“Do you understand any of this?” Gwaine says in his ear, and Arthur pushes him back annoyed, rubbing his cheek where Gwaine’s breath touched his skin.
“Who cares? It’s not like we don’t know what he’s talking about already.”
Gwaine snorts. “Speak for yourself, Pendragon. We don’t all get boners for this shit, you know?”
Arthur elbows him, and Gwaine leans back, sighing.
They’re sitting on the boardwalk in front of the Château Frontenac. Their teacher’s rambling about the Bataille des Plaines d’Abraham. In French. Hence Gwaine’s being an annoying asshole, like he’s unable to stay still for half an hour, like he’s five years old or something.
Arthur sort of understands though. It’s sunny and the air is mild; and it’s the kind of weather that’s just perfect for closing your eyes, enjoying the heat on your face and letting the mind wander. The sort of day made for laziness.
Arthur forces himself to pay attention. With his luck, there’s probably going to be a test on this, or something, and there’s no way he’s failing anything this close to graduation. Especially not in history.
“But you get what he’s saying right?” Gwaine says a few minutes later. “Because I really don’t.”
“You would if you paid more attention in class,” Arthur says eyes fixed on their teacher, who, in Arthur’s opinion, is a bit too gleeful about the whole ‘the English kicked the French’s asses’ thing. Honestly, he must realise that this isn’t the best place to assert the superiority of the English, right? Not when surrounded by a whole lot of (potentially) overly patriotic Frenchmen.
The trip’s supervisor, who happens to be their teacher’s wife, puts her hand on her husband’s arm and gives him a look that Arthur interprets as something along the lines of “don’t antagonize the nice French people, honey,” and Mr. Arnott shifts his focus and starts waxing poetic about Général Montcalm’s prowess instead, and everything’s okay again.
“Nah,” Gwaine says, “why would I, when I have you?”
Arthur laughs softly. Gwaine’s not as stupid as he makes himself sound. He’s actually pretty decent in all of his classes. Except for French. He’s fucking useless at French. Arthur had him fix his laptop for free last winter in exchange for Arthur’s help getting a passing grade. Because Gwaine might have abysmal skills in foreign languages, but he’s a little genius with computers. It’s also how Gwaine found Arthur’s gay porn. Arthur should have seen it coming.
So, okay, his coming-out went a bit like this:
Arthur was downstairs fixing himself a sandwich when Gwaine yelled, “Arthur why the fuck is there videos of men taking it up the ass on your computer?” from the upstairs bedroom right when Arthur’s father walked through the front door. Arthur looked at his father. His father looked at him. Eyebrows were raised. Awkward silences were had. His nosy sister walked in from the living room and Arthur could only manage, “Um, I’m gay?” to his father (no matter what Morgana says there were no awkward jazz hands involved). Uther nodded, said, “As long as you’re sure,” and Arthur replied “I am,” and they shook hands. (Something Morgana would not shut up about for the next few weeks, finding infinite hilarity in the fact that Arthur and Uther had a business handshake over Arthur’s homosexuality.)
Granted, it could have been worse.
Gwaine hadn’t even been a bit sorry, the bastard. In the end Arthur was more mortified by the porn thing than the gay thing, only because Uther disapproved of such distractions and gave Arthur the most awkward, embarrassing speech in the history of ever—words like ‘urges,’ ‘lust,’ and ’masturbation’ were used in combination with ‘future,’ ‘responsibility,’ ’your mother’ and other things Arthur had completely blocked out for the sake of his own sanity.
Morgana had threatened to buy him a cock ring for his birthday.
Percival and Leon had shown no such restraint and had bought him a giant bottle of lube “for all the butt sex”, and Lancelot had slipped a box of condoms in his locker when he wasn’t looking.
Gwaine had even taken it upon himself to point out every hot guy he saw in some vague attempt to get Arthur some gay action (his words, not Arthur’s). And that had included himself. Which no. Not in a million years. Not if Gwaine was the last guy on Earth, over his dead body and all that.
