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Prisoners of Fate

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Merlin almost goes batshit crazy three months after his fifteenth birthday.

It would be the logical route to take. There is nothing that can quite discribe the experiance of having more than a thousand years of memories downloaded into his brain like he’s syncing up his fucking iPod. Luckily he never has been very logical.

As it is he spends a week flat on his back, giggling and sobbing to himself, before becoming briefly obsessed with the feel of magic kindling deep down in his gut like a long lost friend.

It takes roughly four weeks to assimilate all the knowledge. He keeps getting the present confused with memories of the past, and he spends almost thirty minutes one day looking for his typewriter before remembering he has a computer.

When he’s completely together again he spares the time to thank whatever powers were running this shit show that all of that happened while he was at school. Sherlock and Mycroft would probably not have reacted well to his temporary loss of sanity.

Once the memories all smooth out and the magic stops fizzing into his throat, he has the time to start missing Arthur. He is used to this however, and this is the age of information. It takes him thirty minutes online to find that there is no Arthur Pendragon, Arthur Dragon, Arthur Draig, or Arthur Penn that look like his Arthur, which probably means that this is one of those times where Arthur is actually his middle name. Merlin hates these times, because it makes finding him a lot harder. He chews on his lip, as worries start buzzing around his head like particularly troublesome bees. Arthur may be married, Arthur may already be dead (that had happened once. Merlin had been furious. Though now everyone thinks it was an earthquake), Arthur may be injured terribly.

If there is one thing that has been made extremely clear over all this time, it is that Arthur is too bloody stupid to survive on his own. He needs Merlin. And, if he’s being honest, Merlin needs him.

But aside from regular Google searches there’s nothing else Merlin can do. His magic is far too weak to be useful with this part, which is altogether a good thing. In those times when his sanity had been a little less firm, he would have cheerfully torn the whole world apart to find his King. He’s learned that near infinite power should never be trusted to someone so very likely to go mad.

He tries to put his faith in the powers that be. He tries to trust that Arthur will find him as usual, but it itches, having nothing to do.

He puts his focus into school, and is surprised at how much easier it all is with his new genetics. He remembers being stumped by some of physics’ more convoluted laws last time, but this time he wants to scoff at his class, proclaim them all idiots and stalk out of the room.

That’s probably genetics too. Or at least the way he was raised.

--

 He’s sent home on break roughly four months since the download, and the manor is still and silent. He sighs softly, following near invisible trail his brothers left him up to the roof to find Mycroft giving Sherlock an illicit cigarette. His Christmas present, no doubt.

Merlin laughs softly at them, darting forward to grab the fag and take a drag before Mycroft snatches it from his fingers. He grins at him, wide and innocent, and Mycroft rolls his eyes, taking a drag himself, “You are a terrible influence on our young brother.”

Sherlock scoffs, pulling a blunt from his pocket, causing Mycroft to sigh expansively, but not actually move to stop him, “Judging by the way our baby brother isn’t even pretending to cough I think we can assume he’s done this before.”

Sherlock lights his weed carefully, taking a seat at the edge of the roof. Merlin sits next to him, gangly legs almost tripping him up but Sherlock and Mycroft reach out at just the right moment to stop him from killing himself. Mycroft tries to pretend for a moment that he’s too adult to sit with them before finally giving in, “My dear Sherlock, do I even want to know what that marijuana is laced with?”

Sherlock grins, amused and a little evil, “Just a little speed. I’ve found it to be a very restful combination.”

Merlin laughs a little, hiding his smile behind his hand when Mycroft gives him a look, “Ah, lighten up, Mycroft. It’s Christmas. Relax. He’s not going to do anything stupid.”

Mycroft gives them both a deducing glance before sighing dramatically, falling backwards inelegantly to look at the sky, “Fine. You are in charge of feeling guilty when he kills himself.”

Merlin turns his best guilt inducing baby brother pout on Sherlock, including the wide eyes and the trembling lower lip, “You’re not going to kill yourself are you?”

