Title: And we Are But Shadows
Author: Mel (accordingtomel)
Summary: After Merlin is rescued from captivity, he struggles to figure out Arthur's strange behaviour, while Arthur has a difficult time coming to terms with what he almost lost.
Spoilers/Warnings: Vaguely takes place 6 months to a year after series 3, but the only real spoilers are for S3 characters.
Word Count: 5,528
Disclaimer: I only wish I owned them. Alas, I do not.
Author's Note: This is my birthday present (slightly belated) to one of my dearest friends in the world, awakencordy! A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU, MY FRIEND! Two years ago I wrote you pre-slash, last year I wrote you actual slash, and this year you get porn! This was my horribly failed attempt at writing a PWP, LOL! Anyway, I hope you enjoy! I need to say the hugest thanks in the world to prplhez8 for being my emergency beta! Your feedback was incredibly helpful and I can't thank you enough for doing this for me! As always, concrit is welcome. I hope you enjoy, my friend :D.
And we Are But Shadows
In retrospect, it probably hadn't been the wisest decision he'd ever made.
It wasn't that Merlin wanted to be captured by a group of barbarians, merely that he'd seen no other feasible option presented at the time. It was either he offer himself up, pretending to be the prince of Camelot, or… Well, he hadn't thought too long about the other options. All he knew was that he hadn't had a choice.
Really, the whole plan had been reasonable enough. He would allow himself to be kidnapped, and then use magic to kill his captors when they were far enough away from Arthur and Camelot. In theory, it was perfect. Except for the part where they'd drugged and chained him. Which was less than optimal but still doable, were it not for the nausea and sheer exhaustion that overwhelmed him as a result. It took a day or two before the realisation sunk in that they were aware of his magic, and all of this was the direct result of active suppression of his abilities. It was the first time he'd felt a real sense of fear that he might not actually make it out alive.
Minutes bled into hours, which bled into days, and it was only a matter of time before he lost all sense of time completely. He continued to look for any opportunity to try and fight off his captors, but none arose. They gave him water and kept him fed, but he was shackled to the ground in what seemed like a cave, with only the cold stone floor as a bed. He was cold and sore, the sickness clouding his mind, but otherwise he was fine, all things considered. There had to be a reason why they hadn't killed him yet, and Merlin clung to this vague thought like a drowning man. It was all he had left.
At some point, the fogginess lifted, and Merlin felt a modicum of hope return. If he could just think straight for a few minutes, surely he could figure out a way to get himself out of this mess. That hope was quickly dashed, however, when two of the bandits advanced on him, forcing a vile liquid down his throat, effects hitting him almost immediately. This wasn't how things were supposed to end, he thought bitterly before his world faded to black.
When Merlin came to, several hours later, it was to the sound of swords clanging and men screaming. Something was happening, someone was here. Merlin's heart leapt in his chest, hope steadily rising this time at the idea that he was being rescued; that he and Arthur still had time to fulfill their destiny.
A familiar voice drifted in his direction. "Merlin? Don't worry, we're here. Arthur's here. I'll get you out of these."
Merlin twisted his neck around as far as he could, just barely catching a glimpse of Gwaine's smiling face as he fumbled around with the shackles at Merlin's ankles. With a sigh, he lay his head back down on the cold stone floor, relief pooling in his stomach, working hard to ignore the shooting pain radiating from one of his legs. All that mattered at this point was that they were here. More importantly, Arthur was here. He hadn't left Merlin to die.
Gwaine worked quickly to unlock the shackles that held Merlin in place. From where he'd retrieved the keys was a mystery, but the feeling of freedom won over his desire to know.
"Merlin, I'm so glad to see you," Gwaine said, practically beaming, despite the fact that there was still a battle raging in the background. "Do you think you can sit up?"
Merlin considered the question thoughtfully, unsure, so he shrugged. There were no reasons he could think of as to why he shouldn't be able to do so. "Why not?"
The next few minutes were mostly a blur, with Gwaine helping Merlin sit up, and the other knights taking care of the rest of his captors. From his limited vantage point, Merlin thought he could make out Lancelot and Percival fighting alongside Arthur.
