In the hollow hours, when night's silence is only broken by an owl lamenting in the distance, Arthur lay there, listening and watching and yearning. The shafts of pale moonlight shift slowly, slowly across his room, flowing over table and chair and bed where only hours before Merlin bustled and fussed and made an utter nuisance of himself. Now, in the soft light, Arthur can only see images of his manservant's pale skin and feel his own desire growing, growing.
He knows it's ridiculous, of course, beyond anything a prince should feel. Why should he contemplate pasty white flesh, even if it is well-hidden beneath neckerchiefs and rustic tunics? It is bad enough that Merlin has that long, long neck, somehow untouched by the sun, mocking him.
If he were perfectly honest and he'd never admit it to Merlin in a thousand years but sometimes on nights like this, especially on nights like this, Arthur aches, shivers with need. He longs to press his mouth into that tantalizingly pale throat, follow the columns of muscle and bone and blood down, down, past the flash of collarbone and into the hidden curves of belly and more.
But it cannot be, not now, not ever.
A prince, a future king, cannot take a male for lover and certainly not an impudent, thoughtless, scruffy peasant like Merlin, even if the miscreant has alabaster skin and a throat made for marking.
It is hard enough to shake off the desire in the light of day. He manages it somehow, pushing Merlin away with insults and thrown goblets, watching the disappointed spark in the idiot's - not friend and certainly not lover's - eyes and calls it a fair trade.
But when the moonlight spills again across his bed, Arthur remembers fair skin and mourns the loss.