wanderlust48 (wanderlust48) wrote in camelot_drabble,
wanderlust48
wanderlust48
camelot_drabble

"Traditionally Speaking" (M/A) -Holiday Exchange 2013

Title: Traditionally Speaking
Recipient: clea2011
Author: wanderlust48
Rating: Explicit
Pairing/s: Arthur x Merlin
Summary: Arthur's never been one for Christmas celebrations and can do perfectly well without all that festive traditional stuff, thank you very much. Until he grudgingly has to take a new look at a Christmas traditions and  ends up re-discovering an old friendship.
Warnings: Attempted Christmas fluff. Aka, the fic about every Christmas thing I saw in London in my trip that I ooohed and aaahed at.
Word Count: 5300
Author's Note: Merry Christmas, clea2011! Hope I did your prompts justice, you wanted something with tradition or a ritual? Being foolishly ambitious, I squashed more than one into this fic :)

Also, massive thanks to my poor beta inspired_being for my slipshod everything, sorry to make you work through Christmas :(. Thanks also to candymacaron for the look through and plot beta.

Disclaimer: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.

Read on AO3 (once I publish it there)



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Tradition
“... the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way... “(Oxford dictionary)
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"What the fuck, what kind of sadistic professor sets an assignment to be done over Christmas break?!" Arthur huffs in irritation.

"That’s tough luck, Arthur," Merlin says. "You being the Christmas-lover you are." Merlin of course means just the opposite. Christmas annoys Arthur and he keeps his distance from anything vaguely Christmassy.

Gwaine peers at Arthur's laptop and hoots. "Christmas Events and Traditions: A socio-cultural construct? Discuss with specific examples, drawing on your personal experiences as much as possible." He pats Arthur mockingly.

"Back from uni for just a day and this is the welcome I get. Fat lot of help you all are!" Arthur glares.

Gwen waves from across the living room. "I volunteer to take you Christmas shopping!" She says.

"You can come with me to the club- Camelot's Christmas Special," drawls Gwaine.

Everyone turns to look expectantly at Merlin.

"Um.." Merlin says, brows furrowed. "Decorate a Christmas tree with me mum and me?"

"We have our own tree at home," Arthur grumbles.

"But you didn't decorate it yourself, did you?" Gwen points out, not unkindly. "That's the fun part, really."

"OK, I'm holding all of you to what you offered!" Arthur aims for petulant but ends up sounding fond. What are old friends for if not to vent at once in a while? They’ve all been pals since they were teenagers in the same school, but Merlin is his main partner-in-crime.

He stalks over and cuffs Merlin lightly, causing him to yelp and drop the Ferraro Rocher box he'd been nosing at.

"And you, Merlin, are going to be helping me."

"What? Why me?"

"What else would you have to do?" Arthur says.That way we can hang out more together during this short term break.

"We can start now!" Gwen says excitedly.

"Hit the shops on a Saturday? No thank you. I'm not suicidal!" Arthur really means that. Arthur’s last memory of Saturday Christmas shopping was from his so-called retail internship. There were crying children, minor gift wrapping accidents and scary women brandishing credit cards.

"Okay, silly!" laughs Gwen. "I'll give you an out - how about Christmas fair instead?"

Gwaine shakes his head. "Count me out! But I'll be back tonight before I hit Camelot, so text me if you're game, Pendragon!"

Arthur looks at Merlin who is flung face down across the sofa. Merlin's sweater rides up and Arthur resists touching the tempting sliver of pale skin that shows. Instead, he gently tugs the sweater back down, grabs Merlin as he flails and almost falls off the couch (as Arthur knew he would), and manhandles him till he's sitting upright. It's a well-practiced move, borne of years of friendship.

"Ready for a christmas fair,  Merlin?" Arthur says gruffly.

"I do have a life, you know, prat. Am I just supposed to drop everything and traipse after you?" Merlin retorts good-naturedly.

"I"ll... buy you more chocolates?"

"There'll be plenty of food there, Merls!" Gwen adds.

"Sold! For a stack of pancakes and a hamper of chocolates!" declares Merlin cheekily.

Arthur laughs. It's good to be home.


****


An hour later, Merlin is chomping happily on crepes at the Winter Wonderland Christmas Fair in Hyde Park. They congregate to watch a game, since apparently Merlin is incapable of walking and eating at the same time.

