Mordred placed his arm around Arthur’s shoulder and leaned in close. “Do you need me to stay?”
Arthur turned to look at Mordred, their faces were mere inches apart, and he smiled. He knew what Mordred was doing. He was staking a claim. He was protecting Arthur’s heart. It was sweet, but the man was more than five years younger than Arthur, and after the first night they’d been together, he’d come to think of him as a little brother. Or at least.. a distant cousin.
“You’re too much, do you know that? What if I told you Percy wanted to take you out for coffee tonight?”
Mordred straightened up but didn’t lean away from Arthur. “It’s far too late for coffee…”
“Right, I mean, coffee in the morning when he makes your breakfast.”
“I highly doubt talking about your friends’ sex life is the kind of thing you should be discussing on the day of your father’s funeral. It can be something frowned up,” Mordred teased.
Arthur shook his head. “I know you’re trying to make him jealous, or maybe, you’re trying to make it look like I’m well taken care of—”
“You are well taken care of…”
“Arthur…” Both Arthur and Mordred straightened up when Mr Gaius, Uther’s longest friend, came to speak with him. “Again, I’m very sorry for your loss. But it’s good to see you and Morgana surrounded by such wonderful friends. And Emrys is here too.”
“Why?” both Mordred and Arthur asked at the same time.
Mr Gaius gestured towards the far window where Merlin was standing awkwardly. “Merlin Emrys. I use to know his mother. Can you believe it, he once came to stay with me one summer after his father had died—”
“You know Merlin?” Arthur asked.
“Of course, I was there the day he was born. And there was even talk of me becoming his godfather but then I had to leave Ealdor to come to Camelot and started working with Uther.”
“Oh, I had no idea,” Arthur said.
“Small world,” Mordred added.
“Indeed,” Gaius replied. “Well, I’m off but if you ever need anything—”
“Of course, Mr Gaius. You’ve been far too kind…” Arthur got on with the pleasantries he was so used to by now. He’d thanked everyone and their brother for attending the funeral and the wake. Now, all he wanted to do was go home and relax on the sofa. It’d be nice if Mordred would come by too. They could enjoy a drink and talk until Arthur’s insomnia would disappear. He’d not had a decent night’s sleep since his father had been sick, and now that he was gone, he wasn’t sure if he’d start sleeping again.
When Mordred excused himself to go to the loo, Arthur found himself alone with Merlin again.
“I’m sorry to be hanging around like a total creep,” he said. “But, I just don’t know what to do. Maybe coming here wasn’t a good idea, but I just had to see you. Once I get something in my head—it’s hard for me to get it out of me. My system. Kind of like when I’d become so obsessed with you.”
“Listen, Merlin. I really appreciate you coming by and … saying the things you said but if I’m honest with you, I don’t think I have the energy to deal with this right now. I’m quite busy for the next few weeks dealing with my father’s estate and other business dealings, not to mention, my own work so—”
“Of course, I totally understand. Besides, I didn’t think you’d be free or single when I saw you again…” He paused and looked past Arthur shoulder. Arthur turned to see for himself and found Mordred and Percy standing there together, looking at him.
“I’ve told you, not that it’s any of your business. I’m here with friends.”
“Right. Right. Right. Of course,” Merlin said nodding. “It’s not any of my business, and I’m nothing but a stranger. I just wanted you know … I guess. I don’t know why I think it’s important. Maybe I think you’ll take pity on me…” He gave a short laugh as if he found it all unbelievable. “I’ve just never stopped thinking about you. I tried to move on, and I tried to forget you, but it never worked. Every day, I thought about you. Every night, I wished you were there next to me. I wanted to pick up the phone so badly, call you, or email you, or something. And then I promised myself I would let it go for nine months. And after nine months if I still felt the same way—”
“And what happened after nine months?”
“I was offered a job. They’re asking me to shift to Germany. I don’t have much family here, just my Mum and she would shift with me so I could take care of her. And the day after I accepted, I read about your family in the paper. So I had to come here. Give my respects. Say goodbye.”
“So you’re running away again?”