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Collars and Cuffs

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When Morgana handed Arthur an impeccably wrapped package two weeks before Christmas, Arthur hadn’t thought much of it. Taking the gift and not wanting to delay the inevitable, he slipped his hand under the tape and peeled back the silver wrapping. The box beneath the wrapping was simple, black and nondescript. Arthur knew better than to hope for a tie.

Morgana took a step closer, a wicked gleam in her eye. Arthur lifted the lid.

He spared a moment to be grateful Morgana didn’t have a camera to catch his expression. He could feel her eyes on him. She was enjoying this far too much. His office door was open; he could hear the chug of several photocopiers across the hall, and Merlin was on the phone, booking the hotel for Arthur's business trip. He felt his cheeks heat. A coworker could walk in any moment and here he was holding a black leather collar.

It was thick, like it was meant for a dog, but the leather was rich and soft, with the fine detailing of the top designers Morgana favoured. The lining was a soft white fur. Arthur could only imagine the type of place Morgana had shopped at to find it.

He shut the lid, not meeting her eyes.

“Thank you so very much, Morgana.” He shoved it into the bottom drawer of his desk and gritted his teeth. “Such a thoughtful gift.”

“Let’s just say this is a reminder that every time you give in to Uther’s ‘The tail doesn’t wag the dog’ bullshit, you are the dog.” Morgana smirked and breezed out of his office like mortifying Arthur was all in a day’s work.

Three days later, Arthur rushed past the professional decorators hanging fairy lights down the hallway. His eyes flickered to his watch and he picked up his pace.

“Merlin!” Arthur snapped, inserting a quick side-eye to Gwaine who was draped over Merlin’s desk. Again. “I need the budget numbers for the Carson project.”

Merlin didn’t look up from his screen. “Sent you the email this morning.” Arthur nodded, grateful Merlin was at least still on top of things, despite Gwaine’s attempts at distracting him. “Uther was by earlier. He left a new file on your desk and said you’d be briefed on it in the morning.”

“Great. Clear my schedule for that, will you?” Arthur said. “Gwaine, don’t you have something else you should be doing?”

“No.” His grin was completely shameless and Arthur was glad he didn’t have time to chastise him for it. It was futile anyway.

“Of course you don’t.” Arthur huffed. “Merlin, get me something to eat, would you? I’ve only got --”

“Twenty-seven minutes until you have to leave,” Merlin finished for him with a roll of his eyes.

Arthur might have been annoyed at the impertinence except he spotted the sandwich and coffee waiting for him. He touched the paper cup and grinned as the heat warmed his fingertips. Elena must have given Merlin a ten minute heads up that the meeting was nearly over -- just enough time for him to run down to the deli across the street.

He pulled up the email and started reading through the spreadsheet, getting himself oriented with the project’s numbers. Arthur took the first bite of his sandwich and cursed around his mouthful as a tomato dropped free, leaving a greasy trail of mayonnaise down his tie.

“Fuck.” He pinched the slice between two fingers, tossed it into the trash and looked down in horror at his ruined tie.

Gwaine chuckled, his arse still planted on Merlin’s desk. “That’s what you get for eating in your office like a barbarian. Merlin here agrees, don’t you, Merlin? We had an excellent lunch at Pompets.”

“Gwaine, I am positive you have a desk and a chair,” Arthur snapped, “and a job that isn’t here.”

Gwaine snorted and left, turning back to give Merlin a wink. Arthur turned his attention back to the spreadsheet.

“Merlin, find me a fresh tie.” Arthur pulled off his stained tie, not looking up from the computer screen. “I need to be across town for three o’clock.”

“I’ve already arranged to have a cab waiting for you. Just eat, for heaven’s sake,” Merlin said, coming into the office to dig around in Arthur’s desk for his spare ties. “You can look at the budget on the iPad while you’re stuck in traf--” Merlin made a strangled noise. “Um.”

Arthur glanced back to catch Merlin holding a familiar black box. His eyes were overwide and his cheeks were just starting to flush red.

Arthur lunged for it. Getting it in his hands, he slammed the lid closed and stammered, “Never mind. I’ll find one.”

