Thanks for the nice feedback. Special thanks to Vernacular Jargon for the beta-ing and also to Virebax, who actually used a PM to yell at me for the cliffhanger. I have very limited knowledge about the first aid procedure with gunshot victims, but I read a few articles to inform me. If I still got it completely wrong and you know it, feel free to tell me. Enjoy!
I have very limited knowledge about the first aid procedure with gunshot victims, but I read a few articles to inform me. If I still got it completely wrong and you know it, feel free to tell me.
Merlin had already figured that this just wasn't his day. But as the screwdriver snapped in half and the tip hit him in the head, all he could think of was, "Seriously? Even a screwdriver is hitting me now? I doubt this day can get any worse n–"
Only to promptly be proven wrong as Raider 1 chose that moment to shoot, effectively making Merlin's mind go blank.
But all Merlin felt were the headache, sore throat and throbbing pain in his stomach he'd had before. He didn't have time to think about Arthur's wellbeing, though, because not a second later, he was roughly pulled away from the safe and shoved into something. That something was solid, but warm and breathing.
Merlin carefully opened his eyes (and when had he closed them anyway?) and… was immensely relieved to look into Arthur's alarmed face. So the bank robber hadn't shot anyone. Yet.
Yet being the crucial point, because no matter what course of action Merlin could think of, it all lead to the same conclusion: Only a wonder could save them now. Merlin didn't believe in wonders, but right now, he would be happy to be proven wrong.
"That's it," Raider 1 spat, "Who wants to die first? I think I'll go for you, boy."
He pointed his gun at Merlin's head, who sighed quietly. There was no way to cheat death this time.
And of course – because Merlin's life was nothing but a very bad joke, made by someone with a very morbid sense of humour – the door was torn open just a few milliseconds before Raider 1 squeezed the trigger, cannoning into Merlin, Arthur and Raider 4 and sending them all face first to the floor. If the situation hadn't been so dire, Merlin might have laughed out loud. Who knew? Wonders existed after all!
The bullet meant for Merlin's head hit the half-opened door instead. Small splinters of varnish rained down on the three dumbfounded people on the floor.
"WHAT?" Raider 1 bellowed, who looked like he would go stark raving mad any second now. His face was corn poppy red and Merlin could practically see the steam coming out of his ears.
The interrupter had to be one of the other Raiders (Merlin had no idea which one, and he couldn't just turn around to check), since he replied, "Boss, this is an emergency! The cops are here! They've surrounded the building. What do we do now!?" He sounded frantic.
Beside him, Merlin could feel Arthur heave a sigh of relief. He, too, was relieved. So his cry for help to Elyan had worked, after all. Now they only had to figure out how to appease the furious bank robbers. And hopefully stay alive until the backup came in… which could prove to be somewhat difficult, seeing as Raider 1 was far beyond rationality now and seemed ready to tear someone to pieces. Preferably them.
"Alright, if they come and get me, I will at least take the pleasure in killing you two first," Raider 1 spat.
But this time, it was Arthur who spoke up, "I wouldn't do that if I were you. If you shoot us, the SCO19 will charge this building immediately. I'm a cop myself, I know how it goes. If shots are fired, they will not hesitate to charge. And they won't hesitate to shoot you, either. Someone who's classified armed and dangerous gets shot down with the gloves off."
"So you're a cop, eh? What a coincidence." The eyes of Raider 1 were nothing but small slits by now, glinting dangerously. Merlin was almost certain that admitting this detail had been a mistake. Arthur, however, seemed unfazed. But Merlin knew that he was only playing it cool. Inwardly, he was just as tense and cautious as Merlin.
"Yes, I am. So let me give you this advice: If you want to get out of this unscathed, you can't shoot us. Take me to the foyer and I'll convince the others to let you go in exchange for the hostages. Nobody knows your faces. They probably won't let you leave with the money, but at least you can escape with your lives and freedom."
Raider 1 barked out a sharp laugh. "Why should I trust you with this? If you're as reliable as your little friend, I'm better off doing the exact opposite of what you say."
"I don't want anyone to come to grief. And I've been in charge of this kind of operation before, I know exactly what my colleagues outside are planning to do right now. The longer you wait, the slimmer are your chances of escaping.
"Please, don't do anything rash. If you want to negotiate terms, the chief of operations will hear you out. And with that many hostages, you'll probably get anything you want, even an unmarked getaway car."
Raider 1 seemed to consider this. After a few moments, he gave Arthur a malicious smirk that made Merlin's blood run cold.
"You know what, I know exactly what I'm going to do." He turned his attention to his accomplices. "Guys, take these two scumbags back to the others. I'll speak with the cops."
