Title: Take Me On
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Mordred
Summary: It was a brisk November morning when Merlin received a message that the prince had escaped the palace.
Word Count: 1200ish :D
Prompt: 340 - noisy
Author's Notes: it got a bit long...not beta'd
It was a brisk November morning when Merlin received a message that the prince had escaped the palace.
“Send my ungrateful son to me once you retrieve him,” the king muttered over his rashers and untouched banana muffin—a weak compromise in his diet. “Then we’ll talk.”
Merlin threw a searching look at Gwaine. He'd only been here a few months. Gwaine, on the other hand, had years of experience. A seasoned veteran in comparison.
Gwaine only shrugged, like a missing prince took on as much importance as a shortage of Crunchy Nut Clusters.
Merlin could hear the crackle of Gwaine crunching on crisps back at the palace. The sound grated out from his earpiece and set him on edge. He'd been convinced that nobody needed to go MI6 on the place and Elyan suggested he take the Jaguar alone to the location.
Merlin had called Arthur to no avail. After a number of ignored texts and at Gwaine's urging, he sent a GIF of some Harry Potter reference. Merlin hoped it conveyed the gravity of the situation.
Arthur replied immediately with an obscure GIF from some shooting game. He frankly didn't know what it meant, except maybe the prat was alive. Or his murderer liked to play Nintendo 64.
“Who the hell is Mordred?” Gwaine shouted in Merlin's ear. “You said you knew him?”
“Sort of.” Before miracle upon miracle found him a full-time job protecting Arthur Pendragon, he’d been studying at Oxford. He’d participated in two clubs with Mordred Evans: Quidditch Club and Tea Appreciation Society. There had been a lot of reluctant Quaffle balls and Earl Grey brewing tips shared with Mordred.
He’d seemed pleasant enough, with his pleading eyes and mop of curls framing his cherubic face. Everybody had fawned over him like he was some young Greek god, while Merlin sat indifferent in the corner counting tea leaves, social butterfly that he was.
“CCTV record shows he left of his own volition in a cherry-red Bentley,” Percival said as Merlin parked across from the house.
The house seemed normal enough.
Except for the noise.
Merlin pressed the door bell as futuristic techno pop what-have-you pulsated from the house and reached the street. Mordred must have miraculously heard the ringing—he answered the door wearing alarmingly large shades that covered half his forehead, a sideways pink baseball cap, and baggy hipster clothes.
“Merlin! Do come in.” His face lit up, like Merlin his dearest, oldest friend and he'd just came in time for a jolly cup of tea. Merlin coughed and turned off his ear-piece.
Already Mordred was beckoning him into the house, his wrists bedecked in jewelled bracelets and a fitness watch. Deeper into the catacombs where peace and quiet had died they ventured.
Merlin hadn’t expected such a warm welcome and for a moment stared blankly at a pewter tea kettle on a kitchen table. It looked suspiciously like a Norwegian Ridgeback. A Slytherin pennant hung above a sofa, and a replica of Draco Malfoy's wand earned a centre spot on the mantelpiece like a family heirloom.
“Want some silver needle?” Mordred called back, motioning to the pot. The noise above was loud, but they didn't have to scream at each other to be heard.
“No. Sorry. I need Arthur.” Merlin winced at how unprofessional that sounded. A black cat eyed him from an elaborate cat tree. The whole place smelled like lavender and cookies. It was like stepping into a gran’s house save the overbearing music and Slytherin paraphernalia. “Is this…your place?”
Mordred nodded. “My new job pays well.”
Merlin waited for an explanation, but none came. He cleared his throat and pointed to the ceiling. “What’s the music?”
Mordred gaze went to the stairs. “Arthur’s practising. Bit noisy, isn’t it?”
“A bit?” Merlin saw it rattling the china. Because of course Mordred had fine china. “But why?”
Mordred fluttered his hand in the air. “Self-expression.”
"He could have easily self-expressed himself in the palace." Merlin loosed his tie a fraction. At the least, the prince could have waited until a decent time of day to come play with his friend. With a pang, Merlin realised he hadn't thought much of how Mordred and Arthur knew each other.
As if Mordred read his thoughts, he smiled, warm and coaxing like a serpent's. He gracefully poured himself a cup of tea and sipped at it like it was the nectar of the gods. “You’ll see."
Merlin did not fail to find irony in Arthur wearing gigantic stereo headphones and standing at the epicentre of the music pumping through the house.
The same prat who wore bespoke suits and custom-made ties now wore a tight band shirt with yellow jeans hugging his legs. Merlin's throat went dry. He quietly killed the part of him that wanted to marvel at Arthur through the open door. Arthur had his back turned as his voice resonated through the room on speakers, a mixture of gravelly rasps and warm high-notes.
“Why are dreamers all pretenders?”
Arthur swung his hips to the music and air drummed with his pointer fingers to an unrelenting beat.
