Fandoms: Sherlock and Merlin (modern AU)
Word Count: ,576
Pairings: None, but could be Arthur/Merlin if you wanted.
Warnings: Spoilers for S2 of Sherlock. No spoilers for Merlin.
A/N: he premise of this fic is based off more than one prompt that I've seen on both the Sherlock and Merlin kinkmemes that ask for Merlin to be Sherlock's younger brother, who appears to just be an ordinary charming guy until he reveals that he is just as much of a Holmes as Sherlock and Mycroft are.
Summary: John meets Sherlock's estranged younger brother at a coffee shop... twice.
John was used to seeing the shock on people’s faces when they saw Sherlock for the (second) first time. If they knew him – such as someone from the yard, or a favourite restaurateur – they’d stare open-mouthed and wide-eyed for a moment and then sputter “I thought- but you- How- What-” or whatever combination of words they could get out before Sherlock cut them off with an impatient eye-roll and a mile-a-minute explanation about appearances being deceiving.
There had also been a few reactions from strangers - people who obviously followed the news back then closely and recognized Sherlock from the scandal that had reportedly caused his suicide. They either stared and then dismissed him as their mind playing tricks or they ran off to the nearest news agent to see if there was a headline about the dead coming back to life.
Never before had John seen a stranger give a reaction that rivalled what his own had been...a reaction which Sherlock and he had agreed they would never speak of again...but that changed that day in a coffee shop in the financial district.
Sherlock had been getting his affairs back in order, and of course, being Sherlock, that involved quite a bit more than the average person. They had popped into the shop for a coffee and a biscuit. Sherlock wasn’t technically on a case, so it was just as much for his empty stomach as it was for John’s.
They had just picked up their order and were making their way out of the shop when a young man walked in and stopped dead in his tracks as soon as he caught sight of Sherlock. Just as John thought that maybe this was the type of stranger who would actually approach Sherlock and ask him why it was that he wasn’t dead – both the stranger and Sherlock did things that were wholly unexpected.
First, the stranger’s eyes filled up with tears, as though the very sight of Sherlock pained him. John immediately looked at Sherlock. Instead of Sherlock looking bored or as perplexed as John, he looked panicked.
“I can explain,” Sherlock said in a rush to the stranger, but the stranger shook his head, and then turned and fled.
Sherlock cringed, and the next thing John knew he was juggling two coffees and two biscuits, while Sherlock typed furiously into his phone while mumbling a continuing combination of the words “stupid”, “Mycroft” and “not good.”
“Sherlock,” John said. “Who was that?”
“That, John,” Sherlock said with a wince, “was my younger brother.”
John supposed he should have recognized the resemblance immediately, but, to be fair, he had been a bit distracted by the fact that Sherlock had caused someone to burst into tears without even speaking – it had been a new record. John thought back to the light blue eyes, the dark unruly hair, and the impossibly high cheekbones, and knew that Sherlock wasn’t having him on. There really was another Holmes.
They had immediately gone back to Baker Street. Sherlock declared that the rest of their errands would have to be put off until he sorted things out with Merlin.
Merlin Holmes...John could hardly believe it.
Sherlock explained that Merlin had voluntarily exiled himself to Wales, having followed a mate from uni out there after a promise of a job.
“We’re not particularly close,” Sherlock explained, as though that somehow excused him from something...and then John understood.
“You never told him,” John said. “He thought...Christ....he thought you were dead.”
“Everyone thought I was dead,” Sherlock reminded John.
“But you just...he just saw you in a coffee shop!” John exclaimed. He imagined what it would have been like for him if John had just bumped into Sherlock while he was out doing errands – instead of the care Sherlock had gone to in order to reveal himself in private.
“I’m aware,” Sherlock droned, unimpressed.
Sherlock was still on his mobile, typing to Mycroft and looking increasingly annoyed.
“And Mycroft didn’t even tell him?” John asked, wondering with which of the Holmes brothers he should be angrier. Sherlock notoriously disregarded people’s feelings, but it was more out of ignorance than inconsideration.
“Did it look like Mycroft told him?” Sherlock snarled. John gave him a glare, but quieted for a moment. Sherlock chucked his mobile across the room and then sat down immediately into, what John liked to call, his thinking pose.
The Case of the Unfortunate Younger Brother, John thought.
