.

.

Today is going to be a brilliant day.

One-handed, Merlin tosses his greasy plate into the kitchen sink; Arthur's brand-new, red toothbrush jutting between his lips.

He clicks up the volume of his iPhone, swinging it in his hand as Merlin sways and bounces on his feet, moving towards the corridor. Humming and gurgling to the song in his earbuds.

The obstetrician appointment would be another two hours— which means they need to leg it as soon as possible. A big spark of excitement rises in Merlin's chest, and a grin flits across his face. This is really happening. The test results and scans from the appointment would reveal how many weeks along Merlin is now.

He has been on prenatal capsules for about three weeks, daily swallows, following somewhat late night research cluing in symptoms of a early pregnancy. It bloody well better be a pregnancy. They paid handsomely for the medical arrangements and hormone shot. Not just Merlin's, but for Arthur's as well.

Bobbing, mouthful of toothpaste, Merlin hesitates his bouncy dance to stop in front of the loo. He clicks off the volume of his earbuds.

"Auuuhhgr?" he calls out, more of a watery, saliva-filled gurgle than a voice, knocking loudly on the door.

From within, Arthur flushes down the toilet.

"Yes, alright!" he yells. Opening the door, Arthur narrows his eyes as his partner. Again with the toothbrush.

"You have your own, you know," he says, moodily.

Once inside, Merlin quickly spits out his mouthful of paste and rinses the brush. Hands it off to his partner wiping at his face with a damp cloth.

The excitement spark in him dampens. Arthur looks clammy pale.

"… How are you still feeling sick? I thought your fever went down," Merlin asks, more or less to himself. Also ignoring personal boundaries, he pushes his wrist against Arthur's temple. His skin equally clammy to touch. "You're a bit warm, but that might be from being ill."

"Stop fussing," Arthur says in a bit of a whine. Being sick is an inconvenience at best. Sliding his arms around Merlin, he mumbles, "I'm supposed to fuss over you. Are you ready for today?"

Merlin removes his ear-buds, setting the music player down on the toilet-cover, in time to be trapped in Arthur's strong hold.

He leans into the other man's chest, grin reappearing and worries quelling for the moment.

"Ready and raring, lazy arse," Merlin whispers, eyes on Arthur's. "Need to leave soon, just so you know. Get washed up." He catches himself aiming a closed, eager kiss for Arthur's mouth, but thinks better of it— instead, Merlin presses dry lips to the bridge of a sun-freckled nose. "You can fuss later."

Washing his face and teeth makes Arthur feel better, but his stomach still doesn't feel like taking anything.

Even trying to sneak Arthur a granola bar does little good. Merlin gives up trying to feed him, but does make tea. Something weak and ginger for the nausea. On their way out, Merlin pulls on another warm, fleece sweater and wool socks and his boots. He hates being cold.

They make it two blocks down the road before Merlin realizes he forgot his mobile. And then seven minutes later, Arthur has to drive back to their flat because of his wallet of all things. So much for the day starting brilliant. He can see the tension in Arthur's jaw and in how he grips the car's steering wheel, but says nothing.

At the clinic's waiting room— one of the quieter days with only a solitary nurse behind the front desk— Merlin grasps one of Arthur's hands. Partly out of renewed excitement, partly out of sheer nervousness.

"Oi, I'm going to have a word with our specialist on why you are still having side-effects," he says. "Alright?"

"If you don't, I will." Arthur looks tense still, but he caresses Merlin's hands with his thumb in soothing motions. "They should be gone soon. I only needed the one dose."

Another couple on the other side of the room, one of the girls with a belly that looks too huge for her body. Arthur lets his stare wander towards them, and then quickly glances away when she looks up.

"Oh, I'm sure you'll have no problems complaining," Merlin tells him, tossing his partner a cheeky, dimpled smile. Arthur's hands squeezes round his gently, his skin all heat and comfortable weight.

"Mr… Pendragon? Mr. Emrys?" One of the afternoon nurses gestures them into an examination room. After the usual height and weight check, and jotting of important health in family history, the nurse is replaced with Gaius coming in and politely shaking their hands.

The older man glances over his clipboard, humming.

"Well, if everything has gone according to schedule, you should be seven to eight weeks along, including the full symptoms." Merlin shoots Arthur a knowing stare from one of the cushioned plastic chairs, touching his palm absently over his flat stomach. "Mr. Pendragon, we'll need to run some blood-work…"

The gears in Merlin's head stutter to a halt.

"Excuse me, but why him?" Merlin blinks, confused. Gaius peers over his glasses at him.

"He received the estrogen shot, did he not?"

"No, no, I did," Merlin corrects him, face dropping. He stands, reaching for Gaius' clipboard and thankfully not scowled at for it.

Arthur rolls his eyes. "We made clear in our requests that Merlin would be carrying our child— we received the shots right here on the clinic. Let me see that." He reaches out to get the clipboard and have a look himself. This has to be a misunderstanding.

"I'll get this sorted out right now, excuse me, lads," Gaius promises, leaving with the examination-room door clicking behind him.

Merlin runs a hand through dark curls of hair, taking a deep breath.

"Someone in the office got the paperwork wrong, that's it," he says, aloud. Trying to sound convincing.

He avoids Arthur's gaze, taking another breath and holding it.

But there it is on the clipboard and it has to be wrong.

"Of course it's a mistake." Arthur slams the clipboard back onto the desk, and just like that, his mood from earlier back in full-force. "It was probably that dodgy nurse. He didn't even get my name right after I spelled it for him. I'll have him removed from—"

"—Arthur, just, give it a rest."

The room is getting warmer around him, but he obeys. "I'm getting some water; do you want me to bring you anything?" Arthur questions, rushing as he walks to the door. He doesn't dare to look at Merlin either with so many things going through his mind.

Merlin shakes his head, looking out the window.

"No, nothing," he says, quietly. He crosses his legs, a foot jiggling anxiously. As Arthur exits the room, Merlin grabs the clipboard once more. Everything seems to be right, but the designated persons to receive shots… are mixed up.

According to the papers, Merlin had been given the testosterone shot and Arthur the modified estrogen.

A prickle of dread in his gut. Arthur's vomit spells… no.

.

.

There's plenty of water to drink from the dispenser next to the physician's office. Arthur keeps his cup and tries flexing his sore muscles. The cool water helps, but he also realises how empty his stomach feels.

He's infuriated, and kind of hungry, and wants this appointment to be over so he and Merlin can go home. And preferably skip the office for today. Attempting new client work with this building migraine won't do any good.

Gaius isn't back yet, when Arthur returns, but he hears a voice from the corridor approaching.

Merlin notices him, by then having set down the clipboard. His gut still feeling twisty. He opens his mouth to speak, but Arthur cuts him off, pressing muscular hands to Merlin's bony shoulders.

He groans lightly, happily. Head bowing, dark blue eyes closing. Arthur may have been an insufferable prat sometimes, and completely overbearing in others, but his hands were damn near perfection. They know exactly how to unwind Merlin from an emotion coil.

"Everything's going to be fine, love," Arthur murmurs.

"M'not worried," he whispers back. Merlin is, of course, lying through his teeth, but it's not like he will confess that.

Gaius steps back in, a severe expression pinching his face.

"I'm afraid… there has been an error."

Merlin's gut swoops down, almost painfully, and he curls forward, hands running slowly over his face.

"I'm not pregnant, am I?" he asks, voice toneless.

"It is very unlikely that you are."

Arthur slides his hands to Merlin's back and his heart aches at the view in front of him, like Merlin's attempting to make himself smaller on the office chair. Being angry, even justifiably, right now would only upset him further.

"I don't understand. Did the shots not work? I've been having a reaction…"

Arthur's hands remain cradling to his back, a physical and grounding reminder to Merlin of where he is and what is happening.

"I thought…" Merlin's breath hitches, and he gulps down the odd clench in his throat. Pushes away the slight burn to his eyes. "Gaius, I've been showing signs. Not all, but…" He straightens up, ticking off on his fingers. "There's been the bloating, and constipation, and heartburn. I've been on the prenatal capsules for several weeks."

Gaius makes a thoughtful noise. "But no morning sickness? Fatigue?"

Merlin shakes his head a bit uncertainly, starting to frown. "You said not everyone does," he points out. "Especially if you need the shots. It's a new procedure—"

"That is true, my boy." Gaius takes a long, purposeful look at Arthur. "And what sort of reaction have you been experiencing?"

"I can't stomach some foods. I've had sore muscles for a couple of weeks, and," Arthur pauses to grab the chair tightly as vertigo sweeps over him. "… these headaches."

Merlin watches him tilt a little on his feet, and places a reassuring hand on his side as the other man sits next to him. This isn't good. Not at all. He thought it may have been even a flu. Gaius looking between them gnaws at Merlin's chest, where once excitement had been.

It… Merlin's lips thins together. No, it can't be.

"Gaius, you know what's happening…"

He nods, gravely. "I believe our Mr. Pendragon may have taken the shot intended for the person who wished to carry. Further blood-work will say how long, but you both were eligible and strong candidates for it."

Merlin's mouth slackens, eyebrows lifting.

"… Arthur's pregnant?" he asks, mouth feeling timber-dry.

"One of the more… inexperienced nurses may have had a hand in this mishap." Gaius' disapproval apparently in his stern, apologetic expression. "You may want to relinquish those vitamins you've been taking, Merlin, and give them to your partner who is better suited for them."

An uncomfortable laugh escapes Merlin's lips. "Right, yeh," he says, still looking a little dazed. "Yeh, I'll… do that."

"What do you mean?" Arthur only gapes. "I'm… I'm, Merlin is supposed to get pregnant." My god, he doesn't feel pregnant. He just feels a little sick. Nausea, headaches and pain are common side-effects on any drug.

Even while being dazed, Merlin can sense the dismay in Arthur's voice.

Merlin eyes him, saying nothing but trying to convey 'it'll be alright'. Spindly fingers, Merlin's fingers, cover Arthur's knee for support.

"Are we absolutely sure that the shots were mixed up?"

"I believe there can be one way to know for certain if you are pregnant, Merlin." Gaius goes to the sonogram equipment near the examination table, flipping it on and everyone hearing the whirr of it. "You were prepared for an ultrasound before arriving, correct?"

"I still have a full bladder, yes," Merlin says, smiling tightly.

"You haven't eaten?"

"No."

"Hop on up then, my boy," Gaius tells him kindly, and Merlin turns his head to Arthur, searching him and clasping his knee hard. He stretches on his back to paper-crinkled table, rucking up his undershirt and oversized sweater, and stares at the tiled ceiling.

Merlin shivers visibly at the cool, greenish-blue gel spread over his upper and lower abdomen, and then chuckles embarrassed.

"Hold your breath until 1," Gaius says patiently, holding the device against his skin. "And no more laughing." Merlin does as bid, chest heaving in, as the older physician began counting backwards.

The sonogram reveals pictures, but they're indefinable. Arthur, who had brought his chair closer to Merlin, squints his eyes at the white-and-black image but he sees nothing. "So, Gaius?"

Gaius holds the device over Merlin's navel.

"I'm sorry, lads… but Merlin is not carrying, as you can see there."

They couldn't. It's all blurs and nonsense.

Arthur rubs his eyes.

"I would try examining you in the same way, Arthur… but without the right preparation, I wouldn't be sure to give you a definite answer." Gaius flips off the sonogram as he explains, "Pregnancy tests through blood-work are very effective and would tell your results within a short period of time, if you are willing to wait—"

"Can we take the results home?" Arthur interrupts. He doesn't feel like learning the truth, whatever it is, right here.

Merlin wipes his abdomen with the small towel Gaius provides, pushing himself upright. "If it's possible, please," he amends Arthur's curtness.

"Of course," Gaius answers, smiling. Merlin returns it, less tightly and more genuinely. He readjusts his clothes, slipping on his jacket.

.

.

Soon enough, it's time to head home.

Gaius presents them with the rest of the paperwork to sign and a large, thin manilla envelope with… what Merlin assumes is Arthur's test results. He clasps onto it, seeing that Arthur won't take them, finishing signing and leaves the clinic.

When his partner fishes out his car keys, Merlin snatches his hand.

"Let me drive, you're tired," he says lowly, but with no-nonsense voice.

The fact Arthur doesn't argue, not even an inch, about who drives his precious Bentley is concerning enough as it is. Merlin doesn't press his luck for a radio station, however. If he even thought of turning a dial, even for the classical station, he suspects Arthur would knock his wrist.

They ride in silence except for the smooth, invisible hiss of the car's heater. He thinks in passing Arthur may have dozed for a minute.

Once inside their flat, Merlin sheds his extra layers, removing the boots and wool socks, his jacket and patterned, colorful sweater. He places the manilla envelope on the glass table-stand, but doesn't remove his hand from it.

"I'm supposing you're calling off work," Merlin speaks up, eyes on Arthur's back. "Are you going to take nap or…?"

His thumbs drum impatiently over the envelope.

"I'm getting something to eat," Arthur says, and moves to the kitchen. He can practically feel Merlin's pointed stare on him.

