lilian_cho: Merlin in X-Men gear (Telepath!Merlin)
lilian_cho ([personal profile] lilian_cho) wrote2012-02-16 01:26 pm

Mutants: Second Generation (Gen | Arthur/Merlin pre-slash, PG-13, ~9K)

An X-Men: First Class fusion//ModernDay!AU.
Powerful telepath Merlin went through life identifying as an empath until the night he encountered a brilliant mind in the waters.

Characters: Arthur/Merlin pre-slash, Morgana, Gwen, Gwaine, Leon, Lancelot, Morgause, Anhora
Word Count: 8989
Betas: Part one betaed by dear [livejournal.com profile] symetric and proofread by [livejournal.com profile] lovely_dusk, part two betaed by [livejournal.com profile] lovely_dusk <3
Content Notes: SPOILERS for X-M:FC. Italics.
Prompt: [livejournal.com profile] sweetestel's awesome manip for [livejournal.com profile] merlinreversebb.
Give feedback to her lovely posters and wallpaper here <3
Author's Note: Thank you [livejournal.com profile] sweetestel for letting me switch around Arthur and Merlin's roles from your original prompt. Brainstorming with you and sending you fic snippets helped me stay motivated <3
All references in the fic are Google-able. Here are the spoiler-y Mutants: Second Generation "Playlist" and the spoiler-y character list.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction – none of this ever happened. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is made from this work. Please observe your local laws with regards to the age-limit and content of this work.




by sweetestel @ dA | LJ | Tumblr


Part One: Have no story to be told


LeFay Estate, Westchester, New York

It had been four years since Hunith Emrys had remarried and become Hunith LeFay, but half of the time Merlin still felt ill-at-ease in the trappings of their new world. Even though his stepsister Morgana had taken him firmly in hand and dressed him in the latest men's couture for the occasion, no amount of tailored designer formal wear would hide the fact that he was Merlin Emrys, nineteen-year-old uni student prone to overenthusiasm and the tendency to pick the least appropriate subject for polite dinner conversations. This latter tendency was possibly why people didn't believe him when he claimed to be an empath.

Take, for example, right now. Merlin was talking to Lord Godwyn, Gorlois LeFay's business partner and eighteen-year-old Elena's doting father.

"Elena has the most beautiful complexion and dark brown hair," Merlin remarked.

Godwyn smiled, looking in the direction of the refreshment table, where Elena was talking to a hopeful suitor and, stumbling over nothing, promptly spilling a plate of hors d’oeuvres all over the young man's pristine suit.

"It's so interesting considering you and your wife have fair skin and blond hair," Merlin said.

Godwyn whipped around to face him. "I beg your pardon."

Oh god. What did Merlin say now, he could hear Morgana's sharp, crystalline thought from across the ballroom.

"I'm just remarking on the interesting twists and turns that genetic expression takes across generations," Merlin said, just as Morgana materialized in a swirl of emerald and gold at his shoulder. Some days, he could've sworn his stepsister was a teleport or someone whose mutation was to move at a very, very fast, elegant clip. She looked resplendent in the black-haired and green-eyed form that she used most often in public.

"Uncle Godwyn!" Morgana interrupted smoothly before Godwyn could turn an even more alarming shade of red. "We haven't seen you since last Christmas. How is Aunt Miriam doing?"

Godwyn visibly collected himself. "Morgana. Miriam is feeling under the weather. She sent her regards to you and your father. And the lovely Hunith, of course."

Nothing for the mentally afflicted stepson? Merlin gulped down his champagne and tamped down the urge to make cheeky remarks, now that Morgana had smoothed over the awkward situation.

Morgana smiled the smile of a consummate hostess. "Actually, Uncle Godwyn, Father mentioned earlier that he had something he wanted to discuss with you. He was talking to Senator Aredian last I saw him."

"He did, did he?" His gaze automatically searched for Elena, who was currently on the dance floor stepping none too gently on her dance partner's toes. The previous suitor, sans suit and waistcoat, was sulking off at the sides.

"I'd tell Elena where you've gone," Morgana said soothingly. And help keep watch of her was implied. Giving the appearance of a trustworthy, responsible adult must be a secondary mutation of hers, Merlin thought.

"Yes, well," Godwyn apparently could not find fault in Morgana's suggestion. "If you'll excuse me."

Merlin lifted his empty champagne glass and gave the man an idiotic parting grin.

"And you wonder why they all think you are touched in the head," Morgana said once Godwyn was out of earshot.

"At least they no longer think I'm a 'power-hungry opportunist' angling for a position in your father's company." Or having designs on his stepsister, the heiress of aforementioned multi-million dollar company.

Morgana let out a noise that would be called a snort in lesser humans. "You would rate having a mental affliction over being ambitious." He could sense her warm amusement even without reading her mind.

Merlin hummed his agreement, snatching a fresh champagne flute from a passing server. Mentally glancing over the dance floor, he winced. "I think Elena's latest dance partner might have broken an ankle."

*****

Anhora's office, Licorne Bank

Anhora Evans stared at the gaudy blue gem set on his desk and looked up at the young man who had placed it there. Even at first glance he had recognized the Sigan Jewel, last seen in the possession of Uther Pendragon two years ago for an insurance appraisal.

He tapped a finger on the blotter next to the heart-shaped jewel. "Either this is a very convincing fake, or you have come into possession of this jewel through less than legal means. Either way, we're not—"

"Not that kind of bank?" The man smoothly interrupted. In his tasteful grey three-piece suit, he wouldn't have looked out of place in a fashion spread, if not for the cold glint in his clear blue eyes.

Arthur Eisenhardt—if that was indeed his real name—gave his left suit sleeve a slight tug and made a show of taking off his expensive watch. On the inside of his wrist, formerly hidden under the watchband, was a series of tattooed numbers—001.

"Did you know? I was Facility X's youngest and first test subject," Eisenhardt said conversationally. "The research team was quite overjoyed by what my mutation could accomplish. They told me I was one of the strongest mutants in history."

Meanwhile, Anhora's hand slowly inched toward the panic button concealed under his desk drawer. His left arm jerked upward and smacked himself on the forehead. He found his wrist anchored to the arm of his chair by his...watch?

Eisenhardt pursed his pink lips and made a small disappointed noise. "Do not touch that alarm."

