Lady Paperclip (paperclipbitch) wrote,
Lady Paperclip
paperclipbitch

"We're A Storm In Somebody Else's Teacup" {4/7}, Merlin, Arthur/Merlin

Title: We’re A Storm In Somebody Else’s Teacup {4/7}
Fandom: Merlin {Modern!AU}
Pairing: Eventual Arthur/Merlin {Merlin/Will, Arthur/Lancelot}
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 10, 130
Genre: Slash
Warnings: Spoilers for 1x10 {only now it’s in a modern setting}
Summary: In which Arthur is less than impressed by Will, a truce of sorts is formed, and Nimueh shows no mercy.
Author’s Notes: Ok, I rushed this chapter through (not that the writing quality should have diminished, hopefully). This was partly because I’ve been planning the scenes between Arthur, Merlin and Will since I came up with the idea for this fic to help me get through my Christmas shopping (back when I wasn’t going to write it; it was just something to entertain myself in my head while on Oxford street) and so really wanted to write it, but also because I sort of no longer wanted to write something I put in my plan; it’s integral to the plot but it upset me more than I was expecting.

{Part One} | {Part Two} | {Part Three}



Everything I always wanted
Is right there but soon it won’t be
If fortune favours the brave
I am as poor as they come.

- Editors

“So,” Merlin says, “How exactly am I going to explain this to my mother?”

Will laughs. “By ‘this’, do you mean the fact you and Gwen have nearly been killed by a psychopath with evil powers and so are now living with the incredibly attractive and incredibly rich children of your boss?” He pauses. “I don’t see how your mother would have a problem with any of that.”

Merlin sighs. “I called you for advice,” he whines, “Be helpful.”

There’s silence on the other end of the line for a moment. “Are they paying you and Gwen to be their sex slaves?”

Merlin thinks a dozen inappropriate things, tries not to make a spluttering noise, and eventually manages: “They’re loaded, Will, not depraved.”

“Maybe you should tell your mum about the not-sex-slaves thing,” Will suggests. “I think it would definitely set her mind at rest.”

“You are useless,” Merlin mutters.

“And it’s entirely possible that Arthur Pendragon is depraved,” Will continues, cheerfully ignoring him, “He looks like a smug prick in all his OK! magazine photos.”

“Since when do you read OK!?” Merlin demands.

“Lucy at work has them stuck to her locker,” Will replies dismissively. “I want to punch the smug look off his face.” Merlin is trying to come up with something to say in reply when Will adds: “Well, alright, I’d probably shag him first and then punch him, but, you know.” Merlin shuts his eyes. “Is he that implausibly pretty in real life?” Will asks, sounding way too interested.

“Yes,” Merlin admits, and then thinks he probably should have lied because Will starts laughing in a horrible insinuating way and even though Merlin is alone in his room and no one is listening in he starts blushing anyway.

Will’s evil laughter on the other end of the phone makes him blush even more, though Merlin is fully aware that he probably deserves it, and no one else in his life is willing to take the piss out of him to the degree he kind of needs.

“Please tell me you’re shagging him,” Will says at last, amusement still colouring his voice.

Merlin makes a little helpless noise.

“Oh,” Will murmurs. “Oh, you poor, sad sod.” He sighs. “I don’t know why I’m surprised, though, it’s how you operate.”

This cannot escalate because otherwise it will get even more embarrassing and Merlin will not be able to look at Arthur ever again and since they’re living in the same flat things could get incredibly awkward and ridiculous.

“I happen to appreciate his aesthetic qualities,” Merlin says with all the dignity he can muster, “I still think he’s a complete tosser. I don’t actually like him.”

“Well,” Will sighs, “I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies.”

“This is not actually helping me work out what to say to mum,” Merlin points out. “And I’m going to have to tell her something soon.”

“Just tell her there was a fire,” Will suggests. “Leave out the fact it was set by an evil supervillain who was trying to kill you, because I know Hunith’s a force of nature but I don’t really see that going down well with her.”

“I don’t want to worry her,” Merlin murmurs.

“Well, she’s going to get worried when she tries to ring your landline and fails to get through,” Will points out a little too reasonably.

Merlin bites his lip anxiously and doesn’t reply.

“By the way,” Will says, “When are you going to invite me to come and stay?”

“Um.”

“Let me come and see your new mansion,” Will wheedles.

“It’s not a mansion,” Merlin protests, “It’s… more a mutated penthouse sort of thing.”

“Let me come and see your mutated penthouse sort of thing then,” Will replies, unabashed.

Merlin hesitates. It’s been four days since the fire and the realisation that apparently there’s a man out there with the ability to combust things and who wants Merlin and Morgana dead. He’s finally stopped jumping at unexpected noises or people walking past him, and Gwen has started smiling almost naturally again. But, as always when life gets too big and too stupid and too horrible, Merlin has found himself wanting what he knows, and he has missed Will like mad.

“All right,” he says. “How about this weekend?”

“I’ll come on Friday,” Will tells him, “I’ve got to work the Saturday night shift so I’ll go back Saturday morning.” He pauses for a moment. “Seriously, though: are you both all right?”

“Yeah,” Merlin says. “You know Gwen; she’s resilient. And, well, you know me…”

“Too busy being naïve and vague to let anything bother you,” Will teases him.

Merlin rolls his eyes. “Yes, William, that was exactly what I was going to say.”

Will laughs, but sobers quickly and says: “Please try not to get yourself murdered before Friday.”

“That is top of my To Do List,” Merlin agrees. “It’s right there above do some laundry and call my mother.”

“I can pop in and see her,” Will offers. “When you do call her, I mean. If you think she needs someone to… you know. Be there.”

“Thanks,” Merlin says. “I’ll… let you know.”

“See you Friday,” Will says brightly. “Take care of yourself.”

It’s a casual way of saying goodbye, but Merlin gets the serious undertone to the words; Will’s worried, though of course he’ll never come out and say it.

“It’s ok,” Merlin assures him, “I’ll look both ways before crossing the street and everything.”

Wanker,” Will mutters, as Merlin puts the phone down.

He could stay in his disconcertingly large room – beautifully decorated, of course; the whole flat is – but the overwhelming silence – a result of the fact the whole place is sound-proofed – is a little too much at the moment. Instead, Merlin shuffles down the hall to go and see if anyone else is up and about.

Morgana is in the kitchen, laptop sitting on the gigantic round dining table. She glances up from the screen and gives Merlin a smile.

“Hi,” she says. “Want some tea?”

There’s a steaming pot sitting on the table beside her. “Thanks,” Merlin says, sitting down to her left and summoning a mug to him. Morgana doesn’t even bat an eyelid as Merlin does this; but then she’s the one who sees the future every night so of course she has an entirely different definition of normal. Merlin pours out a cup of Earl Grey and Morgana pushes a plate with slices of lemon on it for him without looking away from the laptop.

