“I don’t even see why I should.” Merlin’s complained the entire time, from heating the small blade to washing Arthur’s face and basically whenever he’s had the chance to open his mouth. Arthur just rolls his eyes and sits back expectantly, tilting his head as if to tell Merlin to get on with it. “Isn’t it dangerous, or something? You’d think royalty would be more wary about people holding blades to their faces.”
Arthur lets out a long-suffering sigh and shoves Merlin a little, who’s setting up a mirror in front of him. Merlin scowls and looks back at him, every inch the impertinent manservant. “While I do have my reservations about putting a small blade in your hands, butterfingers, it is simply not done for nobles to do this. You’re my servant, get to it.”
Throwing up his hands in defeat, Merlin looks up at the ceiling and groans theatrically before he takes up the blade. “Fine. If you’d just settle in place, sire.”
“Tone,” Arthur rebukes automatically, but without much heat.
Merlin chuckles, and gets to trimming his whiskers, humming a little. Arthur closes his eyes, enjoying the light ticklish sensation as Merlin leans in close, thumb rubbing over his jaw, holding it in place as he cuts whisker by short whisker. “It’s all right, anyway,” Arthur murmurs, opening his eyes just a little. “You might be incompetent, but I trust you.”
There’s silence, but when he meets Merlin’s gaze, it’s fond and warm, not to mention a little surprised. “Well,” Merlin coughs, flushing, averting his eyes and concentrating on the task at hand. “Should I be flattered?”
Arthur snorts, but he returns the smile, his heart beating a little faster at Merlin’s stupid, endearing face. “Don’t get too full of yourself. If you nick me, it’s the stocks for you.”
“You cruel, cruel man,” Merlin says, still cutting delicately at his whiskers, but the colour’s still high on his cheeks. He’s close enough that his breath tickles Arthur’s cheek, just a brush of air. “If the people only knew how much of a great prat you were.”
He doesn’t move because of the proximity of the blade’s edge to his skin, but Arthur laughs, low, teasing and a little breathless. “You wouldn’t have me any other way, would you, Merlin?”
“Conceited arse,” Merlin parries back, but he’s really red now, biting his lip to keep from laughing, too. His voice is a little softer when he continues, “But, no. I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
Arthur’s heart catches painfully in his throat, warmth curling through him at Merlin’s expression, intense and fierce and full of emotion. “Merlin.”
Shaking his head, Merlin continues to gently cut his whiskers, but Arthur doesn’t think he’s imagining the way Merlin moves a little closer, how the heat against his side is this much more intense, the way Merlin’s breath is coming a little faster.
“You’re something, sire, you know that?” Merlin says, the blade still dancing across Arthur’s skin, light touch and reflections of silver light. The room dulls to just the brush of the edge against his face, careful and precise, and Merlin’s voice soothing him. He doesn’t really notice Merlin has stopped until Merlin steps back, and tilts his head as if admiring his handiwork.
Arthur smiles. “Come here.”
"Arthur," Merlin says, almost a question, but he puts the blade down on the table and shifts so that he's behind Arthur's chair.
Arthur exhales, looking up at him briefly before tugging at Merlin's sleeve so that he's bending a little awkwardly over where Arthur's seated. "I know I tell you time and time again how terrible a manservant you are, Merlin," he says, quiet and sure, even though he's not one for words like this. "But you're mine — my manservant, my friend, and you mean a lot to me."
"Just a lot?" Merlin teases, laughing.
"Oh, shut up," Arthur pulls him down so that their noses are brushing; Merlin's breath catches. "I'm not going to write poetry for you, silly git."
"And here I thought princes were supposed to be romantic." Merlin tilts so that his lips brush Arthur's cheek, a soft drag. "But all right, I suppose insults will have to do."
Arthur moves and snakes his arms around Merlin's waist, and then Merlin's straddling him on his chair. "That's the new thing in Camelot, didn't you hear?"
