Harlequin's Slash Fic

The Balance of Power

Title: The Balance of Power
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Merlin/Arthur, with Arthur/Uther in the background
Category, Word count: Short story; 6422 words
Rating: NC17
Summary: Merlin wants Arthur, but Arthur is already in a relationship with Uther. When Uther dies, Merlin is finally free to not only offer his love to Arthur but also to tell him about his magic. However, the two young men have some trouble establishing what they want from each other and what they can give.
Warnings: As you’ll have gathered from the summary, this assumes a history of father/son incest, which (while loving) has somewhat skewed Arthur’s kinks and expectations. It also includes the (natural) death of Uther, though this happens safely off stage!

The Balance of Power

One

There will never be a good time for this, Merlin thought. He was sitting cross–legged on the floor at Arthur’s feet, trying to unknot the laces of the prince’s best pair of boots. Not that he was really thinking about the boots; nevertheless, he asked, ‘How did these get so tangled up?’

Arthur peered over the top of the papers he was reading, then settled down a little further in the chair, his elbows propped on the chair’s arms. As he considered the boots, a smile quirked one corner of his mouth. ‘Uh – I was in rather a hurry to get them off.’ And he winked at Merlin before disappearing behind the papers again.

Merlin sighed – definitely not about the boots, though they were troublesome enough. So Arthur already had a sex life. He knew that. Merlin couldn’t help but feel jealous – although it could turn out to be… advantageous, because any approach made by Merlin wouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Merlin glanced back up to make sure Arthur was safely oblivious, then he spread his hand over the knotted laces, muttered an incantation under his breath.

‘Mmm? What was that?’

‘Nothing.’

‘I hate you mumbling.’

‘I just said, There, I’ve got it now.’ He eased first one boot and then the other onto Arthur’s stockinged feet, and began retying the laces up the inside length of the boots. Watching as the supple leather softly shaped itself to the prince’s strong calves.

Once that was done, Merlin sighed again, and reminded himself, It’s not a good time. But he was tired of waiting, he’d never had the virtue of patience, and he had to assume it wasn’t really a bad time, either. He let one hand shape itself round the snugly–fitted boot, and by extension around Arthur’s ankle. Just very gently at first, so Arthur might not even notice. Then Merlin began slowly firming his hold as he eased that hand up further, up that lovely calf. His gaze raced ahead of him, to consider the wide–spread thighs, and then the soft swell of Arthur’s cock pushing out against the tan britches, the round hint of his balls just below.

As Merlin’s hand passed Arthur’s knee and wrapped around the front of his thigh, the prince finally stilled and his muscles tensed under Merlin’s palm. A moment passed. And then Arthur commented, ‘I don’t recall these boots lacing up quite that high.’

‘No,’ Merlin agreed, ‘they don’t.’

One corner of the papers was bent back, and a bright blue eye considered him. ‘Just what do you think you’re doing?’

Merlin grinned at him. ‘Should’ve thought it’s perfectly obvious what I’m doing. Sire,’ he added cheekily. He shifted up onto his knees so his mouth was a bit closer to its current goal.

Arthur put the papers down, a bit defensively, on his lap, though he didn’t deign to draw his thighs together. ‘You really do have quite a nerve, Merlin,’ he said with an odd mix of disapproval, disbelief and admiration.

‘I do,’ Merlin equably agreed. He started leaning in closer, absolutely determined to at least kiss the man. By all the Gods, he’d been thinking about this for so long now… He’d left his hand on Arthur’s thigh; he reached the other up now to shape itself to Arthur’s nape, to draw him forward.

Arthur complied with only a small amount of resistance. Merlin eased them together, and then at last his mouth was on Arthur’s, and his lips were shifting against that tender skin, his teeth nibbling at that pout, his tongue–tip teasing its way inside… Arthur’s lips parted for him on a breath that wasn’t quite a gasp. And then Arthur let Merlin just… ravish his mouth for a while.

Until he was done, and Merlin drew back with what he knew must be an unbearably smug expression on his face. ‘Nice!’ he said, in fervent low tones. ‘I knew that’d be nice.’

Arthur rolled his eyes and sat back in the chair. Lifted his papers a little to indicate his attention was wandering. ‘All right, if you’re done with my boots, you can go. Give me some peace and quiet this afternoon, would you? I’ve really got to finish reading these.’

Merlin figured he was looking bereft now rather than smug. And probably a bit shocked. ‘What, you’re just dismissing me?’

‘It appears so.’ The papers were already up in front of his face again.

‘But… you thought that was nice, too!’ he protested.

Arthur heaved a theatrical sigh, and dropped the papers to his lap. ‘God,’ he grumbled, ‘I can’t believe you not only had the audacity to do that, but to assume you could have more. You’re really pushing your luck, Merlin!’

