If there ever was a single understanding about how those who served Camelot… it was that everyone admired Merlin. Their reasons be their own.
(Not everyone, Leon had grasped. Uther was hardly charmed by "a simple-minded fool".)
By nowadays, Uther was a raving, slobbering mess left to the maidservants to clean up after, and unfit to rule. The once great king's opinion, whatever was left of it, forgotten.
Leon returned to the stuffy interior of the armory, his right shoulder burning with swollen pain. He could faintly hear the other knights training, clashing swords and Arthur yelling commands at the top of his lungs. The only person left behind, neglecting the sunshine, was Merlin.
Hunched forward on an oak bench, he furiously scrubbed one of the steel helms. If Leon listened closely, he could almost make out Merlin's grumbling.
"You weren't on the grounds this morning," Leon exclaimed, unbuckling his gardbrace.
Merlin didn't look up from his task, but those prominent bony knuckles clenched up the ratty cloth.
"Nope," he said, lips popping his 'P'.
"Arthur has been ordering around one of the other serving lads in your absence."
Leon hesitated from reaching for his pauldron, unable to do it himself with the complaining shoulder. He also watched with peculiar interest as Merlin banged down the helm in his hands, getting up. It was clear to see Merlin was irritated about something on the subject.
"Why is that, Merlin?" Leon asked, carefully. It earned him a weak, sheepish grin.
"Arthur being Arthur."
Merlin threw away his ragged, stained cloth, expression turning serious as a visible wince seized up Leon's features.
"What's the matter…?" he asked. "Did you injure yourself?"
A forced laugh. "Believe I may have bruised," Leon said, feeling Merlin's hands gently steady him.
"Let's have a look."
With practiced quickness, Merlin loosened the rest of his upper-body armour. Because only someone who had been familiar with each hidden strap and placement of iron—only they could have done so without Leon further complicating the burning, cramping muscles in his shoulder.
"Rotate your arm, good," he coaxed, aiding the slow lift of Leon's right arm by cradling their hands together. There was a professional, educated air to Merlin's tone and how he methodically touched Leon. Something almost eerily similar to Gaius. "You're doing good. That doesn't hurt?"
"No," Leon answered, rubbing at the top of his shoulder and smiling. "Should it?"
Merlin smiled back, as if it was no effort. As if he had not been brooding moments ago.
"It's not a tor ligament. You should be fine with rest."
But their fingers remained laced, even as Merlin ceased talking. Leon could have drawn comfort from touch, and in a way he thought he was.
He admired Merlin very much, for his own reasons and it hadn't escaped Leon's notice that, as lowborn as Merlin was, he was attractive.
His laughter. His heart-shaped lips, almost womanly.
"With the curfew gone, some of the knights are heading to the tavern when they light the torches." Leon asked, sly, "Will I see you there?"
With no mention of needing to attend to the crowned prince, Leon was rejoicing. Merlin's grin revealed his slightly bucked teeth.
"Walking around in the middle of the night by myself would be reckless," he countered, taunting.
Leon squeezed their fingers pointedly before Merlin slipped his hand free.
"You wouldn't have to be alone all night, I can assure you…"
A dark eyebrow hitched.
"Is this a sally?" Merlin finally said, grin lessening but hardly appearing bewildered by the offer.
If anything, Leon took that as encouraging.
"That's up to you, Merlin."
"And you'll just wait around all night if you have to?" he called out, amused to Leon's back as the knight went around the rack of spears to exit.
"Not if you show up!" Leon called back, unable to wipe the glee off his own face.
He had a very encouraging feeling.
Gwaine was the first to get drunk enough to crawl under their table.
He composed broken, warbling sonnets about a woman with red hair—and Leon was the first one to leave their circle, vision fuzzing but coherent enough to join Merlin upstairs.
Leon's bared, hairy felt the chill of the tavern room, only found delicious relief in Merlin's body-warmth. His skinny and equally naked frame rutted against him.
"You came prepared," he said, thickly.
Leon's fingers dragged along Merlin's entrance, pushing with a squelching noise to discover it already opened and dripping in thick oil.
Merlin nodded, cropped, black hair already tousled.
"Usually try to be," he said, breathing harshly through his mouth.
Merlin whined lowly and squirmed on top of Leon's muscular body and on his prick. The cockhead slipped between Merlin's buttocks, guided by Leon's hand until it sank up inside him, inching further and further. It seemed a little silly to be trembling like a frightened wildling, seeing as neither of them were inexperienced.
Unsure if it was simply nerves or indecision, Leon shushed him, massaging the length of Merlin's back with both of his hands, attempting to ease the stiffness.
He brought Merlin's red-blotched face down, intending to kiss him and was halted with a firm head-shake.
Snubbed by his attempt at a distraction, Leon fought to ignore it, grabbing Merlin's hips and fucking up until his bollocks were snug against Merlin's arse clenching and unclenching.
It was hotter than wildfire inside the tight, oiled space, perhaps hotter than a maid's cunt.
At some point, Leon flipped the other man into a more submissive position, Merlin's long, lean legs dangling uselessly over his broad shoulders. Even if his right side had began to ache once more, his neck and its joint between his shoulder blaring hot, sharp stabs of pain, Leon wasn't quitting for the world. Not even a damned attack on Camelot.
He pounded into Merlin with near abandonment, their hips colliding, spurred on my pure sensation of heat and bliss— the perfect vision of Merlin groaning and writhing and snatching onto the thin, sweat-damp pillow beneath him.
Merlin's head ended up turning away, eyes closing as Merlin panted open-mouthed, each new thrust dragging a noise out of him, increasingly getting louder.
Leon couldn't hold off; he knew he couldn't. Not like this.
He grasped at Merlin's cock, stroking him once, and once more, before his orgasm radiated through Merlin.
