It's a truth universally known that a Prince suffocated by duty and propriety is bound to rebel at some point in his life. Or at least it should be a universally known truth, as far as Arthur Pendragon was concerned.
With his twenty-fifth birthday slowly drawing near, Arthur had spent the last four months locked away in Cabinet meetings and attending pompous balls thrown by one lord or another; who's names he would not have been able to remember even if threatened with death. It was all, of course, an attempt to have Arthur choose a bride from among the many daughters of lords and dukes and even a few kings were trying for Arthur's hand in their daughter's marriage.
He found it all to be so archaic and was one step away from finding himself in an arranged marriage.
Tonight he was meant to be attending a charity dinner thrown by Lord Burnham of some place or other for whales or children or something (Arthur hadn't actually been listening). But after taking one look at the pressed tux lying out on his bed, the black material in contrast to the chartreuse bedding, he had felt suffocated and boxed in; the walls closing in on him and duty and propriety a noose around his neck.
Lungs void of breath, his stomach churned and his head buzzed as he thought about being tied for life to someone he didn't even know, probably wouldn't like, and was only marrying him for his title and a chance to be queen.
So he'd bolted. And, really, it said all kinds of horrendous things about the palace security that he was able to slip away without anyone seeing him. Of course a childhood spent hiding from his keepers had taught him all the little cracks within the palace where no one ever looked.
And twenty minutes and a few broken speeding laws later, here he stood in a dance club that was a little more than a watering hole. The floor was sticky with substances that it wouldn't do to think on too closely. The air reeked of bodily fluid, stale liquor, and illegal drugs. The food was crap. The drinks were strong. He found it on one of his rebellious nights were he had stolen a Mercedes and kidnapped his bitch of a cousin Morgana.
Or maybe he had been the one kidnapped. Most of that night was still a blur.
The club was packed, as usual, with young people in various stages of dress grinding against one another in fashions that should not be found outside of an adult film. A couple plastered in a near corner grunted and wiggled against one another; harsh moans and dark curses spilling from their lips and made their way to his ears. The cheap vinyl plastic of the seat he sat in had cracked long ago and now poked at his arse, his shoe was sticking to the floor, and his arm rested in a pool of wet liquid, the source of which was more than likely of a dubious nature.
He'd be disgusted if he wasn't so aroused by the tanned flesh and solid muscles pooled in his lap. Music pounded in his ears but Arthur didn't hear the lyrics, too busy as he was wondering what the man's lips would look like stretched around his leaking cock.
The bloke couldn't be more than twenty, if that, but his cock was hard and felt nice in the curve of Arthur's hip. His dark hair was cut awkwardly close to his head, and he wasn't the type Arthur usually went for (the usual involving breasts). But the usual no longer appealed to Arthur; big breasts and long legs were no longer enticing to him. The bleached blond and fiery red-heads that were paraded before him like prize cattle didn't even cause interest to spark in him.
He had known he was in trouble when the brother of a nobleman's daughter he had been seeing aroused more lust in him than the girl herself.
Arthur wasn't stupid. He knew that he paid more attention to blokes than he ought, just as he knew that stripping his cock while imagining one in his mouth wasn't normal. But he didn't think he was gay, he liked women just as well as he liked men. Maybe the correct term to use would be bisexual, only he had never actually been with another man before – it wouldn't do to have the Crowned Prince of Avalon found out to like men.
Which is why Arthur had snuck away from his keepers, no doubt his father, the king, would express his disappointment in Arthur by shouting for an hour once the morning came and saw Arthur back at the palace. Arthur would apologize – only half meaning it – and see days confined inside the walls of the palace, opening Cabinet meetings and exuding an air of the perfect son and devoted prince. He would hate it, but for his men to find out that he….the prince….the palace was not free of gossip, and his sexual preferences would find its way to the pages of the country's tabloids. It would become a bigger scandal than the time he wrecked his car into the palace gate while – allegedly, for it had never been proven – inebriated with a half-dressed woman in the front seat.
In other words, shit would hit the fan.
The club, Nexus, owned by a weird girl that fancied herself a witch, was the perfect place for Arthur to indulge his needs. Or so he had thought. It wasn't until he found himself roughly pulled from his seat and pushed against a cold stone wall, the lad pressed tightly to his front and his hand down Arthur's trousers, did he realize the flashing light he could see going off in the corners of his eyes weren't the strobe lights of the club but that of a camera.
"Fuck me," Arthur groaned as he spotted the man that held the blasted device; another flash of light as the man took yet another picture.
"Gladly," was the reply he got from the lad who had yet to spot the paparazzo. He sucked at Arthur's neck and angled his body in such a way that Arthur knew the camera wielding man would end up with a perfect shot of the lad's hand working on Arthur.
"Fuck. Me." Arthur repeated, banging his head off the wall.
"Smile your highness," the weasel paparazzo said with a smug smile..
Arthur had hoped, naively so yes, that he had imagined the weasel face paparazzo. Or at least that it had been a dream, and surely pictures of him and some twink were not going to be splashed on the telly and in the popular press. Then Leon, his ex-best mate as of today, seeing as how he had refused to help Arthur escape before it was too late, had woke him up with a frown and a copy of The Coin clenched in between long fingers and manicured nails.
Prince Arthur - More of a Princess Than Anyone Ever Knew!
The headline was splashed in bold red across the cover above a truly unflattering picture of him and the twink from the night before. His eyes stared back at him wide and panicked; the pale arm of the lad bright against his blue shirt and framed by the v of his opened trousers.
He had taken one look at the glossy tabloid, groaned, and promptly vomited on Leon's polished loafers. There was no need for him to actually lookinside the tabloid to know why Leon had thought to bring it to him seeing as how on any other day, Leon would make sure one never entered Arthur's sight.
After he finished emptying the contents of his stomach, which at eight in the morning had consisted of nothing other than bile and liquor, he had tried to fit himself through the abnormally small window in his en-suite and got stuck for his troubles. An hour had passed before Leon had come in search of him and found Arthur half dangling out the window; feet kicking, arms wailing, and silk brief covered arse stuck up in the air.
Arthur was sure that he had nearly broke something vital with all his laughing before he –reluctantly on Arthur's part – helped Arthur get unstuck.
Now he was seated in his father's study, with Leon blocking the only exit; beefy arms crossed over his chest and bushy red hair in standing on his head in disarray.
His mother was sitting on a finely made sofa, a handkerchief clutched in one hand a low sobs escaping her as she patted her chest with the other. Arthur didn't know if that was worst than his father sitting stonily silent before him.
Arthur was proud of himself for not fidgeting under the icy stare of his father. He was no longer a child; he was a man and the Crowned Prince of the great country of Alba. He had no need to explain himself, not even to his father.
It sounded great and assertive in his head, but when he opened his mouth he heard himself saying, "I'm sorry, sire."
Uther Pendragon, King of Alba, was a terrifying figure at the height of six feet with salt and pepper colored hair that was slowly becoming more salt than pepper, and lines that marred the skin of his face from equal parts of laughter and anger. His stormy, slate grey eyes cowered men and his scowl made children cry. But he was a king that ruled with love and the interest of his people in his heart.
When he was five, Uther had taken him to the top of Camelot – the royal palace located at the heart of Avalon in Albion – and told him that one day the people of Alba would look to him to lead them. Father had said that he was destined to be a great king, but to do so, he must love his people beyond all else, for while he may wear a crown upon his head and the people shall bow before him, he was there to serve them. Arthur had taken those words to heart that night and stored them away; he wanted to be a good king for his people and to be a son his father could be proud of.
He knew his father was anything other than proud and could very well be disgusted with Arthur for his actions the previous night.
Uther huffed, but said nothing in response to his apology, instead tossing another tabloid to join the pile of glossy popular press on the polished surface of the redwood desk. It sported one of the better photos – a bright display of the arm of the lad between the dark material of his trousers. It didn't show Arthur's face or the love bites the bloke had left Arthur with like some of the others the popular press did.
"Who was he?" Uther said.
"No one." Arthur paused to clear his throat, to remind himself that he was prince and the only heir to the throne – surely his father wouldn't disinherit him over this one silly little thing - surely. "He was no one special."
Arthur had thought the news would pacify his father and stop the rant that was sure to come before it got started. Only, it seemed to have the opposite effect, as the skin of Uther's face flushed red.
"No one?" Uther's voice boomed, bouncing off the polished oak paneled walls and into the high ceiling. The tempered glass windows shook slightly in their frames from the king's harsh voice. He stood to his full height, looming over Arthur, who remained seated but was no longer able to keep himself from fidgeting.
"You have made a spectacle of the crown, embarrassed yourself as well as me, and all for what? A…a spring?"
"Fling dear." Queen Ygraine spoke for the first time since her son had entered the room.
Ygraine was a slight woman in appearance and Arthur had doubt that she even reached the height of five feet and five inches, though the length of her legs and the shoes she wore gave the impression that she was taller than she was. Her coloring was that of Arthur's and he was often told that he had her eyes while he possessed his father's temper, which was brash and quick to catch fire but slow to cool. But he also possessed the loyalty and strength of the Pendragons that ran deep within his father and took Avalon from a small poor farm country by the Atlantic to a great kingdom that was quickly becoming a superpower in the world..
Uther sputtered for a moment, the ice that colored his eyes when he looked at Arthur thawing when he looked at his wife. "Fling what?"
"No, I was correcting you. The term isn't spring, its fling."
"What? I thought it was spring, like springs in a mattress."
And Arthur thought he must still be asleep, because surely his mother and father were not having this conversation. Though on the other hand, the longer their attention remained elsewhere the more likely Arthur could walk away without a severe punishment and with his crown intact.
At twenty-four, one would think Arthur was far too old to be punished by his parents.
Those people would be wrong.
"No, dear, I assure you it's fling. As in, when you are through, you fling the person away," Ygraine explained with the patience that she applied to everything else.
Apparently they were having this conversation. Arthur groaned and threw his head back to knock it against the high back of the chair he was seated in. It was plush but solid and far more comfortable than it ought to be given its appearance. The wood of the arms had been delicately carved over the crimson Pendragon red upholstery, the back stiff and straight, and the feet designed to resemble the claws of a dragon. It gave out a whine and there was a sharp crack as the back of Arthur's head met the arched wood – it wasn't the smartest thing he could have done seeing as it drew the attention of his parents back to him.
"You are to be king one day, Arthur," Uther was saying said. Arthur wondered when he had left the topic of flings and springs behind. "What shall your people think of you after this?"
"That I am human, just as they are," Arthur said, somehow finding it within himself to look his father in the eye.
He would not be coward, not even before the King.
"They don't want you to be human Arthur. They want you to be their leader, and for they want you to be above the weakness of common folk."
"We all have our weak spots, Father."
"Yes, but you are not to expose yours to the public," Uther said with a sigh, looking older than the fifty-eight years that he was and far more vulnerable than Arthur had ever seen him appear to be. "These….your antics must cease, Arthur. You are to be crowned king on your twenty-fifth birthday. How am I to hand the crown over to you while you continue to behave like a randy teenager?"
"I know, Father."
"You do not know, Arthur! Or we would not have to deal with the likes of this," Uther said flicking the edge of a tabloid with his pointer finger as though it was something disgusting that would infect him should he get too close. "You must learn responsibility."
"That is why I am sending you to Ealdor."
"I…Ealdor?" There were many small farming towns and villages on the outskirts of Avalon whose names Arthur didn't know, but he was sure Ealdor was not one of them.
"It is a small village located at the border of Great Britain."
"And why am I going there?"
"An old friend of mine owns an inn there; you shall go to work for him."
"Yes Arthur, work. As in a job, employment, something to teach you responsibility."
Arthur frowned. He knew what work was.
"But, but I…." I think you've gone mental is what Arthur wanted to say. "You want me to run away," is what he said instead.
"You are not running away, Arthur."
Uther had reclined back in his chair and had placed his reading glasses on his face. He shuffled through papers that Arthur figured were a matter of state and had all but dismissed Arthur.
"It will seem that way to the public," Arthur pointed out, not yet ready to lose this argument.
"I shall worry about that." He looked at Arthur over the frames of his glasses. "You are not getting out of this, Arthur."
"I, but, I…" Arthur paused to breathe through his nose and calm himself. There had to be a way out of this. The hands of an antique father clock ticked by as seconds – maybe minutes – passed before Arthur's mind came around to the fact that there was nothing he could say to change his father's mind. Stubbornness was another Pendragon trait. "For how long?"
"Hmm, oh I think six months should be long enough."
"Six months!" Surely father Uther had to be jesting. Six months would see him in this Ealdor wellpast the Yule holiday and into spring. There were charity events he was set to host, not to mention the annual ski trip he took with Leon, Lancelot, and Percy every year.
"Yes, I believe that will give you enough time to learn."
"Learn responsibility? And that's it?"
"If you cannot figure out the answer to that question before your time is through, then maybe you are not ready to be king."
"I…Why can't I learn," Arthur questioned, "here in Albion, or any of the other great states of Avalon?"
"Because nowhere in Avalon can you go and not be treated as prince. In Ealdor you shall not be Prince Arthur, you shall be Arthur Penn, a common lad."
"How do you know that they won't know who I am there?"
It was Ygraine who answered with a un-lady like snort. "In Ealdor? I doubt that they know what their own royalty looks like, let alone Avalon's."
She had ceased her crying, at least. Arthur figured that was a silver lining if he ever saw one.
"And if I were to refuse?" Arthur inquired.
"Do you?" Uther asked, setting down his papers and looking into Arthur's eyes.
Arthur thought about it, seriously thought about saying no and leaving and carrying on with his life. But that would just prove it, won't wouldn't it? That he was still behaving like a teenager and not a man, not a prince, and certainly not as a king should.
"No. I was just inquiring," he said as the hands of the clock ticked off more seconds. "What is to happen if I should accomplish this…" he searched for a word, "…task?"
"Then I would know that you are ready to be king and shall pass on the crown with no doubt in my heart."
"Fine," Arthur said with a nod.
"You say that with such finality. As though you think it shall be easy," Ygraine said rising from the couch. Her trousers were cut in a bellowing fashion so that they swirled around her legs as she made her way to where he sat. She looked at him with such fondness, love, and pride that Arthur felt something swell inside his chest.
"It can't be that hard, surely."
Ygraine laughed a high, light sound that reminded Arthur of the sounds of wind chimes in the summer months. "You believe so, do you?" She took a seat in the chair opposite him and patted his knee. "You have never had to work for your pay, or your food, or your and bed, Arthur. Everything you have has been provided for you."
Arthur knew that his mother had not always been queen and had, in fact, not even been born of noble blood. Her father had been a butcher, and she had worked in the shop for years before she had finally met Uther Pendragon and he defied propriety and made her his bride. She no longer ate meat – and actually got nauseous at the sight of it – and wore a crown on her head while holding the title of Queen, but Arthur knew that she never forgot from which she came.
"Do you think I can do this?" Arthur asked his mother, suddenly uncertain.
"You are my son, Arthur, and a son of the Pendragon line. You can do whatever you put your mind to." She leaned forward and placed a soft kiss on his forehead, surrounding him with the smell of honey and ginger – a scent that was pure Ygraine Pendragon.
"Thank you," he told her with all sincerity before turning to his father. "When shall I leave?"
"In the morning. Leon and Lancelot shall accompany you. You are still my son after all."
Arthur raised a single eyebrow. "I don't believe normal people have bodyguards."
"Well then, I suppose you best not refer to them as such."
Uther dismissed him with a wave of his hand and a flutter of paper. Arthur only waited a beat before kissing his mother upon the cheek and rising to his feet. By the time he crossed the span of polished hardwood flooring that lay between where he had sat and the door, Leon already had it open for him.
The click of the door shutting and the snap of his loafers on the floor were loud in the empty corridor. As was the harsh hiss that left him as he rounded on Leon.
"You knew about this." It wasn't a question. There wasn't much that involved him that Leon did not know about. After fifteen years with the man by his side, Arthur had learned to put up with it, though that didn't make it any less creepy.
"You knew," Arthur said, prowling forward until the taller man was crowded against the stone wall. "You knew and you did not think to tell me?"
"Your father only mentioned his plans to Lancelot and me this morning."
"Oh, so Lancelot knew as well?" Arthur ran his fingers through his hair and turned from Leon. "Am I the only one unaware of what's happening in my life?"
"You had to know that you'd be punished after last night," Leon said out of the corner of his mouth, lowering his voice so that the passing servant girl would not overhear, though if the blush that flared up as she caught sight of Arthur was any indication, he need not bother. "Especially coming so quickly on the heels of the Barcelona scandal."
Ah Barcelona. 2006. One yacht, a helicopter, and a whole lot of expensive alcohol. The papers had a field day with that one. His father had been more pissed than the time he had climbed to the top of Camelot's battlement when he was five.
Arthur groaned, forcing his feet to carry him towards his rooms. He would never be able to look at another servant ever again. They all knew now. They had all seen it upon the telly and read it in the popular presses; their prince was a prick lover. He could feel his blood rushing to his cheeks, and wondered how he would ever live this down. Not that he thought there was anything wrong with homosexuality of course, a person's sexual preferences was their own business, and Arthur was not one to judge.
The problem was his sexuality was not his own anymore, it appeared, now that it was plastered in every popular press out there. And he would be judged, no doubt very harshly. Some would be pleased, and other's would see this scandal as an opportunity to promote gay rights; then there will be others that will want him removed from the throne. Though that did not concern Arthur. The only one in the kingdom with the power to take his crown from him would be his father. And despite this farce with sending him off to 'work', Uther had been worryingly silent on the fact that his son liked other lads. Arthur should probably think himself lucky, instead he found himself waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Yes, I knew I would be punished. But I thought it would come in the form of boring Cabinet meetings, being made to attend more charity functions than usual, and being grounded with you creepily watching over me," Arthur said. "I did not think I would be sent to another country to work in some bloody inn."
"I don't creepily watch, I–"
"That's not the point," Arthur said, cutting him off. He really was not in the mood to debate how creepy it so totally was to have his best friend know everything about him. And Arthur meant everything. Leon knew just by looking that Arthur was going to catch a cold, days before Arthur even began having a sniffle.
"Then what is the point?"
If Leon weren't so proper, in his job Arthur would swear that the man just rolled his eyes.
"The point is….the point is that I don't want to work." Arthur didn't miss the look Leon threw at him as he opened a heavy wood door that led out to the south wing. "And don't look at me like that."
"Like what sire?"
"Like I'm some child."
"I would never," Leon said with wide eyes full of false innocence.
A rendition of 'Barbie Girl' blared out, and Leon proceeded to pull out his phone with far more ease than Arthur had.
"I thought I told you to stop messing with my phone," Leon said in greeting.
Arthur supposed it must be Percy. Percy had a problem understanding personal space and keeping his hands off of other people's possessions. He was more than likely calling to bask in Arthur's misery.
They passed an alcove, while Leon muttered on about Arthur's stupidity (and yes he heard that – did they not know he was the prince and as such they were not allowed to say things like that? Arthur was sure he could have them beheaded for something so offensive), to round a wide corner and be faced double doors; the Pendragon crest etched upon each. The crimson red of the dragon twisted around the gold and green shield was a bright contrast to the dark wood and stood out against the polished surface.
Arthur opened the doors, took a step inside his rooms, and was sorely tempted to leave again.
"Get out," Arthur hissed at the prone figure splayed over his bed.
He tugged the ascot from around his neck and threw it in the general direction of his armoire, the grey waist coast followed, and there was a succession of thumps as his polished, black Gucci loafers hit the opposite wall. They had been a present from Morgana; she had recently taken a liking to overpriced clothing with a big 'G' or 'LV' sewed into the fabric.
"No," Morgana said, and that was that. "Hullo, Leon."
"My lady." Leon even bowed, pulling his cell phone away from his ear so that he could do it properly.
