Soft moans echoed through the King's quarters, mixing with the occasional sound of footsteps pacing down the stone corridor or the courtyard below. Fingers fumbled for control, pressing into pale flesh, and muscles tensed and relaxed in a steady rhythm. The quiet machinations did nothing to disturb the silence of the room — there were guards right outside the door, and the couple in question could not afford to get caught. It was the first time something like this had ever happened, and both were determined to make it last, as there would probably be no opportunity for a repeat performance.
Finally, a louder groan tore off the lips of the King and he collapsed, spent, on top of the other man, stroking him lazily to completion without pulling out. In mere moments, his partner was straining to muffle his own moans of pleasure, finally finding silence in the King's collarbone.
"That was..." The King made an abstract gesture to indicate just how much the proceedings had been to his liking. He pulled out carefully and lay flat on his back next to his lover, panting. He turned his head to take in the other man's gasping profile. "Where did you learn how to do that thing?"
"Which... thing?" His partner breathed out heavily, a strange euphoric giggle bubbling at the base of his throat.
"Don't play coy with me, you know perfectly well which thing I'm referring to. That thing with your tongue." The King hated cheek, especially when it came from the man that was currently heaving on his bedspread. "That thing that I'm quite sure nobody in Camelot would ever dare try."
His lover let out a quiet laugh:
"Nobody in Camelot, yes. Us village boys, we're not so proper like you people are. Imagine etiquette in bed! We know what we want and how to get it so we do it," he replied with a smile on his face. Turning to the side, he propped himself up on one elbow and looked down at the King's face. The escapade had been good for both of them, he decided. The King's boyish face had been marred with wrinkles and frowns that had no place on a visage so young, and now his skin had smoothened out to show just how young he was. How young both of them were.
"Well, I always told you that you were incapable of even the most menial of tasks but this, hah, I never thought a day would come when I'd say it but you do have a talent or two."
"That is perhaps the nicest thing you've ever said to me, Sire."
"Nonsense. I say nice things to you all the time."
"Oh, really?" The other man sat up, looking down at the King with a mock-thoughtful expression. "What was the latest compliment you paid me? I believe it was, 'you stink like a pig and you look like a raccoon, get out of my chambers and stay out until you've had a bath, you bumbling buffoon.' Yes, quite a nice thing to say to someone who's doing his very best to make sure you run the kingdom smoothly."
"You make it sound like you're the one who makes all the decisions."
"What do you think? The kingdom is its people, Sire. Gwen and I pull all the strings, you are just our puppet," the servant replied with a smirk on his face before receiving a cuff around the head. In response to the light violence, he just chuckled and settled into the warm sheets. "Your bed is amazing. Why have I never tried it before?"
"My bed? So that's the only reason you're here?" The King questioned, giving his lover an exaggerated pout. It looked completely ridiculous on the face of the Once and Future King and his lover let out a bark of laughter, albeit quietly, knowing that the stone walls and wooden doors were not exactly soundproof.
"Oh, don't you start with the puppy eyes, those only work on the foreign ladies that are so taken with your five-year-old personality. I know you far too well." The servant gave his sovereign a once-over, one eyebrow raised. "Well, I suppose the content of the bed is not too bad either."
"Not too bad?" The King scoffed. "I'll have you know I've never had any complaints, in fact, I have been told by many that I was the most skillful lover in all of the Five Kingdoms."
"Oh yes, King Arthur of Camelot, the love-them-and-leave-them harlot with eyes of blue and a soul of ice. Right."
"You doubt me?"
"I know you don't live up to the hype."
"That's it! You either take it back or I will have you flogged. Better yet, I'll do the flogging myself!"
"You—," The King's eyes widened comically. "Who would have known, our very own Merlin, a glutton for punishment."
"Only if it comes by your hand, Sire," the young man replied and pressed his lips to the King's bare shoulder before getting up and over the side of the bed to fetch a moist cloth for them to clean up with. It wouldn't do for the King of Camelot to spend all night sleeping with another man's semen drying on his stomach. Making quick work of the cloth, Merlin came back to bed and pressed it to the heated flesh of Arthur's abdomen, making the other man tense his muscles instinctively.
"No, it's not. Don't be such a ninny. And even if it is, some of us have to survive all our lives with only cold water for bathing," Merlin pointed out, drawing elaborate designs on his King's skin with the wet towel. Satisfied with his job, he carelessly dropped the fabric into the basin that stood next to the bedside table and settled back onto the sheets.
Before the silence got too awkward, Arthur swooped in and kissed him on the lips soundly.
