Arthur was obsessed with sex. Merlin empathized. He really did. But he suspected Arthur might be more sex-obsessed than was normal. Not that he had a firm idea of what constituted normal levels of sexual obsession. It wasn't as though he could ask people just how many times they jerked off on a daily basis and start comparing notes to create some sort of a scale. Though if he did create a scale, he was sure that Arthur would be right at the top. He wasn't sure who would be at the other end. Perhaps Gaius, but that wasn't a line of thought Merlin wanted to follow.
Merlin's suspicions about Arthur's obsession began early in his career as manservant. He walked in on Arthur giving himself a first-thing-in-the-morning-pull not once, not twice, but three times. He could knock and avoid the awkward ordeal entirely, but what would be the fun in that? He had his own personal time, and yes, he did store up images of Arthur to pleasure himself to later. Which might not have been professional behavior, but Merlin wasn't a professional servant, and he didn't gawk openly at Arthur or stare until the prince blushed. Though he wanted to. Physically, Arthur was pretty amazing. Merlin held a deep appreciation for Arthur's body, and that appreciation only grew after he saw Arthur stretched out over his rumpled sheets, naked and sleepy, leisurely stroking himself as though he had all the time in the world.
Privately, Merlin believe Arthur wanted to be caught. Merlin could learn how to knock, but Arthur knew what time Merlin arrived to begin the day. Couldn't he just time it a little bit better? Or draw the heavy curtains around the canopy? Merlin was guilty of many crimes and misdemeanors under Camelot's laws, but he would never violate Arthur's privacy to that extent. Also, he wasn't the only servant who had walked in on the prince, and really, he'd gone his whole life without being caught and he grew up in a one room hut.
But catching a man wanking in his own bed wasn't evidence for any special level of sexual deviancy. What really concerned Merlin were the stains. He had a very intimate knowledge of Arthur's clothes, since he was the one responsible for all his laundry, and he knew what cum stains looked like. Stains weren't a daily occurrence by any means, but Merlin saw them often enough to have questions. Where was he doing it? Why did he feel the need to do it in the middle of the day? Was he doing it with anybody else? That was Merlin's least favorite question, but the only one that mattered. Cum stains all over his pants implied self-pleasure, but what if he had somebody doing all the work for him? Arthur was certainly lazy enough to recruit a passing servant into giving him a handjob. Why not? Most of Merlin's daily chores were necessary because Arthur was a lazy git.
He wasn't jealous. He wasn't. He never asked himself why Arthur hadn't chosen him because he didn't want the job anyhow. And it wasn't jealousy that prompted Merlin to start following Arthur around the castle when he should have been mucking the stalls, feeding the dogs, mending Arthur's clothes, and fetching things for Gaius. It was laziness and curiosity.
He followed Arthur for three days, employing the skills that Arthur had taught him over the course of their hunting trips. First, stay low. Second, keep quiet. There was a lot of that. That and napping. Meetings trapped Arthur most of the day, probably boring him out of his skull. Maybe the boredom triggered his compulsive masturbating.
It was either the boredom or the loneliness. When Arthur snuck away, Merlin quickly learned, it wasn't to meet a lover. He always sought a quiet corner where he wouldn't be bothered for five minutes with everybody else's problems.
Merlin sympathized. He often settled in a quiet corner when he had the chance--usually for the purposes of taking a nap, but he thought the principle the same. Sometimes, his sympathy got the best of him and he left Arthur to his privacy. Other times, he wasn't quite so noble. Like the first time he followed Arthur to a wing of the castle he'd never visited before and quietly slipped behind a dusty tapestry.
Arthur cast a wary glance around the room and licked his palm. Merlin's brain stuttered to a stop as soon as he saw Arthur's tongue, and it didn't start working again until Arthur loosened his laces and tugged his cock out of his pants. All of Merlin's blood rushed to his groin, his muscles tensing in anticipation. He wanted to undo his own pants, but that represented considerably more risk to Merlin than it did to Arthur. What would anybody say if they caught the prince wanking? Nothing. Because he was the prince. Merlin, on the other hand…
So he drank in every detail. He feasted on the sight of Arthur's face slack with pleasure, imagining the heat of his partially open mouth and his flushed skin. He wondered who Arthur saw behind his closed eyes (though he still wasn't jealous). He watched Arthur's pink lips, waiting to see if he mouthed anybody's name. But that question was promptly forgotten when Arthur began jerking his hips like he was fucking somebody's mouth.
Merlin wiped his wet palms over his thighs, running his hands up and down his legs, so tempted to just squeeze his erection through his pants. He didn't need to take it out. He didn't need to feel skin sliding against skin. But it was a slippery slope. When his blood pounded that hard and everything throbbed, everything was justifiable. Spying on Arthur was justifiable, even though the prince would have him beheaded for lurking and staring and generally being creepy. If Merlin was to be executed in Camelot, he didn't want it to be for jerking off.