Arthur sat on the bed with a groan, back towards his pain in the arse cousin, and tried his best to pretend she and Leon did not exist. It didn't work. Morgana was too bloody pushy to be wished out of existence.
There was a flutter of paper and a loud slap, and Arthur found himself looking down into his own face.
Another bloody tabloid! He thought he had ordered them all burned.
"He's…well I wouldn't use the word handsome. Not even attractive. Though I guess 'easy' would be a good fit if this picture is anything to go by." Her chin rested on his shoulder and she reached around to tap at the tabloid with one scarily long fingernail painted a deep Pendragon red. "Was he any good?"
"I wouldn't know, now would I?"
"What? You mean to tell me that with you creating all this fuss and getting into trouble no doubt, that you didn't even get laid?" Arthur stayed silent. "Poor baby, left with a sore cock only to be reamed out by his father."
Arthur winced and shrugged her off. "I just vomited a little into my mouth."
"Hmm. So how much trouble are you in? Grounded?"
"Yes, to a place called Ealdor."
"What's an Ealdor?"
"Don't ask me. I suppose it's a town or something."
"Uh huh, so why this town that I'm partly sure you've made up?"
So Arthur told her, sure that he would end up regretting it.
"Oh, that's good. Genius!" She was laughing so hard he could see tears. "You? Work?"
Arthur frowned a little offended. "I can work."
"No. I don't think you can. Arthur, you have a steward dress you in the mornings."
Only because it was proper. And certainly not because he was unable to do so himself.
"I'm not sure you can boil water let alone cook," Morgana continued. "You don't even clean your own rooms."
"Neither do you," Arthur pointed out.
As the Duchess of Allura, the state known as Avalon's most beautiful, Morgana had no more experience with 'work' than he did.
"I might not clean my rooms but I do volunteer at the cook houses and hostels. I have cleaned and prepared meals."
Yes, but the only reason she volunteered was because she was made to do so as a punishment, or so that's how it began. She had been caught stealing a blouse and cheap pair of sunglass from a boutique; the total of both items did not even add up to twenty pounds. So why had the Duchess of Allura felt the need to steal them when she could have not only easily bought them but also could have bought the boutique itself? Because she was Morgana.
"Yes, I did hear about that outbreak of stomach flu at one of the local cook houses. Didn't realize it was you who had caused it."
She punched him in his arm. Hard enough that he was sure to be bruised later.
Arthur had learned long ago that Morgana had a mean right hook. The first time she had hit him they had been eight, she had taken offense to being called a girl. Didn't appear to matter that it was true….though sixteen years later he was beginning to re-think that.
"You think you're clever, don't you."
"Most of the time. Yes."
"Well you're not, your Highness." And why was it that she only called him 'your Highness' when she was being cheeky?
Arthur watched as Morgana rolled off the bed, pausing to straighten out her blue silk blouse before padding barefoot to his armoire. She flung open the smooth cream doors with a flick of her wrists and began rifling through the clothing inside.
"What are you doing?"
"Seeing if you have any clothes that would fit a norm," Morgana said. "Five thousand pound loafers and oxford pinstripe shirts won't do Arthur."
"Leon will see to that."
Morgana turned her head to look at the man who had taken a seat in a plush armchair situated beneath the large bay window that overlooked the sculpted gardens and clear blue waters of the shallow pond. It was filled with exotic fish that Arthur couldn't name and was the home of two swans; gifts given to the royal family, one on the day of the king and queen's marriage ceremony and the other on the day that Arthur was born.
Leon was still on the phone and Arthur was torn between curiosity and fear at what he and Percy could be talking about. The last time the two of them had gotten together, Arthur had ended up drunk and half naked stuck on a ski lift in St. Mortiz; only the loyalty of the Badrutts Palace Hotel staff kept pictures of Arthur's pants clad arse out of the popular press. Arthur mourned the days when Leon had been too scared to even look Arthur in the face, but fifteen years of Arthur all but pleading for his friend to stop with the 'sire' stuff in private had turned Leon into a monster. Percy on the other hand had been a nightmare the moment Arthur open the door to his dorm room at Cam University, but Arthur trusted him as much as he trusted anyone; four years of drunken parting that the he was not particularly proud of with Percy keeping his silence had earned his trust.
"I'll do it," Morgana said eventually. Finding nothing in the armoire apparently acceptable, she closed the doors and turned to pass the bed, cuffing Arthur upside the head as she went into the large walk-in closet.
"I'm quite capable of buying my own clothing, Morgana."
"You're not even capable of leaving the palace at the moment Arthur. There's a legion of paparazzi just outside the gates. I nearly ran two of them over when I entered."
"Too bad you missed," he said under his breath, flopping down onto his back and disrupting the perfectly made bedspread and fluffed pillows, wondering when his life became such a spectacle.
"Hmmm." She poked her head around the doorway, a pea-green cashmere sweater dangling from one finger. "Why the bloody hell do you have this? And more importantly why have you not worn it."
The sweater had a picture of Arthur on the front of it from when he was a baby. Brown antlers rested atop his golden curls and a red button nose dropped from the tip of his nose.
"It was a gift from Aunt Catherine."
"Well God bless the queen of Spain." Her smile was wide and full of mischievous that did not bode well for Arthur.
"Yes sire?" She blinked with innocence she had never possessed in her life.
He watched as she sauntered pass, folding the sweater and placing it inside her overgrown purse.
"What?" She said shrugging her shoulders and flipping her hair. "It's not my fault. You shouldn't keep such good blackmail material in your closet Arthur. How's a girl to resist?"
He thought about jumping up and fighting her for it, but in the end it was just wishful thinking that didn't even rouse a twitch from his fingers.
"So, when do you we leave? I need to know how long I have to procure norm clothing for you."
"We?" Arthur quirked an eyebrow and pushed up to his elbows.
"Yes 'we'. You didn't think I would miss this, did you?"
"Oh, no, you are not coming."
"Arfur, Arfur, Arfur," She repeated the infuriating nickname over and over with a 'tsked' of her lips and a shake of her head. "Fight is futile, I thought you'd realized this by now."
"You're not coming," he said with a point of a finger that Morgana obviously did not find as threatening. "Leon, tell this she-witch that she cannot come."
Both cousins turned to look at the man who cleared his throat around something that sound like 'children' before straightening in his seat; the phone that had been plastered to the side of his face no longer in sight.
"My lady it would hardly be appropriate," Leon said after a moment.
"As though I give a bloody hell about propriety. I am a Pendragon after all."
"I haven't seen the proof of that," Arthur muttered.
"As I was saying, it would hardly be appropriate for you to tag along. Furthermore, how can it be explained?" Leon questioned.
Morgana frowned, then, crossing her arms and tapping the toe of one pointed oxford against the rich, creamy Persian rug. "Well, how are you all going to explain your and Lancelot's presences?"
"We'll be working too, of course. The King has arranged for it."
"Well, I can work to."
"Morgana you're not going and that's final," Arthur said with authority.
Morgana huffed, threw something at Arthur that barely missed his head, and stormed out with a 'this is not over' thrown over her shoulder like the bad villain in a cartoon. Arthur waited for seconds to pass, listening to the grandfather clock position in the far corner tick away before speaking:
"She's not going to give up is she?"
"Not likely sire."
"Bloody wonderful….just, perfect."
"Ah! Bloody hell!" Merlin cried out as the dinnerware he was carrying fell from his hands and became bits of porcelain when they shattered on the hard tile floor of the kitchen.
He stared at the wreckage, dumbfounded as to what had happened, when something flickered in and out of his vision in the corner of his eye. He turned to see the sweater wearing tabby sitting on a chair and smiling smugly at him – well, as smugly as a cat was able to smile.
Merlin had no idea why Will had found the need to buy the blasted animal, nor why it seemed to spend more time here than it did at Will's flat. The Destin Inn was just that, an inn and not an animal shelter no matter what Will seemed to think. Dragoon – yes Will had named it that. Why? Because Will was weird – the cat was a pain in Merlin's arse and, Merlin suspected, part demon. Will thought he was crazy for not liking the orange cat.
Merlin, in response to Will's crazy accusations, had pointed out that he owned a cat that was either depressed or suffering from anxiety – depending on the day – and he dressed said cat in little striped sweaters. Will in turn had punched Merlin in the arm, called him a blouse, and told him if he talked that way about Dragoon again, he would find cat piss on his pillow.
Merlin was ninety-nine percent sure that he didn't actually like Will.
"Merlin…what the….oh Merlin what did you do?" Gwen looked at the broken dishes with a pout that Merlin was sure she believed to be a frown.
"Why do you always assume I did it?"
"And that's why," she said with a wave of her hand as she swept passed him. "Because it's always you."
Merlin did frown. There was a flaw in her logic he was sure – now if only he could find it.
"See how much you know. It was that blasted cat's fault."
"Merlin," Gwen said his name with so much disapproval dripping off it Merlin was sure it would have puddle at her feet had disapproval been a visible liquid. "how dare you blame poor dar-dar," she said reminding Merlin that he was surrounded by a bunch of mental patients.
The cat hoped up onto the counter next to sink, lifted one leg, and proceeded to clean itself.
Merlin wrinkled his nose. "It's disgusting."
"He is cute and sweet, so stop picking on him."
Merlin wanted to point out that it was just a cat, but decided to save himself the headache that was sure to result. Gwen loved animals, all animals. She wouldn't even kill ants, and she made it a habit to go around the inn collecting spiders and releasing them outside so they weren't killed. She didn't wear leather, didn't eat meat, and thought animal planet was even better than Doctor Who.
Merlin hadn't spoken to her for a week after that one, because it was the Doctor, and how could she ever compare animals chasing their own tail, or whatever they did, to the Doctor; especially as it was portrayed by David Tennant. Will thought Matt Smith was better, but it was a proven fact that Will was a bit touched in the head. Though Merlin admitted that he did go around wearing a bowtie for a month after the series five premiere because 'bowties are cool'. He drew the line at the fez because, as much as it pained him to say, the Doctor got it wrong and, no, fezzes were not cool.
"Aren't you dar-dar?" Gwen cooed, and Merlin figured she must have continued on about how 'adorable' and 'sweet' the demon cat was while he had been zoned out with the theme from Doctor Who playing in his head.
The blasted feline had been lurking around for months now, and Merlin figured that it was time for Gwen to see past the mask of cuteness it used to cover up how evil it was. And, no, Merlin was not exaggerating. The cat was evil. Really.
Gwen scratched behind one large ear and Dragoon let out a soft purr; winking at Merlin and licking it's lips. Gwen topped off the scratching with a kiss, and the cat all but fainted.
"Suck up," Merlin muttered under his breath as he retrieved the dustpan and broom from their spot behind the kitchen door.
"We have guest checking in, a young couple, so you're going to need to tidy up 208." She retrieved something from the pantry but Merlin was too busy eying the tabby to notice. "Merlin?"
"Yes. I heard, tidy 208." He smiled at her then. "I'm your boss you know. I know how to do my job."
"Of course you do dear," she said sounding like his mum and swung out of the kitchen, leaving him with a pat to the head and the demon cat.
Merlin went back to eying the cat as he cleaned up the broken dishes.
"See this. This is your fault."
Which could have been anything from 'screw you' to…..well, no, it was more than likely a screw you.
Merlin shifted and the hose to the sink snaked its way towards the cat. There was a splash of water, an angry screech, and the scurrying of the cat from the kitchen.
Merlin smiled and the hose went back to its place, looking for the entire world never to have moved in the first place.
The floral bedspread slid smoothly over the clean blue sheets and folded over the lumps of pillows, edges tucked in neatly. Merlin peeked up from the book he was reading to watch the progress. Room 208 was one of three that had a fireplace and the only one that had a wood- burning fireplace instead of the electrical burners. The hearth, which had been dirtied with soot when he had first entered the room, almost sparkled in the patch of orange sunlight. A fresh stack of cut wood was piled neatly in the far corner.
Pleased, Merlin went back to his book only to be disturbed once more by the door opening.
"What…? You're really crap at keeping secrets aren't you?"
"You didn't know for years," Merlin said, turning the page with a finger and hardly sparing the man a glance. "Which either means that no, I'm not crap at keeping secrets. Or you're just an oblivious oaf."
"I thought so." Something hit the side of his head. Hard. "Ow! You wanker!" There was a shiny green apple next to his feet and he stared at it with no little amount of indignation. "Will? Did you just throw an apple at me?"
"Um. Yes." Will sat with a bounce on the bed and ruined all of Merlin's hard work.
Well, all of his magic's hard work anyway.
"You are an oaf. I don't know why I'm surprised, seeing as how I already knew that." He closed the book and slapped it down onto the end table beside him. At the same time, Will tumbled from the bed with a squeak.
"Who the hell throws an apple at another person?" Merlin picked up the fruit in question and lobbed it at Will's enormous head. Will, who saw the apple was coming unlike Merlin, ducked in time for the apple to fly over his head; it smashed the glass vase that had been bought at his mum's second hand shop for five pounds.
Gwen would kill him. He would die over five pounds of pretty glass and be disgraced in his afterlife. Though, he supposed, it was better than being killed by that blasted cat while going down the stairs.
"I thought you could use a snack," Will said, completely ignoring the shattered glass.
"Yes, I can see how that would end with me concussed." Merlin figured if Will could ignore the glass then so could he. At least for the moment. "Did you want something? I mean, something more than to stone me with fruit."
"No, not really." Will stood,
Merlin figured as much.
"We should go into town tonight. Maybe to a dance club. I can check out the babes and be vaguely disgusted as you not so subtly check out other dudes' cocks and whatnot. What do you think?" Will said, having picked himself up. He dusted of his bum, not that he had much of a bum and not that Merlin had even looked really, it was just they had known each other all their lives and there were just some things one noticed in that amount of time. Like the lack of bum on your best friend.
"Can't. I made plans to go to the movies with Gilli."
Will made a face, and Merlin knew what was coming even before he opened his mouth.
"I don't know why you hang out with him. He's weird."
"No more so than you."
"I don't like him."
"You don't like anyone unless they have big breast and long legs."
"That's not true!" Will said in the most offended tone Merlin had ever heard from him. "The breasts don't have to be big."
Merlin pulled a face. "You're a pig."
"And yet, you still love me."
"Well obviously I've gone mental. I've been exposed to your stupidity for too long."
Will huffed out something they may have been an insult, but the words were swallowed in a shout before Merlin could hear them.
The chair Will had taken a seat in had all but engulfed him whole, ending with his face pressed against the plush cushion of the head rest. Merlin thought that if chairs were able to attack people, then this is what it would look like. Will was all flailing arms and kicking legs, his head buried as tiny whimpers escaped him.
"Ugh!" Will sprung up from the chair with a great gasp, only to end on his arse as one of his feet tangled with a leg of the chair. "What the…?" His eyes cut Merlin a glare that could crumple stone. "Did you do that?"
"No," Merlin managed between laughs. "But I wish I had. That was priceless. You just got your arse kicked by a chair."
Merlin leaned out of his own chair until his arse barely touched the seat so that he could pinch Will's cheek. "Aw, don't be a grouchy pants," Merlin said with his best baby voice. "I know that chairs can be scary." He reared back to keep Will from grabbing hold of him and pulling him to the floor as well.
"Damn thing's a death trap. It'll kill someone one day."
"Most people over the age of five are able to sit in a chair with a risk to their lives." Merlin pouted his lips and tilted his head as though thinking it over. "Though, that explains it, seeing as how mentally you are five."
"I have no idea why I'm friends with you."
"That makes two of us."
Will pouted and glared a bit, and called the poor, innocent chair names that could make a sailor blush before pushing himself back to his feet. Seeming to have decided not to risk death by chair again, he continued standing.
"So, dance club. I say we leave around ten."
"Will," Merlin said in exasperation. "I told you. Gilli-"
"What? Come on Merlin, you can ditch'em. Not like there's much chance of you fucking him, said so yourself."
"Not everything is about getting laid."
"No. But more things should be. People certainly would be more motivated to get shit done."
"Says the bloke who hasn't had a girl in…how long again?"
"Shut it, alright. I'm picky.
"Yeah, female and breathing isn't all that picky," Merlin said. "Especially when I'm pretty sure that breathing isn't all that much of an requirement."
"You're disgusting." Will checked his watch. "I have to run and pick up grand da. I'll be back at eight when shift changes, yeah? We'll head out then."
"No, we will not. I'm not canceling on Gilli."
"Wanker," Will called over his shoulder as he left the room.
"Whatever! And take that bloody cat of yours with you!"
Will yelled something back that Merlin didn't catch and was sure was a good thing. A few seconds later there was a soft meow and he looked towards the doorway to see the cat watching him. Dragoon stared down Merlin with his one eye before lifting one leg to piss on the newly clean carpets.
"Damned demon! I'll kill you! Cat stew sounds good for lunch!" Merlin yelled as he ran after the cat.
Merlin was still upstairs when he heard it. A twinkle of laughter and the padding of little feet that immediately brought to mind children, and while Destin Inn prided itself on being a family friendly establishment Merlin knows that there were currently no children. So he wrote it off as his over active imagination and continues flipping through the pages of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (he knows that if Gwen saw him she'd make fun of him for being a fluff while squeeing over the epic love that is Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett). It isn't until he heard something break in the loo across the hall that he moved, setting the book on the newly polished surface of the coffee table and leaving the room.
A crystal soap dish, that's not so much crystal as it is fancy cut glass, lay in pieces on the aqua blue and white tiled floor. Merlin stared at it in confusion, because he knew that dish had been in the vanity, stocked away seeing as how they only had one resident at the moment and he was a middle aged man that Merlin sometimes doubted was real, and has an ensuite. He spent a moment wondering on it before figuring that Gwen must have taken it out. He bent and picked up the bigger pieces of glass with his fingers.
"Bloody hell!" Merlin hissed through clenched teeth as he looked down at his hand, eyes catching on the bead of blood on his ring finger. "That bloody hurts," he said as he brought the bleeding the finger to his lips. He sucked at the wound, decidedly not thinking about how vampiric and disgusting that was, and dropped the broken glass into the waste bucket, making a mental note to take the trash out before long.
He muttered to himself about 'self idiocy' and 'killer glass' and moved to the vanity, turning the faucet on with a flick of his wrist and holding his wounded finger under the warm running water.
Steam quickly built on the surface of the glass and Merlin turned off the faucet before he turned the loo into a sauna. He lifted a hand to wipe at the misty build up….
"Arthur." Merlin whispered under his breath.
The image looking back at him was not his own. It belonged to a man with golden-wheat hair and sea blue eyes set in a face of strong features. A crown of gold and pure jewels sat on his head, and as Merlin watched, the image changed to a sea of people clothed in rich red and deep purple. They were cheering and Merlin wondered why. For whom?
For…him? For the man in the mirror with the jeweled eyes and sun kissed skin?
Merlin blinked at the sound of his name, the image disappearing from the mirror and from his mind until he had no memory of the strange vision and was left with the stinging pain of his ring finger.
"Shit." Blood had welled up to the surface of the wound again and was beginning to drip down his palm.
"Merlin? Oh my god, what happen?" It was Gwen, and Merlin blinked at her as she rushed to his side, pulling a towel off the shelf as she went.
"No, don't. I just washed the linen."
"Merlin, the inn won't fall apart because you dirtied one towel," she said, pressing the towel to his hand and making him hold it while she ruffled through the cabinet for a band-aid. "What happened?"
"Ah, broken glass. Plus me being me, an accident was bound to happen. I figure I'm lucky I didn't cut off the finger."
"Right. That would so be something you'd do." There was a crinkle of paper, then the sting of alcohol, before the band-aid was placed over his finger tight enough that it created its own pain. "Are you sure you're okay?" Gwen asked, balling up the towel and tucking it under one arm. It wouldn't do to leave a bloodied towel where guests could see it.
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just, ah…" he scratched his head and cut his eyes to the mirror. "I just thought I saw something."