This is too surreal. There's an actual chance a little person is taking over his body. What happens to his work in his father's firm? All the new year's projects they were working on? Is he going to get huge?

Merlin groans to himself when Arthur steps out, rubbing an eyelid.

"I know you're not feeling well," he says, resigned, following him to the kitchen. "But we need to talk about this."

"I know."

It's childish to argue, but Arthur wants to run, to hide. He reaches for a beer automatically, and then stops himself. Arthur grabs the orange juice instead, drinking a mouthful.

Even more unnerving than Arthur letting Merlin drive his car is Arthur drinking anything straight out the bottle or a carton. He's always a right fusspot about it.

Merlin's teeth scrape against his lip, as the air grows a bit heavier.

"Talk to me, Arthur."

"Well, what if I'm… we haven't discussed that."

"No, we haven't," Merlin agrees, staring at Arthur's hardened profile. "You have Uther's firm to run with him, and it's busy, but you can take paternity leave in the last three months. Have them fax the bleedin' paperwork here, just don't expect me to know how to work the machine," he jokes, cracking a grin. "I swear it has a personal vendetta against me."

Arthur half-smiles, gazing up.

"How were you so calm about getting pregnant? It's odd just thinking about it now." His arms twitch, as if wanting to raise up.

The sudden vulnerable look has Merlin's grin softening and he heads around the counter, grasping Arthur's forearms warmly. "Because we planned for it, and…" Merlin sighs, but not out of exasperation.

"It doesn't matter now who it is. If it's been 7 to 8 weeks already, then we're in it for the long haul, Arthur." His hands let go, cradling the sides of Arthur's face, feeling where he's clean-shaven. Merlin's eyes bright with fondness. "We've been preparing like mad… If your results are positive, then it's no use pretending it'll go away."

"You always know what to say, don't you," Arthur says, just as fondly. Merlin's wrists are soft and bony under his fingers, as he grazes fingertips over them. "I know you are dying to take a look. Go."

"Part of my many gifts," Merlin quips, head tilting and corner of his mouth lifting. He leans in, thumbpads brushing gold skin, mouthing against Arthur's lips. "Besides getting under your pants…" At the mention of the envelope, Merlin's grin supernovas and he steps away, going for the end of the kitchen counter where it rests.

He sends Arthur one more fantastically encouraging look before tearing the seal open. With a moment of fumbling, he manages to strip it off. A long pause. Merlin's blue eyes skims the paper's content.

"See for yourself," he says, face arranged neutral but sly.

"Idiot, I can see it on your face," Arthur retorts, but joins him and peers through the contents. His hands shaking. A neat 'positive' on the end of the page releases the breath he doesn't know he's holding. "Fuck, we are going to have a baby."

And just like that, Arthur's thrilled, chest lightening. The results scatter to the floor but neither of them notice.

Merlin squawks a moment, feeling the world lift him up— no, rather it's his now indefinitely pregnant husband— and he wraps his arms to Arthur's neck, laughing into his ear and grinning stupidly big.

"We got our money's worth, I expect," Merlin says breathlessly to Arthur's jaw, being dropped back on his feet but he refuses to let go. Seeing Arthur act this happy is… fantastic.

"God, how has this even happened?" Arthur presses his face to Merlin's neck. "I was plenty busy trying to impregnate you."

"Wasn't always your cock inside me, now that I think about it."

Merlin's cheeks flush, nice and rosy. He kisses Arthur, leaving it chaste.

"Well, what would you have me do when you complained about you being sore?" Arthur kisses him back, softly. He can't believe he was so worried just an hour ago. Now all the weight on his shoulders vanishes.

Merlin's laugh edges on husky, throaty. "Believe me, I'm not complaining," he murmurs, exposing his neck when Arthur's mouth presses insistently.

He slides his arms free of Arthur's neck, lacing his fingers gently to Arthur's own.

"At any time you want a reminder of that…" Merlin trails off, backing out of the embrace but still grinning.

"I'm going to need one in a bit… but right now, I'm starving. Since this is your doing, make some lunch," Arthur demands, smugly. He crosses towards the hallway, prodding Merlin's side with his forefinger. "And I better keep it down."

Merlin rolls his eyes good-naturedly, watching him go.

"Prat," he mutters to himself, heading for the cabinet. It is his fault Arthur won't eat in the mornings anymore, in a way.

The pompous arse couldn't cook a decent meal to save his life anyway.

.

.

Evening dims their surroundings, and Merlin rocks on his back against the slow and steady thrusts. He winds his bare legs to Arthur's waist, moaning and breathing out softly, clenching his arse tightly around Arthur's shaft.

Their bed creaks occasionally, with the shifting of their bodies. He can't get enough of the perspiration-sticky, naked skin, of Arthur's heavy presence, of what it feels like to be connected and hovering just out of reach of his orgasm threatening to crest.

Merlin's fingers wander, past Arthur's buttocks as the other man groans, shuddering and flexing under the attention.

His body— gold and muscle-toned— is perfect.

Especially the additional parts.

The vaginal-like opening is warm and fleshy to Merlin's fingers, smearing damp as he vigorously rubs the enlarged lips, pushing them apart. There's no clitoris to pleasure Arthur, and there would never be, but this should have been a sign.

According to the medical field, everyone considered healthy is born with the anus and the urethra. Some people were born along with a vagina. And others, the rare cases, are both with all three, along with a penis. Except— it's known simply as a birthing canal. There's no function for it otherwise. His uncle Gaius educated a teenage Merlin on the texts— where he could locate his own, along his perineum, right behind his testes. Merlin would always be infertile no matter what, unless given proper treatment and medication.

It's what they wanted all along: a family.

Arthur's opening is swollen and leaking fluid. He's aroused, when normally it wouldn't be possible.

Merlin knew what it felt like to be fucked there, in an unused place— the throbbing, burning pain of being stretched, the mounting anticipation and then ecstasy. How Arthur's cock pressed repeatedly on the one textbook 'stimulation centre'— a small, almond-shaped gland right up behind his scrotum. He knew Arthur's face when Merlin fucked him, how wide his mouth opened, teeth exposed, and how pale blue eyes widen. How it felt to come inside Arthur, so hard and violently that stars glare behind Merlin's eyelids.

And now there's a baby growing. His baby inside Arthur.

The memory summons a tidal-wave of his senses, and Merlin loses himself to the heartbeat after heartbeat.

.

.

It's five minutes until Merlin's usual time to arrive home and Arthur's ready to go.

The weather remains chilly so he wears one of the big hoodies, useful for wrapping his hands under his growing belly through the pocket in the front. Arthur's getting noticeably bigger as the months pass. The baby is also restless, kicking him awake, and also Merlin since he's the one who has to answer to Arthur's groans and complaints.

He feels tired, of course, but sitting on the couch or working keeps him bored. It would be nice to get some fresh air.

I'm waiting for you. He texts Merlin. You are coming home early, right?

The bus ran late, Merlin texts him back. He huffs in another breath, slightly winded on the staircase. Within a few more minutes, he turns the doorknob and finds their entrance unlocked.

Merlin beams at Arthur looking impatient but dressed appropriately for the park, his pale cheeks reddened from sprinting.

"Sorry, sorry," he says, sounding far from it with the absurd grin. Merlin steals a brief kiss from Arthur. "Sorry, I'll get our things."

"I have them ready, just go get changed."

Merlin raises an eyebrow. "Eager, are we?" he asks mildly, but says no more, taking off his work shoes and heading to the bedroom. He trusts that Arthur prepared well enough. Pregnancy made the already tightly-wound and meticulous aspect of Arthur a tad worse.

He hopes a short walk will relax Arthur a bit. Work out the sores and aches. Merlin throws off his work clothes and pulls on three layers and one of his thicker wool coats, and his wool socks. He slaps his jean pockets, checking his half-charged mobile is there.

Just in case, Merlin snatches two bottles of water from the fridge and some gluten-free snacks, stuffing them in a small knapsack he slings over his shoulder. "I'll get that," he says, taking the sports bag from Arthur.

Arthur sneers a little. It's been months since Merlin let him do anything, so he just lets him be. The park just a block away and it's a blessing, because they can walk and soon enough he wouldn't be up for walking much.

He puts his hands on the front pocket, supporting himself. "How was your day at the call-centre?"

Merlin listens, missing the eye-roll, toeing on his beaten trainers.

"Got a little busy early morning. There was an accident towards the intersection and of course, there was more paperwork and receiving calls." He tosses Arthur a knowing look. "Gwaine and Elyan ask how you've been doing. I think they miss you on the footie team."

"And I would say the same," Arthur remarks, smiling. "If Gaius told me it was okay, I would be out there. Maybe we can go watch next time. You should play for me."

A chuckle leaves Merlin's lips. He drops the sports bag and turns to Arthur, reaching out to grasp to his hips. They had always been a little broader than Merlin's to start, and now appropriately sizing.

"In another six months you'll be back at it, and then I won't have to," he tells Arthur, their eyes meeting, grin softening. "For now you just worry about the precious cargo you're already carrying." Merlin gives a comfortable, teasing squeeze to Arthur's hips, thumbs stroking his sides. He eyes the other man, asking seriously, "How are you feeling, by the way? Are you sure you want to do the walking?"

"Yes, I'm sure. We can stay there a little to rest, and then visit one of the restaurants." Arthur almost trembles with Merlin's touch. He has a way with them. "You can always help afterwards… you know you always make it all better."

Merlin nods dutifully at the mention of eating, grin returning at the small, but not hidden, shudder of Arthur's breath as Merlin's thumbs burrow under Arthur's over-sized hoodie, dragging against bare skin.

Arthur would likely want to make a stop at Caerleon's Cakerie. For either the toffee or the overly priced, decadent sponge-cake. The owner Annis never particularly liked Merlin, from his trainers covered in inexcusable mud to his unruly dark cowlicks. But, she doted on Arthur as if he were a part of her flesh-and-blood. The news of Arthur's sudden pregnancy sent her into fits of gleeful hugs and loving advice—and she pointedly ignored Merlin, as usual.

He never complained about it. The woman was a bit menacing.

"A nice long rub, hmm?" comes out as a murmur, Merlin's grin edging towards outwardly cheeky, eyes wicked. He leans in, avoiding from pressing too closely and putting pressure to Arthur's belly. "Will there be anything else I can do for you tonight, sire?"

"Let's go before we spend another day in bed, you tosser." Arthur tugs Merlin's hands out of his clothes, pulling him out of the flat.

"Oh, you'd fancy that," Merlin argues, still grinning, but allows himself to be marched out. Arthur's hand is all the warmth he needs for now.

The chill isn't sharp or as bitter as yesterday, so it's fortunate. Merlin's legs long to stretch out. He fights against the urge to go the quicker, bouncing pace, slowing down with Arthur's pace and enjoying the tight heat of their fingers.

After another block, there's a clear view of the park. Bicyclers and joggers on the paved markers. Children shouting to each other and giving a chase, climbing onto the playground equipment. Parents settling on benches to watch or join the children, laughing.

A clench of warmth goes up Merlin's ribs as he spots one parent lifting what has to be their little girl under her arms, swinging her high and letting her down with a noisy, loving kiss to her face.

"I wonder how is it going to be in a few months, when we have our own, and you finally get to play with them," Arthur observes. The moment of daydreaming ends as he tilts Merlin's face sideways and presses a firm kiss on Merlin's lips.

Merlin snorts, watching his partner's bright blue eyes almost seeming to smile.

"Oi, who said I'd be doing it all?" He plops down on the open bench with Arthur, tightening his grasp on Arthur's now sweaty hand. "We'll be doing this together," Merlin reminds him. "Playing, feeding, teaching, and dirty nappies." He wrinkles his nose at the last thought. Dirty nappies are definitely on the lowest rung of thrill.

"You are make a fantastic parent, you know." He stares at Merlin's eyes, then he adds, smugly, "A fantastic parent, and a fantastic husband, who makes fantastic meals…"

The compliments genuine and welcome, but Arthur's voice is a bit too mischievous, and he had that prattish smirk.

Merlin groans at him, pretending to stare in exasperation.

"You are not leaving me with the dirty nappies for two years," Merlin says, making an offended noise and bumping his knuckles to Arthur's thigh. "I'm not having it, clotpole."

"Oh, now, don't be like that!" Arthur laughs. The sun begins to warm them. "Admit it, you love me."

Merlin's gaze solemn. "I do," he whispers, leaning over to the side and brushing his lips affectionately to Arthur's ear. "You bastard."

He squeeze Arthur's fingers carefully, gently. Swollen hands and swollen feet, and all.

Merlin leans away as a feeling like tiny fingers grips and tugs at his wool coat. And indeed, upon turning around on the bench, a boy no longer than possibly six years grabs the back of Merlin's coat, looking owlishly at him. His blue, small eyes teary. He sniffles.

"Oh," Merlin says, surprised. He straightens up. "What's the matter?" When the boy says nothing, just continued sniffling, Merlin glances at Arthur and then speaks to the curly-haired boy, "Are you lost, lad?"

