It’s in his most unguarded of moments, that Harry seems the most human.

Not when he’s surrounded by enemies and is fighting his way out of a bar somewhere, or struggling to survive in some foreign country with a broken wrist and a suit covered in smooshed bullets. Peril doesn’t make Harry’s fight or flight response create something human of him, but unguarded moments in his everyday life do.

Curled into an armchair in his sitting room, where the sun comes in during the late evening just before sunset, Harry looks more human than anything Merlin’s ever seen before. Harry’s long legs are tucked underneath himself and slightly to the side, affording him the chance to curl against the corner of the ‘chair-and-a-half’, the book open on his thigh.

There’s a crystal decanter of what Merlin knows is Glenfiddich to Harry’s left, seated neatly on a mirrored tray beside a half-filled tumbler. He’s sipped from it a half dozen times since settling in for the night, and the level never seems to lower in the glass. 

Every few minutes, Harry licks his lower lip as he turns the page. His hand then curls back through his hair–the locks longer than usual since he’s no longer on active field agent duty, and can grow it a touch–but it never cards through the hair above his left temple; touch-sensitivity has made Harry wary of that area and he only combs or touches it when absolutely necessary.

“I know you’re watching me,” he says gently, not lifting his eyes from the book.

Merlin snorts and leaves the doorway, fetching his slightly-cooled cup of tea and sliding himself into the space between Harry’s legs and the rest of the oversized chair. He tucks Harry’s legs back around himself so they’re both comfortable and Merlin leans against Harry, warming the side that isn’t tucked against the chair.

“And now I’m joining you.”

Harry reaches for his tumbler and takes a sip of the rich scotch, setting it back down with a tink of glass on glass. “You’re a lovely blanket, darling. Very warming.”

“You’re welcome. Now, read to me. I’d like to hear you for a little while.”

“A sentimental blanket,” Harry says through light laughter. 

“I nearly lost you. Hearing you read to me about..whatever it is you’re reading..sounds like a dream.”

“It’s silly, but if you insist.” Harry cleared his throat and continued where he’d left off, his voice soft but clear. “The Happy Prince and Other Tales, story two: the nightingale and the rose, by Oscar Wilde. ‘She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses,’ cried the young Student; 'but in all my garden there is no red rose.’ From her nest in the holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the leaves, and wondered.’