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The asses

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Any day now Merlin is going to turn the entire flower of Camelot’s knighthood into donkeys, and then they’ll see. They don’t even know. They don’t know anything.

This morning Merlin has overslept, and then it turns out he has forgotten to repair the trousers Arthur was planning to wear to training. Arthur has been standing around with no trousers on waiting to lecture him, with the pure, radiant arrogance of a ludicrously handsome man who knows he could pretty well kill you at will.

By the time that’s done with, Merlin barely has time to leg it to the kitchen to scrounge some bread for breakfast. When Percival and Gwaine catch him in the corridor, he’s still scarfing it down. They take the bread off him and throw it back and forth between them, over his head like a ball. Of course they do.

These two he is going to turn into donkeys that are fused together at the hindquarters and obliged to shit on each other.

Last week they took it in turns to call him away from his supper seven times in one night, claiming to need help getting out a splinter that Percival had, except that whenever Merlin arrived, Percival couldn’t find it anymore, or he had already got it out, or he had realised it was only a little scratch and not a splinter after all. The week before that they pushed him down, took one of his boots and didn’t give it back for two days. The week before that they suspended him from the stable roof using horse tack in the morning, and intermittently came back in and talked about him as though he weren’t there throughout the day, and he didn’t get free until Arthur came looking for him to shout at him at sundown.

They won’t give his bread back all the way down to the training grounds. Merlin has a good, serious go at getting it off them, too. It’s hopeless to even try with Percival, who’s so tall he barely fits through doorways. But Gwaine is of a height with Merlin, so Merlin keeps falling into the trap of thinking he ought to be able to get somewhere against him.

But Merlin ought to know better; he has been in bar fights beside Gwaine, who is actually some sort of inhuman snake creature. Suffice it to say, Merlin does not get his bread back, and in the upshot he is not only hungry, but heaving like a blown horse.

The bread is getting really knocked around, being thrown about like that. It was such nice, crusty bread, too – fragrant and warm when he poked his thumbs through the crust. He’d barely minded that he’d not managed to snag anything else to eat but it.

He is going to turn them into donkeys fused together at the hindquarters, with really short forelegs so that they have to dance around upright on their back legs the whole time.

They’re almost all the way down to the training grounds when Merlin’s scowl starts to register at last with Percival, whose brow crinkles. The two of them argue with their eyes above Merlin’s head. Hope surges in Merlin: he’s seen Gwaine give in to that look on Percival’s face before.

Just then, they turn the last corner before the gate to the grounds and run into Arthur.

“You’re late,” Arthur says to Merlin, hands on hips. “Fetch the bollards – right now.”

Of course he does. That’s how Arthur talks to Merlin. It’s not as though Arthur owes Merlin his life twenty times over or anything.

When Merlin reaches the door of the storeroom and foolishly turns to look back, he sees Gwaine standing , waiting for Merlin to see.

Gwaine smiles his most spectacular, dimple-cheeked lady-killer smile – the one that sometimes makes people not really mind him beating them up in a bar fight – and bites slowly and lovingly into Merlin’s bread. Next to him, Percival buries his face in his giant hand.

Arthur is in one of his moods. One of his moods where there are three bollards for the knights to hit with their swords, and then there is a fourth bollard called Merlin, who is holding a really very flimsy wooden shield and an overly large helmet he can’t see out of properly. That fourth bollard is by far their favourite one, because when they really go to town on it, it squeals aloud. Sometimes it even falls over. Which is hilarious.

Of course it is.

By the end of training, Arthur has a ding on his gauntlet that he wants beaten and buffed out. Helpfully, he throws the thing at Merlin’s head.

Now Merlin’s helmet also has a ding in it that needs to be beaten and buffed out.

He bends over to pick up the gauntlet from the ground. Swift as a striking cobra, Gwaine snatches it up instead.

“I’ve had about enough of that, mate,” Merlin says, his voice hard.

“Enough of what?” Gwaine says, with the lady-killer smile. He tosses the gauntlet up in the air and catches it.

Merlin advances. He is almost on him when Gwaine – without for a second telegraphing the move – tosses the gauntlet effortlessly to Percival.

“Yes, very funny. Congratulations,” Merlin says. “We’ve played this game today already.”