"What, insult your manservant to get him into bed?" Merlin retorts, but his touch is gentle as he smooths his thumb across Arthur's jaw, the line of it. Arthur leans into his palm, and Merlin cups his face, just resting his forehead against Arthur's for a sharp, sweet moment. "I'll have you know I'm not that kind of country boy, your Highness."
"Says the man who, at one point, begged me to touch him or he would absolutely die, Arthur, how dare you, I can't, Arthur, yes, fuck," Arthur says, voice hiking to a falsetto, the lilt uncannily like Merlin's. Merlin pushes down and nips at Arthur's ear, just this side of reprimanding, and Arthur grins.
"I said no such thing," Merlin mutters, sliding his hands under Arthur's tunic, rubbing at the exposed skin just above his breeches. "But you like it when I mouth off at you."
"Ha. So help me, but I do." The fabric of Merlin's neckerchief is rough beneath his fingers, as always, a harsh but familiar texture. He undoes the knot and places the faded red cloth on the table, leaning in and upwards to place a single kiss on the hollow of Merlin's neck. Merlin sighs, tugging a little at Arthur's hair as he does, more out of habit than anything else.
“What else do you like me to do, Arthur?” Merlin asks, smiling, shifting so his cheek rubs against Arthur’s own, pulling Arthur up to him.
Arthur lets him, but stops just before their lips meet, a whisper apart. “You ask like you don’t know the answer.” Knowing, just shy of an invitation.
“Maybe I don’t.” Merlin presses a kiss to the corner of Arthur’s lips, intimate and familiar, and of course he has to push this as he always does. As how things always are with Merlin. “Maybe I want you to tell me.”
Sliding his hands up Merlin’s sides, just a little unsure, Arthur moves so that their lips touch, finally, even though it’s just been minutes of Merlin’s usual infernal teasing. “Tell you what, servant mine,” Arthur tells him, soft and low between warm breathless kisses, between Merlin nipping at him like he can’t get enough. “Maybe I could show you instead.”
Shuddering when Arthur yanks at Merlin’s hair this time, exposing his neck so that he can suck there, insistent and brazen, Merlin clutches at Arthur’s tunic. “Yes.” Merlin’s eyes flutter half-shut, distracted, and Arthur counts it a small win that he’s temporarily shut Merlin up.
“I like you to do all sorts of things,” Arthur begins, weaving the words between his little bites down Merlin’s throat, mapping a path of faded red. “I like you helpless like this, not too overwhelmed, but just enough to say my name over and over again like it’s the only thing you remember.”
“A little full of yourself, aren’t we?” Merlin laughs, throwing his head back as he wraps his arms around Arthur’s neck, but the way he trembles against Arthur reveals how disoriented he is, how he’s lost in the heat.
Arthur moves his hands under Merlin’s shirt, touching the curve of his ribs, brushing a nipple on that hot, hot skin. And then he’s unlacing the top of Merlin’s tunic, nosing the loose fabric off Merlin’s shoulders to expose those lovely sharp angles, pale and sweet. “Still talking?”
Scraping his nails a little painfully over the back of Arthur’s neck, the pleasure is a sharp spike as Merlin leans forward to brush his lips against his ear. “Someone’s got to put you in your place.”
The not-challenge feels like it burns between them; Arthur growls as he pulls Merlin’s arms from around his neck, locking them together. “I’ll show you yours.”
“Oh?” Merlin asks, anticipation colouring his voice. “What are you going to— oh.” His words stutter to a stop when he turns to see Arthur grabbing his forgotten belt, snapping it together around Merlin’s wrists as he loops the rough lash of leather tightly in knots so that Merlin can’t move. “Oh.”
“I take it you like that,” Arthur says, ducking so that Merlin can hook his now-bound wrists around Arthur’s neck in place. Merlin makes a strangled groan, shifting against Arthur. “So you do like being a little helpless.” Arthur laughs with delight. “Should’ve known that would be why you somehow keep wanting to end up in the stocks, all bound and at others’ mercy.”
Merlin knocks his forehead against Arthur’s. “It’s not like I do it on purpose!”
