Title: Spark of Another Nature
Beta: LJ's cyphersushi and charlies_dragon

Pairing: Merlin/Arthur
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 11,479

Disclaimer: All of this is pretty, wistful lies
Warnings: Het, genderbender, sex, het-sex, language, character death, minor angst, semi-canon bending

Note: There are two types of GenderBender fic - one where the character turns into a member of the opposite sex and the second where that character has always been the opposite gender. This story assumes the latter rather than the former.

This fic started as a germ of an idea that wasn't going to turn nearly this long, and I blame merry_gentry for this entirely... she's my darling Merry!bird and I dunno where'd I'd be without her insanity and ability to make me laugh. *adores all over her* Blame also goes to charlies_dragon who initially got me hooked into Merlin despite others attempts (and failures); she did hand-holding during the spider episode and I think I felt obligated :-P Thanks, baobei!

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In a land of myth, and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young girl. Her name... Merlin.

The first thing Merlin is aware of is a painful crick in her neck; the next thing is that she's shivering and something is crawling on her shoulder. She cracks open an eye and glares at the bird perched on her body.

"Right, I'm awake." Yawning she stretches, and realizes at the last minute that she's still curled up in a tree.

The shriek that escapes her frightens the birds into flying off and she claws at the air, her eyes flashing gold as her lips move in a silent plea of oh gods please no no no no.


Her back hits a surface much nicer than the hard ground and roots she was expecting. Blinking at the sun she inhales, grimaces at the pain through her backside, but sits up and exhales at the leaves she's landed on.

"Huh, that's lucky." She fights the tingle through her body at the magic on her fingertips. "Right, onward now."

In the early morning chill the earth smells sweet, the grass damp under her palms as she rolls off the softer pile she's on. Her body aches despite the fall, thanks to two days of dirt and travel on her way to Camelot; nights in trees and days rationing what little she has until she reaches her destination.

By her calculations she should make it there by midday, however; she just needs to let her feet move.

Making her way to stand Merlin brushes off the dirt from her clothes and twists her fingers deftly into her hair before managing to tuck it up into the hood her mother makes her wear whenever she's out loitering in her breeches and tunic. "Not proper for a girl to run about like a man, her mother would say with lips pursed in worry. "Not like you need the extra attention."

Merlin hesitates for a moment and looks down at her scarred, rough hands from the work she is accustomed to in Ealdor. What will Camelot bring for her that she did not receive in her home?

Uncle Gaius will know, she reminds herself, shouldering her pack and stepping forward onto the road again.

Most travelers would give a young girl traveling by herself askance looks but nobody looks twice at the young boy skipping down the road towards Camelot and whistling to himself while swinging his arms at his sides. Nobody notices the way he barely manages to not trip over his own boots, nor the way random items in his path, such as branches, skid away.

Gaius' errands turn into a game of "where the bloody hell am I now?" for Merlin as she tries to keep track of the dips and twists in the streets that make the city of Camelot, outside the gates of the castle. She gets lost more than once, having to find someone to ask directions from and hoping she doesn't confuse herself into an alley alone.

By the afternoon her feet ache and her head hurts from covering it with the thick cap Gaius thinks she should wear, to keep up her masculine disguise. But she knows exactly where she is: entering the gate to the castle, and to Uther's courtyard.

She walks in just in time to hear a boy her age cry out in panic, and the following thud of splintering wood.

Her first instinct is to duck, roll out of the way and berate herself for walking into danger... but this isn't Ealdor, where hunters mark their territory and she's wandered into an expedition by folly. This is the king's home, and some blonde, smug male is laughing at a younger man who is clutching a circular board with two daggers jutting out, obviously thrown.

Frowning Merlin steps to the side and watches as the taller boy glances at his friends for encouragement then throws another dagger, making them all laugh and the target-holder moan with fear.

In that terror he drops the target, and it rolls until she holds up her boot, stops it and steps down.

"All right, that's enough!" she says, forcing a friendly smile to her face and trying to deepen her voice.

"Excuse me?"

Stepping towards the boy that (despite her better instincts) makes her heart flutter with his blue eyes, she puts her hands on her hips and says, "You've had your fun. Now let 'em go."

This turns into a mistakes which gives her some time in jail, the stocks and a name: Arthur.

Arthur stares down at the figure he's knocked over, horror washing over him when Merlin straights with his- no,her hair falling all over the place from her cap falling off.

"You're a girl!"

"And you're a prat, but I won't hold that against you," she informs him with a sweet smile as she shakes her limbs loose. His men stand nearby, two of them almost as red as tomatoes, as they realize they wrestled a young girl into the dungeon last night and not a lad as they assumed.

"But... but... I could have hurt you, you stupid-"

Biting back the angry words that want to come forth, Arthur looks down at the broom he was so mockingly sweeping towards her a moment ago, and feels shame well up inside of him. There was no way he could know Merlin was a girl, but still, his actions? Not worthy of a knight of Camelot. And she isn't acting scandalized or weeping like most girls he knows would do at his rough treatment, instead looking bewildered at his stillness.

His knights look at each other, then take a reluctant step forward to seize her.

"Wait." Arthur holds out a hand to stop them. "She may be an idiot, but she's a brave one." Arthur meets her eyes and makes a formal, stiff bow before taking a step towards her. "I don't know another woman who would have stood up to me like you did. There's... something about you, Merlin."

"Don't flatter yourself, sire." Merlin's blue eyes twinkle at him as she adds with cheek, "I would have done the same to any royal ass."

The heavy weight on her legs brings her back to the present, although Merlin is still seeing stars; she swallows her heart back down to her throat and gets up on shaky legs, allowing an equally-paled Arthur to help her.

King Uther stares at them with bewildered gratitude, and Merlin backs away to a proper distance from the Prince.

"How did...?" Uther tears his gaze away to look at the crumpled heap of the witch that impersonated Lady Helen, then back at Merlin. "How did you know she was...?"

"I didn't, sire."

"Quick on your feet, then." Uther's voice turns husky as he looks over at Arthur. "You saved my son's life. I don't know how I can ever repay you."

"You don't."

"Yes, I do; an act of this nature deserves a reward equally as great." Then he gets a gleam in his eyes, and Merlin feels her heart sink in her chest as he declares that she will be a page, a servant... for Arthur.

The entire court looks stunned at this proclamation, considering they can tell she's a girl from her hair and the dress Gaius made her wear for the festivities, but when she starts to open her mouth Arthur gives her a warning look. Useless; save your breath, his expression states.

"He does realize I'm a girl, right?" Merlin asks as Uther moves away. Arthur snorts.

"Considering how you're dressed, yes. I'd recommend trying to look at least feminine, since you can't fight at all." Arthur tsk's. "You'll be the most appalling servant I've ever had."

Merlin arches an eyebrow and crosses her arms over her chest. "I seem to recall beating you until I was distracted."

"By what, a nice hair ribbon or something?"

