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Arthur doesn’t know why he did it. Leon had obviously meant it as a joke. He didn’t really expect to mend his broken heart and find the next love of his life in a chatroom of all places.

And yet there he was, in a general chat on a late Tuesday night, searching through the obscene text for someone, anyone with at least the good sense to type grammatically.

 

s3xf13nd: any irish girls wanna chat?

dirtywhore: any married guys wanna have some fun behind my husbands back?

hardman: any other old uk pervs in?

dude!: Any Ladies want to watch their man get fucked!!????????

grim77: 34/bi-male anyone wanna chat pm me

Ben.London.M: any muslimg girl pm me

hard in iowa: pic or vid trade?

fit_hung_male: any girls in aus...hit me up

MatureBiggirl4Pervert: hi all

18girl: any muscle guys that can hulk out of a shirt by flexing?

MightBeMagic: Since when is “hulk” a verb?

Grace: hey

hardman: any word can be verbed if u put enough though into it

MightBeMagic: Oh, my bad, I meant for someone with a slight bit of intelligence to answer.

King_Me: good luck finding anyone like that in here

18girl: k any muscle guys that can *break* their shirt by flexing?

MightBeMagic: Better, but still not sure how one breaks a shirt.

King_Me: maybe by tearing/ripping/shredding or something like that

MightBeMagic: I was hoping she would catch on to that but of course, no such luck. These people are infinitely stupid.

dirtywhore: y dont u leave then

MightBeMagic: Apparently I’m the masochistic type.

MightBeMagic: That and I have nothing better to do. Unfortunately.

 

That’s when he got it.

MightBeMagic has invited you to a private chat.

Arthur’s heart skipped a beat and he clicked “Accept” before he could think better of it. He was anonymous after all.

 

MightBeMagic: Hello

King_Me: hi

MightBeMagic: You seem to have a decent IQ and are able to hold a conversation.

King_Me: lol thanks?

King_Me: i was starting to think i was the only one in there that wasn’t looking for sex

MightBeMagic: If I wasn’t in there, you probably would have been. They’re all disgusting perverts and horny eighteen year olds.

King_Me: yeah no kidding

King_Me: so what did you want to talk about?

 

Arthur groaned. Why did he say something stupid like that? The whole point of online chat was that there was no point. Maybe this person just wanted to talk about nothing.

Even if they didn’t seem at all like one of those internet people.

 

MightBeMagic: Ha!

King_Me: wot?

MightBeMagic: Not everything has to have meaning, you know.

MightBeMagic: Oh, wait. Before I go any further...are you religious?

 

Arthur had to think about it. He’d been raised Catholic but his parents hadn’t been particularly strict about it. They never went to church. In fact the only religious thing they did do was say grace at dinner. But that had been it.

 

King_Me: no

MightBeMagic: Alright, good. Let me run something by you then.

King_Me: okay

King_Me: wait, does this have to do with your username? are you one of those weird wiccans?

MightBeMagic: What if I was?

King_Me: then...idk. now that i think about it, it might be kind of cool to have a wiccan friend.

MightBeMagic: Well, I’m not. Sorry.

MightBeMagic: Anyways, I have this theory.

King_Me: ooh theories.

MightBeMagic: Shut up. It’s actually valid. Somewhat.

King_Me: go on.

MightBeMagic: I would if you’d let me! Okay, so theoretically, the universe is actually getting smaller instead of growing larger.

King_Me: ...of course.

MightBeMagic: And, theoretically, it’s only a matter of time before we all get sucked into a giant black hole.

King_Me: uh huh.

MightBeMagic: So, theoretically, everything we do now, taking care of the environment, stopping criminals...it’s all meaningless.

King_Me: i have a counter-theory.

MightBeMagic: Go ahead.

King_Me: whether or not the universe is expanding or shrinking, everything we do is pointless anyway.

King_Me: i mean think about it. we’re all gonna die right? why spend our lives in fear of a god and coming up with theories about when the world will end when we could just say fuck it all and do whatever we want?

King_Me: i don’t mean to shoot down your argument. it’s perfectly valid, like you said. but it’s kind of like saying you need a reason not to give a shit. if you don’t care about the status of the world at all, of course you don’t give a shit.

King_Me: but that’s just my opinion.

 

They didn’t reply. Why weren't they replying? For a moment, Arthur thought he must have offended them and was just about to apologise when the message came.

 

MightBeMagic: Wow, I never thought about it like that. You really are worth my time.

King_Me: lol thanks

King_Me: but uh

King_Me: there is one thing that’s always made me wonder if there is at least a little meaning to life

MightBeMagic: Yeah? What’s that?

King_Me: don’t laugh at me

MightBeMagic: Never!

King_Me: love

 

There, he’d said it. He’d shown just how pathetic he really was to this stranger on the internet. Luckily he was just as anonymous as this person was.

 

MightBeMagic: That’s a good point.

King_Me: it is?

MightBeMagic: Yeah. I just haven’t had much luck with love in the past so I didn’t really consider that.

King_Me: sorry to hear that. i was just recently dumped so i sort of understand.

MightBeMagic: Is that why you’re visiting adult chatrooms?

King_Me: it was my friend’s idea. obviously i didn’t really think i’d meet someone in here.

MightBeMagic: Obviously. So did you meet anyone?

King_Me: not sure yet.

MightBeMagic: Let me know when you do. If you can find someone that’s alright with your theories maybe I can. The last bloke I was with left because I didn’t have “ambition.” Whatever that means.

King_Me: so you’re a girl then?

MightBeMagic: Uh, no. I have a lovely pair of bollocks thank you very much.

 

For a second, Arthur panicked. He was just starting to like this person and felt that they could connect on a personal level. Now that he knew for sure he was speaking to a guy, things were different. But this fellow didn’t have to know that.

 

King_Me: and i thought we left general chat because of naughty things like that lol

MightBeMagic: Dammit, you’re right! The bloody perverts have infected me!

King_Me: lol

King_Me: where are you from? you must be from in the uk

MightBeMagic: Already trying to find me and stalk me?

King_Me: oh definitely. that’s just what i live for.

MightBeMagic: I do live in the UK. In England. But that’s all I’m telling you.

King_Me: fine by me. it’s not like i wanted to meet up or anything.

MightBeMagic: Right. Now that you know I’m gay everything’s changed, hasn’t it?

King_Me: no. i never meant to meet anyone either way.

MightBeMagic: So you were just looking for an online mate. Rational thing to do after a breakup, I suppose.

King_Me: like i said, it was a friend’s idea. i had nothing better to do so i figured why not

MightBeMagic: Alright then. So what about you, are you in the UK as well?

King_Me: i am. i also live in england.

MightBeMagic: Wow what are the chances?

King_Me: probably slim?

MightBeMagic: It was a rhetorical question.

King_Me: ah

MightBeMagic: What do you do?

King_Me: im a programmer. hence why my friend told me to resort to the internet for comfort.

MightBeMagic: There a lot of money in that?

King_Me: i guess so. i mean my house is decent.

MightBeMagic: You live alone?

King_Me: yeah...

MightBeMagic: What the hell do you need a whole house for?

King_Me: stuff. idk.

King_Me: im guessing you live in a dingy little flat then?

MightBeMagic: It’s not dingy! It’s homey.

King_Me: right of course

MightBeMagic: I’d rather live in a comfortable flat than some posh house uptown.

King_Me: so now im posh?

MightBeMagic: You’re rich, so yeah.

King_Me: im not rich!

MightBeMagic: Compared to me you are.

King_Me: alright, what do you do for a living then?

MightBeMagic: I’m an artist.

King_Me: and there’s your problem.

MightBeMagic: There’s nothing wrong with being an artist.

King_Me: not unless you don't want to live in a “homey” flat

MightBeMagic: Oh, fuck off.

King_Me: lol you know im only joking right? i’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but i haven’t got the creative genes for it.

King_Me: you should send me some of your artwork. i’d love to see it.

MightBeMagic: I don’t think you’re deserving of it.

King_Me: what if i offer to buy it?

MightBeMagic: Then we might be able to work something out.

King_Me: lol i thought so

 

Arthur swore as he looked at the clock. He’d lost track of time talking to this interesting man.

 

King_Me: ive got to go. talk to you some other time?

MightBeMagic: Yeah, okay. I’m almost always running this chat in the background so just PM me if you want to talk.

MightBeMagic: Night posh boy.

King_Me: later

 

Arthur closed his laptop with a smile. So he hadn’t met the girl of his dreams, and he wasn’t a single step closer to a new romantic relationship, but at least he’d made a friend.

***

Sometimes Arthur swore Leon was psychic.

“You did it didn’t you?” He said, looking over the thin wall that separated their cubicles.

“How’d you tell?”

“I knew it!” Leon shuffled around and came to Arthur’s desk. “So did you find anyone?”

“Just this one bloke.”

“I didn’t realise you swung that way, Arthur,” Leon said with arched eyebrows.

Arthur blushed. “I don’t. We just talked. As friends.

“Uh huh. You gonna meet him?”

“Leon, it’s been one bloody day. And either way, no, I’m not going to meet him! If I’ve learned anything from working here it’s that meeting up with strangers is probably the worst thing that can happen from being on the internet.”

Leon pointed a serious finger. “Not true. I know someone that’s been hacked so badly they lost all the money in their bank account, their house, and eventually their children.”

“Okay, maybe the second worst thing,” Arthur allowed. “Besides, do you know how big England is? He could live anywhere.”

“Or he could live right down the street.”

Arthur rolled his eyes and sighed. “Go back to work Leon.”

***

Arthur could feel a routine forming by Friday. He’d come home, get out of his working clothes, and plop down in front of his laptop with a glass of ice water. He tried not to think about how sad it was that he had a chatroom website bookmarked.

MightBeMagic has invited you to a private chat.

 

King_Me: hey

MightBeMagic: i need to run something by you.

 

Arthur could tell something was wrong because his friend, (M, as he had taken to calling him) wasn’t taking the time to capitalise.

 

King_Me: whats up?

MightBeMagic: you know how somtimes shopkeepers will let kids go if they’re a few pence short?

King_Me: yeah...

MightBeMagic: how long do you think they should let kids get away with that?

MightBeMagic: till 15? 17?

King_Me: i was thinking more like 11

King_Me: why?

MightBeMagic: well i was like three pence short when i went to buy orange juice and i’ve been told i look young for my age so i figured i should be fine

MightBeMagic: and it’s not like i went purposely with the wrong amount of money, and sometimes i do get nice old ladies to let me slide once or twice

MightBeMagic: but this grumpy old man just wouldn’t listen to reason

King_Me: just how old are you?

MightBeMagic: twenty six

MightBeMagic: but thats not the point!

King_Me: then what is the point?

MightBeMagic: the point is that people these days are absolute boors!

King_Me: boors? really?

MightBeMagic: yes really. and if i don't oh shit

King_Me: ???

MightBeMagic: my electricity just went out. i thought for sure i had a couple more days.

King_Me: right, thats it, im posting you 200 quid

MightBeMagic: no fucking way

MightBeMagic: im NOT letting some posh bloke pay my bills

MightBeMagic: and im definitely not giving you my address!

King_Me: hey just trying to help mate

MightBeMagic: ok well

MightBeMagic: look i’ll give you my number and you can text me

MightBeMagic: that way we can still chat once my laptop finally dies

King_Me: are you sure you’ve paid your telephone bill?

MightBeMagic: shut up i can practically see you smirking through the screen

King_Me: lol

MightBeMagic: just take my bloody number. and don’t call. text only alright?

King_Me: of course

 

They exchanged numbers and Arthur texted experimentally.

 

- hey are you the gay bloke i met on the internets

 

Almost immediately there was a reply.

 

~ Who the bloody hell is this? No I’m not one of your faggot friends from online. I’m reporting this number to the police!

 

Arthur panicked and typed angrily into the chatbox.

 

King_Me: you fucking wanker you gave me the wrong number!

 

Arthur’s mobile beeped.

 

~ Yeah it’s me. You totally freaked out didn’t you?

- im going to fucking kill you

~ Oh yeah? With what?

- idk yet. maybe i’ll just break your computer screen, destroy what little life you have.

~ Oh, honey, please. I’d much rather be choked by my fabulous pink shoelaces.

- lol ok i can work with that

~ Wow, you really think I’d wear pink shoelaces? What kind of gay bloke do you take me for?

- idk. i’ve never been friends with one before. can we switch back to a larger keyboard while we still can?

 

MightBeMagic: For the record, I wouldn’t be caught dead in pink shoelaces.

King_Me: duly noted.

MightBeMagic: You’re not going to look up my number and IP address are you?

MightBeMagic: I know you have the ability to do so at that uptown office of yours and so help me if I find out

King_Me: have a little trust, m8. i’m not breaking the anonymity if you don’t.

MightBeMagic: Good.

MightBeMagic: So.

MightBeMagic: What kind of phone do you have?

King_Me: uh, why?

MightBeMagic: Just wondering if you have a full qwerty keyboard or if you have to suffer through T9 like everyone else i know

King_Me: that’s weird, everyone i know has full keyboards.

King_Me: you must live in a pretty shit neighbourhood

MightBeMagic: You’ve no idea.

MightBeMagic: So do you?