Obviously he’d misunderstood something. Merlin frowned. ‘What’s the problem, then?’

A long moment while Arthur scrutinised him. Then he asked, ‘You need me to tell you?’

‘Apparently.’

‘I’m already with someone,’ Arthur ground out. ‘God, you’re an idiot. I’m with someone who’s… very possessive.’

‘Oh.’ He felt rather small.

‘So, you’ve had about as much fun as you’re ever going to, all right?’

‘All right,’ Merlin said. ‘Sorry.’ He stood up, took a few steps away. Then he turned back. ‘Um… Was I meant to know that?’

‘No, I don’t suppose so,’ Arthur replied, a little more reasonably. He sighed, and slumped down in the chair. ‘Actually, it’s good that you didn’t. I just thought… you might have guessed.’

Merlin just shook his head. He felt very small and stupid. He didn’t like it much, under the circumstances. ‘I’ll be back before supper, then,’ he muttered before heading out the door.

Arthur didn’t bother responding.

Two

There will never be a good time to tell him, Merlin thought. But it had been a week now since Uther died and Arthur became king, and of course Merlin had been dying to tell Arthur about his magic for an awful lot longer than that.

They were in the prince’s rooms – well, they were in Arthur’s old rooms, as the new king hadn’t yet moved to the chambers he still referred to as his father’s – and Merlin was serving up a meal he’d tried to make as tempting as possible, all the while knowing that Arthur would pick at the food, swallow a mouthful or two, and then order the rest taken away. ‘You have to eat something, Arthur,’ he said softly.

Arthur barely even glanced at Merlin. Grief had aged him, Merlin thought; he hoped that would be reversed once Arthur was past the immediate pain. For now he seemed drawn and pale, and his golden hair didn’t shine quite so bright, and he had taken to wearing a black shirt of Uther’s that was a bit too big for him which only made him seem the more lost.

Merlin knelt by Arthur’s chair, reached for a handful of grapes, lifted one to Arthur’s mouth. ‘Come on,’ he murmured. After a long moment, Arthur’s lips parted, and he let Merlin pop the grape inside. Chewed a bit, and swallowed. ‘That’s it, that’s good, Arthur.’ After the third grape, Merlin reached for a sliver of the roast beef, and fed that to him, too. ‘Excellent.’

Arthur was watching him with the slightest hint of amusement. Which was about as engaged as he’d been, in private, for the past seven days. When it came to being the king, and leading his people and dealing with all the business of the kingdom, Arthur had been surprisingly active and competent. But when he was alone with Merlin, he’d simply withdrawn into himself. Now, however, Arthur asked, ‘How’s Gaius?’

‘Almost as bad as you. Though at least he’s eating.’

‘He doesn’t blame himself, does he?’

‘Of course he does,’ Merlin replied lightly. ‘But there was nothing he could have done. It wasn’t the sort of illness anyone can cure. He’ll let himself accept that in time.’

‘Good. All right. Tell him that –’ But Arthur stalled.

‘I will,’ Merlin assured him. He thought again, It’s not a good time. But on the other hand, it wasn’t exactly a bad time either, seeing as Arthur had just voluntarily exchanged more words with him than he had all week. ‘Arthur… there’s something I need to talk with you about.’

The prince – the king had lost himself in his thoughts again. Merlin fed him another sliver of beef, but then Arthur held up a hand to indicate he’d had enough.

Merlin sighed, and sat back on his heels. ‘Arthur, I want to tell you something.’

‘Mmm,’ came the uninterested response.

Merlin settled a gentle hand on Arthur’s thigh. ‘Please, I want you to listen to me.’

That at least succeeded in capturing Arthur’s attention; the king was now staring at him in great annoyance. ‘Don’t, Merlin,’ he snapped. ‘Just – don’t.’

‘Don’t what?’

‘You know very well what. I don’t want to hear it!’

Merlin gazed back at Arthur in great confusion, and faltered, ‘You already know…?’

‘Of course I know! How could I not know after you –? God, Merlin, he’s barely three days in the crypt, his body is hardly even cold yet, and here you are –’

‘Arthur,’ he begged, shocked by the king’s raw pain. ‘Please. I just thought I should tell you. I thought it was better –’

‘I know, all right? I know. But you don’t, do you? You don’t know anything. God, you are such a hopeless idiot…’ Arthur was so stirred that he actually got up from the chair and stalked over to the window, gazed out at the forecourt. Merlin was torn between an empathic pain, and relief – even delight – that the king had actually come alive again, even just for a moment.

‘What don’t I know?’ Merlin asked quietly, not moving from where he still knelt by the chair.

‘You wouldn’t understand. No one would understand.’

Merlin frowned over this. It seemed very clear by now that they were talking about two completely different things. After a moment he got up and went over to lean against the wall near Arthur, with the width of the window between them. ‘Try me.’

