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We are Alone Here

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Every corner of the banquet hall is erupting with spring flowers, their scent sweet and cloying the air until it's hard to breathe. Arthur intends to drink deeply of his wine to suffer through it, but frustration swells hot in his belly as he looks down at his empty cup.

He searches the room for Merlin.

He spots him against the far wall, lined with the other servants, but his eyes are not on Arthur as they should be. Arthur waits, anticipating the moment Merlin's eyes will fall on him. He knows exactly the look he'll send Merlin and the sheepish grin he'll get in return. Only Merlin never once glances his way.

Merlin's completely distracted this evening, more so than usual. Arthur bristles and follows Merlin's sight line to where it falls on Morgana. She's talking with Sir Leon, her eyes bright with laughter and cheeks pink with wine. The smile on her painted red lips suffuses Arthur's face with heat.

She's the centre of attention. He glances around the room and at least half the eyes are on her. He can hardly blame them; her laughter is a bright, pleasant chime amid the deep murmur of old men's tales of hunting and battles.

Merlin is as affected as anyone, his innocent face eager for the next smile, his eyes glazed and dreamy like he's staring at the face of a goddess.

Arthur's fists clench around the base of his cup as he drops it hard on the table. Merlin's eyes snap to his.

'Sorry,' Merlin mouths as he hurries over. Arthur scowls, but he'll save the reprimand for when his father is out of earshot; Uther's ire can be unpredictable and harsh.

Arthur knows exactly how to handle this.

"Don't let it happen again," he whispers as Merlin leans across him to fill his cup. Arthur watches the goosebumps rise as his breath grazes Merlin's bare clavicle.

"Yes, sire," Merlin says, petulant with just an edge of disrespect that pokes at Arthur's temper like Merlin's trying to coax a fire from smoking embers. As if sensing the danger, he goes to stand behind Arthur, tankard in hand, a picture of obedience. Arthur drinks from his fresh cup and lets his mind settle in the knowledge Merlin's view of Morgana is now obstructed by Uther's throne.

When he scans the crowd again, full cup in hand, he finds Morgana watching him. He raises his cup in a toast to her, keeping his face blank. Her eyes narrow and the look she gives him sends a shiver down his spine. He can't help feeling he's just started something he may soon regret.

The moment the last plates of dried fruit have been set out for the guests, Arthur nods a goodnight to his father. He doesn't look to see if Merlin is following as he exits the hall. He's confident Merlin's attention is undivided, finally. The moment the doors close and the noise of the banquet is cut off, he hears the hurried, clumsy steps catching up to him in the empty corridor.

He starts in without turning. "Did you sip from the tankards on the way from the kitchen, Merlin? I have never seen a more useless--"

"I can't imagine Merlin had any time for wine with the tight leash you keep on him."

Arthur spins and finds Morgana directly behind Merlin. He masks his surprise that she managed to sneak up on him. She doesn't need the ego boost, but by the pleased curl of her lips she's plenty impressed with herself and the soft slippers she is wearing this evening. He glares and says, "Shouldn't you be flirting with your adoring crowd?"

"Careful, or I'll think you're jealous." The words are familiar, teasing, though there's more bitterness underlying the words than there had been when they were children.

"I have nothing to be jealous of."

"Are you sure about that?"

Arthur gives in for a minute, lets his eyes trace over her face to catch her meaning, but she gives away nothing. He's too old for games, he thinks, and begins to walk again. "Come along, Merlin. It's late."

"Off you go, trail after your master," Morgana says, voice sing-song and mocking. "He has you so well trained."

Arthur stops, and Merlin has to scramble to not bump into him. "He's not a dog, Morgana."

"Are you sure you know that? You're quick to make him heel when it suits you."

Merlin's grumbling in the background. They both ignore him. "Merlin is not yours to be concerned about," Arthur says.

A wrinkle forms between Morgana's eyebrows. Her eyes are pale and cold in her anger as she holds his gaze. "I'm not concerned. What you do is nothing to me."

The words sting just as much as they're meant to, the implication of them like a blow from a lance to his chest. They echo in the corridor for a moment until they're chased away by the soft footfalls as Morgana struts back to the hall, black curls and fine silks taunt Arthur in her wake.

He won't be seeing her again tonight.

"Merlin!" Arthur snaps as he catches Merlin staring after her. "Mind your gaze or you'll be in the stocks by morning. Now run ahead and make sure my fire's lit."

"I expect it'll be a cold night," he adds, mostly to himself as Merlin's already given him an eyeroll and jogged ahead.

The door to his chambers squeaks when it opens. It has since he was a young boy, long before things with Morgana had become so complicated.

