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hold you in my smile

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His parents bring Merlin home the week before Arthur is meant to begin classes. The baby is a squalling little runt if a thing, with pale skin and red-rimmed eyes, and wisps of dark hair that Arthur can already tell are going to grow into an unruly mess.

No one had let Arthur near the child at first; the air was thick, heavy in the way it is when adults are dealing with secrets that children aren’t allowed near. The kind that result in uniformed men slipping in and out of the doors at all hours of the night, men in suit setting up camp in the dining room. The kind that gives Arthur extra cookies to keep him out of the way.

For the most part, he doesn’t care. Until the night before his first day of school when his mother comes into his room with the baby and sits on Arthur’s bed. Her yes are serious, like they were the day she told him his grandmother had passed, but he can hear the baby suckling the pacifier in his mouth instead of the absolute deafening silence of that moment.

“Arthur,” she says. “Arthur this is important. Things are going to change now. Little Merlin is going to stay with us. It’ll be like you have a brother. But, and listen to me carefully, Merlin is not like other children. You must be a good older brother, Arthur, because he is yours to protect.”

She sits there, letting him stroke the downy wisps of hair as he thinks. When she finally takes Merlin away, to put him in his own cot, Arthur tucks a fist beneath his chin and thinks before he sleeps. The boy is mine, and I must protect him.

He dreams of swords and fire and gold and all of the things he will do to keep Merlin safe.

As it turns out, keeping Merlin safe is no hardship. He’s a clumsy thing, who toddles over Arthur’s blocks and his cars and blankets and once even, a leaf. He gets into everything, impossible things. Once Arthur woke to find him sitting on his dresser, babbling.

Mother had been more than frightened and in tears by the time she stumbled into Arthur’s room and found Merlin. She’d wept for a long time as she cradled him, letting him drool on her fancy dress and tug her updo. She’d finally fallen asleep on Arthur’s bed, exhausted, but beautiful in that way that mothers were. Arthur had carefully picked his boy up, grunting at the surprising weight of him, and carried him to the kitchen. He wasn’t entirely sure how he managed to secure Merlin in the high chair, but he chalked it up to his own strength.

Arthur wasn’t allowed to work the stove to warm milk so he found a juice box and carefully placed the straw between Merlin’s plush lips. His boy babbled happily, and wore more juice than he drank, but Arthur felt accomplished all the same.

Mother and Father rarely allowed the boys to share a bed; they wanted them both well rested. But often times Merlin would somehow slip out of his cot and come bumbling into Arthur’s room. It took some doing, usually by pulling the back of his shirt, but Arthur managed to get him into his bed and tuck him beneath his quilt. He lay, carefully, beside him. When Merlin sniffled, Arthur tucked his thumbs against Merlin’s gums and reminded himself to make sure Hildy washed his hands extra good before bed.

His parents never mentioned it, when they found them together that way.

The first time Arthur really gets to practice protecting his boy, is when Mother takes the family to the park so he can kick the ball around with his mates. Merlin, finally doing more than stumble, but still mostly just babbling, is dressed in a deep blue jumper and a wooly hat that doesn’t cover his ears.

Arthur is nervous. Merlin hadn’t been out much since they brought him home. Doctors come to their home to poke and prod and scan him. Father hired a nanny specially for Merlin, one who takes him to a secret room for two hours a day. Merlin is usually grumpy afterwords, and Arthur gives him his thumb to sooth him.

But Merlin is an overly friendly little runt who blabbers to the dogs and the staff and the men with briefcases and the women with needles.  He’s no sense self-preservation. He doesn’t seem to notice that he’s small and gangly and not at all graceful.

When they arrive at the large, grassy field Arthur immediately spots Gwaine. One year older, he’s in Arthur’s year for “performance” issues. Gwaine says he talks to much and moves around too much for teachers. Arthur still doesn’t get it, but he’s a fun lad and he has no qualms wrestling with him in the mud. 

