Harlequin's Slash Fic

Strange Customs: 02 The Twelve Virtues

Title: Strange Customs: 02 The Twelve Virtues
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Arthur/Uther, with a bit of Arthur/Merlin
Category, Word count: Story; 12948 words
Rating: NC17
Summary: Camelot has this rather strange custom where the crown prince becomes the king’s lover for a year when he comes of age. So, you know, they have lots of sex. But it also gives Arthur the opportunity to learn the twelve virtues necessary in any long–term relationship. So, really, it all makes perfect sense!
Notes: This was written for my friend antychan, who asked for a sequel to King takes Prince with lots (lots!) of porn…
Like the preceding piece, this probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously. And this really is alternate universe – in the first story, I pretty much ignored everything about the episode 1×09 Excalibur except for Arthur’s coming of age, and I am ignoring subsequent episodes in this one. Also, I decided quite arbitrarily that Arthur’s birthday was in October (same as Bradley’s, perhaps?) rather than making it November when the episode was aired. But it doesn’t really matter much at this point, so there’s no need to consider it as fanon!
Warnings: As you may have gathered, this features lots of explicit father/son incest. Proceed with caution!

 

The Twelve Virtues

October | Modesty

On the morning after his twenty–first birthday, Arthur awoke in his father’s bed. For several long heartbeats he couldn’t think what on earth he was doing there. But then he shifted, and he felt the dryness of his mouth, the rawness of his nipples, the tenderness of his cock, the ache of his balls, the soreness of his arse. Saw his discarded clothes with the garland of ivy and ribbons on the stone floor; the white flowers Merlin had woven into the garland had wilted. How appropriate, Arthur thought wryly, remembering Merlin’s long fingers and his bright bemused smile.

He turned and saw Uther lying beside him, still fast asleep. The king had been so… gallant about this rather unexpected ritual. As if he would have chosen this before all else if he could. As if it answered his fondest dreams that his son Arthur, on becoming crown prince, would also become the king’s… lover. Consort, Arthur supposed. Apparently it was to last for a year, unless there was a suitable offer of marriage for the prince in the meantime. Of course the king would have to agree for any such engagement to proceed. Arthur wondered whether Uther would. Judging by Uther’s infinite patience the previous night and his gratifying enthusiasm, it would have to be a magnificent opportunity to further Camelot’s interests for Uther to let him go. If, when Merlin had finally explained the ritual to the oblivious prince the previous night, Arthur had had any thoughts that Uther might claim him for a night and then quietly let the ritual drop, then he was soon disabused of that notion. Uther had… enjoyed him with all the intensity he brought to bear on everything he considered worthwhile.

Arthur sighed, and eased himself up out of the bed. Washed himself down, and drank a large tankard of water. By the time he was done, Uther was lying there watching him with glittering eyes. ‘Good morning, father,’ Arthur said quite formally.

‘It is the best of mornings, Arthur.’

He couldn’t help but smile a little at that, and he remembered wondering just how mortified one could become from mere compliments. ‘Thank you, father.’ He took the jug of water, two tankards and a platter of fruit back to the bed, and they broke their fast there with Uther lazing against the piled pillows and Arthur sitting cross–legged facing him, the corner of a sheet dragged across his lap for the sake of modesty.

Once they were done with this makeshift meal, they stayed there for a while, considering each other in this new light.

‘A year,’ Uther eventually said. ‘This must continue until your twenty–second birthday.’

‘Yes, father.’

‘Then you have no objections?’

He grimaced a little in amusement. ‘Would it make any difference if I did?’

Uther stared at him, hungry and needy, but with a wary cloud hovering on his brow. Eventually the king said, ‘I am glad we do not need to find out.’ Before Arthur could frame a reply or a retort, Uther turned away, and produced one of Gaius’s little pots of balm from the nearby drawers. ‘Are you hurt? If you would let me…?’

‘I am fine, father.’ But he obediently stretched out on his front, and turned his face away as the king knelt beside him; shivered as Uther ran ointment–slick fingerpads across his sore, sensitive flesh. Shuddered as a fingertip gently pushed the balm inside him, turned to spread it further, then deeper… Arthur shook, suddenly cold to his core, but hot and flushed at the same time. ‘Father…’ he groaned.

‘Arthur,’ came the husky response.

The finger withdrew – Arthur moaned in disappointment – but then Uther returned, with the oil this time. God, Arthur was sore, feeling well–used, and he suspected it would hurt. But he wanted this, he wanted this. He’d occasionally had an idle thought about Merlin tumbling him, it was true, but Arthur had no idea why this act had become so utterly necessary so soon…

Uther moving behind him, above him, one arm holding himself up away from Arthur while the other hand positioned himself at the entrance to Arthur’s body, Arthur’s… ‘Are you ready?’ the king asked.

‘Yes.’ Then, when he wasn’t immediately filled, Arthur murmured, ‘Please, father.’

‘Yes, my son. Yes.’

And he was pushing inside, and they both let out a groan – so perfectly alike, the groans, that they augmented each other, resonated through the king’s rooms, and Arthur would have laughed if he weren’t so strung out, so full, so needy – too full and wanting more. ‘Father…’ his voice breaking. ‘Please!’

Uther was careful, and quick, apparently knowing he mustn’t prolong this. Within a few thrusts he growled in appreciation, in warning – and then a few thrusts later he drove himself deep with a shout, and stayed there taut, tense, pulsing within Arthur, soothing him with his own balm.

Arthur cried out in pain, in urgency, in grief as Uther at last withdrew. Then Arthur was grabbed by the hips and flipped over onto his back, and Uther’s mouth was on him suckling, sucking, this appalling pressure drawing Arthur right out of himself, this not quite pain not quite pleasure – then a tongue rasping around him, almost wrapping round his cockhead – and he was coming, coming, pulsing his seed into Uther’s mouth – and Uther greedily swallowed it down.

And when it was over, Uther collapsed back against the pillows, taking Arthur with him, and they held each other there for a long time.

There was a formal court gathering planned for that day; officially a breakfast, but not held until midday as if to acknowledge that at least two of the party might well have spent the whole night shagging. Arthur got himself bathed and dressed, missing Merlin but not yet willing to have Uther’s servant Paul take care of him. Then he and Uther walked down to the main hall together. At the last moment, Uther took Arthur’s hand, lifted it – and the doors opened, and the two of them swept in, the king parading his consort before the court with this really unbearably smug smile on his face… Arthur’s face froze in mid–protest, and he tried not to meet anyone’s gaze. Which was difficult when the hall was absolutely packed, and everyone was staring at him.

At last Arthur was settling himself on his chair on the dais. He’d forgotten how hard the chair was, though it had made sitting through interminable feasts and speeches and ceremonies a real chore at times. Now he could hardly even sit down properly without wincing – at which a little gasp and whisper ran around the hall, followed by some distinct snickering. Uther’s smugness reached utterly unconscionable heights. Arthur felt himself go bright red. He didn’t even have the wherewithal to regally glare around him as if considering who to execute first, which was his default response to mockery when in his father’s presence.

Well, the one thing he couldn’t let himself do was suffer Morgana’s amusement. Arthur turned his head away from where she sat on the other side of Uther. Instead his gaze fell upon Merlin. Who was standing by the nearest wall looking rather ridiculously apologetic. He had a thick red cushion in his hands, and he offered it in a relatively subtle way, though obviously it was far too late now. Even Merlin realised that Arthur couldn’t accept it now. He would just have to suffer.

Arthur thought warm thoughts about daggers flying through the air and the cushion not being quite thick enough to protect this most inept of man servants. Thup! Thup! Thup! they landed in his chest one after the other, buried up to the hilt in red velvet. But then one corner of Merlin’s mouth twitched, and suddenly he was grinning in amusement, and Arthur felt himself smiling in response. So he lowered his head, and tried instead to concentrate on some dreary conversation Uther was having with Geoffrey, the court librarian and record–keeper.

Strange though this was, Arthur was loving it. Perhaps, seeing as he had finally put twenty–one years of virginity behind him, he would have loved this with anyone. But Uther was a thorough and relentless lover, and Arthur had hero–worshiped him since he was a boy. No matter how embarrassing this got, Arthur never once refused him; he found himself in fact ludicrously eager.

Even when, for example, Uther had come down to the training grounds, and called Arthur to him – indicating that Sir Dinadan should lead the rest of the session – even when Uther had simply walked Arthur into the nearest pavilion and bid him loosen his britches. Uther had bent him over the table, lifted his chain mail – and plunged inside him with no warning.

Arthur cried out in instinctive protest, though already this didn’t hurt, not any more – he groaned in a helpless welcome. Then he remembered the thin canvas walls, and all the knights of Camelot no more than twenty or thirty feet away. ‘Father…’ he whispered.

Uther’s gloved hand reached down to wrap itself around Arthur’s hard cock, and Arthur had to bite his lip to keep from moaning. Uther already knew exactly how to drive him wild. ‘Let it be known,’ the king demanded.

‘Let – let – what be known? Sire –’

‘Brace yourself,’ Uther ordered – and once Arthur was holding himself secure against the table, Uther’s other hand reached down to tug at Arthur’s balls.

Arthur groaned, caring somewhat less than he had about his men hearing.

‘Let it be known,’ the king commanded, ‘how greatly I pleasure you.’

‘No…’ he moaned, trying to cling to his sense of right and wrong, proper and improper.

‘Let it be known!’

He was so close, so very close – but Arthur already knew that Uther could keep him there for as long as he cared to, holding off the inevitable until it seemed unattainable. ‘Please,’ he whispered.

‘You know how to ask me.’ Pounding into him, pounding – tugging firmly and stroking gently – but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.

