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I Fell in Love with a Devilish Man (The Only Man I Knew)

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Out of Geraint’s remaining brothers, Leon thought Ermind the most like him.


Dywel was too quiet, far too willing to obey orders respectfully and unquestioningly, and to stand in stoic silence while he was accused or blamed. It was true that with Arthur’s reign came a lessening of irrational outbursts, but a man charged with uniting all of Albion had to vent his irritations on someone and Leon knew Geraint would have had no compunction in challenging the Once and Future King. A man who had body blocked Uther Pendragon into submission would have easily squared up to a boy he had seen through adolescence, a boy he had never hesitated to remind was of equal birth to himself whenever Arthur came over too high and mighty.


‘But the thing is, my dear Wart, that our father’s are of equal birth and I’m only here because my dad owes your dad a favour – something about a boar, a sash and a lance – and seeing as I’m older, stronger and taller than you, you’ll be the one going for the firewood.’


Dywel was a good man, but he would never dream of saying anything remotely uncourteous to his King. Leon didn’t need another quiet type (Lancelot filled the quota for strong and silent and Percival could only be considered chatty when he was in his cups), Leon needed someone challenging to compliment his role of experienced, level headed advisor (Gwaine really was more infuriating that challenging).


In any case, Dywel was killed on the battlefield.


And then Leon didn’t even have his height and the back of his head and his broad shoulders to recall Geraint.


Ermind was smaller, the youngest of Dumnonian Princes and the baby of the family. He didn’t have the flaming red hair of the old King and his elder sons, or their height, but a full and easy smile and dancing eyes that spoke of their kinship.


Leon knew him immediately, a Dumnonian Prince come to serve at the court of King Arthur. The brief question as to why the only heir to the Dumnonian throne had been sent from home barely flickered in his mind before he pushed it aside, selfishly glad to have him there, moving to greet him so he could study the familiar expression more closely.


It was only a few years later that King Erbin died and Ermind was summoned home to take up the mantle, to do the duty that was never meant to be his. He was much missed in Camelot, had become a useful and popular knight, but only Leon felt the absence of his laughter like a second blow from death, the dearly departed departing once more.


Geraint’s mother replaced King Ermind at court, the dowager Queen another Elaine to add to the many already residing in Camelot.


(Leon had a suspicion that Gwaine was only sleeping with girls called Elaine so he could never call them the wrong name – that there were still some he hadn’t slept with was testament to how many parents chose the name for their daughters.)


The old Queen Elaine stood out from the crowd, however. For starters she wasn't old, barely fifteen years older than Leon was himself. Her long curls were still mostly black and the lines on her face from laughter adding little age to her appearance.


It was she who sought him out, detached him from his fellow knights and kept him by her side during the feast, telling stories, of her husband and her boys.


When Geraint had spoken of his family it was with respect for his father, scorn for his brothers and teasing affection for his sisters. His mother had always been something else, such love even through exasperation.


‘I propose we exchange mothers. I shall have the wonderful woman who raised you and you may have my interfering matriarch and her insistence on my marriage.’


‘Another proposal?’


‘Yes - Enid, apparently. My mother’s clearly tried to make her sound appealing but she sounds nothing but abominably critical.’


‘And with you there would be so very much for her to criticize. Sounds like an excellent match.’


Two days after the dowager Queen Elaine’s arrival, Leon was trying to decide how inappropriate it would be to pursue a woman because you miss her son when he realized two things. One – he had once more had too much to drink. Two – he was spending too much time with Gwaine and it was doing things to his mind.


There was one thing he was certain of, however, and that was that she was one Elaine Gwaine would not be permitted to seduce.


The red headed whore in the tavern on the border of Bayard’s kingdom had been a mistake.


Leon should have realized this earlier, but he was drunk again. When she said his name, high and breathy and not low and teasing and strong, Leon choked, on bile and disgust and maybe a sob.


Gwaine drank with him until he was all but unconscious and then dragged him into bed in a room above the tavern. Leon would have pulled him under the covers next to him, but Gwaine wasn’t tall enough and Leon wasn’t drunk enough not to notice.


Leon outlived them all.


Saw each of his brothers fall. Or, in Merlin’s case, disappear completely. And, for a split second, as each knight, friend and prince crumpled lifeless to the ground, he saw the blow from the sword that had thrust Geraint from the earth and the loss was visited on him once more.


Leon had picked up the reputation of immortality over the years, but perhaps he was simply cursed with luck. He mourned each loss and was haunted by the ghost of a tall, red headed idiot of a knighted Prince to the end of his lonely days.