Title: More Than A Feeling [Part 2]
Pairing/s: future Merlin/Arthur, with mentions of Morgana/Leon and Gwen/Lance
Character/s: Arthur, Morgana, mentions of Merlin
Summary: Arthur pays his sister a visit to tell about what he has discovered.
Warnings: mentions of forced bonding, mentions of the selling of people
Word Count: 1500 (again, sorry, I'm terrible)
Prompt: #321: child.spring.window
Author's Notes: Takes place after the happenings in the full first chapter of this story that I posted on AO3. I recommend reading that before reading this because there is a bit of world building. And again, the chapter I post later on AO3 might be a bit longer than this one because I clearly can't stop. Sigh.
Morgana opened the door, her eyebrow cocking as she took in Arthur’s casual attire. He hadn’t planned on paying his sister a visit, but after everything Merlin had told him, his feet seemed to carry him here on his own. As much as he hated to admit it, he needed her right now. Well, her position on the force that is.
“Ah, baby brother, to what do I owe the nuisance?” she asked with a smirk.
Arthur gave her a cursory nod and pushed past her into her modest suburban home, uninvited. “Good to see you too, Morgana.”
The place was bright and airy and immaculately clean, as usual. Leon had never been one to let his living space get too messy, even when they had bunked together during their stint in the police academy. Well, Arthur’s brief stint, Leon’s full run.
“Did you need something?” Morgana asked, her voice laced with sarcasm and weariness. “You know some of us have actual jobs around here.”
“You don’t work Fridays.” Arthur strode through the foyer toward the living room. Through the open living space, he could just glimpse the tip of the porch of the backhouse where Gwen and Lance lived. He should really stop by when they were around. It had been much too long since they all had a proper night together.
Arthur sighed as he flopped down on the reclining loveseat and ran a hand through his hair. He watched a Morgana crossed the room and sank into the dark leather armchair by the window. “I think I may have uncovered a familiar trafficking ring.”
For her part, Morgana didn’t even bat an eyelash. “Oh, have you now?” she asked. Was that more sarcasm he detected? The lack of shock or twitch to her face made Arthur think she wasn’t surprised. Granted, she was used to hearing and Seeing the dirty, ugly side of the city. That’s why the LAPD hired her in the first place. Outstanding marks in Seeing and Premonitions, graduating from the witches police academy at the top of her class. She could See what most couldn’t.
It had driven Arthur crazy as a child, unable to get away with anything. And it had horrified their father. Well, that is until Arthur started showing magical ability as well. Then he had another child to focus his anger on.
Now Uther just wanted nothing to do with the devil spawn that once dared to call themselves his children. What a perfect family they made.
“Yes,” Arthur continued. “Run by a man named Jarl.”
Morgana sighed and crossed her legs before leveling Arthur with a pitying look. “Arthur, LAPD is well aware of the trafficking ring. We’ve been keeping tabs on it since last spring.”
Arthur didn’t know whether to be shocked or outraged. He settled for the latter.
“Last spring?!” He shouted, leaping to his feet. “Why the hell haven’t you guys shut it down yet?!”
Morgana leaned forward, all signs of sarcasm and pity gone from her face. “Because we can’t get anything to stick. Somehow, they keep getting tipped off. All our undercover ops get shown the door and the little evidence they do manage to collect gets tampered with or goes missing.”
“I know where it is,” Arthur blurted out, unable to help himself. Usually, he would avoid telling his sister the illegal aspects and unlawful escapades his work required of him, but he wanted this ring taken down. He began to pace the length of the living room, his mind whirling. “There’s a convenience store, if you take a squad—”
“The convenience store off 16th?” Morgana said, cutting him off. Arthur halted mid pace and turned to stare at her, startled. “Yes, we are aware of that portal.”
“Portal? It’s a portal?”
He shouldn’t be shocked, now that he thought about it. A secret code and skinny cashier of a bouncer wouldn’t be enough to keep out unwanted customers. Or course the market wasn’t really there. The cashier hadn’t been flicking a switch, he must have performed the spell that had activated the portal just before Arthur stepped through. Magic or not, it was rather difficult to create a large space where there wasn’t any and the back of the convenience store certainly couldn’t house the entirety of the lounge and its various rooms. Or course the location was elsewhere. He should have known that.
