“What the hell is this?!”
“Why, Arthur, it’s a classic comedy by Shakespeare. Shouldn’t you at least know who Shakespeare is before signing up for theatre class?” Merlin explained, smiling sweetly.
“I know it is Shakespeare, you idiot. But have you actually read this play? The last scene has a kiss in it!”
“It’s a romantic comedy. There is bound to be some kissing.”
“But... but... Can’t we do it with someone else? You know, boys usually do these things with girls, not with other boys!” Arthur said, most certainly not whining. Kissing another boy wasn’t the problem per se, but kissing Merlin who seemed to disapprove of anything Arthur ever did was another story.
“Learn your history, Arthur! When Shakespeare lived, girls weren’t even allowed on stage! Boys did these scenes with other boys all the time. And to be honest, I didn’t know you’d be so squeamish about this. You’ve dated boys before, haven’t you?”
Arthur had a feeling that by now Merlin was only disagreeing with him on principle which was surprising; he didn’t hear Merlin talking to anyone else like that. Not that he had paid attention, mind. Instead of answering the question, because obviously he had dated boys before, Arthur asked:
“But you don’t actually want to kiss me, do you?”
“No, I don’t,” Merlin sighed again. “But I want to keep my grades up, and if to achieve that I have to give a few pecks to the most impossible prat I have ever had the misfortune of knowing then fine. I’ll do it.”
There was not much Arthur could say to that. Luckily their teacher appeared just then.
“Boys, are you ready to work by yourselves?” Mr Kilgharrah asked them. “The purpose of this practice is to make you feel the spirit of Shakespearean characters and to understand the changes that their relationship undergoes in those few short scenes. I do think you will fill those roles quite nicely. Do you know what you’re supposed to do?”
“Yes, of course,” Merlin said quickly. He had always been on much friendlier terms with Mr Kilgharrah than Arthur. “We learn these scenes and play them in front of the class together.”
“In three weeks time, yes. You have time to practice your lines during the lessons, but I’ll also expect you to work on this on your free time. Come to me if you have any questions.”
Arthur thought that he’d rather search the internet for answers to any of his possible questions, because Mr Kilgharrah had a horrible habit of making his answers so cryptic that Arthur was left wondering what his question had been in the first place. Merlin’s smile told he was thinking along the same lines. When the theatre class teacher had turned his back, Arthur spoke to Merlin again.
“Well, you’re the girl, obviously.”
Merlin rolled his eyes.
“Whatever, Arthur,” Merlin shrugged and then smiled. “I’m sure enough of my masculinity to be seen in a strong female role and not be bothered by it.”
“Mr Pendragon! Language!”
“Sorry, sir,” Arthur mumbled. “Look, can we go and practice somewhere else? I don’t want to feel like he’s breathing down our necks all the time.”
“You want to go somewhere else so you can be rude to me in private?” Merlin asked and rolled his eyes. “Sure, let’s go.”
“Gwen, I’m not sure I can stand that arsehole for three solid weeks! I’ve never had to work with such a pillock!”
“Merlin, he can’t be that bad. He’s Morgana’s brother, and you’re fine with her!”
“Half-brother! Clearly he got all the annoying genes in the family!”
“Honestly. Arthur’s fine when you get to know him. Besides, it’s only for three weeks.”
“But Much Ado About Nothing has always been my favourite. I was excited to get to play it! And now that utter prat is ruining it for me! Fuck my life, Gwen, seriously.”
“Any chance that you’re being a little melodramatic, honey? It’s not your whole life. It’s only three weeks with a person who... ahem, could maybe behave a little bit nicer most of the time, but really isn’t that bad in the end. You’ll survive.”
“I can’t handle practicing with that idiot for three weeks! He’s driving me crazy.”
“Maybe it’s all the sexual tension. Or maybe you’re just afraid that this kid is better actor than you,” Gwaine suggested, grinning.
“Oh, fuck off, Gwaine. I wasn’t talking to you anyway,” Arthur said and threw the football at Gwaine’s head. Gwaine snatched it from air with his goalkeeper reflexes.
“It can’t be that bad, Arthur,” Leon said. “I mean Lance and his girlfriend like him. And your sister hangs out with them all the time.”
“Well, Morgana is a bit of a witch so...” Arthur pointed out.
