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Kept Awake with Wolves Teeth

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It’s always around four in the morning that Arthur starts saying really weird shit that he’s always embarrassed about when he wakes up sometime in the afternoon. And luckily for him Merlin just snorts into his pillow or rolls his eyes or opts for smashing his hand against Arthur’s face. This time it comes in the form of a question.

Merlin in sitting on the floor, his back against the bed while Arthur rips up bits of paper to sprinkle in his hair. It’s not enough to distract Merlin from shooting what is most likely a snotty twelve year old on Call of Duty. “Merrrrlin” Arthur rolls onto his back.

Merlin can’t be bothered to open his mouth and say more than a “hmm?”

Arthur wonders if he has enough time to think of something insightful or clever to say, but where’s the fun in that really? He knows what he wants to ask. “What’s it like having sex with a bloke?”

There’s an onslaught of bullets and the screen goes red. Merlin looks at him through narrowed eyes “What the fuck, Arthur?”

“It’s a simple question! I’m just curious I mean you’re the only gay person I know and you’re my best mate.” Arthur rolls onto his stomach and flexes his fingers against the sheets. “C’mon, tell meeee. I’ve known you forever, I used to take baths with you.”

Merlin snorts and scrubs his hand over his face “We were four, Arthur, and what does that have to do with my sex life. Besides, how do you know I’ve even had sex?”

Arthur smirks against his sheets “I was at that New Years party with you last year.” Merlin’s eyes go a bit wide and his red ears are visible even in the TV glow. “You hooked up with Gwaine in the bathroom. Oooohhh Gwaiine” Arthur makes his voice go all high pitch and who really cares that Merlin’s voice is deeper than his.

“Oh my fucking god.” Merlin mutters and then violently lashes out and smacks Arthur on the ear. “Why didn’t you tell me, you prick?! How many other people know?”

The ringing in Arthur’s ear slowly fades and he scowls at Merlin “Like half the school.” Merlin groans and buries his face in his hands “But only because Gwaine bragged about how great it was.” Arthur’s not entirely sure why the last statement comes out a little bitter.

Merlin shuffles around to face Arthur, blue eyes all wide and a picture of false innocence. “Gwaine said it was great?”

“Fuck off, just answer my question.”

Arthur taps on Merlin’s nose while he seems to ponder the question again. “Having sex with a man, mmm, well I suppose it’s a bit like having a cock up your arse.” He laughs like he’s just said the most clever fucking thing and Arthur groans loudly.

“Thanks” he grits out sarcastically.

Merlin climbs onto the bed and crowds Arthur against the wall “Get over it, some things you just aren’t meant to know about me.” And with those words Arthur swallows hard and tries not to think about how he maybe, a little bit jealously, thinks ‘I should know everything about you.’

This should be the moment when a sane person stops talking, curls up underneath the cover and fall asleep, but he’s Arthur Pendragon dammit, and it wouldn’t be a normal night with his best friend if he didn’t continue to push the boundaries. “Merlin?”

Merlin rubs his icy toes on Arthur’s leg and Arthur flinches “I hope you’re going to tell me that I get the good pillow tonight.” He says it while burying his face in the lumpy crap pillow that Morgana left on the bed after she had taken the matching good one.

The room is fairly quiet except for Merlin’s shuffling around in an attempt to make some sort of nest befitting of the hibernation patterns of a sixteen year old boy. Arthur inhales loudly but only to give Merlin fair warning that he’s going to be speaking nonsense into the air again. “If I was gay would you want to be with me?”

There’s no answering laugh or a palm pressing his head into the pillow and when Arthur looks over at Merlin his expression looks a little pained. “Arthur, don’t”

And this time Arthur knows that he’s crossed something here and tugs Merlin’s ear with an apologetic smile and swaps out their pillows and tries to fall asleep.

#

There’s a subtle brilliance to Arthur, but it’s overshadowed by his overwhelming need to insert his foot into his mouth and act generally prattish, but Merlin knows it’s there. So it’s unsurprising that he silently presses a flash drive into Merlin’s palm on Monday morning at school while Merlin stares blankly into his locker. “What’s this?” he thumbs at the shiny silver top and Arthur chews at the inside of his cheek.

“It’s the new Shins album, Port of Morrow” he’s got his eyes to the floor and Merlin’s wanted this album for a while now but Arthur’s been too damn lazy to make a copy for him.

He’s still punishing himself for asking too many questions that Saturday night in bed. Merlin huffs out a small laugh and messes Arthur’s hair up with his free hand. “Thanks, prat.”

And just like that Arthur’s gloominess has been whisked away and he digs his thumbs into Merlin’s sides making him choke on laughter and kick out at Arthur’s shins. They don’t have their first class together and Arthur is forced into sitting next to his villainous step sister, Morgana, who flips her hair over her right shoulders, decides better of it and flips it back over the left. “So I’ve been thinking about Gwaine.” She declares before the teachers even gotten into the room and Arthur rolls his eyes.

“He’s gay, he doesn’t want you ‘thinking’ about him.” He glances over at Gwaine, looking for all the world like he fell off the cover of a Mills & Boon’s novel.

Morgana’s laugh is light and airy and so very very misleading to innocent bystanders. “I imagine you’re talking about the thing with Merlin?”

There’s a stubborn silence between the Pendragon siblings when finally Arthur swivels in his seat and cocks an eyebrow “I imagine that I am. He made sure everyone knew how much he got off on it, ipso facto, gay.”

Morgana’s lush red lips are turned up in a smirk “Oooh Arthur, is that jealousy? Very unbefitting. That means nothing, Gwaine’s into both, also incorrect use of ipso facto.”

“Stop trying to stir up shit. And it’s not incorrect.” He snaps and spins back around in his chair.

“Arthur”

“Don’t talk to me” he hisses and surprisingly enough Morgana just huffs out in exasperation and falls into silence.

Arthur spends the class period vaguely aware of Vivian Abernathy doing her best to felate a pencil and glancing over at him. It’s distracting and really, she should work on her subtlety. But Arthur is a little frustrated with how aloof Merlin’s been and how Gwaine looks like he’s constantly got this stupid little smirk on his face, and he’s really really frustrated with Morgana sitting in eerie silence behind him. So when the bell rings and their teacher gestures vaguely for them to leave he pivots in his seat and gives Vivian a charmed smile. “Do you wanna go out some time?”

Vivian lights up and Morgana makes the most offended noise she can muster. Arthur doesn’t have time to care what Morgana thinks of his personal decisions and anyways Vivian is already chirping out an excited “Yes, I’ll make it worth your while.”

“Of course you will.” Arthur hoists himself to his feet and Morgana at least has the decency to wait until they’re out of the classroom to pinch the soft skin under his arm and reduce him to a stream of curse words.

“What’s wrong with you?” her eyes glint venomously

“Um, I asked Vivian out. And bugger off I don’t have to run my life decisions past you.” Arthur steels his jaw and Morgana looks seconds from murder.

But her face returns to it’s cool demeanor and she shoulders her bag “Maybe you should, that way they won’t be so bloody stupid.”

And just like that she’s gone into the wave of students moving through the hall. Arthur really doesn’t know what the big deal is, it’s one date and really he’s just looking at for at least a handjob in the back of a theatre or something of that nature. He moves quickly through the halls to a place where he’s hoping to get a little bit of reassurance. The art studio.

“Merlin” His voice is maybe just a little bit too loud but Will, the politically incorrect pervert that Merlin seems oddly fond of waves his hand in the area of the wash up room.

“Doing that thing… with his… y’know” Will doesn’t look up from the ornate bong he’s sculpting when he gestures to his head.

“Again? Alright, thanks… and don’t smoke out of that. Chemicals and that sort of thing.” Arthur doesn’t want it on his conscience if Will dies in an attempt to get high.

Will sneers at him “I’m gonna put a finish on it, yeah? Piss off.”

Arthur rolls his eyes and makes his way through the paint splattered door where Merlin has his head shoved under the faucet of the giant industrial sink. “Merlin, really?”

