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Trained to Remember

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It took Arthur a month to sneak out of the castle alone.

He'd been looking for opportunities ever since his birthday, but there was always somebody watching the exits. He finally resorted to just poking every wall in the castle and hoping one of them was a secret door. (In the process he'd discovered the servants' path from the kitchens to the royal quarters, as well as several people in various states of undress. There was also, strangely, a secret path from the dungeon that went far, far underground, but the smell had been so terrible he'd decided against following that path.)

Now he was free. All it took was a simple lie, and he could slip out through one of the secret exits.

He hadn't been allowed to be out of the castle by himself, ever. There was always somebody following him around, watching him, coddling him. Arthur was sick of it. He should be old enough to handle himself. He'd hunt down a deer -- a stag! -- and prove to his father once and for all that he was capable.

He started with the familiar path where Boris, the huntsman, had shown him how to track. Uther himself had taken Arthur down this path three times. It was Arthur's favorite place to go hunting… which probably meant that it would be the first place anybody came to look for him.

Arthur broke away from the trail. It hadn't rained in a while -- summer heat wave -- which made it easy to cover up his tracks. He took great care to keep his moves invisible. Silent. He carefully stepped over roots and avoided breaking branches.

It wasn't too hard to spot the tell-tale signs of a deer. Arthur was a good tracker, Boris had said, a real natural. Uther had smiled at the praise, which meant it had to be true.

A twig snapped behind him. Instantly, Arthur lifted his bow and turned around, ready to shoot down whatever creature crossed his path.

A tall, skinny man in a blue tunic stood there, waving at him. "Hello!"

Arthur puffed up in annoyance. "Be more careful! I almost killed you!"

The man didn't seem intimidated. "Oh?"

"Yes! I'm a trained warrior. Never sneak up on a warrior like that!" Arthur could already feel a flush of anger spreading over him. The man -- more like an idiot -- was smirking at him, like he wasn't taking Arthur seriously at all.

"My mistake. I didn't realize who I was speaking to," the man responded, in a slightly different tone from before -- slightly less relaxed, but more, more… Arthur didn't know. A strange shiver went up Arthur's spine.

"Whatever. I'm going to keep hunting. Stay out of my way," he ordered. He took off without waiting for the man to reply, but when he chanced a glance backwards, the man was already gone. Good riddance.

--

The hunt was going terribly. Whenever he came within shooting range of any game -- be it deer, rabbit, or even boar -- something would happen to scare the game off. A tree branch falling. A strong breeze causing the leaves to rustle. Or else the arrow would arc strangely and land next to instead of piercing the animal. By the time the sun had reached its peak in the sky, Arthur was tired, sweaty, and frustrated to the point of tears.

If he came home without something to show for his efforts, everything would have been for nothing. Uther wouldn't trust Arthur to be by himself again.

Arthur wiped at his eyes. It was the heat and the dirt, he told himself. He wasn't a baby, he could handle a bit of disappointment. He'd clean himself up and head back home; whatever happened, happened. He'd do better next time.

Mind resolved, he headed towards the small pond only he and Leon knew about. In the current summer heat, it was unlikely that the lake or the river would be free of people, and Arthur didn't want to be caught and dragged home. He would return of his own will, with dignity.

Leon and Arthur had discovered the pond while out on hunt with some of the older knights. Leon had become a knight when Arthur was eleven, but didn't act like he was somehow better than Arthur. It was only because of Leon that Arthur had even been allowed to accompany them, and it had been his idea to follow a different set of tracks that led them to the pond in the first place. It was their secret.

By the time Arthur reached the pond, he was more than ready for a swim. He stripped off his shirt and boots, already had his hand on the ties to his breeches when he spotted him. The man from earlier, dozing on the grass around the pond.

"What are you doing here? Are you following me?" Arthur raised his bow, though he had to bend awkwardly to get an arrow from his quiver. The man didn't open his eyes, but his lips stretched into a grin.

"I was here first. Hardly following, now am I?"

Arthur's hands were shaking. He had to force himself to take a few deep breaths, like he'd been taught, to steady them. In his current state, there was no way he could shoot straight. Remain calm. Take good sight of your target. Imagine the arrow going straight through it, Uther had said.

The target: a man -- who really couldn't be that much older than Arthur -- with black hair that flopped across his forehead, sharp cheekbones, long nose. His clothes marked him as a peasant, with only the ring on his finger standing out in any way. The angle was all wrong to shoot him in the heart, but he could definitely catch a leg from here.

The man lifted his hand and the sunlight seemed to catch on the ring, flashing so bright that Arthur had to squint against the light.

"Who are you? I demand to know!" Arthur shouted.

