Disclaimer: …if I owned Merlin, do you think I'd be writing fan fiction? And that the knight's uniforms would be more than a cloak, tight pants, and…yeah, that'd be it. The moral: I don't own the series.
A/N: *shrug* had the idea in my mind for ages, haven't written Merlin in ages, decided to go for it. Watched five million and twenty you tube videos where Merthur happened in the future. Spent a ridiculous amount of time primping and polishing the fic. Fic is here.
Oh, and oodles of thanks go out to Sofiajedi, because she read this whole thing. And pointed out mistakes to me. Bffls rock.
"It'sh true, I swear!" Gwaine said, his voice slurred. "The college hahs a ghost!"
"Piss off, Gwaine." Arthur said. His voice was, to his credit, not as slurred despite having had at least as much beer as Gwaine. Though the hiccup at the end of the statement belayed the previous point. "There is no ghost haunting our college."
"Yeah there is!" Gwaine insisted. They were on the couch in the midst of one of the infamous frat parties of Camelot University, and both were tragically shitfaced. To the point of arguing about the legendary "university ghost".
"This college isn't that old." Arthur replied, taking another sip of beer. Lancelot was already passed out on another couch with Gwen-they were both terrible lightweights. And the sight of them made Arthur's stomach clench, even if he did give a reluctant okay for Lancelot to date his ex. But the news both ways had been delivered by Morgana, so god knows what Lancelot had gotten from it.
Apparently enough positive feelings to decide that being a disgustingly cutesy couple with Arthur's ex girlfriend, while Arthur was right there, was cool. Arthur took another gulp of beer.
"Yes it is! It's built on historic foundation, and half the walls are from the original! They couldn't tear them down, y'see." Gwaine leaned forward confidentially. "Elena told me, she's a history buff."
"Was that the vapid blonde with a kink for cupboards?" Arthur asked.
"No no, that's Vivian. Elena was the athletic, intelligent one. You know, that gorgeous fuck buddy I had until she had to go to Asia on some mission for wildlife?" That clicked. Arthur had still been with Gwen, so he wasn't allowed to ogle, but Elena had been fun enough to hang around even without ogling. Besides, Gwaine stared at her enough for the both of them. "Anyway, she said that when they tried to rip down the walls to build the college they couldn't do it, and somebody came in and declared that these were the soundest walls they'd ever seen, so most of the foundation is original. It's why we've got all those twisty corridors and all the offices are in the lower parts. They used to be vaults."
"Uh huh." Arthur swallowed more beer. Now Morgana had joined the collection of people passed out on the floor. "That doesn't give it a ghost."
"No, but there is one. Deep below" Gwaine's voice took on a mystical quality "in the sealed away depths, he lurks. I swear I heard him once, clear as a bell, telling me to dump Sophia because she had an std. Two days later, she shows up trying to claim that I gave her genital warts." Gwaine snorted. "I'd never touched her, so that died down pretty fast. But still, it's a benevolent ghost."
"Liar. You found that out from Morgana." Gwaine shook his head vigorously.
"That was after I dumped her." Arthur rolled his eyes and realized his bottle was empty. That was okay, because by now he had a pretty heavy head and was starting to think that maybe he'd had enough. Besides, Gwaine had multiplied and that meant nothing he said could ever be valid. Gwaine's strings of information collected from various ex girlfriends meant nothing.
"Mr. Pendragon. Your paper." Arthur's brain throbbed. Why had he gone to that party? Why hadn't he just let his friends get drunk because Lancelot finished finals, Gwen had done all her essays at the start of term with Morgana so they could skip together, and Gwaine was probably banging half his teachers and was brilliant besides. They'd have had a perfectly good time without him. He could have gone to the library with Leon and written his goddamned paper, but no.
No, he had to party on. Had to be cool. Had to be staring at Professor Geoffrey's outstretched hand and stack of papers, head aching with a terrible hangover, and be realizing that he'd absolutely forgotten about that paper. That final grade determining paper.
"I, ah, need more time." Professor Geoffrey stared. "I needed to put in a request with the administration, and they didn't get back to me."
Ah hah. Geoffrey's hatred of the administration was legendary. He saw the first bits of sympathy show up immediately in the professor's eyes.
"What was that?"
"I…wanted to go deeper into the foundation, past the offices and past where the renovations took place." Arthur bullshitted. There were a couple of storerooms under there, where piles of papers and rats lived. "Those rooms are locked up, and I had to get a key. My paper is about the origination of legend of the ghost and it's effect on the psychology of our student body."
Professor Geoffrey, miraculously, looked appeased. "I understand your problems with the administration Mr. Pendragon. However, I can only grant you another week to have the paper finished. Luckily, the janitor of this wing has a set of keys to those wings. I'll put in a good word."
