THE LOTUS EATERS
A Merlin Big Bang Story
Written for Paperlegends 2012
They’re here. The ones with the pretty faces and smiles and the big ships blanketing the Earth. They say they’re here to save humanity but Merlin doesn’t believe, doesn’t trust them and doesn’t want the stupid invitation that they send him. He says no but when he’s made an offer he can’t refuse, Merlin finds himself aboard the Albion and being drawn to a lotophagus that could make him rethink his entire view of things.
Now if he only knew if that was a good thing.
Arthur is more than he’s prepared for and what he learns about himself will change him, and the world, forever.
Arthur knows Merlin, has known him even before they first meet. Duty and honor have always been his companions but when Merlin is threatened by those Arthur trusted Arthur will put everything on the line to keep him safe.
Even if it means ending the world.
Pairings/characters: Merlin/Arthur (main), background pairings Elena/Gwaine and Gwen/Lancelot (kind of).
Warnings: cussing, implied sex, and illusions to torture. Nothing over PG-13 really. No squeamish things to be found here.
Author notes: (So I spent nearly an hour fighting with LJ for it to allow me to post story – me and LJ have a hate love relationship really – before I realized I could just post it to my AO3 account. *slaps forehead*)
Muppet you are wonderful and pulled off another fantastic big bang. This story gave me a hard time and only allowed me to see the ending like a week ago. This story dragged me through the ringer then spit me out only to give me another go. At first it didn’t want to be written, then it tried to turn itself into a monster of a story, then it refused to be written again. Fun times.
I love the big bang.
I love the challenge of it. That said, I a totally happy to be done. And hopefully what I came out with will be enjoyable to you all lovely readers.
This was a labor of love that me, in my self imposed bubble with work taking up the majority of my time and writing taking up the rest, did on my own with no cheerleading and no one to hold my and as such it was only three weeks ago when I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish it, yet here we are. A little late, yes. Sorry about that.
And now confession time. It’s not beta’d, technically. Sorry. If that’s a real big no-no meaning it can’t stay up than it’s what I deserve. I kind of procrastinated and then told the story I hated it and would never finish it because it was being so mean to me. So the beta’ing never got done. Like I said I get what I deserve if I cannot stay up.
I fully plan on having it beta’d and to publish the edited version in the coming days.
Rainshock was my artist for this piece and put up with me even though I can be difficult to work with. Sorry about that.
Hope you all enjoy! J
P.S, muppet, it’s late. I’m sorry! I totally understand if you take it down.
…..I’ll go hide in my corner now.
Merlin was fifteen when they arrived. The massive black ship filling the sky over the city with the flower printed huge and white on the side - like a full moon back-dropped by the midnight sky. Or an eclipse. Beautiful and terrifying in the same breath, reminding one how small and insignificant one was in the scheme of things.
Their arrival had created chaos and fear. Confusion and hope; hope that humanity would be saved from the nightmare it had created. The planet was dying, crumbling underfoot and tearing apart overhead until the air was no longer safe to breath and the water hazardous to drink. Food was short and the sun was deadly. Winter brought with it unusually high death totals, ice devouring people as though it had a taste for blood. Only matched by the murderous rampage that was early Fall.
So when they arrived. The alien’s that looked human, but were far too beautiful to ever actually be. The ones that called themselves lotophagi and talked sweetly of salivation, extending invitations to some to come and live aboard their ships and didn’t ask for much in return. They had brought hope. To all except Merlin.
The pretty faces and too wide smiles didn’t conjure peace and calm in him but instead ignited suspicion. People didn’t do thing out of the goodness of their hearts; human or not. And their arrival had stirred dreams to the forefront of his mind that plagued his nights. Dreams he never understood but caused him to wake in sweats with adrenaline tingling through his veins.
Merlin didn’t trust the lotophagi, he wanted nothing to do with them, and so he was more than a little surprise when the invitation appeared.
5 1/2" X 5 1/2" it appeared, out of nowhere, like a cool breeze on a humid summer day. Pristine white, with a gold leaf ring that edged the corners and silver lettering, the invitation sat in the middle of his desk. As though on display; Impossible to ignore.
The stamp of the lotus flower was centered beneath the words, pink and purple petals stretching out across the milky white – slanted upwards to brush against the curve of the D. It was soft as silk beneath the pads of his trembling fingers. No one knew how they managed to get paper to be so soft.
Whispers buzzed in his ears, unnaturally loud in the suddenly quite lecture hall. Professor Akins had gone silent, his mouth gaped open as though he had paused in mid sentence, his arm dangling in the air at his side – an aborted movement to point out something on the overhead.
Then, as though they had been sucked inside a vacuum, all sound came to a stop – an abrupt halt in sound that was almost physically jarring – as the other twenty-three heads in the room turned to him. All thinking the same thing which only one dared to speak out loud.
“What’s so special about him?” someone asked.
As though the question had unlocked a door, sound rushed back to the forefront of the room. Merlin blinked, a bit distorted, before hurriedly gathering his belongings, taking care with the invitation and annoyed with himself that he did so, and leaving the lecture hall as fast as his feet would carry him. No body tried to stop him.
Pausing by the rotating doors of the lecture hall Merlin pulled his organic vapor mask from his book-pack, securing it to his face with trembling fingers before pushing out into the heated evening of Seattle. He hated the feeling of the mask; it felt like he was suffocating. Like he could never get enough air. But to go out into the surface air without it was to tempt fate.
Most of the population had moved to bunkers below ground; large spacious apartments if you had the money for it; tiny boxes that would make prison ceils proud if you didn’t. Most of the population, others, ones like Merlin and his mom who were to damn poor to fit into either category were forced to take their chances above ground.
Everyone hoping for the day an invitation would arrive.
Merlin huddled deeper into his jacket as warm rain fell from the night sky, tiny droplets gathering in the crease where mask met skin, rolling down the edges to trail over the long length of his neck. The bright lights of neon signs of near by businesses flooded the dingy street of the Restricted District, glaring brightly in his eyes as he padded through puddles.
Keeping his head down and shoulders hunched as to not draw any unwanted attention, he trudged his way down South Jackson towards the Kings Street transit station. The sounds of Elliot Bay a few blocks away, echoing in his ears. Droplets fell down the neck of his hoodie and Merlin, in vain, tried to wipe it away with the sleeve curled around his hand. So preoccupied as his was, he didn’t pay attention to where he was going and collided with a man.
“Sorry,” Merlin said, his voice a mumble beneath his organic vapor masks, reaching out to steady the man and pulling his hand back sharply when he saw that the man was not wearing one of his own.
- Only ones who didn’t wear mask where those who wouldn’t benefit from it. Muttering another apology Merlin hurried away, picking up his pace until he was standing under the shelter of the awning of the trans-station. He used the word shelter lightly.
“Give it to me.” A voice said in his right ear.
Merlin looked up at the voice that shook with the same nerves that made the hand pointing the gun at him tremble so much that Merlin was worried that the man would accidently shoot him.
Thomas? Teddy? Something with a T, Merlin knew that for sure. He was in Merlin’s English Lit class. Professor Akins’ class.
“Whoa,” Merlin said, taking his hands from his pockets and holding his hands up, palms outward. “Look, you don’t have to,”
“What makes you so special? Hmm? Why do you get an invitation and I don’t?” the man who’s name almost definitely started with a T demanded of him.
“I don’t know.” Merlin said honestly. He had no idea why he had been granted and invitation. “I don’t know. Look,”
“Just shut up and give it to me.”
“Give it to me!” the man yelled, gun shaking ominously.
“Alright, here, look,” Under the watchful eye of his classmate? Ex-classmate? Merlin took the invitation from the front pocket of his book-pack and handed it the other man. “Here,”
He looked at Merlin suspiciously, and then glanced down at the invitation for a second before shoving his gun into his pocket and hurrying off.
“Not like I wanted the bloody thing in the first place,” Merlin muttered.
He wasn’t surprised to find his best friend in the history of ever waiting for him when he arrived home. William Pyre, better know to Merlin as Will and others as that odd Pyre kid, had been Merlin’s friend since they were both little and had stumbled over each other on the pitch of a ball field back before the world had gone to hell, during the time when shit made sense and Will’s mother had been alive
His tall gangly form spread across the dusty grey cement in front of the thick slab of painted green metal that was the door to his home. The living units, small but durable. The one he lived in with his mom was large enough for two closet sized rooms they could call their own, enough to give them some semblance of privacy no matter how false it truly was. There was roughly five feet of unused space used as living and kitchen. And a tiny bath.
Recess lighting had been drilled into the reinforced ceiling, blindingly bright it filled the narrow corridor. Merlin’s eyes slated into thin slits as he came to a stop beside the prone form of the boy he had grown up with, wondering whether Will was asleep or simply high. A nudge from his boot toe provided the answer when the other boy looked up at him with red-rimmed eyes and dilated pupils.
“So, I hear you’ll be leaving soon.” Will said without so much as a hello.
Merlin sighed, pushing the other boy aside with twitch of his leg, and keyed in his access code before stepping into the small rectangle shaped box that was his home – leaving the door open for Will to trail in behind him.
“No.” Merlin said, dropping his book bag on a rickety old table whose better days had long since passed. It made a heavy thump, the table swinging slightly before settling in place once again. “I’m not.” Merlin toed off his boots and wander to the far section of the room that was more or less the kitchen.
Only four bottles of drinking water remained and they wouldn’t be receiving anymore until the end of the week, if then.
“What do you mean, your not?” Will asked.
“Just what I said, I’m not going.” Merlin said.
Will looked at him as though he had grown a suddenly grotesque banana on his forehead.
“What – I was going to take the piss out of you a bit for sure. But – Merlin you have to go.” Will said, his voice serious in a way that it never was.
That worried Merlin, because Will was never serious.
“No, I really don’t. I don’t have to do anything.” Merlin said.
“Merlin – have you talked to your mom yet?” Will asked.
“Not as such,” Merlin said, digging through a cupboard and scrounging up a dusty old can of peaches.
He took a knife and punched a hole in the top, pouring in the juice into a glass and downing it before using the knife to cut the can the rest of the way open. Using his fingers he scraped out several halves before holding the can out to Will in offering, who, as Merlin had expected him to do, greedily reached in for halves of his own.
“I gave it away.” Merlin told him.
“Gave what away?” Will asked with his mouth full.
“The invitation.” Merlin said, biting and swallowing another bit of peach. “I gave it away.”
“What?” Will shouted incredulously, spewing chunks of peach as he did so. “Merlin, you can’t just give an invitation away.”
“Don’t see why not.” Merlin shrugged as he chewed on another slice of peach.
“Because that’s not how it’s done, now is it.” Will said, he looked at Merlin as though Merlin had gone bonkers.
“Yeah, well the guy didn’t look like he was going to take no for an answer.” Merlin shrugged. “So I gave it to him.”
“Oh, you were mugged,” Will said understanding clearing his face. He sighed as though in relief. “For a moment there I thought you’d lost your marbles; giving away an invitation.” Will scoffed.
“I wasn’t mugged.” Merlin protested. “Not really.” Except for the part where he’d really, really had been.
He chooses not to tell Will that.
“Mugged!” the screech made Merlin jump. He wondered how he had missed the sound of the door unlocking when the whole apartment was roughly the size of a shoe-box.
“Mom,” Merlin began.
“Mugged?” she dropped her bag on the sofa and hurriedly devoured the short distance between them, pulling him into a crushing hug before releasing him only to run her hands over him in a searching manner.
“I wasn’t mugged.” Merlin said.
“You said mugged.” She said.
And okay, he had, but….
“Will said mugged.” he insisted.
She turned to look at Will.
“Merlin got an invitation.” Will said, all but happy to throw Merlin to the wolves.
Not that him mom was a wolf mind you.
“Merlin,” Hunith gasped, her eyes watering.
“And gave it away.” Merlin said, glaring at Will. He chucked the can in the bin under the sink and slinked off to the sofa.
“Merlin,” she said again her tone now worried and questioning.
“Not like I could just run off and leave you here, now is it.”
“Merlin, an invitation is a serious thing. A good thing. You don’t just give it away.” Hunith said eyes wide and pleading as though spoke to him as though he were unable to comprehend the importance of the invitation.
The fact that it wasn’t as important to him as it was to others.
“To the guy who mugged him.” Will inputted.
“Would you stop saying mugged.” Merlin snapped.
Will shrugged and shoved the remaining halves of peaches dangling by his fingers into his mouth.
Hunith sat next to him, her body heat soaking into him, and placed her hand on his thigh. She waited for him to turn to her before speaking.
“I want you to go--” she said, raising a palm when he started to protest. “Not everyone gets this opportunity.”
“Yeah, well I don’t want it.” Merlin said. He nearly pouted. Nearly. It was a close thing.
“Well I want it for you.” Hunith said. “I want something better than this, for you. I want to know you’re somewhere safe. Somewhere with a future.”
“Mom,” Merlin began.
“You can’t live your life for me.” Hunith said.
“So what, I’m supposed to just leave! Leave you here on this dying hunk of rock!” Merlin said, desperate for her to understand that him picking up and abandoning her was not an option.
“Maybe I’ll receive one,” Hunith said, though neither of them believed it.
“And maybe you won’t.”
Will cleared his throat, shuffling his feet and looking decidedly uncomfortable.
“I’m going to,” he said, pointing to the door with his thumb.
Merlin nodded. “Right.”
Mother and son watched as he left, silence descending ominously, thick and heavy and sucking the air out of the box that was their apartment.
“The sickness came back.” Hunith said her voice barely a whisper. “The doctor reckons I won’t even need the vapor mask any longer. That it won’t do me any good.”
“Mom,” Merlin’s voice cracked.
Panic and despair, anger and grief, swelled inside him violently, thrashing against the cage of his flesh like the ocean pounded a cliff side.
“I’m dying Merlin.” Hunith said, the tears she had been obviously fighting finally fell, rolling down the hills of her cheeks and pooling in the corners of her mouth for a moment before dropping through the air and plopping randomly on the sofa and her shoulder. “I’m dying, and I want to die knowing that this won’t happen to you. That you’re safe, if not happy.”
“Well it’s a mute point now, isn’t it? I no longer have the invitation.” He said, hoping to put an end to the topic.
And he wouldn’t have gone even if he had it. How was he supposed to just leave her here, knowing she was going to die, knowing that he wouldn’t see her again?
Albion is paradise. Clean air, safe water, Albion is a haven for humanity. We are here to help.”
The woman on the TV was inhumanly beautiful, appropriate seeing as how she wasn’t. Golden wheat hair fell in loose ringlets down her shoulders. The blue jump suit was button to the hollow of her throat, the lotus flower printed in white above the pocket on her left breast. She was an ambassador; they had been all over since the lotophagi arrival; the television, tablet-magazines and newspapers.
Spreading the peace.
Merlin snorted, standing to turn the TV off. It was an old model, 21 inches and digital color; he had found it on the street waiting for trash pick up six months before the pollution went critical and the first case of sickness was reported.
The knock on the door startled him and he jumped, glancing at the suspiciously before taking stumbling steps that quickly ate up the few feet separating him from the door.
The woman was beautiful. Wavy, inky black hair so dark that it was nearly blue, curvy figure hugged by the blue jump suit and startling blue eyes.
She was a Lotus.
“Merlin Emrys?” she asked, her eyes focused on him and not attempting to peek over his shoulder into the apartment as some humans would. Her blue eyes were oddly intense, and he fought (and failed) to keep from fidgeting under her gaze.
“You were invited. We haven’t heard from you.” She sounded like a computer. All of the loti were always so precise when they spoke. Like they were choosing their words carefully, as though they were hiding something.
Or maybe that was just Merlin’s paranoia.
“I’m not going. Thanks though.” Merlin said, adding the last part on as an afterthought, not wanting sound rude and ungrateful.
“But you were invited,” she tilted her head at an angle, the way dogs did when they heard something interesting that they couldn’t quite identify.
“Yeah, well I’ve decided to decline the invitation.” Merlin said.
“People do not do that.” the lotophagus woman said as though she thought he was mad.
And maybe she was correct in her assumption. He just didn’t care.
“Well, what can I tell you? I don’t want to go.” Merlin shrugged. “Besides, I don’t have the invite.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Gave it to someone.” Merlin said.
“You can not do that.”
“Yeah well, he wanted it more than I did. He also didn’t look like he was going to take no for an answer.” Merlin said with a shrug of his shoulders.
“That can be rectified.” she said with a smile. “You’ve been invited.”
“So you’ve said. Except I don’t want to be invited.” Merlin said. “What makes e so damn special?”
