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Surprises and Discoveries

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It all starts with a date.

Arthur’s the one who brought it up, the idea of going on a date. They’ve both been busy recently, between their respective, demanding careers and being there for Erin, something that is just as demanding and time-consuming. And it’s not that they’ve been fighting, or even that they’ve started hating each other, but they’ve fallen into a bit of a routine. It all feels a bit automatic, like there’s a spark that’s gone missing somewhere along the way.

Merlin agrees that it’s been far too long. They deserve an evening out, an evening to themselves. An evening to be together, a couple, in love. It’s all disgustingly romantic, Merlin thinks, but that doesn’t stop his heart from beating a little bit faster in anticipation.

A week before the actual date they ended up settling on, Merlin calls his mum and asks her if she’d be able to babysit Erin for the night. He worries he might have left it a bit late, but they really only settled on a date the night before.

They decided that Valentine’s Day was likely to be a mess, what with seemingly everyone celebrating, so why not go out the following day, on the fifteenth. Neither of them have to go anywhere the following day. It’s perfect, absolutely perfect.

It’s not the end of the world if his mum isn’t available; he still has a few options – Gwen and Lance, to start with, Morgana, maybe (even though Arthur doesn’t want Erin to spend too much time with Aunt Morgana and her corrupting influence). And there’s always the babysitter agency that they’ve used the few times no one’s been available to keep Erin. But Saturday night is always a popular night, and Merlin fears they might be fully booked. That would leave them with Uther, Arthur’s father. And Merlin dreads leaving Erin with Uther as much as Arthur dreads leaving her with Morgana, if not more.

It’s not that Uther’s unfit to keep Erin for a few hours. He’s not. In fact, both Merlin and Arthur were surprised to see how much Uther seems to love his granddaughter (Arthur pretends not to be slightly envious, but Merlin knows better). Their flat is filled with expensive gifts and expensive clothes that Uther has bought for her. He even makes an effort to be, if not friendly, at least cordial with Merlin when Erin’s within earshot. But if Merlin can avoid calling him, then he most certainly will.

Hunith’s answer is immediate – of course she can, it’s been so long since she’s seen her favourite granddaughter, and so on, and so forth, for a good five minutes. At least it gives Merlin time to drink his tea before it goes cold.

He lets his attention drift a little as Hunith goes through her plans for Saturday. Erin’s sitting on the floor a few feet away, clapping her little hands as she tries to sing along to the song on the radio. Merlin smiles fondly. She has no sense of rhythm whatsoever yet, which Arthur teasingly blames on him.

Finally, his mum hangs up and Merlin can go to his daughter. He picks her up, lifting her high in the air and she giggles with delight.

“Daddy!” she squeals happily, reaching for him.

Merlin laughs too. He can’t help it, he loves her so fucking much. She’s the most precious, perfect, beautiful person he’s ever seen. Being her father is in equal parts incredibly rewarding and incredibly scary. He brings her to rest on his hip, one arm around her, and Erin grabs onto his T-shirt, holding it in her tiny fists.

Merlin presses a kiss to her head, her fiery-red curls tickling his nose. She’s a bit of a mystery like that – no one knows where she got her curly red hair, constellation of freckles and stormy grey eyes, though Hunith seems to remember her grandmother had curly hair. It doesn’t really matter, Merlin and Arthur both agree on that point. As she grows, she’s starting to look more and more like her parents, and they’re both starting to see hints that she too has magic.

“Hello princess,” Merlin says, leaning down so that Erin can kiss his cheek. There are times where Merlin feels like his heart is going to explode with all the love he has for his daughter. This is definitely one of them. “Do you know what time it is?”

Erin shakes her head, her eyes gleaming with amusement. She knows what time it is, but she always likes to pretend she doesn’t.

“It’s time for your bath, young lady,” Merlin says, carrying her to the bathroom.

“Ba?” she asks.

“Bath,” Merlin replies, confirming.

“No daddy,” she says, pouting adorably. It’s part of the act. She pretends to not want a bath, but Merlin knows better.

“No?” he says, feigning confusion.

