And that is how the prince found himself alone in bed, cursing himself, and Merlin and that feeling that would not go away, a dully-throbbing ache that seized control of his chest.
Merlin hadn't shown up the next morning seeing as how he'd contracted a sudden ailment according to the chambermaid – Arthur wondered how he'd charmed her into lying to royalty.
"Sudden ailment my ass," he thought with no little petulance.
And thus when Arthur's breakfast arrived on time, piping hot in fact. There was naught for him to complain about. So it was the next day, and the day after that until Arthur resigned himself to exemplary service and hot meals that were always, always on time.
So much for the guilty pleasures of late afternoon lie-ins, which he'd naturally, blamed rubbish menservants for.
In the days to follow Arthur had exemplary servants attending all his needs – minus the most pressing one leading in a decidedly southern direction. A prince could hardly importune a maid, or stable boy for that matter.
Life went on as it always had in Camelot for a good while before Arthur reached the end of his tether, another demure "yes sire, but of course sire" and he was going to send the chambermaid from the room in tears, honestly how many 'sires' were needed in one sentence?
Apparently too many according to Mary's stuttering sentences that made less sense than Merlin's babble…
As for Thomas the Bootlicker as he'd been dubbed well, that one didn't even bear thinking on. He was so unlike Merlin that every time Arthur looked at him he thought Merlin.
Merlin would never do this, or why can't I make Merlin do that. Or every so often, I think I'd prefer Merlin's rubbish help than this cool efficiency, and so on.
Arthur had no idea how this came about.
It made no sense. He was fast becoming an idiot, it would seem.
This is when the prince manned up and decided there were worse things to face than an angry or upset Merlin, and by the end of the day he'd have Merlin mucking out his stalls and scrubbing his floors – which had nothing to do with privately admiring the view from behind – or there'd be hell to pay.
Which is exactly when Merlin popped up again, all to-wide smiles and empty worded 'yes, sires, no sires' that made Arthur wished to rattle him until he said something like he would've before.
At first he went along with it, but two days in and Merlin was still acting odd, he hadn't called him prat even once and Arthur had been striving for Prat of Camelot just to get a rise from his manservant.
But it had all proven pointless. Apparently this new Merlin couldn't be baited, which was no fun at all.
Arthur had been prepared for an angry Merlin, or even an upset Merlin, but not this nothing is amiss, I'll-just-go-shine-your-boots-sire Merlin.
Arthur was more than a little bewildered; enough that he dared the counsel of Morgana who sniffed disdainfully down her aristocratic nose at him and bluntly said 'it seems that he's being the bigger man' and left him to his own devices.
"Loads of help that was, not."
He missed the constant rattle of chatter that had before grated on his nerves like a badly played lyre. He missed the occasional mishap that landed pitchers of wine, and occasionally Merlin, in his lap.
Although the latter he'd not minded as much as he made out.
He even found himself wishing for that god awful ill tuned humming, and the barely-cleaned state of his rooms – they were so spotless he worried his mere presence would muddy them nowadays – he hated the dull as-you-wish-sire servants that said My Lord without the glaring connotation of prat tacked on at the end.
He wished for the fool who knew how to make him laugh and wore silly hats just to make him smile after a dressing down from Uther. But essentially he just missed Merlin with his honest eyes and dopey smiles.
His manservant had become, well his manservant, and he decided he didn't like it.
But he could hardly order Merlin to be Merlin, now could he.
His manservant kept the rooms spotless and the royal stalls pristine, he filled his goblet and kept it filled without spilling a drop, not a single drop!
He was well aware how bizarre it was to complain about good service but Merlin was an odd fellow and this person who carried out Arthur's every wish and whim with a perfunctory "yes, sire, of course sire" which didn't translate to "you great prat" wasn't his Merlin.
It was time to face the music and do what he aught have done in the first place. Which is how he ended up here knocking viciously on the physicians door, as though it had wronged him in some grievous way.
The door flung open and Merlins head peaked out taking in Arthur his expression unreadable. Yet another thing to add to Arthur's list of Things-I-Don't-Like-About-This-Merlin.
