It was so freaking cold the butter was solid as a rock in the dish.
"Shit." Merlin poked at the yellow lump with the tip of the butter knife. Maybe if he held it over the toaster the heat would...
Melted butter dripped into the toaster, which sent out a shower of sparks.
"Fuck!" Merlin yanked the plug out of the socket, then disconsolately chewed on his dry toast.
The flat was freezing, the windows rimmed with ice on the inside. He tucked his hands up into the sleeves of his jumper, and was just about to put the kettle on when the phone rang.
"Yes?" he said, gritting his teeth to stop them chattering.
"Merlin! I need a favour," Arthur's crystal vowels were bright in his ear.
"No," he said, automatically, sitting on the sofa and pulling the blanket round him.
"Who's pissed in your cornflakes?" Arthur asked.
"I just buggered up my toaster." Merlin watched dispassionately as his breath hung in the air.
"I was trying to melt butter over it." He took another bite of toast. It was vile.
"Explain." Arthur's voice was full of good humour. It was all right for him, Merlin thought irritably. Arthur would have woken up warm, under feather duvets, and probably had an awesome breakfast in that ridiculously huge kitchen before driving his heated-seat Audi to his heated office, where he proceeded to ring his struggling artist friend and have the gall to ask for favours.
"The butter was frozen. I was trying to melt it." Merlin put the toast back on the plate.
"Wait, why was the butter frozen?" Arthur said, sounding puzzled.
"Because the heating broke yesterday and I can't fix it til next month when the royalties for those illustrations come in," Merlin said patiently.
He loved Arthur (it was that or kill him) but the man could never understand that not everyone had a bottomless bank account.
"You have no heating?" Arthur's voice was shocked.
"I'm OK," Merlin shivered, burrowing deeper into the blanket, "Gwen gave me a couple more blankets, and I've got hot water bottles.
"Merlin," Arthur pleaded, "it's freezing. Come on, let me help you out."
"I'm fine," Merlin said, not wanting to go over old arguments.
"That's it, I'm coming over."
"You can't just leave work at half nine in the morning."
"I own the damn company, of course I can." And with that, Arthur hung up with a click.
Merlin sighed and went to put the kettle on. He pulled on a hoody over his jumper, and dug out the fingerless gloves Gwen had knitted him for Christmas. He wandered into the spare bedroom that served as his studio. There was no way he was going to be able to paint today. His hands were shaking too much to hold the brush. He looked at the big canvas he'd been working on, the swirling shapes resolving themselves into a dragon, wreathed in mist, shadowy and grey. Arthur had called him a fool when he'd quit at Bayer to try and see if he could actually make a living from art, but Gwen had encouraged him, buying him a beret because "all artists need one."
Some of his work sold: the line of jewellery he'd sketched out for Gwen's father to make was quite popular, and the illustrations for a series of picture books at least got his name out there, but at times like this he really missed the security of a steady income. It wasn't just the heating-his microwave had given up the ghost weeks back and his car sat, undriveable, because he couldn't afford the new starter motor. He was, horribly, beginning to suspect that Arthur was right. But there was still no way he'd let him pay for heating.
The doorbell rang, and he hurried down to open it.
Morgana stood on his doorstep, elegant in a teal wool coat and fur hat.
"Now, what have you got yourself into?" she asked, sweeping past him and up the stairs.
"Morgana, what are you doing here?" he asked. Not that it wasn't good to see her, but up and coming contract lawyers didn't generally pay house calls on a working day.
"Arthur asked me to pick you up. There's an office emergency and he knew you were on my way." She shivered "It's freezing in here, why haven't you got the heating on?"
"Because I can't afford it until next month." Merlin picked up his keys and his satchel, and wrapped his scarf around his neck.
"Merlin," she touched his arm, and her eyes were concerned, "please, let us help. Arthur's going crazy. He'd give you a job, and you'd still have time to paint."
"There's no way I could work for Arthur. I don't know how you do it." He followed Morgana down the stairs and locked the door behind him.
"I don't work for him. I get paid a very high retainer to work with him. And, thanks to my experience and contacts, Gorlois, Galahad and Percival is soon going to be Gorlois, Galahad, Percival and Fey. Get in." She opened the car and Merlin slid into the passenger seat, basking in the warmth.
"Anyway, I can look after myself. I've done it for years."
"You saved his life; he feels responsible." Morgana pulled out into the traffic.
"I shoved him out of the way of a frisbee!! And that was years ago."
Merlin thought back to University, meeting Arthur in the queue for registration, calling him a prat because he and his mates were laughing at the lad in front of him. Then, later, shoving him out of the way when an impromptu frisbee match broke out, because OK, maybe he was a prat, but there was no reason for him to be a prat with concussion.
"You know that's not what I meant." Morgana was stern.
"OK, fine, I stopped him drinking a shot that could kill him." Although really, who was allergic to hazelnuts? Merlin thought it was pretty symptomatic of the pretentiousness of the Athletic Union dinner Arthur had dragged him to that they served Frangelico at all. After that Arthur had kind of adopted him, and Merlin was pleased to find out that he was only a prat some of the time.
"And, in Arthur's world, that means you're his responsibility." Morgana indicated and turned right, pulling into a parking space at the front of Pendragon Holdings.
"I don't need his help."
"You need someone's." Morgana said, getting out of the car.
"I'm sorry Arthur," Morgana said, putting the papers down, "but there's no way of breaking it. It's a bequest, not a business deal, and your great-uncle's lawyers are right to insist on the terms being met."
Merlin looked up from his newspaper. He'd been ushered into Arthur's office and plonked down at a side table with a pot of tea and a bacon sandwich as big as his head, while Arthur and Morgana dealt with the office emergency. It involved a lot of pacing on Arthur's part, interspersed with ranting, and the cursing of dead relatives. Finally, Merlin decided he had thawed out enough to take an interest in proceedings.
"What's the problem?" he asked, joining them at Arthur's desk. Arthur looked at him, eyes stormy.
"My bloody Uncle Drake, that's the problem." He started to pace again. Arthur had a habit, when he was annoyed or angry, of bracing his hands on the table and leaning, head hanging down, while he thought, so that his back became a graceful curve, and the fabric of his suit trousers stretched tight across his ass. Merlin was half-certain he did it on purpose.
Tearing his thoughts (and eyes) away from Arthur's backside, he asked,
"I thought he was the one who died last year?"
"Yes, and the will's just passed probate, and I've been left Tintagel Distribution,"
"And that's bad?" Merlin asked.
