A/N: With thanks to janne_d for performing her usual, excellent beta duty and for telling me to write for this prompt in the first place.
A/N 2: Mordern day AU, character spoilers for season 2.
So This Is The New Year
Arthur wakes with a dull headache at the base of his skull and a heinous brightness shining in his eyes. The heinous brightness turns out to be emanating from the sun, which is blazing a stark, winter-white through uncurtained windows that are not his own, and the headache turns out to be a hangover.
He sits up in bed, rubbing his face and only just manages to stifle a curse as he discovers someone sleeping next to him. Well, not someone. Merlin. Gwen and Morgana’s friend Merlin Emrys. The one person who Arthur had been absolutely determined not to end up sleeping with last night.
As quietly as he can, Arthur crawls out of bed and looks around for any clothes that might be his. He spots a pair of jeans that have to be his because they’re Dolce and Gabbana and Arthur is positive that Merlin has never worn a brand name in his life unless it was by accident.
The coordination necessary to stand on one leg and then the other while pulling on the jeans is enough to make his head spin but he manages and then silently lets himself out into the hall beyond the bedroom.
It’s even brighter out here. Apparently Morgause doesn’t believe in net curtains. Arthur had known that going along with Morgana’s suggestion to hold her New Year’s party at her half-sister’s house was going to be a mistake, and not only because Merlin was also invited and Arthur had been successfully avoiding him since the last unfortunate morning that they woke up naked in bed together. (Arthur’s life is a little like Four Weddings and a Funeral only with less weddings and more regrettable sex. Four One Night Stands and Hopefully No Funeral, perhaps.)
No, it was a mistake because now he’s waking up mildly hungover and suspiciously achy in Morgause’s house and that isn’t going to do anything for his dignity.
The house is very quiet but Arthur doesn’t want to call out in case he wakes Merlin. Instead, he walks to the kitchen, scratching his belly and thinking that perhaps he should also have tried to find his shirt.
There’s a note pinned to the fridge, scrawled in Morgana’s almost indecipherable handwriting. Until she was sixteen, she had big, bubbly, girlish handwriting with stars and flowers dotting every i and j but since she's outgrown that, she seems to be on a mission to make her writing as hard to read as possible. Arthur’s father despairs. Which, thinking about it, might be why she does it.
After he’s held the note up to the light and squinted at it a bit, Arthur just about works out what it says.
Happy New Year. Gwen is giving Lancelot a lift home so I’ve tagged along. Morgause says you and Merlin can help yourselves to breakfast.
PS - Look out of the window; it snowed!
PPS - Merlin again? Really? Why don’t you just ask the poor boy out?
Arthur glares at the note, screws it up and stuffs it in his pocket. Wretched girl. What if Merlin had woken up first and read that? Of everyone Arthur knows, Morgana should understand that Arthur doesn’t date, that dating led to the disaster that was him and Gwen and the nightmare that was... Well, the less said about Sophia, the better. Relationships simply do not agree with Arthur; he's accepted this about himself and moved on.
The only good thing about Morgana’s note is that it seems to confirm that Arthur is alone in the house. Well, alone except for Merlin who, experience reassures Arthur, can sleep all day if allowed to. (The third time they had sex was in Arthur’s flat and Arthur had to spend the whole day away from home just to ensure that he wasn’t there when Merlin woke.)
Morgause’s house is a large, detached four bedroom, left to her by her mother. Ever since she found Morgana, she’s been enthusiastic about allowing Morgana and Morgana’s friends to use it. Arthur can’t fault her generosity.
There are boxes of Weetabix and Special K in the cupboard, neither of which appeal to Arthur, whose stomach is starting to grumble with the sort of hunger that only a truly indulgent amount of alcohol can cause.
