When Arthur initially pushed him up against the wall wildly, Merlin couldn't really think about anything except, yes, please, touch me, his hips rubbing against Arthur's almost out of reflex. He knew he shouldn't be doing this, shagging the prince would probably give him a first ticket to the executioner's block, but he couldn't find it in his heart to push Arthur away as the prince started kissing and biting his neck, licking at his collarbone, pressing a knee up against Merlin's groin, rubbing against him maddeningly.
Of course, reality started setting in and Merlin found himself wondering how on Earth he had ended up in this situation to begin with. Yes, Merlin tended to end up in awkward and dangerous situations on a regular basis, but not of this kind, even though it was both very awkward and dangerous in many ways. There had been fight, Merlin was sure of that, something unimportant and petty that had turned into a shouting match and Merlin had realized at the last minute that he was yelling at his future King, but by then the damage had already been done.
And really, Merlin didn't understand why he let Arthur get to him the way he did. Arthur might have made it hard for Merlin, but Merlin really made it harder for himself. It wasn't like Merlin asked to be the manservant to a prat, and it wasn't like he asked to be useless at what he does even if he put his whole heart and soul into it, and it wasn't like he asked for this never-ending, guttural attraction he felt for Arthur. The whole thing was very unfair in Merlin's opinion.
There had been a long period of silence as well, and a long period of snapping remarks and deathly glares. And then one night, when Merlin returned to check if Arthur needed anything more before he retired for the night, there had been wine. Lots of wine. Way too much wine. When Merlin had burst into the room, Arthur had turned to him, a primal, almost animalistic expression on his face, his eyes dark and blown, and Merlin knew at once that everything was about to change.
"Arthur-" Merlin gasped out, his hands pushing weakly against Arthur's shoulders, while Arthur's hands slipped underneath Merlin's tunic, fingers running up his side and back. Merlin gave Arthur another small, half-hearted shove, fearing what would happen if he let this continue.
Arthur let out a loud, annoyed sigh and pulled back slightly, one hand gripping Merlin's wrist tightly, almost bruisingly, while the other rested lightly on Merlin's waist. "Merlin, what is your problem? No need to get modest."
"My problem, sire, is that you've obviously had way too much to drink tonight," Merlin rambled out, his voice breathy, and Arthur responded by pressing Merlin further into the wall, if that was possible. "And clearly you're not thinking straight, because if you were this wouldn't be happening." The last part came out as a loud gasp as Arthur reached down between them, cupping Merlin roughly through his trousers. Merlin closed his eyes, forgetting the reasons why he shouldn't be doing this. He was afraid, very afraid, now because this was truly happening, just like Merlin had always thought it would and it couldn't be real, it just couldn't.
"And how do you know," Arthur's voice was low and husky in Merlin's ear, "that this wouldn't be happening even if I was thinking straight?" Merlin couldn't possibly respond to that. Arthur plundered Merlin's mouth, biting at his lip, and Merlin gave in with a moan, opening his mouth to Arthur. Arthur's tongue felt unusual in Merlin's mouth, but so very right, and it scared Merlin at how good it felt.
"Arthur," Merlin moaned, struggling to say something, anything, because he knew what would happen if he didn't say or do something to stop this. They would go too far and Merlin really didn't want to contemplate on what would happen afterwards if they went through with it.
"Oh, and for the record," Arthur whispered against Merlin's lips, "I am so thinking straight right now." Arthur's hand reached the laces on the front of Merlin's trousers, loosening them, and slipped a careful hand inside, his eyes never leaving Merlin's, watching his every expression. And suddenly, it all became real and Merlin pushed Arthur off, stumbling away, his face flushing horribly and tied his trousers with trembling fingers.
"Merlin," Arthur's voice sounded uncertain and Merlin turned to face him, looking anywhere put in his eyes. "I'm sorry, I-"
"It's fine, it's all right," Merlin looked down at his feet. "I know, I shouldn't have- it's late, and I should go."
"Merlin-" Arthur tried again, his eyes narrowed, voice steady. Arthur seemed sober and Merlin didn't even want to think about that right now. He didn't want to think that this had been genuine or not, even if he deeply wished it had been.
"I know, we'll keep this between us, never speak of it again," Merlin whispered and turned around, rushing out of the room, but he had seen the flash of utter confusion across Arthur's face before leaving, and he couldn't get that face out of his mind.
