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the cootie catcher knows all

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“Is Merlin an idiot? Aha! Look Merlin, it says yes!”

“Is Arthur a cabbagehead? --Yes! Looks like it knows all, Arthur.”

“Shut up, Merlin. Let’s ask it more serious questions--is Merlin going to find a boyfriend soon? Ohhh, Merlin, it says yes!”

Arthur!”

“I wonder who it’s going to be? Hmm... Is he going to be dating a cabbagehead?”

“What? Why would I want to date a cabbagehead?”

“Why not! Come on, let’s ask the cootie catcher--is Merlin going to date a ridiculously handsome blond man he for some unknown reason insists on calling a cabbagehead?”

Merlin doesn’t start opening and closing the cootie catcher like you’re supposed to when you play this game. Instead, he eyes Arthur, a crease in his brow. “...Arthur, what are you implying here?”

Arthur pauses, clearing his throat. “Let’s ask the cootie catcher,” he says, grabbing it from Merlin. “Does Arthur Pendragon like Merlin Emrys?” He plays the game quickly before opening the flap--yes. “And does he want to date him?” Arthur doesn’t bother with the game this time, instead just opening the next flap to show Merlin--another yes.

Merlin bites his lip, looking at the cootie catcher suspiciously, and Arthur actually starts getting a little nervous--he was so sure Merlin liked him back. Then the corner of Merlin’s lip turns up and it feels like the weight of the world lifts off Arthur’s shoulders.

Merlin takes the cootie catcher back from Arthur and lifts up the remaining flaps to see what it says inside before shaking his head and laughing. “I never had a choice, did I?”

Arthur tries not to grin. “No,” he says, but then stops when he realizes Merlin hasn’t actually said he wants to date him. “Well, but, I mean, obviously you do have a choice. I just thought you’d like it.”

Merlin smiles, his cheeks turning red as he slips the cootie catcher back onto his fingers. “Does Merlin Emrys like Arthur Pendragon? A lot? Possibly to the point where he’s kind of daydreamed about being his boyfriend quite a few times?”

Arthur smiles as Merlin, beet-red, concentrates on the cootie catcher game before finally opening up the flap to reveal the ‘yes’ he already knew was inside. He can’t help but feel fondness and warmth well up inside his chest as Merlin turns the cootie catcher toward him, so Arthur can properly see what’s inside like Arthur didn’t already know it said ‘yes’--hadn’t folded it and written ‘yes’ in every flap himself.

“Looks like the cootie catcher thinks we should date, Arthur.” He grins so wide that even Arthur’s cheeks hurt, looking at Merlin’s blinding smile.

Or maybe his cheeks hurt because of his own ridiculously big smile as he says, “Looks like. It seems like it knows all, so we should probably listen to it”

Merlin laughs, before pocketing the cootie catcher and stepping into Arthur's personal space, leaning into him. “Kiss me, you cabbagehead.”

Arthur breathes in, smelling Merlin's shampoo, and rest his forehead against Merlin's. “Are we not consulting the cootie catcher for this?”

Merlin huffs. “It’s just going to tell us ‘yes’ anyways.”

"I wouldn't have guessed," Arthur murmurs, already preoccupied with closing the distance between his lips and Merlin's, until nothing is left between them.

When they break apart, Merlin twines their fingers together and admits that this is probably the most grateful he's ever been to a piece of folded paper.

Arthur agrees wholeheartedly.