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A Bird In Hand

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Merlin was a virgin. Arthur guessed as much by the way he'd behaved when faced with Arthur's erection. But Merlin himself confirmed it, once they'd finally made it to the bed together, their clothing abandoned and the both of them lazy and sated.

"How much experience do you have?" Arthur asked him, as he traced his fingers up and down Merlin's back.

"Um," Merlin said, and looked shy. "How would you define experience?"

Arthur's hand stilled. He gave Merlin a curious look. "No fumbles in the hay with the other village boys? Or girls?"

"No fumbling," Merlin admitted, hiding his face against Arthur's chest. "There wasn't anyone." He lifted his face, and his eyes were full of longing. "Until you."

The knowledge of it, that Merlin had somehow saved himself for Arthur, had given himself to Arthur specifically, did things to Arthur's insides. Merlin had thrown himself at him like a man possessed, barely allowing Arthur even the most token of protests. Merlin had invaded Arthur's chambers and bed and marked them like a base animal, even ruined Arthur's best pair of gloves in some obscene manner. It was hard to reconcile such depravity and such innocence, but somehow the combination suited Merlin perfectly.

Arthur would have liked nothing better than to linger in bed with Merlin all day, and explore both his innocence and his depravity, but he had a full schedule waiting for him and much of it involved his father. Arthur expected to send Merlin off to resume his recovery, but to his surprise Merlin insisted on going back to his regular duties with Arthur.

"Absolutely not," Arthur said, warding off Merlin's clumsy attempts to help him on with his clothes. "How long did Gaius say until your arm is healed?"

"Three weeks. But please Arthur," Merlin wheedled. "Sire. I've already been doing nothing for nearly that long. And I should--"

"Be by my side?" Arthur prompted. Merlin's overdramatic confession was quite seared into his mind, even apart from what followed it. "Merlin, even with two arms you're barely competent."

Arthur shouldn't have been surprised by the stubborn set of Merlin's jaw. "You can't stop me."

Arthur laughed. "Are you threatening me with your service?"

"If I have to," Merlin said, eyes narrowed with intent. Then his eyes widened with alarm. "You can't send me back to Morgana."

Arthur snorted. "You may have a point." She was going to be unbearable after this. She wouldn't tell his father, she wouldn't dare, but she would use this as leverage against him at every opportunity.

"She thinks it's adorable," Merlin said, and made a face.

"Because you are," Arthur said, surprising himself with his own softness. Merlin smiled and ducked his head, and it only made things worse. Merlin had a way of making Arthur foolish, of making him indulgent. All his life, Arthur had been trained to be stoic and austere and self-denying, and then Merlin had come into his life with his easy smiles and ridiculous devotion and ruined all his father's hard work.

"All right," Arthur relented, and Merlin lit up like a sunbeam. "But not on your own. Morris will help you until Gaius says you're fit for your duties."

Merlin's sunbeam clouded over. "I can do them on my own."

Arthur gave him a look. Then he reached up and brushed his finger across Merlin's lower lip. Merlin's eyes followed his finger, and his tongue peeked out to lick where Arthur had touched.

"Are you jealous?" Arthur asked, lowering his voice. "Do you think I let all my manservants into my bed?"

Merlin flushed, and pressed his lips together.

"Were you jealous of Cedric?" Arthur continued, enjoying himself far too much. "Is that why you launched yourself at him in my chambers?"

"I had to stop him," Merlin said, in that inexplicably brave way he had, sometimes. As if Merlin was all that stood between Arthur and some horrible fate. Arthur couldn't imagine Merlin standing between anyone and a horrible fate. He might actually be the horrible fate.

It was true that Merlin had been right about Cedric, who had revealed himself to be a scheming thief and then attacked them using stolen magic from Sigan's vaults, but Arthur attributed that to Gaius more than Merlin. Gaius had been somewhat parsimonious with the details when pressed, but that was typical of the physician. He never gave a full explanation when half of one would do. That was probably why his father liked Gaius so much, but it had always chafed on Arthur's nerves. He liked to have the full lay of the land before he went into battle, not merely as much as would flatter his ego.

"How much is Gaius letting you help him?" Arthur asked, thoughtful.

