elfflame

May 2016

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Nano part 3

Title: Meet Me at the Avalon
Author: [info]elfflame
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin, many others in passing
Summary: Through all the centuries, Merlin has found a home, and brings his friends there when he finds them again and again, but never Arthur. Until one day, Arthur finds him.
A/N: See notes in part 1

* 5 *


Food and a shower helped Merlin feel almost normal, and dispelling the illusion on his hair that made it look white helped even more. He was just looking at himself in the mirror and trimming it when there was a knock. “Who’s there?”

“Will and Gilli,” came the call.

Merlin laughed. Gwen never failed in anything, even when you wanted her to. “Come in.” He turned to look at the two as they came in. Will looked just like he remembered from Ealdor, crooked smile and all. Gilli was more well-built than he remembered the boy who had visited Camelot. Both were long-time clients, though really, he charged them very little any longer. “Hello, boys.”

Gilli frowned. “You dyed your hair.”

Merlin smiled “Does it bother you?”

“Nah… Just used to the silver. You look so…”

“Young,” Will agreed. “Do this for Morgan’s party tonight?”

“Just… needed a change,” Merlin told them. “And have you both been good while I was gone?”

Gilli went ruddy, looking down at his feet, his hands automatically going behind his back. “Yessir.”

Will, on the other hand, gave an unrepentant grin. “Got engaged.”

“You did? Really?” Merlin grinned, clapping him on his shoulder. “That’s great news! Who is she? Anyone I know?”

“You do. Sefa, actually. Planning a June wedding. You know… all that mush girls go for.”

“So… does that mean an end to our sessions?”

“Only if you want them to, Merlin. I mean… it’s not sex, and she knows it, so… She doesn’t mind either way.”

“All right.” Merlin felt his heart swell in his chest, then tugged Will close, hugging him, mind full of thoughts of his lost friend, and how glad he was that this version, at least, would have a happy ending.

“Oi, none of that nonsense,” Will said, pulling away quickly. “So… we doing this today, or…? You seem in a strange mood. That boy addle you or something?”

And as quickly as his good mood had appeared, it vanished once more at the thought of Arthur, somewhere out there, within reach, but too far away. “No… it was just… Well, I’m happy for you, Will. That’s all. We’ll have to throw you both a special party before the wedding.”

Will looked intrigued. “Oh? My kind of party, or hers?”

Will’s sort of entertainment involved leather and whips, while Sefa preferred tea and cake. Quite the dichotomy. But if anyone could solve that dilemma in a way that would make both parties happy, it was Morgan, Merlin had no doubt. If he’d ever doubted the choice of bringing Morgan to the Avalon, it was long ago in the past. It helped that she remembered none of the darker emotions that had passed between them by the end, even if she did know the truth now. She wasn’t Morgana, for which Merlin would be forever grateful. He’d missed his friend Morgana, and in Morgan, he had her. Someone he could talk to about his magic, and eternity without Arthur. She was the best hostess the Avalon had ever had.

“I’m sure Morgan will figure out something,” Merlin told him. He looked between the two young men. “So… What would you two like tonight, hm? Orders? The whip? The cane?”

Will flushed at the last, and Merlin grinned. It was too bad they didn’t have birch trees in the yard any more, but the city had killed the last one decades ago. Still, a cane would be enough for now.”Gilli, strip him down for me?” He turned away and pulled out the spanking bench and cuffs for Will. When he turned back, both boys were stripped, and Merlin raised an eyebrow at Gilli, who flushed again. “Be careful about presumption, boy. It will get you places you might not want to go…” He held out his hand to Will. “Come here, William…”

Will took his hand eagerly, and Merlin put the cuffs on him, watching his face as he fastened them. It was always so easy to relax while doing this. Everything else went away. It was why he did it at all. Especially right after one of these trips. All the anguish, the loss, the broken hopes went away when he focused on someone else and their needs. It helped him recover. Even now, knowing that Arthur was out there, he could forget, just for a moment. Gwen really did know him far too well.

Once the cuffs were fastened, Merlin smacked Will on the arse. “On the bench, then,” he said. “Gilli, get the medium cane for me.”