Arthur clearly needed to reassess his interpersonal relationships.
Arthur tries not to look too bored or exasperated at his teacher’s fucking interminable speech. Look, he loves history and all that, but come on, no one cares about learning when they’re on a school trip. Most students are half asleep or clearly not paying attention, or, if you’re Gwaine, running a muttered commentary on all the cute girls (and guys) walking by.
“Oh my God Gwaine, shut up,” Percival mumbles through clenched teeth.
They’re just waiting for the teacher to be done so they can get the afternoon to do whatever the fuck they want. But the problem with Mr. Arnott is that he fucking loves the sound of his own voice and takes delight in embellishing his teaching with gory details of battles and injuries. The man is smart, but clearly has some issues.
“... et le lendemain matin le Général Montcalm meurt de sa blessure au torse. Quatre ans plus tard la France signe le Traité de Paris, concédant la majorité de ses terres en Nouvelle-France à la Grande-Bretagne,” he finishes. Thank fuck for that.
They all stand up with groans, trying not to look too relieved. Mr. Arnott’s the kind of teacher who takes offense easily. Arthur stretches his arms over his head, making his spine pop. He’s not sure what they’ll do now. They should find a place to eat—he’s fucking starving.
He looks around. On their left there’s only le Château, tall and wide, green roof bright in the noon sun. On their right is the lower town—he figures there must be a way down somewhere—and past that the St. Lawrence River, blue and sparkling.
There’s a guy leaning against the rail not too far from them, long legs stretched in front of him, head bent to look at his phone—dark hair, nice shoulders, very nice... everything.
Arthur startles when Gwaine puts his chin on his shoulder.
“Nice, Pendragon,” he whispers into his ear. “Seems like we finally found your type.”
“Fuck off.” Arthur shrugs him off, but can’t help looking back.
“Tall, skinny, tight jeans,” Gwaine says. “Noted. Ten bucks you can’t go talk to him.”
God. Fuck Gwaine, really. He knows Arthur too well. Pendragons never back down from a challenge. It’s like coded in his genetics that he can’t say no, and Gwaine always takes advantage of it because he’s a first-class asshole.
He looks at the guy again and there’s warmth blooming under Arthur’s skin, a tight desire that unfurls, gentle and relentless. He’s oddly anxious and excited. Not that he’d let any of them know—the fuckers would mock him forever. Pendragons don’t get nervous, and if they do, they pretend like they aren’t, so really it’s all the same. Arthur’s father’s really into the ‘show no weaknesses, law of the jungle’ thing. It can’t be helped.
So instead he snorts and gives Gwaine his most assured, condescending look. (He even practiced it in front of the mirror once. It’s fucking foolproof.)
“Please, at least make my possible humiliation worth my while,” he says.
Gwaine laughs and takes out his wallet. “Twenty bucks.”
Arthur only raises an eyebrow at him.
“Thirty,” Leon says, putting a bill in Gwaine’s hand. Traitor. Arthur’s revoking Leon’s best friend status right now.
Arthur glares and Leon only smirks. God, Arthur needs new friends.
“You’re gonna have to do better than that.” Arthur shakes his head.
Lancelot sighs and takes out his money. “I only have a five.” E tu, Brute?
Percival digs in his pockets. “I only have a toonie. Sorry man.” He still gives it to Gwaine.
“That’s thirty-seven,” Gwaine says.
“Wow Gwaine, you know how to count? Good for you, man. In a few years you might even be able to spell your own name.” Arthur’s aware he’s stalling a little—he’s never chatted up a guy before—but he says it all casual-like and no one’s the wiser.
Gwaine doesn’t take the bait. “What do you say Princess? Think you’re brave enough?”
Arthur rolls his eyes and grabs the money. It’s not like he needs it—thirty-seven bucks is not a lot, but his friends aren’t rich like him and he’s not enough of a douche to mock them for it—but he’ll still take any opportunity to screw Gwaine over a little. He’ll have time later to worry about indulging Gwaine’s budding gambling problem.
