SUMMARY: Merlin is dead. No, really. He has just called the most powerful man in prison a prat. A prat he just happens to be cellmates with.
Genre: Modern AU, prison AU
Pairings: Arthur/Merlin, Gwen/Lancelot
Warnings: Explicit sexual situations! SLASH! Language. Don't like, don't read! You have been warned!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
NOTES: This is obviously a prison!AU, but having never been to prison myself (other than to visit), there are some things that are obviously not wholly accurate. I've had to use artistic license to make some parts of the story work, and most of my knowledge comes from watching Bad Girls on the TV. Which is admittedly not the most reliable source XD
I wrote this fic a couple of years ago, and it was actually the first Merlin fic I attempted, so I hope it's still ok! XD
Chapter One - Roommate from Hell
Biting his lip to suppress his cries, Merlin was escorted forcefully from the court, arms clamped and hands trembling. He moved into the back of the police van in an almost catatonic trance, body numb but mind whirling. Tears leaked from the corner of his eyes, but he remained quiet, determined not to start wailing for his mother; he was going to have to be strong now, if he actually wanted to finish his sentence alive.
He could barely believe it. He was going to spend the next few years confined to a cell, showering with perverts and no doubt having tea with mass-murderers. The whole thing, Merlin decided, was just a little bit shit. So much for the justice system.
He sat through the journey in silence, body shaking, sweat trickling down the back of his neck, feeling weak and confined in his handcuffs. He could barely bring himself to move, even as he van stopped, and merely recoiling from the door as it opened. The officers were forced to try and usher him out, hands gripping painfully on his arms.
He was marched into the jail swiftly - or at least it seemed swiftly to him, in his dazed state - stripped of his belongings and shown to a guard, who had been asked to escort him to his cell.
But instead of the large angry man he had envisioned, the guard was a tall, pale woman, with dark, tumbling curls, so long that they almost reached her waist. Beautiful and striking, she held herself with an air of authority, back straight and expression impassive. If she didn't look so intimidating, Merlin might of wondered how she handled being a prison guard.
According to her name tag her name was Morgana de Fay, a name Merlin made a dim mental note to remember.
"Follow me," she ordered, looking him up and down, quirking an eyebrow, before twisting gracefully on a heel.
Realising that he didn't really have much of an option, Merlin trailed after her, wincing slightly as she led him directly into the prison compound, bustling with prisoners. The noise hit him like a blow to the chest, and he staggered, because this was actually happening. It was real now, and it wasn't going away. He was a prisoner.
He could feel eyes following him as he walked, but he dared not look up, his eyes trained carefully to the floor. He could hear loud voices and boisterous laughter of the other prisoners around him, and could not stop the feeling of dread settling in his stomach.
He was shy and awkward at the best of times - big crowds and community living wasn't really his thing.
He was eventually led to a cell, down the end of a corridor and up some stairs, which he supposed would be his home for the foreseeable future.
Morgana stood back and allowed him to enter, no doubt giving him the opportunity of assess his new room alone. And just as he imagined, it was small, dark and square, with a steel bunk bed pressed up against one wall.
In fact, the most interesting thing about the whole room was not the décor, but the occupant, who was laying on the bottom bed and flicking through a magazine with disinterest.
From what Merlin could see he was tall and blond, well-built and with a faint tan. His hair fell softly around his face, but his features were sharp and angular, like a model, and he indeed wore the same haughty expression. He was wearing dark jeans and a white vest top, which exposed his long muscular arms that flexed as he moved.
The shallow side of Merlin couldn't help but be pleased by the stranger's appearance, because on any other day he'd be drooling where he stood - but there was a voice at the back of his mind, quiet and mocking, insisting that the man was probably a murderer. A cold, hard murderer, who would kill him while he slept. It wasn't a happy thought.
And as if to confirm Merlin's suspicions, upon his entrance, the man looked up and fixed him with a rather unpleasant steely blue-eyed stare, destroying any hopes of a somewhat comfortable living environment. Merlin resisted the urge to groan, and his stomach sank swiftly through the floor.
"Do I know you?" the blond asked, eyes narrowed, as Merlin shifted uncomfortably under the scrutiny.
Thrown by being addressed so rudely, he stuck out his hand, and announced, "Uh, I'm Merlin."