Merlin walked back to Gaius's quarters with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He felt empty and he couldn't understand why. Arthur had been drunk. They had kissed. They had groped. They had both wanted it, clearly. It was over. Merlin had said that they should never speak of it again, and Arthur would probably agree with that when he woke up tomorrow, remembering what they had done. If he even would remember it.
Merlin sneaked past Gaius's sleeping form and rushed into his own bedroom, shutting the door softly behind him. Merlin leaned against the door, closing his eyes, releasing a deep breath, trying to slow his erratic pulse down.
He was still hard and aching and he was afraid. He had never felt this irresponsible urge and need for someone his entire life. The feelings had always been there when it came to Arthur, but it had been more like a dull ache in the back of his head that he had been able to control, but now… now Merlin didn't know anything anymore. It hadn't been like this with Will, this was completely different. This was deeper and that scared Merlin. Because he knew that it could never be, for the obvious reasons, Merlin was a servant, Arthur was going to be King and how could Merlin ever fit in Arthur's world as a sorcerer?
Merlin fell into an uneasy slumber, dreams filled with screaming and blood. Dreams filled with the faces of people he love, betrayal written over their faces. Destruction and chaos. Excalibur. Mordred's face, a cruel smile stretching his face. Arthur's face, beautiful and soft, kissing him, moving against him and inside of him and it was all destiny and it made Merlin feel fear because he never wanted this to end. Fire and screaming again, someone calling his name in panic.
Merlin woke up at the crack of dawn, covered in cold sweat, his whole body trembling and his teeth clenched shut as if holding back a scream, but he couldn't recall just what the dream had been about.
A few hours later, Merlin stumbled into Arthur's room with breakfast, perhaps a little late, but Arthur didn't indicate that he minded. In fact, when Merlin entered with the breakfast plate, Arthur was casually leaning against the fireplace, fully dressed, and Merlin couldn't quite place the expression on the prince's face.
Merlin nervously shuffled over and put the plate on the table, averting his gaze from Arthur's face quickly. "Sorry I'm late, but the cook was late this morning, I don't why, and I still haven't quite finished washing your chain-mail but I'll get right to that. And your armor is still down in the-"
"Merlin." Arthur sauntered up to Merlin, wearing a slight smirk, looking amused by Merlin's ranting.
"-in the, um, in the what's-it-called," Merlin frowned, struggling with his words as Arthur came closer, careful not to look the prince in the eye, "Anyway, I'll get it as soon as you want me to and I'll get a move on with the stables as well. And your favourite dagger, I still haven't found it, but I figured you might've just misplaced it somewhere."
Arthur stopped, standing just a few inches from Merlin, forcing the sorcerer to straighten up and look at the prince. "So it would seem," Arthur said easily and stepped closer, making Merlin automatically take a step back, and another, until his back hit the bed-post forcefully. Merlin swallowed roughly as Arthur closed in, raking his eyes over Merlin in a very unsettling manner.
"You seem awfully nervous this morning," Arthur commented lightly, cocking his head, watching Merlin squirm.
"Do I?" Merlin managed to get out, but his voice sounded like it had failed him.
"Is there anything you wish to speak to me about?" Arthur asked, his eyes narrowing.
"No," Merlin answered quickly, too quickly, and the corner of Arthur's lips tugged slightly, as if he wanted to smile. Bastard, he was enjoying this. "I'm going to go now, sire, and I'll be back when you need me."
Arthur called Merlin's name in almost amused exasperation but Merlin fled the room as quickly as he had come. He spent the rest of the day avoiding Arthur, and was surprised at how easy it was. He cleaned the armor and the chain-mail, he managed to locate Arthur's missing dagger and by the time the sun disappeared behind the hills and mountains beyond the city Merlin was still cleaning out the stables, not that Arthur had actually asked him to do it, but it provided the means necessary so Merlin wouldn't have to face Arthur. Arthur didn't come looking for him, as far as Merlin knew at least, but then again, Merlin had spent the entire afternoon hiding out in the stables.
When Merlin returned to his own bedchambers, it was almost midnight, and Merlin realized he was starting a routine with sneaking past a sleeping and snoring Gaius to get to his room. Not that Merlin minded, he didn't really feel like explaining to Gaius why he was stumbling in around midnight anyways. It took a while for Merlin to fall asleep, he kept lighting the candle by his bed in the dark with his magic, over and over again, as if to keep his mind focused on something but how good Arthur's lips had felt across his skin, how Arthur's touch had left him tingling all over. It made the ache in the pit of his stomach grow. Merlin ended up setting the whole candle on fire.
