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Stick Shift

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            It was considerably cooler in the shady woods that surrounded the castle. Merlin sighed with relief as he entered the cool darkness and felt it soak into his skin. He didn’t understand why the knights insisted on having their practice in the field right underneath the full power of the sun. Shameless masochists, all of them.
            He laughed softly. That was a real funny thought, coming from him.
            Of course, ever since he’d run into that griffin, he felt considerably more wary whenever he ventured into the forest. Fortunately, he heard nothing lurking among the trees, other than the usual innocuous creatures: birds, squirrels, the occasional hare. Nothing that would try to eat him, thank goodness.
            His pick list consisted of the usual: mushrooms, willow bark, some yellow snowdrop if he could find it. And one other thing, that Gaius had not requested, something that was only relevant to his own interests. He encountered it at last, when he came across a copse of young saplings growing near a stream.
            Underneath their covering of dark green leaves, their branches were straight and slender. He cut one low-hanging limb with his knife, stripped the leaves from it, and bent it over his knee. It ended up breaking, but only after he had exerted some considerable effort. The next one he cut was a little thicker, and even after he leaned on it with all the weight he could muster, it wouldn’t snap. Yet, it was pliant enough that its tapered end trailed after the main shaft, when he shook it. The sound it made as it sliced the air made goosebumps stand up on his skin.
            Clumsily, he took a few whacks at himself with it. It made a handsome thwacking sound as it hit his backside, and smarted beautifully when he managed to catch himself in the thigh.
            “Yes,” he murmured, “I think you’ll do.” He tucked it under his arm, and headed back home. 

            He dithered about how to present it.
            Should he just lean it up subtly against Arthur’s wardrobe? No, no, who could tell when he’d actually notice it? It looked beautiful against the deep red of the bed coverlet, but that was a little obvious. He picked it up again, and swished the tip of it back and forth as he thought furiously.
            Maybe if he held it in his teeth, and…
            Then the door opened, and the whole point became moot.
            “Merlin, I am done with sword practice for the day,” Arthur said, as he shut the door to his chamber. “If you want to take a whack at me, you’ll have to wait until morning.” He undid his belt, and tossed it away with his usual carelessness. “Or are you a sorcerer now, and that’s your magic wand?”
            “Ha! That’s a good one, Sire.”
            “Ooh, ‘Sire’. Are you trying to tell me you’re in the mood for something?” Arthur peeled off his sweaty tunic and tossed it to his servant, as he crossed over to his chair. He flopped down and stretched his legs out. Merlin knew what that was a cue for; he set the switch down on the bed, and knelt down at the prince’s feet, settling the soiled tunic between his legs to be dealt with later. Arthur settled his chin in his hand as Merlin began to unlace his boots.
            “I asked you a question,” he said, after a moment.
            “Oh, yes. Um…I, I am, my lord, I mean, I’m always in the mood for…um, what we do, together.”
            “And what is it we do together?”
            Merlin’s face felt hot. “Well, you, um, you hit me…on the ass…and you grab my c-cock, and my balls, and you squeeze them…and hurt them…and you throw me around, and, and, and…you…fuck me.” The words took forever to say. By the time he had finished, he had also finished taking off Arthur’s boots, and he wanted to just open a hole in the ground and disappear through it, head first. The silence in the wake of it made him feel cold all over.
            Oh, god. What if he’s done with all that? What if he’s tired of me? What if all that’s somehow just in my imagination?
            “You still haven’t explained,” Arthur said, at last, “why you were standing in the middle of my room, holding a stick.”
            “Ummm…” Merlin gathered up the boots very carefully, fingers running up and down the dusty leather as he forced the words out. “I was just thinking, that since…you like…s-spanking me, that you’d like…to use…a…a switch. To do it with.” Oh, was his face hot. From his forehead, to his cheeks, to the nape of his neck, and the backs of his ears.
            “You thought that I would enjoy hitting you with a stick?”
            Merlin gulped, hard. “Yes, my lord.”
            There was another agonizing pause. “Bring it here,” Arthur said, finally.
            It took a moment for Merlin to remember where he’d put it. He stumbled to the bed, retrieved it, and knelt again, offering the switch upward with opened palms. He did not lift his gaze until he felt Arthur’s fingers take the piece of wood from his palms; then his eyes slid, slowly, surreptitiously, upward.