He waited a good five minutes after Arthur left the room then scurried through the castle and down to his own room. Gaius was out—thank goodness—and so there was nobody to question why he was shutting himself in his room in the middle of the day to wank.
When Arthur wasn't pleasuring himself in abandoned rooms, he had the tendency to watch people. Not openly. He didn't leer at anybody. He sat with his body angled from the rest of the room, deceptively at ease, his gaze lingering on the servants. He'd follow them until they slipped away on some errand. He reminded Merlin of a chained dog, pretending to sleep while guarding the yard. Frankly, it was obnoxious. With Arthur always on edge, Merlin couldn't relax. Ever. What was going on in Arthur's head? He'd ask if he thought Arthur would confide in him. Of if he thought he wanted to know the answer. It might be related to Arthur's other favorite pastime, and Merlin couldn't risk that topic. Anything related to sex or magic was strictly verboten, and Merlin clung to his new secret as tightly as he could. Even if sometimes, most times, he wanted to jump out of his hiding spot and take over. Or at least be allowed to watch openly, with nothing obscuring his view of Arthur's pale cock. But no, that wouldn't ever happen so he needed to stay focused and remember that Arthur mustn't ever know.
Merlin's plan to keep his head was going beautifully until Arthur did the unthinkable during a very long and terrible council meeting.
Merlin was watching Arthur, as usual, so he didn't miss the way Arthur's face suddenly flickered with interest. He tensed, either excited or startled, and Merlin quickly glanced across the room, but there was nothing. In the next moment, Arthur was slouching in his seat, sliding forward until his lower half was completely shielded by the table.
Merlin's eyes widened. He wasn't. He wouldn't. Not there. Not in front of everybody and the king. Merlin's need to save Arthur from himself was overwhelming, but he couldn't think of a single good reason to drag Arthur out of the room. Plus, no matter what he did, he might attract attention to the prince, which would make the situation worse. Merlin definitely didn't want things to get any worse.
A trickle of water splashed against Merlin's finger, the bead dropping from the lip of the pitcher he held. He couldn't see Arthur's hand, but he saw the muscles tense under his shirt, flexing each time Arthur squeezed his shaft. Merlin's throat clenched and he crept closer, terrified and intrigued, his cock half-hard. Arthur didn't even hear Merlin's approach, didn't give any sign of realizing Merlin was practically right on top of him. He stared as Arthur's fingers flexed and moved over his very thick erection.
Arthur did a rather masterful job of not attracting attention until his fingers tapped the base of his cock and he tried to hide the resulting shiver with a quick shake of his head.
"You don't agree?"
"I. Well. That is."
For a very brief moment, Merlin considered letting Arthur dangle there on Uther's hook. It would serve him right and maybe break him of playing with his cock at every opportunity. Besides that, it wasn't fair for Merlin to pay for Arthur's indiscretion. But fair or not, it was his job to protect Arthur, and sometimes that meant throwing himself on the sword. Merlin took what little comfort he could from the fact it was no less than a sacred duty and relaxed his fingers, letting the water jug clatter to the floor.
Uther immediately pinned Merlin with his eyes, and he saw his fate reflected in their angry depths. While Arthur scurried away and masturbated in a corner somewhere, he'd be sent out to the stocks. Sometimes Merlin hated his life.
"Sire, the hour grows late, and Lord Eccel is still waiting for an audience the throne room. You also haven't had a chance to approve the plans for the new watchtower."
Merlin could have wept in gratitude as Gaius pulled Uther away. But his gratitude quickly soured when he saw the king pull Arthur aside and knew he was hissing something about Merlin's ineptitude and the most befitting punishment. But Arthur would never repay Merlin with some sort of hard labor…Merlin stopped himself. That was exactly what Arthur would do. For his own twisted amusement.
"You're like a cat," Arthur snarled at him as soon as they were alone.
You don't know the half of it. "I thought you were supposed to be telling me not to be noticeable, sire?"
"That, too." Arthur sat abruptly, face still twisted with irritation and…frustration. Definitely frustration. Now would be a good time to make his exit, while Arthur was still distracted and horny.
"Look," he said earnestly. "D'you need some time to— I should, I mean I need to go thank Gaius, and he'll probably have errands for me to run, so I'll just." Get the hell out.
"That won't be necessary."
Merlin caught his breath. Could Arthur really mean what he thought Arthur meant? Was there any chance at all that Arthur thought of him…but why would Arthur think of him? The hope ebbed back, pulling Merlin with it towards the door.
Arthur opened his legs. Opened them wide so Merlin couldn't misunderstand, even though he was feeling stupid and sick with want. He moved his hand, dragging it down his stomach. Just that made Merlin tingle in unusual places, blood pooling in his groin so quickly that the resulting erection was more than a little painful. He was so caught up in that throb that he couldn't control his response when Arthur finally palmed himself. The whimper was very loud in the otherwise quiet room. And there was no denying that it was a whimper.
