Chapter 1: Domesticated
Merlin stood on the edge of a stage in the middle of a grand auditorium, his back to the empty seats, facing toward the curtained area in the back. All was blackness, save for center stage, harsh-lit in white.
Arthur stood center stage, casual in jeans and a t-shirt and tennis shoes – and in his hand was the immortal blade Excalibur, the edge shining as it had when he'd seen it last. He was watching stage-right, calmly, expectantly. Footsteps sounded, steady, authoritative, and Uther Pendragon appeared, gaunt and grim under the spotlight. He was armed as well, and didn't hesitate to attack his son.
Merlin opened his mouth, and nothing came out. No shout of warning, no director's instructions. His face serene, Arthur's body flowed into instinctive defense, blocking each strike as though the battle was choreographed, rehearsed. But for the rage and hate that shone from his father's eyes. They spun past each other, steps sure as a dance, and then it wasn't Uther, nor yet Thomas Drake that fought to kill Arthur, but an unknown man, seen only from behind, silver hair and impeccable black suit, and his moves flowed faster and faster until Merlin's heart was in his throat, his body and his magic, like his voice, frozen.
Gwen's voice rose in song from the darkness, Hello young lovers, wherever you are, I hope your troubles are few…
Arthur, face now tense, leaped up and kicked his opponent in the chest, knocking him down. Gwaine and Leon slid into view, prone on the stage floor, to grasp the older man's arms, stretch his body between them, as Arthur stood over the older man, raising Excalibur over his head.
Merlin's head turned to the side of its own volition, and there was Freya, standing very close to him and watching the scene unfold. She held a wrapped bundle in her arms, jouncing it slightly and humming along with Gwen's song.
All my good wishes go with you tonight, I've been in love like you…
Arthur gave a cry of pain, dropping Excalibur to clatter on the stage as he bent over his left side, and a spot of blood appeared on the white t-shirt. Gwaine and Leon both raised their heads to stare at the king.
From the darkness, a chorus hissed, Run, Eliza, run – run! Beside him, Freya's eyes widened, and she looked from Arthur to Merlin with slow and utter terror. Merlin's hand rose, and she darted away, the blanketed baby screaming in sudden panic in her arms. Run, Eliza, run – run! the malicious whisper continued.
A single light came up to the side, and there was Gwen, radiant with expectant new life, voice throaty with emotion but still so true on the notes. Don't cry young lovers, whatever you do, don't cry because I'm alone… Arthur gave another agonizing cry as blood poured freely now from the rent in his shirt, and turned to run also, as Freya whisked past him with the wailing infant. Run, Eliza, run!
No! Merlin screamed, and took a step back. His toes landed on the edge of the stage – but not his heel. He tipped backward into darkness, falling, falling…
…..*….. …..*….. …..*….. …..*….. …..*…..
Merlin's phone beeped on the desk next to the bed. Again. He groaned and pushed his arm out from under the blue-and-white striped blanket, flinging the corner of it back over his body, and eyed the blinking red message light on the phone before calling it to his hand.
It was the second message from Arthur.
The first one was twelve minutes ago, and read, U bsy ths a.m? Need u at th house. The second one that was just received read, M! Sos! Need u here asap!
His pulse quickened and he shot out of bed, changing into a clean pair of jeans and a dark blue t-shirt, texting back Am coming! as he tried not to fall headlong down the stairs.
Gaius turned from the computer with a creak of the swivel chair, gave him a curious look over the top of his black-rimmed glasses as he hurried to the kitchen. "You're up early," he remarked, "especially after last night." Merlin rummaged in a cupboard for a fruit-and-granola bar, then turned to fill a travel mug with still-hot coffee from the pot.
"Arthur needs me," he explained, stooping to ruffle the fur of the white Scottie in greeting. Better than lying in bed sweating through another nightmare, anyway.
"On Saturday?" Gaius asked incredulously. Merlin shrugged, calling his keys to his hand from the rack of hooks on the wall. "But, Merlin, what about –"
"I haven't forgotten," he called back as he headed down the front hall. "I'll drive the Prius today, and get the oil changed and stop at Safeway on my way home."
"Merlin! When will that be?" Gaius' voice floated to him as he opened the front door.
"I'll call you when I know!" he hollered back.
