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The first time Merlin had worked for the Pendragons he had been a scrawny, tiny fifteen year old with unfortunately thick glasses and a tendency to let his jeans hang loosely on his frame—a truly dangerous clothing choice when one was a gardener.

Arthur had at first glance shook his head emphatically and told Lance “No.” outright. But Lance simply assured him that though he may not look like much, Merlin had quite a green thumb on him and was exactly what Arthur was looking for.

So with a little convincing and a lot of promises of alcohol should Lance be proved wrong, Arthur hired the kid. He should have known that the first time Merlin touched anything green in their yard Mrs. Pendragon would have another one of her fits.

“What did you think you were doing you little idiot? You’ve ruined my Queen Anne’s Lace!”

Arthur had rubbed a hand across his forehead and followed the screeching. Maybe he could save the poor lad from death by eardrum explosion. He swung the back door open and was about to interfere when he was surprised by Merlin’s retort.

“I don’t know what idiot told you that this is Queen Anne’s Lace, but they should be fired. Because what you have here,” he gestured at the rather large pile of white flowers, “is  Hemlock . I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that Hemlock is a poison . It can  kill you .”

Arthur had to admire the kid’s gall. He was speaking to his gob-smacked wife as if talking to a child. A particularly slow child. Needless to say, he was permanently hired from then on.

--


And so it was almost a year later that Arthur was still admiring the boy. Well, not really a boy anymore; more like a young man now. Gone were the baggy trousers and horrible glasses, replaced with slimmer frames and things called skinny jeans. He’d shot up like a, well like a weed, over the summer and was now as tall as Arthur. Merlin had grown into himself, become attractive. It was all Arthur could do not to give into his desire to be a lecherous, adulterous old man. Not that he was old per say, but really, compared to the fresh faced youth of  Merlin  twenty-eight generally felt old by comparison.

“Looks like it going to rain today, doesn’t it Mr. Pendragon?”

Arthur looked up from the book he was pretending to read (but in all honesty he was just being a perv and staring at Merlin’s back muscles shift as he pruned the bushes).

“How many times do I have to tell you Merlin? Call me Arthur; Mr. Pendragon is my father. And yes, it does look it.”

Arthur tried not to grin widely at the slight pink that tinged Merlin’s cheeks. Regardless that it happened every time he’d asked the boy to call him by his given name, it still sent a little thrill down his spine to make Merlin react. Merlin hummed and got back to his pruning.

--


It wasn’t so much that he hated Vivian—he had married her after all—but quite often he found himself rather annoyed with something about her. Her voice, her hair, her silly obsession with keeping everything spotless and perfect and like a goddamned museum. So it really wasn’t borne from hate for his wife, this  thing  he had. It was just that, sometimes Arthur wanted something more than a pretty face. He wanted more than whatever vapid prattle Viv insisted on sharing with him. He wanted someone who challenged him, who made him  think  for a change. He wanted… more.


 


It had originally started as a learning experience, a way to make some extra cash,  something to do over the summer instead of wasting your time hanging out with Will for gods’ sakes Merlin . Take your pick.

Whatever the reason, the fact remained that after his first few weeks of interning at Gaius’ Gardening, he was irrevocably hooked. Merlin liked the feel of fresh soil under his nails after a long day, the smell of newly cut grass, working with his hands  for once. And he liked the various people he met. It was funny, just how many people he got to know simply from doing their gardening. Gaius, being the owner and his boss, he spent a lot of time with. They had become rather close over the months that Merlin worked for him; Merlin would almost go so far as to say Gaius was like a father to him.

About three months after he’d started Merlin had met this crazy old rich guy who lived way out in the country. Mostly he just talked Merlin’s ear off about the stars and fate or some such—though once or twice Merlin thought he may have been subtly hinting at magic, but dismissed the thought.

There were the lovely Du Lac couple and their children. Merlin loved doing jobs for them because it usually meant he could watch over their kids as well. Little Leon was always amusing; dashing about pretending to be knight and rescue his sisters from the mighty troll. Most of the time Merlin got stuck with the role of the troll or the evil wizard.

