Merlin watched the six of them pace, each getting more and more worked up. It was no secret to the people of Camelot that the King and his five Knights had been struck by a terrible curse, upon entering the Perilous Lands, that meant they relied on blood to survive. The legends called them vampires, Merlin called them suckers, because he thought it was hilarious. Arthur quickly got annoyed with the term, which made it all the more funny to use, yet Merlin was still supportive of them.
Vampires, they may be, but they were still the people he knew. A little faster, a little stronger. They protected Camelot better, could smell out spies and could hear the gossip that ran through the walls a lot faster than anyone else could ever hope. The only downside was the blood, which was brought to them by donations, warmed by Merlin’s Magic. Once a day, at dinner, they would drink. Merlin found it fascinating, as did Gaius, the two of them had spent almost two complete seasons studying the affects of the curse upon them.
Sunlight had itched and irritated their skin, until Merlin and Morgana had performed a spell upon a piece of jewellery that they had to keep on, protecting them from the sun’s rays. Without the blood, they grew temperamental and more likely to snap, Arthur had once pushed him hard enough that he had a concussion for days. They felt awful, to begin with, until Merlin had pointed out that this made them better Knights.
It meant that they stayed relatively as a group, although they sometimes allowed Gwen and Morgana to join them. Wounds that would usually keep them injured for days healed within moments, much to Merlin’s annoyance. His own Magic couldn’t do such a thing, yet their blood seemed to heal. It was decided that the blood had to be ingested, and the host had to die, to make more of them. So, as long as they didn’t bleed onto any of the people that fought them, they were usually okay.
The red eyes were a sign of their changing temper, something Merlin had learnt to pick up on. When that happened, he’d chuck a waterskin filled with blood at them, tell them to stop acting like a moody teen and deal with their issues.
Knowing that Merlin was alright with them, they settled back into their old routine. Merlin helped them find the blood, collecting it usually from volunteers that were more than happy to keep the King and his protectors fed. It made Camelot strong, they said, kept their Kingdom protected. Plus, a King that didn’t age was useful, he’d rule them for an age or more.
Merlin was sitting on a log, staring at the burst waterskin, the blood that had dribbled out over the course of the ride here. Gwaine had forgotten his, which would be fine, apart from the bandit attack that had their most of their horses bolting, leaving only Merlin and Leon’s horses. Leon’s waterskin was the one that had burst, and there was only Merlin’s left.
Which was filled with water.
‘We need to find someone.’ Gwaine suggested, which made Arthur balk.
‘No! We aren’t harming some innocent civilian…’
‘What about the bandits?’ Lancelot asked, grimacing even as he spoke.
‘They’ve been dead for half a day. I don’t fancy trying to drain them.’ Elyan pointed out, while Percival stayed quiet. Merlin was eyeing up the burst waterskin, estimating how much blood they needed.
If they walked back to Camelot, they could make it in a few days. With their added speed, and the fact they didn’t need as much sleep, they could probably cut it down to two days. Which meant they only needed a few mouthfuls of blood each, and that could be spared from a living human.
‘We head back to Camelot. Two days at quick speed, or four days at a slightly slower pace, you’d only need around a mouthful of blood to survive for such a short period.’ Merlin pointed out, watching their heads turn to him.
‘Unless you have a spell for summoning blood, we still have the issue of finding…’
‘It’s obvious, isn’t it? You just drink mine.’ That earned him a reaction, six terrified Knights that began to blabber about how that certainly wasn’t happening. It was funny, each of them tripping over words, and Merlin just watched.
‘What’s the difference? It isn’t a big deal, stop making it into one.’ And with that, Merlin rose up to collect the last of the items they had, laughing at their expressions.
Merlin rode on his horse, with Leon’s horse carrying their items. The Knights walked, Merlin impressed by the speed and agility that came with being a Vampire. There were less benefits for him, he supposed. He was already immortal, he had the power of being a Warlock, and he’d still have to drink blood. Plus, knowing his luck, the clumsiness would overpower the new abilities, and he’d end up hitting trees at high speed.
‘What are you chuckling about?’ Gwaine asked, intrigued. Merlin stuck his tongue out at the night, before snacking on the apple that had been recovered. They could eat food, in fact, Gwaine actually ate more now that he ingested blood.
‘Nothing. How’s walking?’ He teased, which earnt him a glare from Arthur. Although none of them would admit it, ever since the curse had struck them, they had been relying on Merlin to keep their spirits up. It was actually quite easy, he hummed off-tune until everyone was glaring, Lancelot included, then looked down at them.
‘If you bleed, does that attract other Vampires? Or do you guys not like each other’s blood?’ Just because Camelot accepted the curse, did not mean they openly talked about it. Merlin, never one to be subtle, had no issues with discussing it.