"Where is he?" Arthur asked, once the sounds of battle had finally ended.
"We're over here," Gwaine called out, waving a hand in the air to get his attention.
In seconds, Arthur was at Merlin's side. Gwaine squeezed his shoulder before backing away and relinquishing his care to Arthur. With a heaving chest, sweat beading on his forehead, he knelt down on the ground in front of Merlin. His eyes were wide, a little stunned, but unmistakably filled with relief.
"Are you all right?" He placed his sword on the ground, hands reaching out to touch Merlin, running fingers through his hair, across his shoulders, down his chest. The touch was gentle and assessing, deliberate in the care that was being used. Merlin was quite certain this was the most physical contact they'd ever had. Or, at least, the most Arthur had ever touched him before. Merlin found he quite enjoyed the feeling of Arthur's hands roaming his body, and he swallowed, suddenly uncomfortable.
"I'm fine, Arthur," Merlin said, batting feebly at his hands.
But Arthur was stronger, more insistent, and far too determined to be swayed in his mission.
"Stop complaining. I need to make sure you don't have any serious injuries."
"Arthur, I told you—"
The glare he received was enough of a warning to keep silent as Arthur continued his assessment. Merlin closed his eyes, allowing his head to fall back against the wall at his back.
"Ouch!" Merlin cried, when Arthur's hands suddenly closed around his left ankle, thumbs pressing into the bony prominences. He bolted upright, eyes flying open as his hands scrambled to latch onto Arthur's to pull them away from the area.
"Don't! That hurts." His fingers closed around Arthur's wrists.
Arthur ignored him, but reduced the pressure of his thumbs significantly. It still wasn't enough. "I'm sorry, Merlin, but I need to look at it."
"Then look. How is touching looking?"
The prodding continued for another minute, which was a minute too long for Merlin's liking. When Arthur finally seemed to decide that the torture session was over, he turned to bark an order at one of the knights still watching the unfolding scene, before announcing his diagnosis. "I think it's sprained, but it doesn't seem to be broken. It'll hurt like hell for a few days, though."
"Great." Merlin sighed.
This wasn't exactly the reunion with Arthur he'd imagined over the past several days. Arthur was supposed to swoop in and single-handedly obliterate all of the men holding him captive, then whisk Merlin into his arms and—
He blinked, only to discover that Arthur's hands had moved back to his face, one thumb brushing against his cheekbone in a wildly intimate manner, especially given their audience. But Arthur didn't seem particularly fussed by it.
"You look distressed. Are you sure you're fine? They didn't hurt you? They didn't… didn't try and do anything to you, did they? Against your will?"
God, Arthur's touch felt good, his hand, warm and gentle against Merlin's skin. So good, in fact, that he couldn't help but lean into it, pressing his cheek into the palm of Arthur's hand. And then, suddenly, Arthur's words penetrated the fog that was still drifting through his mind. Oh.
"Do anything? Oh. Oh, no, Arthur. No. Don't worry. I— they. No. I'm fine."
Arthur seemed to physically relax at the words, hands falling away from Merlin's face. And then, as though a candle had been lit, his demeanour shifted drastically.
"Merlin, you complete and utter buffoon. What in the name of all that is holy is wrong with you?" He poked Merlin lightly in the chest, eyes blazing. "How could you have allowed yourself to get kidnapped like that?"
"Arthur, I'm sorry. I—"
"Shut up, Merlin."
Around them, the rest of the knights were slowly backing away, casting knowing glances at one another.
"Do you have any idea what I've been through in the past week?" he carried on.
Merlin wasn't exactly sure if Arthur wanted him to speak or not, so he shook his head instead, ignoring the pounding at the back of his skull.
"You are, without a doubt, the most moronic person I have ever met in my entire life, and I'm stunned that you managed to survive this long, when you clearly lack all manner of self-preservation."
