Arthur was never quiet after he'd slain something or conquered someone. Merlin couldn't believe how idiotic he'd been not to have realised! But Lancelot had been bleeding like a stuck pig from the cut above his eye and Leon had needed to have huge splinters dug out of his neck and shoulders from where one of the attacking sorcerers had exploded a tree he was backed up against, and by the time Merlin had finished tending to them Arthur was already on his horse and making grumpy lets-get-moving noises.
Arthur hadn't looked unwell - a little sweaty perhaps; irritable in that I've-used-up-all-my-energy-but-a-nap-is-beneath-my-dignity way that five-year-olds and knights have in common, but not actually unwell. When they arrived back at the castle Merlin had seen to his own horse and Arthur's then checked in with Gaius to make sure that he hadn't stuffed up anything in his first aid treatment of Leon and Lancelot before lugging Arthur's gear up to his bedroom. All Arthur had said was 'Get me a bath, I'd better see the King first' before disappearing, so Merlin had sent a boy down to the kitchens to get the water heated before dragging the bath out in front of the fire. It wasn't until Arthur didn't turn up for his bath that Merlin began to get worried, and even then it was more a where-is-that-prat-now concern than actual worry.
But the bath went cold and after Merlin surreptitiously warmed it again and took a few moments with his feet up and a few spare figs that were just lying around in an enamelled bowl it went cold again. Merlin washed his sticky, slightly sour mouth out with a mouthful of rather good red and began to really wonder where Arthur was.
In the end he'd had to resort to a tracking spell, thanking his lucky stars that he'd bothered to finally learn one after the third time Arthur tried to sneak off to kill the nest of wyrms without anyone to watch his back. Arthur was on top of the Maidens Tower, a place so inconvenient to get to that even the laundry maids couldn't be bothered to go there for their trysts. Merlin skirted the middens, ducked down into the old old cellar, took the third turning to the left and, ignoring the white-streaked walls from the owlery above, crossed into the tiny winding stairs that were semi-concealed behind the pile of rubble left over from when they'd pulled down Lord Osric's Folly some eighty or so years ago. He'd forgotten the loose facing on the fifteenth step so Arthur must have heard when Merlin slipped and let out a few choice words as he scraped his shin, but there was no other way out of the tower so it wasn't as if Arthur could have slipped past him in the cramped, spiralling space.
The sky above was full of grey clouds scudding swiftly east when Merlin finally emerged from the tight confines of the stairwell into a sharp breeze - but at first Arthur was nowhere to be seen. It was a small tower and the only possible hiding place was a low central plinth which might have been intended to brace a defensive engine or to support a piece of statuary. Sure enough, when Merlin circled around Arthur was seated in the lee of the platform, his back to the plinth and his arms wound tightly around his knees.
* * *
Arthur raised his head as Merlin's shadow fell upon him. "Go away, Merlin," he said with savage weariness.
What had Uther said? Merlin didn't reply, just sank on his heels in front of the prince.
"I said, GO AWAY!" Arthur's hand curled, but there was nothing on the scraped bare stone slabs to grasp or throw at an impertinent servant so Merlin turned around and sat next to him against the plinth. The wind was a little less bitter from its shelter, and Merlin could almost feel the heat from the body of the man seated next to him.
Arthur's voice was low and desperate as he spoke again. "I'm not joking, Merlin. I don't want you here and you will obey me and leave."
"What happened?" Merlin asked. "What can I do to help?"
"You can do as I tell you!" Arthur said through clenched teeth. "Go! Now!"
Merlin looked at him doubtfully.
"Now, Merlin!" Arthur was sweating as if it were midsummer, even as the biting wind eddied in unexpected gusts around the plinth, making Merlin shiver. Merlin made up his mind.
"You're not well. I'm not going to leave you alone up here."
Evidently Arthur could hear the determination in his tone as well as Merlin could. His head dropped to his knees and his next words were muffled inside the billowing folds of his cloak before he raised his head again. "I'll be fine if I'm alone," he said, gazing resolutely at the toes of Merlin's boots. "If you'd just do as I say and go away, I'd be fine!"
