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12 September 2010 @ 10:38 pm
fic: Random Number Generator  
Title: Random Number Generator
Words: ~2k
Rating: PG
Summary: written for creepy_secret Merlin is a science major, and is really stressed about school. Arthur attempts to take care of his MMORPG game while merlin's studying, during which time Cen(d)red tries to storm Merlin's lands. Arthur defends Merlin's kingdom.

"Full stars on Health, Hunger, and Sleep, but we've only got a 'Good' on Strength." Arthur spun in the swirly chair to face Merlin. "What does a 'Good' on Strength mean, anyhow?"

"It means," Merlin told him, not even looking up from his O-Chem text. "That you haven't been training the men adequately. They need endurance training, not just lessons in weaponry."

"Well," Arthur countered, clicking at the laptop. Merlin could see that this thought irked him; he knew how Arthur liked his weapon training. "I'd say a 'Good' meets the criteria of 'Adequate.'"

"But-" Merlin looked up with a frown.

"But you don't accept just 'Adequate,'" Arthur continued. He sent a smile Merlin's way, both fond and reprimanding. "That's more than fine with me." He gestured to himself, "Obviously."

Merlin rolled his eyes, and screwed up his mouth so that Arthur wouldn't see him smile as well. He needed to focus, that's what he needed right now. Being cooped up in a dorm room with your boyfriend was always a good idea, except when you needed to get anything done. He flipped somewhere in the middle of chapter seven, and scratched out some figures in his notebook and ran his finger along a highlighted passage.

"I'll just follow that pointer, then," Arthur said to him, voice startling Merlin a tad bit, and breaking up his already fragile-concentration. "Your first regimen, I'll set as the first watch, while the others are training. And then I'll switch it up, putting some of the men on guard duty, others on patrol, and only then training those who'd been on watch."

"You know, Arthur," Merlin said. He leaned back against the window frame, and pulled a pillow under a knee. Arthur looked over, his face the picture of inquisitive. "When you offered to take over my Camelot account while I finished studying for my final, I didn't mean you narrate the every move of my soldiers. I'd much rather be playing, of course, but you know, you know that my grade pretty much depends on this test."

"If you hadn't failed the last one..." Arthur began, but then held up his hands in mock surrender when Merlin sighed.

"Well, we both know why I failed that one," Merlin said, pointedly.

"Oh, blame this on me, then?" Arthur laughed. He flicked a paperclip Merlin's way, off the messy desk. Merlin's roommate's side of the room was pristine, but that was because he had pretty much moved in with his girlfriend, who was older and had a flat all the way out in Luton.

"Yes, I know about your little problem," Arthur said. He sprawled out in the chair, one foot on the desk and holding the laptop close. He dragged his finger over the touch pad of the laptop, perhaps highlighting some piece of terrain. Merlin could just make it out if he craned his neck, just so, but he fought the strong urge to micromanage. It's just, he had raised that army since October. His only option in the current situation was to study quickly so that he could get back to the game. He would not let Arthur, boyfriend or no, ruin over a year's worth of consistency and dedication.

"I know all about it," Arthur was saying. He double clicked on something. Merlin hoped he was sending men to dig more ore. Last he had checked, he'd been low on iron, and without iron the arsenal would be low on ammo. He snapped back to reality, when Arthur said, "Forget the midterm exam. Remember how I basically had to force you into a second date? You almost canceled on a paid-for trip to Disneyworld Paris, guaranteed 10 hours of line-time with Yours Truly, because-"

"-because of a very important battle," Merlin finished. "We've been through this, Arthur. It's not my life only that I'm responsible for; I play against and collaborate with people all over the world. I forged alliances before I even met you. Sometimes I wish I hadn't, but it's something that I need to follow through on."

Arthur pouted, and Merlin shoved his textbook off his lap onto the covers, his pencil rolling out onto the floor, to step over to stand beside the chair. Arthur tilted his head back to meet Merlin's gaze, unwavering.

"I promise I'll take care of your army," Arthur said, blue eyes earnest and clear in the afternoon light that filtered through the dorm windows in a yellowed haze. He ran a hand up Merlin's side.

