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An Archive of Our Own, a project of the Organization for Transformative Works. A Modern day Merlin AU set at the University of St Andrews, featuring teetotal kickboxers, secret wizards, magnificent b. The Student Prince - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online. The Student Prince.
You are! At a Scottish University? Especially if Cedric sets eyes on you. Sir," said Merlin, trying hard not to be rude — he'd been told in no uncertain terms the folly of irritating the Dragon. Additional Tags: I feel like a character in a movie, or the heroine of a book, or something. Yes, I'm already seeing a whole host of possibilities.
Work Search: Chapter 1 2. Chapter 2 3. Chapter 3 4. Chapter 4 5. Chapter 5 6.
Chapter 6 7. Chapter 7 8. Chapter 8 9. Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34 Chapter A Modern day Merlin AU set at the University of St Andrews, featuring teetotal kickboxers, secret wizards, magnificent bodyguards of various genders, irate fairies, imprisoned dragons, crumbling gothic architecture, arrogant princes, adorable engineering students, stolen gold, magical doorways, attempted assassination, drunken students, shaving foam fights, embarrassing mornings after, The Hammer Dance, duty, responsibility, friendship and true love This story was inspired by the thought of Prince William of Wales and indeed the current Max von Hapsburg studying at the University of St Andrews; it is also, as the title suggests, at least a little inspired by the operetta 'The Student Prince'.
Merlin would have managed to catch the bag if he hadn't been obliged to stifle his instincts and force himself to reach out with his hands, rather than with that sinuous surge of power that was always clamouring to come crashing out through the too-fragile barrier of his skin. He could feel the pulse of it uncoiling with his adrenaline, fast as a striking snake, and only the memory of his mother snapping "Hands!
It all happened in the twinkling of an eye, but Hunith's training held good, and so he didn't out himself as a wizard in the middle of a busy train in Kings Cross Station by freezing the luggage mid-topple, which was good; but on the other hand, his physical reaction was a hair's breadth too slow, which meant that he still got smacked on the head by a heavy bag and went stumbling back into a cross-looking middle aged lady in a twinset and pearls. Which was not so good. She glared at him, but was evidently too British to do anything other than treat him to a passive-agressive glower.
She glanced from Merlin to the lady and then back again, her face the picture of mortification, and Merlin — who had been feeling a little disgruntled about the whole unexpected-rain-of-luggage scenario — took one look at her huge brown eyes and immediately wanted to reassure her that he had thoroughly enjoyed being knocked half unconscious.
God, you poor thing! God, sorry! Nothing to worry about. Mind you — wow — are you carrying bricks in there? Some of them could definitely qualify as blunt objects. He considered the various options and jumped at the most likely destination for this particular train.
Yes, I can quote from the prospectus at length. Er — Merlin? Merlin sighed. Right," she said, tentatively. They shook hands, and Merlin could see that she was feeling it too, this odd, exhilarating helium-in-your-veins sensation of new beginnings and infinite possibilities stretching out ahead of them.
Then a sheepish expression crossed her face. And there's a sort of — well, there's a hammer in there too, I think. A small one. Sorry about that. One never knows when a spot of joinery might be in order. Gwen blinked, and after a beat Merlin added: Dooo doodoodoo! Hammer Time! His newfound friend dissolved into astonished giggles, and behind him, Twinset-and-Pearls gave a disgusted snort and stomped away down the aisle.
Merlin cast one last, apologetic glance over his shoulder, but he couldn't stop grinning. He felt half-drunk already on the excitement of the day, silly and reckless and brimming with the wild optimism of fresh starts and new leaves.
God, they're brilliant, though! They're really good, like something from a shop! I sell them on etsy and ebay and stuff, when I can. Merlin grabbed the bag out of her hands, his breath still coming in giddy, hitching gasps as he tried to stifle his laughter, and reached up to stuff it more securely into the luggage compartment. She looked rather impressed — not to say startled — at the ease with which he manhandled it into place, and Merlin found himself wishing he could explain that it wasn't just muscle-power he was using to boost it up — but of course he couldn't.
He felt like a bit of a fraud. I would never have thought - I mean, not that you look like a wimp, I didn't mean that," she added hurriedly, her eyes suddenly widening in remorse, "Just, you know — wow! It's all from doing the Hammer Dance. Gwen made a helpless choking sound behind him as he sang in time to his wiggles: Come on. I'll buy you a horrible coffee to apologise for assaulting you with a set of engineering text books, and you can promise to never ever try to dance ever again.
This was his brave new world, after all, and meeting strangers was going to be his main occupation during Freshers Week. No harm in getting some practice in. They quickly secured a block of four seats with a table in the middle, and sat down grinning across at each other. You're pulling my leg, right? I mean — nobody's called Merlin. Why would any woman name her baby after an old man with a long white beard and a pointy hat? It's like calling your baby Gandalf. Merlin looked back at her helplessly.