King_Me: you know me, posh boy extreme. course i’ve got a high tech telecommunications device.

MightBeMagic: So why do you hate texting so much then?

King_Me: big clumsy thumbs. i can press the buttons easy enough, it’s just that some other buttons get pressed as well.

MightBeMagic: Haha, you know what they say about big hands.

King_Me: oh god here we go

MightBeMagic: Big feet. And you know what they say about big feet...

King_Me: stop. stop right there.

MightBeMagic: What? I was gonna say big heart.

MightBeMagic: What’d you think I was gonna say, you perv?

 

They talked an hour more, until M’s laptop gave out, and continued long into the night since Arthur didn’t have to go to work the next morning. Sometime around three or three thirty Arthur fell asleep and didn’t see M’s last text until he woke up a little after noon.

He’d asked M what he should put into the name slot for the contacts and only got the reply of “Fuck if I care,” so he left it as M. He had no idea what M was mentally calling him, but he wasn’t about to ask. It was mutually agreed upon that they keep names, faces, and as much detail as possible out of it. They’d talked about so much personal stuff that both preferred anonymity.

 

M: What was she like?

 

Arthur had to scroll up and retrace the conversation. That’s right, they’d been talking about their last relationships. M had told him all about a bloke named Gwaine and Arthur had just told M that his ex-girlfriend's name was Sophia.

 

- she was blonde.

 

There was no reply for awhile. Arthur attributed it to the fact that M had probably stayed up longer than he had and was still sleeping. He decided to keep texting while he was still at it.

 

- she was really pretty. not sharp pretty, more like soft pretty. not sure how to explain it.

- you know how a little girl has soft features and it’s really cute?

- she was kind of like that. but not as young.

- wow this makes me sound like a pedo. but that’s the only way i can think of to describe it. she had little girl charm.

- and i guess she was kind of smart? sometimes she’d do the stupidest things or ask the dumbest questions.

- but then like i said, she was blonde.

- now that i think about it, im not sure why i liked her so much

- guess it was just nice to have her around

 

Arthur gave up. He didn’t want to get too much into it, even if M didn’t have any problems with it. He’d explained in great detail how Gwaine would often be aroused at the most inconvenient times and would get in the way of his painting. But then, Gwaine was making most of the money and M’s art was more like a side job. Once Gwaine took M even though he wasn’t in the mood, and when M told him to stop but he didn’t, that ended that relationship.

Arthur guessed that’s why M was so hateful towards those more well off than him now. He probably thought that everyone that made a decent amount of money was overprivileged and felt they could take whatever they wanted. To an extent, it was true, but not of everyone.

Arthur slipped his mobile into his pocket, switching it to vibrate in case he didn’t hear it. He put some tea on to boil and slunk into his sofa.

Feeling the leather under his palms, he thought for a moment maybe his house was a bit too elegant. The general colour scheme was black and red, but he had a few (as M would call it) “homey” touches. He had a bookcase that held every book he’d ever owned since birth, and a grainy photograph of his parents in a frame that was as old as the photo itself.

He stood when the kettle whistled then returned to watch whatever stupid programme was on with his tea.

He’d watch a total of not one, but two hours of horrible daytime telly before his phone buzzed.

 

M: Sure sounds like a terrible breakup to me.

- i guess it was just the sudden loss of not having someone. we were together for so long it felt like i’d never been without her and never would be

M: how long?

- 2 years

M: Yeah, that’s long alright.

- your sarcasm is strangely welcome

M: Okay...?

- when do you think your power will come back on?

M: I’ll have to get back to you on that.

- okay well just don't go whoring yourself out for money

M: I’ve thought about it. But I’m not nearly pretty enough.

 

Arthur didn’t even want to think of the pure, innocent man he’d imagined M to be out on a street corner shaking his arse for a few pounds. He decided to focus on the utter ridiculousness of a man referring to himself as “pretty.”

 

- maybe one day you’ll grow up to be a pretty princess and fall in love with prince charming while you’re at it.

M: *gasp* You really think so?!

- lol no!

M: Damn. Knowing your posh type you’ll probably sweep a sweet girl off her feet and pound into her maidenhead like the chivalrous knight you are.

- ...you’ve been outside again haven’t you?

M: How could you tell?

- only by the filthy things you’re spamming my inbox with

M: Those young folk sure do talk loudly though. And I had to go SOMEwhere to stick my plug in a socket and charge up my mobile.

- omg no just stop. stop with the innuendos.

M: No, I don’t think I will. I think you rather like them.

 

Maybe he did. But Arthur wasn’t going to admit that. Oh, wait. He was anonymous. Yes, he was.

 

- okay, well at least limit them to three a day.

M: Deal.

***

It happened two weeks later.

It was Saturday evening and it was around the time that they’d start chatting again. M had finally gotten his electricity turned back on a few days before and had his computer up and running.

Which was partly why Arthur was completely confused as to why his mobile was ringing. The remaining confusion was because it wasn’t making the text message noise, but the incoming call noise. M was calling him.

What the fuck?

“Um, hello?” Arthur answered.

There was no reply, only the sound of a bed creaking rhythmically in the background, accompanied by a few occasional grunts.

The longer Arthur listened, the more deep and guttural the grunts became. His eyes widened in shock and wonder. He was listening to M masturbate.

He should have hung up immediately. Obviously M hadn’t meant to call him. His hand had probably slipped and pressed “dial” instead of “text.” Or maybe...maybe...

The creaking sounds were speeding up, getting more erratic. Arthur could hear a breathy “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” in the background.

Unconsciously his hand slid to his cock and he was surprised to find it hard. And his hand was getting so sweaty from gripping the phone to his ear so hard it nearly escaped his hold.

He swallowed. He had to hang up, stop whatever the hell was happening to his body, and pretend  this never happened.

“Jesus fucking Christ!”

That had to be M coming. There was a cracking noise and Arthur pictured M’s feet next to his phone on the bed as he curled his toes in ecstasy. That didn’t help his erection at all, and he found himself imagining more of M’s body, back arched on a spring mattress with thin, worn out blankets.

There was panting for a while after that, and Arthur yelled at himself in his head, “Hang up, hang up, hang up!” but he wouldn’t. He listened to the heavy breathing while he stroked his cock lazily.

The sheets, blankets, whatever, rustled in the microphone and he heard when M realised there was a call in progress.

“Shit.” The phone dropped and hit a wooden floor. “Hello?”

The voice was deep and smooth and did things to Arthur’s body he’d rather not think about.

Arthur hung up.

MightBeMagic has invited you to a private chat.

Arthur declined.

 

MightBeMagic: hey king_me, unless you want everyone in the chatroom to know your mobile number you’ll accept my damn pm

 

Uh oh. The tell-tale lack of capitalisation. M was upset.

MightBeMagic has invited you to a private chat.

He had to accept.

 

MightBeMagic: wtf was that?! who said you could call me?

King_Me: you called me!

MightBeMagic: did not

King_Me: check

 

There was a pause while M looked at his mobile. Then another pause when he refused to believe it was true.

 

MightBeMagic: i call shenanigans. you hacked it somehow. rigged my phone or something

King_Me: why would i do that

MightBeMagic: cause you’re a posh pervert that takes whatever he can get his grubby hands on

King_Me: stop calling me that

King_Me: im not posh and im not a pervert

King_Me: and i didnt hack your stupid phone

MightBeMagic: even if you didnt i thought you were my friend

King_Me: i am

MightBeMagic: what kind of friend listens for...wow a good 5 fucking minutes and 23 seconds before hanging up?

King_Me: i was going to hang up earlier

MightBeMagic: but?

King_Me: idk

King_Me: i couldnt

King_Me: i was like, frozen or some shit

 

There was no answer. No fucking answer. Why wasn’t he answering?

Arthur grabbed a fistful of his hair on each side of his head and fretted. This was terrible. He’d become closer to M than he had to his real life friends. Maybe it was because of the anonymity, but it was a good friendship. It made every day so much better.

Then it came.The message.

 

MightBeMagic: You know what this means right?

King_Me: do i want to?

MightBeMagic: It’s my turn.

 

Immediately, Arthur’s mobile rang. M was calling, for real this time. Arthur answered it, but said nothing, just put it on the desk beside him.

 

MightBeMagic: Go on then.

 

Understanding slowly sunk in.

 

King_Me: you want me

King_Me: to

MightBeMagic: Yep.

King_Me: no way

MightBeMagic: It’s only fair.

King_Me: but you didn’t know i was listening. and i would.

King_Me: no fucking way

MightBeMagic: Last time I’m asking nicely, King. Then the whole chat really will know your number.

 

For a moment, Arthur was sidetracked. So that’s what M called him? King. Huh. Well, it was certainly flattering, but then again, it made sense considering.

 

King_Me: i hate you

MightBeMagic: Love you too babe ;)

 

The wink should not have sent a shiver of pleasure down his spine. The heavy breathing of anticipation coming from the speakerphone should not have excited him. And yet it did. It did.

He stood and dropped his trousers and pants then sat slowly back down in his chair. He couldn’t believe he was about to do this. But it wasn’t like he wasn’t already achingly hard.

Arthur grunted once as his hand touched his sensitive prick, then he stopped himself. He wasn’t going to give M the satisfaction of hearing anything but slapping skin.

He thought of tits. He thought of pert bums in bikinis. He thought of water running down in droplets on Sophia’s skin when they’d fucked in the shower that one time.

He did not think of M moaning. He did not think of M messing up the sheets from twisting so hard into the mattress. He definitely did not listen to the “yeah, yeah, yeah” that echoed in his mind as his strokes increased in rhythm and frequency.

Arthur came with a gasp and a stifled groan.

“Fucking pervert probably enjoyed that,” Arthur muttered to himself. The mic picked it up.

 

MightBeMagic: I did. Very much.

 

The call ended before Arthur could wipe his hands on anything and he could practically hear the satisfied laughter that was sure to be happening at that moment.

 

King_Me: i have now humiliated myself in every way possible. i hope you’re happy.

MightBeMagic: Not true. I could have made you go on webcam so I could watch. I have a feeling you would have done that to protect your precious security.

King_Me: you wouldn’t

MightBeMagic: I wouldn’t. Because I’m your friend, like you said. See how nice I am?

 

Arthur had to give him that. It could have been much worse.

 

King_Me: alright. topic change. what’s the deal with your username?

MightBeMagic: I request another topic change. It has to do with my real name.

King_Me: not even a hint? all this time i’ve been thinking it’s because you read one too many fantasy novels as a child.

MightBeMagic: I’m fine with that assumption.

MightBeMagic: You know the deal. As soon as one of us reveals something, the other does the same.

MightBeMagic: And I am *not* going to be the first one to do so.

King_Me: fair point. my user kind of deals with my name too.

King_Me: but i can actually tell you why.

King_Me: i was named after a king.

MightBeMagic: Oh, how special you must be.

King_Me: i am, aren’t i?

MightBeMagic: I hope this king wasn’t as full of himself as you are.

King_Me: probably not. must be a new age thing.

MightBeMagic: Right, must be.

 

Arthur was glad that they could get back to normal after such an awkward event.

***

They talked about everything. From politics, both local and global, to their thoughts on vegetarianism, Islam, films, books, and the overall stupidity of the human race. They’d become fast friends and though neither one of them would admit it, each of their lives revolved around the other. Arthur would come home, start up his laptop, then spend hours talking to the man known to him only as M.

Six months after Arthur first talked to M, he started breaking. The knowledge that M could be any ordinary man walking by on the street, or anyone he sat next to on the train, was too much to bear.

He gave in.

 

King_Me: my name is arthur

 

Nothing. M was either keeping him in dramatic suspense or completely shocked at the sudden information.

 

King_Me: i live in notting hill

King_Me: i have blonde hair and blue eyes

King_Me: i want to meet you

 

Arthur’s heart raced. Maybe he’d come on too strong. Maybe he should have given a little warning.

 

MightBeMagic: I always had a weak spot for blonde hair and blue eyes.

King_Me: i’m being serious

MightBeMagic: So am I.

King_Me: no really, you don’t understand.

King_Me: it’s driving me mad not knowing who you are

King_Me: you’re my closest friend and i could be passing you on the street

MightBeMagic: Highly doubtful, especially if you live in Notting Hill.

MightBeMagic: I live in East End

 

That was a bit of a surprise. M lived in London too. But in a very different one than Arthur was used to.

 

King_Me: where in east end?

MightBeMagic: Arthur, come on. You really don’t want to meet me. Trust me.

 

He was thrilled to finally see M use his true name. It made him smile a bit ridiculously.

 

King_Me: i don't care. i don't just want to meet you, i *need* to. i think it’s very possible that my sanity depends on it.

MightBeMagic: Hackney

King_Me: more

MightBeMagic: Merlin.

King_Me: merlin?

MightBeMagic: Merlin.

King_Me: why have old wizards suddenly entered our conversation?

MightBeMagic: That’s my name, you idiot.

King_Me: right.

King_Me: oh shit, it really is.

King_Me: that’s. wow. okay.

MightBeMagic: And I have dark brown hair. And blue eyes.

MightBeMagic: Oh and Arthur

MightBeMagic: You better have something fucking amazing planned for our first date.