Between the kitchen and the conservatory is one of those folding glass doors that take up the entire length of one wall and are popular on annoying home makeover programmes like Grand Designs. Arthur hates them. Mostly because he’s always sure that he’s going to break one when he tries to open it. A door should not double as a wall. However, he can see trays of sandwiches, dips, crisps and breadsticks left over from last night’s party, sitting untouched on a table in the conservatory, so just this once he puts aside his door hatred and lets himself outside.
The conservatory is enclosed on all four sides, but apparently the insulation is not very good because Arthur is hit by a blast of cold air the moment he steps out of the kitchen. Belatedly, he remembers the part of Morgana’s message that mentioned snow and wishes again that he’d remembered his shirt.
He remembers it starting to snow last night, but after a week of on-again, off-again snow flurries, it had been beginning to lose its novelty value and Merlin had... Arthur blinks, his memory picking that moment to interrupt itself with a startlingly vivid flashback. Dear god, Arthur has a terrible feeling that he remembers where his shirt is and it’s not in the room that he and Merlin had appropriated for their sexploits. Crap. Morgana is never going to let him live that down and Gwen is going to blush the next half a dozen times she sees him.
Deciding to brave the cold for the more pressing issue of getting food in his belly, Arthur fills a paper plate with sausage rolls and other nibbles. He stands beside the table, consuming food until his stomach is no longer growling crossly at him and then pours himself a flute of champagne. It might be early in the morning, but today is a bank holiday and there's no where he needs to be, so why not?
Glass in hand, Arthur strolls towards the back wall of the conservatory, intending to take a look at the snow. Morgause’s back garden is eerily still, crisp and sparkling white. The snow is deep, much deeper than Arthur had expected, the topmost layer marred in a couple of places by what look like cat’s paw prints and, as Arthur watches, a robin jumps down from a white-dusted bush and preens for Arthur’s benefit. Smiling involuntarily, Arthur puts a hand on the glass in greeting.
The sudden cessation of an electronic hum that Arthur hadn’t been aware off until it stopped followed by a gentle splash makes Arthur turn around, holding his champagne flute in front of his chest as though it’s a shield.
He feels his eyes widen as he takes in a medium-sized jacuzzi, separated from the rest of the conservatory by the dividing wall which Arthur had previously assumed hid a toilet or utility room or something else unsightly.
What Arthur sees is far from unsightly. Slightly scarring perhaps, but definitely, uh, sightly.
Morgause is stepping out of the jacuzzi, wearing nothing but a pale blue bikini. She picks a towel up from the floor, wraps it around her waist and walks toward Arthur with a smile. Apparently, she knew he was there even if he was unaware of her.
“Good morning, Arthur,” she says, smiling her soft, amused smile. There’s nothing offensive about that smile but it still sets Arthur’s teeth on edge.
“Good morning,” Arthur answers awkwardly, lifting his glass in salute. He wonders if she’ll judge him for drinking in the morning. He wonders what she thinks about him at all. She’s always so blandly pleasant to him. “I’m sorry if I disturbed you.”
Morgause shakes her head, still wearing that smile. A few drops of water drip from the end of one blonde curl and roll down into her bikini bra. Arthur doesn’t watch their path because there are few things more horrific than the idea of accidentally ogling Morgana’s half-sister.
“You didn’t,” she tells him lightly. “My first appointment cancelled so I was just making the most of the spare time. I’ll be driving down to my office soon, assuming they've gritted the roads. You and... your friend are welcome to stay here as long as you like.” Morgause is an NHS therapist, specialising in grief counseling. Arthur can’t fault that either.
He can’t fault anything she does. The pettiest parts of him would like to, but he can’t. He’s not jealous that Morgana has found a half-sister she knew nothing about, that she perhaps needs a step-brother and step-father less than she did before. Arthur has dealt with it and he’s fine. Happy for her, even. Morgana deserves some good luck.
“Well don’t let me keep you,” he tells Morgause and doesn’t release his pent-up breath until she’s nodded in farewell, left damp footprints between the jacuzzi and the kitchen door and disappeared into the house.