Will whimpered, but did as he was told, and Merlin leaned down to fasten his cuffs to the legs of the bench so that he couldn’t jerk away. “There we are.” He looked up just as Gilli returned. He held out his hand, and smiled as Gilli placed the cane in it. “Good boy. Now go over there and kneel facing us. I want you to watch.” He pointed to the nearest corner, where Gilli would be close enough to see details, but still well out of the way so Merlin could focus on Will and cane him from all angles.

Gilli’s face went dark red, and he nodded, hurrying to the corner and kneeling facing them, hands behind his back.

Merlin did love his work…

He moved behind Will, stroking a hand lightly down his back. “So… how many issues did you cause while I was gone, hm?”

“None,” Will said far too quickly.

Merlin brought his hand down on his arse, hard, leaving a perfect palm-print. “Oh? You need a warmup before you tell the truth, boy? Let’s try this again. How many problems did you cause Gaius and the girls this past month?”

“One?” Will said, and Merlin could hear the strain in his voice. Obviously it had been too long if Will were already on the stage before begging.

He glanced at Gilli, who shook his head, then looked down.

“Somehow, boy, I doubt that.” He smacked Will again, twice more. “Now… How many times?”
Will was silent for a long time, and Merlin considered smacking him again, but then he spoke. “Th-three. S-sir.”

Merlin glanced at Gilli, who nodded, then smiled at him before stroking a hand over Will’s back. “So many, boy? What am I going to do with you, hm?”

“C-c-cane me, s-sir?” Will asked, and Merlin could hear him swallow thickly.

“Yes, I think so. Five for each infraction, boy. Think you can manage?”

Will swallowed audibly again, then nodded. “I’ll… try, sir.”

“Good boy,” Merlin purred.

He shifted his stance, then tested the cane. It had been a while since he’d used it, and he wanted to get a feel for it again before using it on Will. “You’re just lucky I can’t send you out to get birch branches,” he said as he gave the cane a lash through the air. “Naked. I’m sure the club would love a good show, don’t you?”

Will whimpered again, and Merlin looked at his face, smirking when he saw that his eyes were closed and that there were spots on his cheeks.

“Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you? Showing off to the crowd? Always were a bit of an exhibitionist, weren’t you, boy?” Before Will could answer either way, Merlin brought the cane down hard across his arse, glorying in the shout it pulled from the young man, his skin prickling with it. He grinned. Oh, yes. This would be lovely.

What followed was a string of lashes across Will’s arse. Five perfect lines, criss-crossing there, the sound of the cane whipping through the air, the smack against Will’s arse, his ragged breathing and sharp cries the only sound in the room. At five, Merlin stopped for a moment to check on his boys. Will was shuddering a little, and Gilli’s eyes were bright, and even as Merlin looked at him, he shifted in place. “Stay put, boy. Unless you want to be next.” Gilli groaned at that, but nodded, doing his best to compose himself. Merlin waited until he was still before looking at Will once more. “Ready for more, boy?” he asked softly.

Will whimpered again. “P-please…” He wasn’t crying yet, but his lashes were definitely damp, and Merlin smiled.

“Far be it for me to keep your punishment from you, boy…” He raised the cane, bringing it down over Will’s arse once more, a sudden image of the boy-Arthur in his place the way he had once had the King, cuffed to a bench just like this once. Of course, then it had been a birch. Merlin stopped for a moment, needing time to gather himself. What the hell was he doing? Will. He needed to focus on Will right now. He could dwell on the past and on that boy later, once he’d taken care of Will and Gilli.

He brought the cane down again, a bit harder than before, more stripes criss-crossing the first, and only pausing for a moment when he reached the tenth to check on Will. There were tear streaks on his face now, and if theirs had been a different sort of relationship, Merlin might have finished this quickly so that he could hold him and comfort him. But that wasn’t his job. The comfort part was Sefa’s now. He and Will had never been lovers. Not in this life, at least.

Merlin quickly finished off the caning, five last light blows, enough to sting, but no longer as hard or as deep as he had the second set. Finished, he held out the cane. “Put it away, Gilli.” Gilli stumbled to his feet and took the cane. “And get the salve for me.” Gilli nodded and hurried away, and Merlin settled on his knees to undo the cuffs from the bench. “How are you doing?” he asked Will in a soft voice. “You did great.”

