Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin.
Merlin/Arthur, other Slash pairings. Don't like slash/femslash? Don't read this!
Have wanted to do a modern Merthur for a while now, so here's my humble offering to the Merthur gods! lol
Somewhat out of character Lancelot…but that's because I need flirty, fun friend for Merlin and Lancelot is just too cute to leave out.
Unlike everyone else, Merlin didn't reincarnate.
He was ageless, he'd forgotten how old he truly was now, and how many times he'd been left behind by the others, long dead, to wait alone centuries at a time for them to be reincarnated and return, and then he'd search them out, try to befriend them and wait for their memories to return. Sometimes the memories never did return, but they made 'new' friendships with each other as strong as their original.
But Merlin was sick of it.
He was sick of pining, of being lonely, of always being the one searching, of being alone with only their memories, with memories of him, to keep him going.
After turning the young age of 23 while still in Arthur's Court he'd stopped growing, eternally a youth, and yet the glamour Merlin placed on himself helped him pretend to grow old as the world did, and a timely move to 'live with the children who live across country' kept people from wondering why he never died. He'd just get to his destination, take off his glamour, and start anew as a young man, waiting for Arthur's return.
But this last reincarnation had taken too long, and Merlin had given up hope.
Disgusted by himself, by the pathetic creature he'd turned into, he stopped searching diligently for Arthur or Morgana or Gwen or Lancelot---or even Gaius. He'd dedicated these last three human lifetimes to himself, to studying, to working. He'd been a doctor during one of those human lifetimes, an actor in another, and in this one he'd decided to have a more laid back job and worked as the Head Barman at The Dragon's Lair----yes, he did see the irony.
The Dragon's Lair was a real upscale gay bar known for its celebrities, its discretion, and the hookups everyone who went there tended to enjoy by the end of the night. Merlin, having decided that it was time to be somewhat emo (the gods knew he'd tried every other fashion just out of boredom), and he had to admit that he like the black skinny jeans, nail polish, cuffbands and black, formfitting t-shirts.
"Hey Merlin, luv." Janet, one of the regulars, arrived and smiled, her arm around Lacey's waist, pulling her girlfriend to her. "When's your night off?"
Merlin smiled at the two women. "Soon, then you buy me drinks."
"Cheeky bugger." Lacey laughed as she and Janet walked to the dance floor.
Chuckling in amusement at those two, Merlin continued drying the cups. The Dragon's Lair was filled with different couples, women with their girlfriends and men with their boyfriends, or single men and women looking for those of their own sex to spend the night with…and maybe a lifetime.
Merlin couldn't help but be relieved, once more, at how homosexuality was becoming more accepted, he'd lived through so many centuries of taboo that it was refreshing to be able to walk outside holding a partner's hand or kiss, and not have people coming to kill them in God's name or some crap like that.
Sure, there were still a lot of people out there that still hated gays, that found them disgusting, but with the laws around the world starting to let gays marry legally, it was only a matter of time before the whole world came around and took their heads out of their asses.
For once Merlin was glad he was eternal, because that meant he'd be alive to see it when it happened.
"Vodka on the rocks."
The ageless warlock nearly dropped the glass at the sound of that voice. It was a voice he dreamt of every night and denied every morning, it was the voice that haunted his every memory, husky, happy, arrogant…
Taking in a calming breath, Merlin kept his eyes averted despite the intense gaze on him and hurriedly got the order on the counter before the man he didn't want to look at---didn't need to look at---to know who he was.
Cursing mentally, Merlin returned to drying the glasses and cups, his movements now jerky and tense.
Of course he knew that Arthur had reincarnated, he'd sensed it the moment he had finally been born, and he'd known watching the child grow up on the telly…and while his soul begged him to search Arthur out, to make contact, his heart, hurt too many times from holding Arthur's hand as the man died, refused to.
He'd thought he'd been safe, that there was no way he, a lowly bartender, would ever run into Prince Arthur, heir to the throne of Britain. And yet he was sure that the Great Dragon's spirit, somewhere in the great dragon hereafter, was laughing its arse off at him and sing-songing something like: 'You can't escape your destiny, young warlock!'
"Hey, I know you."
Merlin looked up at Arthur in surprise, and a little fear, at those words. His heart hurt him terribly and his soul longed as his blue eyes met Arthur's for the first time in centuries.
While Arthur was incognito, wearing a baseball cap covered by a hoodie, and a pair of shades, Merlin knew that even if he'd just crossed him on the street in this getup every fiber of Merlin's body would have recognized him.
"You look just like Merlin Emrys, the old Hollywood actor." Arthur's voice had gone awed.
Merlin didn't know why he felt disappointed when he knew he should be relieved. "Makes sense," he shrugged, feigning indifference as he began putting the cups away. "He was my da."
Well, actually, it'd been him, but he'd had a good cover story about having a child he didn't want in the public eye, and that gave him a good identity for when Merlin Emrys the Emmy winner 'died tragically' in a plane crash while he was flying solo over the Bermuda triangle in his private jet.
