Fandom: Merlin (BBC)
Summary: It's a risk, just being together, and maybe the cost is too high.
Disclaimer The BBC owns it all.
Thank you to my beta's kitty_poker1 and amejisuto. I'd be lost without you.
The sneaking part was fun, Merlin decided as he crept down the darkened corridor. A draft blew past him and a single torch which lit the far end of the hallway threw a flickering orange hue over the walls. There were tapestries of saffron-gold in this part of the castle and under less sneaky circumstances he would have stopped to look, a thought he had every time he passed them with his heart beating too hard and his fingers wrapped tightly around a tiny vial of medicine.
‘What are you doing?’
Merlin gasped and jumped. He pressed his hand to his chest and wondered if all his hair was standing on end. Arthur merely laughed at him and held out his hand for the medicine bottle.
‘I was trying to be quiet,’ Merlin said, and tossed the jar. ‘For what ails you, my Lord.’
‘You don’t have to …’ Arthur waved his hand, ‘… do whatever it is you were doing. Creeping. The guards know to expect you. No one’s going to drag you off to the dungeons.’
Merlin shrugged and decided it advisable not to mention how much he enjoyed the creeping. ‘I think it’s best not to draw attention to myself, don’t you? If too many people keep seeing me they might start to wonder why His Highness suddenly has so many sore throats.’
Arthur grinned at that and walked away. It was a smile Merlin was just starting to interpret. It usually meant Arthur was having a private joke with himself.
Merlin jogged to catch him up.
‘It’s conceivable you’re right,’ Arthur said, pausing outside his chambers. ‘It wouldn’t do to get complacent. Perhaps next time I’ll have a headache.’
‘Hope not,’ Merlin murmured under his breath, and followed Arthur through the open door, shutting it quietly behind him as soon as he was inside.
‘So, come to sharpen my sword?’ Arthur said, turning and moving in close. Merlin backed up two short steps until his back hit the door with a solid thump.
‘If you ask nicely.’
Arthur threw his arms up, his expression caught between playful and something a little more serious. ‘This is as nice as I get.’ Then he closed the distance between them, shutting out the empty space with his lips, body and presence.
Merlin’s thoughts usually turned to mush at this point, which was far too early on for his liking. One of these days he was going to get overexcited and spontaneously set fire to the curtains, but perhaps if things were a little further on and Arthur’s brain was as boiled as his was, he wouldn’t notice the flames so much.
‘Bed,’ Arthur commanded.
There were times when Merlin felt like telling Arthur to go spin on his sword for all the ridiculous demands he made, but when it involved nakedness, he was happy to obey. Merlin pulled his shirt over his head and made an enthusiastic start on Arthur’s. He’d been terrified the first time, shaking all over with fear and nerves, and the only thing that had made him take his clothes off was the constant shaking of Arthur’s hands, the knowledge that Arthur was as scared as he was. They had never talked about what was going on between them. They’d carried on as normal and met just like this, late evening, with an excuse in a jar and a shield in their brains that kept back the reality of a prince and his manservant sharing their bodies.
And now it was easy, like they’d always been doing this. Arthur’s palms slid over his shoulders, down his arms, chest, over his belly, hips and thighs. Warm lips caressed his neck and Merlin was guided onto his back, his knees spread as Arthur lowered himself between them.
For all of Arthur’s outwardly careless bluster and arrogant bravado, this was a quiet act, tender, and the only sounds in the room were quiet breaths and muffled groans. Merlin crossed his ankles and squeezed Arthur against him, pushing their hips together and eliciting a wonderful moan from them both.
‘Shh,’ Arthur said, and then ‘Shh’ again, either because he’d already forgotten he’d said it or he wasn’t sure if Merlin had heard him the first time. Perhaps Merlin would have given it more consideration, but Arthur circled his hips, pressed down, and somewhere outside a horse got the shock of its life when its water trough twirled five feet up into the air all by itself.