"Did you need something Arth-" Merlin stopped short with a grimace as though his name alone had become repugnant; Arthur refused to let that bother him. Mostly.
"Did you need something, sire?" Merlin repeated and while he wasn't glaring or freezing the prince with his words, it was clear he had other, better, things to do than have Prince Arthur gawking at him from the doorway.
"Well?" Merlin tacked on before the silence could draw to long, and there was enough of the old Merlin in there to give Arthur hope.
"Forgive me" Arthur grated out between clenched teeth, his words more a command than a request and he knew exactly what Merlin was thinking when his face clouded over "fetch me my armor, gather my hunting gear, attend me at the feast" therefore when the door slammed in his face he was prepared for it.
Expecting it even, one might say.
It stung his pride, he was man enough to admit that, and it did make his gut clench like anticipation before a horrid council meeting he knew was going to go topside, but it also loosened the knot in his belly. This was more like Merlin. After all, how many servants dared slam a door in their princes' face?
Lord help him, it was actually refreshing after being subjected to Mary's and Thomas's for week upon week.
Never one to give in easily Arthur knocked again, and kept at it until his knuckles bled and he could hear Gaius harping at Merlin to open the bloody door.
This time when it was swung open and Merlin peered out at him resignedly like a distasteful chore to be borne, he heartily wished it had remained firmly shut.
"Okay, sire, here's how it is. Last night was a horrible mistake, obviously, and being tossed from a bed like a bloody whore is not exactly fun and even less fun is slinking back to my chambers with my clothes only just on, for which I'm now the butt of all the servants wagging tongues" Merlin paused taking a breath, Arthur watching in fascination as color rose up in his cheeks, no wonder Merlin was pissed at him.
"Merlin is no whore" was the first though to flirt through his mind, "I'll have the tongue of any who says otherwise" was the second.
He sure had cocked this one up, hadn't he? By all the gods he loved the idiot, and here he'd apparently treated him like a sordid fling.
"We both know you're rubbish at apologies" Merlin was saying with this, not adorable definitely not adorable, silly smirk that did things to that space in his chest, he wanted to kiss it off his face. Which was not at all doable given the situation at hand. He settled for remembering when he had.
"Yes, the last time I attempted to apologize to Morgana she stuck me with her hair pin" Arthur deadpanned, secretly pleased to startle a laugh from Merlin.
"A hair pin, really?"
Merlin nodded, "That explains a lot actually" he muttered then shrugged with an affable smile loosing some of that seriousness that did not belong on his face.
"Right then, I'll say "Merlin I'm sorry" you nod your regal head and we go back to how we were before this mess" Merlin explained his eyes shining suspiciously.
Arthur inclined his head, in what he imagined was a regal fashion and was taken aback when the boor began to close again, far slower this time but he would have none of that as he wedged his foot between and forcefully shouldered it open.
He chose to ignore Gaius and his puzzled expression as he turned his attention on Merlin who was looking at Arthur as though he was forgetting something pivotal, and a daft fool to boot.
"Merlin" he drawls out in such a way that his servants name becomes a command, and if there's the hint of pleading in there he'll deny it later.
"What do you want from me Arthur?" Merlin asked crossing his arms as he eyes Arthur like one might a pacing lion. He hadn't been going for intimidating today, hence no black.
But he was using my name, which has to be a good sign, right?
"A repeat of that night, that's what I want" he blurted out before he could stop himself, the thought of another of those nights alone had him hard with wanting.
"Without the bit where I behave like the King of all Prats and kick you out in the morning" he finishes never taking his eyes off of Merlin who is looking strait back, finally.
No ducking, or skirting or avoiding his gaze like a good servant. A considering, hopeful, look crossed the other mans face and he knows he said something right.
"I see what this is about"
"You're perfect servants are boring you aren't they?" Merlin queries a gleam shining his eye.
"Deathly dull, bootlickers the lot of them" Arthur says without missing a beat, his tone grave as his hands come to rest on his manservant's shoulder.
"Well someone's got to save you from the bootlickers I suppose" Merlin said with a little half-smile that had Arthur feeling giddy with relief, "Yes, please."
