A/N: Thanks to the lovely Naelany who did a quick 'n' dirty beta job on this, and to Fr333bird who inspired me to write with her wonderful Percival x Sefa OS. Also, love to Donnersun, who made me watch Merlin in the first place, tucked up on her beach house sofa in Duck.
It was difficult to see her again, especially in so tortured a position. The quest to free Mithian and her father from the grasp of Odin - and, gods, Morgana - had come upon him so suddenly and ferociously he'd hardly had the time to process his feelings.
When he'd first seen the princess, dressed all in white, her beauty had pained him. She was in Camelot to marry Arthur, unite their kingdoms and bring peace. It made him sick to his stomach when he was forced to attend dinners, hunting trips, tours of the castle with her. Because despite every single detail of her trip to Camelot, not to mention her status, negating any relationship they could have outside of courtly acquaintance... he wanted her.
When Arthur was loyal to his heart and turned Mithian away, Leon was overwhelmed with gratitude to the gods. If their union had gone ahead, there would be no chance he could have stayed in service to Arthur, and he despised himself for it.
But he could not deny his reaction to her. It was fierce, vicious and yet utterly sublime. Her arched brows, the delicate, white skin of her hands, the dimples which accompanied only her widest smiles, her slender, willowy figure, the dark ringlets which swayed down to her waist... he was bewitched. And she was fascinating in person, too. When he'd seen she could shoot as well as she danced, he knew there was no recovery for his heart.
And now she was back. Safe, thank the gods, and resting here in Camelot for a short while before she would travel home with her father, and out of Leon's gaze perhaps forever. He'd been following her with his eyes for days now, and could hardly conceal his interest. At least, he couldn't from Gwaine, who seemed to sniff out scandal like a bloodhound.
The teasing had started at supper the night after they returned to the castle. His fellow knight had leaned close to him, taking an unnecessarily huge bite out of a chicken leg while he did it, and said, with his mouth full,
"She's still single, you know."
He'd choked on his carrots, and coughed as Gwaine grinned and patted him on the back. Eventually, he regained his breath.
"Who?" Unconvincing, even to him.
"Don't give me 'who?' You know who. Her Royal Highness, over there."
Leon frowned at his plate. "It matters not."
"Oh, my poor, poor brother." Gwaine smiled knowingly down in a manner which made Leon want to decorate his face with mashed potato. "Since when has a princess ever not wanted the, uh, company of a knight?"
Leon glanced up too quickly to disguise his interest. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, you dolt, that you should offer your services. It's fun! Those high-and-mighty girls are often a riot in the sack. And they seem so sweet..."
Gwaine adopted the faraway look which graced his handsome features whenever he was reminiscing some portion of his extensive romantic history. To be truthful, he made Leon feel greatly inadequate. He was so easy with women; it was as if his knowledge of his own infallibility made him irresistible. Sometimes when the knights were all out together they'd bet him, try to find a woman who would turn him down... yet so far he was undefeated.
The other knights, too, seemed to find more luck. Percival was huge and so muscular, but he was also playful and boyish, which helped him enjoy the females of the kingdom whenever he liked. Elyan was charming, a little mysterious, and cheeky, and the three of them usually had a cadre of local girls eating out of their hands as they detailed their adventures.
And then there was Leon, sitting off to one side, awkwardly answering any questions they asked him but never really feeling like he could show off in that way. He wasn't ugly of face, he thought, but he wasn't handsome in the way of the other three. So he became known as a solitary, single man. And his heart, which Mithian had unknowingly rode back to Nemeth in possession of, was still absent as he stole a glance at her over the great table.
Gwaine wasn't giving up on him, however.
"Why don't I have a quick conversation with the lady working her chamber?" The guests had servants assigned to them as they had come in great haste, without a party of their own. "She'll pass on your name - in a purely discreet manner, of course - and then Mithian can decide for herself... it's a very common, um, practice."
To Leon the idea seemed tawdry and devoid of the romance and ageless propriety he associated with courtly love. And yet the chance - the vague, tiny chance - that she might want to spend some time with him in that way... he was unsure as to whether he could resist.