"I….I don't remember." He quirked his lips and shrugged. "Guess it didn't matter."
"Hm, are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah Gwen. I'm fine."
"Better be." She pecked him on the cheek. "Did you get to room 208?"
He rolled his eyes. "Yes, mother."
"Good. They should be checking in within the hour. I'm supposed to be attending my class, but I can stay if-"
"Gwen, it's a small cut, I'm fine. Go make pots or whatever. Just remember to be back by nine."
"I know. I know." She smiled. "Thanks Merlin. I owe you."
Arthur was in hell, sandwiched between a whiny child kicking the back of his seat and a 'bubbly' blonde that insisted on popping her gum loudly seated in front of him. An in-flight movie was playing on the screen in front, an infant cried loudly two rows over while its mother ignored it in favor of chatting with the man beside her. The stewardess had not made an appearance since take off and Leon was snoring in his ear, his thick head resting on Arthur's shoulder, a drop of drool peeking out of the corner of his mouth, while Lancelot read a thick paperback book, no doubt something of a romantic nature or maybe even theological – it was a tossup where Lancelot was concerned - and ignored Arthur's indignant huffs and squirming.
Arthur had voiced his displeasure, loudly, when his father had brandished the plane tickets at him as though they were a weapon. There was a perfectly good, and quite frankly expensive, Learjet sitting on a private strip of black pavement with the Pendragon crest displayed proudly on the sides in deep red and shinning gold, always fueled and ready. But no, Arthur had been forced onto a commercial airliner wearing a fake mustache, a black wig, and a low-brim hat, looking as though he were going to hijack the plane at any moment. How he had managed to get through security without being tackled he would never know. And as though this normalcy farce and public transportation wasn't bad enough, Arthur was apparently acting as a poorly paid commoner and had been squashed into a seat in coach.
When he was crowned king someone would pay for this – preferably the snoring, drooling Leon. Arthur huffed again and none-too-gently pushed Leon off his aching shoulder and towards the wall of the plane.
"Sire, I know this is not the most ideal situation, but your father only has your best intentions at heart," Lancelot spoke for the first time since he and Leon had to almost bodily drag Arthur onto the plane. 'Afraid of flying' he had told the nervous looking steward whom Arthur was sure had only been seconds away from yelling for security. Arthur had let out a manly gasp, not a squeak no matter what Lancelot the liar said, and denied the accusation. "You should try to make the best out of the situation."
Arthur snorted. "First, don't call me sire. Second, there is no best here Lancelot. I'm stuck ten thousand feet above ground in a metal tin can that I'm sure is really hell, forget the fire and brimstone – this is more tortuous than either of those things could ever be. And I swear if that brat does not stop kicking my chair I'm going to lose it." Arthur had turned to say the last part of his rant to the child's mother, who only popped another piece of candy into her mouth and quirked an eyebrow at him.
The sound Arthur made could've been a sob or a growl. It was a close thing.
Lancelot tugged on the sleeve of his jumper until he was once again facing forward and sitting correctly in the horribly uncomfortable seat. Honestly, how did people put up with it?
"There is a silver lining Arthur. There always is."
"Really? Then enlighten me, oh great Lancelot. Where is the silver lining in me being forced from my kingdom?"
"Well firstly, there shall be no paparazzi for you to deal with. Or, more accurately for me and Leon to have to keep you from running any of them over."
Once! He did it once and it hadn't even been his fault. Any sane person moves out of the way when they see ten tons of Range Rover heading for him. And it wasn't even like he actually ran the man over. He only bumped him. A little. The pudgy bloke hadn't even been injured.
The brat kicked his chair again, harder this time than before, and Leon grunted in his sleep and swatted his hand at something not visible. Arthur wondered if he was having the dream where he was a cat. Not that Arthur had that dream, it was just Leon had it sometimes. So Arthur had been told.
"I'd take on the whole scum of Avalon over this."
"This will be good for you, Arthur. You'll see."
Lancelot was so sincere about it that Arthur couldn't bring himself to voice anything to the contrary.
"Maybe," he mumbled, reaching back to scratch at his neck. The back of his fingers brushed something hanging on the seat. He frowned and brought his hand back around; red, sticky gum was stuck to his hand. Chewed gum. "Maybe not."
Leon shuffled in his seat and, really, it wasn't Arthur's fault that the man had chosen that moment to draw his attention. Besides, Arthur thought that the gum looked much better on Leon's nose than it did on his hand.
'Attention passengers will be making our descent into Camerden in fifteen minutes. Thank you for flying Albion Air.'
"Camerden." Arthur frowned. "I thought Ealdor was our destination."
"Oh, it is," Lancelot said, reaching across Arthur to shake Leon awake.
The ginger man shifted and the gum fell from his nose onto his bottom lip. A squeak and a flurry of arm waving followed as Leon attempted to fling the wad of chewed flavored synthetic rubber away, only to end with it in his hair. If Arthur had not seen Leon in action before, he would be worried because this was the man whom his safety was entrusted to. Not that he needed saving. He wasn't some damsel in a fairytale after all.
"Then why are we landing in Camerden? Do we have to drive to Ealdor?"
"No." It was Leon how answered, eyes crossed as he tried to fish the gum out of his hair.
"Then what's going on?"
Lancelot smiled and Leon, finally, got the gum out of his and flung it to the grey carpeted floor.
"I demanded an answer!"
"You're not Prince Arthur here, remember," Leon said, lowering his voice and glancing to make sure he had not been overheard. "You're a commoner for the next six months and commoners cannot demand."
"Well, they can," said Lancelot. "Though their demands hardly matter to others."
They were both far too cheery and amused for his liking. And yes, maybe he shouldn't have locked them both out of the palace the day before they left, with orders for no one to let the two of them back in. But it had been fun to watch them run around the courtyard, knocking on doors and pleading with the staff. Plus he had been upset that they both seemed to have known what Uther had been planning and had not thought to mention it to Arthur. At the time he had felt justified.
His feeling now did not center on justified. As Lancelot chatted with Leon and they both visibly took pleasure from Arthur's discomfort, he was sure that his feelings could be found somewhere near the realm of 'nervous' but not quite into the area of 'fear'.
Finally he forced himself to breath and told himself that nothing could be worse than this bloody plane.
Arthur had been wrong.
So terribly, terribly, wrong. There was something worse than that airplane from hell….a smaller airplane from hell. At least Arthur had been somewhat sure that the first plane had been flight worthy. This two motor engine contraption rumbled, bucked, and made loud horrible whining noises. Arthur was sure it was one air pocket away from falling out of the sky.
His nails made indentations in the arm rest of the seat and he felt the blood leave his face as the plane jerked once again. Leon laughed to his right, while Lancelot let out a smaller – no less heard – chuckle.
"Piss off the both of you. You're both fired." It was an empty threat seeing as how they were employed by Uther and not Arthur, so he could not fire them. He had tried before.
It would serve his father right if he were to die on this stupid quest. And yes, he had just used the word quest, but his fear-addled mind was too busy flashing over his short, but never the less eventful, life to come up with something better.
If he made it back to the ground, alive, he would kiss it.
They were taking the Learjet on the return trip. There was no way Arthur was going through this again.
The plane shook and made another grinding noise, reminding Arthur that he first needed to survive this trip.
"Are you okay sire? You look a little green," said Lancelot.
"Do not lie Lancelot, do you not know it's a sin." Leon leaned forward so that he could look Arthur in the eye. "Your pale; white as a sheet. Not green in the least."
"I'm going to have the two of you beheaded when we get home."
"That's no longer allowed," Lancelot pointed out.
Merlin was lazing about; feet propped on the reception desk, Pride and Prejudice resting on one thigh, the pages dry beneath the pads of his fingers and Mr. Darcy declaring himself to Elizabeth in a way that always caused Merlin to cringe. Dragoon was meowing at him and pawing at his seat, giving him a rather decidedly unimpressed look that has caused Merlin to look over his shoulder more than once in search of Gwen. He knows that if she were around she would tease him for being such a sappy fluff then nag him until he found a broom or dust cloth and did something.
Only there was nothing for him to do. The rooms had all been tidied up and Freya had finally showed up and banned him from her kitchen on the pain of death. The laundry had been done and was now hanging on the clothes line in the back, the dinning table had been set and would consist of no more than a handful of people.
But Merlin refused to be bored. The winter season was quickly approaching and the Destin Inn would have its fair share of guest for the prime skiing found in Camerden. So Merlin would enjoy this down time and keep an ear out for the mystery man in 305 seeing as how it was quickly approaching tea time and the middle aged man always called down for tea.
Merlin took a glance at the clock above the front door and figured he ought to remind Freya seeing as how she tended to get a little distracted. He stuck a pencil in the book to hold his page, and slapped it on the desk, standing to his feet just as the front door open, bringing in a breeze of fresh air and the soft twinkle of wind chimes.
A man and woman entered and Merlin's eyes were immediately draw to the man, as was usually the case, even though the man was hardly his type (not that he had a type, only that if he did he was sure this man would not be it). The man was of stocky build with wide shoulders and large arms that stretched the material of his soft powder blue dress shirt, but not in a way that suggest an uncomfortable or improper fit, but a snug fit that said the shirt had been tailored specifically for the man. He had a nice tan to his skin, a sweet caramel instead of the ugly orange that some got from artificial means. His hair, a dark color that Merlin was unable to distinguish, was cut close to his head with a few tendrils curled over the top of his ears. Merlin thought the man seemed to be more suited for five star resorts and penthouses with suave mannered concierges than a small inn in a town of little importance and renown.
If the man himself did not make Merlin think this than the woman beside him certainly did. As gay as he was –and he was so very gay - rainbows, unicorns, and all as Gwen would say. Merlin could see how attractive the woman was. Glossy black hair fell around her shoulders in large waves, and sharp eyes studied him with so much intensity that he felt himself begin to blush under the scrutiny. She was as pale as the man was tan; soft milk white skin glowed beneath the soft lighting of the overhead chandelier that was almost as old as the inn itself and was beautiful crafted throw light through the room without harshness.
She watched him for long moments while the man whispered in her ear and apparently found him to be satisfactory, because she nodded and smiled wide at him before leaving her companion at the door and eating up the polished wood with determined heeled footsteps.
"Hullo," she greeted Merlin with an open smile and a lot of teeth.
"Hullo, welcome to the Destin Inn, I'm Merlin. How could I be of assistants to you?"
"Merlin?" The woman said with a soft blink. "That's an interesting name."
"My mother is an interesting woman," Merlin replied, taking no offense to the woman's statement of fact. He had heard much worse when he was younger and still did on occasion.
"Of that I have no doubt. I would like to check in, reservations under Le Fey."
"Of course, one moment." Merlin flipped through the leather bound ledger on the desk. They had a computer system of course, but with so few guets at the moment it made no sense to use it. "Room 208. It's one of our finest I assure you. May I inquire to the length of your stay and whether you will need an itinerary designed for you and your…partner?"
"Ah, six months I believe."
"Six?" Merlin was a little astonished, it wasn't the first time that a guest had stayed for an extended period, but those few who did were usually writers wanting to get away from the crowded cities. Though Merlin supposed that it was possible for the woman, or even the man, to be authors.
"Yes. Is that a problem?"
"No, no not at all madam. I just…"
"Please." The woman said with a hand held out as though she were able to physically able to stop him from speaking. "Do not call me madam, it makes me sound old. And I'll have you know I am not old. The name is Morgana."
"Nice to meet you, Morgana." Merlin reached beneath the desk for the key to the room, an old fashion metal key and not the key cards that high end and new hotels used. "I just need proof of identification and a credit card, and these are yours."
The woman was reaching for the purse hanging from one shoulder when the man finally approached, wallet in hand.
"Here you go." He said handing over a black card.
"Percy." Morgana glared at the man.
"What?" The man, Percy inquired with such innocence it was almost enduring.
"I think she wants to pay herself," Merlin pointed out, unnecessarily he was sure.
"That's because she's stubborn. I long for those days when woman were confined to the kitchen and did their husbands bidding."
"You're not my husband, which you should be ever thankful for, I know I am. I'm convinced I would hate prison."
"She means to kill you. If you were her husband," Merlin pointed out once again. Though maybe not so unnecessarily this time.
"Oh I like you." Morgana cooed. "I like you a lot. I think you and I shall be friends, Merlin."
Maybe. But as Percy rolled his eyes and Morgana smiled in a way that reminded him of Dragoon in all his mischief ways, Merlin wasn't so sure that was necessarily a good thing.
Arthur liked to think himself above that of snobbish behavior. He was not as naïve to the world as some would claim him to be (Leon, Morgana, His Father.). He knew that not everyone was born to a life of privilege with a crown on their head. But as he looked out the small portal window of the plane, Arthur felt his nose crinkle, and he knew he was sinking down to the snobbish level that he had hoped himself to be above.
But really, it was as small as a corner post office. No worse. Arthur was nearing certainty that it was a post office. He wasn't even sure that was legal, running a airport out of a post office, or was it running a post office out of an airport?
"You're face will get stuck that way if you keep it up," Leon leaned over the ratty old arm rest to whisper in Arthur's ear.
"Pssh. I didn't believe that when I was ten, I'm not going to start now."
"This doesn't have to be a bad thing, you know."
"Yeah, yeah, that's what you and Lance keep saying. I'm still not buying it." He unbuckled his seat and stood gingerly, feel the cramped muscles in his back stretch in a way that was painful but weirdly pleasurable.
They retrieved their luggage, lumbered down the rickety steps to the tarmac while Lance and Leon tried again to tell him that it would not be so bad and he really ought to stop glaring or he was bound to have the coppers called. Arthur, of course, ignored them, kicked gravel at Leon and pelted Lance with pebbles, and absolutely did not comment on the state of the small building. Arthur was thankful for the cashmere jumper he wore; it was far cooler here in Ealdor than it had been in Albion or even Camerden. When he breathed, out his breath came out in a puff of white air and Arthur felt excitement build within him. He had always loved winter; skiing in season was the best part but he had fond memories of sledding with his mother in Allura where they spent the winter months when he was younger. Having a reason for a hot cup of cider and warm chocolate was also a plus.
The inside of the – airport – was just as cool as the outside. People muddled about in overcoats and jumpers and hand warmers with cups of what he supposed to be coffee and tea clutched in their grips. Arthur found a post near the counter where they were to retrieve their rental and allowed his eyes to wander about. There was an old lady with a large potted plant of some sort carrying a rodent of a canine under one arm and a popular press opened in the free hand. He nearly cringed before he realized the probability of him being mentioned in her reading was low. After all that's why he had been sent to this town in the first place.
A man with tanned skin and a mane of black hair caught his attention. He faced away from Arthur, reaching up towards a higher shelf, but Arthur had seen enough to spark his interest a little. The man had a fantastic arse.
Arthur almost started at Leon's voice, eyes darting this way and that as though his thoughts had been broadcast to the public.
"You're blushing." Leon said with a smirk and too much cheer for Arthur's since of mind.
He glared at the gingered haired man. "No I'm not."
"Yes, sire, you are."
"You're going to have to stop that."
"I know. Lancelot's retrieving the car."
"Hm." Arthur risked one more peek at the beautiful arse….ah, man, before fully turning to Leon and becoming lost for words. "Leon?"
"Yes?" He quirked and eyebrow and his lips twitched. He could not have looked anymore guilty if he had tried.
"Is that a turtle?"
Leon held the turtle in question before his face and schooled his features in mock surprise.
"Why, I believe it is."
"Such a smart arse. I wonder why I put up with you."
"Well it light of recent events, I'd have to say it's because I have a nice arse."
Arthur snorted. "I'm sorry to break it to you Leon, but your arse is in no way appealing."
"Such a lair. He's such a lair, isn't he?" Leon directed the question at the turtle that he now cradled in his hands as though it were precious and fragile. Arthur thought it was just a turtle, and an ugly one at that; with a pea green shell and flabby little appendages.
"Where the hell did you get a turtle from Leon?" Arthur wanted to get back to the subject at hand and away from flat piece of cardboard that was Leon's arse.
"The lady over there." He pointed to a woman sitting in a chair across the way, a box seated before her. Long black hair was twisted around her head and she looked like the last person anyone should take anything from. She was the reason that people warned their children about taking candy from strangers.
"You're like a child sometimes."
"Yes, but so are you."
And really, he saw that coming. He ought to start punishing Leon for his loose tongue; he was getting out of hand.
"Hm." His phone vibrated in his front trouser pocket and he pulled it out, bringing the text message to the screen with a few flicks of his thumb. "Lancelot is waiting. Come on, and lose the turtle."
The door of the truck shut with a whine and a clang, and Arthur found himself leaning against the rusted automobile and looking up at the Destin Inn. The place where he would 'work' for the next six months. The thought of being stuck in this place for such a long time still left a sour taste in his mouth.
Arthur thought that the Destin Inn was a disappointing sight. It was housed in an aged Victorian manor. The wood siding was a blue that Arthur supposed could be pretty to some, but he personally found obnoxiously annoying. The white trimming was slowly turning a pale yellow and the flooring of the wide porch looked dirty and loose to his eyes. The slanted roof was covered in grey shingles. It was nestled in a forest of tall pine trees and thick bushes and a bed of dying floors was tucked against the staircase.
Arthur grumbled to himself as he straightened out his clothing, running his hands over his jumper and pulling gently at the seat of his trousers.
Leon retrieved the luggage from the bed of the truck, handing Lancelot the pieces that belonged to him and tossing Arthur his tote.
"What?" Arthur began.
"Common folks carry their own luggage Arthur." Leon interrupting Arthur.
"You're enjoying this far too much, I think."
He shrugged. "I must obtain my small pleasures where I can find them sire."
"I'll remember this when we return to Albion." He pulled the strap of the tote onto his shoulder and grabbed the handle of his suitcase. "Maybe I'll have the chef cook up some turtle."
"Oh no sire. I don't believe you'd like turtle at all," Leon said, holding his new pet closer to his chest as though he feared Arthur would take it right then.
As unimpressive as he found the outside of the house to be, he was just as unimpressed with the interior. The walls of the entryway were done in a deep orange that bled into the rich brown of the base boards and crown molding. Arthur thought it clashed. Lance and Leon unsurprisingly found the colors to be warm and inviting. Dark polished wood was visibly around the edges of a large oval rug that swirled in crimson red and vibrant gold. Leaves were framed on the walls in no particular style that he could see, and for the life of him, he was unable to figure out why someone would want leaves hanging on their walls.
"Stop it," Lance said as he sat his luggage down with a quiet thump and narrowed eyes. "Yes, we know that you don't want to be here but could you…."
"Could I what?"
"Stop complaining. It's all you've been doing since we left the palace. So much so that you didn't even notice that brunette flight attendant hitting on you-"
"In light of recent events, it surprises you that I didn't pay a women attention?"
"The flight attendant was a bloke. Which you may have noticed if you had not been steadily complaining like a…" Again Lancelot paused and Arthur quirked an eyebrow and asked, even though he knew what Lancelot would say. "Like a child." He finally blurted out after prodding. "Like a spoiled child."
Arthur gasped and gaped at him.
"I'm not a child."
"Then stop acting like one."
He opened his mouth – to say what, he wasn't quite sure –then decided against it and moved to the large reception desk. It was an antique and made out of red cherry wood that gleamed with a polished shine. Its surface was an organized mess of papers and pencils and small potted plants with a computer that appeared to be just as old as the desk nestled on the end. No one sat behind it, and that for some reason, irritated Arthur to the point that he tapped the small bronze bell with for more force and frequency than he should.
"Like a child." Leon said.
Merlin had offered to carry their belongings to their room; they declined respectfully. Merlin offered to design an itinerary for the couple (yes Merlin called Morgana and Percy a couple, though only in his head because both parties had made it very clear, and loudly so, that they weren't together. Merlin was tempted to call bull, but though he was not the most mannered person in the world and it was a known fact that if the Inn had been owned by any other than Gaius, he would be out of the job for the frankness which with he spoke, Merlin was not stupid enough to purposely irritate a guest), they accepted that with smiles and smirks, and Merlin was sure that if they weren't so decided on not being a couple, they would spend most of their time locked away in their room.
