Arthur just stood there on the riverbank shakily for several moments after the monster finally fell over and died. His hand ached—the leather wrapping of his sword hilt had dissolved away with his clothes, though he'd still managed to keep hold of it, at least. All of his armor was currently big dark lumps inside the creature's translucent belly.
Drops of opalescent muck were dripping, slow and viscous, from his hair and down his naked shoulders and his chest. His thighs were sticky where its tentacles had—except he was not thinking about that at all. In fact, it had never happened, he decided.
"If you ever," he said, by way of preamble, and then turned around, and stopped, because the look on Merlin's face wasn't the shock of seeing your prince stripped and violated and losing all respect for him, which Arthur had been steeling himself for. It also wasn't what have you got yourself into now or I want to laugh except you'll probably execute me or even the utterly intolerable I told you not to charge at the giant tentacle monster, didn't I?
Instead it was a sort of half-blind, dazed, reverential look and Arthur had never seen that on Merlin's face before, that was for certain. It made him want to straighten his shoulders back and blush, for the love of God. He glared at Merlin. "What are you staring at?"
Merlin said, very earnestly, "aghlgglhphlck."
"What?" Arthur said, and realized Merlin had actually been reduced to incoherence. "Oh, shut up, and get over here and get me cleaned off."
Merlin's expression went through several more contortions and ended up at desperate. Arthur recognized it easily. It looked exactly the way he'd felt that time he was fourteen years old and had ducked into Morgana's room to hide from a scolding and she'd come in and undressed. And then she'd taken a bath. A slow, lingering sponge bath, with Guinevere pouring jugfuls of water over the heavy wet dark mass of her hair, and her shoulders and her breasts, and by the time Arthur had finally been able to escape and creep back to his rooms, it had stopped being miraculous and gone into the most fantastically incredible torture he had ever experienced.
And Merlin was looking at him like that now. Arthur said indignantly, "I'm covered with—with—" He stopped, because he didn't actually want to think about what he was covered with. Merlin jumped and apparently took it to be Arthur expressing a desire to be cleaned off right the hell now, and came over.
"I, uh," Merlin suggested, looking between Arthur and the river. "If you—" Arthur rolled his eyes and stepped out into the river, staying in the shin-deep shallows. Merlin promptly made to follow him.
"Merlin!" Arthur snapped. "Take off your boots, first."
"Oh," Merlin said. "Right." He sat down on the bank and pulled his boots off and rolled up his pants before wading out after him.
"I, um," Merlin said, still staring at him, helplessly, and then he seemed to shake himself all over and get a grip, thankfully. He tugged off his neckerchief and dunked it in the water and started tentatively washing Arthur down.
Arthur stood there staring straight ahead and did not at all look at Merlin, or watch Merlin's hands. Merlin had ridiculously tender hands for a servant, long-fingered and uncallused; you couldn't have told he spent all his time scrubbing armor at all. But Arthur didn't watch them moving over his skin, washing away the slime. Merlin kept swallowing, tiny little gulps that Arthur could barely hear. The red cloth was soft, worn cotton, gentle on his bruises and scrapes.
"Close your eyes," Merlin said, softly, almost whispering—stupid, it wasn't like there was anyone around who was going to hear them. Arthur didn't say so, though, just shut his eyes while Merlin carefully rinsed the muck out of his hair, squeezing water out of the cloth to run over Arthur's face and shoulders. Arthur tipped back his head for the thin stream, and Merlin's breath hitched again.
After that, Merlin kept dunking the cloth and squeezing it out over his shoulders, which by now were completely clean. "The rest of me, Merlin," Arthur said, and his voice was not the least bit shaky, because it was just a bath, there was absolutely nothing interesting about having Merlin's hands on his—on his chest, and his belly, and his legs.
"Wait," he said abruptly, as Merlin went to kneel in the water. It occurred to Arthur he was going to have to take most of Merlin's clothes to get back into Camelot decently dressed. "Take your clothes off first, go leave them on the bank."
Merlin stopped and stared at him. Arthur could see it out of the corner of his eyes. That was just too bad, if it came down to one of them riding into Camelot nearly naked, it was damned well not going to be him. After a moment, Merlin slogged back to the bank and slowly undressed. "Hurry it up already," Arthur said. He was not going to stand here forever watching Merlin peel his skinny pasty self out of his clothes. It was absurd how pale his skin was. The veins showed blueish at his wrists, and his collarbones stood out like knives, with purple-shadowed hollows.
