Desperate is the Silence

Merlin moves along corridor with quieter steps than anyone might credit to him. It is deep night and for the most part, Camelot is at rest. In the distance, Merlin can hear the jangle of the steward's many keys echoing off of the stones walls as he makes his rounds. He nears the kitchen and freezes when he hears the sound of soft, feminine laughter tuck quietly into the shadows. It's Gwen. Something in Merlin's heart constricts as chasing the heels of Gwen's laughter comes Arthur's. There's whispering – Merlin can imagine that Arthur and Gwen are leaned towards one another, heads bent close together, their words for them alone – and then, there's nothing but silence. It is loud and terrible in his ears.

Merlin retreats back down the hall with haste; he doesn't want to see what he knows he'll find around the corner: Arthur and Gwen sharing breath. Arthur and Gwen sharing that and far more than what Arthur shares with him – what Arthur refuses to share with him. The resignation that Merlin feels settle within him is nothing new, as is the sharpness of his hurt. It's the anger that's fairly new; anger borne of having to hide so much, give so much, and sacrifice such significant pieces of himself. Merlin absently touches his left side; the chunk of flesh missing from his hip that he received when he flung himself in front of a highwayman's blade, is the least of what he's given up for Arthur.

Merlin stops halfway back to his quarters and presses back against the cool stone, closing his eyes as he lets his shoulders slump. It takes a moment for him to gather his thoughts. By the time he makes his decision, he knows that it'd already been made back there - back with Arthur and Gwen and the spare space between them.. Merlin pushes away from the wall and heads in the opposite direction of his quarters, slipping over the stone with quiet footsteps.

-VVV-

There are over two-dozen secret passages in Camelot, hidden behind thick falls of tapestry and in some cases ponderously heavy pieces of furniture. The only one that Merlin uses is hidden behind a huge tapestry of the Pendragon family crest, situated along the east wall of the lesser dining hall. He can navigate it with his eyes closed. It leads directly to Uther's chambers.

Merlin enters without waiting, pulling aside a dresser that scrapes noisily along the floor enough so that he can wriggle through. The room is mostly dark, except for a few candles burning slowly in their sconces along the far wall. Uther is standing at one of the windows, looking out over a rose garden he particular favors. Merlin knows this because he's stood and looked at that damned rose garden enough times, from the very spot Uther occupies.

"What do you want?" Uther questions sharply. He doesn't turn around.

Merlin moves to the older man's side and stands and looks out over the garden for a moment, before quietly saying, "Your son is a fool."

The blow catches Merlin across the mouth, not unexpectedly. It's not hard, but it's a solid hit and backed by the rings that Uther wears along each of his fingers. They are heavy and they are gold. Merlin knows it will bruise; he'll worry about that in the morning.

Uther turns to him and grabs his shoulder, his fingers digging harshly into bone and muscle. He's angry, and Merlin wants to Uther to be angry. He needs it to be this way for their relationship to work, all fucked up spaces and dysfunctional angles - whatever the hell that means. Theirs isn't one of give and take, and how can it be? There's too much animosity between them, too many tough decisions with too many consequences that slowly kill the soul. There's too much Arthur between them, so bright and so…Arthur that it sometimes fucking hurts Merlin's eyes.

Sometimes he just wants to fold into the darkness, just a little bit. Sometimes, damnit, he just wants to damper the light a little bit, this bright fucking destiny he's supposed to have with a man he's not sure likes him most of the time. Sure, there's loyalty between him and Arthur, and there's something else too, something that he feels deep in his bones as certain as the Old Magic in his veins. Still, for all the little moments, the smiles and the trust and the brush of Arthur's fingertips along the ridges of his spine, there are harsh words that can never be taken back - and deceit (of course, what would his life be without deceit?) and promises that are vapid and empty.

Uther pushes him back against the open window, hitches him onto the sill with more strength than is readily apparent beneath his cape and clothing. Merlin leans precariously back and revels in the feel of Uther's hands tightening over his hips, holding him firm. He might not love Uther - hell, half the time he probably loathes him - but Merlin trusts him not to let go. He leans back even further and moonlight splashes across the high planes of his cheeks like liquid silver. Uther skims his mouth across his jaw and Merlin spreads his hands over the other man's shoulders, anchors himself, then digs the heels of his feet into the small of Uther's back. He tilts his hips up and pushes firmly into Uther's body held tight against him. He's hard and he's ready.