"Not much," Merlin admitted. "He says I'm a menace with a pestle."

"Is he letting you run errands? Deliveries?"

Merlin shrugged. "He followed the orders you left. I could probably manage that now that my ankle's healed."

"No," Arthur said, deciding. "You can fetch and carry for me, though you'll probably need to double your trips. Anything that absolutely requires two hands or a modicum of dexterity will be taken by Morris. Tell Gaius that I'm keeping you here until you're fully recovered. You can resume your duties for him then."

"Keeping me here?" Merlin asked, catching on quick.

"Do you really think I'd let you get away after that performance?"

Merlin managed to look both embarrassed and speculative at the same time. "But where will I sleep?" he asked, the speculative side of him clearly winning out.

It took every ounce of Arthur's self-control not to drag Merlin back to his knees and see how quick of a learner he was. Arthur could still feel the naive devotion of Merlin's lips on his cock, still feel the way Merlin had bucked and writhed and screamed for him when he came. Who knew Merlin had it in him? He was a sincere little puzzle-box, and Arthur wanted nothing more than to take him apart, and perhaps even see how best to put him back together.

"You'll sleep where I tell you to," Arthur said, and delighted in the way it made Merlin squirm and bite his lip, leaving it wet and pink. Arthur couldn't resist, and took that lip for himself, and the rest of Merlin's mouth besides.

"Yes, Sire," Merlin breathed.

"Now go get my breakfast. You're already late with it," Arthur told him, and amused himself watching Merlin try to pull himself together and hide his incipient erection. Merlin was unsteady as he left Arthur's chambers, but it had absolutely nothing to do with his injuries. Arthur allowed himself a few squeezes of his own arousal, then contented himself with leaving it at a pleasant hum. After weeks of tedious and stressful negotiations and days of hard travel, he had earned an indulgence or two.

Arthur contemplated the morning's revelations as he finished dressing himself for court. Merlin wanted him, needed him. No, it was more than that. Merlin was his. Merlin was his not because Merlin had given himself to Arthur, but because Merlin had claimed Arthur as his master. It was as paradoxical as anything Merlin did, and Arthur liked that about him. Merlin didn't take orders, he chose them, and followed them to his own satisfaction. Once Merlin made a decision, it was decided, and no court etiquette, no threats of danger, no promises could sway him.

Arthur had grown used to Merlin following him everywhere, into every danger, only ever concerned with Arthur's safety. He'd known from early on how consuming Merlin's devotion was for him, no matter how often Merlin complained about his duties, no matter how clumsy or inept he could be with everyday tasks. The slightest threat to Arthur would transform Merlin from generally useless and often insolent into a seemingly endless pit of faithfulness and determination. At first it had been baffling, and if Arthur was honest with himself it was still baffling. But he was beginning to appreciate the benefits it produced.

Merlin loved him. Inexplicably and completely, and apparently unconsciously until Arthur had been forced to abandon him for the trip to Mercia. Arthur wanted very much to know what had happened to release what had been locked away in Merlin's heart, but it didn't feel right to press him. Arthur had spent much of the trip haunted by the sight of Merlin sprawled upon the stairs, bloodied and limp. It had been hard to leave without saying goodbye, for his last sight of Merlin to be of him unconscious and bandaged and pale. It didn't matter how much he told himself not to worry, that it was foolish to worry over Merlin, over a servant.

The long days with Bayard had brought back unpleasant memories. At night he could hear his father sneering in his head, furious with Arthur for risking his life for a peasant. But Merlin had saved his life, and had been so brave for him. He had risked himself with the accusation against Bayard and then risked himself again by drinking the wine, and the sight of Merlin falling to the floor had been a rending in Arthur's soul. He'd had no choice but to heal Merlin, in order to heal himself. He'd blatantly defied his father, something he rarely ever did in thought much less in deed, and didn't regret it in the least.

He would do it again in an instant. He was already doing it again, silently defying his father with his actions, and he didn't care. Merlin was his. His father had given Merlin to him, and even though very little of Arthur's was his own, even though his life was pledged to Camelot and his service pledge to his King, Arthur knew that Merlin was his and his alone. He would take whatever Merlin chose to give him, even if that was everything. And if Arthur gorged himself on such a banquet, it was only what Merlin deserved.