"So, I don't know you?" the stranger responded, ignoring the offered hand completely and continuing to eye him dubiously.
"Um, no," Merlin replied uncertainly, feeling slightly dazed by the piercing blue of the man's eyes. His instincts were practically screaming at him to cower - to simply turn and flee the room - but he was as good as trapped, and he'd never been very good at running anyway.
"You're the new prisoner," the blond continued, seemingly talking to himself more than Merlin. He looked thoughtful now, rather than threatening, but his eyes were still trained unblinkingly on Merlin's face.
"Um, yes," he confirmed, although the stranger had not phrased his statement as a question.
The blond raised an eyebrow, looking decidedly unimpressed with Merlin's response. Throwing him one more distasteful look, he turned back to his magazine and continued to read, evidently having grown bored with the whole conversation, and indeed Merlin in general.
The dark-haired hovered awkwardly in the middle of the room, unsure of what to say, when in a stroke of unusual luck, the pretty guard came in behind him.
"I see you're already acquainted," she said, eyeing the blond man warily, which did nothing to quell Merlin's fear. If the formidable Morgana was afraid of him, Merlin was most definitely screwed. "Pendragon, this is your new roommate, Merlin Emrys. Emrys, this is Arthur Pendragon."
The stranger - Arthur, apparently - merely gave him a small grunt of acknowledgement, and flipped carelessly through the pages of his magazine, far too quickly to actually be reading anything.
"So, Emrys," Morgana continued breezily, evidently having not expected any other reaction from Arthur, "You will be expected to keep to a schedule. Breakfast is at seven every morning, and showering takes place from eight 'til nine. You'll have lunch at twelve and dinner in the evening at six to seven. During the day you'll be expected to do work, with a few hours of spare time each day, depending on the rota."
Merlin was unable to do anything but nod, mind whirling with the onslaught of information. It was all starting to seem so real. He really was going to have spend the next three years living in fear, confined to a cell and eating on command - like nothing more than an animal.
"Lockdown at eleven each night, when we close all the cells," the guard said, evidently not sensing Merlin's mounting distress. "Any questions?"
Merlin shook his head, despite knowing that in his panic he'd probably missed half the speech; he just couldn't even bring himself to care. All he wanted to do was go home, curl up in his bed and drift off into a deep peaceful slumber.
Unfortunately, he had a feeling he'd be sleeping with one eye open for the next three years, just in case his new roommate tried to spontaneously attack him, as he'd heard most criminals were known for doing. After all, the blond certainly had the muscles for it.
"Well, I'll leave you to it then," the guard finished, giving Merlin a small quirk of her lips. Giving both prisoners a quick nod of the head, she turned and left the room in a show of effortless grace, shutting the door and bolting it firmly shut behind her.
He stood in the middle of the room, unsure of where to look, fidgeting uncomfortably and wringing his hands. He was going to die here, he knew it. And probably a slow painful death, if the expression on Arthur's face was anything to go by.
"Stop fidgeting," the blond said, after a period of long strained silence. "It's annoying."
Merlin scowled but said nothing, his anxiousness only intensifying.
"Seriously," Arthur snapped, "Stop it!"
"I'm not doing anything!" Merlin retorted, unable to help himself, flinging up his arms in distress. He was only standing still, for god's sake!
"You're hovering," Arthur replied, his lip curling into an ugly sneer - that still looked annoyingly attractive. He'd now thrown his magazine onto the bed beside him and was crossing his arms, eyeing Merlin as though he was something very unpleasant indeed.
"Oh sorry," the dark-haired man squawked, although he'd meant for it to sound sarcastic. "I'm sorry for breathing!"
Arthur raised an eyebrow and smirked, tossing a piece of blond hair out of his eye. "You will be sorry for breathing soon enough - you're going to be eaten alive in here."
Merlin tried to ignore the fact that the blond looked positively delighted by the prospect, his heart doing somersaults in his chest.
"Look, you don't have to be such a prat," he cried, curling his fists, his defensive instinct seemingly overtaking his general common sense. "I haven't done anything!"
For one brief moment, Arthur's mouth opened slightly in surprise, before he quickly snapped it shut, expression morphing into one of twisted amusement. He climbed to his feet and approached slowly, as though knowing it would frighten Merlin further, and looked the other man directly in the eye. Although his movements were somewhat predatory, his eyes were gleaming and his lips curling, contorting his features into something that should have been unattactive, but was still sort of sexy - and terrifying.