“Why do pretenders never give up?”
His hands fell on a bundle of odd notes on the electric piano. Maybe he was praying they’d make The Chord that would send the invisible crowd into synth-pop bliss.
“I’m scheming to find your love.”
Rather than bliss, Merlin felt like he’d stepped into a sort of chaotic hell of sound and meant to leave immediately when Arthur suddenly grabbed the microphone and slowly turned around.
“Driven by destiny, suspending in ecstasy, take me on—”
Arthur’s voice cracked as his eyes locked with Merlin’s. He froze, covered in sweat and panting. He turned away, nearly tripping over the tangles of cords on the floor, and hurriedly cranked down dials and flipped switches and suddenly they were in blessed silence save for an odd cha-cha-cha rhythm setting on the piano.
“Merlin!” Arthur leant back against the piano and it screamed out a handful of notes. He switched it off and threw his headphones and neon shutter glasses at the drum set. They both hit with a thump and then tumbled to the floor.
“Yes, Your Highness. I’m here to retrieve you from your unauthorised music session." Merlin cocked his head. "Did you write that song?”
Arthur’s cheeks coloured, becoming a flurry of hands as he ruffled his hair and straightened his shirt. Not quite meeting Merlin's eyes. “Well, yes. And no. Mordred worked on the melody bit. I do the lyrics and vocals.”
Merlin bit his lip and bobbed his head up and down as the silence stretched on. After a pause he asked, “Why did you run away?”
Arthur snorted but frowned when he found Merlin staring at his shirt with a piece of pizza on it and the words "Home Slice" emblazoned on the front. He grabbed a leather jacket and shrugged it on. “I needed some time out of the palace, obviously.”
“Just ask." Merlin hesitated, but said it anyway. "Arthur." The prince flinched in response, his hands wavering over his zipper.
Merlin continued. "We need to accompany you—”
“Did it occur to you," Arthur said, "that I don’t want to be accompanied by a throng of babysitters flocking around me, posing as bodyguards?” His eyes met Merlin in challenge, all flint and spark, ready for fire.
Merlin smiled tightly. “I’ll be in the car, Your Highness.” He couldn't win when Arthur was like this. All he could do was watch Arthur snarl and snap like a dog in a cage that they both knew he was in for life.
He went back through the corridor and silently down the stairs. He waved to Mordred and exchanged farewells and the moment he sat in the Jaguar he hit his head against the leather steering wheel and blasted his fantasy soundtrack mix off his phone.
Merlin’s heart was pounding. His mind involuntarily recounted Arthur's voice, straining with desperation. Unwillingly, Merlin felt himself electrified, like he'd just walked out of a thunderstorm. The prince's usually perfectly styled hair had looked ruffled, uncombed, and the slightest bit damp, like he'd just ran his wet fingers through it. The room had smelt of sweat and lavender, and Merlin could almost recreate all the elements in his mind when he closed his eyes. He imagined that light in Arthur's eyes as he sang about being something else. Anything other than royalty.
Merlin thoughts had grown increasingly muddled and raw. When Arthur tapped against the car window, he jumped in his seat. Merlin swore under his breath; he still felt a little wild from desire, like a wolf who had been howling at the moon. He watched as Arthur peered through the tinted glass, shivering in the cold. His shirt rode up, revealing soft-looking skin and smattering of hair that traveled below his yellow trousers. Merlin shoved vivid, unbidden images of snogging Arthur, all tongue and heat and friction, and reluctantly jabbed the button to unlock the car. Arthur slid in the passenger’s seat and eyed him sidelong. Merlin welcomed the cool breeze.
“I could invite Mordred to the palace,” Arthur said eventually.
Merlin swallowed. He turned down the music and crossed his arms, letting them fall—what he hoped was naturally—over the front of his trousers. “I’m sure the palace has sound-proof rooms for recreational use, Your Highness. You don't need to run away to practise.”
Arthur sighed. He rested an arm on the corner of Merlin’s seat. “Hey. Do you play?” His breath was hot against Merlin's neck.
“If you count the cowbell.” Merlin raised his eyebrows. He didn't dare turn all the way—they'd be nose-to-nose. God, he wanted to turn. “I play an adequate cowbell.”
Arthur pulled back and slumped in his seat. “Good. You can be part of our band, then.” Arthur hit the reclining button on the seat and pulled his designer aviator sunglasses out of his pocket and plopped them on. “We’re The Electric Dragons of Destiny.” He whispered it like it was a secret. Which in a way, it was.
“How fitting, Your Highness.” Merlin started the engine and tried not to smile. But then he remembered how screwed he was.
Then it was painfully easy.
Arthur turned on his side away from Merlin and whispered, “Thanks, Emrys.” Soft snores followed quickly after.
Merlin ignored the terrific lurch of his heart as he turned up a sappy and depressing violin solo and drove them both home.