“I don’t get what you’re whining about. It’s just one kiss. You’ve done more, and with more repulsive people than Merlin, too,” Gwaine commented again. Arthur was staring at him incredulously. “What? Merlin’s good-looking! Gorgeous even, if you like the type.”
“You probably find bagels attractive. You'd shag anyone with a hole,” Arthur commented. He couldn’t quite keep the scorn out of his voice.
“True enough. But the point remains! It doesn’t have to be unpleasant if you don’t want it to be,” Gwaine said and winked.
“But he’s always arguing with me! He has no respect for me!” Arthur said, knowing it to be a weak argument. Was this how average people were treated by their peers? Arthur was so used to others seeing him as the son of Uther Pendragon, the richest man in town, that being around Merlin made him a bit uncomfortable. Merlin seemed to think of him as nothing more than a prat and annoyance.
“Is that the core of the problem, Arthur? He's standing up to you? If that’s the case then maybe hanging around him for a couple of weeks will do you some good. Take it as a learning experience,” Leon said.
Arthur slumped on the ground. His life was officially fucked up.
“I can’t stand Merlin whining about Arthur another day!” Gwen announced.
Gwen, Lance and Morgana were having an emergency meeting about their two friends who nowadays seemed to be in a constant state of war, and that was after only two practices! It was the lunch hour, and they were hoping no one would overhear their conversations or notice them from the hidden corner they currently occupied.
“Yeah, Arthur is driving the whole footie team mad. He’s unbearable,” Lance whispered.
“My brother is always unbearable. But yes, you're right. Even Uther suspects something is going on, and that man is usually as thick as a tree trunk when it comes to other people.”
The other two were already used to Morgana’s habit of calling her father by his first name.
“But what do we do about it?” Lance asked.
“I had a thought the other day,” Gwen said and then started to babble. “It’s just the way Merlin is talking about Arthur... He never lets anyone get under his skin that way! And he’s talking about Arthur all the time. So I thought... but it’s not probably true anyway. I don’t know why I even mentioned it.”
"What were you thinking, Gwen?" Lance asked smiling at his girlfriend’s confused expression.
“If it was anyone else than Merlin and Arthur, I could swear they were attracted to each other and that’s why they push each other and fight. You know, pulling pigtails,” Gwen said. “But it’s probably a stupid idea.”
“No, no, wait!” Morgana said. “You mean we should set them up? I like it!”
“But that only works if they like each other in the first place,” Lance pointed out. “Otherwise they'll just end up fighting more.”
“You know,” Morgana said thoughtfully. “Sometimes old ploys work so much better than anything we might come up with on our own.”
There was a moment of silence, and then everyone caught on to what Morgana was talking about.
“Oh no,” Gwen said and shook her head. “Surely you’re not thinking…”
“They’ll see right through it. They are practicing Much Ado About Nothing! They’ll never fall for it,” Lance pointed out.
“Oh, I think they will,” Morgana said and smirked. “I really do think they will.”
Merlin was reading a book for his English class in the school library when he heard a familiar voice. It was Morgana talking, but Merlin couldn't tell what she said. She was laughing, and then suddenly Merlin heard Gwen say his name.
“Oh, those two! Merlin won’t shut up about Arthur for a moment!” Gwen said, and Merlin furrowed his brows. Surely he wasn't that annoying. He might have mentioned Arthur once or twice in conversation, but Gwen made it sound like he was constantly whining about the blonde. Which he was not. He tried to ignore Arthur most of the time!
In any case, Merlin wanted to hear more of this discussion.
“Let me tell you a secret, Gwen. There’s a reason why Arthur was so reluctant to play those scenes with Merlin,” Morgana stage-whispered. Merlin was hiding behind the bookshelf and listening carefully. Eavesdropping may have not been very polite, but it sure was as informative as hell.
“Well?” Gwen asked.
“My brother has the hots for our Beatrice! He’s been crushing on Merlin for ages.”
Merlin almost fell down. He would have if he hadn’t caught a grip on one of the shelves in time. Arthur? Arthur had a crush on him? Merlin straightened up and tried to peek between the shelves to see if Morgana and Gwen were still talking.
“Are you sure? Arthur doesn’t act like a boy in love…” Gwen asked sceptically.