At his tone, a crease appears between Percival’s eyebrows. Merlin is pretty sure that if left to his own devices, Percival would be giving the gauntlet back with an embarrassed grin right about now. But Gwaine dashes to Percival, grabs it from his hands, and sprints for the castle.

“Right. It’s on,” Merlin shouts, and takes off after him.

By the time Merlin has chased Gwaine all through the storerooms and armouries and upstairs to the hallway in the knights’ quarters, he is really earnestly bloody angry.

Percival is just jogging along behind them, huffing good-naturedly with laughter.

Merlin could sodding well set them on fire with a thought. He could make them sink their blades into their own hearts and bleed to death, thanking him. They don’t even know.

Gwaine has to make himself vulnerable for a moment at the door of his chamber – getting his key out and fumbling it into the lock. Merlin hurls his entire body-weight sideways at him, wild.

Percival intercepts him a second after impact, bundling him into his arms like a thrashing cat into a sack. Merlin flails, helpless.

Gwaine recovers easily from the knock sideways Merlin gave him, and returns unhurriedly to unlocking his door.

Gwaine goes in, and Percival walks Merlin forcibly in behind him – he has Merlin’s arms clamped to his sides in a bear hug from behind.

Gwaine locks the door behind them.

Percival holds Merlin helpless, while Gwaine loops back around in front of them. Gwaine snickers nastily.

Merlin shudders. They have never trapped him in a room with them before. What are they going to do?

Percival is going to heft him onto the bed like a sack of potatoes and they are going to descend on him like animals, cackling. They are going to tickle the unholy shit out of him, is what they are going to do.

Percival gets one boot off him and goes for his foot. Gwaine wrestles his shirt up and goes for his belly – and then his back, when he twists over to try to get away. There is absolutely no way to defend himself against both of them at once.

His whole body is covered in ants. Percival has his thigh clamped under his arm and is tickling the back of his knee and his foot at the same time. Gwaine attacks his belly and blows on the back of his neck. His whole body is actually made out of ants and the ants are made out of fire.

Somewhere in the middle of it something mortifying happens. Merlin realises he is getting sort of – stirred. In the trouser area. “Stop it!” he cries. “Stop!”

But Gwaine tries to pull his trousers down instead, which sets Percival off hooting, and helping by holding Merlin’s wrists down. Merlin starts to panic and really fight, because if Gwaine takes his trousers off then he’ll see. But it’s no good how hard he fights, how wildly he kicks – they’re made of steel, the two of them, and when they’re working together like this it’s just impossible. Like Merlin’s a child, being ridiculous thinking he can fight his two dads who are determined to put him to bed.

Things become very slow and strange. Gwaine has one of Merlin’s skinny thighs trapped between his two heavy, hard ones, and Percival carelessly switches both of Merlin’s wrists into one of his enormous hands so he can use his other one to just-as-carelessly clamp down around his other thigh and pull it away wide from his body.

They could take his trousers down any time now; they have the advantage of him completely.

Gwaine rucks up Merlin’s shirt and teases his hand across his belly, threatening to push his waistband down. Every time he gets too close, Merlin panics and puts up a fresh fight, his back arching up in outrage, his limbs kicking out. Then they both seem to loosen their grip for a moment, letting him struggle. Just as Merlin begins to hope he can escape, they clamp down on him again, hard as stone, and he’s back to being immobile and helpless. The game starts again, Gwaine’s fingers creeping across his stomach.

“Do you think he’s up for it?” Gwaine says to Percival. Something is strange about his voice – hoarse and flattened-out, as if he’s breathless.

“What? You mean?” Percival says back, staring at Gwaine. He sounds husky, too.

“He’d have to be, wouldn’t he?” Gwaine says, and runs the whole, hot flat of his palm across Merlin’s belly. Merlin’s belly heaves in and out helplessly – he tries to stop it, but he can’t.

“I dunno,” Percival says, urgent and anxious.

“Merlin,” Gwaine says, “what do you reckon?”

Merlin does not know how to speak, right away. It’s not in the game, that Gwaine should talk to him. If they are holding him down then they don’t care what he thinks; holding him down and asking him what he thinks do not go together. “Uh,” he says.

