Virgin Sacrifices Aren't What They Used To Be
A/N: Written for
Meme on LJ. Also, my sincere apologies in advance for the
Star Trek quote.
Really, Arthur didn’t know how he got himself into these situations.
One would think being a famous astronaut, the darling of the Royal Spacefaring Corps and the heir to the throne besides, would afford him certain privileges. But oh, no, of course not; because he was the best pilot (or so they told him, and who was he to argue?) he got tasked with the most dangerous operations in the most experimental spacecraft. Which would not normally be a problem – after all, it wasn’t a boast that Arthur could fly anything with a fusion engine – but clearly the new Excalibur craft had been cobbled together out of spare parts and welded into a whole with chewed-up Maynard’s Wine Gums, because he was only halfway to Epsilon Eridani when bits began to fly off the bloody thing and he had to ditch on the nearest planet before the entire cockpit fell apart around him.
After a rather rocky landing that could only be properly called a ‘landing’ if you were being extremely charitable about the dividing line between success and disaster, Arthur sat for a few moments ensuring that all of his bits were still in place, and then, being satisfied, checked the barely functioning astronav to try to figure out where the fuck he was.
Well. Apparently he was on a small planet that the directory listed as a former colony of Albion, one that hadn’t communicated with Earth in well over a century. Lovely. The colonists had probably fallen prey to some horrible wasting disease, or gigantic ravening beasts, or something else that would swiftly finish Arthur off the moment he stepped outside the capsule. After all, it was looking as though it were going to be That Kind of Day.
He checked on the status of his communication unit – yes, marvelous, the circuits were completely fused, so unlikely the distress call he’d tried to send earlier had gotten off – then decided he might as well face his fate. Groaning as his bruised body protested anything resembling movement, he levered himself out of the seat and opened the cockpit door.
He was immediately blinded by the bright sun – damn, he'd forgotten he wasn't used to the full spectrum of UV after three weeks of viewing the universe through polarized transparent aluminium windows – and blinked furiously until his eyes could adjust.
When he could see what was going on below him, he wished he really had been blinded.
bugger,” Arthur muttered. Definitely That Kind of Day.
“Look, no, really, I –”
man covered his face and flung himself to the floor again. This
was getting old very quickly.
get up off the floor,” Arthur pleaded. He half-bent to try to
pull the man up, then thought better of it. He'd already endured
a half hour of wailing and crying and chanting and
teeth-gnashing from these people; it was certain that if he
actually tried to touch one of them, they'd probably pitch a
wobbler. He looked up at the young man in the dark red robes,
the only one who hadn't reacted to his arrival with utter
lunacy. “Could you tell him to get up?”
The young man – despite the capacious garment, his sharp cheekbones showed how skinny he probably was – merely shrugged. “I don't want to deprive him of his fun,” he said, deadpan. “You're easily the greatest thing that's ever happened to him.”
As unhappy as Arthur was with the reactions of the other colonists, he had to say he wasn't terribly enthusiastic about the lad's unhelpful attitude, especially when he seemed to be the only sane human being on the planet. “Well, that's just marvelous. Thanks a fucking lot.”
The lad sighed. “Alright, Geoffrey, he's obviously tired. How about you let him wash up and get him some dinner, hm?”
The older man finally looked up, this time with venom at his young companion. “You are blaspheming! Gods do not tire or hunger!”
“This one does, actually,” Arthur said. “I'm a – special kind of god.”
“When they descend from the sky, they take on mortal characteristics,” the young man said, completely serious. Then he glanced at Arthur, and there was a twinkle in his eye.
Arthur narrowed his own eyes at him to show he disapproved thoroughly. It was a better response than outright laughter, which was his other impulse.
“I – I have heard of this,” Geoffrey said slowly. He flung himself down again. “I will prepare a feast for our Lord!”
“Just a spot of something hot and not too rancid would be lovely, thanks,” Arthur said as the man scrabbled backwards on his knees toward the door, his face still kissing the carpet. Arthur sighed as the door closed behind him. Or in front of him. Whatever.
“Good lord,” Arthur breathed, flopping down onto the nearest surface, which mercifully turned out to be a very soft divan-type thing with big sploodgey arms. Arthur found himself sinking into it and groaned in pleasure.
“Long flight?” the lad asked, and Arthur opened his eyes to look at him.
“Twenty-two days,” Arthur said.
“From Albion?” the lad said, eyes widening.
“From Earth, yes,” Arthur said. “Why?”
“It's just that – the first ships to Avalon took twenty years to get here.”
“Is that the name of this place?” Arthur asked. The lad nodded. “What's your name, by the way?”
“Oh, it's Merlin,” the young man said, stepping forward and extending his hand. Arthur peered at it for a moment, and Merlin smirked. “Don't worry, I won't faint if you touch me.”