He'd once complained to his father about it, asking if anything could be done. But his father had only said, 'Don't you think a man should always know when someone enters his chambers?' It had been one of the few lessons Uther had taught Arthur that wasn't both painful and lasting in equal measure.

Arthur tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position without disturbing the bandages Gaius had wrapped him in hours before. It had been another lesson, not the first, nor the last. But the marks from that day's lesson hadn't faded quickly; neither had the importance of it from his memory nor the bruises of it from too skinny, boyish arms.

"Don't pity me," he said, as the squeak of the door had him looking up to see Morgana standing there.

She smiled at him, a genuine, sweet smile that looked natural on her young face -- it wasn't the practiced curl of lip that she'd been sporting since she started to paint her mouth red that summer. The lip paint and the new dresses the tailors had been fitting her in aged her too much for Arthur's taste. She was no longer Morgana, his playmate, as she sat in the banquet hall done up for the court to admire.

Uther seemed to approve. He nodded, with a gleam of pride in his eye, as the nobles complimented him on what a fine lady his ward was becoming. Arthur saw the way Morgana's jaw locked in fury as old men eyed her hungrily.

Now, she was his Morgana again as she shook her head at him, her messy curls fluttering about her face. "This isn't pity."

She'd been present through it all. She'd been walking by the practice field when Arthur had issued the challenge to Sir Kay. She'd embarrassed him by begging the king to disallow it, and fumed when Uther had laughed and told Sir Kay not to inflict any permanent damage.

She'd stood by his father and watched Arthur, fifteen and small for his age, take on his father's fiercest warrior. And she'd witnessed the soundest beating he'd ever received and his realization that his father's knights only ever let him win as a favour to his confidence.

He'd snapped at her and pushed her away as she'd tried to accompany him to see Gaius.

She usually wasn't so quick to forgive when he was too harsh with her. It made her visit all the more unexpected. "Why are you here, then?"

"To call you a fool," she said crossly, closing the door behind her and barring it. "I don't want you to do that again."

"You're in luck. I won't even be able to wield a sword for another week according to Gaius."

"And when you do, I hope you use it to train, not to make a fool of yourself." She stripped off the cloak that protected her from the cold corridors. Beneath it was a simple white shift that brushed against the floor as she walked, her bare feet visible for only a moment with each step.

Arthur huffed, flexing his wrist so he could wince at the pain shooting up his arm instead of Morgana's words. The bed dipped as she sat at his side. Her face had gone soft and there was something so gentle in her look that it made his stomach go squirrely.

"You are all that I have, Arthur, in all of Camelot. And I'm all that you have."

He wanted to argue that they were anything but alone here. They were the most honoured, the most precious people of all the kingdom save the king, but at the moment found the words hard to believe himself.

"You know it's true. You're the only one who treats me as I am, not like those men who see in me the future status I'll give them as a wife, a body to share their beds." He couldn't deny it; he'd heard the knights talking. It was Kay's crudeness as he boasted of how well he'd bed her on their wedding night that had prompted the challenge in the first place.

Once she was old enough, Uther would offer her as a prize to a knight, probably Sir Kay, or as a bargaining chip in negotiations with a neighbouring kingdom. Arthur had no words of comfort for her. He felt too bruised, body and ego, to try for platitudes she wouldn't believe anyway.

Instead, he let her climb into his bed, let her manoeuvre him until they both lay comfortably. She settled in behind him with his bare shoulder tucked under her chin and her strong arms gently holding his battered body. Her thin sleep shift pressed to his back like a second skin and sleep took him easily.

They turned through the night so they were face to face, and Morgana's breath was hot against his cheek, her hair tickling his bare chest. Sleep was still luring him back, but he blinked himself conscious, wanting to enjoy the novelty of being held, of sharing his bed, even though his company was practically a sister to him.

It didn't make her any less beautiful or her presence any less alluring.

Having played together as children didn't make it any less mesmerizing to watch her breasts swell with each breath as they threatened to spill from the loose lacings of her shift.

He couldn't help but stare -- openly, now that it was not décolletage in a crowded banquet where anyone might catch him and tease him for it. She was only a year older than him, but she was so much closer to a woman than he was to becoming a man.

At times he felt like a child next to her. Now though, the stirrings inside him were not that of a boy. Any noble in the realm would trade his treasure to be in his place, he was sure of it. The thought made his fingers curl possessively around Morgana's waist as though some brute might try to take her away.

He wasn't sure how long he was awake and watching Morgana sleep, long enough that he should've probably been ashamed. Eventually her eyes fluttered open.

"Are you in pain," she said, barely a whisper.

He shook his head. "Gaius gave me something. I've been wondering for the last hour if you're a hallucination brought on by herbs." He was half-joking, but the tonic must have been having some effect on him because he couldn't seem to stop his eyes from sweeping over her, without a smidge of subtlety, falling at last to the stretch of her laces and the dark outline of her hard nipple beneath her shift.

