Arthur is attending school, when it happens. He's at Harvard, studying law and politics because Arthur will always have the instinct to rule and to do what is right and to uphold the law. He's twenty-three and studying in his room, a heavy book open across his desk and his head bent over it, pen caught between his teeth.

The air grows suddenly heavy, a wind springing from thin air to ruffle Arthur's hair and send bits of loose-leaf paper dancing off the edge of the desk to float gently to the floor. Arthur twists, surprised, around in his chair to find a tree growing forth from the middle of his bedroom floor.

Arthur stares, brow scrunched up, but he isn't afraid.

Arthur has been afraid very little in his life. Not when he faced off against older boys through school, sticking up for the quiet, docile boys that wore glasses and seemed too smart for their own good. Not when he stood, glaring down his father, at age sixteen and informed him that he would not raise his hand to her again. Not when three men with rifles appeared in the quad his third semester at University, taking six lives before Arthur had disarmed them all, not that Arthur would ever take the credit for such an act.

There was no fear then, there is no fear now.

The tree grows, ripping through the building around it, and Arthur waits, the air thick with an expectant force. For a moment, it seems like the world has stilled, that there is nothing else that matters as the tree grows and Arthur waits, and then… then the tree stills.

The tree is tall, its trunk thick, and despite the fact that it has appeared out of nowhere, it looks very old. Its bark is rough and weathered, its branches long and gaunt like human limbs. It might be an oak, but it looks like no other oak Arthur has ever seen before.

Arthur has the feeling that it is not over, not quite yet. He is still waiting, though for what he doesn't know. He is almost impatient, his fingers twitching where they rest against his thighs. The minutes roll by and the tree is still.

"Oh, just get on with it," Arthur growls out, becoming fed up.

The tree shudders at his voice. The bark of its trunk begins to expand, as if something were pushing at it from the inside. It expands until it breaks open, splitting like a wound, and a pale hand pushes through the wood.

It is a male's hand, the fingers long and elegant. A second hand appears and then arms and then a dark head, a naked body as the man struggles to climb forth from his prison.

Arthur doesn't move to help, he just waits. The man falls to the floor of Arthur's bedroom, free at last. His hair is long, a tangle of thick, black curls. He tilts his face up, raising a hand to push the hair from his face. Arthur's breath catches.

He is beautiful, with impossibly sharp cheekbones, a nose that is just slightly crooked, and a sinful mouth, lips red and leaving Arthur wanting. His eyes are glowing gold, impossibly bright, but even as Arthur watches the gold bleeds from them, leaving them blue, so very, very blue.

The man's lips part and he breathes out a single word, as if it is the meaning of life and all that is good and beautiful, "Arthur."

It is as if Arthur has been struck by lightning. He cries out and falls to his knees as sensations run through him. A lifetime of memories, of feelings and emotions, hopes and dreams, hit Arthur all at once and he doubles over, gasping and shaking and crying from it all.

Hands, strangely strong and unyielding, catch upon his shoulders and draw him upright. The touch grounds him, settles everything into place, and Arthur stares into endless blue eyes and remembers.

"Merlin," he says, reaching out as well. The fingers of one hand curl around Merlin's bicep, while the other finds its way into his hair. Long, so long, and strange on Merlin, but his fingertips ghost across the tips of Merlin's ridiculous ears poking through the curls and a laugh bubbles over. God, it's been so long.

"Arthur," Merlin repeats, though this time with desperate need and he jerks Arthur forward and they're kissing, mouths pressed hard and hot against one another's, opening and begging. Tongues search and fumble, hands grapple and hold and cling.

So long. So long since Arthur has been here, since he has held Merlin and kissed Merlin and touched Merlin. Too long, far too long, and never will they be separated again. He swears it in mumbled, incoherent words against Merlin's lips, but Merlin hears them, nods and pulls him closer.

Dimly, Arthur is aware that he has been called again, that the world is in need of him again, but that can wait. Everything else can just wait. All that matters now is Merlin, that Merlin is in his arms and beneath his hands again.

Arthur surges up, mouth moving harder, faster, rougher. He wants and he needs. Now, right now.

Merlin's skin is soft, like silk under his hands. He grips Merlin's hip, feels the sharp, fragile bones beneath his palm, and pulls. Merlin moans softly into his mouth, going freely with the motion so that he's straddling Arthur's lap, fingers twisting into Arthur's hair.

Arthur mouths along Merlin's jaw, feels the slight rasp of stubble against his tongue and shudders all over. He has to bring a hand up and brush the curls away from Merlin's neck so that he has access to the long column of his neck. He wraps his fingers in the soft locks, pulling gently, words a murmur against Merlin's skin, "The hair is new."

"I," Merlin gasps and withers, looking dazed as he throws his head back further. His mouth works silently before he manages to answer, "A-after Mordred," he jerks and inhales sharply when Arthur bites at his pulse point and then sooths the sting away with his tongue, tracing circles that make Merlin gasp and tug on his hair, "I w-wondered for a few years. It just kept growing."

Arthur hums and Merlin's hips buck against his own. "I like it. Gives me something to pull," he accentuates his point with a sharp tug and Merlin cries out. Arthur grins, loves seeing Merlin like this, strung out and needy, so wanton for him.