Gaius' silver Prius was parked next to the black Pathfinder that Merlin had driven for the past two years, outside the townhouse. It was a ten minute drive to the home of Arthur and Gwen Drake in Groveton, southwest of Old Town Commons down Kings Highway. Merlin made it in five.
It was almost three years since the knights and Merlin had helped Arthur and Gwen move from temporary quarters in the Drake mansion. Green shoots were poking up in Gwen's flowerbeds around the porch; Merlin grinned briefly, remembering the former queen on hands and knees, wearing a dirty pair of gardening gloves and brandishing a trowel at Percival and Gwaine, directing them in the placement of a flowering cherry tree.
Warning Merlin to keep his magic out of her flowers. She wanted all the credit, thank you very much.
This spring, he wondered, as he came up the walk and leaped the three steps to the porch, maybe she would let him tend her precious flowers. He didn't think it would be high on her priority list this year.
The front door was unlocked and he poked his head in. "Arthur?" he called. "Gwen?" There was a murmur and a muffled clatter from the short hallway that led to the master bedroom to the right. Merlin shut the front door behind him, kicked off his shoes next to the thick brown rug protecting the polished wood floor just inside the front door.
"Merlin!" Arthur exclaimed thunderously, appearing at the end of the hall and stalking forward as he spoke. "Where have you been? Why didn't you answer your phone?"
"I'm here now, aren't I?" Merlin said. "Why? What's the big emer-" He stopped suddenly, realizing that Arthur's upraised hands were encased in bright yellow rubber gloves. And in his right, brandished like a mace, a toilet scrubber. "Oh, hell, no," Merlin protested, backing away. "Not in this lifetime, Arthur Pendragon." He couldn't help a wide mocking grin. "You can clean your own throne –"
Arthur gave him a glare half-offended and half-amused, then hurled the toilet brush with as much deadly accuracy as he'd ever displayed on the training grounds of Camelot, right for Merlin's head. Merlin froze the toilet brush in midair about a foot away.
The brush, but not the water droplets clinging to the bristles, which continued, showering over Merlin's face and the front of his t-shirt. He sputtered, "Oh, that's disgusting!" and lifted his shirt to wipe his face.
"Be glad," Arthur said with malicious glee, "that it wasn't a bucket of scrub water over your head!"
In the space of a thought, the toilet brush spun back toward Arthur. The former king ducked, but that did him little good when it began to whack him emphatically about the head and shoulders.
"Merlin!" The voice of outraged dignity was not Arthur's, but Gwen's. The toilet brush froze midair, dripping. "And Arthur!"
Arthur plucked the brush from its position, and threw Merlin a look over his shoulder. "Give me a minute," he said.
Merlin shook the last of the water droplets from his hair as he moved into the carpeted area of the living room, relieved that the emergency hadn't been more… well, life-threatening. "I came because I thought you needed my help," he called after his friend. "But there's no way that I'm going to –" He stopped as Gwen made her way from the hallway into the living room.
He knew the due date as they all did – April 19, it was five weeks yet almost to the day. And no one knew better than Merlin when Gwen had a bad night, because it affected Arthur's mood the next day. She had both hands pressed against the back of her hips and leaned backward when she stepped. Her customary twinkle was missing, replaced by weary smudges under her eyes. And instead of some cute maternity jeans and blouse, she was dressed in Arthur's clothes, a pair of old gray sweatpants and shirt with the faded logo of Brown University.
And in spite of all that –
He spoke without thinking, "Gwen, you look –"
"Merlin, you best choose your next word very carefully," she said in a low, menacing tone that was almost playful. "Or so help me, I will –"
"You look radiant," he said simply, and it was true. He almost had to squint to look at her, the glow was so sunny. He gave her his widest grin, and pretended to shield his eyes.
She looked at him a moment in astonishment, and then she burst into tears.
"Gwen, I'm sorry, I didn't mean –"
"Oh, Merlin, it's not you," she sobbed, waving his apology away impatiently. "I can't sleep at night. I haven't laid on my stomach in months and when I lay on my back I can't breathe and I worry about the baby's weight restricting his own blood supply and when I lay on my right side he puts his feet way up in my ribs and pushes –"
"Who, Arthur?" Merlin teased her gently, and she smiled through her tears.
"No… but when I lay on my left side then Arthur breathes in my face all night…"
"I said I was sorry," Arthur said, half grumpy, half apologetic, coming out from their bedroom, wiping his forehead on the shoulder of his faded red t-shirt, cleaning supplies in hand.
