After everything they’ve been through - all the lives they’ve lived, the battles they’ve fought - this really doesn’t matter all that much.
But it doesn’t help that the first time Arthur sees him this time around, he bursts out laughing.
“Oh, fuck off,” Merlin says grumpily. He’s lost count of what reincarnation they’re on (that’s a lie, this is number twelve, but thinking about it for too long freaks him the fuck out, so he tries not to), but Arthur is an incomparable prat in all of them.
“But you - you’re - ” is as far as Arthur gets before he bends over, wheezing with laughter.
Merlin glares at him and turns around to stalk away. He makes it about five hundred metres down the footpath before Arthur catches up to him.
“Look, I’m sorry, alright?” he says, grabbing Merlin’s arm to turn him around. His eyes are still full of laughter, but he’s straightened his face out, and he’s so achingly familiar and missed that Merlin can’t help his smile.
“Arsehole,” he says, but there’s nothing but affection in his voice. Arthur, grinning, pulls him into a hug and, seemingly entirely effortlessly, lifts him right off the ground.
Merlin absolutely does not shriek.
“Put me down, you absolute wanker,” he says, but Arthur ignores him, hugging him close until Merlin can’t do anything but wrap his arms around Arthur’s neck and bury his face in his neck.
“I missed you,” Arthur says, so quietly Merlin almost doesn’t hear him. His throat aches suddenly, and he squeezes his eyes shut.
It’s been nearly seventy years, by his count, since they last saw each other. It’s the same every time: They remember everything, every life they’ve lived, every death they’ve endured, everyone they’ve lost. But rather than hitting them all at once, the memories grow, slowly, until they’re as clear and real as everything they’ve done in their current lifetime.
The first reincarnation was the worst; Merlin had thought he was going mad, nearly had gone mad, until he’d stumbled across Arthur in a tavern one day and clutched at him like a drowning man.
It’s old hat by now; they wait, every lifetime, knowing they will eventually find each other, aching for the other nonetheless. Sometimes they meet as children; once they did not reach each other until a few years before their deaths.
Merlin has loved Arthur fiercely and absolutely in every single life they’ve had.
It took Arthur until the fourth go-around to catch up with that bit. He’s always been a little slow, Merlin thinks fondly.
Arthur sets him down, still smiling, and they look at each other for a long moment.
“I know we have a lot to catch up on,” Merlin says, starting to shift under the intensity of Arthur’s eyes, “but I think you should really come back to my place now.”
Arthur grabs his hand and laces their fingers together. The 21st century is absolutely Merlin’s favourite, and this is one of the reasons why: That (nearly) no one will stare at them walking through the park holding hands, too close and affectionate to be anything but lovers.
Also, the internet. Merlin loves the internet.
Arthur tugs him closer and bends (quite a bit, Merlin notes), and kisses him softly on the lips.
“Lead on,” he says.
He’s not tiny, no, really, he’s not. He’s always been slender unless he works really hard at it, and 5’3’’ is only a little bit below the national average height for a man.
When he informs Arthur of this, as they’re driving back to Merlin’s place, Arthur just throws his head back and laughs, long and loud, before declaring he likes Merlin like this.
“Snarky?” Merlin asks. “Or short?”
“Short,” Arthur says. “You were always snarky.”
“And do I want to know why?” Merlin tries to look stern, which is difficult in the face of Arthur’s unabashed joy.
Arthur gives him a filthy, filthy look.
“Oh,” says Merlin faintly.
So it turns out there are certain advantages to being eight inches shorter than Arthur.
One is absolutely the way Arthur towers over him as he presses him back against the door the second they’re inside Merlin’s flat. The way Merlin feels totally overwhelmed and surrounded as Arthur kisses him, hard and sloppy, with the desperate edge that’s always there when they first find each other again.
“Missed you so much,” he breathes when Arthur pulls back and rests their foreheads together, panting softly. “Felt so long this time, I thought - ”
“Shh,” Arthur says, kissing him again, his hands roaming all over Merlin’s shoulders and chest, relearning their lines. “It doesn’t matter, you found me, it’s fine now.”
