Over the centuries, Merlin had fucked his way across Albion, taking countless lovers, young, old, male, female. Heated looks or shy smiles or payment gave way to bodies made for exploration, frenzied grunting beneath him, ecstasy spiralling up and up, erasing the bottomless grief in a moment's pleasure.
And when he was done, they faded to greys and dust, like ghosts in the mist. Ephemeral.
Then the craze for love swept through the nation, ignited by Valentines and flowers and sickeningly sweet cards. Candle-light and holding hands and soft kisses exchanged between loved ones.
Burying himself in willing bodies over the years, he'd grown adept at ignoring the despair lurking under his breast, at suppressing his hunger for sun-bright hair and those memory-blue eyes he'd lost eons ago. He'd deny it, but truth be told, he'd never had a moment's peace since he'd failed the man he loved. The ecstasy he'd bought had always been as false as painted smiles.
In his heart of hearts, he knew there would be no flowers drowning in scent or heart-shaped chocolates in his hands, no candles glowing as he exchanged expressions of endless devotion with Arthur.
Yet each year, in the cruellest month, on the cruellest day, he'd wait and hope and finally howl in despair when no card with Arthur's name on it came to his door.