Disclaimer: 'Merlin' doesn't belong to me. Pity, really. I'd have money and slash on my TV screen every week.
Title: Personal Property of the Court Magician (Do Not Borrow)
Pairings: Merlin/Arthur (established relationship), Arthur/OMC (one-sided)
Word Count: 4, 538
Warnings: …slash? Do I have to warn about it in this fandom?
Summary: Written for kinkme_merlin prompt: "When Arthur is king he makes Merlin court magician and he gets a new manservant. The manservant has a crush on Arthur and Merlin gets jealous."And proceeds to properly label his personal property.
Personal Property of the Court Magician
(Do Not Borrow)
In the beginning, everything goes smoothly – which should have made him suspicious, considering his luck and the way things at Camelot always seem to take a turn for the worse when you're least expecting it.
In the beginning, there are black tapestries in the Great Hall and hushed whispers in the hallways, crimson flags flying at half-staff out of respect for a King more feared than loved. The bells chime once for each year of King Uther's reign and somber ceremonies ensue in order to give him a send-off proper of a man of his station – but there is no true grieving in them, not really. A wave of relief courses through the kingdom, a kingdom that respected its ruler even when they'd almost forgotten why they did so, a kingdom that followed his every command even though tension and discontent had spread during the last years of his reign – a kingdom that only now feels like breathing freely again.
Only in Arthur's eyes there's a piercing grief for his father's death. Perhaps that is the main reason why people are so willing to pay their last respects to a king many had good reason to despise, because as much as Uther was feared his son is loved fiercely, because the people of Camelot learnt to look at their Prince for guide and support in the last years of his father's reign, when everything became so unstable and frail.
Eventually, though, the mourning period comes to an end and the red flags wave once again from the castles turrets, music and laughter are heard in the streets of Camelot as the ban on magic is lifted and an age of darkness and fear comes to an end.
None of them, though, feels as content as Merlin does now that he is free of the chains of secrecy and dread, now that he can show who he really is without fear. And when Arthur presents him with a new position as the Court Magician, he feels like he grazes the sky with his fingertips. He'll finally be able to help Arthur shape Camelot into the greatest kingdom known to mankind, they will finally fulfill their entwined destiny.
Of course, Arthur must dampen his enthusiasm by showing him the Court Magician's official purple robes and pointed hat, but Merlin is so thrilled at the prospect of never, ever mucking the stables again that he is almost willing to let it slide.
(Which doesn't mean he doesn't extract his revenge later that night, but the walls of King Arthur's chambers are made of thick stone and none in the castle hears his broken demands for release, while Merlin smirks and pushes him to his limits, wondering how long it'll take for the King's demands to turn into shameless, desperate begging).
Merlin wears the stupid hat and the horrid robes, goes to the councils and tries very hard to look the part of the powerful and wise sorcerer that deep down he knows he is and to put his foot in his mouth as little as possible. He is so preoccupied with his new duties that almost a week passes until he wonders who might be performing his old duties. Arthur shrugs when asked, bemused by Merlin's interest.
'The Steward appointed him… Edgar, I think that's his name. His family has been in the castle's service for years.'
'I… I never noticed him.'
Arthur rolls his eyes. 'That's because he actually knows how to do his job without drawing attention to himself, as a true manservant ought to… unless they are useless idiots, and the worst –'
'Manservant ever, yeah, I know. Sorry if I was a little too busy saving your life to properly worry over sucking up to you or polishing your sword...'
Only when the words are out of his mouth does he realize the double entendre and blushes – absurdly, because he and Arthur have moved past that point so long ago already. An amused grin tugs at the corners of Arthur's lips.
'Well, I must say that for someone who was not preoccupied by –' and Arthur leans forward, his breath warm against Merlin's bare neck 'proper polishing and sucking, you did –' Arthur's lips graze his earlobe, teeth worrying over it for a little bit, and Merlin shivers to the soles of his feet 'quite an astounding job of it.'
Merlin closes his eyes, swaying into his touch… and Arthur, the bastard, takes a step back, flashing him a wicked grin before leaving him hot and bothered in the middle of a chilly hallway, and it might be the first and last time Merlin feels grateful for the purple robes even as he curses his prat of a king under his breath.
From that moment onwards, Merlin begins to pay proper attention to Arthur's new manservant, because the King's welfare will always be his first concern… and because he wants to make sure Arthur doesn't wind the poor kid, as it has been brought to his attention that most servants are lousy at standing up for themselves.
