Arthur stands in the shadow of the ancient pine trees, watching an Alpha training session. His father dropped him off at Camp Albion early, desperate to be rid of his embarrassment of a son as quickly as possible, no doubt. Arthur was led by a friendly Beta to his wooden cabin in the Omega Forest to unpack, and left to explore his new home. He has plenty of time to spare before the camp induction tour starts.
A group of boys and girls and a couple of older pack members are standing on the banks of a dark lake, catcalling as one of the recruits demonstrates his combat fighting skills with a camp mentor. The young Alphas laugh as the scruffy teenage boy beats his chest in a mock tribal dance, but everyone falls silent as his opponent steps forward, and he crouches to the muddy ground immediately, barefoot, ready to pounce, a carved wooden staff held in both hands in front of his body. The man stepping into the circle stands supernaturally still. The air around him crackles with energy, and Arthur feels all the hairs on his body raise in response, his heart pounding painfully against his ribcage. The stranger is tall, pale, dark haired, body lean with finely corded muscles - strong - wearing black leather trousers, biker boots, naked from the waist up, dark tattoos spilling across his upper body, leather braids wound around his wrists. His eyes are glowing gold and he smirks as his trainee pounces, shifting to the side in a blur of speed so fast and graceful it’s like watching magic. He uses his own staff to knock the legs from under the boy and then steps down on his neck in a gentle but assured gesture of domination: battle won. Arthur’s face flushes as he realises he has slick oozing between his thighs, and the man turns sharply, suddenly, looking in the direction of the trees. Arthur can’t breathe as the man’s eyes lock with his, burning him from the inside out. That’s him, he thinks desperately, I belong to him.
“Fabulous job Gwaine,” another boy teases. “Defeated spectacularly in under two seconds, that’s got to be a record.” The moment is broken and Arthur stumbles back to his cabin, embarrassed and aroused, heart bursting with excitement. That’s my soulmate.
Arthur was born something of a mutt. A weird hybrid between a werewolf goddess and a mortal man. Nephilim, they called him. Demigod. His mother, the Druid Moon Goddess Ygraine, had been executed for mating with a human, and Arthur left to be raised in the mortal world by his father. Uther’s heart died with Ygraine, but he lived in hope that her gifts would manifest themselves in their son, and raised Arthur knowing all the wolf legends, histories, lores. Arthur knew he would present at fifteen if he had any wolf in him at all, biology shifting into the DNA of an Alpha. There was no doubt in Uther’s mind that his son would be a pack leader, with his mother a Goddess. The idea that his son would be a Beta, or even worse, an Omega, was unthinkable.
So when Arthur’s fifteenth birthday arrived in July, and he’d woken up to cramps and spots of blood on his sheets, it had been a huge disappointment. Uther remained distant as Arthur proudly handed over his invitation from Clan Camelot - his mother’s ancestors - to attend Camp Albion, the werewolf training grounds, as a member of their pack, all too glad to hand him over to his unknown kin, finally releasing his only remaining, living, breathing memory of the woman he once loved.
Perhaps Arthur would have felt sad about leaving his family, scared about leaving for the unknown. But he’d been born with a soul-mark. A small, silver spiral on the inside of his wrist. A warm, iridescent patch of skin that had felt like a protective talisman his whole life, a reminder that he was one of the rare wolves gifted with a true mate, a promise that one day he would be loved, cherished, that he would find his way home.
Merlin, he’s called. Emrys. Destined to be the most powerful Pack Alpha ever to walk the mortal earth, also nephilim: son of the Druid Dragon God Balinor and mortal medicine woman, Hunith. Arthur hears whispers about him among the new recruits all day, prickles uneasily as he senses his fellow Omegas’ own hopes rising. He’s mine, he wants to say. He’s always been mine.
He sees him again around the fire pit at their welcome feast that evening. He’s sitting with a beer on a bench on the outskirts of the party, legs crossed casually on the tree stump in front of him, observing the new arrivals with a quiet, unobtrusive interest. He watches Arthur approaching with dark, glittering eyes.
“Hello,” he says in a voice that makes Arthur shiver. Arthur sits next to him, body thrumming.
“I saw you fighting earlier,” he says, by way of introduction.
“I saw you watching,” Merlin acknowledges. Arthur looks at him with fierce longing, desperate for some sign of recognition.
“Do you know who I am?” he asks. Merlin laughs, tilting his head to observe Arthur better.
“You are one of our new Omegas, I believe?” he says with dry amusement. Arthur looks down, shakes his head impatiently, moves closer, until their legs are touching. Merlin’s eyes darken and his breath stutters for a moment, before he carefully moves his leg away. Arthur holds out his wrist. Merlin looks at it for a moment, spiral sparkling in the firelight, and then takes Arthur’s wrist in his hand, running a thumb softly over the mark, leaning down to press a gentle, chaste kiss against Arthur’s marred skin. He releases Arthur’s hand and turns his own wrist over, and Arthur sees a matching spiral, identical in every way to his own. “You are Arthur, son of Ygraine, and my Omega soulmate,” Merlin says quietly, grinning a little at Arthur’s amazement.
“I knew it was you,” he breathes, resting his head against Merlin’s shoulder in relief, fingers curling round Merlin’s wrist, his whole soul wrapping itself around its Alpha, its true mate, hugging the part of him that’s been missing all his life. He realises Merlin’s not touching him back, holding himself unnaturally rigid. Arthur looks up at him with concern; Merlin is looking into the fire. He moves back, horribly confused. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to ...” assume you’ve been waiting for me too? “…um, be inappropriately … friendly,” he blushes, looking down. “I thought - well, if I ever found you, that is - I always thought you’d be, pleased? Or, you know, happy too?” That you’d want me. That you’d claim what belongs to you. Merlin puts a hand on Arthur’s knee, and leans forward to talk to him, face serious.
“Arthur you’re fifteen,” he says, looking at Arthur gravely. “I’m twenty-four. You’re too young to be mated. You haven’t even had your first heat yet. It’s dangerous for me to be around you until you come of age; I could smell you from the other side of camp, so close proximity is a very bad idea. I can’t afford to lose control around you, do you understand?” Arthur wrinkles his nose dismissively.