            He watched as the prince studied the offered implement, seeming to survey every last inch of it from sturdy base to thin tip. He turned it over and over in his hands, then lifted it to heft its light weight and flick it gently with a deft turn of his wrist. Merlin felt himself getting hard at the mere sight of him tinkering with it.
            Arthur’s lower jaw jutted out a bit, and clenched. He gave a faint shake of his head. “No.”
            Merlin stared up at him. Oh. But…of course. It had been a stupid thing to ask for. Oh, hey Arthur, I hear you like spanking me, how’d you like to use a stick? Stupid.
            “I can’t imagine what it would feel like to be hit with something like this,” said the prince, who had only ever been hit with practical things like swords, and through armor, at that. His gaze bored down at Merlin once again, and the servant found that he could not meet it.
            “But you know what you want to get out of it,” Arthur said, slowly. “You know how you want it to feel.” Merlin could hear his fingertips sliding over the wood, a faint, dry sound. “Merlin, do you really want me to whip you with this?”
            “Y-yes, my lord, I do. Please.” The words were weak and unsteady. Merlin had been able to think of little else, for days now. He’d envisioned it going much more smoothly than this. For one thing, he hadn’t thought that he would have to ask for it, and explain it. He’d just supposed that Arthur would just…know. And want to.
            Arthur stood, and Merlin leaned back, away from him. He could hear the stick settle with a light clanking sound across the arms of the chair as the prince put it down. There was a soft whisper of cloth as Arthur unlaced his breeches, and pushed them down.
            “If you wish to be thrashed with it, then you will show me what you want out of your stick.”
            “Ummm…”  Merlin blinked as Arthur walked a few paces away, standing near the foot of his bed. The prince stood, proud and stoic, just…waiting. “Er, perhaps you should bend over the bed, a little,” Merlin said at last. He wasn’t sure if he should append any honorifics to that. What was the etiquette on this whole sort of thing?
            Fortunately, Arthur didn’t seem too preoccupied with such things at the moment. He leaned over as requested, the firm, round globes of his asscheeks presented outward quite nicely. They were quite a sight paler than the rest of him.
            Merlin swished the switch, indecisive. He wished that he had practiced more, on himself. He wished that he had even the slightest inkling of what he should be doing with this thing.
            Meanwhile, Arthur cleared his throat.
            Merlin sucked in a breath, and began. He tapped, gently, at the backs of the prince’s thighs, where pale skin turned into tan skin. Tap, tap, tap, he went, working his way upward.
            “Is this how you want it to feel on yourself?” Arthur asked. The tone did not sound particularly judgmental.
            “I think so.” Merlin could not imagine how it must feel, to have one’s back turned, and feel a strange, hard, foreign thing like the switch flicking and nipping. Granted, he couldn’t see Arthur when he was behind him, wailing away with his hand, but that had to be altogether different. He flicked the tip up into the sweet spot, just underneath Arthur’s cheeks, and was rewarded by seeing the prince flinch.
            “Do me a favor,” Arthur said, and Merlin winced, expecting him to tell him that it was pointless and to give up. “Go, from lightest to as hard as you think I might go. And keep going up. From thighs to ass. Be thorough.”
            This was so weird.
            But Merlin kept going, as ordered – just following orders, of course – moving in a steady path back and forth, his strokes getting harder and harder, by increments. It was amazing, seeing the marks that rose up in his wake. They were thin and pink, at first, and as he went further, the marks grew red, becoming weals, and their raised puffiness made them look bigger and thicker. They looked so wonderful, striating Arthur’s skin in alternates of pink and white and red.
            Arthur was quite stoic at first, barely even grunting when Merlin thought he was really wailing on him. Of course, Merlin found, there was quite a bit of depth to the whole concept of ‘wailing’; just when he had gone as hard as he’d thought he could possibly dare, it occurred to him that he could exert just a little more force. There was always a harder stroke that could be given. Eventually, Arthur began to groan in a way that both frightened Merlin a bit, and pleased him greatly. Frightening, because he never wanted to imagine his master groaning in such pain. Pleasing, because they sounded much like the sounds he himself made, when he was under Arthur’s ministrations. He could see Arthur’s hands clenching at the coverlet, muscles flexing in his forearms as he strove to hold his position. Merlin wondered how much effort it took for him to do so.
            Once, as Merlin was really getting into it, he saw the tip of the switch actually curl around Arthur’s ass and over his hip, hugging and biting flesh at the same time. “DON’T do that again,” Arthur barked, tensely, and then, when Merlin hung back, he growled at him to continue. When the blows started again, they were much lighter strokes, and Arthur gave a strained laugh. “You won’t break me, Merlin. Just don’t wrap the tip again.”