‘Please!’ Arthur cried out. ‘Your majesty…’ he sobbed.

Yes, Arthur –’

And the end was upon him, and he groaned and sobbed like a mad thing – dimly aware of Uther’s triumphant shout as he finished, too. Then Arthur ended up collapsed on the ground, shaking with shock.

He ended up alone. Slowly he put himself back together again. Then he took a breath, standing there just inside the entrance of the tent. Another breath. He stood taller. Prouder. He could hear Uther talking out there, laughing, sharing some ribald joke. God…

A deep breath. All right. Arthur walked out into the cool autumn air again – saw his father swaggering and smug, with half the knights gathered round him. Arthur put on an expression that defied anyone to make an issue of it with him. He was Arthur Pendragon, and he need blush for no man. There were a few looks of mirthful appraisal, but the amusement soon faded, and the knights began drifting back to their proper business.

Uther nodded at Arthur, distant again, and headed up towards the castle.

Then Arthur caught the tail–end of an envious glance from one of the young men, and it suddenly occurred to him that possibly no one in the whole kingdom had it as good as he did right now. Arthur smiled. And started to do a little swaggering of his own.

When Arthur came to Uther’s rooms late one night, he found the king sitting by the fire, thoughtful. So Arthur sat at his feet, leaning back against his legs – and Uther’s gloved hand settled on his head, absently stroked his hair. Arthur closed his eyes and went with it.

But after a while, the king quietly asked, ‘Have you learned anything this past month, Arthur?’

He twisted his head around to look up at Uther. ‘I hope so, father. I hope I have learned enough to make you as… happy as you make me.’

Uther smiled despite himself, the flat wry smile that actually meant he was vastly amused but trying not to show it. He said, apparently inconsequentially, ‘Geoffrey found an old manuscript.’

‘Yes, father?’

‘One of our forebears who entered into such a relationship with his son. He was… speculating about the reasons behind the custom. He described what uses he put it to himself.’

What uses… Arthur shivered a little, wondering what adventures were coming.

‘I mean,’ Uther continued, with an amused tone as if he knew where Arthur’s imagination was taking him – ‘I simply mean that this is an opportunity for you to learn about yourself, about relationships. About how to be a better husband for your future queen. How to be a better person, and therefore a better king.’

‘Yes, father.’

‘So, what might you have learned this month, Arthur?’

Sex is really really amazing. The best thing ever invented. And you’re very very good at it. But he didn’t say any of that. Maybe he could convey some of it later, in bed. Arthur remained silent, not really sure what Uther was getting at.

Uther prompted, ‘Perhaps some of the lessons are learned through examples of what not to do, how not to treat your wife.’

God, all right… Arthur swallowed hard. Even when given permission, it took courage to criticise the king’s behaviour. ‘Don’t embarrass her,’ Arthur suggested. ‘Even if the sex is really amazing, don’t embarrass her about it.’

‘Excellent. Yes.’ Uther ruffled his hair. ‘Respect her sense of modesty.’

‘Yes, father.’

‘Good.’ That leather–gloved hand at Arthur’s chin, lifting and tilting his head so that Uther could look at him. It was a hungry, predatory look. ‘Good. Now come to bed.’

November | Selflessness

‘Are you all right?’ Merlin murmured as those long fingers of his smoothed Arthur’s shirt down over his shoulders.

No. God, he’d just expire of frustration soon, and there would be an end to it.

‘Arthur?’

‘What?’

Merlin cast him a look that was somehow both droll and concerned. ‘What’s the matter?’

Arthur remained silent while Merlin helped him into his jacket. And they were so used to this by now, so comfortable, they knew each other so well, that it had become almost like a dance. Well, if dancing were a good thing. Almost like a perfect training routine that had become second nature… Thrust and parry. Thrust and parry and feint… Damn it! Why did Merlin have to be so unexpectedly dextrous and so, well, ept at some things – such as dressing or undressing Arthur – which only provoked inappropriate thoughts about what else he might be unexpectedly dextrous at? It wasn’t fair!

‘Arthur…’ All right, Merlin was starting to sound genuinely worried.

Casting him a quelling look, Arthur said, ‘That book. About our customs. You read about this, didn’t you?’

‘You mean this… thing between you and the king?’

‘What the hell else would I be talking about?’

Merlin tried to hide the fact that his mouth quirked. ‘Yes, I read it.’

‘Well, what did it say was the purpose of this? What am I meant to be learning about?’

‘Learning?’ Merlin considered him for a long moment. ‘It didn’t say anything like that. It didn’t explain why. Just that, under certain circumstances, it should happen. Gaius said it had been generations since the situation was such that –’

‘All right!’ Arthur said, cutting him off. Not wanting to hear about how rare it was for a prince of Camelot to be not only unmarried but a virgin when he came of age. ‘I’ll thank you not to gossip.’

‘I wasn’t gossiping,’ Merlin disputed mildly. He stepped back a little, with his arms folded. ‘Anyway. What do you think you’re meant to be learning?’

Arthur shrugged, turned away. ‘I don’t know. This month, I – Uh – A test. Some kind of endurance test, or something.’

Endurance test?’

‘Yes,’ Arthur said in his most clipped tones. ‘And do you know what? It really doesn’t help when you just repeat everything I say.’

‘Sorry.’ Merlin was at his shoulder again, sounding intrigued: ‘What are you enduring?’

God, was he going to have to spell it out? ‘I, uh, haven’t…’ He tilted his head, rolled his eyes, grimaced. ‘You know. For weeks.’

Merlin was gaping at him. ‘But I thought you and the king were –’ His eyebrows waggled ridiculously but meaningfully.

Arthur made some kind of protesting noise, but Merlin was unstoppable when he was curious.

‘– at every opportunity.’

‘Thank you. Yes. Gossip. Not appreciated.’

‘Arthur!’

‘Well,’ he eventually explained, wondering if he would die of the shame of it. ‘We are. But he – does. And he won’t let me –’

‘Why?’ Absolutely mystified.

‘Yes, I think that’s where this conversation started.’

Merlin was silent. But not inexpressive. He was flabbergasted – as he always had been by this whole arrangement – but he was also deeply interested. That impertinent blue gaze took Arthur in with one long sweep, and made him an offer.

‘No. No, uh… I’m not the unfaithful sort,’ Arthur announced stiffly. ‘And anyway, my father strikes me as quite possessive. There’d be a lot of fuss, and shouting, and it would probably end in an execution, and then I’d have to train up some other village idiot as my servant… It would just be this whole big thing.’

Merlin looked a bit wary, a bit regretful. After a moment, he gestured inappropriately. ‘So, why don’t you…?’

‘He told me I wasn’t to. He said he’d know.’ Arthur frowned over this for the hundredth time. ‘How would he know?’

Merlin grinned. ‘Depends how good you are at keeping secrets. I’m guessing you’d go bright red and look guilty next time you saw him. And you wouldn’t be quite so… fraught any more.’

Arthur sighed. ‘I’ll have to ask Gaius if it’s possible to die of… fraughtness.’

‘You think Uther would have pity on you if it were?’

‘No. No, I’m meant to… learn something. I need to figure out what. Then he might… let me.’

Merlin pondered this. ‘I’ll think about it, too,’ he promised.

But even the thought of Merlin thinking about Arthur having sex, about Arthur climaxing – or indeed not – was as provoking as hell. So Arthur abruptly sent him on his way.

On his back in the king’s bed, with Uther slowly powering into him. Wrung out with need. His cock so hard it was almost painful. Weeping with need. Arthur shifted a little, arched down, trying to position himself so that Uther would thrust against that strange place deep within him… Maybe that would be enough. Maddened with need. ‘Father…’ he begged.

Uther stared down at him, and shifted Arthur’s hips back to where they’d been. ‘Stop it, Arthur,’ he said, sounding far too cold and remote for someone in the throes of fucking.

‘Father, please…’

Uther’s eyes had drifted closed.

Arthur’s hand seemed to consider this a good opportunity, and began creeping towards his own cock without any volition on Arthur’s part. It was foolishness, of course.

‘Stop it!’ Uther insisted.

‘Please… please… I’ve learned. I’ve learned the lesson. Please, father.’

Finally Uther stilled, and settled back on his heels, making sure he brought Arthur with him. Buried within him, buried up to the hilt. But it wasn’t enough. ‘What have you learned?’

Arthur was almost too lost to think. Finally he offered, ‘Her pleasure is as important as mine.’

Uther had almost gone with it – in the midst of Arthur’s reply his own hand had begun gravitating towards Arthur’s cock, just as Arthur’s hand had done. But then he pulled back with an angry growl. ‘No!’

‘Father…’

‘Arthur, for god’s sake…’ And it seemed for a moment as if Uther was almost as strung out as Arthur was.

At last Arthur blurted out: ‘More important! It’s more important!’

‘Yes. Yes.’ And Uther’s hand settled upon him, and that was just about all it took – Arthur was coming darkly as if the earth were collapsing beneath him and swallowing him up. Harsh muffled groans that barely reached his throat. And Uther was surrendering, too, with a moan of utter relief…

Arthur came seven times before dawn. He knew. He noted each occurrence very carefully. He counted them. He revelled in them.

So. They hadn’t quite made up for lost time. But it would do to start with.

December | Candour

And then – while Arthur was still eagerly catching up, still instinctively excitable – Uther kissed him. Full on the mouth, a passionate kiss. Both gloved hands cupping his face. Uther kissed him in the midst of a court gathering and in full view of the diplomatic party from some no–account kingdom in the east. And it was the kind of kiss that was unmistakeable in intent.

Arthur flushed with pleasure before he could stop himself, then blushed with embarrassment. His britches were too snug to allow for much discretion.