“No!” she squeals, wriggling in Merlin’s grip. She’s almost beside herself with laughter.

“Yes, bath,” Merlin says, kissing her head again.

And despite her ‘protest’, it doesn’t take long before Erin’s in the tub, shallowly filled with clear warm water, happily splashing about and babbling enthusiastically. Merlin grabs one of her rubber ducks and drops it into her bath, splashing her gently.

“’Ucky!” she squeals in delight. It’s her favourite game, dropping toys into the water and making them splash.

“Yes, ducky,” Merlin says, a huge grin on his face. He hands Erin the duck and watches as she drops it into the water over and over again.

Merlin’s so engrossed with watching Erin play in the tub that he doesn’t even notice that Arthur’s home until he kneels down next to him by the tub, leaning over to kiss him gently. He then reaches over a brushes Erin’s wet curls from her face. But Erin’s far too busy trying to keep her rubber duck underwater to react.

“How was your day?” Merlin asks, snuggling closer to Arthur.

Arthur laughs and pushes him away. “Don’t do that, you’re soaking wet! And it was fine. You?”

“Same,” he says. Arthur’s given up pushing him away, so Merlin wraps his arms around him. “Called mum,” he continues. “She’s coming over Saturday, around tea time.”

“Good, good,” Arthur says. “That’ll give us a bit of time before heading out.”

Merlin doesn’t even bother asking where they’re going on Saturday. He’s tried all week, and all he gets is a smug smile from Arthur.

The actual details of the date – where, when, how – are a secret. Arthur wants it to be a surprise. He looks so excited and enthusiastic when he says it that Merlin agrees to let him sort it all out in a heartbeat. Merlin’s never been good at refusing Arthur anything, especially not when he looks like this – glowing, is the word Merlin would use. It makes his heart jump and makes him feel all warm and tingly inside. The feeling only grows stronger when Arthur pulls him in for a gentle kiss, followed by a whispered ‘thank you’ hot against his ear that threatens to make him melt.

*

Saturday evening finally arrives after what feels like an exceedingly long week to Merlin. And of course Erin would choose that moment to throw a tantrum.

“Come on, Erin,” Merlin coos, bouncing her up and down and growing desperate, as she clings to him tightly. “Don’t you want to go with grandma?”

“No!” Erin screeches angrily, right next to his ear, and Merlin winces. He can feel her curl her fists tighter into his jumper. “Daddy, no!”

She’s not always like this, thankfully, but the few tantrums she throws are real nightmares to deal with. His mum smiles at him knowingly, patiently. “Sorry, mum,” he says.

“It’s alright,” she says. “You were the same at her age.”

Merlin supposes it’s supposed to be comforting, but right now, it feels anything but that, knowing that this is a normal part of Erin growing up. He can only hope she’ll grow out of it quickly enough.

Part of him just wants to hand Erin over to his mum and be done with it, completely ignoring her tantrum. But it wouldn’t be fair to either Erin or his mum. And as much as he’s looking forward to this date, has been all week, he’d rather cancel than leave Erin like this. She’s his (and Arthur’s) responsibility.

Arthur chooses that moment to come home, his hair a mess and wearing a threadbare T-shirt and old tracksuit bottom after training. At least it distracts Erin from her tantrum. “Daddy!” she cries happily, sniffling slightly.

“What’s all this?” Arthur asks, dropping his bag on the floor. Merlin sighs. It’s always the same when Arthur’s got work, he always leaves his stuff wherever he drops it instead of putting it away. It’s setting the wrong example for their daughter.

“Somebody doesn’t want to go with grandma,” he says.

“Is that true, Erin?”

Erin’s much calmer now, snuggling up to Merlin like she wasn’t shouting the place down just moments ago. He feels her nod, her little head moving up and down against his chest against the wet spot her tears left. He can see the way she looks in his head, all shy and burying her head against Merlin, yet still looking up at Arthur with a small, fey smile. The amount of power she has over the two of them is absolutely amazing. Neither of them can stay mad at her for very long.

Arthur comes over to them, sliding one arm around Merlin’s waist and ruffling Erin’s short, wispy curls. “It’s just for one night, sweetheart,” Arthur says. “And you’re a good girl, aren’t you?”