Arthur turns around, takes a deep breath and walks towards the guy. It would be lying to say he isn’t pretty fucking nervous right now, but a bet is a bet and he’ll never lose to Gwaine. Ever.
When he’s close enough, he clears his throat, says “Excusez-moi” with as much confidence as he can manage and digs his hands in his pockets, aiming for nonchalance but probably hitting something closer to ‘vaguely repressed’ instead. But hey, he’ll just roll with it for now.
The guy lifts his head and looks at him quizzically.
Arthur shuffles his feet, tries to remember all his conversational French, seems to fail miserably, and how fucked up is that? He’s the best in the class after all. His dad has this thing where he insists on Arthur being good at it. Well, fine, he insists Arthur be good at everything, but that also includes French. Because apparently you can’t get a governmental job without it and that’s supposed to be something Arthur should aspire to. He’s not sure he always follows his dad’s logic, but that’s not the point. Point is, he’s got this down. He’s good at it. He’s Arthur fucking Pendragon and he does not get tongue-tied talking to a cute boy no matter how tight his jeans are.
“Um, hi—I mean, salut.” Arthur cringes. Not his smoothest, he must admit.
“Salut?” says the guy, even more confused and maybe vaguely uninterested. Okay. Arthur understands that it can be a bit weird to have a stranger come up to you randomly, but he would appreciate a bit of help here.
Well, they say honesty is the best policy. Personally, he’s always thought it was a whole bunch of bull, but he’s willing to make an exception for now. For the sake of the bed. He’s not losing to Gwaine, dammit.
“Look,” he says. “My friends bet me that I couldn’t talk to you and—” The guy is still looking at him a bit confused. Damnit. “Mes amis on fait un... um, bet.” What the fuck is bet in French anyway? Doesn’t matter, just push through Pendragon. “Pour que je parle... à toi?”
The guy is still silent, staring at him with large—unfairly beautiful, honestly, fuck him—blue eyes. Arthur fidgets a bit more. This is so humiliating. Handshaking his gayness with his father has nothing on this.
“So yeah, here I am talking to you. So I guess I’ve won. Now I’ll just... go.”
A hand on his arm stops him. When he turns around, the guy smiles at him, wide and brilliant, his eyes crinkling and very, very blue. Wow, just—so fucking unfair, Jesus Christ.
“Merlin,” the guy says.
“Merlin. C’est mon nom. My name.” It has a weird sound to it, to be honest. Arthur’s not sure how to say it without sounding like a complete douche. He recognizes the sound at the end, but it’s all sort of stuck-up and through the nose and he’s never been good at making it. It sounds weird, okay?
The guy—Merlin—seems to notice his hesitation.
“Merlin,” he repeats, but with an English pronunciation. Arthur smiles at him and Merlin just looks at him, expectantly.
“Oh! Hi! Arthur,” he says. Idiot. “My name’s Arthur. I mean—mon nom est Arthur.”
“Nice to meet you, Artur.”
Arthur tries not to wrinkle his nose in disdain at the way his name sounds in French. Merlin notices though, but he only smiles a bit more. Asshole. “Nice to meet you too, Merlin.”
Merlin looks behind Arthur. “Tes amis?”
Arthur turns around and sees his friends trying to look like they’re not looking at the both of them. And failing miserably. Wow, embarrassing.
Merlin only waves at them with the most perfect, mockingly sarcastic look on his face Arthur’s ever seen. He’ll have to practice that one; it would come in handy when dealing with Morgana.
“Want to walk?” Merlin says to him.
The warmth inside Arthur burns brighter—it’s Merlin’s small smile, and the bright blue sky, and the wind coming from the river. It’s the way he looks at Arthur, calm and collected, like he knows exactly what he wants, like it’s simple.
Which it is, really.
The sudden realization punches a small, delighted laugh out of Arthur. He lets out a long breath, straightens his shoulders, and looks straight into Merlin’s eyes.
