Merlin walked the corridors of the castle, making his way to Arthur's chambers. He knew the Prince would want a warm bath drawn, to relax from the long day of council with a visiting royal. King Uther and King Rondin were working out a peace treaty that would be very beneficial to both kingdoms.

"Excuse me," called a voice from behind him.

Merlin turned, startled. Striding up behind him was the visiting King Rondin.

"Sire," said Merlin, bowing.

"I require your assistance," continued Rondin, as Merlin straightened up. "I did not have a chance to visit my rooms after I arrived, and-"

"I can take you to them," said Merlin, eyes widening as he realized he'd interrupted the King. "My lord," he added hastily, bowing his head.

"Lead on," replied the King, sweeping an arm out in front of him.

Merlin lead him through a maze of corridors. Torches flickered in brackets on the walls. The castle was almost eerily quiet. Its occupants were preparing for bed or already sleeping.

"Here we are, sire," said Merlin, pushing open a set of dark, heavy wooden doors. He scrambled in after King Rondin, lighting the candles in the dark room.

He turned as he lit the last one. "Is there anything else I can do for you, Sire?" he asked. His eyebrows rose in surprise as he discovered the King still standing just inside the door.

A smile spread across the King's face. The kind of smile that made Merlin's insides curl with fear.

The King pushed the doors closed, slamming the lock into place.

Merlin gulped, glancing around. The only other exit was the servants entrance, on the other side of the room.

He slowly began inching his way there, keeping an eye on the King. He froze as Rondin stepped away from the door, stalking towards him.

"As a matter of fact," began the King, "I do require your services for a bit longer."

"I-I really should be g-getting back to Prince Arthur," stuttered Merlin nervously, attempting to move towards the door.

The King's hand shot out and he clutched Merlin's arm in an iron grip. "I have not dismissed you yet."

Merlin attempted to pull his arm free. "Please, I must be-"

He didn't have time to react as a fist collided with the side of his face. Stars popped behind his eyes, and he could taste blood.

Merlin staggered as he took another hit. His vision blurred and his head throbbed. He gasped as he was roughly picked up and carried across the room. He cried out as he was flung on the bed, and struggled to get away as Rondin crawled on top of him.

The King tore his neckerchief off, swooping down to attack the exposed flesh with savage bites. Merlin pushed at the other man, trying to escape, but his attempts were futile. The other man was at least three times his size.

Merlin cringed as he felt the King's hard length pressed against his thigh. He sobbed as Rondin sat back and harshly tore off Merlin's tunic and pushed down his trousers. He raked nails down Merlin's chest, leaving red welts on the porcelain skin.

The King smirked, unlacing his own trousers, and pulled his erection free. Merlin renewed his efforts to escape, dreading what would come next. He wished he could use magic, but he knew that there would be no way Rondin would not notice. Using his magic would only result in an excruciating death at the hands of Uther.

Rondin crawled up Merlin's body, grasping the boy's chin and forcing his jaw open. Merlin tried to cry out as Rondin's length was shoved roughly down his throat. He gagged, tears forming in his eyes. The King thrust in and out, seemingly oblivious to the gasping boy beneath him.

"Oh gods!" cried the King, forcing himself in until Merlin's nose was pressed against his abdomen. Merlin gagged violently bile rising up his throat and leaking out the corners of his mouth.

Rondin pulled out, tracing a finger across Merlin's bottom lip as Merlin gulped in deep lungfuls of air. His cheeks were damp from tears he hadn't realized had fallen.

"Please," he croaked, his voice hoarse. "Please, let me go."

Rondin ran his hands down Merlin's sides. The gesture was gentle, but it chilled Merlin to his core. He began to tremble, his breath quickening.

Rondin simply smiled. "I'm not done yet."

Merlin cried out as he was roughly flipped over onto his hands and knees. He tried to scramble away as Rondin grabbed his slim hips in a crushing hold. He felt something hard and wet press against his entrance, and he began to sob, still pleading with the King to let him go.

Merlin's piercing scream echoed around the room as Rondin unceremoniously thrust into him, pushing all the way in without pause. Pain like nothing he knew tore through Merlin. He felt as though he was being split in two.

Rondin groaned, wasting no time in pulling all the way out to the tip before thrusting back in. He picked up a brutal pace, pounding into Merlin's unprepared body. Merlin cried out as his insides were torn open, blood slicking his channel. Though it eased the King's thrusting, it did nothing to lessen the pain.

Merlin tried to breath through his sobs. He pushed his face into the bed, praying to the gods it would be over soon. His fingers clutched the bed coverings as Rondin's movements became erratic. He screamed as the King bit down on his shoulder, thrusting one last time as he came, tainting the manservant.

Merlin gasped as the King pulled out and climbed off the bed, walking to a basin of water. "You are dismissed," he told Merlin, not even glancing back at him.