And then there were the Pendragons. Sickeningly rich and with a sprawling back yard, they were the epitome of high society. There was Vivian Pendragon née Olaf. She was your typical housewife, pretty and obsessed with shoes and a bit on the screechy side. Merlin could see why  she  didn’t do anything with gardens, except perhaps sunbathe in them. And then there was Mr. Pendragon. Arthur.

From the moment he’d met Arthur, Merlin had known he was in trouble. At merely thirty, he was one of the youngest CEOs of Albion Electronics. Not only that; the blond man was gorgeous. It was all Merlin could do not to spend his entire work time just staring at him. Sure he was a bit of a prat, but he had a smile that made Merlin’s knees weak and his heart jump in his chest. And when Merlin had his first wet dream about him, everything just got so much worse—or better, guess it depends on how you look at it.

Every conversation they had ended with Merlin either blushing or stuttering. He saw innuendo where surely there could be none. Arthur was  married  for crying out loud! Sure his wife was a bitch, but still, off limits. And Merlin could not stop staring . Well, at least until he’d been caught, then he’d tried his best to stare from the corners of his eyes. Not so easy considering Arthur kept watching him like he was going to make a move on his wife or something; totally barking up the wrong tree with that one.


 


Vivian had tried her best not to pout and whine and generally complain to her husband when that  urchin  of a boy had ruined her garden of Queen Anne’s Lace. She had told their previous housekeeper to line the patio with it  specifically . Upon finding out that it was in fact a deadly weed, she had been outraged. Not only was someone trying to kill her, but that little brat actually got off on showing her up!

Arthur had found her hours later in the lounge, nursing a cup of tea with a sour expression. She had looked up at him and told him immediately that they could not have that  boy  working for them. He was insulting and rude and didn’t know his place! Arthur had of course argued and shot down each of her complaints. She ended up storming out of the room in a huff upon finding she would not get her way. A year later and the boy is still working for them, though not for lack of trying to get him away on her part.

--


Vivian was not a blind woman. She was not stupid either, contrary to what some—her neighbors, Arthur, that  boy —thought. In fact, Vivian knew a great deal about many things, and almost nothing went on in her house without her knowing.

She knew about Arthur’s… proclivities. She’d even considered letting him indulge once or twice, but always refrained. It was this knowledge which made the looks that pass between her husband and the new gardener rather interesting. And she couldn’t help but be appalled. She’d known of Arthur’s interest in men, but to extend it to boys was simply unthinkable! It was humiliating; to be looked over for a boy who’d probably not yet had his first, well, anything.

For her own sake, and the sake of the Pendragon name, Vivian refrained from making a scene. She held her tongue when the urge to spit vitriol and pedophilic accusations filled her head. It would not do to ruin their image. She only hoped that Arthur would think of such things before he went and did something stupid, like misplacing his dick into some teenaged pretty boy.


 


If there were ever a time for Arthur to start panicking, well it would probably be when the name on his lips as he brought himself to completion in the shower was not his wife’s name, but the name of a ridiculously adorable sixteen year old boy. Arthur had been content, hell he’d been just  fine , simply watching Merlin grow into himself. He’d admired and appreciated from afar. He’d kept himself to himself and decidedly  not  let Merlin enter into his fantasies.

Arthur was a good man, and a good husband. He’d chosen his wife. He loved her. He’d never entertained thoughts of cheating on her, nor had he before encountered anyone remotely worth leaving her for. But then there was… Merlin.

Merlin, who tended his gardens and mowed his lawns and water his wife’s endless indoor plants. Merlin who wore glasses he had to push back up his nose ever few minutes. Merlin who laughed openly and smiled at everyone he met. Arthur was dangerously close to becoming obsessed with the kid.


--


“Arthur, dear, did you send in our RSVP for Daddy’s soirée? Arthur? Arthur!”

With a snap Arthur was brought out of his thoughts and focused on Vivian who was seated across from him and looking at him with a disgruntled expression. “What on earth has been wrong with you Arthur? You’ve been so spacey this week. Not to mention how you’ve been ignoring me at dinner. I wasn’t even sure I’d be seeing you tonight at all.”