§

Arthur had many responsibilities as Crown Prince, and none of them stopped just because he wanted them to. He had weeks of reports to catch up on, councils to attend, and the accumulation of little tasks that had mounted up in his absence. The Lords of the land had sent their youngest sons to follow in the steps of their elder brothers, who had lain down their lives in defense of Camelot when Cedric had set his stone monsters down upon them. It was fortunate that the nobles had so many sons, since his father would not break the First Code of Camelot and allow commoners into the ranks of his knights.

Arthur was still hazy on exactly how Cedric had been stopped. His father had proclaimed it the proud work of the knights, yet there had been no sword wounds to prove his words. Cedric's body had been unmarred and his expression vacant, as if he had simply emptied out. Arthur had held his tongue, not eager for an argument with his father on the matter. There had been Merlin's wild story about the ghost of Cornelius Sigan coming back for revenge, but it all seemed too far-fetched to be believed. Cedric had been a sorcerer, as greedy and malicious as all sorcerers seemed to be. Perhaps the stolen magic had backfired, and that was what killed him. However it had happened, Cedric was dead, and as he was no longer a threat he could be safely disregarded.

But even if Arthur couldn't strip Merlin naked and bend him over the Council table, it felt good to have Merlin back by his side, dogging his steps. The knowledge that Merlin wanted him, yearned for him, would fall to his knees for him and more, buoyed Arthur through the most tedious of tasks, and made the day hurry along. Merlin would steal little touches as he served Arthur, their hands grazing over a goblet, or their arms bumping as Merlin walked too closely by his side in the hall. Nothing that would give them away -- even Merlin had enough sense not to risk that. But enough to remind Arthur, and perhaps himself, that their relationship had gone far beyond what it had been before.

It certainly didn't hurt their situation that Arthur had always been tactile with Merlin, always generous with his own touches and eager to drag Merlin wherever he wanted him. Arthur reflected that it had perhaps been a sign of his own unconscious feelings to have always forced Merlin so close. Not that Merlin had ever required force to keep him close. Arthur found himself shocked at how intimate they already were, and had to resist the urge to pull away from Merlin, to let the fear of discovery change their behavior in public. If anything, it was that that would cast suspicion, or worse, make others believe that Arthur no longer favored Merlin at all. That would put Merlin at risk, and even though Merlin was largely oblivious to court politics, Arthur knew all too well how the games were played. They would go on as they always had. That it was both for the best and exactly what Arthur most desired was only an incidental benefit.

Morgana and Gwen could be counted upon for their discretion. Arthur wasn't certain how much Gaius knew, but Gaius loved Merlin like a son, and would certainly risk no harm to him. The situation was all in hand. Arthur felt himself relax in the knowledge, in the sense of control it gave him. He found himself sitting straighter, listening more attentively to the normally interminable discussions, not in spite of but because of the closeness of Merlin by his side.

"All of the modifications to the treaty are in order," Uther said, putting an end at last to the long review of the necessary revisions. "Arthur, excellent work."

"Thank you, Sire," Arthur said, with a formal nod. He hid his surprise. Ever since Uther had drugged him and fought in his place against the mysterious black knight, his father had become far more open with his praise, and Arthur still couldn't get used to it.

"I expect you to be busy with training for the next few weeks," Uther continued. His eyes flicked to Merlin, and the arm tucked into its sling. "Is your manservant recovered enough for his duties? I can assign you anyone you wish if he is insufficient."

Arthur felt Merlin tense beside him.

"That won't be necessary," Arthur said, with deliberate casualness. "He is perfectly able for the the tasks he is assigned. He only needs one hand with which to pour my wine and serve my food."

Uther smirked, amused as always by how little he thought of Merlin. His father's disregard had always rankled Arthur, even if he often lobbed the same insults at Merlin himself. Merlin was his to insult, and no one else's, not even his father. Arthur did not let it show.

Uther clapped his hands together, and stood from the table, and Arthur and the councilors stood in response. "This calls for a celebration," Uther declared. "In three days' time we shall have a feast in honor of our renewed friendship with Mercia, and to officially welcome our newest knights."

