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In Which Proper Workplace Relations are Completely Ignored

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Merlin’s grandfather was said to have the second sight.

Or at least, that’s what Mum always said. Merlin personally thought that it was a load of hogwash to explain the weird things that his grandfather would say. He was pretty sure that his grandfather was also the reason that Merlin had gotten the name he had. He must have insisted upon it or something.

But lately he’d been more inclined to think that his grandfather had been more than just a crazy old nutter. He had passed away a couple of years ago but ever since he’d gotten this job, his sayings kept coming back to Merlin.

Always when he looked at Arthur.

They weren’t fluffy little sayings either. This morning, for example, he had looked at Arthur and heard his grandfather’s voice in his head saying,

“He is your destiny, and he is your doom.”

Cheerful stuff, really.

Honestly, though, what sort of destiny or doom could come from being the personal assistant to the Prince of Wales? Maybe in medieval times or something but this was the 21st century. It wasn’t like Merlin had to be ready to fight off assassins around every corner.

Of course, it could have been metaphorical. But he’d rather not think about his very inappropriate crush on his boss as leading to his doom. Nor did he want to think about it being his destiny. That led him down all kinds of wrong mental paths.

No, just keep your unfairly attractive boss with his habit of walking around with no shirt on right out of the shower with water still running over those stupid broad shoulders as just a bad crush. That’s it.

…he was so screwed.

“Merlin, must you always be late?” Arthur was saying. “How you manage to keep me on my schedule but can’t keep track of your own, I’ll never know.”

“I’ll try and do better, sire,” Merlin replied, only half listening. He knew that Arthur didn’t really care if Merlin was late. It was more that if Merlin wasn’t at his side at all times, Arthur started panicking that he was forgetting something and was going to show up late to something of his father’s.

Uther was the one who really did not like people who were late.

Merlin was also sort of wondering if Uther was a tyrannical dragon that had assumed human form and was ruling England for shits and giggles.

“You’ll notice that I asked you to clear my schedule for the evening,” Arthur went on.

He was digging through his wardrobe and flinging clothes about every which way. Merlin counted his lucky stars when moments like this happened. The moment Arthur stepped out of the room, Merlin could use his magic to send all the clothes back to their proper places.

It would save poor housekeeping the job, anyway.

“I did notice that, sire,” Merlin said.

“For goodness’ sake, Merlin, just call me by my bloody name,” Arthur snapped. “If I have to hear you of all people calling me that I’m going to lose my mind.”

“You haven’t already lost it?” Merlin replied, grinning and doing his best to ignore the violent thump of his heart at the phrase ‘you of all people’.

It wasn’t like he was anyone special to Arthur. Arthur was just used to Merlin sassing him. That was all.

“Ha, ha,” Arthur replied, but he looked more relaxed already. “So anyway, my schedule—”

“The one that you suspiciously asked me to clear,” Merlin said. “Yes, I noticed. What are you up to?”

Arthur raised his hands in surrender. “It’s not a prank on Morgana, I swear. One of my friends from uni, Gwaine, it’s his birthday. He wants us to all go out to this one new gay bar he’s been begging us all to go to. Apparently there’s this bouncer with arms to die for and Gwaine’s convinced he’s the love of his life or something.”

All the air went out of Merlin’s lungs, and for a moment his heart leapt, then beat wildly. It was just for his friend, for fuck’s sake, it wasn’t that—it didn’t mean—

The thing was, Arthur had been in a pretty serious relationship at university. Everyone had predicted he’d marry the girl, Guinevere Smith, called Gwen by her friends. But then the relationship had ended. Nobody knew why, but a month or so later Gwen was spotted with another man, Lancelot du Lac. They were currently engaged.

So Merlin knew that Arthur fancied women. But he had also sometimes seen Arthur looking at men… or rather, certain parts of men… with this look on his face. And once or twice while drunk Arthur had mumbled things about “this bloke” or “that one time,” and Merlin couldn’t help but hope that maybe, Arthur’s tastes had a wider range than most people realized.

But if he was just going to help this Gwaine score a date, then it might not mean anything.

“Anyway, I’ve got to be there because God knows Leon’s the kind of straight guy who panics a little when gay men flirt with him because he doesn’t know what to do about it, so he wants me there as a buffer.”

“A buffer?” Merlin echoed.