For a long moment, Will couldn’t manage anything, then he nodded, wiping at his face. “‘M… okay.”

“Good. Don’t sit up just yet. We need to get you all cleaned up. All right?”

Will nodded, then glanced at him, reaching out to catch his hand. “Merlin?”

“Hm?”

He smiled, his face still tear streaked. “Thanks.”

* 6 *


Dinner that night was stilted. Arthur kept wondering if perhaps his father had found out about his trip to the Avalon. He jumped every time someone entered the room, sure it was a visitor from the club, or a phone call that would give away his secret. But it never happened.

Instead, Uther went on about one of his opponents in Parliament. One of the Members, a Liberal Democrat by the name of Alator, had opposed every suggestion Uther had been putting forth for weeks. “Someone must be putting him up to it. He’s not usually got the backing to block me this way,” Uther said with a growl.

Ygrane patted his hand. “I’m sure you can manage to find the backing, Uther. Have you talked to my brothers?” Ygrane’s brothers were both in Parliament. Her elder brother in the House of Lords, her younger brother in Commons.

Uther’s lip curled. “Tristan tends to keep a hands-off policy unless it is one of his pet projects. And as for Agravaine…”

Arthur knew his father did not get on with his mother’s younger brother. Agravaine thought Ygrane had married down, and that Uther was the one to blame for her childbirth troubles. He’d been their third attempt, after two miscarrages, and he’d insisted she remain on bedrest the entire time. Agravaine was certain it was that which led to her weakness now, and her constant illnesses.

“But you should at least try, Uther. What can it hurt? If they say no, you’re no worse off than before, but at least if you ask, there is a chance they will say yes.”

Arthur tried not to roll his eyes. He really did. But his father’s response was as predictable as always. “Your brothers have never approved of me. And I am hardly going to crawl to them for help now.” He turned to Arthur. “Perhaps a change of subject is in order. Have you looked at the information on Oxford and Cambridge, Arthur?”

This again? Now? He stifled a sigh. “Yes, father.”

“And have you written your letters? How many recommendations do you have from your teachers?”

He had three, but he knew that only one of them would be truly acceptable, as one was from his coach, and one from the art teacher. At least the one from his history professor would pass muster with his father. “A few,” he said, hedging his bets for now. “I’m working on the letters still. Should I mention my sports activities?”

“Only in passing. Rugby is hardly a noble pursuit, Arthur.”

Arthur sighed, biting back the retort that he was so sorry he hadn’t gotten into polo or cricket, then. “I suppose I could take up rowing this summer,” he said instead.

“No, it’s too late to start more nonsense,” Uther said. “Focus on your strengths as a student, and your time as a Prefect. It is only too bad you did not make Head Boy.”

Arthur winced at that. He had a few of his friends to thank for that one. They’d dragged him out to a pub late one night, and he’d gotten sloshed. When they’d gotten caught coming back in at two in the morning, it had been all he could manage not to get expelled. Missing out on being Head Boy seemed a small price to pay for not having to explain needing to change schools to his father. “Yes, father. I’ll start on that part tonight.”

“Good. I expect to read it all before you send it in. Is that clear?”

Arthur nodded, then sighed. He’d have to text Leon for help. He was rubbish at this sort of thing, but at least Leon would know what to say to make him sound good. “I’ll have it before the end of the week, father.”

“This weekend, Arthur. No later. Is that clear?”

“But… I was planning on going out with the chaps tomorrow!”

“Well, you can finish this first, and then go out,” his father said, setting down his fork and knife and lifting his glass to sip at his wine, glowering at him over the rim.

Arthur let out another sigh. “Yes, father.” Looked like he wasn’t going anywhere any time soon.

* 7 *


Once both boys had been dealt with and sent on their way, Merlin settled back on his sofa, just letting everything wash over him. Sometimes, when he relaxed, a simple solution came to him. But this didn’t seem to be one of those times. After several minutes of turning over the whole situation with no possible solution coming to him, Merlin sat up and stretched his neck. Time for some distraction instead.

