A/N: HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, everyone!
Cupid Didn't Count On Lingerie
Merlin sat in his cubicle and watched with something caught between wistfulness and biting jealously, as Karen, Percival's secretary, squealed with delight when a ridiculously large teddy bear was delivered to her desk. It was white and had a large heart on its chest that read: "Be Mine, Valentine!" in bold lettering. All in all, it was obnoxiously cute.
He sighed and went back to typing on his computer, but he couldn't properly concentrate on what he was doing. The office smelled of roses and chocolates and seriously, if this is what love and adoration smelled like then Merlin was glad to have no part of it. He already felt nauseous from the sickly sweet and it was only 10:00AM. Perhaps if he were being more honest with himself, Merlin might admit that he was the tiniest bit jealous.
The elevator dinged and Merlin watched, an empty ache knotting in his chest, as a bouquet of two dozen roses was walked over to Gwen's desk and was received with a gasp of delight. As he watched Gwen throw her arms around Lancelot's neck, Merlin had to smile; despite what he might feel about Valentine's Day, he couldn't deny that Gwen and Lancelot were perfect for one another. Sure, they were tooth-achingly adorable, but anybody who wasn't half blind could see that they were clearly made for each other.
"Oh god, you're not jealous are you, Merlin?" drawled a voice from directly behind him, making Merlin jump. He twisted in his seat and shot Arthur a dirty look, before turning back to his computer screen. He typed a word into the memo he was creating for Arthur, and misspelled it; Arthur, being his usual helpful self, immediately pointed it out.
"Thanks, sir," Merlin said dryly.
"No problem," said Arthur almost cheerfully, "just doing my job. Well, your job, technically, since you appear to be horrible at it."
"Glad to know I have your vote of confidence," grumbled Merlin. Then: "Is there something I can help you with?" Helping Arthur in fact was Merlin's job, what with being his secretary and all.
"Just wanted to go over my schedule with you for tomorrow," Arthur replied, leaning over Merlin's shoulder and tapping the screen to point out another spelling mistake. "I swear, I don't know what I pay you for sometimes," Arthur muttered. "Anyway, I wanted to go over this with you now, because Percival and I are going to take an early lunch today and I'm not sure if we'll make it back to the office."
Merlin arched a brow at Arthur as he pulled up the schedule. "Oh?" he asked, a hint of amusement creeping into his voice, "Big plans I take it?"
Arthur managed to look suitably taken aback, but Merlin could see the excitement in his eyes. "Don't be silly, Merlin," Arthur scoffed, looking up automatically when the door to Percy's office opened and Leon strode out, indicating that Percival's 9:00AM meeting was over, "it's just lunch. Nothing more."
"Right," said Merlin, clearly not buying it.
Arthur huffed. "Don't take out your Valentine's Day angst on me," he said, "just because I may or may not have plans and your good-for-nothing boyfriend can't be arsed to do anything for you." Merlin stiffened; Arthur immediately looked regretful. "Look, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to come off so harsh. It's just -"
"- No, don't worry about it," said Merlin, forcing his tone to reflect something passably upbeat, "it's true. I'm just in a bad mood today - Valentine's Day was never my favourite holiday." He paused, then looked directly at Arthur. "Besides, Gwaine isn't my boyfriend, well, not exactly."
Something soft crept into Arthur's eyes, a sort of fondness that three months he wouldn't have allowed himself to show. (By no uncertain coincidence, about three months ago was also the same time Arthur and Percival had started taking lunch together on an almost regular basis.) Arthur patted Merlin awkwardly on the shoulder. "I just hate to see you hurt, you know that, right?" he said. "I'm just not sure if Gwaine is the best choice..."
Merlin smiled, even if the edges were tight and strained. "It's no big deal, Arthur," he said quietly. "Like I said, Gwaine and I aren't really together."
