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Special As You Fall (The Whisper Softly Remix)

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Arthur sighs and trots down the stairs towards the wide entrance to the castle. Not that this is an official visit by any means, but it’s still the Dragonlord’s son who’s come to Camelot, and he should at least show up to greet him before Trevor and he run off to do— Well, whatever, Arthur doesn’t truly care. Ygraine might treat her youngest son like he’s still a babe, but with her and his father gone off on a tour of the lands, Arthur left in charge, he’s more than willing to turn a blind eye whilst Trevor flexes his young muscle and acts an idiot. It’ll be good for him.

Not that Trevor’s shown many signs of building much muscle; he’s harmless really, Arthur’s younger brother is, a pudgy, round thing with no sense for fighting but a quick wit, only capable of harmless, silly fun that will embarrass him more when he’s older than provide any lasting long-term damage.

Of course the first thing Trevor had scampered up to Arthur begging for had been for Merlin to visit — Merlin this, and Merlin that — and how Trevor had even become such good friends with the boy, whom Arthur still hasn’t actually met, Arthur will never know. Uther finds the whole Dragonlord line, and magic in general for that matter, distasteful and holds them all at a careful distance, no matter how much Ygraine tuts about how they should be forging stronger relations with their magical nobility — they are far from the wealthiest, but one can never have too many powerful allies.

Arthur is inclined to agree. His father is a strong man, decisive and a leader others naturally listen to and fall behind, but Arthur knows that Camelot would never be the same without his mother’s good sense to balance out Uther’s sharp edges.

Regardless, Arthur had agreed with an eyeroll and a shove as Trevor had eagerly run off to send a message. It certainly can’t hurt for Arthur to get some measure of the young Dragonlord heir after all, Arthur thinks distractedly as he bounces from foot to foot, waiting for the horses the guards had seen in the distance to actually show up. Trevor might be brimming with excitement next to him, but Arthur does have better things to do than spend a lot of time playing nursemaid to two fifteen-year olds, eventual potential ally or not.

But when they finally arrive and Arthur is greeted by long, coltish legs and a firm, tiny arse below wide blue eyes and hands that stutter as his tongue trips over itself at the sight of Arthur, Arthur can only swallow dryly and think, Oh. You are nothing like Trevor. Nothing at all.

———

Arthur stays.

All the reasons why he has other things to do have evaporated in the back of his mind, gone like every drop of dew on a summer’s day, leaving him cracked and brittle. Playing host to a boy his brother’s age in his own castle.

His hands have a mind of their own he will swear on his death bed as he slaps Merlin heartily on the back and leads him upstairs to his brother's sitting room like he would one of his own knights, Merlin's eyes darting towards his face and away again the whole while, gobsmacked and maybe a bit in awe — which does not add any swagger to Arthur's step, none at all.

With a tight squeeze to Merlin's shoulder, he finally lets go to call a servant outside Trevor's chambers for platters of food and wine and ignores the acidic coil of unease in his belly as Trevor beams up at him, so happy to show off how adult he is — and God, he's not, he's really, really not, neither of them are — with his older brother at his side.

———

Arthur watches Merlin pick at his chicken with nimble, elegant fingers, pink tongue darting out to lick up the grease, sliding over the pads in a way that makes Arthur shift around imperceptibly in his seat and furrow his brow in exasperation.

Fifteen, for goodness' sake. Fifteen. Not to mention male, of course, which is completely out of the question. He's never— He wouldn't. Ever. Not the Crown Prince of Camelot.

Which is not to say that he's never had the opportunity; he's more than aware of what some of the knights get up to in secret. He could have, but… Uther does not take kindly to any perceived weakness — and Arthur well knows the level of depraved weakness that this sort of— indulgence would be taken to be.

Uther's clenched fist at even the hint of such perversions has never been enough to stifle Arthur's mind, however, and thoughts, dreams have always plagued him at every hour, waking or twisted in his own bedding. But Uther has never been gone this long, deemed Arthur old and capable enough to manage the kingdom's affairs on his own, and watching the dip of Merlin's head, the keen eyes slanting glances at him atop his long, pale neck, Arthur finds it harder and harder to tear his gaze away, get up from the table and leave this torment behind.