"It's not my fault!" Merlin protests. "Stupid tiny plastic fork broke."

Gwen waves a tissue at him, "You have chocolate on you."

Indeed Merlin does. Arthur watches as chocolate dribbles down Merlin's chin from his mouth and rolls his eyes when Merlin tries in vain to lick it. "Can't take you anywhere, Mer-lin." He takes Gwen's tissue and dabs Merlin with it before he realises what he's doing. Oh, oops.

Merlin's eyes widen but he doesn't say anything, continuing to chew diligently at the crepe. Luckily Gwen hasn't noticed. She's busy watching one of the fair games. A kid is climbing a low- angled rope ladder attempting to reach the top and ring the bell set there. The ladder swivels and sways and barely a few rungs later, the kid tumbles off onto the mattress below.

Arthur scrambles for something to say. "That is just a complete waste of money," he blurts out. "There's no way to do reach the bell." He doesn't hear Gwen's reply since he is watching Merlin watch him. Arthur crumples the tissue he's used tightly in his hand and wonders what he's done.

Arthur has never been to a proper Christmas fair. They didn't have them when he was growing up. Besides, he can't imagine Uther at one. He watches the families with prams and grannies in tow leave the fair, and wonders if he would have enjoyed such outings as a boy.

The fair is a large, with many rides and games. There's even a small roller coaster, and a gravity-defying huge swing they crane their necks to stare at. The air crackles with noises of fun and festivity.

Merlin has disposed of the crepe and is now sharing a handful of churros with Gwen. "Do you want one?" Merlin waves a dough stick at Arthur. "They're good!" Arthur moves to take it, but Merlin flicks it away from Arthur’s hands, and proffers it again in Arthur's face.

Arthur swallows. Well, two can play this game. He snaps at the churros with his teeth and pulls it out of Merlin's hand. The look on Merlin's face is hilarious and Arthur sacrifices the churro when he laughs out loud, dropping it in a shower of sugar.

"Hey, you wasted that!" exclaims Merlin.

Arthur shrugs. "Pass me one more."

"Take it yourself!" Merlin rattles the little paper folder of churros noisily and smiles as if daring Arthur. Fine, very well then.

Arthur leans very close to Merlin and carefully bites one churros, then tilts his head to lift it out of the box. Distantly, he hears Gwen say, "Ewwww, Arthur!" and Merlin's muffled voice go, "And they say University students are more mature!"

Arthur triumphantly pulls the churro clear and grins as best as he can at Merlin. Merlin looks unimpressed but his eyes are sparkling with mirth. "Dolphin! Arthur, eh?"

Arthur finally uses his hand to hold the churro so he can speak. "Better than Dumbo! Merlin!". He fluffs Merlin's hair and Merlin laughs and easily slips his arm through Arthur's.

Arthur had thought it would be awkward to come back after his first term at University. Would he have anything to say to his old friends? What if they had drifted apart? His heart lifts to think things are fine, they're all still friends, still able to faff around and bicker. Merlin still gives him as good as he gets and Gwen is as gentle as ever.

They walk on, the three of them arm-in-arm.

They stop again in  front of a stand where people try to use a lump of coal to hit a big bulls' eye. Arthur asks, "Have you two decided what to do after school then?"

Eyes fixed on the game, Merlin shrugs. "My tutor thinks I have a shot, so I'll try for medical related courses at Uni."

From Merlin's other side, Gwen says,"I might take a year out. Lancelot and I are still talking about it. He wants to travel the world."

"He wants to save the world, you mean," Merlin says.

"Well, yes, that too." Arthur can hear the smile in Gwen's voice. "Arthur?"

"Yes, Gwen."

"Are you getting what you need for your assignment?"

Oh shit, that's right, the assignment. "Of course I am." Arthur slides open the camera on his phone and begins snapping shots of the coal-throwing game, the candy floss, and the rides.


***


Merlin and Arthur let themselves in Gwaine’s and wait. They spend so much time hanging out there (anywhere was better than their parents' houses), Gwaine has long given up his privacy and gifted Arthur a key.

Merlin slumps down, cheek pressed to the table. His eyes flutter open and close. Arthur feels a pang of guilt.

"Do you... You got anything on early tomorrow?" Arthur asks gruffly. He isn't always able to tell if Merlin was really tired or just relaxing.