He thought it was a valid question. Merlin was no bio-chemist or surgeon like others who had been taken aboard.
“We want you Merlin.” She said.
“Why?” Merlin asked.
Why him? What was so special about him?
“Why don’t you come and find out.”
Merlin Emrys was not what she had expected. Not at all. Then again there was not a lot known about him; at least not his personality. Everything they had consisted of DNA strains and genetic code.
Nothing about him.
Humans on a whole fascinated her. Their fragility and tendency to react on emotion instead of logical thought. No that her people were exempt from emotional responses, they just didn’t allow themselves to be ruled by them as the humans did.
Bypassing the mess halll she followed the line of the white and blue stripped hallway, the lightening reacting to her presences as she walked, responding accordingly, around the large domed contained area and wound her way to the office two floors up. The doors opened with a swish, emitting a puff of cool air that sent gooseflesh rising on her arms.
She paused just inside the doorway, folding her hands behind her back, standing at attention until she was recognized by the figure sitting behind the L-shaped desk.
“It’s him.” She said without prompting.
A moment passed as the figure, the male, behind the desk browsed the tablet he held between his palms.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s him.” She hesitated “He’s decided not to come.”
“Well, don’t take no for an answer. Get him here.”
“And if he refuses?”
Green eyes, cold and hard like emeralds glared at her, piercing through her like sharp daggers beneath thin eyebrows that were slowly going grey
“Don’t take no for an answer.”
He was dreaming. He knew he was dreaming, and yet – everything felt so real. The sent of orange blossoms filling his nose and tickling the back of his throat until he could swear he could taste it. And warm rain falling from a clear blue sky, droplets of water sidling slowly along his arms and into the small pond at his feet.
Just like every other time the dream morphs and suddenly the pond is no longer filled with water, but with blood so dark and rich it looked like ink. The scent of orange blossom is replaced with the repugnant stench of death and decay. He blinks and turns his head to find bodies littering the ground that slowly rolled beneath his feet – grass turned into metal that was slick with displaced body fluids.
“You did this.” A voice said in his ear. Merlin glanced over his shoulder into blue eyes. “You saved us.”
“They’re dead.” Merlin whispered. “You never said they would die.”
The owner of the eyes shrugged.
“There had to be sacrifices made.”
“An entire race?”
“So that we can live.” Blue eyes said. “So we can be together. “
He’d never thought twice about his dreams, they had begun when he was fifteen – scaring Merlin to the point of making him physically ill. But when he opened the door of his apartment and looked into the blue eyes from his dream it all came flooding back, filling him with equal parts of dread and horror.
He was never able to get a good look at the owner of the eyes during the dream, his view limited to the crinkled skin around the sockets and the edge of side burns. Merlin wasn’t sure what he thought the guy would look like – he wasn’t even sure he had actually thought about it – but the physical adaptation of the old Greek God Adonis wasn’t it.
His hair was gold, sparkling like precious metal in the bright light of the hallway. A strong jaw anchored full lips and was the home to a light dusting of stubble. He was wearing a crimson jumpsuit instead of the standard blue and the lotus flower was gold and stitched upon the right side of his chest, not the left, and gold and blue bands lined the arm of the same side.
“Merlin Emrys?” The lotophagus said one more time, bringing Merlin’s attention to the fact that he was standing in the doorway with his mouth gaped and looking like an idiot.
“Um, yeah – yes, that’s, um, that’s me.” Merlin stammered his way through the sentence.
The lotophagus held out a white card. Another invitation.
“What’s that?” Merlin asked, stupidly.
The lotophagus smiled at him – we’ll it was more of a quirk of his lips, but still.
- “An invitation.”
He didn’t say obviously but it was implied. Lotophagi were probably to dignified to say something so – human.
“I don’t want it.” Merlin said, leaning slightly on the doorjamb. “Thought I made that clear already.”
“We thought you might’ve had a change of,” there was a hesitation before he continued. “heart,” he concluded.
“Well, I haven’t, so,” Merlin shrugged. “Tell me, do all your invitees get the personal treatment.”
The lotophagus shrugged - a smooth movement that Merlin down-right envied. He was pretty sure he didn’t look so suave when shrugging.
“I do not know. No one else has ever turned down an invitation before. You are one of a kind Merlin Emrys.”
“So I’ve been told,” Merlin said. Usually when people said that they didn’t mean it in a complimentary sort of way.
“Could I possibly come in?” The lotophagus asked.
“Oh, yeah, of course. Sorry. Mom would be horrified with me.” Merlin said as he stepped back into the apartment, holding the heavy metal door open so that the lotophagus could enter.
He watched as the alien being glanced around, wavering between embarrassment at the size of the apartment and not caring what anyone, especially someone who wasn’t even human, thought.
“Do you – well there isn’t really much to offer.” Merlin said sheepishly, and that was a hint of embarrassment that heated his cheeks no matter how hard he fought it.
“No, thank you. I understand that humanities food supply is short. Besides, where not quite sure how consuming your food would affect us.”
“You haven’t tried?”
“Do you wan to have a seat?” Merlin asked after a moment.
“Why will you not come? Are you unsatisfied with the ship you have been assigned? The Albion is our finest craft,”
“I’m sure it is. And no I’m not dissatisfied with the ship, mostly because the invitation doesn’t even mention a ship.”
The lotophagus now looked sheepish.
“I sometimes forget that human technology is limited.” the lotophagus said. “If it’s not the ship, then why will you not accept your invitation?”
“Like a dog with a bone, you are,” Merlin murmured.
“My mom.” Merlin said.
“Your mother?” the lotophagus asked.
“She’s caught the sickness and isn’t likely to make it much longer. I can’t just leave her here, she has no one else.”
“Never knew him.”
The lotophagus looked off to the side and Merlin thought the matter had been settled.
“What if you mother were to receive and invitation of her own? Would you accept then?”
“I – what--” Merlin stammered. “Can you do that?”
“Our scientists have been working with our physicians to find a cure, or at least a treatment for the sickness. It’s possible they could help your mother.”
“I—are you serious?”
“Why would I not be?”
“That-” Merlin paused. He would still be leaving Will, but he was sure his best friend would understand if it meant he’d have a chance to save his mom. “I, yeah, if –is she could also come I would accept.”
The lotophagus smiled.
“Good.” He turned towards the door, pausing a glancing back at Merlin when he reached it. “I hope to see you soon.”
“Your, your stationed on the Abl--”
“Albion.” Merlin said. “Guess I’ll need to remember how to say it now huh, seeing as how it’s going to be my home.”
The lotophagus smiled, pulling open the door.
“Oh, um, what’s your name?” Merlin asked.
“Arthur.” He said. “My name is Arthur.”
The shuttle to take them to the Albion was roughly the size of a cab and the color of slate with only the slits in front for windows. It was sleek and clean, so unlike anything Merlin saw on a daily basis in his neighborhood. It sat in a cornered off section of Sea – Tac, though the airport was no longer in use, protected by a ten foot fence and doors that required both a pass code and retinal scan to enter.
Will had been stopped at security and had seen them off; his expression wavering between sadness at being left behind and happiness that Hunith was going to be getting help. He’d almost cried and Merlin planned on teasing him unendingly when he finally got his invitation. And Merlin did believe he would eventually get one of his own, to think otherwise would mean acknowledging the fact that he might not see Will again. And that – just no.
Merlin and his mom were put through a body scanner, and all but shoved into a decontamination unit before being handed white jumpsuits that distinguished the human visitors from the lotophagus crew. Then they were escorted aboard the shuttle and into cryo-pods that would protect them during the trip. Though they trip would be made by what had been explained as flash-drive that was faster than the speed of light or some such thing, to do so with out the cryo-pods would mean risking death.
Apparently the dying part wouldn’t happen during the trip itself but would happen at the sudden stop point when the shuttle exited flash-drive to dock with the Albion. Apparently dying like that would hurt, and Merlin wasn’t okay with dying, nor pain, so he climb into the cryo-pod and pushed down the part of him that was clawing at his insides with panic.
Sleep didn’t come as they had said it would, he was wide awake with adrenaline flooding his system and his heart pounding in his ears. But though sleep didn’t come the dream did; this time he could clearly see Arthur. The dead were kneeling, sagging forward like puppets with too loose strings, eyes open but unseeing through the fog of grey cloud cover that filmed over their pupils.
“The world is ours now.” Arthur whispered in his ears and Merlin turned to look at him only to gasp and jerk up right and into the clutches of hands grasping for him.
“It’s okay Mr. Emrys. Breathe.”
Waking up from cryo was like breaching the surface of the ocean after long periods of time without air. His longs burned and his fingers tingled with a phantom sensation.
“We have to get him warm.” Someone said. Maybe the same someone who had spoken his name earlier. He wasn’t sure. “His body temperature is dropping.”
He lost track of time, only to come back into himself when he was submerged in a bath of a viscous substance that seeped into his bones, easing the chills that was beginning to make his teeth chatter. Something was shoved over his face and the next thing he knew he was being dragged into a dreamless sleep that he was deeply grateful for.
He woke, some unknown amount of time later – no matter how much he searched of the room, at least that of it he could see, he couldn’t spot a clock – in marginally less pain and a hell of lot warmer.
The colloid mattress cradled him gently, the gelatinous substances molding around his body protectively. The steady rhythm of the life-sustaining equipment grounded him to the here and now, cutting through the thin layer of fog and confusion that hung heavily over his mind like a solid, dusty blanket. He tried to sit up and found out that wasn’t necessarily a good idea.
“Ow,” Merlin groaned.
“Yeah, ow, that probably wasn’t the smartest move in the world.” The words were sarcastic, the voice warm though unfamiliar.
Grimacing in pain, he glanced over to his left, taking in the man that stood a few feet from the bed. He was clothed in loose blue pants and a white shirt beneath a blue outer shirt.
Merlin had never seen a loti without a jumpsuit on, so he thought it was perfectly reasonable for him to have mistaken the man as a human. He didn’t realize it was an mistake until the man shifted, bringing his folded arms down a few inches to reveal the louts flower.
“Who are you?” Merlin managed to croak out. His throat felt as dry as a desert.
“Apparently I’m your babysitter.” The man – the lotophagus, Merlin mentally corrected.
“Do you have a name? Babysitter.”
The lotophagus smiled, a wide showing of teeth that could have been threatening but strangely wasn’t.
“I like you. Still not sure why he does, but I like you. You’ve got teeth on you.” The lotophagus dropped into an empty chair beside the bed, sprawling all loose and long limbed in the seat. “Gwaine. The names Gwaine.”
“Huh, Gwaine. You don’t talk like the others.”
“What, like I have a Webster’s dictionary shoved up my ass?” Gwaine said. “I spent sometime on earth, picked up something’s. The language was one of those things. It’d amazed me when I first arrived just how imprecise the human languages are when describing something.”
“No. I chalk it up to being one of those human oddities.” Gwaine. “Makes you lot interesting.”
“Hmm, you said he.” Merlin said.
“What?” Gwaine asked. Totally unconvincingly.
“You said that you didn’t know what he saw in me. Who’s he?”
“Caught that did you?’
“He’s, Arthur.” Gwaine said. “You’ve met, I heard.”
Visions of blue eyes swam in his vision.
“Yeah. We’ve met.” He couldn’t quite help the smile that spread his lips, even though he had no idea why he was smiling. “Why did he make you my babysitter?”
“He heard you had a bad reaction to the cryo. He was worried. Told me to come look over you, seeing as how he was unable.”
“And you just do whatever he tells you?” Merlin asked.
“That’s kind of how it goes around here.” He said, tapping Merlin once on the leg before exiting.
Merlin had no time to dwell on that as an older male with graying hair entered the room, the auto-door opening silently with a pulse of air. He held a thin metal slab in his left hand, his right hand moving quickly over the surface. A tablet. He was dressed in a white jumpsuit. A human.
“Ah, you’re awake.” The man said, lowering his arms to his sides and looking up at Merlin.
“You’re human.” He hadn’t meant to blurt it out. His mouth just sort of starting moving without much input from his brain is all.
“Noticed that did you?” the man said, laying the tablet down on metal, free-hanging shelf pressed against the side of the gelled bed, the man pulled out a L.S.R – life sign reader, a device that fit squarely in the palm of his hand.
He detached the air-pod, a round, cylinder the size and shape of a pen and ran it over Merlin, an inch or so away from the surface of his skin. The L.S.R emitted small beeps spanned three seconds apart. Apparently satisfied with what he found, the man switched the L.S.R off and reattached the pod before shoving it into a pocket of his white lab coat.
He smiled at Merlin, wide, skin crinkling. He had the look of a favorite uncle, inspiring trust in Merlin that overtook his weariness.
“I’m sorry,” Merlin said, watching as the man move to a row of overhead cubbies that lined the nearest wall.
He pulled down a plastic container and retrieved a wrapped hypo-needle. It looked like any one of the dozen that was under the bathroom sink at home, tucked in a corner next to the clear bottles of medication that seemed to make his mom feel worst than she did before she took it.
“Gaius,” the man said, unwrapping and prepping the hypo-needle. “My name is Gaius,”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Merlin,”
Gaius smiled a knowing expression that unsettled him.
“I know,” he came closer to the bed. “Something for the pain,” he said, pointedly holding out the needle before proceeding to poke Merlin with it, the drug releasing with a puff of decompressed air to flood his system with emitted relief.
“My mom?” Merlin asked managing to bite back the moan of relief as endorphins burst through his body, swallowing the pain in an up-swell leaving him trembling in its wake.
“She is fine,” Gaius went to the sliding door, turning a dial on the wall until the door became clear as glass and Merlin was able to see out into the rest of the medical bay. Hunith was across from him resting in her own gel bed with a line extending from her arm to a standing pump. “She was suffering from tremors when we pulled her out of cryo, but she’s stable now. We’re administrating the treatment in five doses over the next twenty-four hours.” He returned to Merlin’s bedside. “She’ll be fine.”
Emotion swelled in his throat, threatening to choke him. He swallowed – and swallowed again – finally clearing his throat when that didn’t work.
“Thank you,” Merlin said, voice a little thick but better than him out and out crying.
“No need to,” Gaius said. “It’s why we’re here. It’s why we came.”
We, he said, not they.
Gaius retrieved another hypo-needle and injected Merlin before he could but up a protest.
“For pain again?” Merlin asked.
“No,” Gaius said, disposing of the needle. “It’s a standard injection to help regulate the human body to the environmental change. You’ll be expected to dose yourself three times a day.” He took down a small, black case and placed it on the foot of the bed along with a white sweat suit. “When ever you’re feeling up to it you can get dressed. Your vitals are fine so I’m releasing you, as long as you promise to come back if you start to feel ill.”
“What about my mom?” Merlin asked.
“She’ll have to stay at least until her treatments are finished, once they are we will evaluate her condition and determine if she’ll be released.” Gaius retreated after that, leaving Merlin to dress in peace.
It took Merlin a few moments to get moving, to right himself and come to terms with this being his life now, for him to stop staring across the way where his mom lay looking so fragile.
Merlin shuffled to his feet and tugged on the clothes, the fabric sliding over his skin, softer than anything he had ever touched before. He picked up the black case and unzipped it finding inside two hypo-needles and nearly two dozen med-capsules the size of the tip of his pinky. He zipped it and consider for a moment before shoving the case into a pocket of his pants and turning towards the door that automatically opened as he approached. Glancing around, he turned his head this way and that – feeling like an idiot as he did so – before hurrying across the hall and into Hunith’s room.
The bed was molded around her perfectly; the edges puffed up to keep her from moving too much, it made her look small and hapless. The sight frightened Merlin, reminding him how he could lose her at anytime now and the thought made his chest clench.
“You’re going to be okay.” Merlin said, taking her limp hand in his and laying a kiss on it, her skin blessedly warm under his lips. “Doctor Gaius said so.” Merlin smiled, watery and tight, his breath hitching. “I think you’ll like him, Gaius I mean. And maybe Arthur to. I told you about Arthur didn’t I? Maybe I didn’t. Mostly because I don’t know much about Arthur myself, except that I keep dreaming about him. Maybe when you wakeup and are feeling better when can talk about it.”
She, of course, didn’t answer.
The raspy sound of someone clearing their throat made Merlin jump and he twirled around, knocking into the bedside shelf as he did so, sending a discarded tablet skidding across the surface to wobble dangerously on the edge.
Merlin lurched forward and caught it just before it fell, fumbling it between clammy palms and making a right idiot of himself. He placed the tablet back on the shelf with a little more force than was strictly necessary, creating a thwacking sound that echoed through the room.
