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What Infinite Heart's Ease - Part 3c

Arthur spurred the horse faster as he approached Camelot. His sense of anticipation increased the closer he got. He felt almost as if he were returning home to a lover, his anxiousness to see Camelot’s ivory walls, her gleaming towers stretching toward the sky, causing his pulse to race with excitement. He had hoped to make it home the night before, but he was still weak and found himself needing to stop for rest long before he had anticipated. Better to heed his body’s warnings rather than push himself too hard too soon and undo all Merlin’s hard work.

His first night without Merlin curled up against his side since their reunion had been as difficult as he’d imagined. Arthur tossed and turned, missing the way Merlin would tuck his head under Arthur’s chin, his breath warm against his skin. He missed the gentle rise and fall of his chest, the way Merlin would instinctively seek Arthur out while he slept, limbs splaying themselves across his body. Their separation wouldn’t be long, he reminded himself. And once Cenred was dealt with, he’d have Merlin back in his chambers for good.

As he crested a small rise, Camelot came into view, white stone set against a backdrop of deep blue sky. Arthur caught his breath at her beauty, his joy at the sight causing an almost painful ache low in his belly. How could he have ever considered not coming home, leaving Camelot behind? Truly, he loved this land and her people. If depth of feeling were all that was required to be king, he doubted there could be one more suited than he.

Dressed as he was in plain clothes, hood pulled over his head shielding his face, he attracted curious glances as he rode through town, but no recognition. When he passed through the castle gates, however, he saw Leon gathered with a small group of knights outside the stables. Their horses were saddled with packs and they appeared as if they were about to ride out. Leon looked up at him with a quick glance then did a double-take, staring intently.

Arthur dismounted and continued to walk toward the group, leading his horse. Leon spoke to one of the knights, handing him his reins, then started walked toward him to greet him. When he got closer, Arthur could tell the moment his identity was confirmed. Leon shouted, “Arthur!” and began to walk faster and faster before breaking into a run. Arthur dropped the reins to throw his arms around Leon, hugging him tightly, slapping him on the back as they greeted each other with joyous laughter.

Leon took a step back and put his hands on Arthur’s shoulders, holding him still while he gave him a good once over. “You’re looking well, sire,” he said.

“Better than I was.”

“Were you injured?”

“Grievously.”

“What happened?”

“I was captured. Morgana. Tortured.”

Leon’s hands tightened on his shoulders. “How did you escape?”

“Merlin.”

“Merlin?” Leon asked with surprise.

“Come,” Arthur said, extricating himself from Leon’s grip and retrieving the reins he had dropped, beginning to walk toward the castle. “We have much to speak of. I want the Council convened right away. First order of business on the morrow.”

“I’ll see to it. Arthur…” he added, grabbing Arthur’s arm to still him for a moment. When Arthur turned to him with a questioning look, Leon said, unable to hold back a big smile, “It’s good to have you back.”

Arthur smiled in return. “It’s good to be back. Where were you headed?” he asked, nodding toward the men who stood waiting their turn to welcome him home.

“To look for you,” Leon said with a laugh.

-o-


Arthur rapped on the door, pushing it open slowly when there was no answer. “Gaius?” he called out.

Gaius was leaning over his table, intent on his work. He lifted his head at Arthur’s voice and whirled around.

“Your Majesty,” he said with a gasp, hurrying over to him and pulling him into a hug.

Arthur, surprised, returned the embrace. Indeed he had been unsure of his reception; their last encounter had been fraught with tension.

“We’ve been so worried,” Gaius said, still holding him close.

“I’m fine now, thanks to Merlin.”

Gaius pulled back to look at Arthur, eyebrow raised. “Merlin?” he asked, a slight tremour in his voice. Arthur could tell he was holding back asking more. Perhaps he was unsure of the reception as well.

“Come, sit with me,” Arthur said. “I have much to tell you.”

After Arthur had caught Gaius up on recent events, assuring him numerous times about Merlin’s well being, his own promise of Merlin’s continued safety and eventual return, he turned the conversation to other serious matters.

“I need to ask you some questions about my father.”

Gaius’ expression changed, becoming both wary and cautious. “If I can answer them, I will,” he said.