Great. Arthur's half finished paper had been on campus dialect and how it related to the student body's mood and culture. Now he had thirty pages to write from scrap. And a ghost to investigate.
God, he hoped Gwaine still had Elena's number.
"You…" Gwaine broke down into manly chuckles again. "You have to write a paper on the ghost? In a week?"
Arthur glared at him. Why, exactly, was Gwaine his best friend? Other than being his roommate and therefore unfortunately always there, Gwaine served no practical purpose. He just bsed all his classes with amazing brevity, threw mind endingly amazing parties, and slept with everyone on campus. Twice.
Arthur was likely the only exception. Leon, he'd done. In the beginning of the year, when Leon had the single room across the hall from them and Arthur still didn't know him as anything but "that tall bloke who looks serious".
Lance yes, but they'd both been drunk off their asses and unlucky in love. Arthur had been dating Gwen, and actually had morals, and standards, and was having way too much fun mocking them both. Or mocking Lance, since Gwaine cheerfully offered to put the news in the campus newspaper whereas Lance couldn't look at Gwaine for a month without blushing.
That was what friends were for. Mocking. Not laughing at the pain of another friend, when it was their damned fault for throwing a party!
"Are you going to help or not?" Arthur growled. Gwaine controlled his laughter and nodded, taking out his cellphone.
"I'll call Elena now." Arthur raised his eyebrows.
"You still have the number memorized?"
"Shut up. Elena, hey! Listen, my idiot roommate-you remember, the one who was out to prove all the blonde stereotypes right-has gotten himself into a conundrum, and if you could help him out by providing some enticement" Arthur snatched the phone.
"Hi Elena. Look, I've sort of balled my way into writing a paper on the ghost, and I was wondering if you could help me out? Please?" Normally Arthur made it a point to not sound pathetic, but this was very, very, important.
Luckily, it wasn't necessary. Elena was happy to take time from her "save the wild horses" campaign to blabber about what had apparently been her pet project while at Camelot.
It turned out, the building had been old even before it became a school, and the town was almost as old. It didn't have any known historical significance other than being old, but it was remarkable because when one traced back the history, the place had never been taken by any sort of invading force during the various wars fought on English turf. Somebody had eventually bought it and turned it into a university, and the lowest offices used for storage had been a dungeon.
The ghost haunted them, and it was general opinion that he was waiting for his lover to come for him. Elena, off the record, theorized that when the university was originally founded they blocked off a couple of cells and that was where he was. She wanted Arthur to take a video camera and send her the footage when he poked around down there, and recommended he immediately try to find a place where something was boarded over.
Arthur wrote down everything, grimly deciding that if this had to be ghostbusters mission, he'd turn it into a project and trust the Prof.'s dislike of the administration to let him blame it on insufficient record keeping.
"That's all I know." Elena paused. "Is Gwaine in the room with you?"
Arthur glanced around. Gwaine had flopped on the other bed, and was pretending to not be listening in.
"Yeah, on the other bed." Elena laughed.
"Grab him for me so we can talk. I miss riding with him." Arthur glanced at Gwaine, and decided that getting involved in his friend's romantic issues was the absolutely worst idea ever.
"Oh, and one other thing. I interviewed an old janitor-he's retired now and I don't have a contact number, sorry-and he said that he knew the ghost was real, because it saved his life. He tripped on his way down to the storage rooms, and should've fallen down the stairs, but he says he actually floated down the stairs instead. All he could report were that he saw two glowing golden eyes, and that afterwards his high blood pressure was cured. Named Anhora, if you want to google him." Arthur privately decided that the janitor had probably been senile and passed the phone to Gwaine. Glowing golden eyes?
"We are going to go on a mission." Arthur announced. "A quest."
"Why do we have to go?" Arthur glared at Lance. He gulped and stared at the floor.
"Lance, you need to come because you've been hanging out with Gwen too much. Your hair smells like her shampoo, clearly you need some time with guys." Gwaine snickered. "Gwaine, you're coming because this is your fault." Gwaine made noises of objection. "You got me drunk when I had a paper due the next day! And as for Leon…" Arthur glanced around the room. "Do I even need to explain?"
"Nope." muttered Gwaine. Leon hadn't actually looked up when Arthur entered the room. He was still buried in a textbook, oblivious to the other guys in the room. "Leon? Hey, Leon?"
Leon answered only with a grunt. He was still glued to a chemistry textbook.
"If we don't get Leon outside, he's going to go insane." Arthur declared. "He desperately needs something not involving books. Besides, Leon is really good with a camera."
