Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made.
Warnings: Wanking, magic reveal, D/s hints.
Author's Notes: Thanks to my betas, Nu_Breed and Prplhez8! The title is taken from a poem by e..
KNEELING IN DOUBT WHILE ALL SKIES FALL
Arthur closes the door to his chambers, leans against it and exhales. Sooner or later he'll have to tell Merlin that he knows – about him, about the magic – but for reasons he'd rather not examine he keeps putting it off one day at a time. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll tell him. And he still hasn't.
His eyes fall shut as he presses his palms flat against the wood. Merlin's unintelligible whispers still seem to echo around his head.
A slate, knocked out of place by yesterday's storm, had slid off the roof and would have hit Leon if Merlin hadn't been walking right behind him. Merlin's hand had whipped out and he had hissed something that had stopped the slate in mid-air, and Leon had walked on his way happily unaware and whistling. Arthur had slipped back around the corner he'd just rounded, leaned back against the wall to try to grasp what he'd seen, make his mind work again. He'd held his breath until he'd heard the slate shatter against the cobblestones.
And then he'd quickly retreated to his chambers, panting and hard, trembling from the display of Merlin's... power.
He presses his palm to the bulge in his crotch, his erection hot through the fabric.
Is it because it's forbidden? Is that why the magic does this to him?
Arthur closes his eyes and bites his lip, sucks it into his mouth and imagines it's Merlin doing it. He imagines Merlin's hands all over Arthur's tunic and then slipping underneath it with none of their usual clumsiness, sure of what they want.
This is so wrong, he thinks as he fumbles his breeches open, so wrong.
Merlin's face dances on the inside of his eyelids. If it had been anyone else, any one of his knights, Arthur could have challenged them, fought them and most likely won. But Merlin – hopeless Merlin who can't fight – Merlin, it appears, can do anything he bloody well wants and Arthur is powerless against him.
Yes, there it is: Arthur is powerless. Merlin can have him on his knees, make him crawl, make him beg, make him...
Make him do things. Things you do when you're on your knees. Like open your mouth to someone's cock.
Arthur's eyes are squeezed shut now, his breath coming fast.
He can picture it, he can taste it: Merlin towering over him, commanding, unlike anything he's ever been in Arthur's presence before. Merlin holding him down, pushing his fingers into his hair, knotting them there to hold Arthur steady while he fucks his mouth.
Arthur bites back a groan as he slides his fist slowly up and down his cock, imagining Merlin's eyes dark and hard and then flashing golden as he begins to whisper those ancient words, strange syllables spilling over his lips, harsh vowels and hissing, liquid sibilants. Arthur's skin tingles with the magic, feels it lick him like flames as Merlin throws his head back, surrounded by unbearable light as he comes thickly down Arthur's throat…
The back of Arthur's head hits the door with a thud as his hand moves faster, harder, and he spills over his fingers with a strangled curse.
He is hot with shame as he cleans himself up.
If Merlin can do this, if he can stop things in mid-air and save people's lives, if he can do all those other things Arthur has seen him do with fire and water and weather, then what else can he do, and why is he waiting to tell Arthur? What is he waiting for?
Arthur can vividly recall what he saw on that first day, the day he'd discovered Merlin's secret – or rather, when he'd had it confirmed after months of knowing that something wasn't what it seemed, and guessing without ever articulating the suspicion even to himself.
He's gone over it again and again until every detail is etched into his mind.
The door to Gaius' chambers was standing ajar, and as Arthur lifted his hand to knock Merlin's voice reached his ears, familiar and yet strange, speaking in a foreign tongue…
Arthur lowered his hand and listened. It was only a whisper, a few phrases repeated and renewed, as if Merlin was trying something out. Suspicious and intrigued, Arthur leaned forward cautiously and saw Merlin's eyes flare golden as he made jars come dancing off shelves to empty perfectly measured quantities of their contents into the mortar on the table before dancing back to their places. The pestle worked in the mortar, crushing leaves and roots and seed pods, while the fire in the grate leapt to life. Then the broom in the corner jerked awake and began to sweep the floor while Merlin paced, pinching his lower lip and thinking hard about something, his eyes still glowing gold.