“What are you doing?” he asks curiously, leaning sideways to see what Morgana’s up to. The computer screen is full of pictures of clothes, and he rolls his eyes. “Morgana, Gwen isn’t a doll.”

“But this dress would look so lovely on her,” Morgana protests, enlarging an image of a very pretty yellow summer dress. “I can’t wear yellow, it just fades me out, but it would look sensational on Gwen.”

Morgana does have a point, but Merlin has to put his foot down. “Morgana,” he begins hesitantly, “We agreed to let you buy us some clothes because we didn’t want to be walking around in the same outfit all the time, but we’ve got the basics now. Really, we both have money, we’re not just some little lost puppies you scooped up off the street.”

Morgana gives him a sheepish smile. “All right,” she concedes. “But please let me buy this dress for Gwen; if I can’t have it I want someone to.”

Merlin nods reluctantly. “As long as you don’t also buy the matching shoes you’ve undoubtedly found to go with it.” He sips at his tea while Morgana enters her credit card details. “Where is Gwen?” he adds.

“She’s gone to her room,” Morgana says. When Merlin frowns, she adds; “Don’t worry, I think she’s just genuinely tired. She seems… all right.” Her mouths twists thoughtfully. “You both seem very all right, given the circumstances.”

Merlin shrugs, feeling a little uncomfortable. He and Gwen decided, that first night, that they had two choices; either they could succumb to terror and misery, or they could rise above it. And somehow, they have managed to be strong and cheerful and more ok about Edwin attempting to burn them alive than they would ever have believed possible before all this shit started.

Morgana seems to know not to push; she finishes her purchase and shuts down the laptop.

“Arthur made me promise not to impulse buy anything,” she explains. “We have this problem with going on Amazon and not thinking it through…”

“Is that where your untouched coffee table books come from?” Merlin guesses.

Morgana nods, smiling a little sheepishly. “They look good, though,” she offers as some kind of defence.

“I don’t know,” Merlin sighs, shaking his head, “You spoilt little rich kids…”

“You make a lot more money than your dress sense implies,” Morgana tells him, a smirk unfurling over her mouth.

“And what exactly is wrong with my dress sense?” Merlin demands.

Morgana gives him a do I really have to tell you, Merlin? look that he pretends not to notice.

“Where is Arthur tonight, anyway?” he asks. “I’m sure I haven’t seen him wandering about bitching about how Gwen and I are cramping his style.”

Morgana flushes. “He only said that once,” she says quickly, “He really doesn’t mind you and Gwen being here. He’s just…”

“…A cock?” Merlin suggests.

Morgana tips her head in a that has merit sort of way. “He’s just a spoilt brat,” she says lightly. “He doesn’t play well with others, and I’ve sort of given up trying to make a difference.”

“Is he just going to stay away from the flat until Gwen and I leave?” Merlin asks, feeling a little bit depressed about that, though he’s not entirely sure why and he’s certainly not going to think about it in any detail at all.

Morgana shakes her head. “No, this is completely normal. He’s probably still at work; he sleeps in his office about three nights a week, sometimes more.” She sighs. “And if he’s not sleeping at work then he’s sleeping in someone else’s bed, so he isn’t usually around that much anyway. Don’t go getting a complex.”

She suddenly looks unbearably lonely, sitting there with her hands wrapped around her mug of tea. Merlin pictures her rattling alone around this gigantic flat and leans over to hug her.

“What was that for?” Morgana asks, when he lets go, but her smile is soft and warm.

Merlin just smiles back, but thinks she understands anyway.

^

“You look awful,” Lance says, with feeling, on Friday afternoon.

Arthur has drunk five coffees so far today and the caffeine is giving the world a shiny, slippery veneer.

“Galahad thinks I look fine,” Arthur protests, running a hand through his hair feebly.

“Yes, well.” Lance has a look on his face that Arthur doesn’t understand and doesn’t try to. He throws himself down in the chair on the other side of Arthur’s desk. “There’s this thing called sleep, right, and it turns out it’s kind of important…”

“Sod off,” Arthur murmurs, rolling his eyes.

Lance smiles, but his eyes flick towards the door to Galahad’s adjoining office. “How’s the manhunt going?” he asks softly.

Arthur grimaces. “Less than wonderfully,” he admits. “I mean, obviously the ‘Super Power Support Group’ or whatever the hell it was called has disbanded, and no one has heard of it. The website’s gone and everything, and I can’t find anyone to talk.” He sighs. “No one seems to remember that it ever existed, which is not a good sign.”

“And what about Morgana?”

“Oh, you know her; she thrives during crises,” Arthur sighs. “The idea that someone’s out to kill her just seems to fill her with energy. It’s disturbing.”

“I didn’t think she’d be curling up under her duvet and weeping,” Lance agrees.

“We are going to have to find this Edwin bloke and destroy him, though,” Arthur says, and momentarily wonders just how literally he means that, “Because Morgana can’t accept any floral arrangements until we know they’re not murder attempts, and you know how much my sister loves flowers.”

Lance smiles slightly. “How is she surviving?” he asks, looking amused.

Arthur shrugs. “She’s got her new playthings, she’s perfectly happy,” he replies.

“Merlin’s actually really nice,” Lance tells him lightly. “Once you get to know him.”

This is the last straw; even Arthur’s best friend has fallen under the spell of the vague, skinny guy with the physically painful hair who has taken up residence in Arthur’s home. “What is it with Merlin?” Arthur demands. “I mean, fine, he’s not actually an obnoxious bastard-”

Lance coughs significantly, and Arthur pretends not to hear.

“-But seriously, he comes across as a complete and utter idiot. And not even in an endearing way, because God knows I’ve fucked enough women who weren’t a hundred percent sure about which continent Sweden is in, but in an irritating way.”

He becomes aware that his voice is rising, and reminds himself that this is in no way a situation that requires anger.

“I think Merlin knows where Sweden is,” Lance offers mildly, but he’s looking at Arthur with curiosity on his face. Arthur attempts to look calm and collected and not at all frustrated by the fact Merlin just seems to be collecting a fanclub as he wanders through Arthur’s life. “Wow, Merlin really does get your back up,” Lance observes after a minute. “I thought he was exaggerating, but he really wasn’t.” He raises an eyebrow at Arthur. “Did you actually offer to buy him a pony and then accuse him of shagging Morgana?”

Out of context, it sounds bad. Actually, it sounded pretty bad in context, but Arthur hasn’t yet found a way to apologise to Merlin without it descending into childish bickering.

“He said he wanted a pony!” Arthur wails helplessly. And then Lance’s words sink in properly. “When the hell did he go bitching to you about me?”