King_Me: so a cafe is out of the question?

MightBeMagic: Cafe works fine.

 

Arthur had a date. With Merlin. Who was definitely not straight and definitely not his type. So why was his heart threatening to jump out of his chest?

***

He couldn’t explain how, but Arthur knew right away when he spotted Merlin. It wasn’t just that he was pale, thin, and completely out of place. It was the way he sat, like he knew he was out of place, but was there because he had to be, because he was meeting someone.

He was meeting Arthur.

Arthur held back the goofy grin on his face until he approached the young man sitting awkwardly at the table, warming his hands around a cup of tea.

“Merlin?”

The dark haired man looked up. Arthur would have sworn that hair was black if he hadn’t been told it was dark brown. Merlin’s clothes were dark as well. Crimson shirt, black button-down on top of it, and a faded black jacket on top of that. His jeans had to be the smallest available in men’s sizes but even so they were loose around Merlin’s thin frame. They too were dark and faded. As if to purposely make matters worse, he wore grey fingerless gloves.

“Hi,” Merlin squeaked and looked down into his cup. Unlike the voice that came through the phone that one time, this was shaky and higher pitched. Arthur attributed it to nerves.

Arthur sat down at the table and his foot bumped something. A laptop case.

“Sorry,” Merlin said, barely audibly. “Have to take it everywhere with me. Someone might break in and steal it. Happened before.”

He sipped his tea and Arthur realised Merlin wasn’t just shy, he was painfully shy. He wasn’t mister grammatically correct and proper like he was online. He was thin from having eaten little, and his voice was small, his skin pale from staying in his dark flat all day.

It was a wonder such a man could coerce Arthur into wanking over the phone.

“Are you okay?” Arthur asked. “You look a bit sick.”

Merlin glanced up then back down to the table. “Yeah, just a bit cold.”

“Here.” Arthur slipped out of his jacket and held it out to Merlin. He’d been hot anyway from the excitement of meeting his online friend.

But Merlin just stared wide-eyed at the garment. “I didn’t...really mean...I know you’re...I know you’re straight. I was only joking about this being a date.” He blushed and looked like the words physically pained him to get out.

“Just take the bloody jacket, Merlin.”

Merlin reached out with a trembling hand and put it on quickly, like Arthur might change his mind and take it back any second. It was bright red and large on him, but he held it close around him and Arthur thought it suited him perfectly.

“Thanks.”

A woman came over and asked if Arthur wanted anything. He didn’t. She took Merlin’s cup without asking if he was finished and Merlin watched her go helplessly. He had nothing to busy his hands with now and twiddled his thumbs absentmindedly.

Arthur couldn’t take it. Couldn’t take the shyness, the quick glances up and back down, the awkwardness that Merlin was forcing into the whole situation.

He put his hand on Merlin’s cold, intertwining fingers and Merlin looked up, only to look back down again once he caught Arthur’s eye. Blood rushed to his pale cheeks.

“Look at me, Merlin.”

Merlin raised his eyes and determinedly held Arthur’s gaze. There, somewhere deep behind those sparkling blue eyes, was M, the confident, cheeky chatroom frequenter.

“You want to leave.”

It wasn’t a question. Merlin didn’t deny it, but his brows came together and his mouth frowned slightly.

“Let’s go to mine.”

Merlin chuckled and Arthur took comfort in the small display of emotion.

“So I can be more out of place in your posh house? No thanks.”

Arthur smiled broadly then. That was the man he knew, even if he did retreat immediately back into his shell.

“So you can stop looking like a sad puppy in public, more like,” Arthur replied. “And it’s warm there.” Merlin still just stared at him. “And there’s wifi.”

Merlin pulled his hands from Arthur’s grasp and scooted his chair back to pick up his laptop case. He stood and pulled the strap over his shoulder. He didn’t say anything, just nodded vigorously.

***

“Bloody hell.”

It was the first thing Merlin had said since they left the cafe.

“It’s not that bad,” Arthur said, closing the door behind him.

Merlin walked forward, looking around like a child. He stopped when he got to the living room and pointed questioningly up at the empty spot on the wall. An old painting was leaned on its side below it.

Arthur coloured for the first time since they’d met. “I was thinking maybe I could...I dunno, hang one of your paintings there.”

Merlin’s eyes got wide and he nodded slowly, then turned around, continuing his slow perusal of the place. Arthur went into host mode.

“Are you hungry? Wait, don’t answer. I’m feeding you either way. You’re skin and bones.”

He kicked off his shoes and hurried to the kitchen. He couldn’t cook a full meal for the man so he settled on reheating some Chinese takeaway. Everyone loved that, didn’t they?

When he came back to his living room, Merlin was standing awkwardly by the sofa, but he’d taken Arthur’s jacket off and hung it neatly over the side.

Arthur placed the reheated meal on the coffee table and chuckled. “You can sit down, you know.”

“Oh, thanks.”

He sat slowly on the sofa. His bony knees hit the side of the table.

“And you can eat,” Arthur prompted.

Without any further encouragement, Merlin sprang forward and began digging into the steaming rice.

“Careful, it’s hot.”

Merlin just let out a disinterested grunt and kept shoveling bites into his mouth. Arthur was content to watch in amusement but suddenly Merlin put down his fork and started patting himself all over.

“Fucking hell, where is it?” He muttered.

Merlin had a lot of pockets, and finally his hand landed on the one that held his mobile. The buzzing noise of the vibration grew louder as he pulled it out. He glanced at the screen for two seconds before sliding it open to reveal the keyboard and thumbed a quick reply into it. Then he slipped it back into the same pocket and continued eating.

The whole event took a total of about seven seconds and Arthur figured it was probably because Merlin was so shy that he was an expert at nonverbal communication.

“Friend?” Arthur asked.

Merlin swallowed the large chunk of food in his mouth and nodded. Arthur thought he was going to say more but he didn’t.

It happened again and this time Merlin sent a longer reply. As soon as he shut the phone it started buzzing again and Merlin groaned.

“You’re so popular,” Arthur laughed.

Merlin gave him a look like “Are you serious?” and typed furiously into his phone. A moment later, Arthur’s phone beeped and Merlin swore.

 

M: Everybody stop fucking texting me!

 

Arthur chuckled and typed a reply as Merlin watched in anxious anticipation.

 

- i think you forgot to exclude me from your mass text there

 

Merlin’s eyebrow twitched slightly and Arthur wouldn’t have noticed it if he wasn’t watching closely.

 

M: It’s a distinct possibility.

- you really do look young.

M: Right? That bastard still wouldn’t let me off the last time I was short. It’s a conspiracy I tell you. I blame the government completely.

- he probably thought you were going to spend it on heroin or something. you’re so pale and the shadows under your eyes don't do much to give you a trustworthy appearance

M: Compared to the other people in my neighbourhood I’m a saint.

M: What’s your wifi password?

- fucKPassw0rds

M: Judging you so hard right now.

 

Arthur laughed and stood to take the food back to the kitchen as Merlin got access to the wifi. His hands had just touched the container when suddenly Merlin’s hand was held out as if to stop him and he was shaking his head vigorously.

“There’s none left.”

To prove him wrong, Merlin scraped the sides with his fork and shoved a decent-size bite into his mouth. He continued the action until every grain of rice was gone.

He put the box down with a satisfied hollow thunk and returned to entering the wifi passcode. Arthur was throwing the empty container into the bin in the kitchen when he got another text.

 

M: Can I see your computer?

 

“Come in here,” Arthur called.

He heard shuffling from the living room as Merlin stood and walked down the corridor. He met him just outside the kitchen entrance. Merlin’s eyes were wide with fear and he clutched the strap of his laptop bag with white knuckles.

Arthur jerked a thumb upwards. “It’s upstairs in my room.”

“‘S okay,” Merlin muttered.

“It’s just a couple stairs, it won’t kill you.”

Merlin followed mutely behind Arthur. Even his footsteps were silent. There was a moment when Arthur felt a bit funny walking up the stairs with his arse right in Merlin’s face but he shook it off.

“It’s a bit messy,” Arthur said with a sheepish expression. Merlin just shrugged and walked in after him.

The first thing Merlin noticed was the bed. It was huge. Directly across from the doorway was a single window, the bed and a dresser on the left, and a desk on the right. The desk was littered with papers and in the middle of it all sat a chrome silver laptop.

“I don’t always keep it there,” Arthur said. “Sometimes I use it downstairs—Hey, what are you—”

Merlin dropped the piece of paper he’d picked up like it was on fire.

Arthur retrieved it from the floor. “No, it’s okay. This is old anyways.” He handed it to Merlin and looked over his desk. “Actually a lot of this needs to be thrown away to be honest.”

Merlin looked at the characters on the sheet in utter confusion, much to Arthur’s amusement.

“I’ve no idea what this program was for. I don’t comment my code like I should. Drives my co-workers insane,” Arthur said. He pointed to a particular fancy-looking block. “This looks really complicated but it’s actually just retrieving input from the user and parsing it into integers.”

“Heh heh.” Even Merlin’s laugh was small. However, the smile that stretched across the pale face was broad and reached his eyes.

“What’s so funny?” Arthur asked, chuckling, though he wasn’t sure why.

“‘S nonsense.”

“No it’s not! I’m sure whatever project this program was part of was very important too.”

“Mmm.” The noise sounded like Merlin wasn’t too impressed. Still, he looked back and forth between the paper and Arthur. “Can I...?”

“Are you kidding?” Arthur laughed. “Take all of it. Saves me a trip downstairs.”

Merlin rolled his eyes as he unzipped a compartment of his laptop bag. He put just the one piece of paper in before closing it back up.

Arthur’s computer made a trilling sound and he nudged the wireless mouse to stop the screensaver.

He’d gotten an email from Leon. He didn’t know what made him open it but he did and laughed when he saw the content.

 

Step away from your precious computer for a few moments and come out with us tonight. I know for a fact you haven’t had a good shag in months.

 

Below the text was an ad for a strip club, complete with half naked women in provocative positions. Arthur was still laughing when he typed in a quick reply.

 

can’t tonight. busy. and no im NOT talking about chatroom-busy. have fun.

 

Arthur sent it and closed the laptop so it wouldn’t interrupt anymore.

“Sorry about that. Idiot friend from work trying to get me to go out again.” Merlin’s eyes were laughing and Arthur could see the indentations in his cheeks where he was biting to keep from smiling. “Well come on then, show me yours,” Arthur challenged.

Merlin unzipped his bag and pulled out a laptop larger than Arthur thought it would be. It looked pretty expensive. And heavy. It was a wonder such a lanky man could shoulder all that weight everywhere.

Merlin just held it up for Arthur to see. “Go ahead and plug it in,” Arthur encouraged.

He unplugged his own computer and placed it on his bed. Merlin inserted the free power cable into his own and it booted up.

It started faster than Arthur’s computer and he was impressed. Merlin may wear worn clothes and live in a “homely” flat, but this was something he did not skimp out on. Then again, maybe that wasn’t such a good thing.

Merlin logged in and Arthur was again fascinated by how quickly his fingers moved. It wasn’t that Arthur couldn’t type fast; he was a programmer after all. But Merlin’s hands were much more fluid-like and sure of themselves. He made typing look like an art.

Merlin stepped back and allowed Arthur to admire his desktop. It was clean and simple and orderly. Then suddenly a thousand chat windows popped up.

Merlin groaned and started closing them, but they kept reappearing. He began a series of quick motions and impressed Arthur even more.

“i’ll talk to you later” - enter - alt F4, “i’ll talk to you later” - enter - alt F4. And so on until finally people stopped bothering him.

Sighing, he rose to full height, and with a faint blush, looked at Arthur and muttered, “Sorry about that.”

But Arthur just shrugged it off. “It’s alright. It was actually pretty funny.”

Just then Merlin’s mobile started buzzing again and with a groan he pulled it out. He gasped when he saw the number.

“I’ve got to make a call,” he said. It was hurried and the loudest pitch he’d used all day.

“Sure, sure, go ahead,” Arthur replied.

Then the shy voice was back. “I’ll just, er, be downstairs for a few minutes.” He practically ran out of the room and down the steps.

Arthur sprang into action. He took out his wallet and got out two hundred pounds, which he then slipped into the same compartment that Merlin had placed his old paper in. As soon as that was done, a sound from Merlin’s laptop made him look up.

Merlin had Skype? That was...well, it wasn’t odd, Arthur supposed, but he didn’t expect it. Merlin didn’t seem the type to use any chat client that wasn’t anonymous.

He shouldn’t have peeked, really, but Merlin was all the way downstairs and Arthur was curious.

It was a message from someone named Gwen.

 

Gwen (14:39): Good news Merlin!

 

Somehow “i’ll talk to you later” seemed to be too rude so Arthur decided not to type anything. Instead, he switched Merlin’s online status to invisible. But this Gwen person wasn’t falling for it.

 

Gwen (14:41): I’m serious, Merlin. Someone wants to buy one of your paintings!!!!

 

Arthur chewed his lip in thought. That certainly was good news. Surely Merlin wouldn’t mind....

 

Merlin (14:43): hey merlin’s on the telephone right now but i’ll be sure to tell him

Gwen (14:43): Who’s this?

