It's a week before Arthur goes to the dungeons to see Orm.
Atlantean shit seems divided pretty evenly down the middle between "clean and shiny and pretty", like those zippy little ships they've got, and "grimly intimidating in a way that would be theatrical if they weren't all so fucking serious about it".
The dungeons are in the second category. They're carved into a massive craggy outcropping of stone, kind of like that big arena where Arthur and Orm were supposed to fight to the death. There's even another moat of lava—moving too fast for the water to cool it to stone, or maybe Atlantean tech is heating it from below. Arthur still doesn't know enough about how shit works here to guess.
There are guards, too, of course. Stern and severe, in gleaming spiky armor. Kind of a trip, the way they incline their heads to Arthur—Arthur—as he goes by, but hey. Not the worst thing in the world to need to get used to.
Orm's cell is hewn out of the rock on three walls, and closed in with spiked metal bars on the fourth. There aren't any guards in the corridor, but they knew Arthur was coming: Arthur sees, with a weird little jolt that's almost satisfaction, that Orm has been chained in preparation for his visit, shackles at his wrists and ankles. He's still able to drift pretty freely—and is now, waiting, sharp eyes fixed on Arthur. But he won't be able to reach Arthur unless Arthur comes close enough to let him, not without hitting the limits of the restraints.
Atlanteans, man. They really fuckin' love chaining people up.
Arthur follows a hunch; and, sure enough, when he tugs the linked bars that form the cell door, testing, they shift with a scrape.
Well. That'll save him having to shout for somebody to come in here and open it up for him. Thoughtful.
He lets himself in, relaxed, casual, like he might as well be walking back into the old neighborhood bar. The water makes it easier. Arthur had a long span, especially after his first growth spurt, where it felt like he couldn't fucking turn around without knocking something over. But he knows his body in the water, he always has, and it makes him halfway graceful.
He takes his time closing the cell back up behind him, not in any hurry. Pushing it, but he never got the impression Orm was a real patient kind of guy—
"To what do I owe the honor?" Orm murmurs, biting out each low word, scornful and precise.
Arthur turns and looks over his shoulder—mild, one eyebrow raised a little. Doesn't even know what it is that's so tempting about getting under the guy's skin, exactly. Arthur already kicked his ass. They're brothers, except in all the ways they aren't, all the ways they don't know anything about each other at all. Given the one, Arthur probably ought to be happy to leave him the hell alone; or, barring that and given the other, he ought to be trying to play nice, smooth the waters, figure the man out a little better. He shouldn't be itching to work his way under Orm's clean prince-ass nails like a splinter.
But he stands there and gives Orm that bland stare just because he can, and watches a muscle in Orm's jaw twitch, and he fucking loves it.
"Well, here's the thing," Arthur says, in a casual conversational way Orm's probably going to really hate. "Turns out it's some kind of big deal for me to go around and see everybody. Say hi."
Orm gives him a flat disdainful stare. "You carry the Sacred Trident of Atlan," he says, "and have risen to the throne of Atlantis. There can be no doubt that the title of Ocean Master is now rightly yours. Each of the kingdoms of the sea will wish to offer their formal recognition and pay obeisance."
"Right," Arthur agrees mildly. "That. Plus I think it's probably doubling as, 'sorry about that whole big battle thing, hope not too many people died, won't happen again'."
Orm's expression doesn't change. After a moment, he drifts closer, chains clinking; his stare is cool and level, glittering. "And you came all this way, King Arthur, to tell me that?"
Arthur bites down on a laugh. Jesus. King Arthur—he hadn't even thought about it, everybody's been calling him Majesty and shit; except Mom and Mera, but they just use his name. If he sees a sword in a stone down here, he's leaving it where it is. One mystical weapon that belonged to a legendary dead king is more than enough for him.
Orm's brow furrows, just a little. "What?"