“I’ve been waiting for you my whole life,” he says certainly, determined, “I’m ready for you, Merlin. I want -” I want you to lose control around me, “- I want you. To belong to you.” Merlin squeezes his knee.
“You might change your mind,” he says kindly. “You’re new to our community, our world. You don’t understand yet what being an Omega really means. What being mated to an Alpha means. You deserve the chance to make that decision for yourself, once you’ve experienced life here properly.”
“But we’re destined?” Arthur argues, confused, and weak with need for Merlin’s touch. “We share a soul!”
“Yes, we’re destined,” Merlin agrees, looking back to the fire. He shrugs. “And yet we still have free will. Wouldn’t you rather mate someone you know, and trust, and love, than a complete stranger? Perhaps one day that will be us. We can’t choose each other until we’ve gotten to know each other, can we?” Arthur feels like part of him is breaking inside.
“I feel like I do know you,” he murmurs, looking at the light dancing across Merlin’s skin, wanting to kiss the patterns of shadow.
“Really? What’s my favourite book?” Merlin asks with a raised eyebrow, face dimpling, trying to lighten the mood.
“I know your soul,” Arthur says angrily. “We have a whole lifetime to make polite conversation about irrelevant information.” Merlin laughs again, quietly.
“We’ll get to know each other, I promise,” he says, nudging Arthur’s knee with his own. “When you come of age,” he adds firmly. Arthur feels choked up with emotion, facing another onslaught of loneliness after already enduring a lifetime of being alone. “Arthur,” Merlin says, sensing his turbulent emotions. “This is all brand new for you. There’s no need to rush anything.” Arthur thinks of all the Omegas wet between the legs for him.
“Will you …” wait for me? “I mean. Have you - or, do you … you know. With anyone else?” Merlin looks at the floor and Arthur knows the answer immediately. His insides are beginning to freeze, although his skin feels hot.
“Never with Omegas,” Merlin says eventually. “I wouldn’t mate anyone without getting to know you first.” Arthur feels a small triumph, but any happiness is dashed by Merlin’s next sentence. “But obviously I date, Arthur, I’ve been dating for a decade. Betas. I guess it’s kind of like having friends with benefits, with Betas. Sometimes they’re relationships where there’s affection too. Nothing ever with a long-term view.”
“You don’t care if someone else takes me before you do?” Arthur asks tightly.
“That’s not my choice to make. I’m an Alpha, not a Dictator.”
“And I’m offering myself to you,” Arthur reiterates. Merlin stays quiet. “Okay,” Arthur nods, standing.
“Arthur -” Merlin reaches out, but Arthur brushes his hand away, eyes burning.
“I’m glad to have met you, Merlin,” Arthur says, walking away and refusing to look back.
He huddles in his bunk and sobs into his pillow, body aching from being so near its mate, left empty and wanting. He’s used to not being wanted, needed; to not being enough. It’s not a new feeling. But before, his mark had always meant something: a silent companion. Now it’s just a reminder that he’s completely alone.
Merlin goes back to his lakeside cabin and bangs his head against the glass doors, hands curled by his sides. His whole body is shaking with the urge to claim, blood hot with lust and love and burning with ownership, knot swelling uselessly, throbbing against the zipper of his jeans. Arthur is golden, every part of him shining with light and goodness and courage and he smells like honey, warm summer days, cinnamon; Merlin wants to bury himself inside him until his seed has planted and life grows in Arthur’s belly. He takes out his cock and fists himself quickly, splattering his release over the glass and then slides to the floor, groaning, barely sated.
“Jesus fucking christ,” he whispers to himself, burying his face in his knees. Arthur’s a child. In the mortal world he hasn’t even reached the age of consent. Arthur belongs to him, might one day be his to claim, but he’s also Merlin’s to protect. Nothing has ever tested his control so dangerously.
They actively avoid each other after Arthur’s first night. He gets on with training - opting to take all the same courses as the Alphas. Gaius, the camp physician, gives him a daily concoction of herbs to stop him from going into heat. He represses all his Omega urges and concentrates on becoming stronger, more powerful; a warrior.
Everything’s fine for a few months - painful, but bearable - until Arthur’s walking back from a swim in the lake one evening, when he sees Merlin fucking one of the Beta camp mentors, Lance, on the decking outside his lodge. They’re both naked. Lance is pressed belly-down on the wooden slats with Merlin moving sinuously above him, dark coils of ink writhing like a live thing, cock sliding in and out of his arse, Lance’s fingers tangled in his hair as he pulls Merlin’s mouth down to his. It’s when Merlin’s tongue seeks the heat of Lance’s mouth, when his fingers curl around Lance’s chest possessively, that Arthur kneels and vomits into the nearest bush. He stays shivering on the ground until the nausea passes. When he’s strong enough to stand, Merlin and Lance have gone.
He applies to transfer to their sister camp in the Scottish Highlands immediately: Camp Sidhe. Within a week, he’s gone.
Two years later
Arthur stumbles and spins around as Mordred’s staff hits him in the small of his back, wincing and deflecting his next blow, gradually moving him back towards the trees, grinning when he pins him by the throat to the nearest trunk. Mordred knees Arthur in the balls though, and Arthur is forced to drop back, defending himself as Mordred advances on him like a snake, pounce and retreat, pounce and retreat, until Arthur is at the Loch’s edge. With some nifty footwork he manages to spin and knock Mordred face-down into the water, pinning his shoulders to the sandy sediment beneath his face until Mordred concedes defeat.
“He’s good,” Merlin comments, watching him from the safety of the ridge above. “He fights like an Alpha.” Camp Sidhe’s Elder Alpha, Kilgarrah, nods his head.
“They think of him as one of their own - he represses his heats.” Kilgarrah glances at Merlin to gauge his reaction, but Merlin merely quirks an eyebrow, face remaining impassive. “I fear he’s lost his Omega gentleness,” Kilgarrah muses quietly. Merlin watches the sunlight glint on Arthur’s hair, the way his muscles ripple under his white t-shirt, the sweetness of his smile as he reaches out a hand to pull his friend back up. His light is even stronger now, a glowing aura that feels like a force field to Merlin, pulsing magnetically, dragging him closer. Resistance is exhausting.
“He still has gentleness,” Merlin assures him, turning and walking back to the old fort that serves as camp headquarters, trying to find relief from the constant pull towards Arthur.