Summer's haze has wrapped itself languorously around Arthur, muddied with wine and warmth, and Arthur wants. God, how he wants.

And for reasons unknown to him his brain has scented this— this boy and latched onto the trail like one of Arthur’s most obstinate hunting dogs, eager to sniff out his lanky body, nose behind his ear where his soft, dark hair curls. It’s obscene and even Arthur is shocked by the depth of his reaction. Lord knows he’s spent countless hours wrestling and sparring with what the ladies of the court consider the most attractive men in the kingdom, shirtless and sweaty, but nothing has caught his eye the way Merlin’s fine, but simple, tunic and trousers cling to his lean, wiry frame and narrow hips.

Merlin's gangly and somewhat awkward, like all his parts don't fit perfectly together, at least not yet. But there's a brightness to him, a sunniness to his smile and a light-hearted self-deprecation that stop Arthur's thoughts in their tracks. Make him fond in an all-encompassing kind of way that almost scares him.

He’s… beautiful. And Arthur has the sudden horrifying realisation that he finally understands all those romantic poems the bards drone on about at feasts and boggles at Merlin over the top of his desperately needed wine.

“How old are you even? Twelve?” he blurts in confusion. Confusion mostly at himself, but Merlin hardly needs to know that.

Trevor snickers into his wine and Merlin gapes at him indignantly, cheeks flushed, and returns, “Fifteen,” in a voice so betrayed and more than a bit petulant that Arthur can do nothing but throw his head back and laugh and laugh.

God. Fifteen… and somehow still beautiful, even with his vivid eyes gone cross and a distracting pout on his full lips.

There’s a short knock on the door and then George enters with a small bow. “Lady Kelly sends her regards and asks if you will still be able to join her for a walk around the gardens as planned.”

Somehow George has perfected the art of sounding both entirely obsequious and completely disapproving, much to Arthur’s eternal chagrin, and Arthur rubs his brow with an internal sigh. Bollocks. He’d completely forgotten.

Lady Kelly is… an unavoidable fact, really. She's nearly as smart and sharp as Morgana, and determined to angle herself for the most political match possible, so Arthur returns her attentions, because it's expected for him to return someone's, and at least she is good for conversation and has a head for the requirements of court. She's also exceedingly beautiful, Arthur supposes, but from a relatively minor noble family, which means that his father finds their courtship amusing but has absolutely no intention of seeing them wed, and that suits Arthur more than well, no matter what rumours fly throughout the castle after even the barest titter of them talking to each other.

“Please give Lady Kelly my most heartfelt apologies, as I’ve become detained ensuring our newest guest has an adequate welcome to Camelot. But I would love to have dinner with her soon in order to make up for it.”

“As you wish, Sire,” he says with a frown and another bow and turns to leave.

“Oh, and George? Please take the rest of the night off after you’ve prepared my chambers, I expect I will be late and there’s no need for you to wait for me,” Arthur calls out to George’s back without thinking, his belly roiling with unnameable emotions as his gaze surreptitiously slides along the contours of Merlin’s face without thought or permission.

After George has left, Trevor turns to Merlin with a wicked gleam in his eye. “Arthur will have to point out Lady Kelly to you, Merlin. She’s gorgeous with the largest—”

Arthur reaches out with a sharp thwap to Trevor’s head. “I am not introducing him to Lady Kelly just so he has someone to imagine later in bed by himself.”

But Trevor only cackles gleefully at that and gives him a conspiratorial look. “Oh, you don’t need to worry about that. Merlin prefers men for that sort of thing, he told me last year during the—”

Trevor!” Merlin yelps and turns, stuttering, to Arthur. “I’m not— That’s not—” He takes a deep breath and looks down, fists clenched in front of him, before straightening his back and looking at Arthur with wild, proud eyes and a firm mouth, his cheeks still furiously pink, but his jaw angled defiantly. “It is not unheard of among the Druids, welcomed even. They would never disparage companionship amongst men, and my family has always been close with them, honouring their practices which are much closer to nature than our own.”

