Actions

Work Header

Modern Learnings

Chapter Text

“And these are bus passes.” Merlin gave the cards to Lance, who in return passed them amongst the knights. Merlin watched as Elyan flipped one over and over, as Arthur ran his finger along the back of it.

“Do these work like your orange card at the store?” Arthur asked.

“My credit card?”

“Yes,” Arthur said.

Merlin shrugged. “Sorta. They do allow you to pay for things, but in this case they only buy rides on the transit system.”

“Transit system?” Gwaine asked.

“You know my car, yeah? And the other ones on the road that goes past the house? The transit system has bigger, sometimes faster vehicles, that can hold lots of people. Busses, trains. Using them is sometimes easier and cheaper than having a car. And since I’m not driving you all everywhere all the time, and you lack the basic knowledge needed for driving lessons, you’ll be taking public transit. Today, I’ll show you a few things.”

“So these cards,” Arthur waved the plastic in the air, “pay for our ride on the transit. Like a merchant could rent a horse for a few days.”

“Yes.” Merlin nodded.

Arthur shoved the card back at him. “I’m not having you pay for me.”

Merlin crossed his arms. “You’re taking that.”

“I’m confused,” Elyan said, still flipping his card over.

“Merlin explained credit cards last week,” Gwaine said, throwing an arm over Elyan’s shoulders. “They’re like portable tavern tabs. To buy something, swipe the card, and then pay the tab later. The card keeps track of the tab.”

Elyan frowned. “How?”

Gwaine shrugged.

Merlin sighed. He’d had to simplify a lot of his explanations for the knights. The logic he could make sense, but the practicability and the detailed hows were beyond their ability to understand. They’d walked out of the Lake only two weeks ago. They didn’t understand a financial system other than out dated currency and bartering for goods and services.

“These work only a little bit like credit cards. Instead of paying later, you pay before,” Merlin explained.

“Still, I’m not having you pay for me,” Arthur said again.

“Then you can stay here by yourself,” Merlin snapped. “You have no money, Arthur. You can’t pay for this. And you don’t even know how to get a card like that. You can’t give the drivers cash. It’s a card, or nothing.”

“You’re my servant, I can’t-“

“Camelot is stone dust and I’m not your servant anymore.”

Arthur drew himself up, but Merlin continued talking before the ex-king could speak. “Yes, I paid for these cards. But I also own this house, bought all the clothes you are wearing, and have paid for your food. This is no different. You can either come with us, learn the transit system and the city, or stay here.” Merlin turned his gaze on the rest of the knights. “Same for any of you. If you don’t like it, stay. Otherwise I’ll see you outside in five minutes.”

Merlin slammed the front door behind him.

Not thirty seconds later, Lance followed him out.

“Don’t even think about apologizing for Arthur,” Merlin said.

“You have to look at things from his side, Merlin.” Lance came to a stop next to Merlin. “He was king. The richest man in the kingdom, and even then he never gave things as freely as you are giving them out now. He used to pay your wages, and now he relies on your handouts.”

“They’re not handouts!” Merlin whirled to look at Lance. “You’re my friends! And you have no idea how the world works now. I’m helping, just until you can figure things out.”

“I know. And most of the others do too. But Arthur needs time to adjust to this. We all do. And eventually, the sooner we’re self-sufficient the better.”

“That’s why I’m showing you how to get around.”

“I know. But, maybe, soon, you should help us get jobs.”

Merlin sighed. “Are you sure that’s what Arthur’s angry about? The money thing, and not me being magic?”

Lance clapped Merlin’s shoulder. “I’m not going to lie; magic is an issue. For Arthur, for Leon, for Elyan. But that wasn’t number one a minute ago.”

The front door opened. Out stepped Gwaine, followed by Percival. A moment later, Elyan. And then, just before Merlin’s five-minute deadline, Leon walked out followed by Arthur. Merlin gave Leon a stiff nod, ignored Arthur entirely, and led the way to the nearest station.


Helping them find jobs happened sooner than Merlin expected. That day, in fact. Before the first bus, even.

Arthur saw a coffee shop with a “now hiring” sign, walked in, asked for a job, and the sixteen-year-old behind the counter gave him a questioning look before handing over an application.

Merlin had to admit, a thirty-four-year-old man asking for a barista application was far from normal.

Merlin’s amusement ended when, sheepishly, Arthur walked out of the shop to hand the application to Merlin. “I don’t know what all this means.”