“Were you aware that the child Morgana carried was Uther’s?” Arthur asked.

Gaius’ shock and horrified expression were immediate. Arthur was relieved to note his reaction could not possibly be feigned. He had hoped Gaius had not been complicit in such a terrible secret, but he knew the men had been friends for years; a small part of him had wondered.

“Are you certain?” Gaius asked.

“I am,” Arthur answered. He had no proof, but he knew in his heart it was truth.

Gaius put his hand up to his forehead, brow furrowed. After a few moments he looked at Arthur. “Your father was not always like this,” he said. “Over the years, he… changed. Became harder… inflexible. Your mother’s death was part of it, of course, but I don’t really know what made him into the man he became.” He paused. “I assure you, I did not know.”

“Were you aware of Morgana’s true parentage then?” Arthur asked next. “Did you know she was my father’s daughter?”

“I have long suspected. It was nothing we ever discussed. But, yes, in my heart, I suppose I did know.”

Arthur nodded, accepting his answer. “What about Gorlois?” Arthur asked next. “Did my father really send him to his death?”

“There were rumours…” Gaius said, shaking his head. He sighed heavily. “We were friends for a very long time, your father and I. I never wanted to know the answer to this question, so I turned a blind eye… did not ask…” He appeared lost in thought for a few moments. “Maybe if I had confronted him… maybe if—”

He stopped when Arthur put his hand over his arm, shaking his head. “No,” he said. “You are not responsible for my father’s actions.”

“I feel as if I failed him. Failed you. Most certainly failed Morgana…”

“We can’t change the past,” Arthur said. “I have my own regrets. Heavy ones, at that. But now it is time to forgive. We must look to the future.”

Gaius stared at him thoughtfully. “You’re a good man, Arthur Pendragon, and will be an even greater king. I have always believed you to have a great destiny before you.”

Arthur smiled, thinking how similar such a statement was to one Merlin had spoken. “I will do my very best,” he said.

“That’s all any of us can ever do,” said Gaius in reply.

-o-


Arthur sought out Gwaine next. He had not been among the group of knights with Leon, but Leon assured him he was still in Camelot. When he was unable to locate him, Arthur went to his chambers, stopping a servant en route to have some food sent up. He was surprised to find Gwaine outside his door, waiting for him.

They eyed each other warily, then Arthur entered his chambers, holding the door open for Gwaine. “Come in,” he said. Gwaine followed him inside.

“Have you spoken to Leon?” Arthur asked.

“No, I’ve been waiting to speak with you.”

Arthur nodded. “Then you should know that I found Merlin,” he began.

Gwaine’s head jerked in surprise as he stared intently at Arthur. “And what is to be his fate?”

“That is yet to be determined.”

A flush of anger appeared on Gwaine’s face. Before he could launch into a tirade, ripping old wounds open anew, Arthur held up his hand to stem Gwaine’s words.

“You misunderstand me. I mean only that the future is yet to be written.”

Gwaine’s shoulders relaxed, but his expression remained guarded.

“Then what of his immediate future? Where is he now?” Gwaine asked.

“He’s safe.”

“But for how long?” Gwaine’s voice was agitated, as if he were gearing up for an argument.

“The Council meets at first light on the morrow. The old laws regarding magic will be done away with. A new era is dawning, one where Merlin and his kind will have no reason to fear Camelot, unless they raise a hand against us.”

“Do you still believe Merlin killed your father?”

“I know he did not.”

“And will he return home once the Council has met?”

“He will come when I call. Then he will fight by my side when we face Cenred’s threat.”

Gwaine’s eyes narrowed as he processed this information. Arthur decided further clarification was needed.

“I have made… many mistakes. I regret… much.” Arthur stumbled over the words. It was difficult for him to admit his weaknesses, but he needed to give Gwaine his thanks. “I am grateful to you for many things—for stopping my sword in the great hall, for your assistance in helping Merlin escape… for speaking plainly to me when I lost my senses.” He paused, then he looked Gwaine straight in the eye, trying to convey his sincerity. “Most of all, I am grateful you were here, in Camelot, when I returned.”

“You are my king,” Gwaine said, voice clear and firm, as if there could be no other response.

