Title: Friendly Competition
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: The look Arthur got on his face when he was determined to do something was the cause of many of Merlin’s regrets; namely, the way he couldn’t ever seem to say no to Arthur’s challenges.
Word Count: 1,000
Prompt: #267: Competition
Author's Notes: Sorry I'm late! In penance, I offer two drabbles. <3 Link to part 2 at the end.
“Come on, Merlin,” Arthur cajoled. “I just want to see if you’ve gotten any better. If you’re going to insist on accompanying me when I hunt, you ought to at least be a decent shot.”
“Why does it matter if all I do is scare off the game?”
Using Arthur’s own words against him was always a gamble. Sometimes it paid off in the form of Arthur laughing approvingly at Merlin’s gall and letting whatever he’d been after drop. Other times, and it appeared to be just such a time, it made him double down on his efforts.
“Then call it a friendly competition,” he said through a grin that bared his teeth.
Merlin’s stomach knotted, not entirely unpleasantly. There was no such thing as a friendly competition in Arthur’s books. Whether because he was the crown prince or just because he was Arthur, he hated to lose. Everything was a contest and Arthur needed to be the best.
But he was, more or less, an honorable man. He threw around his royal authority to get his way on all sorts of things, but he adamantly believed in winning—or losing—on his own merit. He didn’t cheat or sulk if he lost; he just focused in and trained, made himself better until he could win.
It was arrogant and stubborn, but also impressively dedicated. The look Arthur got on his face when he was determined to do something was the cause of many of Merlin’s regrets; namely, the way he couldn’t ever seem to say no to Arthur’s challenges.
“What’s the bet?”
Arthur braced his crossbow and Merlin twitched away, despite being reasonably sure Arthur didn’t intend to skewer him. His jumpiness earned him a smirk before Arthur turned and sent a bolt thudding into a tree trunk about a hundred paces distant. Then he dropped the stave, reloaded, and spun, firing into another tree. And again, a third.
Swinging the bow up to rest against his shoulder, Arthur grinned at Merlin. “Those three trees, from this spot. Easy enough that even you shouldn’t be able to screw it up too badly, Merlin.”
There had to be a catch. Crossbows were the one weapon Merlin could actually use to some degree, and Arthur knew that. He might not’ve been as good a shot as the prince, but even he could hit a tree wider across than he was. Glaring suspiciously at Arthur, Merlin held his hand out for the bow. Arthur passed it over with the closest approximation of an obliging smile he’d ever managed and stepped back so Merlin could take his place.
The first shot vindicated Merlin’s expectations, as easy as he’d thought. “Ha!” He turned to Arthur in triumph, but his smug grin fell away when faced with Arthur’s condescending smirk.
“Merlin, Merlin, Merlin. Your form is all wrong, it’s disgraceful.”
“What? Did you—” Merlin looked at the tree, still with two bolts sticking out of the trunk, and back at Arthur. “But I hit it!”
“You got lucky,” Arthur scoffed. “Between your stance and your grip, it could just as well have gone off backwards through your throat.”
“Could not. Look, watch!”
Merlin reloaded the bow, and even if it wasn’t nearly as deftly done as Arthur had, he wasn’t about to take his own head off. But when he straightened, Arthur was in his space. Contoured along Merlin’s spine, Arthur grabbed an arm in each hand and guided them up like Merlin was a child.
“Brace your hand there, then to your shoulder. Now, set your sights just below mine...”
Distracting as Arthur’s proximity was, Merlin drew himself together and fired true. Or he would have, if Arthur hadn’t used his grip on Merlin to twitch his aim off-center at the last moment.
Merlin gaped. After all Merlin’s charitable thoughts about him, Arthur was cheating! Well, Merlin could cheat, too, and much better.
“See, I told you—”
Arthur broke off abruptly and tensed at Merlin’s back as Merlin magically guided his bolt into place and it thunked heavily into the wood. He hadn’t altered its course drastically, just curved it enough to hit its mark; it was a less obvious manipulation than things Arthur had missed before. Still, he made sure the coronal glow faded from his eyes before looking over his shoulder at Arthur’s delightfully dumbfounded expression.
“What did you tell me?” he taunted. His grin threatened to split his face in half.
Arthur cheek’s glowed a surprisingly soft pink before he put on an obviously fake scowl and turned his head away from Merlin’s, nodding towards the remaining tree. “Again.” He didn’t sound upset about Merlin thwarting him, though; if anything, his voice carried an edge of excitement. He didn’t let go, still flush to Merlin, and it was starting to feel like a very different sort of challenge.
This time, Merlin was waiting for the interference. Though his strength couldn’t stand up to Arthur’s when it came to actually resisting the much less subtle pull, he sent the bolt flying true and swift from the start. It shattered Arthur’s when it struck dead center.
All contact from Arthur dropped away as he ordered, voice hoarse and tense, “Retrieve that bolt.”
Fear washed away Merlin’s smugness instantly. He’d gone too far; he’d given himself away. All Merlin could do was drop the crossbow and obey, trying desperately to think of an excuse. He braced a hand against the bark, but before he could free the bolt, steps crunched through the brush behind him.
Eyes closed, he readied for the worst. He wouldn’t fight.
Arthur pressed against his back and his hand slipped down the front of Merlin’s trousers. He wasn’t hard, but Arthur fondling him got things going very quickly indeed, despite the shock of it.
“Sire?” It was half protest, half plea, and all groan. “What are you—”
“Just a friendly competition, Merlin,” Arthur murmured into his ear. “I bet that I can bring you off faster than you can me.”
Part 2 (NC-17)