“Yeah, okay. Oui.”
They take the funiculaire down to the lower part of the Vieux Québec—le Château and Arthur’s friends now high above them—and walk slowly through the narrow, cobblestoned streets. It’s beautiful. Very European and stuff, all small shops and cafés and street artists.
Merlin points out a few things and starts talking in French.
Here’s a thing they don’t tell you about in your Conversational French class: French people talk faster than the fucking speed of sound. It’s called conversational French, but Arthur wonders how the fuck he’s supposed to have a conversation if all he hears is a bunch of gibberish with the occasional rue and manger and... did he just say squirrel?
Arthur stops Merlin with a hand at his elbow; the skin under his fingers is sun-warmed and he tries not to let his fingers linger.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I can’t understand.”
Merlin raises an eyebrow at him. Arthur sighs.
“Je ne comprends pas,” he says. “Je suis Anglais, remember?”
Merlin just looks at him confused. “I’m sorry. I no understand. I’m French,” he says all innocent-like, even pouting a little.
“God. You’re such an asshole.”
Merlin only grins at him, a bit too delighted and teasing. Arthur can’t help but shake his head and laugh. What the hell is he doing?
“Where are you from?” Merlin asks after a few minutes of silence.
Merlin snorts. “Of course. My sympathies.”
Arthur just rolls his eyes at him. “I’m starving,” he says instead. “Um... tu veux manger something? Quelque chose?
Merlin looks inside his wallet and cringes. Arthur would offer to pay, but Merlin doesn’t seem the type to accept that kind of thing. Besides he just met the guy and that would be weird, right? Right.
“L’argent du pari?” Merlin says.
“Your friends. They bet you money, yes?” Merlin opens his hand in front of him. “I helped you win, so...” He wiggles his fingers and raises an eyebrow at Arthur.
“You fucking greedy...”
Merlin just looks between his hand and Arthur’s expectantly.
“Fine. I guess you do deserve it. It’s not like I need it anyway,” Arthur says, putting Gwaine’s twenty in Merlin’s hand.
Merlin just rolls his eyes and points to a Beaver Tails stand. “Queues de Castor?”
They buy their pastries (cinnamon for Arthur, chocolate and bananas for Merlin) and start walking again. And look, it’s not like the whole thing isn’t pretty and interesting, and Arthur would be lying if he said he wasn’t a bit charmed by the stone buildings and the atmosphere—the old feel of it all. History is his thing after all. It’s what he loves, and it’s what he’s going to study next year at university (his father doesn’t know that yet, but hey, details, details).
Thing is, that boy beside him? Merlin? He’s pretty fucking hot, okay? Like, everything about him makes Arthur’s skin tingle. He’s lithe, but looks solid and strong. He’s smooth and confident and a little too cocky—and he guesses it’s a thing, he didn’t know it was, but apparently it is, so once again he’s just rolling with it. He has huge, pretty eyes—also a thing—and let’s not talk about his lips, because Arthur really, really wants to kiss them. Particularly when Merlin gives him a sidelong glance with a little smirk, like he fucking knows. There’s chocolate at the corner of his mouth, and how that’s not supposed to make Arthur want to lick it— lick his whole damn face for that matter—he doesn’t know. He’s only human, give him a break for fuck’s sake.
He looks for something to say, something that isn’t take me now, please or as ridiculous or embarrassing. Something he hasn’t heard in a cheap porno. Arthur can’t help thinking about it though, not just because he’s really attracted to Merlin, but because it’s sort of new, this whole liking guys thing. He doesn’t know if Merlin does too, but he thinks that maybe yes he does and Arthur’s a bit dizzy with the idea of it. It’s all pretty fucking confusing, and he thought that he was done with the whole confusion thing now he’s figured out that he likes dicks, but apparently that’s not how life works. He should have known. There’s a lot of things he should have known, like not to leave Gwaine alone with his laptop, and that he likes cocky assholes, and that plump lips and high cheekbones are a thing and that his conversational French class is fucking useless.
