"Invisible Boyfriend?" Arthur yanks the tablet out of Merlin's hands. "No, Merlin. I can't let you do this."
"Arthur!" Merlin tries to grab the tablet back. He's wiry and quick. He stands a bit of a chance. Except Arthur is strategic and knows him for far too long. He anticipates Merlin's moves and evades them easily.
Too bad he can't anticipate all of Merlin's moves.
"My mobile! Give it back."
Now it's Merlin's turn to smirk. "What, this?" He uses his long arms to his advantage and leans back as far as he could on the table, away from Arthur's grasp. "You want this? You want this, you'll have to-"
Click, the door to the conference room opens. Morgana raises one perfect eyebrow at the two of them. "At least you shut the door this time. Next time, try locking it as well." She gives them a significant look and leaves.
"No, that's not what-!" Merlin tries to shout after her, but then again Arthur is sort of on top of him. Still. He clears his throat.
"Ignore her." Arthur sets down the tablet. “My sister will always do as she likes.” Then Arthur’s arms are there, braced on either side of Merlin’s head.
Merlin would like to say he's not affected. Not affected at all, damn it. But he's always been affected by Arthur whether he's fifty feet away or – gulp - zero. "What-what are you doing?"
"I have a proposal for you."
"I should have said no." Merlin buries his face in his hands.
"No! No, this is good, Merlin." Gwen bumps his shoulder as she forks up another mouthful of the Chinese takeout. "You've always fancied him and now you can you know, sort of take him on a test drive."
Will makes a rude noise from his end of the sofa. "Test drive? Merlin's been test driving him in his head for years. This is going to break his heart. It's bloody stupid is what this is."
Merlin rubs his temple, thinks he might be coming down with a headache. Not that Will is wrong. Arthur does have a reputation as a billionaire playboy. Or he did before his father took ill.
On the other hand, Gwen has a point too. He grew up with Arthur, lived in the same house and got to know another side of him, the side he's been utterly in love with since the age of ten. (That was when Arthur caught him trying to sneak in a charcoal ball of a hungry kitten. Instead of telling on him, Arthur had distracted Uther long enough - with a spoon trick of all things - for Merlin to escape up the stairs with Killy.)
Nineteen years later and Merlin's still not over Arthur. "What do you think, Killy?" Merlin scratches his moody senior cat between the ears. Killy slants him a look and purrs.
"I think he approves." Gwen laughs. "It's your destiny, Merlin!" She says in her Killy voice.
"No, no. Look at him!" Will points with his chopsticks. "He just wants some sesame chicken."
"So, which is it? Destiny or chicken?"
Killy says nothing, naturally.
Merlin starfishes over the couch and sighs, no less conflicted than before talking to his friends.
"Ready?" Arthur leans back in his convertible like he's king of the world, which - close enough. At least he's king of Merlin's world.
Merlin shakes his head. He really needs to stop thinking like that before he gets into trouble. "No," he answers Arthur but dumps his luggage in the boot anyway.
Arthur waits for him, waits until Merlin’s sat properly in the car and fussing with his seatbelt before clutching him by the shoulder and turning him. Arthur is always doing this, manhandling him. It gives people like Morgana the wrong idea. (People like Merlin too, to be honest.)
"Merlin," Arthur perches his sunglasses atop his golden crown of hair and focuses the full force of his piercing eyes and ridiculous eyelashes (ridiculous everything really) on him. "It's going to be fine, I promise. I will be the best fake boyfriend for you. No one will be any the wiser, all right?"
Merlin knows this is Arthur being kind. This is Arthur killing him with kindness.
He nods. "At least you've had plenty of practice, yeah?" He flashes his teeth, knows he's smiling too wide.
It works though. Arthur rolls his eyes and finally looks away. "Shut up, Merlin," he says as he pulls away from the kerb like his tyres are on fire.
Merlin's heart thump-thumps in his chest to the vroom-vroom of the engine. And then it thump-thumps a little steadier. Perhaps it will be all right, if he just keeps reminding himself they are but playing pretend.
Being with Arthur has never been a chore. Being with Arthur is a breeze, a real breeze, especially in the convertible with the top down.
