Standing on the Edge of Something

Summary: Arthur's in love with Merlin. He thinks, hopes, maybe, possibly Merlin likes him too. Now he's just got to work on what comes next.

Notes: This story has been edited from its first release here to include previously excluded explicit parts.

If it was any one thing, it was his eyes. Those eyes that could hold such judgment, but always held compassion. Those eyes that became so bright when he was happy, and so dark when he was angry. But of course it wasn't just his eyes, it was his everything. From the tips of his ears to the points of his boots, there was no escaping Merlin's clutches.

Arthur first realized he was ensnared a year after he met Merlin. Their first year as something-kind-of-like-friends had contained far too many near-death experiences for his liking. One day he had been lounging in bed, waiting for Merlin to arrive, contemplating all those times he should have died, all the times he watched others die instead.

He heard Merlin burst through the door, his attempt at being quiet while also making up for his tardiness combining in an utter disaster of flying food and angry hinges. Arthur lazily turned his gaze on the other boy and thought, 'This. This is who was with me.' It was then, suddenly, that Arthur realized: 'This no one, this boy-man who fought for a prince, a friend.' His early morning revelation filtered through his hazy mind quickly, causing him to jerk up into a fully upright position.

"Sire?" Merlin called out softly to him, curious. His eyes, ithose eyes/i, shone with concern.

He barely remembered his mumbled, "I'm fine," after which he tossed back his blankets and strode to the dressing screen, desperate to seek cover from those eyes.

He heard Merlin gather the last of the things he had dropped and set the metal plate on the table with a soft thunk. "Sire?" Merlin called again, his voice edging closer to where Arthur was resting his head against the dressing screen and definitely not having a crisis.

After a moment of silence, Arthur exhaled and responded quietly, "Why do you call me that?"

"Why do I call you 'Sire?'" came Merlin's confused reply.

"You're hardly ever this respectful, Merlin," Arthur said. "Why do you choose to call me 'Sire' sometimes, but others I can be just 'Arthur'?" He stuck his head back around the dressing screen to look at him.

Merlin's mouth was drawn into a line as he thought, but slowly a small smile formed. "Because," he started, "sometimes you are royal. Sometimes you are a prince. Sometimes you're a friend. Sometimes you're just a prat. Sometimes I wonder who I'm speaking to."

Arthur considered this and told him, "Sometimes you are my servant. But," he hesitated, "you are always my friend." He quickly retreated behind the dressing screen and began to get ready for the day. There was no tension in the air, despite his nerves over what he had admitted. The day went on.

Arthur knew things had changed after that. Merlin almost always called him 'Arthur' instead of 'Sire' when they were alone. He took to shoving him back whenever Arthur pushed him around. He became bolder, taking advantage of being Arthur's ifriend./i

Arthur took advantage too. Friends often sought each other's advice and he found himself asking Merlin more personal questions. Merlin freely offered information about himself and Arthur found himself opening up more than he realized. It occurred to him one day when Merlin walked into his quarters around midday and commented on the disarray of his bedroom, comparing it to the mess Arthur used to leave when he was seven years old. Arthur barely remembered telling Merlin about how he used to get possessions out of their cabinets and leave them strewn across the room purposefully to aggravate his nursemaid, but Merlin apparently had remembered. He didn't mind Merlin knowing his silly childhood stories, the same way he didn't mind the intimacy being close friends afforded him.

Arthur had never been one for physical comfort. He would clap the shoulders of his knights when they had done well. He would hold a lady's head to his shoulder when she needed comfort. Merlin was the opposite. He loved to grab the hand of his walking companion just because they were there. He was often found hugging the family of Gaius' patients when he delivered bad news. His friends were always freely given hugs, kisses, pats, and looped arms.

Once Arthur became his friend, he began experiencing all those touches Merlin offered. At first they startled him, made him uncomfortable. Quickly he grew used to them, even expected them. Slowly he craved them, anticipated them. When he found himself giving Merlin a hug before Merlin could give it to him, he nearly tripped in his haste to stop his movement. Merlin had laughed openly, worked in a jab about losing his "princely daintiness." Arthur punched him on the arm.

The next time, he promised, he wasn't going to stop himself. And so he didn't.

Many months had passed since their initial foray into friendship. Arthur's comfort with the intimacy between himself and Merlin grew. He knew, logically, Merlin treated all his friends the same way, but he kept getting a nagging jealously whenever he saw Merlin grab Gwen's hand when they went to the marketplace. "Just some leftover feelings I had for Gwen," he reasoned them away. 'Merlin still likes me best,' his mind supplemented. "Dammit."

