“Are you sure you don’t want me to come with you?”
Gaius looks up from the saddlebag, a tonic in each hand. “Don’t be silly, Merlin. The village is only two hours away. I know I’m old, but I’m not an invalid.” He threads the straps through the buckles, hands gnarled but perfectly steady, as if to prove his point. “Besides, I need you here in my absence.”
“You mean I get to be Court Physician while you're gone?”
“Not at all.” Gaius hefts the pack onto his shoulder. “I only need you to administer the usual potions. If anyone is severely ill, refer them to one of the healers in the lower town.”
“Oh.” Merlin sits down, still rather stiff. Arthur had had him running around all day, carrying his archery things. “Alright.”
“I’ve left all the potions you will need, and the catalogue on the desk. Make sure to check it before you hand them out.”
“I will, I’m not an idiot. Honestly, you’d think saving Camelot over and over would convince someone I’m at least competent.”
Gaius pats Merlin on the shoulder, his smile kind. “At least.” He makes his way to the door. “See you in two days time. And Merlin?”
“Of course not.”
Merlin sits at the work table with the spell book open, practicing magic. He’s trying to find a way to make it possible to call fire to his palm without the whole incantation. As it is right now, it takes far too long.
He’s just about to try again when the door rattles and Arthur pushes his way in. Merlin slams the book shut, standing up so quickly he cracks his knee against the underside of the table, rattling the instruments.
“Sire! What a lovely surprise.”
Arthur makes a face and presses the heel of his hand to his forehead. “Keep it down, Merlin, for the love of god. I’ve got a headache. Where’s Gaius?”
“Away for a day or two. There’s an outbreak of flu in one of the villages.”
Arthur makes a noise Merlin knows well—the one that says he can’t believe everything isn’t exactly how he wants it, all the time. “I’ve had this headache all day.”
“Let me see if I can find something,” Merlin suggests, piling a heap of scrolls onto the book of magic as discreetly as he can.
“I am Gaius’ apprentice. Everyone seems to forget that.”
“You don’t seem to have learned much,” Arthur comments, sounding irritated, as Merlin begins to dig through the mess of parchment on the table, looking for Gaius’ book of remedies.
“And who’s fault is that?” he mutters under his breath.
“What was that?”
“Nothing.” Merlin puts on his best vacant grin. “Look, here’s Gaius’ book.”
Arthur rolls his eyes.
“Headaches…headaches…headaches! Here we go. Possible causes—eye strain, tension in the neck and shoulders, trauma to the skull--.”
“I don’t care about the cause, I just want you to cure it.” All it needs, Merlin thinks, is stamping feet, and he would be the picture of a petulant child.
“Right.” He skips down the entry, squinting to make out Gaius’ handwriting. “Cures: sleep, application of heat to the neck, orgasm—.”
“Orgasm?” Arthur repeats, sounding disbelieving.
“I didn’t write it. Gaius did.” He shrugs.
“I’m surprised you know what that word means.”
“Hilarious.” Merlin taps a finger on the list. “There’s a potion.”
“Brilliant. Which one?”
Merlin digs out the catalogue. “Uh…second shelf, third from the right. It's diluted, so drink all of it.” He points to worktable.
“Brilliant,” Arthur repeats. Merlin turns to find him pulling a cork out of a light red bottle and downing it.
“Arthur! Not my right, your right!”
“Oh.” Arthur’s face pales a little. “What did I drink? It’s not poison, is it?”
“No, that’s not the poison rack. Let me—.” He flips frantically through the catalogue, searching for the right entry. “Here, it’s—oh.”
“Oh?” Arthur goes even paler. “Merlin. Oh?”
Entry 248: Tincture of Aphrodite. To create amorous longings. Effect: immediate.
“Perhaps, uh, you should leave, sire,” Merlin suggests weakly. “It’s not…not life threatening.”
“Then why are you looking at me like you’re expecting my…h-head to come off?” Arthur’s begun to sweat, a flush returning to his cheeks. His breathing is rather ragged. “What—.” He presses a hand to his cheek. “Why am I so hot?”
“That—.” Merlin points to the empty bottle on the table. “That was an aphrodisiac, and…um. You drank all of it.”
“H-How—.” Arthur swallows thickly, hands fumbling for the laces on his shirt. “How many d-doses did I take?”
“Um…” Merlin glances at the catalogue. “Eight?”
Arthur lets out a string of curses, things he’d never let his father hear him say.
“T-This is your fault,” he stammers. He’s gotten his shirt unlaced, pushing it off his shoulders and dropping it to the floor. His eyes have gone glassy. He’s really sweating now, torso gleaming in the candlelight. “Fix it!”
“Uh, right!” Merlin flips through the catalogue to the antidotes, feeling he should probably be rewarded for not pointing out who here couldn’t tell his right from his left. “Hmm…maybe we could try—.”
He looks up to find Arthur inches from him. “S-Sire?” Arthur raises a hand, and for a moment Merlin’s sure he’s going to hit him, hit him properly, instead of just a swat on the back of the head, but he just smoothes his fingertips down Merlin’s cheek, the way you might pet a kitten.
“Umm, Arthur…” Merlin backs away, nearly tripping over his feet. “Sire, you’ve got to keep a hold of yourself. You don’t really want—.” He swallows. “It’s the potion.”
Arthur pushes Merlin against the wall, hard enough to knock the breath out of him. His eyes are huge and dilated, pupils swallowing the blue. “You have no idea what I want.”
Even through his clothes, Merlin can feel the heat coming off him. He pushes at him weakly, aware for the first time in a long while just how much bigger Arthur is.
“Right. So, um, why don’t we sit down, and you can t-tell me.”