“He didn’t ‘go bitching’ to me,” Lance tells him patiently, but he looks uncomfortable and he’s avoiding the question in an embarrassingly obvious way.

“If you’re about to tell me the two of you are having some kind of affair-” Arthur begins.

Lance rolls his eyes. “Arthur, I know you find this impossible to believe, but not everything is about sex.” He fixes Arthur with a firm stare. “I’m only going to say this once: we went for a drink, and he gave me a few reasons as to why someone might choose to hide their superpowers – or their sister’s superpowers, as the case may be – for over a decade. Ok?”

Arthur shifts awkwardly, and gets the message loud and clear. And then wonders exactly why he seems to owe everything to Merlin at the moment; they barely talk, occasionally passing in the flat, and yet Merlin seems to have taken everything that means anything to Arthur – up to and including his own life – and grabbed hold of the strings. It’s a strange feeling, and one that makes him feel discomfited and wrong-footed.

“Ok,” he sighs.

Lance seems to be studying him, head tipped slightly to one side, a thoughtful expression on his face.

“How are you holding up?” he asks softly.

Arthur shrugs. He’s running himself ragged at the moment, trying to help his father with the Avalon Corporation buyout, while also trying to track down Morgana and Merlin’s would-be assassin, and while his home hasn’t been burned down he’s still in a little more shock than he wants to admit. Somehow, over the course of the last month, his life seems to have changed completely and utterly; while it still looks the same, it really isn’t the way it used to be at all.

“I’m hanging in there,” he lies feebly, and wonders whether it would be pushing it to ring through to Galahad and ask him to bring another coffee.

“You are so full of shit,” Lance tells him, rolling his eyes in exasperation, and he gets up from his chair to walk around to Arthur’s side of the desk. “Get up.”

Arthur is pretty certain Lance is not about to hit him, so he warily gets to his feet. He’s a little shocked when Lance abruptly pulls him into a hug, and so stands very still, disconcerted.

“Go with it,” Lance mutters, and Arthur obediently hugs him back. And it’s nice; just to stand there for a moment and not have to be strong or do anything for anyone. Lance exhales just before it gets uncomfortable, and steps back. “Better?”

Arthur smiles, and it feels more real than the smiles he’s been plastering on his face for the last week.

“I’m not a girl,” he snaps, because he’ll never admit that he feels any better at all.

“Good,” Lance replies. “Because we’re going to go out drinking tonight to take your mind off everything, ok?”

Arthur has been sleeping on his sofa for most of the week, and he kind of thinks that it would probably be sensible to go home and talk to Morgana and get some rest, but he looks at Lance’s grin and doesn’t even try to resist.

“You can pay,” he says.

“Of course, because I’m the son of a billionaire,” Lance agrees. “Oh; wait.”

^

When he walks into the flat, Merlin can hear Morgana’s laughter drifting from the living room. He ditches his shoes by the front door, and goes to find out what’s making her sound like that.

Before he even gets to the open door, he can hear Will’s voice: “I mean, not that it affected the relationship at all; they shagged like rabbits for about the next fortnight. And then reassembled furniture together. It was almost sweet.”

From this, Merlin gathers, with a horrible feeling in the pit of his stomach, that Will is currently telling Morgana about how Merlin lost his virginity. It had been awkward and kind of painful but quite nice in spite of that; unfortunately, Merlin had managed to mentally remove every single screw in Allan’s wardrobe, and so the whole thing collapsed very loudly shortly after they’d finished. Thankfully, Allan had blamed Ikea, but it was still seriously embarrassing trying to get dressed before Allan’s mum came bursting in to find out if her son had been crushed and killed.

“I told you that story in confidence,” he tries not to wail, walking in to find Morgana and Will have coffee and cake and have evidently been sprawled in the living room for a while.

“And I’ve never told anyone,” Will replies, “Because of course no one knew about your freaky awesome powers.” His smirk broadens. “It’s ok; I haven’t told Morgana what you did to my bedroom furniture.”

Merlin groans, coming to collapse on the sofa beside Will. “Morgana isn’t interested in my sex life, Will.”

Well,” Morgana begins, until Merlin glares at her.

“Come on,” Will protests, “I haven’t met anyone but your mother who knew about your abnormal abilities, and I was hardly going to dish the dirt to her.”

Merlin makes a pained, horrified face. “No, really,” Will assures him, “Because she would probably come after me with something sharp for despoiling her son and everything.”

“You didn’t despoil me!” Merlin protests weakly, and then remembers that they have an audience and instead reaches for some cake.

“Will got here a little early,” Morgana says, unnecessarily, “So I thought I’d entertain him until you got here.” She smiles. “He’s lovely.”

Will has the ability to be effortlessly charming when he wants to be; it’s been frustrating for all of Merlin’s life. It’s not that he’s incapable of getting people to like him; it’s just that he’s always had to get people to be charmed by his general air of incompetence, and while it does pay off it can be a little disheartening at times.

“Yeah, he is,” Merlin sighs, as though it’s a difficult thing to admit. He leans over to plant a kiss on Will’s cheek. “I’m glad you’re here,” he says quietly.

The three of them eat ridiculous amounts of cake until Morgana leaves to call Arthur, who is apparently going to go and do something drunken and excessive with his Friday night.

“Your mutated penthouse sort of thing is amazing,” Will says with feeling. “Can I come move in too?”

“I’m not sure there’s another spare room,” Merlin points out.

“That’s fine,” Will shrugs, “Their airing cupboard is about the size of my flat, I could shove some towels sideways and live in there.”

“And you don’t think Arthur and Morgana would mind you living in their cupboard?” Merlin asks mildly.

“Morgana thinks I’m lovely,” Will reminds him. “Arthur… won’t think I’m lovely, but then he doesn’t like you either and you’re still living here.”

It almost stings, coming bluntly out of Will’s mouth like that. Merlin can’t think of a single thing to say in reply, so settles for merely scowling. Will gives him a look that’s close to apologetic, and then his attention is caught by a photograph sitting near the television. It’s Arthur and Lance, laughing at the camera, looking for all the world like male models. Living here really isn’t good for Merlin’s ego.

“Who’s that with Arthur?” Will asks curiously, bouncing off the sofa and going to pick up the framed picture.

“That’s Lance,” Merlin tells him. “You know, I mentioned him. Arthur’s best friend.”

Will looks at the picture for a moment longer, and then turns to Merlin with a disappointed expression.

“You had that drunk and you didn’t so much as try to cop a feel?” he demands. “You bloody idiot!”

Merlin sighs. “Will, I get that you’re not exactly a paragon of… well, anything, but you do know there’s this thing called integrity, right, and I was trying to have it.”