Arthur gave a little huff, nodding his head slightly, feeling a warmth bloom in his chest. Maybe it was a simple as that.

“There is much to be done,” Arthur said. “Leon tells me there have been some small skirmishes along the border.”

“That is correct.”

“And Cenred has gathered his forces? An attack is imminent?”

“As best as we can tell. One of your men has been monitoring the situation closely. He’s been reporting back to me when he can. I currently know of his whereabouts. If you like, I can send for him now.”

“Of whom do we speak?” Arthur asked.

“Lancelot.”

-o-


Arthur sat in his chambers, sipping a cup of wine. The day had been long; tomorrow promised to be longer still. He had convened the Council at first light and relayed all that had happened since his disappearance. Then he outlined the changes he intended for Camelot’s magic users. He had met with less resistance than he anticipated, receiving support in unexpected quarters, namely a few of his father’s oldest allies. Mayhap he had underestimated the willingness to change from some of Camelot’s old guard. In turn, he had gotten some unexpected resistance from a few men he had not expected to take issue. After long heated arguments, some refining of a few points, Camelot’s new laws regarding magic were recorded and in place.

Of equal importance, the charges against Merlin—for treason, magic, Uther’s death, and his escape from Camelot—were rescinded and his name was cleared. There were some who still wanted to punish Merlin for his escape, even as they took Arthur’s word that he was not the sorcerer who had committed the crime against the king. Arthur, however, would accept no less than complete exoneration. He stressed Merlin’s rescue, his healing of Arthur, saving him from certain death, and also his upcoming role in the battle before them.

He could tell many in the Council were still uncomfortable with the thought of a sorcerer going into battle side by side with the King, but Arthur spoke of the future, the failure of the old ways, and how Camelot would surely fall were they not prepared to meet their foe with every defence at their disposal. In the end, he had his way.

All in all it had been an exhausting morning, but Arthur was satisfied with the outcome. For maybe the first time since he had come into the crown, his actions felt like those of a king.

Lancelot had returned later in the day as well. Their reunion had been emotional with apologies from both sides, assurances of forgiveness. Arthur thanked him for continuing to aid Camelot, even after he sent him away. Lancelot responded with a simple, “My duty is here.” Arthur was reminded of the doubts he had held long ago, how he feared the Knights of Camelot were broken beyond repair. He had seen them stretched to their limits, torn apart by anger, betrayal, and distrust. Now it was clear they were not so easily undone. A thread ran between them, binding them together, even through the worst of days. All his men were good men, every last one. They would be victorious against Cenred; he felt it in his bones. The Knights of Camelot would prevail.

Yes, he thought, sipping thoughtfully on his wine, he was grateful to have men such as Lancelot and Gwaine on his side. Leon’s words once again ran through his head; Arthur hoped his men never stopped speaking up for what they thought was right. That didn’t mean, however, they were without their faults. Nor was he free of them himself, he was well aware. Arthur thought back to the tail end of the conversation with Gwaine the day before.

“You know I am grateful to you for all you have done for Merlin,” he said, grabbing Gwaine’s arm as he turned to leave.

Gwaine looked at him curiously. “Yes, you’ve said as much.”

“I know you’ve long had feelings for him—” He cut short his words, frowning as Gwaine scowled and tried to pull away. Arthur gripped tighter, preventing his attempts. “I know about your feelings for Merlin,” he repeated. “I know I’ve said some cruel words in the past, but you need to know…” Arthur paused to make sure Gwaine was listening. He continued, “When Merlin returns, he is mine.”

Gwaine gave a curt nod and Arthur dropped his arm, allowing him to leave.

A knock on his door roused him from his thoughts.

“Enter,” he called out.

Arthur looked up to see Merlin standing in his doorway. His heart leapt at the sight. Rising from his seat, he hurried across the room and swept Merlin into his arms, kissing him until they both were breathless. Arthur leaned back and looked Merlin over from his head to his feet, assuring himself he was unharmed, drinking in his fill of Merlin, finally back in his arms again.

“You’re here,” he said.

“I am. You called.”

“I did.” The moment the Council had ended, Arthur had used the spelled object to let Merlin know it was time to come home.