Arthur smiled, and mentally cursed his father. The last thing he wanted right now was another public demand on his time. At least they were done for the day. Arthur put his hand on Merlin's back and guided him out of the room, trying not to let his steps be too eager.

§

The moment they were alone in Arthur's chambers, Merlin flopped into a chair and slumped down, looking utterly worn out. Arthur sympathized; he often found that sitting around all day would exhaust him far more than a long hike, and Merlin wasn't quite back to his usual boundless energy.

Merlin rubbed at his arm like it was bothering him.

"Is it still hurting?"

"I banged it up again yesterday," Merlin said, blushing as he recalled exactly what had led to his renewed injury. Morgana had described the events to Arthur with obvious glee despite her sympathy for Merlin. Mostly she was vastly entertained by the whole affair, and relished how vulnerable she thought it made Arthur's position. Knowledge was power, and Morgana thirsted for any power she could get.

"Have you been exercising it at all?" Arthur asked.

"Course not," Merlin said. "Gaius threatened me if I didn't keep it still."

Arthur snorted. "I'm sure he did. But Gaius doesn't know everything. Here, let me." Before Merlin could agree, Arthur was removing his sling and then his shirt. Merlin was compliant, if confused, with an adorable little furrow to his brow and the beginnings of a pout. Arthur couldn't wait to kiss it away, but he wanted to do this first.

He unwrapped the stiff bandages and splints that kept the arm immobile. There was a fresh bruise on Merlin's arm, where he'd landed on it after his tumble from the bed. Arthur probed it, making Merlin hiss and revealing how tender it was. But the break in the bone that Arthur had felt on that day on the stairs was gone, and he was satisfied with the progress of its healing. Arthur stretched out Merlin's arm and moved it around, testing the range of motion and Merlin's reactions.

"Stiff?"

"Very," Merlin said, tersely.

Arthur folded Merlin's arm and stretched it out again. Then he repeated the motion from before. "See if you can do this on your own," he said, and released his grip. Merlin complied, if slowly and with obvious effort. Arthur stopped him before he could do too much, and began re-wrapping the bandages.

"We need to do this at least once a day," Arthur explained. "You must keep your arm limber and use the muscle or it will seize, and when you think you are ready to rely on it again it will take hard work to regain your strength. This way you won't lose all of what you have."

"Is that a knight thing?" Merlin asked, with a soft smile.

"A knight taught it to me," Arthur acknowledged. "And I teach it to my knights, and hopefully they will teach it themselves one day. It's important to tend to those who fight by your side."

That earned Arthur a Merlin look, overflowing with inexplicable devotion and gratitude. Arthur wasn't sure what he'd ever done to deserve those looks, besides treat Merlin like he mattered, on occasion and despite himself.

Together they eased Merlin's arm back into the sling, but Arthur wasn't finished yet. He gently massaged Merlin's arm from shoulder to wrist, careful around the healing break and the bruise. Merlin sighed and slumped anew, but this time it was because he was putty in Arthur's hands. Arthur's heart ached at the trust Merlin showed in him, and it renewed his desire to keep and protect Merlin, and all his strangeness.

Dinner had been served during the long council session, so Arthur had no cause to send Merlin from his chambers until breakfast.

"Did you get everything you need?" he asked. He'd let Merlin out of his sight long enough to check in with Gaius and gather whatever clothing and personal items he would require. Merlin had left it all in a pile on the floor, and Arthur knew that it contained essentially all that Merlin owned, since he owned very little. A stack of clothes including shirts and scarves of varying colors, his ever-present bag, his toiletries and medical supplies, and whatever personal trinkets he had accumulated.

It was unsaid between them if Merlin would be leaving Arthur's chambers and returning to his little room in Gaius' tower, when Merlin was healed. Arthur was starting to understand what his own answer would be, but it was too soon to speak of it. The three weeks would be a test for them, to see if they could make it work, between themselves as much as together against the castle at large. It was only the latter that gave Arthur any pause, as Merlin had lived so insistently in his pocket for over a year.

Merlin nodded. "I think Gaius figured it out," he admitted. "He gave me a 'be careful' speech."

