"A learning experience is one of those things that say, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.’”-Douglas Adams
M. Emerson Gray would start his day by being late. Seriously, every day his alarm would go off for twenty minutes until he could even think of turning it off. It’s not that he was lazy…well okay he was a little lazy. But it was more the fact that he was a very deep sleeper than anything else. So every morning, Emerson would roll over to turn off the alarm on his cell phone. And every morning he would look at the time and realize that he was running twenty minutes behind schedule, which led to him jumping out of bed and sprinting to the bathroom for a lukewarm shower. The shower was always followed by impressive bits of multi-tasking.
Emerson slid into a pair of ripped jeans as he towel dried his hair. His eyes flashed gold, leading to his toothbrush floating into his mouth and a clean t-shirt flying into his outstretched hand. He rushed back into his room and called out to his roommate, who was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and the morning paper in his hand wearing an open dressing gown and silk pajama bottoms. The man was handsome with chin length dark hair complete with goatee. His deep brown eyes tracked his roommate with amusement.
“DAMMIT LAWRENCE,” bellowed Emerson as he attempted to pull on a sock with one hand while buckling his belt with the other. His mussed raven colored hair with varying colors streaked through it was flying every which way. He began searching for sneakers as he questioned, “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
Lawrence paused in his meditative drinking of his coffee to fix his roommate with a stare and a quirk of his eyebrow. “I was unaware that I was put in charge of making sure His Highness was woken up.”
“I can’t wake up on my own!” exclaimed Emerson as he fished a comb out of a potted plant, “You know that. I know that. Sven, the gorgeous Swedish masseuse next door, knows that since he hears this every bloody morning. HELLO SVEN!!! It’s not like it’s a huge secret. Plus you know I have work.”
“You own your own business,” pointed out Lawrence as he focused on his copy of The Sun.
“Which I have to be on time for!” replied Emerson, “Hence the reason I got a roommate a.k.a. you!”
“I was not aware of this.”
“Well until we can sit down like real adults and discuss the rules of the roommate code then this,” here Emerson gesticulated between his disheveled state and his calmly bemused roommate, “will continue to happen.”
“Whatever you say mate. I made you some toast but I imagine it’s hard now since you were supposed to be up twenty minutes ago.”
Emerson stuck his tongue out at his roommate.
“Your maturity astounds me, Emerson.”
“Bite me bitch. I pay my taxes and everything. I’m a brilliant, mature person,” stated Emerson as he turned to the mirror to comb his hair. As he faced the mirror, a face similar to his own popped into view. Emerson raised an eyebrow, and shifted so that he could see his own face.
Emerson’s past life grinned pleasantly from the mirror, “Morning!”
“What up, Merlin?” called Lawrence.
“‘Lo Lawrence,” greeted Merlin casually as he watched Emerson comb his hair. “Slept in again?”
“Yes,” grumbled Emerson.
“Why do you set an alarm then?”
“That’s what I wonder,” said Lawrence from his position in the kitchen.
“You’re both very mean to me. Why do I hang out with such meanies?” asked Emerson as he tugged at a particularly stubborn knot. “Better yet why am I reincarnated from such a meanie.”
“Sure, you’re the picture of mature adult,” snarked Lawrence as Emerson pointedly ignored him. Merlin cackled in delight before yelping when Emerson pulled away from the mirror, taking Merlin with him.
“Oh that’s not nice to your past self,” said Lawrence, “even if he does live in your reflection and shadow; he still has feelings too.”
“I remain unconvinced,” stated Emerson as he pulled out his keys and wallet from the coat he wore yesterday transferring them into his favorite leather jacket. He grabbed a bright purple scarf with lime green polka dots and a sky blue fedora to shove on his head. He quickly gulped down some lukewarm orange juice that Lawrence set out for him.
“You’re a strange man, mate,” said Lawrence simply.
“Who stole your toast!”
“Cheers, Lawrence of Arabia!”
“I kill you with my mind!”
