Title: The Morning After
Character/s: Merlin, Gaius
Summary: Gaius arrives at his office to find an agitated Merlin waiting for him, seeking advice.
Word Count: 762
Prompt: #70, Amused
Author's Notes: Takes place the morning after my ficlet for prompt 69. The entire AU, where Merlin and Morgana are professors and Mordred their student, can be found at AO3.
When Gaius stepped off the lift and saw Merlin camped out in front of his office door, he smiled. In some ways, Merlin hadn't changed in the fifteen years since he'd been Gaius's best student. His long legs sprawled into the middle of the corridor, and the back of his hair stuck up from where he'd fallen asleep propped against the wall. Looking at Merlin made Gaius feel young again, a gift he was certain Merlin would never understand.
"Well, this is a nice surprise," he said after he'd nudged Merlin awake with the tip of his umbrella. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Merlin scrambled to his feet. "Can we talk?" Though the building was practically empty at this hour of the morning, he added, "In private."
He waited until they were both inside, though not before Gaius had taken off his coat. "I slept with Morgana last night."
Though their relationship remained affectionate, Merlin had grown increasingly reserved over the years, never venturing into conversation about his personal life even when Gaius attempted to draw him out. As such, he'd expected a discussion regarding one of Merlin's students or courses. The confession was unprecedented.
"Oh?" He draped his jacket over the back of his chair and settled in it with a comfortable sigh. "And how did that go?"
Merlin stopped where he'd been pacing back and forth in front of the closed door. "Did you not hear what I said? I slept with Morgana last night. As in, I was the one who sought her out, I was the one who kissed her first."
In spite of his better judgment, Gaius smiled.
"It's not funny!"
"Oh, I don't know. I can think of quite a few people around campus who would be highly amused to discover what the pair of you were up to last night."
"But you know me. You should know better."
His smile softened in the face of Merlin's agitation. "I know the two of you share a lot of history," he said carefully. "I'm also aware of what yesterday's date was. As far as I'm concerned, your actions last night were probably...inevitable."
Merlin seemed to crumple before his eyes. He collapsed into the narrow divan normally reserved for students and buried his head in his hands. "I can't even blame it on being drunk."
"Most people would consider that a good thing. It's always better to make an informed choice. You know that."
"I just...I didn't want to be alone. Morgana tried kicking me out of her office, but where else was I going to go? Nobody else understands."
And nobody ever would as long as Merlin and Morgana kept the world out of their hearts. Sometimes, Gaius remembered the carefree child Morgana had been and then he'd spy Merlin, smiling and laughing with the students who loved him but still as guarded as she could ever be, and he would wonder why they couldn't use that common loss to find happiness together. Most of their colleagues saw the public arguments as foreplay, anyway.
"You didn't force her, did you?"
"No! Of course not."
"Have you tried talking to her today?"
"What would I say?"
"Hello would be a good start."
Merlin snorted. "At which point she'll assume I mean something completely absurd just like she usually does, and we'll be fighting again. No, thank you."
"She could surprise you."
Merlin lifted his head to simply stare at Gaius.
"Or maybe not."
"Is that what you would do?"
The difference between them was Gaius never would've sought out a position at the same university as Morgana in the first place, and yet, Merlin had done exactly that. As amused as he was by Merlin's consternation now, he would never understand why he'd deliberately placed himself in such close proximity to her if he didn't wish some sort of relationship between them.
"Yes," he said. "But since when do you ever heed my advice?"
An embarrassed grin split Merlin's features.
"Do what you feel you must," Gaius continued gently. "All I ask is that you remember...she allowed it to happen, too."
After Merlin left with promises to get together for a real visit soon, Gaius went to his window to watch him walk away. He sincerely hoped, for both Merlin and Morgana's sakes, this would provide the impetus they needed to move on with their lives. Together or apart, it really didn't matter. They both deserved far more than they allowed themselves.
Personally, he was hoping for together.