Erin nods again, still half-hiding against Merlin’s chest.

“So you’re going to be a good girl now and go with grandma, aren’t you?” Arthur continues. Now that Erin’s calm, it all seems so easy.

“Yes,” Erin says tentatively, sniffling and wiping her nose on Merlin’s shirt. She’s still not sure whether she wants to go or not, Merlin can tell, but she doesn’t want to disappoint Arthur.

Arthur beams at her and takes her from Merlin’s arms. “That’s my good girl,” he says, wiping her tears and kissing her cheek with a deliberate, loud smack. Erin giggles and pushes at his face with her tiny hands.

“Daddy, no! Ucky!”

Arthur laughs and kisses her again. Erin just squeals with delight this time. Merlin allows himself a discreet sigh of relief as he watches his fiancé play with their child. Crisis averted.

“We’ll see you tomorrow, sweetheart,” Arthur continues, handing her over to Hunith. “You be a good girl for your grandma, now.”

Erin nods and waves at the pair of them with both hands while Hunith struggles to keep hold of the excited, wiggling toddler. “Bye bye, daddy!” she says. She’s still red in the face from crying, but she’s smiling so brightly at them, like she hadn’t been throwing a tantrum just minutes ago.

Merlin hands his mum Erin’s overnight bag, a light teal bag with white flowers, and waves at his daughter.

“See you tomorrow, Erin,” he says. “Thanks mum.”

Hunith smiles and kisses her son’s cheek. “You’re welcome. Why don’t you come over for lunch tomorrow?”

“I’ll try and get Merlin out of bed before lunch then,” Arthur teases.

“Very funny, Arthur,” Merlin mutters, rolling his eyes.

Hunith laughs, which makes Erin laugh too, and kisses Arthur’s cheek. “Give me a ring when you set off.”

“Will do,” Arthur says. “Bye Hunith, and thanks again for agreeing to babysit our little monster at such short notice.”

“It’s not a problem, Arthur. Now, I’ll see you both tomorrow.”

They both stand by the lift, waving at their daughter until the lift doors close. Merlin lets out a long, tired breath and finally lets himself relax.

“Thanks,” he says, turning to kiss Arthur.

“Don’t mention it,” Arthur says, guiding Merlin back into their flat. “Sometimes, you just get lucky.”

Merlin smiles. Erin’s done wonders for Arthur’s ego (as well as his own, not that Merlin will admit to it). He used to think he could do anything, now…

“I just need to shower and change,” Arthur says, kissing Merlin again. God, it’s been so long since they’ve had time for this… “Won’t be long.”

“Ok,” Merlin replies. “Where are we going?”

Arthur hesitates for a moment, and Merlin knows he came very close to revealing his plans. “Nice try, Merlin,” Arthur says fondly before walking towards the bathroom. “You should probably change tops now that Erin’s cried all over it. I don’t want to be seen in public with a fiancé in a snotty top.”

*

As it turns out, Arthur’s plans reveal just how much of a soppy git he is beneath his tough prat exterior (though Merlin is the first to admit that Arthur has changed for the better since Erin came into their lives).

First, Arthur drives them to the little indie cinema across town because it’s showing one of Merlin’s favourite French films. Arthur claims to hate Merlin’s taste in films, and always feels the need to ask why French films are such obnoxious, pretentious indie nonsense. He doesn’t this time. Admittedly, it’s probably due to the fact that they spent most of the film either snogging like teenagers or flicking popcorn at one another in the dark, near-empty screening room.

“I love you,” Merlin whispers as the credits roll, suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. “Really, really, really love you.”

And he does. Because even though he hardly caught any of the film, it hardly matters. He can watch films whenever, pretty much, but spending time with Arthur? Not so easy.

“More than your snobbish French indie nonsense?” Arthur asks jokingly.

“Hmm, maybe not,” Merlin answers, batting his eyes in feigned innocence. “It’s hard to be more attractive than French.”

“Shut up, Merlin.”