Merlin looks at him sideways under the stream of running water and smiles pathetically. “Yeah, I don’t know how this keeps happening.” His voice sound tinny as it echoes around the metallic basin.

“I do, it’s because you’re the only person in the world who is unaware of their own limbs.” Arthur steps over to help reach some of the blue paint streaked through the back of Merlin’s hair. “I need to tell you something.”

“Ah” Merlin fumbles for the faucet and reaches for a paint stained towel. “I knew it was too good to be true, you just coming for a visit.”

Arthur makes a whining noise in his throat and Merlin turns to him looking like a wet puppy with his hair all messed up. He gestures for Arthur to come out with whatever he has to say and Arthur shifts on his feet. “I asked Vivian out on a date.”

“Arrrthhurrr.” Merlin buries his face in his hands “Jesus, she’s a fucking idiot why would you ever, ever in your right mind do that?”

“She was sucking on this pencil the whole time in class and giving me looks, yeah. What was I supposed to do?” Arthur asks frantically, thinking that at least Merlin can sympathize with the prospect of receiving a blowjob.

“Ask someone else? Warm up your lotion before you wank? Really, anything at all would be a better idea.” Merlin throws the damp towel at Arthur’s face and Arthur follows him back into the studio.

“She’s fit though”

“She’s crazy”

Will glances up and flashes Merlin a crooked smile before asking “Who’s crazy?”

Merlin scrunches up his nose “Vivian Abernathy” he says it like the name pains him.

Will nods slowly but leans against the table and says “But she’s fit”

“See! See, Merlin, maybe it’s a straight guy thing?” Arthur nods at Will who surprisingly nods back.

“’S true, Merlin, you don’t even like tits, how are you gonna appreciate a good set of ‘em when you see ‘em?” Will shakes his head as if he’s experienced a great tragedy and mutters into his lap “Bloke that doesn’t like tits. ‘S not right.”

Merlin growls through clenched teeth and snaps out “I can appreciate tits, a… jesus I’m not having this conversation with you two anymore. Have you told Morgana?” He throws his messenger bag over his shoulder and Arthur trots after him into the hall.

“She was there when it happened.” He bounces around on his feet all nervous energy as he seeks his best friends approval and Merlin sighs.

“Alright, you know what it’s fine I get it you want to get off.” He sounds resigned “Do whatever, I’ll come pick you up when she starts making your wedding arrangements, just call me.”

Arthur throws his arms around Merlin’s skinny waist “Yaaaay.” He says it faintly into the side of Merlin’s neck and Merlin can’t fight back the laugh he’s struggling to hold back. “Hey, will you come over tonight?”

Merlin acts as if he’s contemplating it before he sighs out “Yeah alright, but only if I get the good pillow.”

And Arthur tugs at Merlin’s ear and walks with him to their next class.

#

It’s nearly five and Merlin still hasn’t come over. Arthur takes to rubbing his toes mindlessly across the carpet and wondering if he’s done something wrong. He laughs and it’s short and humorless. Merlin is never really mad at Arthur despite the countless number of insulting and stupid things he’s done throughout their friendship. When Merlin had come out to him when they were fourteen the first person he went to tell was Arthur and of course he had managed to fuck all of his best friend duties up completely. He winced thinking about the way he had laughed at Merlin who looked small and defeated sitting curled up on his floor and realizing he was serious, said “Well if you haven’t been with a girl, how would you know?” It wasn’t his shining moment. And yet Merlin still came over whenever Arthur asked, without a question as to why, and fit himself into Arthur’s too small bed between the wall and his friend.

He hears a knock at the front door and abruptly rolls out of the bed, barreling out of his bedroom and down the stairs, just barely avoiding a collision with Morgana. “Slow down, it’s for me this time.” She crosses her arms and Arthur sucks his teeth unbelievably.

“It’s Merlin, Morgana, come off it.”

Morgana flicks his nose and grins and it leaves Arthur only slightly fearful “It’s. For. Me” She enunciates each word and pulls the door open to the most annoying face Arthur’s ever seen.

“Gwaine?” Arthur can only stare at the boy in his doorway before glaring at Morgana and stomping away to the kitchen is frustration. He fumbles for a clean glass in the cupboard when he feels a hand on his back and he pitches forward, smacking his forehead against the wooden door. “Ow” the pain is already turning to a dull throb and he squints up at Gwaine himself.

Gwaine looks the picture of perfect apology when he says “Sorry, mate, didn’t think you would startle like that.”

“Yeah well” he presses the heel of his hand to his head, “Morgana wouldn’t touch me unless it was in an act of aggression, so it took me by surprise.”

Gwaine lets out a quick laugh and flips his ridiculous hair out of his eyes “Sorry, again. Um… you’re Merlin’s friend aren’t you?” and he has the gall to look nervous.

“I’m his best friend” Arthur corrects him, “Why, Gwaaiiinnee” he draws his name out sarcastically and the smirk on Gwaine’s face doesn’t even falter. He probably thinks Arthur is vibing with him, or joking, or fucking… whatever idiots like Gwaine do.

“Alright, that’s cool I was just going to ask how he’s doing.” He says easily and before Arthur can speak his front door is open and Merlin is stumbling through yelling out

“Arthur! Stop being a slut and answer your phone when I… oh shit, Gwaine… I…hi.”

There’s a faint ringing in Arthur’s ears from trying to comprehend everything that’s happened in the span of five minutes, while Gwaine puts on that shiny smile and saunters, fucking saunters, towards Merlin. “Merlin, I was just asking Arthur about you, it’s been a while.” Every word sounding like the most suggestive thing Arthur’s ever heard and when he sees Merlin blush and stumble on his words he’s sure he’s going to have to kill a small animal later to feel better. He feels something coiling angry in his stomach while Gwaine runs his thumb over Merlin’s cheekbone and Merlin is staring back at him with those wide blue eyes, biting lightly on his plump bottom lip, his black hair in perfect disarray from the wind and…oh. Arthur makes a firm decision to sleep with Vivian as soon as possible, he’s been out of commission for too long and is looking at his very male best friend like something he would very much like to fuck. Gwaine leans down and whispers something into Merlin’s ear that makes his eyes go wide and take a slight inhale and Arthur abandons the idea of getting a glass of water anymore.

“Yay, reunion over, Merlin come on.” He wraps a hand around Merlin’s wrist and sees Morgana still standing by the front door and there’s that smirk again.

When they get to Arthur’s room Merlin drops onto the floor with a great sigh and looks up at Arthur through his lashes. “Mmm I really like Gwaine. It was good to see him again.”

There’s a nasty comment threatening to escape from Arthur’s throat and he knows he can reduce Merlin to a hurt wreck and Arthur gets this terrible thought wondering if he could make him cry. When Merlin gives him a playful little smile Arthur has to sit down and press the heels of his hands hard into his eyes. There’s a shuffling sound of Merlin pulling himself across the carpet and he wraps his slender fingers around Arthur’s wrists lightly and says “Arthur, what’s wrong?”

His eyes are burning but he just shakes his head and taps at the scraped up bump forming from the cupboard door “Head just hurts, that’s all”

“Do you want me to get some ice? What happened?”

Arthur shrugs and tells him “Your boyfriend scared me and I hit my head on the cupboard.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, Arthur.” Merlin’s tone is cold and Arthur looks up to see him watching him with narrowed eyes.

The angry creases between Merlin’s eyebrows are so distracting that Arthur presses his thumb against them and forces out a cheerful laugh saying “It’s a joke, Merls, I’m only joking.”

Merlin rolls his eyes and swats at Arthur and just like that they fall into their comfortable back and forth.

#

They don’t stay up as late as they do on the weekends and when they’re both yawning and verging on delirious, Arthur shucks his shirt off into a heap of dirty laundry. “Maybe I’ll sleep naked tonight.” He says in mock seriousness.