"Not in principle. It gives us a ready-made distribution centre, warehouses across the country, a container ship. We can move everything around much more cheaply, especially overseas," Arthur said to the table top.
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem is that dear Uncle Drake was apparently LIVING IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY," Arthur bellowed, clenching his fist.
Morgana tidied the pile of papers "There are conditions that must be met before Arthur can take control of the company. One condition in particular."
"What conditions?" asked Merlin, still confused. He couldn't think of much that would make Arthur lose his temper like that. Arthur gestured for Morgana to continue, and she read aloud from the will
"To my great-nephew Arthur I bequeath TintagelDistribution, wholly and without reserve, save for one condition. You must marry, and stay married, for a period of no less than six months. You're a wonderful businessman Arthur, but a full life needs love and companionship, not just a string of affairs. Settle down young Arthur, and your life will be the richer for it." Morgana was barely keeping a straight face by the time she finished.
"Oh," Merlin said, nonplussed.
"Yes, oh." Arthur said, gritting his teeth.
"I'm sorry Arthur, but the will is iron clad. We've tried everything. You either marry-"
"That is not going to happen-" Arthur interrupted,
"Or the company is sold on the open market," she continued.
"Not a chance. We need that company, it'll save us millions and give us the edge on all our competitors. Not to mention what my father will say if I let it slip through my fingers." Arthur slouched back into his chair.
They all sat in silence for a while. Merlin was having a hard time not laughing at the thought of Arthur, Arthur, who adored his friends but had a different person in his bed every night of the week it seemed, staying with the same someone for six weeks, let alone six months.
"Unless..." Arthur said suddenly, sitting up straight, "I pretend."
"Pretend?" Morgana said.
"Arthur, the executors will want to see proof. You'll have to actually get married, and they'll want to interview you both. You'll need to take her to functions, go out together. You can't just pretend."
"And who'd marry you?" Merlin teased.
"I'm a catch and you know it. It needs to be someone I know..."
"I'm so glad you're drawing the line at prostitution," Morgana said tartly.
"Someone who knows me. Who I care for, who knows about my life and can fit in it. Someone who won't embarrass me in front of investors. And who knows my father."
"And where will you find this mythical, magical person?" Merlin asked.
Arthur looked straight at him, blue eyes glittering.
"I've found him."
"What? him? Me? You've got to be kidding." Merlin protested. He'd got sucked into a lot of crazy schemes over the years, but this took the biscuit. "I thought you meant Gwen,"
"We know how well that worked out," Arthur said.
"She's my cousin," Arthur pointed out.
"Plus, I wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot barge pole," Morgana put in.
"Oh please, you know you want this," Arthur said, gesturing down his body. "No Merlin, you're perfect." He slid out of the chair and onto his knees, looking up at Merlin through his lashes. Merlin felt a lurch of arousal at the look, even though he knew Arthur didn't mean it. His low level crush on Arthur was years old, and mostly insignificant.
"Merlin, will you marry me?"
"No, it's a ridiculous idea. We'd be found out inside a week."
"We wouldn't! We spend a lot of time together anyway, you know all about me, Morgana will back us up. It's perfect- you're kind of odd-looking, but we can't all look like me. You'll need to move in with me obviously, but at least my place has heat."
Merlin felt a flash of irritation.
"I haven't said yes, you can't just rearrange my life like that!"
"But you're going to, right? I mean it's not like you're doing anything more important with your life at the moment."
"Well, then," said Merlin, feeling the anger boil up, "I'm sure you don't want to be married to such a loser."
He was livid. Arthur did this to him every time, swanned in and rearranged his life, never once expecting that he would want something different. He marched out of the door, across the lobby, and out into the courtyard. The cold hit him and he remembered that a) Morgana had brought him here, so he had to wait for a lift back or get the bus, b) his bag, with his wallet and bus pass was up in Arthur's office, and c) so was his coat.
This last one was pressing on his mind the most. He was so sick of being cold. He tucked his hands into his sleeves and shivered, sitting on the bench that overlooked the ornamental fountain. Trust Arthur to have a damn fountain outside his office. He was semi-frozen, and about to suck it up and go back inside, when he felt something warm settle on his shoulders.
"I'm sorry," Arthur said, sitting beside him.
"You're a prat," Merlin pulled the coat round himself. It was Arthur's, good brown cashmere, and toasty-warm.
"Probably. Look, I know it's a lot to ask, but please. Do me this favour. Please. Save my life all over again." Arthur put his hand to his heart and struck a dramatic pose.
"You wanted a favour this morning," Merlin reminded him. He rubbed his hands together, trying to get some warmth into them.
"Oh that? I just wanted to ask if you'd design another logo for Tintagal. So it matches the Pendragon one." Arthur stilled Merlin's hands, then rubbed them briskly. Merlin felt warmth spreading through him.
"Of course," he said, "You know I will."
"And the other favour?" Arthur looked at him, beseechingly.
"I don't know..."
"Merlin, I need this company. Not just for the commercial advantage, but for the people who work for me. This will make their jobs more secure. It'll create new ones. They're my people and I owe them."
And that was Arthur all over, wasn't it? He'd do anything for his people, anything for his friends. It was one of the most annoying things about him, how he could be so completely self-absorbed, and selfless at the same time.
"I still don't think people will buy it," Merlin said.
"They will. I mean, it's not like we've not been there before..." Arthur trailed off, but still kept hold of his hands.
"One drunken fumble years ago does not count. And I don't believe you remember it any more than I do." Merlin protested. It'd had been one impressively drunken night after finals, and he really shouldn't have let Arthur ply him with Archers and lemonade. They'd woken up naked, together, suspiciously sticky but otherwise none the wiser. It was just one more story in a line of stories, and for awkwardness and embarrassment ranked significantly lower than the time Arthur had stranded them both, naked, on the Champs-Elysées. (Oddly he couldn't quite remember how that happened either. He suspected drinking with Arthur was bad for his mental health).
"No, but I firmly believe I was the best you've ever had," Arthur said, loftily.
Merlin laughed, a little shakily, "Your ego continues to astound me."
Arthur laughed too, then sobered. "You still haven't answered. Please Merlin. For me. Please."
Merlin took a breath.
Arthur engulfed him in a hug, then kissed him on the top of the head.
"Thank you! You won't regret it."
"I'm beginning to already."