“I can actually do it.”
“Love you! Kisses!”
Emerson happily munched on his marmalade drenched toast as he walked into the gloomy London morning. He breathed in the cool mid-morning air savoring the several moments of calm he got from it. Then someone jostled him and began to curse at him for standing there. Emerson laughed and blew a kiss at the man before strolling down the street.
There was something in the air today. A tinge of magic, the whisper of change, and Emerson had waited for it for a long time.
“Dar’st thou amid the varied; To live alone, an isolated thing?” –Percy Bysshe Shelley
Arthur Pendragon, once King of Camelot, began his day in a very different way. While Emerson started his day in a whirlwind of noise and movement, Arthur relished a calm start. Perhaps it had something to do with his age (despite looking barely in his twenties even though he was well over a millennia old), or the fact that he learned to enjoy the calm when life can be so loud and vibrant.
Arthur sat down at the round dining table (yes his once Knights had laughed themselves sick over that) with some toast, a mug of coffee, and the newspaper. Opening the paper to the financial section, Arthur bit into a piece of marmalade drenched toast as he checked over his stock options. While being alive close to fifteen hundred years had allowed Arthur to accumulate a vast amount of monetary wealth, he still enjoyed being reckless with some of his money for time to time.
Humming under his breath, Arthur took a sip of the expensive ground coffee from his sturdy black mug. The once King couldn’t help but enjoy the morning. Especially when it was so lovely and quiet that it reminded Arthur of a finely aged scotch: smooth and warm.
Then his once Knights would wake up and the silence would be shattered. It’s not that they’re bad men. Arthur wouldn’t have spent well over a millennia with them if they were. It’s just that they were a pretty rambunctious group of guys. The only time they were quiet was when they were asleep or not in the shared penthouse apartment itself. So Arthur got in the habit of getting up at the crack of dawn, taking a jog, showering, changing, and eating breakfast long before any of his once Knights rolled out of bed.
Taking another long sip of his coffee, Arthur momentarily lifted his eyes as Leon shuffled in. Honey colored blond hair was ruffled and mussed, sticking up at odd angles. A pair of thick framed glasses that Leon has had for about five years rested over his zombie-like eyes. Worn, bunny slippers covered his feet and his dressing gown was opened revealing a pair of sweats that Arthur was sure Leon has owned for close to two decades. Leon glanced at Arthur before grunting and stumbling over to the coffee pot.
The next one who wandered in was Galahad, in customary cheer. He was dressed in a light gray suit and a lavender shirt with a deep purple tie. His strawberry blond hair was pulled in a small ponytail and his deep green eyes sparkled with good cheer.
“Good morning all!” chirped the youngest knight as he sat at the table pulling a carton of orange juice before him.
Leon sat down heavily, glaring at Galahad before going back to nursing his cup of coffee. Arthur just smiled at Galahad.
“How the bloody hell can you be so damn cheerful in the morning?” muttered Leon as he stared down the younger man.
Galahad remained unfazed as he swiped the comics section from the paper.
“Simple Grumpy, I love the morning. It’s a start of a brand new day. There’s a song about it somewhere but I don’t feel like singing. The golden pipes aren’t properly warmed up yet.”
There was a pause and Galahad peered in Arthur’s cup.
“Oh hell no,” said Leon, “You’re too motherfucking happy. No coffee for you.”
“You’re no fun,” stated Galahad with a pout, “And you’re hung over. Do you remember last night?”
“There was a woman with a mohawk dressed in rubber,” mumbled Leon as he shifted nervously, “After that it gets a bit blurry.”
“Oh! I remember her,” said Gawain as he walked into the room also immaculately dressed in black suit with black shirt and deep red tie. His deep brown hair was stylishly mussed and his hazel eyes were sparkling mischievously. “She was trying to talk me and Galahad into having a fourway.”
Leon looked vaguely horrified.