Arthur leaned back against the wall, shaking under an onslaught of emotions that almost made him physically ill. Shock, anger, betrayal... Merlin, his servant, his right-hand man, his advisor, his... yes, his friend, although he'd never quite admitted this either to Merlin or himself – was a sorcerer. Tall, lanky, clumsy, irritating and sometimes astonishingly wise and beautiful Merlin – he, a sorcerer?
It was laughable. It was infuriating. And most of all, it was painful.
He'd known from the first hour that there was something strange about Merlin, something Arthur couldn't put his finger on. He'd been annoyed with the bumbling, irreverent boy, bullied him and bossed him about. And then Merlin had saved his life without a second's hesitation, and things had changed. Now that Arthur thought about it, how could Merlin have seen that dagger rush through the air, if it hadn't been magic – because the dagger had been cursed, poisoned by magic, and it took someone with magic to see it?
And if Merlin had saved Arthur once, how many other times had it happened unnoticed? How many times had he saved other people – Uther, the knights...?
One thing, at least, had been shockingly clear amidst the whirling thoughts and clashing emotions: Arthur had been insanely, dizzyingly turned on by those words spilling over Merlin's lips, by the magic shining in his eyes. He'd had to retreat before his breathing betrayed him, so achingly hard he hadn't even made it back to his own chambers but had stumbled into an unused guest chamber, locked the door and unlaced his trousers with shaking, desperate hands. Minutes later he'd come harder than he ever had in his life, biting down on his knuckles to stop himself making noise, pleasure bursting white-hot behind his eyes and the image of Merlin dancing before him.
He's been curt with Merlin ever since. And unable to stop looking at him.
No, Arthur thinks now, sitting on his bed with his forearms on his thighs, staring at the floor, Arthur and Merlin together – that's not wrong. That's been absolutely right from the beginning, as though it was meant to be. As though they were. What's wrong is Merlin's lies.
It's astonishingly painful, being lied to.
Arthur has mulled it over, turned it over in his head, rolled it around in his mind until it's coated with time and rationalisation and doesn't hurt quite so much any more.
But the betrayal is still there.
Merlin isn't going to use his magic against Arthur – of this Arthur is certain, and he's long since stopped believing that all magic is dark. If people in general can be good or evil, then sorcerers can, too. It's as simple as that. And as complex.
And the question remains. What is Merlin waiting for?
Arthur can't stand it any longer. When Merlin comes into his chambers that evening and opens his mouth to speak, Arthur stops him with a raised hand.
"Whatever you have to say, it can wait." His voice is ominously low and he can tell Merlin notices it. His back straightens and his eyes are wary.
"Light the fire, Merlin," says Arthur quietly.
When Merlin moves to go over to the fireplace, Arthur's hand shoots out and catches his wrist.
"No," he says. "Do it from here."
Merlin starts and his eyes widen, pupils dilating. "What?"
It comes out in a croak and he's skittish under Arthur's hand. He's not wearing his neckerchief and the pulse is fluttering at the base of his throat like a moth trapped under the skin. Arthur wants to feel it under his tongue.
"Light the fire from here." His voice is like a whip. "I know you can."
"Sire, I – "
They're both breathing fast. Arthur stares hard at Merlin, daring him to protest, challenging him to tell the truth. His hand is gripping Merlin's wrist like a vise. It's got to hurt.
Then Merlin swallows, turns slightly towards the grate and whispers: "Forbearnan."
The word from his lips and the flash of gold sends a shock of lust along Arthur's veins. His heart is thundering in his ears. Merlin turns to meet his eyes. He looks stunned, dazed. Frightened.
Arthur blinks and lets go of Merlin's wrist. What is going through Merlin's mind? Is his inner vision filling with black smoke? Does he smell the stench of fire, of burning flesh?
Merlin slowly sinks to his knees. "Sire…" he pleads.
That word. Merlin's voice is making Arthur tremble, hot with want. He's hard inside his breeches, his hands are shaking. If Merlin's gaze moves down from Arthur's face where it's fixed, if it wanders down, he'll know. The thought does nothing to cool Arthur's blood.
But why is Merlin afraid? What could Arthur possibly do that would frighten Merlin enough to give him these wide, dark eyes and the tense line of his mouth? He could order the fires to be lit, he could order Merlin out of the castle, he could order him to leave Camelot –
The realisation hits Arthur so abruptly it makes him draw a breath. Merlin isn't afraid of being burnt at the stake – he could save himself from the fire with a wave of his hand. He is afraid he'll be sent away. He is afraid of rejection.
