Summary: Arthur doesn't like flowers, poetry, doves, or honeycakes, ergo he doesn't like romance. Or does he? This is SLASH – you have been warned.
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin (but this is what would happen if I did)
Warnings: This is NC17 rated so graphic descriptions of m/m sex.
Author's Note: I started writing this back in Season 1, and this being the year that I'm trying to finish all my half-done stuff, I've finally completed this story. I haven't really watched Merlin since Season 1, so this is very much early Season 1 era.
This was supposed to be silly and short. But it seems I can't do short. So, it's silly and long. And the ending might be a little strange because I attempted to write a funny sex scene and that is really not as simple as you would think it might be.
Also, Astiza has created some lovely artwork for this story, which I've linked to on my profile.
Prince Arthur's Flowerbed
The first time Arthur woke to find his bed covered with flowers he was only mildly surprised. After all, it wasn't the first time that he, as the Crown Prince of Camelot (and a remarkably handsome one at that), had attracted this type of attention.
There had been other tokens.
Once he had found a scroll of poetry wrapped around his sword (and no, the symbolism hadn't been lost on him). Then there had been the time he'd found a white dove nesting in his clothing cupboard, which had been rather irritating when he came to think about it - he didn't actually like birdshit all over his clothes. As for the honeycakes left on his favourite chair, that had been just as irritating and just as messy, because, really, how many people actually looked at the chair they were about to sit on when they were in the privacy of their own chambers?
The flowers seemed relatively harmless, but still Arthur wasn't really comfortable with this sort of thing. He preferred his liaisons to be more direct and to the point as befitted someone of his warrior abilities. All of this romantic stuff directed at him made him feel, well, sort of like a girl.
It was annoying. And he really didn't want anyone else finding out about it.
Which, of course, meant that he'd have to clean up all of this mess before Merlin arrived with Arthur's breakfast and you could just bet that this would be one of the few times that his idiot manservant would actually turn up on time.
Arthur scrambled out of bed and began to gather up the blooms into a neat bunch, sighing at the sheer volume of them. There were daisies, roses (with thorns for god's sake), tulips and some sort of strange purple thing that Arthur couldn't remember the name of as well as a mass of other smelly specimens. After collecting all of them he looked around the room for somewhere to hide them, heard a footstep outside the door, did not panic, raced across the room, and threw the whole lot out of the window.
When he turned around Merlin was standing just inside the door gazing at Arthur doubtfully.
"What are you doing?"
"Nothing." Arthur cleared his throat and frowned. "Well, if you must know, I was checking the weather."
"Fine," Merlin answered shortly, and began plonking plates onto the table as loudly, Arthur noticed resentfully, as he possibly could. He wondered if he should let Merlin get away with it but a rather unsettling thought had just struck Arthur – the appearance of the flowers on his bed meant that someone had been creeping around his room while he was sleeping and that was just, well, creepy. Arthur sighed in frustration; he was going to have to find a way to stop this happening again. Discreetly.
Merlin was drifting around the room in his usual fashion, which always seemed to be fairly aimless as far as Arthur could see, although he had to admit his room was usually tidier after Merlin had finished. Arthur watched him thoughtfully.
Merlin stopped rummaging in Arthur's clothing cupboard and turned to look at Arthur with an expression of resigned expectation that Arthur did not find flattering at all.
"I would like you to inform the general population of this castle that I do not like flowers."
"What?" Merlin was gaping at him in amazement and looking rather like the idiot that, well, he was really.
Arthur frowned thoughtfully. "Also poetry. And doves. And I'm not very fond of honeycakes either."
Merlin seemed to have recovered and was now looking at Arthur as if he was some loathsome, horrifying beast. It was actually rather amusing, Arthur felt, suppressing a smirk.
"Let me get this straight, yeah?" Merlin said, his voice flat. "You want me to approach random people in the castle and announce to them that Prince Arthur does not like flowers, poetry, birds or cakes."
"Doves," Arthur specified calmly. "And honeycakes."
"They'll think I'm insane."
"Hmmm… I hadn't thought of that," said Arthur. "Oh well, an added benefit." He sat at the table and surveyed his breakfast with interest, and then waved a hand at his speechless manservant. "Well, get on with it."
Merlin stood for a moment, glaring, which, of course, Arthur ignored, then turned on his heel and strode out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
And really, Arthur thought, the day hadn't started out so badly after all.
Unfortunately Merlin had either completely disobeyed him or he really was completely useless because the next morning Arthur woke surrounded by a veritable meadow of flowers. Not only was there the problem of Merlin's incompetence but Arthur had also made certain to lock his door the previous night, and this meant that the creepy person creepily giving him flowers had either a key to Arthur's chambers or was very talented with locks. And to top it all off, he still had to get rid of all of these damned flowers. Arthur sighed in frustration, but before he could move, the door swung open and Merlin slouched into the room.
"Aren't you up yet?" Arthur's idiot manservant asked in his usual insolent fashion, and then he stopped dead in the middle of the room and gaped at Arthur's bed, whilst Arthur sat in it and fumed silently.
"Um," Merlin said, stupidly. "Why is your bed covered with flowers?"
"Because, Merlin," Arthur erupted, "you are a complete and utter moron who can't be trusted to do the most simple of tasks correctly!"
"How is this my fault exactly?" Merlin said, his voice full of the sort of patient resignation that only made Arthur want to throw him out of the window, along with the flowers. "I didn't put them there."
"No, you didn't," said Arthur through gritted teeth. "But you were supposed to inform everyone that I don't like this sort of thing. And obviously you didn't do that."
"I did, actually," said Merlin, and then he paused for a moment and blushed guiltily. "Well, I told Gwen, and a couple of the kitchen maids, but that's usually enough to get the gossip moving."
Arthur rolled his eyes, because, really, he should have known, and got out of the bed.
"Well, at least you can get rid of these things," he said, waving a hand at the mass of blooms.
"Do you want me to get some vases?" asked Merlin, and Arthur looked at him as if he'd sprouted donkey's ears and a dragon's tail.
"Do you really think I want these things stinking up my rooms?" he asked.
"Well," said Merlin, cheerfully. "Someone went to a lot of trouble and…" he saw Arthur's glare, and swallowed heavily. "Well, what shall I do with them then?"
"I don't care," said Arthur, impatiently. "Toss them out the window."
Merlin had begun gathering up the flowers but at this, he stopped and looked up at Arthur in amusement.
"Oh," he said. "So, that's why the east courtyard was littered with flowers yesterday. Everyone was wondering about that."
Arthur momentarily contemplated strangling his manservant but instead he settled for glowering at him as Merlin gathered up the flowers on a sheet, tied it in a loose bundle, and then wandered out of the room with it slung over his shoulder.
As he got dressed, he wondered, briefly, where Merlin was going to dispose of them, but by the time Merlin returned with Arthur's somewhat cold breakfast, he was too distracted with complaining about it, to ask.
It turned out that not asking Merlin what he had done with the flowers was a bit of a mistake, for everywhere Arthur went in the castle that day, he was confronted with a vase of the vibrant blooms. Morgana was ecstatic that someone had decorated the castle in this fashion and she drivelled on about it every time he saw her. He had even seen his father examining one of the decorations with Gaius, and had then watched, in stunned disbelief, as they'd spent at least ten minutes re-arranging the vase until they were both satisfied with its improved appearance.
The result of all this was that by the time Arthur returned to his chambers that evening he was in a state of considerable tension, or possibly extreme rage, and he was absolutely determined that his bed would not be covered in flowers again.
With this in mind, he eyed Merlin wrathfully as his manservant gathered up Arthur's discarded armour and settled into a corner to polish it. Arthur frowned, for this was something that should really be done in the armoury, and it suddenly struck him that Merlin had been polishing Arthur's armour in Arthur's own chambers for quite some time now, and Arthur had not only never admonished him for it, but he hadn't actually even really noticed it until now.
For a moment he thought about telling Merlin off about it, but the flower situation was rather more pressing, so he crossed his arms over his chest, leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling thoughtfully.
"Merlin," he finally said, with what he knew must be one of his most menacing smiles on his face. "You will have to guard my door tonight."
Merlin's reaction was rather disappointing. He looked up, his head tilted on one side, and gazed at Arthur curiously.
"Wouldn't one of the guards be better at, er, actually guarding?" he asked mildly.
"Do you really think, Merlin, that I want the guards to know that someone has been sneaking into my room at night and giving me flowers?" Arthur asked in his most blistering tone, and huffed in frustration when it seemed to have absolutely no effect on his manservant. "Then again, you rarely actually think, do you?"
"Fine," Merlin said with a smile, and Arthur's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "I'll get some pillows and a blanket and make a bed on the floor."
A beautiful smile crossed Arthur's face and he noticed that Merlin was now looking at him with a more appropriately horrified expression.
"Don't be ridiculous, Merlin," said Arthur. "How can you possibly stop someone filling my room with flowers if you're asleep?" He waved a royally graceful hand. "You'd better get going, I've decided to have an early night."
Merlin glared at him for a moment, and then got up, placing Arthur's armour on a table.
"Fine," he muttered, stalking across the room in his most resentful fashion, and Arthur was fairly certain he heard the words 'your royal prattiness' just before the door slammed behind Merlin.
Arthur took a moment to relax back in his chair, grinning at the ceiling, before he went to bed.
Arthur knew the flowers were there again before he even opened his eyes because the stench of them was almost overpowering. His nose twitched in irritation and he opened his eyes quickly, wondering why the smell was so much stronger than it had ever been before. Immediately his eye was full of red rose petals, and when Arthur swiftly sat up he saw that his pillow was covered with them, and when he threw the pillow across the room, the petals stayed in place.
Some utterly, bastard, buggery, evil person had actually glued the flowers onto his bed. Whilst he was sleeping in it.
With a roar of towering fury Arthur sprang out of bed, flung himself across the room, wrenched open the door, and came to a sudden halt at the sight of Merlin curled up on his threshold, wrapped in a blanket and sleeping peacefully.
Arthur's eyes narrowed dangerously as he looked down at his completely useless, painfully idiotic and soon-to-be dead manservant and then he turned on his heel, grasped the full pitcher of cold water in his room, and dropped the whole lot on Merlin's head.
Merlin shot up with a howl that almost made Arthur's mouth twitch and looked around blindly before finally noticing Arthur standing over him.
"Good morning, Merlin," Arthur said pleasantly, and Merlin winced. "I trust you slept well?"