Merlin furrowed his brow, tilting his head as he considered Arthur's profile. A sudden swirl of gold through Arthur's eye made him gasp in belated understanding and he sank back against the plinth, letting his head smack over-hard against the stone.
"You've been bespelled!" he breathed, rubbing the back of his head. "Ow."
This time when Arthur turned his head to look at him he could see the faint glimmer of gold clearly in both eyes. "It will wear off," Arthur said with forced patience. "So go away until it does."
"Are you sure?" Merlin asked. "What does it do? How do you know?"
The blankness behind Arthur's grim mouth told him that Arthur had no more idea when and if it would wear off than Merlin did. Less probably. He was whistling in the dark. "You need to talk to Gaius," Merlin said thoughtfully.
Arthur blanched. "You don't LISTEN, Merlin! I can't go near anyone like this. I'm... I'm dangerous"
"You can't stay up here, though," Merlin pointed out. "It's freezing cold and about to get dark. You'll freeze to death."
"Better than hurting someone else," Arthur said, gripping his cloak with white knuckles.
Merlin stared at Arthur's hands, clenched around fine scarlet wool as if to save his life. "Do you... do you want to hurt ME? Right now?"
The look that Arthur gave him combined relief with anger and something darker, more desperate. "YES, you idiot! What have I been trying to tell you this whole time?"
"Oh!" Merlin edged a little further away, then stood up into the wind. The sky was a little darker already; dusk was not far off. "I'm coming back after I speak with Gaius," he warned. "He'll want to know what your symptoms are."
Arthur closed his eyes in apparent relief, although his hands stayed clenched in his cloak. "I want to attack people," he with grim emphasis. "I want to hurt them. I want to... I want... " He trailed off. "Bring rope," he said finally. "When you come back. If you're too stupid to stay away... bring rope."
* * *
Gaius had Merlin take Gwaine as well as the rope when he went back a few hours later. It was fortunate that Gwaine had already learned about Merlin's magic during the whole wyrms business since Lancelot was unavailable due to being unconscious after Gaius had dosed him up with an anaesthetic so that he could put a few stitches in his pretty forehead. Erm.. Gaius didn't put it that way but Merlin saw the way the girls looked at Lancelot. And. well, the boys too.
Arthur was practically feral by the time they got there but so cold that he was sluggish enough for Gwaine and Merlin to subdue with reasonable ease. And a quick spell while Arthur was trying to gnaw on Gwaine's shoulder.
"I'll fix it in the morning," Gwaine shrugged, rubbing at the rip in his tunic. "Can you and Gaius fix him? Never thought I'd feel sorry for the Princess but he does look a bit uncomfortable."
Merlin hadn't gone for subtlety - simply looped as much rope around him as possible and secured the knots with a spell. Arthur was screaming into the blustery wind and arching his whole body against the ropes.
"It's probably one of three possibilities," Merlin said, placing a folded quilt under Arthur's head, to the danger of his hand when Arthur snapped at it, and wrapping another two quilts around Arthur's convulsing body. "We can probably fix it, yes."
"As far as we can tell. Come on Arthur, hold still a moment will you?"
Arthur bared his teeth but when Merlin had Gwaine hold his nose he opened his mouth and swallowed the potion that Merlin poured into it with only a small amount of choking. Gwaine watched with interest but Merlin just sighed after a moment and replaced the empty phial in his satchel.
"Did it work?"
"No. There would have been some kind of sign. Alright, the next thing is a spell but I have to be touching his bare skin for the whole thing and it's long. Could you sit on him for a bit in case he struggles?" Merlin put his hand on Arthur's forehead as Gwaine sat firmly on his chest but Arthur remained still, merely growling a little as Merlin repeated the spell a few times.
"It didn't work." Merlin's face was drawn. "I did it right. I could feel the magic trying to catch, but there was nothing there. That's not the right counterspell."