The man sat up. The light from the ring diminished, and Arthur had a clear shot. One wrong move, and the man would be dead.

"My name is Emrys. Think of me as a hermit, of sorts."

That would explain the clothes. "What kind of a hermit wears a jewel like that?" Arthur asked instead. He suddenly remembered all the stories the knights told about bandits on the road, and slavers who would be more than happy to kidnap a prince and ransom him back to the kingdom.

"A vain one. It's just a pretty bauble, not worth much," Emrys said, and he began moving his hand back and forth, as if playing with the light. It made Arthur a bit dizzy, watching the bright light coming and going, coming and going, back and forth, back and forth and…

Emrys stood up and walked over to Arthur's side. "Why don't you put the bow down, Arthur, before you hurt me?"

Arthur blinked and shook his head. How did Emrys know his name? "No! This-- this was a gift. From my father, for my birthday. It's new, I can't lose it." He tightened his grip on the bow.

"Oh, it was your birthday? How old are you?" Emrys placed a hand on Arthur's arm. A strange warmth began filling Arthur.

"Thir… Thirteen." Strange. Arthur finally found his calm, but he couldn't remember why he'd been panicking in the first place. His arms felt heavy, and his tongue didn't seem to want to form words. Emrys put his second hand on Arthur's bare shoulder and slowly coaxed Arthur to lean against him. It was almost like a hug. Arthur had been eleven the last time Uther had hugged him.

The bow clattered to the forest floor.

"That's a good lad."

Emrys leaned down to whisper in Arthur's ear. "I'll make sure you will have no trouble when you get back. Come see me again in a year. And I hope you think of me, occasionally."

Arthur couldn't think of a good answer. The warmth radiating from Emrys felt so good, even though it should have been oppressive in combination with the summer heat. He just wanted to feel more of it. When Emrys stepped away, it was almost like somebody had dumped cold water all over Arthur.

By the time Arthur felt steady enough to say anything, Emrys was gone. There was nothing left to do but pick up his things and return home.

--

Emrys hadn't lied. When Arthur got back to Camelot, everybody acted as if he hadn't been gone at all. No punishment from Uther, no reprimand from Kay for not being there to squire for him.

Life went on. Arthur grew stronger, bigger. His muscles started getting defined, and he no longer had to feel too jealous of Leon's growth spurt.

His first wet dream was about Emrys, which didn't even make sense. Arthur barely remembered him, only the wonderful, comforting warmth that he found himself craving during those long stretches when Uther barely acknowledged him.

At least his first embarrassing erection had been because he'd stumbled on Morgana in her nightgown --the material showed off her developing figure in a way her dresses didn't. Arthur had truly just forgotten that she was living with them now, and hadn't expected that particular room to be occupied. He'd had to rush back to his room and masturbate furiously.

Morgana had the same dark hair as Emrys, didn't she.

Gwen was pretty too, but so were some of the visitors to the castle. Leon even suggested having a tumble with one of the kitchen maids, because she was sweet on Arthur.

He'd tried, but her kisses left him cold.

It didn't matter. In everything else, Arthur was excelling. His skill with the sword was improving so tremendously that Uther even sparred with him once a month. Arthur was so elated, it took everything he had not to gush his thanks at his father.

So. Arthur thought he had been a man at thirteen. Obviously that was wrong. But at fourteen? He was definitely an adult.

--

He hadn't even meant to see Emrys again. His birthday had gone uncelebrated this year, because Uther was suddenly in a bad mood. "The harvest hasn't been so good that we can spend it on lavish feasts, Arthur," and, "Must you be so insubordinate? If--"

He never finished the "if" sentences.

Morgana tried to console him, but what did she know about Uther's moods. She seemed to think that they were actually siblings now, when she'd only been with them for a few months. Leon tried to distract him with new swords or sparring sessions. The cook baked his favorite sweet pie, just for him.

Arthur was getting sick of them. He itched to get out of the castle. He needed to be free again.

It wasn't hard to sneak out of the stables with his favorite mare, and the path to the pond seemed to just open up before him. The few times in the past year Arthur had bothered to visit -- always with Leon in tow -- the path had seemed overgrown and near impassible.

The pond was, as ever, calm. Arthur took in a deep breath, enjoying the brisk air. The water from the pond seemed to cool the area, despite the sun glaring down and reflecting off of the still waters.

For some reason, he had expected Emrys to be waiting for him. Arthur's fists clenched.

No. It didn't matter. Arthur slid off the mare and tied the reins to a tree branch within easy reach of the water. It was midday, hot enough that a swim in the pond seemed very enticing. Arthur quickly stripped and jumped into the water.

It was cool. Refreshing. Arthur sighed. Maybe this was exactly what he'd needed -- a stolen moment for himself. He swam a few laps around the pond, until his muscles felt pleasantly sore and his fingers were starting to prune.

