Percival returned not only with two coffees, in what seemed to be very flimsy cardboard cups, but two breakfast baguettes wrapped in paper.
"I wasn't sure if you wanted anything."
Arthur eyed the baguette unenthusiastically and shook his head. He did take the drink. He felt thirsty and although coffee was not likely to be the best thing, it was better than nothing and he didn't want to send Percival over there again.
"Not just yet. Maybe in a bit."
The added placation didn't seem to reassure Percival, he frowned at Arthur.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
"Percival, I'm fine. But I have just been sick, I'm not sure I want to eat anything just yet. I can smell that thing, I did before you even came back with it. I'm sorry, it was a nice gesture, but I just don't want it right now. If you don't want it to go to waste, you can always give it to Gwaine when he comes out."
"Might have it myself first," Percival said as he sat back on the bonnet next to Arthur balancing his coffee down on a nearby bollard and unwrapping one of the baguettes. Arthur eyed the bacon and sausage and wrinkled his nose as he smelt it.
"I can go over there," Percival said pointing across the road. Arthur shook his head.
"I'm fine, the smell is a bit strong."
Percival frowned and sniffed at the sandwich. "It's not that bad."
"Does the cafe smell of fry ups?" Arthur suddenly asked.
Percival pondered and shrugged. "I guess. A bit fatty maybe. I should start going to the gym again really."
Arthur watched Percival start to devour the sandwich and wondered. He had smelt fried food when Percival had gone into the cafe, Arthur wondered if he was channelling the closest person to him. He didn't really understand it, but he had felt a strong enough scent that he could have almost been in the shop. Arthur sipped his coffee and looked up at the dull thud and following groan which indicated the small pedestrian door to the prison had opened.
Percival watched, chewing frantically and wiping his face with a tiny paper napkin that looked like it might disintegrate at any moment, as Mithian stepped through turning to briefly speak to the guard before she stepped away from the door. For a moment she paused, looking around, staring at the cafe for a second before she noted the pair settled on the car and she started to walk in their direction. Arthur stood up as she came nearer and Percival followed, looking for somewhere to dump his crumbs, napkin and paper wrapping.
"The bin is across the road," Arthur pointed out.
Percival walked away and as Mithian reached Arthur she turned to glance at Percival's back before returning her attention to Arthur.
"I'm sorry, for what Mordred did in there."
From the way she spoke, and the look in her eyes, Arthur realised she had no idea what had happened. But it worked as an opener to the conversation, since whatever her client had done had been aimed at Arthur. Arthur shrugged, unsure if he could explain it, or even wanted to. He regarded her carefully, she looked as neatly tailored as Morgana, although Mithian seemed somehow softer and certainly less intimidating. Her make-up looked subtle, her lips a soft coral rather than Morgana's dramatic red.
"It's fine," Arthur said, hoping that put the incident to rest.
Mithian frowned, not only Arthur's reaction but the reaction of everyone around her made her realise that it was not fine. After a short pause, Mithian broke the uncomfortable silence, her voice sounding businesslike. Which was, it became apparent, what she wanted to discuss.
"I have been trying to get hold of your boss. Gaius, is it?"
"I sent a few emails, about Mordred. I just wondered if he might be eligible for something..." She paused, not seeming to know what that something was.
"Dad did say that you had been trying to get him evaluated. How the cases are dealt with depends on circumstances; and I'm sorry... you tried to send Gaius an email?"
Mithian frowned as Arthur smirked, a lot.
"Yes, the last one must have been about two weeks ago. I have tried several times before that."
"Unfortunately, Gaius doesn't turn his computer on unless he is forced to, or he accidently hits the switch. I did look through his emails not long ago but some had been erased as his inbox was full. Didn't you try phoning?"
Mithian bit down on her lip, flushing slightly.
"No, I'd got the number of the admin section of the hospital, and then eventually the Camelot annexe, but not any sort of extension. I'd hoped to speak to him directly rather than leave any message."
In other words, she hadn't wanted to leave anything open to interpretation, which then might colour their perception of Mordred.
"I was hoping, since you were here, that I could try and arrange to speak to him. I know on paper Mordred doesn't exactly sound hopeful, and I don't think he helped himself today, but I think if he got proper help he could sort himself out, stay off the drugs and..."
