The video quality is shit because most people assume that surveillance cameras in a school are meant more as a deterrent than a viable method of identifying the wayward. Which is true. That’s not what Merlin is using his surveillance system for, not at the moment.
He plugs his headphones into the handheld player and cranks the volume up on the recording as high as it will go. It’s still muffled, and the tinny, staticky distortion almost drowns the true sound out anyway. But there’s enough, just enough, that Merlin can watch and fill in the blanks.
Arthur’s blonde hair is distinctive. Gwaine’s long hair is also distinctive. What they’re doing together, with Arthur on his knees before Gwaine, is explicit. It really doesn’t take a genius to put it together that Gwaine is riding Arthur’s face. Merlin approves of his enthusiasm, if not his garrulous encouragement. He can’t hear the way Arthur chokes and slurps around the dick in his throat over Gwaine’s nonsensical train of expletives.
It’s enough to watch him, though. Watch his hips hump at the air uselessly while Gwaine holds him steady by a fistful of his coin-bright hair. Someone tied Arthur’s hands behind his back with his own regulation tie. Someone is really good at knots, and it’s not Gwaine, with his eternally dishevelled sense of fashion. Someone else is in the room, waiting to take his turn at Arthur’s fucked out mouth. It’s a Monday. There’s a pattern to these things. Merlin has been watching long enough to know.
Merlin crosses his legs when Gwaine jerks away from Arthur just in time to come all over his face, poking his dick against Arthur’s cheeks and laughing breathlessly. He shoves Arthur away from him by that same handful of hair, but in a friendly way, unbalancing him a bit like one of those weighted clown punching bags. The screen goes dark for a second as someone steps in front of it, and Merlin sits forward a little when the too-close blur resolves itself into Percy’s broad back. This is what he’s been waiting for, truth be told. Percival Jones has a massive, pornographic cock, and he likes to take his time with it.
Merlin glances at the time stamp on the video, and then at the clock on his computer. Outside his office window, it’s dark. But less than five hours ago, Arthur Pendragon was having his throat fucked raw by a train of his peers.
Merlin stops Arthur in the hall the following morning. He offers a kind smile, thinking briefly on the way he spent the previous evening, mentally editing out Arthur’s young hooligan friends’ unschooled humping, fitting himself in their place. The things he would do to Arthur. The boy, always so severe and solemn and upright when on his feet, had no idea what he was missing.
“Morning, Mr. Pendragon,” he says.
“Good morning, sir,” Arthur responds promptly, meeting Merlin’s eyes. Always so polite. There’s a military influence there, Merlin knows.
“Did you enjoy your weekend?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you.” Arthur shifts, pressing his lips together. Merlin focuses on them. Arthur is wearing chapstick; the corners of his mouth are red, sore looking.
“Excellent,” Merlin says, nodding him on his way.
Merlin goes to his office and shucks his jacket, hanging it on its hook by the door. He sits at his desk and strokes his fingers over his media player. It’s Tuesday, so with any luck he’ll have some pretty bukkake to entertain himself with after lunch.
Friday. Friday is Merlin’s favorite day of the week. Friday is after school football practice, when parents don’t expect their children to come home quite so promptly after classes let out. The boys have learned to take advantage of Fridays, and Merlin has learned to keep his schedule clear.
Friday is the only day of the week he’ll allow himself to watch the live feed from his computer. Everyone in the office is eager to leave on time on Fridays, and they throw him mildly pitying looks when they see him still calmly seated at his desk as they’re rushing to collect their things to leave. He smiles and waves at them all easily as they pass, and then he goes to his door and locks it and draws the blinds. He still uses the headphones; there’s something more intimate, more close about having Arthur and his friends funnelled directly into his ears. It’s also a reasonable safeguard in the event someone ever did decide to stay late, which he doesn’t anticipate but is a risk he isn’t willing to take.
He spreads his legs in his seat and maximizes his screen. The usual gang is already there, playfully wrestling and mussing Arthur’s hair while he grins. They’re all taut with excitement, with energy, with young tight sacks so full of jizz they hardly know what to do with themselves.
Arthur stumbles free of his adoring crowd and puts a contemplative hand to his chin. “Percy,” he says, and a chorus of whoops go up from his boys. Merlin breathes sharply through his nose, running his fingers lightly over his trouser placket. A Percy-first day. It’s been awhile. Agonizing as it is to wait for Percy’s turn on normal Fridays, when Arthur’s had at least three cocks to warm him up, Percy-first days are a unique brand of torture. Arthur’s only rarely made it through a round with Percy without coming his head off at least twice, and by that point he’s limp and beautiful and just lets the others fuck him like an especially accommodating rag doll. It always feels like it’s over too soon to Merlin, who prefers Arthur sobbing by the end of his Friday, lovely as he is when he’s spent and loose.
Merlin surfaces from his musings in time to see Gwaine snap a party hat on Arthur’s head, and he blinks. This is new.
“Happy birthday, princess,” Gwaine says, stealing a messy, dog-like kiss from Arthur’s mouth. Merlin stares at the screen and pieces together exactly what that means while the boys strip Arthur of everything but his hat and lay him out on the padded workout bench they’ve confiscated for this very purpose. Merlin is combing through Arthur’s personal file for his date of birth while they all work to fit their fingers inside him at once, and when he finally comes back to the screen Arthur is whining desperately, trying to twitch his ass up towards Percy’s cock while Percy cups himself just out of reach, only letting his cockhead kiss Arthur’s spread cheeks while the boys hold him down.
“You want it?” Percy grunts, tagging Arthur’s twitching hole again and again until Arthur’s chest begins to heave.
“Please,” Arthur chokes, and he’s already a sweating, beautiful mess.
February eighteenth, 1994, Merlin thinks.
Percival huffs the whole way down as he sinks into Arthur’s body, grimacing at how insanely fucking tight it must feel, and Merlin finds he is suddenly incredibly short of breath. He fumbles at his zip, rushing to push down his slacks and boxers while the noises Arthur is making start to blend together into one long, rhythmic scream.
Merlin squeezes the root of his prick for a solid moment, watching Percival pop his big fat dick into Arthur’s desperate little hole, but it’s no use. Arthur is eighteen now, and Merlin’s eyes roll back as he comes to the sound of Arthur keeping Percy’s tempo with his cries.
Merlin has a note sent down to Arthur’s final class of the day that he’s to report to the Principal’s office.
Arthur’s known for being a bright student and a remarkable athlete, so he’s not the sort to make himself a fixture on Merlin’s side of the building. Not the way his friend Gwaine does, that’s for certain. He’s wearing evidence of that unfamiliarity with his surroundings when he knocks on Merlin’s door and waits to be invited inside. Arthur is not a tentative boy, nor a fearful boy. He takes a seat in front of Merlin’s desk with the calm deference of a young man who knows he’s done nothing wrong, and therefore must be talking to the principal for some other, benign reason.