His finger was hovering around Merlin's chest again without actually touching him, chest heaving and eyes wild. His other hand was clenched in a tight ball, pressed against his thigh as though he wanted to punch someone. Merlin hoped that someone wasn't him, and instinctively tried to squirm away, but his back was pressed up against the cave wall. He was trapped, as it were. But then again, he didn't really believe that Arthur would hit him. Surely not after everything he'd just been through.
"I've spent the past week looking for you, you idiot. Against my father's wishes, too, I might add. I had no idea if you were even alive, but I followed the trail anyway, because foolish as your actions were, they're still deserving of commendation." Arthur paused and looked at his surroundings, swallowing heavily before he turned his eyes back to Merlin. "You need to stop doing this. I can't keep chasing after your sorry arse every time you decide on a whim to be the hero. It doesn't suit you, Merlin."
"What was I supposed to do? Just stand by and watch you get taken instead?"
"Yes," Arthur declared dramatically. "Because I could have defended myself against them in a way you can't. You need to stop throwing yourself in harm's way for me all the time."
"Isn't that what your people are supposed to do? Be willing to die for their future king?" Merlin shot back. His head was still pounding, foot still throbbing, but he was never too incapacitated to argue with Arthur.
"You're more important," Arthur said quietly. A look of panic fell over his face the instant the words left his mouth.
Merlin blinked, in shock himself. Wait, what?
"Arthur, did you just—" Merlin started, but was abruptly cut off when fingers closed around the fabric of his tunic, pulling him forward.
"Merlin," he said, voice low and husky, "you're more important." And suddenly, Arthur was kissing him.
For a moment, Merlin thought he must have passed out again, drifting off into some sort of lovely dream, because surely there was no way this could truly be happening. But when Arthur's fingers curled into the hair at the nape of his neck, lips soft and urgent against his own, Merlin snapped out of his haze, leaning into the kiss. Heat billowed in his stomach, radiating through his entire body, and in spite of everything he'd been through, the feeling of Arthur's mouth on his was the only sensation he registered.
One of Merlin's hands reached up to palm Arthur's cheek, thumb rubbing across the length of his jaw, the other carding through his thick blond hair. Arthur nipped lightly at Merlin's lower lip, and he instinctively parted his lips, allowing Arthur's tongue to slip inside his mouth. Every inch of Merlin craved Arthur as he tried to pull him impossibly closer, but he couldn't prevent the soft moan that slipped past his lips when their tongues slid together for the first time.
In the background, Merlin vaguely heard the sound of shuffling and a couple of awkward coughs, and it was at precisely that moment that he remembered they weren't alone. Arthur, having seemingly reached the same conclusion, pulled back from Merlin with ferocity, eyes wide as he stared openly at him. Allowing his hand to drop from the back of Merlin's head, fingers ghosting across the side of his neck as he did, Arthur stood and turned around.
"Help him up," he ordered to no one in particular, and walked purposefully out of the cave.
Merlin was getting mixed signals from Arthur.
It had been three days now in which they'd been travelling back to Camelot, pace deliberately slowed to accommodate Merlin's injuries, and he could make neither heads nor tails of Arthur's strange behaviour. He'd spent most of the time either avoiding Merlin entirely, or ignoring the vast majority of what he said, speaking only when absolutely necessary. But every once in a while, especially in the evening once they'd set up camp for the night, Merlin would catch Arthur staring at him from across the fire, gaze so intense that it gave Merlin chills, looking for the world like he wanted to— well, Merlin wasn't entirely sure what he wanted to do, but it stirred something hot and low in his nether regions all the same. It was a mystery, what was going on behind those deep blue eyes, but Merlin knew something was brewing there, lying dormant just below the surface. The difficult part was figuring out when he would finally erupt, because there was no doubt that it was an inevitable outcome.
Earlier that evening, Arthur had sat down next to Merlin, pressed close to his side, and asked how his ankle felt, voice a low hum against Merlin's ear. The silence that surrounded them through the rest of dinner was companionable this time, and Merlin even caught a glimpse of a smile from Arthur. So, naturally, he assumed that things might finally be improving between them (though he dared not even hope Arthur would be up for discussing The Kiss just yet).