“Is he your arch-enemy too?” John asked, for the simple reason that this was the first time that John had seen Sherlock visibly concerned about possibly hurting someone’s feelings – well, someone that wasn’t John, Mrs. Hudson, or Lestrade.
“No,” Sherlock said. “He’s...Merlin.”
Which meant, John realized, that Sherlock actually cared for him – though, he had a funny way of showing it.
“And Mycroft?” John asked.
“Mycroft and Merlin don’t get on,” Sherlock stated.
“So, Mycroft is Merlin’s archenemy too?” John asked, now picturing a young Sherlock indoctrinating an impossibly young Merlin against their eldest brother.
“Merlin doesn’t have archenemies,” Sherlock said. “It’s as you said, real people don’t have archenemies, they have friends, people they like, people they don’t like...girlfriends, boyfriends.”
And then what Sherlock was really saying struck John, and he was amazed that he hadn’t even considered it. He had been picturing Merlin as a younger version of Sherlock, but he wasn’t – that much had been clear even from the brief glimpse of him. Merlin had cried – in public no less. Merlin had been visibly hurt, relieved, shocked.
“Merlin’s...” John trailed off, not sure how to phrase it without being insulting.
“Mycroft resents Merlin for not living up to potential,” Sherlock went on to explain. “Merlin resents Mycroft for pressuring him into careers that he does not want. They rarely speak to each other, and it’s for the best. I wish Mycroft would pay me the same courtesy.”
“And what career does Merlin have?” John asked.
“He’s a secretary,” Sherlock said.
“A secretary,” John repeated. “Is that code for something? Like Mycroft holding a minor position in the government?”
“No,” Sherlock gave him a small smile. “He’s just a secretary, and I have it on good authority that he’s not even a particularly competent one.”
“Oh,” John said. He wondered what it had been like for Merlin to grow up with two highly intelligent older brothers and find himself...lacking. And here John had always thought that Sherlock had been the black-sheep of the family.
Sherlock got up and began to pace. John wasn’t quite sure what Sherlock was trying to work out.
“Where does he work?” John asked, wondering if maybe Merlin had been bounced from company to company due to his apparent incompetence and had now relocated to London.
“Camelot,” Sherlock said. “He’s been there for the past five years. He’s secretary to...of course!” Sherlock interrupted himself, “Stupid, stupid. John, my phone!”
John rolled his eyes, but dutifully got up and fetched Sherlock’s phone from where he had thrown it. Sherlock called a number.
“Yes, I’d like to speak to one of your guests – Emrys Dragoon. Thank you,” Sherlock said. There was a pause, and then Sherlock looked annoyed. “Arthur, I’d like to speak with Merlin.”
John didn’t have to hear the other end of the conversation to know what was happening, because he knew Sherlock’s I-Am-Being-Yelled-At-By-An-Idiot face very well.
“Yes, I was also there,” Sherlock interjected, another pause, in which John could actually hear the tinny voice yelling from where he sat, and then Sherlock seemed to lose patience. “The address is 221B Baker Street. If you insist on continuing this tirade, I’d prefer you do it in person with my brother present. I’ll be here all evening.”
Sherlock ended the call and chucked the phone back across the room. “Why my brother chooses to align himself with that idiotic prat of a man, I have no idea – but regardless, we should expect his unpleasant company in approximately one hour, depending on traffic.”
“And who was that?” John asked, wondering if he was going to have to try to save Sherlock from being punched in the face yet again.
“Arthur Pendragon,” Sherlock said, as though the very name disgusted him.
“Arthur Pendragon?” John said, “As in...Arthur Pendragon.”
“It’s not exactly a common name, John,” Sherlock rolled his eyes.
“He’s the youngest CEO since...someone,” John waved a hand through the air. “He runs an international company and his worth billions.”
“Is he CEO now?” Sherlock said. “I wasn’t aware.”
“Not aware...” John muttered incredulously...then realized that this was Sherlock, and Arthur Pendragon was hardly the solar system, and well, it had all happened while Sherlock had been ‘dead.’
“Uh, yes...” John said. “It’s the success story of the millennia, they’re saying. Camelot has boomed incredibly in the past few years, and then just this past year, they had a switch in leadership. Arthur’s father stepped down so that his son could take over.”