"Are you alright?" Arthur asks, gently.

The little boy peers over to Arthur. He shakes his head furiously, running behind the park bench and coming around to Arthur's side.

Merlin makes an loud amused noise as the boy's chubby arms suddenly hug the bench, burying his little face into Arthur's leg. "I think you just made a friend, mate," he tells Arthur, laughing. The boy peers up shyly over Arthur's knee.

"I think so." Arthur does laugh.

The little hands then grip Arthur's leg, hard. He tries to bend himself, but his stomach won't let him go far enough. "Did something scare you? Where are your parents?" He places a hand on the child's shoulder, to try and get him to show his face again.

After a long moment, Arthur realises the boy is crying on him. He grunts, irritated.

"Oh, that's just… Merlin, would you get tissues from the bag?"

With another amused look, his companion zips the sports bag, rifling through the snacks and extra clothes, taking out a wad of tissues.

"C'mere, lad," Merlin says kindly, urging the little boy to sit between him and Arthur, patting his wet cheek. He holds the tissue to his drippy nose. "Blow very hard." The curly-haired boy obeys, and Merlin instantly drops the kleenex, wiping his hand.

"Alright," he says, giving the boy a soft but long look. "My name is Merlin. This is Arthur. Can you tell us your name?" The boy fidgets his little hands and sniffs, though sounding dry, and gives Arthur a sideways look for reassurance. Merlin smirks. "Or can you tell Arthur?"

In a very miserable, tiny voice, he goes, "I'm Mordred."

"Mordred, aren't you a little young to be alone here? Did you get lost?" He's increasingly more teary-eyed as Arthur attempts to pry answers from him. "Shh, don't worry. Merlin and I will help you."

Merlin clears his throat to get Arthur's attention. Mordred glances up at Arthur's face and then stares pointedly at the baby bump with polite curiosity. "I'm going to ask some of the parents if anyone been searching for him," Merlin announces. "Keep your mobile out. I'll call you if I find anything."

He gets on his feet, coming around to the opposite end of the bench and quickly kisses Arthur's warm mouth, grasping his shoulders.

"Keep an eye out on him until then?" Merlin whispers, tilting his chin subtly towards Mordred as the little boy swings his legs.

Just as Merlin disappears, the little boy is no longer crying, but his eyes are thoughtful.

"Are you feeling better now, Mordred?" he asks. "We'll find your parents soon enough."

"… Are you married?"

.

.

He knows Arthur can handle it. It's a lost child. And if Arthur couldn't, he has Merlin on mobile. He would drop everything for Arthur.

Merlin scans the area for any wandering gazes towards him. He jams his hands in his pockets and comes up to the swinging bars.

One of the parents, a very tall and brawny man glances at him, helping one of the children down and rubbing a hand through her hair. He looks like he just got out of military training with the thick muscle mass and the buzz-cut. Merlin sends him a friendly smile.

"Oi, I had a question if it's not too much trouble," he says. The man eyes him cautiously, doubtfully, and then nods.

"Suppose not."

"My partner and I found a little boy wandering around the park. About five or six years old." Merlin indicates the appropriate height with a hand raised over the ground. "Dark hair, blue eyes. Has there been anyone asking about him? His mother or his guardian?"

"No, sorry, mate." The man appears sympathetic, and chuckles when his daughter tugged impatiently at his coat, whining high-pitched. "I'll keep an eye out for a frantic parent though."

Merlin's smile widens to a grin.

"Cheers, I'm Merlin," he says, holding out a hand. The man's grip is as strong as an oxen, as he expected.

"Percy." The man smiles back. "And good luck."

Merlin waves cheerfully, watching Percy and his daughter move on. He scratches at the back of his head anxiously. One down. Too many more to go. Maybe he should consider calling the police…

.

.

Not a lot of time passes, but there is something in Mordred's eyes. Damn was that a deep stare he had on him.

"Mum and dad got married, too. Dad cried… it was weird. Did you cry when you married?" Mordred speaks with enthusiasm and a pinch of intense curiosity that kids give off when they make a new friend, Arthur realises.

"No, I didn't. But Merlin definitely did." If he was going to go through an interrogation, Arthur would have some fun. "Actually, he wailed."

That got a few giggles out of Mordred.

"So… " The boy says, dragging his gaze to Arthur's stomach. "Do you have a baby in there?"

"Um. Yes, I do." Arthur chuckles, looking down, and placing his hands over it. "Baby's been there for a while."

"Weeeird. How did it even get in there?"

"… So, how old are you, lad?"

"I am five-and-a-half years old!" Mordred exclaims, puffing out his chest. "But my mom says I can start going to school early than the other kids because I'm so smart."

"You must be." Arthur humours him, "Did you come here with her?"

Mordred avoids his eyes then, mumbling a little 'yes'.

"Are you sad you got lost?"

"No, I… ran away from her. She told me not to and now I got lost. She is going to be mad at me now," Mordred says, sniffling again.

"She won't be mad. I'll speak to her." Arthur reassures him, letting the boy hug his middle, an arm resting to his belly. "It'll be alright."

Suddenly, Mordred lurches away, gasping with excitement.

"What was that? It moved!"

Arthur beams, touching his shoulder. "It's the baby. Seems like you woke her up." He caresses his belly with his free hand, rubbing soothing circles and watching Mordred's face brighten.

.

.

He's not having much luck in his search.

Several other parents are happy enough to answer his questions and look concerned for the well-being of little Mordred, but without the needed information to actually help. "Oi!" Merlin narrowly misses a teenager biking fast down the pathway, getting his elbow clipped.

He glares after them, cursing under his breath.

Across the grass, a police officer eyes him for a moment. Two officers there in fact, standing by the drinking fountain, one with a notepad and pen.

Merlin sighs.

He might as well relinquish the sole responsibility of the missing child to them. Merlin is halfway across the grassy area when he notices a woman with them. Tall and shapely, with curls of dark hair. Very familiar dark curls. Merlin's lips quirk downwards.

"Ma'am, we are doing everything we can," one of the officers begins.

"Bugger on that!" she snaps, green eyes heated. "My son is lost!" The woman turns to Merlin approaching. "And what do you want?"

"Little boy, same hair as yours?" Merlin asks, not taking offense in her poisonous gaze. "Blue eyes? Possibly five or six?."

He does however take a step back amazed as the woman hurries into his space, eyes narrowing in suspicion, her long fingernails dragging into Merlin's collar of his jacket and propelling him forward.

"You've seen him," she says, voice trembling. "Mordred. My little boy."

Merlin shakes his head at the officer coming forward to grab her shoulder. "He's with Arthur, keeping him safe," he explains. "I went to look for Mordred's parents or his guardian." He awkwardly holds out a hand to her, grinning. "Hello, I'm Merlin."

"Mrs. Le Fay—"

She ignores the first officer with the notepad and pen, her fingers loosening on Merlin's collar. "I don't care who you are— I want to know who the bloody hell is 'Arthur' and why is he with my son?"

Merlin's mouth rounds out.

"My partner," he says quickly. "Married partner. He's pregnant." Merlin tacks on, grinning again when she flushes, "Very pregnant. He can't get around as well as he used to."

"Where is the boy?" the second officer asks, resigned.

"I can show you," Merlin says cheerfully, looking into very green eyes and the woman drops her hands, smiling begrudgingly. They follow him.

.

.

Within no time, he spots the park bench. Even from a distance, Arthur's relaxed, amused smile is recognizable. A flurry of warmth rises up Merlin's chest, making him smile to himself. He knew Arthur would handle everything on his own. Well, he suspected Arthur could.

Closing that distance, followed by the police officers and "Mrs. Le Fay", Merlin saw Arthur touch his round stomach, rubbing it gently. He immediately wants to knot his pale fingers through Arthur's, hold Arthur's hand to him and embrace him, revel in his joy.

Merlin approaches the side of the bench, facing Arthur.

"Mordred?" The little boy twists around. "Someone's been very worried about you." He nods to Mrs. Le Fay who swoops in, nearly knocking Merlin over, hugging Mordred to her and lifting him into her arms, kissing his cheek.

"Never, ever, scare me like that," she whispers without malice, without anger, a bit of tears glistening in her eyes.

Merlin shakes one of the police officer's hands, saying goodbye and thank you, and doesn't wait until they disappear from view to take a seat. He sinks onto the park bench, hip-to-hip with Arthur, and peers at the other man. Merlin presses in without saying anything, arms going around Arthur's neck, closing his eyes and burrowing his face into Arthur's neck.

He groans an unintelligible noise, forehead and nose to Arthur's skin.

Arthur accepts the hug, meeting the woman's stare.

"I guess I should thank you," she says, combing through Mordred's hair with her long fingers. "For taking care of him and finding me. My name is Morgana. And you are?"

"I am Arthur, and my partner here," Arthur gestures with a little tilt of his head, smirking, "is Merlin."

He rubs his nose into the joint between Arthur's neck and shoulder, before lifting his head up.

"We've met already," he informs Arthur, simpering at the woman raising an eyebrow and smiling. Merlin lets Arthur go, but lets an arm drape still across the back of Arthur's neck. "I'm just glad to see Mordred find his mum." Merlin offers a grin to the little boy shyly peeking over his own shoulder to him, Morgana's hand rubbing Mordred's back soothingly.

Morgana fixes her purse on her shoulder while expertly holding Mordred up.

"Well, Arthur and Merlin, it was a pleasure to meet you. We hope to see you again. This is Mordred's favourite park to come play, isn't it right, love? Say goodbye."

They hear a "Bye Arthur" from Morgana's neck, where Mordred hides still. When Morgana walks them, he takes his chance to yell "Goodbye baby!" which makes Arthur grin.

Merlin laughs, face slightly red, the burn going to his ear-tips.

"Cheers," he says, watching her and Mordred go, amused by Mordred's sudden interest in saying goodbye to Arthur's baby bump. "She's already popular with the lads," he quips, leaning back into Arthur's warmth.

Arthur seizes his opportunity when Merlin puts down his hand to take it and guide it. "You feel that?"

He spans his fingers comfortably over the thin material of the shirt under Arthur's over-sized hoodie, over the round stomach in front of him.

When the baby kicks again, against Merlin's palm, his entire face lights up.

"You're so strong," Merlin whispers down to Arthur's belly, lips curling into a irresistible smile.

"I think it's eating time for her," Arthur says. "She's been restless this last hour. Help me get up?"

Merlin chuckles, listening to Arthur's soft, breathy complaint and feeling another faint kick. Their baby is going to be a handful.

He presses in, smiling and kissing Arthur's jaw briefly. "Of course, love," Merlin says, removing his hand from under Arthur's hoodie, standing up first. He grasps both of Arthur's warm, swollen hands into his, lacing their fingers and uses the momentum to get Arthur up.

Merlin's hands release Arthur's once the other man is completely on his feet, touching Arthur's hips and keeping him steady on his feet.

Truth be told, he sort of needs the excuse to touch him all over like this.

"Want me to cook or do you want the take-out?" Merlin suggests. They have it in with the local Italian restaurant in town. One of the hostess girls Sefa, beloved niece of the owner of the building, helps them get normally expensive menu choices for cheap, specially tailored for Arthur's diet while being pregnant.

Arthur leans into Merlin's warmth.

"Let's get our favourites from Sefa's," he says, as if plucking out Merlin's thought. "Then we go back home to eat on the sofa. I want to get out of this trousers."

Arthur's lips are chapped and damp to his cheekbone, trailing over the side of Merlin's face. Merlin slides his hands up, locking them to the nape of Arthur's neck and kissing under Arthur's ear, humming pleasantly.

"That a promise?" he says, grinning cocky into Arthur's neck.

"Only I get to take yours off, too," Arthur replies, quiet but fierce. "Remember there are children here, Emrys. Do not get me started."

Merlin drops his voice purposefully, as a grumpy-faced parent and two shrieking children in each of the parent's hands pass by. "Wouldn't be fun if my prick had to chaf," he reminds Arthur, snickering lightly.

When Arthur takes a step back, Merlin feels the loss of warmth and secretly mourns it, but only for a moment. There's still plans for home. He and Arthur would be producing more than enough heat between them…

"All of those pregnant hormones." Merlin wiggles his eyebrows exaggeratedly, grin toothy and wide. "Doesn't take much to rile you up." He cups Arthur's hand and leads the way to the restaurant.

.

.

Sefa brings their food out to them herself, blushing under the compliments and hugging Merlin quickly.

Back at the flat, Merlin toes off his shoes, throwing off his coat and began getting out the utensils and plates.

He hears Arthur enter the kitchen, bare feet to cool tiles, just as Merlin finishes pulling their meals out of the stapled, papery bags.

He continues keeping his attention on getting everything set out, disposable knives and forks, when Arthur's presence hovers at his back. Fingers wrapping innocently to Merlin's narrow hips. Except it isn't entirely innocent, it never truly is, when those same fingers hover for the button on Merlin's jeans, unzipping the denim material.