Her jaw clenches. "If I could I'd go back and let her bloody kill you, you prat." She stomps away before Arthur can make another comment, heading straight for Gaius and ignoring the eyes still following her.

She misses the look the Lady Morgana gives Arthur, an expression of disappointment, and Arthur staring after her.

Somehow she and Arthur find a way to guarantee they won't kill each other, in the weeks following her employment. Well, the fact she managed to figure out Valiant enchanted his shield and they worked together to fight the monster in the water supply helps. That, and Gwen.

Gwen introduced herself the first day of Merlin's service and she has proven to be more valuable than her weight in gold to the young girl: she shows Merlin where the cleaning supplies are, assists her in getting on the staff's good sides, teaches her about armor and how to put it on properly, and she never stares at the breeches Merlin runs around the castle in, nor does she try to convince her to wear a dress.

Morgana does, thinking Merlin would look enchanting in some of her cast-off finery, but Merlin only runs off and hides until they give up.

And she's learning how to control the warmth that simmers in her veins, that temptation to just glance at an item and watch it fly into her waiting palm, thanks to Gaius. Late at night after Arthur's excused her for the day she curls up in her room and pours over the book Gaius gave her.

Arthur still makes digs at her, about her lack of femininity and her inability to hold a sword well; he expects her to learn how to defend herself and to properly hold a weapon the moment her fingers touch the hilt.

"Can't you find someone else to train with?" she demands after another embarrassing (and bruising) bout with him.

"Nope," he responds with a grin, his blue eyes lighting up. "Wouldn't you be jealous of my attentions on another, when you're learning at my hand?"

"Immensely," she drawls before she ducks, sweeps a foot out and knocks him right on his royal bum. "I'd be helpless."

Swearing Arthur flails around to right himself while she fixes her hands on her hips. "You can't do that!" he sputters. "That's cheating."

"You think that everyone follows the rules of combat in a fight?" she demands. She fights a flinch at the memory of being kicked, punched, spitting out mouthfuls of dirt thanks to the bullies in her village, the boys who thought a girl was only good for two things and they weren't repeatable in polite society.

But Arthur's from a glittering world with honor, chivalry and knighthood. He doesn't have scars and callouses on his fingers from his livelihood but instead from choice, from battle and tournaments.

"No, but I'm trying to teach you more than that, Merlin!" Arthur snaps, standing and suddenly grabbing her wrist. "You may be able to hold your own against untrained boys and a single person, but what happens if you're attacked by bandits? Who is going to help you if a group of men decides to-"

"Decides to what?" she challenges. "You've told me plenty of times I can pass as a boy."

"A pretty one," Arthur corrects. Is it her imagination, or does his voice turn darker for a moment? "A possibly helpless one. No servant of mine will be helpless."

The intent way he examines her face makes her legs tremble, her face heat up, and she only faintly feels the pressure of his fingers around her wrist before she manages to speak. "You're hurting me."

Arthur drops her arm immediately as if burned and turns, walks away and into the castle without a word.

Gwen finds her standing there minutes later, cradling her wrist to her chest. "Did Arthur hurt you?" Gwen asks with surprise.

"No. I'm fine." But she lets the older girl lead her into the castle and to her room, where she spends the night thinking about what Arthur said. No servant of mine will be helpless.

Two sides of the same coin.

"You realize you aren't a bit helpful, don't you?" Merlin finally asks, wanting to shake her fist at the smirk on the dragon's face. Well, it looks like a smirk, to her. His tone's been awfully smug, anyways.

"I have answered every question you have posed to me, young sorceress."

"But you won't tell me what my role is to Arthur!"

"Because it is not yet time for you to know that." The dragon examines her, nostrils flared. "Now I wonder why you ask. Nothing has happened, as far as I know."

Merlin makes a face. "He orders me about, bangs me around with a sword, won't let me do anything remotely fun 'cause I'm a girl, and is an enormous git!" she informs the dragon with a roll of her eyes. "I've been taking care of myself for years, before I came to Camelot. I don't need Arthur Pendragon to help me."

"Perhaps he knows you do not need his assistance. Perhaps he gives it out of friendship."

"He wouldn't know friendship if it bit him in the ass."

That earns her a sharp bark of laughter. "Be patient, young one."

"Patient, my giddy aunt," she mutters and leaves. "Bloody useless dragon."

Arthur politely claps at the council of Mercia and their intent for a treaty, his eyes trailing away on account of his boredom at these political events. Honestly, he'd rather be outside improving his sword skills, or even hunting. An amused smile plays at his lips at the memory of Merlin's first hunting trip with him, and her clumsiness with the equipment.

Speaking of Merlin, he glances over and watches her, the sparkle in her eyes as she watches the proceedings.

Wait a minute. Merlin has a shorter attention span than he does.

He narrows his eyes, estimates where her gaze is headed and follows it to the Mercia council... and a very handsome servant on the other side, who is ducking his head but smiling back at her, with dark hair and eyes almost as blue as hers.

Bloody... He should encourage this, a potential union between their kingdoms to help promote the festivities and agreement.

He should rip his head off his shoulders for daring to look at the Prince's servant.

As soon as he is able he hurries over to Merlin's side. "See something you like?" he manages to say, rather calmly.

Merlin's eyes are still on the boy as she asks distractedly, "Hmm?"

"Oy!" At Arthur's snapping of his fingers she jolts back to what he's saying, and Arthur frowns. "As my servant you can't moon over every boy you see."

"I'm not mooning over every-" she starts to say.

"Then what do you call him?" Arthur demands.

"Well, I'm not mooning over every boy. I don't moon over you," she points out and hurries off before he can think of a comeback. He snarls under his breath and storms to his chambers, to plot his revenge.

The large hat and over-sized cloak do the trick, making him chuckle to himself during the banquet.

All amusement fades when Merlin takes the wine, pales and tries to speak, then collapses.

He barely hears Gaius's shouts and Gwen's cry of panic, everything a blur except his need to hurry to her side, to cradle the limp form of Merlin in his arms and hurry her into Gaius's chambers. And if his lips brush over her temple, trying to check her fever as he whispers, "Don't leave me..."?

Well, nobody would dare accuse him of that.

Her hands tremble when she tries to feed herself, and Merlin whimpers before her head lays on the table, a tear of frustration escaping the corner of her eye. Gaius would help but he has been summoned to the village to assist with an accident, and she's still too weak.

Sighing she forces herself to sit up and tries again, hand still shaking visibly.


Jumping at the sudden voice she turns to see Arthur walking towards her. "Sire, I didn't hear-" she says.

"Here now." Arthur sits on the bench next to her, taking one of her trembling hands in his. "You're shaking like a newborn colt. You should be in bed."

"Hungry," she mumbles, staring at the stew with longing.

"Ah," and Arthur reaches for the spoon, probably for a taste. He ladles out a bite.

To her surprise, however, he leads the spoon up to her lips and gently tilts it so she can swallow with ease. He nods, smiling, and scoops up another bite.