The problem was that Arthur had disappeared immediately after dinner, and Merlin got the distinct impression that Arthur was avoiding him. Again. Night was beginning to fall, and knowing Arthur, he had likely forgotten to take a cloak with him. The last thing anyone needed was for Arthur to catch a draft, fall ill, and die on them (unlikely a scenario as that might be).
Hobbling out of the tent, Merlin scanned the camp for any sign of Arthur. There was none.
"You sure you should be walking on that leg there?" Gwaine asked, smirking over at Merlin from his spot on a nearby log. Off in the distance, Merlin could see that Lancelot and Percival were sparring with one another. Merlin wondered why Gwaine was still here and not with them, but then he suspected he already knew the answer. Clearing his throat, Merlin took a few tentative steps forward.
"Don't start with me too, Gwaine. You sound like Arthur, you know," he said, ignoring the pain that momentarily shot through his left foot as he put pressure on it for a moment too long.
"Yes, well, perhaps, just this once, he has a point. You're not supposed to put any weight on it at all, are you?"
"I can put some weight on it. Just not all of my weight," Merlin lied. For a moment he considered abandoning the idea of searching for Arthur all together, in favour of sprawling on the log beside his friend. But then he knew that if he sat down, the likelihood of standing again any time in the near future was slim to none.
"Right. Of course." Gwaine smiled, indulgent.
"Do you know where Arthur is?"
"Last I saw, he'd gone off in that direction," Gwaine said, pointing to a spot behind Merlin's head. "But I don't know that you should be running around after him."
"Thanks, Gwaine," said Merlin with a grateful smile, turning and limping away before reason or good sense could catch up with him.
He found Arthur several hundred yards away, which was a relief, since he was quite certain he couldn't walk much further than he already had. Arthur was leaning back against a tree, arms folded loosely across his chest, eyes distant and face sombre. The pale light of early evening cast a deep shadow over his features, giving him an almost quixotic appearance.
Merlin swallowed, shoving aside the sudden overwhelming desire to smooth out the hard lines of Arthur's face and coax a smile from those lips instead. This withdrawn, reflective Arthur was starting to worry Merlin. Thankfully, he didn't have to deal with the potential ramifications of such desires, as Arthur's head whipped to the side at the first sounds of his approach. Even in the best of times, the art of silence eluded Merlin entirely. Adding an injury to the mix was only bound to make the situation worse.
Unsurprisingly, Arthur did not look impressed. "Merlin, what the hell are you doing walking around? You're going to turn that sprain into a broken ankle."
Merlin waved a hand at Arthur, forcing a smile. "I'm fine. Stop over-exaggerating." He hoped the fact that he was leaning against a tree with his left foot nearly off the ground would escape Arthur's notice. Unfortunately, it didn't.
"That's why you can't even stand on it then?"
"Of course I can stand on it," Merlin declared. And then, just to prove his point, he let go of the tree trunk and righted himself, putting weight on said foot.
As it turned out, this was not the wisest decision that had ever been made. A sharp pang shot up Merlin's leg and moved through his spine, causing him to cry out in pain, before nearly falling into the tree next to him. In an instant, Arthur was at his side, a frown pulling at his lips. Even in the dim light from the setting sun, Merlin could see the worry and agitation on his face.
"Honestly, Merlin, how much of a buffoon can you be?"
Merlin didn't think it wise to respond.
"Idiot," Arthur said, crowding into Merlin's space and wrapping an arm around his waist, willingly bearing the brunt of his weight now. "We're going back to camp."
The warmth of Arthur pressed flush against his side and the smell of his musky scent made Merlin feel a little light-headed with want, but he forced himself to focus on the pain instead. The last thing he needed right now was to have Arthur discover his attraction to him. Especially when he was barely even acknowledging Merlin right now.
"Sit down," Arthur ordered, when they returned to camp and were safely within the confines of their tent. Merlin obeyed, with no small amount of effort.
"Stop talking. And for that matter, why don't you stop doing any number of the incredibly idiotic things you seem to be so fond of doing on a regular basis." Arthur was fishing around through a few bags at the side of the tent, back turned to Merlin.
