Merlin stumbled along in the half darkness, not sure where he was headed even though he could navigate these passages blindfolded. Habit more than purpose at first took him in the direction of Arthur’s chambers—but they would be empty tonight and he would find no solace there. Arthur was finding warmth in his lady’s chambers.
The generous helping of pie which Merlin had devoured earlier sat like a slab of stone in his belly. He leant with his shoulder against the wall, taking a moment’s rest, rubbing his gut; knowing full well that wasn’t where the ache was.
There was silence all around, save for the nagging voice in Merlin’s head. Often that voice sounded like Gaius, berating Merlin for another folly, telling him he should go back to bed and try to get a good night’s sleep; that everything would seem better in the morning. Only tonight the voice wasn’t Gaius’ paternal tone, but one altogether more youthful and disconcerting. And it wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t let him sleep.
Half the night guard Merlin passed were dozing at their posts. Merlin frowned and tittered, resisting the temptation to kick their feet from under them. It was a worry that they could become so complacent so quickly at the safe return of their king and his most trusted knights.
Ah, the knights.
Gwaine was never far from Merlin’s thoughts. It had been a long time, too long, since Merlin had shared more than his cups with Gwaine. Merlin took a deep breath. There was a burning sensation rising up into his gullet. He had to press his fist into his chest to quell it. It was enough that he had indigestion without an extra helping of melancholy.
Arriving at the top hallway, a deserted part of the castle used only for visiting dignitaries, Merlin conceded finally there was nowhere else to go. He turned around, about to head back down the stairs when at once he heard the tread of soft footsteps. He spun back, catching his knuckle on the stone wall as he grabbed for purchase.
Squinting into the shadows, Merlin saw the figure of a man coming slowly towards him. As he moved into the dim light coming in through the window, he paused. Pale moonlight cast his face in an ethereal blue glow. It was Mordred.
They were some distance from the knights’ quarters. Merlin growled under his breath, “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask you the same.”
His insolence scratched at Merlin like being pushed into bramble thorns. Merlin was under no obligation to answer him. Merlin was a trusted servant; Mordred a newcomer, and an interloper at that. Yet, after only a moment’s hesitation Merlin replied, “I … I couldn’t sleep.”
Mordred didn’t move a muscle, but inside his head Merlin heard him gently say, “I know. I heard you.”
Instinctively, Merlin clamped his hands to his ears though the words hadn’t touched them. “Don’t do that!”
Mordred had the audacity to come to Camelot and take up the knighthood, no less. He had purloined an honoured place at the Round Table, where Merlin was only permitted to pour the wine. Merlin was no less brave, no less willing to fight at Arthur’s side with the best of them but here he was, still polishing his lord’s boots. Mordred, hiding his magic just like Merlin, was now favoured by Arthur when he might be his biggest threat. Merlin couldn’t stand it, couldn’t stand him. How dare he?
In two strides, Merlin stood looming over Mordred. The next moment, he grabbed Mordred’s tunic and shoved him roughly, far more roughly than was necessary, back two more steps into the doorway of an empty bedchamber.
Mordred went without a struggle. He bowed his head and said softly, “Your knuckle, it’s bleeding.”
Up to now, Merlin hadn’t felt it stinging. “It’s nothing.” Merlin withdrew his grip and ground his palms into Mordred’s shoulders. Through the thin fabric of his tunic, through the pliant warmth of youthful muscle, Merlin felt Mordred’s heart pounding like a war drum in counter time to his own.
Mordred whispered to the floor, “You were on your way to see the king?”
“No. Arthur is—” Stopping himself just in time, Merlin curled his fingers sharply into fists and snarled, “If you so much as—. So help me I’ll—.”
“I was looking for you.”
Merlin was about to ask why. But he already knew the answer.
The love between us is greater than the power we wield.
Mordred’s words still rung in Merlin’s ears, no matter that it was hours since Mordred had spoken them. His voice had been laden, hinting at things he hadn't said. Merlin couldn’t stop replaying the moment in his mind, trying desperately to hear that something more, something that would give him some clue as to Mordred’s true intent.
There was no love between them. Not anymore.
Slowly, tilting his face up to catch a sliver of the moonlight spilling in through the window, Mordred said very quietly, “I can help you. Let me?”
Merlin didn’t resist when Mordred brought his grazed knuckle to his lips. Mordred spoke softly, the power in the words leaving his lips before his breath touched the broken skin. Merlin should have pulled away, shouldn’t have let Mordred wield one whisper of magic within the walls of Camelot. For where would it end?
But Merlin didn’t pull away.
Mordred’s eyes, so piercing and haunting as a child, were no less engaging in the man. There was ice in the blue, colder than the frozen north that lead to Ismere. Beyond that, though Merlin didn’t want to see it, there was something else. Something Merlin recognised.
