"Hold still, Merlin."

"I'm sorry, sire, if some of us can't be as impervious to pain as his Royal Pain-in-the-Arse," Merlin says, trying not to flinch under Arthur's touch. Who told Arthur to leave his bloody knives just laying about where anyone could accidentally sit on one, much like Merlin just had.

"Maybe this will teach you to behave like a proper manservant. Only I'm supposed to sit in my chair. That's why it's my chair. I swear Merlin, you really are the worst manservant ever," Arthur says, in a voice that strains to keep up with his feigned annoyance.

But how could he possibly ignore how his palms are starting to sweat when Merlin is splayed face-down on his bed, with his trousers pulled down to his knees.

Arthur tries to keep his eyes focused on the red gash that sits right under Merlin's ass, but his eyes keep wandering. Looking at the wound makes him think about how out of place it looks against Merlin's pale white skin, and then that thought causes his head to fill with a million different images of all the other ways he could make Merlin's skin flush. Then Arthur starts to imagine his hand-print on Merlin's ass, and his bloody hand starts moving before he can even...

"Are you done back there? It's a little cold and I'd rather not have you staring at my arse any more than I have to."

Merlin cranes his neck to look back at Arthur. He gives Arthur a puzzled look and that when Arthur realizes (And honestly, what was he thinking?) that his hand is still poised to strike Merlin, so he coughs and reaches over to grab the candlestick from the bedside table.

"I can't see well enough. It's too dark in here," Arthur says, and the look Merlin gives him screams that he doesn't believe a word but he doesn't move.

"Be careful with that candle. I'd like to go through life with my arse still intact," Merlin says, going for sarcasm but only managing a husky tone that Arthur is sure he's never heard Merlin use before. He looks at Merlin and suddenly Arthur notices that the back of Merlin's neck is the same shade of pink that he'd been imagining before. Merlin's eyes are a little unfocused and if Merlin didn't notice that he was suddenly breathing harder, drawing quick, shallow breaths, Arthur definitely did.

The look Merlin is giving him starts to make his skin prickle so Arthur just coughs again and lowers his eyes to Merlin's body. He tries to act normal, and manages to recover quickly when his grip on the candlestick slips just a little.

The shadow the candlelight casts over Merlin's skin makes it seem to glow. It makes Arthur want to explore every dip and curve of Merlin's ass until he can travel them with his eyes closed. He leans closer to Merlin, forgetting about the candlestick, and three drops of wax land on Merlin's ass.

Merlin arches his back and hisses out a breath that, to Arthur, doesn't sound at all like one of pain. Merlin also doesn't snap at him for having been burned. Instead, he buries his head in the pillow and, if Arthur is as perceptive as he's always prided himself on being, Arthur swears he hears Merlin lets out what can only be called a moan.

Arthur shakes himself and looks back at Merlin's ass. The drops of wax have hardened now, pulling at Merlin's skin and leaving it slightly pink. Arthur looks at Merlin again and he sees the sweat beading just at the nape of Merlin's neck and hears his ragged breathing. Arthur knows he should probably tell Merlin that everything is fine and that he can pull back up his trousers, but he doesn't.

Instead, Arthur finds himself thinking of ways to prolong the moment; to keep Merlin just like that until he can find out if Merlin's skin is that pale everywhere else. Arthur wants to find out how easily that skin bruises under his touch. He can see the soft expanse of Merlin's neck, slick with sweat in the candlelight, and suddenly Arthur has to know what it feels like under his lips, his tongue. Arthur has to know if Merlin's wants him as much as he wants Merlin.

Arthur needs to know, so he tilts the candlestick and lets one more drop of wax fall across Merlin's skin. This one is bigger than the last, so it lands and the wax runs down Merlin's thigh, down between his legs, and Arthur would have followed it with his eyes if Merlin wasn't suddenly arching and writhing on his bed, clutching at his sheets, and gods he was whimpering.

Merlin collapses on the bed again, breathing ragged and uncontrolled, and Arthur can feel himself already hard and heavy in his own breeches. Merlin still hasn't said anything, and Arthur is unsure what to do next. The pretense of checking Merlin's wound has long since crumbled, and Arthur knows he has to do something.

He looks back down at Merlin's bare skin and sees the wax beginning to cool, however Arthur knows that the flush now devouring that pale skin has nothing to do with the wax. Slowly, he blows out the candle and places it on the floor next to the bed. Then, he lowers his head to Merlin's skin and just the smell of him is enough to have Arthur's senses reeling. He places his lips over one of the drops of wax and even though he knows the pain must have long passed, Arthur starts to soothe the phantom ache with his lips, his tongue, his entire being, just trying to get lost in this, in Merlin.

Merlin is whimpering again, but Arthur would never hear it over the rushing of blood in his ears. Suddenly, the skin beneath Arthur's lips is gone and he finds himself face to face with Merlin, who is so close that Arthur can see the beads of sweat above his upper lip. Arthur only has a second to think about how they would taste before he is tasting them, Merlin's lips crashing against his, and Arthur thinks yes, now he can really get lost.