“Dull,” Sherlock announced. “My point still stands - the man is an idiot and I don’t know why on earth Merlin feels the need to sharpen his pencils.”
John was just about to ask if Sherlock had meant that as innuendo, when Sherlock interrupted the thought by saying, “I suppose you’ll want to tidy-up. I’ll ask Mrs. Hudson if she has any biscuits.”
John looked around their messy flat and realized that Arthur Pendragon was going to be sipping tea in their living room in an hour, provided he didn’t just hire a goon to come punch Sherlock in the face.
An hour later, John opened the front door to find Arthur Pendragon, arms crossed and glaring. His hair just as blond, his jaw just as square, and his eyes just as piercing as they were in the newspapers and magazines, perhaps even more so.
“Mr. Pendragon,” John greeted, and then he saw Merlin standing just behind Arthur. He was almost hard to see behind the all consuming presence of Arthur Pendragon. And that was a difference right there - wherever Sherlock went, he seemed to command all attention in the room, but Merlin seemed to fade into the background.
Merlin looked so much like Sherlock, right down to the exasperated expression on his face. It felt like he was catching a glimpse of Sherlock’s youth – though, as Sherlock had reminded him only fifteen minutes before, when Sherlock was Merlin’s age, he was so high he was only solving imaginary murders, and ‘please, John, Merlin is nothing like me.’
“Dr. Watson, I presume,” Arthur said. “Is the bastard upstairs then?”
“Arthur,” Merlin said softly.
“Yes,” John answered, but when Arthur made to step across the threshold, John blocked him. “Although I understand if you want to punch him, I’ll have to kindly ask you to leave if that’s the only reason you came. I won’t take kindly to any sort of physical violence against Sherlock.”
Arthur seemed momentarily brought up short, but Merlin spoke from behind him, again, in an unassuming soft voice. “Arthur understands.”
“Of course,” Arthur said, though he didn’t sound happy about it.
“May I see him please, Dr. Watson?” Merlin asked.
“Right, of course, sorry,” John said, remembering the tear-filled eyes from earlier. His brother...Sherlock was Merlin’s brother, and Merlin had thought him dead.
John led them upstairs, and into the sitting room, where he had left Sherlock ensconced in his favourite chair, fingertips pressed together under his chin. As soon as John entered the room, Sherlock stood and then seemed to brace himself – John was just about to tell Sherlock that Arthur had promised not to punch him, when a dark-haired blur slipped out from behind John and ran across the room, and tackled Sherlock...in a hug.
Sherlock cringed, and then returned the hug awkwardly.
“There, there,” Sherlock said, patting Merlin on the back.
A huff of a laugh came from beside John.
“I think we best make a strategic retreat to the kitchen and take an exceptionally long time to brew some tea, Dr. Watson,” Arthur said.
“Right, yes,” John replied, and led Arthur to the kitchen, ignoring Sherlock’s silent plea not to leave him alone while he was being so ruthlessly hugged.
John closed the sliding door behind them, giving Sherlock and Merlin as much privacy as he could.
“Please, have a seat, Mr. Pendragon,” John said, pointing to the chair by the microscope. The biscuits were already laid out on a plate. John clicked the kettle on.
“Call me Arthur, Dr. Watson,”
From the living room, they heard a voice yell, ‘You’re a right bastard, Sherly! What the hell were you playing at?!’ and John threw a concerned look at the coloured glass door. He knew there was no point getting in between Sherlock and Mycroft when they went at it, but he had no idea what a brotherly quarrel with Merlin looked like – and did he just call Sherlock ‘Sherly’?
“I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you,” Arthur said.
“What do you mean?” John asked, distracted by the mile-a-minute cadence of Sherlock’s voice speaking softly in the other room. John couldn’t make out the words, but he recognized the story.
“You thought he was dead too, didn’t you?” Arthur said.
“Oh, yeah, yes,” John said, bringing his attention immediately back to Arthur – the memory of all encompassing grief curling ugly in his stomach.
“I couldn’t imagine...if Merlin... horrendously annoying, aren’t they? But if anything were to happen...” Arthur trailed off, unable to complete his sentence.
John should have seen it before – Merlin was obviously far more than Arthur’s secretary. When Sherlock wanted to get in touch with Merlin, he called the hotel where Arthur was staying – knowing that Merlin would be there, and what other boss plays bodyguard for their secretary?
