go, tell him.”

Merlin looked at her for a short moment, before a small but happy smile showed on his face and he nodded.

+++

Merlin stared up at Arthur, who was moving on him, trying to position himself. He couldn’t believe this was happening. The evening had started out pretty innocent, like most evenings did, with playing some game on the Xbox. One day, he had pondered if Xbox was their kind of foreplay since lately most of their game-evenings ended in sex. Not that Merlin complained.

Once again Merlin had won but Arthur would never admit that sometimes, all accidentally, his fingers slipped on the controller just for the chance to see Merlin smile triumphantly. He loved that this was the time where Merlin was able to utter his wishes, when he named what he wanted as a prize. And yet, it took him by surprise when Merlin said “I want to be in you.”

Never had Merlin thought that it would be such a turn-on to see Arthur preparing himself. He hadn’t even expected him to agree and groaned when Arthur rolled the condom down onto his hard cock. He bit his lower lip hard to keep himself from coming.

“Not yet, Merlin, I…” Arthur held Merlin’s dick and found the right position to slowly sink down on him. He hadn’t done this in a while, so it was almost like a first time.

Gasping, Merlin dug his fingers into Arthur’s thighs. “Fuck!” He had felt Arthur’s mouth on him and imagined this would feel alike. But as Arthur sank deeper, he just moaned. Arthur’s arse was even hotter and so much tighter than his mouth. Merlin tried hard to not move against him.

“Merlin.” Arthur’s head fell back for a moment, just enjoying the hot hard length in him, the way he was being stretched and filled. Then he looked at Merlin again as he started to move.

Merlin slid his hands up to Arthur’s hips. “So…so…nnnnnngh,” he pressed his head back into the pillow and arched his back, “so good.”

Arthur lifted himself up a bit to sit back down, his knees pressed to Merlin’s side. He knew that Merlin wouldn’t be able to move too much and that he would have to do most of the work, but he didn’t mind at all, he had dreamed about having Merlin in him, having him fuck him.

Pulling up his knee, Merlin pressed his foot to the bed to get a bit more control and bucked up into Arthur as good as he could, each upwards motion punctuated by a little grunt. He probably grabbed Arthur’s hips a bit too hard, but he needed to get in even deeper.

“Mer…Merlin…” Damn! Each time Arthur thought Merlin couldn’t do something and he had to do it for him, Merlin surprised him by taking action. And it felt so damn good being impaled on that big prick that he was close already without Merlin touching him.

Merlin looked up at Arthur with wild eyes as Arthur reached for his own cock and started to stroke himself. The look on Arthur’s face alone could have made Merlin come, the way his sweaty hair clung to his forehead, the parted lips that drew in labored breaths, the blue eye that were locked on his. “Arth…Arth…”

Biting his lower lip to draw the moment out a bit longer, Arthur knew he was lost and wondered why they hadn’t done this before. Merlin moving and panting under him, pushing into him over and over with that hungry look in his eyes was pure bliss. Leaning forward a bit, bracing himself against Merlin’s chest with one hand, Arthur groaned when he came.

Oh dear Gods! This was too much. Little white stars were dancing at the edge of Merlin’s vision as Arthur plastered his chest with hot cum and clenched around him, holding him in a vice grip. He yelled out as his orgasm took over and he spilled deep inside Arthur.

Arthur slumped forward and tried to catch his breath, his forehead leaned against Merlin’s shoulder. He smiled when he heard Merlin’s breathless whisper.

“You alright?”

Before he could nod, he felt Merlin’s hands on his sweaty back, drawing soothing patterns. Arthur smiled. “Fuck, you’re good.”

Had Merlin not been too busy still trying to get his breath back, he would have laughed. He hadn’t done much, Arthur had done all the work. Never had he thought it would feel like this, though.

“You know what?” Arthur pulled back a bit and let Merlin slip out completely.

“Hmm?” After coming like that, Merlin was too lazy to speak more than necessary.

Arthur took care of the condom and reached for the wipes to clean them up before he laid down again and leaned against Merlin. “I think I should let you win more often.”

Huffing out a laugh, Merlin had all the fitting answers to that in his mind, but he just grinned and pulled Arthur closer.

+++

“He still hasn’t said it?” Percy frowned. “That’s odd. He’s crazy about you. You should have heard him talking last Saturday at the pub while you were playing darts with Leon.”

Arthur sighed. “No, he hasn’t. It’s…Percy, I don’t even doubt that he loves me, too, or at least likes me a lot, I just think he’s afraid to say it. As if it would go away once he said it or something.” He sat down on the bench in front of his locker.

“Maybe you should do something big and important for him to believe?”

“I don’t know, it would only make him feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to drive him away.” Arthur toed his cleats off and stretched his feet.

Percy pulled the jersey over his head. “I’ve never seen you so patient with anyone, Arthur. But your patience has paid out so far. You’ve waited for months and now you can barely walk from all the awesome sex you’re getting. Maybe he just needs a bit more time to realize he’s stuck with you for good?”