Arthur gave him a long appraising look, but apparently decided to let the matter drop because a moment later he said, "Take the rest of the day off when you're done with your work," and then walked off to pop his head into Percival's office. Merlin had to roll his eyes; if the two thought they were being subtle then their definition of the word was vastly different from everyone else's. He looked back at his computer screen and stared at it for several minutes, not really registering what he was reading. Merlin glanced down at the keys and swallowed down the sudden pang of loneliness and longing that surged up from nowhere. 'Damnit Gwaine,' he thought, 'why did you have to go out of town today?'.
It was a silly, stupid thought, Merlin knew, because as a photojournalist Gwaine's job kept him on the move; he never spent much time in any one place. He knew he should be glad for the fact that Gwaine chose to stay with him whenever he was in the area, happy to have his undivided attention when they were together but...maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe Arthur was right; maybe he deserved better than a sometimes-lover. Merlin looked up at Gwen and Lancelot - Lance was sitting on the edge of Gwen's desk as they talked in quiet tones – and then over to Arthur, who stood chatting Percival up as he leaned casually in his doorway and sipped a cup of coffee, his eyes for Arthur alone. He wondered if he and Gwaine would ever have that; that sense of permanence, and not this transient thing that their relationship was now.
Merlin looked up when Gwen came over to his desk to show him the necklace that Lancelot had gotten her. He smiled; he wouldn't be surprised if they were engaged before the year was up.
Finishing up his work took longer than Merlin would have liked, resulting him leaving the office only about an hour early. As he walked the short distance to his car in the parking garage down the street – the fee was considerably less than the one nearer to the office – he considered stopping in at the small Italian café on the corner to pick up a pastry to go with dinner. When he glanced in the window, however, he suddenly decided against it; the small café was filled with couples sharing a sweet confection or an espresso. All at once Merlin felt horribly out of place. He walked a little faster to his car, wanting to get home as quickly as possible.
Two things were wrong when Merlin arrived at home: 1) His door was unlocked and 2) There were bags of groceries strewn all over the kitchen, and also what appeared to be a bottle of champagne chilling in a cleaning bucket on the counter top.
Merlin slotted each of his keys through his fingers in a makeshift…weapon, he supposed, and moved guardedly into his flat. He set down his satchel on the kitchen table and took in the chaos that seemed to have erupted in his kitchen while he was away. 'What in the bloody fuck?' he thought.
He heard movement down the hall from the vicinity of the bedroom, and, against his better judgment, went to investigate. Creeping slowly down the hall, painfully aware of each creak and groan of the wood floor underfoot, Merlin snuck down to his bedroom. The door was partially opened; he could definitely hear movement on the other side. Cautiously, Merlin peered in, and then dropped his keys with a clatter.
Gwaine was in his bedroom, humming loudly to himself as he artfully tossed rose petals onto Merlin's bed. In the background, Merlin could hear the bathtub running, and could see steam curling from the open door to the loo. That, however, wasn't exactly what made Merlin drop his keys in surprise and bewilderment. Rather, it was what Gwaine was wearing – wasn't wearing? – well, he was certainly wearing something.
Gwaine, whose back had been turned, whirled at the sound of Merlin's keys banging onto floor. He looked at Merlin, who stood in the doorway to his bedroom looking wide-eyed and shocked, and let out a peal of laughter. "Well damn," Gwaine said, setting down the bag of rose petals on the nightstand, "there goes the surprise."
Merlin shook his head as if to clear it; it didn't help in the least. "Wh-what?" he asked, almost dazedly. "I'm erm, I'm most assuredly surprised." He stepped into the room and looked Gwaine up and down. "What the hell are you wearing?"
Gwaine pouted at him, though Merlin could tell that he wasn't truly offended – well, if the wicked glint of mischief in his eye was anything to go by, at least. "What?" asked Gwaine, striking a ridiculous pose, "don't you like it?" He leered. "I picked it out just for you."