When she’s gone, Arthur downs half his champagne, refills his glass then contemplates the jacuzzi thoughtfully. It isn’t hard to work out how to turn it back on and soon the water is bubbling happily. Arthur was starting to get thoroughly chilled but once he’s slipped his jeans off and lowered himself into the water, that only helps to make it feel warmer.
One thing he can say for Morgause: she has an excellent appreciation for the finer things in life.
Arthur drinks a little more champagne and leans his head back against the padded side of the jacuzzi, eyes falling shut. His hangover is soothed, probably due to the application of more alcohol and he’s feeling much more human, almost relaxed, or as close as he can get to it when he’s not in his own home.
Distantly, he’s aware that he should find his phone and call his father, wish him a happy new year and other pleasantries. He can’t rake up any sense of urgency though and Morgana has probably already done that for them both; she’s useful like that.
Arthur’s eyes are closed and he’s dozing lightly when he hears heavy footfalls creak on the thin conservatory floor. Merlin, obviously having the same idea that Arthur had earlier, appears in Arthur’s sight, a tall glass of orange juice clutched in one hand, while he stares out at the snow with a simple, ridiculous smile.
Ah, yes. Merlin. Arthur had had a nagging suspicion he’d forgotten something.
“You have the grace of a herd of elephants,” Arthur tells him flatly, making Merlin jump and spin around. He’s wearing nothing but a pair of red boxers - which Arthur would judge him for more if he hadn’t just realised that below the water, he’s now wearing nothing at all - and he has the good grace to blush when he sees Arthur.
“Oh,” Merlin says, folding his arms across his chest, “Hello.” Then, even more awkwardly, "Happy new year."
Arthur picks up his glass and lifts it in Merlin’s general direction. He feels lazy and a little fuzzy around the edges. He never has been able to drink in the mornings.
Instead of walking away like Arthur had anticipated, Merlin comes closer. Of course, that is what Arthur actually should have anticipated because Merlin seems to live to annoy Arthur and defy his expectations.
Merlin puts his orange juice down next to Arthur’s champagne and crouches to Arthur’s left, bare toes a couple of inches away from the edge of the jacuzzi. “Are you all right?” Merlin asks, sounding curious. “You look funny.”
“Funny?” Arthur asks, lifting his hand to check his face then scowling at himself for doing so.
“Yeah,” Merlin says, a little curl of a smile in his voice. “You’re smiling at me.”
Oh, really. “Smartarse,” Arthur tells him. “Besides, I am not.”
Okay, perhaps Arthur is smiling a little now. He definitely wasn’t before though. “Shut up.”
Unexpectedly, Merlin actually does. He picks up his orange juice and takes a few healthy gulps. He’s thin, no spare flesh anywhere, and it makes his adam’s apple prominent, which is the only reason why Arthur finds himself watching it bob up and down when Merlin swallows. Annoyed with himself, Arthur moves his eyes lower. This is a mistake. Merlin’s crouch isn’t exactly modest, not when he’s only wearing boxers, and trying not to look there, means that Arthur catches sight of the stark red bruise on Merlin’s thigh.
Well, it’s not a bruise, it’s a love-bite. Arthur wishes he remembered all the details of their... rendezvous last night.
Arthur reaches up to touch the bruise but stops with his hand on the side of Merlin’s knee when Merlin sucks in a breath and jerks a little. Arthur drops his hand and stares fixedly at Merlin’s foot; his toes really are alarmingly long. “Sorry,” Arthur says uncomfortably.
“No, it’s-.” Merlin trails off.
“Did I fuck you last night?” Arthur hears himself ask and is mildly appalled at the bluntness. They never acknowledge their unfortunate penchant for ending up in bed together unless they’re on their way into bed again right that very moment.
Arthur squints at Merlin’s toes. They don’t strike him as toes that have any expectation of curling in ecstasy any time soon. Arthur may be mildly drunker than he thought.
