Word Count: 3,370 words.
Notes: Merlin/Arthur PWP with not quite enough sex. Title from the Thirsty Merc song 'Waiting for You'. This has been languishing on my hard-drive for what seems like forever, so I am throwing my hands up in the air and posting it.
Summary: It would make more sense if he could attribute this to pure physical vice. It would be easier... but nothing is easy with Merlin.
When he’s allowed himself these thoughts in the past, he‘s pictured Merlin as all hard lines and angles. Bones that could stab, joints that could pierce. He didn't anticipate the gentle curve of his hip, the relaxed muscle of his belly, the soft skin everywhere, smooth to the touch. Merlin is contradiction and contrast and Arthur finds himself adoring that even as it troubles him.
It would make more sense if he could attribute this to pure physical vice. It would be easier. He knows that men are capable of lusting after other men, that soldiers make do in straitened circumstances, succumbing to their bodies' needs and compulsions. He is very much a man who understands the world through the rawness of muscle, sinew and bone; who finds peace in a punch, solace in rough-housing. But nothing is easy with Merlin --- hasn't been from the beginning --- and he supposes he should have realised this all along, that if they are to be this way there is nothing sensible or simple about it.
It isn't that this is entirely intellectual or philosophical. He has catalogued his body's reactions to Merlin's proximity, much as he's timed heart-beats and breaths during battle. A racing pulse, a rush of blood, a dizzying sense: he knows the significance. He's not denying that physical vice has involved itself in this decision. He has dreamt of Merlin's wine-stained lips, memorised the glide of his long, purposeful fingers. It's simply not the physical alone that has him sitting here at the edge of his bed, looking down at the man who has been, in every way, more than a servant to him. There are too many risks, there is that much at stake, there has been so much between them; if all it came down to was the promise of a kiss, a stroke of a hand, this would be weakness. He has fought his entire life not to be weak.
He's here because of more than a thrum of nerves, a fire within. He's here because this is important, it means something, and... it would be much easier if it didn't, but worthwhile things are rarely easy.
"I'm not..." Merlin begins. His lips turn down a fraction and he looks to the side. He's closed himself off from Arthur's gaze, but Arthur can see tension in the hunch of his shoulders, the curve of his back as he sits up and forward. "We don't have to do this."
"Of course we don't have to," Arthur says, steadily. His next words are not steady at all. "I want to. If you do."
"I did, before you started worrying me by prevaricating. It's not like you."
The snappishness, Arthur thinks, is Merlin attempting to lighten the atmosphere, though he can't discount genuine discomfort completely.
He reacts as he knows is anticipated. "Merlin, Merlin, Merlin, in your time as my servant you were supposed to dust the books, not attempt to learn from them. Prevaricating? Honestly."
Merlin draws his shoulders back. Arthur thinks it's unintentional, that he isn't aware he was hunched in the first place, that he has no idea the things he says when he's not speaking. How his devotion shines in every smile, anxiety in a twitch. Merlin can communicate volumes in a tilt of his head, purse of his lips, raise of his eyebrows.
"Arthur," Merlin says, chiding now, letting annoyance seep into his tone.
It shouldn't make his pulse quicken. It always has done.
"I want time," Arthur explains, leaning closer, raking his eyes over Merlin's form. He isn't as thin as his clothes and stance so often suggest. Long and hard hours of work have helped him develop muscle that may not be as extravagant as any of the knights', but speaks of power all the same. Not the power Arthur now knows Merlin commands, but a different, more grounded strength. "With you. Between us. The wait has been so long."
He can't argue against that. Arthur's read Merlin's hopes and fears just as he's tried to conceal his own. Winters have come and gone between them --- battles and tourneys and feasts. Through revelation and separation, a failed marriage and nearly shattered friendship. They've grown older, wiser, closer.
Arthur smudges his thumb against Merlin's cheek, mouths against the expanse of skin beneath his jaw.
"You're strangely poetical today," Merlin jibes even as he submits.
Arthur smiles against his collarbone. "Shut up or I will shut you up by force." He nips, wrestling a huff of breath from Merlin's taut throat.
"That might be my plan."