Anhora twisted his body violently to reach the button with his right hand, but Eisenhardt caught his wrist and slammed it down on the desk. He shouted at the sharp, bright pain in his hand. Eisenhardt had stuck the sword-shaped letter opener—It was in the drawer; he knew he kept it in the drawer—deep into his palm without him noticing the movement.

"I want Pendragon. Uther Pendragon," Eisenhardt said in exact tones, breath warm at the side of his face.

"We don't keep track of our clients' movements!" Anhora protested. 'We're not—"

"Not that kind of bank, I know," Eisenhardt said. Incongruously, he stepped back and stood up straight from across the desk. He picked up a silver unicorn figurine—the horn wasn't sharp enough to gouge a hole, but he wasn't willing to test it—and set it back down without comment.

Eisenhardt smiled at a picture frame holding the photograph of his granddaughter Anna Marie, and Anhora felt cold sweat breaking on his brow.

"I think she'd prefer her grandfather in one piece, don't you?" A warning twist of the letter opener accompanied the words.

Anhora closed his eyes and broke.

"Miami," he gasped, bleeding sluggishly on his desk planner. "Uther Pendragon is in Miami."

He moaned when the letter opener flew out of his hand.

"Thank you," Eisenhardt said with a smile.

*****

On board of Northumbria V, Miami

Merlin had to admit that there were definite perks to being the stepson of Gorlois LeFay, and by extension, part of the world of riches and glitz. One current perk was enjoying a beautiful orange Miami sunset while the yacht he stood on sailed across the water. What do you know, those sunset postcards weren't photoshopped after all. This impromptu yacht party was in celebration of Peregrin—Pellinor—Lancelot's-friend-whatshisname being hired by a famous law firm, and Merlin was dressed in his signature feral red scarf and the brown leather jacket he picked up at a Renaissance Faire.

Considering that Lancelot Eldred, the yacht's owner, belonged to the same social circles as the LeFays, he surprisingly had a lot in common with Merlin. Lancelot had been adopted by the Eldreds at the age of four, and while he felt love and gratitude for his elderly parents, a small part of him had never stopped feeling like an impostor. If being too nice and self-effacing was a mutation, then Lancelot was most definitely a mutant.

"Northumbria V," Merlin pronounced the name of the boat. "What would a three-person family need five yachts for, anyway?"

Morgana gave a small hum in reply. She was used to Merlin's random bouts of railing against the excesses of high society. He didn't mention her hundred pairs of designer shoes, and she didn't point out his hypocritical amassment of the latest computer and gaming technology; it was a satisfactory arrangement for both of them.

"Why would anyone need five bathrooms on a boat?" Merlin continued on this vein.

"Oh I don't know, for the dozens of guests they have on board, perhaps," Morgana said dryly.

"And an outdoor shower!" Merlin said with the heartfelt conviction of the slightly inebriated. He paused. "Actually, a fresh water outdoor shower sounds wonderful. Wasteful, but wonderful."

Normally, Morgana would mock him for his verbal flailing, but he could feel her good cheer bleeding over, probably from the not-too-horrid company and the steady flow of cocktails provided at the bar. A pair of oversized white sunglasses were perched on her head.

"You look lovely as a redhead," Merlin said.

She gave him a small, pleased smile. "Why thank you, Merlin."

"You're usually a redhead when you're relaxed. Funny, because I wouldn't think of the color red as relaxing. It should be..." He peered at his beer bottle, eyebrows scrunched. "Blue."

She blinked, hair darkening to auburn.

Tendrils of panic crept around the edges of her thought. What does he mean? Does he know that I—, but the line of thought was cut off when a woman with pretty curls came by, a cocktail glass in hand.

"Hi, I hope I'm not intruding."

Morgana recovered first and gave her a smile. "Not at all. You're Elyan's sister—Guinevere, right?" She added, for Merlin's benefit, "Elyan is Percival and Lancelot's friend from law school."

Merlin nodded, peeling the corners of the beer label.

"Guinevere Smith, but please call me Gwen," Gwen said with a friendly smile. "The boys looked like they were seconds away from playing drunken truth or dare, so I opted for a strategic retreat."

Morgana and Merlin laughed. Well, Morgana chuckled and Merlin giggled. Gwen raised an eyebrow. It's criminal how people always thought he was drunker than he actually was.

"I'm Merlin," he said cheerfully. "This is my stepsister, Morgana. And this is only my second beer, I swear."

"Which is two too many for Merlin," Morgana smoothly interjected. Considering that he weighs less than a hundred twenty pounds, soaking wet.

Merlin ignored the unspoken jibe on his weight. "So Gwen, your brother and those drunken louts over there are lawyers," he said, gesturing with his empty beer bottle. "Morgana is a high-powered executive, and I'm a uni student probably destined to be an eternal academic. What do you do?"

"I work for the government," Gwen said simply.

Merlin carefully placed the fingers of his free hand against his temple. "I don't detect an obsession for numbers or unusual cruelty, so not the IRS."

Gwen laughed breathily. "What?"

"No Scully vibes, so not the FBI..." Merlin continued playfully.

"Merlin here is an empath," Morgana explained. Her hair was back to a brilliant shade of red.

Gwen looked equal parts impressed and entertained.

Merlin suddenly paused, fingers pressed into his temple.

"Well, go on," Morgana said.

He straightened up against the railing. "There's someone in the water."

*****

On board of Caspartina, Miami

So far, Arthur didn't have reason to doubt Anhora's information. His lead had brought him to this yacht in Miami, where Pendragon was supposed to be wining and dining Senator Aredian, for reasons Arthur could not fathom yet.

As he padded silently around the yacht, he saw no hide or hair of a crew except for a man wearing a captain's hat. Pendragon was nowhere in sight, and, if the senator was ever on board, he had been long gone ever since. Arthur bit back a snarl of frustration. Either both Anhora and his lead had told him the exact same lie—unlikely—or he was too late to catch Pendragon unaware. The yacht's metal railings hummed, sharpening his other senses and helping him to calm.

Women's voices lazily floated from the stern ahead. There were two of them, and Arthur recognized the dispassionate voice as belonging to Uther's current right-hand woman. He had no inkling of her mutation, but he had exhausted all his leads and he needed answers.