Merlin is still young enough that Sherlock lets him get away with that gross emotional manipulation, as Merlin knew he would. Sherlock does give him a long look before flicking the rest of the blunt off of the roof, probably warning him that it won’t work once he turns sixteen. Sherlock hesitates a second (because Mycroft did it first) before also collapsing backwards, crossing his fingers over his chest, and closing his eyes, “I hate both of you quite a bit.”

Merlin laughs, slipping into his customary place between them, looking up at the stars, “You love me so much you could vomit.”

Mycroft laughs out loud at that, “A true summation of the Holmes’ brand of affection, if there ever was one.”

It’s their first Christmas as orphans, and in a lot of ways, their last Christmas as brothers for thirteen years.

--

Next Christmas is overtaken by Sherlock’s descent into the madness of morphine. He doesn’t say much, doesn’t do much besides attempt to kill himself and escape to get more. When he’s still, staring at the ceiling, the floor, the wall, his own fingers; Merlin sees the same intense sadness that he sees every morning in the mirror when he has to face the fact that it has been another day and Arthur hasn’t found him yet.

He hopes to whatever power controlling the universe that John Watson is on his way.

--

Next Christmas, Sherlock and Mycroft barely last an hour before getting into a screaming match about the syringe Mycroft found in Sherlock’s case. Merlin sits in the centre of the storm, horrified, but there’s nothing he can do. Mycroft is the quintessential immovable object and Sherlock the unstoppable force. They toss deductions back and forth like weapons. When Sherlock starts in on Mycroft’s sexual history, Mycroft doesn’t flinch from starting in on Sherlock’s lack of the same. At a certain point the fight stops being about who is right and who is wrong; and starts being about how much they can hurt each other. Mycroft wins, with a sharply aimed comment about Sherlock’s freakishness and Mummy’s tolerance of it, and what little colour Sherlock does have in his cheeks fades. There’s silence for a moment, Mycroft realizes that he’s gone too far as soon as he’s said it, but Sherlock is already gone, disappearing from the manor like a ghost.

Merlin stares at Mycroft, wondering what he’ll do, if there’s anything to do. They all, unfortunately, have quite a bit of pride, and Sherlock will not accept anything less than a full apology which Mycroft will never bring himself to give.

Merlin and Mycroft spend the holidays in the large manor house, drinking tea almost silently, and exchanging presents, leaving two unopened by the fire.

Merlin wishes again for John Watson, who, in his opinion, can’t come soon enough.

--

Eight months later Arthur finds Merlin. Or Merlin finds him. It’s hard to tell.

It goes like this.

--

Merlin’s been going to uni here for almost two years now, and he quite likes it. It’s an ordinary Thursday, because these things always end up happening when Merlin’s not really looking for them. He should probably learn a lesson from that. He hears laughing as he crosses the street, and it sounds familiar, so he looks up. At the time he’d thought it was just a random person from class, which is why the sight of Arthur strikes him like a bolt out of the bloody blue.

He’s gorgeous, standing outside the clinic, laughing and shoving at some other blokes in footy uniforms (Reincarnated versions of Arthur, as a rule, are terribly fond of sport. Probably because it’s the closest he can get to actually being a knight these days). Merlin’s a bit distracted by the sight of him so he forgives himself for nearly being hit by that car, and for not recognizing the men around Arthur for who they are.

He walks over to Arthur, unsure of how he’s going to get his attention. This is the really difficult part of all this. Merlin gets his own memories back, as does Morgana and probably Mordred, though Merlin has never had the opportunity to ask. Anyone with magic in them can remember on their own, but for everyone else, they need to be reminded. The only way Merlin has found to do this is to remember back to the very first time he met that person, and touch them, or get them to touch him, in the same way they did that very first time. First contact has to be as it was.

It’s hideously difficult.

For Arthur especially, as it involves Merlin taking a pathetic swing at him and having Arthur put his arm up his back.

Merlin is honestly lucky that Arthur is such a perpetual prat, as it gives him believable excuses every time. This time, Arthur and his mates are playing a game with the beggar who sits outside the clinic pretending to be blind. One of them will slink over, grab his cup, and move it a metre to the side. The man is steadily getting more and more annoyed with this game, jaw clenching and fingers rubbing at the fold in his cloth where he keeps his knife.