“No,” Merlin says. He stretches his legs out, letting his heels brush the water. “We didn’t do that.”
Arthur looks at him. Merlin is worrying his bottom lip with his slightly large front teeth, but he’s meeting Arthur’s gaze head on. Arthur reluctantly admires that in a person. “But we did... I mean, we did have sex?” He doesn’t understand why he’s pushing this, he’s usually a firm believer in denial when the situation warrants it.
Apparently Merlin is just as confused as Arthur, but he nods gamely. “Yeah?”
“Again,” Arthur says.
Merlin’s flush is growing deeper but, “Yes,” he says. There’s the faintest beginnings of a frown between his eyes as if he’s starting to suspect that Arthur may be trying to be an arsehole. Arthur doesn’t think that he is.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur tells him, meaning it.
Merlin scoots closer to the edge of the jacuzzi. Water bubbles up his bare calves, stopping just below his knees, making the dark hairs on his legs swirl gently. “Why?” he asks. Then, “Arthur, what’s wrong?”
Arthur doesn’t reply because the answer is nothing, everything, indefinable.
“It must be weird,” Merlin says after a long pause. “Morgana getting to know her dad’s family.”
Morgana has only been Arthur’s step-sister since he was fourteen. Ten years isn’t that long really, but yes, it’s weird. It’s wrong and he can never say that aloud because who is he to begrudge Morgana something she’s so delighted about. He doesn’t tell Merlin any of that though and he suspects that Merlin wasn’t expecting him to.
Instead, he shrugs and brings his arms up to rest along the edge of the jacuzzi. Merlin is sitting less than an arm’s span away from Arthur so Arthur has to be careful not to touch him.
He’s concentrating so hard on not touching Merlin and not watching Merlin that it’s a little embarrassing that he notices immediately when Merlin shivers. Merlin rubs his hands down his arms, goosebumps making the hairs on his arms stand up.
“You must be freezing,” Arthur says, aware that there’s an element of you idiot about the statement.
“A bit,” Merlin agrees and slides into the water beside Arthur. Arthur was not expecting that. Apart from the times when they’re having sex, Merlin is never this close to him.
Merlin’s body is pressed again Arthur’s, hip to shoulder and thigh to knee. His skin is cool under the water but warming rapidly.
“Merlin,” Arthur says thoughtfully.
“Mm?” Merlin asks. He’s sunk down into the water so it covers his shoulders.
Nothing, just, “Merlin. Merlin.” Arthur has known Merlin for a year. He’s had sex with him four and a half times (the half time was a little embarrassing). Thoughts of him have always skittered through Arthur’s brain, there then gone, an inexplicable constant, a friend of a friend who he hardly knows but takes for granted all the same. But he’s real. He’s real and he’s here for Arthur to touch.
“Arthur?” Merlin asks, looking down at Arthur’s hand which has found its way to his warm, wet shoulder then back up at Arthur’s face with his expression twisted into mild confusion. “Are you drunk?”
“No,” Arthur tells him because while he may be slightly, he also feels more clearheaded than he has all year. He twists around on the bench and puts his other hand on Merlin’s other shoulder. If he spreads his fingers, his thumbs brush one prominent collarbone each. “May I kiss you?”
Merlin laughs softly. “You’ve never asked before,” he says and Arthur feels a hot stab of embarrassment lance through his chest.
He drops his hands. “You’re right,” he says. Of course. Of course Merlin doesn’t want to continue this... whatever they sometimes have between them now they’re sober.
“Hey, no.” Merlin grabs Arthur’s hands and presses them back against him, his chest this time; there’s a half-sly, half-shy smile playing around the corners of his mouth. “I just meant that you’re normally too busy bossing me around.” This time his smile is more a smirk. “I didn’t say I really minded.”