“But you do like this.” It’s not a question, and then Arthur’s palming Merlin’s arse and bringing him impossibly closer, thumbing against the edge of his breeches, his other hand brushing against the outline of Merlin’s cock through the cloth. “You really like this.”
“And you say I talk too much.” Merlin still has the presence of mind to snipe back. That simply wouldn’t do.
“You do,” Arthur affirms, undoing Merlin’s breeches quickly and slipping his hand inside, feeling the hot slick between his fingers before he drags a finger up and around the slit. Merlin jerks, suddenly, his hands gripping at Arthur for purchase as he rocks up into Arthur’s hand. Arthur smirks. “That’s more like it.”
“Ass,” Merlin bites, falling forward to breathe hard against Arthur’s neck, lips wet and sinful. He grinds down against Arthur like he simply can’t help himself, and his legs are shaking. “Fuck! Oh, do that again.”
“You’re obviously impossible to truly silence, Merlin.” Arthur sucks on Merlin’s left earlobe, enjoying the little cut-off gasps that Merlin makes as he moves erratically against Arthur, all uncoordinated limbs and desire. Without even pausing for breath, Arthur reaches behind him and swipes a bottle of salve he knows he’s spotted earlier, grinning privately at this small triumph while he pours a liberal amount onto his fingers. Merlin’s so aroused and melting against him, he doesn’t notice. “Why don’t you tell me what you want me to do to you?”
“Touch me,” Merlin manages, hooking one of his long legs behind Arthur’s calves and pressing down against Arthur’s hand, moving so he’s face-to-face with Arthur again. He kisses Arthur desperately, messy and eager, panting as he pulls at Arthur’s hair at the base of his neck. The leather around Merlin’s hands cuts a little into Arthur’s skin, and it sends a thrill down his back. “I want you inside—”
Arthur leans in to kiss him again more thoroughly, and spreads Merlin’s legs apart where he’s straddling Arthur, pulling down his breeches before he slides two oiled fingers into Merlin without warning. Merlin’s eyes snap open when Arthur pushes in, but Arthur’s prepared him enough times to know that Merlin likes that burn, this side of pleasurable, but sharp enough to leave him breathless.
Moaning against Arthur’s mouth, Merlin sneaks his hands down the back of Arthur’s tunic and hangs on, sinking his fingers in, sure to leave little angry red crescents in the morning. Arthur’s never minded it; he likes Merlin vocal and scratchy and untamable like this, rendered to all the want he’s feeling when he makes guttural sounds in Arthur’s ear, egging him on. He twists his fingers inside, pad of his thumb pressing gently under Merlin’s stones, and then he’s fisting Merlin’s cock again with intent at the same time.
“Arthur,” Merlin groans, writhing against him.
“Not long now, Merlin,” Arthur says, breathing hotly against Merlin’s ear, adding a third finger and drawing a sharp whimper from Merlin. The slip-slide sounds of skin and oil and sex are driving him insane. “Do you want more?”
“Yes.” Merlin also knows by now to answer Arthur immediately or have his hazy, torturous pleasure prolonged but not in the way he wants it to be. “Yes, Arthur, damn you.”
“Three fingers not enough for you either, Merlin?” He drops his voice, pulling at Merlin’s cock a little cruelly, increasing his rhythm, still keeping Merlin’s legs locked in place over him with his thighs. “You greedy thing.”
Merlin huffs and moves while Arthur watches his fingers disappear into Merlin with no small amount of amazement. He’ll never get over the way Merlin pushes him for more, being so fucking persuasive he just can’t say no. “Get to it.”
“I like that you try to give me orders when you know I’ll never listen to you.” Amused, Arthur slides his fingers out with a wet sound anyway. Merlin laughs into the curve of Arthur’s neck, his chuckles fading into moans as Arthur turns Merlin around, arms catching awkwardly around Arthur’s neck, and lines himself up, spreading Merlin wide for him.
Tensing, Merlin shudders at the idea of it, and Arthur finds a wave of affection rush over him as he brushes a kiss against Merlin’s cheek, lifting one of Merlin’s legs to position him better. “May I?”
