Warm hands rub along Merlin’s skin, up from his ankle to his thigh, curving along his hip. The touch pushes over his ribs, past his collarbones and curls over his aching, stiff shoulders.
He wakes slowly, in case this is just a dream - he wants to hold onto it if it is. As he draws in a deep breath, he recognizes Arthur’s clean scent and slits open his eyes, his lips spreading in a small smile, the night before all coming back to him.
Arthur kisses his raised chin, nuzzling in beneath his jaw. “Morning,” he murmurs, warm breath ghosting across Merlin’s ear.
“I can’t decide if this is torture or seduction,” Merlin groans, wincing involuntarily as Arthur’s fingertips drag hard over his biceps, then knead his forearms. Everything hurts, every muscle and bone, every bruise and cut. The wound on his leg feels hot and angry, though if it was any worse than the day before, Arthur surely would have noticed by now.
“Gaius came by. He didn’t want to wake you. He says you’re to stay off your feet until your wound’s closed, but your muscles won’t thank you for it if you lie there doing nothing all day.” Arthur is propped on his elbows over Merlin, his lurid red mouth so close Merlin can practically feel it on his own.
Arthur shifts, his free hand circling and rubbing the back of Merlin’s neck. He leans down and kisses Merlin gently and he moans into the kiss, fisting Arthur’s hair and wrapping his arm around his broad shoulders.
It’s fucking brilliant to be able to do this, to just kiss Arthur and be kissed. He presses closer, arches up against Arthur’s chest and winces, sucking in a breath at the sharp pain lancing up his thigh.
“Slow down, now,” Arthur whispers against his lips, interrupting Merlin’s rapidly-building passion, the hand on his hip strong enough to still the rhythmic little movements that brought his hardening cock into perfect stroking alignment with Arthur’s hipbone. “No sense making things worse.”
“Torture, then,” Merlin whispers, sighing and looking away, stupid stinging eyes closed tight, his face and ears burning with humiliation. “Sorry. It was just- waking up like that, I thought.... But if you don’t want...”
Arthur’s head drops to Merlin’s shoulder, breath huffing hotly against his bare skin. “Gods, you can’t be that thick. You can still feel me, can’t you?” Arthur looks up, then slowly rocks his hips, the hard swell of his cock pushing against Merlin’s thigh.
It’s obvious, sure, and Merlin should have realized, especially because there’s something else as well. The spell he’d cast on Arthur during yesterday’s ill-fated duel allows Merlin to take most of Arthur’s pain, but it doesn’t actually distinguish between pain and pleasure, or any other sensation. As he concentrates, he feels what Arthur’s feeling, literally, right down to his own hand, warm and firm against Arthur’s laces. His cock flexes when Arthur’s does, Arthur’s breath hitching against Merlin’s ear.
“You felt that, didn’t you?” Arthur asks, smiling softly.
Before Merlin can answer, Arthur pushes up and brushes his hand away. He pulls his laces slowly, watching to make sure Merlin is paying attention.
He nods and Arthur pushes the waistband of his breeches down around his thighs, moaning in relief as he pulls Merlin’s hand to him again. The head of his bare cock is hot in the cup of Merlin’s palm, slick with arousal. It paints a wet line up Merlin’s wrist, then the inside of his forearm as Merlin slips his hand down to cup Arthur’s tight, drawn bollocks.
The duality of touching Arthur and feeling those touches is dizzying but fascinating. Overwhelming. He groans and stares down between them, fisting Arthur’s cock with long, tight strokes. He bites his lip and pushes his hips into the bed, trying to bury his own desire and pay attention to Arthur’s obvious, powerful need.
Every stroke echoes along his own length and he can’t help but move, his feet sliding on the sheets. His toes curl into them for purchase, his thigh tense and screaming its protest, the muscle strained and shaking. It gives out, his leg collapsing with a thwump back to the mattress.
He squeezes his eyes closed and bites back a curse. It’s impossible that he’s wanted this for so long and now that he’s here, doing it, his body betrays him with pain and weakness.
“Merlin,” Arthur whispers, “Look at me.”
When he opens his eyes, Arthur is looking at him with concern. At least it’s not pity.
“My leg - I don’t think I can...,” he mutters, voice strangled as frustration and embarrassment clog his throat, his cock still leaking against his stomach, somehow missing the salient point.
He wants to ask for Arthur’s hand like last night, for anything, but he doesn’t know if he can find the words. This is all still so new to Merlin, no matter how many times he’s fantasized about it.