"And become a fully functioning member of society?"
Mithian blinked and stared. Arthur's brain caught up with how that comment sounded.
"Sorry, that was uncalled for."
Arthur felt his face flush, and to hide his embarrassment he took a hurried sip of his hot coffee. The paper cup flexed under the pressure. Droplets ran onto his fingers and naturally dripped onto his tie.
"Damn!" Arthur swore. He looked around for somewhere to put the cup on, that was not his father's car bonnet or a precarious bollard. He couldn't put down the file in his other hand, the papers were threatening to escape as it was.
Seeing the dilemma Mithian reached into her jacket pocket and produced a delicate looking handkerchief. Reaching out she dabbed at his tie, mopping up the droplets of coffee. With his hands still full and Percival doing nothing to help but contenting himself to view the scene from a distance, Arthur just watched her. On the blue material the wet stain didn't really show as Mithian dabbed at it.
"There," she said. "No harm done."
Arthur looked down at his tie.
"Doesn't matter really. I have about twenty of them."
"You really like ties."
Arthur gave up on his coffee and settled it on a bollard. If it fell, it fell. He started to get the file back into some semblance of order.
"No," he told Mithian. "But when I was job hunting my mum seemed to think that every interview or meeting needed me to have a new tie."
"Like a mascot?"
Arthur shrugged reaching out but not quickly enough as a gust of wind tipped his coffee over, spilling the liquid on his shoes and the hem of his trousers, sending the cup skittering across the road. It was at that moment Percival decided to rescue it. Arthur decided to ignore him.
"I guess," he answered Mithian. Mithian held out one hand to take the file from him and with her other hand offered her handkerchief.
"That's all right," Arthur said shaking his feet to dislodge some of the liquid. Mithian smiled at him.
"By the time I got the job at the Camelot Annexe I had enough ties to see me through to retirement."
He looked at the frayed point of his tie.
He flushed as he realised Mithian was trying not to laugh. Arthur decided he wasn't just socially awkward, he was socially ridiculous. With that in mind he went back to something he was good at, and he continued to tidy up the file.
"So, Mordred? You were hoping to have him accepted into the annexe?"
"I know he doesn't sound like the best of candidates but his background is in the file." Arthur had glanced through it but Mithian filled him in anyway.
"He lost his parents when he was young and his guardian died before Mordred reached his teens. He found the body and I don't think the police really helped him."
Arthur nodded. "I read most of that."
"Only the reports," Mithian said. "I don't think he really wanted to get into drugs, or start thieving, but that's just how it happened. To him it seemed to be the done thing. I think if someone tried to help him, offered him something, he would take it."
"That's not actually my decision, especially due to current circumstances. I can try and talk to Gaius, and get him and Nimueh to review the case."
He said that knowing full well that he would not refuse. Mithian's face lit up as she smiled, which made Arthur realise what Will saw in her.
"That would be great, at least a start. That's my card."
Arthur took the small rectangle of card and raised his eyebrows as he read the name.
"You're a partner?"
"No, my father is. Of course he's expecting me to pick up the reins one day."
"I know that feeling."
Mithian smiled. "I used to go to court with him and watch some of it. I couldn't imagine wanting to do anything else."
In response Arthur gave a huff of laughter.
"You didn't though?" she asked.
"My dad did the same thing to me, and I went the opposite way."
Arthur had to concede there were more factors than that but he wasn't going to disclose them.
"I can let you know later today. Having done some of the hospital admin recently I know there is some funding in the budget, for more than one case... but..."
Arthur's voice slowed, he blinked and his memory replayed Gilli's face. Mithian waited as Arthur's eyes drifted and then refocused on her with some definite purpose that seemed to involve her.
"While I'm looking at that. I have an ex-patient that appears to have ended up in there. I'd like to know what's happening to him. The charge is probably drug related. If I gave you some information, could you find out what's going on? I really don't think he should be in there."
Mithian nodded. "If I have his name and address I can chase it up. Are their any family members?"
Arthur blinked, looking incredibly upset for a moment. "No. I was all he had."
"Merlin, calm it down, we're on the way. We'll be there in five minutes."
Although Will had lived through more than one of Merlin's tantrums, this one surpassed anything he had ever seen before. He had never seen an entire aisle in Tesco cower before him and never had Merlin been so furious.