Merlin takes an instant shine to him, which irritates Arthur. He toddles after Gwaine, tugging his jersey and tripping into his back. Gwaine laughs, picks him up carelessly and ruffles his hair. Arthur kicks the ball hard into the bushes and sulks.

But Gwaine is free and reckless in his affection and when he tries to toss Merlin in the air, like Father does with both his boys, Merlin sneezes and shoots up too high. Arthur’s boy tumbles to the ground and the whole world shifts left and then Merlin’s eyes scrunch up. His face gets red and his lips pucker and he screams so loud the whole park flinches.

Arthur’s body goes hot and his vision blinded and he rushes Gwaine. He’s still smaller then Gwaine, that year’s difference being big, but he tucks his head low and rams his friend hard. Gwaine goes down and Arthur curls his tiny fist and he hits his face and his chest and anything he can reach, Merlin’s sobs pulsing through him.

Mother snatches him, scolding him the whole while and Father grabs little Merlin. They check the wailing child over, and save for a small bruise on his elbow he seems unharmed. Gwaine’s cheek is bleeding and one of Arthur’s fists is purple.

His parents send him to his room and keep him there three days. They won’t let Merlin sneak into his room, and by the time he sulkily apologizes to Gwaine, who laughs it off, he’s afraid his boy will have forgotten him. But then Mother lets Merlin nap in Arthur’s bed, and when he presses his thumb to plush lips, Merlin sucks greedily.

Arthur tries to make Mother hold him back when Merlin begins classes. He’s afraid, and he wants to be allowed to be with his boy at all times, but Mother and Father are cruel. They make Arthur put on his blazer and shoes and they don’t let him walk into Merlin’s class.

He spends the whole day grumpy and snappish, worried about how his boy is adjusting. But when he gets home, Merlin is sitting at the table, voice high the way it goes when he’s excited, eating oranges. There’s another kid with him, a tiny little brown haired thing who sneers at Arthur and holds Merlin’s hand like he knows, like he is staking his own claim.

He’s too small for Arthur to hit, but that doesn’t stop him from knocking milk all over him. Merlin frowns, chastises Arthur. Arthur shrugs and stalks off to his room to work his numbers for class.

Later, when the boy has left, Merlin hovers at Arthur’s door. “Why do you hate Will?”

Arthur shrugs as he scribbles out an 8, and tries to think of what the numbers mean.

Merlin doesn’t like the dismissal. He pushes into the room and tries to crawl into Arthur’s lap but Arthur gently dislodges him. He’s got nothing against Merlin in his lap, but he’s feeling a little funny, his stomach kind of tight, ever since pouring milk on Will. Merlin’s eyes go liquid and his lip begins to wobble, so Arthur sighs and drops his pencil.

Merlin plops to the floor, a mess of too long limbs and not much else. He begins to sniff, shoulders hitching upwards. “Are you mad at me?”

Arthur shakes his head. “Of course not.”

But Merlin’s lip really begins to tremble and his whole body starts jerking and then he tips his head back and sobs. “You- you get,” he hiccups, “Gwaine. And I don’t h-have anyone!” Merlin lays on his back and kicks his feet against the floor. It’s ridiculous, but it breaks Arthur’s heart and he kneels beside him. Merlin smacks his hand away, pushes when Arthur tries to pick him up. They struggle for a moment until Arthur lays beside him and Merlin rest his head on Arthur’s chest. He presses his thumb to Merlin’s lips and Merlin opens his mouth. He has teeth now, sharp and cutting, but Arthur doesn’t mind as he presses in.

“You can have friends, Merls. But you’re mine. To protect.” Merlin sniffs against him, suckles his thumb, but he doesn’t answer. They fall asleep that way, the sun filtering through the curtains, warming them, with Arthur’s arms protectively cradling his boy.

Merlin grows up fast. Strange men and home-call doctors make frequent visits to the Pendragon manor, and he’s always in a mood afterwards. At first Arthur prods, trying to find out why they come, but after Merlin has one of his fits and a window is shattered, he takes to just cradling his boy in his arms and offering up his thumb.