Arthur tried to tamp down on the guilt. Of course he’d been spacey lately, what with his every waking thought being consumed by their jailbait gardener. But he couldn’t say that. “Sorry Viv. Just preoccupied with work. Got that big project coming up, you know?” He flapped his hand in a vague gesture and gave her a tight smile. His flimsy excuse seemed to mollify her, at least for the moment. He went back to picky delicately at her salad.

“Well, now that I have your attention; did you send our RSVP to Daddy or not?” Arthur held in a sigh. If there was one thing he hated about being married to Vivian, it was Mr. Olaf’s get-togethers.

“We’ve been over this before, Viv. I don’t see why we need to send in an RSVP. He is your father. You do speak with him every day.”

Vivian looked sharply at him from across the table and stuck her lip out in a pout. “You know how Daddy likes things to be formal. He even goes through the trouble of sending us proper invitations and everything. The least we can do is send a proper RSVP back, Arthur.”

This time he did sigh, a small quiet thing that he was sure Vivian would choose to ignore. “Very well. I’ll send it first thing in the morning then, shall I?”

She smiled at him and reached over to pat him on the hand, like an owner pats a puppy’s head when it fetches for the first time. They turned back to their respective dinners in silence.


 


It doesn’t really help his resistance any, to see Arthur—stunning, gorgeous,  golden  Arthur—laying there, shirtless on the grass like Merlin wasn’t experiencing a total meltdown of his brain functions. So really it’s understandable that the only sound he could really produce for a good few minutes was something along the lines of “Glurgh.”

And Arthur. Arthur just laid there, smiling in the afternoon heat of the sun as it shined down on his wonderful, broad shoulders, and the smattering of light hair on his chest, and the thin trail leading down to his –  Woah, there Merlin,  He mentally cuts himself off.  Do. Not. Go. There.

“Ehm, M-Mr. Pendragon?” He internally winced at the high sound of his voice and cleared his throat a bit, composing himself.

Arthur popped one eye open to look up at him. “Ah, Merlin. Nice day today, don’t you think?”

“I – um. Yes. Yes it is. Sir.”

Arthur flapped a hand at him. “Oh, come now Merlin. None of that ‘sir’ stuff,” he paused and rolled so he was on his stomach, head pillowed in his arms. “Why don’t you lay down with me? Take a break from pruning or pulling weeds, or whatever it is you do.”

“Planting today actually,” Merlin muttered as he slowly lowered himself to sit beside Arthur on the soft grass. He’d cut it just yesterday, so it was still feeling nice and not at all scratchy as it had last week. His glasses slipped down his nose. He glanced next to him at Arthur, studiously not letting his gaze fall to his muscled back or strong legs or, shit, his round arse. “So… what brings you out here today? I mean, don’t you have work or something?”

Arthur didn’t bother opening his eyes as he hummed noncommittally. “I think Gwen can handle things for today. Besides, this sun is marvelous.”

Merlin nodded absently, even though Arthur couldn’t see him. He’d momentarily forgotten that Arthur was close friends and co-workers with the Du Lacs. Which was rather ridiculous considering it was at Lance’s suggestion he was even working for Arthur—Mr. and Mrs. Pendragon, he thought to himself profusely—in the first place.

He was brought out of his little mental tangent at the curious sight of a small black smudge on Arthur’s hip where his jeans have shifted lower. Without even thinking about it, Merlin was reaching out and stroking the black shape with a finger. Arthur’s side muscles contracted and he shifted to see what Merlin was doing. Merlin didn’t look up from where his finger was touching Arthur’s skin.

“What’s this?”

Arthur rolled back over onto his back, shocking Merlin into sitting back on his heels. He blinked as Arthur began to hitch down his pants. Fighting the urge to avert his eyes, Merlin’s gaze was invariably drawn to the spot that Arthur had revealed. There, painted on the small stretch of skin between his lower stomach and top of his thigh, was a black dragon tattoo.