Merlin is a lump of comforter on the bed but Arthur still hears his “Ew, no” and laughs when he lays on top of Merlin who lets out a muffled cry of “Noooooo”

Arthur rolls to his side of the bed squishing Merlin into the wall a little, who reaches out from under the blanket and places a smack on his bare chest. He pokes his head out and Arthur tries not to think of him as a woodland creature when he wrinkles his nose and says “Why is your skin sticky?”

Tucking himself under the covers he tells him “I was sweating”

“Gross” Merlin replies but there’s no real disgust behind his voice only amusement.

They lay in a comfortable silence, Merlin’s breathing soft and even next to him and Arthur can feel it in little puffs on his neck. This started when they were three, this routine of falling asleep together, and it feels like a tradition that really matters. Sometimes his father would try to broach the subject of stopping when Merlin goes home. He says things like “Arthur, I think you’re getting a little old for sleepovers”, and “You know Merlin is like a son to me, but I hear he’s a bit, well, you know.” There’s a moment when Arthur looks up from his coffee mug and grits out “a bit what?” Uther pinches the bridge of his nose before composing himself and replies evenly “You know what, Arthur, and people will talk. And you should be a little worried he might try something.” Arthur leans back in chair and calmly tell him “I’ll try my best to keep Merlin from attacking me. Maybe I’ll just keep pepper spray under my pillow, yeah?” They never talk about it again. Arthur knows this will end one day but he’s not strong enough to deal with that thought now.

He turns his face towards Merlin. “Hey M?”

Merlin starts giggling and shoves his face in the pillow to stifle it “Oh god, I hope it’s a good one tonight.”

Arthur snorts and shakes his head, linen sheets scraping roughly against his face. “I just… I don’t… just this okay?”

Merlin opens an eye “What the fuck are you on about?” he asks, but suddenly Arthur’s fingertips are dancing feather light across his face. Arthur makes a choked off noise that Merlin knows are words being forced back and Arthur’s nose nudges against his. They do this dance for what feels like a lifetime for Merlin, his heart stuttering rapidly in his chest while he waits for Arthur’s next move. When Arthur finally kisses him it’s light and nervous and he moves his lips slowly against Merlin’s and he brings his hand under the covers to curl around his hip. Merlin can’t help the small moan that escapes because he’s been dreaming of this since he was fourteen, been laying in his room on nights he’s alone with his hand curled around himself and “ArthurArthurArthur” tumbling from his lips when he comes.

Then it was over and Arthur was moving back to his side of the bed, hand slipping off of Merlin’s hip. Merlin tries to focus on him in the darkness, only making out his profile and he feels dread pool inside his chest. He thinks ‘This is the end of our friendship, Arthur’s never going to talk to me again, he probably thought it was a joke and he heard me moan knew how much I wanted it and…’

“Shut up” Arthur tugs his ear “You’re thinking I know you are. Just go to sleep, nothing’s changed.” His smile his bright even in the dark and Merlin manages to nod his head and let Arthur ruffle his hair. Arthur’s not panicking, not shoving Merlin off the bed and telling him this was a big mistake –but he said “nothing’s changed” –and somehow that felt so much worse.

#

Outside the art studio is a stretch of crumbling cement that leads to the massive kiln, that is really only used for students to shirk going to class. It’s where Arthur finds Merlin the next day, sitting on the cement next to Will who has a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips. As Arthur walks up to them Will stamps his cigarette out and tucks it behind his ear for later, muttering “dick” at Arthur and walking away. Merlin snickers and Arthur puts his hands out.

“What the fuck?” he looks after Will

Merlin leans back on his elbows, a smug looking grin on his face “He hates you, mate.”

“Yeah, I got that, why?” Arthur rocks forward on his toes a little.

Merlin shrugs “I dunno, just told me he thinks you’re a cunt.” He says it so easily and when Arthur just stares at him Merlin sits up and casts his hands in front of him in mock surrender saying “I didn’t say anything to him, he came to that conclusion on his own.”

Arthur rolls his eyes and sits down next to Merlin. “I don’t know why you hang out with that chav.” He grumbles

“Your classist” Merlin says it with a little smirk on his face.

“I hang out with you.” He says it like it’s a favor he’s doing for society by hanging out with him and it makes Merlin laugh.

He bumps his shoulder against Arthur’s and mutters back “Yeah, well, community service and all that.” The air is getting chilly and it kicks up a little bit around them, prompting Merlin to zip up his hoodie. “Want to go to The Cornerstone with me tonight?”

Arthur shakes his head and digs the toes of his shoes into the dirt in front of them. “Can’t, I have a date with Vivian tonight.” And if Merlin gets a little tense next to him, he pretends not to notice. Arthur runs his hand over the back of his neck and admits “I don’t really want to go. On the date with her I mean.”

“Then don’t” Merlin says it like it’s so easy.

“But I want to get laid.” He continues.

Merlin gets to his feet and stretches, popping his back in a few places and nods “Yeah that, forgot. I’ll just hang out with Morgana and Gwaine.”

Arthur swallows hard “You interested in Gwaine?” he has to ask, keep needling at this subject, only because he can feel it that he’ll get something out of Merlin here.

“You’re a prick.” Merlin laughs and shakes his head “Gwaine and Morgana are like –a thing now.” He turns on his heels and walks away from Arthur, the air suddenly feeling heavy and thick around him as he watches a couple of art students make out behind the kiln. He scrapes his shoes against the cement and makes the decision to go find Vivian.

#

The date is one of the more disastrous ones in –well not just Arthur’s history –definitely the history of everyone. Vivian spends most of her time on her phone texting probably everyone and it’s a small mercy that she suggests they go back to Arthur’s before they even make it to the theater from the restaurant.

Morgana, Gwaine, and Merlin are in the kitchen slinging flour at each other and the only acknowledgement Arthur gets is Morgana making a rude gesture at him. He doesn’t have the time to stand about long because Vivian is pulling him up the stairs, pulling her shirt off before they even get to his room.

She’s a messy kisser, and it feels more like a personal challenge to see how far she can get her tongue down Arthur’s throat. When she backs Arthur up against the bed he hurriedly pushes her away spluttering out “Mmm not the bed –it’s not –um the sheets, not washed.”

Vivian watches him cautiously for a moment before she opts for shoving him down into his computer chair.

In the end it’s unsurprising that Vivian fucks like she’s auditioning for porn and with the way she’s yelling as she rides him in the chair, Arthur has to ask a few times if she’s alright. Eventually she just shoves her hand over his mouth like he’s the one screaming down the house and Arthur hears the thudding of footsteps outside and Gwaine yelling “Ooooo Arthur” in the girliest voice he can muster. There’s a collection of laughing and even Arthur has to bite back a smile that’s fighting to make an appearance. Even when Morgana says rather loudly “Someone needs to get that girl a muzzle.” Vivian doesn’t notice or just chooses not to acknowledge it.

She has the most terrifying orgasm Arthur’s ever stood witness to and once she recovers she pulls herself off of him before he’s even gotten the chance to come. “That was fun.” She kisses him lightly as she pulls her skirt up “I’ll see you in class. And you know, call me if you ever want to do this again.” She offers up a dramatic wink and leaves him alone. In his room. In the dark. With an erection.

Arthur covers his face with his hands and mutters out a tired “Jesus Christ”. He pulls off the condom and tosses it into the bin by his desk deciding that he’s going to at least give himself a good wank tonight. For being such a great sport and all. He wraps his fingers around his eager cock and strokes himself slowly at first, closing his eyes and letting his head fall back against the chair. He can’t bring himself to think about Vivian, he’s sure he’ll lose the moment if he does. Instead Arthur lets his own subconscious take the wheel as he stretches his legs out in front of him.

He’s entirely unsurprised when the only image he can muster up is messy black hair and wildly innocent looking blue eyes. He thinks of three freckles in a row across a smooth pale shoulder blade and pressing a kiss against them. Arthur can feel his climax building and his breath catches at the thought of quiet little gasps falling from those bowed lips that are usually calling him a prat with familiar fondness. His orgasm shudders through his whole body and he can’t hold back from stammering out “nnn god, Merlin”.