Arthur chuckled. "I'll take that as his blessing," he said, and kissed Merlin's bare shoulder. Merlin roused at that, and drew him into a proper kiss, which went on and on until Arthur protested at the crouched angle he was in. He rose, stretched the ache from his body, and pulled Merlin to the bed.

This morning, they had fallen together in a heady haze of frantic lust. At the time, it had been such a shock that Arthur had not had a chance to truly appreciate what was happening. But now they could take their time, and he could see Merlin clearly; in the clarity of the moment, it seemed as if he had been barely paying attention until now, no matter how insistently Merlin's existence had pressed on his attention. How had he missed the way Merlin scrunched his nose before he laughed, or the tiny pout he gave whenever Arthur pulled away from him? He must have always done these things, but Arthur was too blind to see them.

He was not blind anymore. Certainly not to the soft love that overflowed from Merlin's eyes as Arthur stroked at his hair. Merlin smiled at him and Arthur smiled back like a fool.

"This is nice," Merlin said, smiling wider.

Arthur tried to sober himself, and looked Merlin in the eye. "No second thoughts?"

"Shouldn't I be the one asking you that?" Merlin asked, a hint of worry seeping into his face. "Arthur..."

"No," Arthur said, firmly. "I'm certain."

Merlin relaxed again. "Good. I'd hate to have to despoil your bed again."

Arthur laughed. "We're going to do that anyway."

"Yes," Merlin said, and gave a little thrust up against Arthur's hip. "Right now, if you please."

"Insatiable minx," Arthur purred, and kissed him deeply. They rubbed aimlessly together, Arthur covering Merlin's body with his own. It was easier for Merlin to be on his back, and Arthur was of a mind to trap him there for a while, and feast on him. Merlin clung to him with his available limbs, hooked his legs around Arthur's and let Arthur settle between his thighs, as if he belonged there. Arthur quite thought that he did.

He'd never realized how deep his possessive streak ran, until he had someone to possess.

Arthur mouthed and kneaded his way slowly down Merlin's body, tasted his neck and collarbone and the soft flesh of his nipples. Sucking on all of them made Merlin writhe and moan quite prettily. Arthur already knew that Merlin was ticklish on his sides and under his arms, but he confirmed it anyway, enjoying the familiar torment in its new context.

"Driving me mad," Merlin mumbled, and thrust his hips impatiently, his cock hard in his trousers.

"Second thoughts?" Arthur asked, smugly.

Merlin narrowed his eyes at him. "I'll give you second thoughts," he said, and tried to turn to push himself up, but Arthur pushed him back down again, and held him there.

"I'm not finished yet," Arthur told him, letting a hint of his dark desires seep into his voice. He was pleased as Merlin's eyes widened, and his lips parted with want. Arthur pressed his thumb against Merlin's lower lip. "So sweet for me," he purred, and then groaned as Merlin took the thumb into his mouth and sucked, hollowing his cheeks with promise.

"You want that?" Arthur asked, sliding his thumb back and forth in Merlin's mouth. "You want to taste me again? Suck my cock?"

Merlin moaned, and spoke his lust with his eyes. It sent a pulse of sharp desire through Arthur, and he had to brace himself against it. There was so much he wanted to do to Merlin, and more images came to him with every whimper and squirm of Merlin beneath him. He felt endlessly greedy, and was never so glad of the strength of his own restraint. This was a thing to be savoured, not rushed.

"You will," Arthur promised. "I'm going to teach you so much..."

Merlin closed his eyes and sucked hard at Arthur's thumb. Arthur pulled it free and smeared spit across Merlin's lips, then leaned down and took his mouth again, nipping and laving between kisses. Merlin followed his lead with stumbling mimicry. Each time Arthur could feel Merlin hesitate over something new, it sent a jolt of pleasure through Arthur, knowing that this and this and this were only his. Knowing that Merlin came to him so purely only made Arthur want to chip away at that purity, and carve some new and beautiful shape from it. He had to stop, then, and catch his breath, as the thought was a dangerous one.