‘Oh, God.’ In utter despair.

‘You can trust me, Arthur.’

‘I know. I know that.’ Arthur closed his eyes for a moment, and then blurted, ‘I, uh – I loved him, all right? He was everything to me.’

Merlin nodded and let a sad sigh escape him. ‘Uther.’

Arthur stared at him hard. ‘So you did know.’

‘Well, after you told me you were with someone… it took me a while, but it was basically just a process of elimination.’

Arthur let a few beats go by, with his gaze studiously not flickering towards Merlin, as if he were waiting for something. Finally he said, ‘Aren’t you going to condemn me for it?’

‘No.’ He shrugged. ‘I figured you must have loved him so much. And he must have loved you that much, too.’

Arthur pressed his lips together, widened his eyes, as if determined that his mouth shouldn’t tremble, a tear wouldn’t fall. ‘Then why are you –? How can you have the nerve to –? Already?’

‘I wasn’t!’ Merlin protested.

‘I am about the last person in Albion who’d look for comfort sex.’

‘I really wasn’t…’ But when it was obvious that Arthur didn’t believe him, Merlin just murmured, ‘I’m sorry. I won’t try anything. Not again. I promise.’

Arthur turned away, folded his arms across his chest. Mouth still narrow, and eyes still bright for all the wrong reasons.

‘Do you want to talk about it?’ Merlin offered. He wondered if even Gaius knew about the relationship. Well, actually, there was little Gaius didn’t know about what went on in Camelot, but maybe Arthur would rather talk with someone more his own age.

‘No,’ said Arthur, his voice cracking.

‘Hey,’ Merlin gently said, reaching a hand to Arthur’s arm.

And then suddenly the tears spilled over, and the king was weeping – for the first time, as far as Merlin knew, since Uther had died.

‘Come here,’ he said, leading a suddenly compliant Arthur to the bed. He guided Arthur down, let him curl up on the covers, then lay beside him, took him into his arms. Arthur clung on and wept. Eventually he sobbed. And for that short while he wasn’t the king, he wasn’t even the twenty–one–year–old prince who’d suddenly inherited a kingdom for which he wasn’t quite ready; he was simply the boy who’d lost his father, the man who’d lost his lover. And Merlin held Arthur close, and loved him all the more, for this honest grief born of a great passion conquered anything of Merlin’s heart that had remained his own.

Three

And this wasn’t exactly a good time either, Merlin thought afterwards. It had become almost inevitable, though, that his magic would be revealed in a situation something like this.

They had been on a hunting trip, just the two of them even though the king was supposed to be guarded day and night; Arthur was insisting on having certain freedoms, though Merlin didn’t know how long this could last. That morning, Arthur had killed a brace of rabbits, but now he was after larger fare. And of course the larger fare instead found him – this time, it was an enormous snakelike creature with wings. Merlin hovered anxiously while Arthur fought it, but when even Arthur’s strength and valour weren’t enough to subdue it, Merlin stunned the thing with a crackle of pure energy. Arthur’s instincts were too good for him to let this faze him; he glanced back at Merlin for a moment, and then moved in against the creature, swinging his sword in his right hand. They finished it off together, with Merlin aiming another bolt of energy at just the point where – at just the moment when – Arthur’s sword pierced. Steel and magic combined to stop its heart.

Afterwards, Arthur took his time catching his breath, cleaning his blade. Considering his servant with a kind of bundled–down intensity. But eventually he walked back to where Merlin was standing, walked right up close, looking at him hard with those clear hot blue eyes. ‘You’re a sorcerer.’

‘A warlock. Yes.’

‘All this time…?’

‘Since I was born. The magic is just part of who I am.’

Arthur was still looking at him hard. Thinking. Or perhaps endeavouring to think. There was something turbulent going on just under the surface. Something emotional. Something primal.

‘I’ve tried to tell you,’ Merlin blurted, unsure about how much trouble he was in. ‘There was never a good time. And while Uther was alive –’

‘Of course.’ Arthur nodded, as if he completely understood that. ‘But you could have told me since.’

Merlin shrugged. ‘You had other things to worry about, a lot of other things. And there hasn’t been – You know, if you’d had cause to consider executing a sorcerer since you became king, I would have told you. I would have challenged you on it. Unless they deserved it, maybe. But the topic hasn’t come up…’

‘All right.’

It wasn’t going to be as easy as that, was it? ‘You’re not going to… get mad at me for lying to you?’

‘You had your reasons,’ Arthur said with a shrug. ‘And of course you couldn’t risk execution.’ He didn’t exactly look happy about it, though. He looked like he had a lot more thinking to do. And there was still that turbulence brewing just beneath the civilised surface. For a moment it seemed as if Arthur would turn away, and they would simply return to the castle. But then he asked, ‘What kind of power are we talking about? How powerful are you?’