"Do you mind?" Merlin shouts over the rush of exhaust and summer humidity blowing up his hair and gestures for Arthur to cover them up.
Arthur makes a face but does as asked. "Baby," he says.
Merlin knows it's not meant as endearment (same as he knows that he wants it to be). "Really? Baby? Is that the best you can do?"
Arthur gets that happy light in his eyes that only ever means trouble. "Honey." He draws the word out from his lips so that it sounds like sin. "Sweetheart. Darling. Lov-"
"Cabbagehead!" Merlin interjects before Arthur can venture into dangerous ground.
"Cabbagehead?" Arthur looks over with a grimace. "Now who's the rubbish boyfriend?"
"You," Merlin answers on automatic.
"Idiot," Arthur says lightly around a smile.
"Prat," Merlin says just as lightly back. They have another hour’s drive ahead of them yet.
After fifteen minutes of sultry everything from Adele to Marvin Gaye (and much fidgeting, so much), Merlin has to turn the volume down, say something. "So, what's our cover story? How did we meet? How did this," he gestures between them, "start?"
Arthur looks contemplative as he runs a finger above his upper lip. "Merlin, we grew up together. I met you when your mum came to work for us. Everyone knows this."
"Gwaine know this," Arthur adds.
"Right." Merlin says again. Even now hearing Gwaine's name makes his heart twinge. Gwaine was his first proper boyfriend, his first love after Arthur, the love who's getting married this weekend to someone else.
Arthur reaches over and takes his hand. "We started this on a dare."
Merlin snorts. "We would." He looks over at Arthur, Arthur who has Merlin's hand in his hand. It feels nice, solid and warm and comforting. It feels as it always does with Arthur, like he could be his truest self around him (his biggest secret aside). "It's because I didn't want to say where my father's gone," he offers.
Arthur squeezes his hand and says nothing in reply, doesn't need to.
"And Will bet you couldn't stand to live with me and Killy for more than two weeks."
"He what?" Arthur looks outraged.
Merlin laughs. "Our cover story, Arthur! Still with me?"
"Yeah, all right." Arthur squeezes his hand again and then seems to realise they're holding hands. He clears his throat and lets go, ostensibly to take the wheel, make a turn.
Merlin takes a breath - in, in, in - and looks out the window at the blur of scenery - greens and blues, so much blues.
He tries not to think about Arthur or Gwaine, but well, what else is this whole weekend about?
Merlin met Gwaine at a party in uni. Gwaine had a wicked smile, a wicked pair of hands, and hair that fit so well within Merlin's grasp. Merlin fell hard, drunken, smitten, convinced it could last. It didn't. Gwaine's party moved on and Merlin tried to tell himself it's because Gwaine's heart is like Arthur's - couldn't truly belong to anyone. They skip from lover to lover like some Teflon-coated stone over water.
But here Gwaine is, getting married to one tall, broad, and handsome Percy somebody. Merlin wonders what is so wrong with him that he has to prove himself unbroken to this boy who broke his smile once upon a time.
"Merlin?" Arthur pokes him in the ribs.
"What?" Merlin bats off Arthur's hand. (He's ticklish, okay?) Belatedly, he registers that they’re stopped. Surely they’re not there yet?
"Smile for me."
"Hmm?" Merlin looks up confused as Arthur turns and plants a kiss right next to his mouth.
The flash on Arthur's phone goes off.
"Photographic evidence," Arthur tells him as he thumbs in something and starts up the car again.
"Did you just Tweet that?" Merlin snatches Arthur's phone to look. His own wild eyes look back at him. His wild heart pounds in his chest. They look… they look like a couple.
"!!!!!!" Gwen texts him not a minute later.
"Hashtag weddingweekend?" Will texts him a row of angry eyebrow emoticons and Merlin sighs.
"What?" Arthur asks without turning his head from the traffic.
"Nothing," he says and tries to leave it at that, but well, it's not nothing, is it? "Will thinks you're going to break my heart." He fiddles with his mobile and tries to look busy.
Arthur doesn't say anything for the longest stretch. Merlin almost thinks he's not going to.
"Is that even possible?"
