Author: Ras Elased
Spoilers: Everything up to 1.09 is fair game. And there is a possible allusion to 1.10 at the end, if you're looking for it.
Warnings: Uh, gay sex? Is that warning or encouragement?
Summary: Arthur likes to think he's good at concealing things. But Merlin knows just how to find all of Arthur's secrets, and suddenly nothing is safe.
A/N: Ahahaha, this was intended to be PWP. And also short. I'm going to fire my muse. Also, thanks to j_apollo for audiencing and assuaging my fears that this was utter crap.
Arthur likes to think he's good at concealing things. He is careful to keep his emotions buried beneath the surface, out of reach from the prying eyes who would see it as weakness and use such knowledge against him. He reveals only as much as he allows, as is advantageous for him. This is the calling of a king, a calling he has been trained for since birth. But Merlin knows just how to find all of Arthur's secrets, and suddenly nothing is safe.
After the tournament, Arthur walks off the field victorious, as usual. He is also very careful not to limp, as usual, but somehow Merlin knows.
"Are you alright? What's wrong with your knee? Should I fetch Gaius?" Merlin spouts off his questions rapidly, jogging a little to keep up with Arthur's pace.
The old tournament injury means Arthur's knee is boiling with fire, like the inside of a dragon's belly, but he casts a condescending look over his shoulder, meeting Merlin's concerned blue eyes. "Are you blind as well as stupid? I'm fine."
"You're not fine, you're injured," Merlin counters, long suffering, and not put off in the slightest.
Arthur sighs, because he knows Merlin, and when he gets like this there's nothing that can dissuade him. Arthur is tired after the battles and just wants a bath and something to eat, so he decides a half truth is best to diffuse the situation. "Look, it's just a muscle cramp. It'll work itself out eventually."
Arthur knows he's won Merlin's distraction the moment the look in Merlin's eyes changes from concern to something else entirely, one corner of his mouth turning up in a wicked grin. "You want me to massage it for you?" he asks, a little too much eagerness in his tone to hide the true meaning behind his words. Arthur just rolls his eyes as if heavily put upon, which Merlin knows means yes.
Once they're back at Arthurs quarters, Merlin devotes about five seconds to the pretense of a massage before Arthur's back is against the wall and Merlin is on his knees, Arthur's cock down his throat. Arthur slams his eyes shut and nearly swallows his own tongue trying to hold the noises in, breath caught in his throat because if he starts breathing now he'll just wind up making the most embarrassing noises he can. Merlin's mouth is warm and wet and perfect and so bloody annoying and his hair is silky between Arthur's fingers and his tongue is positively wicked. Arthur's combat-fatigued body is shaking like a leaf and he thinks he might black out because he can't breathe, but he's not entirely certain that's a voluntary choice any more. Merlin digs his thumbs into Arthur's hips and Arthur throws his head back with a half-strangled yell, coming down Merlin's throat as his vision goes grey around the edges and his entire body goes limp. His injured knee buckles painfully and he collapses to the hard flagstones with a grunt. Merlin flails as he tries to keep Arthur's royal head from striking the floor as well, and they wind up in an ungainly heap on the cold stone.
They stay like that for a moment, catching their breath, until Merlin says with an insufferably smug grin, "I knew there was something wrong with your knee."
Arthur cuffs Merlin upside the back of his sanctimonious head and, the last of his energy spent, promptly passes out atop his manservant.
First Nimueh, now this. If Arthur had known that ridiculous hat would make Merlin irresistible to women, he would never have made him wear it.
The banquet that night is dull and boring and the long-winded rhetoric makes Arthur want to tear his hair out in frustration. So, no different from any of the others, really. At least, not until the pretty serving girl with the blond, curly hair and pouty mouth starts smiling at Merlin from across the room, and Merlin blushes. Arthur refrains from glaring daggers in her direction and settles for imperceptibly tightening his grip on his chalice.
Arthur steadfastly ignores both Merlin and the serving girl for the duration of the speeches, choosing instead to work on perfecting an expression that says, "I am carefully considering your alliance proposal," when really the only thing he's considering is whether to have the roast duck or venison for his first course. Halfway through the night, however, he makes the mistake of glancing in Merlin's direction and sees the girl standing next to him, her smile a little shier now but no less charming. She laughs at something Merlin says and gently touches his elbow, and Arthur sees red. He turns and smiles at the nobleman to his right, making pointless small talk and not calling Merlin over when his cup runs out. He measures his anger by how thirsty he gets before Merlin finally comes to refill it.
