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Clouds and Silverlinings

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Arthur Pendragon would be considered lucky by most others, graced with good-looks, a well-to-do family, and enough wealth to never do a true days work; he was the envy of many in London high society. Though it was true, just last year he had been jilted by the Lady Guinevere Leodegrance, which was a huge dishonour by any standards. But when it was discovered that she had left him for a lowly French writer by the name of Lancelot du Lac, well, it had made it the scandal of the season. Nonetheless, he was still considered fortunate by many for the privileged life he led.

Arthur however, had had enough of high society. He had grown tired and bored of people’s sympathetic looks and the simpering girls who vied for his attention at any event he attended. He was listless and drifted about like a rudderless ship. He no longer wished to frequent social events, and given Morgana’s tendency to cause outrage when she was forced to attend events, he knew father would not force him to go to this season’s endless parade of balls and dances if he expressed a wish not to. Anything not to bring more disgrace and scandal on the family. Arthur would go to one last ball though, held by the Earl of Orkney; as both Father and Gwaine, would give him no end of grief if he missed it. His father felt it was of utmost importance that they associate themselves as much as possible with nobility in order to make a good match. He never missed an opportunity to remind Arthur of this.

He dressed spiritlessly, but reminded himself that if this was to be his last outing of the rest of the season and he at least ought to look his best for it. He may be fed up of society, but that did not mean he lacked pride in his appearance. He was a Pendragon after all. He slipped on his shirt and his valet, George, fastened his collar and cuff-links. They were simply decorated with the Pendragon family crest. Anything else would be far too ostentatious and ill-bred. Then George tied his white neck-tie and helped him slip on his waistcoat. After which, he then buttoned Arthur's gloves; all in a silence that Arthur was rather thankful for. He felt rather awkward knowing that soon he would be likely to no longer require George's services, leaving him to search for a new master to serve.

Making sure his shoes were well-polished, George knelt and put them on him before rushing to get his mourning coat. He glanced Arthur up and down.

“Spotless and impeccable, Sir,” he said proudly, passing him his hat. “Shall I ready the carriage?”

“Yes,” Arthur replied. “That would be splendid. And George -?”

George poked his head around the door and stood at the entrance of the room. “Yes, Sir?”

“Take the rest of the night off. Heavens knows when I’ll return from a party hosted by the Earl. I can ready myself for bed.”

George nodded. “Yes, Sir. Indeed, Sir.”

***

Arthur sighed into his glass. It could be worse, he supposed. At least this wasn’t a dinner party. On the other hand, he had been inundated with requests from young ladies to dance all night long, his dance card had been full, and frankly, he was sick and tired of it. Eventually, he feigned a sprained ankle to avoid any more dancing. There was only so many times you could dance the Viennese Waltz or the German Polka before one wearied of it. It was not that the young ladies weren’t nice or well-bred, it was that well... quite frankly, that ladies did not really seem to do a thing for him.

He heard Gwaine talking about them as if they were the most wondrous thing, even being so vulgar as to describe some of the more sordid details of how soft, yet full, their breasts were and how velvety, warm and wet they felt inside if you were able to get a lady who was up for a bit of fun and would allow you to put your fingers inside her. It simply did not interest him. In fact, a part of him shuddered at the thought. He would rather simply deal with his morning (and sometimes evening) problems with his hand rather than getting married!

When he thought it safe to do so, he slipped out of the ballroom and made his way to one of the rarely used drawing rooms in the old house. He sighed with relief as he closed the door and the noise of the ball quietened behind him. He startled when he spotted a young man with dark hair looking at a book in the armchair nearest the fire.

“Oh. I’m so sorry,” he apologised. “I did not realise this room was occupied. Please, excuse me for the interruption.” He turned and went to open the door but paused halfway through turning the knob.

“No, no. Please,” said the man. “You’re not interrupting. It is I who should be sorry. I didn't mean to disturb any guests.”

He gathered the book together with some charcoal and other materials. He was an artist, Arthur realised, and he winced as watched the man put them in the pocket of his jacket. Though perhaps that might improve the ensemble somewhat, Arthur thought rather cruelly. The clothes were old and well worn, and obviously Ill-fitted. He was very much of lower standing, which made Arthur wonder why he might be here in the first place.

“Why are you here?" he asked curiously, it came out sharper and curter than he would have liked it to. "I wasn't aware that the Earl had visitors."

The man cleared his throat and looked uncomfortable, scrubbing the expensive carpet with the toe of a scuffed boot. “Well, I’m not as such. Gwaine asked me to paint his mothers portrait, as a surprise. I didn’t—well, that is to say—I don’t really have a place to stay. I only arrived two days ago in London...”

Arthur raised a curious eyebrow. “And yet the Earl has already commissioned you for a portrait! You landed on your feet there. How on Earth did you manage such a feat?”

The artist burst out laughing. “Helped in a bar brawl, if you’d believe it?”

Arthur threw back his head and laughed. “Oh yes. I certainly can. After all, I have met the Earl.”

The man grinned at him and Arthur noted how his eyes crinkled at the corners and his cheeks dimpled. His heart thumped in his chest and he pulled his collar away from his neck with a finger, suddenly finding it difficult to breathe, as he recognised his sinful desires pushing to the fore. He noticed the man watching him, looking similarly aroused. The man licked his lusciously full lips.

Suddenly his hands were on Arthur’s face and he gazed at him intensely before placing his lips on Arthur’s and he kissed him cautiously. Arthur brought his hands up to the man’s hair, tangling his fingers in his dark locks as he parted his lips with his tongue and slid his tongue deep inside.

They finally parted, breathless. Arthur cleared his throat. “I – I ought to – I need to get back. You’ll be here later?”

“Yes, of course,” the man said, running a hand through his rumpled hair. “Merlin.” he blurted out. “My name. Merlin. Yours?”

Arthur grinned at him as he opened the door. “Arthur,” he said.