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London, England February 19th, 1851

As soon as Arthur shut the front door to his home, Morgana came barreling out of the sitting room with an angry look at her face.

“Arthur! Where have you been?” she yelled. “We were worried sick about you. Father came home last night to find your bedroom window wide open.” She threw her arms around Arthur and hugged him tightly.

“Indeed, Arthur,” Uther said from behind his daughter. “I was very concerned when I could not find you.”

“My apologies, Father. I was warm last night, so I opened my window. Then early this morning, I decided to go see Merlin. I must have forgotten to shut the window.” Arthur hugged Morgana back. “I am sorry.”

Morgana pulled away from her brother and smacked his arm. “Just do not do it again.” She wiped at her eyes and moved towards the stairs. “Now, I must get ready for Father’s welcome home party tonight. I shall be seeing you later, Arthur.”

“Yes, sister,” Arthur smirked.

Morgana stuck her tongue out at him and went upstairs. Shaking his head at his children’s antics, Uther turned towards Merlin and stared at him.

“I hear I have you to thank for bringing my son home,” Uther announced.

“Well, um, yes. I found him.” Merlin fidgeted with his coat and shuffled his feet. He was always nervous around Uther.

“Thank you.” Uther bowed slightly. “You and your mother must come to my party tonight.”

“Oh, well, Mother is in the hospital, but I will certainly try to make it.” Merlin checked his pocket watch. “I must go there now. I need to check on her and to make my rounds.”

Uther nodded, clapped Merlin on the shoulder and looked at his son. “Arthur, you must change. Sophia and Aulfric are coming by for lunch.”

“Wonderful.” Arthur made a face, but hid it quickly when his father frowned. “Yes Father.”

Merlin touched Arthur’s arm and said, “I will be back later. Take care.”

“I will,” Arthur replied. He reached out and brushed the back of Merlin’s hands. “Give Hunith my love.”

“She will appreciate that. Good day, Uther.” Merlin bowed and then left the house.

Arthur watched him go, before going upstairs. Uther narrowed his eyes and went back into the sitting room.

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Once Sophia and her father left, Arthur let out a large sigh. That woman gets on my nerves! he thought while rubbing his temples. All Sophia talked about was Valiant’s death.

“How sad!” she had cried. “He was such a nice young man. He never did anyone any harm! I cannot believe he is gone.” She leaned against her father, who pat her shoulder.

“There, there,” Aulfric comforted her. “Do not cry, my dear.”

Sophia sniffed and tabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief. Morgana rolled her eyes, while Arthur tried not to snort into his tea. Uther glared at them sternly. Soon after Aulfric led Sophia out of the house.

“What a liar,” Morgana sneered. “She hated Valiant. We all did.”

Uther waved his hand. “It does not matter. Aulfric is a very important man and we must not make him angry.”

“Fine, Father, but I do not have to like it!” Morgana exclaimed.

Arthur finished his tea and stood up. He did not want to get caught in their argument. He pulled on his vest to adjust it and said, “I am very tired. I believe I shall take a quick nap before the party. Excuse me, Father, Morgana.” Then he went upstairs and into his bedroom, where he was now. He was sitting in a chair near a window and massaged his head.

There was a knock on his door and he growled out, “What?”

Gaius poked his head around the door and raised an eyebrow. “Seems I arrived just in time.” He came in and shut the door. “I have your potion.” Gaius held out a flask and gave it to Arthur.

“What is it?” Arthur asked. He eyed it suspiciously and took the flask carefully.

“Wolfsbane Potion. I found it in an old tome.” Gaius beamed.

“What is in it?”

“Wolfsbane, to keep the wolf at bay. Some bloodroot, witch hazel, and other plants. Go on, drink it all.”

Arthur grimaced, opened the flask, and took a great big gulp from the flask. Once he had finished it, he gagged slightly. “Good god! That is horrible!”

Gaius snatched the flask from him. “That may be, however it will be very helpful. You shall still turn into a werewolf, but you will have all your faculties about you.”

“Fantastic,” Arthur griped.