“It’s Arthur, for God’s sake! You know that Arthur doesn’t do feelings! He expects everyone to fall at his feet, and because Merlin refuses to do that, he gets irritated and pushes him further away. But he has been wanking regularly, or should I say, more regularly, after he got the assignment with Merlin. Poor boy! Merlin is driving him crazy and has no idea.”
That sounded pretty convincing to Merlin. It didn’t make any sense for Arthur to have a crush on Merlin, but surely his sister of all people would know if that was the case? Also Merlin had to admit that Arthur was… well, gorgeous. At least for a prat like that. He was not particularly unpleasant company either. Arthur was smart and funny and not always nice, but most of the time a good person who cared for other people and always did what was right. Merlin would be a fool to turn him down if he ever suggested... anything.
Maybe… maybe next time they would practice together Merlin could suggest they go straight into the kissing scene? Suddenly the thought of kissing Arthur was not as repugnant to him as it had been only moments ago. Actually, it sent some very pleasurable shivers through his spine. If Arthur really did want Merlin, would that mean he could feel the want in the kiss? Would Arthur use his tongue, his teeth to kiss him?
Merlin couldn't concentrate on reading anymore, so he took the book and left the library quietly, making sure neither Gwen nor Morgana noticed him.
“He’s on the hook!” Morgana announced smugly after they spotted Merlin leaving, clearly lost in thought.
“Let’s hope so. And please, let it go well with the boys, too!” Gwen sighed.
“You know that Merlin kid,” Leon said after football practice.
“Yeah, the one Arthur is always complaining about?” Lance nodded. “He’s nice. One of Gwen’s friends, you know.”
“Well, Arthur could be a bit nicer towards him. It’s clear where the problem lies in their complicated relationship.”
“It is?” Lance asked, clearly confused.
“Sure it is. Merlin is in love with Arthur.”
Arthur almost tripped on his towel and had to put it around his hips fast and hide behind the locker not to draw attention to himself, because he was sure, he had just made a very non-human noise.
“What? No way! According to Gwen, Arthur’s been treating him horribly! There’s no way that Merlin would… I don’t buy it,” Lance said.
“Yeah, you would think so, but still. He is. I don’t know what’s wrong with that kid’s head. Arthur will never return the feelings or stop being an arse to him.”
What? Why wouldn’t I? Arthur thought. He was slightly insulted to hear his so-called friends talking about him in such fashion.
“Oh God! Let’s hope Arthur never finds out. He would never stop teasing Merlin about it, and Merlin has enough problems with the situation as it is! The play and all.”
“True, true. I have no intention of telling Arthur anything. If he wants to be blind and not see what is clearly in front of him that’s not my problem,” Leon concluded, and they left the room.
Arthur didn’t know what to think. Apparently Merlin, Merlin, of all people had… feelings for him. Usually Arthur would be smug at overhearing something like that, but listening to his own friends bash and accuse him of being mean to the boy who had a crush on him was unsettling. What should he do then? He couldn’t admit he had heard the conversation! He couldn’t keep ignoring Merlin’s feelings either if they were so apparent to everyone else... But he couldn’t just go and ask Merlin out either… could he? Then again, why not? Merlin was not bad-looking! He was actually rather attractive when he thought about it. He was witty and challenged Arthur in ways that most people didn’t and…
Oh God, Arthur really should ask him out. Or kiss him? They would already be doing that in the scene they were going to play so why not do a bit extra on the side?
The next time they would practice together, Arthur swore he would be nicer and worthier of Merlin’s feelings. If it went well enough, he could ask the boy out afterwards.
Outside the locker room Leon and Lance high-fived.
Arthur and Merlin’s next practice was awkward to say the least. They were both trying to get the tone of the scene right, but it was proving to be hard when they weren’t willing to meet each other’s eyes. Finally Merlin gave up and put his script on the table.
“This is going nowhere. I think we should practice the kissing scene instead,” he said, before he could stop himself. Then he realised what he said when Arthur shot him a startled look. “I... I mean... we want it to look good, right? We can’t go and only do it on the stage, because then it’s going to be all awkward and look like a first kiss and...”
“It is the first kiss between the characters. It shouldn’t matter if it looks like it,” Arthur pointed out.
“...yeah, but it’s supposed to be a romantic scene...”
“But you’re right; we really should practice it beforehand.”