“You do mind,” Arthur says, frowning, “You think I’m a prat when I tell you what to do.” He knows Merlin, he realises. It’s a strange sort of realisation, coming months too late.
He’s been telling himself that he doesn’t, that each time they’ve been together he’s been too drunk to see Merlin as anything more than a convenient warm body, but that’s not true. They weren’t even drunk the first time; the first time, Merlin was just too intriguing for Arthur to pass up. Last night, really, was the only time Arthur had been truly wasted, but last night he was drinking so he wouldn’t have to watch Morgause plait Morgana’s hair and laugh with her sweetly and he’d reached out for Merlin because he’d known Merlin would be there if he did, not pulling further and further away from him.
Merlin is moving towards him now, too. “Arthur,” he says, putting wet hands on Arthur’s face and making Arthur lift his face to look Merlin in the eye. “It’s all right.”
Arthur wonders what Merlin’s talking about, wonders what exactly is all right, but then he stops wondering much of anything because Merlin is kissing him. He must have kissed Merlin countless times by now, Arthur likes to kiss and he thinks Merlin does too, but this time feels different.
Arthur leans back against the side of the jacuzzi and lets Merlin control this kiss and then the next and the one after that. Arthur doesn’t realise exactly how much control he’s lost until Merlin is straddling his lap and Merlin’s tongue is slick and wicked, pushing deep into Arthur’s mouth, as good as fucking him with it.
Arthur groans and clutches at Merlin’s back, feeling wet, cooling skin under his warm palms. Merlin is thin but not light; there’s lithe, corded muscle under Arthur’s hands and his shoulders are firm when Arthur’s hands slide up to cup them.
Arthur’s hard and the gentle lap of the water against his erection makes him want to squirm, caught between pleasure and discomfort. He presses one hand against Merlin’s lower back and guides Merlin’s hips forward so that Arthur’s cock can nudge against the top of Merlin’s inner thigh.
“Why are you naked?” Merlin asks, pulling his mouth away from Arthur’s and panting gently against his lips.
“I didn’t expect company,” Arthur tells him, which isn’t exactly a logical answer. He’s naked because his jeans were all he was wearing and he wasn’t getting in here with those on.
“I could go,” Merlin says, lifting up from Arthur’s lap just enough to emphasise his point. Arthur wraps both arms around him, stopping him from going anywhere.
“Don’t,” he says, deathly serious.
Merlin sinks back down into him. “Won’t,” he says and kisses Arthur hard.
Arthur doesn’t want to let go of him so he doesn’t, not until he feels Merlin’s erection bob up beside his own, trapped inside his boxers. “I have a better question,” Arthur says.
“Mm?” Merlin hums against Arthur’s jaw.
Arthur tugs on the back of Merlin’s boxers. “Why aren’t you naked?”
“Oh.” Merlin pulls back, a silly, distracted smile on his face. “Because I wasn’t expecting company,” he says. “You’ve never still been around when I’ve woken up before.”
Merlin has this way of calling Arthur an arsehole without in any way saying anything that sounds like he’s calling him an arsehole. It’s impressive. “I was under the impression that was what we both wanted,” Arthur tells him a little stiffly.
Merlin shrugs. “I guess so,” he says, “It’s not like it would have been any fun if you’d stayed when you didn’t want to.”
“Is that what you’re looking for?” Arthur asks, “Fun?”
Merlin smiles a little. “Isn’t everyone?”
“I meant-,” Arthur starts to say then stops himself, unsure of what exactly he meant to say next. Fun sounds good to him; it’s not as if he’s asking if Merlin is looking for someone to go steady with or some other antiquated social convention.
“Arthur?” Merlin says. “You really do think too much.” He stands up and Arthur has to grab his own thighs so he won’t clutch at Merlin’s and ask him not to leave. He’s very glad he had that self restraint a moment late when, instead of climbing out the jacuzzi, Merlin slides his sodden boxers off his hips and down his thighs, flinging them onto the floor where they land with a soggy splatter.