Arthur gawps, frozen and leaden, utterly unable to comprehend what Merlin is implying. Companionship. He knows, somehow, that his heart must still be beating sluggishly in his chest, but he can’t feel anything, the world gone dark around the edges as his brain slowly lurches into movement again, Merlin’s words repeating furiously through his head. Druids and being publicly open about. About. That. As if it’s something one can expect any other person to accept readily, easily. As if it’s normal.

And Arthur has heard of the sort of… rites the Druids perform and is assaulted by the image of Merlin covered in their strange blue symbols, naked, with fire in his eyes, and giving himself over to one of them, some other man who can draw magic on Merlin’s skin with his fingertips, and is slammed by something fierce and ineffaceable. Something he’s afraid to examine more closely and he digs his fingers into the armrests on his chair until he faintly begins to wonder if his fingernails might begin to bleed.

“Well, God knows, never breathe a word about that in my father’s presence,” he forces out gruffly and is somewhat mollified to see Merlin pale at the suggestion.

———

Inexplicably, Arthur still doesn’t leave, although Merlin kept sneaking worried glances at him at first, like Arthur might do something terrible with this new knowledge. Like Arthur isn’t currently fighting off the dizzying thought of what Merlin’s soft, pale skin would look like under his own fingers.

This is so, so much worse than the untoward thoughts he has to battle daily, inspired by glimpses of fine young men around town and in his travels, not thick and overwhelming like the knights and important men he is usually surrounded by, but spare. Graceful. Men like Merlin, Merlin who would assuredly, unavoidably welcome such advances, whose wishes are the same as his own. It is the greatest torment of his entire life, to know that and not throw him on the ground, rut against him like a common animal.

And still Arthur stays, through numerous rounds of dice and Trevor giggling uncontrollably and rolling his eyes at their earlier dramatics, until he passes out sleepy and contented in his chair, leaving only Arthur and Merlin to while away the time. Of course Arthur could excuse himself for bed, it’s long past time for that, but he doesn’t, promising himself just one more round over and over until it’s lost any meaning at all.

Merlin has a barbed tongue, Arthur finds, ruthless once he realises Arthur bears him no ill will (although God knows Arthur should, he really should) and Arthur can’t help but be drawn in, his competitiveness rearing its head and crowing in delight whenever he wins their latest wager.

“Hah, take that, you little scamp!” he shouts with a shove to Merlin’s shoulder and pretends not to notice the pleased, embarrassed flush that sweeps prettily over Merlin’s sharp cheekbones.

Merlin scoffs. “I’ve still won more rounds than you,” he says, levering himself up and bending over to reach the fallen dice. Arthur’s breath stops at the sight of Merlin’s trousers stretched tightly over his round little arse, swaying in front of him like it’s begging for Arthur to bury himself there and fill him so thoroughly he’ll never want anyone else. Fill that tender, tight little hole until it’s swollen and used, leaking Arthur’s come and begging to be touched, played with, soft, soothing strokes to the puffed, flushed-red edges that would make Merlin sigh and shiver, already impossibly half-hard again. Ready for more.

Arthur imagines burying his mouth there, lapping at the salty, come-streaked skin, cleaning him until his face is covered in wet and slick, as messy and sloppy as the abused hole underneath him, until Merlin screams into the sheets, too wrecked on how sensitive he is now, how every touch of Arthur’s tongue sets off nerves he never even knew he had.

Arthur grips the cool metal of his goblet tightly until his fingers ache, then downs his whole fill of wine in one go, breathing in and out deliberately as he jerks the jug over to refill. Keeps his hands busy so his depraved mind will have something else to focus on other than— than these perversions, as his father would say, the ones he’s clearly had bottled up in his head for too long, fantasies born from over a decade of eager, pricked ears on patrol in the lower town and around the campfire, from stories left to fester wildly in his own daydreams. Not that anyone has ever shared these tales deliberately in Arthur’s presence, Uther would never stand for such filth, but Arthur has had a long time, too long truly, to hone his senses to the finest grade, sharp hearing, sharp eyes, not even the barest crackle of a leaf under foot when Arthur sets his mind to it.

He nearly snorts aloud at the thought of his knights discovering the true reason for Arthur’s unsurpassable hunting prowess. But these vivid, shattering snippets that Arthur has spent so much time cultivating are all he has to guide the fire in his veins that wants these things he can never have, can only imagine, and he cherishes them all the more for it.