"Oh baby, I'll treat you right. You'll be the prettiest fake wife ever." Arthur hauled him to his feet, then immediately slung an arm round his shoulders and steered him back towards the building.
"I can change my mind you know," Merlin said, but his heart wasn't in it. Arthur was so warm; they spent most of their time together anyway, and really, it would be no hardship to pretend for six months.
Of course, they had to tell the family. His mum had kissed him, hugged Arthur, and then burst into tears.
"I always suspected. Oh Arthur, welcome to the family." Arthur patted her back awkwardly as she sobbed into this shoulder.
"Thank you, Hunith. I, uh, I promise I'll look after him."
"Hey!" Merlin protested.
Hunith drew back, wiping her eyes.
"Arthur...I know you never knew your mother, and well, I'd be honoured," she stopped, then continued, "if you'd call me Mum."
"I'd like that. Mum." Arthur said, and somehow Merlin didn't think the shake in his voice was part of the act.
Gaius had just raised an eyebrow and said "Took you long enough," before embracing both of them hard.
"This whole deception is easier than I thought," Merlin said, in the car on the way to see Uther.
"Told you people would buy it," Arthur said smugly "Clearly I am irresistible."
"You're something alright." Merlin said.
He was nervous. Uther liked him, he thought, but he was still technically the boss of Pendragon Holdings, and his temper was infamous. Morgana had said it was best he didn't know the truth, and Merlin had no idea how he'd react the news.
"So, Arthur. You had something you wanted to tell me?"
Merlin felt Arthur tense beside him. Uther expected a hell of a lot from his son, and sometimes he thought the only thing Arthur was afraid of was disappointing him. He slipped his hand into Arthur's and Arthur squeezed it gratefully. Uther's eyes narrowed.
"I'm getting married. To Merlin. In about a month."
"Married." Uther said flatly.
"Yes father. "
"Has this anything to do with your Uncle's will?" Uther asked, leaning forward in his chair.
Arthur swallowed, "It may have affected the timing, but I've loved Merlin for a long time; he makes me happy, I trust him with my life, and we know this is the right decision for us." Arthur looked ahead, back ramrod straight, and squeezed Merlin's had so hard it was painful.
"Mr Pendragon," Merlin began,
"Uther," Uther interrupted, smiling like something predatory.
"Uther. I know I'm not who you might have chosen, but I do love your son, I'd do anything for him, and we are getting married. I know how important you are to him, and-"
"Arthur, would you wait outside please," Uther said quietly.
With a desperate look Arthur let him go, and went outside.
"Sit," Uther nodded at the chair. Merlin sat.
"This is not a deception?"
"No. Like Arthur said, the will did change the timescale, but I've loved Arthur for years." It was only the truth, after all. Arthur was the best friend he'd ever had, despite his faults. "I'm sorry if you're disappointed."
Merlin studied the table top.
"I'm not disappointed. Of all the people I thought he'd marry, I never thought it would be you, but now, I'm glad. You won't let him get away with being" Uther smiled, "a prat."
Merlin laughed. "No, I won't."
"Take care of him Merlin," Uther said, standing up.
"We'll take care of each other." Merlin promised.
"I want a divorce," Merlin said, thwacking his head off Arthur's kitchen table.
"We're not even married yet," Arthur said, circling another hotel in the 'Guide to your Perfect Civil Partnership'. "Here, how about this one? It has a Georgian ballroom for the reception and whirlpool baths in the honeymoon suite."
"I don't see why we can't just go to the Register Office and then to the pub," Merlin complained feebly. He was feeling harried- Arthur was planning the whole wedding like a military operation.
"Because it has to be convincing, and everyone knows I don't do low-key. Oh, that reminds me, you need to move in." Arthur made a note on his notepad.
"Can't I just wait til after the wedding?" Merlin asked. He really couldn't face packing on top of suit fittings, choosing menus, and signing hundred of invitations.
"No you cannot. People are already asking why we aren't living together."
"We could tell them you were waiting til the wedding night before despoiling me?" Merlin suggested, grabbing Arthur's list and crossing "Release doves at reception?" off it.
Arthur looked at him fondly.
"As if anyone who really had you could resist that long," he teased.
"Wow, Arthur, that was actually nice," Merlin said, writing "no salmon" under "Wedding Breakfast," and doodling a little picture of himself throwing up.
Arthur reached out and squeezed his hand
"Meant it. Not everyone would marry their best friend just to do him a favour. Whoever you finally end up with will be lucky."
Merlin turned his hand under Arthur's and squeezed back.
"Thanks," he said awkwardly.
"So, does this gratitude extend to helping me pack?"
"Hell no," Arthur said, reaching for the phone, "That's what movers are for."
"Are you ready yet?" Merlin called into the fitting room. "We're really bored, and Gwen says you promised her lunch."
"Perfection takes time," Arthur called back.
Merlin slumped back onto the fitting room sofa, and stole Gwen's copy of Marie Claire.
"Hey, I was reading that!" she said, stealing it back. "And why exactly am I here again?"
"Because Arthur wanted a second opinion. And because I'll kill him if I have to look at another cravat again."
"I heard that! Why aren't you trying yours on too?"
"Go on," Gwen said, nudging him, "get it over with."
Merlin picked up the hangers and sloped off into the fitting room next to Arthur's.
The suit was dark blue, the trousers slim fitted, the jacket lined in red silk. He'd argued long and hard and finally nixed the cummerbund, but the cream shirt needed cuff links, and there was anskinny red tie which looked stupid.
"Arthur?" he called,
"Yes?" Arthur yelled back,
"I don't have any shoes."
"Black ones, in the box."
The door opened a crack, and Gwen handed him the box, looking the other way pointedly.
He laced the shoes, buttoned the jacket, and looked at himself in the mirror. The stupid cuffs poked out of the sleeves of the jacket, and the trousers felt unusually tight after his comfy jeans.
"Come on boys, give me a twirl" Gwen said.
Merlin poked his head out of the dressing room. Arthur was holding his jacket hooked over one shoulder. His suit was brown, the shirt red and open-necked, tie half undone. He did a slow twirl, and Merlin found his eyes drawn to his waist and ass, emphasised by the cut of the trousers. The colours shouldn't have worked together, but the red lent more warmth to his skin, and made his blue eyes stand out. Merlin was pretty used to the fact his best friend was almost ridiculously, story-book handsome, but he still had to work to swallow, mouth suddenly dry.
"Oh for heaven's sake," Gwen said. "Jacket on. And do your tie properly." She stepped forward as Arthur shrugged his jacket on, the smooth brown silk outlining his broad shoulders. She retied his tie.