Edgar, the seventeen-year-old boy appointed to tend to Arthur, though, doesn't seem too stressed by his new duties. In fact, he looks almost glowing, as though he could imagine no better destiny than refilling Arthur's goblet at banquets and carrying around the King's armor when he joins the knights for drills (because, pig-headed as he is, Arthur still insists on doing that and everyone's just too tired to argue to the contrary). Merlin shakes his head, bemused at the sheer joy that shines in the boy's dark eyes whenever Arthur lists an endless number of chores for him.
Gwen tries to explain to him that, for those raised in the castle's service, tending to the royal family is considered the highest honor one could aspire to. Perhaps that's what Uther meant when he called it a 'reward', but Merlin still can't see it. As well as there's someone capable taking care of Arthur, though, Merlin will deem himself satisfied with the situation. Certainly Edgar's loyalty cannot be questioned, neither can be doubted his devotion to the new King and his attentiveness to his master's needs, so Merlin forgets about the whole matter altogether.
(If he sometimes gets the prickling feeling that Edgar looks far too devoted to Arthur or that the King himself doesn't seem to miss Merlin's services at all, he pushes it to the back of his mind because really, he is now above such trifle things, being a reputed sorcerer and all.)
It's Morgana, in her usual Morgana-esque fashion, who points out the obvious.
'That kid is hopelessly smitten with Arthur, isn't he?'
Merlin winces in his chair, his eyes wildly scanning the entire Great Hall until he realizes who Morgana is talking about.
'Edgar? He's just doing his job, Morgana.'
She raises an eyebrow.
'He never takes his eyes off him.'
And true enough, Edgar's gaze seems glued to Arthur wherever he goes, whatever he does… but Arthur draws all eyes towards him no matter where he is or what he is doing, and Merlin is also used to keep an eye on Arthur constantly, because the prat has the most annoying habit of getting nearly killed every fortnight and that doesn't mean that…
Morgana, seeing the dawning realization on his face, says no more and instead raises her goblet to her lips, as though the matter were settled. Merlin wishes he could feel the same way.
The tiny – and sometimes not so much so – details that Merlin's overlooked are now painfully obvious. The dazzled look in Edgar's dark eyes whenever Arthur talks to him, his eagerness to follow every command – Merlin could ignore those, but the lingering touches Arthur doesn't seem to notice, the sheer giddiness at the prospect of divesting the King of his armor and clothes – those are harder to overlook.
Not to mention the withering glares the boy throws in Merlin's way whenever he thinks no one's looking at him.
(If Edgar had as much as a single drop of magical blood in his veins, Merlin is certain he would've been fried to a crisp, Court Magician or not).
Merlin realizes there's no point in talking to Arthur about the subject the day Edgar 'accidentally' drops a mug of almost boiling coffee on the Court Magician's lap. Arthur, instead of sending his manservant straight to the stocks (and Merlin never thought the day he would actually want Arthur to do that would ever come) merely laughs the matter off.
'It was probably your own fault, anyway,' he says, shrugging when Merlin glares at him. 'After all, it's no secret which one of you is the graceless one.'
The beaming on Edgar's face, standing just behind Arthur, does not go unnoticed.
He's just a kid, Merlin reminds himself, as his fingers keep turning the pages of Gauis' old magic book. He no longer has any need for it, but sometimes looking at the incantations of horrid curses and gory hexes soothes his mind. He'll get over it in no time, and it's not like he can pose a threat or anything. It's just a harmless passing fancy.
(And no, he's not looking at the illustration of a particularly vicious curse that can cover the victim's body with repulsive warts in a matter of seconds while he entertains such magnanimous, forgiving thoughts, of course not).
Merlin's understanding disposition towards Edgar's unrequited feelings is shred into pieces the day he enters the King's chambers and finds the boy's hands on a very naked and nearly unconscious Arthur.
It should be a relief that becoming king hasn't changed the main traits of Arthur's personality, but sometimes Merlin could do without his obsessive refusal to ever show any sign of weakness. He can see right away from Arthur's stiff movements when he gets off his horse after the last patrol on the furthest Eastern border that he isn't alright, but the King refuses to forgo his duties and by the end of the day it's evident that he can barely move his right arm.
Merlin decides to wait a little while for Arthur to unwind before going to his chambers to give the King an earful. In the meantime he gathers an assortment of salves for sore muscles, not that the prat deserves such consideration after deeming himself too proud to ask for help.
Ever since the coronation and his appointment as Court Magician many a thing has changed, but in essentials Merlin remains pretty much the same and therefore a frivolous notion such as knocking before bursting into the King's chambers doesn't even cross his mind.