When Arthur looks up over his newly filled cup, Merlin is gazing at him indolently, curious and sprawled in his chair like he hasn’t a care in the world. Maybe he doesn’t. Clearly, if he is to be believed, the thought of men in such a way is not something to be stamped down until it settles like rock lead in one’s gut. Madness is what it is. Madness. And Arthur has the sinking suspicion that madness is just what Merlin will drive him to as he watches the way the cuffs of Merlin’s shirt fall back to expose the pale skin of his thin wrists, delicate in a way no man’s has the right to be, but juxtaposed with long, sure fingers, unmistakably male palms that will ruin Arthur’s wicked, wicked mind.

———

They run out of wine.

And as Arthur stands up to excuse himself for the night, his mouth decides to say instead, "I have more wine in my chambers if you'd like another drink before you go to bed," and Arthur can only blink internally at himself and snap his mouth shut, since it has clearly gone rogue and mustn't be allowed to continue on its merry way. His entire body is rebelling, whispering smoothly like the sweetest honey, But you want.

But what Arthur does want and Arthur can have are two entirely separate things, and yet he still leads Merlin down the hall, shoulders knocking together conspiratorially, Merlin's warmth a hot, searing line down his side, the castle a silent presence around them. It's horrible and exhilarating, illicit despite the fact that Arthur hasn't even done anything, and it's all he can do not to reach out and palm the small of Merlin's back, wrap him up in Arthur's arms and explore the breadth of his shoulders.

Arthur pours Merlin a cup of watered wine and hands it over, hesitating where he stands next to him. Scrutinising.

“You’re not drunk, are you?” Only fifteen, he repeats to himself, because maybe if he tells himself enough times his body will actually remember.

Merlin frowns thoughtfully. “No. I’ve only had about four cups,” he says and sticks his chin out a bit, all young bravado and assurance.

"Oh, and you drink all the time, do you?"

Merlin makes a disgruntled noise and sticks his tongue out, takes a large gulp of wine defiantly, and Arthur has to snort. He has never met anyone with so little regard for their relative station.

"Anyone ever tell you you're the least respectful person in the entire kingdom? Is that how you were raised to treat the Crown Prince?" Arthur drawls.

"Not if the Prince is a prat!" Merlin taunts with a smirk.

And Arthur has to shove him for that, get in his space and grapple with the little bastard, there's nothing else for that much cheek. "I'll show you who your betters are," he growls.

Merlin is slippery though, his body squirms so much it’s hard to grab him properly, and Arthur somehow ends up with a panting, giggling Merlin pinned against the table between his arms and thighs and Arthur’s mind grinds to a complete, shocking halt. Merlin is huffing with laughter, glancing up at him warmly from underneath thick lashes, unintentionally coy, a perfectly flushed and loose-limbed weight bracketed against Arthur’s body, so, so close. So close Arthur can smell the wine on his breath and the faint trace of sweet herbs that he must use in his bath and he has the nearly irrepressible urge to bury his head in Merlin’s neck, nose his way down underneath his arms and find all the secret, hidden places on his body, lap up all that sweat and scent until his mind swims with the headiness of it.

But it’s not until Merlin goes rigid-still, distressed and refusing to meet Arthur’s eyes, that Arthur feels it: a nice thick cock, full and swollen against Arthur’s belly. All the skin on Arthur’s body pricks with interest, an overpowering surge of lust slamming him harder than the ocean’s waves against a cliff, drowning him in too strong senses, and the tight, coiled feel of every inch where they touch frenetic with tension.

"I'm— I'm sorry. I'll leave and you won't even have to see me again for the rest of my stay. Please. Just let me— I'm sorry," Merlin babbles and twists back and forth, hunches over, tries to hide his still-hard prick and dislodge Arthur's palms from the table behind him in a bid to escape. Arthur only presses his thighs further into him, breath coming in harsh pants where he closes his eyes against Merlin's ear.

"Do you like to suck cock?" he whispers, which was not what he meant to say at all, and Merlin whimpers, head jerking up.