"Better?" he asked.
She kissed his forehead.
"Much better- you look wonderful," she said tearfully.
"Gwen, you do know this isn't real," Arthur said quietly.
"Shut up, I always cry at weddings."
"Well?" Arthur asked Merlin,
"You'll do," Merlin said.
Merlin pushed the door open, and made a slow circle. Arthur stared, Gwen wolf-whistled.
"So this is what's under the hoodies and baggy jeans! I mean, you look very nice."
"Hey!" Arthur smacked her arm, "No drooling over the fiancé."
Merlin stood, uncomfortable under Arthur's appreciative gaze.
"The shirt is missing cuff links," he said, fiddling with the cuffs.
"No it's not." Arthur ducked back into the fitting room and came back out with a small leather box. "I, um, I saw these in an antique shop, and I thought they'd do for your 'something old'."
"I'm not actually a bride you know..." Merlin's protests died away as Arthur took his wrist, hands gentle and deft, and threaded a cuff link through the holes. He did the other cuff, smoothed it down, and dropped Merlin's wrist. Merlin ran a fingertip over the enamel. The workmanship was exquisite.
"A falcon?" he asked softly.
"A Merlin," Arthur agreed.
"It's beautiful," he said.
"Yeah," Arthur was very close, eyes flicking from his wrist to his lips and for a fleeting moment Merlin thought he might kiss him. Surprised himself when he didn't automatically think this was a bad idea.
Gwen coughed, and Arthur stepped back, the moment broken.
"Well, lunch?" he said.
They had a long lunch, and Gwen took them to her father's workshop to pick out rings, leaving them as Merlin sketched out the design. Arthur kept touching him, marking his territory, Merlin thought, and when they went back to the tailor's to pick up the suits after the alterations he slipped his arm round Merlin's waist, and his hand into the back pocket of his jeans.
"What the?" Merlin said, though he made no effort to move. He had to get used to it, after all.
"Over there," Arthur whispered in his ear, "Owen, he's coming this way."
Merlin followed Arthur's gaze and sure enough, there was Owen, making his way across to them.
"Arthur? Merlin?" He asked, looking at the two of them, a little non-plussed.
"Owen," Arthur shook his hand with the one not currently making friends with Merlin's ass, "How's things at Carmarthen Mutual? Did you get our invitation?"
"I, yes. Um, I thought it was a joke." Owen said hesitantly.
"Nope, deadly serious. Of course, he didn't take much persuading." Arthur kissed the side of Merlin's head.
"Hey!" Merlin said, rallying, trying not to seem like a complete pushover, "I seem to recall you pleading with me. Even begging." He dipped his eyes and looked up through his lashes. Might as well make it convincing, he thought.
"Hey guys, I don't need to know the details," Owen said hurriedly. "Well, congratulations, although really Merlin, I'm sure you could do better," he teased.
"Yeah," Merlin said, grinning, "Really, he's lucky to have me."
"Yeah" Arthur said, kissing him again, this time lightly on the lips, "I am."
That night Merlin sat the box with the falcon cuff links on his bedside table in the spare room, and looked at them long and hard before turning out the light.
"Merlin!" Arthur bellowed up the stairs, "Get down here! Morgana needs to speak to us both."
Merlin squinted at the clock. 7 o'clock. He groaned and flopped back onto the bed. One thing had certainly changed since uni- Arthur was a freakishly early riser these days. He supposed that when you were thrust in as the head of one of Britain's biggest corporations at 21 it paid to get up ahead of the competition. He rolled out of bed and trudged downstairs into the kitchen, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
"You couldn't have come upstairs and woken me up?" he asked as he put four slices of bread into the toaster.
"You weren't awake? This is the best part of the day!" Arthur lifted the kettle and poured boiling water into two mugs.
"Oh god, how are you such a prat so early in the morning?" Merlin grumbled, opening the fridge and passing Arthur the milk.
"One of my many and varied talents." Arthur stirred three spoons of sugar into one mug and handed it to Merlin.
"If you two are done flirting?" Morgana's voice was tart, and it made Merlin jump until he realised Arthur had her on speakerphone.
"Morning Morgana," he said, spreading butter on the toast and holding his hand out for the jar of marmalade. "What's so important his Lordship had to wake me up?" He spread marmalade thickly onto two slices and passed them across to Arthur.
"There have been doubts expressed as to the validity of the marriage," Morgana said.
"We're not even married yet," Arthur said around a mouthful of toast.
"The director of Tintagelstarted planning a buyout when it became clear how sick your Uncle was. He expected to make a killing, but the bequest has put paid to that. He doesn't believe you're serious and he's got other people questioning, especially given your reputation."
"I knew this was too good to last," Arthur said morosely into his mug.
"The lawyers want to visit you and Merlin at home and interview you," Morgana said, patiently.
"No way!" Arthur protested, slamming the mug down.
"Arthur, the more you protest the more it looks like you have something to hide. Just let me set up a meeting, invite them to the engagement party on Saturday, and keep up the act. It will all be fine."
"That OK with you Merlin?" Arthur asked.
Merlin was still running largely on automatic, so he just shrugged and said,
"Fine, I'll set up the meeting for tomorrow then. I'll talk to you later." Morgana hung up.
Merlin filched the crusts off Arthur's plate. He never ate them.
"Guess this means we'd better move my stuff into your room," he said, thinking aloud.
Arthur smacked his hand away from the crusts.
"Guess so. You'd better not hog the duvet."
Merlin spent the day moving his belongings into the master bedroom, shoving Arthur's suits and sweaters aside to hang up his own clothes, mixing up his Marks and Spencer boxers with Arthur's silk ones, and scattering t shirts and jeans around with abandon. This served the dual purpose of making it clear the room was occupied by 2 people, and pissing Arthur off, who'd always been a bit of a neat freak.
He was kind of surprised to find a picture of the two of them on the mantelpiece. He picked it up, and recognised it was one Morgana had taken last year when she'd insisted they go to the beach for her birthday. They'd wound up playing beach cricket, him and Morgana against Arthur and Gwen, and Arthur had tackled him to the floor to try and stop him making the catch. It showed Arthur, half on top of him, gripping the wrist of the hand that held the cricket ball, both of them flushed and laughing and looking at each other. He supposed Arthur had dug it out when this whole charade had started.
"Honey I'm home!" Arthur called as he opened the door.
