Title: The Intruder
Character/s: Merlin, Mordred
Summary: They have different tastes in art, but perhaps they might find common ground in something else. Modern AU.
Word Count: 701
Prompt: #43 - Photographs
Author’s Notes: Thanks to my lovely friends Ash and Melissa for the beta :)
“What in the world…”
Merlin did a double take and grimaced. He had just gotten back from an emergency trip to his native Armagh – he practically ran out of the campus when Will called him up about his mother being ill. She was out of the hospital and recuperating back home now, but the whole ordeal had worn Merlin out.
The last thing he needed that morning was a disturbing picture hanging in the hallway of his dormitory.
It was a grainy photograph of a man – dark gray beanie, panic-stricken eyes, desperate mouth, hand stretched out as if reaching for the viewer. An excellent shot composition-wise, but not exactly welcoming. And it wasn’t just a question of aesthetics. The more Merlin looked at it, the stronger his funny feeling grew. It was no ordinary piece of artwork.
Just then, Mordred walked out into the hallway, giving his hair a last do-over with his fingers. His blue eyes widened when he saw Merlin staring at the picture.
“Welcome back,” he muttered. He hurried towards the door, but Merlin stepped to the side to block his way.
"I know your taste lies in the gloomier side of things, but this isn’t just one of those emotive portraits, is it?”
“Look, I have a breakfast date –“
From where he stood, Merlin glanced around quickly to make sure no one else was listening. “You’ll make it on time if you tell me what this picture is doing here and why it’s radiating magic. It wasn’t here when I left, so there must be an explanation.”
Mordred sighed. “If I told you, would you stop being so suspicious of me?”
Merlin narrowed his eyes. It was true that he’d been wary of Mordred from the day he moved in, and even more so when he learned that the freshman was a Druid. There were many students on campus who despised Arthur’s father for pushing anti-magic laws in the House of Commons, and Merlin was afraid Mordred might use his powers to hurt Arthur.
“I’m only looking out for Arthur.”
“Then I hope you’ll see that I do just the same.”
Merlin folded his arms across his chest and nodded for Mordred to continue. The Druid sighed.
“You know how I help Percy with his English lit in exchange for his help with my weight training, right?”
“Well, we were supposed to pull an all-nighter, but both of us dozed off. Good thing my phone alarm’s set for 5AM every day. I hadn’t gotten up from the couch when I heard another loud noise… and then this bloke comes out of the storage room. I saw him, but I don’t think he saw me... Percy was snoring on the other couch and that was probably a good enough distraction.” He chuckled at this, and even Merlin was trying to keep a straight face.
“Anyway, he was heading for Arthur’s room, and there wasn’t any time to put up a proper fight so I just… I just cast the first spell that came to mind.” Merlin looked alarmed. “Listen, I don’t even intend to keep the picture, but I’m grabbing a bite with someone before heading off to my first class, so—“
“Wait, you mean that’s the intruder in the photograph?” Merlin’s brows unfurled and knit themselves back together.
Mordred nodded. He looked pretty proud of himself.
There was a moment of silence as Merlin’s expression changed from suspicion to amazement. Then both of them erupted in laughter.
“Where did you learn to do that?” Merlin asked when they finally calmed down.
“Druids keep up with the times, you know.”
"Well, they taught you pretty handy stuff. I’m replacing the lock on the storage room window though. Don’t want the hallway to become a gallery of Arthur’s haters.” Hesitating for a moment, Merlin reached out to pat the boy on the shoulder. “Good job.”
Mordred managed a smile, and Merlin stared after him as he rushed past and went out the door. They weren’t going to be best mates anytime soon, but the boy had just saved Arthur’s life. Maybe, just this time, he could be thankful that the Druid lived in Pendragon House.