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Of Disobedient Manservants and How to (Entirely Ineffectually) Discipline Them

Chapter Text

The whip whistled through the air and crashed loudly over the skin of Merlin’s back, tearing a loud, animal sound from him along with another line of blood, along with another rush of intense pleasure-pain that catapulted his mind further into the blinding high it was soaring in. He wondered vaguely what he’d done to land himself in this particularly unfortunate situation, what he’d done to deserve this, and well, if everyone were to be completely honest, he might not really deserve it that much. Or at all.

But Arthur didn’t much like to be honest, especially not when it threatened to stop him from doing what he wanted to. And right now that very much involved the dripping single tail clenched in his right hand and the wonderful, little moa- the screams that his manservant made when it flicked over his painted back. 

Besides, it was hardly that unreasonable to teach one’s subjects a good, solid lesson in obedience when they misbehaved, which anyone who had met Merlin would surely agree that he was long, long overdue for. 

It might be that he was the greatest sorcerer of a lifetime and possibly a bit central to the welfare of the realm and the continued survival of its king, but well… Well, even powerful warlocks had to obey direct orders from their monarchs.

In fact, they especially had to, given the disasters they could drum up if they were anything but loyal and completely subservient.

The whole mess had started about a month ago, when Merlin had been chatting up an incredibly pretty handmaiden with fiesty, green eyes and smooth, glistening skin. There had been a banquet that night, one with an especially festive and hedonistic atmosphere, and the castle had been full of people that were far too inebriated to sleep in their own beds. Merlin had certainly been one of those people, and so had Arthur, at least until his ridiculous servant had decided to take off in his drunkenness, leaving him with noone to refill his cup. Well, noone except for all the other servants flooding the great hall, but that was hardly the point, and so Arthur had found himself roaming the corridors, trying to track him down, so he could haul his lazy arse back to the festivities.

Deirdre, as the maiden was called, had been whispering into Merlin’s oversized ears, had made him grin like an idiot, made him drag a hand up her thigh until her words dissolved into a joyful giggle, and she brushed her lips against his mouth, opening up to invite him in, making him think it was turning out to be a pretty splendid night indeed.

Well, it had been until Arthur was suddenly behind him, shouting his name so he had to disengage from the girl to look at his master. Deirdre, sensible person as she was, had taken one, quick look at the angry king of Camelot, decided there might be better places for her to be and scurried down the hallway, very definitively ending Merlin’s chances of spending the night with her.

„My chambers. Now,” Arthur had hissed before turning around to stomp petulantly towards said chambers.

Merlin had been about a millisecond from starting a complaining rant about spoiled, royal brats, that didn’t have the base intelligence required to fill their own cups or undress themselves, when he had caught a glimpse of Arthur’s eyes, just as they turned away from him. Usually, Merlin’s failings as a servant got him a bit of light-hearted annoyance that quickly dissolved into familiar, comfy banter, but Arthur’s face had been drained from heat in a way that Merlin most associated with how he looked just before sinking his sword into someone he really, really didn’t like, so Merlin just swallowed his complaints and scurried after him.

When they reached Arthur’s room they fell into their usual routine of Merlin undressing him, and when Merlin was on his knees, taking off his boots, Arthur said,

„I don’t want to see you with that girl again,” in a tone that Merlin couldn’t quite decipher. There was an attempted authority to it, but it was far from the certain, regal tone that he usually wielded.

„What?” Merlin had said, with a fair amount of confusion. „Why?

Arthur didn’t answer, just frowned slightly and looked away.

„Do you like her yourself, is that it? Is that why you’re acting so crazy? Honestly, Arthur you can have anyone you want, why do you have to go for the ones I like?”

„You are not to see her again,” Arthur said simply, eyes still turned away, and added in a murmur, „Or anyone else.

WHAT?” Merlin exclaimed, confusion quickly giving way to outrage. „So I’m not allowed to have sex now, is that it?”

Arthur just looked at him in a strange way, brows still tucked in a frown, and walked off with a low,

„Go to bed Merlin.”

„Oh, I am not done with you, Arthur!”

„Well I’m done with you, Merlin, so LEAVE!” the king roared, voice lifting suddenly, as he turned around again, face full of the rage he had been trying to contain.

Merlin wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of being scared. Not even if his heart was beating like it was going to malfunction, not even if his whole system felt like it was preparing to run away from a pouncing lion. 

„You’re being completely unreasonable,” he tried, tone low and slightly shaken.

„Yes,” Arthur admitted, his gaze flickering between Merlin and a lovely, interesting spot on the floor, „But I’m your king.”

At that, his gaze hardened.

„I’m your king and you’ll obey me, even if I am being unreasonable.” There was steel in his eyes now, a low threat humming in his voice. „You’ll obey me, and you’ll stay away from that girl, or any other girl, or I’ll… I’ll punish you.”

Merlin laughed incredulously. „You’ll punish me?”

„Yes,” Arthur said, and the rebellious smile faded from Merlin’s lips.

Then Merlin left and they didn’t speak a word of it for a month.

 

The urge to disobey had been prickling in Merlin’s skin ever since. He had been itching to show Arthur that he wasn’t afraid, that he wouldn’t comply so easily, although the fact of the matter was that there had been several opportunities for defiance and he had chickened out of all of them. Deirdre had been quite hungry for him and there had been eyes on him, invitiations to private places. There had been notes to meet her, touches on his arm and suggestive little glances that left Merlin weak-kneed and breathless. There had been so many sweet temptations, but every time he was about to give in, he saw Arthur’s frozen, blue eyes in his mind, and couldn’t quite find it in himself to follow through on any of them. 

It hadn’t been an empty threat, Merlin was sure of that.

But he couldn’t just obey. Merlin had never been very good at that, and this was ridiculous. He was giving Arthur pretty much everything he had as it was.

Back when Arthur had finally, properly lifted the ban on magic, Merlin had suggested that maybe he could have a title at court that actually reflected his role there (Merlin had started riding out with Arthur’s knights, openly aiding them on their missions and was generally consulted on most matters), but Arthur had insisted that he remained his servant.

So despite having given Arthur his magic, his loyalty, all of his time, he was somehow still running ridiculous chores for him and dressing him every morning. And now Arthur wanted to control his cock too. 

Merlin wouldn’t stand for it, it would be over his dead, fucking body.

Besides. There might have been something strangely thrilling to how Arthur had looked when he had promis- threatened to punish Merlin. Maybe. Merlin tried not to think too much about that, decided that it was his deep devotion to being the worst manservant in the world acting up, making him long for Arthur’s fury, not just invoking it accidentally anymore.

So after a month, Merlin had finally responded to one of Deirdre’s notes, and to really make his point, he had told her to meet him in Arthur’s chambers, since the king and some of his knights were out on a hunt that day.

They had undressed each other and Deirdre had giggled as Merlin threw her on the bed and jumped on top of her. He had touched, kissed and licked up over her gorgeous body, circling her nipples with his tongue, and she had moaned wonderfully under him as he gently sucked on them, while slipping a hand up between her legs to find her deliciously wet.

He had been doing the very first, delectable thrust into her when the door was pushed open and his stomach curled up in cold terror.

„You have got to be kidding me,” Arthur growled in a voice so low, it nearly had Merlin’s magic transform him into a tiny, little mouse.