"You think I'm a vision, then?" she said, smirking when she understood what had drawn his attention. "I've heard tales of what goes on in the minds of boys."

"I wasn't --" he stammered, but his defence was cut short as Morgana surged forward.

Her lips pressed to his, as gentle and quick as a rabbit's soft footed escape into the brush at the snap of a twig.

Her eyes flickered over his face, calm and questioning, and he wondered if that had been her first kiss as well. Or maybe someone had stolen a quick taste of her mouth in a shadowed alcove one day and she'd been waiting for Arthur to be old enough to do the same to him. He was certainly old enough now, for a first kiss and more.

Only the kiss was over before he'd had any opportunity to enjoy it, and that hardly seemed fair. So he darted forward, touching their lips together again, going slower than Morgana had, but not by much.

She looked back at him bright eyed and pleased, and he felt a foolish grin spread across his face. "That was nice."

She giggled. "Yes, it was."

He leaned forward and did it again, feeling lightheaded and a little dazed when Morgana's mouth softened against his. Their mouths opened so that the kiss turned warm, wet and intimate in a way that was nothing like a kiss to a sister. It sent heat pooling low in his belly the way the knight's knights’ bawdy stories around the campfire tended to.

When they parted, Morgana's hand came to rest on his nape, keeping him from moving too far. "We need to look out for each other. Always." Her fingers tickled down his back, worrying a little at his bandages. "We can't forget we're alone in Camelot."

Arthur breathed in the scent of her hair and kissed her temple like a promise.

She hummed, and Arthur could feel the rumble of it where their chests were pressed together.

"Sleep," she whispered and through the grace of Gaius' tonic, he did.

"What on earth are you doing, Merlin?"

Merlin gives Arthur an indulgent smile, as though of the two of them, Arthur is the simpleton.

“Fixing the squeak in your door.” He waves an oil soaked cloth in Arthur’s direction.

"Don't be an idiot." Arthur grabs him around the back of the neck and drags him away from the door. "My father's given me a set of new throwing knives.” Merlin grunts as Arthur smacks the wooden box into this belly. “I'll need them sharpened by morning."

Merlin looks back at the door hinge, frowning, but obviously thinks better of arguing. Instead, he heads to the corner chair that Arthur has set specifically for these things – not too close to the fire to be uncomfortable, but close enough because Merlin is often chilled.

As Merlin places the lap desk on his knees and sets out the knives and whetstone, Arthur pours himself a glass of watered wine and looks at the plate of cheese Merlin brought up with him from the kitchen. It was uncharacteristically attentive; Arthur assumes it was a continued apology for the debacle at last week’s banquet. Morgana, on the other hand, has barely spoken to him since. He doesn’t regret what he’s done – the hours he’s kept Merlin busy since.

Morgana is careful – Arthur knows better than to doubt that – but Merlin’s got a way of finding trouble that is truly awe-inspiring. He isn’t sure if a tryst exists between them, yet. But Merlin’s too smitten to be subtle and Morgana’s reckless enough to not censure him. It will end badly for everyone; Arthur refuses to risk it for both their sakes.

He cuts himself a chunk of cheese and pops it into his mouth just as Merlin’s hand slides the knife over the stone at too sharp an angle, producing an ear-splitting screech.

Arthur winces, swallows too fast and is sent into a coughing fit. “Merlin!” he gasps.

“Sorry, sire,” Merlin stammers. “I’m not very good at this.”

“The usual, then.” His father... his father would send away such an incompetent servant in a blink. Merlin isn’t the first thing they’ve not seen eye to eye on.

Before he even realises what he’s doing, he’s across the room, kneeling at Merlin’s feet. Arthur grabs the knife from him roughly, willing away the blush that his position entices.

He clears his throat.

“Like this,” he says, placing the whetstone closer to him and holding the edge against the stone, point-first at just the perfect angle. In one smooth movement, he slides the knife across the stone, covering the entire blade. The sound is like music, familiar and soothing.

He counts out to ten under his breath like he used to as a child, learning this at his father’s side. He keeps a constant rhythm, the slow glide of the blade, over and over. The grind’s a pleasant, quiet sound. His forearm is still resting on Merlin’s thigh, holding the wooden lap desk sturdy. Once he reaches ten, he flips the hilt and begins again.

“There,” he says, once he’s finished. He presents the blade to Merlin and it glints in the firelight.

Merlin’s eyes are glazed over as he blinks at the blade, his cheeks pink in a way that makes Arthur think he’d moved the chair too close to the fire after all.

“Can you show me again?” Merlin says at last.

Arthur grins. “You are so useless,” he says and picks up another blade.