He went back to his wardrobe and changed into something appropriate for the club: A dark blue silk shirt, black vest, matching tight black trousers tucked into boots that reached halfway up his calf, laced up tight and polished to a bright shine, then reached for his walking cane. He pulled open the door just in time to see Gwen raising her hand to knock. “Hello. Need something?”

She blinked, then smiled. “I was just coming to check on you. Feeling better?”

“Marginally. I thought I’d come down and see what was going on tonight.”

“I’m sure Morgan would be thrilled if you’d participate. She’s organized a sexy scavenger hunt, and she’d probably love you to be a prize, or even a goal on the list. Shall we?”

He grinned, offering her his arm, and together they made their way downstairs, chatting about Sefa and Will. Merlin hadn’t even been aware they’d been dating, and Gwen confirmed it had been a surprise to everyone. “Apparently they’d been keeping it on the down-low. I think it was superstition on her part, and on Will’s…”

“He was just being himself?” Merlin asked with a grin.

“Something like that,” she said with a laugh.

They made it down to the main room, which had a nice crowd, many of whom Merlin recognized by sight if not by name. So many familiar faces, both from the past and from now. Sometimes it was hard to keep the two straight. There were Tristan and Isolde, sipping champagne and checking out the others around them. Merlin couldn’t remember if he’d known this version, but he couldn’t mistake them for anyone else, the way they looked at each other. Over in another corner was a young man who looked oddly familiar that Merlin couldn’t quite place.

“Who’s the chap at table ten, Gwen?” he asked softly.

She glanced toward the young man, then smiled. “Bali. He’s new. As of last week. Gaius invited him.”

That was an astonishment. Gaius never invited anyone. “Gaius did? How do they know one another?”

She shook her head. “Not sure. But Gaius said he belongs here, so…” She gave Merlin a significant look. “Neither Morgan nor I were willing to question him about it.”

Merlin nodded. He had no such compunctions, but for now, he’d let it set. He continued to scan the crowd, then grinned wide when he saw Gwaine with one arm around a statuesque young woman with a tall knot of hair on her head encased in leather, and the other around a dark young man that Merlin recognized very well. “Isn’t that your brother with Gwaine and Mithian?”

She nodded, sighing ruefully, even as she smiled. “Elyan and Gwaine have become inseparable lately. And Mith…well, you know her and challenges.”

Merlin laughed. “Yes, I do.” Mithian loved a challenge, and if Gwaine wasn’t a challenge, Merlin wasn’t sure one as difficult could possibly exist.

“Merlin!” Merlin turned at the voice, smiling when he caught sight of Morgan. “How long have you been back?” she asked as she moved closer, a cloud of black and violet tulle around a black sheath dress making her look a goddess, as per usual.

“Came back earlier today,” he told her, hugging her tight. “It’s good to see you. Gwen mentioned a scavenger hunt. Need any more items to add to your list?”

She grinned wide, showing her white teeth. “Oh, yes. And a prize, perhaps? We had one that would do, but a session from you…most of the blokes would give their eyeteeth for a chance at that.”

“All right. And if the winner is a girl?”

“I’ll take her on myself,” She said, still grinning, eyes sparkling with humor. “Should be fun.”

“Yes. So… what do I need to give out, hm?”

“Oh… They have to find you. I mean… So many don’t even know who you are, so…”

“Which me?” he asked. There was Merlin, the owner, Emrys, the dom, and Merlin the Greatest Sorcerer of All Time. Any or all of them might be interesting, though the last was dangerous. So far only a very small handful knew who he truly was.

“Emrys, of course. You’re so secretive, Merlin.” Then she thought for a moment. “You know… we could put you on there twice.” She grinned again. “Once as ‘get a signature from the owner of the Avalon,’ and once as ‘get a signature from Master Emrys.’ What do you think?”

He wondered how many would get both, but nodded, grinning back.

“Oh, that does sound like fun,” Gwen said. “Now I wish I could play even more…”

“What, you don’t like your part, Guenevere? ‘Get a kiss from Arthur’s queen?’” Morgana’s eyes were sparkling again, a laugh hovering on her lips.

Gwen’s cheeks went dark. “Stop, Morgan. You’re horrible.” But she was grinning wide, too.