Will rolls his eyes. “Fuck that.” He glances back down at Lance. “Seriously, I am ashamed of you, Merlin. Ashamed.”

“Gwen was proud of me,” Merlin says, but it just comes out sort of whiny.

“Gwen practically wants a ring before she lets anyone put a hand down her bra,” Will scoffs.

This isn’t entirely true; or at least it hasn’t been for the last couple of years, but Merlin doesn’t bother pointing this out to Will. Besides, there’s something in Will’s tone, and even though he knows he doesn’t really want to know the answer, Merlin still stares at his friend and says:

“Oh, tell me you didn’t.”

“We were thirteen,” Will shrugs carelessly. “I had the bruises for weeks.”

Merlin doesn’t know why he’s surprised; Will’s a greedy bastard (at least, that’s the reason he’s always given for his bisexuality), which used to really bother Merlin, though it doesn’t any longer.

“No wonder Gwen thinks you’re a wanker,” Merlin tells him with a grin, sprawling beside him on the sofa.

“Oh,” Will says, smirking, “Gwen’s thought I was a wanker since before we even knew that word.”

“Apparently with good reason,” Merlin points out.

Will is hitting him with an undoubtedly expensive cushion while Merlin attempts to fend him off when Morgana comes back in.

“You two are so sweet,” she says, gathering their cups and plates together. Merlin sends the cushion flying across the room with a quick flex of his fingers, and moves to help her. “How long have you known each other anyway?”

“Since we were about, I don’t know, six months old?” Merlin replies. “Forever, anyway.”

He doesn’t mention that awkward year when they didn’t speak – when Merlin decided he liked boys and Will decided that was going to be a problem – because the whole thing is resolved and unearthing it again only results in really nasty arguments.

“Arthur’s going to be out all night,” Morgana tells them both. “Lance has got the bright idea that getting him pissed is somehow going to fix everything, so he probably won’t be home.” She offers Merlin a quick, tight smile that tells him exactly how far she agrees with Lance’s idea. “But Gwen’s on her way home and she says she’ll cook.”

Will helps them carry everything through to the kitchen. “Can’t you just order pizza?” he asks.

Merlin watches the corners of Morgana’s mouth tighten, just slightly. “We can’t be too careful,” she says quietly.

“What… ah.” Will grimaces as he gets it. The last thing any of them need is Edwin slipping his murderous beetle things into the things they have delivered to the flat. The four of them spent hours going through the boxes of clothing that came for Merlin and Gwen, looking for the apparently tell-tale little specks that would indicate Edwin had poisoned them. They didn’t find anything; but it doesn’t mean that he’s not going to try.

“Welcome to the stupid insanity that is my life now,” Merlin murmurs with a sigh, as he loads the dishwasher.

“Your mutated penthouse sort of thing isn’t going to get burned down while I’m here, is it?” Will asks, a trace of real anxiety in his voice.

“I hope not,” Morgana says lightly.

Will frowns. “I thought you could see the future,” he accuses.

“I can,” Morgana replies, “Unless it involves Merlin. If he’d been home the night of the fire, I wouldn’t have foreseen it at all, which is why I didn’t find out until it was almost too late.”

Merlin and Morgana have been over this too many times, making themselves feel more nauseous every time. The escape Merlin and Gwen had was really too narrow.

“God,” Will mutters.

Gwen gets home about half an hour later and there’s a lot of shrieking and hugging between her and Will – Merlin has never been able to tell how the two of them really feel about each other and whether the two of them just kind of put up with each other because they both like him – but nonetheless they seem happy to see each other. Gwen makes a decent lasagne for dinner, and then the three of them amuse Morgana by trying to embarrass each other with as many horrific childhood stories as they can dredge up. If Merlin had thought that maybe Will would have had time to tell Morgana the worst of his incriminating stories before he got home, he was clearly wrong. It’s all right, though, because Merlin and Gwen between them have a lot of dirt on Will and in the end they’re almost laughing too hard to eat.

Merlin gets the feeling Morgana likes living in a house full of noise; while of course she and Arthur are devoted to each other – underneath all the sniping anyway – it must be lonely, with him not being at home half the week. In the end, though, Morgana drags Gwen away to show her the picture of the summer dress she’s bought her – since it still hasn’t arrived – and Merlin and Will are left to tidy up the kitchen (which was very probably the girls’ plan all along; Morgana and Gwen being evil geniuses and everything).

“I’m glad you’re here,” Merlin says in the end, because he kind of needs Will to know that. “I’ve really missed you; things have been shit and crazy and weird.” It occurs to him that what he’s said might not be entirely complimentary. “Not that I don’t miss you when things aren’t shit and crazy and weird…”

“You’re starting to sound like Gwen at her most flustered,” Will points out mildly, with a smirk.

“I’m going to tell her you said that,” Merlin replies, making a face at him.

“Tell-tale,” Will retorts, in the way he always has since they were about four, throwing a teatowel at Merlin. Merlin flings it straight back at Will’s face by winking at it, making it change direction in midair, and then yelps as Will lunges at him with a half-way murderous look on his face. “You always fight dirty, Emrys, you bloody cheat!”

Merlin grins infuriatingly, backing away. “Just because you’re not a superhero…”

“Oh, you’re going to pay for that,” Will tells him with a smirk, shoving him, because they’ve known each other for so long that it’s impossible not to revert to being silly little boys around each other.

Well, nearly impossible, because Merlin finds himself pushed up against the implausibly gigantic fridge with Will’s mouth on his, and he twines his fingers in the other man’s hair because this is something he knows; this is something that isn’t new or scary or dangerous. Or maybe it is; Merlin always gets the strangely horrible feeling that, somewhere underneath the jokes and the sleeping with other people and the not seeing each other for months at a time, Will really actually loves him and is kind of waiting for him. And Merlin is perfectly aware that that’s something he can’t give Will, though he’d honestly give him anything if he could, and he doesn’t want to end up breaking his oldest friend’s heart, but it’s going to be awful and it’s going to be inevitable.

Once again, though, it’s something he shoves to the back of his mind.

^

It is six-thirty in the morning when Arthur kind of falls out the taxi, shoving a couple of notes at the driver. He’s fairly sure he’s overpaid by kind of a lot of money, but his brain is buzzing in an I’ve-been-up-all-night-and-the-alcohol-may-not-have-entirely-worn-off-yet sort of way so he’s not actually up to counting money. Still, he can feel smug because Lance was barely standing when Arthur shoved him into a cab, though he did drink considerably more than Arthur did.

He’s still in his suit trousers and shirt from work yesterday, though his tie vanished somewhere and so did a couple of the shirt buttons. Arthur shrugs his jacket off and slings it over his shoulder, hooking two fingers in the collar to hold it in place.