Leon was crazed with worry. And to think that this day had looked so promising in the morning.
At first, Leon hadn't thought much about Arthur and Merlin's delay. The two of them weren't able to go anywhere without running into some kind of problem or another, so maybe their car broke down or they encountered some problems at the bank. So no, Leon wasn't worried. Arthur knew how to look after himself and Merlin… well, he was Merlin. Leon was sure they were just fine.
His confidence had vanished into thin air, though, when Elyan had come barging into the room, out of breath, eyes wide open and looking utterly horrified. Leon hadn't even had the time to ask what was wrong before his friend had blundered out, "Merlin and Arthur are hostages in a bank robbery that's taking place right now!"
And that had been the moment all hell broke loose.
Right now, he was standing in front of the bank Arthur and Merlin had paid a visit to, to warn the board of management. Leon remembered the argument just this morning between the two of them.
"Arthur, I'm telling you. I don't know where they'll strike next! Or when. They could go for it this exact moment! It would be wiser to just send a patrol to every bank we have on the list. To wait and see."
"Come on, Merlin, it won't hurt talking to the management of the banks. Plus, a bit of exercise won't hurt you, either."
"I'm not the one who should watch his weight. Also, I'm not saying that it would hurt. I'm just saying that I think we should really send a patrol. Just in case."
"With what justification? Don't be such a sissy. There are eleven bank branches on that list, Merlin! We can't just stake out eleven banks 24/7. That would be too expensive."
"Oh, so you're putting money issues above the safety of civilians? How noble of you, I'm proud, really."
"Shut it, Merlin. You don't even know how to hug someone without being completely awkward, I doubt you know what being proud means."
It had been a low blow on Arthur's side, shutting Merlin up immediately, and Merlin had looked like he was actually hurt by his words (although Leon could never really tell with him), but he came along nevertheless, just like always. Because no matter how much they argued, they had become very close friends over the time and wouldn't dream of deserting the other.
A fat lot of use it was to them now. Because of course, of course Merlin had to be right. If they had send patrols, they would've known much sooner about the bank robbery. Leon cursed and made a mental note to always back Merlin up in his premonitions from now on.
"We're ready to make the call," A voice suddenly said, jolting Leon out of his thoughts. He turned to look at Elyan, who held something in his hands that didn't look at all like a handset. Leon nodded and grabbed it nonetheless. He trusted Elyan not to give him the wrong piece of equipment.
Since Arthur wasn't present and their team had been the first ones on site, Leon – being the oldest and highest in ranking – had been appointed chief of operations. It wasn't his first operation by far, but he was still nervous. There was much at stake, after all.
Leon straightened his shoulders and gave Elyan a determined nod. Elyan pressed a few buttons and Leon heard connecting noises emitting from the thing, which seemed to be a handset after all.
Leon knew that he couldn't afford even the tiniest mistake right now. According to the snipers with their rifle scopes, there were seventeen hostages and three bank robbers in the foyer, but they suspected more raiders in the back. There also was no sign of Arthur or Merlin, which didn't help Leon's nerves at all.
The bank robbers didn't pick up.
Leon frowned. The building was completely surrounded. Surely the bank robbers didn't think they could get away? Leon just hoped they weren't going to harm the hostages. And where on earth was Arthur!?
His questions were promptly answered. One of the snipers reported movements in the back of the bank. Leon hastily snatched a pair of binoculars. His heartbeat quickened.
Three more bank robbers appeared in the foyer, and with them they dragged… Merlin and Arthur. Next to him, Elyan gasped slightly.
"Elyan," Leon said, his voice firm and commanding, "try calling them again. We have to get the situation under our control. And tell the others that Merlin and Arthur are okay."
Elyan nodded, made the connection once again and then left to inform the rest of the team. Leon only spared a short glance after him before concentrating on the phone.
Even Morgana had come, but she wasn't allowed to intervene, which made her even more the spitfire she always became when concerned and unable to do something. No doubt she would KO the officer assigned to keep her in check and come straight to him as soon as she heard the news.
This time, the bank robbers picked up after the fifth ringing. Leon braced himself.
"Who's speaking?" The voice was rough and indignant.
"This is Leon Nemeth, City of London Police. The building is completely surrounded. Do you have any claims?"
"Damn right I have! Step out in the open so I can see you."
Percy, who had helped Elyan set up the electronic equipment, looked up in alarm, slightly shaking his head. They both knew it was a great risk leaving the cover of the police cars that were standing between them and the bank, but the bank robber had sounded so disgruntled Leon didn't want to take any changes.
