Harlequin's Slash Fic

Beltane

Title: Beltane
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Gaius/Merlin
Category, Word count: Short story; 4,200 words
Rating: R
Summary: Gaius hasn’t seen Merlin since the aftermath of Camlann, and misses him dreadfully, but the Beltane celebrations bring a number of visitors to Camelot along with the promise of renewed life.
Notes: For riventhorn, in humble gratitude for the beautiful story Ember Day, and also for isisanubis and moonflower999. I love that you all love these two men as much as I do.
With humble apologies to those who know far more about Beltane and all things medieval than I do. I’m afraid I went with the show’s example of wantonly borrowing and adapting only what suited the story.

Beltane

Everything in Gaius’s mind was divided into ‘before Camlann’ and ‘after Camlann’. Before Camlann there was trouble and treachery, and after Camlann there was peace and prosperity. Before there was bleak darkness, like a lowering winter sky, and afterwards everything seemed coloured gold. But after Camlann there was no Merlin, and Gaius missed him as if he’d lost his own self.

It was with more of a sense of duty than delight, then, that Gaius prepared to leave his chambers that afternoon to attend the celebrations for the first Beltane after Camlann. He brushed down the robe he was wearing – he’d chosen green for the new life of spring, from a sense of what was proper rather than because he himself felt it. Then he picked up his satchel, which had been packed since early that morning. He closed the door on the silence of his rooms, and wound his way down the tower’s staircase, before crossing the courtyard and heading down into the meadows below the castle.

What Gaius saw there brought a momentary smile to his face. Iseldir and a group of Druids were in Camelot for May Day, invited by the Queen as part of the diplomatic relations that the late King had begun before Camlann. Gaius was pleased to see that while a number of Camelot’s guards were stationed where appropriate, the Knights were all dressed in tunics and britches on this fine day, and apparently unarmed; he assumed they had shed their armour and weapons as a gesture of trust in the Druids’ intentions.

As part of the day’s activities, two bonfires were being built on the largest meadow. Once lit, Camelot’s cattle would be herded between the fires, the smoke and ash casting a spell of protection on the cattle before they were driven out to the summer pastures. The Queen and the chieftain of the Druids had already ridden out that day to bless the crops.

Gaius resettled the satchel over his shoulder, and went to pay his respects to Guinevere and to Iseldir. Despite Gaius fully approving of all that was happening, however, the revelry was not an easy fit with his own mood. It was only fair on everyone that Gaius take his gloominess elsewhere.

When he could free himself from the social niceties, then, Gaius made his way past the colourful tents, and across the meadow towards the brook that meandered along just beyond where the grass met the forest, and he found a shady spot where he could sit quite comfortably on a fallen tree trunk. From there he watched the afternoon’s activities as the wood for the bonfires towered higher, the various minstrels led impromptu dancing across the grass, people tucked yellow flowers in their hair, and an abundance of oat cakes and mead were enjoyed. Every now and then a couple, or occasionally a group of three or even four, would slip away together into the shelter of the forest, and not return for half an hour or so. Gaius couldn’t help but smile at such goings-on, though he was glad no one seemed to want the use of his own chosen ground.

The Druids participated in all the activities – including the goings-on – and they played pipes and led a few dances of their own, more capering than stately despite the cumbersome robes they wore. Many of the villagers and townsfolk looked upon them with wariness, but slowly their caution seemed to slip away as the Druids behaved in ways not so very dissimilar to the people of Camelot. There was no magic openly performed, perhaps out of respect for the changes in their host’s policies which were inevitably slow though steady – but then again Gaius could sense magic all around him, and above and below, uncurling and unfurling as if awakening from a long sleep. He could almost see the golden motes of magic in the sun-warmed air.

As the afternoon wound on, Gaius might have drifted off into a doze for a while, for when he came to, sitting slumped on the tree trunk, it seemed that dusk was starting to fall. The Queen and Iseldir were just lighting the bonfires, and already tendrils of smoke were curling through the air, and perhaps a mist was rising from the stream.

… Gaius …

He shook himself fully awake, and tried to remember how much mead he’d drunk. But surely he hadn’t had any yet that day … ? Gaius reached for the flask of water from his satchel, and drank a mouthful to refresh himself.

Gaius.

Perhaps someone was calling for his services. Gaius looked about, but there was no one nearby. No urgent gathering of the concerned or the panicked. No one injured, no one in obvious pain or discomfort. What, then … ?

Come on, Gaius, I know you can hear me!

