Written for this prompt on Kink Me Merlin on LiveJournal:
Arthur/Merlin, Arthur/Others, AU where Arthur has an older brother who is crown prince instead of him.
Uther considers Arthur fairly useless compared to his brother and thinks the only thing he has going for him is his looks. When people start to express interest in the boy, Uther decides to put him to some use by pimping him out to nobles and foreign kings to benefit the kingdom. Merlin is his servant and hates that Uther treats his own son like a whore to be given to whoever requests him. Arthur is desperate for Uther's love so does anything Uther tells him to no matter how humiliating.
I have a few chapters up on LJ, so I thought I'd start posting it here. :)
Warnings/Content: violence, non-con, dub-con, (may feature other triggering material in later chapters, I don't know yet)
1.) Latin for "first born".
2.) The law of the first born: right of inheritance belongs to the eldest son.
King Uther eyed the sorceress Nimueh warily.
"And what would be the price for a second son?"
"What are you willing to pay for the security of your kingdom?" she asked. "That may very well be what the Old Religion asks of you. Your wife was meant to give one life, and one life only - the Prince Madog."
Uther sighed. "We need an heir...and we want a son."
Nimueh smiled. "I understand."
When Prince Arthur was born and Queen Ygraine was dead, and Prince Madog sobbed in a corner for the death of his mother, ripped away after only a few years, King Uther was convinced that no, she didn't.
Within days, the pyres of magic burned through the night. He held his sons close. Prince Arthur slept soundly against the firm chest of his father. Prince Madog studied the baby, the brother.
"Why did he have to come?" he asked of his father. "He took mother away!"
"It is the fault of magic, Madog," Uther reassured. "Not him. He is your younger brother - he is yours to protect."
Madog nodded solemnly. If he couldn't save his mother, his brother would do.
When Arthur was twelve and beat his sixteen-year-old brother to the ground with a sword, within only a few months of training, Madog knew it would not be enough.
Arthur mourned that he ever took hold of a blade - he knew his destiny as a second son. Because Madog was the Crown Prince of Camelot, and no one was allowed to beat him.
After that first time, Arthur never let himself win against Madog again.
At least, not when anyone else was around.
When Madog was praised as the best warrior in the land, no one corrected him. After all, it would not do for the second son to be better than the first.
Uther never looked. Uther never saw.
Uther smiled at Madog, and kept his face blank for Arthur, who took his wife away, and who had made the sacrifice in vain.
Arthur never gained more than second place in a tournament.
When he realized his father wouldn't care, he stopped trying all together.
He trained, he fought when necessary - but he knew he would always have to bend to his brother.
For the sake of Camelot, the kingdom saw the fall of Prince Arthur.
The fall that was never a fall.
It wasn't long after he started training with the knights that it first happened.
"Beautiful, your younger son," Bayard commented to Uther off-handedly. "Shame, so much beauty would go to waste on the second son, rather than the first. Not that you are not handsome, Uther, for your eldest's taking after you. But your queen and her progeny..."
Uther didn't miss the way Bayard eyed Arthur from his seat at the high table.
"What would you do with a beauty like that?" he asked, voice low, soft - only for his fellow king.
"...take advantage of what I have," Bayard said.
"If I were to do the same," Uther offered, hating to besmirch Ygraine's looks like this, but knowing that finally, her sacrifice would not be in vain. "How would the treaty's signing fare, tomorrow?"
And so, in the corridor soon after, as noble guests slowly retired to their chambers, Uther brought his younger son towards the royal guest corridor, and crouched down and said, "Arthur - tonight, you will finally be able to do service to Camelot."
Arthur's head snapped up eagerly.
"Bayard wishes to be...entertained, tonight. You will go to his chambers, and you will stay the night, and do whatever he asks of you. Do you understand? So long as it is not a betrayal or attack upon Camelot, you do everything he asks."
Arthur nodded, head bobbing up and down. "Of course, Father. I will make you proud."