People were always asking that, and there was simply no easy way to explain it. The truth — that Hunith had abandoned 'Gareth' and opted for 'Merlin' after the first time she'd watched wide-eyed as her brand new baby boy summoned his bottle across the room and into his chubby little fist and gurgled at her with golden eyes — was simply not the kind of thing one could admit out loud.
He was lucky he hadn't been called Gandalf. So unique! And special! You'll definitely be remembered! Not like Gwen — loads of Gwens around, but Merlin, that's really different! Merlin snorted, and waved his hands in the air to stem the tide of her words. I did try calling myself Mervyn for a bit, at High School, but it didn't take. Merlin it is.
Will had teased him relentlessly when they discovered that Prince Arthur was going to be attending St Andrews too. Gwen's mouth was twitching irrepressibly. You know you are. Merlin and Arthur — it's meant to be! There's no way you aren't going to get pointed out to him, with a name like that. King Arthur and his trusted advisor Merlin! Merlin reached across the table to thwap the top of her head. He felt like his cheeks were on fire. Never heard of anyone called Gwen-short-for-Um.
He felt half-drunk already on the excitement of the day, silly and reckless and brimming with the wild optimism of fresh starts and new leaves. God, they're brilliant, though! They're really good, like something from a shop! I sell them on etsy and ebay and stuff, when I can.
Merlin grabbed the bag out of her hands, his breath still coming in giddy, hitching gasps as he tried to stifle his laughter, and reached up to stuff it more securely into the luggage compartment. She looked rather impressed — not to say startled — at the ease with which he manhandled it into place, and Merlin found himself wishing he could explain that it wasn't just muscle-power he was using to boost it up — but of course he couldn't.
He felt like a bit of a fraud. I would never have thought - I mean, not that you look like a wimp, I didn't mean that," she added hurriedly, her eyes suddenly widening in remorse, "Just, you know — wow! It's all from doing the Hammer Dance. Gwen made a helpless choking sound behind him as he sang in time to his wiggles: Come on.
I'll buy you a horrible coffee to apologise for assaulting you with a set of engineering text books, and you can promise to never ever try to dance ever again. This was his brave new world, after all, and meeting strangers was going to be his main occupation during Freshers Week. No harm in getting some practice in. You're pulling my leg, right? I mean — nobody's called Merlin. Why would any woman name her baby after an old man with a long white beard and a pointy hat? It's like calling your baby Gandalf.
People were always asking that, and there was simply no easy way to explain it. The truth — that Hunith had abandoned 'Gareth' and opted for 'Merlin' after the first time she'd watched wide-eyed as her brand new baby boy summoned his bottle across the room and into his chubby little fist and gurgled at her with golden eyes — was simply not the kind of thing one could admit out loud. He was lucky he hadn't been called Gandalf. So unique! And special!
You'll definitely be remembered! Not like Gwen — loads of Gwens around, but Merlin, that's really different! I did try calling myself Mervyn for a bit, at High School, but it didn't take. Merlin it is. Will had teased him relentlessly when they discovered that Prince Arthur was going to be attending St Andrews too.
Gwen's mouth was twitching irrepressibly. You know you are. Merlin and Arthur — it's meant to be! There's no way you aren't going to get pointed out to him, with a name like that. King Arthur and his trusted advisor Merlin!
He felt like his cheeks were on fire. Never heard of anyone called Gwen-short-for-Um. Is it Gwendolyn? You are! You're called Guinevere! You really are! And you had the nerve to — oh, that's priceless!
St Andrews has an excellent engineering department. I was going to apply there long before I heard that's where Arthur was going.
He was pretty familiar with the teasing himself. He nodded. Not like the rest of us. Her eyes were huge and earnest as she peered over the rim at Merlin. The way they met at Oxford when she borrowed his jar of Gold Blend, not even realising he was the Prince of Wales at first because he was in the middle of shaving and she was distracted by her friend's dog It probably didn't really happen like that, you know — I mean, it's all PR, isn't it, and spindoctoring and things?
And they must have known each other for years, anyway, because she wasn't exactly a commoner, was she? And she must have known whose door she was knocking on, even if she pretended to be all surprised. And anyway, it was a long time before we were born, Gwen — I mean, she died nearly twenty years ago. Especially not the outrageously hot photoshoot in GQ magazine that he'd been hiding under his bed for the past three months, and frantically jerking off to most nights.
Nope, definitely not mentioning that. Gwen rolled her eyes. But you know what I mean. It was really romantic, this fabulous love story, and they were both so good looking and glamorous and in love, and then she died so young And romantic. And they were both ridiculously hot. I don't read The Sun! Because you read The Sun?
Because I see it when I'm buying The Guardian! Thinking that we might see him in person.
In the street. Or at the Union, or whatever. In lectures, even — although I doubt he's doing Physics or Engineering. But — it's like someone stepping out of a movie and into your life, somehow. Like this is the Hogwarts Express. I keep half-expecting someone to produce a chocolate frog card, or cast a spell. I can't believe that this is my life, all of a sudden — a train snaking up through all this rolling green countryside, taking us North to meet a handsome prince.