Mother says Merlin is too old to still be sucking thumbs, especially when they aren’t his own. Arthur would agree but he likes being able to do this.

Someties, when the parents settle them on the couch with a movie, Merlin will rest his head on Arthur’s knees and nibble at his thumb. Arthur strokes his wild, dark hair, and tries to understand the weird feeling in his belly.

Merlin never does it around Gwaine or Will or any of their other friends, and Arthur likes to think this is something special and secret between them. Merlin really only does it when he’s extremely upset or exhausted; when mother has separated them and he sneaks into Arthur’s room and crawls under his quilt. It’s easy, instinctive, to press his thumb against ever-slick lips, hook it over sharp teeth, and let Merlin’s tongue taste.

But Merlin grows up and he developes his own interest; not of sports and history, but silly things like books and plants. Merlin spends a lot of time in Father’s lap, listening to tales of magic and fae, and with Mother nurturing small little green things. Mother laughs, because he always picks the saddest dying plans and somehow wills them back to life.

Arthur has seen him sprawled in the dirt, whispering secrets to the plants like they can hear him. Arthur himself has no interest in glittering creatures or hawthorn and aconite, but he picks up his ball and kicks it against walls and fences just so Merlin will spend time with him.

Merlin laughs at him, calls him a boorish ape, a silly soldier. Arthur tackles him into the mud and pretends he bites his jaw out of cruelty. Merlin stares at him with gold-flecked blue eyes, and an understanding far beyond an 11 year olds capabilities.

In the heat of summer once, when they’re caked in suncream and sand, wearing nothing but their swim trunks, Arthur pins Merlin down. He holds those bird-bone wrist in his large hands and sits on sharp hips and he growls against Merlin’s neck “Mine.”  There’s a feeling in him, one in his gut and his groin, stuck beneath his ribs and wrapped ‘round his spine, shoved deep into his brain. A feeling of possessiveness and want and fear and things he doesn’t dare to name at 15 because they are big and they are adult and they terrify him.

But Merlin, precious little Merlin who sometimes makes glass break and appears to hover above the earth, doesn’t seem afraid. His eyes are huge and solemn, like they are when home-doctors take his blood and briefcase-men keep him for hours, making him show them what he can do. He looks up at Arthur and his brows furrow and his lips purse, but he nods. “Yours. To protect.” Then his lips part and he waits, and they’re in public, sort of. Laughter from the lake echoes around them and Mother and Father are just beyond the sand, and he’s 15 and knows better, but Arthur presses his thumb into Merlin’s mouth. Merlin closes his eyes, wraps his tongue around Arthur’s thumb, and sighs like he does when he taste Mother’s spice buns.

They fight when Arthur prepares for University. It’s a loud and ugly row, one that happens in front of Gwaine and Will and most everybody they know.

Merlin starts it. Arthur never starts big fights between them. That’s not what he does for his boy. But Merlin has been bitchy since the first application arrived, snipping at their parents and arguing with his doctors and cutting classes with Will.

Arthur has tried to shield him from their parents, to cover for him with their teachers. He’s had to pick a drunk Merlin up too many weekends, and help him wash blood from his shirts.

He’s shoved boys away from him in the locker rooms, when Merlin’s mouth ran to fast and he’s busted him under the bleachers enough times to know what Merlin looks like, everywhere.

Arthur taught Merlin how to roll a joint, how to grind his weed, how to pinch a filter, just to make sure he was safe.

Merlin’s fury cannot be leashed or coddled though. When he shoves Arthur in the quad, cracks his brother’s head against the ground, Arthur feels tears well in his eyes, and shame bind to his bones. Gwaine steps forward, ready to intercede, but Arthur shakes his head. He stands up, approaches his boy, and tries to reach for his jaw.

Merlin pushes him again, spits at his feet. “I don’t need you to protect me, arse.”

