Chapter nine: The Fortune Teller says Trouble is Coming
Merlin yawned loudly as he lazily stirred his coffee, blinking the sleep from his eyes as he moved towards the kitchen table, slumping into the chair. It felt like it had been such a long week; with all the drama between his mother and father and preparing for graduation. He is so relieved that it's almost all over, tomorrow is The Graduation Ball and today is the last day of school, forever. The weirdest part is when most people finish school they still don't have their lives sorted out, Merlin's future is clear. He will be a parent, maybe eventually get a job when she starts school, maybe he will open an art gallery, like he has often dreamt of. But no matter what career he has, his life will be amazing; for he has the man he loves more than life itself and a daughter that will be his world.
A sudden loud rhythmical rap at the door has Merlin startled, almost spilling his coffee. He quickly abandons his drink and heads towards the front door, he has a strange feeling he knows who is already there, the knock is familiar but surely it can't be who he thinks it is. When the locks are turned and the door fully open he is so surprised that he was right. Standing in his front entrance is his long dark haired, deep blue eyed cousin. She throws herself at him, pulling him into a strong embrace. He can smell the oil she wears; he indentifies it as dragon blood (not as horrible as it sounds.)
Letting go she takes a step back and she studies him as he studies her. She is the same as always. Dressed in tight denim jeans, a corset type of top that is made of purple velvet; she looks somewhat like a medieval princess. That's Nimueh for you; always standing out, always spontaneous and loud and crazy. She is Merlin's older cousin, Hunith's older sister's daughter. They don't see Lillian, Nimueh's mother, much. She lives in New York with her husband and only ever comes to visit every four years or so. Nimueh drops in a lot more, but it's been about a year since he last saw her.
"Whoa Merl you're looking great!" She beamed, stepping inside the house, shutting the door and locking it securely behind herself. "So, where is this famous Arty Pendragon?"
"It's Arthur." Merlin corrected "and he's still in bed."
His cousin rolled her eyes, brushing passed Merlin she navigated her way to the kitchen, where she picked up Merlin's abandoned coffee and started drinking it. "Good coffee."
There was one thing that annoyed Merlin about his cousin: she was so too… chipper. And a bit odd actually, but these traits made her even more likable even if you secretly got annoyed at her random comments or chipperness (if there were such a word.)
"So I'm staying with aunt Hunith for a few days."
"Is she expecting you?" Merlin asked, switching on the jug in order to make another coffee.
Nimueh blushed slightly. "We-ll… no, I wanted it to be a surprise. Plus I want to see you graduate and meet the mysteriously charming Arty."
"He'll throttle you if you call him Arty." Merlin said firmly "so please don't."
The brunette rolled her eyes and held her hands up in defense, her deep purple nail polish catching in the sunlight, "Alright, alright, sor-ry."
Merlin mirrored her eye roll, picked up his freshly made coffee then headed towards the bedroom, calling over his shoulder: "I have to get ready for school. Make yourself at home." Though Nimueh didn't need to be told to make herself at home, she felt as comfortable in stranger's house as she did her own.
Arthur woke to an empty bed. He ran his hand over the now cold sheet; Merlin had been up for awhile then. Quickly getting up, Arthur fumbled around the room, pulling on some clothes and smoothing down his bed hair. Catching a quick glimpse of the time on his way out made Arthur sigh in disappointedly; he'd missed Merlin by half an hour. His boyfriend never woke him up when he got up and got ready to leave for school, which was surprising since Merlin had a habit of being noisy. He must have been one hell of a deep sleeper.
When Arthur arrived in the kitchen he was surprised to find the table set, a plate of scones taking pride in the center and various jams scattered about. A young woman walked into his line of vision, placing two china plates onto the brightly colour placemats. She looked up at Arthur, smiling friendly at him, he just stared, mouth ajar. How the hell had this woman broken into his home? And why the hell did she make scones?
"I'm Nimueh" she was walking towards him, offering her hand for him to shake "Merlin's cousin."
"Nimueh?" he breathed "Merlin's cousin…" realization dawned on him "oh the crazy one?"
"I'm not crazy, I'm original." She grinned "so you must be Arthur" her deep blue eyes raked over his body, taking in everything from the top of his blonde head to the tips of his toes. "Merlin knows how to pick them," She said nodding in approval.
"Uh… can you tell me why you are here?" Arthur asked, feeling uncomfortable under her intense gaze.
"To see my little cousin graduate of course."