The next morning, Arthur lay curled up sobbing in his own bed. The court physician had already come to see him, and Arthur had bore through the humiliation of the treatment, but he found it almost worth it at the end when the soreness and the aches were gone.
He slept through midday, willing the bruises to go away, from both his body and his ego. He still burned from the humiliation of what happened, burned, because he had promised his father that he would make him proud, but instead, instead-
Father came to him after lunch. Arthur tried to get up, but Father bade him to remain laying down.
"Bayard signed the peace treaty, and more," he said softly, stroking his son's hair.
Arthur leaned into the touch. He knew it was weak, but father so rarely showed this sorts of affection towards him, saving his pats for Madog and his strokes for Morgana.
"Thank you, my son," Father said. "I am so proud of you, for your service to Camelot."
Arthur beamed. This was worth any pain and humiliation he would have to endure.
The next time a faraway King took interest in Arthur, the boy dreaded every step to the king's chambers, memories of last time predicting what would happen tonight.
He was right.
But the next morning, when Father came in to congratulate him on the knights' exchange they won, Arthur knew, finally, he was doing something right, doing something for the service of Camelot.
He would do this as many times as necessary.
He did this as many times as necessary.
"Who do you think you are, the king?"
"No, I'm his son."
Merlin shook his head as he stood in the background of the feast where he was serving. King Uther sat down, then Prince Madog, Prince Arthur, and the Lady Morgana, and sequentially several nobles after. Court Politics, ugh.
He tried to focus, instead, on Lady Helen, and her beautiful singing voice - really, it was quite lovely...up until he noticed, the people falling asleep, the webs developing - magic.
It wasn't just a beautiful voice.
Merlin clapped his hands over his ears, and watched as she approached the high table-
-approached Prince Arthur. What the hell? The king, easy to get, and even killing Prince Madog would be understandable...but Prince Arthur?
Without thinking, he made the chandelier fall on her body.
Without thinking, he pushed the second prince out of the way of the witch's knife.
Without thinking, he became the second prince's personal manservant upon declaration of the king.
Uther smiled at Merlin, saying, "Thank you, for saving my son." Not the prince, but, my son.
Merlin wondered if this was what the sorceress had seen.
Prince Madog came to Merlin as well, granting the rewarding smile, polite but charming enough, if not quite like his brother, and said, "Thank you for saving my brother."
Prince Arthur just looked at him in disdain, before turning away.
It was with trepidation that Merlin approached the opening to the fighting ring, magic on his fingers. That shifty Valiant knight was about to fight Arthur - the last round before he faced the Crown Prince, Madog, himself. And apparently, Valiant knew what very few other knights did: even though Arthur never took first place for himself, he was a much better warrior than his brother.
When the fighting started, Merlin kept to the shadows, taking advantage of everyone else's focus on the fight, and called forward the snakes.
Morgana threw Arthur the sword, and Merlin could see Madog twitching, and Uther sighing in relief, when Arthur beheaded the snakes, and killed Valiant.
"How can Arthur be the future king? He's second in line for the throne! Is his brother going to die?"
"I cannot tell you the destiny of the Brother of the Once and Future King - what I can tell you is that it is Arthur with whom your destiny lies, and it is Arthur who will one day become king of Camelot and unite all of Albion."
Merlin stood in numb shock as he watched the flames underground dissipate, and Madog and Arthur stared at the spot that had been the Afanc.
"We did it!" Madog said suddenly, shouting in glee. He and Arthur laughed in relief together, and Merlin sighed, wondering if one day, he would get any credit for this - he doubted it - and trailed the ecstatic princes tiredly to the main chambers, where Madog and Arthur strode in, and Arthur hung back as Madog went forward.
"Father!" he said. "We did it, the plague, it was caused by an Afanc, and we got rid of it!"
Uther beamed, a hand on Madog's son. "Well done, my son - I knew you could do it!"