Time for a nap. Arthur pulled himself onto one of the flatter boulders by the shore and stretched out. The rock was pleasantly warmed from the sun. He used one arm to pillow himself, and the other to run down his chest, across his stomach, on his cock.

Slowly he stroked himself into an erection. This was rather pleasant, in a way jerking off at home rarely was -- there just wasn't enough privacy. Servants kept knocking at his door, his father would just stride in unannounced, and sometimes Morgana went against propriety and forced him to entertain her at odd hours of the night.

Another hand landed on top of his own. Arthur gasped and opened his eyes; Emrys stood over him, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open.

"When--"

"Shh. Keep going." He guided Arthur's hand to continue its movement. Arthur found his breath coming more ragged; just being touched by Emrys was increasing his arousal tenfold.

"Oh, you're so good, aren't you, Arthur." Emrys's eyes seemed to sparkle, the way his ring had a year ago. Arthur couldn't look away, didn't want to look away, not even to see their hands intertwining on his cock.

Emrys used his other hand to lift up one of Arthur's legs. "Spread wide for me, Arthur."

Arthur found himself nodding. His body felt loose, relaxed. Warmth seared through him, and when Emrys asked him to spread "just a bit further," Arthur managed to forget his brief apprehension and display himself.

He was open for Emrys, shameless, and it felt good.

"Beautiful," Emrys whispered. He stepped away, shocking a strangled cry out of Arthur. "Shh, patience. I'm going to make you feel so good, pet, you just need to be patient."

"Yes, yes, of course," Arthur babbled. He bit down on his lip, hoping to prevent any more embarrassing cries. Uther would have admonished him for being so undignified.

Emrys said something, so soft that Arthur couldn't understand, then pressed down just above Arthur's hole. Arthur couldn't prevent the moan that escaped at that strange sensation. Why hadn't he tried that before? He'd always concentrated on just his cock, but--

Emrys began gently massaging Arthur's balls, his hands slick with something. Arthur's vision was beginning to white out. He moved his hand back onto Arthur's cock -- when had it drifted away? -- and stroked quickly.

Then something pushed inside his hole.

Arthur tried to sit up, but Emrys placed a hand on Arthur's chest and kept him in place. "Shh, don't worry. Trust me."

Yes. Trust Emrys. That-- was that right? But Arthur couldn't think of a reason why it wouldn't be right. Especially when that warmth that Emrys exuded was now inside Arthur. Everything else, that had been nothing. Skirting across his skin, too fleeting. This was the very essence of heat and arousal, collecting inside Arthur, spreading into his blood. He had to still his hand, just so this moment wouldn't be over. He wanted it to last forever.

And then, somehow, it got better. Emrys started thrusting his finger, and when he moved it just so, something in Arthur lit up.

For all that he'd known orgasm wouldn't be long off, he was still caught by surprise by how intense it was. This wasn't a wet dream, which left him with only a haze, or even a stolen moment for himself, which was quick and dirty. This was pleasure rushing over him like a waterfall, so strong he had to submit himself to it.

"Good, good boy," Emrys whispered. He was still thrusting his finger into Arthur, for which Arthur was grateful -- he didn't want the warmth to leave. Yes, he felt a little bit sore, but he could put up with it in exchange for this feeling.

"One day," Emrys said, "I'm going to fuck you."

"Yes," Arthur replied, his voice hoarse.

"Not today. You aren't ready. I'm going to give you a gift. I want you to use it every night. Then you'll come back in a month and we'll see."

Then Emrys pulled away completely, leaving Arthur without his wonderful heat. Arthur sobbed and tried to reach for him.

"No. You have to earn it. We'll see in a month."

--

The gift was a strange bulbous piece of wood, with a tapered end and a wider base. The wood was completely smooth, free of any rough edges or splinters. Arthur thought he felt a residual warmth on it.

He didn't try to use it for a week. He just kept it near him when he jerked off. Once he snaked his own fingers inside his hole, but it didn't feel the same as Emrys had.

Then, one night, he said something -- Arthur couldn't even remember what it had been -- but it had thrown Uther into a rage. Arthur had been told to leave the dinner table and not show himself until the next evening. Morgana gave him a pitying look, but didn't try to stand up for him.

It didn't matter. That night, he oiled up the gift with one of Gaius's balms and slowly worked it inside himself.

Oh. That was so much better than his own fingers, but still not enough. Arthur still came harder than he'd ever done on his own before.

After that, he could barely come without the gift. He tried to alternate, and he told himself not to use it in the mornings. He took good care of it, made sure to hide it when he left the room. On the days when he didn't use the gift, he would have to beat off so long that his dick got sore.