Merlin wasn't going to say no to him. Something coiled in Arthur's gut knew this. Merlin might choose his orders, might choose his master, but once chosen, there was no going back. It was akin to the first time Arthur truly understood that to be a Prince, to one day be a King, was not about castles or soldiers or gleaming crowns. It was a responsibility, one not to be taken lightly. Supplication was essential to the rule of any crown, yet it was equally dangerous. Arthur had to guard himself from becoming drunk upon it.

Arthur pulled back, and lay down beside Merlin on the bed, trying to ignore the disappointment in Merlin's face. Merlin followed after him, and crouched over him, bringing their heads together. Merlin nuzzled him, breathed against the crook of his neck, basking against him. Arthur brought his arms around him and pulled him to lie flat against him, and Merlin curled against his side as he had that morning.

"Arthur," Merlin began, and Arthur could hear the creeping worry in his voice again.

Arthur hushed him. "I meant what I said. Do you doubt my word?"

"Of course not," Merlin said -- affronted on Arthur's behalf, the idiot. "It's only... I don't want us to go wrong."

"You belong by my side," Arthur said, and Merlin's response was that look again, that devotion so pure it would make an alchemist weep. That was what terrified Arthur, because physical purity was a fancy, delicious yet necessarily temporary. The devotion he saw in Merlin's eyes, deep and unshakeable... that was no fancy. But he knew that having claimed it, he could not bring himself to let it go.

"I do," Merlin said, so happily, his grin set to split his face. He began undoing Arthur's clothing with one hand, kissing the skin he revealed.

Arthur did not want his fears to poison this. He tucked them away with the part of himself that was constantly preparing to be King, and let himself just be Arthur for now. Just Arthur and his Merlin. He relaxed, recognizing the lingering strain from the day for what it was, that he was still shaking off the stress of Mercia and the treaty and Bayard and spending weeks trying not to allow himself to worry about Merlin.

He let a long breath out and smiled back at Merlin. He rolled them over so he was on top again, and rubbed himself against Merlin's thigh, and his thigh against Merlin's groin. Merlin moaned and thrust back, and they lazed like this as they slowly stripped each other bare, all barriers falling away.

This was what Arthur needed. Skin against skin, Merlin hot and wanton against him. The two of them tasting each other until their lips were tender, their bodies marked. Their cocks rubbed together and Arthur took hold of them both, fucking them against each other in his loose fist.

"Arthur," Merlin murmured against his lips. "Arthur, will you... want you to..."

"Say what you want," Arthur murmured back.

"Fuck me?" Merlin asked, wanting and hopeful and a little afraid. "Please?"

Arthur swallowed. "I will," he said. "But not tonight."

"But--"

"Not tonight," Arthur insisted.

Merlin pouted, but was too happy with what he already had to be greedy about it. "Then your fingers?" he asked, almost shyly. Almost.

Arthur's response was to release their cocks and slide two fingers into Merlin's mouth. It had the added benefit of shutting him up. Merlin hitched up his legs against Arthur's hips, and gave an insistent thrust.

"Wanton thing," Arthur growled.

Merlin moaned around Arthur's fingers, his tongue wet and sloppy against them. When Arthur had spit trickling down towards his palm, he drew his hand away and down between Merlin's thighs. He teased first with the ball of his thumb against the soft skin behind Merlin's balls, which made Merlin squirm in delighted surprise. Then he found the tight rose of his hole, and lost interest in distractions. He expected resistance, even rejection, and was shocked when Merlin opened for him, and Arthur's finger slipped easily inside.

Merlin laughed, a rumble that ran through his body and around Arthur's finger. "Don't look so surprised," he said, smiling. "Just because there hasn't been anyone..." He held up his left hand and wiggled two fingers, and then added a third, and winked.

"You little sneak," Arthur said, with mock anger and private delight.

Merlin giggled. Giggled, when Arthur had a finger up inside him and Merlin was lecherously waving the three he'd had inside himself. Arthur slid in another finger and stretched, pleased when it made Merlin's hand drop and his smile fade into an open moan.

"Did you stretch yourself out for me?" Arthur said, voice low with retaliation. "Did you push your fingers inside and imagine they were mine? That they were my cock?"

Merlin whimpered. "Yes," he breathed, thickly.

Arthur crooked his fingers, and was pleased to discover that Merlin might have been eager with his hand, but he still had things to learn about his body. Merlin's eyes widened, and he let out a loud, shaking groan, rich with disbelief.