Arthur slides his hands down, gripping Merlin’s hips and lifting slightly, grinding into them. The friction feels amazing, and Merlin moans as he rocks against Arthur. He hasn’t had been with anyone at all this lifetime; he’ll never tell him, but Arthur’s mostly ruined him for sex with anyone else. Merlin’s made do with his hand and his memory, and it’s almost unbearably good to have him here, finally.
Arthur’s hands are moving again, slipping down to Merlin’s thighs, and then he bends at the knee and lifts, picking Merlin right up off the ground and pressing him back tight against the door again, slotting their hips together.
It sends a shock of arousal through Merlin, how easily Arthur moves him, and he slings his legs around Arthur’s waist, desperately shoving their bodies together. Arthur’s hands are warm on his thighs as they kiss for ages, Merlin relearning the taste of Arthur in his mouth, the curl of his tongue both new and familiar. Arthur’s hips are moving in a perfect rhythm, driving Merlin crazy, his erection sliding against Merlin through their jeans.
He’s just starting to think it would be great to start moving towards his bedroom when Arthur shifts, sliding his arms around until they’re secore underneath Merlin’s arse, and steps back and starts carrying Merlin towards the bedroom.
Merlin is never going to admit how much that turns him on, but he suspects Arthur can tell from the way he groans and goes for Arthur’s neck, licking and sucking at it. It causes Arthur to stumble, nearly sending them crashing into the wall, but he rights himself and stops to glare at Merlin, who’s giggling. He feels giddy, drunk on having Arthur with him again.
“Nice recovery,” he says, face pressed into the side of Arthur’s.
“I have excellent reflexes,” Arthur says, and starts moving again, stumbling down the hallway.
He tips Merlin unceremoniously onto his bed, and then steps back and just looks at him, like he’s not quite sure where to start. Merlin takes the opportunity to look back, his chest aching with how much he’s missed Arthur, every beautiful, stubborn inch of him.
The line of Arthur’s thick cock is visible through his jeans, pushing against his fly, and as he watches Arthur reaches down to palm himself, his eyes wide and dark as he stares at Merlin. Arthur has been keeping him waiting for years, but seems content to make him wait a little longer while he drinks Merlin in.
Well, Merlin will just have to hurry him up, then.
He kneels up on the bed and pulls his shirt over his head, and then fumbles with his belt. He can’t help the tiny moan that escapes him when his hand brushes against his cock as he pulls his jeans down - he’s been hard since Arthur started kissing him, he’s been waiting for Arthur for so long and wants him so much he almost can’t breathe.
The noise jolts Arthur out of his stillness, and in a second he’s on Merlin, pushing him down against the pillows and covering him, leaning in to kiss him.
Merlin’s always liked Arthur’s body, with its tight muscles and firm shoulders, always loved the way it fits against his slimmer frame. But this is different, Arthur’s so much bigger than him now, and although he’s spent a long time bitching about being reincarnated so small this time, he’s beginning to think it’s definitely worth it.
“Get your fucking clothes off, Arthur,” he grumbles when Arthur finally pulls back. “Wanna touch you.” He pushes ineffectually at Arthur’s shoulders until Arthur gets the hint, kneeling over Merlin and pulling his shirt off. Merlin goes straight for his jeans, desperate to get his hands, mouth, anything, on Arthur’s cock. Arthur reaches down to help him and it probably takes longer than it would if just one of them did it, but they eventually wrestle him out of them, and Merlin’s pretty sure he rips Arthur’s boxers in his haste to get them off.
Arthur ends up on his back, staring up at Merlin as he runs his fingers along Arthur’s dick. He knows he’s being a tease, but he wants to savour this. When Arthur groans “Merlin” like he’s dying, he relents and wraps his palm around him.
Arthur fits differently in his hand, feels so much bigger, and Merlin shivers a little with that thought. He wants to know if Arthur will feel bigger in his mouth. And in his arse.
For now, though, he pumps Arthur slowly, watching his face as he does, swiping his fingers over the head, spreading the slick pre-come over his dick.
