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Master and Commander

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Despite how late into the night it was, the military camp still had sounds of life within it as patrol shifts ended, blacksmiths tinkered, and groans and moans filled the night air. Honestly, Arthur was somewhat annoyed and jealous at the sounds of pleasure, but he ignored them the best he could as he shifted better on his side, glancing up, and in this position, with his cheek against Merlin’s heart, he could see the bottom half of the cambion’s face in the darkness of their shared tent. It was tense, his lips in a grim line. The sight made Arthur queasy as he let out a sigh and shifted closer, slipping his leg over Merlin’s while his arm curled around his waist.

“You should try to sleep.” Merlin’s voice was soft in the darkness, clearly not feeling any ounce of sleep himself.

“Should we be here?” Arthur asked instead as he traced invisible designs on his lover’s naked chest. “While I might be angry with them the fae had a reason for trying to keep you from coming back here to the battle.”

“Are you doubting me, Arthur?” The voice was still soft yet held a steely edge to it.

Shivering, Arthur curled his hips slightly away from Merlin’s so the cambion would not feel the way his cock reacted to the sound of menace. Given everything that had happened since Bors had told Arthur about who Camelot’s sorcerer was, he understood that Merlin was in a bit of shock, was trying to work things out in his own mind, and would most probably not appreciate the evidence of Arthur’s selfishness betrayed by his semi-hardness.

Shifting onto his side to face Arthur in the darkness, Merlin wrapped an arm around Arthur and slipped a leg between his, using his grip around the smaller body to pull Arthur roughly against him before pausing in shock, no doubt feeling exactly what Arthur had tried to hide seconds ago by moving away from him. Merlin’s touch turned gentler almost immediately as he caressed the small of Arthur’s back and leaned in to bury his face in the blonde’s hair. “I asked you a question, Arthur.”

Gulping a little louder than he wanted to admit, Arthur rested his forehead against Merlin’s neck and shook his head.

“Do you think less of me now?”

Shock jolted through Arthur at the question, causing him to look up at Merlin, yet when he could not see his face in this position he stretched as far as he could while being that tightly gripped and latched onto Merlin’s jaw punishingly with his teeth.

Merlin’s hand at his back began to knead his skin rewardingly, fingers digging deep, slightly painfully and yet ticklish at the same time, causing Arthur to make a little noise he would refuse to ever admit he’d made. Merlin massaged Arthur into relaxing his toothy grip on his jaw, and when the blonde rested his face into Merlin’s throat once more, the cambion sighed. “I hate that you know this about me.” He tightened his grip on Arthur’s body while hiding his face in his golden hair. “I never—I never wanted you to ever know—to know that Sophia betrayed me to the degree of revealing such a humiliating—-.”

“Merlin,” Arthur interrupted softly into that skin. “Not only did I not think less of you once I was told what had happened to you, but I thought even more highly of you in that moment than I already had.”

The cambion snorted in derision. “You do not need to coddle me, Arthur, or stroke my ego. I know—.”

“You know nothing,” Arthur interrupted once more as he wrapped his own arm tighter around his beloved beast. “I was also very relieved when Sophia told me what she did, and let me be clear that you need to get over your anger towards her and Bors. She did not tell me everything, merely insinuated enough so that I could understand what had happened to you - which explained so much to me about your behavior up until that point.” He let out a ragged breath. “If it were not for her telling me, counseling me, I would not have been able to get through to you in that village. If it were not for her I would have lost you.” He dug his nails deep into Merlin. “So you will forgive them because without them you and I would not be here, together, right now.”

“But—-.”

Merlin.” Arthur reached up and grabbed fistfuls of that hair, forcing Merlin’s head to tilt downwards so he could finally look into his eyes, finding them dark and haunted. The blonde tightened his grip and steeled his reserve as he stared up at his mate. “Sophia is the only magical being who seems to understand that you are mine.” He tightened his grip even tighter, seeing in the flinch on Merlin’s face that it hurt him, but neither looked away from the other. “She and Bors might be cunning and conniving, but each and every time something related to your Dragonlord heritage has tried to take you away from me they have been my sole line to you, they have been the only ones who not only acknowledged our bond, but have actively assisted in maintaining it, strengthening it. Without her I would not have understood the pain that fueled your confounding self-doubt and deeply rooted self-hatred, and without him I would not have even known that you were still alive, much less realize the manner in which I could find you.”

Merlin stared down at Arthur in flinched silence.

“I understand why you feel betrayed,” Arthur assured him, truly understanding Merlin’s point of view, “but you cannot remain angry with them. It is not only unfair to them, but it is unfair to me.” He tilted his head and stared up at his mate’s lips, stretching upwards to press teasing kisses to them. “You have druids and knights and fae who rush to your aid the second they believe you need of them, but most - if not all - of them merely tolerate me and do not think I am worthy to be your mate. Other than you the only magical being I have who is on my side is Sophia. Would you deny me that support, my love?”

A snarl escaped Merlin’s lips as he began to shift further, until Arthur tumbled onto his back and pulled the cambion half on top of him. “While I understand your point, and give it merit, I must say that you are very unfair, and very hypocritical, dearheart,” Merlin whispered against the pulse in his neck. “You talk about forgiveness, but what about your lack of the same towards Daegal?”

A muscle jumped in Arthur’s cheek and he used that grip he still had on Merlin’s hair to tilt his head backwards so he could glare at him. If he was being quite honest, Arthur had never liked Daegal, and that was before he’d realized that Daegal and Merlin had had a thing back in the day thanks to Mordred. Arthur had tried to accept the druid though, mostly because of Merlin’s friendship with him, yet that had all come crashing down when he’d realized that not only had Daegal been a part of the group who had forced Merlin to leave Arthur behind, but that he was not repentant of his ways. Daegal acknowledged that Arthur would be unhappy with him for what he had done, but it was more than clear that the halfling not only did not feel remorse for his actions, but felt justified in them.

As far as Arthur was concerned, Daegal was one of the greatest sources of threats one could face, as with his angelic face and tiny body he not only appeared completely harmless, but his mannerisms effortlessly hid cunning and intelligence. Everyone had underestimated Daegal, had never suspected him, hell, Merlin had defended him quite a couple of times - never once realizing Daegal not only knew of the changelings and hybrids that had infected the castle - but was one himself - and apparently had been their defacto leader. “You know, Merlin, I am starting to wonder just how fond of him you truly are.”

There was slight pain on Merlin’s face from that unforgiving grip, but also smug pleasure as he twisted his head despite the pain of his hair being pulled, and began to nibble on the inside of Arthur’s wrist. “I am very fond of him.” He then laughed when he was shoved off of Arthur violently, tumbling onto his back on the bedroll only to have Arthur follow him over, sitting on his lap and glaring down at him. Merlin tilted his head and stared up at Arthur in dark intrigue. “Is this the part where you chain and cage me?”

“I do not know, that completely depends on you,” Arthur admitted with a raised eyebrow, meeting that dark gaze with one of his own. “So tell me, Merlin, is it?”

For a moment Merlin did not react, and then the corners of his lips twitched before curling in a pleased smile. “How nostalgic.” His hands rose to rub Arthur’s hips. “I remember the days before I knew you were the Crown Prince, how you gloried in telling me that once Camelot won you would petition for me to be your slave, that you would keep me captive, chained, collared, and that I would only be able to use my magic when I pleased you especially.” He looked far too amused bringing up the past version of Arthur that the blonde was thoroughly annoyed with, who the current Arthur blamed for much of how difficult things had been for him to get his stupid lover back. “I was beginning to wonder whether you truly meant that.”

Blinking, Arthur stared down at Merlin and tried to glare, he really did, but his own lips were twitching in reluctant amusement. “We are starting a very serious quarrel, Merlin, not engaging in foreplay.”

“Oh?” Merlin rolled his hips up into Arthur while training his expression to an innocent one. “Are we quarreling, my love?”

Yes.” Arthur was doing his best to stay firm as he tried to scowl at his mate yet was very sure it was more of a pout than anything else. “You seem to be doubting the fact that, if you even think of the possibility of leaving me to go to another room, much less abandoning me, especially for something as stupid as ‘my own good’, I will cage you somewhere deep and dark until you finally learn—.” He glared down incredulously at his infuriating mate. “Why are you smiling?”

Then again, that was a lie, Merlin wasn’t smiling. He was outright grinning. “Am I not allowed to smile?”

“Not when I am threatening you, no!” Arthur huffed, unable to believe that he had to explain that point to him. “At least have the decency to not look so happy at the fact that I am threatening you with all sorts of terrible punishments!”

“I apologize.” Merlin looked the farthest thing from contrite, in fact, he was grinning even brighter. “That was highly insensitive of me.” His grip tightened on Arthur’s hips as he pressed the blonde down against his cock, slowly manipulating the blonde’s hips backwards and forwards, his bright grin quickly growing dark. “Please, continue, I am listening intently. What else will you do to me?”