Arthur grimaced. “Please don't remind me,” he said, taking Merlin's hand. It was warm and dry, the grip firm, and Arthur may have held on a little longer than was strictly dictated by propriety. “So why are you the only one who doesn't have a grave mental disease?”
Merlin laughed. “Well, it's complicated. Long story short, we've been here for over three hundred years, and we've been isolated for nearly half that time. It can make the best of societies go a little potty.”
“Are you an historian, then?”
“Not exactly. I'm actually the high priest of the Iceni – that's the nation you landed in.”
“Yeah,” Merlin said ruefully, rubbing the back of his neck. “I know it sounds –”
Merlin sighed. “You see, I'm the most powerful mage of my generation.” At Arthur's expression, he added, “Well, it's true; I can't help if it sounds conceited.”
“A mage,” Arthur repeated. Perhaps Merlin wasn't as stable as he'd first seemed.
Merlin blinked at him. “Oh, right, I forgot, you wouldn't know about that, would you? We're the last of the magical folk; we exiled ourselves from Albion during the last Great Purge and came here.”
“You – are you telling me you're a magician? A sorcerer?” Arthur laughed.
Merlin bristled. “Yes, we all are, actually.”
“Come on, mate,” Arthur said, still chuckling, “everyone knows sorcerers only exist in fairy tales.”
Merlin glared at him balefully for a moment, then raised his hand. Arthur had just enough time to watch Merlin's eyes flash gold before he realised he was no longer lying on the divan, but in fact was suspended several inches above it.
“What the –” Arthur tried to struggle, but he couldn't move.
“Here, let me slip you into something more comfortable,” Merlin said, and with a snap of his fingers, Arthur's flight suit had disappeared in favour of a set of teal-blue robes much like Merlin's own.
“Merlin!” Arthur shouted.
“Oh, stop whining,” Merlin said, and snapped his fingers again. As Arthur settled back down on the divan, a plate of pastries appeared in his lap. “Have an éclair,” he commanded, and one flew up and jammed itself into Arthur's gaping mouth. Arthur narrowly avoided choking as he began to chew, staring at Merlin in what he hoped did not look like awe, but judging by Merlin's smug expression probably was.
Once Arthur had finished swallowing the truly delicious pastry, he allowed, “Well, I suppose – right. Not just in fairy tales, then.” He frowned down at the plate. “Wait a minute, why didn't Geoffrey just magic me some dinner?”
“Creating food that doesn't taste like shit out of thin air is a lot harder than you'd think,” Merlin said tartly. “Most people can't do it.”
Arthur reached for another pastry, this one smelling faintly of roses and something like cardamom. “So, you were telling me the story of how you, the least religious man I've seen today, became a high bloody priest,” he said, waving it about before popping it in his mouth.
“Right, yeah. Well, I've never been a believer – in fact, there's a small group of us who aren't, my mum's one of them, we live outside the city – but when the Druids – that's the other nation – threatened war, I had to do something.” He lifted his arms, indicating his robes. “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The only problem was, I thought I could change things, and I really couldn't. Each side is completely entrenched in its position, and they won't budge an inch. Both countries are on the brink of war, and the best solution the Iceni leadership could come up with was to make a sacrifice to the gods. That's you, by the way.”
“Yeah, caught that. So what were they planning to sacrifice?”
Merlin looked pained and glanced away. “Um. Me.”
Arthur stared at him. “What did you say?”
“Oh, I wouldn't have let them really go through with it,” Merlin hastened to add. “I'd just – disappear at the last moment and make them think they'd sacrificed me. And they don't usually go around sacrificing people – in fact, they've never tried it before – but things are getting a bit desperate. It might have helped, and right now there's nothing more I can do.” Merlin shrugged. “Now that their god has actually shown up, though, I think that plan is going on the back burner.”
“Splendid, that's – wait a minute,” Arthur said. “Your sacrifice was intended to prevent a war?”
“With an appeal to the gods, yes,” Merlin said.
“And now that I'm here...am I expected to prevent this war?”
Merlin frowned. “Well, yes, that would be nice, actually, if you find you could fit it into your busy schedule.”
“But I don't know the first thing about stopping a war!” Arthur protested, setting the pastries aside and scrambling to his feet. In fact, there hadn't been a war on Earth in nearly a century, since wars had been declared Extremely Silly and Not Worth the Bother by the overwhelming majority of the popular worldwide vote in an electronic plebiscite. Those few who had wanted to go on killing one another had been given their own planet on which to do it, and they'd left happily.
“You're a god!” Merlin shouted back, taking a step toward him. “All you have to do is wave your arms and declare the war over! It's not exactly rocket science!”
