A/N: Originally written for Prompt 51 of the Uni Merlin fest: Arthur and Merlin both agree to do a Sponsored Silence to raise money for their university. This leads to eight hours (at Uni) of neither of them being able to talk. Lots and lots of sneaking furtive glances at each other, potential furious message writing (to each other, or about each other to someone else) and I'd love it to end with one of them just throwing caution to the wind and snogging the other, still within their silent time. What they do with the rest of the quiet time is up to the author, but they mustn't break the eight hours silence (it is for a good cause after all).
Many thanks to ysar for the beta and to bookbag01 and misswinkles for their cheering, to the lovely emjayelle for being a great mod and to the OP!Anon for the great prompt, which I've taken quite literally.
A bright yellow Post-It.
Creased corner. Black pen, messy script, the question mark curly like a cat's tail.
Which sort of makes the dot underneath like a cat's arse.
Arthur stares at the note, uncomprehending at first. Then he actually reads it.
Can I sit here?
He opens his mouth to answer and then remembers he's not allowed to speak and snaps it shut again with an indignant click, glaring at the little sticky note like it's a pube in his soup. He has been here for hours, ensconced in a pleasant cocoon of solitary study. The quiet clack of fingertips on his Macbook and the divine scent of books have been blissful companions, and this note just does not compute.
Looking around the library, Arthur sweeps his hand out to indicate all the vacant desks, but it's too late; the owner of the note is already following his yellow harbinger down to Arthur's table. Without so much as a by-your-leave, he sets down his stuff, descending into a seat almost directly opposite Arthur.
Arthur boggles at the audacity. Momentarily, he considers writing a note himself - his would be decidedly less polite- but when he finally looks up, his righteous anger peters off with a hiss.
There are stark angles. A geometry of features so acute, it makes Arthur's eyes ache in their sockets, like he hasn't blinked in days. There's a stretch of pale skin over sharp elbows and the even cut of a nose a thoroughbred would be proud of.
Arthur finds his throat's a bit dry. He clears it. Twice.
He sits up straighter, making room under the desk for another pair of legs, his eyes taking an inventory he didn't consciously commission, but seems unable to stop all the same. Compulsively, he traces shapes with his eyes, the odd whimsy of features collecting into one startling, cohesive picture. It's the sort of face you consider. An interesting face. A curiousface.
When sharp eyes find him still staring a few moments later and begin to wry into a smile, Arthur hastily looks away, wondering why he feels as though he's dodged a bullet.
Taking a deep breath, he collects himself. Best to nip any interruptions in the bud. He retrieves and holds up his notepad, the words SPONSORED SILENCE etched into the paper in precise all-caps. He's used it several times today and knows it's as good as actually slapping someone with a dead fish. Or just saying don't talk to me, but whatever. Semantics.
The interloper pans from the notepad to Arthur, face stretching into a full smile with the kind of flirty abandon employed by people possessed of stunning self-confidence. Arthur blinks, caught off-guard at just how attractive that is.
His gut drops with a sickly splat when he realises he's actually being quite rude, but, looking amused rather than offended, the guy sifts among his things and retrieves a pad of his own, matching words chicken-scrawled over it in flourishes and loops. A haphazard dot slides off the 'i' like it wasn't going to come but changed its mind at the last minute.
Well, at least there's guaranteed silence then, since they're both effectively gagged.
It won't be so bad, Arthur thinks. No need to move. The guy'll study for a bit and be gone in an hour. It'll be okay. It'll be okay. It'll be-
-complete and utter nerve-scraping misery.
The hour has come and gone, another about to clock over, and there's no sign of the guy so much as thinking about moving on.
Since sitting down, he has fidgeted with everything within reach: laptop, pens, paper and books. He has shuffled and tapped and tongue-clicked his way right under Arthur's skin, burrowing there like a splinter under a nail.
Arthur hasn't ever ground his teeth, but it's not hard to imagine that by the end of the day they'll be worn to stumps a hobo would be proud of.
It's unbearable. The guy is completely oblivious that he's driven Arthur from slightly annoyed to stabbing bonkers in the space of a couple of hours, and Arthur has. Had. Enough.