He really was a very good-looking man, Merlin realised.
"Did you just call me a prat?" he asked softly, looking up from under his eyelashes.
If he hadn't of been so scared, Merlin might have found the action seductive, but his heart was pounding nevertheless. He could do nothing but give a sheepish nod, wondering vaguely if Arthur was going to punch him.
But the blond did nothing, only continuing to watch him with a strange sort of amusement, as though Merlin was some sort of circus freak that had appeared for his entertainment.
When he spoke a moment later, however, his voice was low and dangerous, causing Merlin to jerk backwards slightly, and hold his breath in anticipation. "Don't do it again," he breathed, eyes dancing, "Or I'm going to have to hurt you. And I don't want to do that, 'cause I really wanted to give the other's the satisfaction of destroying you."
Merlin let out a breath, his heart lodged painfully in his throat, unable to voice any sort of coherent reply.
He was sure Arthur was referring to the rest of the prisoners when he said 'others', although he couldn't be sure. Which wasn't exactly a comforting thought. The blond was right: he was going to be eaten alive.
"We clear?" Arthur asked cheerfully, flashing a very toothy grin.
Merlin blinked, frozen in shock, fear and horror, and made a faint gurgling noise.
"This is the part where you agree," the blond prompted.
And surprisingly, Merlin found himself doing just that. Giving his head a jerky nod, he staggered to the bunk bed - wishing to put as much distance between himself and Arthur as possible - and climbed to the top on shaky legs, all but collapsing as soon as he reached it.
He heard Arthur give a satisfied chuckle and winced, burying his head under the small stiff pillow and preying to the high heavens that it was all just some very warped, very scary, dream.
His mind was a jumble of thoughts and feelings, his roommate's words echoing painfully through his head. He was looking forward the next day even less than before, if that was possible, positively dreading having to face the rest of the prisoners, who would no doubt be just as nasty as his roommate.
And try as he might, he could not shake the image Arthur's smirking face from his mind.
He stayed awake for hours, churning the day's events over in his mind, vaguely hearing his roommate preparing himself for bed. Eventually all went quiet and he began to drift himself, settling down into a very uneasy sleep.
The next morning he dragged himself out of bed at first light with very great reluctance.
Although his bed was cramped and uncomfortable, it was undoubtedly better than what waited for him on the outside, a thought that only succeeded in depressing Merlin further.
But realising he had little other choice, he detangled himself from his blankets and let out a breathy yawn. Having never undressed the night before he simply straightened his shirt and ran a hand through his hair, slowly descending the ladder of the bunk bed.
Arthur, he discovered, was still asleep, the morning sun filtering in through the window and shining off his hair. He looked peaceful and unthreatening, so much so, Merlin momentarily wondered why he had been so afraid the day before. Maybe it was just a really big misunderstanding?
That was until Arthur's eyes opened with a snap, and he fixed Merlin with a very impressive early-morning glare.
"Are you watching me sleep?" he croaked, expression incredulous, as though he just couldn't quite believe the dark-haired man's nerve.
"No!" Merlin retorted defensively, widening his eyes in what he hoped was a look of supreme innocence.
Arthur didn't look mad though, only confused, sitting up in bed and ruffling his hair. He was obviously quite delirious in the morning, and completely unable to deliver any kind of threats, something that Merlin found endearing, despite himself. Arthur looked sort of cute all messy and disorientated.
Until he spoke, that is.
"Stop perving, you idiot!" the blond snapped, after Merlin had continued staring for a number of minutes. "I'm tired, not blind!"
Merlin spluttered and hastily turned away, cursing his over-active hormones and wishing to dissolve through the floor. For all he knew he could be admiring a murderer - one who had already threatened him the night before. It was a thought that made him feel slightly nauseous, and even more uncomfortable.
Shaking his head and making a quick exit through the now open door, he made his way down the stairs, to the canteen, and joined the end of the breakfast queue, feeling decidedly more jittery than he had before.
He stood holding his tray stiffly, avoiding the eyes of the curious stares that followed him, obviously having realised he was the new prisoner. He kept his gaze firmly on the ground, attempting to block out everything and everyone around him, hoping that if he ignored them, they would ignore him.
Or at least he had been, until someone spoke directly into his ear.