"Sorry, sorry!" Merlin apologizes profusely as he inelegantly sloshes wine into Arthur's chalice, staining the tablecloth.
Arthur frowns, a biting insult sharp on his tongue, but all he says is a casual, "Leave the flask on the table, Merlin. I can fill my own cup for the rest of the night. You're dismissed."
Merlin, to Arthur's puzzlement, looks hurt. "Sire?"
"Go enjoy the banquet, Merlin," Arthur orders dispassionately.
Merlin rapidly moves from hurt to confused. "Do you want me to attend to you this evening? In your chambers?"
Arthur raises an eyebrow consideringly, but keeps his expression carefully neutral as he replies, "Not tonight. I'll see you in the morning."
Merlin gives a faltering, pathetic little bow and mutters, "Uh. Thank you, sire," before he dashes off somewhere out of sight. Not that Arthur would have seen him leave anyway, because he spends the rest of the night very studiously cultivating his "politely and charmingly bored" façade and not looking for Merlin's face in the crowd, since it's probably off somewhere pressed up close to a head full of blonde, curly hair.
When Arthur gets back to his chambers, he's surprised to find Merlin is already there. As soon as Arthur enters, Merlin pops up out of the chair like it's made of hot coals. "You're mad at me," he states, fidgeting nervously.
After a moment's hesitation, Arthur replies, "Yes, I am. But seeing as how I've already told you how I feel about the sad state of my stables, I don't see the need to bring it up again."
Merlin goes from plaintive to annoyed in the blink of an eye. "Look, you don't have to be such a prat. You can just admit you're jealous."
Arthur laughs, long and loud. "Me, jealous? Of you? Hardly."
Merlin's eyes narrow. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."
Arthur rolls his eyes and unties his cloak, throwing it to the floor and watching Merlin's eyes track the cloth with barely concealed frustration, obviously thinking about how he'll just have to pick it up later. Arthur smirks. "Honestly, Merlin, I don't know where you get these wild ideas of yours."
Merlin's eyes flick back up to Arthur's, and there is a dangerous glint there. "Fine," Merlin says, voice clipped. "If you won't be needing my services tonight, sire, then maybe I'll go see if Eliya has need of them."
Arthur freezes where he stands at the mention of what is obviously her name. Merlin makes it five paces across the room before he is within Arthur's reach, and without conscious thought Arthur's hand reaches out to grab Merlin's elbow—the same elbow he'd seen Eliya touching earlier. Merlin's gaze is blazing dark with anger, but Arthur holds it, steadfast. They stay like that for interminable minutes, tension between them ratcheting up until it's palpable in the air around them, waiting to see who will break first. Arthur's skin grows so hot it feels like he's burning inside, and Merlin's breath is coming in short, harsh pants through his nose. Just when Arthur swears he won't be able to bear it another minute, Merlin wrenches his arm from Arthurs grasp and strides for the door. Arthur watches him go, defiant thoughts in his head of how Merlin doesn't mean it, he wouldn't go to her. But he also knows what Merlin's capable of when he's angry, and there's a chance, just to spite him…
Merlin's hand is on the latch when Arthur spins him around and slams him bodily against the door, crushing their mouths together. Merlin's hands fist in the sleeves of Arthur's tunic, and Arthur doesn't know if it's to push him away or pull him closer. Arthur's entire body lights up like he's bursting into flame. He can't seem to get close enough to Merlin, tearing at his clothes to reach the warm, soft skin beneath. Arthur bites Merlin's lips and wrenches himself away long enough to gasp out, "Is this what you wanted? Are you satisfied?"
Merlin smirks in apparent victory, the bastard, and grabs Arthur's ass, grinding their hips together. "Not the brightest prince in the Isles, are you?" he says, thrusting his obvious hardness against Arthur's thigh. "Does it feel like I'm satisfied?"
"Sarcastic arse," Arthur grunts, then pins Merlin's wrists over his head with one hand. With the other he practically rips open Merlin's breeches.
Merlin gasps as Arthur wraps a proprietary hand around his shaft, but he still manages to stutter out, "Be nice, or I might just go to Eliya after all."