Merlin looks up from texting Will back. "Is what even possible?"
"Me breaking your heart."
"Wha-?" Merlin doesn't want to look the fool, so he forces a laugh. "No. No, that- that was just Will being… Will."
"Oh. Of course."
Merlin frowns - was that disappointment he detected in Arthur's voice? - and tries not to think about it too much.
Their hotel is really a bed and breakfast. It’s quaint and sweet, with pretty blooms in the yard and old brickworks a vibrant red beneath the vines.
And apparently it's all booked up for the weekend.
"So glad we made a reservation ahead of time," Merlin says as he tugs his suitcase up the stairs. "Did you hear that couple downstairs? They got the last room and the only other hotel in town is all the way on the other side."
"Yes, Merlin. I'm not deaf you know?" Arthur pushes at the bottom of Merlin's bag, making him stumble.
Merlin looks back over his shoulder to glare at him.
Arthur just grins. "Come on, honey melon. Let's go. I'd like to wash my face some time this century."
Merlin makes a gagging sound. "Honey melon?"
"Sometime this century, sweet tart."
"Sure about that?"
Merlin sticks out his tongue. He's too tired to be mature. And Arthur just brings out this side of him, always has. Merlin scales the last of the stairs and fits the key in their door. "There, happy?"
He looks over and registers the change on Arthur's face, all traces of amusement gone. "What's wrong?"
"I'm going to kill Morgana."
Merlin takes a few more steps in and looks over the room in confusion. It's clean and airy, with nice navy and white-striped wallpaper and a tasteful painting of a knight on a dragon.
Then he notices the bed, how there's only one of those. "Wait, when you said you will take care of the reservation, you meant you told Morgana to book us a room?"
Arthur refuses to look at him, turning away instead to yell into his mobile.
Merlin sits down dumbly, can't say how he's feeling exactly.
When Arthur steps back in the room, he looks calmer, if still flushed about the cheeks. "Merlin, I-" he starts and doesn't finish his sentence. For all of his bravado, sometimes Arthur is even more awkward than Merlin.
"Hey, it's only a couple of nights." Merlin shrugs, trying to make light of things. He flashes his over-big grin. "I'll pretend you're Will."
Arthur makes a face. "You will do no such thing!" He marches over and sits on the other side of the bed, making it dip, making Merlin's heart dip too. Methodically, Arthur tugs off his boots and rolls up his sleeves. "At least pretend I'm Gwen."
Merlin looks away from Arthur's forearms (which are such nice forearms). "But I like Gwen."
Arthur glares at him.
"She smells nicer!"
Arthur huffs. "How would you know exactly?"
"Arthur, the lady smells like cookies." And Gwen really does. She's an ace baker after all. "I doubt you smell better than cookies."
Arthur snorts. "Perhaps not. Speaking of cookies, are you hungry?"
"What would you like then?" Arthur is frowning at the menu and kicking back as far as he could in the small chair. His knees knock into Merlin's and Merlin has so many replies for what he would like right now.
"Fish and chips look good," he says. "Or the specialty cheese sandwich."
"As long as there's no anchovy, right?" Arthur nudges his leg and flashes him a smile.
And Merlin has to remember that despite the tea candle flickering between them on the heavy tablecloth, they're not actually dating. So what if Arthur knows him, knows what he refuses to eat and what he loves? Friends know this and he and Arthur are friends (just friends).
"Anchovies are for Killy, you know that."
"Do I?" Arthur pulls out his legendary smile that's fell many a panties and Merlin has to look away. "How is Killy?"
Merlin brings out his mobile, might as well. "Slower, grumpier, but otherwise the same."
Arthur takes it, thumbs through the photos, really looking at them. His fond smile hasn't gone away. Merlin finds himself watching Arthur (and wishing he could resist).
"Still takes over the bed, I see." Arthur shifts in his chair, making Merlin shift in his.
"Yeah. Takes over everything, a bit like you."
Arthur elbows him in the side.
"Case in point." Merlin elbows him back.
When their waiter comes back, they're both grinning over the small table at each other and nowhere near ready to order.