"Can't have you fading away to nothing, now can I?" he asks when she starts to protest, and when she finishes the entire bowl he carries her up to her room and tucks her into bed.

The last thing she is aware of before she drifts to sleep is a cool hand stroking her forehead.

"Here, let me get that for you," Gwen says and snatches the bag from Merlin's hand before she can open her mouth.

Huffing a breath, Merlin makes a grab for her sack of herbs she's been hunting for Gaius. "I'm completely fine now, Gwen! Gaius gave me a complete bill of health."

"Mm hmm, and he also told you to take it easy, and here you are running at neck-breaking speeds to hurry up so you can attend to your other duties." Gwen gives her a pointed, daring look, as if challenging Merlin to deny the accusations.

Merlin glares at her. "You aren't my mother, Gwen."

"No, but I'm your friend." Gwen shrugs a shoulder and grins at her. "Plus Arthur asked me to make sure you don't wear yourself out."

"I'm sure he did," Merlin mutters while bending over for the roots to some spring grass Gaius requested.

"I thought it was very sweet," Gwen says and kneels to help her. "He takes very good care of you."

"Hmm," Merlin hums in response but thinks on Gwen's words. It's true that Arthur has limited her duties completely in the past two weeks since the goblet-incident, to the point of her trying to sneak behind his back to just carry his food trays to his room. Now none of the castle staff will let her do anything other than walk or help Gaius.

Gwen laughs, catching her attention. "Don't tell me you think he's not a prat anymore."

Cheeks flushing slightly, Merlin looks down at her dirt-stained fingers. "He could be worse. He's improving."

"Under your good influence, I might add," Gwen says.

"Sure, ri-" Merlin's words cut off at a loud, hideous shriek that violates their ears, making Merlin drop the items in her hands as she grimaces. "What the bloody hell was that?"

"I don't know." Gwen's eyes widen and Merlin almost chokes when she realizes they're being charged at by a beast that looks at them with beady eyes, the face of a bird and the body of a lion. "Gwen, run!" she shouts, grabbing her friend's arm and heading as fast as she can through the woods, moving them in a serpentine fashion.

The beast only roars and hurries after them.

Breath threatening to not return, Merlin ducks them behind a tree and peeks over fast. "Gwen, get to Camelot and inform them what's happening. I'll fend it off."

"With what, your bare hands?"

"Trust me!" Merlin shoves her, then runs the opposite way while praying under her breath she's not doing something totally stupid.

A claw lands near her, close enough to shake the ground, and she screams as she falls forward. Scrambling against the leaves and twigs she tries to right herself, before she hears another shriek from the beast and closes her eyes. Take me away, away, away from here, safe, away-

And that's how she first meets Lancelot, who comes charging out of nowhere and attacks the creature until it retreats and they can escape to Camelot.

Merlin's definitely not in love, Arthur can tell as she stumbles after him with Arthur's sword and prattles on about this man that rescued her in the woods; after the poisoning incident he hasn't seen her so much as look a reasonably-attractive man in the eyes. So maybe this Lancelot fellow is homely and she just feels a kinship towards him, being new in Camelot and all.

He manages to not think too much about the fact that this unknown, probably hideous man is sleeping in Gaius's rooms, actually in Merlin's bedroom (while she sleeps on a pallet near the fireplace, Gaius has assured him) and he's certain she won't be considering running off with the man.

At least that's what Arthur manages to convince himself until Merlin and Gwen show up at the practice field with a man who even Arthur has to admit is incredibly handsome, and looking down at Merlin with incredulous eyes.

Jaw clenching slightly Arthur folds his arms over his chest and watches the would-be knight stumble over to him.

He plays dirty, of course, and when he looks up after telling Lancelot to muck the stables he catches Merlin's gaze and sees her concerned features as her eyes follow Lancelot away. She looks back at Arthur, and her disappointment in him weighs heavier than the chain metal he wears.

Before he realizes what he's doing, Arthur crosses the field to where she is standing. He ignores the stares of his knights at this unusual action, since he rarely acknowledges Merlin's presence when he's training, and thankfully Gwen has chased after Lancelot so he can speak to his servant without her judgmental eyes and her disapproving ears. "Didn't realize your new hero was such a weakling, Merlin."

"You didn't give him a fair chance, Arthur," she says, not rising to his bait as usual. "You've never publicly humiliated another knight before."

"I-" Arthur rolls his eyes at the impracticality of that. "He's not a knight yet, Merlin."

"No; he's just an honorable nobleman that didn't complain when you sent him to do a servant's work." Merlin looks after Lancelot, a faraway look in her eyes. "He just wants to serve Camelot, and your father's kingdom."

Arthur snorts at that. "Right, his intentions are entirely honorable."

"They are! If you'd just give him a chance..."

"Give a chance to a man who is taking advantage of my servant's vulnerable state and is probably angling for a toss in the hay?" Arthur shrugs with a careless smile, all teeth and no kindness. "Maybe you should go help him with the mucking. You're good at finding treasure in the filth."

The look that Merlin gives him knocks the wind out of him harder than any punch to his midsection before she turns and walks away. Her shoulders remain stiff, but that broken look in her eyes twists at his innards.

Maybe that's why he seeks out Lancelot afterwards, takes the broom handle and makes the man fight him, beats him soundly but tells him to show up for training. He tries to convince himself that it's just because he's giving the man a "fair chance," like he should have initially. It has nothing to do with the way Merlin's eyes light up when she sees him sparring with Lancelot later after the creature flies off, when she enters the banquet hall dressed in a plain dress.

Gods, a dress...

"She looks beautiful," Lancelot says at his elbow, his eyes skimming over Merlin for a moment too long for Arthur's liking.

"I admit, she doesn't look as incompetent as she usually does," Arthur says gruffly before gulping down his wine.

When he lowers his glass, Lancelot is frowning but scanning the crowd until he sees what he's looking for and can't find the delighted smile on his face. Arthur tries to follow the path of the knight's eyes, and raises an eyebrow when he sees Gwen standing by herself, smiling.

Well, now... Arthur steals a glance at Merlin, who looks oblivious to Lancelot and is talking with Gaius.

"You did a good job today," Arthur says with a magnanimous spirit. He had always liked Lancelot; he was a good bloke after all.

Lancelot starts at the sudden praise, and then leans over to murmur, "Sire, maybe you should ask Merlin to dance."

"What?" Arthur blinks at the man as if he's deranged. "Why?"

"Because you two obviously want to." Lancelot bows and walks over to Gwen before Arthur can sputter out the opposite, bowing low and leading her to where a few couples are forming a dance.

Arthur places his goblet down on the nearby table and looks over to where Merlin is standing.

Er, where she was standing. Now Gaius is alone, watching the young couples, and Arthur can't see his servant anywhere. Sighing in confusion Arthur walks over to Morgana and bows. "May I have this dance?"

He doesn't catch the blue eyes watching him across the room, nor does he see Morgana's quick glance for Merlin.

