Title: Carved into My Skin
Summary: They shouldn't feel the way they do.
Word Count: 762
Prompt: #245: Bruises
Author's Notes: I'm doing this thing where I try to write stuff I haven't before, so here it is, not-quite-slave-fic.
The dissonance in the room is a mixture of a vociferous crowd and the urgency of their demands. Merlin remains in a corner, hiding from the rest of them watching the scene unfold. This meeting is no different from the other dozen they've had. Mordred speaks, they listen and in the end the assembly plot together the fall of the Royal Family. Merlin understands. They want to be freed from the invisible shackles around their wrists. They ask for a better treatment and not be handled like cattle. When Freya asked him for his help he hesitated, they met at the Enhancement Academy, together they learned to serve and follow orders, to remain quiet, willing. Refusing in the face of a friend was a test for him. But the black and blue marks on Freya's arms, angry and swelling were enough to seal his alliance with the rebellion. His friends are like family to him. He couldn't say no, not even when his heart contracted in his chest at the idea of commenting treason. At the knowledge he was breaking Arthur's trust.
Merlin is their biggest asset. Being Prince Arthur's favorite--only, always the only one Merlin reminds himself--personal servant makes him the key of the rebellion. Without him they can't get close to the Royal Family. He's inside knowledge. The dragon emblem on his shoulder makes him invaluable.
What no one knows is that at night Merlin lets his fingers trail over the mark because to him it's the symbol of his bond with Arthur. They'd probably sneer at him if they knew.
He hears Mordred call his name, all eyes are on him in an instant. He feels sick. He's glad when Kara directs their attention somewhere else. He doesn't know what he's doing anymore. At first everything seemed simple, get into the castled and demand the King makes changes to the laws concerning personal servants, banning ownership and abuse. Dictating they receive a salary as valets and maids do. Now the narrative of the rebellion is a convoluted mess that changes as new suggestions are added and twisted and the anger turns into desire for revenge. Many want blood.
Merlin feels like he does't belong with them anymore. He betrays them too when he kisses Arthur with eyes closed and gets lost in him, when Arthur touches him like they're real lovers, when they fuck and he asks for more and it's messy and he wishes Arthur would stay in him, on him. When he repeats Arthur's tender words and means it in every single language he's learned. He thinks back to that morning, the sun barely out dying the sky with a faint orange glow. Arthur's sticky warm skin glued to his, Merlin's lips had tasted of salt and the memory of Arthur's tongue and hands fresh on his mind and skin. Arthur kept him awake until it was difficult for Merlin to distinguish between their heartbeats. He could've stayed there in that big bed waiting for Arthur to regain consciousness, ask him to forego his duties and stay with him. He didn't. Prying himself from Arthur had been one of the hardest things he's ever done.
Some days he wants to run away, get lost, forget about everything, except he'd keep looking back wondering if Arthur already noticed his absence and is looking for him.
Some others he realizes how stupid they are. How naive and reckless. They shouldn't feel the way they do. Arthur doesn't belong to him, not really, it's a beautiful folly and the worst part is that Arthur has let himself believe they can have everything, that he is free to give himself to a lowly personal servant. In the near future the King will make him marry some beautiful princess or a pretty boy with ties to royalty. It's the reality they have to live.
Arthur will always have him despite it all.
He snorts hating himself for his maudlin thoughts, thankfully no one pays him attention. It's not his turn yet. He wishes they actually listened to him when he talks. He's in favor of non-violent actions. Them? Who knows anymore. He's torn between his feeling and his beliefs. His duty to his friend and his loyalty to Arthur.
Stupid. So stupid.
This won't have a happy ending.
He might not show visible marks, red and violent, purple and swollen. But Arthur's fingerprints are burned on his skin, every kiss and touch seared. There's not a spot on his skin and heart Arthur hasn't touched. His bruises a myriad of hues invisible to the naked eye. Arthur never struck him but he's loved him and that's the real danger. The violence is in every kiss and promises they will have to break, because one of them will have to live without the other inevitably.