The first time Arthur had been a part of full scale battle, he had been thirteen. Saying he had been a part of it really only meant he had ridden out to war with his father but not actually participated in the battle itself. He had not yet begun formal training with the knights, though he had already become skilled with a blade, and the king insisted he witness the battle, but was equally insistent that he remain out of harm’s way. Arthur had been disappointed, crushed if he was being really honest, but had accepted his place with what he hoped had been good grace.
His memory of the battle and the celebration that followed were by now somewhat indistinct. He remembered the noise, the jostling bodies, cries on the battlefield, the raucous group of knights and soldiers returning to the camp, the more subdued collection of men that followed nursing their wounds and the silent bodies that were burnt on the pyre. What he remembered least clearly, however, was the celebrating that went on late into the night. He had been allowed to drink ale with the men, not watered wine as he usually did. As a result, he had become exceptionally drunk and had passed out in his tent far earlier in the night than he had intended. He hadn’t been awake to hear the real aftermath of battle and small skirmishes with bandits or even the high adrenaline of a tournament paled in comparison to the frenzy felt in a full scale battle.
Arthur’s body was thrumming with adrenaline. Whatever had created the strange skeleton warriors was gone and he was able to turn his attention to fighting back Cenred’s army. The ramparts were well defended, and the number of soldiers scaling the outer walls was diminishing, but there was still a considerable force at the gates. He could see Sir Leon leading the charge into the opposing army and rushed to join him. His muscles moved automatically, thrusting and blocking as he cut his way through Cenred’s men. Though he had been fighting for hours, his body sang with energy. His body moved fluidly, as he had trained it to through years of practice, and he felt like he could conquer the whole of Albion. Camelot’s knights and soldiers were making considerable headway, forcing back the invading force and retaking the gate.
When Cenred’s army received the signal and retreated, Arthur sent his men to make safe the lower town and ensure none were left behind. With the worst of the danger over, many peasants left the security of the citadel and formed groups to put out the many fires while others walked the streets in shock, taking in all that had been lost in the brief, but destructive siege.
Efforts to secure the lower town were well underway when Arthur returned to the castle full of restless energy. He needed to gather a small council to establish all that needed to be done both in the castle and the town. When he reached the council chambers, he was shocked to see his father there, alert and lucid, receiving reports from a steady stream of knights.
As he approached, Uther stood and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “I am very proud of you, Arthur. You did well.”
Arthur blinked stupidly, his body still trembling with the rush of battle, and struggled to say, “There are several fires in the lower town as well as within the castle walls. The citizens are organizing themselves to put them out. I left the Captain of the Guard to oversee them.”
Uther nodded. “It will all be dealt with. Go see to your own needs.”
“Sire?” Arthur asked, confused.
“You are uninjured?” his father asked.
“Then go find some relief. I am well enough to oversee matters here. I suggest you find a man.”
“Most women aren’t willing or able to handle a man after battle.”
“Father... I...” Arthur stared at his father, dumbstruck.
Uther gave him a weak, embarrassed half smile and simply said, “I have fought in many battles.”
Arthur felt his face flush and turned on his heel to leave. He couldn’t face his father suggesting that he... that he...
He was nearly at his rooms when he saw Merlin dashing up the stairs from the lower levels. His manservant was covered in dust and looked deliciously dishevelled. Arthur froze. Where had that come from? Merlin was in no way delicious, dishevelled or otherwise. Actually, now that he got a good look, Merlin looked rather frantic.
“Arthur! I’m glad I found you. Down in the vaults... something happened...” Merlin said, panting heavily.
The flush of Merlin’s cheeks and his uneven breathing matched Arthur’s own. With the blood racing through his veins, Arthur didn’t stop to think, he just grabbed Merlin by the arm. “I need you.”
“Arthur? Sire? What are you..?” Merlin asked as he struggled to keep up with Arthur’s long, purposeful strides.
“I need you. Right now.” Arthur said in a tone that brooked no argument.