After that, Arthur takes him to this restaurant Merlin’s been meaning to check out for ages. He kept on walking past it on his way to the theatre down the street last December (when he was in this small play called ‘Mojo’), but the play ended and he never did end up trying it out.

It’s a small, intimate restaurant. Most other people are there on dates, minding their own business. Nobody pays attention to the fact that both him and one of the top footballers in the country have walked in. It’s nice, Merlin thinks. It can be very overwhelming at times, being the centre of attention. It feels like he always has to be on edge and look perfect, otherwise people start talking. A bit of peace and quiet makes a nice change.

There’s a lull in the conversation once they’ve ordered, but it’s a comfortable silence and Merlin takes advantage of it to have a look at the décor of the restaurant. There’s something just right about the arrangement of the tables, the general feel of the restaurant, and the soft-without-being-dark lighting. It feels homey, comfortable, and Merlin lets himself relax, sipping his glass of wine.

Eventually, without really meaning to, his eyes settle on a table at the back of the room. There’s nothing special about the people at that table other than the fact that they have a pram and that a young woman, probably about thirty, is rocking it back and forth while carrying out a conversation in low voices with the other people at the table.

It gets Merlin thinking back to the first few months after Erin was born, and from there, he feels something stir deep inside him, a sense of warmth and longing.

He turns his gaze back to Arthur. He’s sitting back in his chair, one arm resting on the table, and looking in the general direction that Merlin just was. He’s probably noticed the pram too, Merlin thinks.

He nudges Arthur’s foot with his own under the table to get his attention, then smiles at him.

Arthur smiles back then briefly tilts his head towards the table at the back, pointing them out. “Remember how nice it felt when Erin would calm down and go quiet?”

“Yeah,” Merlin says.

“Wonder if there’s a trick to it or if it really is just luck,” Arthur continues. “Guess we’ll have to keep track of things like that next time.”

Merlin just shrugs, trying not to show how much effect Arthur’s choice of words has.

Next time.

It’s not that Arthur’s been bugging him, quite the contrary. In fact, if asked, Arthur always replies that he’s perfectly happy with the way things are. And it’s not as if he’s not been asked a lot. It seems that every time Arthur has an interview, the question rears its ugly head.

“Do you want more children?”

Most of the time, Merlin believes him without a doubt. After all, Merlin’s happy too.

It wasn’t always that way though.

Becoming a father at twenty was not something Merlin had ever planned, and not just because he used to put his career before everything. There aren’t many twenty-year-olds, fresh out of childhood, who are ready to settle down and give up most of their social life. Besides, taking care of a newborn baby is hard. There are no words for just how hard it is. Merlin loves Erin, he really does, but there were nights where he found himself wishing, just for a moment, fuelled by exhaustion, frustration, and fear, that he’d found out before it was too late for him to have an abortion.

On top of that, there was the fact that he was settling down with Arthur Pendragon, of all people. Merlin didn’t care for football back then, but even he’d heard of Arthur Pendragon and his infamous playboy ways. And maybe it was in part because he’d always put acting first, but he had a hard time trusting Arthur. Or at least, trusting him to stick around.

Because that’s the thing. Merlin’s sort of stuck with Erin, whether he likes it or not. He doesn’t mean it in a bad way, it’s just the way things are. He can’t just leave her and go and live his life.

Arthur, on the other hand, didn’t have the same attachment to Erin. At least, not in Merlin’s opinion at the time.

Merlin spent far too long expecting Arthur to come home one day and announce that he was done playing house and that he was going back to his old life. Or not come home at all, leaving Merlin to read all about his latest sexual exploits in the seediest of tabloids.

But Arthur stayed.

More than that, he took an active part in Erin’s life. He’s her daddy, and he always tries to make time for her, even when his schedule is at its busiest. And he loves her, as much as Merlin loves Erin. And gradually, Merlin’s fears melted away like snow in the early spring sun, letting him finally, finally settle down into his new role as a father and fiancé.

They’re happy now. Everything is so much easier when Merlin isn’t busy wondering if this is the day Arthur will leave. Their lives aren’t perfect, but Merlin’s pretty sure that you can’t get much closer to perfection than this.

“Have you ever thought about having another baby?”