"Wha—? What?" he stammers, startled into looking at Arthur, eyes huge and their noses nearly brushing as he has to tilt his head to the side to see Arthur's face. "I don't." He swallows, shallow breath. "I've never tried," he says softly, still struggling slightly in Arthur's arms.

Arthur hums, inches his nose closer until they're touching and Merlin falls still, head cocked and brow furrowed, a blurry, glorious presence that swims in Arthur's vision. "But you'd like to," he says definitively, as if there is no question, and shifts up a bit, can see the exact moment Merlin feels Arthur’s cock heavy between his legs, follows the full body shudder that has Merlin tip his head back on a gasp.

Merlin opens his eyes again, gaze dark and fierce, and licks his lips. Raises a challenging eyebrow and says, “Depends on who’s asking.”

Arthur presses a smile against Merlin’s neck, oddly buoyed by Merlin’s sass, and chuckles quietly there where Merlin is warm and sweet, his young skin unfairly soft under Arthur’s cheek, and Arthur wonders what it would look like if he rubbed his stubble all over him, until that pale skin is all reddened up, great swaths of livid colour all over his neck and chest.

Arthur thinks he would like that, like that a lot.

“You like when boys suck your cock?” Arthur teases, running his nose along Merlin’s hairline until he can snuffle behind Merlin’s ear, underneath his thick curls.

Merlin’s breath hitches. “Never— Never done that either.”

“Oooh, such a virgin. Do you even have hair on your balls yet?” Arthur nips at the skin there, worries it between his teeth. Doesn’t think about dropping to his knees, taking Merlin’s whole length into his mouth until he can’t breathe, what his hard, hot prick would feel like on Arthur’s tongue, come dripping from his lips. Doesn’t think about it. Does not.

“Why don’t you take a look,” Merlin murmurs, voice low and gravelly in a way it has no right to be, none at all.

Arthur can’t argue with that, at least not when his mind has given up coherent thought so completely, his hands already slipping from the table to find the curve of Merlin’s spine, around until he can push his palms underneath Merlin’s tunic and thumb at his hipbones, measure the exact width of his narrow waist. “Maybe I will,” he breaths into Merlin’s ear and Merlin moans like it’s so good and Arthur isn’t even touching him yet, not really.

He moves one hand down, following the fine trail of hair across the skin of Merlin’s lower belly, follows it until he can slide his hand into Merlin’s trousers, through the thicket of wiry curls there — and Merlin definitely wasn’t lying, at least not about that, down here he is unmistakably male, full-blooded, adult — and shudders when he finally, finally, feels the full weight of Merlin’s cock in his palm, solid and warm, so much like his own, but also so much more. Arthur pants, breath lodged in his throat, in awe, because this… this is everything Arthur’s always wanted and he can’t stop to appreciate the moment, can only tug harsh and quick, catching the foreskin on each stroke, because there is a cock in his hand and a beautiful boy in his arms. Arthur clenches his other fist in Merlin’s shirt, slides his thighs more tightly around Merlin’s, and tries to hold on, shattered.

Merlin’s making little hitching noises, head tipped forward and arms scrambling for balance, nails catching on the table behind him and jerking forward to grip Arthur’s biceps, desperate for purchase as he whimpers, “Oh, oh, fuu-uck.”

“Maybe the second time you come tonight,” Arthur groans and Merlin jolts, a deep, breathy moan pulled out from him. “God, look at you. Such a pretty face, want to see what it looks like when you come.”

Merlin’s head snaps back, wide-eyed and lips parted on a wordless cry, and his whole body shocks as he stares at Arthur, whimpers and comes, the hot, sticky mess coating Arthur’s hand and Arthur moans at the feel of it. “Yeah, yeah, that’s it, so damn pretty. Let me see you,” he whispers, eyes locked with Merlin’s, trying to wring every last bit of Merlin’s orgasm out of him, too amazed to do anything but watch the flutter of emotions across Merlin’s face, the open-mouthed almost painful-looking pleasure bowling Merlin over.

Arthur pulls his hand out of Merlin’s trousers, blinks at the white smeared thickly across it. Licks his lips and thinks about licking it off, what it would taste like in his mouth, and looks back up at Merlin instead. Breath unsteady, he reaches out and draws a finger across Merlin’s flushed cheek, admiring the shiny trail it leaves behind, and murmurs, “That was good?” and feels like his heart might beat right out of his chest and like he’s thousands of miles away watching this happen to someone else at the same time.