Arthur feels the same heat from the field years ago course through him, sees the same blinding light. He lurches forward and grabs Merlin buy his purple shirt and pushes. Fist swing; they end up in the grass. At some point, Merlin bites Arthur and that strange swooping shoots through his groin, but Arthur doesn’t stop. He shoves Merlin’s jaw up, forces his head into the mud, sits on his hips and pins his wrist and slams his fist into Merlin’s belly.

They’re both bleeding and sore when the teacher comes to separate them, but Merlin screams and the ground shakes.

Father arrives quickly, ushers then away from the cracked quad and out of view of other students. Merlin is vibrating and his eyes are bright and there is a hum about the air around him. Arthur is terrified. He presses his thumb against a split lip, but Merlin crawls over the seats and lays in the back of the vehicle.

Mother separates them quickly. She cleans Arthur’s nose and ices his eye, and smears ointment on his knuckles and his arms. She presses her fingers to the bite on his biceps, eyebrows meeting in the middle. “Oh, Arthur. It was too much to ask you to protect him.”

“No!” He growls. His chest is tight and he can’t breath, but he forces himself to tell her “He is mine.”

Her eyes soften and she presses three fingers to her lips, then leaves him alone on his quilt.

Arthur doesn’t sleep. He tosses about in his bed and presses his thumb against his own teeth, but the itch beneath his skin won’t go away.

Merlin avoids him for a week, during which Arthur’s teeth hurt and his head pounds and his chest is all tense and heavy.

Mother won’t tell him anything, but Father calls him into his office. “You and Merlin have always been close, son. Something your mother and I are grateful for. But you must know that Merlin is… unique.”

Arthur sulks in the leather chair, picking at the skin around his thumbs. “Asking you to be his guard, without explaining why, was unfair. But we always held the hope that we would never have to. As you know, Merlin lost his parents as an infant.”

“Duh, that’s why you brought him here,”  Arthur snarks.

“No.” Uther’s voice is heavy, final. Arthur stares at him and notices, for the first time, the fear and exhaustion in his father’s watery eyes. “No,” he repeats softly. “we brought him because of how he lost his parents. A brutal home invasion, his parents viciously beaten and left in front of his crib. All because his father practiced magic.”Arthur scoffs. “Someone murdered his folks because his dad liked to flip cards and read palms?”

“Real magic, Arthur. Like the kind I read about in those stories, in the history of Merlin’s people. Untamable forces in their blood that could shake the earth and crack the windows and move the air. Those oddities you’ve seen in your brother, the lightning in his eyes.”

Uther sighs and rubs a hand across his nose. “We took him to keep him safe. To help hide him. We had, initially, hoped his father’s gene skipped him. He proved that thought wrong very quickly.”

Arthur doesn’t know what to do with the information, and Uther doesn’t seem to have anything more to add. When Arthur leaves, he is troubled. Not by Merlin’s newfound talent, his boy has always been special, but by sinking feeling that no matter what, or how hard he tries, he’ll never be able to really protect his boy.

In the end, Arthur picks a university he can commute to from home. Merlin is different with him now, distant in a way he never has been before. He spends most of his days with Will, comes home smelling of sweet smoke and rum more often than not, and never slips into Arthur’s bed.

It hurts, stings, but try as he might, Arthur cannot get Merlin to engage with him. His boy won’t look at him or speak to him, and he breaks two trophies and a wall with his fists.

When Merlin comes home with a dark bruise in the corner of his jaw, with a stiffness to his walks, something in Arthur just… fractures.

He can’t explain the dark spots in his vision or the tremors in his hands, or the feeling he might puke at any second. Merlin freezes when he sees him, goes to press a hand to his jaw, before sighing and plopping onto the couch. He makes a vague notion with his hand that Arthur thinks is an invitation.

He doesn’t accept, choosing instead to hover at the end of the couch.

Merlin shrugs. “Will’s an enthusiastic kisser when he’s stoned,” he mumbles.