“You must be tired. And hungry. Shall I send for something to eat?”

“I am tired. And hungry. But not just now. It can wait,” Merlin said, then he pulled Arthur close to kiss him again.

-o-


They met the enemy sooner than anticipated. Arthur had returned not a day too soon. Arthur and Merlin fought shoulder to shoulder, Arthur’s sword flashing, protecting Merlin, while Merlin identified the sorcerers within the enemies’ midst and countered their attacks. At one point during a lull in the melee, they caught each other’s eye and both broke out in a broad grin, high on adrenaline and invigorated by their successes. The knights and the rest of Camelot’s army fought well, pushing Cenred’s forces back.

Then the tide turned. Cenred’s men fell back and a new enemy rose to take their place—skeletal warriors who could not be felled by arrow or steel. Swords sliced harmlessly through the air, having no effect at all. The skeletal army’s own weapons, however, proved deadly as Camelot’s men began to fall. Arthur saw Bedivere go down, Owain soon after. He looked to Merlin in alarm and saw Merlin’s assaults having similar effect; his magical attacks went right through them.

“Fall back,” Arthur cried. “Fall back.”

When they had put some distance between themselves and this new foe, overlooking the field of battle from a small rise, Arthur motioned for Leon, Lancelot and Merlin to come closer.

“Have you any ideas?” he asked.

Merlin spoke first. “Nothing I’ve tried has stopped them. There must be an external power source; someone or something is controlling them. We need to find it.”

“Can we do nothing right now?” Arthur asked. What if they were unable to locate this power source? Would all be lost?

“I can try to slow them down,” Merlin offered.

“Do it,” Arthur commanded.

Merlin sprang into action, running out into the open. A vast field lay before him, the skeletal army in the distance, their approach slow and methodical, but unrelenting. His arms shot up toward the sky, fingers spread, head tilted back and then he was chanting words in an ancient language, eyes glowing gold. Dark clouds rolled in across the sky, the day turning dark as the sunlight was blotted out. Arthur saw Leon flinch out of the corner of his eye when a loud boom of thunder sounded as lightning flashes crackled illuminating the dark sky. “Gods,” Lancelot whispered, his voice filled with awe.

Then the rain poured down, a heavy deluge that turned the field to mud. The skeletal warriors slowed, their feet getting stuck in the earth. Arthur watched as one toppled forward, its hand reaching out to catch its fall, the hand getting stuck in turn. Several more followed and Arthur breathed an inward sigh of relief at the respite.

“Leon, take some men and circle round behind. We can at least fight their human soldiers while we look for this power source.”

“Yes, sire.”

“Lancelot, you do the same, but from the other direction. With luck we’ll flush them out. Whoever or whatever it is has to be close by, I would imagine, to control such a large force.”

Lancelot nodded in acknowledgment. “How long can he keep this up?” Lancelot asked, head tilting toward Merlin.

“I know not, so best hurry,” Arthur answered.

His men took action immediately, gathering the knights and splitting off into two groups, circling around the skeletal army on each side.

Arthur waited with the remaining men, scanning the field, looking for anything unusual. He’d prefer to be on the move instead of standing and watching, but he would not risk leaving Merlin’s safety in the hands of another.

Although the rain continued to pour down, obscuring his vision, Arthur could see that the mud would not hinder their advance much longer. The front row of skeletons had fallen and many more still struggled, but others were walking over the backs of the fallen, slowly advancing their charge.

Arthur could tell when the men reached their targets; the skirmishes at the back of the army were difficult to see, but he recognized the glint of steel when lightning flashed. He worried that Merlin must be tiring, remembering the conversation they had in the cottage about the cost magic bore. Yet he looked steady, keeping the sky dark with clouds and the rain steadily coming down.

A movement to the southeast caught Arthur’s eye. Two figures on horseback were approaching. He recognized Cenred, even from this distance. The other was a stranger. She dismounted and threw back her hood; Arthur could see long blonde hair. Then her hand extended toward Merlin and a bolt of magic was flying his way.