Merlin smiles up at him from where he’s leant back against the table, boneless and sated, and nods blissfully, turning his head slightly until Arthur’s finger catches against his lip, slowly takes the whole thing into his mouth, tongue flicking out to wrap around him, and Arthur can only whimper and grind into Merlin’s thigh. God.

“Good,” he manages to choke out hoarsely. “You want—” Merlin licks at the pad of his finger, and Arthur watches in rapture as it sends shocks straight to his straining cock. “You want to suck me?”

Merlin grins and pulls off his finger with a slight nip at the tip, so boyish and lovely in that moment that Arthur’s pulse trips over itself. “Yeah,” he says, pulling Arthur towards him with a hand on his cheek, “Yeah, okay.”

Merlin’s lips are soft as he breathes quietly into the kiss, a light touch, an exploration, and Arthur groans, wrapping his arms around Merlin, one hand palming his neck, the other at his waist, and surges into him, tightens his hands as Merlin whimpers and opens up so perfectly, eager and messy and utterly lacking in finesse. But it doesn’t matter because Arthur never wants anything else so much as Merlin’s tongue sliding against his own, could happily drown in that feeling forever.

And then Merlin’s hands are at Arthur’s trousers, pulling and tugging until they fall to his ankles, and Arthur has to jerk back on a sharp gasp as those long, smooth fingers tentatively cup his prick — no sword callouses there, none at all, not on fingers made for magic, made to make Arthur come undone.

When Merlin sinks slowly to his knees in front of him, fierce eyes locked with Arthur’s the whole while, Arthur has the absurd thought that he is going to die from anticipation. That his fifteen-year-old brother’s friend is going to be the death of him, a grown man and the Crown Prince of Camelot, but at least he won’t have to be around when his father figures out the exact circumstances of that.

But none of that matters in the slightest once Merlin closes his eyes and takes in the head of his cock, sucks on it and tongues at the slit, before going deeper, so deep Arthur has to brace himself against the table before his legs give out from under him. He's done this before, of course, had chambermaids and camp whores shoved into his lap by well-meaning knights, but they were nothing more than passionless, perfunctory affairs with a willing mouth, and absolutely nothing about those experiences could have prepared him for this: Merlin's pretty, eager face stuffed full of Arthur's prick.

He slips one hand down to fist in Merlin’s silky hair, shocked grunts torn out of him as it takes all of his willpower not to just fuck in, into that perfect wet heat, into Merlin until tears sting his eyes. Hips jerking, he twists his fingers into Merlin’s curls instead, openly panting his approval, until he can’t take it anymore, knows he’s going to come if Merlin doesn’t stop right now, and uses the grip in Merlin’s hair to pull him off.

If it weren’t for the fact that Arthur wants to make it to his bed more than anything in that moment, he wouldn’t have been able to stop himself from shoving his cock right back in, because Merlin gasping on his knees, mouth red and open, slick with spit and Arthur’s pre-come, is more than obscene. It’s enough to make him lose his goddamned mind.

“So good. God.” Arthur shudders and tries to rein himself in, regain what little control he can. “Bedroom. Let’s move to the bedroom.”

Merlin blinks up at him and licks at his swollen lips, says hoarsely, “You going to fuck me now?”

Arthur could, he knows. He absolutely could and Merlin would willingly let him, but… “No.” He shakes his head with a sad, wry smile. “You should save that for someone special,” he says and pulls a dejected and confused looking Merlin to his feet, kicks out of his trousers and boots and leads Merlin through the doorway into his private chambers, cock tenting his shirt ridiculously.

“And you’re not special?” Merlin quips, but Arthur can hear the disappointment in his voice.

Arthur laughs bitterly. “I’m a perverted old man. And the Prince. I should be doing everything in my power to protect you, it’s my sworn duty. When you’re older, you’ll be glad you didn’t let me.”

“Protect me from what? My own desires? I’m not a child,” Merlin snaps and his eyes flash a violent gold as Arthur is shoved down onto the edge of the bed. “I want you to fuck me.”