Arthur spends the next five seconds, ten, staring in amazement at Merlin's pale, upturned face and wondering why this man, this powerful sorcerer, is kneeling on the floor before him like a dog waiting for an order from his master. Merlin who could do anything, Merlin who could kill Arthur before he'd heaved another breath.
And then it happens; then Merlin's gaze slides down to the telltale bulge in Arthur's trousers that is level with his face.
Arthur's blood hammers in his veins, thuds in his temples. When Merlin's eyes come up to meet his again, questioningly, they're dark as night.
"Yes," Arthur manages hoarsely. "Yes."
Merlin's tongue darts out to wet his lips and Arthur's own lips part. It's going to happen now, oh god, it's going to happen.
"I – " Merlin whispers. "I can't, I'll…"
Arthur starts, freezes, clears his throat as he stares down at Merlin's pleading face. "Have you forgotten," he says silkily, "that I can order you to?"
"It's not that I…" Merlin falters and starts again, a pink flush blooming along his cheekbones. "It's not that I don't want... But there will be consequences. You're the Prince; nothing will happen to you, but I'm, I'm the… I'm…"
"Yes, Merlin," says Arthur, his voice hard, "what are you? What are you, exactly?"
"I'm," Merlin exhales and holds Arthur's eyes steadily, suddenly so earnest that Arthur's chest aches. "I'm your servant until the day I die. And if you want, I'm your friend, your advisor, anything… anything you want. Anything but this."
It's like being stabbed. "Because you find it repulsive?" Arthur's whiplash voice is back, embarrassment hot on his cheeks.
"No!" Merlin's reply seems to tumble over his lips before he can stop himself, and his face takes on a colour to match the royal standard to their side. "No," he hisses. "But don't you see... don't you see what it can do to me? What it will do to me?"
Arthur stares at him, at the tense, beautiful face, his head swimming with possibility. He wants to say "it can make you want me as much as I want you, it can make you want this so badly you can't think of anything else day or night, it can make you love me as I love you, because by God and crown and all that is holy to me, I do", but he knows this is not what Merlin means.
"Merlin," he says instead, softly, "Merlin. I would never allow that to happen. You know I wouldn't."
"But your father…"
"I won't let it happen."
Without thinking, without needing to think, he reaches out to Merlin's jaw and tilts his chin up, gently. His fingertips slide over scratchy stubble; his thumb touches Merlin's full, soft bottom lip, pulling it askew.
"I'd never send you away," he says thickly.
Merlin swallows and blinks; an incredulous, shaky smile slowly stretching his mouth taut. His eyes lose their darkness and they're warm and liquid when the tip of his tongue comes out to touch the pad of Arthur's thumb. Arthur swallows a gasp.
"I'm glad of that," Merlin whispers, "because I don't think I could leave."
"As if I'd let you leave," Arthur says. He had intended it to come out imperiously but instead he just sounds soppy. It's hard to be imperious when he has no clothes on and is still panting from Merlin's mouth on his and from both of them spilling themselves over the other's hands and chest and stomach. His head is spinning a little from what just happened, and from lying here feeling Merlin's bare skin pressed sweat-damp against his own.
"I hoped you wouldn't," Merlin murmurs into Arthur's jawbone, "but I couldn't be sure."
"You've bewitched me into this, haven't you." It feels like Arthur will never stop smiling. "You've bewitched me into liking you. Otherwise I can't account for it."
"Well, you'll never know, will you?" Merlin whispers as his mouth moves down Arthur's neck and along the collarbone, his tongue flicking out and making Arthur moan and curl his fingers around the back of Merlin's neck.
Improbably, he feels his cock twitch, feels himself getting hard again.
"Merlin," he says, and he sounds a little breathless at what he's going to ask.
"Mm?" Merlin's mouth is occupied with Arthur's nipple and Arthur groans.
"Could you… ah… could you use your magic while…?"
That earns him a soft laugh, and then Merlin's hand closes around his cock.
It's like being touched all over, fingers, tongues fluttering over his skin, heating his blood as Merlin's mouth comes up to catch his.
"Oh, the things I'll show you," Merlin whispers against Arthur's lips.
And Arthur smiles under Merlin's words, closes his eyes as his hands slide up into Merlin's hair. He gives himself up, hands himself over completely, like he's wanted to for years.