He’s half right, anyway.
Merlin squares the edges of the short stack of unmarked DVDs sitting on his blotter. “I have something to tell you, Arthur.” He stops, leans forward on his elbows in a semi-conspiratorial sprawl that doesn’t seem to have much effect on Arthur beyond prompting the mild lift of a pale eyebrow. “I’m going to need you to listen to me, and I want you to stay calm.”
“Sir?” Arthur looks at him like he’s a little crazy, but there’s concern there, layered in his tone. Even when Merlin’s trying to be disarming, the boy can’t stop himself from responding to authority. Merlin’s spine tingles; he has to wet his mouth a little before he glances at the DVDs. Arthur follows his eyes.
“Surveillance video,” he explains, watching Arthur’s face. “Of the school. These are from the past eight weeks,” Merlin says, noting the way Arthur grows progressively more still, his attention fixed on the DVDs though his eyes are steady on Merlin’s. “You feature quite prominently,” Merlin adds quietly. Arthur jerks back in his seat.
“I have football,” he says. “And track. I’m at practice most days after school. That’s all.”
Merlin says, “That’s not all,” and watches the terror bloom in Arthur’s eyes.
“Why do you have those?” Arthur says, voice cracking. He makes to reach for the DVDs, but Merlin places his hand over the pile and Arthur won’t dare to touch him, not in this precarious moment. “The cameras don’t record — everyone knows that!”
It’s a last, desperate veil of denial. Merlin stares through it into Arthur’s ashen face for a long second, and then he incinerates it with the drag of his gaze over Arthur’s trembling, red mouth.
Arthur chokes, stumbling to his feet and knocking his chair over in the process.
“Wait,” Merlin says, surprised at the severity of this reaction. “Arthur!”
The door to his office snaps shut, Arthur already long gone behind it.
It takes two days for Arthur to come back. Merlin doesn’t send for him, feeling as though he’s a breath away from falling off the wrong side of a tightrope. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, exactly. Accusations, blackmail, anger?
Not embarrassment or shame. Not fear, directed squarely at himself.
He understood belatedly that Arthur couldn’t know how Merlin felt with nothing more to go on than a closed door meeting furnished with some extremely incriminating footage of his extracurricular activities. For all Arthur knew, Merlin could have already called his parents, or the police. For all Arthur knew, Merlin was disgusted by what he’d seen, disturbed and, at best, concerned for Arthur’s health and welfare. This was how Adults operated, because, to a boy like Arthur, Adults were the seat of control and order and it was simply their job to make decisions that were right, even if those decisions diametrically opposed what Arthur really wanted.
It certainly explained why Arthur cared that Merlin knew, because there was never hesitation in him when the boys had him on his back or his knees or his belly. Arthur trusted his friends, possibly even loved them, but Merlin. Merlin was not only an Adult, but the height of authority in the very place Arthur liked to crawl the lowest.
Which is why Merlin’s heart pauses for a moment when the knock on his door turns out to be Arthur. A seed of pride takes root in his gut as he cautiously watches the stiff way Arthur stands with his back almost pressed to the door, his lips thin and his face very white but for the slight, sharp burn over his cheeks. Arthur is mortified, and yet, there he stands.
“Sir,” he says, straightening his posture, clasping his hands behind his back. Military, Merlin thinks again. “I’m sorry I ran away on Monday. You asked me to stay calm.”
“It’s alright, Arthur,” Merlin says, gesturing to the chair in front of the desk. Arthur looks at it, wavering, as if he had expected things to go a different way and Merlin isn’t performing to script. He shakes his head slightly, and Merlin smiles small and kind to let him know that it’s okay to refuse.
“I need to talk to you about...” Arthur pauses. He looks like he’s trying to control an impulse to vomit.
“The tapes?” Merlin says gently. Arthur nods.
“I’ll buy them from you,” he blurts. Merlin feels his brow crease.
“How much do you want for them? For all of them?”
“I’m not— I don’t intend to sell them,” Merlin says, reassuring.
“Just...name your price!” Arthur hisses, losing his perfect posture to desperate fidgeting. “There are other people in those videos. You’d destroy our whole defensive line if anyone—” he doubles up a bit, breathless with panic, “if anyone knew, if they saw...”
Alarmed, Merlin stands up from his desk and approaches Arthur carefully. “Listen to me now,” he says, keeping his voice low but very firm. He stands close, not touching Arthur, but using his advantage in height to loom, and the effect is beautiful — instantaneous. Arthur stills, calming, not backing away from the intimacy of their pose but rather looking up to meet Merlin’s eyes so Merlin nearly forgets himself and kisses the stupid, noble boy right there in his office. “Those tapes I showed you,” he says, “were copies. The originals have been destroyed. I promise you, no one has ever seen them, and no one ever will. I promise you.” He feels the tightrope again, walking it with a pounding heart while he watches Arthur process the implications of copies and ‘no one ever will.’ When it clicks, Arthur’s fine skin goes livid with blood.
“No one but you?” he asks, and there’s the shred of defiance Merlin has been waiting for. He walks away, retreats behind his desk before he does something stupid.
“Can’t un-spill the milk,” he says, wry.
“Why did you show me if you never meant to do anything about it?” Arthur asks.
“I wanted you to know,” Merlin says, settling with a partial truth for the time being. As a matter of demonstration, he takes the DVDs from his desk drawer, makes sure Arthur can see him replace them in a short file cabinet and lock it. “Do you like what your friends do to you?” he asks suddenly, casual. Arthur fixes him with a flat stare. Merlin grins, amused to be thought of as an idiot. It’s much better than being feared.
There’s a long pause. They both know that Arthur didn’t get what he came for, and yet they’ve reached a fragile truce. Arthur turns to leave, but hesitates with his back to Merlin. “You’re not going to stop watching, are you?”
“No,” Merlin says. There’s no point in lying. “See you on Friday,” he adds, pushing a dangerous line. Arthur doesn’t respond.
Elyan has beautiful forearms. They’re not perfectly visible on the video, but Merlin has seen him walk the hallways with his sleeves rolled up, and has watched him play his cello at the annual State and National orchestral competitions.
Merlin appreciates Elyan’s forearms, because that’s about all of Elyan he can see, seated as he is in a high-backed teacher’s chair. They’ve made use of one of the empty classrooms today. Arthur is working himself over Elyan’s lap, Elyan supporting him by his hips and thighs. Leon, who’s been waiting patiently for his turn, finally knees up on a short stool behind Arthur and begins to nuzzle at his neck.