He tossed the box back into the drawer. Without his brain functioning at all, he somehow found a spare tie. It was an old ugly thing he’d always hated, but he wrapped it around his neck, the autopilot of panic barely registering what he was doing. He should explain that the collar was a gag gift. That it wasn’t whatever it was that Merlin was thinking. Only Merlin looked so shocked Arthur couldn’t find the words, and then Merlin was stumbling out of the office with hurried half-spoken apologies. It was all so very awkward that Arthur just let him go. An explanation would have to wait for another day -- not that Arthur needed to explain himself, but he and Merlin had become close enough to call friends and an explanation over a pint and a laugh one day would be appropriate.

Not today, though. The humiliation was hot and prickly at his nape as he packed up his laptop and iPad. He swept out of his office with his tie loose around his neck. His sandwich was left uneaten on his desk. It was still ten minutes before the cab would arrive, but fleeing as quickly as possible was a mercy to both himself and Merlin.

Moments alone with Merlin were completely awkward for the next few days. Arthur wasn’t helping the situation, he was well aware -- not the least because Gwaine kept asking why Arthur was acting like an arse.

Every time he attempted to be professional about it, his mind flashed to Merlin’s shocked -- horrified? -- face, and all the easy camaraderie he’d shared with Merlin over the years faded away into a stilted dialogue through the safe filter of emails. Waiting to explain had been a huge mistake. The initial embarrassment at the misunderstanding was replaced the next morning with annoyance. It had been a gag gift, but what if it hadn’t been? Merlin’s reaction had unsettled him.

It had unsettled him enough to agree to getting pissed with Gwaine, something that was never advisable when Arthur wasn’t in a right state of mind. Yet tonight he found himself at the tiny pub across from their office building, drinking himself numb.

Arthur wasn’t sure what round this was.

Gwaine slid a new pint in front of him and removed the empty glasses from the table to return them to the bar. The worn wood of their table was sticky and wet from a spill that had happened some time ago.

“Are you going to tell me why Merlin’s been a jittery little rabbit this week?” Gwaine asked, like the question had been simmering in his chest waiting for the right alcohol level for it to spill out his mouth. “It’s like when he was first hired all over again. Back when he thought you were a scary bastard who was going to sack him any minute.”

Arthur snorted. “Those were good times. When did that change?”

“Not sure.” Gwaine lifted his glass and let a slow smile spread across his face. “But somewhere along the way he realised you were just a pathetic bastard who’d be lost without him.“

Arthur took a long sip from his pint, not really interested in continuing this discussion with Gwaine -- not while he was feeling a bit fuzzy-headed, and unsure just how much might come out if he started talking. He set down his half-finished glass. “Getting late.”

He pulled out a few bills and hoped covering their tab without complaint would convince Gwaine to just let it go.

“Come back up to my office. I left my laptop on my desk.” To be fair, that only happened because Arthur had darted out as fast as he could while Merlin was in the loo. “We can share a cab home.”

They tumbled out of the elevator, laughing about something that was only funny because they were both well on their way to being plastered. Arthur stopped short at the light streaming from beneath his office door. The last to leave, either he or Merlin, always got the lights and locked up.

He jogged straight to his office and swung the door open, adrenaline kicking in hard.

Merlin stood partially turned away from Arthur and for a moment Arthur relaxed. After a heartbeat, his eyes caught sight of the collar and his breath hitched. Merlin’s eyes were closed, one hand was holding the collar tight around his neck, and the other -- oh God -- the other was palming his crotch.

Gwaine slammed into Arthur as he caught up. “Arthur, what?” he said, his voice far too loud.

Merlin’s eyes snapped open. He turned, slack jawed and pale with panic.

And Arthur started laughing.

He’d been wrong, so very wrong, about the disgust he thought he’d seen in Merlin’s eyes early that week. No, it hadn’t been disgust, and the shock of how wrong he’d been set him off into another fit of laughter. He registered, distantly, that Merlin’s face was red and the collar was now abandoned on the floor. He knew there was hurt there in Merlin’s eyes. But the adrenaline crash and the alcohol and the relief that he finally understood Merlin’s oddness were all combining to make the entire moment hilarious.

He missed Merlin actually leaving or whatever parting words he might have said as he held his stomach and wiped the tears from his cheeks.

When he’d calmed enough to straighten again and clear his throat, Arthur realised he’d been the only one laughing. Gwaine’s face was stony, his lips a thin, pale line.


“If you aren’t interested...” Gwaine’s voice trembled, cold and furious, “if you don’t want... Look, just don’t make a joke of him, alright?”

