But no unicorns or wizards!
4 bottles of wine
3 bottles of beer
3 gin and tonics
2.2 bottles of champagne
2 pints of cider
1 pint of guinness
been eaten by the hedgerows once
lost one parking ticket
Eaten in 8 restaurants
spent 27 hours in the car
visited 12 towns and cities
visited 3 castles
wandered around 2 cliff-faces
fallen over on rocks a lot
tripped up narrow castle staircases several times
lied to surveyors for the National Trust
secreted 1,300 (approx) insects about our persons after time spent frolicking amongst wildflowers
gotten lost countless times
While the gifting of submissives was a common enough occurance, Arthur had never before come across an instance in which both parties were unwilling.
"Father!" he growled, just stopping himself short of a shout as Uther strode away.
The protocols of submission, Uther was constantly lecturing Arthur, went back to before the Romans had occupied Albion. Their collared, it was said, were trained from birth in the arts of submission, compliance and deference. Their bodies were oiled and smoothed by slaves, their hair gleaming, fingers soft and respectful.
Merlin, in comparison, was as tender and respectful as a week in the stocks.
"Ow-- for-- my arm doesn't actually bend that way!" Arthur gave his most ferocious glare - the one that made his knights pale and back away carefully - but Merlin only scratched his head.
"I can't see where it undoes," he jangled the armour where it covered Arthur's shoulder.
"Underneath, you idiot," Arthur knew that there were strict rules about how a proper master treated his submissives, but honestly.
The first week after the arrival of a submissive was supposed to be a form of orientation - for them both.
A courtship week it was called by his father, which Arthur knew was simply a pretty way of saying you'd give them a week to get used to the idea of obeying your every command.
Arthur used the time to think up as many colourful insults for Merlin as possible. Merlin used the time to completely ruin Arthur's carefully ordered life.
Everything Arthur did, there was Merlin, tripping over something, behaving inappropriately, inadvertently insulting someone's wife - and on one memorable occasion accidentally stabbing himself.
There was blood everywhere.
"I told you to stay out of the way!"
"I got overexcited," Merlin winced, hand pressed to his side.
Arthur gently pulled it away. "Is it a deep cut?" he asked.
"No I don't-- ow-- I don't think so. You really only nicked me."
Arthur felt a little sick. "At least next time you're watching two knights sparring you'll know to stay as far away from the sharp pointy things as possible."
At night, Merlin slept next to him.
On the first night, things were understandably awkward. Arthur spent much of the time muttering under his breath about meddling fathers and their idea of 'rewards' and 'gifts'.
They eyed each other from opposite sides of the bed. "Will I-- because I can always-- Gaius' chambers--" Merlin's inability to get a simple sentence out was already irritating Arthur.
"It is tradition that a collared submissive should sleep with their master."
"It is also tradition," Arthur interrupted, teeth clenched. "That a collared submissive is *submissive*."
"I don't think I was really made for that job," Merlin muttered, pulling his shirt over his head.
It tumbled his hair messily onto his forehead, and his skin was too pale and his shoulders too pointy. There was no reason at all for Arthur to feel slightly breathless and strange. No reason.
Once the candles were out they lay side by side in the darkness.
"Maybe your father will get bored of the idea and I can just... you know... fade away."
Arthur sighed. "My father, *your King*, isn't subject to whims, Merlin. Especially ones that inconvenience everyone but him."
Secretly, however, Arthur's mind was whirring with possible ploys to get rid of this irritating encumbrance. But his father seemed to have taken to the idea, and each morning at breakfast gave Arthur a different lecture on the training of one's submissive.
"Make sure he doesn't become too complaisant, Arthur," his father would say over a goblet of water. "Making him miss a meal or two will remind him who is the master-- of course, he is rather skinny, so you might need to fatten him up a bit first."
Merlin had choked on his ham at that point, and Arthur was forced to lay down his knife and whack him on the back a few times.
His father looked somewhat disatisfied, giving Merlin a once-over. "I'd recommend a daily flogging," he said eventually, which Arthur loudly agreed with just to see Merlin's reaction.
To Arthur's surprise, by the time he woke up on day eight, he'd become completely used to Merlin's presence in his bed.
Arthur looked at Merlin's messy dark hair peeking out from under where the covers were pulled up over his head, and then at the other end of the bed, Merlin's bare feet poking out of the too-short blankets. When he finds himself making a mental note to ask the castle seamstress to extend the length of his bedclothes, he winces slightly.
The eighth day of the collared traditions dictated an intimate feast for two be laid in the Master's quarters. In Roman times, his father told him, this was when the slaves would take the submissive away and prepare them for the night ahead.
What preparations these entailed his father was not specific, though he did make a rather lewd reference to oils being left in Arthur's rooms by the servants which Arthur vowed to immediately strike from his memory.
His father winking at him was not something he ever wanted to experience again.
Merlin was strangely hesitant when Arthur walked into his chambers that evening.
Perhaps it was the intimate supper laid for two, or the fact that the bed had been turned down for once-- or it might have been the several large bottles of oil on the bedside table.
The weight of the collar felt bulky and awkward where it rested in Arthur's breast pocket.
Merlin gave an awkward little wave. "Hello," he said.
Arthur managed not to roll his eyes. Well, he turned away while he did it, anyway.
"Dinner looks good," Merlin said.
"Yes, I'm starving," Arthur smiled a little. "Some idiot dropped my lunch in the lake."
"I've said sorry for that about a thousand times," Merlin said, inelegantly stuffing a slice of chicken into his mouth.
They sat down to eat, and after a little while conversation became surprisingly easy. Of course, by then Merlin was well down his second glass of wine.
"This is good stuff," he said, reaching for the bottle.
"Ah, I think you've had enough, Merlin," Arthur took his wrist gently. There was a weighted pause. "Why don't you prepare for bed?" he eventually suggested quietly.
Merlin nodded and stood, walking over to the bed and unlacing his shirt. He tossed his neckerchief onto the chair underneath the window as he had every night for a week, and Arthur's jaw clenched in the effort not to reprimand him for being a slob, as he had every night that week.
Instead Arthur reached into his pocked and pulled out the collar: a soft, delicately jewelled affair - more show than anything.
He approached Merlin - now stripped to the waist - and put a hand on his shoulder. Merlin jumped a little and turned. Arthur held up the collar.
"Do you--" he coughed a little. "Do you accept this collar?" There were speeches more traditional, more flowery, but Arthur didn't want-- that.
Merlin seemed to understand. "I do, sire," he said, looking down, lashes brushing his soft cheek.
Arthur reached around and fastened the clasp, the metal warm from his body against the coolness of Merlin's skin.
He put both his hands on Merlin's shoulders, and Merlin looked up.
"Get into the bed," Arthur said after a moment.