“...and you know, we can be professional about it, it’s just one kiss, and I think it’s going to...”
“Merlin,” Arthur interrupted and put a finger on Merlin’s lips. His mouth was still moving but no sound came out, because he was staring at Arthur in shock.
“...yes?” he finally said.
“Shut up. I already said yes. That usually means that I agree with whatever you’re saying.”
“Okay,” Merlin said and then to prove he was indeed a professional about this, he added: “It’s your line before the kiss.”
“Peace! I will stop your mouth.”
Arthur leaned forward, and Merlin met him halfway. At first the kiss was as awkward as all their practice session; just two pairs of dry lips touching each other. To Merlin it felt like for a second Arthur was trying to withdraw from the contact, but then Merlin angled his head and opened his mouth a bit. At that point Arthur dove back in, bringing their bodies closer together.
After that it was all hungry lips and roaming hands and tongues battling against each other. It was hard and soft and wet, and Merlin wanted more of it! At some point he had apparently slipped his hand in Arthur’s hair and his other hand was somewhere around the small of Arthur’s back. Arthur’s hand was on Merlin’s hip and the other was stroking his neck, and Merlin’s mind was full of thoughts that were very inappropriate to have while in school.
Finally Merlin seemed to catch up with his brain, and he pushed Arthur a bit before taking a step back.
“Well,” Arthur said between panting breaths.
“Yeah, I don't think that's the sort of kiss that goes with the scene,” Merlin said and licked his lips.
The corners of Arthur’s mouth jumped. That almost-smile made Merlin feel warm and fuzzy inside.
“Indeed. This proves one thing at least,” Arthur said. He had that annoyingly arrogant expression on his face again, but at least he was looking at Merlin.
“And what is that, pray tell?”
“We need a lot more kissing practice.”
Merlin had to agree on this point. So they returned to practice the kissing in a way that continued to be completely unsuitable to be seen on stage in front of the rest of the class and Mr Kilgharrah.
Neither of them cared very much.
“Are you sure you should be carrying all those books around, Merlin? You might trip under the heavy load, crash into the locker, and ruin school property!” Arthur called after Merlin at corridor a few days later.
“Wanker,” Merlin muttered but kept smiling. Beside him, Gwen raised her eyebrows.
“What was that? Calling me names now?”
“I always call you names!”
“Whatever, but you really shouldn’t be talking to me like that! See you in class,” Arthur smirked and went with his friends.
“What was that about?” Gwen asked.
“You and Arthur. You’ve never been that nice to each other.”
“Nice? Didn’t you hear, Gwen? I just called the guy a wanker,” Merlin said and chuckled awkwardly.
“Yes, but you’re smiling!”
“Well, it’s a nice day. And you said yourself that Arthur is not that horrible. Mostly, he’s horribly prattish.”
“Oh, I see,” Gwen said and smiled.
“You like him!”
“Of course I don’t!” Merlin said and flushed.
“No point in denying it. I can see it in your face. You can’t lie to me, Merlin,” Gwen said and stopped in front of a classroom door. “This is mine. Now, time to go to your theatre class, lover boy. Have fun!”
Gwen disappeared inside the classroom and left Merlin blushing and thinking that he should really try to be less obvious in real life, because he was rather brilliant actor while on stage.
“It’s so late. I can’t learn any lines anymore,” Arthur complained and rubbed his eyes. The light in the classroom they picked for their after-hours meetings was bollocks and sitting on a school desk really wasn’t that comfortable.
“We could... you know, we could go to my house and continue there?” Merlin suggested.
Arthur was suddenly alert.
“Do you live close?”
“Not far. We can either walk or take the bus.”
“Let’s walk. I need some fresh air,” Arthur said. He was feeling hot, and he hoped some walking would help him cool down better than sitting next to Merlin in a bus.
During the walk they had time to discuss all sorts of things. The night air was warm and humid, and the clouds looked like they could rain later that night. They talked about school, their future plans, and their families. To his surprise Arthur realised that he really did enjoy Merlin’s company. The boy had quirky sense of humour; he was smart and opinionated and knew a large number of unnecessary facts. The walk really was not long and soon they saw the lights of Merlin’s home.
“Oh right, you don’t mind if my mum’s home, do you?” Merlin asked when they were almost at the door. “She’s probably just got home from work.”
