Title: 5 times Merlin fell even deeper in love and 1 time he learned he was not the only one. Part 4: An unexpected promotion
Pairing/s: (pre) Merlin/Percival
Character/s: Merlin, Percival
Summary: It's all fun and chit chat untill someone... disappears?
Word Count: ~1230 (um... sorry...)
Prompt:#248 We Need To Talk (Love and Friendship month)
Author's Notes: Thanks to Astor for trying to beat this fic into something that made sense.
Follow up to Four beddings and a funeral
Merlin let out a low whistle as he entered The Knight's Tavern. The transformation from scarcely lit student watering hole to prom night wonderland was almost complete. Banners and decorations with slogans, school name and the event's Instagram hashtag hung everywhere you could see. People buzzed too and from, setting up the welcome drinks and the photo area, making horrible noises as they set up the speakers and sound equipment, and other necessary tasks.
Merlin spotted Percy standing further in, discussing something with Owain, owner of The Tavern. Merlin had to take a pause to savour the moment, to watch Percy in a smart, grey suit and practically radiating confidence and professionalism. He thought he had been mentally prepared for this sight, but apparently that was not the case. Percy's usual sleeveless appearance was delicious enough, so how was he even hotter when all covered up? How this could be allowed in this delicate, teen appropriate setting was beyond Merlin's comprehension.
Percy himself seemed oblivious to being a potential fire risk. Merlin made himself look away and hastily blinked the hearts from his eyes before he made his presence known.
Percy smiled wide and waved him over. He was included in the final run through of the fire protocols, the updated list of names of the responsible adults – Merlin was one of them, hah!- and general technical info about the arrangement. The Prom was being held at the Tavern for the fifth year in a row. This was Percy's third year and he knew the protocols and the dos and don'ts by heart. Perhaps that was why Owain had allowed Merlin to join the team; he couldn't mess this up even if he tried. Owain himself seemed very pleased and declared The Tavern to be in good hands. He even gave them a friendly slap on the back before he took his leave.
The place steadily filled up with young women in pretty dresses and young men in tuxedos. Some deviated from the typical look. A rebel here, a snob there. Teachers and parents were hovering and trying to keep the punch from being spiked. Percy and Merlin dutifully made their rounds to observe the area before they settled against the wall overlooking the dance floor for a while. They updated each other and shared some idle conversation before they would repeat the cycle again.
“Did you see the guys hiding bottles down their pants?” Merlin struggled to keep a straight face.
Percy rolled his eyes. “Yeah, it's a classic. Only a matter of time before they get caught trying to drink it. When they sneak-”
Percy suddenly stopped talking, frowning in the direction of the crowded dance floor. Merlin's eyes flickered too and from, he couldn't find anything there worth noting.
“What is it?”
Percy snapped out of it. His eyebrows shot up and settled a fraction too high to give a truly neutral expression. “Nothing. Though I saw someone.”
Merlin felt a twinge of unease, but if Percy said it was nothing, then it probably was nothing.
Merlin decided to move on to a different topic.
“Well, I can see someone doing a horrible attempt at dubstep. Or whatever that is supposed to be...”
Percy's warm, low chuckle rumbled.
“I see a Kanye West wannabe.”
It didn't take long before the bottle smugglers tried to sneak away. Percy pushed off the wall to follow them and brought along a couple of the adults who were supposed to be on watch for these things. Merlin stayed behind and tried to act like he knew what he was doing. Watching all these people reminded him of his own prom back in Ealdor. Will had eventually found a date willing to go with him. Merlin and Freya Waters had gone together as friends. She was painfully shy, but smart and funny once you got to know her.
Two girls passed by, giggling down at their phones. They glanced over their shoulders at Merlin and giggled again. Merlin was relieved when Percy came back and could distracted him with a brief update. Percy had also taken another round, which meant there was more waiting time to fill.
“No limos at my prom.” The words tumbled out of Merlin. “Mom drove us. Went with a friend of mine, we had fun though.”
Percy's business expression broke into a laugh. “I borrowed Dad's truck. We were kings!”
Then his smile faded into a distant and pinched expression. Merlin bit his lip. Perhaps he shouldn't have brought that up. He changed the topic.
“How's your little cat family doing? Bet you have a lot of new pictures to show me.”
Percival sniffed, pretending to be indifferent. “Maybe I do, maybe I don't.”
“There's no maybe about it. You have a million.”
Percy scoffed and reached to take out his phone.
"Since you're twisting my arm..."
He swiftly scrolled through his pictures on his phone and showed them to Merlin with poorly hidden fondness. The little kittens were all a variety of black and white like their mother, still too young to have even opened their eyes.
“That's Rambo, Tarzan, Rocky and Nil- that's Nil.”
“Nil?” Merlin asked curiously.
“He looked like a Nil.”
Nil appeared to be mostly black with a dot of white on the top of the head. Merlin guessed the dot did look like a zero. Poor kitty. But Merlin knew from experience not to start arguments about names. Percy seemed almost as ready to defend the name as Merlin's mother has always been to defend Merlin's name, so he decided it was best to not say anything.
“All male then?” Merlin asked instead.
Percival shrugged. “No idea, how can you tell?”
“It's easier when they are older, I think. How's their mom?”
“She hates me. Hisses, glares, hides the kittens, won't eat if I'm in the room. I moved the litter box to the corner where she does shit... It's a mess.”
“Just wait till the little ones start exploring...”
Percy huffed. “I regret taking them in.”
“No, you don't.” Merlin said smiling.
Percy laughed like he had been taken by surprise.
“Nah, I don't.”
The small-talk continues. Merlin even eased in a hint about part time college classes and Percy did not completely reject the idea this time. Three girls wanted to take a selfie with them. A scuffle broke out on the dance floor, but it was easily settled. Merlin found he was actually enjoying himself and he almost did feel like an responsible adult.
Among the petty quarrels, spilled drinks and swishing gowns there was one person which stuck out to Merlin. He occasionally caught a dark haired guy staring intensely in Merlin's direction, and it only happened when Percy was away. Sure, others did stare a bit as well, but this guy seemed a bit under-dressed for the event and he was definitely not a part of the teacher/parent team. It seemed a bit odd, but then Merlin saw Percy talking with him, and assumed he would get some answers soon. Merlin finished his round and waited. Fifteen minutes passed and Percy had not yet returned. Twenty minutes later Merlin called Percy's phone, feeling a bit hot under the collar.
“Percy, where are you?”
“Hey, I need you to cover for me.”
“Cover for you? What's going on?”
“Nothing. You got this, Merls.”
“Percy, what the- Hello? Percy?”
Merlin blinked at the screen and the message saying call ended. What had just happened?