He finally admitted it to himself the next day; admitted he was jealous of others for being close to Merlin, jealous someone else was taking Merlin's affections away from him. He saw Merlin smiling and laughing with one of the knights and couldn't ignore the voice at the back of his mind saying, 'Mine mine mine,' nor the fact that it was most definitely directed at the beanpole with the mop of black hair, not the strapping soldier.

Now the time had finally come to do something about it. Unfortunately, he really had no idea what. Did he have to seduce Merlin? Maybe Merlin already liked him and all Arthur would have to do is say something. He was the prince and, as such, wasn't about to make a fool of himself unduly. He needed reinforcements.

Arthur knocked loudly before throwing open the door. Keeping his head down just in case, he started, "Morgana, I-"

"Let me guess," she said, cutting him off. He looked up to see her smirking at him in the mirror. "You finally decided to act on your feelings for Merlin."

His eyes widened. "How did you...?"

Morgana smirked that pretentious smirk only a sister could perfect. "I've known you since you were ten years old. I remember your first crush on Lady Maryanne, and your second crush on Lord Elric. Both times you danced around them, prattling on about nonsense. Then you'd pace around your room like a madman for a while and come running to me for advice. I saw the nonsense. I assume this is the running to me."

"If you're going to be like that, I can just leave," he said, giving her a piercing look.

"So leave." She was still smirking at him. "But if you do, you'll just blurt out 'I love you' to him the same way you did to Maryanne and Elric. And we know how awful that turned out." She pursed her lips before continuing. "On second thought, go ahead and do that. I'd like to see what Merlin does." Morgana gave a light laugh.

"You think this is funny?" Arthur was outraged now. "I'm not ten; Merlin isn't Maryanne. I'm serious about this. I want to know if he feels the same; I want to do this right."

Morgana turned on her stool to face Arthur, her mouth settling into a serious line. "Fine then. If you are serious, then go to Gwen. I know you, Arthur. Gwen knows Merlin. She's who you need to talk to."

Arthur nodded tersely and left the room, heading for town.

By the time Arthur reached Gwen's door it was nearing dinnertime. He knocked and, hearing the clang of a pan dropping, waited a moment before announcing himself.

"Sire!" Gwen exclaimed as she inched the door open. "I, uhm." She glanced back into the room behind her, keeping the door close to her body. "How can I help you? Uh, not that you need my help. I just assumed since you're here you would want something. Not that you're not welcome anywhere; it is your kingdom. Of course you wouldn't just barge into people's homes because you're the prince. Not that you're barging in! It's just...hi?"

"Hello, Guinevere," Arthur said with a grin. "May I come in?"

"Uhm," she hesitated and looked into the room behind her again. Turning back she said, "Alright," before opening the door wider to allow him access. As he entered the room, he noticed the pan he'd heard earlier lying on the floor and reached down to pick it up. "It's alright!" Gwen called, rushing over. "Please don't, I'll clean it up myself."

"I didn't mean to startle you, Guinevere," Arthur said. "I'm sorry I interrupted your dinner."

Gwen smiled brightly as she righted the pan and reached for a rag to wipe at it. "No, no. A friend is always welcome. Is there something I can do for you?"

Arthur looked down, a little sheepish. "I...just wanted to ask for your advice."

"Mine, Sire?" Gwen exclaimed.

"Morgana said...she suggested I talk to you about a problem I'm having. With Merlin," he admitted.

Gwen glanced at the doorway that lead to her pantry and sleeping areas. Arthur turned to look, but just then she began to speak. "A problem? Surely he's not causing trouble? Well, it is Merlin; of course he's causing trouble. I mean, not on purpose I should think. It's just that Merlin is a bit oblivious sometimes and-" She cut herself off.

Arthur gave her a funny look. "It's not his work, Gwen."

"Oh?" she asked curiously.

"It's..." he hesitated. "I'm wondering if he might have said anything to you recently. About me."

Gwen tilted her head. "About you, Sire? He tells me a lot about things he does for you. Was there something specific?"

Arthur sighed. "I was wondering if you thought that if I might say something to him about possibly being more than friends with him if he might respond positively."

"I..." Gwen stalled a moment to process the sentence. "If I thought if he wanted to... Oh! You're asking if I think he likes you!" she exclaimed

"Shh!" Arthur stepped up close to her. "I don't want the whole town to hear that I'm pining over my manservant."

Gwen looked abashed. "I'm sorry, Sire." Then her face lit up and she grinned. "But I don't think you need to worry about what the town heard."

"What do you mean?" he asked.

