The Very Essence of Romance is Uncertainty for dhampir

<b>Title: The Very Essence of Romance is Uncertainty</b>

<b>Recipient:</b><lj user="dhampir">

<b>Author: </b> <lj user="Penndragon27">

<b>Rating: T</b>

<b>Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur</b>

<b>Summary: A fic about books, Christmas parties, annoying coworkers, and terrible tea </b>

<b>Warnings: N/A</b>

<b>Word Count: 4,901</b>

<b>Author's Notes: I hope you enjoy!</b>

<b>Disclaimer:</b>Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.

<lj-cut text="The Very Essence of Romance is Uncertainty">

This was not how Arthur expected to come out.   

He had been thinking about it ever since he first realized he was gay. He remembered the day of cold realization, when his girlfriend, Sophia, had kissed him and suggested they move things to the bedroom. He had been nervous, but he believed that to be normal.

Then, they were in bed together, clothes shedding quickly. It was more than nerves, he felt sick. He had immediately jumped up and run from the room.

After some time, he learned that he did not like Sophia that way. Or girls. And then he spent the next few years living in fear over how he would tell his father. He tested the waters by telling Morgana, but she had little reaction more than, “No shit”.

All that planning was for nothing though, because Arthur had just revealed his deep dark secret in front of the entire office, including his father.

They were all staring at him, eyes wide. He avoided looking at his father and instead focused on the reason for all this, Cedric.

Cedric was a terrible employee. He rarely showed up to work and when he did it was mediocre at best. So, Arthur had finally had enough and told him he was being let go. Unfortunately, as this was Cedric, he couldn’t take it quietly. Instead, he had yelled and fought and then, he accused Arthur of firing him because he was gay.

Arthur had laughed, saying he had no idea Cedric was gay, but that wasn’t the right reaction. Everyone was whispering furiously as Cedric went on about how open he was about his sexuality. His father came out to see what the commotion was about and gave Arthur a look, telling him to fix this.

All of it was too much and finally he burst out “Why would I care? I’m gay, for Christ’s sake.”

Hence the deafening silence. He waited for the confusion and the speculation and for his father to yell, but then Cedric, being Cedric, started speaking.

“Are you for real? Are you actually pretending to be gay to get out of this?”

Well that was not what he expected to hear. He furrowed his brow. “What?”

“I mean, I know you care about your image, but that’s a bit much, even for you.”

Arthur couldn’t believe his ears. “You think I’m lying about this?”

Cedric nodded, as though it was obvious. Looking around, Arthur saw that the other workers seemed to be thinking the same thing. When he finally faced his father, he had a confused expression on his face.

Then, as though from heaven above, Arthur heard Morgana’s voice.

“You all think Arthur’s lying about this?”

He turned towards her, hopeful she could fix this.

“Well, Arthur. I guess we better break the bad news to your boyfriend.”

Arthur deflated. Heaven above? More like the depths of hell. He did not have a boyfriend. He had never had a boyfriend because he was not an idiot and did not want to get caught with said non-existent boyfriend.


Arthur whirled back to face his father, who looked as though he had swallowed a lemon. Arthur sighed. Apparently you needed a boyfriend to be gay, these days.

“I was going to tell you—”

Uther waved a hand dismissively. “We will talk about this later. For now let’s put this matter to rest.”

Cedric narrowed his eyes. “Since when do you have a boyfriend?”

“A few months,” Morgana said as she walked over. “He was planning on introducing him at the holiday party, but I guess you all know now.”

Why couldn’t Morgana stop talking?

Arthur forced a smile. “Yep, I guess you’ll all meet him then.”


As soon as he left the building, Arthur walked for ten minutes until he reached a fairly ramshackle street with an even more ramshackle shop. The door and windows were patterned with various posters, but there were so many no one knew what they were for anymore, and there was no visible open sign, but Arthur knew.

When he entered the shop, he was met with piles of books and the overwhelming smell of tea. He felt himself instantly relax, until there was a loud crash and a string of curses.

“Are you alright?” Arthur called out.

There was some more grumbling before a voice called out, “I’m fine.”

He followed the voice through the maze of books until he reached a fallen pile with a scrawny pale arm sticking out. Sighing, Arthur grabbed the arm and pulled, freeing the scrawny and pale man it was attached to.

“You really need a better system, Merlin.”

The eccentric shop owner rolled his eyes. “Please. I know exactly where everything is.”