So Merlin called a pen to his hand and sat all the knights down at one of the café’s outer tables to give them a breakdown of applications while mentally making notes of future things to do.

They’d have to have their own phone numbers, so he’d get them basic cell phones. They’d need at least GCSEs, maybe A-levels, so he’d have to enroll them in classes. He’d have to get them to memorize the address of the house, and Merlin’s number to use as a reference. Fake citizenship papers were already in progress. Maybe a fake work history. Bank accounts, for sure.

Regardless, he had some time. With no modern education to his name, Arthur would not be called in for an interview at the coffee shop. And honestly, Merlin didn’t know if King Arthur making lattes would drive Merlin to tears of laughter or tears of pity. He’d help Arthur find something else. Something business-y. He’d probably do well in the British armed forces, but Merlin refused to let any of the knights near an enlistment center.


Merlin blamed Arthur’s stubbornness on his repeated attempts to land a job at coffee shops. A task made all the harder by Arthur’s unwillingness to drink the stuff. Taking pity on his old friend, Merlin used a bit of magic to ensure Arthur got an interview at a local tea shop.

Tea, Arthur knew. And considering his charming and confident nature, he’d been offered the job.

The backstory Merlin told them all to use – orphans who ran away from foster homes to live on the street for years but now with the aid of a local charity were trying to find their feet – explained a lot of the knight’s inability to understand the modern world. It meant the managers of the tea shop had the foreknowledge they would have to teach Arthur a lot of things. How to use a register, how to identify teas, the basics of customer service.

The later proved too hard to learn. Unused to serving others, Arthur’s willingness to smile at strangers, especially rude ones, slipped week two. And when Arthur’s shifts moved to the less popular evenings, which meant cleaning the store and facilities, he had declared the work beneath him and left it to the girl manning the store with him.

A week later, Arthur had been fired.

Two days after that, he applied to a similar job. Having a list of complaints from the tea place, Merlin had hoped Arthur had learned better and would be a better worker. A brief conversation proved that yes, Arthur knew leaving half the work to a co-worker had been rude, and that yes, when he went to a store he hated rude workers. So Merlin, again, secretly helped Arthur an interview.

Again, Arthur landed the job.

Again, he failed at customer service.

“Smiling makes people happy, and we want happy customers,” his manager said.

“What about happy workers,” Arthur had mumbled at his back.

Again, Arthur was no longer assigned to popular times. This time, he did clean. The sink wouldn’t sparkle, but it’d be passable. He kept the job till the start of summer, a whole three months, before let go.

No official reason, Lance told Merlin through the grapevine. Merlin suspected that with uni students coming home for the summer, or secondary students with more free time on their hands now, the manager took the chance of finding a better employee.

Merlin had been tempted, more than once, to tease Arthur. Serving isn’t so easy, is it? Or maybe A coffee shop is easy compared to what you put me through. He didn’t, though. Merlin could see the lack of a job rubbed Arthur wrong many ways.

Lancelot, having been volunteering at the charity they used at their cover story, had been offered a job there. Elyan had found a historical society and earned small bits of money through blacksmithing. Leon had applied, and gotten, a security guard position at a nearby hotel. Gwaine and Percival were still looking, but were in no rush. At least Percival did something productive, leading an informal workout at the local park every morning.

Not only did Merlin have a job and money, so did three of his knights. As king, Arthur should be above them all. To be so low now…

Merlin sorta got it.

But being kind and polite was the right thing to do. Arthur took his anger at rude customers, turned it back on them, and the emotions often rose and rose to spill over in the house. He snapped at the knights, and at one point had been so demeaning to Merlin even Leon had been shocked.

Needless to say, Merlin didn’t go to the house announced anymore. He’d been turned into a convenient target for Arthur’s anger.

The solution, Lance suggested, would be to get Arthur into a somewhat more controlling situation. He’d never have as much wealth as Merlin, who’d amassed millions over the years and owned thousands of properties. But, if he could not be the lowest paid knight, if he could have a position of power at work, Arthur would be happier.

Except Arthur seemed bound and determined to work at a coffee shop.

Gwaine, at least, convinced him to apply for a different type of job. When store manager came up blank, the next choice had been baker. Arthur had been desperate enough for the job he’d bought a cookbook and attempted to bake in the house for a month straight before applying to places.

Cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, cupcakes. Arthur went through the whole cookbook. It took a month, but the baked goods Gwaine and Lancelot passed along and the few Merlin ate during occasional visits to the house got better. Arthur would never be a pastry chef, but for now he could fumble his way through a café’s kitchen.

About time too. Gwaine had a job now. Percival too.

And eventually, Arthur did too. Early morning shifts three times a week, afternoon shifts two times a week. He didn’t have to interact with customers, to serve them or smile at the rude, demanding children. He could be a prat, and the kitchen manager wouldn’t call him out on it. He could be a charming prince, and weasel extra croissants from the store manager to take back to the knights’ house.

Arthur’s mood improved, but his brief foray into modern servanthood didn’t seem to have given him a better understanding of Merlin’s life in Camelot. Of all Merlin had done of a non-magical nature, which had been just as draining even if it had been less life threatening than the magic he had performed.

He fell back onto old habits, telling Merlin to grab him things from the kitchen or his room. To send him the link of where to buy one thing or another. To bring laundry detergent to the house.

Merlin couldn’t tell Arthur to stop ordering him around. He huffed his displeasure, didn’t fetch the things Arthur wanted. But reminding Arthur of how things had changed always seemed a bad idea.

He stopped going to the house, unless invited for a group movie night or to answer questions about something new.

Merlin loved them all, after all. Even Arthur. He couldn’t completely stay away.

Chapter Text

Glastonbury Community Shelter.

Merlin had taken them through it only once, to see the facilities and meet one of the staff members – Billie Giordano. Billie was a friend of Mark Earnest, the name Merlin went by now. A good enough friend that despite never meeting any of them, she agreed to be used as a reference on job applications.

But Lance hadn’t realized how good a friend until after he started volunteering at the shelter. Billie kept staring at him.

“Mer – Mark tell wild stories about me?” Lance teased.

“More like fantastical stories. Ones I only halfway believed, until you and your friends showed up.”

“Oh?”

Billie didn’t answer the questions. “You’re very important to him, you know. He’s been waiting forever for you.”

Lance laughed it off. “I doubt it. He hasn’t known me that long.” That had been their backstory after all. Merlin had met them all only a short time ago at the shelter, and because he was a good man had wanted to help them. Lance didn’t know what Merlin had told Billie.

“Since primary, he said.”

“Uhh…”

“He gave up a lot, to help you. I just thought you should know.” Billie walked away, leaving Lance confused.


 

Billie’s words stayed with Lancelot. Because despite having been in the modern world a little over a month now, he hadn’t been thinking much beyond finding his feet and playing mediator between the rest of the knights and Merlin. He’d enquired after Merlin, how things had happened after Lance closed the veil, what Merlin’s life was like now, his thoughts on Arthur’s failing attempts to work in a coffee shops, soothed him when the issue of magic sent prickles through the knights and made them reluctant to look at Merlin in the eye.

But never once had he dug deeper into Merlin’s modern life than his current job and his relationship with the knights.

Now, it seemed like Merlin had again sacrificed something for Arthur, something for them all, and it had slipped Lance’s attention.

The only one who knew was Billie.

In the interest in helping Merlin, Lance asked her to coffee.


 

“You mentioned Mark gave up a lot, to help us. Can you be more specific?”

“Why?” Billie asked over her coffee mug.

“He’s given up a lot. I don’t want him to give up more. And maybe, I can give him something back.”

Billie gave Lance a bitter smile. “He can’t get me back.”

“Excuse me?”

She laughed. Then she dipped into her purse and pulled out a small velvet box. Lance reached across the table to open it and found a jeweled ring inside.

“Mark and I dated for a few years. And then he told me an amazing story. His name was Merlin. You know, from Camelot.” Billie laughed. “He was immortal. He could do magic. Showed me this butterfly trick.” She smiled. “Asked me to think about it, if that was okay, him being magic. Took me a week, but I accepted it all. I love him, what could I say? So, he proposed with that ring.”

Lance took the ring out of the box, turned it between his fingers. It was beautiful.

“I said yes.” Billie stared at her coffee, even as Lance stared at her.

“We were going to tell my parents the next weekend. And then he calls me, crying and apologizing. He’s Merlin, destined to wait for the Once and Future King to rise again. And lo and behold, King Arthur walked out of a lake the previous day. Arthur came first, he told me.  He never expected Arthur to rise now. He wanted to marry me, loved me, but Arthur came first.”