"Er, well the floor's a bit hard," Merlin replied, and even had the audacity to smile nervously. "And wet."
Arthur glared down at Merlin blankly for a moment and then reached down and hauled him up by his collar.
"Oi," Merlin yelped.
"Shut up, Merlin," Arthur growled, dragging him into the room and pointing at the bed. "So, can you tell me who might have snuck into my room last night - whilst you were guarding it - and done that?"
"Um," Merlin said.
"Are you actually capable of making sounds of more than one syllable?" Arthur said, but he could hear the fight going out of his voice, to be replaced with weary resignation.
"No, this is my fault," he continued, and then frowned at Merlin's hopeful look. "I should never have thought that you could actually be competent at something. Though I trust that you might actually be able to get rid of all these bloody flowers."
"I think I'll have to actually replace your linens," Merlin said thoughtfully, poking at one of the blooms.
Arthur sighed fretfully as he watched Merlin strip the bed. Really, he should have known that he would have to take care of this himself.
That evening Arthur looked at his freshly made-up bed and sighed. He'd had a tiring day, full of fluctuating moods and loss of temper. His worst fit of yelling had happened whilst Merlin had been replacing the linens on the bed, when his stupid servant had muttered something about 'how anyone could possibly sleep while millions of flowers were being stuck to their sheets'.
A good twenty minutes later, Arthur had almost lost his voice and Merlin had slunk off somewhere in the castle, not to be seen again for the rest of the day.
He'd dined with his father that evening and when Uther had casually mentioned that he was thinking of expanding the royal flower gardens so that the castle could be regularly stocked with flowers, Arthur had glared at him resentfully, pleaded a headache (which was half the truth anyway), and stomped off to his quarters. Where he stood, for at least five minutes, staring at his bed with grim purpose, absolutely determined that, tonight, he would find out who had been florally persecuting him into insanity.
With that object in mind, Arthur rearranged his pillows to look like a body, moved a concealing screen slightly closer to the fire and then sat behind it in his favourite chair, and waited.
Eventually the fire burned low and Arthur shivered slightly in the cooling night air. He wasn't concerned about falling asleep, he was a trained soldier and this was easy to him, but he was rather bored. To keep himself entertained, he began to imagine the various methods of revenge he could visit upon his persistent admirer, and this kept him occupied for some time. Still, a small sigh of relief escaped him, when he heard the door to his chambers creak slightly as it was gently opened.
Finally, he thought, and straightened in his chair, ready to spring into action at the right moment.
The door was quietly closed and a dim figure crept across Arthur's room towards the bed, and already Arthur could smell the heavy perfume of the flowers wafting toward him. As the figure came further into the room, Arthur moved stealthily behind and towards the door, blocking off the mysterious person's only avenue of escape.
"What exactly do you think you're doing?" he finally said quietly, his voice satisfyingly full of menace.
Oddly, the figure didn't seem to react, it merely moved closer to the bed and leaned over it, dropping a few flowers onto the bedcovers, and at that sight the tension in Arthur snapped and he leapt across the room and tackled the figure to the floor.
It was a strangely silent fight, not that Arthur would have really called it a fight, for the mysterious person, whom Arthur could now tell was definitely of a male persuasion, simply dropped to the floor and lay quite still underneath Arthur's body.
Arthur sat on the stranger's legs and frowned in confusion, as he listened to his admirer's heavy breathing. Leaning over slightly, he knocked the screen he had been sitting behind out of the way and the soft firelight shone over the stranger's face.
Except it wasn't a stranger.
It was Merlin.
Arthur gazed wide-eyed and open-mouthed at Merlin for a good minute in shock. Then he realised he probably looked like an idiot, snapped his mouth shut and narrowed his eyes. Merlin seemed to be frozen in horror, his eyes wide open and glazed, but his body was strangely relaxed.
And that relaxation really irritated Arthur, because honestly did Merlin think he could pull this sort of stupid joke on Arthur and think that Arthur would not exact a terrible vengeance? He should be trembling with terror, not lying on the floor underneath Arthur as if he… well, Arthur didn't know what exactly, but it annoyed him all the same. So, he yanked the bunch of flowers out of Merlin's grip and whacked them across his idiotic manservant's stupid face as hard as he could.
To this, there was an instant reaction. Merlin yelped loudly and his whole body jerked underneath Arthur's, almost dislodging him from his seat on Merlin's thighs. Arthur tightened his knees and wrapped his hand around Merlin's throat, holding him down.
"Bloody hell," Merlin gasped. "Get off me, you prat. Whatever I've done wrong now, can't it wait till morning or do you really have to attack me in my own bed?"
"Are you fucking insane, Merlin?" Arthur hissed. "You're the one that's been attacking me in my bed. With flowers, you bastard, and I don't find it at all amusing."
Merlin blinked up at him in confusion. "What are you blaming me for now?" he finally asked, his voice full of bitter resignation. "I don't know what you're talking about and even if I am a servant I'm still entitled to some privacy when I'm trying to sleep. Get off my bed."
Arthur's eyes narrowed again, this time in speculation, for he was remembering that wide-eyed glazed look that had been in Merlin's eyes before. He stood quickly and looked down at Merlin doubtfully.
"Look around you, Merlin," he said shortly.
Merlin sat up and did so, and then he looked up at Arthur blankly, his mouth gaping open.
"How on earth did I get here?" he asked, finally.
Arthur sighed fretfully. "Have you ever been known to sleep-walk Merlin?" he asked, his voice full of annoyance.
"Oh," Merlin breathed, a look of comprehension crossing his face, and then in the dim firelight Arthur saw him blush. "Well," he continued, "not since I was a child, but yes, I'm afraid I have."
"What I don't understand," Arthur muttered, "is where the hell you are getting all these flowers from?"
He flushed a little as he said it because the question was coming perilously close to the idea of why Merlin was getting him all the flowers, and that was a question that they had both been firmly avoiding for the last ten minutes, as they'd sat staring into the rekindled fire.
He glanced over at Merlin and noticed that he'd gone quite pale. Funny, Arthur had thought that his manservant would have been more likely to blush at the question.
"Erm," Merlin began, and then shifted nervously in his chair. "Um… there are a lot of gardens in the south side of Camelot. I, um, guess I've been stealing them. Er… unintentionally, of course."
"Oh, yes, of course," Arthur agreed quickly, for the idea that Merlin might have been intentionally stealing flowers in order to place them on Arthur's bed (while he was in it) was causing strange sensations in his stomach.
"Well," Arthur finally said, getting a grip on himself and loudly clapping his hands together, causing Merlin to jump in his chair. "Well, this can't continue of course. It's entirely, ah… inappropriate." He flushed slightly at the word and then shook his head. "I mean, you can't keep stealing flowers," he ended, rather lamely he felt, but really, this situation was so… well, it was not a situation that one found themselves in every day.
"Yes," Merlin agreed, although he sounded rather doubtful. "But, how exactly-"
"Oh, it's quite simple," Arthur interrupted. "Tomorrow night, we'll simply get Gaius to lock you in your room. We'll tell him why, of course. I mean," he added, for Merlin was looking a bit panicked. "I mean we'll tell him you've been sleepwalking, but not what you've been, ah… doing… exactly." And really, Arthur thought, as he huffed to himself in annoyance, was he a soldier or not? He should be able to deal with this situation without fumbling around like an idiot.
"Um… all right, yes," Merlin agreed quietly, and Arthur could not help feeling that he still sounded doubtful. Arthur chose to cheerfully ignore it.
He knew before he even opened his eyes that it hadn't worked.
The heavy scent of flowers was all around him, once again, and Arthur groaned in bitter frustration. How on earth had Merlin escaped from his room (for Arthur had watched a rather confused Gaius lock him in) and why hadn't Arthur woken up when Merlin had been surrounding him in flowers?
The only conclusion that Arthur could come to was that as Merlin was his servant, and was often in his room in the morning before Arthur had fully woken, he'd become completely accustomed to his presence. Annoying, but hardly anything to worry about.
The fact that Merlin had somehow escaped from his own room and then gotten through the locked door of Arthur's chambers (for Arthur had confiscated his key), was slightly more troubling, and he wondered if Merlin, himself was even aware that he'd managed to do it.
A moment later, Arthur had the answer to his question, for the door opened, and Merlin strode into the room, whistling cheerfully. He froze when he saw the bed, and Arthur watched, with a raised eyebrow, as all of the colour seemed to drain from his servant's face. He almost felt a tinge of sympathy at the stricken expression in Merlin's eyes.
"Well, Merlin," Arthur said, his voice softly menacing in the most satisfying way. "It looks like a few of Camelot's gardens are missing some blooms this morning."
"Um," was Merlin's response, and Arthur rolled his eyes.
"I suggest," Arthur continued, "that you restock all of those bloody vases. At least it'll make Morgana happy."
Merlin nodded, mumbled something about Arthur's breakfast, and sped from the room.
Arthur sighed in frustration, got out of bed, washed, dressed, and then went down to the dungeons and found a set of manacles.
He was going to finish this once and for all.
"I'm not letting you chain me to my bed."
Arthur frowned at Merlin. He hadn't seen Merlin since the morning, and after dining with his father, Arthur had finally tracked Merlin down to Gaius rooms, and demanded to know how he'd escaped from his room the evening before.
With a flushed face and a resentful manner Merlin had said that Gaius thought that Merlin must have picked the locks, and when Arthur had raised an incredulous eyebrow, Merlin had stormed into his own room and tried to slam the door.
Arthur had been ready for that though and had swiftly followed Merlin and blocked the doorway, and Merlin had quickly given up and gone and slouched against the wall, looking Arthur thought, rather miserable. Then his servant had noticed the manacles dangling from Arthurs's hand.
"It's not a case of 'letting', Merlin," Arthur replied firmly. "I'm chaining you to that bed whether you like it or not. Now get on the bed."
He paused for a moment at the rather unfortunate sound of the words, and frowned. Honestly, this whole situation was becoming a bit of a minefield as far as Arthur was concerned, and it had to stop.
And, of course, just to make it worse, Merlin had blushed a deep red colour, and was looking positively ill. Arthur sighed in frustration and moved before his manservant could recover.
In less than a minute, he'd looped the chain around the bedpost, shoved Merlin onto the bed and locked one of the manacles around his wrist. He was just reaching for Merlin's other arm, when Merlin finally came back to life, and swung a fist into Arthur's stomach. It only momentarily winded Arthur, and gave him the opportunity to grab Merlin's other wrist firmly.