Mordred closed his eyes as his lips parted. It was an invitation for a kiss. Merlin took it like a starving man.
Arching his back into a clumsy embrace, Mordred pushed his hips into Merlin’s thigh. His breathing was fast. He clutched at Merlin’s jacket, raked his fingers through Merlin’s hair.
Merlin was reminded all at once and much too suddenly of a boy with dark curly hair, with much to learn and too little time to learn it. When he reached down and felt the hardness bulging out from the front of Mordred’s breeches, he took it in his fist and squeezed. Mordred gasped.
Merlin said firmly, clearly, “Turn around.”
Mordred nodded. Facing the door, he braced himself with his forearms.
With nimble fingers, Merlin pulled the knot that tied Mordred’s breeches and yanked them unceremoniously down to his knees. His own breeches were harder to free, the knots tied clumsily in the darkness before he snuck from his room, past a snoring Gaius and out into the chilly night.
It had been a while. Merlin didn’t want to think how many times he’d had to quickly, silently attend to his need by himself in the many months before he’d gone with Arthur to Ismere. After that, well the cold was enough to dampen anyone’s ardour.
Mordred waited in silence, apart from his breathing.
Taking his cock in his hand, Merlin stroked the tip, already moist with fluid, over the cleft of Mordred’s arse. It wouldn’t be enough and Merlin cursed his pessimism at leaving the oil in his room. He was in no mood to work Mordred loose with his tongue, but he had no mind to hurt him either, not like this anyway.
Lathing his first two fingers with spit, though his mouth had never felt so dry, Merlin reached into the crease of Mordred’s arse and rubbed downwards until he felt the ring of muscle, his hole. Mordred clenched around the intrusion, but didn’t pull away. As Merlin worked, Mordred sighed and pushed into the breach.
He was looser, almost ready, when Mordred looked over his shoulder, took Merlin’s wrist in his hand and pulled his fingers from inside him. Then he turned and dropped to his knees. The warmth, the wet slide of Mordred’s tongue on his cock almost had Merlin spill. But he’d been schooled well and held on, held back, allowing Mordred to swallow him down, to make his cock wet and pulsing hard. Mordred looked up at Merlin through his heavy lashes as he sucked him down. Was it a dare? Merlin couldn’t think, didn’t care. He was going to fuck Mordred and nothing would stop him now.
Pulling him to his feet and turning him back to face the door, Merlin grasped the flesh of Mordred's hips and held him fast, arse cheeks spread, just where he wanted him. Sucking a thick globule of saliva from his cheeks, Merlin let his spit drop from his pursed lips onto the cleft of Mordred’s arse. Next, with his cock in his hand, he slid it through the moisture and into Mordred’s hole.
It was tight and hot. Merlin closed his eyes and let his head fall back as he swivelled his hips forward. He pushed in slow, as Mordred hissed and moaned and stood perfectly still. It was only as Merlin was buried to the hilt, pulling out and pushing back in—deep, shallow, powerful thrusts—that Mordred pushed back, taking it all.
Merlin fucked hard. His thighs burned with effort while he thrust in, relentlessly pounding into Mordred. Merlin’s cock was big—big enough he knew he could ram that sweet spot inside Mordred and make him unravel until he spilled. Arthur had taught Merlin stamina, control. Gwaine had given him confidence. This skill, this technique, Merlin had discovered all by himself. He fucked faster as Mordred shook beneath him.
“Come for me,” Merlin demanded, knowing from Mordred’s erratic breaths and mumbled curses that he was already close.
Mordred moved his arm, as if to grab his cock.
“Don’t use your hand.”
“Yes. You can.”
Merlin pushed harder and faster, slapping noisily into Mordred’s thighs.
In that still and quiet moment, like the silence that comes before the crash of thunder, Merlin dug his fingers mercilessly deep into Mordred’s buttocks. There would be bruises.
“I’m—” Mordred didn’t finish the words. His body tensed and on a muffled cry he spilled.
Merlin let him ride it out, slowed while Mordred shuddered out the last of his orgasm. Then he sped to his own release—one hand on Mordred’s shoulder, the other braced against the wall.
When it was over, Mordred hissed, winced, as he reached down for his breeches then stood. He ran his fingers roughly through his locks of curly hair, venturing a glance and a small smile at Merlin. It wasn’t returned.
They dressed without a word, without so much as a touch or a kiss or a final embrace. Merlin wouldn’t, couldn’t, not if he was to maintain his purpose.
But before he headed back to his room, Merlin grasped Mordred’s arm, and leaned in close to his face. “I’m watching you.”
Mordred nodded. Merlin let him go.
He walked away into the darkness without a sound, without looking back.