Sometimes, though, Merlin can’t help but notice things that make him wonder. He knows Arthur wants more children; they’ve discussed it enough times. They’ve always been hypothetical though. If they have another child, then this. If this happens, then maybe it would be time to start considering another child. So many hypothetical factors and nearly no cold, hard facts.

It’s always subtle, and it’s always when he thinks Merlin isn’t looking, but he’s seen the look Arthur gets when someone brings it up in private. And he knows Arthur’s been looking into buying a house, a proper house, with several bedrooms and a large garden. He’s seen the ads Arthur’s printed out, usually annotated with what he likes and what he doesn’t like. And sometimes, when Arthur’s exhausted after a long day of training, he’ll let little things slip. Do you think Erin’ll get along with her new sibling, do you think Erin wants a brother or a sister? And even, Can’t wait for our second child, Merlin, once, when he’d caught the flu and was delirious with fever. He never brought it up again after that.

So no, Arthur hasn’t been bugging him. But that hasn’t stopped Merlin from wondering.

As for Merlin, he’s always had his career to use as an excuse. And it’s true; he’s missed out on some roles he really wanted because of his fatherhood. It’s been close to two years though, and he’s had some incredible opportunities since having Erin.

In a sense, becoming a parent has done wonders to his career. He’s now seen as a mature, reliable person, where he was once just young. Directors like that, reliability. It’s also given him a certain amount of fame that he didn’t have before. He can build on those elements, use them to his advantage. So he’s gotten roles that he probably wouldn’t have been considered for before Erin, before the media circus that changed his life.

You can’t have a child and have a career as a stage actor at the same time, at least not as far as Merlin’s concerned. So while he’s always said that he wants another child, he’s always had his job as an excuse not to go through with it just yet.

But now, looking at that baby peacefully asleep in its pram, Merlin can’t help but think that yes, he’d like another child too. The timing’s perfect too. He’s got a bit of a break coming up, a few potential auditions lined up, nothing more. And by the time he’s had the baby, by the time it’s old enough to go without him for a few hours, Arthur should be coming up to a point where he can take a break while Merlin goes back to work. By that time, Erin’ll be almost two and a half. Not old enough to be much help, but old enough that she doesn’t need constant attention, old enough, hopefully, to understand that her parents still love her, even with the new baby stealing all the attention.

“What’s wrong, don’t you like it?”

Merlin jumps slightly, startled, his gaze falling on Arthur. He’s almost finished his meal, and is looking at Merlin, concerned.

Merlin can feel his cheeks grow warm, and he picks up his fork to start eating again. “Sorry,” he mumbles. “Was just thinking.”

Arthur laughs, warm and fond. “I can see why that would stop you from eating,” he teases gently. “Idiot.”

Merlin just shakes his head and rolls his eyes, pretending to be annoyed. He knew Arthur was going to say that and it makes him feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s one of those moments where Merlin thinks his heart is going to burst with love for the man in front of him, the man who’s stood by him through so many events, both happy and unhappy.

And in that very moment, it’s like something clicks in his head. Everything he fears about pregnancy, having another baby, the sheer responsibility of it all, everything just fades away. He’s always wanted another child, why not now? Now’s the perfect time.

He looks up at Arthur who’s still looking at him, fond and still a little concerned. He smiles at him and Arthur smiles back, uncertain.

“Yes,” Merlin says.

He’s decided.

Arthur frowns, confused, like Merlin’s just sprung this on him. “Yes what?” he asks, wiping his mouth with his napkin.

Merlin looks at him straight in the eye. He can feel his heart beating so fast in his chest, like it’s trying to break free, and his hands are shaking so hard, his fork is tapping against his plate. He’s never been less certain in this moment, yet he’s never been more certain of anything in his life. It’s such a strange feeling, but he won’t let it stop him.

“I want us to have another baby,” he says, quietly.

For a tense moment, he wonders if Arthur heard him, if he’s going to have to repeat himself. But then, Arthur’s eyes go wide, and his smile wider still, and Merlin knows he heard him.

“Really?” Arthur asks, looking as though both Christmas and his birthday, and maybe even another Christmas have come early.

