As the night went on and Arthur skulked around in the refreshment room. He started to fret. What on Earth had he been thinking? How could he have given into such perverse urges? With such a man too! It was unnatural, he knew this. Merlin did not even have the redeeming factor of being a man of society - which was on occasion, was overlooked - rather than permitted. His father would be horrified that he had even associated himself with such a man, let alone kissed him.
‘We are Pendragons, Arthur. We do not associate with the working class. Do you wish to ruin this family and have us cast out from society? Your poor sainted Mother! I am glad she is not here to see you sully the family name in such a fashion.’
He could all too well imagine his fathers displeasure. And if he knew Arthur’s darkest secret, that he often entertained such unnatural desires in the privacy of his own room; well that would be the end of him. In his fathers eyes he would cease to exist.
"So Arthur," came a voice, interrupting his thoughts. "Why the long face? You look like Mothers latest prize horse!"
Arthur glanced over at Gwaine and hastily straightened out his face to his usual haughty put-upon sneer, silently cursing himself for wearing his emotions so plainly.
Gwaine grinned at him, in his usual carefree way. “If you’ve had enough of the lemonade, come along with me to the drawing room and have a port and cigar with the other chaps,” he said trying to tempt him.
Arthur looked down at his long since empty glass. Perhaps Port would be just the thing to make him forget the combination of soft, glossy black hair, plump, reddened lips and startlingly blue eyes.
“If I must,” he proclaimed with a sigh.
“Oh you must, Arthur. Come, I can tell you all about Miss Gawant! I met her some weeks ago and I really do think that she might be the one. Mother does keep worrying me so about settling down and taking a wife.”
Arthur raised an eyebrow with surprise. He had honestly thought that Gwaine was going end up a life-long bachelor. In fact, given the fact that he himself never intended to marry and keep a woman, he had been depending on Gwaine to keep him company as one by one the rest of the men their age dropped out of fashionable society. Perhaps one day, he might have even confessed his penchant for men to him. This 'Miss Gawant' had certainly piqued his interest.
He placed the glass down and smiled at him. “Yes, you must tell me all about the lady who has finally tamed the wild, raucous, fun-loving Earl of Orkney.”
Gwaine merely bellowed with laughter and patted him on the shoulder as he lead Arthur off to the drawing room.
After many hours of conversation, good cigars and glasses of Port later, the ball was finally over and the house became quiet. Arthur finally took his leave. Gwaine had offered him use of a bedroom over in the mostly disused south wing of the house, in order to avoid a carriage ride home in the cold and wet. He stumbled down the corridor and placed his hand against the wall for a moment to steady himself. Perhaps that last glass of wine had been a mistake. A step too far. He could not remember ever having been as inebriated as this before. Staying for the night had definitely been the right choice.
He snickered to himself as he felt for the handle of the door next to him and let himself in. A lone candle still burned and the fire was banked behind the grate. Arthur grinned inanely and let his coat fall from his arms. He clumsily undid the buttons of his waistcoat and shirt, one by one, also abandoning them to the floor. He frowned as he tried to focus on his hands and wondered where he might have left his gloves. His trousers fell to the floor when he undid them and he stumbled as he pulled off his shoes and socks. The room was cosy and warm, despite the weather outside, and so he unbuttoned his drawers and discarded them too.
Now completely nude, he stretched and yawned before crawling under the bedclothes. Unbeknownst to him, a dark haired head lay on the pillow next to him, dead to the world and Arthur found himself drifting rapidly off to a pleasant sleep.