"You are aware I'm still an atrocious servant, ask my master" Merlin said as he followed Arthur out the door, "Being a fantastic lover makes up for being an atrocious servant" Arthur murmured softly enjoying the way Merlin blushes bright red and stumbles tripping over thin air.
Arthur righted him and dragged him into his room slamming the door shut behind.
His blood was rushing madly in his veins and he had half a mind to demand if Merlin was responsible for this, by magical means, not the obvious. The other half told him to shut up and enjoy it, and he did - vigorously – as he draped Merlin across the table, and what a feast he was with a flush riding high on his cheekbones, lust burning in his eyes – his beautiful, blue eyes – as he stared up at him trustingly, that daft grin on his face, a daft grin that Arthur kissed with relish feeling the curve of Merlin's smile against his lips.
"You do have a perfectly good bed you know" Merlin gasps as Arthur flicks a nipple wrenching a soft moan from well-kissed lips, Arthur loves the sounds he makes.
In this he is pliant and trusting beneath him and he could do anything at all – and Merlin would let him. There's a heady power in that knowledge.
"I know" is all he says swallowing the oaths and vows his traitorous tongue wishes to spout.
Merlin doesn't mention it again fitting his mouth over the curve of Arthur's neck and nipping gently as he grinds their cocks together in an off-beat rhythm sweat beating on the base of his spin where Arthur's questing hands rest fitting them close together.
Arthur grabbed the silly red neckerchief Merlin always wore and tugged pulling in him to a deep kiss, the slightest scraping of teeth.
Merlin flails for balance jostling the table and sending the, previously unnoticed, pitcher of wine splashing onto the floor. Merlin mutters a breathy "sorry" as though Arthur's of the mind to even care with Merlin hot and aroused beneath him.
He's much more interested in getting the other man naked, than a bit of spilled wine.
"Idiot" he murmurs while his heart is declaring 'love you' with every beat.
The words tangle in his throat and he cannot voice them so he settles for divesting Merlin of his tunic hands scrabbling at the hem, suddenly clumsy in their haste, trying to work it off, which would've gone better if it didn't leave Merlin in a tangle of sleeves and neckerchief.
Arthur keeps at it, pulling and yanking, all the while he pressed wet kisses against every inch of pale skin that passes near enough to reach, and when Merlin finally collapses flushed and tunic-less on the table, Arthur cheers with unabashed delight before starting on the breeches.
Boots come before breeches rather than the other way around, they learn, although Arthur could've told Merlin so to begin with.
But it allows him to whisper "Idiot" against the hollow of his throat and know he means 'love you' so its tolerable.
There's more yanking and tugging and pulling, and in between there's time for banter and the deep, deep kisses that suck all the breath from his body and leaving him panting for more.
When the last article of clothing is gone and its just Arthur and Merlin the rest of the world fades to black like a distant reality and all that exists is them and the desire thrumming through there bodies, and the sweet ache in the princes chest – he's long since decided that its acceptable if he can have Merlin like this.
Abruptly Merlin's gone rigid and Arthur's perplexed until a thought occurs to him that hadn't before. He waits patiently listening to Merlin's babble.
"I, um, Arthur there's something I need to tell you" Merlin says slowly and he's watching Arthur carefully now, and he understand, really, that because he is the prince this is a dangerous subject – but mostly he's just glad Merlin's telling him.
"I, well, what I mean is I never wanted to lie to you, and I've never hurt you, I swear on my mothers life Arthur" Merlin vowed and he was getting more and more troubled with each passing second.
Arthur could feel the anxiety right through his skin and he wanted more than anything to be noble – just this once – and drop this ruse and he would, anything to make this apprehension go away, but for the fact that Merlin needed to tell him on his own.
He needed Merlin to tell him.
"Spit it out, Merlin" he says, at his most commanding. A little nudge wouldn't hurt, and apparently it was exactly what his manservant needed.
"Well, I'm a bit magic" he blurted and cringes, Arthur smiles and kisses him in reward, "Was that so hard?"