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Outside Arthur’s door, Uther moved away silently. My son! A werewolf! A magical creature! No, it cannot be true, he thought frantically as he marched into his study. He paused as he shut the door behind him. “But why else would Gaius be here and give him that...drink? It must be Nimueh’s doing!” Uther slammed a fist against the door. “I shall have to take care of my son.”

Uther sat behind his desk and began to flip through the papers on his desk. He put his finger forcefully on the one he wanted. “There,” he whispered. “That will take care of him.” Uther folded the paper up and stuck it in his vest. Then he put his coat on, left his study and then left his house.

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Guy’s Hospital

Merlin sighed as he flipped through his mother’s medical records. He was sitting in an office, surrounded by the medical records of all the patients in the hospital. He just didn’t understand why his mother went from healthy to sick in the matter of days. He rubbed at his eyes and sighed once more.

“Merlin!” cried Mary, a nurse who helped around the hospital. She mainly worked with the poor in the city, however she did spend a lot of time at the hospital. She walked over to him and gave him a quick hug. “What are you doing here? I thought you took some time off!”

“I did, but Mother had a relapse. I was just looking through her records to see if I could find anything that set her back.” He sat back in his chair and exhaled.

Mary grabbed the records from the desk and began to put them away. “Shoo!” she said, while waving her hands at him. “You being tired will not help Hunith get better. You work at two hospitals besides this one. I thought that vacation would do you good.”

“It did!” Merlin glared at her and snatched the records back before she could file them away. “I am just worried about her. I want to see who looked at her when Gaius and I were away.”

Mary made a face. “Aulfric Tir-Mor did. He is a horrible man.” She shuddered and looked towards the door, making sure no one was nearby. “I heard him say that he wanted to discharge Hunith. He thought she was faking her illness.”

“What?” Merlin’s face darkened with anger. “I need to have a word with that man. Where is he?”

“Last I saw him, he was at the front desk,” Mary replied.

Merlin shoved the records back towards Mary and stalked out of the room. He practically ran down the hallway and stairs, before slowing as he reached the front desk. He spotted Aulfric standing with some other doctors, chatting about something. Merlin tugged on his white coat and marched towards them.

“Doctor Tir-Mor?” he said politely.

Aulfric turned and replied, “Yes?”

“I hear you treated my mother. You believe that she is faking her illness?” Merlin stuck his hands in his coat and clenched them.

“I do,” Aulfric said imperiously. “She is just taking up space that we could be using to treat people who are really sick.”

Merlin closed his eyes tightly. He could feel the magic tingling through him and he didn’t want anyone to see his eyes flashing gold. “I would appreciate it,” he stated slowly, “if you did not call my mother a liar.” He opened his eyes and stared straight into Aulfric’s eyes.

Aulfric straightened himself up, so he could look more imposing. “I do not like being berated by a new doctor. I know how to diagnose patients and your mother is faking!”

Merlin did the first thing he could think of. He punched Aulfric in the face.

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Later that evening, the party for Uther had gone off without a hitch. Merlin had managed to make it halfway through the party and expressed Hunith’s warm wishes to Uther.

“She was not able to make it, I am afraid. She will have to stay in the hospital for a few more days,” Merlin frowned slightly.

Uther put his hand on Merlin’s shoulder. “I am sorry. Please give your mother my hope for a return to health.”

“Thank you, I shall.”

Uther nodded and turned away from him. Merlin let out a breath and went to find Arthur. He saw his lover across the room, being cornered by Sophia.

Merlin frowned and walked quickly over to them. “Arthur!” he called out. He waved and pushed passed numerous people.

“Thank god,” Arthur muttered under his breath. “Excuse me, Sophia. I need to talk to Merlin.” He nudged her out of the way and met Merlin halfway. Arthur looked around, took Merlin’s arm and led him into Uther’s study. Arthur shut the door behind him and pulled Merlin into a hug. “I have missed you.” He shoved his nose into Merlin’s neck and took a deep sniff.

“We saw each other earlier today,” Merlin laughed. He pulled away slightly to look into Arthur’s eyes. They were turning a lighter shade of blue. “Relax,” he said softly. “Put the wolf away. Everything is fine.”

“You are upset,” Arthur grumbled. “I can smell it.”