That had led Merlin to think about his sex life, or the lack thereof, and the non-date he had set with Gilli. Merlin liked Gilli, or at least he liked him as well as anyone. He was tall and pleasant and had an off humor that Merlin had at first mistaken for crudeness but now thought to be almost endearing. Though he wasn't sure he could have sex with Gilli, because Gilli is what he imagined a brother might be like, and the thought of having sex with him was a little nauseating. He'd almost prefer a shag with Will, only that was nearly just as disgusting. Gwaine, of course, would be willing to accommodate Merlin and see to his needs, but Gwaine was far too charming for Merlin too risk that; he had never been very good at separating lust from love, and sex tended to make things blurry for him. Gwaine came with the real possibility of heartbreak, something Merlin tried his damnedest to avoid after watching his mother wallow through life in mild to severe depression for five years after his father decided he liked his teaching assistant more than he liked his family. The subject of Balinor was another thing he liked to avoid if possible.
He took a list of meal preferences to Freya, who, when the inn allowed, enjoyed preparing meals to order instead of a large batch of whatever. The list also included a nut allergy Morgana had and the fact that Percy was a vegan, which had been a surprise to Merlin because if asked, he would have said the man was a meat and potatoes man. Food allergies was something Merlin never forgot to ask for, he could be forgetful in some areas but that was not one of them. Watching a fifteen year old girl struggle to breath because he had forgotten to learn about her allergy to shellfish had been far more than enough for him to learn its importance.
He was thinking about going out to the garden and picking new flowers for the rooms when the bell over the door chimed.
"Being summoned?" Freya questioned, coming from the pantry with a box of noodles in one hand and a can of beans in the other. She sat them both on the counter and set out retrieving the pots needed, turned on the burner with a click, and measured out water and oil as he stood with one hand on the door, watching.
"Then best be getting to it like a good little boy." Her coral pink lips parted in a smile and she swatted at him with a dish rag.
"I could probably marry you if it weren't for the fact that I'm, you know, gay."
"Something that I cry about nightly, I assure you." Someone was tapping the bell at an annoying rate. "Now please go, before I have to shove whoever it is in my oven. It never works quite right after."
Merlin exited the kitchen and nearly jogged to the front, which might have been why he didn't see the damned cat until it was too late. Dragoon screeched as Merlin's feet caught his tail and hind legs, sending the cat scurrying across the room. Merlin tripped in his failed attempt to keep from trampling over the feline (it may be annoying, but neither Gwen or Will would forgive him if he killed the thing, even on accident.) and fell forward, all flailing arms and a shout that was aborted suddenly when he ran into something warm and solid and so not the hard floor he was expecting.
"Oof." His cushion exhaled with a loud grunt as they both left their feet.
"Ugh. Get off me."
Merlin drew himself up to his arms and looked down at his cushion….who turned out to be a man with the bluest eyes he had ever seen. Deep pools of crystal clear water look back ar him in anger. And, yeah, Merlin could understand that. Having a stranger cause you bodily harm probably wouldn't endear warm fuzzy feelings.
"Ah, sorry." Merlin went to his knees over the man, paused to take in how handsome his cushion was, then figured it was more than likely an improper position to be in and hurriedly got to his feet. Nearly tripping and falling once again the process, only to be held up by the hand of his cushion.
He should probably stop referring to the man as such, even if it was only in his head.
"God you're clumsy," the man said; wiping his hand against his trouser leg as though he had been disgusted at having to touch Merlin again. If that wasn't enough to make Merlin instantly dislike the man his next comment certainly did the trick; "And an idiot apparently. A clumsy idiot with big ears."
"Arthur," Someone said somewhere behind the man who was steadily becoming less attractive.
"You're a right prat…you…you. Prat!" Okay, so it wasn't his best work. Sue him. "And we don't have any available rooms so get out." It was a lie, a dirty, dirty lie, and Gwen would kill him but only after Gaius was through with him, if there was anything left that was. The inn did a good business in the winter, but not good enough for him to be turning away guests.
"I….what did you call me?"
"A prat. Do you not know what a prat is? Are you daft as well?" Surely it wasn't the first time that someone had spoken to him as such.
The man blinked long, dust colored lashes that threw shadows over the curves of his cheeks, and it angered Merlin that he noticed. He didn't want to be attracted to this man, he was in the firm belief that what was on the inside was just as, or in some cases more, important that what was on the outside. The prattishness of this man colored his pretty shell dark, and blue eyes and long lashes could not make up for that.
"You can't speak to me like that!" The prat exclaimed.
"Why? Who are you, the bloody Prince of Wales? I can talk to you however I like, seeing as how you acted like a giant arse. It was a bloody accident and if you had waited a moment I would have apologized. But no, you acted like a self entitled prat." Merlin could feel blood rushing to his face and he was close to yelling. "And why the hell is he holding a turtle?'
Merlin had finally caught sight of the two men behind the giant arse. One tan and dark and handsome enough that if Merlin had been in the mood, he would have given him a second look. Though he did notice that the man had lush hair that curled around his neck and was sure to make Gwaine jealous if they were to meet. The other was ginger and fair but taller than dark hair and the giant arse. He wore a red jumper that was splattered with something Merlin hoped was mud and had not come from the turtle he held in his hands.
They both stared at Merlin with slack jaws and half in awe.
Maybe he had been out of line? Or at least he should have made sure no other guest, nearby.
He blamed the giant arse. He blamed him a lot.
"Hi, I'm Leon," Turtle holder greeted Merlin, coming forward to shake hands and allow Merlin to pet the turtle.
"Are you with him?" He cut his eyes toward the blond arse that was looking at Merlin as though he were torn between yelling at him or…..something Merlin was unable to decipher.
"Ah, kind of."
"Are you an arse too?"
"I try not to be."
"How about you?" Merlin directed the question to dark haired man.
"How about me what? Am I with him or am I an arse? The answer is yes."
"To which question?"
Dark haired shrug. "You pick."
Merlin studied him for a moment before deciding that he liked him, and not just because he was really hot. He told him as much.
"I'm Lance by the way."
"It's short for Lancelot."
"With a name like Merlin I have no room to say anything so….nice to meet you Lancelot. Leon." He turned to round the desk. "Would you like to check in? A room or a suite?"
"I thought you said there were no available rooms," said the giant arse, okay that might be getting old but Merlin was still kind of angry and the arse hadn't provided a name.
"There are none. For you." He flipped through the ledger, not that he needed to see which rooms were available of course. It just gave him something to do.
"Well then it's a good thing then that I'll only be working here and not staying as a guest."
"A very good-" The whole sentence ran through Merlin's brain and he paused, looking at the man with wide eyes. "What did you say?"
The man leaned against the desk with a charming smile that was false and full of bravado. "Which part?"
"We're not hiring."
"Hm. Then I guess it's also a good thing that I've already been hired."
"You know you're not doing anything to prove my idiot accusation wrong."
The man glared at him and Arthur's cock twitched with interest. Though to be fair, it had been fairly consistently showing its approval of the buffoon ever since the idiot had knocked him over and landed on him. His cock had wanted to rise up and make use of the position while his brain had commanded that he yell. Arthur had thought it a better idea to follow his bigger brain.
Big ears had beautiful sea blue eyes and a mop of dark hair as black as Morgana's. The ears were larger than Arthur was sure was normal and stood on the side of his head as though preparing for flight. He was skinny, far too skin, though Arthur supposed a nicer term like lanky could also apply. His dark dress trousers hung off the width of his hips in a way that suggested it wasn't from design but that the man had no hips to hold them up properly. The blue jumper he wore looked to be made of cheap material but made his eyes even brighter beneath the curl of his dark lashes. But it was his cheekbones that struck Arthur. They were sharp and elegant and made Arthur's tongue tingle with the want to lick them.
But now, he watched the man gape at him like a fish as he grabbed at a phone with clumsy fingers and felt the lust again and was almost tempted to give into his cock's desire until he remembered that the man was an idiot who made Arthur worry about the world.
"Gaius!" The man with his weird name, Martin? Marwick? Something with an 'M' of that he was sure. "Gaius, there's an idiot here who….yes…well I guess that could be his…..What? Gaius we don't need another clerk, we're fine."
Arthur was tempted to smirk, and so he did, showing teeth and playing with the pencils in a painted cup on the desk. Arthur glanced around as Merlin (yes, he finally remember the pretty boy's name. He wasn't an arse no matter what awesome cheek bones said.)
The anger in Merlin's voice, was barely contained as he tried his damndest to make this Gaius too see his side. It soon turned to pleading and, really, a pout should not look so bloody attractive on a grown man.
"Fine." And yes that was a huff the skinny, big eared, admittedly (reluctantly) handsome man let out as though he was some teen poof who's parents wouldn't let him go to the prom. "Yes, I understand…I said I got it. Doesn't mean I have to like it, now do I?"
"So, I take it I do have a job after all."
If looks could kill and all that, Avalon would've been out of an heir.
"You're kind of cute when you pout."
Merlin huffed again and crossed his arms, narrowing his eyes into even smaller slits.
Leon shoved him in the back and though he couldn't be sure Arthur thought he heard Lancelot muttering something about 'idiots'.
Maybe his time here wouldn't be so bad after all.
Merlin hated surprises. Nothing good ever came from them. The last surprise he'd got consisted of his father coming home early from work one afternoon and saying that he was leaving them to be with his blonde twenty-five year old teaching assistant.
So surprises and he did not mix, and Gaius knew this. So why would he not mention that some prat would be showing up for a job that Merlin had not even known they were hiring for? And that prat would be bringing two friends along, who also expected jobs that Merlin was fairly certain they couldn't pay for. These questions and the nagging need to get away from the new rude clerk was what had caused him to call Gwen back to the Inn early after he showed his new employees to rooms that Gaius said they'd be staying in during their stay, another thing Merlin hadn't known about. He hadn't spoken a word to anybody and almost bowled Gwen over as she entered the Inn on his way out. He needed to speak to Gaius.
It wasn't hard to find the graying man; he was at Merlin mothers eating fresh baked lemon biscuits and drinking tea. Like he did every evening around this time.
Merlin entered the house through the back door with a clank of the screen door and a squeak of his wet sneakers over the ceramic tile of the kitchen floor.
"Oh Merlin! Hullo sweetheart," His mother greeted him after a startled jump.
Hunith was a woman of middle age. Built short and round with a soft features and bronze hair. She was half Greek and ate like it. Merlin sometimes wondered how he'd made it through his school years without resembling a whale.
Dressed in a brown wrapped shirt that showed far more cleavage than he was strictly comfortable with and leopard print leggings, she rose from her seat at the small table to give him a hug and place a wet kiss on his forehead.
"Would you like a cup of tea? I can make some fresh." She hurried over to the kettle. "How about something to eat. I hardly think you're eating enough."
"No mum, I just need to speak with Gaius."
She made a sound of disappointment but still opted to re-fill the kettle and place it on a burner.
Gaius sat at the table watching the mother and son, his thick salt and pepper eyebrows arched over his eyes like caterpillars. Merlin as he bit into a biscuit watched and took a sip of tea before waving a hand and inviting Merlin to sit as though Merlin needed an invitation to sit in from him in his mother's house.
Gaius had been a part of Merlin's life for as long as Merlin could remember. He had more memories of the old innkeeper than he had of Balinor. An old friend of his mother's who had grown up across the street from her, Gaius had been a great comfort to Hunith when Balinor had bailed on his family. He had given Merlin his first job at thirteen as a kitchen hand at the inn, and had made sure Merlin knew everything needed to run the Inn properly before more or less handing over the reins on Merlin's eighteenth birthday.
He was a friend. A guardian. A mentor. But at the moment Merlin wasn't feeling very friendly towards the old man.
"What the hell, Gaius?" Merlin shouted as he stomped to the table, ignoring his mother's astonished gasp of 'Merlin'.
"If you think we need someone else, which I don't agree with by the way, then fine. Gwaine's looking for something new, and I'm sure there are people in town how could use a job."
"I mean, why him Gaius? He's a proper idiot and a prat at that. He's rude, will probably scare away the customers, and he doesn't look to have worked a day in his life,"
"Merlin," Gaius tried once again, and again he was ignored.
"His mates are okay, I guess. Except one of them had a turtle, and I'm not sure what that's about. But…..he's such a prat. I mean Arthur Penn? What kind of name is that?"
It's around this time that Merlin noticed Gaius's eyebrows doing the angry caterpillar dance of disapproval.
"What?" Merlin asked, totally lost because Gaius was looking at him as though he was the one who had done something wrong here.
"Oh? I'm I allowed to speak now?"
Merlin figured that was fair and sat with a sigh and a apology bit out a little reluctantly.
"Now don't you think you're being a little unreasonable Merlin?"
"You've only just met Arthur. Maybe you can give him more than five minutes before making a decision on him.'
"He's a good boy, Merlin. His father's an old friend of mine,"
"Maybe." Merlin grumbled, picking at the end of a biscuit and licking the crumbs of his fingers as they fell.
"I know that you don't like change."
"That's not what this is about."
Gaius didn't look as though he believed him.
"Of course not. Just give it a chance, okay. It's only for six months. Surely you can go six months."
"I make no promises." Hunith told him to either eat the biscuit or leave it alone and Merlin, to make his mum happy, did as she said, taking the lemon sweet between two fingers and biting into it. "He's just so rude."
"So are you on occasion." Hunith pointed out as she swiped at the crumbs on Merlin's jumper; the result of him speaking with a mouth full.
"Yeah." He huffed and finished off the biscuit before standing. He best be getting back to the end before Gwen took her heel to his arse. "Six months?"
Gaius nodded. "You never know, six months is a long time, you might come to like Arthur."
Merlin snorted. "And Will's bloody cat might learn to fly."
Arthur hadn't expected the room being provided for him to be of the same caliber as his own back at the palace. To expect the same accommodations from his new place of employment would have been unreasonable, and despite what some would say, he was not an unreasonable man. He could ignore the fact that his room was as big as a postage stamp. He could even overlook the fact that it looked like the place flowers came to die.
The floral pattern extended all over the room. The bedspread that scratched at his skin, and Arthur was sure would give him hives. The large rug that covered most of the wood floor – for which Arthur was grateful as winters spent in Camelot and the holiday Castle in Allura had taught him that wood floors and cold weather didn't necessarily go together – was designed in the shape of a rose. The walls had a floral border lining the pale blue drywall. Even the air smelled of flowers in here; lilacs and roses, he thought, reminding him of his grand mum.
But he didn't think it was too much to ask for a room in which the only window closed.
After shooing away Lance, Leon, and Brian the turtle ('Why Brian?' Arthur had asked. 'Why not?" Had been Leon's answer) and unpacking and putting away his newly bought 'norm' clothing, Arthur had spent fifteen or so minutes trying to get the bloody window closed. He was a mess of sweat and out of breath by the time he finally gave up with a thump on the window pane; the window didn't look to have moved even an inch.
So Arthur had grumbled and, reluctantly, went to find the big eared Merlin to bitch to him about his stuck window. Merlin had insisted that the window was not stuck; implying that maybe Arthur was just too stupid to know how to close it.
Merlin may have fallen on his way up the staircase after that. And it may have been of Arthur's doing. He had worn a smirk on his face and watched Merlin's arse on the way up the stairs. Not that he liked the way Merlin's arse looked of course, only it was right there so he saw no reason not to look.
The smirk had been replaced with a scowl when Merlin had entered Arthur's room with a flourish as though he owned it, going straight to the window and, with little effort, closing the window with a slight snap of wood meeting wood.
"See. Not stuck." Merlin smiled and Arthur wanted to hit him. "It's okay, though," he said as he came even with Arthur's shoulder. "A lot of people have problem closing windows. Five year olds and old people."
Arthur's not even surprised when he sees her. He'd have been more surprised if he she'd had stayed at home like he had told her to. The shock of that might have sent him to an early grave. So he doesn't even sigh when he looks up from whatever it is that Guinevere is showing him. In fact, he doesn't acknowledge his cousin in any form or fashion. He only scrunches his eyebrows and frowns before lowering his eyes once again.
It's when he sees her with Percy that he begins to get a little angry. And worried.
They're both carrying bags and dressed in ski gear when Arthur goes over to serve them; he's playing waiter today. Freya thinks he needs to learn how to properly take orders before the winter rush of tourist begins.
Percy, the git he is, laughs at him as his big Bambi brown eyes takes in Arthur, focusing on the apron around Arthur's waist. It's a pea green color with 'Destin' written across it in gold.
"Wow!" Percy reared back in his chair, cackling like an idiot. "The commoner look really doesn't work for you, does it?"
"Shut it." Arthur whispered harshly, eyes darting about to make sure that he hadn't drawn any unwanted attention to their table. He could see Gwen and Merlin through the arched doorway, their heads together as they leaned over the reception desk. He could hear Freya in the kitchen, yelling or singing, it was hard to tell.
"What the hell do you two want?" Arthur grits out between clenched teeth.
"That's no way to treat guest." Morgana took him to task. She was smiling like the cat that ate the canary. Fingers steepled together and beady green eyes looking up at him in delight.
Arthur thought she looked like a villain in a cartoon he'd once saw. Something about dogs and coats.
He grunted. "Listen here, you harpy…."
He trailed off as he caught sight of Merlin out of the corner of his eye. His hair was a tussled mess, as it had been every time Arthur had caught sight of him over the past couple of days. His green jumper looked cheap to Arthur's trained eye but the lower quality material looked good on Merlin, Arthur decided with some reluctance.
And he absolutely didn't watch the way his worn jeans stretched over his crotch as he walked over to the table, a frown on his face. In a blink, it was a blinding smile directed at the couple at the table.
"Excuse us for a moment." He took Arthur's elbow, "C'mon," he whispered in Arthur's ear before proceeding to pull him away.
Arthur allowed himself to be more or less dragged along behind the scrawny man, resolutely not looking at the swells of his arse that were round and bite able, cupped in the seat of his trousers as they were.
Gwen looked at them with a startled expression from her position behind the reception desk. Merlin moved his head in a subtle shake, and Gwen threw a questioning quirk of an arched brown eyebrow before going back to what she'd been doing.
A few steps away from the desk, Merlin pulled him into a small alcove beneath the staircase.
"Oi! No need to get rough," Arthur said. "Unless, of course, that's how you like it."
Arthur could see that it took Merlin a moment before he caught wind of the innuendo in his words.
"Like I would shag you," Merlin denied.
Merlin looked at him sideways.
"You can't talk to guest like that."
Arthur sputtered. "She was being a…."
"I don't care what she said, or what she did. She is a guest at the inn and you are an employee. It's your job to smile, say yes ma'm, then grumble angrily to yourself when you're alone."
"I don't know how people do this."
"It's called customer service. If you can't stand it, then why would you want this job?"
Arthur opened his mouth before he realized he had nothing to say to that. He didn't want the job. He'd been working all of three days now and he couldn't stand it. He ached at night. Smelled of sweet, burnt grease, and cat pee. And his bed felt as though it was made out of rocks. Why the hell anyone would subject themselves to this for so little reward was beyond Arthur.
"And if I don't." Arthur challenged.
Merlin smiled. Wide. Bright. And all pearly white teeth. It was a real smile, not the sour grimaces that usually graced his face in Arthur's presences.
"Then I get the pleasure of firing you. Unless you want to quit. But please, please don't quit. I suspect firing you would be just as good as sex for me."
Arthur thought that was pathetic.
"I'm not going anywhere." He crossed his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes, daring the other man to try to fire him.
He was a Pendragon. Nobody fired him.
"We'll see about that."
The first Month.