Merlin slept uneasily that night as well.
Sparkling lights, screeching sounds and the smell of decaying flesh filling his senses. He dreamed of Arthur, he was looking at Merlin with horror written all over his beautiful features. They were on a battlefield. Merlin felt cold and numb, as if something was terribly wrong inside his body. Something warm and wet was dripping onto Merlin's hands and Arthur let out a silent scream across the fields.
Merlin woke up gasping for air, fear curling tight inside of him, emptying what little he had in his stomach in the bucket of water next to his bed. This time he remembered the dream and it refused to go away. He laid in his bed for hours, waiting for dawn, trying to expel the dream from his mind, the horrific expression on Arthur's face and the stabbing pain he had felt in his abdomen. He fell asleep again and the dream went away and he didn't remember it when he woke up hours later.
When Merlin came up to Arthur's chambers that morning, Arthur stood in the same stance he had the previous morning, seemed like he too had fallen into a routine, leaning against the fireplace, watching Merlin carefully through considering eyes as if he was contemplating something most important.
This time, Merlin took his time as he put down the plate of breakfast on the table in front of Arthur. Merlin moved around the room slowly, almost sluggishly, picking up some of Arthur's old laundry. He felt like he had been up all night, the dreams he couldn't seem to remember gave him no rest.
"Merlin, what is wrong with you?" Arthur asked, exasperated, a hint of irritation and frustration in his voice. Merlin didn't answer. "Listen about what happened the other night; I don't even know why you're being so weird about it. I thought you wanted it."
Merlin froze. "Yes," he whispered, barely audible to his own ears but Arthur seemed to hear it.
"Then will you, please, stop being so ridiculously weird about it?" Arthur crossed his arms across his chest, walking closer to Merlin.
"I thought, that maybe, you didn't want it," Merlin swallowed roughly, looking down, before finally meeting Arthur's gaze. "Arthur, you weren't exactly sober."
Merlin felt an erratic urge to laugh when Arthur simply just rolled his eyes and snorted, muttering, "I wasn't thinking straight, right." The sarcasm was evident in the prince's voice and Merlin sighed heavily, feeling a hint of guilt. Arthur was closer now and Merlin stood straight, his face only inches away from Arthur's. The smirk was suddenly gone from Arthur's face, replaced by something unusual, but not unfamiliar. Arthur's eyes were hooded, an intensity shone from his features. Merlin gripped Arthur's upper-arm, pulling him closer, their lips almost touching. It was like raw need and gravity, pulling him against Arthur. Merlin wanted this, he wanted Arthur.
"I have to go," Merlin realized out loud. He couldn't stay here. This couldn't happen right now, in the morning. People would wonder where they were. And if Merlin stayed, something would happen. "I have things to do."
Arthur closed his eyes, groaning in frustration, but he took a step back. Merlin knew Arthur had things to do as well, he couldn't ignore duty. "Come back tonight, and do not even think about hiding out in the stables the entire night."
Merlin's face burned with embarrassment, but he ducked out of the room, completely forgetting the laundry in the process, but he didn't go back for it. The next 8 hours were some of the longest in Merlin's whole life. He did the chores for Arthur and spent the rest of the days running errands for Gaius and by the time sunset came round, Merlin was rushing up the stairs to Arthur's bedchambers. He had this whole speech planned out in his head; he had been thinking it through all day. Upstairs brain before downstairs brain, Merlin promptly reminded himself as he walked up to Arthur's chambers. Maybe something could happen, yes, Merlin was just a servant, but maybe it wouldn't always be like this. Magic couldn't be banned forever. Uther wouldn't be King forever.
Merlin walked into Arthur's rooms without knocking, and Arthur was waiting for him by his usual spot by the fireplace. Arthur looked weary, and his face was shining with perspiration. He had been training with the knights today, Merlin remembered. Arthur looked up at him when Merlin entered. The prince's eyes shone with something dark and vulnerable and whatever Merlin had planned to say instantly seemed less important and he walked over to Arthur, feeling the need pulling him towards his prince and master. He didn't need the words, not now, right now he just needed to feel Arthur, close and near. Arthur met him halfway; his face shadowed in darkness, and pulled Merlin into his arms.