The flat is quiet when he comes upstairs, the hall full of bright morning sunlight. Gwen’s bedroom door has a post-it note stuck to it, saying: I do not have to work today, so if any of you early risers wake me up I WILL NOT BE RESPONSIBLE FOR MY ACTIONS. Arthur knows Morgana is going in to help with the Avalon takeover today, because striding about in heels yelling at people is something she specialises in, so will be up and about soon, and as for Merlin… well, Arthur has no idea. Lance, after a little too much tequila, gave Arthur a half-hour lecture on how Merlin is actually not an idiot and Arthur should try and have a proper conversation with him, which was somewhat disturbing. Lance is very good at ‘earnest’, though; Arthur was very close to being persuaded.

Deciding that what he needs above everything is caffeine, because he will have to go to work in just under three hours and his father will verbally castrate him if he turns up actually looking like he’s been out all night, Arthur heads for the kitchen. He’s reasonably certain he can make coffee without inadvertently breaking anything or setting it on fire, so he won’t wake Gwen up, and maybe he could take Morgana some breakfast because she never eats enough and also he’s barely seen her this week.

Merlin and someone Arthur has never seen before in his life are in the kitchen sharing toast and laughing about something.

“Morning,” Merlin says unsettlingly brightly, “Coffee?”

He has a whole cafetiére of coffee sitting in front of him on the table, and at this moment Arthur thinks he might actually love him. Merlin smiles at Arthur’s undoubtedly embarrassingly desperate expression, and floats a mug of it over to him. Arthur takes a sip, and discovers that it is really good coffee, made absolutely perfectly in a way he and Morgana have still not quite got the hang of. He glances quizzically at Merlin’s… companion.

“Oh, I’m Will,” the Random Stranger says, “Merlin’s part-time shag.”

Arthur considers staying and trying to cope with the weird madness of his life now, but instead gives them both a sort of incredulous look, turns around, and walks out of the kitchen again.

He can hear them laughing before the door closes.

Morgana is running around her room wearing full make-up and the black lace underwear Arthur bought her for Christmas last year, but not a lot else.

“So you’re back,” she says distractedly, before giving him an appraising glance. “I like the look; it’s very billionaire playboy.” Arthur dumps his suit jacket over one of her chairs before sitting down and taking another mouthful of coffee. Morgana slides into one of her numerous silk robes before gliding serenely over and stealing his mug. “You look somewhat disturbed,” she observes lightly.

Arthur snatches his coffee back and cradles it protectively against his chest. “Merlin and his self-confessed part-time shag are in our kitchen eating toast!” he says. “Why don’t we just open a hotel and be done with it?”

“I like them living here,” Morgana tells him quietly, heading over to her walk-in wardrobe. She disappears inside, but Arthur can hear her sorting through her clothes. She pokes her head back around the door. “They’re good company for when my brother doesn’t come home for a week.”

Arthur grimaces. “Sorry,” he calls.

“It’s ok,” Morgana replies, voice long-suffering, though it comes out a little muffled. A moment later, she comes out wearing a little black dress. “What about this?”

“You look like a hooker,” Arthur informs her bluntly, toeing off his shoes.

Morgana rolls her eyes before going to examine her reflection in her full-length mirror. “A cheap one or an expensive one?”

“Cheap,” Arthur responds. “Really cheap. Venereal disease cheap.”

“Wow,” Morgana says dryly, “You really know how to charm a girl.”

But she stomps off back to her wardrobe to find something else to wear anyway.

“Don’t let Will bother you,” she calls, “He’s really nice. And Merlin’s known him practically since he was born so he’s almost definitely not about to kill us.”

Well, Arthur will give him brownie points for that. “Should we really just be letting random people into our home, though?” he asks.

Morgana gives a frustrated sigh, but when she comes out she’s wearing a considerably better deep blue dress.

“What about this one?” she asks.

“It works,” Arthur replies. “You should team it with the Christian Louboutin wedges.”

Morgana gives him a very strange look that Arthur can’t decipher, but he decides not to ask. She obediently goes to get the shoes in question and, sure enough, they match perfectly.

“What’s this really about, Arthur?” she asks, turning away from the mirror to fix him with her scariest glare, the one she’s copied almost perfectly from Uther.

“I don’t-”

“You’re coming across as either homophobic or jealous,” she informs him bluntly.

“I am neither of those things!” Arthur protests.

Morgana folds her arms. “Then really, tell me what your problem is. You went out all night, probably got reasonably drunk, and…” She trails off, and her mouth curls into a smirk that Arthur doesn’t entirely like. “Oh God,” she says, “Please tell me it’s not that.”

Arthur could pretend not to understand her significant look, but he’s known her for so long that they’d both be fully aware he was lying.

“Excuse me for being careful,” he points out, “The last girl I slept with chucked me in the Thames!”

“You didn’t get laid last night so you’re going to take it out on Merlin, who did?” Morgana arches a perfectly-plucked eyebrow. “You’re so mature Arthur, I can completely understand why Uther thinks you’ll be ready to take over the company in the next few years.”

Merlin is having a more active sex life than I am,” Arthur tries not to wail, “Surely this must make you see how buggered up the universe is!”

“You are so completely crap, Arthur,” Morgana informs him, coming over and forcibly taking away the last of his coffee. “You are going to go back in the kitchen and apologise for being a cock and then you are going to have breakfast and talk to Merlin and Will like the normal people that they are. All right?”

Morgana is really too scary for Arthur to argue with her, so he obediently stops hiding in her room and goes back to the kitchen where, if nothing else, there will be more coffee. He couldn’t exactly tell Morgana the reason he tends to avoid Merlin as much as possible, because she would just laugh at him. The problem is that Merlin has the ability to make Arthur feel like a mad prat all the time; he seems to spend pretty much every minute around Merlin with his foot wedged in his mouth. It seems unfair; as far as Arthur can tell, Merlin brings out the best in everyone else.

Will-the-part-time-shag is no longer in the kitchen when Arthur walks back in (“He’s gone for a shower,” Merlin explains quickly), but Merlin is still sitting at the table sipping at a steaming mug. He’s wearing a shirt that Arthur doesn’t remember checking for Edwin’s evil bug things, which sort of implies it isn’t his, and he forcibly reminds himself that Merlin’s sex life and permutations thereof are none of his business.

“Sorry about Will,” Merlin says, looking a little uncomfortable. “He tends to be… very blunt.”

This is what exasperates Arthur about Merlin: Arthur is the one who acted like a rude twat, but still Merlin is the one who is apologising like it’s in any way his fault. He feels like he’s kicked a puppy every time he comes near the guy.

“It’s ok,” Arthur tells him, shrugging, going to get another mug out of the cupboard. “Sorry if I was rude to you and your boyfriend.”