She pointed to a spot just over his shoulder and he turned to look, only to see Merlin standing in her pantry doorway.

Arthur blanched. This was not going to plan. In fact it was going mildly like every other time he confessed to liking someone, judging by the shocked look on Merlin's face.

Gwen had backed out of the room, slipping silently out the front door to give her friends privacy.

"You like me," Merlin stated.

"I..." Arthur's instincts wanted to deny it, but he knew he couldn't. "Yes."

Merlin took a step forward. "Do you...since when...I...what?"

Arthur blinked, "What was the question there?"

"You told Gwen I'm terrible at my job," Merlin said, taking another step forward.

"Obviously you couldn't hear through the wall because I definitely said I wasn't concerned with your work," Arthur corrected.

Merlin grinned. "So now that you like me I'm good at my job?" A third step brought him into Arthur's personal space.

"I never said that," Arthur backtracked. When did Merlin get so close?

"You like me," Merlin teased him, drawing out the words. His eyes were shining. Arthur looked away shamefully, he couldn't meet Merlin's gaze. He was feeling rather crushed until he felt Merlin take one last step forward, bumping into him. Merlin's hand snaked out and lifted Arthur's chin up. "It's okay," he said with a soft smile. Arthur steeled himself and looked up. Merlin's eyes were trained on him. "I like you, too."

Arthur couldn't help the smile that crossed his face.

Arthur could hardly remember what happened next. He remembered Gwen rushing back in after that. She gave a high-pitched squeal at seeing their proximity to one another before she remembered herself and exclaimed Arthur was going to be late to dinner with the king and her own food was growing cold.

Merlin gave Arthur a quick hug that had his heart stuttering. "I'm eating with Gwen tonight, but you had better go. I'll see you later."

"Tonight," Arthur remembered saying softly. "Come help me tonight after dinner?" It was a question. Merlin always helped him after dinner; it was his job. This time Arthur was inviting him, asking Merlin back to his room.

Merlin looked sharply at him for a moment. Then he nodded, slowly at first, then with strength of purpose. "I'll be there."

When Merlin arrived in Arthur's rooms he was surprised to see Arthur's formal wear had already been discarded. Arthur was dressed in light, casual clothing, and leaning against a wall near the window.

He was startled when Arthur began to talk. "You know, Merlin, you had me out of sorts earlier. That was quite the opposite of what I had wanted." He turned to face Merlin.

Merlin asked, "What was it you wanted?"

"You," he answered.

Merlin glanced around the room. He noticed now that Arthur had obviously gotten back from dinner early. The candles were already lit, the fire already roaring, the old clothes already put away. There was no reason for Merlin to be there, at least not as far as work was concerned. He turned back to Arthur. He took in Arthur's relaxed stance and the confidence he seemed to exude. When his eyes reached Arthur's, however, Arthur saw Merlin's eyes widen. Arthur saw a smile form on his face.

"You have me," he replied.

Arthur stepped in close.

Merlin was hesitant, this was new to him, but Arthur had been thinking about this for a long time and he wasn't about to let anything stop it from happening. He slid forward, coming nose-to-nose with Merlin. He felt Merlin's startled puff of breath hit his nose. Arthur's hand darted out and grasped Merlin's hand, drawing Merlin's gaze downward to where Arthur's fingers wrapped around his wrist like a bracelet. Arthur's intense stare never strayed from its focus on Merlin's eyes. He exhaled loudly, hardly able to contain his excitement at being so close. Merlin's eyes moved back up when he heard the sound, widening a little in surprise at having Arthur staring straight at him.

Arthur leaned forward; no space was left between the two of them now. Arthur's face was flush against Merlin's, just resting there. Being slightly shorter than Merlin, their features didn't quite align. Merlin's mouth was pressed against Arthur's nose, Arthur's forehead pressing on Merlin's nose. Arthur quickly remedied the situation by tilting his head up and bringing his mouth to Merlin's.

Neither moved for a moment. Arthur just let his lips rest against the other boy's, soaking in the sensation. Arthur felt the lightest pressure then, pushing against him. Merlin was ready. Merlin wanted this, wanted him.

Their lips parted to allow their tongues to dance. They mapped the dips and ridges of each other's mouths. Tasting Merlin in his mouth captured all of Arthur's attention until Merlin pushed in closer and he felt a telltale hardness against his leg, a hardness he mirrored. Arthur slid his hands down Merlin's arms until he reached the hem of his shirt. He slid his fingers underneath the loose cloth and his fingertips grazed bare skin. He felt and heard Merlin's light gasp at the contact and his hands determinedly went forward again. Up, thumbs brushing Merlin's stomach; out, fingers dancing over ribs he shouldn't feel so easily; in, around the tougher but more sensitive skin of Merlin's nipples. He brought the shirt up with his hands and, breaking their kiss for a moment, pulled it over Merlin's head.