I believe he's in the tavern, sire.

"The tavern," Arthur grumbles to himself as he wanders the halls. "He is not in the tavern, Gaius."

Arthur checked the tavern. He checked the kitchens, the armoury, the gardens. Yet Arthur's rooms had no fire, and Arthur's belly had no supper.

And Merlin is not in the tavern.

He knows exactly where Merlin is. He strides up the curved stairway to Morgana's chambers, head already pounding.

There's a burning in Arthur's chest as he finds her door closed. He knocks, not really expecting a response, but his temper flares anyway when there's no answer. His last confirmation comes when he tries the door and finds it barred.

When he sees his father at the base of the stairs, he swallows back his anger and redirects his father to the stables where there's a horse Arthur's suddenly interested in purchasing.

Arthur tightens the reins on Merlin further after that. He's got a new task for Merlin every night, claiming to need it done after supper, and keeping Merlin closed up in Arthur's chambers long into the night. With every order, Merlin looks at him crossly but complies.

Every time Arthur sees him look longingly at the door, he knows he's doing the right thing.

Tonight, it's boots. More than a dozen pairs are laid out for Merlin to polish -- Arthur even borrows a few of the knights'. But the bags under Merlin's eyes are tugging at Arthur's heartstrings and he's regretting snapping at Merlin for dozing off during practice this morning. He knows Gaius has his own set of jobs for Merlin and between the two of them he supposes Merlin has little time for sleep, let alone for Morgana.

Guilt has him taking a seat beside the hearth, just on the other side of Merlin. He's not going to help--polishing boots is a low to which he will not stoop--but at least he can entertain Merlin to help pass the time.

He starts in on one of his best stories, one he knows Merlin hasn't heard before. It's not long before the boot in Merlin's hand is entirely forgotten and Arthur's quietly recounting the tale of the best hunt of his life. The fire crackles behind them and their shoulders brush each time they move even a little.

He's doing this for Morgana, yes. And Merlin, too. But he enjoys these moments a little too much. He has always been a bit selfish when it comes to the people he feels closest too, and he can't shake thoughts that maybe his motives aren't completely pure.

One story flows into the next, and then yet another. Merlin's still on his first boot, lazily sweeping the brush against the heel when he remembers to, but by now they are nearly half asleep and propped up against each other to keep from falling over. Still Arthur talks and Merlin listens.

It's late into the night when the door squeaks. They go instantly silent, frozen in place.

They turn in unison to see Morgana standing in the doorway.

"Oh," she says, as she looks between the two of them. Arthur's too stunned to move, but he knows he has to; in their tiredness, they began to lean on one another so much that they must look a sight, pressed together as if they're trying to occupy the same space.

Morgana's face is red as she snaps, "You could have barred the door." She spins in a blur of green as her cloak flutters with her departure.

Arthur's up and after her as soon as he can get his legs underneath him, and he catches her halfway down the corridor. "Like you do?" He grips her arm, forces her to face him. "Bar the door, like you do?"

She looks confused, her eyes tracing over his face. "What you do with your manservant is your business, you've made that abundantly clear."

"And what you do with him, Morgana? Is that my business, too? After all it will be me who is out of a servant should my father find out and have his head."

"You think that I--" Her pretty mouth opens and closes again. It would be funny if Arthur's temper weren’t running so hot. "That Merlin and I are--"

"You've made your interest in him abundantly clear. And everyone in the castle save Uther is aware of the way he looks at you."

Morgana blinks like she's been slapped and catches herself before saying more. Her eyes dart left and right, checking for eavesdroppers. Their voices are rising with their anger and these corridors echo. "I'll come to your chambers tomorrow night," she whispers. "This is no place for this discussion."


"You can go," Arthur says the next night, not looking up from his plate. When Merlin hesitates, Arthur adds, "Consider it a night off. Spend it as you wish. I heard you are fond of the tavern."

"I --yes." Merlin walks backwards towards the door, keeping his eyes on Arthur like he's waiting for the punchline. He stumbles over himself once he reaches it. "Thank you, sire."

He pauses long enough that Arthur looks up and raises an eyebrow. "If you want to scrub the floor instead…"

And he's gone, Arthur smiling in his wake.

The fire's been stoked high; it should last him the night. He tucks into a lonely dinner and long wait. Morgana won't appear until the candles have all gone low.

She is not predictable, but in that, at least, Arthur knows her well.

After that first night, back when he was only a boy trying too hard to be a man, she returned to his bed many times. Their friendship was in constant turmoil during the light of day with Morgana's fiery spirit conflicting with Uther and his expectations of his ward, and Arthur, at the opposite end, dutifully forming himself into the young prince the kingdom needed.