"That was a good grilled cheese sand-" Merlin breaks off around a yawn. Even now with the cool mint of toothpaste on his tongue, he could still feel the warm, satisfying fill of melted cheese and crunchy bread. The sundried tomatoes and avocadoes don't hurt either. And cider - the apple cider was just sweet and tart enough to be perfect.
Another yawn claims him. Merlin supposes it's no surprise given how he tossed and turned, slept a total of two hours last night, if that. (Killy was no help, purring and staring at him with those golden eyes of his.)
"Go to sleep, Merlin." Arthur sets his mobile on the table and settles in beside him, too warm, too solid, too everything.
Merlin tries valiantly to stay awake. After all, this is Arthur in the same bed with him.
That's his last thought as he drifts off.
Merlin wakes to bird sounds outside their window.
"Can Killy eat them already?" Arthur groans from behind him.
Merlin snorts, and in snorting registers that one of Arthur's arms is slung over his waist. This is not good. This is very not good. No amount of pretending that the arm belongs to Will or Gwen works. (No one else is Arthur.)
"Merlin." Arthur curls his hand, inadvertently dragging fingers warm over Merlin's stomach, making everything a hundred times worse.
Merlin closes his eyes and holds his breath.
"Do bring up some breakfast if you're going down."
That does it. That breaks the spell. Merlin huffs. "Honestly, Arthur! I'm not your servant." He wiggles out from under Arthur's arm.
"No, but you're my boyfriend this weekend. How about some breakfast in bed?"
"Pretend boyfriend," Merlin shoots back. "And you haven't done anything to deserve breakfast in bed," he grumbles under his breath as he tugs on his jeans and escapes to the loo to wash up.
When he comes back out, Arthur is asleep again, mouth slightly open, looking peaceful (and bloody gorgeous).
Merlin snaps a picture. More photographical evidence, he tells himself, though he pockets his phone and doesn't post this evidence anywhere.
He does, however, bring up breakfast (and feed it to Arthur).
"Mmnnh!" Arthur moans awake around a muffin.
Merlin grins. Maybe breakfast in bed isn't the worst idea.
The bachelor's party slash scavenger hunt stretches from mid-morning to late evening. At least that's what the schedule says.
They're to receive their list of items to find at the meet up point in fifteen minutes. Merlin is nowhere near even fifteen percent ready. Which is why he's staring at a pair of blue jays instead, watching as they hop from branch to branch in the trees outside the window. He wonders if they're the birds Arthur wanted Killy to eat this morning.
"Ready, sugar bunny?" Arthur's voice in his ear startles him, though no more than Arthur's hands on his shoulders.
Merlin swallows and meets Arthur's eyes in the reflection. "You are actually the worst."
"I'm the best really." Arthur answers with his crooked smile. "After all, I'm taking a weekend out of my busy life to help out a friend."
Merlin turns, feeling contrite. "Arthur," he starts, running his tongue over his lip in a nervous gesture. "I-I do really appreciate-" Merlin's breath goes out in a gasp as Arthur leans in suddenly and sucks at his neck.
Then Arthur's pressing a finger there. "Love bite," he says, thumb still stroking, scrambling Merlin's pulse. "All right?"
Merlin nods dumbly. Until Arthur takes a step back and he could think, that is.
"Next time, ask first." Merlin brushes past and storms down the stairs, hands shaking, shaking, shaking.
"Merlin!" Arthur catches up to him quickly enough outside the B&B. "Merlin, I didn't think. I'm sorry."
"You're such a prat." Merlin says to the dip of skin at the open collar of Arthur's white shirt. Which is totally not helping the situation.
He jerks his head up. "I'm not one of your flings. I'm-" I'm afraid Will is right, he stops himself from saying. You will ground my heart into pieces and no good will come of this.
"You're right. You're one of my oldest friends, Merlin. I'm sorry." Arthur touches his elbow and his eyes are the biggest puppy apology eyes Merlin's ever seen.
Merlin huffs in irritation. Trust Arthur to drive him mad in both good ways and bad.
Merlin turns, jerking apart from Arthur. There's Gwaine and his great timing jogging up the slope. Gwaine’s eyes are as crinkled with laugh lines as Merlin remembers.