Arthur's trying very hard not to be disappointed that Merlin does not view this situation with the same level of gravitas he does. He shouldn't be surprised. Merlin's never really stood by ceremony. Why use someone's title when you could call them a prat? Obliged to wear formal clothing at a feast? No thank you. Even when he was ordered to leave Camelot and told he could never return he'd smiled sadly and said 'that's what you think'... No, it isn't exactly a surprise that Merlin's not revelling in the pomp, concentrating on the importance of the occasion. Merlin's probably wishing it was exactly as easy as it's not.
"You're a terrible tactician," Arthur says, because between a kiss and a lick he remembers they were holding a conversation and Merlin may stop again if he thinks Arthur's being weird when he's thinking.
"Arthur, you're going to have to face it sooner or later; I'm a master strategist. I'm already in your bed and I've only been back a month."
Arthur wants to know where Merlin learnt that, what experiences shaped him to make him think that this --- a sense of comedy akin with gallows' humour --- is not only appropriate, but warranted. He has made these sorts of jokes since they met. There was a time Arthur found them amusing, but right this moment they cut too close to the bone.
"Don't," he says. "Don't trivialise us."
Merlin stares up at him, gaze oddly calculating. He is at once the man Arthur has always and never known. There's sorrow in his scrutiny.
"I'm not, I would never. I just think that this needs to be more natural, less whatever it is you're building it up to be."
"Is it irony when a sorcerer wants something to be natural? I can never tell."
He knows it's one of the worst things he's ever said to Merlin the second the last word leaves his lips. He's done far worse things. Thrown a plethora of heavy metal objects, exiled him from the kingdom. And he's thought far worse. That Merlin is a traitor. But this is more than any of that, because he means it. Means it in the kind of way he can’t fight against, it’s ingrained, under his skin.
Merlin's eyes flash gold and Arthur feels his mouth sealing shut for a beat, two, until Merlin has flung himself to the side of the bed and is looking at him aghast. Arthur can't tell who Merlin looks more horrified with. He thinks he should be shocked --- Merlin just performed magic on him --- but he has been through all of that a thousand times before. A spring and a summer of that, of thinking about all of the things Merlin could have accomplished with his powers, but all he ever did was save his life, over and over again.
Perhaps the fight has gone out of him. Or maybe it's his innate understanding that Merlin would never do anything to intentionally hurt him.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't've..."
"No, I should be the one apologising," Arthur says, but he finds he still rubs his lower lip distractedly. He isn't angry with Merlin, not over an action that is like all the times he put his hand over Merlin's mouth during a hunt, or told him to shut up when he was making a good point, or ---
"I've never done that before, I don't know where it came from, sometimes my magic does things without me thinking --- but nothing magnificently terrible could happen without my consent, not that I'd ever give consent, I would die rather than see you hurt, please believe me, Arthur," Merlin babbles.
"I do, I know, Merlin, it was my fault." Arthur gathers Merlin in his arms and thinks about kissing him on the temple. "This isn't going to happen, is it?" he says, dully.
The 'this' is unspoken, but it's obvious. No matter how much he wants Merlin, how he needs for them to be as close as he’s wanted for years, how the trust between them must be re-established, the mood has gone.
Merlin looks at the bed and then up at Arthur through lowered lashes. "I don't think so." He shifts, presses his hand against the mattress like he's going to lever himself to stand.
"Sleep here," Arthur says. He can hear vulnerability in his voice, but cannot gather the wherewithal to care.
“Even after…” Merlin gestures at his mouth.
Arthur feels his upper lip twitching a fraction, another physical reaction occurring against his will.
“I’m not angry with you.”
“You are, though.”
“Not about this.”
Arthur can’t articulate why he’s still angry over the whole sorry situation. He understands why Merlin kept his magic a secret from him. He knows it tore him up inside. He forgives him and knows it was never betrayal, not really. He had missed him every moment he was gone, felt cold and empty inside. He trusts in the fact Merlin would never willingly see harm come to him, that his feelings for Arthur are as all-encompassing and unwieldy as his for Merlin.
But the anger is ever-present. A tight knot of tension and pressure, right alongside the little ball of want and it seems there’s nothing either of them can do to dissipate it, ease it away.
That’s why this was important. That is why he can’t make this a joke.
Merlin settles down again, but the air is thick with unspoken words. Arthur slides his fingers over his arm, cradles him close, and thinks about all the times he’s wanted to do this before; after a long day’s hunt, at the conclusion to a long and arduous tourney, during endless nights when Merlin was exiled. He’s wanted to pull Merlin close since the day they met --- though at that time he’d told himself it was to safeguard against an enemy.