Stepping forward in sight, he identified the woman sitting to the left as Morgause and threw a boot knife at her face. At the same time, he caught hold of an ice bucket with his metal-sense and knocked the second woman on the side of her head.

She slumped to the side in her yellow sundress. No superstrength mutation there. Morgause, on the other hand, had transformed wholly into a crystalline, translucent form. She had a martini glass cradled in her left hand and the blade of Arthur's knife gripped in her right.

Morgause spared a disdainful glance at the unconscious young woman. "I've told Uther that Sophia has abysmal reaction time."

When she didn't make any move to get up, Arthur approached her warily.

"Uther Pendragon. You know where he is."

Morgause tightened her grip on Arthur's knife, and he could feel the metal creak and bend. Her form must be as strong as diamond.

"Young Arthur Pendragon," she pronounced. Arthur didn't flinch. "Of course, you go by Arthur Eisenhardt now. You seek revenge on Uther for the sake of faint memories you no longer even remember."

And suddenly Arthur was falling in blinding bright light and he saw

"Just one more shot, Arthur. This shouldn't give you adverse reactions like last week's—"

—hands holding him down—

"You're not trying hard enough; you only dodged eight blades out of eleven—"

—Gaius bandaging his wounds, keeping his silence about Edwin's creative 'training'—

"You had hemophilia as a child, Arthur. Did you never wonder how you were cured?—"

—Nimueh's red lips curving as she flipped a silver coin in the air—


Arthur reflexively tried to catch the falling coin with his powers but of course there was

"—nothing we can do about his sickness, Ygraine. He was never meant to live."

—a soft hand caressed his hair over and over as she sang snatches from a lullaby—

"Arthur, my sweet, darling boy. I would give my life so you could live the rest of yours."

—wispy blond hair escaping from under a white sheet. A single pale hand lying cold and stiff—


Arthur sobbed, clutching his head in both hands.

"I find it strange that you're seeking revenge on Uther for something that ultimately benefits you."

With a roar of rage, Arthur rose up from the floor and ordered the metal railings forward, catching Morgause neatly by her arms and neck.

To his surprise, instead of transforming into her diamond form, she looked sharply to her left at Sophia—

The slumped over young woman suddenly stood up and threw a small whirlwind at him.

He didn't have the chance to be surprised before he was tossed off the boat and swallowed into dark waters.

*****

On board of Northumbria V, Miami

"There's someone in the water!" Merlin repeated, louder, his gaze focused ahead.

"Where?" Morgana asked sharply, hair flickering to dark brown.

Gwen was silent, on alert. For all she knew, Merlin's powers included enhanced underwater sight.

"There, right there!" Merlin pointed 40 meters ahead, where the stern of a yacht could be seen as it sailed further to the right. A horrible creaking sound rent the night air.

"My God," Merlin breathed, eyes bright with wonder. The yacht ahead warped, listing noticeably to one side.

"What is he thinking? He'll drown," Merlin muttered.

"Who?" Morgana asked. "Is there trouble on that yacht? Merlin! What are you doing?"

Merlin took off his shoes and placed them next to his folded jacket on the ground. "That blond guy trailing behind the yacht? He's going to run out of steam sooner or later and realize he's treading water."

Gwen and Morgana gasped as they saw a blond head broke surface above the moonlit waters.

"I vote for sooner so I don't have to swim that far." He ripped off his scarf and dropped it on the pile. "Morgana, go tell Lancelot to change direction closer to that yacht."

She nodded and turned around to walk briskly to the crowd inside.

"Ow!" Merlin winced, the heel of his palm pressed to his temple.

"Are you okay?" Gwen asked, hand on his elbow.

Merlin grimaced. "There's a telepath on that yacht. They just knocked out the guy in the water. Wish me luck." Taking a deep breath, he climbed up and dived into the waters below.

He silently thanked his mum for insisting he take swimming lessons as a child, even during the two years they were living in the landlocked state of Ohio.

With powerful arm strokes, he glided through the water, heading straight to where he could still sense the man's—Arthur's—mind, dampened, but still calling to him like a bright point in the dark waters.

Arthur, I'm coming.

After what felt like long, unending minutes, he reached the spot where he saw Arthur last. Taking a deep lungful of air, Merlin dived down to the sinking body below.

He reached the shadowed outline and hooked an arm around Arthur's chest. I've got you now, Arthur. Together, they broke surface. Mission accomplished, Merlin gave Arthur's mind a gentle nudge to consciousness.

"We're here!" Merlin shouted. Northumbria V had steered closer to the spot, with Lancelot at the helm.

He felt Arthur's body shake against his chest as he coughed out water. Good, because Merlin wasn't sure how he'd go about hauling an unconscious mass twice his body weight up to board the yacht.

"Who are you?" Arthur had pushed away, keeping an arm's length from Merlin.

"Merlin; I'm an empath." He had the urge to offer his hand, but figured it would be silly considering they were both treading water. "I felt you lose consciousness when that telepath knocked you out."

The look in Arthur's blue eyes called bullshit. You were in my head.

Merlin didn't respond to Arthur's suspicious thought.

"Everything will be alright, my friend. You're not alone."

*****


Part Two: Making a home down there


On board of Northumbria V, Miami

Nothing had gone according to plan ever since Arthur had first set foot on the Caspartina. Instead of finding Pendragon and demanding answers from him, he had encountered Pendragon's righthand woman and was forced to relive things that were better off buried. He shouldn't have been surprised when the girl in the sundress threw that whirlwind at him. Uther didn't keep useless people around, after all.

He couldn't remember what made him lose consciousness in the water. He wasn't bleeding from anywhere, and he didn't feel as if he'd had a concussion. Of course, he had little idea of what a telepath is capable of...

Wrapping the red blanket tighter around his shoulders, he looked at his rescuer with wary suspicion. The man—Merlin—was grinning inanely even while his teeth were chattering in the cold.

"If you two could stop holding silent conversations with your eyes for a minute, Lancelot has dry clothes you can change into," said the brunette standing to Merlin's side. She had Merlin's colouring and piercing blue eyes; an older sister, perhaps.

"Yes!" piped up an earnest-looking man, presumably Lancelot. "You know where my room is, Merlin. You could do with a hot shower."

'Before you catch pneumonia and die' was implied, Arthur thought, remembering the feel of his rescuer's long, thin frame.