He should probably work on all of that.
“C’est jolie,” he says, showing their surrounding with a sweep of his hand. Yeah, he’s got skills, alright.
Merlin looks around a bit and smiles. “Oui.”
They finish eating in silence and throw their wrapping papers in the nearest trashcan. Merlin wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, lip dragging on his skin, and fuck Arthur’s life. Fuck everything if he doesn’t get to kiss that mouth before the end of the day. His insides are hot and burning and he pushes his hands into his pockets to refrain from reaching just to let his fingers linger this time on all that sun-warmed skin.
They talk a bit. Merlin’s English is definitely better than Arthur’s French, but the asshole doesn’t care. He just lets Arthur ramble as much as possible in his broken French and laughs when he makes silly mistakes. Seriously, Arthur will have words with his French teacher when he gets back.
Merlin’s smile is wide and genuine and sort of carefree in a really endearing way, and Arthur secretly loves that he’s the reason for it. It’s sort of amazing really because he didn’t know he could do that. He can live with the fact (for now) that he’s doing it by making a bit of an ass of himself. He’s got his priorities straight. So to speak.
It turns out that Merlin’s kinda nice and funny, and he talks with his hands—long fingers moving through the air in front of him, his face open and expressive—and Arthur sort of finds himself a bit entranced by it. He likes Merlin’s accent when he speaks English, and the way he inhabits the space around him without being self-conscious about himself. Or at least, that’s how it appears to Arthur, but mostly there’s a lot of long fingers, and lovely eyes, and plump red lips and the cute little wrinkling of his nose, so he doesn’t really care about the rest.
They pass a little shop that sells handmade things and there are colorful blown-glass bottles in the window that remind Arthur of Morgana. He tugs on Merlin’s wrist a little and heads inside.
The light is soft and warm in the shop, and the old wood floor creaks under their weight. Arthur goes straight to the little glass display and picks up a small blue and yellow bottle. The sun coming through the window pierces the glass and scatters colorful reflections on his skin. Merlin comes closer, stopping at his elbow. When Arthur raises his eyes to look at him, there are green and red shadows playing on his cheeks.
“Copine?” he says.
Arthur frowns, so Merlin points at the bottle in his hands and repeats “girlfriend” with just a small little shrug. Arthur tries not to read too much into it, but he has to bite his lip a little because he could have sworn there was a bit of regret there.
He shakes his head. “Pour ma soeur,” he says.
He’s rewarded by Merlin’s delighted smile, and something clenches inside of his chest that feels a lot like hope, and a lot like something else he can’t quite explain.
He buys the bottle for Morgana. Merlin rolls his eyes and groans when he pays with his credit card, mumbling something under his breath, and Arthur just snorts and tells him to “shut up,” even though he didn’t understand any of it, but he’s pretty sure there was some swearing involved.
When they get out Arthur sees a sign on the side of one of the streets—one of those historical information things they put around. Arthur walks up to it and starts reading the English side. God, he fucking loves this stuff. Really, really loves it. To think his dad wanted him to go into business. No fucking way. He’s going to study this and love it, even if it means being weirdly over-enthusiastic about battles, blood and death like Mr. Arnott.
When he’s done he turns to see Merlin staring at him with a look Arthur doesn’t quite understand.
Merlin shakes his head and walks up to stand beside him.
“C’est intéressant,” Arthur says, pointing at the sign. “I like history.”
Merlin just smiles and bumps Arthur’s shoulder with his own. The touch burns Arthur through his shirt and spreads like wildfire in his veins. He takes a deep breath. He has the sudden desire to take Merlin’s hand in his own, but that would be weird, right? A bit creepy. He taps the French side of the sign with his finger instead. “Read it?”
Merlin’s voice is low and round, and Arthur just listens, following the words with his eyes. He likes how they flow around Merlin’s lips and tongue, smooth and easy. Lovely.