Merlin wanted to say something snarky, something like, ’What, did you really think I was gonna obey that ridiculous order?’ but his throat was twisted shut and no words were coming through at all.

Arthur shouted a quick, „Out!” at Deirdre who scrambled up to get her clothes and storm out of the room. Merlin crawled back towards the wall in the bed, until he was sitting against the headboard, packing himself into a ball to appear as small as possible, hoping he would just drown into the sea of deep-red blankets and duvets.

Come,” Arthur said curtly.

Merlin got up, stopped to put his clothes back on, was shot a glare, and gave up on that idea with an embarassed flush. He followed Arthur on his way out the door, completely, horribly naked, cursing himself for not having the sense to disobey less flamboyantly.

And well, here they were, almost back at the beginning of the story; Arthur about to carve his anger into Merlin’s back and Merlin perfectly capable of escaping, yet knowing quite certainly that he wasn’t going to do so. Arthur had even opted for the cell without cold iron shackles in some strange demonstration of power and the extent of Merlin’s devotion to him. Or possibly, he was giving Merlin an out, which should perhaps have been a comforting gesture of kindness, but made Merlin feel strangely insulted and contrary.

So he’d let Arthur constrain his hands in shackles above his head, had tried desperately hard not to consider his own nudity, not to feel the hot, heavy weight of Arthur behind him, shoving him into the cold wall. Had thought, ’Afraid, afraid, I’m supposed to be afraid, NEED to be afraid,’ and perhaps he was a little bit, or a fairly large bit, but it faded in comparison to the multitude of other, much more pressing and unwelcome things that he was feeling. Things that he wanted to blame on how he’d very nearly been having sex, but knew had nothing to do with that whatsoever.

Arthur took him in like that, all restricted and helpless (well mostly helpless, not really helpless, but at least looking fairly helpless), took in all that pale, smooth skin glistening dangerously in the slow light of the single torch flickering on the wall. His treacherous eyes started travelling, started examining the tension in Merlin’s neck, the curve of his back, moving down and coming to a rest on his ar- 

No.

An additional sliver of frustrated rage snaked into his mind and his hand clasped the whip until his knuckles were white. Sensible resistance to what he was doing pressed against the overwhelming storm of hunger that had been ravishing his mind for months, but it was swaying under the pressure and-

„Arthur I-„

WHOOSH

The whip moved and struck Merlin’s back, tracing a wrecked line of broken skin in its wake. Merlin let out a groan that was entirely inappropriate for the situation and only served to strengthen Arthur’s… rage. Honestly, was it too much to ask that he just once in his insolent life behaved like he was supposed to? Was it too much to ask that he didn’t sound like… like…

WHOOSH

Arthur did it a second time. Did it because he was teaching Merlin a lesson in obedience, not because he had any interest in hearing that sound once more or seeing Merlin’s body flinch in surprise again.

WHOOSH

He did it a third time and Merlin’s legs caved in under him, so he was just hanging in the heavy metal chains. Did it a fourth time and that made the tears begin (and oh, the tears, the tears did things to Arthur). Did it a fifth time and they started streaming down his face and he sulkingly, hazily begged Arthur for mercy. 

Or, well… He did what Arthur figured was the closest that Merlin would ever come to begging anyone for mercy. Which was actually not very impressive at all, and might have consisted mostly of those indecent, filthy sounds he kept making and Arthur's name, said over and over in that way that was just-

WHOOSH

He did it again, sixth time now, and gasped, his breath ragged, his mind desperately trying to snap out of the dizzying fog that clouded it. His eyes followed the lines on Merlin’s back where the skin swelled up angrily, and traced the blood that was making its way down his slumped back. It was all he could do not to go over and straighten him up, press himself up against him, bury his face in his hair, take off his uncomfortably, restraining pants and finally… finally…

Fuck.

„Please Arthur, I can’t…” Merlin sobbed, voice wrecked and entirely, unfairly enticing. „Can’t take more, I need- need a break, please just-„

„A break? Merlin, you are being whipped, you do not get breaks from it, it’s not meant to be- not supposed to be…”

„No, well- No, I know, Arthur, I just.. just meant-”

Arthur sighed. Put down the whip and went up behind Merlin, tracing the marks on his back with his fingers. 

„Are you at least… sorry?” he asked softly.

Merlin really wanted to be.

Arthur sighed again.

„You never bloody are, are you,” he murmured, no anger left in his voice, „Stand up.”

Merlin couldn’t. Arthur dragged him up and held him with his right arm around the stomach to steady him.

Then he dragged his left hand up over Merlin’s side and felt him melt into the gentle touch, felt his whole body going pliant and relaxed for him. (That did things to him too.)

He smeared the blood on his fingers over Merlin’s lips and pressed one inside his mouth to find it deliciously, temptingly warm and soft. He sighed and breathed into the side of Merlin’s neck, tracing it with his lips, travelling up and sucking on the earlobe, letting his teeth run over the side of the shell.

Arousal and confusion fought in Merlin’s muddled mind and he wondered faintly what had moved Arthur to this madness. There was a simple answer, of course, pressing against his mind, but he refused to listen to that one. Knew that if he did, he risked losing a crucial line of defense and then there would be next to nothing Arthur couldn’t take from him.

Merlin,” Arthur murmured into his ear, „Why can’t you just… just understand that you’re mine?”

The words rippled through Merlin, and he felt Arthur’s heavy undertow tugging at him, making part of him plead, ’Just give up, give up, give up’.

Arthur sighed and released him from his restraints. He picked him up gently and left the dungeons to head back to his chambers, where he placed Merlin carefully on his stomach in the bed. He told him to stay there and wait (as if he were about to go anywhere), and went to Gaius for a salve.

Gaius wanted to ask what had happened, why he didn’t just bring him there or why Merlin couldn’t just use magic to help the wounds heal, but the stormy look on Arthur’s face made him think better of it. When he came back into the room Merlin was already half gone in sleep.

Merlin felt the bed curve as Arthur sat down next to him and then the relaxing cool of salve on his stinging skin. Felt Arthur’s broad, rough hands very, very gently spreading salve on his back, and wondered if it was one of those things that Arthur only did with him. For him. 

Then he adamantly reminded himself of the things Arthur apparently only did to him, and tried very, very hard to become rationally angry about those. He failed terribly, felt instead some sort of strange pride at being the only person capable of making Arthur lose it enough to actually drag him down to the dungeons like that.

Uther had had people whipped from time to time, of course, but Arthur was different from his father in that and a thousand other ways. Better, really, and kinder. More gentle.

Except when it came to Merlin, it would seem. Or possibly, especially when it came to Merlin. 

Or possibly, horrifyingly, both.

And oh no, oh god, oh fuck, it was becoming too easy, far too easy, for Merlin to believe what he wanted to believe.

„You could’ve just obeyed me, you know,” Arthur mumbled then, in a tone that seemed to feature both guilt, accusation and a little hint of their usual teasing.

„I don’t know that I could,” Merlin replied, voice still hoarse and unsteady.

He could almost hear Arthur frowning like the petulant child he sometimes was.

Why not?

„Why… why did you give me that order in the first place?”

Arthur paused, his authority wobbling again when he said,

„I told you, Merlin, I’m your king, I don’t have to explain myself to you.”