“Your mum?” Arthur asked. He had not been prepared to meet his almost not-boyfriend’s mother. His own father spent so little time home that Arthur usually just forgot that most of teenagers actually lived with their parents.
“Yeah. She’s probably going to ask stuff and try to get you to eat more, but she’s nice. Don’t worry.”
“...okay,” Arthur said, because honestly, did he have any options at this point?
“Mum! I’m home!” Merlin shouted when they were inside the door.
“Hi, Merlin. Did you have a nice day at school? Oh, who’s this?” Mrs Emrys came from the kitchen.
“Hello, Mrs Emrys. I’m Arthur,” Arthur said. He held out his hand to be shaken.
“Call me Hunith, please! You didn’t tell you’re going to have a friend over, Merlin.”
“Oh, sorry. We have to practice a few scenes for a play with Arthur, and we didn’t want to stay at school so late, so I asked him to come here,” Merlin said and took Arthur’s jacket.
“It’s alright, of course. If I had just known I would’ve bought more for dinner.”
“Really, it’s alright. I don’t need...”
“Mum, it is okay. You always make enough for at least six people. I think we’ll manage,” Merlin said, smiling.
“Well, you two go and practice that play of yours, and I’ll call you when the dinner is ready.”
“Come on,” Merlin said and took Arthur’s hand. Arthur didn’t even have time to be embarrassed about the intimacy of the gesture before they were already in Merlin’s room and the door was closed behind them.
“Meeting my mum was that traumatic?” Merlin grinned.
“I just didn’t expect that. I’m alright,” Arthur said, sitting on Merlin’s bed. The realization that it was Merlin’s bed came a second later, and he found himself blushing.
“Hey, it’s alright,” Merlin said and sat beside him on the bed. Then he leaned in and kissed Arthur.
At first it was soft and gentle, but then Arthur felt Merlin’s tongue lick at his lower lip, and he had to open his mouth and deepen the kiss. It felt more natural than it should have after such a short time, and Arthur forgot where he was for a moment. Everything that mattered was Merlin’s mouth on his, Merlin’s hands under his shirt, and the warm feeling that started somewhere in his lower stomach. He heard the blood pound on his ears, and he was impossibly aroused just by the thought of sitting here with Merlin and kissing and the possibility of anything more happening. Suddenly Arthur found himself on his back on the bed with a lapful of Merlin, and he had to stop just to draw breath.
“I thought we had to practice the play,” Arthur said. Merlin pressed kisses on his neck and mmhmm’d. “Oh dear God, Merlin. Your mother is in the next room! We can’t!” And Arthur pushed himself up, even though it took all his self-control just to not keep on going and take what was offered.
“Spoilsport,” Merlin mumbled, but he got up as well. “The first time I have you in my bed, and of course you have to be all responsible about it.”
“Okay, let’s practice. I think we need to work on... erm, pretty much every other scene besides the last one,” Merlin said and flushed. Arthur grinned.
Hunith was friendly and asked Arthur all kinds of questions over dinner. Arthur had decided to try and make a good impression, and he was polite in his answers despite Merlin smirking at him across the table. Arthur felt like Hunith was looking at him and Merlin knowingly, but Arthur was sure that he had given no reason for suspicion. Maybe Merlin’s mum just knew her son that well.
“Thanks for the dinner, mum. I think we have some more practicing to do.”
“Tell me when you’re finished. I can drive you home afterwards, Arthur,” Hunith said.
“Really, there’s no need...” Arthur said and flushed again.
“Nonsense. It’s no trouble. It’s getting late and starting to rain soon. Of course I will take you,” Hunith said and refused to hear any objections.
“Well... Thank you, Hunith. For the dinner and everything,” Arthur said, following Merlin to his room.
“Mum always does that. She likes visitors, and she likes to take care of people. I should’ve probably warned you,” Merlin told him when they were behind the door again.
“Umm, listen. You can say no, but we should really practice some more and make sure we actually know our stuff next week. So I thought...”
“Well, father is going to be away this weekend, and our house is empty. I thought maybe you’d like to stay over? Of course Morgana is going to be there, and it’s alright, if you don’t want to...” Arthur had wanted to ask all night, and the words tumbled out in a breathy rush before he lost what felt like his last chance.
“Come to your house?” Merlin asked. “You sure? I mean, yes, yes, I would like that very much.”