Gwaine absently thumped Arthur back to the ground as he began to struggle again. "So what next?"
Merlin looked at the sky. A faint moon could sometimes be seen between the fast-moving clouds.
"Merlin? You said there were three."
"Er, yeah. But I was kind of hoping that it wouldn't come to this."
Arthur was looking up at Merlin, his body quite still for a moment. Merlin turned to Gwaine. "Could you go and wait by the stairs for a moment?" he asked. "It would probably be warmer in the stairwell if you wanted."
"I'm not leaving you alone with him," Gwaine protested.
"It's perfectly safe," Merlin said. "It's just that this next part is rather... private."
Gwaine frowned. "What could be... Sex? This has something to do with sex?"
Merlin flushed. "Gaius said it's about humiliation. But yeah, sort of. Look - he's all tied up and I'll scream if I need help, alright?"
Both men looked down at Arthur, whose taut face and averted eyes showed that he was following the conversation. Merlin had hoped that he was beyond understanding, but apparently not.
"I'm trusting you with him, Princess," Gwaine said softly, and something rigid in Arthur's neck eased as he nodded.
As soon as Gwaine had left, Merlin knelt beside Arthur and asked, "Does this enchantment feel sexual to you?" For a moment he thought that he'd lost Arthur again, but then Arthur nodded slowly.
"So Gaius says that if it's the spell he thinks it is, you need to have sex with me three times before daybreak. Um. Proper sex. And he says that right now you feel as if you want to do that, you will actually literally kill to do that. Does that sound right?"
Arthur nodded again, but added in a hoarse voice. "Anyone."
Merlin nodded again, clarifying what Gaius had told him. "Yeah, you want to do it with anyone but um... I'm the only one who meets the criteria to break the spell. Gaius says. Um. I mean, I'm the one here."
It had to be with a sorcerer, Gaius had said, with a sorcerer who was at least as powerful as the one who had cast the spell. Which meant Merlin.
"I don't mind," Merlin said as Arthur panted against another convulsion. "I'd do worse things than that for you... for Camelot. So I'll just... Um."
It wasn't too difficult to push the rope spiral a little apart at the level where Arthur's breeches were laced, and to unlace them. Arthur's cock sprang free, pink and vulnerable against the coils of harsh hemp rope. Arthur panted desperately, making a low moaning sound as Merlin bent closer.
Merlin gave him a panicked glance. Gaius had been more explicit than Merlin would have liked about what he had to do, but now that the moment came he wasn't sure that he could do it. He had to do it. Tears were leaking out of Arthur's eyes and his mouth was a harsh line that spoke of the pleas he was holding back. Merlin steeled himself and placed his mouth over the head of Arthur's cock.
The skin there was softer than Merlin could have imagined and it tasted faintly of piss and a little bit of salt. It wasn't actively unpleasant, but it stretched Merlin's mouth uncomfortably. He sucked a little, letting his tongue slide over the slit at the top and around the rim, trying to make sense of smooth and salt - but then Arthur let out a wild, smothered noise and thrust wildly. Merlin struggled to keep his mouth in place as, within seconds, his mouth was filled with sour fluid so that he choked and started to cough, spitting out the flood of semen in a spray that seemed to go everywhere.
"Sorry, sorry!" he coughed, but under his apologetic hands the rope-bound body of Arthur was limp and relaxed for the first time since the whole thing began.
It was working.
* * *
Arthur let out a noise that sounded more like a sob than either of them would have been comfortable admitting. "It's not over, is it." he said despairingly. "You said three times."
"But it feels as if it's working?" Merlin asked.
"Right now I don't want to attack you, no." Arthur admitted.
Merlin looked around at the barren freezing tower top, and the quilts lying half-under Arthur where they had been pushed aside. "We should go back to your room then," he said. "Before it comes back."
