Winner Takes All

Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
 
Category: Humour, fluff, gift-fic
 
Rating: NC17
 
Summary: Merlin's plans to help Arthur take a turn for the strange.
 
Notes: This was done for Oxoniensis's birthday.
 
Thanks to Nora_Charles for a quick read through and helpful comments and to Nicci_mac for cheering me on.

The shadows of four men stood in the field as the sun touched the horizon. They all looked tired, but every last one of them held their heads high.

Merlin sighed heavily. The past four days were beginning to take their toll on him as well. Watching this competition was... well, watching it would be harrying enough, watching it and tending to one of the contestants was worse.

With the sun setting, the competition would be broken off, the following day would be a day of rest and then they would continue for another number of days. It would depend on how fast the constants were thrown out of the game.

Of course there was the feast that night as well and Merlin didn't feel guilty about having applied magic to get everything ready for Arthur. He had only left the field of contest a few times since they had begun.

Uther stood from his seat and held up his hand. "Today's tests have left us with four strong contestants."

Merlin wondered if Uther was proud of Arthur, who was thankfully among the four. It wouldn't be fitting for the heir of Camelot to not be among the best. There had been talk of Arthur nearly losing, but Merlin hadn't been there, running one of his quick errands for Arthur. He was thankful that he hadn't witnessed it, it but he wasn't sure how he'd have felt if Arthur had lost the moment he had left the field.

Respectfully Merlin waited as Uther called out the names of the four men left and he thought, for a moment, there was something besides pride in his voice when he called out Arthur's name. Something not good.

The four men bowed deeply and more than one of them looked a little unsteady. They were all tired and Merlin couldn't help but crack a smile as he watched the stiff set of Arthur's shoulders.

They wouldn't catch Arthur stumbling like that.

Someone next to Merlin cleared his throat and Merlin was pulled back from his focus on Arthur. It had been happening a lot lately, that he'd focus so much on something that people could talk to him without him noticing. He wasn't fond of examining why most of those situations involved Arthur.

One of the pages was standing next to Merlin. "Yes?" Merlin said. He wasn't sure where he'd seen the young boy before, but he figured he was one of Uther's personal servants.

"The King wishes for his son to join him right away in his chambers."

Merlin blinked. "Surely he'll be allowed to remove his armour first and have a change of clothes?" Merlin asked. He'd never understand the dynamics between Uther and Arthur. Maybe it was because he hadn't known his own father, but he doubted that very much.

The boy shook his head. "The King said right away."

Merlin took a deep breath. "I'll tell him," he said. He was sure Arthur wouldn't be too pleased with it. He was fairly sure that Arthur would be wanting nothing more than the hot bath Merlin had made sure was ready in his chambers and then the food of the night's banquet.

Good thing he was used to the verbal abuse from Arthur, because Merlin couldn't see this ending in anything but tears. Not literally of course. Arthur was crown prince of Camelot, after all.

The boy bowed his head quickly and headed back from where he'd come.

Merlin growled low under his breath and ran fingers through his damp hair. Brilliant. The contestants were heading off the field and Arthur looked as if he would drop the second he was out of the eye of the public.

Taking the shield from Arthur as he walked past, Merlin followed. Might as well get it over with, he thought. "Your father requests your presence immediately," Merlin said.

Arthur might have groaned, but he coughed to hide it. "Merlin, my father never requests anything, he demands. Can't I at least get out of the armour first?"

Merlin sighed. "I don't think so, but if we're fast, I think I can at least get the plate armour off as we walk."

Arthur snorted. "Moving and undoing my armour at the same time?" He laughed. "Don't hurt yourself."

Smiling a little, Merlin hefted the shield and undid the pauldrons, deftly manipulating his magic to balance his growing armload, eyes downcast as he worked quickly, removing sword belt and vambraces. The end result was Arthur walking along with the hauberk and shin protectors as the only thing left of his armour.

Arthur cast him a quick glance and a shadow of a grin. "Not bad," he said, completely lacking the sarcasm that normally coated his praise for Merlin.

"Best not keep you father waiting, Sire," Merlin said with a small grin. "And keeping a bit of armour on, might not be a bad idea either."

A warning raise of the eyebrows from Arthur was ruined by the humour in his eyes. "Best care not to let that tongue of yours get you into trouble, Merlin. Unless you miss being in the stocks."

