They had just finished having sex when the last log crackled and collapsed into the fireplace. Merlin laughed at the gust of warmth across his arse, where Arthur’s cock was still lodged. Then he rolled off Arthur and went to tend to what was left of the fire.
“Warm some water when you’re done,” came a sleepy but imperious mumble from behind him. “I’m covered in come.”
“Oh, you are, are you?” Merlin had sticky tufts of come in his chest hair, not to mention the fresh load in his arse, a glob of which threatened to escape at any moment as he squatted to poke at the embers.
“Yes.” Arthur stretched out over the hearth rug, golden and smug in the dim glow of the remaining firelight. Merlin looked over his shoulder with fond exasperation at the lazy lug.
For once, Merlin heated the water the old fashioned way, and left the bed-warming iron heating for good measure. He’d forgotten to lay out extra linens before the solstice feast, so he wet his own neck cloth until it was pleasingly warm. Then he crawled the short distance back to Arthur.
Arthur murmured with pleasure as Merlin cleansed their mutual satisfaction from his skin with long strokes of the cloth. When Arthur was clean and glowing from throat to thigh, Merlin indulged himself in a last kiss to the curve of Arthur’s lips.
“Happy Solstice.” Merlin smiled and let his head drop until their noses brushed.
Arthur’s lips curved a little more. “Happy Solstice, Merlin.”
Merlin stood up to rinse the cloth and clean himself off. He took a long time wiping down his chest and belly and cleaning out his arse. It put off the inevitable departure just another few moments—and he liked how Arthur watched him.
“Right, stop flattering me,” Arthur finally said, wrapping a hand around Merlin’s ankle. “It’s not physically possible that I left that much in you.”
Merlin made a face at him, but wrung out the cloth and hung it to dry. “Suppose I should go before it starts snowing.”
Arthur laughed. “It’s been snowing for ages.”
“It has?” He automatically turned his head toward the window, as if he could see through the shutter he had fastened himself hours ago.
“It was blowing in the windows when we stopped outside the hall.” Arthur’s thumb stroked Merlin’s ankle bone; slowly, Merlin’s knees melted him back down to the rug. “You were so hot the snowflakes melted on your face. You didn’t even notice.”
All Merlin remembered of that moment was Arthur’s mouth and the promises Arthur’s hands had been making under his shirt. He wouldn’t be so lucky, or so warm, on the way back to Gaius’s quarters. “I hate snow.”
“Snow is good and bracing.” Arthur pushed himself up on his elbows to grin at him. “It’ll make a man out of you.”
Merlin grinned back. “I thought that’s what you were just doing.”
Arthur fell back with a huff, pulling Merlin down with him. “Obviously it didn’t take. Remind me to try again later.”
One more good night kiss turned into another and another, the sound of their mouths meeting and parting the only challenge to the hush of the room. Arthur still tasted like grease from the roasted boar at the feast, and also like Merlin’s cock. Merlin let his tongue seek deeper, hoping they could stir for another round.
Only when it was clear that they were both spent for the night did Merlin sigh and pull away, reaching for his clothes. “My neck will freeze,” he complained as he pulled on his inadequately collared tunic.
Arthur got to his feet and padded over to the cupboard in search of the trousers he preferred to sleep in. “Your own fault, wouldn’t you say?”
Just for that, he should let Arthur climb into a freezing cold bed. But he reached for the warming iron anyway, because he didn’t want Arthur to be cold and because it would let him spend a few more minutes with Arthur.
As he smoothed the hot metal over the sheets, Arthur puttered around his table. “Damn, I forgot about the nuts I had sent up. Leave that, Merlin, we need to roast these immediately. It’s imperative for the safety of Camelot.”
“You can never resist a call to battle.” Merlin pretended to roll his eyes.
“And where I go, you must follow.” Arthur crooked his finger and plunked himself back down in front of the fire with the large bowl of nuts. “Don’t pretend you’re not mad for my nuts.”
“I’ve enjoyed them extensively, it’s true.” Merlin tossed the iron haphazardly back into the fireplace on his way back to Arthur. He was a bit peckish, and could hear the wind now, moaning around the castle walls. Nuts sounded fantastic.
The nut roasting was a haphazard affair in the dying fire. Merlin laughed so hard he choked at Arthur’s clumsy attempts to feed him choice bits from a walnut. Arthur grabbed him in a much less clumsy chokehold that ended with them sprawled over the rug once more, arms wrapped around each other.
“Nice and warm here,” Merlin muttered into Arthur’s neck. Arthur’s arms tightened around him and Merlin tried to soak up as much of his body heat as he could for the lonely walk home through the storm. “I’d best go. Before it gets too bad out there.”
Just as he pulled himself free from Arthur and stood up to look for his boots, the wind howled again in a sudden fierce rage. Arthur had barely sat up when the shutters suddenly flew open and banged violently over the window. Merlin cursed and sprinted to grab them before any snow could blow in.
He stopped with his hand on the latch and stared out into the courtyard below with dismay. At least, he thought he was looking into the courtyard. All he could actually see were the swirls of white filling the air, reaching for him in icy gusts. “Oh, fuck.”
Arthur came up behind him, pressing against his back with his chin on Merlin’s shoulder. “Looks like it’s almost knee deep already.”
“I don’t know how you can even tell.” Merlin wasn’t proud of the whinge in his voice, but Arthur wasn’t the one who had to go.
Arthur merely sighed and kissed his shoulder. “Close the shutters and come to bed.”
Merlin echoed his sigh and reached again to pull the shutters fast. He had just got the latch secured with a bit of magical insurance when the second part of Arthur’s words sank in. “What? What did you say?”
When he turned around, Arthur was already climbing into bed, raising his eyebrows at Merlin. “I said, come to bed. Three syllables, Merlin, not that hard.”
“So by ‘come to bed’ you mean... what exactly?” It was easier to play the idiot than to presume on his hopes.
Arthur scooted himself to the far side of the bed before answering, pointedly leaving the covers turned down. “I mean that clearly you aren’t going anywhere in this weather. You can barely find your way to and fro when there’s a clear sky and someone guiding you. Now come to bed.”
Merlin approached the bed slowly. “And what would people say if they knew? What would your father say?”
“They would say that my lazy manservant was finally doing his job keeping his master warm, since he let the fire go out. I’m already freezing my bollocks off, get in here.” Arthur’s hand shot out, seizing Merlin’s arm and pulling him down into the warm darkness of the bed.
It took them a few minutes to silently negotiate sleeping positions, but soon enough Merlin had a fair share of the pillow and his limbs comfortably wrapped around Arthur. Arthur made a contented hum in his ear and tucked the covers around them.
As their body heat combined to warm the bed into cosiness, Merlin decided he hated the snow a little less than before. But he still didn’t want to let the night end. Perhaps he would stay awake the rest of the night, savouring the warmth and weight of Arthur’s body. Perhaps he would figure out how to keep it snowing for the rest of the winter.
Yes, he would definitely do that, right after he closed his eyes for just a—