Merlin could feel some of the tension of his day, the knot that had grown like a solid mass in his chest, begin to melt away. He smiled and let his gaze wander slowly down Gwaine's body. "Red is my favourite color," he conceded. Gwaine grinned rather lecherously and turned and disappeared for a moment into the loo. A moment later, Merlin heard the faucet being shut off and Gwaine stuck his head back into the bedroom.
"Bath?" he asked.
Merlin shook his head and sat down on the edge of bed. "Come here," he demanded, his mind suddenly consumed with the thought of stripping off Gwaine's black fishnet stockings with his teeth. Gwaine was more than happy to oblige and walked slowly over to Merlin, swaying his hips from side to side. He inserted himself between Merlin's splayed knees and nudged them further apart, resting his hands on Merlin's shoulders. Merlin leaned forward and placed a wet kiss through the sheer lace underwear, glancing up at Gwaine and mumbling, "Crotchless panties, eh? Classy."
Gwaine chuckled, the noise silky and rich, like smooth burn of the finest brandy. "Only the best for you." Merlin smiled. Gwaine shifted, pressing his hardening cock closer to Merlin's mouth. "Do you like the corset though? It was a bitch to get into without any help." Gwaine paused, then laughed. "Well, I suppose I could have asked your nice old neighbor, Mrs. Davies to assist me. I'm sure she wouldn't have minded - she certainly thought I was a nice enough young man to let me into your flat." Gwaine leaned down, trailing his fingers down Merlin's spine as he whispered, "Apparently your kindly old neighbor lady thinks you need to get laid."
Merlin made a face, but he laughed nonetheless, feeling a surge of affection for Gwaine so great, that had he been thinking about anything other than what the rub of lace on his bare arse might feel like as Gwaine fucked him, it would have taken him by surprise. "Oh god," he groaned, leaning back on his elbows to look up at Gwaine, "I do not need to think about my 70 year old neighbor having anything to do with my sex life."
"Well then," Gwaine replied on a low, slinky tone caught halfway between a growl and a purr, "I should make sure that you can't think of anything else but screaming my name as I fuck you into the mattress."
Coming from anyone else, the words would have been silly. But coming from Gwaine...Merlin groaned as Gwaine climbed onto the bed on all fours and slowly slid up his body, trailing his fingers up the inside of his thigh, lightly over his erection, only to pause and press in along his hip and then wander up his side. Merlin arched into Gwaine's weight as he settled over him, suddenly wanting to feel lace and satin sliding against his bare skin. He bit back a gasp when Gwaine's lips skimmed the crook of his arm, giggling a little as he nipped the sensitive skin near Merlin's armpit.
"That's what I like to hear," Gwaine murmured, almost to himself as he skillfully began to unfasten Merlin's light blue button down, "been waiting all day to hear that laugh." Gwaine finally reached Merlin's mouth, and Merlin, hard and suddenly unreasonably needy, threw his arms around Gwaine's neck and tugged him down into a deep kiss. Gwaine followed him down, teeth knocking together before they found a good angle, all tongue and lips and undefined longing that made Merlin's heart skip several beats in his chest.
Gwaine pulled back after several long moments, breathless and fully hard against Merlin's thigh. He rubbed the tip of his nose against Merlin's, intimate and tender, and looked down at him, eyes dark with desire though laced with something quite Gordian in complexity. "Hi," he said softly.
Merlin reached up and brushed his fingers over Gwaine's cheek, almost shyly. "Hi," he said back.
When Gwaine brought his mouth down on his again, the kiss was languid and gentle; Merlin carded his fingers through Gwaine's hair, wrapped his legs around Gwaine's hips, and poured himself into it.
In the end, both Merlin and Gwaine were too impatient to fumble with all the laces in Gwaine's corset, and instead settled for yanking off all of Merlin's clothing – more or less. (Merlin had tried to toe off his socks while Gwaine was working him open with his fingers, absently mouthing along his cock, but had understandably had a hard time staying focused on the task.)