He startles when Merlin brushes the back of his hand with his knuckles. The touch is barely there, and Arthur wonders if he imagined it, until it happens again. He can’t suppress the shiver that goes through him, the twist in his stomach.
He looks at Merlin’s profile. Merlin doesn’t look back or stop reading, but he smiles a little around the syllables and Arthur’s breath catches in his throat. His body vibrates with the sudden knowledge that something might happen, that he’s standing right on the edge of it, and it might be terrible and it might be wonderful.
When Merlin’s done reading he looks up into Arthur’s eyes, searching his face a little. Arthur lets him, but he’s poised on the moment, ready to pounce on it before it passes, because no way he’s letting that happen.
Merlin sighs. “D’la marde,” he says.
Arthur frowns, not sure what he means and he’s about to ask when Merlin grabs his wrist and pulls him along with him and well, Arthur’s not about to protest.
Merlin pushes Arthur behind a tree and into the narrow space between two buildings. They could barely fit side by side, but it doesn’t matter because Merlin is pushing him against the wall and all Arthur can think is Fuck yes.
In the dim light he can’t see Merlin’s face too clearly, but he can hear his slightly laboured breathing. He reaches out to him, but Merlin stops him with a hand on his chest.
“Attends une seconde. Wait,” he says. “I have to tell you something. I mean—ask. I have to ask.”
“Damnit Merlin, what—”
“How old are you?” Merlins asks. “Tell me you’re not fifteen or—whatever.”
“No! Seventeen. You?”
They stay silent for a moment. Wow, this is quickly getting awkward. But then Merlin steps slowly closer, and Arthur forgets the—absolutely clever, thank you very much—repartee he was about to make.
Arthur takes a deep breath. Okay, honestly? He’s a bit lost at the moment. Like, he didn’t actually think it would get this far, and now, well now it’s a bit overwhelming, you know? It shouldn’t be, but it is.
He’s never kissed a boy before and that’s not embarrassing at all, no sir. Plenty of people haven’t kissed boys before, he happens to know several of them in fact. No big deal. Except he’s pretty sure none of them are hard in their jeans for it.
Okay, it’s not like Arthur has never kissed anybody, because he has. Trust him, you don’t get to seventeen looking he does, with a last name like Pendragon, without at least a few drunken make-out sessions in someone’s basement with cheap beer and weird culinary choices. And that’s not arrogance, it’s just fact.
But it’s also not like they ever mattered. Not like this. Not like the warmth of Merlin bleeding through his T-shirt as he presses closer, and the weight of his hand on his shoulder, and the slight quirk of his lips, the blue of his eyes, the ridiculously long eyelashes, and the way he tilts his head to the side and leans leans leans closer.
A Pendragon never does things halfway, his father always says. And really? Fuck his brain for thinking of his father in a moment like this. Thing is, there’s a very good chance Arthur is going to fuck this up. He can already feel himself choking on the moment.
It has to be done perfectly or not done at all. Another thing his father says on a fairly regular basis—Uther Pendragon, champion of life mantras and high expectations.
Arthur’s hands fist in Merlin’s shirt and a shiver goes through his whole body as Merlin’s hot breath ghosts over his cheek. Arthur’s pretty sure he needs to stop thinking about his father right the fuck now, otherwise he’ll still be paying for therapy for the next twenty years.
Man, expectations suck.
So of course his brain decides it’s a perfectly good and reasonable idea to just go ahead and tell Merlin everything, because if you lower your expectations, you can’t be disappointed when you fuck it up, right? His father would be proud.
“Je n’ai pas... um...” Yes, that’s right, that’s him, Arthur Pendragon, first in his conversational French class. “Je n’ai pas...” kiss kiss kiss Goddamnit what is it?
“Je n’ai pas kiss un garçon... before.” Before? Seriously? “I mean... avant, I mean—fuck.”
Merlin pauses and pulls back a little to look at Arthur, hands sure and heavy on Arthur’s shoulders, his thumbs brushing circles against the side of his neck, soothing and distracting all at once.
