Arthur is always wary of entering into bets with anyone. Cash bets are a definite "no." Betting on football matches doesn't strike Arthur as a smart way to handle one's money and, no matter how much of a spoilsport Gwaine accuses him of being, Arthur never leaves the fate of his money up to chance. Arthur is much more likely to enter into wagers in which winning is based on physical skill. Arthur is fit and, as his boyfriend, Merlin knows how hard he works to stay that way. He's woken up every morning at 6am when Arthur rolls out of bed to go for his morning run and he's become well-acquainted with the smell of Arthur's feet due to months of washing his workout clothes. Arthur knows exactly what his body can do and, because he hates feeling out of control, he always tries not to get too pissed on weekends (he claims it's because he has to haul Merlin's drunken backside in and out of cabs every weekend but Merlin refuses to believe that). As a result of the extreme care he takes with his body, Arthur rarely loses competitions of physical skill to anyone. However, this has as much to do with the fact that he never enters a competition he isn't sure that he can win as is does his workout schedule. Arthur Pendragon is no idiot.

Which is why the sight of Arthur running naked, his winter-white backside tinged pink with the cold, into their backyard is that much sweeter to Merlin.

"Are you sure you want to take this wager, Pendragon?" Merlin had asked, not even bothering to conceal his confidence.

Merlin had been sitting on the floor of their living room, waiting for Arthur to start the DVD player, The Vicar of Dibley? Really, Merlin?, and trying to fit as many regular-sized marshmallows into his hot cocoa as he could without spilling it. Unfortunately, the mug had reached its limit already and when Merlin tried to force in the next marshmallow, the ones that were already inside the mug came slopping over the rim, all over Merlin's hand and the floor. He grabbed them up before they could do any real damage to the carpet and began frantically looking around for something to dump them in. The kitchen was too far away so Merlin jammed them all in his mouth at once. Arthur, having finally gotten the DVD started, turned around just in time to see him swallow hard.

"Is this some juvenile attempt to seduce me, Merlin?" Arthur asked, his tone teasing, coming to sit cross-legged in front of Merlin. Merlin's mouth was covered in the sticky chocolate-marshmallow mixture so Arthur leaned forward to lick it off of his lips.

"You know," Arthur started, "seeing you reminded me of when Morgana and I used to have contests to see who could fit the most marshmallows in their mouth. She always won and my wounded young pride took solace in telling her that anyone who nagged as much as she did was bound to have a huge mouth."

Merlin snorted. "I'm sure you were shouting that over your shoulder because I doubt you stood and faced her while you said that."

"Of course," Arthur grinned, before swiping Merlin's hot cocoa and taking a sip. "Arthur Pendragon is no idiot. Either way, my record was seven, which I am still incredibly proud of."

Stealing his cocoa back before Arthur could drink it all, Merlin smiled cheekily. "Only seven? That's barely anything at all. My personal record was ten."

Merlin could already see the challenge forming in Arthur's mind and he grinned behind his mug. Arthur hated making bets, but he loved challenging Merlin even more.

"Well I was nine then," Arthur said, sounding put out. "And you're a big-mouth too. I bet I could beat you now. Winner decides what the loser does."

This time Merlin didn't bother hiding his grin. Arthur may win every wrestling match, and kick Merlin's ass in just about every card game known to man, but there was no way Arthur was going to beat him this time.

Ten minutes and a 13-9 victory later, a laughing Merlin is standing next to a pile of Arthur clothes, watching his boyfriend run naked across their backyard in the snow. He's only wearing an oversized shirt and a pair of boxer shorts so the cold air is curling around his thighs, making his hair stand on end.

"THREE SNOW ANGELS! I'M COUNTING," Merlin shouts, doubling over in hysterics at Arthur's yelp when he trips and falls face-first into the snow.

Three minutes and three shoddily-made snow angels later, Merlin has Arthur bundled head-to-foot in blankets and parked on the couch in front of the blazing fireplace, a fresh mug of hot cocoa gripped between his red-tipped fingers. Along with Merlin's giggles, Arthur's trembling is beginning to subside and his face has unfrozen enough for him to scowl.

"I can't believe you beat me! How could you beat me?" he asks and his utterly disbelieving tone causes Merlin to fall over in another fit of laughter. Arthur just glares at him from behind his mug.

Once he recovers enough, Merlin grabs his own mug from the mantle and walks over to sit next to his grouchy boyfriend.

"Come on, Arthur. You of all people should know exactly how I beat you," Merlin says slyly, taking a sip from his mug. "You were right; I do have a big mouth. Tons of space. Strangely enough, you weren't complaining about it this morning when I woke you up…"

"Yes, well…" Arthur says, shifting slightly, and Merlin knows that he's remembering how he woke up that morning with Merlin's mouth on him. "I suppose you're right," he concedes grudging.

Merlin just smirks.

"But naked snow angels, Merlin? I doubt I'll ever see my balls again. I'm still freezing," Arthur moans, turning sideways to stick his feet under Merlin's thighs.

