TITLE: A Tourist in the World of Images
WORD COUNT: 1355 words
SPOILERS/WARNINGS: S4 speculation, based mostly on shooting pics
DISCLAIMER: Oh, how I wish they were, but no, they are not mine.
NOTES: Written for the KMM prompt, Arthur/Percival, Arthur's walking by Percival's tent when he hears moaning and groaning coming from inside. He slips in and watches from the shadows as a squire kneads and squeezes Percival's back and shoulders. Eventually Arthur steps forward and silently motions for the squire to leave before taking over the massage himself. This didn't go exactly as I'd anticipated, though.
SUMMARY: Arthur takes a moment to indulge some of his curiosity about his newest knight.
His job is to notice. He watches, and he picks out the flaws, and he does what he can to correct them.
His men would die much sooner if he wasn’t so careful about seeing every little detail.
This is his excuse. It’s a good one because it’s true.
But it is not complete.
He tells himself it’s because Percival is new. He knows the others. He’s fought with the others. He’s had ample opportunity to memorize every line of their bodies. Percival has not had that luxury. The number of times he has been at Arthur’s side in battle is insignificant compared to the rest. Watching Percival as he practices with the other knights or when he moves around the citadel is Arthur’s duty if he wishes to preserve the man’s life.
Watching Percival when he’s sitting at rest is just as important. He doesn’t need to see the muscles taut and flexed to know how powerful they are. His eyes can follow the curve of the biceps like a lover’s caress, etching the lines into his memory for later recall.
If the images haunt his dreams, it’s because of the time he has dedicated to incorporating Percival into the group.
But if he wakes up drenched in sweat and come, with the burn of Percival’s embrace still chafing at his awareness, it’s because of something entirely different.
Percival is a fine specimen. A credit to Camelot. The people see the majesty in his musculature and believe in his strength. Arthur is fortunate to have him as one of his own, regardless of the mumblings about his knights’ lack of titles.
A man should be judged by what he has done. What he has chosen. Birthright is happenstance. Arthur would much rather have an honorable peasant than a dishonorable nobleman at his side.
He tells that to his men all the time. Gwaine mocks his speeches behind his back, after which Merlin smilingly chastises him. Leon nods in agreement, while Lancelot and Elyan repeat their gratitude to him for seeing their potential.
Percival says nothing at all. Arthur cannot fathom him sometimes. But when the fight comes, he is the first to jump into the fray, the first to step in front of Arthur to protect him, the last to ask for aid when the battle is over. He simply retreats to his bed once everyone is taken care of.
After one such battle, Arthur is giving the camp one final pass before retiring when he hears moans drifting from Percival’s tent. What’s going on inside is none of his business, but his feet do not listen to good sense and lead him closer. He peers in. Spying, Merlin would call it. When he’s too tired to lie to himself, Arthur calls it the same thing.
Percival is not alone.
He is stretched out, face-down, on his bedding. His clothes are mostly discarded. All he wears are his trousers, and even those are pushed far enough down his hips to allow a glimpse of the crack of his ass. Kneeling next to him is one of the younger squires, a boy who looks ridiculously small compared to the bounty spread before him. His small hands work at the muscles knotting Percival’s back.
The moans come from Percival. Every time the squire touches a new spot, another one escapes.
The hair stands up on the back of Arthur’s neck, and everywhere, his flesh feels like he’s been flayed open. It’s not the sight that does it. He’s seen that body before, after training, before training, in his head. It’s the sounds that go with it. Testimony of pleasure unknown. Primal in their simplicity.
He enters because he cannot stay away. The squire looks up, his eyes luminous and frightened. Arthur holds a finger to his lips, then gestures for the boy to leave. Percival is his man. He will be the one to tend to him. He needs to be the one creating such moans, the one responsible for the way those muscles melt beneath hands that understand what exactly they’re doing.
He and the squire do their little dance, mirroring their steps around each other to switch places. Percival lifts his head before Arthur can kneel, however, his eyes widening when he sees what has caused the interruption.
“Don’t get up.”
The squire had knelt at Percival’s side. Arthur moves to his head.
Percival tracks him like he does everything else when he’s on the battlefield, unblinking, solemn, with a hint of curiosity about what will come next lurking behind the careful façade. His gaze drops for a split second when Arthur lowers himself to his knees, but Arthur is already hard so the silent acknowledgment is merely something to bear rather than further torture.
“Head down,” he orders.
Percival always obeys.
His hands are shaking as he reaches forward. He has never done this before, at least not since he has come of age, but he cannot—will not—deny himself the privilege of knowing what those muscles feel like beneath his fingertips. Contact steadies him. Heat pours off Percival’s skin like a bonfire, bleeding into Arthur’s as if in desperate search of something to stoke it higher. Muscles tremble, and he is not sure if they are his or Percival’s.
When Percival moans again, he decides they are both.
He starts in long, broad sweeps like he has received before, focusing on the larger muscle bands first. It forces him to lean forward slightly, and now Percival’s breath is fanning across his knee. Hot. Rapid. Like a man on the brink.
Arthur knows that precipice. He walks it in his sleep, when the dreams of what it would be like to paint Percival’s perfect body in his come torment him into waking.
The moans continue. These, too, will permeate his fantasies from now on. He does not know how he can ever forget them, now that they’re such a part of Percival.
From the large groups he moves to the smaller, taking the time to rub away the tension with his thumbs. The skin is not unmarked. Scars he’s born witness to mar the broad expanse, some long and slender, others squat and round. He wants to rage against those who would hurt one of his men, but really, he wants to destroy anyone that would sully such a thing of beauty. Battle wounds were badges to be worn with pride, but these are too old to have been found in a fight. These are stretched thin and white by time, inflicted upon a youthful Percival, not one primed to defend himself.
He hesitates, then reaches to skim a finger along a particularly ragged line skewed near Percival’s spine.
Percival stops breathing. Waits.
But Arthur can’t ask the question he craves the answer for. He wonders if Lancelot knows. Then hates the tide of jealousy that floods forward at the prospect that he actually does.
When he resumes the massage, Percival begins breathing again. Something is different. Arthur isn’t sure what until several seconds pass in silence.
The moans have ceased. And no matter how much he works at the tension wound through Percival’s body, the knots stop smoothing away.
He sits back. Disappointed. In himself, not Percival. “Shall I send the squire back in?”
Percival doesn’t lift his head. “That’s not necessary. I can sleep now.”
It feels like a lie. If Arthur had uttered the words, it would’ve been.
Slowly, he manages to stand. His cock aches. “If you require anything, let me know.”
A mute nod. Arthur doesn’t believe this lie, either.
In the brisk night, he gulps at the air, furious at his weakness, frustrated at his impotence. Nobody else is awake, and behind him, the light is extinguished.
He walks to the edge of camp to send the sentry to bed. He will not rest any time soon, so he might as well be of some use.
And he will watch.
Because these are his men. This is his responsibility.
All of them. Regardless of his own desires. Regardless of their pasts.