Merlin bowed his head, but couldn't help the grin spreading on his face.

"I expect a bath when I get back," Arthur warned him as he headed off.

"If you must," Merlin said, trying to sound put upon, but his mood was oddly lifted from his brief moments with Arthur.

"Oh, I must," Arthur growled and rolled his eyes. "I cannot, unlike you, get away with stinking like a goat."

It was Merlin's turn to roll his eyes, but he still grinned as he turned away to head toward Arthur's chambers. He'd take care of the armour while heating up the bath and he'd have it all ready for Arthur's return.

A little judicious use of magic and Merlin was able to get a good grip on his armload. He quickly made his way to Arthur chambers and hummed to himself as he put the armour down on the floor.

A flick of the wrist and rush of magic through his veins, and the bath was steaming. The fire in the fireplace roared to life as well. Although the spring days were quite warm, the nights still carried more than a little of the winter's chill.

Merlin began sorting through Arthur's armour, lining the pieces up in order of how dented they were. It would take ages to get all the dents out if he had to do it by hand, but he could get away with mending a few of the worst ones with magic. It wouldn't do to be too efficient. The last time he'd completely removed every trace of a dent, Arthur had watched him like a hawk, and Merlin had realized it might be a good idea to work in a little shoddy work here and there.

It also gave Arthur something to complain about, which he seemed to be enjoying.

Thankfully, when the door burst open, Merlin had just put one piece of armour down, so he wasn't caught in the act. Although he wasn't sure that Arthur would have noticed even if he had had pieces of the armour dancing around his head.

When Arthur had left the field, he had been tired, but in a good mood. The latter had disappeared, obviously, because Arthur's jaw was set in a stubborn, angry line and he looked like he might kill the next idiot to cross his path.

Merlin would have been worried if he'd actually ever feared Arthur. Which he hadn't.

Arthur stopped in the middle of the room, standing there, breathing heavily, obviously trying to rein his temper.

Quietly setting the armour aside, Merlin walked over to the wooden doors and closed them. He wasn't sure if Arthur might have a hissy-fit or something, but leaving the door open for all and sundry to watch him doing so probably should be avoided.

He turned around to find Arthur watching him with dark eyes. "There are days where I think defeating the world wouldn't be enough to gain my father's favour," he said harshly.

Merlin opened his mouth to ask what had happened, but a small noise from Arthur warned him. He wanted to know what had happened, but he thought he might hazard a guess. Uther's expectations, when it came to his son, were at times of mythological proportions and would have broken a lesser man than Arthur.

There were days when Merlin had to wonder if one day Arthur might not be strong enough. Arthur had a temper which would flare and die quickly, but his father seemed to have a knack for pushing him over the edge more often than not.

Walking slowly over to Arthur, Merlin kept his eyes firmly on Arthur's. He wouldn't dream of challenging Arthur in any way when he was like this, but he was not going to cower before him either.

Merlin took a hold of Arthur's hauberk and eased it up and off Arthur when the he lifted his arms. For a moment Merlin almost felt lighter for not having Arthur's gaze on him. He turned away and put the hauberk over the back of a chair. As he turned back, he was shoulder to shoulder with Arthur and he couldn't help but look him in the eyes again.

Arthur almost seemed to be leaning into him and Merlin steadied himself, letting him. Arthur would never admit to needing help, but Merlin would offer it nevertheless, as sneakily as he could.

"My father certainly knows how to take the fun out of everything," Arthur mumbled and it seemed like his anger was already fading, leaving behind a tired slur in his voice.

"I take it he had some criticism on your performance today," Merlin said quietly as he steadied Arthur and began relieving him of the rest of his padding and clothes.

Arthur snorted as he lifted his feet, slowly, one after the other as if they were heavy with lead, to let Merlin pull his boots off. "You might say that, since I had a bit of a mishap mid-contest today. I thought you'd noticed."

"I heard," Merlin said as he scrunched up his nose. He didn't mind the smell of sweat on Arthur, but his boots after a full day in the field? A harrowing experience. "I was running errands for you, making sure there would be a hot bath for you when you returned."

"And for that, I'll forgive you for not being down there to cheer for me," Arthur said, some of his mirth finally returning to his voice. When Merlin divested him of the last of his clothes, Arthur was leaning heavily on him. "Stay here while I bathe," Arthur said. "I fear I might fall asleep the moment I'm in the water."

