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An Imbalance of the Humours

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Gwaine always looks forward to the annual melee tournament, despite the fact that the first one he attended ended with his banishment from Camelot. He likes the opportunity to show his mettle against other warriors, and he likes better the fact that he can do so and then help up the man that he's just beaten, and that perhaps they could have a drink together afterwards, no harm done.

However, the preparations for the melee do throw a few of his favourite pastimes and diversions out. The problem is that the accepted wisdom amongst the knights is that they must save up their virility to strengthen them for the fight. This makes perfect sense, and if the only person Gwaine was tumbling were another knight, it wouldn't be an issue at all, as they would both simply abstain.

However, while Gwaine is tumbling another knight (to whit; Arthur - Gwaine can't help but be smug that he's sleeping with the best knight), both of them are also tumbling Merlin, and Merlin is under no such melee-induced restrictions, and very indignant that his regular, athletic bedroom life is being interrupted.

Fortunately, Gwaine and Arthur have a plan.

After last year's disaster (in which Merlin seduced the pair of them thoroughly and Arthur won the melee despite having pulled a thigh muscle quite seriously the night before, and Gwaine had to fend a Mercian physician off afterwards from attempting, overzealously, to bandage his extensive love-bites as well as his proper injuries), they decided on the plan and began to put it in motion early. Six months early. They put by things that catch their eyes - objects of a certain shape, or soft lengths of rope, pieces of cloth ...

Six weeks before the melee, they tell Merlin no more.

'I'm fairly certain this will cause an imbalance of the humours,' says Merlin, mouth twitching.

Arthur rolls his eyes. 'That's the point,' he says. 'Balanced humours do not win tournaments.'

'I'm not fighting in this melee,' Merlin points out. 'What am I supposed to do?'

'Oh, did we not mention that?' Gwaine asks airily. 'After last year, we're not daft enough to expect you to follow our fine example.'

'We'll take care of you,' Arthur assures Merlin. 'But you have to let us work, and not get … carried away.'

Even Merlin looks a little dubious at this glib pronouncement. Getting carried away is somewhat Merlin's stock-in-trade - he's a wildcat in bed. 'I'll try,' he says. And he means it, too. Bluster about being neglected aside, he does know how important this is to Arthur and Gwaine - it's just that sometimes … well, all men have lusts. Gwaine knows what it's like to be stupid enough with desire that you do things without thinking.

'We thought of that,' says Arthur. 'If you trust us -'

'Of course I trust you,' Merlin says unhesitatingly. 'What's your plan, then?'

Gwaine produces the rope, and Merlin swallows hard. Gwaine almost thinks they're pushing too far, until he sees how far Merlin's eyes have widened, how dark they are at their centres.

Merlin holds out his wrists. 'Yes,' he says with certainty. 'Yes.'


Six weeks. Six weeks for them to tie Merlin down and suck him off between them, six weeks to finger him loose the way he likes it, six weeks to try every make-shift toy they'd managed to find - the stone pestle, the sanded-smooth piece of wood, the string of glass beads, the gilded hilt of a dagger, the thick, bulbous glass phial-stopper. Six weeks with no relief, and Gwaine feels that his humours are so unbalanced that he may well kill someone in the melee out of sheer frustration.

Arthur isn't feeling much better about it - he has taken to spending so much of his time training that even the knights who choose to sit out the melee have all been beaten black and blue in the name of practice.

The night before the competition, Merlin asks if they want to be left alone, to prepare, and they should say yes.

But they don't.

They let him lead them back to his room, instead. Arthur has a voyeuristic streak, which wars with his possessiveness sometimes, but the combination usually plays well into Gwaine's hands. Tonight, Arthur sits up against the bed-head, pulls Merlin back into his lap, and circles Merlin's pale wrists with his hands. 'Come here,' he says, his eyes almost black from low light and lust, and Merlin sprawls back against him.

Gwaine doesn't need an invitation - he doesn't need anything but Arthur's meaningful look. Merlin is too clothed, too coherent. Gwaine can fix that.