"Alright?" asked the voice cheerily, causing Merlin to reel in surprise, and almost hit the man in the face with his flailing arms. He hadn't even noticed the man's approach.
"I'm Will," the stranger exclaimed, giving Merlin an easy grin that seemed strangely friendly. He was short but slender, with messy brown hair, and he was eyeing Merlin with obvious interest.
"I'm Merlin," he replied, responding to the warmth and friendliness of the man's introduction, despite his better judgement.
"You're the newbie, huh?" Will asked, as they moved further up the breakfast queue.
"Don't need to look so terrified mate, I'm just asking a question," Will smiled, evidently sensing Merlin's wariness - not that he was being terribly good at disguising it.
He sighed, giving the seemingly kind stranger an apologetic shrug, and offered, "Sorry, it's just the introductions so far haven't been particularly pleasant."
"Yeah, you get that a lot here," Will agreed, in an understanding sort of tone. He approached the breakfast bar and began spooning lumpy porridge onto his tray, looking at the newbie through the corner of his eye, as though subtly trying to assess him.
Merlin followed suit, and made an brief attempt to disguise his disgust as the concoction got stuck to his spoon.
"So, who you rooming with?" the dark-haired stranger asked a second later, taking a stab at conversation as they moved away from the bar.
"Someone called Arthur," Merlin replied, following the lead of the other man ushering him towards a table in the cafeteria, figuring staying with a familiar face was somewhat safer than his other options. He really didn't want to go and sit with the men with tattoos, piercings, and more muscle than he thought was physically possible.
"Arthur Pendragon?" Will gaped, frowning as they took their seats.
"Yeah…" Merlin prompted, growing increasingly terrified by the look on his fellow prisoner's face. If Arthur did turn out to be a murderer, he was going to kill himself now, and prevent the blond from having the satisfaction of doing it for him.
"Dude, unlucky," his new friend commented, spooning large portions of porridge into his mouth. "Arthur's a bit of a loose canon."
"What do you mean?" Merlin asked fearfully, throat so dry he was unable to swallow his breakfast. He had a horrible feeling he wasn't going to like the answer.
"He's just the big man 'round campus, as it were," Will said through a mouthful of food, giving a small shrug.
Merlin groaned. He'd called the most powerful prisoner in the whole jail a prat. He was so, so dead.
"That's just great," he moaned, running a hand through his hair and attempting not to make a bolt for the door. It wasn't like the guards were simply going to let him go.
"Don't sweat it man," Will remarked, in a tone probably intended to be comforting. He waved a casual hand. "He won't bother you if you don't bother him." He swallowed loudly, mouth open, before adding, "So, what you in for?"
"Fraud," Merlin replied automatically, mind still focused on the details of his own tragic murder. "Wasn't me though."
Will laughed, like he'd heard the words a million times before. "Sure it wasn't."
The dark-haired man scowled in response, but realising it pointless to argue, he merely eyed his new friend critically. "What about you?"
"Vandalism, theft, indecent exposure, drunk and disorderly behaviour…" Will listed, puffing out his chest and giving Merlin a cheeky grin. He looked quite proud of his crimes, face happy and relaxed as he ate. It made Merlin feel unexplainably jealous.
They ate in companionable silence for a number of minutes, both happy to just sit and eat, when a bustling new crowd entered the cafeteria, and utterly destroying the atsmosphere.
At its centre was Arthur himself, looking sombre and moody, despite the joking atmosphere of the people surrounding him. It looked almost like a gang, and Merlin realised with a sinking heart that it probably was, with Arthur as it's leader.
The group descended on a table in the far corner, all fluttering around the blond anxiously, as though fearing his wrath. It was strange to behold, because Arthur looked so pretty and lithe in comparison to his companions, the majority of which were heavy and bald. Most had tattoos curling up thier arms, and were older, with multiple piercings and sunken eyes.
"What's Arthur in for?" Merlin asked Will, unsure of whether he wanted to know the answer, but unable to stop himself.
"In for GBH, I heard," his new friend replied, looking over at Arthur's table with a dismissive glance. "Nobody's really sure though. But he's been here a while. Since he was 18, and he's 21 now."
"How come everyone is doing as he says?" Merlin wondered, watching in fascination as Arthur waved a large bald man out of his seat. The man's jaw flexed dangerously, but he moved, allowing the blond spread himself casually across the bench. "He doesn't seem as threatening as some of the others."