Uther was all frank and admiring glances for a while after that. Until finally he took Arthur’s hand in his and led him out of the hall. Everyone knew what Uther’s intentions must be. Arthur thought he had a pretty good idea himself.

So he was surprised when they didn’t head directly for Uther’s rooms, but instead detoured towards the battlements. Uther behaved more circumspectly now, checking the location of the guard as he patrolled back and forth, before raising his finger to his lips and quietly leading Arthur outside while the guard’s back was turned. They were tucked away together in a dark corner where a round turret met the main wall, before the guard came back and passed them not ten feet away.

Arthur was deep in Uther’s arms, wrapped up within the king’s woollen cloak, snug and warm despite the winter air, pressed against his lover. They kissed hungrily. Uther had his crown on, of course, which made Arthur’s mouth quirk in amusement. Then Uther’s hand pushed down between their bodies, unfastened Arthur’s britches with regal certainty, and delved inside. The coolness of a leather–gloved hand wrapping around the hard heat of him… Arthur gasped, and Uther kissed him again, muffled Arthur’s mouth with his own. That hand sure in its actions, dictating to Arthur exactly how excited he would be, and when, and how he would finish – the leather slick with his seed now, Uther relentlessly drawing every last shiver of pleasure from him, until at last Arthur felt so sensitive that he whispered, ‘Stop now. Father, stop. Please…’

Uther kissed him again, then lifted his hand to his own mouth, his gaze holding Arthur’s while he licked and lapped and sucked at his glove to clean it.

‘Father…’

‘Arthur.’ The king led him back inside. He didn’t bother hiding from the guard this time.

‘The personal is public,’ Uther said, ‘for a king and a queen.’

Arthur grinned to himself mirthlessly. They had returned to the gathering for a while, just to emphasise the fact that they had been absent on business of their own. Just so Uther could cast him some smouldering glances, and really rub everyone’s faces in it. Now they were in Uther’s rooms, and the king was sitting by the fire with the prince at his feet. It was time for another lesson.

‘Your mother… didn’t always understand that. She didn’t appreciate it.’

Arthur nodded, casting a serious glance at Uther. Igraine inevitably meant far more to the husband who still nursed his bereavement than to the son who’d never known her, but of course Arthur was always respectful whenever Uther raised the topic.

‘There must always be witnesses at a royal birth. Not just the physician and attendants, but nobles, men as well as women. Your mother did not appreciate that at all. But when it’s a matter of securing the succession, and establishing your son’s rights, then there is no choice in the matter.’

‘Yes, father.’

‘She…’ Uther sighed, and seemed lost in his thoughts, adrift in this twenty–one–year–old grief that seemed at times as fresh as yesterday. ‘I have not forgotten,’ he finally said, his voice rough. ‘Her last moments were… difficult. And I was with her, but so were… too many others. It cannot have been the passing she would have wished for, with only those she loved.’

‘I’m sorry, father.’

‘Yes.’ Uther seemed to gather himself. ‘There will be events that you must share with the people. Your wedding, for example. It cannot be a matter of a bride and a groom, but it must include the nobles, the people. It cannot be yours alone.’

‘Yes, father.’ Arthur attempted to sum up the lesson: ‘There are some things we must be open about. Some things we must have witnessed. Even the private things.’

Uther settled his hand on Arthur’s head approvingly, and then stroked his hair. They were comfortable together, the two of them. This was already becoming utterly familiar.

Eventually Arthur murmured, ‘I honour you for remembering my mother for so long, but I could wish the burden of grief wasn’t so heavy on you, father.’

For a long while, Uther was silent. But then he replied in low tones, ‘I have you, my son. My beloved son. And you ease all my burdens.’

January | Respect

The possibility loomed of a battle with the forces of Wessex over a boundary dispute on which Uther would not compromise. And Arthur could see his point, as the land in question was not only arable but rich in minerals – however, he wondered if, when he was king, he would be able to send men to their deaths over such an issue. Perhaps it were as well that he wouldn’t have to discover the answer to that for many years yet.

The king and Arthur were in the throne room discussing strategies with the significant nobles, the senior knights, and a few other advisors. All went smoothly and confidently enough until Gaius announced, ‘I understand that the sorcerer Tortain is expected to take the field with Wessex.’

Uther was outraged, of course. ‘Then it cannot be a fair fight! I wonder that Wessex has the nerve. He will lose all honour, employing such tactics.’

‘What can this Tortain do?’ Arthur asked. ‘What are we up against?’

‘Apparently he is known, sire, for hurling fireballs. There is very little a solider can do to shield himself. I’m not sure if he has other capabilities.’

Uther had stalked away, fuming.

‘How do we counter him?’

Gaius shook his head, and dared a quick glance at Uther. His answer was clear enough. As things stand, we can’t.

Arthur muttered, ‘We need a sorcerer fighting for us.’

‘You know that’s not possible, sire,’ Gaius said quietly.

But of course Uther had heard them, and he came sweeping back with his eyes flashing anger. ‘Never! Camelot will never use such filthy methods. We will fight honestly, and cleanly – and we will win.’

‘Father,’ said Arthur in his most reasonable tones, ‘how do we counter this sorcerer, then? What can we do against fireballs?’

‘None of these tricksters are invulnerable. We put enough men into the fight to overwhelm him. It’s worked before, and it will work again.’

Arthur couldn’t prevent himself grimacing. ‘And we end up with a great many dead men. Is this land really worth that kind of price?’

Uther’s anger was mounting. ‘It is not only the land. It is our strength. It is our pride that we protect. Compromise with Wessex on one thing, and he’ll want another. And he’ll take it by force if he can!’

‘Not only with martial force, but magical force,’ Arthur countered. He took a breath. Uther was already furious with him, so he may as well say it all now. ‘Maybe the time has come to form some kind of alliance with a sorcerer. If we need to use magic for a good cause.’

Uther could barely speak. Arthur bore his glare, knowing he was risking a great deal. Eventually Uther said in a strangled tone, ‘Any good cause will be perverted and twisted into evil if you involve magic.’

‘Father –’

‘There can be no talk of alliances with sorcerers, Arthur. They are all treacherous creatures. They will call you friend in the same breath as they betray you. They will destroy everything you love.’

‘Father, I –’

The king said, with quiet authority, ‘Don’t ever let me hear you saying such things again.’ And he swept out of the room.

Arthur felt kind of stunned. He wondered where he’d found the courage to argue with his father on this issue – this issue to end them all. The disagreement had gone surprisingly well, considering, and yet… Arthur didn’t know what he feared most: Uther sending for him that evening, or Uther not sending for him. While he waited to find the answer to that, Arthur hung around his rooms, restlessly shifting from chair to window to table and back again to chair, desultorily watched Merlin polish his armour.

Merlin seemed almost as pensive as Arthur himself. Eventually he quietly asked, ‘Did you mean it? What you said back there?’

‘Did I mean what?’

Merlin’s hands stilled, and he looked very directly at Arthur, though somehow at the same time he seemed remote. ‘That you would enter into an alliance with a sorcerer.’

‘Well,’ said Arthur, cautious even though it was just him and Merlin. ‘It’s worth thinking about.’

‘Yes.’ Merlin seemed to have something on his mind. But Arthur didn’t get the chance to prod him into coming out with it, because then Paul arrived, and announced that Uther wanted to see Arthur in his rooms.

‘Respect!’ Uther shouted – demanded – threw at him – as soon as Arthur was inside and the door was shut. ‘Respect!’

‘Father –’

‘That was to be the lesson this month.’ Uther was pacing back and forth before the empty fireplace. The rooms were cold and grey. ‘I’m sure,’ the king said, marginally calmer – ‘I’m sure the irony does not escape you.’

‘I do respect you, father.’

‘I would never have known it!’

‘If I didn’t respect you, I wouldn’t challenge you when I thought –’

‘When you thought what? That I’m wrong?’

Arthur took a breath. He knew better than to tell the king that he was ever wrong. ‘No. When I disagree. When I don’t understand. I respect you enough to argue with you. Occasionally you might see fit to change your mind – that’s up to you.’

Uther was glaring at him, but he had stopped moving and he didn’t say anything.

‘I already get this one, father. I understand the lesson. I won’t always agree with you, but I respect you enough to tell you that to your face. Never behind your back – never – but always to your face. You can tell me I’m wrong, that’s fine. I don’t care who hears any of that.’

‘I see.’

‘Then whatever decision you make, I always follow with a whole heart.’ And Arthur challenged him: ‘You tell me again how I don’t respect you.’

Uther was staring at him now, intense.

‘Father –’

Three strides and Uther was there, cupping Arthur’s face in both gloved hands, his mouth devouring him, devastating him. ‘Arthur –’

‘Yes. Yes!’

They didn’t make it to the bed, nor even the rug, but coupled there on the stone floor, clothes parted just far enough so they could join together in the most obvious ways – Uther’s cock filling Arthur’s arse, Uther’s hand engulfing Arthur’s cock, Uther’s mouth enveloping Arthur’s fingers, and Arthur groaning and muttering for both of them. ‘Respect you, father. Love you. Want you. Need you. God!’ as Uther somehow pushed deeper, stroked harder – ‘Respect you… Father!’ as he suddenly came, shooting and shaking and shouting out, and Uther just the same within him, surrounding him – ‘You’re not just the kingdom to me,’ Arthur was babbling as he came back down again, ‘you’re not just Albion, you’re the whole world…’

Eventually they helped each other to the bed, and lay down heavy in each other’s arms.

‘Arthur,’ Uther eventually said, very quietly. ‘I was the one who required the lesson this month. You have taught me something.’