Arthur raised an eyebrow.

“Okay, I know more or less where what I’m thinking of could possibly be.”

“Yes, but that would require you knowing what you’re even looking for.”

“I know,” Merlin insisted as he stood up to brush himself off. “It’s the book... with the severed animal’s head.”

“And the children?”


Arthur sighed. “So… Lord of the Flies?”

Merlin’s eyes widened in recognition before he sank in disappointment. “No. Not that. Other children. And a lighthouse. Or just a boat? I mean, if there’s a boat, there’s probably a lighthouse, but I guess that depends on which era it is. Although, Vikings invented the lighthouse way back, so they’ve definitely been around a while, but I think it was a modern lighthouse. Well, not modern modern, but more recent than Vikings, definitely.”

Arthur had to hold back a soft smile and Merlin’s rambling. Instead he rolled his eyes despairingly.

“Are you thinking of Virginia Woolf?”

Merlin clapped his hands together in excitement, the sound ringing out in the empty shop. “Yes! Her!”

“So… To the Lighthouse?

Merlin smiled. “This is why we’re friends.”

“And no other reason?” Arthur couldn’t help but smirk.

Merlin waved a hand as he made to fix the pile of books. “Please. If you didn’t help me remember books I would have absolutely no use for you.”

Arthur couldn’t help but smile this time, but luckily Merlin was still turned away. Then, he dropped the books he was holding and whirled around, Arthur quickly straightening his face.

“What are you doing here? Don’t you have work?”

Arthur immediately groaned at the reminder of his current situation and Merlin gave him a sympathetic smile before clapping his hands together again. “You need tea.”

Arthur choked. “No. I do not need tea. Especially not your tea.”

Merlin ignored him as he climbed over the mess to the small counter in the corner. Arthur felt his expression go fond as his friend hastily began preparing tea.

It was prepared way too quickly, which gave him cause to worry, and rightly so. He sniffed the mug in front of him warily, but only smelled tea. Then he took a sip and began spluttering.

As with whenever Merlin made tea, it was utterly wretched. Despite how quickly he made it, it was overly bitter and none of the flavours went together. He looked up to glare at Merlin, but was met with such a caring and hopeful expression he swallowed his response and instead took another sip.

Also, as with whenever Merlin made tea, it actually helped. The scent still calmed him and he felt his headache ease up. He shook his head in amazement.

“How is this toxic sludge actually making me feel better?”

Merlin grinned. “Magic.”

Arthur rolled his eyes and took another sip, holding back a cringe. He could easily believe it.

His friendship with Merlin was one of life’s greatest mysteries. He had no idea how he, a rich, confident (not arrogant), businessman, ended up friends with the beautiful mess that was Merlin. Maybe it was when he accidentally mentioned that he was gay and Merlin immediately launched into his array of humorous stories about his first attempts at dating guys and Arthur felt an immediate kinship. Maybe it was when he walked in on Merlin after he’d fallen to the ground and immediately dragged him to the back to fix the cut on his forehead and Arthur was overwhelmed with the need to protect this man at all costs.

Maybe it was that first day, in the pouring rain, when Arthur ran into the horribly amazing shop for shelter and Merlin made him a cup of his disgusting tea that still managed to warm him all over and make him feel safe and secure.

Whatever it was, they were friends now, and Arthur couldn’t imagine his life without him.

“Now,” Merlin leaned on the counter, a hand towel over his shoulder as though he were a bartender about to solve all of Arthur’s problems. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Arthur sighed and took another sip of the horrendous tea to put off answering.

“I came out to my entire office.”

Merlin winced. “Oh, Arthur.”

“And my father.”

“Oh, Arthur.”

“And they all thought I was lying because the guy I had just fired claimed I was only firing him because he’s gay, which I didn’t even know!”

“Oh, Arthur.

He glared at Merlin. “Will you stop that?”

Merlin held his hands up defensively before pulling out a kettle and topping up Arthur’s mug. “So, what are you gonna do?”

Arthur frowned. “I was thinking the same thing when Morgana appeared and told everyone that I have a boyfriend and that I’d be bringing him to the work holiday party.”

Merlin’s mouth seemed to harden as he raised an eyebrow. “And?”

He waved his hands furiously. “I don’t have a boyfriend!”

Merlin face softened into a smile. “Oh, Arthur.”