Merlin (14:43): friend of his

Gwen (14:45): ???

Merlin (14:46): i don’t really feel comfortable using his account like this so can you maybe just trust me that i’ll tell him

he’s right downstairs, i promise to let him know

Gwen (14:47): Okay

 

Then, thankfully, she went offline.

Arthur left his room and quietly descended the stairs. He could hear Merlin’s voice, strong and clear and like it had been on the phone.

“It’s not done, that’s why,” he was practically yelling. “Try to convince her to buy one of the others, like the forest scene or the spring...I don’t care, it won’t be done for probably another few weeks...Yeah, well, what’s so special about this one that she just has to have it?...I don’t give a flying fuck about her parlour!...I have some just lying around that are basically the same canvas size...Yeah...Yeah...Well fuck her then, I don’t need her money!...Wait, wait, wait, how much?...Sweet mother of fuck, that’s a lot...Alright, I’ll—I’ll see what I can do, yeah?...Okay...Okay, yeah, bye.”

Merlin hung up and Arthur walked into the living room. Merlin nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned around.

“Oh, hi,” he squeaked. “I didn’t, uh, hear you.”

“Someone wants to buy your art?” Arthur asked. Merlin just nodded. “That’s great. You, um, got a message on your computer. From Gwen? She also said someone’s interested in buying.”

Merlin gasped and his eyes lit up. “Really?”

“Yeah. She got offline, but I told her I’d tell you,” Arthur said. “Is that okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, it’s fine. Thank you.”

They headed back upstairs and Merlin went straight to his laptop.

“Can I...?” He gestured to the desk chair.

“Sure, yeah. Do whatever you want.”

Arthur settled onto his bed with his own computer as Merlin logged into his email. Judging from the noise Merlin made moments later, he wasn’t satisfied with the price offered for his piece.

Arthur pulled up the chat site and invited Merlin to a private chat.

 

King_Me: bad news?

MightBeMagic: The piece they want to buy is worth way more than what they’re offering. The materials alone cost nearly as much.

King_Me: sorry to hear it

 

To Arthur’s amusement, Merlin actually physically shrugged, and he had to wonder if the man did it consciously, even when he was alone in his flat back in Hackney.

MightBeMagic: It’s something at least. And hopefully I’ll have more coming in soon.

King_Me: hopefully

 

A surprising number of windows popped up on Merlin’s screen and Arthur was fascinated by the ease with which he navigated through each separate conversation. All the people who he told he’d talk to later had finally come back to him.

His mobile started buzzing too and he pulled that out to start replying. switching from laptop to phone with ease. The whole scene was stunning. This shy little man who spoke as softly as a mouse in public had dozens of people clamoring for his attention online.

And Merlin was animated. Even though Arthur could only see the back of his head from where he sat on his bed, he could tell by the little head jerks and breathy chuckles and slight gasps that Merlin was reacting to all the ongoing conversations.

Merlin forgot where he was until Arthur messaged him.

 

King_Me: i have a slightly personal question.

MightBeMagic: I have a slightly personal answer.

King_Me: how did you know you were gay?

 

Merlin chuckled just low enough that Arthur didn’t hear it, but was able to see his body shake with the quiet laughter. Arthur somewhat regretted the question.

 

MightBeMagic: Well, I noticed that my schoolmates were starting to express interest in girls. Wanting to kiss them.

MightBeMagic: I never understood it, because I wanted to kiss boys. I told my mum and she explained it to me. That’s pretty much when I knew.

King_Me: you told your mum? how old were you?

MightBeMagic: Eight, maybe nine. It was a long time ago.

King_Me: wow

MightBeMagic: Why the sudden interest?

 

Arthur didn’t respond for awhile, instead watched as Merlin talked to his many online friends. He licked his dry lips and swallowed hard, screwing up his courage.

King_Me: what if, hypothetically, someone that was straight all their life began thinking about people of the same sex

King_Me: you know, wondering what it would be like to kiss them or fuck them

King_Me: or even be fucked by them

King_Me: hypothetically of course

MightBeMagic: Of course.

King_Me: what would you say then?

 

For once, Merlin’s fingers were frozen. Though dozens of windows were flashing, awaiting answers, he replied to none of them. He focused hard on what he was going to say.

 

MightBeMagic: I’d say that this hypothetical person should probably consider watching some gay porn and seeing what it does for them.

King_Me: and if they already have?

MightBeMagic: Well, then it depends on their reaction to it. Did they get off on it?

King_Me: let’s say they did

MightBeMagic: Then shouldn’t it be pretty obvious?

King_Me: i suppose it should

MightBeMagic: But?

King_Me: okay new hypothetical situation

MightBeMagic: Alright.

King_Me: what if someone thought they might like someone

King_Me: and they couldn’t stop staring at the back of their neck just imagining what it would be like to kiss it

King_Me: like if they were really struggling not to just get up and start sucking that person’s neck because they weren’t sure if it would be appreciated and they were still questioning their orientation

King_Me: hypothetically of course

 

Arthur’s hands were shaking and he noticed that Merlin’s were too.

 

MightBeMagic: It shouldn’t matter whether or not they’re questioning their orientation. If they want something and it feels right, then they should go for it.

MightBeMagic: And they’ll never know if it’ll be appreciated or not if they don’t at least give it a try.

King_Me: okay but what if this person had made it clear in the past that they thought that people who just take what they want without asking are really like the scum of the earth

King_Me: and they didn’t want to lose the respect of that friend by just “going for it”?

MightBeMagic: What a very complex hypothetical situation.

 

And dammit, was Merlin...laughing?

 

King_Me: a bit, yeah

MightBeMagic: I think it depends on how long they’ve been friends.

MightBeMagic: And it’s hard to say for sure, because everyone’s personality is different. Results may vary.

King_Me: so you’re saying this bloke comes with a warning label?

 

Merlin laughed really loudly then and held his sides as he bent over the keyboard. Arthur couldn’t help but chuckle too. Finally he regained his composure enough to reply.

 

MightBeMagic: Yeah that’s exactly what I’m saying.

King_Me: wow seriously?

MightBeMagic: Good thing this a hypothetical situation, right?

King_Me: right

 

Merlin continued to reply to the many flashing windows on his screen and Arthur tried hard not to stare at the dark v of hair that invited him to Merlin’s neck.

He did not think about walking over there and running his hands under Merlin’s collar, down into his shirt. He did not think about kissing the full, pink lips that stretched wide when he smiled. He did not think about how quickly Merlin could turn into the confident M that Arthur knew and pin him down to the bed as he rode his cock.

Yet despite not thinking about those things, Arthur was already half-hard and therefore doomed. He pulled his mobile out of his pocket and took a photo of the back of Merlin’s head, neck and all. He didn’t have nearly enough megapixels to capture the beauty of it, but it would have to do.

 

King_Me: hey merlin

MightBeMagic: Yeah?

King_Me: can i add you on skype?

MightBeMagic: Sure, why?

MightBeMagic: Not satisfied with private chats on a website anymore?

King_Me: thats part of it yeah

King_Me: it’s also easier for me to see when you’re online and you know i might want to webcam once in a while

 

Arthur had hoped to glaze over the second part by including the first but it wasn’t like with speech. The words were there on the screen and could be read over and over, looked at and dissected as many times as possible.

 

MightBeMagic: Why would you ever want to webcam me?

 

Merlin’s head tilted to the side and Arthur could imagine the raised eyebrow that must be there.

 

King_Me: so i can see you duh

MightBeMagic: Yeah but why would you want to see me?

King_Me: you ask it like you think you’re ugly

 

Merlin purposely didn’t reply immediately, preferring instead to get back to his other mates.

 

King_Me: omg you do think you’re ugly

MightBeMagic: i didn’t say that

King_Me: no but your silence implied it

MightBeMagic: my silence implies nothing

MightBeMagic: your assumptions imply incompetence

King_Me: right ok whatever forget i said anything about webcam then. it’ll still make it easier for me to contact you

MightBeMagic: Fine.

 

They exchanged Skype usernames and Arthur added Merlin right away.

 

Arthur: see i think this is much better

Merlin: Whatever works for you, mate.

Arthur: sorry the cafe was such a lame start to our date

Merlin: It’s okay. This is nice too.

Arthur: lol it’s the same thing we do every way

Merlin: Ah, yes, but now we are in each other’s presence

Arthur: you’re not talking

Merlin: Yes I am

 

“What’s your favourite colour?” Arthur asked then.

Merlin jumped and the desk chair rolled a bit. “G-green.” This time his voice was low and smooth, like it was the one incident on the phone, albeit a bit shaky.

 

Merlin: what’s yours?

 

“Red,” Arthur replied.

 

Arthur: i wish you’d talk more. i like your voice.

Merlin: thanks?

Arthur: what’s with the ?

not sure how to take a compliment?

Merlin: I’ve never been complimented on my voice before is all.

Arthur: if you spoke more maybe you would be

Merlin: I’ll take that into consideration

Arthur: do

 

Merlin’s mobile vibrated again and when he looked at it this time he swore softly.

 

Merlin: I’ve got to go.

Arthur: whats up?

Merlin: Apparently a couple of my mates are getting married

Arthur: wow

you have mates?

like living, breathing mates?

Merlin: Haha, shut up!

Yeah, I’ve got a few.

Okay, three.

And I guess you make four.

But yeah, my friend Lancelot definitely just proposed to my friend Gwen and it’d be a shame to lose the few mates I do have because I failed to show up to their dinner party or whatever it is they’re doing.

Arthur: alright i’ll talk to you later then

 

It was weird how even though Merlin was right next to him, they ended the conversation like all the others. He watched as Merlin powered off his laptop and put it away, then stood and followed Merlin down the stairs.

“It was nice to meet you,” he said after opening the door.

“Yeah,” Merlin agreed with a single nod.

He turned to go and just as he began walking Arthur simply acted on impulse. He reached his hand out and the tips of his fingers brushed the back of Merlin’s neck.

Merlin jumped in surprise but kept walking, and threw a glance over his shoulder, looking Arthur straight in the eye. There was a twinkle in his eye and Arthur could have sworn he saw the faint beginnings of a smile.

***

Arthur waited a week before even daring to try calling Merlin on Skype. It ended up being more than Arthur bargained for.

It was a Sunday morning, around ten o’clock and Arthur didn’t really expect Merlin to be up, yet his status claimed he was online. He clicked “Call” more to see what would happen than anything else.

Almost immediately an image of a shirtless, unshaven, bed-tousled Merlin appeared onscreen but Arthur’s own webcam remained off and he was stunned into silence that his call had even been accepted.

“Ugh, sorry King, but it is way too early. Decline, decline, decline. What the—Jesus fucking Christ you people are relentless.”

It took a moment for Arthur to realise that Merlin had thought he’d pressed “Decline” when, in his urgency to close all the windows, he’d pressed “Answer with video” which, to be fair, was only a couple centimetres away.

He should have hung up. He didn’t. He watched.

Arthur stared at the on-screen Merlin, eyes shadowed from having just woken up and chills forming on his bare shoulders. Merlin shivered then and noticed the cold for the first time. He walked away from the computer and Arthur had a full view of Merlin’s flat, which was really more like a studio.

A queen-sized mattress lay on the wooden floor, taking up the lower right of the screen. An easel was on the left, directly in front of the screen was an old desk chair with armrests, and behind the chair was a small dresser. After watching a little longer he pieced together the remaining elements. The bathroom and kitchenette was off-screen to the left, and the front door was to the right.

That’s really all Merlin’s flat consisted of. A bed, a computer, and an easel.

Merlin yawned and came back from the loo. He walked to the dresser and pulled out an old black t-shirt. After sniffing it a few times he put it on and went off-screen to the kitchen. It sounded like he was making coffee judging by the sounds and Arthur sat back in his chair to settle in and watch. What did Merlin do when he wasn’t entertaining his many online mates?

When Merlin came back on-screen there was a grey mug in his hands. He sat in the old desk chair and propped his right foot on whatever the laptop was sitting on. He stared off-screen to the right while he sipped the hot beverage, and Arthur figured there must be a window there.

Merlin downed the last of the drink and clicked at something on his computer. Arthur thought for sure he would notice the call in progress and that he was caught once again doing something he shouldn’t, but instead music started playing and Merlin stood up.

He walked over to the left, picked up a canvas off the floor and set it on the easel. It was already half-completed from the looks of it. Merlin went about setting up his paint and brushes and then went at it. Every so often he’d say “Oh god no,” and turn from the painting just long enough to tap the right arrow key on his laptop to change the song.

Sometimes, if Merlin knew the song well enough, he even sang. Arthur caught himself smiling like an idiot a few times when that happened. Merlin actually had a nice voice, deep and soothing. He wanted to curl up and let it surround him.

When Merlin had been painting for almost thirty minutes, Arthur thought again that he should end the call. It was wrong to watch someone when they thought they were alone. Arthur would certainly be upset by it.

But would he? If Merlin was doing this to him, wouldn’t he also be flattered in a way?

Arthur didn’t have time to follow that train of thought because just then Merlin put down the brush and walked over to his laptop. Luckily he didn’t stop to use it, just reached for something behind it, which turned out to be his laptop bag. Arthur watched as he pulled out the piece of paper that he’d taken from Arthur’s desk, and continued to watch as Merlin’s eyes grew wide when he discovered what else was inside.