Arthur twitches and tries to mask it by bouncing even more frantically in Elyan’s lap. Elyan has to hold him steady with his strong arms while Leon pets at Arthur’s chest and whispers in his ear. Arthur has been acting strange from the moment they all shuffled sneakily into the classroom, his reactions stiff and self-conscious where they had only ever been uninhibited before. His friends are obviously worried, working him over slow and easy with a lot of the stroking and licking and touching they’re usually too horny to have much patience for.
Merlin watches, half fascinated and half uneasy. They’ve been going at it long enough now for him to have fished his cock out of his boxers. He pulls at his foreskin, distracted when Lance kneels in the frame and leans over Arthur’s lap to— oh. Arthur’s whole body writhes, and Merlin curses the camera’s perspective because Elyan’s chair cuts Arthur off at the chest, which means he can only imagine what Lance’s mouth looks like wrapped around Arthur’s pretty cock.
Leon, in the meantime, has taken the opportunity to resume his maneuvering behind Arthur, and Merlin realizes what he’s doing only when Arthur swallows back a sharp cry and lifts his arms to grip at Leon’s shoulder and nape. Merlin’s dick throbs and dribbles; he bites his lip and fists himself tight and fast, picturing the slick red ring of Arthur’s hole clutched obscenely around two cockheads.
He’s panting and so lost in his own pleasure that he almost misses it, the moment Leon clumsily pushes deep and Lance stumbles back off Arthur’s lap. Arthur’s whole body jerks like he’s being fed an electrical current, and he’s desperately trying to bite back his noises, but it’s obvious he’s coming anyway from the way the other boys groan and rut at him helplessly.
“Oh god,” Merlin breathes, pumping his hand and rolling his hips and thumbing over his cockhead as his vision begins to dim at the edges. He balances there on the brink for one second, two, until Arthur fixes his gaze unerringly on the camera he’s been avoiding the whole night. Merlin shoots so hard he can hear his come hit the far panel of the underside of his desk.
The next few encounters over video are awkward. It takes at least two more recordings’ worth of debauchery for Arthur to stop flinching every time there’s an unexpected noise, and his uneasiness is almost enough to make Merlin turn off the cameras. Almost. But by the fifth recording after their minor impasse, Arthur settles back into the easy self-confidence he’d possessed before he was aware he and his friends were being silently observed. In a universal demonstration of their relief to see their leader back in top form, the boys fall on him like wild dogs over a fresh kill. They are vigorous, enthusiastic, relentless, and Arthur gives them everything.
There is only one minor, easy-to-overlook change: he’s begun to coordinate every scene so that he is always facing the camera.
Merlin can barely tear his eyes from the videos now, feeling a sparking connection to the boy on the screen. Arthur hasn’t told his friends. This, whatever he’s doing, is known only to the two of them. Merlin could almost convince himself that Arthur is a normal, egotistical young boy who’s come around to the idea that people should like to watch him, whether he’s on the field scoring touchdowns or having his brains fucked out. But there’s something about the way he looks at the camera, in the tremulous moments right before he comes, that reads as inquisitive to Merlin. With every new video he plays, and with Arthur’s increasingly frank stares through the lens, Merlin can almost imagine Arthur standing over his shoulder and watching with him, asking in his ear, “What are you looking at?”
Arthur has been keeping himself busy confirming all of Merlin’s suspicions, and yet the question is only becoming an increasingly difficult one to answer.
“You know,” Merlin sighs, tapping his pen on his desk. “There are easier ways to come and speak to me than smuggling your father’s very nice bottle of Rémy into school.”
Arthur shrugs, grinning quietly, and Merlin has to check his impulse to smile back. With teeth. “I left the Louis the Thirteenth in its case. The one I brought is father’s party bottle, for guests and other indiscriminate company. He won’t actually miss it. But I understand if you need to confiscate it, sir. I was irresponsible to bring alcohol onto campus.”
Merlin looks at Arthur, unimpressed but not all that upset. It’s still a ridiculously nice bottle of cognac. His eyes narrow the slightest bit. “What do you want, Arthur?”
Arthur licks his lips, saying nothing. Merlin raises his eyebrows. It’s only when he makes to fill out Arthur’s detention slip that Arthur scrubs his hands over his legs and opens his mouth. “You asked me if I like what they do to me, last time.”
“I do. But,” Arthur says slowly, eyeing Merlin as if he’s looking for some kind of confirmation before he continues, “you already knew that. So I’ve been thinking. About why you asked.”
“You have a theory?” Merlin prods him, secretly delighted.
“Not...really.” Arthur lifts his shoulders. “But I keep remembering the way you said it. I think you asked for a reason. Not my health or safety, because as an administrator you would have already called someone on my behalf if you thought I didn’t want to be...doing what I’ve been doing,” he finishes awkwardly.
“Getting fucked,” Merlin enunciates very clearly, and watches the flush bloom up Arthur’s neck and face. Adrenaline kicks his heart into a drumbeat, because this is it, this is the answer to the unspoken question. “You like it, but you don’t understand it, or you’d call it what it is.”
“I understand!” Arthur says, huffy and indignant and so obviously curious Merlin’s cock fattens in his slacks.
“Arthur,” he says, fond, “you’re a boy who gorges regularly on a buffet when you’ve been raised to understand the value of a perfectly prepared chateaubriand.”
“We’re talking about sex, not gourmet cooking,” Arthur shoots back.
“There is an art to all exquisite things,” Merlin says, elbows to desk once again in his conspiratorial pose. “Chateaubriand doesn’t happen to be my personal specialty.”
“But getting fucked is?” Arthur smirks.
“Fucking,” Merlin corrects, taking Arthur’s slow, careful measure with indulgent eyes. Arthur’s blush burns hotter in his cheeks. Merlin stands, gesturing Arthur to the door. “I’ll give you a warning this time, Mr. Pendragon. Please don’t do it again; I’d really rather not have to call your father.”
“But—” Arthur starts, pausing at the door.
Merlin catches his wrist, presses his thumb in between the tendons until Arthur’s breathing goes shallow. Merlin’s voice is firm and allows for no argument when he says, “Come back when you know what you want.”
When Merlin opens his office door the following week to a man who introduces himself as Colonel Uther Pendragon, Merlin is surprised by how quickly he makes peace with his own death. Arthur’s father is a large man, dressed so crisply and possessed of such natural authoritative presence that Merlin would be intimidated even if he were holding a basketful of squirming kittens. But Uther just smiles at him, tolerant, and pushes past Merlin’s shoulder into his office in a way that seems completely natural and not at all rude. Arthur trails right behind him, and Merlin has only the briefest moment to catch the boy’s eye with a look that he hopes translates accurately as ‘What the hell are you doing?’ before Arthur ducks his head and Merlin’s left to close the door behind them.
He collects himself admirably, taking a seat at his desk and trying not to think that it might afford him at least a couple of seconds head start if Uther jumps for him.
“Mister Emrys,” Uther begins smoothly, “my son tells me you’re having some problems with your surveillance system.”
