Merlin had only meant to deliver the telegram so he could bring a few more shillings back to his mother’s struggling porridge shop. Minus the penny he meant to spend on a meat pie for himself on the way home.
Then a gentleman--handsome and well-bred, but clearly dissolute as he was wearing neither coat nor waistcoat in the middle of the afternoon--opened the door of the Camelot club and immediately raked his eyes down Merlin’s body. “Hello,” he said. “If you’re the new model, we weren’t expecting you until next week’s meeting.”
“Er, I don’t think so?” Merlin wasn’t sure what a model did, but he was fairly certain it had nothing to do with the telegraph. “Telegram for A.P. at this address?”
He held out the paper hopefully, trying for a combination of competent worker and pathetic waif to encourage maximum gratuities.
The man signed and shook his long hair back from his face. “Damn fool. I keep telling him not to do his business here.”
Merlin pushed the telegraph out a little more insistently. “If A.P. is here, could you tell him he has a telegram?”
“He’s here.” Another man appeared, a golden aristocrat in a proper frock coat. He gave Merlin the same raking look. “I’ll handle this, Gwaine.”
Gwaine shrugged and winked at Merlin before disappearing back into the building. Merlin blinked at the blond man, then tried holding the telegram out to him, instead. “A.P.?”
“You’re quite the perceptive one, aren’t you?” A.P. smirked until it faded into a more speculative look. “A telegraph boy, in this part of the city--tell me, telegraph boy, do you know Mr. Wilde’s house? Or that of Lord Douglas?”
“Sure I do,” Merlin said, smelling another shilling, though he was new in London and had no idea who Mr. Wilde or Lord Douglas were. “You want me to take them a message?”
A.P. smirked again. “No, I think they’ve already claimed more than their fair share of the telegraph boys. You know, then, of their...literary parties?”
“Who doesn’t?” Merlin bluffed, still hoping to find something else to get paid for.
“Well, we can start with Queen Victoria and continue down to the local constable, I hope.” A.P. raised his eyebrows at Merlin, slouching in the doorway like debauchery itself. His blue eyes pinned Merlin with the heat of a suggestion Merlin didn’t quite understand in words.
After a minute, Merlin realized he was staring, his body responding to something in the way the other man held himself, how lovely he was. “I never heard that the Queen doesn’t like a good party,” he said and winced at his own fumbling response.
“You haven’t met Her Majesty, I take it.” A.P. held his hand out. Merlin started to reach his own hand out to take it when the arch look stopped him. “My telegram?”
“Right.” Merlin shoved the paper, now a bit crumpled, into the man’s hand.
A.P. didn’t bother to look at it before tucking it into his coat pocket. From the other pocket, he pulled a coin, which he dropped into Merlin’s hand.
It took a moment to register that it was a full pound coin. Merlin tried not to gape at it, but he had never actually had a whole pound all at once in his hand. Quickly, lest A.P. change his mind, he closed his hand around it and stuffed it into his pocket.
The other man laughed, a sweet sound that curled right down to Merlin’s toes. “You’re not like anyone I’ve ever met. What’s your name?”
“Merlin. And what do I call you?”
“’My lord’ will do.” His lordship nodded at Merlin’s pocket where the coin sat safe. “If you’d like to come back and join us for next week’s gathering, we could see a few more of those in your pocket.”
He could see his mum’s face as he poured pound coins into her cupped hands. “Your friend thought I was a model?”
“Yes, well, while Wilde’s parties are of a literary sort, my circle prefer the visual arts.” A.P.’s eyes raked over him again, and this time, Merlin could practically feel his clothes going down with them. “We have a particular enjoyment of the male form, in the classical composition. You understand?”
He thought he had a pretty good idea. “You want to paint me?”
The man gave him a bemused smile. “You’re not the usual sort we have, but there’s something about you.”
“Mum always said I’d make a pretty picture,” Merlin replied cheerfully, touched his cap, and turned away.
“By the way, Merlin!” the man called after him and waited until he turned back toward him. “The A stands for Arthur.”
Arthur. Merlin’s grinned widened, and the man—Arthur—grinned back before closing the door.
It was Gwaine who opened the door again when Merlin knocked the following week. “Well, hello again, Merlin,” he said. “Our little band of brothers has already gathered upstairs. They’re quite eager to see what Arthur’s been talking about all week.”
He liked it, that Arthur had spoken of him. Merlin had thought a great deal about Arthur, too. He had even dressed in his best togs so that Arthur wouldn’t regret asking him to model for his club of gentlemen artists.