Arthur rolled his eyes. “Apparently. God only knows what that means. If I get to go to a gay bar for the first time since uni I’m not going to spend it pretending to date my straight friend so other men leave him alone. He can handle himself.”

Wait. Was Arthur saying—suggesting—what Merlin thought that he was?

Arthur caught him staring and sighed. “Yes, Merlin, I’m bi, any other questions? Honestly, you’d be a horrible liar, I can see everything written on your face.”

Merlin snapped his mouth shut, realizing that it was open. Right. Arthur. Stupidly attractive, doing pushups when Merlin walked in every morning, always asking Merlin to straighten his tie for him, wandering around in a towel, Arthur.

Was bi.

Maybe that whole phrase about Arthur being his doom wasn’t exaggerated after all.

“Problem is, Father’s not too keen on the whole being seen in the tabloids at a gay bar idea,” Arthur rambled on, completely unaware of the heart attack Merlin was currently experiencing. “Pretty sure he’s not too keen on gay bars in general, actually. Or at least my being in them. So I’ve got to go in disguise.”

“Disguise,” Merlin said, finally catching up with what Arthur was saying.

Arthur pointed to a bottle on the table. “You’ll help me with that, right?”

Merlin picked it up. “Is this hair dye!?”

“Yes. Temporary, don’t worry. Morgana got it for me and she quizzed the shop girl about it forever. It’ll wash out. It shouldn’t make my hair too dark anyway, just… not blond.”

Merlin tried to picture a world in which there was any hair color that Arthur didn’t look attractive in and failed. And now he was supposed to put it in. To massage his hands into Arthur’s scalp and—

Oh God. He was so screwed.

“Then I figured… ah-ha!” Arthur yanked out some clothes. “Haven’t worn these in forever.”

Then he started stripping.

Merlin almost tripped over his own feet as he stumbled backwards. “I’ll, um, leave you to that then.”

“What?” Arthur looked up at him. “Don’t be silly, Merlin, I need you to set up the bathroom for the hair dye.”

“Right, hair dye, of course,” Merlin said, and he retreated into the bathroom to set up the sink with his back firmly to Arthur so he couldn’t see anything.

A moment later Arthur walked over to him and Merlin nearly dropped the goddamn dye bottle.

“What do you think?”

What did he think? What did he think? He thought peeling those too fucking tight jeans off of Arthur and going down on him was a fantastic idea, that’s what he thought.

It was possible, Merlin thought, that he was losing his mind just the tiniest bit.

Arthur was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans that looked like they were molded to him. His shirt was black and clearly well worn, with some obscure band label on it that Merlin didn’t recognize. The whole outfit was old and faded and torn in patches, completely the opposite of any outfit that Merlin had ever seen Arthur wear before.

Which was the point, he supposed.

The problem was the clothes were desperately tight and showed off all of Arthur’s muscles and Merlin just might die if he had to look at him too much.

“Merlin?” Arthur waved a hand at him. “You still there?”

“What? Oh, yeah, no, you don’t ever wear clothes like that.” Merlin would definitely have remembered if he had. “Which is good. And they fit well.”

“Yeah, I was worried they’d be too tight,” Arthur admitted. “Put on a couple of pounds of muscle since I last wore them, you know?”

Merlin did not let out a squeak. Nope.

Arthur sat down on a stool in front of the sink, taking the towel that Merlin had laid out for him and draping it around his shoulders. “All right then, Merlin. Let’s get this over with.”

“Right.” Yes. The dye.

Merlin put on the provided gloves and read the instructions one last time. Apply dye. Let sit. Wash out. Blow dry hair to help dye stay longer.

Simple.

Right?

Merlin carefully bent Arthur’s hair over the sink, then squeezed a large glob of dye into the palm of his gloved hand. He began to work his hand through Arthur’s hair, spreading the dye through the blond locks.

He felt a kind of twinge in his chest. He liked how Arthur looked. It wasn’t fair that to have a night out on the town he had to wear clothes he didn’t usually and dye his hair a different color and God knew what else.

Merlin wanted to tell Arthur that he had magic that would make it so that Arthur’s hair was dyed without any possible side effects. He wanted to tell him that he had magic that would make Arthur look completely different. He wanted to tell him that he had magic that would be an illusion so that Arthur wasn’t physically changed but everyone who looked at him saw someone different.

All his magic, and more, he wanted to tell him, were right there for him. All he had to do was ask.