"Huh?" Leon finally looked up. He blinked. "Arthur, when did you get here? I thought you would be celebrating having no more papers due." Gwaine and Lance both began to laugh. Arthur scowled.
"No. And you have to help me. We're all going into the old record rooms to find any information about the campus ghost." Leon stared at them.
"Are you insane?"
"Yes." Gwaine instantly said. Arthur smacked the back of his head. "Ow!"
"I have to write a paper on it. He's supposed to be based down there." Leon gestured to his textbook.
"I have to study." Arthur snorted.
"Men, grab his arms. Leon is going to leave the dorm for once." Leon opened his mouth to protest. "And go somewhere other than the library."
Leon glared as Gwaine and Lance grabbed his arms. Arthur turned and marched from the room, and Gwaine and Lance dragged Leon out with them. Curse them both for being athletes.
Arthur opened the door and eyed the storage rooms. "This is…interesting."
"Turn around and face the camera." Leon ordered. Once outside-not that walking across the courtyard was that long a walk, but it was more sunlight than Leon had had in a week-the man had perked up considerably. Enough to be chipper while Arthur tried to find a lightswitch.
"Is this part of the building even wired?" Lance asked, brushing a cobweb out of his face.
"Yeah…" Arthur finally found a light switch. He flicked it, and grimaced. The lights were old fashioned and sputtered pathetically. It seemed that down here was a maze of hallways, with tiny rooms placed erratically on either side. No wonder the old janitor though he saw a ghost, if this was where he worked.
"Christ." Gwaine muttered. He stepped forward and peered around. "How many of those tiny rooms are there?"
"Lots." Lance said. He looked around and sighed. "I'm going to have to call Gwen and tell her I'll be late for dinner."
"Mate, you aren't making that dinner." Gwaine sounded less enthusiastic than he normally would. All these creepy little doors held a sense of tragedy. It felt like a place to wait for death. "If we're looking for information about the ghost, we're going to be here for hours."
"Bollocks." Lance said. "The administration labels all their records. They have to, it's in the handbook."
"You read the handbook?" Arthur ignored them both and prowled forward. Elena had sounded doubtful about the likelihood of him actually finding anything in what she called the "cells". She admitted that she'd been called off to help the horses with the unpronounceable name before she had a chance to properly look, but apparently things down here were badly organized. People tended to avoid it.
"Hey, guys." Leon spoke up. "Check out down there." They crowded around Leon. "The electric lights are all out, and it's sloping down."
Gwaine glanced at Arthur. Lance stepped back to behind Leon. For some reason, the lighting didn't extend to the end of the corridor, where they could dimly see the outline of a padlock.
"There probably isn't even a key here that fits." Arthur glanced at his buddies. None of them seemed keen to poke around where it was dark. Well, none of them would flunk a course if they didn't get the right information. "Did anyone bring a flashlight?"
"Here." Lance passed over the dinky little light at the end of his keychain. "It's not much but…" Arthur took it, remembering that he liked Lance, even if he was a girlfriend stealer.
"Thanks. Leon, that camera have night vision?"
"You insult me." Leon pressed a few buttons. "Lead on." Arthur hesitantly walked up to the double door. It wasn't just padlocked, it was boarded over. The boards looked like they were half rotten.
Probably not the place anyone should poke at. Maybe this was the only part of Camelot that wasn't perfectly structurally secure.
Against his better instinct, Arthur started trying keys in the padlock. Gwaine, Lance and Leon had followed him, for which Arthur was grateful. Bros before creepy dark places.
Click. Arthur blinked. The first key he put in the lock opened it. Arthur shone the beam of the light on the key. It was tiny, and looked new, unlike the enormous and rusty padlock. He shrugged, deciding that maybe the janitors had replaced the key recently. He pulled the chains off, grimacing when splinters of wood fell away with them.
The boards where truly rotting. Arthur kicked one down and almost got his foot stuck between two metal poles.
Behind them was a set of bars.
He was curious now. Come hell or high water, Arthur would find out what this passage was. "Help me you guys."
Gwaine cleared away the last of the wood, cursing softly as he amassed splinters. Lancelot rattled the bars, peering down. Leon covered it all, zooming in on the rust of the padlock and the ancient look of the bars.
"Arthur, we can't move them." Lance said. He shrugged. "I've tried pushing, I think it's just rusted shut."
"Come on, put some backbone into it!" Arthur said sharply. He grabbed a bar and pushed inwards. It swung open. "You couldn't move that?"
"I swear it was immovable when I tried." Lance murmured. His eyes had gotten bigger. "Arthur, are you sure this is a good idea?"