Merlin followed Gwaine up the stairs, looking curiously at the paintings on the wall. “The work of some of our members,” Gwaine offered when he noticed Merlin looking. “Like what you see?”
He peered at the one just above his head: a lovely youth lay draped over a velvet couch, a garland of flowers draped across his hips. The flowers were the only thing that covered his otherwise naked body. Merlin felt himself flush, half with embarrassment and the rest with shameful desire.
“That’s one of Lancelot’s,” Gwaine said. “Actually, they’re all Lancelot’s. He’s the only one of us who really paints. The rest of us are more connoisseurs than practitioners.”
Merlin caught a glimpse of another painting that showed a dark-haired man that looked suspiciously like Gwaine pressed up against the bare backside of another, muscular man. His breath came short as he hurried up the rest of the stairs after Gwaine.
They emerged into a large, airy drawing room, ornate and filled with rich curtains and furnishings, completely unlike the bare artist’s studio Merlin had envisioned. Elegant armchairs formed a semicircle; in them sprawled several of the most handsome men Merlin had ever seen. All were in dishabille, lacking even waistcoats, except for one of them who wore a waistcoat with no shirt under it, revealing his hugely muscled arms.
Other than one particularly handsome man behind an easel, none of them had so much as a pencil with which to capture his likeness. But every one of them turned to watch him with intense focus as Gwaine led him past.
Arthur was waiting for him at the front of the room, standing next to the same red velvet chaise Merlin had seen in the paintings. Of them all, he was the only one properly dressed in immaculate frock coat, with only his hat laid to the side, but he watched Merlin with even greater anticipation than the others.
He gestured for Merlin to come to the couch. Merlin approached and perched nervously on the edge.
"Welcome, Merlin, I'm so pleased you could join us," Arthur said, as formally as though this were a dinner party and Merlin his honoured guest. "I would introduce the rest of these louts, but you won't remember their names in a few minutes. Just pretend they aren't there."
The rest of the men seemed to find that uproariously funny. Merlin laughed, too, at the idea that he could forget about the heavy gazes upon him.
He could feel Arthur's gaze, too, and then he felt Arthur's hand, equally heavy on his shoulder. "Now I realize that at first glance he may seem awkward and hopelessly baseborn."
"Hey," Merlin protested.
"But if you look closer, I think you'll see an exquisite potential." Arthur's thumb brushed against Merlin's throat just above his neckscarf, the first contact of their skins. "Merlin, would you do us the honor of removing your clothes?"
He had guessed this was coming, from the paintings in the hall, though he wasn't sure why anyone would want to paint his naked body, or look at it for very long. But he'd accepted the job, so he rose as gracefully as he could and began shedding his scarf, his jacket and shirt, and finally, with only a little stumble, his trousers.
Arthur rolled his eyes when Merlin dumped the lot of it on the floor next to the couch, but his gaze returned swiftly to Merlin's body. He gestured again to the expanse of red velvet.
Merlin started to sit again, but hesitated. "Sorry, I'm new to this modeling malarkey. How exactly do you want me?"
A chorus of hoots from his audience made him freeze and blink in confusion. "Just make yourself comfortable, lad," Gwaine called to him. "We won't be shy about telling you what we want."
Which seemed odd, since Gwaine showed no signs of picking up a paintbrush himself. But rich men with certain illegal proclivities might enjoy simply gazing at a male body; Merlin could not say he minded the situation himself.
He lay back, trying to imitate the posture of the boy in the first painting he had seen. Arthur chuckled and lightly touched his fingers, drawing Merlin's arm up over his head. "See? I told you there was more to him than you'd think."
"Something indefinable, just as you said." Lancelot frowned at Merlin, then at his canvas. "I can't quite capture it yet."
"Yes," said the bloke with the arms. "We need to see even more of him. Go on, lad, show us."
Merlin shifted himself, uncertain what exactly it was they wanted to see. There wasn't a single inch of him that wasn't already on display, which felt better than he would have imagined, if he'd ever imagined such a thing.
"No need to be coy," said another of them.
"Oh, he's not." Arthur smirked as he knelt down next to the couch. "This is what they want to see, Merlin."
Then Arthur's warm hand closed around Merlin's cock and Merlin yelped. "What are you doing?"
"Lancelot needs to see everything you've got," Arthur replied, sounding maddeningly reasonable. "It's for art, Merlin. You agreed to this."
