Chapter 1 – Young Adult Books
Early morning hit me hard. The curtains hadn't been closed last night, it seemed, and the sun streaked in right on my face. I grunted and rolled away from it. My head was killing me. As I recovered from the bright sun rays, I tried to remember why I ached so much. It wasn't a common occurrence to wake up in pain… though it wasn't really a rare experience either. It happened every so often in my life, but what had I done this time?
Now the memories flooded me and I groaned again. That's right. Yesterday I forced the director to let me do my own stunts, which included a fighting sequence. I had been shirtless in the fight, so they couldn't shield me with padding or anything. That would explain the pulsating pain in my left arm. I groaned and rolled onto my back to relieve the pressure on that arm. Here, I let out a sigh. The sun was back in my face.
"Okay, okay," I grunted. "I'm getting up."
I rolled out of my king size, ultra comfortable bed and groggily walked to my closet. With tired eyes and a yawn, I pulled out a pre-arranged outfit. I grunted as I slipped out of my night shirt and into my new clothes. I had no job today so it was just a pair of ass hugging jeans and a slimming shirt. I tilted my head and looked in my mirror. I looked pretty good, but a necklace would make it better, so I grabbed a whistle necklace my producer had once given me and slipped it on. As noted, it was just an inch long whistle turned sideways and hung like a charm.
"Arthur!" a voice called just before someone began knocking on my bedroom door. I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Don't roll your eyes at me, Arthur. Come on, get up! You promised we'd go out today. Let's go!" the voice whined at me and then the knocking stopped and they left.
"Yeah, yeah," I grumbled and snatched a jacket and sunglasses off my desk.
My name is Arthur Pendragon. I was born into fame. My father was a grand producer up until a few years ago, and my mother was a famous actress. I know. I've watched her movies. I was always surrounded by a camera flash, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The press always wanted to know what little baby Arthur wanted for his birthday or what my favorite color was that year. I was always seeing flash bulbs go off, being asked questions, traveling the world with my parents, and being told I would be famous one day.
Famous, I didn't care about. Attention, I did. I loved feeling like everyone cared about me. I loved getting what I wanted. If I had to be famous to do it, then by god I was going to be famous.
It wasn't hard. With dad being a producer and mom being in movies, it was almost too easy to snag a child-role in a big budget movie. From then, things slid into my hands like mail slides into the letterbox. All my life, it's been that way. Some call me preppy. Some call me callus. Some call me spoiled. I don't care what they call me as long as they're paying attention to me. I want everything. I want everyone.
I want all attention to be on me.
"Arthur!" the angry voice nearly shrieked. I winced and rolled my eyes.
"I'm coming!" I yelled back in annoyance. I swung the door to my room open and trudged out to meet with the bane of my existence – my seven years younger sibling, Mordred. When I finally stepped up next to him by the elevator to the suite that was my house, he was smiling up at me as though he were the most innocent creature on the planet.
"Morning," he greeted.
"Don't 'morning' me. Did you push the button?" I asked, glancing up to see the down arrow was indeed pressed. "Well at least you're not a total brat."
I want all the attention to be on me… but not all the time. Also, I work hard not to show that pompous side of me to the public. People tend to praise and worship you more when you're kind and humble. So to the public, I was the dashing, handsome, wonderful Arthur Pendragon. Inside, I was demanding they pay attention to me… in the most moralistic ways, of course. However, there were times I liked not being noticed. For instance, when my brother wants to go shopping… I prefer we not be recognized. When my brother wants anything, sometimes I wish he'd forget I existed and take dad.
I loved attention, but it was nice… every once in a while… to get away and be able to enjoy a day alone. A day with Mordred, however, was in no way 'a day alone'. It was more like 'a day to draw the attention of every paparazzi within a hundred yards to see the two of you together so you have to pretend to love Mordred as if you were the Brady Bunch.'
Honestly, I'd rather watch grass grow.
The elevator moved too slowly for both of us. I was falling asleep against the wall as we descended fifty-four floors. Mordred was a known Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and was pressing every button as we passed the floor it was for so that it would let us off and then return to every floor. Then he'd stare up at me until the elevator binged again and he'd return to his game of pressing buttons. It was a rather maniacal thing to do... which I hadn't realized until the day we'd gotten off only to realize we'd forgotten my car keys up on the dining room table. Ever since, however, I always make sure I have everything before leaving... and I mean everything.
In my jacket pockets I had my cell phone, my car keys, my lip balm, my ipod, two pens, my wallet, and a small wad of cash in case I needed to pay someone to shut their mouth about who we were.. or in case I needed to make a quick purchase.