"Did you just—"
"No! Shut up!"
Merlin could have killed him for his smirk. Until he tugged at his laces and Merlin had to bite his lip to stop another sound from escaping.
"Christ. Your mouth."
"My mouth?" Oh, Arthur was one to talk. With his stupid mouth, and his stupid eyes, and his whole stupid face. "Do you know how many times you licked your lips this afternoon? Thirty-seven, Arthur. Thirty-seven!"
"The air is very dry lately," Arthur said, licking his lips again.
Merlin wanted to touch his lips. Not just kiss them—though he definitely wanted to do that—but run his fingertip over the lower edge to see if it was as soft as it looked. He didn't consider that for long before Arthur drew his attention back to his cock. His palm slipped over the top, revealing then hiding then revealing his slick crown. He stroked down, his hand large and dark compared to the creamy skin. Merlin had never seen Arthur from this angle, and his rather feverish fantasies hadn't done the vision justice. That was just what Arthur was, with the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows behind him, getting caught in his hair and bathing over him.
"Listen, this would be a lot less weird if you gave me a, you know, hand."
"No. No thanks. I think I'll just. Watch for a bit. If you don't mind."
Arthur looked like he might mind, but for once, Merlin didn't have to look away and he wasn't going to. He won the staring contest, and Arthur reached for the pouch where he kept his oil. Merlin was so accustomed to the sight that at first it didn't register as strange, but it actually was and he blurted, "Wait, why do you have…how much have you been doing this?"
Of course, Arthur didn't bother to answer him. Just pulled his slick hand down his shaft in a fluid, perfect motion that had Merlin's cock jerking in response. There was nothing to be done for it. He dropped to the floor, unmindful of how cold and uncomfortable the stones were, pawing at his pants desperately. He fumbled with the laces, his ears buzzing and his skin flushing hot as he watched Arthur watch him. But not like he'd watched the other servants. That was always with a hint of inquiry, like they were a puzzle. This look was something altogether different, hungry, like Merlin was prey.
Merlin shamelessly pulled his cock free. Now wasn't the time to be bashful. This was finally happening, and it was better, sweeter, than anything he'd conjured up with his imagination. Arthur's attention zeroed in on Merlin's dick, and Merlin couldn't resist leaning back on one arm and arching his back. Arthur's jaw twitched, his wrist moving again. Merlin matched Arthur's rhythm unconsciously, knowing exactly how fast Arthur would want it, knowing when he would pause to squeeze the tip, knowing when he would rotate his palm over the crown.
Arthur always swallowed any sound when he ducked into a corner or a spare room, his breath remaining slow and even until he reached his breaking point. But he didn't silence himself now. His ragged moans rang in Merlin's ears. He twisted his hips and bit his lip, but he never closed his eyes. He gave Merlin his full attention, and for the first time, Merlin had absolutely no doubt about what Arthur was thinking.
Merlin wanted to make this last and last. He wanted to bask in Arthur's pleasure and arousal, even wanted to stay on the floor if it meant he could stare at Arthur in peace. But Arthur had trained himself to rush the whole process, and it didn't surprise Merlin when Arthur grunted and covered his hand with cum long before Merlin was even close to ready.
"Come on," he rasped, each word scraping over Merlin's spine. "Come on, I want to see you."
"You're so…impatient. Arthur! God." Merlin curled slightly as his balls pulled tight and his abdomen clenched, then straightened again, the pleasure zipping down his spine. It's only after he sagged to the stone that he realized he shouted Arthur's name with a great deal of force. He could taste the word on his tongue, weighing it down so much he couldn't hope to form another syllable.
Arthur remained motionless for several long beats, and Merlin had no choice but to stay at his feet, stretched out on the floor like an offering. Did Arthur regret it? Was he going to send Merlin away or try to take everything back? If he did, could Merlin possibly escape with any of his dignity intact? No, probably not.
"Right," Arthur said, finally standing. Merlin couldn't move until Arthur turned his back. Only then did he find the strength necessary to stand and join Arthur at the water bowl.
"Next time, mouths, all right?" Merlin pitched his voice for casual, but it didn't quite make it.
"Say it like you mean it, Merlin, please," Arthur said, flicking water on his face like a prat. Merlin felt his mouth stretch in a stupid grin, and it only widened when Arthur grinned back. "And light a fire, I can barely see."
"Maybe you're going blind."
Arthur's mouth pulled into a familiar I'm not amused, Merlin frown. Merlin acted without thought, cupping the back of Arthur's neck with wet fingers and pulling him into a brief kiss. Arthur froze for a few moments, but Merlin persisted. He wasn't going to suck Arthur's cock if Arthur wouldn't even kiss him. Fair was fair. But Arthur only needed a few seconds to grow accustomed to the idea. His hand went to Merlin's hip and he tugged sharply, pulling Merlin against him and deepening the kiss until they were both short of breath and hard as stone.