He hadn't agreed to this, he hadn't. But he closed his eyes and let Arthur stroke him erect because no one had ever touched him like this and the pleasure of it stunned him. Arthur's hand left him briefly, and came back slick with a sweet-smelling tincture.
Murmurs of appreciation arose from the men, and Merlin let out a small sound of his own appreciation as Arthur worked him into rigidity. Then his eyes flew open as Arthur withdrew his hand and left Merlin sprawled open, erect, on display.
"Sufficient, Lance?" he asked.
"Maybe for Lance, but not sufficient for me," Gwaine growled. "Go on, Arthur. You've been dying to have him all damn week."
Everyone laughed, and Merlin rolled his head to sneak a glimpse of the men still watching him, legs spread to give their own erections space. He felt his skin burning under their lust, his heart pounding with the realization of what was happening. Lancelot nodded at him with a kind smile, and then nodded at Arthur.
Arthur stood and took Merlin by the shoulders, drawing him up to sit and then stand. "Come on, you," he murmured with a queer affection. "You know what I'm going to do to you, don't you? Don't look so fretful--I'll be kind."
He guided Merlin to stand by the head of the chaise, in profile to their audience. With a gentle hand, he pressed Merlin's back until he bent and leaned on the sturdy rise of the couch. Merlin shivered as Arthur's still-slick fingers probed between the cheeks of his arse. Yes, he knew exactly what Arthur was going to do to him, and he could not say he didn't want it, though it shamed him.
Merlin heard the rustling of fine cloth; then Arthur pressed against his bare back, still properly dressed except for the ridge of hot flesh rubbing against Merlin's arse. He hadn't even known Arthur was aroused by him. Arthur stroked his flank once, and again, and then a tremendous pressure began pushing into Merlin's body.
Instinctively, he tried to expel it, but that only let it slide in deeper. Arthur groaned with apparent pleasure, and Merlin echoed him. It wasn't quite pleasure, not yet, but it already satisfied him in a way he had never known he needed.
"Relax," said one of the men. Merlin could not move his head to see who, could not spare any concentration from the sensation of Arthur's cock digging deeper into his arse, embedding himself in Merlin as if he had bought Merlin's entire body not just an afternoon of his time.
Then he was fully seated, arms braced around Merlin, enveloping him in fabric and piercing him with flesh. In slow increments, Merlin felt himself relaxing around him, accepting the intrusion and letting it become part of him.
"Your damn coat's in the way, Arthur," Gwaine complained. "We can't see the joining."
Merlin felt Arthur shift so as to draw his coat back on the side facing them. It made Merlin suddenly feel more exposed than he had even while sprawling on the couch. But he couldn't worry about it, because then Arthur began rocking against him, into him, fucking him for the pleasure of everyone in the room.
He gasped as he felt the first true surge of pleasure, looking up at his spectators almost by accident. Once he saw them, he couldn't look away except to let his gaze flit to another man, then another. He felt as though he was having sex with all of them at once as all their groans and fleshy sounds mingled with his and Arthur's.
Lancelot was painting madly. "More," he demanded, and Merlin's body jerked in response with a dizzying escalation of arousal.
"He's almost there," Arthur panted. "The way he's milking me. Fuck, Merlin, just come and let me feel it."
Let Arthur feel it, let them see it. Merlin choked on his own cries, helpless amid waves of warm pleasure as his cock spurted pearly ropes over the dark velvet.
"Oh, yes," Lancelot cried, helpless in his own artistic frenzy. "The way it catches the light -- Arthur, please, his skin--"
Merlin didn't understand, but Arthur must have, for he jabbed into Merlin faster and then gasped. Merlin felt only one throb of Arthur's climax inside him before Arthur pulled out and rested his prick on Merlin's back, just above his buttocks. The rest of his spending splashed over Merlin's skin as Merlin stared down at his own come still clinging to the velvet.
When Arthur finished, so did his friends, in a chorus of groans, though Merlin no longer wanted to look or listen to them. He stayed as he was until Arthur pulled him up and around to kiss him softly. Arthur's frock coat settled around Merlin's shoulders, and Arthur pulled it closed to cover his nudity, heedless of the sweat and spunk.
"I have a private room upstairs, with a couch bigger than this one," he breathed for Merlin's ears only. "Will you come and lie with me there?"
He considered it for a moment: lying down again, but this time with Arthur naked atop him, in the quiet of an empty, private chamber.
"Yes," he consented and let Arthur kiss him again.