But he couldn’t. Merlin had never met anyone else with magic before. He didn’t know how Arthur would react. He was terrified of Arthur being afraid of him. He just… didn’t know how to bring it up.

So he carefully worked the dye through Arthur’s hair until it was a mess of brown.

Arthur hummed occasionally as Merlin worked. It was really Merlin’s fault, he kept massaging more than he strictly needed to. But the sound kept going straight through his body like an electric shock. It was all that he could do to keep his mind from wandering into dangerous territory. Territory like, what if this was something he did for Arthur in the bath after Arthur had another long hard day of dealing with bureaucrats and mediating between Morgana and Uther, what if it was a ritual of theirs, what if afterwards Arthur murmured about how good that was and turned around and thanked Merlin with a—

“That feels good,” Arthur murmured.

Merlin almost jumped backwards. “Ah, uh, good to know.” He quickly took his hands off of Arthur’s head, silently cursing himself. Good to know!? “I think I got it all.”

Arthur straightened up and stared at himself in the mirror. “I look like a right mess,” he said, grinning. His eyes met Merlin’s through the mirror and his grin turned conspiratorial. “If only my father could see me now. He’d have a fit.”

“He might still have a fit, if he finds out,” Merlin said.

Arthur rolled his eyes fondly. “There’s nothing he could really do.”

“He could fire me,” Merlin pointed out.

He met it just as a jest, but Arthur grew serious, his face looking almost thunderous. “He wouldn’t dare,” he said, as if Uther was a thousand-man army bearing down on Merlin and Arthur was going to kill every single one with his bare hands.

Really, was it any wonder Merlin had a massive crush on him?

Arthur’s hand came up to encircle Merlin’s wrist. His thumb was at Merlin’s pulse point, rubbing back and forth gently, as though he were testing the steady thrum of it under his skin.

He looked up at Merlin, his face set and eyes stormy. “He wouldn’t, Merlin. I promise. If anything bad comes out of this night, it’ll be my responsibility. Not yours.”

Merlin felt transfixed, like his center of gravity had shifted and he was now centered on Arthur rather than against the pull of the earth. “Well, let’s make sure it doesn’t come to that, then.” He put on a smile, one that felt too small and serious for what he wanted. “I hope at least one of you will be responsible tonight.”

Arthur’s face broke out into a big smile. “Well that’s what you’re going to be there for.”

His hand tightened on Merlin’s wrist for a moment and then he let it go, bending back over the sink. “I think we can rinse it now.”

Merlin automatically turned the water on but he was still stuck on what Arthur had said. “I’m coming—what?”

“You didn’t think I wouldn’t bring you, did you?” Arthur said, his voice almost drowned out by the water rushing over his head. “I’m not letting you get out of this. You never have any fun, following me around all the time. This’ll be a fun break for you, too.”

“Um.” Merlin didn’t know what to say to that. All he knew was that Arthur in this outfit plus alcohol plus a crowded bar with loud music plus Merlin equaled a very, very bad idea.

“Merlin?”

“Yes?”

“Hair?”

“Oh, right.” Merlin started running the water through the strands.

So much dark brown color was going down the drain that for a moment he feared that it would all be gone from Arthur’s hair. Yet when he toweled off the hair and got the blow dryer and dried it out, he found that it had stayed.

Arthur’s hair was now a soft dark brunette. It looked good and brought out the blue of his eyes by the contrast.

It really wasn’t fair. He wasn’t allowed to be attractive even with his hair dyed.

“How do I look?” Arthur asked. He looked at himself in the mirror, a little fascinated by the change. Merlin couldn’t blame him. If he suddenly had blond hair he’d be gaping at himself in a mirror too.

“You look great,” Merlin said honestly.

“Well I must if you’re admitting it, you never compliment me,” Arthur said. He pulled something out of the medicine cabinet.

“What?” Did he really insult Arthur so much? It was only because if he said every compliment he thought about Arthur he’d sound like a devoted soppy idiot.

Which he was. But. He didn’t have to make it known or anything.

“I compliment you,” he said instead. “I just don’t want to do it too much. You get compliments from everyone, somebody’s got to keep you in line.”

“True,” Arthur said, turning around.

Merlin yelped. “What the fuck?”

Arthur had put contacts in his eyes so that they were now a muddy brown. Merlin suspected that they were supposed to be a richer brown than that, but they mixed with the natural blue over his eyes and so the effect was a bit muddled.