The pain in Gwaine’s words sobered Arthur, his laughter trickling off to something sour.

“If you have no interest in Merlin that way,” Gwaine continued, “at least tell him so he can get over you. Some of us would like another chance.”

Arthur blinked. His cheeks burned like he’d been slapped. “You and Merlin?”

Gwaine clenched his jaw, his eyes now piercing the carpet instead of Arthur.

“When was this?”

“A long time ago. When he’d first arrived. Long before I realised that his eyes weren’t on me nearly as much as they were on you.”

“On me?” He wanted to laugh because the thought was ridiculous, but he knew he’d get a left hook if he so much as cracked a smile right now.

“On you.” Gwaine shook his head like Arthur was pathetic and undeserving. “I’ll get my own cab.”

Guilt settled heavily in Arthur’s belly as he watched his best friend turn and walk away. He cursed the alcohol making him too slow and too stupid to call Gwaine back like he should have done with Merlin.

He dropped into his chair and bent to pick up the discarded collar. Drunk and alone was a slippery slope to insecurity and self hate for Arthur, always had been. Squeezing his eyes shut, he wondered how his life had taken such an abrupt left turn. The leather between his fingers was soft and he let his mind drift to how things ended up so wrong.

Eventually, when no answers came, he tossed the cursed collar into its box and dropped it back into the bottom drawer of his desk.

That night, his thoughts were restless. The alcohol in his system had managed that dreaded balance where he was not drunk enough to pass out, but too buzzed to settle his mind. He tossed and turned in his empty bed, replaying the night. He owed apologies, which he supposed was nothing new. Gwaine and Merlin had forgiven him plenty throughout the years, both when he’d asked for forgiveness and when he’d been too stubborn to admit he was wrong.

He couldn’t shake the feeling that this time was different, like he’d stepped on a tender bit of their friendship that was more brittle and frail than the rest.

At some point in the hours before dawn, the image of Merlin’s milky-white skin pinched in a band of tight black flashed through his mind, unbidden and unwelcome. It was jarring and unexpected, all the more so because it filled him with desire. He twisted in his sheets, punching his pillow, desperate for the peace of sleep, anything to blank out his thoughts.

The memory of laughing at Merlin during a moment of vulnerability had been sufficient to drench him in guilt. Now trumping that was the chaos of emotions at an entirely new realisation.

One he wasn’t at all ready for.

Arthur didn’t apologise.

It wasn’t pride blocking him this time. It was a mixture of quite a lot of things: Merlin’s stiff listing of his day’s schedule that morning; Merlin’s complete inability to look Arthur in the eye; the colony of butterflies that had taken up position in Arthur’s belly every time he stood by Merlin’s desk.

The pale stretch of neck as Merlin chugged the last of his morning coffee left Arthur with thoughts that sent him hiding in the loo like he was back in sixth form.

He stood in the stall of the third floor toilets -- he’d jogged down two flights of stairs just to put more distance between him and Merlin-- and thought long and hard about what Gwaine had said.

Tell him you’re not interested.

Except where would that leave them? Merlin might even want a transfer, then Arthur would lose... Well, he’d lose Merlin. Someone else would have Merlin. Someone else would have Merlin walk twenty minutes to get their favourite lunch after a horrid meeting. Someone else would have Merlin find that lost email that Arthur swore he didn’t delete. Someone else would have Merlin touch their shoulder at 9PM to say it was long past time to get some rest and things would look better in the morning.

Someone else would have Merlin smile at them like a ray of sunshine. And Arthur would have no one to pick up the pieces of himself when Merlin was no longer there to hold him together.

And who would be there to tease Merlin back into a good mood when things went to shit? Who would invite him over to stay in their guest room when the heating broke in his apartment? Who would gift him with a surprise flight back to see his mum for her birthday?

Arthur didn’t want to think about who that might be. Nor did he want to think about who Merlin might wear a collar for.

Arthur was a selfish person. He’d been told that many times in his life. But never had he felt it more than right now when it struck him how fiercely he wanted to be the only one on earth with the privilege of seeing Merlin like that.

He banged his head against the stall door. It was a cool relief to his flushed face.

He had no right, no claim on Merlin.

But maybe he could change that. With a deep breath, he straightened his tie, squared his shoulders and exited the toilets with a determined stride.

Arthur had to fix this. Had to.