“You’re sure about transferring here from Albion?” Kilgarrah asks him, keeping in stride with the powerful Alpha beside him. Merlin nods shortly.
“He’s seventeen now. He’s of age.” Merlin looks at Kilgarrah. “My mark burns stronger and stronger. I think it’s time to get to know him.”
“I hope he will let you,” Kilgarrah says sadly, and Merlin’s heart clenches at the implication that he might not.
Arthur feels his presence, of course. Knows Merlin is watching him. His scent carried down to Arthur on the breeze, an irresistible combination of damp earth, sandalwood, musk, sea kelp … thank God for the herbal repressors he takes. He’d be leaking like sieve otherwise. Arthur shudders and heads for the shower block, determined to ignore Merlin’s arrival. He’s probably just here to exchange camp news with Kilgarrah. He scratches at the place on his wrist where the soul-mark used to be, now just a stamp-sized pinkish scar, where Mordred burnt it off for him using Druid magic. No reminders, apart from the constant itch. He knows now that he isn’t destined for union, parenthood. He’ll fight for the werewolf armies instead. Lose himself in battle. Find companionship with his brothers, his comrades in war.
When he gets back to his cabin, Mordred is lying on his bed, flicking through his dog-eared copy of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
“‘Your strength is just an accident arising from the weakness of others,’” Mordred reads, smirking at Arthur’s carefully highlighted passages. “God you’re a geek.” Arthur rolls his eyes, swotting Mordred with his wet towel and smiling as Mordred squirms. He likes the cheeky Alpha - he’s probably Arthur’s best friend. He’s never treated Arthur like an Omega. He’s also gorgeous to look at and completely shameless about sexual favours, which works in Arthur’s favour. He flops down next to him on the bed, and Mordred nuzzles against his still damp skin, licking his nipples. “Saw Merlin arrived earlier.” Arthur keeps his eyes closed and nods.
“Yeah I think he saw your epic battle failure,” Arthur comments neutrally. “You know, where you drowned, like a useless, floppy fish.” Mordred laughs, biting the skin at Arthur’s throat in retaliation.
“You okay about it?” he asks. Arthur nods, sliding a hand up Mordred’s warm spine, gently rubbing the nape of his neck, stroking his dark curls. “Want to fuck? Take the edge off, just in case?” Arthur kisses him gently, rubbing noses.
“I want to fuck because I like you fucking me,” he responds, and if his heart splinters slightly at the delighted beam on Mordred’s face, the bashful grin, he ignores it, rolling onto his belly and spreading his thighs. The herbal repressor he takes stops him from producing fluid; going into heat; being fertile, essentially, so there’s no risk of accidental mating and pregnancy. Mordred reaches for the lube Arthur keeps in his bedside drawer instead and begins to pump his fingers in and out of Arthur, tenderly kissing his neck as he prepares him, eventually sliding in with a sigh. Arthur knows Mordred loves him. He can feel it, the gentleness with which he pushes in and out of Arthur’s body, strokes his cock, puts his friend’s pleasure first.
Merlin’s heart stops and his eyes swim with red, the familiar fog of Alpha rage. He stands outside Arthur’s cabin watching in horror as his Omega lets another Alpha rut him, claim his body, teeth moving again and again to the place on his neck where a mating mark belongs. Where Merlin should be biting it. He immediately closes his eyes, fighting the rush of pheromones that urge him to go and rip the rival Alpha’s throat out, to push Arthur down and claim him before anyone else can. Tears spring to his eyes; hot, angry, devastated tears and he can’t bear it, he morphs into a wolf and runs as far into the craggy hills as he can go, howling at the sky in fury and regret.
He’s sombre when he comes back to Arthur’s cabin later, once everyone has gone to bed, decision made. There will be no more waiting. He grimaces as he thinks Arthur was right all those years ago: they’ve got all their lives to ‘get to know each other’; what’s more important is that they belong, here, now. Merlin should have never let Arthur doubt that.
He knows there’s a policy that camp recruits must sleep in their own cabins at night: Mordred will be safely ensconced somewhere else. Arthur’s eyes widen when he sees Merlin at the door. Merlin doesn’t wait for an invitation to enter, striding fast across the threshold and brushing roughly against Arthur as he does so, nose wrinkling at the assault of Mordred’s scent in the room.
“Please do come in, Merlin,” Arthur says sarcastically as Merlin sits in the only armchair, leaning forwards, elbows on knees. “Go ahead, make yourself at home.” He closes the door and moves back to the bed, sitting cross-legged in the centre with a pile of books, looking at Merlin coldly. Merlin feels his cock swelling, his knot too, at the sight of Arthur in old flannel pyjama bottoms and a soft, worn t-shirt, face flushed and lovely, even more handsome than he’d been as a younger boy. Broader, firmer now, but still soft. Still beautiful. He squirms under Merlin’s silent, intense scrutiny, dropping his gaze to the quilt and cursing the herbs that don’t seem to be holding in his true mate’s presence, if the sudden moisture between his arse cheeks is any indication. Please no, he begs the universe. Please not again. Merlin’s nostrils flare and he grimaces as though in pain, fingers clenched tightly. Arthur can barely look at Merlin for fear of crumbling into a million pieces again: pieces he’s spent years putting back together in a shape that vaguely resembles something whole and unbroken. Merlin’s presence is like a hit of heroin: euphoria rushing through his blood and short-circuiting his brain. It’s dizzying. Arthur wants to fall to his knees and beg to be filled; to be his forever.
“You’re fucking an Alpha,” Merlin states quietly, and Arthur shudders at the controlled rage in his voice, the hidden danger lurking too close to the surface. It’s not a question, but he looks up and meets Merlin’s gaze unrepentantly, nodding slightly. Merlin frowns, clenching his jaw and forcing himself to breathe before speaking. “Do you have any idea how hurtful that is?” he murmurs eventually, and Arthur’s blood chills at the fury and agony lacing Merlin’s words.
“You told me you didn’t care who I fucked.” Arthur retorts, refusing to submit. “How many people have you slept with, in your decade of dating?” Merlin doesn’t flinch.