Arthur had yet to reach the first month of his stay at the inn and he was already beginning to tire of this farce….Okay! So it'd been two weeks and he was still technically in training mood as Merlin liked to call it, but still.
He had spent his first few days learning the systems and how to properly make up a bed because obviously he didn't know how. The laughing fit Gwen had thrown when he'd first attempted had him red in the face for hours after. Apparently, the little skirt thingy was supposed to go under the mattress.
Then there was the incident with the washing and previously white linen being turned pink that Arthur swore was not fault no matter what anyone said. Morgana had been lurking around for that one, Arthur had to put up with consistent smirks from her and Merlin for days afterwards.
Not that he ever really saw much of Merlin. The other man, Gwen had told him, was supposed to be in charge of training Arthur and getting him settled into the systems here at the Destin Inn but he had passed Arthur off to Gwen to handle instead. As though he was a misbehaving puppy and not a prince. Not that Merlin knew of his status….still.
He was unsure in whether he should be grateful that he didn't have to deal with the big eared idiot, or angered that the other man seemed to want nothing to do with him. Not that either of these feelings were the emotion that soured his stomach. He dared say he was disappointed that Merlin was avoiding him, going so far as to take his meals in the kitchen or in his bedroom. Arthur couldn't phantom what he had done to make Merlin go to such extremes to avoid his presences.
"He doesn't like change," Freya, the resident chef, said one morning when he asked her on a trip to the market for fresh ingredients for the kitchen.
She'd shrugged and pinched at a tomato before handing some notes to the man manning the stall. "He never has."
Which Arthur would have believed if only Merlin hadn't taken to Lance and Leon like water to tea leaves. Merlin got on with the two of them just fine. It was only Arthur he seemed to want nothing to do with. He had no idea what to do about it either. He was use to people wanting him because of his looks or title or sometimes both of those things. He wasn't use to someone just openly not liking him.
He shook of himself and came to the decision to think of it no more.
If the idiot wanted nothing to do with him, then Arthur wanted nothing to do with the idiot.
So of course, two days later found Arthur in the pristine kitchen with mister big ears. Freya had begged off with an emergency and had pleaded and glared and threaten until Merlin agreed to take over the kitchen duties for the day, amending that if he were to give someone food poisoning, it would be her fault.
Arthur sincerely hoped he was joking about that part.
Now how he came to be in the kitchen with Merlin still eluded him. It was Leon who Freya had quite literally dragged into the kitchen with her by the tip of one ear and proclaimed that he was hers. Leon had blushed furiously for hours afterwards and insisted that Freya only meant as a helper. Needless to say, Arthur had taken to teasing him mercilessly since. So he was a little lost as to how he had been wrangled into acting as Merlin's kitchen had. He was pretty sure it had something to do with that blasted turtle and knew that Leon claimed to have sprained an ankle when he tripped over the weird cat that slinked around – Arthur knew Leon to be a liar in this seeing as how he had spotted Leon walking around perfectly fine minutes later.
Not that it mattered why he was there, only that he was, and no bout of complaining was going to get him out of it. He contemplated just leaving and absolutely refusing but then, he would have to put up with Morgana's snide remarks and sneers that he absolutely could not succeed as a commoner, not to mention that he would more than likely have to put up with Guinevere. She could be scary when she wanted.
Resigned, he had followed Merlin into the kitchen and absolutely did not sulk or drag his feet ('Shut up Morgana.").
He had sat at the center island on a stool and watched as Merlin bustled around the kitchen.
Arthur watched Merlin as he boiled pasta and set the spaghetti sauce (pre-made by Freya) to heat next to it and browned the meat.
It suited them both to have Arthur sit out of the way, and Merlin barely glanced in Arthur's direction. It kind of pissed him off, and something inside him itched to gain Merlin's attention so when the opportunity presented itself he took it, grabbing the bag of flour that Merlin was having a ridiculously hard time opening.
Merlin, whom apparently was unable to do anything with a fight where Arthur was concerned, held tightly to the bag with the expected results of the paper tearing and a large explosion of flour.
They stared at each in astonishment as the white powder fluttered through the air only to land and cover everything.
It was like a warped version of those old Christmas movies he had watched as a kid, cuddled up beside his mum with a bowl of Avalon strawberries. The thought was so sappy and weird that it shocked Arthur enough to force his eyes away from Merlin. He jerked back, feeling the heels of his feet stumble over something solid and began tumbling down to his arse. In a failed attempt to keep himself up Arthur's arms waving before snagging on something solid.
It was Merlin.
They both fell, Arthur hitting his arse on the linoleum tile before finding himself flat on his back with Merlin atop him. It was déjà'vu. Their first meeting all over again.
Merlin was a warm, but heavy weight on his chest, making it hard to breath.
"Please get off me."
Merlin raised himself to his knees so that he was straddling Arthur's waist. His cock was twitching and taking interest.
"That's not helping." He said, tongue snaking out to lick at his bottom lip.
"Oh." Merlin sounded a little breathless. He made no move to get up.
All long legs and knobby knees, he scrambled off of Arthur and to the side. His movements drew Arthur's eyes to the reason for the fall.
The little turtle blinked up at him, the picture of innocence's.
"I swear I'm going to make a stew out of you."
"Don't threat Brian." Merlin scolded.
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Oh great. Now you're a champion of defenseless animals? You, who tries daily to kill Dragoon,"
"That bloody cat is a demon." He scooped up Brian before standing. "Brian is a sweetie pie." He went to the fridge and pulled out a couple pieces of lettuce before depositing them and the turtle onto the counter.
Arthur got to his feet gingerly. His arse felt bruised and his cock was pissed at his interruption of its moment.
He brushed flour from his hair and when the dust settled, Merlin was standing before him with a broom in hand.
"Here," Merlin said, thrusting the broom at him.
"What do you want me to do with that?"
"Ride it like Harry bloody Potter." He huffed. "What do you think? Sweep the floor!"
"You want me to sweep the floor."
"Yes, you. I know for a fact that Freya has had you emptying out Dragoon's kitty litter." Arthur made a face. "So sweeping the floor shouldn't be much trouble for you."
Arthur stared at him a minute longer, before becoming distracted by the flour clinging to his eyelashes.
They really were very long. Almost girlishly. They curled at the ends and threw shadows over his cheeks. His eyes followed the narrow path of the dark shadows down his cheeks, ultimately leading to his pink mouth.
"You really are kind of pretty." Arthur stated.
Merlin scoffed and Arthur pulled his eyes back to Merlin's
"What? You don't believe me?"
"Huh," Arthur grunted, eyeing Merlin's mouth again.
Merlin was pretty sure Arthur was going to kiss him. His pupils were blown wide and his mouth hung open enticingly, wet, pink tongue peeking out at him.
Maybe he didn't need Arthur to kiss him. He might kiss the obnoxious, blond haired prat on his own.
He was just leaning in to do so when there was a loud bang and the sound of something shattering.
They jerked apart, eyes flying away from one another, and blood rushing to fill their cheeks.
Merlin turned his head to see the cookie jar broken, cookies spilled out on the floor. His eyes traveled upward to find Dragoon sitting on the counter, bushy tail curled around his body and a mischievous look splayed on his small face.
He looked back towards Arthur only to watch the tail end of him leaving the kitchen. The doors flapping softly behind him.
Merlin glared at the cat.
"I hate you."
"Why are you avoiding Arthur?" Gwen asked sometime later, lying on her back across Merlin's newly made bed. Merlin himself laid on his stomach beside her, his head pillowed on his folded arms.
He had gotten over his earlier embarrassment and was trying very hard to forget what had happened with Arthur.
He couldn't believe he had almost kissed Arthur He didn't even know the git was gay, so he sure as hell should not have dared to think to kiss the man.
Only he had dared, letting his impulses control him and, looking at Arthur covered in flour and grinning like a fool, Merlin felt something pull tight in his chest and had felt need to taste his plush mouth with his own.
He was only thankful no one had come upon them to witness his newest bout of idiocy. For goodness sake Arthur wasn't even gay, or at least if he was Merlin was sure that the man wanted nothing to do with him.
He remembered the conversation that he had overheard Arthur having with Lance and Leon.
"Merlin is certainly good looking," Lancelot had said as Merlin watched through the narrow slit of the open door as he brushed out his hair before hitting Leon with said brush.
"Aye. His cheekbones alone are worthy of the cover of magazines and the catwalks of Paris-" Leon replied as he lifted his turtle to his face and appeared to nuzzle it from where Merlin stood.
There was a snort and Arthur came into view, and Merlin was sure to suffer from a heart attack as he gazed upon the span of bare golden flesh of Arthur's arms and defined chest, the only thing covering the man being a towel that reached his ankles. Merlin found himself wishing that the towel would fall.
"What? You don't think?" Leon asked.
"When did you two start admiring men?"
"Since we saw Merlin. Not that I'm willing to switch teams, of course," Leon said with a smirk. "But I'd have to be blind not to see that Merlin is bloody gorgeous."
Arthur snorted once more and left Merlin's line of sight. He nearly whimpered in disappointment.
"He's…..not horrible I suppose."
"Once you get pass the ridiculously large ears of course. And the fact that he's skinny as a stick, has no arse, and is a complete idiot."
"It's just us Arthur. You can tell use the truth you know. We'd never judge you."
"I am telling you the truth. The idiot is attractive enough, in a common way."
Merlin heard nothing else, he had no need, he hurried away to his room and avoided everyone for the day, and had proceeded to avoided Arthur ever since. He had no idea why he had felt so….hurt and disappointed hearing Arthur all but call him ugly. But he had been; which was ridiculous. He didn't even like Arthur Penn from wherever the hell he was from. His opinion certainly shouldn't matter to Merlin. And after a day or so, he had been able to convince himself that it didn't matter what the prat thought of him, though he still had made it a point to avoid the other man.
"I'm not." Merlin finally replied.
Gwen snorted in a very un-lady like manner as she reached over to ruffle his hair. Her fingers carded through his thick strains, scratching at his scalp.
Merlin scowled, even though she couldn't see him.
"Could we possibly, I don't know, talk about something else now?"
Gwen huffed. "Fine. How was your date with Gilli then?'
Merlin groaned. That wasn't a subject he wanted to speak about either.
"It wasn't a date."
At least that had been what Merlin had been thinking. It had started out alright. They had gone to see a film – something with people dying and things exploding – and they ate pizza at the only decent pub in town. Then Gilli had tried to kiss him and Merlin had spilt his Lager down his trousers in his surprised. His words had sputtered when he tried to ask what the hell Gilli thought he was doing and in his haste to leave the fast becoming embarrassing situation he had tripped over the table leg and nearly knocked himself out.
So yeah, talking about that night was not something Merlin wanted to do.
Only Gwen didn't seem to care what it was that Merlin wanted. She nagged and poked at his stomach until he coughed up the story. She was laughing hard and tears were building in her eyes by the time he was finish.
"Glad you find my misery funny. Happy to entertain you." Merlin sulked.
"Oh Merlin, did you honestly not know it was a date?"
"No! Gilli's like a brother. I want to throw up just by the thought of kissing him."
"And did you tell him this?"
"I kind of thought it might hurt his feelings…"
"So you led him on. Merlin, you little tart!" She said the last part in mock astonishment.
"I did not lead him on! And don't call me a tart, you hussy."
"Hussy? Me?" She pushed herself up so that she was sitting on the bed and pointed to herself with a dainty index finger. Merlin rolled onto his back so that he could look at her.
"Yes you. I saw you coming out of Lancelot's room this morning. And not at a very decent hour."
Merlin hadn't thought Gwen was able to blush like that.
"We were just talking."
Merlin made a disbelieving face. "Sure. Of course."
"Piss off, Merlin."
"And cursing. My, my you must really like sir Lancelot."
Gwen scowled and Merlin watched as she pounced on him, grabbing a pillow from the pile and proceeded to beat him over the head. It was a good old fashion pillow fight.
Arthur was wandering the halls of Destin after having used the facilities. He didn't feel very much like sleeping. It was an ungodly three in the morning. The guests were sleep, Morgana had curled herself up in his bed, and Arthur shuddered at the thought of joining her there. She had a tendency to kick in her sleep.
His sock covered feet slid smoothly over the hardware floor and he turned a corner, jumping out of his skin and letting out a squeak of sound as Dragoon darted past, Brian the turtle riding on his back.
Arthur blinked after them before shaking his head and deciding that maybe it was time for him to go to bed. He turned towards the direction of his room when he heard a tinkle of sound. It was a piano. Only, he hadn't known that Destin had a piano.
He followed the sound, keeping to the walls as it grew darker and darker as he walked. He paused as the sound abruptly stopped and jumped again as a door to his left swung open, seemingly on its own.
Arthur glanced around; left, right, and he even took a gander at the bloody ceiling. Nothing was there. And the sound he had heard was gone as though it had never been.
Rubbing a tired had over his face he decided it was definitely time for him to go to bed. He took a step forward and his eyes wander into the open doorway. What he saw froze him.
It was Merlin. Naked. And he was beneath what Arthur would swear was him if that wouldn't have made him a nutter.
They were. He was. He was screwing Merlin. And from the whimpering sounds coming from the bony, big-eared man he was doing a damned good job of it.
Arthur watched, ears filled the pair's groans and moans, and felt himself becoming hard.
"What the bloody hell?"
Something brushed against his ankle and he screamed. It was a very mainly scream. thank you, and did not even resemble on that a child or say a girl may have made, and if he was a liar, well, there was no one there to tell him so.
Arthur looked down in time to see the bloody cat, minus the turtle this time, staring up at him. He looked back into the room but the image was gone.
"I'm bloody losing it." He told the cat.
Christmas was fast approaching the Destin Inn, bringing with it the sharp bite of winter and the first hint of snow. The roads were covered with thin sheets of ice which a man in a beat up pick-up took care of with a cab filled with rock salt. The cars were covered in the wet wintry mix and the mountain in the next town was now officially open for business. And with that news came a throng of tourist looking to ski and snow board; Gwaine had open the pool of how long it would take for the first one to go missing and need rescuing. Merlin was banking on a day.
He was hanging tinsel and lights on a large seven foot tree in the sitting room that was off of the dining. There was a smaller one in the entryway where a mechanical angel sat on top; it sung Christmas songs whenever someone passed, Merlin figured it would get very annoying very quickly.
He was doing the top branches now, balanced on the tips of his toes on a small stool. They had a foot ladder, but Merlin figured the stool was just as good, if a little rockier. He would have been fine if Arthur hadn't entered the precise moment he had been stretching to reach the top of the tree, the tips of his toes barely on the stool.
He heard a gasp of air and someone sucking in breath and looked up to have his eyes meet Arthur's. His pupils were blown wide as if in…..lust. Merlin gasped and jerked back, not such a good idea. He fell, arse and head hitting the floor. He couldn't figure out which hurt worst.
"Are you okay?"
He opened his eyes to find two Arthur's swimming in his vision.
"Stay still, both of you." Arthur looked over his shoulder before looking back at Merlin clearly confused. "And what the hell do you think you're doing sneaking up on someone standing on a stool? You could have killed me!"
"I'd hardly say I snuck up."
"I would, as evidence I present to you the fact that I'm on the floor and am now seeing two of you."
There was a tap of heels in the distance that made Merlin's head hurt even more.
"Oh God, Arthur, what did you do now?"
It was Morgana. Merlin liked Morgana, much more so than Arthur. Well, that might be a lie. He certainly had never thought about Morgana naked and covered in fudge. Mmm fudge.
He tried to turn his head to look at her but the movement made his stomach roll so he settled for waving at her, only managing to make his hand flop a little.
"I think he's bashed his brains in. This is surprising considering I didn't think he had anything in there in the first place."
"Arthur," Morgana stared in a tone that even scared Merlin. He hadn't seen Morgana angry, but he had a though that it wouldn't be a good thing for anyone to be in the vicinity when she was. "What did you do?"
"Nothing. He fell of the stool."
''s'not his fault Morgana. He can't help he's delicious," Merlin mumbled. "Mmm, delicious, like fudge. I want fudge Art…Ar…Arfur. You in fudge. Fudge in you."
For some reason Morgana found this funny.
"We need to take him to the hospital." Arthur said starting to sound worried. Merlin didn't want him worried. Merlin wanted him naked.
Saint Francis was a small county hospital located at the edge of Camden near the border of Ealdor. The doctors were overworked but friendly, it was clean, and Arthur was pretty sure that Merlin wouldn't get some sort of infection and die on him. He'd hate to have to tell Gwen he killed her best friend.
They were seated in the waiting room of the emergency department; the seats were made of lime green vinyl and cheap wood. They were steady, clunky, and made his arse hurt.
Merlin's head was flopping to his chest and Morgana kept poking him to keep him awake.
"Don't go to sleep, Merlin," She whispered in his ear, her breast flat against his right arm. Arthur thought she was far too close.
"Merlin Emrys!" called a nurse with blond curls and a sharp nose. She was thin as a rail and her scrubs hung off her in baggy waves.
"Come on big –ears." Arthur rose to his feet and looked at Merlin expectantly.
"Gosh, you're hot."
"Yes I know; I've dazed you with my hotness."
He leaned down to grasp Merlin's forearm and pulled the other man to his feet, steadying him with an arm around his thin waist to keep him from falling over. And if enjoyed the warm, solid feeling of having Merlin against him, no one had to know.
Morgana was watching them with a quirked eyebrow and a knowing smirk.
Well, no one important that is.
Merlin had a concussion. The great idiot. Gwen had fussed over him, scolded Arthur, and wrapped Merlin's head in a towel filled with ice. Arthur wondered absently if there was anyone in the inn that was actually working. Lance and Leon were watching from the doorway to Merlin's room, which was far better than his. Leon held Brian the turtle in his arms and Lancelot was giving Arthur a headache, his expression a constant play of worry for Merlin and jealousy over Gwen. What he thought a sleepy, injured Merlin was going to do to her was anyone's guess.
When she was apparently satisfied that Merlin wasn't about to perish away, Gwen turned to face Arthur with a swirl of lavender skirt and curly hair.
"You stay and watch him. Make sure he takes his pain pills, and make him drink water. Oh, and make sure to wake him up every few hours like the doctor said."
"And exactly when did I become a nurse maid?" Gwen glared at him. "Oh, yes, I remember now."
He ignored the laughing Morgana, Leon, and Lancelot. As he settled himself into a comfortable plush chair beside Merlin's King sized bed.
Arthur had known that Merlin's room was on the same floor as his, though he had never seen it before today. It was done in shades of blue. The walls were a pretty iridescent aqua blue and when the light hit, it had a kaleidoscope effect, while the ceiling was a cornflower blue. The wood floors were covered in blue rugs of different colors, a sky blue rug was positioned near the door and a cobalt blue rug was at the foot of the bed. Beneath the large bay window was an indigo blue that matched the curtains drawn closed over the window. The bed was made of oak, with a rounded headboard and a level footboard. The sheets were teal while the comforter spread above them was azure; the pile of pillows that surrounded Merlin's head were a mixture of the two.
It was like being inside an aquarium.
There was a small chaise lounge pushed beneath the window that matched the chair he sat in. They were grey. Arthur wondered at that. A telly stood in the far corner and looked to not get a lot of usage. A bookcase was against the wall on the opposite side of the bed from him and was stuffed with books; books even lying upon the top of the case. A clock was positioned on the wall opposite the bed, and as Arthur watched to make sure that Merlin's chest kept rising and falling with breath, he listened to the clock and allowed it to lull him to sleep.
When he woke it was with a start and sometime later with Merlin looking up at him with lidded eyes.
Merlin smacked his lips. "Thirsty."
"Oh, right." Arthur leaned forward and took hold of the canister on the night stand that had to be filled with now warm water. He poured the water into a plastic cup until it was half-full before handing it to Merlin. "Here."
Arthur watched Merlin closely as he lifted the cup to his mouth, not wanting the other man to spill it on himself. When he was done he handed the cup back to Arthur who placed it on the nightstand, all the while gazing at Merlin.