“Merlin, stop being such a bloody tease,” Arthur snaps, biting his lip as Merlin twists his wrist. Merlin, whose hips had been moving in a lazy rhythm against Arthur’s thigh, pulls away and stands up, stripping off his boxer briefs before climbing onto Arthur, legs spread across his hips.
Arthur’s hands go straight to his hips, his thumbs sitting perfectly in the divots of his hips bones. Merlin smiles.
He leans down, bracing his hands either side of Arthur’s head, and kisses him slowly, tongue teasing at Arthur’s lips before dipping in, sliding alongside Arthur’s. His cock slips against Arthur’s stomach, Arthur fisting it loosely.
“Fuck me,” Merlin whispers when they part.
Arthur flips him easily and gently, pushing his legs back over Arthur’s shoulders, and Merlin’s staring at the ceiling as Arthur’s hands go a little wild, first palming and squeezing Merlin’s arse, then spreading his cheeks, his thumb teasing at his rim.
“Shit, Merlin, I missed you so much,” he says before leaning in to press a filthy, slick kiss to his hole.
“Think you just missed my arse,” Merlin gasps. “Fuck, fuck, do that again.”
But Arthur doesn’t, tease that he is; he just rubs his index finger along Merlin’s rim and grins up at him.
“Nope,” he says cheerily. “Missed everything about you. Even your ears.” He presses the tip of his finger in slowly, and his gaze flits back to Merlin’s arse, looking fascinated as he fucks shallowly in and out. “But okay, I definitely missed your arse.”
“Then fuck me.”
He’s still not over how easily Arthur can manhandle him now, flipping him onto his stomach and pulling him up to his knees, his hands feeling huge on Merlin’s narrow hips. He plasters himself along Merlin’s back, his cock sliding along the crease of his arse as he mouths at Merlin’s shoulder blade.
Merlin loses himself in the feeling of it, rocking his arse back into Arthur, Arthur’s warmth nearly overwhelming. He doesn’t come back to himself until Arthur pulls back and he feels a slick finger rubbing over his arsehole.
He doesn’t hold back, knows he’s moaning like he’s being paid for it when Arthur’s finger pushes inside him, but he’s had nothing but his own fingers for a long time and Arthur’s are so much better, thicker and longer and Arthur’s. Arthur’s forehead is resting against his back and Merlin is sure he’s smirking, enjoying how easily he can make Merlin moan for him, but he doesn’t care, he just wants -
“More, Arthur, fuck’s sake,” he grits out, shoving his hips back unceremoniously.
“So impatient,” Arthur chides, but he must be nearly as desperate as Merlin because he immediately presses in a second finger, stretching Merlin wider around him. Merlin fucks back onto them until Arthur starts moving properly, kneeling back so he can watch.
“Fuck, Merlin,” he says, voice low, like he can’t quite believe what he’s seeing. And Merlin gets it, he really does. They’ve done this countless times over the endless years, but their first time back together always steals his breath, makes his chest tighten and his eyes sting.
“Please,” he says, voice breaking at the end.
“Yeah, yeah, okay,” Arthur mutters, shifting back. Merlin, his face pressed into the pillow, hears the snick of the bottle this time, and the sound of Arthur slicking himself, panting softly, and then he feels Arthur’s cock, nudging at his hole.
And it’s not the time, he really doesn’t want to, but he is a medical student this time, and apparently the endless lectures he’s heard on the subject won’t leave him alone because he stutters out “C-condom?” before he totally loses it and forces Arthur inside him.
“Haven’t done this before,” Arthur says, breathing heavily. “Was waiting for you this time, no one’s like you, didn’t want anyone else.”
Arthur moves his hips forward slowly, rocking in tiny thrusts until the head of his dick slips inside. He keeps moving, slowly but surely, until he’s inside completely, and Merlin can feel his body clenching tightly around Arthur.
“Fuck,” he pants out, “Jesus, Arthur, were you always this big?”