Merlin takes all of three steps into the room before the moaning coming from behind the screen makes him stop dead in his tracks. He would recognize those pleased sounds anywhere, after many hours of practicing to elicit them with just his touch.
He still possesses enough presence of mind to lock the door magically even as he circles the screen and his step falters once more at the sight before his eyes.
The last rays of sunlight seem to catch fire when they graze Arthur's golden hair, casting a glow over his closed eyelids. His head is thrown backwards exposing the pale line of his throat, his broad chest shimmering with countless droplets of water that tremble and form rivulets going downwards each time Arthur lets out a contented sigh. Merlin drinks in the sight, because in the months preceding Uther's passing the moments in which he could see Arthur this relaxed and carefree became rarer and rarer so Merlin has learnt to treasure them.
His breath hitches, warmth spreading through his skin as though it were the first time he saw Arthur like this (which is not, but Merlin doesn't need a cryptic dragon to know this will never get old, it will never cease to make his head spin and his heart swell). His fingers itch to dispose of the horrid purple robes and jump into the bathtub with Arthur, ready to trace the strong line of his jaw with his lips, to taste each droplet of water on Arthur's chest with his tongue… but another sigh escapes Arthur's lips and Merlin remembers there's something he needs to deal with first.
That something being Edgar, the superb-although-inherently-and-almost-imperceptibly-evil manservant, who is currently standing behind Arthur, looming over him.
With. His. Hands. On. Arthur.
So. Okay. Maybe to the casual observer, it would look like Edgar is merely rubbing Arthur's shoulders, something that can be considered part of a manservant's duties to his master (or so Arthur's claimed for years). Nothing untoward about it. At all.
Except that Edgar's eyes keep raking all over Arthur's body, his gaze hungrily drinking in the sight the clear water cannot conceal. And Merlin might've been the worst manservant ever in the history of Camelot (Arthur assured him that Geoffrey of Monmouth had stated so in his chronicles) but even he is aware that performing your duties with a hard-on, making no attempt whatsoever to conceal it, can't be part of the proper protocol of royal service.
(Which might confirm that Merlin was, indeed, the worst manservant in Camelot's history, but in his defense he'll say that Arthur deliberately taunted him, with his tight britches and his habit of bending over the table and… Well. That's another mental picture he doesn't need right now).
None of them notices his presence until Merlin unceremoniously drops all the salves and oils flasks on the table. Edgar flinches and Arthur's eyes snap open, his lips curving into a lazy smile when he sees Merlin. If he weren't so mad, Merlin might've done something utterly embarrassing such as swooning.
'Merlin, there you are. I was starting to wonder what might be keeping you – usually you don't take this long to come by and lecture me.'
He speaks good-humoredly, absolutely oblivious to the contest of scorching glares going on between present-and-past manservant. Edgar's hands keep steadily working on Arthur's shoulders, but his eyes have narrowed and his jaw is tightly set. Merlin wonders if he could magically push over that chandelier to knock the boy out and make it look like an accident, but Arthur would figure it out in three seconds flat.
And, besides, he is supposed to be the adult here. So he is going to act all adult-like.
Or something of the sort.
'I've brought you some salves and oils for your strained muscles, sire. It seemed like you could make good use of them.'
It's proof of how badly Arthur still hurts that he beams broadly instead of scowling and claiming he needs no such things.
'Merlin, and here I was thinking you were incompetent even as a Court Magician…'
Edgar releases Arthur's shoulders and takes a few steps towards the table, but Merlin stands in his way before he can grab any of the flasks.
'They're magical salves, Edgar. They must be applied by me.' The smile that curves Merlin's lips is not meant to be warm. 'You may go now.'
Arthur arches an eyebrow. He's fully aware that even though Merlin strengthens them with magic, the salves are the very same Gaius used to concoct and can be used by anyone. He must've seen something in Merlin's face, though, because he remains silent, watching the events unfold with mild curiosity.
Edgar tightens his jaw even more and for a fleeting moment it looks like he might argue (or punch Merlin on the nose). When Arthur doesn't ask him to stay, though, he straightens his back and marches towards the door. He lingers in the threshold for a heartbeat, his shoulders tense, his hands clenched into fists… Merlin waits, but Edgar merely walks out of the King's chambers, too dignified to slam the door on his way out.
'What was all that about?'
Merlin shrugs, feigning a nonchalance he knows that Arthur won't buy even for a second as he grabs one of the flasks and pours a generous amount of salve on his hands.
'Would you prefer Edgar to do it? Because I can send for him right away.'