"I don't think it's safe." Arthur protested, but his limp, bare cock shivered in the wind and he didn't resist as Merlin started to unbind the ropes from around him. After redressing, eyes averted, he took a few shaky steps which altered swiftly into his usual confident stride towards the stairs, where he was able to meet Gwaine's surprised greeting with a warm handclasp and a few words of thanks.
"All sorted then?" Gwaine asked as he led the way down the steps and Merlin, struggling from behind with the quilts and ropes could see Arthur's neck clench with the desire to say Yes.
"No," he admitted, "But right now I'm fine and it's warmer in my chambers. I'd be grateful if you'd stay within calling distance, though..." he looked at Merlin "In case Merlin needs you later."
"It'll be fine," Merlin said, but Gwaine just nodded to Arthur.
"Happy to," he said cheerfully.
Merlin almost tripped on the steps as he suddenly remembered chanting a spell over Arthur in the happy belief that he was too out of it to remember. And yet minutes later Arthur had been quite aware of what he and Gwaine were talking about. Did Arthur know? Or not? He worried about it all the way back to Arthur's chambers.
Arthur stopped to talk to Gwaine outside his door so Merlin seized the opportunity to warm the bathwater yet again before Arthur entered the room. "Right, it's nice and warm so you'd better hop in," he said.
"How on earth?" Arthur frowned.
"It's all in the timing," Merlin said, stripping Arthur's clothes from him with the casual confidence of one who did it every day. It wasn't until he reached Arthur's breeches that memory suddenly cast up the image of Arthur's cock straining to reach his mouth and he flinched. "Er, I told Bran to get it ready," he said breathlessly. "I knew you'd be chilled to the bone when we got you down from there."
Arthur gave him a suspicious glance but put one foot into the bath. "Ow!" he complained, but he kept going, well aware that it only hurt because he himself was too cold. Within minutes he was relaxed and comfortably wedged into a good position, soaking in the warmth.
"Very foresighted of you, Merlin," he said with a deep sigh. "Keep it up and we'll make a good servant of you yet." For a moment the smug satisfaction on his face gave way to uncharacteristic uncertainty and Merlin swallowed as their eyes met.
"I'm a fabulous servant," he said lightly. "I'm the best servant you've ever had." He grinned at Arthur and Arthur closed his eyes with a sigh.
"You have your moments," he agreed.
* * *
Arthur was starting to shiver and Merlin didn't think that it was because the water had gone cold. "Do you need me to, um, again?" he asked, making a frustrated gesture as he failed to find any tactful way to say what he needed to.
Arthur's chin raised defiantly, but then he took a deep breath and his chin came down again. "All right then," he agreed. "You'd better tie me up again, and get on with it - I don't actually want to hurt you, you know."
Merlin did know. Gaius had mentioned a woman torn into pieces by a man under this spell. Maybe Arthur could control himself?
He opened his mouth to say so and closed it again. Arthur had climbed out of the bath and was holding tight to the edges of it, knuckles white, his chin clenched in evident pain.
"Just climb on the bed then," he said. "It'll be more comfortable." He took a deep breath. He really, really didn't want to say what he had to say next, but if he left it too long Arthur would be out of his mind again. His mind flittered helplessly against the problem as he carefully secured Arthur to the bed, one limb to each bedpost. Arthur insisted on calling Gwaine in to check his knots, and meanwhile time was slipping away.
As soon as Gwaine was back in the corridor Merlin knew he couldn't delay any longer. "It can't be the same thing this time," he said, his jaw tense with flooding embarrassment.
Arthur was controlling his breath. "What?" he said vaguely.
"Each... act has to be different. But each time one of us has to ... er... come inside the other one."
Arthur took a moment to figure it out, his body arching almost absently against the restraints as his mind struggled to work through the problem.
"You should have told me before!" he almost shouted. Merlin's muttered apology was lost though, as Arthur spoke again. "Right. So this time I ... um... you. Right. Hurry up, then; I don't want to hurt you."