‘I don’t know. I haven’t found the edges yet.’

‘What you did just then.’ He indicated the slain snake–creature. ‘How difficult was that for you?’

‘Hardly at all.’

Arthur looked at him again for a long moment. Thoughtful. Primal. Then he nodded once, accepting this. ‘All right.’

Merlin fell to his knees, as perhaps he should have done at the start. ‘My lord, I am your servant in this, as in all else. I have only, I will only use magic in your interests.’

‘Oh, do get up, Merlin,’ Arthur said with that old familiar impatient tone.

Merlin scrambled back to his feet, grinning. He hadn’t heard Arthur talk to him like that for far too long. ‘Yes, sire.’

‘Well,’ said Arthur, turning away and starting to gather up his gear, ‘if you’re as powerful as you say you are, then maybe we’re not talking about master–and–servant any more.’

‘No?’

‘Maybe we’re talking about friends. Partners.’

Merlin gaped a bit, and murmured, ‘Arthur…’

Those hot blue eyes swept over him, and then the king was back. ‘Come along, then, we haven’t got all day. There’s that blasted court reception tonight, remember?’

‘Yes, sire,’ Merlin said. And he scrambled to obey.

Late that night, Merlin was pottering around Arthur’s rooms, haphazardly tidying up, fetching water, making sure the fire was set to last the night. Arthur sat in his chair pondering, still in his court finery. Eventually Merlin asked, ‘Do you want me to help you get ready for bed?’

Arthur looked at him, and replied very deliberately, ‘Yes, I do.’

‘Come on, then,’ Merlin said, expecting him to get up and stand in the place near the cupboards and press where Merlin usually dressed and undressed him.

‘I think not.’ Arthur lifted his chin. ‘You go stand over there, in the middle of the room.’

Merlin shrugged, and did so. ‘Yeah, and…?’

‘Now, lock the door.’ When Merlin took a step in the direction of the door, Arthur said, ‘No. Use your magic.’

Ah. ‘Testing me, are you?’

Arthur just lifted a royal brow.

Merlin held his gaze, and quirked his own brow. He didn’t even have to speak a spell any more; he just held out a hand in that direction and willed it, and the key turned, the bar slid across with a gratifying clank.

‘Turn down the bed,’ Arthur said.

He did so, still watching Arthur.

‘Now, undress me.’

‘Are you going to stand up?’

‘Only if I have to.’

All right, a challenge. Merlin frowned a little, and then one by one Arthur’s garments disappeared from him – not necessarily in the order in which Merlin would have done it otherwise – and reappeared by the press where they neatly folded themselves and then stacked up into a neat pile. He paused when the king was dressed in nothing more than his linens.

Arthur spread his hands as if to ask why he should stop there.

Merlin shrugged, and the linens disappeared, too. He swallowed when he saw that Arthur was unashamedly engorged.

Arthur stood up, and walked over to the bed. Lay himself down on his back on the sheets. ‘Come over here, Merlin,’ he said. And he added, ‘You can do the next part yourself. Manually, as it were.’

Merlin stood there gaping. ‘Why? What’s the next part?’

Arthur rolled his eyes, then turned to gaze at him. And he ordered, ‘Fuck me.’

Oh. Merlin’s knuckles were at his mouth. ‘Arthur…’

‘You still want to, don’t you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Come on, then. Don’t make me wait all night.’

Merlin muttered an oath under his breath. Walked over to the bed. Looked down at this beautiful man, whom he’d loved for so long, whom he’d thought he’d never have. ‘Arthur –’

‘You should get rid of those clothes, for a start.’

Merlin groaned, and waved a hand distractedly down his chest; his clothes vanished, and he wasn’t quite sure where they’d gone, but he really didn’t care right now. He propped a knee on the bed, shifted forward – it felt like he was falling – until he was on all fours over his love, his beautiful love, and no doubt Merlin was gawky, ungainly in such direct comparison – but apparently Arthur didn’t care, for his hands lifted to Merlin’s waist, and suddenly Merlin was sprawling, landing on Arthur, and they were moving together, and kissing, and it all just worked somehow, both of them hard, so hard and hot and desperate.

And it was enough, more than enough, for a while – the kissing, and the shifting against each other, and Merlin’s hands roaming, his eyes roaming, his mouth roaming – every sense he had taking in the fact that finally Arthur was his. But soon he sensed Arthur’s impatience, so he worked a hand down in between them, and wrapped it around both their cocks together, and started a thrusting, sliding devastation with his hand and his hips –

Except that Arthur lay there refusing to be moved, staring up at him – and he complained, ‘Merlin – I didn’t say, Make love to me, for God’s sake – I said, Fuck me, damn you…’

Merlin stilled, and looked down at his love. ‘What – What do you want me to – Do you want me to –’

‘Yes.’