Merlin ran a finger across the dragon’s spine. Arthur gasped and the muscles on his stomach twitched. Merlin looked up and their eyes locked. He licked his lips, a nervous habit that nevertheless caused Arthur’s gaze to fixate on his mouth. Merlin’s heart was thundering in his chest; Arthur had never looked at him like  that  before. He leaned forward, hand fitting around Arthur’s hip, and watched Arthur’s throat bob and then –

“Arthur, sweetie, it’s Guinevere on the phone for you, and – Oh!” Merlin had jerked back and landed on his heels when Vivian came rushing out the door, waving a mobile about while one of the spaghetti straps of her skimpy top fell off her shoulder. When she saw Merlin, she made a jerking move to pull up the strap and cross her arms over her chest in what would be protective manner, had it not just served to make her cleavage that much more noticeable.

Arthur cleared his throat and hopped to his feet, plucking the phone out of her hands. He shot a distracted, apologizing look over his shoulder towards Merlin and headed inside, his voice filtering back out of the doorway as he stepped into the air-conditioned house. “Hey, Gwen, what’s going on?”

Merlin took a deep breath and pushed himself off the ground, very much aware that Vivian was standing there with a glare pasted to her face. He tried to send her a nod and go on his way back to the planting he was supposed to be doing, but her piercing voice stopped him in his tracks.

“You’re stupid if you think anything’s going to happen. Even if he wasn’t my  husband , do you really think he’d go for skinny little nobody like you? Hell, your balls probably haven’t even dropped yet.”

Merlin’s back was turned to her, but that didn’t stop the tensing of his back at her scathing words. He didn’t even know how she knew about his… fantasies. He’d been fine keep those thoughts to himself, but now, hearing them splayed out and shredded and insulted in such a cutting way. It almost made him sick.

He knows Arthur is married. He knows that. But on some level, deep down, he had entertained that were Arthur not married, maybe just maybe, there was that spark of interest in his eyes. Vivian’s words make the cold settle in his stomach and his throat tight. He turned his head to the side, glancing at Mrs. Pendragon out of the corner of his eye and nodded stiffly before trudging away to his plants. He didn’t see the blatant expression of satisfaction on her face.


--


“She  actually  said that to you?” Will’s voice sounded incredulous and too loud over the phone. Then again, Merlin mused, that’s always how he sounds.

“Yeah. Came right out and practically accused me of having designs on her husband. Then she went and insulted me! I’ve never felt so humiliated in my life, Will. Not even That Time of Which We Do Not Speak.”

“Shite, mate. What a bitch.” And that’s really all that was left to say about it. Will had been the good friend and let Merlin get on with his ranting and now they’d moved on to talking about something else. It was just how their friendship worked. But throughout the entire conversation and the rest of the evening Merlin couldn’t get thoughts of Arthur and what Vivian had said out of his head.

Later—much later, when his mother and Gaius have both gone to sleep and the house is silent—Merlin laid on his back staring up at the darken ceiling of his bedroom, one arm behind his head and the other trialing his hand up and down his stomach, making the slim muscles contract. He licked his lips and slowing ran his fingers over the bulge in his briefs.

Impatiently he thrust his hand under the waistband and grasped his cock in his hand, bringing up memories of Arthur’s chest that afternoon. The slight sheen of sweat on his lower back, the dusting of hair on his chest. Merlin ran his thumb over the tip of his cock, spreading the slippery precome leaking from it, as he remembered the sight of black ink on Arthur’s smooth skin.

Most nights, Merlin had no problem clamping his mouth shut and holding in his noises, letting no more than the occasional sigh escape. But most nights, he didn’t let himself think of Arthur in such detail. He didn’t let himself think of Arthur touching him, covering his body with his own, behind him,  in him. Merlin bit his lip hard as his hips pumped erratically. He couldn’t stop the small whimpers escaping from his throat as he came, wet and hot across his stomach.

He laid there for a few minutes, lightly panting with his come growing sticky and cool on his stomach. Bonelessly he took a corner of his sheet and wiped his mess off as good as he could and let himself sink further into his mattress. He closed his eyes and chuckled humorlessly. At the very least Vivian had been right about one thing. Merlin did indeed have designs on her husband. Dirty, pervy, wonderful designs.


 


Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. WRONG. Arthur squeezed his eyes together and pulled back from Vivian’s—his  wife’s --perfectly shaped breasts. Here he was trying to have perfectly normal sex with his wife, the one he  married , the one he promised to love  ‘Til Death Do Us Part , and the errant thought pops into his head that maybe licking and sucking on Merlin’s nipples would bring some fantastic sounds from those pouty, red lips. Fuck.