Merlin doesn’t sit back on Arthur’s lap, but instead takes Arthur’s hand and floats backwards toward the other side of the jacuzzi. Arthur follows where he’s led, half-swimming, half-wading awkwardly until Merlin is sitting in the seat opposite the one Arthur just vacated and Arthur is standing between his thighs.
Arthur raises an eyebrow. “Well?” he asks.
Merlin smirks. “Yes, thank you.”
Arthur rolls his eyes and makes a frustrated motion with his hands which leads to a small tsunami of bubbly water crashing over Merlin’s face. “Oops?” Arthur says, trying not to laugh at the way Merlin’s fringe is now plastered to his face.
“Prat,” Merlin says, spitting water out of his mouth and pushing his fringe back out of his eyes. “For that, I’m not going to blow you after all.”
Fuck. “Oh, come on,” Arthur protests but Merlin just shakes his head sadly. He lifts one hand out of the water and makes a swirling motion with it. Arthur frowns. “What do you want me to do? I’m not dancing for you if that’s what you’re asking.”
Merlin coughs out a laugh. “Hardly,” he says, “I’ve seen you dance.”
“When?” Arthur asks.
“Revs,” Merlin tells him, “Now turn around.”
Oh, yes, Revs. Vodka Revolution. The first time they met. Arthur is so distracted by memories of mutual blowjobs in the men’s toilets that he obeys Merlin’s request to turn around without thinking. “Why do I-?” he starts to ask when he finds himself with his back to Merlin, looking out across the conservatory and at the snow just starting to fall again onto the garden beyond.
“Lean forward,” Merlin’s voice says, much closer than Arthur had expected, directly in his ear in fact.
Merlin strokes his hands down Arthur’s arms, plastering his chest against Arthur’s back until Arthur has to lean forward. Merlin places Arthur’s hands on the side of the jacuzzi, one on either side of the place he’d previously been resting his head.
“Hold on,” Merlin whispers and starts to kiss down Arthur’s spine.
Arthur’s a little cold right now, the cool air in the conservatory reacting with his wet skin to make him shiver. Standing up, he’s out of the water up to the place where his thighs curve into his arse. Water lapping there makes him feel strangely vulnerable and he isn’t sure if the fact that Merlin’s kisses are moving lower and lower down his spine helps with that or makes the feeling stronger.
“Merlin,” Arthur groans, dropping his head forward when Merlin kisses the base of his spine. “Are you-?”
“What?” Merlin asks cheerfully, “Sure? Because yes. Going to rim you? Because, again, yes.”
Arthur’s hands curl around the edge of the jacuzzi, knuckles going white with the effort of not letting his suddenly weak knees buckle. His fingers accidentally graze his abandoned glass of champagne but Arthur has never wanted a drink less. All he wants - honestly, within this moment it is all he wants and that is a gloriously liberating feeling - is Merlin’s mouth on him.
Merlin parts Arthur’s arse cheeks with both hands and blows gently over his hole. Arthur can’t keep standing any more; he blames the champagne.
“Okay,” Merlin says, kissing the small of Arthur’s back, holding him steady with a hand flat on his belly. “Okay, kneel on the seat.”
Arthur does and it means that he can rest his elbows on the edge of the tub, support more of his weight that way. It must make the angle more awkward, but Merlin doesn’t seem to mind, as he kisses then licks Arthur’s perineum and balls and then, finally, Arthur’s hole.
No one has ever done this for Arthur before. He’s done it for other people, he likes to use his mouth, but no one has ever-. And it’s-. It’s more intense than being fucked, more intimate than a blowjob. When Merlin’s tongue first breaches him, it feels like nothing else ever has.