This would be a fun evening. He was looking forward to meeting people. “So… when does it start?”

“I was just about to give the rules, actually,” Morgan said. “Go get comfortable, then we’ll get started.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek, then made her way to the little stage on the far side of the room, talking to one of their on-site sound guys, who moved to the side of the stage to get the sound system working for her.

Merlin and Gwen made their way to a table near the entrance they’d come in through, and were soon joined by two others that made Merlin grin wide. “Gaius… So good to see you. And Alice! I didn’t know you were back.”

Alice slid against him, curling an arm around him in a motherly way. “I could say the same for you, Merlin. How did it go this time?”

Merlin frowned, then shook his head. “Let’s not talk about that right now. The three of us can have lunch tomorrow. How’s that?”

“All right,” Alice said. “I’ll make your favorite stew. And Hunny’s been working on this bread roll that’s amazing. I’ll bring some of that, too.”

“Stop spoiling him, Alice,” Gaius finally chided her. He smiled softly at Merlin. “Good to see you.”

Merlin smiled back. “And you, old friend. The business go all right in my absence?”

“We’ll talk about it tomorrow, but no serious issues,” Gaius assured him.

“All right.”

Then there was the noise of the sound system turning on, and Morgana was calling for everyone’s attention. “Welcome to the Avalon, everyone! For the regulars, welcome back, and for those who are here for the first time, welcome home. You may not know it yet, but if you’re here, it is.” Her eyes met Merlin’s, and she smiled. “We always want everyone here to feel they can come here for a safe space. That’s why no drinking is allowed on the premises, and no means no. If anyone ever violates either of those rules, they are asked not to come back again.”

Both were solid rules, and Merlin enforced them to the point of throwing people out himself if he saw them being broken, no matter who had caused the infraction. In one of his past lives, Gwaine had been harrassing on of their other regulars, and Merlin had hexed the man. Perhaps in another life, they had been close, but even that would not excuse him, and he’d not seen him again in that lifetime. At least these days, he seemed a much calmer, happier person. Merlin was glad to have his old friend back.

“So tonight, we have our annual scavenger hunt for a bit of fun!” There were cheers all around. Morgan’s scavenger hunts were legendary, and people always found themselves having a great time, winner or loser. She grinned around. “Prizes this year include a free membership for a year, one of Hunny’s special pies of the winner’s choice, and…” She looked around, waiting for the noise level to drop, not speaking again until you could have heard a pin drop on the carpet of the club. “A one-on-one session with our very own Emrys.”

The silence drug out for almost a minute after the declaration, followed by whispers that grew until Merlin could feel the crowd’s excitement on his skin. He smirked. Morgana did know how to put on a show. He couldn’t help but be glad he’d made it home in time for this.

* 8 *


ArtiePenn: Hey, Leon.
Footieboy: Hey! So how did it go?
ArtiePenn: Got caught. Almost got Perce fired. Luckily he’s not going to cut off my head.
Footieboy: Shit, Artie! I thought you were allowed?
ArtiePenn: Well, yeah… The common area. But I snuck up into Emrys’s rooms.
Footieboy: You did? Are you mad?
Footieboy: What’s it like?
ArtiePenn: Didn’t really get a chance to look around. He’s the one who caught me.
Footieboy: Fuck! What did he do?
ArtiePenn: Not a whole lot, actually. Asked me my name. Threatened Perce… Sent me home. Told me not to come back.
Footieboy: That… sounds depressingly normal for Emrys. You sure it was him?
ArtiePenn: Definitely. There was just something about him, Leon.
Footieboy: I know you’ve always been fascinated with him, mate, but really? I mean… he probably puts his trousers on one leg at a time. Unless that rumour about magic at the Avalon is true…
ArtiePenn: God, Leon, he’s not a magician, he’s a Dom! There’s a big difference. I just meant… well, he didn’t look at all like how I expected him to.
Footieboy: What did he look like?
ArtiePenn: Like a young man who’d had the fright of his life and rarely ate. And… like he’d not slept in a month.
ArtiePenn: Leon?
ArtiePenn: Leon! You still there?
Footieboy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just… I don’t know how to take that.
ArtiePenn: Yeah, well, that makes two of us.
ArtiePenn: Look, I didn’t nudge you to talk about this. I need help with my letters to Uni. Could you help?
Footieboy: You still haven’t written them?
ArtiePenn: No. Damned if I know what to say.
Footieboy: Fine. I’ll be over in an hour. Have to finish something first.
ArtiePenn: Kay. See you in a bit, then.

