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Without You I Was Lost (The Third Wheel Remix)

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Mordred was in between, “things,” having just graduated. His aunt Catrina had imposed herself on him, demanding that he spend the time with her.

“Darling,” she’d said at the ceremony, “you’ll stay with me, and I’ll get you ready for the Season. We’ll find you a lovely girl and a job at the same time. Don’t say no. You know your mother would be heartbroken if you didn’t come keep your lonely old aunt company.”

Petulant, he said, “You just think that I’m a rake--unfairly, I might add--and that she would have wanted you to keep an eye on me.” Her stiff manner brooked no argument, however, so he resolved to go along. Then he thought to himself, “Very well. What’s the worst that could happen? Perhaps something good will come of it after all.”

He hadn’t known that “stay with her,” actually meant staying at Avalon Hall, a sumptuous manor in the country. So it was that he found himself at Arthur Pendragon’s door, Catrina by his side and a retinue of servants on the curb. When Arthur appeared, Mordred could have sworn his heart stopped beating. His aunt had not told him how attractive Arthur was, and he was so busy stuffing away the thought that he’d like to bed the man, that he missed the glazed look that came over Arthur.

Mordred thought Catrina must have used magic because the next thing he knew, Arthur was entertaining them over afternoon tea.

"Mordred just graduated, you know,” Catrina said, beginning her assault. “First class honours from Cambridge. I felt he deserved some time to relax and recuperate before The Season."

"Yes." Arthur looked down at his tea. Mordred could feel the tension rising in Arthur, like the little wafts of steam curling off the surface of his beverage. A superficial smile appeared and he said, "I'm sure there are many suitable halls for you and Mordred to find respite in, Catrina. Perhaps —"

Arthur stopped. Mordred took in the look on Catrina’s face and felt his own innards quail. Then he felt Arthur’s resistance crumble and was not surprised when he heard, "There is plenty of room, Catrina. Please, stay as long as you must."

Mordred knew what Catrina was imposing on Arthur, and he also knew how hard it was to resist her demands. He was impressed that Arthur had managed a rebellious comment before giving in. As warmly as possible, he tried to communicate this when he said, "Thank you, Arthur. " They shook hands, Mordred holding on perhaps a moment too long, his heartbeat quickening as he looked directly into striking blue eyes. "I appreciate your hospitality."

All thoughts of Arthur were displaced when a great crash came at the door, and a man tumbled in. His manner shocked Mordred a bit, but he felt an electric thrill when they made eye contact. The man was carrying on about trampled roses, but the words hardly registered, so taken was he with the man’s disheveled appearance, hair all askew. Slowly, the man’s words ran down. Looking directly at Mordred he said, “Oh.”

Dirt smeared the man’s face and hands, and he held a pair of gardening gloves. Mordred’s mouth dried up; he’d never wanted someone so badly. Not that he’d ever really had someone. This man might be the prize for putting up with Catrina’s machinations.

Arthur winced and rubbed his temples with carefully manicured fingertips, the movement attracting Mordred’s attention. Mordred sympathized with Arthur’s discomfort, feeling the man’s pain, almost as if it were his own. Like a pendulum, his heart and burgeoning affection leaned back towards Arthur.

“Merlin!” Arthur gasped. He stood with his arms outstretched, as if he could hold the gardner and his accoutrements together by will alone. Mordred noticed the corners of Arthur’s lips twitching up into a smile and the fond look in his eyes.

"You allow him to speak to you like that?" Catrina demanded, appalled.

Merlin drooped visibly at Catrina’s harsh tone, and Mordred’s heart moved in concert. He resolved to see if he could cheer the gardener, Merlin, up.

"I assure you, Catrina, Merlin is not usually so — vociferous in his manner."

"I think it's refreshing," Mordred said, eyes fixed on Merlin for a moment before turning to Arthur. "Most servants are terribly boring. Yours seems — I don't know, intriguing."

Arthur smiled with his lips, while his eyes told a different story. One that said, “I was trained to kill from birth.”

***

Mordred looked out the window after getting his luggage settled. He told himself he needed fresh air after the trip, and if he happened to run into the gardener, that wouldn’t go amiss either. He bounced lightly down the stairs.