Merlin is legitimately speechless for almost ten whole seconds before he turns to Arthur and asks, as evenly as he can manage, “What gave you that idea?”
“I’m sorry to be the one to point it out, sir, but the equipment you’re using has been outdated since almost before I was born. And yesterday, when I overheard you mentioning to Mrs. Le Fay that the school has been having problems with vandalism, I thought you might do better identifying the perpetrators if the cameras were updated.”
“Vandalism,” Merlin says.
“Yes, uh.” Arthur coughs significantly. “The graffiti.”
“Graffiti,” Merlin repeats dumbly. He can’t speak for Mrs. Le Fay, as she’s been abroad for the past month on her honeymoon, but he certainly doesn’t remember accepting an urgent phone call from Prague about graffiti.
“Honestly, mister Emrys, you act as if this is news to you,” Uther says, and there’s a doubtful undercurrent to his voice that Merlin does not want to become any more familiar with.
“It just...hadn’t occurred to me that the cameras were that old. Or that they’d even come in use for this...issue.” Merlin smiles.
“Yes, well.” Uther smooths the crease in his trousers, his gaze steely and opaque and perfectly content to wait until Merlin crumbles under its intensity. A hundred little curiosities about Arthur instantly snap into context.
“I’m afraid new surveillance equipment just isn’t within the school’s budget right now,” Merlin starts, but Uther lifts a hand.
“Not to worry, it’s already been taken care of.”
“I’m sorry, what?” Merlin says, looking between Arthur’s half-guilty expression and Uther’s composed one.
“Mister Emrys, I’m sure you understand that I pay a lot of money to keep Arthur in this school, as do the parents of Arthur’s friends and peers. Now, it’s not the vandalism I’m so concerned with, as it’s no doubt the work of one of your more willful students. However, what I am concerned with is just what allowing this reckless disobedience to go unchecked suggests,” Uther says, very reasonably, and Merlin is nodding his chagrined agreement before he catches himself and stops.
“I appreciate your concern, mister Pendragon—”
“Colonel,” Uther corrects. The word has the snap of a whip to it; Merlin falls to quickly.
“Colonel, yes, right, I appreciate your concern. But we can’t allow the parents to arbitrarily pay for the school’s needs; there’s a bit of a process to our methods of securing funding,” Merlin trails off, somewhat helplessly.
“Call it an anonymous gift.” Uther smiles. Merlin isn’t comforted. “I’m sure it won’t be too much of a hardship to overlook, mister Emrys. Especially when you consider what the alternative might cost you, if you take my meaning.”
Of course Merlin takes his meaning. He resists the temptation to glance at Arthur, the wily little pest he finds himself curiously more reluctant to lose than the host of things he risks if he just accepts Uther’s completely unnecessary help. “Certainly, sir,” he grits out.
Capitulation secured, Uther nods and stands, prompting both Arthur and Merlin to stand with him. “In that case, I’ll have installation scheduled immediately. Thank you for your time, mister Emrys.” He heads for the door, Arthur following behind him.
“Arthur,” Merlin says suddenly. “Can I have a word?”
Uther nods his permission, saying, “Be quick,” and steps out. Arthur turns around half-reluctantly.
“Care to explain what the hell that was about?” Merlin hisses.
“My homework assignment,” Arthur says, grinning faintly. “You told me to come back when I knew what I wanted.” Merlin’s about ready to reach across his desk and throttle the idiot boy. Only the tiniest part of his mind files away the fact that Arthur wants Merlin to watch him. The thought will keep until he can examine it more closely later.
“And this phantom vandal I have to pretend to look for and apprehend, now?”
“Well,” Arthur hedges, drawing his fingers across the sleek wood of Merlin’s desk in an aimless sort of way. “If you happened to check the south wall, behind the cafeteria...”
“You spray painted the south wall?” Merlin’s voice goes uncomfortably shrill.
“No!” Arthur says, looking appalled. “I asked Gwaine to. I needed verisimilitude, and he’s handy with a can of paint.”
Merlin buries his face in his hands. “Arthur,” he groans. He starts when he feels warm breath at his ear, his senses suddenly overwhelmed with the bright scents of green apples and warm grass.
“Don’t worry.” Arthur’s smirking eyes are very blue and very close. “I’ll make it up to you,” he promises.
“Harder,” Arthur gasps, grasping at the thick, bunching muscles of Percy’s thighs lined up behind his own. “God, Perce, fuck me harder,” he begs, spurring Percy into a frenzy of thrusts so fast and brutal it makes his abdominal muscles look like they’re vibrating.
Merlin knows, because he can see it. Oh dear god, he can see everything. And not only that — he can hear it, all of it, every frantic slap of skin, the obscene sucking of Arthur’s clenching hole. Merlin’s biting his lip so sharply he can almost taste blood, hands clenched furiously on the arms of his chair. His dick is hard and angry against his belly, twitching with every heartbeat, but he’s not ready yet; he’s waiting, they’re so close — he knows—
Arthur leans up and back, staring down the brand new, sharp little camera lens hidden in the corner of the wall and ceiling. “Yes,” he growls, locking his hands behind Percy’s neck so his whole body is bared in one long, tempting bow. “Yes,” he says, “yes—like—that! There! God, fuck,” he whines, and Merlin gets to watch Percy nail three thick ribbons of come out of Arthur’s prick before it starts to just leak down the shaft, until his thighs are messy with it and he’s still making weak little cries into Percy’s neck when Percy pumps out his silent but seemingly endless orgasm.
Merlin’s hands are shaking. He watches Arthur pant on the screen, tugging at his softening prick and laughing at the way Percy roars out his satisfaction, loud again now that the sex is done with. Merlin’s so close. They —himself and Arthur— are so close. Merlin runs two fingers around the slippery head of his cock and struggles to breathe, letting his eyes fall closed. It won’t take much, he knows, replaying Arthur’s pleas to be fucked harder, harder, harder in his mind. Almost there, dancing just out of reach—
Merlin muffles the tip of his prick in his palm, rolling his wrist and bringing his free hand down to jack sharply at his shaft. He blows hard through his nose, bucking into both hands and using his come to slick the rest of his pleasure free.
It’s just Gwaine on tonight’s video, biting and sucking where he’s told, leaving dark, livid bruises all over Arthur’s skin like litter. Merlin watches, sees the way Arthur encourages Gwaine to tighten his fingers in his hair, to fuck him rough and raw and then spank the come out of his ass after Gwaine’s finished, long before Arthur has.
Elyan is the following evening, with his serene, implacable strength, holding Arthur down, not letting him move, not letting him back far enough off to even breathe very easily, let alone speak.
And then it’s Leon, who cradles Arthur’s jaw gently but makes a point to come all over his face, in his hair. He brings Arthur off with four long fingers pumping ruthlessly in Arthur’s hole, forcing him to come without one touch to the desperate arch of his cock.