“Um, I’ve never... tu sais jamais—I mean you know...” Just pick a goddamn language Pendragon, it’s really not that difficult. It’s one or the other.
Merlin frowns a little, but doesn’t pull back. Arthur tightens his hold on his shirt, just to make sure.
“You never what? Kissed?”
“I’ve kissed before! Just never, you know...”
At this Merlin smirks a little and raises an eyebrow. “I don’t understand,” he says, still all full of false innocence, which is all very ridiculous when Arthur can feel Merlin’s hard dick against his own thigh. And oh, Arthur would punch him if he didn’t want to kiss him so badly right now, the fucking bastard—the annoying, rude, stupidly attractive bastard.
“I’ve never kissed a boy, alright!” he says. “Jamais. Un. Garçon... Kissed.”
Merlin’s smile goes sweeter and softer at that, and his eyes crinkle at the corners in a way that makes Arthur want to trace the lines with his fingertips. Merlin leans forward to drag his lips slowly along Arthur’s jaw. He frames Arthur’s face with his hands—fingers splayed on his cheeks, almost careful—and sucks on Arthur’s upper lip. Arthur gasps but doesn’t dare do anything. He’s frozen in place, too caught up in what Merlin’s doing, in the feeling of lips on his skin—his blood thrumming fast and unrelenting in his veins.
Merlin grins, the touch barely there, and he says “Embrasser”—like a secret, a puff of hot air that dissipates too quickly—before pressing his mouth against Arthur’s.
Merlin’s thumb presses lightly to the corner of Arthur’s mouth as Merlin sucks on his lower lip lightly. Arthur’s brain has a weird short-circuity moment where it goes, Oh yeah! Kiss, embrasser—oh fuck—I can’t believe I forg—Yes. Fuck yes.
Arthur moans and pushes back against Merlin’s mouth. He feels Merlin smile, and he smiles back into the kiss. Their teeth are almost touching, and it’s only natural to dart his tongue out, quick, to capture the taste of chocolate still lingering there. Yeah. He can totally do this. He is doing this. He’s a Pendragon and he will not fuck this up.
Merlin kisses his lower lip softly, then his upper lip, and the corner of his mouth—small and wet, lips dragging a little—and Arthur smiles even wider into it. There’s a lot of smiling happening and he guesses that’s a good thing. A really good thing.
He’s not so nervous about it anymore, not with the way Merlin leans closer still until he’s pressing hard and sure and heavy all along Arthur’s body, one leg slotted between his. Arthur’s warm all over—liquid heat in his stomach, over the length of his spine—and breathing is a bit more difficult, but the breathlessness is all kinds of amazing.
Arthur wraps his arms around Merlin—one around his small waist, the other up Merlin’s shirt to spread his hand wide between Merlin’s shoulder blades—to draw his heat into himself, or maybe bleed his into Merlin—he’s not sure—and it’s hot, and wet, and hot. The slice of sky above, over the walls enclosing them, is still incredibly blue, and Arthur just wants to melt into all of it.
He curls and uncurls his fingers against Merlin’s skin, soft and sweaty, trying to catch the movement of the muscles shifting under the pads of his fingers. Merlin’s hands let go of Arthur’s face and slide into his hair, nails scratching at his scalp, above his ears, to the nape of his neck.
“Tu goûtes la cannelle,” Merlin says with his lips against Arthur’s cheekbones, and Arthur has no idea what it means, but it’s followed by a nudge of Merlin’s nose against his, trailing down the bridge of it, pushing lightly, and he sort of forgets to breathe. Arthur’s throat closes and his fingers tighten against Merlin, and he’s so fucking glad there’s a wall behind him, because he doesn’t know how the hell he’s still standing.
Arthur moans loudly when Merlin licks the dip of his lower lip, then up against his teeth. Merlin chuckles, satisfied and cocky, and that’s what shakes Arthur loose from the haziness in his brain.