He sat at his desk long after Merlin had gone home. With his office door closed, he pulled out the black box, trying to come up with a plan. He spotted a card at the bottom of the box with the shop name scripted in black ink. He grinned.

Merlin had been avoiding Arthur throughout the entire staff Christmas party while hiding with Elena behind an ice sculpture. He wasn’t drunk -- a bit glassy-eyed, maybe -- but not enough for Arthur to worry about his plans being ruined.

Arthur couldn’t put it off much longer. He downed the rest of his gin and tonic and let the liquid courage carry him across the room.

“I’m ready to go,” Arthur announced, stopping in front of Merlin.

Merlin’s jaw twitched. “Good for you.” He took another sip of punch.

“Merlin.” Elena touched his arm, a small smile trying to be reassuring and remind him he was talking to his boss.


Arthur ignored the churn in his stomach as Merlin turned his back on him.

“I need --” Arthur’s hand found its way to Merlin’s shoulder and pulled him back around. “There are changes to my flight time next week,” he blurted out, hoping to sound reasonably believable. Guilt tugged at him through the fog of nerves. He hated using Merlin’s weakness like this. No matter how furious Merlin might be, he wouldn't let that affect his job. Tonight, Arthur was desperate enough to play dirty.

He saw it in Merlin’s eyes the moment he turned; it had worked.

“Please. It will only take a moment.” He slurred a bit on the m’s, feigning being pissed so he could justify grabbing Merlin’s wrist and dragging him out the doors.

“You’re an asshole when you drink,” Merlin said conversationally as they made their way to the elevator.

“I know.” Arthur sighed and pushed the button for the fifth floor. This wasn’t going as well as he’d hoped. They stood, awkward and silent, the entire ride. As the doors open at their floor, Arthur couldn’t take the wait any longer. “I didn’t give you your Christmas present.”

Merlin’s face scrunched up like he didn’t know whether to smile or scowl. “Arthur, you don’t--”

“I want to.”

Merlin gave him a crooked smile and followed him down the hallway. He didn’t bother to turn on the main lights and the fairy lights glowed brightly enough to see the wrinkle of confusion on Merlin’s brow.

Arthur unlocked the door to his office and waved his hand for Merlin to enter.

Merlin froze at the threshold. The gift sat on the centre of the desk with bright red wrapping and a green checked bow.

“Merry Christmas,” Arthur said, heat crawling up from the collar of his shirt.

“I thought you needed your flight changed.”

Arthur picked up the package and gave a shrug for an apology. “Just open it.” When Merlin refused to take the package, Arthur placed it on Merlin’s palm. “Please.”

Merlin inhaled and pursed his lips, staring at the package like its contents held their friendship in the balance. It likely did, Arthur realised. He itched to grab it back but Merlin was already tearing the paper.

He dropped it to the floor the minute he recognised the black box beneath. Bile rose in Arthur’s throat at the fury on Merlin’s face.

“Don’t.” Merlin’s face twisted in hurt and rage. “Don’t mock me, Arthur.”

“I’m not!” Arthur’s voice cracked over the words. He scrambled to pick up the gift, trying to find the words and wishing he’d planned this all better. “Just... Just open it.”

Merlin’s jaw was working as he ripped off the rest of the paper. He looked like he was already composing his resignation in his head and he wasn’t using nice words.

Merlin lifted the lid; Arthur held his breath.

The silence stretched too long. “I don’t--” Arthur said when Merlin’s ears started turning red at the tips. “It’s not my thing. And I thought. If you liked--”

“I don’t understand.”

Arthur recognised the kind of simmering anger in Merlin’s tone that meant Arthur had one chance to make things better before it all went to shit. If Arthur didn’t start talking soon, he was pretty sure Merlin was going to tear him a new arsehole.

“You can have the collar too!” Arthur blurted out and winced because this was going so wrong. Merlin’s face turned stony. “What I mean is...” He took a deep breath and started from the beginning. “The collar was a gag gift from Morgana. But then you liked it. So I want you to have it and these cuffs.”

Merlin blinked, his expression still cold.

“Not as gag gifts. It looked good on you.” Arthur reached out, not even thinking how inappropriate that was until his hand brushed the warm skin of Merlin’s neck and then it was too late.

Merlin wasn’t moving, wasn’t breathing. “A gag gift?”