“We didn’t agree of course,” said Galahad as he kissed Gawain on the cheek, “We’ve decided to save the orgies for pagan holidays. Or our birthdays.”
“And where’s Percival?” asked Arthur not even bothering to hide his amusement.
“Doing the walk of shame I reckon,” said Gawain as he began to brew some tea.
“He was dancing with some woman with purple hair and they were getting pretty frisky,” said Galahad with a bright grin. “Our Percy is a bit of a playah.”
Arthur winced. “Don’t do the ‘gansta’ thing, Galahad. No matter how cool you think it is; you sound like a right idiot when you do it.”
A murmur of agreement was heard from the others in the room. Galahad pouted and crossed his arms across his chest.
“Oh you all can kiss my ass.”
“We’ll just let Gawain do it for us,” shot Leon feeling a little more human with some coffee in him.
Gawain glared at all the people at the table before pouring himself a cup of tea.
“Why Leon do you want to join us?” asked Gawain baring his teeth.
Before Leon could answer, the door to the apartment banged open accompanied by a spill of curses. All the men at the table went completely silent, waiting for the person. Percival, a tall, broad, handsome man with a shaved head and deep brown eyes, turned the corner thinking he was alone in the apartment. He cursed again seeing the group as they jumped to their feet and gave him a standing ovation.
“So how was she?” asked Leon with a leer and a grin.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” said Percival simply.
“Oooh that means something unwanted got dyed or pierced,” said Galahad with a wide grin, enjoying his friend’s discomfort.
“I know where you’ve been. I’ll keep my manly bits thanks.”
Percy made a rude gesture with his hand at Galahad.
“Fuck you and your mother twice, Galahad.”
The men snickered into their breakfast as Percy wandered off to take a shower. Galahad blew a kiss to the man’s retreating back. The youngest Knight stood with a grin.
“Well I’m off!”
“Where are you going?” asked Arthur looking up from his paper.
“Well since we all decided to back up and coming businesses at the last board meeting,” began Galahad, “I had some people in Research look up some interesting ones. I’m going to scout out a combination record store, book store, and café. They host weekly open mike nights along with varying other artistic activities as well that prove to be insanely popular. Their projected interests look so good that I almost had an orgasm as I read it. So I want to get us in as early as possible.”
“What’s it called?” questioned Leon feeling awake enough to discuss business.
“That Shop,” answered Galahad with a grin.
“Are you serious?”
“Well I trust your business sense Galahad,” stated Arthur.
It was true. Galahad was the Chief Financial Officer of Excalibur Incorporated, the company that Arthur and the others started a couple years back mainly due to boredom. However, Galahad was put in charge of their finances about seven or eight hundred years ago. See Galahad, while having the attention span and disposition of a cracked out four year, had an excellent sense of business and money. So they pretty much just let Galahad do what he pleased, and the money usually just poured in.
“Coming Gawain?” called Galahad as he grabbed a nice jacket.
“Coming,” said the man as he stood and gulped down the last dregs of his cup of tea, “See you blokes later.”
Arthur chuckled before leaving the table, allowing Leon to get some moments of peace. As he walked to his room, he ran into Percival with a towel around his waist freshly showered. He gave him a gentle smile.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Just been a bit on edge I suppose.”
Percival stared at him for several moments.
“You sense him don’t you?”
“I can feel the magic getting stronger, yes.”
Arthur’s eyes snapped to meet Percival’s immediately. It had been a long time since any of his knights had addressed him as such. (Not since Merlin’s third life in a small village in Germany in the eleven hundreds.) The once King gave a small, almost humorless smile toward the former Knight. His blond hair, a little longer now falling to the nape of his neck, fell into his eyes. The sky blue orbs stared at a point beyond Percival’s shoulder.
“He’s here. Among the people of London. I can feel it.”
The pair went quiet.
“It will work out, Arthur.”
“I hope so, Perce. This is the life that matters. I don’t think I’ll be able to just exist without him if I mess this up.”