“Right, sorry. So, what will you do?”

Arthur shrugged. “Moved to Peru?”

Merlin laughed as he shook his head. “It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you. If you see what I mean.” 

“And I suppose you’ve forgotten which book that’s from?”

“It was one of the classics,” Merlin shrugged. “But really, I doubt running away will help.”

“I could hire an escort.”

“Because rom coms should always be taken as life advice.”

Arthur crossed his arms defensively. “If books can, why not movies?”

“‘Books keep stupidity at bay.’”

Arthur rolled his eyes. “And yet you still have no idea where that quote is from.”

“It was a book about reading.”

Arthur took another sip of his tea to cover up his smile. Then, Merlin slammed a hand on the counter as his eyes widened in realization, making Arthur choke.

“What the bloody hell, Merlin?”

“A rom com!”

Arthur gave Merlin an expectant look in between coughing into his fist.

“Let’s not do that rom com with the escort! Let’s do all those other rom coms! I can pretend to be your boyfriend!”

Arthur choked again.

“You-I-we- what?”

Merlin was unperturbed. “Yea, I mean, we’re friends, so it’s not like we have to learn a bunch of information. We’ll just show up to the party, flirt a little, you mention me a couple times after, and then we ‘break up’. It’s simple.”

But it was not simple. Not at all, because the one thing that Merlin had not factored into his brilliant plan was that Arthur was practically in love with him. It wasn’t Merlin’s fault, though, as Arthur was guarding that secret with his life.

“That is a terrible idea,” he said out loud.

Merlin’s face fell before fixing into a glare as he crossed his arms. “I’ll have you know that I’m a brilliant boyfriend. I supply tea and advice and I give great hugs.”

Arthur rolled his eyes, even though his insides were squirming. “Wouldn’t that make you everyone’s boyfriend, then?”

Merlin shrugged. “Look, do you want my help or not?”

He thought about it. It would be torture and the whole situation would probably end in tears, but he would have a whole evening of holding Merlin’s hand and calling him his boyfriend and trying to make him blush…

“Alright. Let’s do it.”

Merlin grinned broadly. “Awesome! Okay, let’s make some ground rules. What PDA is allowed?”

Arthur was immediately regretting his decision as he felt his face heat up. “I-I don’t know. Um… hand holding?”

Merlin nodded. “Ok. And hugging?”

Arthur swallowed thickly before nodding.

“Alright and what about kissing? I mean, I would kiss all my exes on the cheek when we were dating, but if you’re not okay—”

“No!” It came out a little too loud and Arthur winced. “Um, no, it’s fine. It will help to… uh… sell it.”

Merlin smiled, his cheeks faintly pink. “Okay.”

“Um,” Arthur awkwardly stood up, accidentally knocking his mug so that tea sloshed onto the table. “Sorry, um, I should be going. And… stuff.”

Merlin nodded. “Of course. We can work out the other details later. Oh, and make sure you text me the party details. I have a feeling I can’t wear jeans?”

Arthur frowned even though his heart was stuttering in his chest. “No, Merlin, you cannot.”

Merlin saluted at him and Arthur turned to find his way to the door. As he was leaving, he heard a voice call after him “Tea’s on the house, by the way!”


The night of the party saw Arthur pacing frantically in front of the building. He had arranged to meet Merlin there at six and it was now – he checked his watch–  five past.

He pulled at his tie, feeling as though it were strangling him. He considered just ripping it off when someone spoke behind him.

“Careful, babe. Save some for the bedroom.”

Arthur whirled around and felt that choking feeling again, only this time it wasn’t from his tie. He only really ever saw Merlin at the shop, where he favoured faded denims and mildly threatening graphic tees.

Here, however, he was wearing a dark green button down that stretched appealingly across his chest and was tucked into some practically obscenely tight black jeans. He only had a black blazer, no coat, and his hair no looked more “just shagged” rather than “rat’s nest”. He also hadn’t shaved, which was always a danger to Arthur’s logical thinking.

“Uh,” was all he could get out. Merlin gave a blinding grin and walked forward to take his arm, sending sparks throughout his entire body.

He coughed awkwardly. “You clean up nice.”

Merlin laughed. “I’d say the same to you, but you’re always dressed like this.”

The banter helped to ease some of the tension and he led Merlin towards the doors to his building.

“Why do you always dress like a mess, then?”