Merlin chuckled. "Can't have the crown prince drowning himself in the bath," he said. Merlin felt Arthur's body tensing against him.

"Is that all you see me as?" Arthur asked, his voice harsh and the mirth gone. He reached up and gripped Merlin's shoulder, squeezing it hard enough to make Merlin wince.

Arthur quickly loosened his grip. Running a hand down his face, Arthur turned his head away. Merlin finally realized that if he stepped aside, Arthur would probably collapse in a heap on the floor.

"I'm sorry," they said in unison.

Arthur smiled and Merlin was almost tempted to label it as shyly, if, of course, Arthur did shy. Which he didn't. Ever.

They stood close, still leaning shoulder to shoulder, arms hanging loosely at their sides and their hands brushing. Merlin could see Arthur swallowing hard. "You mentioned a bath?" Arthur finally managed to get out.

Merlin cleared his throat. "Yes, and I'll make sure you don't fall asleep and that you're dressed in time for the banquet."

Arthur groaned at the mention and Merlin almost felt sorry for him not being able to just go to bed after his bath.

"Come on," Merlin coaxed and let Arthur lean on his arm while climbing into the bath. He managed to not look too closely at Arthur's naked body. There were bruises forming on arms, legs and shoulders and Merlin knew he'd have to rub Arthur down with the oil Gaius made for the knights, for sore muscles and bruises.

In the beginning of his time as Arthur's servant, Merlin had had a lot of trouble not reacting to touching and seeing Arthur naked, but Arthur had never seemed to notice and if he had, he hadn't ever mentioned it. These days, Merlin had a little more self-control. Thankfully.

On the other hand, there was plenty of material for his nights alone in bed. He wasn't too proud to admit he occasionally used Arthur that way. Even if, as time passed, he'd grown to sort of like the prat. His dreams were his own and he couldn't be held accountable for those.

The noise escaping Arthur, a throaty moan, would be enough to fuel more than one night for Merlin, that was a given. Merlin turned away and hid a smile. Making sure that Arthur had a hot bath was not the only errand Merlin had taken care of for the sake of his wellbeing.

He took out one of Arthur's goblets and poured water into it. He pulled out a small flash from his pocket and poured the content into the water. Bringing the drink over to Arthur, Merlin waited for a moment until Arthur took notice of him.

"Drink this," he said. "Gaius didn't exactly give it to me, but I know what it does." Actually, Merlin had found it in the back of a shelf and according to the description on the small tag, it would invigorate the body of the one ingesting it.

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure it's safe?"

"It's supposed to be invigorating," Merlin explained. "Quite frankly, you look like you could use it to get through the banquet."

Arthur stared up at him, eyes more than a little red and bleary. "If it's from Gaius, it's probably safe... if it turns me into a toad or even worse, a girl, I'll have your hide for this," Arthur warned, his mood obviously brightening a little.

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Don't worry; if it works it will make it easier for you to get through tonight without falling asleep halfway through the main course."

Arthur sighed. "If I did that, my father would just have another reason to berate me, I guess." With that he took the goblet and drank the content. He made a face and gave it back to Merlin. "Definitely tastes like one of Gaius' concoctions. Like fermented, overripe berries."

"Well, something good doesn't necessarily taste pleasantly," Merlin agreed and put the goblet on the table. He went and put away the parts of the armour he'd finished and took out Arthur's clothes for the feast. He put the towel as close to the fire as he dared, to warm it up, and then sat down to polish the rest of the armour.

He kept an eye on Arthur, smiling a little as he took in the peaceful look on his face. Merlin could admit to himself that Arthur was rather handsome, pretty even, though he'd never say that to Arthur, who'd take it as a personal insult to his manliness. On second thought, Merlin might keep that in mind for the next time he needed a good insult to aim at Arthur.

After a while, Merlin finally put the rest of the armour aside and stood to get the now warm towel. Walking over to the bathtub, Merlin nudged Arthur's shoulder. "Time to get up," he said. "Can't keep the court waiting."

"Oh do shut up," Arthur grumbled but there was no anger behind it, nor did Arthur's voice sound quite as tired as before.

"Is it working?" Merlin asked curiously. He really had to wonder why Gaius would hide such a thing in the back of a shelf. Then again, the man was getting on in years and quite possibly, he'd forgotten he'd even put it there in the first place.