"Yes." Arthur started down the corridor at a trot, wishing he was wearing something other than just his hoodie and jeans. The beam of Lance's flashlight died. "Dammit!"
"There's a torch on the wall next to you." Leon said. He was looking at it all through his camera screen, where everything was green. "I've got a lighter, if you really want to keep going."
"We're actually going to use a torch?" Gwaine asked incredulously. Arthur took it off the wall, musing on how convenient it was that this torch wasn't rotten like the boards. It took instantly when he pressed Leon's lighter to the top. The steady fire lit up the corridor far more effectively than the flashlight.
"You were saying, Gwaine?" Arthur asked. He tossed Leon the lighter. "Even if I don't find anything about the ghost, there's got to be an article for the newspaper in this."
"Aren't you supposed to be taking business courses?" Arthur waved away Lance's question. He had barely gotten permission from his father to take Prof. Geoffrey's environment and effect on general population mindset, and even that only by arguing that it would help his management skills.
So, yes, if his father found out he was investigating a ghost and writing for the campus newspaper, he would be furious. Just because Uther Pendragon loved his son did not mean he approved of that pathetic notion of being an author Arthur had. But surely, something this interesting in his father's prized school would be an exception?
Arthur put his father out of his mind and trotted down the corridor.
It sloped steadily downward. There were no cobwebs, but there was the faint smell of damp and the bone deep chill that came of being far underground. Arthur was glad that they'd ended up taking a torch. Behind him, Gwaine was muttering a steady stream of comments about cave ins.
"It doesn't make sense that it was boarded up though." Lance's voice cut through Gwaine's dire predictions. "I mean, if it goes to a cellar you think they'd like, use it as another storeroom or as a bomb shelter in world war two. I did study this place" Lance was an architecture major "and according to the plans, everything is sound. Like, a hurricane hits and as long as everyone stays inside and we board up the windows, we wouldn't even feel it."
"Maybe this is an exception." Gwaine grumbled.
"Maybe it was just too dark." Leon angled the camera upwards. "And the ceiling is rather low, if the whole place is like this it isn't practical. They probably thought it wasn't suitable for a classroom or a storeroom, and because this place is so cleverly designed they didn't want to shift anything this low, so they boarded it up and forgot about it."
Arthur stopped walking.
"Or maybe none of the above." There were intakes of breath from behind him. "Lance. How does this fit into the architecture?"
"It doesn't." Lance whispered. His voice carried around the enormous cavern. "It really, really, doesn't."
They stood on the edge of a cave. Not a bear cave, or a little nook in the wall that little kids called a cave and played in kind of cave either. This place was massive, with crystals jutting out from the walls and a stream winding around the floor. Stalagmites and stalactites taller than Leon and Arthur combined hung or stood all around. They themselves stood on a ledge, with a staircase tracing down the side of it to the ground twenty feet below.
"Bloody hell." Gwaine murmured. Something about the cavern made it hard to speak at normal level. "Arthur, you've got your front page. Hell, you've got your grade. The Prof. will be thrilled that the administration overlooked this place."
"How though?" Leon had dropped his camera to his side, to awed by the sheer size of the place to start filming. "This is…impossible."
Arthur shook his head. "I…I feel like I've been here. I wrote about this in a short story once." It had been a weird one, that he wrote as a preteen before he'd even taken a creative writing class. Something about buried fury, and coins…
"Are we just going to sit here, or are we going to explore?" Gwaine asked. The gleam had returned to his eyes. "There's no way this place will cave in. And there are even stairs."
"…look at that." Arthur's attention was drawn to the center of the cave. There was a sort of platform, and he was pretty sure he could make out another set of stairs on the side of it. He'd bet that the path went right up to that place. The light of his torch glittered on the crystals around the cave, making it fairly easy to see around.
A single crystal was placed in the center of the platform, this one pure white. Lance frowned.
"Funny, I didn't see that until you pointed it out. Now…it's like it's the whole point of the cave." Lance muttered. "We should check it out."
Arthur started down the stairs. Gwaine fell into place at his right shoulder, and Lance and Leon formed a rear guard. They unconsciously left a place at Arthur's left shoulder open. Arthur kept the torch raised high, feeling increasingly strange.
They were passing carvings, dragons that were etched into the stones. As they stepped over the stream, for a second Arthur thought there was a face in it. A decidedly not human face. His hand twitched at his side.
Arthur was right. The path did lead them up the other side of the platform. It also lead them past an enormous chain, that everyone avoided touching. It felt unspeakably wrong, and Arthur breathed a sigh of relief when they passed where it was broken.
Which invited the question of what the fuck had required that chain to keep it down here, and who in the world had the power to break it. Neither of those questions were pleasant ones to think about, so Arthur focused on the crystal.