Merlin's eyes stay closed, but he answers,"Nah. Nothing much. We're not staying out late anyway, right?"

"Just a couple of hours.  How Christmassy can a club get, anyway? You can crash at mine after if you like."

"Yeah ok." Merlin opens one eye. "So, Mr University Student, how do you make clubbing a Christmas tradition?"

"Ah, young one, the skill is to write a lot about what you know not."

Merlin snorted."Make it up? Uni doesn't sound like it's any use."

"Think of it as gathering straw to make bricks."

"You’ve lost me there there. Where the fuck is Gwaine?"

"It's a Sherlock Holmes quote, you riff-raff! Where Sherlock says he can’t make bricks without straw?”

"Whatever. Posh prat."

"Idiot."

Gwaine finally appears to take them to Camelot. To Arthur's irritation, Gwaine goes right through while he and Merlin get ID'd.

Gwaine waits for them impatiently beyond the entrance as they hurry in, jamming their IDs back in their wallets. He claps Merlin on the back, saying "Great that you can club with us properly and legally now, mate!"

Arthur starts as he realises what that means. He brings it up later when they huddle in a corner watching dancers in tiny costumes and Santa hats sashay on the platforms.

"Sorry I missed your birthday," Arthur says quietly into Merlin's ear. Merlin turns, his cheekbones highlighted sharply in profile.

"It's alright, nothing special. Grub and drinks with the gang."

"I remembered and was going to text you, but it was too early. Then I forgot and when I remembered again, I was way too late."

Merlin shrugs and looks into his drink. "No matter. Uni must have been exciting, eh? New place, new people. Did you meet anyone interesting?"

They're drinking mulled cider, which Arthur has never seen in a club before, but Gwaine says it's part of the Christmas special drinks, and miles better than the peppermint beer.

"Uni is.. Well it's not that glam, but yeah, it's a nice change. "

"Oh." Merlin’s expression doesn't change.

"But always good to be home."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah." Arthur bumps Merlin's shoulder companionably. It seems a very intimate conversation; out of place in such a noisy club.

They watch the crowd some more. The girl dancers lick candy canes suggestively and the bare-chested guys twirl tinsel. Many party-goers are wearing Christmas themed party outfits. Some outfits are sexy, some are weird, and others are so tiny Arthur's not sure they qualify as costumes. He's no stylist, but red swimming trunks, leather collars and reindeer horns - all worn together - might not be the best look.

Arthur sneaks a peek at his friend of many years. Logically, he knows he's only been away three months, so Merlin can't look that different, can't have grown much taller. But somehow he does. Merlin looks older; still delicate and ethereal, but less of a boy and more of a man. He's 18 now, turned 18 when Arthur wasn't around.

Arthur wrenches his attention back to the club dancers. He asks Gwaine, "What's so special about tonight?"

"You heard of foam parties? Well, later there'll be fake snow on the dance floor and people will come on Christmas costumes and gear, and I'm telling you it will be brilliant!"

Gwaine looks at Arthur's skeptical face. "Trust me, Pendragon. Three years, hundreds of people and the Time On Best Party of the Year award can't be wrong! There'll be massive queues for this, we managed to get in because we're so early."

"In the meantime," Merlin pipes up. "We can just go dance, right?" Gwaine nods and heads to the dance floor with Merlin. Arthur shakes his head and mouths, "Later!"

Arthur watches as Merlin bobs and prances. Merlin's white T-shirt makes him easy to spot; a wiry glowing shape in the sea of bodies. Lanky (was he taller than Arthur now? Really?) and uninhibited, Merlin dances exactly they way he did when they were both 13 and nervously attended a school dance for the first time. All loose-limbed grace, mixed with some flailing. Arthur bites down a smile; like a miracle of gravity, Merlin seems on the cusp of falling down, only to pick himself up, laugh, and dance on.

Arthur isn't one for dancing; he knows he's much better on the sports field than the dance floor. Arthur then spies Merlin dancing with – or being danced with –  what looks like a naked man. He fancies Merlin looks uncomfortable. Arthur hesitates, decides "to hell with it" and braves his way into the throbbing mass.

He reaches Merlin and sees the man is wearing some kind of one piece, beige briefs held up by straps over the shoulders. Good as naked. The strobe lights flicker, and Arthur realises, Oh god, is that a reindeer red nose right on the guy's crotch?