He's fought it with everything he has, gritted teeth and heavy crease etched between his brows, like his whole demeanour is yet another weapon against the unwanted intrusion into the sanctity of his head. He tries to block it all from his mind, attempts to get on with his work. The more he tries, though, the more compelling it grows, until it's literally all he can think of, the presence so strong it's almost like a physical assault on his senses, making his hair stand on end.
Flip, flip, flip goes a pen, twirling like a marching band baton between the guy's fingers, and Arthur's mind screams, what the fuck is wrong with you? Why can't you just sit still? He pulls abruptly away from the table, meaning to gather his things and move to another desk after all before he completely loses it, but he's not even halfway out of his seat when the bloody nuisance beats him to it.
The twirling pen clutters to the desk, and its owner looks around the library as though he's pleasantly surprised to find himself in one. He stretches, arms high above his head, and Arthur's mind stutters at the lean, taut sweep of him, at the Klimtian fingers roughing through a crop of black hair. He flattens his palm over his head, half fluid cat-stretch, half awkward angles and the quiver of flexed muscle, and the flip of his wrist is quite delicate enough for Arthur to wrap his imagination around like soft suede cuffs. Like a lick of warm air.
It's a complete shock to realise the guy's not just interesting, and a far cry from curious. He's mesmerising, the way a perfect storm is mesmerising.
Arthur's arms break out into goosebumps.
And it might have been okay, even then. It might have ended with the strangest and most annoying, anonymous addition to Arthur's spank bank, had the guy not decided he needed another text. But as he turns and lopes away toward the stacks, Arthur's hands tighten into fists.
The guy walks away on the kind of coltish legs that always look on the verge of a canter. Wandering, rambling, perfect in denim legs. Bony knees, muscle mechanics right under the skin legs. Watch you walking kind of long, long legs. Tight around my waist while I fuck you senseless legs.
Right up Arthur Pendragon's alley kind of legs.
So, Arthur thinks at the universe, this is how you plan to kill me.
He spends the next couple of hours not looking hard enough to give himself a headache. He's so busy not looking that he forgets all the things he should notbe not doing, like poring over academic texts and making lots of important notes because apparently, no matter how much he sometimes feels like his mind is alive with it and needs but a gentle shake to dislodge the words, a PhD dissertation won't write itself, damn it.
Right in front of him, the guy's really made himself at home, spreading out all over the desk like a novelty can of exploding snakes.
He's still fidgeting and tapping and being generally annoying, but Arthur's been busy noticing other things, too. Things like sideburns. Long, skinny fingers, which should look like knobbly spider's legs but don't. Things like the faint scent of a warm, male body, underpinned by a hint of hours-old cologne and a little sweat, just enough to make Arthur feel toey. Restless.
Things like a magnetic presence, hooking and drawing him in. Even not looking at the guy, Arthur can feelhim. Sense him across the desk like an old man sensing that perfect storm, tasting the coming rain. Feeling it in his marrow.
At some point, Arthur has stopped trying to hide his fascination. Perhaps it's when he looks up to find the guy absentmindedly playing with his pen. Or rather, not playing. Caressing. He's fairlymasturbatingit, rolling it gently between his fingers as he reads, though granted, this might just be Arthur's imagination since the pen's not even really phallic, but damn if he can't feel a ghost tingling muscle-deep right between his legs.
Arthur can't stop staring. He follows the movement of the pen between long fingers like his eyeballs are stapled to it. There is a callus on the guy's middle finger, and Arthur studies its texture, imaging how much handwriting the guy does to have earned that. His mouth dries up, finding the idea incredibly sexy, thinking about intelligence and banter and real conversation. Imagining a beautiful, challenging mind inside that perfectly fascinating, reedy body. Thinks about the roughness of the callus dragging across skin the way it does over plastic, and what the fuck. Just.God.
Or perhaps it's when he looks up to find eyes on him, too, skimming away lightning fast, Arthur's skin still prickling where those eyes have been. Ah, Arthur thinks. Yes.
