Harlequin's Slash Fic

First Night: 02 The Second Knight

Title: First Night: 02 The Second Knight
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Merlin/Arthur, and Merlin/Lancelot
Category, Word count: Short story; 3467 words
Rating: NC17
Summary: Having inadvertently fallen in love with Arthur, Merlin now has to cope with the intimacies of being Arthur’s servant. However, he finds some comfort with his new friend Lancelot.

 

The Second Knight

It was late, very late, and Merlin had only just been appointed Arthur’s servant by the king that evening – and in a very impromptu manner at that. But a king’s whim was the king’s will, and could not be gainsaid. The night was already old, most people were already abed, and yet Merlin had been summoned by his new master. He had no idea what to expect.

When Merlin got to the royal prat’s rooms, he found them empty. He didn’t feel he should go in without permission, so he hung around in the corridor outside. Pacing back and forth. This was bad. This was very bad. To be thrown together like this with the one person in Camelot who hated him most. The one person who Merlin most wanted. It was just a recipe for disaster, no matter what the dragon had told him about shared destinies and other rubbish. And it wasn’t as if Arthur was any happier about the situation. His instinctive outraged protest – ‘Father!’ – kept echoing in Merlin’s ears.

Finally Arthur arrived, striding from the direction of the king’s rooms. He looked furious. Merlin swallowed.

Arthur’s hard gaze swept over him, and while he was still ten feet away he declared, ‘Apparently I’m stuck with you.’ And the prince crashed the door open and headed inside. Merlin hesitated for a moment, until Arthur called, ‘Come in, then, you idiot! You’re no use to me out there.’

Merlin headed inside, and closed the door behind him. Arthur was pacing back and forth, as if he hardly knew what to do next, what to say, what to think. ‘I’m sorry,’ Merlin offered.

Arthur stopped pacing, and glared at him. ‘What for? Saving my life?’

Merlin grimaced. ‘No, of course not. For this whole thing. For… not knowing who you were the other night.’

Suddenly Arthur was right in his face, fury blasting at him like a furnace. ‘We are not talking about that. We are never talking about that. It never happened.’

Merlin sighed. He didn’t see that working very well, and it was almost definitely the opposite of what he wanted. But what choice did he have? ‘All right,’ he agreed.

‘And anyway,’ Arthur added, drawing away a little, ‘that was kind of the whole point.’

‘What?’

‘That you didn’t know me. That I wouldn’t even see you again. It was safe, you know?’

‘I thought we weren’t talking about it.’

‘Don’t you dare answer me back!’

Merlin glared at him with his mouth pressed tight shut. But that wasn’t going to work very well either. Not for more than a minute or two at a time.

‘Now look where we are!’ Arthur had flung his hands out in exasperation – but on that dramatic gesture, he suddenly deflated. Went over to sit down in his throne–like chair. ‘I talked with my father, but he won’t budge. It’s this whole life–saving business. There was an… incident with my last servant, you see. Not Morris, who was a temporary measure, but the one before. There was some question of his loyalty. My father hasn’t wanted to trust anyone since then. Until tonight. When you recommended yourself so splendidly.’

Merlin let out an ironically amused huff. ‘I’ll try not to do it again. Maybe I’ll disqualify myself next time someone’s throwing a knife at you.’

Arthur cast him a hard look. ‘Don’t expect me to have a sense of humour about my personal safety.’

‘Sorry,’ Merlin muttered. How many sorries was that? Far too many for one conversation. ‘Arthur –’

‘And don’t you ever call me by name!’

‘Sor– Sire. Do you need me for anything tonight?’ Merlin wondered what he might be required to do. Tidy things up? Fetch Arthur a drink? Undress him…? He swallowed again, knowing very vividly that he wanted that so much. To undress this man and help him into that big luxurious bed, and then climb in after him and revel in his beauty…

‘No. No, I don’t. I just –’ Arthur growled his unhappiness. ‘Look, just go away, all right? I’ll take care of myself tonight, and we’ll start again in the morning. We’ll start fresh. As if we’ve never even met.’

‘All right.’ Merlin sighed, and headed for the door. ‘Goodnight,’ he offered.

Arthur looked at him with a raised brow.

‘Goodnight, sire.’

And he was dismissed with a curt nod.

The next morning, Merlin knocked quietly on Arthur’s door and poked his head in, once again not quite sure what he’d find. But Arthur was already up and dressed, standing around waiting for him with his arms crossed and a not–too–disgruntled look on his face.