It was the note of amused impatience that made the matter clear. Merlin.

Yes.

Gaius stood eagerly, and turned to peer across the stream and into the denser parts of the forest. “Where are you?” he asked aloud.

Come find me, my friend.

There were stepping stones across the brook, directly ahead of where Gaius stood. Had they been there before? Gaius couldn’t remember. He set off across them without even a moment’s hesitation.

A path led between the trees, and twisted first one way and then another. Moments later Gaius was entering a glade that was drowsy with summer under a sky coloured a profoundly deep blue.

And Merlin was there – Merlin! – standing in the middle of the glade’s perfect oval, looking just as Gaius remembered him – part shambles and the rest strength, part eldritch and the rest beauty of an all-too-human kind. Gaius simply walked right up to him, and they wrapped their arms around each other in a heartfelt hug.

“How are you?” Gaius asked after long moments. He didn’t want to ever let the man go, but then he also wanted to know the answer to his question. Gaius eased away far enough that he could examine Merlin’s face – a little too pale, perhaps those cheeks a little hollower than they should be, the cheekbones too prominent, but underneath it all a formidable robustness. Perhaps Merlin had finally found his bedrock of confidence. Nevertheless, Gaius persisted in asking, “Merlin, have you been well?”

Merlin shrugged, and stepped back, turning away to pick something up. “I’ve brought you a gift for Beltane.”

He proffered a basket woven roughly from rushes, and it was full of freshly picked leaves and flowers, all obviously of great use to Camelot’s Court Physician. There were also various bundles of dried leaves and roots, and a few little folded packages made from parchment. Gaius brushed a careful fingertip across one of those, and Merlin said, “Seeds. That one’s for a kind of marigold that’s nothing like what grows here.”

Gaius looked at him in wonder. “Did you – ?”

“No.” Merlin turned self-conscious. “I traded for them.” He didn’t say what he’d traded, Gaius noted. “I collected all this fresh stuff, but it’s not as if I even have a bed of my own now, let alone a garden to tend.” He paused before blurting out, “I’ve had other things on my mind, you know.”

Gaius grew solemn, wondering now why the king hadn’t been the first subject raised by either of them – but he supposed no one would grudge them a few moments of joy in reconciling before considering larger matters. Quietly Gaius prompted, “Arthur?”

Merlin’s face screwed up in grief. “I – I lost him, Gaius. I sent him to Avalon. He was already lost to this world, but I sent him to Avalon.”

Gaius nodded. “The Sidhe will heal him. But it will take time, Merlin.”

“It will take time, and I will wait.” Though Merlin was restless with frustration, his feet shifting and taking him a step away and across and then back. “He will rise again one day, I know it, and I must wait for him.”

“Merlin –”

“What?”

“Merlin,” Gaius said softly, lifting a hand to clasp Merlin’s shoulder and offer reassurance. “I brought you a gift for Beltane as well.”

The young man quieted again, and smiled. “Did you know that I’d come to see you, Gaius? How did you know?”

“I didn’t,” he replied, “but I suppose I must have hoped that you might. I’m as surprised about that as you are!” But, Gaius reflected, he’d chosen to wear green for hope, so he must have had some idea that such a thing was possible.

“What did you bring me?” Merlin asked, as eager as a child.

“I baked you honey cakes,” Gaius replied, drawing the cloth-wrapped bundle from his satchel. “Honey cakes made with sweet wine and nutmeg and cinnamon.”

Merlin’s dazzling smile was Gaius’s reward. They sat together on a grassy mound in the dappled sunlight, and shared the cakes – well, Merlin gobbled up most of them, while Gaius had one or two, which he had to admit were tasty and nicely done. The real source of his pleasure, though, was that Merlin was pleased. Merlin produced a jug of mead, which they each drank from directly. Then they sat there quietly for a little while, enjoying the beneficent air, the freshness and warmth, the feeling that everything around them was burgeoning with eternal though ever-changing life. The perfect oval of sky above them didn’t darken, but a star twinkled just beyond the edge of treetops.

Gaius sighed with happiness. “Merlin,” he murmured eventually, “I’m so glad you’re back.”

In response, a troubled look glanced off him – but then Merlin shifted closer to Gaius and leaned in to ask, “Have you celebrated Beltane yet, Gaius?” And when Gaius looked at him properly, Merlin’s bright smile had returned with wicked intent. The spark in his eye, like sunlight glinting off the ocean, made his meaning unmistakeable.