The garden was in full bloom, air heavy with the perfume of flowers. Birds hid behind leaves that fluttered in the light summer breeze. Mordred strolled leisurely, soaking in all of nature’s bounty. It had been too long since he’d been immersed in such vitality. He could feel himself coming to rights again. He took in a deep breath that proved full of pollen, and sneezed.

A chuckle from behind startled him, but when he saw it was Merlin, he smiled in kind.

“Got a noseful of pollen, did you?” the gardener asked good naturedly.

“Apparently,” Mordred replied ruefully, extracting a handkerchief, “but it’s not a heavy price to pay.”

“Indeed. The plants know their purpose.”

Mordred arched an eyebrow. “Purpose? Perhaps you’d care to give me a tour as we discuss this?” He held out his arm in invitation.

“Oh no, I can’t. Arthur...” Merlin began in protest.

“Oh, Arthur can’t mind you taking a short break to show a guest around the garden, can he?”

Merlin ducked his head and looked at Mordred through his long lashes before his mouth curved up slowly, an infectious grin splitting his face. Mordred couldn’t help but laugh at the pleasure he saw there and wasn’t surprised when his cock grew heavy, tingling with anticipation.

A voice broke their camaraderie. "Merlin, I have no doubt that there is a very good explanation for why you are bothering our guest with your presence and not trimming my hedges?"

Loins already afire, that voice heightened Mordred’s arousal.

"Oh, Arthur," Mordred began. He smiled, hoping to mitigate some of the anger he sensed from Arthur. Truly, he was puzzled about what might be wrong. "I'm sorry, I did ask Merlin if he'd mind showing me some of your delightful gardens. I do apologise for holding him up from his duties," he finished with a hint of a bow.

"You seemed," Arthur said, turning to Merlin, "to be laughing. I find myself in need of a giggle. Please do share."

Merlin flinched at Arthur's tone. "Just a joke," Merlin said, his head tipped down. "If you'll excuse me, I'll return to my work."

Mordred’s heart softened for Merlin. Merlin was clearly utterly devoted to Arthur.

Mordred was confused at Arthur’s harsh tone here in the garden when mere hours ago he had seemed concerned, and even somewhat affectionate, when Merlin had practically fallen through the front doorway. Mordred became determined to woo Merlin properly and to placate Arthur or have it out with him if necessary. He could not understand the man’s vacillation.

****
Mordred spent the next four weeks on a two-pronged campaign. First, he would mollify Arthur. Second, he determined to flirt with Merlin--intensely and shamelessly.

Arthur and Mordred were both educated men; Mordred knew he could find topics of interest to both of them, and if their opinions aligned more often than chance would allow, well, that was fate taking over, wasn’t it? Mordred knew his own looks couldn’t hurt and he could use them to his advantage. At breakfast, Mordred hung on Arthur’s words until Catrina gave him funny looks, but he came to realize that Arthur was a good man, a very good man, actually, over the course of these weeks. His sense of honor was impeccable. He spoke out about every injustice, and Mordred even discovered that he headed a committee to help the less fortunate.

And yet, Arthur was still giving him mixed signals. They engaged in lively conversations at breakfast, with Arthur seeking Mordred’s opinions and even inviting him out for quail hunting, but at other times, he would become reticent, as though he didn’t want to show his burgeoning affection for Mordred. He could not figure the man out.

In between meals and trying woo Arthur, he’d whisper sweet nothings in Merlin’s ear behind closed doors. In the garden, he would take Merlin’s arm and softly caress his weathered hands. When seated next to each other on a bench, he would slip his shoe off and lightly glide his sock foot against the other man’s leg, watching for the smile that would light up his eyes as Merlin pressed his hand onto Mordred’s arm.

And then, Catrina decided to depart. Mordred was due to join her in a few days, but before despair could completely set in, Arthur provided the opportunity for him to do something proper about his attraction to Merlin. Arthur announced that he would be holding a dinner with several guests, including Percival, a classmate from Cambridge and Arthur’s neighbor.

“Merlin!” Mordred called out as soon as he managed to get out into the garden. His heels hit the soft ground, leaving slight indentations in the grass. “Wait up! I wondered if I could have a word with you?” His heart was pounding, and not just from the little jog he’d taken to catch up with Merlin. He smiled brightly as the man waited for him with a smile of his own.