Lance uses his knots, ties Arthur down fast on his solo night. Something ugly smolders in Merlin’s chest when he watches Lance kiss Arthur for long, leisurely minutes at a time, dragging his mouth all over Arthur’s body. He’s the only one who doesn’t use Arthur as a willing come rag, instead suckling at his dick for over a half hour until Arthur is openly begging. Lance takes him deep, then, swallowing in long, dragging pulls until Arthur grunts, straining against his bonds. Lance jacks at himself until he spills on the bench between Arthur’s thighs, and they kiss for another twenty minutes before they finally untangle enough to clean up their mess.
Merlin doesn’t bother turning on the video the sixth night. It’s a Friday, and he’s seen every one of Arthur’s particular friends wander their separate ways, presumably towards home or some other entertainment. They’ve been dismissed for the evening, but not by Merlin.
He sits back in his chair and waits for the knock on the door.
“Well?” Arthur says, leaning back on Merlin’s heavy door until it closes, leaving him canted at a casual angle like he thinks he’s James Dean. Merlin’s blood thumps. “What did you think?”
“About what?” Merlin says.
He has spent so much time watching Arthur by now that it’s become easy to see past his affectations. Like his smug expression, decaying into something fixed and uncertain the longer Merlin stares at him, letting the moment stretch. Or his costly weekend wear, which gives away more than he knows; he’s young enough to forget (or perhaps not even realize) that the slim cut of his jeans and artful dishevelment of his shirt broadcast his effort to change out of his uniform and into something calculated for display.
And there’s the fact that he came to Merlin at all, when a more seasoned man would have known his moment to wait.
Merlin is more seasoned. This is his moment to wait.
“I did what you told me,” Arthur says, visibly retreating behind his straightforward, linear thought. Merlin isn’t playing by the rules, and rules are what Arthur understands. “Did you not...watch? I was showing you—you said to come back when I knew what I wanted.”
“Is that what you were doing?” Merlin asks. “Showing me what you wanted?”
Arthur pauses for a second, as if he’s trying to decide if he wants to commit to his answer. “Yes.”
“Let’s say I didn’t watch,” Merlin says, folding his hands in his lap. Arthur opens his mouth but Merlin gives him a look and he closes it again. “What would I have seen?” He gets to a count of two in his head before Arthur goes scarlet.
“You want me to tell you?”
“Wasn’t that the point, Arthur?” Merlin stands, making his way around his desk. “Or did you really think you could get away with your own...unique and stupidly elaborate take on some obscene hand gestures and hope I would get the picture?”
Arthur goes defensive immediately, sputtering “I wasn’t—” when Merlin crowds into his space and says, “You were. You don’t fuck those boys because you think it’s the best way to get what you want, you fuck them because they’re safe and don’t ask questions if you want to be slapped around a bit. ‘Our Arthur, just likes it a little rough, doesn’t he?’” Merlin mocks, fascinated by the way Arthur starts to change right before his eyes, like Merlin’s found a loose thread that’s threatening to unravel him. “Do they even know what they’re doing to you?”
“They’re not,” Arthur shakes his head, avoiding Merlin’s eyes, breath uneven, “they’re not doing anything to me.”
“On the contrary,” Merlin says, forceful like a shove to Arthur’s chest. “They use you like a whore. They stick their fingers and cocks in you, they come all over your pretty mouth and face and you don’t just tolerate it, Arthur,” Merlin hisses, speaking right into Arthur’s hot red ear, “you’re not just being a good sport, are you?”
“Fuck you,” Arthur bites out. “They’re my friends.”
“I never said they weren’t.”
“It’s not— I want them to,” he insists, ardent, “I tell them to—”
“Then why can’t you tell me?” Merlin says, and at some point he put his hands to either side of Arthur’s head on the door. “Tell me.”
“I—” Arthur falters.
“Do you like it when it hurts?” Merlin prompts, gentle, drowning in warm grass and green apples.
“...Yes,” Arthur whispers. He’s shaking, speaking to his shoes.
“I like it when it hurts.”
“You like being told what to do.”
“I like being told what to do.”
“You like having dick shoved down your throat,” Merlin says, letting his fingers just touch the silky strands of golden hair at Arthur’s temple. “You like having your ass spread, it makes you squirm inside to imagine some man staring at your hole.”
“I,” Arthur swallows, pupils blown out wide and dark. “Sir...”
“What does he think, seeing you so desperate for it? Does he call you a whore? An easy little cockslut?”
“God,” Arthur trembles, squeezing his eyes shut tight. “Please—”
“Does he make you beg, Arthur? Does he make you crawl?” Merlin asks, voice gone harsh.
“Merlin, please, s-sto—”
“Tell me,” Merlin demands, shaking the door in its casing with his palms shoving at the wood. “Just tell me, tell me what you want.”
“No, no—ohgod,” Arthur whines, body going tight for a long second before he loosens like his strings have been cut, chest heaving. Merlin stares at him; it feels like all the air in the room has burned away to nothing.
“Did you just...?” he starts, and Arthur’s face crumples. “Oh, fuck,” he says, grabbing Arthur by his shoulders when he tries to turn away. “No, don’t you fucking dare,” he cups Arthur’s face in his hands, thumbing at the wetness collecting on his lashes. “God, you beautiful creature, don’t you dare,” he says, fingers tightening on Arthur’s jaw, holding him still for a savage, desperate kiss.
Arthur quivers under him, shaking hands coming up to fist at Merlin’s collar, making short, hurt little noises in the back of his throat while Merlin tongue-fucks his mouth like there is nothing and no one else in the world.
Arthur breaks away, gasping for breath. His throat is thick with tears when he says, “I came in—in my pants,” making Merlin’s core go hot and ferocious. “I feel so s-stupid.”
“Don’t,” Merlin says. He has to close his eyes, give himself a moment of space from Arthur’s cringing, humiliated expression and uncomfortable stance before the sucking undertow of lust takes him down and he wrestles Arthur over his desk. “That is the sexiest thing I’ve seen you do yet.”
Arthur laughs a little, wetly, giving Merlin a sideways look. Almost shy, he leans forward and takes his first kiss from Merlin, soft at the side of his mouth. Merlin breathes, burying his fingers in the smooth hair at Arthur’s nape.
“Come home with me,” he says. Arthur nods.
Merlin takes off his jacket when they get inside, hanging it on the coat rack before sitting on the little entryway bench to take off his shoes. Arthur follows his example and toes off his own sneakers, eager for something to do that doesn’t leave him standing there looking out of place. But then he’s in Merlin’s foyer in his socks and he’s obviously back to feeling nervous; his eyes flicker around absorbing all the details of Merlin’s small home without settling on any one thing for too long.