Arthur sighs and shakes his head. “It’s my fault. I should never have-” Arthur glances down at his open breeches, then rolls away and pulls them up his hips, knotting the laces. “We’ll have plenty of time when you’re well - when I am. I need to apply this, anyway,” he says with forced casualness, reaching for the salve. “It’s not mint. I’m not sure what it is this time.” He uncorks the squat bottle and holds it close so Merlin can inhale the scents.
“Arnica,” Merlin supplies, staring at the ceiling, willing his cock to cooperate and relax.
“It just smells of oil to me,” Arthur says with a shrug, coating his fingers and staring at Merlin for a long moment.
“You’ve already done my legs,” Merlin says, pushing up with a sharp inhalation at the pain, which seems to have doubled in intensity now that he’s not distracted. His cock is leaking onto his belly and not taking a hint from their casual conversation. “Could you hand me the sheet?”
He glances at Merlin’s lap, then at the sheet, but doesn’t pull it up for him. “I wasn’t done with your legs. I’d only just begun, in fact.”
Merlin shifts uncomfortably at first, focusing on the ornately carved finial at the top of one of the bedposts as Arthur’s fingertips slide around the back of his heel, rubbing circles along the bones of his ankle.
He soon relaxes into the feeling, though, into the warm slide of Arthur’s skin against his own. His mind is stuck on an endless loop of need and desire, but he swallows hard and tries not to think about Arthur’s body moving above him, inside him.
The massage feels wonderful, Arthur’s strong hands pushing in perfect tandem against his aching, sore muscles, kneading and circling.
“Tell me if I’m rubbing too hard, or if I miss a spot, alright?” Arthur asks, staring up at him as he works.
How could he have tamped down his desire so adamantly? If Merlin were touching him, he’d be every bit as aroused as he is now, he’s certain. Does Arthur feel passion so fleetingly that he can shrug it off just like that? Perhaps he does.
Merlin shifts, pushing himself to sit up a little higher, folding his arms across his chest and looking across the room at the hearth. He could be applying the salve. He doesn’t need Arthur’s pity-
“Stop thinking.” Arthur whispers, moving closer and leaning down so his words are hot against Merlin’s ear. “I want it every bit as much as you - trust me, these breeches are not doing me any favours just now.”
Merlin can’t help but smile. He scoots down, tilting his head so his face brushes Arthur’s stubbled cheek. Before he can wonder if Arthur wants to, Arthur kisses him softly, then shakes his head.
“You’re playing with fire, you know,” Arthur teases, nuzzling in to press kisses along Merlin’s throat, then pulls back to look down at him. “Let me finish.”
“It feels amazing – you feel... but I don’t know if I can stand-” Merlin’s half-hearted protests are silenced by another kiss, a stunning, shocking, surprise of a kiss. Merlin closes his eyes, fingers threading into Arthur’s hair as Arthur’s tongue sweeps over his lips. He moans as it slips inside, hot and slick against his own.
As they kiss, Arthur’s touch ghosts along his cheek, down his neck, his chest, his stomach. His palm opens wide over Merlin’s hipbone, then rubs lightly over his groin.
Merlin wants to cry out, wants to tease Arthur for having just as little willpower as Merlin has. He wants to know how he got so lucky, what changed Arthur’s feelings and brought this on. He can’t say a word, though. Arthur’s mouth catches every noise he utters, every would-be question or protest or plea for more, turning them all into incoherent whimpers and moans.
He presses hard into the hand that strokes up and down his aching length. It rubs lower, between his legs, fondling his sac and pressing, caressing rhythmically, deep into the flesh behind.
“Do you-“ Merlin gasps, exhaling shakily as he presses his body against Arthur’s questing fingers, his pain swept up under the rip-tide of pleasure.
Arthur raises his eyebrows, a small smile playing on his lips.
“Do you mean it?” Merlin breathes out, wishing to God he wasn’t so insecure, but he’s felt this way forever and Arthur has never looked at him the way he’s looking at him now. “Have you wanted this, or are you just... is this just because I’m hurt?”
Arthur holds his gaze, hand trailing up Merlin’s side and coming to rest over his thudding heart. He keeps it there for a long moment.
“I would have thought the answer was obvious,” Arthur whispers, but it doesn’t have the usual “idiot” anywhere in it. “This has been a long time coming, Merlin. And if you’ll lie very still and not hurt yourself, I’ll show you just how sincerely I mean this,” Arthur says, shifting so he kneels with one leg pressed against Merlin’s uninjured thigh. “Or... would you rather I stop?”
Arthur isn’t teasing now. His hand has stopped stroking, fingers curled against the inside of Merlin’s leg, resting gently there as if he thinks Merlin might actually refuse his touch.