Gwaine almost spat out his mouth full when Leon nodded. He was tired of longing for someone seemingly unreachable; perhaps, he thought, if she turned him down he could regain some of his heart and move on a little from his ridiculous obsession. And if she said yes... well, he could hardly consider it. He turned to Gwaine, but he was already out of his seat under the guise of fetching more wine. Leon blushed as he watched him talk to Mithian's maidservant, winking as he told her of Leon's offer. She returned the saucy expression, laughed heartily at something Gwaine said, and nodded as she passed him a jug to facilitate his excuse.
It did not help Leon's feelings of inadequacy. Why couldn't he have Gwaine's easy charm? He seemed to sway like a birch in a breeze - more beautiful for its ruffling effect.
They broke for the evening's entertainment shortly afterwards, retiring to the great hall for music and games. Leon was slowly beginning to feel the effects of the wine at supper and his efforts to remain subtle were progressively scotched; his eyes were always drifting to her. He reasoned Arthur was married - the worst she could do was accuse him of looking - but he did avert his gaze when he saw her maid speak quietly in her ear once the entertainment was underway. He felt her look like a flaring fire and turned to catch her, momentarily losing himself in her amber-brown eyes. She licked her lips and visibly coloured, blinking rapidly and forcibly redirecting her attention elsewhere.
Leon's throat felt like it was closing. His embarrassment at her refusal was acute. Before this moment, she could star in his daydreams, his fantasies, and there would be the small, flickering hope that one day, somehow, she would understand she should be his. That was utterly dashed now, and his grief seemed epic. He hadn't felt this bad since a teenager, and the pretentiousness of it disgusted him. He grabbed the goblet in front of him, downed it in one swallow, and stalked from the hall, his face hot.
Gwaine found him in the basement, taking chugs of liquor and staring at a mouse who was attempting to negotiate a rather large crust into a hole in the stonework.
"You're a dreadful dolt, you know that?"
Leon glanced up for a second before resuming his sad gaze. He didn't reply.
"I mean, you get me to tell her what you're offering and then you bloody run away and change your mind! Why did you go off her?"
"I... I... what?!" Leon's mouth wouldn't close.
"You ran off!"
"Did you see the way she looked at me?!"
Gwaine frowned, puzzled.
"She was horrified! It was written all over her face. Now, leave me alone."
The other knight's laughter was irritating in the extreme, and it was a very good thing that Leon was not in possession of his sword at that moment. "Gwaine..." he growled, standing up to his full height and towering over his supposed friend.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, lad." Gwaine rested his hand on Leon's shoulder. "You've got it wrong. That's all."
"I know!" He shoved off Gwaine's hand. "What was I thinking?! What were you thi-"
"No! Gods, you can be a clot." Gwaine interrupted. "The lady asked her maid to pass on a message to me. She would like, if your offer remains, for you to come to her chambers."
Leon was very glad of the wall behind him as he stumbled back.
"Yep. I suggest you take a bath."
Leon's chest was such a swirling mess of emotion he could hardly breathe.
"And, don't come inside her."
He was always slightly amazed at the ease with which Gwaine talked about sex, and it momentarily distracted him from the magnitude of the past minute's discussion. He nodded, open-mouthed, and ran up the stairs two at a time making for his quarters at a jog.
As he stood outside the princess's chambers an hour later, the tips of his hair still wet, his nerves rose in his throat. He prayed quickly that this was not some sort of trick Gwaine was playing on him as he lifted his hand to knock gently.
The door was opened by Mithian's maid, who announced him then left, walking down the corridor with a knowing glance behind her.
Leon stood awkwardly just inside the door, having stiffly bowed. It was Mithian who spoke first. She did seem so good at soothing difficult situations.
"Good evening, Sir Leon."
He found his voice at last.
"Just Leon, please, my lady."
She smiled. His chest twinged. "Well, I shall insist you call me Your Highness throughout our time together, of course."
He nodded rapidly, before suddenly realising she was joking. He closed his eyes and let out a long breath.
"Your Highness, I-"
"Mithian, please. Or Mitha."