"You're his son?" Arthur's lips turned up in a huge smile. "I can't believe it! I watched all of his films! He's my favorite actor! Britain's greatest treasure!"
Merlin blinked and turned his back on the young man in case he see the blush on his cheeks or hear the way his heart raced at the fact that Arthur had thought that about him. "He was a good man."
Arthur sobered immediately. "I'm sorry, about your loss."
And he really did mean it.
Merlin didn't know how to react to all of this.
This was the first time that Arthur had reincarnated and Merlin wasn't trying to get passed his prattishness (a trait that not even reincarnation could wean out of him) and become his friend. If anything, Merlin was both desperate for him to leave, and desperate for him to stay.
It was nerve-wracking.
I have to get him to leave. He decided with a sigh and a jolt to his heart as he continued with his work. "So, I doubt King Uther knows you like to sneak out of Buckingham and enter random bars."
There was surprised, tense silence.
Merlin closed his eyes and waited for the sound of Arthur leaving. The royal family were known for being very cloistered, they hardly ever mingled, mostly thanks to King Uther, who had lost his wife to an assassination plot against him and since then had overprotected his son and daughter, never letting them go anywhere without guards.
An army of guards.
So Arthur would be wise to get up and leave now that he knew a strange man had found him out.
And yet the sounds of footsteps leaving never came.
"So, you know who I am, huh." Arthur sighed, resigned. "I told Morgana this getup was idiotic but she swore that this was how she dressed to go unnoticed when she wanted to sneak out and just be human."
Merlin's heart tugged at those words.
How many times had he held Arthur close as the young man carried the burdens of a whole kingdom on his young shoulders? How many times had Arthur just held him tightly, commanding him softly to never leave him because he wouldn't be able to survive without him?
Stop thinking about that at a time like this!
Clearing his throat, Merlin turned to Arthur once more. "Well I don't think anyone else has recognized you, or you wouldn't be here all alone in my corner. So maybe Princess Morgana's idea wasn't too bad, and I'm just a bit more perceptive than others."
Princess Morgana was Arthur's half sister, born only a year after him. No matter how many times they were reincarnated, Morgana and Arthur were always related somehow, mostly siblings.
Arthur was eyeing him oddly. "What's your name?"
"Merlin, actually, named after my father." Feeling fidgety under that gaze, it took all of his courage to not shy away from those intense blue eyes. "Merlin Emrys."
"Merlin Emrys." Arthur suddenly grinned. "How ironic, don't you think? I'm Prince Arthur, and you're Merlin." His grin was cheeky as he waggled his eyebrows. "Got the magic touch, Merlin?"
If Merlin hadn't known for a fact that Arthur was as good as engaged to Lady Sophia Denton, and horrendously straight in this lifetime (which really made him wonder if Arthur realized exactly what sort of people The Dragon's Lair catered to) Merlin would have thought that Arthur was flirting with him.
"Only in secret." He replied with a grin despite being completely truthful.
"Merlin!" A familiar voice called.
Merlin looked up and grinned. "Lance!"
Lancelot was about the only person from his past that he was in contact with during this lifetime, and that was because they'd met up at work. Lancelot was Merlin's right hand man, both working most of the same nights, and they rented flats in the same building, so they'd become good friends without Merlin even trying.
Lancelot's flatmate had then left for Africa as a missionary, and the young man had offered the room to Merlin. And Merlin, hungry for some friendship and a link to the past, had accepted, moving into the flat at the end of the month when his lease was up.
Despite the fact that Lancelot didn't remember his past, Merlin was happy. It made things like this easier.
"No one's come and stolen you away while I was out buying more ice?" Lancelot teased as he went behind the counter, a large bag of ice over his shoulder.
"They tried," Merlin's face was twisted in a smile. "They really did. But I put up a brave fight."
"Good man." Lancelot replied mock-seriously as he opened the container they kept the ice in and opened the bag, pouring the ice within. Finished with his work he turned to them and wiped his hands on his pants, finally noticing Arthur, who'd been oddly silent. "Who's this?"
"Customer." Merlin shrugged, doubting Arthur wanted anyone else knowing his real identity.
"How cold Merlin. And how utterly unlike you to not know the whole life story of any cute guy to come in through these doors." Flinging an arm around Merlin and giving him an affectionate squeeze, Lancelot turned his attention on Arthur, who'd gone tense.
Merlin guessed he hadn't realized that Merlin was gay and the news was shocking to him.
"Merlin here, is the Head Barman, and true to the stereotype, everyone wants to shag him." Lancelot was enjoying himself greatly for some evil reason as he spoke to Arthur. "Even the birds around here feel tempted to go straight again for him."
"Cut it out." Merlin grumbled, elbowing Lancelot in the ribs and escaping his hold. He looked up when a customer came to the counter and tended to the guy with a smile, exchanging a few words and getting a business card before the man walked off.
"See that?" Lancelot was telling Arthur. "Normal occurrence. He keeps 'em cards in stashes under the bed. I try tell him he's messing up my home, to just throw them away or burn them on the cold winter nights, but will he? No. He's too much of a softie."