Arthur opens his mouth, perhaps to throw a jibe at Merlin by praising Edgar's undoubted superiority at this sort of tasks, but he must've seen something on the warlock's face that stops him from doing so. Instead he regards Merlin with a frown on his face, as though he were trying to solve a strange jigsaw made of pieces that did not fit. Even when Merlin positions himself behind him and starts spreading the salve on his shoulders, Arthur throws his head backwards so he can keep his blue eyes on him and Merlin's missed this in an almost painful way, he's missed the intensity of Arthur's gaze on him, he's missed the touch of warm skin. He's missed the pleased sounds escaping from Arthur's lips when all tension is released from his shoulders, he's missed the rare moments when Arthur surrenders and becomes pliant under his fingertips, completely at Merlin's mercy. At times like this, he is not the once and future king of Albion, the beloved ruler of Camelot, the man whose vision and strength managed to unite the lands once divided by fear and bloodshed. At times like this Arthur is only Merlin's to behold, he belongs to Merlin completely and irrevocably. Merlin is not willing to share that side of Arthur, not now, not ever.
It's about time Edgar (and if necessary, the rest of Camelot) gets on with the program.
He keeps the water lukewarm with a touch of his fingertips until he's finished washing the last traces of salve from Arthur's back. Merlin dries his golden hair with a whisper of magic, but takes his time to dry the rest of Arthur's body with a towel. He takes so long that Arthur starts making impatient noises as he tugs at Merlin's robes.
'Enough with the petting, Merlin. Can you get on with it?'
'Always the romantic,' Merlin mutters under his breath, rolling his eyes. Arthur looks mildly offended.
'I can be romantic alright,' he replies, somewhat petulantly. Before Merlin can call him on it, he feels Arthur's fingers at the nape of his neck, followed by the press of their lips together in a slow, languorous kiss that almost turns Merlin's knees and brains into pudding.
Arthur starts motioning them towards the bed while he tries (and fails) to remove Merlin's robes. Merlin ends up getting rid of the obnoxious garments with a flick of his wrist, but he stops Arthur before he can push him to the bed. There are times when he has no objection to Arthur taking charge, but not today. Merlin could say he doesn't want the prat to risk injuring his shoulder again… although it would not be the whole truth. The awful truth is there's still something coiled in Merlin's belly, there's still fury pumping in his veins at the thought that Arthur has let anyone see him with his barriers down, that he's let Edgar put his hands on him like that. He knows it's irrational, he knows that Arthur would laugh at his foolishness till the sunset of mankind if he ever heard of it. It doesn't quell the burning urge to take control over Arthur, to pin him down to the bed and stake his claim with his tongue, his fingers, his teeth, until every inch of Arthur's body is marked as his.
When Arthur tries to reach out to him, silver threads of light and smoke pin his shoulders to the bed. His brow furrows, his expression surprised, although not shocked. It is not the first time Merlin uses magic for this sort of situation, but the times he's felt the need to exercise his control over Arthur like this have been rare. Tonight Merlin needs this, needs Arthur completely at his mercy. He needs to break his self-control, to turn the King's ragged breaths into desperate begs, he needs Arthur to admit he wants Merlin so much that it burns under his skin, that no other could ever make him tremble like this.
Merlin presses his mouth against Arthur's with none of the usual gentleness, it's violent and raw, a bruising kiss that leaves both their lips red and swollen. Once Arthur is desperately gasping for breath, Merlin's mouth traces the line of his jaw and then moves down his neck. He doesn't bother with kisses and nibbling, instead he sucks the tender flesh of Arthur's throat until he sees there's a mark left by his mouth, a mark no one could ever mistake. He feels under his tongue the throbbing of Arthur's racing pulse, he licks and then bites down on the juncture of neck and shoulder.
Arthur lets out a gasp and his hips start to buck, reaching for a little more contact, a little more friction. Merlin will have none of it this time and his fingers grasp the hips under his body with such an iron grip he is certain there will be bruises there when the morning comes.
(He'll make sure there are bruises there when the morning comes, he'll make sure the print of his fingers is etched on those hips, that every inch of Arthur's body has marks of his touch, of his mouth, marks that will unmistakably brand him as Merlin's property).
Mine, says each one of Merlin's burning kisses, mine, repeat his fingers when they search for that spot that makes Arthur writhe under his weight, mine claims Merlin's entire being as he thrusts into Arthur, pining him to the mattress. Mine is the word that escapes from his lips like an oath as he comes, biting down once more on Arthur's shoulder, feeling him shudder and come undone in his arms.