Arthur grazes his teeth over the soft skin behind Merlin's ear. "You can try," he breathes darkly, tightening his grip on Merlin's wrists. Before Merlin can make another smart remark, Arthur pulls out his own cock and wraps his hand around both their lengths, and a desperate moan escapes from Merlin's throat. Arthur kisses him silent, stealing the breath from his lungs as their slick tongues battle, sloppy and uncoordinated. They're almost fully clothed aside from the few points of skin to skin contact, hot like pokers branding them where they touch. Merlin hitches one leg around Arthur's hips and begins rocking into Arthur's fist, wanton and needy, and Arthur has to resist the urge to just fly apart that instant. He presses his mouth against the shell of Merlin's ear and forces himself to sound smug and composed as he breathes, "Could Eliya do this for you? Could she take you apart with nothing but her bare hands until you're practically begging for it?"
Merlin is making high-pitched, hitching breaths in the back of his throat, and Arthur knows he's close. They're almost frantic now, bodies writhing against each other like a couple of coiled snakes. Arthur's ring catches on the head of his own cock and he sucks in a sharp breath through his teeth, biting his lip. That seems to be all Merlin needs, and with a low groan of Arthur's name, he spills warm and wet over Arthur's hand. It doesn't take much more before Arthur follows, losing himself in the explosive haze.
When he comes back to himself, he has apparently released Merlin's hands because they're now twined through his hair, and Merlin is kissing him so sweetly it makes his chest ache. Arthur's lips feel swollen and hot, but he doesn't stop kissing Merlin until the need for air becomes too great. He rests his forehead against Merlin's collarbone and concentrates on moving air in and out of his lungs. Merlin's fingers are threading idly through the hair at the nape of Arthur's neck when Merlin says, "You know I never would have actually gone to Eliya, right?"
Arthur considers it for a moment, then says, "Which is why I was never jealous." Merlin's answering snort ruffles the hair on the top of Arthur's head before Merlin pulls his face up to kiss him again, smiling and indulgent.
Arthur arches his back sharply, straining for more contact with Merlin's body above him. Come morning, Merlin will have five crescent-shaped bruises across the crown of each shoulder, but right now Arthur doesn't think he could let go if he tried. "What do you think you're doing?" Arthur's words are surprisingly breathless when he speaks, not the biting reprimand he'd intended.
Merlin's eyes stay fixed on Arthur, even as he slides another oil-slicked finger in alongside the first. "I'd have thought that would be obvious, even for you." There is a teasing smile on Merlin's face, and Arthur might make a comment about his manservant's tone, but then Merlin crooks his fingers and brushes something inside him and every nerve in Arthur's body explodes into life.
"Fuck, Merlin!" Arthur shouts, but it's more of a whimper.
"Not tonight," Merlin breathes smugly in Arthur's ear, and Arthur can feel Merlin's smile as their mouths meet, effectively silencing whatever token protest Arthur might have made. Merlin's kiss is hungry but gentle, and when his tongue demands entrance, Arthur willingly sucks it into his mouth. Arthur might moan a little, and Merlin gasps in response. He scissors his fingers and then there's no denying Arthur's deep groan, or the way he writhes into the stretch and burn.
When Arthur opens his eyes, he sees Merlin looking down at him with eyes darkened with want and something close to awe. "God, Arthur, I never thought—Look at you," he breathes, a hint of wonder coloring his words. "You really want this."
Arthur struggles to control the force of his breathing long enough to speak. "If you think that, you're thicker than you look," he bites out, but the broken rush of his words betrays him.
One corner of Merlin's mouth turns up, and he says, "Well, you're about to find out." With that, he pulls his fingers free, and Arthur is left desperate and empty for a moment while Merlin slicks up his cock. Then Arthur feels Merlin pushing in, slowly, oh so slowly, splitting him open and laying him bare, and Arthur's hands grip Merlin's hips like iron clamps. It takes a small eternity for Merlin to work his way fully inside, small rolling thrusts that make Arthur throw his head back and gasp. Every muscle in Arthur's body is tight as a bowstring, and he says Merlin's name like he's crying out for mercy.
Merlin touches his mouth to Arthur's, not a kiss so much as just breathing each other's air. "Let me," he says, soft and pleading and warm. "Arthur, let me—"
Something inside Arthur breaks, and he pulls Merlin close with a carnal groan. He wraps his legs tight around Merlin's waist and gives a hard thrust upward as he claims Merlin's mouth with a fierce kiss. His voice is almost feral as he growls a command against Merlin's lips. "Move."