Arthur had thought by now, surely Merlin would have realised what he’d slipped in there, but apparently the poor bloke never really had reasons to rummage through that particular compartment.

Merlin dropped the bag, holding tightly the two hundred quid, while the piece of paper danced silently in the air, coming finally to rest on the floor.

“That sneaky bastard,” Merlin whispered, but he was smiling and his eyes were tearing up. “That sneaky, posh, bi-curious bastard.”

Arthur frowned. Is that what Merlin really thought of him?

Then Merlin let out a shaky chuckle, which turned into loud, booming laughter.

“I have to—I have to—” He looked around. “Where is it this time?” He was looking for his mobile. When he finally found it, he opened it and typed into it quickly. Arthur heard a beep to his right.

Smiling, he looked at the screen.

 

M: You went through my shit, you privileged posh ass

 

He smiled because, despite Merlin’s angry tone, he could see for himself the sheer bliss in the man’s face.

 

- i didn’t take anything

M: Still invaded my privacy

 

Arthur’s smile broadened, suddenly confident.

 

- shut up i know you’re happy

M: Oh yeah? How would you know?

- im invading your privacy again

 

On-screen, Merlin raised an eyebrow.

 

- look at your laptop

 

Merlin looked up and bent over it, not noticing anything. Arthur rolled his eyes.

 

- higher.

 

Merlin raised his gaze and his eyes looked directly into the webcam. Arthur shivered under such an intense stare.

Then Merlin gasped and typed furiously on his keyboard.

 

Merlin: youve been watching me this hole tiem

Arthur: you’re the one that accepted the call

Merlin: but i didnt KNOW

and you just sat there and didnt say anything like a creep

Arthur: i like your voice

Merlin: what

Arthur: when you sing

its nice

 

Merlin stared at the text on the screen unblinking and jaw hanging open. After a moment, he blushed and chuckled a bit.

 

Merlin: I can’t believe you. This is borderline stalking you know.

Arthur: and yet you still haven’t turned the camera off

 

Just like that, the image of Merlin was gone and Arthur wished he hadn’t said anything, even if it was the right thing to do.

 

Merlin: Wow, almost a whole hour.

Arthur: sorry

Merlin: I’m just glad I wasn’t naked or in a compromising state this time

Arthur: pity that

 

What was Arthur thinking? He wasn’t anonymous anymore, he couldn’t say things like that! In fact even when he was anonymous, he’d never dared to say anything so brazen. But the message just left through his fingers on impulse.

Merlin was equally confused.

 

Merlin: Have you been drinking?

Are you in any way under the influence?

Arthur: can we just forget i said that

wow i cant believe i even sent that to you

Merlin: Arthur do you want to go out?

Like, for real?

 

Arthur’s heart started pumping so fast he could feel it in his throat.

 

Arthur: i think i might

Merlin: I’m not going to be someone’s gay experiment, mind you.

Arthur: i know

i definitely want this

im positive

Merlin: Okay

Arthur: okay?

Merlin: Yeah. But this time I choose the place.

***

Merlin wanted to go to a bar in Spitalfields. It was crowded and loud and completely unlike what Arthur thought to be in Merlin’s tastes. He would have thought the man preferred somewhere quiet, but no, there he was standing awkwardly looking for a man he’d met only once, and seen only twice.

 

M: It’s not *that* kind of bar so you can stop looking so anxious.

- you can see me?

M: Not a good feeling, huh?

- whats not?

M: Knowing that you’re being watched

- are you still on about that?

M: Yes.

M: Turn to your left.

 

Arthur turned and scanned the crowd. He couldn’t see the pale-faced, dark-haired man anywhere.

 

M: Your other left, dumbfuck.

 

Oh, there he was, sitting alone at what was possibly the darkest corner in the entire place. Arthur made his way over and slid into the chair across from Merlin. He sincerely hoped this meeting wouldn’t be a repeat of their last, with Merlin being shy and awkward.

“I must be some sort of masochist for wanting to date a bloke that insults me on a daily basis,” Arthur said as a greeting. It was the lamest thing he could have said at the moment and he kicked himself.

Merlin only tilted one side of his mouth up in a crooked smile and thumbed something into his mobile.

 

M: I can barely hear you. It’s loud.

 

“Yeah, I know. And for someone with such a small voice you sure seemed eager to go someplace crowded,” Arthur replied.

Merlin frowned and tapped at his mobile again.

 

M: There’s nothing wrong with the way I talk. Now be a good lad and offer to buy me a drink.

 

Arthur laughed but complied. “Would you like a drink then, Merlin?”

Merlin’s lips moved, but of course Arthur couldn’t hear a word that was said.

“Sorry?” He leaned closer.

“Pint of lager.”

Arthur hadn’t realised that Merlin also had leaned in and the breath that ghosted across the shell of his ear sent a shiver of pleasure through him. That, along with hearing the velvet voice so close to him.

He swallowed and nodded stiffly then went as if in a daze to order drinks. He was still too out of it to remember what he usually got himself, so he ordered two pints. By the time he returned to the table, all thoughts of Merlin’s breath caressing his skin like gentle fingers were long gone. Almost.

Merlin nodded his thanks and took a healthy swig.

“Where’s your laptop tonight?” Arthur asked. He remembered that Merlin said he had to take it everywhere with him for fear of it being stolen.

Merlin reached down into his lap and dangled the strap above the table.

 

M: Keeping my eye on it tonight. So don’t try to slip anything inside.

 

Arthur nearly choked on his drink and Merlin threw his head back in laughter.

 

M: You bloody pervert, I didn’t even mean for it to sound that way!

 

Merlin started to type something else then punched the backspace button quickly, thinking better of it. Instead he just shook his head and chuckled.

 

“What? What were you going to say?” Arthur asked.

He didn’t hear the reply but could read Merlin’s lips when he said, “Nothing.”

“Tell me.”

Merlin sighed and moved his thumbs expertly over the small keypad once again.

 

M: It’s no wonder you’re thinking so dirty if you haven’t had a good shag in months.

 

Merlin promptly blushed and Arthur laughed hysterically this time.

“It’s a bit difficult to get any when you spend so much time in front of the computer,” Arthur replied. “But hopefully this whole outing will be the catalyst in my lonely life. Not that I’d try to pull anything on the first date,” he added then he took a large mouthful of his drink. He’d need more liquid courage if he was going to have any more slip-ups like that.

 

M: Technically it’s our second.

 

When Arthur looked up from reading the text, his gaze met Merlin’s steady, calculating stare. There he is, Arthur thought. There’s M.

He had fixed Arthur with an almost challenging look, one eyebrow just barely raised, and the hint of a smirk dancing on his lips. It was wickedly seductive and made Arthur’s heart race.

“I suppose it is,” Arthur laughed nervously. “Still, don’t want to be too hasty. First time with a bloke and all.”

At first Arthur thought he’d said the wrong thing, since Merlin still only stared at him, only now kind of blankly. Then Merlin let out a breathy laugh and his face turned pink.

He shook his head slowly, and the roar of the crowd had quieted down just enough so that Arthur was able to hear him mutter. “Bi-curious fuck.”

Arthur guessed he was probably not meant to hear that. It would explain the surprise on Merlin’s face when he replied. “Make no mistake, Merlin, there’s nothing curious about it. I’m very much attracted to you.”

Arthur stopped before he confessed what he’d done a couple weeks back that involved a shower and soapy fingers. Merlin was no longer smirking and stared intently into his half-empty glass. Arthur fretted again over his words and decided drinking was the best way to busy his stupid mouth.

Then Merlin licked his bottom lip and bit into just slightly so that it was both sensual and teasing to Arthur’s ogling eye. Despite Merlin’s best efforts to bite back the growing smile, it spread across his face until finally he just let the grin take over, and he let out more of those nervous “heh heh” laughs.

Courage regained, Arthur nudged Merlin’s ankle with his foot under the table. “Quit giggling then, and tell me about yourself like you would on a proper date.”

Maybe it was the lager, and the red flush in his cheeks that indicated slight drunkenness. Maybe he realised just how hard it was to move their relationship along with Arthur doing all the work. Maybe even it was the way in which Arthur was making an utter awkward fool of himself and Merlin could relate, so he wanted to help dig him out of his hole. Either way, for the first time in, well, the handful of times that Merlin actually spoke directly to Arthur, his voice came across loud and clear.

“I should think you know me already after six months.”

Arthur shrugged but was doing cartwheels in his mind, he was so happy to hear M’s voice. “Tell me about me, then. See how much you’ve bothered to remember.”

Merlin’s brow raised a hair and Arthur began laughing just from the expression. Merlin didn’t even have to speak, his face said it all for him, relaying the clear message of, “You really want to play this game with me? Really?”

“Alright,” Merlin said. “Your favourite colour’s red, you like falling asleep to birds chirping, your favourite band is Interpol, you have three good friends but Leon is your best, you’re deathly afraid of drowning, you prefer cats to dogs, you believe in ghosts but not aliens, and—”

“Merlin, breathe.”

Merlin took a huge breath and prepared to continue. “And you’ve sworn off blondes for the rest of your life,” he finished anti-climatically. “There’s more but I can’t think of it at the moment.”

Arthur nodded, impressed. “I’m shit with remembering things. And if I tell you what I do know you’ll just laugh at me.”

“I could use a laugh.”

“Not at my expense, you don’t.”

“Just tell me, I’m so pissed I won’t remember.”

Arthur’s eyes narrowed. “Did you drink before I got here?”

“No.” But Merlin’s face was saying yes, yes he had.

“Right then, fine. But at least keep your laughter to a low chuckle, yeah?” Arthur finished the rest of his drink and set the glass down with a dull thud. “The first thing I remember because you just said it, and we disagree on it. You believe in aliens but not ghosts, which is bloody ridiculous. But anyway.” Arthur shook his head as if to clear away pestering thoughts. “You’ve got three mates as well, two of them getting married. You have a lot of art in your flat just laying around because nobody has the good sense to see how great it is. You’re incredibly smart and witty and just hilarious. You have old clothes and hardly eat, yet you’ve a laptop probably better than even my own. You’re so shy and quiet it makes me look sociable, which is saying something considering it’s my job not to communicate face to face. You think the old man at the shop by your flat is actually conspiring against you because he won’t let you slide by on a few pence when really it’s obvious you’re not a kid because you’ve got the wisest, most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen and I wish I had a photograph so I could stare into them for hours and—”

Arthur froze, mouth hanging open mid-sentence. “And—and yeah, that’s all I can really remember,” he finished lamely, blushing to the tips of his ears.

Merlin swallowed thickly and blinked a couple times. “I never really told you any of that,” he said, his voice small again. “Those are more like, observations.”

“The task was to tell you about you, right?”

“Yeah. And you did. It’s just...” Merlin shrugged the rest of his sentence and Arthur pressed for more.

“Just what?”

“People always think they know other people, but they don’t. Not really. I mean, maybe they know things about them, like they won’t eat doughnuts or they like action movies or whatever. But they don’t know what their friends do in their rooms alone at night or what happened to them when they were kids or if they feel fucked up and sad for no reason at all.” Merlin smiled rather sadly then. “You’re different. You see everything. That’s why I like online people more. By not seeing them you’re forced to think about who they are as a person, as an individual. By using your imagination to picture what they look like, you’re more involved in the conversation.” Merlin’s voice was still quiet but it was strong, demanding to be heard. “Like when I say ‘night posh boy.’ You say that you hate when I call you that, but when I imagine you sitting there behind the computer reading that message, you’re smiling and I know, I can just feel it, that you actually love when I call you that. You really do.”

Arthur couldn’t explain the way he felt after hearing that. It was like he was warm and glowing on the inside. It was that feeling of realising that someone gets you. Everyone has their own share of experiences that shape who they are, and to find someone whose essence is compatible with theirs is a feeling like no other.

Perhaps the best way to describe how Arthur felt is, complete.

He didn’t know what to say. He was faintly aware that Merlin was waiting for some kind of response but he was so happy that all he could do was sit and stare at the table.

Then he felt a nudge on his leg and looked up to see Merlin staring at him with a look of apprehension and hope. Arthur kicked Merlin lightly back and smiled.

“I remember your favourite band now. And your favourite colour,” Arthur said.

“Yeah?”

“It’s Placebo. And you like green.”

Arthur suddenly became aware of Merlin’s foot caressing the side of his leg beneath the table and a wave of desire hit him like a sack of bricks. Merlin noticed with amusement the exact moment that Arthur realised it and tilted his mouth in a sideways smile.

Arthur swallowed. “Let’s get out of here, yeah?”

“Where are we going?”

“Back to yours? It’s closer.”

Merlin froze, foot included. “I don’t think—”

“It’s not like I haven’t seen it already.”

Merlin cringed at the memory of yesterday’s unfortunate event. “Alright. It’s only one stop away.”

Arthur was confused for a second, then understood and shook his head. “I’ve got a car. You can show me how to get there.”

“Erm, should you be driving?” Merlin gestured to the empty glass in front of him.

“I’m not nearly pissed enough. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll go slow.”

