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Camelot slowly begins to feel like home. Or maybe something close to a home, after a year.

It certainly isn't his favorite tavern in Deira, rowdy with plenty a drunken fool looking to gamble coins and quarrel about the results, buxom women carrying tankards of ale and lads blowing cheeky kisses in his direction, but like every circumstance thrown at Gwaine—he makes due.

He often chooses not to linger in one place for too long, as it used to entail a great deal of risk… but as now a knight of Camelot, he's sworn himself to Arthur. There are men in this kingdom he considers brothers. (And with such a rotten, old hag of a sister back in Gwynned—Gwaine welcomes the development.)

But his favorite person is, perhaps hushed in his thoughts, why Gwaine agreed to remain in Camelot.

He would do anything for Merlin's sake, for the first true friend Gwaine felt he had in his life, and that so much isn't a secret to anyone.

Already shed of his bulking, gleaming mail, leaving on dusty armour-padding and his breeches, Gwaine wanders the far end of the castle. On his way, one of the kitchen girls boldly nudges his hip as they pass each other, him empty-handed and her carrying a basket of unpeeled potatoes.

He glances back at Evaine's coquettish smile, her pleasantly round and brown face. Gwaine offers a weaker one, lips closed together.

She's quite the lover, both sensitive and experienced. He admires her hands, how long and delicately thin her fingers are, how rough her palms feel trailing across his lower back. Memories come sweetly of lying with her, sheathing in Evaine's warmth and fucking her until he's wrung dry.

Gwaine loves cunts. He knows he does. There's little more invigorating than having his mouth and beard sopping wet between a lady's thighs, or having Gwaine's fingers buried in deep, enveloped completely in velvet-soft muscles and encouraging the hip-thrusts of his partner.

But the lads are special as well, tighter around his fingers, and their fat, hot pricks swallowed up against the lining of his throat.

Cunts or cocks, it hardly matters. Gwaine enjoys the fleeting, intimate moments in whatever form they present themselves.

"Gaius?" A loud rapping against the chamber-door. The wood reverberating back to Gwaine's bare knuckles. "Gaius, you there?" he calls out.

No answer.

Deciding to take the initiative, Gwaine pushes at the metal-studded door with one hand, swinging it wide open. Rarely the lock would ever be in place, he had discovered in the past. Gaius believed in opening his workshop to any citizen in Camelot's kingdom who need him.

And yes, he has a definite need. Gwaine's leg is killing him, moving or unmoving.

(Spend one damn night in the forest, not even on patrol, and he wakes up with his left calf masked with scabbing, oozing rashes. His guess is encountering some poisonous plant.)

"Hello?" Gwaine tries calling out again, peering up at the wall of books and the staircase.

No one up there.

The few, wood-grain tables of Gwaine's workshop are littered with various and strange-looking tools and liquid-filled vials, but no immediate signs of life.

He idly picks through nearby objects, examining pliers and a magnifying glass. Gwaine's head jerks up at a clattering sound.

"Merlin… ?"

Gwaine narrows his eyes at the back-room, normally where Merlin slept. When he receives no further sound, Gwaine reaches for his sword-belt. Someone is attempting to hide from him, and if it isn't Merlin—then it is an intruder.

Cursing under his breath, Gwaine pats his sides repeatedly. No belt, no sword. Perfect.

"Who's in there? You're surrounded!" he roars the command, surging forward to take up a broom. It's not a sword, but it's good enough to jab with. There's worse than you can do than a broom, Gwaine remembers. Without further hesitation, he jerks the doorknob and hurries into the back-room.

Gwaine's hands drop the broom, letting it tumble onto the floor.

His mouth slips open, but doesn't hang. He's not sure what the hell is going on but Merlin's leaning over his own cot, naked from the waist-down. His face scrunched, blotching his usual pale and a bright, heated red. Merlin's fingers hover between his arsecheeks, as if probing.

So… not an intruder.

"Merlin," he says gruffly, unable to tear his eyes from Merlin's bottom and his fingers withdrawing. Memorized by how they glisten. "What's—?"

"J... just go."

Merlin's voice trembles with panic, as does the rest of his body. His eyes are ringed big by their whites, and the blue colour darkens away by his pupils. But why is it panic? From being caught by Gwaine? It's faint, but pain registers on Merlin's face.

"Please," he begs, and it comes off murmury to Gwaine. Both of Merlin's hands grip onto his sheets, tugging them fiercely.

Something's obviously wrong.

A part of him thinks he should leave Merlin as asked, especially in this state of privacy, but his concern outweighs everything. Gwaine steps forward. "Merlin, tell me what's happened," he says, going round him. Merlin shakes visibly harder if it's possible, flinching back.

"Don't l-look—"

Gwaine places a hand on Merlin's shoulder, hoping it's enough to provide comfort and keep him still.

"Take it easy," he replies, and gazes for a moment over the other man. Gwaine's hand slides down to the center of Merlin's back, as he crouches behind him. Merlin's arse clenches up at the attention. From between his cheeks, Gwaine spots a grey-marbled, circular tip of… well, whatever it was… right now it was hurting Merlin.

"What is it?"