But when their lives were at their worst and the pressure from Uther had them nearly broken, they would come together in the quiet hours of the night and put each other back together again -- through gentle kisses or rutting like animals, whichever they needed. And there was an honesty to it -- to each other, if not to anyone on the other side of the barred door.

Sometimes it would be months before they would comfort each other, sometimes it was every night for a week.

But Morgana had not graced his door since Merlin arrived in Camelot.

He probably drinks more wine than he should while he's waiting for her to join him tonight. He's distracted enough by his thoughts that she's already behind him before he even realises there is someone in the room with him.

"So you think I'm having an affair with Merlin," she says, trailing her fingers along his nape. "And you are jealous."

"Morgana--" He looks over and the door is already shut and barred.

"You want him all to yourself."

"What? No." He has to crane his neck to see her. Making him turn awkwardly to meet her eyes is all part of the game but he's willing to play it anyway. "I'm worried that if Uther finds out, the punishment for Merlin will be swift and severe."

She laughs; it's an ugly sound. "And if he found out about you two, Uther would be fine with it!"

"I am not having an affair with Merlin!" His face grows hot with the words and he turns back to face the fire to hide.

She slouches behind him to rest her forearms across his shoulders and her mouth beside his ear, and she whispers, "Pity. Neither am I." When he turns his face, she kisses his cheek. "That doesn't mean I don't wish to."

"Morgana…" He thinks for a minute she's lying, but he knows her too well for that. Their nights together have never been time for lies, nor has she ever held back her honesty to stroke his ego or soothe his jealousy.

"Hush now," she says, tapping his cheek like he's an errant toddler. "Come to bed. You are too drunk to sit up like this. You look like a fool all slumped over."

Dazed at the strange direction the night has taken, he lets her strip them both behind the heavy bedcurtains. They settle in together, familiar enough with each other's bodies that they fit like pieces to a puzzle.

"I've seen the way he looks at you," she says at last. "And it's no different from how he looks at me. You are just too much of a simpleton to take advantage. But I am not."

He closes his eyes and lets her fill his mind with ideas he's never dreamed of.

Arthur drums his fingers, his eyes trained on Merlin. Occasionally he steals a glance towards the door.

"This hauberk doesn't need oiling," Merlin says as he inspects the links George had done such a thorough job with only a few hours before.

Arthur clears his throat and glares. "Yes, it does."

"Right." Merlin rolls his eyes, drawing out the word like he wants a day in the stocks, but he goes back to rubbing the cloth along the mail.

It's not as late as usual when Arthur finally hears the familiar squeak. The sound of it, combined with the anticipation already coursing through him, has his skin tingling. He's ready to jump out of his chair and across the room at the first glimpse of the green of Morgana's cloak.

He forces himself to remain seated. "Evening, Morgana." His voice cracks a little and Merlin's eyes snap from the door to him, silently questioning. The attention's almost worth the smirk Morgana sends him.

"Evening," she says as she steps past the threshold and bars the door with practised ease. The wood falls into place with a quiet thud, but he doubts Merlin missed it. Arthur doesn't dare look over to see the reaction.

Morgana, ever the actress, struts into the room like it’s her own. If she's as nervous as Arthur, she's much better at hiding it. Slipping off her cloak, she drapes it over the table in front of Arthur. Her dress is one Arthur's never seen before. It's a deep purple with draping folds and gold embroidery that rivals the beauty of any Arthur has seen in Camelot's court.

He wonders for a moment that she's never worn it before, then she steps closer to the fire and the silhouette of Morgana's naked body appears beneath the sheer purple.

A soft gasp to his left is the only reason Arthur's able to tear his eyes away.

Tonight, watching Merlin's face turn pink as he looks at Morgana has Arthur's pulse racing for an entirely different reason.

Merlin licks his lips and looks between Arthur and Morgana, probably waiting on Arthur to say something cutting. And Arthur probably would, any other night. He and Morgana do their best to appear bickering siblings in public, but the door's now barred. So instead, Arthur lets his eyes travel the length of Morgana, head to toe, openly appreciating every curve of her body. He smiles slowly. "You look beautiful tonight, sister."

Merlin's voice is wobbly as he says, "I should go." He stands, not looking at either of them.

Arthur feels panic rise. They pushed too hard.

Before Arthur can find the words to protest, Morgana's already moved to block Merlin's way.

She taps his cheek and shakes her head slowly. "If you go, how would Arthur's sword get polished?"

Merlin chokes and stumbles backwards, away from Morgana. His eyes are wide like a frightened deer and Arthur has to stifle a laugh.

Last night they'd agreed Plan A was subtlety; he assumes they've now moved on to Plan B.

Arthur refocuses and pours Morgana a glass of wine while Merlin quietly panics in the corner. At least he's seated again. It feels like a chessboard being reset to begin anew.

