Title: The Email Order Bridegroom, Chapter 9
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur's got a plan to stay in the united States. That plan is Merlin.
Warnings: Defrauding the government and Merlin reveals something about himself
Word Count: 1015
Author's Notes: This is a continuation of The Email Order Bridegroom
“Well, that’s the last of them gone. It was nice of your mum to "give us some privacy“ Arthur says with an exaggerated eyebrow waggle. Merlin snorts in amusement.
“Is there any more champagne? ” He’s lost the jacket, vest and tie, chugging a glass of water, looking hopeful.
“I stashed a couple bottles in the fridge when things started winding down.” Merlin’s stacking dirty plates and utensils for the rental company to collect in the morning along with the chairs and glassware. “Your sister is a wonder. On just a few days notice she put together a really nice party.”
“Morgana plans and oversees all the company’s major events. She’s got an excellent eye for detail and exquisite taste, though if you tell her I said that I’ll deny it to my dying day,” Arthur answers from the refrigerator. “Ah, success! There’s one left. Clever putting it behind the milk.” He holds the last bottle aloft with a grin. “C’mon Mr. Pendragon, let’s open this and move you into the master bedroom.”
Arthur pops the cork over the sink, immediately covering the frothing neck with his mouth when it starts geysering. “Classy,” Merlin says with a grin when it’s done foaming. Arthur hands the bottle over with a sheepish smile.
“Sorry, reflex.” Merlin takes a healthy drink straight from the bottle as well. He’s pink cheeked and licking his lips in appreciation when he catches Arthur staring. Again.
Merlin hands the bottle back and takes off down the hall. Arthur has another drink and follows.
It takes very little time to move Merlin’s belongings into empty dresser drawers and the cleared out second closet. The Goldfinch, bookmarked a third of the way in is on the left hand nightstand along with a travel alarm clock and the nearly empty bottle of champagne.
Merlin pulls his shaving kit out of the now empty suitcase and goes into the en suite to unload it. It’s a minute’s work and he’s left staring at himself in the vanity mirror. After the non stop chaos of the day, the quiet feels odd. Merlin’s drained, the champagne catching up to him. He runs a tired hand over his face and yawns.
“You look beat,” Arthur says from the doorway. “How about you take the first shower and turn in?” He looks at his watch and shakes his head, “It’s only nine thirty but isn’t this what old marrieds do?”
Merlin gives him a wan smile over his shoulder, “If this is the honeymoon stage, I’m sorely disappointed, but, yeah, I’m whipped. I’ll just grab my pajamas.” He maneuvers past Arthur, toes off his shiny dress shoes and socks and grabs his pink t and a pair of well worn sleep pants. Merlin thinks about getting undressed in the bathroom but that feels wrong. He and Arthur are married and he’s going to have to get used to being comfortable doing this some time.
He puts the pajamas down on the bed and starts unbuttoning his dress shirt, pulling it out of his slacks and off, draping it over the back of the desk chair. Next comes the undershirt, belt and slacks and suddenly Merlin is down to just boxers.
He’s feeling vulnerable but it’s a lot like undressing at the gym. Until he makes eye contact with Arthur who has turned from the doorway to watch this sleepy striptease, bottle of champagne half way to his mouth. A mouth Merlin barely remembers kissing hours ago. Arthur raises the bottle and takes a drink, then offers it to Merlin. “It’s almost gone,” he says in a low voice, eyes curiously intent. Merlin takes it and has the last mouthful. It’s still cold and the bubbles go up his nose, making him sneeze, breaking the moment.
Merlin wakes warm and content, pulling his pillow closer until he realizes it isn’t a pillow at all. His head is resting on Arthur’s shoulder and he’s draped all along Arthur’s side, one arm slung over his middle and their legs are entwined. Merlin stiffens with mortification and tries to extricate himself without waking his bed partner but Arthur has his arm wrapped tightly around Merlin’s waist and he’s making little discontented noises so Merlin stills and somehow relaxes and drifts back to sleep.
Merlin’s not sure how much longer he sleeps but he wakes up to an empty bed, stretches and rolls to his feet, the enticing aromas of coffee and bacon pulling him to the kitchen.
“Morning,” Arthur says cheerily. He’s reading the Los Angeles Times and drinking orange juice. “Coffee’s done and there’s juice in the refrigerator. Bacon’s on the stove.”
Merlin grunts in acknowledgement and grabs the giant mug he’s adopted. Conversation really should wait until he’s gotten some caffeine into his system but Arthur is that awful breed of morning person that hits the ground running.
“You’re a cuddler, Merlin. Not that I mind but some warning might have been in order,” Arthur says with a smile. “There were interesting parts pressed to other interesting parts when I woke up and it was a bit difficult to untangle us without waking you.”
“I’m sorry,” Merlin can feel his face flaming in embarrassment.
“Don’t be. It’s fine and now I know,” Arthur dismisses.
Merlin takes another sip of coffee, face still flaming. “I would have said something if I’d known.” Arthur looks puzzled. “About being an octopus, I mean. I haven’t ever shared a bed before.”
Arthur’s puzzled frown is replaced by wide eyes “Wait, you’ve never slept in the same bed with anyone before?”
“Not since primary school.”
“How is that even possible? You’re twenty two years old.”
Merlin still looks embarrassed but he straightens his shoulders and carries on. “I’ve actually never slept with anyone before,” he answers in a quiet voice. “Between school, studying and part time jobs I never had the time to give to a partner, so I just didn’t bother.”
Arthur looks pole axed. “Oh.”
“Yeah, oh.” Merlin goes back to his coffee, subject obviously closed.