When he pitched forward again to reconnect their mouths, Merlin pushed him backward and used the moment to strip Arthur of his tunic. Merlin leaned down to taste Arthur's skin; he latched his mouth at the join of Arthur's neck and shoulders before bringing his tongue down in a line to his nipple. Arthur arched his back at the soft, wet warmth. After Merlin opened his mouth and swirled his tongue around the flesh, Arthur pulled him back up to eye level and attacked his mouth again.

No words were exchanged as they contentedly sucked on the other's lips and pressed tongues together. It wasn't long before the kissing picked up momentum, becoming desperate like it had been when they began. Arthur pulled Merlin to the bed and they climbed onto their knees. Arthur stared into Merlin's eyes for a moment, absorbing all he could of the man across from him. Was this going to happen? Had Merlin done this before? Did he care for Arthur the way Arthur cared for him?

As if in answer, Merlin moved his body forward into Arthur's, wrapping his arms all the way around him in a tight embrace. "I love you so much," he whispered. "I never knew...I never ithought/i..."

"I know," Arthur replied. "I love you too." He pulled Merlin's hands away from his waist. Merlin looked confused for a moment, until Arthur put his hands on Merlin's shoulders and pushed. He pushed Merlin all the way down until his back reached the mattress. Merlin relaxed into the position, pulling his legs out from under him. Keeping his hands on Merlin's shoulders, Arthur leaned down to Merlin's long neck and tasted it.

With tentative licks at first, Arthur quickly wet a long expanse of neck. He sucked on sensitive spots that made Merlin gasp. He bit lightly on muscles that strained beneath his touch. He was in the middle of marking another spot when Merlin slid out from under his grasp. Arthur followed the movement of Merlin's body as it rose above him, slowly turning them until he found himself under Merlin's control.

Merlin's boldness surprised Arthur, who writhed under his touch. Merlin chuckled, "Deferring to me for once, huh?"

"As if you ever defer to me," Arthur said. He let out a breathy moan as Merlin worked his hands down either side of Arthur's body, down to his breeches.

"Lucky I'm so skilled at this particular task," Merlin said as he quickly unlaced the ties that held the breeches up. Suddenly tentative, Merlin's hand hovered above where Arthur's cock lay inside. "Is this...okay? Can I?" he asked, his earlier hesitancy showing again.

"If you don't, I'll sack you. After I ravage you, of course," Arthur bit out. He wrapped his fingers around Merlin's wrist and guided it downward. "It's alright. More than."

Merlin inched his fingers inside the cloth. He pulled down the breeches to free Arthur's heavy cock. Arthur gasped and groaned as Merlin brought his palm flat against the flesh. He wrapped his fingers all the way around and pulled his fist back slowly. The noises Arthur made encouraged Merlin to keep going. He brought his fingers all the way to the top of Arthur's cock and slid them over the head. When he slid his hand back down he didn't stop, instead letting his fingers continue to travel under and around to Arthur's balls.

Arthur's eyes widened from where they had been falling closed. He watched as Merlin's fingers lightly gripped each one, adding a soft pressure. The new sensations rolling through Arthur's body were incredible and only intensified with knowing it was Merlin touching him. Merlin continued massaging Arthur's balls with one hand while his other crept back upward to wrap around Arthur's cock. Merlin moved his hands together experimentally. When he worked out a rhythm that had Arthur choking on his breath, he gave a sly smile. It only pushed Arthur closer to the edge. He sat up and put his hand to Merlin's jaw. Merlin bent toward him and captured him in a kiss.

The kiss brought new, wet heat into his mouth and combined with the pleasure coiling through his stomach. He broke the kiss and gasped loudly; his eyes shut tightly. A strained moan escaped his throat as his seed spurted into Merlin's hand. Merlin kept slowly pumping Arthur's cock, pulling out all the cum Arthur had to offer.

Merlin had a large, self-satisfied and overtly happy grin. Arthur responded to the smile with a simpering look, determined to return the pleasure Merlin had just brought him. He lifted his hands and lazily pushed against Merlin's chest, trying to reverse their roles. His strength still eluded him, so he settled for swirling his thumbs around Merlin's nipples. Merlin bit his lower lip and closed his eyes.