Billie cried as she told the story, tears falling into her hands. Lance bowed his head, easily able to see the conversation. Merlin making the decision so quickly and then apologizing every other sentence when he told her as soon as he could.

“Why does he do that?” Billie said, wiping away tears. “Why could Mark give up something that makes him happy for a man who barely talks to him?”

“I blame the dragon.”

“The dragon?” Billie said hysterically.

“He used to live under the castle,” Lancelot said. “He told Merlin his first week in Camelot his destiny was to protect Arthur and lead the land to greatness. He took it to heart, so desperate for a purpose for his magic. Destiny was the reason he had his powers, the reason he was born. Without it, he was nothing.”

“And all those feelings moved to Arthur,” Billie guessed.

“Yes,” Lance admitted. “Back then, I tried to get him to see there was more to him than that. That he was a good man on his own, had a purpose beyond what a dragon told him. Not sure it ever stuck.”

“No, I don’t think it did,” Billie said.

Silence settled onto the table.

“He never said,” Lance whispered.

“I figured that out,” Billie whispered back.

“You still love him.”

“I probably always will. There’s no one else like him in the world.”


 

Lance knocked on Merlin’s door that night. Merlin opened it, hair mussed up from running fingers through it all day. “Lance, come in.”

Lance did, closing the door behind him.

“Tea? Leftover pizza?” Merlin walked toward the kitchen. Lance trailed him.

“Gin.”

Merlin looked over his shoulder. “Gin.”

“Gin,” Lance repeated with a firm nod.

“Right.” Merlin pulled down two glasses, simultaneously using magic to pull down a bottle of gin from a cabinet over the fridge. “Why are we drinking?”

“Because I found out you were engaged.”

Merlin froze for half a second, before flashing Lancelot a smile.

“I’ve lived a long time. I’ve been engaged to several people.”

Lance took a sip of his drink. “You were engaged to Billie.”

Merlin flinched back, but Lance caught his wrist. “Open secrets, remember? And no lies. Why didn’t you tell me?”

Merlin yanked his hand back. “It was my life. You didn’t need to know.”

“We’re friends, Merlin. I want to know. You didn’t have to cut off your engagement. You and Billie can still get married.”

“No.” Merlin shook his head. “I can’t.”

“Why?” Lance pressed.

Merlin chugged the rest of his gin. “No lies, open secrets. Okay. I…you guys walked out of the lake, but this isn’t the first time you’ve been in the modern era. Over the years, you’ve all been reincarnated.”

“Go on.”

“Sometimes I found you, sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes, I…I…” Merlin blushed hard.

“You what?” History had proven that Merlin mulling over things for ages was bad for him. Lance had long gotten into the habit of pulling secrets out.

“I had lives with you. All of you.” Merlin waved his hand through the air. “You, Arthur, Gwaine. All of the knights. Gwen. You, they...they weren’t you, I know that. But somethings were the same, and that helped.”

Lance watched Merlin shakily pour a glass, already guessing at the next secret. When Merlin didn’t say a thing, Lance did.

“You couldn’t marry Billie if someone you loved more had shown up.”  

Merlin slumped down until his head rested on the counter next to his drink. “Yeah.”

Lance didn’t have to ask who. Merlin might have lived lives with reincarnated knights, Lance included, probably fell in love with them all too. But in Camelot, Merlin’s number one had been Arthur.

That hadn’t changed.

And it probably wouldn’t, despite Arthur’s mistreatment of Merlin. How he seemed to do his best to force Merlin into the role of manservant, a job Merlin had long since cast aside. How Arthur shied away from the word magic, casting skittish glances between automatic doors and Merlin.

Like in Camelot, Merlin loved Arthur with all his heart and Arthur didn’t return the feelings.

And like in Camelot, Lancelot couldn’t stand to see his friend hurting.

Lance pushed aside his drink and pulled Merlin close. “The world changed, but we haven’t, not really.”

“No really, no,” Merlin smiled.

“So you’d be okay, if we do the same we did then?”

“More than okay,” Merlin said, running a hand through the hair behind Lance’s ear before leaning in to kiss him.

Home, Lance’s heart sang. Home, lover, forever.

Open secrets, no lies. A promise they kept between themselves to keep them sane. Except Lance had always kept one.

He knew what it was like, to love multiple people. He knew what it was like, to love one more than the other. And for Lance, it had never been Gwen.