Arthur takes a deep breath at the power in Merlin’s gaze, feels his prick twitch, but shakes his head again. He won’t take that from Merlin. He won’t. But he can give something to Merlin, at least, if he’s too weak-willed to turn him away, he has enough honour for that. “No. What you’re going to do is sit in that chair right there and watch me open myself up for you. And then you’re going to stick that nice, big cock in my arse until you come. How does that sound?”

He thinks it might be worth it just for the haste with which Merlin rips off his clothing, tripping all over himself, and pulls the chair right up to the edge of the bed.

———

Arthur is oddly calm as he kneels on all fours on the bed, arse towards Merlin, and roots around under his pillow until he finds the vial of scented oil he hides underneath the headboard.

Fingers dripping, he reaches one hand back and spreads his thighs a little wider, shivers at the gasp that brings out of Merlin as he rubs between his cheeks, teasing himself by playing his fingers along the rim until he’s covered in oil, and then bears down onto two fingers at once. He blushes at the wanton moan that gets out of him, is suddenly hit by the image he must make on the bed, for Merlin, when he’s only ever done this for himself in the deep dark of night, under the covers where no one can see his secret desires.

And he does desire this, God, more than anything. It’s shameful how hard he comes when he presses up into himself, imagines that it’s someone else’s cock. Ever since he discovered what two men can really do together, he’s burnt with it.

He pushes back harder, thrusting himself onto his fingers, because it feels so good and the knowledge that Merlin is watching, that Merlin is going to put his cock up Arthur’s arse, has him on the edge of coming already, belly tightly coiled with all-consuming want, years and years of self-denial crumbling at Merlin’s feet.

“How many times have you done this?” Merlin asks suddenly, strained.

Arthur snorts and then whines as his fingers curl exactly right. “Fingered myself?”

“Shared a bed with another man.”

Arthur goes still for a moment. “Never,” he whispers softly.

“What?” Merlin’s voice rises and Arthur winces.

“Don’t— Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

Merlin sounds genuinely confused as he says, “But… shouldn’t you be saving that for someone special as well?”

“I’m older… And the Crown Prince. This is not something—” Arthur sighs and lets his head drop onto the bed. Closes his eyes against… everything. Everything, all the pressures and expectations, what Arthur wants to be himself and who he actually is, whether he wants that or not, choking him and catching the words in the back of his throat completely. Goddamn it, he growls to himself, as he pulls his fingers out and clenches his fists in the bed, taking slow breaths, in and out.

Merlin makes a small noise behind him and clambers onto the bed, lying on his back next to Arthur and smiling up at him. He reaches up and smooths a finger across Arthur’s brow and Arthur twists his head to catch Merlin’s palm in a kiss at the quiet understanding in his eyes. Breaths out and manages to grin softly down at Merlin, who's so lovely and beautiful like this.

Sliding one leg over Merlin’s hips, he settles down on top of him, until their half-hard cocks rest together on Merlin’s belly. As he leans down to kiss Merlin, affectionate, he says, “You’re too sweet, someone will take advantage of you.”

Merlin tightens his grip on Arthur’s arm. “You won’t.”

“I already have,” Arthur says with a sigh, pressing their foreheads together and kissing him gently again.

Merlin just shakes his head with fond eyes, which isn’t fair, he hardly knows Arthur at all. He shouldn’t be able to look at Arthur so warmly, like he understands some part of Arthur that he doesn’t understand himself. It makes something in Arthur ache unbearably.

Arthur buries his head in Merlin’s neck and stretches his body out along Merlin’s, basking in the warm, sweet presence underneath him for however long he has it, loses himself in it. Who knows if he may ever have this chance again; there’s no point in not grabbing it whilst he can.

Merlin moans below him, hips hitching, as he cards his fingers through Arthur’s hair and explores the muscles of Arthur’s back, and Arthur groans when his hands slowly slip down to Arthur’s arse, squeezing into the flesh there before testing his hole — and finding it still slick and open, if the strangled sound Merlin makes below him as his finger slides straight in without resistance is anything to go by. Arthur throws his head back and whimpers, unable to bear how utterly fantastic Merlin’s long, thin fingers feel as they push up into him, so much better than his own, and he grinds down onto them.