“Um,” the girl in the doorway began.
Or maybe calling her a woman would be more appropriate. Her caramel colored skin and dark curls contrasted nicely with the white sweat suit set she wore.
She shuffled in place, her hands tucked behind her and a slight blush visible on her cheeks as though it was she, and not Merlin, who had just embarrassed themselves magnificently.
“I,” Merlin gaped.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” the girl said.
“Oh, no, you didn’t. I was just-” he trailed off and made a vague movement with his right arm, moving it towards were Hunith laid unaware in her med-bed.
“Oh, okay then,” she said. “I’m Gwen.”
“Nice to meet you Merlin, Gaius said you can be released now, I’m suppose to show you to your rooms.”
“Alright,” Merlin glanced towards his mom once more, his fingers tightening around the edge of the black case he carried.
Taking a deep breath he turned away with a silent goodbye and followed Gwen as she led the way out of the room and the small quarters of the med-bay.
The hall was one large, smooth slab of metal. Silver walls ran down into silver flooring with a small angled bump at the baseboards. Each hall they turned into looked like the last and Merlin knew that he would never be able to find his way with out help. Gwen had obviously been aboard the ship for a significant amount of time, she navigated the halls smoothly, guiding Merlin to the side when crew members hustled by. When Merlin asked, she confirmed his suspicions;
“I was one of the first, been aboard for nearly a year now I suppose, though it’s hard to keep track of time when theirs no sun to use to keep track of days.”
She took them pass the bridge and mess hall, pointing out both, as well as the main recreation halls posted on either side of the mess and the gym two doors down. They took the lift up to the next level and Gwen led the way through the maze of metal once again. Automatic doors opened up with a swish and a puff of air, they went a few more feet before coming to a stop before a door the same the color as the wall with the number 4 embezzled in black on the door.
Gwen took a key card from her pocket and swept it over the rectangle shape of the key-fob on the right side of the door. The door slide open with the characteristic poof of air, Gwen made an gesture with her arm and waited for Merlin to enter first before following.
“What do you think?” Gwen asked.
Merlin didn’t answer right away, couldn’t to be honest.
The rooms were much more than what he had expected. He was prepared for a bunker of sorts with a twin bed a small enclosure for clothing and if he was lucky a desk. That’s not what he got at all. The room was easily as big as their apartment had been, with a decent sized full mattress atop a wooden chestnut brown box spring against the far left wall and a open closet next to it. A separate sitting area took up the rest of the space with a love seat, two arm chairs, and a coffee table. Along the far right wall was a large view screen that was currently displacing a fantastic view of the Olympic Mountains as seen from the pungent sound.
“I – don’t know what to say.” And he truly didn’t
“You like it then?” she asked, obviously hopeful that he did.
“It’s too much,” Merlin said with a shake of his head. The room could fit a small family in it, not to mention the attached ensuite he could see through the alcove.
“So you don’t like the room?”
“It’s not that,” Merlin said. The rooms were nice, “It’s just – it’s too much. I don’t need all this space.”
“He picked them for you himself.”
Gwen gave him a pointed look that he was unable to decipher.
“If you don’t like the room, I’m sure we can find you something else.”
“No, no, that’s – I don’t want to be a bother.”
And Merlin had the feeling that he was just played.
“Would you like to get something to eat, dinner’s about to be survived in the mess.”
The mess was a hive of activity with people in blue and white creating a kaleidoscope of color as they mingled at round tables crowded in the middle of the room and pushed up against the walls. The mess itself was of good size, holding nearly half the crew and passengers at one time.
Merlin followed Gwen to a line and took up a tray, filling it with slices of fruit and salad, both of which were fresh, not de-hyradated.
Gwen led the way to a table that rested against the left far wall beneath the ledge of the over head walkway. Two men were already seated at the table, Gwaine from early and another man Merlin didn’t know. Gwen slid onto a seat next to the unknown man, flashing him a blinding smile. Merlin followed a little more hesitantly.
“Huh,” Gwaine said with his fork half way to his mouth as he passed over Merlin with his eyes.
“Nothing,” Gwaine shrugged, biting the noodle of the tongs of his fork. “It just get why he likes you is all, now that you don’t look like your going to croke at any second.”
Merlin glared half-heartedly, pushing his food around with a fork.
“Thank,” he grumbled, “I guess.”
“Leave the boy alone Gwaine,” the unknown man said. He was gorgeous with tussled dark hair and the horrendously good looks that was associated with lotophagi. The print of the lotus flower was revealed when the man reached out to shake hands with Merlin, centered over his right breast. “Lancelot,”
“You’re a lotophagi,” Merlin blurted out unintentionally. He kept doing that didn’t he.
He clamped his mouth shut with a snap of teeth; he could feel his cheeks blazing with heat as they were flushed with blood.
“Noticed that did you?” Lancelot said with a smile pulling on his lips.
“Told you, he’s a modern day Sherlock this one.” Gwaine said, thrusting the thumb of his right had out towards Merlin.
“Shut up,” Merlin said. How was he to know with them draped in the white of the human passengers? The lotophagi have no distinguishing marks from humans and unless they want you to know what they are there’s no way of telling.
“Elementary my dear Emrys,”
“You’re kind of annoying aren’t you?”
“Oh Merlin, I get even more annoying as you get to know me, I assure you.”
“Oh good, I was worried there for a moment.”
Lancelot laughed, full and heavy.
“No wonder he likes you,” he said, tailing off with a chuckle and picking up his tumbler and placing it to his mouth.
“What does that mean? Why does everyone keep saying that?”
The table went quite, Lancelot nearly choking on his drink as he tried to quite his laughter. Gwen’s eyes swung over Merlin’s left shoulder and went wide before sliding back to Merlin and spreading with an unreadable smile.
“Wha-” Merlin started, stopping when he heard his voice.
Merlin’s reaction was visceral and unexpected. He felt his stomach flutter and his heart race and Merlin had no idea why.
He turned slowly to face Arthur who was just as stunningly handsome as Merlin remembered him to be, dressed in his crimson uniform with his golden hair swept back from his forehead.
“You are here.” Arthur glanced over at Gwaine, “I had heard but was unsure whether to believe the reports.”
“You came to get me personally and still doubted I would come?” Merlin asked.
“I’m beginning to believe that you, will be unpredictable.” Arthur said.
“You don’t even know me.” Merlin said.
“I plan on changing that.” Arthur replied and Merlin, he liked the sound of that. He was drawn to Arthur for reason’s he couldn’t even begin to decipher. The need to reach out to touch the lotophagi was an itch beneath the pads of his finger tips and Merlin had to curl them into fist to keep from reaching out and doing just that.
“Would you like to see the observation deck?” Arthur said, Gwaine cleared his throat and Arthur’s eyes swung down to Merlin’s tray. “Oh, you’re eating, I-”
“No,” Merlin said hurriedly, “I’m finished,”
“Are you certain? I could show you another time.”
“Nope, I’m done. Unless you don’t want-” Merlin said, hoping that he didn’t sound too eager and having a suspicion that he did.
“No, it would be my pleasure to give you a tour of your new home.”
Gwaine slid Merlin’s tray over to him before Merlin had even left the table.
“What?” Gwaine asked at the look the others throw at him. “He wasn’t going to eat it, now was he?”
Merlin ignored them, standing and following Arthur out of the mess. Silence was a comfortable blanket that surrounded them as they walked through the hallways; passer by crewmembers came to a stop bowing slightly at the waist and eyes on the floor, coming into sudden movement once he and Arthur had passed by. Arthur led him far into the left wing of the ship, staying close to Merlin’s side so that every little movement caused their hands to brush, the contact sending a jolt of electricity through Merlin.
“Here,” Arthur said, coming to a stop and curling his fingers around Merlin’s wrist to make him halt as well.
Merlin watched as Arthur ran his fingers through an intricate design over the surface of a security pad mounted on the wall next to the door Arthur had stopped in front of. The doors slid open and Arthur stepped inside, pulling Merlin along where his hand still held Merlin’s wrist.
“The observation deck,” Arthur said as Merlin let out a small gasp as he took in the sight of velvety black and smoldering dark blue that spanned across the distance, the moon filling the forefront.
“Yes. Beautiful, is it not?” Arthur questioned eyes remaining on Merlin.
“Yes,” Merlin breathed.
Arthur shifts his hand so that he was grasping Merlin’s in his palm, their fingers entwining. Merlin glanced down at their join hands, lifting a eyebrow with curiosity but refraining from saying anything.
“So,” Merlin began as he kept pace with Arthur as they strolled along the grated floor of the walkway of the observation deck. The curtain of space was spanned out along the haul of the ship visible through the view port that ran along both side walls. “You’re actually a pretty big deal around here, aren’t you?”
Arthur chuckled, raising his free hand and running his fingers through his hair. Such a vulnerable and human thing to do that Merlin stared for a moment before remembering himself and tearing his eyes away so that he was looking out the view ports once again.
“You can say that.” Arthur said.
Merlin stopped, leaning against the rail of the walkway and disentangled their hands as he did so.
“Who are you?” he asked, gazing up at Arthur.
“Arthur Pendragon,” Arthur answered, brows furrowing in obvious confusion.
“I know that,” he said. “I meant,” but he didn’t continue, because he didn’t know what he meant and wasn’t sure he’d want the answer if he knew what question to ask.
“Nothing.” Merlin said.
He tried, and failed, to see his mom before returning to his quarters, giving up with a resigned sighed and a twinge in his heart at the scowl and sturdy looking lotophagi nurse through at him. The lights came on automatically at a even thirty percent when he entered, just bright enough for him to see by and his eyes had to adjust from the harsh too bright lightening of the rest of the ship.
Weariness seeps into his bones as he steps inside his new sanctuary, eyes sweeping the room and taking it in like he hadn’t be able to (hadn’t wanted to) earlier. He toes of his trainers and bends at the waist to tug his socks off, first the left foot then the right, curling his toes in the thick rug that was laid across the width of the floor just inside the doorway to cover the cold metal floor.
He padded quickly over to the bed, the gel-bed undulating slightly beneath his weight as he pushed himself along the colloid mattress until he was sitting with his back pressed against the wall. A tablet rested on the bedside table beneath the ledge where a small reading light sat. Merlin picked it up, holding it in the cradle between his palms and using a finger to toggle through the main screens idly while his mind wondered. He wondered what Will was up too, genuinely worried about his oldest (only) friend in the world.
He worried about his mother; then again he was always worried about his mother – the tension always hanging on his shoulders. Dr. Gaius had assured him that she would be okay, but he had heard it before and they had lived so long with her on the edge that the thought that she may no longer be dangling over it was something he was having a hard time comprehending.
He still wasn’t sure about the ship, having had lived his entire life with two feet on solid ground, never stepping foot on water-ship nor plane. Uncertainty lingered over the lotophagus, no matter the seemingly personable attitudes and friendly smiles that they all presented. He couldn’t get over the feeling that they were all hiding something – he had always been too curious for his own good.
Thinking about the lotophagus automatically turned his thoughts towards one lotophagi specifically – Arthur. He was still puzzled by the way the other crew members treated Arthur, yet no one, not even Gwaine who Merlin had learned in the short amount of time that he had been on board was a gossiping bastard would tell him anything about Arthur.
He had known Arthur for only a handful of minutes that probably didn’t even add up to an hour yet he felt drawn to Arthur for a reason he could not understand.
Sighing, he placed the tablet back on the bedside table and retrieved the small black case that Dr. Gaius had given him earlier, unzipping it he pulled out the hypo-needle and one of the small injectable cartridges, finding a zipper than ran along the inside of the case where the hypo-needle was held. Curious, he unzipped it as well and found a watch inside with a thick sliver band, the time on the face read standard. When he pushed the button that jetted out against the oval face of the watch it glowed green displaying a prior set alarm. He remembered seeing Gwen wearing a watch, as well as Dr. Gaius and a few other human passengers he had come across. He also recalled the doctor mentioning needing to wear the watch to keep track of his injection cycles.
He clipped the watch onto his wrist and noticing that it was counting down to its last minute, prepped the hypo-needle and grimaced in distaste more than pain as he injected himself with the drug. It rushed through his system just as cool and shocking as before and Merlin gasped for a shallow breath as he lowered his hand holding the needle, emptying the used cartridge and replacing the needle inside the case.
He put the case on his bedside table and pulled the top cover back and slid between the sheets, curling up on his side and trying to pretend he couldn’t hear the humming of the ship as he pushed away thoughts of his mother and Arthur both, allowing sleep to loll him into blissful darkness.
His first official day aboard the Albion was field with orientation presentations held in the mess after first meal and a tour around the ship which Merlin had done the day before with Gwen and Arthur after that. By the time second meal rolled around he knew more about the C-class ship than he had ever wanted to know. For example, how C-class meant it was a Civilization ship versus a M.I (military bay ship) or a CO (cargo carrier).
Merlin had only caught a few glimpses of Arthur as the lotophagi shuffled through the halls; a male Merlin had not met nearly plastered to his side, their heads close together as they both looked at a tablet that Arthur was usually carrying.
Merlin found that the close proximity of the other male to Arthur distressed him and caused jealousy to spike to life within his belly, frowning when ever he caught his thoughts going in that direction. He had no cause to be concerned about Arthur’s affairs and certainly no right to be jealous about whom Arthur spent his time with when Merlin hardly knew him. That didn’t stop that bitter emotions from swelling up like an impeding flood when ever he saw the two of them – making him glad that the sightings where few and far between.
Gwen found him roaming the halls like a lost puppy and smiled at him as she approached as though he was the cutest thing she had ever seen.
“It’s it obvious?”
“Only painfully so,” Gwen teased, the fell into step beside one either, neither certain of their destination but flowing along with the crowd that flooded the corridors, moving them from one hallway to the next.
“They won’t let me see my mom yet,”
“Ah,” Gwen said. “That would be Elyan’s doing. He runs a tight med-bay and doesn’t mean to be an insensitive bastard, I don’t think. He just doesn’t have much want, nor need, to care about anyone who is not currently taking up a gel-bed in the med station.”
“You say that as though you know him,”
“Well I should hope so, seeing as how he’s my brother.
“Hmm, I don’t see it.”
“No bother, no one does.” They changed directions and headed for the med bay. “I’ll tell him to go easier on you.”
“That would be nice, thanks.” Merlin said with all sincerity. “Ah, he’s a little intense isn’t he?”
“Yeah,” Gwen said “He was a trauma surgeon back on earth and even though he’s never said it, and probably will never say it, I know the only reason he came aboard the Albion was because of me. Otherwise he’d still be down there, I’d think he’d enjoy it more.” “There’s just not enough action aboard the ship for him. And, as you’ve may have noticed, he’s carried his intense nature to the med-bay. They call him the Dictator Doctor.”
“There may have been a clue or two,”
“Yeah, he can be a bit much, but he cares,” she paused to clear her throat, “we lost our Pa to the Sickness”
“Oh, I’m sorry,”
“Yeah….well if one good thing came from it, it made Elyan very dedicated to his work.” She said as they came upon the med-bay doors that swooshed open at their approach.
Elyan was sitting in the midst of the monitoring station that was set up in the center of the room and looked up as they entered, doors closing behind them, an automatic frown on his face morphing into a smile as he caught sight of Gwen. He stood, chair spinning in a wide circle as he moved, and stepped through the 3-D holograms of the computer interface and crossed the room, devouring Gwen in a hug that literally had her leaving her feet.
“What are you doing here?” Elyan asked Gwen once she was settled on her feet once again. “I thought you had picked up an extra shift on the bridge.”
Elyan turned at the sound of his voice, eyebrows raising slightly.
“Yeah, Gwen is it Albion’s communications officer,”
‘One of the ships communications officers, there’s about five of us in total.”
“Yeah, but she’s the best.”
Gwen shoved at him weakly, a blush beginning to spread across her features.
Their affection for one another was evident and Merlin felt a twinge in his heart as he watched their banter. He had always wanted a sibling, a brother or sister, when his dad died he figured out that wouldn’t be happening pretty quickly, especially since his mother had seemed to be perpetually sad in the months that passed - and then the Sickness had gotten a hold of her and Merlin was no longer worried about anything but her getting better.
But there had been Will, always at his sight ever since they had stumbled upon each other (literally) when they were children and sticking with each other through everything that had come along, including Will’s mother’s death and the virtual end-of-the-world. And now he didn’t know if he would ever see Will again. He couldn’t help feel the stab of envy that shot through him as he watched Gwen and Elyan.
“So, why are you here?” Elyan asked getting back to the point.