"Cover your teeth," Merlin said. He really should have spoken up sooner, he realised. No-one could blame him for flinching a little at the idea of putting his cock in the mouth of someone who was literally convulsing as he tried to resist the enchantment upon him. But.
"It's all right, Arthur," he soothed, his hand going to Arthur's sweaty forehead. Arthur looked up at him with such a mixture of fury and helpless desperation that - despite his fears - Merlin couldn't leave him like that even one moment more. Straddling Arthur's chest, he undid his breeches and held his limp, terrified cock to Arthur's lips.
* * *
It was strange, Merlin thought. One touch of Arthur's chapped, reluctant lips, as his cock slid past them into the warm welcome of Arthur's mouth, and he had been as hard as he had ever been in his life. The desperate feel of Arthur's tongue, fast and frantic over the head of his cock, had been the sexiest thing he had ever felt - far better than his own hand, better than Anna's hand, better than the time she had let him slip between her thighs, tense with the fear that he would break his promise and thrust up and into forbidden territory. He'd been good, stayed between her pale, plump thighs where there was no risk of making a baby and a scandal, but she'd never let him do it again.
Arthur's mouth, slick and unpractised around his cock was incomparably better than any of that. I'm coming in the Prince's mouth, Merlin thought, and then his orgasm was rushing through him and everything went blurry until Arthur was spitting his cock out and looking up at him as if he were an enemy to be conquered, a sorcerer to be burned.
"Sorry! Sorry! I'm sorry!" Merlin stuttered. His heart raced in his chest as he struggled to get his breath and move away, off, out of Arthur's space.
The fire in Arthur's eyes went out. He swallowed, visibly, and lay back onto the bedcovers with a deep sigh. "Get me a drink," he ordered and Merlin, remembering the taste of semen in his own mouth, sour and sticky, hurried to fill a goblet with fresh water and put it to Arthur's mouth. Arthur gulped at it eagerly before subsiding back on to the bed again.
"That's two." he said with grim fortitude. "What... Merlin, what do we do for the third one?"
Merlin blushed. "Gaius said..."
"Spit it out Merlin."
"No, Merlin, I don't." Arthur was giving him the wide-eyed you-are-an-idiot stare that meant he really didn't. Oh gods, he really didn't.
"You know, Arthur! The way men lie together sometimes. You must know!"
Arthur's eyes widened but then his jaw tilted in a way that never boded any good and he said "Kill me then."
"What? No! It's just... I won't tell anyone, Arthur!"
Arthur's mouth set in a grim line.
"I'm not doing that."
"People do it all the time... Gaius says. And there was this man in our village..."
"I've seen it in wars," Arthur said, flat and hostile.
Merlin thought about it. "I don't understand."
"Men, in wars, they do things... I don't let the men of Camelot do them, of course, but I've seen men... after that. They've begged to die, Merlin."
* * *
No matter what Merlin said, Arthur refused to listen, and when he started screaming at Merlin to get out, Merlin eventually went. Outside, in the corridor, Gwaine was standing guard - or, leaning against the wall and keeping watch, at any rate.
"All done?" he asked, the crinkle in his forehead suggesting that he had actually been worried.
Merlin shook his head, gulping a little at the memory of Arthur screaming at him that he would never do that, he'd rather die than sully his honour so.
"He won't..." he said shakily.
Gwaine sprang from his position by the wall to place a calming hand on Merlin's shoulder. "Won't what?"
Merlin shook his head, sinking to sit at the base of the wall.
"Just do whatever it is you need to do, Merlin," Gwaine said. He sat down, his shoulder butting up against Merlin's. "The Princess'll get over it eventually."
Merlin stared at the flagstones, knowing that inside the room at his back Arthur was growing more and more desperate. "I don't even," he said. "It's not as if I know anything about that type of thing. How am I supposed to...?"
Gwaine waited a moment. "What do you need to do?" His eyes were kind as Merlin looked across at him.
"One of us needs to..." Merlin took a deep breath, "fuck the other one."