"Where are we going?" I asked groggily. Mordred looked straight ahead at the buttons as though nothing else in the world mattered.
"I thought you knew," he said, his voice almost a whisper compared to earlier. "We're going to the book store… and then we're going to get ice cream. And mom says you have to get me anything I want."
"Has anyone ever told you you're an extortionist?" I asked rhetorically.
"Only you," Mordred replied with a pleased smile.
The bookstore was not my favorite place in the world. I liked books just fine, but it was the section Mordred enjoyed that made most places involved with books develop a bad taste in my mouth. Mordred liked… how could I put this gently? Mordred liked horror novels and novels about ancient kings and wars. He liked dark books with usually happy endings – or at least endings where things worked out.
Mordred was the kind of kid who enjoyed the Saw movies just as much as Tristan and Isolde. It was rather scary, to be honest. I could imagine him throttling me in my sleep, which was probably part of the reason I did most things he asked me to do.
I meandered through the shelves as Mordred searched for a book to read. He never came with a specific book in mind. He only ever chose after skimming the summaries of at least twenty books. I didn't even want a book. I frowned and hung my sunglasses down around my neck. I wore a beanie on my head that covered my hair so I should be safe. Besides, most famous people could walk around completely unnoticed in public. I would be fine.
I tilted my head back to look up at the top shelf of books just out of curiosity. I was in the fantasy section. Most books around this area tended to lean more toward the sex related romance mushy stuff, but every once in awhile you found a good one. It was near the end of the isle that I found my feet tango with a misplaced book and tripped onto the floor. With an angry grunt, I pushed myself up to my knees and turned to glare at the book.
Instead of a book, however, I found a guy kneeling on the ground – much like I was. He was lithe with slightly shaggy black hair. As soon as I turned to look back, I saw his hand shoot to his head and start trying to mash his hair into submission. As it stood, he wasn't doing a very good job.
"What are you doing?" I asked dryly. His hand froze and he quickly reached forward. Then his hand slowed and he carefully touched the tips of his fingers to the book I'd tripped over. Then, with rapid reflexes, he snatched the book up into his arms and then slid it masterfully onto one of the shelves.
"Shelving," he replied.
"Yeah? Well you should be more careful. What would you have done if I had gotten hurt?" I snapped quietly so as not to draw attention. He shrugged and I dare say I saw a smile on his pale lips. In fact, he was pale all over – as if his skin didn't know the sun or only said hi to it at family reunions.
"Offered you a new nose?" he joked. I frowned disappointedly.
"Are you saying I need a new nose?" I accused. The other male shrugged and let out a short laugh as he picked himself up off the ground. He offered his hand down to me.
"I wouldn't know, Arthur," he replied. My brow creased even as I accepted his hand and let him pull me to my feet. His hand was firmer than I'd expected. His grip was stronger.
"How'd you know my name?" I asked, ripping my hand back as soon as I was up. He didn't look offended, but he did look a bit confused. The male was wearing cheap sunglasses, the kind that really didn't block any light. His gaze was directed down and to the right, and that made me a bit testy. Why weren't his eyes on me?
"I recognized your voice. I hear it on the tv all the time. Excuse me. I need to get back to work," he explained in a very professional manner and turned to leave.
I watched him curiously. I couldn't deny the growing feeling of… anger? He hadn't looked at me even once! He had recognized me and hadn't asked for my autograph! He hadn't seemed stunned or shocked or even mildly surprised to see me! How was that even possible?!
"Hey," I barely spoke up at all. The other male was all the way down the aisle. I watched as he dragged one hand down the shelves of books, stopping at each break to feel something there and then continuing. Every few paces, he stopped to slide a book onto the shelf.
"Hey," I said again, louder. I took a step toward him only to be grabbed from behind by a small hand. The worker stopped and turned his head ever so slightly to acknowledge me. I would've moved to prod him about his actions, but my hand was tugged on forcefully.
"Hey, Arthur," Mordred murmured, tugging on me again and forcing my attention down at him. The store worker continued his walk. "I want these two," my brother said, holding up two rather normal looking books. I glanced over at the vanishing back of the mysterious male as I took the books from Mordred.
"Aren't these a bit mild for you?" I asked, looking over the titles. Inkheart was recognizable but the other was a mystery to me. Mordred nodded.
"I want to broaden my options," he admitted. "I'm growing weary of death books… besides, one of the workers suggested them to me a month ago, but I had been reading the Bourne series at the time… remember?"
"Well duh. You only made me watch the movies three times so you could thoroughly tell me why they were wrong – which you should've known from the start, by the way. No Doug Liman film is going to stick to the book. Now are you sure you want these two? I don't want you to go and change your mind between here and the register," I said. I felt oddly annoyed at Mordred, and not for dragging me out here. I was upset that he'd interrupted me in the midst of trying to talk to that store worker.
