Title: A Minor Detour, Part 7
Pairing/s: eventual Merlin/Arthur
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, Uther, assorted Knights
Summary: Merlin had been away from his ship for weeks, first on the mission with Arthur and then stranded on their so-called vacation. In the time between their impending death and the twin disasters of Gwaine and Morgause, he hadn’t thought he’d ever make it back.
Word Count: 995
Prompt: #226: Welcome Home
Author's Notes: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 || All Parts on AO3
Merlin still didn’t know where Arthur had got his perfectly pressed uniform from, because the Knights insisted they didn’t have any spares for him. And Gwaine, terrible wretch that he was, shook his head and grinned despite the restraints fastening his hands behind his back.
“Sorry, mate, I tossed ‘em out the airlock.”
Merlin glared. From a distance; he’d had quite enough of getting up close and personal with strangers while his privates were hanging out.
“You told Arthur you were going to let him put his pants back on before the Admiral got here.”
“Well sure, his pants. Yours, I tossed.”
“All right, where’re his pants, then?”
“You want to get in your captain’s pants?” Gwaine’s voice was inappropriately delighted for how much trouble he was going to be in once Uther arrived.
Looking around, Merlin took in the grinning scrap vulture and his unhappily cuffed goons, his own snickering colleagues, and Arthur, leaning against the doorway with arms crossed and smirk delighted.
That was how it was going to be? Fine. Merlin locked his eyes defiantly with Arthur’s as he said, “Yeah, maybe I do.”
Guffaws erupted around them, but Arthur—Merlin was fairly certain that was a blush flaring briefly on his high cheekbones.
“Owain, get him some clothes,” he snapped, breaking his gaze away from Merlin and turning to the viewscreen. “The Admiral should be here shortly.”
The Knights’ mischievous humor faded with the command, though Gwaine still looked equal parts amused and thoughtful. Owain found a supply cabinet stuffed with faded black jumpsuits, matches to the outfits Gwaine’s men wore, and picked one at random for Merlin to put on. It was baggy enough to fit two of him and a debris field to boot, but at least it was the proper length. After being overexposed for hours, he preferred swimming in the uniform to having it ride up his wrists and ankles for being too short.
Leon’s holocomm buzzed and lit up. With a significant look at Arthur, he pulled it from his belt and touched the screen.
“Admiral Pendragon,” he greeted when an image of Uther appeared, hovering over the unit. “Captain Pendragon and Navigation Officer Emrys have been secured and the culprits are detained.”
“Good work, Lieutenant Bernard. Is the captain hurt?”
“No, Father,” Arthur answered directly. “I’m unharmed.”
“I’m glad,” Uther said, for once actually sounding sincere. “The Albion will be arriving in a few more minutes to recover you and your shuttle. Is it salvageable?”
“It ought to be, there was only minimal damage when they boarded it.”
Merlin was fine, too, thanks. But of course Uther didn’t care about him. Uther had wanted him thrown out the airlock, and he better not think Merlin was about to forget that any time soon.
Apparently Merlin’s vengeance wasn’t high on his list of concerns.
“Lieutenant Bernard, take Emrys into custody. He’s to be confined to the brig immediately upon our rendezvous.”
Everyone stared at Merlin in shock, even the scrap goons who only connected the order to him based on the Knights’ reactions. The silence was only broken by Leon’s tentative, “On what grounds, Sir?”
“For now, my authority is sufficient. There will be a full list of charges prepared for his court martial, and I assure you they will be quite extensive. This is long past overdue.”
“Father!” Arthur protested, but Uther wouldn’t hear it. His profile vanished without another word as he terminated the link.
Though he looked pained, Leon turned to Percival and nodded somberly. “You heard the Admiral.”
“No,” Arthur ordered. He moved between Percival and Merlin, who could only stand there dumbly.
Admiral Pendragon clearly hated him, had offhandedly tossed him into the cells more than once, but he’d never gone so far as to file charges before. Merlin hadn’t even done anything this time. Granted, he didn’t do anything most times Uther got annoyed with him, but he was even more innocent than usual. It didn’t matter. Uther would bury him.
He was staring down the end of his career, quite probably the end of his freedom, and there was nothing he could do.
There was nothing Arthur could do, either. Despite his protests, his father outranked him considerably. Watching him step away as that realization hit him was almost as hard as Merlin realizing it himself. The Knights were loyal friends, but even they wouldn’t risk sharing Merlin’s fate by defying a direct order. Uther reacted very poorly to insubordination.
“I’m sorry,” Percival told him softly as he fastened Merlin’s unresisting hands behind his back.
Merlin nodded numbly, but he couldn’t find anything to say to that. Nor did he have a response to Arthur, who grabbed his shoulder and promised, “I’ll talk to him. I’ll fix this, Merlin. It’s all my fault.”
Merlin did try to smile reassuringly at him, but Arthur’s clenching fingers told him it wasn’t particularly effective. He didn’t make another attempt; he didn’t have any more effort in him. He was used to hopeless situations, but he couldn’t fix this.
Then the Albion arrived and another squad took over. Two security officers Merlin only recognized in passing manhandled him into the connector tunnel wordlessly. Merlin had been away from his ship for weeks, first on the mission with Arthur and then stranded on their so-called vacation. In the time between their impending death and the twin disasters of Gwaine and Morgause, he hadn’t thought he’d ever make it back.
And when he finally got to set foot on the Albion again, it was only to be hauled off to the brig without even being allowed to stop in his room for his own uniform.
Locked away behind a forcefield for the second time that day (though at least this time he had clothes, however ill-fitting), Merlin let his head fall back against the wall of his cell. Squeezing his eyes shut against the tears he refused to give in to, he whispered, “Welcome home.”