Gwaine reaches slowly down between Merlin’s legs. He brings his hot palm down firmly over the front of Merlin’s trousers, and drags it deliberately up over exactly what Merlin has been trying to hide from him. Merlin’s mind catches up with things belatedly, and he starts to fight, but they have him held tight. Gwaine’s hand feels like fire.

“Are you –” Gwaine says, swallowing. He seems to be in distress, from the sound of his voice. “Are you up for it, Merlin?”

Merlin is missing something that will make all of this make sense – clearly, something crucial. Gwaine drags his hand back down and cups his balls, which feel unbearably tender. Merlin bucks, helpless. He can feel blotches of heat rising on his face and neck. “Up for what?” he manages to get out, voice embarrassingly small.

Gwaine looks confused and disgruntled, for a second, then his look hardens. He leans down onto his elbow. He is looming over Merlin – what is he…?

He is kissing Merlin. He is nudging Merlin’s mouth open with his stubbled mouth and sliding in his thick, hot tongue. All the while he is moving his hard hand over the front of Merlin’s trousers.

Merlin hears himself squeaking, muffled around Gwaine’s tongue.

Percival licks the sides of their mouths. Gwaine makes a little growling noise that vibrates in Merlin’s mouth. He takes his tongue out of Merlin’s mouth and puts it in Percival’s instead.

It is really a sight to see, the two of them doing that.

Merlin feels very stupid that it has never occurred to him that they like to put their tongues in each other’s mouths.

Percival has a turn of putting his tongue in Merlin’s mouth. Percival’s tongue is so large it almost chokes him.

Someone is pulling Merlin’s other boot off. And his trousers – he tries to struggle, reflexively, but he’s too busy dealing with Percival. There’s just so much of Percival to deal with. He’s still holding both Merlin’s wrists clamped together in a single iron manacle of a hand. He smells sharp, like masculine sweat, crowded over Merlin. He has dragged Merlin’s shirt right up under his armpits and is pinching Merlin’s nipples, making him wriggle and whine.

Something happens that makes Merlin bite Percival’s tongue. Percival chokes and pulls back, and Merlin looks down his own body. He can’t understand what he’s seeing.

His cock is disappearing into Gwaine’s mouth.

“He’s really good at that, yeah?” Percival says hoarsely.

Merlin has fallen into a hot vat of honey, wonderful and unbearable. Gwaine has his spread thighs pinned flat, and he can’t do anything but lie there, and he wants to die. He wants to die by shoving his entire body down Gwaine’s throat.

Gwaine lets Merlin’s dick fall free from his mouth. Merlin chokes off a howl. “Right,” Gwaine says, “that’d best be enough of that for now.”

Merlin’s dick looks like it’s been dipped in carmine. Muscles jump in odd places all over his body.

Gwaine smirks and lets his beard brush Merlin’s inner thigh. For a second Merlin thinks he’s going to come off, just like that.

He can’t bear it. He starts to fight again, body bucking and twisting. He does a poor job of it, even frantic like this. Percival makes insufferable, pleased noises, and tweaks his nipples in between shoving his chest back down with a heavy forearm across the collarbone. Gwaine just snickers and leans more of his weight on Merlin’s thighs to keep them down.

After a while they’ve had their fun, and Gwaine tuts soothingly and strokes Merlin’s thighs rather than holding them down. Percival eases his arm off his chest, too. Merlin allows himself to settle and still.

“All right, then,” Gwaine says, and gets up from the bed.

“Have you got that oil from before?” Percival asks.

Merlin’s mind skitters.

“Yeah,” Gwaine says. “Just a minute, yeah?” He throws his shirt on the floor.

Merlin’s free – he could get away now. He will get away, just as soon as he has finished looking at Gwaine taking his breeches off.

Gwaine is hard and hairy all over. His cock is livid purple, standing up tall. He stumbles while he is kicking his breeches off his ankles, because he is busy staring back at Merlin’s cock.

The bed takes a precipitous dip. It’s Percival, getting up and throwing his kit off, too. His body is bulky and golden everywhere, just as Merlin has always suspected. He is so tall, his shape so heroic, he ought to be a statue of a knight in a castle courtyard.

