Title: Welcome to Camelot Hotel
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Other
Summary: “My dear boy,” Gaius said, peering at Merlin intently over the top of his spectacles. “It sounds as though your flat is haunted.” (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4)
Warnings: Stalking, horror tropes, attempted murder.
Word Count: 995 words.
Prompt: #234 Suspense Month - "No, Stop!" and by trope_bingo square, "trapped in a dream."
Author's Notes: It's like you read my mind, mods :)
“My dear boy,” Gaius said, peering at Merlin intently over the top of his spectacles. “It sounds as though your flat is haunted.”
Merlin shook his head. “I’m sure there’s some kind of rational explanation,” he said. “I mean, it’s an old building. Maybe someone in another flat was watching TV or something, and it carried through the ventilation system, and…”
Gaius shot him a look that suggested he was grasping at straws, and Merlin sighed. He had fled to Gaius’ house the night before, unwilling to even set foot in the flat after what he’d heard, and since then he had barely slept, certain that every creaking floorboard would herald some new terror. Something was definitely going on in the old hotel, and odds were good that it was nothing so benign as some freaky acoustics. He just wished Gaius wouldn’t be quite so blasé about it.
“You’re right,” he said finally, giving up. “My flat is haunted. My fucking flat is haunted. Of course I would end up with a haunted flat.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Do you think that’s why the previous tenant left? The ghost chased him out?”
“It’s entirely possible,” Gaius said. “From what you’ve told me about the state of the place, I can only imagine Arthur didn’t like your predecessor very much.”
That made Merlin frown. “I don’t know,” he said slowly. “If Arthur is the ghost, then why the message in the bedroom? Why would he be waiting for me, of all people? I thought that sort of thing only happened in horror movies.”
“Usually it does, my boy. In real life, ghosts tend to be quieter. A sudden change in temperature, an orb in a photograph. Sometimes an apparition. But seldom anything like this.” Gaius sounded almost excited by Arthur’s atypical behaviour. “Perhaps he is trying to warn you about something — you said you felt a strong connection with him.”
Merlin nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, it was weird. It felt like I knew him, somehow…like he was my responsibility.”
Gaius made a considering noise, and got to his feet. As Merlin watched, he crossed to one of his many bookshelves and began to run a finger along the dusty spines. “What you’ve described,” he said over his shoulder. “It’s not altogether unheard of. There are some theories — suggestions, mostly — that ghosts are particularly drawn to those who…Ah, here we are.”
He pulled out a battered old volume and came back to the table, spreading it open just above Merlin’s plate so that Merlin could see the title page. In curling Greek letters, it read simply: μετεμψύχωσις. It wasn’t a word Merlin could remember having seen before, yet somehow he knew without asking what it meant.
By the time Merlin got back to the Camelot, it was nearly dark, and he felt even less eager to return to the flat than he had the night before. His unease turned into outright dread when, upon entering the lobby and turning towards the lift, he found that the elevator had disappeared. The wall was smooth and darkly panelled, as if it had never been disturbed, and Merlin was once more hit with a familiar wave of cold, his teeth beginning to chatter in spite of the evening's warmth. Part of him wanted to leave, to forget about this stupid place and Gaius’ ridiculous theories. But even as he urged himself to turn around and go back the way he had come, he found his body was no longer under his control. He was gripped with a sense of urgency that was not his own, and instead of turning towards the door he found himself beginning to run in the direction of the antique staircase.
Driven by the unseen force, Merlin took the stairs two at a time, arriving out of breath on the landing in front of number 7D just in time to hear Arthur say, “I don’t have any secrets.”
Merlin’s key was already in his hand. He fumbled for the lock, his hands so cold they were shaking. Inside, the murderer laughed and said, “Are you sure?” He cocked the gun.
“No, please,” Arthur said. There was real fear in his voice now. “He’s done nothing to you. Leave him out of this.”
Blood pounded in Merlin’s ears. He was breathing fast from the climb, his legs wobbling, but he got the impression that whoever was directing him – his past self? – was used to climbing those stairs; that this was a path well-worn with familiarity. The other Merlin’s breathlessness was pure adrenaline. Or pure fear.
The key turned in the lock, and the door opened. Two men stood facing one another across a pristine living room, dressed in the sort of formal clothing Merlin had only seen in period films. One was blond-haired, handsome. The other was holding a gun.
“Merlin, run,” the blond man — Arthur — said quietly, not taking his eyes from the figure in front of him. “Get out of here.”
“No, stay, Merlin,” the other man countered, smiling. “You’re just in time to watch the show.”
He moved; just the smallest gesture, but Merlin felt his other self react without thinking.
“No, stop!” he yelled, flinging out a hand. To Merlin’s astonishment, a gust of wind came out of nowhere, apparently conjured by the sweep of his arm. Unexpected power surged through him, and the man with the gun was flung against the opposite wall with such force that his body made an audible crunch when it hit the plaster. Merlin stared at the crumpled figure, then at his outstretched palm. Panic welled up in his chest. What had he done? How had he done it? What kind of monster had his previous self been?
Beside him, Arthur turned slowly, something broken and awful in the way he kept clenching and unclenching his fists at his sides.
“You’re Emrys,” he said, voice turning hard with the sudden realisation. “You’re a sorcerer.”