Today's Prompt: Rubbish
A Snippet of Arthur's POV from The Case of the Unfortunate Brother. My Merlin-Sherlock fusion 'verse.
(Merlin-Sherlock fusion, UnfortunateBrother'verse timestamp, 1257 words)
“Go see where Merlin is, would you?” Arthur said softly to Gwen, while his R&D specialist was addressing the meeting. Merlin might appear to be a rubbish PA, but it was unlike him to take more than fifteen minutes to fetch Arthur a coffee.
Gwen slid her notebook over to Gwaine, so that he could take over taking notes, and then exited the room quietly.
Fifteen minutes later, Gwen came back in with a cup of coffee, but no Merlin. Arthur watched, listening with only half an ear to the head of finance give his rambling speech, as Gwen whispered something to Lance. Anyone who didn’t know Lance, would probably have missed the expression, but Arthur knew that whatever had just been said caused his bodyguard some concern.
Gwen delivered the coffee with a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Merlin apologizes for the delay, Sir.”
Arthur wasn’t quite sure what was going on. He took a sip of his coffee. It was far too bitter, not nearly enough cream.
That was when Arthur quietly began to panic. Merlin had not purchased this coffee. Merlin never got his coffee wrong. Gwen, however, frequently did. He tried to remind himself that Merlin sometimes worked in mysterious ways and that it’d hardly be the first time that he’d disappeared for a spell.
Then he watched as Lance stood up and quietly left the room without a word. Lance wasn’t allowed to leave Arthur’s side unless Arthur gave him permission. Something was wrong.
Merlin was missing and something was wrong... and possibly that meant that something was wrong with Merlin.
He wanted to get up and chase after Lance, but if he got up from the negotiation table in such a fashion – well, that’d be the end of it really. He had two chances with this deal - The meeting today and the lunch-meeting tomorrow. If he blew either one of them, it would undo over a year of work.
An absolutely agonizing fifteen minutes later and finally the meeting was adjourned until the next day, both parties claiming to want time to go over the terms of the agreement with their own teams. Arthur didn’t need to see his legal team at all, but it helped sell the idea that Arthur wasn’t getting exactly what he wanted out of the deal – even though he was.
As casually as Arthur could, he packed up his papers, letting everyone else file out of the meeting room ahead of him. He turned to Gwen with a forced smile.
“Where is he and is he okay?” Arthur asked under his breath, trying to quell the pre-emptive panic that had been rising for the past fifteen minutes.
Gwen’s smile faulted, only for a moment. Arthur wanted to roll his eyes at the thought that she actually believed he had bought the lie of her smile – he had been lied to by the very best liar for the past eight years, and she had nothing on him.
“He’s locked himself in a broom cupboard,” Gwen whispered. “He’s... upset. Lance has gone to try to coax him out and keep any gawkers away.”
Right. This was new.
“Take me to him.”
At least Merlin had chosen a broom cupboard that wasn’t in a high traffic zone. It wouldn’t do for the CEO of Camelot to be seen sitting on the floor begging his PA to come out of a closet. Gwen paced back and forth behind Arthur, biting her nails, while Lance stood at the mouth of the corridor, waiting to alert them if someone was coming so that Arthur could retain some dignity.
It really only underscored the fact that there was something very wrong with Merlin.
“Merlin, if you don’t want to come out, then can you let me in, please?” Arthur asked. There was a moment of silence, and then a shuffle behind the door. Arthur watched as the door handle turned and opened a crack and no more. Arthur let himself in slowly, not knowing how big the space actually was on the inside.
Not very big, as it turned out – there was just enough room for Arthur to crouch in front of Merlin in the space left behind after closing the door. Merlin was curled up against the wall, next to a mop, his arms wrapped around his knees, and his face blotchy from crying.
“Oh, Merlin,” Arthur whispered. “What’s happened?”
“He’s... Sh-Sherlock...” Merlin stuttered, breath hitching as his eyes filled with tears. Arthur’s heart sank. Merlin often got melancholy when they came to London because it reminded him of his late brother, but he had never had a breakdown like this before.
“I went to get coffee,” Merlin whispered, after taking a deep breath. “And he was there. He was there with John.”
“What?” Arthur said. “I don’t understand, what-”
“Coffee and biscuits,” Merlin said. “They were buying coffee and biscuits, and he was just standing there... alive. He’s alive.”
Arthur fell out of his crouch and landed on his ass on the floor. He stared at Merlin.
“It was some sort of... trick. It was all a trick,” Merlin continued, fumbling his phone out of his pocket. He handed it to Arthur.
There were dozens of missed calls in the past hour, but Arthur ignored those and tapped on the text-message icon.
I can explain...
Answer the phone...
Damn Mycroft, I thought he would have told...
“How could he be so cruel?” Merlin asked in a whisper.
Arthur was filled with a rage so absolute that he nearly crushed Merlin’s phone in his hand. The only thing that prevented him from storming out of the broom cupboard, finding Sherlock Holmes, and killing him was the fact that he knew first-hand what killing Sherlock Holmes did to Merlin.
“It’s just, I’m so angry,” Merlin said, as though reading Arthur’s thoughts, “but I’m also so happy – so happy that he’s alive, because I love him – I love him and I hated him being dead. I hated it so much. I wanted him to come back, but... was it all just some joke? I thought I knew him... I thought I knew him best of all, but I never thought he could be so cruel, not like this, not to me.”
“You do know him best of all,” Arthur found himself saying, as he stared at Merlin. “You said it was rubbish when it happened, remember? You insisted on it – kept saying that we were all idiots for not being able to see...”
Arthur swallowed, remembering Merlin’s desperation then, the way he devoured every article and news report for clues as to what had really happened. Arthur had seen it as denial, so, eventually had Merlin. They should have learned by now to trust Merlin’s instincts.
Merlin groaned and buried his head in his knees.
“Some Holmes, I am,” Merlin mumbled. “Mycroft probably knew the whole time – why couldn’t he have told me? Were they both just having a laugh at my expense?”
“You’re the very best Holmes,” Arthur said, sliding over so that he could put an arm around Merlin. “Come on, let’s go back to the hotel, you can wash-up, I can see about murdering people who hold minor positions in the British government.”
Merlin laughed. The laugh might have been clogged with tears, but Arthur still felt a thrill of victory at the sound of it. Mycroft and Sherlock might be Merlin’s brothers, but they didn’t deserve to be, not in Arthur’s opinion.