Or at least see him, even if we never actually meet him Her irrepressible grin was back full force, and Merlin could see that she had more than half expected to be mocked.
He found himself wishing he could explain about Professor Gaius and Doctor Nimueh, and about the kind of text books he had stuffed into the bottom of his rucksack — but that wasn't going to happen. Magic was secret, and secret it should stay. Nobody wanted to go back to the days of witchburnings. She raised an eyebrow. Well — yeah, okay, it's a fair cop. Well — most of the lads at my school can't read. And they think he's gay. Gwen blinked at him, and then giggled.
I was 'shipping Harry and Hermione like mad. I can't believe Rowling paired him up with Ginny Weasley! He shrugged. You're kidding, right? Every bit as weird as meeting Hagrid or Dumbledore would be, really. Because you've seen him on TV so many times, right? At Christmas and Remembrance Sunday and things like that — I mean, the paparazzi have been pretty good at leaving him alone at school while he's underage, like they promised after what happened with his mother going into labour prematurely while being chased by those bloody photographers, bastards His bum's lovely!
It's all that football, and rugby, and horse riding, and water polo, and all that manly sport he does! Unless he has a body double for photoshoots," he added, after a moment, grinning. Merlin twinkled at her. Nobody has an arse that impossibly peach-like. Not when they're already rich and handsome and going to be king. He's clearly too good to be true. Tim Nice-but-Dim and that lot. All those posh interbred types with more rooms than they know what to do with and flocks of sheep wandering around on their enormous ancient estates - that's who he'll be hanging out with.
Not with a physics student from a grotty little council estate in Cardiff, or an engineering student — however lovely — who lives above her dad's garage in Wembley. Face it — we don't have our own flocks of sheep. Enough with the stereotyping, thank you very much! We don't all get handed a sheep at birth, you know!
A second-hand picture. Of an ugly sheep. We were saving up to buy a plastic one to put in the garden one day, next to the garden gnome.
But then it got nicked. It's a rough estate — no gnome is safe. Merlin dimpled back at her. Sort of reckless and hopeful and all bubbling over, somehow. I feel like a character in a movie, or the heroine of a book, or something.
I feel like I could do anything. I'm not normally quite this Prone to hitting total strangers over the head with engineering text books? Merlin wanted to hug her, all of a sudden, but there was a table in the way, so instead he reached into his pocket and produced a slightly battered KitKat.
I knew I liked you for a reason! Chapter 2 The door was open a crack when Merlin reached his room in St Salvator's Hall, and he could hear voices inside, and what sounded rather a lot like The Rolling Stones.
Evidently his room mate had arrived bright and early and settled in already. Room mate. Merlin took a deep breath and tried to sooth the butterflies in his stomach, reminding himself that he hadn't done magic in front of anyone by accident for years.
Or — well, months, at least. And that had just been Will, so it didn't count. He could do this. Merlin squared his shoulders and stuck out his chin, conscious that there was some kind of University Security Guard bloke watching him curiously, and then pushed the door open with a sensation a little bit like stepping off a cliff onto an invisible bridge. Merlin would have recognised that peach-like arse anywhere, even if the sight of his two best mates, familiar from interviews and the very occasional photoshoot, hadn't given the game away.
Arthur rose and turned around in one swift, graceful movement, and then Merlin was looking straight at the subject of entirely too many furtive wank fantasies and sweaty wet dreams. He nearly swallowed his own tongue.
Merlin just gaped at him like a stranded fish, frantically trying to remember any English words of greeting.
Or any words, in any language at all. After a moment he glanced down at his hand and his brow crumpled in an embarrassed frown. His whole body was thrumming with adrenaline, and he wanted nothing more than to turn around and run all the way back to Wales. I just — er — sorry! He stared from Arthur to his friends and back again, and if his eyes weren't actually standing out on stalks they were coming as close as humanly possible to doing so. Is that going to be a problem?
Where they have single rooms. And ensuites with all the mod cons," blurted Merlin. Why are you sharing a room in Sally's? With my father. They didn't get you to sign things — Official Secrets Act, all that? Well — I expect someone will be along in a bit. That's — I don't quite know how that happened, actually.
Well, we're talking Tower of London, pretty much. That's the Cliff Notes version. You're joking, right? That's — that's great. Glad we've got that straight, then. Can I perform a citizen's arrest?
I mean, this is a democracy, right? We're all equal in modern Britain, aren't we? A smug, self-entitled, patronising git. Arthur closed his eyes and bowed his head, looking pained. You're not taking the piss? That's kind of funny, really. I'm living with an angry unwashed communist called Merlin. That's just — great. Really great. I love my life. I'm perfectly clean! He was trying not to glare, but his face was still pale and angry as he pointed stiffly towards the bed. Not too dicklike?
Enjoy the scenery. Pick one, and tell me when I get back — I don't care, it's just a bed, for God's sake. God — come on, lads; can't keep Bedevere waiting. And I really need a drink. The door closed behind them with a finality that wasn't quite a slam, and Merlin sat down on the edge of one of the beds, his legs suddenly trembling beneath him. The St Andrews Prospectus listed a fairly wide array of different schools, but The School of Sorcery was not one of them.