"Do that again, Merlin," he said, as he clasped the other manacle around the wrist he was holding, "and I'll chain you up in the dungeon and tell everyone why."
"You would not," Merlin grumbled, glaring at Arthur resentfully. "It would be just as embarrassing for you. And no one would believe for a second that anyone would give flowers to a bastard like you."
"Oh really?" Arthur asked sarcastically, and while this was getting dangerously close to the subject they'd both been avoiding, he wasn't going to put up with Merlin's open insolence. "The fact that I'm such a bastard doesn't seem to have stopped you. Not even a locked door can stop you."
"I can't be held responsible for what I do when I'm asleep," Merlin practically yelled, and he attempted to kick Arthur in the shin, and that was really too much. It had been a trying week for Arthur, and it was all Merlin's fault.
He shoved at Merlin's shoulders, forced him down on the bed, and then loomed over him.
"So, what exactly are you dreaming about then, Merlin, that makes you get up and put flowers all over my bed, with me in it? Maybe you'd like to be in there with me, hmmm?"
Merlin was spluttering now, and Arthur was feeling rather triumphant. He moved his hands to Merlin's manacled wrists, brought them up beside his servant's head, and pressed them down into the bed.
"Or maybe, you'd like me to kiss you, Merlin?" he asked in a low voice. "Is that the reward you'd like for all of the flowers you've given me?"
Arthur leaned down closer to Merlin and laughed softly when Merlin turned his head away.
"What is going on here?"
It was Gaius' voice, full of astonished amazement, and it shot through Arthur like an arrow. Suddenly he realised just exactly how close he was to Merlin, and how it must look, and stepped away so swiftly that he tripped over something on Merlin's floor and fell backwards against the wall.
"Uh… Gaius," he said, rather breathlessly, as Gaius gave him the raised brow look that Arthur often privately thought of as the Dancing Eyebrow of Doom.
"Yes, well, you're aware of the sleepwalking situation," Arthur said quickly, and glanced at the bed, noting that Merlin had not moved, he was still lying across it and was staring stubbornly at the wall.
"I am," Gaius replied flatly.
Arthur straightened up, and squared his shoulders. He really shouldn't be feeling this ridiculously nervous, Gaius had completely misunderstood the situation and he had no right to leap to any conclusions.
"It seems that more stringent methods are needed to put an end to the problem," Arthur said, putting as much authority into his voice as he could.
Gaius nodded slowly and then looked at the bed. "Merlin?"
"He's a bloody prat," Merlin answered, still staring at the wall. "And you can both get out of my room."
"Really, Merlin," Gaius admonished gently, whilst Arthur considered throwing one of the many books on the floor at Merlin's head. But that would be pushing it, he felt, as he saw the still worried look in Gaius' eyes, and when Gaius waved him through the door, Arthur obediently went into the other room. He watched silently as Gaius closed the door, and then followed him over to the fireplace.
"Sire," Gaius said quietly. "It is perhaps not my place to say anything, but I feel a responsibility for Merlin whilst he is in Camelot. I am aware that you have sometimes… ah… dallied with other male members of the court, but Merlin is younger than you, inexperienced, and also your servant. I would hope that you would not take advantage of that situation."
Arthur was almost speechless with an odd mixture of horror, anger, and embarrassment, and he gazed at Gaius resentfully. For a moment, he was strongly tempted to have Gaius thrown into the dungeons, but he saw the fear in Gaius' eyes and realised the courage that it had taken for Gaius to try to protect Merlin, and he suddenly saw how much Gaius must love Arthur's servant.
"I would not," he finally said, and if Gaius wished for more assurance than that, he would be waiting for a very long time. "As I said, we were trying to deal with the sleepwalking situation."
Gaius nodded, and Arthur began to walk to the door, strangely desperate to escape the awkward moment, but he stopped when Gaius cleared his throat.
"About that," Gaius said. "How would you react if Merlin still managed to get free?"
"What?" Arthur said, turning back to Gaius with a look of confusion. "That would be impossible."
"But if he did?"
"Gaius…" Arthur ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "What are you talking about?"
"Strange things can happen during sleep, and you may have noticed that strange things often happen in Camelot," Gaius said. "And Merlin…"
"Is very strange, yes," Arthur agreed, rolling his eyes. Then he sighed wearily. "Oh well, if this doesn't work, I'll have to think of something else, I suppose."
Gaius nodded, and Arthur could have sworn he looked approving, which was just downright odd, but this whole evening had been odd, and Arthur just wanted to be done with it.
He waved at Gaius and left. He was going to bed.
Oddly enough he had a lot of trouble getting to sleep. His mind kept going over what had happened in Merlin's room and then fixating on small insignificant things… like the way his hands had fit around Merlin's wrists. He'd never realised before how narrow and delicate they were but Merlin was fairly skinny after all so it was only logical really. Or the way the skin on Merlin's throat had looked so smooth and white when he'd turned his head away from Arthur - he was usually wearing one of his stupid scarves so Arthur had not noticed that before either.
And it had really been too long, Arthur reflected, since his last liaison if he was starting to notice those sorts of things about Merlin, who had to be one of the most irritating people that Arthur had ever met. Gaius had been out of line and entirely inappropriate to warn Arthur off, as if Arthur would ever seriously contemplate doing anything with Merlin, but the old man's words had reminded Arthur just how long it had been since he'd had a male in his bed. His last fling had been with a visiting countess and it had not been as satisfying as he'd thought it would be – she'd been too soft and too yielding.
A brief memory of Merlin's body under his flashed through Arthur's mind. It had been neither soft nor yielding and he had to admit, it had felt good.
Arthur rolled over and settled on his side, his mind made up. At the first opportunity he would ask his father to invite that Baron's son that had visited last year, back to court. He was always good for a tumble.
The first thing Arthur saw when he opened his eyes, was a daisy lying on his pillow. He sat up in bed and groaned at the sight of all the flowers spread out over his bed. This was impossible, even if Gaius had warned him that it might happen, how on earth had Merlin managed to do it? And where were all these flowers coming from? Surely every garden in Camelot must be stripped bare by now?
A slight snuffling sound came to Arthur's ears and he leapt out of bed, reaching for the dagger he always kept on the small table nearby, but when he turned to the fire he saw that it was merely Merlin, sprawled out on his stomach on the fur rug in front of the fire, and obviously sound asleep.
He was still wearing the manacles.
Arthur dropped the dagger and strode over to the fireplace, and frowned down at his manservant. Merlin's tunic had ridden up around his waist and really… had Merlin's legs always been that long? Thin, but shapely and very long, Arthur thought, as his eyes travelled up their length until they reached Merlin's even shapelier arse. And that wasn't fair, Arthur decided, that an arse like that should be attached to someone as annoying and useless as Merlin.
Merlin shifted slightly and Arthur took a quick step back, suddenly realising that he was practically leering over his manservant. The words 'younger', 'inexperienced' and 'servant' rang in his ears and if Gaius could see him right now… Arthur frowned, hurried over to his clothing cupboard and dressed swiftly.
It was when he found the key to the manacles in his pocket that Arthur once more turned to look at his peacefully sleeping servant. And that was just too much, Arthur felt, that Merlin should nightly attack his person with all of these disgusting flowers in the most unsettling way and now, to make matters even worse, take to sleeping on Arthur's floor in such a smug and self-satisfied fashion.
Well, he wasn't going to get away with it.
Arthur put the key back in his pocket, gathered up a handful of flowers, dumped them on Merlin's inert body, and then left the room to partake in a much needed sparring session with one of his knights.
When he got back to his rooms, the flowers were gone and so was Merlin. There was a platter of bread, cheese and cold meats on the table and also a note… from Gaius.
It asked him, very politely, to visit Gaius chambers and remove the manacles from Merlin as soon as possible.
Arthur sneered slightly as he read it. So, Merlin had Gaius doing his dirty work for him, did he? Well, he could wait until Arthur had finished his breakfast… and washed… and changed. And perhaps had a bit of a nap.
In the end, Arthur decided to forego the nap – he wasn't that tired and he supposed that Merlin had been punished enough.
He heard the raised voices before he even got to Gaius' door and paused just outside, frowning in surprise at the sound. It was most unlike Gaius to yell so loudly, and Arthur realised, with a bit of surprise, it wasn't really like Merlin either.
"Merlin," Gaius shouted with a voice that sounded full of frustration. "You are completely overreacting."
"No, I'm not, Gaius," Merlin answered loudly, and then continued in a slightly lower voice. "I'm not. It's too dangerous and you know it."
Gaius said something then, but so quietly that Arthur couldn't make out the words and found himself moving closer to the door. Finally, Merlin spoke again, his voice now soft, but thankfully clear enough for Arthur to hear, but what he heard replaced Arthur's curiosity with anger.
"It's obvious I don't have any control of it when I'm sleeping," Merlin said. "And, frankly, the whole thing is fucking embarrassing. So, I can't stay, Gaius. As soon as I get these bloody manacles off, I'm leaving Camelot."
Arthur, without really thinking through his anger, smashed the door open and strode into the room. The two occupants jumped and turned to face him, both of them gaping at his sudden appearance.
"Then I won't be unlocking them," Arthur said, glaring at Merlin.
Merlin blinked at him, obviously still confused. "What?"
"You're my servant, Merlin," Arthur said, his voice rising. "You can't just wander off somewhere else when you feel like it."
Merlin was now flushing with anger. "I'm your servant, yes, but not your slave, you fucking prat. If I want to leave I will. Now, get these things off me."
He held out his hands, with the chain dangling almost to the floor between them, and gave Arthur a look that could have made him burst into flames, but oddly enough, Arthur found himself suppressing the desire to laugh.
"You really can't call me things like that, you know," he said, his voice suddenly mild, and he almost lost the fight not to laugh when he saw Merlin's eyes widen incredulously.
And then Merlin's face seemed to crumple slightly and he suddenly sat down at the table and hid his hands in his face, and it was so shocking to see it that Arthur's heart almost seemed to leap out of his chest. He stared at Merlin's hunched form blankly.
"Will you please take these things off me?"
Merlin hadn't looked up, so his voice was muffled through his hands, and Arthur had a terrible feeling that Merlin was struggling not to cry.
"Sire?" Gaius' calm voice broke through Arthur's frozen state and he finally looked away from Merlin.
"Gaius," he said. "Would you leave us alone please?"