"Is that why I'm here?" Merlin prompted, "I can put a sleeping spell on you if you like, Gwen, a couple hours guaranteed, no interruptions."
She clutched his arm and mashed her face into his shoulder, mumbling, "Lifesaver."
"How many more days are you working at the doctor's office?" Merlin said.
They answered together, "Fifteen." And Arthur added, "Three weeks." Gwen made a noise like a complaining whimper, and turned to shuffle back into the bedroom.
"Sleep is important, but an SOS?" Merlin teased. "If you need a sorcerer to ensure marital bliss –"
Arthur growled. "I promised Gwen I'd do the housecleaning for her today, and she promised Percival and Kathryn that we'd take care of Katy til this afternoon so they could go into D.C. for a day-trip, and then my father called."
Merlin sighed. "So I'm not here to clean bathrooms or work sleep-spells, but to babysit?"
Arthur said sternly, "You cannot deny that you're her favorite uncle."
It was true. Katy herself would tell everyone who would listen that she "woved Unca Mewin." Her actual uncles, Percival's brothers, were still in their early teens and had no patience for their two-year-old niece.
Merlin sighed. "You could have just said –"
Arthur set the bucket down, stripping off the yellow rubber gloves and checking his watch. "I have to leave five minutes ago," he said. "And I still have to get cleaned up." He headed back the way he'd come, and Merlin followed. Arthur bent over the mound on the big bed that was Gwen and baby, murmuring to her. Then he brushed her hair back from her face and kissed her twice before heading to the walk-in closet at the other end of the room.
"Any last words, Gwen?" Merlin said lightly from the doorway.
"Goodnight," Gwen mumbled, and Merlin smiled as he whispered the words of the spell. It could be done silently at a pinch, but the spoken incantation seemed to last longer, for whatever reason.
"What are you going to do when it's the actual baby keeping you up at night?" he said aloud to Arthur.
"Well, she won't be working all day, then," Arthur said, reappearing briefly to carry his clean clothes into the bathroom. "She and Junior can take it as easy as they like, all day and all night."
The front doorbell chimed. Merlin said, "I'll get it."
"Probably Perce and Kathryn," Arthur reminded him, and shut the bathroom door.
It was Katy, standing on tiptoe to reach the doorbell, pressing it over and over until he opened the door. "Hey, Katy-did," he said.
"Unca Mewin!" She wrapped herself around his leg and began jumping up and down at the same time, rocking them both in her exuberance. He gripped the lintel so he wouldn't lose his balance.
Kathryn, glowing only slightly less radiantly than Gwen, stopped at the bottom of the steps and said in surprise, "Oh, Merlin! I didn't know you'd be here."
"Slight change of plans," he told her, grinning and rubbing Katy's soft brown curls. "Gwen's sleeping and Arthur's –"
"Another bad night? Is she all right?" Kathryn said, bending backwards a little herself and unconsciously rubbing the side of her own extended belly just below her ribs on the right side. She had three or four months to go, herself.
"She will be," Merlin said.
Kathryn cocked an eyebrow at him. "It doesn't really get any easier with the baby on the outside, you know," she told him. "Katy, you be good for Uncle Merlin, okay?"
The little girl was balancing with both her Minnie Mouse tennis shoes on top of his sock-covered foot. "Okay," she said agreeably.
"She has her Hello-Kitty cup in her backpack," Kathryn told Merlin, and he noticed the tiny pink accessory over Katy's shoulders. "She doesn't like the sippy anymore, but only fill it half full and make her sit down to drink or she'll spill. Her blankie is in there too, if she gets tired, and a pull-up for just in case." Kathryn laughed at the look on his face and reassured him, "She can manage by herself in the bathroom, she just needs to be reminded to go. We'll pick her up around four o'clock, probably. Bye, baby."
"Bye, Mama!" Katy said, waving, then yelled, "Bye, dad-dad!" at the Silverado idling at the curb.
"Have fun in D.C.," Merlin called after Kathryn, then saluted Percival, who bent to wave through the open passenger-side window.
Arthur emerged from the bedroom as Merlin shut the front door. Katy sat down on Merlin's foot, wrapping arms and legs around his lower leg and giggling gleefully as he dragged her along the floor into the kitchen, following Arthur.