Speaking of pouting. Vivian had shifted up onto her forearms and looked down at Arthur with a very displeased look. “What now? Not flat enough for you?” Came the biting question. Arthur flinched and moved to lie beside her. He didn’t reply. They both knew it was true. For all that he had married Vivian, he still likes cock. Double fuck.

“I guess… I’m not sure what to say Viv.” He licked his bottom lip, absently wondering if it was possible to pick up nervous habits from others. Merlin’s wet lips flash through his mind and he had to close his eyes against the stream of thoughts again.

“Well I do.” And with that she launched herself off the bed and started throwing on clothes. Arthur sighed, thinking, maybe it’ll be another night on the couch for him. But then next moment she’s pulling out a duffle bag and started emptying her drawers into it. His face screwed up in confusion and he sat up.

“Viv. What – ?”

“I’ve had it Arthur. You haven’t slept with me for  months  and the one time you show the slightest interest it’s like you can’t even get it up for me.”

Arthur spared a slightly glance to his quiescent dick and feels a small itch of guilt. He muttered, trying to convince her. “I’ve been busy. Work and ev –”

“Hah,” she scoffed back at him, thrusting a large pile of her lacey underwear into the bag. “ Busy . Right. Busy perving over that skinny little upstart more like. Don’t think I haven’t seen the looks you two have been sending each other. It’s  sick .”

“Now hang on!” Arthur burst out. But she had just started and she wouldn’t be stopped. She leveled a glare at him, the first time she’d looked at him since she started packing.

“No, I will not  ‘hang on’ ! For years I’ve stood by you, turning the other way while you ogled and eye-fucked every hot guy you met. I’ve kept quiet because I’m your wife and I love you and some part of me, some stupid part of me, thought that maybe one day you would stop looking. That you would think of me and only me, your  wife ! But now you’ve crossed a line Arthur! He’s a fucking sixteen year old twink! You’re mad if you think I’m going to stand to the side this time!”

All Arthur could do was stare after her, stunned, as she stalks out of the room. The bang of the front door echoed in the empty house as Arthur remained sitting on the edge of the bed, wondering when the hell his life became so damn complicated.


 


Vivian was in a state by the time she turned up on her daddy’s door step. The mix of concern and outrage on her father’s face served to comfort her, but only just. She broke down the minute she’s over the threshold, collapsing in her father’s arms and sobbing out the whole story. She felt slighted and angry, and yes, heartbroken. She told her father how Arthur was the biggest asshole on the planet and she never wanted to see him again, and he could shack up with his stupid little jailbait twink for all she cared.

Mr. Olaf simply held his daughter through her pain, silently oscillating between cursing Pendragon and plotting his untimely death. In his mind, Pendragon deserved to die for hurting his daughter so. Mr. Olaf comforted his daughter as best he could, for the better part of the night. When she finally calmed down, whether from exhaustion or genuine calmness he doesn’t know, and the last hiccup sob fell from her lips he gently led her to her old room and tucked her in like he’d done when she was a girl. He kissed her on the forehead and promised that in the morning they’d sort out everything, but for now just to rest.

Vivian fell into an exhausted slumber that night and woke much later than she had since her teenage years, tears dried crusty in the corners of her eyes. She felt heavy and oddly blank as she rose to sit at the edge of the bed, childhood memories staring back at her from her old dresser. She looked up as her father knocked and moved into the room. A servant waddled in behind him, laden with a tray of her favorite breakfast. She swallowed.

“Daddy? I need a divorce lawyer.”


 


“A-Arthur?” Merlin inched into Arthur’s study, where the man had been almost non-stop for days.
Merlin would have to have been blind, deaf, and dumb not to notice that Mrs. Pendragon had not been around, or the tense atmosphere that had hung around Arthur like a black cloud all week. He knew a fight when he saw one, and to his knowledge this had probably been the biggest fight he’d ever seen in the Pendragon household. It’s quite understandable, therefore, that he proceeded into the inner sanctum of Arthur Pendragon with supreme caution.