Arthur was happy and relieved that Merlin had agreed but now also felt slightly terrified that he would be spending two days with Merlin at his house. Only time would tell whether this was the best or the worst idea in the history of ideas.
“Oh wow. That’s... amazing. I knew it was going to be bigger than mine, but this is... oh wow,” Merlin stammered when they were standing in front of the Pendragon house on Friday afternoon.
“I hear that all the time,” Arthur said, grinning. Merlin smacked him on the arm.
“Really, shouldn’t you have, I don’t know, a personal driver or something to go with the house? Maybe a manservant following you around?”
“Father tried to get his driver to take me and Morgana to and from school, but it doesn’t really work when we have different classes and I don’t even always know when I can leave. And taking a taxi to get to school would be stupid, so I use buses like anyone else,” Arthur said and shrugged. “You don’t mind that my father has more money than most people, do you?”
“Why would I mind? Your house looks brilliant!”
Arthur sighed in relief again. He had been scared that Merlin would somehow be all weird about it.
“Can you hold this? I have to get my keys,” Arthur said at the door.
“As I said, I expected you to have manservant to do this kind of things for you. Open doors and carry your stuff,” Merlin said but took Arthur’s bag.
“Why would I need a manservant when I can use you?” Arthur said.
“Shut up, you prat!”
Of course Morgana had to be home and hear their banter.
“Hello, brother dearest. Hi, Merlin,” Morgana said in a knowing tone while they were removing their jackets.
“Hi, Morgana,” Merlin said, and Arthur took his bag back from him.
“Want to go upstairs? I can show you my room,” Arthur said quickly before Morgana had time to make any embarrassing remarks. Arthur had told her yesterday that Merlin would be staying with them over the weekend, and she had for some reason been terribly smug about it since then.
“Sure,” Merlin said and shot Arthur a questioning look.
“The guest room bed has clean sheets! Merlin will be sleeping there, right?” Morgana called after them, and Arthur could hear her smirking. Witch.
“This is my room. I can show you that first and then take you to the guest room.” Arthur said and opened the door to his room. He didn’t really want Merlin to sleep in the guest room. He’d had this fantasy of waking up next to Merlin and leaning down to kiss him awake and Merlin answering his kiss all sleepy and adorable. And, of course, he did want other things besides practicing and kissing to happen this weekend.
How he was going to ask Merlin, he had no idea.
Arthur closed the door behind them and leaned against it. He thought about locking it, but it would’ve seemed weird.
“What do you think?” he asked, because he felt he had to say something.
“It’s nice. Bigger than my room,” Merlin said and looked around. He put his overnight bag on the floor next to Arthur’s school bag. Merlin seemed to be nervous too, which for some reason settled down Arthur’s nerves.
Then Merlin’s eyes found his bed, and he glanced in Arthur’s direction.
“Lock the door,” Merlin said and stepped closer. “I don’t want Morgana coming in and interrupting anything.”
Arthur did as he was told and stepped away from the door. They just stared at each other for a moment, both hoping that the other would make the first move.
Arthur was not sure who initiated the kiss in the end, but he knew that they were kissing and pulling each other’s clothes and trying to get some skin for their hands to touch. Arthur pushed them in the direction of his bed at the same time when he was kissing and biting Merlin’s neck. They fell on the bed still fully clothed and for some time it was awkward and hurried when they both tried to get rid of the additional layers.
When they were out of their shirts and the trousers were somewhere on the floor, Arthur was on top and the kisses had turned quicker and dirtier just because they had to stop to breathe every few seconds. They still were in their underwear, but Arthur didn’t want to stop moving against Merlin just to remove them. He rubbed Merlin’s cock through his boxers and tried not to think that this was actually the first time he had ever gotten this far with another boy. Dating other boys had never leaded further than kissing and some groping. There had been some girls, but they had never mattered in the way Merlin did.
“Oh God,” Merlin gasped. “I really do hope you’ve already learned your lines, because no way in hell am I going to let you out of this bed before Sunday!”
Arthur laughed and kissed Merlin again. He was not sure if he’d be able to get up from this bed during the weekend either. Afterwards they lay on the bed facing each other and panting, sweaty and sticky and disgusting, but still kissing and touching all the skin they could reach.