And Merlin watched in resigned sadness and anger as Arthur's face fell blank. They were both quickly accustomed to Madog taking all the credit.
"But it's just not right, Arthur!"
"Merlin, it doesn't matter - it looks good for the kingdom, for Camelot, for Madog to be seen as the best of the best."
"Second in line - so I must be second best."
"You're better than him!"
"Camelot cannot know."
"Both of you," Uther addressed his sons, though his gaze remained solely on Madog. "Go to your chambers, rest - we will have a banquet in your honor within the week!"
And Arthur continued to go unacknowledged, and unnoticed.
It wasn't too long later that Merlin found out how deep Uther's lack of care for his second son went, when the Mercian delegation came to Camelot.
He knew something was off from the way Arthur had been distracted the entire week up until their arrival for the new peace treaty - how Arthur was actually jumpy. How Arthur paled upon seeing Bayard when he entered the throne room - everything thing, all the little things, adding up.
"Merlin," Arthur said, on the eve of the signing. His stance was rigid, his voice was tight, his face pale, his hands trembling. "You are dismissed."
"...all right, Arthur, what's wrong?"
"Nothing that concerns you," Arthur bit back. "Now leave. I won't been needing you until midday, tomorrow."
"Midday?" Merlin said in surprise. Though Madog was in charge of the knights, Arthur was always out several hours before, and after, his brother, helping to train those falling behind and those seeking to get ahead, and work on his craft by himself where no one will see anything upsurping towards the future King of Camelot. The knights' training would practically be out by midday!
"I won't be joining the knights tomorrow," Arthur said stiffly. "Or the day after. They won't miss me."
They both knew Arthur was wrong - all of the knights appreciated Arthur's efforts, even if most didn't take advantage of his extra hours themselves. These were the ones who knew the truth of the best warrior of the land.
"Arthur, what's wrong?"
Merlin's eyes widened and he backed up several steps in fear of a rage from Arthur he's never seen before.
"Get out," Arthur says quietly, his voice broken - pleading.
In all the time that Merlin has known him, Arthur was far too proud a man to beg.
The fear of whatever it is that could reduce Arthur to begging was what finally made him leave.
An hour later, talking to Gaius, Merlin was staring at his mentor in shock and felt so, so sick...so...
"So Uther just...just...whores Arthur out? His own son?"
Gaius sighed. "He does it for the benefit of the kingdom."
"But...Arthur...he's so..." he remembers Arthur's golden pride, and how much he shut it away, his one lifeline, for the benefit of Camelot.
"Uther...always praises Arthur after, and occasionally stoops to affection," Gaius said. "I suspect that is what drives Arthur."
Merlin shut his eyes, feeling shame and grief on behalf of Arthur - because he knew Arthur would do everything to never feel that type of pain.
The next morning, just before midday, Merlin made sure to grab extras of all of Arthur's favorites from the kitchens for Arthur's brunch. The cooks are disturbingly understanding. He walked to Arthur's chambers, carefully balancing the tray in his hands, his pouch of medicines by his side, making the slow, careful trek all the way up to Arthur's chambers, determined to be somewhat competent this morning.
When he got there, he was met with the sight of Arthur laying on his side on the bed, facing away from the door and Merlin, curled into a ball so tight Merlin's sure it had to hurt. So late in the day, that Arthur was still in bed was already unusual, but like this...
His breathing was slow and even, so he was still asleep. Merlin gently, quietly, set down the platter of food, his eyes flashing to preserve the food's temperatures, before setting about quietly cleaning up the prince's chambers, setting aside what would need to be washed, what he would need to repair.
Though he kept quiet, soon enough, Arthur awoke, groaning with sleep as he twisted in bed, and Merlin felt a guilty flash at how he couldn't help but admire the gold of the sunlight reflecting off Arthur's chest - especially when a moment later, he caught sight of the bruises, along Arthur's hips, arms, and shoulders.
He recognized them all too well.