He finds a bit of courage in the fierce red of Merlin's ears.

"Would you, Morgana?" Arthur says, as he hands her the cup. "Polish my sword?" It's not quite a whisper, but quiet enough that he's making Merlin strain to hear it -- there's no doubt in his mind the effort's being made.

"You know I could," Morgana's voice is like a tinkle of a small bell, almost a laugh, but not a cruel one. "I have before, when we were young. I'm good at it, if you remember."

From the corner, there's the clang of a hauberk dropping to the floor. This time Arthur doesn't look over. He reaches out and lets his fingers brush Morgana's. And when she smiles at him, for a moment it's as if they are alone. "You are, indeed."

Morgana drinks deeply of her wine, then sets the cup upon the mantle. She sighs, and leans back against Arthur and says, "But Merlin's who you want polishing it tonight." Tilting her chin towards Merlin, she adds, "His hands are made for it, don't you think?"

Those hands are busy now, scrambling to pick up the dropped hauberk. Merlin uses it to block their view of his lap while he pretends not to listen.

"I'm afraid you'll have to stay, Merlin," she says, addressing him directly in a way that forces him to look up. "Your master has need of you."

Merlin's eyes are glazed over. Arthur feels a surge of hope that maybe Merlin's attraction really is as divided as Morgana claimed.

He can imagine the picture he and Morgana make as they stand by the fire. The reflection of the flames dance across Morgana skin and the fabric of her dress hides nothing, not the dusty rose of her hard nipples or the shadow of the dark curls between her legs. It's enough to make any man want to kneel for her.

Arthur's behind her, with his hand curled her around her hips. He catches the flimsy material in his fingers, putting her on display like a work of art.

Merlin's face is flaming red. It's obvious he's at war with the desire to look away for propriety and not being able to take his eyes off her.

"You shouldn't be so near the hearth," Arthur says. "One spark and a flying ember might burn this scandalous dress right off you." He tugs at the dress a little more and it falls open at the side, a slit that reaches high enough to bare her thighs to her audience.

She makes no move the cover herself. "And what might you do then to keep me warm?" She shifts so her leg's in front, gaping the slit further. Arthur tilts his hips so his hard cock finds some friction against the curve of her arse. She grins. "Will you take on the job yourself or call Merlin over to help?"

When Morgana rocks back into him, Arthur wants nothing more than to stop this game, this tease. He wants to press her into his bed and peel off this indecent layer of nothing and take her until she screams his name. He wants Merlin to watch it all. He wants Merlin touching himself while they fill the room with depraved sounds and the smell of their sweat and their come.

But Morgana, with far more patience than Arthur possesses, pushes him gently away and moves towards Merlin. "Tell me, Merlin? Have you ever warmed a woman?"

"I--" He's blushing fiercely, not able to meet their eyes. "Once," he says at last, like the honesty has been dragged from him.

It pleases Arthur to think the mysterious magic of the barred door of his chambers has carried over to their guest. "And are you talented with it?" Arthur asks.

"I bet he is," Morgana whispers back, smirking at Merlin.

Arthur snorts, enjoying the tease more now that he's calmed a little, now that the focus is on engaging Merlin. "I find that hard to believe."

"Shameful!" Morgana laughs. "You can't know that based on his lack of skill with a sword. Merlin, come here and defend yourself."

"I don't think --"

"My point's proven," Arthur says because being smug is the easiest way to rile Merlin.

Morgana clicks her tongue. "Merlin, come here."

Merlin unknots his neckerchief and uses it to wipe the sweat from his face and the oil from his hands. He's stalling, but they don't call him on it. They're enjoying it too much and it's not too long before Merlin stands before Morgana. It's a pretty view, with his neck bare and his Adam's apple bobbing with each swallow.

Closing the distance between them, Morgana places a soft kiss on Merlin's lips. His eyes are hooded when she pulls back, like he's drunk on the traces of wine from her mouth. He blinks lazily at her, and she kisses him again.

"Will you kneel before your lady?" she asks against his lips.

In the silent moment it takes for Merlin to process the words, Arthur's moved behind Morgana. Running his hands over her thighs, he finds the opening in the dress again, discovers the way it wraps around her so precariously, and he tugs so it drapes to the side and she stands exposed before Merlin.

"Merlin?" He makes it a question, rather than a command. He wants Merlin to know this is still his choice.

Merlin's eyes snap to Arthur's, the unusually gentle tone enough to surprise him. Whatever he sees in Arthur's face is enough; he falls to his knees.

His eyes take in everything, devouring every inch of Morgana that is on display, before looking up again and catching Arthur looking down at him from over Morgana's shoulder. Otherwise, Merlin makes no move to take what's offered.