„And I’m a powerful sorcerer, who doesn’t have to serve you or take beatings I don’t deserve from you, but it does seem I’m doing both, doesn’t it?”

Arthur grumbled.

„It’s your… your destiny to serve me.”

„It’s my destiny to help you be a great king. I think I’m going above and beyond here. Don’t you?”

Merlin craned his neck to look Arthur in the eye and he looked away, guilt blooming on his sullen face, as it damn well should be.

„Why didn’t you stop me then?”

„Well, why did you do it?”

And then they were both stuck there with questions they didn’t wanna answer. Merlin because he couldn’t be the one to answer first, Arthur because his abillity to handle his emotions was at the same level as his cooking (or getting by one single day without Merlin’s constant presence, which perhaps should’ve told him something, but was one of those things he was very good at not thinking about at all).

Arthur lay down besides Merlin in resignation. He rolled to his side to look at him, eyes too big, too blue, too damn beautiful for anyone trying very hard not to have crushing, desperate feelings for the idiot behind them.

„I enjoyed it,” he confessed abruptly, fake guilt pressed unnaturally, unconvincingly into his voice.

„What…?”

„I enjoyed whipping you.”

„Oh. Oh.

Merlin felt something whirl in his stomach and blood rushing down somewhere it really rather shouldn’t. He fought off the ’Thank God, me too,’ that his daft mind suggested and instead said,

„Well nothing new there, I suppose,” in a tone that he tried to make plain and indifferent.

What? What do you mean with that?”

„Arthur, the very first day I spent as your servant, you made me train with you, and you were just beating me for four hours straight. Do you know how long it took me to realise that none of the other knights were sparring with their bloody manservants? That generally knights spar with other knights or just anyone who has any actual combat training?

Arthur snickered at that.

„Took you two full weeks,” he chuckled happily.

„Do you know how many bruises I had?”

Arthur’s eyes flashed with something hungry.

Dear Lord, he’s imagining it, isn’t he.

„Arthur, you’ve always been a sadistic prick. That’s the truth of it.”

Something indignant rolled over Arthur’s face, but he found it hard to deny something he had just been confessing to. Instead, he paused for a while, then asked,

„Do you hate me for it?” in a more serious, slightly wavering tone.

„No,” Merlin sighed. „Sometimes I bloody wish I did.”

Arthur smiled brightly. There had always been something smug and childishly unapologetic to his arrogance. Merlin had always tried to find it intolerable and had always ended up finding it unbearably charming instead.

„But Merlin, really,” Arthur said then, his expression serious again, „I know it’s not fair, but I can’t… I can’t see you with someone doing things like that. And in my bed. I might have to burn the whole thing, you know.”

„What do you want me to do then? Just never shag anyone again?”

Arthur paused.

„I didn’t say that.”

„No, but you can see how your demand rather implies that, can’t you?”

Arthur thought a little. He could. He could see that. Unless, of course…

Unless,” Merlin said with a great deal of courage and a great deal of fluttering uncertainty, „Unless of course, you mean that… that…”

„That you can only be with me.”

Merlin swallowed, choked out,

„Is that… what- you… want?”

Arthur paused once more, and Merlin felt the same way he had after telling him about his magic. Like every bit of happiness he could ever have was living or dying with the man’s next words.

„I’m not sure.”

He’s. Not. Sure. 

Merlin was gonna strangle him. Really, he was gonna heal his back with magic, throw Arthur against a wall and just strangle him until the light left his stupid, stupid eyes. 

The truth was, however, that Arthur was quite sure. Or rather, he would’ve been entirely sure, if it wasn’t for his strong determination not to be.

He just didn’t understand. It didn’t seem like the kind of thing he should want. He should want Guinevere, his beautiful wife, who he did - once at least - very much love. But little by little, and especially since finding out about Merlin’s magic and their shared destiny, something had shifted, had slowly changed his marriage into a purely practical one. A practical, platonic, non-sexual one. 

Arthur suspected Gwen had finally, properly started being with Lancelot a couple of months ago, and he had simply pretended not to have heard, feeling great relief of the guilt it lifted from his shoulders. Besides, the thing between Gwen and Lance had never really bothered him, no more than some slight irritation at how it had obstructed his plans to make Gwen his queen. Certainly not in the way he’d been bothered by the thought of Merlin being with absolutely anyone at all, certainly not enough to make him… react how he had with Merlin. Then again, the way he had loved Gwen had perhaps been more akin to the way he loved Lance himself, or the way he did Leon, or any of his other knights, and perhaps it was a rather different, somewhat smaller thing when compared to how he loved-

I-guess-it-is,” he rushed out, the four words almost pushed into one.

Merlin let go of a breath he’d been holding since the day he came to Camelot. 

Years and years of self-protection suddenly lost its motivation to exist, and consequentially, very abruptly, started to crumple away and cease to do so. A flood of things, of feelings, of pure, glowing affection rushed into his mind and overtook him, and somewhere there was a flicker of doubt hanging on, shouting at him in a scared, angry voice, but it didn’t matter, couldn’t matter anymore, because Arthur wanted him, wanted him so much he couldn’t bear the thought of him being with anyone else, and them being who they were, their lives and destinies being so closely intertwined, that could only mean something very profound and monumental, it could only really be the case if he also-

„Merlin, I swear, if you’re gonna start crying I’m going to leave.”

„This is your room, where would you sleep?” Merlin said, half-sobbing, trying to be cheeky as tears started rolling down his face.

Arthur sighed in contempt and left.

Chapter Text

Arthur came back after another akward encounter with Gaius. It had been quite hard to explain what he wanted without revealing what the purpose would be, and so he had stammered through an unlikely tale of dry skin, had attempted to stuff his embarassment under as many layers of regal authority as he could possibly muster. It hadn’t been overly effective, and he was still trying to get the furious blush off of his face when he opened the door to his chambers.

Merlin was half asleep again, exhausted from the state of his body. He would’ve been entirely asleep, if he didn’t feel like two armies of butterflies were colliding in his stomach, and a happiness that was threatening to burst his whole being was whirling throughout his body. Arthur saw at least twenty of his things hovering over the spots where they ought to be resting and a bunch of glowing, twinkling lights filling the room. He felt exasperated (and perhaps something bright and warm and fuzzy too, but decided that that had to be a side effect of the magic).

„Merlin, stop that.”

Merlin didn’t but twisted his head to look at him and beamed with a wide smile that made Arthur roll his eyes.

„What’s that?” Merlin asked, looking at the little vial in Arthur’s hand.

„Nothing.”

He went into the bed again, straddling himself over Merlin’s arse, grabbed his hair and pushed his head into the pillows, so he didn’t have to look at his ridiculous, besotted face. He let a few drops from the vial hit his fingers and Merlin realised what it was when he felt them between his buttocks, pressing against him.

Arthur!” he protested, muffled through the pillows.

Arthur held his head in place, shushed at him and shuffled back to sit on his thighs so he could let one slick-covered finger enter. Merlin squirmed and gasped and then started moaning in a far too delicious way.

He twisted his head to the side so he could breathe properly, said Arthur’s name in a very different fashion, said it over and over with a reverence Arthur had never heard from his lips before. (Because trust Merlin to be respectful to his king now of all times.)

Arthur couldn’t help the warmth spreading in his chest upon seeing him in this state, hearing him say his name like that. 