"Yeah, that's never going to get old," Merlin said from the living room.
Arthur cooked, and after dinner they made a plan of action for the interviews tomorrow.
"So, just stick to the story, and we'll be fine," Arthur said, for the seventh time.
"Arthur, I know. We've been over this. All my stuff is moved, our clothes are all mixed up, as far as anyone who isn't Gwen or Morgana is concerned we're madly in love. Got it." Merlin was sitting with his back propped against the sofa, sketching, Arthur having hogged the whole sofa with his long legs.
"Good work on the photo by the way," Merlin continued. He drew a careful swirl around the bear he was trying out as the Tintagellogo. It wasn't really working.
"What photo?" Arthur asked, stretching out and resting his head on the arm of the sofa.
Merlin scrawled out the bear and began drawing a griffin.
"The one of both of us on the beach last year. It really looks like we're together." He turned to look at Arthur, who looked puzzled.
"Oh, that's been there for ages," Arthur said absently.
They ended up watching Die Hard for about the millionth time. Half way through Arthur flopped his hand down onto Merlin's head, ruffling his hair.
"What are you doing?" Merlin asked sleepily, "'m not a dog, stop patting me."
"I know." Arthur said, rubbing his fingers across Merlin's scalp.
It was kind of soothing, so Merlin just let him carry on.
Arthur was asleep and snoring by the time Merlin finally went to bed. He kept later hours, and part of him wanted to make sure Arthur would be asleep so they didn't get stuck going over plans one more time. Arthur had not stopped playing with his hair all the way through Die Hard and on into Die Harder. Merlin guessed it was part of the whole 'get used to acting like a couple thing', the same way Arthur would cup his elbow when they were going through doors, or sit squashed up next to him, or those infuriating kisses he'd drop to Merlin's temple, or the top of his head. Since seeing Owen Arthur hadn't kissed him on the lips again, but he'd had that look sometimes. Like he wanted to. It was - unsettling.
Arthur, the selfish sod, was starfished out in the centre of the bed, blond hair flopping in his face, lips slightly parted, duvet slipping down to his waist to show his bare torso. He looked like a fashion shoot, all muscles and artful shadows.
"Shove over," Merlin said, trying to slide into bed. Arthur made a complaining noise, but moved enough to let Merlin get his head on the pillow. Merlin tugged the duvet up to his ears, and turned off the light, Arthur's feet tangled with his own.
Merlin woke with a start when Arthur's alarm went off, the headlines blaring from the radio on Arthur's side of the bed. Somehow in the night Arthur had gravitated to him, and was now clamped to his side, leg thrown over his, drooling into his shoulder. It felt surprisingly right.
Arthur's eyes fluttered open, then crinkled into a smile.
"You sleep like the dead," Arthur said, "I got up in the night and you didn't even move."
Merlin knew this; Will used to say it would take knights on horseback to wake him.
"Yeah, well, you snore," he said sleepily.
Arthur propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at him,
"Come on, rise and shine. We've got lawyers to deceive."
"So, Mr Emrys," the lawyer looked up from his file, "how long have you known Arthur?"
Well, that was easy.
"Since we met at university. We lived together in our final year, but we've known each other since we started." Merlin fought the urge to snatch the lawyer's notepad and start sketching to calm himself down. For some reason he'd assumed they'd be interviewed together, but he supposed Saunders and Rhys wanted the chance to grill them separately. And grill him they had, everything from what their parents thought to why he'd only just moved in to what Arthur thought about his art.
"And when did the status of your relationship change?"
"Around this time last year," Merlin said, spinning the story they'd worked out. "I'd just broken up with my ex, and Arthur was there. I realised he was always there. It was like everything suddenly made sense." He thought it was incredibly soppy, but Arthur insisted that lawyers were closet romantics, to make up for their hard-bitten exteriors.
("Just look at Morgana" he'd said
"She is so not a romantic," Merlin had argued.
"You didn't grow up with her in her Beauty and the Beast phase.")
"I see." Saunders pursed his lips, "So, what am I to make of the reports of Arthur with," he flipped through the file, "several different men and women in the intervening period?"
Merlin winced internally, but ploughed on. This was the hard part.
"Arthur's charismatic, a flirt. I knew that from the beginning. But I can promise you, if I thought it was any more than flirting I wouldn't be marrying him. I believe, no, I know, that Arthur loves me every bit as much as I love him. He wouldn't jeopardise that. If any of those people tell you different, well, it's just wishful thinking on their part. I mean," Merlin looked up, smiling, as Arthur came into the living room, Rhys in tow, "who wouldn't want him? But I'm the only one that gets him."
"Yeah," Arthur's eyes were locked on his, "you are." He folded himself gracefully onto the sofa next to Merlin, and lent across and kissed him, slowly, quite unlike anything they'd done before, before breaking off and asking,
"Are you done, Mr Saunders? I know it's hard to imagine, but we've got an engagement party tomorrow to plan. Finished questioning my virtue? Want a practical demonstration?"
"Arthur.." Merlin warned. He was going to blow all their hard work if he pissed the lawyers off.
"That won't be necessary Mr Pendragon. I'll confer with my colleague, and we will be attending the party tomorrow, after which we'll be making an interim report." Saunders got to his feet. "We'll see ourselves out."
As the door clicked shut behind them Arthur let out a huge breath and said
"Good thinking on your feet there Merlin,"
"Yeah," Merlin said distantly, dismayed to find he'd meant every word.
"Enjoying the party Gwen?" Merlin asked over the music. Arthur had gone all-out, hiring the Deco Bar, a live band, and inviting practically everybody.
"Amazing," Gwen said, grabbing a miniature pavlova from the tray of a passing waiter, "my friends should get fake-engaged every week."
"Gwen!" he hissed, "people might hear you!"
"They wouldn't believe me even if they did," she said cryptically, "not with the way you two always behave."
Merlin was about to ask what she meant when Arthur appeared and hugged him from behind, winding his arms around his waist and propping his chin on his shoulder.
"Merlin, Gwen," he said, as if he hadn't just turned into a human octopus.
"Exactly my point," Gwen said in response to Merlin's raised eyebrows.
"What point?" Arthur asked, nibbling Merlin's ear. Merlin shifted, his ears were really sensitive.
"Just that you've outdone yourself with this party," Gwen lied smoothly.
"Did you bring Lance? I've been looking for him." Arthur shifted so only one arm was round Merlin's waist, holding him tight against him, hand once again on his backside.
