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Title: They Say Travel Broadens The Mind
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Arthur, Merlin, Gwen, Lancelot, Morgana
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1282
Summary: "No, Merlin, you can't just adopt the first two random French people you come across."
A/N: Modern AU


Merlin has always remembered his life in Camelot. In primary school he was praised for his active imagination in telling stories about knights, dragons and kings. In secondary school he was sent to a psychologist for relating the same tales.

By the time he starts university, Merlin has learned to focus on the life he's living now. He doesn't have a destiny anymore; he can just be a normal student.

And so, on the Friday of freshers week, when absolutely everybody is drunk, and Merlin sees Arthur Pendragon walk out in front of a taxi, he nearly ignores it. But instinct takes over and Merlin sprints across the road, colliding with Arthur and knocking him flat onto his back on the pavement.

Arthur frowns, shakes his head, sniffs Merlin's breath and says, “Are you drunk?”

*

Four years later, and Arthur plans to spend the summer travelling round Europe before going to work in the City. He'd wanted to go with his girlfriend, but Vivian's father wouldn't let her go. He was worried untoward things would happen to her.

This leaves Merlin standing in the train station, clutching an InterRail ticket, back already aching under the weight of his rucksack.

He wonders exactly what kind of untoward things Vivian's father had in mind.

“Don't look so worried, Merlin,” says Arthur, cheerfully clapping him on the shoulder and nearly causing Merlin's knees to buckle. “It'll be fun.”

It might actually be fun, Merlin thinks. It'll be like old times, like a quest. With sleeper carriages.

*

The first thing that happens to them in France is that Merlin gets mugged. Arthur's frowning at his map like he's looking for buried treasure, and Merlin wanders off, craning his neck to see if he can see the Eiffel Tower, which is stupid because they're in Calais.

The next thing he knows he's face down on the concrete and some kid is haring off with his camera.

The next thing after that and his head is pillowed on some girl’s lap and she's asking him – in French – if he's okay?

Merlin looks up and tries to remember the French for something other than, “I can see right up your top.” He settles for, “Hello.”

“You're English!” The girl sounds pleased, and Merlin looks up into her eyes. Gwen! Merlin can't stop himself from throwing his arms around her and squeezing. It's Gwen!

“Er,” Gwen pushes him away gently. “I think my boyfriend's got your camera back.”

And there's Lancelot, proffering Merlin's Nikon. Guinevere and Lancelot. Best. Holiday. Ever.

*

Merlin's still a little unsteady on his feet, plus grinning like a maniac, so Gwen and Lancelot insist on accompanying him to find Arthur.

“No,” says Arthur. “You can't just adopt the first two random French people you come across.”

“Gwen's dad is English,” says Merlin. Arthur looks unconvinced. “But, Arthur, they're really nice. Plus, they speak French. And you keep telling me this is meant to be fun, the more the merrier.”

*

The museum security officer has a heavy German accent. Well he would, this being Berlin. Merlin leans back in his seat, because the man's mainly angry at Arthur. Arthur, who obviously never went on trips to museums in primary school, and was never told that you didn't touch the exhibits. And you certainly didn't pick up ancient broadswords and swing them over your head as though you were about to fight off the Saxon hoards.

The security officer turns and starts shouting at Merlin, who hasn't done anything other than duck when Arthur started twirling the sword. The officer has given up on his heavily accented English and is now shouting in German.

Merlin doesn't speak German, so settles on sitting silently, wearing his best 'I'm sorry, my friend's an idiot,' expression.

*

Gwen and Lancelot are waiting for them outside. Gwen looks worried, but covers it well by demanding to know how they could have been so stupid, and didn't they know they were lucky not to have been arrested.

“Er, yes,” Lancelot agrees. Then he looks at Arthur with a sort of wistful expression and says, “Although, when you picked up that sword, that looked amazing.”

Gwen rolls her eyes at Merlin and shoots him an 'aren't boys stupid' expression.

They need another girl in the group, Merlin thinks.

*

In Rome they meet Morgana, who in this life is some kind of fashionista in training. Merlin doesn't know what a fashionista is, but the others seem duly impressed.

He worries for a while; Morgana is the only other one who sometimes remembers Camelot. But days go by and she doesn't mention the word “hemlock” and Merlin doesn't have to counter with “locked in a tree” and he starts to remember that, when they aren't trying to horribly murder each other, he really likes Morgana. She dresses with no concern as to planned activities or prevailing weather conditions, and is incredibly loyal to the people she loves; wherever they are she obsessively checks the time difference with England so that she can talk to her little brother before he goes to sleep.

*

They are on a train somewhere in Austria.

Due to a cock-up involving Merlin being unable to read a map, Gwen getting the platform numbers mixed up, Morgana wearing insensible shoes, and Arthur being unable to speak any language other than English, they're on a train. Somewhere. God knows where. In Austria.

Morgana's mobile rings. And because this is not the train they were meant be on there is nowhere quiet for her to go and answer it. And even though her mobile only has a tiny speaker, they can all hear the voice of a hysterical child on the line.

“Sush, Mordred, shush.”

The rest of them look at the table, the floor, their own shoes, while Morgana talks about bringing Mordred to live with her in Italy when she has enough money. How she's going to take him to see the leaning tower of Pisa.

“My little brother,” she says, looking each of them in the eye when she hangs up the phone. “Our parents are a bit shit.”

Gwen moves from her seat next to Lancelot so that she can hug Morgana. Arthur kicks Merlin sharply in the shin, Merlin takes that to mean that he should hug Morgana too.

*

Their very last night in Prague before Arthur and Merlin have to fly back to England and Arthur categorically refuses to spend another night in a youth hostel. Merlin has visions of them all sleeping on benches in Letenske Sady.

Then Arthur says, “I'm sure if we pulled our resources then we could afford a proper hotel room.”

And they can. It has two double beds and there are five of them. But Lancelot, always and forever the last of the knights, insists on sleeping on the floor, he spreads his coat out to lie on, the image is only just ruined by him propping up his rucksack to use as a pillow.

Morgana stretches out on one of the double beds, leaving the other three to bicker over who has to share with her. Morgana, for all her grace and poise during her waking hours, twitches and kicks something awful in her sleep.

Eventually Gwen says she doesn't mind Morgana's thrashing, it's better than sleeping with either of the boys, and slips beneath the sheets next to the other girl.

This leaves Merlin and Arthur to go top-to-tail in the other bed.

Merlin's just starting to drift off to sleep when Arthur kicks him in the shoulder.

Arthur needs to trim his toenails, Merlin thinks.

“What?”

“I told you this would be fun.”

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