Maybe they have, maybe Merlin didn’t realise just how much Arthur wanted another child.

Merlin nods. “Yes,” he says, firm, certain.

Arthur nods back. “Alright,” he says.

Nothing changes after that. They don’t suddenly leave the restaurant in a hurry, desperate for sex. Instead, they finish their meal slowly, they talk, they joke. Arthur teases him about not being able to think and eat at the same time, and Merlin pretends to be annoyed.

They order dessert too, a plate of chocolate profiteroles to share. Arthur tries to feed him one, leaning over the table to reach. It doesn’t work, the profiterole just falls, landing with a dull splat on Merlin’s dessert plate. Merlin can’t help himself, he starts laughing. It’s utterly ridiculous, yet absolutely perfect at the same time, and he feels like he’s never been happier before in his life.

He calms down eventually, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, then catches Arthur’s eyes. Arthur’s looking at him like he’s mad, but also like he’s completely, madly in love with Merlin. Merlin blushes and looks away. It’s just too much for him.

After dessert, they order coffee. They’re still not in a hurry. They have no reason to. It feels like they have all the time in the world.

After dinner, Arthur wraps his arm around Merlin’s waist, rests his head on his shoulder and whispers, “shall we go for a walk?”

*

By the time they get home, it’s almost one in the morning. The world is dark, quiet, and peaceful, yet there’s an urgency that’s starting to build in Merlin. They’re so close now, so very close.

Realistically, Merlin knows it might not happen tonight. He wants it to, because that would be the perfect conclusion to a perfect night, but he knows that these things take time. But it still feels like they’re just moments away from a life-changing event.

Arthur flicks the hall light on, making him jump.

“Are you alright?” Arthur asks. What he really means is, do you really want to do this?

Merlin turns around to face him and takes both Arthur’s hands in his. “I’m alright,” he says, soft, reassuring. “I want this, Arthur. I want to have another baby.”

Arthur squeezes his hands gently. “You’re shaking, Merlin.”

Merlin looks down at their joined hands. He hadn’t even noticed until now that he was shaking. Whether it was in fear or in anticipation, Merlin couldn’t quite tell.

“’M not,” Merlin mumbles.

Arthur laughs and leans in to kiss him. “Of course you aren’t.”

When Arthur pulls back, he’s gone all serious again, his eyes flittering over Merlin’s face as if looking for the slightest hint that he’s hesitating or doesn’t want this.

“We don’t have to do it tonight, if you want a bit of time to –”

Merlin interrupts him with a soft kiss to his lips. “I want this, Arthur,” he murmurs, still so very close to Arthur. So close, he can feel Arthur’s warm breath against his lips. “I want to have your baby.”

“Okay,” Arthur says, kissing him firmly.

Merlin leads him to their bedroom by his tie. It’s the first thing to go when the door closes behind them. Merlin lets it fall to the ground then unbuttons Arthur’s shirt slowly, letting his fingertips trail across his warm, golden skin.

With Erin around, it’s not often that they have time to go slowly and really enjoy themselves. Usually, it’s quick and dirty while she naps, both focusing so hard on not making any noise that the sex itself becomes secondary.

Not tonight though. Tonight, Merlin has every intention of taking his time.

Soon enough, they’re both naked and in bed. Arthur’s arm is around his waist and pulls him closer still as they kiss slowly and languorously. Merlin moans softly. Arthur feels so hard against his erection, it feels so good. He thrusts his hips slightly, gently moving his cock against Arthur’s.

“Fuck, Merlin,” Arthur moans against his lips. “Don’t tease.”

“Why not?” Merlin asks, his voice low and barely more than a whisper. “We’ve got all night.”

“Don’t think I can resist you all night,” Arthur says. He slips his hand between their bodies and wraps it around Merlin’s cock. The angle must be awkward, but Arthur strokes it, slowly, teasingly. Merlin bites his lip, trying not to moan, but exhales loudly when Arthur’s thumb finds that place, just under the head, the place that makes Merlin lose his mind with pleasure.

“Eager, aren’t you?” Arthur asks. “Thought we had all night.”