"Yes. Thanks for inviting him, it means a lot to me," Gwen said, smiling.
"He's important to you, that makes him important to me. Now, if you'll excuse us, I need to borrow my fiancé."
Arthur steered Merlin across the room.
"What's with all the touching?" Merlin asked.
"Got to sell it Merlin, the lawyers are here." Arthur said, lips tickling his ear.
"And that involves groping my ass?" Merlin asked.
"Such as it is," Arthur said, squeezing, "Seriously, we've got to feed you more, you're skin and bone."
"I'm wiry" Merlin said.
"Whatever. Ah, Auntie Pru, have you met Merlin?"
Everything was going swimmingly until Morgana grabbed his elbow and pulled him into an alcove.
"Merlin!" she hissed, "why aren't you with Arthur?"
"Mum and Gauis have just left, I was just saying goodbye," he replied, confused. "What's the matter?"
"That's the matter. Merlin, the lawyers are here, it doesn't look good."
He looked where she was pointing, and his heart sank. Sophie. Arthur had been infatuated with her briefly about two years ago, and she still seemed to think they were Meant To Be. He had no idea how she'd been invited, but there she was, hanging off Arthur's arm, staring up into his face, and, as Merlin watched, raising a hand to cup Arthur's cheek. Merlin wasn't the only one watching, he saw. Rhys was nearby, and Merlin saw him take a digital camera out of his pocket, and frame the shot. Just as he was about to press the shutter, Gwen stumbled into him, spilling her drink and plate of cake all down him. Merlin breathed a sigh of relief.
"Well, don't just stand here! Go!" Morgana said, shoving him out of the alcove.
Merlin made a mental note to thank Gwen later (she was clumsy, but not that clumsy) and hurried over to rescue Arthur.
"Arthur," he said, sliding his hand down Arthur's arm to grasp his hand. Arthur turned to him with a look of such gratitude it made his heart skip.
"Merlin! This is-"
"Someone without enough class to know you don't hit on a man at his own engagement party?" Merlin narrowed his eyes at Sophie. She was, he supposed, pretty, but her little-girl pigtails and whispery voice annoyed him intently, as did the way she demanded constant attention. The two weeks Arthur had been sleeping with her had been torture. Morgana actively loathed her.
"I was just talking to him," she protested, eyes wide and faux-innocent.
"What part of 'engaged' don't you understand?" Merlin asked, as Arthur leaned more fully against him. Merlin let go of his hand, and slung an arm around his waist. He felt Arthur give a little wriggle into the contact. "Seriously, go away. And if I find out who brought you they are going to find out how inventive a chemist with time on his hands can be." Sophie huffed, but flounced off. Arthur sagged against him, and rested his head on Merlin's shoulder.
"I told her I wasn't interested, but she wouldn't listen."
"Yeah, well, she's gone now." But Rhys was still looking suspicious over by the bar, so Merlin whispered, "make this look good," tipped Arthur's head up, and kissed him.
Arthur took him at his word, clutching at him like he was desperate, eyes fluttering closed, making little noises in the back of his throat. Merlin slid one had up into Arthur's ridiculously soft, thick hair and kissed him again, tracing his tongue across Arthur's lips before drawing away reluctantly. But Arthur just leaned forward and kissed him once more before ghosting his lips up Merlin's jaw to his ear and whispering,
"Lawyers have gone. We can stop now. Good acting by the way."
"Thanks," Merlin said, not even sure it was an act any more.
"Wake up," Arthur was shaking his shoulder.
"timeisit?" Merlin grumbled, turning onto his side and putting his pillow over his head.
"Nine. Come on Merlin, big day ahead of us."
Merlin cracked open his eyes. Arthur stood over him, the morning sun turning his hair to gold. He held out the mug he was holding and Merlin took it, sitting up.
"Thanks," he said, taking a big gulp of tea. The world swam into focus.
"What are you smirking at?" He asked.
"Your bedhead," Arthur said, sitting on the side of the bed.
"Well, get used to it, you'll be seeing it for the next six months. And its not nice to insult me on our wedding day," Merlin fake-pouted.
"I could just shave your head in your sleep," Arthur said thoughtfully.
Merlin finished his tea.
"So, ready to do this?" he asked.
When Arthur didn't answer he nudged him. "Not backing out on me now, are you?"
"No, I'm just, I might be..." Arthur was uncharacteristically shifty.
"Nervous? You?" Merlin tried to keep the smile off his face.
"Hey, it's a big step! It means something, even if it doesn't mean what everyone thinks it does."
Arthur looked so lost, so unlike himself, that Merlin held out both arms.
"Come here," he said, and after a moment's hesitation Arthur burrowed into his arms, holding him tight.
"It's OK, shhhh, it's OK," Merlin said into the top of his head, smelling Arthur's shampoo. "We go, we get married, we have a big reception with all our friends, we stick it out for six months, it'll be fine."
He felt Arthur's arms tighten even more, and felt his lips brush his neck as he spoke.
"And after six months?"
"You get Tintagal, I move back home, and everything goes back to the way it was," Merlin said brightly.
"Yeah," Arthur said quietly.
They sat like that for some minutes, and Merlin, feeling the heavy thud of Arthur's heart, lying in a bed that smelled of both of them, thought going back to the way things were would be pretty much impossible.
Eventually Arthur lifted his head, looking a him with big blue eyes. He craned his neck up and kissed Merlin, soft and sweet.
"What was that for?" Merlin asked. Arthur, in bed, kissing him, was more than he could cope with this early, especially today.
"For luck," Arthur said, levering himself up.
"OK, then," Merlin said, bizarrely pleased. "Ready to do this?"
Arthur squared his shoulders.
"Yeah, let's go."
The usher opened the doors to the Great Hall at the Georgian Court Hotel as harp music played softly.
"In you go," she said, "They're waiting for you."
Merlin held out his hand. Arthur took it, and they walked up the aisle to the front of the hall.
It was all a bit of a blur, the Registrar's words washing over Merlin as he answered by rote, until Gwen bought forward the rings.
"Arthur, if you could take Merlin's ring and say your vows?"
Arthur picked up the ring and slid it onto his finger.
"I give you this ring as a token of my love, and a symbol of our lives together. I promise to care for you, love you and support you, now and forever."
Arthur looked straight at him, and Merlin had to remind himself once again that it was all a charade.
"Merlin, if you could do the same?"
The rings were rose gold etched with flame, and Arthur's had was warm and strong in his as he slid the ring onto his finger, and repeated his vows.