Nevertheless, for those in the know, it was no secret that when St Andrews University had been founded back in , one of its primary goals was the preservation of magical learning. Unlike the other Schools, The School of Sorcery did not have one specific location; the English Department might be happily ensconced in Castle House, opposite the ruins of St Andrews Castle, and the Physics Department might be lodged in an appropriately bright and shiny new building, but one could access the School of Sorcery from any of the University buildings in the town.
There was always a door somewhere, one that normal mortal eyes would skate straight past. One with a stylised dragon carved into the wood, or painted on, or even sketched on with chalk, if need be. Those were the doors into the School of Sorcery, and they led, so Merlin had been informed, one to the other, a network of chambers looking out onto completely different vistas.
If you went far enough, and knew the right words to say as you traced the outline of the dragon, you might step into a chamber in France, or Morocco, or China, or Maine, and find your fellow sorcerers discussing levitation or the theory of time travel in half a hundred different languages or more. So Merlin left his possessions behind him alongside those belonging, impossibly, to Prince Arthur, and slipped his key into his pocket, pulled the threads of unseeing around him and set off unnoticed through the bustling corridors in search of a red wooden door with a dragon on it.
He knew there would be one somewhere in St Salvator's Hall — and sure enough, within ten minutes he'd found it. He bit his lip, drew a deep breath, and murmured the words that would make the carved dragon stretch and yawn and twist beneath his fingertips. My goodness, my lad, you don't waste any time! No, I mean — no!
Not like that! Sir," said Merlin, trying hard not to be rude — he'd been told in no uncertain terms the folly of irritating the Dragon. Please can I see Professor Gaius? Thank you? The window opposite Merlin looked out onto a scene that was quite evidently not St Andrews: Instead he found himself looking out over a scene that looked suspiciously like St James's Park — ah, the marvels of the School of Sorcery's intricate geography.
Glancing around, Merlin saw a cluttered desk piled high with papers and books and empty coffee mugs and a disembowelled timepiece, with a laptop sitting in the middle of the chaos, ornamented by a half-eaten Jaffa Cake. And in one of the high wing back chairs arranged around the fireplace, Merlin espied a gentleman of advanced years, peering down at a leather-bound book through a pair of half-moon specs.
Gwen, Merlin reflected a little wistfully, would have found this as satisfyingly Hogwarts-like as she could possibly have wished. He waited on the threshold for a moment, but when the old gentleman failed to look up, he gave a pointed little cough. This was it, though; his teacher, Mrs Singh, had done a fine job of helping him keep his magic under control, and she had been able to give him a decent grounding in the basics despite her own limited powers, but wizardry was such a rarity these days that he'd had nothing like a proper education.
He knew enough to try to keep himself, and those around him, out of harm's way. But here, now — this was the beginning of a whole new life, and Merlin was startled by the rush of nerves he felt at the thought of making a bad impression. This was where Merlin could hope to master the power thrumming in his veins, and to learn the full extent of what was possible in this world — in all the worlds.
This was where he stepped up and learned what it meant to be a wizard. First year student. Hunith's boy, hmm? Yes, I knew your father. Well, well — so few British wizards these days. I seem to spend most of my time seeing bright young things from Salem and Beijing and Al Azhar University.
It'll be nice to teach a local lad for a change. Um — about that. I was wondering — do you know that they've put me in a room with Prince Arthur?
Quite aside from the fact that he's a smug, arrogant, self-satisfied idiot, surely that's going to mean bodyguards and, and secret service agents, and maybe paparazzi and all kinds of people watching him? And, by association — me? Merlin swallowed. I've never even shared a room before, let alone had to worry about screwing up on camera and waking up to Youtube clips of me outing myself as a wizard.
But — right. So — you're okay with this, then? It doesn't worry you? If Mrs Singh is to be believed, you are far and away the most gifted wizard of your generation. The most powerful wizard in Britain is always kept close to the king — or queen — to be ready with protection or advice as needed.
In time, that role will fall to you. I'm just helping you to prepare for your destiny. For him? To be his, what, his court wizard? Like the other Merlin? Merlin was fairly sure you couldn't be sent to the Tower of London for calling the heir to the throne an idiot, but something about the glint in Gaius's eye made him start to wonder about that.
But he's still going to be your king, and your responsibility, so you'd best find a way to deal with it. If my destiny is to be his protector and advisor and all this? I would suggest you try to keep it that way. Any other questions? Well, I'll see you for your first tutorial next Monday morning then, bright and early at nine o'clock.
Do enjoy Freshers' Week, my lad — and try not to do anything irreparably foolish, there's a good boy. Thank you, sir. How's Sallies? View good, mattress soft, roommate total plonker. She seems OK.
Sorry you got plonker. God, yes please! It was good being back by the sea with the lick of salt on his skin again after all those hours on the train, but there was also a strangeness to looking out over a different sea; the view outside his bedroom window was of an ocean darker and colder and wilder than the one he was used to. Or perhaps that was just the magic talking; he was used to Cardiff, after all, and its particular ghosts and quirks and hot spots.