Merlin considers him, wondering if he’s ever gone home with one of his friends. He imagines Arthur riding Percy’s cock in some squeaky little twin bed. Probably not, Merlin finally decides, letting the thought dissolve. Why stick around at school to have sex if there had been beds to abuse that were equally free of the risk of interruption by siblings and parents? In the flawed reality in which the cameras at the school were just for show, it would make sense to think the gym or empty classrooms allowed for a modicum of privacy that their homes wouldn’t. Especially Arthur’s home, Merlin figures, where he assumes the Colonel has his own terrifyingly sophisticated surveillance system in place.
Merlin’s home is quiet and, but for being completely unfamiliar to Arthur, safe. Merlin slides his shoes out of the way under the bench before standing and drawing Arthur close by the back of the neck for a kiss. Arthur relaxes, curling into the touch like it reassures him. Merlin marvels at the unpracticed press of his lips and soft hesitance of his tongue, groaning a little at the reminder that Arthur is still so young. He’s had no one to seduce him, no one to take advantage of his body’s newness beyond the figurative and literal scatter-shot of some group fucking with his equally inexperienced friends. Arthur isn’t afraid of sex, and he’s not exactly new to it, but for Merlin’s intents and purposes he’s a virgin.
The thought has Merlin pressing Arthur against the wall, licking Arthur’s mouth wider and making the kiss slick and filthy. “Listen to me,” he says, pulling away only when Arthur starts to whimper. “If I do anything, anything tonight that you don’t want, say ‘red.’ Do you understand?”
Arthur’s eyes go wide. “A safeword?”
“Just in case,” Merlin says, letting his thumb ride the bob of Arthur’s adam’s apple. He pauses for a moment, wondering if his plans might be better left a surprise, but then he thinks Arthur will likely be surprised enough even if he shares his intentions in advance. “I’m going to tie you down,” he says gently, closing his fingers around Arthur’s wrists. “I’m going to suck your cock, and then I’m going to fuck you very, very slowly.”
“That sounds...really good,” Arthur whispers, looking seconds from coming in his pants again. Merlin grins.
“Get on the bed and get undressed. I’ll be there in a moment.”
He collects a length of nylon rope from his closet and a plain ring of stretchy silicone from his bathroom. Arthur has followed his instructions to the letter when Merlin kicks his bedroom door shut behind him, naked and spread over the deep red coverlet, already pumping eagerly at his cock. Merlin laughs, climbing on top of him and batting his hands away, peppering kisses along his cheek.
“I didn’t say to get started without me,” he says, nipping at Arthur’s earlobe.
“Sorry,” Arthur says, hands making their way to the new territory of Merlin’s ass. Merlin laughs again, twining their fingers together and using them to press Arthur’s arms over his head. They kiss more; Merlin thrills a little inside every time Arthur’s hands try to wander and Merlin gets to hold him down, keep him still, swallow Arthur’s surprised little moans. Arthur rubs up against him like an especially affectionate cat, going so far as to try to clamp their hips together by wrapping his lean thighs and calves around Merlin’s middle.
“Impatient beast,” Merlin murmurs, biting into the tender skin at the join of Arthur’s jaw and neck. He leans away, waiting until Arthur stops trying to follow him with his mouth and meets his eyes before he says very firmly, “Stay.”
Arthur swallows and settles back, not even dropping his arms to his sides when Merlin climbs up his body and straddles his chest. Merlin lets his approval show in his sharp smile and the press of his fingers when he takes the rope and begins to wind it around Arthur’s wrists. It’s a simple knot design that cuffs Arthur’s arms in a prayer-like pose, loose enough to allow his fingers to curl against his palms but tight enough that he can’t quite bring his elbows down around the width of his ribcage. Arthur’s eyes are dark as Merlin runs his hands over the layered bracelets of nylon, slipping his pinky finger just between the rope and Arthur’s skin. “Good?” Merlin asks, serious, and Arthur nods. Merlin takes the loose tails of the rope and tugs Arthur’s arms back over his head, tying the loop off around one of the middle iron rails of his headboard. He sits back, watching Arthur test the knots for give. He can feel Arthur’s heartbeat kick up under his legs when the rope doesn’t so much as budge.
Merlin carefully rolls off the bed and stands, loosening his tie and undoing his cuffs like he would any other evening, as if he has all the time in the world. Arthur follows Merlin with his eyes while he undresses. His hands curl and twitch a little against their bonds, nervous. The clink of Merlin’s belt and fly as he steps out of his slacks and boxers sound loud in the otherwise quiet room. He feels conscious of his body with Arthur staring, trying to imagine what he must look like through Arthur’s eyes as he comes back to the bed and kneels up on the mattress between his legs.
Merlin is comfortable in his skin — he’s just curious what it feels like from the other side, measuring the breadth of a grown man’s shoulders and the long muscles down his sides and not quite knowing how they’ll be applied to your own body but yearning for it all the same. He puts a hand to the thin skin at Arthur’s hip and rubs, enjoying its texture and the way Arthur’s eyes flutter a bit at the touch.
“I’m alright,” Arthur says, like he’s trying to convince himself more than reassure Merlin. “I’m actually, uh...used to feeling a little more held down than this,” he admits.
“You find it comforting,” Merlin says, leaning over Arthur’s body to nose against his neck, behind his ear. Arthur shudders.
“I s’pose, yeah.”
“You know you’d have better luck shaking off all five of your friends than you do of getting out of this rope without my help.”
“Oh,” Arthur bites his lip, the muscles in his arms standing out faintly when he tugs again, as if he just can’t help himself. “Yeah, I know. It’s only that it feels different.”
Merlin looks at Arthur, their faces so close together their noses almost touch. He brushes his thumb over the silky line of Arthur’s eyebrow, studying the colors in his irises. “The rope is a symbol,” he says quietly. “It has its practical uses, but it’s a symbol. Just as five young men holding you down are their own symbol. There’s a kind of freedom in immobility, and in succumbing to overwhelming force.”
“I’ve told you,” Arthur frowns. “They never forced me.”
“I know, I know there was no violence in the things you’ve done with your friends, Arthur. It was just an illusion of force. They provided you with everything you needed to let go, and then some. But what was lost in that illusion was the moment that you gave in, because it was already a foregone conclusion,” Merlin says, letting his mouth skip over the sharp line of Arthur’s cheek. “Do you understand?”
“I — I don’t know,” Arthur says.
“The rope puts you in my hands. It says you’re at my mercy, and it takes away your power, but there is no illusion of force. I don’t need to strap you to my bed to make you take what I’m going to do to you, because the rope says you trust me and that you are giving in willingly.” Merlin slides down to press a kiss to Arthur’s sternum, digging his thumbs into Arthur’s hips until he releases his held breath and starts to pant.
