Harlequin's Slash Fic

Hunting Trip: 01 Men Behaving Chivalrously (or not)

Title: Hunting Trip: 01 Men Behaving Chivalrously (or not)
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin (early first season)
Characters featured: Merlin/Arthur
Category, Word count: Short story; 1891 words
Rating: PG13
Summary: Arthur’s old friends are being a bit obnoxious, but he has other options these days…
Notes: Birthday fic for my friend gealach_ros, originally posted on the danke_gealach lj community. Happy birthday, my darling! ♥♥♥

Men Behaving Chivalrously (or not)

Of course Arthur had known what to expect from his old friends – they went on these hunting trips three or four times a year, after all. In the evenings, as they sat around the fire roasting something they’d caught that day, the focus of conversation inevitably turned to boasting of previous amorous conquests and scheming for future ones. Some of the boasting was obviously more imaginary than genuine, but the scheming was real enough and occasionally developed a predatory edge. Arthur had participated in such discussions before, that was true enough – but on this night, with the moon full and bright overhead and the spring air still soft and warm and wafting with the scent of bluebells, Arthur just wasn’t in the mood for an intensely detailed discussion about whether Betsy the barmaid at the Rising Sun or Sal the baker’s daughter were more likely to let a man in the back door rather than the front. He just… wasn’t.

‘Sire?’ someone asked as Arthur stood. ‘Something you need, my lord?’ someone else asked. A tension buzzed round the circle of men as if they’d picked up on his discomfort and interpreted it as disapproval. ‘Sire, but of course we shouldn’t –’

‘Don’t let me stop you,’ Arthur said, lifting a reassuring hand. ‘I just feel the need to… stretch my legs. I might ramble down to the lake and back.’

There were a couple of reluctant looks, which Arthur ignored, but Bedivere and Dinadan scrambled to their feet with an alacrity only slightly dulled by ale.

Arthur announced, ‘There’s no need for me to disturb you. I’ll see if I can’t find that good–for–nothing servant of mine.’

‘One of us should accompany you, sire.’

‘There’s really no need, we’re in the heart of my father’s kingdom. Continue as you were.’ And he nodded once in acknowledgement and walked away.

After a minute or two, he heard the low rumble of lecherous scheming start up again. One of the men burst into raucous laughter, and even while Arthur’s mouth twitched in an empathic smile, he knew he was better off away from it all that night.

He hadn’t really meant it about looking for Merlin, but after finding the tent empty and the horses content in their own company and the stream undisturbed, Arthur wound his way down to the lake and was almost relieved to see the young man below him on the wide shore there, skimming stones. It was peaceful here, away from the filthy talk, although Arthur had brought a measure of restless reluctant horniness with him. He sighed, and leaned against a tree trunk, watching for a while as the stones skittered across the surface of the lake, sending ripples through the broad path of light laid down by the moon. Each stone skipped at least three times, some as many as seven. When one skipped nine times before quietly sinking away, Merlin lifted his arms in triumph and quietly hissed, ‘Yes…’

‘It’s good to finally discover something you’re good at,’ Arthur commented. When Merlin spun around startled, Arthur stepped out from the shadows of the forest. ‘Don’t worry, it’s only me.’ Though the unwelcome thought occurred to him that perhaps Merlin might be as scared of his prince and master as he would be of a bear or whatever else he imagined might wander the forest at night.

‘Did you want something? Sire.’ Resentful and guilty tones, as if Merlin knew full well that he should probably be back at the camp being useful.

‘Yes,’ Arthur replied, walking further down the shore to stand beside his servant. ‘I want you to teach me how to skim stones.’

Merlin gaped at him for a moment. ‘Really?’

‘Yes, really, Merlin,’ he confirmed in impatient tones.

‘You don’t know how?’

‘It seems my education was sadly lacking.’

Arthur had piled on the sarcasm, but after a moment Merlin’s mouth quirked into a genuine smile. ‘All right.’ And he bent to examine the stones around his feet.

‘So, what do you look for in a good skimming stone?’ Arthur asked.

‘Well, it should be flat. And smooth. Not too heavy. And… rounded.’

‘Then smallish river stones might be ideal.’

‘Yes.’ Merlin shrugged. ‘But if you have a good throwing action and a bit of heft, you can skim just about anything.’

‘All right,’ said Arthur. ‘I suppose I’d better start with a good stone, though.’ He found three possibilities, and showed Merlin the most likely. ‘How’s this one?’

‘Perfect,’ said Merlin with a brightly encouraging smile.