St Andrews was still an unknown quantity. He was probably just projecting. Gwen was bouncing on her toes in front of McIntosh Hall when Merlin arrived to pick her up at 9pm sharp and whisk her around the corner to the Students' Union.
In front of it, Gwen was unmissable, her bright dress a shock of crimson and pink against the drab stonework; Merlin couldn't help noticing that she seemed to have acquired an outrageously gorgeous bloke in the handful of hours since he'd seen her last. And — wow, yes, her newfound friend was absolutely stunning. Not that Gwen was looking at him now — all her attention was concentrated on Merlin, and she was beaming at him like he was her long lost brother. New guy looked decidedly less than thrilled about this, and the dirty look he sent Merlin was enough to make him burst out laughing.
Fair play to you, Milady Guinevere, he thought, and grinned right back at her. Merlin stood there like a scarecrow for a moment, wide-eyed, and then tentatively hugged her back. She felt nice — soft and curvy and strong, and her hair smelled like grapefruit and vanilla. He couldn't remember the last time someone who wasn't his mum had hugged him; he was pretty sure that getting off with random blokes in nightclubs didn't count as hugging. It was — sweet. You should move to Chattan, with us!
That's what they call it, you know," she said, nodding knowledgeably. Short for McIntosh? Not Tosh, or Mac's — Chattan. And then you wouldn't have to put up with your plonker of a roommate!
I'll try to put my case to the Dean in the morning. Chattan is much nicer; roommate is a plonker. Merlin had to say that he was pretty damned flattered that anyone would consider prioritising a trip to the Union with him over getting better acquainted with this Lance bloke. Better acquainted in a naked, sweaty, unspeakably filthy fashion, for preference.
Lance smiled back — or at least, he bared his teeth, which was almost the same thing. Merlin had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. He let go of Gwen and accepted the handshake, and managed not to buckle under the pressure of Lance's Very Manly Indeed deathgrip of macho posturing. Bloody hell, Gwen — you don't waste any time!
Because, you know, you've only got eight weeks to find an Academic Family before Raisin Weekend, and I could just imagine that I'd be the only sad little Billy Nomates left with no Academic Mum or Dad, because I couldn't see myself going up and wishing myself on people, you know?
It seems so pushy. Just so long as this Lance bloke was kosher; he'd heard some pretty mixed stories about Raisin Weekend, and it sounded like having an Academic Dad who wanted to get into your pants was a decidedly mixed blessing.
He fixed Lance with a gimlet gaze, and reminded himself that if the guy stepped out of line, Merlin could turn him into a frog. He'd looked that up, because it was one of the classics, and if this guy hurt Gwen he'd definitely find himself living in a pond in the near future.
Proper students — I think they're more focussed on 2-for-1 special offers, and vomiting up pints of snakebite-and-black all over the neighbours' steps. Well — I don't mind snakebite-and-black, but can we avoid the vomiting bit?
God, have you tried that stuff? It's lethal! It would take longer to get a car started than it would to get there!
Or knight in shining armour, or guardian angel, or overprotective Dad — whatever you want to call it. I don't drink, so, you know — I'll make sure you're okay. You're a teetotaler? At a Scottish University? How is that even possible? Aren't there laws against that kind of thing? Well — and, plus, my dad's a Muslim, so it's not like we're big on the booze at home. I did try drinking when I was in my teens — tried pretty much everything, actually — sex, drugs and rock and roll, bacon sarnies, all that.
But it was just a phase I was going through, trying to figure out my place in the world, you know? I was trying to figure it all out. And then I did. Get everyone plastered? Is it just going to be tea and cakes and incense? I was planning on doing the traditional vodka jelly, brightly coloured punch of doom, embarrassing drinking games thing, same as everyone else. All those first years sloshed out of their minds, making bad decisions because they're desperate to fit in — and there are some real jerks out there.
I do a lot of voluntary work with the Student counselling service, and here at the Union, and I've seen some things that — well. Not good things. It feels good, knowing who I am, and what I want out of life. Being mindful in all things.
He wasn't at all sure if this guy was for real, or if he was playing some kind of elaborate joke, with all this holier-than-thou schtick. There was a disconcerting intensity to the man. Merlin wanted to like him, but he wasn't at all sure what to make of him. He did seem a bit too good to be true. Merlin felt his mouth twitching; he had a feeling that there were going to be an awful lot of sentences starting with "Lance says He really hoped the guy wasn't trying to pull a fast one.
Freshers' Week did have a certain unsavoury reputation. But she's going to come along. You're welcome to join her? Her face lit up at the sight of him — although she didn't look too thrilled about Gwen. She gave a short nod, smoothing down the sleeves of her fishnet top. Merlin looked at her biceps and swallowed. But that's why you should come along! To make yourself a bit less crushable! Gwen bit her lip and glanced up at them. I know I should have gone before we left, but I was caught up talking, and I didn't get around to it.