Merlin got a mischievous twinkle in his eye then. “Fast is fine. I trust you.”

***

Merlin dropped his keys for the third time. His hands were shaking, possibly because he was eager to get out of the smelly hallway, or because he was a bit pissed, but most likely it had to do with the fact that Arthur—who looked like sex on legs—was standing so fucking close to him he could feel the warm air ghosting down his neck.

“Sorry,” Merlin muttered as he picked up the noisy metal.

“It’s fine,” Arthur replied. “We’ve got all night.” And then he realised how that must have sounded. But he decided he didn’t want to take it back.

And Merlin, upon hearing that in that agonisingly sexy posh accent of Arthur’s, dropped his keys yet again and bent down to pick them up.

Arthur chuckled deep in his throat and Merlin breathed out a few laughs as well because, fuck, they both knew what was going to happen once they got past this door and the suspense was killer.

Finally, Merlin got the door unlocked and they were stepping inside to Merlin’s dim studio.

It would have been dark but there were no curtains on the one large window in the room so the city lights and the waxing moon filled the space with muted light.

The first thing Arthur noticed was the newspaper. There were old newspapers strewn across almost half the flat, and upon closer inspection, Arthur found that there were ragged bed sheets under those.

The next most noticeable were the candles. There were large candles in every corner, some flickering on the last shreds of a wick, but most unlit.

The kitchen was, quite literally, a stove, fridge, sink, three cabinets, and a small bit of counter space in the far left corner of the room. Next to it was a radiator. A radiator.

And then, center stage in all of it, was a large easel containing a medium sized canvas that was painted mostly black, but had specks of green, blue, and orange swirling through as if in a chemical cloud.

“This was a mistake,” Merlin said after watching Arthur’s face for a couple minutes. “I knew it. I knew—”

“Why all the candles?”

Merlin’s brow furrowed and he looked around his flat, trying to see what Arthur saw. “What?”

“I mean, there’s nothing wrong with candles, but you have like, a ridiculous amount,” Arthur clarified. “Why so many?”

“Oh.” Merlin seemed to shrink and fold in on himself, and Arthur realised it was from shame. “It saves electricity. With my computer pretty much always running, I’ve got to cut back somewhere. So,” he shrugged and gestured. “Candles.”

“What about when you work? Surely, you can’t paint in the dark.”

Merlin simply shrugged again. “I paint during the day. Or, if I really need to work at night, I’ve got a couple heavy duty emergency lanterns. Like end-of-the-world lanterns that are bright as the sun.”

Arthur held back the growing frown he felt threatening to tilt his lips and walked over to the window.

“So this is what you stare at while drinking your morning tea.”

Merlin laughed, glad to put the topic of his obvious poverty behind them. “Yeah. ‘S great view, huh?”

“Not terrible,” Arthur said, looking down into the alley below. “I suppose you could have a good sight of heroin addicts shooting up or date rape taking place down there, but you seem to have lucked out.”

“Thank goodness for that.”

Arthur spun around and put his full attention on Merlin, who stood uncertainly with his hands in his pockets. “You’ve got a nice space here, Merlin. I like it.” He smiled. “It is homey.”

“Your house is nice too.”

Arthur waved it off. “Yes, but it doesn’t feel as...I dunno...lived in as this does. It’s just a house, not a home, you know?”

“Not really, no.” Merlin’s answer came out breathily. He was trying to figure out just how Arthur had gotten so close.

“It doesn’t have any...personal touches. Just a few photos of my parents and an old bookcase. The place is practically a museum.”

Arthur’s face was inches from Merlin’s and he could feel the air leaving Arthur’s mouth when he spoke.

“Yeah, I noticed.”

“So I was thinking that...maybe...I need someone to liven it up a bit.”

Arthur was definitely staring at his lips and both their hearts were about to jump out of their chests, and then Merlin went and said the first thing that came to his mind.

“Already asking me to move in? You haven’t even kissed me yet.”

And then they were kissing and it was amazing. It was all lips first, just pressing them together, mapping the curves of each other’s mouths and getting acquainted. Then Merlin darted a tongue out and swiped Arthur’s bottom lip so quickly Arthur barely even registered it until Merlin did it a second time.

Something deep stirred in Arthur and he grew greedy. He sucked on Merlin’s lower lip until Merlin moaned then Merlin got revenge by shoving his tongue in Arthur’s mouth and exploring every nook and cranny. With their tongues together side by side, it was Arthur’s turn to moan and his hands gripped Merlin’s waist for support.

“Was talking...about your art,” Arthur gasped between kissing.

Merlin grunted in a way that was not at all shy or awkward to indicate his confusion and Arthur laughed out huffs of breath.

“For my house. To...liven it up. I meant...your paintings.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure,” Merlin hastily agreed. “I’ll give them to you for free if you just stop talking.”

Arthur promptly shut up and returned his full focus to just sucking every part of Merlin’s mouth he could. This wasn’t like any other kiss he’d ever had. His whole body felt like there was an electric current going through it and he could stand there and snog for hours, like kissing Merlin would never get old.

When Merlin finally pulled away, it was to take the heavy laptop bag from over his shoulder and let it lie gently on the floor. Once free of the burden he returned to kissing Arthur with added enthusiasm, so much that it took Arthur by surprise.

Merlin had both hands cupped to Arthur’s face and was moving him backwards until finally Arthur’s back hit the wall. The hands came round and slid down Arthur’s chest, then slipped under the hem of his shirt and made their way back up.

“Mmm, Merlin.”

Merlin liked the way Arthur’s moan led into his name. He decided to venture farther south and pressed delicate kisses to Arthur’s neck and jaw, his hands still having their fun with Arthur’s burning torso.

“Tell me,” Merlin whispered into Arthur’s collarbone. “If I’m going too fast.”

“I think maybe...”

“Yeah?”

“I think maybe you have too many clothes on.”

Merlin pulled away then and they both looked down at themselves. They’d been so caught up in getting in the flat and snogging that both still had their coats on.

Merlin abruptly slipped out of his jacket and kicked off his shoes. Arthur did the same, and then they were both down to their simple shirt and trousers.

Arthur yanked Merlin back to him by the collar and their mouths came together somewhat painfully, but it was alright. Arthur just wanted to show Merlin how sure he was that this was what he wanted, that he was not experimenting.

“Is it okay if this is as far as we go?” Merlin asked suddenly, breathless. “Not that I don’t want you. It’s just—I don’t want this to be—”

“Yeah, Merlin, it’s fine,” Arthur kissed him. “I’m not sure if I’m quite ready for...all the rest anyway. So yeah, let’s just...go slow.”

Merlin bit his lip as Arthur’s teeth gently grazed his neck. “Not too slow.” He placed a daring hand on the front of Arthur’s trousers and palmed the erection a bit.

Arthur inhaled through his teeth and arched into the touch. “Yeah,” he whined. “Just—just touch me.”

Merlin started moving his hand in slow circles and Arthur’s own hands clutched Merlin’s waist tightly at the sensation.

“Right, okay,” Merlin said once Arthur’s hips had started to jerk forward in frantic little motions. He unzipped his trousers then did the same for Arthur. When he lifted his palm to his mouth, Arthur stopped him with a hand on his wrist.

Merlin eyed the blonde curiously then gasped when suddenly two fingers were being enveloped by the wet warmth of Arthur’s tongue. Arthur looked at Merlin through thick lashes and kept working the hand until it was slick and ready.

When he finally stopped and returned to sucking Merlin’s neck, Merlin shoved his slippery hand into Arthur’s pants and grabbed a firm hold on the warm flesh. At the first touch, Arthur’s jaw clamped down a bit and Merlin tensed at the bite. Then he let his curiosity take over. What sort of sounds did Arthur make if he applied just the tiniest bit of pressure here? What would happen if he twisted just the slightest bit there?

Merlin worked the cock in his hands expertly, exploring Arthur’s pleasure spots and forcing the filthiest sounds out of him. When Arthur felt the heat of arousal gathering he fumbled open Merlin’s jeans, gave his hand a good few licks, then began to return the favour. He fisted the cock quickly and not at all as skilfully as Merlin but Merlin moaned nonetheless and jerked his hips upwards.

Arthur’s come stained his shirt. Then Merlin’s come stained Arthur’s shirt as well and after that they erupted into a fit of giggles.

Arthur pulled the dirty article over his head gingerly. “Don’t suppose you’ve got a washer-dryer?”

Merlin giggled again and Arthur was reminded of a pixie. “Are you kidding?” Merlin gestured to the front door where there was a basket next to it. It was overflowing with clothes.

Arthur stared at the shirt in his hands dismally. Merlin, after staring appreciatively at Arthur’s bare chest, offered to let him borrow a shirt.

“I’m sure I have something large enough. It’s either that or wash it in the sink with soap.”

Arthur sighed and looked around. It was hard to see since a couple of the candles had gone out.

“What time is it?” he asked.

Merlin pulled out his mobile. “Almost ten.” He frowned. “You should stay the night.”

Arthur visibly relaxed. “Thanks. I wasn’t looking forward to walking out in this dodgy neighbourhood. No offense.”

Merlin shrugged. “‘S why I offered. You’ll be cold though.”

“Not if we sleep close.”

The words left Arthur’s mouth of their own accord and he opened and shut a bit like a fish out of water for a second before Merlin started laughing.

“Arthur, I just came on your shirt for fuck’s sake. Of course you can use my body for warmth.” He stood up and took the piece of clothing from Arthur. “Just stand by the radiator for now.”

Arthur watched as Merlin filled the sink with hot water and soap then put the shirt in to soak. Then he lit what looked to be a hundred candles but was actually five, and rummaged around in his closet for a shirt big enough to fit Arthur.

Now that the heat of the moment had passed, it was cold. Arthur rubbed his arms to try to get some warmth back into them to no avail. When he tried to warm his hands on the radiator, it was so hot it almost burned, so he settled for just standing in the half-freezing half-scorching bubble with his arms crossed so tight his pectorals bulged.

“Holy handjobs,” Merlin swore when he turned and saw Arthur.

“Ha, what?”

“Nothing.” Merlin squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself not to think of the things he could be doing to those perfect nipples. He breathed in and out deeply. “Nothing.”

Keeping his eyes on the floor, he walked over and handed Arthur the shirt, then turned to get his laptop up and running. Arthur laughed a bit when he saw that Merlin actually had to plug in the internet cable.

“Oi, shut it,” Merlin said as Arthur sat down to take up half of Merlin’s chair. “We can’t all afford fancy wireless routers.”

“What did you do with the two hundred quid I gave you?” Arthur asked.

“‘Fraid I spent it on drugs or something?”

“You’re pale as death and thin as a corpse but you look nothing like a druggie. I was honestly just curious.”

“Truth is, I haven’t done anything with it yet.”

“Any ideas on what you’ll use it for?”

Merlin shrugged as he typed in his password. “Electric, phone, food, rent. Whichever demands my attention first.”

“I’m guessing that’s not usually food,” Arthur said with a frown.

The array of notification tones that sounded from Merlin’s laptop seemed to answer for him. “It’s usually electric,” he admitted. “But I just paid that, so who knows, I may actually get to eat meat this week.”

He immediately burst into uncontrollable laughter and Arthur just chuckled and shook his head when he realised it was another one of his innuendos.

“You’re terrible, you know that?”

“Shut up, you love it.”

“Doesn’t mean you aren’t terrible,” Arthur pressed.

A thousand and one windows popped up and suddenly Merlin’s fingers were tapping away at the keyboard. A police siren sounded in the distance but Merlin seemed not to notice. Arthur traced a pattern in Merlin’s forearm and he seemed not to notice that as well.

Then, a minute later, out of nowhere, he said, “That tickles, and if you don’t stop in the next five seconds I’m crushing your foot.”

He was completely serious. And he was still typing furiously.

Arthur swirled his finger in circles, lightly touching the skin of Merlin’s arm with just the tip of his nail.

“I mean it.”

Arthur grinned and continued. Just when Merlin lifted his foot and was about to bring it down, Arthur jumped to the other side, causing a loud thud on the floor. Three hard thumping noises responded from below.

“QUIT IT, YOU ORNERY BITCH!” Merlin shouted at the tenant beneath him. Arthur cringed at the sudden loud volume and was honestly surprised that such noise could come from a thin man like Merlin.

“Jesus fuck, it was one simple stomp. ‘S not like I’m having fucking rampant kinky sex up here,” Merlin continued in an irritated tone.

Arthur got down on his knees and folded his arms over the desk. “Such neighbourly affection.”

Merlin sighed and slid a hand down his tired face. “Sorry. I wasn’t really mad at you, you know. And I wasn’t really going to hurt you, not when I...Then that woman downstairs had to go and be a royal bitch like always and I just...” He shrugged the rest of his sentence. “Sorry, anyways. That was...Gosh, that was really loud.”

“It’s alright.”

Arthur rested his head on his arms and stared up at Merlin’s computer-lit face sideways. He liked watching the different expressions Merlin made unconsciously when he talked to people online. He liked the way a smile would spread slowly across his face, or the way his brow would furrow instantly if he didn’t understand something. Finally being able to see the man behind the computer—and even better, to touch him—was so amazingly wonderful that it almost brought tears to Arthur’s eyes.