"Mitha." Her nickname brought some relief to his lips. "I'm sorry if I seem... inexperienced. It is not that I have never lain with a lady before, but..."
She stepped near to him, watching quietly as he struggled to put words to his fears.
"...I have never entered into an arrangement such as this."
Mithian's eyes were amused as they roamed his body. She moved closer again. His hands twitched at his sides.
"Well, how would you kiss a lady... if you were to meet her under... other circumstances?"
Was she inviting him to touch her? Gods. He swallowed, tightened his jaw, and decided to cast caution aside. When would he be alone with heragain like this? If she decided his manner was too abrupt, too rough, she could order him away. Leon was never lacking in courage, if nothing else.
He grabbed her waist and pulled her body flush against him before tilting up her chin and pressing his mouth to hers. The feeling was overwhelming and he pulled her closer still, running his hands down her back and into her hair, pulling away just enough to break the kiss and begin a new one just as quickly, breathlessly cradling her tightly against him as his longing breached his lips.
Finally, as she moaned out loud he located his senses and dropped his arms with shock, appalled at how he'd manhandled her. She stood stunned, lips swollen and panting as he held his hands up in apology.
"Princess, I'm sorry-"
"Again." Her voice shook as she closed the distance between them and ran her hands up his chest and onto his shoulders.
Her upturned face was dreamlike and passion-drunk, and he took it between his hands, his thumbs fitting into her dimples as she smiled. She kissed his chin over his full beard, and then, on her tiptoes with him bent forward, she whispered in his ear, "again."
This time he was slower, more deliberate. He ran his nose up the white column of her neck, breathing in deeply and flicking his tongue out to taste her. For a moment, he captured her gaze, their lips poised apart, sharing breaths. He tried to memorise her eyes, woodland brown, but with a shine of bronze in the candlelight, before surrendering to her once more and bringing their lips together. He kissed her with no hesitation, taking her full bottom lip between his teeth, lightly grazing her tongue with his, until she seemed to melt into his body. He slowed his movements. Surely she must feel his arousal, pressing against her stomach? He got his answer a moment later when she slid a hand between them and stroked his length, gripping him in such a way that he groaned into her mouth. She grinned, devilish.
"I wanted to make sure you weren't the only one who could elicit such noises from the other."
He could feel the blush colouring his skin.
"I'm sorry," Leon started, pulling her close again, unwilling to lose the feeling of her body against his. "I don't think you understand the extent to which I admire you... I have admired you... Mitha."
She raised one eyebrow, challenging him, but her eyes were kind.
"You think me agreeable?"
He laughed, and pushed curls escaped in their passion behind her ears. "I think you perfection."
She glanced down.
"I do not mean to make this awkward - I know our situation, and status."
She still had not looked at him.
"I merely wish for you to enjoy tonight, with me, my lady."
The last brought her eyes - large and... sad? - again to his, and she nodded softly before taking his hand and pulling him across the room towards her bed.
He couldn't let her expression stay woeful, however, on this only night of theirs, and swept her up into his arms, grinning at her delighted shriek. Peppering her face with kisses, he strode to the bed and laid her gently down in the centre, marvelling at such a fantasy brought to life.
She bit her lip and looked a little mischievous herself for a second as he stood at her bedside.
"The knights of Camelot have a reputation for gallantry and great strength, do they not?"
"Then may it be proved to me?"
"And how could such strength be proven?" He played along, enjoying her silliness immensely.
"Well, I think the proof would really be in the form of an example. Perhaps, in the shoulders or chest of such a man..."
She trailed off and he smiled widely. He may not have Gwaine's handsome face or Percival's huge height, but his body was hard and strong and would not disappoint her. He dropped his belt to the floor and pulled his tunic and shirt over his head, standing before her to display his form.
Mithian rose up onto her knees on the edge of the bed, grabbing his hand and pulling him close to her. Her fingers hovered over his chest before she gave in and touched him, running her hands down his stomach, across the ridges of muscle around his belly button and his narrow hips. With her hands so close to his cock he had to concentrate hard to stop himself pushing her down onto the bed. She wished to explore him; they had all night long. He refused to rush a moment of it.