And Arthur could hardly stand the rawness of the man. A humble Uther. No, it could not be borne. So Arthur humbled himself further still. ‘I might get it right with you. But it’s what I get wrong with Morgana,’ he confessed. ‘I know I’m supposed to marry her. But no matter how much I love her, or even like her, we can’t get past the name–calling. The bickering. The humiliation. We’ve been siblings too long. Do you know what I mean? I didn’t need these lessons to know that I must treat my wife better than that.’

Uther sighed. ‘Maybe that can change between you. The daughter of Gorlois…’

‘I think it’s too late, father. I’m sorry.’

Uther stroked his hair, and considered him carefully. ‘Then we will find some other way. A marriage that will suit you better.’

‘Thank you, father.’

February | Pride

‘You sit your horse very well,’ Uther remarked one day as they were out riding patrol. The knights around them tried manfully not to smirk or snicker.

‘Thank you, sire,’ Arthur said as evenly as he could manage.

Later it was, ‘You look very fine in your brown coat.’ And during a training session, ‘Your swordsmanship is truly excellent.’ With everyone in earshot, ‘While you are Camelot’s champion, I have no fears for our people. No fears at all.’ During another discussion of strategy, and with utter sincerity, ‘Your thoughts, Arthur? You always have something useful to contribute.’ And one afternoon in the privacy of the king’s rooms, ‘You are everything that is manly, and yet you are so exceptionally beautiful.’

‘Father…’ he protested in a whisper.

Uther trailed a bare fingertip down Arthur’s jawline, almost reverentially. ‘No kingdom in Albion has a finer prince. I am the envy of all.’

And something within Arthur revelled in this. Something within him that had always hungered uselessly for Uther’s approval was finally quiet and satisfied. ‘Thank you, father.’

‘You are very welcome, my son.’

There was the sense of this being a holiday for the two of them, hidden away here during an unseasonably comfortable afternoon while all of Camelot bustled on with their business beyond the closed doors. There were no doubt matters to which they should each be attending, but there was nothing urgent, and for once they were making themselves and each other their only care.

Arthur eventually asked, ‘The lesson this month. Is it to praise her?’

‘Yes. Take pride in her, and let her know that you do so.’

‘I have… I have certainly appreciated your kindness, sire. It is a lesson well learned. I hope I can make my wife even half as happy as you’ve made me.’

Uther breathed his name, and they gazed at each other for a long while, until at last Uther said, ‘Arthur. Come to bed.’

They took their time, slowly undressing each other, hands and lips exploring each other’s skin as it was exposed. They lay in each other’s arms, naked and vulnerable in the daylight, kissing and touching. Arthur wondered if the king had in the past twenty–one years ever been so open and tender as he was now. In response Arthur was as careful and as gentle as he knew how to be. He kissed Uther wherever he could reach, the scars and the unblemished stretches, the planes and the curves and the angles of him.

Eventually, as the feelings between them finally shifted from warmth to passion, Uther rolled onto his back, bringing Arthur with him. ‘I want to watch you,’ the king murmured. ‘Ride me.’

Arthur groaned, and sat up straddling Uther’s thighs, pulling away from the safety of his father’s encircling arms. He shifted back a bit, and curled up, bent down to take Uther’s cock into his mouth, to gently suckle for a while, to wet it a little. He didn’t want to use the oil this time; he wanted it to be just the two of them, with no barrier between them at all, and if that meant dry and fragile then so be it. After all these months the act would not hurt Arthur, and he suspected that Uther wouldn’t care for any discomfort on his own part.

Soon he sat up again, and positioned himself. Guided himself down onto Uther. Closed his eyes and let his head fall back. Let Uther slowly fill him. Sank down and down, widened his own thighs and found the best angle; took Uther deeper and deeper within him, until they were one. They were still for long moments then. Still and whole.

Until Arthur felt Uther’s cock twitch, almost kick inside him – and Uther gasped, his hands wrapped strong around Arthur’s thighs – Uther groaned his name.

Arthur’s eyes flew open, and he gazed down upon his father, seeing him anew. Loving him anew. ‘Father…’

‘Please…’ the king begged. Ride me, he’d commanded.

Arthur nodded, and began at a slow undulating walk, as if his horse were ambling along beneath him. Letting his hips find the gentle motion of it, rocking first one hip forward and then the other, tenderly pivoting himself around Uther’s cock.

‘Please…’

But Arthur would not show him mercy. He kept to the slow rhythm of it, watching as he gradually drove Uther wild with need. And Uther didn’t dare move for fear of it all being taken from him. Those eyes bright and glittering – demanding – while Uther’s mouth softened and surrendered over his panting breaths.

‘Please… Arthur!’

Finally, as his own excitement started approaching the point where he would no longer be strong enough to resist, Arthur shifted to a trot, lifting and lowering himself in a subtle double movement – up, and forward – down, and back – up, and forward – down, and back.

Uther’s hands worshipping his thighs – Arthur’s head rolling back as the pleasure suddenly swamped him – his left hand blindly seeking balance, gripping Uther’s forearm – his right hand grabbing his own cock, pushing it down to graze the head against Uther’s belly – tugging the shaft and rubbing the cockhead against Uther – and with no warning –

‘Yes! Arthur! God!’

– he was coming, coming, coming in waves, pulsing his seed across his father – losing the rhythm and the balance – but Uther grasping his hips firm, keeping him upright – Arthur shuddering through to his core – and Uther pushing up into him, bucking him up off the surface of the bed, ragged, forceful – beautiful, so profoundly beautiful, the whole thing – and –

– and then he collapsed, and they were wrapped up together as one, and it was their holy day, their very own to share, just the two of them…

‘Arthur,’ Uther eventually murmured.

‘Mmm…?’ he managed in response.

‘You really are a magnificent lover.’

He breathed out a chuckle. ‘More praise?’

‘More truth,’ Uther said, his gaze meeting Arthur’s very directly.

And Arthur murmured, ‘Whatever I am, father, I learned it from you.’

March | Generosity

Arthur had taken Merlin out on a hunting trip, but the unseasonably mild weather had continued, and even Arthur, on occasion, felt too mellow to be killing things. Instead he found a sunny dell, and let the horses loose to munch on the spring grasses, and lay back on the softest looking turf. It was a lovely day. Even a knight, a prince, a champion could appreciate the gentleness of a day like this.

Merlin wandered aimlessly around for a while, and then came back to sit cross–legged near Arthur, his hands deftly busy at something in his lap. Arthur closed his eyes and drifted contentedly.

‘You seem happy,’ Merlin commented after a while; but he said it very quietly so that Arthur could ignore it if he chose.

But Arthur replied, ‘I am.’

‘You’re happy with… I mean, being with your father?’

‘Yes.’ It was the simple, honest truth. ‘Yes, I am.’

‘Do you remember… oh, it was months ago now. The king left you feeling… rather fraught.’

‘Mmm. Long time ago.’ Arthur let a smug smile quirk his mouth. ‘Not a problem any more.’

‘I gathered that!’

Arthur opened his eyes just enough to squint up at Merlin, who cast him an amused look in response. Then he let his eyes drift shut again, and prompted, ‘So, what about it?’

‘Well, I was just wondering. You never told me.’

‘What?’

‘You said you thought you were expected to learn something. So, what was it?’

‘Oh… Uh, that month was selflessness. Putting someone else’s pleasure ahead of mine.’

Merlin was silent for a while. Eventually he said in a rather constrained voice, ‘And the king taught you that… by denying you for weeks?’

‘Well. Yes.’

‘Sounds a bit convoluted to me. How did you work it out?’

Arthur sighed. ‘Merlin, this was a perfectly nice day, and you’re ruining it.’

‘Oh. Sorry.’

Arthur lay there counting the seconds. Merlin didn’t last very long; he didn’t even make twenty.

‘Sorry – that month, you said. So, there are things to learn every month.’

‘Yes,’ Arthur declared, and opened his eyes to glare up at the man. ‘What do you think of that, village boy, with all your scoffing about our strange customs…? The king is teaching me stuff. Important stuff!’

Merlin remained sceptical. ‘And how exactly does the sex fit in?’

‘Sometimes it’s part of the lesson.’

‘And sometimes it’s the reward, I suppose.’

Arthur shrugged uncomfortably. ‘Yes.’

‘And what sort of stuff are you learning? Selflessness, you said…?’

‘And modesty, and pride, and respect, and…’ Arthur trailed off when it became horribly apparent that Merlin was trying not to laugh. ‘You could learn some respect yourself,’ he growled.

‘I’m sorry… I’m sorry…’ Merlin was almost weeping with barely suppressed mirth now. Those damp blue eyes flashed at Arthur with irresistible humour. ‘You’ve got to admit… Oh, Arthur… I’m sure the king could teach you a lot about pride, but you’ve got to admit… Uther teaching anyone about modesty…? And the selflessness thing? I’ve been puzzling over that for months!’

Arthur was trying to glare, but the corner of his mouth kept twitching as if he found it as funny as Merlin did. Which obviously he didn’t. He couldn’t! ‘Treason,’ he said. ‘Treason! You’ll have an appointment with the executioner’s axe some fine morning, Merlin. One way or another, the way you’re going, my father’s going to have you killed…’

A sobering thought, which had the desired effect. Merlin’s face drew long and serious, and he turned away a little.

‘Merlin…’ Arthur murmured, rolling up onto an elbow. He was sorry now that he’d quelled the man, even though the laughter had been at his father’s expense.

Damp blue eyes meeting Arthur’s gaze again; beautiful damp blue eyes, hot and candid and full of questions. ‘Here,’ said Merlin, holding out whatever it was he’d been working on with those deft fingers. ‘I made this for you.’ It was a chain of snowdrops joined into a circlet, all pale green fleshy leaves and tiny nodding white bells. Merlin reached out and placed it on Arthur’s head. ‘You’re my crown prince.’