Warmth, more warmth than he believed was possibly, surrounded Leon's prick. With a cry, Merlin succumbed to a release, slicking Leon's palm and his own abdomen.
The cry had been a name.
It didn't register at first with Leon's semi-hazed brain full of endorphins and a few tankards of ale. Not until Merlin's eyes squinted up, brilliantly glistening in colour and moisture. He jammed a hand over his mouth, gazing up at Leon as if shocked to his core by his own attentions.
As if expecting Leon to be angry or devastated.
"Merlin, don't—" He wrested Merlin's hand away, sounding remarkably calm, "You look like I'm going to summon the guards and throw you in a cell."
The bob to Merlin's throat shuddered. "I-I didn't…"
"I won't arrest you for calling another man's name in bed, understand?" Leon said, ruffling Merlin's tousled hair. It was impulsive. Comforting. "I can understand why you never… "
And that was what made it worse. Merlin looked like he truly meant it.
Leon climbed out of the tavern room's bed, going for his trousers and avoiding Merlin's eye.
"I'm going to take your advice and get some rest for the tourney at first light," he announced, picking up his tunic and pulling it over his head. "Good night."
He didn't bother to indulge in Merlin's response, the quiet, hollow remnants of good night.
In reflection, Leon considered that whistling to Merlin as soon as he entered the tavern wasn't the subtlest way to get Merlin's attention, and by consequence, everyone else's.
Gossip spread down every alcove of the castle, but he didn't imagine it would reach the nobles.
Merlin could barely meet Leon's eye throughout most of the daybreak, or Arthur's, reddening when addressed and far clumsier than normal. He flinched at any possible ruckus.
After finishing his last jousting round, Leon dismounted from his horse, letting one of the stable-boys take his rein as Arthur faced him. Camelot's prince appeared overheated from exertion and the sun's heat, golden bangs tangled and clinging to his skin, body language growing tense.
"Since when have you been laying with my servant?" Leon blinked at him, stunned as Arthur spoke this curtly, teeth gritted. "Answer me, Sir Leon."
Elyan and Percival glanced up curiously, staring over at them. Leon's heart thudded.
"Arthur, stop, listen to yourself," he urged, keeping his voice low.
But Arthur didn't seem to be in the mood to listen. He gestured violently towards Merlin's direction, his manservant frozen terrified in place and shamefully wide-eyed.
"Answer the question: are you fucking my servant?"
Whether it was Leon's riled frustration and embarrassment, he chose to react.
"I did." Leon narrowed his eyes at his prince. "Now, I fail to see why you care so much."
He leaned in, staging a whisper to Arthur, "It wasn't my name he cried out, sire."
A collective gasp rose from bystanders, their fellow knights included.
He couldn't pinpoint Arthur's expression, not with the emotions of fury and disgust and awe, and then lost sight of it completely as Arthur whipped around to stare at Merlin.
"That was a bad move," Elyan said later, mouth frowning.
Leon scowled at him.
"No one asked for your opinion," he muttered, stomping towards the yellow-and-red striped tents.
With the celebratory events winding down, he could find a moment to…
Leon's fingers clutched on the tent's flap.
"Is it true… what Sir Leon said?" Arthur, left in the dark red padding, stood motionless as a vacant-faced Merlin yanked roughly at the lacings.
"What did he say?" Merlin retorted, yanking just as unkindly to remove the padding.
Arthur sighed, jaw tight.
"You heard him."
"Was it…" Arthur sucked in a breath, as if gathering his courage. "Was it my name you used?"
Merlin laughed bitterly in his face.
"That's very egotistical of you to assume," he snapped.
"Merlin—for god's sake." Arthur pushed his hands down over his face. He sounded exasperated, as if this argument had been done before, "I've told you nothing can come of this. You need to put it out of your mind." In the background, Leon chewed on his lip. No, that was wrong.
His manservant slammed a fist to the wooden pole of the tent, nearly jolting Leon with surprise and certainly it had drawn Arthur's gaze.
"Sorry, I've gotten the message. I just don't care," Merlin said, barking. "No one can just wave away how they feel."
He took a deep, cleansing inhale, picking up the discarded armour.
"I'm not smoke, Arthur," Merlin said, much more softly this time. "I'm not going to disappear."
Proudly, Leon smirked in Merlin's direction.
"Then why were you with Leon?"
"Because he tried," Merlin said, fidgeting but eyes heated. "And that's all you're getting out of me because it's none of your business. You had no right to humiliate either of us!"
Arthur's face went pinched. "I know," he murmured.
"So you got jealous anyway?"
"Because I wanted to be the one with you that evening," Arthur then shouted. The confession kicked the air right out of Leon's chest, and paled the other man.
Merlin only chuckled, his grin full of dark emotion.
"Not so easy putting it out of your mind, is it?" he said, ruefully.
A flurry of movement inside of the shadows of the tent. Arthur pressed Merlin whole-bodied against the nearby wooden pole, their mouths slamming into each other's, hands diving under clothes. Merlin rolled up into Arthur's hand fondling him, moaning happily into his temple.
With cautious intent, Leon grazed his fingers over the front of his breeches.
He never got to taste Merlin's mouth, not like Arthur was, plunging within and licking and moaning back.
Their movements sped up, and Leon tore himself from his secreted view, skin flaming under his ginger-beard.
He no longer had a part to play in this building romance, it seemed.
One could only hope it ended far better than a tragedy.
BBC Merlin is not mine. Any comments or questions will be rewarded with hugs and promises of more delightful smut! ;) I was inspired to fic off of THIS ditty of a gifset (with permission by owner and dedication to them): mumfordness dot tumblr dot com slash post slash 53239083305 slash gif-all-the-merthur-answer-the-question