Arthur jumps when Merlin bites at his ribs, looking almost surprised that it gets him nowhere. And again when Merlin presses his tongue to Arthur’s navel, curious and slow. He makes little hiccuppy laughs when Merlin sits back and nibbles at the arch of his foot, the sound settling into a hum when Merlin puts his teeth to the knob of his ankle, growing into a low, urgent whine when Merlin kisses down his leg in pursuit of the soft, untouched skin of Arthur’s inner thighs and sucks until blood blooms to the surface beneath his lips.
Merlin glances up Arthur’s body, impish as he tilts Arthur’s cock out of his eye-line with two impersonal fingers. He makes sure Arthur is watching before placing a small kiss at the root of his dick, and then carefully licks Arthur’s balls into his mouth. Arthur grunts, dropping his head back against the pillows.
Merlin sucks slow and tidal, holding Arthur’s narrow hips down to the mattress. His hands look long and pale against Arthur’s sunny complexion. As Merlin hollows his cheeks, the muffled noises issuing from the head of the bed suggest Arthur’s biting down on either an unlucky pillow or his own arm. Merlin enjoys himself for several long, thorough minutes before he finally pulls away with a series of indulgent, fond licks. Arthur shudders, both relieved and devastated until Merlin promptly captures his cockhead with his tongue and lets it skid over his lips.
They’ve been kissing and playing for long enough that Merlin knows what his mouth looks like. Arthur’s staring at it desperately, and while Merlin enjoys teasing in general, right now he’d rather hunt for all of the little secrets to making Arthur come apart.
He wraps his lips just over the wide, fat head and suckles, flicking his tongue against Arthur’s slit. Precome floods his mouth and Arthur clenches his eyes shut, jaw dropping open while Merlin laps at him. He takes Arthur deep at an irregular rhythm just to come back up and curl every little salty dribble away with the tip of his tongue.
“Oh god, oh fuck,” Arthur rasps, abs tensing. Merlin quickly settles back, licking off the excess slickness on his lips while he watches Arthur struggle, groin twitching with the effort not to come. Eyeing Arthur’s tense sprawl across his sheets with a satisfied hum, Merlin fishes for the little circle of silicone in the churned up folds of the coverlet.
Arthur’s eyes snap open when he feels Merlin rolling the ring around the root of his prick and balls, laying tiny kisses up and down his shaft before pulling away completely.
“Wha— why are you—?” Arthur blurts, wiggling his hips.
Merlin shushes him, shifting up and patting Arthur’s flank so he rolls over onto his belly, his confusion taking on an alarmed edge. “It’s okay,” Merlin says, rubbing at his lower back, nudging and pushing until he’s pulled his knees in so his ass is up and he’s leaning forward on his elbows. Merlin can’t see him blush, but the way Arthur buries his face between his arms is telling enough. He must think they’re going to fuck now, that Merlin’s just going to set him up like a prop and push his cock inside. Merlin suffers conflicting bolts of arousal and dismay at the idea. To think that Arthur would bend over for such a thing without understanding what it means to do so sends a dangerous lash of heat through Merlin.
He jerks Arthur’s cheeks wide with both palms. Arthur makes a shocked little noise, but it’s nothing compared to the way he shouts, flailing, when Merlin licks a wide stripe right over his hole.
“You can’t do that!” he says, so obviously scandalized Merlin has to set his teeth in the meat of Arthur’s thigh for a second to keep himself from laughing.
“Are you going to stop me?” he asks, amused.
“N-no,” Arthur says, not in response to the question; he lurches sideways when Merlin makes to lean in again. Merlin wrenches him back in place, pulling his knees wide and holding them there so he can’t get any purchase except to squirm against the bed. Merlin presses his tongue to Arthur’s perineum and up, then in, shoving with the tip until he slips just inside Arthur’s hole. With nothing to ground his struggling Arthur can’t do much more than shake as Merlin worms his way deeper, jaw already twinging with the strain. “No, no Merlin,” Arthur begs, voice going thready and high, writhing with mortification. “Oh god, Merlin stop, stop,” he whines, a cascade of jagged sounds burbling out of him as Merlin begins to pump his tongue. Merlin groans and sucks, licking and pushing his way past the helpless resistance of that tight little clench of muscle. “I’m gonna,” Arthur gasps, going taut like a strung wire. “I’m, I’m gonna come, Merlin, I-I’m—” And he stills, for one second, two, while Merlin keeps brutally working at him until he starts to struggle again, uttering a betrayed, strangled cry.
“I forgot to mention,” Merlin gulps wetly, and Arthur wails into his arm, hips rocking.
“Merlin,” he whimpers, “Merlin I can’t, please, let me—”
“Not yet, sweetheart,” Merlin hushes, kissing over the small of his back and his spine. “You’re doing so well, shhh, just breathe.” It takes several minutes for Arthur to calm down, during which Merlin stretches him with two gentle, cautious fingers. “Are you ready?” Merlin murmurs into his shoulder, grabbing a condom and his little bottle of lube from the drawer of his bedside dresser. Arthur nods. There is already a tremble in his arms and thighs, a fine layer of sweat down his back. Merlin is almost surprised by his own arousal when he finally starts to roll on the condom; even that basic clinical touch is enough to have him biting his lip. He squeezes some lube onto his cockhead and sets the bottle back on the dresser, impatient but loving the wait, slowly coating his shaft and thumbing a smear of the excess over Arthur’s hole. “Gorgeous,” Merlin praises, helping Arthur shift his hips to a better angle. He fits his cock against Arthur’s ass and circles it there, pressing until the head finally pops inside. After that it’s easy to sink down into him, even as tightly as Arthur’s body wrings and clutches at the intrusion.
Merlin swallows air and thrusts deep, the sensation so overwhelming he doesn’t give them much time to adjust before a driving rhythm establishes itself and he is helpless to it, gritting his teeth in a snarl at just how fucking good the physical reality of Arthur actually feels. For his part, Arthur is breathing out a long, tremulous ‘oh’ that’s punctuated with every bump of Merlin’s hips against him. Merlin forces himself to slow, stroking down Arthur’s back with both hands in a soothing gesture, sweeping them back up again and around Arthur’s chest until he has both nipples in his fingers and he twists, hard.