"I think she wants you right here, Merlin." Arthur's hands slide down until his fingers frame the dark curls between Morgana's legs. He dips two fingers inside where she's wet and hot. Her legs part, urging him deeper, and he starts pumping the digits in and out.

Merlin's nostrils flare as he watches Arthur's fingers disappear and reappear, barely inches from him. The slick, filthy sound of it can be heard over the crackle of the fire.

Once Morgana's moaning, rocking her hips eagerly, and Arthur's fingers are dripping with her readiness, he withdraws. She whimpers in protest, but she'll need to find her patience again because Arthur's got other plans.

He places the sticky digits to Merlin's lips and Merlin's eyes instantly fall closed. His pink cheeks and pretty eyelashes send Arthur's want surging. His hands tremble a little as he paints Merlin's mouth with Morgana's wetness. His breath hitches as Merlin's tongue darts out for a taste, kitten-licking Arthur's fingertips.

Merlin makes a sound like a starving knight given the first bite of venison after a long day's hunt as he opens his mouth, sucking in Arthur's fingers to the knuckle. His tongue and teeth work ceaselessly until they're clean, and long after that too.

Arthur's cock, nestled in the warmth of Morgana's nearly naked arse, grows steadily harder. He has to stop his hips from jerking forward.

It seems a taste is all the incentive Merlin needs to head straight for the source. He buries his head between Morgana's thighs with enough enthusiasm that she stumbles backwards and Arthur has to catch her by the hips to keep her upright.

Merlin's talent with his tongue is obviously wasted on idle prattle given the sounds Morgana's making. She's melting against his face, her hands buried in his hair as he devours her. Arthur presses his chest to her back, holding her up as she rocks against Merlin's face.

Arthur only hopes he doesn't come in his breeches at the muffled, hungry sounds Merlin's throat makes as he swallows everything she's feeding him. He had other plans for his dick tonight.

"Yes," Morgana whispers; it's a raspy, desperate plea not to stop. She lets her head fall back on Arthur's shoulder as she starts to tremble, and he lets himself enjoy the rare pleasure of just watching. Her face twists in orgasm and she cries out.

She's beautiful, glowing and spent. Her hair is a tumbled mess, sticking to Arthur's sweaty neck. He wonders why they ever waited so long to do this.

"Enough," Morgana says as she pushes Merlin away. "You--" She's too gone to find the right words, and she pulls Merlin up to his feet to give him a messy kiss. "You are amazing."

Merlin grins like he's pleased someone finally noticed, and he shoots a look over to Arthur. There's a few cutting remarks that would be so easy to make, but Arthur finds he's got no taste for it. Instead, he elbows Morgana to the side -- no different than when they were children forced to share a toy -- and grabs Merlin.

He's not gentle like Morgana and her wine-sweet kisses. He claims Merlin's mouth for his own like it's his right, hand tangled up in Merlin's hair, tongue delving in to steal every trace of Morgana from him. He'd thought maybe Merlin might go liquid beneath the assault, pliant and submissive like a damsel in a knight's tale.

Merlin's the opposite. It's like Arthur's kiss lights a fire inside him. He's suddenly brighter, more alive than Arthur's seen him in weeks. He's pressing back just as fiercely, if not more -- claiming more than being claimed.

Morgana has always been comfort and belonging. For the first time, Arthur feels owned.

By the time they part, Morgana's already on Arthur's bed. "Coming?" she says, laughing easily and clearly enjoying the show they were putting on.

Merlin looks at Arthur questioningly.

"I think our presence is required," Arthur says, motioning Merlin towards the bed he's made up a hundred times, but has never lain in. "Unless we've exhausted you already?"

Merlin barks out a laugh, grinning in a way that makes his face light up. "You always exhaust me, sire."

They tease each other, copying the words of their typical banter, only the meaning suddenly changes through the context. It suits their easy friendship well, like nothing's fundamentally changed. Arthur finds the weight of a worry he didn't realise he had being taken off his shoulders, finds leaning in to kiss Merlin again, just because he wants to, feels just right.

Morgana helps him strip off Merlin's breeches, then she shoves Arthur out of the way until he gets the hint and lets her have a turn getting to know Merlin's mouth. Arthur doesn't mind; Merlin's cock fits nicely into his palm and he gives it some undivided attention.

When Merlin's on his back and naked, his hips jerking upward in rhythm with Arthur's hand on his cock, Arthur and Morgana have a silent conversation; it's all eyebrows and shaking heads until Morgana says, "Let him decide."

They both freeze and stare and Merlin, who's looking at them like they are insane for stopping now.

"Anything, fuck," he whines, trying to shove himself into Arthur's hand to find the pace they'd lost. "Anything you want. Just let me come."

