Every time they are out on patrol with the knights, they are either defending themselves from bandits, run into an evil sorcerer, or have to fight off some other magical creature. Granted, today's bandits have been considerably easy to fight, but nonetheless, they are now separated from the knights with just one horse.
They have looked everywhere, but the knights and Merlin's horse are nowhere to be found. Only Arthur's horse is left.
"How is this possible?" Arthur shrieks. He turns around for the hundredth time and makes a face. "Where are they?" Arthur's hair is messy from the fight but also because he has been constantly ruffling it since they discovered that they are alone in the middle of nowhere.
"We should get back. Maybe they've gone home already," Merlin says. He stares at Arthur's horse. They are far away from the castle, it will take him ages if he has to walk the whole way. "You should try and follow them on the horse. I will only slow you down if you ride beside me." Merlin sighs. If only there was a spell that allowed him to fly, or double the horse. Quickly, he pushes that thought aside. Not an option anyway, with Arthur around.
"I will not leave you here alone in the middle of nowhere, Merlin. Not a chance."
"But we will never catch up to them with me walking. You are so much faster on the horse."
"What are you talking about?" Arthur asks. "You are getting with me on that horse, of course."
Merlin's eyes widen. Together with Arthur, on one horse that means he would be pressed against Arthur's body for at least an hour. It's almost like cuddling, he thinks, blushing bright red.
"You want me to --" he stutters.
"It's the only option. I won't leave you behind, Merlin," Arthur says. Merlin knows there is no way to convince Arthur now, not when he is like this, ready to fight everyone and everything to keep Merlin safe, even though Merlin would be perfectly fine on his own. But Arthur doesn't know that, of course.
"You ride in front of me," Arthur continues. For a moment they stare at the horse in complete silence. One horse. At least an hour on just one horse. Together. Merlin knows, Arthur thinks it too. They look at each other for a long moment, then back at the horse before Merlin finally moves and gets in the saddle first.
Arthur's body is warm against his own and Merlin feels how Arthur wraps his arms around Merlin’s waist to grab the rein.
"It would be more comfortable for you if you lean back against me," Arthur says. His voice is deep and very close to Merlin's ear.
"Right," Merlin says and leans back to rest his head on Arthur's shoulder. Arthur's arms wrap a little tighter around his body, and then they start riding. For a while, they ride in silence. Merlin feels himself getting tired.
"I could easily fall asleep like this," he murmurs. "You are quite comfortable, Arthur Pendragon."
For a moment he thinks, Arthur will be angry. That he has said too much, probably overstepped a boundary. They have never done this before. Actually, they have never done anything more than flirting. Years and years of flirting. But he is wrong.
"We should do this more often." Arthur's voice is barely more than a whisper. Merlin turns his head so that he can see Arthur's face. A very content smile is stretching from one ear to the other, his eyes are a little wrinkled. "We should definitely ride out more often."
"Is that what we are doing?" Merlin lifts an eyebrow.
"Absolutely," Arthur nods and makes a very serious face.
"Good to know," Merlin says and puts his hands on top of Arthur's legs. He can feel how Arthur shivers under his touch. "You like this, being so close to me. Don't you, Arthur?" It's a golden opportunity, one that will not come back so fast. He starts stroking the inside of Arthur's thighs, just a little. Merlin knows he shouldn't be teasing Arthur like this. They shouldn't be doing this at all, he thinks. But it feels way too good, to be wrong.
"I have no idea what you mean," Arthur answers. Merlin can see how he bites his lip, how hard Arthur is trying not to react to Merlin's touches. His thighs are warm against Merlin's hands, and he reaches as high as he can without falling off the horse.
"God, Merlin," Arthur moans in his ear. "What are you doing to me?"
"Tell me to stop, then," Merlin says very quietly. He can feel himself getting stiff, but the last thing he wants is to take advantage of Arthur in any way. He needs Arthur's consent before they go any further. Arthur is so close, it's hard to tell where he ends and Merlin begins. It's like they are one.
"Don't you dare stop now, you little tease," Arthur grunts and leans in to bite at Merlin's earlobe. Then, Arthur takes the rein in one of his hands. It's amazing how much control he has over the horse with just one hand. It's also amazing how much the riding motion seems to be doing for Arthur. Merlin can feel Arthur's crotch rubbing against his butt. Arthur, too, is starting to get hard.
Arthur takes his free hand and places it right on Merlin's stomach, right above Merlin's crotch. Somehow, Arthur manages to control the horse and pay attention to the way while biting and stroking the man in front of him. Merlin is about to lose his mind.
"Kiss me," he breathes. And dear God, Arthur does. Somewhere, in a forest close to the castle, with their bodies pressed against each other on the back of the horse, they press their lips together. Merlin has kissed before, of course, but they never felt like this. Somewhere behind his eyes, Merlin can feel an explosion that is spreading all the way through his body. When he opens his mouth, Arthur's tongue crushes against his own.
They have stopped riding, Merlin realizes suddenly.
"I want you, now," Arthur groans. "Please, tell me you want to."
"Dear God, yes," Merlin stutters, as they climb off the horse, tie it to the nearest tree, and quickly abandon their clothes. The ground is hard under them, but they don't care.
"Arthur," Merlin cries when Arthur pushes into him, and they finally unite.
They look horrible when they eventually get back to the castle with their tousled hair and dirty clothes. It takes them quite some time to convince the knights that they are well and managed to escape unharmed.
That night, Merlin falls asleep in Arthur's arms.
"You are quite comfortable, Arthur Pendragon," Merlin murmurs, right before he falls asleep.