[ Again, sorry for the delay! Here's another tidbit to snack on :) Please review, I love love love getting them 33 ]

Merlin sulked on the third class deck, leaning on the railings and staring out across the silky darkness – the waves caressing the sides of the ship as she glided through the water. His life, Merlin had decided, was shit. Not only was he bound into doing suicidal manual labour for overweight, pompous, deck masters, his uniform plotting evilly with his own sweat to make his body as uncomfortable as possible, his future in America likely to bring more hunger and hardship – only this time away from friends and family and familiarity, but the man he should be answering to for the next week was an arrogant clotpole with no sense of manners or decency and for whom Merlin was sure he would endure endless suffering every minute he was forced to be around the idiot. Yes. His life was shit.

For a while Merlin watched the water, and then the few people choosing to brave the cold for a walk on deck. Most were bundled up in crude, patched, wool blankets, huddled together for warmth. Merlin found a smile tinting his lips as he watched a father carrying his young daughter in close to his chest, her fingers twisting in his red beard, his hand at rest atop her equally red hair. She was chattering away to him, words Merlin couldn't quite catch, but sentiment that was all too clear. Her father watched the sea and listened, holding her as though she were the most precious bundle in the world, which, Merlin reasoned, she probably was. The lull of the father – daughter moment was broken only by the occasional yells of the boys behind them, four scruffy lads out with a spinning top, setting it loose over the decking, racing around it in a premeditated game Merlin couldn't determine. They looked frozen, all pink cheeked and red nosed, and Merlin had to smile again as he imagined what his mother would have had to say should she have seen him out without warmth to protect him from the winter chill. Merlin was getting colder now himself, his cheeks and nose boasting the same redness as the boys' were he could imagine, so he pushed gently off the railing and began to meander down the ship, hands firmly in his pockets, trying to make shapes with his breath.

Lazy music, along with the occasional tinkle or burst of laughter, drifted down from the first class dining room, Merlin deluded himself into thinking he could smell the arrogant supper, taste the delighted champagne, feel the warmth of the open hearth. His stomach rumbled. He told it to shut up. If he was going to be miserable, so was it.

After Arthur's heated dismissal he'd gone to the servants' dining area, receiving something bland and mushy (he had the suspicion that it was half rotten potatoes beaten to a pulp) but receiving no utensil with which to eat it. He was further disheartened by the look of delight on some of the faces around him, Gwen explaining to him that this was, in fact, a very good day. Merlin had eaten three bites and then had to fight his gag reflex for all it was worth. The peelings and scraps he was used to weren't half as bad. Meagre, yes. Rotten, no. After feigning fullness he's cut his losses and avoided Gwen's watchful stare, feeling as though she could see through a person whether they opened to her or not, her small, unsure, smile too knowing, and Merlin thought that Gwen could be a friend to anybody, make anyone feel better, just by giving looks like that. He couldn't afford a friend now. He got too attached to people, and he couldn't afford that now, not when their journey would be over in a matter of weeks. Merlin was awful at goodbyes. They tore at him, left a hole in his heart for every friendship made and lost. Merlin was still nursing the crater that had been dug when Will and Freya had eloped together without so much as a goodbye to him. His first attempt at love and his best friend turned heartache leaving him without a thought or a prayer.

The music grew louder, the laughter more obtuse, and Merlin frowned at the slivers of light protruding from the dining room out onto the still black water, his hands burrowing deeper into his pockets. He supposed he'd best be back in the room before Arthur and his father returned from dinner, no matter what Arthur's earlier dismissals had implied. Merlin sighed. He no more wanted to be back there than he wanted to be in the icy Atlantic water, but he supposed the primary option held more promise of survival, despite the odds that Uther Pendragon inflicted on it. Before he could romance the notion of taking his chances in the deep blackness below Merlin turned toward the Bridge deck and gritted his teeth, making his way purposely toward the first class suites.