Ignoring Percy's hiss, he stood up and walked towards the bank, knowing full well that his protection vest wouldn't be of any help if the robbers decided to shoot at his head. He raised his arms briefly to show that he was unarmed and then held the phone to his ear again.
"I'm here, what do you want?"
"Look and listen closely."
To Leon's horror, one of the bank robbers grabbed Merlin, who was still leaning against a desk beside Arthur, and yanked him towards the other raider who held the phone. Then, he drew his gun and levelled it at Merlin's head.
"I already know these two are cops, so I guess you don't want me to shoot him."
Leon clenched his teeth and repeated, "What do you want?"
"I want all of you gone. You will leave this area within a ten-mile radius. Also, I want a getaway car. A van. Unmarked, the tank full. You won't follow us, you will let us leave the city and you won't try to trace us. I'm taking one of the lads with me to ensure that. If you cheat these conditions, I'll shoot him. Understood?"
Leon tried to calm down and stifle the anger that was rising in his chest. His voice was calm and controlled as he replied, "What about the hostages?"
The bank robber snorted. "They're of no use to us. We will lock them up in one of the offices. As soon as we're gone, you can go in and free them."
"And what about the person you want to take with you?" Leon refrained from calling Merlin by his name. It was best not to let show how well they knew each other.
"Oh, I don't know. We'll probably maroon him when we can be sure you lot aren't following us."
"I'm afraid I can't accept these terms. You will get the getaway car and we will retreat, but only if you leave all the hostages behind. I won't let you go without the ensured safety of all hostages."
There was a short silence. But then… "Alright, as you wish. Let this be a warning to you."
Before Leon knew what happened, the bank robber gave his accomplice a sign. The man pointed his gun to Merlin's leg and shot.
Leon watched in horror as Merlin cried out in pain and dropped to the floor. Arthur, who had been held back by one of the other bank robbers, wrested himself free and dashed over to Merlin, shouting something incomprehensible but undoubtedly insulting at the gunman and pressed his hands down on the wound in Merlin's upper leg, trying to staunch the flow of the blood that was already visible, even from where Leon stood.
The other hostages, in the meantime, were thrown into a state of panic. A child began to wail, people screamed and the bank robbers fired off a few warning shots to intimidate the hostages, but that only added to the panic. The whole situation rapidly spun out of control.
Leon threw down the handset, grabbed his walkie-talkie instead and yelled: "GO, GO, GO! Charge, NOW! We have to get them out before they shoot somebody dead!"
About two seconds later, the SCO19 clamped down.
Arthur barely registered the chaos around him. He was getting desperate. No matter how hard he pressed down on the bullet wound, the blood wouldn't stop streaming out of Merlin's body at an alarming rate.
"No. Nonononono. Come on, Merlin, wake up!"
Merlin didn't even stir as Arthur slapped him carefully on the cheek, smearing blood all over his face in the process. They were both covered in it by now. There was even a small puddle forming beneath Merlin's body, and how could he lose so much blood so fast, for heaven's sake?
"Merlin, god dammit. Don't you dare die on me, you hear me? Because if you do, I'll resuscitate you just to strangle you myself. Come on, Merlin, you've got to wake up! You still need to yell at me for being the stubborn, arrogant, stupid clotpole you accused me of being. I know you love gloating over being right, so don't let this opportunity slip."
He gave Merlin a gentle shove whilst simultaneously pressing down on the wound even harder. Merlin gave a feeble groan at that and Arthur had to fight not to embarrass himself by starting to laugh with relief. Or maybe sob.
He was startled when suddenly, someone appeared by his side. It was the old man with long hair who had sat beside Merlin earlier. He quickly assessed the situation and took off his coat.
"It's alright, I used to be a surgeon. The name's Gaius. We have to dam up the blood flow."
Without hesitation, Arthur grabbed his tie and yanked it off as fast as possible. He gave it to the man, Gaius, and tried to ignore the fact that his hands were covered in red. But Gaius merely shook his head.
"No, securing the artery isn't an option, it'll only make things worse. I need you to press down right here." He pointed at a spot on Merlin's inner thigh. "Press your whole fist in as hard as you can. Only squeezing the artery can staunch the wound."
Arthur did as he was told and prayed to all gods willing to listen that Merlin would be alright.
As he pressed his hand down on the spot Gaius had show him, Arthur finally took the time to get an overview of the scene.
The SCO19 had charged the building. Five of the bank robbers had already surrendered, but the sixth – the leader, Arthur supposed – had tried to flee. He had been shot down. Arthur couldn't care less if he was still alive.