Arthur’s mouth is twice as hot as his skin, pressed to his neck.
“Arthur, stop, you—!” Merlin gasps, unable to prevent a shudder as Arthur bites. He presses closer, grinding against Merlin’s thighs and—is it medically safe for him to be this hard so fast?
“Sire!” Merlin’s voice squeaks as he just gets shoved back against the wall.
Arthur’s movements are getting increasingly more desperate, hands going to Merlin’s jacket and tugging.
“Alright, stop it. I’ll do it.” Merlin pulls his scarf over his head. “You might be able to afford to tear your clothes off, but some of us have to work for a living.”
“Merlin…” Arthur blinks, looking like he’s fighting to form words. He manages to let go of him, but he’s still pressed against his thigh. “I can’t—I’m not—.”
“I know,” Merlin says. He can’t think of any other way to fix this except maybe with magic, and even as far gone as Arthur is, there’s no way he wouldn’t notice the change in his eyes at this distance. Besides, it’s not like Arthur’s hurting him—his life isn’t in any danger.
He’s expecting it when Arthur kisses him, but it’s still a shock, warm and wet and an utter mess, and leaves Merlin wondering if you’re supposed to get weak in the knees when being mauled by your master/tentative friend. Then he thinks that this probably doesn’t happen to anyone but him.
Without Merlin’s shirt between them, Arthur’s body is an inferno, chest pressed up against his. Merlin wraps his arms around Arthur’s shoulders, more for something to do with them than anything else, hands sliding down his back, slipping in sweat. Arthur shudders, pulling away to moan desperately, as if the very touch of Merlin’s hands against his skin is an unbearable pleasure.
Merlin hesitates for a moment, before moving a hand between them and unfastening Arthur’s belt. He makes a noise of approval in his throat, pushing closer still.
Merlin remembers the dragons’ words—that he must protect and serve Arthur in every way that he can. He can almost hear the beast’s laughter if he saw them like this, how thoroughly Merlin is obeying his command. He manages to get Arthur’s trousers open without looking, wrapping his hand around his cock.
His first thought is that it’s big, which both irritates and doesn’t surprise him. Everything about Arthur is big, from his shoulders to his ego; no reason to think this would be any different. He doesn’t have much time to dwell on the thought, since Arthur lets out a cry that sounds alarmingly like pain, bucking into his grip. He’s shuddering, breath coming fast and desperate. Merlin sincerely hopes the palace guards have learned better than to come into the Gaius’ workshop when they hear strange noises.
Merlin tries his best to stroke Arthur like he strokes himself, but it’s hard to concentrate when Arthur is licking his neck. He’s never very coordinated, even at the best of times. Still, Arthur doesn’t seem to mind the clumsiness, and Merlin finds himself pushing back against him despite himself.
Merlin can feel it when Arthur gets close, body tensing, trembling like he’s going to shake apart. He lets out a ragged cry, and Merlin feels it, hot and slick on his fingers.
Arthur groans, sagging with exhaustion, forehead resting against Merlin’s shoulder, giving him a mouthful of blond hair. He sighs, patting him on the head. “What would you do without me?” he murmurs, though he’s pretty sure Arthur can’t hear him over the sound of his breathing.
That gives Merlin an idea, and he flicks his fingers toward the door, muttering as quietly as he can. The door locks with a hollow click. Now no one can come in to see the aftermath, at the very least.
Arthur’s skin has gone clammy now, as if a very high fever has broken, and he’s shivering. When Merlin pushes at his shoulders he goes without protest, collapsing onto the workbench. His eyelids droop, and there is white fluid streaked almost all the way up to his collarbone.
Merlin doesn’t think he thinks about Arthur in this way, but he can’t deny the little curl of pleasure in his stomach from the knowledge that he just made the crown prince of Camelot come all over himself. It’s a bit like the rush he gets after he performs a great deal of magic in a very short time.
Arthur’s breathing is leveling out, and he has his head in his hands. Merlin isn’t sure whether it’s from embarrassment or disorientation. He pushes himself off the wall shakily, walking over to the table to rinse his hands and pour water into a round clay cup. He has to poke Arthur in the forehead to make him look up.
“Hey.” Merlin pushes the cup into his hands. “Want some water?”
He makes a choked sort of noise, and it takes Merlin a couple of moments to realize that he’s laughing.
“What?” Merlin asks, defensive. “It’s just water, I swear.”
“No, it’s not that, I just—.” He takes the water, their hands brushing fleetingly. Merlin shivers a little, which, he has to remind himself, is perfectly reasonable after being pinned to the wall by someone. “My headache’s gone.”
“Well, good.” Merlin smiles, more relived than he can say. He’d half-expected Arthur to sack him then and there, and have him thrown in the stocks for good measure. “See? I am a good physician after all.”
Arthur gulps the water down, throat working. His hair is stuck to his neck in sweaty clumps. He looks like he could use a bath. “I hope that isn’t how you treat all your patients.”
“Only the good-looking ones.” It takes a few moments of Arthur staring at him before Merlin realizes he’d said it out loud. He wants to slap himself.
Arthur laughs and rolls his eyes. “You are the strangest person. What actually goes on in your brain?”
“Never mind.” Arthur picks his shirt up off the floor, making to pull it over his head, before looking down at mess on his chest and thinking better of it. He sighs. “I need a bath. I’ll expect you in ten minutes. You should probably clean this place up.”
Merlin surveys the overturned chairs and scatter of bottles on the floor. “Thanks. I would never have thought of that on my own. I’m glad you brought it up.”
“Just trying to help.” Arthur throws his shirt over his shoulder. “Oh, and Merlin?”
Merlin braces himself.
“You should think about washing your neck.” He unlocks the door. “Tastes awful.”