He fixes it with his hands - loosens fastenings and sheds cloth like sloughing off a skin or unwrapping a cocoon. Underneath linen and wool Merlin is silk-skinned, pink-white-brown by turns where his belt rubs welts or the sun has or has not had the chance to touch him. He shades to green and blue where he's bruised from his work or from goading Arthur into roughing him up, and his hair is stark black against all of that pallor. It'd be enough to drive a man to poetry, or to drink, if it weren't spread out under him.

He takes to Merlin with his hands. Having Arthur act as restraints and having nothing but oil between the pads of Gwaine's fingers and Merlin's skin, after weeks of using things, is like a drug. Gwaine has to repeat to himself in his mind that he can't let go - not yet. Not tonight.

'Tomorrow,' Merlin says on a breath, riding between the ring of Gwaine's thumb and forefinger around his cock and the push of Gwaine's other hand, three-fingers-deep in his arse. 'Tomorrow, when one of you wins the melee, you're going to come back here and give me a proper seeing-to.'

'This isn't good enough for you?' asks Arthur, dragging Merlin's wrists up to cross his arms over his chest, manacles and embrace all at once. He noses though Merlin's hair. 'He isn't satisfying you?'

Gwaine feels like he should protest, but he's got more important things at hand, like introducing a fourth finger to Merlin's body, all practiced now after accepting so much for so many nights in the search for something to sate his hunger.

'That isn't it, and you know it,' says Merlin, gasping and sweating, rolling his body like the swell of the tide. 'It's enough, but it isn't everything.'

'Tomorrow, then,' Arthur promises, locking eyes with Gwaine as if to say 'hear that?'. 'Tomorrow, love.' And with those words, Merlin shudders to his climax around Gwaine's hands and in Arthur's hold.

Merlin falls asleep naked between Arthur and Gwaine both still in their shirts and breeches, straining hard in their smallclothes but used, now, to retiring like that. And as sleep starts creeping up on Gwaine, he feels Arthur take his hand and rub at the oil that smears his fingers. 'Tomorrow,' he whispers with every bit of the heat he said it to Merlin earlier.

'Don't hold back on me,' Gwaine murmurs, grinning half into the pillow and half into Merlin's damp shoulder. He can't see Arthur roll his eyes, but he knows he is.

'I never will,' Arthur says, squeezing Gwaine's fingers before letting go and settling down to slumber.


They leave Merlin asleep in the morning, retire to their own rooms to get ready for combat. And perhaps Gwaine is a little relieved to let him sleep on. It lets him sink into readiness for the fight to come, to have the memory of peace in the morning sunlight tucked into a corner of his mind.

He doesn't win. Well, he never wins.

But he beats everyone except Arthur, which is practically winning. And he watches Arthur's eyes through the slit of his helm as Arthur brings him down, thudding into the dusty-dry, pounded-flat ground of the arena, and the challenge and the thrill in them is tangible, reminds him of their promises of last night.

Arthur pulls him to his feet, and they make their way out, slapping backs and making remarks and shaking hands with other knights all the way. Gwaine expects Merlin will be at the sidelines to greet them, but he isn't. Arthur's expression betrays that he had the same thought.

'It isn't like Merlin to sleep til afternoon,' the king says.

'No,' agrees Gwaine. 'It isn't.'

They go to Arthur's room first, and help each other out of their armour. Struggling into one of Arthur's old shirts with aching arms, Gwaine refuses to let himself worry. Any number of things could have kept Merlin away.

The first likely place they pass is Gwaine's room - empty. The physician's quarters, also empty.

Arthur pauses at the door to Merlin's room, and knocks. There's no answer, but a muffled noise, and Arthur's brow draws down into a frown. Gwaine shoves the door open.

Merlin is kneeling naked on the floor of his room, facing away from them, in front of his only chair. But his hands are tied, his arms straining behind his back, and in the shadow between his thighs Gwaine would swear he can see something gleaming, moving, in and out of him.

'You little harlot,' says Arthur, smirking and breathless, more breathless than defeating thirty other heavily-armed men on the field of competition made him. 'Is that any use for your sorcery?' He steps up to Merlin, drags his fingers through Merlin's hair, tilts his face up so their eyes can meet.

Gwaine loves to watch them together.

'Which one of you do I have to congratulate?' Merlin asks. 'I thought you could sit in my chair and I'd … pay you some respect.' The way he says it, smiling up through his eyelashes and pouting his bitten-red bottom lip, tells eloquently what kind of respect he wishes to pay.