"How are you feeling?"
"Like an elephant sat on my head." He groaned and rued at his face. "What time is it?"
"Late." Arthur replied without moving his eyes from Merlin's face.
"Yeah," Merlin breathed. "What are you still doing here?"
Arthur shrugged. "Gwen told me to watch over you. She's too scary to say no to."
They lapsed into silence.
"You've been avoiding me," Arthur said hurriedly before his brain had the time to tell his mouth to shut the hell up.
"Why do you keep saying that?"
"Don't know." Merlin yawned. "You look good. Well not that you don't always look good, it's just that all sleepy and whatnot, you look really….soft."
"Is that a good thing?"
"Yeah." Merlin nodded.
"Why have you been avoiding me?"
Now Merlin looked away, but Arthur kept his eyes on his face, not relenting.
"Because I felt stupid….and do not say anything or I'll sic Gwen on you."
"I wasn't going to."
"Hunh. Away, I felt stupid because….well you know."
"No. No I really don't."
"Yes, you do," Merlin insisted.
"No." Arthur shook his head. "I don't."
They kept at that for awhile both of them growing frustrated before Merlin practically shouted.
"I almost kissed you!"
"And?" Arthur questioned completely confused.
"And? All you have to say is and?"
"And why did that make you feel stupid?"
Merlin looked at him incredulously. "You've got to be kidding. Maybe it was the fact that you ran away as fast as humanly possible."
Arthur felt himself blushing and frowned. "That's because I was a little….embarrassed I guess."
Merlin blinked at him, opened his mouth, then closed it again. "Are you saying that you wanted me to kiss you?"
"I….I don't know what to say," Merlin said. "I didn't think you'd want that. That you even liked blokes. I mean you're always with Morgana."
"Morgana!"Arthur shouted, eyes popping. "You think I like Morgana?" He shuddered at the thought.
Merlin shifted on the bed and the comforter slipped to reveal his bare chest. Gwen hand undressed him when they got home and presumably got him into pajamas. Arthur hadn't checked, not that he hadn't wanted to check, that is, only it didn't seem right to do so with Merlin practically passed out.
He wasn't a pervert after all.
"Yeah, well why wouldn't you? I mean, she's beautiful. I'm gay and even I can see that."
"You're gay?" Arthur asked becoming quickly distracted by Merlin's bare chest. He was remembering that weird arse dream he had with him and Merlin having sex that had been really, really good after the weird scene in the hallway. He'd woken up the next morning sticky with his own release.
"What? All the rainbow shirts I wear didn't give you a clue? How about the "Will suck lollipops for cookies" T? Or the fact that' I'm consistently checking out your arse?" Merlin paused and frowned. "I didn't mean to say that."
"You check out my arse?"
Merlin blushed and turned away. "Well, it's a really good arse."
"You should go to bed, I'll be fine," Merlin said after Arthur had sobered down.
"No. I don't think I will, and I'm not quite sure you are. I'll be staying here if it's all the same to you."
"But you'll get a crick in your neck."
Arthur shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time."
"Shut up Merlin and go to sleep."
"Fine." It was quiet for long minutes. "Are you going to sit there all night and stare at me?"
"Oh." Merlin went silent again. "Well, you mind as well come lay down. At least it won't be so creepy then."
Arthur couldn't see how him laying down next to Merlin, a half naked Merlin at that, and watching him would be less creepy than sitting in the chair and watching him. But Arthur was tired, his body ached, and he really wanted to be close to Merlin. So he tugged off his trainers, pulled his jumper and undershirt over his head and crawled into the bed beside Merlin without a fight.
The bed was large enough that they didn't have to touch; only Merlin didn't seem to care about that. He rolled closer to Arthur the moment he was settled into the bed until they were touching in at least one place.
"Night, Arthur," Merlin sighed.
He liked Arthur!
Which, okay, he was starting to get along with the prat. And they didn't seem to argue as much as they once did; it had been nearly a month since they had an argument that contained any real heat behind it. But Merlin didn't actually like him. Except he did. A lot! It was one of those, not like but like, like things….were Merlin was beginning to spend an abnormal amount of time wondering about how big Arthur's cock was and whether it was pretty or not. And…okay, so that also wasn't anything really new but….but now it was more than that. Merlin was starting to find himself thinking about Arthur at random moments and talking about the prat more than he should. And anytime he and Arthur were in the same room, Merlin would spend long moments just looking at Arthur before realizing what he was doing and pulling his eyes away before he got caught.
In other words; HE LIKED ARTHUR!
It had been two weeks since this epiphany, when he had awoken with Arthur's chest pressed against his back and Arthur's arms wrapped around his waist. Merlin had given a much undignified squeak of surprise when he turned to see the other man in his bed and had promptly to fallen out of the bed. He was sure he'd been more embarrassed before, he just couldn't think of anything.
Now Merlin was unsure of what to do now. It was making him nervous and when he got nervous, he got clumsy, more so than he already was. He knew that Freya was getting tired of him breaking the dishes and would more than likely shove him in her stove if he was to do it again (Gwen all the more happy to help, seeing as how Merlin's new nervousness also seemed to come with the attention span of a gnat and he had turned all the linen pink).
It didn't help that Arthur went around smirking and smiling at him, all secretive and sexy, sometimes looking at Merlin like he wanted to jump him. The little touches Arthur brushed against is skin when no one was looking was giving him heart palpations.
He was bound to die of lust and nerves.
Currently he was sitting behind the reception desk not really doing much of anything besides trying to figure out what the hell he was suppose to do with Arthur now. The in was filled to capacity and they had to turn away guest,not wanting to chance being shut down from the fire chief. It was noon and most of the guests were out either shopping in Camden or on the mountain. Freya was cooking in the kitchen and Merlin's stomach growled at the scent of fresh baked biscuits and ginger bread and home brewed stew.
Arthur was somewhere or other. Merlin had seen him talking quietly with Morgana earlier, her head thrown back in laughter and her hand on his arm. She had been standing far too close for Merlin's liking, but Arthur had said he didn't like Morgana, even though Merlin didn't totally believe him (she was just too beautiful for Arthur to not be at least a little attracted to her). It was the scowl on Arthur's face that had settled Merlin into believing nothing was going on, at least not then, and he had went about his day. Now he was sitting here, a bundle of nerves over the prat.
It was then that Gwaine popped up. Merlin figured he must have come through the door, but he hadn't seen the tall, dark-haired man enter –not that that was surprising.
"What are you doing?" Gwaine asked.
"Yeah, looks like nothing." Gwaine hopped up to sit his arse on the desk.
"Gwen will kick you in the bollocks for that."
"Gwen loves me," Gwaine said, resting his booted feet on the arm of Merlin's chair. Snow covered the sole and it was quickly melting, leaving behind pools of water on the arm chair and the floor.
"Keep thinking that." Merlin pushed away his feet. "What are you doing here?"
"Bored. Came to see the tourists."
"It's not a zoo."
Gwaine shrugged. "Could be. So, Gwen told me about your boy."
"Arthur isn't my…" He paused and looked up at a smirking Gwaine. "I mean 'what boy?'".
He smirked. "So, Arthur's his name, is it? I hear he's okay looking."
Merlin snorted. He wouldn't actually say Arthur was okay looking. Gorgeous. Hot. Embodiment of sexy maybe. But not okay.
"Oh, you like him. You really, really like him," Gwaine sung as he teased a blush out of Merlin.
"No. So I guess that means Gilli's done for then? Good, he was kind of creepy."
"He was not creepy. And we were never together."
"So you keep saying."
He leaned forward so that his elbows were on his knees and rested his chin on his curled fists, putting his face closer to Merlin's. Merlin paid him no attention. This was something Gwaine always did.
"Mer…." It was Arthur's voice and Merlin turned his head to catch Arthur looking at them with his mouth open before he snapped it shut and his face turned red. "Sorry to interrupt."
"Arthur!" Merlin scrabbled back from Gwaine, managing to knock his chair over with himself still in it.
"So this is Arthur." Merlin looked at Gwaine, who hadn't moved from flat on his back. He watched as the man angled his head so that his curtain of hair brushed over his shoulder as he too in Arthur. "'S'okay, I guess."
"Shut up Gwaine." Merlin said at the man as he fought his way onto his feet. "Arthur, I…..did you want something?"
Arthur frowned. "Yes. Gwen was looking for you."
"I don't know. She didn't really say."
"Okay." He smoothed a nervous hand over his pink jumper. "Did you want something?"
Arthur looked to Gwaine whom, it seemed, had moved to stand behind Merlin without Merlin's notice. He placed a warm palm on Merlin's hip.
Merlin wanted to kill him.
"No," Arthur said, jaw tensing. "No, I don't."
"Arthur…." But the other man was already leaving without a backward glance.
"I hate you," Merlin said pushing Gwaine away.
"Ah, come one Merlin! I was just have a bit of fun," He called to Merlin's retreating form.
Merlin was sure that Arthur didn't think so. No doubt the confusing situation between the two of them was bound to get even more confusing.
Arthur was avoiding him and Merlin didn't like it. A small voice in his head said that maybe he deserved it for when he had ignored Arthur. Merlin forcefully told that voice to shut up.
Arthur decided he didn't like Gwaine.
Morgana claimed him to be jealous and Leon, along with Lancelot and Percy, agreed. Arthur had taken to glaring at them all for the past hour, and really, he didn't see how Lancelot had room to talk. The man became jealous of a wall if it got to close to Gwen.
And besides, Arthur had perfectly good reasons to not like Gwaine that had nothing to do with Merlin. Not that he would ever be jealous over Merlin – if Gwaine wanted the bony bloke….Arthur couldn't even lie to himself enough to even finish that sentence. Still….
And he was way too charming. He reminded Arthur of the slimy son of a duke that he had the unfortunate luck to have met last year. The man fancied himself to be a snake charmer and had ogled his mother for most of the night before proceeding to try to get into Arthur's trousers.
Arthur figured that's what you got when you named your child Valiant.
And okay, maybe Gwaine was good looking, if you went for that whole tanned and fit like a fucking statue thing. And he had really good hair, Arthur could admit. But other than that Arthur could find no other redeeming quality about the man.
He had gotten tired of all the Gwaine mess and had abandoned the Inn, vaguely he wondered if anyone ever did any actually work, and wandered outside before he found himself in the small garden behind the Inn nestled between the edges of the forest. It was clean, with a small fountain in the middle surrounded by flowers that had died beneath the frost of winter.
Snow and ice crunched beneath his feet and he was beginning to think that he should have brought a coat with him; his jumper made out of cotton was highly inadequate to keep him warm.
There was a gazebo made out of some type of light wood. It was old, but looked to be structurally sound. Snow had built up on the roof and was dripping slowly off the edges where icicles had formed. The snow was piled around the gazebo and some had made it inside, surrounding the bench.
Arthur swept at the thin layer of snow that covered the surface of the bench, clearing it away before sitting.
The cold air tingle his throat and chilled his lungs when he breathed causing a sharp sensation. It was enough to pull his thoughts away from Merlin and Gwaine.
He tucked his hands in the pockets of his jeans and gazed at the frozen fountain lost in thought.
"Here." A coat was thrust into his view, the hand holding it was pale and the wrist it was attached to looked fragile and thin.
"Thanks." He took the coat, glancing up to find Merlin before him.
His mouth pulled into a sour frown before he was able to stop it.
Merlin sighed, shoving his hands into his coat pockets and looking away.
"Did I do something?" he asked after Arthur had managed to shrug into the coat.
"Really? Then why won't you talk to me? Hell, you hardly even look at me."
Arthur looked now, with narrowed eyes.
"Glaring isn't the same as looking. Glaring is like…." Merlin trailed off. "Is this all because of Gwaine?"
Arthur huffed. "As if."
"I'm not with Gwaine."
"I never said you were," Arthur said.
Merlin sighed again, slouching his shoulders.
"I'm fine. Maybe I just have nothing to say to you."
"Bullshit." Merlin moved closer. "You know what? Screw you!"
"No, if you want to just ignore me, than screw you."
"Oh, so it's okay for you to ignore and avoid people when you feel like it. But when I do it….."Arthur stopped and clenched his teeth.
He stood and brushed past Merlin, halting when he feels the Merlin's hand on his arm.
"Piss off Merlin."
The pub was just like any other pub in Camden; dim lights and dark wood and a sticky floor. An Irish song played over the sound system, people mingled in booths that lined the walls and sat with pints and baskets of chips and crisps at the tables that crowded the middle of the floor.
A guy seated at the edge of the bar kept eying Merlin, and had even sent over a pint for him. He was cute with a uni look, wearing a green polo and a khakis. Merlin was tempted, but the rusty blonde wasn't quite right, and the blue eyes weren't the right shade.
And it pissed him off to no end that he couldn't even ogle men without the thought of Arthur invading.
A shot glass clinked off the polished wood of the bar in front of him and Merlin raised his eyes from where he was lazily drawing his finger through the water condensation to find Gwaine looking at him.
Gwaine man raised one sharp eyebrow and nodded his head, not taking his eyes off of Merlin until the younger man downed the shot of tequila, following it closely with a quick sip of his Larger.
"Okay there Merlin?"
Merlin made a non-committal sound as his throat kept working until half of the cool glass had been downed into his mostly empty stomach.
"Let me guess. It has something to do with that pretty boy of yours."
"He's not mine. And you're one to talk about pretty boys, Gwaine."
Gwaine waved that off and basically ignored the 'pretty' comment' as he wiped down the bar with a black dust rag that looked to have seen better days. A patron attempted to gain his attention, a pretty red-haired thing in a short leather skirt and a crimson blouse opened to reveal so much cleavage that Merlin wondered why she'd bothered with the blouse at all. He also thought that she must have frozen her arse off on the way to the pub.
It said something about how Merlin must look that Gwaine only took a moment to gaze at her with appreciation before turning back to his friend and allowing the other bartender to tend to her needs.
"So what did he do?"
"I didn't say it had anything to do with him," Merlin felt the need to point out.
"You also didn't dispute my claim." Gwaine leaned further in, elbows on the bar, and cupping his chin in his hands. "Come and tell Gwaine-y all about him."
"You know, I'd so shag you if you weren't such a whore," Merlin said instead, and knowing that he meant no offense, Gwaine merely smiled and replied "And I'd let you if you weren't such a sappy twink."
"I thought we just settled that that wasn't going to happen."
Merlin frowned and went back to drinking the rest of his Larger.
"Give me another." He demanded with a tap of his glass.
"You haven't eaten yet," Gwaine said. "How about I send to the kitchen for a sandwich and chips, yeah." He didn't wait for Merlin's reply, signaling through the small window to the kitchen. He turned to write up the ticket and hand it to the kitchen hand that was waiting.
"I'm not hungry," Merlin said.
"I don't remember asking. You'll eat or I'll drag you out of here and take you to your mother's."
"Fine." He gave in. "No need to threaten me."
"You know, I don't think Hunith would appreciate that you think going to visit is a punishment."
"Shut up, Gwaine."
Gwaine bit his lip and managed to keep silent for all of thirty seconds. It had to be a new record.
"So are you going to tell me what that clotpole did to make you upset so I can go and kick his arse or what?"
"Or what," Merlin grumbled. "Besides, I'm pretty sure it was my fault. Or whether your fault. No, mostly your fault."
"Yes you. With your touching me and everything."
Gwaine blinked. "So he's jealous."
"Jealousy is a good thing Merlin." He turned to kitchen at the sound of the bell ringing and grabbed the basket from the window, turning back around and placing it in front of Merlin.
"How?" Merlin asked as he picked at the chips. Salt and grease coated his fingers and he licked it off before picking up one of the fried potatoes and eating it whole.
"It means he cares."
"Sure as hell didn't sound like he cared when he was telling me to piss off."
Gwaine said. "He did what?"
"Gwaine, this is your fault remember."
"Hunh, so you say. Anyways, you shouldn't worry. Arthur likes you."
"Well maybe I don't like him." Merlin said.
"Yeah. Sure. Okay."
"Shut it, Gwaine."
Arthur was asleep, or at least he was trying to sleep, he wasn't having much success. But Pendragon's were nothing if not stubborn and Arthur resolutely refused to be denied sleep. He wanted to sleep. He needed to sleep. Even if he was pretty sure that his dreams would be filled with Merlin.
Merlin. Big eared. Kind hearted. Too damn good looking for Arthur's piece of mind/ Merlin.
He supposed that maybe he had been a little to harsh with Merlin earlier in the garden. His only excuse was he never had to deal with jealousy before. He was the crowned prince of Avalon; people fell over themselves to please him. He had everything and anything he could ever wanted and if by chance something existed that he didn't already have in his possession he could, have it with a snap of his fingers.
Merlin was different. A voice in the back of his mind told him that was only because Merlin didn't know who he truly was. Arthur made the voice shut up. He didn't want to believe that. Merlin was different, Arthur knew that. He wouldn't fawn over Arthur the prince anymore than he did Arthur Penn the commoner. Then again, Arthur smiled; he did fall when he first met Arthur.
Arthur let out a chuckle before sobering. It probably wasn't normal the amount of time he spent thinking about Merlin.
He was just beginning to drift off to sleep when he door was shoved open and his pillow was snatched from beneath his head.
"What the-" He sputtered as he was hit in the face with his pillow. "What the hell?"
"Arthur Pendragon, you bastard!" Morgana yelled, hitting him again with the pillow.
"Morgana, what the hell is your problem?"
Her shouting and his annoyed yelling brought Leon and Lancelot running, both armed with guns, Arthur wondered how they were able to get onto the plane.
"Oh, it's only Morgana," Leon observed, lowering his gun.
"Help me." Arthur demanded as he tried to fend off the pillow.
"Um, no," Lance replied. "Looks like you've got this handled." And then he left.
"Bastards," Arthur said as he was finally able to get a hold of the pillow. He wrenched it out of Morgana's hands, threw it across the room, and grabbed her arms, pulling her towards him. The momentum sent her staggering forward and Morgana used it to her advantage, crawling onto the bed and kneeling above him. Of course, that was when Merlin showed up.
"Arthur, are you…." The sound of his voice made Arthur whip his head around to find him standing there wide eyed and in linen pyjamas looking sleepy.
"Oh, um, I'm sorry. I thought….I thought…obviously what I thought was wrong seeing as," He stopped, and though Arthur couldn't see him clearly through the dark, he knew Merlin was frowning. "Right," he said before turning and leaving.
"Thank you for that Morgana." Arthur said as he pushed her off him. She bounced on impact with the mattress and was flung off the bed. "Now he probably thinks I'm shagging you."
Arthur groaned, flopping back and shoving his head into the mound of pillows before tossing his arms over his eyes.
"Arthur-" She began, but Arthur cut her off.
"Did you actually want something during this pleasant visit?"
She sat down on the bed, causing Arthur to bounce on the mattress.
"I didn't mean…"
"What did you want Morgana?" Arthur said.
"Don't get bitchy Arthur." Morgana snapped. "I'll talk to Merlin and tell him it wasn't…"
"You'll do no such thing. This is none of your business, so stay out of it. Now why did you feel the need to beat me with my pillow?"
"I was talking with Gwen and she said that Merlin had gone to the pub and got pissed and that he was upset and it had something to do with you. So I was coming to talk to you about it-."
"Yes. Talk. That part must have gotten lost in the pillow beating." Arthur said bitterly. "Now Merlin will probably avoid me again."
What a mess.
"I didn't know he would come in and…I'm your cousin for god sake, it's not like we did anything." She huffed.
"He doesn't know that you're my cousin Morgana. You're just some guest that he found in my room, which is probably against the rules, so not only will he go back to ignoring me but he'll probably fire me now. Nice going Morgana. Try explaining that to my father."
"I already apologized, Arthur."
He narrowed his eyes. "You can't just go around hitting people when you feel like it. You can't just hit me when you feel like it. I'll be your king soon."