“Merlin here,” Gwen began, reaching out to tug on Merlin’s arm bringing him closer. “, was telling about how you were being a tyrant.”
“And I know it’s true, mainly because I know you.” Gwen continued. “So I thought I’d come and see if I could get you to go easy on him.”
“I’m sure Arthur would appreciate it.”
“For that to work I would have to give a frig what Arthur thinks,” Elyan said, though even Merlin could see he was relenting.
“Well that’s a good thing, see as how you do.”
“Fine. As long as he doesn’t disrupt my med-bay.”
“I won’t,” Merlin promised. He shot Gwen a grateful, if sheepish, smile and headed to his mom.
“Tyrant,” he heard Elyan scoffing as he walked away.
Hi mom was still out when he entered, sleeping he hoped and not unconscious. The sight of the life supporting system monitors still made his stomach roll – he hadn’t to think that the only thing keeping his mother alive was computer machinery. So he didn’t think about it and kept replaying the words Gaius had told him in his head. She would be okay. She would make it.
Something he had the lotophagi to thank for.
Arthur to thank for.
They carried the girl between them, her toes trailing behind her on the floor, her head lolling on her neck uncomfortably. Skin so pale it was almost translucent, dark veins snaking beneath the flesh and a film of sweat covering her. She, unconscious as she were, and the men carrying her ignored him as they shuffled past, their eyes never wandering to where he was standing with his back against the cool wall of the ship. Glancing to his left, the direction the trio had come from, Merlin fell into step behind them. Footsteps light, they maneuvered from one corridor to the next until that arrived in an enclosure that resembled the med bay with gel-beds lining that wall intercepted with odd pods that were dotted through out the room.
The men led the girl to one of the pods farther into the room and after a few tentative steps, which none of that personnel mingling about paid any attention to, he followed, watching as one of the men opened the pod with a graze of his finger tips over the raised surface. They lowered her petite form into the undulating blue waves, once the girl was entirely submerged the men took a step back and the pod slowly closed, blocking off Merlin’s sight of the girl.
“Another one?” a man in a blue lab coat asked, his slightly graying hair pulled back from his face. He held a tablet in his hands and he stroked through it with the tip of a finger tip as he looked down at the girl in the pod, slowly the top of the pod began to close; a large dome glass that encased it.
“Yes sire,” one of the men who had been carrying the girl answered.
“Good, good. And the rest?”
“Too early to tell at this point,” the same man answered again.
“Keep a sharp eye on them; we can’t afford to lose anymore.”
The men bowed slightly at the waist before stepping away and leaving the room. The remaining man toggled through his tablet, frowning at what ever it was that he saw there. Merlin, having figured that those around him couldn’t see him for reasons he didn’t understand, took a step closer to investigate. Just as he moved the man’s head snapped up and his eyes bored straight into Merlin, a frown pulled deeper at the mans lips as they parted.
“You’re not suppose to be here.” The man said, not sounding accusatory, just puzzled.
Merlin woke then, body jerking and lungs heaving as he fought for air. He rolled to his right and had just enough time to grab the waist bucket beside his bed before heaving up the contents of his stomach – the dream lingering in the back of his mind but growing fainter with every second he was awake, a teasing brush of feathers that eluded him no matter how hard he tried to catch it.
It took him a ten minute shower in the sanitation tube that was blessedly equipped with water functions and not just air propulsions, for him to stop shaking. Exiting the tube he dried off the old fashion way, with a towel, and brushed his teeth before hurriedly dressing and leaving his quarters. He found himself wandering the hallways, only getting lost twice before he made his way to the mess. Gwen was there when he arrived and he grabbed himself a bowel of oatmeal and a thing of juice before taking a seat across from her.
“You look like hell,” was the first thing Gwen said to him when he sat down.
“Thanks,” Merlin grumbled as he shoveled a spoon fool of oatmeal into his mouth.
“I’m sorry, that was rude of me,”
“Please,” Merlin said waving off the needless apology. “I fell like hell, so I guess you were only telling the truth.”
She hummed as she studied him and Merlin tried not to fidget beneath her gaze.
“Have you been taking your injections?” she asked, brows furrowing in worry.
“Hmm?” Merlin avoided her gaze, focusing on his bowl of oatmeal as he stirred his spoon.
“You’re injections Merlin, have you been taking them?”
Merlin could feel his ears going red as he blushed.
“Not as such, no.”
He didn’t like the way the injections made him feel – like he was crawling out of his skin. Too hot, and too cold at the same time.
“I keep forgetting is all, I’m not doing it on purpose.”
“Merlin you have to take you injections. It’s important.” Gwen said.
“I will, I promise. I won’t forget again.” Merlin said, making the promise and knowing he would keep it because Gwen was too nice and he liked her even though he had known her for such a short of time. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to see her disappointed/hurt face.
“I’ll tell Arthur if you do,” Gwen said with a small smug smile on her lips as though she had just played her trump card.
“What makes you think I care about what Arthur thinks?”
“Please,” Gwen scoffed.
Merlin didn’t bother with putting up another protest – not when he knew she was right.
“Your Merlin is certainly something else,” Gwaine said as he pushed his way into Arthur’s quarters (in his usual fashion) without waiting to be invited.
“By all means come on in, not as though I was doing anything.” Arthur said. The door closed and he turned to follow Gwaine further into his room.
“You’re never doing anything.” Gwen said in reply.
His bed was unmade, something that was uncustomary for Arthur, the standard blue sheets and duvet piled messily on the colloid mattress, trailing over the edge to brush over the floor. He was dressed informally in a pair of slightly loose cargo pants and v-neck shirt and bare footed as he padded after Gwaine, settling himself on the colloid mattress of his bed as Gwaine took a seat as his desk chair. His tablet sat in its dock where an unfinished report was open.
“So Merlin,” Gwaine said
“What about him?”
“Have you told him you want him to have your baby yet?” Gwaine teased, “Or would you be the one gaining all the unsightly weight that comes with breeding?”
“Shut up Gwaine,”
“Did I hit a nerve princess?”
“He deserves to know.”
“I don’t think that’s your decision.”
“And whose is it then? Yours? He has the right to know what he’s getting himself into.”
“Did you actually need something?” Arthur asked in an attempt to put the conversation to rest. Surprisingly Gwaine allows him to without pushing the subject farther.
Gwaine grinned and tilted his hips upwards at an angle digging into the back pocket of the pants he wore and pulled out something with a flourish.
“What is that?”
“I know what cards are Gwaine, what I meant is why do you have them?”
“Thought we could play a little poker. You could do with a little loosening up and seeing as how you are here instead of with Merlin,”
“Gwaine,” Arthur warned.
Gwaine shrugged standing and dragging the coffee table between them.
“Isn’t it customary to play for a reward?”
“Like I would take your stuff princess, beating you is all the reward I need.”
Arthur snorted but remained quite as Gwaine dealt out the cards. His mind wandered as he picked up his offerings, shuffling them in his hand as he settled onto his bed, only half listening as Gwaine rambled on. Like it has so many times since they had entered Earth’s atmosphere, his mind wandered to Merlin.
Arthur was completely fascinated by Merlin. He could feel the mating pull even now, his body urging him to complete the bond he had unconsciously started with the man – his mind reaching out for Merlin’s and establishing a link without either of their consent. He would feel guiltier about it if he hadn’t felt the way Merlin’s mind reached out for him in answer.
He knew that Gwaine was right in that Merlin needed to know the truth about what was going to happen – and it was going to happen – deserved to know. But what Arthur needed to tell him would bring to light much more than what Arthur thought Merlin was ready to know, so he was going to keep quite and hope that Merlin came to him. Otherwise – he pushed the thought away.
“Princess,” Gwaine said drawing Arthur’s attention.
Arthur cleared his throat, rotating his shoulder to force the tension out of his body.
“Yes.” Arthur said. “Everything is fine.”
Hunith was awake when Merlin arrived at the med-bay – the calm quite a startling contrast to the rest of the ship that was bustling with morning activity. Most of the beds were empty save an older human male a few beds over from Hunith and a young woman across the way. Gaius was standing over her, checking her L.S.R and saying something that caused a smile to light across her face. Merlin watched as Hunith blushed and fidgeted and he was struck suddenly by the fact that she was flirting – with Gaius. Merlin came to a halt outside her room, watching and wondering whether he should interrupt and deciding it would be even more awkward if she knew he was witnessing her flirting. He waited until Gaius exited her room, feeling the tips of his ears go red as Gaius caught sight of him, raising an eyebrow as he passed with tablet in hand.
He went to shove his hands into his pants pockets, a nervous tell he had never been able to stop, and his palms grazed the sides of his hips with no pockets to be found as the pants didn’t have any. Grumbling slightly to himself and biting at his lips, nervousness hitting him, he entered the room, his mom looking up as he entered, her eyes widening slightly.
“Hey mom,” Merlin crossed the room to take a seat in the chair next to her bed.
Hunith grunted as she tried to raise herself up from the half-seated position where she was leaning her upper body against the wall. Merlin rushed to help her and once he realized that she wouldn’t be talked into lying down, helped her sit up.
She looked healthy, something she hadn’t looked during the past months as the Sickness had taken a stronger hold on her. There was still paleness to her skin, mostly likely from recovery, but none of the sickly green that had been a consistent flush to her features.
“Oh my baby,” she nearly sobbed.
“Mom, please don’t,” he couldn’t stand to see her cry.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Hunith said. “I’m just, happy I guess.”
“Mom,” Merlin ducked her head, rubbing at the back of his neck.
“Come here and give me a hug,”
Merlin did. Pushing his face into the crook of her neck and breathing in her warm lavender scent that held the slight bitterness of sweat and the too-sweet of sick that still lingered. He allowed himself to be held, and held her tighter and tried (and mostly succeeded) not to cry.
The rasp of a throat being cleared has him pulling away and turning his head to find Arthur lingering in the doorway, dressed in his crisp uniform and arms bent behind his back. There’s a slight flush to his skin and he’s looking more at the wall than at them.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Arthur said.
“Oh, you’re not, not really.” Merlin said because even though Arthur kind of was Merlin could never tell him that – his mom would be horrified at the lack of manners.
“Merlin,” his mom said, the question evident in her tone of voice.
“Oh mom, this is Arthur. I told you about him, remember.” Arthur’s eyes cut to him and he lifted a brow slightly as though surprised that Merlin had been speaking about him to his mother.
“Oh yes, I remember. I want to thank you; Merlin would never have come aboard if not for you.”
“It was no matter at all.” Arthur said.
“It was to me,” Hunith replied. “So thank you.”
“So,” Merlin said as the conversation had lapsed and a not-quite uncomfortable silence had descended upon the room. “What brings you to med-bay?”
“I was stopping in to retrieve a report from Elyan and he mentioned that you were here visiting your mother. I just wanted to come and make sure that you both were well.”
“We’re fine,” Merlin said a little confused. Surely Arthur had more important things to do. “Thank you.”
“I-” Arthur began, “I was wondering if you would like a tour of the bridge. We did not get to it last time and I know that it is not part of the tour given to the civilians during on board orientation.”
“Go,” Hunith said. “I’m feeling quite tired and Gaius did say I wasn’t to strain myself to much. Go, go, have fun.”
“If you’re sure,” Merlin said.
“I’m sure. Now go.”
Merlin watched Arthur out of the corner of his eyes as they left the med-bay and entered the crowded halls of the ship, noticing once again the way people shuffled to move of the way. They took the lift all the way up and the doors opened to expel them onto the bridge. The protective grates that usually covered the windshield of the ship were open to reveal the breath taking sight of Earth below. Computer stations were dotted through out the room and in the center were the captain’s chair circled by dozens of 3-D computer interface holograms.
It was like something out of a movie – like much of Merlin’s life these days.
Gwen was at a station not far from the captain’s chair and gave him a small smile as Arthur led him towards the captain’s chair. Gwaine and Lance sat at a station towards the front of the ship situated directly in the middle of the windshield.
“Gwaine and Lance are the ships pilots.” Arthur told him. “The Albion can fly itself most of the times without impute, Gwaine and Lance is there to make sure nothing goes wrong. And Lance is there to make sure Gwaine doesn’t fly us into a black hole,” Arthur said, lowering his voice on the last bit but obviously not enough to keep Gwaine from hearing as he sputtered indignantly
“You’re one to talk,” Gwaine muttered but refrained from saying anything else.
“It’s amazing,” Merlin said his awe evident in his tone. His eyes swept around the room, not able to decided what he wanted to focus on.
He ran a curious palm over the plush padding of the captain’s chair.
“Do you want to take a seat?”
Arthur took a hold of one of Merlin’s hands and pulled him further through the 3-D holograms and helped him into the seat, Merlin unable to stop the blush that rushed to fill his cheeks and the tips of his ears. He could hear Gwaine chuckle but ignored him, to focus on trying to get the blush to fade as he sat in the chair and tried not to squirm beneath Arthur’s gaze that had gone heated with emotion he couldn’t name.
“Thank you,” Merlin said.
“Bringing me here.”
Arthur shrugged and looked away.
“It’s my hope that you’ll come to love the Albion.”
Merlin looked up at him and waited until Arthur turned his eyes back to him before responding.
“I think I already am.”
Merlin was seated at a table tucked into the corner of the mess hall, Lancelot was on duty, as was Gwaine which had boggled Merlin’s mind for he was sure that the lotophagi did nothing but laze the day away. Gwen had yet to show, so Merlin was seated by himself as he tucked into a bowl of fruit and a cold cut sandwich for lunch. He had a book laid open next to him, one of the few that he had been able to salvage. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. So engrossed in it as he was he didn’t notice Gaius until he was seated across from him, clearing his throat with a sharp, raspy sound that caused Merlin to jerk his gaze up from the pages of the book to meet Gaius’s eyes behind the rectangle lenses of his spectacles
“Dr. Gaius,” Merlin said surprised.
“Please, just Gaius, no need for the title.”
“Alright,” Merlin said. “What can I do for you?”
“Actually, it’s what I can do for you.” Gaius said, “I’ve had a talk with your mother and she mentioned that you have an interest in medicine.”
“Yes,” Merlin said.
“Well I just happen to be looking for an assistant.”
“Yes, would you be interested,”
“Yes! Of course!” Merlin said. “But I’m not a doctor.”
“I just need a medical assistant.”
“When – when should I start?”’
“Tomorrow I would think. An early start perhaps, 07:00 if that’s okay with you.”
“What ever you need.”
“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
The Bridge came to attention as the doors of the lift open. Heavy boots made loud clanking sounds on the deck-plate as their owner crossed the room.
“Father,” Arthur said, spine straight and arm angled in a salute.
He was not accustomed to his father’s presences on the Bridge as he tended to leave captaining the Albion to the ships captain – Arthur.
“Arthur, I would speak with you.”
“Gwaine, you have the Bridge,” Arthur said as he followed his father out in the opposite direction of the lift towards the captain’s rooms just off the Bridge.
“I wish to know why you have not completed your bond with the Emrys boy.” Uther said getting right to the point.
“Did I not convey the importance of you mating with the boy?”
“Yes father,” Arthur said, jaw tightening so that the words were forced out between clenched teeth.
“Then I fail to see why you have yet to do as I have ordered you to.”
“It’s not as simple as that, Merlin has to consent, and you know that.”
“Than make him.” Uther said. “I will not stand for any more disappointment from you.”
Uther made his exit after that, leaving Arthur alone in the mostly empty room with his thoughts. A war was being waged inside him – the engrained need to obey his father at all cost and the instinct to protect his mate. Arthur wasn’t sure which side would win.
Arthur was in his dreams again, but this time it had less to do with dead bodies and more to do with naked ones. He woke with a moan on his lips and seed cooling on the inside of his thighs – Arthur’s name still hanging in the air having been released from his lips as his mind had been indulging in fantasies of what the lotophagi male would look like sans his ever present uniform.
The dream resurfaced once he was in the shower with the water pounding against his skin, making it sensitive to the touch as he ran his hands over his chest, lathering it with soap. He bit the inside of his arm as he pleased himself with the picture of Arthur forefront in his mind. Guilt immediately settled in when he exited the shower with a puff of steam trailing after him. Arthur was his, well he wasn’t too sure what Arthur was to him but he was certain that thinking about Arthur while he….he was pretty sure that wasn’t a respectful thing to do.
He brushed his teeth and gurgled with water before heading into his room and pulling on one of the provided track suites and trekking over to his meal-replicator and retrieving himself some breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal along with a cup of Earl grey tea. He sat in front of the view as he ate, flipping through stations until a news report flashed across.