‘Gross.’ Gwaine’s nose wrinkled, and Merlin figured that answered the question.
‘What about animal blood?’
‘Smells bad. Like… like a mouldy apple.’ Well, that put him off the fruit in his mouth, and he split it in half, leaning to give one half to Leon’s horse, before chucking the second to Gwaine to feed his own.
‘So like you all when you don’t wash in the stream for a while?’ That earnt him some laughter, Merlin grinning and then promptly swearing when his horse freaked.
He would later blame Gwaine, because the Knight had been the one to grab the reins. The horse reared, Merlin promptly slid right off the back, then narrowly avoided the bucking horse. The creature thundered away, Gwaine more concerned with Merlin, than the escaping horse.
‘Camelot’s going to run out of horses.’ He groaned, rubbing the arm that he landed on, then finding six Knights all standing at a distance away from him. Merlin went to question it, before noting that his arm was bleeding slightly. No more than a scratch, but it was enough for blood to bead, and Merlin knew how much the Knights of Camelot feared hurting him.
‘Idiots.’ He muttered, before focusing his Magic on the wound and healing it. Simple, looked back up to them.
‘You wouldn’t hurt me.’ He knew that, and even if they did, which they wouldn’t, Merlin could stop them.
Night brought with it new issues. Merlin lit the fire, cooking dinner for them, but noting that they had gone a full day without feeding. Plus, after the bandit attack, they had used more energy than normal. His original estimate of a mouthful of blood might need to be two mouthfuls, and so he served himself a slightly bigger portion.
‘Trying to finally put some weight on?’ Arthur joked, snacking into the stew, while Merlin rolled his eyes.
‘Prat. Thought I might need more energy, if I’m feeding you.’ He watched the guilt flash, the way they ducked their heads and looked embarrassed.
‘You know it isn’t an issue, right? I don’t mind.’ They still looked worried, so Merlin just rolled his eyes, finished dinner and looked to the singular bed-roll that they had.
‘I’m stealing that.’ He admitted, expecting at least one of them to argue. It was just further proof that they were still concerned about hurting him.
‘How are we going to do this?’ Arthur finally asked, like it pained him to think about. Merlin shrugged, gestured to his arm.
‘I figure taking it from the vein is easier than me trying to bleed into a bowl.’
‘No way.’ Arthur snapped, while the other Knights looked terrified.
‘It’s just a bite, you idiot. Couple of mouthfuls, then you pull back.’
‘And if we can’t?’ Leon whispered, Merlin letting his eyes flick golden.
‘Then I make you.’ That seemed to comfort them slightly, they looked less horrified now, more curious.
‘Where would be the best place?’ Merlin had been considering that as well, thinking about the best points to bleed from.
‘Well, the neck is a good place for blood-flow, but I figure it’s a little… close. Why don’t we start on the wrist?’ He’d never seen six men look so annoyed at anything, smirked when they looked between each other to try and decide who went first.
‘Percival, c’mere. You were injured the worst in the attack.’ The Knight looked to his King first, but moved across to sit beside Merlin. The Warlock stripped off his jacket, leaving a short-sleeved tunic underneath. Stared at his skin for a moment, then looked to the large Knight.
‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ He muttered, looking more queasy than hungry. Unable to admit defeat, Merlin reached for the knife in his boot and quickly washed it with water, before letting it heat in the flames slightly to disinfect. Then he pricked his skin, presumably where it would be best to bite.
Blood, it was rather annoying for him, but Percival’s eyes were beginning to darken.
‘Dinner time?’ Merlin joked, which earned him some huffed laughter. He guided the Knight to hold his wrist, until his lips hesitantly met Merlin’s skin.
‘Stop me if it hurts.’ Percival pleaded, and Merlin promised. Honestly, with all the build-up, Merlin was getting rather… flustered. He wasn’t quite sure why, maybe it was the thought of providing for them? That they needed him, just as he needed them.
Lips hit his skin, before Percival’s eyes flicked shut and he bit.
It hurt, yeah, but it was more than that. Merlin knew he’d made a sound, probably a gasp, refused to take his eyes off of where Percival was holding his skin. He felt the man swallow once, before taking a small sip, then pulling back.
Red eyes, lips slightly smeared with blood, which was quickly gone as he licked it away. Left behind where pin-prick marks, barely bleeding, and Merlin smiled.
‘Next?’ Percival moved away, Merlin looking between the Knights. Hesitant, but they were more interested now that they knew it was alright.
‘Was it hard to control?’ Elyan asked, but the large Knight shook his head.
‘It tasted of… well, Merlin. It’s hard to ever hurt someone that’s a… friend.’ Merlin briefly felt his cheeks flush, then gestured for Elyan to come across. He did, stared at the mark left by Percival.
