Title: Like a Fine Wine (9)
Pairing/s: eventual Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Alice
Summary: She poured them each a cup with hands that trembled slightly, then settled back into her seat and fixed her nephew with a look. “Now,” she said. “Talk. What have you got yourself mixed up in this time?”
[ Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | AO3 ]
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 379 Do the chicken dance
Author's Notes: *does the chicken dance*
They got off several stops later, and Arthur let Merlin lead him out of the tube station and half a block along the footpath before he realised he had no idea where they were.
“Wait,” he said, stopping in his tracks. “Where are we going?”
Merlin stopped too, one side of his face lit eerily by a nearby streetlamp. He still looked completely freaked out, glancing up and down the pavement as though he were expecting someone to charge at them at any moment.
“My Aunt Alice’s,” he said finally. “It’s not far. No one will think to look for you there.”
It made sense, but still Arthur hesitated. He’d already been attacked and nearly killed tonight, and it had only just occurred to him that wandering about in a strange neighbourhood with a sorcerer probably wasn’t a smart idea.
“I need to call Gwaine,” he said, fumbling for his phone. “Let him know what’s going on, and tell him not to go back to the flat.”
“Can you walk and talk at the same time?” Merlin asked tersely, eyes still scanning the empty street. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to hang around.”
Arthur agreed, so he began to walk, thumbing open the lock screen as he did so. There were a number of missed calls waiting for him, as well as a series of increasingly irate text messages—all of them from Gwaine.
“Hey Gwaine,” Arthur said, when his flatmate picked up. “What’s up?”
“Thank fuck,” Gwaine said in his ear, sounding several shades of relieved and furious. “Where the fuck are you? I’ve been trying to call you for half an hour.”
Arthur glanced over at Merlin. “I’m with a friend,” he said. “What’s going on?”
“Would this be the same friend who trashed our place and terrorised the landlady?” Gwaine inquired. “You’re lucky she’s such a busybody, by the way, because that shit you left on the stove nearly started a fire. She was this close to kicking us out when she called me.”
“Fuck.” Arthur ran a hand through his hair. “I completely forgot about that.”
“That much was obvious,” Gwaine said, and now he just sounded concerned. “Look, mate, far be it for me to judge what you do in your personal life, but from the look of this place, either you and this Merlin bloke had some really kinky sex, or you were in some kind of fight.”
“The latter, I’m afraid,” Arthur said. He slowed his steps, letting Merlin draw ahead of him, and lowered his voice. “Some guy showed up and tried to kill me. I think—I think it might be related to Sophia.”
Gwaine cursed. “Did he have—?”
“Yes,” Arthur said quickly. “And so does Merlin.”
“What?” There was a clatter on the other end, as though Gwaine had nearly dropped the phone. “And you’re still with him? Arthur—”
“I want answers, Gwaine,” Arthur hissed. “This might be my only chance to find out what the hell is going on. Besides.” He looked at Merlin again. He had stopped in front of a battered old townhouse and was climbing the steps two at a time. “Merlin saved my life. I don’t think he’s going to hurt me.”
He heard Gwaine sigh. “I swear to God, if you turn up dead in a ditch tomorrow, I’m going to kill you myself,” he said. “You’re too damn trusting for your own good.”
“You’re the one who encouraged me to hook up with him!”
“That was when I thought he was a harmless nutter! A sorcerer is an entirely different story.”
The door to the townhouse opened, and Merlin was beckoning for Arthur to follow him inside. “I have to go,” he told Gwaine. “I’ll call you later, all right? Try to keep Mrs K from evicting us before I get back.”
He hung up over Gwaine’s protests, and followed Merlin into a brightly lit hallway, shutting the front door behind them. The corridor he had entered was narrow and cluttered to the point of overflowing, filled with various ornaments that looked old enough to be antiques. A small, plump woman with long grey hair was just releasing Merlin from her embrace.
“Oh,” she said, when she saw Arthur. Her hand went to her chest, fluttering nervously. “Oh, my dear. He’s the spitting image.”
“I told you.” Merlin turned, smiling a little. He seemed much more relaxed now that they were safely inside. “Alice, meet Arthur. Arthur, this is my aunt, Alice Freedman.”
Alice led the two of them into the living room, where she instructed them both to sit while she made a cup of tea. The eclectic décor from the hallway continued there, and Arthur couldn’t help staring at some of the more unusual pieces on the walls, including a coiled wooden dragon that glared at him with a single garnet eye. He nearly jumped out of his skin when the creature let out a loud hiss and a tongue unfurled from its mouth, revealing a much smaller dragon cradled in an egg. It took a moment for Arthur to realise that it was meant to be a cuckoo clock.
“Oh,” he said in surprise. “It tells the time.”
Merlin slanted him an amused glance. “What did you expect it to do, get up and do the chicken dance?” he asked, and Arthur glared.
“You’re a bloody sorcerer. For all I know, if could have done,” he said, and Merlin shrugged.
Alice came back with a tea tray balanced in her arms, and Arthur got up immediately to take it for her. He set it down on the coffee table in front of the sofa, while Merlin opened the packet of biscuits.
“Thank you, dears,” Alice said. She poured them each a cup with hands that trembled slightly, then settled back into her seat and fixed her nephew with a look.
“Now,” she said. “Talk. What have you got yourself mixed up in this time?”