He was so… so beautiful. That was just how it was, and it was right there, right in front of his eyes, and there was nowhere to hide from it.

Of course, Arthur wanted him. How could he not? How could he stop himself from feeling… feeling…

The rest of that thought battered against his mind, trying to get in, threatening to make him feel raw and open and vulnerable, and so he added a second finger to Merlin’s arse, and started being rougher in his movements. He wished he had an excuse for beating Merlin with a belt or something (even if it would perhaps be a little much with the torn skin on his back), and somewhere in his mind he was alerted that, by the way, he should probably feel guilty about how he had just been whipping Merlin like a madman. He swatted the thought away.

Instead of the belt, Arthur decided, he would just fuck Merlin like he was trying to murder him. He grinned menacingly at that idea, thought it’d been nice if Merlin had been looking, so he could’ve worried at the expression.

But Merlin, the horny slag, was just squirming under him, completely washed away by the pleasure rolling through his body, and Arthur cursed him for the gentle, painful affection that slipped past his defenses and added to the heat in his chest. He could at least have the decency to complain about the second finger or the forceful way Arthur was moving, instead of just enjoying himself so ridiculously much, instead of feeling so impossibly warm and tight, that Arthur couldn’t help but imagine how’d it feel to bury himself to the hilt in all that heat, how Merlin would look at him, eyes full of-

„If I’d known you’d be such a wanton whore for me, I might’ve taken you much sooner,” he purred, interrupting himself, twisting his fingers up to draw an especially obscene sound from Merlin’s lips.

Merlin just chuckled, replied blurrily that he wished that he had. 

Arthur added a third finger.

Then he leaned down and whispered in Merlin’s ear that he was gonna have him every single night and fuck him so damn thoroughly he wouldn’t be able to walk, and Merlin said that that sounded absolutely fantastic, and then Arthur had had enough and he stopped, pulled out (carefully, despite himself) and looked at Merlin with his best affronted-royalty face (Merlin might tend to use another expression for it, something involving words like ’sullen’ and ’brat, but honestly, what did he know about regal facial expressions).

„You can’t just… just enjoy it so much, Merlin,” Arthur complained, full well hearing how that sounded.

Merlin laughed outrageously loud at that (the insolent brat).

„No?” he drawled, feeling completely drugged and wonderfully high. „How would you have me respond, Sire?”

Arthur felt a little relief at the familiar sarcasm in the title, but wasn’t sure what to say.

„Well, you could at least try to… try to be a little offended when I insult you.”

Merlin laughed at him. Again.

„Arthur, you’re such an idiot,” he said, far too much warmth in his sweet voice. „Here, let me help you-”

There was a flash of gold and before Arthur could yell, he was flying across the room and pushed into a wall.

Merlin muttered another spell which surged up over him and washed slowly down over his back in splendid, golden colours, transforming red, broken lines into shimmering, mended ones. Then he sauntered over to Arthur, surprisingly confident in his nudity, walked up into his space, until he was looking him straight in the eyes, and Arthur could feel their bodies contacting in all sorts of sordid ways that his mind was utterly unprepared for.

„First of all,” Merlin said, his voice almost stern, his thumb tracing over Arthur’s bottom lip. „I’m absolutely going to be a desperately horny, completely shameless, wanton, little whore for you, and I don’t find that idea insulting in the least.”

God, that filthy fucking mouth of his, I’m gonna-, Arthur thought, lust burning madly into his blood, and he strained against the constraints, needing to get his hands on Merlin again, needing to make him deliver on that promise, to get him needy and desperate and begging for-

Secondly,” Merlin continued, smirking at the wild expression in his eyes, making him freeze with the shift of his voice, which was now going much too soft, getting positively dangerous, and, oh Lord, he was fluttering those long, pretty lashes, and that really never boded well for anything at all. „Arthur,” he drawled perilously, following it with, „I love you.”

Nooo. Nono, no, no, no, no.

Panic spread through Arthur’s body as he felt his chest ripping right open and the whole of his system diving headfirst into a trust fall that he hadn’t at all agreed to. He tried to wriggle out of his restraints, but Merlin’s magic had him in a tight grip, and there was nowhere at all to run.

Foreign words emerged from Merlin’s mouth and Arthur’s arm was twisted behind his back until a sharp pain shot up through his shoulder.

„Do you love me too, Arthur?” Merlin said innocently, the widest, most wicked grin Arthur had ever seen spreading on his face.

„I most certainly do not, you insolent, ridiculous excuse of a-”

Arthur’s arm went further away from its normal position. He groaned loudly.

„Merlin, release me right now or I swear I’ll-„

What? Whip me? Again…? I’m not scared of you Arthur,” Merlin said and paused for a moment, before adding, „Well, not right now,” with a happy grin. „Look… I’ll let you go immediately, if you just stop being such a coward about-”

„I am not being a coward, you horrible, little-„

Another flash of gold and his arm threatened to dislocate from his shoulder.

„Alright, fine! Fine, you stupid arse of an evil sorcerer, I love you too, you fucking bastard.”

Arthur hit the ground with a thump. Merlin laughed, loud and rudely unrepentant.

„Now, Sire… That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Arthur glared at him with so much menace, Merlin’s heart skipped a beat and he started retreating towards the bed, noticing that now he was delightfully terrified.

Arthur followed, tackling him and they tumbled around on the floor until he ended up on top of Merlin, pinning him down.

„You are the absolute worst, Merlin. Not just as a servant, but as a general human being.”

Merlin smiled in a way that said he might not believe that statement to be entirely truthful, some of that ancient yellow still swirling in his eyes. 

Arthur found himself side-tracked from his anger, revelling in the fey beauty of it, of Merlin in general; The dark colours of his hair, the heavy flush on his face, the heavy breathing puffing against Arthur’s skin, the effortless self-assurance he seemed to do absolutely everything with.

„I forget how powerful you are,” he said, his voice having shifted into something very different, something like wonder. „You could end my life in a second, and yet you’re here with me like this and I don’t… I don’t understand why you would ever choose to serve me, why you would ever choose… me.”

Merlin looked up at him, eyes shining between his heavy lashes, as he searched his face carefully.

„Well, I mean… It’s like you said. It’s… destiny.”

Arthur huffed. „I’m sure you would’ve defied it if you had wanted to. And like you said, you never had to fulfill it like this. You didn’t have to be-”

Yours?

Arthur’s eyes widened, his thoughts frozen for a second. Then he kissed Merlin for the first time, and it was surprisingly gentle and careful and tentative. Well, it was at first, then it dissolved into a messy, hungry thing and there were tongues meeting and kisses on necks and teeth and it was all rather-

„Oh bloody mercy, Merlin, not again!” Arthur complained when he noticed that the ground had left them behind, and they were hovering in the middle of the room, which was filled with all those ridiculous lights.

Merlin made a surprised noise as he realised what he’d been doing, and they dropped abruptly to the floor.

„Sorry, Sire,” he said, a little sheepish, much more amused.

He reached up to kiss the scowl from Arthur’s face and found it melting away quicker than he’d ever managed it before. His mind started to drown in the soft contact with Arthur’s lips, the wetness of his tongue, the hard edges of his teeth, but there was a thought that dug into him, something he needed to settle and he said,

„About that though,” as he pushed Arthur up a little, „I really do want to be… yours, but I think maybe… maybe it’s time for me to stop being your servant.”