"I said," Arthur murmurs, shifting both hands under Merlin's jeans, "no trousers at home."

The hitch in Merlin's breath can't have gone unnoticed by Arthur, his cock taking semi-interest in the fact a hand skims over his underwear. Or rather, Arthur's hand purposely tracing the shape of his cock in it, as if it has all the time and patience in the world.

"Thought we were eating, prat," he says, pretending to sound impersonal but no more ignoring his amusement than his cock can to reacting to large, gold fingers. Merlin sets down the items in his hands, glancing over his shoulder to his partner, eyebrow raised.

"Yes, we are, but…" Arthur, already in his comfortable joggings, halts a moment to breathe into Merlin's neck. "You know… all these hormones."

While one hand squeezes him over his underwear, the other one feels him up Merlin's chest, raking through the tangle of dark chest hair and then back to Merlin's navel, following the trail. Arthur is a complete blighter, Merlin decides. Insatiable and fucking gorgeous, and makes every nerve in Merlin's body want him.

His muscles tremor against Arthur's exploring hand, lighter than the other hand cupping through his underwear and beginning to stroke him. Merlin groans, jaw clenched, letting his gravity fall forward. His hands on the edge of the marbled counter.

"Fuck," Merlin swears low under his breath, Arthur's cock most definitely rutting against his arse.

He rocks back into the sensation a moment, before stopping himself, Merlin letting his head tilt down and slowing his quickened breath.

They can't. Well—they can, but neither of them has eaten. More importantly, Arthur and the baby haven't eaten anything since morning.

As much as Merlin would thoroughly enjoy bending to Arthur's will, feeling nothing but trapped heat and skin between them, inside him, there's a third member of their party that needs their concern.

Just as Arthur moves his hands under the waistband of Merlin's boxers, his stomach rumbles. Placing his hands back to Merlin's hips, he says, "It smells good. Let's move this to the sofa." He reaches around Merlin to grab his plate and fork, mouth watering at the aroma. "Don't forget the drinks," Arthur murmurs into Merlin's ear, leaning and slapping his rear as he vanishes from the room.

.

.

Thankful for Arthur's stomach growling noticeably behind him, Merlin gets up, removing his hands from the counter, grinning brightly. He steps aside dutifully as Arthur reaches for some of the plates of food, taking his favourites and shoveling them onto his plate.

"Good, you need to eat," Merlin mutters playfully in his direction, and it's answered with a hot command in his ear and forceful, sound slap on his left buttock. He squawks indignant, body jolting in place and staring as Arthur stares back unimpressed, leaving the kitchen.

"Prick!" he calls back, starting to laugh to himself. Such a prick.

Left to his own devices, Merlin goes for a plate. He hesitates, expression dropping. A matching blue plate to a simple floral pattern to Arthur's own sits out untouched. He doesn't remember… grabbing them.

Merlin usually keeps them from gathering too much dust in the cabinet, painstakingly washing them.

But those twin plates with the blue floral pattern aren't part of his and Arthur's normal dining sets.

His mum owned them for years. They weren't truly his. They had only been handed off to Merlin after her wake. "Your father and I bought them together," Hunith told him, a faint and loving emotion in her eyes as her callused fingers traced the round edges.

Merlin never known him. The man disappeared shortly after. For no reason apparently. Hunith had not been married to his father, but she wished to live with him.

It was difficult to not feel longing as a child, hoping that maybe today was the day Father would open the door, embrace him. And then, after twenty years, it was difficult to not feel resentment.

Merlin's thumb glides over the round edge of the plate.

His lips thins together as a hardened lump forms in Merlin's throat. He pushes it away sternly, sniffing and wiping under his eye.

With one of the large spoons, Merlin shovels some of the fettucine alfredo and the eggplant parmigiana into it. Arthur's already made himself at home, digging into their lunch, propped up by sofa pillows.

He sits down quietly next to him, not looking up, twirling the fettucine.

"I think our baby girl loves Sefa's already," Arthur says aloud, pushing one of his feet to Merlin's thigh. "Don't you think, Merlin?"

Merlin doesn't have a immediate response, and a quick look at his partner's face tells Arthur something is off. Merlin's pouting in that brooding way of his, that makes Arthur want to shield him from whatever troubles lingering. What's wrong?

"I didn't mean to tease back there. Are you mad at me?"

Merlin looks up, face empty when Arthur sets down his plate, blinking. "Hm?"

Arthur's disquieted expression clenches Merlin's chest tight. "No, no, it's not about that," he insists. Merlin drops his fork, setting down his full plate and grabbing Arthur's knee. But it feels more he's doing it for reassurance.

The smile doesn't come naturally. In fact, Merlin's lips only allow a weak smile to appear.

"I was thinking about… Mum," he murmurs, eyes lowered. "S'rry, I didn't mean to make you worry."

"Come here." Arthur throws an arm over Merlin's shoulder, bringing him in, arranging him on his side and putting his chin over Merlin's head. He sucks in a deep breath, the smell of Merlin's shampoo still on him. He knows what Merlin needs. Arthur learned after all of the pain he witnessed.

When Merlin lost Hunith, something in him broke into pieces. Arthur would find himself without words to say, not knowing how to fix his partner's sorrow and his anger. He could never pretend to take the pain away, but being there, he could try and help him.

With time, it got bearable. But every so often, Merlin would go quiet, his smiles wouldn't shine as usual, his walk wouldn't be so cheerful. By now, Arthur knows to allow him to grieve.

"She would be happy for us, wouldn't she?" His lips go to Merlin's forehead, kissing his way down to the bridge of his nose, his cheeks, his chin.

Merlin finds himself chewing his bottom lip raw, just to keep his smile from wavering, just to keep any tears at bay.

At the start of their relationship, Merlin loathed showing anything resembling crippling emotion to Arthur who (at the time) enjoyed belittling him and walked around with a 'tough guy' image. Even later, when he had Arthur's respect and then undying love, Merlin craved better stability.

But Arthur truly has been this accepting when Merlin's emotions couldn't stand any self-made crutch, wrapping him in his arms.

He hears Arthur whisper into his hair, rubbing a hand over his back, and leans into the other man, tucking his face against Arthur's collarbone. Merlin sniffles, blue eyes gleaming, pink-faced from the effort of not crying, reaching up to wipe any remaining tears away.

Merlin nods.

"Mum loved you, you know that," he says, closing his eyes when Arthur's mouth presses soft kisses down his nose and face. "She said if anyone deserved each other, it was us." Merlin's right hand rises up, cupping the side of Arthur's face. He stares into Arthur's eyes, thumb swiping across a cheekbone. "I still believe her."

He sees Arthur's eyes gleam a little at his own words, his own firm beliefs.

"You're still an idiot, Merlin."

Merlin chuckles, feeling truly gladdened in his heart for the man he shared a home with and the friend he had in his life, grinning a little.

"You're such a…" he pauses, eyes now falling on Arthur's ruddy lips.

The first kiss is as tender and searching as the last, Merlin angling his chin as the next kiss deepens, opening their lips. He licks past Arthur's lips and teeth, in small and measured strokes, tongue running along Arthur's before sucking the tip between Merlin's lips. Heat and pure want, god does he want him, crawl over Merlin.

Merlin loves kissing like this. Deep and claiming, fucking shallow, tasting Arthur and tasting the faintness of the herb-pasta. Feeling breathless and lightheaded, and not close enough.

Arthur's hands are greedy, scrambling to remove the layer of Merlin's shirt. He aids him, raising his arms and letting Arthur pull it off. The room isn't cold enough to give him gooseflesh, to make it uncomfortable to be without clothing, but as soon as Arthur's mouth locates his chest, scraping against a nipple, biting playfully, a groan rips out of Merlin's throat.

"Shite," he whispers, rolling his hips into Arthur, as they climb to each other. Arthur's cock hard beneath his underwear. Merlin's hands dug into flaxen, loose hair and tug slightly, enough for a sharp jolt.

Merlin ends up sprawling back onto the sofa cushion, steadying Arthur, fingers now clasping the other man's hips when he thrusts down. Color deepens to a pleasant flush on sun-golden skin, to his temples and his cheeks, Arthur's square-jaw concentrated and tight. With the distended belly, full with their child, Merlin can hardly believe the sight.

How lucky they are. How gorgeous Arthur is like this.

He squeezes Arthur's hips, gently, but firmly enough to get his attention.

"How long has it been since I've been inside you…?" Merlin asks, murmuring, voice low but expression hungry, releasing one hand and sliding it over the bulge of Arthur's cock in his boxers. "Been thinking about it… how much I miss it, watching you fuck my prick."

Arthur silences him with another deep kiss, holding him against the cushions roughly and biting his upper lip. Merlin's fingers rip away as Arthur's hands enclose over his wrists, slamming them down beside Merlin's head. He relaxes, finding absolutely no contest to Arthur's strength but nowhere fearful of it.

"Merlin, watch that filthy mouth of yours," he whispers against him. "Or I'll shut it for you."

Merlin groans out to the biting, feeling his lips redden and swollen. When Arthur's tongue swipes against Merlin's raw lips, he clenches his jaw, to keep from grimacing. "Is that a yes to the fucking?" Merlin asks, murmuring against Arthur's chin. "God, damn, tell me it's a yes…"

There's no more room for coherent words, or for messing around, Merlin gasping low and squirming when Arthur takes hold of him. He works him to fullness, twisting at the cockhead, shooting pleasured shivers towards all ends of Merlin. To his bollocks and his fingertips. To his toes and up his arms. Arthur knows exactly how to do this to him.

The pre-cum slicks to Arthur's palm from jacking him off facilitates an easier slide, though no easier grip on Merlin's cock. It's crystal clear now the answer is a 'yes' to Merlin's earlier inquiry and Arthur mutters out a clipped demand, pushing Merlin off the couch and lying out.

"Go get the lubricant from the bedroom."

Merlin's eyes follow Arthur stretching out, tanned limbs and his hair fanning out.

"Oh?" he whispers, now grinning mischievously. For a millisecond, the blue irises of Merlin's eyes blinking into gold-glow. "You mean this lubricant from the bedroom?" he asks cheeky, bottle in hand.

Snickering at the dumbstruck look on Arthur's face, Merlin crawls in between his legs.

Merlin's fingers peels away the boxers, helping Arthur's very blood-dark cock spring free. "This won't do," he says.

Quickly, Merlin sheds the boxers off completely, leaning back in his kneel. He returns to Arthur's space, smoothing his hands up the tops of Arthur's legs, fingering the soft gold hairs there. Arthur shifts one of his knees closer to open up and pierces Merlin's eyes with a hot stare.

Merlin's thumbs purposely rub circles to the insides of Arthur's thigh, feeling those muscles shudder. He wants his partner completely relaxed before going further, but Arthur isn't having any of it, popping off the cap of the lubricant bottle and slicking Merlin's hand.

"So impatient, clotpole," he mutters, but tilts his head down, sucking a hard, biting kiss to Arthur's naked thigh.

A dripping forefinger runs along the cleft of Arthur's bum, seeking out the heat of it, dimpling the hole and screwing in to the knuckle with little trouble. "Relax," Merlin shushes the little whimper, reaching for Arthur's cock with his other hand, teasing back the glistening foreskin.

He clenches down on Merlin's fingers— three now, god, does he like to test his patience. But, Arthur doesn't complain aloud.

He wishes to use him to his own devices in the moment, groaning and whining and rocking into the fingers in his arse, and that suits Merlin fine. The view itself is lovely, let alone the sensation of Arthur's wet muscles clenching around him, wanting.

"Lay back now." Arthur wrestles back the lubricant once again, squirting a handful of it.

Merlin does as bid, laughing as Arthur nudges him on his back with one hand, arranging himself comfortably as the other man straddles heavily above him. He bites down his bottom lip, smiling as Arthur pumps his cock roughly, positioning with the aid of Merlin's hand.

It doesn't take a quick push to settle them, but several deep breathes from Arthur and the use of gravity, sliding him down eventually. Merlin chokes in a breath, sucking air through his teeth. "Fuck, that's good," he moans, grinding until he feels hot skin pressed to his balls.

Arthur is all heat and tightness inside.

"Tell me how it is," Merlin encourages, finding the willpower to not thrust up too soon, fingers and hands rubbing at Arthur's clothed sides, tracing along his back.

"So fucking full," he answers, with Arthur's eyes shut, a little tense with the effort of waiting for his body to adjust. "But good." Arthur has Merlin scoot down so he could just rock back and forth on his lap, gently thrusting himself on Merlin's cock.

The sounds of their skin touching and Arthur's agitated breath fill the room as he rides Merlin. He focuses so much at the task at hand before noticing Merlin's smirk.

"Are you laughing at me, you tosspot?" He tries his best at sounding annoyed, but Arthur fails at keeping his own smile at bay. Merlin could always tell when he was bluffing anyway. "I do something nice for your prick, but you don't appreciate it."

Merlin's hands curl to the backs of Arthur's thighs, palming them and concentrating on sensation, of Arthur clenching up his muscles and bucking down against him, eyeing his partner.