When Merlin’s fingers stopped tapping and his eyes lowered to meet Arthur’s, Arthur didn’t even realise. He was that caught up in just staring at Merlin.

“Are we there already?”

Arthur blinked and blushed when he finally noticed he’d been caught staring.

“Sorry, what?”

“Are we there already?” Merlin repeated.

“Where?”

“That stage when...nevermind.”

“No, tell me.” Arthur nudged.

Merlin’s cheeks coloured and then Arthur was really curious to know.

“I mean, assuming, that is, that you’re...you know...my boyfriend and all?”

Arthur chuckled. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m definitely your boyfriend and all.”

“Well, it’s just...are we already at that stage in the relationship when you stare at me all starry-eyed, like?”

Arthur really laughed then, mostly at himself to cover up the embarrassment at being caught staring “all starry-eyed” at Merlin. “Did you want to go through stages?” He asked. “I kind of just wanted to do whatever the hell felt right.”

Merlin’s lips turned up in a slight smile. “No, we can do whatever. Just, you know. Slow.”

Merlin swallowed and returned to typing. A number of windows had begun to flash after he’d let his attention shift to Arthur.

Arthur watched a while longer, then when Merlin began to glance his way every few seconds he realised Merlin was probably talking about something rather sensitive with someone and didn’t want Arthur there. Arthur kissed the pale forearm lightly dusted with brown hair that was a few inches from his nose and got up to lay out on the mattress.

That’s when he realised he forgot his glasses.

Arthur groaned and rolled over to get back up. He didn’t see Merlin’s curious stare from behind him as he rummaged through his coat pockets for his contact lens case. When he finally found it, he sat down with a dull thud and started to carefully remove the contacts. He placed them in the solution and closed the case with a snap, then returned it to its pocket.

He turned around and met Merlin’s watchful gaze with a cocked eyebrow.

“I didn’t know you wore contacts,” Merlin said.

Arthur shrugged. “I wear contacts.”

“Yeah, I see that.” Merlin rolled his eyes. “Why?”

“Why do I wear contacts?”

“Yeah. Why don’t you just wear glasses?”

“I do, when I’m at home.” Arthur walked over and fell back onto the mattress.

“Why not anywhere else?”

Arthur sighed. “I dunno, Merlin. They make me look nerdy? Once people hear I’m a programmer they think I’m nerdy enough.”

“Says the man who claims he cares nothing about what people think of him,” Merlin reminded him with a smirk.

Arthur faintly remembered the conversation. “Yes, well, public appearances are different. If I was, say, a vegetarian and someone ridiculed the lifestyle, I’d simply tell them to fuck off and that I don’t give a flying fuck what they think. It’s first impressions one has to worry about.”

“And people will get a bad first impression of you if you wear glasses?”

“Not necessarily, no.” Arthur shrugged again. “It’s just personal preference, Merlin. Why’s it matter so much?”

“It doesn’t.” Merlin spun around to face his laptop. “Just never understood the point of contact lenses is all.”

Arthur stared at the back of Merlin awhile, letting his thoughts wander. He pulled his mobile out of his trousers and checked the time. It was almost eleven thirty. He put the phone back in his pocket and pursed his lips.

“I’ll wear my glasses on our next date,” he said.

“Yeah?” Merlin replied without turning around. He tried to sound disinterested but Arthur could tell he liked the idea.

“Yeah, I will. In fact, I have a photo of me wearing them, if I’m not mistaken...” He pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and took out his licence. “Yep, I’m wearing them here. Have a look.” He sat up and scooted to the edge of the mattress so Merlin could reach.

Merlin turned and took the licence from Arthur’s outstretched arm. He instantly smiled. “Was it summer?”

Arthur laughed. “Yeah. My hair is lighter, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.” Merlin thumbed the photo with barely hidden affection and Arthur’s heart swelled. “You’re beautiful,” he said softly.

“Um, thanks?”

Merlin blushed and handed back the licence hurriedly. “I meant that it’s a good photo. Most people’s licence come out shit, but yours is nice. It definitely captures you nicely.”

Arthur couldn’t hide his smirk. “Yeah? Thanks.” He put it back in his wallet and his wallet back in his pocket. “Is yours shit?”

Merlin turned around before replying. “I don’t have one.”

“Oh.”

“I never really needed one. I always take the bus or walk. Sometimes even a cab if the person I’m going cross town to visit pays for it.”

“I see.”

“Or the tube. I had to use the tube to get to your house.”

“Merlin.”

“And even if I did have a licence, it’s not like I can afford a car. Or petrol, for that matter.”

“Merlin.”

“And if I crash it or it breaks down or something, I’m totally fucked because I don’t have insurance.”

“Merlin!”

“Yeah?”

“So you don’t have a licence. So what?”

Merlin seemed to breath a sigh of relief. “Exactly. Doesn’t matter.”

He typed quickly for a few moments before getting up from his chair and crawling onto the mattress. He laid down with his back pressed against Arthur’s side and curled in on himself for warmth.

Arthur stared down at the thin man laying in the crook of his right arm with butterflies in his stomach. He wasn’t sure what he should do.

“Hold me,” Merlin whispered.

Arthur’s stomach definitely flipped and his heart started racing. He rolled over onto his side so that his chest was pressed against Merlin’s back and him arm draped over Merlin’s hip. He’d spooned with Sophia plenty of times but it hadn’t felt nearly as right as this.

Merlin sighed like he was finally at peace and Arthur realised the tones from Merlin’s laptop had stopped. He must have told everyone he was going to bed.

Arthur must have been more tired than he realised because as soon as he placed his cold nose in Merlin’s neck and closed his eyes he was fast asleep.

The next time he opened his eyes it was considerably brighter in the small studio. He winced when he tried to open his eyes more than slits.

“Don’t move,” he heard Merlin say.

Merlin was out of the bed in just his pants, wrapped in a blanket, and sitting in his desk chair. He had a sketchbook open and his pencil was moving across the page.

“Too tired to move anyways,” Arthur mumbled into the pillow. “Turn out the light?”

“Soon. I’m almost done.” His pencil swept in long arcs. “Just some more shading here...”

“Time is it?”

“Dunno. Last I checked it was about, three thirty or so? Probably about four or four thirty now.”

Arthur groaned and stretched his legs.

“I said don’t move!”

“Well, hurry up then. I have to pee.”

“I’m almost done,” he repeated. He bit his lip and looked back and forth between Arthur and his sketch. “Hmm. Alright fine. Go pee then.”

He rolled the chair back to the desk and Arthur managed to stand up without falling over.

“Toilet?”

“That-a-way,” Merlin pointed.

Arthur grunted his thanks and stumbled to the loo. When he’d finished and came back out the bright light had been shut off.

“You weren’t kidding about those apocalypse lanterns,” he said, rubbing his eyes.

“I believe I called them end-of-the-world lanterns,” Merlin replied. “And no, I wasn’t.”

“Same thing. What’re you doing up anyways?”

“Insomnia. Hard for me to get to sleep, hard for me to stay asleep,” he sing-songed.

“Have anything to drink?”

“Er, water from the tap?”

Arthur walked over to the sink. “Cups?”

“Above your head.”

He opened the cabinet just above him and picked out a mug, then filled it halfway with lukewarm water.

“You can just put it back up there when you’re done,” Merlin said from his desk.

Arthur gulped down the rest and placed it back on its shelf in the cabinet. He walked back over to where Merlin was seated in his chair, wrapped up in a blanket.

“Can I see it?” Arthur asked, rubbing Merlin’s shoulders from behind.

Merlin tilted his head so his cheek brushed Arthur’s fingers. “If you want. It’ll look better when I paint it though.”

“You’re going to paint it?”

“Yeah. The colours won’t be exactly right because I’ll have to do them from memory, but I think it’ll turn out nice.”

“It’ll be amazing, I’m sure,” Arthur replied and kissed Merlin’s temple. “I’ll wait until it’s done. Don’t want to ruin the initial reaction.”

Merlin spun around in his chair and his eyes were level with Arthur’s navel.

“I just realised,” he said, wrapping his arms around Arthur’s waist. “You’ve never seen my artwork.”

Arthur’s stomach jumped at how close Merlin’s face was to his crotch. “That’s not true,” he said lowly. “I’ve seen you working on it. When you didn’t know I was watching.”

“But you’ve never seen a finished piece,” Merlin countered. “You ought to, you know. Since you plan on buying one for your living room.”

He suddenly nudged Arthur gently backwards and stood up. He opened the blanket to bring Arthur into the warmth and led them over to his stack of paintings leaning against the wall.

“Which one would you like to see?”

“Which one is the worst?”

Merlin laughed and stepped out of the blanket to rifle through the various canvases.

“This is a portrait of my friend Gwen,” he said, raising the medium-sized piece. “This is definitely my worst. Very sloppy.”

Arthur stared appreciatively. The candlelight made the caramel skin of the girl in the painting seem to glow. The shadows of her hair falling over her shoulder had an eerie charm. The laugh lines around her smiling mouth and eyes were deep and complimented her caring face.

Merlin had even managed to capture the friendly sparkle that played behind her eyes. From the eyes alone Arthur could tell this woman had been through a lot, probably as much economical struggle as Merlin. And from the way she held herself, he could see that she was the stronger for it and more confident.

Arthur tore his eyes from the painting and looked at Merlin with a disbelieving expression. “If this is your worst, I’m curious to see your best.”

“You like it then?” Merlin asked, eyes bright.

“It’s amazing, Merlin.”

Merlin set the canvas down against the wall so Gwen was facing away from them and Arthur invited him back into the warmth of the blanket.

“I told Gwen she should take it but she insisted that I keep it here,” Merlin explained, letting Arthur slip his arm around him. “She said I should have someone with me in this lonely place even if it’s just a painting.” He rolled his eyes. “Says I spend too much time online.”

Arthur laughed. “I’ve heard that one before.”

“But you work with computers. You have an excuse.”

“Not really. Leon says that anyone who sits in front of a computer all day then goes home to do the same thing must be mental.”

“I guess that’s true.”

Merlin walked them over to the mattress and they fell into it, still holding each other and tangling their legs.

“Tell me about your other friends?” Merlin asked. “Besides Leon. He’s the only one I ever hear you mention.”

Arthur smiled and stroked Merlin’s cheeks, taking the time to admire the elegant bone structure of his remarkable face. “Yeah, there’s some guys from work I hang out with occasionally. But Leon is my best mate. The others are more like acquaintances.”

“So you only have the one friend then, is basically what you’re saying.”

Arthur pulled one of Merlin’s large ears. “I have you too.”

“I don’t count.”

“Why not?”

“Because. I met you on the net. I’m not a real friend.”

“Then what do you call all those people you talk to?” Arthur challenged.

Merlin pursed his lips and gave him a look. “That’s different. They really are my friends.”

“You know them in real life?”

“No...”

“So how’s it different?” Arthur was really grinning now.

Merlin nudged him with a cold foot. “Alright, well, either way I still don’t count. I’m your boyfriend. Boyfriends don’t count.”

Merlin had a wary look in his eye and worried he might have went too far. But they’d established earlier that that was what they were.

Arthur tightened his hold on Merlin’s hip slightly. “Has the word ‘friend’ in the name. I say they do count. So I’ve got two.”

Merlin only barely managed to bite back his smile. “Can I tell you something?”

“Anything.”

“Before all this,” he nodded to their entangled bodies, their hands resting over places so close to pleasure spots. “I considered you my best friend.”

“You don’t anymore?”

“Well, I suppose according to you, saying boyfriends are still a type of friend and all...you still are.”

“Wow. I would have thought for sure it was Gwen or, or the other one...Will? I would have thought him or another of your many friends online.” Some of the people on the internet Merlin had known for years, and he’d only started speaking to Arthur six months ago. Arthur was proud to be Merlin’s favourite.

“Nope. And I’ll tell you something else.” Arthur was just able to see Merlin blush in the dim light. “Sometimes I’d just stare at the usernames, waiting for you to log on. I’d change my whole schedule so I could talk to you when I knew you got back from work.”

Arthur smiled at the thought of Merlin drumming his fingers on the desk as the clock ticked from 17:29 to 17:30. He imagined him painting then all of a sudden dropping everything to run to the computer and chat with him. What if Merlin had even set alarms on his mobile for when Arthur was just about to come home?

Merlin continued. “And the nights when you had work the next morning were the worst. You insist on getting off at ten, and then it felt like the whole night stretched endless before me. I’d have no shortage of people to talk to, but it was always you I wanted to see online the most.” He laughed. “Sounds kind of stalkerish right?”

Arthur’s responding laughter shook his body hard. “I’m the one who watched you for an hour on Skype and you think you’re the stalker?”

“Very true. I’d almost forgotten that.”

“That’s how we ended up here in the first place!”

“Is it?” Merlin replayed the last forty-eight hours. “Oh, that’s right. When I said I was glad I wasn’t naked and you said ‘Pity, that.’ Aha, wow. You have no idea how much that took me by surprise.”

Arthur pinched Merlin’s waist and scowled, though he wasn’t too displeased. “I was just as surprised as you. I still have no idea what came over me.”

“I’m glad you did it,” Merlin replied smiling, despite the pinch. “When I first saw you I almost died from the shock. That’s how bloody gorgeous you are.”