Arthur frowned.

„I could do more, Arthur. For you. For Camelot. I wanna be there at your side, officially, helping you rule. I wanna have the authority to make decisions and give orders when I need to, and I wanna be naturally included in all your councils, instead of the inevitable, condescending ’Why is your servant joining us?’ and ’How dare he address me?’”

Arthur looked pensive for a moment. (Merlin had always thought it was a weird look on him.)

„Yeah. No… No, you’re right,” he sighed. ”I know you’re right. You can be ’Court Sorcerer’ or ’Advisor’ or whatever works. I said no because I wanted to… wanted to have you and I was afraid of losing that but-”

„But you won’t now. You can have me properly now.”

„Yeah…” Arthur smiled, thinking for a moment more and looking irredeemably content with the idea, hungrier for it by the second. „And while I’m happy to exchange watching you needlessly polish my already-shining armor with more delectable types of suffering-” Merlin swallowed at that and felt his stomach do that slow, flipping motion again. He wished he could have stopped the unwelcome, revealing twitch in his nether regions that made Arthur’s already self-satisfied smile broaden. „-I’d rather like to keep our… our evening rituals.”

„Is this your way of saying you still can’t undress yourself?”

Arthur pinched him and Merlin twisted under him to escape his iron fingers, giggling, trying not to find the whole thing utterly delightful.

„I’m perfectly capable, thank you, but I rather like it when you… when you… untie my… boots.”

Merlin paused to look at him. That was oddly specific. There was a slight blush creeping up on Arthur’s cheeks.

„Well it’s just you- you’re on- on your knees, you know, being all… and your eyes sometimes when you look up at me, they’re so-„ he stuttered, positively flustered now.

Merlin smirked at him. 

I see,” he said, feigning innocence, „Well I can’t help but notice that you’re still dressed, Sire. Maybe you’d like to stand up. So I can… assist you.”

Arthur’s breath hitched as he scrambled to his feet.

Merlin slowly got up too, started unlacing Arthur’s shirt. 

They had done this so, so many times before, but in that moment all those faded from memory, and every single contact of skin was electric, new and unbearably arousing; Merlin’s fingers brushing against Arthur’s chest as they opened his shirt, dragging up over his stomach to free him of it. Merlin’s hand pausing to stroke his face for a second before he sunk to his knees again. That way he looked up at him, so utterly confident in that way he’d always been, never too concerned with his status or Arthur’s.

He untied Arthur’s boots slower than he ever had before, loving every bit of tense frustration he could feel gathering in his king. He pulled them off and tucked them neatly aside. Removed his socks as well and carefully placed a kiss on top of each foot.

Arthur shivered and fought off an urge to let go of his patience and have him right away. Merlin looked up at him before opening the breeches, before really, truly doing this. Felt one final bit of hesitation swirl in him, said,

„Arhur, you do… You do understand what you’re asking me to give you, don’t you?”

His eyes were filled with a gravity that Arthur had come to respect over the years and despite the roaring urgency of his wants, he stilled, forcing his mind to focus, giving Merlin his full attention.

He thought for a few seconds, slowly said, „I do.”

„You understand that if I do this and if… if you won’t commit to it or if you retract such a commitment later, you understand… that it’ll… ruin me?

Something grave and serious washed over Arthur’s face.

„I understand.”

„And you would still ask me to give you this…?”

Arthur went to his knees. He knew Merlin had done countless incredibly dangerous things for him, and that he had done and would do the same the other way around. But somehow it seemed that surrendering one’s soul was much more daunting than risking one’s life. 

„Merlin, I can’t tell you that this doesn’t… That I’m not scared of this. That I haven’t been terrified and… and- and cowardly since you told me of the magic and the prophecy and I… I began to understand what you had done, what you had sacrificed and… what you are and who you are. Because I began to understand not just… not just what you are to the kingdom but who… who you are to me and I… I…”

He trailed off, his throat closing upon itself. His angry resolve was rapidly melting away, his attempt to push though forcefully crumbling in his hands. 

„I can’t ask or order or force you to give me this and I - I’m sorry if I tried, but if it helps I think… I think that losing this would ruin me, just as much as it would you.”

Merlin gave him a long, painful look, smiled ruefully.

His hands softly guided Arthur up and then Arthur felt his fingers unlace his breeches and then… then Merlin’s tongue lapping perfectly, experimentally and his warm, wet mouth closing in on him- on his cock and his mind roared and broke and exploded into a million, incoherent pieces as his lips chanted Merlin’s name and yes and Oh God. His fingers tangled fiercely into Merlin’s hair and he lost his hips to a rough, almost involuntary movement that made Merlin gag obscenely.

Concern for the thoughtless way he started fucking Merlin’s mouth crept into his mind, but Merlin wasn’t letting go or pushing away, not retreating, not doing anything to suggest that he needed Arthur to slow down, so Arthur let himself be lost in the wild pleasure of it, until he was on the verge of orgasm. 

Then he yanked Merlin’s head back and looked down at him, breathing hard, feeling desire unlike any he’d experienced before, desire that seemed like it was threatening to tear him apart entirely, if he kept it at bay for much longer.

He dragged Merlin up from the floor, stepped out of his trousers and paused for a moment, his hand cupping Merlin’s face, probably a little harder than what was entirely pleasant.

„Are you-„

„Yes.”

„If we do this now, it’ll be- I’m not gonna be-”

„I know.”

„… And you’re sure?”

A little bit of playfulness made it’s way into Merlin’s eyes now, into his smile, and was accompanied by a little hunger, a little challenge.

„Yeah,” he said with a little smirk. „I’m sure.”

Arthur took a few steps, then threw Merlin on the bed on his stomach, and was over him in a second like a wolf launching on a deer.

His cock pressed into the cleft of Merlin’s arse and Merlin gasped, his body stiffening in alertness.

„Say it,” Arthur muttered.

Merlin tried to, but found the words stuck in his throat, too heavy to make it out on their own. Arthur bit into his shoulder, made him groan similarly to when the whip had lashed for the first time. He let himself enjoy it freely this time, repeated the,

Say you’re mine,

and his voice was so smooth and certain, the threat in it so subtle and subdued that it almost sounded pleasant and sweet. Almost.

Arthur,” Merlin said with a flutter of panic, „I want to, I do- But it’s- I can’t, it’s-„

Arthur pressed inside of him then, very, very slowly and Merlin knew the last pieces of his soul were forfeit. Along with his body, his mind, his magic, his everything-that-ever-had-been-or-ever-would-be-his. The whole world started to collapse into that one sensation of Arthur so, so slowly breaching him. He knew he was babbling, didn’t know what he was saying, only that it involved ’please’, ’more’ and ’Arthur’.

Arthur shushed softly at him, said affectionate reassurances and pressed kisses to his back. When he was all the way in he paused, asked,

„Okay?” and Merlin answered with a whimpering, affirmative noise that made him chuckle fondly.

Then he slowly started moving again, gently telling Merlin to relax whenever he felt him tense up around him.

„So good for me,” he murmured, „So warm and tight and perfect.”

Merlin made a high pitched noise, not really able to handle the praise on top of everything else. Arthur smiled wickedly, feeling much more at ease with the idea of discussing his feelings. He lowered himself further so his mouth was hovering just by Merlin’s ear, and whispered,

„I do love you, you know,” in the softest voice he could find, matching Merlin’s responding whine with a snap of his hips that doubled it’s intensity.