Arthur fought the groan that threatened to escape his lips as Merlin continued to move him so his core was trailing up and down the length of the cambion’s cock. “Yo-you are not taking me seriously, Merlin!” Despite that snap, Arthur was incredibly proud of himself for somehow resisting the urge to play with his own nipples. “I am not being petulant or spoiled or pure talk in this matter—I will punish you accordingly if you think you can get rid of me, that you can escape me.” He stared down into Merlin’s eyes, needing his mate to understand, to believe his words, because the next time this happened there would be no threats, no warnings. “And on that subject, I will kill anyone who even remotely poses a threat to my relationship with you. No matter who or what they are.”

“Is that so?” Merlin asked in a drawled tone and with a raised eyebrow as he eyed Arthur in deep observation.

Yes.” Arthur grit his teeth as he glared down threateningly at him. He leaned down enough to press his palms into Merlin’s chest, digging his nails in deep.

Merlin tilted his head as he eyed him, expression blank. “You… you mean that.” It wasn’t a question, it was a soft observation.

Steeling himself for the disapproval he knew was coming, Arthur glared down defiantly at his mate, and yet somehow he wasn’t prepared for their positions to be reversed once more, so rapidly he got disoriented, or for his face to be shoved into the bed roll seconds before his body was viciously breached to the hilt. Arthur closed his eyes and groaned at the feeling, not just of being filled, but of Merlin’s body heavily draped over his, trapping him on his knees and breathing roughly into his ear.

Say it again,” Merlin ordered deeply into his ear.

Which part?” Arthur whined as Merlin pressed his hips harder and harder into the blonde, and while this was not his true form’s cock, it still made Arthur gasp and shiver in undeniable pleasure.

The chuckle in his ear was darkness itself as Merlin began to circle his hips, this position allowing gravity to keep him lodged deep within and make each shift more pronounced. “Are we still quarreling, dearheart?”

Yes,” Arthur assured him despite the way be was spreading his thighs wantonly and gasping at the pleasure. His cheek was stinging slightly from the position and the weight over him, but he was definitely not about to complain about it. “We are.”

“I see.” Merlin sounded breathless as his arms wrapped around Arthur, his whole body weight  resting heavily on the blonde as his used his hands to rub every inch of that golden chest from the blonde’s throat to right above his hardened cock. “Vent your frustrations at me, Arthur. Tell me what I am doing wrong. Tell me what I can do to make you happy. Tell me what I need to do for us to stop quarreling.”

Shifting himself slightly to bare that weight better, Arthur obeyed. “The way you love me hurts.”

Immediately Merlin stilled above him. “What?” The cambion’s voice was low, was angered, was incredibly dangerous-sounding.

“You love me, Merlin, there has never been any doubt in my mind about that - even when there was doubt in yours, but the way that you love me, the way you show your love for me - it hurts me,” Arthur assured him with a resentful tone second’s before Merlin pressed one of his hands into the bedroll and used the other to grip Arthur’s neck in a clearly threatening move. “Be angry if you want, but it is the truth.”

Merlin’s grip tightened around Arthur’s throat uncomfortably, almost hard enough to cut off his oxygen, yet not quite that hard. “I see. We truly are quarreling.” His voice was emotionless as he said that. “You are displeased with me.” He shifted his grip so the tips of his fingers dug into Arthur’s skin, the nails biting in painfully. “Explain to me how my endless love for you could possibly hurt you, when everything I do is done so with the grueling, determined, persistent need to do just the opposite.” His fingers dug in slightly deeper. “Unless you are saying that my love is bad for you.”

Arthur was not sure what it said about him that instead of rightfully being scared of the clearly infuriated demon pinning him helplessly down and very obviously threatening to strangle him should he push too hard and displease him further, the blonde was starting to drip a long, steady trail of sticky delight from his cock’s slit. The version of Arthur before he’d met Merlin, the version of Arthur who might have been somewhat of a bully who threw his position and power around a bit too heavy-handedly, would never be able to recognize the version of himself on his hands and knees, impaled by another man, one who was not human, one who was furious and threatening him even as he speared him with his cock. The Arthur from before would probably have been disgusted at the way this Arthur was ramrod hard and dripping like a woman at the obvious threat in that touch, that version of Arthur would never be able to understand this one’s parted lips and eyes which darkened in arousal.

That version of Arthur both infuriated and sickened the current one with nerves at the realization that had he not rebelled against his father and come to Mercia, had he not met Merlin under those exact circumstances, he would not be Consort. Had Arthur not done all that he had done - had he not gone after Merlin time and time again - someone else would now be under Merlin. Hell. It would have been Mordred or Daegal - most probably Daegal given the Mesmer had changed things between Merlin and Mordred somehow, at least from Mordred’s side. So yes. Had things not gone exactly the way they had, Daegal would be the one gripping the bedroll and groaning as he was taken by Merlin… And that filled Arthur with bubbling, possessive rage.

“You want to know how your way of loving hurts me?” Arthur wanted to know, speaking around the hand wrapped threateningly around his throat. “While you might be more than willing to die for me, you are also more than willing to give me - us - up, to push me away, to allow our relationship to end, to shatter, without even the thought of a fight.” His voice broke for a second before strengthening once more with his ever-growing resentment towards this, resentment he’d managed to keep hidden deep within him for so long yet which was now gushing to the surface. “Had our positions been switched none of this would have happened. We would not be here right now. We are here, in this position, because of the way you love me.”

While there was clear shivers of anger, Merlin’s thumb began to brush distractingly against Arthur’s pulse. “How exactly would you have done things different had you been me?” He sounded a mixture of furious and intrigued.

“Why does it even matter?” Arthur wanted to know darkly, gaze on the bedroll beneath them. “I have told you time and time again what I desire from you - what I need you to do for me - but you do not seem to pay attention or care. You continue to do the same things that hurt us, that endanger us, that—-.” He huffed. “No matter what I say, it does not matter because you will not change.”

Merlin’s thumb pressed a little harder into his pulse. “Let us say that it does matter. Let us say I am intrigued and want to hear more. Let us say that it is in your best interest that you do as I have asked of you while I am asking it in such a very nice way.”

Gulping, Arthur dug his fingers into the bedroll. “If I I had been you, had our situations been reversed… Had I had magic while living in Camelot with you as my conquered sex slave, and I believed you to have connived with your Court Sorcerer to kill me and go back to your country  after having betrayed me so vilely - I would have been furious as you were, I would have been murderous as you were, but I would have never accepted the peace treaty when it was offered. I would have destroyed Mercia, would have burnt it to the ground, and then I would have taken you back.”

That thumb paused for a second before returning to stroking Arthur’s pulse roughly. “The only reason I accepted the peace treaty was because it was not my decision to make, it was King Bayard’s. Otherwise, Little Prince, I would have decimated your kingdom. I would have destroyed it. I would have razed it to the ground and made you watch it be destroyed knowing it was your fault. I wanted to kill you, Arthur, I planned on killing you, I dreamed about killing you - sometimes it was the only thing that got me through the day - but no matter what I desired at that dark moment in my life I know I would not have been able to do it when the moment came. I would have made you suffer, I would have made you pay for your betrayal, but I would not be able to end your life. I would have used the lives of those you loved against you.” His voice was low, thoughtful, a little self-critical. “In the end you would have found yourself chained - naked - to my bed with no one and nothing to save you from staying there for the rest of your life.”

Nipples hardening, Arthur screwed his eyes shut and somehow managed to keep his whimper quiet, which was more control than he could claim over his cock, which was twitching erratically from the imagery. Not from the thought of Camelot’s destruction - definitely not - but from the idea of being chained to Merlin’s bed, being kept on the wolf-fur, kept where he desired most to be while his Master forcefully reminded him every day that that was his place in life. Honestly, now that he really thought of it, Arthur might talk a big talk about chaining and caging up Merlin, but it was the blonde who most desperately wanted to be the one restrained and bound. The realization was shocking even to himself. Had all his talk been a subconscious way of getting Merlin to think of chains and collars? A way of provoking his Master into doing what Arthur had said he wished to do to Merlin —- to Arthur?

The spasm that speared through the blonde’s cock, culminating in an embarrassingly large gush of sticky need that pooled between his legs on the bedroll, argued that yes, that might have very well been the case.

“Continue airing your grievances,” Merlin ordered in an imperiously dark tone. “Tell me how else you would have acted different from me.”

“I—I would not have denied you if you wanted me, Merlin, especially not if we had been apart for so long. I could never deny our need for each other—but I would not have traded myself to Valiant or any other for you either,” Arthur whispered hoarsely, truthfully, still finding it hard to swallow that Merlin had done that for him. “I would have killed Valiant, and any other person who threatened you - just as I will somehow find a way to kill my uncle - because Tauren is yours alone to kill for all he put you through - but should you for any reason be unable to kill him, I will not hesitate.”

Merlin went stiff, clearly surprised by this, before he very obviously forced himself to relax. “Ignoring for now the latter part of your argument, Arthur, I was under orders from Bayard not to harm any of his Court, much less his knights, and given my magical oath keeping me unable to disobey him that tied my hands in how I could handle the situation. I will not apologize for allowing Valiant to tup me when it was the only way I could protect—-.”