With a bang, the locker room door flew open and Cendred and his gang came in. Arthur never liked Cendred very much, but they were on the same team, so they had to get along. That didn’t mean he had to talk to him off the field or anywhere else.

“Never knew you were doing social work now, Pendragon.”

Arthur clenched his teeth. Of course Cendred was looking for trouble.

“Or are you getting off on his stump? That’s what it is, right? You perverted little shit.”

Tensing, Arthur tried to stay calm. “Shut the fuck up, Cendred.”

Cendred came really close. “As if it’s not bad enough that you are a poof, you have to go fuck a cripple.”

Arthur felt everyone in the room looking at him and drew a breath as he got up. “He is not a cripple.” He knew his voice sounded a lot calmer than he was as his hands clenched into fists.

But Cendred didn’t give up. “Couldn’t get yourself a real man, huh? Had to take one that couldn’t run away, eh?”

The disdainful sneer really got to Arthur. He jumped up, grabbed Cendred by the neck of his jersey and slammed him into the next locker. “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

Arthur felt Percy’s hand on his shoulder, but didn’t break eye-contact with the man he was still holding against the locker. “Apologize immediately.”

But Cendred just laughed. “So I got that right. You wank all over the little cripple because he only has one leg and isn’t fast enough to get away.”

“I’m only going to say this once and you better listen, you stupid fuck. Merlin is a wonderful person. Funny, intelligent and a very brave man to go about this life like he does. It’s none of your business, you arsehole, but I don’t care if he has two legs or not, I love him the way he is. So leave us the fuck alone!”

The contempt in Cendred’s eyes was enough. Arthur pulled back, only to turn and try to slam his fist into the bloke’s face. But Percy and Leon were there right away, Percy holding Arthur so he couldn’t move his arms, Leon trying to get some distance between the two. “Arthur, don’t! He’s not worth it!”

After struggling for a moment, Arthur knew they were right and slumped, so Percy let him go. Cendred had taken his bag and fled the room, the coward that he was, but Arthur had a hard time calming down. How dare he talk about Merlin like that!

“Come on, let’s take a shower and then get out of here. I’ll buy you a beer.” Leon tossed his towel at him and Arthur figured a long hot shower would help him relax.

+++

“What’s wrong, Merlin?”

Under the pretense of watching a movie, they had been snuggling on the couch, but Arthur noticed that Merlin was miles away.

“Nothing.” Merlin just laid there, his head on Arthur’s chest, listening to his heartbeat. He could do that for hours, it was so calming.

Gently tugging at Merlin’s ear, Arthur cocked his head. “It’s not nothing, it’s something. You haven’t said anything even though this is the worst movie we’ve ever rented.”

Merlin pulled back a bit and looked at Arthur for a moment before averting his eyes. “I’ll just get you into trouble.”

Arthur sat up, alarmed. “Why do you say that, Merlin, what’s wrong?”

“I was there.”

It didn’t make any sense to Arthur. Merlin had been there. Where?

“I was at the club house, I heard what happened. I was out in the corridor.” Merlin’s shoulders slumped.

“When?” Merlin couldn’t mean that night of the run-in with Cendred, could he?

Throwing Arthur a look, Merlin whispered, “When that bloke said all those things.”

“Why…I mean, Merlin, what did you do there?” Fuck, fuck Cendred and his stupid mouth.

“I wanted to surprise you, go for a beer with you and the guys or to the movies, but…” Merlin didn’t know what to say. He had meant to catch Arthur in a good mood and later tell him that he loved him.

“Then you heard the arsehole and left. Merlin,” Arthur took a deep breath and rubbed a hand over his eyes, “why did you leave? Why didn’t you say something? It’s been days.”

“I…I don’t know.” Merlin swallowed. “You will meet people like him again. People who say stuff like that.”

“He’s just a hater. He hates everything and everyone, stupid fucker. Forget him.” Arthur felt like punching Cendred all over again for hurting Merlin like that.

“But…,” Merlin turned his head. “I heard what you said, too.”

Arthur blinked. “Yeah?”

His heart was beating faster and the palms of his hands started to sweat but Merlin knew he never felt so much for anyone. Not that he ever doubted Arthur but that he wasn’t afraid to tell everyone that he loved him…that was more than Merlin had ever expected “I…I know I’ll be trouble for you…but…if you’ll have me, I’m here…I mean…”

Frowning slightly, Arthur looked at Merlin. “You don’t really make any sense, Merlin.” He reached for Merlin’s hand and entwined their fingers.

“I mean,” Merlin took a deep breath. He needed to say that now or he might never get it out. “IthinkIloveyou,too. I mean…I don’t only think that…I think I do…I mean…I do…love you.”

Arthur laughed and reached out to pull Merlin close again. “Merlin?”

“Huh?”

“Shut up and kiss me already.”