Not fair,” Merlin sulked into his pillow.

Arthur bit his ear and picked up the pace, made it gradually rougher and faster.

„No?” he said sweetly, innocently. „I’ve loved you for so long Merlin. Wanted you for so long. Been seeing your adorable face first thing every fucking morning, been wanting so, so badly to press it into my mattress, to make you moan exactly like this.”

Merlin whimpered at every word, every thrust, said a meak, „Arthur, please,” and turned his face to look at him with big, pleading eyes. Arthur just flashed him a wide, mad grin that promised no leniency whatsoever and kissed him sloppily.

Then he withdrew and rearranged Merlin, so he was on his knees and elbows and he could grip his hips for leverage. He jerked his pelvis forward, entering again in one, crude stride and Merlin cried out like he was being torn apart.

Please,” Merlin said again, and Arthur wasn’t sure if he was asking for mercy or for more or - most likely - for both. 

If it was the first though, he really, really shouldn’t have said yes to this twice, Arthur thought diabolically, and snapped his hips forward again, putting even more strength into it. Merlin responded by shouting a curse and struggling forward, trying to get out of his grip. Arthur tutted, said an eerie, too-smooth,

„Where do you think you're going, Merlin?”

which made Merlin mewl, made him babble something incoherent and frantic, something like,

I can’t, can’t, can’t, ’m sorry, want to, really, really want to, can’t, can’t, it’s too good, too much, please Arthur, pleasepleaseplease.

Arthur leaned forward to get his right hand under Merlin’s chest and lifted his upper body, until the back of it pressed against Arthur’s chest and they were both kneeling. He let the hand travel further up until it lightly circled Merlin’s throat and said a soft,

„I think you’ll find you’re gonna have to, love.”

Something like a sob escaped Merlin, but he didn’t struggle anymore, seemed calmed or contained by the grip on his throat or the change in position.

„You’ll let me, won’t you? Let me do whatever I want with you.”

Arthur started moving again, circling his hips slowly now, partially because of the limited range of motion, partially because he wanted to push Merlin deep under before getting rough again. He put his free hand on Merlin’s achingly hard cock and started stroking it languidly, drawing a choked sound from his lips.

„You’re mine, aren’t you?”

Yes,” Merlin rasped, his hips starting to follow Arthur’s movement.

„Say it for me.”

„I’m… yours, always just… always wanted to be… yours. You can do- do whatever you want.”

Arthur kissed Merlin’s shoulder, up his neck, whispered,

„So pretty, so lovely, so devoted. Always so devoted to me, Merlin. So loyal, and so brave and so wonderful. Beautiful and clever… and wonderful.”

Merlin didn’t protest the praise now, just leant his head back to rest on Arthur’s shoulder, let out a small, capitulating sigh and said an almost resigned, almost melancholic,

„You really do love me, don’t you,”

and Arthur smiled. He might’ve said what he did mostly to mess with Merlin, to influence him, but (completely incidentally) it had all been profoundly true.

„I really, really do.”

Merlin hummed. Held up one of his hands, palm turned back towards Arthur, who stilled.

„You want to…?”

„Yeah.”

„Like- like we did with Mordred?”

„Yes.”

„Are you… Are you sure…?”

Merlin chuckled hoarsely.

„Yes, Arthur. You can’t… can’t take what you want without taking this first.”

„I don’t… don’t have to. If it’s really too much, then I don’t want to, then we’ll slow down and we’ll-”

„It’s not.”

„But, Merlin-”

„It’s not. I’m not fragile, I don’t want you to be-” He sighed. „I’m just a little… litte overwhelmed. Go on. Please. I want you to. I promise… promise that I want you to.”

Arthur inhaled sharply, let his left hand move up to Merlin’s chest, let the right one meet Merlin’s, palm to palm. Shuddered as he felt golden waves of pure, sizzling energy permeate through his skin, swirl into his body. Clutched desperately unto Merlin, sinking a little deeper, and rasped,

Stings,” while gasping into his neck.

„Serves you right,” Merlin said, smile in his rough voice.

„Don’t. Taunt me.” Arthur gritted out, his vision flooding with swirling gold, his blood pounding madly with the power pressing into his veins. ”Please, don’t taunt me.”

„Alright,” Merlin said softly, „Don’t fight it, love.”

„But it’s so… I don’t know what I’ll-”

„It’s alright, it’s part of me. Just let go.”

Arthur tried to, tried to just let the flood of magic move freely into his body and carry out his desires, but his desires were… well, they were forceful, wild like Merlin’s magic, and he didn’t trust either of them with what might very well turn out to be the most precious thing in his life. He whispered a little,

Don’t wanna hurt you,” into Merlin’s shoulder, wincing at the pain of the control he was holding on to.

Merlin snorted. „We both know that’s a lie, Arthur.”

Arthur just whined in response, starting to tremble with the effort.

„Sorry, love, I- I know what you mean, but I’ll… I’ll be alright, okay? You need to trust it.”

„Alright,” Arthur whispered. „Alright,” and then he took a deep breath, letting everything go with the exhale of it. He cried out as all that energy settled into him and he felt every muscle in his body strengthen, every piece of his mind tighten it’s connection with the world. 

The world that started pulsing around him in beautiful, vibrant colours like he knew it always did for Merlin, and oh, Merlin, Merlin was shining. Radiant, other-worldly and magnificent, even with his magic pooled temporarily in Arthur’s body, and Arthur wanted, wanted obscenely, unnaturally much. The magic listened to him, crashed down on its owner, trapping him on his elbows and knees, just where Arthur had wanted him, and he drove forward, movement impossibly forceful now. He heard Merlin’s responding whine, felt the way he struggled against the magic, his magic, that he’d pushed into Arthur’s hands for exactly this purpose, and delighted in the immense pleasure that was overtaking him, in that sound, in the futile attempts of escape. Delighted in it so much more, because the transfer was Merlin’s idea, was something he’d insisted on, and Arthur could almost feel through the connection, how much Merlin enjoyed being so trapped, so helpless for him. Could feel almost everything really, the magic stretching out over Merlin, tasting all his skin, all the planes and curves of his being, from the tips of his toes to the far borders of his soul. And through it all there was this thing that distinctly hadn’t been visible the last time they’d done this (not that he’d had much time to inspect anything then, in the heat of combat). There was this deep, crimson that slightly tainted every little corner, every element, this slight thing that felt remarkably like… like… Oh. Oh, Merlin, oh-

Merlin.”

Arthur withdrew (Merlin made this adorable, unhappy little whine at the loss), used the magic to not-incredibly-gently flip him over to his back, and leapt forward, sinking back in, starting to pound into him wildly, kiss him recklessly, saying,

„God, Merlin, it’s everywhere, everywhere, why would you- you shouldn’t have let me- shouldn’t have let me in to everything like that.”

Merlin mewled from the force he was being fucked with, smiled from under the thick, thick fog that was taking his mind and said a soft,

„I know.”

He moaned loudly at the next thrust, curved his back to meet the onslaught, wrapped his legs around Arthur’s lower back, his hands around his nape.

„I know, but- fuck Arthur - you really- really haven’t made it easy. Always so greedy for every- everything I wanted to give you. Always demanding, always taking.”