Arthur smiled, feeling both rather wonderful and very foolish. ‘The Crown Prince of Merlin.’

‘Yes.’

‘Then my life is complete. What other titles, what other glories could compare…?’

Merlin’s gaze searching his, and then looking away. His smile faltering, his head lowering. Hiding. Arthur felt a mournful pang over the withdrawal of those hot blue eyes. But it must be so, he reminded himself. It must be so.

Uther had a gift for him that evening, too. A complete set of tack made specifically for Arthur’s favourite horse, Passelande. Beautifully made, too – strong and practical, yet elegant in design, and with the Camelot dragon device emblazoned on the breastplate.

‘If you are teaching me thoughtfulness, father, then you have found the most generous of ways in which to do so.’

The king nodded graciously, and said, ‘I suspect it is another lesson you have no need of learning.’

Arthur let his head drop for a moment, his hand on the leather straps and metal buckles of the bridle. He tried to think, but his mind was empty. And he belonged to Uther. More than anyone else in the whole kingdom, Arthur was the king’s creature. ‘What would you ask of me in return, father?’

‘In return? Nothing. It was a gift freely given.’

‘Then I am also offering a gift freely given. What would you have me do? If you could have anything you wanted of me tonight, what would it be?’

And Uther’s eyes caught fire.

There was an antechamber off the dressing room, which Arthur hadn’t even known existed. And in the antechamber was a harness, suspended from the ceiling. Paul was summoned to help Arthur into it. And – once Arthur was strung up and helpless – for one long appallingly delicious moment, he feared that Uther would let Paul take his turn.

But, no, Paul was dismissed, and Uther circled Arthur as if he’d been hunting for days and had now finally tracked down his prey. Arthur shivered, and not only because the room was cold.

‘There is a handle there,’ Uther eventually announced in a distant tone. He indicated a wooden grip hanging within a few inches of Arthur’s left hand. ‘It will release the whole contraption. If you are desperate. Otherwise, if you want to gain my attention, we must have a safe word. Do you understand? I won’t listen to you telling me no. You can cry out and protest all you like; perhaps you will even enjoy that. We must choose a word, or a name that you wouldn’t call on in the midst of passion.’ Uther thought for a moment. ‘Perhaps Merlin.’

‘Perhaps not,’ Arthur responded without thinking. ‘Better make it Gaius.’

The silence resounded.

Arthur realised what he’d just admitted to.

Uther was staring at him furiously.

And so it began.

Arthur was stretched out like a banquet, and Uther was biting at him, chewing on his nipples until they were raw, biting at his throat, sucking at the tender skin of his waist, the inside of his thighs, leaving marks. Not – of course not – paying any attention to Arthur’s hard cock or aching balls. Circling Arthur, circling him, and no knowing what Uther would touch next. His hands roughly running over Arthur’s head, pushing his hair back, leaving his forehead exposed. Then Uther stood between Arthur’s widely spread thighs, and pressed a fingertip to the entrance to him, taunting him, promising fulfilment and denying it all at once. Arthur tried to wriggle down onto him, but he could hardly even move.

‘Father –’ he panted. ‘Please –’

‘That wretched boy could not do to you what I do…’

‘No, father. No. Of course not.’

‘It takes a king to love a prince.’

‘Yes. Yes. Please…’

‘Perhaps I will set a different lesson this month.’

‘Father – father – I need you. I am empty without you. I am nothing without you. I know that already.’

Uther stared at him as if testing his sincerity.

‘I am nothing.’

And Uther finally had mercy, and released his own hard cock from his britches, and crammed it deep within Arthur – who shouted out in triumph and in pain.

‘Gaius,’ Arthur said after they were both done.

Uther lay a gentle hand on his stomach. ‘Are you all right?’

‘Yes. Yes.’ It had been intense. Wonderful. But he was parched and hoarse. ‘My throat… May I have some water?’

‘Of course. Do you want to get down?’

Arthur looked at him. ‘Not if you don’t want me to.’

Uther smiled at him proudly, and patted him, before going to fetch a jug of water and a goblet. He helped Arthur to drink, before taking some himself. And then he stood behind Arthur for a while, lifting him a little in order to cradle him in his arms, and every now and then he’d press a gentle kiss to Arthur’s hair.

‘Would you do what I ask?’ Uther eventually said.

‘Anything, father.’

‘Would you pretend… that you are my prisoner… in the dungeons…’

‘Of course,’ he said evenly, as reassuringly as he might.

‘I’d want you to fight me… resist me… with all your will. Can you do that?’

‘Yes, father.’

Uther chuckled wryly under his breath. ‘Perhaps it won’t all be pretence.’

Arthur shifted his head back to meet his gaze. ‘It will, because I love you, and I would resist nothing you wanted of me.’

Uther was staring at him hungrily. As if it weren’t just his body that was craving Arthur, but his soul as well.

‘Another drink,’ Arthur asked, ‘and a kiss, and then we can begin.’

‘Yes,’ said Uther. ‘Yes.’

But after that long night was done, the king didn’t send for the prince again.

April | Faith

In fact it seemed as if Uther were keeping company with one of the young men training to be a knight. An intriguingly not–quite–handsome thing, all blond hair and dark brown eyes, long nose and freckles. His name was Alexander; delusions of grandeur, obviously. The youngest son of no one very important. Arthur treated him fairly – or as fairly as he treated any of the men, for actually a bit of rough imperiousness usually worked a treat. But he was jealous, he had to admit. He was disconsolate. The king never spent time alone with Arthur these days. The king hardly even spoke to him.

Eventually Arthur followed Uther out of a court gathering, and wasn’t too proud to manoeuvre him into a corner by the simple expedient of trying to get close – Uther backed away, unwilling to touch him or to let himself be touched. ‘Father.’

‘Arthur,’ the king acknowledged coldly.

‘Can I not… come to your rooms tonight?’

‘I think not.’

‘It is six months yet until my birthday. Have you tired of me already?’

Uther stared back at him, apparently unwilling to give an inch. But Arthur was more obstinate still, and eventually Uther admitted, ‘No.’

‘Then what is the problem? Was it too much, what we did last time? Not enough? Did I do something wrong? Tell me, father, and we will make this right.’

Uther took a breath. Another. Then suddenly stood tall, stepped towards Arthur and jabbed his finger at him – began issuing orders. ‘You spend time with that village boy you’re so partial to. That servant. You keep him with you, night and day –’

‘Father!’ Arthur started to protest –

‘I mean it, Arthur. Night and day. I will know if you don’t. You see what kind of company this stupid boy is when there’s no one else to rely upon.’

‘Why?’

‘Because I will it. What more reason do you need?’

‘Are you jealous, father? For I promise you that –’

‘Do you think I need your promises?’ Uther gritted out. ‘I don’t.’

Arthur stared at him for a long moment. He couldn’t make this out. Was this real or was it part of a lesson? Either way, it was harsh. He didn’t understand why –

And then someone else slipped out of the throne room, and took three strides towards them before stopping, uncertain. Alexander. Of course. He stood there, looking at Uther and Arthur. Waiting. That long lanky body of his at ease, his broad shoulders sitting square.

And Arthur figured he understood all too well. ‘I see,’ he ground out. He turned to face Uther, and grimaced at him. ‘Well, father, me to my village boy, and you to yours…’

There was the hint of a spasm of pain on Uther’s face. But Arthur would not compromise on this. He turned on his heel, and stalked off back to the gathering, ignoring Alexander completely.

Arthur was so desperate for wine that he went to pour it himself. But Merlin soon appeared at his shoulder. ‘Arthur?’ he murmured. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘A test. Just another test, I think.’ Arthur growled his unhappiness, and then shuddered.

Merlin presumed to let his hand hover over Arthur’s arm, as if offering him comfort, but knowing he mustn’t touch without permission. Not in the midst of everyone like this.

Arthur shrugged him off. Gathered himself, and stood taller. Considered Merlin irritably. ‘Look. I need you to stay with me. At my side. All the time. All the time. I’ll have a trestle bed set up for you in my room. I’m sorry, but there it is.’

Merlin just looked at him. ‘Why?’

‘The king wills it so.’

‘Why?’

Arthur glared at him. ‘I did not presume to question him, and you will not presume to question me.’

‘Arthur…’

‘You mustn’t think…’ He swallowed. Took a breath. ‘You mustn’t fear anything will happen.’ Then Arthur caught a glimpse of the softly wry look on Merlin’s face. ‘You mustn’t hope for anything to happen, either. Because it won’t. If this is a test, then I am determined to pass it.’

‘Yes, sire,’ Merlin murmured. And so it was for the rest of April.

May | Moderation

On May Day, before Arthur had even broken his fast, Paul arrived. ‘The king wants to see you, sire,’ he announced. Then, when Merlin stood up, by now well used to being Arthur’s shadow, Paul added, ‘Alone, sire.’

Arthur glanced at Merlin, who nodded and then quietly walked out of the door without him. It was over. The test was over. It was a relief in some ways, and a sadness in others. Arthur hauled on his boots, straightened his shirt, and headed up the stairs, taking them two at a time.

Uther was sitting at the table in his rooms, pensive. Platters of untouched food were spread before him. Arthur went to stand nearby, in his line of sight, standing at ease with his hands behind his back.

‘Arthur,’ Uther said in a low tone, sounding half defeated.

‘Father. Are you well?’

‘Yes.’ The king seemed uneasy, though, and wouldn’t quite lift his gaze high enough to meet Arthur’s. He was silent for a time, but then he let out an impatient grunt, and asked, ‘Did you? With that boy… Merlin?’

‘No, father.’