“Arthur’s having a dinner tomorrow night. I would be most pleased if you would join me.” He slid his arm around Merlin’s waist, ducking his head, nervous that Merlin might decline.

Merlin’s mouth curled up in pleasure. “I’d love to. Don’t see how I could turn down an invitation like that!”

Mordred’s heart leapt at the success of his campaign as he felt Merlin’s arm snake around his own waist, returning the pressure. Mordred leaned in, brushing his lips against Merlin’s, which yielded and responded, spiking his arousal. They stood in the garden for a long moment, wrapped in each other’s arms, content to just kiss, for now.

****
Percival arrived, and they lounged in the drawing room, Mordred sharing the couch with Arthur and sitting a bit closer than propriety might allow for. Soon, there was a knock at the door. Arthur excused himself, and Mordred followed, happy anticipation building in his chest.

Merlin was at the door, as he’d expected. He saw the look of confusion and--was that hurt?--on Arthur’s face. Damn, he’d forgotten to tell Arthur. He hastened forward.

"So glad you came. Oh gracious, Arthur, I completely forgot to mention it, didn't I?"

"Yes," Arthur said, smiling through gritted teeth. "But bear it no mind. Merlin is always welcome, of course."

Mordred could sense Arthur’s mixed emotions simmering, but he was determined not to let it ruin his evening or his plans. He hooked his arm through Arthur’s and put his hand on the small of Merlin’s back, guiding them to the dining room, chatting amiably.

At the end of the meal, Percival asked, “"So, Mordred, have you enjoyed your time in our neck of the woods?"

“Oh yes,” he replied enthusiastically, smiling at Arthur, then turning and grinning at Merlin. “More wine, Merlin?”

"Merlin's had quite enough wine," Arthur said. "He has a very weak constitution."

Merlin rolled his eyes, "Thank you, Arthur. I'm sure it wasn't completely embarrassing for me to have you announce that particular piece of information."

Mordred laughed, "Don't worry, Merlin, I doubt any one of us will judge you for it. Besides, maybe Arthur doesn't know you quite as well as he thinks he does."

Arthur snorted. "I think after more than four years, I know him a great deal better than you do."

Mordred felt the blood drain from his face. Was all his hard work going to come to naught? Weeks of trying to woo Merlin and soften Arthur, yet Arthur was being as intractable as ever. Maybe his gamble would net him no one!

“I think I can manage to decide for myself whether I can have another glass of wine or not,” Merlin retorted. Mordred squeezed his shoulder, happy to see Merlin standing up for himself, but watching Arthur as he did so. The man’s face burned red with anger, he was sure of it.

Through cigars and brandy, Mordred kept a close eye on Arthur, who could not take his eyes off Merlin, but seemed to be flirting with him a little as well. Mordred calmed. If he could just keep Arthur steady and happy, perhaps tonight could be the night his plans would come to fruition.

Mordred did some mental arithmetic. Merlin was in love with Arthur. His devotion to Arthur had been apparent from that moment in the garden, weeks ago. They both seemed interested in him, and Arthur was clearly in love with Merlin, but what had been holding them back? Merely a sense of propriety? Could Mordred’s charms and enthusiasm overcome their own sense of honor?

Percival stretched and yawned. “Well, I think it’s time I took my leave. Arthur, Mordred, lovely to see you again.”

All four men stood, and Arthur said, “Excuse me. I’ll just see Percival to the door and be right back.” He glared at Mordred.

With the drink and the late hour encouraging him, Mordred brashly made a decision. He would seize this moment to talk to Merlin, to press his case. With any luck, Merlin would help him win Arthur over.

“Merlin,” he said, placing his hand on the man’s arm and his lips close his ear, “I think Arthur’s in love with you.”

Merlin’s mouth opened in a little “o” of surprise. He gaped. “What?”

“I’m sure of it, and I don’t have much time.” Mordred slid an arm around Merlin’s waist, pressing their bodies together. The warmth from Merlin was heady. Mordred closed his eyes, restraining himself from placing his lips on Merlin’s and exploring his mouth with his tongue.

“The problem is,” Mordred added, “I don’t want to give either of you up. Do you think the two of you would have room for me?”