It didn’t take much effort not to kick him for being condescending. Not when Merlin seemed to actually be having fun. Arthur shook his head and followed Merlin down to the water’s edge. ‘Tell me about the throwing action.’

‘Well, you need to hold the stone with its flattest side downwards. And you need to flick it away, using your wrist. And…’ Merlin scratched his head in bemusement. ‘I don’t know, Arthur – some of this you just have to do. You know? I’ve never had to explain it before.’

‘You’re doing fine.’

‘All right. Um, and you need to send it across the water, not straight down into it – but not straight across it, either, cos it needs to come down both low enough and high enough to bounce  off the surface. Does that make any sense?’

Arthur considered all this for a moment, and decided he might have an instinctive grasp of what Merlin was getting at. ‘It’s about getting the right angle. No doubt Gaius could explain the reasons why. But let me watch you throw again, and then I’ll try.’

Merlin crouched, and with a frown of concentration threw his stone – which skipped five times before sinking. ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ he cried, running about in little circles with his arms in the air.

‘Right,’ said Arthur, determined to do just as well. He crouched, found the right stance, and sent his stone off across the lake. Into which it disappeared with nothing more than a rather dispiriting plop. ‘Ah.’

Merlin was pressing his lips together, his eyes merry, trying not to laugh.

‘That was my best stone, too. What did I do wrong?’

‘Nothing. You just have to keep trying until you get the knack of it.’

‘Huh.’ He got one small skip out of his second stone, and another from his third. ‘This is harder than it looks.’

‘Just keep trying,’ Merlin repeated. ‘Keep adjusting. You’ll get it.’ As if to prove a point, he sent a stone sailing across the water, skipping in lovely long arcs right down the trail of the reflected moonlight.

‘All right,’ Arthur muttered. And in silent companionship then, they both sent stone after stone skipping across or indeed just falling into the lake. Arthur did start getting better results, but he still had nowhere near Merlin’s success. Despite which, Arthur was having fun. Much more fun than he’d been having with his friends. Men would be men, he supposed, and he himself had not been unaffected by the talk and by all the frustrations that fuelled it – but Arthur had an idea of knighthood that would be more… chivalrous than that.

Skimming stones with his servant on a warm moonlit spring night was calming. There was some kind of balance to be found there. Eventually, without even really trying, he threw a stone that skipped five times, scattering the moonlight into little glowing pools before it settled again. Arthur stood there grinning while Merlin whooped and danced around just as happily as he had for his own successes. ‘I knew you could do it!’

‘Thank you. I’m sure this will prove to be an inordinately useful skill.’

‘Come on, then!’ Merlin cried with his eyes bright. ‘Bet you can’t make it seven.’

‘Right…’ He felt stirred by the challenge. Arthur looked about him for the perfect stone, and spied one just to his left. He bent and reached for it – just as Merlin did. Their hands closed over the stone, over each other. Neither of them loosed his hold.

After a moment Arthur turned his head. Merlin’s face was right by his own… Merlin’s face which Arthur had almost always found intriguingly odd, with his blue eyes bright and candid one moment then mysterious the next, with his mobile mouth grinning readily and then twisting with disgruntlement. Their gazes snagged on this strange perspective, each upside down in relation to the other. Merlin’s eyes were full of wary possibilities now, and his lips seemed… enticing. Merlin, for the sake of all the gods. The next–to–useless man servant the king had foisted upon a very reluctant prince. Still, there was no denying that the horniness had returned, stirred by their competition, by Arthur’s newfound skill, by Merlin’s undemanding companionship.

Slowly Arthur stood, and Merlin echoed him. Once they were upright, they watched each other for long moments. And then, astonishingly, it was Merlin who made the next move. He lifted a hand, slipped fingertips up Arthur’s cheek before cupping it – leaned in close to meet Arthur’s mouth with his own. And then they were kissing, and it was a beautiful, generous kiss – as fresh as if the world had just been created and they were the first creatures to draw breath, and as knowing as if Merlin had lived a thousand years and spent all his days anticipating this kiss and learning how best to please Arthur.

Eventually Merlin drew away – and Arthur followed him for a moment, stole another press from those pretty lips, and then Merlin smiled at him as Arthur finally stepped back. ‘My lord,’ Merlin murmured, a little mockingly, true, but also happily.

Arthur cleared his throat. Decided it was time to reassert his authority. ‘Imagine that,’ he commented. ‘It’s a miracle. I seem to have discovered a second thing you’re good at.’