Arthur thinks about trying to explain it, all the way down to the sword, and then thinks better of it. Just keep it simple. "It's just—a surface thing," he settles on. "King Arthur. A legend they've got up there. Rightful king, badass, tragically fucked over by a relative. You'd probably love it."
Orm looks witheringly skeptical, his silence brief but gloriously dickish in its eloquence. And then he says, "Nevertheless, the question remains."
"Right," Arthur says. "I told you because I wanted you to know. You're coming, too."
And he's got this whole spiel all worked out, lined up in his head; because Mom was trapped in the ocean at the center of the earth for years, and Mera and Vulko know a lot, but they don't know everything. Hell, Nereus doesn't either, probably—Arthur's just guessing, but Orm doesn't strike him as a guy who trusted even his allies with the stuff that really mattered. The full extent of his plans, everything he did and everything he was going to do—
It's a mixed bag, in a weird way. Arthur needs to know exactly how much shit he has to apologize for. But when Orm was busy working out exactly which pressure points to lean on, how to get what he wanted from whoever he wanted it from—he must have had sources, back channels, something. In a sense, he could also be a big help: he might be tuned in even better than Vulko is to the political situation, currents and undercurrents, rivalries and power plays, in each court Arthur's about to walk into.
But either way, Arthur never figured Orm would be happy about it.
So he's expecting Orm to demand to know what the hell he thinks he's doing. To laugh in his face, maybe; call him names, tell him to fuck off.
He's not expecting Orm to let his eyes fall shut, or turn his face away, or say, soft and icy, "Ah, yes. Of course."
"And I'm sure you've been told how such a royal triumph must proceed," Orm adds, "when it includes prisoners of war, particularly of high rank."
"You're not a prisoner of war," Arthur says.
And that makes Orm look at him again, in that cool unreadable way he has. "Aren't I?" He shifts in the water, drifts forward closer still—almost close enough to touch, though his chains are an inch from going taut. "I suppose you'd thought you'd just pick out a ship and strap me into the cargo hold. But you are king now, brother, and that isn't the way these things are done."
Jesus. That tone should make him wary, the gleaming knife-blade of it. The way Orm is staring at him, hard and implacable, dark as a storm—
Arthur shouldn't like it.
He clears his throat, tries to ignore the prickling heat just under his skin. "Isn't it," he says, bland, like he's bored. Because it's supposed to be true. Because it shouldn't matter, whatever it is Orm is going to say.
(Not because it might piss Orm off even more; not because Arthur almost wants it that way. Not because he's greedy for it, for the look in Orm's eyes. For Orm's attention on him, just him—a prince, a king, who'd had almost everything he'd ever wanted but couldn't stop fucking obsessing about proving his worthiness over Arthur—)
"Like this," Orm says, cool and quiet and vicious. And he twists those pale wrists in the shackles, grips the chains so they clink. The sound's muted a little, underwater, lower-pitched; but the dungeon's so dead fucking silent around them that it doesn't matter. "You'll have to chain me like this. There is a collar, too; I won't be permitted to exit this dungeon without it." He tilts his head. "Does that please you? Will you enjoy it? After I collared you in the throne room in front of all of them—"
(Goddamn. As if the words on their own weren't enough—said in that smooth voice, with that venomous precision. Ten times worse. Ten times better—)
Arthur steps forward. Keeps his feet on the floor on purpose: emphasis. Because despite all this shiny fuckin' armor he's got on, this thing where he talks to fish and he's got a magic trident and he's king of the sea—it's part of him, too, that he walks on the ground, and it always will be. He steps forward and reaches out, catches the chains that are shackled to Orm's wrists and uses them to pull Orm down through the water, grips him by the back of the neck and leans in close.
Too close, maybe. But Arthur's never been all that great at not taking a nice stupid risk or two, when the opportunity shows up.
"I don't know," he murmurs. "Will you?"