Merlin walks up, standing tall, wishing he had that dramatic flair that comes so easily to his brothers, “Oi! I think he’s had enough!”

Arthur and his mates look up, surprised. Merlin recognizes them as Lancelot, Leon, Gwaine and Percival after a second of hazy focus on them. He and Arthur look almost exactly the same every time around, but anyone else can end up with a different face. Arthur swaggers up to him, grinning, and oh, Merlin misses him.

“Oh, you think so?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Merlin says, flexing his hand, trying not to get ahead of himself.

“I think he’s manipulating people into giving him money by pretending to be someone he’s not.”

Merlin licks his lips, wishes desperately that he could kiss Arthur right now. For the love of everything British, why didn’t Arthur just shake his hand the first time around? He’s impatient, and doesn’t mind if he appears crazy to Arthur for a second, “Stop it or I will punch you in the face.”

This is the stuff true love stories are made of, honestly.

Arthur seems bewildered, “You’ll. I’m sorry, you’re going to punch me in the face?” Merlin smiles, using the tricks Sherlock has taught him to make it seem a bit crazed. After a moment, Arthur actually laughs, and gestures him forward with his hands, “Go ahead.”

Merlin really does love the stupid bugger. He makes a terrible jab at his face, and is unsurprised by the way he’s spun around by the grip on his wrist, back landing tight to Arthur’s chest. They stand there for a moment, completely still, as the memories download into Arthur’s head. It’s bare bones Merlin knows, and more detail will fall into place in the following weeks, allowing Merlin the dubious pleasure of watching Arthur lose and regain his sanity.

Arthur breathes out a shaky breath, hand clenching on Merlin’s wrist tightly, “Christ, M,” he breathes, trying to get control of himself, “You bled out in my fucking arms. You know I hate that.”

Merlin laughs brokenly, twisting out of his grip to hug him tight, keeping him close, “I’m sorry. I’m okay.”

Arthur strokes a hand up and down his back, fingers trembling just a little, and Merlin wants to kiss him badly and drag him away from this stupid public place, but the knights are staring at them like they’re crazy, which they probably are. He pulls away from Arthur reluctantly to go introduce himself with a nice normal handshake because some people are not as difficult as Arthur needs to be.

Leon, Percival and Gwaine all remember as soon as he shakes their hand. Lancelot is a bit more difficult though, as Merlin met him when they were running from a griffin. He needs Lance to grip his right upper arm, which is more than a little awkward. So he does everyone else first, and then they peer pressure Lance into grabbing his arm. Lance must think they’ve all gone mad, but only until he does it.

Once the flood of it all has abated, they all laugh, giddy. Gwaine, proving his place as Merlin’s absolute favourite, shoves Merlin into Arthur’s arms, “Go on. We all know what you want to do now. Bugger off.”

They bugger off. Arthur informs him of what has happened to him in this life, which does not involve getting married, but does involve a current girlfriend, whom he’s not very serious about judging by the way he breaks up with her with a text as they run. This prompts him to go on a rant about how brilliant phones are now, and how he’s already wondering how they ever survived without Google.

By this time they are at Merlin’s dorm room and he laughs as he shoves Arthur down on the bed, slipping into his lap as he starts to strip them both. He tells Arthur in basic facts what’s happened to him, including reminding him about Sherlock from the first time around. Arthur grimaces at the news that they are now related, and flatly guesses that the times have not gentled Sherlock one iota. Merlin laughs and decides to talk about Mycroft later, digging through his bedside cabinet for his bottle of lube.

Arthur grabs it from his hand, smirking at the safety seal as he pulls it off. Merlin flushes a little, because it will never stop being embarrassing that he ends up waiting for Arthur every time. Arthur loves it though, it’s clear in the way he’s looking at him as he slides his fingers back, tracing around and around until Merlin shudders and collapses forward into him, begging, “Please please please please.”

Arthur huffs a warm breath against his mouth, and smiles as he presses one slick finger in and up. Merlin makes a noise like an angry cat, trying to shove himself down onto it, fingers clawing at Arthur’s skin, wanting more. Arthur laughs softly, tipping him onto his back, and he sounds insanely pleased with himself, “Calm down, M. We have all the time in the world.”