He unlaces his breeches and inches them down around his hips, so he can get his cock out. It is in proportion to the rest of him. It’s such a handful, he needs to get it out carefully.

Percival sees Merlin staring. Merlin’s scalp prickles in embarrassment. Percival looks stricken, and clamps his hand on himself. Merlin twitches all over. He can see a bead of moisture forming on the tip of Percival’s cock. He wants Percival to come back and lie down and rub that cock on him. He holds out his hand.

Percival smiles, looking addled. He moves his hand up and down his cock. The bead of moisture is smeared away. Another forms.

“Now then, you two,” Gwaine’s voice scolds, low and deep. For a moment it’s strange that he’s even there. Merlin feels as though an age has passed while he was looking at Percival.

But then Gwaine nudges Merlin’s knees apart, and kneels between them, and runs his hand up the inside of his thigh. Then he traces the bowl of a small glass bottle up along the same path, grinning.

The bottle must be the oil. Merlin is beginning to admit to himself that he knows what it’s for.

Gwaine is pouring some oil into his hand. He’s smearing it up behind Merlin’s balls, which makes Merlin twitch. Percival lies back down next to him, and he gets distracted by taking Percival’s cock in his hand, and how soft it is to touch when he wraps his hand around it, how Percival is pushing his enormous tongue into his mouth, almost cutting his air off.

“Can you fit that, Merlin?” Gwaine is saying. “Can you get that inside?”

Merlin realises he is talking about Percival’s cock. About whether it will fit inside him. He wonders if Percival fit it inside Gwaine earlier, or whether Gwaine fit his in Percival, and what that would have looked like to watch. The back of his neck is tingling.

“Um,” Merlin says, as Percival licks into his ear, “I don’t know.” Faintly, there is a panic – he has only ever put his finger inside, and he cannot see that he can possibly get something that much bigger in. But he thinks that he would do anything that either of them asked of him right now.

Gwaine rubs his oily fingers across the place he wants Percival’s cock to go. Merlin wriggles – he can’t decide if he wants him to stop, or to hurry up. Gwaine starts to push his fingers in. It’s like Merlin remembers from when he did it himself, but it’s a bit scarier because Gwaine is in control. It hurts and it feels wrong, but there is a strange, delicious urge to get it deeper. Percival strokes his cock, and the hurt softens and goes warm and nice, and when Gwaine puts another finger in, Merlin likes it. He wriggles, feeling prickly and ticklish all over his body.

He’s not even worried when Percival climbs between his legs and nudges that big thing against him. Percival is breathing heavily through his nose. He’s large as a continent, looming over Merlin. He’s looking Merlin in the face, but his eyes are unfocussed. “Come on, Percy,” Gwaine coaches.

It feels so good, the head pressing against him, at first. His body gives way, warm and willing. Then it gets a bit more challenging, stretching hot and sore like a pulled muscle. Then – no – he can’t – he’ll tear. “Stop!” he cries.

Percival pulls back, breath sobbing out of him, dropping his forehead on Merlin’s shoulder like he’s just run ten leagues and can’t hold it up anymore.

“All right, all right,” Gwaine soothes.

It takes a minute for Merlin’s insides to stop spasming in self-defence. Then they start again with the fingers. It goes on forever this time. Gwaine and Percival both put their fingers in him at once, and they’re all curling around in different directions inside him. Gwaine makes Percival sit back on his heels so that Gwaine can suck Merlin’s cock again. Merlin is aware, as if observing from a distance, that a radiant, blood-red blush has spread all the way down his chest. He’s like a sea monster in one long, slow, perpetual convulsion – his insides can’t decide if they want to push all those fingers out or devour them whole.

When they try again, Percival leaves his fingers inside right till the last minute. He pushes his cock right into the space his fingers left, before Merlin has a chance to close up. It goes in smooth and lovely, with only a sweet, warm burn. He gets it in a hand’s breadth before it won’t go further for now. He fucks Merlin gently, shallowly for a while, his forehead tense with concentration. The two of them breathe heavily, in time.

Merlin can hear Gwaine moaning.