Things unravel quickly after that - it's how it always is. No reason to change things now - things work this way. The dysfunction of their relationship has almost become a comfort, a constant, something that never quite changes within the constant flux of Merlin's life.

Uther is too impatient to disrobe fully, but Merlin doesn't care. He helps push his own breeches down around his ankles, and jerks back from the sudden brush of cool air against his thighs. In a rare show of tenderness, Uther rubs his palms lightly down Merlin's back, warming his skin, the cool metal of his rings bumping against the ridges of his spine. Though the touch is feather light, it almost burns. Merlin shivers and for a moment, rests his forehead against Uther's.

He opens his eyes, sees Uther staring at him with a curious intensity that makes his gaze fever-bright. For half a breath that was closer to an eternity, they remain locked in that position, looking at one another, just a quick glimpse of what was possible and what would never truly be. Merlin hitched a leg around Uther's hip, shut his eyes, shut out that probing stare, and crushed his mouth against the other man's.

Merlin slicks his fingers in his own mouth, spits into his palm for good measure and lifts his arse to prep himself. Uther stops him but Merlin shakes his head sharply; Uther doesn't protest but watches him, pupils blown out with lust as Merlin works one, two, three fingers into himself. Merlin winces against the burn, against the haste in which he's stretching himself, but the raggedness of the pain is also so fucking good.

He watches Uther through the dark fringe of his eyelashes, enjoying the attention, the raptness of the older man's gaze as he wets his lips and lets his mouth fall open. The power within him, the Old Magic that is as essential to him as the very air, rises from his pores like noxious fumes.

His blood sings out for worship.

His heart sings out for love; for reassurance.

His body just wants to fuck.

Merlin gasps when Uther breaches him, tilting him back sharply so that his upper body is practically hanging out of the open window. It's deep night and the garden below is empty – nobody will see. A thrill shoots through Merlin as Uther pushes his cock into him slowly, leaning him back even further. He loops an arm around Merlin's back, the other propped on the windowsill to support his weight, and pushes their bodies close. Merlin throws his legs around Uther's waist, anchoring himself. He throws his arms around Uther's neck, presses his fingers into the muscle of the other man's shoulders, reassured by the solidness of him.

Merlin lifts his chin. He and Uther are practically nose-to-nose, and they're pressed close - too fucking close. Uther doesn't say a word as he begins to move his hips, slow, almost sedate. Merlin writhes; his throat is tight with the sudden riot of emotion that erupts in his chest. This isn't right. It should be frantic; it should be desperate. It should be laced with a fury.

It shouldn't be this intimate.

Merlin chokes on something that sounds too much like a sob for his like and screws his eyes shut against the enormity of what he's feeling. It's too much, too fucking much; he buries his face in Uther's neck and lets the other man ride him into completion. His eyes are wet and something unexpected rises in him: even surrounded by a castle full of people, Merlin is so very alone.

He clings to Uther, pushes his heels into the small of the other man's back. He feels the desperation now in the relative silence of their fucking – neither he or Uther have made much noise past quiet gasps and low grunts. But they're still so close, so fucking close – Merlin can feel the thump of Uther's heart in his chest, feel the flush spread beneath his fingers as Uther quickens the pace.

He feels torn apart, so out of control, losing it – losing himself. He comes when he jacks a hand between them and touches himself, barely dragging his palm over the leaking head of his cock before he's coming with a sob that he can't hold back. It tears from him, pushing between his teeth, filling the space between them. Uther follows him over the edge with a few jerky thrusts and a ragged, quiet groan that sounds almost as unhinged as Merlin feels.

Merlin's cheeks are wet in the moonlight. Uther pulls him back from the window, pulls out of him wordlessly. Merlin looks at him in defiance, eyes shiny with moisture. His eyelashes are damp. He dares him to say something. Uther wipes away the tears from the corners of his eyes with the edge of his cape and Merlin jerks away. He presses the heels of his hands hard against his face and tries to hold himself together as everything begins to unravel.

Uther says nothing, just gathers him in the folds of his cape and lets the silence linger.

(The End.)