Encouraged, Arthur leaned forward until he could lick one. He was fascinated by the ability to openly touch Merlin like this, to see him come undone thanks to Arthur's tongue. Merlin leaned his body into Arthur touch, and let out a few breathy moans. The noises renewed Arthur's strength and made him excited to really show Merlin how he felt.

This time he did push Merlin backward. Merlin put up no resistance, practically dropping to the mattress behind him. Arthur stared down at Merlin from above, gazing at him with a look of awe. Merlin was more beautiful than he had imagined. His body was lithe, far too thin but obviously worked. Arthur looked downward and frowned.

"What is it?" Merlin asked, chewing on his lip.

"Too many clothes," Arthur replied in a very serious voice.

Merlin's worried expression broke into a relieved grin. "You prat! I thought you were...having second thoughts."

Arthur smirked at him. "I think we're well past second thoughts," he said. Then he scooted forward until he was in between Merlin's feet; he reached his hands out to Merlin's waistband and gently began moving the rough cloth downward.

He followed the movement with his mouth. He kissed the areas the cloth scratched against Merlin's skin, licked the places it tugged. When he reached the other man's knees he mouthed each kneecap. When Arthur reached his feet, he lifted one of Merlin's legs up to his shoulder, resting it there. Running his fingers down Merlin calf, he turned his head to the side and licked the inside of his ankle. He heard a noise from Merlin, so he turned his head and caught Merlin's eye. Merlin's pupils were wide, his hands clenched into the blanket below him, gnawing his lip between his teeth. Arthur leaned forward and licked again, keeping their gazes locked. Merlin mewled. It was a quiet and enticing sound, full of innocence and want, and Arthur longed to hear him make it again.

He lowered Merlin's leg back down to the bed, bringing his own head down as well. His tongue darted out to the sensitive spot on Merlin's ankle, drawing more noises from him, and, encouraged, kept it on Merlin's skin. He swirled his tongue around Merlin's ankle. Merlin dropped his head deep into the pillow, shut his eyes tight, and gasped. Arthur couldn't suppress a satisfied smirk at the reaction he was drawing out of Merlin.

Arthur moved back up Merlin's body. He had ignored Merlin's erection on his way down, but couldn't suppress his want any longer. He wanted to taste Merlin, wanted to feel him, wanted to make him feel. Arthur locked eyes with Merlin, who was now staring at him. His eyes were heavy-lidded, full of lust. Arthur quickly moved to the head of the bed and captured him in a bruising kiss. They were lost in one another for a few moments until Merlin broke the kiss to watch Arthur hand move further down his body.

Arthur curled some of the short, coarse hair around his fingertips before finally drifting to his goal. He grasped Merlin's cock in his hand, causing him to groan. Arthur turned his attention to Merlin's cock, slowly moving his hand up and down the shaft. He scooted closer. Giving no warning, he lowered his head and licked the tip. Arthur felt the bed shake. He moved one hand to Merlin's hip and held him in place. He licked again, a little longer and a little further. Merlin made another one of his kitten noises that were becoming Arthur's favorite sound.

He put the tip of Merlin's cock in his mouth, readied himself, and swallowed Merlin as much as he could. Merlin tried to buck his hips against Arthur but was held in place. Arthur kept a steady rhythm. Down and back up again, lick his length, both sides, then back in his mouth. Merlin was incoherent, all guttural gasps and moans. Arthur pulled back and suckled the head of his cock.

Arthur loved the taste of Merlin. He thought he could keep Merlin in his mouth all night, but it wasn't long before he felt Merlin's muscles tense and saw his legs stretch out. He released Merlin's cock from his mouth and used both of his hands to rub. Mimicking Merlin's technique which had so easily brought Arthur to the edge, he lifted his head and kissed Merlin deeply as his hands continued to move. When their tongues made contact, Merlin shuddered and spilled himself into Arthur's hands. Arthur kept up the motion until Merlin had nothing left. Merlin groaned into their kiss and it became sloppy. Arthur licked at Merlin's mouth before drawing back.

They laid on the bed next to one another silently. Arthur waited for Merlin's heaving breaths to quiet. When they both felt calm and content, Arthur turned his head to face Merlin. He was surprised to see Merlin already staring at him intensely. "What is it?" he asked.

Merlin replied, "I've always loved your eyes."

Arthur was startled. "Mine? Why?"

"Besides being a rather gorgeous color, you mean?" Merlin teased, a broad smile on his face. Arthur couldn't help but smile back. "They're always so passionate. Even when you try to hide everything you feel inside you, I can still tell. I just look into your eyes and know."

Arthur laughed silently to himself. He rolled closer and touched Merlin's forehead to his. They closed their eyes and slept.