After Edwin's attempt to murder his father Arthur takes more precautions around the castle, including making Merlin increase her skills with a sword - a fact that does little to please his servant.

"Is this really necessary?" she demands when he's knocked her off her feet for the sixth time that morning.

Arthur pulls her up with a hand and smacks the back of her legs with the flat of his sword. "It will be until I'm satisfied you can protect yourself from an attacker," he informs her. "Honestly, you're not completely worthless when you put your mind to it."

"Oh, thanks a heap," she mutters.

"What was that?"

She lunges at him and knocks him off his feet, and Arthur hears a sound that is suspiciously like laughter escape her after he flails. "Wasn't satisfied you could protect yourself from an attacker, sire," she says with a wide grin.

"Why you-"

He takes her by surprise and tackles her onto her back. They begin tussling, fighting in ways Arthur hasn't done since he was a child and would wrestle with one of his boyhood friends or even his father, when time permitted.

But wrestling with Merlin is so different; she isn't letting him win and fights back as much as she can with pinches, tickling his sides and grinning with delight when he lets out an unmanly giggle, rolling around in the hay with him until he manages to get the upperhand and gets a hold on her wrists.

"Do you surrender?" he teases, panting and looking down at her flushed face as she wriggles to free herself.

"A servant of Camelot never surrenders, Arthur," she informs him and tries to free herself, and Arthur laughs and lets his forehead rest against hers.

Peace runs through him at her touch, at their shared breathes and at the glow in Merlin's eyes.

"Merlin..." She tilts her head to the side, and his gaze trails to her lips when she absently flicks her tongue across them.


It feels right, letting his head slide down and their mouths touching, Merlin gasping slightly and him letting his tongue explore the softness that surprises him there, tasting the strawberries she nicked from his morning tray and a spice that tastes like her.

His hands loosen at her wrists, and she slides her arms down to let her fingers run through his hair, one palm rested on his shoulder. "Arthur," she murmurs against his lips, before he bites at the soft plump curves there.


"Arthur!" A pillow whumps over his head and Arthur blinks blearily at the sight of his servant with her hands on her hips next to his bed, a concerned expression on her face despite the annoyance in her tone. "Honestly, are you going to sleep the day away?"

"Mmph." Arthur rolls over and sighs. "You may be the worst servant I've ever had."

"Yes? And this is news how?" Merlin retorts while pulling the bedclothes off of him. "You're supposed to be in patrol in less than an hour, and you haven't even dressed or eaten your breakfast and - oh." Her cheeks flush a little and she spins around with her back to him before she hurries over to the table. "You'd best be, uh, decent by the time I get back, sire."

"Decent? What..." Arthur looks down and almost groans at the obvious sign of his enjoyment of his dreams. "Uh, right."

"Right." Merlin does her best to not flee the room although the door shuts quicker than usual, and Arthur falls back onto his bed with a groan.

He sternly informs himself that no, he wasn't admiring how pert her arse looked as she hurried away.

"That Sophia girl is a menace, a bloody pest, and a blight on society, and probably only wants into Camelot to get into Arthur's breeches!"

Gwen blinks at the intensity of Merlin hitting the pillows on Arthur's bed, supposedly to fluff them. "Do I want to know?"

"I had to spend," Merlin's voice becomes muffled for a moment as she falls over onto her stomach while reaching across the bed, "half the day in the stocks because I was trying to cover for Arthur. He wanted to go out riding with that... that..."

"Girl?" Gwen supplies.

"Yes!" Merlin sighs and flops down onto Arthur's bed without grace before her fingers find a stray thread on the edge of her tunic. "I think he's serious about her, Gwen... and I don't like her."

"Don't like her, or... don't like her?" Gwen asks, careful with her words. Merlin looks up, and there's an intensity to her eyes that catches Gwen's breath for a moment. "Oh, Merlin, please don't tell me you've gone and fallen in love with Arthur."

"No, no." Merlin shakes her head firmly. "No, I just... I worry about him. Don't want him tied to a total witch."

"Would make life much more horrible once Uther's gone." Sitting down next to her younger friend, Gwen strokes at the braid running down Merlin's back. "But Sophia has been completely lovely to you, hasn't she?"

Merlin bobs her head up and down, but her eyes look distant. "It isn't what she says. It's what she doesn't say."

"Right, because that makes logical sense."

"I'm serious, Gwen." Neither one of them sees the flash of red in the eyes of the girl watching from the doorway, nor do they hear Sophia tiptoe over to her father's room.

"Arthur, listen to me!" Merlin throws out her hands in despair, fingers splayed out as she tries to reason with him. "There's something wrong with Sophia, she's not who she says she is-"

"I told you she'd try to keep us apart!" Sophia steps out from the shadows, a smirk on her face.

Oh hell. Merlin narrows her eyes and fights the urge to blast the bitch out the nearby window and far away from her prince. "What have you done to him?"

"She hasn't done a damn thing to me." Suddenly Arthur is standing in front of her, and his hand wraps around Merlin's slender neck as he drags her to the wall and pins her there, her feet dangling helplessly inches from the ground. "I won't let you part us. We're to be together forever."

"Arth... Arthu..." Merlin's lips tinge blue, colors and lights flashing in her eyes as she fights the burning in her lungs.

He stares at her, blank, not a hint of recognition, and it bruises at her more than the pressure of his fingers.

"You really are in love with him, aren't you?" Sophia lets out a tinkling laugh that makes Merlin want to kick her in her cunny, before she walks over and lets her hands run over Arthur's torso without him blinking. "He'll be mine for eternity, you pathetic girl, and nothing you can do will stop that."

Before the world goes black she hears Sophia's cruel laughter.

Merlin wakes up to Gaius shaking her, his face paler than usual as he examines her neck and makes her sit on Arthur's bed and follow his fingers with her eyes. Once he's convinced she hasn't had a concussion he informs her of Arthur's disappearance.

"She's going to sacrifice him to Avalon." Wincing Merlin forces herself to her feet. "I have to save him, Gaius."

"You're still too weak."

"If I don't do it, who will?" Gaius gestures, and slumps in defeat. Merlin wraps her arms around him and squeezes him carefully as she whispers, "I'll be careful, Uncle. I promise."

Gaius nods, clutches her to him, before he lets her go, and she's running with her heart in her throat.

Please, whoever's listening, don't let me be too late.

And she manages to save Arthur's life (again), to defeat Sophia and her father. Once she has Arthur on solid ground and he starts breathing without her assistance she rolls over to her back and lets out a sob, hand over her mouth and her heart clenching.

She's in love with the bastard.


Merlin holds the boy to her chest, remembering the words of the dragon of this child being Arthur's death, and she hates herself for being so weak, for letting herself care for this future murderer.

He's just a child... not even up to my waist. How can fate be dealt when he has so much potential?

"Why do you call me Emerys?" she whispers, running her fingers over the boy's forehead to test for fever. He looks up at her, those eyes that stare straight into her soul, and she hears him in her head though his lips do not move.