Oh. ‘Uh –’

‘You can’t possibly tell me you don’t want to!’ Arthur cried, exasperated.

He thought about that, imagined how it would be to have Arthur’s legs wrapped around his waist while he sank deep inside the man… ‘Uh, no, I can’t tell you that.’

‘Then what is the problem?’

‘I just, you know – our first time –’

Arthur growled up at him: ‘It’ll be our last time, too, if you don’t get a move on.’

Which was a threat he really didn’t want to see come to pass, but Merlin sighed, and pulled away, and shifted to sit cross–legged on the other side of the bed. He held his head in his hands for a moment, wondering whether he was actually sane or not, risking everything like this. But he thought he was. Sane. Probably.

‘I will,’ Merlin announced. ‘I promise I’ll fuck you, Arthur, if that’s what you really want. I just want to know why it’s so important right now.’

A royal glare slammed into him. ‘I don’t have to explain myself to you.’

Merlin sighed, and voiced an impertinent theory: ‘Is that what you did with Uther?’

‘Get out, Merlin. Get out now.’

‘I will not.’

‘I never want to see your face again.’

‘I’m not Uther, you know.’

And Arthur responded with deceptive calm, ‘Believe me when I say that is rapidly becoming very clear to me.’

‘And if he just – If all he did was – Then I reckon that –’

‘That wasn’t all he did,’ Arthur silkily responded, ‘but I’m not asking you to slap me or spank me or tie me up or chain me or hit me or blindfold me. I’m just asking you to fuck me. Surely you’re man enough to do that.’

Merlin rubbed his face in his hands, wondering why he hadn’t just walked away from this. But he knew why, really. He loved this man. This man who was by turns charming and aggravating, confident and insecure, experienced and innocent, wise and idiotic. ‘Is that all you ever knew?’ Merlin asked as neutrally as he could. ‘Did he never make love to you?’

‘Who are you to say it wasn’t making love?’ Arthur demanded.

Well, it was Arthur himself who’d first made the distinction, but it probably wasn’t wise to throw that in his face just now. Merlin sighed. He’d long ago figured out that it must have been the most passionately intense love between the two Pendragon men, father and son. He just hadn’t quite expected how that had been expressed between them. Or how ingrained that would be in Arthur.

Arthur was still lying there. Despite ordering Merlin out. He hadn’t got up from the bed himself, or dressed, or even covered himself with the sheets. He hadn’t lost his excitement. Merlin looked at Arthur now, really looked over this incredibly beautiful man lying there naked waiting for him. And he wondered why he was so respectful of the civilised surface when there was something so primal waiting there for him just beneath.

Arthur said, ‘You showed me your power today, warlock. I was impressed. Forget what I said about doing this manually. Physically. Whatever. Do it any damn way you please. Just – for God’s sake – fuck me.’

Merlin was kneeling upright on the bed, buried deep within Arthur – who was suspended in mid–air, held in the perfect position by magic, his torso a glorious arch and his head hanging back so far that his golden hair was lightly brushing the bed, his arms fallen out wide. His legs were the only part of him that was configured manually rather than magically – they were wound around Merlin’s waist, exactly as Merlin had imagined them, crossed at the ankles with a heel digging in against the small of Merlin’s back.

‘All right?’ Merlin whispered, though it was obvious even to him that this was a fairly redundant question.

‘Move!’ gasped Arthur.

‘All right…’ And Merlin wrapped his hands hard around Arthur’s hips, eased himself back, and began a long relentless thrust. Arthur groaned, and for a moment tightened unbearably around him, but then they found exactly the right angle, the right pressure, and it was amazing. Merlin sent tendrils of gold running over Arthur’s body, twisting around his nipples and making them hard as pebbles, winding teasingly around his cock, questing around his balls.

Another groan, louder this time, fraught, and then a muttered filthy oath, which became an order: ‘Harder, damn you!’

‘All right.’ And he increased the beat of his thrusts, slamming in as roughly as he dared, upped the intensity of his magical caresses, dug his fingers into the flesh of Arthur’s buttocks, his thumbs pressing hard along his hipbones. ‘Arthur…’ he groaned, wondering how long he could possibly last, knowing there was no magic strong enough – not even his – to prevent or slow down an urge this powerful. ‘Arthur!’

‘Harder,’ came the guttural order.

Merlin groaned, and finally let go of any notion that he was civilised. He stretched up taller, pushing his hips forward so his thighs tautened, shifting Arthur with him – prising Arthur’s legs away from his waist, and forcing his thighs back against Arthur’s chest, so he was curled up and utterly open to Merlin, completely supported by the magic alone. Arthur gazed at him with those blue eyes glowing dark. A long still moment passed. Merlin gently withdrew, almost completely.