Can you wait for me? She'd changed out of the jeans and hoody that she'd been wearing on the train, and now she was wearing a little pink-and-red dress that screamed "salsa! Merlin had had no notion that she was hiding such good legs. He watched Lance's eyes follow her until she was lost in the crowd, and found himself reaching a decision. I do not give a flying fuck if you're Bruce Lee — I know things you don't, and I can hurt you.
And if you are messing around with her right now — if this is some kind of mind game thing, then I will. And you — I mean, you seem okay, but Gwen is not just a notch for your bedpost.
Just on the off-chance that you're planning on being a fuckwit. Or in the solar plexus, or the groin, or wherever the hell you aimed for if you were a badass, kickboxing, vegan, teetotal ninja. Then Lance smiled, and Merlin felt the knot of tension in his belly relax. Dumb, but ballsy.
I mean — you know I could snap you like a twig, right? He knew his own powers. It's good to know Gwen's got good friends here — she's pretty amazing, isn't she? Give or take? It would be nice for Gwen, and you could make sure that my intentions are strictly honourable and all that.
You seem like a good guy. That would be cool. She looked shellshocked and starry eyed, and she was doing a sort of frantic, involuntary Snoopy Dance of glee as she stood in front of the two of them. Merlin got a sudden bad feeling about this, but Lance was beaming out of her like she was made out of chocolate and kittens and pixie dust.
In the Students' Union Bar! Like a normal person! Round the corner! Oh my God! Gwen seemed oblivious to her companions' lack of excitement — to be fair, though, she was already excited enough for any five or six normal people — and she tried to tug the two of them in the direction of the bar. He's sitting at a table!
Drinking a beer! Gwen stared at him. And he's a prat. Like, spoke to him? And you didn't mention this? He was in my room when I got there. And he's a smug, arrogant pillock.
Heads turned all around the room. So can we just drop it now? Merlin glanced over at Gwen's devoted ninja and decided then and there that they guy was okay — because Lance sure as hell didn't want Gwen mooning over His Royal Hotness, that was obvious, but apparently he couldn't bear to see her looking so crestfallen either.
Merlin offered him a grin. Maybe he's okay. But — look, can we just not go and join the adoring fanclub in the bar right now? In fact I'll text you when he's in the room, so you'll know when's a good time to swing by and visit me in Sally's and meet him properly.
I'm sure he'd love to pose for a photo with you, and give you his signature, and all that kind of meet'n'greet thing. So — well, we could go through into the dance bit, instead of the bar?
Merlin was pink cheeked and almost weeping with breathless laughter when he looked up, sweat beading his face and sliding into the hollow of his collarbone, and found Prince Arthur staring at him dumbfounded from the other side of the dance floor, wearing an unreadable expression which Merlin strongly suspected was shorthand for "Oh my God why must I share a room with this sweaty idiotic loser of a peasant?
Chapter 4 Merlin knew that he wasn't the only wizard in St Andrews, of course; Gaius was being cagey about the number of active sorcerers in the British Isles, but Merlin reckoned that in a nation of more than 60 million people there must be at least hundreds, if not thousands, of wizards. It stood to reason that at least a handful of them ought to be in their late teens or early twenties, and currently attending Britain's only School of Sorcery.
National Lottery money going to a good cause, and incidentally ensuring that the next generation of magic users received a decent education in the process. So — Merlin knew that they must be out there. It stood to reason. He just didn't know who they were, or whether he'd even get to meet any of them once term started. If they were second or third or fourth year students — or, hell, even postgrads — well, most likely he wouldn't meet anyone unless they were around the same kind of level as him.
Which had to mean Freshers. It was even possible that he'd already met some other wizards and didn't even know it. This thought drove him quietly insane, and he took to watching strangers with a speculative gleam in his eye that got him a lot of worried looks and several rather surprising offers as he wandered around the Freshers' Fayre contemplating which clubs to join, and wondering where exactly he was going to find the time, between studying theoretical physics, philosophy and history not to mention his daily tutorials in the use and practice of magic to have anything approaching a social life.
He was looking quizzically at the Bubble TV stall, when he heard Gwen's laugh and glanced up, a smile already curving his lips in reply. He spotted her over on the other side of the room, in front of a table advertising the St Andrews Fencing Society. She was standing with a strikingly pretty little brunette whom Merlin hazarded a guess might be the roommate, Sophia — apparently she had family in the town, and had spent the first night catching up with them, but according to Gwen's most recent texts she seemed cool, and from the look of it they were getting on like a house on fire.
Merlin would have been surprised by Lance's absence if he hadn't already seen the guy manning the Students' Nightline stall. Lance had pressed a leaflet into Merlin's hand with a guileless smile, assuring him that the overnight phone service was also there to answer practical questions like what time the Kinness Fry Bar was open till, and where you could buy extra strength condoms at 3am — and not just to help out with personal or emotional problems.