It's a stab in the dark. And if he's off the mark, if Orm thinks it's a taunt and not—and not whatever the fuck Arthur's pounding heart seems to have decided it is—well. He's going to be pissed, to say the least.
There's one long taut moment where it feels like it's all about to go completely balls-up on him. Orm's glaring at him, fierce and bright-eyed, tensed against his grip. The way Arthur moved, tugging him down like that, he's got just enough slack in the chains to press one spread hand warningly over Arthur's chest—over all that glinting royal scaled mail, gleaming gold, like Orm needed the reminder of everything about Arthur he's got to hate the most.
And they stay locked like that, Arthur pulling Orm in, Orm pushing him away. Except—
Except Orm doesn't actually push. Holds him off, yeah; braced, chin tipped up, defiant. But doesn't break his grip, doesn't twist his face away. And there's a flush rising along the skin of his throat, his cheeks.
Maybe just because he's too furious to think. But fuck, it looks good on him.
"You mean to ask me," he grits out, low and deadly, "whether I would be pleased by my own humiliation—"
"Humiliation," Arthur repeats, smoothing his thumb idly along the side of Orm's nape—into the thin fine hair, so much paler than Arthur's. "Is that what it would be?"
"What else?" Orm snaps.
Arthur shrugs a shoulder. "Would've thought you'd be all for it. Showing off."
Arthur doesn't let him finish. Probably stupid to push, but—but he can't help feeling like he's on to something, suddenly. Cutting closer and closer to the heart of something that matters, even if he doesn't know quite what it is. Orm's prickly and difficult as hell and wanted to kill him—and then knelt there and begged Arthur to kill him instead. Demanded it, arrogant even in defeat. He's weird and angry and beautiful, and sort of Arthur's brother, and Arthur can't figure him the fuck out.
But he also can't seem to stop wanting to try.
So he doesn't let Orm finish. Leans in closer still, against the steady strength of that hand braced against his chest, and ups the ante: slides his other hand from one of Orm's chains to the shackle it's attached to—to Orm's wrist, closed in it.
"Showing off," he repeats, low. "Parading around in front of them all. They couldn't touch you, none of them. You had them all right where you wanted them: pinned under your heel."
Orm is silent. His eyes are lowered, and of all things Arthur can't stop fucking staring at his fucking eyelashes. But he's listening. He must be listening. And the hot flush in his face is deepening steadily, the set of his mouth softened from "die in a fire" to just unreadable.
"But not me." Arthur pauses, and fuck, he can't help himself—shifts his hand just a little, enough to rub his thumb along the hinge of Orm's jaw instead, the line of it, almost to the corner of that stubborn fucking mouth. "Way I look at it, I fought a war to get to you, and I won. You—" and he hadn't said it to himself like this in so many words, but now that he is it's working him up like nothing else, jesus— "You surrendered. You gave yourself up to me; you're mine. And now that I've got you, you think I don't want to rub their noses in it?"
Because the hell of it is, he does. He's a king now, he's—he's trying to be a hero, to do the right thing. To do better. But that doesn't mean he is better. And there's still a petty preening greedy part of him that fucking loves the whole idea: making everybody take a good long look at this—this prize he's won; this gorgeous asshole none of them could get on a leash, but he could and he did, and they can suck it.
He huffs half a laugh at himself—because Christ, who knew? Maybe he really has been Atlantean on the inside all along, just dying to make somebody kneel to him the whole time.
Orm has looked up again. He's not scoffing insults, or rolling his eyes, or asking Arthur what exactly makes Arthur think he's more likely to cooperate to please Arthur, as if that's any kind of incentive. His eyes are—wide. His mouth isn't pressed into a tight disdainful line anymore; he's—he turned into Arthur's hand, Arthur's thumb denting the curve of his lip, slack and—
Arthur stares at him, and rewinds a few seconds.
—you think I don't want to rub their noses in it?