Arthur wants to laugh; only Merlin would attract these nutters. He holds back, catches Merlin's attention and slides in right next to him. Merlin gives that mega-watt smile of his and nudges closer to Arthur.

It's really no contest. With Arthur there, the other guy falls back and then it's just the two of them, both dancing rather badly, but very happily.

"Having fun?" Arthur shouts.

"More so now!" Merlin shouts back, all dimples.

"Aren't you going to thank me?" Arthur nods meaningfully at the retreating Mr Reindeer Crotch.

Merlin chokes in laughter. "For what? How'd you know I didn't like it?"

"What?"

Then Merlin winks and says, slightly slurring, "It's a mankini", and Arthur really does howl with laughter, howls till his stomach hurts and he has to rest his hands on his knees.

Merlin is the best, really.

Merlin is also slightly drunk at the moment, going by his wild flailing and broadening grins. Maybe the mulled cider was stronger than expected.

The bass gets deeper and the music slower. Arthur thinks he should return to the safety of the bar, but Merlin grabs him and doesn't let go.

"Did you have dances like this in uni, Arthur?" Merlin asks indistinctly.

Arthur makes a non-committal gesture, but Merlin won't stop looking at him, so he says, "They weren't Christmas ones. Anyway, you know I don't really do dances."

Merlin leans in closer, "But you're dancing with me now."

Arthur has nothing to say to that. So he is. Dancing with one of his best and oldest friends, who had grown up suddenly and is now tall and -oh god - hot and fit. Merlin is warm and strong and firm in his hands, and his breath smells of spices. They've always been physical as friends, rough-housing and playing, but this is different.
Merlin pulls Arthur into a hug. "So good to have you back! Thought you might have forgotten me... I mean... Forgotten us."

Arthur tightens the hug."How could I forget my homies?" He dreads the awkward territory this conversation is heading for, but Merlin falls silent, and soon loosens his hold.

"Merlin, you ok? Ahh, you're drunk again, aren't you?" Arthur examines Merlin with a practiced eye. Merlin is a stealth drunkard - it creeps up on him, one moment he's fine, the next moment, he's limp and clinging on for dear life.

Right now, it looks like he has reached the limpet stage.

"Oh, M." Arthur rolls his eyes and steels himself to drag Merlin home. Merlin looks thin, but as dead weight, he is hell to carry. Where is Gwaine when you needed him? Out pulling chicks, that's where.

That's when jets of foam spurt from everywhere. Just great, Arthur thinks, here comes the "snow". Arthur brushes it out of his hair and eyes and trundles through the white mess with Merlin dangling off him.


*****


It takes all Arthur's energy to haul Merlin quietly up to his room in Pendragon Mansion.

Merlin wakes once to smile blissfully at him, only to drop off again. Arthur drags Merlin out of his foamy clothes and wrestles his long limbs into a T-shirt and track bottoms. He tucks Merlin tightly into the blankets. He knows from experience to do this if he doesn’t want Merlin sliding onto the floor in the dead of the night with shouts loud enough to wake the dead.

It is not unusual for him to take care of Merlin this way. Before there were pub visits and nights at clubs, there were sleepovers and afternoon naps. Merlin drops into naps just as quickly as he does into drunken sleep, and it is left to Arthur as the responsible older one to take care of him.

Arthur studies him by the moonlight as he slides into his own side of the bed. The slender face seems a little more hollowed, throwing cheekbones into sharp relief. Arthur falls asleep contemplating the face beside him.
Once during the night, Arthur wakes up, feeling something tickle his nose and mouth. The smell reminds him where he is; in his own bed with Merlin warmly pressed against him.

Merlin's head is buried under his chin, wedged against his chest, and Merlin's arm is wound around his waist. In his sleepy haze, Arthur thinks how nice this feels, like the comfortable caress of an old beloved blanket. He pushes strands of Merlin's hair away from his mouth, smooths down the unruly hair with absent-minded strokes, and falls back into a deep sleep.


***


In the morning, Merlin is suitably contrite for having checked out so early and depriving Arthur of the full Camelot Christmas special experience.

"Let me make it up to you and do that Christmas tree thing."

"You have a Christmas tree to decorate?" Arthur is unconvinced.

"Not exactly, but this is even better for your assignment. Trust me." Merlin gives Arthur an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

That’s how Arthur finds himself at Trafalgar Square that night with the wind whipping at his scarf.