“Just so you know, I don’t want you to sleep in the guest bedroom,” Arthur pointed out as soon as he could draw enough breath to say the words. Merlin laughed softly.
“Trust me. I had no intention of sleeping there.”
Arthur leaned to take some tissues from the bedside table and cleaned them up.
“I’m pretty sure Morgana knows what we’re doing right now,” Merlin said.
“Nice way of ruining the moment! I don’t really want to think about my sister when in bed, thank you very much.”
“I only meant that she already knows, so we don’t really have to worry about her finding out,” Merlin said as if it had been obvious.
“I don’t care if she knows.”
And then they returned to the kissing, because honestly, it was so much better way to use their mouths than talking.
They spent Friday night watching bad movies and eating pizza and popcorn with Morgana in the living room. Neither of them mentioned what they had been up to in Arthur’s room earlier, but they also ignored any pointed remarks Morgana made about the guest room.
Saturday was mostly spent loitering in Arthur’s bed in pyjamas and actually practicing the scenes they were supposed to practice. Arthur knew his lines well enough by now, but Merlin had more emotion on his delivery, even though he occasionally forgot what he was supposed to say next. They teased each other every time one of them made a mistake, but it was mostly gentle and they challenged each other in the best possible way.
The original problem, the kissing, was becoming a problem again. Whenever they tried to just end the last scene with soft peck, one of them took it one step further and they found themselves rolling around in the bed and trying to get the taste of each other’s mouths. They knew they couldn't do this in front of an audience; here, alone in the silence of Arthur’s bedroom, it was easy to forget that they had to perform these scenes in front of other people in just a few days time.
“So,” Merlin said and threw his script on the floor. They had gone through all the scenes twice now and were tired of practicing. “What happens when the class is over?”
“What do you mean?” Arthur asked, although he knew exactly what Merlin meant. It just was something they had never talked about. Arthur didn’t particularly want to confess how much he wanted to keep doing this, whatever this was with Merlin, but they would run out of excuses to spend this much time together as soon as they were done with the practicing.
“I mean, will we go our separate ways? We didn’t really hang out before the assignment and when it ends...”
“What do you want to happen?” Arthur asked, because damn it, he was not going to be the one to say the words first. He didn’t want to be the one who asked Merlin to keep on spending time with him, to possibly go out with him, to be his boyfriend. He wanted this to mean more than just fooling around for a couple of weeks. Arthur had no idea how to say any of that so he desperately wanted Merlin to be the one to say it first.
“I’d like to still see you,” Merlin said quietly. “I didn’t expect you to be like this. And maybe if you’d want to...”
But what Merlin wanted, Arthur didn’t find out, because right then there was a knock on the door and they heard Morgana’s voice through it.
“Arthur! Gwen is here, and she brought Lance with her. Come downstairs, both of you, if you’re done practicing!”
Merlin sighed and got up from the bed. He began to go through his stuff to get some clothes, and Arthur decided it was the best thing to do. He promised himself he would return to the conversation later, when they could talk properly.
They didn’t return to the conversation that day. In the night when they were getting to bed, Merlin just shushed Arthur’s attempts at continuing the discussion by kissing him gently. They did have sex again, but somehow it was gentler than it had been the previous day. It mattered more.
When Arthur tried to talk with Merlin afterwards, he found the other boy already asleep. So instead he tugged Merlin close and pulled the blankets over both of them. There was still tomorrow. They could have the conversation tomorrow.
The next day Merlin went back home, and they didn’t have the conversation.
Arthur didn't talk to Merlin in school like he did to his other friends. Merlin was hurt and angry about it. He had thought that the weekend had meant something, but there Arthur was, hanging with his footie mates and trying his best to ignore Merlin’s presence. He had no intention of causing a scene, but he wanted to know if this was how things were going to be. Morgana had been so sure that Arthur fancied him, so why was he acting like a complete prat in front of other people? Arthur was not like that, not really.
“Alright there, Merlin?” one of Arthur’s friends, Gwaine, called out to him when Merlin was passing them after he spotted Gwen sitting nearby. All the other boys turned to look at Merlin as well.
“Sure, why wouldn’t I be?” Merlin answered and smiled at Gwaine. He didn’t even glance at Arthur.
“Merlin was just confused about how to cross the lawn without getting lost,” Arthur said, and Merlin had to look at him then. “You sure you don’t want me to escort you?”