Merlin gave a jerky nod and, with one last smile at Arthur, led the way inside.

*****

"The attached bathroom is through that door there. Here's where Lancelot keep his shirts. They should fit you; you two are about the same size, I think," Merlin said, sliding the wardrobe door open. "And here's where the trousers are."

Arthur grabbed a white polo shirt and a pair of khaki pants without comment.

"That's his underwear drawer, if you need a dry pair." Merlin gestured to said drawer. "Unless you find it strange to walk around in someone else's underwear, which I totally won't blame you for; Lancelot's a good friend and all, but I'd find it strange to wear his boxer-briefs."

Arthur lifted an eyebrow, radiating polite amusement.

Merlin inhaled. "Right. Shutting up now. I'll just," he cut himself off and made a gesture to convey go drown myself in the other bathroom before I embarrass myself any further.

"If you don't need anything else..." Arthur was already unzipping his diving suit and peeling the wet Neoprene off his broad shoulders. Merlin blindly grabbed a hoodie and sweatpants and walked backward through the open door.

Arthur stepped out of his diving suit, not bothering to turn around to preserve his modesty. Holy Mother of... Merlin slammed the door quickly, then had to open the door slightly to free a trapped sleeve.

"Just...yell if you need anything!" He awkwardly gestured at the door with one free hand.

He felt a warm hum of amusement through the door.

"Stupid blond hunk with broad shoulders and brilliant muscles," Merlin muttered, taking off his drenched clothes and leaving them in a puddle on the bathroom floor.

Fiddling with the shower knob, he was tempted to expand his awareness to the other bathroom and the fascinating mind inside it. He really shouldn't, he knew he shouldn't, but Merlin had never touched such a brilliant mind before. It called to him with a warm, distinct, metallic hum. Self-control had never been his best trait.

Keeping in mind that he'd inadvertently projected into Arthur's unconscious mind earlier, he held himself back to the barest surface.

He felt honest pleasure at the spray of hot water—a slight lessening of tension—and waves of gratefulcuriousalertsuspicious

He quickly pulled his awareness tight around him. Arthur couldn't have felt that, could he?

Pulling the grey hoodie over his head, Merlin pasted on a guileless smile and walked back to the master bedroom.

Arthur was waiting for him, arms folded in front of his chest. He looked impossibly put together for someone who had been knocked unconscious and was drowning less than half an hour ago. The expression in his blue eyes was unreadable, and Merlin had to sit on his metaphorical telepathic hands to stop himself from reaching out.

Now that they were properly dry, he could see that Arthur's hair was blond. The shade of wheat fields gleaming golden in the sun, Merlin thought, and promptly felt disgusted at his lovesick brain.

Why is he not saying anything? And standing in front of the bathroom? His arms look really good in that polo shirt. Dear God, does that pose mean 'I felt your telepathic groping when I was wet and naked in the shower'?!

Before Merlin could start twitching guiltily, Arthur stepped forward and extended his hand.

"I haven't thanked you for saving my life yet," Arthur said gravely.

Merlin gaped at his outstretched hand for one heartbeat before grasping it.

"Arthur—" Pendragon "—Eisenhardt. I control metal."

"Arthur." Merlin grinned brightly, a little giddy that he was finally able to shape the name in his mouth and not just his thoughts. "I'm Merlin. Merlin Emrys."

"Thank you, Merlin Emrys, for pulling me out of the water." He's really beautiful when he doesn't look like a drowned rat. There's something about him...

Blushing, Merlin snatched his hand back. "Eisenhardt—iron worker—that's a really cool name. And your powers are just brilliant. I've never met a metallokinetic before; it's so fascinating how there seems to be an infinite variation of Homo sapiens mutandis—"

As brilliant as your powers?

He stammered to a stop. "Um."

Arthur gazed at him placidly. The metallic hum of his mind changed, sounding like radio static.

Merlin went for broke. "Listen, Arthur, I haven't been completely honest with you."

Arthur's pink lips pursed slightly, his whole pose saying Go on.

"I am an empath; I wasn't lying about that. But my readings are barely higher than the Homo sapiens sapiens baseline, or, as Morgana would say, useless." He paused, took a deep breath and said in a strong gust of air, "I'm a telepath."

Wariness greeted Merlin's announcement, but he could also sense a glimmer of smug amusement.

"Was I that obvious?" When Arthur snorted, he quickly added, "You're the second person I've ever told, just so you know."

"Merlin, I could feel you the moment I regained consciousness. I'm amazed anyone ever buys your 'empath' story."

Merlin shook his head in amazement. "That's so strange. Nobody could ever tell I was in their head." Unless I was speaking in their mind like this. "Not even mum or Will." Will's my childhood friend, back in England.

"Can you speak...one sentence at a time?" Listening to your mouth and your thoughts at the same time is kind of trippy.

Merlin's cheeks hurt from all this smiling. You're doing a marvelous job, my friend. I miss mindspeaking; I haven't done it in years.

Arthur stroked his chin, contemplative. Your sister, surely the two of you— Merlin saw an image of himself and Morgana side by side, pale, dark-haired and beautiful.

Merlin coughed, cheeks flushed. That Arthur would find him attractive in comparison to Morgana, of all people. "We're not actually related; she's my stepsister. She suspects something, but she doesn't know I'm a telepath. I suppose I should come clean to her sooner rather than later." Or suffer her unending wrath.

Arthur chuckled, and Merlin felt a wave of longingfamilyloss.

"We should go back to the deck right this moment, before Lancelot's convinced I've drowned in the shower." And so Morgana will stop picturing us having improbably acrobatic shower sex.

Arthur laughed—a deep, joyful sound that reverberated inside Merlin.

*****

Arthur didn't survive all these years by sticking his head in the sand. So when the curly-haired woman—a government agent if he ever saw one—pulled Merlin and Morgana aside to 'reconvene,' he surreptitiously followed them to catch stray bits of conversation.

Lancelot had amiably accepted Merlin's explanation that Arthur had fallen overboard after a rigorous family argument—"A misunderstanding, really; it'll blow over soon enough"—and had left them to their own devices with alacrity. Arthur suspected telepathic intervention, because surely nobody could be that dim. Lancelot and his friends were therefore conveniently out of the way as he crept along the hallway.