And then Merlin drove into him, forcing his cockhead from the tight entrance down deep within Arthur. Once. Twice. Again. And again. Then, timing it perfectly, on the fifth surge forward he swung a hand hard against that strong butt – and Arthur cried out as he came, seed pouring from him, blue eyes burning hot – and Merlin came, too, arching back himself as he felt a relief almost too profound for pleasure. Then sagging onto his love, easing them both down to the bed, letting the magic fade, holding on close until Arthur’s shudders finally quietened, and they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

Four

Was there ever a good time to talk about this kind of thing? Merlin wondered. It was late at night, and he was pottering around Arthur’s rooms – which were the king’s chambers. Arthur had finally moved into his father’s rooms – coincidentally or not, on the day after he and Merlin had first had sex. And Merlin pretty much lived there with him now, though there was a small room with a narrow bed just off the main room, where he slept sometimes when they didn’t want to share a bed, and there was still Gaius’s turret room for the odd occasion when he and Arthur really couldn’t stand each other for a while. Because otherwise they were together almost all the time these days and especially these nights.

Some things didn’t change, though. Despite the fact that Arthur had more servants at his beck and call now – and even Merlin had a young fellow he could order around – Merlin still found himself pottering around at night, haphazardly tidying up, fetching water, making sure the fire was set, while Arthur sat in his chair reading letters or reports, or just pondering.

Eventually, when it seemed as if Arthur had finished considering the last of that night’s papers, Merlin asked, ‘Do you want to get ready for bed?’

Arthur looked at him, and replied very deliberately, ‘Yes, I do.’

And by now of course Merlin knew exactly what he meant. Usually he smiled. But tonight he sighed.

Which Arthur picked up on. As the king walked over to the cupboards where Merlin usually dressed and undressed him, he sardonically asked, ‘Not in the mood, Merlin?’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t say that.’ Merlin kept his head down, and his expression neutral. He began unlacing and unbuttoning his royal charge, without using magic; he liked dealing with Arthur’s clothes physically. Until it came time to wash them, of course. But anything to do with clothes in the immediate vicinity of Arthur, well, then Merlin liked using his fingers.

Arthur was watching him carefully. After a while he commented, ‘I do appreciate that you’ve never once denied me, Merlin.’

‘Thank you, sire,’ he murmured in reply.

‘So I suppose that it would be reasonable of me to accept that you’re not always up for it.’

‘Exceedingly reasonable, sire.’

‘As long as it’s not more than, say, once or twice every… hundred years or so.’

‘Your majesty is the quintessence of generosity and forbearance.’

Arthur snorted. ‘Quintessence? Is that even a word? Exactly what do you and Geoffrey get up to in that library, anyway…?’

But what Merlin really wasn’t in the mood for was banter. He discarded Arthur’s linens, and then helped him into his nightshirt. ‘What if…’ he finally began. ‘What if… I wanted to do something else with you? Something different. In terms of sex.’

Arthur’s eyes narrowed. ‘What do you mean?’

‘What if I wanted to make love with you? Or even just fool around?’

‘We’ve talked about this.’

Merlin dared to meet those opaque blue eyes. ‘Actually, no, we haven’t. We’ve kind of talked around it a couple of times. But that’s all.’

‘Huh,’ said Arthur. Then, instead of heading for the bed and getting in as he usually did, Arthur went to his chair, and stood there with his hands resting on the back of it. ‘I thought you were man enough to do this for me. Was I wrong?’

‘No,’ Merlin calmly replied, ‘you weren’t wrong.’

‘Because we could stop this. If either of us wanted.’

‘That’s not what I want, Arthur.’

And Arthur just lifted his chin in acknowledgement. Not saying anything about what he himself wanted.

This wasn’t a good time to talk about this. It wasn’t even a good place, seeing as they were in Uther’s rooms, and were about to climb into Uther’s bed. The rooms and the bed were Arthur’s now, of course, but this was where Arthur’s previous relationship had played out, and Merlin wondered if they could ever really escape the patterns Uther had set.

He quickly stripped off his own clothes, thinking. Wondering how to start turning things around, if it were even possible. Arthur was just so used to having things a certain way. He liked certain acts, and he had no qualms in demanding them. Demanding that he be dominated. Even if he was the one being fucked, he was in control – at least, when it came to Merlin. It can’t have been that way with Uther, it must have been Uther in control then. But occasionally, because he trusted Merlin, Arthur would let Merlin be in control. Occasionally Arthur would get a kick out of the danger involved in ceding control to a servant. To a powerful warlock.

Maybe Merlin had gone about this the wrong way.

‘Arthur,’ he said in what he trusted was a true echo of Arthur’s own authority, ‘take off your nightshirt, and get into bed.’

Arthur looked at him a bit strangely for a moment, as if wondering where this had come from.

Now, Arthur.’

And the king obeyed him. Arthur walked over to the bed. Shrugged off the nightshirt and let it fall to the floor. Then lay down on the sheets, and waited.