Deliciously, Merlin’s body eases the last of the way open. Percival slides in vertiginously deep, balls nudging Merlin’s backside. Merlin can feel him in places he did not know it was possible to feel. Percival fucks him, working his cock excruciatingly all the way in and all the way out of him, elbows hooking his knees wide apart. Merlin thrashes, blind.

Merlin doesn’t think he can even come off – he’s just going to be tortured in this endless haze forever. But Gwaine puts his hand on his cock again. His insides tighten – he squawks, flinches. He tries to twist away, but Gwaine is relentless. Merlin is sobbing aloud – he loves it – he hates it – he loves it. He’s coming off, shooting up over his chest. His body clamps down, agonised. Percival howls, pins Merlin’s hips, pumps into him.

Afterwards they lie where they’ve fallen, and pant in a way that sounds like crying.

“Nobody mind me,” Gwaine says. “I’m fine.”

Eventually they roll Merlin over and make him lie on Percival’s chest while Gwaine puts it in him from behind. In the wake of Percival, Gwaine’s cock slips inside smooth and soft as warm butter. As he starts to thrust he murmurs, breathless, “Did he hurt you, Merlin? Did he hurt you with that big cock?”

“No,” Merlin mumbles into Percival’s chest. “I liked it.”

“He’s stretched you out so good,” Gwaine says. “You’re so soft.”

“You two,” Percival grumbles, turning his head aside into the pillow. “I’m not ready to go again.”

“It’s all right,” Gwaine says. “I’m just taking care of Merlin. Because you didn’t have the stamina.”

Percival huffs.

Gwaine does it harder. His hips make little smacks against Merlin’s arse. “Like that, huh?” he demands.

“Yes,” Merlin says. “Yes.” It’s sore now, having Gwaine’s cock shoving in and dragging back rudely, pushing against the place inside that felt so good before when he was hard. Now it’s like an insect bite scratched too long – he wants it to stop, but he also can’t bear that it should. He wants to do it more and more. The thrusting jolts his spent cock against Percival’s belly, and it hurts and it’s wonderful.

Gwaine bellows like a bull and shoots his seed inside, clutching Merlin’s cheeks apart hard. Even that is lovely. Merlin rides back against him, wanting it deeper.

At last Gwaine collapses on top of him, and he has to subside. They lie quiet. Merlin’s breath is shallow from Gwaine’s weight.

When Gwaine finally moves again, it does hurt now, as he slips his cock out. It burns and aches and makes Merlin spasm inside. He can’t help but whine.

“You fucker,” Percival says, soft but cross. He cards his fingers in Merlin’s hair.

“Well, obviously,” Gwaine snickers.

“No, you’ve hurt him.”

“I haven’t hurt him, have I, Merlin?” Gwaine strokes Merlin’s hip.

“Little bit,” Merlin mumbles. “But I liked it.” He feels drunk.

“Don’t you touch him,” Percival says. He bundles Merlin off the centre of his chest to one side, so his head rests on his shoulder.

Gwaine harrumphs at that, and climbs over to settle behind Merlin.

As Merlin falls asleep, Percival is rubbing his scalp very gently, while Gwaine runs one hand slowly up and down his spine.

When he wakes up it’s suppertime, and they’ve brought him sausages, kippers, pease pudding, and a whole loaf of fresh bread. They hover over him in bed while he eats as much as he can.

Then he really needs to wash, so Percival goes and fetches hot water. He has to tell them to bugger off and leave him alone with the washbasin behind the dressing screen. He is pretty sure he can actually hear them breathing, lurking on the other side.

The next day at training it looks like Arthur is going to make Merlin be a bollard again, and be hit by swords. But Gwaine steps forward. “I’ll do it,” he says.

Arthur snorts. “It’s your funeral.”

Merlin stands off to one side and carefully does not meet Arthur’s eye. He waits for the breeze to cool down his ears, which have gone red.

It turns out that none of the knights are actually nearly as keen to go for Gwaine-the-bollard as they were for Merlin-the-bollard, no matter how Arthur glares at them.

Afterwards Percival helps Merlin pick up all the gear off the field.

“Did you lose a bet or something?” Arthur heckles as he leaves.

In the armoury, Percival sits Merlin down on a bench and sucks him till his toes curl in his boots. As the crisis approaches, he inches a licked finger up behind Merlin’s balls, but Merlin stops him, scrabbling at his close-shorn head. “Still sore,” Merlin huffs.