“You know it’s not comparable,” he admonishes cooly, slicing the air with his words, cutting Arthur. “Alphas and Omegas mate. It’s a spiritual and emotional union as well as a physical one. It’s complete ownership and connection, you are tied to another were, for Christ’s sake. Fucking Betas is just a physical release. I’ve been waiting for my true mate to come of age since my knot popped at fifteen, Arthur. Twelve years of being horny requires release, sometimes.”
“Well so do I,” Arthur grits out, wounded and defensive. “I’m on blockers, I’m basically a Beta. His knot never swells in response to me. We’ve never tied.” Merlin feels his heartbeat settle with that information, slow down to something more manageable.
“Come here,” he says after a moment’s reflection, considering the stubborn Omega. Arthur feels more slick oozing from his hole at the command. He’s desperate to obey, body and soul naturally gravitating towards their missing halves, but Arthur’s mind is strong. He wills himself to stay on the bed.
“You told me I could choose,” Arthur whispers, sweat breaking out along his hairline, the desire to move towards Merlin building inside him, unbearable.
“You still want me,” Merlin responds calmly, voice low, warm, coaxing. “And I want you. You’re of age now. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of what we both need to happen, Arthur, please. You know that you belong to me, and I to you.You know. It’s time.” Arthur is so conflicted. He doesn’t want to be weak again, to allow himself to be vulnerable, hurt.
“Why now?” he chokes, cheeks reddening, clenching his arse together desperately.
“My mark is growing stronger. Nimueh is one of the High Priestesses of the Old Religion. She sees war with the vampires close at hand, and our union - our leadership - leading the werewolves to victory.”
“You would let me fight?” Arthur asks, dubiously. Merlin’s mouth quirks at Arthur’s surprise; an aborted smile.
“Beside me, yes,” Merlin nods. “I may be your Alpha, but you will always be free to make your own decisions as my equal, cherished partner.” His eyes flick down to Arthur’s wrist, acknowledging their bodily connection, and his eyes narrow into golden, molten, burning slits as he takes in the ugly scar where their soul-mark used to be. “Who did that to you?” he hisses, standing up and stalking towards Arthur predatorily, grabbing his arm in vice-like grip. Arthur scrambles backwards, trying to keep the bed between them. “Mordred?” Merlin spits scathingly, eyes flashing, scenting the air as if to run from the cabin and exact painful vengeance right this very minute -
“Don’t,” Arthur pleads, moving around the bed to stand in front of Merlin, somehow reading his thoughts, his body language. “I was desperate to be free of all the people who didn’t want me. He just helped.” Merlin crowds close to Arthur, so close that his hard length brushes against Arthur’s crotch.
“Does this feel like I don’t want you?” Merlin asks quietly, nosing Arthur’s temple, his ear, relaxing as he feels heat bloom within Arthur, Omega-inhibiting drugs burning out of his system with the strength of the hormones and chemicals triggered by Merlin’s proximity. “I’ve loved you since I first saw you playing football when you were six.” Arthur gasps and steps back, Merlin’s hand curling around his hip and pulling him back, flush against his body. “I’d come of age and followed my new Alpha senses to find my mate. You were in a small garden, alone, kicking ball after ball into the goal and grinning so widely your cheeks were red with it, so happy, even with no-one to share it with. No-one to praise you.” Merlin pulls Arthur into his arms as he begins to cry. “I knew then I would never, ever, do anything to jeopardise that happiness. That beautiful innocence.”
“Merlin,” Arthur gasps, tears rolling down his cheeks, clinging to Merlin’s dark tartan shirt, burying his face in Merlin’s neck. “I’m sorry. Forgive me, please, forgive me.” Merlin holds Arthur against him, kissing his head, tilting Arthur’s chin upwards to face him.
“No-one but me is ever to touch you again, do you understand me? You will never remove my marks from your body once you have accepted them.” Arthur nods, wet face pressed against Merlin’s neck.
“You promise too,” he mumbles, “no-one but me ever again.” Merlin brushes a thumb over the corner of Arthur’s mouth, stroking the skin until Arthur’s lips part, and then leaning down to dip his tongue into Arthur’s softness, impossibly hardening further at Arthur’s needy moan. He withdraws, rests his forehead against Arthur’s, looks into his eyes.
“You have my word,” he promises, stroking Arthur’s neck, kissing away his tears. Arthur allows himself to feel their bond again, sighing as Merlin finally, finally presses his lips to Arthur’s, tasting his true mate for the first time. Merlin slides a finger into Arthur’s mouth and strokes his tongue, licking his own alongside it, allowing Arthur to suckle gently from his digit.
“You taste like nectar,” Merlin whispers into his skin, and Arthur snorts against his shoulder as Merlin peels his t-shirt from him, slides down his sleep-shorts, leaving Arthur standing naked. Merlin runs his hands down Arthur’s body, glorying in the golden skin, sun-bronzed and weathered, fair hair scattered across his chest, underarms, legs, crotch. “God, you’re perfect,” Merlin groans, kneeling beneath him and licking between his thighs, lapping up his juices, pressing his nose into the leaking cavern and nibbling and sucking until Arthur is whimpering above him, body shaking. Merlin stands and pushes him gently to the bed, manoeuvring him to lie on his side as Merlin peels his own clothes off. Arthur turns to look at him, drinking in the sight of his powerful Alpha mate, his long, thick cock dripping with pre-come, knot already bulging at its base, body slim and wiry, alive with swirling, coiling, inky black tattoos. He suddenly hates anyone who has seen Merlin like this.
“I’ve never knotted anyone either,” Merlin smiles, understanding the reason for Arthur’s jealous countenance, climbing on to the bed beside him and pushing their foreheads together in comfort. He presses his lips against Arthur’s in silent apology, kissing him slowly and tenderly as he turns Arthur in his arms, pushes one of his knees up, exposing his hole, and then slotting his body behind him, every inch of flesh on their naked bodies touching, and nudging his entrance with the blunt head of his cock. “Okay?” he murmurs, looking for affirmation, and at Arthur’s impatient thrust back into his embrace, he laughs and pushes in, burying himself, at last, in his soulmate. “Oh my god,” he exhales, biting the cinnamon skin of Arthur’s shoulder, eyes-closed, nothing he’s ever experienced coming close to this feeling of profound intimacy.
“Merlin,” Arthur is gasping into a pillow, stifling his noises, “Alpha, nngggh, Merlin, please.” Merlin pulls the pillow away.
