Title: Like a Fine Wine (10)
Pairing/s: eventual Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Alice
Summary: He wasn’t fully aware of what happened next, but suddenly there were hands gripping his shoulders, and someone was forcing his head down between his knees. Bright flashes of yellow light popped and sparked in the corners of his vision, and he screwed his eyes shut, taking a few deep breaths as he tried to get himself under control.
[ 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: 380 "Yes, my lord."
Author's Notes: N/A
Arthur listened with only half an ear as Merlin told his aunt what had happened. The hot, sweet tea Alice had given him was soothing on his raw throat, but now that most of the excitement was over he could feel his adrenaline crashing, his body aching where he’d been thrown against the wall.
“…who he was or why he was there either, right, Arthur?”
“Hmm?” Arthur looked up at the sound of his name, and found Merlin and Alice both staring at him. “Sorry, I missed that last bit.”
Merlin’s mouth quirked in a fond smile. “I was saying, we don’t know who that man was or why he attacked you,” he repeated. “But at this point I think it’s safe to say it has something to do with your birth certificate.”
“My birth certificate?” That made Arthur sit up, startled. “Why do you say that?”
Merlin shot him a strange look. “Because he showed up just a few days after you requested a copy of it? I highly doubt that was an accident.”
Put like that, it seemed obvious, and yet Arthur still found the concept difficult to credit. He frowned, trying to fit his mind around it, but the idea slid away from him like soap in a bathtub, slippery and un-graspable, and trying so hard to think about it made his temples throb. He put down his cup.
“It sounded like he knows you,” he said, and just getting the words out cost him an unreasonable degree of effort. “Do you think—maybe—the photograph…?”
Merlin was nodding before he’d even finished the sentence. “It’s definitely a possibility,” he said. “I mean, if he knew them—or rather, us—that might explain why…Arthur, are you all right?”
“Fine.” But Arthur was gasping now, half doubled over and clutching at his head. “Bit of—a headache—”
He wasn’t fully aware of what happened next, but suddenly there were hands gripping his shoulders, and someone was forcing his head down between his knees. Bright flashes of yellow light popped and sparked in the corners of his vision, and he screwed his eyes shut, taking a few deep breaths as he tried to get himself under control.
“Aunt Alice?” Merlin sounded frightened. “What the hell was that?”
“Nothing good,” Alice said. When Arthur could force his head up again, he saw her studying him, a serious expression marring her soft features. “My dear, I believe you have been enchanted.”
“At a guess, I’d say someone really doesn’t want you talking about magic in connection with that photograph,” Alice said. “Although I couldn’t tell you exactly why.”
“But I’ve talked about it before without any problems,” Arthur pointed out. He still felt sick, but now that they had changed the subject, the pressure in his head had eased somewhat. “Why would it suddenly start affecting me now?”
“I don’t know.” Alice pursed her lips. “Usually these things have very specific triggers.”
“Maybe you were getting too close to the truth?” Merlin suggested. “I mean—you were pretty adamant before that our connection to the men in the photo was genetic rather than supernatural. I thought it was just because you didn’t know about magic, but now that I know you do…Maybe the spell is supposed to keep you from digging any deeper.” He slanted a sidelong glance at Arthur. “How did you come to find out about magic, anyway?”
Arthur sighed. This wasn’t a topic he particularly enjoyed talking about, but he supposed they were going to have to have this conversation sooner or later.
“I had a run in with a witch,” he said bluntly. “And I don’t mean that in the euphemistic sense.”
He’d met Sophia during his first year of university, when he was newly away from home and still figuring his life out. He wasn’t exactly lonely, but he’d been looking for a friend, and for a while he’d thought he found one.
“I was flattered, I guess,” Arthur admitted, scrubbing a hand over the back of his head. “She acted like I was special; talked about some grand destiny I was born for. I didn’t realise she was stringing me along until it was almost too late.”
Merlin shared a look with Alice. “What happened?”
“She tried to kill me. Or rather, she tried to sacrifice me to the old gods in exchange for passage to the Otherworld.”
Arthur had been lucky, that night. Gwaine—then just a classmate—had dragged him out of the water just in time, and he’d known enough first aid to revive Arthur before EMS arrived. Arthur still didn’t know what happened to Sophia, though. Gwaine didn’t like to talk about it.
“Wow,” Merlin said, after a long pause. His expression had become rather fixed. “That’s awful.”
“I saw things,” Arthur agreed, shrugging. “So did Gwaine. We’ve stuck together ever since—safety in numbers, you know. But, well.” He glanced warily at Alice, then back at Merlin. “I was under the impression that magic was something of a rarity.”
“It is,” Alice confirmed. “Merlin is one of the few who was born with the gift, so you can see why we think your meeting wasn’t a coincidence.”
Arthur nodded, but a fresh twinge of pain in his head warned him that they were straying into dangerous territory.
“Anyway, that was a long time ago,” he said abruptly. “And we should probably stop talking about it now, if you don’t mind.”
“Yes, my lord,” Merlin said, teasingly, but his touch to the back of Arthur’s neck was gentle. “Aunt Alice, can we stay here for the night? I don’t think Arthur should go back to his flat just yet.”
Alice nodded, and Arthur was grateful that they were both too preoccupied to notice his sudden shiver. Sophia had called him my lord, once, right before she had pushed him under the water, and from her it had sounded like an insult. But from Merlin…
From Merlin, it sounded right.