Merlin shrugged. “This was more my friend Gwaine’s doing than mine. I’m too poor to wear proper clothing all the time. But, you know what they say: ‘Nothing makes a man so adventurous as an empty pocket.’”

Arthur snorted. “And who, pray tell, said that?”

Merlin shrugged. “A writer of some sort. You can’t expect me to keep track of everything, Arthur.”

Arthur couldn’t hold back a smile and moved to press the button for the elevator in order to hide it. When his face was straight, he turned to face Merlin.

“You remember everything for tonight, though?”

Merlin gave him an exasperated look. “Of course, my dear sweet boyfriend of six months who I met at a coffee shop even though that makes no sense because I own a tea shop and hate coffee.”

Arthur glared at him. “My father is going to be judging you tonight. Everyone will be judging you tonight. A coffee shop is more realistic.”

The elevator arrived and once they were both sealed inside, Merlin began to shift nervously.

“Will your father be mad that I’m your boyfriend? I mean, I know it’s not real, but I don’t want to cause trouble when you could’ve found some gay business robot which would’ve helped ease your dad into it rather than the borderline amnesiac bookshop owner who makes bad tea.”

Arthur instinctively grabbed Merlin’s hand and gave it a squeeze.

“I’m gay, Merlin. There’s isn’t much I can do to ‘ease him in’. Oh this will be terrible, won’t it?”

“Hey, we can do this. ‘To have faith is to have wings.’”

“I don’t like flying.”

“Well, there’s alcohol, right?”


Merlin smiled and squeezed Arthur’s hand back and for a moment he could pretend. He could imagine that Merlin really was his boyfriend and Merlin was flustered about making a good impression and Arthur was allowed to comfort him with gentle kisses, promising that as soon as they could they could sneak away, maybe to Arthur’s office, and then they could—

The elevator dinged as they arrived at their floor and Arthur quickly let go of Merlin’s hand, feeling slightly flushed.

Thankfully, Merlin remembered that they were supposed to look like a couple and grabbed his hand again, interlacing their fingers.

He was pulled close enough to him that he could smell his apple shampoo and mango body wash. Great, they just arrived at the party and Arthur already felt drunk.

“Here we go,” Merlin murmured, his breath tickling Arthur’s ear.

Yep. Here we go.

The office was decorated with wreaths and tinsel, but that was about it. Most people knew that the office party was just a place to make awkward conversation and then get trashed, so nobody really bothered to make it look pretty.

There were a few platters of hor d'oeuvres of some kind, but otherwise it was just cheap booze. Arthur wasn’t really complaining.

As they stepped out of the elevator, it felt like all eyes were on them. Arthur prayed his hand wasn’t getting sweaty in Merlin’s grip and allowed himself to get pulled forward, legs shaking.

The first person to greet them was Morgana.

Arthur.” She grinned wickedly. “You didn’t tell me your boyfriend was so handsome! I’m Morgana.” She held out a hand, which Merlin shook firmly.

“Merlin.” He smiled brightly and Morgana gave Arthur a look that said: Where did you find this precious angel?

Arthur couldn’t help but smile smugly as he let go of Merlin’s hand to wrap an arm around his waist and tug him close. If he was Merlin’s boyfriend for the night, than he was going to enjoy it.

“Come, Merlin. Let’s get drinks.”

They left a thoroughly impressed Morgana and headed to the drinks station where, unfortunately, Cedric was standing. 

“So,” he sneered. “This is your boyfriend?”

“Weren’t you fired?” Arthur asked. Cedric shrugged, unconcerned.

“I’m George’s plus one. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?”

Arthur snorted. “Seems more like George’s problem.”

Cedric opened his mouth to respond, but Merlin quickly held out a hand. “I’m Merlin. Pleasure to meet you.”

Cedric looked down at the offered hand and frowned. “Right. You’ve been dating a while, then?”

Merlin slowly lowered his hand before answering, cheerful as ever. “Oh, just a few months now.”

Cedric nodded. “How’d you meet?”

“In a coffee shop,” Arthur answered. “He thought I was attractive, so he hit on me.”

Merlin laughed and elbowed his side. Painfully.

“No need to be shy, Arthur. We both know that it was you who practically begged me for my number. I thought you were an utter prat.”

Arthur turned to glare at him, but it fell at the playful expression on Merlin’s face.

“You’re right,” he said. “I was utterly taken with you and knew I wouldn’t be able to rest until I won your heart.”