Still handsome, though. Dammit.

“Cool, right?” Arthur said, still grinning. He looked far too delighted with this whole thing, if you asked Merlin. “I figure this’ll be enough that if someone snaps a picture it won’t look like me. Paps tend to go for hair and eye color first, y’know.”

Merlin stepped back and took a look at the whole picture. The tight, ratty clothes, the dark hair and dark eyes… and he noticed, now, that Arthur wasn’t reaching for the razor the way he usually did, which meant he’d have a five o’clock shadow by the time they reached the club, a little bit of stubble that he usually didn’t allow.

In other words, he looked like a gorgeous, slightly dangerous guy, the kind that might give you trouble but just the right kind. Not at all like the law abiding, stoic, golden boy prince that gave a clean-cut image to please his father.

Merlin really wasn’t sure which image appealed to him more.

“You look really good,” he said honestly.

Arthur gave him that warm, liquid kind of smile, the one that made Merlin’s insides turn to mush. “Perfect.” He raked his eyes over Merlin’s form and for a moment, Merlin thought that Arthur might be checking it out.

But then Arthur shook his head. “You definitely need to change. Please tell me you have something proper for clubbing.”

“At my flat, maybe,” Merlin replied. He hadn’t been out to a club in years.

Arthur waved a hand. “Go ahead and change then and we can meet there. We’re getting a drink at the pub beforehand but I don’t know if you’ll be able to get back in time. I’ll text you the club address.”

“Sure.” This was why he was a horrible personal assistant, honestly, he just let himself go along with whatever Arthur said like some idiotic puppy.

Then he realized—what the hell was he supposed to wear?

“Just wear the black jeans!” Freya squawked at him over the phone one hour later as Merlin frantically searched through his closet.

“I have to look good!” Merlin replied, the phone crammed between his ear and his shoulder.

“You will look good! Do you still have that dark blue button-up?”

“Oh God, no, I’m going to a club not a board meeting.”

“Exactly. A tight buttoned up shirt, sleeves rolled up, brings out your eyes, good jeans… Merlin, he won’t be able to resist.”

“Every day I regret telling you I liked him. Every day of my life.”

Freya snorted. “Listen. I think he’s interested.”

“And I think you’re delusional and I’m not getting my hopes up.” Hope was a dangerous thing. Hope just led to heartbreak. And doom.

Dammit, Grandpa.

“Think whatever you want, then,” Freya said. “But trust me. Those black jeans and that dark blue shirt.”

Then she hung up on him. Because she was a horrible traitor friend.

When Merlin arrived at the club, it wasn’t hard to pick out Arthur and his friends. Merlin wondered what it said about him that he could pick Arthur instantly out of a queue even with his hair dyed and eyes colored.

“Merlin!” Arthur slung an arm around his shoulders and pulled him in, as if they were mates and not technically boss and assistant. “Guys, this is Merlin. Merlin, these are my mates. We got Gwaine and Leon, and you’ve met Lancelot.”

Lancelot was Gwen’s fiancé, and honestly, Merlin thought there was no better sign that Arthur and Gwen’s split had been amicable than the fact that Lancelot and Arthur were now such good friends.

Leon was a tall, sandy-haired bloke, good looking in an unassuming sort of way. Gwaine was the dashing, roguish kind of handsome, and Merlin had no doubt that he’d broken many hearts and bed frames in his time.

“There he is!” Gwaine hissed, nudging Leon hard in the side.

“Ow,” Leon mumbled.

“How he hasn’t yet figured out you fancy him when you’re as subtle as that, I don’t know,” Arthur grumbled. His arm was still around Merlin’s shoulders. Merlin wanted to back away, since it was hard for him to catch his breath with all of Arthur pressed up against his side like this, but he didn’t think he could have moved if he’d tried. His feet were frozen to the spot.

They moved up a little in line, but Arthur still had his arm around Merlin’s shoulders. Merlin had to admit that it was keeping him warm and he was deceptively comfortable like this. He had a thinner frame than Arthur and so he could be easily tucked in against Arthur’s side.

This was dangerous, he thought. Destiny and doom, he heard his grandfather’s voice say, weaving in and out of his head like some kind of stupid mantra.

He craned his head around just to give himself a distraction and saw the bouncer that Gwaine was drooling over. He was pretty tall, wearing a shirt with the sleeves cut off to show off his massive arms.