"Yep. Let's go," Mordred urged and tugged on my shirt to drag me to the front of the store. I couldn't argue if I wanted to.
The books were cheap compared to how much my mother made in a day. Honestly, the money we made was the only reason Mordred was allowed any book he wanted and any ice cream he fancied. The brat was always changing what he wanted on any given day, so it was impossible to go out and just buy some kind of food for him. Mother said he was in the stage of life where you want to explore your options and test new things. In Mordred's case this pertained to food… and apparently now books.
For a moment I wondered which store clerk had been able to convince Mordred to read children's books. Granted they were higher level books labeled in the children's fiction section, but they were still children's books. I'd like to see who it was just so I could rate my shock. Mordred was usually very stubborn when it came to things he knew he liked.
Instantly, my mind went to the male shelving books that I'd probably nearly kicked in the head while tripping. I wondered if that had been the store worker who'd spoken with Mordred. No. I shook my head. I was putting much too much importance on one random man I'd happened to encounter today. Still, next time Mordred took me shopping here, I was going to find the man again and make sure he gave me the proper attention I deserved.
It was only half an hour later at Mordred's favorite ice cream shoppe that I realized something that made me curse under my breath. My sunglasses were missing. I frowned deeply. They'd fallen off when I'd tripped. Damn. Well wasn't this the start of a perfect day?
-- -- -- -- -- --
"So, Arthur, did you do anything interesting on your day off?" my mother asked. The difference between my mother and my father was the way their questions made you feel. If my mother asked you something about you're day, you felt at ease. You wanted to tell her anything she wanted to know, and you wanted her to know. She was sweet.
"Yes, Arthur. What did you do with your time today?" my father interjected. I frowned. When father asked a question like that it felt like he didn't trust you or wouldn't believe you. It was as if he knew something horribly wrong that I'd done... which I hadn't done. I think it was the way he used his tone and the inflection in his words.... Whatever.
"I bought Mordred two young adult books and a double scoop strawberry mint ice cream cone with a cheery on top," I explained. "Then I passed time in the gym."
The information seemed to take them both a moment to catch. I watched with interest as their expressions turned curious and then shocked. Then both of them looked up at me and away from their dinners.
"A young adult book?" they asked together.
"He hasn't read one of those since... well since I used to read to him," My mother exclaimed in awe. I smirked.
"Yes, well apparently a store clerk made quite the impression on him so now he wants to 'broaden his options'... or I believe that's the way he put it," I quoted off-handedly as though it was as common as sunshine in California. "You know that new movie Inkheart? Yes, it seems he's going to read the book before ever watching it. Remind me to leave the house when you buy it."
"My goodness," father breathed out. Now I felt a tingle of jealousy. Was it really so hard to believe Mordred was reading something normal? They were never this shocked over anything I did... Why were they never shocked at something I did? Was I not random enough? Should I start reading textbooks and coloring on the walls? I pressed my lips together firmly as I thought.
"You know, it's not that big of a deal," I said at length. "They're just books. Excuse me... I think I need to retire before I suffocate."
I pushed my chair back and left the room just as Mordred was walking in. I'd barely touched my food, but I'd only been sitting before it for a few minutes. Mordred followed my retreat from the room but eventually sat down to dinner with our parents regarding him like the missing link.... the little freak. What had he done that was so special?
Back in my room, I found myself brooding. I wasn't a fan of this habit and disliked people to find out I did it. Still, I couldn't help it. The feeling of annoyance toward Mordred was returning in a way it had never occurred before. Starting in that bookstore, I felt as though Mordred was... taking something of mine? That was the best way to put it, but I didn't mean as in feeling like he took the attention of someone from me. No, this was a completely different form of stealing that I wasn't used to. Why did I feel like Mordred had taken something truly special away from me?
A/N: Disclaimer - I don't own Merlin or any of the characters. If I did own it, Bradley would be my new best friend. lol.
No infringement intended or carried out. Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
And that is the only time during this story you will see me do that.
-- -- -- -- -- --
Morgana had drifted over in a long classy dress and greeted me with a curtsy.
"Lord Ryan, good morning," she'd greeted with a playful grin.
I loved being an actor, but sometimes I wanted to strangle some people.
"I thought you outgrew this five years ago! Don't you remember, Arthur? You're actions have consequences!"
Merlin and Will both looked in my direction and stared. For one moment, I thought they were both looking past me. Will seemed to see I wasn't being entirely truthful. He frowned at me and gave me another once over. I bit the inside of my cheek again and winced when I drew blood.