It was big. Oblong shaped, it rested on the ground like a coffin, all milky white. Arthur blinked, questioning whether or not it was actually glowing as he came closer. Gwaine actually shut up as they circled around it. Leon's camera wasn't making an appearance. It had died when he went farther into the cavern.
Arthur leaned over the crystal. His brow furrowed as he tried to see into it. Was he dreaming, or was there something in the depths? It didn't make any sense for it to be here, there was nothing for it to have formed from. The thought of someone bringing it up those stairs was ridiculous, unless they'd had a helicopter.
Then again, a helicopter could comfortably fit in this place.
No, he wasn't crazy. Arthur stepped closer to the crystal, reaching out for it. His hand moved independently, stretching out for the crystal as if some higher force compelled it. Leon hissed out a warning, something about radiation and chemistry. Arthur's hand paid no attention.
His fingertips brushed the crystal. It was smooth and ice cold. No, sudden warmth flooded into his fingertips as he kept contact. Arthur gasped and sprang back, his fingers tingling.
The crystal was glowing gold. Arthur tried to step back, but his feet were glued to the cavern floor. The cavern started shaking. Gwaine grabbed his arm.
"Arthur! We need to get out of here!" Arthur's gaze was absolutely locked on the crystal. There was a face there now. A pale face, with high cheek bones and stupid looking big ears. Short black hair came into view as the light illuminated the boy properly. He was beautiful.
"Arthur!" Lance jumped as another tremor shook the platform. "Structural support won't help us right now, we need to go!"
The boy's eyes opened. They were an utterly inhuman gold.
Arthur screamed like a little girl. The boy started moving, reaching up through the crystal in a way that was absolutely impossible. And Arthur knew, just knew, the same way he knew that chain was bad, that this thing was reaching for him.
"Arthur!" Gwaine yanked on his arm. "Come on!" None of the others had left him. Arthur bolted, pushing the other's in front of him. He didn't look back, too busy stumbling down the steps and leaping over the stream. For a bunch of guys who didn't specialize in running, they were at the mouth of the cavern in Olympic gold time.
Arthur paused just a second, glancing back.
One white hand groped at the air above the crystal.
They kept running until they reached the dorm rooms, pelting along at full speed. The only stopping point was when Arthur paused the fling the torch back into the darkness and slam the bars closed. Leon covered closing the doors to the storerooms, and had it locked faster than light.
"What, the hell, was that?" Lace panted. He had crumpled on the bed next to Gwaine, letting Leon have the far end and Arthur lean on the headboard. They stuck together, next to the window and sunlight.
"It was impossible." Gwaine said. He glanced around. "I admit, most of what I do here is party and I'm not even sure what I'm majoring in, but I know that was impossible. In every way."
"No science." Leon muttered. He had recovered enough to be fiddling with the camera. Leon hoped one day to be a photographer in the scientific fields. "The crystal for one, should have formed from some alloy in water, but it was obvious that cave had been too dry for something of that size. It was also in an unnatural shape."
"That isn't in the plans." Lance swallowed. "It wasn't. I would stake my life on it."
"Is anyone going to mention…him?" Arthur whispered. The image of that beautiful face had been burned on his retinas.
"I saw a human figure, but I thought it was my imagination." Lance admitted. Gwaine and Leon nodded. "You saw more?"
"A person." Arthur shook his head. He was fairly sure saying that he'd just seen the most otherworldly, terrifying, gorgeous, body in the world would be greeted with shock. He was out as bisexual, but…this was something else. "A man."
"What do we do?" Leon asked. "My camera cut out as soon as we entered the cavern, we've no evidence."
"I'm not sure I believe that just happened, and I was there." Lance said. "But we can't just keep it a secret that there's an airplane hanger under the university. Unless of course, there was a gas leak and we hallucinated all that."
Arthur hesitated. This was just the sort of discovery the Pendragon family could use to boost their credentials…just the sort of investigative reporting his father would actually approve of…and there was a strange draw in that enchanting place.
"You're thinking of going back?" Gwaine was staring at Arthur incredulously. Damn him for being able to read his friend's moods. "Arthur, are you insane?"
"The thing was coming out of the crystal." Arthur murmured. Gwaine cringed.
"I saw…something moving. Doesn't that make you think that maybe we should not go down there? It's locked in now."
"Do you think locks would stop him?" Arthur asked dully. He'd gotten a sense, just in that brief sense, that locks would trouble whoever was in there as much as a crack in the pavement.
There was silence from the others in the room. Lance stared at the covers. Leon fiddled with the camera, avoiding anyone's eyes. Gwaine looked out the window, where students innocently walked across the courtyard and held hands and were utterly unaware of the cavern and whatever the hell was in it.