“Don’t hide from me,” he chides with damp, hot kisses, deepening his thrusts and groaning with pleasure as Arthur arches and shouts, warm body trembling in Merlin’s strong arms. “Found it, did I?” Merlin smirks, high on Arthur’s smell, zipping though his senses like speed. It’s addictive, this.
“You’re - ah -” Arthur groans as the air is punched out of him on Merlin’s next entry, “- a smug - ah - arrogant - nnggghhh - idiot,” he complains crossly, twisting his fingers through Merlin’s nevertheless, and dragging his arms tighter around his body, entwining their legs and feet together.
“I think you’re a cuddle-monkey, not a wolf,” Merlin grins, nosing at his mating point and feeling his canines lowering. He works his knot inside Arthur, tying him, and shushes him as he grimaces with pain, licking the tender skin about to be broken. Arthur reaches a hand back and buries his fingers in Merlin’s hair in invitation, pushing his head towards the pulse point at the base of his throat, coming with a gasp as Merlin lowers his teeth into his neck, knot releasing its first wave of come inside him at the same time. They both moan and hold each other tightly as Merlin continues biting, tied, pumping semen into Arthur until Arthur lies panting, relaxed and submissive in his arms, soul healing a little now that he’s been claimed. “I love you,” Merlin mouths against the new mating mark, kissing the bleeding skin, “I have always loved you.”
“And I you,” Arthur confesses into the skin of Merlin’s forearm beneath his head.
Arthur wakes up with an ache deep inside his belly and groin, soreness spreading through all his limbs and muscles. He winces as he tries to move, leaning over his and Merlin’s tangled limbs to see his alarm clock. 10am. Thank god it’s the weekend. Arthur lies back down and flushes as Merlin pulls him back into his arms, unconsciously rubbing his himself against Arthur’s backside again, hand possessively cupping his cock. He’d mated Arthur six times last night, the need for his Omega apparently insatiable - taking him spooning, on his hands and knees, lying flat on his belly and back, sitting in Merlin’s lap, pushed against the wall of a shower cubicle - he’s been knotted, stretched, bitten and kissed for hours, sticky with sweat, saliva and semen. Merlin’s mouth and tongue have sucked, licked, and probed every part of him. Arthur particularly loves Merlin’s tongue. It looks like a pale, wet pink rose petal, mesmerising to watch as it glides caressingly across Arthur’s skin, leaving shivery, glistening trails that taste like liquorice. Arthur feels dazed. He can’t believe he’s actually been mated. Bound for life to another human. It’s a bit overwhelming, particularly after two years convincing himself that this wasn’t his path after all. Merlin blinks his eyes open, conscious of his mate’s quiet distress, his muddled thoughts.
“My love?” he asks tentatively, slipping his fingers into Arthur’s hair, gently massaging his skull. Arthur’s melts a little at the endearment. “Are you … uncomfortable?” His ears redden as he asks the question and Arthur is amused by the sudden self-consciousness of his confident Alpha; his new embarrassment that their heated ardour last night might have left his Omega sore.
“Very,” he answers, rolling over and lying across Merlin’s belly, kissing his sharp collarbone. “Could I be pregnant?” he asks, worried about the ache in his lower stomach. Merlin rubs his neck and shoulders with both hands soothingly.
“No,” he shakes his head. “You weren’t in heat. And it normally takes a while anyway, for the body to settle into heats. You’ve still not had your first.” Arthur blinks down, trying to work out his feelings.
“Do you want that from me?” he asks obliquely. “To - breed - for you?” Merlin shifts and switches their positions, pushing Arthur onto his back and into the mattress, lying on top of him, arms cradling his head.
“Yes, I’d like to breed you one day,” he answers with a warm, private smile, kissing Arthur’s jaw, hardening at the thought. “I can’t think of anything better than you being round with my children.” Arthur imagines being in heat, Merlin rutting into him for days, mating him, planting life inside him. Slick begins to ooze down his thighs, and he closes his eyes, contemplating that genetics will make the decision for him. He will want because his body wants. Because his Alpha wants. Merlin rubs his cock against Arthur’s leg, parting Arthur’s thighs and sliding between them again, back into Arthur’s dripping hole, licking away any words of protest or concern hovering on Arthur’s lips.
“I’ll have to speak to Mordred,” Arthur says quietly, later, breathless in their damp sheets. Merlin is sprawled over him, dozing, nibbling and nuzzling his mating mark. They’re still tied, although Merlin’s cock is softening after nearly 40 minutes of ejaculation, and Arthur’s own appendage lies half-hard, occasionally spurting out weak dribbles of come as his prostate his stimulated, almost pumped dry. “He’s my friend. I shouldn’t have used him to forget you. That wasn’t fair on him.” Merlin grips Arthur tighter.
“I know,” he sighs. “Bear in mind that I am primed to kill him right now, though, so try to avoid touching him.” He comes again and kisses Arthur’s sticky neck as he pulls out.
“I’ll probably want to hug him,” Arthur admits, feeling sad for Mordred already.
“Arthur -” Merlin says warningly, but Arthur puts a finger on his lips to silence him.
“Did you hug Lance when you finished it? Or Will? Gilli? Tristan? Leon? Elyan?” Merlin frowns at him. “And they’re just the ones I’ve heard about in the last two years,” Arthur says, pushing Merlin away and moving to the edge of the bed. “I need to have a shower.” Merlin grips his wrist and pulls him back into bed in a single, fluid movement.
“I’m jealous too,” Merlin says, stroking Arthur’s cheek. “Don’t leave. It’s our mooning period.” Arthur raises an eyebrow.
“Worst honeymoon location ever,” he comments, glancing outside at the storm battering the tiny cabin.
“Oh I don’t know, I think there are benefits to being stuck inside,” Merlin smiles. “Do you want to fuck me too?” Arthur’s mouth goes dry as Merlin rolls onto his belly and spreads his legs, smiling up at him coyly from beneath his lashes and waggling his bum in offer.
“Alpha’s don’t … um …” Arthur’s brain scrambles. Merlin slides a leg between his.
“We make our own rules Arthur. Yes I’m an Alpha. But I’m a lover too, just like you. I also want to feel you claiming my body as your own, to be marked with your mating bite. It will strengthen our bond.”