His gut swoops up pleasantly, emotion and lust and damn near everything muddling him up and spinning Merlin's thoughts.

He let his head fall flat, falling in rhythm to Arthur's quickening breath. Merlin chokes out a laugh, pinching Arthur's hip lightly when Arthur's teeth nibble on his earlobe.

"You're a spoiled brat, on top of being a prat. You want everything now, now, now," Merlin announces, barely able to keep from snickering while also not melting into the bliss of his partner's heat. He fucks their hips up together, with a better chance of his cock knocking against the prostate in Arthur.

But after another moment, Merlin groans and tries to slow him, help Arthur straighten up, hands cupping the warmth of Arthur's large belly.

"No, you're going to tire yourself out like this," he says, brows furrowing.

"Well, look at you, someone finally taught you manners," Arthur teases.

He strops moving for a moment, their foreheads touching.

They couldn't help themselves when they had sex, between kisses, bites and rolling around and out of bed (or wherever they found themselves) Merlin ended looking obscene with his red, puffy lips and wet all over from sweat and their come. They're halfway there, Arthur realises, a devilish gleam to his eyes.

"Someone has to have them," Merlin mutters to himself, but it was not unkind. Of course he considers Arthur's pregnancy in this. Sex is as comfortable as they both allow it to be. Not that they can have it much longer.

Merlin sighs out, throwing his head back and refuses to call it a gasp, as Arthur pulls off him, his cock engorged and darkly colored.

Arthur rucks off his own shirt, grunting and arranging himself towards the end of the couch. He's a vision like this, cranky but even-tempered, gold skin with a pink flush, shining with perspiration.

Now grinning widely, Merlin plasters himself to Arthur's bare back, feeling all of those hard-earned muscles and tendons. He nudges his cock between Arthur's buttocks, slippery wet.

"Is that an invitation," he murmurs, opening his red-swollen mouth to the nape of Arthur's neck, grazing his teeth there. Merlin's fingers joining his cock, rubbing the now tight furl of Arthur's stretched hole before trailing a path to sensitive bollocks.

Merlin grins again, enjoying Arthur's low groans. "Oh, yeh, I think it is…"

He slicks himself and positions, easing back to Arthur's hole until it dimples and give.

Arthur's legs relax and he let himself lean back fully on Merlin's chest. His heart pounds against him, going so fast he could almost hear the thumping.

He separates his legs, waiting for Merlin to slide deeper into him. Arthur's own cock swollen and dripping precum. He strokes himself, pulling desperately as Merlin sets the pace into his arse, his empty hand grasping the back of Merlin's neck, pushing them closer.

Merlin shivers at the broken moan from his partner, thrusting in to the hilt, savoring the bare, hot sensation of flesh sinking into flesh.

They rarely fuck like this without a condom for the sake of easier clean-up, but Merlin's head is so fuzzy, so completely enthralled with the other man that this slip-up can be excused. He wouldn't come inside Arthur without a say-so anyway… hopefully. Probably. Oh hell.

Arthur's weight against him, and Merlin bravely keeps them both up, a hand to Arthur's hip, driving in with a slow measure before picking up a clumsy, needy rhythm, fucking up into the other man.

"Arthur, oh fuck," Merlin whines out, feeling inner muscles tighten deliciously in response around his cock, dragging his mouth and nose against Arthur's shoulder in an open kiss.

It's a bit like heaven and a stark feeling of torment. He puffs out a warm gust of breath to Arthur's neck, smirking and dropping a hand over Arthur's chest. Fondling a dark, tight nipple. Merlin cups one of his breasts, a little heavier and pliant than it normally would be, massaging the same nipple between his fingers.

It tightens under Merlin's fingertips, hot and damp with sweat. If Arthur was facing him, Merlin would have dipped his head down, sucked his lips against the areola and tonguing his nipple. He's perfect like this, responsive, and clenching around Merlin.

Merlin loves watching Arthur lose himself to the brink of pleasure, too incoherent to speak, too pliant to stiffen against it. No more sarcasm between them and harsh words flung around, just little gasps passing ruddy-colored lips.

He buries his face back into Arthur's neck, sliding his opened mouth under one of Arthur's ears, nipping down just beneath the earlobe. Feeling Arthur groan against him, babbling, taking what Merlin gave.

"I know, I know," Merlin whispers, wrapping a loose hand to Arthur's cock and letting him pump into it, more than eager to provide.

"Come on, Arthur," he says, driving into the heat of Arthur's body. "For me."

The hand on his cock grips, sliding while Arthur does his best to push up into it. He leaks from the tip, wetting the knuckles that brushed him, under his bump. It isn't release—it's like his body is on fire.

"Shit, right th—" His orgasm silences him.

Hotness spreading from Arthur's lower abdomen to the tip of his toes. He lets his body relax, his mouth open, and with the little concentration left—he reaches down, where Merlin is fully inside him, trying to press him even closer.

He holds Arthur's hip in place, pounding deeper, faster. Going in semi-circular thrusts and managing to brush right into Arthur's prostate.

The rasp in Arthur's voice, how soft noises draw from him, and the pressing of their bodies is what he needs. And needs to release that selfish feeling, share in the warmth and love he has for his partner. Something achingly familiar and carnal.

Merlin knows Arthur's orgasm is here before Merlin's hand slickens with come, a shiver-pulse of the cock pushing in his curled palm, how Arthur tightens minutely, drops his head back.

He eases Arthur through it, moaning when fingers seize and massage his bollocks and Merlin is immediately done for.

"Arthur, god—"

The lingering memory of no condom between them blisses out to grey thought as Merlin spends inside him, teeth scraping Arthur's shoulder, one hand gripping Arthur's hip, and the other touching Arthur's prominent belly. Wanting more of him. Always wanting more.

Thankfully, Arthur makes no displeased expression or noise as they shift together, flushes cooling, their hands sticky, and panting roughly. Arthur's muscles keep their relaxed state even as Merlin's orgasm tapers off, as his thrusts become more shallow, slowed down.

Merlin swipes the flat of his tongue against the new, reddened marks to the top of Arthur's shoulder. As if offering an unspoken apology.

He should have felt tired, ready to pull Arthur over him and cuddle down, murmuring fond words and kissing Arthur's face repeatedly. But those last bursts of energy keep them both upright, Merlin deep in him.

"Was a good one… wasn't it?" slurs from the other man.

Arthur's hand locking in dark, tousled hair urges Merlin forward, brings their mouths together and Merlin groans happily. He smiles big against Arthur's swollen lips, caressing the bump with his hand. Reveling in the sensation of all that warm and naked skin.

"Yes," he agrees, giving a breathy laugh. "Bloody good, in fact."

Merlin nuzzles the cheek in his reach, pressing his nose to Arthur's jaw. "Though," he says, smiling bigger, pressing closer and nudging slightly. "Nothing really compares to the night you conceived." Merlin lets a growl escape him. "I remember my arse plugged with so much come I could taste you on the back of my throat."

Arthur groans at that.

"You're a devil."

.

.

The morning sun filters in thinly under the curtains.

Lucky enough to not wake with it blazing against his eyelids, Merlin comes to.

He sucks in a quiet breath, turning his head to see his partner facing the opposite direction, curled up to himself. That won't do. Merlin observes his surroundings and rolls completely, burrowing up to Arthur.

Groaning softly, Merlin stretches out an arm, over the roundness of naked, warm belly and flattens his palm to its curve.

Eight months. Eight months watching their child grow in Arthur, and as nerve-wrecking as it feels it can be at times, it's wonderful. This man in front of him, dozing soundly, full and gorgeous and stubborn is wonderful.

Merlin grins a little to himself, pressing his mouth to Arthur's flaxen, sweet-smelling hair. He traces his thumb gently against Arthur's prominent stomach, reveling in the comfortable silence before kissing a golden shoulder.

No fluttering movements push to Merlin's open hand, meaning the baby is still fast asleep. Arthur, however, is regaining conscious, nudging back into Merlin's chest and a flurry of pleasant warmth spread in Merlin.

"Oi, lazy daisy," Merlin whispers, head dipped and lips touching neck, dark fringe nuzzling Arthur's skin. "We've got a party today."

Arthur rumbles out a disgruntled noise.

"Go away," he mumbles, pulling the blanket over his head.

He doesn't take offense in Arthur's further cranky noises, or in Merlin's arm being pitched back in favor of burrowing down more into the mattress.

Merlin laughs at the grumpy mumbling remark, getting up on an elbow. He yanks the blanket down without much trouble, exposing Arthur's face and a shoulder. Merlin leans down to smack a wet, loud kiss to Arthur's cheek, maybe just to spite him.

"I think you said that on our first date," he recalls, brushing fingers to yellow hair. "Before upending the entire pitcher of iced water on my head."

"Ugh," Arthur complains softly to the kiss, which leaves his cheek moist and cool to the morning air. "You looked terrible and in need of a shower, if I had a say in that. Now let me sleep."

That's when his alarm starts ringing a hateful sound.

He whines deeply and moves away from his side to hug himself to Merlin's body, pressing his face in his neck. "M'rrlin, please make it stop."

"Your parents are going to be here in an hour," Merlin tells him, glancing over at the shrill alarm.

He grunts, punching the top button to shut it off. Staying in bed does have its appeal, as Arthur's mouth finds a path against Merlin's throat, sucking lazy, tiny marks right under his ear. Merlin shudders a little, toes curling in, and holds the side of Arthur's face.

"Your daughter is hungry."

Merlin's smile widens, revealing a teasing nature.

"Alrighty then," he whispers again, kissing Arthur's temple gently. "What does my daughter want for breakfast, hmm?"

Merlin watches with some fondness, head cushioned to his pillow, fingers loosely gripping the side of Arthur's thigh. Knowing Arthur he would want something ridiculously elaborate requiring extra ingredients and Merlin was daft enough in love to bloody run out and grab what was needed so early in the morning.

Arthur's large, swollen hands finger at his bump, as if it helps him think. Merlin's lips twitches up. Cabbagehead.

"Hmm." His hands went to his enormous belly, rubbing it from the hard top to his soft sides. "Eggs and brown bread. With strawberries on the side. Mmmm. Tea would be nice, too."

To Merlin's surprise, the request is fairly reasonable. They have sliced strawberries in the freezer and bread newly bought in the pantry.

He studies the look on Merlin's face. Most of their sleep-ins are just like this, snuggling under the covers, maybe fooling around, and then Merlin would be eager to take care of him no matter what. Arthur hardly believes the man exists in his life.

"I love you, have I told you?" he murmurs.

Arthur's eyes soften on him, his compliment sincere, and Merlin hums appreciatively, nodding.

"It couldn't hurt for you to mention it more often," he says offhandedly, eyes looking away, but grinning.

.

.

Leaving Arthur to step out for a bath, or a long, hot shower depending on his mood and how achy he feels that day, Merlin grabs a dark-colored shirt from one of the drawers and his thickly woven, burgundy jumper.

He discovers a pair of jeans lying about and sniffs them cautiously. They smell clean. That's good enough, right?

Merlin hike them on, checking twice if he zipped the fly (just in case), and head for the kitchen. By the time Merlin has their plates of toast cooked, and Arthur's strawberries and his fresh pot of cream and powdered sugar out, Arthur is mostly dry and sitting in a kitchen chair.

Smiling fondly, Merlin places his hands on the back of Arthur's chair, leaning over and pressing a quick kiss to Arthur's damp, soft temple.

"Morning. Hope you enjoy," he mumbles to Arthur's skin.

The outdoor buzzer goes off. Furrowing his brows, Merlin leaves the table for the intercom near the door. Pressing the receiving button, he responds, "Hello?"

Silence.

"Hello?"

After more disturbing silence, Merlin lets go of the button and then jumps back as their flat-door is thrown open ceremoniously. "Arthur, darling!" comes a sweet, lithe female voice and Merlin all gets is a glimpse of bouncing blond curls before the person vanishes into the kitchen.

Merlin remains standing where he is as Uther appears, shutting the door behind him. His eyes zero in on Merlin as he senses a mildly disapproving look.

"Am I led to believe you don't lock your doors?"

Merlin's mouth drops. Before he summons up a reasonable excuse, Uther shakes his head, as if not wanting to hear it.

He follows after his wife.

Merlin gives a tight inhale, drumming his fingers to his thighs. He isn't thrilled about having the baby shower at the Pendragon estate, but… he's led to believe it's a small get-together. Less pressure that way.

Even if Uther Pendragon does make his hacks go up. As long as no one started on about Parliament or the treatment of the lower class…

He wanders back to the kitchen, seeing Uther's wife flit around, touching Arthur's shoulder and then his arm, giving him big, motherly smiles.

Merlin's lips tilt up, and this time he doesn't mind the dull ache in his heart.

.

.

As the morning goes on, Merlin's soft kiss wipes some of his grumpiness off.

The buzzer startles him. Arthur's eyes glances quickly to his phone to check the time and— yes, it;s well past time. He chews faster.