“Don’t tease an old man, Merlin,” Gaius chided him. “Those days are long past for me.”

“Bet they’re not,” Merlin retorted.

Gaius gestured towards where the festivities could be faintly heard. “There’s a meadow full of people there who already care for you, or who’d be delighted to make your acquaintance, I’m sure. Why don’t you tempt one of them hither? I’ll just enjoy another honey cake, and be on my way.”

He reached for a cake, but instead found his hand captured in both of Merlin’s and gently massaged between thumbs and long fingers. Merlin’s gaze remained on Gaius’s, softening into affection – and after a few moments in which Gaius did not pull away, Merlin leaned in closer still, and pressed a kiss to his mouth. Gaius returned the blessing with gratitude. But, to Gaius’s delight and dismay, this only encouraged the young man further.

Soon Merlin was kissing him passionately, wrapping his arms snugly around Gaius’s waist, and pressing his slim frame warm against Gaius’s side. Gaius had his hands firm against Merlin’s arms and shoulders, but even he wasn’t entirely sure whether he was pushing or pulling. When Merlin broke away to run kisses down Gaius’s throat, Gaius managed to find his voice again. “Please … please don’t do anything … you might come to regret.”

Merlin merely rumbled his name against the tender skin over Gaius’s collarbone.

“I couldn’t bear it … if you could never look me in the face again.”

That provoked laughter, though not of the unkind sort. Merlin pulled away a little so that their gazes met fully and frankly. All he said was, “Come lie down with me, Gaius. You can let me hold you, can’t you?”

“Yes,” Gaius said on a breath before he could think better of it.

Merlin scrambled back, and then encouraged Gaius to lift his legs, and turn and shift further onto the grassy mound – which had become much the same size and shape as a bed. “This is an enchantment, isn’t it?” Gaius grumbled.

I’m real, Gaius. I’m really here with you.” Merlin was kneeling beside Gaius where he lay, and those long fine fingers were undoing the fastenings down the front of Gaius’s robe. “I wanted to love you.”

Gaius just watched him, lost for arguments, beyond protests. “I love you more than I’ve loved anyone,” he found himself confessing, “in all my long life.”

“Well, then,” Merlin concluded, shooting a bright look his way. The young man sat back on his heels and quickly shed his own coat, scarf and tunic so he was bare-chested, before lying down beside Gaius and gathering him near. “This is real, Gaius,” he whispered.

It was too rare and beautiful an opportunity to waste. “Wait,” Gaius said. Then, when Merlin let him go again, Gaius sat up far enough to shrug off the robe, and let Merlin lift off the light tunic he wore underneath it. When they settled again, the feel of Merlin’s skin against his own was so exquisite that Gaius sighed, and tears welled in his eyes.

Merlin gasped a little, and kissed the tears away, which was so wonderfully ridiculous that Gaius’s next breath was full of laughter. They lay there together for a lovely long while, just holding and being held, caressing and kissing. Skin shifting against skin, an eager body to embrace and press against, the warm loving kisses … this was a far greater blessing than Gaius had dared to hope for these past years. He was surprised and deeply moved when he realised that Merlin was going to insist on more.

Merlin’s fingers plucked loose the fastenings of Gaius’s britches, and then dived within. The young man had the grace to look pleased with what he found there. There was much mischievous teasing and tugging, as Merlin refused to settle into any kind of rhythm. Not that it made any difference – the anticipated end was swiftly and joyously reached, and Merlin stayed with him through it all, intimately sharing in Gaius’s pleasure, his face so close, his eyes drinking him in, his throat swallowing Gaius’s broken little cries.

Afterwards, Merlin carefully drew out his hand, and sat up – only to fling Gaius’s seed out across the grass with a happy shout. Moments later, a scatter of little plants burst from the earth, with silver-green leaves thrusting up and then rounded little flowers like snowdrops popping into being. The eldritch plants were beautiful, but even so Gaius had to laugh. “What a ridiculous use of your powers,” he chided despite his amusement.

“Best use ever! See? We created new life together. Like we’re meant to do for Beltane.”

“Oh, you nonsensical creature,” Gaius sighed. But he had never been happier. He had never even imagined such happiness. “And now, do you think … ? Is it possible? Could you take your pleasure as well?”

“I’d say ‘Just try to stop me!’ if that didn’t sound so horribly creepy.” Merlin was unfastening his own britches and pushing them down just far enough, revealing a proud pudendum as eager as Gaius could desire. “You know what I mean,” Merlin muttered, while pushing Gaius’s britches down a little further, too – and shifting across to lie over Gaius before anyone had the chance to feel shy. “All right?” Merlin asked.