He could see quite plainly that Gaius didn't want to go, that he was struggling to find a way to politely refuse, and Arthur wasn't going to give him time to find one. He strode to the door, held it open, and gazed at Gaius expectantly until the old man reluctantly went through it.
As Arthur closed the door, he met Gaius eyes and smiled. "Don't worry," he said, and then latched the door. He was fairly certain that Gaius would hover on the other side so he would have to remember not to yell if he lost his temper again. Which was quite likely to happen, Arthur had to admit, because he was beginning to acknowledge that his relationship with his servant was as volatile as a dragon with an arrow up its nose.
Merlin was still leaning over the table when Arthur sat beside him and reached for one of his wrists. He looked up as Arthur unlocked the first manacle, and Arthur was relieved to see that he hadn't been crying, although he was very pale. Too pale, Arthur thought, with a frown, as he unlocked the second manacle.
"Right, then, I'm off," Merlin said, firmly, as soon as he was free, and he shifted away from Arthur. But he didn't get far, because Arthur immediately held Merlin's wrist in a grip he knew to be almost as strong as the manacle had been, and smiled when Merlin glared at him resentfully.
"Why do you want to leave?" Arthur asked, with his most pleasant tone, and widened his smile when he saw the wary confusion on Merlin's face.
"Um…" Merlin faltered, and then he frowned. "None of your business actually."
Arthur smirked. "There's no need for you to be embarrassed about all the flowers, Merlin. After all, we both know that you're a bit of a girl, and I am devastatingly handsome, so the whole thing isn't that unusual."
Merlin was now looking at him with narrowed eyes. "Look, don't go thinking that I fancy you or anything," he said. "It's a… a… sleepwalking thing. It doesn't mean anything."
"Ah, now you're breaking my heart," Arthur replied, and yes, he'd crossed the line into flirting but teasing Merlin like this was the most fun he'd had in a long time. And besides, if he could turn the whole thing into a joke maybe Merlin wouldn't be so set on leaving Camelot.
"Well," Merlin said, after a moment in which Arthur watched his face flush delicately, "it's just that it doesn't look like it's going to stop."
"Oh, I imagine that if we don't come up with a solution," and Arthur couldn't stop himself from smirking suggestively, "you'd eventually have to run out of flowers."
Merlin was really blushing now and he twisted his wrist in Arthur's grip for a moment, as if testing to see if he could get free. Arthur tightened his hand and almost as an automatic response to Merlin's attempt he reached out and took hold of Merlin's other wrist and pulled him closer. He heard Merlin's gasp and his eyes focused on Merlin's parted lips, and really, he'd never noticed how pink and full they were, and that little dimpled dent in Merlin's bottom lip looked positively delicious.
Heat was starting to stir in Arthur's stomach and he knew what it meant, and that very soon it would reach his groin. With a start, he realised that Merlin was almost leaning against Arthur's chest, and that Arthur, himself, was smiling down at Merlin with what he could feel was one of his more predatory smiles. Merlin's eyes were wide, very blue, and very puzzled.
'Younger than you, inexperienced, and also your servant.' The smile faded from Arthur's face as the words rang through his head and damn Gaius, he thought, for putting them there. And damn the fact that he seemed to be developing an attraction to Merlin… and a conscience. It was all most inconvenient.
Arthur quickly dropped Merlin's wrists and stood up.
"There's no need for you to leave, Merlin," he said as calmly as he could, whilst looking down into Merlin's startled face. "And I won't lock you up anymore. I'm sure that it will stop eventually, and in the meantime we'll both just have to live with it. If I can, you can."
He waited a moment for Merlin's nod of agreement and then he left quickly, almost tripping over Gaius in the corridor.
He collected a vase of flowers on the way back to his chambers, and when he got there he hurled it out of the window.
As Arthur discovered the next morning, it wasn't that easy to live with. There were flowers all over his bed, of course, but it seemed that Merlin's new habit of sleeping on the fur rug in front of the fire was going to continue.
Arthur stood over his sleeping servant and couldn't stop himself from wondering how Merlin would look against the luxurious dark brown fur if he were completely unclothed. All that white skin, and those long, long, legs wrapped around… and really Arthur was making himself sick. This was a ridiculous situation to be in, he acknowledged, usually he'd just fuck the person and get it out of his system, not moon over them in this stupid, stupid way. But this was Merlin. It would never be that simple.
And it was just so bloody unfair that he was going through all of the annoyance of being given all of these silly flowers and he couldn't even take advantage of the one benefit of that. Because he couldn't even be certain that Merlin was doing it because he liked Arthur – in fact he'd been quite adamant that he didn't.
Arthur left the room absolutely determined to avoid his servant for the rest of the day and was feeling quite cheerful about his success by the time he had dinner with his father that evening.
But then Uther informed him that he had decided to institute flower-arranging lessons for all of the household servants because of the sub-standard arrangements currently decorating the castle, and Arthur completely lost his appetite.
When Arthur got back to his chambers Merlin was there, polishing Arthur's armour. For a moment, Arthur considered telling him to do the job in the armoury where it was supposed to be done, but in the end he sighed in bitter resignation and slumped into a chair beside the fire.
That was when he noticed the pillow and neatly folded blanket lying on the fur rug.
"Merlin," Arthur said, far too hesitantly, and he cleared his throat and started again.
"Merlin, why is there bedding on the floor here?"
"Oh, um…" Merlin faltered. "Well, I had an idea."
Arthur narrowed his eyes. Merlin had that delicate flush again and he was steadfastly keeping his gaze on Arthur's armour. It was obvious he was feeling embarrassed and Arthur had a bad feeling about what was going to come out of Merlin's mouth next.
"Yes?" he prompted.
Finally Merlin got up and placed Arthur's armour in its usual chest, and then he came and actually sat on the rug right near Arthur's feet, and looked into the fire.
"Well, I thought that maybe if I was already here that I wouldn't actually collect any flowers on the way to getting here. So, I thought as long as I was going to end up on this rug anyway, I may as well start out on it."
"That's a lot of thinking," was all Arthur could manage to say, because, damn Merlin, it was actually a reasonably good idea.
"Well, is it all right?" Merlin asked, rather testily, and Arthur found himself fighting not to succumb to the urge to tease Merlin.
"Oh, do what you want," he finally said grumpily, and he got up, went behind the screen and changed into his nightshirt, and went to bed.
It was rather a torturous night knowing that Merlin was lying on that bloody rug so close to Arthur's bed, because Arthur had a hard time going to sleep, what with the sound of Merlin's steady breathing, and the heated images that kept passing through Arthur's mind. And really, fuck it, he thought, how the hell had this happened to him, that suddenly the mere thought of that dent in Merlin's bottom lip had Arthur rock hard and dying to taste it. If he didn't know better he'd think he was under some sort of cursed magic spell or something, although if anyone was under a spell, he reflected, it was probably Merlin. What with the sleepwalking flower fixation on Arthur's bed that he had going on.
And of course, the plan didn't work, and Arthur was getting damned sick of all the flowers, but when he saw the disappointed look in Merlin's eyes, he couldn't bring himself to complain about it.
"You're really worried about this, aren't you?" Arthur asked, as he watched Merlin place his breakfast on the table in a rather depressed fashion.
"What?" Merlin replied, sounding distracted, and then he blushed. "Well, I suppose I am really. This can't go on forever. I hope."
Arthur pushed Merlin into a chair and put a plate in front of him, ignoring Merlin's surprised look.
"Is it really so awful giving flowers to me? I'm not that bad, you know," Arthur said, trying not to sound plaintive, as he piled food on Merlin's plate.
"Sire, what are you doing?" Merlin's voice was full of confusion.
"Oh for god's sake Merlin," Arthur said, impatiently. "You spent the night in my room. You might as well have breakfast with me."
He looked up at the strangled sound that came from Merlin, saw that Merlin had gone as red as he'd ever seen him, and that his lips were parted in shock, and felt a wild urge to lean forward and press his mouth against Merlin's as hard as he could. He'd already started to move when Merlin's gaze dropped to his plate but Arthur thought there had been a flash of excitement in his eyes. Still, Arthur could see that Merlin now looked confused and uncertain, so he drew back and calmly started to put food on his own plate.
"Yes, well, that sounded ridiculously suggestive," he said, with a nervous laugh.
After a moment, Merlin looked up again, his eyes sparkling with amusement and nodded his agreement.
They ate in companionable silence after that, but Arthur couldn't let go of the strong feeling that perhaps Merlin wasn't as uninterested in him as he'd claimed.
All those flowers had to mean something, didn't they?
Even if Merlin, himself, didn't know it.
"What if it wasn't taking advantage?" Arthur asked, as he wandered into Gaius' rooms, making the older man jump from his seat in fright, and knock over a large bowl of dried… well, it looked rather like dung, Arthur thought distastefully.
"Sorry about that," he said, as Gaius sighed in frustration. "I didn't mean to interrupt your lunch."
"Oh, very good, sire," Gaius replied, rather snidely. "Most amusing. And what did you ask me?"
"Well," Arthur paused, looked out the window, and then reluctantly turned to look at Gaius. He wasn't exactly happy about asking Gaius this question but he wasn't going to have the old man blocking him when… if… he decided to have Merlin.
"I asked, what if it wasn't taking advantage? What if it was a sort of mutual… attraction… feeling… thing?"
Well that went well, he thought bitterly, and gave Gaius one of his best glares just in case the old man was thinking of laughing at him.
But Gaius was gaping at him in a rather unattractive fashion. And then he gave Arthur the Dancing Eyebrow of Doom.
"Are you telling me that Merlin has feelings for you? And that you have feelings for Merlin?"
Gaius sounded completely amazed and Arthur didn't find that particularly amusing, because, well, lust was a feeling, wasn't it? And who knew what all the sodding flowers meant, but probably something soppy. This was Merlin after all.
"Well, what if we did?" he asked, rather resentfully. "It wouldn't be taking advantage then, would it?"
"Well, he's still your servant," Gaius said doubtfully and Arthur lost his temper a bit.
"Good God Gaius," he said. "It's not like I haven't fucked a servant before, and I might add, it has usually been their idea, and there has certainly never been any complaints."
Gaius had gone bright red and was looking at Arthur as if he was going to faint, and Arthur reflected that he might have gone a tad too far.
Gaius finally spluttered a bit and then took a deep breath.
"I suppose if the feelings were mutual," he said faintly. "Then no, it would not be taking advantage. As long as Merlin wasn't coerced in any way. Or in manacles."