Now, as Merlin lay with Gwaine pressed close against his side, sweaty satin and torn lace sticking to his flushed skin, he allowed himself a moment to think of something other than, 'Yes yes yes, there – oh right there!' and 'Gwaine, god, Gwaine – now, now, now.' He absently pulled his fingers through Gwaine's mussed hair, thick and damp between each digit, and enjoyed the lazy rub of Gwaine's stocking-clad calf over his own. "Gwaine," he said at length, tentative, his face turned away from the other man, "I err, y'know, I thought that you were supposed to traveling today."
Gwaine pushed himself up onto an elbow and gently turned Merlin's face towards him with two fingers. "Hey," said Gwaine softly, then more firmly, "hey, look at me."
Merlin, after a moment of hesitation, finally looked up into Gwaine's handsome face. "I just thought…" he trailed off, suddenly feeling stupid for even bringing it up. What he had with Gwaine was unofficial – easy – with supposedly no strings attached. That's how it'd been in the beginning: "No labels," Gwaine had said the first time he'd come home with Merlin, as he'd pressed him against his front door and kissed him breathless, "Labels make things messy."
For the most part, Merlin had been content with the arrangement.
"Hey," said Gwaine again, snapping Merlin's attention back to him from where it had wandered off. "There's nowhere else I wanted to be today, okay?" Gwaine lowered his eyes and then dropped a kiss onto sharp jut of Merlin's collarbone. "I told my editor that I couldn't leave for New Orleans until at least tomorrow. He wasn't happy, but he understood."
Merlin hand stilled on the back of Gwaine's neck, fingers curling around the warm skin comfortably. "I don't want you to get in trouble on account of me," he said, though inwardly he was glowing. Gwaine must have seen something of that in his eyes, because he just laughed.
"Are you kidding me? How could you think I would abandon you on Valentine's Day? Our first one together at that." He nipped playfully at Merlin's ear. "You must think I'm a horrible boyfriend if you thought for a second that I was going to forget what today was."
Merlin froze; a second later, Gwaine did too as the implication of what he'd just said sunk in. Boyfriend. Merlin felt a huge grin begin to spread across his face. He couldn't help himself; he giggled. "Boyfriend, huh?" Merlin pressed an affectionate kiss along the underside of Gwaine's stubbled jaw. "My lingerie-wearing boyfriend, at that."
Gwaine actually looked embarrassed for a moment, a flash of color sweeping his cheeks, before he too chuckled. "Yes, well don't go telling anybody about that. I've a reputation to uphold of course."
"Not a terribly good one to begin with, I'd wager," said Merlin, breaking into full, belly deep laughs at Gwaine's suddenly offended expression.
"I'm fairly sure that it's within my boy-friendly rights to tickle you until you take that horrible comment back," he said, though Merlin could see the mirth in his eyes and hear the humor in his tone.
"'Boy-friendly' is not a word. I should know, I work for Arthur Pendragon; he uses all sorts of made up jargon in his papers and it drives me insane."
"Well for one, I'd be happy if you never mention Arthur Pendragon while we're mostly naked in bed together," sniffed Gwaine with a pointed look at Merlin's socks, "and two..." he tickled Merlin just under the ribs, causing him to howl with laughter.
"S-stop!" Merlin gasped between laughs, tears in his eyes. "Okay okay, I take it back!" Gwaine, apparently satisfied, ceased his torture and flopped back onto his side with a contented smirk. Merlin snorted at Gwaine's exceedingly pleased expression and toyed idly with the lacy garter that encircled his right thigh.
"I win," said Gwaine, voice pitched low, smug. "Now what's my prize?"
Merlin grinned wickedly, as he moved slowly down Gwaine's body and began to pull off his ripped stockings with his teeth. "Oh, I can think of a few things."
As Gwaine leaned back and laughed, the rich, full sound filling all the empty spaces in Merlin's room, Merlin thought that maybe whatever this was between him and Gwaine, was perfectly fine.