Title: Lost and found
Rating: Nc-17 (Series rating: Nc-17)
Character/s: Mordred, Arthur, Merlin, George
Summary: Mordred leaves, Arthur and Merlin finally get some sleep, and George tries to fire himself.
Word Count: 2326
Prompt: #65 Flaws
Author's Notes: We’ve got triple alliteration in the first paragraph of Arthur’s POV, guys. Truly, I am the next Shakespeare. And I just realised that the past nine chapters take place over the course of no more than two days in-universe, and with this chapter, that makes it ten.
You can find the rest of this series on AO3, or here at Camelot Drabble.
He can't seem to get his thoughts together. The world tilts and blurs around him, and his body is cold from toes to crown, but somehow, he manages to put one foot in front of the other. Up ahead, the raven caws hoarse encouragement. It peers down at Mordred with black eyes, blinking in an almost friendly way. Then it takes off and flies to perch in the next tree, causing a rain of snow to fall on Mordred's head from the disturbed branches. He shudders as it melts and slips down his neck.
The world is silent and remote, the forest white, but before Mordred's inner eye, Camelot's red banners flutter. There had been a moment, as he was making his way through the lower town, when he had regretted leaving in such haste. He had turned around and looked back at the citadel, with its flags flying high on the cold wind, white towers glittering with frost in the sunlight.
With his head pounding and his body aching, he had wished desperately to be back in a warm bed. Foolishly, he had imagined that the situation could be turned around. Could not this place be a home? Would Arthur not understand, if Mordred told him everything? Could not even Merlin be made to see that Mordred wanted no part in his destiny, and would fight it tooth and nail? Would they not forgive him? He hadn’t hurt anyone, he hadn’t even meant to, it had been like a dream turned nightmare; he hadn’t been in control of his own mind!
Then the soldiers had swarmed out of the citadel and into the streets, and Mordred had experienced a sharp pang of familiarity. Though it had been years ago, he remembered that day well. The day he lost his father. So the shadow of Uther had stretched on through the years, to lie over him even now. Arthur had himself reminded Mordred that the penalty for sorcery was death, and now apparently he meant to see justice done. The King would not have spared such a force of men merely for the finding; this was a hunt. Mordred had escaped, but only just.
And to what other fate? If the raven truly came from Morgana, as he seems to instinctively know and yet doesn’t quite dare to believe, what is her purpose for him? Has she forgiven him his betrayal? Why would she?
If the soldiers of Camelot were not on his heels, Mordred might have gone down a different road, but the only certain sanctuary against them is with Morgana, so whether she wants him or whether she wants to kill him, to her he must go.
‘We will see how sweet the King’s justice tastes to him, when he discovers the truth about Merlin.’ Then Merlin will know what it is like to not be given so much as a chance.
He pulls Merlin’s winter cloak more tightly around himself, bends his head and ploughs on through the knee-deep snow, following the shrill music of the raven.
Arthur spits in his palm and slicks his cock, gathers Merlin’s legs together and thrusts his cock between those strong thighs. He thrusts low, darkly delighted with the wounded sounds Merlin makes as Arthur’s cock rubs roughly against Merlin’s own spent and sensitive little sex.
It is over quickly, though Arthur drags it out as much as he can, insatiably devouring the sight of Merlin marked and gloriously spread out against Arthur’s red sheets. Orgasm comes like a punch in the gut, and Arthur snarls, using Merlin’s thighs to milk his cock across the line of pleasure into pain. With his free hand, he rubs his seed into Merlin’s skin, drawing another wild little noise from him.
Finally, he can still, body heaving for breath, his mind blank in a good way. The knot inside him throbs, but the pain is muted. There is no mistaking Merlin’s slack-jawed expression; he has been ravished, and he loved it. Arthur puts Merlin’s legs down, leans over him on the bed and takes his lips in a slow kiss.
“Mine,” Arthur says, the only word he can speak, and the only thing he is certain of in the chaos.