"He's stronger than he looks," Will remarked. "And he's the best fighter here. People say he could kill a person with one finger, although I'm not sure how true that is."
Merlin let out a choked moan.
"Besides everyone in this prison wants a bit of Arthur," Will said with a ferocious grin. "He's a good looking guy. Most have got him too."
"He's gay?" Merlin asked in surprise, eyes flickering to the muscled blond. He knew that he shouldn't make generalisations, but Arthur looked really, well, straight. Like a high-school jock that was amazing at every sport, and had a million hot girlfriends - probably cheerleaders.
Will shrugged, and took a large bite out of his bread. "Don't know. Might just be for convenience, as there are no women here. That's what it is for most of the men."
"Oh," Merlin replied, feeling a little bit thrown. The fact that Arthur apparently slept around and wasn't even gay boggled his mind slightly. "So he fucks everyone, even though he's straight?"
"I didn't say that. He doesn't fuck many people, or get fucked at all, as far as I'm aware," Will mused, as though they were talking about the weather. He downed his milk noisily and looked contemplative, eyes flicking swiftly in Arthur's direction. "It's mostly hand jobs and blowjobs, I think."
Merlin, who was half-way through his own milk, choked, fixing his new friend with a disbelieving expression.
Will laughed and patted him on the arm, as though he was a timid animal about to be eaten. "Oh, don't be such a prude. You're not going to survive very long in here otherwise."
Merlin flushed and gave a small shrug, eyes finding Arthur once more. The blond was conversing with a slender, dark-haired man in hushed whispers, faces angled towards each other and shoulders touching. Arthur was smirking slightly, lips curved at one corner and eyes gleaming.
Will - obviously following his gaze - kicked his leg under the table, and effectively jolted him out of his reverie. "You don't want to get caught staring mate, Arthur will rip you apart," he warned, giving Merlin a blinding smile.
"Who's that man he's talking to?" Merlin asked, unable to stop himself. Arthur and the dark-haired man looked cosy, and Merlin would be lying if he said that he wasn't a little bit envious. He'd give anything to have the undivided attention (and not the violent kind) of someone so beautiful; they looked like the people from the movies, stunning and annoyingly untouchable.
"Oh, that's Lancelot," Will replied, turning his apple over in his hands. "Probably the closest thing Arthur has to a friend in here. Everyone else just hangs around him 'cause he's powerful. Not Lancelot though. They're fuck-buddies apparently - the only person in here who's had a repeat performance with Arthur, if you catch my drift."
Merlin blinked, feeling even more deflated despite himself. "Oh."
Will studied him for a second before shaking his head, throwing him an amused grin. "God, I know that look. Don't go getting attracted to Arthur, mate." Before Merlin could splutter his protest, Will continued with a sarcastic roll of his eyes, looking up at the heavens. "Trust me when I say, he's not worth it. He may be pretty to look at, but get on the wrong side of him and you're as good as dead."
The words hit Merlin like a blow to his chest and he nodded, shaking off the sick feeling in his gut. He knew Will was right. He was far out of his depth as far as Arthur was concerned, and he knew it. Attractive though Arthur was, in addition to being a complete and utter prat, he apparently had very violent tendencies - a quality Merlin did not usually look for in potential partners.
"Don't worry, I wouldn't touch such a asshat with a ten foot barge pole," he said eventually, giving Will a smile. He shook his head, attempting to lighten the mood, and asked, "So, have you ever got to get frisky with Arthur?"
"Frisky?" Will laughed. "You're so lucky you have me, seriously."
Merlin raised his eyebrows, prompting him slightly.
"Yes, I have," Will admitted, with a roll of his eyes. "Got to give him a hand job. He's got a gorgeous body, you'll see for yourself in the showers. I dreamt about it for weeks after, but that's all that ever happened. As I said, you only get one chance with Arthur. Unless you're Lancelot, that is."
Merlin let out a choked laugh, which he wished didn't sound so strained, but said nothing, eyes downcast.
"Not worth it mate," Will repeated, obviously sensing Merlin's mood. He gave his hand a small squeeze and returned to his lunch, happily munching away as Merlin brooded opposite him.
It was going to be a very long day.
A/N Takes hours to write and only minutes to review, so please R&R! :)