This would be Merlin’s third attempt at a proper introduction. Maybe it would be third time lucky. He walked into the room and held out his hand. ‘Good morning, sire. I’m Merlin.’

Arthur didn’t take his hand, but he did seem to relax a little, and he lifted his chin in acknowledgement. ‘Fetch my breakfast, would you? They’ll have set out a tray in the kitchens.’

‘Yes, sire.’

‘And try not to trip over your own feet on the way back.’

‘Of course, sire.’ And Merlin withdrew. All right, that didn’t go too badly. He set off for the kitchens with an optimistic spring in his step.

And the really strange thing was that, within days, they started becoming friends. Arthur still irritated Merlin beyond measure at times, but on occasion he could also be quite decent. He was brave, and every now and then he was even almost noble. Merlin began to think that maybe the dragon hadn’t misjudged the prince’s potential too abysmally. And soon Arthur quit complaining more than four or five times a day about Merlin’s uselessness as a servant. Strange.

But it was clear that Arthur had become unattainable. Merlin knew that, was convinced of that – but the knowledge didn’t do anything to diminish the love he felt. The hopeless, helpless love.

Will would be too generous to laugh at him, so Merlin had a laugh at himself on Will’s behalf. He was sure Will hadn’t wished the same situation on him as Will had suffered with Merlin, but the irony was irresistible.

Lancelot was absolutely gorgeous, of course, but he was seriously smitten by Gwen, and anyway Merlin was just having too much fun hanging out with him. The two of them laughed and talked and joked and schemed… Well, to be honest, it was Merlin who did the scheming, trying to get Lancelot his chance at knighthood. And Lancelot was so touchingly delighted about it all, and grateful.

But then of course the scheme went utterly pear–shaped, and all Merlin had managed to achieve was to make his new friend appear a fraud. Arthur was impressed enough by Lancelot to argue with his father about making Lancelot a knight on his merits alone. But the king would not be moved, and would not reconsider the code that all knights must be of noble birth. So Lancelot decided he would have to leave Camelot.

On that last night, Lancelot and Merlin headed for Merlin’s room in a very subdued mood. Merlin was very conscious of Gaius watching them walk through his room, but the old man restrained himself from saying I told you so. Instead he looked a bit sympathetic. Merlin nodded a melancholy goodnight to him, and then followed Lancelot up the steps, and closed the door behind him.

Lancelot had already shrugged off his coat and heeled off his boots, and was stretching out on his bedroll on the floor. He didn’t say anything, but just lay there on his back with his hands beneath his head, and his eyes were closed.

Merlin sighed. It seemed they weren’t going to sit up half the night talking for once. He got into his narrow bed and blew out the candle. It was gloomily overcast outside, and the room was utterly dark. And there was nothing left to distract Merlin from his grief over the fact that soon Lancelot would be gone. Gwen was a terrific friend, and Arthur was… interesting. There was Gaius, of course. But Merlin had never had so much fun or felt so much joy as when he’d been hanging out with Lancelot…

Merlin found himself reaching out through the darkness. He wasn’t close enough to actually touch Lancelot, of course, and Lancelot wouldn’t even see – but he couldn’t help making a gesture of longing even if it was completely futile. Lancelot would probably never know what he’d meant to Merlin. His hand hovered there, his arm outstretched. And –

And fingertips brushed across his, then away. The back of Lancelot’s fingers returned, the undulating ridge of those soft knuckles brushing up against Merlin’s palm. It was an answer, if a tentative one. Merlin held his breath. Remained exactly where he was.

And then his hand was grasped firmly, and a warm tug invited him down onto the bedroll.

He went willingly, blindly. Found himself lying beside his friend, in his arms, with one of Lancelot’s hands tracking up his shoulder and throat, securing his chin – and Lancelot’s mouth was suddenly on Merlin’s, and they were kissing with a passion Merlin would never have looked for from someone in love with Gwen.

For a lovely long while they happily occupied themselves with kissing and holding and pressing close to each other, feeling their way tentatively at first and then with more confidence. Happily exploring all the permutations of the sense of touch. Both of them became more and more interested, more and more involved. And eventually the moment came in which they must decide whether to make love, or to let each other calm down again and sleep.