"That is the name of your house..."

No, my mother is Hunith of Ealdor, and we have no family name. We are simple peasants...

"Your father-" They fall to silence, frightened, at the knock at the door, and breathe easier when Morgana talks the potential visitor away claiming a headache. "Emerys, why are you frightened?"

Don't ask. You're too young to wield such a burden.

The child falls to silence, respecting her wishes and perhaps sensing that he doesn't want the answer, not really. Merlin holds him tighter and wishes she had the courage to kill him now and spare Arthur.

Arthur hasn't really forgiven Gaius completely for drugging him and almost getting his father killed during that business last month with the Black Knight, and he's trying to not pay much attention to Gaius as he walks in looking for Merlin. But he stops in his tracks when he sees Gaius tending to a woman and Merlin's pale face as she holds the patient's hand tight.

It takes him a moment to realize, This must be Hunith.

Merlin rarely talks about her home of Ealdor, only mentioning it when Arthur gripes about palace life and she is informing him of how spoiled rotten he is, but she speaks of her mother with the utmost respect and care, and now Arthur can see why. Hunith has kind eyes, and she seems embarrassed by the attention being devouted to her by her brother and daughter. Her hand never leaves her daughter's grasp.

"That should start disappearing in a few days," Gaius murmurs as he finishes smoothing a salve over the bruise on Hunith's face.

"Such a fuss over something small," Hunith says, and Merlin snorts.

"I'll kill him for doing this to you." Merlin's eyes flash, and for a moment Arthur could swear they look gold, and he decides now is time to clear his throat and announce his presence.

Gaius stands at the sound and bows. "Your highness."

"Hello." Arthur nods and walks over, gesturing with respect to Hunith. "Merlin, would you introduce us?"

"Oh, Arthur... Your Highness," Merlin corrects at the scandalized look she gets from her mother, "This is Hunith of Ealdor. Mother, this is Crown Prince Arthur Pendragon, of Camelot." She shrugs it off, and her impudence causes him to grin.

"A pleasure, my lady." Arthur takes Hunith's free hand, bows over it and presses a light kiss to her rough knuckles. "It is a surprise, and a delight, to see you in Camelot."

Hunith smiles, although the air around her feels as weary as she looks. "I thank you, your highness."

Arthur gives her a smile in return before looking over to Merlin; his servant meets his eyes but there's something there that vanishes all traces of good humor from him. "What happened?"

"It's nothing of your concern, sire," Hunith tries to say but Merlin interrupts her.

"A wildman, named Kanan, is terrorizing the village. He's demanding the crops for 'payment' for keeping Ealdor standing, and they can't afford to give him more." Merlin looks over at her mother again, her fingers tightening visibly over her mother's palm. "He gave Mother that, when she dared to stand up to him."

His jaw clenches at the thought of anyone attacking a defenseless woman, especially when she is standing up for her home. "What can we do?"

"I came," Hunith says with hesitation, "to see if I can plead for us, to King Uther. I realize we are a small village and of no consequence to someone such as him-" She pauses to give Merlin a scolding look when her daughter snorts at that, "-but we need someone, anyone, to help us."

"Then I'll speak to my father right away to get you an audience." Before any of them can move Arthur turns on his heel and hurries towards his father's chambers.

He only pauses at someone calling his name and turns in time to catch Merlin when she throws her arms around him, having followed him. She buries her face in his shoulder for a moment, and he catches her mumbled "thank you" before she kisses his cheek and lets him go, hurrying back to her mother.

The walk to his father's chambers seems much shorter than usual, although that may have something to do with his body feeling two times bigger and stronger.

All weariness vanishes when Arthur sees the real cruelty of Kanan, a man laughing at the distress and violence his men enact upon defenseless villagers as they plunder them of all their supplies. He lets out a roar to his horse, charging in with his sword drawn.

He knows that Gwen, Morgana and Merlin follow him, although he tries not to think about Merlin handling a sword and only hopes her usual luck follows her.

Once the dust settles and Kanan vanishes like the coward he is, Arthur looks around to check on his servant, and smiles with satisfaction when he sees her unharmed near one of the barns. He freezes when a peasant boy, taller than her and smiling wide, throws his arms around her and kisses her.

"Merlin!" he snaps before she can continue to parade herself in this wanton manner.

She lets go of the boy and hurries over to Arthur without hesitation, although the lad glares at Arthur over her shoulder and her eyes are sparkling, her cheeks flushed.

"Gather the villagers; I want to talk to them," Arthur manages, his voice moderated.

"Yes, but I-"


As he walks away he hears the boy snort and say, "Yeah, you're not skivvying around for some princeling, are you, Merlin?" There's a loud crack, and then, "Oy! I was teasing!"

"So I see that Will still remembers you as fondly as ever." Merlin fights a flush at the probing note in her mother's voice, the concerned lilt that she hates to bring out in Hunith.

"He was just saying hello, Mother."

"Most people don't say hello in such a... fashion."

Merlin sighs and rolls up her sleeves before tackling the bedding for Arthur and herself, rolling it out onto the floor of the small hut she's always known as home. Arthur is still outside speaking with the village elders and making some plans for the next few days, and Morgana and Gwen have decided to speak to the women; Merlin slaps her palms down on the mattress to fight the lumps, to make herself feel more useful.

I've brought them to their deaths. She fights that feeling and continues to roll her hands over the bedding.

Hunith, however, kneels on the other side and grasps her daughter's wrists with her fingers. "Merlin."

Sighing she looks up at her mother's worried face. "He knows that there's nothing binding me here other than you, Mother. I told him that before I went to Camelot."

"He's a young man in love with you, darling," her mother reminds her, leaning over and tucking a stray curl behind her daughter's ear. "I know a mother is inclined to find her daughter special, but you are not a forgettable person. He won't be able to find another that will make him happy, he thinks."

"Then I won't encourage him." Merlin slides her hand free enough to squeeze her mother's hand. "I can't love him; I can't give up my life to be his woman."

"Will thinks he can change your mind, darling." Hunith lets her hand linger on her daughter's cheek, and her eyes sparkle in the dim lighting of their home. "You've always been stubborn as a mule; I don't know how he expects to make you reconsider."

Merlin kissed her mother's palm and smiled before rising to her feet. "I'll go get some firewood, Mother."

"Be careful," Hunith warns as Merlin wraps her cloak around herself and hurries out towards the woods. She rolls her eyes but waves behind her for confirmation; anything that could possibly attack her out there remembers too well who approaches, and she's convinced animals can sense magic in a way humans cannot.

After all, Arthur's horse trusts her implicitly and doesn't try to throw her since she saved Arthur's life from the Lady Helen look-alike...

"Oy," and she collides with a warm body, strong arms moving around her waist, and her head tilts up in time to catch Will's smile and laugh before he tucks them behind a tree and covers her mouth with his. Merlin lets out a helpless moan, feelings of warmth and lust flowing in her blood as she lets him plunder her mouth.