Arthur flung open the door to his room and pushed Merlin inside. He slammed the door shut forcefully, and then shoved Merlin up against it. He rested his weight on his hands leaning in close to Merlin’s face. “I don’t... I want... I need...”
Giving up on trying to explain himself, he pressed his mouth against Merlin’s in a savagely urgent kiss. It was all tongue and teeth, possessiveness and pent up energy. Arthur pushed his armoured body up against Merlin’s, pinning him against the door. Merlin was unresponsive for a long moment, then Arthur felt thin fingers twining through his hair and holding him in place as Merlin returned the kiss with equal fervour.
Hands grappled at shoulders, hips ground against hips and muffled curses of frustration were breathed into the air between them when it became apparent that armour really wasn’t conducive to mutually enjoyable grinding. Merlin placed his hands on Arthur’s shoulders and pushed him away enough to start divesting him of his armour. Arthur reflected, as his hauberk came loose and was tossed unceremoniously to the floor with a clatter, that Merlin really had become quite adequate at putting on and removing his armour. He’d have to shout at Merlin later for being so careless, for the sake of consistency, but he had better things to do right now, like remove that blasted scarf so he had unimpeded access to Merlin’s neck.
Arthur dimly heard the sound of ripping fabric when he pulled Merlin’s shirt off a bit too forcefully, but he ignored it in favour of backing Merlin up against the table. Merlin didn’t allow himself to be bent over the table; instead he hopped up onto the tabletop and wrapped his legs around Arthur’s hips. They attacked each other’s mouths again, each fighting for dominance with thrusting tongues and less than gentle nips. Hands twined in hair and fingers gripped hard enough to hurt, but it was a glorious rush that added to the adrenaline racing through his body.
Without the armour, their grinding was far more enjoyable. Arthur ran his hands down Merlin’s back, strong hands gripping at a surprisingly rounded arse (where had Merlin been hiding that?) hard enough to leave bruises. Merlin was making small noises in the back of his throat that sounded like something between a whimper and a grunt, and Arthur couldn’t help grinning against the spot on Merlin’s neck where he was busy creating a long line of love bites no scarf would be able to conceal. A questing hand snaked between them and fumbled with his laces. Arthur groaned loudly when slender fingers wrapped around his cock and began stroking him with a frenzy that nearly matched the tempo of his pounding heart. The added stimulation was too much. Far too quickly, Arthur felt himself cresting and he bit down hard on the junction of Merlin’s neck and shoulder as the force of his release roared through his entire body. Merlin cried out, in pain or pleasure Arthur wasn’t sure, and a few moments later slumped against him, panting heavily.
For a long moment they stayed like that, leaning against each other’s shoulders and breathing hard. Arthur’s legs were a bit unsteady, though he wasn’t going to admit that, so he held onto Merlin a little harder and didn’t make any effort to move.
After a time, Merlin began rolling his shoulder under Arthur’s forehead. When he looked up, he caught the wince on Merlin’s face and brought a finger to trace along the edge of the livid looking bite mark he had made. Merlin brought his own hand to prod at it gently, making faces as he did. “What was that?”
“I think you’ll find it’s bite mark,” Arthur quipped.
Merlin sucked in a breath as he touched a particularly sensitive spot. “I know what this is, Arthur. I meant more the sudden, violent ravishing in general.”
“Yeah. What brought that on?” Merlin asked, looking at him with curiosity, but thankfully no anger.
Arthur ran a hand through his dishevelled hair and rubbed the back of his neck, searching for words. “Well, I’d say it’s... After a battle, you’re very charged up. That is-”
“You’ve never felt the need to shove me up against a door before,” Merlin said with a grin. “At least not like this.”
Arthur let out a long breath and shook his head. “Tournaments, bandits, crazy rescue missions, none of them were like this. I’ve never felt so full of energy, so alive.”
“You’re not hurt? From the battle, I mean.”
“A few cuts and bruises, nothing worth mentioning,” He said with a shake of his head.