He watched in delight as Merlin’s face turned red before clearing his throat. “Champagne, dear?”

Merlin nodded, seemingly rendered silent for once. Arthur handed him a glass and took one for himself before giving Cedric a polite nod.

“Come, Merlin,” Arthur returned his hand to Merlin’s waist and guided him away. Once they were out of earshot, Merlin started laughing.

“What a prat!”

Arthur couldn’t help but pout (in a very masculine way). “I thought you only call me ‘prat’?”

Merlin laughed again, but his cheeks were pink. Arthur took a sip of champagne to cover up his smile.


He nearly choked on his drink at the sound of his father’s voice. He turned around to see Uther Pendragon, glass of red in his hand, looking at him. Arthur coughed awkwardly.

“Um, father. This… This is my boyfriend. Merlin. Merlin, this is my, uh, father.”

Merlin held out a hand, stepping away from Arthur. He immediately missed the warmth. Uther politely shook his hand, although it looked more like strangling. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“And you,” Merlin said as he withdrew his hand, subtly shaking it out.

“So,” Uther began and Arthur immediately tensed, knowing what was coming. “Where are you from?”

Merlin kept his smile. “I’m from a small town in Wales. Ealdor, if you’ve heard of it.”

His father did not look impressed. “And where do you work?”

“I own a bookshop, a few streets over.”

Uther frowned. “And that’s successful?”

Merlin shrugged. “When I reach for my pockets, I find there, only reality.”

Arthur watched his father raise his eyebrows. “Victor Hugo?”

“Yes! I knew it was something French!”

Arthur could sense his father internally dying, probably because he was doing the same, while Merlin remained unfazed.

“And your parents?”

“My mum is a teacher back in Wales. She’s actually flying in later this week for Christmas and New Year’s. Then it will be Arthur’s turn to impress a parent.”

Merlin turned and gave Arthur a blinding smile, subsequently turning his insides to mush. He would love to meet Merlin’s mum. He talked about her all the type, so Arthur would work hard to make a good impression, offering to help with dishes. He had to hold back a sigh as he once more wished this was all real.

“And your father?” Arthur winced at the question, knowing the answer.

“He, uh, was a soldier. I only met him once.”

Uther’s gaze seemed to soften for barely a second before he cleared his throat. “Well, I hope you enjoy the festivities.”

Merlin nodded and as soon as Uther turned away he sank against Arthur’s shoulder. Arthur put an arm around him comfortingly. He was allowed to. Merlin was his boyfriend tonight.

“I know he’s your father, Arthur, but that is one terrifying man.”

He laughed. “Trust me, I know.”

“He is ‘fearless and therefore powerful?’”

“No,” Arthur said. “He has fears.”

Merlin decided to change the subject. “So.” He gave a mischievous grin that turned Arthur’s knees to jelly (in a totally tough and masculine way, of course). “Shall we dance?”

Arthur gave up and let the smile spread across his face. “I think it’s to be expected.”

They put down their glasses and he held out a hand, which Merlin took. The music was some cheesy Christmas song Arthur had always hated, but it was slow and meant Arthur could wrap his hands around Merlin’s waist and pull him close and he found himself thinking that maybe it wasn’t such a terrible song.

The moved awkwardly at first, both tense and uncertain. Then Merlin smiled shyly. “Maybe you can put your head on my shoulder? I’d do it, but I’m taller and—”

“Yes, Merlin, you don’t need to remind me,” Arthur said, just managing to keep his voice from shaking.

“Well, are you—”

Arthur cut him off by gently leaning in, wrapping his arms tighter around Merlin so he could rest his head on his shoulder. He felt Merlin’s hands start rubbing soothing circles onto his back and he finally started to relax, almost melting against Merlin as he hid his face in the crook of his neck. He couldn’t help but wonder how Merlin could smell so good and be so warm and how was the way his stubble was scratching at Arthur’s face not uncomfortable at all?

He sighed, breath fanning softly against Merlin’s neck and could have sworn he felt him shiver. He smiled, but it fell when the song ended and Merlin started to pull away. It took too much willpower to be healthy not to grab onto Merlin and never let go.

But he did and as he looked at Merlin’s blushing face, he felt his heart swell in his chest and his breath catch in his throat. In that moment, he realized that he loved this man more than he could possibly describe.


