Merlin flattens himself on the wall. He knows the Rule. Water falls in his eyes and he blinks furiously. His clothes are drenched, and it should be cold, it should be freezing, standing here in the November rain, except there’s warmth spreading like wildfire through him, and Arthur breathing hotly in the space between them.
Merlin spreads the palms of his hands on the rough rocky surface behind him, tries to ground himself, bites fiercely at his lip.
They do not touch. They never touch. That’s the Rule.
The one Arthur made that night, coming back from the feast, the both of them giddy and warm from all the wine, their arms loose and heavy, their steps uneven—Arthur’s more than Merlin’s—tripping on the stairs, and Merlin sneaking his arm around Arthur’s waist to steady him, his fingers curling in the soft fabric of his shirt, Arthur’s nose brushing his cheek and hair as he stumbled forward. Merlin laughed and tried to right Arthur, other hand at his shoulder, Arthur’s lips grazing his neck. There was a fumble—a tilting of the floor, the walls, the light of the torches, fuzzy and glowing—and Merlin had found himself flat against the wall of the stairwell, Arthur’s body hard and pressing on his, hot gasps on his neck as Arthur mumbled Merlin, Merlin, Merl... over and over.
Merlin had reached around Arthur, uncertain of everything except that he didn’t want Arthur to pull back. And as his fingertips clung to the edges of Arthur’s shoulder blades, before he could truly appreciate and revel in the rushing and pulsing of Arthur’s body under his touch, Arthur had wrenched himself away with a painful whimper, pushing hard at Merlin’s shoulders, his back bruising on the uneven stones. Arthur had looked at him, wild eyed and frantic. The only sound in the dark lit stairwell was their erratic breathing, and the pumping of Merlin’s heart as it did its best to escape his ribcage, like a scared rabbit.
Merlin had taken a tentative step forward, not knowing exactly what to do or say, only wanting to feel Arthur’s body against his own again, the space between them seemingly too cold and vast and wrong. He wanted Arthur to say his name again, like he loved the taste of it on his tongue, to say it against his skin and mark it there with his teeth. He wanted a thousand things and didn’t know any of them, but Arthur stopped him with a shaking hand in front of him and a—
“Don’t,” breathy and ragged, and a “Don’t come—don’t...just—stay there,” firmer, stronger, desperate-edged, and Merlin had just leaned back on his side of the stairs, confused and lost and incredibly aroused by the flush on Arthur’s face, and the piercing look in his eyes. The way his fingertips trembled and twitched like they wanted to grab, to touch, to trace and dig. He couldn’t stop the twitch in his own hands as Arthur reached for the laces on his breeches with quavering, fumbling fingers. He held himself firmly in hand, and leaned his head back on the wall. Merlin mirrored his stance, but kept his hands tightly fisted into his own breeches, watching, just watching, as Arthur’s hand started to move on his cock and he said between his teeth:
“Tell me. Tell m—do you want this? Merlin, do you?”
“Yes. Arthur, can I—”
“Don’t!” Arthur said, louder, panting faster as he looked right at Merlin’s face “Just tell me what you want, just... say it.”
And Merlin had told him, right there, his voice cracking, filling the space with filthy words, with desires and longings . His fists had hurt front being held so tightly, his body too taut and restrained, muscles cramping in his back. He tried to will his words to do what Arthur wouldn’t let Merlin’s hands and lips and hips do, trying to force them into Arthur’s skin until he was shivering with the force of them, until he couldn’t stand it anymore, and let out a muffled groan, coming all over his hand, bending over, breathless.
They never touched.
Not when Arthur pushed him into an alcove of a deserted hallway, like a daylight rerun of their stairwell fumble.
Not when they were hunting and Merlin let him come all over his face, his knees on the mossy earth, while most of the knights were bathing in the river not ten metres away. Licking his lips and looking at Arthur, looking, wide blue eyes staring back, jaw stubborn and strong.
Not when Arthur told him to sit naked on the table in front of his chair and almost buried his face into Merlin’s lap, biting his own lip instead of the inner skin of Merlin’s thighs like he clearly wanted to. Merlin’s hands curling around the edge of the table, his nails digging in the wood, scratching.
Not when Merlin got so angry at never being the one allowed to come, he had woken up Arthur one morning by kneeling on the bed before him, letting Arthur be the one who watched for once—trying, trying to get him to do something, anything, to take them both out of their misery. He had wanted to break Arthur, his stupid resolution at not letting himself touch or be touched, for whatever noble, and ridiculous reason he had come up with in that stupidly pretty head of his. Merlin had come all over Arthur’s chest, a snarl on his lips and a silent dare in his eyes, but to no avail. He had only found satisfaction at the death grip Arthur had on the bedsheets and the unbidden moan that had crossed his lips when Merlin’s come had touched his skin.
Merlin wouldn’t break the rule.
Merlin closes his eyes a moment, tries to get his breathing under control. Arthur is leaning toward him, arm braced beside Merlin’s head. Water is falling all around them, plasters Arthur’s hair to his forehead, his eyelashes, drips along his cheekbones, along his jaw, into his neck. Water glistens on his armour and chainmail, and Merlin wants to lick it all—the raindrops, the metal, the skin, everything. He wants to feel the cold of the metal under his tongue, and follow the ridges until it meets the warmth of Arthur’s skin, where he’d trace the tendons of his neck, and bite hard into the soft flesh under his jaw, wondering at the kind of sounds Arthur would make. He wonders if they would be the same ones he is making now as Merlin leans forward and lets his warm breath ghost over the shell of Arthur’s ear and tells him, tells him exactly where he would put his tongue, how he would take back Arthur to his chambers and undress him slowly, painfully so, until Arthur trembled and shook apart with restrained need. How he would lick his way down his chest, lick all the raindrops away, and drop to his knees in front of him. Merlin tells him how he would nuzzle his inner thighs until Arthur was hard under his cheek, and mouth at his cock through his wet breeches.
