Title: Welcome to Camelot Hotel (Part 2)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Other
Summary: “You didn't know, did you? You always were oblivious to the things that were right under your nose. Whereas I knew all your secrets from the start.” (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4)
Warnings: Stalking, implied off-screen death and violence.
Word Count: 999 words
Prompt: #233 Suspense Month - "Why are you doing this to me?" and by trope_bingo square, "Haunted House."
Author's Notes: Sorry this is a bit rushed, I've been a bit busy the past few days and only just managed to squeeze some writing in before the deadline.
Merlin tried to keep calm. With all the lights on and the furniture upended, he knew that he was alone in the flat, and although the note on the wall was creepy — how the hell had the previous tenant known his name? — there was sure to be a rational explanation for it. He hoped. In any event he wasn’t about to be frightened off by what was probably some asshole’s idea of a joke. He had promised his Uncle Gaius, after all.
Apart from the horror movie vibe and the distasteful purple scrawl, the bedroom was in better shape than the living room; the bed and mattress were intact, although the pillows had been ripped to shreds and feathers were scattered all over the plush beige carpet. Shaking his head at the destruction, Merlin set about tidying up as best he could. He gathered the broken furniture into a pile beside the front door, ready to be carted off the next morning, then located a vacuum in the hall cupboard and cleaned up the feathers and other debris on the floor. He scrubbed the kitchen benches, pieced together the tattered shower curtain with tape, and managed to get the worst of the green slime out of the bathroom sink. The torn wallpaper would have to be properly removed and replaced, but in the meantime he trimmed off the ragged strips as neatly as he could.
The writing on the wall, however, refused to come off.
“Damn,” Merlin sighed. He had scrubbed until his arms ached, but the ominous purple lettering was still there, staring down at him mockingly from above the bed. In this light, the letters looked almost burned into the wall, their jagged shapes menacing against the pale silver- and white-striped background. Well, there was nothing for it. He’d just have to live with it until he got around to wallpapering the bedroom, which hopefully wouldn’t take too long. It wasn’t as if there was any terrible rush, really — while it might send a cold prickle down his spine whenever he turned his back, it was hardly as big of a problem as, say, the bathroom door, which had been ripped almost completely off its hinges.
By the time Merlin had finished his preliminary clean-up, it was early evening, and the persistent chill that had dogged him since his encounter with the property manager had subsided into a faint sheen of frost against the window pane. Merlin shivered a little as he surveyed the results of his efforts. The flat was still a total dump, but at least he wouldn’t feel like he'd survived some kind of disaster when he woke up in the morning. He decided it was time to call it a day.
There was no food in the cupboards, and all the china had been smashed, so Merlin went out to dine at one of the local pubs, figuring that he might as well get to know the neighbourhood. He ordered a pint and some steak and chips, and spent a pleasant hour or two trying to convince a heavily intoxicated man that Man U was definitely the better team. Afterwards, he dawdled the two blocks back to the old hotel; it was a nice night, and given the state of the place he didn’t feel particularly compelled to hurry back.
When he reached the Camelot building, however, Merlin was surprised to find the whole place shining brightly, including his own flat – although he could have sworn he’d turned the lights out before he left. Frowning, he went inside and made a beeline for the lift. Had the previous tenant returned unexpectedly? Or had Merlin simply miscounted the windows on that side of the building? It was dark, after all, and he'd had a bit to drink. It was possible.
He had just reached the hallway outside number 7D when a sound from inside made him stop short, his breath condensing into a sudden cloud in front of him.
“Why are you doing this?” A man’s voice demanded, clearly audible through the closed door. “I thought we were friends.”
“We might have been, once,” said another voice, and Merlin gave an involuntary shudder at the venom that dripped from every syllable. “But that was before you broke your promise. You swore to always keep her safe."
A pause, then the first voice said softly, "You were in love with her."
“You didn't know, did you? You always were oblivious to the things that were right under your nose. Whereas I knew all your secrets from the start.”
The man gave a dry laugh that made Merlin’s skin crawl. He felt as if he were trying to breathe in icy water, his lungs contracting as a numbing frost spread throughout his body. His heart was pounding. Who were these people? How had they gotten into the flat? He ought to call the police, but when he fumbled for his phone wasn't in either of his pockets. He must have left it behind when he went out.
“You’re mad,” the man called Arthur said in the living room, his voice shaking. “I don't have any secrets."
“Don't you?” The other man sounded almost amused. “Are you sure?"
There was a metallic click from inside the flat, and Merlin realised with sudden horror that it was the sound of a gun being cocked. His hand moved of its own accord, reaching for the door handle even as he tensed, ready to throw himself on whoever he found inside. It was idiotic at best, and at worst suicidal; there was a crazy person in his new flat with a gun, what the hell was he even doing? But despite the clamour of his survival instincts, he knew with a conviction that went beyond rational thought that he could not allow this man to kill Arthur. He couldn’t. So he flung open the door with a yell, fully prepared to be shot at any second.
There was nobody there.