“Rocket science would be preferable! At least I know that,” Arthur snapped, crossing his arms.
Just then, the door burst open and Geoffrey returned, along with three other people. The trays of food floated in the air in front of them, evidently controlled by their outstretched hands. It was a good thing people around here were magical, Arthur thought, because the trays were so laden down they'd probably herniate a disk trying to carry them.
“The repast for my lord is ready. We pray it is to his liking.”
“I'm sure it will be,” Arthur said, as kindly as he could. With all the voyages he'd been on he hadn't attended a great many royal functions lately, but the training never left you. “Thank you.”
One of the bearers made a distressed sound, and his tray wobbled alarmingly before he managed to right it. Arthur closed his eyes. Yes, a god who thanked you was probably a little unusual, come to think of it. Bugger.
“Just – erm, put it over there,” Arthur commanded, indicating the table near the far wall.
“Is his lordship satisfied with the other – arrangements?” Geoffrey asked Merlin. Arthur drew himself up to remind people he was still in the room, then realised Geoffrey was probably still too terrified to address him directly.
Merlin nodded. “He told me the rooms were adequate,” he lied. However, when Arthur looked around he found he had to agree. The rooms were palatial, comparable to any luxury hotel back home, though of course no hotel on Earth featured hot and cold running worshipers.
“And the other?” Geoffrey asked, darting a brief glance at Arthur.
Merlin frowned. “What – other?”
“The sacrifice, of course,” Geoffrey hissed.
Arthur's ears pricked up at that. “Excuse me, sacrifice?” When Geoffrey cowered, he turned to Merlin. “I thought you said we were done with the whole sacrificing business.”
“Geoffrey, I thought we were done with the whole sacrificing business,” Merlin said.
“Well put,” Arthur muttered.
“There is no need for the sacrifice of blood,” Geoffrey said. “However, the sacred texts say that there must be a sacrifice of purity.”
“A sacrifice of –” Merlin's eyes widened.
“You are meant to serve the god.” Geoffrey shot Arthur another glance. “His every whim. His every pleasure.”
Merlin gulped. “Do you mean I'm supposed to –” he gestured at Arthur “– with him?”
Arthur felt oddly stung by that; what was so terrible about him, exactly? And then he realised that was a little self-involved, even for him.
“You are still untouched?” Geoffrey asked.
“Wait,” Arthur began, “is he saying that you were going to be a virgin sacrifice?”
Merlin didn't respond, but the bright spots of colour over his cheekbones were answer enough. “Geoffrey, I'm sure there's some other way to–”
“There is no other way. The sacred texts are quite clear in this matter.”
“I don't suppose one of your sacred texts is Green Devil-Women of Alpha Centauri?” Arthur enquired sweetly. “Because that would explain a lot.”
That brought Geoffrey up short. Still addressing Merlin, he said, “I do not understand why the god would mock his own holy books.”
Arthur's hands clenched into fists at his sides. “They're not my holy books, you perverted little –”
“Look,” Merlin interrupted, “it's fine, alright? Everything's fine.” He caught and held Arthur's gaze, and there was such a pleading look in his eyes that Arthur felt something inside him melt a little. While no one currently living on Earth had experienced one, he'd of course heard that wars were horrible things to be avoided at all costs, and barmy or not, Merlin thought Arthur could help prevent one. Despite Arthur's misgivings, it felt rather petty to not at least try.
And that was why he turned to Geoffrey and said, “Look at me.”
Geoffrey, predictably, whimpered and covered his face with his hands, and Arthur intoned, slowly, “I am your god and I command you to look. At. Me.”
Still trembling, Geoffrey dropped his hands and raised his head. “That's better,” Arthur said, unsmiling. “Now, you are to send an envoy to the Druids in the morning, and invite their leaders to a meeting with their god.”
Geoffrey stared at him, mouth agape.
Merlin elbowed him. “This would be the part where you say, 'Yes, My Lord.'”
Geoffrey sucked in a breath. “Y-yes, My Lord.”
“Splendid,” Arthur said, clapping his hands together and making everyone in the room except Merlin startle. “Now, how about you lot bugger off so that I can get down to enjoying this tasty supper and debauching Merlin here?”
“O-of course, My Lord,” Geoffrey stammered, and then they were all, indeed, buggering off as quickly as they could manage it without tripping over their robes.
As soon as the doors closed, Merlin surprised Arthur by flinging himself at Arthur and hugging him tightly. Arthur responded by placing tentative hands on his shoulders and patting him awkwardly. “You, erm, you do realise I was kidding about the debauchery, yeah?”
Merlin whacked him in the back of the head with an open palm, then went back to hugging him. “Thank you,” Merlin said, “that was – that was really marvelous of you. Noble, even.”