“Merlin,” Arthur shouted in warning, running toward him. But Merlin was already in action, one arm still pointing at the sky, the other swinging down, a matching bolt shooting from his hand to intercept the attack. The two arcs of light fought for dominance, both pushing at the other, but neither was able to gain further ground. The sorceress formed her other hand into a fist and then she was hurling balls of fire in Merlin’s direction.

Forced to abandon the storm, Merlin deflected the attack, hurling spells of his own. Without Merlin to control them, the clouds rolled back and the sky cleared, the heavy rains running off into the grass. Arthur stood guard, but he felt helpless, unable to assist in the battle before him. Soon, however, he had his own fight to worry about as the skeletons, no longer hampered as before, closed in. Arthur rushed down the hill to meet them, determined to keep them away from Merlin.

His blade swung furiously, and he was surprised when his weapon connected with a loud clang. The sorceress’ attention must have been too divided to keep up both the attack on Merlin and the skeletons’ incorporeal forms. He fought hardily, parrying blows from all directions. His men were right beside him, holding the enemy back as best they were able. But there were too many, and they kept coming, one after the other. Arthur cried out as a blade slipped through his defences and sliced his thigh.

“Arthur,” he heard Merlin shout, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the many skeletal warriors he fought or risk even more grievous harm. The blows kept coming, an unending assault. “Enough,” Arthur heard Merlin yell, and he was reminded of the moment in his prison when Merlin unleashed a spell upon Morgana. Just as before, Arthur heard a loud blast and the sky lit up like fire. In the ensuing quiet, a scream rung out, “No!”

Morgana.

Arthur’s eyes searched her out and he saw her kneeling by the body of the felled sorceress, Cenred’s body on the ground beside her. A staff with a large glowing blue crystal was in Morgana’s hand. Arthur felt another slice on his neck as his opponents pressed their attack, and cried out again, distracting the attention of Merlin, who stood swaying, exhaustion clearly marking his face. Morgana immediately took advantage, standing to hurl a spell in Merlin’s direction with an anguished scream.

“Watch out!” Arthur warned, but Merlin had already seen the threat, blocking the spell with one of his own. Then he was hurling another at the blue stone, a vision of power with eyes of flame. He had never looked more beautiful. The crystal shattered in a blinding blaze of light and Arthur watched the fallout as if in slow motion. The skeletons disintegrated in a cloud of dust, settling silently to the ground; Arthur’s sword blow met no resistance as it continued its swing with a whoosh of air; and Merlin crumpled silently to the ground where he lay motionless on the grass.

“No!” Arthur cried out, rushing to Merlin’s side and dropping to his knees, flinging his sword aside, ignoring the sharp pain in his thigh. He took Merlin’s face between his hands, his gloves dark against Merlin’s pale white skin. “Merlin, gods, Merlin,” he said, frantically hoping for him to be all right. He moved one hand up to his face, biting the tip of his glove to pull it from his fingers, then he searched out a pulse at Merlin’s neck. He almost sobbed with relief when he felt the slow steady beat beneath his fingertips. “Thank the gods,” Arthur whispered in a ragged voice.

Merlin’s eyes fluttered open and Arthur drowned in the dark blue of his irises, unable to look away. He felt as if he couldn’t breathe, the tightness in his chest was so severe. Merlin reached up a hand to wipe at Arthur’s cheek. Arthur hadn’t even realized he was crying. “I’m all right,” Merlin said, voice slurred and slow, as if it were taking an enormous effort to speak. “I’ll probably need to sleep for a week, but I’m all right, Arthur. I promise.” Arthur gathered him up into his arms, buried his face in Merlin’s hair and held him close, the sounds of battle low in the distance.

“I promise,” Merlin said again.

-o-


Arthur paced back and forth, waiting for Gaius to finish with his patient.

“Sire,” Gaius said when he could turn his attention to the impatient king, “I’ve told you already, he’s fine. He’ll awaken when he’s ready.”

“But it’s been two days.”

“And it might yet be two more,” Gaius said, ushering Arthur toward the door. “I assure you, there’s nothing physically wrong with him. His body is simply recovering from such an extensive use of magic.”

“I’d like you to check on him again.”

Gaius threw up his hands and rolled his eyes. “Your Majesty, as you can see, there are many wounded men who need my care—”

“But Merlin—”

“Yes, fine,” Gaius capitulated, knowing Arthur wouldn’t rest until he had agreed. “I’ll come by to check on him later.”