Arthur quickly sucks on Merlin’s tongue, capturing it between his own lips, cocking his head to the side until he can fit their mouths together nicely and slide his tongue behind Merlin’s teeth. Merlin gasps, surprised, and tightens his hold on Arthur’s hair. Yeah, that’s right, French Boy. Two can play this game.
With a small, needy sound that goes straight through Arthur’s body from the base of his skull to his toes, Merlin arches his neck a bit to give him more access and Arthur just traces his tongue along the roof of Merlin’s mouth. And fuck if that’s not the hottest thing he’s ever done.
Arthur’s breath hitches at the quiet laugh-moan that escapes Merlin once more, and how such a small sound like that be so fucking amazing and do all kinds of wreckage inside Arthur’s chest, he doesn’t know. He takes a deep breath through his nose while dragging his lips down Merlin’s neck, trying to find some kind of stability.
Merlin pulls on his hair, sharp and urgent, to drag him back up, and Arthur let’s his tongue glide on the salty-sweet skin until it meets with Merlin’s, wet and lovely.
He holds Merlin closer still. Merlin grinds his hips against Arthur’s, startling him with a shock of electricity, and he pushes back, capturing Merlin’s groan with his tongue before it can escape him.
Someone laughs close by and Arthur’s suddenly brought back to reality with a painful jerk and pull. He realises where they are and that he’s a minute or so away from coming in his pants.
Fuck. His. Life. Seriously.
He pulls his head away in a gasp and grabs Merlin’s hips to stop them moving. Merlin continues to kiss his jaw, and Arthur tries to catch his breath and reboot his brain a little.
“Merlin, fuck—Merlin, you have to... stop. Arrêter.”
Merlin stops kissing him, breathing wet puffs of air on his skin for a few seconds, before leaning his forehead on Arthur’s shoulder, panting against his neck.
“Merde,” he says softly. “Fuck.”
Arthur hums, content and frustrated at the same time. He can feel Merlin’s body shaking vaguely under his hands, but he doesn’t loosen his hold, unwilling to quite let go of the warmth just yet. He realises how much he loves this, holding Merlin’s body to his own. It’s all strong and hard and sharp angles, Merlin’s breath warm on his skin. It’s right.
He can’t stop the wave of happiness—of pure relief too—from rising and it overflows out of him until he’s laughing out loud. It startles Merlin and he makes to pull away, but Arthur tightens his hold, laughs some more, and he can’t stop, he just can’t fucking stop.
He doesn’t know why he was so worried; this is fantastic.
Merlin pushes against his chest and Arthur finally lets him go, arms falling limply at his side. He hates the cold that replaces Merlin’s body, but Merlin leans against the wall in front of him and he’s wrecked and beautiful, and that makes up for it nicely. Fuck, but this is a sight Arthur could get used to.
Merlin gives him a questioning look.
“French kiss,” Arthur says, and laughs some more.
Merlin just raises his eyebrows at him, clearly unimpressed, but his lips quirk a little, and Arthur darts forward to give them a quick peck, just to taste them.
“Maudits Anglais,” Merlin says, shaking his head, passing his hand through his hair, pulling on his shirt to straighten it, but Arthur can see where it’s all wrinkled from the grip he had on it earlier.
“Fucking French,” Arthur says back with a wide smile.
Merlin narrows his eyes at him. “You wish.”
Arthur throws his head back against the wall and laughs louder still. Laughs until his stomach hurts, until he’s got tears in his eyes, and Merlin’s laughing along with him, fingers tight around Arthur’s wrist. He’s still laughing when he pulls Merlin to him and kisses him some more. Still laughing when Merlin drags his nails across Arthur’s chest under his shirt, when Arthur bites on Merlin’s earlobe and sucks a bruise on his neck. Still laughing when he’s the one pinning Merlin to the wall, and Merlin’s moaning Arthur’s name, foreign and delicious on his tongue, and Arthur’s chasing the taste of it with his.
God, Gwaine can have his money back if he wants Arthur’s not worried. Not anymore. He can fucking do this.