Merlin is being attentive.
Just a little too attentive.
When the wine in his goblet dwindles and Arthur's just about to raise a hand for Merlin to come and attend to him, Merlin is suddenly beside him to refill it. When he is thinking of getting some extra bread for his meat, Merlin's already there with a few warmed slices for him as if he'd read his mind (Arthur would almost suspect sorcery, at that, but the thought of Merlin having magic, of all people, is just glorious because of how ridiculously ludicrous that idea is. And laughable, too).
It's very suspicious. Arthur tries to convey his skepticism and disbelief through the careful narrowing of his eyes and the raising of his eyebrows, but Merlin just smiles indulgently at him, all guileless and innocent. Endearing, even.
Oh, no, something is definitely up. Arthur is sure of it.
"Will there be anything else, my lord?" Arthur is appalled; Merlin is even lowering his gaze in a demure fashion, almost like the ladies of the court, hiding those brilliant blue eyes under the guise of a deferential gesture. He blinks for a moment, cursing himself for finding that oddly titillating, but reminds himself fervently that Merlin is most certainly working on some devious scheme to either embarrass him, or…
Merlin coughs, snagging his attention. "Prince Arthur?"
Arthur narrows his eyes even further, tilting his head and scrutinising Merlin thoroughly. "You're being awfully polite today, manservant mine," he says slowly, and thinks he sees Merlin's lips twitch. Aha. "Competent, too. Did you finally wake up from some hazy slumber to realise your potential at the serving table?"
"Just wanting to serve you the best way I can, my lord." Merlin's voice is solemn even as he grins, just this side of cheeky, and Arthur melts a little at that. Merlin is cheerful and naive, but he's not above using some of his considerable… wiles when it comes to Arthur, he knows. Sure enough, he leans in a little closer to Arthur, his voice a whisper as he asks, "Is that all for now, then, sire?"
Perhaps it's the way he not-so-accidentally brushes his lips against the shell of Arthur's ear when he pulls back, perhaps it's the way Merlin was leaning in, all heat and welcome warmth against Arthur's back, but Arthur's mind goes blank, just for a passing moment. "Um."
"You must be terribly bored tonight, sire." Smiling lazily and his expression turning thoughtful, Merlin makes a show of refilling Arthur's goblet again, as though he made a mistake previously. "You've been looking at me all evening, haven't you?"
"I have not," Arthur hisses quickly, looking around rather indelicately and hoping that no one heard that. Of all times Merlin decides to engage him in suggestive conversation over a meal, did he have to pick such a public feast?
Merlin's smile only grows wider at his reply, and Arthur feels something in him shrivel inside. Of course he would. Of course. Merlin has a sadistic streak few know about, but surely, surely he wouldn't—
This is a situation that calls for more wine, so Arthur raises his goblet and begins to down its contents in a slightly desperate fashion.
"You would say that," Merlin laughs, but it's husky and low and it's doing some very embarrassing things to Arthur's nether regions. Not that he would ever admit it to Merlin, of course. "Tell me, Arthur. Have you truly never thought about me on all fours, mouth on your cock under the grand table?"
Arthur nearly spits out his wine, both at Merlin's crass choice of words and the vivid imagery it provides. "Merlin!" he manages, but it seems to come out as a kind of strangled sound, instead.
Merlin's face, for once, doesn't betray him. He just looks carelessly absorbed, as if he's deep in thought and not saying all these heinous, scandalous things for Arthur's ears right now. Arthur is a little horrified, at that; his traitorous body is beginning to stir at the thought of Merlin grinning at him, finger to his lips as he crawls under the table, slides his way up Arthur's legs to unlace his breeches, to press a hot mouth there, right there, unbeknownst to everyone in the hall—
"Oh!" Merlin exclaims in mock surprise, as he knocks over a few grapes into Arthur's lap. "I do apologise, my lord, that was careless of me, completely my fault, you know how I am with grapes. They are evil things, very evil indeed."
Arthur shoots him a dark and significant look that he hopes conveys the full extent of how much Merlin is so absolutely not fooling him and would he please cease this outrageous display of attempting to seduce Arthur in front of everyone (even if they cannot tell he is doing so) at once, but then Merlin's bending forwards and his dark mop of hair is bobbing in front of Arthur and images are filling his mind and there's a palm moving with purpose along his thigh.
The movement ceases abruptly as Merlin pulls up, but not without his knuckles brushing against Arthur's ribs through his tunic as he does so. "All good, sire." Merlin's smile is sin as he turns it on Arthur, teasing, and Arthur thinks he can read all the different kinds of filthy promises in those lips, the different things Merlin is going to do to him when he gets Arthur all to himself.
It is suddenly rather too hot in the hall.
If Merlin is eyeing him is any indication (specifically, like a curious and exuberant hunter that has successfully snared his prey and is wondering when to swoop in for the kill), Arthur reckons he really does look as flushed as he's feeling. He probably shouldn't be appreciating this sly, predatory side of Merlin as much as he does, but there's something about Merlin being purposefully seductive and calculative that is tripping him up something bad.
He feels utmost affection for his manservant, he really does, but there are times he curses the fact that Merlin is the way he is: oddly attractive in his stumbling little ways, his possessing that sharp-quick tongue that lands him into trouble every so often, and the strange grace he sometimes exhibits when he's not being a complete klutz. Merlin is captivating, and he has always been the one thing, the one precious thing Arthur cannot ignore.
(After all, how could Arthur — or anyone, for that matter — ignore the lovely way Merlin kisses him? It's shy and demanding all at once, the way Merlin pushes for more and goads him, goads him like it's a challenge, like he wants him to earn him.