“He’s uh...a good secretary, then?” John said, with a smirk – because he didn’t want to talk about Sherlock’s supposedly death, the wound was still too fresh.
“PA, and Lord no, he’s horrendous,” Arthur smiled. “Why, just today, I sent him out for coffee and then found him an hour later sulking in a broom cupboard.”
“Sherlock didn’t know he was in town, he hadn’t meant for it to happen like that...he was quite worried,” John explained. It wasn’t a lie. John still knew Sherlock better than anyone.
“What’s Merlin like then?” John asked as the kettle boiled. “I didn’t even...” John cut himself off, realizing that if it got back to Merlin that John didn’t even know he existed, his feelings might be hurt. “...I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting him before, what with your company headquarters being in Wales.”
“He’s a bumbling idiot,” Arthur said, and John nearly dropped the kettle. Arthur must have noticed his surprise, because he laughed. “He’s also kind, cheerful, brave, and a very loyal friend. As I said, I don’t know what I would do without him...he may be an idiot, but he’s an indispensible idiot.”
John smiled and poured the water into the tea pot to steep.
“...I figured you were too absorbed in so-called ‘work’ with that golden idiot to care one way or another quite frankly,” Sherlock’s voice came from the other room. John cringed.
“Keep your voice down!” Merlin yelled. “This has nothing to do with him!”
“Sorry,” John said.
“I’m not as stupid as he thinks I am,” Arthur said, looking John in the eye.
“No one is,” John muttered. “He’s just got...a different measure, I guess.”
“I suppose so,” Arthur sighed. “Still...it does rankle from time to time.”
“You’re taking it better than most,” John admitted.
“What Merlin and I have works,” Arthur shrugged. “Sometimes, I think he knows that I know, you know?”
“No,” John said, honestly confused.
Arthur laughed, as though John had supplied the punch line to a joke. Arthur’s smile brightened his whole face, and for a moment, it felt like John was just down at the pub with a fellow rugby boy, not sitting in his kitchen with the CEO of Camelot. John couldn’t help but laugh too.
“Come on,” Arthur said, standing, “They’ve had long enough.”
“Don’t you see?” Sherlock was saying as John and Arthur entered the living room. “He didn’t know about you – or if he did, he assumed we were estranged. If I had contacted you at all, I would have been putting you in danger.”
“We are estranged,” Merlin said unhappily.
“All the more reason for me not to sacrifice your safety,” Sherlock replied, non-plussed.
“I have the best bodyguards in the business,” Arthur announced, as he set the plate of biscuits down with a clatter. “Merlin is never in danger when he’s with me.”
“Please, just because you’d given all your mates from the pub jobs, doesn’t make them the best in the business,” Sherlock scoffed, reaching for the tea.
“I’ll have you know, they happened to be trained security before I met them at the pub,” Arthur argued. John cringed and then gave Sherlock a glare that he hoped communicated the sentence ‘try not to unnecessarily offend your estranged brother’s mate.’ Sherlock seemed to get the message, because his mouth snapped closed and he simply huffed into his tea instead.
John looked over to see Merlin giving him a knowing, and perhaps slightly impressed, grin. John found himself blushing, though he had no idea why.
“Merlin, I’m sorry we didn’t meet under better circumstances,” John said. “It’s always...interesting to meet Sherlock’s friends and family.”
“I don’t have friends,” Sherlock muttered.
“Then who were those people that Moriarty threatened at gun-point, Sherly?” Merlin asked.
Sherlock fell silent, and Merlin grinned triumphantly, giving John a wink.
“Threatened at gun-point, were you?” Arthur asked John. “That sounds like an interesting story.”
“Oh yes,” John said. “Which time do you want to hear about? The first? The last? One of the middle ones?”
“How about one that’s not on the blog,” Merlin said. “I think as family, I should get special story privileges and hear about a case not fit for public consumption.”
“Very well,” John said. “How about the time Sherlock stole a bus?”
Arthur and Merlin both smiled equally bright and charming smiles. Sherlock rolled his eyes.
As the evening wore on, John was able to steer the conversation back to Merlin and Arthur. He found out about how they had met – Arthur and his friends had been picking on some poor first-year uni student, and Merlin had stepped in and challenged Arthur to a fight, even though ‘he was only tiny’, Arthur said.