"Fine Arthur. Whatever."
"No, not fine. There was a reason you were sent to anger management Morgana."
Now she was scowling. "Piss off Arthur." She said before moving off the bed and flouncing out of the room.
"Great. Now they're both mad at me." Arthur only hoped that Morgana would stop talking to him as well. He figured he could survive without speaking with her for some time, or, you know, forever.
It was two days before Christmas. The Inn was full and warm and smelled of cider and cinnamon. Everyone had been busy with the influx of guest and preparing for the annual Christmas party set to take place tomorrow. Will's mother owned a very nice restaurant and she would be catering. The party was as much for the guest as it was the employees. And Merlin was using it as an excuse to avoid Arthur. He told himself that he was too busy to be bothered with dealing with Arthur. So far he was believing himself.
He had been avoiding Morgana as well; ducking all her attempts to corner him. Merlin felt a little bad about it, but he honestly had nothing to say to her and he sure as hell didn't want to hear anything she had to say. It didn't elude him that he was acting like a wounded lover. But he didn't care much about that, focusing instead on watching the show Gwen and Lance were putting on; dancing around each other like skittish, coming close only to jump away from each other again.
Merlin told Gwen they were pathetic. Gwen replied that Merlin had no room to speak, seeing as how all his encounters with Arthur tended to end with Merlin on the floor. He called her a bitch, she pointed out that he was one to, then they both watched Morgana and Percy.
The party had been going on for two hours by the time Merlin spotted Gilli. He was leaning against a wall in the dining, drink in hand. His hair was jelled back as always and lime green. He wore a wool sweater that was mostly red with a big Christmas tree on the front and small ornaments adorning the sleeves. His eyes were lined with eye liner and he wore his dog collar around his neck.
Merlin had to admit it wasn't his best look.
He spent ten minutes trying to figure out if he should go over. Another three worrying about Arthur spotting him if he did, and another two fretting over what Arthur would think if he did see Merlin with Gilli. Not that he was ashamed to be seen with Gilli, even in his new very unflattering outfit.
He was chewing on his thumb nail and trying to spot Arthur when Will found him.
He protested with an indignant squawk as the scrawny bloke took him by the arm and all but dragged him to a small unoccupied corner of the room.
"What the hell, Will?"
"What the hell, Merlin?" Will parroted back, a scowl on his face and arms crossed over his chest. "I leave you alone for a couple of days and you start shagging the blond prat!"
Merlin blinked. Wondered. Then…."Gwaine." It's not a question.
"He says you and the prat are–"
"Gwaine needs to stop gossiping like a school girl," Merlin interrupts though Will never ceased talking.
"And that you were in the pub crying into your pint."
"He's also a liar." He had not cried, only sulked a little.
"Merlin, what are you doing?" Will asked, genuinely concerned. "You barely know the bloke."
Merlin frowned. "I don't need relationship advice from you, Will." The last woman Will had somehow managed to somehow talk into agreeing to go home with him had thrown a brick through the windshield of his less than prime Volkswagen Bug.
"Oh! So it's a relationship now, is it?"
"You can tell me these sorts of things, you know?"
"The last time I mentioned I was dating someone, you pretended to throw up. Forgive me if I didn't want to be subjected to that again."
"Well, I don't wan to hear all the sappy stuff. And if you try to tell me what you poufs do beneath the sheets, I'll be tempted to stab someone. But it would be good to know that my best friend is dating some pompous arse so that I can do the whole threatening thing."
"That's exactly the reason I didn't mention it." And the fact that Merlin was pretty sure Arthur wouldn't take Will's attempt at threatening all that well.
Will ignored that. "Oh look! There's lover boy now!" And he pointed with the hand not holding a bottle of brew over Merlin's right shoulder.
Merlin turned his head just in time to see Arthur being dragged into the secluded alcove beneath the staircase by some blond tart that Merlin had never seen before.
"Sure you don't want me to do the threatening thing?" Will asked with a quirked eyebrow.
Vivian Burnham was the daughter of Lord Burnham. She had a reputation in their circles as being a bit a slut and such an airhead as to offend balloons. She wore revealing clothing, high heels, too much makeup and too much perfume. Arthur had made a mistake of dating her once.
It turned into three months of hell.
Arthur's heart nearly stopped when he spotted her in ski-bunny gear standing in the dining room of the Destin Inn and talking to Percy. He had no idea why the hell she was there? Vivian was more of beaches in Spain and Morocco type of girl. She didn't even like cold weather, let alone actual skiing.
Arthur ducked behind the tree just as she turned his way. If Vivian learned he was there the whole world would know before he could say merry Christmas.
Minutes ticked by and Arthur began to think himself in the clear, only to hear a high pitch voice that made his teeth clench. him clenched and to see A blond head peaked through tree branches.
"Oh Arth-y pooh! It is you!" Vivian shimmed around the tree and attached herself to Arthur like a forgotten limb. "I knew it was. I'd know you anywhere."
"Vivian," Arthur groaned harshly as he tried to dislodge her without dislodging his arm from its socket.
She cooed at him in a way that he'd always detested, clinging tighter to him and running her free hand down the front of his button up.
"What are you doing here Arth-y pooh?" Vivian asked in what Arthur had no doubt that she thought was a seductive voice, but he found grating to his ears. Short lashes blinked as she peered up at him with large, owlish brown eyes. He didn't find them nearly as enticing as Merlin's blue eye, or his long lashes.
To think of it, Arthur no longer found anyone as enticing as Merlin.
"I needed a bit of a getaway. What are you doing here? Skiing isn't really your scene, last
I recall," Arthur said as a way to deflect. It works. Vivian liked nothing more than to talk about herself.
She nattered on about something or other – Arthur couldn't be made to care – before rounding back to him.
"So, all that twitter about you and that bloke…?"
"Really Vivi." Arthur pulled out the nickname that never felled to make the blond giggle.
"Do you really think that I like blokes?" He glanced around hurriedly; checking to see where Merlin was, before brushing the cheek nearest him with the back of his fingers.
"Don't you remember all the fun we had together?"
She blushed and batted at him with one dainty hand. "Of course I do. No one's even matched up to you, you know." Her eyes darkened in confusion. "But, all those pictures?"
"Baby," he said elusively.
"Yes. You're right of course. Lies. All of it." She came to her own conclusion. "I told of them, you know. I told them that there was no way that Prince Arthur was a poof."
He smiled slightly and turned his head when she aimed to place a kiss on his mouth.
Vivian giggled quietly like they were sharing a secret before taking his arm and dragging him away from the tree, past crowds of people, and into the alcove where Merlin had yelled at him when he'd first arrived.
Ten seconds later he was twirled, pressed up against something solid that he was half-certain was a wall with Vivian plastering herself to his front and minutes away from attacking his neck, he was sure.
Of course that's when Merlin arrives.
Arthur wondered if they were fighting. It kind of sounded like they were fighting, and he felt tense and angry like he usually did when fighting. Not that he had ever dated anyone long enough, or gotten serious enough, to get to the arguing and fighting part. Still…
"It's not what it looks like," Arthur said once again. Vivian had been sent away by a perturbed Merlin. Perturbed may not have been the most appropriate word for Merlin's current state, seeing as how there was a vein on the verge of bursting in his neck and his eyes were starting to redden and water. Arthur was pretty sure he was bloody well passed the point of perturbed.
"Really? Then please tell me what else it could have been Arthur!"
Merlin was getting louder and beginning to attract attention from the couple nearest them who in turn begin to whisper to bodies close by. Arthur made the decision that they should move before they become the night's entertainment and took Merlin by the arm to direct him further down the hall to where he knew a supply closet to be. It turns into Arthur more or less dragging Merlin as the other man was reluctant to say the least.
He none too gently shoved Merlin into the small space before pulling the door closed behind them, not missing the snick sound of it locking.
"Please tell me it's not locked?" Merlin asked the question as though he really did not want to hear the answer.
"Its fine," Arthur said turns. He rattled the knob, then rattled it some more when it didn't open.
"That's great, Arthur. Real great."
It was Boxing Day and most of the guest had cleared out, they were either shopping, skiing, or had checked out altogether. Merlin had spent the previous day cleaning with Gwen and Arthur; he had been surprised that Arthur had volunteered to help with the cleaning. Gwen said it was all for Merlin's benefit. Merlin agreed. Though he had no idea why seeing as how he had spent nearly twenty minutes all but yelling at Arthur before
Gwen found them and let them out with a blush on her cheeks and a twinkle in her eye. Then again, it may have had something to do with the marathon make-out session that had succeeded the shouting.
Now he was lying recently awoken in his bed, body aching from its workout. He stared at his ceiling for long moments, thinking about nothing in particular before he figured he best be getting up. Flipping away the comforter he stood slowly, gasping when he bare feet touched the cold wood floor. Quickly he went to into his en-suite, using the toilet before disrobing and hopping into the shower. He took his time, lathering with body was that smelt of cinnamon and washing his hair.
Getting out and tying a towel around his waist he moved to the sink, wiping away Getting out and tying a towel around his waist he moved to the sink, wiping away condensation before retrieving his razor and shaving gel from the cabinet. He lathered up his face and neck, running the razor up his neck and over his chin. On the fourth swipe he nicked himself. Cursing he washed the blood from his razor before looking to the mirror to clean himself.
Through the mirror was an image of a bedroom, done in cream and white. Two bodies rested on the bed, entwined and bare.
The image changed and the two figures were standing side by side on a balcony as people below chanted. 'Long live the King! Long live the King!"
It was Arthur, Merlin realized. He looked more gorgeous than he normal did, eyes shining and hairgolden beneath the press of the crown.. He smiled, all white teeth and kissable red lips.
"I love you…."
Merlin was pulled away from the image by the sound of someone knocking on his bedroom door. Just as before, the memory of the image quickly faded and soon he was left standing before the sink in a daze. Shaking his head, Merlin tightened the towel around his waist and went to answer the door. It was just his luck that it was Arthur. Seeing the man picked at the distance memory.
"Um, are you busy?" Arthur asked, craning his neck, trying to see into the room behind Merlin.
"No. Just got out of the shower," He mumbled.. He was still a little confused and didn't quite know what to do. He figured letting Arthur in was a good start. "You can come in. I need to get dressed."
Arthur only nodded, his eyes glued to Merlin's exposed chest.
Merlin blushed, turning away and quickly finding clothing in the chest of drawers and scurrying into the bathroom. He dropped his towel, pulled on his pants and a pair of trousers before realizing that he'd forgotten a shirt. He turned to the mirror to find that half of his face was shaved.
Just great. Another reason for Arthur to think he was an idiot.
As fast as he was able, he found his razor and shaved, managing not to nick himself again. He brushed his teeth, ran a comb through his hair, and applied lotion to his arms and chest before going back to the bedroom and searching through the small narrow closet for a shirt. When he turned, it was to find Arthur behind him looking at him with dark eyes.
"You are beautiful," Arthur breathed.
"I..." Merlin gulped and nearly swallowed his tongue when Arthur reached out with one steady hand and brushed the line of his neck with only the tips of his fingers.
"Merlin." He trailed his fingers down Merlin's neck and across his shoulders, tracing down his biceps, to tickle at his palms. "Oh God, I want you."
Merlin wholeheartedly agreed.
They were leaning close to each other, lips millimeters apart. Of course, that was when someone felt the need to knock at the door. Two quick knocks and then the door was being pushed open.
Simultaneously, they turned their heads to see Gwen standing in the doorway.
"Hullo, Gwen. Come right in Gwen. Not busy at all."
Gwen smiled sheepishly. "Sorry. But in my defense, it's not every day that you have a guy in your room. I mean, how long has it been since you been laid exactly?" She was babbling as she tended to do when nervous. "Has to have been…."
"Shut up, Gwen!" Merlin said to drown out her words. He didn't exactly like the way Arthur was smiling at him. All smug and knowing. Bastard prat.
"Oops. Sorry, Merlin."
"Whatever," he said, not unkindly. "Did you want something?"
"Oh, um..." She glanced at Arthur, then back at him, and blushed. "Nope. Never mind."
"What was it Gwen."
"Nothing," she said vehemently. "It no longer matters. Did I interrupt something?"
"Yes," Arthur said.
"No," Merlin said.
Merlin cleared his throat. "Um..."
"I just came to see if Merlin was busy. I thought we could spend the day together." He looked at Merlin expectantly.
"Oh, um, I have to work and so do you, so…"
"No, no." Gwen interrupted. "We can cover everything. Go ahead."
Merlin hesitated. "Gwen, really…"
"Go Merlin, you deserve a break."
Okay then. "If you're sure."
"Yes, I'm sure. Now go."
"Okay." Merlin looked at Arthur. "Let's go. See you later, Gwen."
He started for the bedroom door only to be stopped my Arthur's hand on his arm.
"As much as I enjoy seeing you without a shirt on, I think one is needed. Might also want to get a coat."
Merlin's faced heated up.
"Distracted?" Arthur asked smirking.
Their date – was it a date? Arthur was pretty sure it was – consisted off a walk through the small park a block away, sandwiches at the only decent café in town, and meeting Merlin's mum. The last part hadn't been planned. Mrs. Emrys….Hunith, please….was a nice kind woman who had a taste for pickled ham. She quiet literally bumped into Arthur while exiting the café.
The date turned into an hour with Hunith, a late movie, and ice cream.
The ice cream was the most enjoyable part, as he got to watch Merlin's tongue in action as it licked all over the cone and sucked in Merlin's fingers when the ice cream had started to melt.
Now they were back at the inn standing in front of Merlin's close door.
"I had fun," Merlin said, eyes bright from with his left over sugar high. He lean in close and Arthur could smell the sweetness of vanilla on his breath.
"Yeah, me too," Arthur said.
Merlin moved in closer until his lips were an inch apart from Arthur's. Arthur wanted to kiss him then more than he had ever wanted anything in his life.
"Good night, Arthur," Merlin said, his breath smoothing over Arthur's lips, making him shiver, before he pulled back and quickly went into his room, leaving Arthur standing in the hall wondering what had just occurred….
Two Weeks later.
It's their first kiss, and it's far from perfect. What with the rain and being soaked to the bone and the shivering so hard that it takes all of his concentration to keep from knocking his teeth against Arthur's….and wouldn't that just be great. It's sloppy and all wet lips but no tongue, though somehow there are teeth and the nip at the bottom of his lips sends a spark of pleasure racing up his spine.
No. The kiss is not perfect, but it's him and it's Arthur and…..and….and Arthur's pulling back and away and staring with wide eyes and if it wasn't for the fact that the kissing had been all Arthur's doing in the first place, Merlin would be panicking, thinking that Arthur was regretting it. Though, as it is, when he turns his head and spots what has Arthur looking like Bambi faced with the hunter's rifle, he begins to panic for a whole another reason.
"Merlin," Arthur whispers as though he's afraid that he's going to spoke something. His eyes dance back and forth, lingering on the pathway they had followed. And, yeah, Merlin can hear the party in full swing and knows that if someone were to stumble upon them at the moment, there would be no way to explain this.
At least no explanation that his fogged filled brain can come up with. He blamed Arthur for that.
"Yup," Merlin says with a slight nod.
Brian was sitting on the edge of the fountain, a fountain that was full of golden water. Merlin thinks that could be explained away with food coloring or whatever, but the red roses spouting about their feet were another story. Merlin may not know a lot about gardening, but he was pretty sure that roses didn't bloom in the middle of December.
"You. Are. Such. A. Blouse," Arthur said after a moment with a huge smile.
"No really. I think I might have to check to see if you're really a man now."
"Hmm. You just want in my pants."
Arthur woke suddenly, his body curled around Merlin's; skin warm and flush and naked. Arthur smiled at the memory of last night before wondering what had woken him. It didn't take him long before he realized it was his phone. He groaned, taking a moment before reaching over to grab it off the night stand.
"Your Highness?" The voice asked uncertain.
"Yes. Who is….Alisha?"
Alisha was his father's personal assistance. She did everything and anything for the crown. Kept track of his father's schedule and his father. She also headed the media department for the crown, and made sure to smooth over whatever new scandal Arthur or Morgana had created. Arthur knew that secretly she hated him. He was also fairly certain she was a robot.
"Yes, your Highness."
"Why are you calling me at….what time is it?"
"Four a.m. your Highness. At least, that is what I believe the time would be where you are currently."
"What's wrong? Why are you calling?" Because something must be wrong if she was calling Arthur so late. Or well, so early.
"It's your father, sire. He has been admitted to the hospital."
Arthur jerked up in bed. "Why?"
"He had a heart attack. It was mild, and the doctor says there wasn't much damage down and that he shall be fine. I meant to speak with you earlier…."
"No. It's fine." He probably wouldn't have answered earlier.
Arthur glanced at the sleeping Merlin.
"There's something else." Arthur cringed at that. "It seems that your location is no longer secret. I'd say that you can expect the frenzy to be in full affect by the time you get up."
Arthur groaned. Just what he needed.
"I thought it was best to warn you. And to tell you about your father before you were ambushed by it tomorrow."
"Thank you, Alisha."
"You're welcome your Highness. Goodnight."
He pressed the button to end the call on the phone before flopping back onto the bed.
He had to go home. There was no way around it. Sighing, he rolled onto his side so that he could gaze at Merlin. He also had to tell Merlin the truth. Tell him that he, Arthur, had been lying to him all this time. He only hoped that Merlin would understand.
He brushed a kiss over Merlin's cheek and lips before rolling out of bed, his phone already dialing Lancelot.
"Do you know what time it is?"
Arthur rolled his eyes.
"We need to go home. Call the pilot. Have him here by the morning. Well leave at noon."
"Later, Lance. Later."
There was a huff of breath.
"I know. I know." He looked back towards the bed. "He'll hate m
Merlin woke up to an empty bed and shouting outside his bedroom window. Neither of these things endeared themselves to Merlin.
Even though he knew what he would find, he patted the other side of the bed, frowning. Where the hell did Arthur go and what the bloody hell was that racket?
Rolling out of bed, he pulled on the pants that were pooled on the floor, before padding to the window. The sun was shining high, snow was softly falling, and there was a crowd of people gathered below with cameras and signs saying things like 'I LOVE YOU ARTHUR' and 'MARRY ME, MY PRINCE.' There were other signs, but Merlin didn't care to think on them. He had no idea how people were able to sprout such hateful nonsense.
"Arthur?" He whispered to the empty room. "What the hell is going on?"
Merlin was enclosed in his bedroom when Arthur found him, cuddled in a Snuggie upon his bed and eating a bag of crisps. It had been two days since he received the call from Alisha. Two days since he had left Merlin in alone in the bed that they had made love in with no word of where he had gone.
It was no surprise that Merlin didn't take his reappearance all that well. He was just thankful that nothing heavier than a pillow was near Merlin.
"Merlin," Arthur began as he bent down to pick up the pillow Merlin had thrown with prefect aim at Arthur as he'd entered the room.
"Oh, don't you dare try to apologize!" Merlin shouted, springing up from the bed as Arthur moved further into the room. "What the hell, Penn? You just…just left! And after we–" he broke off, resting a hand on his chest. Arthur could practically hear Merlin's heart breaking. "And then they," he whipped around to point out of the window, "show up. And there's all this hoopla over some Prince Arthur. And considering that your face is printed on half the shirts outside..."
"Merlin," Arthur tried again, willing with everything inside him for Merlin to shut up. The pain that laced his voice was palpable, and it made Arthur's heart clench and his stomach roll at the thought that he was the cause of it.
"What the hell, Penn?"
Ducking his head, Arthur rubbed at the back of his neck.
"It's not Penn, is it?" Merlin's voice quaked for the first time since he began speaking.
"No. It's not." Arthur forced his eyes to Merlin's. "It's Pendragon. Arthur Pendragon, Prince of Avalon." He swallowed hard. "It's nice to meet you."