Arthur slowed down a bit so he could kiss him properly, whispered a little,

’M sorry,” into his mouth.

Merlin hungrily met the kiss, rolled his hips up in time with the thrusts, gave a sardonic little chuckle as he said,

„Like hell you are. You’re only- only sorry you waited so long to take this as well.”

Arthur smiled, slow and predatory, used the magic to push Merlin’s legs up, to deepen his access, and changed into a painfully slow pace. He brushed Merlin’s sweat-sticky hair carefully out of his face, looked at him with those horribly, wonderfully piercing eyes and said a hushed,

„Do you like it, Merlin? When I take you…?

Merlin returned his smile unsteadily, whimpered at the unbearable detail he was feeling the slow intrusion with, the overwhelming pleasure he was drowning in.

Yeah…

„Yeah…? You like having me imprinted into every little nook of you? You like being so deeply, profoundly mine?”

It wasn’t teasing or taunting, not really, just commandeering, greedy, just very, very Arthur, all icy blues and uncompromising conquest.

„Yeah,” Merlin said again, the shaky smile playing on his face starting to carry a little challenge. „And I like having you aknowledge it too, so I don’t have to shove it all down, afraid you’ll push me away if you see the depths of it.”

Arthur stopped, frown collecting on his face. 

Merlin whined, moved his hips to get him back, but Arthur had them shoved into the mattress, pinned them there.

„I am sorry about that. It’s true that I don’t regret anything I’ve taken, but I do… I do regret not letting you know how grateful I was whenever you gave me something. How much I-”

„Yes, alright, thank you, that’s lovely, it’s really grand, but could you just- please, Arthur, would you just-„

He struggled to move his legs to bring Arthur back down, to move his hips to bring himself up, but it was all held firmly in place, and Arthur just smiled at his efforts, stroked his hair, saying,

„Do you want something, Merlin?”

Merlin glared at him, hissed out a little,

Fuck you,” and kept fighting his own magic.

Arthur laughed, loud and cheerful, said a smug,

„Pretty sure I am fucking you,” which just intensified Merlin’s scowl. „Is this not how you want it, darling?”

„I’ll take it back,” Merlin sneered, spell already primed on his tongue, „I’ll take back my magic and I’ll-„

You won’t.

Arthur’s expression shifted in a heartbeat, glaciated into something that was just as cold as when he’d first caught Merlin with Deirdre.

„You’ll let me keep it ’till I’m done with it and you’ll stay right there. You’ll ask me nicely for what you want and you’ll take every- last- bit- of it.”

Merlin froze and stared at him for a moment, eyes wide and startled, rebellion rapidly wilting away. Then he just nodded, slow and yielding. 

The frost melted and Arthur smiled again, all sunshine and warmth, the thunder cloud gone as fast as it had come.

„Good,” he purred, slowly sinking back in, stroking Merlin’s cheek as he kissed him. „Tell me what you want then.”

„I want-” Merlin choked out, revelling in the sensation of being filled again, „Want you to fuck me.”

„Mmh… How?”

„Like you’re- like you’re trying to… to break me.

Yeah,” Arthur said with a content, little sigh. „Yeah.” 

He looked fondly at Merlin, closed his eyes, took a deep breath in and let it out slowly.

When he opened them again, they were so full of blinding gold, Merlin almost told him to slow down, to ease up on the magic. He was stopped by how little he wanted to, how incredibly pretty Arthur looked wrapped up in it. Wrapped up in him. 

His skin was starting to glow, his eyes glistening, his hair starting to shine like it was being filled up with sun rays, like it was liquifying into some kind of molten gold. He didn’t look entirely human, more like some sort of iridescent, mythical creature from a story book, and Merlin reached out, needing to touch, needing to have. His magic was still constricting, still trying to fight him, but he let out a low growl and it subsided, not quite able to defy him when he really meant to move it.

He stroked Arthur’s cheek, shifted his hips to feel the length that was buried deep inside him, pushed his head up to place a soft kiss and whisper,

Beautiful,” against his king’s lips.

Arthur returned the kiss, the caress, then smiled and muttered,

You’re cheating, Merlin,” with none of the gravity he’d wielded at the last revolt.

„Sorry,” Merlin chuckled, falling back down into the bed, working his legs over Arthur’s shoulders. „I’ll be good. Promise.”

He felt the magic settle firmly on him again, pushing him wide open as Arthur withdrew and slammed back in, slowly once, twice, then faster, faster, faster, until Merlin started to lose himself. Started moaning and whimpering, felt immensely grateful for how utterly locked down his body was, so all he could do was lie back and feel it all; Feel the contact with Arthur’s pelvis each time he thrusted, feel his width stretching Merlin open, his length hitting that sweet spot inside of him with every push forward. Feel the tendrils of magic spreading over his body, making all his skin tingle, until it was burning ever so slightly and so incredibly pleasantly. Some of the tendrils spiraled around his nipples, twisting them until searing, thrilling pain shot through him, sharpening the pleasure until it was almost unbearable.

After a moment or a year or an eternity of this, Merlin felt the heat in his belly stretch and go tight, felt his whole body tense up, and heard himself say something unintelligible, something like,

OhgodArthurwon’tyou… Fuck, please, please, please, won’tyouArthurpleaseIneed, I need, I need, oh God, oh God, ohgodfuckplease,

before the words dissolved entirely, turned into some kind of animal, gutteral groaning that might’ve embarassed Merlin if he hadn’t been so utterly gone. He wasn’t really sure what he’d been asking for anyways, only that he’d liked asking it, had liked knowing that whatever it was, Arthur was more likely to do the exact opposite, contrary bastard that he was. He could see him grin wickedly, madly almost, not slowing down in the least, as he said,

Please. What. Merlin?”

which Merlin mostly responded to by whining and writhing pointlessly against the unyielding pressure that held him down.

Arthur grabbed his face forcefully and more bit than kissed Merlin’s lips, as his tongue pressed in, sloppily claimed Merlin’s mouth, and, God, it was so good, everything he did was so ridiculously good, and Merlin was gonna come all over himself, he was gonna-

Please,” he groaned desperately, into Arthur’s searing mouth, and Arthur laughed, the bastard, and moved that mouth to Merlin’s ear where he licked obscenely into it and bit the lobe hard, before saying,

„Come on then, Merlin, come for me then. Come for me, come-”

And Merlin did. Body spasming, trembling, shaking with it, he painted the space between their bodies white, as his mind went equally blank, and all he could feel was Arthur, Arthur, Arthur fucking him, still fucking him for another moment, another year, another eternity, before he was claiming Merlin’s mouth again. Merlin opened it for him, so eager and willing, always so endlessly eager and willing and desperate for that man. At some point he’d started saying please again, now with the idea crystal-clear in his mind; That of Arthur filling him, taking that ultimate pleasure in him, coming inside of him, until he was just as empty and spent as Merlin, until he was sated and satisfied, until Merlin had made him sated and satisfied, and the amount of pleasure and pride that Merlin found in that thought was truly disturbing. Or well, it would’ve been, might be later, when anything mattered except for the way Arthur was slowing down, going heavier, sounds going lower, going closer, closer, until the air fluttered from the magic still tethered to him, and he drove forward a final time, ten final times as he came, his face full of pleasure, his lips full of Merlin’s name, full of crushing kisses. Then he finally slowed entirely and collapsed, his weight crushing down on Merlin. He lay there for a moment, panting, then rolled over, dragging Merlin with him, draping him sideways over him, so his head was resting on Arthur’s chest. Muttered a breathless little,

„Fuck, Merlin. Fuck,”

and Merlin smiled, said,

„Was it- Was I… good?” with his eyes so wide and pleading that some part of his mind had to protest the shameless, unfamiliar subservience of the gesture. He had no real plans, however, of taking that seriously, thought he rather got to be pathetically eager-to-please if that’s what he wanted to be.