Merlin could certainly sense his thoughts in such close quarters; if he didn't want him listening at the door, he'd send Arthur away. Of course that would just make Arthur determined to eavesdrop even more.

"What do you know about the Pendragon Corporation?"

Morgana answered the woman, and then—

"Gwen. Or should I say, Agent Smith? Why is the CIA keeping surveillance on Pendragon labs?"

Arthur could hear Merlin more clearly than the two women, and he didn't think it was by virtue of accidental proximity. He knew the Pendragon mutant research facility intimately, of course—both the legal and illegal levels—but he had no idea they had caught the government's eye. He shouldn't be surprised that terrorism paranoia had extended to political paranoia over the secret going-ons of mutants.

Morgana and the CIA agent, Gwen, made exclamations of surprise. A telepath, a CIA agent and a fratful of lawyers. This Lancelot sure had interesting yacht parties.

"I've been keeping things from you, Morgana, I'm sorry. I know that you've been keeping things from me too."

Morgana's voice rose until Arthur could hear it clearly through the door. "—can conveniently hide your powerful, invisible mutation!"

"You're right, of course." Merlin sounded subdued. "People only tolerate mutation when it's seen as harmless or benevolent."

Gwen cautiously laid out some information that seemed to leave Merlin speechless. "—suspicions about his powers. We're interested in how he could help us."

"I'm not confirming or denying anything, you understand. But he's a bloody kid! I won't be complicit of having a minor detained in some government lab, and don't tell me that that's not a probable outcome!"

There was a mutant child out there whom the government felt could help them in their...investigation of Pendragon Corporation. He wondered what the child's mutation was, and how he was connected to Merlin.

A flurry of conversation followed, with Morgana interjecting in sharp tones.

"No, I'm with Arthur on this one," Arthur heard Merlin simultaneously projecting his words to him. "We can't afford to wait for the CIA to make a move. Uther Pendragon needs to be stopped."

*****

On their way to Miami International Airport

Gwen inputted their destination, Miami International Airport, into the GPS of her government-issued car. Lancelot had offered to drive them to the airport, but Merlin had pointed out that someone needed to make sure Percival didn't die of alcohol poisoning before he started at his law firm on Monday. He didn't know if Lancelot had been influenced by his telepathic persuasion, or if he really was just that good a friend. With Lancelot, it was probably both.

As a precaution, he had made the memory of Arthur's rescue hazy in the minds of the other people at the party. Lancelot's friends, who were already drunk in the first place, thought the blond man was Merlin's friend who had fallen off Northumbria V thanks to drunken clumsiness. Lancelot, if he thought back of yesterday night's rescue, would have a faint impression of calling Arthur's 'sister' to tell her he was alright.

When they were saying their good-byes, Lancelot's gaze had slid past Arthur without registering his presence. He knew Morgana had found his display of power unnerving, but the less Lancelot and the others knew, the better.

Arthur was leaning forward in his seat, head a little bent. He was watching the road, occasionally glancing at Gwen and Morgana in front. When his gaze landed on Merlin, Merlin gave him a gentle smile and sent a feeling of reassurance.

"I think reintroductions are in order," he said pleasantly. "Arthur, the lovely redhead is my stepsister, Morgana LeFay. Unlike most shapeshifters, she can change more than the color of her hair and eyes."

From the passenger seat, Morgana looked back at them with a mock regal expression. She raised an eyebrow at him and shifted to face Arthur. There was a soft sound like a rustle of feathers, and in the blink of an eye a redheaded, freckled teenage boy was sitting in Morgana's place.

Merlin laughed delightedly. "Pizza Guy!" Morgana even had the lackadaisical set of his mouth and vaguely stoned expression down exactly.

"Wise men say, 'Forgiveness is divine, but never pay full price for late pizza'," Pizza Guy's mouth said in a Texan drawl.

Gwen and Merlin laughed at that. Arthur was still looking at Morgana's shifted form in awe.

"That was brilliant, Morgana," Merlin said, still grinning. "But Arthur and Gwen never met our pizza delivery guy."

In another blink, Morgana changed back into her public face, but she kept her red hair short. She smiled at Arthur slyly. "Maybe if you're good, I'll show you what Merlin looked like when he was fifteen."

Merlin groaned, knowing what she was going to say next. "He was going through an emo phase, complete with eyeliner and girls' jeans; it was very cute," she informed Arthur with great satisfaction.

Arthur let out a bark of laughter, eyes crinkling in amusement. He looks so young and carefree when he's like this, Merlin thought wistfully. He couldn't help but feel giddy; Arthur was his second true friend after Will, and he was hoping he could count Morgana in that list too.

He looked to the front and glimpsed Gwen's brown eyes in the rearview mirror. Reluctantly, he felt himself sobering up.

"On a more serious note, Guinevere Smith—best known as Gwen—works for the CIA." He could feel the merriment in the car evaporate, to be replaced with a cloud of cautiontensionforeboding.

Gwen merged smoothly into the center lane, and Merlin took a deep breath to fortify himself.

"Gwen is officially on a break after a difficult case. Unofficially, she was checking up on me because we had a mutual acquaintance in Lancelot."

Arthur tensed in his seat, looking across at Gwen. His hands were clenching into fists by his side.

Don't be silly, Arthur; Gwen is on our side, Merlin spoke in Arthur's mind. She's not going to hurt me. I'm a telepath, I should know.

"The CIA had no idea that I'm a telepath," Merlin continued. "Morgana also never registered in their radar. In fact, what made the CIA interested in me..."

"...is his RPG website," Gwen neatly completed his sentence.

Arthur blinked. "Your website?"

"Specifically, we're interested in a user going by the name of Druid99."

Druid-ninety-nine, Arthur mouthed the words with disbelief. Does he charge 99 cents to purify bottled water?

Merlin snorted. "I run a fantasy roleplaying forum, and Druid99 is one of the most active members." He resettled in his seat, bumping shoulders companionably with Arthur. He picked that username because he was born in 1999, but I'd rather the CIA knows as little as possible about him.

Gwen glanced at them in the rearview mirror, surmising correctly that they were having a separate silent conversation. "He showed up in our radar after multiple hacking attempts—" Successful hacking attempts, Merlin chimed in. "—of several government databases. Some anomalies made us think we might not be dealing with a normal hacker."