Merlin frowned, immediately worried, and that just made Arthur’s stomach flutter. “Are you okay?”

Arthur nodded. “Yep,” he managed to get out. “Perhaps we should take a break.”

Merlin still looked concerned, but followed him off of the makeshift dancefloor.

“Ah yes, ‘that ultimate word of human wisdom, Perhaps.’”

Arthur rolled his eyes at the comment. “I think I might have read that book, actually.”

“Oh, well if you remember the title, let me know.”

Arthur laughed and could feel everyone’s eyes on them, so he grabbed Merlin’s hand and dragged him to his office, where they leaned on opposite sides of the doorframe, smiling at each other.

“I think,” Merlin said with a smile, “that we managed to convince them that you’re gay.”

Arthur nodded slowly, eyes tracing Merlin’s face, wanting to see what it looked like now that Arthur knew he was in love. It seemed brighter, somehow. He watched Merlin’s neck stretch as he tipped his head back and could just picture it covered in dark bruises and bitemarks. And Arthur would happy to be the one to—


He shook his head and followed Merlin’s gaze. Of course, some annoying intern (or Morgana, because she was cruel) had decided that the doorway to Arthur’s office was the perfect place to hang mistletoe.

They both looked down at the same time eyes meeting. Arthur’s gaze dipped down in time to see Merlin lick his lips, just a quick dart of the tongue, and he had to hold back a groan.

“It is tradition, right?”

Merlin frowned. “But nobody’s watching?”

Arthur couldn’t take it anymore. He grabbed Merlin by the collar and pulled him around just so he could push him against the wall and crash their lips together.

Merlin’s mouth was soft and warm and immediately responded and Arthur let out a soft moan as he felt teeth biting at his lip. They kissed until they needed to breathe properly and then Arthur just worked his way down Merlin’s neck, finally getting to lick and bite at it as he pleased.

Merlin breathed out his name as Arthur pressed closer against him, grinding their hips together until he could feel Merlin’s reaction through he’s frustratingly tight jeans.

“God,” Arthur said against Merlin’s skin. “I want you so badly.” He bit at the skin in the hopes that it would leave a mark and managed to pull a moan from Merlin.

“I want you, too,” Merlin gasped and Arthur couldn’t hold it back the words that slipped out.

“I love you so much.”

Merlin froze and Arthur was pulled back to reality at the realization of what he’d just said. He immediately stepped away and couldn’t fully appreciate the sight of a breathless Merlin with swollen lips and a marked neck because he was too busy panicking over what just happened.

“What?” Merlin’s face was scrunched adorably in confusion and Arthur couldn’t help but groan at the fact that he could somehow be so attractive and so cute at the same time. He was so screwed. Merlin’s tilted his head.

“Did you just say what I think you said?”

Arthur face heated up in embarrassment, but he figured there was no real way to deny this. He slowly nodded and Merlin’s eyes widened in shock.


Arthur cleared his throat. “I should get back. You can… you can leave if you want.”

“Why would I leave?”

Arthur crossed his arms, face set. “Because I’ve gone and ruined our friendship, that’s why!”

Merlin mirrored him, arms crossed. “Oh, I see, so I’m just not allowed to feel the same, then?”


“You’re a real prat, you know.”

“But…” Arthur felt lost and slightly dizzy and also like he was floating. “You never…”

Merlin rolled his eyes, letting his arms fall. “Maybe I was also scared of ruining the friendship, okay?”

“So…” Arthur swallowed, arms dropping as well. “You feel the same.”

Merlin let out a long suffering sigh. “Unfortunately. I tried not to, but then you had to go and be endearing or whatever. It was really annoying.”

Arthur watched him blush and felt his confidence return. He took Merlin’s hand and pulled him forward so that their chests touched. Merlin interlocked their fingers. “Holding your hand… ‘is like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete and completely alive.’”

Arthur scoffed, even as his heart stuttered. “You’re a dork, you know that?” Merlin shrugged.

“‘I’d rather be happy than dignified.’”

“Hm. And I’m endearing.”

“Whatever,” Merlin narrowed his eyes. “Now, are you going to finish what you started?” Merlin pressed their hips together, as if Arthur needed reminding of the situation.

“Oh, we won’t be finished for a long time.”


When they finally left Arthur’s office, necks bruised and clothes rumpled, Merlin let out a laugh at the looks they attracted.

“I think they believe that you’re gay.”



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