Arthur wars with himself. He’s kissed loads of girls and guys, tumbled around beneath the bleachers and been caught pants down in the bathrooms. But somehow, he’d always imagined Merlin as this serene and everpure creature. Never once had he imagined Merlin to be even interested in these things.

Liar, a voice whispers in his skull. You never imagined him wanting anyone but you.

“Do you love him?” The question tumbled out, splintered and unsteady.

Merlin snorts. “Don’t be stupid. He’s a laugh and a good time, but he’ll never admit he likes blokes. He’s going to marry Freya, and I’m not stupid enough to try and compete with that.”

There’s something beneath the words, a truth under a casual lie. Arthur never studied linguistics though, and he’s shite at interpretations. Merlin knows this, so when Arthur continues to stand there unresponsive, he shoves himself up from the couch and places a hand to Arthur’s cheek. “Besides. We both know who I belong to.”

He walks out, leaving Arthur with a pounding heart and swirling thoughts.

Arthur, for all his vices, never drinks. He needs to be sober so that he can protect his boy. Only, he has learned he has never been enough to protect the runt with gods’ blood in his veins.

So he goes out with Gwaine and he tries everything. Shots and liquors and sour wines and bitter beers. He drinks until his words blend and his feet stutter and the road is a little liquid before his eyes.

Gwaine takes him home, passes him to Merlin who has been waiting by the door. Merlin, who is beautiful and exhausted and will be joining Arthur at the local university, two years early. Gwaine dumps him into arms that are surprisingly strong for how narrow they are.

Merlin leads him, clumsy and loud, to his own room and tries to help him strip his shirt off. Arthur’s too busy pressing his thumb to Merlin’s lips, trying to cup his jaw. “Mine, Merls. My boy.”

Merlin snorts, but manages to wrestle the cotton over his head, yank the jeans down his legs. He shoves Arthur into his bed in his socks and his undies, and he’s turned to leave when Arthur sighs. “Please, don’t go. I didn’t.”

Merlin freezes, it’s a full-body flinch and the air around them goes sharp. But he doesn’t leave the room. “I didn’t ask you to say, Arty.

Arthur’s head is stuffed full of bitter something, but he thinks Merlin’s a fool. So he tells him. “Idiot. You didn’t have to. You’re mine to protect. My boy.” He is tired, exhausted. Like he’s been running full speed for months and months and he’s only just finally been allowed to stop. He presses his thumb to his lips, bites, but it’s not the same as when Merlin does it. “Sleep with me, Merls.”

Merlin obliges, divesting himself of everything but his briefs. He crawls in and even though he is as tall as Arthur these days, as broad, he curls so that Arthur fits around him, his arms cradle him. He reaches of his own accord and takes Arthur’s thumb into his mouth, tongue curling around it desperately. Arthur is asleep in seconds.

He wakes, mouth foul tasting and head aching and bladder pulsing, but Merlin is still curled in his arms and he looks so young Arthur doesn’t want to wake him.

He wets himself when Merlin finally slumps to the bathroom hours later, and his shame feels minimal as he changes his sheets.

That night changes everything. Merlin hovers about him, doesn’t leave his side if he can help it. Under the guise of needing help with school, despite clearly being the brighter of the two, he moves himself into Arthur’s room. He walks around in flimsy shorts and not much else, and finds every excuse to touch.

Arthur is torn between jubilance and irritation, and his prick has never been in his hand as much. He’s constantly sweaty and his groin tight, and he feels like his want must be tattooed across his forehead. But no one seems to notice. His friends think it’s adorable Merlin worships him, that he indulges him. His parents are just glad their boys are getting along again.

Will spends most of his free hours with Freya, leaving Merlin at Arthur’s side, always. Arthur is no fool. He knows what is and isn’t allowed, what’s socially appropriate. He knows the way his eyes track his brother, the way his fingers linger in the hair on his belly at night, is wrong .