Next to her, Morgana frowned. "Can't he just be a genius hacker? Why do you suspect that he's a mutant?"

Gwen shrugged. "They were saying that some of the programs displayed self-learning capabilities in the aftermath."

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "So you're saying that after Druid99 was through with them, the computers became...sentient."

"Throughout human history, we have been dependent on machines to survive," Merlin said.

Morgana groaned. "Matrix, Merlin? Really?"

1999 movie, Druid99, he projected at her. "I didn't think 'There is no spoon' is an appropriate quote for this situation."

This thirteen-year-old; he's a what? Technopath? Arthur asked. He mentally shook his head. That sounds like some DJ name.

Would you rather cyberpath? Merlin thought back at him.

"I still haven't agreed to approach Druid99, but if I do, he will be working as an anonymous consultant. I don't trust the government with his identity; no offense, Gwen."

Gwen quirked a small smile. "None taken."

The car exited at LeJeune Road. Merlin could feel Arthur's contentment from the metal aircrafts and hangars ahead.

"The first order of business when we arrive at New York is to recruit two RP buddies of mine, Sir Havok and Sir Banshee."

Arthur and Morgana both turned to look at him. "Sir who?"

*****

LeFay Estate, Westchester, New York

"Havok!" Merlin said with a wide grin to the brown-haired man at the foyer. Merlin's mother and stepfather were in an extended jaunt to Europe, so there was only a skeleton crew of housekeeper, cook and gardener in the mansion.

"You made it!" Merlin was grinning widely at the man, whom Arthur thought looked like an Abercrombie & Fitch model.

Abercrombie—Arthur wasn't going to think of him as 'Havok'—smiled, showing perfect white teeth.

"Grey Wizard, I haven't seen you since last year's Comic Con!" They moved forward into a back-pounding hug.

He looked about Arthur's height, maybe an inch shorter, and he was holding on to Merlin for longer than acceptable for a straight guy. Arthur reflexively felt out the metals on his body—the zippers on his leather jacket, the rivets in his jeans...a metal crescent-shaped disc on a chain around his neck. Fortunately for Abercrombie, Merlin stepped away from the hug before Arthur seriously considered heating up his necklace.

"Banshee will arrive tomorrow," Merlin said, ushering Abercrombie further inside. "He needs to find a replacement to manage the record store."

Abercrombie's eyebrows lifted when his gaze landed on Arthur. "And who's this?"

"Right. Arthur, this is Gwaine aka Sir Havok," Merlin said. "Gwaine, this is Arthur. Arthur's the strongest—the only—metallokinetic I've ever met."

Gwaine stepped forward and offered his hand. "Hey, it's nice to meet another friend of Merlin." Arthur shook his hand silently. "How did you two meet?"

"Merlin fished me out of the waters," Arthur drawled. Gwaine's eyes widened gratifyingly.

Now he's busy imagining me giving you the Kiss of Life, Merlin's mental voice sounded giggly.

Arthur's eyebrow rose challengingly.

Gwaine let go of his grip, smile turning more genuine. "That's cool, man. Instead of Meet Cute, it's Meet Violent like Lex Luthor and Clark Kent. I like it," he finished with a friendly wink.

Why do people keep on referencing movies from the twentieth century? Arthur wondered. Gwaine seemed to recognize his claim. Good.

"Actually, that TV show is from 2001," Merlin answered. Gwaine promptly turned around to look at him.

He looked back and forth between Merlin and Arthur. "Did you just...?"

He swiftly came to a conclusion. "Grey Wizard being a touch telepath; that's true, isn't it?" He sounded amazed. "You said you're an empath! Are you a telekinetic in real life too?"

"Yes, yes, kind of," Merlin said. "I'm a strong telepath, a weak empath, and my erratic telekinesis only prevents me from breaking dishes."

That was new information to Arthur.

I can't move anything heavier than a plate, Merlin sent to Arthur. As I'm sure you can imagine, I was a very clumsy child.

"Why touch telepathy?" Arthur asked, curious.

Merlin smiled impishly. "It's a reason for my character to wear this wicked pair of spidersilk gloves. And yes, Gwaine, I can read your mind without touching you."

Gwaine let out a low whistle.

"So I can manipulate metal, and Merlin's got a bag of tricks," Arthur said. "What can you do?"

Gwaine ran a hand through his thick brown hair, looking awkward. "About that. I'm all for saving the world and all, but I don't know how helpful I'm going to be."

"Gwaine," Merlin said, gently.

"Sir Havok can fell an army in a single blow, but I can't modulate my powers, let alone aim," Gwaine said, equal parts bitter and self-deprecating.

"That's why we're here, Gwaine. We need to train; all of us," Merlin said earnestly. "Besides, given a week, you-know-who can come up with a prototype to help you control your powers."

Gwaine laughed, mood visibly lifting. "You have Druid99 on your payroll? How did you manage that?"

"Trade secret," Merlin said with a straight face. Actually, Mordred was smitten with Morgana when we went to see him. I think he's helping us with his genius inventions in the hopes of impressing her.

Arthur stifled a chuckle. How does a thirteen-year-old have access to all these technologies anyway?

He's the nephew and heir apparent of the CEO of Cenred Industries, Merlin sent back.

"Welcome to LeFay Estate, Gwaine," Merlin said warmly. "I'll show you to your room."

*****

Merlin looked at the gleaming set of throwing knives dubiously. Arthur wanted to practice dodging knives and had asked for his help. He picked a knife up gingerly between his thumb and forefinger. The throwing knives he saw on TV look streamlined and lightweight; this one felt as heavy as a hunting knife. "Are you sure this is safe?"

"Perfectly," Arthur said with a confident smile. He was standing three meters away, his stance relaxed. "Just keep them coming."

"I don't even know how to hold them!" I suck at throwing darts. Just ask Morgana.

"The easiest way is to hold it like a hammer," Arthur said matter-of-factly. Good thing these aren't darts then.

"You say that as if I've held a hammer before!" Merlin wailed. "Clumsy child, remember?" He shifted his grip on the handle to approximate what he thought a hammer hold looked like.

"Put your left foot forward."

He put his left foot forward.

"A bit more," Arthur instructed. "Your feet need to form a wider angle. Now, bend your knees."

