Title: The Inheritance, Chapter 2
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Did Arthur inherit a haunted house?
Warnings: Haunted house tropes at every turn.
Word Count: 881
Prompt: 233 Why are you doing this to me?
Author's Notes: The Email Order Bridegroom is on hiatus for Suspense Month
“Should we investigate?” Arthur asks in a low voice.
The kitchen light below them shuts off with an ominous click. Merlin doesn’t hesitate in choosing the flight option of fight or flight and he tugs Arthur along.
They thunder up the stairs, torch in Merlin’s shaking hand chaotically illuminating treads, walls and handrail along the way. Merlin's heart is racing nearly as quickly as their feet.
The hallway they burst into is long and lined with more covered furniture. The torchlight seems muted in the dusty corridor but is suddenly irrelevant when Arthur finds a switch and the hall is dimly lit by an overhead fixture.
There are two shadowy figures hovering directly across from them. Merlin screams.
“Every horror movie ever,” Arthur says laughing.
“Shut up,” Merlin answers weakly, feeling the heat of his blush creep up his chest.
“I thought you were going to faint,” Arthur says.
Merlin grins sheepishly, “Near miss.” There’s another clap of thunder overhead and Merlin’s heart lurches in response. Arthur puts an arm around his shoulders.
“C’mon, let’s see if we can find a logical explanation for the dragging body noises,” he says lightly.
“That’s a terrible idea,” Merlin says.
Arthur lifts one eyebrow, “What would you suggest?”
Merlin goggles at him. “Get in the car and never look back, of course.”
“Survivor,” Merlin counters but Arthur is already pulling him down the hallway.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Merlin mutters.
They’d already searched five innocuous seeming bedrooms (yes, Merlin had insisted Arthur look under all the beds and in each and every closet) and a couple dusty bathrooms by the time they’d come to the end of the hallway and were facing the final closed door. “Since you made me open all the others, I think it’s your turn,” Arthur says waving his arm in invitation.
“No thank you,” Merlin says primly. “It’s all yours, murder victim.”
Arthur huffs but gamely grabs the doorknob, giving it a turn. It doesn’t move. “This one’s locked,” he says over his shoulder.
“Of course it is,” Merlin says. “Probably from the inside.”
“Oh, good idea,” Arthur responds. “Let’s see if there’s a key in the lock.” He falls to his knees. “I’ll shine the torch into the keyhole and see.”
Merlin blanches, pulling at Arthur’s shoulders. “Get your face away from that,” he yelps. “Seriously, have you never seen a scary movie in your life?”
Arthur laughs but gets back to his feet. “Okay, fraidy cat. I guess this can wait until morning.”
Merlin’s eyes widen comically. “Morning? We don’t know what the hell made that noise up here or what shut off the light downstairs and you think it’s a good idea to stay overnight?”
Arthur takes his hand again. “It’s probably just the storm,” he says easily. “It’s an old house with old wiring and maybe animals have taken up residence. We’ll be able to have a better look when the sun comes up.”
“If we ever see the sun again,” Merlin grouses but he follows Arthur back down the hallway toward the servant’s stairway, giving the dull mirror that gave him such a scare earlier one more look over his shoulder before descending. “We’re doomed,” he says into the empty hallway, almost expecting an evil laugh in response. The skies open instead. “Doomed,” Merlin repeats to Arthur’s back as they walk down the dark stairs.
When they hit the landing the light snaps back on in the kitchen. With a gasp, Arthur comes to an abrupt halt and Merlin crashes into him, nearly toppling them both down the last short flight. Arthur regains his balance, reaching back to push Merlin upright. He looks over his shoulder and says firmly “Old wiring,” before continuing down the stairs and into the bright kitchen.
Even though it’s raining, Merlin insists they stick together to retrieve their belongings from the car. “I’m not leaving your side,” he says. “Even if I need to wee you’re coming in with me.” Arthur rolls his eyes but doesn’t disagree so they make a mad dash to the car, making quick work of unloading the necessities.
Merlin is just grabbing his suitcase when he feels a chilly hand on the back of his neck. He shrugs it off, turning, expecting to see Arthur. There’s nothing but shadowy forest as far as he can see. “Got everything?” Arthur calls from the other side of the car.
Merlin looks at the dimly lit house looming over them and shudders but he gives Arthur a stiff nod and they make their way back.
“This is actually pretty cozy,” Merlin says yawning.
They’re laying cuddled up under their sleeping bags stretched out on the couch in front of the roaring fire. Arthur gives him a squeeze from behind. “I won’t let the ghosties get you, luv,” he murmurs, gifting Merlin with a light kiss to the top of his head.
Merlin reaches back and gives him a pinch. “Seriously? If I’m awake all night, you’re staying awake with me.”
Arthur yawns loudly, “Go to sleep.” He pulls Merlin closer. “I’ll protect you.”
Merlin yawns in response, “You’d better.”
They fall asleep to the lulling crackle pop of the fire and raindrops hitting the windows.
On the second floor there’s the low grating sound of a key turning and the creak of hinges as the door at the end of the hall swings open.