Merlin tried not to react visibly. The look in Arthur’s eyes was fiery. Gwaine was grinning and saying something to Leon who shook his head. Arthur shot an annoyed glare in their direction.
“No, I think I’ll manage. I wouldn’t expect you to be able to find your way back afterwards,” Merlin said. Maybe it wasn’t the wittiest of responses, but he didn’t want to be surrounded by all of the football team much longer. He felt a bit sick.
Merlin turned to march towards Gwen once again and ignored the calls he heard following him.
“So... You and Arthur?” Gwen asked as soon as he sat down beside her.
“Me and Arthur what?” Merlin asked, refusing to blush.
“Are you... you know... an item now?”
“No! Of course not! It’s not like that!”
Merlin didn’t mention how much he wanted it to be exactly like that.
“But you were clearly flirting with him back there! After you spent the whole weekend with him! To me it looked like Arthur was a bit jealous of you. And how’s that kissing coming along?”
“Just leave it, Gwen!”
“You’re sure you don’t like him?”
“Of course I’m sure.”
“You don’t like me?”
Merlin had no idea how and when Arthur had appeared next to the bench where Merlin was sitting with Gwen, but he stood there with hurt lurking in his eyes. Merlin spotted a few of Arthur’s football mates hanging closer to them than earlier, too.
“Well, no. Of course I like you as a friend, but...” Merlin said. He really didn’t want to admit how much he actually liked Arthur in front of everyone.
“A few weeks ago I overheard Leon and Lance talking about how you are in love with me for sure! How do you explain that?” Arthur asked.
“I can’t. But don’t you like me then?” Merlin asked and looked at Arthur begging for the answer to be one he wanted it to be.
“Of course. As a friend,” Arthur said, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“And still Morgana was so sure about your feelings when I heard her telling Gwen about them,” Merlin said and glared at Gwen. Gwen smiled sheepishly.
“Oh, come now, Arthur! Just admit that you like the bloke and ask him out. Look here, Merlin. Have you seen what Arthur wrote in his math notebook on the lesson this morning?”
“Don’t you fucking dare, Leon...” Arthur said and tried to take the book out of Leon’s hand, but Leon was already handing it to Merlin.
Merlin’s eyebrows rose, and he glanced at Arthur, amused.
“And if you want to know Merlin’s feelings, please take a look at his diary,” Gwen laughed. She took advantage of Merlin being distracted, snatching the book from Merlin’s open bag. Merlin frantically tried to get it back from Gwen, but she succeeded at giving it to Arthur.
“Diary, Merlin? Really? I knew you were a girl, but...” Arthur said chuckling.
“Shut up, prat! Like you can call anyone girlish after the stuff you have drawn and written here! I thought only 11-year-old girls drew hearts in their notebooks anymore!”
Arthur’s cheeks turned red.
“Well, in your diary...” Arthur started, but Lance stopped him in the middle of a sentence.
“Gentlemen, as fun as this all is, could you two just kiss and make up and agree that you might have mutual feelings that go beyond friendship? We all have classes to attend in roughly five minutes.”
Merlin glared at everyone for a moment but slowly rose and moved closer to Arthur. Arthur threw the diary somewhere in the general direction of Merlin’s bag, not caring if it hit or missed.
“Alright then. I can take you out on a real date once, and we’ll see where that goes. But just because the boys said you were pining horribly before I noticed you,” Arthur said.
“And I will agree to go with you, because of the general peer pressure and to save you from having to wank to fantasies of me like Morgana said you’ve been doing for weeks,” Merlin answered and smirked.
“Shut up,” Arthur said and finally kissed him. Merlin could hear faint cheering and clapping through the haze and buzzing in his ears, but he didn’t really care, because he was kissing Arthur in front of everybody and apparently they were officially dating now.
At least that part of the story had a happy ending.
Oh, and the scenes they had to play?
Both Merlin and Arthur had indeed learned their lines and were perfectly in character during their scenes. Their banter in the scenes was believable, their chemistry noticeable, and the kiss in the last scene stayed suitable for general audiences.
The only piece of critique came from Mr Kilgharrah:
“Very good work, boys. But you know you didn’t really have to kiss each other on the mouth? Haven't either of you ever heard of a stage kiss before?”