Merlin also told them all about Arthur’s latest business acquisitions, and how well things were going for the company. Merlin beamed with pride the whole time. Arthur tried to get him to stop boasting while unsuccessfully hiding an equally proud smile.
To say Merlin was charming would be an understatement.
The next afternoon, John decided that he should enjoy the sunshine and take a walk during his lunch break at work. He walked towards the nearest park, hoping to find a coffee shop along the way so that he could get a coffee to go, and then sit on a bench somewhere and people watch.
There was indeed a coffee shop – a bit of a posh one, that probably inflated their prices ridiculously, but John’s usual spot was five blocks in the wrong opposite direction than the park, so it’d have to do.
He was not expecting to find Merlin Holmes walking away from the counter holding two take-away coffees. Merlin smiled widely at him.
“Hi John,” Merlin said, and then handed John one of the coffees. “This one’s yours. My treat.”
“Merlin,” John greeted, automatically taking the cup, before his confusion could catch up with him. “What- this is- but-...”
Merlin laughed. “Don’t worry, there’s no sugar in it. Come on, I want to go see the ducks.”
John followed Merlin out of the coffee shop and towards the park. It was so very much like walking with Sherlock, only instead of a tall grey coat, he was following an even slighter figure in an un-tucked dress shirt and slacks. Merlin hardly looked like the PA to the most successful CEO under 30. He was wearing converse sneakers of all things. He did look very much like Sherlock though, right down to the way he seemed to be filled with pent-up energy.
“This is either another extraordinary coincidence with a coffee shop, or you’ve met me on purpose...” John said, as they came to the park and Merlin started to lead them towards the duck pond.
“The coincidence option,” Merlin winked. “What can I say? You’d be surprised how often strange coincidences happen around me.”
“No seriously,” John smiled. “How did you...” then John thought of all the times that Mycroft had been able to intercept John, and rolled his eyes. “It was Mycroft, right? I keep telling him just to use the phone-”
“Mykey’s got nothing to do with it,” Merlin said, rolling his eyes. “Come on, have a seat,” Merlin gestured to a free park bench. “I wanted to visit a little without Arthur and Sherly sniping at each other the whole time.”
“Mykey?” John laughed, he couldn’t help himself. The very idea of anyone calling Mycroft ‘Mykey’ had John in a fit of giggles. Merlin beamed at him.
“I can see why he likes you,” Merlin said.
“Who? Mykey or Sherly?” John asked with a smile.
“Sherly,” Merlin chuckled. “Mykey probably finds you insufferable.” John huffed an agreeing laugh into his coffee cup as he took a sip. “Which, is probably yet another reason that Sherly likes you so much.”
“Sherlock does like to annoy Mycroft,” John nodded. “I don’t know how you managed to grow up with them, to be honest. You seem so...”
“Normal?” Merlin guessed.
John shrugged, suddenly worried he might be bringing up a sore topic. He wondered what it was really like for Merlin to grow up with two highly intelligent older brothers.
“Mykey’s so much older than me,” Merlin said. “I don’t even remember when he lived at home. I remember Sherly, but then he...well, you know, he had a harder time than any of us. I think the drugs proved that.”
John nodded, his earlier levity fading at the thought of Sherlock’s coping mechanisms.
“You’re good for him,” Merlin said. “I’ve never seen him happier.”
“Thanks,” John replied. “He’s good for me too.”
“I can see that,” Merlin said. “He kept you from killing yourself at least.”
John nearly choked on his coffee, as his heart leap in his chest, “Sorry?”
“You smuggled your service weapon back from Afghanistan with you,” Merlin said. “Judging from your blog, it’s come in quite useful. But of course, you hadn’t met Sherlock when you decided to steal a weapon from the military, did you? It’s not that great of a logical leap really – injured veteran with PTSD, both your military career and your career as a surgeon ended because of your injuries. You felt useless.”
“I...” John didn’t know what to say. “How did you...”
“Yeah, sorry, usually I don’t do things this way, but I was curious about you,” Merlin said. “Mycroft probably abducted you and gave you the third degree about your relationship with Sherlock long ago, but I’m willing to bet he asked all the wrong questions. He always wants to know what people’s intentions are towards Sherlock – he’s worse than Mum.”