Today, at 7:01 this morning Eastern Time there was an explosive attack at the Lotophagi Embassy in Boston. No one has taken responsibility as of yet but it is to be believed that the attack was committed by a rouge group of extremis humans seeking to destroy relations between that of Earth and the lotophagi. One of these people is suspected to be Dr. Mordred Helio, a foremost biologist who has publicly made claims that the lotophagi are here with intentions that we do not know as of yet, as has stated that their human appearance is a false. He was discredited by the science community at a large when he tried to publish ‘proof’ that the lotophagi were no to be trusted.
As for who he may have been working with, that has yet to be figured out, stayed tuned for more news as it breaks.
He watches the news report on a TV set whose good days have long since pass. The colors smear across the screen turning the anchor woman into an unrecognizable blob. But that’s fine, he doesn’t need to see the picture, just hear what they’re saying.
Officials have confirmed that they are now looking at Dr, Mordred Helio as the prime suspect behind today’s attack on the Lotophagi Embassy.
He turns the TV off after that - doesn’t need to listen to the rest. They’ve been panting the same picture for months; calling him crazy; discrediting his life’s work. And now hanging an attack he had nothing to do with around his neck, the weight of it feeling like a noose.
They thought he was crazy, even though his voice had been one of the first sought out when they first arrived. But while most of the world had embraced the lotophagi he had seen them for the threat that they were – had seen pass the fair smiles and pretty words.
He had known they were coming. Had met them before and knew what they were capable of. The Lotus People where not to be trusted and he would prove it.
He meets her not far from the Richmond Bridge; his ask biting into the skin of his face as rain poured from the ash grey sky in a continuous blanket. His jacket did nothing to protect him as he huddled in on himself stationed not far from the entrance of what used to be the Pitcher & Piano – when people had the luxury to spend money on such things.
She appeared silently and swiftly, melting from the shadows that hugged the ridge of the building. Dressed in jeans and a sweater, dark hair pulled back from her face and no mask to be seen – he knew she was who he was waiting for.
“Thank you for meeting me,” she said voice smooth and rich like the finest velvet.
“I’m still not sure why I’m here,”
“Because, I’m going to give you the story that you’ve been waiting for – the truth about the lotophagi.”
Elena Godwyn had just landed her first real reporting job when they arrived. The lotophagi were her first story – making the front page headlines. And every story there after was in some part about the lotus people. But she never got to write what she really wanted. The deep probing truth about their visiting ‘friends’.
None of her colleagues had ever been invited on broad one of the ships and as far as she knew no one had ever been granted a face to face interview with a lotophagi even though the others were slowly inching their way into humanities social structure. So surprise was a mild description of what she felt when she received an invitation – temporary, of course – to board the Albion to interview the lotophagi commander just days after publishing a story criticizing the suspicious nature of the lotus people who claimed transparency in their actions but refused to speak with the media in person.
“I’m not so sure about this.” Her editor and sometimes boyfriend Edwin Meriden said as she tucked the phone receiver between her cheek and neck, cradling it in the nook there.
“What are you worried about?” Elena asked as she shuffled about her bedroom, throwing items of clothing carelessly into an open suitcase that rested on the plush mattress of her bed.
“They might eat you,” Edwin replied, so sullen and serious that she couldn’t help but laugh a little.
“What?” Elena scoffed.
“You never know,’
“It’s sweet that you’re worried, really, but you shouldn’t be.”
“Don’t you find it a little odd that they would invite you aboard one of their ships after your last piece?”
“Maybe, a little,” Definitely. A lot. But there was not way in hell she was telling Edwin that. “Maybe no one up there has read it.” She said not believing that for one moment.
“You really believe that?”
“No,” she sighed. “But what I’m I suppose to do? Turn down the invitation, after waiting for this for so long.”
“No, of course not,”
“I don’t know,” Edwin said. “I’m just worried, is all.”
“You’re not asking me not to go are you?”
“Would it make any difference if I were?”
“Thanks for that,”
“Shut up! You know I care, and it warms my heat to know you do to. But I have to hang up now so that I can finish packing.”
“Fine, but you’ll be careful won’t you?”
It was late, not that he had bothered to check the time. The hum of activity that had filled the ship in the earlier hours had tampered off, the hallway just outside the door that led passengers and crew from their quarters to the mess and entertainment hall had gone quiet with only a few stragglers wandering about. The med-bay was quite as beta shift began wrapping up preparing to be replaced by the omega staff.
Merlin was doing an inventory catalog as requested by Gaius. It wasn’t particularly hard work nor was it much fun but he was forging through it, on a pace to be done before the end of shift, his mind wandering from its task only a handful of times. A certain lotophagus begin the focus of his misbehaving thoughts.
Halfway through the inventory report Merlin began to feel as though he were being watched and turned his head to glance over his shoulder to find Arthur leaning against the doorframe of the entrance to the med-bay, his gaze steadily on Merlin. He was in full uniform, even though Merlin knew he had work Alpha shift and had been off duty for some time now. His hair was slightly rumpled and his uniform was not as crisp as it usually was, as though he had nipped off to a corner office for a nap.
“Oh,” Merlin said, turning so that he was facing Arthur. “Hi,”
“Enjoying the view are you?”
Arthur dragged his eyes over Merlin’s form, his gaze so heated that Merlin could nearly feel it burning through him.
“I find it pleasurable enough,” Arthur said.
Merlin had no idea how to respond to that.
“So,” he began having no idea how he was planning on ending that sentence. He was lost for words as he stood in the midst of the med-bay trying (and failing) not to fidget as Arthur continued to stare at him. His fingers danced nervously over the edges of the tablet he held in his hands as he tired to pretend that he couldn’t see the curious eyes of the med-bay crew on them as their owners mingled about in pretense of being occupied with their work.
Arthur didn’t seem to notice that they were at the center of attention, or if he did he showed no outward sign that he was aware of the whispers floating around the room. Maybe he just didn’t care. If so Merlin envied him that, always concerned about what others thought of him as he was.
“Have you eaten yet?” Arthur asked suddenly, voice breaking through the hum of the room.
“What?” Merlin blinked in confusion.
“If you haven’t I was wondering if you would join me.”
“Oh, okay,” Merlin said. He wasn’t blushing. He wasn’t. “I have to, um” he said so very eloquently as he held up the tablet in his hand.
“Oh, of course. Wouldn’t want you slacking on your first day on the job. What would Gaius think?” Arthur said. “I’ll wait.”
Finishing the report went much slower after that, the feeling of Arthur’s eyes searing through his skin, following him as he walked about the room taking count of the medical supplies and inputting them into data sheet displayed on the face of the tablet. Twenty minutes later, two before the end of shift, Merlin saved the imputed data and sent a copy to Gaius as he had been told to do and shut down the tablet before sitting it in its docking station upon Gaius’s desk.
He stopped to check in on his mom, padding silently into her room and placing a kiss on her forehead before going to Arthur and allowing himself to be led out of the med-bay and through Albion’s winding corridors.
“The mess is the other way,” Merlin said as Arthur held him in the opposite direction.
“I thought we could have dinner in my quarters, I hear that you appreciate a good game of chess.”
“My mom?” Merlin asked.
Arthur shrugged, but a smirked tilted one side of his lips.
“Ugh,” Merlin groaned.
“I like your mother,”
“The feeling is mutual, believe me.” Hunith had talked non-stop of Arthur since meeting him. Apparently she had even stung Gaius’s ears with her praise of the lotophagus.
“What about your mom?” Merlin asked as they turned a corner.
“What about her?’’
“What’s she like?”
Arthur stiffed a small movement of tensed muscles but Merlin still noticed.
“I don’t know. I’ve never met her. She died giving birth to me, something my father has never allowed me to forget.”
“Oh Arthur I’m sorry,” he felt horrible for having brought it up.
“You have nothing to apologize for; it’s not as if you had known. Beside’s it was a long time ago, I’ve come to terms with it – mostly.”
“Let’s talk about something else,” Arthur said changing the subject non-too-subtle.
“Like how I’m going to destroy you in chess.”
“In your dreams Pendragon.”
Arthur turned to look at him, gaze heated once again.
“You have no idea what is in my dreams.” Arthur said, leaning closer he whisper – “Would you like for me to tell you.”
“Uh,” Merlin said unintelligently. After a moment with nothing to say to that he clear his throat and resolutely looked away, a blush burning his cheeks and ears.
Arthur’s had settled onto the small of his back as they came upon the lift, it felt as though it were burning a brand on him even through the layers of clothing he wore as they waited the few seconds for the lift to arrive. They took it one floor up where it deposited them onto floor where quarters of the command crew where located. Three doors down and to the left Arthur pulled him to stop and entered his pass code into the key display.
Access granted – welcome Captain Pendragon.
Arthur’s room was the same size of his, if a few feet wider with the bed aligned to the wall and a desk adjoining it and a squared of section that was a sitting area beneath the view port windows. A computer monitor was mounted on the desk and a view screen positioned over it.
The closet was open off to the left allowing Merlin to see a row of perfectly hung uniforms and a bathroom was in clear view on his right.
He took a breath to try to calm his nerves and pulled into the earthy scent that clung to Arthur all the time and apparently hung heavy in the air of his room. It smelled like freshly spilled rain and Merlin had the sudden, stupid impulse to stick his tongue out to see if he could taste it. He refrained from doing so. Barely. He wondered what Arthur tasted like. Merlin didn’t’ lick him either, but it was a close thing.
“Please have a seat,” Arthur said as he moved off towards a desk and a small food replicator that Merlin could see tucked into the corner. “What would you like?”
“Some soup maybe,” Merlin answered as he made his way over to the sitting area. He dropped into a seat and groaned as his aching muscles relaxed into the cushions. He hadn’t taken his injection today and was feeling the affects of the neglect. “I’m not picky.”
Arthur came over to with a plate full of sandwiches and two bowels as well as two cups of what was no doubt tea all balanced on the same tray. He waved Merlin off as he made a move to stand to help and soon the food was divided up and a 3-D hologram of a chessboard floating in the air between them.
“Sorry, I don’t have a real set.”
“No biggie. Chess it chess.”
They ate in silence, testing each other’s skill as they nudged the holographic pieces across the board. Soon they were engrossed in battle with Merlin two moves from checkmate and no feasible escape.
Arthur beat him soundly and Merlin was surprised to see the lotophagi being smug about it. A wide grin splitting his face as he teased Merlin. The sight made Merlin’s heart clinch and he couched trying to force the feeling away and pushed to his feet saying that he need to get some rest. He didn’t work until beta shift but still, rest was a requirement right?
“Oh,” Arthur said, disappointment obvious.
“I’m sorry,” Merlin said as Arthur walked him to the door. It slid open as they approached but Merlin hesitated to exit the room.
“For what? Needing sleep?”
“Huh, yeah,” he scrubbed at the back of his neck and toed the floor with his shoe. “Um, well, good night.”
“You could stay,” Arthur said before he could leave, not that he was making much progress in the actual leaving department, his mind was telling him to go yet his body was refusing to listening, staging its own mini rebellion and keeping his feet planted firmly in Arthur’s room.
“You could stay,” Arthur said, coming closer, sliding his hand down the length of Merlin’s arm until he was encircling Merlin’s wrist.
“Arthur,” Merlin said without having any idea what he was going to come after.
“Stay,” Arthur said and then they were standing so close that they were breathing the same air. Arthur’s nose brushed against his cheek and Merlin’s breath caught in his throat. “Stay,” Arthur repeated pressing a small kiss to the corner of Merlin’s mouth.
“Okay,” Merlin breath.
Arthur’s lips trailed over his skin inch by inch until they were pressing lightly on Merlin’s lips. The kiss, even though he knew it was coming, was unexpected and it sent shockwaves pulsing through his body. His mind told him it was too fast, too soon, his body to it to shut the hell up. Merlin kissed back, pursing his lips and rubbing them over Arthur’s, his slightly chapped over Arthur’s soft palpable ones. And then Arthur was pulling him back into the room, the door shutting behind them as Arthur guided Merlin over to his bed and proceeded to make sure that Merlin didn’t leave for the hours to come.
Elena wasn’t sure she liked cryo sleep. Actually she was dead positive she hated it with a fire breathing passion. Five hours stuck in the med-bay with what had been term as cryo shock wasn’t a joy either.
The gel-bed cradled her as she fidgeted. Her fingers ached for her tablet, or a pad and pencil, or anything really as long as she could right down the consent stream of thoughts that were flooding her mind. That’s how she got into journalism after all, well not journalism itself but the writing portion. The need to right down everything she was thinking before she exploded with it.
“Well aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.” A voice said and Elena dragged her eyes from where they were studying the uneven plains of the ceiling to the doorway and one of the finest male specimens she had ever laid eyes on. Too bag he was obviously and enormous di-
“So, bad pick up lines are species specific then.” She said.
“I’ll have you know that was a good pick up line thank you very much. Not that it was a line.”
“Let’s start over because clearly something went wrong.”
“I’m Gwaine,” the male said coming further into the room. Amusement sparkled in his eyes. She was glad she was providing him entertainment.
“Aw come on, don’t be like that.”
“All scowl-y face, it’s not attractive….okay on you it is, but I’m thinking that has more to do with you.”
She didn’t smile. She wouldn’t damn it.
“Doesn’t make it true. Not that it was-”
“Is there a reason you’re in here? Does this ship not have security?”
“That hurts,” Gwaine said, resting a hand over his chest as though wounded.
“And yet your still here.”
“You’re grouchy,” Gwaine said, turning the chair next to her bed so he was straddling it with his chest pressed against the back. “You have a name grouchy or should I just call you Grouchy McGrouch?”
“Elena,” she said, not sure why she had given in.
“Now see that wasn’t so hard now was it?”
“You still haven’t said why you’re here.” Elena reminded him.
“I’m your welcome aboard host are whatever, I’ll give you the tour once Gaius confirms that your not going to keel over.”
“I’m here for an interview, not a tour.”
“Well you’ll be getting both I guess. I just go were I’m told.” Gwaine said. Suddenly a leer pulled on his features. “So tell me Elena, have you heard about lotophagus stamina?”
Merlin wishes someone would have warned him about it before hand. About how Arthur would be ready to go only minutes after and how that would more than likely result in Merlin having difficulties walking the next day, not to mention the assortment of bruises running along the column of his throat.
Lotophagus males should come with a warning. Something like ‘Do At Own Risk’ and ‘May Cause Heart Failure with Prolonged Exposure.’
Not that he was complaining, because he wasn’t. It was just, yeah, warnings so needed.
It was roughly 07:00 when he forced himself from Arthur’s bed and gathered his scattered clothes, dressing hurriedly in the bathroom before slipping out of the room, not before planting a kiss on Arthur though what with him just laying there and all it was kind of hard to resist. It was even harder to resist the groping that proceeded the kissing, so it was nearing 08:30 when he finally escaped Arthur’s room and made it back to his own where he stripped off his clothes and took catalog of all the bruises Arthur had left him with as a parting gift. His throat looked like a mosaic with hickeys of different colors painting the skin there. There was a handprint shaped bruise on his right hip and a set of teeth marks above his belly button. Arthur liked to bite.
All in all it was a good night…..and Merlin had no clue what-so-ever as to what it all had meant. He had never been in a relationship before and wasn’t sure how one was to have one with someone of a different species.
Where he and Arthur….something now? Or where they just….? And if they were what did that mean?
He didn’t know, and that was the probably. As he pondered on these questions he could feel the giddiness of afterglow fading and forced his brain to stop as he stepped into the tub of the shower and was bombarded by streams of sizzling hot water.
He washed with the soap and was sad when he couldn’t catch even a whiff of Arthur.
He exited the shower and proceeded to do all those hygienic required by some unwritten law, all the while his mind staying peacefully quite. At least until he was dressed and walking through the Albion’s halls. Then all the questions came roaring back in full force.
“Is that a hickey?” Gwen asked as soon as he was Merlin sat down at the table.
“What? No!” Merlin said and tried (and failed) to not blush.
“Yes it is,” Lancelot (always so helpful) said. “Multiple hickeys.”
Merlin glared though he could feel his ears burning..
“So Princess finally stepped up to the plate then has he?” Gwaine said. He reached out and pounded Merlin on the back with the flat of his palm. “So, how’d you like that lotophagi stamina?
Merlin nearly choked on a slice of banana.
Elena had no idea why she had been invited on board for an interview seeing as how no one would really talk to her. Except Gwaine and she kind of wished that he would stop talking. Not that Gwaine wasn’t delicious to look at, and once you got pass all of his bull he wasn’t that bad to talk to either. But Elena felt anxious when she was near him, as though she had drunk to much coffee. All jitter and heart a fluttering. Just the thought of him sent her pulse fluttering so she focused her thoughts on something else.