“Merlin’s a good soul. And he loves you despite the fact the pair of you are at each other’s throats most of the time.”
Arthur cracked the barest hint of a smile at that. Percival took it as a good sign to continue.
“I know it will end up alright in the end.”
“I know you, Arthur,” stated Percival with a half shrug, “I know Merlin. I have faith in you two. Now this is an awkward conversation to be having in a towel in the middle of the hallway so I’m going to go change.”
“Good call, Perce,” said Arthur as he went to get ready for work. “By the way when did you get so...sensitive?”
“Sensitive bad boys are in,” said Percival with a wink as he disappeared into his room.
“The best argument I know for an immortal life is the existence of a man who deserves one.” –William James
(In which Emerson hijacks the story to clarify some points)
So I bet you’re all wondering how exactly Arthur became immortal.
Well I take it you’re all informed enough to know that Mordred killed Arthur. And he really did y’know kill Arthur with a blast of magic right to the heart.
If not than SPOILER ALERT and seriously people go and read a book sometime.
Merlin was a pretty laid back guy. He could take a joke. He would play with the children of Camelot more often then he would talk to the nobles. He was a gentle soul. He would never hurt a fly if he could help it. He wanted to use his magic to help people, not to hurt them.
It could be because of how much his own power scared him. Merlin (and by extension me) was a powerful motherfucker. When he was happy the weather seemed to reflect it by a perfect spring day or by a beautiful snow filled winter morn. When he was angry the wind would pick up and storms would roll over the land. Most people of Camelot could tell Merlin’s mood by the weather outside except Arthur because he was one of those men who couldn’t tell someone’s feelings even if lightening struck him (and in one particular argument it did but that’s neither here nor there).
However, Merlin would do anything to protect Arthur, even kill (or worse, fuck Lisa Lampenelli).
So when Arthur fell in battle, Merlin went a little bit crazy. Mordred thought when Merlin was walking toward him; he was going to ask to be a part of his gang of Druids. Mordred kept up that train of thought right before Merlin uttered a spell that would make Mordred barf up his own lungs.
May I say? You go, Merlin! Avenge your man especially while that memory of that fuck session is still in the forefront of your mind.
Still avenging Arthur and killing Mordred was really not enough for Merlin. He knew what would happen next, he was going to have to wait for a really long time for Arthur to be reincarnated alone.
Merlin, feeling distraught and devastated, begged and pleaded with Magic to bring Arthur back. Magic hated seeing her favored child so distraught and she came to him. She told Merlin that Arthur couldn’t be brought back without a price. And the price was Merlin’s own immortal life.
He didn’t even hesitate; as he transferred his life energy to Arthur he just said one thing.
“Please don’t let him be alone.”
And Magic granted that request. She brought to life the most loyal knights to Arthur who also had perished on the battlefield.
Yeah I know. You go Magic! Seriously girl-creature-being-person you rock!
So anyways Merlin gave up his immortality to Arthur and his knights. However, there needed to be some sort of balance in the universe because Arthur and his knights were not meant to be immortal. They were meant to be reborn. So Magic told Arthur that Merlin would be reincarnated seven times, because seven is the most powerful magical number EVER.
And this brings up full circle to moi.
“The secret of life is to not do what you like, but like what you do.” –Proverb (Origins unknown but probably from the Chinese. It has the confusing fortune cookie feel to it.)
That Shop, Emerson’s store, was an oddity among London oddities. It stood at three stories. The outside was bursting with color as if instead of deciding on one color Emerson paid the workers to get splash colors however they liked it around the outside (which is what he did). Swirls of red clashed with splatters of purple. Blue and green were lazily entwined with orange and white. Handprints decorated the splashes of paint from store employees, famous patrons, and people who just want to be a part of the mural. The older shop owners would call it an eyesore, but they were ignored for the most part.