"Missed this," Will breathes against her lips before he dips in for another taste. "Gods, Merlin..."

"Will, I can't," she tries to fight the cloud of lust, despite the knowledge that he can play her body after their experience and she hasn't been touched in so long-

"Merlin, I've been looking for-" Arthur's voice trails off when he turns the corner and catches full sight of his servant and Will, and Will lets out an animalistic growl when he realizes who has interrupted their moment. "Will."

"Arthur." The lack of title only makes Arthur raise an eyebrow and Merlin thump her hand on Will's chest.

"Let me go," she mumbles and wiggles free, her cheeks burning and her heart aching.

Arthur's keen eyes catch the look on her face. He steps closer between her and Will and his hand rests none-too-casual on the hilt of his sword as he asks, "Merlin, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she almost snaps and tugs at Arthur's forearm. "We just need firewood."

"She was with me," Will adds with a sullen sniff, arms crossed over his chest. "She doesn't need you nor your lordly protection, princeling."

"You should mind your tone," Arthur warns in a clipped voice.

"What are you going to do?" Will challenges back.

"Both of you stop it." Merlin throws up her hands in dismay and shoves past them. "Honestly, I'll do it my-bloody-self," she adds under her breath as she climbs over one of the logs towards the wood pile and grabs four logs.

Before she can turn around Arthur is behind her, helping her over the log and having somehow juggled the logs out of her arms. "Head inside, I'll be there in a minute," he says, his eyes still on Will.

"Arthur, I-"

"Go, Merlin."

"Don't do anything stupid," she manages before she walks away. Under her breath she swears at idiotic boys and nurses her aching heart, wishing Arthur acted more out of jealousy rather than possession for a simple servant.

Will's lips let forth a bubble of blood and Merlin starts at a cry that sounds like it came from a wounded animal. It takes a moment for her to realize it's her.

"Told you..." Will gives her a weak smile and reaches for her hand, "would... protect..."

"Shh, Will," she whispers and soothes back his hair with her hand. "You'll be all right, we'll get the healer-"

"No." His hand closes over hers and he squeezes her fingertips. "Merlin, I... I wanted..."

"I know."

Her eyes sting and she ducks her head, catching sight of Arthur ushuring Gwen and Morgana outside. He meets her gaze for a moment. The compassion in his eyes, the understanding and pain, ease her somewhat, before he ducks out into the sunlight and it's just her and Will in the dark cottage again.

"He loves you."

Merlin starts at the words and looks down at Will. "You're delusional," she informs him with a shaky smile. "You'll be all right soon."

"No." Will coughs and another foaming bubble escapes. "Seen... how he looks..."

"Those looks would stop in a heartbeat if he knew about me," she reminds him, stroking his brow. The cold, clammy skin sends a chill to her very soul and she bites her lower lip.

Will manages to jerk his head in a shake. "He... loves... you." He brings her hand to his mouth and clumsily pushes his mouth on her dirty fingers. "Wanted... marry..."

"Oh, Will," she whispers.

His head falls back, his eyes closing forever.

Arthur convinces Gwen and Morgana to delay their journey until the smoke from Will's pyre dissipates in the sky, although Merlin knows they would have anyway. She stands on the outskirts of the village alone even after the villagers have returned home and doesn't wary in her watch over the ashes of her best friend.

When twilight sparkles above Arthur joins her and stands silent next to her.

His hand finds hers, gloved, and warms her numb fingers, but he leaves her to her grief.

Merlin breaks the silence first. "He was the only man I ever let close." Before you.

"He was your lover," Arthur says, his tone flat but no bite behind the words. After all, he cannot show hatred or cruelty towards a dead man, especially after the sacrifice he made to keep Arthur alive.

"Once," Merlin confirms. "Before I went to Camelot."

"Why didn't you marry him?"

She looks over, her blue eyes dulled from crying all day, and manages to ask, "Would you have preferred I did?"

"Then I never would have met you."

"Answer the question."

They hold gazes, both too stubborn to back away but too worried about the fragile weight their words could hold, and finally Arthur exhales. "I don't regret a single thing."

Merlin bows her head for a moment. Then a broken sob escapes her.

Before he knows it Arthur wraps his arms and cloak around her, hiding her from the world, as Merlin weeps for the first man she ever loved.

Nimueh is slain, and yet Merlin cannot give that knowledge to the king or to Arthur. Only she and Gaius know.

Nobody has even noticed that they were missing out of the joy spreading through Camelot for Arthur's recovery, and Gaius manages to help Merlin into his chambers before she collapses from sheer exhaustion from fighting and defeating so great a foe.

When she awakens she starts at the vision of Arthur next to her bed. His head lays next to her thigh, cradled in his arms, with the hand nearest her holding hers. Their fingers are enlaced with his thumb over the beating pulse of her heartbeat.

She swallows and tries to move but her throat creaks and her body aches, and that wakens Arthur.

He stretches and sits up with one hand rubbing at his eyes but he never lets go of her hand as he blinks the sleep out of his eyes and meets her gaze. "You came back."

"Arthu-" He places a finger on her lips and silences her, and she shivers at the contact.

"Did you really think I was going to let you leave my service forever?" he asks, his words casual but a shake to his voice that startles her, and then brings rising panic through her body. "Did you think I'd let you pay the price for my life?"

"How did you know?" she whispers past numb lips.

Arthur shakes his head in irritation and his hand tightens over hers. "Doesn't matter. You could have beenkilled."

"I was, if that's any consolation," she mutters, and his face pales. "Does your father know?"

"Of course not, he has no idea..." Arthur's voice trails off when he realizes what she's asking, and his face clouds over with fury. "You think I would throw you to my father's mercy over magic?"

"Why wouldn't you?"

"Gods be, you really are an idiot!"

Before she can snap back at him he's let go of her hand and both of his palms cup her face before he devours her mouth, and she lets out a weak cry. Arthur takes advantage of this instantly, his tongue pressing hot and wet into her mouth. Their teeth clash and she accidentally nicks her tongue on the sharp tip of his canine, but she moans and clutches at his shoulders.

When he lets her go she pants, her eyes closed and her forehead resting against his.

"I'll die before I let any harm come to you," Arthur manages although he sounds like he has swallowed rocks and grit, his thumb on the curve of her cheek. "Merlin."

"I can't," she whispers and shudders at his tongue glossing over her swollen lips. "Arthur, no."

"You're mine, whether or not you like it," he reiterates before he kisses her again, this time with less teeth but still making her toes curl from the intensity before he lets her catch her breath. "I'm tired of fighting this."

A sob escapes her lips and she lets him cradle her in his arms as she mumbles, "You're a spoiled prat."

She hears the chuckle deep inside him before it escapes as he crawls onto her bed, letting her use his shoulder as a pillow, before his lips touch her forehead. "Maybe, but I'm your spoiled prat."