Arthur nodded and left the room, deciding to ignore the last bit of Gaius' speech. He'd thought that Merlin had looked rather fetching in manacles and he certainly wasn't going to deny himself the opportunity to see it again, if Merlin was willing.
Merlin was in Arthur's chambers polishing his armour again when Arthur got back there that evening, and as Arthur sat in his chair by the fire and surreptitiously watched him, he reflected that Merlin polished his armour a lot. Probably more than it needed, actually. Of course the only conclusion that Arthur could come to about that, was that Merlin liked polishing Arthur's armour, in Arthur's quarters, and usually with Arthur in them. So, that was promising.
Arthur rolled his eyes and snorted to himself softly. This whole thing was getting absolutely stupid if he was now sitting here speculating on how much his servant liked to polish his armour as a sign of his servant's attraction to him.
The pillow and the blanket were on the rug so it looked like Merlin was planning on sleeping there again, and Arthur didn't know how he felt about that happening without being able to do something. To Merlin. Repeatedly.
But Merlin had seemed skittish when Arthur had come into the room and since then he hadn't looked at Arthur once, so Arthur didn't know what to think.
In the end, Arthur sighed fretfully and went to bed.
Of course, there was some sort of purple flower thing poking him in the eye when he woke up, and Arthur lay in his bed for a while willing his irritation to subside. He'd said he could live with this and he was just going to have to do it.
He wasn't sure that he could live with the sight of Merlin sleeping on the fur rug every morning, not without getting anything out of it. He dressed quietly, as he could tell that Merlin was still sound asleep, and then stood over him for a moment, which might have seemed creepy, Arthur thought, if he'd been in Merlin's room watching him sleep. But it wasn't creepy, when Merlin was on Arthur's floor because Arthur had every right to look at something on his own floor. Or something like that anyway.
It was annoying that Merlin's long legs were hidden under the blanket but his lips were parted as he breathed and really, that dent was very tantalising. And he had very long dark eyelashes too, they looked rather nice against his fair skin, Arthur thought.
Merlin sighed in his sleep and then moved slightly, his hand coming up to curl beside his head. The blanket had slipped down and now Arthur could see the long, white column of Merlin's throat and suddenly his dick was throbbing and his mouth was watering, because by god, he wanted to get down there and taste it, bite it and mark it.
He looked away in desperation and his gaze fell on the bed, still covered with flowers. One plump, dark red rose was lying in the middle and before he'd really thought about it, Arthur had picked it up and placed it gently in Merlin's open hand. It was a ridiculously soppy thing to do, but he supposed after all the flowers Merlin had given away he deserved at least one of his own, and he might get the message that something more was going on here. Because Arthur didn't think he could take this much longer.
He made his way to the sparring yards, with only a brief stop in a secluded alcove for a much-needed wank, but at the last minute changed his mind and saddled his horse. A ride in the forest would do his men good, and it would give him time to think, because the time had come to find a way to use this situation to his advantage.
When he got back to Camelot, Arthur had his plan. He knew exactly what he was going to do, and he hated to admit it but it was Merlin who'd kind of given him the idea with the whole sleeping on the rug thing. All they had to do was take it one step further into Arthur's bed, which was where all the flowers were actually ending up. It was the logical thing to do, and it would also give Arthur the exact opportunity he desperately needed.
So, he was in a very good mood until he entered his chambers and found Merlin standing in the middle of the room, wearing a travelling cloak with a travel-pack lying at his feet, and Arthur's heart plummeted because he had seriously misjudged things, if giving Merlin one rose had this sort of result.
"What's going on?" Arthur asked, closing the door and leaning against it, because Merlin wasn't going anywhere until Arthur had a satisfactory explanation.
"Um…" Merlin replied, and Arthur noticed that he looked too pale again.
"You'll have to do better than that," Arthur said flatly, raising an eyebrow.
Merlin nodded. "Yeah, sorry," he said softly. "It's just that it's not easy, but I have to do it, because it looks like this flower thing isn't going to stop, and so the only way I can stay is if I tell you, but I don't know that you'll want me to stay after anyway, so yeah, I need to know how you feel about magic users."
"What the hell?" Arthur spluttered, as Merlin sucked in a deep breath. "Really, Merlin, could you make any less sense?"
"Well, I'll try to be clearer, if you'll promise not to try and kill me, because I really don't want to have to blow up half the castle… not that I'm… um… sure that I could, actually."
"Fuck," Arthur gasped in amazement. "You've actually gone insane, haven't you?" And this was not good, he thought, because it meant that he was lusting after a complete lunatic.
"Oh, for the love of…," Merlin said, sounding as frustrated and well, snippy, as Arthur had ever heard him. "Will you just tell me if you hate magic users as much as your father does, so that we can get this over and done with?"
Arthur frowned, because he had a very bad feeling about this.
"Merlin, where exactly are you getting all these flowers?"
Merlin sighed, and suddenly looked defeated. "I really thought you'd figure it out before this, because half of them are out of season, but I guess you don't know a lot about gardening, or flowers." He took a deep breath. "I've been making them. Well, I'm pretty sure I have, even though I'm asleep, because I know how to do it. I mean, I've made them before, when I was awake."
Arthur blinked. "You've been making flowers. For me."
"How?" Arthur demanded.
"With magic, of course," Merlin said, looking surprised. "Didn't I say?"
Arthur felt as if all of his blood had somehow drained out of his body and he figured that he must now look as pale as Merlin did.
"I need to either sit down," he finally said, blankly, "or find a sword."
"Oh dear," Merlin said faintly.
Arthur gazed at him in furious amazement. "Oh dear?" he roared, and Merlin winced. "Oh dear? You come in here and tell me that you've been…" he lowered his voice to a hissing whisper, "… using magic. In Camelot. And all you can say is, oh dear?"
"Would you please calm down?" Merlin pleaded, and if Arthur hadn't still been so furious he'd have enjoyed that, probably more than he should have.
"Why are you telling me this now?"
"Because I woke up with a rose in my hand," Merlin said, blushing. "And I know it was a joke, but you've been so good about this whole thing really, that I just couldn't lie about it anymore. Particularly when it doesn't look like it's going to stop. And I thought surely by the time winter came you'd figure out that I couldn't possibly be stealing all of these flowers. So, I decided I'd have to leave. But I wanted to tell you why. It's only fair."
Arthur crossed his arms over his chest and frowned, trying to figure out what he felt more disappointed about. The whole magic thing, the fact that Merlin thought he had to leave, or the fact that he'd thought the rose was a joke. And that was worrying, he thought, because, for fuck's sake, Merlin had just told him that he had been using magic in Camelot, and Arthur was upset about a sodding flower?
"So?" Merlin asked, in what sounded more like a breathy sigh than a voice.
"Look you can't repeat what I'm going to say to you. Ever."
Merlin nodded and Arthur took a deep breath.
"I don't hate magic users," he said. "I just don't see the point of it. Yeah, they're powerful, but so is a King, or a man with a sword in his hand; it comes down to the person and what they choose to do with it. I think it's foolish to extend so much hatred to a group of people because it's only going to get you hatred in return. But I can never say that publicly, not while my father is alive. You have to understand that."
Merlin nodded again, but Arthur could see that his eyes were shining with emotion and Arthur swallowed heavily and looked away.
"I won't tell anyone," Arthur said. "And if anyone finds out… I'll get you out of Camelot. I know that I owe you that much, Merlin. And, you don't have to leave, if you don't want to."
"Thank you," Merlin said, and Arthur felt a soft touch on his arm, and realised that Merlin was standing very close to him. "And Gaius won't be punished either?"
Arthur gave Merlin an incredulous look. "Bugger, you're not telling me he's a magic user as well?"
"What? No," said Merlin, shaking his head. "But he knew about me, and he kept it a secret."
"Oh," Arthur said, running a hand through his hair. Suddenly he felt desperate to be alone, he really needed to think.
"Look, you'd better get back to your room," he said, ignoring Merlin's puzzled look. "You know, maybe now you've told me, this whole thing will stop, and if it doesn't the blanket and pillow are still here."
Merlin nodded, rather doubtfully, Arthur thought as he moved away from the door, and sank into his chair, but a moment later he heard him leave, and sighed with relief.
Arthur lay awake in his bed for a long time thinking about Merlin, and wasn't that becoming a habit, he thought resentfully. This was not how he had hoped that this evening would turn out, but Merlin's confession had changed things. As well as adding a new intimacy to their relationship it had also added a whole new layer to the not taking advantage thing, and now Arthur would have to find a way of getting Merlin into his bed without Merlin thinking that it was some sort of payment for keeping his secret. This was getting tiresomely complicated and he was really beginning to wonder why he was bothering with it.
For some reason, Arthur had really thought that the whole flower thing would now be over, so it was quite a surprise when he opened his eyes in the morning to find his bed once again covered in flowers and Merlin curled up on the rug in front of the fire.
They really were going to have to find a solution to this, Arthur felt, because whilst at the moment only he and Merlin knew about the problem, the longer it went on, the more chance there was of someone else finding out. And suddenly, Arthur realised, with horror, what a risk they had taken the night before, for whilst Merlin was sleeping in Arthur's room he could simply conjure up the flowers, put them on Arthur's bed, and go back to the rug. But the night before he could have been seen by anyone in the castle, and if he was already creating flowers as he walked, that could have been disastrous.
The fact that Merlin was sleeping peacefully on the rug meant that they had got away with it. Arthur breathed a deep sigh of relief and immediately determined that there would be no such risk again.
"Merlin," he said loudly, and almost laughed when Merlin shot up into a sitting position and looked around the room blindly. Instead he settled for throwing a pink rose at his servant's head.
"Ow," Merlin said, rubbing his forehead. "That had a thorn."
"Well you shouldn't make them that way," said Arthur, suddenly feeling much more cheerful again. "I want you to pack up your stuff today, and bring it all here. You're going to have to move into my rooms whilst this problem is going on."
Merlin blinked at him. "But I can't… that would be like… I can't live here."
"Well, you've been sleeping here already," Arthur said. "What difference does it make? And it's too dangerous – we can't have you sleepwalking through the castle, can we?"
Merlin was blushing now, and Arthur felt even more cheerful. Now that he'd gotten over the shock of the night before, maybe this wouldn't be as difficult as he'd thought it would be.
"I was hoping I wouldn't have to permanently sleep on a floor," Merlin grumbled, and Arthur almost laughed again.
He'd take care of that problem eventually. Merlin could count on it.