Arthur jolts, throat working silently. Merlin groans “Fuck, yes,” at the spasmodic clenching around his dick and just lays into Arthur’s ass, fucking the most beautiful, broken animal noises the likes of which he’s never heard out of Arthur’s mouth. “God, yes, come on,” Merlin bites out, tucking his chin over Arthur’s shoulder and wrapping his arms around his chest. “Fuck, Arthur,” he says, breathing into Arthur’s ear. “Arthur you have no idea, no idea the things I want to do to you, you beautiful, innocent thing.” He slows his manic pace again, hooking himself into Arthur’s body instead with heavy, languid rolls of his hips. Arthur is shaking everywhere, even his fisted hands above the ropes. Merlin palms his face, the sweaty mop of his lovely hair; Merlin’s entire body crests with an incredible nameless feeling. “I’m so close,” he whispers, closing his eyes against Arthur’s neck. “I wish I could come inside you,” he confesses desperately. “I want you to feel it, what you do to me, I need you to know — oh! Arthur,” he swears, biting down at the join of Arthur’s neck and shoulder. His balls tighten, like a sudden, full-body switch being flipped — and he’s coming, clutching Arthur like a mooring as the wave hits. The momentum of his orgasm dizzies him, leaving him disoriented, turned inside out, feeling like one giant rhythmic throb of pleasure.
He slumps to the side, taking Arthur with him so they spoon messily. He lays reverent kisses all over Arthur’s neck and shoulders, in his damp, fragrant hair, getting his breath back. When he hitches up on his elbow Arthur looks at him slowly, his eyes glassy and dazed, like he’s not exactly present. Merlin doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything more striking; it steals his wind again.
He rubs low at Arthur’s belly, fingers trailing in sweat as he dips them into the hair around Arthur’s groin. He is very, very careful stretching the cock ring off over Arthur’s balls and prick, tossing it away over the side of the bed.
Arthur doesn’t come instantly. There is a long moment like a held breath. Merlin runs his fingers lightly over the head of Arthur’s cock, touching him with incredible gentleness. “It’s okay,” he says softly into the skin behind Arthur’s ear. “Come for me, Arthur. Show me. Let it go.” Merlin is hardly even cradling Arthur’s cock in his hands when it begins to leak, and then spit, twitching in Merlin’s fingers while Arthur quakes against him silently. Merlin strokes him through the end of it, making it tight and fast, making it hurt just a little so that Arthur finally unclenches in Merlin’s arms and starts to cry.
He’s still crying quietly when Merlin unties the knot tethering him to the bed. Merlin leaves the wrist restraints as they are, turning Arthur towards him and looping his stiff arms around his neck. He tugs the comforter up around them both, creating a warm little cocoon for Arthur to curl into, holding him and petting him as he comes down, his face buried against Merlin’s chest.
Merlin wakes to Arthur’s eyes on him. He’s backlit by the pale yellow sunlight filtering through the blinds; it makes the sleep-ruffled haystack of his hair glow.
“You snore,” Arthur says. His arms are curled up between them, still bound, fingers playing absently with the hair on Merlin’s chest.
Merlin blinks, yawning. “Did I wake you?”
“No,” Arthur snorts. “I have to pee. Can you...?” He lifts his arms. Merlin reaches for the knots, kissing over Arthur’s knuckles in a warm, sleepy doze while he picks at them. Arthur is very quiet. He rolls his wrists when they’re free, sits up and pulls his arms behind his back to stretch his shoulders. Aside from some red criss-crossing over his skin the nylon hasn’t left a mark on him. In a few moments even the little pink and white depressions will fade, probably while Arthur is still in the bathroom.
Merlin rolls over onto his back, staring at the ceiling and listening to the toilet flush, the water run. He gets out of bed, pulls on some shorts and heads to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Arthur meets him there, hair smoothed down so it’s nearer to presentable, wearing his clothes from the night before. It’s like watching themselves move in rewind, the layers and the distance being pieced back together, leaving Merlin’s stomach to its own rebellious devices.
Arthur wrinkles his nose at the offer of coffee and Merlin’s conscience heaves. No matter that Arthur bends to Merlin’s hands like he was born to do it, he is still so young.
“Is it a problem that you stayed out last night?” Merlin asks, neutral. Arthur lifts a shoulder.
“Dad will assume I’m with one of the guys. He doesn’t really care.”
Merlin sets his mug down sharply, and that’s going to pose a problem for his already conflicted ethics. He has neither the room for nor the right to jealousy. “I’ll drive you home.”
“I’m not ready to leave yet,” Arthur says. Merlin looks at him. Arthur’s gaze is very frank and level and clear, and Merlin is not prepared to have this conversation. His expression betrays him. “You regret doing this,” Arthur realizes, which is not quite right but close enough to the mark for it not to matter much.
“No,” Merlin says. “No, I don’t,” he repeats firmly when Arthur still looks uncertain. He can’t make an excuse about his job or the fact that Arthur is a student. Partially because Arthur is both smart and direct enough to throw the DVDs locked in Merlin’s filing cabinet right in his face, but mostly because Merlin couldn’t care less about the job. He certainly doesn’t want to lose his job, but he figures Arthur is of a perfectly legal age to decide with whom he will or won’t share his body. In a practical world Merlin also understands if word ever got out that he tied Arthur to his bed and fucked him until he cried, he wouldn’t have a lot of free time to get fired before Uther Pendragon murdered him with his bare hands.
No, the real problem is that he looks at Arthur and all he wants to do is touch him — the insides of his elbows, the shallow dip of his spine, his ankles. He wants to pull on his hair and shove him into walls and across table-tops. He doesn’t want anyone else to flog welts into Arthur’s beautiful back for the first time. He doesn’t want anyone else to hold Arthur when he’s shaking from an endorphin crash, or wipe the come and lube from his thighs when he can hardly hold his head up anymore. He can’t understand how Arthur can be a boy with big feet and the long muscles of an adolescent and at the same time something as untouchable and hard to look at directly as the sun.
Arthur peers at him, like he’s searching for a button to push. “I want this,” he says. He puts himself right in front of Merlin, until their chests are almost touching. “You told me to come back when I knew what I want,” he says slowly — not with hesitance this time, but significance. “I want this. I want you.”
“God, Arthur, you’re eighteen,” Merlin says, brushing the tufty blonde hair at his temples down flat.
“Don’t be stupid,” Arthur says, a little impatient. Merlin cocks an eyebrow at him, but Arthur only shrugs.
“I don’t...do this lightly,” Merlin says, voice going tight. “This is not a distraction, or a game, or a way to pass the time. If you want me,” he pauses, wetting his lips, “then no more of the others. No more Gwaine or Percy or Lance.” He touches his fingers to the line of Arthur’s collarbones, knowing he has no right to demand such a thing. Unable to do anything but. It would be better to have had Arthur once than to share him.
Arthur leans in to Merlin’s neck, nosing his chin up in a surprisingly sensual gesture. “Why go back to the buffet,” he murmurs, “when I have all the chateubriand I could ever want right here?”
Merlin smiles, closing his eyes. “You’re such a little shit.”
“You think I’m charming. You find me irresistible,” Arthur says, smug. He closes his teeth on Merlin’s ear.
Merlin fists his hands in Arthur’s hair and his stupidly preppy shirt. Arthur kisses like he means it, and Merlin bites back because he believes him.