He just woke up one morning, and it was all suddenly different. He couldn't even place it, but somewhere deep down in his chest behind all the steel walls and locked doors something was different—and terribly so. Walking down the hallway from his bedroom, everything was as he left it the night before—dirty plates in the sink, empty mug on the coffee table, old tea bag sitting all dried up and shriveled on the counter—and yet there was something fundamentally different about it all. Behind him, he heard the jingle of the lock on his door—how she found him so quickly, he'll never ask—and when he turned back, found her in the entry way, the door left carelessly half open behind her as she continued forward. She either picked the lock or used a spell, but he knew that wasn't of any importance.
"I felt it," she declared, the three words hanging between them. The words themselves had a meaning that Merlin tipped his head in a nod to acknowledge. That was the most important thing, that it had all begun again. His mind, however, was stuck on the sound of her voice, a voice he'd not heard in some hundreds of years. His eyes lingered on the pinkness of her lips that, though slightly tilted downward in a frown, were still beautiful to him. The curve of her neck was accentuated by clunky modern jewelry that made him smile even though he much preferred the old style of jewelry to the kinds women liked to where in the current day and age.
"Did you hear me?" she snapped at him, and in all of thirty seconds of their reunion, she was snapping at him like they were young and in love and stuck between the burning trees of the forest and the falling walls of Camelot.
"Yeah," he managed out. Such an informal answer, though people weren't formal anymore. She certain wasn't, since people tended to knock at other's doors these days. Merlin tried not to think of Arthur and what he used to say about Merlin's bad habit of forgetting to knock, but it'd been so long that Merlin couldn't even be sure his memory would serve him accurately.
"Then get dressed," Morgana said in a huff, then let her eyes wander to the living space to the left of Merlin. "And my god, Merlin, what are you living in?"
"Better than a hovel," he commented offhandedly as he squeezed between her and the hallway wall to make it back towards his bedroom door. With her back to him, he stole a glance of her backside, and actually appreciated the fit of modern pants on women. The last time he saw Morgana, she was wearing some kind of dress that was causing a bit of a stir. Something about it being French and that Boleyn queen had brought it to England just before she enchanted the king, but all of that was outside Merlin's scope of interest. He wanted nothing to do with royalty since the fall of Camelot, and that was why he liked America—they had no royalty. They had the Kennedy's, sure, but the Kennedy's weren't walking around with death wishes left and right like the Pendragons had. And if the Kennedy's were, they had their own personal body guard that got paid a hell of a lot more than Arthur had ever paid Merlin. Not that he'd kept score after all those centuries.
When he came back out of his bedroom—dressed and cleaned by virtue of a few spells—his apartment was so clean and picked up, he wouldn't have recognized it if it weren't for all the same furniture. In the kitchen, it seemed Morgana had made herself at home and was preparing a cup of coffee for herself, her back to Merlin as she worked on the counter against the far wall. She definitely used a spell because his shitty old coffee maker took ages to heat water. "Glad you could put yourself together for all this," she told him, mimicking the tone he'd used earlier. "How do you like your coffee?"
"Considering we've got six knights and a queen to find, strong should be good," Merlin answered. He didn't need to see Morgana's face to know a smirk had pulled on the corners of her mouth. He knew her so well, he could just feel it.
"Well, I'll do the west coast, if you do the east, then we'll tackle Europe together," Morgana suggested as a mug floated out from behind her and across the kitchen to land on the island where Merlin was standing.
"Going to work on your tan while you're out there?" Merlin asked sarcastically, and Morgana actually laughed at the comment, something he'd not expected. She turned and leaned against the counter, the fingers of one hand wrapped around her mug, one eyebrow raised.
"I know where Gwen and Elyan are," she offered up. "Met them on accident."
"I know where Arthur and Lance are," Merlin matched with a shrug of his shoulders. He lifted his coffee cup to his lips, his eyes turned upward to watch her expression as he sipped the black liquid and ignored the bitterness as it flooded his mouth. "They're enjoying the perks of a privileged life in New York. At least Arthur is. Lance is his childhood friend and going along for the ride it would seem."
"How far is New York from here?"
"Couple hours," Merlin answered. "And Gwen and Elyan?"
"In Nevada," Morgana told him, then took a sip of her own coffee.
"So that leaves Leon, Percival, and Gwaine," Merlin surmised, and Morgana shot a look at him. She'd obviously figured that out on her own, but he needed to work through it all in his mind. It'd been a few good centuries since the last time they had go through all that, and he apparently wasn't at sharp at it all as she was.
"Yes, well, I'll make a call, get Gwen and Elyan on the next dreadful plane out here, then I'll go find the other three knights. You can entertain the four we've got located," Morgana told him, and Merlin groaned. She was inherently better at tracking than he, so it made sense the division of labor she'd made, but that didn't mean it liked it all that much.