Arthur returned to his quarters for lunch that day, purely to make sure that Merlin had moved in, but he knew that he had before he even got there, because at least a few times he got to hear the gossip going on before his presence interrupted it.
And the main topic seemed to be that Prince Arthur had finally taken a 'favourite'. Oddly enough there didn't seem to be much shock over the fact that his choice was Merlin, and Arthur wondered if he should be annoyed about that, but he decided he couldn't be bothered. Instead he was much more interested in seeing how all of this gossip was affecting Merlin.
He found out as soon as he opened the door and it was really quite delightful to see Merlin so flushed with embarrassment, and shifting uncomfortably and nervously from foot to foot, before darting past Arthur to go to the kitchens.
Whilst he was gone, Arthur decided that his best course of action was to be blithely ignorant.
To that end, all through the meal, which he shared with Merlin, Arthur chatted about inconsequential things in his most charming manner. In fact, he suspected that he'd never been so charming ever before, and it seemed to have the effect of unsettling Merlin completely.
Arthur was rather pleased about the whole thing, until he ran into Gaius on the way back to the sparring yards.
Gaius blocked Arthur's path in the most impertinent manner and glared at Arthur, and Arthur held up a hand and generously decided to forestall anything that Gaius was planning to say.
"I imagine that Merlin has told you that he told me about his magic," he said quietly, and Gaius nodded.
"With the sleepwalking problem that we have at the moment," Arthur continued, "this is the safest thing that we can do. I can't be held responsible for the gossip in the castle and I won't deign to acknowledge it."
Gaius lost the glare but he still looked worried. "Merlin-" he began, but Arthur quickly interrupted.
"Nothing will happen between us unless it's Merlin's choice," he said. "And that is the last time I will talk about this, Gaius. You'll just have to trust me."
Gaius looked surprised and pleased, which was an odd mixture, Arthur thought, and didn't really make sense. But he had enough to worry about without factoring in Gaius' strange moods, so as he nodded to the old man, and continued on to the sparring yards, Arthur put it out of his mind.
So, yes, Arthur thought as he entered his chambers late that evening and found Merlin reading a book at the table, he'd told Gaius that it would be Merlin's choice, but that didn't mean that Arthur couldn't help Merlin along in making it.
And whilst Arthur, himself, wasn't fond of honeycakes he happened to know that Merlin was, and he was not only proud of the fact that he knew this, he'd also gone out of his way to go down to the kitchens and arm himself with a plateful.
Merlin's look of frozen shock was reward enough when Arthur placed the plate down in front of him, and Arthur couldn't stop himself from laughing softly, which made Merlin look as if he'd swallowed a stick.
"What's this for?" Merlin finally asked, in a tight voice.
"I thought you might be hungry," Arthur said. "You didn't eat that much at lunch."
Merlin now looked like he might faint, which Arthur thought was quite delightful, particularly if it meant that he'd get to catch Merlin to stop him falling onto the floor.
But still, it was time to get to the point of all this.
"And I thought something sweet might help with the chat that we need to have," Arthur continued, as Merlin stared at the honeycakes with a dazed expression. "About the flowers."
Merlin finally looked up and met Arthur's eyes. "The flowers?"
"Well, yes," Arthur said firmly. "I've been thinking that if it's ever going to stop, maybe we should try to think about why it's happening in the first place." He paused for a moment, wondering if what he was going to say next might be too much too soon, but Merlin was staring at him with wide, blue eyes, and Arthur couldn't resist. "Perhaps if we figured out why you're doing it, then we could experiment with ways of giving you whatever it is that you might… want."
Merlin made a sound that Arthur could only describe as a high-pitched bleating noise and suddenly lunged forward, grabbed a honeycake, and crammed it into his mouth.
Arthur tried not to laugh and to project just the right amount of amusement. It worked because suddenly Merlin looked at him with narrowed, suspicious eyes.
"And what if it turned out that the reason I was giving you all of these flowers was because subconsciously I wanted to kiss you?"
Arthur could tell that Merlin thought that Arthur had been teasing him, and he was now trying to call Arthur's bluff, but Arthur easily managed to suppress his triumph at the way Merlin had fallen so quickly and neatly into his trap. Arthur wasn't a brilliant military strategist for nothing, and it was quite enlightening to discover that, when needed, the same principles could be applied to matters of the bedroom.
"I'd let you kiss me, of course," he answered, quite seriously. "Why don't we try it?"
"Because I don't want to kiss you, idiot," Merlin spluttered, flushing deep red. "Maybe I'm giving you all of these flowers because I want you to die from hay fever?"
"Well, maybe, but I don't get hay fever and you know it, so I don't think that's it," said Arthur reasonably. "And how would you really know whether you want to kiss me or not if it's a subconscious thing? The only way to be sure is to try it, and if it's not that, then we'll consider something else."
Merlin's eyes were narrowed again. "Why are you trying to get me to kiss you?" he asked.
And, yes, so, maybe Merlin was cleverer than he looked, Arthur thought, whilst he quickly considered his options. Finally he shrugged his shoulders.
"I just thought it might be worth a try," he said, calmly. "But if you're too scared to risk it…" he broke off with another shrug of his shoulders and watched Merlin out of the corner of his eye.
Merlin was glaring at the plate of honeycakes, and biting his bottom lip, which Arthur thought was a bit unfair, because if Merlin was actually going to kiss him, Arthur wanted to stay calm for as long as possible. And already he could feel the heat unwinding in his stomach.
Eventually Arthur tapped his fingers on the table and Merlin jolted in his seat slightly.
"So, what do you want to do?" Arthur asked.
"Well, why do I have to be the one to do it?" Merlin asked, in his snippiest voice, and then a gleam of triumph came into his eye. "I mean, maybe subconsciously I want you to be the one to kiss me."
For a moment, Arthur almost felt sorry for Merlin, because he'd walked right into that and he really seemed to think that Arthur wouldn't go through with it and he was going to be rather disappointed when he found out that he hadn't won. Still, Arthur had every intention of making it up to him, so he hooked a foot under the rung of Merlin's chair, and dragged it closer, enjoying the sight of Merlin's startled face as he almost lost his balance. Arthur gripped his arm to steady him, and then draped his own arm around the back of the chair.
"We can try that first if you like," he said. "Why don't we start with something like this?"
He placed his other hand on Merlin's jaw and turned his head gently and then, finally, finally, he brushed his lips over Merlin's mouth. Merlin immediately gasped and his lips parted slightly. Arthur could feel the tension coming off him in waves, even without touching his body, so he didn't press his advantage but continued to just lightly caress Merlin's lips with his own.
It was really quite intoxicating, Arthur thought, to finally feel that dip in Merlin's bottom lip, and as he pressed the tip of his tongue against it he discovered that it was as delicious as he'd thought it would be. After that he sucked on it slightly and was rewarded with a soft little moan from Merlin, so he moved the hand behind Merlin forward and let it fall onto Merlin's shoulder.
His other hand had wandered onto the smooth skin of Merlin's throat and he used it to pull Merlin closer so he could deepen the kiss. Merlin opened to him immediately, and Arthur felt a surge of heat go through his body and settle in his groin.
Arthur pulled away slightly to let them both take a breath and took the moment to look at Merlin's face. Merlin's eyes were tightly closed, his lips were wet and full, and his cheeks were delightfully flushed. Arthur was very pleased.
"And now maybe something more like this," he whispered, and before Merlin could react he swooped back down onto Merlin's mouth. This time he was a little more forceful and he could immediately tell by Merlin's clumsy response that he really was as inexperienced as Gaius had implied.
Arthur didn't mind that though, in fact it was rather endearing, and Merlin very quickly recovered, and then started making breathy little gasps against Arthur's lips that completely went to Arthur's head. He dropped one hand to Merlin's waist to pull him even closer, and used his other hand to tilt Merlin's head, and went for it, his tongue sweeping into Merlin's mouth, and sliding against Merlin's tongue deliciously.
Merlin moaned again and one of his hands drifted onto Arthur's shoulder, and really, Arthur felt like he was in heaven, so he let out a low moan of his own. He felt fingers tangling in his hair, and pressed forward again into the slick heat of Merlin's mouth, and thought that he could very quickly get addicted to this.
His dick was pressing painfully against his laces and already Arthur was wondering how soon Merlin would be ready to take the next step, and hoping that it wouldn't be too long. The temptation to slide his hand between Merlin's legs and find out if he was in a similar state was almost overpowering and Arthur pulled back for a moment to clear his head.
His eyes fell on the temptation of Merlin's throat, and that he couldn't resist. He dragged the scarf from around Merlin's neck, and slid his mouth against his skin, teeth scraping gently. Merlin made a startled noise, and Arthur felt Merlin's fingers tighten in his hair. He smiled against Merlin's skin and settled in to explore and claim his territory.
"So, do you think this might be the answer we've been looking for?" he eventually murmured against Merlin's throat, lifting his mouth from the mark he had made there.
"M… maybe." Merlin gasped as Arthur sucked on his earlobe. "I… don't know."
Arthur frowned slightly. That wasn't exactly what he'd wanted to hear. He sighed, admittedly with a bit of frustration, and raised his head to look down into Merlin's flushed face. He had a brief glimpse of Merlin's darkened eyes before Merlin quickly looked away with obvious embarrassment, so Arthur reluctantly pulled out of their embrace.
"Perhaps you should think about it for a while," he said quietly, and after a moment, Merlin, who was still refusing to look at him, nodded.
Arthur sighed again, softly, and then got up, pausing a moment to look at Merlin's bowed head. He really wanted to kiss him again and he wondered if it might not be the right thing to do to get Merlin out of this sudden mood he seemed to have gone into but in the end he decided it might be pushing things too far. And he'd sort of told Gaius that he wouldn't do that, and Arthur always kept his word.
So, he contented himself with squeezing Merlin's shoulder in what he hoped was a reassuring manner, and went behind the screen to change into his nightshirt. When he got into his bed, Merlin was already curled up under his blanket on the rug and Arthur felt a sudden twinge of guilt that Merlin was sleeping on the floor.
Still, he couldn't really do anything about it yet, and Arthur settled down amongst his pillows and tried not to wonder too much about what exactly was going on in his servant's head.
Arthur still didn't know what was going on in Merlin's head the next morning, and his bed was still covered in flowers. One thing was different though, and Arthur was both astonished and delighted by the new development, for instead of sleeping on the rug, Merlin was now lying on the bed beside Arthur, sleeping soundly.