"Exactly." Arthur sighed. "I think, maybe we should just…not go anywhere alone tonight." Everyone nodded. Lance took out his phone and called Gwen, apologizing for missing dinner and explaining that Arthur really needed help with this paper and it was very important.
Gwaine settled into a more comfortable position. "You know Arthur, you really are screwed."
"Huh?" Arthur's mind kept seeing that white hand grasping at the air. Trying to hang onto him.
"If that's the campus ghost, you are never going to write an effective paper on him without sounding completely insane." Gwaine said. He managed to grin. "You'll fail the class."
"Great." Arthur groaned. "And I can't get any information from the library storage rooms either, because he's probably lurking down there now."
"This is why you don't procrastinate Arthur." Arthur glared at Leon. Bloody "I'm off getting a Master's right now" Leon. "Well, if you hadn't, then you could've gone to that party, safe in the knowledge that your paper was written and you were in no danger of failing. It wasn't very mature of you."
"Shut up Leon!" Leon hmpfed. Arthur scowled. "We're all monumentally screwed."
That night was spent not sleeping. Gwaine and Lancelot shared Gwaine's bed, and Arthur bemusedly wondered when Lance had become fine with sharing a bed with Gwaine again. Leon and he were together, with Leon distracting himself by studying and sticking his feet in Arthur's face.
When Arthur finally fell asleep, he dreamed. Of the clash of steel on steel and a weight over his whole body, but one he understand and worked with because it protected him. Of fluttering red cloaks and a red handkerchief worn in his breastplate.
Above all, Arthur dreamed about holding a lithe body in his arms, a laugh that lit up the room and eyes that were bluer than the sky and sea combined.
"Well…this is interesting." Arthur blinked his eyes open. "Arthur, you know you're missing economics now right?"
"Bloody hell Morgana, don't you knock?" Lance growled, scrambling out of his position spooning Gwaine. Gwaine lifted his head and yawned, stretching. At some point in the night he'd taken off his shirt.
"Morgana, if you wanted to see me shirtless this badly you could've asked." She sneered at Gwaine, but it wasn't without fondness. Morgana was strange the way she could do that.
"Don't be ridiculous Gwaine. I'm here to tell Arthur that he's missing his economics class, and his grades in that are bad enough that he really can't afford to miss it." Arthur grunted, still lost in picnics on green grass and lakes with white mountains in the background, and someone lying beside him…
"Fuck!" Arthur scrambled out of bed and grabbed his binder off the floor. "I've got to run!"
Morgana watched with amusement as he bolted out the door. She turned back to Lance, Gwaine and Leon with a look of curiosity.
"So, why are you all in the same room tonight?"
"Mass orgy." Gwaine didn't hesitate a beat. Morgana raised an eyebrow.
As Morgana interrogated the others, Arthur ran across the courtyard for his economics class. He hated economics with an utter passion, but it was one of the classes his father required that he take.
"Arthur!" Arthur slid to a stop, just avoiding crashing into a man. The man flung himself forward and hugged him. "By the stars I've missed you."
"What?" The man stepped back, a look of faint confusion on his face. For the second time in twenty four hours, Arthur screamed like a little girl.
It was the man, from the crystal. He was now dressed in a blue hoodie and nicely fitting jeans, but he had the same pale, unnaturally beautiful features. And those ears were unforgettable.
The only difference was that his eyes were a cerulean blue, not a burning gold.
Arthur scrambled away from him. Now he knew Arthur's name? Oh this was getting better and better!
"You! You just…" Arthur edged around him. "Keep away!"
"What? Arthur, it's me!" He waved his hands around. "Me! I've been waiting for you hundreds of years!"
"Arthur was finally in the clear for his economics class. He primed himself to run. "Go! I don't know how you appeared here, but…leave!" Arthur sprinted away.
He really had no idea how to talk to scary people who appeared out of crystals. Who came looking for him.
Arthur had even more trouble in his economics class than he normally would. That man wouldn't leave his mind, his expression of shock and hurt painted on Arthur's brain. He was the brunt of Professor Edwin's mockery ten times in class, a new record.
When class ended, he headed for the courtyard stairs. Morgana or Gwaine or Leon or Lance could usually be found there, and he could really use somebody to talk to. Preferably a person who had been in the cave.
Arthur started to climb the stairs, then stopped, making a little croaking sound in his throat. The man was sitting on the steps, in Arthur's spot. He was even looking straight at Arthur, frowning.
Arthur whirled around and bolted for the library.
"And then he was on the stairs!" Arthur finished. Gwaine, Leon, and Lance were staring at him with unabashed shock. "I have no idea what he is!"