Merlin's hands are fumbling, his brow furrowing as he struggles with shaking hands and the buttons on Arthur's shirt. He snarls in frustration and his eyes flash that brilliant gold again as he all but growls, "Arýpan."

The shirt tears open, buttons flinging everywhere, and it's as if Merlin's magic, caged inside his body and the oak for so long, breaks free. It rushes out, like water over a dam, and Arthur shudders as it crashes against his skin, caressing and teasing. It curls around him in tendrils, eager to touch him and please him, sending shocks of pleasure into his skin. Merlin's hands glide over his skin, fingers mapping out the planes of his chest. The flick over his nipples, light and teasing and barely there, and Arthur groans, arches into the sensation, his own hands falling to Merlin's ass, pulling him closer but it's not close enough.

Never close enough.

Merlin's magic is working eagerly, now. It vanishes the clothes from Arthur's body, dissolving the fabric away. Merlin's mouth finds his own again, kisses hard and desperate, tongue pushing in frantically. Arthur's fingers dip lower, teasing into the cleft of Merlin's ass. They brush over his opening and Merlin is nearly sobbing in his arms, begging, Arthur, Arthur, Arthur.

Arthur lifts, rises to his feet with Merlin in his arms, the action so effortless Merlin's magic must be helping him. Merlin gives a little cry, his legs wrapping automatically around Arthur's waist as Arthur carries him the two steps to his bed. He throws Merlin down upon it, kissing him quickly, can't resist, before turning him over onto his hands and knees.

Arthur kneels between Merlin's legs, strokes a hand along his flank. He palms an ass cheek in each, thumbs teasing down in between, before he parts them and ducks his head to lick across Merlin's hole.

Merlin cries out, sobs, his fingers curling into sheets as he bucks and shakes. The taste is dark and musky, so familiar that Arthur groans aloud and does it again. He licks Merlin open with broad strokes and teasing ones, sliding one hand around to rub at Merlin's hipbone, thumb pressing in circles that drive the sorcerer mad.

"Please," Merlin begs, "Please, Arthur, please."

It's so pretty Arthur can't say no, thrusts his tongue in hard and deep. Merlin gives a sharp cry, back arching beautifully. Arthur curls his tongue and Merlin jerks, he fucks it in and out of him, until Merlin is shaking and panting and completely incoherent, and then pulls away. Merlin keens lowly at the loss, but Arthur is already sliding a finger in, straight up to the knuckle.

And Merlin just takes it, moaning softly and twisting his hips back, wanting more. And Arthur's going to give it to him. He pushes in another finger, feels the drag of too little spit and before the thought has even finished crossing his mind, his fingers go wet with oil.

It doesn't take him long before he has three fingers in Merlin, twisting them and stretching Merlin open as he moans brokenly. He pulls them free, and grabs at Merlin, one hand at his hip, the other curling around the curve of his shoulder. He pulls roughly, hauling him up against his chest, so that Merlin's straddling him again, head thrown back against his shoulder.

Arthur holds his cock with one hand as he urges Merlin down, both of them groaning as Arthur slides up and in. Merlin's hands fumble, one finding Arthur's thigh and digging in, nails biting into the skin, and the other reaching around for Arthur's hip. They don't stop, not until Arthur is all the way inside; only then do they pause, Arthur's face pressed into the side of Merlin's neck, both panting and on edge.

When he feels like he can move without coming, Arthur twists the fingers of one hand into Merlin's hair, grips his hip hard with the other, and guides him up. Merlin gasps, his thighs shaking on either side of Arthur's own, as he slides up, until the flared head of Arthur's cock is just barely stretching the rim of his hole. Arthur pulls him back down roughly, thrusting up hard at the same time, fingers tightening, pulling and bruising.

Merlin screams and shakes and comes, shooting white across his stomach and the bed without ever being touched. Arthur urges him back up and then down, again and again until Merlin finds the rhythm on his own. Merlin looks beautiful like this, lost in pleasure, his skin glowing with sweat and magic. He reaches for Merlin's soft cock, fingers wrapping around. He jerks him in time with his thrusts, hard and fast until Merlin's thickening in his hand, growing hard again, moaning and jerking against him.

Arthur is close, so close. He uses the hand twisted up in Merlin's curls to push Merlin forward, until he's on his stomach with his ass in the air again. Arthur thrusts back in with one push, fisting Merlin's cock and growling into his ear, "Come."

Merlin shakes his head, "C-can't. Too soon."

"Come, Merlin," Arthur ordered darkly and Merlin sobs out as his dick jerks in Arthur's hand, sputtering pitifully. Merlin tightens all around him and Arthur chokes out a cry as he shudders, pressing his forehead into Merlin's back as his orgasm hits him.

They both collapse onto the bed, curling together. Arthur moves to pull out, but Merlin catches his hand and whimpers and he goes still again. He noses hair out of the way so he can kiss the back of Merlin's neck.

"I missed you," he whispers.

It's true. Avalon was beautiful, but it had been dreadfully boring without Merlin and time had passed slowly there. He had ached for Merlin every day. The ache lingers, even now, but it will fade with time. Arthur's arms tighten around Merlin and he kisses his favorite patch of skin behind Merlin's ear.

They won't be pulled apart again. Arthur will see to that.