“I do not need nor want you to apologize!” Arthur snapped angrily, unable to get why Merlin could not understand him.

“Then what do you want?” That was asked softly, curiously.

He closed his eyes, breathed in deeply. “Is it really so hard to understand what I want, what I am trying to say?”

“Yes, you are incredibly infuriating,” Merlin assured him in an oddly conversational way, seeming much less furious than he had been at the beginning of this conversation. “A part of me is now very much invested in this quarrel with you and is highly offended by everything you have said so far.”

“What about the other part?” Arthur asked softly, trembling as Merlin’s grip loosened around his neck.

“The other part of me?” Merlin buried his face in Arthur hair, breathing in his scent as that hand lowered itself down Arthur’s body to curl around his throbbing cock. “Finish venting and I will tell you.”

A heavy sigh escaped Arthur’s lips. “As I said, why—-!” Arthur’s eyes widened in shock as Merlin let go of his cock and slapped it, hard, causing a jolt of pain and shocking pleasure to race up Arthur’s spine. The blonde let out a guttural whine as he arched his back instinctively and hid his face in the bedroll, his hips trembling from the new sensation. It was probably due to his new position that he didn’t see the next slap coming, and he sobbed and undulated his hips desperately, caught between pleasure and pain, not sure whether he was trying to escape or begging for another—-GODS BELOW! Arthur mewled as another slap swung his cock slightly, and when he realized he was fucking himself desperately back into Merlin it was made abundantly clear to Arthur that he was begging for more.

Clearly caught off guard by Arthur’s unexpected reaction to what had obviously been intended as a punishment, Merlin groaned into his hair in throaty pleasure as Arthur’s hips did all the work, using their utter closeness and Merlin weight to fuck himself desperately on his mate’s cock.

Magic raced up and stopped Arthur’s hips, forcing them still, tearing a sob of frustration from the blonde’s lips as he tried to fight it but ultimately was forced to concede defeat with a snarl. “Merlin.”

“We are quarreling,” Merlin threw back at him breathily into his hair. “Now continue.”

Letting out a deeply frustrated sound, Arthur rubbed his face into the bedroll. “You know what I am going to say, Merlin! I am angry that you not only believed that I would turn against your true form, but that you sent me away! You went to what you thought was your own death to give me a sword I did not want! You put up walls against me, tried to push me away, all for ‘my own good’!” He clutched his hands into the material beneath them. “This has happened so many times now it has become a pattern! And it hurts me! You keep on trying to deny me, trying to push me away, because of some new obstacle that you immediately believe, and you think for some reason that—-!” He stopped talking and took in a deep breath. “I nearly lost you, Merlin. Again. You nearly died. Again. I am sick and tired of it.” He closed his eyes tiredly. “And no matter how many times I order, I beg, for you to stop doing this you keep on doing it! And I have to keep on searching for you! I keep on—!” He dug his fingers in as his voice broke, his heart hurting and his breathing harder and harder to do. “Why do you keep doing this to me, Merlin?”

There was silence, and then Merlin embraced him tightly as his hips began to move, slipping languidly within hm. “I see.” He seemed to be saying that a lot lately, and Arthur doubted Merlin saw anything. “This is truly why we are quarreling. I am unintentionally making you feel insecure and uneasy.” He urged Arthur to lay down on his stomach, and the second Arthur did so he felt Merlin’s weight resting fully on him as well, covering his entire body, not only keeping Arthur pinned and unable to move, but driving that cock deeper and deeper into him, allowing his mate mastery over his body.

If Arthur was being honest, he loved this feeling. While there was no greater pleasure than being speared by his mate in his true form, this was a very close second. The prince was completely trapped under Merlin, his body open for use, unable to fight back even if he had wanted to. Merlin nudged Arthur’s thighs and the blonde immediately parted them further, eyes rolling into his sockets when Merlin slipped in deeper in this new position.

“I keep trying to protect you, Arthur, and I keep hurting you in the process,” Merlin whispered tiredly into Arthur’s hair. “That is the last thing I have ever wanted. I honestly wonder sometimes why you love me despite everything that I put you through.”

Arthur did not like where this was going. It reminded him too much of the thoughts that had taken over Merlin’s mind when the spell had tried to reactivate itself.

“Arthur—you keep discovering the worse parts of me - of my life - that I have been desperate to keep hidden from everyone but especially from you - and you somehow still love me and I do not know how to properly handle that,” the cambion admitted brokenly into his hair. “You do not understand what it is like to be me, to go from what I have, to you. All I want is to protect you, no matter how, because you are the most precious existence to me and I would happily die to let you live till a ripe old age - I love you, Arthur, and I am sorry that my way of loving you occasionally hurts you.” His voice broke. “It is not intentional, I just do not know how to show my love any other way.”

Closing his eyes, Arthur cursed himself for forgetting, once again, that despite the fact that Merlin was basically a sex demon who knew every sensual trick under the sun - that he was still very much a child when it came to actual emotions. Yes, Merlin was older, more cunning, more experienced, but in many ways he was more innocent, vulnerable, and Arthur knew that despite it all, Merlin’s actions - no matter how hurtful - were always done with the best of intentions.

“I know that,” Arthur finally whispered with a sigh. “Let me turn around, Merlin, I want to see your face.” There was clear hesitation before Merlin lifted off of him enough to slip out and allow Arthur to turn around. The second Arthur laid down on his back Merlin was on top of him again, inside of him again, hiding his face in Arthur’s neck. “M-Merlin…” Arthur wrapped his legs around his mate’s waist and gripped at his back. “I said I wanted to see your fa—!” A cry escaped his lips as the cock inside of him started to feel…more. Arthur whimpered and shifted his hips, confused sobs escaping him as he felt himself grow more and more full.

Was—-Was Merlin—-?

The blonde clawed at his mate and sobbed when he felt the indistinguishable feeling of ridges beginning to press against him as the enlarging cock continued its upwards and outwards growth.

Outside any sound that was not desperate, sobbed, rutting was completely gone. It was as if even those on patrol had given into the desire to tup. Arthur knew he should go out and investigate, that them being without patrol made them vulnerable, and yet when the first barb spiked outwards to dig into him he quickly found all thought leaving rapidly.

Beyond their tent was the sound of dark laughter and choked sobs as no doubt the Swain’s plugs had been replaced by cocks. Whimpers and cries and mewls and gasps were easily overpowered by deep laughter, low growls, and lust-fueled hisses. This was not how things were supposed to go for them, but Arthur supposed that nothing ever went as planned for anyone anymore.

And, to be honest, by the time that cock had finally shifted fully inside of him into its monstrous true form, and every single ridge became a barb that dug deeply into Arthur, the blonde didn’t give a damn.

“You—you can shift it now?” The blonde asked desperately as his body still shook, trying to grow accustomed to the forceful shift inside of him, which left his muscles deliciously sore and clutching around that cock with abandon, embracing it tightly even if the barbs had not been spiked into him. “Yo-you can control it?”

Instead of answering, Merlin merely stayed there silently, face hidden in Arthur’s neck, body unmoving.

“Merlin?” Arthur asked softly in confusion. “Merlin, what is—?”

“I was told once that you were a bully before I met you,” Merlin declared softly into his ear, still refusing to move from where he lay on top of the golden youth. “I believed them then, and I believe them now.”

Blinking in surprise at this sudden attack, Arthur scrunched up his face, having remembered Merlin mentioning something about him being called pompous or something like that before, but he hadn’t realized that he’d also been called a bully. “I do not know what you are—-and who exactly—-?”

“I do not promise that I will not unintentionally hurt you in the future Arthur, especially as if it means your safety I am willing to do anything, so I will beg your forgiveness each and every time I unintentionally hurt you, and will rely on you to bully me back to my senses, to remind me why I should be more like you my little dark one.” Merlin began to press open-mouthed kisses to Arthur’s neck.

“It is not bullying,” Arthur tried to explain yet couldn’t get much more else because those barbs were digging in deeper only to soften almost to the point of slipping out of his innermost flesh, only to sharpen and elongate once more, over and over again, kneading his insides in a painful yet oddly relaxing way.

Merlin suddenly tensed over Arthur, his breathing hard, heavy, voice broken when he whispered, apropos of nothing: “I am scared of seeing him again, and I hate that I am that weak.”

Immediately Arthur’s hazy arousal vanished and his arms encircled Merlin, holding him tightly, protectively, in his embrace. “You are not weak, Merlin,” Arthur whispered. “The fact that you are willing to face Tauren despite the fact that what he did to you scarred you so horribly you still have nightmares which make you physically sick - despite the fact that you know his magic is coursing inside of you like a curse hurting your dragon and making you weaker against him - the fact that you know he is going to use all of that against you… Merlin… you are the bravest man I know.” The blonde tightened his grip around his cambion. “I do not want you to meet him again, I am scared of what that might do to you, but I know that that is something that you need to do.” He closed his eyes tightly. “I do not think you will be able to start healing until you do so. And that is why I will be here for you each step of the way.”