There’s a moment of Arthur staring up at his ceiling, heart stuttering wildly, before he wipes his hand off on his discarded shirt and pulls on a pair of pajama pants. Stumbling into the hallway, Arthur thinks he might be bordering on hysteria and when he gets downstairs it’s only Morgana and Gwaine playing cards on the living room floor. Gwaine laughs when he sees Arthur and shakes his head and Morgana flicks a card in his direction yelling “God damn it Arthur, never bring that thing back here ever again.”

“She left before I finished” Arthur says with a hefty sigh and Gwaine laughs harder rolling onto his back and even Morgana smiles a little. “That was the single scariest experience of my life.”

Morgana gestures for him to sit down with them and she deals out his own pile of cards. “Good, I’m glad it was terrible for you. Serves you right.”

Arthur lets out a humorless laugh and says “I had a nice time with myself afterwards though.”

“Good man” Gwaine nods at him “Be your own best friend is what I always say.”

There’s a companionable silence as they all pool in their bets of miscellaneous change and office supplies that had been scavenged from around the house when Arthur finally ventures to ask “Where did Merlin go?”

Morgana gives him a look that’s almost pitying “Home.” Even Gwaine has his gaze in his lap “Just –don’t call or –maybe –just wait to talk to him tomorrow. Been a long day, Arthur.”

And just like that Arthur feels hollow and tired

#

Arthur finds himself dwelling downstairs hours after Morgana and Gwaine disappear into her room and he finds he’s a little embarrassed at Morgana’s ability to use discretion when canoodling with the opposite sex. Or maybe it’s because she chooses better bed partners. He keeps himself perched up on the kitchen counter holding his phone so tightly his knuckles white. In case Merlin has to call.

“Hey”

Arthur jumps and falls off the counter, looking up at Gwaine with his sleep rumpled hair. “Can you stop doing that? I don’t know make noise or something when you’re coming around corners.”

Gwaine laughs and helps Arthur to his feet “Sorry, I’ll invest in a bell collar.” He reaches for a cup “You’re up pretty late.”

“Uh yeah I guess. Couldn’t sleep you know um.” Arthur focuses on a blank spot on the wall above the calendar “wind’s loud.”

Gwaine laughs and slaps Arthur’s shoulder “Wind’s loud? Oh, Arthur, you need to work on your excuses. I mean I know you don’t like me, but give me more credit than that.”

Arthur forces himself to look at Gwaine and says so quietly that Gwaine barely hears him “I don’t –not like you –it’s. You’re sleeping with my sister. It’s biological instinct. Protectiveness.”

“Arthur” Gwaine is smiling but it’s softer now, more of a quirk of his lips “She’s your step sister, there’s nothing biological about you two. And I’m not sleeping with her. Well, I mean I’m sleeping next to her but we haven’t really done anything yet. I like her.” He says the last words with such earnest “I want this to be a serious thing.”

Biological or not, Arthur can’t help the warm feeling he gets at the idea of someone taking care of Morgana. Emotionally and all that. “Well, I’m glad. I was wrong about you, I thought you were sort of a slut.”

Gwaine grabs a cup for Arthur as well and starts opening cabinet doors until he finds the liquor. “Sometimes, I guess I am. This is about Merlin isn’t it?” he pours Crown whiskey into their glasses and sighs. “I like Merlin you know, I wasn’t using him or anything. He’s lovely and fun and I wanted to make him feel good.” He drinks his whiskey like it’s water and smacks his lips when he’s done. “I still want him to be happy.”

Arthur stares into his glass and watches the liquid swirl around. He swallows hard against nothing. “He’s my best friend. Since we were little kids he’s always been there. I just want to keep him safe.” He hates how shaky his voice gets.

“Okay” Gwaine nods but his expression is sad “yeah, take care of him then. He’s someone who gives away his heart completely. Best you look after that.” He clinks his empty glass against Arthur’s and claps him on the shoulder before leaving the kitchen, and Arthur, behind him.

#

There’s only so many places Merlin can hide around campus and Arthur is so determined to find him, he’s surprised when he turns up in the most obvious place. Shoving books into his locker. Arthur moves up quietly next to him and taps Merlin’s shoe with his. Merlin looks at Arthur warily and puts on a pained smile “Hi, Arthur.”

“You’re avoiding me.” Arthur does his best to imitate his dad’s serious business face but ends up looking like he’s trying to be seductive.

Luckily Merlin knows what he’s going for, he’s seen this attempted enough times, and he frowns “I’m not avoiding you, it’s just been a busy day.”

“Merrrliinn” Arthur whines when Merlin tries to walk away, grabbing his wrist and pulling him back “I’m sorry about last night with Vivian, I know you don’t like her and I shouldn’t have gone on the date.” Merlin still doesn’t look entirely convinced. “If it makes you feel better she left before I could finish. Alone in my room with a hard on. Morgana knows.”

And yes, there it is, Merlin tries to stay serious but ends up snorting and nodding his head “That sort of does make me feel better actually.”

“I knew it would, you love feeding off of my anguish.” Arthur sticks his fingers deep in Merlin’s hair and tugs his head both ways “So you should stay over tonight.”

Merlin sucks his teeth and flicks Arthur’s nose “Ew, and sleep on that bed? Only if you’ve burned the sheets.”

Arthur lets his hands fall to his side and suddenly feels very serious “No, I didn’t sleep with her on the bed. The chair, but. She didn’t touch the bed.”

There’s something that fits into place then and Merlin nods. “Yeah, alright. I have to get to my Physics exam but I’ll be over around five?” his voice is quiet and careful and Arthur smiles.

“Five is great. I borrowed the Evil Dead trilogy from Percy so we can watch it tonight.” Arthur turns to walk with him to his class, even though his is on the other side of campus. “By the way, I sort of became kind of friends with Gwaine last night.”

Merlin’s eyes grow wide and disbelieving. “No way, you were so anti-Gwaine yesterday, what happened?”

It’s hard to miss the accusing tone in Merlin’s voice and he wrinkles his nose in offense. “We played poker and then he drank whiskey in my kitchen with me. And he told me that he wasn’t using you that night when you guys –you know.”

Merlin covers his hands with his face and lets out the most pained groan Arthur’s ever heard. “Why did you have to bring that up?”

“I didn’t bring it up! Gwaine did.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Well he did, he wanted me to know that he cares about Morgana and that he cares about you. Said he thinks you’re lovely and he wanted to make you feel good that night.” Arthur smirks at him and Merlin shoves him hard. “Are you embarrassed, Merlin?” he’s laughing and Merlin grits his teeth.

“Yes I am all thanks to you.” He narrows his eyes and Arthur laughs again.

“Gwaine, Merlin. All thanks to Gwaine. He brought it up, remember?” he stops outside Merlin’s class. “See you tonight.” He’s still laughing when Merlin calls him a colorful array of things and leaves him in the hall.

#

“This is so violent.” Arthur mutters, twizzler hanging out of his mouth.

“I dunno, I really like the chainsaw arm.” Merlin laughs as gallons of fake blood shoot across the screen. “Maybe I’ll get one when you know, the zombies come and all. Would you do that for me?” He glances over at Arthur “Cut off my arm so that I could put a weapon there instead?”

Arthur laughs and shakes his head “No, never, I would fuck it up and cut an artery or something and you would bleed out before we could get anything on there.”

Merlin hums and nods in agreement. “I’ll just have to use my deadly fists.”

Arthur doubles over with his laughter, pulling the sheets off of Merlin in the process and Merlin growls and pulls back.

“Fuck you, I’m lethal as hell.” He’s laughing when he says it, while Arthur just shakes his head. He yawns and shoves Arthur off of him saying “Bed bed bed sleep. Move, fatty.”

The TV is still on, playing the DVD menu and Arthur can only bring himself to mute it because he rather likes the flickering lights but fuck listening to screeching horror movie music on a loop. “So Vivian…”

“Don’t tell me” Merlin throws his arm over his eyes “You know –girls, yucky.”