“Yes,” Gaius replied, which was the honest answer no matter what Merlin intended.

Merlin’s legs were either side of Gaius’s, which were pressed close together in this configuration. A moment held as Merlin searched Gaius’s face, perhaps for any hint of discomfort – and he mustn’t have found any, for by the time Gaius next drew breath, Merlin was plunging his cock down hard between Gaius’s thighs.

Gaius cried out at the rough glory of it. Merlin set a relentless pace of thrusts, taking his weight on his elbows, but keeping his face close again so that Gaius felt he shared in every sweet and urgent moment. For all his strength and stamina, the young man hardly lasted any longer than Gaius had. Soon he lifted his hips to free himself, and then settled again to thrust up hard against Gaius’s belly as he completed, the wetness of his seed easing his way.

At last he stilled, dropping his head beside Gaius’s, his breath panting and interspersed with a couple of little moans of delight. Then, laughing, he pushed himself up to kneel astride Gaius, scooped up his own seed in one hand, and threw it out across the grass. Moments later, little tendrils poked up out of the ground, and grew, and wound amongst the silver snowdrops blessing them with bold bursts of gold petals, as if the twined flowers had been created by sunbeams and moonbeams penetrating the earth.

Merlin shifted aside, and considerately put Gaius’s britches back to rights. He even arranged the green robe so it cradled Gaius’s shoulders and ensured the older man wouldn’t feel a chill. Then he settled back down to lie close beside Gaius, and they snuggled in together.

The sky above the secret glade didn’t darken, though Gaius was aware of time passing. It was as if all the delights of summer were for this eternal moment trapped in this perfect oval. In many ways, Gaius felt he would be perfectly happy to stay there for ever and ever, if such a thing were possible. Not that the young man would be happy in such confinement … and, after all, Gaius was a citizen of Camelot, and his loyalties lay there as well, with the kingdom and its people.

Gaius sighed, and quietly said again, “I’m very glad you’re back, Merlin. You have been sorely missed,” he continued, “and not only by me.”

“Gaius –” Merlin began in heavy tones.

“Camelot is changing,” Gaius persisted. “You know the Druids are here, celebrating Beltane with us?”

“Yes,” he responded shortly. “I’m glad.”

“And … and …” Gaius mustered his courage. “Guinevere knows. About who Emrys is. She had guessed, and asked me – and I confirmed it. Merlin, you can come back and be your own self.”

Merlin nodded, just once. He had shifted up onto an elbow and was staring off into the deeper forest, though he remained pressed all the way down Gaius’s side.

“It’s time to welcome the magic back to the kingdom, Merlin. Many of us have waited a very long time for this day. I am so glad that you will be part of it.”

“I can’t come back, Gaius,” Merlin said roughly at last.

“But there is much work to do here, Merlin. We have need of you.”

“You and Guinevere are managing magnificently, I’m sure.”

“Merlin –”

“No. I have to wait. For Arthur.” Strange how Merlin was lying there in Gaius’s embrace, closer than he had ever been – and yet cold and so distant at the very same time.

Gaius felt all the desperation of knowing he would be refused. “But the Sidhe will take care of Arthur, Merlin – and while they do, you can wait here. Here in Camelot, where he belongs as well as you.”

A long moment stretched out, but then when Merlin finally turned to look down at him, Merlin’s expression had softened again. It seemed he hadn’t changed his mind, nor even really considered doing so. “Dear Gaius. I wanted to say goodbye properly.”

“You’ll at least come back for Ember Day, won’t you? I’ll make your favourite pudding.”

A fond smile curled Merlin’s lovely lips, but when he spoke it was to say, “You should talk to Iseldir about taking on a Druid child as an apprentice.”

Gaius’s heart sank, and he sighed, finally admitting the truth to himself. He tightened his arms around Merlin’s waist for a moment, and then concluded, “You will be very much missed.”

Merlin lifted a hand to stroke Gaius’s hair. “You won’t have time to miss me, if you’re running around after some other little mischief-maker – and one who’ll not be restrained by any bans on magic!”

Gaius did him the favour of pondering this notion, but the conclusion remained the same. “I don’t think I could bear starting all over again. No, you will go and wait for Arthur. And I will stay and wait for you.”

After that, there seemed little to say.