“Thank you.” Merlin nuzzled his face into Arthur’s neck and sighed tiredly. “This was a rough quarrel.”

A choked laugh escaped Arthur’s lips, unable to believe his lover sometimes. “It stopped being a quarrel half way through and became a talk, our quarrel is not over yet, consider it postponed until after you kill Tauren and I kill my uncle.”

Pouting against Arthur’s neck, Merlin pressed his own hips harder into Arthur, forcing those barbs to let go only to gain purchase higher, deeper, inside of Arthur before they hooked in once more, locking the lovers incredibly tightly to each other.

Arthur’s head fell back against the bedroll with a sob as he closed his eyes tightly.

“Goodnight, Arthur,” Merlin mumbled as he got more comfortable on top of the blonde.

“Ha ha, very funny Merlin,” Arthur intoned mockingly before he froze, eyes wide in horror when he realized Merlin was relaxing completely on top of him. “Merlin, you are not actually planning on sleeping? Are you?” His body, having apparently been fully trained by now to know what to expect once those barbs hooked into him, expected, demanded, seed - seed it was not getting. It throbbed around the cock nestled inside, each throb pushing harder into the barbs, which sent countless jolts of pain and need inside of him, each pinprick promising warmth to gush out and fill him. “M-Merlin—do not dare actually fall asleep like this!”

Merlin, for his part, was already breathing slower, clearly, somehow, managing to start to drift off into sleep already.

“Merlin? Merlin? Merlin!

And yet it would seem Merlin was using magic to keep Arthur’s words muted, because far too soon he was snoring.

Unable to believe what was happening to him, his body fully awake and feeling far too empty since it had absorbed all the seed it had been given in that place, Arthur tried to wake Merlin up, tried to move, tried to do anything. In the end none of it was successful, and when he finally forced himself to close his eyes, he swore to himself that their quarrel - once unpostponed - would be epic.

“What do you mean?” It took all of Tauren’s self control to keep his gaze on Balinor and not let his gaze stray to the object of his constant attention. Something was going on here, something was most obviously wrong, and he was very curious as to what exactly had happened. When he had heard of the Dragonlord heir who was embedded deep within the Mercian Court Tauren had been intrigued, and then, when the Dragonlord heir had left the Mercian Court and been given lands by the king, Tauren had known it was in his best interest to approach the man, to make friends with him. As he had anticipated, becoming ‘best friends’ and close confidants with Balinor Dragonlord had been most advantageous, giving Tauren information he would never be able to get otherwise. It had come with some surprises as well, though, and this was most definitely one of them.

“You should have seen him, Tauren,” Balinor whispered in utter defeated, looking both terrified and furious. “I was so scared - we have never taken that long to find him - and then when we finally did he was… he was covered in that darkness and stumbling around in disorientation. Who knows how long he was with it, how long—it was hours before I even realized he was missing, much less found him!” He collapsed into the seat and leaned forwards, gaze going towards the bed, where Merlin was sleeping, wrapped up in the blankets. “This wasn’t supposed to be possible, it is not supposed to happen for another couple of years, he should not have been able to enter that place, much less—-.” Balinor covered his face with his hands and let out a stuttered breath. “Hunith will never forgive me once she finds out what I allowed to happen while he was with me.”

Honestly, Balinor was incredibly weak for a Dragonlord. He was easily pushed and prodded, and while his ability to be convinced, manipulated, usually worked in Tauren’s favor there was still many times in which he felt utter contempt for the man he had been forced to spend the last couple of years with. If it wasn’t for how powerful and how useful Balinor could be Tauren would have stopped associating with him many years ago.

“You are saying that Dragonlords are tested and claimed.” Tauren had never heard something like this before, despite his near obsessive studies on the Dragonlords, and it only reminded him of exactly why he put up with Balinor most of the time. The man was a fountain of useful information that he did not seem to realize should most definitely stay within the Dragonlord family alone.

“At a certain age, yes,” Balinor whispered as he ran his hand tiredly over his face. “Merlin is still too young. He should have at least three or four years until it would be his time. I do not understand how this has happened. How it was possible. His draconic magic is not even awoken yet so how was this possible?”

“Explain to me exactly what this claiming is and what it does, why it happens,” Tauren ordered before clearing his throat and trying to sound less brusque and more concerned. “Maybe if I understand it better I will be able to help somehow.”

“I do not know that you can,” Balinor admitted with a groan before he leaned harder back against the seat. “I have explained to you that the Dragonlord powers pass from father to son, correct?” He waited for Tauren to nod before continuing. “Once a Dragonlord boy reaches a certain age he is tested, claimed, by an ancestral spirit. It is a fancy way of saying that he will draw from, and be more powerful, in certain areas or situations. There have also emerged certain patterns depending on which element calls to you and claims you.” He motioned to himself. “Look at me for example, I am claimed by the element of earth. Overall that makes me one of the more physically strong of our kind, I can become energized just being around in nature, or taking from those who are a part of it or draw their magics from it like the fae and the nereid and the dryads and so forth and so on.”

Fascinated by this knowledge, Tauren sat down opposite Balinor and listened.

“We are usually the happier and more lucky of the Dragonlords, those who have better lives, live longer, the ones with more loving families and longer reigns,” Balinor continued with a deep exhale. “I had hoped Merlin would be one like me as well, for his own good.”

“But he was claimed by something else,” Tauren prompted, not having quite understood the emotional ramblings Balinor had let out earlier when he’d appeared at his house with Merlin while blubbering like some sort of idiot.

“By the one element that no one wants to be claimed by,” Balinor whispered as he leaned forwards and rested his elbows on his knees. “Merlin was taken, was claimed, by the darkness.”

It was hard to keep the hopeful smile off of his face, to keep his expression blank, his voice neutral. “What does that mean, Balinor?”

“There are very few Dragonlords who have been unlucky enough to have been claimed by the darkness,” Balinor breathed out heavily, clearly still very much in denial about what had happened. “Every single one of them had a horrible existence.” He closed his eyes tightly and grabbed his hair. “They tend to have experienced tragedy, horror, pain and suffering, great loss,  early on in life, because it is that inner grief which calls to the darkness and which will feed the seed inside of them, will germinate it and make it blossom within them. They are lonely, solitary creatures, unable to love, to be loved, and yet desperate for love, for a mate they will never truly have. They are, magically, the strongest of the Dragonlords, but they are also the weakest in many ways, and they are terrifyingly obsessive. Should they find something they consider theirs - much less someone - they will have that thing or person, whether the person wishes it or not — historically it has always been not. They feed off of every living thing, there is no balance in them, merely eternal consumption.” A haunted look appeared on Balinor’s face as his voice went soft in absolute horror. “A Dragonlord heir claimed by darkness is one to be feared above all else, because in them lies not only the potential, but the absolute willingness, to destroy the world.”

Tauren found it hard to breathe, and he hated himself for betraying the way those words physically affected him, but thankfully, from the look Balinor was giving him, the man clearly thought he was terrified at this news. He leaned back in his chair and tried to reign in his composure before he did something that even the trusting idiot might begin to see through. It would not do for Balinor to start questioning him now. Already Tauren had been toeing the line, and he knew Balinor enough by now to know when to push, when to prod, when to manipulate subtly, and when to goad.

“This is my fault,” Balinor whispered in self-hatred as he ran his fingers through his hair. “I should have known… given what is in his veins… that he would attract the darkness. The boy is more Incubus than human, even if the demon has not awoken as yet clearly that would—-I should have thought—-I should not have been so careless! Thoughtless! I brought him to that place and just let him run free so I could tup with anything I came across! All I thought about was my own pleasure! I am to blame, and when Hunith discovers what I have done…” He let out a whimper. “She will hate me, she will leave me. She will never forgive me for what I have done to our son.”

“Is there anything you can do?” Tauren asked, more out of curiosity as to the finality of this than out of true worry and concern.

“I do not know, I, I hope…” Balinor let out a stuttered breath. “It was not an official, sanctioned claim. Merlin did not know of what was happening, there should be knowledge, there should be at least a modicum of choice involved. There is training that occurs before a claiming, a time of preparation that Merlin did not have. Maybe… maybe…” He groaned and leaned back hard once more. “But I do not understand what could have called the darkness to Merlin so strongly that it would claim him this way. He does not have any of the indicators of a darkness dragon, has not gone through anything traumatic which would have left scars on his soul and which could have triggered this. We have overprotected him, you better than anyone know this.” He frowned. “Unless, maybe, something happened to him that we were not aware of?”

Fighting down the panic that came at the questions showing on Balinor’s face, Tauren stood and moved to Balinor’s lap, lowering himself on it and rubbing his ass against that cock, feeling - almost immediately - any thoughts drifting from the man, like usual. “You need to calm down, Balinor, sometimes some things happen for no reason.” He smirked at the way that cock hardened rapidly against him, those eyes darkening as Balinor quickly lost himself to the lust as per usual. “What matters now is that Merlin is here safe and sound, where nothing else can happen to him.”