“Yes,” Merlin answers, and when he smiles, it lights up his whole being. Arthur hides his face in the covers because he is smiling to, like a complete idiot. Merlin runs his hand soothingly over Arthur’s back.
After using the bathwater to wash up again, they put on sleeping wear and crawl gratefully under the covers. Arthur considers refusing to lend Merlin anything, but ultimately decides to be merciful, and though having Merlin naked in his arms would have been nice, knowing Merlin is sleeping in one of Arthur’s old tunics is also satisfying. Tired though he is, Arthur is unable to resist the clean, silky skin of Merlin’s neck and shoulders, and spends some time nosing at it and pressing kisses there, while Merlin murmurs happily and wiggles deeper into Arthur’s arms.
All issues of trust seem far away in that moment, loyalty and obedience both having been amply proven, and they fall asleep feeling more at peace than they have in a long time.
A knock on the door wakes them. It feels like hours has passed, and it must be so, because the world is dark outside Arthur’s window. The fire has died down to embers, and the room has grown cold.
The knock comes again. The two on the bed, having separated while they slept, look at each other.
Arthur knows who it is out there. Only George knocks on doors with that particular blend of precision, humility and inevitability.
Merlin blinks, dark lashes and dark eyes, expression unreadable. A new secrecy must begin here, for all the good it will do them; secrets like these do not keep long in the citadel of Camelot.
“I should get dressed,” Merlin whispers. His hand slides over to touch Arthur’s, and their fingers tangle, gripping at each other.
“You don’t have to. It’s just George. I can’t tell him to go away.”
Merlin’s expression is full of resigned affection.
“It’s alright. You will be needed somewhere, and so will I. Might as well get up.”
Arthur sighs. He closes his eyes to let the moment last just a little longer, concentrating on the feel of Merlin’s hand in his own.
The knock is repeated a third time.
Merlin’s hand slips away, there is a rustle as he rises from the bed. Arthur squeezes his eyes shut before forcing them open. While Merlin puts his clothes on in the darkness of the sleeping alcove, Arthur goes to open the door, hopping a bit to keep his feet off the icy floor.
“George,” he says in lieu of greeting, once the door is open.
Behind is ever-collected mien, George looks somewhat haggard. Apart from the dark circles around his eyes, the most striking change in him is the large, clean bandage wrapped around his head.
“I suspect you should be in bed,” Arthur says.
George inclines his head. “I will return to it as soon as this is over, Sire. I beg only a moment of your time.”
Arthur leans back to see if Merlin is done dressing. He is pulling his shirt on. That will have to do. When the secret leaks, it won’t be by any fault of George’s anyway.
George steps over the threshold, and with a sweeping glance, he takes in the whole room. The dirty dishes and cold bathwater seems to cause him some distress, but as usual it is barely visible on the outside. The subtle longing in his eyes speaks volumes to Arthur, though. He quickly steers the poor man over to the chairs by the hearth, where he will have his back to the messy room.
“Now,” Arthur says once they are both seated. “What can I do for you, George?”
George swallows, and actually hesitates. For the first time, Arthur realises that the man is upset, truly upset, and it has nothing to do with the state of Arthur’s chamber.
“I ... I have merely come to ... to confirm that I am ... that I am no longer in your service, Sire.”
It’s Arthur’s turn to furrow his brow. “Why would you not be in my service? You didn’t hit your head that badly.”
George stares at his own toes for a moment. “I ... failed you, Sire. If you had worn your chainmail, your wounds would not have been so severe. It was I who refused you your choice of attire. I do not deserve the honour of being your manservant.”
“Honour?” Merlin echoes impudently, while he hops around to get his boots on.
Arthur ignores him. He shakes his head at George. “You are the only man I know whose only flaw is that you have no flaws. George, I wear chainmail because Merlin is a lazy bum who never gets around to washing my shirts.” He thinks for a moment. “And because I want to be ready for anything, I suppose, but that isn’t the point. The point is that the outfit you chose was entirely appropriate for the situation, and secondly-” he raises his voice when George opens his mouth to protest. “If I had believed even for a moment that I would be in danger out there, I would have simply overridden your decision. I am the King, I can do that.” He has no intention of admitting that George intimidates him. “I refuse to accept your resignation.”