But he didn't have to deny himself long. She trailed her fingertips up his arms, over his shoulders and around his neck before pulling him onto the bed with not inconsiderable strength.
Leon growled as he finally had her beneath him, her breasts, her stomach, her thighs, pressed against his body. He found his mouth at her throat, kissing her skin lower, lower, until his lips met the swells of flesh pushed up by her dress. He took a second, trying to control his lust, as she reached between her breasts and undid the little buttons holding the fabric closed. He watched with wonder as more of her was revealed until, finally, the light pink of her nipples emerged and her breasts were free. He took one in his mouth without hesitation, suckling gently while gripping her waist and grinding his cock against her. She tasted sublime as he swapped to nurse at the other breast, pulling her nipple to hardness with his tongue as she arched her back and pressed herself into him.
"Leon!" She gasped, her hands in his hair, "please, gods... so good..."
At her words he remembered himself and released her breast, kissing her chest and stomach as he worked lower, unbuttoning her dress with unsteady hands. She pulled the sleeves down her arms and then pushed the opened fabric over her hips as he pulled it down... and suddenly she was naked before him. He'd edged down the bed while helping her remove her clothes and now found himself level with her cunt, covered in thick, dark curls. He could smell her arousal as she moved her legs nervously and he refused to grant her more than a second of uncertainty.
"My lady," he kissed her thighs, gently encouraging her legs to part as he looked up at her face, "your beauty is such as I have never seen in this world... may I taste you?"
Her mouth opened, quickly enough to breathe, "yes," in a stuttered voice, before adding, "but only if you're as bare as I."
His underwear was on the floor in seconds, as he moved between her legs and eased open her cunt with his tongue. Her scent and taste were glorious and he felt his cock throbbing with want as he began to explore her, eliciting gasps and moans with every stroke. After just a few minutes, however, he felt her hand on his shoulder.
"Leon, I want... I want to come with you inside me... please..."
Her breathless plea caused his cock to twitch, and he dove over her wiping his mouth with his fingers then licking them clean. He settled between her legs, and as his cockhead nudged her open her arms came up around his body. As he began to push inside her, they both tensed, the pleasure overwhelming and the heat and wetness beyond Leon's imagination.
He pushed further, slowly beginning to thrust his way forth until he felt his hips flush with hers and their bodies fully joined. He tried to hold back, tried not to let his feelings through but they overpowered him, and as he moved he resigned himself to making love to Mithian. His movements followed her gasps; his speed and power taken from cues her body gave, and as he reached between them to rub mercilessly where they met he knew he'd never seen so perfect a sight as the gasping, shaking, shuddering woman he held.
Knowing he was close, he pulled himself from her and grasped his cock with his fist, but she surprised him by taking his length in her own hands and stroking him faster, her eyes burning. A moment passed and he roared his release, before collapsing, his face buried in her neck as he spoke her name like a prayer.
When their breathing calmed, he rolled aside and gathered her in his arms, their sweaty bodies sliding together. She held him tightly as he stroked her back and tucked the blankets around her.
He pulled away just enough to see her face.
"I mean, I know you must, but... not until I fall asleep?"
"Of course, my lady."
"I want to imagine a world where you were really mine, and I could have you like this every night."
"Princess, if such a place existed, I would ride for a hundred years to find it."
She nodded, and he kissed her hair, her nose, her mouth.
"Leon, have you not a woman you love."
He smiled ruefully.
"Yes. She is perfection."
Mithian's smile was a little bashful.
"Yes. From her arched brows to the tips of her toes."
She ran her fingertips over his chest.
"Arthur broke the rules, didn't he?"
"What are you saying?"
"That not everything must be by the book."
This time, it was she who kissed him, her fingers clinging to his arms as he held her close. When they finally broke apart to breathe, she rested her forehead against his, and sighed softly.
"Let me find a way."
He nodded, dumbstruck, as she settled against him to sleep. This night... this night had seemed unreal. These words doubly so.
"And Leon?" Her sleepy voice was adorable, and he kissed her temple tenderly as she twined her legs with his. "Thank you."
He smiled against her soft skin, utterly content, as sleep claimed his thoughts.