With the gift, even just putting it in could bring him close to coming. He had to practice bringing himself off the edge, just so he could enjoy it.

On some days, when he knew he didn't have practice in the morning, he would leave the gift in for hours. He pretended Emrys was watching, praising him for being so good, for having such amazing control.

Those were the best nights.

--

A month passed far too quickly.

Arthur rode out to the pond, and was gratified to see Emrys already waiting. He carefully climbed off his horse, but every time he bent his leg he could feel the gift shifting inside him, pressing up against that spot.

Emrys smiled, like he already knew. "Come here," he said. From anybody else, Arthur would have balked at following such a blatant command.

It didn't matter when it was Emrys. He walked awkwardly towards Emrys, his steps slightly wobbly from the gift and his growing erection. A fur pelt was spread out a few feet away.

"Strip and lie down on your back," Emrys ordered. Arthur hurried to obey. The fur was soft against his back, far more comfortable than the grass. Gratitude welled up in Arthur -- Emrys was so considerate.

"You look so pretty, Arthur." Emrys sat down next to him, very blatantly raking his eyes over Arthur's naked form. "Especially here," --he tweaked one of Arthur's nipples-- "and here," --he gently squeezed Arthur's cock. Arthur groaned.

"Say thank you when I compliment you."

"Thank you," Arthur said, near automatically.

Emrys tapped against the base of the gift. Arthur squirmed as he felt it shift inside him.
"Hold still. I want to take my time. Examine you properly."

Holding still was a battle in and of itself. During training, Arthur had learned to go against his first instinct of leaping into the fray, and was now much better at assessing an opponent first, but this was different.

Battle gave Arthur a thrill, but it didn't arouse him. Arthur didn't have Emrys's breath ghosting across his shaft, or his tongue dipping into Arthur's belly button. He had certainly never worn the gift to a training session.

Emrys stroked Arthur's arms and legs, and then petted his belly. "You're coming along nicely," he said, and Arthur wondered if that phrase should have worried him. Belatedly, Arthur said, "Thank you."

"I'm taking this out now." Emrys stroked around the rim of Arthur's hole just once, then gripped the base of the gift and slowly pulled it out. Arthur keened at the loss.

"Get on all fours."

Arthur scrambled to do as asked, even when he wanted nothing more than to wrap himself around Emrys. If he obeyed, he would get what he wanted.

Emrys placed one hand on Arthur's rump; Arthur's cock twitched. Already that addictive feeling was spreading through his body.

And then that finger slid inside Arthur again. It wasn't anywhere near as large as the gift had been, but it left Arthur feeling so gloriously full anyway. This was the pure essence of Emrys. "Please. My cock--"

"Not today," Emrys said.

"What?" Arthur craned his neck and looked at Emrys in near panic.

"Keep your head down."

The first jolt against that spot nearly made Arthur look at Emrys again, but he remembered the reprimand and kept himself staring at the fur pelt underneath him. The pressure was building inside him, a slow burning arousal so different from the frenzy the last time. He could concentrate on the sensation of the fur against his skin, on Emrys's hand stroking small circles on his arse-cheek.

Then came the first spurt of come, and he hadn't even orgasmed. "What--?" Arthur could feel himself emptying out, slow dribble by slow dribble, but the arousal wasn't culminating. There was no peak. Just a soft tingle crawling up his spine, buffered by Emrys's own presence.

"What are you--?"

"You aren't coming today. You don't get to come all the time. You need to learn this," Emrys explained.

"No! Please!" Arthur sobbed. He needed to come. He couldn't bear to be so close to Emrys and be denied.

"Stop crying," Emrys said, his voice still soft, but so much firmer than it had been earlier.

It reminded Arthur of Uther, and that more than anything made Arthur grow despondent. Even after Arthur had been milked dry and Emrys pulled Arthur into his lap, whispering, "Shh, shh, it's fine," and placing kisses all over his forehead, Arthur couldn't shake that disillusionment. Emrys was supposed to make him feel good. This was--

Still good, but not enough.Just not enough.

"Come back next month," Emrys said.

--

Arthur found himself by the pond again. He hadn't even wanted to come, couldn't even remember setting out to get there.

"Arthur." Emrys was smiling at him.

Arthur shook his head. "I'm not-- I don't-- No. I'm not going to."

The gift was still hidden away in a locked box underneath Arthur's bed, hopefully collecting dust. Maybe woodworm had eaten through it. Arthur hadn't used it since that day a month ago, because he didn't want to be reminded of what Emrys hadn't given him. It didn't matter that jerking off had lost its appeal -- it was just a distraction anyway. Arthur had thrown his excess energy into his training, and everybody noticed an improvement. Uther had been happy. What more did Arthur need?

