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A warm, heavy wind whips Arthur's cloak up and back, snapping it against Hengroen's flanks as they ride slowly down a path some distance from the main road. A storm is gathering quickly overhead, casting a pale blue light over the tree-filled landscape. They're still a couple of leagues from Camelot and could move faster on the road, but Arthur knows Hengroen spooks easily in storms. The forest around them should help shield them from it a little, at least.

He’d sent the knights on ahead to the citadel with news of their victory. They’d been anxious to beat the torrential rain that was sure to catch him and Merlin out in the open and Arthur hadn’t seen reason to slow the knights' return.

Merlin is asleep in the saddle before him, leaning heavily back against Arthur’s chest. He'd been so drained after fighting the swarm of wyverns that he hadn't even mumbled a word of protest as Arthur maneuvered him onto Hengroen's back and climbed up behind him. He'd pulled Merlin to him, wrapped his arms tightly around Merlin's waist, pressed Merlin's head back to his shoulder.

He’s been asleep for nearly the entire journey back and Arthur’s back is taut with the effort to hold him up, hold him steady as they ride. As worried as Arthur is, he’s tempted to wake Merlin at every move and every sound he makes in his sleep. As Merlin groans again, Arthur tightens his hold, rubs Merlin’s arm, murmurs to him, but he doesn’t quiet this time as he has before.

Arthur's concern eases a bit as Merlin moans again, this time sounding wanton instead of wounded, his hips beginning to rock gently up and back on the saddle, arse pressing to Arthur's groin on every back-stroke.

Merlin’s face turns, burying in against Arthur’s neck, lips moving just under his ear. “Arthur,” he whispers sleepily, and Arthur has to close his eyes and grit his teeth.

He holds perfectly still except for the hand that flies to Merlin’s hip, pushing him forward and holding him there. He cannot stop the blood that rushes to his cock, though, no matter how hard he tries to will it not to. His body’s been days without Merlin’s touch while they were on patrol with the knights. Days without that beautiful, full mouth on his own, but he knows Merlin would never be so free with himself were he awake.

“Merlin,” he says, his voice croaking with the effort to tamp down his desire, then tries again, this time clearing his throat and leaning back slightly so Merlin’s body jerks to keep balance. “Merlin, wake up.”

“Hmm?” he mumbles, tipping dangerously on the saddle. Arthur tightens his hold and pulls Merlin back to him, groaning at the contact but unwilling to let Merlin fall.

“Careful,” he warns, turning his face a little so he’s sure Merlin will hear him. “The storm is about to break. I didn’t want it to startle you,” he says, and it sounds a bit contrived even to him.

Merlin inhales deeply and turns his head, smiling and arching against Arthur’s chest in a careful stretch and they’re so close that Arthur can feel the muscles of his back and legs flexing.

“Mmm, I was having the most amazing dream. Riding like this – it’s nice.” Pressing back against Arthur’s arousal, he breathes against Arthur’s neck and quietly asks, “How many days has it been?”

“Four,” Arthur answers immediately, not even trying to pretend he hasn't counted. “If Hengroen wasn’t already exhausted and so damned skittish in storms, we’d be in Camelot already,” he says, knowing Merlin will understand his meaning. In Camelot, in Arthur’s rooms, in his bed.

Merlin covers the hand on his hip and guides it down between his legs, head tilted back to lie on Arthur’s shoulder, lips parting as he draws in a shuddering breath. “Touch me,” he breathes, one hand reaching back, squeezing Arthur’s buttock, pulling him closer.

“Now?” he whispers, hips shifting against Merlin’s despite his trepidation.

“Please?” Long, thin fingers curl around his own, drawing his hand up and down over Merlin’s arousal, then up under the worn blue tunic and across his chest. Arthur’s nipples tighten in sympathy as he rubs his thumb hard over Merlin’s. He rolls them, one after the other, smoothes the heel of his hand over them, closes his eyes and can almost feel the hard little nubs and warm, bare chest beneath his lips.

Merlin’s hand rests on the outside of his tunic, fingers digging through thin, soft fabric to grasp Arthur's arm. His mouth moves wet and slow against Arthur's neck, working along his jaw, his earlobe, craning for contact as Arthur growls low in his throat and takes Merlin’s lips, unable to resist or summon concern for being seen.

The wind is like another set of hands, working in under their cuffs and collars, combing through their hair and sucking their panting breaths away.

He rakes his fingernails down Merlin's arching chest and smooth stomach, jerking the laces of his trousers open and dipping inside to pull him free. Arthur sheaths him tightly in his fist, swallowing Merlin’s gasp, dimly aware as Merlin's thighs tighten reflexively around Hengroen’s body, the horse taking the squeeze as a cue to move faster.

The quickening rhythm of hoof-beats rocks them together, Merlin groaning and pushing his hips back against Arthur’s aching arousal, the relief of the hard pressure short-lived as Merlin slides forward, up into the tight sheath of Arthur's fist and then, thank the Gods, returns to press against him again.

Merlin pulls away from their kiss, throwing his head back on Arthur’s shoulder as he moans and gasps and reaches up and back, fingers threading into Arthur’s hair. When Merlin shifts again, he holds still and hard against Arthur's straining cock.

"Yes. Let me... let me," Arthur tells him, shoving his hand down between their tightly-pressed bodies, yanking open his own trousers, pulling himself free, easing Merlin’s waistband down as far as it will go because Arthur needs, he has to get to Merlin's skin, press tightly against Merlin’s warm, soft arse. He looks down at the slice of pale flesh he's revealed and aches to bend Merlin forward, wants to watch as Merlin’s fingers twist into the horse’s mane and jerk his trousers down, slip his thick, straining arousal into Merlin’s arse and fuck him right there in the saddle, the leather hard and smooth between their spread legs.

It’s what Arthur sees when he closes his eyes and strokes Merlin hard, fast, moaning. Arthur sucks his fingers, catches Merlin's eye and trails them down along his cleft, pressing hastily in, listening for a hiss of pain as he curls them inside the clinging heat, inside his Merlin.

“Oh, Gods,” Merlin cries out, rocking his hips, shifting Arthur’s touch deeper inside himself. “I can’t believe… Gods. More.”

Arthur gives it to him, tighter, harder, deeper, turning his head so Merlin will hear him. “Fuck yourself,” he breathes against Merlin's ear and Merlin obeys, gently pressing back onto his fingers and up through his fist with slow, sensual arches of his body.

Merlin’s mouth turns to meet his, humming against Arthur's lips as he presses closer, his cock surging forward to slide against Merlin's skin, painting a wet trail along his lower back.

"Do it,” he orders, voice breaking with desperation, biting at Merlin's jaw and throat. “Harder, Merlin.”

Merlin obeys, fucks himself on Arthur's fingers with abandon, hips jerking wildly, faster and faster back into Arthur's thrusts then up through his fist. He groans loud enough to be heard over the distant crack of thunder, nails digging into his thigh as he shudders and spills, warm and slick over Arthur’s knuckles.

Arthur pulls away, too eager to be slow but still, even breathless and more than ready, he's careful as loosens his grip, sliding his fist up and off of Merlin's spent, twitching cock, catching the slick fluid on his palm.

Fingers still all the way into the hot clutch of Merlin’s body, Arthur kisses Merlin gently and pushes, urging him forward in the saddle. Reaching down between them, he smears the slick, warm come over his own cock and strokes from base to tip before closing his fist hard into a tight sheath and pressing in, setting a fast, fierce rhythm, the leather of the saddle gratifyingly hard against his arse and balls as his hips rock inexorably up and back. He pushes his fingers into Merlin faster as his pace becomes dire, taking over from Merlin, who is boneless and panting.

Arthur thrusts in time with his quick, halting strokes and imagines he’s there, surrounded by that heat, deep inside the most important person in his life.

He pulls away from their kiss, presses his forehead between Merlin’s shoulder-blades, the wind whipping his breath away until he feels like he’s drowning, and he shatters, fingers sunken deep and hard, cock pulsing over his slick, wet hand, Merlin moaning hungrily.

"Gods," he breathes out harshly, leaning heavily against Merlin's tunic.

"Yeah,” Merlin agrees, dropping his head back to rest against Arthur’s shoulder again, wincing as Arthur slowly, carefully slips his fingers out.

He unties Merlin’s scarf, swiping at his hand and cock. He runs a clean edge across Merlin’s lower back and arse. Folding the square of cloth and tucking it into his back pocket, he reaches down to tuck himself away and put his trousers to rights, noticing that Merlin is quickly lacing his up now, too.

Beneath them, Hengroen starts at the sudden, sharp peel of thunder, the echo of it rumbling for a long moment. Merlin leans forward, patting the stallion's neck, murmuring soothing words to him. He calms quickly, not even shying when the storm breaks, lightning splitting the sky.

As the first fat drops of rain begin to fall, Arthur blinks hard and wraps his arm back around Merlin’s waist, pulling him close so he can draw his cloak up around Merlin’s body, shielding him. An instant later, Merlin twists to give him a smirk, his eyes flashing. The rain rolls down the air in a wide arch over them as if slipping along glass and they are safe and dry. As they both watch in fascination, Arthur doesn't drop the cloak, nor does Merlin move away from their close embrace.

Arthur nudges Hengroen along, but keeps him at a slow walk down the forest trail, in no particular hurry.

Camelot can wait for them.