“I dream about flying sometimes,” says Arthur.
Merlin doesn’t turn around. He knows he’s going to look at the wrong place if he does, so he just keeps clearing the remains of the last meal he brought up. “Is that your message for Lady Morgana for today, your Highness?”
“No. There’s no message for today. Be on your way.” Merlin leaves, then, tray in hand, without having finished even half of his chores.
Nobody knows whether the Prince’s confinement to his quarters is self-exile or one imposed by the king, and since the king, Arthur, and Lady Morgana are the only three who know for sure, it’s unlikely anyone will find out. Merlin knows how it happened, of course, the spell turning Arthur into a swan, Lady Morgana’s vow of silence as she stitched him a shirt of nettles that almost had her killed, the desperation that had her throwing an unfinished shirt over Arthur’s head and turning everything human but for one wing, proving her innocence. Everyone knows that story.
Now, though, they’re left in the space after, nobody sure whether Prince Arthur is even the heir any longer because the king won’t say his name, and the prince seeing no one but servants and Morgana.
“Tell Morgana I know what she’s up to and it’s not funny,” Arthur says a few days later, and Merlin does look this time, doesn’t let his gaze snag on the cream feathers but meets Arthur’s eyes.
“And what’s she up to?” he inquires, not that he expects to get an answer.
Arthur’s mouth quirks. “She’ll know what I mean.”
Merlin’s a terrible servant. He still doesn’t know why Morgana brought him before the king after he’d only been in Camelot a week and asked that he be made Arthur’s manservant. He still asks her sometimes, and her maid Gwen more often, but both of them assure him there are reasons and he doesn’t need to know them yet.
He asked Arthur once, in one of the first conversations where he dared say something that wasn’t about chores, but Arthur just stared at him for a long moment, smiled, and looked away.
“Morgana says,” Merlin starts one day, banging through the door without knocking (he’s already past the guards, after all, and he comes in every day at this time), and then freezes and nearly drops the tray he’s holding.
There’s Arthur, spread nude on his bed, human hand down between his legs, and, now that Merlin’s here, wing shielding his groin and face beet red. Merlin lets the door swing shut behind him in the silence. He tries to think of anything to say before he excuses himself, but he can’t take his eyes off the white feathers and remembering the glimpse he caught of what they’re obscuring. “What does Morgana say?” Arthur asks, amusement coloring his tone, and when Merlin looks up at his face there’s a predator’s smile breaking across it.
“I have no idea,” manages Merlin, voice faint, and when Arthur beckons—with the hand that was just on his cock—he goes.
Arthur drags him close and wraps his wing around Merlin’s shoulders, and Merlin can’t help the fraught noise he makes at the tickle of feathers on the back of his neck. That makes Arthur blink at him, startled, but a second later he seems to discard whatever questions he has and fits his mouth to Merlin’s, biting at his lower lip.
Merlin kisses him hard, climbing into his lap and putting his hands all over the prince’s naked skin, brushing against the feathers of his wing whenever he can find the excuse. Arthur’s erection is an insistent weight between their bodies, impossible to forget, and Merlin has to tear away from Arthur’s mouth to suck bruises down his chest and finally, finally wraps his lips around Arthur’s cock like it seems like he’s been wanting to do forever.
When he sucks, Arthur bucks up into his mouth, and Merlin pins his hips down with an arm and does it again. That time, Arthur’s hand comes to grip and tug in Merlin’s hair and his wing brushes against the side of Merlin’s face. Merlin turns into the soft touch, trying to keep his lips on Arthur’s skin at the same time, and moans, already beyond words.
“Oh,” breathes Arthur, like he’s having a revelation. “Oh, you like that.”
From there, it’s just the heat and the taste of salt in his mouth, and after, the way Arthur deliberately trails his feathers through the mess Merlin makes and smiles, brushing it over them both.
“I’m going to get you free, try to break the rest of the spell,” Merlin promises later, breathing the words into Arthur’s ear. He’s been in the room too long, but that doesn’t matter.
Arthur smiles and noses at Merlin’s hair. “And that,” he whispers, “is why Morgana chose you.”