Arthur laughs “You love girls. You have so many friends that are girls I’m surprised you haven’t synced up to their periods yet.”

“Oh, but I have.” Merlin nods

“I was going to say that Vivian told me today that she thinks we should be friends with benefits. I told her I was going to pass and then she told me I have a small dick.” Arthur lets out a dramatic sigh and Merlin laughs a bit hysterically.

“That’s brilliant.” His giggling tapers off and he adds “But sorry about your small dick and all.”

Arthur hums in appreciation and listens to Merlin’s elbows and knees bang against the wall as he tries to move around. He finally settles on his back and Arthur turns to face him, watching vibrant splotches of red and green flicker across Merlin’s pale skin from the television. He’s busy mapping out his profile when Merlin clears his throat, eyes still closed and says “I know you’re looking at me, and I’m going to stop you now before you ask me if I’ve ever had a sex dream about my mom or something weird.”

Arthur smirks “Hunith’s a babe.”

“Ew” Merlin turns to look at Arthur with intense seriousness “You’re ruining my night.”

“Then mission accomplished.” Arthur replies but brings his hand up to run it softly over Merlin’s fingers, offering up a comfortable smile to Merlin, who’s looking at Arthur like he’s afraid of him. Arthur tugs on Merlin’s wrist and pulls him across the tiny amount of space left between them on the bed and settles his hand on the smooth skin of Merlin’s neck. Merlin still looks so damn terrified, and like hell that’s going to work out for Arthur, so he presses an open mouthed kiss against his lips. It’s not like the soft kiss that could have been passed off as friendly that they had shared before. This time Arthur runs his tongue along Merlin’s bottom lip and when Merlin gasps, he presses inside. He feels a sweet warmth throughout his body when Merlin wraps one hand around the back of his neck and the other pulling his hips in closer. It’s the delicate little noises that Merlin makes and the way he curls himself into Arthur that gives Arthur the bravery to reach down and run his hand over Merlin’s hard length through his boxers.

Merlin moans into Arthur’s mouth and curls a fist into the material on the front of Arthur’s shirt, breathing him in like a man drowning. “Arthur” Merlin can barely get his voice to function so he says it again louder “Ah –Arthur, stop, stop.” He manages to push Arthur away despite his body’s protests and tries to bring his breathing to a normal pace.

“What’s wrong? I thought this would feel good.” Arthur looks so unsure of himself that Merlin shakes his head and lets out a breathy laugh.

“No, it does. Feel good, Arthur, it feels good, just. Why are you doing this? You’re –well –straight.” He gestures between them and Arthur smiles weakly.

He kisses the palm of Merlin’s hand and says “I know but you seem really –um, upset lately. And you’re my best friend and I care about you. I just want to do this for you.” His voice is shaky and Merlin makes a pained noise in the back of his throat. His eyes feel heavy with the threat of tears and he looks down to where Arthur has his fingers tangled up with his.

Of course, only Arthur and his misguided idea of taking care of his best friend is the worst possible thing he could be doing for Merlin. But Merlin thinks that he may be a bit of a masochist when all he can think is ‘This might be the only way I can have him’. He looks over at Arthur, all wide blue eyes and golden hair messy where Merlin had pushed his fingers through it only moments ago and sighs. “Yeah” he says faintly “Yeah alright”.

They become a tangle of limbs again as Arthur kisses him until Merlin’s cock grows hard with interest again and once Arthur pushes his hand down Merlin’s pants it’s embarrassing how fast he comes.

With Merlin pliant and sprawled out on his back, Arthur pushes his own pants down and straddles his friend. His fingers play at the hem of Merlin’s shirt for a while before he pushes it up and yanks it over Merlin’s head. Arthur allows himself to run his hand over Merlin’s flat bare stomach a few times before he leans forward and buries his face in Merlin’s neck, fisting his cock roughly. When Merlin presses a kiss to Arthur’s ear and whimpers his name, Arthur’s body goes tense with his release, streaks of come painting Merlin’s skin.

He uses his shirt to clean Merlin off and collapses next to him. “Was it good? I’ve never done that before.” He taps his fingers against Merlin’s arm and he yawns and tells him “Yeah, that was really good” in a sleepy voice as he curls into Arthur’s side.

Arthur never quite gets to sleep and he listens to Merlin’s even breathing in the pale light of the early morning. He runs his hand over soft black hair, unable to help himself, and presses a light kiss to his eyebrow, Merlin never stirring from sleep. Arthur thinks he’s never felt this safe as he runs his thumb down the inside of his best friends wrist.

#

Merlin leaves long before Arthur can even comprehend that it’s the morning, apparently having dressed so quickly he left behind his boxers and socks, and the DVD menu is still going on a loop.

Arthur watches the screen in a daze, wondering if anyone would question him if he took a sick day from school. He’s tired, so so exhausted and it’s absolutely freezing in his room which looks grey and washed out. Arthur looks over at his curtains and wonders if they’re the culprit for making his room look like a mausoleum at this hour. He vows to take them down today and maybe put up something nicer. Something blue.

Stuffing Merlin’s things into his bag, he pulls on a pair of pants and a crumpled shirt, not even bothering to clean himself off from last night. His underwear are stuck awkwardly to the side of his leg but he hardly notices as he slings his bag over one shoulder and makes his way down the stairs as if he’s heading to school.

Morgana is long gone, having left early to walk with Gwaine, and Arthur is thankful for the small mercies. He turns instead towards the train tracks and settles on making a visit to his friend Tristan.

Tristan was an enigma all on his own, having graduated by the time he was fifteen and getting a degree in electrical engineering by the time he was seventeen. He scored a job making almost as much as Arthur’s father did, and instead of using it to become a greedy prick, he married his long time girlfriend, Isolde, and moved them into a modest sized house on the outskirts of the city. The best thing about Tristan was that he never judged, only acted like the town Buddah whenever anyone had a dilemma.

It took Arthur thirty minutes of cutting through residential areas and throwing himself over peoples backyard fences before he saw Tristan sitting on the hood of his beater car, Isolde curled up by the tire clipping her toenails, and –was that Will? So much for a heart to heart with his friend. “Oh wow, Wart?” Tristan slid off the hood, pulling his plaid pants up to cover his ass crack and threw and arm around Arthur’s shoulder. “It’s been a lifetime, mate, how the hell have you been?” Isolde looks up from under her curtain of long blonde hair and gives him a coy grin.

“What are you doing here, Pendragon, shouldn’t you be in school?” Will flicks the ashes of his cigarette in the general direction of Arthur.

“I could ask the same about you.” Arthur snaps back and Will puts on his most hideous scowl.

Tristan swats Will’s cigarette out of his mouth and laughs as it rolls down the driveway “Play nice, Will. Wart’s good people.”

“Why do you call him Wart, then, that’s a shite name.”

The silence spans across them awkwardly and a train rumbles distantly before Isolde taps the tiny metal nail clipper against the cement, knocking loose stray toenails and declares. “Because why not? It’s perfect. All the best nicknames are just shitty insults given with love.”

Tristan, pleased with his wife’s response, pulls Isolde into him and kisses the top of her head. “It was something about your name or something like that. Your mate Merlin came up with it ages ago I think.”

Arthur swallows and nods “Yeah something like that.”

“Yeah alright, well, still stupid.” Will is starting to sound like a petulant child the way he is rattling on and on, finding new things to snap at Arthur about and Isolde slaps him hard across the face, the sound of it ringing across the yard. Will shrugs, bringing his hand to his face, and Arthur can see him admitting defeat with a single withering look shot his way. He glances back at Isolde and puts his hands up flippantly.

Tristan ushers everybody inside and disappears to the kitchen to put on the kettle. Will wedges himself onto the couch next to Isolde. Arthur is torn between following Tristan into the kitchen and putting himself in the armchair next to the couch. Will watches him carefully and before Arthur can say anything to defend his mindless standing around he coughs loudly. “Listen, alright, I was a prick. You’re a prick too, but I mean –yeah.” He nods to the chair “Just sit down I won’t attack.”