Most of the other hostages were already lead away from the bank towards the police cars. Arthur saw some emergency doctors and paramedics running towards them. It still felt too long until they finally reached their destination.
Gaius, obviously knowing the routine, let go of Merlin and quickly stepped aside to make room for the emergency doctor. Arthur didn't. The paramedics had to practically drag Arthur away to assess the wound.
Gaius covered Arthur's shoulders with his old, well-worn coat and gently steered him towards the ambulance that had arrived with blaring sirens and squealing tyres a few moments ago.
Arthur looked down on his blood-covered hands and thought for sure that he was going to pass out.
He didn't though, only to be jumped at by Morgana, who hugged him tightly, not caring that her ridiculously expensive suit got filthy with blood strains. Just like always, she could sense his mood better than he could himself and said nothing but, "He'll be alright, Arthur. You know how he is, he'll probably just survive so he can rub your nose in the fact that he was right about the patrols."
Arthur nodded and gave her a small smile. He watched as the paramedics strapped Merlin on a stretcher and slid it into the ambulance before taking off exactly the way they came: with blaring sirens and squealing tyres.
He didn't have time to worry about it more, though, because the paramedics that were left decided that now was a good time to harass Arthur with their prodding and examination. Apparently, Gaius had told them that he was in a state of shock.
Five minutes, a lot of indignation on Arthur's part and a disapproving glare from Gwen later, he was being manhandled into Leon's car after he had adamantly refused to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Morgana, witch that she was, had already taken off towards the hospital, leaving him behind to deal with persistent paramedics and his overly concerned team all on his own. But finally, after convincing everybody that he really, absolutely and with 100% certainty wasn't in a state of shock, they left him be.
The ride to the hospital was quiet, everybody too lost in their own thoughts. Gwen drove, since she had a steady hand even under stress. Arthur hoped for her sake that there were no speed traps on the way, because she was close to breaking the sonic barrier with her speed. In any other situation, Arthur would've given her a lecture about traffic safety. But in this moment, he only felt grateful.
Lance sat beside her and Leon and Arthur – much to their chagrin – had to share the backseat. Elyan, Percy and Gwaine followed in Percy's car, their speed just as reckless as Gwen's. Morgana had spontaneously borrowed (without permission, of course) Gwaine's car, but he didn't seem to mind. At least not right now.
The wheels of the car hadn't even stilled completely before the doors were wrenched open and everybody jumped out.
Together, the team made its way towards the entrance of the hospital to which Merlin had been taken. They spotted Morgana sitting on one of those terribly uncomfortable plastic chairs across from the reception desk. Gwaine reached her first.
"What's going on? How is Merlin?"
Morgana shrugged. "I don't know, they're still in the surgery room. I already pestered some of the physicians, but nobody can tell me anything."
She looked rather sullen at that. Arthur knew how much she hated it not to know important things.
Gwen sighed, "Well, I guess all we can do is wait here. And I don't know about you guys, but I am in dire need of a coffee right now."
Waiting had never been Arthur's favourite thing to do, but sitting in a white corridor smelling of sanitizer and cleaning agent with nothing but London's worst coffee to distract himself, was agonizing. Time passed achingly slowly and no matter how often Morgana stood up and drilled passing doctors with questions, nobody seemed to know anything about Merlin's health situation.
It wasn't until two long, unnerving hours later that a man holding a clipboard approached them. As if on cue, everybody got up. Arthur could see Gwaine fiddling with his sleeves and Gwen biting her bottom lip. Not that he was any less nervous.
"I'd like to speak to Mr. Emrys' relatives. Are they here?" the man said. He had dark skin and a bald head, probably was in his mid-forties and radiated that kind of professional empathy most doctors seemed to possess.
Arthur shook his head at the question. "No, he doesn't have a family. But we're his closest friends and colleagues."
The man shrugged. "Very well. Mr. Emrys was very lucky. The bullet hit the Arteria femoralis of his left leg. He has lost an alarming amount of blood, so we had to give him a blood transfusion. Luckily, his blood group is a very common one and it was no problem to find fitting blood donations.
"It was a close call, but I'm glad to tell you that Mr. Emrys is over the worst now. We put him in the recovery ward. He should wake up within the next 30 minutes. I can show you the way, if you like."
There was a collective sigh of relief at the physician's words. Morgana may have even wiped her eyes a bit, although she would undoubtedly deny it to her dying breath if asked.
The physician nodded and turned around to guide them to the recovery ward. As they arrived, they saw a man standing just outside the door of the ward. Arthur was surprised to recognise him.
"Gaius! What are you doing here?" he asked with surprise. Leon frowned.