“Oh, is that why you would only speak in hushed monosyllables? You were still in shock?” Arthur grinned.

“Shut up!” Merlin pushed Arthur’s shoulder. “I just...don’t like people.” He lowered his eyes. “But I meant it. I’m glad you slipped up and said that. And I’m glad I somehow found the courage to ask you out. I don’t think you would have ever gotten around to it had I left it up to you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh, come on. It was obvious you wanted to, what with your ‘how did you know you were gay’ and hypothetical situations.” He raised his gaze to meet Arthur’s again. “Really, Arthur? Wanting to suck my neck? Really?”

Arthur blushed to the tips of his ears and buried his face in the pillow. “Ugh. Okay, that was not my best moment.”

“Not your best moment? Do you have any idea how turned on I was?” Merlin said angrily. “I was sweating like mad because I was so worried you’d see my hard-on. And all for a bloke that thought he maybe liked other blokes and had all these urges he wasn’t sure about. I wanted to grind you into the fucking mattress right then and there.” Merlin paused for air and seemed not to notice Arthur’s jaw hanging.

“And then you had to go and touch my bloody neck like you already owned it, and by that point I was so into you that it took all my willpower not to turn right around and demand you touch me all over like that and...and I should stop talking because this is just getting more embarrassing by the second.”

There was silence for an awkward minute, then Arthur burst out laughing.

“Oh my God, Merlin. I had no idea you were so...attracted to me.”

Merlin cast his eyes downward again. “Yeah well. I am,” he said quietly.

Arthur became serious again and studied Merlin, then caressed his cheek with his thumb.

“That’s good. I think I am, too.”

“You think?”

“I know,” Arthur clarified. “It’s still a bit weird to me. Like it’s not really happening. I can’t believe I’m in a flat in East End, in bed with a man I met online.” Arthur chuckled at the ridiculousness of it all. “It’s completely out of character. But at the same time I’m happy. I’m so incredibly happy to be here with you.”

Merlin grinned like a little kid who’d just been complimented and didn’t know what to say. “So you’re not still...you know...questioning your sexuality or anything?”

Arthur sighed, but it wasn’t out of frustration or resignation. It was more out of finally coming to terms with something and accepting it.

“Bisexual, gay...at this point I don’t care or even think it matters.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Maybe I’m just Merlin-sexual. You’re all I really want.”

Merlin laughed and it sounded like music. Arthur pulled on his ear again and Merlin shoved him back. Then Arthur yawned.

Merlin brushed stray blonde strands of hair out of Arthur’s face. “Go back to sleep. I’ll try to get some as well.”

Arthur leaned his head the tiniest bit forward and Merlin smiled as he met him halfway into a kiss. It lasted longer than a goodnight kiss had any right to, but finally Arthur pulled back with a tired sigh and let his muscles relax.

“Goodnight posh boy,” Merlin whispered.

In his last waking moments, Arthur smiled.

***

The blaring horn of a lorry startled Arthur into wakefulness. For a moment he forgot where he was. The mattress was only a few inches above the floor and the feeling of being so low disoriented him.

He heard a soft snore and realised it was coming from the man draped across his chest. Then Arthur remembered: he’d come back to Merlin’s flat after one drink and spent the night because of how late it had gotten.

Arthur stared at his morning erection tenting the blanket as he tried to figure out just how his life had ended up like this. He’d told Leon so many times that he was straight, that his friendship with M was just that—friendship. Yet here he was, waking up at nearly one in the afternoon on a Sunday in a strange man’s flat after only one drink.

But that wasn’t quite right. Merlin was strange, but he certainly wasn’t a stranger. And Arthur had been wanting to kiss and touch and stare at Merlin since the first time he saw him. It was just that wanting and doing were two completely different things.

Merlin shifted in his sleep and his fingers dug into Arthur’s side as he clutched at Arthur’s skin. He moaned and his eyebrows came together briefly before his expression slipped back into that of peaceful slumber.

Who was Arthur kidding? Did it really matter how the sudden twist in his life had happened? Here was an incredible man that made Arthur feel brilliant, as though nothing else mattered, and nothing did as long as Merlin was there. Why should he stop and marvel at how different things had turned out when he could be simply enjoying it and basking in the warm giddy feeling he got with Merlin now in his life?

“Think yer heart’s going to ‘splode,” Merlin mumbled into Arthur’s chest.

“Oh yeah?”

“Mmhmm. ‘S keeping me ‘wake. Stop it.”

“I’m getting up anyways.”

Arthur slid carefully out from under a protesting Merlin.

“Mmm! Come back warmth,” Merlin complained.

Arthur wanted to, but he wanted to start his day more. If he stayed in bed too long it would mess up his whole sleeping schedule and he needed to be well rested for work tomorrow.

Instead he found his coat on the floor and after tucking the blanket around Merlin, he placed it on top of him. Merlin inhaled deeply the scent of Arthur on the jacket and sighed contentedly, nuzzling his nose into the collar.

With Merlin satisfied, Arthur poked around in the small kitchen to make tea and find something to eat. All he could find was expired cereal so that’s what he decided on.

He sat down at the desk to eat and accidentally nudged the mouse. Merlin’s laptop screen flared to life.

It didn’t go to the lock screen like Arthur’s did after being idle for a while. It went straight to Merlin’s desktop, and Arthur was able to see the dozen of windows flashing on the screen.

The first that caught Arthur’s attention was the window that was selected and the black line that signalled text entry was flashing, waiting for input. Arthur glanced back at Merlin. He was still sound asleep and had begun snoring softly again. Arthur took a sip of tea then rolled the scroll wheel on the mouse up a bit to see more of the conversation.

 

MightBeMagic: I’ve been busy, sorry.

MoreDread: You? Busy?

MightBeMagic: Is that a terribly hard concept to grasp?

MoreDread: Um, yes! I was under the impression that the only thing you ever did was text, sleep, and paint. You’re never busy.

MoreDread: What the hell happened?

MightBeMagic: I went out with a friend. And he’s over right now so I’m still actually really busy.

MoreDread: No way.

MoreDread: No fucking way, mate. You don’t have friends over. That is just something that you do not do.

MightBeMagic: I’ve had Will and Gwen over plenty of times.

MoreDread: What’s this bloke’s name?

MightBeMagic: Why does that matter?

MoreDread: Just looking out for you. Wouldn’t want to see you get hurt. Again.

MightBeMagic: I’m not going to get hurt.

MoreDread: You met him online, didn’t you.

MightBeMagic: Maybe.

MoreDread: Then you’ve every reason to be cautious.

MightBeMagic: And if we met IRL, I suppose you’d say the same.

MoreDread: Of course. Can’t trust anyone, you know.

MightBeMagic: I trust him.

MoreDread: Have I heard of him?

MoreDread: You mention him before or is he some random bloke who’s just popping into existence?

MightBeMagic: I may have mentioned him in one or four of our conversations, yes.

MoreDread: It’s King, isn’t it?

MightBeMagic: no

MoreDread: Aha! That means it is.

MoreDread: There’s no reason to hide anything mate. It’s not like you know me irl or ever will.

MoreDread: If there’s anyone you can trust with your secrets, it’s strangers on the net.

MightBeMagic: Says the guy who only two minutes ago told me I can’t trust anyone.

MoreDread: Hush you. Now listen very carefully. Or rather, read. Do not. Under any circumstances. Let him kiss you.

MoreDread: From what I’ve heard about him, he’s the type to take advantage of poor little English boys like you. And I’m sure you don’t want another Gwaine incident, do you?

MightBeMagic: first of all he’s not going to take advantage of any porr little english boys. and i don’t need any poor little welsh boys telling me to be careful who i let fuck me

MightBeMagic: and second of all he’s straight as a fucking arrow so ive really nothing to worry aboutt

MoreDread: He’s just a friend?

MightBeMagic: yes, thats what ive been bloody saying!!

MoreDread: So you won’t let Will, your closest mate, into your flat until a year after you started talking, but you’ll let this random internet bloke in after what, one meeting?

MightBeMagic: Two meetings.

MoreDread: Right, because that’s so much better.

MoreDread: Are you really going to sit there and try to fool me into thinking you don’t fancy this guy? You wouldn’t have brought him back otherwise.

MightBeMagic: So maybe he is rather attractive, and maybe he is so posh that even when he swears it manages to sound sexy. But I assure you, I’m in no danger. And even if I was, I don’t think there’s much you could do about it. So you really should just shut the fuck up.

MoreDread: Yeah okay whatever. Just trying to help a friend out. But obviously you’d rather do this on your own.

MoreDread: Well don’t let me keep you from entertaining your guest. I’ll talk to you whenever you’re done drooling over Mr Straight-As-A-Fucking-Arrow.

 

Arthur went up to Settings to turn on the timestamps. Apparently this had happened after he went to lay on the mattress, after he’d just got done staring up at Merlin like he was the center of the universe.

He turned the timestamps back off and debated whether or not he wanted to view another conversation. He decided he didn’t and put the laptop back the way he had found it. He’d been invading Merlin’s privacy way too often lately.

Arthur finished his tea and cereal and got dressed. It was odd to be wearing yesterday’s clothes as if they were fresh, but he didn’t have any other options. He sat down again and stretched his legs out, getting in a comfortable position where he could look at Merlin.

It was incredible how one simple decision had changed the course of his life. To think if he hadn’t went to that particular chat site at that particular time, he might have never met Merlin. He might have never experienced this amazing feeling of being whole, like everything was finally right with the world.

But he had and he did. He stared at the thin man, wrapped up in his coat, watched the steady rise and fall of his chest as he slept. Merlin was so peaceful. Arthur wanted to be part of that peacefulness forever.

Spurred on by a new train of thought, he spun around in the chair and logged out of Merlin’s chat screen and into his own. He invited this MoreDread bloke to a private chat.

 

MoreDread: Who might this be?

King_Me: who do you think

MoreDread: Oh, the notorious King? What can I do for you?

King_Me: i just thought i should take the time to introduce myself seeing as how you’re one of M’s mates

MoreDread: M?

MoreDread: Oh you mean Merlin.

MoreDread: Okay. Hello.

King_Me: and i think you should also know that i will never hurt him

King_Me: because i love him

King_Me: and i’m going to ask him to move in with me as soon as he wakes up

MoreDread: Is that so? I was under the impression that you were straight.

MoreDread: As a fucking arrow, in fact.

King_Me: then you were under the wrong impression.

King_Me: anyways, that’s all. just wanted to let you know that merlin is more than safe with me. and you can tell that to anyone else who might be worried about him.

 

There was no reply for a moment and Arthur thought maybe this MoreDread person was doing just that, relaying the message across Merlin’s network of internet friends. While he was waiting, he heard Merlin roll over in his sleep and closed his eyes as he committed the soft mewling sounds to memory. He could definitely get used to hearing those noises.

 

MoreDread: You really do love him?

King_Me: yes

MoreDread: How much?

 

Arthur frowned. How did one measure love?

 

King_Me: when i’m away from him i want to be with him. and when i’m with him i never want him to go.

King_Me: i care about his own safety more than my own, which is partly why i’m asking him to move in with me

King_Me: i want to see him do well and thrive. i know he can create amazing works of art if only he had the materials and i’m going to make sure he has them so everyone can see how talented he is

King_Me: and just being with him makes me happy. we don’t even have to talk or hold each other, we could just be sitting in the same room and i’d be content just to breathe the same air as him.

King_Me: and if i lost him then i’d lose myself because after finding that which makes me whole i can never go back to what my life was before

King_Me: is that good enough for you?

 

Arthur felt arms wrap around his chest from behind and he jumped, startled.

“If it’s not enough for him,” Merlin breathed into his ear. “It’s more than enough for me.”

“M-Merlin. You’re awake?”

“No, you idiot, I’m sleepwalking.”

“How long have you been...”

“Long enough.” Merlin spun the chair around and brought his face just inches from Arthur’s. “I love you too, Arthur.”

He captured Arthur’s mouth in a slow, passionate kiss that lasted until they were both gasping for air. Just then the laptop sounded with MoreDread’s reply.

 

MoreDread: Yes :)

King_Me: Great, now fuck off Dread, he’s busy.

MoreDread: ...Merlin?

 

Merlin slammed the laptop shut and returned to Arthur’s perfect lips. “How’s next weekend sound?” He asked between kisses. “I haven’t got much stuff to pack.”

Arthur pulled back to answer, nipping a little at Merlin’s lower lip. “Yeah. That sounds great.”

“I want you to fuck me in every room.”

“It’s not a new house.”

“It’ll be new to me.”

“Fine. But not every room.”

Merlin stood up straight and frowned. “Why the hell not?”

Arthur rose as well and cupped Merlin’s cheek. “I have a confession to make.” Merlin waited anxiously for him to continue. “I...I fingered myself in my bed and in the shower a few times, imagining it was you inside me. I want you to fuck me there. I want it to become reality.”

Merlin whimpered and pushed Arthur down on the mattress with more force than Arthur thought the thin man had.

“What happened to going slow?” Arthur laughed.

“Fuck that. I need this. I mean I really really need this.”

Arthur bit his lip as Merlin straddled him. “Well alright then.”