“Fuck you,” Merlin moans.

“That’s not the way to get you pregnant though.”

Merlin can’t take it anymore. All this teasing, he’s so fucking hard now. He wraps his leg around Arthur’s thighs and flips them so that Arthur’s on his back, looking up at him with eyes dark with arousal. Merlin brushes his sweaty bangs off his forehead and leans in to kiss him hard.

“You’re such a prat,” Merlin murmurs between kisses. “So fucking impatient.”

“Can’t resist you,” Arthur replies breathlessly. “So fucking hot like this. Can’t stop thinking how hot you’ll look with my baby in your belly.”

Arthur’s reaches out to rub Merlin’s flat stomach. “You looked so good last time, all full and round with my baby. Can’t wait, Merlin.”

“Can’t wait either,” Merlin moans, bringing one hand to rest on Arthur’s over his belly. “Want to carry your baby, Arthur.”

Merlin’s moaned words have an immediate effect on Arthur. He hears him gasp and feels Arthur’s hands grab his waist, fingers digging into his skin, flipping them over so that Arthur’s on top of him.

Arthur fumbles with the drawer of their bedside table while Merlin distracts him by kissing his neck and arching his back to rub his cock against Arthur’s.

He hears rather than sees Arthur open the tube of lube. Soon, Arthur is pressing two fingers inside him, stretching him, slicking him up.

“Arthur,” Merlin gasps as his fingers brush up against his prostate, his hands clenching in Arthur’s hair to hold on. “Hurry, please.”

Arthur leans in to kiss him again, and he can feel him reaching over to the bedside table again. It’s not until Merlin hears the tell-tale sound of foil wrapping that he realises what Arthur’s doing. He reaches out and catches Arthur’s hand with his own.

“What?” Arthur asks.

Merlin shakes his head. “Don’t need it, remember?”

Merlin can’t blame him for going for the condoms. They’ve been using them without fail since Erin’s birth. Little is known about male pregnancy, and even less about contraception. Plus, given how powerful a sorcerer Merlin is, any contraceptive solution available would have been no match for his magic. The only sure-fire way for them to avoid another pregnancy so soon after Erin is to use condoms.

Arthur nods. “Are you ready?”

“Never been more ready in my whole life,” Merlin replies truthfully.

Arthur leans in and kisses him. He wraps his hands around Merlin’s waist, urging his hips up. And then, finally, he can feel Arthur’s cock at his entrance, pushing ever-so-slightly.

“Yes,” Merlin moans softly as Arthur slides in.

And then, even though he’d been so impatient just minutes ago, Arthur pulls out, setting a slow, gentle rhythm, that has Merlin completely unfocused from the intensity of it all.

“I’m going to take such good care of you, Merlin,” Arthur murmurs against his ear. “When you have my baby, fuck, yes,” he moans as Merlin clenches around him. “When you’re pregnant, ‘m going to anything it takes to make it easier for you. Fuck, I’ll even – I’ll even clean for you.”

Merlin just groans. He’s so close now, so fucking close he can’t think. Arthur’s cock keeps on brushing against his prostate, sending jolts of pleasure all through his body.

Just as he’s about to beg Arthur to let him come, Arthur wraps his hand around his cock, squeezing it just right. “Come for me,” he murmurs. “So beautiful when you come.”

And Merlin does. His toes and fingers curl in the sheet, his eyes are squeezed shut, and he comes with Arthur’s name on his lips, clenching around his cock.

It takes Arthur maybe two more strokes before he’s coming too, quiet as he ever is. Merlin can barely focus, but he catches a glimpse of Arthur’s face as he comes, eyes wide open, biting his lip. To Merlin, he’s the most beautiful man alive in that very moment.

*

Sometime later, Merlin gets up and pads over to the bathroom. He’s a mess, he thinks when he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. His hair is sticking up all over the place, his face is a warm pink, and there’s drying come on his belly, but he looks content.

He quickly wipes his abdomen with a flannel, rinses it, then takes it back to the bedroom.

Arthur’s waiting for him, lying on his side, eyes on the door. “Missed you,” he mumbles tiredly as Merlin climbs into bed.