“Checking him out?” Arthur asked, his mouth right at Merlin’s ear. Merlin couldn’t hide his little jolt of surprise at the sound of Arthur’s voice warm and intimate right at his ear.

“He looks like he could bench press me,” Merlin admitted.

Arthur hummed his agreement. “Pretty sure his arms are as thick as your torso, no wonder Gwaine’s into him.”

“So are we just going to stand here like a bunch of prats or is somebody going to actually go up and talk to him?” Merlin replied.

“I’d like to keep a low profile,” Arthur said. “But if you want to go tell him about Gwaine, be my guest.”

Merlin shook his head. Fuck no, that would only end in disaster. Both he and Arthur looked over at Gwaine, who was telling Lancelot some kind of funny story but was obviously doing it to distract himself from nervousness.

Merlin could relate.

They slowly moved up the line, with Arthur and the other three engaging in animated conversation, mostly for Gwaine’s sake. Merlin stayed pretty quiet, unable to really figure out what to say that wouldn’t just make himself look like an idiot. This was why he didn’t go out and why he didn’t really have a lot of friends, just Freya and Will, because he just wasn’t… good in crowds and stuff. He was good one on one, he could really win people over that way, but when it came to the group dynamic it was like something in his brain kind of stuttered to a halt. Why was he even out here, exposing himself to stuff he didn’t like, when he had to be up early tomorrow morning to get Arthur up for some Saturday brunch thing?

Oh, right, Arthur. That’s why.

Arthur, who kept is arm around Merlin’s shoulders the entire time up through the line until they were at the bouncer. Gwaine went immediately tongue-tied but Lancelot was one of those people who just smiled and charmed his way through anything, and so roped the guy into conversation.

Apparently his name was Percival, he’d been working there for just a few weeks, he found the work easy but kind of boring, and yeah, he’d love to play footie on the weekends.

Leon and Arthur simultaneously nudged Gwaine. When Gwaine didn’t say anything, Merlin jumped in.

“If you give Gwaine your number,” Merlin said, “He can text you about where and when. He usually organizes it.”

Merlin had no idea if Gwaine organized the weekend footie games or not but how was Percival supposed to know that?

Percival grinned at Gwaine, who smiled back a little dopily. Merlin really hoped he didn’t act like that around Arthur. “Sure.”

“Ignore the phone background,” Leon piped in, “He does a bit of modeling.”

“A bit?” Lancelot scoffed. “It’s his job, Leon, he was in Abercrombie & Fitch last week.”

Percival’s eyes lit up a little and Arthur immediately grabbed both Leon and Lancelot by their shirt collars, finally removing his arm from Merlin’s shoulders. “See you in there Gwaine!” He called, dragging Leon and Lancelot away and leaving Gwaine alone with Percival.

Merlin heard Percival say, “A model, huh?” before he hurried to catch up to Arthur and the other two.

He was immediately hit by a wall of heat and smells as he entered the club. He’d forgotten how strong the smell of alcohol was in a club. The bass was making the floor vibrate in time with the beat of the music. Everyone was moving like some kind of many-limbed monster. Lights were flashing different colors. For a wild moment he was completely disoriented, lost, unsure even of what was up or down.

Then a hand grabbed him by the wrist, thumb at his pulse, and dragged him into the crowd. Merlin knew that hand—wished he didn’t know it so well, but he did, down to the calluses on the crook between the thumb and forefinger from gripping a fencing sword.

Arthur reeled him in until they were pressed up together on the dance floor, chest to chest. He leaned in, his mouth right at Merlin’s ear. “You all good?”

Merlin nodded, hands resting on Arthur’s shoulders for balance. People were jostling him all around. He wasn’t good, this was why he didn’t go to clubs no matter how much Will begged. He just didn’t see the appeal.

He caught sight of one of Arthur’s crooked little grins out of the corner of his eye as Arthur leaned in again. He heard one of Arthur’s warm, low chuckles, and knew that Arthur knew about his discomfort. “I’ll show you how fun this can be, yeah?”

Merlin rolled his eyes. “No, thanks, I think I’ll find the bar.” Pressed up against Arthur like this was dangerous.

Merlin,” Arthur said in that distinctive whine he pulled out when he really wanted something. And Merlin always gave it to him.