Merlin tucked his head against Gaius’s shoulder, and the two of them lay there for a while, holding each other. Eventually, though, Gaius started feeling a little too cold, and Merlin helped him dress again, before quickly dressing himself.

Then it just seemed natural that they leave the glade behind. Merlin picked up the basket he’d brought as a gift, Gaius slung his satchel over one shoulder, and Merlin accompanied Gaius back towards Camelot, holding his hand for balance as they stepped across the stones placed in the brook. Soon Gaius was sitting again on the fallen tree trunk, with the satchel and basket at his feet and Merlin standing beside him. They looked out across the meadows, watching the people happily mingling, with the beautiful castle above them, glowing gold in the last of the afternoon sun.

Gaius saw that the bonfires had only just been lit, twilight was only just gathering, and it seemed that little or no time had passed here in the world outside their glade, though he was sure he had spent a few hours with his beloved Merlin. And that had been real enough, for Gaius felt quite worn out!

Merlin shifted, raising a hand in greeting – and Gaius saw that Sir Leon was approaching them from the further reaches of the meadow.

The sight of Leon naturally prompted other memories, and Gaius looked up at Merlin still standing there beside him. “There is more news to tell,” Gaius said, “and some of it is sad.”

“You mean Gwaine?”

“Yes. You knew?”

Merlin nodded, his expression solemn, and he lay a comforting hand on Gaius’s shoulder as he watched Leon draw near. Before Leon was in hailing distance, though, Merlin bent to press a kiss to the top of Gaius’s head, and he said, “Goodbye, my dear friend.”

“Merlin –”

“You’ll always have my love.” And he was gone.

Gaius twisted around where he sat, hoping to catch a last glimpse – but there was no sign of Merlin himself, no stepping stones across the brook, and no hint of a path beyond. He sighed, and then turned back to greet Leon.

“Hello, Gaius,” the fellow said in his familiar warm, friendly tones. “Are you all right over here on your own?”

Lost for words. Gaius looked up at him with a silent plea.

“But you weren’t on your own, were you?” Leon slowly continued, somewhat befuddled. “Was that – could that have been – Merlin that I saw? He waved to me!”

“I wasn’t imagining it, then?”

Leon let out a surprised laugh. “Only if I was imagining it, too!” Leon clasped Gaius’s shoulder reassuringly, just as Merlin had done a few moments before. “I’m glad he came to visit you for Beltane. Maybe you can tell me about it later. But for now …” Leon was looking at him with concern. “Are you all right, Gaius? I came to ask you to return to the festivities, but perhaps you’ve had enough already.”

“Yes, it has been rather a long day,” Gaius managed. “Did the Queen ask for me?”

“She was only keen, as I was, to be sure that all is well.”

Leon helped Gaius up to his feet, settled the basket in the crook of one arm and offered the other for Gaius to lean on. They began walking slowly across the meadows.

Gaius said, “You and Guinevere are both very kind. But if you’ll forgive me deserting you, I might return to my rooms.”

“Of course.” Leon seemed intent on accompanying him all the way there, and in a restful silence, too. When they finally reached Gaius’s door, however, Leon said, “If you’ll forgive me, I’ll come to see how you are in a couple of hours. If you’re feeling better, perhaps you’ll do me the honour of attending the evening feast with me.”

Gaius considered the man, but of course Leon was being perfectly sincere. “Thank you, Leon,” Gaius said. “I would like that very much.”

“Take care until then, Gaius.” Leon offered him a casual yet respectful bow, and then headed off down the staircase at a lively pace.

Gaius listened to the man’s receding footfalls, until peace returned and he was alone. He lifted the latch and pushed open the door to his chambers.

The rooms were full of books and papers, tools and vessels, medicines and potions and spices … Such a wealth of goodness. There was a patch or two of gloom lingering in the corners of the high ceiling, but the evening sun streamed in, bringing life and colour with it, and a hint of golden magic. For the first time in a long while, Gaius looked across at the door leading to where Merlin had slept, and he felt … he felt sweetly poignant rather than bitterly sad. He loved Merlin –

Gaius loved Merlin dearly, but now the gratitude for having had Merlin in his life for ten years was at last beginning to outweigh the grief of having him no longer. Camelot and her people and her allies still needed Gaius. The Queen and their friends needed him. The store of knowledge of anatomy, botany, chemistry and the rest needed him – and the magic needed Gaius, too.

If there were to be more than that in his future – If there was also to be love – Well, then. He would wait.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

Subscribe to these comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.