He can almost feel Merlin rolling his eyes as Merlin shifts impatiently and takes Arthur in, sinking down inch by agonising inch. “Now he asks politely.”
Arthur shrugs minutely, firmly holding Merlin in place to ease himself inside slowly, and he can hear Merlin’s sigh of exasperation. “Patience, Merlin,” he admonishes, gripping Merlin’s thigh and moving with him. “It’s not a tourney.”
Merlin’s smirk turns positively filthy. “Should I ride you like a stallion, sire?” And then he rocks deliberately against Arthur, taking him in, impossibly tight and hot.
“You’re terrible,” Arthur says, scandalised, meeting the pace that Merlin is setting. Merlin pulls him down, and Arthur sucks a bruise onto Merlin’s ear. “You are so that kind of country boy.”
“Would you rather me be that kind of country boy or a blushing maiden?” And then Merlin fucking bounces on him and Arthur nearly sees stars. “Thought so.”
“Arrogant little—” He slaps Merlin’s arse once, sharply, and has the pleasure of feeling Merlin jolt and shudder all over before he snaps his hips, circling them and pressing deeper, deeper into Merlin. “I should gag you.”
Merlin really shakes all over then, whining, something almost desperate in the way he moves back against Arthur. “Arthur, I—”
Arthur blinks and nuzzles into Merlin’s dark hair, sliding a hand down to play with his neglected cock. “You...” Merlin stutters out a groan when Arthur touches him. The idea of gagging Merlin and fucking Merlin until his muffled screams ring in the chamber makes Arthur dizzy with sheer lust. “Would you like me to, next time?” He pulls Merlin’s head back forcefully, revealing the long line of his neck, still pushing into him with quick strokes.
“I’ll silence you with rags in your mouth,” Arthur says quietly, and Merlin whimpers. “You’re loud, so loud, you can’t keep it down, so I’ll have no choice. I’ll tie you up, spread your legs, lick and fuck into you with my tongue until you’re begging for me to stop.”
Merlin shakes his head, looking aroused beyond belief. “You say the most outrageous things, Arthur,” he breathes, but when he turns to look sideways at Arthur his eyes are glazed. “Your mouth, fuck.”
Arthur nips at his ear. “You like hearing about the things I want to do to you.” And Merlin does, so Arthur continues. “I won’t stop as I take your cock into my mouth and shove my fingers in, swallow you to the root and keep you thrashing and writhing helplessly until you come and come into my mouth and scream so loud even the gag won’t hold your cries—”
That’s when Merlin chokes out Arthur’s name, arms tightening around Arthur’s neck, riding out the tremors. Arthur bites down on Merlin’s back savagely as he tips over the edge, too, and grits his teeth while Merlin takes in gulps of breath, slumping against him. Arthur’s still thrown by the utterly beguiling idea of gagging Merlin as they fuck, and makes it a mental note to keep for later.
Shifting, Arthur kisses Merlin after, undoing the knots around Merlin’s hands and pressing his lips to each raw-red wrist in silent apology. “I’m sorry if I hurt you.”
Merlin snorts and takes Arthur’s hands in his own, kissing the back of Arthur’s knuckles in turn, the rough curves of them, before he looks up at Arthur mischievously from beneath his lashes. “You didn’t. Besides, I can take it,” he says slowly, suggestively, and Arthur’s face burns.
Clearing his throat, Arthur pulls Merlin’s tunic over his head and brushes his lips over Merlin’s fuzzy eyebrows, pausing briefly to kiss Merlin’s eyelids. “I don’t doubt it,” he murmurs after a fashion, and he can feel Merlin grinning against his skin. “Bed?”
Merlin lies back invitingly against the red sheets. Arthur hesitates for the briefest of moments at the strange, alluring sight of too-awkward Merlin with his angles and cheeky smile, but then Merlin pulls him down and slots into Arthur’s side as if he belongs there, casual as you please, and Arthur just lets himself be.
Tonight, there’s Merlin, and that’s all that matters.