“Have you - with the others, I mean. Before?” Arthurs heart contracts at the thought.
“No,” Merlin says simply, stroking Arthur’s arm. Arthur hadn’t even considered it a possibility in his wildest dreams.
“Good,” Arthur smiles, leaning down to kiss Merlin. He strokes his body reverently, copying what Merlin had done to him: a gentle tangle of tongues, licking down Merlin’s body, taking special care to nibble and suck his nipples, working him open with tongue and fingers using the lube he’d needed to use with Mordred, sucking Merlin’s cock to get him hard and wet. Every part of him tastes delicious. He lets the flavours roll over his tongue, before Merlin drags him up by the hair, trapping him between hot thighs, and guides Arthur to his entrance.
“Ever heard of a ‘bossy bottom’?” Arthur huffs, and Merlin bites his bottom lip as Arthur slides inside. He makes love to him gently, slowly, ardently, cherishing their closeness, their heartbeats drumming together as one, fingers and tongues tangled and stroking. Merlin comes when Arthur lowers his canines and bites him too, just like he did. There is something intensely erotic about the moment you submit control to another person in mating, Arthur has discovered. The sight of Merlin coming, face contorted, body arching, biting his lip to mute his cry - that’s what causes Arthur to spill. Reducing the most powerful man he knows into a pliant puddle of pleasure feels like flying.
“You’re mine now,” Arthur says, eleven years old again and fiercely possessive of the few things that were his.
“Always have been,” Merlin says, eyes closed and holding Arthur’s head to his chest.
“You let him mate you.” Mordred sits against their favourite rowan tree, heavy with red berries, knees pulled up to his chest, staring horrified at the bite mark on Arthur’s neck. He frowns. “But you’re on blockers?” How is that possible?
“They couldn’t overpower the hormones my body produces around its true mate, I think,” Arthur explains quietly. Mordred’s jaw tightens and he looks away towards the Loch, dimpling with circles as raindrops splash its indigo surface. “I’m sorry,” Arthur says, truthfully, putting a hand on Mordred’s ankle, feeling his mating bite pulse in warning, as though he’s betraying his Alpha. “You’re my dearest friend Mord. If I wasn’t soul-bonded …” if there was no Merlin on the planet, “- well, I can imagine I’d want to choose someone like you. You deserve a mate who loves you in a way I’ll never be able to. I’ve tried to fight my destiny, my heart, my body. It hasn’t worked. I’m still his.”
“I hate him,” Mordred says, wrapping his cold fingers around Arthur’s wrist. “I’d hoped …”
“I know,” Arthur says, so he doesn’t have to say it aloud, doesn’t make it real. Mordred nods, crawls over to Arthur’s side, presses close to him, nuzzling his neck. Arthur’s whole body recoils now, stiffening under alien, unwanted Alpha attention. Mordred turns Arthur’s face and claims his mouth for a final time. For everything they’ve shared, Arthur doesn’t pull away, allows Mordred to kiss him goodbye. “When it’s easier,” Arthur tries, carefully extricating himself, “… in time, perhaps … I hope we’ll be the closest of friends again.”
“I’ll need to find myself nothing short of fucking Thor first,” Mordred mutters, and Arthur laughs, holding Mordred close to him until the sun begins to wane.
When Arthur gets back to his cabin, Merlin turns from the window with pained eyes, hair standing on end.
“You look like you’ve been electrified,” Arthur remarks with a small grin, closing the door. Merlin pinches his nose pointedly.
“Please have a shower and wash his bloody scent off you before I challenge him to a fucking duel and piss all over you,” he grits out, shaking with the effort of restraining himself. Arthur’s eyes widen.
“You want to mark me with piss? We really need to discuss boundaries, Merlin, I am not okay with any kind of waste fluid being used to - ow!” Merlin’s thrown Wolves, Witches, Warlocks and Wyverns at his head.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to control the wolf raging inside me, Arthur? Go. And. Have. A. Shower. Now.” He rummages in his backpack on the floor and throws some Silver Buckthorn body wash at him. “Use this, you’ll smell more like me afterwards.”
“Bergamot, Lemon, Black Pepper, Nutmeg, Ginger,” Arthur reads from the bottle, “… are you actually just hankering after a gin and tonic? Secret alky?”
“I swear to God, Arthur -”
“Right, right,” Arthur grins, holding his hands up placatingly, backing towards the door. “You’re sexy when you’re all riled up and fighting your inner demon by the way.” He laughs as Merlin growls at his retreating back.
Being mated is wonderful. As Merlin is one of the new camp mentors, trainers - not to mention the most powerful Alpha in the country - he is given a more private wooden lodge than Arthur’s, nestled on the edges of a sweet-smelling pine forest bordering an obsidian, rocky coastline populated by seals. Arthur, as his mated Omega, is permitted by their Camp Elder, Kilgarrah, to live with him, despite the fact that he is still, for another year, a recruit, supposed to live alone and unmated. But true mates have their own lores, deeply respected by the wolf community, and mated wolves are never separated against their will once coupled.
Seeing Merlin train the Alphas - being trained by him - is powerfully arousing, watching his easy, calm, effortless dominance at close hand, his complete authority, self-control, his unrivalled power. As herbs don’t work to curb Arthur’s Omega responses to Merlin, they’ve taken to keeping him plugged during the day instead, to stop his juices from seeping out and driving all the Alphas he fights with mad … and Merlin from killing every one of them if they so much as sniff him. He loves feeling the hot prickle of Merlin’s approving gaze as he’s fighting, appraising him. He’s fought him in one-to-one combat training a few times now, as every recruit is expected to, and Merlin never lets him win, never humiliates him by going in easy, always pushes him equally as hard as his Alpha comrades. Arthur loves him for it; loves him for believing that Arthur is strong enough to fight as an Alpha, strong enough to submit, to lose without shame, to endure defeat, to excel without needing any special treatment to keep up with the pack. When they run in the forests as wolves Merlin is sleeker, more agile, faster; when they hunt he’s instinctive, ruthless and mercifully quick; when they undertake blind seek challenges, Merlin is always the first to arrive at the destination, first to claim the prize.