Merlin bit his lip to stifle a cry as he clambered off the bed, yanking his trousers back up and quickly pulling his tunic on. He snatched his neckerchief off the bed, and hurried out of the room. He shuffled down the corridors as quickly as his abused body would allow him.

He sniffed, brushing furiously at his eyes, trying to rid the tears that were blurring his vision. He clutched his trousers with one hand, having not taken the time to lace them back up. He was unaware of what direction he was heading, simply trying to put as much distance between himself and King Rondin.

He had glanced nervously back over his shoulder when he suddenly ran into something. He yelped, spinning around to find himself face to face with Prince Arthur.

"Merlin, where have you been?" asked the Prince. "I had to…" He trailed off as he noticed the state his manservant was in.

Merlin ducked his head and hunched his shoulders. "Sorry, sire, I-I was just-"

"What happened to you?" cried Arthur.

Merlin flinched. "Nothing," he said, pushing past Arthur and limping into the Prince's chambers. "I'm sorry it took me so long."

Arthur rushed in after him, closing the door. Merlin jumped slightly at the sound. Arthur stormed up to his fidgeting manservant, eyeing the bruised cheek, the marks on his neck, his red, puffy eyes. The boy was shaking violently, and his clothes were rumpled, his trousers not even done up.

Anger flared in Arthur's gut and concern constricted his chest. "Merllin, who did this?" he asked gently.

Merlin paused, staring at the floor. It would be so relieving to tell someone, to explain the hurt and fear he was feeling, to have Rondin pay for his actions. But Merlin knew he could not allow that to happen. The treaty Uther was making would be prosperous for both Kingdoms. If he reported this, the treaty would likely never be made. He could not be responsible for that, not when Camelot could use the help it would bring.

Merlin glanced up at Arthur, his deep blue eyes pleading. "Please, I can't," he said, shaking his head. His vision was sliding in and out of focus, a light-headed feeling taking over.

Arthur reached out, placing a hand on Merlin's shoulder, noting too late how he stiffened at the contact. "What happened?" he asked.

Merlin shook his head, tears swimming in his eyes. "I can't, please, I-"

What little color Merlin had suddenly drained from his face and his eyes fluttered shut. Arthur cried out in shock as his manservant suddenly collapsed. He caught him just before he hit the floor. Arthur sat cross-legged, holding Merlin in his lap.

"Come on, Merlin, wake up," he said, afraid to shake the boy or tap his cheek or any other method normally tried to rouse someone who passed out.

Arthur's eyes darted around the room, but he did not know what he was searching for. He glanced towards the door, debating whether to go find a guard and tell him to fetch Gaius. He looked back down as he felt Merlin begin to stir.

Merlin groaned, his eyes cracking open. "Arthur," he croaked. He glanced around, blushing as his foggy mind cleared enough to realize he was sitting in Arthur's lap. He struggled weakly, trying to stand up.

"No, don't," said Arthur, wrapping his arms around Merlin and holding him in place. Merlin gave up his half-hearted attempts, leaning against Arthur's chest. His head was throbbing again, and the pain radiating from his nether regions was making his stomach churn.

Arthur's brow furrowed as an odd sensation began spreading across his thigh. He shifted Merlin slightly, noting the boy's stifled cry, and gasped as he saw a dark stain soaking the fabric of his pants. He ran a finger across the spot, eyes widening when it came away red. "Merlin, you're bleeding!" he cried.

He stood hurriedly, dragging Merlin with him. "Come on," he said, leading him towards the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Merlin nervously.

"I'm taking you to Gaius," answered Arthur.

"No!" cried Merlin, pulling away from Arthur. His legs shook violently, and he staggered to the table, leaning against it for support.

"No?" asked Arthur, striding over to stand in front of him. "Merlin, you're bleeding! We need to bring you to Gaius. He needs to-"

"No," whispered Merlin, his eyes wide and pleading. "Please. I can't."

Arthur sighed, running his hands over his face. He stared at Merlin, who's face was pale and panicked, his eyes misted with unshed tears. Arthur knew Merlin needed care. He couldn't do as much for him as Gaius could, Arthur could only help clean him up. But Gaius would want to know what happened, and Arthur couldn't bring himself to force Merlin to relive it. He had been through enough tonight.

"Alright," he conceded. "At least allow me to take care of you?" he asked, stepping closer to Merlin.

Something Arthur couldn't describe flashed through Merlin's eyes. He stared at Arthur for a minute, before slowly nodding.

"I had another servant draw me up a bath, but I went in search of you before I used it," said Arthur, wrapping an arm around Merlin and supporting him across the room.

Merlin paused as he understood where Arthur was going. "Arthur, I-"

"Please, Merlin," pleaded Arthur. "Let me help you." He lead Merlin forward to the edge of the tub. He reached down and grabbed the bottom of Merlin's tunic. Merlin stiffened slightly, but he didn't pull away. Arthur dragged it up over his head, dropping it to the floor. His eyes widened at the sight of the scratches covering Merlin's chest.