Mordred could see Merlin struggling with the ideas he’d just been presented with. “I, um, think so?” He twisted his fingers in Mordred’s lapel for a moment before petting the fabric smooth again. “Let me talk to him alone and see what I can do.”

Mordred nodded but did not release Merlin as he heard Arthur’s returning footsteps.

Arthur stumbled to a halt when he came through the door and saw them. Once again, hurt and anger warred on his face. Mordred pressed his hand on Merlin’s back, prompting him.

“Merlin?” Arthur said in a strained tone.

Merlin coughed, releasing some tension before he started talking.

“Arthur, I’m not sure exactly where to start.”

“How about at the beginning, then?”

Mordred’s knees weakened at the tone in his voice, but he braced himself on Merlin, who continued in a firm tone:

"Look Lord Broody Breeches, Mordred tells me you are in love with me.”

Arthur sputtered, “Lord Broody Breeches?!”

“Yes. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Chastened, Arthur’s cheeks flushed. Blood rushed to Mordred’s groin. Arthur waved his hand around before he reached out to grasp Merlin’s hand.

“Very well then, it’s true.”

“Ha!” Mordred exclaimed happily. “I knew it!” Then his heart sank, fearful again that they would cast him off and he would be adrift.

“Arthur,” Merlin was saying softly, “I love you, too.”

Arthur stilled, taking this information in. Then he said, “If you want me, you may have me. And there's very little I wouldn't grant you in all the world.”

Merlin whispered hoarsely, “Then let Mordred love you as I do.”

Mordred thought his heart would never beat again, and then Arthur stretched out his hand to him.

“Merlin has become quite fond of you, it would seem.” Arthur smiled generously before ducking his head and continuing, his voice huskier than before, “And so have I.”

Mordred beamed; he felt giddy with love, but flustered too.

“I think this calls for another drink!” he announced loudly, unsure of what to do, and marched over to the sideboard for another tot of brandy. “Arthur, Merlin, you want any?” he asked, his back turned. He downed a shot of the liquor, enjoying the burn of it in his throat, warming his insides. He hadn’t noticed the lack of conversation, so when he turned back around, he was surprised to find Arthur’s fingers entwined in Merlin’s hair and Merlin’s hands firmly on Arthur’s arse, their foreheads together.

He felt his heart sink again. Damn. He never should have left their sides. But then a hand reached out to him, beckoning him back. Emotion overwhelmed him, and he almost choked.

“I thought you had forgotten about me,” he sputtered, as he stumbled into their open arms.

A smile formed on Arthur’s lips, and he tugged on Mordred’s cravat. “How could we forget about you?” He leaned over and gently placed his lips on Mordred’s. Mordred melted into the kiss, woozy with drink and finally being able to give in to his desires. He had just slid his tongue into Arthur’s mouth, when Merlin coughed, reminding them that he was there. They broke apart.

“Ah, yes. Hm,” Arthur said balancing his weight from one foot to another before smiling brightly. “My bed is large. There is plenty of space for us there.”

Merlin’s face lit up. He grabbed Mordred’s hand, who grabbed Arthur’s hand and they headed for the stairs. Peeling off their jackets on the way,, they ricocheted gently off shoulders and hips before finding their rhythm.

At the foot of Arthur’s bed, Merlin turned to Mordred. He leaned in for a kiss, and their noses bumped together. Arthur chuckled from behind him and reached around to work his cravat loose. Merlin leaned in again, this time more slowly, and landed his mouth perfectly on Mordred’s lips.

Lightheaded, Mordred only noticed Merlin’s lips on his, soft, supple, and then Merlin parted his lips with his tongue, and he thought he would dissolve when he felt Arthur’s breath, warm on his neck.

Arthur had been busy with his own tasks, and Mordred realized upon feeling Arthur tweak his nipples that he had worked his buttons loose. Mordred’s knees went soft for a moment, and he swallowed a moan of pleasure. Those hands on his chest and the tongue in his mouth nearly undid him. His cock was straining, pushing at his trousers.

And then Merlin was working his placket, nimble fingers quickly unfastening the buttons and freeing his prick. Oh sweet heaven, a hand wrapped around his sensitive shaft.

He broke off the kiss and looked down. The sight of hands with blond hair working his nipples and a calloused hand working his prick was unbelievably arousing. He was so close. He leaned back into Arthur, who leaned forward and claimed his mouth with his own. Mordred could feel Arthur’s hard cock against his arse, and he pushed into Merlin’s hand once, twice, thrice, before he spilled.