Arthur managed to rise to his feet and climb out of the bath unaided. "A little, I think," Arthur said as he stood still to let Merlin dry him off. Merlin bit his lower lip as he reached around Arthur's waist to dry Arthur's crotch. A hand intercepted him and Arthur took the towel from him, although Arthur's hand lingered for a moment longer than Merlin thought was necessary on top of his. "Get the oil; my shoulders are going to go stiff and useless without it."

Merlin let out a quiet breath. An Arthur fresh out of the bath at least didn't hit him quite as hard as a nice and sweaty one and it wasn't as if he'd never done this for him before. Grabbing the bottle from a shelf, Merlin returned to Arthur's side and waited for him to wrap the big towel around his waist.

Arthur's skin was hot under his hands and Merlin forced himself to focus on his task. It was a chore like any other. Banging out the dents in Arthur's armour, tidying up after him, dressing him, undressing... Merlin stopped his thoughts from going any further and tried to keep his mind clear as he rubbed the oil into Arthur's muscles, careful to not put too much pressure on the darkest of the bruises.

When neck, shoulders and lower back were done, Merlin knelt on the floor and worked Arthur's calves, then reached up under the towel to rub at the hard muscles of Arthur's thighs.

When he looked up for a moment, Merlin paused, his hands flat against the warm skin at the back of Arthur's knees. Arthur was looking back over his shoulder and down at him, with the most peculiar look in his eyes.

Merlin blinked and shook his head. "We'd better hurry," he said, quickly standing and stepping back from Arthur, almost falling on his arse in his rush to put a few feet between them. Clearing his throat, Merlin went over to the bed where he had laid out Arthur's clothes. He looked down at them and then dried his hands off in the sheets.

Arthur was staring out the window when Merlin managed to turn around again.

For once Merlin kept his eyes to himself as he dressed Arthur and Arthur made it easier for him, body moving to aid instead of obstruct or even just stand there as he normally did.

If Arthur had a bit of an erection, Merlin put it down to the massage. It wouldn't be the first time and as Arthur never mentioned Merlin's little problem, Merlin did not find it proper to mention Arthur's.

Not that it was little. Neither problem. Merlin bit the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning widely.

"You can forego the hat tonight," Arthur said quietly. "But I want you in the livery."

Merlin let out a small sigh of relief. He really hated that hat.

"If you don't tend to me properly tonight, however," Arthur said, turning to smirk at Merlin, "you'll be wearing it permanently, every day of the year."

Merlin stopped on his way to the door. Turning around, he watched Arthur watching him in turn.

"Best hurry, or you'll be late," Arthur warned, wetting his lips, before turning to pour himself a drink of water.

"Sire," Merlin said, lacing the word with as much sarcasm as he could. He heard Arthur's chuckle, before he hurried out the door and back to his own room.

"Bloody prat," Merlin muttered with a small smile as he hurried through Gaius' room to his own. A quick brush of magic and the livery was a clean as ever and crease free, too. He hurriedly dressed and tried to get his hair to behave. At least he wasn't forced to wear the hat.

Yet.

Merlin made it to the great hall just in time. He'd run the last of the way and he was trying to calm his breathing as he grabbed the right flagon of wine and headed along the wall to stand behind Arthur.

The only sign that Arthur had noticed him was a flick of the hand and Merlin stepped forward to fill his goblet. When he leaned forward, Arthur leaned back and Merlin held his breath as he poured, Arthur's shoulder lightly pressing against his chest. He was sure he could feel Arthur's heat through every layer of clothes between them.

If he felt a little flushed, Merlin put it down to his rush to get there in time. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Arthur's smirk or the scent of a clean Arthur mixed with the slightly spicy tang of the oil.

Merlin stepped back from Arthur as soon as the goblet was filled. He ended up backing into the wall right next to Gwen, who eyed him with a raised eyebrow. Merlin managed to find a suitably simple smile for her.

The evening and half the night dragged on and Merlin stifled yet another yawn. Arthur didn't look like he was going to tire anytime soon, constantly talking to this or that nobleman or woman, gesturing all the while.

Merlin was beginning to regret having given Arthur that drink earlier. It was obviously far too invigorating. And what had he been thinking? It had been old and dusty and its content had probably fermented over the years.