Merlin smiles. Arthur’s always more openly sentimental after sex and Merlin loves it. “I wasn’t gone that long,” he says, wiping Arthur’s forehead gently before moving to clean his cock.

Arthur just smiles fondly at him and puts his hand on Merlin’s belly. “Think we did it?” he asks hopefully.

Merlin settles back down in bed, tossing the flannel to the floor. He lets Arthur pull him closer.

“I hope so,” Merlin replies.

“I can’t wait.”

Merlin smiles and kisses Arthur gently. “Neither can I.”

*

Because this is real life and not some beautiful fairy tale, Merlin doesn’t get pregnant immediately. They both knew it would take time.

In fact, it takes three long months, that sometimes felt like forever to both Merlin and Arthur, before the single blue line on yet another pregnancy test becomes two.

At first, Merlin can’t quite believe what he’s seeing. It’s been so long, it doesn’t feel real at all. It takes him a few moments to register what he’s seeing, that this is real, but then his heart speeds up and he can feel his hands start shaking. This is it, it’s finally happened.

He had a feeling he might be. He’s been feeling under the weather these last few days, but he told himself that he was just coming down with a cold. He didn’t want to get his hopes up, only to have another pregnancy test come back negative.

“Oh my god,” he whispers.

He turns around and Arthur is looking at him from where he’s sitting on the bathtub, anxious, excited, unsure.

“Merlin?” he asks quietly. He looks so hopeful.

“Arthur,” Merlin murmurs, barely more than a whisper. “Arthur, I’m pregnant!”

Arthur’s eyes go wide. “You are?”

Merlin nods, shakily holding the pregnancy test up so he can see. Arthur’s reaction is immediate. He jumps up, a bright smile on his face, and picks Merlin up, twirling him around in the air. Merlin wraps his arms around his neck and just laughs, relief and happiness mingling warmly inside him.

“You’re pregnant,” Arthur says, putting him back down on the floor. He puts one of his hands against Merlin’s flat belly, like he’s trying to feel the baby that’s growing there that very moment. “You’re amazing, Merlin.”

Merlin just smiles and lets Arthur kiss him.

*

The first people to know are Merlin’s mother and Erin, of course. Merlin breaks the news over lunch one Sunday, after enough positive pregnancy tests to confirm his hopes.

“Oh, Merlin, that’s wonderful,” Hunith says. “Congratulations, you must be so happy.”

“I really am, mum,” he says, one hand coming to rest on his stomach. It’s still flat, but it won’t be long before he starts showing.

Erin just looks at him, adorably confused. “Pe-nan?” she asks, her hand pausing with the spoon half way to her mouth. She’s at a stage where her vocabulary’s starting to grow but still has trouble pronouncing most words.

“It means daddy’s going to have another baby,” Arthur explains, taking advantage of her pause to wipe her mouth clean. “You’re going to have a brother or a sister.”

“Oh, weally? Baby?”

Merlin smiles. “It means you’ll be a big sister soon.”

Erin grins happily at him. “ Play togevver?”

“You can play together, yes. Now finish your lunch or I won’t give you any dessert.”

Erin’s like Merlin, she has a sweet tooth the size of England (as Arthur likes to put it) and loves dessert. Of course, she’s still at a stage where destroying her dessert and making a complete mess is more fun than just eating it. Still, Merlin’s threat is effective and she starts eating again.

“How far along are you?” Hunith asks, drawing Merlin’s attention away from his daughter.

“Not sure yet,” he says.

“We’ve got an appointment for an ultrasound next week,” Arthur adds. “We should find out then.”

Hunith smiles at them both. “Call me when you know.”

“I will, mum.”

They lapse into a comfortable silence after that. Merlin watches as Arthur frets with a napkin, trying to keep their daughter clean. It’s futile, but it never fails to make Merlin smile.

Everything feels so perfect right now, peaceful even. He knows it won’t be for long though, between the pregnancy and dealing with a newborn baby again. And the media circus once reporters hear the news.

Still, he can’t wait. He’s looking forward to meeting their new child, and he’s looking forward to the changes it will make to his family.