The inside held the same chaos as the out. Each story was connected by a ladder for employees, stairs for patrons, and an old elevator that looked like it shouldn’t run (but did) for special needs or shipping purposes. Each level was mish-mash of books and music that seemed to fill the walls with as loud of a presence as Emerson, himself, while the first floor held something extra as the café took up a good part of the floor complete with stage and comfortable chairs and old sofas around tables.
Most would say that That Shop defied physics on routine basis. (And it did. Hey if you have magic you use it.)
Still many people would call it a bright, vibrant place against the usual gray London air. It didn’t take itself seriously unlike most shops. It reflected the owner’s eccentricities (a.k.a. insanity).
Not that his employees were the sanest bunch either.
“This is NOT coffee.”
“Of course it’s coffee. Don’t be stupid.”
“No this is some freaky vegan soy bean shit that you routinely try to scare the poor masses into drinking. It doesn’t taste like coffee, the aftertaste doesn’t taste like coffee, and even if a fairy shits in it…it still wouldn’t taste like coffee. Now grind some beans and gimme some Italian roast!”
“You wouldn’t know good coffee if it burned you on the ass.”
“You’re a horrible person.”
“Who’s a horrible person?” inquired Emerson cheerfully as he strolled into That Shop, “Is it Justin Bieber?”
The first of the pair, who was arguing that her coffee was coffee, felt her plum painted lips quirk into a smirk. She was tall and pale with an almost effortless beauty. Her electric blue eyes were kohl rimmed and shone brightly while her dark blue hair tumbled down her back. She was dressed in a pair of ripped jeans with a flannel shirt over a white t-shirt. She was beautiful yes but she also held an air that promised she could kick anyone’s ass.
“Boy you did not just insult the amazingness of Justin Bieber,” stated the girl sarcastically.
“Oh yes I did, Morgan, yes I did.”
“The according to the Justin Bieber Code set forth by the Council for the Promotion of Justin Bieber; your punishment is to listen to his new C.D. until you get the soul behind his lyrics.”
“I’d rather die.”
Morgan nodded wisely, “Most people always choose that.”
The other participant in the argument: a tall, thin boy with tanned skin that had tattoos peeking out from his shirt sleeves and collar looked bemused at the pair. He ran his hand through his David Tennant-esque hair as several thin gold hoop earrings caught in the fluorescent light of the store. He snorted lightly.
“There’s a code?”
“Yes, Liam dear, there is a code. It’s a kickass code,” replied Morgan with a grin.
“Is the code told to before or after you sell your soul to fuel Justin Bieber’s satanic powers?”
Morgan only smiled mysteriously. Emerson looked amused at his two employees (both reincarnations of Lady Morgana and Merlin’s BFF Will). His eyes were a bright swirl of gold and blue. Liam chuckled.
“So how’s your day going?” asked Liam as he ruffled Emerson’s hair of raven and multi-colored streaks. Emerson retaliated by tugging on one of Liam’s golden hoops impishly.
“Great! Besides the fact that Merlin is mean.”
“I take offense to that!” said Merlin appearing in one of the store’s many mirrors that were placed strategically throughout the shop.
“Merlin’s awesome, mate,” stated Liam with a grin.
“Your mom taught you to respect the dead.”
“Why is my reincarnation a clotpole?”
“I’m not!” whined Emerson with a wink, “I’m the annoying little brother you never wanted.”
“Annoying is right.”
Merlin looked bemused and patronizing like a parent indulging a small child. Emerson stuck out his tongue. Both sets of the same eyes were sparkling merrily. Morgan and Liam laughed at their antics. Emerson rolled his eyes and clapped a hand on Liam’s back before pecking Morgan on her cheek.
“Alright! So what’s on the agenda for today chico and chica?”
“We have the poetry reading tonight,” said Morgan happily. “We have some good local poets signed up for it.”
“Mmm and we’re still having the Battle of the Bands on Saturday,” began Liam with a grin, “Though a couple of the new bands would like to know why having foam rubber axes and swords as well as signing a waiver is necessary.”