Arthur didn’t look up from the papers spilling over his mahogany desk, but did wave a hand in the general direction in front of him. “Come in Merlin, no need to hover in my doorway.”

Merlin swallowed and slipped the rest of the way into the room, door snicking shut behind him. He just barely managed not to fidget as he moved to stand in front of Arthur’s large desk, pushing away memories of his dreams from the past several nights that featured  this very desk . Arthur finished writing something with a flourish and looked up at Merlin with a slight frown.

“Something I can do for you, Merlin?”

Merlin bobbed his head, simultaneously agreeing and ridding his head of his pervy thoughts. “Yeah. I’ve, uh, finished. For the week, I mean.”

Arthur looked blankly back at him, “Oh well. That’s good. Great.” He blinked a few times, as if he couldn’t quite comprehend what Merlin was saying. Maybe he couldn’t. He had seemed rather stressed lately.

“Yeah,” Merlin spoke slowly. “It’s Friday.”

Arthur blinked in surprise and his gaze flicked over to the small duct tape joke-a-day calendar Merlin had got him for his birthday and made a small noise of surprise.

“Oh! I’m sorry Merlin, I completely forgot.”

Merlin shifted from foot to foot and pushed his glasses back up his nose from where they had fallen. “Really, its fine.”

“No, no. It’s just all this paperwork I have to finish and Gwen’s been hounding me for some vacation time with Lance and the bloody lawyers…” Arthur trailed off as he bent to open a drawer.

Merlin cocked his head. What could possibly be going on that Arthur would need to be talking to lawyers? As Arthur straightened he noticed the look on Merlin’s face. He sighed and looked back at Merlin like he was measuring him up for something. Merlin must have passed whatever test in Arthur’s mind because then Arthur was telling him something that pretty much shifted everything in his world.

“Vivian and I are… well, we’re getting a divorce.”

Merlin blinked owlishly at him. “Divorced?”

“Yeah. Divorced.” Arthur said gruffly. Merlin opened and closed his mouth like a fish for a few minutes, trying to force words from his throat, but nothing came. It had come straight out of left field for him. Arthur and Vivian had seemed the perfect couple the entire time he’d known them. Sure Vivian was a bit on the screeching, naggy side, but Merlin had never heard Arthur complain before. Merlin cleared his throat and tried to school his features to be a little less stunned.

“I’m, er, sorry?” Unconsciously he phrased it as a question, something that had Arthur smiling ruefully back at him as he handed Merlin a blank envelope holding his weekly paycheck.

“Thank you for your concern Merlin, but there’s no need. We’ve been heading toward this for a while now I think.”

“Oh.”

The room was silent except for the ticking of the large grandfather clock behind Arthur’s desk. Absently Merlin thought that it sounded much too loud for the quietness between them. He licked his lips nervously.

“Arthur, I…” He trailed off, not sure how to put his thoughts—his feelings, his fucking dreams—into words. Hell, he wasn’t even sure he’d actually seen that spark of interest in Arthur’s eyes anymore.

“Merlin?” Arthur was looking at him with concern. Merlin swallowed down everything he’d meant to say and shook his head slightly.

“Nothing.”

As he made his way out of the Pendragon home and into his rickety old bike, thoughts swirling and a resounding coward  echoing in his head.


 


Luckily for all involved, the divorce moved swiftly and mostly painless. Also luckily, Vivian chose to remain quiet on the real reason for their split, namely Arthur’s ephebophilic tendencies toward their skinny, twinkish gardener. Something that Arthur was  very  grateful for. When Arthur tried to make it clear how glad he was that she hadn’t gone blabbing about that , Vivian simply glared venomously back at him and turned on her Jimmy Choo heel and left.

Life as an unmarried man oddly suited Arthur. He shrugged off his friends attempts to console him or take his mind off things, insisting that really, he was better off without her now. One thing that quickly became apparent though, was how much more time he spent at home. He hadn’t really realized before that most of the time he’d spent at work was superfluous. The majority of his work could be done at home with a few quick calls to Gwen or Morgana, and the only reason he had gone to the office so much was to get away from Viv’s screeching.

