Title: Rest Your Weary Bones
Content/Warnings: Fluff, Canon Era
30 Day OTP Challenge Prompt: Day #1 "cuddling (naked)"
If it wasn't one thing, it was multiple other reasons Arthur was a potential failure.
Not enough restraint shown, being one. People expect so much of him. Arthur needed to be composed in the face of devastating tragedy and against hotheaded conflict.
He needed to be a hard worker, if not the hardest worker of the lot. To be dedicated wholly to the values of his kingdom and to its people. To the knight's code. As the next monarchy, Arthur needed to remember his courtesy and esteem, his station above others and a lifetime of protocol for his nobility.
But too much restraint proved ill. Any one man could take advantage of you.
Arthur could hear the low growl of his father's voice in his head, could envision Uther's scowl from memory as he pulled Arthur aside in the gallery: You are the crowned prince of Camelot, my sole heir! How can you hope to win the melee acting SOFT? It won't be a training dummy you will be fighting!
In truth, he had no interest in the melee tomorrow. In victory and glory.
What the crowned prince truly wanted, especially now… was a little peace of mind. And, unfortunately, it couldn't be without a certain missing idiot.
Arthur's chamber-door rattled open. He heard a hiss of an apology as his dining-table also rattled, like someone stumbled right into it.
He threw off his covers, sitting up.
"Finally! Where the hell have you been?" Arthur snapped, tension rippling off him. And naturally, Merlin had no sense of that.
"S'rry… some of us…"
Merlin stifled a loud yawn into a forearm, eyes crinkling shut.
"… have your chores to do," he added. "I haven't had a moment to myself all day, thanks for asking."
"Right, of course," Arthur said. The dismissive tone had Merlin grunting at him, as he bent over to tug his muddied boots and woolen socks, and shucking off his jacket. "Have you hammered out the dents in my armour?"
"Have you polished the weaponry?"
Arthur wrinkled his nose, lip curling. "You reek of ale," he pointed out.
The next "yes, sire" came out automatically and without emotion and Arthur fought the urge to get up, completely naked as he was, and box one of Merlin's stupid, over-sized ears.
His eye-roll twitched Arthur's mouth to a frown. Merlin then regaled him (very irritably) with the tale of how an elder serving lad had a run-in with Merlin and manged to spill half a tankard on his clothes, but in truth, it was very hard to concentrate on what Merlin was babbling on about.
The yellowed glow of the candlelight took away the gaunt-pale of Merlin's features. It helped soften any roughly-made edges.
Arthur's eyes slid over Merlin's bare torso as his manservant continued undressing, over the hollows in Merlin's neck and the thin frame of his hips and legs.
He wasn't about to admit it out loud, but the sight of Merlin was both welcomed and appreciated—if Arthur's slowly hardening prick gave any indication. The bed shifted its weight as another occupant joined, Merlin snuggling down in the fur pelts and the blankets with him, groaning happily.
Merlin's hands brushed the surface of Arthur's chest. He shivered, but didn't push them.
"Gods, you're freezing," Arthur said, making sure it was less to do with concern, and more of a painfully obvious complaint.
Merlin's next breath hit his chin like a snorting huff.
"Some of us don't live in the highest room in the tallest tower," he mumbled.
Arthur shook his head. No, it wasn't likely he was going to get a decent answer out of Merlin while exhausted and talking rubbish.
It doesn't stop Arthur from pressing in close, feeling the chill on Merlin's skin and hears his teeth noisy in the semi-darkness. And hearing Merlin bemoan about how he'll never be warm again; despite his lack of rest, this idiot still had the energy to whine about more rubbish.
This… this is better. Just him and Merlin, their hearts, their exhales. Arthur's thoughts quieting. Merlin's dark hair smelling wet.
Underneath the stench of ale, and fainter of Gaius's herbs, it held a charge of atmosphere, like Merlin had calmly walked through a midsummer storm.
There was something else too, clinging on… sometimes Merlin would send him an intense look across the room, and Arthur swore that he felt the hairs on his arm stand on their ends. Even through the heavy padding, through the fabric of his tunics, his flesh tingled pleasantly.
Almost feeling a universal pull.
Like… they were meant for this…
Arthur's fingers grazed the line of hair under Merlin's navel, traveling down to his prick and gripping it slightly. Rolling his fingers against him until the foreskin went taut. One part of Merlin always seemed warm, at least. A sudden groan from Merlin, cock thrusting once impulsively into Arthur's loose fist, could be no finer victory.
"How about it then?" he murmured, brushing lips to Merlin's earlobe. The answering groan, a bit longer, a bit deeper, heated Arthur's belly.
Fingers crept into blond hair, twisting in as if needing the stability.
"Ah, ah yeah, that's… brilliant."
Merlin sounded breathy to him, dazed-eyed. Arthur eyed him, features relaxed, speaking with traces of a gentler manner than he was accustomed too.
Arthur came forward and kissed Merlin, and it might have partly been an excuse to shut him up. He wanted lips roaming his, not to punish, not to absorb and submit entirely to him, but to know the other boy wanted this as well. Merlin's teeth pinched on his bottom lip, as if demanding his attention, and Arthur fought down a chuckle rising.
He encouraged Merlin to fuck into his hand, whispering and remaining still as Merlin's hips canted into him. Slick fluid coated to Arthur's palm still gripping on, easing the slide.
Merlin's breathing quickened, panting against Arthur's mouth when they separated, and the fingers in Arthur's hair dragged nails into his scalp.
He didn't know where Merlin's other hand ended up, bunching up the sheets or clawing at his own hip—but the vivid imagining of Merlin reaching behind himself, teasing his arsehole open to a knuckle while Arthur had him by the prick could be enough to bring himself release.
Merlin did come, shuddering and gasping to Arthur's throat, nudging his head back into the sensation of petting on his nape. Arthur held him through his stupor, letting go of Merlin's prick, an arm wrapping carefully to him.
The bliss, Merlin's bliss obvious in the flush on his cheeks and the sly smile, uncoils all that tension. All that Arthur kept inside him for hours.
"What about you?" came out raspy and Arthur grunted at him, another dismissive noise, through sleepier.
He burrowed down deeper to the warmed furs.