            Arthur’s shoulders and back gleamed with sweat. It had to be beading up on his chest, and inside his thighs; it certainly was, on the still-clothed Merlin. The servant gritted his teeth and swung the switch, harder, harder, harder, each impact cracking loudly in that quiet, private chamber. And then, he saw the bruises starting to blossom around the red welts, making them stand out even more proudly than ever. It was as if he had begun to paint something, and then the canvas had started to add its own embellishment. But the bruises were not what, ultimately, made him stop. It was the sudden, tight edge to Arthur’s cries; they were the cries of someone who had reached the limit of his endurance, even if he was too proud to admit it. Merlin could not bring himself to go any further.
            “Holy shit, Merlin,” Arthur laughed, perhaps to hide the tremor in his voice. It echoed the tremor in his arms, perhaps the only limbs that were truly holding him up. “Going through all this is your idea of fun? You’re a braver man than I am, then.” His head, which had been looking straight forward, drooped a little. “My curiosity has been satisfied.”
            “I…I can fix those up, a bit,” Merlin said, his own voice shaking. He couldn’t quite pin down just why. “We’ve got that salve. Ought to make them feel better.” The barracks always had an ample supply of salve, to tend to cuts and bruises and the like. Merlin had appropriated a jar of it for their own private trysts, and he moved quickly, now, to retrieve it from the cupboard where it lived.
            “Good,” was all Arthur said, as he crawled up to lie in the middle of the bed.
            Merlin soon joined him, carefully balancing the salve, and the washbasin full of clean, cool water. He dabbed carefully at the wounds that he’d made, peering down intently at them, at the way that they glowed and glistened pink and red and black and purple and white. There was one welt in particular that had a thin ribbon of torn skin stretched across it, white and fine as a spiderweb, the weal gleaming like a teary eye. He pressed his lips to it and kissed it, tenderly, groaning with a mixture of empathy and adoration. Arthur hissed softly, then stilled again. Merlin traced a trail of kisses along every one of those marks, caressing and licking the hot flesh, mouthing apologies to it, willing a slight, silent bit of frosty magic into the tissue to try to numb and soothe it. If only Arthur had been asleep, he could have murmured more potent healing spells, but for the moment, this was the only magic that he dared to use. The sighing sound that Arthur made in response made his heart flutter in his chest.
            Only when he had finished this quiet tribute to Arthur’s ass and thighs, did he sit up and go through the equally-slow and methodical process of cleansing the skin and bruises and welts, and then gently rubbing salve into them. By the time he had finished, Arthur was so still and quiet that for a moment Merlin wondered if he had fallen asleep.
            “Done?” the prince murmured, as Merlin finished rubbing the salve on the lowest of his welts, far down on his thighs. “Good.” He tried to sit up, and Merlin could practically hear him deliberating on which welted cheek he wanted to try putting his weight against the most as he rolled over. He must have decided on his left; he rolled over that way, revealing the long, narrow bruise that ran up his right hip, where the switch had wrapped around him.
            “Shit,” Merlin breathed, when he noticed.
            “I know, right? Don’t do that again. Now…why are you still dressed?” He reached out, making grouchy faces as he tried to grab hold of Merlin and drag him over, without using any muscles below the waist. Apparently, that was harder than it looked. “Get those clothes off, and lie down.” He grunted and wriggled his own way off of the bed, circling stiffly around it. “No, no, on your back. You think I’m going to get my revenge on you over and done right away? That would be too simple.”
            Merlin groaned as Arthur grabbed roughly at his cock, twisting it a bit…and then he blinked, as the prince crawled up and leaned over, to wrap his lips around the tip of the quickly-hardening shaft. Arthur had always only received such attentions. “W-what are you doing?”
            Arthur raised a brow. “What does it look like?” he said, head lifting just above the wet flesh he’d been sucking on, fist giving a slow, lazy, squeezing tug at it.
            “It’s, um, a little…undignified, don’t you think?” Merlin asked, with a laugh.
            That brow rose higher. “Last time I checked, Merlin, you were my manservant. Which means, by extension, that this cock is mine, and these balls are mine…” Merlin could feel the familiar, comforting agony of the prince’s palm squeezing around him, hard and merciless. “…And so I’ll do what I like with them, thank you very much.”