Arthur collapses into the chair, looking at Will with a tired grin. “How do you know I’m a prick you’ve never said more than four words to me at one time.”

“Well, I just know.” Will grumbles and Isolde laughs wildly.

“You guys are funny. Wart, you still seeing that girl with the pretty smile?” She leans her elbows against her knees. Arthur raises his eyebrows at her in a way that is meant to portray ‘which one?’ Isolde stands to help Tristan with the tea mugs and nods her head “You know, the one that was too nice for you, wore sundresses.”

“Ah, yes, Gwen.” Arthur sinks himself as far as he can into the fading upholstery. “No, no, we’re not together anymore. Figured out for herself she was too good for me.” He offers up a self-depreciating smile, then shrugs. “Also met Lance.”

Tristan drops himself down onto the carpet, “Lance is a hard act to go up against. I mean, I might even leave Isolde for Lance if the opportunity came up.” He winks at Isolde who just shakes her head with an amused grin.

“Anyway, he’s too busy fucking Merlin.” Will has his face shoved into the arm of the chair, his eyes peeking over the top to see if he’s ruffled Arthur.

“That’s great, he’s a good kid.” Tristan drums his hands against the coffee table.

Arthur glares harshly at Will, mug balanced dangerously on his knee. “There’s nothing with me and Merlin.” He grits out “Why would you say something like that?”

Will rolls his eyes, “It was a joke, Arthur. Didn’t think you would get all out of sorts from it.”

Arthur shifts in the recliner, Tristan and Isolde sitting in awkward silence next to each other while Will sucks on his teeth loudly. “Just thought you were making fun of Merlin, is all.” He amends quickly.

Will sits up. “No, mate, just fun, I do it to Merlin all the time. He usually laughs though.” He sounds genuinely sincere and Arthur offers up a relaxed smile.

“Yeah, alright.” He mumbles and Tristan shifts loud enough to garner attention.

“So Wart, we were just telling Will before you showed up about a party we’re throwing on Saturday. All you school children can come that way.” Arthur thinks it’s particularly ridiculous that Tristan would call them children, being only five years older than them. “Bring Merlin and –um –well whatever else you want to bring.”

“Beer!” Isolde pipes up

“Brilliant, yes. Bring that too.”

Arthur scratches at his jaw. “Merlin and beer. Got it.”

“And your sister, she’s the hottest girl at school.” Will grins evilly and Arthur rolls his eyes. He think’s he should tell Will that she’s with Gwaine but something tells him that wouldn’t Will from trying. Or the fact that she would probably claw his eyes out if he so much as looked at her suggestively. He settles on smiling at Will and deciding to let him find out on his own. “And Vivian will be there. I never heard about your date, did you get off?”

Arthur waves his hand vaguely in front of his face. “Well, she got off. I had to wait until she left.” Will leans over the couch, eyes wide and attentive. “She might be fit but I think she might also be possessed.”

Will laughs and raises his eyebrows. “I will preform an exorcism. With my dick.”

It’s possibly the most ridiculous thing he’s ever heard someone say and he pitches forward in a fit of laughter, a spot of tea soaking through the knee of his jeans and he notices Tristan has pressed his forehead against the coffee table, trying not to smile. “Alright yeah, let’s hope it works.”

They spend the afternoon listening to music in the living room while Will slowly turns the side table into an ashtray and Arthur hates to admit it, but he sees the appeal to Will and his generally offensive behavior. Arthur even finds it easy to forget about Merlin for most of the day. While Will and Isolde play table tennis and Tristan is wrapped up with cheering on his wife, however, Arthur is painfully alone with his thoughts.

He knows Merlin is mad at him, he doesn’t need to be staring him in the face to know it, and he thinks of what he’s going to say to him to make it all right again. Arthur tells himself a myriad of things he believes to be true like ‘He’s my best friend, I’m just looking out for him’, ‘It was convenient, he’s always laying right there’, and most importantly ‘I’m not into men’. Maybe if he finds someone at the party for Merlin to hook up with it’ll smooth this over, and Arthur can find a girl that won’t leave him fending for himself and his erection.

Arthur fishes his phone out of his bag and deletes the four text messages from Morgana asking him where he is and if he’s died somewhere on the side of the road he probably deserves it somehow. He finds Meriln’s name and taps out

‘Party Saturday at T & I’s place’

While he struggles with texting Morgana something rude his phone vibrates in his hand.

‘Where are you? –M”

‘Tristan and Isolde’s. Will’s here, he’s stupid.’

‘You’re stupid. I’ll think about it –M’

‘No thinking, you have to come, stay over Friday’

Merlin doesn’t text back for what feels like hours and Arthur tells himself it’s because he’s probably in class being a top notch student like he always is, and when he finally does he just writes ‘K –M’

#

Friday night Gwaine shows up with Merlin tucked under his arm and an obscenely large bottle of vodka. He offers it up with his ridiculous smile, holding it high in the air. “I brought alcohol for the party tomorrow.” He is practically yelling in Arthur’s face and Morgana comes barreling around the corner. “I also brought Merlin, for the party tomorrow.” He says suggestively and Merlin knits his eyebrows together and has to lean back to keep his face from colliding with Gwaine’s.

When Gwaine kisses Merlin soundly on the mouth Morgana only laughs and pulls them both inside. “Are you already drunk?” She tugs on Gwaine’s hair and he grins at her.

“Nothing wrong with a little pre-party drinking.” He slurs and Morgana drags him away to her room.

Arthur watches them leave and spins of his heels to face Merlin. “I wish I was on Gwaine’s level.”

Merlin laughs quietly and Arthur feels incredibly relieved to hear it. “I don’t think that’s always a healthy level to be on.” He shoves Arthur out of the way so he can get to the stair but there’s a cheeky grin on his face when he bats him in the face and drags his bag up the stairs. “So why haven’t you been in school all week, do you have the consumption or something?”

Arthur closes his bedroom door behind them. “No, ‘m not sick, just wanted to take a little mini break. Haven’t missed a day of school since I broke my arm when we were six.”

“I know.” Merlin says seriously. “That’s really stupid, why didn’t you say something to me? I’m supposed to be your best friend you insensitive prick.” He throws his jacket onto the computer seat before sitting down. “Unless you’re avoiding me.”

Arthur lets out a dramatic whining sound. “Why would I be avoiding you? I texted you, didn’t I? And besides I know you’re the most perfect student in all the world and would keel over and die if you missed a day of school.” He sits on the floor in front of Merlin “I’ve been forced to hang out with your awful chav friend because of it.”

Merlin stares at him for a while before he mutters out “You’re stupid.”

“Yeah I know.” Arthur doesn’t mean for it to sound like a confession so he changes the subject by pressing on his TV with his big toe and handing Merlin a controller.

Once they’re thoroughly involved in a tournament of Mortal Kombat, there’s a knock on his door and Morgana yelling “Are you guys naked?!”

“Yes!” Arthur shouts back wondering if she’ll go away. Instead she welcomes herself in with Gwaine following closely behind her. “I said I was naked, Morgana, what if I had been telling you the truth?”

Morgana collapses onto his bed while Gwaine crowds himself in front of the television next to Merlin. “Well you weren’t, and besides” she leans down and runs her fingers through Merlin’s hair “Merlin is too far out of your league to be letting you even attempt to be naked around him.”

“It’s true, I am.” Merlin agrees and takes Arthur’s moment of distraction to pull his characters head off.

Gwaine leans forward so that he can see around Merlin and lets his eye roam up and down Arthur’s body. “I don’t know, I wouldn’t say no if Arthur was asking.”

Arthur looks up at Morgana and smiles widely. “Gwaine would.”

Morgana rolls her eyes. “Gwaine ‘would’ anything. That’s not an accomplishment.”

Gwaine nods proudly. Arthur turns back to pout at the screen and grumbles out “What are you doing in here anyway?”

“We wanted to watch shitty horror movies with you. I know you’re an aficionado.” She produces a couple DVDs from out of her jacket.