A little faster. A little harder. Sweat covered them both and Merlin found it hard to keep quiet, which was always a problem, no matter where he was, but especially when Arthur was thrusting against him, panting in his ear, groaning into his neck. So as an alterative to shouting something filthy for the whole castle to hear, Merlin bit down into Arthur’s shoulder and wrapped himself around him while they both gasped and shuddered.
‘Ow,’ Arthur said a minute later when he rolled onto his back and reached up to touch his shoulder.
Merlin tried not to smirk. ‘Sorry about that.’
‘No you’re not.’ He examined the bite as well as he could without giving himself a crick in the neck and finally gave up. ‘Never took you for a biter.’
‘You never took me for a lot of things.’
Arthur looked at him, his expression telling that he wasn’t sure if Merlin’s comment had been a serious one or not and, actually, Merlin wasn’t certain either. Arthur leaned over and kissed him.
There were moments like this, when they were together, that Merlin could imagine telling Arthur everything. Not this night, but maybe another like it, a night just like tonight, quiet and calm, a whispering breeze outside, Arthur’s lips brushing his so softly. On a night like this, in Arthur’s arms, he would show him everything.
‘What are you grinning about?’ Arthur said.
‘Same as you, probably,’ Merlin lied. ‘That was good.’ Which wasn’t a lie, more of an understatement.
They kissed again, touched and drifted together. This bit wasn’t about sex. It was about something else. Merlin had no idea what that something else was, but it felt good, like he was being marked, branded in the best and most tender of ways.
‘Stay.’ Arthur shrugged one shoulder and he chuckled nervously. ‘We could do it again.’ His smile slowly melted away and something altogether more earnest took its place. Merlin held his breath. ‘Go on. Stay. Just for a while.’
They looked at each other in the dim light, silent until Merlin nodded. ‘Just for a while, then.’
Arthur blew out the candle.
The night passed much too quickly. Merlin closed his eyes against the dark and opened them again to bright daylight and banging on Arthur’s door.
‘Oh, we didn’t—’
‘Be quiet!’ Arthur hissed. He threw back the blanket and stood staring at the door, naked and rumpled, still as a portrait until another round of banging startled him into movement. ‘What?!’ Arthur shouted, somehow managing to tangle himself in the bed curtains, pull on his trousers, hide Merlin in a cupboard and fling open the door, all in a matter of seconds.
‘Erm, my Lord,’ Merlin heard, ‘King Uther awaits your company.’
There was silence and Merlin could just picture Arthur’s confused expression. He tried to concentrate on the humour of that rather than the possibility of being found crouched naked in the Prince’s bedchamber and exactly what that would do for the proximity of his head to his shoulders.
‘Oh! Riding with Lord Rainsforth. I’d forgotten. Please send my apologies to my father and tell him to ride on. I’ll catch up with him at the edge of the forest.’
There was more to the conversation, but Merlin was too busy holding his breath and trying to ignore the burning ache in his thighs. You’d think a royal cupboard would be more roomy. Finally, after another gruelling minute passed, the cupboard opened and Merlin spilled out onto the floor.
‘Finally,’ Arthur snapped. ‘I thought that fool was never going to leave. Hurry up and get dressed, would you? I need you to saddle my horse. Right now, while I get ready. Father is going to be furious. I can’t believe we fell asleep! Idiotic!’
Merlin hunted out his clothes from the four corners of the room and listened to Arthur quietly raging. They’d made a mistake, gone too far. That much was obvious from the moment they’d woken.
When there was a break in the rant, Merlin said, ‘I shouldn’t have stayed, should I?’
Arthur pulled on his boots. ‘No.’
‘No,’ Merlin repeated, and turned away.
‘Oh, don’t get in a huff!’
‘You can be such a girl sometimes.’
‘Me?! You’re the girl with all your … girly things.’
Arthur laughed, exasperated. ‘Like what?’
‘Well, uh, all your smelly bathing stuff and all that perfume.’ He pointed an accusing finger. ‘And you’re always looking in a mirror. Wherever there’s a mirror, you’re gazing into it. Mirror, mirror on the—’
There was a noise outside the door, a clink of armour and footsteps. Arthur put his finger to his lips although there was no need. Merlin wouldn’t have made a sound even if a giant spider was crawling up his leg. He glanced down to check. No, of course not. Not twice in one week. They waited in silence until the guards moved on and faded with distance.