            If Merlin had been worried that he had somehow altered his master’s temperament by giving him a taste of the switch, he was soon distracted from such misgivings by what happened over the next few moments. Arthur’s tongue swirled and licked, his lips nibbled and sucked…and his teeth nipped, dragged, ground, against ever more sensitive flesh. His hands squeezed, wrenched, pulled, tugged, until Merlin fancied that he was both being crushed to a pulp and pulled apart, in a divine, wonderful way. The writhing of his hips only intensified the sweet agony of it. He kept his cries soft and bitten-back until the very end, when he finally felt himself giving way inside Arthur’s mouth, erupting in hot spurts across his master’s tongue. He had barely finished with his cries when he felt Arthur rolling him over, and heard him spit some of his own cum between his asscheeks. Hard, dry palms pried him apart, and the thick, hard cock that he loved so well rubbed, hot and stiff, against him. With only a little more spit and pretense, Arthur began to shove into him. As usual, his every groan and cry seemed to encourage another thrusting inch into him. He could feel the beat of Arthur’s pulse against his stretched hole, every inch a new, exquisite pain. It didn’t seem to matter how many times the prince had fucked him; it always felt this way.
            Arthur reached around him and grabbed his cock, giving his sensitive tip a slow, careful gouge with his thumbnail. Merlin whined and writhed underneath him, keenly aware of the weight shoving into him, taking him, claiming him. Unlike the previous times, though, Arthur’s movements were slow, torturously so; no matter how hard Merlin squirmed and shoved back against him, he could not goad the prince into going any faster. The thick pressure and slow thrusts made his cock leak again.
            Every now and then, Arthur pulled back, letting his servant feel the wide, pulsing stretch of just his cocktip inside of his distended hole, wetting it with another gobbet of spit before he pushed leisurely back inside. Sometimes he would just wait there at the other lad’s threshold, easing back one fraction of an inch at a time, until Merlin found himself begging him not to leave, for his own prick was hard and oozing with need again. He wanted, so badly, for the prince to fill him and fuck him; he wanted to cum again. And, at last, he did, with a hoarse, ragged cry.
            Arthur, however, had not cum yet. He showed no inclination to anytime soon, actually. He shoved himself balls-deep into Merlin, and leaned over him, laying his weight over the servant’s arched back. He took the other lad’s ear between his teeth and ground the cartilage between them.
            “Our first night together, as I was falling asleep, you were going to tell me something.” The prince’s breath was hot and wet against the shell of Merlin’s ear. “What was it?”
            Merlin’s stomach twisted into a knot. “It’s…it’s not important,” he murmured.
            “I’ll decide whether it’s important, or not. Tell me.”
            “Arthur…whatever I do, I only do it for your benefit, for your own good. I promise. I do it to serve you…”
            “You can serve me by ceasing to be vague.”
            Somehow, the words came out, even though they caught and stuck in Merlin’s throat along the way. “Arthur, I have magic. I’m a sorcerer. I’m an abomination. But I’ve only ever meant good by it, I swear.” And before Arthur could say anything, he found himself whispering the words to a spell, one that he could not have even claimed to remember before that moment. The last time he had uttered them, he had been in the throes of a poisoned fever. The words shook as he said them, but they were no less powerful for it. A small, perfect orb of swirling white light materialized in his trembling hand.
            He felt Arthur sit up. Hands squeezed his shoulders with wrenching, painful force. “That was you,” Arthur murmured. “In the cave. You did that.”
            One of those hands flew to Merlin’s throat, fingers curling underneath his jaw, twisting his head to one side. “Please don’t tell Uther,” Merlin begged. If he was going to die, he wanted it to be quick, at Arthur’s hand, and only him.
            “You saved me,” Arthur whispered, and kissed him.
            Merlin felt the prince he loved more than life pounding into him, the thrusts quick, painful, familiar, comforting. Each one of them seemed to say, Mine, Mine, Mine. He felt the hot flood of his master’s cum deep inside of his ass, and felt his own cock give a weak dribble as he came again, himself, even that pleasure its own sort of agony. It tore a cry from his throat, leaving it raw.
            Merlin slumped underneath him, and felt fingertips trace down his spine. “If you’re a sorcerer, then you’ve no excuse from now on for dropping my dinner.” Arthur’s prick dragged free of him. He felt stretched and empty. And then, he felt the hard tip of the switch, tracing along the backs of his thighs, tap tap tapping lightly against his ass.
            Now, it’s your turn.”