“Good. Good. Thank you, Gaius.”

“You’re very welcome. Now please…” he said, motioning Arthur out the door.

“Right. Later then.”

“Yes, go on.”

Arthur knew he was being unreasonable, but this was Merlin, after all. Once the skeleton army had fallen, his men had easily subdued the remaining human soldiers, demoralized by Cenred’s fall. He and his knights returned home victorious. The battle, however, had not been without cost. The weight of the fallen was a heavy burden on Arthur’s heart. He wished he could share his grief with Merlin, receive comfort in his arms, but Merlin had sunk into a deep slumber after his brief words on the field of battle; he hadn’t woken since. After the battle, Arthur had gathered Merlin in front of him on his horse and rode with him all the way back to Camelot, arms wrapped tightly around Merlin’s waist, Merlin’s body leaning back against his chest. When they had arrived, Arthur himself carried Merlin up to his chambers, not trusting anyone else with his precious cargo. He stripped Merlin of his clothing, bathed him with a soft cloth, and arranged the bed clothes over his body, a soft pillow beneath his head.

Then he waited.

Of Morgana there had been no sign. After Merlin’s final magic blast, she seemingly disappeared. No one could recall sighting her again. Arthur had been too preoccupied with Merlin to check if she had survived. When it became clear she had escaped, Arthur made it known that she was not to be harmed were her whereabouts discovered. She had been done grievous harm, Arthur thought, and not only Uther’s crimes against her. Arthur could imagine her state of mind knowing her lover had been killed trying to avenge her. Although still conflicted about his father’s death, Arthur felt he owed a debt to the fallen sorcerer, knowing he must have taken Morgana in when she had fled Camelot, frightened and alone and carrying Uther’s bastard child. Morgana’s anguished cry at the fallen sorceress led Arthur to believe she had lost yet another who was close to her heart. His own treatment at her hands would take time to forget, but he understood her hatred now. He understood loss. And he was beginning to understand forgiveness. He was tired of anger. Maybe one day, these wounds between them would heal as well.

Later, after Gaius visited his chambers and repeated his assurances that Merlin was fine, Arthur readied for bed then slid under the blankets beside Merlin. He pulled Merlin back against his chest, wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in Merlin’s hair, gently kissing the back of his neck. In the morning maybe Merlin would wake.

It wasn’t the morning, nor the next afternoon, but in early evening Merlin’s eyes finally opened, bright and blue and crinkling at the corners when they caught sight of Arthur.

Arthur hurried to his side. “You’re awake,” he said, gently stroking Merlin’s cheek with his thumb.

“I am,” Merlin said, reaching up to grasp Arthur’s hand, bringing it to his lips. His voice was gruff from disuse.

“How do you feel?” Arthur asked, staring as Merlin’s pink luscious lips pressed soft kisses against his fingers.

“Hungry. Thirsty,” he said between kisses. “How long have I been asleep?”

“Three days,” Arthur said. The tension he’d carried throughout the extended length of time was evident. He gently extricated his hand from Merlin’s, saying, “Let me get you some water.” Arthur walked over to pour a cup from a pitcher and tear a piece of bread from the loaf on the table. He returned and handed them to Merlin who was now sitting up. Arthur sat on the edge of the bed and watched closely as Merlin ate every last crumb and drank every drop. “More?” he asked.

“Not right now. In a little while.”

Arthur took the empty cup from Merlin and set it on the bedside table. “Do you need more sleep?” he asked.

“No.”

“You still look tired.”

“I’m fine,” Merlin said, reaching for Arthur’s hand and bringing it back to his lips. “You’re the one who looks tired,” he said, before sucking Arthur’s pointer finger into his mouth.

Arthur stared, dazed, as the heat of Merlin’s mouth engulfed his finger, the wet slick of his tongue stroking him, Merlin’s cheeks hollowing as he slid the finger in and out. Arthur’s breath caught when Merlin added a second finger.

After sucking on them a few more minutes, Merlin pulled the fingers from his mouth and said, “Take off your clothes, Arthur.”