They signed the register, then stepped aside as Hunith, wiping her eyes, and Uther did the same.
"Arthur and Merlin, you have given and received rings, you have made a solemn promise, and you have signed the register in the presence of witnesses." The Registrar smiled at them "it is my pleasure and privilege to declare you partners in law, and in life. Congratulations to you both!"
She led the wedding guests in a round of applause. Merlin caught sight of Gwen blowing her nose loudly, and passing a box of tissues on to Gaius, Arthur hugged him, whispering
"Thank you," in his ear. Merlin thought he might kiss him, wanted him to, but Arthur just grabbed his hand and led him out of the hall, the guests following behind them.
The photographer, Tristram, was a giant pain in the backside, Merlin decided. Not only did he want to take all the photos outside, even though it was freezing, but he took dozens and dozens of pictures of everyone but them. Morgana and Gwen holding flowers. Morgana and Uther. Uther, Hunith and Morgana. Morgana and Gaius. Morgana by the ornamental fountain. Eventually he finally remembered who he was supposed to be photographing, though Merlin couldn't entirely blame him. Morgana's blue dress was - distracting.
"OK, Merlin, Arthur. Can you sit on this bench here and hold hands? That's it, show us the rings." He snapped away.
"Great, now Arthur, you stand behind Merlin and put your hands on his shoulders. Merlin, look up. Lovely."
Snap, snap, snap.
"This bench is freezing," Merlin said, "and damp. Who takes pictures outside in November?"
"Stop complaining," Arthur said, but he rubbed Merlin's shoulders through the blue cloth, sending heat through him, and reminding Merlin how he'd got into this mess in the first place.
"OK, great, now both of you stand over here," Tristram darted forward to nudge them into a patch of sunlight. "And how about a kiss?"
Merlin leaned forward and gave Arthur a clumsy peck on the mouth, feeling suddenly awkward.
"Come on guys, these are your wedding pictures! Try again." Tristram demanded.
"Don't give me a complex Merlin," Arthur said jokingly.
Merlin stepped forward again, giving in to what, if he was honest with himself, he had been wanting to do for weeks, years. He tilted his head and pressed his lips to Arthur's, sucking softly on his bottom lip. He felt Arthur gasp and took the opportunity to slide his tongue into Arthur's mouth, kissing him more deeply, like it meant something. Maybe it did, because Arthur said
"Hmmmmm" softly and Merlin let his hands come up to bracket Arthur's face, felt Arthur press closer, slipping one leg between Merlin's, holding onto him. Arthur kissed him back with heat, passion, and no way, thought Merlin, no way could this all be an act.
"That's it, that's it, lovely. Now look at me," Tristram' s voice broke in, and Arthur pulled back reluctantly, resting his forehead against Merlin's. His eyes were a little glassy, pupils wide, and Merlin felt his own face flush at what he thought he saw there.
"I think it..." Arthur began, but was interrupted once more by Tristram tugging on his elbow.
"Great, now if we could have you both with your parents? Over by the topiary?"
Merlin gritted his teeth, and followed.
The reception was a kind of refined torture. Merlin was still buzzing from the kiss, and he had about a million questions, but he had to sit next to Arthur through the smoked trout, the rare roast beef with horseradish mash, and the lemon syllabub, and not ask any of them. Every time they caught each other's eye Merlin felt a prickle of something up his spine, the realisation, however ironic it might be, that maybe what he'd thought was an act wasn't one at all.
And Arthur kept touching him. Brushing their fingers together as they ate, leaning close to point out the more obscure relatives, hooking his foot round Merlin's ankle. Merlin couldn't decide whether he was doing it to sell it to the lawyers or not, but it was driving him mad. By the time the syllabub was served they were pressed together all down one side.
"Mmm, 's good," Merlin said, licking the spoon and scraping up the dregs of the lemony foam.
Arthur leaned forward and grasped his wrist, sliding his mouth slowly over the spoon and drawing it back with a loud 'pop'.
"I know," he said, and winked.
Merlin shifted in his seat, the stupid skinny trousers suddenly feeling that bit tighter.
"Unfair," he croaked.
Before Arthur could respond Gwen stood up, tapping her spoon against her champagne glass.
"Friends," she said, "Um, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to propose a toast. Merlin, I think you're brave. Braver than me, that's for sure. I mean, not that I can't see what you see in him, well, um..." She trailed off and Merlin found it hard to control his laughter.
Gwen rallied and said,
"Merlin and Arthur have known each other years. Their exploits are legendary- ask Arthur about the Champs-Elysées if you a get chance."
"Oi!" Arthur said, but he laughed and slipped his arm around Merlin. Merlin leaned into it.
"But, I can honestly say its clear to everyone that you're devoted to each other, so everyone please raise your glass as we wish Arthur and Merlin a long and happy life together. Arthur and Merlin!"
"Arthur and Merlin!" the guests chorused.
Merlin drank along with everyone else and then felt Arthur's fingers on his jaw, turning him in, then Arthur's lips were on his, kissing him. Merlin flailed and set his glass down, then clung onto Arthur, feeling the muscle under thin silk. Arthur clearly thought this was a great idea, and the kiss turned hot, a little dirty, Arthur's tongue sly in his mouth, taste of citrus, and suddenly Merlin wanted the reception to be over. Now.
They drew apart to a chorus of catcalls and whistles, and Merlin, feeling the blush start, hid his face in Arthur's shoulder.
"Thank you Gwen," Arthur said. "Now if you've all finished leering," (he shot Morgana a look) "The DJ is just about ready. Hunith, I expect you to save me a dance."
"Are you, in fact, listening to anything I've said?" Lance asked, but fondly.
The dancing had been going on for what seemed like hours. Merlin just wanted to grab Arthur, take him up to their suite and damn the consequences, but Arthur kept being dragged off by relatives. Every so often he'd catch Arthur's eye and would flash him a look all heat and knowingness, and Merlin wanted to make him come good on everything those looks and the kisses they'd shared promised.
"Sorry Lance," he said, feeling sheepish, " I just..."
"Want to be anywhere but here. I think we can all see that." Lance said.
"Well, yes, I..."
"It's your wedding. So go and grab Arthur from whatever relative has him in their clutches and just go." Lance drained his drink. "I'm going to find Gwen," he clapped Merlin on the shoulder. "Enjoy the rest of your evening."
Merlin found Arthur surrounded by a crowd of his ex-rugby and football mates. Arthur shot him a 'help me' look' as he hurried over.