And yet, it feels like the most right thing ever. He loves when his parents leave and Merlin crowds his space and suckles his thumb. He adores the dinners where his hands are on Merlin’s thighs, where he makes him choke on his greens with a well timed grip. He fucking lives for the nights that are theirs and theirs alone. The ones where his hand finds Merlin’s prick and strokes it, where they rut against each other, so much skin a flame against too-warm skin. They don’t kiss, they don’t strip completely, they don’t talk about it, but Arthur weighs Merlin down with his body, shoves against him and buries his nose in dark hair, grunts and shudders and spills hot in his boxers and groans “ My boy,” as Merlin keens and sobs beneath him.

Merlin is no better. He drapes himself over Arthur’s back when they cook. Fits his fingers into the crease of his thigh when they swim in muddy waters. Merlin leaves marks. Deep ridges down Arthur’s back and ugly red-purple bruises under his jaw and across his collarbone. He suckles Arthur’s thumb most nights, teeth worrying the skin until Arthur has to start rubbing ointments into the raw flesh.

Arthur knows what Merlin wants. He can feel it against his thigh, in the crease of his groin, against his belly. Sometimes he imagines he can smell it. But there is a line Arthur isn’t ready to cross, despite the physical ache it causes him.

In the end, the line was flimsy and they were inevitable.

Their parents know, they simply must. Merlin has no sense of quiet, no urgent need to keep this thing between them secret. He doesn’t understand shame, has never felt it slick and sticky in his curls.

He teases and he taunts and he pushes, until Arthur has no room left to deny them. The day is sunny and cool, bright rays glinting off the ice hanging from the roof. Merlin is, ridiculous boy that he is, shivering about the house wearing silky shorts and nothing else. Arthur can see the outline of his desire hanging low beneath the dark material. Merlin waits until Mother and Father are gone, some benefit or board meeting, and sits on the couch, legs spread. He never takes his eyes off Arthur.

He scratches a nail down his torso, his breath hitching as it catches over a nipple. He lingers in the curls right above his waistband, then digs his fingers below the elastic. Arthur stands there with a bowl of chips in one hand, and his jeans bunched at the groin in the other. His lungs feel hot, but he doesn’t look away.

Merlin slides the shorts over his knees, let’s them pool around his ankles. Arthur has seen him before, hasn’t been able to help it, but he’s astounded all the same at how long his boy is. Not entirely thick, but beautifully curved, and framed by shiny dark curls. Arthur wants to taste the purple head, to lick the shiny precome. Merlin’s fingers flex around his shaft, and his hips jerk up. He lets go, licks his palm, and then strokes himself, eyes fluttering shut. Involuntarily he lifts his own thumb to his mouth, holds it between his teeth as he fist himself.

He’s beautiful. Fucking gorgeous, and Arthur has to wonder why he ever touched or let himself be touched by others. Merlin’s pale skin grows flushed, and he makes these small, high noises. His toes curl against the hardwood, and he can’t stop himself from jerking. Arthur can see his release coming, seconds before Merlin’s entire body tense, before he shudders hard and shoots against his chest.

Arthur lets the chips fall to the floor and drops to his knees before his boy. He fits his hands over Merlin’s thighs and doesn’t think as he leans forward and licks. Merlin’s release is bitter and musky. It isn’t exactly pleasant against Arthur’s tongue but he can’t help licking until the black curls are shiny with spit and not come. Merlin lets him, one hand gently resting on Arthur’s neck.

Arthur yanks his jeans off, fits his mouth to Merlin’s neck and strokes himself. It’s too fast to really be pleasant, but his whole body throbs with need and it doesn’t take long before Merlin’s dirty again, this time with Arthur’s spend.

Dirty thing that Merlin is, he drags two fingers through the mess and lifts them to his mouth, eyes locked on Arthur. His nose curls a little when it hits his tongue, but he doesn’t stop until he is clean again.

Arthur grabs his jaw, pulls them close as he sits in Merlin’s lap. “ Mine ,” he says, from some place deep within him.