"What's this about?" Emrys asked. He moved to take one of Arthur's wrists; Arthur jerked away quickly.

"Don't touch me. What are you doing touching the prince anyway? My father would have you hanged for this!"

The statement, instead of scaring Emrys into submission, just made him laugh. "Oh, yes. Uther would have me hanged, of that I have no doubt. But he would have had me hanged either way, so I think I'll enjoy myself."

This time Emrys managed to grab Arthur -- it was that damn ring and the light it emitted -- and maneuver them so that Arthur was sprawled across Emrys's lap. Arthur struggled to lift himself off, but Emrys's arm on his back kept him in place. "Let go! You can't do this to me!"

Emrys pulled Arthur's breeches down so that his ass was exposed. "Did your father ever spank you?"

For one mortified moment, Arthur remembered the sole time Uther had taken over Arthur's punishment himself. His blows hadn't been any harder than that of the nanny, but the nanny had never gotten Arthur to cry so hard.

This was going to be worse. Arthur braced himself.

The first slap echoed loudly across the clearing. To Arthur's utter shame, he found that even being slapped didn't change the fact that Emrys's touch felt amazing. The sharp pain was followed by the tingle of arousal. He could already feel his erection growing, digging into Emrys's thigh.

By the seventh slap, Arthur was squirming, trying to get friction on his cock, to somehow counterbalance the pain and the shame piling up. "Stop moving," Emrys said.

Forcing himself to keep still meant he had nothing to distract him from the blows. His arse was beginning to warm, and every breeze seemed to exacerbate the sting. "I'm going to keep going until you're ready to apologize for being such a brat."

He had nothing to apologize for! But the blows didn't lessen, and the rhythm was so uneven that Arthur couldn't even grow used to it. He didn't know how long it went on, but at some point, his vision began blurring. Still he kept his mouth shut.

"I wonder what your father would say if he saw you like this. Or perhaps all of those knights you keep trying to impress? Prince Arthur, behaving like a child, being punished like a child. Can't even control his reactions, like a child."

Oh. Oh no. His stomach did a twist, and that shame that had been just bearable suddenly became impossible to contain. Arthur let out a long sob. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--"

Emrys stopped immediately and pulled Arthur up into a hug. He petted Arthur's backside, rubbing in circles. The sting and the arousal seemed to work to intensify each other, and the sheer relief of being able to cry and let go meant that Arthur had absolutely no defenses left when Emrys wrapped his hand around Arthur's cock.

"Please. I'll be good. I'll behave. Please. I barely-- this month, I couldn't-- I just need--"

"Sssh. That's right. You remember that. You need me. I'm going to give you what you need."

Arthur came with tears still streaming down his face, and it was the best thing he'd ever experienced.

--

Emrys invited him to a cabin that winter. It was near the pond, somehow unnoticed before, and kept warm by a small stove. The fur pelt from before was laid out on the large bed.

In the past few months, Arthur had grown taller, so that Emrys no longer towered so much over him. Another inch or two and they would be of equal height. It didn't matter. Arthur always felt strangely small in comparison.

The cabin contained a bookshelf, and from there Emrys pulled a book of poetry and had Arthur read to him. Arthur hadn't had time for poetry in a while, and he found himself enjoying the strange, relaxing atmosphere. It felt like they were displaced from time.

Emrys was generous with the wine, so that by the time evening came around Arthur was feeling slightly tipsy. And he needed to piss. He began pulling his boots on.

"What are you doing?" Emrys asked.

"Going out. To. To pee," Arthur explained, with the appropriate hand gestures.

"No."

Arthur frowned. "No? But--"

"Come back and sit with me." Emrys gently tugged on Arthur's shoulders, pulling him to lean against Emrys's chest. "Have more wine."

Before Arthur could refuse, Emrys pressed the goblet against Arthur's lips and tipped the liquid in. Some of it spilled out and dribbled onto Arthur's bare chest. Emrys only pulled the goblet away when it was completely empty.

"Why--"

"Come, let's read some more."

Confusion warred against the need to please Emrys. In the end, he settled back in and went back to reading out loud. Emrys petted his hair and murmured encouragements, and it was almost enough to forget the pressure building up in his bladder.

He must have dozed off. Arthur woke with the alarming need to relieve himself. He fumbled to escape Emrys's grasp. He couldn't see a chamberpot, so he needed his boots and at least a cape so he didn't die of exposure while he went out to piss. Even stooping to pull on a boot was painful, and bending over to grab the cape from the floor nearly caused him to lose it.

He took small, quick steps to cross the room.

When he reached the door, Emrys said, "Stop."