* * *


Leon appeared about an hour and a half later. “Sorry, mate. Mum made me wash up the dishes first. Took longer than I expected.”

“It’s fine, Leon. Just… any help you could give me would be great. I’ve no bloody clue what to write. You know me. Unless it’s strategy, I can’t wrap my head around it.”

Leon chuckled. “Nah, you can do better than you think, Arthur. You’ve just got yourself convinced you can’t.”

Arthur led him upstairs and spread out the various attempts he’d made. “See? It’s a mess. None of them will work, and you know it.”

“Maybe not, but there are good grains in what you’ve got here,” Leon said after reading through them all. “Look, take this opening. It’s great. And the bit about your goals. And then we add something about your sports…” Leon jotted down notes as he talked. “And this bit about history, that’s great, they’ll eat that up with a spoon.”

“But what about academics?”

“Nah, your marks’ll stand on their own, mate. Let them. Focus on what you want out of school, and where you want to go. All right?”

Arthur nodded.

“Oh, and don’t forget to write something about your time as Prefect. It’ll look good on there, too.”

“Right. Meant to do that…” Arthur took his notes, then jotted out a vague outline before showing Leon. “Like that?”

“Exactly.” Leon grinned. “See? You didn’t need my help. You had it, mate.”

“I’d never have pulled it all together on my own, believe me.” He started to rewrite the original opening, and Leon watched for a moment before speaking again.

“So… tell me more about Emrys. Young, you said? Really?”

Arthur closed his eyes. He could still picture the man so easily. “Younger than I expected…”

“How young?”

“Dunno. Thirty at the outermost. Twenties more likely, though.” Which was weird, because people had been writing about Emrys for at least that long. Which meant it was either a title passed on, or there was something hinky going on. Or Emrys was older than he looked.

“So young? With that kind of reputation?”

Arthur nodded. The drawn look on his face came to mind once more, and Arthur couldn’t help but wonder why he’d been so upset that he could look that sad. “He’s been through something, I can tell you that. He had circles under his eyes. And that hair…”

“You mentioned. What did you mean by that?”

“His hair?” Leon nodded. “It was white. Like… not a shred of any other colour, Leon. Either he’s very odd, or he’s been through something bad.” And Arthur couldn’t help but wonder what. More, he found himself wanting to comfort the man, and he knew that was just a bit weird, too. The man would think he was some kind of creeper. Probably already did for sneaking into his rooms.

“Oh, fuck, Leon, what am I going to do?”

“Why? They tell your father? Or threaten to?”

Arthur shook his head. “No.” But that would have been simple to deal with in comparison, he thought. “He’s… not like anyone I’ve ever met again. I want to see him again.”

“So see him. I mean…”

“He kicked me out. Made it pretty clear he didn’t want to see me again, Leon. If I go back, he’ll probably call the constable.” Arthur dropped his head in his hands. “I’m so screwed…”

Leon sighed. “We’ll figure it out, mate.”

Comments

Nov. 3rd, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
I like how this is going.
Poor Gwaine, getting hexed for being pushy. *pets him*
Nov. 3rd, 2013 08:32 pm (UTC)
Heh. Well, he'd probably earned it if Merlin stepped in. :D

I'm glad you like it. Hope yours is going well. 10k as of today for me. :D
Nov. 3rd, 2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
10K is fabulous.
Me, I'm around 1500. I'm not really throwing myself into this one. I get ideas when I am ready to sleep and well, it's been a busy enough weekend to keep me out of the writing mood.
I'll keep at it just as an exercise in writing.
Nov. 3rd, 2013 08:47 pm (UTC)
It is. But I'll be lucky to manage 1k on the weekdays, so 5k per weekend day is important.

Sounds like a good way to look at it. I look forward to reading more. :)