Title: Fate Has a Hand
Characters: Elyan, Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Modern AU. Truck driver Elyan stops to helps a pair of young men in the middle of the night.
Word Count: 1102 (oops)
Prompt: #176, "18"
Author's Note: Also fills the "handcuffed/bound together" spot on my trope bingo card for merlin_writers
Most of the drivers Elyan knew traveled by day. He didn’t. He liked the night, the peace and quiet of the highways, the hints of vastness in the darkness as he crossed from state to state to make his deliveries. He’d left England behind with the same dreams of what the States were like as other media-bombarded teenaged boys stuck in council estates, but the reality was so much more than he could’ve imagined.
It was more than the land of opportunity. It was the land of eternal possibility, where his eighteen-wheeler could lead him down roads unforeseen by his younger self.
His current delivery aimed him back east, but a laggard loader already had him hours behind schedule. He rumbled over Ohio roads, grateful when he put Youngstown behind him and crossed the Pennsylvania border. Though he’d still get nailed by traffic afterward, he could make it to Scranton before dawn if he kept the pace up. The roads were blessedly clear, too. Maybe he could go a touch faster.
As he accelerated on a long stretch, however, his headlights caught a flash of red moving along the side of the road ahead of him. He eased back on the pedal automatically, but leaned forward as he tried to make it out. Nothing had come over the radio as a heads-up. The only sign of civilization he’d even encountered in recent miles was back in Barkeyville. But the red sharpened into broad shoulders, while next to it was the slimmer shape of another set clad in blue.
Elyan sat back. Nothing but two men on the highway, though he hadn’t seen an abandoned car to indicate where they were walking from.
Elyan was reaching for his radio to alert the police when the one in red turned and looked back at him. His features were impossible to make out. All Elyan saw was blond hair. But then his friend turned as well and they began frantically waving their arms at him to get his attention.
Correction. One arm on each man was waving. The other two were bound together at the wrists and flopped around in broken coordination.
The sight was so disconcerting, he was slowing down to get a better look before he could think not to. The men took it as a positive sign. They started to run closer, keeping to the shoulder, when Elyan realized their ankles were in the same trap as their wrists.
He coasted to a complete halt. This was one story he needed to hear.
Rather than open the door to them, he rolled down the passenger window. “You just might be a first for me,” he called out.
The blond’s eyes widened, an even wider smile erupting across his face. “You’re English!” he said in an accent that was far more posh than Elyan’s could ever be. He yanked on his friend’s arm. “See, I told you it was a good idea to flag him down.”
Somehow, hearing the familiar accent put Elyan more at ease. “You’re a little far from home.”
“We’re on holiday,” the blond said.
Elyan looked pointedly at their wrists. Now that they were closer, he could make out the zip tie binding them together. “I don’t remember seeing that option in the Thomson’s catalog.”
“It’s a long story.” He reached for the open window, forcing his darker friend to do the same. “I don’t suppose you have something to cut these with, do you?”
“I’ll do you one better.” Stretching, he popped the lock. “Get in. Let’s get you back to civilization, shall we?”
When the blond went for the handle, his friend tugged him back. “This is how we got into this mess in the first place,” he hissed. “We don’t know who he is.”
“I think we can trust him.”
“You think we can trust anybody.”
“What’re the odds another Brit would stop for us? That’s got to mean something.” The blond stepped closer, their stances almost intimate. Elyan had to look away as the feeling that he was observing something he shouldn’t took over. “Do you want me to say I’m sorry, Merlin? Because I’m not. They were going to hurt you if I didn’t go along. I won’t ever apologize for wanting to keep you safe.”
Merlin sighed. “I hate it when you go all noble on me.”
“Nah, you love it.”
Silence followed. Elyan stared up at the stars through the windshield and let the sudden wistfulness wash over him.
The passenger door opened. “We’d love a ride, thanks.” The blond climbed in first, taking the middle while Merlin had the outer edge. “I’m Arthur, by the way.”
“Elyan.” He nodded toward the glovebox. “I’ve got a box cutter in there if you want to get those ties off.”
As they worked to free themselves, Elyan eased the truck back onto the highway. His peaceful night might be gone, but the stories that would arise from helping out Arthur and Merlin would make it all worth it.
“You need me to contact the police for you?” he asked.
The two young men exchanged a long look. “Probably not the best idea,” Arthur said. “Where are you headed?”
“Boston’s the end goal. Where do you need me to take you?”
“My American geography’s rubbish. Is that anywhere near New York?”
Elyan grinned. “If you mean the city, not really, but we’ll see what we can do.”
“Maybe just the next town,” Merlin said. “We can take it from there.”
“And how do we do that without money or phones?” Arthur pressed.
“If you hang on until Scranton, I can buy you breakfast at a diner that’ll let you ring whoever you need.” Elyan grinned. “The head waitress is a good friend.”
Merlin’s eyes narrowed. “And why would you do that for us?”
“I’d do it for anyone who was obviously in a spot of trouble. But if you’re looking to keep it an even slate, it wouldn’t be remiss if you wanted to share what exactly had you lot cuffed together in the middle of nowhere in the dead of night.”
He didn’t really expect them to share the specifics. Merlin was obviously a suspicious sort, probably with perfect reason, and Elyan was a stranger.
But when Arthur rested a hand on Merlin’s knee and squeezed, Merlin slumped back in the seat and stared out the window.
“Fair enough,” Arthur said to Elyan. “But you won’t believe it. I can pretty much guarantee that.”
Though the windshield, Elyan could’ve sworn a star winked at him. “You’ve got four hours until we eat. Try me.”