However, after Merlin had woken up, Arthur could see that Merlin was distressed about it; he was pale and seemed despondent, and even when Arthur teased him a little he hardly seemed to notice. Arthur didn't like it at all, and he spent most of the day wondering how he could cheer Merlin up.
It was as he was on his way back from the sparring yards that Arthur passed the blacksmith's and got an idea. He'd noticed the evening before that Merlin appeared to be using an odd length of rope to hold up his trousers, or at least that was what it had felt like when Arthur's hand had been gripping his waist, so perhaps a new belt with an attractive buckle would improve Merlin's mood.
Arthur spent a good half hour in the blacksmith's sorting through a collection of buckles before he made his choice. After all, he didn't want to get just anything, but he rather felt that the stylised dragon he eventually chose would be perfect. Merlin seemed to have a bit of a thing about dragons.
Merlin wasn't in Arthur's chambers when Arthur finally got there, and he waited rather impatiently for Merlin to return. To fill in the time he loosely wrapped the belt and buckle in a scarf he found that he hadn't worn for a long time, reflecting that Merlin might like a new scarf as well, and then placed the parcel on the table.
Merlin eventually turned up with Arthur's dinner (Arthur had decided to avoid Uther's sudden fixation with castle decorations for a while because really he'd had enough of flowers to last a lifetime) and after placing the dishes on the table, he gave a puzzled look at the parcel, then picked it up and wandered over to a cupboard.
Arthur cleared his throat and Merlin turned to look at him.
"Ah… that's for you," Arthur said, and was absolutely horrified to feel a slight flush rising in his cheeks.
Fortunately Merlin didn't seem to notice, he was too busy staring at the parcel in his hands in amazement.
"For me?" he finally said, faintly, and Arthur nodded.
Merlin did, and when he saw the belt he blushed as vividly as Arthur had ever seen him.
"Oh," he said. "Thanks."
And really, Arthur had been hoping for a bit more than that, he thought with irritation. Maybe not Merlin tearing off his clothes and falling at Arthur's feet (although that would have been perfectly acceptable if Merlin had wanted to) but at least a repeat of the previous evenings kiss… or even just a smile.
"Don't you like it?" Arthur asked, trying not to let his frustration show.
Finally Merlin looked up at him, and to Arthur's great relief, smiled.
"Yes, I do," he said. "It's lovely."
And Arthur might not have described it exactly like that, but if Merlin wanted to sound like a girl, then that was fine with Arthur as long as Merlin looked happy about it.
Merlin thanked him again and Arthur nodded and then took a seat, suddenly ravenous, and looked with interest at the platters on the table, which seemed to be filled with Arthur's favourite foods. Most pleasing, Arthur thought, as he stared at Merlin expectantly, until Merlin hesitantly sat down at the table.
They ate in companionable silence and Merlin really did seem to be in a better mood, so Arthur decided that as he'd been handed a gift that morning he might as well take advantage of it.
"At least you won't have to sleep on the floor tonight," he said, and took a sip of wine from his goblet.
Merlin seemed to freeze. "I won't?"
"Well, of course not," Arthur said, with a teasing smile. "It was your own theory, and even though it hasn't actually worked out yet, maybe we're getting closer to the solution."
Merlin looked at him, wide-eyed and startled. "Are you suggesting that I sleep in your bed? With you in it?"
"Well, I'm hardly going to sleep on the floor, Merlin, am I?"
Merlin flushed, opened his mouth as if to speak, and then snapped it closed again, leaving Arthur wondering what he'd been about to say. Before he could ask though, Merlin had stood, gathered the plates and was already heading for the door, so Arthur decided to let it go.
An hour later Arthur was regretting that decision for Merlin had not yet returned, and Arthur was frustrated and rather bored. Another hour went by, and Arthur gave up on his book, and contemplated trying to find Merlin, but in the end he changed into his nightshirt and got into bed. With what he felt was great consideration Arthur left a candle burning on the table beside the bed. After all, he didn't want Merlin stumbling around in the dark.
The candle was still burning and Arthur was still awake when the door finally creaked open and Merlin crept into the room. Arthur smiled to himself as Merlin went behind the screen and changed into his nightshirt but the smile faded when instead of coming to the bed, Merlin headed for the rug.
Arthur sat up. "Merlin."
Merlin jumped slightly and then turned towards Arthur, looking rather guilty.
"Oh, I didn't realise you were awake," he said nervously.
Arthur ignored that. "What are you doing?" he asked, also trying to ignore the fact that he'd never actually seen Merlin in his nightshirt out from under blankets before, and that it was rather short, exposing a lot of lean but nicely muscled thigh.
"Going to sleep?" Merlin sounded doubtful.
Arthur pulled back the bedcovers beside him and crooked a finger at Merlin.
"Come on," he said. "You know you're going to end up here anyway."
Merlin gave a slight sigh and finally came over to the bed, slipping hesitantly between the sheets, keeping as far away from Arthur as possible, and Arthur's heart suddenly sank.
Merlin had obviously gone off somewhere in order to avoid Arthur and now he was being skittish and so hesitant that Arthur could only come to the depressing conclusion that he'd completely and utterly fucked up and pushed Merlin too far. It was extremely disappointing, particularly with the arousal that was even now, rather inappropriately building in Arthur, and if Gaius found out Arthur was going to be in some trouble.
"I'm sorry, Sire," Merlin said quietly, and that too was disappointing because Arthur suddenly really wanted to hear his name on Merlin's lips.
"What about?" Arthur asked, managing to successfully keep his newfound depression out of his voice.
"About this whole thing," Merlin said. "I feel terrible about taking advantage of you like this."
Arthur was astounded. "What?" he said blankly, staring at Merlin in amazement.
"I know you've been doing all of these romantic things because I keep giving you flowers and it's obviously what I've wanted, but I never meant to make you feel like you had to do that. But I just don't know how to make this stop."
"Merlin," Arthur spluttered, absolutely outraged and with the word 'romantic' resounding in his ears. "I have not been doing 'romantic things'. That is absurd. I do not do romance."
"Oh," Merlin said, finally looking at Arthur with complete confusion. "Oh, sorry. Um… my mistake, but-"
"I've never heard anything so ridiculous," Arthur huffed, still annoyed.
"But…" Merlin continued. "Some of them did seem… sort of… um… slightly romantic."
"Oh for fuck's sake," Arthur said, his voice low and tight with anger. "I will concede that I've perhaps done a couple of things that could be seen to be more friendly then we've previously been…" he ignored the slight splutter that came from Merlin and continued, "…and the kissing might certainly have been rather… erm… passionate. But to describe anything I've done as romantic would be extremely stupid, Merlin, even for you."
"Yes, Sire," Merlin eventually said after a moment of tense silence.
Merlin's answer only seemed to irritate Arthur more for some reason, and he leaned over to the table beside him and quickly blew out the candle and then lay back on his pillows.
"I suggest we both get some sleep," he said, and rolled away from Merlin, still fuming.
Of course, it was impossible to actually go to sleep, what with the anger roiling through his veins, the strange heavy disappointed feeling in his stomach, and the word 'romantic' echoing in his ears.
And really, who did Merlin think he was, Arthur thought fretfully, accusing Arthur of romantic activities when he was the one not only leaving flowers all over Arthur's bed, but also actually creating said flowers.
All Arthur had done was give Merlin one stupid flower, and some honeycakes, and then tried to cheer him up with a simple gift… and oh god, he really had to admit that what he had been doing did seem kind of romantic.
And that just made Arthur seethe with resentment and confusion. What had Merlin done to him? There he'd been, living a perfectly satisfactory life in a manly manner worthy of the warrior that he was, and all of a sudden he'd started mooning about Merlin's bottom lip, and plotting to find ways to kiss it. It was almost sickening.
How had it happened? After all this was Merlin. He was incompetent, quite often rude and insolent, regularly disobedient, and very, very strange.
Of course, Arthur had to admit, that Merlin was occasionally useful, usually in ways that surprised him, and that his rudeness often amused Arthur so much that he let him get away with it. He also had a shy sweetness about him that, whilst Arthur often teased him about acting like a girl, he also found strangely appealing. As for his disobedience, it was rather telling that Arthur had never really done anything about it, in fact it was astonishing, now that he thought about it, how often Merlin got his own way and it could only be because Arthur let him.
So, it seemed that Arthur had been reacting in inappropriate ways to Merlin for quite some time. He hadn't even been that angry when Merlin had told him about the magic, in fact, he now had to acknowledge that he'd thought it rather… god… touching… that Merlin had felt that he couldn't keep lying to Arthur and it had given him a warm feeling inside that Merlin had trusted him with the secret… and his life.
Arthur's heart sank, because…well. He was fucked.
He'd gone and fallen in love with Merlin.
Eventually Arthur must have managed to fall asleep because suddenly he opened his eyes and the dim light of dawn was filtering into the room, and his heart sank as he saw that the bed was covered with what he didn't want and the one thing he did want in it wasn't there.
Namely, there were bloody flowers everywhere and Merlin was gone.
Arthur sighed, as depression hit at the memory of what he'd realised the night before. He wouldn't mind so much about the falling in love thing if he'd thought that Merlin liked the idea, but he was obviously still avoiding Arthur.
Obviously still worried about taking advantage of Arthur, as he'd put it, which, Arthur frowned to himself, was rather strange actually. After all, Arthur had been the one who had been trying to take advantage of the situation and Merlin had been the one who'd been depressingly resistant.
So, what had Merlin been talking about last night before Arthur had become so distracted by the whole romantic accusation? He'd been rambling on about taking advantage because of Arthur doing romantic things because… and a slow smile spread across Arthur's face as he finally remembered Merlin's words.
'…it's obviously what I've wanted…'
That was what Merlin had said, and Arthur felt that he was allowed the pure surge of triumph that went through his body. Still, there was an equal measure of frustration, because if Arthur had paid proper attention, he could have had Merlin by now. Instead, he'd sort of implied to Merlin that he wasn't romantically interested in him.
And how was he going to fix it?
Because, whilst Arthur was confident with sexual matters, he had to admit he was out of his depth when it came to all this love stuff.
Still, he thought optimistically, he'd managed to do all that drivelling romantic stuff without even realising it, so that meant he had to be relatively good at it. He was obviously naturally talented and in the end, what could be more romantic than telling someone you wanted them?
And if that resulted in Merlin falling at his feet and letting Arthur have him, and the flowers stopped, then that would tie everything off with one of those neat, happy endings that he could remember in those soppy fairy tales from his childhood.