Merlin bent to scoop up his neckerchief, and went to stand over his love. ‘Put your hands here,’ he said, tapping the nearest post of the bed.

Those opaque blue eyes were watching him closely, but Arthur obediently shifted closer and lifted his hands to exactly the spot Merlin had indicated.

Merlin tied Arthur’s wrists to the post with the neckerchief – not too tight, but secure. ‘All right. Now, are you hard for me?’

‘Yes,’ Arthur whispered. And it was true.

Merlin knelt up on the bed, pushed at Arthur’s hips until the man was lying diagonally down it, and then bent over him. ‘Not hard enough,’ he muttered, deliberately provoking, before taking Arthur deep into his mouth, sucking powerfully.

Arthur gasped, and his hips bucked. It didn’t take long before Merlin had him shaking with need, and wet with both Merlin’s spittle and anticipatory drops of Arthur’s seed.

Merlin lifted up again, and straddled Arthur’s hips. Reached back between his own thighs for a moment to test himself, push a finger inside; it had been a long while now, but his body accepted the intrusion easily. Arthur was staring up at him, those blue eyes burning hot, that beautiful face wary, every line of his body fraught. For a moment the king pulled futilely at the bindings on his wrists. If all Arthur had known was Uther, then Merlin had to assume Arthur hadn’t done this before. But that wasn’t going to stop Merlin. And it seemed Arthur himself wasn’t going to protest, even though the wariness was starting to shade into fear.

Merlin grasped Arthur’s cock, instinctively found the right angles, and then sank his weight down, groaning a welcome as he was penetrated. Arthur groaned, too, full of need and awe. Still staring at him as Merlin kept slowly sinking until at last the sensitive skin of his rear was settled on the equally tender skin of Arthur’s groin, and he felt full, complete.

‘All right?’ Merlin asked, his voice unnaturally deep and hoarse.

‘Yes,’ came the raw reply. ‘Yes, my –’ The words halted, and neither of them deigned to notice the missing title, or perhaps it was going to be an endearment. ‘Merlin…’ As Merlin lifted again, and began to work himself, work Arthur, the king was full of wonder. It was clear he could not possibly last very long, and neither should he.

Merlin would have been content just to fuck like this, but he wanted Arthur to experience everything this act offered, so he sent tendrils of magic down to his own cock and balls, and after a brief tease which Arthur watched hungrily, Merlin brought himself off, quickly, ruthlessly. He felt his body clench and clutch around Arthur as the pleasure took him – Arthur cried out, shouted out, pushed up, and was coming, coming, pulsing into Merlin, bucking up into him, a filthy oath falling from those beautiful lips.

It went on forever, and Merlin revelled in it, made sure Arthur took everything he could from the act, but of course eventually the intensity ebbed away. Merlin carefully eased himself off Arthur’s softened cock, and crawled up to lie curled beside his love, resting his head on Arthur’s chest. Waved a vague hand at the neckerchief, which untied itself and drifted down to the floor. Arthur rolled his shoulders as if to ease them, then wrapped his arms around Merlin. And they slept.

Five

It was a beautiful warm summer afternoon, all sunshine and green leaves fluttering in the breeze and the blue sky arching high over them, the colour almost as pure as Arthur’s eyes.

Arthur was still insisting on having the freedom to ride out with only Merlin at his side, though the knights had dared to ask him to at least stay within an hour’s ride of the castle. People took Merlin somewhat seriously as a warlock now, so he supposed they considered him able to help Arthur defend himself if need be. He was very aware, though, that it would only take one real disaster, averted or not, and Arthur would find his liberty curtailed. So Merlin was as careful with his charge as he knew how to be.

Today there was no question of hunting, not even for Arthur. This afternoon was about other matters, far more important – at least for Merlin.

‘No one will see us,’ Merlin murmured as he took Arthur’s hand and led him into the centre of the little clearing he’d found in the forest. The two horses were left munching contentedly on the sweet long grasses.

Arthur followed him obediently, and then stood there with the tiniest smile quirking his lips while Merlin began undressing him. ‘How can you be sure?’ he asked.

‘Oh yeah.’ He’d almost forgotten to actually work the spell. Merlin waved his hand about, and a golden net appeared around the edges of the clearing, stretching from the trunk of one tree to the next, and so on. The horses whickered, sensing this strangeness, but then settled again. ‘All right?’

‘Yes.’ Arthur’s smile grew.

Soon they were both standing there naked in the sunlight, and kissing with their arms around each other’s waists. It was just the most delightful thing. After a while, Merlin eased a hand between them, and wrapped it around Arthur’s eager cock. Arthur moaned into the kiss, encouraging. With his lips still against Arthur’s, Merlin whispered, ‘Touch me, too?’