Balinor groaned, cupping Tauren’s ass and pulling him closer as he rubbed against him with a pitiful whine. “Can I do it today, Tauren?” He nearly begged as he thrusted against that clothed ass desperately. “Will you let me put it in you now?”

“Merlin’s right there,” Tauren chuckled even as he felt his pants being torn from him.

“I gave him that sleeping potion you do whenever he sleeps over here, he never wakes up for hours no matter what happens once he takes that,” Balinor promised as he lined himself up with Tauren’s entrance. “Can I, Tauren? Please? I need it so badly.”

Shifting to wrap his arms around Balinor’s neck in order to hide his annoyance, Tauren forced his soft voice and caring despite the frustration clearly written on his face. “Who am I to deny the King?” He rolled his eyes at Balinor's groan, and then steeled himself as he was breached, his body being used by the blubbering idiot groaning out his name, that he was a wonderful friend, and that Balinor would not be able to get through this without him. Tauren smirked at that, encouraging that line of thought, that blind dependency, while lying sweetly through his teeth, whispering words of encouragement.

“Hunith will leave me,” Balinor mourned brokenly as he moved desperately. “I cannot lose her, Tauren! But I will!”

Rolling his eyes once more and only managing to silence his sigh, Tauren forced a smile on his face as he pulled backwards to finally allow Balinor to see his face. “She does not have to know,” he declared as he clenched tightly against that rod and forced Balinor to look up at him in his face. “Just say that Merlin wants to spend more time in the orchards, that you are staying with him and beginning to explain things to him. That way she will not worry. You leave Merlin with me, I will look after him, and you spend your time there trying to find a way to stop what has happened to him.”

Balinor’s eyes widened in surprise. “We cannot be sure what this has done to him, he could awaken a danger to you.”

“I can handle him,” Tauren assured him, forcing his expression into tender determination, or at least what he supposed those emotions might look like. “You know I would do anything for you, Balinor.” He shifted his gaze away from Balinor and manipulated his expression into a split second of worry before he once more returned to that practiced look of caring as he returned his gaze to the gullible Dragonlord beneath him. Tauren forced out a wavering smile, doing his best to try to look like he was trying to be brave for him. “No matter how dangerous it might be for me.”

Staring up at him, Balinor surged forwards to wrap his arms tightly around Tauren, hiding his face in his chest. He then pulled away and looked up at him once more, eyes flashing gold in magic as he raised a glowing hand and placed it - palm open - against Tauren’s forehead.

Tauren’s eyes widened in fear, wondering whether he’d push too quickly, whether Balinor had finally seen through the person he portrayed to the one he truly was - only to suddenly realize that Balinor wasn’t searching his mind - but was filling it with something. The sorcerer pushed down his instinctive fear of discovery and instead forced himself to try and pay attention to the countless information being downloaded into his brain. And then… and then his having to put up with the horrifyingly weak of character, easily manipulated, and disgustingly trusting Dragonlord was finally worth it. He’d been growing tired and furious, thinking he’d had to lower himself to being taken by such a disappointing creature for nothing, and yet now, with the information being given him, he realized lowering himself like this and playing such a frustrating role had finally paid off.

The shock on his face was the first emotion he had not had to fake as he stared down at Balinor. “Y-you can bind the dragon?”

Reaching up, Balinor nodded and sighed as he cupped Tauren’s cheek with his hand. “It cannot be done for too long a period without terrible consequences, it is a part of us, but it may be the only way to keep what the darkness has done from taking hold of Merlin’s dragon - the only way to keep the seed planted inside of him from germinating, from blossoming.” He sighed and rested his forehead against Tauren’s rapidly beating heart. “I hate the idea of doing something like that to my own son, but should you start to see the darkness changing him while I am gone you must do it. It might be the only way to not only keep the darkness was taking him over and changing him - but to keep him in control until I can come back, hopefully with a way to stop it.”

“Control.” Tauren forced his features into blankness.

“To an extent, yes, the one who binds the dragon will be its master, and it can only be done by someone who the dragon trusts, which is why, other than me, you are the only one who can do this.” Balinor exhaled deeply, clearly hating having to resort to this. “You are the only one I could trust to tell this, Tauren. I could not trust anyone else with this knowledge. Merlin would be weak to whoever did this to him, would be tied to them, it is knowledge that should never be shared with anyone who is not a Dragonlord, but you—I trust you, and I know that you love Merlin just as fiercely as Hunith and I do. There is none other I could trust with him while I am amongst the orchards than you.”

His heart was racing, and Tauren couldn’t stop his trembling of excitement, yet from the way Balinor whispered for him to calm down, that it was okay, clearly the idiot thought Tauren was scared.

“Should you see the darkness start to take him, slip him some of your blood in his drink, and then perform the spell. This has always been only done by other Dragonlords, there needs to be something of you within him to work.” Balinor tightened his grip. “And if you have to resort to this, send word to me immediately, you know how to get through to me even when I am over there.”

Tauren hugged Balinor tightly so the Dragonlord would not see the large, twisted smile that overtook his features. He moved his hips, rewarding the stupid animal and distracting him, managing, as always, to hide his disgust as he was soon filled with Balinor’s seed. The sorcerer used his body to keep the Dragonlord disoriented and distracted until the man finally left, promising Tauren that he would find a way to save Merlin before things got bad enough that the binding spell could be used.

Kissing Balinor goodbye, it was all Tauren could do to keep from shoving him away in impatience, to instead lean against the doorway and wave him goodbye with that practiced smile on his face. The second the magic took Balinor away, Tauren dropped all pretenses and raised his magical walls immediately as he turned and returned to that bedroom, where the only truly worthy Dragonlord slept.

While Tauren had approached Balinor in the hopes that he could be what he needed, the sorcerer had quickly realized Balinor was not. He was too weak in so many ways, weak for Hunith, weak for Bayard, weak for his family, weak for Mercia, weak for Camelot. Not only that, but Balinor did not have what it took. He did not. Tauren had been utterly disgusted and disappointed, had been about to end this pretense of a friendship, until Balinor had confessed his plans to give Hunith the child she could not have, and Tauren had known - known - that if Balinor was somehow successful that a child of that lineage - if it were a boy - would be exactly what he would need - what he could use.

And then Balinor had left to do his plan, and Tauren had further ingratiated himself with both of them by staying with Hunith, taking care of her in Balinor’s absence… and then Balinor had finally returned a little more than a year later… and with him he had a baby boy. A son. The Dragonlord power was passed down from father to son. This was the weapon Tauren would need. And yet he had no interest in tending to babies so he’d let the baby grow, all the while staying there, using his position as Godfather - trusted and loved by both Balinor and Hunith - to subtly mold Merlin into what he would need. He had known, from the beginning, that this was a Dragonlord who could be of use, and as Merlin grew it only cemented itself. This was a Dragonlord. This was his Dragonlord. Merlin listened to him more than he did his own father, Merlin acknowledged his opinion as greater, openly sought his approval - just as Tauren had groomed him to.

And now Balinor had given Tauren the final part that he had needed to finally move onto the next part of the plan which had been his sole reason for living for as long as he could remember.

Smile even more twisted, Tauren’s magic removed his boots and pants. He would not need blood, he had other ways of making sure a piece of him was inside of Merlin for the spell to work.

Like always, during the wonderful nights Merlin would be left with him, Tauren slipped into bed with his godson and entered him. Like always, the potion’s effects were lifted part-way through, waking the confused boy up. Like always, Tauren ignored Merlin's reactions to the situation he found himself in. Like aways, Tauren forced his lips on his Dragonlord heir as he did the rest of himself. Like always, hours later, only once Tauren was satisfied, his spell took root, forcing Merlin back asleep, removing the memory of the assault from him, or at least from his conscious mind. It would appear that a part of Merlin's subconscious must know, must remember, and it was this part of Merlin which had called out to the darkness so strongly it had claimed him years before it should have.

This time, though, Tauren did not tarry in bed and instead rose to prepare what would be needed for the binding spell. His magic cleaned Merlin’s body, removed any physical proof of the abuse, yet kept Tauren’s essence deep inside. As soon as Merlin awoke the next day, confused, sleepy, trusting, the spell would be ready and he could begin the undertaking of binding a Dragonlord.

By this time tomorrow, he would have started the complicated magical process that would not only bind the Dragonlord Heir to him, but suppress the power of the inner dragon until Tauren had managed to completely break it.

Tauren stared at the missive that had appeared in fire writing in front of him.

Tauren

I may have found a way to reverse what was done to Merlin, but it needs to be done soon before the damage is permanent. There might be a way of extracting the darkness and putting it back into the pit it should never have been removed from.

I am heading home to prepare, bring Merlin there as soon as you get this. We must work rapidly!