Merlin releases a low, helpless whine as Gwaine's thumb swipes curiously over his opening. Thankfully doesn't press in. "Mortar pestle," he breathes, flushing so much his head feels like it could melt. "I t-think it…"

It's stuck inside, is what he means because it's the only conclusion Gwaine has.

"Where's Gaius?"

"No, n-no," Merlin cries out, dismayed and near tears. "Don't get Gaius—"

"I won't."

Gwaine firmly pushes the hand situated on Merlin's back, forcing him to continue to bend as he squirms. This is a difficult situation. Gaius could do what was needed quickly. But he imagines Merlin has suffered enough and in embarrassment today.

"You were trying to… ?"

"God, just—"

"I want to help, Merlin," he insists, smiling widely even though his dearest friend couldn't see it. "Let me."

To his reassurance, Merlin nods once, his upper body surrendering and head landing on the sheet-tangled cot.

"Yeah," he pants, trembling and trembling but sounding less hysterical. "… m'sorry."

"Let's get this out of you."

Merlin's rim looks shiny and a deep pink, its pucker slippery-open as the tip of Gwaine's forefinger dimples in. Too much resistance. When he twists, Merlin groans and jerks up but it's nothing like Gwaine's favoured dreams. Merlin is very much in pain.

"You need to relax, Merlin."

"Can't—"

Gwaine pets the side of Merlin's leg, dragging over the coarse, soft, black hairs. "Try, Merlin. As long as you can."

"It hurts," he snaps at Gwaine, and it earns him a huffing, amused look. Gwaine doesn't risk laughing at Merlin or else they would get nowhere. He peels apart Merlin's cheeks, rubbing the exposed flesh in slow, easy circles.

"Did I ever tell you how it took me forty days to avoid a duel?"

Gwaine assumes the pointed silence is 'no'.

"When I was living in Anglia, some cur of a knight accused me of slaying his master. I didn't, at least I hadn't thought so, but he wasn't keen on believing me. It's a shame," he says, pretending to frown. "I've been told I have a very honest face."

Merlin's shoulders hitch up as he laughs, and the noise is blessed in Gwaine's ears.

"Is that what that is?" Merlin says breathy.

"We agreed to single combat and he wanted it in front of the king. After a week's journey, I made it there. One of the lords recognized my Father's necklace and welcomed me as a noble. I had no intent on it, however …" Gwaine snickers. "The lord's sister offered a far more… satisfying welcome. She was incredibly persuasive."

The muscles surrounding Gwaine's fingers clench up tightly, and the grease Merlin used on himself makes it impossible for Gwaine to reach and grip onto the pestle. But he figures a story will distract Merlin, uncoil his nerve, long enough to wiggle the long and blunt object out of him.

"You're shameless," Merlin says, humming.

Gwaine makes a so-so expression.

"Not the point—it turns out the knight's squire had been there and spying on us. He roused a mob together in the village, and I was left to defend the manor." He adds, dryly, "With a giant stone chessboard strapped to my arm."

Merlin sounds doubtful.

"And you succeeded?"

"You're sorry you missed it, eh?" Gwaine asks, smirking. He doesn't let on to Merlin that he finally gets a sturdy handle on the pestle, experimentally tugging on it. "The knight eventually returned, ready to kill an innocent man, and the lord introduced himself as the King. He had welcomed me as a guest and couldn't allow the cur to harm me. Our duel was postponed, and I didn't see the point in staying."

Merlin's breathing picks up, going noticeably fast as another of Gwaine's fingers plunges into his sphincter, opening him further.

"The rest of the year seemed dull—I saved a damsel's horse, fought a witch who severed men's heads from their bodies, had 500 arrows shot at me, was attacked by a lion, nearly drowned in a ford, got trapped in an enchanted castle—"

Merlin grunts as if annoyed.

"How—ohgod," his voice cracks, as Merlin's rim stretches and Gwaine pulls the grey-marbled pestle fully out, "how is that—Gwaine!"

The knight tosses the accursed item, smelling the cold grease and Merlin's sweat and body-heat, not wasting time in aiding the other man up. Gwaine's leg complains about shifting, the rash making it throb, but ignores it. Gwaine wraps an arm securely around Merlin, feeling him sink forward onto him. Merlin's runny nose and drool-wet lips smash against his neck.

He shushes the occasional whine, Merlin's arms limply encircling his waist.

"That's it—it's out now, Merlin."

A heavy, tired sigh from his companion.

He whispers, mouthing to Gwaine's hair-bristled skin. "Mhm, what happened to the duel… ?"

"Don't know," Gwaine admits after a pause, shrugging and adjusting Merlin. "Maybe the cur died before we found each other again. Never saw the likes of him again."

Merlin's arms squeeze lightly.

"Thanks…"

Gwaine whispers into his ear, grinning teasingly to Merlin's warm cheek, "Next time you feel like experimenting, love… come to me. We'll do it right the first time." He grins bigger as Merlin's hand harshly swats his backside. There's nothing like home.

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MY FIRST ENTRY FOR THE GWAINE FEST 2014! This is exciting eeeee. I really hope you guys enjoy and please view the graphic collab version at archiveofo urown dot org slash works slash 2652932 !