"Meeeerlin." Arthur leaned against the wall next to him, a smirk on his face.

Frowning at Arthur, Merlin realized that he hadn't noticed him getting up from his seat. Come to think of it, he hadn't noticed most the guests having left already.

"Yes?" Merlin finally found enough of his brain not asleep to answer Arthur.

"Everyone's being boring and heading off to bed," Arthur said, his eyes bright in a way that Merlin found slightly disturbing. "You're not tired, are you?" Arthur said, looking like a little puppy begging for attention.

"Well, of course not, sire," Merlin said, not even bothering to keep the sarcasm out of his voice. "I can go on forever, even though I've been busy tending to your needs all day."

The risk of sarcasm was, as Merlin realized, Arthur taking his words literally. The brightness of the smile lighting up Arthur's face tore Merlin between feeling stupidly strange and the darkest kind of dread possible.

Merlin lost track of his thoughts for a moment as Arthur more or less dragged him through the castle, his red cape whipping around his legs as he walked. Merlin wasn't sure if he'd ever felt so clumsy in his life. He was tired to the bone and yet there he was, running headlong through darkened, quiet hallways of Camelot, up stairs that Merlin was sure would be the death of him.

Until Arthur burst through a door and pulled him out onto the rampart. They were, as far as Merlin could judge, about as far up as they could get. And the view was amazing.

Arthur nodded at the guard and to Merlin's surprise, the man half bowed and left them through the same door. And he wasn't giving them looks, not at all. And if he was, Merlin was determined to ignore him.

Merlin was drawn from his contemplations regarding the sort of rumours he just knew would be running rampant through Camelot after this. Although, they would possibly just be footnotes added to the already extensive list that he knew the servants had on him. Quite frankly, they weren't as quiet with their tittering and gossiping as they thought they were.

If half of it were to be believed, he'd have to be the one ingesting the liquid he'd given Arthur earlier to keep up with what the rumours claimed he and Arthur were doing.

"Look," Arthur said, pulling Merlin over to the edge, pointing out over Camelot. "Isn't she beautiful?"

Merlin allowed himself a small, tired smile. Below them, Camelot lay with firelight twinkling in the dark night. Yes, the city was beautiful, but he wasn't looking. As tired as he was from the day's work, and as slightly annoyed he was with Arthur dragging him around like he was a child's rag doll, he couldn't take his eyes off Arthur. The torches on the rampart were just enough for him to see Arthur's face, the smile gracing his face. Enough to highlight parts and cast other features into darkness.

Arthur's smile turned into something Merlin didn't have words for. No longer as wide, it now held something more, something Merlin thought almost looked a little predatory.

When Arthur leaned in close, his hand still on Merlin's wrist, Merlin was forced make that a lot predatory.

They were so close that Merlin could feel Arthur's breath bursting hot against his lips. He could smell the honeyed mead that Arthur had drunk earlier and he was most certainly not wondering if he would be able to taste it too.

A cool night breeze ruffled their hair and Merlin blinked in sleepy confusion when Arthur suddenly pulled back, the manic grin back on his face.

"Oh no," Merlin muttered to himself and off they went, Arthur dragging him by his wrist back in through the door, a quick nod at the guard who went back to take his place. At this rate, Merlin was going to fall asleep on his feet and end up being manhandled through the castle till the morning sun bathed Camelot in its glow. Possibly, with his luck, or lack thereof when it came to Arthur, even longer.

From the higher parts of the castle, Arthur towed Merlin down to the deeper dungeons, slipping into small, dusty and cobweb filled passages. Arthur had grabbed a torch before they had left the main dungeon and Merlin watched some of the cobwebs burning, wondering how the spiders felt about such a violation.

Eventually, they stepped into a room where no one had obviously been for ages, the dust thick on the ground.

Arthur turned around and held the torch away with one hand, while pulling Merlin close with the other. "I used to hide down here," Arthur confided in a low voice. "Whenever I was in trouble, I'd find my way down here and I wouldn't come out for ages." His face was flushed and the smile on his lips made Merlin strangely dizzy.

Still, he wondered why Arthur was showing him all these things. "Why are we whispering?" Merlin asked, his voice as low as Arthur's had been.

Arthur blinked rapidly then shrugged. "I never thought about that," he replied. "It just feels right."