"And you're sure at no point today someone offered you magic mushrooms?" Gwaine asked. Arthur glared at him. "Sorry, sorry! Just trying to lighten up the mood…"
"This is serious." Arthur scowled. "You're all probably next. As soon as he gets me, he comes after you because he no longer has my terrifying skills and alertness to contend with."
"Well…" Leon hesitantly spoke up. "I've been thinking, and um, if we accept that this is the ghost, you know he's benevolent right? He stopped Gwaine from getting genital warts, and he saved some janitor's life."
"He's stalking me." Arthur said flatly. "And he's coming for me. I can feel it."
"Feel it." Lance was staring at him like his mind had finally snapped under the business courses.
"It's just…a feeling okay! I know it's legitimate." Arthur glanced around. "Did any of you tell?"
"Gwen asked, but I…um, distorted the facts." Lance said, blushing. "Morgana was trying to get it out of us, but once she heard about the cavern she got this funny look on her face and said she had a headache." Lance shrugged. "I guess she didn't need to ask anything else."
"Great." Arthur sighed. "And I still don't have that paper. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do about it."
"Get Morgana to write it." Gwaine offered. "She can bullshit like no other."
"I might." Arthur mused.
With the timing which often made Morgana creepy, she appeared in the doorway. There were tear tracks on her cheeks, and he hair was a bit ruffled. Arthur rose instantly. His half sister looked absolutely awful.
"Morgana!" She stalked into the room, all fury. Whatever crying she'd done, it was behind her.
"You asshole!" She slapped him across the face. "How dare you talk to him that way! How dare you even leave him there!" Morgana slapped him again. "If you do not come into your memories and apologize, I swear I will do what I almost did a thousand years ago and wipe you off the face of the earth!"
"And you!" She turned on Lance. "You may have a right to Gwen since Arthur obviously belongs to Merlin, but you have absolutely no right to be such an insensitive prick about it!" Morgana slapped Lance. He gaped at her. Morgana whirled on Gwaine. "You aren't nearly as good looking as you think you are. And you need to stop making wisecracks and get some help, because if you let Elena slip through your fingers you obviously have the intelligence of a bone idle stoat. As for you…Leon" She cocked her head. "I have no reason to quarrel with you. Except that you still haven't called me, and I told you to months ago."
"That was serious?"
Morgana blew him a kiss. "Darling, you know it deep within." She stared at them all haughtily, as if waiting for them all to come to some deep revelation. "You're still like this? Idiots. I'll let Merlin do it."
With one last scornful glance at Arthur, Morgana swept from the room.
Arthur didn't know what revelations the others were coming too, but he was pretty sure he'd just seen his sister have the mental breakdown he had thought was coming since age ten.
That and, that he might just have to kick Leon's ass sometime soon if he went about consorting with Morgana.
Sadly, the option of holing up in the dorm room was not an option. Gwaine actually had a final to take-and this was for a class where he wasn't bribing the teacher, so he was required to show up. Leon insisted he had to study. Lance had a girlfriend who had called him five times, with increasingly odd messages.
Oh…oh Lancelot, oh my knight…I need you. I need you to tell me I'm not crazy.
God, my father and Elyan and what I've done to Arthur, please Lance! We need to talk, to make things right!
The third message was just sobbing.
Merlin has told me some interesting news, Lancelot. You need to get your ass down to my dorm, immediately! Move!
Lance, pick up the bloody phone! You need to hear this, it's important! I remember everything! And deck Arthur for me! Lance stared at the phone, then glanced across the room at Arthur. Gwen's messages had been loud enough to carry across the room.
"Um, I have to go." Lance hurried from the room, and Arthur was left alone. He glanced around the room, wondering if the pale man was going to pop out from under a bed.
Think tactics. Arthur decided to go find a crowded place, like his favorite coffee shop. That was a relatively crowded place, and he could try to figure out a way to write his essay. Or maybe a new chapter in his book…not that that idea was going anywhere.
Five minutes later, he froze, heart sinking. Gwaine was perched on one of the random walls, listening as the pale man talked to him earnestly. Gwaine was nodding, and looking vaguely awestruck. Arthur ran for the Starbucks.
Ten minutes later, when Arthur had almost convinced himself that he had been seeing things, Gwaine sat down across from him. There was, for once, a no nonsense attitude around Gwaine.
"Arthur. You need to open your mind to the possibilities." Arthur eyed Gwaine over his coffee. "There are worlds you're ignoring! Lives! I don't understand how any of us could forget, but…you of all people, should remember Merlin!"