Uther’s gaze snapped to his. ‘You didn’t?’

‘No, father. Of course not. I kept the faith.’

Uther nodded, and appeared slightly more contented. ‘Good.’

And Arthur dared to ask, ‘Did you, with Alexander?’

‘No. Nor with anyone.’

He hadn’t expected that. But Uther wouldn’t bother lying about it. ‘Oh.’

Uther smiled at him, wry. As if amused at his own expense. ‘I, too, have kept the faith.’

‘Thank you, father.’

‘Come, sit down.’ Uther indicated the chair just round the corner from his. ‘Break your fast with me.’

‘Yes, father.’

They ate together quietly, as if easing back into their comfort with each other.

After a long while, Uther asked, ‘Do you know what the lesson is about in May?’

‘No, father.’ Of course he didn’t.

‘Moderation. The benefits of moderation in all things.’

Well, that sounded like fun. ‘I see.’

‘I thought perhaps… it might be a virtue we learn about more in the breach than in the observance…’

Arthur glanced at his father. Caught the tail end of his wicked smile. ‘Indulging in lust,’ suggested Arthur, ‘to excess. Maybe a bit of gluttony thrown in.’

‘Exactly.’

‘I’m sure moderation will come to seem very attractive, if we really put the effort in to overdo things.’

‘Yes,’ said Uther, ‘I’m sure.’ He was looking so much brighter than he had even a few minutes before. He stood, and offered his hand to Arthur. ‘Come to bed,’ he said. ‘We may as well get started.’

Arthur was already on his feet. ‘Yes, sire.’

On his back in the king’s bed, with Uther slowly powering into him. Arthur’s cock so very hard. He shifted a little, arched down, trying to position himself so that Uther would thrust against that strange place deep within him… He wanted that to be enough. ‘Father…’ he whispered.

‘Yes.’ Uther’s hand reaching for his cock, happy to oblige him.

‘No,’ he gasped. ‘I want it like this. Just like this.’

Uther stilled, looking down on him devotedly. ‘Tell me what to do.’

‘Just let me…’ Arthur shifted again, arched a little further. ‘Try that. Please.’

And Uther grasped his hips firmly to keep him just so – began slowly, relentlessly fucking him again. Watching him carefully. He saw when Arthur’s breath snagged – and he made it happen again, and again. ‘That’s it, my son,’ Uther murmured. ‘My beautiful son…’

‘Father! God…’ And the weeks of unanswered hunger added their weight to his need, his desire, his determination – and Uther’s cockhead rubbed once more against that place inside him – and the pleasure exploded through him, oddly unfocussed, and Arthur cried out as he arched taut, pouring his seed out in one long wave – Uther buried within him to the hilt, crying out, and loving him, adoring him…

June | Considerateness

The real warmth of summer arrived, and Arthur felt loving and happy and expansive, but then Uther fell ill and the sunshine dulled. Uther lay in his bed most of the time, feverish and enervated. The condition didn’t seem overly serious in itself, but it went on for days and then weeks. Gaius was confused, concerned; Merlin frowned at his side, but could offer nothing more than to take turns with Paul and Arthur at trying to keep Uther comfortable. Arthur had to really restrain himself from taking out his frustrations on any of them, because he knew they were trying their best, but it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.

Arthur shared Uther’s bed every night, and Uther let himself be held affectionately. They’d talk sometimes, just slow musings about nothing much, and occasionally Uther would murmur again and again as if it were an incantation, ‘My son… My beautiful son…’

Of course, just because Uther wasn’t in the mood, didn’t mean that Arthur wasn’t. He didn’t bother hiding the fact when his cock was hard and hungry, but neither did he try to force it upon Uther’s attention.

‘Do yourself,’ Uther offered once, ‘take care of yourself, here in my arms.’

Arthur looked at him, tempted and grateful, but he said, ‘No, father.’

‘Or use me. Why would I mind? You shouldn’t go without if you don’t have to.’

‘It’s fine, father. I can wait. I’d rather wait.’

‘My beautiful son…’ Uther pressed a kiss to his forehead. ‘Why did I ever think I had anything to teach you?’

‘I still have much to learn from you, father, so you must get well again.’

‘And I have much to learn from you, Arthur. You are compassionate,’ punctuating this with a kiss to his temple, ‘considerate,’ to his cheekbone, ‘and kind,’ to his mouth. ‘It is too long a while since I was any of those things.’

‘Hush, father, that’s nonsense. You’ve been very kind to me.’ Arthur shifted, and settled Uther more comfortably. ‘Sleep now, and let yourself get well again. I have need of you.’

July | Courage

Uther was sitting up in his chair now for most of the day, or working at the table in his rooms. A privileged few were permitted in to talk with the king; Arthur hovered, alert for the slightest sign of tiredness, and hustled the visitors out as soon as he deemed it necessary. He knew Uther was on the mend when his fond amusement at Arthur’s concern turned ironic; when the king’s reaction turned instead to irritation, Arthur knew Uther was well again.

Arthur still slept every night in Uther’s bed, however. It seemed to be a habit neither of them wanted to break. One evening he arrived in Uther’s rooms to find his father pondering a manuscript as he sat by the empty fireplace. Uther looked up as Arthur entered, and he smiled. ‘Well, my son,’ he said, with no other preamble, ‘it seems this month’s lesson is another virtue you have no need to learn.’

‘What is it, father?’ He pressed a kiss to Uther’s forehead, and settled himself to sit at the king’s feet.

‘Courage.’

‘Ah.’ Arthur frowned over this. ‘I try to be brave, father. I know it is perhaps the most important virtue in a knight.’

Uther’s hand settled on his head, stroked his hair. ‘You are brave, Arthur. A dozen or more instances of your courage spring to mind without me even making an effort.’

Arthur let that hand sooth him for a while. And then he took a breath, and confessed, ‘Father, there are times when I feel afraid. I probably still have a lot to learn.’

‘No…’ Uther gently chided him. ‘That’s what courage is: to be afraid, and yet do what needs to be done. You have nothing left to learn.’

And Arthur turned to kneel by Uther, lay his head on Uther’s lap, and push his arms around his waist. ‘Thank you, father,’ he murmured.

Uther’s hands blessed him.

Of course such a perfect gentle accord could not last for long.

‘Anyway,’ Uther mused, ‘I wonder what new test we could find for your courage, when so many things these past months have required you to be brave. I still remember,’ Uther said very quietly, ‘the night you ceded all control to me, and let me bind you.’

‘I trust you, father. That did not require much courage.’

‘No, I know it must have…’ Uther let out a sigh. ‘Think of a test, Arthur. What would push you to the limit?’

Arthur stood, paced away, crossed his arms and kept his back half–turned towards Uther. What would be the scariest thing he could do right now? Insult the king – call him petty names and plague him with well–directed barbs? Grab Uther’s sword from the rack nearby, and attack him? Well, he could rise to either of those challenges if he must. But of course there had to be a sexual element to the test, didn’t there? The scariest thing… Send for Merlin, and kiss him – passionately, lovingly – in full view of Uther. But, no, he would not subject Merlin to the king’s wrath for no good reason. Arthur huffed a little. Send for Alexander, and bend him over the table, and let Uther watch Arthur fuck the boy’s virgin arse… Or would it anger the king more to witness Alexander fucking Arthur…? To let some unworthy soul take what belonged only to Uther Pendragon.

‘That,’ said Uther. ‘Whatever you’re thinking right now. We’ll do that.’

‘No –’ He had to clear his throat and try again. ‘No, father. It would be too cruel of me.’

‘A king must on occasion be cruel.’

‘Well, I am only a prince yet. The cruelty will have to wait.’

Uther glared at him, apparently not realising that defying the king his father was test enough for Arthur. Questing Beasts were nothing compared to Uther in a disapproving rage.

‘How would you test my courage, father?’

Uther considered him icily. ‘If I brought a dagger to bed, and cut you…’

Arthur shivered, horrified and challenged and deliciously shocked all at once. And he would never back down from a challenge, he knew that. He knew it could be a weakness, a foolishness, but it was true all the same.

‘Would you be brave enough to let me?’

‘Yes, father,’ he said, though his throat was raw with fear. It wasn’t that he hadn’t been injured before, while training, while fighting, and he had borne it because he must. But how far would Uther go? And would Arthur be expected to lie there and take it without protecting himself…? Would Uther expect him to respond to it sexually?

‘If I had a phallus carved, twice the breadth of mine, twice the length – would you let me fuck you with it?’

‘Yes, father.’ And he was afraid, because he thought that might not even be possible, not without tearing him. But he would let Uther do it, or try at least. Was that courage or something less noble? Oh god… The horrible things they could do to each other, and to no purpose.

‘If I had you –’

‘Stop it, father. Stop it!’

Uther glared at him, his mouth pressed tightly closed.

‘Don’t you understand?’ Arthur cried. ‘I would do anything you told me to. Anything you asked of me, no matter how scared I was.’ He stalked closer, thrusting his hand out at Uther as if it were a weapon and a shield and a plea. His breath heaved in his chest. ‘Don’t you understand? It isn’t even defying you that scares me most. It is disappointing you. I would rather face a hundred sorcerers, a thousand beasts, than face your disapproval.’

Uther stared back at him, his expression slipping, uncertain, as if he didn’t quite know what to do with this, how to respond. As if the ground he’d stood upon for years had suddenly shifted beneath his feet.

Arthur had never seen him so reduced. He turned away. That hadn’t been his intention at all, and now he would be made to pay for it. He took a deep breath. Another one. Tried to get himself back under control. He would need to weather this. For both their sakes.

‘Well,’ said Uther eventually. And he sounded quite broken. ‘It seems that you have set your own test. And you have passed it.’