Arthur looked at him, eyes shining with fondness, when he smiled and said,

„You were… I don’t even, can’t even…” He sighed softly, happily. „Only you, Merlin. It could only ever be like that with you.”

Heat flared in Merlin’s chest at that and he smiled back dopily, lovingly, as he muttered,

„Yeah… Yeah, it was… Yeah,” and sighed, feeling endlessly content, endlessly at home, more like he was where he was meant to be than he ever had before, than anyone ever could. Felt so endlessly belonging with his head resting on Arthur’s chest, so endlessly happy with his arms around him that it was just… just so utterly perfect. 

It had always been so messy with them, with the magic and the law against it, with the destiny and the complications of it. With the friendship, always fraught with tension, always filled with that longing for more, and finally with the love, so great and terrible in its strength, so utterly maddening in its presence, and now… now it was all just so quiet and peaceful and perfect.

Merlin pressed his face into Arthur’s warm skin and strengthened his hold around his chest, squeezing himself into him. Arthur returned the gesture and breathed deep into his hair, saying a soft, „Merlin. 

Then, after a while, he said a louder, slightly wavering,

„Merlin…?”

and Merlin let the tension in his arms go a bit and turned his head to look up at him, with a little, „Mmh?”

Arthur played with his hair, as a slightly serious (very adorable) little frown played at his brows, and he gravely said,

„Thank you.”

Merlin stared at him for a second, then chuckled giddily, both at the urgent expression and the ridiculous words.

„You really don’t need to thank me for this. I can assure that I’m at least as-”

„No, no, but I mean… Merlin, I mean, thank you for…” The frown grew in its heaviness and Merlin got the impression that this was one of those times when Arthur quite ineptly tried to communicate something quite important. Merlin stopped chuckling, tilted his head to consider him, paid proper attention. „Thank you for… everything. I owe you… Merlin, I owe you everything.”

And oh. Oh, that silly man. Merlin reached out to him, brushing through those golden, still-slightly-shining locks with his fingers.

„No, Arthur, you-„

„Don’t. Please. I do… You know that I do, and- and-” Arthur sighed, low and heavy, sounding a little frustrated. „Just… Thank you. Alright?”

Merlin considered him for a moment, studied the stubborn lines of his face. Then said,

„Alright,” with a soft smile, and added, „You’re… welcome then.” He couldn’t quite help it when his smile turned coy, when a little bit of teasing, a bit of mock melodrama crept into his voice, and he finished with an almost-whispered, „For everything,” that made Arthur laugh softly, made those creases on his forehead ease up a bit.

„I mean it, Merlin.”

A soft glow caught Merlin’s eye and he turned his gaze into the room to see hundreds of twinkling, little lights filling it. He started laughing, louder this time, and said,

„Oh, I can see that.”

Arthur turned his attention in the direction of Merlin’s and turned a bit red, joined Merlin’s laughter with an embarrased half-chuckle. Merlin looked at him, said,

„You love me,” like an accusation, like a child teasing him for it.

Arthur just smiled.

„I do.”

Merlin smirked (or perhaps he just beamed happily, but he tried to smirk) and held up his hand with a smug,

„Let me show you how to do that properly then.”

Oh thank God,” Arthur muttered and immediately pressed his palm into Merlin’s, sighing with relief as a flood of energy left his body, exited comfortably, almost cooly from his hand into Merlin’s, who didn’t even flinch upon receiving it.

„I don’t know how you do that.”

„Do what?”

„Carry all that power. Would make me mad, having that in my blood all the time.”

„Mmh,” Merlin said non-committally, a sweet, easy smile resting on his face. „’M used to it.”

When the transfer was complete he held his hand up and raised his eyebrows in this very particular way that meant something like ’watch-me-do-this-cool-thing-Arthur’, which he’d started doing more and more once Arthur had grown comfortable with the magic. Last time it had been seconds before he’d demolished the entire collection of armour, weapons and machinery of an enemy army. He’d looked at Arthur, face full of pride, waiting for the praise that Arthur had given him very earnestly, trying not to let on how scary it was that Merlin could do that and look like it was nothing, like he’d have torn the stars from the sky if Arthur had only asked.

Watch,” Merlin mumbled, and Arthur did.

He watched as the lights drew together, watched them combine into a glistening, marvelous creature that hovered above them, stretching out intricate, wonderous wings, then settled into the form of a little hawk that flew around the room, first up, up, up and then diving down abrupt and fast, hunting some imaginary prey. It flew towards Arthur and perched on his finger where he marveled at the beauty, the strange weightlessness of it, at the little eddies of magic buzzing into his skin. 

„Hello,” he said softly, smiling sweetly at it.

Merlin snorted. „It’s not alive, Arthur.”

„I’m aware, Merlin, thank you.”

The hawk dove off Arthur’s finger and flew back up, getting to the roof of the bed. Then it dove back down and exploded into a burst of fire, its light spreading in all directions before getting pulled back together in the form of a dragon, which flew towards Arthur who instinctively yelped and pulled his free arm in front of his face to shield it.

Merlin giggled where he was lying on Arthur’s chest.

„It’s also not a real dragon, you berk.”

Arthur pushed him off, rolled after to hover over him.

„I’m aware, Merlin, thank you.”

His efforts inspired nothing but a cheeky grin, which is really all he should’ve expected. He sighed, said,

„Well it was nice while it lasted, at least.”

„What was?”

„You being sweet and pliant.”

„Ah,” Merlin said, smiling so brightly it was almost a little hard to watch, a little too blinding. „Well, Sire, you can always make a second attempt at getting me sweet and pliant.”

Arthur raised his eyebrows in a challenge of sorts, kissed Merlin softly, mumbled, „Oh, I can, can I?” and then, with a little more hopefulness than he meant to express, „Will I be getting another light show as well then?”

„Mmh, I don’t know. Wouldn’t wanna startle you again. Sire.”

Arthur huffed at the teasing and the brazen, repeated abuse of his title, but failed at any proper annoyance, settled for retorting with,

„Alright, well. It was rather- pretty, I thought. So I wouldn’t mind. If you think my frail nerves can stand it, that is.”

The taunt fell out of Merlin’s expression and it softened into some of that rare, mild warmth that was hidden somewhere underneath all the snark.

„Really?”

„Yeah it was…” Arthur traced his thumb over Merlin’s cheekbone, threaded his fingers through his stubborn, thick hair. „It was quite- beautiful. I thought.”

Merlin beamed at him, said a hushed, „Yeah?

Arthur returned his smile. „Yeah. Just really, very… beautiful,” and kissed Merlin slow and sweet and perfect as if they had all the time in the world to just lie there and be so startlingly, utterly in love. And well, maybe they did.