There was something going on aboard the Albion she just knew it. The knowledge was an itch beneath her skin though she had yet to figure out just what it was. But she would….as long as she stayed away from Gwaine.
Arthur went to go see Kilgaharr the moment his shift on the Bridge was complete/ Checking to make sure that none of his father’s spies where following him, he took the lift down to the lower level of the ship and found the room that was hidden way. The red light thrown off by the computer towers always caused him a moment of distortion before he adjusted.
He entered the room then paused and turned to face the door as it slid closed and entered his access code. It wouldn’t keep his father or his spies out but would let him know before it was too late to react. He turned then and his eyes landed in the middle of the room on the male in the sunken tub.
Kilgharr had been one his father’s best scientist, his Chief scientist in fact, before – before Uther learned of his talents and had the man condemned to a fate worst than death. A precog he had the power to search through time and tell the future, though it came to him in bits and pieces that weren’t always easy to make sense of. Uther had thought to enhance the man’s power so that Uther could have an advantage over his enemies.
This was the result. A shell of a person that spoke in jumbled words half the time and cryptic messages the rest.
Arthur knew what would happen to Merlin if he really turned out to be who they thought he was. He knew what his father would do. He couldn’t let that happen. So he was here, standing here in a place that was forbidden, disobeying his father and king because he needed to know. He had to hear it one more time to be sure of what he was doing.
He knelt gingerly at the edge of the tub and ran his eyes over the surface of the purple liquid as he slowly rolled back the left sleeve of his uniform.
“I need to know.” Arthur whispered as he stuck his hand into the viscous liquid that filled the tub.
His fingers barely brushed the male’s wrist before a hand was curling around his arm, nearly pulling him into the tub. Kilgraharr, the thing that use to be Kilgrharr at least, lifted his other hand and cupped Arthur’s jaw in his large palm. Too long fingers trailed over his cheek, leaving behind a slimy trail that was forgotten as they rose to their destination. His left eye. The finger pulled back the eye led, holding his eye open until it stung.
His voice was rough and brittle, harsh to Arthur’s ears
PENDRAGON! You shall die at the hands of your beloved. You shall die.
His eye was released but not his arm. Kilgarrhar wasn’t finished with him yet.
“Tell me,” Arthur said. “Tell me, I need to know.”
He made a popping sound with his lips as though the words were stuck in his throat.
“Tell me!” Arthur cried. “I need to know.”]
One born of scale and fire, the other of mixed blood and mystery, the two shall mate beneath the fires of a burning sun and usher in reign of peace. One can not live without the other. Two sides of the same coin.
Arthur closed his eyes and began to pull back his arm when the grip at his wrist tightened.
Pendragon will die. Pendragon will die.
The son and the father both cannot live at the same time. One most die at the hands of the other. The son is the father’s death and the father’s is the son. One most die at the hands of the other.
He was pretty sure he was still half asleep when the whisper compelled him from his bed and out into the hallway. His name was carried through the halls one a breeze that was impossible for there was no source which the breeze could have come from, yet it was there – caressing his skin and echoing in his ears pulling him along as though it were a leash attached to a collar around his neck – impossible for him to ignore.
Come to me,
Come to me,
- With bare feet he padded through the halls, the cold of the metal flooring a shock to his system that jarred his mind through the haze of sleep that remained. He found himself standing before a pair of sliding doors that opened quietly to reveal the inner chamber that was casted in an eerie red light that resonated from a bank of computer towers that lined the walls. In the middle of the room sat a sunken tub that was filled with a liquid that appeared to be purple in the harsh lighting.
The voice was harsh like sand paper scratching over flesh. He took a hesitant step towards the pool and the man who sat in the viscous liquid. His skin was wrinkled and slightly graying, it felt like wax paper on the skin of his wrist when a hand shot out from the pool suddenly to grab hold of him when he got to close to the edge of the tub.
The hand jerked on his arm, pulling him forward forcefully by his wrist and dragging Merlin down to his knees at the edge of the tub.
The half breed holds the key,
He is both savior and destroyer,
One world will rise and another will fall,
The half breed holds the key,
As suddenly as he was grabbed, Merlin was released just as abruptly. In his haste to get away he ended up on his as cradling his arm to his chest, the skin there wet and slightly bruised.
He heard the thumping sound of footsteps reverberating through the hall, approaching him. The door swished open and he turned his head to find an unimposing appearing lotophagi male standing just inside the doorway wearing the uniform of the ship’s security officers.
The lotophagi titled his head at an angle as he studied Merlin, a frown pulling the corners of his lips downwards.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he said, voice unnaturally thick and sending a shudder rocking through Merlin’s body.
His heart pounded in his ears and he wanted to say something, anything, but his tongue felt heavy in the dry cavern of his mouth. His lips parted but no words came as the lotophagus took a step closer to him.
“You shouldn’t be here,” he repeated, “It’s not yet your time.”
And then all there was, was a thick blanket of darkness swallowing Merlin whole – suffocating him.
Cryo sleep was fascinating and he wished he had enough time to study its affects – to catalog what his body was experiencing as he broke the clammy surface of a cryo induced sleep, gasping awake the fog of sleep dissipating slowly as the seconds ticked by. But he didn’t have the time, hardly had the chance to pull breath into his protesting lungs before he was being heaved from the bed of his cryo pod and half-dragged, half –carried (but mostly dragged) from the small two shuttle transport ship through hallways made up of lengthy drags of silver, until finally being pushed into a small room just off a secluded section of corridor. A supply closet if the shelving piled with what was obviously cleaning chemicals were anything to go by.
“Pulled out all the stops then did you.” He groaned, leaning heavily on a portion of the metal shelving. His body felt heavy, stomach rolling in nauseating waves, throat suffering a series of spasms as bile crawled slowly along the lining of his esophagus. Any moment he was sure to lose his meager breakfast.
“You can always stay in the brig,” his companion said.
“And leave this lap of luxury,” he waved his arms about in indication of the room, “never,”
The brunette scoffed, shoving him non-to-gently onto a cot that had been pushed into the far right corner of the room, the narrow mattress bare and having had seen better days. His elbow hit the walls as he was force to sit under the pressure of her hands upon his shoulders.
Rubbing at the bruised joint, he watched as his companion lowered herself to her knees, opening duffle bag that he had not noticed her carrying before, the cryo sleep having affected his observation skills, and pulling a small black rectangular case from it.
The case was the size of a small tablet, a little too big to fit comfortably in the palm of her hand. She sat on her heels and rested the case on her thighs as she retrieved a hypo-needle from a pocket inside the case. Using her teeth she uncapped it, the silver bullet shaped top gleaming between her white teeth.
“Morgana,” he began but went silent at the glare she threw him and only grumbled slightly as she stuck him with the needle, the tip piercing the skin of his neck, the drug rushing through his system cold as ice freezing him from the inside out. For a moment he feared his heart would stop beneath the pressure of the chill then a moment passed and the cold turned into a heat that had him gasping.
“You’ll have to stay out of sight until I’ve acquired your security badge,” Morgana said as she replaced the needle inside the case. “If you’re seen then we’ll both be headed for a stay in the brig and that’s if we’re lucky.” She took hold of his wrist and turned his palm upwards and slapped the case into his hand. Reflexively he curled his fingers until he had a hold of the case and she released him, standing from her kneeling position in one fluid movement.
“And what should I do in the meantime?” He asked as he placed the case beside him on the bed.
She bent at the waist and shuffled through the contains of her bag for a moment before withdrawing her arm, sheets of loose paper clutched in her grip. She shoved the papers at him and he rushed to raise his hands to catch the papers as she released them. His hands shook as he held them, causing them to flap erratically through the air.
“What’s this?’ he asked.
“You’ll have to read them to find out now won’t you,” she said before gathering her things and heading for the door.
“Why – why are you doing this?” he needed to know.
“You want to be humanities savior?”
“Then don’t ask so many questions.”
His mouth felt like cotton when he woke up and seriously worries that his eaten his pillow again (he was young and food had been short and it had been a pizza in his dream so don’t judge) but when he flings out his hands and finds two whole pillows as they should be that worry subsides. There’s a moment of vertigo when he sits up and he kind of forgets where he is before the interior of his quarters aboard the Albion come flooding into view. Well mostly into view, its dark with the only light trailing from the bathroom and a low twenty percent just enough for him to make out the lumps of furniture that make up the sitting section of the room.
He flops back down on the mattress, peering up at the dark ceiling as his mind nudged at him to remember something. It was important that he remember, only the more he tired to dig out what it was the more elusive it became until it was a nagging itch at the back of his mind that he couldn’t soave.
He was contemplating whether to try to go back to sleep when the sound of someone at his door made the decision for him. He let out a yawn and scratched at his belly before pushing back the top sheet and standing on wobbly legs that somehow held as he crossed the room to the door.
Arthur was on the other side. He was so much better than sleeping.
“You were sleep.” Arthur said as his eyes ran over Merlin who was dressed in white pajama bottoms and no shirt. The shirt had been to big for him and his arms kept getting tangled in the excess material to the point that he had ripped it off with an disgruntled sigh during the middle of the night.
“I should come back.” Arthur said. “I tried to contact you before I arrived, you did not answer your communicator.”
The communicator sat on the bed side table, a slim device that he had no idea what so ever how to use so he mostly let it alone. He was sure that Gwen could show him how to use it, even Arthur but he didn’t want to ask – especially not Arthur and come off as an idiot human.
“Didn’t hear it,” Merlin said and Arthur nodded his acknowledgement of the statement, seeming to have believed it.
“I should go,” Arthur said again, eyes trailing to Merlin’s chest only to spring back up to meet Merlin’s as though he didn’t want to be caught looking.
“No, no,” Merlin said, stepping aside so Arthur could enter. Last thing he wanted was for him to leave. “I’m up now.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I’m sure, now get in here.”
Uther Pendragon was one to be feared. His blood was that of the ancient ones who had forced worlds to tremble and civilizations to shatter. Pendragon’s where a force of their own and not to be denied, the humans would soon learn this.
The doors opened and he looked up from the holographic images he was studying to see his Captain of the Guard standing at attention before him.
“What of my son?” he asked the male.
“He’s progressing slowly, but he is progressing.”
“Maybe we could find some way of moving things along faster, hmm.”
“You will do as I command of you.”
“This world is ours for the taking and I will not have anyone stand in the way of that. See it done.”
The male bent at the waist and kept his eyes on Uther as he back trailed out of the room, only turning when the doors began to close.
Uther spun away from his desk and looked out of his port view windows and down towards the blue planet. Humanity had hope that his people could save them. Hope was humanities greatest weakness.
Mordred didn’t know how much time had passed since he had been locked up in his little supply closet nor had he really noticed the time passing to engrossed in his reading as he were. The Loti was absolutely fascinating. He delved deeper and deeper into his reading, his mind filling with facts that it insisted had to be fiction. How could any of it be true?
The door opened and he jumped at the sudden interruption, looking up to find Morgana standing before him.
“The half breed,” he said immediately without any unnecessary greetings. “Who is it?”
She held at her arm, a plastic badge daggling from her finger tips.
“I can show you.”
He was clumsy at the best of times. With his thoughts occupied with thoughts of Arthur and what their night spent together might of meant it wasn’t the best of times and Merlin found himself plowing into another person causing them both to stumble back and nearly fall on their asses.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Merlin repeated over and over again as he reached out and steadied the man he had knocked over.
“It’s perfectly alright, dare say I wasn’t paying much attention myself.”
“No, no, it’s fine.” The man said, eyes cutting over Merlin’s shoulder briefly before he was turning away and leaving.
Merlin turned his head towards the direction the man had been looking and found the lotophagi woman that had come to Earth standing near the end of the hall watching him.
He blinked and she was gone.
It wasn’t like he meant to listen in on the conversation. He hadn’t come up with some ‘Eavesdrop on Gaius’s conversation’ or anything. It was just that he was standing there and the door to Gaius’s office wasn’t closed all the way and their voices kind of traveled to him.
So not eavesdropping.
“Why is it not working?” the other man who had come storming into med-bay five minutes earlier demanded. Merlin had been a little confused by the crews actions as they all bowed and kept their eyes on the floor as the man passed. It wasn’t until Elyan had taken him aside and explained that, that was Uther Pendragon and he was King that Merlin understood. He also came to understand the reactions of crew members towards Arthur as well. And why Gwaine called Arthur Princess, he thought that was Gwaine just being a jerk and, okay it was Gwaine being a jerk but the teasing term had meaning. Arthur was a fucking prince for fucks sake.
“If I may Sire, I told you,”
“You told me it would work.”
‘I told you it had a high probability of working. Nothing was guaranteed.”
“The only way I can control the boy through Arthur and for that I need him bound to Arthur as a mate.”
“And that can still happen Sire, by all reports they have been growing whether close.”
“Yes, yes, that’s all well and good.” Uther said. “But I can’t wait for a natural mating heat to develop, who knows how long that will take or if the boy will even go through one. I need this to happen now Gaius, the longer we wait the more suspicion will continue to grow.”
“No more excuses Gaius. That Emrys boy is the key to our future, my future and I won’t let anyone stand in the way of that. Do you understand?”
“Good. Now see it done or it shall be your head.”
The door opened and Merlin jumped slightly as Uther exited Gaius’s office, his eyes lingered on Merlin for long moments before he passed with hurried steps that carried him from the med-bay.
Merlin turned his head to look inside Gaius’s office where he stood with his head bent and hands flat on the surface of his desk and visibly trembling.
Merlin watched him and wondered what the hell was going on and just what the blazes did he have to do with it?
Elena was meaning to eavesdrop. She had no qualms about it. She was a reporter and she’d do what ever it took to dig up the truth. Even listen in on the conversation of a king of another species. Wherever the story took her, she would follow.
What she hadn’t been planning on was Gwaine, which by this point she really, really should have.
She was on her knees, balancing preciously on a stack of books piled on the desk pressed up against the wall that was shared with the office next door beneath the air vent from which she had learned that, quite by accident really, she could hear conversations from the next room. Most of the time it was nothing of interest, today though, today was different. She was leaning her chest up against the wall, angling her body upwards with her tablet raised above her head as close to the vent as she could get it so that the voice program could transcript the conversation for her in real time
Of course that was when Gwaine entered. She seriously had to consider checking her things for a tracking device; it was odd how he was able to find her all the time. And she did mean all the time.
She nearly fell on her face at the sudden sound of the door opening.
“What-” Gwaine began as he watched her flail about. He crossed the room and steadied her with his hands on her waist, a little more close to her ass than what was needed. “What are you doing?” he asked as she shifted around, scooting from the books to the table surface.
“Yeah, sure looks like nothing.”
“Can’t a girl just hang out?”
“Hmm,” he moved to damn fast and suddenly she was no longer holding her tablet he was.
“What’s this?” he started to read.
“Gwaine,” she made an attempt to get it back, he shuffled away and seeing as how the only way she could reach his height was to stand on the table, and she couldn’t see that running into anything other that a bad idea, she sat there and pouted as he continued to read.
He looked at her with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh, ho, what do we have here? Where you eavesdropping?” he tsked, “such a naughty girl I might have to punish you.”
“Give me my tablet back.”
“Now, now” Gwaine said and continued to read. “Who exactly were you eavesdropping – Sire? The king,” his voice had rose into a shout and Elena flailed her hands and without much thought slapped a palm over his mouth.
“Would you shut up,” she hissed. “Do you want someone to catch us?”
“Elena,” he said after enough time that she believed he wouldn’t yell again (plus she started to think he might lick her….um,)
“This is dangerous,” Gwaine said seriously, “Uther Pendragon is a dangerous man. You do not want to cross him.”
“Dangerous is my business.”
Gwaine gaped at her, a brow rising.
“What are you a character from a bad spy movie?”
“What do you know about spy movies?”
“Enough to know that they sometimes have corny ass characters, who say corny ass things like that.” Gwaine said before becoming serious once again and focusing on the subject at hand. “Elena,”
“Don’t,” she said sliding from the top of the table to her feet.
“It’s none of your business,” Elena insisted. “Now give me my tablet. Please.”
Gwaine held it out to her, she took it and moved pass him, heading to the doors with Gwaine’s eyes boring wholes into her every step of the way.
“Do you know an Emrys?” she asked suddenly as she reached the doors, turning on her heels so that she could face him.
“It’s just that they mentioned the name Emrys. Do you know who that is?”