“Well, let's not go overboard,” Arthur said, clearing his throat. He squeezed Merlin's shoulders.
Merlin drew back, his face filled with a mixture of admiration and exasperation, and grinned at him. “What’s your name, space man?”
“Arthur,” Arthur said.
“Arthur,” Merlin said warmly, then blushed and stepped back, breaking his hold.
“I, erm, don’t suppose you’d like to have dinner with me?” Arthur asked. He waved a hand at the table. “After all, there’s enough here to feed a hundred people.”
“I suppose they think gods get pretty hungry,” Merlin said seriously. “Especially when they’re debauching.”
This time it was Arthur’s turn to blush. “Oh, shut up and let’s eat.”
inclined his head, not even trying to hide his grin. “Yes, My
“So, erm,” Arthur managed, a good deal later, “are you really – you know.”
Merlin, who had drunk about as much wine as Arthur had and still appeared distressingly sober, glared at him. “Am I really what?” He’d removed his robes a while ago, revealing a more form-fitting long collarless shirt with a deep vee which revealed a tantalising strip of chest that Arthur was definitely not looking at, and tights that clung to every curve of his surprisingly well-formed legs. Which, yeah, also not looking at those.
Arthur burped. “You know. Untouched.”
Merlin’s spine stiffened. “Yeah. Is there something wrong with that?”
“No, of course not!” Arthur answered. “I suppose it’s – ah, typical, right, considering how religious the society is?”
Merlin shook his head. “They all bonk like bunnies, actually; that’s why it was so bloody hard to find a virgin for the sacrifice. That’s not the problem.”
“What is the problem?” Belatedly, Arthur realised the answer to that question was probably none of his business, but before he could take it back, Merlin was shrugging.
“Dunno,” he said, looking down at his lap. “I suppose I always wanted it to be – special.” He raised his head, and Arthur suddenly found it a bit hard to breathe. “With someone special.”
“Oh,” Arthur said, in a small voice. Hastily, he took a drink of his wine.
“Also, I fancy blokes, and the only other person back in my village who leaned that way was about seventy, and kind of like my uncle, so, yeah, ewww, no.”
Arthur spit his wine all over the carpet and started coughing. Merlin whacked him helpfully and repeatedly on the back until Arthur waved him off.
“Serves you right for asking deeply personal questions,” Merlin said mildly.
“Sorry,” Arthur choked. “Never again, I promise.”
“S’alright, now I get to ask you a couple. Why do you travel alone in space?”
Arthur frowned, taken aback. “What an odd question.”
“It isn’t at all,” Merlin insisted. “Unless people travel alone in space all the time these days.”
“No, they don’t.”
Arthur tried not to squirm under Merlin’s scrutiny. “I suppose because I’m good at it,” he began, “flying, I mean. And I get to test the best spacecraft – usually – so it’s exciting.” He took another sip of his wine. “And – I can forget who I am out here.”
Arthur blinked. Where the bloody hell had that come from?
Merlin cocked his head at him. “Who are you, then?”
Arthur opened his mouth, then snapped it shut again. For some reason, he didn’t want to tell Merlin he was – if not exactly a god – still a Very Important Person back home. Truth be told, he’d been enjoying Merlin’s good-natured joking and easy company; it was something he’d never really experienced before, and it was surprisingly addictive. “I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you afterward,” he said.
“Well, I’ve done a fairly good job of avoiding that today, so I think I’ll retract the question,” Merlin said softly, his mouth curving. “Hey, you’d better get some rest. You’re exhausted, remember.”
As if on cue, Arthur yawned. “You’re right. I suppose this is good night, then?”
Merlin looked away. “Erm, the thing is – I think I’d better stay.”
Arthur blinked at him stupidly for a moment before he caught on, and then his heart started doing somersaults in his chest. “You – are you saying you want to go through with –”
“No! No, not at all,” Merlin said, seemingly horrified. “It’ll just – look better, you know, if I spend the night here, right?”
Arthur peered suspiciously at the room. “There aren’t any hidden cameras or anything about, are there?”
“I don’t think so,” Merlin said, then shuddered. “I hope not.”
“Oh, bugger,” Arthur said. “How bizarre are we talking here? Are they going to be wanting – proof – in the morning?” Merlin stared at him. “You know –” he waved a hand helplessly “– proof? That we – ?”
Merlin made a face that looked like he’d just sucked on fifty lemons in rapid succession. And Arthur was not noticing how his extremely lovely mouth looked when he did that. No, he was not.
“Never mind, never mind,” Arthur babbled, “I’m a god, I’ll simply forbid any – erm. Inspections.”
“Fuck,” Merlin said, burying his face in his hands.
patted him on the arm as collegially as possible given the
circumstances. “It’ll be fine,” he said. “You’ll see.”