Arthur slowly, painfully, turned to face him. "What? But I need to--"

Emrys got out of the bed and came to stand beside Arthur. He grabbed Arthur's shoulders and forced him to face the wall, pushed him right up to the corner. Each step was a painful effort of self-control. Emrys pressed up against his back.

"I know you need to, pet. And I'll take care of you." Emrys snaked his arms around to undo Arthur's breeches. He pulled out Arthur's cock, just as a small spurt of liquid trickled out. Arthur felt his face heat up.

Emrys's other hand settled on Arthur's stomach and began rubbing. "I control this part of you too," Emrys said.

Arthur shook his head -- this was beyond deviant, this was disgusting -- but even that movement felt like it jostled something inside him. "Please."

"Ssh, don't worry, pet."

And then Emrys pushed down right on top of Arthur's bladder. There was nothing Arthur could do. He closed his eyes and tried to bury the shame, but all he could hear was the sound of his piss hitting the wall. Emrys kept rubbing his stomach, and the loose hold he had on Arthur's cock tightened.

"Please-- I don't--" Arthur leaned back as far as he could, trying to escape the smell, the sound. This wasn't him, he was more than a dog who couldn't control himself. Yet Emrys had him trapped, kept holding on until the last drop of liquid was out and all Arthur was left with was the sharp contrast of shame and relief, building on each other. Arthur blinked against tears, turned his head towards Emrys, and was rewarded with a kiss to his lips.

"Good boy. You're so perfect."

Hearing those words made everything worth it.

--

Arthur found himself at the cabin almost every week in winter. There wasn't much else to do, and he felt warmer at the cabin than in the castle. Uther certainly never seemed to notice him missing, and training happened rarely when it was too cold to properly move.

It didn't even matter that most times, Emrys didn't bring Arthur to orgasm. They would lie in the bed, under the covers, and that was enough.

"Why do you live here?" Arthur asked. Emrys stopped stroking Arthur's scalp for a moment.

The silence stretched out, to the point where Arthur was afraid he had somehow offended. "There is nowhere else for me to live," Emrys finally responded.

"You could live in the castle. You… you probably know a lot about plants, right? 'Cus you're a hermit? Gaius -- he's the physician -- he always says he needs an assistant. You could help him with that." The more Arthur thought about it, the more the idea grew on him. Emrys, always within easy reach. Arthur wouldn't have to sneak around. He could be with Emrys every night.

Emrys chuckled. "I'm not sure that's a wise idea."

"No, it is! And then I could show you all the hidden nooks in the castle." Arthur glanced up at Emrys and smiled at him. He got a fond smile in return, one that seemed to settle right on Arthur's heart.

"Did I tell you, there's a cave under the castle. I went there once, but it smelled so bad I didn't want to explore any further. But we could go together. Maybe there's a secret treasure!"

"Hmm. I'm not sure an old man like me could handle that kind of an adventure."

Emrys never spoke of himself, and sometimes he spoke like he was ancient, but he really didn't look older than twenty. "Old? You don't look that old."

"No, I don't."

Arthur sensed that was the end of that thread of discussion. He rambled on about life in Camelot instead, hoping that Emrys would be enticed enough to visit.

--

Winter led to spring led to summer, and it was Arthur's birthday again. The visits with Emrys had been growing less frequent, from once every two weeks back to once a month and now not even that. But Emrys had promised him. On the anniversary of the day they had met, they would see each other.

Arthur rode out at the break of dawn.

"Emrys?" He didn't bother waiting for a response, immediately started stripping. The gift was already in place, so he could be ready for whatever Emrys had in store for him today.

Emrys was waiting for him by the shore, lying on that same pelt that had accompanied many of their encounters. Arthur thought at times he would associate it with all those moments when Emrys milked him without giving him pleasure -- more often than Arthur liked, but he understood now that he needed it -- but that same pelt carried all those other memories as well. The first time Emrys had used his tongue. The first time Emrys had let Arthur suck him. The first time Emrys had kissed him.

And now, the first time Arthur had seen Emrys truly, completely naked.

"Hello, pet. I have a special present for you today," Emrys said with a smile.

"Thank you," Arthur said, automatically. He had learned to be polite to Emrys, because Emrys's disappointment was harder to bear than Uther's. And his punishments cut deeper.

"Today, I'm going to fuck you. I'm going to come inside you," Emrys told him, and even just a year ago that statement alone might have brought Arthur over the edge. He was better trained, now.

Emrys motioned for Arthur to get into position. Emrys had come up the hand-signal with after Arthur had mentioned learning silent signals for use during hunts or battles. Arthur got on all fours and arched his back, raising his arse.