"Ah." Gwaine looked at the ceiling consideringly. "S'not so hard then. Mmmmm. Way you've got him tied, I reckon you'd better prepare yourself and just sit on him."
Merlin flushed, looking sideways at him before dropping his gaze once more to the floor. "You really... Oh! Um, Gaius said to use, um, oil?"
Gwaine let out a short laugh. "Such an innocent darling, you are, Merlin! I wish I had time to show you how good it can be. This is a hell of a way to start."
Merlin risked another glance over at him, but Gwaine was getting to his feet.
"It has to be you, does it?" Gwaine asked gently. "Wouldn't be my first time by a long shot."
Merlin shook his head, biting his lip. "It has to be me," he said. The room spun a little as he stood up, but then he was steady on his feet and he knew what to do.
"Tell me then," he said, "And Gwaine - thanks for the offer. You're a good friend."
Gwaine snorted. "And yet somehow, it's the Princess who's getting the benefits. Where's this oil then?"
* * *
By the time Merlin got back into the Prince's chambers he was feeling quite desperate to check on Arthur, and rightly so. Somehow Arthur had managed to get hold of a dagger - Merlin could only presume that he kept it under his pillow - and he was twisting and writhing, trying to get the blade in a position to cut the rope.
Merlin let out a shout, but it wasn't until he managed to hit Arthur's wrist with a lucky blow that Arthur's fingers lost their grip on the dagger. The rope had already been sawn half-through and as Merlin kicked the dagger away from the bed Arthur started tugging furiously at his bound wrists, his face contorted with passion and fury.
Merlin's heart was racing but he was ready and there was only one task he had to do, he removed his oil-stained,ruined breeches and slid one leg over Arthur's bound body.
Arthur curved in an arch under him, his breath sobbing in and out, in and out. "Please Merlin!" he gasped, and Merlin didn't even know if he meant please stop or please do it. He seemed almost beyond reason now, utterly desperate as he tugged at his weakened bond and the strong ones alike.
Merlin found Arthur's red, rigid cock and tugged gently at it with oily hands as Arthur finally went still, his breath still clearly audible as a ragged rhythmic sob. And then Merlin lowered himself, feeling the head of Arthur's cock push briefly against his oiled crack before sliding abruptly out of position.
"Please," Arthur sobbed again.
Merlin found Arthur's cock again and this time he braced himself against Arthur's chest as he steered it into the right position, pressing it against his hole, then took a deep breath and let it in. Arthur lurched frantically under him, almost pulling out, but Merlin had it now and he pushed back further, sat up to get a better angle, let it in deeper still. Arthur's hips moved, starting a rhythm and there was only a little pain, not much at all, as Merlin bottomed out, his arse coming to rest fully on Arthur's rolling hips.
All he had to do now was let it happen. It was all but done. Merlin let himself sag against Arthur as Arthur's hips did all the work. It wasn't so bad. In fact, there was a sort of pleasure in letting himself be filled this way, the warmth of Arthur's body between his thighs and that sweet flare of something inside him when Arthur's cock hit it just right. He was so tired, so very tired, and Arthur was going to be so angry with him - but he would live now, and that was the important thing.
Merlin felt Arthur's rhythm begin to stutter and stall. Soon; it would be over soon. Almost unthinkingly he tugged at his own cock and found that he was coming in a sweet burst of relief - and inside him, Arthur was coming too.
Done. It was done.
* * *
Arthur hadn't said a word as Merlin cleaned him up and untied the knots to free him, but as soon as he was able to sit up he did so, rubbing his raw wrists.
"I'll just get a salve for that, Sire," Merlin said tentatively and when Arthur didn't respond he left the room, looking back at his silent prince as the door closed behind him. This time he nodded to Gwaine's questioning.
"I'll just get some salve for his wrists and some food - he missed dinner hours ago," he said.
"He didn't take it well?"
Merlin just shook his head wearily. "We'll see when I get back." He tried a weary smile but when Gwaine put a friendly arm around his shoulders he leaned into its reassuring warmth for just a moment.