This definitely was not the least bloody bit fine, Arthur reflected as the dawn light crept through the wide windows. He'd gotten all of what felt like five minutes' sleep last night, thanks to the following series of events:
1) Arguing with Merlin about who would take the divan, which culminated in Arthur assuring Merlin that he wasn't a molester of sweet young High Priests and that they could share the bed perfectly well for one night without sacrificing Merlin's virtue.
2) Merlin pouting like a – well, like something that pouted excessively – as a result.
3) Arthur apologising for whatever he'd done wrong.
4) The argument that ensued when Arthur admitted he had no idea what he'd done wrong.
5) Merlin reminding him that he was quite a powerful sorcerer, thank you, and quite capable of defending himself, so he didn't need any patronising bloody reassurances from Arthur.
6) Arthur apologising for real this time.
7) Merlin turning to him on the bed and looking at him, really looking at him, then smiling and telling him his apology was accepted. His smile had been remarkable enough earlier, but this close, with the two of them only separated by a short stretch of mattress – well. It was somewhat like the first euphoria after one surpasses light speed, all the colours and sounds and sensations blurring until you feel as though you could do anything your heart desired.
8) Arthur bidding Merlin a hasty good night, then spending an inordinate amount of time staring up at the dark ceiling and not thinking about his heart's desire.
In actuality, Arthur had probably managed a couple of hours' sleep, but he was definitely wide awake now, because he'd woken to find Merlin wrapped around him like an octopus – a decidedly warm and pleasant one, to be sure, but still an octopus – and his own inconvenient erection taking a more than casual interest in the proceedings, pressed as it was against Merlin's thigh.
Your every whim. Your every pleasure. The myriad scenarios that those words conjured weren't helping Arthur to maintain his equilibrium. He squeezed his eyes shut and ran through the pre-flight checklist for the Excalibur's engine pods. It didn't work terribly well, because when he opened his eyes again he still had the erection, and now his hand had somehow got the notion to start stroking Merlin's hair. He told it to stop, but it told him to sod off and kept right on doing what it was doing.
Merlin made a small noise, halfway between a sigh and a moan, and turned his head into Arthur's touch. The movement made his lips brush Arthur's nipple, and Arthur bit his lip so hard he nearly drew blood. At least his hand stilled its movement, but it was small consolation.
“Don' stop,” Merlin slurred, breath stirring the hair on Arthur's chest and making his skin prickle, “s'nice.”
Arthur obeyed, helpless to resist, and Merlin hummed his approval, then kissed Arthur's chest as a reward.
“Merlin,” Arthur managed, voice sounding strangled, “wake up.” Surely Merlin was only half-aware of the situation, and would be horrified to realise what he was doing.
“M'awake,” Merlin said, sliding his hand down Arthur's belly.
“No, you're not,” Arthur insisted. Taking him by the shoulder, he shook him gently.
“Oh, for –” Merlin snarled, pushing himself up off Arthur's chest and glaring down at him, “I'm awake, Arthur.”
Arthur stared at him. “Well, how was I to know that?”
“Because I told you I was?”
Really, Merlin had no right to be so furious when Arthur was only trying to do the right bloody thing. “Well, I don't see why you need to be so snappish about it,” he pouted.
“I just wish you'd stop trying so hard to protect me from you,” Merlin said. “I mean, I'm fairly sure you fancy me,” he said, sliding his thigh slowly over Arthur's cock, “right?”
Arthur closed his eyes and bit his lip. “Right. Yes. I do, yes.”
“And I fancy you,” Merlin said, leaning in so closely that Arthur had to cross his eyes to see him, “so as long as it's not humourously shaped or covered in polka-dots, I don't see why we couldn't.”
Arthur sighed as Merlin's lips glided over his cheek, his chin. “But –” he managed weakly.
Merlin pulled back. “Don't tell me I was right about the polka dots,” he said, expression a parody of horror.
“You said you wanted it to be special,” Arthur murmured, “with someone special.”
Merlin eyed him for a moment, and Arthur held his breath. “Well, even though you can be a bit of a prat,” he said, eyes twinkling, “you're also pretty special, space man.” He reached up and cupped Arthur's cheek, and Arthur blushed as though he were the virgin. “And I'd really like to kiss you now, if you don't mind.”
“I don't mind,” Arthur whispered, “I d–”
Merlin's mouth closed over his, a soft, gentle press that rapidly turned deep and hot. Arthur wound his ams around Merlin's back, hands roaming, and Merlin groaned and shifted so that he was lying right on top of Arthur, and then someone thought to start moving, and the next thing Arthur knew they were grinding against one another and it was suddenly rather brilliant.