I have also explained the situation to Hunith, as I will need her assistance in this endeavor. She is, of course, furious with me, but worried about Merlin, and grateful that you have taken care of Merlin, as she is without magic she would not have been able to protect or stop Merlin should the darkness take over - and while she is not happy about being kept in the dark she has understood. I worry for the state of my marriage once this is over and Merlin returned to who he should be, but for now I cannot let that distract me from what must be done.

Thank you for all of your help, my friend, I cannot explain how your support has made me strong enough to do this.

Yours

Balinor

A muscle jumped in Tauren’s cheek as he turned his back on the missive. Of course Balinor would try and ruin everything without even realizing it! How had he so quickly found a way to stop what was only natural? Tauren needed a couple of days - at least two more - before he could finish the binding process! He could not - would not - allow Balinor to ruin his lifelong mission - to destroy everything Tauren had waited so patiently for for all these years!

Balinor and Hunith had finally outlived their purpose.

Sending a quick note to Balinor telling him they would make their way to the Dragonlord home, Tauren began composing a different magical note.

Your Majesty

I write to inform you regarding the wellbeing of the son you had with Balinor Dragonlord - Merlin.

While Balinor assures me that you are a heartless creature who does not care about your own spawn, that you cannot care about anything except carnal pleasure, yet as the boy’s mother I hope this is not true, because that boy needs of your intervention. He needs his mother, his true mother, to intervene on his behalf.

Balinor’s negligence has been common knowledge throughout the years, but never has it resulted in such obvious danger towards Merlin as it has now. He has initiated Merlin sooner than he should have, has taken him to the Endless Orchards, and continuously left him alone, to fend for himself, protect himself, while Balinor took pleasure in the creatures that you know dwell there. It is due to this negligence that Merlin was hurt, was targeted, by something terrible.

And what did Balinor do when he found out what the boy had gone through? He left Merlin in my care and returned to frolic with the beings of the Endless Orchards. He has so little regard for his son or his well-being that he… no… I will not say what he asked me to do.

Hunith has raised Merlin as her son but clearly she too has neglected him, and his predicament is her fault as well. She raised your son, she claimed him as hers, and she would not even come to see him while he was with me, and in such dire straits. Is that truly a mother? Is that who has been raising your child?

Then again, perhaps Balinor is correct.

Perhaps you do not care about Merlin, never have, and you will not care that Balinor is telling me to bring the boy to him at his estate now so he may try to cover up his own horrible neglect by forcing the boy to undergo a ritual which will… which will leave him even more damaged than he already was due to his father’s neglect - all in an effort to hide what Balinor’s selfish actions have done to his son.

Once more, I do not know why I send you this missive, Balinor would know you better than anyone else, you are the true mother of his child, and what he has said of you proves that you are nothing but a demon, an emotionless, unfeeling monster who cannot help how decayed she is within. You obviously do not care that you had a child, otherwise you would have tried to reach out to him - to have a relationship with him - instead of allowing him to live all these years without even knowledge of you.

It is not as if Balinor has kept the lands given him by King Bayard of Mercia, so near the beautiful Fire Forest, nestled between the Raven Towers and the Jagged Mountains, a secret.

Many apologies for wasting your time, Your Highness. I was wrong in assuming you were anything then what Balinor has told us all time and time you are.

Tauren wondered whether he should add more detail, should make it easier for the Succubus Queen to find the lands that Balinor had been using strong magic to keep hidden from her and others. But then again she was not just any demon, she was the Queen of the Succubus, who had had the man she considered her mate escape into the night and disappear with her son without any hint of what he had had planned, much less a chance to give her time to say goodbye. To this day Balinor was not proud of his actions, but the Dragonlord had admitted that while they had agreed upon their coupling until a child was born, and that the child would be Hunith’s, he had doubted that the Succubus Queen would honor her promise given the way he had seen her change with her pregnancy. He had seen the look upon her face when she had first stared down into her son’s face, and while it hurt Balinor to do such a cruel thing to her, he had come for Hunith, who was the only one who he truly wished to please - the only one he would not survive without should she leave.

Balinor had been hiding his home, his land, his son, from the Queen since he had run away with Merlin. It was why he had to tup so frequently, why he went into endless frenzies, because the force of keeping the amount of magic needed to protect Balinor’s lands - and which had extended to Tauren’s once the sorcerer bought the lands adjoining his - ate through his reserved energy quickly.  It was why Tauren’s home was the only other Merlin was allowed to go to - only on his own land or his godfather’s would Merlin be hidden from his mother, who had been searching endlessly for him ever since the night he had been spirited away by his father.

Honestly, Tauren was risking Merlin with this plan, but the boy would no doubt recoil from the demoness once she found them. Tauren would do what he did best - he would manipulate everyone around him to have his way - and by the end of this day not only would Balinor and Hunith be dead, it would be at the hands of the Succubus Queen, which would leave Merlin with no other choice to but cling to Tauren, to turn to him, to choose him, and once he did… once he did…. Merlin would be his.

Sending the missive to the Queen took quite a lot of effort on his part, not only because her realm was so heavily warded, but because he attached his own essence onto the document, making sure that even should the directions be too vague she would be able to use the essence to track him down there, bringing her to where Tauren needed her to be, and starting the chain of events that would no doubt culminate in his victory.

That smile twisted further as it widened to reveal teeth.

Eyes flying open, Arthur breathed heavily as he looked around him, heart racing in horror at what he’d — seen — had been dreaming? He reached for Merlin only to find him gone, and his terror grew harder only to realize that Merlin had slipped free from him during sleep and was now snoring with his back to Arthur. The blonde sat up and tried to breathe, staring down at Merlin while he tried to understand what exactly he’d seen, and why. Why would he dream of Tauren? Why would he dream from Tauren’s point of view?

Were the horrible events he’d seen been mere fabrications of Arthur’s troubled mind, or had that actually happened? And if it was the latter - why was Arthur able to see these traumatizing truths?

A scream pierced the night outside of the tent.

“Merlin! Wake up!” Arthur hissed as he stumbled to his feet and raced to the tent’s flap, throwing it open and stumbling out into the night… only to see Merlin there.

And yet, it wasn’t Merlin.

Not the Merlin from now.

Balinor Dragonlord’s body lay bloodied on the floor, it was a mutilated mess, parts of him seeming sawn clean off, and upon his face was the proof that he had died not only in agony, but in terror. His eyes were open wide, his expression twisted in what appeared to be an endless scream. His blood soaked into the earth all around him.

Hunith was near him, bruised and clearly hurt, yet alive despite the unnatural stillness on her face and the milky white over her eyes.

This younger version of Merlin was covered in blood that was not his own as he stared down at his parents in open horror, before he noticed movement and looked up at the one responsible, the one he and Tauren had returned in time to witness finishing her slaughter.

She was terrifyingly beautiful, looked incredibly young, yet was not only clearly inhuman, but covered in his parents’ blood. Her cheekbones were well-defined, her face heart-shaped, her body curvaceous and her eyes nothing but endless black. Red lips were parted as she breathed heavily, raggedly, and when she took a step towards Merlin and outstretched her hand towards him her nails were tapered, were nearly claw-like.

Merlin recoiled immediately in terror as from her, covering his face and falling to his knees. “Go away you monster!” He screamed, the sound a mixture of horror and terror, of disgust and hatred. “GO AWAY! GO AWAY!”

He failed to notice the pain that took over her expression as she stared at him in growing panic. He failed to notice the way she looked around her at the burning house behind her, at the bloodied corpse, at the lifeless hexed, seeming to only now take in what she’d done before turning to look at him in mounting, frantic fear. Her breathing grew heavier, as if fear was giving way to a panic attack that she was desperately trying to contain.

Emrys,” she whispered, the sound hoarse in emotion. “Emrys, I am so—-.”

“GO AWAY!” Merlin screamed as he shook his head. “GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY!”

“Emrys, please, I—!” She was shaking visibly, looking all around her at the destruction, at the carnage, before turning those eyes on Merlin as she hurried nearer to him. “I was trying to do this peacefully — I only meant to talk, to get the truth out of him but he would not— he tried to—I snapped—I did not mean to—.”

“DO NOT TOUCH ME!” Merlin screamed and pulled away from her the second she had done just that. “YOU DISGUSTING MONSTER!” The boy stared at her in utter hatred. “I HATE YOU.” He was trembling with his fury. “I HATE YOU! DIE! YOU FILTHY DEMON! I HOPE YOU DIE! I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! GO AWAY! GO AWAY! GO AWAY!”

Her expression crumbled as she looked away, hugging herself tightly before - with a blink - she was gone.

Merlin raced to Tauren and held him as he collapsed into his embrace, sobbing uncontrollably in his arms.

Tauren soothed the boy, whispering that everything would be alright, while, unbeknownst to his godson, the sorcerer stared at the destruction all around him and smiled.

Arthur, who had been unable to move since he’d come upon this situation, stared in mute horror. Was this — was this what had happened? Were images such as this one - memories such as this - what had Merlin waking up so sick? His poor cambion! This—Arthur’s parents had been murdered as well but at least he had been older when that had happened, at least he had known the truth of their demise - the true betrayer!