"Here, I'll arrange all that, you just wait here and rest for a moment," Gwaine said briskly, and before Merlin could protest he'd given Merlin a wink and was striding briskly towards the kitchens. Before he got too far Merlin could hear him hailing a servant and ordering something warm and filling to be sent to the Prince's rooms and then his quick footsteps disappeared, presumably heading for Gaius' workchamber.
Merlin let himself sink to the floor, resting his head in his hands as he waited. His arse felt squishy and sensitive in his horrible, ruined trousers, but there was nothing he could do about it. Eventually a bowl of stew arrived with a small loaf of bread, some cheese and a jug of ale. Merlin nodded his thanks to the boy as he took the tray and shouldered his way back into the room.
Arthur was still sitting on the side of his bed although he had donned a pair of sleeping pants. "Nice warm stew," Merlin said with faux cheer but Arthur didn't move.
"You have to eat something," Merlin began, relieved when Arthur stood up and came over to the table, however all he did was grip Merlin firmly and propel him to the doors.
The door shut firmly behind him.
Merlin was still standing there like a lummox when Gwaine arrived with the bandages. Taking in the situation at a glance he jerked his head towards the direction from whence he had come. "Go on, then. I can do this," he said, and when Merlin moved to protest he just shook his head. "Give him some time to get over it," he advised. "I know my way around a roll of bandages. Go on!"
A wave of weary sadness swept over Merlin and he let it take him back to his room where he could finally shed the revolting trousers and sink into his well-earned bed.
* * *
When Merlin awoke the sun was high in the sky and Arthur was looming over him. He might have squeaked a little.
"If you EVER do anything like that again," Arthur said in his voice of doom.
"I won't! Why would I!" Merlin managed to say.
"I TOLD you... and you just... HOW COULD YOU?" Arthur shouted.
"BECAUSE I LIKE YOU ALIVE!" Merlin shouted back. "WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO? Let you die from MODESTY?"
Arthur flushed, his fair skin red from his collar to his hairline. "You were SUPPOSED to DO AS YOU WERE TOLD!"
"YOU WOULD HAVE DIED!"
"It was my choice." Arthur's voice dropped suddenly and the quiet was as loud as the shouting had been. "I am your lord and you should respect that choice."
Merlin leaned forward, his eyes locking firmly onto Arthur's. "Letting you die is not a choice I can let happen! You were out of your mind from the spell and I did what I had to so that you would live. I'd do it again. I will always do it again!"
"It won't happen again because you're dismissed from my service. I have given Gaius your last month's wages and I want you out of Camelot tomorrow."
Merlin threw the blankets off and stood up, wincing as his abused muscles took his weight. "Arthur, please!"
Arthur was at the door but he turned, blanching a little as he saw Merlin in just his shirt. "No, Merlin."
He turned again to go.
"You're a coward," Merlin said.
"What did you say?" Arthur was suddenly in his space, all sweaty muscles pressing him up against the wall.
"I said you're a coward. You'd rather die and abandon your kingdom than sully your honour by putting your cock in me. Tell me that's not cowardly!" Merlin said.
"The knights' code..."
"Oh bugger the knights' code. If you died what would happen to this kingdom? Your father's off his... er, unable to rule at present, and your sister is the next in line for the throne. If you'd died last night Morgana would be on the throne as quick as winking and tell me what would happen to Camelot then, Prince Arthur?"
"I could have you hanged for speaking..."
"For speaking the truth... You could. You could have me hanged for no cause at all - you're king in all but name. But I did the right thing last night and you need to get over it. I'm going back to bed."
Merlin lay down and pulled the bedclothes over his naked legs, his back to the door, which slammed behind him. He was trembling, but a few minutes later when the door opened again it was Gaius telling him that Arthur had left word to take the week off and visit his mother or something.
The sunlight coming through the small window was warm on Merlin's wet face. A week to visit his mother sounded all right to him.