“Arthur, Arthur,” Merlin sighed, scrabbling at Arthur's briefs with clumsy hands that seemed to want to be everywhere at once. Arthur tried his best to help him but his own hands were busy sliding under the waistband of Merlin's tights to grip twin handfuls of his lovely, taut little arse, and Merlin whimpered and swiveled his hips, and Arthur thrust up and pulled Merlin down at the same time, and then he was gasping into Merlin's mouth and coming in delicious waves. Merlin stiffened in his grasp, and then he was moaning and rutting filthily against Arthur's hip until he went over as well.
“Fuck,” Arthur groaned, wrapping his arms around Merlin and holding him tightly.
“Perhaps next time,” Merlin said, chuckling. Arthur groaned, and Merlin bit his earlobe, then soothed it with his tongue. “You'd like that, wouldn't you?”
Arthur sighed. “Is it a confession if it's completely obvious?”
Merlin's head was buried in the crook of Arthur's neck, but Arthur could hear the pleased smile in his voice when he said, “I suppose not.”
Arthur shifted, and winced at the cooling, sticky sensation that greeted the movement.
“What's wrong?” Merlin asked, immediately concerned.
“Nothing,” Arthur said, as Merlin shifted off him to lie beside him. “Only I haven't come in my pants since I was fourteen, and I'd forgotten the aftermath wasn't exactly pleasant.”
“Oh, that,” Merlin said, unconcerned. His eyes flashed gold, and before Arthur had a chance to worry about what Merlin was going to do, he felt a tingling sensation in his nether regions.
“What the bloody –” Arthur began, belatedly covering himself.
“Just a cleaning spell,” Merlin said. “You should be fine now.”
As the tingling faded, Arthur realised that he was, indeed, now perfectly comfortable. “Erm. Thanks.”
Merlin grinned. “Least I can do.”
Feeling his cock stir again, Arthur rolled closer. “Shame, though,” he drawled. “We might have furnished them with some proof.”
Merlin's grin turned positively lascivious. “Oh, well, there's plenty more where that came from,” he murmured, sliding a hand round the back of Arthur's neck to tug him into a kiss.
“What do you want?” Arthur asked breathlessly when they parted.
Merlin ducked his head. “Well, there's something I've heard about and always wanted to try,” he admitted, fingers toying with one of Arthur's nipples. “Do you think you might –”
“Anything,” Arthur murmured, kissing him again. “We'll do anything you'd like.”
Which is how Arthur, crown prince of Albion and erstwhile god of Avalon, ended up face down and begging shamelessly while Merlin's tongue traced his hole in an inexpert yet thoroughly enjoyable fashion when Geoffrey decided to burst into the room.
“My Lord!” Geoffrey announced. “The delegation from the Druids have arrived, as per your wishes!”
“Gah!” Arthur said, nearly levitating off the bed. Hastily, he scrambled away from Merlin and covered himself with the nearest cushion. “Doesn't anyone knock on this bloody planet?”
Geoffrey immediately dropped to the floor, and Arthur covered his face with his hands. “For fuck's sake,” he breathed.
“Geoffrey,” Merlin said, with a calm that Arthur resented a little, “please inform the delegation that we will be there shortly.”
Head still down, Geoffrey nodded, then began backing up on hands and knees.
“Stand up, Geoffrey,” Arthur said. “Or I shall be forced to use my mighty lightning bolt.” Merlin looked at him sharply, obviously trying to keep from bursting into laughter, and belatedly Arthur realised how that had sounded. He covered his face again.
“Come on,” Merlin said after Geoffrey had gone, “fun's over for now, unfortunately.” He slapped Arthur on the thigh, and Arthur lowered his hands and sighed.
“What the fuck am I supposed to do out there?” Arthur demanded, feeling peevish. He saw that Merlin's lips were pink and swollen from his ministrations to Arthur's arse, and his cock twitched hopefully, not having received the memo about the end to the fun.
“Just be your impressive self,” Merlin said, kissing him on the cheek.
“Oh, marvelous,” Arthur said, though he flushed a little. Hopping off the bed, he extended his hand to Merlin. “Come on, I'm not going to go out there like this.”
Merlin allowed Arthur to tug him to his feet. “I think you’d be much more impressive naked, actually,” he said, winding his arms around Arthur’s neck. “Especially if you could show off the full power of your lightning bolt.”
“If you don’t stop being cheeky, I won’t suck on your lightning bolt in the shower,” Arthur said primly.
Merlin’s eyes widened, and he swallowed. “Shutting up now,” he croaked, and promptly sprinted for the bathroom with Arthur at his heels, laughing.
Arthur wasn't terribly impressed with the leader of the Druids. But then, it would seem the leader of the Druids wasn't terribly impressed with him, either.