Spent, his knees really did sag, and he leaned over, falling onto the bed. In his post-orgasmic haze, he perceived wide grins and he thought Arthur might have been chuckling, but he wasn’t sure. He closed his eyes for a moment, sated.

He heard Arthur say, “I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now,” and he opened his eyes to see Arthur leaning in to kiss Merlin. God, they were beautiful together.

A cold draft flowed over Mordred’s bare chest, causing him to gasp and break out in gooseflesh. It caught Merlin and Arthur’s attention, and this time they really did laugh out loud. Mordred pouted, and Arthur said, “Merlin, go close that window. Mordred will catch his death from the cold.”

Arthur sat on the bed and slipped his shoes off while Merlin fussed with the window.

“Awful storm brewing,” Merlin said as he walked back to the men. “Good thing we have each other to keep warm.”

Mordred’s heart sparked anew at Merlin’s smile. Arthur stretched out his arms, inviting Merlin onto his lap.

“Come here, let me show you how it’s done,” Arthur teased.

“Oh? And here I thought you’d never done anything like this before,” Merlin replied, smile growing even wider.

Mordred laughed as Arthur’s face flushed. Mordred sat up as Merlin finally clambered onto Arthur’s lap. Mordred and Merlin reached around him, joining hands, and Mordred kissed Arthur on the cheek, which did nothing for the color of Arthur’s face.

Merlin turned his head, aiming for Arthur’s lips, and Mordred was pleased to see him land squarely this time. As they kissed, Arthur worked Merlin’s buttons, and Mordred worked Arthur’s buttons, a thrill running through him when he saw their trembling fingers.

Merlin shoved Arthur’s undershirt up brusquely, anxious to get his hands on more skin. Arthur gasped at the touch of Merlin’s fingers on his nipples which made Mordred shiver with delight.

Mordred helped Merlin shrug his shirt off, and then Arthur removed his. The two men were so focused on each other, they barely noticed Mordred, but Mordred didn’t mind so much. He knew they had a long history together, and he was enjoying the show.

“Merlin,” Arthur ordered, “it is time for you to take off your trousers.”

Merlin’s adam’s apple bobbed, but he stood, bravely, and let Arthur take his pants down.

“My god, you are beautiful,” Arthur said in a husky voice. He stood, wriggling out of his own trousers, and sat back down, patting his lap. “Come back here.”

As Merlin resumed his perch, he reached around Arthur with one arm and beamed at Mordred. No words were necessary; Mordred understood their gratitude. He nodded his understanding and reached for Merlin’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. Arthur placed his hand on theirs, applying a firm pressure of his own in silent thanks and affection. Mordred felt his cock stirring again.

Then Merlin stood, straddled Arthur, and sat back down, grinning widely. Mordred noticed their erect cocks touching each other. He gulped, his prick responding.

“Show me,” Merlin whispered, “show me how it’s done.” He placed both his hands on Arthur’s shoulders.

Arthur’s adam’s apple bobbed, just as Merlin’s had moments before. He looked down, grasped both of their cocks and moved his hand up and down, slowly at first.

“Is this how you do yourself, when you’re all alone?” Merlin whispered.

Arthur nodded, apparently unable to speak, and closed his eyes.

Mordred couldn’t help but touch himself, mirroring Arthur’s pace.

He watched as Arthur worked his own cock and Merlin’s, up and down, slow at first, but as Merlin bucked his hips, impatient, he sped up until Merlin arched his spine and threw his head back, moaning, before slumping forward onto Arthur’s shoulder.

Arthur shuddered into his own bliss at that moment, stiffening with pleasure, before laying back, bringing Merlin fully on top of him. Fueled by relief and joy, Arthur laughed, “Ha, — ha ha!”

They each reached out a hand to Mordred, who laid his on top of theirs. Arthur looked over at Mordred before turning back to Merlin.

“Thank you, both of you. I never knew I could have this, but you had the courage to show me that it was indeed possible.”

Mordred and Merlin spoke at the same time, their words running over each other, “Arthur, you ridiculous, wonderful man,” and they all burst out laughing, snuggling in together, warm in body and spirit.