"You know each other?"
Gaius, who had turned to face them, nodded.
"Indeed. I was one of the hostages at the bank. I tried to help you friend in there after he was shot."
The physician smiled and spoke up, "Yes, Gaius used to work in this very hospital. It's a pity he retired, though, he was one of the best surgeons I've ever seen. It is at least partially thanks to his quick reaction that Mr. Emrys didn't exsanguinate."
Gaius snorted. "Quit your flatteries, Aglain. I'm sure you would've done just fine without me doing your groundwork. Also, I'm well over seventy years old by now, I deserve my peace." He then turned to the team. "But I believe you want to see your friend. Please, don't let me stop you."
Arthur gave the old man a grateful smile as he opened the door to the recovery ward and stepped inside. The others followed suit.
Merlin looked awful. He was even paler than usual, which was quite a feat itself, and the nasal cannula wasn't really reassuring, either. But at least he was alive and would recover in time. And for now, that was enough.
"Merlin! What on earth do you think you're doing!?"
Merlin winced slightly as he carefully sank down on his chair.
"Well, I don't expect you to recognise it for what it is, Arthur, but it's called working. People tend to do that. It means going to a place and doi–"
"Don't give me that crap, Merlin. How did you even get here!? You're supposed to be resting. Res-ting, Merlin. That means not moving too much, taking it slow and not going to work! And why didn't Geoffrey send you back the second he saw you?"
Merlin merely shrugged a bit and grinned slyly.
"Careful, Arthur. One might think you're actually concerned about me. And Geoffrey didn't see me, I used the fire escape stairs."
Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose and reminded himself that it would not be acceptable to throttle his own co-worker. But it was tempting.
It had been quite a challenge to keep Merlin at home at least until now. And challenge in this case meant that it was an all but impossible feat that required nerves of steel and loads of creativity.
Because as soon as he had been released from the hospital, Merlin's boredom had begun. And a bored Merlin was dangerous. Playing games had soon lost its appeal, since he won every single one that was somehow related to logic or reasoning. Which was almost every one, only with the exception of Yahtzee. (Arthur would never, ever be able to play Cluedo again without cringing.)
Merlin had then spent almost two days creating a computer virus, but he dismantled it again before anybody could find out what it could do. (Elyan strongly suspected this virus would have violated his probations in at least fourteen different ways if put into action, so nobody dared asking anyway.)
And reading books only kept him busy for three more days, because after that, he had read all of Arthur's books that had aroused his interest. He still refused to read sci-fi novels and love stories. (Not that Arthur owned any romantic novels anyway. Sci-fi: yes. Love stories: no way.)
And so Arthur wasn't even surprised as he stepped out of the elevator and was greeted with the sight of Merlin leaning against the counter of the kitchenette, sipping tea. But he was still annoyed.
It had been only eight days since Merlin had been released from the hospital. And he was supposed to rest for two weeks. But of course, being Merlin and being far too stubborn for his own good, he had decided to come anyway. Idiot.
"Don't be ridiculous, Merlin, I don't care about you. I merely wanted to enjoy the few days without your hideous behaviour and obnoxious comments."
Merlin's grin just widened. Arthur had a sinking feeling about this.
"You forced me to stay at yours because you didn't trust me not to jump out of the window or something absurd like that as soon as I'm alone. So theoretically, you should be glad that I'm back to work, because that gives you an excuse to finally kick me out of your guest room."
Arthur opened his mouth to reply, only to realise that there was nothing he could say. He could only choose between insulting Merlin, which would show that he didn't know what to counter, or admitting that he was worried for his friend, and that just wasn't an option. So he snapped his mouth shut again and opted for glaring at Merlin as intimidating as possible instead. Merlin wasn't impressed, of course.
"Look, I know I should stay at home or wherever you think I won't get myself killed, but I'm bored out of my mind and it's driving me crazy. So I'm just going to sit here for a few hours, push paper on my desk and drink tons of tea, alright?"
Merlin held his hand up in what was meant to be a placating manner, but only made Arthur suspicious. Merlin was too good at manipulating people for him not to be.
"Okay," he finally said, "But you're not leaving your desk, and if Morgana comes and yells at you, don't expect me cover for you."
Merlin nodded and immediately buried himself in the stacks of paper on his desks. Arthur turned around and went towards his own office. Just before he closed the door, he could have sworn he heard Merlin mutter something that sounded suspiciously like "clotpole". Arthur managed not to grin.
He did grin, however, when about twenty minutes later the quietness of the office was disrupted by Morgana's yell.
"Merlin! What on earth are you doing here!?"
The End (For now...)