He's nearly through breakfast, when his mother appears, hugging her arm round him and kissing his face—on his temple, right where Merlin had a moment ago. "Good morning, love. How's been morning for you?" Her voice soft and caring as she rubs his arm.

"Hello, Mother," Arthur replies, kissing her perfumed cheek. "I wish I didn't had to change every week with the way she grows, but it appears I don't have a say in that." He does right mentioning her future granddaughter, as Ygraine coos at both of them.

Uther steps in, touching his wife's shoulder. "How are you feeling?" he asks Arthur, giving a dry, but warm, kiss to Arthur's right cheek.

"I'm alright, Father." Arthur smiles a little, as Uther's wrinkles fade and his own mouth relaxes into a more pleasant look.

"You just have to bear with the changes a little time more, darling. Have you been drinking enough water? Let me get you water." Ygraine bustles around, pawing through the cupboards searching for glasses.

"Mother, I have tea. See?" Arthur holds his mug.

"Well, the doctors say it won't hurt to have more water." She sets her attention on Merlin, her thin, pale face affectionate. "How has Arthur been treating you, Merlin? Are you doing alright?"

Merlin decides on a seat by Arthur, and glances up confused.

He gives a small laugh as Arthur's eyes darts to him. "I'm… fantastic," he answers, trying to sound as honest as possible. "Just can't believe the pregnancy's almost over." Ygraine beams at him, handing Arthur water.

"You'll miss the peace and silence when your little one is born, trust me, dear." Ygraine's fingers combs through Arthur's hair absently.

Uther clears his throat. "Are we ready to depart?" he asks coolly.

Merlin smacks his hands down on the table, nearly slapping his forehead. Guh. He nearly forgot the emergency overnight supplies. "Yes, yes, uh. I'll just..." Merlin leaves the table, heading for the bedroom to grab their things.

Arthur's parents probably hired a full catering service for the party but, for Arthur, Merlin's breakfast always wins. He drinks all his tea under his mother's eager stare, and starts to get up. "We should get going now, then. Is everything ready at home?"

"Oh, Tristan and Isolde arrived early to set their tables up and start with the baking; don't worry, I told them all your favourites. And Vivian brought such wonderful fabrics to decorate the living room! I can't wait to show you the souvenirs from Venice. " She grasps his hand in hers, helping him stand. "You will love it, I'm sure."

Arthur smiles at her enthusiasm. "I'm sure I will, Mum."

Merlin returns with their bags, goofy smile in place.

They board into Uther's car, with properly heated seats ("For Arthur, dear," Ygraine says, informatively.)

In the backseat, Merlin sinks in the cozy, expensive leather and rummages through one bag in his lap. Within, a thin, black flip-book of phone contacts, blankets, some of their clothes as well as the overnight pajamas, vitamins, Arthur's 3DS...

"Are you ready?"

He chuckles, nudging their hands together and cupping them.

"Ready for what? It's a party." Merlin snorts offhandedly. The car moves smoothly through traffic, heading right out of the city limits.

He eyes Arthur's parents up front, distracted by their own conversation. Merlin lowers his voice, knees pressed together and fixes Arthur with a semi-concerned look, "I didn't want to mention it with your Mum listening and get her fussing, but last night you were having some of the false contractions." Merlin's thumb strokes Arthur's hand without a specific pattern. "How are you feeling now?"'

"I haven't felt any since I woke up." Arthur leans into Merlin, getting comfortable for the rest of the ride, two hours at the most. "But if I do, you'll be the first to know…" Arthur arranges Merlin's limbs to his liking and closes his eyes.

"Good," Merlin murmurs to him, letting Arthur shift him around. He wraps an arm comfortably to his partner, feeling his head drop to him.

He's certain Arthur nodded for a little while. Merlin sneaks a kiss to Arthur's scalp, taking a deep breath of him and doesn't notice Uther staring a moment from the rearview mirror, features smiling.

Once the car rolls to a stop, Merlin grabs onto the bags, waiting for Arthur to climb out first, and thankful for Ygraine being there, putting a hand on his back to support him.

As mother and son walk ahead of everyone else, the other man halts to gaze down the cobblestone walkway. It never fails to greatly intimidate him— how vast and posh Arthur's childhood home is. Impeccable paint, lustered wood, trimmed lawns and bushes. Even more beautiful is the flower gardens, splashing color among the greenery.

"Are those new fences, Mother?"

"Yes! Aren't they just perfect? The gardeners worked on the backyard too, to get ready for the party, and more trees will be planted. Enough shade our little Reaghan to play under when you visit." Ygraine beams, squeezing Arthur's forearm. "You must to see the gift table, darling! It's adorable. I hope Vivian is still around— she's been dying to meet you."

She leads them through the entrance hall, where she points out a "Welcome!" poster, and open the twin, white doors to the living parlor. Decorations hanging from the ceiling, fresh flowers, white roses and white grandifloras as table centerpieces.

Merlin steps inside, avoiding a crash course with two women carrying entrees and what looked like a tier-stand of daisy cupcakes, and gapes.

"Bloody hell," he whispers, eyes round. Merlin joins Arthur's side, neck craning as he stares up and down and back to the ceiling, dropping the bags with multiple thuds. "Your mum doesn't waste time, does she?…"

"There used to be birthday photo-books." he replies, amused by Merlin's expression. "But don't let her show you. You'll never hear the end of it." Also, Ygraine would have no problems with presenting the unflattering photos of him. He was her little baby in all of them, apparently.

Merlin's grin widens almost manically at the thought of embarrassing baby photos. Oh, he knows how he's spending the majority of the night.

"No, of course not," he says, trying not to snicker in Arthur's face. And then his bladder cramps up.

Damn, Merlin forgot to use the bathroom before the ride. And god forbid he decides to stroll around aimlessly.

Merlin turns to ask Arthur where the nearest loo is and then glimpses a very petite, young woman interrupt, almost colliding into Arthur. Even a foot further away than Arthur, Merlin's nostrils are assaulted by a strong, flowery perfume. Merlin reins in the urge to cover his face. The woman has a high voice. Very high. Very girlish. Oh dear.

She seems rather interested in speaking with Arthur.

At any other point in time, he may have let Arthur try to stumble his way out of an overly flirtatious man or woman— who looked like if they had a spoon in hand, would eat Arthur up, often settling for eyefucking instead— except Arthur starts to look a little nauseous on top of anxious and Merlin truthfully does not enjoy having her crowding Arthur and their baby.

"Oh! You must be Ygraine's handsome son. My name is Vivian de Nor; your lady mother hired me to be your designer. I've heard so much about you." She bats her eyelashes at Arthur, clasping her little hands in front of herself.

"It's… a pleasure to make your acquaintance," he finally says, holding out his hand. Vivian's grip is astonishingly firm. "This is my partner, Merlin."

"Nice to meet you as well, Vivian," Merlin says, mustering a cheerful smile.

She huffs. "I don't recall giving you any welcome," Vivian mutters.

Merlin bares his teeth slightly, smile never wavering, but turning to malice.

"Perhaps you should reconsider," he quips back, meeting Arthur's eye.

Merlin's hand rises, touching the nape of Arthur's neck, pulling him in for short closemouthed kiss. His other hand grasping Arthur's hip loosely. "Help me find the loo," he says to Arthur, keeping his tone a soft command.

Arthur's hand throbs with the scratch Vivian leaves as they disengage hands. He retreats with Merlin. They wander through the corridor, deeper into the manor, far away from all the decorators, caterers, waiters and cleaners parading around.

"Thank god that's over," he breathes, kissing Merlin's lips once. Arthur's thumb grazes cheekbone.

At the risk of sounding like a complete clod, Merlin keeps his lips sealed of the fact he actually doesn't know where the loo is… but if he distracts himself long enough, Merlin could possibly figure it out.

For a moment happy with Arthur's sudden affection, he gives a thrilled sound into the kiss, cradling his hands to the round sides of Arthur's belly. "Don't mention it. I was going to tell her to bugger off, but it didn't sound quite as polite in my head," Merlin admits with a smile, nudging their foreheads together.

From around the corner, Arthur's mother appears with Uther carrying their bags, directing him.

"Place them over Arthur's desk— Oh, Arthur! I've been looking for you. Are you alright with sleeping in the guest room down here? I would have prepared your own room but I don't want you walking up stairs in your state, dear," she fusses. "Don't want you getting tired."

Arthur nods, rubbing his lower back. His feet and lower back ache. "Yes, I'll rest until the guests start showing up."

.

.

When Ygraine walks up, chatting about their guest room arrangements, Merlin takes a step back from Arthur's space, letting go of him. "And of course Merlin will be fine with the guest room, won't you, dear?" she chirps.

"Thank you for allowing us to stay," Merlin says, remembering his manners.

"Such a good boy. My son is very lucky, isn't he?" Ygraine touches his cheek, the same Arthur had, running the backs of sweet lotion-smelling fingers there. To Arthur's amusement, he's sure, Merlin's cheeks redden.

At the mention of Arthur resting, she agrees. "I'll have one of the maids bring you a little something in an hour. Your darling husband," Ygraine says with a mischievous look, hooking her arm through Merlin's arm, "can come with me and help with the rest of the preparations while you rest."

Merlin glances over Arthur, eyes unsure, frowning. He leans in to the other man, not breaking Ygraine's hold on his arm. "I don't feel good about leaving you since…" Merlin jerks his head back to the parlor.

"Don't worry, I'll message you if I need anything."

Arthur doesn't look remotely phased, maybe a little tired, and Merlin heaves out a sigh.

"If you need anything, or the false contractions start again, let me know," he murmurs, quickly pressing a chaste kiss to Arthur's. "I'll be there." Merlin's fingers curls to the side of Arthur's jaw.

Ygraine's grasp on Merlin's arm tightens, pulling him away.

"Get some rest for the party tonight, love," she calls back to Arthur, happily.

Ygraine then gazes at Merlin, patting his arm.

"You look worried."

"M'not." He smiles back. Ygraine walks him back to the living parlor. As they pass various interior decorators and what looked like garden landscapers, she stops them, picking up a conversation with someone else.

Merlin frowns down at his vibrating pocket. He unlocks his mobile face.

I'll make it worth your while if you tell me what it is.

Arthur's text implies something about a gift for the baby shower, he supposes. The content of it? Perhaps Ygraine or a guest has something extra planned. Also, he's plenty sure Arthur is offering sexual favours to his own husband in exchange for information.

What sort of insinuation are you making?

Merlin snickers to himself, pressing down SEND.

.

.

Arthur waits for his response, lounging on the guest bed, fooling around in his mobile.

It's become one of his favourite objects these days, keeping him entertained while unable to get around and with the added perk of bullying Merlin even when they weren't nearby. Or ordering food while Merlin was outside the flat. Or to make Merlin blush with a single text. A picture, if he feels bold that day.

The replied message pops up and Arthur laughs. Merlin likes to play the idiot on him.

Arthur evaluates his choices. With a little effort he realises that, no, he can't really bend over and take a picture. A nude right now is risky, as his mother would be glued to Merlin for some time— nevermind how inappropriate.

He settles for pursing his lips to the camera in what Merlin has deemed his 'cute pouting', taking the photo of his best angle. You can have these, he messages.

.

.

Within another few minutes, Merlin's smartphone vibrates again.

He looks away, arm free of Ygraine beginning to argue loudly in French with one of the decorators waving in the direction of a ceiling buttresses, also gabbing away in French. Doesn't matter. He isn't fluent.

Merlin grins widely (and lovestruck) at the quite adorable selfie. But not about to let Arthur win him over that easily, he furiously texts back.

hmm those ducklips are awfully tempting

Enough compliment, enough snark. And enough to likely annoy him.

He catches himself snickering again at his phone before Merlin notices the silence. Ygraine eyes him, pale arms folded, with a tiny, humored smile.

"Is that Arthur, dear?" she asks.

Merlin flubs, cheeks going red. "Yeah. Yeah, he's just being a pr—" His voice dies. Shit. No cursing nicknames in front of the in-laws. "Being him," Merlin inserts quickly, pretending to look overly concerned. "I think Arthur may be hungry. Did you say you were sending him lunch?"

"I'll have our butler George send him up a little something." Ygraine gestures him back to her, touching his shoulder and leading him. "In the meantime... I'd like your opinion on a very serious matter."

Merlin frowns. "Serious?"

She nods primly. "Concerning a gift I registered for. I want your help in making a decision." Ygraine snaps her fingers and a young, straight-faced man marches in from another corridor, as if on cue.

He presents her with a portfolio, bowing.

"Thank you, George. Would you mind fetching my son some of the catering for lunch? He's resting in his guest room." Ygraine says thoughtfully, poising her hands together delicately. "Something easy on the stomach. I have a list of approved dishes on the kitchen chart—oh, you'll think of something!"

As George walks away, bowing again and so straight-faced it freaks Merlin out, she taps Merlin's arm to get his attention.

"Yes, I had some of my personal decor homescapers dream these up."

Merlin peeks into the contents of the portfolio, eyes getting bigger and bigger. Ygraine smiles pleasantly. "I want you to pick one for the baby's nursery and for the playroom—don't even think about turning down my offer, Merlin," she says firmly, and Merlin's mouth clamps shut.