No one does that with Arthur, ever, and Arthur is falling and falling and completely unable to stop.)
Merlin is coy for the rest of the dinner, continuously weaving his way in and around serving Arthur and dropping tempting conversational morsels of what he'd like to do to Arthur like the little minx he is, leaving Arthur breathless. Arthur actually drops a knife at one point when Merlin is murmuring feverishly about tying himself up, would Arthur like that, spread out on his bed for his use, anything for you, sire, anything, and Arthur has to apologise to the court and say he slipped, or something, good God, Merlin will be the death of him, he privately swears.
It is rather difficult to get angry at Merlin, though, when all he can envision now when he looks at that brazen man is an expanse of pale skin below him, arching into the lines of his own body, hands fumbling and moving everywhere, a wet mouth uttering his name and all his string of titles in the throes of pleasure. Well.
Arthur is about ready to keel over at the feast and determined to severely punish Merlin for his shenanigans ("More hours in the stocks! That'll show him!" Arthur vows) when Uther finally dismisses everyone, calling an end to the festivities. As it is, Arthur sways off his chair, having ingested just a little too much wine for the night, and thinks he sees Merlin smirking at him from across the hall.
He scowls back as he shuffles into the corridor. Merlin just nods, licking his lips and waggling his eyebrows in a most suggestive manner. Arthur rolls his eyes, waves him to dismiss him as everyone else edges out of the hall in a veritable flood, nobles and servants alike, and fails spectacularly to ignore how he's so turned on right now he can't quite see straight. Bloody Merlin and his bloody innuendos.
The candles flicker for just a moment as he turns into the corridor towards his chambers, and Arthur thinks it's just a trick of the light as he stops, hand outstretched towards his door.
Next thing he knows, the candles are flaring, blazing in the darkness, and Merlin's stalking up to him, eyes dark and intent. "Arthur," he says roughly, right before he yanks Arthur roughly into the nearest alcove, nose and lips teasing points of heat on Arthur's neck, and Arthur'd be damned if his cock didn't jump at that, at the burning reminder of just how arousing Merlin's desire for him can be.
Arthur tilts his head back, feels Merlin's hands, ah, against his skin under his tunic, just like he'd promised at the feast, that exasperating cock tease. Those fingers are everywhere, brushing lightly against his chest, tracing the lines of his ribs, moving frustratingly close to where he wants to be touched but nowhere near enough. And Merlin's lips are working magic, magic of their own as he marks Arthur, bites a line of angry marks down Arthur's neck the way Arthur likes to be marked.
Arthur wraps his arms around Merlin, pulls him around to push him up against the wall of the alcove instead, feels an answering hardness against his own as he kisses Merlin, kisses him like a man possessed. He feels Merlin's smile against his mouth, feels Merlin deepening the kiss, rakes his fingers through that wild black hair and opens his eyes a fraction to see Merlin looking at him too, blue eyes hooded and unreadable and so utterly beautiful, it makes Arthur's heart ache.
They fit together delightfully like this in the darkness, moonlight streaming through little cracks in walls. Merlin nudges him playfully, tilts his head towards Arthur's room and pulls at Arthur's arm. "Come on," he says, and then they're in his chambers, they're against the wall, they're against the table, and finally against the bed. If Merlin is tearing off Arthur's clothes and if it seems a little faster than usual despite Merlin's shaking fingers, Arthur can't tell because then his breeches are finally off and Merlin's hand is there and this, this is what he's been thinking of all evening, this is glorious.
He bucks into Merlin's hand, makes a half-hearted attempt to undress Merlin too even with that clever touch on him driving him insane. Merlin bats his hands away after he unties Merlin's red neckerchief, the coarse fabric fluttering onto the bed. His insistent fingers are pushed away from Merlin's chest, pulled and locked behind him as Merlin holds them in place, moves against him sinuously. Slowly, agonizingly, Merlin nudges him gently towards the head of the bed, with his free hand snaking around Arthur to grip the headboard so tightly he thinks it must hurt, it simply must.
The friction and pleasure as they rock together is intoxicating. Merlin makes Arthur's heart stutter with desire and longing, makes him want him like he's never wanted anyone. It's wonderful, is the thought that flits through Arthur's mind in this haze of longing and lust. It gets so much more wonderful each time they repeat this, this dance they share.
Arthur can never get enough of Merlin.
Merlin's kissing him, kissing him hard and straddling him in a manner that's so much filthier, so much hotter than his half-remembered fantasies during the early hours of night. He's pressed against Arthur, warm and willing and—
—and pulling away?
"You're — Aren't you going to join me?" Arthur manages, horrified as Merlin breaks the kiss with intent, slides off the bed still fully-clothed and trailing knowing fingers down Arthur's naked arm as he does so.
Merlin's face is bright with mischief as he rights his tunic, lays a hand against the doorknob. "No, sire, I don't think I will." His eyes are sparkling too, though it's clear he's every bit as affected as Arthur is from the way he's breathing heavily. "You've been a naughty prince and all that, after all —"
"Merlin—" Arthur snarls, exasperated and half-hard and wanting. Realisation dawns, and his jaw drops in disbelief. "Wait, if this is because of my putting you in the stocks yesterday—"
Saluting him mockingly, Merlin skips out the door and trills, pleased as punch, "Good night, sire!"
Arthur looks down at his bed, looks down at himself, and groans.
Another goblet shatters when he throws it with force against the door. Arthur thinks he can hear Merlin's echoing, joyful laughter all the way down from the corridors.
Manservants these days.