When he sits down, he notes Merlin is actually blushing. “Will’s… not my boyfriend,” he says slowly. “I mean, I think he might want to be, but…” He looks awkward some more, while Arthur pours himself more coffee and wonders dispassionately whether Merlin’s head is actually going to explode from redness. “I’m always kind of a bastard when it comes to Will,” he finishes finally, looking miserable and sheepish.

Arthur smiles. “I knew you had to have one redeeming feature,” he says, and is relieved when Merlin laughs.

He even lets Merlin telekinetically make him toast.

He’s finally starting to feel human again, after lots of coffee and toast, when Will comes back into the kitchen.

“I should be calling a cab,” he tells Merlin. “My train leaves in just under an hour.”

Arthur is slightly stunned to hear his own voice saying: “I’ll drive you to the station, if you want.”

Will casts an eye over Arthur’s crumpled clothing and undoubtedly wan face. “Are you in any fit state to drive?” he asks.

Arthur shrugs and says: “I’m game if you are.”

Merlin is staring at Arthur like he’s been replaced by some kind of pod person, but Arthur has realised that Morgana has absolutely no intention of helping Gwen and Merlin find a new flat, and if they’re going to be living here for the next, well, ever, he might as well make an effort.

Will turns to Merlin. “I like him,” he says lightly.

Merlin smiles. “I didn’t say you wouldn’t like him,” he replies. “You were the one saying he wouldn’t like you.”

“Why wouldn’t I like you?” Arthur asks Will, resisting the urge to add: other than the obvious, because Merlin’s friend/booty call seems perfectly all right so there’s no need to be pointlessly insulting.

“He wants to move into your airing cupboard,” Merlin replies cheerfully.

“…Ok,” Arthur says slowly.

“It sounds sort of psycho out of context,” Will tells him.

Arthur decides that trying to entangle whatever this conversation is actually about is a little beyond him, and instead checks his watch.

“Is it all right with you if we go in the next ten minutes?” he asks. “That way I should be able to get back here, change and shower before work.”

“Fine with me,” Will replies, offering him a smile. “Though, you know, you can carry off the been-out-all-night-partying-and-drinking-cocktails-that-cost-more-than-a-month’s-rent-each thing pretty well, it’s very Bruce Wayne.”

I’m the superhero here,” Merlin says plaintively.

“You would fail miserably at being Batman,” Will informs him, ruffling his hair in an easily affectionate gesture that Arthur can’t look at, for some reason. “You would snap like a twig in minutes.”

“He’s got a point,” Arthur says, and then frowns. “I really should go and work out what I’ve done with my shoes.”

Once he’s gone back to Morgana’s room to find his shoes and has assured her that although yes, he’s sleep-deprived, he’s not actually drunk, and can therefore drive without causing a horribly bloody accident, and then rummaged around in his own room for his gigantic aviator sunglasses to get rid of the worst of the morning glare, it’s time to go. Gwen has shuffled to her bedroom door, still wrapped in her duvet, to say goodbye to Will, a sleepy smile etched on her face. Merlin’s expression is a weird mixture of relief and devastation, which Arthur doesn’t try to define because he doesn’t know Merlin nearly well enough.

Morgana shakes Will’s hand, and her expression is confused and perturbed when they part. Arthur gives her a curious look, but she shakes her head, apparently not sure what the feeling is either.

Arthur goes to call the lift, and doesn’t look back at Merlin and Will saying goodbye to each other.

Will is perfectly content to sit slumped in the passenger seat and not say very much during the car journey, while Arthur squints through his sunglasses and tries not to notice that his hands are shaking slightly on the steering wheel.

They’re stuck in traffic when Will turns to him.

“You should like Merlin more,” he says bluntly. “I mean, he’s a great guy. Warm, funny, charming, sexy… not that I’d expect someone like you to notice that.”

“Why wouldn’t I-” The light goes green and Arthur puts his foot down. He shoots a glance at Will. “Someone like what?”

Will looks at him like he’s a moron. “Straight,” he says, as though Arthur is exceptionally thick.

“Oh. Right.” Arthur pretends not to see the look Will is giving him.

When they get to the station, Will gives him a genuine smile. “Thanks for the lift,” he says. “And… keep an eye on Merlin for me, would you? I mean, just keep him from doing something stupid and getting killed.”

Arthur wants to say why are you asking me this? but instead nods and replies: “I will.”

Will grins toothily at him before getting out of the car. “See, I knew you weren’t as much of a twat as Merlin said you were,” he laughs, before slamming the door shut.

Arthur grits his teeth.

^

Merlin takes Gwen out for coffee after work a couple of days later. Even though it’s been raining all day, she’s wearing the gorgeous yellow dress Morgana bought her; and, sure enough, it suits her perfectly. Merlin makes a mental note to tell Morgana this at some point, even though he’s discovered with both Arthur and Morgana that telling them they were right about anything only results in some truly incredible smugness.

“Our lives are insane,” Gwen says over a caramel latte, “I mean, completely and utterly insane.”

“I’m really sorry,” Merlin says lamely. “I mean, two months ago we were mostly normal people, and now I’ve nearly got you killed on at least one occasion and… I’m sorry I’m unnatural and have put you in danger.”

Gwen rolls her eyes, leaning over the table to take his hands in hers. “You,” she says, “Are wallowing, Merlin. And self-pity has never been one of your fortes.”

Merlin smiles. “So you don’t mind that you nearly got burned to death in my place? Because, you know, I’d mind.”

“Well, all right,” Gwen concedes, “It was a bit scary getting a call from Morgana telling me to stay calm, grab anything I thought was valuable, and get as far away from the flat as possible.” She smiles slightly. “I mean, it was useful, and having a friend who sees you’re going to die and tells you how to escape it is nice, but…” She shivers.

“We’re going to find Edwin,” Merlin tells her firmly, “We’re going to find Edwin and…” He trails off because of course he doesn’t know what they’re going to do to him. Killing him themselves seems like a frightening prospect, but on the other hand if they hand him over to the police and tell them what Edwin can do and what he used his powers to do then it’s only going to take about three days for the whole thing to descend into X-Men. Merlin knows that the world is cheerfully ignoring people with Freaky Abnormal Abilities while they stay mostly harmless, but the moment innocent normal people start dying everyone’s going to get locked up and experimented on and that’s a prospect Merlin doesn’t exactly relish, all things considered.

Gwen squeezes his hands. “Whatever doom-laden thing you’re thinking isn’t going to happen,” she assures him. “I won’t let it.”

Merlin thinks about telling her that while Gwen is wonderful and brave and sensible and can do all sorts of wonderful things she will not be able to protect him from creepy secret government agencies who want to lock him away from the world, but they both know that so instead he nods and says: “Thanks.”