Arthur didn’t take his hand away, though he probably should have. “Not a very funny one. Even less funny after I saw you.” Arthur gave Merlin a small smile and watched his thumb trace Merlin’s pulse point.

“You seemed to think it was pretty funny at the time.” There was still hurt there, but it was laced with confusion now. He didn’t push Arthur’s hand away and it gave him hope.

“I’m sorry. I truly am. My reaction was unforgivable.” Arthur stepped forward, his knee brushing Merlin’s thigh. “I was such an arse.”

“Yes, you were.”

“I was shocked.”

“And sloshed?” Merlin cracked a smile.

“Quite.” Arthur shook his head to chase away the guilt and find his focus. “Gwaine -- He wasn’t happy, before.”

“Oh?” Merlin’s voice cracked, like he was wondering just what secrets Gwaine had told. “Why was that?”

“He didn’t say,” Arthur said, hoping Merlin didn’t catch the partial lie. “He just said that perhaps I shouldn’t tease you quite so much and reminded me that you serve me my coffee.”

Merlin gave a wry smile, but couldn’t look Arthur in the eye. “And, apparently, play dress up in your clothes. Or just play with them.” Merlin’s face was beautiful when he blushed.

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it. About you.”

Merlin’s eyes searched Arthur’s face. “Is this about the collar, then?”

His fingers curled around the side of Merlin’s neck, imagining the collar there. He closed his eyes. “The collar did nothing for me until...”

Merlin inhaled sharply, and Arthur met his gaze. “So... me and the collar?”

“God, Merlin. You in the collar.” Arthur couldn’t stand it any longer. He pressed forward and kissed Merlin, soft and quick. “You wearing the collar for me.”

Merlin held his shirt, not letting him move away. Whispering his name, Merlin kissed back and let Arthur back him against the desk. They licked and bit, exploring this new way they could fight for dominance, a new way of teasing each other -- with teeth and lips and hands instead of quips and smirks. It was lovely and not so different from the way they’d danced around each other for the last few years. And yet.

Arthur sucked Merlin’s plump bottom lip, his eyes fluttering at the twisting heat in his groin. Why had they not been doing this for years? Arthur shifted to slide a leg between Merlin’s thighs and they were so much closer, chests pressed together and hands everywhere. Arthur couldn’t stop his hips from rocking forward, rutting against Merlin, who was trapped between him and the desk.

“Wait.” Arthur pulled away and reached into the bottom drawer of his desk. He tossed the box onto the desk and, one handed -- he refused to take both hands off Merlin -- he pulled out the collar. The fur of the lining was soft in his hands, tickling his fingertips as he held it up. “May I?”

Merlin nodded, his pupils blown wide.

Arthur’s hands shook as he fumbled with the buckle.

“Tighter.” Merlin swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing against the leather.

Finished, Arthur stepped back to get a proper look.

“Christ.” Arthur pounced, biting at Merlin’s neck. His fingers slipped under the collar, pressed between stubble and fur, surrounded in heat. “Fuck.”

They kissed and pulled at each other's clothes, hardly managing to accomplish anything but getting breathless and red-cheeked.

Merlin pulled away, searching the floor for his discarded gift. “The cuffs, too,” he said, shoving them at Arthur. He sounded wrecked already.

The cuffs were tied together with a metal clasp and Arthur’s fingers searched for the release button.

“Leave it.” Merlin smirked, looking every bit the mischievous minx that Arthur had got only the barest glimpse of these past few years.

Arthur slipped the bands around each of Merlin’s wrists like haute couture handcuffs. Arthur’s mouth went dry. He gripped the fastening between them and tugged until Merlin fell into him. They kissed like that, Arthur holding Merlin hostage, one hand on the cuffs, the other with a finger twisted in a loop on the collar. He’d never done this before: sex in the office, sex with his employee, sex with leather and fur and… bondage. Fuck. It was all so new and overwhelming but also so right.

He searched the room, trying to figure out what to do next, how to take advantage of Merlin in cuffs. It took a minute to get the right inspiration, but Arthur’s imagination was quite impressive.

He pulled Merlin towards the closed door of his office, breaking their kisses to lift Merlin’s arms over his head. He hooked the cuffs to the coat hook on the back of the door. It wasn’t secure or anything, but Merlin’s grin told him that Merlin was more than willing to lock his hands in place as though they were properly tied.

Arthur fell to his knees at Merlin’s feet.

