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There was a very good reason why Arthur had saved the kingdom of Ealdor for last in his quest to bring all of Albion under one banner, and that reason was sitting on the throne, all laid-back and relaxed as if he and his courtiers weren’t completely surrounded by Arthur’s trusted knights and the sharp ends of their blades. Then again, King Emrys was not an enemy that could be beaten by physical force. Arthur may have managed to get into the very heart of Emrys’ kingdom, but that didn’t mean he was anywhere near defeated.

“Ahh, King Arthur,” Emrys said, nodding in acknowledgement when Arthur came to stand in front of the throne. “You finally deigned to show your face. I must admit I’m surprised. I had thought you’d be here to boast about your victory as soon as possible.”

“Sorry to disappoint you, King Emrys. I had some business to take care of,” Arthur said, which was an outright lie. In fact, he’d postponed confronting Emrys for as long as possible because he hadn’t quite been ready to face him despite all the years that had passed since the last time they’d laid eyes on each other. Morgana had called him a coward, and it pained him to realise she was right.

“Naturally,” Emrys said pleasantly as if he saw right through him. “I suppose I instead should be honoured that you found the time to come see me despite the numerous things that must be on an almost high king’s schedule.”

Arthur almost sighed. He should have expected the goading, and yet Emrys’ words stung with the memories they brought about. “I am not here to fight,” he tried.

“No, you’re here to try to force me to kneel.”

“You’ve already lost,” Arthur stated. “Your castle is surrounded; we’ve cut off all your chains of supplies, and it will only be a matter of time before your people starve.”

“Unless I surrender?”

“Unless you declare your fealty to me,” Arthur said and tried to keep the longing out of his voice. “Bend your knee before me; acknowledge me as the high king of Albion, and I’ll make you warden of the Druids and Ealdor. No one has to die.”

Emrys snorted. It contained no humour. “Funny,” he said. “And here I was convinced I’d already sworn fealty to you ages ago. Guess I made it up in my own head.”

Arthur swallowed, remembering the circumstances and the following regret all too vividly. “Then renew it,” he implored, knowing he was showing far too much emotion expected of a king, yet couldn’t bring himself to care on the off chance that it would bring Emrys back to him.

Emrys observed him for a long moment. His head tilted slightly, his eyes boring into Arthur’s as if he could read the answer to every question in the world in them. The moment seemed to stretch into eternity, and then, abruptly, he slid out of his throne and down on his knees in front of a startled Arthur. It wasn’t the position of somebody kneeling in front of their king, but of somebody kneeling in front of their lover.

“Mer—Emrys!” Arthur choked out as Emrys’ hands pushed away Arthur’s hauberk and went for his trouser lacings, swiftly undoing them as he’d done a thousand times before.

“You wanted me to kneel, did you not?” Emrys said, looking up at Arthur through his long lashes.

“Not like that,” Arthur hissed and tried to push Emrys away, but to no avail. His arms felt strangely like lead, and his feet might as well have been embedded into the floor.

“No one will see,” Emrys said as he pushed down Arthur’s trousers, his hand grasping Arthur’s length to slowly coax life into it. “Look around.” He gestured to the rest of the throne room with his other arm.

Arthur did and found to his astonishment that each and every single one of Arthur’s knights and Emrys’ courtiers had been frozen in time, standing as still as stone, unseeing. It was a stark reminder of the power flowing through Emrys. He could have beaten Arthur’s forces with a single thought, and yet he was here kneeling before Arthur, about to perform an act so intimate, Arthur had refused to let anyone do it to him since Merlin was banished.

“Emrys…” Arthur tried. It was a feeble protest he didn’t really feel, mostly uttered because he didn’t know what else to say. He was hard with want now, and if no one could see them, if no one would know, then surely…

Abruptly, Emrys swallowed him down, and Arthur gulped for breath at the wet heat of Emrys’ mouth, the slide of his lips around his cockhead, and the fire that burned away in his stomach. His fingers found Emrys’ hair, the strands as soft – if slightly longer – as he remembered them.

He didn’t last long, and afterwards, when Arthur had spilled into Emrys mouth, and they had both gathered their breaths, Arthur pulled Emrys to his feet and sealed their lips together in a scalding, branding kiss that tasted of semen, spit, and regret.

“I accept your oath,” he whispered when he drew back, meeting Emrys’ beloved blue eyes with his own.

Emrys, no— Merlin smiled. The kind of wonderful and wondrous smile that Arthur had not seen for years.

Arthur smiled too. “I missed you,” he said and burrowed his face in Merlin’s shoulder. “Please forgive me.”

“I already have,” Merlin said and returned Arthur’s embrace.