Another breath. Arthur waited. Another breath. Surely the storm would break now.

‘Arthur… My son…’ Uther paused. Let out a mirthless huff. ‘I spent the month of February praising you. Telling you how proud I am of you. Did you not believe any of it?’

It was belatedly occurring to Arthur that this wasn’t going quite as awfully as he’d feared.

‘I meant every word, Arthur.’

‘Father,’ he managed.

Then Uther was behind him, and arms dragged him back into a deep embrace, and a voice whispered in his ear, ‘You are the bravest man I know in all Albion.’

‘How can I be…?’

‘You are braver than me. I would never have dared be so honest with my own father.’

Arthur groaned in surrender. It was that or sob.

Uther took him to the bed, and made love to him.

Arthur’s heart and soul laid bare, spread open, and Uther in a tender mood. This was the scariest thing the prince had ever faced. Uther kissing him, stroking him, pleasuring him – when Arthur had just admitted that Uther’s approval meant more to him than anything else in the world. He lay there as Uther touched him, he lay there soaking it in, feeling blessed – knowing that one harsh word, one forbidding look, one brusque caress would tear him apart.

‘My son, my beautiful beloved son,’ Uther was murmuring, his lips against Arthur’s exposed skin. ‘Trust me… I love you… I would never hurt you…’

Arthur let out a moan that sounded perilously close to a whimper. But he had to go with it, he had to trust himself to the king, knowing that he would indeed be hurt. If not now then later. It was inevitable. ‘Father,’ he whispered in reply. ‘I’m yours. I am all yours.’

The end, when it came, felt as if he’d been launched into the sparkling blue sky from the highest turret in Camelot. He soared through the rarefied air for long moments, his soul unfurled by the sweet breeze, his heart bathed in sunshine, his seed a fertile balm raining down…

But then, at last, it grew dark and he fell heavily back to earth. The king held him close.

August | Love

Uther was so well recovered from his illness by now that he had regained all his old energies. August was an intense month; Uther was passionate, and Arthur was desperate with the notion that their time was running out. They not only shared Uther’s bed each night, but slept in each other’s arms. They still argued over strategy and policy during the day, but they made love each evening. Arthur no longer ate in his own rooms, but joined Uther and Morgana for the midday meal and for supper. There were disagreements over… both significant and insignificant things; but afterwards they forgave each other. Time was running out.

Uther and Arthur had been unable to resist the fine weather, and had ridden out together into the forest. The knights and guards who accompanied them tactfully kept their distance. When Uther and Arthur finally dismounted by a babbling stream to water their horses, they could pretend they were alone. They didn’t talk for a while, but Uther put his arm around Arthur’s waist, and Arthur leaned into him. Uther pressed a kiss to his hair.

Eventually Arthur asked, ‘What is the lesson this month, father?’

‘Oh,’ said Uther with light irony, ‘love.’

‘Love?’

‘Love, without question nor condition nor stinting. Just… love.’

‘I see,’ said Arthur.

The king actually seemed a bit shy.

Arthur looked at him strangely for long moments. He’d never seen such a thing before. Eventually Arthur offered, ‘I think we’ve managed that one already. I think we already know about that kind of love.’

‘Yes.’

‘Father, will you do me a favour?’

‘Yes, Arthur.’

‘No tests this month. And no examples of the opposite. We already know this one. Let’s just… run with it.’

‘Yes.’ Uther seemed in an unreasonably amenable mood.

Arthur confessed, ‘I’m not exactly looking forward to my birthday this year.’ It had only ever meant a feast and a party, and being the absolute centre of attention before. Now it meant a farewell and heartache. ‘I’m not looking forward to saying –’

Uther favoured him with a warily grieving look, full of misgivings. Arthur turned into him, and Uther’s other arm encompassed his shoulders. And then they held each other there, standing together in the midst of a perfect Camelot summer, both wishing the autumn would never arrive.

There was a quiet moment late one night. Uther and Arthur were gazing into each other’s eyes, each with a hand on the other’s cock. Sometimes the simplest acts were the profoundest. They pleasured each other, loved each other. It was as if there were no one else in the whole world. Just the two Pendragon men, united. Knowing each other – and loving each other regardless.

‘What if I can’t say goodbye?’ Arthur whispered.

‘You have to,’ Uther replied, as if there were no other way, but it broke him.

‘What if I can’t walk away?’

‘You must.’ Their hands had stilled, though they clung on. ‘I can’t be your whole life, Arthur. Even if I wanted to be.’

‘But if I want that, too –’

‘Don’t,’ Uther cried under his breath. ‘Don’t –’

And Uther pushed over further onto Arthur, and drove him to climax with his hand and his body and his mouth – and when Arthur spilled over with a heart–deep groan, Uther followed him, and one or maybe even both of them might have wept a little.

September | Friendship

Uther began withdrawing a little as the next month rolled relentlessly on, as if he would need to be well–fortified by October. He became a little cooler, his face a little stonier, his manner a little more guarded. Arthur mourned the loss, but began the process of letting him go. Uther smiled less. In fact, he hardly smiled at all now.

One evening, Arthur came to the king’s rooms to find him sitting there looking stricken, one hand clutching a manuscript against his thigh, with his head pushed back against the chair. ‘Father? What is it? Bad news?’

Uther immediately began gathering himself, sitting up a little straighter. ‘No. No, nothing like that.’

‘What is it, then?’ Arthur came to sit at his feet. But he no longer settled with his back to Uther’s legs; instead he sat cross–legged, a little removed, looking up at his father.

‘This month’s lesson, this month’s virtue.’

‘Yes, father?’

‘Friendship. It is friendship.’ Uther sounded mystified.

‘I should feel friendship for my wife?’ That didn’t sound so unexpected to Arthur. ‘Well, we will be constant companions in the life we share. Perhaps –’

‘I never felt friendship for Igraine. Never. She was my heart and my soul, and I loved her – passionately. I love her still,’ Uther added with a strangely apologetic glance at Arthur.

‘Yes, father. I know,’ he offered with light sympathy.

‘Friendship seems rather… tame compared to that.’

Arthur indicated the manuscript. ‘What exactly does he say about the matter?’

Uther lifted it, found his place, and read aloud. ‘Friendship is the foundation of any good marriage. Love may come and go. Which is utter nonsense,’ Uther muttered.

Arthur gave him a wry smile, and wordlessly asked him to continue.

‘Fortunes will rise and fall and rise again. There will be distractions and inconveniences. There will be bad times as well as good. Friendship will see you both safe through all. Friendship will provide a place in which love can always return, in its own time, in its own season.’

Arthur pondered this for a while. It did actually make sense to him. But then, much as he loved Uther, Arthur had never yet loved anyone with the same intensity that Uther loved Igraine. Maybe, if that ever came to him, he would also find companionship a bit too tame.

‘You understand, don’t you?’ Uther asked, still a bit mystified, but also a bit dull as if he didn’t really want to know.

‘Yes, I think I do, father.’

Uther grew bleak, and put his head back again. ‘I could wish real love for you. Passionate love. If only I – If only I could bear it. To see you loving someone else would –’

Arthur dared to lift a hand to Uther’s thigh. ‘I have loved you, father. I do love you. I always will. But if you and I are friends, then we can let each other go as we must, without making the pain worse than it need be.’

Uther rolled his head to look at him disconsolately. The manuscript drifted to the floor. ‘Come here,’ said Uther.

Arthur crawled up to sit on his father’s lap, curled up in his lover’s arms. He was too big for this, of course, and the chair too small. It was foolish. Ridiculous. But it was necessary.

Their last night together. It was dark. Uther had snuffed the remaining candles as if he couldn’t bear to see what he was losing. For a long while they held each other close, naked and close, in the bed. They didn’t even kiss, but just pressed together and held on.

‘You could bind me,’ Arthur eventually blurted. ‘Put me in the harness. Tie me up. We could pretend that you’ll never let me go.’

Uther groaned, clutched him up tighter still. Eventually he stuttered out, ‘Not – not tonight.’

Arthur pressed a kiss to his temple. ‘I want you inside me, then. I want us to be joined together.’

‘Yes. Yes.’

Arthur shifted around within Uther’s arms so that his back was to Uther – and Uther pushed up deep within him, slid himself in up to the hilt. They lay there like that for a long while, Uther wrapped hard around him, hard within him.

Until at last with a bereft little moan, Uther came, just like that without even moving, and the king’s seed filled the prince one last time.

October | An End and a Beginning

Arthur woke alone. There was a chill in the air. Paul told him that Uther had gone hunting. Arthur slowly made his way down to his own rooms, where he had Merlin dress him in sombre colours. Eventually it was time to head towards the main hall for the midday feast in honour of his birthday. Merlin paced along at his side, irrepressibly inappropriately happy yet thankfully quiet for once. It seemed a longer walk than usual – and at the end of it the court would be gathered to witness the king releasing the prince from their relationship, to mark the end of the ritual. Arthur sighed.

‘You’ll be free after this,’ Merlin observed.

‘Yes,’ Arthur replied, voice cracking with the heartache.

‘Save the first dance for me?’

‘It is simply a feast, Merlin. There will be no dancing.’

‘I know.’ And when Arthur glanced at him, Merlin waggled his eyebrows rather suggestively.

Arthur slowed, stopped. Stared at his friend, intrigued. Looked anew at the man: those bright hot blue eyes, that cheeky warm affectionate smile on those pretty lips, the long face all cheerfulness and cheekbones. Well, but Arthur still belonged to Uther. For now. So he curtly nodded once to Merlin, before starting off again to walk to the hall. It was agreed. The first dance.

And the next dance, came the thought unbidden. And the one after that.