Arthur claims to be far too fatigued for training, for about a week after the bite, and Uther grants him whatever time he needs to rest although by the end of the seven days he starts to look a bit stern. Most of that time is spent in Gaius's smaller room with him and Merlin.

However, their clothes stay on all the time. Apart from some kisses that turn more passionate than would be polite, Arthur never presses her into anything and treats her like she's nobility.

Like he genuinely cares about her.

During one of the few times he is forced to leave, Gwen sits with Merlin and tells her of the palace gossip, ending with a few questions that make Merlin's face turn bright red. Gwen leaves with a large grin and gives Arthur an impulsive hug on his way back to Merlin's side.

"So when am I allowed to leave this room?" Merlin inquires that night, with her and Arthur curled up in her bed and his arms around her.

"Hmm." Arthur lifts his head from its position on top of hers and looks thoughtful. "How does never sound?"

"Arthur, I'm not an invalid!" she protests and he rolls on top of her, pinning her wrists next to her head when she starts to slap at him. "Oy, not fair!" she adds and tries to kick him off, "I'm serious!"

"So am I." He grins and ducks his head to nuzzle at her neck. "You do less damage here."

"Prat," she grumbles and tries another feeble protesting movement before his lips touch that spot that makes her spine melt and her hips jerk as she whimpers.

He stops and listens, then groans and repeats with a flick of his tongue and the sharp slide of his teeth. "Gods," he mutters harsh against her skin and his hips slide forward, the growing hardness at his middle rubbing at just the right place. Merlin's head falls back and she moans.

Before she can return the pressure, however, Arthur stops and rolls off of her with a shiver, his eyes closed, before he stands and adjusts himself discreetly. "You're still too weak," he manages, although his voice still sounds darker and richer than ten minutes ago. "I'm not letting you leave this room until I'm sure you won't exhaust yourself."

"Wait," she forces herself to sit up and tries to think past the burning ache in her middle. "Arthur-"

"Good night, Merlin." He hurries out and slams the door shut behind him, and she blinks.

Did I miss something?

The way to his room seems to take forever, and Arthur gives up on walking like a normal person and runs as fast as he can until he's behind his door, the bolt down, and fumbles with the laces to his breeches until his hand is on his cock.

It takes two fast strokes before he groans and slumps against the door, come slipping over his fingers.

His head falls back with an audible thump agains the wood as he closes his eyes. Merlin seems so naive, despite having once been with a man, but he wants to show her that she's not like the others that he's had a tumble with, that she is worth the wait and he wants to not ruin their friendship.

And his cock seems to like her nearness and warm body too much for his comfort.

Damnation, he curses to himself and wipes his hand on his trousers, it's worse than when I didn't even know.

There's a conspiracy brewing between Gwen and Morgana, and Arthur can sense it the moment he walks into the great hall for the morning meal. Morgana looks far too pleased with herself and Gwen is also grinning, although she tones it down when he looks at her.

He examines his chair before he sits down and still tries to be careful of his weight. Nothing happens.

"What?" he snaps when Morgana's smile turns positively smug.

"I don't know what you're talking about," she informs him with a sweet expression and sips at her tea. "I'm just sitting here, aren't I?"

"Morgana, I swear-"

Before he can make a threat the doors open and Uther even pauses mid-sip of his morning ale with a raised eyebrow. Arthur frowns and looks at the door, and drops his fork.

Merlin gives a nervous smile to the room as she mutters an apology, bowing fast, and hurrying over to her spot at the wall behind Arthur. And she's wearing a dress.

No, not a dress. That's too casual a word to explain why Arthur's mouth is dry and he's suddenly aching hard underneath the table - the way the fabric swishes around her legs, the bustier that shows that she actually has a figure and a bosom unlike her usual male attire, the way her long hair falls coyly in her face and the color of the gown illuminating her blue eyes even more...

When she steps forward to refill Arthur's goblet, as well, he can see the swells of her breasts and her hair brushes over his arm, and he inhales sharply.

She looks right into his eyes and a small smile curves over her lips. "Sire?"

"That will be all," Arthur manages despite the lump in his throat (and the way his cock stiffens at the slight purr in her voice).

Merlin nods and curtsies, giving him an even better view down her dress, and the strangled sound that escapes his throat makes Morgana giggle at her seat before she composes herself. His maid servant, the damned minx, gives him a smile before she walks out, her hips swaying more than usual; at the door she pauses and looks back at Arthur then ducks her head before she steps out.

"Fuck," Arthur breathes and squirms in his seat, ignoring his father's glare at his language.

"Since you seem to be feeling better today," Uther says with ice in his tone, "perhaps you should start your patrol early, immediately following breakfast."

"I-" Arthur swears under his breath and nods. "Yes, Father."

Patrol seems to drag on thrice as long as it should, and Arthur's mental imaginings of returning and ripping that gods-damned dress off of Merlin with his teeth does not help matters. By the time he returns to the stables he only has his self-control hanging on by his teeth.

This is Merlin, not some common tavern wench, this is Merlin, Merlin, Mer- Oh bugger me.

His mind returns to the hot imaginings of throwing her on the great table and hiking up her skirt when she walks into the stables. She makes matters worse by walking over until her body is pressed against his as he tries to smooth down his horse and her breasts press against his arm.

"Did you have a long... hard... ride, my lord?" she murmurs low enough for him to hear, and he shuts his eyes tight.


"Mmm, you're so tense, Arthur." She steps away and he breathes easier until he feels her hands on his shoulders and they press down on the knots in his muscles, and his head lolls back. "Finish up and I'll give you a massage in your chambers."

"What are you doing?" Arthur manages to grit out past his clenched teeth.

Merlin leans up and whispers, "Giving you a bloody hint," before she lets him go and walks inside. "I'll be waiting for your decision, sire," she adds over her shoulder and hurries indoors.

He stares after her with his legs aching to run after her, scoop her up and bring her to his chambers.

Of course, he would if she was anyone other than Merlin, and he doesn't know how to convey this to her without her smacking her him and declaring she's not some delicate idiot from the court. He sighs and gives his cock a stern talking to in his head as he trudges inside with a stiffness to his gait.

Morgana is walking down the steps as he enters the castle and she gives him an innocent look. "Problem?" she asks with an angelic expression that only irritates him more.

"Bloody girls," he mutters and ignores her laughter as he trudges up to his room.

Once inside he rips off his tunic and loosens his breeches, exhaling with relief at the pressure off his cock before he scrubs a hand over his face and walks over to the ever-present pitcher of water. The splash of cooled liquid on his face gives minor relief before he splashes it on his chest as well.

"Arthur, do you need help with- oh."

He stops and turns to see Merlin at the doorway, the heavy door falling closed behind her as her eyes stay riveted on his chest. He fights a bit of a smirk in return as her eyes follow the path of a drop of water down his chest.

"See something you like?" he asks, pitching his voice lower.