Merlin sighed. “Aulfric said mother was not sick, so I hit him.”

Arthur laughed loudly. “I wish I could have seen that! Did you get into trouble?”

“I was suspended from Guy’s Hospital for a week. I can only work at Charing Cross and King’s.”

“A small vacation then?”

Merlin huffed. “Oh shut up.”

Arthur laughed once more, then leaned in to kiss Merlin. Merlin threw his arms around Arthur and pulled him closer. Arthur backed them up until Merlin hit Uther’s desk. Merlin separated himself from Arthur. “I do not really want to do this in your father’s study.”

“We could go upstairs,” Arthur leered.

Merlin scoffed and pushed Arthur off of him. “You will be missed. It is Uther’s party after all.”

“I suppose,” Arthur sighed. He kissed Merlin once more before going to the door. “Hm. I thought I shut this.”

Merlin came up behind him and replied, “You probably forget in your rush to smell me.”

“Oh, ha, ha. You are not funny Merlin. Not funny at all,” Arthur rolled his eyes. He opened the door, waiting for Merlin to walk passed him.

“I think I am hilarious,” Merlin grinned. “Why do you always do that? I am not a woman.”

“Habit,” Arthur smirked. He shoved Merlin out of the study and followed him back to the party.

They were so consumed with bantering, that they didn’t notice the person in the shadows staring after them with an avaricious grin.

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Later that same night, Sophia managed to corner Arthur once again by some large windows. He was about to push her away when she whispered, “I saw you and Merlin in the study.” She looked up at him through her eyelashes and smirked slyly.

Arthur snarled, but pulled her into an alcove near the windows. “What did you say?”

“You know exactly what I said. I saw and heard you and Merlin in the study. ‘Don’t let the wolf out’ he said. Then you kissed.”

Arthur took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “What do you want Sophia?”

She twirled her hair and swayed from side to side. “I want to be Mrs. Arthur Pendragon. By the end of the month.”

“I will not marry you. Ever.”

“Then I will have to tell your father and everyone else about Merlin. And this wolf thing, whatever that is.”

Arthur growled low in his throat. “Damn it, Sophia. Do not try to blackmail me!”

“Too late,” she replied playfully. “Now, discuss it with your lover, if you must, but I will be your wife.” She kissed Arthur on the mouth then left the alcove.

“Damn it!” Arthur growled again. He would talk to Merlin tonight.

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Arthur let out a heavy sigh as he and Merlin entered Merlin’s house. It had been a long day for both men and they were glad to just be with each other.

“Are you sure you want to stay here for the next two nights?” Merlin asked Arthur as they settled into the sitting room. Merlin sat in his mother’s chair, while Arthur laid down on the couch.

“Yes. I do not want to harm anyone,” Arthur replied. “Besides, Father and Morgana could come into my room at any point. I do not want them to see me like that. I am not ready for it.”

“All right.” Merlin crossed his arms and looked at Arthur. “What else is wrong?”

“Sophia,” Arthur sighed. “She saw us and is trying to blackmail me.” He shifted to his side, but soon got up and began pacing. “She wants me to marry her.” He tugged on his collar and then pulled of his jacket. “I do not want to marry her, Merlin.” Arthur was panting now and struggling to remove his vest.

“I know,” Merlin acknowledged. He got up and helped Arthur take off his clothes. “You may have to.”

“She does not even know what the wolf is, but she knows about it.”

“We shall take care of it. I promise Arthur.”

Arthur nodded once before he fell to the floor and groaned in pain. Merlin took a step back and watched as his lover transformed into a werewolf. Once he had fully turned, Arthur lumbered over to Merlin and head butted him lightly in the stomach. Merlin smiled and scratched Arthur’s head.

“It is good to see you as well. Come on, let us sit by the fire and read. You must be tired after that transformation.”

Arthur woofed in agreement and dropped down in front of the fireplace. He curled up and looked up at Merlin sadly.

“I am coming!” Merlin chuckled. “Let me get a book!” He quickly grabbed a book and then settled next to Arthur. “I will read aloud to you. ‘Once upon a time...’”

Chapter 14

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Nikki

January 2013

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