Arthur looked at Merlin in surprise, for he felt as if the voice had come from outside himself. And yet it articulated or answered something that came from deep within Arthur.

The first dance and the last dance, and if at all possible every dance in between…

‘Yes,’ Arthur responded. ‘The first dance and the last.’

Merlin looked a little surprised, then gratifyingly delighted. His lovely broad smile lighting him up. Lighting up Arthur as well.

So, Arthur went to make his proper farewells to his king, his father, his lover. Already knowing that he wasn’t Uther’s creature any more. He was Merlin’s.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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36 responses to “Strange Customs: 02 The Twelve Virtues”

  1. avatar Anty says:

    I have yet to read this! Had a late birthday dinner – with family and a fight, LOL (the usual, I guess XD). Will read now! Yaaaaayyyyy!!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Anty – Oh, sorry about the not-so-shiny family gathering… Please consider this fic a belated birthday pressie, which hopefully makes up a bit for the fight! Love you, hon.

  2. avatar Lara says:

    Awwwww! What a wonderful sequel that I still can not believe that you wrote. But you stopped right before the Merlin sex >_< that means we get another sequel right?

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Lara – Hello, my dear! Glad you found it wonderful while still disbelieving I would even do such a thing! Sorry if you felt I left you hanging there, but Anty wanted U/A and lots of it, so that’s what I gave her… I think we’ll just have to imagine the Merlin sex. :-D Here we go: Mmm… Yes… Ooh… Mmm… (Was that good for you, too?)

  3. avatar Kahtya Sofia says:

    As always, very well written. I love the lessons. They add something to the sex. Sex is good but meaningful sex is better. And they are good lessons to learn! I also like he way Merlin is there in the background, just waiting patiently for Arthur to complete his emotional journey and end up ready to start the REAL relationship.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Kahtya Sofia – Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed both the meaningful sex and patient!Merlin. I was pleased with those things, too, so it’s particularly sweet to know they worked for you. And your compliments on my writing skills are always welcome, of course. :-) Thank you again.

  4. avatar Laura says:

    GAWD your fics are such a dirty guilty delightful pleasure

  5. avatar Mei says:

    It was lovely, and I savoured every minute of reading it and wished it wasn’t over already, but it also makes me sad. Arthur being off to greener pastures, and Uther probably sitting alone in the dark somewhere, scorning himself for feeling bereft. What is there to go on to after Arthur? Only emptiness and death.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Mei – Oh god, I think you just broke my heart. Uther alone in the dark – scorning himself – emptiness and death. *wails* I had been blithely assuming he would be OK, even if bereft, because if he survived Igraine’s death then he could survive anything. I had him talking more about her at the end, because he was kind of resetting himself to bereaved survivor mode, and whatever helped him survive the previous 21 years would get him through now. But now you’re making me think it’s all too sad… I know Alexander is not even second best, but maybe Uther can make do. Just enough? (I mentally cast Alex Pettyfer in the role. He’s enough to console a bit, mmm?)

      But, um, thank you for your compliments. I’m glad you enjoyed the fic except for the bleakness!

  6. avatar firewolfsg says:

    OOOOMMMMGGGGG this was sooo good with angst, and hotness and sweetness all wraped up in this fine package.

    [‘Would you pretend… that you are my prisoner… in the dungeons…’

    ‘Of course,’ he said evenly, as reassuringly as he might.

    ‘I’d want you to fight me… resist me… with all your will. Can you do that?’

    ‘Yes, father.’]

    Ssooooo wants to see ths scene…

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      firewolfsg – Hello there! I’m delighted to know you enjoyed this one… Angst and hotness and sweetness – perfect! :-) But I think you yourself must be the Master of Dungeon Sex, so I will leave the details of that scene to your wicked imagination… :-D Thank you for commenting.

  7. avatar Mei says:

    Egads, no! Now I feel like I need to console you! *pets* I agree with you, Uther has survived worse, and still lives to deflower princes. I don’t think he’d let himself wallow for too long, really. Alexander should do his damndest to kiss things better, at least.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Hee! What a sweetheart you are… Thank you. I’m glad I only broke Uther’s heart, and not yours as well. (Hurrah for deflowering princes!)

  8. avatar Mei says:

    P.S. I now have the perverted urge to cook up a manip of King and less than second best Knight — damn Pettyfer for being such a fetching and easily imaginable plaything for kings!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Oh please! Oh pretty please with deflowered princely playthings on top! [Harley bounces around like a maddened thing. Nothing new there, then.] Aw, hon, you would so make my whole month… [Smiles winsomely.]

  9. avatar Mei says:

    The month has barely begun! XD *starts trawling for pictures*

  10. avatar firewolfsg says:

    Dungeon Sex! There should be more of it!

    Err…. Oh yeah. I am writing one right now too for the kinkme merlin LJ. An Others x Arthur with a twist that’s going to hit 20,000 if I can’t stop myself ^^

    And hmmmm, U/A where Arthur plays at resisting? I think you’ve just given me my next kink to play with in that universe XD

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Um… I’ve only written one real Dungeon Sex fic – and as it’s totally non-con, and includes a death, it might not be your thing. Just in case, though it’s here: The King’s Will.

      I’ll look forward to reading your 20k story – but would especially enjoy a fic with Arthur playing at resisting… so please feel free to give that one your all! XD

  11. avatar firewolfsg says:

    I’ll take you up on that ‘play at resisting’ when I’m done with the others x Arthur dungeon sex piece ^_^V

    I’m finally finished with the piece and restrained myself at 18k words, but I don’t doubt I’ll probably add more while I’m proofing and editing.

  12. avatar akin says:

    I want to thank you for sharing this story, it was incredibly beatufil. In the end I could weep for Arthur and Uther, especially for Uther knowing that he could keep Arthur, but it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I enojoyed this ride a lot, I was intrigued along the way and curious and happy and sad! It was a very strong story with a lot of stuff between the lines, I love such stories. Thank you SO very much for sharing.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      akin – Thank you so much for your comment! And indeed for your compliments. To know that you found it a strong story, that took you along on an emotional ride – that’s just music to a writer’s ears. :-) I’m delighted that you enjoyed it, and I’m very grateful that you told me so. :-D

  13. avatar dark_angelis says:

    Just dropping in to say I really enjoyed this. I liked the idea of each month having a different lesson for Arthur. I also liked the background Merlin/Arthur and the transition from Uther to Merlin at the end, although I do feel sad for Uther. Hopefully Merlin might share sometimes… :D

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      dark_angelis – Thanks, mate! I’m glad you enjoyed it, and I really appreciate you commenting. Yeah, and I felt sad for Uther, too… :-(

  14. avatar Mei says:

    Alright, sorry it took me awhile.

    Enjoy!

    http://www.blithesea.net/merlin/uth02_crop.jpg

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Oh my! Oh my oh my oh my… Aren’t you wonderful…??? I love it! I’m sorry, I would rave for longer but I am literally dashing off to Heathrow for an overseas trip in a very short while… Thank you so much for this! I’ll be in touch again as soon as I can. XD

      Aw, thanks! Thank you thank you thank you!

  15. avatar Mei says:

    Hee! I’m glad you like it! Have fun on your trip!

  16. avatar troygirl says:

    Once again, you wrote something beautiful, moving and utterly compelling.

    It’s incredible to me how you make a subject, at first so disturbing, so unnatural, so uncomfortable, become so fitting that it no longer has any bearing on the story. Instead we are so invested in this emotional journey it is all that matters. So many times my eyes were so filled with tears I could barely read.

    Merlin, of course, was his charming, insouciant self, and our little ray of sunshine throughout.

    How lucky us Merlin fans are to have you. :)

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      troygirl – Thank you so much! I’m sorry I haven’t managed to reply before now, but I’ve been away with very limited internet access.

      Your comments mean so much to me. I don’t know whether to apologise or not for making a disturbing subject into something so fitting… :-) It makes my heart warm to know you felt invested in the story to the point of tears. And that you felt Merlin was ‘his charming, insouciant self’ – ah, that’s just a wonderful desciption of the miracle that is Merlin. I am glad I can do him justice in my humble way!

      Thank you again. You’re my ray of sunshine.

  17. avatar Anty says:

    Gah. Again, still, I hate you so much for making me an addict! During my current re-read, I found myself craivng a post-this-fic AU where U/A crave their lost relationship so much, they start a secret affair that no one must know about.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Hey, Anty… It’s very gratifying to find you here re-reading this fic. And in pondering the future for these characters, it seemed clear that Uther and Arthur would miss their relationship like mad. But… I think if this version of Arthur was unfaithful to his Merlin in this way, it would change something in him for the worse. And I’m not sure that I want to write that! It is worth daydreaming about, however.

      Gosh… I suppose to be ‘hated’ for such a thing is a compliment. Doesn’t exactly inspire me to write more U/A, though! Sorry… :-/

  18. avatar Anty says:

    OK, what do I need to do that inspires more U/A in you? Bear with me – I’m an addict and WEAK! ;_;

    Imagine…to wield such power over readers! xD

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Hey again, Anty! Gosh, you know… I am a lily-livered sort who doesn’t want to wield power over anyone – but I do take the compliment re my writing, I certainly do that! :-)

      What can you do? you ask… Well, to be honest, at this point just let me ponder! I didn’t really get any U/A frissons this season, alas, not even at the end of The Sins of the Father. But let me ponder for a bit, and I’ll see what I can do for you. All right? Best I can manage right now! :-/

  19. avatar su says:

    This breaks my heart. A new fan.

    So hot and I’m addicted too!

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Hey there, hon! So very glad to know you enjoyed the fic, and the pairing… Thank you for commenting :-)

      Sorry to break your heart, though… Here’s an itty bitty one to tide you through until it can be repaired. ♥

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