Arthur shares a look with Merlin and groans “I do love horror movies. And these do have a lot of fake blood.” Merlin fights a grin and Arthur nods. “Yeah alright, you guys can stay and hang out.”

“So kind of you.” Morgana ruffles his hair.

#

They end up opening and then subsequently finishing Gwaine’s bottle of vodka and the night finds Merlin with his head in Arthur’s lap while Morgana and Gwaine make out on the floor. Arthur feels he should be more disgusted with his sister trying to choke her boyfriend with her tongue but mostly he finds he doesn’t care. “Gana” He mumbles out her name and surprisingly she hears him.

“Hmmm?”

“Maybe do that in your room.” He shrugs “Please?”

Gwaine props himself up on his elbows and brightens up. “We should have a foursome.”

“The ratio of guys to girls is really disproportionate if you think about it.” Merlin rattles off and it’s amazing he remembers what some of those words even mean with how drunk he is.

“I know I don’t want to be involved in foursome that has my sister there.” Arthur rubs at his eyes and Morgana agrees quickly, pulling Gwaine to his feet. “Have fun, be safe, don’t do anything I wouldn’t, blah blah.” He waves to them as they stumble into the hall in a giggling tangle of limbs.

Merlin looks up at Arthur and smiles “You’re a really understanding brother. I figured you would want to kill Gwaine or something.”

Arthur buries his fingers into Merlin’s hair, reveling in the softness of it. “Nah, I don’t really care, Morgana’s smart. Smarter than me anyway.” Merlin laughs sleepily and it vibrates through Arthur’s body. Sober, Arthur would probably smack Merlin in the face for agreeing that he’s stupid, but drunk, Arthur lets the back of his fingers run over Merlin’s face and quietly says “You’re so gorgeous.”

His mind is to addled with vodka that he doesn’t really register what’s happening until he’s on his back looking up at Merlin. Merlin puts a wet kiss on the small stretch of skin underneath Arthur’s ear and the feel of his tongue makes Arthur groan loudly. He groans even louder when that tongue finds it way into his mouth and deft fingers find their way underneath his shirt. Arthur’s never seen Merlin this aggressive about anything in his life as he rolls his hips down against Arthur’s and yanks roughly at his hair. It feels amazing. “Arthur” his name comes out as a whimper off of Merlin’s lips and he holds himself over Arthur on hands and knees. “God, Arthur, I –do you love me?”

Arthur tilts his head and tries to process the question when Merlin shakes his head and grits out “I don’t care never mind, don’t say anything, I don’t care.” He yanks Arthur’s shirt off “I know you don’t but please –please just fuck me.”

“Merlin” Arthur’s head is spinning with a mixture of the alcohol and Merlin’s voice in his ear, begging for the dirtiest things he’s ever heard fall off his lips. “You’re drunk, you don’t want this.” Just yesterday he would have gladly flipped Merlin onto his back and fucked him into the carpet because yesterday it could still be a friends with benefits thing. Yesterday Merlin didn’t ask Arthur if he loved him.

Merlin grabs Arthur’s face roughly in his hands, his eyes alight with something Arthur’s never seen directed at him from his best friend before. He’s panting and flushed with arousal but right in the way his eyebrows are furrowed and he’s looking at Arthur through his long eyelashes, there’s anger. He presses his lips to Arthur’s again in a soft kiss that seems misplaced until Merlin bites his bottom lip harshly. “Don’t pretend like you’re a good fucking friend, Arthur Pendragon.” He utters the words against Arthur’s mouth and Arthur knows he shouldn’t be turned on by Merlin’s voice considering the words he’s saying to him. “You made it clear how little I mean to you that first night you kissed me.” Merlin sits back to straddle Arthur and rolls his hips hard against him.

Arthur can’t pull Merlin’s shirt off fast enough and he pulls himself up to lean against the bed, Merlin squirming in his lap. “That’s not –ah –true.” He bites kisses into Merlin’s collarbone and fumbles with the button on the stupid skinny jeans he’s always wearing. He wants to tell Merlin that he means everything to him, that he needs him so badly but instead he tells him “Get on the bed.”

And Merlin does, naked and spreading himself out across the faded red sheets while Arthur pushes his own pants down and crawls over the top of him, taking in the pale white skin just waiting to be marked. Arthur mercilessly shoves his tongue into Merlin’s eager mouth while he digs through his bedside table, successfully knocking his alarm clock and a glass of water onto the floor. He can’t be bothered to think about them right now, or if the water fell on anything important as he coats his fingers with the lube he had been searching for. Merlin cocks an eyebrow “I’m shocked you know what to do. Or are you just winging it and you need me to hold your hand through the rest?” the words are biting and lack the playfulness they usually hold.

Arthur runs his hand down the cleft of Merlin’s ass and shoves a finger in roughly, making Merlin cry out and arch off the bed. “I know what do” Arthur grits out, wrapping his hand around Merlin’s neck and running his thumb over his Adam’s apple. “Tell me how you want it.” He pants out heavily against Merlin’s skin, adding another finger in next to the first and curling them painfully slow inside of Merlin’s body.

“Hard.” Merlin’s voice is broken and shaky but his eyes still hold that resilience that put them where they are now. “I want you to fuck me hard.”

Arthur adds a third finger and shoves his hand into him so roughly, Merlin’s body moves up the bed a little and he curls his fists into the sheets, biting his lip to keep from screaming. Arthur fumbles with a condom while Merlin grinds himself down on his fingers. He pins Merlin’s wrists above his head and stares at him, scrutinizing this mixture of hatred and lust on Merlin’s face before Arthur thrusts into him in one quick, fluid motion. It’s so impossibly tight and hot being inside Merlin and Arthur buries his face into the side of his neck as he cants his hips forward with shallow little thrusts.

Merlin digs his fingers into Arthur’s back, blunt nails dragging stinging lines across his skin, and panting in Arthur’s ear. “Harder, Arthur” His voice breaks on Arthur’s name and Arthurs pulls Merlin’s hips up slamming into him in a way he knows will leave bruises on Merlin’s thighs. Arthur hopes that Morgana and Gwaine are too trashed –or better yet passed out –to hear the moans tumbling off both of their lips.

Arthur chalks it up to the alcohol or he knows he would have never lasted this long. He’s never had angry, vicious sex before but he thinks he might be a fan, and maybe he should just start being a dick to more people, if only it didn’t making him feel so fucking awful as well. He sits up, pulling Merlin into his lap and nipping bruises into his skin while Merlin sets a brutal pace for himself. He keeps saying Arthur’s name, over and over again in such a quiet tone, Arthur’s not sure if Merlin knows he’s speaking out loud. He buries his face in Arthur’s neck, breathing hot against his skin and buries his fingers in Arthur’s hair and whispers something Arthur can’t even ignore in his drunkenness.

“I love you so much.” And it sounds pained and so, so lost that Arthur stills Merlin’s hips from rising up. Arthur cups Merlin’s face in his hands, running his thumb over his cheekbone.

Arthur swallows hard. “What?” he runs his hand gently up Merlin’s side, noticing for the first time in their tumble just how soft his skin is right now. Merlin keeps his eyes fixed on Arthur’s chest, hands gripped tight on his shoulders. “Merlin, look at me. Tell me.” The air between them is drastically changed, maybe even tenser than it was before, but Arthur is sure that this feeling is much more important.

“I –“ Merlin has lost all of the anger from his eyes, now they’re just scared and sad. “I love you. I’m sorry I should –“

He tries to lift his leg and pull himself off of Arthur but Arthur grips his hips hard again and pushes him down making a groan escape from Merlin. It’s as if he’s seeing his best friend for the first time, patient and forgiving towards Arthur when he should have left years ago. Torn apart because, how long has he been in love with him? How many nights lying in bed next to each other and just being okay with that? He wraps his hand around Merlin’s neck and brings him down into a kiss so gentle and innocent it’s a bit ridiculous seeing as Arthur is still buried deep inside him, and isn’t that just like them to do everything backwards? “I’m sorry” Arthur breathes the words against Merlin’s lips between short, soft kisses. “I’m sorry I was such a shit friend. I was scared.”