Merlin huffed. “Fine. One dance.”

Arthur pulled back, grinning like this was the best news he’d ever heard, and his hands came down to rest at Merlin’s hips.

This was a very bad idea.

Three minutes later, though, it was kind of hard to remember why. Arthur used his hands at Merlin’s hips to guide him along to the music, and once Merlin got a rhythm he found that the throbbing bass was actually fun to ride, the vibrations moving up through his body and making everything that much more immediate and vibrant. The music was kind of addictive, compelling him to move, and Arthur was hauling him close enough that he couldn’t really get jostled anymore.

And Arthur. Merlin didn’t know what Arthur was thinking but he didn’t want him to come to his senses and stop. Arthur had his hands at his hips still and had tipped their foreheads together, so that they were breathing harshly into one another’s space. Merlin’s nails were digging into the meat of Arthur’s arms, partially for balance and partially because Arthur’s thigh had slid between his and he had to keep biting down on his lip with each teasing, barely-there slide as they moved together.

It was so much closer than he thought he’d ever get to Arthur, who could be affable and friendly and intimate one moment and wrapped in layers of impenetrable emotional walls the next. Half the time he felt like he was scrambling to catch up, unsure of what would unlock more of the open, laidback Arthur who teased him and what would poke at the wrong thing and shut Arthur down.

But now, Arthur seemed like he was the opposite of about to shut down. One of his hands moved from Merlin’s hip to slide around his back, a band of iron that hauled Merlin right up against him. Merlin automatically wrapped his arms around Arthur’s neck and shoulders, and the entire movement shoved Arthur’s thigh completely between his legs, spreading them, pushing up—

An involuntary moan escaped him, his hips rolling instinctively both with the beat of the music and in response to Arthur’s movement.

Merlin felt his ears start to burn. Arthur was going to pull away now, make some excuse or something, this was going to be horribly awkward in the morning—

But instead he heard and felt Arthur let out a groan of relief and then move his hips deliberately, making Merlin gasp. The tight jeans they were both wearing forgave nothing, and he could feel that Arthur was hard as well, his hips circling and giving them both more of that delicious pressure.

It wasn’t dancing anymore, not really. Not when Arthur’s arm was keeping them pinned together and his other hand was at Merlin’s arse, guiding his movements. Not when Merlin practically had a leg up around Arthur’s hip and his arms were wound around Arthur’s shoulders, his nails scratching a little into Arthur’s back with each movement. And especially not when the roll of their hips was getting more frantic, losing the beat of the music.

Arthur moved his mouth down to suck at Merlin’s neck. Merlin felt like he was shaking apart, everything electrifying him. Arthur said something into the skin of Merlin’s neck before he nipped at it, and Merlin managed to get enough motor function to take a fistful of Arthur’s dyed-dark hair and drag his face upwards until Merlin could whisper-yell into his ear,

“What?”

“I said,” Arthur replied, purring a little into Merlin’s ear, “That I was starting to think you’d never take the hint.”

“What?” What was Arthur talking about?

Arthur dragged his hips slowly and deliberately against Merlin’s, making him give a full-body shiver of pleasure. God, he was just a few thrusts away from coming in his pants like a teenager. Arthur chuckled. “You think I just walk around almost-naked for all my staff?”

“You did all that on purpose?” So Arthur hadn’t been obliviously driving him crazy.

“I was starting to think you weren’t interested,” Arthur admitted. “Then this whole thing happened with Gwaine and I thought, well, if I drag you out here I’ll have my answer one way or another.”

“You prat, you could’ve just asked,” Merlin pointed out.

“I don’t think you know how intimidating you can be, Merlin.”

“I’m intimidating!? Have you seen yourself? You’re the bloody prince of Wales you—”

Arthur kissed him, tongue darting into his open mouth, and Merlin completely forgot what he was going to say. He felt dizzy in the best way, all of the air stolen out of his lungs from the kiss and the way they continued to move against each other.

When they tore apart for air, Arthur put his mouth right at Merlin’s ear again. “I want to take you home, please tell me I can take you home, the things I, fuck, I want to do to you, I don’t think I’ll ever let you leave—”

Merlin couldn’t answer, could only pant harshly and give helpless little moans at Arthur’s words. He was so close, and he’d never thought, never really let himself hope, that Arthur would ever want this with him, and it was all almost too much in the best way.