"Gwaine!" He greets. Then he notices the giant behind him. "And Percy?"
Percy gives them a friendly nod.
Which Merlin mostly misses because Gwaine pulls him into a hug, warm as ever. Merlin closes his eyes and hides his face in Gwaine's curls for a moment to compose himself. Gwaine still smells the same, woodsy somehow, like he's been trekking through forests for ages.
When Gwaine lets go, Merlin doesn't have to plaster on a smile. The one that comes is natural, real. It's good to see him and the ache that Merlin thought would surface is dulled, an echo. "Congratulations, mate."
Gwaine touches at the corner of his lips and smiles some more. "You too," he nods at Arthur. "I knew you two would get there eventually."
Merlin blinks. "You what?"
But Gwaine has already turned to Arthur. "Princess!" Merlin hears the old, familiar greeting. In a daze, he turns and smacks squarely into Percy's chest.
The scavenger hunt is serious business, which is seriously odd considering Gwaine, who is the opposite of serious. But there are actual rules and actual teams playing for actual prizes.
Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, and Percy all wind up on Team Knights. They are so going to beat Team Wizards and Team Bards, if Arthur has anything to say about it.
Because of course, as in all else, Arthur is competitive in this. It's part of his charm. Right now he's giving everyone tasks. He's ordering Merlin around and Merlin's letting him. He will scour the back of a bookstore for his golden king. They will win this bloody scavenger hunt.
They do in the end. Win, that is. They procured a crown, a sword, a giant slab of crystal, and an autograph from the apparently elusive lounge singer known only as The Morteus Flower. Their prize is not surprisingly vouchers to the pub where they end up.
Arthur is celebrating by playing darts, his hands steady and his eyes sharp. He's hitting bull’s-eye or close to it, round after round.
Merlin's not staring too hard at those arms. At those arms that were wound around him this morning. Nope.
"Here you are." Gwaine hands him a pint and Merlin accepts. He needs one really. Spending all day sweating in the sun with Arthur and his ridiculous triumphant laugh every time they checked an item off the list is the opposite of the plan Fall-Out-of-Love-with-Pendragon.
"Thanks." Merlin takes a big gulp. "So, you're getting married."
"Can you believe it?" Gwaine laughs and tilts back his own bottle. He crosses his ankles and leans with Merlin against the pool table. Both of them watch Arthur and Percy and some other blokes throw darts.
"No, not really." Merlin shoulder-bumps Gwaine. “I never thought you would be the first of us.”
“Nor I.” Gwaine gives him a grin and then a nod at Percy. "That one came along, fought off wasps for me, and messed up all of my life plans."
Merlin smiles. He’s heard the story by now, of how Gwaine and Percy met in a cave infested with wasps, which counts among Gwaine’s least favourite life forms.
He swallows down more beer and mock-frowns at Gwaine. “Life plans? What life plans? Working through all the pubs?"
"That's the one." Gwaine grins back. Then he's squeezing Merlin's arm. "I'm happy for you, Merlin. Really. The princess is a good bloke."
Merlin bites down on a wistful breath. He knows Arthur is, especially when no one is looking. When Gwaine's taken two steps away, Merlin calls out. "Gwaine? I'm really happy for you too. Anyone who would fight off wasps for you is worth their weight in gold."
Gwaine looks pleased, his lips curling in a genuine smile. He winks at Merlin and walks up to curl into Percy’s side.
Merlin is not drunk. Merlin is - okay, he is not quite walking in a straight line either. He hums as he clings to the banister and hobbles up the lift-less B&B.
"Are you singing 'Cool Kids' by Echosmith?"
"And she says!" Merlin sings a little louder. "I wish that I could be like the cool kids!"
Arthur snorts but then starts humming under his breath too.
Merlin grins, happy, so happy. Being with Arthur makes him happy. When he trips on an over-tall step, Arthur is there to sling an arm under him.
"They're uneven." Merlin frowns down at the stairs, betrayed.
"You're uneven," Arthur tells him, which makes no sense. But then again, Arthur is not that much more sober.
Together, they stumble into their cool, dark room, Merlin still draped over Arthur.
Arthur grunts as he reaches behind Merlin to lock the door.