Merlin closed his eyes for a moment, a small smile on his face. He liked that and he understood it.

When he opened them again, Arthur was so close to him that Merlin couldn't breathe. "Arthur," he said, barely audible, drowned out by the rushing sound in his ears.

Arthur stepped back a little and shook his head as if to clear it, but before Merlin could ask if he was all right, Arthur's grip tightened and he led Merlin back out of the small room.

Merlin, in turn, wished he were a little more awake, because there was definitely something about these things Arthur seemed dead set on sharing with him.

The cool night air chased a little of the sleepiness away and Merlin began paying attention to where they were going. In front of him, still towing him along, was Arthur, disposing of the torch before heading toward the narrow path that led down into the garden, an area that Merlin seldom visited as it was reserved for the nobles. He'd been there a twice with Morgana and Gwen, when the women had requested he join them for a walk.

It wasn't something Merlin missed. The gardens were a little too trimmed for his liking. Where the forest had a wildness to it, a touch of its own magic, the gardens felt subdued, although very pretty.

Where Arthur was going, Merlin had absolutely no idea. And before long, Merlin lost track of where they were, though Arthur seemed to know perfectly well where they were going. Even if, once or twice, he'd stopped, unsure, before once again going off in one direction or the other.

Arthur made a small, pleased noise and Merlin winced as his arm was almost wrenched from its socket when Arthur found what he was looking for. They were far from the entrance of the gardens and there wasn't much light but for the moon high above them and even less so, when Arthur ducked through some low hanging branches.

In fact, the canopy was thick enough to keep most of the light out, the branches hanging all the way down to the ground. As Merlin's eyes adjusted to the lack of light, Arthur had finally let go of him and was standing at the tree's trunk, palm of his hand flat against the bark.

Merlin wanted to ask, half in jest, if this was yet another of Arthur's old hideouts, but he felt reluctant to break the silence. If the rest of the gardens felt as if they had very little magic in them, then this place was almost saturated in comparison.

Arthur turned from the tree and seemed to be looking at Merlin. It was hard to tell without any light and although Merlin's eyes had adjusted better than most people's would, he couldn't make out Arthur's expression.

For a moment it looked like Arthur was going to reach for him again, then he tilted his head back and looked up into the dark canopy.

To Merlin's surprise, Arthur suddenly reached up and jumped, catching hold of one of the lower branches. Swinging lightly back and forth, Arthur cleared his throat.

"I used to hide here too," he admitted. "My mother had this part of the garden rearranged. Someone..." Arthur trailed off for a moment.

Merlin stepped forward and stood right in front of Arthur, his eyes level with Arthur's abdomen. He wasn't sure what to do or say, but he was fighting to stay as alert as he could. It seemed that everything that escaped Arthur's lips tonight, was important.

"Someone told me that she had this tree planted when she learned that she was pregnant with me." Arthur's voice was low and a little rough. "She wanted this tree to grow as I did."

Finally, Merlin reached out and put his hands lightly on Arthur's hips, stopping his gentle swinging back and forth. He stood still as Arthur let go and dropped to stand in front of him, his arms coming to a natural rest around Merlin's neck and shoulders.

"I first heard that when I was nine and I kept coming here at night, when I couldn't sleep... whenever I could escape the guards..." Arthur trailed off, his breath, as he spoke, warm against Merlin's face.

Merlin stayed quiet, not wanting Arthur to stop.

"Merlin?" Arthur's voice was barely even a whisper.

"Yes?" Merlin rubbed the tips of his fingers nervously against the soft texture of Arthur's shirt. He wasn't sure what Arthur was doing.

"I'm going to kiss you now," Arthur told him in a very serious voice before he closed that last little inch between them, holding onto Merlin, almost as if he was afraid of Merlin running away.

Nothing could be farther from Merlin's mind.

Arthur's lips were firmly pressed against his and Merlin closed his eyes, breathing deeply in through his nose. Clutching at Arthur's shirt, Merlin cocked his head to the side and parted his lips lightly, just to fit them better against Arthur's.

The sound that escaped Arthur shot through Merlin, making his blood boil and his body react so fast he felt dizzy with it.

Arthur slid one hand down over Merlin's back, leaving it to rest on the small of Merlin's back. A gentle pressure and Merlin pushed against Arthur, who in turn was moving against him, touching and kissing him in ways that completely blew away Merlin's ability to form any coherent thought.