They both stare at Christmas tree in the centre of the square.

"That ... is a really puny tree," Arthur says slowly. "Very.. sparse decorations."

"Don't say that, you might cause an international incident," Merlin mock- whispers. "This is the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree."

"Are you making this up, Merlin? Just because it's in Trafalgar Square doesn't mean..."

"No, I’m serious!! It's our annual gift from Oslo, in Norway, as a sign of thanks for the UK supporting them during the war. Since 1947. Every year!"

Arthur fishes out his phone to do his own fact-checking and finds it's all legit.

"You have such a suspicious mind!" says Merlin. "Just take your photos so we can go, it's freezing!"

"Wait, look, there are carollers! Aha, another tradition!" Arthur takes some shots with his phone while Merlin bounces up and down. "I told you to wear your thicker coat, you skinny beanpole." He unwinds his own scarf and loops it around Merlin, then jams Merlin's ridiculous green beanie more firmly over his ears. "There!"

"I'm not a child, Arthur," Merlin huffs, but pushes the scarf up to cover his nose as well. "Was I right? It is what you need for your assignment, right?"

It really is. Now Arthur can discuss how tradition links to history and politics. He doesn't want to give Merlin a big head, so he just nods. This is an aspect of Merlin he hasn't seen before.

"I suppose you also know what I should write about Camelot, too?" Arthur says as they walk away. This time, it's he who slips his arm through Merlin's. It's a very comfortable feeling.

"Naturally! Do you not know of my razor sharp mind?" Merlin says loftily. He shrieks when Arthur leans all his weight on him, but catches Merlin before he topples over.

"Prat!” Merlin says, eyes bright. “But because I'm the bigger man – and the smarter one – I will still tell you! You should talk about the commercialisation and commodification of the Christmas event. About it being appropriated by non-traditional industries and perverted."

Arthur stops in his tracks, dragging Merlin to a stand-still.

Merlin frowns, but continues speaking to complete his flow of thought."You would have already pointed out the irony in this, because Christmas itself was appropriated by the Christians from the pagans’ Sun God Festival for convenience."

"Merlin," Arthur says incredulously, "That is so... good. When did you get so clever? And so grown up?"

"Clot-pole, I'm only one year below you!"

"Yes, but, god, to hear you speak like that is... The most impressive thing." And the sexiest too. Brainy is the new sexy, isn't it?

"I've been grown up for a while now, Arthur. Maybe you just hadn’t noticed because you went off and came back." Merlin's voice deepens and he blushes, avoiding Arthur's eye. “I’m not a kid anymore, not the small boy who hero-worshipped you."

"I know we're no longer kids, but hey, we're still mates right?"

Merlin's face falls.

Arthur tries to put things right.

"Our friendship is still important... I mean, you're still important." Arthur wants to say important to me, but fear is choking him up.

"Really?" Now Merlin looks at him, eyes shining.

Oh hell, Arthur is just going to say it.

Except he can't.

So he looks back and hopes his face shows what he wants to say. He closes in on Merlin and presses their cheeks together. Merlin's breath is warm on his ear. So what happens now?

"You have to say something, Arthur." Merlin whispers. "I have to know."

So Arthur swallows and says, "You're very important to me, and I really want to know this grown-up you a lot better."

"I'm still the same me, Arthur." Merlin tilts his head slightly and Arthur instinctively leans to meet his lips. "I thought you had moved onto greener pastures when you went off. Left your old life behind you."

Arthur tries to shake his head to show how wrong Merlin is, but he's caught up in the kiss.

Someone bumps against them and Arthur pulls Merlin into a side alley for some privacy. It turns out to be Cecil Court with its old bookshops.

Arthur holds Merlin against the wall on the cobble-stones and hesitantly glides his hands down Merlin's sides. He pauses at the waist to play with Merlin’s belt. He runs his fingers under the layers of wool and finds the skin he is seeking.

Above them, the hanging bookshop signs creak in the wind.

All the while, Arthur searches Merlin's face, taking in Merlin’s expression and assuring himself he hasn't misunderstood in some way. Merlin's fine features, already red from the cold, turn ever rosier, but he holds Arthur's gaze and reciprocates by pulling Arthur closer.

"It's chilly," Merlin murmurs."Warm me up?"