"Oh, oh, oh goddess, that feels–,"
"If you... don't... hold... your tongue... Mer... lin... I. Will. Stop," Arthur gritted out, punctuating each word with a hard thrust of his hips that made Merlin keen and throw his head back in pleasure. The young man, though shy and slightly dumb, according to Arthur himself, in real life, had a completely different personality in bed – there was something about the way he sometimes took control, not directly, but by enticing Arthur and molding his actions to his will, that Arthur just couldn't quite put his finger on. It was as if Merlin was skilled in subtlety, yet the King knew for a fact that this particular statement couldn't be farther from the truth.
"No... you... wont," Merlin answered and clenched down, sending Arthur into a frenzy and eliciting a stream of curses from his royal lips. "My, such... language... Wonder what... tutors would... say."
Arthur's mouth broadened into a smile and he was about to start laughing when the door burst open.
"Your Highness–, Oh!" The servant girl stood rooted to the spot, unable to move or look away from the scene presented in front of her – namely, the King, bare naked, with his member buried deep within a servant boy. Merlin groaned. This was not happening.
"What the hell are you doing here, without knocking, no less?" Arthur hissed, withdrawing from Merlin's body sharply and making him wince in discomfort.
"The question is, Arthur, what you seem to be doing," another voice echoed through the chambers and Arthur's blood froze.
"Nephew." The lord strode into the room, completely unabashed by his King's nakedness and the quivering form on the bed behind Arthur. "Would you care to explain what this is?"
"I, um... We... Why should I explain anything to you? I am the King, after all," Arthur answered indignantly though stumbling over his words. This was not good in any way.
His uncle raised an amused eyebrow.
"The servant boy and Arthur, in bed, together?" Morgana's cackle echoed through the darkened forest, adding a more sinister quality to the setting. She herself was twitching as if she were about to break into a gleeful dance. "This is excellent news!"
"How so, my Lady?" Agravaine asked curiously, watching the witch blossom into cheerfulness right before his own eyes. It had been months since he'd last seen the woman's more happy disposition and, as any infatuated man, it pleased him greatly that he had been the bearer of such joyous news to his future Queen.
"Can't you see, Agravaine?" Morgana asked gleefully, her eyes blazing golden for a second. "The King's authority is only as strong as the people's trust in him. Imagine what the ordinary folk, or better yet, what the council and the knights will say when they find out that he has been caught in bed with his lowly servant?"
A smile split Agravaine's face.
"I trust you understand what your role in this will be, Agravaine?" The witch questioned, watching the man intently.
"Oh course, my Lady."
"By dawn, all of Camelot will know of the King's little escapade."
Arthur was starkly aware of the whispers that followed him down the hallway from his quarters to the great hall. Servants seemed to disappear into thin air when he walked their way yet his ears picked up the quiet murmurs that seemed to pursue him every step of the way. He gave a nervous chambermaid a stern look and she squealed frightfully before giving him a small smirk and slipping off into one of the side corridors. Arthur's eyebrows went up to his hairline. How dare that girl...?
The Knights all seemed to go dead quiet in their conversation when Arthur strode in. A guilty expression, one and the same, appeared on all of their faces as he ignored them, walking towards his throne. Gaius, who stood a bit off the side of the hall, averted his eyes, although Arthur could see that his back was tense. After all, Merlin was like a son to the man, and the King could imagine the physician being just a little bit more than upset for Arthur's ministrations on his ward.
Agravaine stood next to his throne, his face betraying nothing of what he was thinking. He managed to hiss a soft greeting to Arthur, his jaw working furiously.
"Please don't stop on my account," Arthur said to the Knights, watching them impassively as he leaned back against the soft cushion. The Knights lowered their eyes bashfully and scurried to strike up some sort of half-arsed discussion about attack tactics or something of the sort, which almost made Arthur roll his eyes. These Knights were sometimes worse than gossiping women. It was for that reason that Merlin had chosen to slip away in the morning, giving Arthur an apologetic look, and asking him for a day off to do Gaius's work instead. Surprisingly, Arthur had allowed him that one pleasure, maybe because he knew that Merlin would have had to face something much worse than council. Scullery maids and stable boys, all pointing at him with disdain. It was something Arthur always found fascinating – the dynamics among the servants. One could aspire to be a lord or a prince, but if one were to lie with someone of the higher ranks, they would forever be condemned to unfavorable name-calling and stigma among those of his own standing. Know you place, they would say.
"Leon, what is on the agenda for this morning? Please try to formulate actual sentences," Arthur ordered cooly, watching the knight scramble for words.
"Lord Neirys has asked for troops, sir. To defend his land from bandits," Leon replied, looking anywhere else but at the King.