"Of course" Arthur mumbled under his breath. "So why are you here, in my house? Making scones?"
"I was hungry." She smiled, walking gracefully towards the table where she proceeded to take a seat and started applying jam to a scone, "Want some?"
"Uh… I'm just a little confused as to why Merlin didn't tell me you were coming" Arthur walked over to her, pulling up a seat.
"Oh he didn't." She said around a mouthful of food "It was a surprise. Thankfully I ran into Will, so he told me that you guys had moved and all that jazz."
"Oh, right." Arthur nodded firmly, trying to brush past the confusion this girl seemed to create. "So… you're not staying here… are you?"
Nimueh shook her head, her locks falling into her face. "Staying with Aunt Hunith, though I heard she's been having a bit of mad time with Balinor being back." Sighing heavily, almost melodramatically, she started to spread jam onto another scone. "Merl said she handled it better then he thought she would have though."
Arthur nodded again, choosing to chew his food before speaking. "She was pretty pissed that Merlin didn't tell her about him being back, if he weren't pregnant she might have throttled him."
"Saved that for Balinor I hear."
"Best slap I have ever seen."
"I would have sucker punched the guy." Nimueh grinned "but Aunt Hunith is a gentle soul, just like Merlin." Her grinned seemed to take on a dangerous edge "which brings me to the topic at hand." She suddenly leant back, crossing her arms over her chest, those long dangerous nails tapping against her pale forearms. "If you ever hurt Merlin again I will slowly and painfully castrate you" as she spoke she leant in, her dark make-up and Goth like clothes making her look like a force not to be reckoned with. "Got it?"
Arthur nodded, swallowing thickly "got it."
"Hey friend" Will's strong arm is thrown carefully over Merlin's shoulder, his other arm reaching over to rest his palm on Merlin's baby bump. His best friend grinned wolfishly at him, it's the last day of school, forever; he's going to make it hell for every teacher on campus. "Mrs. Harvey said I was going to end up a street junkie." He laughed "she said that to my face! The veins in her forehead were pulsing."
"Well you did give her hell." Merlin mused, placing his hand next to Will's.
"Did I ever!" he shouts making some girls that are walking by stop to give him a pointed look, Will blissfully ignored them. "I can't believe it's almost all over! No more teachers or classes or annoying fallow students that just never understood how cool we were."
Merlin laughed, shaking his head at Will's nonsense. "You had more friends than I did."
"Come of it" Will stopped them, moving to stand in front of Merlin in one stride. "You had plenty of friends."
"Name them?" Merlin challenged.
"Well there is me, Gwen and Morgana… uh… um…" he trailed off scratching his head like he did so many times when he was confused or a deer in the headlight.
"And Arthur" Merlin finished "that's it."
"Jamie! Jamie Hudson" Will suddenly yelled, looking like an excited two-year-old, "From drama club."
"He was a really great guy." Remembering the cute dark haired, freckled faced boy bought a smile to his face "but he transferred."
"He was still a friend!" Will exclaimed "and you liked him."
"I was fifteen and it was one sided." The younger boy sighed.
Will turned to him, grinning ear to ear "Well you bagged a rich one in the end." With a playful slap to the shoulder Will bounded into the Biology classroom; Mrs. Harvey's angry shouts reaching above the buzz of students.
Oh he was going to miss this.
A few hours later Merlin slumped down beside Gwen, offered a quick hello and brief smile before he bit into his salad roll. Gwen watched him with amusement from across the table, she'd never seen Merlin eat so much, nor had she ever seen someone eat such strange things. Of course that was all a part of pregnancy and pregnancy suited him well. He had put on weight so he no longer looked so thin and boney and he had a radiant glow that seemed brighter then the sun.
"What?" Merlin asked around a mouthful of food "do I have something on my face?"
Gwen giggled, "no, you just look good… happy, it's really nice to see."
"Oh, thanks" Merlin grinned "you seem in pretty good spirits" he suddenly leant in, nearly knocking over his chocolate milk "has someone caught your eye?"
Gwen blushed, lowering her gaze to avoid her friends. "Well… it's sort of like that."
Merlin's brow furrowed "what does that mean?"
She laughed again, reaching over to pat Merlin's hand "You'll see." With that she stood up and walked away, a bounce in her graceful step.
Merlin leant back in his chair, staring thoughtfully after her. A slow smile graced his face, he'd never seen Gwen this happy, not even when she flirted coyly with Lancelot. Whoever this man was, he was lucky to a have girl like Gwen. With a small laugh to himself he returned to eating his food, silently making a list of who Gwen's new lover interest could be.