"Depends." She walks forward and he finds himself meeting her halfway, their arms hovering but not touching, and her face tilted up towards his lowered gaze. "Going to be a prat?"

"I want to respect you."

"And I know you do." Her fingers, calloused from her hard life and her choices for saving him, touch over his heart before she presses her palm flat. "This is me, Merlin. Look at me."

Arthur meets her eyes and exhales, covering her hand with his. "You realize-"

"You're the Crown Prince."

"But I don't want to hurt..."

"You won't..."

"Shh." Arthur leans forward and covers her mouth with his, his fingers with his free hand carding through her long hair. A ragged sigh that almost sounds like a laugh escapes his lips and he whispers, "Love you so bloody much, minx."

"Love you, too, prat."

His arms find their way around her waist and he lifts her, hands moving down to her arse and he kisses her mouth until her soft lips turn slack for his control. He growls low in his throat, animalistic, wanting to claim her as his and no other man's.

Somehow he finds the way to his bed and his knees hit the frame before he drops her down and Merlin lets out a gasp of a laugh. Her laughter bubbles out, seeks out his, and he chuckes as he leans down to kiss her belly gently. "If you want to stop, I'll-"

"Stop being such a gentleman, Arthur," she says in that blunt manner of hers and moves her legs to wrap around his waist. She pulls him forward until he falls on top of her and tangles her fingers through his hair; her mouth seeks his and their tongues meet for passionate mating while he moves carefully to situate his weight on her as he grinds their hips together.

Like before she returns the pressure but instead of backing away he bites at her lower lip, cools the sting with his tongue. She moans and arches her back closer to him.

"Like that?" he murmurs as his fingers move to the laces in the front of her dress.

"Gods, yes, Arthur," she whispers back. She pushes him off and he moves to the side but she kicks off the dainty slippers she has been wearing all day and wriggles out of the dress until it pools at her feet, and there's the smooth skin, pale nipples and pert breasts he's dreamed about for too long.

He sits up, places his hands loose at her waist but nuzzles her throat. Merlin sighs soft, her hands on his shoulders.

"Someone's wearing too many clothes," she finally murmurs before she kisses him and pulls at the loosened strings to his breeches until he sits up, changing the angle of the kiss, and kicks off his trousers from both legs.

Now naked, he pulls her into his body and his cock jumps at the feeling of the softness of her belly. It pulses and leaves a sticky trail on her skin before he shivers and kisses her shoulder.

"Want to," and he lifts her before placing her on the bed with her head on the goose-down pillows at the head of his bed before he crawls on top, between her legs and nuzzling her face before she makes an exasperated noise and pulls him down. Their lips meet with liquid heat, her leg hooking around his waist, and she lifts up enough to rub her wet center against his aching length.

Before he can lose control he presses one more chaste kiss to her mouth then trails down to her neck, licking a line from throat to collarbones where he digs his teeth in for a moment.

Merlin groans. Her nails run down his back and leave burning marks in their wake, a show of her presence in exchange for the bruise he's nursing on her skin, and he leaves one more lick before he moves down to the tightness that is her nipple. He licks a circle around the tightened peak before he covers the entire mound with his mouth.

"Oh," Merlin gasps, and he chuckles with a smile at the vibrations running over her before he lets his teeth pull at the tip, then kisses his way to the other and repeats the process.

Her skin, gods, it tastes like salt and honey, and he runs his nose across the dip between her breasts.

From there he bites the swell of her stomach and dips his tongue in her navel before he kisses right above her mound, and he buries his nose as he inhales the rich scent that is pure Merlin, and her thighs quiver around his head. Her fingers clutch at his shoulders.

Peering up he gives her a comforting smile. "Want to taste you," he murmures before he slides his hands up her thighs. "May I?"

"I've... I've never..."

Arthur wants to shout with joy at this, that he's the first (and not Will) to do this to her, but he just kisses her thigh and suckles for a moment. "Promise I'll make you feel good."

Her thighs, after still shaking, part more with only a slight bit of hesitation, and he presses his thumbs over the swollen lips of her sex as he opens Merlin's deepest secret, staring for a moment. He swallows and ducks his head before he loses his courage, licking his tongue flat over the whole of her cunt.

Above him a cry escapes her. He takes it as encouragement and rubs his nose over the swollen button peeking out at the top before he curls his tongue and enters her, lapping at the thick liquid her healthy body produces. It's tart, musky and yet sweet, and he groans softly. He could easily become addicted to her, and then he realizes he is already before he has even tasted her, before he has even made love to her.

He curls his tongue inside and curves it upward, smiling as she jerks forward.

It doesn't take too much exploring, only a few more licks and then sucking his lips around her clit before Merlin cries out and he's licking at the excess juice. He continues suckling until he's produced another orgasm, and he kisses over her stomach, smiles at her hips canting up towards him in invitation.

Crawling up the length of her body, Arthur trails his lips along her skin until he's back to her mouth and devours her, lips and teeth, and he moans as his eager shaft jerks at the touch. Merlin clutches at him and returns the kiss with equal power before her hand moves to his front and wraps around his cock.

"Merlin," he chokes out and his head falls onto the pillow next to hers, his face buried in her hair. She glosses her hand twice over his cock before leading him to her cunt, kissing his shoulder and whispering in his ear:

"Make love to me, Arthur."

"Yes," and he's lined up, he kisses her neck and slides forward...

And it's bliss, heaven and heat and torment and tightness, and he fights with his eyeteeth to not come right away like an untried lad. He clenches his jaw and closes his eyes, whispers how good she feels in her ear, until he can control himself and she wraps her legs around his waist, changing the angle. He manages to brace an arm over her head, the other supporting her arse, and he begins a shallow, steady thrust.

They hold pace, share breaths as she looks wide-eyed into his face, until she kisses him and murmurs against his mouth, "Harder, Arthur, harder."

Arthur Pendragon has never been one to leave a lady wanting.

Grunting he speeds his hips, jerks harder at the hips, and then Merlin lets out a soft scream and he makes a mental note, angles his thrust to hit there again. This time Merlin moans but her body thrashes and her nails dig into his back, and she squeezes around him.

He starts pounding into her, barely hearing Merlin's babbling and begging him to never stop, to not let her go, but he leans down and kisses her. The pressure builds at the base of his spine.

Before he lets go he bites at her lower lip, groans out, "Can't... gonna..."

She squeezes around him as she closes her eyes. His name falls from her lips like a prayer as the world becomes blinding white.

When he comes back to earth Merlin has her arms wrapped around him, her lips on his forehead and his temple resting on her shoulder. Her fingers card through his damp hair as she nuzzles the slickness of his skin.

"That was..."

Merlin tightens her arms and he slides a hand up her hip and closes his eyes.

For the first time in what feels like forever, he feels utter peace in his bones and he nuzzles his sorceress, his best friend and worst critic, and sighs deeply before sleep finds him.

Deep within the bowels of the castle, the dragon curls up and would smirk if he could.

Destinies intertwined. Two sides of the same coin.