Merlin, for once, doesn't need to be told twice. There's a power behind each rolling thrust that Arthur didn't know Merlin possessed, something deep and piercing that Arthur can feel bleeding into the air around them, into Arthur's bones, intense and revealing. Arthur lets it wash over him, lets go, lets Merlin in. He feels himself open to Merlin's fingernails in his scalp, Merlin's hot breath on his tongue, Merlin's stomach brushing hard against his cock. He gives Merlin everything he wants and more, using his body to speak the words he can't say. When Merlin comes, it's with a hitching breath, and something guarded uncoils in Arthur's belly, something he didn't even know was there. Arthur comes in a rush of warmth.
Arthur lies there after, feeling more than naked, and he swallows hard before he says, "I—I've never…"
"I know," Merlin says. "But you can, you know. With me."
And Arthur doesn't trust himself to speak, so he doesn't say anything.
The moment Arthur stomps into his chambers, he throws his sword across the room. It strikes the flagstones with a resounding clatter which does nothing to drown out the echo of his father's words in his ears.
Too trusting. Too impulsive. A king cannot make decisions based on a whim!
He hears Merlin burst into the room sharp on Arthur's heels. "Don't listen to him," Merlin says, commanding, always so sure of himself. He never did learn how to be a proper servant.
"He's right," Arthur admits through gritted teeth. "I should never have let them go. Now there's a sorcerer out there somewhere, and I'm to blame!"
"You believe in the goodness of people, Arthur. That's not a fault!" Merlin's eyes bore into Arthur's, shining with the strength of his convictions, his certainty. Arthur has to turn away, and he hates himself for his own weakness.
Gazing out the window of his chambers, Arthur gives a dry, humorless laugh. "Tell that to my father."
They stay like that for long minutes, silent, and then Arthur feels Merlin's hand on his shoulder. "You will be a good king, Arthur." It's stated like a fact, irrefutable, and not for the first time, Arthur wishes he could have that same confidence. Arthur stares at the kingdom below him, feeling the weight of decisions he has yet to make.
"How can you know?" Arthur asks. It doesn't come out sounding even half as condescending as he would have liked.
"Because I know you, and you're a good man, Arthur." The words are said with such assurance that Arthur can't help but be encouraged. Sometimes Arthur wonders what he would do without Merlin's unflinching faith to bolster his own doubt. As if sensing his thoughts, Merlin continues, "And because I'll be there with you." The hand on Arthur's shoulder tightens, and perhaps it's Arthur's imagination, but he feels some of the weight on his shoulders lift. "Always."
Arthur awakes in the morning to find the sheets beside him warm but empty. Still groggy with sleep, he squints into the darkness to find Merlin at the window, the shutter open a crack to let in a thin shaft of dawn's rosy light. He stares for a moment, taking in how the pink and gold light makes Merlin's pale skin practically glow.
Against his better judgment, Arthur steps out of the warm bed and pads drowsily across the icy flagstones. He wraps his arms around Merlin from behind and rests his chin on Merlin's shoulder, welcoming Merlin's warmth against his body even though Arthur's feet are still freezing. Merlin just leans back against Arthur's chest as he says, "Sorry, didn't mean to wake you. I know how grumpy you get if you have to wake up before breakfast is ready."
"Mmm, s'alright," Arthur mumbles sleepily into the curve of Merlin's neck. His next words are muffled and barely audible into the skin of Merlin's shoulder. "Love you." He thinks he might be half-dozing as he says them, but once they're out, they feel right, and something comfortable settles in his chest.
"I know," Merlin replies, and Arthur can hear the way his smile brightens his voice, like the warm sunlight still breaking over the horizon.
Arthur frowns and lifts his head to look at Merlin. "How can you know that? I didn't even know that until a moment ago."
Merlin rolls his eyes and turns to fix Arthur with the kind of indulgent smile one might give a dimwitted child. "Because, I love you too, you prat," he answers, then presses his lips to Arthur's in a soft kiss. Arthur can feel the sun's rays on their skin, lighting them up, and Arthur has the foolishly sentimental thought that the golden light on their skin pales in comparison to the glow in their hearts.
Arthur, being the magnanimous prince, decides that if Merlin insists on figuring out Arthur's secrets, then he's rather fine with that. Although, really, it's not quite fair that Merlin should know all of Arthur's secrets, and Arthur not know any of Merlin's. Perhaps, in time, Arthur will discover Merlin's secrets as well.
Arthur has to stifle a laugh at that. Merlin's practically an open book. He couldn't even tell a convincing lie to get himself out of the stocks. Merlin keeping secrets? That's about the most ridiculous thing Arthur's ever heard.