Merlin, poor, broken, terrified, Merlin, on the other hand, had clung desperately, trustingly, onto his parents’ true murderer without any idea of what the evil, vile, sorcerer would use his vulnerability to force on him. He had no way of knowing that his horror and pain were only about to start.

You son of a bitch,” Arthur whispered softly, viciously, at Tauren’s back.

A chuckle escaped Tauren as he glanced back over his shoulder at Arthur. “Yes, my mother was not the nicest of women, but given the history of my family and what we have had to do to survive, it is understandable.” He turned to face Arthur as the young version of Merlin, as the dead bodies, as everything, vanished, leaving them alone in darkness. “I have to say, despite everything I did not think of you as more than an inconvenience, as something to use against Merlin when the time came, but I have to admit it…” a muscle jumped in his cheek despite the smile on his face. “You are really starting to piss me off.”

It hit Arthur right then and there that this was not a mere dream. For some reason Tauren was there, in his mind at least. Why in the world would he choose now of all times to reach out when he had never been inclined to do so before?

And then he realized it: Tauren was unintentionally acknowledging Arthur as a threat for the very first time, which meant something had happened very recently to change things for the sorcerer… and since the only thing majorly different was Merlin’s near death and their stint in the pit of darkness, Arthur figured that it had to be that.

“I thought, after I killed his king and freed him, I thought—-I thought he would come after me, would destroy all between us, would come with blood in his eyes—-but he has not.” Tauren raised an eyebrow in displeasure. “To say I am disappointed is putting it lightly, and every time I feel I might have worn him down, might have weakened him enough, might have tortured his broken little mind to the point that I need it to be—-drained him to the point of starvation—dragged him so low he would be at the very brink of death… so incredibly vulnerable, so ready for me… you fuck things up.” Anger darkened those eyes despite the fact that Tauren’s smile was still very much in place. “Up until this point you were nothing more than a hole he was using, a hole that needed to be destroyed if I were to hold my end of the bargain with your uncle, but it wasn’t personal. You were no threat. You were amusing. You are no longer amusing. And that is dangerous for you.”

“What the hell do you want, sorcerer?” Arthur finally asked, voice low, surprisingly not at all scared despite the fact that he was trapped in his own mind by this monster. “If you have approached me mentally like this, if you have bored me with your conversation instead of attacking me, clearly you want something of me. Tell me what it is so that I may reject your offer and get back to planning your slow, painful death.”

Tauren stared at him in silence before throwing his head back and laughing. “I can see why he likes you! You are amusing! Spoiled. Full of yourself. Brattish. He probably sees a bit of his old self in you, and that would explain his ridiculously strong need to protect you.” He wiped at a tear and shook his head, still chuckling. “I considered leaving you alive, you know, making you a bargaining chip. Your life for his surrender. I was even considering being magnanimous enough to let him keep you as his little pet, so long as I got to play with you as well. You are so pretty. But after things changed I realized I could not do that any longer. Merlin is weak for you. Utterly, disgustingly weak, and I hate that. I did everything I have to drive out any weakness in him, to mold him into his full potential, and yet he is weaker for you than his father was for Hunith.” Anger flashed through his eyes. “Who do you think you are, you little maggot, to try and claim ownership of his dragon and the darkness that I have done so much to cultivate and grow within it?”

Arthur blinked in confusion, not quite sure what he was talking about.

“Do not play innocent with me, boy,” Tauren hissed like a snake. “I bound that dragon in its shell, I kept it trapped, kept it starving, isolated, ignored, furious, resentful - I drove it insane - it is my magic that binds it, molds it, claims it. I am its master, its owner, its god. It is useless, worthless, helpless without me.” He clenched his fists at his side. “So who are you to not only have the audacity to somehow bind yourself to it, but dare command it to do your bidding?” His eyes flashed in fury. “How dare some insignificant, spoiled, child, someone who does not even have an ounce of magic in his veins, think he could possibly be worthy of that darkness? Of being its mate!?”

It took Arthur all of his self-control to keep his expression neutral when he realized what the true reason for this confrontation was. Tauren had done everything he had to not only mold and control Merlin’s captive dragon, but to command it, something he very clearly had been unable to do, and yet had been able to feel Arthur do… on multiple occasions. THAT was why Merlin’s curse had been triggered - because Arthur had not only spoken to the dragon for the first time, but had gotten it to respond physically to him - and now Tauren was here, confronting him, because not only had Arthur managed - with the dragon’s help - to tap into that power enough to get to Merlin’s side, but he’d also stopped whatever Tauren had designed that curse to do to Merlin, and had come out of the dark pit alive and unhurt.

Tauren was here because Arthur was a threat, because, despite his magic inside of Merlin making him vulnerable, the sorcerer was not as assured of his domination, of his control, of his victory, as he had been the night he had murdered Bayard.

Arthur had confronted Daegal, had confronted the Elder Fae afterwards, and now, as he stared into Tauren’s furious, hate-filled eyes, he would confront him. “Are you done?”

Surprise and anger flittered over that face at his question.

“I am going to take that as a yes.” Arthur clenched his fists as he moved slowly, unworriedly, towards the sorcerer. “I do not know whether you meant to intimidate me or sicken me or scare me with all you showed me. I do not know whether you meant to brag about your powers of manipulation or to warn me that you have clearly been playing a very long game. You obviously have planned ahead, you somehow managed to survive Bayard’s mens attack when they discovered what you were doing to Merlin, faked your own death, and have been subtly manipulating Merlin using your magic in him, and planning this war ever since your escape. Maybe some sick part of you wanted to show me what you did to Merlin as a way of claiming ownership over his body by prior claim. Clearly you are not one to be underestimated, but I already knew that.” He stopped at arm’s length from Tauren, staring up into his eyes with anger in his own blue orbs. “You are also right that I am not a being of magic like you and Merlin are, but like someone annoyingly wise once told me - I do not have to be. I am not of magic but I am of Merlin. Not just of his sorcerer’s side, but of his demon, and of his dragon.” He smiled. “Unlike you I did not have to use magic against it, did not have to force it, unlike with you his dragon wants me.”

Tauren snarled. “You impertinent—!” He stormed towards Arthur, magically glowing hand held out towards Arthur. “I will teach you a lesson you will not—!”

Arthur reached out with his rune-covered arm and gripped Tauren’s, his runes glowing gold and green, shocking them both but he forced himself to continue on as if this was not surprising for him as well. “Unlike you, Tauren, I do not need to force a bond between myself and any part of Merlin. Balinor might have told you that dragons aligned to darkness do not find mates, but he found me. And unlike when he was with you, Merlin does not need to be ensorcelled to desire me.” He smirked fiercely, tightening his grip around that wrist painfully. “My mate desires me so desperately he physically hooks himself inside of me so that he cannot slip out even in sleep. Every side of him loves me, wants me, desires me so fervently, and wants to breed me. And it will, even if Merlin does not think it possible I know it will finally get its way one day, and that we will no doubt enjoy our many attempts as he pours more of himself deep inside of me and shifts my body to better give life to his seed, to his children.” Arthur could see the fury, the anger, the confusion, on Tauren’s face, and realized more and more that he had more power in this confrontation than either of them had initially believed possible. “You damaged him, you abused him, and you used him, Tauren. He will kill you for it, just as I will kill my uncle, and it will help give us both the closure we will need for the happy life we will have together.” He smiled genuinely at that, knowing it was true with all of his heart. “And if I am feeling gracious enough when the time comes, I will let your last living memories be of watching him take me so you can see the difference between your abuse and his loving.”

“Y-you—-!” Tauren’s whole body was shaking in fury.

“What King William of Mercia did to your ancestors was cruel and wrong, was evil,” Arthur told him truthfully, clearly shocking Tauren stiff by the fact that he knew about this. He smiled at the sorcerer sweetly. “But despite the fact that I am sorry for the undue pain he caused your ancestors, I promise you that the House of Osgar will fall with you and rise no more, will disappear and never be remembered.” He used his grip on Tauren’s wrist to pull him closer so he could whisper, softly, into his ear with a chuckle. “I will find a way to free my dark dragon, and when I do, I will stand back and watch him rip you apart.”

Arthur’s eyes flew open again, and for a moment he wondered whether this was still a dream, but he tried to move and realized he was not only pinned down under Merlin’s heavy weight, but that those barbs were still hooked deep within him, holding him in place and keeping him trapped with the curved tip of that monstrous cock kissing the entrance of Arthur’s innermost depths, teasing him with its presence.

His body knew Merlin’s true form, it relished in it, and he knew without a doubt that this was reality. Nothing could imitate Merlin’s true form or the torturous pleasure it gave him.

“Are you okay, my love?” Merlin asked in a sleepy tone. “Your heart is racing very rapidly.” He yawned into Arthur’s hair. “Am I too heavy? Do you want me to move?”