They had kept it casual, in Camelot. They’d kept it casual now. But Lance wished it would be anything but. At least, he supposed, his Soul had experienced it at least once. He’d be content with that.

Chapter Text

Percival came home to Leon and Elyan leaning on opposite sides of the doorway across the living room. With their backs to him, he couldn’t see what they were watching, but by the sounds of it someone in the kitchen.

Arthur then. Lance wouldn’t be home for hours.

And whatever the king was doing, it had to be interesting enough for the other knights to ignore Percival’s entrance.

“What’s going on?” he asked, coming up behind the two men.

Elyan jumped at the sound, but Leon casually looked over his shoulder at Percival.

“Welcome home, Perce,” Leon tilted his head toward the kitchen. “Take a look. Arthur won’t explain and we ran out of guesses ten minutes ago.”

The kitchen counters were covered with donuts, cookies, and sunken cupcakes resting on wire cooling racks. Flour covered the floor, the cabinets, the counters under the cooling racks, the top of the stove. No dirty dishes though, Arthur stood scrubbing them at the sink.

“Trying new recipes, Arthur?” Percival guessed. Arthur had only brought work home in the way of leftover donuts before, but it would make sense that after a few months at the shop he’d know the basics of baking other things.

“Guessed that,” Elyan said. “That’s not it.”

“Learning new skills for a promotion?”

“Nope.”

“To start his own bakery?”

All three knights took a moment to imagine that before snickering.

Arthur dropped a cookie sheet with a splash. “I’m not opening up something so plebian as a bakery.”

Percival wanted to point out Arthur currently worked for a ‘plebian’ in a donut shop but held his tongue. Of them all, Arthur had the hardest time adjusting to modern life.

“Trying to prove you’re better than your co-workers?” Percival guessed.

“Ooo, good idea,” Elyan said.

Arthur shook his head. “No. I, it’s…” he trailed off, staring at his hands in the sink. “It’s the opposite.”

“Trying to prove someone else is better?” Leon ventured.

Arthur huffed and turned around to glare of at them. He had flour on his shirt, batter under his left eye, and looked beat. No doubt, he hadn’t slept off his 4am wake-up and 5am shift yet. Something in Arthur’s face made Percival think this wasn’t a silly work contest, Arthur’s ego getting in the way. It was something a bit more serious.

An apology.

Stunned at his own thought, Percival did nothing to prevent Arthur pushing through all three of them to exit the kitchen.

“I’ve had enough of you,” Arthur said, walking up the stairs and to his room. The door slammed behind him.

Elyan, Leon, and Percival looked at each other and shrugged. A moody Arthur was nothing new. Nor was him leaving a mess. Without Merlin around, clean-up fell on them.

“I’ll wash if you dry,” Percival offered.

Elyan gave him a sheepish look. “I have a meeting in about an hour. I need to catch the Tube soon.”

“I don’t have to leave for a few hours yet,” Leon offered.

Grateful, Percival dropped his gym bag on a kitchen chair. “Let’s start by sticking all of these in boxes or something.”

Between the two of them, they got the work done fast. Percival kept wondering if he should bring up the idea of Arthur apologizing to someone. Leon knew Arthur the best, besides Merlin. However, he didn’t want Arthur to come down the stairs to overhear two of his knights talking about him behind his back. Still, it’d been almost an hour. Arthur had probably showered and crashed.

“So,” Percival began.

“Hmm?” Leon looked up from wiping the counter down.

“Has Arthur done this before?”

“Invest himself fully into a new skill?”

“I’m not sure this was that.” Because Arthur had already done that, for baking, to get the job he currently had. Percival hadn’t been able to eat a donut for a month after tasting all of Arthur's. “He didn’t ask us to test these. Just made them.”

“Stress-baking?” Leon guessed.

The both snorted at the image. Even in modern times, Arthur took out his stress with a workout.

“I think he made them for something,” Percival offered.

“What for?”

“Didn’t he try to cook for Gwen once or twice?”

“More like, say he’d cook and have Merlin fetch things from the kitchen.”

Yeah, Percival could see that.

Leon sighed. “Leave it, Perce. Arthur’s not good with emotions. And I’d rather he wreck the kitchen then the trees outside.”

Percival smiled. Too true.

Leon went to get ready for work, early due to some sort of promise to Mrs. Fey at the hotel, and Percival contemplated what to do for a few hours. His next personal trainer client wasn’t until after five. Maybe he’d read. Gwaine had been obsessed with a book for a while, and then Arthur picked it up. In fact, Percival was pretty sure he brushed sugar off of it a bit ago.