“Are you going to sleep at any time?” Merlin asks, sounding peevish and exhausted.
“I don’t think I can. Tell me all about your travels. That will probably send me straight off to the land of slumber.”
Merlin shifts against him. Arthur steadfastly looks up at the canopy, knowing Merlin’s staring at him. He doesn’t want to meet his eyes. He had practically begged Merlin not to talk about his journeys and actions when away from Camelot. He had wanted to pretend that time had never happened. He thinks it may be one of the reasons he can’t let nature take its course.
“I travelled north,” Merlin says after a moment’s hesitation. His voice is soft and unsteady. “A friend of mine, Gilli, sent a message asking for help, so I went. There were wyverns attacking his village, picking the villagers off one by one.”
“And he asked for you?” Arthur scoffs, before remembering that of course he asked for Merlin, Merlin is actually an Exceedingly Powerful Sorcerer, who can command dragons, and therefore would probably be able to command a creature known for being much like a dragon’s cousin.
“Yes, he asked for me,” Merlin says, softer still. “And because someone wanted me, I went.”
“I want you.”
“You didn’t then.”
“I did. I hated myself for wanting you. Missing you. Forgiving you within a single day for years of lies.”
Merlin pulls out of Arthur’s embrace and manoeuvres so that Arthur can’t hide his expression, his honesty.
“A day, really?”
Arthur stares back at him and nods. He suspects Merlin can read him just as well, if not better, than he can read Merlin, because that is answer enough. There’s a dip in the bed and warmth by his side again.
“Does it truly count if you hated yourself for your forgiveness?”
Arthur grips Merlin’s hand a little too tight. “Yes. I hated myself. Never you.”
“I suppose I could live with that. Did you want to hear more about my dashing adventures?”
Arthur wraps Merlin closer. “Yes, please.”
“Please. Goodness. You must be exhausted.”
“Mmm. Pity you’re the worst storyteller I’ve ever had the misfortune of listening to.”
“I thought that title belonged to Gwaine?”
Arthur finds himself close to smiling, turning his head so he can press his cheek against Merlin’s. “Clearly he was merely a placeholder for the rightful victor.”
“Just for that, this story gets an hour and seven convolutions longer,” Merlin teases, before continuing.
He talks about the dangers he encountered whilst travelling, admitting that on several occasions he forgot he could escape easily by using his magic. He recounts hard-won battles and gained friendships, and even though Arthur had only been joking, he begins to doze, calmed by Merlin’s increasingly confident tones. There are still spaces between them, but as he drifts in and out of consciousness, Arthur thinks the distance may be shortening, that soon they’ll be as close as their bodies, and the thought warms him.
It’s still dark when Arthur wakes, left arm sore and cock hard as rock. He aches. He closes his eyes again and cants his hips without even thinking about it, lazy movements that increase the friction infinitesimal amounts. He’s rutting, shortly after that, rolling steadily against the firm something that isn’t quite enough… against Merlin, he realises moments too late. He stills, goes to rest further away on the bed, but Merlin makes a sound at the back of his throat and hikes his leg up and over Arthur, effectively pinning him.
“Don’t think, don’t talk,” Merlin mumbles against his neck, and then he’s sucking at the hollow, curling his tongue up and over the hard jut of bone lodged there that sometimes feels too tight, and Arthur can’t do anything except obey.
A hand is within his soft breeches within the shortest space of time, lightly calloused fingers closing over the head of his cock. Merlin teases like he always does --- in a sweet sort of way that is as endearing as it is perplexing. Arthur grunts and bucks into it, his eyelids flickering open. There’s light, now. Not sunlight. But a glow that suffuses the room, emanating from the bed out. It’s stunning, Merlin’s stunning, with lips that don’t quite look swollen enough. Arthur shifts until he can capture him in a kiss, nip into the plush pink of his lower lip. Merlin moans against his mouth, low and contented.
Merlin’s hand begins to stroke up and down his cock, sliding wetly and Arthur wonders how for a second, before he doesn’t wonder anything at all because instinct takes over and he shudders into another kiss. Merlin’s tongue is scandalous as it brushes between his teeth and against his own. Arthur drags his hand up into Merlin’s hair and grips tight, wanting to hold onto this moment forever.