Arthur’s head is hanging low between his shoulders and Merlin has to bend down a bit and angle his body so it doesn't touch Arthur’s as he continues to whisper into his ear how he would take Arthur’s cock out and lick the underside, mouth opened, blowing hot air over the cool flesh, watching as it prickles with goosebumps, and twirl his tongue around the head—once, twice—then take it between his lips and suck.
Arthur’s free hand is rubbing hard against his groin. With a frustrated groan, he unlaces his trousers with jerky, impatient movements until they are loose enough for him to put his hand inside them and take his cock out, pulling on it harshly with a broken whimper at the back of his throat.
Merlin smiles, but his knees weaken at the sound and he needs to widen his feet on the slippery mud to steady himself.
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he says, letting his words skitter on Arthur’s cheek, close enough that he must feel the ghost of his lips on his skin even though he isn’t touching him. “My mouth on you. You’d like that, Arthur, all the warmth, all the heat of it, my lips stretched around you—”
“Merlin,” Arthur moans, hand moving faster and faster on his cock.
Merlin looks down at Arthur's hand, at the shaking in his shoulder as he puts all his weight on his other arm still braced against the wall. His mouth is opened as he gasps and moans, tiny water drops pooling in the small hollow of his bottom lip, and Merlin wants so desperately to suck it between his own.
The rain keeps on pouring over them, cold and harsh on their skin, but Merlin doesn’t pay attention to it. Arthur is jerking fast now, so Merlin leans forward again and tells him how he would suck his cock into his mouth, slowly at first, then faster, as far as he could go, until he choked and swallowed around him. How he would let Arthur hold his head still after a while, and let him fuck his mouth like he wants to, like he dreams to.
“Don’t lie, Arthur,” he says, low and husky, “I know you want it. Want to take me, want to bury yourself in my mouth. Don’t think I don’t see you staring at my lips. Don’t think I don’t know.”
Arthur gasps and—
“Merlin,” he says with an edge of warning, but he is unraveling and Merlin can’t stop, wants to see it happen, wants to see how far he can go.
He drops to his knees in the mud, Arthur’s bent body offering a little respite from the rain, and he blows warm breath over Arthur's cock and moving fingers, enjoys the stutter in his hips and the faltering of his pace. So Merlin does it again, buries his own fingers in the mud, deep, to ground himself, to stop himself from reaching out, from wrapping his fingers around Arthur’s and his lips around his cock and truly let him fuck his mouth until he comes down Merlin’s throat.
“I’d let you take me too,” says Merlin once he is certain his voice is relatively steady. “I’d let you do whatever you want, Arthur.”
He looks up to meet Arthur’s wide blue eyes staring back at him, all apprehension and fear and bound desire. It’s so familiar and so close and still so foreign that Merlin can’t breathe for a moment. On any other day he might have stopped, might have backed off, but not now. He is wet and dirty and so incredibly fucking hard. His body shakes with it, with the restraint, the don’ts, the want.
He licks his lips. Arthur shivers. Merlin does it again and leans forward until Arthur’s moving hand almost brushes his cheek. Arthur is close, Merlin can see it. He recognizes the tension in his body.
Arthur’s knees buckle and he drops in the mud in front of Merlin. Merlin scrambles back rapidly making sure Arthur doesn’t touch him. Surprised, he falls on his arse and sits there, water and mud seeping even more through his clothes, his back against the wall once more.
Arthur almost growls and leans forward again, hand on the wall, head almost lost in the crook of Merlin’s neck. Arthur’s breath brushes his skin and Merlin has to use every ounce of will he has left not to arch into it until Arthur’s mouth is on him. He can almost feel the small smirk on Arthur’s lips at that, can almost imagine the sweep of Arthur’s eyelashes as he closes his eyes tight, his wet hair dangling down and brushing the exposed part of Merlin’s shoulder.
Merlin turns his head slowly, mindful of the very small gap between them. He swallows, follows the trail a raindrop makes as it clings to Arthur’s jaw under his ear, then dropping into his collar. The rain makes an almost deafening metallic sound as it hits Arthur’s armour, but Arthur is more than close enough to hear Merlin as he says—
“I’d let you take me. On my stomach, on your bed. I’d even let you tie me up, if you wanted. You could do whatever you want to me, could spend hours making me beg, claiming my body as your own. It’d be yours, Arthur, all yours. All of it.”
Arthur lets out a loud moan and bites—fucking bites, the bastard, sudden and sharp and unexpected—into Merlin’s neck, while he comes with a cry muffled in his skin.
Merlin gasps in surprise at the pain, then rolls his hips and moans as Arthur pants hotly against his shoulder.
Arthur’s dirty hand moves unsteadily from his cock to Merlin’s groin where he starts rubbing hard, harsh circles over Merlin’s erection.
“Come on, Merlin,” he says in a winded drawl, “what are you waiting for?”
Merlins pushes back against Arthur’s hand, pushes to feel the touch, even if it’s too hard, even if the rough, wet fabric chafes a little. He pushes into Arthur’s touch until there’s no doubt of it in his mind, until Arthur’s fingers wrap themselves around his cock through his breeches and squeeze. And he comes, too, hard and bright with rain falling on his face and Arthur’s breath in his ear.
Merlin lets out a sharp laugh, giddy and spent. He bites on Arthur’s earlobe.
“Remember, Arthur,” he says into his ear, and licks. “You broke the Rule, first.”