Someone walks past, stirring the path of the air vents and a fresh wave of the guy's warm, diffused scent stirs faint and sexy right into Arthur's insides, corkscrewing in from his nose down to his balls, and fuck this, Arthur can't work like this. He really, really can't, not when the thought of a stranger's callused fingers are enough to conjure up half a fat in his pants and thicken the breath in his lungs like it's treacle and not air he's sucking down.
He wants to move.
He needs some distance.
Should definitely move now. Now. Now.
If Arthur really thinks about it, he's done absolutely no work for the last couple of hours, and if he has managed to read anything, he's forgotten it in favour of absorbing and closely analysing the delicious, frenetic presence across the desk.
It comes to him suddenly that the guy is basically the Borg. Minus the creepycool implants and ability to be completely still for any period of time, sure, but basically, resistance is futile. When Arthur finally gives in, it's with the whisper of his own pen on paper.
His eyes follow his hand as it slides the note across the table, just pushing it along with his fingertips like it's nothing. Like his blood isn't thumping thick and deafening in his ears, a feverish tide he's drowning in.
Arthur. Pol Sci
He didn't realise he'd grown used to the incessant movement from across the desk until the fidget falls suddenly very, very still. It's disconcerting. Keeping his eyes on the material in front of him, Arthur ignores the itch between his brows where grey-blue eyes are probably burning a hole, and stoically persists in trying to read.
He refuses to give up, even when he reads the same paragraph seven times and still has no idea what it says.
Seconds stretch into eons, and he's going to ignore it. He'll pretend this never happened.
This absolutely did not happen.
The note was meant for something else, not a lame chat-up attempt at all. It's Arthur's excuse, and he's sticking to it. He'll just wait a few agonising, blood-curdling minutes until it's feasible that he's leaving because he's done at the library and not because he needs to be away from this desk before spontaneously combusting into a smoking ashpile of embarrassment.
When the note finally, finallyreturns, he's almost caught off guard, having already talked himself down from any expectation. It slides to rest next to his book, and he counts to three before acknowledging it, which, though technically he's never actually done it, is surely more difficult than herding cats.
Merlin. Archaeology. Vegetarian. Avid beer drinker. Pagan. Arachnophobe. Air guitarist.
Arthur smiles, shaking his head. No way is that your name, he writes, and slides it back, pulse thundering almost painfully in his fingertips, relief making him giddy. He'd hand over a month's rent to see Merlin rock his air guitar.
It takes just seconds for a reply to slap down on his side of the desk.
No way is that your face
Arthur fights a smile.
Come off it mate! MERLIN?! Not in Top Gun now
No, but if we were, your call sign would be WANKER
Arthur slowly nods, purses his lips he writes,
Ballrash earns him a raised eyebrow, and Merlin's lip quirks up at the edge, birthing a tiny crease, a tease of the deep dimple which appears there when Merlin reallysmiles. Merlin's next insult is penned with more care and artistic flourish than a wedding invitation.
Goatfart. And the goat's been into the sauerkraut
Arthur pinches the bridge of his nose to keep a straight face.
What, again? Stupid goat
Merlin's smile is very, very white and wide as the chasm opening up in Arthur's chest.
Getting personal. Busted Arsehhole Head
Merlin's body quakes with silent laughter, and Arthur's mesmerised by the electric feeling of having made him laugh and scribble furiously with his fingers tight around the pen. Merlin slides the note back with a grin so smug, Arthur wants to hate it on principle.
That's Mr Monkeynuts to you
Merlin snorts and then claps a hand to his mouth, shocked at the noise he just made, but laugher pushes out from between his fingers like lemonade bubbles are being forced up his nose.
Stern looks from the scandalised librarian would normally sober him up faster than a kick in the 'nads, but against all odds, when Arthur returns to his work he's smiling so big it's hurting his face, and for some reason, his palms are sweating.
So. Merlin, then.
Merlin, for God's sake.
It's getting on for late afternoon, and the frenzy he felt earlier is replaced by a steady thrum, a buzz in Arthur's veins that's kept him almost on the edge of his seat the entire time. There are zapping livewires between him and Merlin, jolting connections spreading electric fingers up and down Arthur's spine, reaching into his chest and setting him alight inside.