Arthur decided (after half a day with Nimueh) that she wasn't so bad, even if she had tarot cards and was a vegetarian and threatened to castrate Arthur if he ever hurt Merlin again. She was actually nice and fun (surprisingly) and in a way she was a lot like Merlin. She didn't have his clumsy streak but she had his witty charm and friendly, caring personality, all in all he liked her. Which was why he let her help him find a job, since he'd been disinherited and had all his money withdrawn from his bank he was left penniless (though she did approve of his painting stealing scheme.)
So now they walked the streets of down town Camelot, dropping résumés off at every place that was hiring, which, sadly, wasn't many. There was the local library, (boring) the pet store, (Merlin would want him to bring home all the pets) and reception at the dentist (boring was an understatement.) Arthur felt like giving up, there just wasn't a job in this town that paid enough money for a young couple to raise a baby. They weren't cheap that's for sure, it had coast Arthur a few quid to get the nursery set up in time for Merlin's graduation present. Though nothing was too expensive for his lover, he'd buy Merlin the world if he were to ask.
"What about being a bus boy?"
"You spent for too much time in New York" Arthur groaned "and sure, why not, where at?"
Nimueh smiled her approval "Coffee Waves. Your first meeting place so I hear."
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Ok, fine, I will give it a short, since it does have sentimental value."
"Excellent." She clapped her hands excitedly, her bangles jangling.
Inside the shop was bustling, rich coffee scented the air, laughter warmed the room and the smiling faces of the staff added that last bit of spark to the atmosphere. Arthur hung back while the customers brought and order they're goods, thinking fondly of the first time he'd approached Merlin here. It all seemed like yesterday when in reality it was quite some time ago, before he knew that Merlin would change everything.
A lazy smile graced his face as he watched an old couple walk hand and hand towards Merlin's favourite table. That would be them one day, sitting down to a table surrounded by grandchildren. A soft push from Nimueh told him it was time to move. With a bright smile he greeted Mrs. Jones, the café's owner, and handed over his résumé. She looked surprised, her old eyes widening in thought before returning to their tiny size.
"Never thought I'd see this." she mused with a soft smile "you're father's not a kind soul."
"I've noticed" he said sharply.
"I'll give you the job."
"What? Really?" he asked, face splinting into a grin "I've never worked a day of my life, I have no idea what I'm meant to do and I can be rude to people" he trailed off when Nimueh gave him a hard slap.
"He'll take it." Nimueh interjected.
"You start Monday, seven AM sharp."
Arthur nodded in agreement, not even bothered by the early hour. He went to leave but he couldn't help but know: "why hire me on the spot?"
Mrs. Jones smiled. "I heard your father disinherited you and everyone knows that you and Merlin have a baby on the way, so I can't leave a father to be penniless, can I."
School was out. Everyone was shouting with joy, jumping around like they had just won the lottery, hugging and kissing friends like it was the end of the world. It kind of felt like it, something so familiar was ending, was over. It was time to move forwards, get jobs, apartments, loans and debts, it was the ending of an era and the future was here. Sighing heavily Merlin breathed in the smell of freshly cut grass. He walked alone through the courtyard, heading towards the front gate for the last time, everyone so alive around him.
So many nameless faces' passed him by, so many people that never gave him the chance; never saw the person underneath the large ears and bony frame. They would forget him or refer to him as the boy Arthur Pendragon knocked up. He'd never be Merlin to them, just the skinny dork who stole Arthur from all those girls. He knew he shouldn't care what anyone thought of him but he's been called so many names and knocked around for all these years and as he goes to leave no one spares him a glance.
They're not sorry they treated him like shit; they don't care if they never see him again and it shouldn't bother him but it does. He crossed the threshold and he's walked out of the school for the last time. With another heavy sigh he walked down the street, finding Arthur, with the sun turning his hair gold and his eyes bright blue, leaning against his SUV, a smile of true love on his handsome face.
All the loneliness disappeared; all that sorrow and self-pity vanished as he threw himself into Arthur's arms, kissing him deeply. He didn't need anything more than this; nothing else could be as amazing, as beautiful as this love. Arthur spins them around, kissing Merlin until some kids passing by tell them to get a room. Inside the car they radio plays softly in background, their fingers entwine together in a promise of devotion.
"I got a job" Arthur said as they pulled up at a set of traffic lights.
"Doing what?" Merlin asked, his tone laced with approval.