Merlin had tried to fill him in as much as one could, considering it involved condensing three hundred years of history into a five-minute lecture. Apparently most of the colonists had rejected the trappings of technology they'd brought with them from Earth, preferring to use magic, now unfettered by legal constraints, to till the soil and cure the sick. A few, such as those in Merlin's village, had perpetuated the old knowledge of chemistry and physics, astronomy and biology, while the rest had reached back to a more ancient tradition, that of the Old Religion. Unfortunately, after so many centuries the latter was poorly understood, and became woven through with strands from more recent belief systems. What emerged was a hodgepodge, which explained a great deal about the Iceni attitude toward him when he'd first arrived. Along the way, most of the colonists' descendants had even forgotten their ancestors had once traveled here in space ships themselves; instead, there were legends of a great dragon rescuing them from their oppressors and carrying them across the stars to Avalon.
Merlin had mentioned that Mordred, the Druid leader, was one of a new generation of mostly Druid priests attempting to return the people to the “true” religion. As no one was entirely sure what that was, however, the priests relied primarily on their own charisma and influence to sway their followers, and to try to convince them that the people of Avalon should share the same set of religious beliefs. And Mordred, Arthur privately admitted, certainly had charisma to burn, but there was a light in his eyes that spoke of megalomania and cunning more than it spoke of faith. He was a dangerous man, and one that Arthur couldn't afford not to impress.
Mordred circled him slowly, and Arthur resisted the urge to turn in order to keep facing him. Instead he folded his arms and tried his best to look impassively god-like.
Having made one full circuit of Arthur, Mordred stood in front of him again. “He does not look much like a god,” Mordred drawled, raising an eyebrow.
Geoffrey made a dismissive noise. “When they descend from the sky, they take on human characteristics,” he scoffed. “Every child knows this.”
“Hm,” Mordred said. “Interesting.”
Arthur drew himself up. “I have descended to deliver an important message. You are to stop this foolish war immediately.”
Mordred stared at him, obviously surprised, and Arthur mentally notched a point for himself on the scoreboard. “Stop the war?” he asked slowly. “But there is no war going on.”
“There will be, if you do not call an end to this now.” Warming to his role, Arthur raised his hand and intoned, “I see a terrible conflict, pitting man against man, destroying everything in its wake.”
“You can see this, My Lord?” Geoffrey asked, trembling. “Hark at his prophecy!”
“Nonsense,” Mordred said calmly, and there was a sharp intake of breath from the assembled delegates at the brazen display of what to them would be blasphemy. “I am sure all that – Our Lord is seeing –” Arthur didn't miss the pause there “– is the period of adjustment before we all come together as a harmonious, enlightened whole.”
Arthur leveled his most princely stare at Mordred, then stepped close enough so that he wouldn't be heard by the others. “That takes bollocks, I must say,” he murmured, “interpreting your god with him standing right in front of you. I'm impressed.” Mordred inclined his head. “But you're going to lose this game, my lad.”
“We shall see,” Mordred said, sotto voce. “This game means a great deal more to me than it does you.”
I wouldn't bet on that, Arthur thought, darting a glance at Merlin where he stood beside Geoffrey, trying to look like he wasn't on tenterhooks. His hands twitched as though he were prepared to cast a spell at any moment, and Arthur was astonished to realise how easy it was for him to pick up on that after only a day. He tried to imagine what would happen when he was rescued – saying goodbye to Merlin, leaving him behind – and the prospect was surprisingly painful to contemplate.
Arthur took a step back, then addressed the assembled throng. “Ultimately, even a god cannot command you, for you were given the power of reason, the power of choice. You must make these decisions for yourself, armed with the knowledge I have given you. If you continue on your present course, you will see your sons and daughters die; you will see your families torn apart, and hatred will consume you. Whether Mordred's 'harmony' is worth that price to you, or whether his harmony will taste more like tyranny in the end, is not for me to say.”
At this, a murmur spread through the crowd, and Geoffrey said, “But, My Lord, will you not command us? Please, we beg you!” He flung himself at Arthur’s feet again. Arthur glanced at Merlin as the crowd grew more agitated, and Merlin seemed to come to a decision. Stepping forward, he raised his arms to the crowd.
“My fellow Iceni, our honoured Druid guests, please listen to me,” he said. His voice was just loud enough to carry, but it had an instantly calming effect on the crowd. “This man’s counsel is wise, and you would do well to obey it, but he is correct; the decision lies with you. You need to choose whether to live in harmony now, without bloodshed, as we have done for centuries, or to obey false prophets –” he looked pointedly at Mordred “– who would promise an ‘enlightenment’ imposed by force.”
“This ‘man’?” Mordred drawled, cutting through Merlin’s speech. “An odd choice of words, Emyrys.”