"Do you think you'll ever get married?"
Arthur stills, braces a hand on the wall. "I hope so."
"Me too." Merlin's voice is small and he's staring at Arthur's eyes, how luminous they are in the moonlight.
Arthur's staring back, one hand still resting on Merlin’s hip.
Merlin notices how close they are. Are you tired? Do you want to go to bed? These are the questions he means to ask. What comes out instead is a breathless "-bed?"
Arthur's mouth is on his in an instant, lips sliding over Merlin's over-licked lips. Merlin's heart rabbits like it's trapped in a net before kissing, kissing, kissing back. He had expected Arthur to kiss like he's conquering, but the reality is worse. Arthur kisses like he's negotiating, warm but firm, stepping ever closer until all Merlin wants is to merge already.
"Wall," Arthur lifts his head to say. "Wall is good." He boosts Merlin up to straddle his waist, all the while mouthing down the column of Merlin's neck, and Merlin wants to give him all the walls, the entire B&B, the whole world.
What he does give Arthur is a fall. He miscalculated (did not at all calculate it) as he arches up too far, too fast. They crumble to the floor with a thump. Luckily, it’s a soft thump given the carpet.
They stare at each other, arms and legs all tangled, and burst out laughing.
"So graceful you are, Merlin." Arthur traces the shells of Merlin's ears fondly, like he's waited years to play with them.
"Me? I see you sitting on your arse too, your royal highness." Merlin arches his brow archly.
"Shut up, Merlin." Arthur cups his jaws.
"Gods, I don't know why I love you."
Merlin stares and starts to open his mouth, but Arthur kisses him quiet. Merlin's mind swirls and swirls, pivoting around the word love.
But then Arthur's tongue is on his tongue, teaching him a whole new tongue (adult sign language?) and Merlin shuts up completely, even in his mind.
Especially when Arthur shoves their clothes off just far enough for them to touch (definitely adult sign language).
Especially when Merlin reciprocates, touching back liberally (fluently).
And when Arthur pulls them along their lengths with a spit-wet hand, all perfect twisty.
When Merlin grinds down and Arthur grinds up and Merlin’s toes curl and Arthur’s head’s thrown back.
Oh, oh, oh goes the song.
Oh, oh, oh they both sing along.
That's a kiss along the back of his neck. That's a hand snaking around front to cup him, making him hard instantly, hard and awake.
Awake before the birds. Really, the things he does for Arthur.
Merlin fervently hopes the walls of the B&B are not as thin as they appear to be. Because well, he's not responsible for how loud he keens when Arthur licks into him like that, thumbs parting his cheeks open like that.
When the birds finally chirp, Merlin has no breath to point it out. Arthur is kissing him slowly in the sunlight, tongue and hands even more literate than they were last night.
His suit is a newer one that Gwen helped pick out. It’s dark blue and contrasts well against his white shirt. “Ooh, wear your red bowtie, too!” Gwen had gushed.
It seems to be the right choice if the way Arthur is looking at him is any clue.
“You look nice.” Merlin nods at Arthur. And Arthur does in his white suit and vest. They even match with their red ties.
Arthur drags his eyes up to meet Merlin’s. “Merlin, we should talk.”
Merlin’s heart seizes up. “Talk?” He blurts out. “We’re talking right now. But we should probably stop talking and get going before we miss the whole point of this weekend.”
Arthur doesn’t move, not even the serious set of his eyebrows. “And what is the whole point of this weekend?”
Merlin’s heart thumps, hard enough to hurt. “Wedding!” He forces a grin. “Remember, Mr. Hashtag Wedding Weekend? Let’s go.”
“Right.” Arthur looks away. “After you.”
It’s torture sitting next to Arthur as Gwaine and Percy say their vows. “You’re my best friend,” Gwaine’s saying as he looks up at Percy with adoration. “But I’m glad you’re more than my best friend, way more!” He flirts as their witnesses laugh.
Merlin isn’t laughing though. He’s sitting stiffly next to Arthur and clasping his hands together. He almost jumps out of his skin when Arthur reaches over and takes his hand.
Merlin chances a look, but Arthur appears completely engrossed in the happenings up front with the grooms.