"Did your father say what he wanted to see you about?" Merlin asked, as Arthur buttoned the top button of his collared gray Henley and turned to empty the coffee pot into a mug and snap on a lid. Merlin seated himself on a bar stool and began swinging Katy on his foot.
"Probably everything," Arthur grumbled. "The latest job for the NSA, the branch opening, the –" He paused, then made a face at Merlin. "The shortcomings of the nursing staff and why can't he go home."
Merlin made a sympathetic noise. Thomas Drake had not adjusted well after suffering a series of debilitating strokes the previous summer. He retained partial use of his left side, spoke in slurred and broken sentences, and routinely forgot details, events, and decisions alike.
It had been hard for Arthur to manage a kingdom with Uther Pendragon sitting catatonic in his bedroom, but Merlin privately thought it even harder for his friend to manage the Camelot Technologies empire with Thomas Drake still clinging determinedly to a power he was no longer capable of wielding.
"Is Leon going?" Merlin asked. Leon was the only other that Thomas Drake tolerated in his presence.
"Not today. He's going with his sister's family to the Baltimore Aquarium."
"Which is why you didn't ask him to babysit," Merlin said. Leon's four-year-old nephew got along pretty well with Katy, and was often a playmate.
"It'll probably be after lunch when I get back," Arthur predicted, grabbing his wallet and keys, coffee mug in hand, and heading for the door that led from kitchen to garage by way of a laundry/storage area.
"Good luck," Merlin told him, and when the door shut and the noises of the engine of the Mustang and the garage door had died away, he contemplated the little girl trying to peel off his sock. "What do you want to do this morning?" he asked.
"Sambox," she told him authoritatively. "You wanna go da pawk?"
"Let's," he agreed, "go to the park."
There was a small neighborhood park just beyond the bounds of the yard, one of the reasons Arthur and Gwen had decided to buy the house. Katy skipped and swung Merlin's hand by his pinkie finger until they reached the sandbox. Then, because there was no one else at the park, Merlin consented to Katy's demand for him to "Biwd a cassoo." They used up all the sand in the box,, Merlin's magic guiding and pushing and shaping the grains to form not only the citadel of Camelot, but the lower town as well. Katy greeted each addition enthusiastically, and set about pushing sticks through leaves to make "fwags" for the top of the towers.
She was pushing two small rock "cows" – Merlin didn't ask her to clarify if she meant "cow" or "car" – through the streets, when a young woman with a little boy arrived at the far end of the park.
Mindful as ever of the secret, Merlin withdrew his magic slowly and carefully, and without it, the castle began to crumble. "Uh-oh, Unca Mewin," Katy said cheerfully. "It's bweaking."
The little boy, around four or five, struggled upward into a swing and began kicking vigorously to achieve some height. The young woman seated herself on a park bench just behind the swingset with a book.
Katy's "cows" became "dad-dad's tants" and plowed their way through Camelot's crumbling walls, complete with little-girl sound effects. Well, that's what you play when your dad's in the army, Merlin thought, remembering the sandbox in his own childhood park, and Will directing their rows of matchbox "tanks" around the four-foot-square desert.
He glanced up to check idly on the progress of the energetic swing-rider, and was about to suggest a change of activity to Katy when the little boy leaned too far back into his next kick, and lost his grip on the chains supporting the swing.
Merlin acted instinctively, freezing boy and swing mid-air, and the mother too for good measure. Then he stood, brushed the sand from his hands and jeans and made his way to the boy just starting to fall. He positioned himself into a reasonably believable running dive, then released his hold on this little bubble of the world.
The boy came crashing down with a shout, and Merlin grunted as he was knocked over on the wood-chip play-surface. "Oh my goodness!" said the mother, looking up from her book, then dropping it and jumping up from the bench.
"I'm sorry," Merlin said breathlessly, righting the boy and himself. "I saw he was going to fall and –"
"Lila I falled!" the boy crowed victoriously, resisting her efforts to brush him off and check for scrapes.
"Thank you, thank you so much," the young woman – not the mother, then, if the child used her first name – gushed to Merlin, who shrugged it off self-consciously.
"Right place at the right time," he said with an easy grin. "Glad I could help."
"I didn't even see you come over here," she said. "Thank you, again. Are you new to the neighborhood?"
"No, I don't live here," he said. "I'm babysitting for a friend." He glanced back to see Katy put her Minnie Mouse shoe right through the front gate of Camelot.
"You're babysitting?" she asked. "That's an – impressive sand castle."