Morgana huffs. "Figures." She shoves a pillow beneath Merlin's arse and straddles him, ending further discussion.

Morgana shoots Arthur a look over her shoulder. "You know you want to," she says, looking behind herself at the display she's made of Merlin's arse. That's all the direction he gets before she's positioning Merlin's cock between her legs.

She's sloppy wet, and Arthur watches the head of Merlin's cock get purple and slick as she teases herself with it. Merlin lets out a high-pitched whine and Arthur laughs.

"Stop teasing him, Morgana. He's going to lose it before he even gets inside you."

"Oh my God, Morgana! Please." Merlin's hips jerk up and just like that, the swollen head of Merlin's dick disappears inside her.

Arthur is forgotten for the moment as they find a rhythm that works. Morgana hums with a pleased smile on her face as she rolls her hips. It's almost enough to just watch, but not for long. The dark pink of Merlin's tight hole is too tempting.

Tugging at his laces, Arthur frees himself of what remains of his clothes. Before tossing them away, he digs out the small vial hidden in his pocket. The cork pops with a press of his thumb, and in the next moment his hands are slick and messy. If anyone were paying him any attention, he might be embarrassed at how gracelessly he managed that.

Merlin's legs spread easily for him as Arthur kneels between them. He traces the rim first, one oiled finger circling the muscle, getting Merlin's attention. He's rewarded with a rumbled, "Arthur," that sounds as much a plea as an acknowledgement.

It's a gorgeous sound -- nothing like the way Merlin usually says his name, always some variant of mocking, whining or reprimanding.

Needing to hear it again gives him the confidence to press in until the tip of his finger is through.

"Arthur." It sounds even better the second time.

"I think he likes it," Morgana says, breathless.

Their pace has gone wild.

Merlin's squeezing at his fingertip, trapping him tightly while he snaps up into Morgana in a broken, desperate rhythm. Arthur barely has time to push in further before Merlin cries out, clamping down on Arthur's finger and burying himself as deep in Morgana as he can go.

Arthur lets him ride it out, moving slowly deeper inside while the pulsing around his finger slows and Merlin's breathing evens out.

When Morgana finally slides off, rolling to the side, her hand slides down her body to her dripping folds; she loves to get herself off a second time with own fingers, her cunt swollen and messy with come.

Arthur licks his lips, wanting to taste, to taste Merlin, suck Merlin's come from inside his sister. But before he can, Merlin sits up and Arthur's finger slips free.

Merlin's mouth is all over him, biting and licking at his lips, his chin, down Arthur's neck in a way that he hopes will leave a mark. Shy is about the furthest thing to describe Merlin at the moment.

Pushing him onto the bed, Merlin attacks his chest, nipping his way downward. "Wanted to do this for ages," he says, looking a bit mad, before closing his mouth on the tip of Arthur's cock.

"Wha--" Arthur gasps, mind unable to find any words to capture what he really wants to say. Not that he has any idea what he would say if he had all the words at his disposal. His brain has stopped functioning entirely. Merlin sucks him down, keeps going until his nose is pressed to Arthur's coarse hair.

Arthur grabs onto Merlin's hair like it's a lifeline.

"Oh, this is good," Morgana says from his side. He looks over to see her pleasuring herself, her fingers pumping in time with Merlin's head bobs.

Merlin's grip on Arthur's hipbone will surely leave bruises. His hold is painful, a counterpoint to the delicious warmth his mouth is providing. It's not a touch of one who is going to be letting go anytime soon and that rocks Arthur as deeply as the talent of Merlin's tongue.

His orgasm rips from him like an arrow from a bow, unexpected and nearly silent. He's left shaken, gasping, too overwhelmed with emotion to process all that has happened tonight.

Merlin laughs, licking his lips and catching all that slipped free when Arthur filled his mouth. He looks delighted, radiant with his toothy grin. And Morgana is soon on them both, kissing them until they are sleepy and sated.

Once they are tucked into bed, a spent tangle of naked limbs beneath Arthur's favourite red coverlet, Merlin falls into an easy sleep.

Morgana grins, her face peaceful and soft as she runs her fingers through Merlin's hair. She'll need to slip away before dawn, but she's practiced at moving unnoticed through the halls between their chambers. Arthur no longer worries.

"He will be good, you know," she says. "For both of us."

Arthur nods, taking her hand in his, stretching their arms over Merlin, who lies between them. For a long time he and Morgana were alone in Camelot, and the stress of that had worn them thin. This, now, is better. They have someone new to lean on, to be the glue in the cracks that they couldn't heal on their own. Arthur can feel the strength of them as if it were a tangible thing, taking shape within his chambers.

The idea of doing this again, often and for as long as fate allows them, carries Arthur's mind into a dreamless sleep.