Which, all in all, would be most satisfactory.
Arthur could tell that Merlin was tense and embarrassed when he finally returned to Arthur's rooms with breakfast, and Arthur, himself, was suddenly bewildered by a hammering heart and strangely sweaty palms, so the first few moments of his imagined declaration didn't go very well.
And then it got worse, because instead of gently taking Merlin in his arms, kissing him, and then telling him about his feelings, what Arthur actually did was clear his throat and then say, quite loudly, "I think I should fuck you now."
Merlin froze, and then there was a lot of noise as the tray he was holding crashed to the floor, and then he was moving, and it was only that Arthur was closer to the door, that he managed to get there first and block Merlin's escape.
Merlin immediately backed away and retreated to the other side of the room whilst Arthur cursed himself fiercely.
"I suggest," Merlin said, his eyes wide, "that you get away from that door. Unless you want to find out if I really can blow up half the castle."
Arthur closed his eyes briefly because that had definitely not gone well and he was beginning to suspect that he was the bigger idiot of the two of them, and that was not a good feeling.
"Look," he said, opening his eyes and meeting Merlin's eyes, because at least no one could doubt his courage, "that didn't come out quite the way I meant it to."
"It seemed fairly clear to me," Merlin replied, and Arthur heard the slight tremor in his voice with a sinking heart. The last thing he wanted to do was terrify Merlin.
But then he looked more closely, and yes, whilst Merlin was blushing in that delightful way he had, there was also a telltale twinkle of amusement in his eyes, and Arthur took a deep breath of relief and blessed the fact that Merlin had always had an unpredictable sense of humour.
A slow smile crossed Arthur's face and he could see that Merlin was struggling not to return it. Still, he wasn't going to take the chance that Merlin was lulling him into a false sense of security so that he could escape before Arthur could explain himself, so he locked the door and put the key in his pocket.
The gleam faded from Merlin's eyes and was replaced by wariness.
"What are you doing?"
"Just making sure we're not interrupted," Arthur said, and then held up a hand as Merlin frowned. "I won't do anything that you don't want me to. I just want to tell you something."
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Merlin bent down and picked up the tray, placed it on the table with the rest of the breakfast, and looked at Arthur expectantly.
And there was no way that Arthur was going to sit down and eat while his stomach was churning in the way that it currently was, so he shook his head and took a deep breath.
"You were right," he said.
"Um… I was?" Merlin asked, faintly.
"Yes, as much as I hate to admit it," Arthur continued, with a wry smile. "I was doing some… romantic… sort of… stuff, but not because I thought you wanted me to."
Merlin looked shocked for a moment, and then he flushed again and dropped his eyes, and Arthur couldn't stop himself from moving nearer.
"Although don't go thinking that if I thought you did want me to, it would put me off," Arthur said, quietly as he watched the blush deepen in Merlin's cheeks. "But I was really doing it because, well… I wanted to… and I liked it."
Merlin looked up again, a slight frown on his face. "And because you want to…" he faltered, and then cleared his throat, "um… because you want me to go to bed with you?"
Arthur nodded, probably too eagerly he thought, going by the way Merlin swiftly moved to put the table between them.
"Well, yes, of course," Arthur said, with what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "But I wanted you to be happy too. Because, well, um," and it was his turn to falter, but he pulled himself together as quickly as possible at the astonished expression in Merlin's eyes, "well, Merlin, the thing is I've developed feelings for you. And I thought that maybe you might be happy about that."
And this was just getting too damned awkward, Arthur felt, so he reverted back to his original plan, which was what he should have just done in the first place, instead of rambling on in such a ridiculous fashion. He strode around the table, pulled Merlin (who was luckily too surprised to react) into his arms and placed his lips on Merlin's in a firm kiss.
Merlin still did not react, except for a faint gasp when Arthur ran his mouth along Merlin's throat and up to his ear.
"I'm in love with you, idiot," he whispered, and almost crowed in triumph when Merlin seemed to melt against him.
"Really?" Merlin asked in a soft voice, and suddenly there was nothing awkward about this any more.
"Yes," said Arthur, into Merlin's ear. "Head over heels, I think."
"Me too." Merlin's voice had a lovely breathless quality to it that Arthur thought he might like to hear more of but he was distracted by Merlin's arms sliding around his shoulders, and Merlin's lips sliding onto his.
The kiss was languid and deep, which was somehow as pleasantly surprising as the fact that Merlin had begun it, and Arthur let himself sink into it, his arms tightening around Merlin's waist and pulling him closer.
It was intoxicating and absolutely delightful. The heat was building up in Arthur and the feeling of Merlin's body as he ran his hands over it was amazing, and even more wonderful was the groan that Merlin made into Arthur's mouth when Arthur finally gripped Merlin's enticing arse.
He almost felt light-headed when their mouths finally separated and the way Merlin panted heavily against Arthur's ear was very flattering.
"All right then," Merlin whispered.
"Hmmm?" Arthur hummed as he ran his lips along Merlin's slender throat.
"All right," Merlin repeated. "I agree. I think you should fuck me now."
Merlin's voice (and what he'd said) went straight to Arthur's dick, which was something Arthur had heard about but never actually believed could happen, so he figured his surprise was responsible for the fact that instead of taking Merlin up on his offer immediately, he opened his mouth and actually said the words, "Are you sure?"
He felt the tremble in Merlin's body and was fairly sure that it was from laughter when he heard the amusement in Merlin's voice.
"Yes, Arthur, I am."
Arthur's head snapped up and he gazed into Merlin's eyes.
"You didn't call me Sire," he said, and really where had his brain gone? Because it certainly didn't seem to be connected to his mouth any more.
The blush rose in Merlin's face again but he met Arthur's eyes steadily and nodded.
"Yep," he said, and Arthur grinned, before taking Merlin's mouth in a fierce kiss, which was both much more enjoyable and much safer than talking.
The next few minutes were spent in getting Merlin out of his clothing, which was not as easy as Arthur had thought it would be, mainly because Merlin was also trying to unclothe Arthur at the same time, and neither of them seemed to want to stop kissing. After a frustrating moment when Arthur realised that he'd somehow managed to get his own leg into Merlin's trousers whilst Merlin's leg was actually still in them, he lost his temper a bit, shoved Merlin down onto the fur rug, and tore the whole thing off down the seam.
"I'll get you new ones," he said quickly, as Merlin began to protest, and then glanced at the bed in contemplation. It was still covered in flowers, some of them with thorns, and Merlin did look as tempting against the fur rug as Arthur had thought he would, so Arthur quickly fetched a small bottle of oil from the cupboard beside his bed, and sat down beside Merlin.
Merlin was now looking embarrassed and uncertain and whilst Arthur was charmed by the way Merlin's blush spread down onto his chest, he was also a little worried that Merlin might try to bolt. But instead, after giving Arthur a shy smile that made his heart jump in his chest, Merlin leant forward and began to press kisses along Arthur's throat, and Arthur closed his eyes in pure delight.
Merlin's mouth and tongue were positively sinful and Arthur spent a few blissful moments imagining what they would feel like against other areas on his body, before he finally remembered the bottle in his hand. He popped the cork, poured some oil onto his hand, reached down and gripped Merlin's dick, giving it a few firm strokes, and Merlin promptly shuddered and came.
There was a moment of silence and then Merlin groaned and flung himself down onto his back on the rug.
"I'm sorry," he breathed, gazing at Arthur ruefully, and Arthur smirked.
"Don't be, I'm flattered," he said, smirking even more as Merlin rolled his eyes, and then he crawled up over Merlin's prone body and nipped his ear.
"I'm not finished with you yet, Merlin," he whispered, before taking Merlin's mouth in a deep kiss.
He lowered himself onto Merlin's body slowly, delighting in the warm friction of Merlin's skin against his, as they moved against each other, and that was almost enough. But Arthur still had one goal in the back of his mind, and when Merlin took Arthur's hand and moved it down his body and between his legs, Arthur knew that Merlin wanted the same thing.
At the first slide of Arthur's finger into Merlin's arse, Merlin stopped moving and gasped. Arthur kissed him hungrily, his tongue sliding against Merlin's, and waited, and finally he felt Merlin relax. Not long after that and Arthur slid in a second finger, and this time when Merlin moaned and arched against him, Arthur knew that this was going to get really good.
Merlin was practically writhing against him, panting into Arthur's ear, and he'd wrapped his long legs around Arthur's hips, which was just as wonderful as Arthur had thought it would be, and he really couldn't wait a moment longer. He pulled his fingers out of Merlin, moved himself into place and pressed forward, fighting to go slowly. Merlin was still for a moment, his hands grasping at Arthur's shoulders, and then he took a deep breath and relaxed, as Arthur pushed deeper and then began to move.
"Yesss," Merlin hissed into Arthur's ear. "So good."
Arthur grinned at the surprise he could hear in Merlin's voice and raised his head to look down at him. Merlin's eyes were closed and his soft, wet lips were parted as he gasped in pleasure, and it was one of the most beautiful sights that Arthur had ever seen.
Arthur groaned and pressed his lips against Merlin's, swallowing his moan as Arthur's hips snapped forward, again and again. Merlin's arse was so tight and so hot and Merlin was clenching around him in the most amazing way and Arthur really wasn't going to last very long at this rate.
Arthur could feel that Merlin was hard again, and he slipped his hand between them and gripped Merlin's dick once more. A couple of strokes later and Merlin's arse tightened around Arthur as he came messily into Arthur's hand.
The sight of Merlin's face, slack with pleasure, and the sound of his soft moans made it impossible for Arthur not to follow Merlin into a climax that almost had him seeing stars.
Eventually he all but collapsed onto Merlin, who luckily didn't seem to mind, for he simply wrapped his arms around Arthur, sliding his hands along Arthur's sweaty back in a way that felt positively wonderful. Arthur felt as if he could stay there forever and he huffed to himself in amusement as he realised that he seemed to have become just as big a girl as Merlin.
Still, Arthur reflected, as Merlin's lips pressed against his throat, if what they had just done was anything to go by, the situation certainly had its benefits. So instead of worrying about something so ridiculous, Arthur decided to better spend his time by telling Merlin exactly what they could do next and exactly how much they were both going to enjoy it.
The flowers stopped, and they had the happy ending just like in one of those soppy fairy tales. With manacles.
And Arthur was perfectly satisfied with that.
And so was Merlin.