When Arthur tried to push Merlin's shirt up, the cool air burst against his heated skin and he managed to dredge up a little self-control, stilling Arthur's roaming hands.

"Arthur, not here," he whispered. Even if few went this far into the gardens, especially at night, there were bound to be guards on the walls close enough to hear them if they carried on.

It took more than one try on Arthur's part to stop, his hands constantly straying to Merlin's hips, arse, arms, chest, generally anything he could reach. "My chambers," Arthur breathed out, lips back against Merlin's.

All Merlin could focus on now was getting them there. If he could just get Arthur to follow that idea, the rest would be easy. Once Arthur was set on it, they would get from where they were to Arthur's chambers in as short a time as possible. Arthur might occasionally be a prat, but he was pretty good with strategy and logistics.

"Arthur, bed!" Merlin whispered hotly when he was finally able to use his lips for something not involving Arthur's. "I mean it," he said, trying not to laugh, feeling almost high as Arthur's touch continued to arouse his body.

"Oh, all right," Arthur grumbled, but he was finally doing what Merlin had told him to. "Let's not dawdle," Arthur said and Merlin could've sworn he saw those white teeth gleaming in the dark.

Merlin was beginning to wonder if he might just be in over his head. Arthur grabbing his arse before dragging him off out into the garden made him grin, though. He wasn't exactly alone.

This time Merlin wasn't being dragged, if anything, he kept pace with Arthur as they sometimes ran, sometimes snuck around corners, avoiding guards.

For the time being, Merlin didn't even much feel his tiredness. It was as if he had moved one step beyond it, his body almost on a high with the thought of Arthur taking him to his chambers, not to mention, everything that Arthur had shown him tonight, what he'd allowed Merlin to see through his eyes.

There was no light in the room, but Arthur was three steps ahead of Merlin and two of the larger candles were quickly lit. When Merlin closed the door behind him, he was grabbed from behind, pressed back against Arthur's front.

"I need to see you," Arthur muttered almost frantically into his ear. Then Merlin was spun around, nearly falling over his own feet. Not that he'd have fallen far, because Arthur hadn't let go of him.

Merlin drew his breath in a little harshly as Arthur cupped his face and held him still and kissed him fully on the lips. Maybe Arthur had meant the kiss to be gentle, but they managed to twist it into something much darker, hotter and by far more exhilarating.

Merlin slid his hands down over Arthur's shoulders and back. Arthur reacted promptly by backing Merlin up against the door and halfway lifting him off the floor while doing his level best to drive him out if his mind by the cunning use of his tongue in Merlin's mouth, and by grinding Merlin back against the woodwork.

Arthur's strong hands cupped Merlin's arse, lifting and urging him to wrap his legs around his waist. For once Merlin happily did as Arthur wanted him to, and he kept his arms tightly around Arthur's neck and shoulders, fingers buried in Arthur's hair.

The world seemed to tilt for a moment, then Merlin found himself only supported by Arthur's hold on him. Arthur staggered back from the wall and turned to make his way, zigzagging across the room.

Merlin broke the kiss to catch his bearings. He groaned as Arthur moaned his discontent and started sucking on Merlin's exposed neck instead.

They bumped against something and Merlin ended up with his arse on the table. As Arthur tried to push him down on it, the first thing that crossed Merlin's mind was that it was a good thing the table had been cleared earlier or they would've had a bit of a mess. Second thing to flash through his mind was...

"Arthur, damn it," Merlin groaned as Arthur's teeth grazed his neck. "Bed, Arthur, you are not having me on the bloody table."

Arthur pulled back a little, staring at him, eyes wide with need. "I get to have you?" he asked, lips glistering in the low light from the candles.

"I thought that was the idea," Merlin said, tilting his head to kiss Arthur again. For a moment the world stood still, then Merlin, much to his amusement was lifted again and Arthur started the unsteady quest for the bedroom.

There was no light there, and after Arthur had pressed him up against the archway for a long, slow kiss, he stumbled into the bedchamber.

Merlin pressed his mouth against Arthur's ear, trying not to pant too loudly as Arthur bit into the tendon where his neck and shoulder met. If not for a moment of insane luck, Merlin wouldn't have seen the footstool.