Their mouths came together fiercely; breathing each other like it was their only source of oxygen, lips meeting in a clash of teeth and tongues. The kiss was messy and dirty and needy. Arthur's hand fisted in the fabric of Merlin's tunic, holding on desperately, mouths opening up to each other automatically, their moans and gasping mixing. Arthur was mapping out every single part of his mouth, and Merlin pressed into Arthur, frantic for the body contact. Arthur's hands were everywhere, at the back of his neck, running down his back, pulling Merlin even closer.
Arthur pressed so close to him felt more familiar than it should, like a thought in the back of his head he had forgotten all about. It felt right. It felt like this was supposed to happen. It felt like destiny pulling at him, at both of them.
Merlin closed his eyes, his head back thrown back, losing himself in the sensations as Arthur licked and kissed at his neck and collarbones, pushing the tattered old tunic out of the way to get to more skin. The whole thing was very surreal, and once again Merlin found himself struggling to understand just what was happening. Light-headed, everything was spinning, hands were hot on Merlin's skin and oh God Arthur was hard against him and Merlin moaned loudly, grasping at the front of Arthur's trousers, to let the prince know just what Merlin wanted.
"Arthur, touch me," Merlin managed to gasp out hoarsely, and Arthur shuddered, groaning low in Merlin's ear at the words.
Arthur straightened up and started undoing the laces on both of their trousers. Merlin held his breath. Arthur engulfed them both in a careful hand, stroking slow and teasing, his eyes, dark and glazed over, staring Merlin down and Merlin groaned loudly in ecstasy, pleasure curling in his stomach, arching against the prince. Arthur pressed his forehead against Merlin's, their moans and whimpers echoing each other.
They didn't last long. The blood raced in Merlin's ears and he was barely aware of himself as he softly cried out, white exploding behind his eyelids, rocking his whole body, every part of him trembling as he spilled against Arthur. Merlin was distantly aware of the echoed, choked gasp coming from Arthur. He leaned against Arthur for support and Arthur held him up, his hand sliding through the younger man's hair, the subtle touch felt so familiar and Merlin blanched, his mind going elsewhere.
"I had a dream," Merlin whispered breathlessly as he struggled to stay upright, the effects of the ecstasy still coursing through him slightly, easing down.
Arthur chuckled throatily against his lips. "Not the response I had expected."
"I had a dream," Merlin repeated softly, pulling back, looking into Arthur's eyes. Arthur frowned at what he saw in Merlin's raw gaze. "I think it was about us, I can't remember."
Arthur smiled gently, touching Merlin's cheek, rubbing his thumb against the left cheekbone. "You're being awfully weird, Merlin. It was only a dream."
"Yes," Merlin mumbled and pressed his lips lightly against Arthur's.
They slept entwined that night in Arthur's bed, naked skin against naked skin, as close as two people possibly could. Arthur's arms were draped possessively around Merlin's waist, but the young sorcerer walked in dreams, restless, horrific images of blood and death passing through his mind. He was walking across the battlefields. Men were splattered across the earth, their eyes open, unseeing, blood on their faces. They were all dead. Merlin stalked over the corpses, the grief threatening to overtake him completely. Mordred's face flashed in his mind. You will never be free, Emrys. Merlin couldn't seem to make his body move anymore. He was dying. He fell.
Merlin jerked awake, a small choking noise escaping him. He shivered, struggling to breathe normally. Arthur's arms tightened around Merlin's body, running a hand soothingly across his forehead. Merlin leaned into the touch, burying his head in the crook of Arthur's neck.
"Are you all right?" Arthur whispered into Merlin's hair and Merlin nodded weakly. "Do you always have nightmares like that?" Arthur inquired quietly.
"It's nothing," Merlin said weakly, closing his eyes, keeping up the façade that he was trying to fall back asleep even though Merlin had no intention of sleeping any more that night. "Go back to sleep. The dream will go away." Just like it always did. Just like it probably should.
Arthur obeyed, letting it go this time, and Merlin felt grateful for it. Arthur kissed the crown of Merlin's head gently and a few minutes later, Arthur's breathing eased down to a soft lulling sound and Merlin listened to it intently, letting it calm him down. After all, it had only been a dream.
When Merlin woke up the next day, he felt content and happy in Arthur's arms, but he tried not to feel too bothered by the fact that he once again couldn't remember what he had dreamt about. All was well. For now.