The feast in honor of Sir Whatshisname had just ended. Arthur couldn't possibly be expected to remember the man's name, especially when the wine had flowed more freely at this banquet than at any Uther had given in the past month. For this reason, the job of making sure that Arthur made it back to his own room, and didn't accidentally stumble into the bedroom of a visiting noblewoman, was delegated to Merlin. Merlin, who was a little more sloshed than he should have been, given the uncharacteristically lax atmosphere of the night. The nobles were quite ready to ignore the slightly drunken fumblings of the staff as long as the goblets never ran dry.
The consequences for this were that now Merlin's list of post- feast tasks grew to a little over what he was sure he could handle in his current state. He had to work twice as hard to remain standing under the weight of his wine-clouded head, in addition to having a fully grown and utterly drunk prince as extra baggage. Then there was the fact that an inopportune and unexpected visit to the room of noble could end with Merlin in the dungeon for what could quite possibly be the rest of his life, which meant that Merlin also had to remember where he was going.
Merlin stopped to check that he was still taking them the right way, Arthur leaning heavily against his side, still muttering the chorus of some bawdy song into the space between Merlin's chin and the neck of his shirt. Merlin was tempted to stay just like that; the summer-warmed stone of Camelot's walls at his back, and the pliant weight of Arthur against his side, his heavy wine-tinged breaths ghosting over Merlin's skin. In an act that required all the remnants of sobriety he had left, Merlin managed to heft Arthur once more and continue the rest of the way to the Prince's chambers.
As they made it to the door of Arthur's room, the Prince shifted so Merlin could open the door. It was a gesture that seemed a far cry from anything Arthur may have managed when they left the Great Hall, but the arrival at his chamber door seemed to be sobering Arthur in some way. Merlin finally got the door open and Arthur entered unsteadily, situating himself on his bed while Merlin moved off to a cabinet in the corner.
The days had grown warmer, so the fireplace remained untouched. Candlelight danced on the night tables and mantle, indication that a chambermaid must have been in while they were away, thinking ahead to the end of the feast and saving them from stumbling around in the dark. Merlin could barely see into the cabinet but lighting more candles seemed a monumental task. The candles flickered in the dim room, casting tall shadows against the walls, and Merlin barely managed to find Arthur's sleeping tunic through heavy- lidded eyes. He only had to get Arthur into his nightclothes and he could make his way back to his own room.
Merlin turned back from the cabinet and was struck to find Arthur staring at him. The Prince had managed to remove his feast tunic, the blood red cloth still gripped tightly in one hand. The candle on the night table threw light across his face, and Merlin found himself staring into dark, focused eyes. He waited for Arthur to look away, but the Prince just kept looking. The set of Arthur's lips told Merlin that the Prince was deeply contemplating something, something in Merlin's general direction. The air in the room started to press of Merlin from all sides and, despite the warmth of the night, Merlin found himself trying to stop himself from shuddering through a chill.
Minute-long seconds ticked by, and Merlin had to lower his eyes to avoid Arthur's unsettling gaze. He could still feel Arthur staring at him, but not being able to see him calmed Merlin's nerves enough that he could finally move away towards the bed, sleep tunic in hand. Merlin walked until he could see the tips of Arthur's toes- the Prince had also removed his own boots at some point. The candle beside Arthur was starting to burn lower, and Merlin was grateful for the shadow that it cast over his breeches when he finally managed to raise eyes, still not looking at Arthur's face.
The night's warmth had wrapped itself around the Prince like a lover, and the thin layer of sweat across Arthur's chest and shoulders glistened as the candlelight lapped at the tan skin like eager tongues. Merlin's head had slowly begun to clear of the wine, and he could suddenly feel the cloth of his breeches rubbing against him with maddening sensitivity. Shadows rested their heads in Arthur's collarbones like sated paramours, and the muscles in his chest rippled like disturbed bedclothes each time he drew breath. The thought drew Merlin out of his daze and he made the mistake of looking up to see if Arthur had caught him staring.
Up close, Arthur's eyes were storming, dark and clouded, echoing something with all the passion of rage, but none of its anger. He was still focused on Merlin's eyes. Arthur's gaze broke only to rake over the rest of Merlin's face, stopping when it landed on his lips, which were parted and slowly drying as Merlin's breathed deeply.
Arthur looked back up into Merlin's eyes, his gaze slightly questioning, and Merlin remembered that he was still holding the sleeping tunic. He glanced at it, then back at Arthur, and Arthur raised his arms over his head, dropping the red tunic to the ground at Merlin's feet. Merlin didn't move. His arms were suddenly heavier than he remembered them being and when Arthur quirked at eyebrow at him expectantly, Merlin had to fight to raise his hands.
The sleeping tunic fit larger than Arthur's other shirts and the cloth flowed smoothly over the Prince's head and down his arms. Still, Merlin felt the need to pull it down all the way, instead of letting it fall like he usually did. As the material unfurled over Arthur's chest, the back of Merlin's hand trailed lightly over his ribs and Merlin could feel the tremor that coursed through the Prince travel up his own arm. Merlin pulled the tunic down the rest of the way and pulled back his hands, hesitating a bit when he saw the fingers on Arthur's right hand flex slightly.
Merlin looked back up at Arthur. The candle beside them had burned down and he could no longer see the Prince's eyes, but Merlin knew that Arthur was still looking at him. The set of his lips remained the same as before and the only move he made was to lower his arms. As Merlin stepped away from the bed, he remembered that Arthur was still wearing his breeches and something shifted deep in his belly. He hoped that Arthur wouldn't ask him to remove them. He didn't think he could stand kneeling in front of the Prince, and he was sure he couldn't bend down if he tried. His breeches seemed to have grown tighter with every second that had passed and the slightly of movement threatened to unman him then and there.
Merlin moved farther away from the bed, the feast tunic forgotten on the floor. The Prince continued to face him, so Merlin knew he was still looking at him. Arthur still hadn't said anything so Merlin took that to mean that he could leave. He turned and walked to the door silently, each step an individual torture as his breeches rubbed against him maddeningly. He opened the door and when Arthur still didn't speak, Merlin walked out and closed it behind him.
Safe from Arthur's gaze, Merlin's hands moved frantically, unlacing his breeches and freeing himself. He stroked his erection hard and fast, blood rushing in his ears and the image of stormy eyes flashing behind his closed eyelids. He came moments later, choking and sobbing out his release, candlelight still flickering in the dark and the ghost of tan skin still brushing his fingertips, and he never heard the desperate cry of release that echoed on the other side of the door.