Merlin came back out into the water naked, and paused. "Arthur," he said, a little wobbly.
"What are you waiting for?" Arthur snapped, without looking at him, and Merlin gave another one of those idiotic little gulps and knelt down to scoop water over Arthur's legs. He didn't use the cloth this time, just ran his hands down Arthur's calves and cupped more water up to rinse them, then again. Then Merlin was cupping water up to his shoulders and stroking down his back, and then over his chest, his strokes getting stronger and more firm, and Arthur stared unseeing at a willow tree leaning over the bank as Merlin's fingers trailed down over his belly, and then onto his thighs, as Merlin knelt down again.
It was late midsummer, and the river ran slower here. The water wasn't cold. Merlin's hands were warmer than the water, though, and his breath was hot where he panted against Arthur's thigh, as Merlin's wet fingers stroked down his, down his—"Arthur," Merlin said again, urgently, and Arthur said blindly, "Get on with it," and Merlin's mouth closed over his cock.
And oh God this, this, and Merlin's fingers sliding into him, where he was still slick and opened. Arthur spread his legs a little and braced himself, one hand tight in Merlin's thick soft hair. He'd never even imagined—He made a noise in the back of his throat as Merlin did something complicated and experimental with his tongue, and pressed at the same time.
And then Merlin stopped, the bastard—
"There's—ground," Merlin said, panting. "Over there."
"Right," Arthur said, because part of leadership was recognizing someone else's good idea. It was even more of a good idea when he was on his back in a patch of sun-warmed grass with Merlin sprawled between his legs, sucking on him slow and meditatively and exploring him with those long fingers, birds twittering overhead and the latest evil monster quietly decomposing about twelve yards away.
"Oh, God," Arthur said, and came. Merlin made a surprised and almost indignant noise, and his fingers twitched in a way that made Arthur arch up helplessly from the ground and then slump back trembling and boneless.
"Thanks for the warning!" Merlin said, wiping his mouth.
Arthur waved a lordly if slightly enfeebled hand. "You know you loved it." He even went so far as to smile benevolently up when Merlin crawled up to his side. "By the way, don't get too comfortable. You're going to have to dig my armor out of that thing in a minute."
Merlin's eyes narrowed. "You know what else I think I'm going to love?"
"Hm?" Arthur said, already halfway asleep, which was the only reason Merlin managed to take him by surprise. Otherwise Arthur would never have allowed him to do anything of the sort, even if it was a lot nicer than fingers, and then there was a particularly excellent part where he had his hand gripped in Merlin's hair again, gasping, "Harder—harder, Merlin, put some muscle into it, now—"
"I am," Merlin panted. "We—can't all be—oh—oh," and then he bloody well pulled out and came all over.
Arthur shoved him back and pushed himself up on his elbows, sticky and infuriated. There was—it was dripping from his chin. "You just—you—"
Merlin didn't even have the grace to look ashamed of himself. "I guess I'll just have to clean you up again?" he offered.
Arthur's eyes narrowed. "Did you do that on purpose?"
Merlin blinked at him with a truly idiotic expression of innocence. "No." Arthur stared at him.
Merlin coughed. "Um. Not really?" He turned pink.
Right, only one thing for it.
"No!" Merlin yelped. "No, Arthur, wait, no, no—" squirming and protesting as Arthur dragged him out into the waist-deep water and dunked him thoroughly. He came up looking like a drowned rat, hair plastered down over his head and spluttering.
"Properly dampened, I hope," Arthur said, then ducked his head under the water, too, and scrubbed a hand through his hair. "We'll probably die of colds from all this bathing, but at least it'll serve you right."
"Serve me right!" Merlin said, obviously getting ready to say something impertinent again, possibly harking back to the wait, I wouldn't go charging the tentacle monster thing, so Arthur pushed him back underwater. Like Merlin knew anything about hunting monsters. It had all worked out, anyway.
With many thanks to elyn and Mia for beta! The title is stolen from what is apparently a live-action tentacle sex movie (*is afraid*) and translates to "Obscene Beast Teacher". :>
All feedback much appreciated!