"I am, as of Monday, waiting tables at Coffee Waves."
"Really?" Merlin asked surprised "I thought you'd get some high end job or something."
Arthur rolled his eyes as he took off. "What's wrong with Coffee Waves?"
"Nothing" Merlin shrugged "my favourite place to eat and hang out. I just thought it would be…" he trailed off, looking like he'd said too much.
"Be to what Merlin?" hands grip the wheel tight as a small amount of annoyance stirred inside him.
"Not good enough."
"And what makes you think that?" Arthur demanded.
"Nothing" he exclaimed. "Don't mind me; it's just crazy hormones talking."
"I'm not that person any more Merlin." He said definitely "I'm better… different."
"I know" Merlin smiled, reaching those long fingers behind Arthur's neck to play with the hair resting there. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it."
"It's ok my love"
Leaning over Merlin pressed his lips to the corner of Arthur's mouth whispering: "I love you."
With a warm smile Arthur replied: "I love you too."
Merlin stared at the locked door, fingers tracing over smooth wood, turning the brass handle that didn't do anything other than make a slight rattling sound. Behind this door was a room of mystery to Merlin, it had never opened, it didn't have key but he could swear he heard noises coming from inside on a few occasions. Merlin had believed Arthur when he'd said they had no key for it but the more he thought about it the less he believed it. See the thing is, this is a two bedroom apartment and the second bedroom is needed for their daughter and Merlin thinks, he suspects Arthur has turned this room into a nursery, only he won't allow him to see it just yet.
Arthur would have more fun making Merlin think it didn't open, that maybe their new home was haunted; he was a prat like that: a lovely one of course. Keeping his theory to himself Merlin turned away, heading back to the kitchen that was bustling with life. Morgana and Nimueh were busy making Spaghetti Bolognese and drinking Arthur's secret stash of red wine, Gwen, Arthur and Will were sitting at the table, Gwen is amused by Nimueh's tarot cards, Will is texting Freya and Arthur is looking nervous.
Returning to the room, Merlin sits himself down on his boyfriends lap, earning a blush and small smile from Gwen and an eye roll from Will. Laughter erupts from Morgana and his cousin; they seem so alike, almost like sisters with their long dark hair. It's nice to be surrounded by the people he loved, the warm atmosphere settled over him like a favourite childhood blanket. Morgana disappeared from the kitchen, only to return a moment later, pulling Gwen from her seat and twirling her around just as the music started to play.
'The Only Expectation' by Paramore has everyone swaying, humming and singing along. Even Arthur gets to his feet, twirling Merlin around carefully, unlike Will, who spins Nimueh around like a hurricane but the girl doesn't seem to mind. The lyrics and melody force them into a mallow state of mind, Morgana and Gwen hold each other tight, Arthur leads a trail of kisses down Merlin's face and Nimueh and Will share a kiss out of friendship.
This moment feels like an ending as well as a beginning. It's a goodbye and a hello, they welcome and farewell what they have always known in their silent ways. They don't get to bed until late, the kitchen is a mess, Will is passed out on the couch, Gwen and Morgana are asleep on a mattress on the floor and Nimueh has vanished into the night. Sleep claims Merlin the moment his head touches the pillow, Arthur's strong, protecting arms surrounding him.
The morning arrives too soon.
Merlin wakes to find Nimueh cleaning up last night's mess, the dishwasher is rattling away, pancakes are slowly cooking, coffee is brewing and Nimueh looks a mess. Her long hair is an unruly state, those deep blue eyes are glassy and blood shot. She is wearing the same outfit from yesterday only it smells of sweat, alcohol and cigarettes. Disappointment rolled of Merlin in waves; he'd really believed she'd changed, the party girl a thing of the past.
"I can feel your negative energy Merlin" she snapped "I was just having some fun, no harm done."
"This time" Merlin retorted, flipping the pancakes in an attempt to stay composed. "Just don't bring trouble around here, yeah?" The warning gaze given was enough to make his cousins self-assurance waver. "Is everybody still here?"
"Will is, but the lovers have gone."
"Lovers?" Merlin asked, honest confusion clouding his features.
"Gwen and Morgana" she said in a 'duh' tone.
"Oh, they're just friends, really good friends."
"Yeah" she passed Merlin a steaming mug of coffee "'really' good friends." With that she grabbed her own coffee (extra, extra strong, three sugars) and retreated to the quietness of the courtyard.