And Arthur did so, slipping a hand down to match Merlin’s hold on him, and then to echo the rhythm that Merlin set. They held each other up with their other arms, then when the pleasure threatened to overwhelm them they each dropped their foreheads to the other’s shoulder, groaning and muttering promises.

At last they spilled over, their seed mingling and blessing them both, and they propped each other up for a while, but then eventually sank to lie closely together on the grass. ‘Merlin,’ Arthur was murmuring, still lost in the bright simple grace of it all, ‘love.’

‘Yes,’ Merlin whispered in reply. ‘Yes, Arthur.’

‘Merlin, my love…’

‘Yes, dearheart. I know.’

And they lay there together in perfect balance, suspended in the beneficent sunlight. Until at last it was time to go home.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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12 responses to “The Balance of Power”

  1. avatar dark_angelis says:

    This is really sweet. I like how Uther is this looming presence in the background throughout. I can definitely imagine Uther totally warping Arthur’s idea of what a relationship should be like and I like the idea of Merlin teaching him how different it could be. Although to be honest after Arthur’s comment about slapping/spanking/being tied up I would happily read a fic about Uther and Arthur’s fucked up relationship. It sounds deliciously kinky :D Another great fic, well done!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Thanks, dark_angelis! I’m so glad this worked for you. And seeing as I promised you something darker, maybe I should write that prequel for you… I’ll have a mull, and see if I can actually be kinky enough to do it justice! :-D

  2. avatar Lara says:

    Awww, why do you always wait to post until I go to bed? Oh well, I wake up and find lovely fic waiting for me :)

    Great fic Harley, I enjoyed it. I love that even though Arthur is set in his ways, Merlin can expose him to different things and change him. I love how emotional this story was and I was just just blown away by Arthur’s grief and reaction to losing Uthur and gaining Merlin. We did not even have his pov and it was still so potent and telling.

    Thank you for writing and posting this Harley!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Morning, Lara! Thank you so much for your comment. I will try to time my posting better next time. :-P

      I’m delighted that this one worked for you, and especially Merlin’s ‘mission’ to help Arthur. It’s wonderful to know you felt Arthur’s emotions so strongly, even though this wasn’t told from his pov. I will take that as a terrific compliment!

      Thank you again, my friend…

  3. avatar Mei says:

    I think your Merlin stories are great, and I have been remiss in not telling you earlier. Even though Uther is only indirectly mentioned in this one, you can feel him like a third protagonist (or antagonist, even). I would love to read Arthur’s point of view, sometime.

    Then again, I am doubtful there is a story of yours I would not love to read.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Mei – Thank you! Your compliments mean so very much to me. I am having a great deal of fun in the Merlin universe, but of course that’s increased tenfold when other people are there sharing the fun with me.

      I’m glad Uther made his presence felt in this fic! I find him a fascinating character – and, yes, I think of him as an antagonist. In fact, in Buffy-verse terms, I think Uther is the Big Bad (the one overarching villain) for the first season. If the show kills him off at some stage, I wonder if the creators will be able to come up with anyone as weighty and complex for our boys to work against. I should have faith that they will, based on what they’ve already done!

      Thank you again for your comment. I am having a very happy morning thus far!

  4. avatar Kahtya Sofia says:

    *heavy sigh*

    You’re my favorite Merlin author! You accomplish what I try to do in my Torchwood stories, use the sex to tell the story. Infuse the sex with deep and abiding emotions. I love it.

    I actually admitted to liking Pendragon-cest at Escapade Con this past weekend and I blame you!

    Unless you object, I’d like to load some of your stories on my Kindle so I can reread them when I don’t have access to my computer.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Kahtya Sofia – Wow! Thank you so much! I am flattered and humbled by your comment. And I am delighted that you want to ‘Kindle’ me! Thanks for asking, but of course I have no objection at all.

      I’m so glad you feel I accomplish what you describe. It sounds like we’re on the same page here! I am all for writing and reading porny slash, but I only really find it interesting to write (and read) where the sex explores the characters or develops (at least expresses) their relationship. Setting such ‘lofty’ goals for oneself isn’t a guarantee the results will work though, so it’s wonderful to receive this feedback from you.

      I hope your Escapade friends were kind re your admission! Hurrah for Pendragon-cest! :-D

  5. avatar Kahtya Sofia says:

    Oh, my confession met with mixed reactions, not ALL of them bad, but as I write Torchwood fic involving knife-play and penetration with gun barrels, I’m used to having eyebrows raised at my tastes!

    I’ll share the ebooks with you when I have them done (or even one ebook with multiple stories, I haven’t decided) so that you can offer them up for other reader who might Kindle.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Morning, Kahtya! Hee – your tastes are suitably ‘avant garde’!

      Thank you – you’re very kind about your Kindle idea. I appreciate it!

  6. avatar laurapetri says:

    Beautiful

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