Merlin hisses, arching his back, trying to reach down and make Arthur do what he wants, which just ends up with him getting his wrists gripped tight in one of Arthur’s wonderful hands, stretched up against the bed. He curses, jerking his hips desperately, “You’re such a fucking … terrible puns. I hate you so much.”

Arthur laughs, and slides in a second finger, stretching him carefully. It feels weird, this body not sure what it’s doing but his head knows what’s coming and it’s going to be amazing.

Arthur is a fucking bastard, drawing it out so long until Merlin’s poor teenage body can’t do anything but shake and shudder and come all over his stomach with three of Arthur’s fingers in his arse and his wrists still gripped nice and tight.

Arthur grins at the mess, eyes fever bright as he leans in to lick it up as he gently rocks his fingers in and out until Merlin begins to beg again, spreading his legs as far as they will go and begging Arthur for “your fucking cock, Arthur. Please. Please. It’s been so long. Sire, please.”

Arthur groans at the title just as he always does, because he’s a dirty old man, and finally pulls his fingers out of Merlin with a slick sound. The loss of them just sends Merlin’s frenzy higher and he’s squirming all over the bed, begging in a language as old as the earth. Arthur shushes him, releasing his wrists. Merlin immediately grabs his shoulders, gripping him tight, before allowing his fingers to explore, investigating the scars that are not there and the new ones that are. They lock eyes as Arthur props himself up, pressing forward, until Merlin throws his head back, gasping like he’s about to die, whining and sobbing and doing everything he can not to come the second Arthur is all the way inside him.

But all his efforts are for nothing because Arthur leans in close, whispering, “I love you, I love you, I missed you so much.” And how could anyone hold on after something like that?

When they’re done and Merlin has sacrificed a shirt to wipe them down, he curls in close to Arthur’s side and they have a slightly more serious chat about what has happened in their lives. Merlin haltingly, carefully, tells him the story of what happened to his parents. He’ll realize later that his brothers will resent him for telling the great Holmes family secret to Arthur this early, but in this quiet moment curled together on his bed after missing each other for so long, he needs to tell him, and doesn’t think to stop himself.

Arthur gentles him through it, kissing away his tears. Merlin sobs once abruptly, pulling Arthur in close, hugging him tightly, and his voice is thick with a thousand emotions, “God I missed you so fucking much.”

Arthur smiles against his shoulder, bites at it gently, leaving the impression of his teeth, “I missed you too M.”

Merlin laughs softly, releasing him enough to look into his eyes, and he reaches up to press his thumb to the corner where the wrinkles are, “How old are you anyway?”

Arthur gets mock offended at that, before admitting that he had just turned twenty-eight and Merlin groans, “God, I just turned eighteen. Ten years.” Another thought occurs to him and he flinches sharply, “Oh, shit. Mycroft and Sherlock will not be pleased with that.”

Arthur groans, and yawns, and tugs the blankets over them, curling in close, “We’ll deal with that another day. The download is fucking with me now, I’ve got to sleep.”

Merlin nods a little, petting him softly, tangling their feet together, “Don’t go crazy.”

“I’ll try my best.”

Arthur only goes crazy for about six hours really, ranting and raving and bruising Merlin’s arm where he squeezes too hard at one point. But Merlin convinces him to go back to sleep and the information smoothes itself out carefully, and when he wakes again Arthur is confused but sane.

They play ‘How Do We…’, a game they invented to make sure they’re thinking of the right time period. Arthur asks Merlin how they communicate with people in the Americas and Merlin automatically says telegram before mobiles and then internet, grimacing at himself. He should be better at this after three years but reminding all five of them yesterday has obviously tired him out.

This is roughly when Arthur starts bothering him about goddamed Excalibur again.

--

It takes them a week before they can get out of bed longer then it takes to get some food. Arthur calls in sick to work, and Merlin just skips his classes. He only goes once in a great while anyway – he really loves his new brain.

Once they have thoroughly reacquainted themselves they text Lance, Leon, Percy and Gwaine (who are actually named Bill, Leon, Ted and Greg; Merlin finds this vastly amusing) and meet up at a coffeehouse around the corner from school.