Gladly, Arthur thinks, and presses the whole length of his body against Merlin's lean form. There, by Arthur's hip, Merlin's bulge starts to stir. Arthur's length begins to throb in response, and he curses his thick confining jeans.

He startles when he feels Merlin palm his arse.

"I've always wanted to do that," Merlin breathes.

Arthur laughs, breaking the moment. "Always? How long exactly?"

"A long time, and don't ask." Merlin's voice is bashful but his expression is direct.

A long time? How did Arthur not realise?

Merlin jerks his hips and all speech is driven from Arthur's mind, as his world narrows to the friction between their bodies. He pushes one hand on the wall for balance and stands between Merlin's legs, meeting Merlin's thrusts. Whenever he can, wherever he's able to reach, Arthur presses his lips on Merlin; nose, forehead, chin, and finally that cupid’s bow mouth again.

Arthur goes from warm to hot, to feverish. He eases Merlin's scarf – actually, his scarf he put on Merlin – down so he can lick that slender pale throat and neck. Merlin squirms and protests that it's cold, but Arthur licks him again and quickly pulls the scarf back up. He fingers Merlin's ears and traces the lobes. Merlin responds instantly; his ears are as sensitive as Arthur recalls from their school days.

All the while, Merlin makes little meowing sounds, punctuating Arthur's own heavy breathing and thudding heartbeat. When Arthur can't take it any more, he pulls away. Merlin stops and looks at him, wide-eyed.

"What's wrong?" Merlin holds himself suddenly rigid.

"No, nothing. Nothing's wrong. Just... I just need a minute, yeah?" A minute to wrap his head around the idea that his old, dear, wonderful, lovely friend, is now much more.

Merlin still looks uncertain, so Arthur reaches for his hand and strokes it in what he hopes is a reassuring way. Merlin doesn't seem mollified. Maybe assurance wasn't what Merlin had in mind.

"I do want to..." Arthur trips over his words. " But not here? Back at one of our places? Gwaine's?"

Merlin's face relaxes and the twinkle returns to his eye."How about now and later as well?" He nods at an even smaller alley off to the side and gently tugs Arthur in that direction. Arthur nods mutely. Bossy! Well, if Merlin was sure, he wasn't going to object.

Arthur clutches Merlin as they stumble into the shadows. Merlin finds a small vent emitting some warm air and promptly parks himself there. He whips around and flings himself on Arthur like a heat-seeking missile.

Arthur is taken aback by Merlin's burst of energy. Merlin's kisses are gentle but his hands are all over Arthur's bum and bulge. Arthur can hardly breathe, he's so turned on by being so wanted. His chest constricts and he's sure something is going to explode within him.

Merlin keeps nuzzling him, clever fingers working Arthur's jeans open. Arthur can only stand there and revel in it. He wonders when Merlin became the initiator; the more certain of the two of them. Arthur is not inexperienced, but this episode has a surreal quality about it.

It's so dark, Arthur can only make out the rough shape of Merlin's face and feel his stubble.  Arthur is keenly aware of every rustle and intake of breath. There's nothing for him to lean back on, so he presses forward to rest on Merlin instead, catching a whiff of cinnamon and vanilla from the vent mixing with Merlin’s distinctive scent as he does so.

Merlin hugs him steadily with one arm, the other working on Arthur's cock; first through his jeans then though his pants and, finally, with skin on skin. Merlin's fingers are warm from the activity and Arthur struggles not to gasp from the sensations of tugging and sliding.

Through it all, Merlin continues to kiss him, even when Arthur's mouth is slack with pleasure and his head is lolling. The rhythmic motions sends sparks coursing through his belly, spiking into his chest. His balls tighten, and before he knows it, he's coming, spurting into Merlin's hand, grasping at Merlin for something to hold onto.
Merlin hugs him even tighter, slowing his stroking till Arthur subsides with a shudder. It takes a while before
Arthur can stand by himself and even longer before he can speak. By then, Merlin has wiped Arthur off, tidied him up, and tucked him back in.

"Merlin?" Arthur says shakily. He reaches for Merlin's belt, but stops when his hand is clasped and gently kissed.

"That was so hot, Arthur, you sound so sexy."

"What about you?"

"You can return the favour, but let's go where we can take our time. I did say now and later."