"Hey," Merlin said as he slid an arm around Arthur's waist. Deciding he was owed something, he let his hand drop to Arthur's ass, squeezing. Unlike Arthur at the engagement party, he had no complaints.
"Hey yourself," Arthur said leaning into him.
"You ready to get out of here?" Merlin asked quietly.
"Thought you'd never ask," Arthur said, breath tickling his ear.
"Right," Arthur announced to the rest of the group, "enjoy the rest of the party, I'm off to fuck my new husband."
"Too much information!" Owen protested, but Arthur just laughed and grabbed Merlin's hand, towing him out of the room.
As soon as they got to the lift Arthur hit the button for their floor, then pushed him up against the wall, kissing him, hard and desperate.
"God," Merlin gasped, as Arthur's hands slid up his back, under the suit jacket, scorching through the cotton shirt, "guess you weren't joking with Owen?"
"Did you want me to be joking?" Arthur said in between kisses, weight pinning him to the wall.
"No, you, god, you, the way you've been looking at me," Merlin couldn't get the words out, torn between Arthur's lips on his jaw and Arthur's hands, which were busy tugging his shirt out of his trousers. He remembered belatedly that he had hands too, and was just pushing the jacket off Arthur's shoulders when the lift pinged.
"Arthur," he said.
"Mmm" Arthur said into the hollow of his throat.
"Arthur," he said again, "it's our floor."
This made Arthur draw back, mouth red and plump, then he was being dragged out of the lift and down the corridor to the honeymoon suite. Merlin pressed himself against Arthur's back, kissing his neck as Arthur fumbled with the keycard. Arthur pushed back against him briefly, then the door was open and they were tumbling through. Merlin shoved the jacket off Arthur's shoulders as soon as the door was closed, then shoved him up against it, sliding his knee between Arthur's legs.
Arthur's kisses were wet, hot, addicting.
"God, so not joking," Arthur said, breathless. "The way you looked, all through the meal, touching me.."
"You were touching me," Merlin protested, breath catching as Arthur ground against his thigh "With the spoon, what the hell was that?"
"Advertising," Arthur smirked, then bought his hands up, threading them into Merlin's hair, kissing him, biting his lip. Merlin shuddered.
"I've wanted..." Arthur continued.
Merlin groaned, and started unbuttoning Arthur's shirt, hands clumsy on the buttons.
"Why didn't you say anything?" he asked, voice cracking.
"Wasn't sure you meant it til today," Arthur said, yanking Merlin's tie over his head and starting on his shirt buttons in return.
"I'm not, shit, let me get these clothes off, not that good an actor." Merlin stepped back to kick out of his shoes, hopping backward at the same time as he started on his belt. Arthur was stalking towards him, shirt gone, shoes gone, trousers unbuttoned, with the outline of his cock clear through the fabric. He looked golden and strong and beautiful in the lamplight, and Merlin had a fleeting moment of feeling like a pale, scrawny Celt before Arthur pounced like a giant cat, toppling him onto the bed, straddling him.
Merlin groaned and tugged Arthur down to kiss him again, the feel of skin on skin, Arthur's chest scratchy with hair and firm with muscle, amazingly right against him. Arthur kissed him slowly, leisurely, and Merlin let his hands map the smooth skin of Arthur's back and drift down to the curve of his ass.
Arthur drew back and looked at him, the red of arousal staining his cheeks, lips bitten and swollen.
"Do you remember any of it? Before, at uni?" he asked, almost shyly.
Merlin shook his head and pushed up against him, trying to get some friction.
"No. I've wanted to, but no. You?"
"Nothing," Arthur said, stretching out on top of him and biting along his jaw. "Time to make some new memories."
Over the past month Merlin had grown used to waking with Arthur half-draped over him, but this was new. Arthur was kissing his neck, moving down to nuzzle at his collarbone, kissing all the way along, nipping and licking.
"Myargh," he said, forcing his eyes open.
"Morning," Arthur said, kissing, rubbing up against him.
Merlin squinted, looking up at Arthur, at the bite mark on his throat and felt a wave of heat roll through him as he remembered putting it there.
"Wgstfgl," he said croakily.
"I see sex makes you even less coherent in the mornings," Arthur said brightly, nuzzling up under his ear.
"M'awake," Merlin said half-heartedly. He had Arthur Pendragon in his bed, looking deliciously fucked-out, the morning sun striking off his yellow hair, gilding his muscles and god shining off his wedding ring,and, Merlin thought, he could be excused a little incoherence.
"Here," he said, tugging Arthur down to kiss him, regardless of morning breath. Arthur just melted into him, and Merlin felt himself go all the way hard.
"Mmmm, good morning," Arthur murmured.
And when Arthur kissed and nipped his way down Merlin's body stopping with his sinful mouth mere millimetres above his cock to smirk at him before swallowing him down Merlin decided he'd never complain about Arthur's insane morning chirpiness ever again.
"Gwen," Merlin said "Me and Arthur, we need to tell you something."
He took Arthur's hand, rubbing over the ring. Three weeks were nowhere near enough to get used to the fact that he'd apparently married his best friend for real. The spectacular sex helped though.
"You've realised that you've basically been married for years and we can all stop pretending?" Gwen said, smiling over the rim of her teacup.
"I, we..." Arthur spluttered, for once at a loss.
"Arthur," Gwen said patiently, "We were together, for what, three weeks? And that was one of your longer relationships. Even then you spent more time with Merlin, or talking about Merlin, than anything else. And Merlin, the amount of crap you put up with from him, well, love's the only explanation."
"I wish people had told us this," Merlin said. "It would have saved a lot of time."
"Well, you know now," Gwen said, patting his hand. "Really, Morgana was worried we'd have to have an intervention."
"Hah!" Arthur said "See if we come to your wedding."
Epilogue: Six Months Later
"And if you could sign here, and here," Saunders said.
Morgana passed over the paperwork and Arthur signed where requested. Morgana and Saunders signed in the spaces for witnesses.
"Congratulations, Tintagel Distribution is now an official subsidiary of Pendragon Holdings." Saunders handed the paperwork back over. "Your late Uncle has given you a thriving company, Mr Pendragon."
Arthur thumbed his wedding ring, and looked out of his office to where Merlin was chatting with one of the graphic designers, waiting to meet Arthur for lunch. He looked up and flashed Arthur a smile.
"Oh," Arthur said, smiling back, "He gave me much more than that."