Merlin hugs them all tight, so glad to have found them. Lance and Percy are talking about how they really have to go change their names officially, as it’s driving them up the wall. Gwaine is seriously considering staying Greg, and Leon is flaunting his great luck in not having to change. Merlin laughs at them, leaning into Arthur’s side, feeling more whole then he has in three years.

A text from Mycroft finishes that off quickly though, and his smile slips from his face as he reads it: You have not attended class in a week. Are you well? MH

Merlin bites his lip, glancing at Arthur who is busy grinning and laughing with Leon about an inside joke that started in the 1740s and no one is sick of yet. He considers what to say, because he knows very well there is no use lying. But he can avoid things, I am perfectly well dear brother. Class seemed boring this week. MH

Merlin almost almost puts MP instead of MH, and blushes to himself as he makes sure it’s an H.

You sound like Sherlock. I told Mother he would be a horrid influence on you. MH

Merlin laughs softly at that one. He’s completely absorbed in his phone and doesn’t realize Arthur’s looking at him every once in a while, How is he anyway? I heard from him a week ago and he said that he was going to Australia? MH

Ah, yes. He believed that a murderer had fled there. I stopped him before he actually got on the plane. He’s in a sulk at the moment. MH

Merlin snorts a soft laugh at that. Of course Mycroft set border security on Sherlock. As far as Merlin knows they haven’t actually been in the same room together since Christmas last. But they still manage to have a war, they’re talented like that. I shall text him to remind him I am coming home for the holidays. Merlin pauses before sending that and then screws his courage to the sticking point and pounds out the second part, There’s someone I want you to meet. MH and sends it before he can lose his nerve.

He blows out a breath, looking up from his phone finally. Everyone is looking at him. He feels himself blush a little and curses his stupid teenage body again, “Ah. My brother. Just telling him that I had someone to introduce him to when I go home in next week.” Arthur groans faintly, and Merlin reaches out to stroke his back, “Sorry. It’ll be fine. I think. Probably.”

Arthur gives him a death glare, before turning to his knights for support, “You guys remember Sherlock Holmes from the 18-whatevers? He was that annoying guy that helped us get Elyan out of jail when they thought he had killed that duke or something?” Lance and Leon nod. Gwaine looks confused; which is to be expected since he spent most of the 1800s on a cocaine high. Percy just blinks. “This time around he’s Merlin’s brother. Merlin is Merlin Holmes. He can even do that weird deducting thing. Merlin, show them the weird deducting thing.”

Merlin has turned his attention back to his phone, trying to analyze Mycroft’s response of So I thought. MH and absently says, “Yeah, I’m not actually your manservant anymore Arthur. And it’s deducing, I’m not doing sodding subtraction.”

Arthur cuffs him lightly in the back of the head, grinning wide enough to make Merlin’s heart stutter a little, “Merlin. Come on.”

Merlin flips his phone shut and grins, leaning over the table to show off.

--

Christmas does not go well.

It actually doesn’t bear thinking about, but before they leave Merlin makes it as clear as he can that if his brothers make him chose, they will not like the result.

It does not seem to get through to them.

--

Four months later gay marriage is legalized in the Netherlands and Arthur doesn’t waste a second to purchase their plane tickets and rings.

They’ve never been able to actually get married before and Merlin finds himself almost brought to tears every time he beings to think that they can really do it this time. They can get married and be married and it’s not illegal and neither one of them can be thrown into jail. It’s amazing and wonderful and makes him want to wear his ring right now and every second of every day until they die.

So really, he can probably be excused for being a little emotional when he tells his brothers about it at Sunday dinner.

The part that really pisses him off about the whole thing is that he had this whole calculated speech prepared. He’d been really careful about it too, knowing that Sherlock and Mycroft would need to be convinced that Arthur wasn’t the golddigging tramp they thought he was. He’d written it up and given the speech to Arthur until Arthur threatened to take his lovely rings back.  But he forgets all about it in the rush of Sherlock being Sherlock.