‘Same place?’ He asked, thumb brushing over the skin.
‘Yeah. Twice shouldn’t make the skin too tender.’ The Knight nodded, and just as Percival had, slowly raised the skin. It took a moment, before he closed his lips over and bit down. Just as gentle as the first Knight, Merlin mused, holding back his gasp this time as Elyan quietly took his two mouthfuls, pulling back.
He’d never seen their eyes up close like this, they were rather pretty. A blood-red, like the substance on their lips, licked away quickly. Merlin hummed, ran a finger over the tender skin and let the wound heal to two silvery marks.
His other wrist now, on his dominant hand. He waited to see if they’d argue, but Leon rose, came across and sat down.
‘Need me to prick the skin first?’ He nodded shyly, rather cute in a way, and Merlin let the knife made a small mark. Leon was always the noble one, the strategic man that had been raised in Camelot. Now, he took Merlin’s hand hesitantly, touching the skin like he was honoured to be there. His bite was so careful, timid, and the sips were small, while Merlin found his gaze couldn’t wander from where they were joined.
It was with a start that he realised he was finding this hot. He jumped slightly, luckily after Leon had finished, the Knights immediately picking up on it.
‘Are you alright?’ Leon asked, and Merlin knew he had to be blushing.
‘Fine.’ He assured, glad that, unlike the rest of Camelot, they couldn’t try and read his thoughts. Something about being a Warlock, it stopped them being able to. Not that they wanted to, anyway. Morgana was the same, she could keep them from her mind, but Gwen had her thoughts stumbled onto once or twice. They usually centred around her adoration for Morgana, which was amusing.
‘Your heart’s beating faster.’ That was slightly creepy, and Merlin wondered how good their hearing was. If it could hear a heartbeat, there was no way he could sneak off into the woods later to reminisce over this moment.
‘I’m alright, I just expected it to hurt.’ There, that wasn’t a complete lie.
‘It doesn’t?’ Leon questioned, Merlin realising that they all looked shocked.
‘Not really. I mean, you’re all being gentle.’ Leon moved away with a quiet thank-you, before Lancelot came across.
The first Knight to know about his Magic, his longest-standing friend. Merlin grinned, offered out his wrist without a single thought. The man hesitated, but did take the skin, rose it to his lips carefully.
The fangs had always fascinated him, they were pointy yet rather long, never appeared until needed. It was one of the first things they managed to control, and they rarely let Merlin see them. He felt them now, as they pierced his skin, Lancelot’s lips sealed around the wound and his eyes shut. That was another thing, they each took their drink with shut eyes, while Merlin found himself unable to look away.
He did the same to the bite as he had with the other, then pondered on where to let Gwaine and Arthur feed. Nowhere too muscular, not that it was really an issue with him. Considering it didn’t hurt too much, he decided to go back to his first wrist, watched Gwaine come across.
‘A bit higher than the first one, if that’s okay? Need me to break the skin?’ Gwaine was trying to look calm, trying to be the funny one, as usual.
‘Nah, how hard can it be?’ He joked, before taking his arm and raising it up. Gwaine’s lips moved over his skin, but this time, the Knight maintained eye-contact. Merlin shuddered when he bit down, watched Gwaine’s eyes turn red, found himself drawn to the way it swirled between red and brown.
Shit, he really needed them to hurry up, before this got too heated. Gwaine pulled back, licked his lips and grinned.
‘Taste like apple pie.’
‘You’ve got a serious obsession.’ Merlin warned, but smiled fondly at the Knight. Arthur was the only one left now, and he looked so unsure.
‘It’s fine, Arthur. Come on.’ The King moved like he thought Merlin was joking, sat down and stared.
‘You don’t have to do this.’
‘I know that, but I’ve told you, you’re no use hungry. You get all angsty.’ Arthur gave a weak laugh, never good with emotion, and took Merlin’s arm. Rose it to his lips, then bit.
It was rather anti-climatic, Arthur took two sips, just as the others had done, and pulled back. Merlin smiled, healed the wound with a little Magic, before standing up.
Far too quickly, apparently, wobbling and almost falling, had it not been for both Leon and Gwaine using their faster reflexes to reach for him. He only leant on them for a moment, straightened and snorted.
‘Jumping up wasn’t wise, then.’ Arthur sounded worried, like they feared Merlin would regret the decision.
‘I’m clumsy as it is.’ Merlin agreed, before stealing the bed-roll with a smirk, daring anyone to oppose him.
They didn’t, and Merlin moved to lay it out, settled down on it and wondered if he could survive the walk back without letting them know how flustered he felt when they bit him.
Gods, this was going to be difficult.