"I want to get to Arthur."
"That smarmy arse told you he was fine. Why would he say any different? Just settle down Merlin, it's hard to drive the car when you are like this! Sit back, and just stop it; right now, just stop it!"
Will braked hard just to emphasise his point, which meant the person behind him, a little distance away was forced to slam on their own brakes and Will swerved to the kerb, hitting the indicator to inform the person behind him that he was about to pull over and park. The car screeched past with a wail of his horn. It caused Merlin to flinch a fraction, a slight gesture that Will spotted out of the corner of his eye. He turned to look at Merlin.
"Just calm down. You're going to be no good to Arthur behaving like this. His dad said he was fine, and you know he's okay right?"
Merlin stared at Will for a moment before slowly nodding. Will gave a heavy sigh, slumping back into his seat. He didn't reach out to touch Merlin, he felt afraid to; but then it occurred to him, they had never really done things like that. There had been play fights, and throwing things but never touches, or hugs, anything like that. Will wondered why he was considering something that had never been any part of their repertoire before.
"Sorry Merlin. I didn't mean to scare you, but you need to settle down."
Will turned to look at him, one hand on the ignition to turn the engine off if Merlin refused to obey. Wide-eyed and shaking, Merlin slowly nodded, sitting back in his seat in a very deliberate gesture.
"Don't be sorry Merlin, just be calm."
Merlin nodded and as Will shifted the gears and pedals about to move the car again Merlin said.
"You didn't like it when I was calm for months."
Will almost stalled the car. They pulled up to a set of lights and Will turned to look at him.
"What do you mean? While you were...? That wasn't calm Merlin, that was you almost dead! I didn't want you to be dead!"
They both blinked as they stared at each other and Will looked away, staring at the red light and his hands tightened on the steering wheel as he prayed for the amber light to brighten, then it would be green and he could drive, and there was something other than Merlin for him to focus on.
"Sorry. I just..."
The amber light came into play and Will roared forward, almost over the crossing before it turned green.
"I hated you like that."
"What?" Merlin roused himself long enough to realise that Will had said something significant.
"You... just lying there, I hated you!"
"That wasn't what you said," Merlin replied after a pause, and once Will's driving had slowed to a manageable pace.
"What did I say?"
"You said you hated me like that."
"Well, of course I did. Everyone did!"
"No one hated me!" Merlin said blinking in shock. Will glanced at him, while still trying to concentrate on the road. He slowed down a little and although his gaze stayed on the road, quite clearly part of his mind had turned it's attention to the conversation.
"Perhaps," Will said slowly. "But I did though."
It stayed very quiet between them. Will concentrated on the road, turning corners and keeping the car steady.
"It's not your fault," Merlin said.
"I got told that."
"It's true. You couldn't handle me. I couldn't handle you; there was nothing but anger and... I couldn't do it."
"You shut me out."
"I had to."
"And you let that blond prat in!"
"Arthur did nothing wrong. He didn't ask for anything."
"Neither did I!"
"You wanted me back the way I was, even now I can't do that for you and Arthur is not a prat!"
"You knew who I was talking about."
"That makes him blond, but not a prat."
Will's hands tightened on the steering wheel as he turned the final corner and the huge imposing entrance to the prison came in sight and so did Arthur, Mithian and Percival. Will pulled the car in, unable to do so in a designated space so he just pulled up and sat in the car while Merlin opened the door. He paused as he put his foot on the ground and looked back at Will.
"I'm fine. I can't be what I was, but I'm fine, and I'm still me."
Will looked at him steadily. "I know, but Arthur's still a prat."
Merlin smirked, looking like his old self, it flickered in his face, just behind what Will saw now when he looked at Merlin. He was different and it was not as simple as being changed by what happened to him.
"Be careful though," Will said. "With Arthur."
Sinking back into the car seat Merlin stared at Will, frowning as he did so.
"Why? What to you mean?"
"Whatever happened to you. Not just the stuff... that stuff..." Will looked uncomfortable and by the intonation Merlin knew he meant what Cenred had done to him. "But... your head... your mind; I can see it, you're stronger, way stronger than you ever used to be."
Merlin continued to frown, processing that. Then slowly he nodded and gave a brief, grateful smile.