Merlin choked a laugh. “You’re full of surprises tonight.”

The zip was loud in the quiet room as it ticked open, sticking a bit until Arthur gave it a good tug. The impressive bulge of Merlin’s erection, clothed in dark blue boxers, framed in the open ‘v’ of his trousers made Arthur’s face flush hot. Arthur palmed him, enjoying the heat of him, the weight of Merlin’s sizable cock beneath his hand. Merlin squirmed under his hand, a breath away from begging by the time Arthur yanked down the boxers.

Merlin wasn’t going to last long. That much was obvious. The moment Arthur’s mouth closed over the head of his cock, Merlin thrashed against the door. Arthur pinned his hips, stretching his mouth wide around Merlin’s girth. He couldn’t take much in, but he could damn well make it good. He fisted the base of Merlin’s cock, pumping him in long tight pulls and getting rewarded with the bitter tang of precome on his tongue.

Merlin arched against the door, trapped and keening. His hips fought Arthur’s hold until he was fucking Arthur’s mouth in stuttering shallow jerks, suddenly shooting down Arthur’s throat.

Merlin whimpered an apology as Arthur gasped and swallowed.

After a moment, Merlin reached up to free himself and Arthur started to undo his own trousers. He had to touch his cock.

“Let me.” Merlin huffed as he tried to yank Arthur up with his cuffed hands. “Get these off.” His voice was raw like it’d been him who’d just choked on a cock.

Arthur stood and fumbled with the clasp and then the buckles of each cuff. As he moved to toss them towards his desk, Merlin stilled his hand.

“No, I’ll be needing those.” Merlin flashed a cheeky grin.

Without a moment’s hesitation, he pulled out Arthur’s cock and wrapped the base in one of the cuffs, holding it closed in his fist.

The fur was luxurious, encircling his already straining cock with a too soft, too gentle touch. As Merlin moved the cuff up and down his cock Arthur gasped, trying to remember how to breathe. It was tortuous perfection.

“Who knew you were so clever, Merlin?”

Merlin only laughed and started to wank him through the loose loop of the cuff. Arthur thought he was going to lose his mind as Merlin clasped his other hand over the head, rubbing his palm against the slippery precome gathered there. The fur of the lining grazed his balls with each downstroke.

Arthur’s eyes fell shut, stumbling back to the wall for balance. Merlin squeezed and tugged with the warm hug of fur, long steady strokes. The room was stifling. Arthur panted. His shirt was already a ruin of sweat. He loosened his tie and tried to tug at least the buttons free so he could get more oxygen.

Merlin must have seen him swaying because he was soon crowded against the wall, pinned by Merlin’s body to keep him upright. The hand on his cock never slipped out of rhythm as it worked him, mercilessly slow.

He was starting to lose control. His hand found Merlin’s shoulder for balance, his fingers clutching tight. He whispered apologies for the bruises he was inflicting, for taking so long to figure this out, for not knowing they could be like this with each other. Merlin kissed him quiet and he tumbled over the edge.

They were both filthy with sweat and come and still dressed but for their open flies as they sank to the floor.

This wasn’t ending tonight, Arthur realised. This, him and Merlin -- God, cuffs and collars, leather and fur --- this was happening again.


“You and Gwaine?” Arthur hated to ask, but he needed to know for sure.

Merlin gave him a small smile and Arthur regretted breaking the too short perfect moment they’d shared.

Shaking his head, Merlin grabbed Arthur’s wrist. ”That was a long time ago.” Merlin spoke quietly, tapping his thumb at Arthur’s pulse point.

“I think he still hoped...”

“Arthur.” Merlin tilted his head and caught Arthur’s lips in a lingering kiss.

Relief and a bit of guilt sprang up in Arthur’s chest, but he kissed back, lacing his fingers with Merlin’s. Merlin squeezed his hand.

Merlin found a stash of emergency blankets in a utility closet and a packet of biscuits in the coffee room. They spend the wee hours of the night tangled on the couch in Arthur’s office, exchanging sloppy wet kisses, whispering promises that neither of them were sure they should believe.

They made them anyway, and Arthur told himself he would keep them for his part. He really did believe that this could work, that they fit in an odd sort of way.

And when Merlin stole the last biscuit, laughing bright and loud at Arthur’s grumbled complaint, Arthur was quite sure they were on the same page finally.