Merlin doesn’t answer; instead he slots their mouths together, forces the taste of Arthur into his mouth.

They cannot be contained after that. Always touching and tasting, never worried about who might see them, who might judge them. Merlin is a coy little thing, who loves to play. Arthur is much more protective, much more cautious. When his fingers ghost over Merlin’s shoulders it is reverent. When he takes the length of Merlin down his throat, farther than is really comfortable, when he gags on him, he worships him.

Merlin isn’t content with mouths and fist though. He wants Arthur, totally and completely, and he tells him. “Take , Arthur. Take what is yours.”

Arthur hesitates, and he can see the hurt reflected in Merlin’s eyes. But he also know that when he caves, and he will, when he takes all of Merlin there will be no going back. He will never share his boy again. It terrifies him, the fierce possessiveness locked beneath his breastbone. He doesn’t think Merlin truly understands how far he will go to protect him, to own him. It isn't normal; it’s sick and dark and twisted, but Arthur doesn’t want to change it, to release his claim on Merlin.

And then Merlin comes home with glassy eyes and swollen lips and a hickey under his ear. There’s a fight, a challenge in his eyes. The air, brittle and cold, pops around him. Gwaine hovers in the door, suddenly uncertain and Arthur eyes the unruly mess of brown hair and the bite-bruise peeking beneath the collar of his shirt.

He lunged, because he can’t see anything but purple marks and brown hair and Merlin’s lust blown gaze. He beats Gwaine, takes a fair few punches himself. It isn’t until Merlin is screaming in his ear, shoving with his whole body, and begging him stop that he lets Gwaine go. He’s not really sure which of them won, with bloody noses and split lips and bruised knuckles.

Gwaine sees himself out and Merlin drags Arthur to the bathroom to clean him up. Arthur lets him, if only because he knows Merlin will find a way to make him. He lets him rub alcohol across the cuts, smear cream into the bruises. He lets Merlin tut and coddle and chide. “Obtuse prat. Such a caveman.” And then when Merlin’s fingers hover uselessly above Arthur’s shoulders, when he stares above his left ear, Arthur grips his jaw and makes blue-gold eyes meet his own. Mine , he says with his lips slotted over Merlin’s. Mine, his fingers claim as they dig into sharp hips.

My boy, as he leads Merlin to their room, as he guides him to the bed. As he strips off his coat and his sweater and his shoes and his slacks. For a moment, Merlin is the tiny little runt of a thing again, and Arthur is the big brother helping him undress for bed. He looks so small, despite his height, cradled against Arthur’s quilt.

But the hair on his chest and the glint in his eyes are all grown up and when Arthur's fingers hesitate in the waistband of his boxers, Merlin wraps his cold hands around Arthur’s warm ones and helps him push them down. Arthur makes quick work of his own clothes, and Merlin scoffs, “What if I wanted-”

Arthur silences him with fingers wrapped around his ankle as he lifts his leg. Arthur is done with games and shame and half truths. He buries his nose in Merlin’s crack and breaths in, sighs against the warm flesh. It makes Merlin squirm, grunt; Arthur grabs his other ankle, holds his leg still. He licks, just once, at that strange little pucker. Sweat and boy and something else assault his taste buds, but he doesn’t mind. He leans back, studies Merlin, and then leans in once more. He licks in and around Merlin’s hole, listening to the noises that fall from plush lips. He licks until the skin is shiny, until there’s a damp spot on the quilt and his jaw cramps and his tongue aches. He licks and licks until Merlin tugs at his hair, whines.

Arthur has lube tucked into his drawer, for just this moment. But his dresser is on the other side of the room and he’s impatient, and Merlin’s hole is winking at him expectantly, begging just the same and those fucking noise falling from his mouth. He strokes himself a few times. Short, angry things that smear his precome up and down his fat length. Merlin presses his knees to his chest and groans as Arthur braces the head of his prick against Merlin’s hole.