‘Go. Saddle my horse.’
Merlin tensed at Arthur’s tone. He pressed his lips together and swallowed his first response. ‘What if someone sees me leave?’
‘You’re my manservant. You’re allowed to be in my chambers any time I need you. We’ll say I was taken ill. That’ll explain my lateness and your exit from my rooms. Now, for goodness sake, leave!’
Merlin nodded and fled, happy to do so. One more moment in Arthur’s presence and he would be tempted to punch him. He passed two soldiers, a handmaiden, and several other servants on his way. None of them so much as spared him a vague glance, but that didn’t stop Merlin from wondering if they’d noticed him and thought him out of place with his messy hair and bedraggled clothes. He wondered if they could smell the sex on him and suddenly Merlin had never felt so desperate for a wash.
The royal stables were as busy as usual, and the guards parted to let him pass. Arthur’s horse, Tiresis, was a tall, deep brown stallion, a war horse that Merlin was slightly frightened of. It stood high and elegant and it shook its head disapprovingly as Merlin approached.
‘Yeah, yeah, I know, we’re late,’ Merlin said. He felt unnerved, irritated and so very unhappy compared to how he’d felt last night. He squeezed past Tiresis and made his way over to the equipment shelves.
Was this all even worth it? Was it worth exile? Execution? Maybe they should give this up right now.
Tiresis swished his tail and tossed his head impatiently.
‘Right, okay, you’re waiting. Let’s not make matters worse, hm?’
Merlin quickly brushed Tiresis’s back and belly and the horse settled, standing motionless, ready for his fitting. The saddle was lowered onto his back and Merlin squatted to buckle and tie the girth. The bridle was next and when Merlin was done and Tiresis had given a nod of approval, he led him from the stable. He waited in the usual place and after another five minutes, Arthur arrived and took his reins, his fingers brushing Merlin’s. It felt deliberate and Merlin tried not to look at him.
‘Sorry,’ Arthur said. ‘I was … brusque.’
‘Brusque? You were an arse,’ Merlin said. He crossed his arms. ‘Again.’
Arthur nodded and looked around him, squinting at the sun and angling Tiresis around so the horse stood between them and the stables. ‘I know. Can’t seem to help it. You’re an idiot too, though. Don’t deny it.’
Merlin nodded, unsure where this conversation was going.
‘We just need to be more careful,’ Arthur said. ‘I need to be more … vigilant. I’m risking my crown, but you’re risking your life. I know you think I don’t get that or don’t care, but you’re wrong.’
Merlin nodded again and tried not to let his jaw hang open. Arthur admitting he was wrong was like a bull admitting it didn’t like to excrete.
‘I was thinking,’ Arthur continued. ‘Lord Rainsforth. His lands are three nights ride from Camelot. I’m going to see if I can make arrangements to journey there in the summer. Of course, I’ll need my manservant to come with me.’
Merlin scraped his jaw off the ground and tried to look nonchalant. ‘Three nights? Each way?’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘I won’t have to walk, will I?’
‘No, but you might want to when you get saddle sores after the first thirty miles.’ Arthur checked around again, turned back to Merlin with a grin and kissed him. He mounted Tiresis and trotted away, breaking into a gallop when Tiresis’s hooves left the dirt of the stables and touched open grass.
Merlin stood and watched them riding towards the tree line. ‘Okay,’ he said to himself. Shock had scrambled in from somewhere, along with a nice warm feeling that had nothing to do with the winter sun beating down on his back.
When Arthur was just a dot in the distance, Merlin turned and made his way home. He thought about Arthur’s conceit and his own obstinacy, their incessant arguments and the problems they had now that would only get worse as they got older. He pondered the likelihood that someone would discover his magical abilities or, one day, lost in a heedless moment, forget to knock on the Prince’s door. And then he thought about tents and sex, and had anyone ever tried doing it on a horse?
Merlin lengthened his strides and hoped no one would question the exuberant smile on his face.
|Feed the Author|