"Feels good?" Arthur teased.

"Gods, yes," Merlin moaned. "Keep doing that."

Arthur had no intention of stopping. He left his fingers rubbing at the sweet place inside Merlin's arse, and with his other took hold of Merlin's cock, and drew it to his mouth. Merlin gave a high, desperate moan, and Arthur felt the now-familiar frisson of delight, knowing that here was another part of Merlin he had claimed.

Arthur showed Merlin how a cock should be sucked, and Merlin was wild beneath his mouth and around his fingers, all control lost. Arthur had to pin him down at the hip to keep him still enough, and his moaning was becoming dangerously loud. Arthur's chambers had thick walls, but there were limits. He stopped, pulling free and leaving Merlin to curl in on himself, shuddering and gasping.

"Going to have to shut you up," Arthur growled.

Merlin gave a soft, high keen. "Glove," he choked, eyes slitted and glazed.

"Glove?" Arthur echoed, then realized. The glove that Merlin had left behind, covered in bite marks. Of course. Arthur was off the bed and back before he could finish the thought, gripping the glove with a knuckle-white fist.

He fed the glove into Merlin's mouth, lining it up with the existing teeth marks. Merlin bit down, jaw clenching tight, and Arthur cursed sharply, and had to squeeze himself cruelly to stop from coming from the sight alone.

"Wanton," Arthur hissed, pushing three fingers into Merlin's loosened arse and pressing, stretching. "Are you a slut for me? A wanton little slut?"

Merlin clenched tight around Arthur's fingers, his body arching and straining. His moan was an unquestionable answer. Arthur took hold of Merlin's cock again, and found it slick with eager drippings.

Arthur licked broadly up Merlin's cock, and loudly savored the taste of him. "Do you want to come in my mouth, little slut? A peasant's come on his prince's tongue?" The filthy words came from somewhere deep inside of Arthur, wrong and crude but so right, so perfect the way they fit what Merlin had become for him. Arthur could picture him as a whore in the lower town like this, open for any who sought to take their pleasure. But Merlin was only for Arthur, would only ever be for Arthur.

Merlin nodded frantically, and his left hand pawed at Arthur's hair, trying to tug him down. Arthur smacked it away, and taunted Merlin by blowing air on his swollen cock, and ghosting his mouth close but not quite touching. Merlin cursed him through the glove, the words muffled but just barely intelligible.

Arthur had been determined to make Merlin come first, but a sudden image changed his mind. He pulled out his fingers and crouched over Merlin, heads close together. He took hold of Merlin's hand as he had that morning and brought it to his own cock, and dragged it back and forth. Merlin showed slightly more skill this time, but he was so sodden with lust that his hand was Arthur's to use. Arthur stared into Merlin's glazed eyes, stared and stared and soaked up the sight of him, face reddened and damp with sweat, the black leather stark between stretched red lips and the hint of teeth. The sound of his breathing, fast and noisy around the glove, and his flaring nostrils. Merlin made soft, desperate sounds as Arthur felt his own arousal rise and rise, moving Merlin's hand faster beneath his own, until he came with a strangled shout.

When he came down, his limbs were trembling, and he had made a mess all over Merlin's front. Arthur released Merlin's hand and smeared his fingers through the white streaks, painting Merlin's body in abstract patterns. Merlin's eyes rolled in his head, and he made a muffled choking sound, and thrust desperately up. Arthur pushed him back down, and took Merlin's cock into his mouth and sucked. Merlin came only moments later, pulsing hard. Arthur swallowed some of it but caught the rest on his tongue, and held it in his mouth while Merlin flopped back against the bed, panting and lost.

Arthur eased the glove from between Merlin's teeth and kissed him, feeding him the taste of himself from Arthur's tongue. Merlin whimpered and shuddered and clung bodily to Arthur, and took and took as Arthur gave. Arthur drew back and kissed his forehead, and then collapsed beside him, the both of them wrecked.

Merlin turned and nestled against him, lost for words, muscles jumping with fine tremors. Arthur pulled the covers up around them and held him tight. He tried to fight his drowsiness and failed, tumbling into deep, dreamless sleep.