Gwaine rocked back on his heels and he considered her.
“I just might that.”
Arthur found him, then again Merlin was doing a rather pour job of hiding – sitting in his room as he was. Not that he was hiding, mind you. He was just thinking and he did his best thinking away from people so that meant spending time in his room, where he was most certainly not hiding.
After his conversation with Uther, Gaius had looked at Merlin with such guilt that it was nearly a visible weight upon the width of his shoulders and Merlin had just known that something was going on, something bad. Something Uther and Gaius knew and if Merlin was right, which he feared he was, so did Arthur.
It was something to do with him and why the lotophagi where here.
The doors to his room chimed but he had no move to answer them, staying where he was – standing in front of the view port windows and looking out into the inky black of space, his mind at a lost and heart twisting in his chest at the thought of Arthur having somehow tricked him. What if what he had Arthur had was all just some ploy thought up by Uther? What if none of it was real? What if Arthur didn’t –
The door to his room slid open even though Merlin was pretty sure he had locked it.
“That’s a gross misuse of power.” He said.
He could hear Arthur entering the room, the soles of his boots sliding over the floor as he walked and came to a pause on the other side of the room.
“You weren’t answering.” Arthur said.
“Ever think there was a reason for that.”
His reply was met with silence and for a moment Merlin thought that Arthur would leave – then again this was Arthur he was talking about so he should have known better.
“What’s going on Merlin?” Arthur asked, “I thought we were supposed to have lunch together. That’s why I came to find you. To make sure everything’s alright.”
Merlin scoffed at that. Alright. No, he didn’t think anything was alright anymore.
“I know it’s not your mother, seeing as how I’ve been pass med-bay and she’s soon to be released, so she can not be the cause of your distress.”
Distress – a good word for what Merlin was feeling.
Like crap was better.
“Did you know?” Merlin asked finally, needing to know. He ached with that need. A part of him rebelled at the question and shouted that it didn’t want to know, not if knowing meant being angry with Arthur. Not if it meant losing him.
Merlin’s voice was quiet but still loud and sharp enough to pierce Arthur, there was none of his usual cheerfulness, no note at happiness to se Arthur, just distress weighing down his words.
Merlin was huddled in on himself, shoulders hunched and arms crossed. With tentative steps Arthur approached him, the door sliding close behind him on silent gears as he went further into Merlin’s room.
Merlin heard him coming and took a look at Arthur over his shoulder, his eyes shuttered and giving away nothing. Arthur reached out and Merlin side stepped him so that his hand arched through empty air. Clenching his fist, Arthur brought his hand back to his side.
Emotion swelled in him, foreign and so human. His heart clenched painfully in his chest, with the palm of his hand he rubbed at the tender spot, trying to make the pain go away.
“Merlin,” Arthur began but Merlin did not provide him with the chance to continue. He was almost grateful for that, seeing as how he had not known how the rest of the sentence was to be completed.
Maybe with a Merlin please, or a Merlin wait, or the best option Merlin I love you. Because Arthur did, frighteningly so. He had made his decision, he’d come to the conclusion that he would not allow Merlin to become his father’s puppet. He would take Merlin away from the Albion, away from Earth if that was what it would take to ensure that Merlin was safe.
No where is ever safe, his father whispered in his ear.
“Did you know why your father wanted me here?” Merlin asked,
“Yes,” Arthur said truthfully. He had matured with the knowledge of who Merlin would be to him and what they would accomplish together – what they were destined to do, what they had been born for.
Merlin let out a choke sound that could have been a laugh and sob both. Arthur understood Merlin’s dilemma, intellectually at least, Earth had always been his home, humans his people. He understood the emotion behind it to, now that Merlin was in his life.
Merlin had changed a whole rang of things for him. His outlook on life just one of the few.
“That’s why he sent you down to get me after I decided not to come?”
“He didn’t send me,” Arthur said, wanting to make that clear. Uther had in fact been reluctant to the thought of leaving the ship; it was Arthur who had championed the idea to retrieve Merlin himself. To do otherwise would have meant being separated from his other half even longer when he had suffered through that for more than a decade.” I wanted to go retrieve you. I needed you here.”
“He needed-” Merlin insisted, taking another small step away from Arthur. The sight of his mate moving away from him, not being able to stand being near to him, caused his stomach to roll in upsetting waves.
“No.” Arthur shouted, “I did. You are mine Merlin, and I am yours. I needed you, so I went and retrieved you.” He inched closer to Merlin, “My father had nothing to do with that.”
Merlin looked over at him but said nothing, though he didn’t move away when Merlin neared either.
Arthur considered it a win.
“I dreamed of you, years ago before we even made plans to come to earth, I dreamed of you.” Arthur whispered. “You haunted me and when we arrived I could feel you, it nearly killed me to have you so close yet so far away from me. Yes, I know what Kilgarrah said about you but that was inconsequently to me wanting you here.”
“Yes,” Arthur said on a breath.
The heavy weight he had been carrying eased as the knowledge that Merlin was no longer angry with him sunk in, the relief that came with that knowledge was sweet. Merlin had only been a apart of his life for a short while, but Arthur knew that he couldn’t stand to have his mate angry with him.
He would do what ever it took to protect Merlin.
No matter the cost.
Merlin was exhausted the next morning and left his room with Arthur still in his bed to wander the hallways, his feet carrying him towards the mess hall as his thoughts trailed off on different tangents. He arrived at the always open doors of the mess and stared into the room, watching the bustle of activity. He could see Gwaine and Lancelot sitting at a table and when he paned his eyes around the room he caught sight of Gwen at a replicator. A woman Merlin had never seen before was sitting next to Gwaine and looked at Merlin with wide, suspicious eyes when Gwaine pointed him out having caught sight of him still standing undecidedly in the door way.
Merlin waved but made no move to enter the mess. He stood there, mind whirling.
What he needed was someone to talk to. And as much as he like his lotophagi friends and Gwen as well, he wasn’t sure he could trust them enough to talk with them about what had happened the night before. He felt guilty at the thought, but facts were the facts and they were lotophagi and Arthur’s friends and subjects, there was no way Merlin could talk to them about this.
Maybe Gwen….Merlin sighed. As pathetic as it was he knew what he needed, he needed to talk to his mom.
Hunith surveyed her room with a careless eye as she sat carefully on the edge of her bed, the colloid mattress molding around her body as she did so.
With a sigh she glanced down at the photograph she held in her hands. It was old, from before Merlin was born even. The edges were frayed and slightly yellowing but the features of the faces looking back at her were perfect. It had been taken years ago when she had been young and stupid and hadn’t known what falling in love what mean.
What falling in love with him would mean.
He had tried to warn her though, tried to give her another option but for Hunith there had never been any other option but Balinor. From the moment she had stumbled across his path he had been it for her. As necessary to her survival as air. When he left she thought she would die from the agony, it was only the small spark of life growing inside her that had kept her going.
It wasn’t until Merlin was nearing the age of five that Hunith realized that her boy was different. And it wasn’t until then that she wondered all what her husband had kept from her.
“Oh Balinor,” she said to the quite air of the room, her fingers brushing over the still glossy surface of the photo. “What is happening now?”
His mom had been released. Something he found out only when he arrived at the med-bay to see her and had to put up with the scowling head nurse on duty who berated him for over five minutes, Elyan in the corner laughing the whole time, before she would tell him her room number. Merlin shuffled out of the med-bay as fast as his legs could carry him and took the lift down to the appropriate floor.
It didn’t take him long to find his mom’s room, she was a floor below him and on the opposite side. He was just pressing the button that would alert her to his presences when the door slid open and he was pulled inside by a nearly strangling hug.
“How’d you know it was me?” Merlin said as he his mom pulled back to a non-suffocating distance and looked him over.
“Who else would it have been?” she asked.
“Gaius,” Merlin said.
“Are you blushing mom?”
“I can still spank you, you know.”
She took him by the arm and guided him into the room that was slightly smaller than his own but was still large enough to hold a twin bed and small sitting section comfortably. She led him to the sofa and they sat side by side with their arms entwined and Merlin’s head resting on her shoulder.
“Oh my baby,” Hunith said.
“It’s not as though you haven’t seen me.”
“That was different,” she insisted, “I was in a med bed and you were obviously worried.”
“I’m still worried.” Merlin told her.
He was worried about all manner of things, she was at the top of that list were she belonged.
“Hmm, yes well that’s because you’re a worrier. Don’t know where you could have gotten it from.” Hunith said as she carded her fingers through his hair. “Your father was never one to worry much,”
Merlin chewed on his bottom lip. That was the opening he needed but he found himself unable to broach the subject. Talking about his father always seemed to cause his mom distress and Merlin didn’t want to put her through that. Still he needed to know.
“Can you tell me about him?”
“About whom?” she asked, absentmindedly he could tell, as she continued to pet the top of his head.
She went rigid at the name, her body tensing subtle against him but he felt it all the same as she became as solid and as hard as rock.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t-” Merlin began.
He had known that it was a bad idea to bring it up.
“No, it’s quite alright,”
“Really Merlin, you need to know, in fact you have the right to know.” She said. “I should have told you when you were younger, but thinking of your father-” she blew out a breath. “I was selfish, I’m sorry.”
“Yes, Merlin, I was.” She took a deep breath. “So, your father – he was unlike any man I had ever met. He was so dark and mysterious, he nearly frightened me half to death the first time I saw him. But he was so gentle and loving, that’s why he left.”
“You told me he died.”
“I know Merlin, I’m sorry that I lied to you. But it’s complicated.”
“You’re farther, he – he was a lotophagus.”
The half breed holds the key.
“What? I – What?” Merlin said. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I really, he didn’t tell me much, and then again that could be because we didn’t spend a lot of time talking.”
“So, what did he tell you in between all the yucky bits that I don’t want to know about?”
“He told me of a world with orange water and purple skies and mountains that sung. And a magnificent city with magnificent people.” She said. “He told me the planet was dying and that his people needed a new home, that’s why he had been sent out – to explore the far edges of space to find a compatible planet they could make their own.”
“Earth.” Merlin said.
“It’s why he left; he didn’t want them to be able to follow him to Earth. He didn’t want them to find you, he was very adamant about that.” She glanced around the room. “Then I went and forced you onto their ship.”
“It’s not so bad, I don’t see why -”
“Balinor said that they were a conquering rest who would never be able to live peacefully among the native civilization of the planet they acquired. He said they would take the planet by force.”
Merlin shook his head.
“No, Arthur-” Merlin began but his mom interrupted, cutting through and saying -
“Is a product of his environment, if that’s what he’s been taught-?”
“Arthur wouldn’t do that. He wouldn’t do any of that.” Merlin was sure of it.
“Oh my baby,” she said, bringing him into a tighter embrace.
“He wouldn’t do that.”
Mordred trailed after Morgana as she tore her way through the lower level corridors of the ship. Shadows clung to the walls and reached out for him with long tendrils that curled like fingers across the floor.
“Morgana,” he whispered, though unsure of why he was whispering.
She turned suddenly, rounding on him, and he nearly plowed straight into her.
“Do what I say and be quiet.”
Mordred swallowed, suddenly reminded of the fact that the woman in front of him was not human and if he went missing in the bowels of the ship no one would miss him because no one knew he was there in the first place.
He wasn’t even sure that his family on Earth would miss him all that much, after his public disowning by the scientific at large his relationship ship with his relations had soured dramatically to the point that he seriously doubted any of them would care if he never returned.
Still, he valued his life if no one else did, so he kept his mouth shut as he trailed behind Morgana. Stopping when she paused in before a closed door. She entered a pass code into the security pad and the doors opened a moment later. Reaching out behind her, she took hold as his arm and pulled him into the room after her.
The room was lit by an eerie red light and Mordred felt the sudden need to be anywhere but there. Morgana’s grip on his arm was the only thing keeping him in place.
“My brother,” she whispered as she finally let go of his arm (he was sure to have bruises in the shape of her fingers later) to kneel beside a pool centered in the middle of the room.
Mordred took a hesitant step backwards but came to a halt as her head turned, her gazing snapping on him.
“Stop being afraid and come closer,” she said. “I won’t let any harm come to you. I need you just as much as you need me.”
She held her hand out to him and he looked at it with unveiled suspicion, but in the end he relented and allowed himself to be draw forwarded and down on to his knees beside her.
“Please,” and now she was no longer talking to him, she was directing her words towards the man that sat slumped in the pool of what he almost though was blood. “I know it pains you, but I need for you to tell me again.” She rolled back the cuff of her sleeve and reached down into the water. “Tell me.”
The man’s eyes snapped open and Mordred scrambled back and away even though the eyes with their yellowing irises were focused solely on Morgana.
The half breed holds the key, savior and destroyer, the half breed child will unite a race while being the death of another.
One world will rise and another will fall,
The half breed holds the key,
Mordred watched with a gaping mouth as the man spoke with such a harsh voice that it hurt his ears to hear it. He watched as Morgana gasped and trembled, eyes rolled back in her head. It went on for long seconds, though it felt like hours, then Morgana was back to normal and casually pulling her arm from the water.
“Did you understand the message?” she asked him.
“I – I think so.”
“Then you understand what needs to be done.”
She smiled sweetly at him.
It terrified him.
“It’s the only way,” she said.
The only way.
“Happy people?” Gwen said. “You’re suspicious because everyone’s happy?”
“Too happy. No one’s every upset. Ever. Don’t you find that odd?”
“You’ve only been here for a month Merlin, hardly enough time to be making wild assumptions.”
But Merlin wasn’t listening. Gwen could think he was paranoid all she wanted, but he had heard Gaius speaking with Uther.
He just had to find a way to prove he was right.
Merlin was sure he was dying. There was no other way to explain the excruciating pain that shook his body.
He was dying in a pool of his own sweat and what he hoped to god wasn’t piss. His stomach rolled, giving him forewarning before it emptied itself of its contents – merger though they were.
Doubling over with his arms curled around his mid section, he gritted his teeth and held back the moan as pain seared through him, burning hot as fast through his veins. His flesh itched and muscles ached, the sound of his bones cracking was loud in his ears. With effort he swung his legs over the edge of the bed and stood on trembling legs. Tentative steps took him a few inches before the pain became too much for him to be able to bare and sent him to his knees, bile swelling in his throat until it was forcing its way out once again.
His stomach worked it empty itself of its meager contents. Eyes water and breathing shallow, he gasped for air as he inched away from the pile of sick he had made. Last thing he wanted was to die in a pool of his own vomit. And how could he not be dying when his insides where making a valiant attempt to strangle him.
His door opened with the usual pulse of air and he tried, and failed, to lift his head to see who it was.
“Merlin!” crimson pant legs entered his view a moment before Arthur knelt and cupped Merlin’s face between his palms. His cool palms. Merlin almost moaned at the feeling of them against his over heated skin. “You absolute idiot. You haven’t been taking your injections.”
Merlin shook his head, or at least tried, it came across as more of a bobbing motion that made him want to be sick again.
“Did something to me,” he said, though it sounded more like di’n som’ing ‘e.
“It was helping you,” Arthur insisted.
“No, no I heard,” again the words were slurred but Arthur, probably because he was Arthur and Arthur always understood him, seemed to understand him anyway.
“I’m sure you did. Just as I’m sure you misconstrued the whole thing. You and your paranoid brain.” Arthur said.
“Not paranoid,” Merlin said, though it came out as a whine as tremors of pain shook his body.
“Sure your not,” Arthur stood and went to Merlin’s beside and picked up Merlin’s communicator, “I need a Med team at the location of this comm; and have a pod on stand bye.”
Merlin moved away, shaking his head, not wanting to be anywhere close to Arthur
He had seen the ‘pods’ in his dream and knew enough that he didn’t want to be anywhere near them.
“Merlin,” Arthur said, coming closer to Merlin but pausing as Merlin nearly caused injury to himself in his haste to get away from Arthur’s reach. “Merlin,”
“No, no pod.” Merlin said. It was becoming increasingly difficult to talk. His teeth was nearly chattering, the pain was so bad.
“You need one Merlin,”
“No, no I saw,”
“Please, I want to help you but to do that you’re going to have to trust me.” Arthur said, eyes wide and begging Merlin to allow him to help.
“Arthur,” Merlin began.
“I don’t want to lose you Merlin. I can’t.” his voice broke on the last part and he dropped his eyes to the floor as he cleared his throat. “Please,”
Merlin was sure that doing what Arthur wanted was a bad thing, he was sure it would be like signing over his life – or autographing in own orders of execution. But it was Arthur asking and Merlin wasn’t sure he would ever be able to deny Arthur anything.