Arthur knows he’s speaking, babbling something, he hopes it’s just Merlin’s name, but he suspects it’s praise and promises for anything at all if Merlin will only keep going. Merlin does. After a while, he pushes a finger inside Arthur, licking his way around it and Arthur honest to god keens his approval; if Arthur survives this, he’s going to be so embarrassed, but he doesn’t honestly care.
A second finger joins the first, the rough, calloused pad finds the bump of Arthur’s prostate and that’s it, that’s all, Arthur can’t be expected to have better stamina this early in the morning, and he comes hard enough that he probably would have cracked his head on the side of the jacuzzi if his arms hadn’t been there to hold his weight.
“Jesus,” Arthur hears and he thinks for a moment that he’s the one who said it; it’s certainly a sentiment that he can support, but when he looks over his shoulder, he sees that Merlin’s on his feet, that he’s flushed and wild-eyed and nonsense sounds and curses are falling from his lips as his hand moves quickly on his own erection.
“No,” Arthur says, “Let me.” He feels drugged but he manages to turns himself around so he’s sitting down again. The warm water makes him shiver but not as much as the sight of Merlin touching himself does.
Arthur pulls Merlin forward so he’s standing between Arthur’s thighs then leans forward to take Merlin’s cock into his mouth. He barely gets the head onto his tongue before Merlin’s groaning and gripping his shoulders hard enough to bruise and saying, “Please, Arthur, please.”
Arthur pushes gently against the small of Merlin’s back, encouraging his hips forward and his cock into Arthur’s mouth until the head is brushing Arthur’s soft palate. Arthur swallows, orders himself not to gag and breathes out slowly through his nose. He knows how to do this. Deepthroating isn’t something that he can put on his CV, but it’s something he finds fairly easy.
Merlin swears when Arthur opens his throat and lets Merlin’s cock sink a little deeper into his mouth and Arthur’s lips stretch into what would be a smile if it weren’t for the cock in the way.
“Arthur, oh my god.” Merlin gets vocal when he’s near to coming. Arthur knows that. “Why didn’t I know you could do that?"
Arthur can’t help laughing a little, and Merlin’s moan is anguished then hoarse, then utterly blissful as he jerks and starts to come. Arthur pulls back hurriedly, not wanting to choke but he still finds himself with a mouthful of come. He could, he supposes, spit it into the water, but this isn’t his jacuzzi and that seems much more disgusting than simply swallowing, which is what he does. Swallowing also has the advantage that he can keep Merlin’s softening cock in his mouth that much longer.
Eventually, Merlin slides his cock out from between Arthur’s lips and collapses down onto Arthur’s lap. He lets his head rest of Arthur’s shoulder and moans weakly. “That was definitely the best, right?”
“Ever?” Arthur asks curiously.
Merlin pinches him but it’s a weak effort, hardly warranting an “Ow,” although Arthur gives one anyway on principle. “I meant our best. Together.”
“Ah, yes,” Arthur says. He can’t stop stroking Merlin’s back, but then he’s not sure that he should have to. “I'd say so.”
They sit in silence, just catching their breath and it’s pleasant, peaceful and companionable. Then an idea strikes Arthur and it won’t go away so he has to give voice to it.
“Would you, perhaps, like to have dinner with me one day? One evening, that is. Not this evening, but perhaps this week?” God lord, he sounds like Hugh Grant. He needs to stop talking.
Merlin lifts his head. His smile is pleased and almost blinding. “Yeah?” he asks. “Arthur, are you finally asking me on a date?”
“Finally?” Arthur asks. “What does that mean? You could have asked me, you know. At any point in the last year, if a date was that important to you.”
Merlin shakes his head, still grinning. “You would have said no.”
Arthur opens his mouth to protest that but can’t because it’s true. “You’re the most infuriating person I’ve ever met,” he says, which is perhaps not the best thing to say to the person he’s just had fantastic sex with and then asked on a date. Arthur usually has perfect social etiquette, unless he’s around Merlin.
“I know,” Merlin tells him. He seems perfectly content about it.