“Shouldn’t you be resting?” Arthur asked, pupils dilated, voice husky.

“I’ve rested plenty. Take off your clothes.”

Arthur did as he directed, pulling his tunic over his head, standing to strip his trousers off. He was already erect. Merlin watched every move, his expression hungry.

“Now lie down,” Merlin said.

“Bossy,” Arthur joked, but did as he said, shifting so he was lying full length on the bed.

Merlin moved to straddle his hips then leaned over to kiss Arthur, shifting his hips so their erections rubbed together. Arthur moaned into his mouth and reached up to sink his fingers into Merlin’s silky hair, losing himself in the taste of Merlin’s lips, the heat of his skin. He loosened his grip when Merlin started working his way down Arthur’s body, worshipping Arthur’s chest with his mouth, sucking on his nipple, flicking his tongue over the sensitive bud while his hand played with the other one, rubbing his thumb back and forth, slowly and steadily. As Merlin continued to give his nipples attention, Arthur bucked his hips, achingly hard, seeking friction, his growing desire overwhelming. This wasn’t magic, but it almost felt like it. Maybe it was just that it was Merlin… Merlin’s mouth, Merlin’s hands, who could put him in such a state. Arthur wondered how he ever thought he could live without this.

“Merlin… please…” Arthur said, moving his hips again, begging for attention.

Merlin obliged, sliding further down Arthur’s body, tonguing at his belly, gently biting at his hips. Arthur’s fingers were back in his hair, scratching gently at his scalp. When Merlin’s mouth closed over Arthur’s hard length, Arthur’s hand clenched into a fist and he let out a low shuddering moan. “Gods, yes,” he said.

Merlin’s tongued at Arthur’s foreskin, lapping at the fluid at the tip and then he took Arthur deep, sliding his tongue along the underside of Arthur’s length as he pulled back slowly, sucking gently. Arthur moaned, a tightness coiling in his belly as Merlin repeated the action again and again, sucking harder, tongue continuing its movements. He was already nearing his release.

“Wait… stop,” Arthur panted. “I’m too close.” Arthur didn’t want to come like this. He wanted Merlin inside him.

Taking Arthur deep one last time, Merlin pulled off and bit gently at Arthur’s inner thigh, before soothing the spot with his tongue. Then he scooted farther down, taking Arthur’s sac into his mouth, rolling it gently with his tongue. Arthur let out an appreciative moan, bending his leg to tilt his hips upwards. Merlin placed his palm against the back of Arthur’s strong thigh and pushed it towards Arthur’s chest, exposing his hole. He removed his mouth from Arthur’s sac then tongued underneath, teasing down with tiny licks.

Arthur’s head pressed back into the bed, arms tense at his sides, body taut as he felt Merlin’s wet tongue lick at his entrance. He felt Merlin push his other thigh back as well, then bury his face between Arthur’s legs, mouthing at his opening, breaching it with his tongue. Merlin pushed in as deeply as he could, then licked with wet sloppy motions, before pushing in again. And then he repeated his actions while Arthur fell apart, writhing above him, tossing his head from side to side, small keening noises escaping his throat. It was almost too much.

“Enough,” he gasped, arm reaching for Merlin’s head, clumsily trying to push him away. “Need you,” he said. “Merlin, please.”

Merlin pulled away and moved to his knees between Arthur’s spread legs. Arthur’s insides clenched with desire when he saw the look on Merlin’s face—eyes dark, face intent and as hungry with lust as he himself felt. Merlin silently leaned over for the jar of salve by the bed, quickly slicked up his length, then positioned himself at Arthur’s hole, pushing in slowly.

When Merlin was as deep as he could go, he leaned over Arthur, bracing himself with his arms, and stared straight into his eyes as he said, “You’re mine.”

Arthur nodded wordlessly in agreement, heart thudding in his chest, his insides twisting from the raw possessiveness in Merlin’s voice. He would never be anyone else’s. Then he wrapped his legs around Merlin’s waist, urging him with his heels to move.