“I see your sex life has calmed down a bit since the fervour of last time. Is the bloom off the rose? Or is Arthur’s age proving more troubling then expected?” Sherlock asks as they sit down at the table. He sounds bored, but the joy he takes in landing points on Arthur is obvious, and only gets sharper when Arthur flinches.

Merlin feels himself frown, and reaches out unconsciously to stroke the lines of Arthur’s back. A thousand comebacks tumble into his head, driven by deductions and knowledge of his brother, but he settles on the truth, which he’s always found works much better, “We do fine. Arthur makes sure I come twice to every one of his. He’s really quite generous.”

Arthur chokes and flicks a disturbed glance at him before grabbing for his water. Merlin only smiles back, amused. Sherlock isn’t anywhere near done though, “Ah yes, he was rather generous in school as well. Though that was mostly concerned with girls.”

Merlin fights not to react to that, and mentally curses Sherlock at being so bloody good at finding weak points. This is always a weak point with them, because Merlin ends up waiting for Arthur every time but Arthur never knows he has someone to wait for. It makes Merlin jealous and Arthur guilty, but there’s nothing they can do about it. He summons up a smile, “You sound jealous brother. If you had a crush on Arthur in school you can be honest about it you know.”

Sherlock shoots him a venomous glare, and Mycroft sighs to cover amusement. Arthur turns back to his food, flagrantly ignoring them now. Sherlock opens his mouth and Merlin just can’t take it anymore, doesn’t want to hear whatever’s coming next, “We’re getting married.” The whole table freezes, and Merlin clears his throat, wondering over the logic of blurting it out like that, but there’s no going back, “We’re getting married. They legalized it in the Netherlands, and we’re flying there on Wednesday. I would like you both to come but there is little chance of that I assume.”

Sherlock’s mouth snaps shut after a second, and Merlin is the centre of attention for a long moment that itches with silence before Mycroft breaks it, “I do not approve.”

Merlin forces himself not to flinch, though Arthur knows how that hit him, and his hand finds his thigh under the table, just a gentle pressure to remind him he’s not alone, that he’s never alone. He breathes out a slow breath, trying to remember that stupid speech he had planned, but it’s gone now, so he says the first thing to come to him, “I know the Netherlands aren’t much fun but since you haven’t made it legal here yet there’s only so much I can do about the location.”

Mycroft does not react to this poor attempt at humour, “He is using you baby brother. It is quite obvious and I will not let you proceed with him any longer.”

Arthur’s hand tightens briefly on his leg, a cautioning, but Merlin has never reacted well to attacks on Arthur, “Well I value your opinion of course.” He doesn’t recognize his own voice for a second, hard and bitter like this, “Because obviously if anyone would know about relationships it’s the two of you.”

It’s a petty, cruel point, and Merlin can see both of them react with brief surprise and then annoyance (and just the faintest trace of hurt) before they look him over like an opponent. It curdles something in his stomach, getting that look from them, and he can’t sit here anymore, stands suddenly, taking Arthur’s hand, “Come on. We’re not wanted here.”

They stand, and head to the door, and this is of course, when Sherlock, the dramatic fuck, has to have the last word, “Merlin.” Merlin hesitates a bare moment before Sherlock continues, “We will be here when you realize we were right.”

He slams the door behind him.

--

Arthur does his best to comfort him, and then offers to call his mother, who absolutely adores Merlin, and has been nothing but pleased to hear of the wedding. Merlin shakes his head, and lets Arthur take him to bed for some excellent comfort sex. It’s slow and healing and when he drops off to sleep finally he’s a little (not a lot) more optimistic about the whole thing.

They are woken by the police. It’s a mess of confusion and lights and shouting, and the end result is ridiculous. Arthur is dragged away as a suspect in a triple murder and Merlin is shocked and shattered and has no idea what to do. They are supposed to be getting on a plane in two days. They are supposed to be getting married. For a wild moment he wonders if The Powers That Be are punishing him for the idea of it, before realizing that this isn’t Them. It doesn’t have the flavour of fate (which tastes like burnt pennies and blueberries).

