He manages to suffocate the urge to turn around and slip out of the door, leave Arthur to deal with Vivian for himself because—god, Merlin’s not ready for this. He can’t pretend—he doesn’t have to, and at some point he’s going to end up giving himself away.
Arthur nudges him with his elbow as they make their way inside the pub, and then leans closer to say against Merlin’s ear, loud over the sound of the music. “There she is.”
Merlin ignores Arthur’s breath ghosting over his ear and blinks ahead of them to catch sight of Vivian sitting on a booth with her friends, but as he looks at her up and down he thinks he doesn’t understand what Arthur—what everyone—sees on her, because she’s not even that pretty. She’s a right bitch and Merlin knows that if she and Arthur get together she’ll break Arthur’s heart, and the mere thought makes Merlin want to shake Arthur.
“I’ll get us a drink,” he says, averting his eyes and heading for the bar, leaving Arthur to go and greet her if he so wishes.
He orders for the two of them and is surprised to see Arthur back in less than a minute, falling down on the empty stool next to him. Merlin glances at him for any sign of infatuation but Arthur looks pretty normal, as if this were about them being in the pub to have fun on their own. He passes Arthur his drink and Arthur smiles at him, leaning in again.
“Let’s go to the dance floor,” he says, then takes a sip.
Merlin’s eyebrows shoot up. “Are you nuts? I can’t dance. Plus you and I? No way. That’s not what we agreed on.” He shakes his head furiously; he can’t do that. Just the thought of having Arthur so close to him, his hands on him and his own on Arthur—it makes Merlin nervous and dizzy.
“Oh, come on, Merlin. she’s dancing. How are we supposed to make her jealous if we’re boringly sitting here drinking?”
Merlin shakes his head again. “Arthur, no.”
Arthur stands up, looking down at him intensely with that glint in his gaze that makes Merlin go weak on the knees everytime, with those sky blue eyes that for a moment look at him as if he’s the only thing Arthur can see.
Arthur grabs his arm and tugs until Merlin’s wobbly standing, almost chest to chest to him. “Come on,” Arthur repeats, softer this time, nearer, and then he slips his hand down to close it around Merlin’s wrist and thumbs at the skin there, delicately and tenderly, suggestive, and Merlin is absolutely lost. Lost because Arthur could ask him to do anything right now and Merlin would without hesitation.
“Yeah, okay,” Merlin says, hopelessly. He doesn’t care if he makes a fool of himself dancing, or if Arthur’s goal is to make Vivian jealous, but this is his chance, this is his moment to enjoy and be daring and brave, to let Arthur touch him anywhere and touch him back, because tonight he can get away with it. He doesn’t really need to pretend, he realises, he just has to be himself.
They make their way amongst the crowd until they are a few feet away from Vivian and a guy Merlin doesn’t know, and Arthur stops there, sending a look in Vivian’s way and then hooking one arm around Merlin’s back and pulling him to his arms. Merlin bites his lips, feeling awkward and embarrassed because he hates dancing and he’s horrible at it, but he manages to put his hand on Arthur’s shoulder, and grasps his shirt tight in his palm.
Arthur notices his discomfort, so he shuffles closer until their chest brush together through their shirts. Arthur’s hips move alongside the beat of the music and he smiles at Merlin fondly when Merlin follows him, clumsily.
“Yeah, like that, you’re doing good,” Arthur tells him. “You look so sexy when you dance.”
Merlin huffs out a nervous laugh, ducking his head shyly, because hearing Arthur say that is ridiculously flattering and makes him grin stupidly. “Shut up,” he says, looking at the floor with a smile, gaining confidence and raising his other arm to Arthur’s shoulder, too.
“It’s true, though,” Arthur whispers against his ear, cheeks touching.
Merlin closes his eyes, inhaling sharply when Arthur puts both of his hands on his hips, his temples pounding and his jeans getting way too tight. He sneaks a quick glance up to see Arthur already staring at him, eyes half-closed, heavier than Merlin’s used to see them.
“Do you think this is working?” Merlin asks, trying to distract himself, arms loosely looped over Arthur’s shoulders.
“I fucking hope so,” Arthur replies without taking his eyes off him. “But you’re—you’re too far away, though,” he adds, voice husky, and Merlin thinks that’s ridiculous because he’s right there, in Arthur’s personal space, closer to what he had expected to get yet not as close as he needs to be.
Arthur slides his palms down over the small of Merlin’s back to press their bodies together, his leg sneaking between Merlin’s, and it’s so sensual and insinuating that Merlin’s head unconsciously shifts forwards, wanting, feeling Arthur everywhere around him, intoxicating him, his eyes fixed on Arthur’s mouth. His fingers twitch and he curls them around the back of Arthur’s neck, softly trying to make his intentions clear and forgetting about Arthur’s own intentions with Vivian, before he kisses Arthur without thinking, smashing their lips together impulsively.
He’s not sure what he had been expecting, but it had definitely not been Arthur responding so quickly, bringing his hands to cup Merlin’s neck and opening his mouth wide, licking into Merlin’s lips and sighing, body going taut with pleasure against Merlin’s.
Merlin smiles, because he’s finally doing this, and by the way Arthur’s kissing him and making these sweet soft noises against Merlin’s lips, Merlin thinks that Arthur wants it, too. They stop dancing at some point, too wrapped up in each other to do much but kiss, and when they move away from the dance floor and he looks into Arthur’s eyes, when he asks about Vivian, if he’s fucked up their friendship irrevocably and Arthur laughs and kisses him again, Merlin thinks that their relationship just got better than it's ever been.
~ the end.