The med team arrived just as his will bent to Arthur’s. Merlin didn’t even put up a token protest as the two med personnel loaded him aboard a stretcher. He kept his eyes on Arthur, trying to convey what he was thinking without having to say the words out loud.
I trust you,
Don’t let me down.
Arthur was on the Bridge commanding the beta shift as he sometimes did. But his mind wasn’t focus on the task of commanding the ship as it usually was, it was focused elsewhere. Specifically two floors down in the med-bay.
He settled himself back against, tapping the tips of his fingers on his right had in obvious impatience. He wanted to be at Merlin’s side. His mate was hurting and he wanted to be the one to make that pain go away. He’s instincts screamed at him to protect what was his.
And Merlin was most certainly his.
The doors of the lift opened and Merlin turned his head as Gwaine appeared on the bridge and human woman Arthur did not know at his side.
Arthur frowned. Gwaine was not do for a shift for another forty-eight hours.
“Gwaine. What’s the meaning of this?” Arthur asked as he stood from his seat.
“I’m sorry,” he paused and glanced around the room, taking in the curious eyes of the crew that were watching them. “Captain, but I must speak with you. It’s a matter of great import.”
Arthur’s eyes fell to the woman at Gwaine’s side. Gwaine took a step closer to him.
“Please,” he whispered.
“Alright, the Bridge is yours lieutenant,” Arthur told a one of his pilots as he turned and led Gwaine and woman to his Captain’s office. He rounded on them as soon as the door was closed. “What’s so important that it couldn’t wait until after shift? It better be good Gwaine.”
“Oh it is,” Gwaine said, taking the tablet out of the woman’s hands and holding it out to Arthur. “I think you’ll want to read this.”
Merlin wasn’t in the med-bay as he was supposed to be when Arthur reached it, his heart in his throat and lungs starting to burn after the exertion Arthur had put on them as he ran from the bridge to the med-bay. The words that he read were visible still in his minds eyes.
What his father had done.
What Gaius, whom Merlin had come to trust, had done.
Merlin had been right about the injections. And Arthur should have believed him instead of putting him in harms way.
“Arthur,” Gaius said in surprise as Arthur thundered angrily into his office, his head snapping up as Arthur rounded on him. “You’re highness,”
“Where is he?” Arthur demanded, cutting through whatever Gaius had in mind to say. Arthur was in no mood for more of his lies. If he was not careful, Arthur would run him through.
“I – who are you referring to,”
“You know damn well who I’m referring to.” Arthur growled, he towered over Gaius who was still seated in his chair. “So god I will run you through if you lie to me once more.”
“I assure you I have no idea what you are referring to.” Gaius said.
Out of the corner of his eye Arthur could see him curling his fingers around the arms of the chair, an obvious outward display of fear though none of it showed on his face and his voice remained steady as he spoke to Arthur.
“Merlin,” Arthur said. He lowered his face so that it was only and inch from Gaius and knew that would laid hidden away behind the mask was visible for the old man to see. “Where is he?”
“Morgana took him.” Gaius said. The answer surprised Arthur; he had no idea what the lotophagi lieutenant had to do with anything. Was she working on his father’s orders? “She said you knew,”
Arthur frowned. Why would she lie about that?
What in the hell was going on? And most importantly where the hell was Merlin?
It was the pitter-patter of dripping water that pulled him to the surface. Vision blurry and head pounding it took him a moment to remember and once he did the panic set it, curling low in his stomach and rapidly climbing until it was a thick lump in his throat that he was sure he would choke on. He had no idea where he was – the last thing he remember was being shoved onto one of Albion’s shuttles before the pin-prick of a hypo-needle pierced the base of his neck.
And the pain. He remembered the pain.
It roared to life at the thought as though it had been waiting for him to awake before striking once again.
He let out a cry that not even his fear of who could be laying in wait in the dark shadows could stifle.
A moment later there was the sound of a door opening, a hinged door by the sound of it, meaning he was no longer aboard the Albion as no room on the ship had such a door.
He forced his eyes open and watched as a figure knelt in front of him. It took a few moments for his eyes to adjust enough for him to see who it was, when he did he felt confused. It was the man he had bumped into in the hallway earlier in the week. Merlin wondered what he could have ever done to the man to have deserved to be kidnapped.
Such a stupid word.
“Hey, hey,” the man said as he waved his hand in front of Merlin’s face. “You’re not concussed are you? Morgana said you weren’t but then again I don’t think she actually cares.”
“Concussed.” Merlin sniggered.
“Yeah, you’re a goner. She must have given you too much of the drug.” Merlin had the distinct feeling that the man was talking more to himself than to Merlin when he said that last bit.
The man fidgeted with something in his lap before racing his hand. Merlin could see that he was holding a needle.
“Wh-” he paused, his mouth felt as though it was stuffed with cotton. He tried again. “Why are you doing this? Why?”
The man paused in his preparations of the needle to give Merlin a look as though he were the insane one who went around kidnapping people.
“Because there’s not other choice.”
Then there was a pin-prick and the two familiar welcoming arms of darkness.
“The last time her security code was used it was to enter the lab on Zero level.” The security office told Arthur. He was standing to attention, back board straight and eyes focusing somewhere over Arthur’s right shoulder.
“Zero level,” Arthur repeated.
Surely she hadn’t taken Merlin there.
“Did the security pad record what time she left?”
“She departed the level fifteen minutes later.”
She had gone to see Kilgarrah and now Merlin was missing. He wondered if the precog had told her what he had told Arthur and why that might cause her to abduct his mate.
Morgana had been born to a family close to the royal household. They had grown up together but in the years before their departure to she had become distant and had started to preach about death and destruction and how the Lotus race was sure to become extinct.
There was talk that she had gone mad, that the precognitive abilities that flowed through her blood line had finally driven her over the edge.
Arthur wasn’t sure if that was the truth or not, neither did he care, all he wanted was Merlin back safely. But he feared that if Kilgarrah had told her the same thing as he had told Arthur that she might interpret the wrong way. He feared that she might harm Merlin.
One of the computers beeped drawing their attention. The security officer frowned as he looked back towards the bays of computers.
“What is it?” Arthur asked.
“I ran a search to dig through security logs for the Lieutenant Le’Feya security code.”
“If I may.”
“Yes, yes, of course.”
The man turned and went to the computer, dabbling with the keys.
“Um,” the security officer said.
“What?” Arthur demanded stepping closer. “What is it?”
“It seems that I was wrong. The last time the Lieutenant used her security code it was to access a transport shuttle.”
“To where? Where did the shuttle go?”
“To Earth sir,”
The half breed holds the key…the half breed hold the key.
But how can he hold the key if he has no hands.
Morgana giggled at the errant thought as she looked down as the black pavement below through the broken glass window of the warehouse whose best days had long since passed.
She thought of the funny noise a body would make as it hit the asphalt.
Such a mess the half breed would make, his insides giving color to the grey and lifeless street.
She placed a hand over her mouth to try to hold back her laughter, though she had a feeling that she had failed in the endeavor
“Morgana,” the sound of her voice being said made her whip her head around to find her human puppy standing in the doorway.
Such a good puppy. Fetch boy, fetch.
“What,” she said tersely.
She didn’t like to speak to him if she didn’t have to.
“He’s awake.” Mordred said.
“Good. Take him some dinner would you, we wouldn’t want our guest to be uncomfortable now would we.”
He said no more, turning and leaving her in peace. Hmm, peace….such a funny word.
Her eyes caught onto the mirror that hung on the wall, only a few shards remained attached to the frame but it was more than enough.
She smiled at the image before her. It was not her own reflection but was the image a blond with dark eyes.
He’ll be here soon.
“Yes,” Morgana said as she toyed with the chain of the necklace she wore around the column of her neck.
Arthur would follow like the well trained pet that he was, and soon her fun could begin.
“Elena you are not coming and that’s final.” Gwaine said as they loaded the last of the weaponry onto the small Trans shuttle.
“You can’t just order me about.” Elena said, hands balled into fist on her hips.
She couldn’t’ believe the audacity of hi trying to tell her what she could and could not do.
“This is my story Gwaine.” Elena said. Unfortunately she said it well within Arthur’s hearing and the lotophagi prince rounded on her, causing her to stumble backwards, her eyes going wide.
“Merlin is not a story.” Arthur roared and Elena gasped at the sight he made. His pupils had narrowed into slits and his teeth had elongated into….into, well into fangs.
Like real life, bloody vampire type, fangs.
Gwaine had assured her that they weren’t vampires and that his people didn’t drink blood but that only made her feel better until she realized that he hadn’t told just what his people were exactly.
The word monsters came to mind then she would look at Gwaine and it would become impossible for her to think of him as a monster. Not just because of the outward packaging (though it was something to behold). It was they way Gwaine act when he dropped the dub, douche bag act.
Gwaine was so gentle and loving and caring of everyone and anyone he came across, unless you were to hurt those he cared for then, well then you would see a whole different side to him that maybe gave credence to the ‘monster’ thought.
“Whoa Princess,” Gwaine said, stepping in between them. Elena, for her part had no qualms with him taking her place. She had a scary suspicion that Arthur could actually kill with that look or at least make the victim of it wish for death.
“She didn’t mean anything by it.” Gwaine said.
Arthur snorted and looked away. And was that smoke curling from his nostrils.
“Arthur.” Gwaine said, voice firm.
Arthur rubbed at the back of his neck, a guilty tick if she had ever saw one, and raised his eyes to hers.
“I understand.” Elena said, brushing away the apology.
“I’m not sure you do. But thanks.”
They were interrupted by the arrival and Lancelot and Elyan….and Gwen who came rounding the corner after them at a high rate of speed, her breathing labored. She nearly ran into Elyan’s back as she tried to come to a sudden stop.
“What are you three doing here?” Arthur asked.
It was Gwen who spoke up.
“Merlin is our friend. We want to help.”
Elena turned to look at Gwaine with a raised eyebrow.
“And you want me to stay.”
“It’s not happening is it?”
“Not on your life.” Elena said.
Hunith didn’t know the exact details of what was happening, nor would she care to know. But when Gaius arrived at her door she took one look at him before crumbling into his arms.
Then she prayed.
If he had thought he was dying before, then he knew he was in hell now. Merlin groaned as he rocked on the floor, curled into the fetal position on his side.
The floor was cold but it did nothing to calm the fire that was attempting to burn him alive from the inside out.
“What’s happening to me?” Merlin groaned.
Surprisingly the lotophagus woman answered.
“Why, you’re changing of course.”
“Changing, changing into what?” he could barely get the words out as tremor after tremor rocked him. But he needed to no and so forced the words out from his clenched jaw.
- “Into what you were meant to be.” The woman knelt down and cradled his face in her palms. “The bringer of death.”
Finding them was easy. Too easy, Arthur thought. Morgana had made no attempt at hiding from them. It made Arthur uneasy. He kept glancing around at the surrounding buildings as they approached the warehouse that the beckon on Morgana’s person said they were located. She still had her comm.
Like he said. Too easy.
The sound of laughter made them all pauses as they and their head swiveled in search of the source. When Arthur saw it, the sight made his heart stop in his chest.
Merlin was dangling out the window, his arms above his head, chained together by handcuffs attached to a thick corded rope.
Morgana poked her head out of the window and grinned at him.
“You were a little slower than a I thought you’d be.” She said. “Aw well, you’re here now. Come in. Alone. Otherwise I’ll drop him. And I do so want to see the mess he would make.”
Arthur considered his options. It was an extremely stupid idea to go in alone and give Morgana what she was wanting. Then again –
“He doesn’t have much time Arthur.” Morgana called out to him. “Not sure how much longer that rope is going to last.”
“You all stay here,” he told them as he started towards the building.
“What Arthur,” an hand on his arm had him turning to face Gwaine who looked at him incredulously. “You can’t be Arthur.”
“It’s a stupid idea.” Gwaine said.
“It’s Merlin. I can’t risk it.” Arthur said. “Now let me go.”
Gwaine hesitated in indecisiveness. It was a moment that Arthur didn’t have to spear. That Merlin didn’t have to spare. He was thinking about punching the other lotophagus when he was suddenly released.
“I’ll kill you if you die.” Gwaine told him.
“I’ll let you if Merlin does.
“He’s coming, your prince in his shining armor. Just like I knew he would.” Morgana said to Merlin as Mordred dragged the half-breed through the window.
“Please take offense when I say, piss off.” Merlin said between gulps of air.
“Now, now.” She kicked him in the leg as she passed. “Play nice. I’ve played nice haven’t I. You are still alive after all.”
She smiled suddenly, a sickly sweet smile that terrified Merlin.
“Then again, you probably won’t be for long.”
Arthur’s heart just about stopped at the sight.
A knife to Merlin’s neck. His eyes zoomed on the pale flesh and blade and it took him a moment to take in the sight of the man holding it. A man that Arthur didn’t know.
With quick movements Arthur drew his side arm.
“Drop the knife.”
“I can’t,” the man said. Arthur could see tears rolling down his cheeks. “She told me I would save humanity. I only wanted to save everyone.”
“Drop the knife.”
“Why don’t you just shoot him?” Morgana asked.
Arthur turned at a dime, side arm aimed as he searched every corner he could see but he couldn’t find her.
“Where are you?”
“Come on, shoot him. He’s going to kill Merlin if you don’t.”
Arthur’s fingers twitched reflexively to the thought.
“Why are you doing this Morgana?”
“Because, dear brother, it’s the only option. The only way you would ever destroy this world.”
“It has to happen. You know it has to happen, he saw it.”
“He knows the truth. He’s seen what I’ve seen.” Morgana said. “The end. And what a beautiful end it is.”
“Morgana,” he tried again.
“You knew this was going to happen Arthur. He told you it would. You could have stopped it; all you had to do was get rid of the little half-breed. The one who holds the key to you’re tightly locked up heart.”
“Stop this now Morgana.”
“No I don’t think I will,”
“I’ll kill you. I’ll hunt you down and kill you, I promise you that.”
“Oh Arthur, you’ll be far too busy to worry about little old me. Kill the half breed Mordred,” Morgana demanded from wherever she was hiding.
Arthur saw the man move, saw the glint of fading sunlight on the edge of the blade and knew, just knew that if he did not act Merlin would die right in front of him.
The shot went off. It sizzled through the air, a beam of electricity meant to kill, not disarm.
A second after it reached him Mordred blinked, the second after that all life left his eyes and he feel to his knees on, knife falling from his lifeless grip.
“Merlin,” Arthur said, rushing to his mate.
“Wha – Arthur?”
The sound of sirens approaching made Arthur’s head snap up, they were too close for them to escape unseen. Police. Human police. Responding to the first lotophagus on human crime with Arthur as the culprit.
It would start a war.
It was destroy the world.
“What do we do now?” Merlin asked as Arthur cradled him to his chest, vowing to keep him safe from everything that was about to happen.
The figure stood in the corner of the room, unimposing on first glance but when one looked closer, looked hard enough, they could see the danger the figure was. It was written on lovely face.
“You failed Uther Pendragon,” she said, her voice sing-song sweet, like chimes blowing in the wind.
“It was my son,”
“You knew what would happen. You were forewarned.”
“I didn’t know.” Uther insisted.
“You did. And you shall pay for your failure.”
“Wait,” Uther pleaded. He hated just the idea of pleading, he was king after all, but wasn’t an idiot – he knew when he was in the presences of his betters.
“I can fix this.”
The figure tilted her head, golden tendrils trailing over her shoulder.
“Can you?” the figure asked.
“Yes, yes, let me prove myself.”
There was silence and for one horrifying moment he thought he would be denied his request.
“Very well, you shall have your chance to prove yourself.” She said. “But if you should fail --”
“I won’t, I won’t.” Uther assured her. “Thank you, thank you.” He glanced up from where his eyes had fallen to the floor to find that he was alone in his office.
He scowled at the empty spot the figure had once filled.
He went to his desk and pressed a button on the control panel and moment later the Captain of the Guard was there.
“Find my son, wherever he is Emrys is sure to be. Bring him to me.”
“Kill him if he stands in your way. I want that boy at all cost.”
The winter was harsh, wind hallowed through the valley like a wounded animal. Snow fell in a thick blanket, covering everything in sight and painting the scene all white.
In the midst of the snow in the middle of a forest of proud pine tress sat a house camouflaged by all the white. Inside the house sat two men side by side on a aged sofa, seemingly relaxed but alert to every sound.
“We can’t run forever.” One of them said.
“Where not running.” The blond said turning to his companion. “We’re waiting.”
“For the battle to come to us.” He said. “And when it does will be ready.