The change in temperature from the icy Atlantic air to the stuffy heated corridors did nothing to improve merlin's mood. For someone so used to the cold, used to huddling in mere rags and shivering on doorsteps, the heat of the titanic was stifling. His jacket itched as if just to annoy him, and Merlin was sure that the trousers he'd been given were deliberately bunching up around his thighs in a bid to drive him insane. Merlin ignored his traitorous clothes, keeping an eye out for the right room, knowing that in this state he could easily walk past it and be none the wiser, - the last thing he needed now was to get bloody lost in the metal labyrinth. The corridor dragged on endlessly and Merlin rubbed his eyes and wished for the night. He longed for the privacy of darkness, the closeness of his own space, the shroud that hid him from the world and allowed him to just be. Darkness was the one place in the world that was kind to Merlin. He had never feared it, always welcomed it, and now he found that, after that harshness of the light of day, he craved it. Sometimes he wandered at night when everyone was asleep, imagining himself to be with a companion, a friend, no one special. Just someone who cared about him enough to want to walk with him. To hear his voice and share his stories.

Merlin passed by numerous first class passengers meandering down the hallway, most obviously on route from dinner, and he quickened his pace, hoping that Uther, his muscle bound idiot, and his prattish son had not yet reached the unattended room. Merlin knew that he still had reasonable time, but he hurried none the less, wanting time to himself before being assaulted with icy stares and indifferent orders. Making his way down to room 214, Merlin smoothed out his face, took a few calming breaths, and as he reached the door, opened it gently and walked inside.

The living area was deserted, the fire he'd lit crackling away, unguarded, and Merlin wondered with vindictive pleasure what it would be like to see Uther's picture in the paper, named as the man responsible for burning down the greatest ship in the world. Then Merlin realised that it was far more likely that it would be his face printed in black and white and his name slandered to the nations, and so he quickly put the fire guard up. He was about to tend to some of the lesser plumped looking pillows when he heard a thud from the room next door, Arthur's room.

Merlin frowned. He'd assumed the party were still at dinner, the night still having some youth about it. He straightened up, and as he did, there was another thump, sounding much like something heavy falling to the floor. Merlin stiffened. Perhaps someone had stolen into the room? Perhaps the Pendragons were being robbed, and he, Merlin, would most certainly be the one to blame for /that/ disaster. Then he heard it, someone swearing, a deep, gruff voice, a foreign accent, slightly Irish. Merlin's heart thudded in his chest, his eyes glued to the door to Arthur's rooms, and he made up his mind. He took a moment to gather his courage, knowing that confronting the intruder was the only solution in case in his absence to fetch the master at arms the intruder managed to escape, and he said a small prayer that said intruder was not eight foot tall. If there was a God, which there wasn't, the man would be a midget. Merlin steeled his nerves, crossed the room, and swung the door open.

He froze.

So did the so called intruder.

And then they both looked at Arthur.

The blonde was the only one in the room that had not frozen when the door opened. Perhaps he had not heard the knock as the brass handle hit the wood of the wall behind, perhaps he had not seen the motion of Merlin striding over the threshold, but either way, Arthur remained as he was, on his knees before their intruder, blonde hair held tight by a rough fist, mouth wrapped around a thick cock, eyes closed and cheeks hollowed, apparently oblivious in that moment to his rather captivated audience.

The surreal few seconds that had suspended themselves outside of reason and logic soon ended. The Irishman's tension seemed to get the blonde's attention, and Arthur's lips released the cock with an obscene pop, his eyes flickering upward in question, and upon seeing the startled expression cast toward the door, Arthur whirled his head around, the fist that had been holding his head in place having gone rather limp, and Merlin caught sight of his flushed cheeks, red lips, ruffled hair, all for a split second, before all colour seemed to drain from Arthur's face. He shoved himself away from the other man, as though by moving quickly enough he could hide any evidence of what Merlin had witnessed, scrambling to his feet, almost falling flat on his face in his bid to get away from him. Merlin had no time to process, no capacity to comprehend, because as Arthur stood up, the straining bulge in his trousers became more than obvious, and Merlin, swallowing something that sounded stupidly like a choked apology, turned and fled.

[debated continuing, but that's too lovely a cliffhanger, don't you agree? ;) ]