"I don't think that's fair, Arthur."
"And I don't think you understand what 'stop talking' means. Clearly I've failed in teaching you these basic skills." Arthur turned to face him. "Roll up your trouser leg."
Arthur heaved a long-suffering sigh, as though he was truly amazed at Merlin's mental capacity, or lack thereof. "I need to check on your foot, since you seem determined to inflict permanent damage on yourself."
"I was just looking for you," Merlin protested.
Taking a seat at the end of Merlin's bed roll, he waited until Merlin was finished adjusting his trouser leg. "I wasn't far from camp. You should have stayed put, like I asked you to."
"And do what, exactly?" Merlin grumbled. "Stare at the tent walls? It's not as if there's anything to do in here by myself. And you were off roaming the forest, so what was I supposed to do?"
"You're not a child, Merlin, last I checked. I'm sure you're more than capable of entertaining yourself. Though you sure behave like a child sometimes."
Despite the harsh tone of voice, Arthur's hands were surprisingly gentle as he examined Merlin's injured foot.
With a slight frown, Merlin said, "Then maybe you should stop treating me like one."
Arthur chose to ignore the comment. "Can you move your foot for me?"
Merlin did so, doing his best to keep his face neutral. There was no reason to hide his pain from Arthur, but at the same time, he didn't want to give Arthur the satisfaction of being right, even though he was. Silence stretched between them as Arthur finished checking Merlin's ankle.
There were so many things that Merlin wanted to say, so many questions he had for Arthur. Eventually he settled on the one thing that he wanted to know most. "Why have you been avoiding me?"
It was subtle, but there was no mistaking the twitch of muscle in Arthur's jaw at the accusation. "I haven't been avoiding you."
"Yes, you have. And when you're not avoiding me, you're refusing to talk. Look, I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused you, but if you're that furious at me—"
"Is that what you think?" Arthur interrupted, hands stilling.
"You can barely stand to be around me," Merlin pointed out. "Maybe I haven't told you how grateful I am that you came for me, but I am, and I'm sorry if I never said so earlier."
"Merlin." Arthur's eyes slipped shut as he ducked his head, one hand sliding up to rest on Merlin's knee. "I'm not angry with you. You have no idea what's been going through my head."
For the first time since being rescued, Merlin took a moment to actually look at Arthur, to see behind the masquerade that he so often put on, especially in public. Arthur had never been one for acknowledging anything he felt, let alone speaking of it. But there was none of that now – no mask hiding the emotions he worked so hard to keep from the rest of the world. His expression was open, revealing to Merlin exactly what he was feeling, and there wasn't a hint of anger anywhere behind his warm eyes. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Merlin blinked, and then realisation hit him. Oh. Oh.
He was suddenly very aware of how close Arthur was to him, the heat of the hand on Merlin's knee bleeding through the thin layer of fabric, and Merlin swallowed. The fact that Arthur's gaze dropped to his lips did not circumvent Merlin's notice, nor did Arthur's continued physical contact escape him. The air in the small tent felt stifling all of a sudden, thick with the sort of tension that made Merlin's heart race and heat pool in his groin. He wanted to pull away before his brain decided to do something stupid, but he couldn't bring himself to blink, let alone move away.
But when Arthur leaned in, fingers digging into his knee, it was all the encouragement Merlin needed. Surging forward, he pressed his lips to Arthur's, hands reaching out to tug Arthur closer. Arthur shifted, mindful of his foot, until he was lying across Merlin's chest, wrapped in each other's arms. Arthur kissed the way Merlin always imagined he would – confident, passionate, and with an element of possession. Running his tongue along Merlin's bottom lip, Arthur coaxed his way inside Merlin's mouth, moaning as access was granted. As their tongues moved together, Merlin's hands threaded through Arthur's hair, tugging at his head until the angle was just perfect.
The kiss was slow and sweet, filled with such deep longing that Merlin didn't think he'd ever be able to be satiated. He poured everything of himself into this kiss with Arthur, all the pent-up desires and wild fantasies that had kept him going on those lonely nights. He'd fallen in love with Arthur so many years ago, but never once had he dared to hope that Arthur might feel the same. Now, with Arthur lying in his arms, cock hard and pressed firmly against his thigh, Merlin's doubt was finally melting away.