“Sorry,” Percival says.

“You should apologise more,” Merlin says, and pushes back down into his capacious throat.

Percival murmurs his agreement, muffled.

Afterwards Arthur is throwing things around in his chambers. Merlin ducks an airborne boot, with whose state of polish Arthur is dissatisfied.

“Why are people always defending you when you are so incredibly useless?”

“Boyish charm, I expect,” Merlin replies. He collects the boot and begins to repolish it.

Arthur barks a single laugh, and goes back to taking his training clothes off so he can dress for dinner.

Merlin finds he does not mind the way Arthur talks to him nearly so much as usual when he’s woolly-headed from having his brains sucked out through his cock. Also, it’s not nearly so difficult as usual not to stare at Arthur while he’s undressing. Merlin has sometimes found the swell of flesh at the very top of Arthur’s golden-haired thighs diverting to the point of terror. But Percival has sucked that right out of him.

Merlin polishes the boot meticulously, without resentment.

“What are you smiling at?” Arthur says.

Later that week Arthur demands Merlin polish his armour, though it hasn’t been used since last polish. When he comes to the armoury to check on progress, he finds Gwaine and Percival cross-legged on the floor, doing the polishing. Standing above them is Merlin, who is telling them a story using gauntlets as handpuppets.

“What is even going on?” Arthur shouts. Before anyone can reply, he stalks out.

Merlin brings the armour back to Arthur’s chambers for inspection. Arthur picks up his breastplate and turns it over in his hands.

“Why are they doing your work for you?” he asks.

“I don’t know, Sire,” Merlin says. “If you haven’t given them any particular duties, I suppose they’re free to do as they like.”

“That hardly explains why they would choose to do that.”

“I suppose they like me.”

“I like you,” Arthur retorts, frowning.

“Do you?” Merlin feels a wonderful, novel sort of serenity in asking this, a kind of disinterested curiosity.

Arthur throws the breastplate at his midsection. “Don’t fish!”

One evening Arthur is considering a night patrol, and goes looking for Gwaine in his chamber. He finds Merlin, shirtless, lying on the bed, with Gwaine rubbing oil on his back.

Merlin is warm, pliant and slightly sleepy. His attention is consumed with speculation about what Gwaine will do with the oil next, so he is not terribly bothered to notice Arthur standing in the doorway, staring.

Arthur closes the door and leaves without comment.

Arthur goes out on the patrol that night without Gwaine. He runs into bandits on the northern road, and returns in the early hours of the morning with a nasty bruise from a sword-blow to his side.

Gaius prescribes an ointment and then goes back to bed, leaving Merlin to apply it.

Arthur slouches, glowering, in his chair by the dim, young fire that Merlin has only just got going.

Merlin is fuzzy-headed, lately roused from Gwaine’s bed. He kneels between Arthur’s legs. “Sit forward so I can see,” he mutters.

Arthur shuffles his hips forwards, hissing softly. Merlin lifts his shirt up and tucks it beneath his underarms. The skin over the bruise feels hot and paper-soft as he smears the ointment on. He is still holding on to the hope that if he just keeps his eyes half-closed, any minute now there will be an opportunity to fall directly back asleep.

He puts his arms around Arthur to fumble some strapping around his ribs. Arthur smells very strongly of himself, but sour with fear-sweat. His nipples have tightened and have goose bumps around them. Merlin’s face is close enough that he could kiss them.

He sits back on his heels. “There.”

Arthur slumps back in his chair with a sigh, letting his shirt fall from his underarms.

“You know, Merlin,” he says, after a moment, “if anyone were making you do something you didn’t want to do, you could tell me.”

“What d’you mean?” Merlin mumbles.

“Earlier, when I walked into Gwaine’s chamber,” Arthur begins.

“Oh, no!” Merlin scrubs at his face. “Oh god, I’m too tired for this.”

Arthur is looking at him intently, his mouth tight.

“It’s all right,” Merlin says. “You don’t have to worry.”

“Are you sure?”

There is a knock at the door. “Enter!” Arthur calls sharply.

It’s Gwaine. “Can I have a word, Sire?”