Spending more time at home also led to the other realization that he was irretrievably, inexorably, infatuated with Merlin. And Merlin seemed to have a bit of a crush on him in return. He’d always known the boy—no, the young man—looked up to him on some level. But now, free to observe without the influence of his wife, Arthur started noticing the little things.

Like the way Merlin’ eyes flicked down Arthur’s face to his lips when they spoke to each other. Or the ever present blush on Merlin’s cheeks, that only seemed to darken when Arthur smiled at him. Or the way that Merlin would sometimes stare off into nowhere, nibbling on his lower lip until it turned rosy and swollen and he had a distracted, glazed look in his eyes when he finally managed to focus back on what he was doing.

“Merlin?” Arthur’s voice seemed to cut through the fog that was Merlin’s mind and the young gardener focused on him.

“Arthur?” He parroted back at him.

Arthur resisted the urge to roll his eyes as Merlin’s childish antics and set about asking the question he’d been building up the courage to ask all day.

“Do you, perhaps, want to stay for dinner?”

Merlin stared at him in surprise before stuttering out his answer. “Oh, well, erm. Gaius was going to make my favorite tonight since Mum’s in the States,”

Arthur’s mood immediately plummeted at the polite rejection. But then Merlin continued. “But his cooking  is  kind of atrocious. If it’s okay with him, I’d love to.”

And just like that Arthur’s mood was back up. He grinned widely at Merlin, who returned the smile shyly. “Well, then, what would you like. We can order anything you want. My treat.”

Arthur excitedly shot out of the lawn chair he’d been sitting in and stood looking down at where Merlin was sprawled on the other chair. Merlin looked a bit flustered at the sudden height difference and kept glancing between Arthur’s face and bare chest—something Arthur had been doing more and more lately, walking about the house sans shirt—and replied hesitantly.

“Er… Thai?”

Arthur grinned as roguishly as he could, enjoying the spreading blush over Merlin’s long neck. “Thai it is.”


--


It turned out that neither of them was very adventurous when it came to Thai food, both settling for some Pad Thai and a bit of Green Curry. Arthur insisted they watch a movie while they ate and so they plopped down on Arthur’s big, cushiony couch—something that Viv would have never allowed, but it was  Arthur’s  couch, damn it, and he could do as he damned well pleased—to watch a telly screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Arthur had finished his food first and sprawled back into the couch to watch the rest of the movie, taking up more than half of the space. If Merlin wanted to relax even the tiniest bit, their legs would have to touch. But as Merlin finished up and relaxed into the couch as well, he seemed to have no problem with the proximity. Arthur risked a shift close to Merlin. He stretched out his leg so that his foot came into contact with Merlin’s thigh and slowly pushed his toes underneath, careful to keep his eyes on the screen.

Merlin, to his credit, didn’t shift away, merely tensed a bit. Arthur stole a glance at him. His lips were pursed together and the knuckles of one hand were white from clenching on his jeans. Arthur moved to take his foot back to his side of the couch. “Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

A tentative hand on his ankle stopped him. He stopped his movement and looked over at Merlin, who was swallowing nervously. “No, I… Its fine.”

He said nothing else, but guided Arthur’s foot back to its spot under his thigh. This time he left his hand on Arthur’s ankle. Several minutes passed in comfortable silence, neither one of them moving or mentioning this awkward  thing between them. And then the Castle Anthrax scene started. Merlin, being one of the world’s natural blushers, started flushing red and squirming at the start of the scene. Arthur couldn’t help but poke a bit of fun at him.

“Alright there Merlin?” Arthur bit out teasingly, wiggling his toes to poke at Merlin’s thigh.

“Yes. Fine.” Was the terse reply.

“You sure? Sure you don’t need some  examining  yourself?”

Merlin blushed harder and shifted again, plucking at his baggy shirt. This drew Arthur’s attention from the lovely red on his cheeks to the unmistakable bulge in his trousers. Arthur’s smile froze on his face, as did his toes. Merlin noticed the direction of his gaze and squeaked. Jumping up from the couch, he tried to simultaneously cover his impromptu erection and his flaming, red face at the same time.