Without much thought, Merlin began to rock his hips upwards, seeking contact with Arthur. He was already so hard he was aching with want, desperate to feel Arthur on him, in him. They both moaned loudly when Arthur thrust back, their cocks rubbing together through the layers of clothing still separating them.
"Oh god, Arthur," Merlin groaned when they broke for air, and that seemed to be enough for Arthur to move forward.
Arthur drew back long enough to pull Merlin's tunic over his head, and remove his trousers and breeches, taking care to mind Merlin's foot. Merlin's cock stood erect against his stomach, hard and swollen and already leaking pre-come. He might have been embarrassed at how naked and exposed he felt, but when Arthur shed the last of his clothing, it was clear that he was as aroused as Merlin, and any thought of embarrassment vanished. Merlin had always been a fan of Arthur's body. He was muscular and lean, the epitome of strength and beauty. But in the dim light of the tent, cock erect against his stomach, muscles taut and skin nearly glowing, Arthur looked stunning. It was a sight that literally sucked all air from his lungs.
"God, you're beautiful," Arthur announced softly, almost reverently, gaze raking up and down Merlin's body in appraisal. He seemed to like what he saw, if the beaming grin on his face was any indication, and Merlin felt himself relax.
"So are you," he breathed, when the ability to speak finally returned, and Arthur grinned openly at him.
The next thing he knew, Arthur was kissing him again, urging Merlin's mouth open so he could slip his tongue inside. Merlin welcomed the intrusion, kissing Arthur back with the same ferocity in which he was being kissed. Their tongues slid back and forth, hot and wet, as though neither could fathom every having done anything in life other than this. Reaching up, Merlin's right hand moved to tangle in Arthur's hair, the other gripping his shoulder.
Pulling back, Arthur continued his exploration, trailing hot kisses down Merlin's neck and chest, stopping only to pay special attention to each of Merlin's nipples. The feel of Arthur's tongue and teeth on such sensitive parts of his body had Merlin writing in pleasure, breath stuttering past his lips as he tried to silence the moans that were threatening to escape. The knights were still outside the tent, he tried to remind himself, but he couldn't seem to help it.
Just before his lips reached Merlin's cock, Arthur changed course, pressing a series of wet, almost worshipful kisses up the inside of each of his thighs. Every touch was loving and tender, designed solely to imbue pleasure for Merlin, and the thought that Arthur cared enough for him to provide this kind of attention was enough to bring tears to Merlin's eyes.
When Arthur's mouth finally worked its way up to Merlin's balls, he thought he was prepared for what came next. But when Arthur's tongue flickered out to run across Merlin's entrance, the sensation caught him off guard, and his legs flailed out, sending a jolt of pain through his foot when it accidentally knocked into something.
Merlin let out a soft cry of pain.
"Sorry, I'm sorry," Arthur said, hands trailing up and down Merlin's thighs supportively. "Shouldn't have done that."
Merlin wanted to argue that he very much should have and could he please try that again sometime soon, but he hadn't quite found his voice yet.
Arthur nosed at the inside of Merlin's left thigh, rubbing his cheek against the sensitive skin there. "Hook your leg around my shoulder. It'll help protect your foot," he said, warm breath swirling dangerously close to Merlin's entrance.
The thought of Arthur sucking him off sent waves of arousal straight to Merlin's cock, and he was helpless to resist. With Arthur's assistance, Merlin lifted his left leg and wrapped it around Arthur's back. One hand gripped his thigh, holding him in place.
"See? Isn't that better?" Arthur asked with a filthy smirk.
Merlin wanted to say something, to provide him with a response, any response, but then Arthur was pressing his tongue to the base of Merlin's shaft, licking his way up to the head, and Merlin suddenly became incapable of coherent speech.