"I know, and I will."
Will watched Merlin get out of the car and walk swiftly over to Arthur. He turned off the engine and frowned when he realised Mithian stood close by. Looking around he guessed he could get away with leaving the car where it was, as long as he didn't go too far away from it. He made the vague assumption that if someone tried to give him a ticket then the police officer, which is what he presumed Percival was, could deal with it.
As he opened the door Mithian looked just as surprised to see him as he felt seeing her. Easing herself away from Arthur she walked around the car to him, her heels clicking against the tarmac as she walked.
Her tone made the greeting a question.
"I brought Merlin. What happened to Arthur?"
"I've no idea," she said looking shocked. Will glanced at Merlin and Arthur, who appeared to be doing an awful lot of reassuring Merlin that he was fine. Merlin, as far as Will could tell, looked very unconvinced.
"They've got a pretty intense relationship," Will said by explanation. "I guess... well... you're at work so I suppose you can't tell me what happened. Do you want a coffee, we may as well leave those two to it."
Mithian blinked and nodded. Will shut the door of the car and locked it.
"Can you leave it there like that?"
Will shrugged and looked past her as the prison door opened again. Uther, Morgana and Gwaine stepped out.
"Since it's about to be surrounded by that lot I don't think any traffic warden would stand a chance. Especially against that smarmy git!"
Percival, who had moved away to give Merlin and Arthur some privacy, snorted in amusement. By the look in his eye he knew exactly who Will was referring to.
"It's fine, go on," he added, still smirking. Will grinned and taking Mithian's arm started to lead her across the road.
"It was Merlin and Arthur, on New Years Eve."
She felt Will's hand tighten on her arm, but he relaxed the moment she reacted to the pressure and he let her go, instead putting his arm out to guide her, being careful not to touch her.
"But Arthur is Merlin's psychiatrist, I don't understand why you got so upset."
"Actually he's not. After what happened he's not, and I think Merlin worries about that."
"Why?" Mithian asked. "Arthur came out to get him that night, after he had called. You hadn't lost Merlin for that long, so he must have been pretty quick getting there."
"I know. I know," Will said stopping walking and closing his eyes. Mithian watched him grimace, as if a deep pain passed through his body. It only lasted a moment before he somehow seemed to shake it off, although the darkness lingered in his eyes for a moment longer. "Come on, let's get a coffee."
"What happened?" Merlin demanded after listening to several minutes of Arthur's reassurances that everything was fine. Even after all that, and the fact that Arthur looked fine, if a little pale, Merlin wasn't that convinced.
"I don't know. Well, I do sort of know but it just took me by surprise. I wasn't really doing anything, except..."
"Except what?" Merlin demanded sternly.
"I think I sort of kept my mind open..." Arthur tailed off, leaning back as he saw the fury in Merlin's blue eyes.
"Sort of..." Merlin snapped. "What the fuck did you do that for?!"
The four of them stood a discreet distance away, and Will and Mithian across the road, just about to enter the cafe turned to look at Merlin in shock. They were just getting used to his recovery and during that time he had been quite pensive and soft spoken, now his entire personality seemed to have completely flipped.
"I didn't really..."
"Jesus Christ Arthur... you would have thought that you'd consider how dangerous that is! You saw the measures I had to resort to in order to protect myself. Now it appears that I have to protect you as well!"
Arthur blinked, staring at Merlin in shock. "I'm a bit mad at myself as well, you know."
He paused and looked at Merlin, who appeared to be settling.
"Are you...? Is that me doing that?"
Merlin raised his eyebrows. He had calmed down, looking around, as he glanced over at Will the other man made something of a calming gesture at Merlin before he guided Mithian through the door of the cafe. Merlin nodded at him.
"No. I can feel that, but it's me that's angry. I nearly destroyed the crisp aisle in Tesco, that was all me."
Arthur snorted with laughter, and Merlin narrowed his eyes. Biting down on his lip Arthur attempted to pull himself together. He reached out to place a gentle hand on Merlin's arm.
"Look Merlin, I'm really, really sorry. I didn't mean to upset you, or frighten you. I just wasn't expecting Mordred to..."
"I drew him Arthur. You would think that would make you a little wary."