Then he sees the photographer. She’s making the rounds.
Besides the baskets of apples, a nod to Gwaine’s fruit obsession, there is also plenty of champagne. What makes the reception most tolerable, however, is Lance, who sits to the other side of Merlin (the non-tension-filled side).
Lance has beautiful hair and kind eyes. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with him. It turns out that Lance, a childhood friend of Percy, is also in the food industry.
“You should meet my friend Gwen!” Merlin pulls up his mobile to show Lance Gwen’s blog.
“Wow.” Lance looks mesmerised, whether by Gwen herself or the tray of cookies she’s displaying Merlin isn’t sure.
On a whim, Merlin scoots his chair closer to Lance. “Here,” he poses them for a selfie. “Let’s say hi to Gwen, yeah?”
When Lance nods shyly, Merlin clicks and fires off a Tweet to her – “he’s a baker, too! #cuteright?”
“Do I get a picture?” Arthur drawls before taking another sip of his drink.
“With you, idiot.”
“Back to idiot, are we?” Merlin can’t help his disappointment.
“Don’t pout, honey bun.” Arthur drapes an arm over Merlin’s shoulders and presses their cheeks together. “Better?”
Merlin wants to say not at all.
Of course Gwaine and Percy choose this moment to visit their table. “Kiss him!” Gwaine goads Arthur. “Come on, kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss!”
Merlin blushes. Really, what is his life? But for once, Arthur listens to Gwaine, leans in and kisses Merlin soundly right on his mouth. It’s harsh at first, as they collide. But then Arthur’s lips soften and linger, loving and sweet, and Merlin lets himself believe for a moment that it’s real. His finger jerks on his mobile and a flash goes off.
Their table cheers then calls for the actual husbands to kiss.
Merlin misses it. Arthur’s looking at him like he’s confessing something and Merlin can’t look away. In the end, it’s Arthur who breaks the stare and takes his mobile.
If Merlin had his wits about him, he would have snatched it right back. But well, he’s still caught up in the chants of Arthur kissed me (like he meant it).
When he snaps out of it, Arthur is standing up and holding out his hand. “Dance?”
“Is that a question?”
Arthur smiles, looking fond. “Yes, Merlin. Would you like to dance?”
“If we must.”
“Such enthusiasm, darling.”
Merlin grits his teeth. What is Arthur playing at anyway? He takes back the proffered mobile and freezes. There’s Arthur’s sleeping face from the morning before.
He snaps his eyes up. Arthur looks smug and something else… happy?
Merlin allows himself to be led to the dance floor. The band’s playing something poppy, probably sappy, but Merlin barely hears them.
“I-I was going to post it.” He clears his throat.
Arthur wraps his arm around Merlin and holds him close. “I’d rather you didn’t.”
“Why not?” Merlin stares just past Arthur’s shoulder.
“You really are an idiot.”
Merlin meets Arthur’s gaze then, ready with a retort. Only, Arthur’s eyes are bright with happiness as he beams at Merlin.
“Nothing.” Arthur says as he sways to the music.
Then – “William,” Arthur blurts. “He said I might break your heart,” Arthur says seriously. “But the truth is- the truth is that I’m afraid you’d break mine.”
Merlin just stares. “Don’t – don’t lie, Arthur. I can’t bear it if you lie.”
“Cross my heart.” Arthur looks deadly serious.
Try as he might, Merlin can’t contain the grin that spreads over his face. “You meant it. The love thing.”
“The love thing, Merlin? Don’t tell me you actually are a crap boyfriend.”
Heat rises in Merlin along with something else, a kinder sort of warmth. “Oh, I’ll be the best bloody boyfriend ever, Pendragon, just you watch.”
Arthur smiles, his cheeks rounding up adorably and his eyes crinkling. “Deal. I’ll be the same for you.”
“Shall I Tweet our photo, then?”
Arthur smirks at him. “Gwaine already Tweeted it five minutes ago.”
“What?” Merlin checks and indeed Arthur’s right. Gwaine posted his own photo of Merlin trying to selfie his kiss with Arthur.
The hashtag? Newboyfriends.