As Merlin filled his body, thrusting in and out, his eyes began to glow with that golden fire and magic enveloped them both, rippling along their skin, encasing them in a cocoon of power. Arthur felt as if they were joined to their very bones, Merlin’s own essence penetrating every inch of him. The pleasure was so intense he didn’t even need a touch to his length; the caress of Merlin’s magic was enough to send him over the edge. He cried out, head thrown back, arching as his release pulsed onto his belly. Merlin went taut as well, burying his face in Arthur’s neck, grunting against his skin as his hips slammed into him a final few times, filling Arthur with his seed. Then he went boneless, collapsing on Arthur’s chest with a low satisfied moan. Arthur’s arms wrapped around him, and he held tight, murmuring words of love against the side of Merlin’s face.

-o-


Arthur blinked in the low light, leaning up on his elbow. He was alone in the bed.

“Merlin?”

“I’m here,” Merlin said and Arthur saw him standing by the window, looking out into the night.

Arthur exited the bed and walked over to where he stood, wrapping his arms around his waist, kissing the side of his neck. Merlin was beautiful in the moonlight, his pale skin lit like starlight.

“What are you doing over here?” Arthur asked. “Come back to bed.”

“I was just thinking.”

“About?”

Merlin shook his head. Arthur caught something in his expression. Sadness… melancholy… he wasn’t sure what.

“Tell me,” Arthur said. “No more secrets.”

Merlin was quiet, but Arthur waited for him to speak. Finally, he said, “Nothing’s really changed, has it?”

“Everything has changed.”

Merlin shook his head. “You’ll still be taking a wife, bearing an heir. You have your duty.”

Arthur turned Merlin around so he was facing him. He leaned in, licking into his mouth, kissing him deeply. Then he pulled back to look in Merlin’s eyes, shining brightly under the moon. So beautiful, Arthur mused. So beloved. He took Merlin’s face between his hands and said, “No.”

“No?” Merlin asked, eyes growing hopeful.

Arthur thought back to his walk through the lower town the day before. A young boy had run out from one of the shops, brandishing a stick, and barrelled directly into his legs.

“Whoa there,” Arthur said, steadying him.

The boy looked up, eyes wide. “King Arthur,” he said, voice awed.

Arthur nodded in acknowledgement, letting the boy go.

The boy started chatting, excitedly. “When I get older, I’m going to be one of your knights. Look, I’m already practicing.” He swung his stick in front of him, like a sword.

His mother hurried out of the shop, then after dropping a quick curtsey grabbed the boy and held him against her thighs, her arm around his chest. “Don’t mind him, Your Highness,” she said. “He were just playing.”

Arthur knelt in front of the boy, moving down to his eye level. “What’s your name?”

“Kay, sir.”

“Well, Kay, mayhap you will.”

On the way back into to the castle an idea began to take root. Arthur stopped to stare at Camelot’s majestic walls, her pale stone—both beautiful and strong—the graceful towers with banners flying atop, like pale arms waving toward the heavens. His love for his kingdom had never faltered; it had only deepened after the recent strife. Staring at the home he loved so dear, his chest almost burst with pride at her glory. A vision of the future began to unfold, taking shape within his mind, with Camelot the very heart at the centre of his kingdom. Arthur couldn’t wait for Merlin to wake up so he could share it with him.

Now, staring into his beloved’s eyes, he knew that future was all but certain. “No,” he repeated, stroking Merlin’s cheeks with his thumbs, leaning in to kiss him tenderly again. “I shall take no wife. Camelot will be my bride.”

Merlin’s hands wrapped themselves around Arthur’s wrists, his own thumbs gently stroking the soft skin on their underside. “What about an heir?”

“I’ll choose an heir some other way. I’ve sent for Agravaine to oversee Cenred’s kingdom. Perhaps one of his kin. Or, who knows? Maybe Mordred, Morgana’s son, will prove worthy one day.”

Arthur kissed Merlin again, deeply, persuasively, letting him know there could be no other. “It is you who will be by my side,” he said. “For all the rest of my days.” He pulled back, momentarily uncertain. “If that is what you wish,” he added.

“It is,” Merlin said. “I’ve told you before; everything I am is yours.”

“Then come back to bed,” Arthur said, smiling, chest filling with warmth. He took Merlin’s hand and tugged him away from the window.

Merlin smiled and followed.

THE END.


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