"You do realize this is a sacred tradition you're supposed to be preparing me for, Merlin?"
Merlin's eyes rolled in that way that always made Arthur mildly concerned at the back of his head that the boy was about to collapse in some sort of twitching fit, but at the front of his head made Arthur twitch to throw large, heavy objects at the front of Merlin's head.
"Is it? That must be why you've told me so at least five times this evening." Merlin reached to dip the cloth into the waterbucket again, fragrant steam from the rather pleasantly scented oil and herbs wafting in Arthur's direction and almost distracting him from his pique.
He shook his head to clear it. "I wouldn't have needed to tell you more than once if you showed any sign of having comprehended me."
There went the eyes again, right above that infuriatingly 'understanding' smile. No, wait, the word he was looking for was 'condescending.' "I heard you all five times, sire. And the twenty yesterday as well - though I have to admit I'm rounding off there. I lost count somewhere around the bit where you threw your shoes at me."
"I didn't--" But there was warm water trickling over his bare shoulders, Merlin squeezing the cloth as he swiped it over Arthur's skin, and Arthur lost count as well. "You-- deserved it."
"Mmm-hmm." That wasn't the cloth at his collarbone; that was still sliding gently down his bicep, and this was warmer. Softer. Making muffled noises that sounded like "Mmm-hmm."
"S--sacred. Rite. Mer-lin."
"So you said." That wasn't his collarbone now; it was lower and a good deal more sensitive. It also wasn't Merlin's lips; he'd opened them after he spoke, and was tracing a path across Arthur's chest with his tongue.
"This is-- oh God." Cloth in the bucket again and Merlin hadn't moved his mouth from where he'd now latched on, swirling circles around one nipple. That still left Merlin with a hand running free, as undisciplined an extremity as Merlin was at being a servant, skating down the dampness of Arthur's chest and stomach, following the rolling drops of water lower and lower. "Blasphemous. Or traitorous or--"
Warm water again, trickling over him, down his back, down his front, and Merlin's mouth following that traitorous path to his belly, to his hip, to his thigh, to his ruination. To Arthur's knees threatening to buckle where he stood, which was not on. Not on at all.
Merlin. You're supposed to be preparing me for a vigil. For a vision. For-- Arthur couldn't remember for a moment, let alone articulate more than "Unghhhh."
"Really. You don't say."
Arthur should be glad he'd removed his lips from Arthur's skin. Sacred ritual. Tradition. Well, not glad, perhaps, but... certainly not growling.
Merlin's laughter was only bearable because it was hushed against Arthur's flesh again. Not where he'd been expecting it -- Merlin's hand was there instead, gone in one sudden grip from tormentor to captor, or possibly saviour. No, the sound, the warm, wet air, the flat of his tongue --- Merlin had scuttled behind him, the sneak, where Arthur couldn't see to glare at him, but he could feel. Oh God, could he feel.
He wanted to say... something. Some terribly chastising thing with a wicked edge of cleverness, because he was, you know. Clever. Usually. When someone wasn't licking where no one should be licking, and making noises of pleasure at it that no one should be making.
Wait, no, that last one was him. Some of it was, at least. That wasn't on either, but what could he do about it, with Merlin putting more strength into stroking Arthur's cock than he ever had into polishing... anything, and his tongue, sweet stabbing mother of everything blasphemous ever, his tongue...
How was Arthur supposed to breathe, remain upright, shudder and stutter and spray his release into Merlin's hand -- well, over it -- and say something terribly clever as well? It was too much to ask, even of him.
When the black in his vision had retreated to the corners of his eyes, and the red in his face shrunk to lines burning high on his cheeks, then at last he could speak. "Sacred tradition, Merlin."
"I'm following it, Arthur." Ah look, there was that cloth again. "I'm supposed to clean you off before this vigil thing. You told me, remember?"
"For five hours?"
"It's not my fault you keep getting dirty again!"
Which was such a blatant lie that Arthur had to throw something at his head.
Luckily for Merlin, the cloth was soft and the water was warm and rather pleasantly scented.