"This is for my granddaughter and my son, and you," Ygraine says, squeezing Merlin's hand kindly. "I miss Hunith, too. She was a beautiful woman. You know, she could speak of nothing else but of you."

Merlin nods, throat clenching, eyes suspiciously bright.

"Go on," she encourages, handing him the designs. He flips the pages.

The one in soft colors and oak furnishings catches Merlin's eye. "This one," he says, and she accepts it from him. "And this one for the other room."

"Thank you, Merlin." Ygraine kisses his cheeks lightly.

"Thank you, this. This is… amazing, thank you," Merlin repeats, kissing her cheeks back perfunctory.

.

.

A knock sounds at the door and Arthur's stomach protests. He's getting impatient enough that he doesn't care about responding to Merlin's cheeky text, so the timing's perfect. "Come in!" he indicates to the person behind the door.

George, one of the servers in Pendragon Manor, stepped in with a waiter-tray, his face vacant with dedication to his servant role.

"Good afternoon, Master Pendragon!"

His hold on the tray doesn't tremble as he bows to Arthur, who admittedly is wearing baggy joggings for bed and with his blond, messy hair all over the place.

"I've been sent to you with your lunch." A little folding table set next to his side of the bed, where George perches his steaming plate of the thickened vegetable soup and pecan-topped pumpkin bread—one of his favorites of the cook.

"Thank you, George. You may leave now," he says, coolly. Knowing George fairly well, Arthur wants him out of his hair as soon as possible.

"Oh, but let me help you!" A little, excited grin creeps over George's face. He maneuvers around Arthur to fluff his pillows, unfold his napkin and even pick up the soup spoon.

"That won't be necessary," Arthur says, less politely as the servant stirs the bowl's contents. "I can certainly feed myself."

"Ma'am ordered for you not to make any effort today, sir. You must be exhausted in your state—oh goodness, I forgot the vitamins."

As George peruses in his pockets, Arthur hurriedly sends a text.

help george is here :(

.

.

"Enjoy this, Merlin. Help yourself to whatever you like," Ygraine tells him, waving to Uther who vied for her attention, talking to a chef and a decorator. He gets a moment to finally locate the loo. On his way out, he pulls out his mobile.

Instead of another silly text and exaggerated pose from Arthur, it's a plea.

Help? The upside-down smiley face means Arthur is exaggerating any real danger, but he's also very pregnant right now and after Vivian's unpleasantness, Merlin isn't so keen of letting other people harass Arthur.

He remembers Arthur telling him which hallway is to the bedroom and avoids several collisions with frustrated workers and a maid.

"Arthur?" Merlin gently raps his knuckles on the door, twisting the knob.

George sits next to Arthur, rummaging with a vitamin bottle cheerfully. A folding table of soup and other healthy foods arranged by the bed.

The servant looks up, blinking owlishly. "Who might you be?" he asks.

Merlin opens his mouth, eyebrows tilted up. Wooow, he really is invisible to everyone here. "Arthur's husband. I came to… check on him."

Arthur points daggers with his eyes at the back of George's head.

"Oh, yes, do forgive me," George says, dismissively. He cradles the bowl of soup in his hands, blowing the steam off. "Did Mrs. Pendragon send you?"

"I sent myself," Merlin says, bluntly.

But clearly Arthur is alright and safe from any harm, as he stands there examining the other man. He has to bite down a laugh as George lifts the spoon near Arthur's lips. "You must eat, sir," he says to Arthur, gently chiding.

"He likes a lullaby to calm him down before you try that," Merlin speaks up, choking slightly to contain more laughter as Arthur glares outright.

"You're not getting away from this," Arthur mumbles in the general direction of Merlin while pulling away from George's hands, which attempt to tuck a napkin round his neck while he hums in a particularly insufferable way.

It's time for a different approach.

"My partner can take over, George,. I'm sure there are more important tasks at hand, with the preparations and all."

"But Ma'am ordered—"

"I'm sure, George, that she trusted you. But the affair going on is a more important job than feeding me. Merlin will do fine, I can assure you. He does it all the time, actually." It's a lie, but, fuck-all.

That is priceless. Arthur looks like if he could, he would mentally stab everyone else in the room—or if Merlin got near enough to that cutlery knife.

"I do," Merlin answers Arthur's somewhat desperate last statement. He keeps from bursting out laughing at Arthur's silent glare. "Very often. He quite likes it when getting spoiled."

Which is absolutely true. Arthur can be as spoiled and as pampered as they come, but he had enough sensibility and humility to rein it in.

Merlin's fingers pluck up the spoon from George's hand.

"Off you pop," he says cheerfully, watching the other man nod, eyeing suspiciously between them and then briskly walking out of the bedroom.

"If you shall need anything—"

"We won't, promise," Merlin replies, grinning at George's back. He plops down on the edge of the mattress, nearly kneeing into the lunch tray.

"That was not helping, dear," Arthur growls, as soon as George shuts the door. He remember his discomfort, feeling the baby moving around. A hand lands on his belly, holding himself. "I need to sit up."

"Oi, stop fussing and eat," Merlin says, feigning his own look of annoyance.

He gets Arthur to straighten up to the pillows, despite his heavy, pregnant belly. He hands Arthur the soup, wrinkling his nose at the size of the utensil—really? How in the world do they get a decent meal from that? Arthur must be out of practice because he dribbles a little over his chin and Merlin snorts fondly, dabbing it away with the slide of his thumb.

"What was that about, then," Arthur says, curiously. "I bet you already know all about what my mother's planning."

"No idea what you're talking about," he answers, neutrally. Arthur isn't getting a bloody thing out of him.

"You definitely know, you blighter." Arthur shoves his leg at him. "I have my ways to get you, you know."

"Get that away," Merlin groans, knocking away Arthur's foot, laughing. "I hope it doesn't involve a foot fetish, because I'm not—"

The phone ringing cuts him off. He arranges himself, facing his back to Arthur and sneaking some of the tastier items off Arthur's lunch plate. When he hears Arthur speak, Merlin turns back around, raising an eyebrow.

"Hello?"

"Arthur, darling, one of your friends arrived. Why don't you get ready while I show her around the manor? And, by the way, have you seen Merlin? I seem to have lost him a while ago…" Ygraine tells him, disappointed.

"I'll head down, Mother. Don't worry about Merlin… he will turn up sooner or later."

"Lying to your mum?" he asks, watching Arthur turn off his mobile. "I wouldn't dream of that. She's the one who keeps your father in line, and your father…" Merlin makes an aggravated scared face, popping another red grape in his mouth and chewing slowly.

"You were the one who escaped her. I prefer to be neutral here; I'm only having my lunch, not being disturbed by anything," Arthur comments. "We should get going. Someone here already and she'll will be waiting for me for the photographer."

Merlin quirks an eyebrow. Photographer? Of course. Rich people.

"Neutral, right," he says, eyeing Arthur skeptically. Merlin waits until Arthur finishes the rest of his soup to mock-offer an arm, grinning like an idiot.

"Should I escort you to your mum?" he asks.

"Shut up, Merlin," Arthur says patiently, grabbing his arm. The formal clothes they discover in the closet, and help each other pick them out. Simple button-ups and dress pants, with nicer-looking flat shoes than Merlin owns.

He sees Arthur weave his way from the bed to the loo, well—it's a kinder word for an extremely pregnant man getting around.

But Arthur is his pregnant man, anyway.

Merlin wrinkles his nose as Arthur's wet fingers comb his hair. "It won't stay, y'know," he says, offhandedly. Unruly, curly hair could be such a pain.

"At least try to look presentable, Merlin."

But then the same fingers drag over Merlin's shoulders, over his front and his sides, like a warm, purposeful sensation, and Arthur is talking some kind of nonsense but Merlin doesn't really care about that right now.

"Mhm," Merlin groans back at him, eyes lidding. He smooths his hands over Arthur's collarbones, leaning in for a clumsy kiss. Merlin flicks his tongue across the seam of Arthur's lips, faintly tasting the strawberries from Arthur's fruit bowl.

"Whatever you say," he mumbles, breathing against Arthur's mouth.

.

.

Back into the corridor, there's soft music in the background.

"I was just about to get you!" Ygraine motions them over, clasping Arthur's hand. She's shimmery diamond-like colors with tousled blond curls. Her features so young. "How was your nap, Arthur?"

"Could have done without George, you know." It isn't an unusual thing for him to complain about. She chuckles.

"Oh, but he adores you, really. Are you both ready to get in?"

Merlin gapes up at the elaborate decorations and floral centerpieces.

"Bloody…" he trails off, wide-eyed and head tilted. This is nothing like Will's cheap bold-print banners and papery streamers half-rolled about.

The salon opens its doors to the gardens and terraces, and Merlin is sure he had seen some roaming animals among the guests.

Arthur leads him to one of the ornate tables where the appetizers and more polished centerpieces are, gleaming in the sunshine.

As soon as they are in, measuring the amount of guests, Arthur can tell it would be a busy event. Not only a couple of his personal friends are invited, no. That would be too easy. But not all of them were strangers and Arthur knows greeting everybody will take forever.

Merlin's here, at least.

"Arthur, look at how big you've gotten!" Isolde, his uncle's wife and partner for years. She currently wears her caterer uniform (a formality, since she's as much of a guest as anyone). She seems overjoyed as she fusses over Arthur, touching his huge stomach and kissing his cheeks and complimenting how 'radiant' he looks before other people approach him.

Next is Uncle Agravaine and his latest girlfriend Catrina, both looking as pleased to be there as much as they would love being struck dead by in slow traffic, or something along those lines.

"I'm glad you could make it to London, Uncle, Catrina," Arthur greets them, remembering they were visiting the States only a week ago.

"It was an dreadful flight," Catrina says, rolling her eyes with a big, dramatic sigh. "You don't want to know what a eleven hour flight can do to your back."

Nor would you a nearing nine-month pregnancy can do yours, Arthur retorts, privately. It's going to be a long several minutes.

.

.

Merlin eyes one of the bell jar vases containing what looked like upright vines before someone tugs on the hem of his sleeve. "What?" he snaps, turning. Merlin grins suddenly, beaming, "Morgana!"

She pats his shoulder. "It's good to see you too, Merlin," she answers, a little smile quirking her lips. "How are you, love?"

"I'm doing brilliant," Merlin says, glancing over at where Arthur's busy talking to his uncle annoyed. "It's been hectic since the day's started."

"I expect so," she says, primly. Morgana's eyes look up at the elaborate decorations with approval.

"Where's Mordred?"

"With his daddy for the afternoon. It's just me."

Merlin chuckles, feeling a little warmth at the thought of the little boy that practically worshiped Arthur. "It's good to have a familiar face," he admits, watching Morgana peer back at him.

"Oh, Merlin. You couldn't possibly be intimidated by all this…

He simpers. Morgana tuts, fingers squeezing his shoulder.

.

.

"… and he expected me to tip him. Ha!" Catrina prattles on and stuffs her face with macaroons.

He's getting ready to politely excuse himself out of this. Arthur already feels so drained between her talking and his uncle's intense staring.

"I can't imagine, Catrina." It's the scripted default response to everything she has said, and he backs away from the couple. "If you excuse me, I should sit for a moment. The doctors informed me not to be on my feet for very long. Very nice to have you here."

He really does need to sit down. His entire belly and his lower back feels like they're cramping up.

The outdoor patio chairs lack cushions (or soft parts, at all) but they are wide and do for the moment. It's a bit cold and Arthur considers looking for a new place, but it isn't half a second before George appears with drinks in a hand, which he promptly places in the table in front of him, and a folded blanket and pillows stacked on the other.

"Am I to take a nap?" he jokes.

"If it pleases you, sir. You must rest."

George arranges the pillows on his seat and drapes the blanket round him. Arthur gives up, reclining, mapping his hands over himself.

May as well.

.

.

"You are full of surprises, aren't you?"

At Morgana's mildly sarcastic remark, Merlin schools his expression to faint amusement. She has no idea.

She offers her pale arm to him. "Shall we step into the gala?" Merlin glances over his shoulder towards Arthur, his back to them, seemingly in deep conversation with relatives. "Or would you prefer to fuss all afternoon?"

Merlin frowns at her, eyebrows lowered.

"Fuss?" he says, laughing. He slips his arm through Morgana's, walking outside into the sunlight.

The yard of the estate is— or lack of a better word— amazing. If Merlin squints, he thinks he sees a huge penned-off area of animals and some of the younger guests heading that way. Of course Arthur's family is posh enough for a damn petting zoo on the grounds.

"Have you lot been seeing the specialist I recommended? Rodor Gedref?"

The name sounds vaguely familiar. Likely from a business card.

He likes that word better than 'counselor'. Merlin loathes those types. Especially as a child for poking and prodding his mind, trying to analyze him and his 'feelings' about his… the man who left his mum and him.

Merlin can't even bring himself to call him 'Father'. He doesn't know what it was like to have a father.