“Yes. Fuck me,” he whispers into Merlin’s ear with a moan, voice cracking, and then pulls back to watch as he moves his hips up and Merlin’s fingers fall free. The shocked, wrecked look on Merlin’s face as he slicks his cock up quickly and angles himself into Arthur, the way he bites his lip so hard as his cock begins to slide in and his hands grip tightly, desperately at Arthur’s hips, slam into Arthur, batter at what little restraint he has left.

And then Arthur properly feels how the full head of Merlin’s prick stretches him as he sinks down onto Merlin, fills him up in a way he never has been before, and he loses all thought at all, can do nothing but drive down onto the cock underneath him, mouth open as his head tips back, broken, high-pitched moans wrenched out of him on every thrust.

Soon Arthur has to fall forward, no longer able to hold himself up, and kisses Merlin messily as he whimpers, eyes rolling back a bit when Merlin uses the new angle to grip Arthur’s thighs harder and begin thrusting upwards in earnest. Oh God oh God, Arthur’s entire body feels like it’s on the edge of falling apart, on some precipice that could shatter him when he falls, and then Merlin’s hand is tugging at Arthur’s cock and for one utterly blissful perfect moment Arthur’s entire body strains and then he comes, Merlin’s beautiful, wide-eyed face staring back up at him.

———

Arthur wakes before dawn, Merlin’s body curled up in his arms, and inhales sharply at the bittersweetness that overpowers him at how soft and warm Merlin looks when he sleeps. He shakes Merlin gently and Merlin blinks up at him with a smile and a yawn.

“Good morning.” Merlin grins.

Arthur gives him a quick peck on the lips, savouring the feel of them against his own one last time. “You’re going to make some man so happy someday.” He sighs against that knowing look Merlin has again, the one that says he’s figured out Arthur’s secrets, because he can’t. “George will be here soon. You should leave before someone sees you.”

Merlin’s family might be one thing, but even he has to understand that no one at court must ever know about his proclivities. He’ll be safer when he returns to his own estate, where he can spend time amongst the Druids and the magical folk who will protect him in that. Arthur swallows harshly, happy that at least Merlin can find some kind of fulfillment out there, even if he never can, and doesn’t allow himself to consider the way the thought of any other man touching Merlin makes him clench his fists with the urge to beat them into the walls.

Merlin scoffs. “I’m a warlock, if I don’t want your manservant to see me, he won’t,” Merlin says with finality and Arthur can hear the bar sliding into place from the other room, Merlin’s eyes awash with gold. Then Merlin licks his lips and stretches wantonly against the bed, back arching and body splayed so that every glorious inch of his body is on display for Arthur, and continues breathily, “I want you to fuck me.”

Arthur closes his eyes and counts to ten. “Merlin, I told you last night. That’s not— I can’t. I’ve already taken enough advantage of you.”

Merlin sits up and frowns down at him. “You really don’t get it do you?” he says and then scrambles up from the sheets and grabs Arthur’s hand, pulling him from the bed with him and dropping to one knee at Arthur’s feet. He grips Arthur’s hand tightly as he stares up at him, and when he goes to kiss Arthur’s knuckles, Arthur’s belly wobbles and all the air is knocked out of him. “I swear myself to you, Prince Arthur, on every god of every religion there’s ever been.”

Arthur croaks, “You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re still young and you barely know me.”

Merlin’s eyes blaze back up at him. “I am probably the most powerful warlock born in generations, and I am going to be a Dragonlord one day, which means I will be able to control dragons, if you’ve forgotten. I am neither an idiot nor am I defenseless. And I know the way people speak of you, how your people already view you, and after only one night in your company I am already completely certain that you’re just as much of a noble, self-sacrificing pillock as I’ve been lead to believe. I can see how much all of this eats you up inside, how much it costs you. Please, let me help you bear that burden. I’m probably the only one who actually can. And I want to, more than anything.”

And Arthur, he just cracks then, all his defenses shattered, and pulls Merlin to his feet and into his arms. “You beautiful, stupid, stupid boy,” he chokes.

But, as he pins Merlin back into the sheets, his body a long, lithe stretch below Arthur, he fiercely wants to be worthy of that trust. To be a prince, a king, worth serving.