He widens his legs as much as his breeches allow, makes a noise of annoyance. Merlin stops kissing and moves into a position where he can tug the material off Arthur’s hips. He’s dressed and undressed him countless times, but Merlin has never looked at him like this, as if he’s the solution to a puzzle he’s spent years attempting. His gaze is at once possessive, revelatory. It twists deep in Arthur’s insides, within his rib-cage, a hot rush of a feeling that is a thousand things, and all of them formidable.
“I’ve needed this, needed you for so long,” Arthur says, unable to get the words to sound stronger than a whisper. He wriggles his hips to help Merlin divest him of his breeches, ignores the twinge of a knee that’s suffered through too many battles.
“Shut up, Arthur,” Merlin replies, but matter-of-fact, not cruel. The heat in his eyes suggests that Arthur struck a nerve, but one of the good ones that Merlin’s currently exploiting in him.
Arthur’s finally naked, but Merlin is not, and for his smart mouth and wicked eyes, Arthur feels it’s time to turn the tables. He hooks an ankle around Merlin’s and flips him over. His muscles are tensed now, his angles ever-so-slightly more jarring, but he remains soft and smooth to the touch of Arthur’s fingers and tongue. His pale skin is blooming pink, his dark hair providing the contrast it seems he must always embody.
It’s difficult, tricky, to strip Merlin and kiss him at the same time. Hard to trace faint scars in magical illumination when all he wants to do is take Merlin’s reddened, beautiful cock into his mouth. Merlin makes a deep, choked sound at the back of his throat and it’s natural to abandon the idea of mapping Merlin’s body, shimmy down and press his lips against the paper-thin skin of his balls. Simple to reach back up and balance his weight on his forearms, wrap his lips around the tip of Merlin’s too-long-neglected cock and suck.
Merlin shoves up, hard. Arthur takes it in his stride, anticipating the movement like he would an ineffective parry. It doesn’t seem to matter that he’s never exactly done this before; his body knows exactly what it wants. He urges Merlin’s thighs apart and braces his hips, taking his cock deeper, flicking his tongue along the underside. He does this several times until the glow of the room begins to dip and wane, Merlin’s fingers gathering the bed clothes tight. Watching Merlin in the sudden gloom is almost enough to make him come, but Arthur can’t have that. He stretches his hand down and grips the base of his own cock tightly.
“Together,” Merlin shudders out. “Get back up here so that we’re…”
He’s stifled by Arthur’s immediate compliance with a kiss that’s just this side of reckless. When their cocks align, Arthur’s quest to get Merlin moaning against his mouth again stutters. There’s no space between them at all, just hot slick skin gliding with an imperfect rhythm. They fit together. And it’s not purely physical, Arthur knows, with the sliver of reason he’s retained through the haze of pleasure. It’s not easy. But it’s so, so good, as he pushes down and rolls his hips again and again, stretching out, accommodating so that they don’t have to move much to feel the effects, just have to press close and let their harsh full-bodied breaths and involuntary shivering take over.
The pulse between them is constant, unrelenting and it takes an embarrassingly short amount of time before Arthur’s coming, wet and sticky between their bellies. He had wanted to show more stamina, but Merlin really doesn’t seem to mind. He ruts mindlessly, the room glows bright white and brilliant, and the mess of them doubles.
Merlin takes several shallow breaths, expression beatific as he trembles through the aftershocks. Arthur’s over-sensitive, but can’t stop himself from sliding against him again, wanting to feel their jagged heart-beats drumming in counterpoint with one another.
“Worth the wait?” Merlin whispers, rubbing his fingers lightly over Arthur’s jaw, his cheekbones, his lower lip.
“I think so, don’t you?” Arthur murmurs back.
“Oh, I don’t know. I think I need more convincing.”
Arthur’s too tired and heavy-limbed to do more than nip Merlin’s earlobe. He’s also surprised that his irritation at Merlin’s sheer audacity is merely for show.
And maybe it’s weakness that has him accepting that this was a late-night tumble as opposed to a hallowed occasion. More vice than virtue. Or perhaps it’s strength. He’s never been able to tell in regards to his feelings for Merlin.
But maybe the important thing is that it doesn’t matter. They don’t need ceremony, because they could never be trivial.
“Either convince me or go to sleep, you’re keeping me awake by thinking too loudly.”
Well, not entirely.