He's aware of Merlin's body and the space it occupies more than he's aware of almost any other thing. After falling back into their work; Arthur quiet and collected and Merlin fiddling and twitching, they've exchanged a couple of looks, Merlin's open smile making Arthur's own feel quite constipated in return, and though he tries to relax, tries to let the tension bleed out, he finds the energy humming between them is making him feel entirely, shockingly awake.
Merlin's original note lies beside Arthur's Macbook. He has scribbled a cat's body around the little arse dot, with the question mark serving as a tail, earning a blinding smile he's still basking in hours later. He's going to keep that little note. For no reason at all.
Somehow, he's managed to type several thousand words, galvanised by Merlin's nearness. Sure, it could be absolute drivel, but it's undoubtedly the charge between them motivating Arthur to work, keeping him on the edge of his seat, in a constant state of DEFCON readiness. He doesn't even notice the bloke standing next to their desk until Merlin does, suddenly looking up and tensing, taking Arthur's eyes on a ride up to scan this latest interruption.
With hands braced on the table, the guy leans in, dispelling the zapping buzz with a familiar, open smile aimed at Merlin, and Arthur feels very much like the strange connection between them has been completely fabricated by his overactive imagination.
"Gwaine's place tonight?" The guy looks expectant of an answer, but Merlin looks like he might want to faceplant the table.
He takes up his pen and scribbles on his notepad, stabbing it with the nib for emphasis.
The guy pans among the note, Merlin, Arthur, and the note again. Merlin. Arthur. The note.
It takes several seconds for the biggest shit-eating grin to form, but once it's there, it looks like he's finally in his natural state- Impus Demonicus.
Emphatically, Merlin stabs the note again, hanging his head in frustration. Arthur doesn't bother to hide his interest, watching the priceless exchange as it unfolds.
The guy straightens, smiling like a shark. Merlin rolls his eyes, rips the page out of his notebook, and scrunches it into a ball. He shoots a sheepish grin in Arthur's general direction without actually looking at him, tosses the paper ball into his messenger bag, and takes off with his notepad in hand, dragging his mate away by the bicep. Several meters away, he proceeds to alternate between furious scribbling and some more of the eloquent pen stabbing.
Under the table, the scrunched up note bounces off the lip of Merlin's bag and comes to a stop by Arthur's foot, and there's absolutely nothing for it. It's inevitable.
He takes his time opening it up, stretching out the creases.
Little punctures pierce the note all over like all the missing dots from Merlin's "i"s got together to make a garland around, GO AWAY WILL, MAKING PROGRESS HERE!
Arthur stares and stares at it, rubbing a gentle thumb over his lip.
When he looks up again, Merlin's shoulder is being so enthusiastically punched that he teeters on one foot for a moment, trying to regain his balance. Then his exuberant friend is gone, swiftly making his way to the exit and leaving Merlin staring after him with his face cradled in his palm like he's never been more embarrassed in his life.
Arthur schools his face into careful nonchalance, though underneath his heart's cartwheeling inside his ribcage, bouncing from rib to rib like it's trying to make a break for it.
Merlin turns back to the desk, and the apples of his cheeks are so bright, they're almost glowing. He takes one look at Arthur's deadpan expression and the salvaged note on the table and his face becomes a comedic dichotomy. His mouth pinches tightly together while his eyes open up wide and round like a startled cat. It's rather brilliant.
Arthur can hold in his smile no more than he can change the channel when Alien's on the box, even though he's got the tetralogy of dvds and can watch them whenever he wants, without the ads.
Merlin blinks slowly, his face attempting to turn even redder, then turns on his heel, disappearing among the bookshelves like something's nipping at his heels.
Arthur could take all night to work all this out in his head. He could go home and think about Merlin and hope to bump into him again sometime when they can both speak and rib him about his flirting method. He could analyse the note some more and smile in wonder at its ridiculousness.
Or he could grab this thing between them in both hands. Test it. Taste it.