Without thinking about it, Merlin pushed it out of the way with his magic. Arthur stiffened against him, but before Merlin could worry about Arthur having noticed, the prince groaned long and deep.

"What did you just do?" Arthur panted into his ear. "It... you... it's like you were vibrating for a moment."

Merlin flushed. Maybe they shouldn't, or maybe it was about time...

Arthur dumping him on the bed stopped Merlin's thoughts right there. Looming over him for a moment, Arthur just stood there, stock still. Then, without warning, Merlin found his shirt being pulled up over his head and off and his breeches were pushed down and off his legs. It was the kind of efficiency he'd never managed when dressing or undressing Arthur.

Before Merlin could even think about undressing Arthur, the man was on top of him, naked as well, and once they were skin to skin, Merlin found it impossible to string any thoughts together. All he could think about and all he cared about, was Arthur's skin, Arthur touching him, kissing him and pressing down against him.

Merlin moaned around Arthur's tongue as their cocks slid together, the heat between them almost unreal.

It was a good thing that Arthur's bed was a lot softer than his own, because the way Arthur was humping him, Merlin would've been left with a black and blue arse and back. As it was, Merlin just hung onto Arthur, letting Arthur take the lead.

Which turned out not to be one of the best ideas he's ever had.

Arthur groaned with his climax and whimpered into Merlin's ear as he collapsed on top of him. Merlin, at first, didn't notice because he was so caught up in it all, then when Arthur stopped moving, he was forced to slow his own writhing under the heavy body.

"No..." Merlin said quietly.

The snoring next to his ear told him otherwise and Merlin closed his eyes, torn between cursing Arthur's lineage and crying because he was left hanging. It had been so good. With a well placed swear, Merlin dug his fingers into Arthur's arse and arched up as much as he could, once, twice more, and then his own frustrated release flooded out of him.

Panting not only from the strain, but from breathing with the heavy weight on top of him, Merlin closed his eyes for a moment. He needed to push Arthur off him, but he had to catch his breath first.

Unfortunately, he didn't open his eyes again until much later.

The first thing that Merlin noticed was how warm he was. The second thing was something wet and soft moving along his neck and down over his collarbones. Merlin smiled, glad for once to have such a nice dream...

His eyes flew open when warm fingers curled around his morning erection and a dirty chuckle filled his ears.

"Good morning," Arthur breathed into his ear as he licked along the shell of it. "Really, Merlin, you have the most ridiculous ears."

Merlin squirmed, grinning stupidly to himself. "You seem to be a little obsessed with them, though," he shot back, running his hand up along Arthur's arm, enjoying the play of muscles under the skin. Not that he was going to tell Arthur that he was nice and muscly. Really. The man's ego was big enough as it was.

"I seem to remember something about taking last night," Arthur mumbled into his ear and Merlin felt his body flush at the thought.

"You fell asleep before you even got that far, hell," Merlin mock-whined. "You fell asleep and left me hanging."

"Aw, poooooor little Merlin," Arthur purred, his voice making all the little hairs on Merlin's body rise. "I think you'll find I'll be compensating for that today," he continued. "You're not leaving this bed unless it's to get us food today. And even then you are to be swifter than ever."

Merlin shuddered, moaning as Arthur continued his onslaught.

"You're not half as skinny as I thought you'd be," Arthur mumbled, kissing his way down over Merlin's neck again. Merlin wondered if he had a bit of a fetish when it came to his neck.

"I never claimed to be skinny," Merlin gasped as Arthur stroked his cock a little harder.

"Good thing too," Arthur muttered, biting lightly at a nipple, making Merlin shake a little harder. "You'll need stamina for this," he continued, almost as a second thought.

"St-stamina," Merlin repeated.

"Yes, you have to start eating better," Arthur scolded. "We're doing this as often as possible, and I can't have you collapsing on me."

"Like you did last night on me?" Merlin scoffed.

Arthur leaned up, looking down at Merlin, his hand stilling on Merlin's cock. Shaking his head, Arthur kissed Merlin again and quite frankly, Merlin had already halfway forgiven him, water under the bridge and all that, because a fully awake Arthur was so much more fun and a hell of a lot more focused in bed.

Merlin reached down to curl his fingers around Arthur's cock, mirroring his hold.

Arthur pulled back, looking him in the eyes, then a careless grin formed on his lips and Merlin reached up with his free hand to pull him down for another kiss.

The End