Title: Claws at the End of Its Paws 
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: A black cat sitting calmly on the living room rug is certainly not the worst surprise Arthur has come home to in recent years.
[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]
Word Count: ~900w
Prompt: 337 Cemetery
Author's Notes: And now, the conclusion! Happy Halloween <|;)
After dinner, Arthur cues up a Halloween thriller on Netflix and flops onto the couch with a blanket, expecting Merlin to settle down in his favourite armchair to watch the way he usually does. Instead, his flatmate—cat—his catmate?—jumps onto the sofa beside him and curls up a few inches from Arthur’s thigh, flicking an ear in his direction as though daring him to comment on his seating choices. Amused, Arthur says nothing, shifting over so that he can tuck part of the afghan around Merlin as well.
“This is nice,” he says, and then feels stupid. It’s not like this is a date, after all—his best friend is a cat, and probably not even interested in him that way. But it is nice to have Merlin so close, and without quite looking over at him Arthur reaches out a finger to stroke along the ridge of Merlin’s spine, following the grain of the soft black fur where it curves over Merlin's haunches.
The movie ends up being kind of boring, in Arthur’s opinion, although that could be because he’s not really paying much attention to the plot. Instead, he is distracted by the warmth of Merlin at his side, the way the cat seems to be creeping gradually closer as the film progresses, until Arthur can feel tiny, needle-like claws prickling through his trousers during each jump-scare. Finally, when the heroine trips and falls while fleeing through a cemetery, Merlin springs into Arthur’s lap with a yowl of alarm, the fur on the back of his neck bristling into a startled ruff.
“You’re quite ridiculous, you know,” Arthur informs him, ignoring Merlin's baleful glare as he disintangles Merlin's claws from his shirt. “You're a bloody wizard. What do you have to be afraid of?"
Merlin narrows his eyes, his twitching tail clearly communicating his displeasure, and if he could talk Arthur has no doubt he would say something pointed about empathy and the power of imagination, and how just because Arthur has the emotional range of a teaspoon—thank you, Hermione Granger—doesn’t mean everyone is immune to creepy music and scary serial killers jumping out of the bushes to stab people. He still lets Arthur pet him, though, and allows Arthur to pull him close and smooth down his ruffled fur without protest. He doesn't even squirm away when Arthur starts scratching his ears.
It’s after one am when Arthur wakes; the TV screen has long since gone black, and for a moment he can’t remember what he’s doing in the living room. His body feels strangely immobile, like there’s a heavy weight draped over his chest, and when he tries to roll over it shifts against him with a muttered complaint, jabbing him in the stomach with a bony elbow. Arthur goes still.
“Merlin.” Arthur pokes his flatmate—now miraculously returned to his human self—between the ribs, and Merlin jerks slightly, making a noise of protest as he bats Arthur’s hand away. “You’re human again, and you’re crushing me. Also, you’re naked,” Arthur adds, the realisation hitting him at about the same time as the panic. “Um. Why are you naked?”
“Because I just turned back into a person, obviously,” Merlin hisses, sounding a lot like his feline self as he struggles to sit up. “I’ve been a cat for twelve hours. Shapeshifting doesn’t come with a wardrobe.”
“Right.” Uncertain whether he should move or not, Arthur lies there and tries to gather his wits. This proves surprisingly difficult, given that one of Merlin’s knees is now sliding between his legs, leaving other parts of his body pressed against Arthur’s— “Er. This is awkward.”
“Shut up,” Merlin mutters, finally pushing himself upright. Light from a streetlamp filters through the open blinds, illuminating his flushed cheeks and embarrassed expression. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have fallen asleep on you, but—well.” He tugs up the afghan to cover himself. “I was comfortable. The spell must have worn off once the clock turned midnight; that's how this usually works.”
“Does this sort of thing happen to you often, then?” Arthur asks, mostly to take his mind off the fact that Merlin is sitting naked and half on top of him. The fact that he's also straddling one of Arthur's thighs is not doing his libido any favours. “Waking up starkers after taking naps on people?”
“No! This is the first time. At least, the first time it’s happened while I was a cat." Merlin bites his lip, looking sheepishly at his hands. "You make a surprisingly comfortable sleeping cushion.”
“Thank you?” Arthur isn’t sure whether that’s supposed to be a compliment, but he’ll take it. “You make a surprisingly cuddly cat.”
They grin at each other for a long moment, before Merlin seems to remember where he is and what he’s wearing. Or rather, what he isn’t wearing. With a quiet curse, he scrambles to his feet, nearly tripping over the blanket and braining himself on the coffee table in the process, and Arthur shakes his head mournfully.
“And you were so much more graceful before,” he says, and Merlin snorts, catching his balance at the last second and flipping Arthur the bird.
“Quiet, you,” he says. “Or next time I won’t be so careful with my claws.”
He’s gone before Arthur can do more than ask, “Next time?”, but that's all right. He can still feel the imprint of Merlin’s head where it had rested against his chest, warm and certain as a promise, and a slow grin unfurls across his face at the thought.
Next time. He rather likes the sound of that.