He glances down at the note again, breathes deep and steady and pushes away from the desk. Feeling the blood thumping in his ears, he follows in Merlin's wake, pulled along like foam on the tide. He rounds the edge of the shelves with his head full of white noise and hands already itching with the promise of something amazing.
At the very back of the stacks in the dark of the corner, Merlin braces stiff arms against the shelves, forehead communing again and again with a thick tome. Arthur has no doubt that if he wasn't prevented from speaking, Merlin would be muttering under his breath while banging heads with the colossal Olmec statue on its cover. It's pretty fantastic to see the cause of hours and hours of Arthur's discomfort be out of sorts for a change.
He's quite tall, and though Arthur knew that before, seeing all of him up against the bookshelf like that makes this real. Not just a presence now, there's a real body there, strong through the shoulders and narrow through the hips. There are those startling coltish angles again, wiry forearms with sleeves rolled up, and those bloody mile-long legs filling denim with just the right kind of attitude.
Arthur approaches silently, coming to stand just outside Merlin's personal space, close enough to see the roughness coming in under his jaw, to catch the scent of his body again, and just like that, it's organic. There's music in his blood and no doubts on his mind. Merlin turns, his cheeks still hot and eyes huge and deep and all of Arthur's thoughts converge right there in that dark, dark blue; he falls right in without a single protest.
Slowly, he raises his hand and draws a light line from Merlin's elbow to his wrist, fingers curling there around the bones just like he imagined, Merlin's skin as warm as a sigh.
Merlin's mouth parts and he looks down like he can't believe Arthur's touch, the rich pink of his lips drawing all of Arthur's attention.
He's still staring at the fullness of them, the lovely shape of them, when Merlin lifts his darkened eyes and pure honest-to-God, undiluted wantspears Arthur right through the guts.
Somehow he acts, though there's no conscious thought bar yes, oh, and inclines his head, hovering just out of reach of Merlin's mouth. Barely a held breath away, Merlin is still as stone.
Everything stops. Arthur's wild heart counting out long seconds as they stare at each other, close enough to breathe each other's air, to count eyelashes and freckles across the pinking bridge of Merlin's nose. All around them, the silent library holds vigil over the endless moment, suspended in time.
Softly, sweetly, he leans in to nose at Merlin's cheek, to soak up the real, secret scent lingering beneath light cologne. He crowds right into the hard contours of Merlin's body, the heat between them suddenly explosive as Merlin gives and gives, allowing himself to be maneuvered. Merlin's wrist is hot in his palm and Arthur gently presses Merlin to the bookshelf at his back, pinning him between the books and his clammy, wanting grip.
With his free hand he lays barely-there touches to wrist, and elbow, and clavicle, and doesn't stop pressing in until he pins Merlin just sowith this whole body, feeling the pulse of Merlin's heart thrumming steady, fast and strong beneath his hands. He cradles Merlin's neck and passes his thumb over the corded muscle there, rasping over the hint of stubble so slowly, ever so deliberately.
He can feel the hot flush rising over Merlin's skin while he cants his head this way and that, coming in like a hummingbird again and again as if to find the best way in, only to finally graze Merlin's lips with his own, as lightly as a breeze.
Merlin sucks in a shocked breath, and Arthur's skin erupts in goosebumps at the desperation of that simple, raw sound.
He tightens his hold on Merlin's wrist, hanging on for all he's worth while the soft, tentative touching of their mouths strikes them both alight.
With kiss after light kiss they test each other, lips dry and sticking, pulling and tensing. Arthur's whole body feels poised on the edge of oh shit and oh yes, and then Merlin finally, finallyopens his mouth and takes Arthur's bottom lip between his own, dark eyes fluttering closed.
They skim and tumble over each other, lightly nipping and licking, pulling apart and pressing together in a smooth slide, a hint of teeth beneath soft lips paring Arthur down to a wrecked bundle of throbbing nerves and needy, grasping fingers and agonising friction of jeans grown suddenly way too tight.