Merlin crocked his head to the side, surely if Morgana and Gwen were more than friends he'd know about it, right? Shaking the thoughts from his mind he picked up the last mug of coffee, turned the stove off and made his way towards his sleeping best friend. He found Will half on, half off the couch and to Merlin's distaste he was also naked. Strange, he had been fully dressed when he passed out last night. Thinking nothing more of it Merlin says his name repeatedly until he is rewarded with a sleepy grin.
"Hello mate," is the grinning loon's reply "that for me?"
Offering the mug Will gestured at, Merlin sits down on the coffee table, hoping it won't break until his weight. Placing his hands on his stomach he allows a moment to feel for the soft kick of his daughter, she is still, he wonders if she's sleeping. Will has started babbling on about something, he looks wrecked, words slurred and Merlin briefly wonders if he snuck out after Nimueh, he used to have a crush on her. No, Will wouldn't do that to Freya, he loved her, that crush was long forgotten.
"Oi Merlin, you listening to me?" Will asked, waving a hand in front of his friends face.
Clearing his head the younger boy focused his attention on his friend "Yes… no, um… what did you say?"
"It's nothing" shrugging he slowly sat up, reaching for his discarded underwear that were careless thrown on the table beside Merlin. "I'm always losing my underwear" he joked, rising to start getting dressed.
Excusing himself Merlin returned to his bedroom, finding Arthur staring up at him with a heartwarming smile. Crawling onto the bed Merlin pressed a tender kiss against Arthur's neck, breathing in his scent like a drug. Arthur's hands find their way under Merlin's shirt, caressing his baby bump with loving hands that would always be there to hold him.
Merlin's lying motionless on his old bed, eyes scanning the room that was once his, hands caressing his belly. The afternoon light flitters through the blinds, the chimes at the front door jiggle in the wind, the sound of laughter echoes from down below. Nimueh is telling Hunith all about New York and the amazing night life and handsome men, Merlin can picture his mother shaking her head as Nimueh tells her about some bloke she met.
Arthur has gone to get some milk from the store down the street, he's not gone far but Merlin doesn't like being away from him just the same. It's just his mother, Nimueh in the house and he's not in the mood to talk to his cousin. It didn't take long but he can she hasn't changed much, still the same trouble maker from all those years ago; the wild and untamable girl that often got them into trouble.
"Merlin… uh, hi" came the unsure voice of that man that was his father.
Tired eyes open slowly, adjusting to the dimly lit room "Hey." He hasn't thought about this man much lately, school and graduation have been so stressful that it leaves little time to eat let alone think. So he hadn't let Balinor play into his mind, he simply postponed the 'my father is back' stress for a later date. And that date was not now. "I didn't know you were coming tonight."
"You're mother invited me over last minute" he replied pleased "she has been trying hard to understand why I left her."
"Does she know about the deal that went wrong?" sitting up, Merlin studied his father with vigilance.
"Yes, yes, of course." He nodded "she just doesn't understand why it took so long for me to come back."
"Why did it take so long?"
"I had to make sure that the man that murdered my parents wasn't after me anymore." He said promptly "anyway… how are you feeling?"
"Tired… and tired."
"My mother said she slept so many hours with me" he chuckled, strolling into the room further. "Good to be out of school?"
"Did you enjoy your school years?"
"Not really" he shrugged "kinda got bullied."
Merlin had to force back the eye roll. "Not your fault."
"I should have been here to protect you."
Looking up Merlin couldn't hold back the flash of annoyance that stirred within. "Well you left that's that. None of it matters any more anyway, schools over and I'm perfectly happy."
"Well… that's good, of course" he said, stuffing his hands into his jean pockets "It's just-"
"-It's just what?" Merlin cut across rudely.
"Uther is a powerful man, Merlin and he doesn't want his son to be with you, he has some stupid idea that he owns this town and that if Arthur is with you people will think he is weak for having a gay son. He is willing to try anything to break you two up."
Merlin swallowed his fear, memories of Sophia's threats flashing in his mind, her car crashing into him leaving him feeling ill. "Did he ask you to break us up?" He managed around the jump in his throat and the tears threatening to spill.
"Not yet," he replied evenly "but he has invited me over this weekend for drinks, I can only imagine that he'll bring it up then."
"And what will you say? Merlin challenged.
A grin spread across Balinor's aging face. "I'll politely tell him to shove it up his non-founding-family-ass."
Alright guys I'm going on a break to write up some new chapters (cause I have nothing written after this chapter) and get ready for Christmas =)
Hope you guys have a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year!