It still seemed depressingly unlikely. Perhaps if he met somebody who had their own room He sighed, and then reflected that, after all, plenty of people did have their own rooms, and their own flats, even. With that thought in mind, he marched purposefully over to the rainbow-festooned table advertising the St Andrews LGBT Society in cheery glittering letters. Welcome aboard, mate! Membership's a fiver," she said, grinning back a him as she handed over a flyer and a rainbow spangled pin. We also hook up with the LGBT Socs in other Scottish universities for various different events — you can follow us on Twitter, and we've got a Facebook page, and I'm sold!
Where do I sign? Especially if Cedric sets eyes on you. Not that there was anything scandalous about joining the LGBT Society, as such — but he wasn't exactly out of the closet back on the estate, because, well, because he didn't want his head kicking in. Will knew, obviously, and his Mum, and the various guys he'd demonstrated his lack of heterosexuality with in various clubs probably had a suspicion — but being all Out and Proud about his sexuality was a new thing.
It was getting easier each time, though. Brave new world, and all that. He wondered whether Mrs Singh had mentioned this particular detail to Gaius, and whether it would have mattered; they were, after all, already courting disaster by sticking a half-trained wizard in the same room as the Prince of Wales and assuming that everything would be perfectly hunkydory.
Although — on the other hand, maybe they just didn't know. Maybe if he wore enough pink, and snogged enough blokes in enough public locations, perhaps then Gaius would let him move out of His Royal Pratness's precious bedroom. It was certainly worth trying. Arthur had still been snoring when Merlin left the room that morning.
God knew what time he'd finally come in last night, but at least he'd been quiet about it. And, Merlin strongly suspected, also quite staggeringly pissed — certainly Arthur had collapsed on top of the covers fully dressed, shoes still on, and the reek of beer and cigarettes was enough to fell a bear at ten paces.
Clearly a good time had been had by all — and Merlin was absolutely not interested in finding out any more about what had happened. Not in the slightest. He had, however, been obliged to acknowledge to himself, once again, that the Prince of Wales had no need to employ a body double, or a stunt bottom. His arse remained as distractingly, biteably tight and perfect as ever, and his legs were, if anything, even longer than they looked on TV, and his hips narrower.
And he had great shoulders. And — and, well, basically Merlin really needed to find a hot guy who wasn't a jerk, or his roommate, or the heir to the throne, and especially not all three, because otherwise he foresaw an awful lot of frantic early morning wanks in the shower cubicle spent biting his knuckles and trying desperately not to shout out Arthur's name for fear of being overheard by the guy in the cubicle next to his.
His libido, distressingly, didn't seem at all worried about little things like Arthur being an arrogant dick. Or, to be perfectly, horrifyingly honest, which he had no intention of being, ever, his libido might just possibly rather like Arthur being an arrogant dick. And Merlin might just possibly have had some rather vivid fantasies about Arthur demanding, in that lazily imperious tone, that Merlin get down on his knees and swallow the royal cock.
Just possibly. But that was because his libido had no taste or conscience, and it took at least two cups of coffee before Merlin was awake enough to remember why he loathed Prince Arthur, and wouldn't be remotely interested in being taken rough and hard by His Royal Hotness in the middle of the eighteenth hole bunker on the Royal and Ancient Golf Course.
He stuffed the bits of paper in his pocket. Tall, blond sort of something? Blue eyes? Name rhymes with, er, Quince Barfer? Why would you — I don't know what you're talking about! Me, I'd rather fuck Isabella Rosselini any day of the week, but it takes all sorts. I didn't — yeah, right. He's not joined, by the way. In case you're wondering.
Although I guess anything's possible. Since birth," he added, as she drew breath to ask. He knew that expression all too well. Although I bet you're sick of the King Arthur jokes already.
See you at the Vic? Does Arthur know yet? She was looking down at his rainbow pin with a highly entertained expression and sucking on a lollipop, and was followed by a dangerous-looking blonde girl in a lot of tight black leather, like something from 'The Matrix', with smudgy eyeliner that was apparently inspired by Captain Jack Sparrow, and a slick of very dark red lipstick.
Beside him Catrina made an almost inaudible whimper. There'd have been even more bitching and whining if he did," she said, decisively. She looked completely different in jeans and Doc Martins and a moth-eaten grey cardigan, but this was definitely the same Morgana whom he'd occasionally glimpsed in pictures alongside Prince Arthur at various hoity toity events, wearing enormous hats and painfully elegant designer frocks, and smoking like a chimney.
Better known as Her Grace the Duchess of Edinburgh. His mum was going to be so impressed by how high he'd gone up in the world when he finally phoned home. He swallowed hard. Or cocoa. Or hot ribena. Merlin hated marshmallows, but somehow hadn't found the nerve to point this out as she was placing their order. He fiddled with his teaspoon and glanced over at the facade of The Doll's House Restaurant, before which they were currently seated, as if he thought that the cavalry might come bursting out at any moment to save him.
Morgause, for some reason, was seated at a different table, her back to the wall and a glass of Perrier sitting in front of her. She looked poised to leap into action at any moment. It was profoundly disconcerting. I respect that. Er — do you need an ashtray? Although I bet Richard would find me one if I asked — but the flagstones will do fine. And there was probably no real need to mention Arthur's cock, even if he had been thinking about it rather a lot lately.