Merlin stilled himself, content enough with being in this gorgeous man’s embrace. Surely it was obvious he would like more, if Lancelot was interested. And so it was Lancelot’s decision. They lay there quietly for a few minutes. Then –

‘Light the candle again,’ Lancelot whispered. ‘I don’t want to sleep. Not yet.’

Merlin smiled. That sounded very promising. But he asked, ‘Do you really want to see me?’

‘Yes. Don’t you want to see me?’

‘Of course I do! You’re so gorgeous. But I’m not.’ Merlin sighed. ‘I’m not… Gwen.’

‘And I’m not Arthur,’ Lancelot said very gently.

Merlin rocked back for a moment. He’d thought he’d kept that secret far better than the one about his magic. But surely Lancelot was unique in knowing about both secrets. Merlin pressed his face close against Lancelot’s. ‘You are my dear friend,’ he murmured, ‘and you’re the one person in all of Camelot who really knows me, and I’m going to miss you so much.’ And Merlin lit the candle again, just by willing it. He’d never done that before, but tonight he couldn’t be bothered with doubts.

And there was Lancelot, close, so close – delicious, and running hot, with his long dark hair dishevelled and his lips swollen and tender from too much kissing. ‘You are my dear friend, too,’ Lancelot replied. He was considering Merlin with a great warm sense of awe, a fingertip toying on the point of Merlin’s chin. ‘You amaze me, Merlin. You are so powerful. You’re a great warlock, aren’t you?’

It wasn’t really a question, but Merlin shook his head. ‘Actually I’m not.’

‘If not yet, then you will be.’

Merlin scrunched up his face. ‘Maybe one day. I hope.’

‘I know that is how it will be. I’ve seen what you can do.’ Lancelot pressed another swift kiss to his mouth, but then he drew away for he wasn’t done talking. ‘You are amazing. And you deserve to be loved as a truly amazing man. I wish I were the one to have the honour of loving you for everything you are.’

Merlin’s heart went out to him. ‘Can’t you? I wish you were, too!’

‘No, it has to be him, doesn’t it? It has to be Arthur.’

Merlin groaned. ‘Destiny,’ he muttered, like it was a dirty word.

‘Yes, that’s what it feels like.’

‘How can you tell? Do you have the sight, or something?’

‘No, I don’t think so. But it seems very clear to me.’

‘All right. All right,’ said Merlin. ‘I have to be at his side, it’s true. I have to help him on his life’s quest, and all that. But that doesn’t mean he has to love me as well. In fact, he’s never going to. I gave up hope of that a long time ago. So that means you can love me instead.’

Lancelot smiled at him sadly. ‘Alas,’ he lamented in a light tone, ‘it means you can’t love me. And this destiny you share with Arthur – it’s such an intense thing, isn’t it? Woe betide anyone else who gets caught in the middle.’

Merlin fell away from Lancelot’s embrace onto his back. ‘Destiny, my scrawny butt,’ he complained. ‘They might as well call it Doom.’

Lancelot laughed, but he followed Merlin as if drawn to him, and he leaned over for yet another kiss.

Which was hot and involving, but Merlin eventually broke it and tried to pull away. ‘I’d better let you sleep,’ he said reluctantly. ‘You have a long journey ahead of you tomorrow.’

‘And it will seem all the longer for leaving you behind, my friend.’

‘The days are going to be very long for me, too. The nights will be impossible.’

Lancelot pushed closer again. ‘Then let’s leave each other some sweet memories to help us through.’

Merlin’s arms were already tightening around his friend. Nevertheless he asked, ‘What about Beware the middle of my Doom…?’

‘I am feeling brave. I will risk it just this once.’ And he drew Merlin up for a kiss.

The loving was sweet and hot and simple. They slowly helped each other undress piece by piece, hardly shifting as they did so from where they lay together on the bedroll. They kissed each other’s bare skin as it was exposed, stroked it tenderly. And eventually they finished as they began, each reaching with a hand for the other. What was it, Merlin wondered, about another man’s hand that provided ten times the pleasure to be found in his own, though his own was plenty pleasurable enough? It made no sense. But it was a puzzle he was perfectly content to test and explore and maybe never quite solve.