"Oh, God," Merlin whispered sounding broken. "I knew it was more than likely true, but fuck I didn't want to believe it." Tears began to leak from the corners of his eyes, but Merlin wiped them away before they had a chance to fall. "So what the hell was all this, huh? Some fun experiment in the country? A game?"
"Merlin, no." It was Arthur's turn to sound broken and hurt. How could Merlin think that? Shouldn't he know him better that that?
It then occurred to Arthur that Merlin had no clue who he really was.
In a attempt to get him to understand, Arthur took a step towards Merlin, reaching out only to have Merlin jerk away until he was pressed against a wall.
"Merlin please, I lo-"
"Don't!" Merlin shouted. Blushing he cleared his throat. "Please don't," he said in a remarkably smaller voice. "Shouldn't you be leaving, anyway?"
Arthur opened his mouth to tell Merlin that, no, he didn't have anywhere else to be, that there was nowhere else he wanted to be, only to have a knock at Merlin's door interrupted, followed by the voice of Leon.
"Sire, we must be heading to the airport."
Arthur could hear the apology behind his words, but it didn't make Arthur want to hit him any less.
Arthur glanced at the other man over his should and dismissed him.
"Merlin," he said, turning back to face his love.
"Just go," Merlin said in a small voice, looking away from Arthur. "Go, Arthur," Merlin said when Arthur made no move to leave.
Arthur hesitated, then in one motion he turned and exited Merlin's room. And his life.
Merlin squeezed his eyes close, knocking his head back against the wall. Taking a deep breath, he made a move towards the bed, pausing as he caught sight of Arthur, watching as he his blond Prince entered a gleaming car that Merlin could never dream to even touch, yet alone afford.
He continued watching until the car pulled away from the curb, managing to hold back the fresh wave of tears until he was in the bed..
Arthur watched out of the small port window of the private jet as Ealdor passed below. It was far nicer than the plane he had arrived in the small town in. He had a glass of hard whiskey in one hand, and was seated a plush, beige leather seat that cradle his body. But he was more upset leaving that he had been arriving. His heart pounded painfully in his chest, sweat beaded on his forehead, and tears pricked the corners of his eyes.
"Merlin," He whispered as he gazed out of the window.
"Sire?" He looked up to find Alisha standing next to him, her red hair swept up in a twist with a few tendrils falling around the column of her neck. Her rimless glasses were perched on the bridge of her nose, and she peered down at him in worry.
"The Prime Minster is on the phone for you."
She held out a Blackberry in one hand and a note pad in the other.
He sighed. "Let the circus begin."
The insistent knocking at his bedroom door was starting to annoy him. Still, he made no move to answer it. He was curled up on his bed in cotton blue and grey pleated pajama pants and a shirt two sizes too long, which had belong to Arthur. His hair was more of a mess than usual and his face felt crusty. He had a carton of chocolate ice cream in his lap, half-empty now, seeing as how he had spent most of the day eating it. There was a bowl of cherry pits on his night stand next to a can of whip cream, a box of cinnamon crackers, and three bags of chips.
He had inherited his mother's habit of eating away his feelings.
"Go away, Gwen," Merlin said as more knocking sounded.
"No! Open the door!"
Merlin snorted. He didn't want to see her. He didn't want to see anyone.
Arthur was everywhere still, even after having pulled away from Merlin's life in a big, shiny arse Rolls-Royce. His face was splashed on the covers of the papers, the people in Ealdor were excited to have had a royal prince staying in their small town. The telly played never ending new features about Arthur, linking him with one duchess or another. Merlin was sick to death of seeing Arthur's arm wrapped around gorgeous women. So he had unplugged every telly in the inn that he could access, threw out all the papers, and locked himself away in his room. There were people still prowling the streets, paparazzi hoping to get scopes on Arthur's small town life, and fans wearing Arthur's face on their shirts.
Merlin wished they would all leave. Hadn't they heard that Arthur was no longer there?
His cell phone had been crushed to little pieces beneath his boot. It was filled with Arthur, pictures of Arthur, messages from Arthur. Arthur! Arthur! Arthur!
And everyone wanted to talk about him. His mum, Gwen, Gwaine, even Will, though Will was more gloating than comforting. He was no longer speaking with Will.
Merlin now wished that he had never introduced Arthur to his mum. He wished that he had never tripped over the prat. He should have sent him away the moment he arrived, no matter what Gaius had said.
He wished his heart wasn't hurting.
The media frenzy that surrounded him never failed to make him feel like an exhibit at the zoo. It seemed he was swarmed the moment his jet had touched the tarmac.
Camera's flashed in his face and questions were shouted at him; they had been followed all the way from the airport into Albion and the Lady of Saints hospital. His security team and the hospital security, as well as Camelot's police force, kept the hospital free of the gathering horde.
Enclosed inside the elevator and headed toward the tenth floor of the hospital, Arthur leaned against the wall. His head was aching and he could not stop thinking about Merlin, how Merlin had looked when he learned the truth – that Arthur had been lying to him.
Lancelot and Leon threw him worried looks that he ignored. They had not attempted to speak to him during the return trip, though he suspected that was only because he had been dealing with his father Cabinet members, assuring them that all was fine with his father even though he did not truly know that for himself.
Sighing and rubbing a hand over his forehead, Arthur pulled out his phone and scrolled down to Merlin's name. His finger hovered over the button before he changed his mind, shoved his phone back into his trousers pocket, and sighed again.
"Sire?" Lancelot questioned Arthur shook his head, the door of the elevator slid open with a ding of sound, and he stepped out onto the floor.
"Long day Lance. Long day."
His father was located in a ward that was mostly empty. Two Camelot officers in their navy blue and crimson red uniforms were stationed by the elevator, two more were further down, and four Excalibur security guards were posted right outside his door and at the end of the corridor. They all bowed slightly as he passed, though Arthur hardly paid them attention as he made his way to the door.
He hesitated at the wooden panel barrier, his breath caught in his throat, and he cleared it before reaching out to open the door. He was glad to still be wearing his sunglasses, he knew his eyes must have been red already; he had been unable to stop the tears on the plane when they had finally left Ealdor airspace.
Pushing his shoulders back, he steadied himself and went into the room.
His mother was sitting in a chair next to the bed; it was far more comfortable than Arthur knew would usually be found in a hospital. She was dressed in the royal red of the Pendragon's, a silk blouse hung on her in elegant waves, her pleated pants hugged her legs, and her feet looked dainty in a pair of open-toed sandals. Her hair was coifed, her makeup was perfect. She looked like a queen. Regal and beautiful.
"Mother." Arthur greeted her, moving to her quickly, he leaned down to kiss her on the cheek, careful not to smear her makeup.
"Arthur." Her voice wavered slightly, the only visible sign of her worry.
"How is he?"
Arthur looked at the bed, his father swathed in it, sleeping with an oxygen tube in his nose, and hooked at the monitors. He looked too vulnerable and fragile. It shook
Arthur to see his father and king as such. Uther was such a strong man that seeing him like this was surreal for Arthur.
"The doctor's say he shall be fine, but that he was lucky this time around." She covered her mouth with a hand, taking a moment before continuing. "I wasn't there."
"I should have been there." She was shaking now.
Arthur dismissed Lance and Leon and his mother's P.A. Ethan before going to her and kneeling before her.
"This is not your fault." "I know that. But knowing doesn't make me feel any better."
Arthur knew not how to comfort her when he was being consumed by his own guilt for not being present when his father had needed him the most. Instead he had been in bed with….Arthur forcefully jerked his thoughts from the route they were taking. He wouldn't think of Merlin, he couldn't, his family and country needed him.
Feeling the weight of his people upon his shoulders Arthur asked his mother,
"What do we do now?"
The days flew by in a blur, cabinet meetings, posing for the paparazzi and enduring interviews at Alisha's needling.
He thought about Merlin every day, had texted him to no vial, and called him with no better results. He checked his phone yet again as he strode into his father's study, with every intention to replied to some of the messages that had started to pile up in his inbox.
He pulled up short when he caught sight of his father sitting slouched behind his desk. Pale and clearly in pain, it was obvious that Uther should've been lying down and not fussing over the papers in his hands.
"Father–" Arthur began, only to cut himself off when Uther held up a picture. It was of him and Merlin. Arthur wasn't sure where he could he could have gotten it from, but that didn't matter. There was a something more pressing he was concerned about.
"That hasn't been printed, has it?" Arthur asked. He hadn't seen it, then again Lancelot and Leon were both making sure that the glossy pages stayed far from him.
"No. Alisha took care of it."
"Good." He wasn't concerned about himself; the media would say what the wanted to about him. He was angry for Merlin. Arthur had put Merlin through enough already. He his love deserved privacy, and Arthur would make sure he got it.
"Is he a 'no one' as well?"
Arthur swallowed, beginning to agree, to say Merlin meant nothing to him because Merlin couldn't mean anything to him. Arthur was expected to marry a lady and provide an heir. Merlin didn't fit into that picture. But he found he was unable to deny his feelings about Merlin, consequences be damned.
"I love him," Arthur said, voice strong and loud, sounding far more confident than he felt.
Uther sighed, running a weary hand down his face.
"Come sit." Uther beckoned and Arthur obeyed, taking a sit before the desk.
"Father," Uther corrected in interruption. "In this I am your father."
"I know I have disappointed you," Arthur said.
"You know no such thing," Uther said.
Arthur jerked his head up in surprise, taking his gaze from where he had fallen to the floor and resting it on Uther.
"It is not that I am so much disappointed. It is more that I am shocked. I will not deny being happy, although and I was angered when the first pictures appeared, but that was mostly at myself for not knowing before hand. I feel as though I have failed you, Arthur."
Uther waved away his words.
"Does this boy make you happy?"
"Yes," Arthur said. "I love him."
Uther smiled a little sadly. "Then far be it for me to break you apart." He laughed a little then at Arthur's shocked expression. "I once broke tradition and propriety by marrying your mother. I loved her too much to let old ways and small thinking to keep me from her. It would now be hypocritical of me to force you into a loveless marriage when I refused to do so myself."
Arthur didn't know what to say.
"If you love this man," Uther continued, "then I shall give you my blessing. It will take time, I believe, for me to becoming truly comfortable with the idea of my only son marrying another man, but I have come to realize that life is short Arthur, and I wish for you to have happiness in it."
"I….thank you, sire." Arthur said, sincerely grateful to his father.
Uther smiled again, this time brightly.
"So what is his name? When will you be bringing him to Camelot?"
"Merlin," Arthur said. "His name is Merlin. And I'm not sure he'll ever willingly set foot inside the country, let alone the palace."
"Ah, he did not to well to the truth about you?"
"No. Not that I can blame him." He laughed humorlessly. "I believe he hates me now."
"I doubt that. He may be angry, and certainly he's hurt, but love is not quickly replaced Arthur, not if it's true," Uther said. "You should go to him. I think you'll find his heart still wanting you."
Merlin hated Gwen. She had broken into his room, stolen his sweets and bodily dragged him into the shower, clothes and all, and turned on the cold water.
He got the message after that.
He buried himself in work and planting new flowers in the garden. The weather had broken two days ago and was steadily becoming warmer. It had been nearly three months since Arthur had left. Three months of Merlin living like a hermit in his room. Three months of heart ache.
"Merlin?" Freya called from the kitchen. Merlin loved Freya. She didn't coddle him like everyone else did, and she didn't look at him with pity and she never brought up Arthur.
Merlin sometimes wanted to kiss her.
"Yeah," Merlin called from the front entry. The winter tourist crowd had dispersed long ago, and the lingering fan club seemed to realized that Arthur wasn't coming back a few days after his departure. Apparently they were smarter than he was.
"I need you to pick up my order from the bakery. The delivery boy's sick or something."
"Okay." He went to retrieve a jacket from his room.
He stepped inside, crossed to the closet, and pulled out a denim jacket. He was turning to leave again when the telly snapped on. The telly Merlin was sure was unplugged.
"Welcome back to The Chat with Emery Grey," a bloke in a grey three piece suite said from the T.V. His hair was black and slicked back from his forehead, and his eyes seemed to be lined with liner. "As promised, I'm here with our regal Prince Arthur."
Merlin sucked in a breath, his heart beating faster; he was having a heart attack, he was sure of it.
"So are you gay?"
Arthur laughed, the sound tearing at Merlin's heart even more.
"I like men, Emery, yes. But I still find women very attractive and appealing." His smile was blinding.
"So is there someone special?"
Merlin knew he should turn it off now. He had feed his maschistic side enough for one day.
"Yes," Arthur said firmly, looking from the host towards the cameras so that it looked like he was looking straight and Merlin. "Yes, there is."
"Ah," The host perked up, moving to the edge of his seat and leaning forward, sensing a story.
As much as Merlin had been trying to ignore everything that had to do with Arthur, he had not been able to escape the fact that Arthur had never mentioned him in any of the interviews he had given. Gwen said it was because Arthur cared about him, and respected him, and didn't want his life to be invaded by the media storm. Merlin figured it was more likely that Arthur was ashamed of his small town affair.
"So, a bloke or a female?"
"A bloke. A nice looking bloke," Arthur said, his smile slipping a little. "Only I don't think he's happy with me at the moment."
Merlin didn't need to hear this. He jumped up and grabbed the remote and pressed the power button. Nothing happened.
"Tell me and my avid viewers about him."
Arthur chuckled. "He's wonderful….."
Merlin opened the remote, saw batteries, and tried again. Nothing!
"He's attractive, smart, funny….."
Come on, Come on, Merlin growled. He chucked the remote and tried to turn it off manually. Nothing! Argh!
"He thinks I'm a prat…."
Merlin went to pull out the damn plug and found that the telly wasn't even plugged in.
"He doesn't care about my title..." Arthur trailed off, and Merlin looked up to see a far away look on his face. "Well, he didn't know about my title."
"He probably hates me now."
"I doubt that's true, sire," the host said.
Arthur shook his head. "I hope you're right, Emery. Because I'm pretty sure that I'm in love with him."
Merlin gasped and fell over on his arse.
"Oh!" Apparently the host didn't think that was coming. "And tell us, Prince Arthur, what's the name of the man that has captured the elusive heart of our dear prince?"
Now Arthur laughed again. "I don't think so Emery. I just said I loved him, no way am I going to allow you or anyone else invade his life with this mess. He hates me enough already."
Two days later.
Brushing dirt off his jeans he, swiped at his brow as he looked at his newly planted Hydrangea shrub he had just planted, feeling accomplished and rewarded. He had left the bed at four this morning after hours of tossing and turning. He was ninety-nine percent certain that Arthur had been speaking about him, only he wasn't as sure that any of it had been real. The damn telly hadn't been plugged in!
His first impulse after the telly had flicked off was to go to Arthur. He quickly brushed that off as stupid. Then he wanted to go to Gwen, but he discarded that idea as well. Both of the decisions were the conclusion of the same reasoning, he could have imagined it. And if it had all been a figment of his fucked up mind….he couldn't chance it. So he'd done the next best thing. He planted flowers.
With the aid of his special gift, Merlin had the grounds looking alive and lush once again.
"Glad to see I can do something right," he said grumbled.
"Oh I think you can do a lot of things, well maybe not right exactly….."
Merlin gasped as the voice reached him. It couldn't be. He couldn't be here. He wouldn't be.
He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head, willing the voice to leave.
"Not even going to look at me?" The voice sounded hurt. "I was prepared for you not wanting to talk to me, but I hoping I'd at least be able to see your face."
Merlin could feel tears leaking out of his eyes, despite how hard he clenched them shut. His shoulders shook, and he knew a sob was coming.
A hand was placed on his shoulder, and Merlin let out a whimper.
"Please…" Merlin said, not knowing what he was begging for.
"Merlin." Arthur gently turned him around, and place a hand on his chin, tilting his face upward. "You're crying?" He frowned. "I know you're angry, but don't cry."
Merlin snorted. "Gosh, you're such an idiot."
"I know," Arthur said bitterly. "I know I lied to you, but…."
"Arthur?" Merlin said cutting him off.
The church is large and elegant – flying buttresses capped with tall pinnacle's, vaulted webbing and nave arches with a large rose window and tall lancets overlooking the Lady Lake, and a great view of Excalibur across the way. The Gothic façade was beautifully aged with a tympanum that depicted the Second Coming and the crowning of Udolf Pendragon, Arthur's great-great-great grandfather or something like that. Leon had tried to tell him but to be frank, Merlin hadn't paid much attention.
Looking at it through the tinted windows of the ridiculously luxurious and expensive Bentley Mulsanne, (his, complete with royalty plates, flags, and his very own driver. It was a wedding present from Arthur. Merlin had pitched a never-ending fit after that one that he was sure the whole of Excalibur had heard) Merlin felt his stomach fill with panicked butterflies. He was still waiting to wake up and find it was all a dream. For Arthur to come to his senses and realize that Merlin wasn't all that special, and no he didn't really want to marry a man who would never be able to give him an heir.
He was glad to wait for he never wanted this to come to an end. And as the wheels of the car came to a stop before the church, with hundred upon hundreds of Avalon's people cheering for him and wishing to celebrate the union of their beloved Prince to a small town country boy, Merlin thought that maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't.
Hunith was going to cry. Despite the promise she had made to herself and to her son that she wouldn't she just knew that she would be unable to stop the tears from flowing. Merlin, she thought, looked wonderful. Like a model or an angel, or a prince. Clothed in a black tuxedo, the jacket double breasted with satin lapels, the trousers tailored to perfection to fit his form, Arthur would have it no other way. And Hunith thought it was a good thing that Merlin had Arthur and that the prince had insisted on being at every fitting of delaying Cabinet meetings and canceling appointments with Prime Ministers. If picking a tuxedo for the wedding had been left up to Merlin solely….Hunith cringed at the thought.
Gwen had never seen Merlin so happy. Or so nervous. When she had seen him at the palace before she left, hair sticking on end from where he had ran his hands through it, effectively ruining the hard work of the hair-stylist; Gwen had feared that he might develop a case of cold feet. But looking at him now, walking down the carpet of Pendragon red and gold with the light of torches and chandeliers glowing upon him, Merlin looked almost regal. Smiling wide and bright, Gwen thought herself a fool for ever having doubted him.
Merlin was happy. So he was happy. But Gwaine still thought Arthur was a bit of a prick. A hot prick, yes, but still a prick.
Lancelot thought it was a very really possibility that Arthur would faint. And how would that look, the prince fainting at his wedding? He ran his eyes across the aisle to were Gwen stood and smiled slightly, figuring if he were in Arthur's place with Gwen coming towards him, he might have already fainted.
Leon? Well, Leon was just happy that the king had finally calmed down. Though he had been a sight, red-faced and blown-up like a blowfish.
Merlin felt his heart kick in the cavern of his chest as his feet fell on the soft carpet, each step taking him closer to Arthur. His prince was dressed in the dress uniform of Pendragon red, with thin lines of fine gold swirling along the cuffs and the high collar that curled gently around the column of his neck. The trousers were a deep navy blue that looked black in the lighting. His crown was polished to a nice shine, with small of rubies and diamonds and coloured gemstones that Merlin had never heard of before his time in Avalon adorned his golden hair.
Merlin did not know what he had done to be so lucky as to have this man. He only knew that he would never let Arthur Pendragon go. The prince was his now.
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered in this place to witness the joining between Arthur Pendragon, Prince of Avalon, and Merlin Emrys. Any who shall see reason that the two should not be wedded, speak now or forever hold your tongue."
This was the part that Merlin had feared, irrational though the fear may be. But no one said anything, no sound came from the crowd of hundred, save a round of cheers when the two were pronounced husband and husband. The prince and his consort.
"You know this means you're technically a duchess now?" Arthur whispered cheekily as he leaned forward to take Merlin's mouth in a brief kiss to seal the deal. Watching the lovely blush spread across his love's cheeks.
"Don't ruin the mood, Arthur."