“I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry! I’ll just –” He made a vague motion toward the door. Arthur shook himself out of his stupor and jumped up too, grasping Merlin on his arm.

“Merlin. It’s fine. It’s okay. Really. Merlin.” He said gently, trying to get Merlin to turn to him, trying to make him see that, really, it was okay. Hell, it was  more  than okay. He could see Merlin’s profile, the red blush creeping around the side of his face and up his neck, the bob of his Adam’s Apple as he swallowed, the tense line of his shoulders.

“Merlin.” He said one more time, his voice low and almost breathy. It made Merlin finally turn to look him in the eye. What Arthur say there, in his expression, surprised him. Fear and embarrassment were there, that wasn’t surprising, but there was also desire. A raw, burning desire that made Arthur’s gut clamp and his heart pound.

“Arthur.” Merlin croaked out. The next thing he knew, Merlin’s lips were crashing onto his and Merlin’s tongue was running wet and warm between them and Arthur was stupid with surprise that he didn’t react at first. Only when Merlin backed away apologizing again did Arthur tell him to “Shut up and get back here, idiot.”

And then they were kissing, wet and sloppy and Merlin’s inexperience painting the whole thing, but that just made it better. Arthur nipped at Merlin’s bottom lip, relished at the deep moan it brought. Arthur pulled back when breathing became a problem and rested his forehead on Merlin’s. They stood there in Arthur’s living room, panting, erections poking at each other’s hips, huge smiles plastered across their faces.

“I’ve wanted to do that for years.” Merlin’s voice was throaty and quiet, almost as if he’d said them to himself. But Arthur heard them and his smile spread wider than he’d ever thought possible.

“Why you naughty, little boy. Have you been perving on your  married  boss?” He asked teasingly, pulling back to smirk at him. Merlin’s face scrunched up and he half-heartedly punched Arthur in the shoulder.

“Shut it. Pervy old man.”

Arthur’s eye widened in mock outrage. “’Old man’! Oh, I’ll show you ‘old man’!”

With that he easily lifted Merlin onto his shoulder and stalked towards the bedroom. He snickered at Merlin’s initial yelp and his squirming, and patted Merlin’s arse playfully. As he deposited Merlin onto his bed, he was determined to spend the rest of the night showing him just what this  old man  could do.

 

Two Years Later


Vivian pulls up short when she runs into them. It’s unexpected; she’d convinced herself she would never see her ex-husband and his boy toy ever again. Not that London was all that big; she just figured if she avoided anything having to do with their previous life, well. But there they are walking out of her favorite cafe, arms wrapped around each other. Arthur and the skinny little twink with the stupid glasses and a big grin on his face that in her opinion makes him look like a simpleton.

“Arthur.” She nods stiffly to her ex, blatantly ignoring the young man beside him. Boy Toy doesn’t seem much bothered by her coldness. He only has eyes for Arthur. Arthur regards her just as uncomfortably. But he nods in return just the same.

“Vivian.”

The three of them fall into silence, and stand there in an awkward triangle on the sidewalk. They can’t seem to find anything more to say, so Vivian nods again and shifts her bag from one arm to the other. “Well. I’d best be going. My husband will be waiting for me.”

“Ah, husband eh?” Merlin finally looks away from Arthur, his question too casual. It makes her skin crawl.

“Yes. Husband.” She settles for a cold glare at the young man, graciously holding back what she really wants to say to him. Man stealer that he is. Arthur looks between the two of them nervously and clears his throat.

“That’s. Well, that’s good for you. Viv.”

“Yes. It is,” she turns her nose up, “Well. I’d best be on my way.”

“Right. Yes.” And that’s the end of the awkward conversation as she turns and walks away from them. Merlin watches her for a moment before shaking his head and turning to Arthur, who’s staring after his ex-wife with a vaguely constipated expression. Merlin tightens his arm around Arthur’s waist to get his attention.

“Hey, didn’t  someone  promise to buy me my first legal drink?” Merlin gives his partner a cheeky smile. His glasses have fallen down slightly again. Arthur nudges them back into place.

He then smiles at Merlin and leans in to place a small kiss in the corner of his grin. “Indeed I did.”

The End