Merlin complied, feeling like a stiff marionette.

"Rest your weight on the ball of your right foot."

Merlin shifted his weight to his right foot and promptly stumbled, almost fumbling the knife.

"This is impossible! I'm going to lose a finger at this rate," Merlin said, exasperated. "Why don't you have me shoot a gun at you instead?"

It wasn't a serious suggestion, although he knew Arthur had a handgun secreted away in his briefcase.

Arthur folded his arms in front of his chest, looking stern. "I'm not irresponsible enough to put a gun in the hands of someone not trained to use them."

"I'm bloody well not trained to throw knives either!" Merlin exclaimed. He put the knife down and closed the case. "If you must, ask Gwaine, or-or Morgana. She's a champion dart thrower."

To Merlin's relief, Arthur didn't insist and simply nodded his acceptance.

"Now we should work on some basic self-defense." Merlin didn't have to read Arthur's mind to know he would stay unmoved on this.

Oh, bother.

*****

When Arthur walked into the gym room, the floor was already occupied with two men sparring. Going to the side of the room that held weights, he stood silently and watched the two identical men go through a series of feints and jabs. He didn't think Leon had suddenly developed the ability to replicate himself, so one of the men must be Morgana in a shifted form.

One Leon's hair is messier than the other, falling forward to obscure his eyes. He idly wondered if scruffy and shaggy was the latest geek fashion, but that didn't explain Merlin's clean-shaven looks.

"It's good that you can keep your shifted form even under pressure, but it's not a good idea in the long term."

One Leon shook out his hair out of his face. "I don't know, man; it's pretty demoralizing to punch your own face."

The other Leon grinned and made a feint to the left. "Too right it is."

"Wearing another person's form—they have different height, different reach, different balance," Arthur said. "You'll have to relearn everything, and that'll cost you concentration you can't spare."

He glanced at a Gatorade can next to the rubber mat and flung it at the second Leon's face.

In quick succession, Morgana dropped her shifted form, ducked to avoid the flying can, and swung around and struck Leon's ribs in a roundhouse kick. Her skin gleamed indigo under the late morning light.

"Nice kick," Arthur said appreciatively.

Morgana turned to look at him, a corner of her dark blue lips lifting. "Good advice."

Leon gingerly sat up on the rubber mat. "I think I'll go have a soak in the hot tub," he said in a strained voice.

*****

After hearing Gwaine suggest over breakfast that he and Morgana throw an assortment of knives at Arthur, Merlin decided to intervene.

"Come on, Merlin, you know I can deflect the knives," Arthur said as they walked out of the kitchen. And having two opponents rather than one would make the knives' trajectory less predictable.

"If you know you can deflect them, then you're not challenging yourself!" Merlin was still upset that Gwaine seemed so eager to have a go at Arthur with sharp, pointy things. "I've seen you crumple a yacht like an oversized tin can; you're well above training with knives."

Arthur looked out of step for a moment. "I only warped the walls before Morgause knocked me out."

"And if she hadn't knocked you out, that yacht would just be a big hunk of scrap metal and fiberglass," Merlin said confidently. Looking out the window at the grounds, he was struck by an idea. "Come here," he said, clapping a hand on Arthur's shoulder. "I know what we can try next."

Arthur silently followed, still bemused.

Is it so unbelievable that I have faith in you, my friend?

Arthur's response was a mixture of uncertaingratefulfond.

Merlin decided that he would do his utmost to erase Arthur's uncertainty and self-doubt.

He reached the low stone fence and waited for Arthur. "See that?" He pointed to the left, where a huge satellite dish about 60, 70 meters in diameter can be seen beyond the tree line. "Try turning it to face us."

Arthur turned to give him a half-incredulous look, but he didn't voice his misgivings. Merlin gave him an encouraging nod, and he could feel Arthur gather his resolve. Setting his feet in a wide stance, he stretched out his arms in the satellite dish's direction.

Through Arthur, Merlin could 'hear' the ponderous metal creaking—he felt Arthur throw his whole self, his determination, rage and despair into swiveling the dish on its mount—but the satellite dish still faced south. After several minutes with no change, Arthur dropped his arms, face blank even as he breathed heavily in exhaustion. Merlin knew it was only lifelong habit that kept his back straight and his head unbowed.

Arthur wasn't arrogant enough to think he could do anything as long as he willed it, but he was definitely stubborn enough to keep on trying to move the satellite dish until he succeeded. Or collapses in exhaustion, Merlin thought.

While Arthur was still catching his breath, Merlin spoke up. "At the risk of sounding like a spiritualist, I believe this situation calls for power, focus and serenity. You already have power and focus..."

"All I need is 'serenity'," Arthur said with a sardonic smile. I can't remember a single serene moment in my life.

"I think serenity is a matter of balancing your emotions," Merlin said gently. Do you mind if I help you?, he asked, fingers poised near his temple.

Arthur nodded, looking cautiously hopeful.

You don't know how hard it is not to crack 'My mind to your mind' jokes right now, Merlin thought at Arthur, fingers connecting to his temple.

Arthur laughed, immediately looking less tense. He shut his eyes, took a deep breath and let it out. Merlin could feel him trying to find that balance, holding up one memory after another to find emotions that would fit.

As Merlin watched Arthur sift through his memories, a bright spot caught his attention. He nudged the memory to the forefront of Arthur's mind, and it was like watching a sun-bleached photograph gain vivid colours in reverse.
A boy, three or four years old, laughed excitedly as he rode his bicycle down a ramp. To the side, a young woman was smiling, blond hair set in a loose braid over her shoulder. When the boy made a sharp turn, a training wheel got caught on uneven pavement and the bike toppled. He fell, scraped his arm above his elbow pad, and started crying.

His mother rushed over—"Oh, Arthur,"—examined his arm gently and pressed a kiss on the back of his wrist. Her braid swung forward, smelling like sunlight and flowers. Arthur's cries quieted into soft sniffles. "We'll ice it, wrap it, and Gaius will give you an infusion, okay?"

Arthur nodded. "Can I ride my bike again?"

Ygraine smiled and rubbed off a speck of dirt from Arthur's cheek. "Today you rest; tomorrow you'll ride again."

Arthur beamed and held on to his mother's hand.