By the time they’ve finished training for the day, shared supper with their camp mates - meaty stews and rough bread, Arthur sitting between the V of Merlin’s outstretched legs as he chats to Kilgarrah round the fire pit, docile as Merlin strokes his aching back muscles - and then showered together, and made it back to their cabin, Arthur is like a tap, or a bottle of warm champagne; shaken and ready to pop, spilling liquid as soon as he’s uncorked, shivery with pent-up need for his Alpha. Merlin loses his tightly held control every time, impales Arthur on his cock immediately, re-opening his mating mark and licking the bleeding wound, relentlessly asserting his ownership and dominance of Arthur and his body. He spends almost every minute of every night locked inside his younger mate, seemingly desperate to claw back all the minutes of their lives they haven’t been tied together; it’s a daily, hourly agony of insatiable, unquenchable desire.
Arthur’s first heat arrives two months after being mated. They’re in a glade in the woods, fighting as wolves, when halfway through Arthur’s turn, watched by all his peers, he suddenly feels a wave of hot nausea roll through him, disorienting him, and he can’t breathe, trying to drop to the ground to expose his belly, the wolf gesture of submission. Percy, the Alpha he’s been sparring with, sees his stumble and moment of hesitation, his weakness, and grips his tail between his jaws, causing Arthur to yelp as he’s dragged through the prickly undergrowth. Percy stops abruptly and howls, sniffing Arthur’s hole, and Arthur’s barely conscious of registering panic as Percy tries to mount him before Merlin’s fierce black wolf has jumped between them, teeth bared, snarling so loudly the glade reverberates. Percy cowers immediately, backing away from the more powerful Alpha, head bowed, whimpering as Merlin advances on him with terrifying focus, a volcanic rumbling growl emanating from deep in his belly. Arthur shifts back to human form to lessen the unbearable cramping, standing shakily and wincing as he sees Merlin pounce, grasping Percy’s neck viciously between his teeth and shaking him like a rag.
“Merlin, don’t!” Arthur whispers, knowing Merlin can hear him through their bond, senses sharpened as a wolf. He’s acutely aware of being an Omega, for the first time, about to go into heat in the middle of a pack of Alphas. “Help me, please Alpha,” he gasps, feeling the need to submit hit him like an atom bomb. In a flash, Merlin drops the whimpering Percy to the floor with a final warning bite towards his head and is gone, standing as a human by Arthur’s side. Sliding an arm around Arthur, they begin to make their way back home, and Arthur feels more relaxed once they’re walking through the Omega part of camp, back in safer territory. He groans as another rush of nausea burns through his blood, slick leaking out from around the plug and rolling down his trembling legs. Soon he will want to present, he knows, and he’s appalled that it might not be in private.
“We’re nearly there caro,” Merlin reassures him, reading his mind, using the sweet nickname of beloved to soothe him. He gestures to a young Omega called Freya, who is watching them curiously from a swinging tyre.
“You!” he calls urgently, and she cowers as the powerful Alpha addresses her, lowering her head and dropping to her knees. “Go and tell Elder Kilgarrah that Arthur’s gone into heat and that we’ll be in our cabin until it’s over, so someone else will need to cover my duties and bring us food.” She nods, blushing furiously and scampers off, relieved to be as far away from the dark-haired, golden-eyed Alpha as quickly as possible. “Nearly there my love,” he says again, nearly carrying Arthur now, as they reach the cliff path that descends to the beach below.
Arthur is sweating when they arrive, and despite the November air being cold and wet, Merlin throws open all the windows and doors, and then kneels by Arthur’s side to peel his sodden clothes from him. Arthur allows Merlin to manoeuvre him into a more comfortable position on the floor nearest the back door, where the cool breeze is strongest, blowing in straight from the sea. He builds a nest of pillows and blankets around him, and comes back with a cool flannel, gently wiping Arthur’s burning skin.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur whispers, clenching his teeth to stop them from chattering, body convulsing as the heat really begins to kick in, “I put everyone in danger.”
“No, caro,” Merlin shushes him, helping him to drink from a cup filled with herbs that are meant to ease the heat symptoms, “first heats are always hard to plan for.” Arthur closes his eyes and tries to focus on the calming sounds of his Alpha breathing. He hears a rustle of fabric that indicates Merlin has taken his own clothes off, and then there is cool skin pressed against him, the citrusy scent of his mate making his mouth water.
Merlin lies still next to him, forcing his pounding heart to slow down. Seeing another wolf near his Omega, on the verge of going into heat, had nearly resulted in the death of a recruit. Merlin is furious with himself for his lack of control. He knows other Alphas would have snapped Percy like a twig, so the fact he’s still alive is something … not brilliant timing for a near miss though, killing off Alphas as two races are once again poised for war. But his dominant emotion is concern for Arthur. Having repressed his heats for years, Merlin guesses that this one’s going to be tough, all his hormones forcing themselves to the surface at last. His mate has never looked or smelt more appealing, damp hair tousled and sticking to his forehead, whole body flushed pink, thighs shiny with slick and splayed wide, muscled body arching upwards, seeking relief already. His desire to roll Arthur onto his belly and fuck into his hot, pink, perfectly formed arse is desperately strong, he’d claw his way inside his body if he could, but he knows Arthur’s too sensitive to be rutted yet: there are other things he needs from Merlin first. Right on cue, Arthur begins to whimper, sliding down Merlin’s body. He hungrily latches on to Merlin’s cock and sucks thirstily, moaning in relief to have his mouth filled, wanting to drink from his Alpha. Merlin shifts onto his back and pulls Arthur’s head between his legs, stroking a thumb along his jaw and gentle fingers through his hair, encouraging him to sink deeper, to take more. The sounds Arthur is making drive Merlin wild, it’s like Arthur’s a starving man devouring him, and he lets his head thud back and his eyes close, wrapping his thighs around Arthur’s neck, legs cradling Arthur’s back as Arthur sucks him to completion. As soon as he has Merlin’s release, he rolls onto his knees and presents to him, neglected cock hard and red, tears of frustration filling his eyes.
“I’ve got you Arthur,” Merlin reassures him quietly, moving behind him and pushing his newly-hard cock and knot straight into Arthur’s glistening hole. “You look so beautiful like this,” he praises him, “so strong, so brave to submit and to trust, so perfect for me, the best of all Omegas, I’m so proud of you my love, so lucky the stars made you mine …” Merlin’s half-conscious litany of honeyed words flow through Arthur’s blood and cool him, and he cries freely when he achieves his first release, Merlin’s swelling knot throbbing against his prostate.