Merlin's kisses on his hand become slow licks, and Arthur is shocked when Merlin nibbles on his fingers and fucking sucks his digits.

"Stop, Merlin, else we won't make it to Gwaine's," Arthur says weakly. Remarkably, Merlin listens to him, after giving one last suck.

An impatient and frantic tube ride later, Arthur gets to return the favour at Gwaine's flat, which is mercifully empty.

Arthur thinks he's getting the better part of the deal here. Merlin is stretched out below him, pale thighs spread open. Their shirts have been flung off and Merlin looks delightfully debauched, colour high in the apples of his cheeks and hair askew.

Merlin looks at Arthur like he's hung the moon and Arthur swallows, a wave of protectiveness engulfing him. He drapes himself over Merlin, maps the sinewy curves of his arms with his hands, kissing and licking his way from Merlin’s mouth all the way down his chest, especially lavishing licks over Merlin's heart.

Merlin's sinful sighs urge Arthur on. His voice is lower than Arthur's ever heard it, all low burrs and rumbles that resonate in Arthur's groin. Arthur laps at his belly and spreads his palms over the sharp jut of Merlin’s hip. He follows the path of the hip bones and bends down to take in Merlin's length.

Merlin cries out softly and moans, deep and throaty. Arthur hollows his cheeks and focuses on the bunch of nerves just under the crown of Merlin's dick. Merlin rears up and buckles.

Arthur goes slow; it's all new, this thing with Merlin, but Merlin seems to love everything he does. He sucks and licks and teases with his mouth, fondling Merlin's ballsack with his hands.

He's not sure how long he's at it, but it seems all too soon when Merlin tugs at Arthur's damp hair to warn him that he's close. Arthur pulls off and finishes Merlin by hand, wanting to see him break apart into a shivering, shuddering mess. Arthur is hard again, looking down to see his hand slickly working Merlin's cock in rapid movements, in sync with Merlin's strangled mewls.

Merlin comes with a weak shout, hands twisting the sheets and heels digging into the mattress. Arthur kisses and holds him through it, longing to blanket Merlin in every way possible. He only releases Merlin's cock when the spurting stops and Merlin heaves a long, wrecked sigh.

Arthur yanks a fistful of tissues and cleans up before sinking into the bed along Merlin. Merlin cracks open an eye and tilts his head to kiss Arthur. He looks pointedly at Arthur's starting erection and says, "Shall I return the returned favour?"

Arthur turns so his cock is poking Merlin's hip. "It would be rude for me to refuse, I believe."

Merlin grins and swivels so the two of them are face to face lying on the bed, and fingers the tip of Arthur's cock. "This could be an all-night long gift exchange then."

They did, in fact, keep at it well into the night.


***


"I swear you guys should pay rent, you're here all the time," Gwaine snorts when he comes back to his own flat the next morning. "Working hard on that assignment thing you were whining about, Arthur?"

Arthur is spread out on the sofa, lounging. "I've delegated," he says airily, pointing at Merlin, who is busy scribbling. "Merlin here turned out to be so good at it, he's writing it for me."

Merlin scrunches up the paper and throws it at him. "Like hell I am. This is my Christmas gift list! My mum will have my hide if I don't at least try with the folks back at Ealdor."

"Stupid gift exchanges. That reminds me, I need to make excuses to avoid the office Christmas lunch. Not the booze, just the gifts part." Gwaine frowns.

"Oi, you'll need to bring something too, idiot, since you're coming with me to my mum's place for Christmas!" Merlin reminds Arthur.

"Seriously? You are?" Gwaine asks.

Arthur can't stop smiling. "Wild horses couldn't keep me away, Gwaine. Yes, Mer-lin, I'm not that socially incompetent, I know what I have to do."

Yes, Arthur has plans for Christmas with Merlin; involving hugging, kissing, more exchange of favours and re-discovering his old friend in new and wonderful ways. He catches Merlin's eye and Merlin smiles brilliantly.
****
FIN

Ps-Some pics that might add to your reading:

Christmas fair, London Hyde Park => http://wanderlust48.tumblr.com/post/70456027114

Reindeer mankinis(prob nsfw) => http://static1.businessinsider.com/image/50d4d405eab8eabd69000004-590/-and-boy-reindeer.jpg









Tags: !holiday exchange fest 2013, c:arthur, c:merlin, p:arthur/merlin, rating:nc-17, type:drabble
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