Morgana chuckled. “Did you think that was the actual location?” Arthur didn’t respond but from the shake of her head and the glisten in her eyes, Morgana had taken his silence as answer enough. “No, that’s just one of many portals to the market. We’ve discovered five so far, all across the city. Who knows how many there are.”
“Then where is it physically located?”Arthur asked, crossing his arms and straightening his shoulders to counteract the stupidity and embarrassment he felt coloring his cheeks. He should have known. No wonder he wasn’t fit to be on the force.
Morgana shrugged, leaning back in her chair. “If we knew that, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It’s untraceable. The most seamless spell we’ve seen.” She huffed with a shake of her head and turned her gaze out the window. “They must have an extraordinary pair in their ranks.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Only a very powerful familiar could hold the amount of magic needed to construct multiple portal points. And they would need to be bonded and paired with a skilled enough witch to perform the spell. Arthur could only think of one person who might have been able to pull it off. “They deal in high profile powerful familiars, sold to the highest bidder. A woman by the name of Morgause likes to parade her white wolf familiar around the lounge. She could be the caster, with a familiar like that.”
Morgana sat up straight, eyes wide as she stared at Arthur. “You’ve been inside the market?”
“Yes.” Arthur frowned at his sister, immediately suspicious of her sudden interest. This couldn’t end well. Morgana interested in something usually meant she was about to get exactly what she wanted. Whether Arthur or anyone else wanted her to or not. “Remember, I told you about my new case, the jaguar familiar, Freya who went missing.”
“And they let you in?”
Arthur nodded, hesitant. “From your shock, I’m guessing this is a feat.”
Morgana scrutinized Arthur, her gaze boring into his before she spoke. “We have only been able to get one officer into the market and she came out missing the last three weeks of her life and no evidence to speak of. She’s still under observation. No one else has been willing to take the risk since.”
Oh fuck, he knew where this was going now.
“No, Morgana, no. I have a case to work.”
“Arthur, you’re able to get in, they know you now, they think you are a client. An unbonded witch looking to buy a familiar.” Arthur immediately thought of Merlin and then felt sick and nearly gagged at the idea of buying him. It wasn’t right, none of it was. “Just a bit of snooping, no more than your own job requires. Names, faces, dates. Intel, we need intel.”
He could do it, Arthur knew he could. And god dammit he wanted to. How many familiars right now had been bought and forced to bond with a witch? How many were being abused, neglected, hurt, sucked dry and killed by callous indifferent witches with deep pockets? An image popped into Arthur’s head, Merlin, bruised and bloodied, hunched on a stool as he licked his wounds and took the abuse his witch dished out. His bond mark raised like a burn mark.
Like it had been painful.
Arthur had never met a forced bonded pair. Frankly he had thought it just a rumor, a horror story told to familiars so they would be cautious and not bond too frivolously. But over the years working as a PI he had begun to wonder if there was some truth behind the myth. Of course now he was sure of it, though he still had yet to meet a forced bonded pair. Maybe he had and he just didn’t know it? He assumed they would look like every other witch and familiar except behind closed doors. But then again, what if they weren’t? What if the act of forcing an unwilling familiar to bond produced a different sort of bond mark?
Like one that Merlin carried.
“Fine,” Arthur said with a nod to Morgana and almost immediately regretted his decision as she grinned, smug. He quickly added, “but only so long as it takes for me to find Freya. I’m not going out of my way to help the LAPD and I sure as hell will not risk Freya’s life for the sake of the police.”
“Deal.” Morgana stood up, spit into her hand, and stuck it out to Arthur in offering. It was a struggle not to roll his eyes as he copied her actions before taking her hand and sealing the deal. Just like when they were younger.
When they broke apart and settled back down in their respective seats, Morgana flashed Arthur a teasing smirk. “Still bitter about not making the force, huh?”
“I’m not bitter,” Arthur huffed, not sure which of them he was trying to convince more. From Morgana’s soft chuckle, he hadn’t succeeded on either front.
“Magic just isn’t your strong suit, dear brother," she said with a casual wave of her hand and a flash of gold in her eyes. Two cups of steaming tea materialized on the coffee table before them. "There’s nothing wrong with that.”