So it was Lancelot’s mouth on his, Lancelot’s hand bringing him off, Lancelot’s other arm wrapped hard around his waist, Merlin’s hips rocking in a perfect rhythm, and Lancelot’s cock thrusting hard and hot in Merlin’s hand. ‘Mazed,’ Lancelot muttered as his eyes glowed dark. ‘You maze me… Merlin… Merlin!’ And they were pressing tight, tangling together – Lancelot taut as the seed poured out of him – and then Merlin came, too, the heat flowing out all around him like ripples spreading on the surface of a great dark lake, ripples that travelled on and on and on wider and wider in perfect circles before they finally crashed spent on the shore.

The friends slept in each other’s arms that night. It had been far too long since Merlin had felt such comfort. But in the morning, early, Lancelot was gone.

When Merlin brought the prince’s breakfast to his rooms, he found Arthur standing stranded in thought, nowhere in particular. He was already dressed in a shirt and britches. One sleeve and the bodice of a red velvet jacket were in his hands, drooping forgotten, as if he’d been trying to work out how to fasten them himself but then he’d given up.

Merlin had put the tray down on the table before Arthur really noticed him. ‘Morning, sire,’ Merlin said, in a rather quieter version of his usual cheeriness.

‘Merlin!’ The prince seemed quite startled. ‘I didn’t –’

‘You didn’t what, sire?’ Merlin prompted after a moment.

But Arthur shook his head. ‘Never mind.’ He came closer, staring at Merlin a bit quizzically. Then he glanced away. ‘Look, help me into this thing, would you? My father wants me all gussied up today. A visiting noble or some such. It’s going to be dire. Especially if he has a daughter.’

Merlin took the bodice from him, and started rethreading the laces through the tapes down the edges. As he usually did, Arthur stood at his shoulder and watched in fascination as Merlin’s long fingers worked deftly down the back and then the front. The prince had never quite grasped that sewing, knitting and weaving were important skills for those of lowly birth, where everything had to be made or remade or bartered for things that other people made.

‘How come you’re so nimble at that when you’re so clumsy at everything else?’ Arthur asked now.

Not everything, Merlin wanted to protest. A sudden vivid image beset him of what he’d been doing with his hands only hours before. ‘You’re clever with a sword,’ he offered, ‘and I’m clever with a needle. We each have our uses.’

‘Oh, I have my uses, do I?’ Arthur murmured, as if he had every intention of participating in their usual ironic banter, but was actually in too mellow a mood.

‘Yes, sire, you do,’ Merlin murmured in just the same tone.

Arthur was silent then, watching him. When Merlin was done, he turned towards Arthur, and Arthur lifted his arms, and Merlin helped him into the bodice. Arthur stood there patiently while Merlin adjusted the laces, pulling them snug, made sure everything was sitting evenly, then tightened them, tying them off. Smoothing down the padded velvet, so that it moulded against the prince’s beautiful body like another skin. They avoided each other’s eyes.

When Merlin was helping Arthur dress or undress, they never met each other’s gaze. Arthur never let him past his underthings, but there was an unavoidable intimacy to it nevertheless. Perhaps it would always be like this. Perhaps they would never be able to forget Merlin’s first night in Camelot, when he had made love with a beautiful golden–haired knight without realising it was Prince Arthur himself. Perhaps, even though they knew such a thing was never to be repeated, they would both remain far too aware of it whenever they were close. Alone. Dressing or undressing. Arthur’s enormous luxurious bed waiting there, empty, it looked so empty without the two of them in it, it almost looked bereft.

Merlin set to work on one of the sleeves, rethreading the laces. Arthur was unnaturally quiet and still. There was almost a hush in the room, and nothing existed beyond it any more. Merlin wondered if Arthur could hear him breathing. He was conscious of Arthur’s gaze on him, on his fingers. On his face.

When he was ready, Arthur lifted his arm, and Merlin slid the sleeve on. Adjusted the length so it would come just to Arthur’s wrist. Started tying the fastenings at the shoulder, fixing the sleeve to the bodice.

‘Merlin,’ Arthur said very softly.

‘Yes, sire?’ he answered in kind.

‘Do you still have a thing for knights?’

Merlin’s fingers stalled and his breath paused. He dared a glance at Arthur, but his face was turned away. ‘Yes,’ he whispered. He resumed working.

‘Lancelot was a knight.’

‘Yes.’

‘For one night, at least.’

Merlin considered for a moment, but it was always his first instinct to be honest. ‘He’ll always be a knight to me,’ he said.

Arthur pulled away, turned his back. ‘I understand.’

‘But I’ll probably never see him again,’ Merlin added.

‘You didn’t go with him,’ Arthur observed.