"And if they don't remember?" Merlin questioned. Not remembering was as common as remembering in terms of their old friends, but this lifetime around, not remembering was not an option.
"I'm sure you'll figure something out," Morgana told him with a shrug. She took another sip of her coffee then set it on the counter behind her.
"And if Gwen falls for Lance before Arthur?"
"You handled that before, you can handle it again."
"Yeah, some two thousand years ago. I don't think that past experience is going to be all that helpful," he replied sharply. She had started to walk towards the hallway, but he stepped out to block her way. "Morgana, we need to talk about-"
"I don't want to talk about it," she said sharply as she put one arm up and shoved him out of the way. "Get your boys, I'll get the siblings and the knights." She kept her eyes forward as she started down the hallway, pausing at the entry way.
"Is that how it's going to be?" Merlin called out after her. He was leaned against the island in the kitchen, his eyes trained on the back of her head—her black curls hadn't changed at all in two thousand years, and he rather liked that. "We're going to save the world again, and you don't even want to talk about it? How are we supposed to do this with all of that-"
"It's not important," Morgana said strongly as she whipped around and narrowed her eyes at him.
"Not important?" he repeated, then scoffed at the answer she gave him. He started towards her, and though she had ever opportunity to flee, she didn't. She let him advance on her, corner her in the entry way. She did, however, know that Merlin wasn't the type to force himself on her, so though he had every opportunity to put his arm up against the wall or against the door and really trap her there between the corner and his body, he didn't. "How is it not important, Morgana? It's important to me."
"I go by Morgan, now," she told him, her voice soft and even like they were having some regular conversation. He rolled his eyes at the ruse but got her point loud and clear. "It's less…old."
"I think the term now is vintage."
"People now are stupid and selfish," Morgana—no, Morgan—replied harshly, and a smile pulled on Merlin's lips—one he could fight off very effectively. "We probably half about three to six months before she gets all her magic back. We'll need to be ready by then."
"I know how it all works," Merlin answered with a shrug. "We did do this once before, without the knights, without Arthur and Gwen."
"That's not going to work this time."
"I know, I can feel it."
"She probably won't fall for it again," Morgana said softly, her eyes shifting to focus on the wall behind Merlin. The memory replayed in Merlin's mind for the first time in hundreds of years. It had been a stroke of luck and good timing that he and Morgana alone had been able to banish Morgause from their world on their own, using their own combined magic. Morgana had risked a lot to do that for Merlin, who was too loyal and too deliriously happy for Arthur and Gwen—farmers of all occupations—to force them to fight a battle they had no say in. Morgause almost learned the truth about her sister's shifted loyalties—almost, but it was still too close.
"I know," Merlin repeated when Morgana's eyes cleared and focused on his again. "I'll get Arthur and Lance today."
"It's not going to be easy," Morgana told him, and that time it was his turn to smile that half smile that meant he'd obviously already figured that much out on his own. She let out a dry laugh as she let her head fall, prompting Merlin to take a half step towards her, his hand raising to tip her chin back up. He'd leant down with the intent of pressing their lips together—their first kiss since the reign of King Henry VIII—but Morgana turned her head and forced his lips to brush against the soft skin of her cheek. He backed away from, having received her rejection, and leaned to the side to pull open the door for her.
"I'll call you in a few days when I find one of the knights."
"Have my number?" he asked, though clearly, she did. She always had been two steps ahead, and it donned on him that she'd probably known where he lived all along. Without a word, she slipped out of the apartment and turned the corner sharply, though Merlin stepped out into the hallway with her, his eyes watching the back of her head as she walked towards the stairwell. "Hey," he called out, just as her hand landed on the long silver bar of the stairwell door. She paused there as she debated whether or not to respond, but eventually she turned just her head to look back at Merlin. He was leaned against the doorway, one hand out to keep open his apartment door.
"It's alright, you know," he told her with a slight tip of his head and a reassuring smile. "All of it. Everything. This. Then. The future. It'll all be ok."
"Thought you don't make promises you can't keep."
"I haven't broken one yet," he answered, and she turned her head away from him so sharply, he'd have been concerned she gave herself whiplash if it wasn't for the fact that it took wrecking balls to destroy Pendragons—considering the ridiculous resilience that bordered on insanity they all had. He knew he shouldn't have said what he had, but in his long life, he'd learned to let things go, otherwise they'd all creep up on him in the middle of the night when he could sleep and weigh on him so devastatingly that he couldn't even breath under it all.
Going back into the kitchen, he picked up his phone and started to dial the number registered to Arthur's phone, and lodged the little device between his head and shoulder as he lifted his coffee mug to his lips. He could smell Morgana in the kitchen, and it made him smile for the whole thirty seconds before Lance's voice sounded on the other end of the line. That made the whole ordeal suddenly very real, because who was Merlin kidding? Morgana would've never come to see him on her own free will just because she missed him the way he'd always missed her.