"Jesus Mary, our feet are cold," Merlin yelps, jumping up when Arthur's toes make contact with his skin and spilling hot cocoa down the front of his shirt. "Ouch," he says flatly.

Arthur's frown of concern turns to a satisfied smirk when it becomes clear that Merlin isn't hurt. "Serves you right. It's your fault they're cold."

Placing his mug back on the mantle and stripping off his shirt, Merlin just looks at Arthur with a satisfied smirk of his own. "It's your fault actually. You're the one who lost."

Chuckling to himself, Merlin dodges the cushion that comes flying at him, yes, Arthur, set the couch cushions on fire, and makes his way into their bedroom to put on a fresh shirt, grabbing a bottle from the dresser on his way back to the living room.

When he comes back into the room, he finds Arthur has thrown off the blankets and is kneeling in front of the fire warming himself. Arthur turns at the sound of Merlin's footsteps and Merlin freezes. The flames cast their light on Arthur's body, coloring it and reminding Merlin of Arthur's skin during summertime, burnished gold and glistening. The sight would make Merlin ache to get his hands on that skin if that weren't already his plan.

"That's my shirt," Arthur says as he walks towards Merlin. Gorgeous,Merlin thinks.

"Yes, well you ruined mine," Merlin murmurs, tilting his head up to press his lips to Arthur's. As the kiss deepens, Arthur's arms slip around his waist and press them close together. After a moment, Merlin breaks the kiss and presses his lips to Arthur's chest. "You're still a bit cold. Let me warm you up."

Taking Arthur's lips in another kiss, Merlin walks him backwards and pushes him down to sit where one of the blankets lays forgotten on the couch. Grabbing the other cushion, Merlin drops it on the floor between Arthur's legs and kneels on it. He uncaps the bottle that he grabbed from the dresser and upends it, dribbling oil over Arthur's lap where his erection lays hard and flushed against the tense muscles of his abdomen.

Looking up, he finds Arthur staring at him out of barely-open eyes, both arms thrown over the back of the couch. Keeping his eyes on Arthur's, Merlin spreads the oil over Arthur's thighs, massaging down to where his skin meets the blanket, before moving upwards to spread oil over Arthur's abs, making sure not to touch him there just yet.

His motions slowly become hypnotic to him and Merlin's not sure how long he's been kneeling there, staring Arthur down. Arthur's breathing is laboured now and his chest is flushed but he doesn't look away. On one downward pass, the thumb of Merlin's right hand brushes against the side of Arthur's erection and Arthur gasps. Whatever spell that was cast over them both is broken when Arthur's gaze snap down to follow Merlin's hands. Looking down, Merlin watches as a drop of pre-come collects at the tip and run down the side of Arthur's penis. Raising a hand, Merlin finally wraps his fingers around it and Arthur groans. Flicking his gaze up, Merlin sees Arthur's head thrown back and his fingers flex where his hands grip the back of the couch.

Wrapping both hands around him, Merlin strokes Arthur slowly for a while, listening to his breath hitch every time Merlin's palms brush against the head of his penis. Reaching down, he takes Arthur's balls in one hand and rolls them between his fingers, massaging them lightly as he speeds up his strokes. After a while, Arthur begins to thrust up into Merlin's fist and Merlin stops stroking and lets him set the pace. He just continues massaging Arthur's balls, slipping his hand back every so often to tease Arthur's hole with a slick finger, making Arthur's breath stutter out every time he does so.

Soon Arthur's thrust start to lose their rhythm and Merlin can tell that he's close. He grips Arthur tighter and presses more firmly against Arthur's hole, waiting before he slips a finger into Arthur just as his thrust is coming back down. Arthur's head immediately snaps up and Merlin sees his eyes widen in surprise before his muscles tense and his orgasm overtakes him. Merlin can feel Arthur's muscles contract on his finger with each spurt so he doesn't even need to look to know that Arthur is painting his own chest in long pearlescent stripes.

But he does.

He looks because Arthur is never more beautiful than when he's like this. When the only reason he's tense is because his orgasm is blazing through him. When he's lost in his pleasure and he isn't worrying about one thing or another. Merlin loves him like this.

Eventually, Arthur's sinks back into the couch, his eyes closed and his body intermittently wracked by tiny tremors. Merlin eases his finger out of Arthur, running his other hand over Arthur's thigh when he hisses at the over stimulation. He takes off his shirt and uses it to clean the oil off of his hands and wipe up the mess on Arthur's chest, smiling because he knows Arthur will complain later that Merlin has dirtied a perfectly clean shirt. For now, Arthur seems content to lay back and relax and Merlin is content to let him. Grabbing one of the other blankets, Merlin cuddles up to Arthur on the couch and covers them both with it, his head pillowed on Arthur's shoulder. When Arthur's arm comes down to pull him closer, Merlin smiles and closes his eyes and just lets himself drift.