Emerson rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Explain to them that the ‘Battle’ part of ‘Battle of the Bands’ has to do with the rooftop battle beforehand to separate the strong from the weak. And if they’re going to bitch about it well then they should have read the fucking waiver.”
“You’re barmy,” sing-songed Merlin.
“I can break every reflective surface that I come across and not feel bad.”
Merlin knew that the threat was valid. “…Shutting up now!”
“So,” said Emerson with a grin, “Anything else?”
“I believe we are having Drag Day Friday,” said Morgan with a grin.
“Ah yes thank you Morgan. Did you inform Friday’s employees of the punishment if they don’t dress appropriately?” asked Emerson with a wicked gleam in his eye.
“The bondage suit is hanging for all to see in the staff room,” answered Morgan casually.
“Freddie the Freak isn’t on Friday right?” asked Liam, “Because he loves that bondage suit.”
“We’ve learned to schedule Freddie on non-bondage suit punishment days.”
“Is that it?” asked Emerson.
“Yes Supreme Commander Emerson,” said the two in unison. Emerson laughed at the nickname given to him by store employees and regular patrons.
“Fantastic! I’ll be out in a couple minutes. I need to put my shit away.”
“Nature is at work…character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.” –David Seabury
Galahad and Gawain stepped out of the limo that pulled in front of That Shop. Business was in full swing and the regulars had staked out their places in the café and throughout the store.
“It’s like a rainbow threw up,” stated Gawain dryly.
“I like it!” cheered Galahad loudly with a grin. His eyes took in everything of That Shop greedily. Several people walking past paused to stare at the two handsome (and obviously wealthy men). Galahad waved at them with his usual good cheer while Gawain rolled his eyes and fixed them all with a glare that could melt lead.
The pair walked into That Shop where they were greeted by the following scene.
“OH GOD! IT’S THE PO!” yelled an American accented voice.
“That bitch, old Mrs. Anderson, really did call the coppers on us!” proclaimed an annoyed female voice. “Again! I’m going to kill her!”
“We weren’t doing anything detectives I swear!”
“RUN LIAM! FLUSH THE EVIDENCE!!!!”
A spiky brown head sprinted passed them jumping over a cash register in the haste to get the backroom to get rid of some evidence. Galahad and Gawain looked at the crowd then at each other.
“Do we look like detectives, Gawain-love?”
The shop froze.
“You aren’t detectives?” asked one of the patrons: a tall muscular man with a bright blue mohawk dressed in a tweed jacket and nice suit pants.
“Well I suppose Gawain does look like,” began Galahad, “He really does need to stop glaring at everyone. I tell him that it scares people.”
“What my companion means to say is,” stated Gawain, “we are not detectives.”
“Oh! Well sorry about that then!” said a girl who bore a startling resemblance to Morgana with a smile. “Last time two guys with suits came in they were with Scotland Yard.”
“So we didn’t have to flush the…stuff…down the toilet?” asked the brown haired man from behind the cash register.
“So who the hell are you then?” asked the Morgana look-alike.
“Ah, I’m Galahad Stevens and this is Gawain Williams. We’re here on behalf of Excalibur Inc. We want to back your store.”
“So you want to give us money? We won’t be selling our soul to the corporate machine will we?”
“No selling of souls required. Though giving of liquor at Christmastime is appreciated.”
“Oh, that we can definitely do! But you don’t want to talk to me-I’m Morgan by the way-you want to talk to M. Emerson Gray. He’s in charge.”
“What does the M stand for?” asked Gawain.
“Marvelous,” said a familiar voice from above them.
Galahad and Gawain looked up to see the face of Merlin stare down at them in amusement.
“Huh,” said Galahad as his usual grin took on a Cheshire Cat like quality, “Well this is an interesting turn of events.”
“No shit,” agreed Gawain with a nod.
As Emerson jumped down and looked at the pair, the two were trying to decide on how to trick the other into telling Arthur. Now that they found Merlin, he was going to unbearable until he got lucky.