“It’s been years,” Merlin says, closing his eyes as his cheeks heat. He needs Arthur to know; he needs to tell him. “I’ve wanted this - you - for years.”
“I know,” Arthur says quietly, gently.
Merlin thought he’d been subtle about his admiration, but of course he hadn’t been. He was never subtle, really, and Arthur has been so damned observant since the war.
“When did you figure it out?” It seems unimportant the second he asks, but the tension lifts from Arthur’s face as he smiles.
“You’ve always looked at me so... differently. Like you see me- not the Prince of Camelot.But when you came to me in the cave after Camelot was taken." Arthur clears his throat. "Everyone else let me be, but you kept at me. You knew exactly what to say. And thank the Gods you did,” Arthur says with a scoff. "But this," Arthur says, gesturing at Merlin's body, "I thought I'd lost you when Gwaine described your injuries. Then when I realized what you must've done... it made me see you differently."
“You have no idea how many times I tried to tell you. I wanted you to catch me, to know everything,” Merlin admits, scrubbing a hand nervously over his face and hair, but Arthur catches it, brings it to his lips and kisses Merlin’s wrist.
“I know,” Arthur whispers, lowering Merlin’s hand so it lays beside his head on the pillow. “Now let me take care of you.”
He lets himself be moved, determined to be good as Arthur arranges his other arm up as well, then slides a hand between Merlin’s thighs.
Merlin drinks in the way Arthur looks at him as he teases the sensitive skin of Merlin’s inner thighs with the back of his hand. Each knuckle is a brilliant point of contact, and Merlin bites his lips to keep from moaning.
He holds still as long as he can, then shifts against the soft touch, seeking more sensation. He winces with the movement, then moans as Arthur’s hand cradles his wounded thigh, gently easing his legs further apart.
“I know it feels good, but you have to let me do the work,” Arthur coaxes, leaning down for a gentle kiss. “Just close your eyes.”
And Gods, just the thought of Arthur’s full, focused attention all on him makes Merlin’s heartbeat pound and his breath quicken. He nods again, afraid his voice will be far too shaky, and closes his eyes.
Arthur kneels between his spread thighs, massaging the sore flesh on both, carefully avoiding the long cut. He rubs in warm, slick circles, hands drifting higher and higher. Arthur’s thumbs glide up either side of his sac as he rubs the place where Merlin’s aching legs meet his groin, gently urging his thighs to fall open.
Merlin moans, feeling himself finally melt beneath Arthur’s touch, his head heavy on the pillow and hips rolling ever-so-slightly into the deep, tender massage. It feels so good, someone else’s hands on him, Arthur’s hands.
He reaches up, hooking his fingers on the wooden headboard as Arthur works lower, caressing the place just behind his bollocks. He smooths the salve there, pressing firmly in against Merlin’s flesh, stimulating nerves that make him feel like he’s flying. He does arch then, can’t help it, his body pleading for more.
Slick fingers circle his entrance as Merlin sobs out the breath he’s been holding.
“Shh,” Arthur murmurs, pressing sucking, open-mouthed kisses to his hip, his stomach and the head of his cock. “Patience...”
He moans his agreement, wishing he could feel Arthur everywhere, feel everything he’s doing and kiss him, too. He tastes so good, so familiar, and Merlin needs that connection in this wildly unfamiliar territory.
Instead of kissing him, Arthur’s lips part, hot and wet over the head of his cock, sucking him gently, slowly.
“Oh, God, that’s- please, please don’t stop, just... suck me-”
He can’t stop the pleas from dripping from his tongue. Even when he bites it hard, the words form like explosions in his mind. Need you to take me, to fuck me. He wants it so badly, knows Arthur won’t, he wouldn’t, not with Merlin wounded as he is.
But he aches for it, his arsehole clenching shamelessly against Arthur’s touch. “Please,” he begs, letting go the headboard to close a hand on Arthur’s wrist, pressing his fingers forward. “I’ll lie still, I promise, just, I need... please,” he begs, holding as still as he can.
Arthur pulls slowly off his cock, flicking his tongue against the slit so Merlin sucks in a breath.
“We’re going to have to work on you trusting me,” Arthur says quietly, rubbing his cheek along Merlin’s aching length, looking up at him with a smile and kissing him low on his stomach, his lips smeared from sucking.
Arthur tucks a hand under the back of Merlin’s knee and lifts his uninjured leg, urging Merlin to wrap it over Arthur’s shoulder as he lies down on the bed between his legs. Merlin closes his eyes and arches into the sparking pleasure as Arthur takes him in his mouth again, lips a brilliant circle of heat around his arousal.