Gently, ever so gently, he trailed a finger over one of the scratches. He could hear Merlin's breath hitch, and he glanced up to see Merlin staring at him, a mix of emotions swirling in his eyes. Arthur saw trust, hesitation, hope, a tiny bit of fear, anticipation, and… love.

His heart swelled at that last one. Could it really be, or was he reading too much into it? He had fallen for his manservant the moment he had met him. The cheeky boy who had stood up to him, regardless of his title. He had liked that, someone who was straightforward with him, who didn't cave before him. But he would never have dreamed that Merlin would ever feel the same way. He knew what the manservant had first thought about him, the royal prat who always got his wish. Arthur was grateful that their relationship had eventually developed to friendship. Was it too good to be true that it could possibly grow more?

Slowly, Arthur leaned down toward him. He brushed his lips across Merlin's softly, barely a kiss. He pulled back slightly to find Merlin's eyes had drifted closed. He brought a hand up, lightly brushing a thumb over his not-bruised cheek. "Is this okay?" he asked quietly.

Merlin nodded slightly. Arthur leaned back down, kissing him again, harder than before, but still chastely. He wrapped his other arm around Merlin's waist, gently pulling him closer. Merlin raised his hands, clutching the sleeves of Arthur's tunic almost desperately.

Arthur finished the kiss with three sweet little pecks before pulling back.

Merlin's eyes fluttered open, his lips parted. Arthur smiled. "You ready for that bath?"

Merlin nodded. Arthur gently helped him out of his trousers, fury flashing in his eyes at the sight of the blood staining the insides of Merlin's thighs, the hand shaped bruises discoloring his bony hips. Merlin grasped his arm for support as he shakily got into the tub. He sank down with a sigh. The water had cooled slightly, but it was still comfortably warm.

Arthur crouched down beside the tub, brushing a strand of hair back off of Merlin's forehead. "I swear, if I find out who did this to you, I shall run them through with my sword," muttered Arthur furiously.

Merlin reached up and grabbed Arthur's hand, clutching it to his chest. "Please, Arthur, let it go."

"Merlin, someone has-" Arthur groaned, glaring at the ceiling as angry tears threatened to spill from his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, glancing down at the hand grasping his, watching as Merlin traced a thumb over his knuckles.

"Please, Arthur," asked Merlin. "Let it go? For me?"

Arthur stared at their hands, before looking up at Merlin. He opened his mouth to fight, to argue, to tell Merlin he would not rest until the bastard was dead. But the look in Merlin's eyes stopped him. Instead, he found himself nodding. "Alright. For you."

Merlin gave him a small, watery smile. His lips quivered as the tears he had been repressing since first running into Arthur threatened to fall.

Arthur picked up the washing rag, dipping it in the water. He looked to Merlin, seeking permission, which Merlin gave with a slight nod. Arthur slowly began to wash him, starting with his arms and chest, mindful of the scratches. He helped Merlin to sit forward so he could wash his back, fury bubbling in his stomach like acid as he discovered a deep bite mark on the back of one shoulder. Letting Merlin lean back again, he hesitated to go further. But Merlin simply grabbed his arm, pulling it deeper into the water.

Very gently, Arthur began to wash the red stains from the between the boy's legs. Merlin kept his gaze on the ceiling, his face flaming with color. Biting the inside of his cheek to keep from screaming out. Shaking with the will it took to not flee. He trusted Arthur, he knew Arthur would never hurt him.

Arthur finished as quickly as he could while still trying to be thorough. He could see the effect this was having on Merlin, the fear and shame and pain, and he felt guilt to be the one causing it. He dropped the rag and stood, reaching over to grab the towel off a chair. "Come here," he said softly, unfolding it.

Merlin slowly stood, accepting the hand to help him out of the tub and letting Arthur wrap him up in the towel. He leaned into the Prince's chest, a sob bursting forth from his lips. Arthur lead him to the bed, settling down and pulling Merlin to his side. He wrapped his arms around Merlin, rubbing his back as he cried into his chest.

Merlin clutched Arthur's tunic tightly, as if afraid he would suddenly disappear. Cries shook his thin frame, the sounds of them echoing around the room. Arthur continued to rub soothing circles across his back, nuzzling his nose to the top of Merlin's head. Slowly, his sobs began to quiet, his body only racked by the occasional hiccup, his cheeks stained with tears.

Arthur pressed a kiss to Merlin's raven hair. "Tell me, Merlin. Tell me what I can do."

Merlin snuggled his head under Arthur's chin. "Just hold me," he whispered, his voice heartbreaking. "Hold me and never let go."

Arthur reached and yanked the bed covers over them, leaning back into the pillows. He pulled Merlin closer to him, tightening his grip around his waist. "I'll never let you go," he promised.