Arthur froze when he saw Merlin, and Merlin quickly looked away, gesturing towards the table. "Breakfast. But first..."
He reached inside the pouch and pulled out two vials. "I know how to apply these...?"
Arthur shut his eyes and relented, nodding, before suddenly, he grabbed the middle one from Merlin's hand. "I know how to apply this one. Just...turn away."
Merlin sighed and nodded, turning back and setting out the cutlery, letting Arthur apply the oil for abrasions to his most sensitive areas.
When Merlin was called forth, he brought the clothes to the bed, before pulling back the bedclothes and taking on the best clinical air from Gaius that he could, seeing for himself how reassuring it was for most patients.
Arthur lay there, staring up at the ceiling while Merlin worked over his body with the bruise salve. He started with the ones on Arthur's ankles, then his knees, his thighs, his hips. He quickly had Arthur dress in breeches before continuing on to the ones over Arthur's chest, on his arms, his shoulders, and even the ones on his collar bones, the ones Merlin knew would come only from the work of a mouth.
Once Arthur was cared for and dressed, he sat gingerly at the table to eat.
Despite Merlin working to make sure Arthur had his favorites, Arthur ate very little - what he did eat was mostly at Merlin's prodding.
Then Uther came in.
The knock resonated from the door, along with Uther's voice resonating, "It is the king - open this door."
Merlin hurriedly complied, and Uther didn't pay him a second glance as he walked in.
He smiled at Arthur. Smiled. At. Arthur.
"Bayard signed the peace treaty peacefully," Uther said, standing over Arthur. "Thank you - you've done Camelot proud."
The smile that was on Arthur's face made Merlin's stomach clench as he closed the door behind the king when he left.
And the grin on Arthur's face when he turned around made it twist and flop around, and he didn't know whether to be delighted at the presence of it or horrified by what coaxed it out.
He smiled back at Arthur encouragingly, and the smile became at least somewhat real as Arthur started to devour his breakfast, before Arthur left for Council and Merlin cleaned up the room.
When he saw the drops of blood on the bedsheets, he closed his eyes to hold back the tears, before continuing on with his chores.
Much, much later, when Merlin had just consumed the antidote from the Morteus flower and was lying in bed, Prince Madog came by to see him.
"Sire," Merlin greeted, pushing himself up to be able to give at least a semblance of a bow.
Madog didn't respond, just leaned against the table and studied Merlin shrewdly. Merlin fidgeted, wonder how best to ask what the hell do you want without getting himself flogged.
"What is it about you, Merlin?" he asked, suddenly. "That has my brother so devoted to you?"
"He's not...he isn't devoted to me," Merlin said. "Arthur just loves the people of Camelot - he will do anything to save them. I am just another-"
"No," Madog said. "You are not."
And without another word, he swept out of the room, every bit his father's son.
Arthur came by later.
"Did you get in trouble?" Merlin asked, softly. "Your brother was in here earlier..."
Arthur shook his head. "Madog just thinks I was an idiot for risking my life for a servant, and so does my father. He tried to yell at me about putting the kingdom at risk, until I pointed out that with Madog around, I don't matter."
Merlin frowned. "You do, too, matter."
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Father can find otherwise to loosen the signing hands of our adversaries without me-"
"Arthur," Merlin said, reaching out to grasp Arthur's hand in his. Why couldn't he see this? "You're the best warrior in the land - no, I don't care about politics, you are - and you're a good leader and knight and you care about your people. You matter. Your people love you."
Merlin almost added I love you, but he didn't think Arthur was ready for that, yet.
"...they're not my people, Merlin," Arthur said, somewhat sadly. "They are my father's people, and one day, they will be my brother's people. But they will never be my people."
You're wrong, Merlin thought, but doesn't say. Camelot is yours. Albion is yours. They will be. I will make sure of it.
...okay, yeah, the first chapter sucked. It gets better, I promise! :D
Comments are love!