Some of the tension in Merlin’s shoulders appeared to ease, but he still looked anxious. Arthur pulled back and surveyed the marks he had left on Merlin’s body and felt a twinge of something that might be guilt. “Did I hurt you? God, I’ve left marks all over.”
Merlin shook his head. “It’s alright. I don’t mind. Really. Are you, erm, a bit calmer now?”
“What is it?”
“There’s something you need to know about... about the crazy skeleton army,” Merlin said nervously.
“It was you that managed to stop the sorcerer that conjured it,” Arthur stated.
“Yes, but... What?”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Someone must have since they were rather impossible to kill for a long time, then suddenly they started collapsing into piles of bones. I’m not an idiot, Merlin.”
Merlin took a deep breath and let it out slowly, visibly composing himself. “Alright. So, yes, there was a sorcerer down in the tombs, and I stopped them, but there’s a problem, Arthur, a really big problem?”
“You let him escape?!” Arthur exclaimed, feeling the bone deep calm that had settled into his body disappear. “Christ Merlin! I’ve given up expecting much of you as my manservant, but I do have certain expectations of competency when it comes to defending Camelot from psychotic sorcerers as it seems to be the one thing you are actually good at! What happened down there?”
“It was Morgana!” Merlin shouted angrily, then froze and stared at him with wide eyed terror, as if he hadn’t intended to blurt that out quite so abruptly.
Arthur’s own face went slack as he stared back at Merlin in astonishment. “Morgana? Are you sure? Was she enchanted?”
Merlin shook his head sadly. “She’s not enchanted, Arthur. I believe she’s acting of her own free will, but she’s not working alone. I followed her the other night, when you couldn’t find me. She met with Morgause.”
“Morgause? And Cenred... she must have brought him into this, not that he would have needed much encouragement. Damn! What the hell am I supposed to do about this?” Arthur shouted, more to vent his frustration than from any expectation that Merlin would have a response.
“The same thing I’ve been doing, keeping an eye on her. The king won’t hear a word against her, and it’s not like I want anything bad to happen to her, even now, so there isn’t much else we can do,” Merlin observed.
Arthur looked at the dispirited expression on Merlin’s face and brought a hand to cup his chin. “You did your best.”
“No, you’re right, much as it pains me to say it. There is precious little else we can do at the moment, besides watch and wait, unless you have some creative tricks up your sleeve to stop this from being a problem?” Arthur asked hopefully, but he knew the answer already.
Merlin shook his head. “’Fraid not.”
The faint stubble on Merlin’s cheek rasped against Arthur’s palm, drawing his attention back to the state of their bodies. Arthur brought his other hand to trace a line from the bruises already forming at Merlin’s hip, up to the angry bite mark at his shoulder. He flushed. As embarrassing as the moment with his father had been, what he had said was true. Arthur would have felt horrible if he had done this to one of the maids. As things stood, he was feeling pretty badly about inflicting himself on his manservant.
“About the... erm... violent ravishing...” he began, not certain what to say.
“I told you, it’s alright. Do you need to...?” Merlin trailed off, making an awkward gesture between the two of them that made them both flush.
Arthur dropped his hands and said, “I think I can control myself.”
“Oh. Right then,” Merlin said, hopping off the table and brushing the full length of his body against Arthur’s, “If you don’t want... erm... I’ll um...”
“I don’t need to, not like before,” Arthur said, preventing Merlin’s retreat by wrapping strong arms around his waist and pulling him close. “That has very little to do with what I want right now.”
Merlin met his eyes with a shy smile, which was ridiculous given that they were pressed against each other, bare from shoulder to ankle, after a bout of rather enjoyable violent ravishing against a table. Merlin tentatively brought his arms around Arthur, and returned the embrace, keeping eyes locked with Arthur’s. “What is it you want, right now?”
Arthur grinned. “It involves a locked door, my bed with you in it and a complete lack of clothing until morning.”
“Right. I’ll get the door then,” Merlin said enthusiastically.