He had a feeling it hadn't really helped him make his case quite as well as he thought it did. Also, he'd just shouted the word 'cock' at a Duchess, he realised, rather belatedly, which was probably a hanging offense, and then he was glad that he was already sitting down, because his knees went all wobbly.
He glanced over at Morgause; her attention seemed to be fixed on the passers by, but she was smirking in a way that made him wince. Morgana just looked at him, the muscle at the corner of her mouth jumping infinitesimally. You've made your feelings perfectly obvious. You wouldn't suck his cock if he were the last man on the planet, or if he were paying you a king's ransom. Clearly this isn't something you've given any consideration one way or the other," she said with only the faintest undercurrent of hilarity in her voice.
He stared at her helplessly. We won't talk about how much you want to get into my cousin's royal boxer shorts. So — magic! He certainly gave a tiny, shocked spasm, as if someone had just attached electrodes to his toes while he wasn't looking. In fact, I have it on good authority that macrame fans are generally very keen on discretion. I want to pinch your cheek.
I like it! Actually, is there such a thing as a macrame needle? Not — not macrame. I'm just saying that although I do want to talk about, um Look, my improbably named friend, do you suppose for even a split second that anyone walking past will imagine that either of us can actually do macrame?
Of course not — it's impossible. Magic doesn't exist.
It's not a problem. If we had a whole flock of paparazzi sitting at the table with us right now, we could be blathering on about magic to our heart's content and they'd just assume that that was the euphemism. Or, even more likely, they'd think we were talking about a game. Then she sat back and grinned smugly. World of Warcraft. You can get away with anything if you say it's all just World of Warcraft. Or LARPing, or something. Surprisingly, this did make a certain kind of sense. Second Life and Blue Moon and Larping?
Morgana's brows arched. Nine out of ten disgustingly rich men are geeks, these days, and they're all over this stuff. Google is your friend. Embrace it. Long story short, though — any raised eyebrows, and we met through World of Warcraft. I mean, we're not going to have a lot of course overlap, I shouldn't think — I'm doing Art History Honours, and you're doing First Year Physics, right? Which makes your ignorance of WoW all the more shocking, but never mind — clearly you're a freak.
Just remember that we're in the same WoW guild, and that we've known each other for ages, and this is the first time we've met in the flesh. And then change the subject really fast. No macrame involved. She graduated from St Andrews herself four years ago. She also knows eighty seven ways to kill a man with her bare hands nonmagically, and has at least twelve lethal weapons stashed about her person right now, underneath that skin-tight leather.
She probably never screwed anything up. He looked up at her hiss of indrawn breath. By accident? He took another scoop of the whipped cream. But not everywhere," he added hurriedly. And only for a week. Ten days. They blamed some kind of freak storm front, or pressure condition, or something. Mrs Singh was really really cross. While you were in school? Have you any idea how many full wizards it must have taken to fix that?
Not just hedgewitches, like your Mrs Singh will have been, but proper, fully trained wizards? Maybe more. Or are we talking about new leaves growing on bare branches in the dead of winter? And then the blossoms grew the next day. The trees I didn't mean to, but I had this argument with my mum about cherries — we were talking about those preserved ones anyway, that are pillarbox red and full of sugar, but — well, anyway, she said 'they don't just grown on trees' and I said 'yes they do,' thinking I was so clever because there was this cherry tree next door, and she gave me a clip round the ear.
And anyway, I was talking about the fake ones, that you get in cakes and on icecream sundaes, but I don't think she realised that. And then I was just so mad with her, and I wanted to show her So, um, there were blossoms on the second day, and then by the third day the cherries were ripe. Tell me that you didn't really No way! You did not! I just knew it was lonely. I was only trying to cheer it up. The marshmallows weren't so bad, really. Nobody got hurt.
Mr Jenkins was too drunk to notice if it had eaten half the class, anyway — but it didn't, because it wasn't hungry. It was just bored, and trapped. And we were on a really boring school trip, and I felt bored and trapped. Look, excuse me for a moment," she said, pushing her chair out and getting to her feet. A few yards away, Morgause sprang to her feet, lithe as a hunting cat. Morgana caught her eye "The kraken? Never mind Voldemort — I'm getting the feeling this one could take down Sauron," she said, shaking her head.
Morgause glanced from the Duchess of Edinburgh to Merlin with an expression of incredulity. Morgana just nodded, and then glanced down at him. Back in a tick. Morgause slid back into her chair and resumed her scan of the street. Meanwhile the cork eased out of the bottle with a reassuring pop, and some of the tension in Morgana's face relaxed as the waiter poured a finger of blackberry-dark wine into one fat-bottomed glass and handed it to Merlin.
Merlin was in the middle of feeling surprised at the stinginess of the portion when it occurred to him that they were both watching him and expecting some kind of Oz Clark wine-tasting show. Merlin was half expecting her to spit it out, like they did on TV, but she didn't.