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Merlin squeezes his eyes shut and breathes deep. Their position still feels a little off, but the smell of the sheets is perfect: it’s Arthur’s insistence on luxury and order, with the barest whiff of the last time he fucked Merlin into the mattress.

“I expect you to count,” says Arthur, and Merlin nods, face rubbing against the sheets, stomach tensing in anticipation.

His one comes out in a grunt of surprise, not pain. Two, it’s good, no need to say anything else, Arthur wouldn’t want him to, but after four he mutters “harder.” The next three slaps to his arse are sharper, surer, but still not quite what he’s hoping for.

“Hold still, Merlin,” Arthur says testily, and Merlin has to smile, because he would know. “I’m doing you a favour here. That doesn’t mean you’re going to get everything you want.”

“Yes, sir, thank you for reminding me,” Merlin says, and goes on counting, eight, nine, forgetting his frustration as the hurt deepens and blooms, fourteen, fifteen, and it’s almost like Arthur’s really there when he says,

“That’s enough. Get this wet for me now.”

A spanking’s a spanking, brutal or sweet, no matter the age or the technology, it has him hard and panting and ready. But Gwen’s fingers in his mouth can only be Gwen’s fingers, earthy and soft from her work in the garden, and Merlin can only suckle them lovingly, savouring the taste and the moment for itself. With Arthur he’d take them in greedily, impatient to get their length inside him.

She moves quickly anyway, following Arthur’s script: “Two at once, the way you like it.” Her fingers twist into Merlin’s arse while Arthur asks “Are you ready, Merlin?”

“Yes!”

“Wait a second,” says Gwen, pulling her fingers out, “I don’t know if I am.”

Please!” Merlin whines.

“Okay! Hold on a sec, this dick-wielding business isn’t as easy as the girls in the pornos make it look.”

Then Merlin has to laugh and twist around to watch her. Gwen’s kneeling on the bed, naked and lovely, her breasts full, the dildo jutting out purple and thick. She frowns as she fiddles with one of the straps at her hip.

“How do you like that?” asks Arthur’s voice.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” says Gwen, and reaches back to pause the recording on her laptop. “Sorry, should’ve practised this more before he left.”

Merlin shakes his head. “You’re brilliant,” he says, stretching out on his back now, wondering why he ever thought to hide his face when he could be taking in a sight like this. “But are you almost ready to fuck me?”

He pulls his legs up over her shoulders and Gwen grins, spreads some lube on the dick, lines up and carefully, eagerly, pushes in.

This is new for her, Merlin thinks, groaning and yielding and watching, watching. She only half believed him when he whispered that they were lovers first, before either of them ever looked at the prince that way. She doesn’t remember the flower she gave him to put in his hair, the times they chased each other through the corridors of the castle, the way he tumbled her into bed or the way she shrieked with laughter with his head between her legs.

This Gwen has only known Merlin since last year, when her Arthur found him. She’ll never know, thank God, the way he sat beside lonely campfires with his eyes shut, pretending he was about to feel Arthur’s hand on his shoulder. She doesn’t remember the awful silence of Camelot in the years after, when they searched so desperately for comfort in each other’s arms.

So in a way this is new for Merlin too. He’s never been with just this Gwen before, beautiful Gwen who’s jerking his cock with a firm grip as she thrusts into him again and again. Just Gwen, but with the certainty that Arthur is theirs and will be with them again – most likely giving orders that will make Merlin shiver and Gwen roll her eyes – as soon his latest tour wraps up.

“I love you,” she says, with wonder in her quiet voice.

“Yeah,” is all he can get out while she’s fucking him full and steady like this.

“Both of you, so much.”

He spurts in her hand and can barely nod. His head falls back on the bed and his belly’s a mess with cum. What a great and glorious time this is to be alive.