Years later, shortly after his mum dying, Merlin refused counseling once more. He remembered violent yelling matches with Arthur whenever they were home together, arguing about 'the benefits' and 'emotional outlets' and Merlin finally storming out of their little apartment at the time.

Arthur had the choice to either let Merlin cool down and sort himself out or go to all ends of the world for Merlin, dragging him home. Arthur let him go several days without any phone calls before caving, dragging Merlin home, ignoring the bruises from punching and holding him through the sobbing.

Before all of this, Merlin doubted they would ever properly work.

And then, not long after, they were married through the court papers and he was the happiest Merlin ever could recall. And then, Arthur's pregnancy test… god, it was real. There was a human life inside Arthur. They were going to be fathers.

Morgana shoots him a purposeful look.

"Arthur's due soon," she reminds him. "I expect you'll want to be prepared."

"We'll be ready," Merlin tells her, forcing away the steel out of his tone.

He steps onto the grass when one of the white swans run up to him out of nowhere, flapping its wings menacingly and trumpeting. He falls away from Morgana's reach, hearing her gasp and backing away too.

"Oi, oi, mate!" Merlin jerks away as the swan made a dangerous lunge for him, beak poised for attack. "Nice, be nice… I don't even like turkey…"

That's apparently the wrong thing to say as the creature hisses and begins running again. This time, Merlin leads the way, running for his life.

.

.

Arthur reopens his eyes, to witness surrounding guests pointing, laughing nervously as a young man sprints across the grounds, fearful and yelling out for help. Behind him, a rather furious swan aims its beak for Merlin's legs, wings flapping.

They both end up tumbling in the nearby stone fountain, drenched with the cool spring water, and Merlin's fist wildly flying at the swan's midsection. Arthur does not get up, only rubs the bridge of his nose, exhaling loudly.

What… has he gotten himself into?

.

.

Morgana bursts out laughing, mortified and worried, hands clapping her face as Merlin drags himself back to the gala. His fine clothing completely sopping and his dark locks plastered to his skull. "Do you want a beer?" he asks, oddly calm.

"Yes," she manages to get out, looping her bare arm through Merlin's. "But let's make it a few bourbons, shall we?"

.

.

The big reveal of the event is the nursery and playroom Ygraine hires for construction—as well as additional children rooms in the manor.

It follows applause from everyone and murmurs of approval, and Arthur's expression is both embarrassed and pleased. As soon as the extensive guest number widdles away, leaving only a handful including Morgana, she and Merlin finally discover the liquor cabinet.

Morgana's green eyes are glassy, delighted and hazy. She fingers her curls and then her whisky glass, seating on the rug with him.

"I think I need to—get home," Morgana announces, sipping more bourbon, getting towards a kneeling position.

"Nuuh-uh, no," Merlin says, his own vision hazy, his words stumbling. "No, Mor-Morgana, you're pissed off your ass."

"You're pissed."

He giggles, snatching onto her leg, "Yes, but I'm not driving."

"I'm not driving," Morgana protests, face screwing up as if offended by the thought.

"No, you're not."

One of the maids wanders into the abandoned study, glancing them over. "I'll take her upstairs, come now, miss," she says, serenely. Morgana eyes her cautiously, and then giggles like Merlin had. They vanish into a foyer, and Merlin leaves behind his own whisky glass.

Upstairs would have been a disaster, so Merlin is so, so glad that he and Arthur remain on the first floor.

Speaking of Arthur, he's dozing quietly, wrapped up in one of the quilts. He's in a pair of boxers and a long, red nightshirt. As soon as Merlin climbs into bed, Arthur snuffles, waking to his partner kissing his throat. Arthur's hands drift to Merlin's narrow waist.

"Fuck-damn, you smell so good," Merlin says, mumbling to his skin.

Arthur shifts his neck obediently, massaging his fingers against Merlin's sides. "And you smell like my uni room-mate after exams," he says, dully. Lance fancied snogging the living hell Arthur when they were drunk. And having it off. He had not been opposed to Lance's mouth suckling his cock. "Was it necessary to have punched my mother's swans?"

"It… attacked me. Me." Merlin argues softly, "Had to coming."

"You're lucky I convinced no one to report you to humanitarian services."

"I love you for doing… the thing."

Arthur's lips curl up to a tiny, mock-annoyed smile. "Thought you loved me all the time," he points out.

"Mmhm," Merlin says agreeably. More like an incoherent mumble. "Mm, m'hard."

Pale blue eyes travel down.

"I've noticed."

The same gold-glow flashes into Merlin's eyes, seeming to darken to a orange, and Arthur's noticed the change when Merlin is not quite himself.

It's been their secret for a long time—whether or not Merlin's some sorcerer, or magician, or some rot.

He can summon objects from thin air. Merlin can blow the wind in opposite directions, and make the seeds of flowers grow with the flick of his wrist, but he rarely uses it. (It's been a lingering thought to Arthur, right before sleep claims him… could the baby…?)

This time, it's the lubricant bottle from home— and soon enough, Merlin slicks him up and pushes inside Arthur with a couple jerking thrusts.

Arthur's dripping around his cock. The opening to his vaginal canal widens for the length, making Arthur cry out on his back, grabbing Merlin's wrists to his hands pressing flat on the mattress. As he plunges in deeper, the channel feels wet with the lubricant and growing arousal. Merlin's head is fuzzy and euphoric, vivid with each detail when he's pounding into Arthur, caressing his hips and his round belly.

And then everything tapers off, the colours, the awareness. Merlin doesn't remember much.

It has to be morning—the echo of night-shadows gone, replaced with brightly lit windows. And his head fucking hurts.

Someone's hitting him in the shoulder.

"—I said, wake UP, you damn—aah," Arthur gasps out, open-mouthed. When he clutches himself, pain written on his face, Merlin bolts upright. He shields his bloodshot eyes, trying to contain his panic and the urge to vomit.

"Whss'...?"

Merlin may be incredibly hungover, but it's difficult to miss the sickly flush on Arthur's features, or the glisten of fluid on Arthur's legs.

"Oh, fuck, okay," Merlin breathes, helping him sit down. Oh god, Arthur's in labour. He has to be. "I'm gonna get help."

Arthur winces, teeth gritting, pressing a shaky hand between his crooked legs.

"Merlin, she's—nnh—"

"I'm going to be right back with someone, h-hang on," he stammers, gripping Arthur's other hand and then slipping their fingers away, rushing out the bedroom. No servants, no maids in sight. Merlin's about to scream out his panic and rage, when Uther crosses down another hallway.

He spots a flushed, grimacing Merlin, those stern eyes narrowing.

"Oh thank god, please! His waters broke—"

Like it's commanding statement, Uther immediately drops what in his hands—one of the library books and a mug of lukewarm coffee—elbowing Merlin aside and rushing into the guest-room. Within moments, he comes out with Arthur, supporting him upright, walking them both out.

During the commotion, one or two servants briskly make their way over, volunteering to drive to the hospital and walking Arthur.

Merlin snaps back to himself, breathing hard as Uther stares him down, propelling him forward by grasping Merlin's arm.

"You're going to be a father—are you prepared to have Arthur do this alone by wandering around like some simpleton?"

"No," Merlin says fiercely, his temples aching at the noise of his own voice.

God, he needs to vomit. But Uther only smirks, letting go and then gently nudging the back of Merlin's shoulder towards the right hallway.

"Then hurry."

.

.

He doesn't expect Morgana to be there in the waiting room with him—mumbling over her hot cup of black coffee, her eyes covered by sunglasses. She's just as miserably hungover as Merlin, but that all is a background concern, as reality slams into.

It's happening.

"Could their lights be any damn brighter?" Morgana complains, rubbing her forehead, "I swear to god, they want me to die here. Make good money out of it. I don't know why you talked me into drinking that much, Merlin." She flips off a sneering male nurse, unsmiling.

Merlin says nothing, pacing, looking down at the floor. He can't get the memory of Arthur's pain-contorting expression out of his mind.

She reaches for the back of his jumper, yanking him backwards.

"Just, stop it— you're making me dizzy."

Before Merlin opens his mouth to argue, or increase his headache with aggravation, Ygraine is there.

She gestures frantically and asks for Merlin, and Merlin forgets everything else, heart racing. He gets little bits of information: Arthur's unable to get the cesarean. The baby's head has already fully moved down. He can't be medicated until afterwards, and Arthur's been asking for him.

In the suite, there's too many lamps and Merlin's eyes scream in agony. Arthur's laid up without a gown, surrounded by bleeping machines and two doctors in powder blue scrubs and masks encouraging him to keep pushing at the contractions—your body knows what to do, Arthur.

Merlin clenches Arthur's left hand, knowing his partner is only half-aware of his presence, groaning out curses and tears running down Arthur's reddened face. He curses Merlin's name once, tightening his fingers to Merlin's—and it's a numbed, disconnected sort of fear and joy.

He can only imagine what this feels like, what he would have done if Merlin had been the one pregnant. Arthur pulls his legs to himself, grunting and yelling wordlessly. A mingling of emotions, of amazement, of guilt for Arthur and excitement as the baby's head pops out, and then a slimy, little shoulder. Arthur's belly heaves and pushes one more time, and the baby's out, wailing and squirming in blankets.

Whether or not it's still the roaring hangover, combined with these emotions, Merlin begins crying.

He holds Arthur's head and kisses the top of his blond hair, kisses his sweaty face and then his lips. He sobs out meaningless praises, how much he loves him, their baby is beautiful, she's beautiful, you're beautiful, until Arthur silences him with a weaker, open-mouthed kiss, palming Merlin's face.

.

.

Reaghan Paige.

She's 112 ounces of absolute wonder and pride in their hearts. Worth every little mishap along the way.

Even the late night feedings.

The high-pitched squalling reaches Merlin's ears, in his sleep, and he pats Arthur's shaven cheek. "She's hungry," he mumbles.

"She's bottle-fed, you go do it," Arthur replies across the pillow, drowsily.

"It's your turn."

"Merlin..."

"Alright, alright," Merlin says, grumbling. He stretches once on his feet, yawning exasperatingly, trudging into their flat's hallway. The nursery is low-lit with the rosy nightlights, and little Reaghan bawls, flailing her wee arms and feet. "Ss'okay, c'mon."

The formula doesn't take long to heat, and he checks the bottle's temperature before feeding her. The newborn greedily takes the nipple, crooning. Merlin sways in the kitchen, holding her one-armed, eyes on her.

"You, my love, are going to be the end of me." He nods at her, grinning toothy as Reaghan makes a content noise. "Hmm? Is it good?"

"Enjoying yourself?"

Arthur stands by the doorway, arms crossed and leaning on the structure, unable to stop smiling fondly at them. Merlin starts laughing, a little too much for one question, and for no reason. His husband rolls his eyes.

"What is it, Merlin?"

"It's stupid…" At the persistent, waiting silence, Merlin breathes out. "I dunno. I watched you carry our daughter, feel her inside you and talk to her, and… I got a little jealous," he admits, shyly. Arthur's eyes tic up a size, his arms uncrossing.

"It was… It was supposed to be me. We planned for that arrangement. I got so used to thinking about how it would feel carrying with our first. It excited me more than I can tell you, imagining this new life growing here." Merlin glances down at himself, just for a moment. Face tight. "I wanted so badly to have that…" He laughs again, more bitterly as Arthur comes closer. "I told you it was stupid."

"It's not, Merlin," he says, grasping Merlin's shoulders. "You told me we were in it for the long haul. Are we?"

Something like hurt flickers over his face.

Merlin apologies, "Oh god, of course we are—Arthur, I didn't mean—"

"I know you didn't." Arthur smooths his fingers absently over her fine, dark hair, peering down. "I know you love her."

"I love you, too," Merlin insists, quickly kissing the other man's lips. And then, on the tip of his nose. "Sometimes."

"Right," Arthur says to Merlin's shit-eating grin. He receives the newborn from Merlin's arm, ridding of the bottle and cradling her against him. What a small, warm creature. "I want to… try again. With you. We can get it right this time." He tacks on, when Merlin stares, wide-eyed in awed disbelief, "Not now, but… after she's a little older."

A pause.

"Being an only child is rubbish."

"Yes, it is," Arthur replies grimly, soothing Reaghan's gurgling cries by rubbing her back. "So, what do you say…?"

He discovers his answer in the sudden, tender embrace, Merlin's hot, shuddering gust of breath in his ear.

"God, Arthur, how are you even real—"

It's going to be a brilliant life.

.

.


YEEEEEAHH. MY LONGEST MERLIN ONESHOT TO DATE. It would not have gotten done with andrewonders from Tumblr, with her being co-producer and co-brains. This was designed to be fluffy happy daddy romance so I hope that it was successful. :3 The fic was my first try with an idea of being "intersex" so yayyyyy there you go. This is also my birthday fic to go up, and also to celebrate a little with you guys! Any thoughts/comments on this will be absolutely appreciated of course! (I'm sorry, but baby's name needed to literally translate into "Royal Knight" because it was too good to pass up.)