Title: A Minor Detour, Part 17
Rating: PG-13 (R overall)
Character/s: Arthur, Uther, Merlin, Morgana
Summary: His father leaned in, his ruddy face large and menacing in the projection. “No one would even notice if an orphaned station rat got himself stabbed and thrown out into the vacuum.”
Word Count: 1,000
Prompt: #262: Family Dinner
Author's Notes: Part 1|10|15|16||All Parts on AO3
Wayfarer’s Wander was unfamiliar territory for Arthur, though not entirely unknown. He’d been a few times as a child when he live with his father on the Albion, too young to even have his own quarters, much less a commission in Camelot’s fleet. Their last stop there had been years before Arthur left for academy, and something had happened to put his father into a rage the likes of which Arthur had rarely seen. He never did find out the cause.
He assumed the only reason his father was less apoplectic than that at the moment was that he’d had a few hours to burn through the worst of it. Even so, his countenance snarled dangerously over the flickering communications link.
“This is your last chance, Arthur. I’ll have a team waiting for you at Wayfarer’s Wander. Surrender yourself quietly and I can fix this.”
“And if I don’t? The Wander is neutral territory—”
“The Wander is a cesspit, not a safe haven. Alator deals with any faction, but he doesn’t care about protecting anyone who sets foot inside. There are fights daily; there are deaths.”
His father leaned in, his ruddy face large and menacing in the projection. “No one would even notice if an orphaned station rat got himself stabbed and thrown out into the vacuum.”
Every inch of Arthur’s skin prickled with the static of fear. “You wouldn’t,” he started to say, but he knew it wasn’t true. His father had been ready to send Merlin to the Gauntlet. Assassination was no less heartless.
“I would,” his father confirmed coldly. “And if you think you can avoid it by skipping the Wander, think again. There’s nowhere else for you to restock that’s not within my reach. Defy me and I will track you down.
“I want you back on the Albion and back to your senses, but if it comes down to it, I’d rather send you to the void myself than let the galaxy see how far you’ve fallen.”
The feed cut to blackness and Arthur was left alone in the dark. He’d been planning to follow Merlin when his holocomm buzzed the alert of an incoming call and he’d ducked into an empty hallway to take it. It could only have been his father, and of course it was.
He knew it wasn’t a bluff. If he didn’t give in to his father’s demands, he was effectively sentencing everyone on both shuttles to death. If he told them his plans, they’d try to stop him and come up with a solution, and that would just get them all killed.
Leon, his oldest friend; Percival, the gentlest of them all; Elyan, quick and clever; Lance, loyal to a fault; Owain, so young and eager. Gwaine, who was a disaster of a human being but probably didn’t deserve to die for it.
So when he got to the bridge and found Merlin looking ridiculous and happy, he didn’t say anything.
And days later, when they got to the Wander and his makeshift crew rejoiced at not seeing the Albion, he still didn’t say anything.
His father and a security team were waiting as soon as they docked, in plain clothes and ostensibly unarmed, but Arthur knew Camelot had weapons they could get past the scanners. He wasn’t willing to bet on whether they’d brought any with them.
He turned to his Knights and Gwaine, all wary at the sight, and said, “It’s okay. They’re not here for you.”
Of course it was Merlin who stepped forward, questioning him as always. “What are you doing?”
Arthur wrapped his arms around Merlin’s shoulders, his hands around the back of Merlin’s head. “I’m sorry,” he said as he tried to memorize that face, so perfect even in fear and confusion. “I love you. I was a coward not to show you the way I should’ve, but I can do this.”
For all that Merlin reciprocated—and he did, passionately; desperately—the kiss still felt like a stolen thing, one Arthur had no right to but claimed anyway. Merlin clung to him just as helplessly as he clung to Merlin, trying to make this one moment of intimacy worth the years of longing leading up to it. The years of longing that were sure to follow.
It would never be enough, but it was all they would have.
“Enough,” Uther growled.
Rough hands pulled them apart, too many to be just Uther, and Arthur’s men tensed for a fight; even Gwaine looked ready to launch himself into a brawl.
“Stand down,” he ordered them, voice coming out more ragged than he’d expected. “Resupply and get out of here. Leave Camelot space. You won’t be pursued.”
He glared at Uther as he said it. Uther scowled, but nodded reluctantly.
“You planned this.”
There were tears in Merlin’s eyes that Arthur couldn’t answer. He looked at the man who would have to lead them in his stead. “Keep them safe, Leon.”
He let Uther’s men start to lead him away, but looked back at the sound of a scuffle. Merlin fought to free himself from Percival’s restraining hold, ignoring whatever Lance and Leon were trying to tell him. He turned away. They would look out for each other. They’d be all right.
As they rounded a junction, they found a group in Wayfarer purple blocking the way. At the head, a woman with medallions of command pinned to her shoulders.
“Uther,” she greeted, “Arthur. I’m afraid I can’t let you leave without insisting you join me for dinner.”
A glance at Uther showed him frozen in place; he recognized her, though Arthur did not.
“Well, it can’t possibly be worse than my current plans,” Arthur said when the silence stretched out. “But who are you, exactly?”
She smiled at him, slow and not exactly kind. “Of course, where are my manners. I’m the Commissioner of Wayfarer’s Wander. You may have been familiar with my predecessor, Alator. Morgana Pendragon, at your service.”