"Merlin, the last time we made love the cutlery was rattling, rattling Merlin. And I think the chair was spinning on its axis" Arthur clarified enjoying how Merlin's face cleared and he had this bizarre little smirk on his face, "Made love?" he parroted.
Arthur blushed crimson right down to his roots, "Shut up."
"Now, unless you have more confessions to make, can I kiss you?" he asks taking Merlin's squeak, and it was a squeak, as yes.
"There is this one other thing," Merlin pants diverting Arthur's attention from Merlin's neck, he bit down slightly in warning before letting go.
Couldn't he see Arthur was trying to shag him senseless here? And really, why couldn't he shut up? Oh right, because he's Merlin.
"That thing with Sophia. I never got the drop on you, that was my magic" Merlin mutters against his jaw, "Now that makes sense" Arthur chuckles distracting Merlin from all his talk by taking his length in hand and giving it an experimental tug that has his lover glassy eyed and panting.
"Are you done now?" he asks affecting a bored tone paring it with his best commanding look – he learned from the best – and slides himself tight between Merlin's thighs, hiking his legs up with a few expert maneuvers.
"Yeah, done talking. Can you shag me now, please?"
Arthur laughs bemusedly drawing it out until Merlin is shuddering and pleading from his touch alone, coming undone with each stroke of his hand.
"By the Gods Merlin, I want to pleasure you until you cant remember your name, have you a clue what you do to me?" Arthur growled as Merlin whimpered at the loss of his touch, he could barely string two words together and yet he was chanting Arthur's name over and over like it was the answer to some great enchantment.
From the periphery of his vision he saw the cutlery begin its dance anew, the pitcher had fixed itself as it twirled amid air, he sent a quick prayer that the table still had all four pegs firmly on the floor.
Arthur enters him quick and deep holding tight to his desires lest he come before he's even begun.
Merlin's warm and tight around him meeting him thrust for thrust as their bodies press together. Merlin's breath, and his name ghosting over his skin like a feathery caress that leaves a trail of feverish skin in its wake.
Arthur's hands are splayed across his hips holding tight as he rocks into him deeper and deeper, and the pleasure rolls through them like an explosion of sensations.
Merlin's grabbing him tight and tugging him closer, deeper still and the world whites out for a moment and he's vaguely aware that the tables begun wobble precariously but he's to far gone to care.
He opens his eyes, never realizing he'd ever closed them to find two blue eyes watching him, dazed but definitely happy and so fucking blue that Arthur swears he could drown in them.
Arthur pulls out carefully, his smile broadening at Merlin's mewled protests.
Deciding its time to take this to the actual bed, the perfectly good one Merlin had mentioned before he had decided to ravish his servant on his table.
Arthur stumbles over dragging a boneless Merlin along, but the bed is cold which is doubled by there sweaty almost feverishly hot skin and Arthur grumbles about rubbish manservant's and Merlin mutters about princes and prats his eyes heavy with sleep, and so Arthur only just catches the tail end of a few whispered words before the fireplace is roaring and the room is pleasantly warm.
Honestly, it's exactly how Arthur prefers it, and Merlin is sound asleep at his side, what more could a man ask for?
Arthur drifts to sleep with memories of their lovemaking emblazoned in his mind. Lulled by gentle breaths Arthur's dreams flit between romantic notions to hunting and tourneys, griffons and hydras.
He is beset by images of raging fires and blood-spattered battlefields and they would've left him with a sense of impending doom save for on the sidelines of it all stands Merlin a gold fire burning in his eyes while he holds the world, cradled in the palm of his hand.
The nighttime imaginings fade away like wisps on the wind all half remembered nonsense but for the image of Merlin he will carry long after waking, tall and slim his raven hair backlit by fire that cast a halo about his head as he sent fire upon Camelot's enemies.
Arthur watched as his lover sleeps, gracelessly sprawled across his chest his lean limbs hopelessly entangled with his own, and privately thinks to himself that maybe Merlin and Morgana were right about this one small thing.
Maybe he is a little too arrogant, because in those dreams Merlin lays the world at his feet.
AuthorsNote: Thanks for the reviews, they are treasured!