'Arthur won,' says Gwaine. 'And anyway, he looks much better lording it in a chair.' By which he means he wants to see Merlin snug between Arthur's knees, maybe wants to kneel behind him and lean up over all that sleek expanse of back and kiss his throat while he takes Arthur down it. He steps up to Arthur and puts his hands on Arthur's shoulders. 'Come on, your Majesty,' he says. 'Your throne awaits.'

Arthur bats him off but does as he says, sitting down heavily in Merlin's chair with his legs aslouch. And it's just an old dining-chair, the wood is stained and the legs are uneven enough to make it wobble, but Arthur makes it look regal.

Merlin shuffles forward. Hell, Gwaine is tempted to drop to his knees for Arthur himself. But Merlin's mouth is open, hungry, he looks like he wants it badly, so Gwaine will help him. He steps to Arthur's side, the place an advisor would stand, and drops to one knee so that he can reach for the fastening of Arthur's breeches.

'Here,' he says, feeling the words rasp as they leave his throat. 'Let me help,' and Arthur's eyes flutter shut. Merlin, looking longer and leaner with his arms all tight behind his back, bends close as soon as Gwaine has Arthur's cock freed from its confines. Merlin mouths and mumbles for the head of it, and Gwaine puts a warning hand flat on Arthur's knee as he starts to buck, so long starved for this kind of sensation.

Merlin's balance is off like this, so once Gwaine is certain Arthur has control over himself, he allows himself his desire. Stripping, because he can now - the fight is over, everything is back to normal and he's allowed to feel his lovers against his skin once more - he moves behind Merlin, to brace him, to hold him so that he can let himself go, sloppy around Arthur, pushing deep down, as deep as he can go. Gwaine drifts one hand around so that he can stroke at the velvet skin of Merlin's throat.

In fact, he's so fixated on where Merlin's joined to Arthur, one inside the other, that he forgets entirely what Merlin is doing to himself, until the warm glass of the phial-stopper nudges against his thigh, working its way back out of Merlin. Without thinking, Gwaine tugs at it gently, and Merlin moans, widening his stance. Gwaine pulls again, slowly slowly, until it comes free and Merlin keens - a high noise muffled against Arthur's skin, gagged on Arthur's flesh.

'I think he wants you to do something,' Arthur says through gritted teeth. 'Quickly, before he takes matters into his own hands.'

When Merlin starts employing magic in the bedroom, it isn't always because he meant to. Sometimes his body will take over and wield power to get what it wants without asking his brain.

Gwaine takes the point, starts to look around for something to use as slickening, and finds his hand coated in the blink of an eye. Merlin groans something around Arthur's cock that sounds suspiciously like 'please,' and so Gwaine pushes home smooth and swift in one go, almost as if he's being compelled.

'Oh, fuck,' says Arthur ineloquently and gutturally and desperately. 'Give it to him, Gwaine, he wants it, he really - he really wants it -'

Merlin's thighs surely can't part any further, he's showing with every line of him how right Arthur is, his spine curved like a dancer's and braced with every thrust Gwaine makes, hands lolling useless and tied and tempting, clench-fingered in the divot above the curve of his arse. If the noises he's making, filthy slurping and licking, are anything to go by, he's not far off from completion and wants to get there soon.

In the end it's Arthur, the triumphant victor, who falls first, headlong into bliss with his fingers white-knuckled on the chipped brown arms of the chair, and then it's Merlin, licking Arthur's seed from the corners of his mouth and trembling, holding his weight between his head in Arthur's lap and his wantonly spread legs on the floorboards. Arthur cradles his shoulders as he comes, taking his weight. And like dominoes falling, the way he writhes and the sight of Arthur gentling him, wiping his rough thumb at the corner of Merlin's eye where there's a droplet of mess, sends Gwaine to the edge and the end before he notices it.

It feels good, to wipe Merlin down and kiss his white-red-white rubbed wrists, and to help him strip Arthur naked properly, so that they are all gloriously bare on this hot summer evening.

Curled together with king and warlock, Gwaine feels that his humours are, at last, returning to an equilibrium.