The smile turned into a grin. ‘And it seems you’re not quite such a prat after all.’

Arthur spluttered an outraged laugh. ‘You’re incorrigible, aren’t you, Merlin?’

‘Irredeemably, sire. And, secretly…? You love it.’

Arthur lifted a hand to shape around that long jaw–line, to run a thumb across a sharp cheekbone. Merlin’s lips parted over a panting breath, even as the corner of his mouth twitched into a smug smile – those eyes sparkled with confidence, even as his head drooped a little with bashfulness. By the gods… intriguing, it was, this ever–shifting mix of manhood and innocence. Arthur sensed danger. It stirred him.

Then suddenly Merlin was laughing in triumph, and Arthur’s hands were empty, cool – both of his hands empty –

Merlin was backing away, skipping along the water’s edge with that perfect stone held aloft. ‘I hope you’re not that easily distracted in a fight!’ he crowed.

‘You don’t fight fair!’ Arthur protested.

‘Oh yeah, and you could never say that to a knight!’ Merlin laughed again. ‘Come and get it, if you want it so badly…’

Arthur stumbled a moment, and then chased after the young man, sprinting after those ungainly long limbs and the delightfully wicked laugh drifting back on the soft spring air. Part of him knew he was already lost. But that was all right, because the very same part of him knew that he’d already won something more precious than he could ever have imagined.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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8 responses to “Hunting Trip: 01 Men Behaving Chivalrously (or not)”

  1. avatar Dany says:

    awwww. ♥

    So sweet and cute, and everything that I needed to calm down after that hot hot hot fic with knights. :D

    Will there be more at “Hunting Trip” series? I loved these two fics and I would like to read more. :)

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Dany – Heh… Glad you liked this one. I like the boys just being boys…

      I don’t know if I’ll do more along these lines. It’s a possibility I’ll keep in the back of my mind, but I don’t have anything planned for now. Thank you for wanting more, though! That’s the best compliment ever. ♥

  2. avatar tetsubinatu says:

    I know I read this earlier but I can’t remember if I commented before, so I’ll just say now how lovely this is! The whole thing – Arthur’s restlessness, the skimming stones and the gorgeous, gorgeous kiss… and then Merlin, deliberately seductive in the moonlight – like a scene from a greek urn. Just wonderful.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      tetsubinatu – Thank you so much, hon! I’m delighted that you enjoyed this. I love the notion that Arthur and Merlin can rediscover their innocence with each other – along with helping each other grow into wisdom, and all the rest. It was nice exploring that a little. But oh my… the way you describe my fic… I just love it! You make it sound so beautiful. If that’s really how it came across to you, hon, then I am humbled. A Greek urn! (Beauty and Truth!) I am going to wallow in your comment for a lovely long while to come. Thank you. ♥

  3. avatar lachatblanche says:

    Again I comment .. Im on a roll! This was so deliciously sweet … and the two of them with their innocent boying pastime vs. the knights’ bawdy humour and plotting .. its such a nice contrast!

    And that kiss! Sublime sweetness! And the last bit about Arthur already being lost but having won something infinitely more precious … awwww! Love it! Please write more in the series, Im off to read part 2 now! x x

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      lachatblanche – And again I thank you very kindly indeed! I’m delighted that you enjoyed the innocence and sweetness of this. It’s something I like about Merlin and Arthur in terms of the show – they allow each other to grow in wisdom, but they also somehow allow each other space in which to remain innocent (or regain innocence) for a while. It’s one of the things I love about them, and not something I’ve explored enough yet in fic (though perhaps you’ll like That Which Makes It Whole in this regard). I’m so glad that this worked for you! Especially the kiss. :-D ♥

  4. avatar Brunettepet says:

    What a fresh, light hearted scene. Arthur’s almost annoyance at his knights less than chivalrous conversation was in character and it felt right that he didn’t dress them down.

    I love your grasp of Arthur and Merlin’s dynamic. You captured their give and take beautifully. The stone skipping was vividly drawn and of course it would turn into a competition for Arthur. This was full of heat and possibilities: Their gazes snagged on this strange perspective, each upside down in relation to the other. Merlin’s eyes were full of wary possibilities now, and his lips seemed… enticing. The payoff was pure delight.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Brunettepet – Thank you so much for this response! To be praised for a grasp of Arthur and Merlin’s dynamic is a wonderful thing indeed, as is being able to pull off a delightful payoff. Thank you! Your kind and thoughtful responses to fic always make my whole week. ♥

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