Arthur groaned, kissing every bit of Merlin’s skin that he could reach. “C’mon, c’mon, I want, I wanna feel you and then I’ll take you home and we’ll do this all over again, properly, I want to see you and feel you all over, just, just—”

With a final snap of his hips, Merlin jolted and came, shuddering apart in Arthur’s arms. He closed his eyes, remembering how Arthur usually looked, soft blond hair and deep blue eyes, how he’d look later when they got those stupid contacts out and that stupid gunk out of his hair and Merlin could drag him into Arthur’s huge soft bed and they could take each other apart.

He heard Arthur groan, felt him stiffen and then shake wildly for a moment before sagging against him.

Merlin slowly lifted his head up from where it had fallen against Arthur’s shoulder. The hair and eyes weren’t the same, but that drugged sort of smile was. He’d seen it when Arthur would get drunk after a night out—nights his father wasn’t supposed to know about—and Merlin had to help him to bed.

“Let’s get out of here,” Arthur whispered. He reached up, tenderly brushing some of the hair out of Merlin’s face.

Merlin suddenly wanted to do something stupid, like kiss Arthur until the end of time and tell him that he’d follow him anywhere, slay dragons for him or something stupidly romantic like that—that all of who he was belonged to Arthur if Arthur would let him. That he would let Arthur destroy him, let Arthur take all of him and ruin him, if it was what Arthur wanted, because it felt as though everything about him had been leading up to this moment of becoming Arthur’s.

But that was a little too devoted, even for Merlin, and so he said nothing, just let Arthur nuzzle into him a little and then guide him back through the dance floor and out of the club.

The next morning, Merlin awoke slowly, lazily. He didn’t, not usually. Most of his mornings started with his alarm waking him up far too early for his liking, and then filled with him stumbling around half-wake and cranky as he yanked on his clothes, tried to find something to eat, and then gulped down a coffee on his way to the palace.

But this morning… this morning he was warm and feeling deliciously achy and relaxed all over. He was resting on what felt like a hundred pillows, a few sheets tangled around his legs, and there was a warm, solid body pressed up against his back.

Last night came flooding back to him. Helping Arthur with his hair. The club. Sex in the middle of the club. Coming home and helping Arthur get all the dye out of his hair in the shower, laughing at the mess they made, kissing him and being kissed under the warm spray. Letting himself be manhandled into bed, letting Arthur lick him open, winding his limbs around Arthur like they could possibly become one person. Falling asleep to Arthur’s whispered words of yours and stay and it felt like I was destined to be with you.

Merlin turned to see Arthur blinking sleepily at him. His arm was slung over Merlin’s waist and it tightened a little, as if he was afraid Merlin would try to slip away.

“Jus’a li’l longer…” Arthur murmured, his eyes falling closed as he buried his nose into the crook of Merlin’s neck.

Merlin closed his eyes as well. Yes, sleeping a little longer did sound nice… although he was also starting to feel hungry…

His eyes flew open.

“Shit!”

Merlin flailed, nearly elbowing Arthur in the face as he scrambled up out of bed.

Arthur sat up, rubbing at his eyes. “Merlin, what the fuck?”

“The brunch!” Merlin said. The king was going to kill them. He might even reinstitute public executions just for this. “Fuck, what time is it?”

“Oh for fuck’s sake Merlin, get back here,” Arthur growled. It was that authoritative growl that always made Merlin want to do something pathetic like beg, so he immediately stopped what he was doing.

Then he saw the mirth in Arthur’s eyes and glared. “What did you tell him.”

Arthur moved across the bed until he could stretch out a hand and grab Merlin, hauling him back into bed with him. “I might have called him earlier this morning while you were passed out and told him that I’d helped one of the servants rescue their cat yesterday and it set off my allergies and so I was far from good company this morning.”

“That is the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard,” Merlin said, but he let Arthur press him back down into the mattress.

“Well I knew if I said I was sick or injured he’d want to come over and check on me,” Arthur said. “This way he knows I’m fine but I supposedly have red itchy swollen eyes and a runny nose and nobody wants to see that over their kipper and toast.”

Merlin hummed his agreement. “I suppose that is rather clever of you.”

Arthur grinned. “I think such cleverness should be rewarded.”

Merlin rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. “I’m sure you do.”

But he pulled Arthur down and kissed him anyway, because he wanted to and because his grandfather had been right after all, the bastard.