"Stop defaming my name." Pocketing the card, Merlin threw a towel at Lancelot's head, amused when the other barman caught it without even looking in his direction, still talking to Arthur.
"What's that?" Arthur spoke finally, eyes glued on the inside of Merlin's arm.
Heart racing, Merlin suddenly wished he'd worn a long sleeved t-shirt to hide that.
"What, the tat?" Lancelot asked.
"It's nothing." Merlin turned his back on them, straightening things that didn't need straightening.
"You really are closed-lipped tonight, mate." Lancelot snorted, shaking his head, before turning to Arthur. "It's runic. Means Arthur Pendragon. He's also got another tat on him, of a dragon, looks like an ancient family crest of some sort, it's wicked awesome."
Merlin was going to kill Lancelot.
"Arthur Pendragon?" Arthur asked, voice odd.
"Yeah, you know, like the king? Bloody ol' King Arthur and his round table, cheating wife, and very good looking knights?" Lance was definitely enjoying himself. "You see, Merlin's da was named after the wizard himself, and named Merlin after the Merlin too. So Merlin's always had a little thing for King Arthur."
This time the towel hit Lancelot on the side of his face.
"Oi! That was uncalled for!" Lancelot complained, tearing the wet cloth from him face and tossing it back at Merlin before returning his attention to Arthur. "I think it's destiny, really. I mean, not many Lancelots and Merlins out there and yet here we are, two of us, working together and living together to boot."
"Lancelot." Arthur's narrowed his eyes slightly, frowning, concentrating. "Wasn't he the no-good traitor who stole the person the King loved the most from him?"
Merlin always winced when he heard of the story Geoffrey had made up. "Well, in some fables, older ones, while there'd been an initial attraction, Lancelot wasn't with Gwen at all, she was actually with Morgana."
"Morgana Le Fey and Queen Guinevere?" Lancelot chuckled, turning to him. "They'd probably be customers of ours then if they lived today, wouldn't they?"
"What did you call her?" Arthur suddenly asked.
Merlin looked up, confused. "Huh?"
"Queen Guinevere." Arthur's eyes narrowed. "You called her Gwen."
"Really?" Merlin suddenly looked away, feeling himself blanche. "Musta been a slip of the tongue."
"He's a history buff, mate." Lancelot continued to supply Arthur with all the information Merlin was trying desperately to keep secret. "You should see him when he's pissed! He can't keep his liquor, this one, and he'll start telling you all these stories about Camelot and Albion and King Arthur and everyone from that time as if he were alive when it happened."
Merlin turned to look at Lancelot in horror.
Had he truly done that when he was drunk?
Why hadn't Lancelot commented on it before?
Arthur's cellular began to ring, and Merlin's heart skipped a beat when he recognized it as Cannon in D. In one of Arthur's past lives Merlin had confessed to him how he loved this piece of music. Arthur had scoffed at him, not a fan of Pachelbel himself…and yet here he was, using it as a ringtone.
"What made you choose that specific song?" Merlin found himself asking.
Arthur looked up. "I---uh---I'm not actually sure. To be truthful, I don't even like it." He cleared his throat and looked down at the caller ID. "It's just that, as a child, when I was feeling lonely and sad, this was the only thing that gave me hope, made me happy."
Merlin's black fingernails bit into the skin of his palm at those softly spoken words.
Arthur's gaze was on Merlin.
Merlin's gaze was on the floor, a multitude of feelings warring within him.
Lancelot looked from one to the other and then cleared his throat. "You going to answer that, mate?"
Arthur tore his gaze from Merlin and nodded somewhat mechianically, before flipping the lid open and pressing it to his ear. "Morgana?" Arthur asked. "Okay, thanks." Snapping the lid of his phone closed, Arthur got up and fished out a couple of bills, placing them on the counter. "I have to go."
Merlin nodded, picking up the money, frowning. "You've overpaid. By a lot."
"Think of it as the beginning of a tab or something." Arthur replied, surprising him.
"Tab?" Merlin looked up at him, lips parted slightly in surprise.
Arthur smirked at him before leaving, walking out of The Dragon's Lair, hands shoved deep in his pockets.
Lancelot came up next to Merlin and rested his chin on his shoulder as he wolf whistled. "Couldn't get a good look at that one, but you could tell he's handsome." He turned to Merlin with a grin. "Why do you always get the hunks? Is it the mascara?"
Laughing despite the pain in his heart at Arthur's departure, Merlin shook his head at his friend. "You're acting as if you really think he's going to come back here."
"Course he is." Lancelot blinked, confused. "Why wouldn't he?"
Merlin then remembered that Lancelot hadn't any idea who Arthur was. "He won't, just trust me. Anyway, he's straight."
Lancelot snorted as he pushed away. "His gaze was eating you up! If he's straight then so am I!" He folded his arms over his chest. "He'll be back, you'll see."
Merlin shook his head and continued working trying to get Arthur out of his head, and trying to tell himself he was satisfied with having seen him once, if only for this short amount of time.
Hope you enjoyed!