He found it on the living room coffee table, Leon must have moved it there, and had just cracked open the cover when his phone rang.

I am too sexy for my shirt. Too sexy for my shirt.

Gwaine’s ringtone, of course.

Percival scampered for it. No one had heard from Merlin and Gwaine since they left for Inverness.

“Hey, Gwaine.”

“Perce! How’s the princess and everyone else?”

He thought about the stacks of Tupperware and covered bowls filled with baked goods. Gwaine didn’t need to know. “Same as always. You and Merlin?”

“Better than always. But maybe worse. Anyone else home?”

Percival instantly got to his feet, wishing for a sword at his side and chainmail on his shoulders.

“Leon’s in the shower. Arthur’s napping. I think. Should I wake them?”

He could hear Gwaine thinking about it over the phone. “No. It’s not that serious, but tell them when you can. Lance already knows.”

“Knows what?”

“The fire here? It wasn’t an accident, Perce.”

Percival carried the thought through. “Someone purposely set Merlin’s building on fire.”

“What?”

Percival’s head snapped to Arthur standing on the stairs. The knight held up a finger to wait. Arthur frowned, marching down the steps to pull the phone out of Percival’s hand. He laid it in his palm and Percival pressed the speaker button.

“What’s this about someone committing arson?” Arthur barked.

It sounded strong. Kingly. Like the old Arthur instead of the frustrated man in the kitchen earlier. Percival couldn’t help but smile, though he dropped the expression when Arthur scowled at him.

“Exactly that,” Gwaine said. “Merlin checked it out. It’s a magical fire, and they left a message for Merlin. Called him Emrys.”

“Emrys,” Percival repeated.

“Someone with memories of Camelot,” Arthur said.

“If not memories, at least someone who knows the tales. They’re trained well in magic, probably a Druid. Merlin thinks it might be a kid or grandkid or something –“ Arthur choked, but Gwaine kept talking, “but regardless, they don’t like him.”

“You think they’re going to attack Merlin,” Percival guessed.

“They’d be dumb to. But he’s got other properties around the world. And if whoever this is knows the name Emrys, they might know about us too. They won’t come after Merlin directly at first.”

“They’d come after us,” Arthur finished.

“Maybe,” Gwaine said. “But their target is definitely Merlin. Keep an eye out.”

“Are you guys coming back?” Percival asked.

“Did you want us to come there?” Arthur suggested.

Gwaine shot both answers down. “We’re flying out tomorrow, but to Manchester. Merlin wants to talk to…someone. We’ll be back in two days.”

“You better,” Arthur growled. “And keep us updated.”

“Course. Tell Elyan and Leon, yeah? And keep watch.” Gwaine hung up, leaving Percival on edge.

In this past year, he’d gotten used to the modern world. Learned to like it, enjoyed the day to day peace. As much as the idea of a fight was familiar and stirred his blood, Percival had gotten used to a safer life.

He looked at Arthur, whose hand had curled into a fist around the phone.

“Why would someone want to hurt Merlin?” Arthur asked.

“I can think of several reasons,” Percival answered.

Arthur shoved the phone into Percival’s chest.

“I’m sure this is nothing to worry about.” Percival squashed down the fear in his chest. He spent several years in Camelot thinking of Merlin as a thin boy in need of protection while in the woods, and still fell back on that feeling despite having seen all Merlin had done during Gwen’s reign. “Merlin’s magic is powerful. He can defend himself.”

The word “magic” triggered Arthur, causing him to stiffen and bunch his shoulders. Arthur would always hate it, always fear it, just a bit, Percival assumed. You can’t completely overcome a negative bias like that in a year, and some people never would.

As Percival watched, Arthur forced himself to relax and Percival filed the reaction away. It was new.

“I know he can defend himself,” Arthur whispered. “But I haven’t seen it. I don’t know how well. And I don’t like the idea of dark magic out there.”

“We’ll find them. We’ll defeat them.”

“With Merlin,” Arthur said, voice heavy with promise and surety.

Percival blinked. He would never have thought Arthur would want to fight alongside Merlin. Alongside a warlock.

He thought back to the idea of Arthur wanting to apologize, of the book’s title he’d glimpsed. The Adventures of the Knight Lancelot and the Warlock Merlin.

When Merlin and Gwaine came back, Percival bet things would be different.