“By all means,” Arthur says.

“Merlin, do you mind?” Gwaine says.

“Mind what?” Merlin says.

“Leaving us.”

“Oh. ’S all right.” Merlin gets up, bracing his hand on Arthur’s knee. Arthur slips a hand under his arm to help him up.

Gwaine touches him on the shoulder on his way out.

Merlin tries to puzzle out whether it’s better to go back to Gwaine’s chamber or his own, but it’s too hard without knowing what Gwaine is doing or how long he’ll be. He shuffles back to his own room and falls to sleep like a stone from a high tower.

Some weeks later, one night Merlin goes to Percival’s chamber as usual. But Percival’s face dimples, and instead of letting Merlin in, he takes his hand in his own, hard, giant one and leads him back upstairs.

When they reach the corridor of Arthur’s chambers, Merlin hears a noise. It sounds like Arthur, in pain. Is he hurt? Merlin shakes loose of Percival’s hand and hurries.

Percival calls, “Steady on!” Merlin ignores him and bursts through Arthur’s door.

Arthur is not hurt. He is face-down, naked, on his bed. Gwaine is straddling his hips. Arthur’s prominent, plush white peach of a behind, which Merlin has to take such care never to look at too long or accidentally brush against, is being split in half by Gwaine’s swarthy cock.

“Have some finesse, would you, lads!” Gwaine says.

“Sorry,” Percival says.

Arthur, panicking, struggles to his knees and rears up straight. Gwaine clamps his arms around him, managing to stay in the saddle. “All right,” he shushes. “All right.”

Now Merlin is looking at the whole front of Arthur’s naked body, which is like kidskin over knotted rope. His belly is heaving in and out. His cock is livid, standing up straight, the hood drawn back, the tip wet and shiny. His neck and chest are painted with a splotchy magenta flush, just like Merlin gets when he’s being fucked in the arse.

Gwaine is stroking through the hair in Merlin’s favourite place high up on Arthur’s inner thigh, upwards against the grain and back down again. Arthur is blinking rapidly, leaning back against Gwaine a little.

Percival starts unlacing his jerkin. Merlin stands, stupid.

Gwaine moves his hand to Arthur’s cock and drags it up and down, shifting the hood up over the head and back again. “This is what’s going on with you three,” Arthur stammers.

“Aye,” Gwaine says.

“Oh,” Arthur says, thrusting into Gwaine’s hand.

“Percy, do you want a turn right now?” Gwaine says.

“Yeah,” Percival says. There is a thunk – the sound of the last of his clothes hitting the floor.

Merlin watches Arthur’s face as he looks at Percival’s cock for the first time.

“Jolly good, then,” Arthur says faintly.

“Sire,” Percival says, low and severe, “we could hear you from the corridor. Merlin, you’d better keep his mouth busy.”

Merlin is still standing there. Percival nudges the small of his back, ushering.

Then Merlin is really doing it. He is kneeling on the bed in front of Arthur and dropping his trousers.

Arthur has dropped to all fours, eyes glazed. Merlin cups his jaw. Arthur’s throat leaps beneath his fingers.

Merlin is about to speak, but Arthur makes an irritated noise and grabs his hip. There is nothing else to do: Merlin guides his cock between Arthur’s lips.

It’s inconceivably hot and soft inside. Merlin holds Arthur’s head and thrusts into his mouth, fingers gripping the back of his hair. Percival fucks him slowly and carefully from behind so as not to jolt him. Merlin smooths the crease of concentration at the bridge of Arthur’s nose with his thumb.

When Percival puts it in particularly deep, Arthur keens like a wounded animal. Merlin can feel the sound vibrate around his cock. ”Oh my god,” Merlin keeps saying. “Oh my god.”

In the weeks that follow, Arthur acquires an extra stablehand, two squires to manage his armour, and another manservant to fetch his meals and manage his wardrobe.

The first night the manservant comes to fetch Arthur’s supper dishes from his chambers, he finds Merlin slouched in Arthur’s chair, feet up on the table, sucking a chicken bone clean. He expects Merlin to leap up guiltily. But Merlin just tosses the bone down and hands him the dirty platter. “Thank you,” Merlin says, smiling beatifically.