Throughout the week Merlin makes love to him, hammers into him, sucks him, strokes him, massages him, feeds him, bathes him; he gives and gives and gives until Arthur can barely remember his own name, never experiencing love and care like this before. He feels worshipped and adored and wanted and needed and aching and grateful and a million other things, all flowing through him and keeping him in a constant haze of weepy, overstimulated confusion, clinging to his Alpha and realising properly for the first time that he won’t let go. It’s like being in a drug-induced state; just a living, breathing mass of physical and emotional sensation, consciousness floating somewhere above his body, anchored to reality only by his strong, soothing Alpha, holding him through it.
After five days of round-the-clock rutting, Arthur’s mind begins to clear, and he’s aware of being hungry for the first time in nearly a week. He wakes up, still tied to Merlin, stomach growling, and twists round to ask about food, silenced by the astonishing beauty of his Alpha sleeping. He runs a finger along Merlin’s high cheekbones, noticing for the first time how exhausted he looks, the deep frown line between his eyes, the dark skin beneath them. He knows his heat has been almost as hard on Merlin as it has on him … he’s the one doing all the work, taking care of them both, exerting himself just as physically as Arthur, giving far more than he’s taken. Merlin’s eyelids flutter beneath Arthur’s exploring fingertips and he smiles sleepily.
“Is my Arthur back?” he murmurs huskily, voice still sleep-rough, face smushed into Arthur’s shoulder.
“Well who else have you been having sex with for a week?” Arthur retorts, curling into Merlin’s arms.
“A wanton sex goddess with a very bad man between her thighs,” Merlin grins, nipping Arthur’s neck as he groans.
“You’re likening me to Bridget Jones?” he complains. Merlin shrugs.
“Blonde, highly emotional, desperate for a shag. If the shoe fits piccolo lupo.” Little wolf is another of his pet names for Arthur, who huffs and bites Merlin’s fingers. Which reminds him …
“I’m hungry,” he declares, pouting ridiculously. Merlin snorts and leans back, knot tugging at the rim of Arthur’s hole.
“Here, have this.” He thrusts half a ham, cheese and pickle sandwich into Arthur’s hand. “You’ve been subsisting on a diet of semen and orange juice, it’s no wonder you’re famished. I am too, as it happens. Difficult to break for supper when your mate is insisting you get back inside him right this fucking minute … you are one very demanding Omega.” Arthur turns to look at him, chewing his food, but Merlin is smiling with something that looks like pride. He swallows and pulls Merlin’s messy hair closer to his face.
“You are the world’s best Alpha,” he says seriously, kissing Merlin on the lips. “Thank you for treating me like a prince.”
“Always,” Merlin smiles, stroking Arthur’s neck, fingers skating across his mating mark, returning Arthur’s chaste kiss. “Besides, having a sex demon take over your mate’s body is hardly a hardship.” He smirks mischievously. “I’m knackered, yes, hopeful that this was just first time madness and not your own special brand of crazy heat fever, and very grateful these things only come around once every two months to give me time to recover, but,” he pauses, finding Arthur’s grinning mouth and claiming it again, “I wouldn’t lose this connection for anything in the world.”
“Still don’t know what your favourite book is,” Arthur points out, sighing as Merlin releases another gush of fluid inside him and begins to slip out as his knot loosens. Merlin shakes his head.
“I was an arse, fine. It’s called The Magus.”
“Hmm,” Arthur says, turning around and drawing circles on Merlin’s flat stomach. “Favourite colour?” Merlin kisses Arthur’s nose.
“Killer of Giants.”
“Porridge.” Arthur tips his head back and laughs delightedly. His bad-ass Alpha would pick gloop over steak!
“Oh shut up,” Merlin mutters smilingly, lips ghosting across Arthur’s brow.
“Aren’t you going to find out all my favourite things?” Arthur asks. “Just to make sure we’re super compatible? Because just for the record I like raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, and … oomf!” He laughs again as Merlin shoves a pillow over his face, tickling the sensitive skin on either side of his ribs.
“Dollophead,” Merlin grouses, sliding out of bed and stretching like a cat. Arthur puts the pillow behind his head and enjoys the frankly spectacular view. “Come on lazy daisy,” he chides Arthur, “up and at ‘em. We’re getting out of this sweaty sex pit and going for a swim in the sea, then hunting for a proper meal, and then we’ll see out the last of your heat as wolves up in the mountains. We need some fresh air.”
Merlin’s prescription seems to be just the ticket. Arthur dozes in the form of his white wolf, Merlin’s black wolf thrusting in and out of him, sating the last whispers of his heat. He whines with his head between his paws, grumbling as Merlin nips and nuzzles his throat, pinning him to the ground. After a few hours of swimming and running wild in the woods, and eating chargrilled venison, he feels almost normal again, with just the usual amount of constant hunger for his mate.
In the early dawn of the following morning they wake as humans, tangled beneath the glittering, dew-spangled branches of a fir tree beside their cabin, curled together for warmth beneath a woollen tartan rug. Merlin is sleeping with his head on Arthur’s chest, Arthur’s strong arms wrapped around him, and Arthur likes feeling that he can protect and care for Merlin too.
“Heart of Darkness,” Merlin mumbles against his skin, snuffling closer in the cold morning air.
“Sorry?” Arthur frowns, leaning closer to his lover’s dark head.
“Your favourite book is Heart of Darkness,” Merlin repeats with a yawn, glancing up at Arthur with a smile from beneath long lashes. “Your favourite colour is blue, you’re absurdly fond of Scarborough Fair, if I’m going by how often you hum it under your breath, and you are a huge fan of pie, particularly the pastry crust, always taking an apple strudel over a steak and kidney.” Merlin skims his nose across Arthur’s skin, rolling on to his tummy to look up at Arthur, pulling his face down for a kiss. “You also enjoy wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings, and if I’m not mistaken,” Merlin gently strokes Arthur’s belly, “very soon we will have another favourite thing.” Arthur’s eyes cross and he sits bolt upright.
To be continued ...