“Yes,” Arthur admitted, only to grip Merlin’s asscheeks when the cambion released him deep within, slipped out, and tried to move away - to roll over. “Not like that.”

There was a pause, and then Merlin nestled back on top of Arthur and rubbed that tip against his gaping entrance, which was quivering to be filled again. “I thought we were quarreling.” He teasingly pressed his tip in only to slip it back out the second Arthur’s body closed around it hungrily.

“I should not have said your way of loving me hurt me,” Arthur whispered as he wrapped his arms tightly around Merlin’s neck. “I understand why you do what you do, I understand that it is out of your need to protect me, even if from yourself, and I understand that instead of being angry or hurt, I need to understand where this need of yours is coming from. I need to realize that no matter what you are doing, or how much it might anger or hurt my feelings, that you do it because you love me so much you do not even think twice about sacrificing yourself in any way for me.” He rubbed his cheek against Merlin’s neck, groaning when his mate forced his monstrous form back deep inside of him, and the second he nestled deep within Arthur’s depths those ridges began to harden inside of the blonde in response to being back home. “Once peace has been restored I will just have to make it my duty to keep you so busy breeding me you won’t have time to do something foolish and get us separated ever again.”

“I never want to hurt you, Arthur,” Merlin groaned into his hair as he began thrusting. “If I did not have to feed, if I could be like any other man and not have to—I would happily never be with another. I adore you. I treasure you. I am so sorry that I have unintentionally hurt you so many times, especially when each and every time I have done so has been in an effort to keep that very same thing from happening! I—I am sorry for being annoyed and hurt when you expressed your frustrations, your feelings, I want you to be able to tell me anything—I want you to—.”

I know,” Arthur swore into Merlin’s neck as he nibbled on the skin, still surprised not to find it covered in demonic sigils given the demon’s cock buried deep inside of him. “Merlin, no matter how many times we quarrel - and we will quarrel - we will fight - it does not matter. You are not going to lose me no matter how much you anger me, and I refuse to ever let you go so you are stuck with me, so—.”

Merlin chuckled into his hair. “You keep saying that, threatening me, as if you have not already proven that you will find me no matter where I go, that you will come to me, and that you will remind this foolish monster who owns him, who he belongs to.” He groaned in pleasure as his ridges alternated from rough and extended nubs to sucking kisses. “It is I who has to truly worry should you leave me.” His voice lowered, grew darker, as suddenly he began to thrust so unexpectedly viciously inside of Arthur that he drove the breath right out of him. “Unlike you I do not think I could—-if you truly fought me—-.” His thrusts grew punishing. “If you dared leave me…”

Arthur could only manage to hold on as his body was rammed in with brutal force, causing rough ridges to scrape depths of him they had never quite managed to reach before and leaving him a blubbering, unconsolable mess of sobs and cries.

Merlin shifted his head to growl threateningly in Arthur’s ear as his every thrust savagely scraped and kissed and stimulated deep within. “Maybe I should be the one threatening you with chains, my love,” he hissed in Arthur’s ear. “Do not worry, they will be magical so they will be light and will not bruise you, but they will keep you trapped, keep you bound, and should you try to run away from me, try to escape, they will drag you back clawing and kicking to be reminded whose home you are.”

Shivers shuddered their way down Arthur’s back as his legs were shifted, knees pressed into his chest and held there by Merlin’s own weight, this position leaving him completely open to the cock spearing him ruthlessly. “Your magic likes me to-too much to do that to me,” Arthur found himself purposefully provoking his lover.

“Then I will make it real chains,” Merlin promised immediately in response. “One chain. Fastened to a collar around your neck.”

“Wh-what will the other e-end be fastened to?”

Me,” Merlin responded.

Arthur’s body tightened instinctively around his mate at the very thought, and it was all he could do to keep from coming undone at the imagery. Yes. This confirmed it even to himself. Apparently he very subconsciously had been feeding Merlin ideas regarding this from the very beginning.

“I—I will be king,” Arthur growled, trying to make it sound angry and not lustful, trying to hide how close he was to losing himself to his rapidly coiling pleasure. “You would not dare show me such disrespect as to—.”

Is that so?” Merlin’s voice alone was terrifyingly threatening. “Someone is getting a little too high and mighty, I see. The idea of being king is going to his head.”

Yessss. Show me my place! Merlin—please—!

“I’m going to have to make you wear your sex slave skirt, Arthur, at least for the first five or so years,” Merlin decided, as if there really was no other way around it. “I’m going to require unfettered access to your tight little hole whenever, wherever. I am going to have to spend those formative years showing you - and Camelot - that you may be its king but first and foremost you are my bitch.”

Arthur came, howling so loudly, so desperately, he visibly surprised Merlin still as Arthur’s body spasmed violently around Merlin’s cock, molding itself around those ridges and using them to augment the intensity of his release as jolts of pleasure throbbed from his core. The prince leaned back heavily on the bedroll, eyes closed, lips parted as he breathed raggedly, unable to catch his breath.

Merlin’s cock pulsated inside of him.

The boy stretched and groaned, clenching around that deeply buried root. He rolled his hips, trying to force more of his lover inside of him, to encourage him to move. Even though Arthur’s body was still rippling with the aftershocks of his own orgasm the pleasure felt hollow, only managed to strengthen his itch as his body mourned the lack of white, warm, life-filled essence deep inside its core.

Arthur?” Merlin’s voice was hoarse, was strained, he was clearly using all of his willpower to keep himself still inside of Arthur. He pushed up so that he was carrying most of his weight on his palms and this shift in position allowed him to look down into Arthur’s eyes, revealing the struggle there. “How strong do you feel?”

It took him a moment to understand the question, and then he grinned and let out a deep-throated purr. “Strong enough to take you all night, and tomorrow as well.” He took the opportunity to shift his legs and wrap them around his mate’s waist. “I have been very resentful of those able to enjoy the Breeding Saddles.” He dug his heels into Merlin’s asscheeks beseechingly. “We have one more village before we reach the battlegrounds my love, take freely of me till then.” His hands trailed up and down Merlin’s chest seductively. “And then we will feed there so you are at your strongest when you come up against Tauren.” His eyes narrowed as he dug his nails in and dragged them downwards, leaving ugly red marks against Merlin’s skin and causing the cambion to rock his hips instinctively into his. “We will kill him, Merlin. He does not leave that battle alive. I do not care how it is accomplished, but for everything he has done to you he will suffer unspeakable agony before his death - even if I have to physically do it myself.” Realizing he had dug his nails in enough to draw blood at some parts, Arthur reached up and licked at it with his tongue, swallowing the thick trails of red as he whispered darkly, possessively: “You are mine.” He laid back down, Merlin’s blood on his lips, as he stared up at his cambion. “MINE.

Merlin stared down at him, mouth open in ragged breaths and eyes… eyes so dark… the black of the pupils bled out, filling every inch in the pitch blackness.

Arthur smiled at the sight, holding his arms out to his lover.

Breathing heavier with each breath, fangs beginning to appear behind his lips, Merlin was quickly coming undone above him. “Steel yourself, Arthur.”

Glorying in all that that warning always promised, Arthur embraced his mate when Merlin laid back on top of him and began to pound viciously inside of him. He shifted his hips and tightened his grip around Merlin’s waist while urgently turning his head and offering his neck, whimpering when Merlin did not notice fast enough. But then the sounds of his whined complains caught Merlin’s attention and in seconds he’d bitten in deep, both of them sobbing as he did so, their bodies trembling in pleasure.

Needing more — more! — Arthur concentrated on the magic inside of him and closed his eyes tightly, trying to order, trying to—and then the magic inside of him followed suit, forcing Arthur's insides to wrap impossibly tightly around Merlin’s cock, causing them both to sob out in shocked pleasure and pain. While the fit had always been tight due to Merlin’s monstrous length and girth, now every single inch of Arthur was wrapped around Merlin making his thrusts almost impossible and yet Merlin was slamming his hips harder and harder into Arthur and forcing the blonde’s body to open up and accept the invasion.

The rasping stimulation was leaving Arthur a speechless, wordless mess as those hardened ridges scraped all over, deep inside. He wanted to beg Merlin to make the ridges harder, to alternate hooking like he had before, but Arthur couldn’t get intelligible words out, only grunts and sobs, so he sought Merlin’s hand and brought those fingers to his eager mouth, sucking them in.

Merlin sobbed into Arthur’s neck as his cock and fingers were each being roughly squeezed and claimed by Arthur’s body. When he came it seemed a surprise to none more than himself as he tightened his bitten grip on Arthur’s neck and thrusted desperately before his cock hooked deep inside and his seed gushed out.

Arthur came at the feeling, and it was ten times more pleasurable than his previous orgasm had been. The only thing muffling his screams were Merlin’s fingers, which he sucked desperately while his body massaged Merlin of every last drop of seed. And then, once there was no more seed to be milked from that cock, Arthur clenched tightly around his mate, urging him for more.

And Merlin, ever the dutiful mate, happily obliged.