“He wanted me to spy on Sherlock for money,” John said. His perception of Merlin seemed to be shifting in front of him. The charming smile and normal bloke from the previous evening was still there, but now so were the familiar piercing-blue intelligent eyes.
“See?” Merlin said, as though that proved everything. “He was only interested in why you liked Sherlock, which really says more about his opinion of Sherlock than it says about anything.”
Merlin sounded annoyed, and John had to agree – when you put it like that, it certainly sounded like Mycroft had a low opinion of his brother.
“What I wondered was why Sherlock liked you.” Merlin said.
John must have made a face, because Merlin gave him an affectionate grin – as though John were a particularly silly child, and not a ridiculous number of years his senior.
“Oh, don’t look like that,” Merlin said. “It’s fairly obvious.”
“Why does he like me then?”
“Because you think he’s fantastic, and yet you never treat him as anything other than human,” Merlin said. John smiled. And then Merlin added, “Plus, you’re a remorseless killer, and Sherlock loves those.”
“I- What?!” John said.
“The cabbie,” Merlin said. “You shot him.”
John stared at Merlin for a minute, Merlin raised an expectant eyebrow in a move that made him look exactly like his brothers...and that’s when it really sunk in for John – Merlin was exactly like his brothers.
“He was going to kill Sherlock,” John said.
“Was he?” Merlin said.
“Well, Sherlock was probably going to kill himself, but it was the cabbie that gave him the means...and he had killed those other people. So, yes, of course I shot him!” John said.
“And how long did it take you to make that decision?” Merlin asked.
“I only had a second,” John said. “I’d gone in the wrong building. I tried shouting, but Sherlock couldn’t hear me.”
“And do you regret it?” Merlin asked.
“Of course not,” John said.
“So, it only took you a second to decide to become judge, jury, and executioner, and you don’t regret it in the least,” Merlin concluded. “I’m not saying you’re a bad person, John, nor am I saying that I think you should have done it differently. I’m just pointing out that, technically, you could be considered a remorseless killer, and that would appeal to Sherlock, especially since you’re quite obviously a good person as well. Being good is a much greater challenge than the alternative. Why do you think Sherlock solves crime rather than commit it?”
John stared at Merlin.
“I’m not sure what to say,” John finally said.
Merlin patted him on the knee and gave him a grin. “Sorry about that then, I figured you’d be use to it – what with being so close to my brothers.” Merlin shrugged, and reached into his pocket and pulled out a dry piece of toast. “When I realized that you’d probably go to the park today, I nicked this from the breakfast tray at the hotel. I love ducks.”
John watched Merlin break off small pieces of the bread and lob them at the ducks that were closest. Soon Merlin was giggling as ducks from across the pond began to make a beeline towards them, and the ducks closest to them began to squabble with each other. John tried to imagine Sherlock being as delighted by waterfowl. He had seen Sherlock at his most carefree, yet somehow it didn’t compare to Merlin carefree nature.
“I don’t understand you,” John said.
“What’s there to understand?” Merlin asked.
“You’re brilliant,” John stated, “absolutely brilliant.”
Merlin smiled bashfully. "Thank you, John, but I better not get used to hearing that. Arthur likes to consistently inform me otherwise.”
“That’s exactly what I mean,” John said. “Why are you working as a PA? I know Arthur’s your mate – but you could...” John made a waving motion with his hand, unsure what exactly Merlin could do. Solve crime like Sherlock? Run the government like Mycroft? Do all that AND be normal?
“We divided the world,” Merlin said, throwing the last of the bread to the ducks with a sigh. “Unintentionally, of course, but I think it works for us.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mycroft took the upper level of society, the government, the upper-classes, the politics and espionage,” Merlin said, his lip curling a little – just like Sherlock’s, John thought. “Sherlock took the underbelly of society, the lowest classes and the criminals.”
“And you?” John asked. “What does that leave you?”
“Well, one of us has to be the humanitarian,” Merlin winked.
“You’re a PA in a multi-billion dollar international company,” John said. “How does that make you a humanitarian?”
“I’m Arthur Pendragon’s PA, John,” Merlin said. “I know people like him aren’t looked on favourably these days, but I believe in him. He’s a good person. He’s going to do great things. It’s my job to insure that he gets into a position where he is able to fulfill his potential.”