"Nonsense. Lord Neirys has a better army than most of the landowners in the Five Kingdoms, therefore I fail to see why he would need us to save his overfed bottom form hoodlums," Arthur dismissed, noting how some of the men in the room cringed at the word 'bottom.' Wonderful, he said to himself, wanting to bang his head against the wall for such word choice. In the given situation, he would have to be careful.
"Anything else? I assume there is a reason for such a gathering when most of you would more likely want to be in the tavern on a Friday," the King said, trying to watch every guilty face in the room.
"Sire, there is the matter of extreme delicacy that–,"
"As I said, sire, the matter is very delicate–,"
"Yes, what is it?" Arthur was starting to enjoy the redness of Leon's face when his uncle's voice boomed behind his back:
"The matter of you having been seen bedding a servant, my Lord."
The hall went dead-silent.
"Yes, what of it?" Arthur asked, taking a sip of wine from his cup, trying to appear as nonchalant as possible though on the inside he was seething with righteous anger. If his uncle had taken the liberty of saying what had occurred so directly, it meant that everyone in the Kingdom was well aware of his and Merlin's... whatever it was.
"People are talking, Sire. They are questioning whether you are fit to be King." Agravaine drew a breath, and it almost looked to Arthur for a second that he was relishing the words that were about to fall from his lips. "After all, they all remember your attachment to Guinevere, I believe her name was? And they have noted how close you are to your servant. You are expected to marry royalty, my Lord. Not bed servant boys from faraway villages."
Arthur clenched his teeth:
"What I do in private is none of the people's concern."
"Forgive me, my Lord, but that is not quite the case. You are King, and with you, the personal is the public. You are to set an example for your people, and how can you do that with such indiscretions on your record?"
"I fail to see how my indiscretions make me unfit as a ruler."
"They don't make you unfit was a ruler, per se, my Lord. But your authority might be undermined. You do not appear trustworthy to them. You appear as a... How shall I put it mildly? A stable-robber."
"A stable-robber, my Lord. You take innocent boys from the stables and bed them."
"I do no such thing!"
"The public doesn't know that, my Lord. As far as they are concerned, this Merlin fellow is not the first and he won't be the last."
Arthur buried his face into his hand.
"What are you saying, Agravaine?"
"You are no longer an honest man in their eyes, and to the simple folk, honesty is one of the virtues a King must possess."
Arthur groaned. That thing with Merlin was but a momentary weakness fueled by many years of unresolved, very palpable, sexual tension. They had both agreed it would be a one-time tryst and that neither of them would walk away unsatisfied or upset in the morning. Now, suddenly, it looked like what had transpired had a lot more room for regret than they had initially thought.
Suddenly, the hallway doors opened and a guard ran in, a panicked expression frozen on his face.
"How dare you walk in on a council meeting without knocking?" Agravaine fumed on the behalf of the King, who simply sat, dumb-struck, in his chair, trying to mull over the possibilities of softening the mess they had gotten into.
"Mass fight, in the courtyard, sir! Forgive me, but–," He eyed Arthur warily. "Sire, your manservant, it's twenty on one, they are vicious and–,"
Seconds later, Arthur was out of the throne and halfway down the hall, sword at the ready, seething.
"What is this?"
The squabble stopped at once and the crowd froze before parting, leaving Arthur with a pitiful sight to behold: Merlin, lying on the dusty paving of the courtyard, shielding his head with his hands, his back shaking with pained sobs. The young man's clothing was ripped in several places and there was blood on his knuckles from what Arthur could see.
"I repeat, what is this?" Arthur asked angrily, watching the crowd suddenly dissipate.
One of the men stepped forward and the King was flummoxed to recognize a Camelot guardsman.
"Sorry for disturbing your meeting, m'Lord, we were just teaching the servant boy a lesson." He bowed.
"A lesson? And what lesson would you have to teach my manservant?" Arthur asked, walking towards Merlin's crumpled form on the ground and bending one knee to lower himself. He put a hand on Merlin's back and it pained him to see the way the other man shied away from the touch.
The crowd mumbled something unintelligible, something along the lines of 'thinks he's better than us' and 'regular whore.' Arthur closed his eyes and exhaled, calming himself.
"What right have you to judge a person's actions?" He asked.
"And why does the King care so much?" A voice asked from beyond the crowd. The crowd was too dense for Arthur to see who it had been.
"Why shouldn't the King care?" Arthur asked. Then, a brilliant idea struck his mind. "When the person in question is his betrothed?"
Silence fell once more.
Maybe not so brilliant after all.