‘No. I belong here.’

After a moment, Merlin stepped close to Arthur once more, and finished off the first sleeve. He began working on the second.

‘If – if he comes back,’ Arthur eventually offered, in something more like his usual voice. ‘If he comes back, and I’m king –’

‘Yes, sire?’

‘I’ll make an exception for him. He should be a knight. He really should.’

That was the thing about Arthur: he could be incredibly decent, sometimes just when you least expected it. ‘Thank you, sire,’ Merlin said sincerely.

‘All right,’ Arthur said, almost completely contained and back to normal now. He stepped back when Merlin was done, and struck a regal pose. ‘How do I look?’

Merlin smiled at him, met his eyes, and said simply, ‘You’re still the beautifulest knight in Camelot, sire. I suspect you always will be.’

Suddenly Arthur was all there – his very soul right there in his eyes, and his lips parted – staring at Merlin as if Arthur were famished and Merlin was the feast.

But an untouchable feast. Forbidden. Arthur forced himself to turn away. He took a moment to draw in a shaky breath. And then he strode towards the door. Crashed it closed behind him.

And Merlin was alone again. Somewhere, a cruel version of Will was howling with laughter.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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16 responses to “First Night: 02 The Second Knight”

  1. avatar Salem says:

    Oh I like this quite alot. The emotions resonate really amazingly clearly. love it thank you

  2. avatar Harlequin says:

    Thank you, Salem! I’m so glad you loved it. :-D

  3. avatar pavlovlita says:

    Oh God. I think this just broke my heart. Loves!

  4. avatar Harlequin says:

    Aw… Sorry to break your heart, my dear! Promise I will make it better with a happy ending as soon as I can. :-)

  5. avatar Ros says:

    Beautiful fic. I love the realization he comes to with Lancelot, and I really love that Merlin isn’t pining away somewhere.

    Although, oh, the tension at the end. So good!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Ros – Thank you for the comment! I’m glad this worked for you, tension and all! I was really hoping I’d captured the right mood in that last scene, and it sounds like maybe I did. :-) Thanks again.

  6. avatar flwrpwr_vampyre says:

    *sniffs* This story leaves me feeling so sad for Arthur. Thinking you can never have who you want is the loneliest feeling you can have.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      flwrpwr_vampyre – Aw… Thank you! Sorry to make you sad. Promise I’ll make it all better as soon as I can. :-) Thanks for commenting.

  7. avatar Jenny says:

    AMAZING! I’m gonna read it again….

  8. avatar Brr says:

    Oh, this is so beautiful! It’s just gorgeous, both this and the first part… I love Lancelot in this. And the dialogue! The subtleties of Arthur questioning Merlin about Lancelot. <3

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Thank you so much! What delightful feedback! Of course it’s very nice to hear a word like ‘gorgeous’ in relation to my fic… and I really enjoy writing dialogue, so such praise is very happily received… Thank you again. :-)

  9. avatar Corri_kun says:

    I just found it! It was a treat to see that there was a sequel and it was just as beautiful as the original…and yay Lancelot! I loved him in this and in the show.

    AWESOMEAWESOMEAWESOME

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Corri_kun – Hurrah! I’m glad you found this one, and liked it as well. I really enjoy Lancelot, and all the complications he brings to all our main characters… Plus, of course, he’s totally hot. :-)

      Now, did you find the third (and last) in this sequence of stories…? Just in case you didn’t, it’s here: No Ordinary Love. I hope you enjoy that one, too!

  10. avatar Nagi says:

    You had it all – little touches of humor, a decent relationship with Will (because so often he’s villainized in fiction and he doesn’t deserve it), some serious UST, and also sweetness with Lancelot. Off to read the last part!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Nagi – Thank you again! I’m so glad you like the humour. One of the reasons I love the show so much is how they blend the humour in with the angst and darkness. I try to do that, too – I leave the success of that to your judgement! And poor Will – the worst we can accuse him of is grief and disappointment. He’ll always be the one who got left behind. But he’ll always be truly heroic, too, for me. He’s not the most appealing character, but he’s all the more loveable for that, and I try to do him proud.

      Um, I am wittering on. Also delighted to find you liked the sweetness for Lancelot. Of course Merlin/Arthur will always be the OTP for me, but I don’t mind if the boys take detours on the way… To me that’s more real. Glad you’re happy to take that detour with me! ♥

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