He narrows his eyes. "You didn't, did you? You thought—" He pauses, and leans into Orm's hand on him, close enough to tilt Orm's head, murmur right into the shell of his ear. "You thought I'd kill you like you asked. You thought I wanted to."
He slides his fingers deeper into Orm's hair—and he still had a grip on Orm's wrist with the other hand, but now he follows the slope of Orm's forearm up, gropes in blindly to find the rest of him. Orm's wearing something simple, silvery and form-fitting, violet glint—maybe part of his armor, what had gone underneath all that freakin' plate, and whatever it is, it's cool and flexible against Arthur's palm. He can't resist feeling it, sliding his hand down Orm's taut tense waist to span his hip. Half a test, half a dare; maybe this is where Orm's going to draw the line, push him away at last.
Or maybe it isn't.
"You thought you'd give yourself over to me and I'd throw you away," he adds, and it comes out halfway gentle, because he's more and more sure he's right with each word. "But I won't. Do you understand? I won't," and fuck, he definitely shouldn't be doing this, but it's not like that's ever stopped him before. He moves his thumb, tips Orm's lips apart—slides between them, just a little, and shit, it's almost hotter this way: because Orm's not breathing air. It's the barest current of warmer water Arthur can feel there, caught in Orm's throat and then pushed out against Arthur's hand. "You're mine, and I'm going to keep you."
Orm shivers beneath his hands—shudders, convulsive, wound abruptly tight. "Such generosity," he spits, twisting his face away from Arthur's hand. "I suppose you expect me to be grateful, brother, for your consideration? Grateful to be put on display as a symbol of your might—"
"Man, there's nothing you can't take the wrong way, is there," Arthur murmurs into the side of his throat, skin hot, heart pounding. Fuck, it feels like the water should be boiling away around him. "Come on, you jackass, it's not like I'm being subtle over here. If you don't like where this is going, then just fucking say so."
He can't stand it anymore, has to push his hand down between Orm's thighs.
"But how will I know," Orm bites out, snippy, "whether I'm using small enough words to do it?"
Arthur grins against the curve of Orm's shoulder, because that was a lot of things but it pretty obviously wasn't a 'no'. And then he pauses for a second, because he's not finding anything he'd expected to find. No dick, not even a weird one; instead, between his thighs, beneath the shimmering silvery material, Orm seems to—to kind of give.
"What the hell."
"Oh, for—" Orm huffs, tenses his thighs around Arthur's hand and moves, and all right, there is something there after all. Some kind of—slit, if Arthur had to guess. An opening, or something, and judging by the way his head's dropped back against Arthur's hand, the way he's squeezed his eyes shut, his dick is inside there somewhere.
And who knows what the hell it looks like, Arthur thinks, and that probably shouldn't send such a jolt of heat pulsing through him, but fuck, jesus, it definitely does.
He doesn't know how to get this damn clothing off Orm, and he's too impatient to bother trying. He just rubs the shape of that soft inward-pulling place through it, fondling, groping; tracing the edges of it.
And Orm lets him do it. Digs his teeth into his lip, rolls his hips against Arthur's hand, and lets him. Even lets Arthur grip his face again, tilt it around to kiss his mouth—bites, of course, but Arthur was banking on that and just laughs into it. Which only makes Orm bite harder.
It would be hard for Arthur to tell that he'd come, except for the way he shakes, the way his mouth goes slack under Arthur's. Arthur can only sort of guess how to make it good, pressing up harder where he can, shoving with the heel of his hand in what seems to be about the right spot.
He must not fuck it up too bad, because Orm keeps letting himself be kissed through it. He might even let Arthur rub off on him like this—still shuddering, almost pliant in Arthur's grip.
But Arthur'd almost rather wait. Jerk himself off just anticipating, maybe; come back with a plan, next time, instead of stumbling sideways into this without even meaning to.
He's going to have to go find whatever—ceremonial collar-shackle it is Orm's going to have to wear, he thinks dimly. Bring it down here with him.
Just to make sure it fits.