"That's a good boy," Emrys murmured. He moved around behind Arthur, and Arthur knew better than to try to look. He wanted to see Emrys's face when he came inside Arthur. He wanted to know if Emrys got the same pleasure from Arthur's body. Before, even when Arthur used his mouth, Emrys would always pull out at the last minute and paint Arthur's face with his come. He never let Arthur swallow it, no matter how often Arthur begged. (And on time he had begged too much and gotten himself punished for it. The fig had burned, left Arthur sobbing and promising to be good just to never have to experience it again.)

Emrys pulled the gift out without fanfare, and Arthur breathed through the transition without any noises. Something better was coming, he told himself.

It was just a finger at first, spreading that strange oil that Emrys seemed to grab out of nowhere. This was a familiar, calming ritual.

"Remember to relax, pet," Emrys said in his most soothing tone. Arthur took a deep breath and willed his muscles to loosen.

He still wasn't prepared for it. Emrys pushed in slowly, and by the time Emrys was fully inside him, Arthur could no longer think straight. How had he ever thought that just Emrys's fingers or tongue could be enough? No. This was as close to heaven as he would ever get, Arthur was sure of it. Every last fiber of his being was tingling with excitement and arousal.

And then Emrys began moving. Brushing up against that spot inside Arthur. Arthur couldn't stop the cries that escaped his throat, the cries that soon became incoherent sobs. He kept clenching and unclenching his hand, unsure of what to do with them, wanting to do something just so he could distract himself and last longer, but at the same time wanting nothing more than to focus every last bit of attention on just this sensation. Emrys's hand skirted near Arthur's cock, a hint of warmth, and even that was intolerable.

"Arthur, Arthur, you're going to come when I come. And it's going to feel so good, pet. You're going to ride high for so long, and nothing, nobody else is ever going to compare. You're going to be mine forever," Emrys's words seemed to tumble out, flowing over Arthur and every one of them absolutely true.

"Yes, yes, I'm yours. Forever. Please, please--"

Emrys dragged it out. When Arthur thought it was impossible, he couldn't stand it anymore, Emrys would slow down. He even stopped at one point, enough for Arthur to come down from the edge, but not enough to be prepared when Emrys slammed back in with more force than before.

When release finally came -- truly, truly, the most amazing sensation Arthur had ever felt, bliss that could last him a lifetime -- Arthur dared to sneak the smallest glance at Emrys. He knew he would never forget that face. The absolute pleasure that Arthur had brought Emrys, that-- that was more important than his own desires.

Of course it was over too soon. Emrys pulled out of him, and Arthur choked back a sob at the loss. He wanted it forever. Emrys rubbed Arthur's sore, messy hole for a moment, murmured, "You really are amazing."

"Thank you." Arthur's voice was completely shaken, and that seemed to amuse Emrys.

"Oh, come here, pet. Lie with me."

An order Arthur was more than happy to obey. He crawled up to Emrys and tucked himself up against him, with his head on Emrys's chest. He loved falling asleep to Emrys's heartbeat and Emrys's fingers carding through his hair.

"This is our last meeting like this, pet."

"What?" Arthur moved to prop himself up, only to have Emrys's fingers tighten on his scalp. Arthur let himself sink down again.

"Ssh, calm. Don't worry. You won't remember me."

"But I want to remember you!" Not knowing Emrys -- Arthur couldn't imagine it. He needed Emrys, like a fish needed water. The days when he didn't see Emrys were bleak and cold.

"You'll remember how to please me. You'll know how to act around me. And you will always, always be mine. But destiny needs to move along now." Emrys's words were murmured almost too low to hear.

"I don't understand--"

"Don't worry. Ssh. Sleep now, pet."

Arthur tried to struggle against it, but Emrys's order was absolute. His eyes drifted shut and his mind fell blank.

--

Arthur couldn't place it, but something was missing. Food seemed bland, wine wasn't sweet enough. His few stolen nights with Morgana were barely worth the effort it took to sneak into her room. (Jerking off was only slightly better -- he found the most satisfaction when he slipped his fingers inside his hole and pretended somebody was guiding his hand.) Just pleasing Uther wasn't enough anymore. He remembered how much he had worshipped his father at thirteen; he couldn't muster that kind of strong feeling for him anymore.

He threw himself into training instead. This was something he could excel at, and nobody could fault him for ignoring all other aspects of his life for it. But it still left him irritable. He relished it when the squires made mistakes just so he could yell at them. Games with the other knights turned to cruelty.

Until--

Until Merlin.

At first, the idea of somebody dogging his steps like that chafed. Arthur hadn't had a personal servant since he was fourteen, and had long come to cherish his privacy. But Merlin just seemed to be everywhere.

The first face Arthur saw in the mornings was Merlin’s. "Wake up, Arthur!" he said with an innocent smile, and Arthur's day seemed brighter for it.