Merlin shrugged. "It's sometimes nice to spend the day with a little kid," he said. "It's uncomplicated."
"Mm," she said. "I hear you. Me and Toby get out of the house as much as possible, it's about the only time I get a chance to read a book."
"Katy!" Merlin called. "Not in your hair." Katy considered a moment, then let the sand pour from her handfuls over the legs of her pants instead.
"And you don't have kids?" the young woman asked. He gave her a shy smile and shook his head. "Not married either, I see," she added, pointing at his left hand.
His smile widened. "Not yet," he said.
She laughed knowingly. "What's keeping you?"
"Oh, just – stuff," he said. "My girl is perfect, but –" he shrugged. "I'm not."
"Hm." She gave him a sharp but amused up-and-down glance. "What's wrong with you?"
"Katy!" he said again. "Not in your hair!" He gave the young woman an apologetic smile. "Her mother'll kill me if she has to wash sand out of that hair tonight," he said, moving away.
"Thank you again for your quick reflexes," she said, and he nodded, strolling back to Katy by the sandbox.
"Time to go home," he informed the little girl, who scuffed her shoes through every inch of the sandbox before hopping cheerfully out and latching onto his hand again.
The back of his neck prickled, and he didn't understand it. He glanced back over his shoulder, and though the young woman's book was again open in front of her, her eyes were on him and her smile was slyly triumphant.
Reaching the front door of Arthur and Gwen's house, he paused to use his mind's eye to gaze over the park without turning around, but Lila and Toby were gone.
…..*….. …..*….. …..*….. …..*….. …..*…..
"Jewwy," Katy decided, kicking her feet against the bar stool and sipping apple juice from her Hello-Kitty cup.
"Jelly with peanut butter?" Merlin proposed, scooping grape jelly from the jar to the slice of bread waiting on a paper plate on the counter to the right of the sink in the Drake's kitchen.
"Jewwy wif… jewwy!" she said energetically.
"Double jelly, coming up," he promised.
From the next room came a soft shuffle and a grunt. "Gwen?" he called, and went to the doorway, sticky spreading knife in hand. "You want a sandwich?"
Gwen was arranging herself in the recliner, one throw pillow under her knees, one behind her back. "You don't have to, Merlin," she said wearily, bending to one side, then the other. "Where is that control?"
"For the –" he said.
"For this heating pad," she said, patting it into place against her back. He called the connected control out of its hiding place beneath the back corner of the chair, and it rose to her hand. "Thanks," she sighed, giving him a grateful look. "Do you and Freya have plans tonight?"
"No, not tonight," he said, heading back toward the kitchen.
"Did you go out last night?" she persisted, and he paused, giving her a smile.
"Not last night," he said.
Katy had jelly across her face from ear to ear. "Izzat samwich for Keen Ghen?" the little girl asked, as Merlin folded the bread and prepared to carry the plate and the tall glass of ice-water back to the living room.
"Yes, indeed, Katy-did," he called back over his shoulder. "Queen Gwen, pb and j."
"Oh, Merlin, you went all out," Gwen laughed softly, and he made her a proper bow to see her smile widen.
"Fine china for Her Majesty, as well," he said. "Or, at least, Chinette."
"I'm sorry," she said, and he looked back at her. "It was the third Friday, wasn't it?"
He nodded, and because he didn't want to talk about it anymore with Gwen, who was particularly intuitive in matters of the heart, he joined Katy at the high counter. It was nice, after all, to spend some time with someone so sweetly uncomplicated, and it was just what he needed, today.
After lunch, Merlin bickered with Katy over what movie to watch for "quiet time."
"Waddin," Katy said, crossing her small arms over the worn pink blankie clutched to her chest and scowling.
"We always watch that one," Merlin complained, grinning to Gwen, who hadn't moved from the recliner except to shift her weight.
"I wove Waddin," Katy informed him, and he sighed, snapping the disc from its case and inserting it into the player.
"Why do you love Aladdin?" Gwen asked, clapping her hands and opening her arms in invitation.
Katy didn't hesitate to climb up into the armchair. "I wove maddick," the little girl said, as if the fact should have been obvious.
"Magic, huh?" Gwen said. "Merlin?"
He shrugged and hit Play, and came to stretch out on the couch. "You better not be getting sand on my couch," Gwen warned him.
"I'll vacuum later," he promised sleepily.