He puts a call out to the Knights, and hears back from Percy, who has joined the Met, that the case has overwhelming evidence against Arthur. It’s incredibly damming he says, sounding a little unsure himself. Merlin wants to snarl at him and demand he have more faith in Arthur. But he knows that Percy is remembering the way Arthur tore through men on the field and in the ring. It’s incredibly annoying but they can’t claim that Arthur couldn’t have done this, only that he wouldn’t have. Either way there’s nothing Percy can do.

Merlin hangs up with him and finds his hands shaking a little, feels his puny seed of magic rising in him like the tide he remembers from way back when. He can taste it rising in the back of his throat, and he’s momentarily afraid that he’s going to explode New Scotland Yard to get his fiancé back.

He swallows hard to control himself and jumps in his car. If he’s going to beg Sherlock for help it is best to do so in person so he can properly enjoy Merlin’s humiliation.

--

When he gets to the manor it’s still lit up from the inside and it takes him barely a moment to find his brother’s in Mycroft’s second office. They look up at him, and Merlin feels them start to deduce, but he has no patience for it right now, “They’ve arrested Arthur. I need your help.”

Mycroft sets down the phone in his hand, very deliberately, and his eyebrows draw together in something that might almost be guilt. Before Merlin can begin to process that Sherlock scoffs, leaning a hip against Mycroft’s desk, “I know. That’s why we did it.”

Everything goes abruptly sideways and it all snaps together in his head. He collapses into a convenient chair, presses his shaking hand to his mouth, “Christ.” He says after a moment, “Fuck. That was- that was obvious wasn’t it?” He laughs, shaky and sharp, “God I’m really an idiot. I should have realized.” He scrubs a hand over his face, “I actually came to you for help.”

Sherlock looks somewhere between curious and confused at his reaction, begins studying him intently. Mycroft stands, “It was for your own good.”

Merlin looks up at both of them, feeling like he’s been repeatedly punched, “You know. Sometimes the two of you remind me so much of Father that I actually get the urge to hide.”

They react to this like they’ve been punched and Merlin feels nothing except vindictive pleasure.

--

Merlin doesn’t actually remember how they get over that comment and get him up to his room. He remembers the sound of the lock and the silence as they left, but not the actual walk up the stairs. It doesn’t matter though, because the magic that has been swelling in him since Arthur was taken from him has finally reached critical mass and he closes his eyes and breathes.

For a single glittering instant the whole manor is his plaything, and he unlocks the doors and fucks with the cameras in a split second. Finished there he throws himself up and out to Arthur, where he sinks into the computer and finds the information on Arthur’s case. He changes a few verbs, a few lines of code, and, though he’s terribly tempted, resists the urge to unlock Arthur’s cell door. It’s all done in a split second, his Holmes brain pushing his magic to almost dizzying heights. It’s all so clear like this, and it’s only the knowledge that his body is going to pay for this that makes him pull back.

When he opens his eyes it’s almost dawn, almost a full 24 hours since Arthur was taken, and he’s shaking. He hasn’t used that much magic at once in centuries and it’s taking a toll. He doesn’t have time for that now though, and he pushes open the door, and walks straight out of the house.

He won’t see his brothers again for ten years, and in this second he can’t bring himself to care if he never sees them again.

They tried to take Arthur from him. They’re lucky he loved them enough not to kill them.

--

All in all the wedding itself should be something of an anticlimax, but they actually end up finding Gwen on the plane and it turns into a double ceremony with Gwen and Lance. Gwaine ribs Gwen and Arthur about being on an altar together until Gwen blushes hard enough that she actually might hurt herself and Percy claps a hand over his mouth.

And no matter what happened with his stupid idiotic brothers, there is nothing on earth that could ruin that moment when Arthur slides the ring over his finger, when he does the same to Arthur, and they kiss. The almost delirious sex they have afterwards is the cherry on top of a cake and is filled with the whisper of husband husband my husband.

The next time he thinks of his family, it’s almost a month later when the honeymoon is finally over and they’re moving into their new place in Cardiff. He’s cleaning out the address book on his phone, and hovers over his brothers’ names. He considers deleting them completely for a moment, feeling vicious satisfaction with the thought, but after a moment he tastes burnt pennies and blueberries, and remembers sitting on the edge of the roof, and two steady hands keeping him from tripping over the edge.

He keeps their numbers.