“Besides,” Gwen tells him, “It’s not all bad. I mean, we’re living rent-free in a gigantic mutated penthouse sort of thing, and Morgana’s lovely and Arthur’s really not that bad once you get to know him.”

Merlin raises his eyebrows.

“I’ve had a couple of conversations with him,” she says defensively. “And he was perfectly nice and quite witty and it was all fine.”

Merlin sighs. “So it’s just me Arthur hates,” he mutters morosely.

“Look,” Gwen says firmly, and although she’s always had a core of steel there’s something in her expression that she’s definitely borrowed from Morgana, “Arthur doesn’t hate you. If you weren’t so busy being wrapped up in your own head you might have noticed that he is making an effort, and the two of you haven’t had an argument in days.” Her expression gets even more steely, and Merlin tries not to flinch. “Just because you can’t handle the fact you have a gigantic crush on Arthur is no reason to think he’s a complete bastard.”

Merlin pouts. “Morgana called,” he says childishly, “She wants her Death Glare back.”

Gwen giggles, but she’s blushing, just a little.

That night, Lance comes over for dinner (“Gwen can cook!” Morgana explains brightly, “We’ve never been able to have people over before without feeding them either burnt things or take away!”) and Arthur actually comes home from work, and the five of them manage to have a very nice meal. Merlin, after what Gwen told him earlier, pays proper attention to everyone around him, and realises that Arthur no longer looks at Merlin like he’s mentally deficient every time he opens his mouth. He is really more pleased about this than he’s going to admit to himself. Lance seems very taken with Gwen, which is very cute, and while Arthur and Lance are still acting vaguely like they’ve been dating for years, something’s changed in their dynamic, though Merlin can’t quite place it.

After dinner, they all end up watching crap films on TV, curled up on the gigantic, slippery leather sofas that Merlin is still not overly fond of, and Merlin realises that this is the first evening they’ve all managed together without petty sniping, a near argument, or Arthur acting like Merlin is a crazy person who shouldn’t have been allowed into their home.

In fact, with hindsight, he should have realised that the whole thing was going to go horribly wrong.

Morgana falls asleep halfway through a particularly inane action movie, and since Merlin is sitting next to her he’s the first one to notice when her body goes unnaturally rigid and then starts shaking.

“Morgana!” He puts a hand on her arm, trying to shake her awake. She’s trembling, eyes moving quickly beneath her eyelids, and he doesn’t know what she’s seeing but she looks completely and utterly terrified. “Morgana, you need to wake up.”

By now the others have stopped the DVD and Arthur is over at Morgana’s side, looking at his sister with such naked fear that Merlin takes back about half the insulting things he’s ever said about him.

“This has happened before,” Arthur tells him, words bitten off between his teeth. “She doesn’t want to be seeing whatever it is she’s seeing but she has to see it through in order to find out how to stop it.” He glances at Gwen. “She was like this the night of the fire.”

“Oh God,” Gwen says softly, hands coming up to cover her mouth.

Merlin honestly doesn’t want to know what’s coming next, who’s trying to kill him now, because just as he dragged his life back together he doesn’t need it to fall to pieces again.

“Something keeps blocking her,” Arthur says quietly, fingers tight on Morgana’s arm when she lets out a soft moan of fear, “She told me she doesn’t know exactly how it’s happening, but someone or something is trying to stop her from seeing the future properly.”

Merlin thinks oh please don’t let it be me.

“Morgana,” Arthur says, “Come on. You need to wake up and tell us what’s happening.”

Another moment, and then Morgana’s eyes flutter open. She looks around wildly for a moment, and then her gaze catches on Merlin. She reaches for him, fingers biting into his shoulders.

“It’s Nimueh,” she tells him urgently, voice trembling.

“Is she coming here?” Merlin asks. “Do we need to leave?”

“No!” Morgana shakes her head, and then seems to gather herself together. “It’s not us she’s after.”

“I don’t understand,” Arthur cuts in, voice at his most business-like and efficient. “Morgana, who is Nimueh going after?”

Morgana takes a shaking breath, and with six words shatters Merlin’s world completely.

“Merlin, it’s Will, and your mother.”

^

Merlin almost falls off the sofa, but Gwen reaches out to steady him. Arthur can see her eyes filling with tears.

“Morgana,” he says, “What exactly did you see?”

Arthur and Lance help Morgana sit up, while Gwen wraps her arms around Merlin, who is shivering almost uncontrollably.

“It wasn’t clear,” Morgana murmurs, “I couldn’t see…” She’s obviously upset about this, and Arthur knows that her ability has never been less than comprehensible before. “I saw Nimueh… she went to both Will and Merlin’s mother’s homes… she’s going to kill them.”

Merlin lets out a helpless noise into Gwen’s shoulder and she sobs. Arthur feels his stomach twist and can’t look at the blank horror on Lance’s face.

“All right,” he says, trying to sound rational and not terrified, “Gwen, how far away do Will and…”

“Hunith,” she supplies.

“…Hunith live?”

“About an hour’s drive,” Gwen replies. Arthur knows he has to keep her calm by giving her something to do, and with everyone looking at him in various kinds of panic he realises he’s going to have to deal with this.

“Right,” he says. “Then we will go, and we will stop her.” He takes a breath. “Morgana has seen the future, not what has already happened, and so we will change it. All right?”

Ten minutes later Lance is driving like a madman, with Merlin in the passenger seat monosyllabically giving directions. In the back, Arthur risks a horrible, painful death if they should crash, and kneels sideways on his seat, holding Morgana’s hands. He leans his sister against Gwen, and squeezes her shaking hands until her breathing starts to even.

Gaius, his father’s oldest friend and their family physician since before Arthur was even born, found out about Morgana’s ability about a week after Arthur did, and has always been helpful in helping the two of them to control it. One thing he taught them, years ago now, was a way to get Morgana to sleep in even the most stressful of situations; from time to time it’s frustrating that she can’t see the future while actually awake.

There’s silence in the car, and Arthur talks to Morgana, helping her focus on her breathing, talking her into calmness and then further on into sleep. It’s like a mild form of hypnotism, and it took a long time to get the hang of it, but Arthur has never been more grateful for the hours he spent practising.

Gwen raises a curious eyebrow at Arthur over the top of Morgana’s head. “Now we wait,” he whispers.

Arthur catches Lance’s eyes in the rear-view mirror; his friend looks utterly terrified, but after a moment nods slightly and looks away. Merlin has curled up into himself and is shaking, but Arthur tries to imagine what he would feel like if it was his father and Morgana in danger, and his stomach clenches.

Morgana is dreaming, though she doesn’t seem as afraid as she was earlier, and Arthur allows himself to hope that maybe they’re going to fix everything after all. Gwen seems to be making a concerted effort to keep herself calm; but then Arthur knows she and Will are friends and it seems likely that she knows Merlin’s mother too.