Katy stayed with Gwen on the recliner until the second appearance of the Cave of Wonders, Aladdin's trip deep into the belly of the sand tiger with monkey Abu on his shoulder. Then, when the attempted theft of the giant ruby caused the cave to try to ingest Aladdin and Abu in golden lava, Katy squeaked with fear and scrambled from the armchair in favor of seating herself on Merlin's uppermost hip. He grunted in response to her weight.
"Sleeping here, Katy-did," he mumbled.
"Wake up and save her from the scary part, then." Gwen groaned, easing the recliner back and letting her own eyes drift shut.
Katy watched in wide-eyed silence a few moments more, then, as Aladdin began to rub the lamp, she pounded her little fist against his ribs. "Unca Mewin," she whispered, her eyes glued to the screen. "Maddick, Unca Mewin."
"This part again?" he said, opening one eye.
"Doooo maddick!" she demanded excitedly.
"Master!" said the genie in Robin Williams' voice. "Why don't you ruminate, whilst I illuminate the possibilities…"
Merlin groaned, and Katy giggled, and he half-opened his eyes and began to whisper as the song got into full swing, Friend Like Me. Complete with showering sparkles and coins and dancing flame-camels, Merlin depicted the magic show from the television on the coffee table in the middle of the sitting area.
"Merlin!" Gwen murmured a token protest, and Katy laughed and bounced, and clapped her hands when the cartoon sign encouraged, Applause, Applause.
"Be glad she didn't want to watch Sword in the Stone," Merlin growled at Gwen, who chuckled.
He drowsed what seemed like a handful of minutes until the music announced the triumphal parade of new-made Prince Ali, and Katy began to wiggle and demand, "Maddick, Unca Mewin!"
"Last time, Katy-did," he warned her, and as she jumped down to dance around the room he duplicated the conjuration of the entire parade. By the time the evil vizier shoved the last of it out the door, even Gwen was giggling delightedly.
"No wonder you're her favorite," Gwen said to Merlin.
"Mm," he said. "It's exhausting." He shifted to his back and flung one arm over his eyes.
Should have learned his lesson, falling asleep with an old musical on, last night. He wasn't actually asleep, part of his brain keeping time with the cartoon he knew nearly by heart, thanks to Percival's little daughter. Bits and pieces of it struck him, preventing complete relaxation.
"Why did you lie to me? Did you think I was stupid? That I wouldn't figure it out?"
"No, I mean, I – hoped you wouldn't. No – that's not what I meant."
"Who are you? Tell me the truth!"
"The truth? The truth…um… the truth is…"
His weary brain confused the picture, providing conflicting scenes, in which Arthur demanded the truth of him, and then it was Freya, questioning Who are you? Waiting for an answer, turning to flee from him, clutching a blanket-wrapped bundle that squalled – Run, Eliza, run!
I've gotta stop pretending to be something I'm not. Or, I've gotta stop pretending not to be something I am.
You've certainly proven your worth as far as I'm concerned. Arthur's voice, ironic and amused. Alone on the spot-lit stage in the middle of a vast darkness. It's that law that's the problem… He spun Excalibur at his side as he always had, in readiness for an attack.
Just say the word, Merlin called to him, and you're a prince again.
Arthur gave him a tired, gentle smirk, and held his arms out to each side. All your magic… Blood dripped down the white t-shirt from a tear high on the left side. And you can't save my life.
I'm history… No, I'm mythology… Merlin tried to move, tried to run to Arthur's side. His foot slipped and he fell backward, off the stage and into the darkness. And you can't save my life…
Merlin woke, gasping for breath. Arthur leaned over the back of the couch above him, wearing an amused expression. "Did we lose you?" he said sarcastically.
Onscreen, the blue genie pointed a mocking finger. "Made you look."
A/N: So here is the first chapter of the 3rd installment of the series. Probably future chapters will be longer, but right now no idea how many, I did my outline a little differently this time. But at least 12. And maybe every 3rd day update?
This first chapter is… what I call 'ominously fluffy.'
And here is my warning, disclaimer, what have you – this is the last of the series. That's it. Three. Uno, dos, tres. No substitutions, exchanges, or refunds. And ixnay on wishes for more wishes… :D
U bsy ths a.m? Need u at th house. You busy this morning? Need you at the house.
M! Sos! Need u here asap! Merlin! (Morse code emergency signal 'sos')! Need you here (as soon as possible)!