It’s a slow series of false starts and grunts and bad angles, but finally, finally , they figure it out and Arthur slips past the ring of muscles and sinks into Merlin. It’s a slow descent into a heat that’s almost too tight, and Merlin has an arm thrown over his eyes. Arthur, one hand on Merlin’s thigh, can’t help but press his thumb between still-swollen lips. Merlin sucks greedily, bites until Arthur is sure he must bleed. He wonders what else Merlin might like sucking, and the thought makes him shudder, makes him tremble inside of Merlin who cries out, grips the sheets.

Arthur tries, really, to be gentle. To make it as pleasurable for his brother has he can. But Merlin doesn’t want gentle thrust and soft touches. He moves, shifts, grinds against Arthur. Forces him into an unrelenting rhythm that is fast and almost cruel. Skin slaps skin and Arthur fucks the breath from Merlin who can only make short keening noises and grip the sheets.

Arthur fucks Merlin like he is possessed. Like he owns the pale flesh and slender bones and dark curls. He shoves into him like he is afraid there will never be another chances, like if he doesn’t claim Merlin, completely, wholly, someone else will take him. He thrust like a wild beast and bites any flesh he can find. The bed creaks beneath them and tears run down Merlin’s cheek but he never lets Arthur go, never pushes him away.

Arthur comes first. A violent explosion that he feels in every bit of him, underneath every scrap of skin. One that shakes him to the core and explodes like stars behind his eyes. He can’t stop his hips, even as he feels his own release filling Merlin, squelching between them. When he finally comes down, catches his breath he shivers in the sudden cold, Merlin is tense beneath him, chest heaving and hips stuttering.

Arthur wants to be cruel. To squeeze the long prick in his fist and make him wait to come. To punish him for his dalliance and to tell him everything you are, everything you do, is for me. Is mine to command.

Then Merlin sobs around Arthur’s thumb, lets the digit fall from his mouth. “Please,” he whimpers and it’s so desperate and needy and innocent, Arthur can not deny him. He pushes Merlin’s limp legs apart, leans down and takes him in his mouth. He’s barely wrapped his lips around the head when Merlin makes a sharp noise.  He tenses, hips jerking up, and explodes in Arthur’s mouth. Some drips down his chin and Merlin manages to lift himself just enough to lick it off.

Arthur, sticky and gross and exhausted, tries to rustle Merlin up to the bathroom to clean them. Merlin refuses to be anything more than a floppy sack of flesh though, and Arthur's forced to find a shirt that barely smells to wipe them off.

He curls around Merlin, cradled him in his arms, tries to absorb him into his flesh, and they sleep.  

Their parents know, simply because they can’t not know. But they say nothing, do nothing. They let their boys be exactly as they are, as they will be. Merlin doesn’t question the strangeness of their acceptance. Arthur thinks they too, must feel the threads binding him and Merlin.

Arthur graduates, and then Merlin. Part of Arthur thinks they should move, should find a place where no one knows them.

But they’ve always been close, always been affectionate. And their town is a strange little place anyway. So Merlin finds them a cottage on the edge and they move in. Sometimes when Will and Freya visit, they’re surprised that the boys don’t mind sharing a room. Sometimes there is a knowing in Gwaine’s eyes that makes Arthur uncomfortable, makes Gwaine’s jokes a little hateful.

Arthur thinks he might never forgive him for stealing Merlin away. Arthur would feel the same if he were Gwaine.

But when it’s just the two of them, when Merlin blinks at him sleepily and suckles his thumb, rocks against Arthur’s thigh, none of that matters. Arthur owns Merlin, in the only way he can. With His body, with his heart, with his hands and his tongue and his thoughts and the intensity bred into his bones when Merlin was brought into his life.

Merlin kisses his jaw, his lips, his eyelids, and he lets Arthur take and take, gives everything he can.

Mine,” Arthur snarls each night.

Yours ,” Merlin laughs in answer.