He plays at Merlin's lips, kissing first this way then that, licking all the tension of the past few hours right into his mouth, pressing his want to the swell of Merlin's lips until he's heady with the words he can't say, with the whispers which must be sighs for now. They kiss shallow and sweet, and then deep and hot, and it's perfect, so fucking perfect the way they come together again and again as if in a dance.
When Arthur pulls away to come at a new angle, to taste Merlin from here, or here, Merlin chases his lips, seeks out the crease with the tip of his tongue, scrapes with the edge of his teeth, scuffs over them with his breath, and God, Arthur feels like he's just sunk into a treacle-thick fantasy, a weirdly realistic dream.
He tingles, skin zapping all over like he's never been thoroughly kissed before, and all the while Merlin's crowding right in to test the give of Arthur's mouth like he hasn't eaten in days and Arthur's something entirely too delicious.
When they finally break apart, open mouthed and panting, Arthur rests their temples together, still laying kisses in the corner of Merlin's smile. He can't wait to hear the sound of his own name in Merlin's voice, to see that mouth wrapped around its syllables.
Kissing along Merlin's jaw, he relishes the breathless craving in Merlin's galloping heartbeat, the vein in his neck pulsing under the skin. Arthur presses his lips there, mouthing lazily at the corded muscle, following it all the way to the lobe of Merlin's ear, sucking it into his mouth, tormenting it with teeth and tongue. There, right therein the crease of Merlin's neck where the scent makes his head spin, Arthur's rewarded with a broken, raspy moan, which has absolutely no business outside of a sex marathon, and certainly not in a bloody library.
Where he's currently making out in the stacks with the hottest archaeologist since Indiana bloody Jones.
Oh my God.
Easing his grip on Merlin's wrist, Arthur weaves their fingers together instead and they stand there, holding hands in the library aisle, lips swollen and chafed from kissing and chests matched breath for laboured breath, just staring at each other with inane grins on their matching, stupefied faces.
Arthur's started out of his daze when Merlin presses something into his hand. He looks down, frowning.
A bright yellow Post-It.
Black pen, messy script. Question mark like a cat's tail, the dot its arse. Again.
Merlin's smile has a touch of lunacy about it, and something in Arthur's stomach flips over and over like it's on fire.
Buy you a beer?
Arthur grins, shaking his head. Taking up Merlin's pen, he writes,
We're doing this backwards
Merlin's eyes are huge like his smile and very blue, and Arthur's skin tingles at this thing between them, this unexpected, wild thing, which feels like it could be amazing if he but runs with it.
He looks down to see more scribbling.
Fancy the irony here. People've been trying to shut me up for years
Arthur eyes the curiously wonderful, fascinating face, intensity bleeding out of him, weighing the moment down in possibility.
Suffering a stab of anxiety over the sudden onslaught of feelings, he needs to make light of it somehow, needs to take this as it comes, not be afraid of it. He's not a flighty man, or one taken to impulsive decisions, but when he takes Merlin's pen from his hand allowing their fingers to brush, he does it trusting his instincts. Under his playful smile, something important is on the line.
Am I going to regret this?
It's Merlin's turn to grin. Leaning in, he fists Arthur's shirt in both hands, crushed Post-Its and all, and brushes his cheek against Arthur's, nosing all along the cheekbone with a soft sigh. He lays gentle, teasing kisses on a path to his ear. There, he holds him in a tight embrace and just breathes ever so softly, raising goosebumps, coaxing Arthur's skin into a whole body shiver.
Arthur's hands find their place, too, skimming the waistband of Merlin's jeans, fingers splaying to warm skin and fitting into perfect dimples low down. He tightens his arms for a brief, intense moment, just breathing in and storing up all this wonder. When he steps back, they're both pink-cheeked and wound up.
Gently, Merlin takes the pen once more, ignores the crushed notes and writes directly onto Arthur's inner forearm, near the crease of his elbow where the canvas is soft and pale. Arthur's mesmerised by the words unfolding on his skin.
Every single day. But I'll make it worth your while.
He stamps his seal over it in the form of a kiss to Arthur's cheek, and when he looks up, intense and earnest, Arthur smiles, believing it completely.