He stands. “I was, however, hoping you would share the position with Merlin.”
Merlin is tying his neckerchief, the final piece of clothing. Arthur wants to undress him all over again.
“I’m sorry, Arthur, but I think George will have to shoulder the honour alone for a while longer.”
Arthur crosses his arms over his chest. “Did you hear the part about me being the King? It will be as I say.”
Merlin smiles at him like Arthur is adorable and stupid. “Gaius needs me. You have a lot of sick subjects and only one physician.”
Arthur steps forward, but remembers himself, and George, in the last moment and keeps his hands at his sides. “Then I will order assistants for him. He can have a hundred if he wants.”
“It is me he needs,” Merlin admonishes. He kneels down to tighten the buckles on his boots.
Arthur turns around because hello, inappropriate mental image. Then a thought occurs to him that makes fear seize him by the spine. “Merlin, you don’t ...” He turns back to find Merlin regarding him curiously. “You don’t regret ...?”
Merlin’s eyes widen. “No,” he says with enough simple surety that he doesn’t have to say any more. Which is good, because George is still right there, and struck on the head or no, he is not stupid.
They hold each other’s eyes for a moment longer, expressing gratitude and happiness, as well as an acknowledgement of the unsolved matters that lie between them. Then Merlin turns on his heel and heads for the door. “Don't let George work for at least a week. He needs to rest or his head wound could get worse.” It sounds like something he has heard Gaius say.
“A week?” Arthur asks in outrage. “What am I supposed to do for a whole week?”
“I told you, you will have to scrub your own floors. Although ...” At the door, he turns back, and looks at Arthur with exaggerated thoughtfulness. “I think you said something about ordering a hundred assistants? Surely one or two of them could be spared to empty your chamber pot for you, which, by the way, I will not miss.”
It is Arthur’s turn to smile, but evilly. With his strong, broad body, he barely has to do any work to crowd Merlin menacingly against the door.
“George, close your eyes,” Arthur orders, without taking his eyes off Merlin.
“I am deaf and blind, Sire.”
“You're a marvel, George,” Arthur says as he closes the space between himself and Merlin.
Merlin ruins the kiss by grinning, until Arthur pinches the skin of his arm.
“Stop smiling. You have greatly displeased your King.”
“I will have to make it up to him,” Merlin says.
And because sod it all, Arthur kisses Merlin some more.
“I promise I won't be a stranger,” Merlin pants against Arthur’s cheek when they part again, his breath a hot contrast to the chill of the room.
“See to it that you are not.”
Merlin turns the handle.
George stands, looking perfectly vacant, somehow exuding confidence and capability despite the rather enormous bandage.
“The King is not sleeping well after the attack. He will require a sleeping draught.”
Arthur and Merlin look at each other curiously. Arthur has actually slept remarkably well, considering, but then utter exhaustion and a good orgasm are the two best inducers of deep sleep.
George does not seem to think that anything is amiss, however. “In these uncertain political times, with a dangerous sorceress lose in the citadel, the medicine can only be delivered by someone completely trustworthy.” He clears his throat, and stands up a little straighter, if that is even possible. “His Majesty will expect you precisely one hour before his regular bedtime. Every evening.”
Arthur can’t help it; he leans on the wall and covers his mouth to keep from laughing out loud, but his shoulders shake with it. George strikes again.
“I'll be there,” Merlin stammers.
George nods. “Very good. You may go.”
Arthur is laughing so hard he can only wave Merlin away. The door shuts behind him. George waits patiently for Arthur to recover. Finally, Arthur sighs and turns to his old new manservant.
“You are not who you seem, are you George?”
George’s brow furrows. “Are any of us, Sire?”
And Arthur supposes that’s true.