"I don't know who you're talking about!" Arthur slammed his coffee cup on the table, hissing as he slopped hot coffee on his hand. "I have no idea what happened in there, but obviously someone has messed with all of your heads!"
"No, we're remembering!" Gwaine ran a hand through his hair. "Arthur, you ruled this entire castle. And Merlin was your lover, sword, and shield."
"Lover?" Arthur gaped at Gwaine. "You don't use the word lover! You're Gwaine!"
"Sir Gwaine to you." Gwaine shook his head. "Will you just promise to talk to him? I swear, if you don't, you'll regret it."
"Fine." If it put that serious look on Gwaine's face, then the apocalypse was coming. That was enough to convince Arthur that next time he saw the creepy man, he'd listen to him. Maybe he'd also punch him. Or mace him…
Well, that was something he'd never considered doing to another dude before.
"So. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that you've managed to get in through a locked door." Arthur warily eyed the pale man, who was seated on his bed.
He didn't look as scary without the cavern. In fact, in the blue hoodie and jeans he looked positively cute. And exceedingly shaggable.
"Arthur, please. You can't not remember me. I've waited over a thousand years for your touch to open the crystal." His voice caught. "Everyone else remembers. Even Gwen remembers."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Arthur was confused, and now he felt sorry for the bloke. Even if none of this made sense at all, the poor guy looked like he was about to cry. For some reason, that made Arthur want to wrap his arms around him and comfort him.
"You have to. Please, Arthur. You can't not remember me, you, you, stupid prat!" Arthur blinked. The words flew from his mouth before he had thought.
"Prat?" Arthur froze. He knew those words. He knew this man.
First time, deep in a forest with dirt ruining his trousers and Merlin's eyes glowing gold, unconsciously preparing both of them and Arthur's knees digging into the earth as he grinds against the body groaning beneath him.
"I'll be at your side as I always am, protecting you."
Entire legions turned to stone, enemies turned to dust, the brush of gentle hands closing wounds with nothing but will, a glowing topographical map showing all the kingdom with little soldiers marching over it.
"Rise and shine! Let's have you lazy daisy…no, you don't like any of them do you?"
Waking up to that same line, so stupidly endearing that the one time Merlin decided not to say it there was an entire spent speculating about why, and when he finally cornered his lover to ask Merlin just laughed and pointed out that when he did, he got things thrown at him.
"You couldn't keep a secret if you life depended on it! You'd be surprised!"
Truth, truth at last an that inevitable feel of betrayal tinged with wonder, and then gratitude for dear God, how many times over did he owe Merlin his life?
Pale fingers gripped him, eyes pure gold staring from afar as his lifeblood sputtered out, a brief image of Morgana's horrified face at what she had wrought and the calm knowledge that at least Mordred was about to be blasted off the face of the earth and Merlin would wait for him.
"You're a prat, and a royal one."
Arthur found himself slumped on the bed next to Merlin, staring at those uncertain blue eyes. Merlin should not have needed to be uncertain. Merlin should have known that Arthur was so overjoyed to see that he was back, and god now he felt like punching himself for pushing Merlin away.
"You waited." Merlin embraced him, and Arthur's arms went around the skinny man the way they always did. Always would. How had he forgotten the other half of himself? How did he forget that stupid, bumbling, brilliant man who was as necessary to him as the air he breathed? "You…where did you get the clothes?"
"Magic." Arthur rolled his eyes. "Shut up, prat."
"Insubordinate behavior, Merlin." Arthur pushed Merlin down onto the bed, maneuvering himself so he was crouching over the other male. "You know, none of the sex I've had in this life compared to it in the original life."
Merlin's eyes turned bright gold, and Arthur's clothing vanished. That was familiar. The feel of Merlin's magic enveloping him again was intoxicating. "Then let's see if you've still got it."
As Merlin nipped at his jaw line, Arthur suddenly realized that he was going to have to either edit his books or never let his father see them. Ever. Because as amazing as all these stories of courts and battle were going to be, they would also be porn.
Gwaine pressed his ear to the dorm door. Yes, Arthur and Merlin were going at it like rabbits. And they'd forgotten the sock on the door. He sighed and took off the one he always kept in his pocket and put in the door.
Just like old times.
Gwaine grinned. A whole new world, with new dragons and people and great deeds just waiting to be done.
This was going to be fun.
A/N: Hahahahahahahaha guess who didn't sleep tonight to write this? And totally blew off studying for finals?
A side note: The random librarian dude is now one of my favorite characters, and he had like two lines. Well if Leon (also awesome) can go from background to speaking character, so can Geoffrey!
Another note (I tend to add these whenever I revise): Arthur the Author writing about himself as a Prince with Merlin, just to set the record right, is embedded in my brain.