“It’ll be all right,” he tells her quietly, and she offers him a feeble smile.

“We’re… almost there,” Merlin tells them after what seems like an interminable amount of time, though Arthur knows it hasn’t been that long. Lance has been breaking speed limits all over the place, and the traffic isn’t bad at this time of night.

“We should split up,” Arthur says. “That way we can get to both of them.”

Merlin nods.

“What should we-” Lance begins, and that’s when Morgana starts trembling again.

“No,” she murmurs, “No, no.”

“Morgana, what do you see?” Arthur all but yells, grabbing his sister’s shoulders. She doesn’t wake up; her head tips to the side and, so softly he almost doesn’t hear her, she groans: “Will.”

Merlin shifts, unbuckling his seatbelt, and Lance barely has time to brake before Merlin is pulling open the car door and running out into the rain.

“Go after him!” Gwen yells, and Arthur lets go of Morgana and is out of the car in another moment. The others can get to Merlin’s mother; Gwen will know where to go.

The rain is pouring down in thick, icy sheets; Arthur is soaked to the skin in seconds, but he’s soon able to catch up with Merlin. The other man has a horrible expression fixed to his face, though Arthur can barely see through the haze of rain, and hopes Merlin knows where he’s going because he has no idea. They run down about three streets before Merlin turns into another one.

“Oh God,” Merlin breathes, and Arthur realises which house must be Will’s because the door is wide open.

The last thing Arthur wants to do is walk inside, but they’ve got no choice. All the lights are on, but even standing in the doorway Arthur can see right down the hall into the kitchen and there’s… someone lying on the floor.

“No,” Merlin gasps, running down the hall, Arthur following close behind.

Will is sprawled on the tiles, looking unharmed but for a thin trickle of blood running out of his nose. Arthur thinks he’s dead for a horrible second, but then sees Will’s chest move; he’s still breathing.

“It’s all right,” he tells Merlin, and is reaching for his phone to call an ambulance when a woman steps out in front of them. She’s tall, with unnaturally blue eyes and a cold smile, and Arthur has no idea where she came from because the kitchen really isn’t that big.

“Nimueh,” Merlin says, and although his voice is trembling the word comes out strongly. “Let him go.”

Nimueh’s smirk broadens. “Merlin,” she says, “It’s so nice to finally meet you. Our eyes met across a crowded room; do you remember?”

Merlin ignores this. “You don’t need Will,” he says desperately, “It’s me you want to kill. Let him go. Take me.”

Arthur catches Merlin’s arm, because he’s pretty certain Merlin shouldn’t be bargaining away his own life, but Merlin shakes him off.

Nimueh looks as though something terribly amusing is happening. “Oh, Merlin” she says, shaking her head as though she’s disappointed, “I don’t want to kill you.”

“But…” Merlin swallows and forces himself to continue, “But Edwin tried to kill Morgana, and me, and Gwen!”

“Yes,” Nimueh agrees. “He was very foolish, and believe me, he’s seen the error of his ways now.” Arthur suddenly feels sick; her tone of voice is terrifying. “He thought that killing you both would fix everything, but I’ve explained to him that it won’t.”

“Let Will go,” Merlin says, only his voice cracks and it sounds more like he’s begging. Arthur tries to think of something to say, but his mind seems to be frozen.

“It was a pity, really,” Nimueh continues, ignoring him, “That you stopped Sophia from accomplishing her task.”

“You were behind Sophia trying to kill me?” Arthur demands.

“Oh yes,” Nimueh tells him, smile stretching. “Well, it was more a test, but Sophia didn’t know that.” She turns her grin on Merlin. “I was very impressed, Merlin.”

Merlin shudders; Arthur doesn’t understand exactly what Nimueh is saying to him, but decides now isn’t the time to ask for clarification.

“I wish there were another way,” Nimueh tells them both, sounding entirely insincere, “But unfortunately there isn’t.”

She takes a step back, and Merlin is about to go to Will’s side when Arthur catches his arm.

“Don’t,” he mutters, and Merlin obediently stays still. Arthur can feel how hard he’s shaking.

The window above the kitchen sink is open, Arthur notices, and there’s a wineglass sitting on the draining board beneath it. It seems to be full of rainwater, given the drops caught on the outside, and Nimueh picks it up. She smiles, raises it as thought toasting them, and takes a sip.

“I’ll be seeing you, Merlin,” she says, and drops the wineglass. It falls so quickly, shattering hard against the tiles, and Arthur hears Merlin groan beside him. Nimueh has vanished – Arthur has no idea how – and Will… Will has gone very pale, and he’s no longer breathing. Merlin moves to his friend’s side, pressing fingers against his pulse, mumbling oh God, oh please, pleasepleaseplease over and over, but Arthur can tell that he’s dead.

Morgana told him once that Nimueh had the power over life and death. Nimueh dropped a wineglass full of rain, and Will… died.

Arthur wants to be sick.

Instead, he fumbles his phone out of his pocket, fingers clumsy on the keys, and calls Morgana.

“We’ve got Hunith,” she says breathlessly. “She was unconscious when we found her, but she’s just woken up and she’s fine. No sign of Nimueh. How about Will?”

Arthur opens his mouth to say something, but Merlin gets to his feet and steps away from… the body, shaking his head.

“Arthur?” Morgana demands. “Arthur, talk to me!”

“Will’s…” Arthur can’t finish the sentence, but Morgana seems to get the gist because she gasps.

“No,” she breathes. “Oh God.”

In the background, Arthur hears Gwen start crying.

“We’ll be with you soon,” Morgana says, and hangs up.

Merlin is staring wordlessly at Arthur.

“I’m calling the police,” Arthur tells him.

“What can they do?” Merlin asks tonelessly.

Arthur swallows against another tide of nausea, but manages: “They can clear us of murdering him.”

Merlin closes his eyes, takes a trembling breath, and opens them again. “Right.”

While Arthur calls 999 and tells them about finding a friend collapsed in his kitchen, Merlin crosses the room and sits down at a chair pulled away from the dining table, staring at Will. Arthur thanks the operator and walks over to him.

“Merlin…” he begins. He stretches out a hand, wanting to put it on Merlin’s shoulder, wanting to offer some kind of support because Merlin looks so devastated that Arthur just wants to wrap him in his arms and protect him from the world, but Merlin flinches away, not looking at him.

“I’m sorry,” Arthur says, letting his hand drop back to his side. It isn’t enough.

{part five}
Tags: character: arthur pendragon, character: gwen, character: lancelot, character: merlin, character: morgana, pairing: arthur/lancelot, pairing: merlin/arthur pendragon, pairing: merlin/will, series: teacup 'verse, tv show: merlin, type: slash
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