Merlin retreated from Arthur's mind, still feeling warmhappycontentsafe. He blinked away the tears in his eyes.

"Did that really happen?" Arthur asked, quietly reverent. "I didn't make it all up?"

"She was very beautiful, Arthur," Merlin said. "Thank you for sharing this memory."

"I remember blood tests with Gaius when I was a child. He'd give me clotting factor three times a week, like clockwork," Arthur said. "But I didn't know I had that memory. I only have the vaguest memories of my mother." Sometimes it's as if she never even existed.

Merlin reached out and touched Arthur's arm. Whether you remember her or not, she's a part of you, my friend.

Arthur looked at Merlin, eyes soft. "Thank you, Merlin. You'll never know how much this means to me."

He held up his right hand and looked at his wrist, as if he could still feel his mother's imprint there. Turning to the satellite dish, he lifted his right arm and reached with his senses. Merlin hardly felt the secondhand humming of Arthur's power before the dish swiveled smoothly in their direction.

They looked at each other in wonder for a moment, before they both broke out in elated laughter. Arthur slapped Merlin companionably on the back; Merlin grinned and pretended it didn't hurt.

Merlin scrunched his eyebrows in thought. "Now you need to put it back. I don't actually know what signals that dish is supposed to be receiving."

*****

Aircraft hangar, Butterfield Air Base

Two months ago, Arthur stood alone on a boat in Miami, bent on finding answers that would most likely lead him to commit patricide. He still held Pendragon responsible—if not for what happened to his mother all those years ago, then for what had been happening and was continuing to happen in the illegal levels of Pendragon laboratories. The difference was he now had friends he could count on. He had felt connected to Merlin from the first day, a connection that quickly included Morgana. Upon their first meeting, he had found Leon to be solid and dependable, and Gwaine had improved upon acquaintance.

It was exhilarating to live and train alongside his peers; friends who wanted Pendragon stopped because it was the right thing to do. He couldn't remember the last time he found such joy in his powers. Perhaps that one time Nimueh showed him how to do coin tricks...

"You can't be serious." Leon's voice cut into his musings. He was holding up a yellow and dark blue suit from a silver crate. "I thought the point was to not attract attention to ourselves."

"Hey, it was done according to Druid99's specifications!" Gwaine said, already stripping out of his shirt.

"I don't even know what half these zippers are for," Leon muttered.

"My sister slaved all weekend to sew together all those kevlar pieces." Glancing up and down Leon's tall frame, Gwaine added pointedly, "That's a lot of kevlar."

Freya is an accomplished seamstress, Merlin thought cheerfully at Arthur. "She made your Auron costume, right Gwaine? It was brilliant."

Gwaine grinned. "Yeah, that costume was totally bad-ass."

"Someone help me figure out these wings," Leon said. "I can't buckle them left-handed."

Gwen, who already had a regular bulletproof vest on, came over and helped him. Arthur fleetingly wished that his own suit had augmentations like Leon and Gwaine's so he would have an excuse to ask for Merlin's help.

Don't tell Gwaine, but I also don't understand why we need zippers down the front of our thighs.

Arthur looked down. Huh. Maybe it's so we can slip in money, a piece of ID and a handkerchief?

Arthur heard Merlin giggle in his head. He could feel the metal tines parting as Merlin unzipped his right pants leg. Yup, room enough for several Benjamins if we need to catch a cab home in case the plane blows up or something.

"If you boys are finished checking out your crotches," Morgana said dryly, "we should go over the plans one more time."

Merlin, radiating embarrassment, cleared his throat. "Right, thanks to Druid99's thingamajig with computers and bank records, we've got a location for one of Pendragon Corporation's secret labs. Gwen will be flying us to a landing site nearby. Officially, she is taking the new Blackbird prototype from Cenred Industries for a test spin; unofficially, she is our CIA contact for this mission."

I'm still not happy about the CIA being involved, Arthur thought to Merlin.

Can't be helped; even if one of us knows how to fly a plane, it's not like we could take to airspace without causing undue attention, Merlin answered. Best case scenario: we go in, go out, and the CIA deals with clean up. Worst case scenario: the CIA can provide us with backups and some firepower.

"Once we're there, Morgana will take the form of a doctor with high security clearance—" That would be Gaius or Edwin, Arthur thought. "—and Arthur and Leon will follow her in. I can easily render the two of you invisible to the guards and staff while you're in the complex."

Leon squared his shoulders. Next to him, Morgana subtly lifted her chin. She looked confident and regal in her blue skin.

"All of you will be in here the whole time," Merlin said, tapping his temple. "Gwaine will stay behind with me and Gwen near the plane. In case the three of you hit a snafu, Gwaine can create a distraction by blowing things up at the perimeter."

Gwaine was trying not to look too happy at the prospect, Arthur could tell.

"We don't want the plane to get damaged," Gwen chimed in, "because a) it's our exit strategy, and b) it's an expensive piece of machinery."

"And what a beautiful piece of machinery it is," Gwaine said. Arthur had to agree; the sleek lines of the stealth plane suggested that it would go very fast.

I should tell Gwaine one of these days that Gwen isn't interested.

Arthur turned to look at Gwen stepping into the plane, followed closely behind by Gwaine. I thought he was talking about the plane.

Merlin shook his head, amused, and walked together with Arthur up to the plane.

Inside, Gwen was turning switches on in the cockpit, and Morgana had claimed the co-pilot seat next to her. Arthur and Merlin sat across Leon and Gwaine. There was a quiet excitement in the air that Arthur could feel without telepathy.

Merlin strapped himself in and turned to face Arthur, eyes shining. "Are you ready for this?"

He smiled fiercely. "Let's find out."

*****


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Feel free to write anything for this series: sequel, prequel, deleted scenes, timestamp fic, remix, side story, drabble, listfic, etc. (I call dibs on Arthur prequel/backstory and Morgana prequel/backstory). Just link me so I can compile it on the series' main page =) I'm also open to co-writing offers. Here's Camelot First Class character list, for your reference.

Fanarts, translations, podfic, fanmixes and other fan creations = <3

sophinisba: Merlin smiling with forest background (ep. 1.04) (merlin smiling by miakun)

[personal profile] sophinisba 2012-02-17 01:54 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you very much for the transformative works statement and for posting on the AO3! I will download it and look forward to reading on my ereader. <3