“Scared of what?”

“You –of being in love with you.” Arthur sighs out when Merlin pushes him back gently so that he’s lying flat on the bed and begins to move slowly over him.

Merlin runs his hands up Arthur’s stomach and chest giving a contented hum as he leisurely rides him. He has his eyes shut, lips parted slightly and for the first time in months he looks at peace. All of the tired lines around Merlin’s eyes and the seemingly permanent crease that had formed between his eyebrows are gone. They say nothing to each other for what feels like hours while Arthur digs his thumbs into Merlin’s thighs, reveling in how soft and warm he feels around him. When Merlin starts making small hiccupping noises and his dick twitches between them Arthur realizes that he really fucking wants to make Merlin come. He pushes Merlin off of him, rolling him onto his stomach. Merlin glances over his shoulder at him with a confused look that quickly dissolves into him crying out when Arthur grabs his hips and pushes into him from behind. Arthur knows he’s close to finishing and puts all and any energy he has into slamming into Merlin as hard as he can, reaching around to tug at Merlin’s dick, leaking obscenely on the sheets beneath them. “Arthur” Merlin can hardly say his name as he grips the sheets, begging whatever god will listen for release when finally, finally, Arthur hits that spot inside him that makes him openly sob and come all over Arthur’s hand.

Arthur pulls out of Merlin while he’s still coming down from his orgasm and rips the condom off with a speed that will be startling to him later when he thinks back on it. He strokes himself only a few more times and he’s finishing in thick spurts on Merlin’s back and thighs. Arthur falls back onto the mattress, inspecting his work and he lets out a strangled groan. Merlin looks so beautiful fucked open with Arthur’s come dripping down his legs, trying to catch his breath in the sheets of the bed.

Deciding that it would be in their best interest to clean themselves up to avoid being the most uncomfortable they could possibly be in the morning, Arthur collects his boxers off of the floor and pulls them on, moving to get off the bed.

Instead he feels a sharp tug on his wrist and he turns to see Merlin holding onto him, moving to pull the sheets into his lap as if he’s embarrassed. “Arthur, please don’t go.” And that broken look on his face is back with a vengeance “please.” Arthur can see tears welling up in Merlin’s eyes and it’s alarming and Arthur practically buckles at the knees as he tries to climb into the general area of Merlin’s lap.

He puts his hands on the sides of Merlin’s face and kisses his forehead. “No, Merlin, god no. I wasn’t leaving you, I was just going to get something to clean up.” He feels warm tears collects on his hands and Merlin struggles to pull away from him and press his hands against his eyes.

“I’m sorry, I thought you were going to leave for good. I thought you were regretting it.”

Arthur feels nauseous knowing he made Merlin like this. “I’m sorry, I’m so, so sorry. Never again, I swear.” He kisses Merlin quickly and grins at him “I still want to get us a towel though.”

Merlin let’s out a clipped laugh and nods his head. Arthur stumbles into the hallway and realizes he’s painfully sober. Literally, painfully, his head is pounding. He scrubs his hand over his face and curses Gwaine’s cheap vodka when he runs squarely into Morgana. She’s wearing Gwaine’s shirt and her underwear. That’s it. Arthur squints at her and at least she has the decency to blush. “Good night?” He yawns and Morgana attempts to run her fingers through the tangles of her hair.

“So far.” She shoves a bottle of painkillers into his hand, no doubt on her way back from getting it out of the bathroom. “You look well and truly fucked, Arthur Pendragon. Is Mortal Kombat working you up?” she manages her ‘sinister and pleased’ look even in her state of half drunkenness and rolling into a hangover.

“Yeah, sure, Mortal Kombat.”

“Arthur”

“Morgana”

Morgana folds her arms over her chest and chews at the inside of her cheek. “What’s Merlin doing?”

Arthur glances up at the corner of the ceiling behind Morgana and carefully decides to tell her, “Sleeeeeping?”

“Oh, so if I go in your room to get my movies back it won’t be a big deal, right?” She’s absolutely delighted with herself, and Arthur’s not sure if she’s onto him or she thinks he’s just playing along. She makes like she’s going to Arthur’s room when he grabs her forearm.

“Naked. He’s sleeping naked.” Arthur grits out and Morgana’s proceeding expression would be comical if Arthur didn’t feel on the brink of an aneurysm.

“Arthur” she searches his face like she can magic the truth onto his skin, “you slept with Merlin.” It’s not a question and Arthur digs his toes into the carpet. “Why, Arthur, why would you do that? Do you understand what you’ve done, you don’t know that Merlin –“

“Loves me? Yes I do, he told me himself actually.” It feels like a personal victory when Morgana just looks at him as if he’s been taken by body snatchers. “I think it’s nice that you’re looking out for Merlin, but you really don’t have to anymore. I’m going to take care of him.” Arthur knows he’s going to regret allowing Morgana to see this much into his emotional lock box. “I’m capable of love too, you know.” He’s pouting but the next moment he’s wrapped up in Morgana’s spindly arms.

“Oh, I’m so happy. You’re such an idiot sometimes, I never thought you would get it together. I thought you were going to be one of those late in life gays that finally has a crisis when he’s already married with three kids.” She rocks him back and forth and it makes his stomach feel a little uneasy.

“Mmmm” he pats Morgana’s back, the pill bottle rattling against her. “You smell like lemon cleaner.”

She just pats him on the head and says, “Well it’s better than the alternative.” And slides easily back to her room. When Arthur finally escapes back to his room with a towel in hand, Merlin is still sitting up with the sheets draped around his hips like he hasn’t move.

“Morgana yelled at you.” He holds onto Arthur’s forearm as Arthur reaches around him to swipe the towel down his back.

Arthur quirks and eyebrow, “Morgana always yells at me.”

Merlin pulls on Arthur’s arms until he’s collapsed on top of him. “About me. She yelled at you about me. You guys aren’t that quiet, you know.”

Arthur kisses his face and wraps him up tightly in his arms, “That’s because everyone likes you better than me.” He grumbles out, “And because I was a really fucked friend to you.” Merlin only buries his face further into Arthur’s neck. This isn’t easy, Arthur can admit that, and he does actually feel on the verge of panic and cardiac arrest, but he won’t keep doing this to Merlin anymore. He forces himself not to think about Uther or his footie mates or the school in general because he wants this more. He wants Merlin in his arms, in his bed, their bed, for as long as Merlin will put up with his shit. He takes a deep breath, “I’m having a bit of an identity crisis.”

“I know.” Merlin yawns and rolls onto his back.

“You’re okay with that?”

“Are you kidding me?” Merlin rolls his eyes, “You’ve been having some sort of crisis since you were four. You used to think you were a dinosaur.”

Arthur hums and folds his hands atop his chest, “I’m still a bit out of sorts from that.” He feels it’s important to also add, “I’m going to try though you know. The whole gay thing is a really recent development.”

Merlin grins, “Bi, I mean let’s be real you were all about Sophia’s tits last summer.”

“They were great tits” Arthur says forlornly. Merlin laces his fingers into Arthur’s underneath the covers. “Is it okay if we aren’t super public about this right now? I mean, I think I want to tell my dad before someone else does, but I don’t think I’m really ready to yet.” He’s terrified Merlin’s going to collect up his things and storm out the door without looking back.

It’s all much more dignified than that though, because Merlin rubs his eyes tiredly and tells him, “You know, I had to come out to my mom and I don’t think I’ve ever been more scared of anything in my life. And she’s nowhere near the level of Uther.” He steals the good pillow out from under Arthur’s head and fluffs it up before collapsing on it. “Just don’t keep me a secret forever?”

Arthur does what he can to make the lumpy pillow work for him before he pulls the covers over him to block out the creeping chill that’s been building up with his oncoming sobriety. “I won’t” He wraps his arms tightly around Merlin’s middle and pulls him tightly against him, kissing him lightly before he falls asleep.