Then the pieces fell into place in John’s mind.
“Does he know?” John asked. “I mean...he says you’re a rubbish secretary, yet it can’t be coincidence that Camelot entered its most remarkable period of success and growth just after you were hired.”
“Oh, that was all Arthur,” Merlin said smiling proudly, and John actually believed that Merlin meant it. “I just smooth the way for him when I need to.”
“But does he know?” John asked. “He’s obviously met Sherlock before, so he must know that at least one of your brothers is a genius. But I didn’t even think that...uh, that is to say, that you aren’t at all like Sherlock in temperament.”
“Fooled you, did I?” Merlin said, smiling proudly, and then he put on a voice, “Poor Merlin, the only ordinary boy in a family of geniuses, it must be so hard for him...” Merlin rolled his eyes. “I don’t fault you for it. People meet my brothers and assume that genius and difficult personalities go hand in hand, but that’s just not true. You can still be a genius and know how to get along with people...even if that means hiding the genius part a bit sometimes.”
“It must be hard though,” John pressed, “to hide who you are.”
Merlin shrugged, and John knew he wasn’t imagining the slight melancholy. “Arthur hasn’t fired me yet, and what we have works. Maybe one day... but no, no matter how hard it is, Sherlock has always had it worse. Sherlock’s incapable of hiding it, not for long anyway, and in the end it led to his death, didn’t it? I thought it had anyway. Everyone turned on him. No one likes a genius.”
“I do,” John said rather pathetically. He could see Merlin’s point. He had been there too, after all. The words had followed them from the moment he first met Sherlock – freak, psychopath. The world had turned against Sherlock and Sherlock had leapt to his death – and for Merlin to have seen that, it was no wonder he was afraid to reveal himself.
“And that’s why I’m glad Sherlock has you,” Merlin replied, smiling. “He needs someone like you. It’s why I wanted to spend a bit more time with you, so that I could make sure you knew that.”
“As you pointed out, I need him too,” John said. “He’s my best friend.”
Merlin nodded. “Listen, if you and Sherlock ever want to take a trip to Wales...”
“Thank you, but Sherlock hates leaving London,” John said, and then amended, “Well, unless there’s a murder.”
“I know, but the offer stands,” Merlin smiled and stood up. “I best let you get back to work. Don’t forget to pick up some biscuits for Mrs Hudson on the way home. Sherlock would have promised her a replacement package for the ones he took last night, but he probably assumes you’ll buy it even though he failed to tell you to do so.”
John rolled his eyes. “Sherlock...”
Merlin laughed. “I know. Why do you think I bought you coffee? You probably only have enough cash with you for the biscuits.”
There was a black car waiting when they walked out of the park.
“Uh oh,” Merlin muttered beside him, just as the back door opened and Arthur stepped out.
“Merlin,” Arthur said, “please tell me you had a good reason to miss our lunch meeting.”
“Errr...John rang and invited me out for coffee,” Merlin offered sheepishly, “...and I uh...forgot about the meeting? Sorry, sir. How’d you know where to find me?”
Arthur rolled his eyes, “Lance.”
“Sorry Merlin!” a voice called from inside the car.
“Honestly, Merlin,” Arthur said. “Your idiocy astounds me – you were the one that booked the meeting over lunch in the first place! How can you possibly have forgotten about it? Do you even have a brain or is it just empty space up there?”
"Were you able to find someone else to accompany you to the meeting?" Merlin asked.
"Gwen volunteered, which worked out rather nicely in our favour, as they found her to be a delight," Arthur informed Merlin with a smile. "I'll have to give her a considerable bonus when we sign this deal."
“Are you going to sack me and hire her instead?” Merlin asked, and John honestly couldn’t tell if Merlin actually thought it was a possibility or not.
“Not today,” Arthur said, and then held the car door open for Merlin, “now get in before I change my mind.”
“Bye, John!” Melin said, giving a small goofy wave, before ducking to get into the car. Arthur reached out and ruffled Merlin’s hair as he passed.
“Hey!” Merlin protested, but John heard the smile in his voice. Arthur moved to get into the car himself, but turned to John at the last minute and gave him a conspiratorial smile and a wink – as though they were in on some fantastic secret... and maybe they were.
Now with an additional story: The Unfortunate Brother: Childhood (is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies)