Merlin was accustomed to hard work. He'd been born a serf, and until his magical powers asserted themselves, couldn't visualize any other future. Indeed, once he'd recovered from the initial shock that becoming Arthur's manservant was considered a "reward," he quite appreciated the job. It put him in the perfect position to keep Arthur safe so they could both fulfill their destinies. Cleaning his room, his clothes, his horse's stall, all that was secretly fine with Merlin, even if he occasionally grumbled for the sake of appearance.
But seriously, the bath thing was getting out of hand.
Or perhaps more to the point, having Arthur's naked body regularly under Merlin's hands was becoming dangerously appealing.
Merlin was sure no other noble bathed quite as often as Arthur. Probably it was all the knightly training Arthur did, fencing and riding his stallion while wearing heavy chain mail, that left him so often glowing with sweat. "Merlin, bath," had become Arthur's most common order. Merlin dutifully heated up water, using magic to get it especially hot, and making the pails follow him up the back stairs, listening carefully for any other footsteps.
Arthur would always be partially dressed, at least his boots gone, and sometimes his shirt, leaving him waiting in leggings. All that knightly training did quite wonderful things for Arthur's chest, creating more muscles than Merlin had seen on any other man. "There you are," Arthur said, watching as Merlin carried in two of the buckets, leaving the rest sitting outside. "About time."
"The water takes time to heat," Merlin said, pouring one bucket into the bathing tub. He looked at Arthur, waiting for him to get into the tub, and Arthur looked back at him.
"Well?" Arthur asked, holding out his arms, and Merlin reluctantly crossed the room, standing behind Arthur, swiftly removing his leggings, pulling them down until Arthur could step out of them, trying not to notice that his knightly training also gave him a well-rounded ass.
Arthur sunk into the tub, giving a little sigh of pleasure. "Scrub me, Merlin," he commanded. Merlin picked up the soap, much finer than any his mother had ever made, lathering up the cloth, starting on Arthur's long legs, stretched out in front of him, resting on the tub's edge. Arthur's legs were as pleasingly well-shaped as the rest of him, covered with short, blond hair, and Merlin really needed to stop paying such rapt attention. His destiny was to protect Arthur until he was a great king, not ogle him.
Why was Arthur's body so fascinating? It wasn't all that different than Merlin's own. More muscled, hair golden rather than dark, but still… just a man's body.
"My calves, Merlin."
Merlin gave Arthur a blank look.
"They're sore. Scrub them well. Maybe do some of that massage you did last time."
"Yes, Arthur." Merlin swallowed hard. He hadn't meant to start using his bare hands on Arthur. Soap the wash cloth, scrub the body, rinse. That was the proper way to help a noble bathe. The massage last time had just… happened. Spontaneously, like so much of his magic did. Merlin followed the command, folding the cloth over the rim of the tub, digging his fingers into Arthur's calves, feeling the tightness of the muscles, making a massaging motion to ease the tension.
Arthur's head was resting on the back of the tub, eyes closed, golden hair slightly sweaty and sticking to his forehead, and he gave another soft moan of pleasure as his muscles relaxed. He was gorgeous.
Hopefully he wouldn't want Merlin to use his bare hands on any other part of his body.
"You may have found your perfect calling," Arthur said sleepily, as Merlin braced one bare foot and then the other on his chest, the better to dig his fingers into his calves, kneading the knots away.
"Pull your legs back in and I'll rinse them," Merlin asked, and Arthur did as bid, tucking his legs in, feet resting on the inside of the rim, letting Merlin pour hot water over him.
"That would feel good on my back."
"Let me wash your chest first." Merlin took up the cloth, lathered it up again, and moved his hand over Arthur's chest. With Arthur's eyes safely closed, he let his own linger over the perfection of golden hair on pale skin.
"Scrub harder, Merlin. I'm not a delicate flower."
Arthur's eyes were still thankfully closed, as Merlin obeyed, using more force as he swept the cloth over Arthur's shoulders, down his chest, along his sides, and finally perilously close to his lower regions. "I'm going to rinse you now."
Arthur sighed and stretched out as much as the tub allowed, obviously appreciating the warmth of the water as it poured over him, removing all the soap. "My back," he said, leaning forward. "And do some of that massage."
"Yes, Arthur." Merlin shifted to kneel behind Arthur's back, scrubbing it first, remembering to use strong pressure, removing all the sweat and grime from wearing chain mail, then rinsed him off, and began to use his bare hands on Arthur's back, which felt as tense as his calves, and was as wonderful to touch. It was easier to work now that he didn't have to worry about Arthur seeing his face, and wonder if his expression was revealing anything it shouldn't.
Were Arthur's thighs as tight as his calves? Maybe Merlin should have worked on them too.
"I should have had you massage my thighs too," Arthur said blissfully. "But you get a little squeamish sometimes."
"Like you've never washed a man."
"I haven't. It wasn't a chore in my village. There were no lords." Arthur knew that. He'd been to Merlin's village and seen that they were all serfs. Their village wasn't of enough consequence to have a lord directly protecting it.
"You and Will never… washed each other?"
Why would he and Will wash each other? They were friends, not lord and manservant. "No. Sometimes we swam in the river together but never more than that."
"Ah. I had assumed a greater… closeness between the two of you."
"No one gets too close to someone with the power of sorcery," Merlin answered with meticulous care for his words, keeping up the pretense that Will had been the magician, not him. He picked up the bucket, using the last of the water to rinse Arthur's back.
"Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?"
"Of course not."
Arthur stood up in the tub, so Merlin stood up too, circling forward to wash his private parts. "Wait," Arthur said, catching one of Merlin's hands in his. "Are you a virgin, Merlin?"
"It's a simple question."
"It's not any of your business!"
"So you are. Do you want to change that?"
"I – what? What are you asking me?"
"I'm offering that if you would like to eliminate your virginity, I will be happy to take care of it for you."
"I don't know what makes you think I would be interested in such an offer," Merlin said, his words almost tripping out of his mouth.
"The way you touch me." Arthur pulled Merlin's hand down to his groin, making him begin to wash his lean thighs, his cock. "You all but caress me, Merlin. And the way you try to avoid touching certain parts of me."
"I – " Merlin watched in amazement as Arthur's cock rose under the combined pressure of their hands and the wash cloth. "I'm only trying to do my duty."
Arthur released Merlin's hand. "Then forgive me if I have trespassed." But he didn't move, and neither did Merlin, remaining standing close to each other.
"You are forgiven." Merlin resumed washing Arthur, the length of his shaft, his balls in their wrinkly sac, reaching behind him to soap those perfect buttocks. His touch was more confident than normal. "I didn't mean to do more than I should."
Arthur placed one hand on Merlin's face, the tips of his fingers stroking his high cheekbones and the softness of his mouth. "You did nothing objectionable."
"Your body – it is a pleasure to wash you. You are magnificent." When they'd first met, Merlin would never have admitted such a fact. Indeed, he would have called Arthur a spoiled brat. But as they'd become friends, he'd learned more about the pressures that challenged and affected Arthur, making him into a complex man. A man who was occasionally excruciatingly irritating, but noble and just.
Arthur leaned forward, his lips lightly brushing on Merlin's, sharing breath more than actually kissing. "The offer stands, Merlin. Any time you want to take it up."
"And if I do? What do I do?"
"Just give me a signal. I'm quite good at figuring those things out."
"I have to get more water." He fled to the hallway, grabbing another bucket, bringing it inside. Arthur hadn't moved from the tub, and the sunlight coming in the windows made him appear even more golden. Merlin rinsed the last of him, then picked up the towel, patting him off.
"You missed my hair."
"I'll do it later."
Leaving the towel draped over Arthur's shoulders, Merlin took a step back, and slowly began disrobing, letting each piece of clothing drop to the floor, feeling both shaky and daring as he exposed himself. "Is this a good enough signal?"
"Has anyone told you that you're very attractive?"
"No, Arthur." Merlin glanced down at himself, the curly black hair on his body, his arms and legs that seemed so knobby and awkward next to Arthur's sleekness.
"You are. Very." Arthur rested his fingers on Merlin's face again. "Not conventionally attractive. Your features are too strong, too angular. But you're very attractive."
"Thank you. I think."
"I want you, Merlin. I want to be your first." Suddenly Arthur's eyes were hungry in a way he must have been hiding but clearly felt deeply. "I want to show you how good it can be."
"I'm ready. Show me." Arthur was his destiny. They were two halves of the same coin. It seemed only right to allow Arthur to be the first to know his body.
Arthur tossed the damp towel to the floor, stepping out of the tub and onto it, before drawing Merlin close. Nothing separated their bodies, Arthur's hands resting on Merlin's waist as he kissed him, as gently as the first time. Then Arthur's tongue invaded, touching his own, and Merlin shivered at the sensation. He tried to duplicate Arthur's action, pushing his own tongue back at Arthur's.
"Relax, Merlin. Love is like a fine wine, meant to be savored."
"I'm only allowed to drink ale. Fine wines are for nobles."
Laughing fondly, Arthur led Merlin over to the bed, throwing the covers to the bottom, and coaxing Merlin to lie down. "Then think of it like the difference between a plow horse and my stallion."
"I thought you were going to be the stallion."
That made Arthur grin. "You are such trouble, Merlin. But you're worth it. Just relax and learn."
Merlin did as commanded, lying on the white cotton sheets, letting Arthur touch him everywhere, introducing himself to his own body. He'd thought he'd known himself, his strength, his weaknesses. But he'd never realized that lips on his nipples could make him gasp, that a finger tickling his navel could force out a giggle, a tongue licking on the head of his shaft could cause him to beg. Though he tried to obey, he couldn't stay relaxed, his body writhing uncontrollably as he groaned Arthur's name repeatedly.
"We'll have to work on your ability to follow orders," Arthur said ultimately, his head propped on one hand, but he was smiling as he said it, well pleased with the results he'd wrought.
"Oh yes, please." Not that he'd ever obey all of Arthur's orders. He would do whatever he deemed necessary to protect his prince.
"I want to take you all the way, Merlin. Show you the ultimate in how a man surrenders. I want that privilege."
"Yes. Please, Arthur."
Arthur rolled to his other side, confusing Merlin until he realized that Arthur was retrieving a small jar from his nightstand, before rolling back. "Spread your legs." Merlin did, while Arthur coated one finger with the unguent, before slipping it into the opening in Merlin's ass. It felt weird, but not unpleasant.
"How did you learn all this?" Merlin asked.
"You'd be surprised at how many people would like a piece of a prince," Arthur answered, his tone unexpectedly cynical.
"I don't want a piece of you."
"I know. I think you're the most loyal individual I know." Arthur nipped at Merlin's neck, making him flinch.
"Hey! What did you do that for?"
"Distraction." Arthur wiggled his fingers, and Merlin realized he'd inserted another one. "Battlefield tactics can be useful in bed."
"Always a knight," Merlin mumbled, but then gasped as pleasure, hot and sweet, speared through him, direct from Arthur's busy fingers.
"That's good, isn't it?"
"Gloating really doesn't become you." Except that it did, completely and totally. Arthur was incredibly handsome when smug, his smile self-satisfied, eyes gleaming.
"Oh yes, it does," Arthur protested, but then he was kissing Merlin again, his tongue shoving deep in Merlin's mouth, and Merlin was kissing him in return, pretty sure that he was getting the right amount of pressure and delicacy, and that the kiss had been another distraction, because now Arthur had three fingers in him. "You're ready now."
"Yes." Merlin had been confused at first, but he'd quickly figured out why Arthur was preparing him. He brought his knees up, widening his thighs, making a welcoming space for Arthur to lie between his legs. Arthur shifted on top of him, and there was more kissing, which swamped the discomfort of the blunt head of Arthur's cock entering him.
"Oh god." Arthur paused, burying his head in the crook of Merlin's neck, his cock halfway in Merlin's body. "You feel so good."
Merlin stroked Arthur's back, pleased at the chance to caress him as he wished, hoping that Arthur would want to do this more. "Have you had other virgins?"
"A few. None like you." Rebalancing his weight on his hands and knees, Arthur gave another thrust, this time burying himself completely in Merlin's body. "There's never been anyone like you."
"Do you feel okay?"
"I feel… full."
"Let's work on making you feel fantastic," Arthur said, and he withdrew, only to thrust again, with the same easy, effortless pace at which he rode his stallion. Relentless and smooth, Arthur's cock touched the same place his fingers had found, shooting pleasure throughout Merlin's body over and over again, until the experience felt comfortable and natural. Merlin dug his fingers into Arthur's ass, gripping it desperately, encouraging him to thrust harder. As much as he could while panting, he kissed everywhere on Arthur's face, his ears, his throat. Arthur's expression was like a man experiencing a rapturous bliss, and Merlin felt the same.
And then it abruptly ended as Merlin shattered, feeling as if his body had been struck by lightning from the sky, and was unable to contain the exquisite sensations any longer. White sparks were everywhere, behind his eyes and in his mouth and fingertips. It was like using his most powerful magic, when the strength of his body and the entire world seemed to sweep through him and he felt like he could control the world, before the energy dissipated, leaving him drained and weak. Merlin could only yell and cling tightly to Arthur, feeling Arthur's lean body shudder in his arms, as his prince groaned loudly with his own pleasure.
Merlin wasn't sure how much time had passed as they laid together, exchanging slow kisses, savoring the aftermath, before they moved. He was sorry to lose Arthur's heavy weight, but grateful when Arthur rolled him onto his side, spooning up behind him. He wasn't ready to lose this closeness.
"You're my manservant," Arthur said eventually, his fingers tangled with Merlin's. "No one will find it odd if you're around my quarters a lot. If you spend time here."
"No, Arthur," Merlin agreed readily, grateful at the implied promise.
"But only if you want to."
"I want to. I always will."
Arthur's tone was satisfied, justifiably so, and Merlin knew that they would do this again and again, any time he asked. Because that was the kind of man Arthur was, the king he would be. Always fair. Never taking advantage. Always giving of himself. And he was right; no one would question his manservant spending time with him. They would question it even less when Merlin was court warlock.
Merlin smiled at the thought of fulfilling his destiny, remaining forever at Arthur's side.
~ the end ~