"Let's get you dressed, Arthur," Merlin said, and began tugging on Arthur's laces before Arthur could even protest about doing it himself. Besides, most nobles had somebody to help them dress. Morgana had Gwen, Uther had George, and now Arthur had Merlin.

He doubted Morgana and Uther had to forcibly keep their breathing still while their servants did their jobs. Every time Merlin's hand brushed against Arthur's skin, something bubbled up inside him, some strange desire that felt familiar and yet left him aching.

After tournaments, when Merlin said, "Well done, Arthur," and patted him on the shoulder, Arthur could feel his body respond. Embarrassment caused his face to flush. And he couldn't even do anything about it, because Merlin would trail after him, even when dismissed. "You know you can't remove your armor yourself, Arthur," Merlin explained.

And Arthur couldn't bathe without becoming hard. Merlin noticed, he always noticed, but he never tried to make Arthur feel ashamed for it. He just did his job with his usual cheer: scrubbing Arthur's back, between his fingers and toes, up his thighs and even between his legs. "We wouldn't want you to catch disease, after all," Merlin said. "A lot of men with diseased and dirty parts come to see Gaius. It's not a pretty sight." And then he coaxed Arthur up to scrub dirt away from his hole as well. Arthur had tried so, so hard to not make any embarrassing noises during the whole process, and failed so, so miserably. The water invariably clouded with his release; sometimes Merlin kept silent about it, other times he would rub Arthur's back and say, "Bet that feels better."

Arthur knew a peasant shouldn't be making him feel like this. Uther often made disparaging remarks about the lower class, and his disregard for Merlin was beyond even that. So Arthur tried to throw Uther off the scent by having Merlin put in the stocks, but the looks he got from Merlin afterward left Arthur feeling sick. It wasn't worth it. Arthur stopped trying to punish Merlin -- it was like punishing himself.

Yet for all that Arthur strove to improve himself, to make Merlin proud of him, it never seemed like Merlin noticed. He continued to smile, he continued to be a terrible servant, and he continued to treat Arthur like… like nothing more than an acquaintance. A friend. An equal.

And none of that felt right. Arthur didn't know what he wanted, but what they currently had was not it.

--

"Honestly, you would be lost without me," Merlin said. He was clearly agitated, enough so that Arthur wanted to shrink away from his touch. Unfortunately, Merlin was dressing Arthur's wounds, and there was no escaping.

The bleeding wasn't too terrible -- Arthur had certainly handled worse -- but it was the first time Merlin was seeing him like this. If Arthur had known there were going to be bandits along the way, he would never have insisted Merlin come along. (Actually… Arthur's brow furrowed. Had he insisted? Or had Merlin volunteered?)

At least they'd found a cabin they could rest up in. Merlin had wasted no time in stripping Arthur down to his smallclothes and forcing him onto the bed. Lying down had done wonders for his pain.

Merlin worked in silence, washing the remaining cuts and rubbing salves on the worst of the bruises. He scrutinized every last inch of Arthur's body, until he was satisfied that no wound had gone untended. Arthur sighed and readied himself for the loss that always came when Merlin stopped touching him.

Merlin lifted Arthur's hand up and -- Arthur keened -- pressed his lips against the palm of Arthur's hand. "Don't you ever do that again." And despite the clear command, there was another undercurrent to his voice. Merlin was worried.

"I was trying to protect you, Merlin," Arthur whispered. His breath was coming out ragged. "I can -- I can handle myself. You're the one who can't even lift a sword properly."

Merlin shook his head. "No. You needn't worry about me." He shifted to lie beside Arthur and pulled him into an embrace, guiding Arthur's head to rest on Merlin's chest.

"I just don't want anything to happen to you. I don't want you to -- to not be with me." Somehow that was a very real danger. Arthur's greatest fear involved Merlin disappearing, and he didn't even know why.

Merlin began carding his fingers through Arthur's hair. That was... familiar? Had they done this before? ...Didn't matter. Arthur started to relax into the feeling. He should move away, insist that Merlin was overstepping his bounds, or insist that Merlin shouldn't feel pressured into being so close to Arthur, but--

He didn't want to.

"I'm not going anywhere, pet. You're my destiny," Merlin murmured.

The words didn't make any sense, yet they reassured Arthur anyway.

"Don't worry. I'll make you a great king. You'll unite Albion. And you'll be mine forever."

Yes. Arthur could already feel it deep in his bones, rushing through his blood. He belonged to Merlin. Had belonged to him since before they had met, and would belong to him even after death.

Arthur smiled and buried his head in the crook of Merlin's neck. As long as Merlin wanted him, Arthur was at peace.