Arthur's tongue swirled around the head of Merlin's cock, salty with the taste of pre-come, teasing the slit, and Merlin groaned loudly. In all of his wildest fantasies involving sex with Arthur – and there had always been numerous – he never could have imagined that this was how things would play out. Arthur was the one kneeling between his legs, pupils black with lust and mouth taking Merlin's cock with such practiced ease that it was as though he did this for a living. It was the single most arousing sight Merlin had ever seen, and if this was a dream, then he didn't ever want to wake from it.
Merlin's fists found their way into Arthur's hair, tugging with a sense of urgency, but Arthur seemed determined to take his time. He continued to tease the head of Merlin's cock, taking him partway into his mouth before pulling back again. With his free hand, Arthur moved to roll Merlin's balls between his fingers, touching and stroking him until Merlin was practically writhing beneath Arthur's touch, keening with pleasure.
It wasn't until Merlin started whimpering, hips rocking forward desperately, that Arthur finally took Merlin's entire length in his mouth, lips forming a tight seal around his cock. The rhythm was agonisingly slow at first, torturous even, until Merlin began to thrust his hips into the heat of Arthur's mouth, moaning loudly when he permitted the change in pace. The sight of Arthur's swollen lips wrapped around his cock, pupils black with lust was nearly enough to make him come, and he knew it would all be over far too quickly. Unexpectedly, Arthur's thumb brushed against his entrance again, and suddenly Merlin was overwhelmed with the burning desire to find his release. He wanted to touch Arthur too, to feel his cock throbbing against Merlin's palm and watch Arthur as he came, but he couldn't.
"Arthur, I— I'm close. I'm going to—" he tried to warn when he suddenly found himself on the brink of release, but he wasn't able to get the words out in time.
With a loud cry, Merlin was coming, pulsing into Arthur's mouth as he guided Merlin through wave after wave of pleasure, coaxing every last drop of bliss from his body before pulling off of his softening cock.
"Come here," Merlin said, tugging at Arthur's hair until their mouths met again, kiss hot and eager. He could taste himself in Arthur, and that thought alone was nearly enough to make his cock stiffen again. Pushing himself into a seated position, never breaking contact with Arthur's mouth, Merlin finally wrapped his fingers around Arthur's length. He took a moment to play with the slit, pushing back the foreskin before stroking Arthur with intent. With his free hand, Merlin swiped his thumb around Arthur's hardened nipples, pressing kisses across his jaw and down his neck.
It only took a few minutes before Arthur was coming too, Merlin's name like a plea on his lips as he spilled his come across their stomachs. When Merlin finally released his cock, Arthur sagged against him, content smile on his lips. Pressing a kiss to Arthur's temple, Merlin wrapped both of his arms around Arthur, holding him close as they both struggled to catch their breath. For several minutes they remained like that, clinging to each other in silence, before Arthur reluctantly pulled back from the embrace.
"You have no idea the hell I went through trying to find you," he said, fingers reaching up to brush against Merlin's cheek, eyes soft and strikingly vulnerable. "I know that's selfish to say, especially considering the fact that you were the one who'd been taken. But I had no idea, Merlin. No idea if you were still alive, and every day that passed without finding you only heightened that fear."
He dropped his gaze, and Merlin felt his heart breaking. Sinking his hand into the hair at Arthur's neck he waited until Arthur met his eyes again before speaking. "I'm sorry for everything I put you through. I just couldn't allow anything to happen to you."
Arthur opened his mouth to speak, but Merlin held up a hand. "No, I know what you're going to say, but don't. I'll never stop looking out for you, and no orders you give will ever change that. But what's important now is that we're both all right, and we're together. That's what matters, Arthur."
For a moment, it appeared as though Arthur was about to argue the point, but instead, he simply nodded. "You're right, reluctant as I am to admit it. But we still need to talk about this later."
It was good enough for Merlin. Leaning forward, he pressed a soft kiss to Arthur's mouth. "All right."
A few minutes later, Arthur was curling up at Merlin's back, wrapping a possessive arm around his waist. Beneath the warmth of several blankets and Arthur's body, Merlin drifted off into a peaceful sleep for the first time in more than a week.