When morning comes, it finds Merlin working on Arthur's shoulders as he makes disparaging comments on prattish kings who can't give it a rest before straining their muscles. Arthur rolls his eyes in response, making a solid effort to look stoic although every now and then a grimace gives away his pain. Each time Merlin catches sight of it he hastens to press his lips against the back of his neck, the line of his jaw, behind his earlobe.
If it weren't for Arthur's invincible pride, after a while Merlin would bet he is doing it on purpose.
There's a knock on the door. Automatically Arthur commands the visitor to enter and Merlin can't say he's surprised to see a beaming Edgar on the doorstep carrying a tray. When he catches sight of Merlin, his hands possessively clutching at Arthur's shoulders, his bright smile withers and fades.
Merlin could almost feel bad for him.
Ever the perfect manservant, though, Edgar manages to keep a straight face as he places the tray on the table, while unabashedly ogling Arthur from under his lashes.
Let him stare, Merlin thinks vindictively, his grip tightening on Arthur's shoulders. Let him see.
And stare he does. Not that Merlin can blame him, because Arthur, clad only in his britches, is certainly a sight to behold. His disheveled hair catches glints of the sunlight pouring through the windows; dark golden stubble roughening his face; the vastness of a clear summer sky caught in his eyes…
Not to mention his broad, lean chest and strong arms, adorned with the marks of Merlin's teeth and fingers.
Arthur's face remains impassive, as though he were truly oblivious to Edgar's smoldering gaze or Merlin's possessive touch. His voice is polite although firm when he speaks.
'That shall be all, Edgar. You may go.'
The boy can hardly pretend there are any more dishes to accommodate on the table, but he still dwindles for a moment, fiddling with his cuffs. After one last, longing glance at Arthur, he bows meekly and heads towards the door. Merlin just can't help himself.
'Edgar.' The boy stops in his tracks, his jaw setting into a tight line.
'There will be no need of your services helping the King dress today.'
Something flashes in Edgar's eyes then – before his gaze falls to Merlin's hands, still gripping Arthur's shoulders and he seems to realize this is already a lost battle. Bowing his head once more, he closes the door carefully on his way out.
'Was that really necessary?'
Arthur's tone is only mildly annoyed, his eyes shinning with that odd mixture of exasperation and reluctant affection Merlin has grown accustomed to.
The sorcerer glares at him, his suspicions about the King's so called obliviousness confirmed.
'Yes, if you're too much of a twat to teach the brat some boundaries,' he says through gritted teeth. Arthur, idiot that he is, doesn't even attempt to look ashamed of himself.
'It's not like you minded when I failed to reprimand you for overstepping any boundaries, did you?'
A grin tugs at the corners of Arthur's mouth even as the curtains shake and flames burst into the fireplace, Merlin's eyes flashing golden.
'Don't. You. Dare,' he hisses in Arthur's ear. 'If you ever let him lay his hands on you again –'
'What, Merlin? What would you do?'
Arthur has turned his head towards him, their eyes locking in a burning gaze. Merlin's hand moves from his shoulder to the nape of his neck, a grip so strong that will leave bruises. Arthur doesn't flinch away, his eyes fixed on his face.
'Show me, Merlin.' His breath is hot on Merlin's skin, the tip of his tongue licking his lips before repeating: 'Show me.'
And Merlin, for once, does just as he's told.
Over and over again.
Incidentally, a few weeks later Edgar gets assigned to Sir Pellinor. Morgana rolls her eyes, all-knowing, and Gwen shakes her head at the boy's look of despair but refrains from saying anything. Merlin's message has been cast loud and clear and for once, the court of Camelot doesn't need to be told twice.
Then, as it couldn't have been otherwise, the youngest son of a baron from a distant border comes to be trained as a knight and the starry-eyed look he gets every time the King is within his sight is unmistakable.
Merlin grits his teeth, even as he gives the boy a polite (though strained) smile. Arthur, the bastard, doesn't even try to hide his amusement.
And no, Merlin doesn't need Morgana's cutting remarks to realize that Arthur is totally doing it on purpose. This time, though, he has a foolproof plan.
The King is puzzled by the odd looks he keeps receiving at the feast, but after checking with the reflection on his spoon that there is nothing wrong with his face, he gives it up. The court soon manages to keep their faces impassive and although Morgana riles him up by snorting into her goblet every now and then (for God's sake, even Gwen's lips are twitching now), Arthur does his best to remain composed and ignore the matter altogether.
(Little can he imagine that, visible for everyone but himself, across his forehead in bold letters can be read: 'Personal Property of the Court Magician: Do Not Borrow').