Merlin blinked, momentarily nonplussed, and Arthur’s breath caught. “I misspoke,” Merlin said calmly. “Of course, he is no man.”
Mordred cocked his head, a small, thin smirk playing at his lips, and Arthur’s fists clenched instinctively. “Is he not? Is he not, indeed?”
And before either of them could react, Mordred’s hand came up and slashed sideways like a whip cracking across flesh. Arthur looked down to see a line of red bloom on his chest, growing rapidly darker and thicker.
“Behold a god who bleeds!” Mordred cried out.
“Bugger,” Arthur said, feeling his knees get a bit wobbly. Perhaps he could just sit down for a moment –
“NO!” Merlin’s voice,
anguished, and there was a sudden, blinding flash of light, then
the roar of the crowd, building until it hurt his ears and shook
the very ground beneath him. For
fuck’s sake, a little quiet would be nice, Arthur tried
to say, but the words were left unsaid as the darkness closed
Arthur awoke to the bright lights and recirculated air of a shipboard medical bay. Blinking rapidly, he reached up to clear the gunk from his eyes, and turned to see Merlin slowly raising his head from its previous perch on the side of Arthur’s bed. His hair was mashed flat on one side, his right cheek was creased from the blankets, and his eyes were bleary and bloodshot. In short, he looked impossibly dear, and Arthur felt something inside him burst free and expand into the universe as they stared at one another.
“Oh, thank god,” Merlin breathed, reaching out to grip Arthur’s hand.
Arthur smiled. “Thought you didn’t believe.”
“I may have sent out a few prayers just in case I was wrong,” Merlin said, pressing his lips to the back of Arthur’s hand.
“Merlin –” Arthur cleared his throat before continuing “– what the bloody hell happened?”
“Well, it was rather interesting, and really too complicated to describe. Too bad you missed it.”
“Merlin,” Arthur growled.
Merlin grinned. “In short, I blasted Mordred back about twenty feet, the crowd grabbed him and held him down, I managed to stop you from bleeding out, and then this ship nearly landed right on top of us all.”
Arthur looked around. “Which one is it?”
Merlin looked around. “I think it’s called the Destiny? There’s a lovely woman named Gwen running it, she’s marvelous. Cool as a cucumber.”
“That’s Guinevere,” Arthur said, smiling. “She’s one of the best captains in the Corps.”
Merlin raised an eyebrow. “Should I be jealous?”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “We snogged a bit in cadet school a million years ago, and then she decided she was too good for me and married a bloke named Lancelot. I wouldn’t worry.”
“Hm,” Merlin said. “Anyway, everyone on both sides was utterly horrified by what happened to you, and that started everyone talking. Gwen says she’s going to send for a delegation from Earth to help us set up something like a Royal Commission. Apparently they’re good for talking about things.”
“Yes,” Arthur said, “there’s definitely a lot of talking involved in a Royal Commission.”
“We had a chat, Gwen and I, about other royal things – and people,” Merlin said archly. “It was fascinating.”
“Oh,” Arthur said, feeling his cheeks flush. “Well, I was going to tell you, but –”
“It was – nice, not having to be the prince for a while.”
“Much more fun being a god, I’d expect.”
“No, you prat – I mean, being with you. Being myself with you. Just – Arthur.” Blimey, perhaps he’d had a crack on the head as well; he sounded like he’d suffered a brain injury.
Merlin blinked at him. “Oh,” he said softly. “Well. I liked that too, actually.” He took a deep breath. “Arthur –”
“Merlin –” Arthur said, at precisely the same time. They both stopped and looked at one another.
“You first,” Arthur said.
“No, you, I insist,” Merlin said.
“I, erm,” Arthur began, taking Merlin's hand in his again and watching Merlin's long fingers curl warmly around his own, “I don't suppose you'd ever want to – well. I mean, you're pretty attached to – staying here. On Avalon.”
“I should stay and help with the commission,” Merlin said, and Arthur's heart sank, “but afterwards...I don't know. I have to say I've been considering – other possibilities lately.”
Arthur looked up at him. “Lately? Say, how lately?”
“Oh, since about yesterday, midday,” Merlin said, clearly fighting a smile.
Arthur felt as though his own grin might well leap off his face from sheer joy, but he kept it bottled as best he could. Tugging on Merlin's hand until Merlin was sitting beside him on the bed, he asked, “And what sorts of possibilities were you considering?”
“Mmmm,” Merlin said, leaning in, “well, you see, there are quite a few things I've always wanted to try, but I've been waiting for a space man with a truly delicious arse.” Merlin brushed his lips against Arthur's slowly, and Arthur shivered. “I was hoping you might be able to introduce me to some.”
“Oh, you –” Arthur said, laughing, and then Merlin's mouth was on his and neither of them said much of anything for a very long time.
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