Arthur wraps an arm firmly around his raised thigh, holding him tightly in place as he smears more salve against Merlin’s entrance. He draws his fingers over it again and again, the pressure increasing by torturous, slow degrees until finally, finally, a finger slides into him, working gently in and pulling slowly out, reaching deeper inside him with each steady, strong push.
It’s heaven, a sinfully satisfying stretch, but Merlin wants more. He forces himself not to beg, not to admit his greed. He bites the inside of his cheek and rocks his hips just the smallest bit and moans in relief as another finger joins the first.
There’s a dizzy instant of breathtaking pain with the wider stretch, but it dissipates into warm pleasure as Arthur’s thick fingers slide in and out, starting to fuck him in earnest. He moans and lets go of Arthur’s wrist, body writhing between the mirrored, rapturous pleasures, Arthur’s velvet mouth on him and the strength of his fingers, as deep as they can reach, twisting and rubbing over the white-hot core of him.
He focuses on the spell, wanting it all, needing to know what Arthur’s feeling. He arches as he feels Arthur’s body, his stretched, aching jaw and the smooth, tight heat around his fingers, the cool sheets against his arousal.
Merlin cries out as he lets go of his focus, cock pushing deep into Arthur’s mouth and arse clenching around the fingers that thrust and rub, over and over, giving him no quarter as tears leak from his eyes.
The bed creaks with the movement of Arthur’s hips as he thrusts against the mattress and Merlin cranes his neck to watch. He casts, untying Arthur's laces and pushing his breeches down his thighs again. Arthur moans around his cock, the sound humming all the way to the base of Merlin's spine.
The sight of Arthur getting off on sucking him, on fucking him with his fingers - it unhinges something inside Merlin. He feels free, out of control and drunk with sensation. The heat of Arthur’s slick, soft mouth, the firm press of his tongue along Merlin’s cock, the stretch and push and grind of the fingers inside him - it’s all so wonderfully overwhelming. He fists the sheets and Arthur’s hair, holding on as his whole world narrows to pleasure and feeling and he shatters, pulsing into the heat.
He thrusts erratically, hips jerking up and back as much as Arthur’s firm hold will allow. Arthur’s fingers push into him in smooth, even strokes as he comes. Arthur swallows every pulse, his lips a tight seal on Merlin’s throbbing cock. His eyes are squeezed closed and hand clenched on Merlin’s hip, a steadying reminder not to move too much or hurt himself.
Just as Merlin’s ecstasy begins to subside, Arthur groans around his cock, pulling off and pressing his forehead to Merlin’s hipbone. He thrusts hard and fast against the sheets and Merlin pushes up to his elbows and stares, breathless, as Arthur suddenly looks up at him, pupils shocky-wide with pleasure, and comes, hips jerking, hand clenching tight on Merlin’s hip.
They both lie there, gaze locked together as they catch their breath. When Merlin sinks, boneless, back against the bed, Arthur slowly begins to move, laying a path of soft kisses from his spent cock to his mouth. He slips his fingers free, then slowly back inside, drawing them in and out as he kisses Merlin almost chastely, warm palm covering Merlin’s spent cock.
“God, Arthur,” he breathes out, voice full of the awe he’s feeling as Arthur kisses his jaw, his throat, his shoulder. He guides Arthur’s head up to he can look him in the eye. “I didn’t know anything could feel like that. Nothing hurts now,” he whispers with a smile, and Arthur laughs softly.
“Good,” Arthur whispers, kneeling up over him, hands on either side of Merlin’s shoulders. “Would you care to have some company in my bed?”
“Of course,” Merlin smiles, silently casting the bed clean and reaching to push Arthur’s breeches all the way off. Arthur’s hand closes on his, stopping him, but before Arthur can protest, Merlin whispers, “I just want to feel you.”
He could tease Merlin for his words, since Merlin’s already feeling so much of him through the spell, but Arthur just nods, kicks his breeches off and stretches out behind him, running a hand through Merlin’s hair.
He tucks an arm beneath Merlin’s neck and wraps it over his chest, the other circling his waist so he’s wrapped up in Arthur’s warm, strong embrace. He fits their bodies together, touching from their entwined legs to the warm breath on the back of Merlin’s neck. “Sleep, now,” he says with a yawn and a kiss against Merlin’s shoulder.
It’s the simplest touch, but Merlin feels it everywhere. He feels Arthur against him, and what Arthur’s feeling, too, the two sensations so similar that they meld together into one peaceful, beautiful feeling.
He shifts, fitting himself impossibly tighter against Arthur, and lets the moment surround him.