Arthur huffs out a laugh, draping himself over Merlin’s back. “You are quite small this time,” he says, licking the back of Merlin’s neck.
Merlin reaches back to slap his thigh. His body’s adjusted to the stretch now, and he wants Arthur to move.
“Good, ‘m good, please,” he says, and Arthur pulls out slowly and shoves back in, hard this time, enough to make Merlin cry out. Arthur fucks back in, and shit, his dick feels almost unbearably good. Merlin spreads his knees further apart, moving with Arthur’s rhythm, feeling desperate and too-hot, skin itching for Arthur’s hands. He’s about to reach down and jerk himself off when Arthur pulls out.
“Get on your back,” Arthur demands, and Merlin scrambles to obey. He’ll be embarrassed about how quickly he does so later, but for now he lies down flat on his back, spreading his legs instantly, hands scrabbling for Arthur’s shoulders.
“Please, Arthur, I need you, come on,” he says, and Arthur pushes his legs back and slides back in, no hesitation this time, fucking him desperately from the start. His hips jerk upwards at the end of his stroke, brushing against Merlin’s prostate, and he knows he’s being embarrassingly loud, that his neighbours are going to be pissed as hell tomorrow but he can’t give a shit when Arthur is fucking him like this.
He’s holding his legs up high around Arthur’s back, Arthur’s arms braced around him, and again Merlin feels small, caged in by Arthur’s body, completely covered, surrounded and filled up by him.
He loves it.
“Are you close?” Arthur grunts out, and there’s sweat on his forehead now, his hair damp.
“So close, fuck, Arthur, Arthur - ”
Arthur reaches down and wraps a hand around Merlin’s cock, pumping him hard and tight and fast, and Merlin can’t believe they’ve both lasted this long, but this is the end of his stamina, he’s done, and he squeezes his eyes shut as he comes, all over Arthur’s hand and both their stomachs.
He’s not done, still high on it, when Arthur’s hips stutter briefly and he moans, a deliciously filthy sound with Merlin’s name mixed in somewhere, and he comes as well, filling Merlin up.
A moment later, he slumps down half on top of Merlin, face smushed against his neck. Merlin threads his fingers through his hair until Arthur raises his face enough for Merlin to kiss him slowly.
Eventually they separate and Arthur mutters something about being disgusting. When Merlin refuses to get up, Arthur picks him up off the bed and carries him to the bathroom, shoving him in the shower and following him in. Merlin plasters himself all over Arthur, who rolls his eyes but keeps him upright, arm slung around his waist. Arthur’s fingers wander down his arse, which is still dripping with Arthur’s come, and Merlin shudders when he slips one inside him. He’s sensitive, but it feels good and he almost wants Arthur to fuck him again.
He can’t quite muster up the energy for it, though, and Arthur ends up simply cleaning them both up before bundling Merlin in a towel and leading him back out.
They don’t bother with clothes, climbing into Merlin’s bed naked and only a little damp. Arthur spoons up behind him and wow, their relative sizes work really well for this, Merlin can’t remember ever fitting into the curve of Arthur’s body quite so perfectly. Arthur’s hand is caressing his ribs, and his legs are the perfect length for Merlin to tuck his toes between his calves. He does so with a pleased little hum, and Arthur laughs, a quiet puff in his ear.
“Idiot,” he says fondly.
“I know you’re going to tease me mercilessly, so I might as well get some perks out of this,” Merlin says, pulling Arthur’s arm around him until it’s lying exactly where he wants it.
“I can think of a few more perks.”
“Mmm?” Merlin is sleepy now, and he knows he’s going to get the best night’s sleep he’s ever had. He feels, for the first time in this life, completely safe.
Arthur’s suggestions are all thoroughly filthy, which doesn’t surprise Merlin a bit, but he’s so tired that they just make him giggly, until he’s almost hysterical with it. Arthur eventually shushes him and pulls him back into his arms (he’d rolled away to bury his face in his pillow and laugh) and holds him close.
The last thing he remembers is Arthur nosing behind his ear and sighing happily, before he falls into a deep, perfect sleep.