"You sensed what happened?" Uther asked. He had stayed a little way back but close enough that he could hear the conversation. Merlin glanced at him and nodded.
"As soon as he put pressure on Arthur's mind."
"I can't honestly say that I can begin to understand this sort of thing. For the most part I can hardly believe it, however I cannot ignore the evidence that you two keep presenting me with. What did happen Merlin?"
"I felt it, this... Mordred; he pushed into Arthur's mind."
"Was he trying to do any damage?"
Merlin huffed, glaring at Arthur. "He couldn't make him any more stupid. Will is right, you're a prat!"
Arthur frowned. "Hey!"
Merlin rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Uther. He stopped looking angry and looked rueful.
"No, no... I don't think he was." Merlin paused, chewing on his lower lip. "It was as if he was trying to push Arthur away."
"But I didn't do anything," Arthur said.
"You don't have to. I felt him, before I pushed him out."
"What do you mean you felt him Merlin? What does that actually mean?" Uther asked.
"Explain it to us idiots who have no clue," Gwaine added. Morgana smirked.
Merlin looked baffled for a moment.
"It's like. People get a sense of understanding how others feel. What they see in someone's face, they get a sense of, not just watching that but body language, and demeanour. Through that, your mind picks up bits of real emotion, because you understand what you are seeing, so you sympathize. You use your own emotion to understand."
"Wow, you've really thought about this," Gwaine said.
"No, Morgause did," Merlin said flatly. "Just in this case, her explanation is good."
"But with Arthur, and Cenred, they can feel what drives the surface emotion. People get angry because they are scared, they get scared because something relating to that previously upset them and they don't want it happening again."
"And that is what Cenred used to feed off?" Uther asked, very gently. Merlin's eyes tensed.
"He very much liked the surface emotions."
"And you cut off his supply," Morgana said interpreting what Merlin had said to Arthur, relating to his condition, his only way to fight back.
Merlin tensed, Arthur's hand on his arm slid down to Merlin's hand, taking it gently. Merlin gripped on, and as Merlin had just described, Arthur could feel more than just Merlin's anger. He felt the fear, Merlin was reacting because someone had attacked him. It left Merlin feeling rattled and insecure.
"It's okay Merlin."
"So who was he anyway?" Merlin asked.
"Unfortunately he clammed up after that incident. We can probably only question him further if we bring Arthur back in. Is there anything you can do to help protect him if we do that?"
Merlin looked flabbergasted as Uther asked him. He blinked and looked from Uther to Arthur and then back again.
"I think so. Arthur just need to make sure he's blocking any attacks."
"Can you help him with that?" Uther asked. Merlin nodded.
"He coped well enough against Morgause when you two dealt with her," Gwaine pointed out. "This kid should be something you can handle."
"Morgause didn't want Arthur damaged," Merlin said, causing all of them to fall silent.
"I don't think this kid is all bad, chances are they had him as an intended target. Mithian has been trying to get him assessed by us, to see whether or not he is a suitable candidate to be treated by us."
Arthur got the feeling he shouldn't have said that as they all stared at him, Merlin and Uther both giving him identical looked of disbelief and anger. He felt very relived when his phone chose that moment to ring. It gave him a distraction, especially as he looked at the name on the display.
"Katrina, hi." Arthur listened to her for a moment. "Shit! I had a little. It's probably written into my schedule though. It's before my class isn't it?"
Arthur rummaged around, trying to open his briefcase to look at his diary. Uther rolled his eyes and took the briefcase off Arthur, before he could drop it on the floor, opening it up and on finding the diary he opened it to the relevant page. To Arthur's relief he saw the relevant space blocked out.
"Yes, it's in. Thank you for reminding me though. Are there still spaces?"
Merlin frowned as Arthur glanced at him, a speculative look in his eye.
"Okay, I'll see you tomorrow."
"What?" Merlin asked.
"Do you want to come to my art class tomorrow?" Arthur asked Merlin.
"Yeah, do you want to come?" Arthur repeated. Merlin frowned, wondering if somewhere in that invitation was an apology for what had occurred today. Looking at Arthur's pale, sincere face Merlin couldn't help but smile. Although Uther's voice broke through to break the tentative truce.
"Don't think you are getting out of explaining why you agreed to help Mordred."