"I know you will," Merlin said. He held Arthur's gaze for just that bit longer, before letting his eyes follow the gentle curve of neck to shoulder, and down the muscular arm, which led his gaze directly into Arthur's lap. He allowed himself a moment to admire the keyboard, with all of its fine, flat keys, begging to be pressed. And the computer screen, flashing with miniature people, muted sounds of life whispering from the abandoned headphones.

"Hey!" Arthur said. Merlin stepped back, guiltily. "I saw that."

"Saw what?" Merlin went back to the bed, face heated. He sat and spread his work out in a more cogent fashion on the bed and window sill, papers like petals.

"I saw you checking out your computer instead of me!"

"Nonsense," Merlin said. He set to serious work.

An hour passed. Nothing happened except for an influx of chemical formulas. Merlin finally blinked, eyes watering from reading off of a paper rather than simply absorbing the glow of the screen like they were used to.

He glanced up from his book, to where Arthur was leaning back, nearly at the tipping point, but not quite. He always managed to look so elegant, especially where others wouldn't. His hair was mussed, completely, and he was wearing a pair of casual shorts, and, somehow, Merlin's shirt, which was of course too tight on him, and the fabric would be stretched irrevocably.

"Um," Arthur said. It took Merlin a moment to emerge from the blend of chemical and besotted dreams. "Um, Merlin, some player named Cendred's conquering your kingdom. Man, what a douche. I wonder if I could tell him you're studying..."

Merlin was up in an instant. He took the two steps in a rush to Arthur's side, a blind panic telling him to take the computer and secure his forces with his own two opposable thumbs, but Arthur pulled away. He held the computer to his chest, mouth set in a firm line. Merlin made a desperate sound.

"No, I'll do this. Let me do this, Merlin." Arthur seized him by the collars of his hoodie, and yanked forward so that their faces were close. "Let me do this for you."

Merlin rested his forehead against Arthur's, and squeezed his eyes shut, sucking in a breath. He felt pained to the core, wracked by indecision. But he knew, deep down, that so much more was depending on this than the fate of his men, so much more than the risk of botching relations with his foreign cohort and electronic contacts.

Merlin breathed out and turned to kiss Arthur's palm. He nodded.

"Alright then," Arthur said. He dropped his feet to the ground, and shoved the laptop onto the desk, dropping books and papers and all else to the floor, extraneous details that did not belong in the endangered realm of Camelot. He cracked his knuckles. "Let's do this."

Merlin paced the room. He rubbed at his elbows, he opened and then swigged from long-since opened bottles of Gatorade.

It was a hard, trying, time. Many fought, and many died, doing what they had been trained to do. Sometimes death just happens, despite all efforts, and who was Merlin to argue with the algorithmic processes of the game.

Then, all at once, the battle-related butterflies in Merlin's stomach quieted, and ceased fluttering altogether. The sure look on Arthur's face was something he chose to believe in.

It was like that time, when Merlin had been taking a unix course, back when he'd toyed with the idea of computer science as a career. They'd been set to list numbers one after the other, from one to a thousand, in no particular order. They were then tasked to create a program that would calculate the probability of any given number in the sequence being a one. The chances were higher and higher with every miss, but sometimes it would take until the 999th iteration to reach that simple number, that perfect 'one.'

There, on the field projected on his laptop, the soldiers dropped like tiny tin men, felling whole hosts of Cenred's men in the process. No computer-randomized wildlife entered the scene, for fear of abstract death, and as the end of the fight neared, the remaining soldiers swinging swords and emitting tiny cries, archers shooting spindly arrows from the saddle, blood of the men soaked a 64-bit hillside.

Of course Arthur, ultimately, was the victor.

"Take that, Northern Rider!" Arthur cried, when the white flag rose from the final soldier of Cenred's kingdom. Merlin hugged him from behind, chair and all.

"That Cendred guy actually lives in Australia, I think," he mumbled into Arthur's ear.

"As if real life has anything to do with this," Arthur snorted. He wiped his brow, and Merlin felt a welling of the ducts, thinking, "I taught him all he knows."

Merlin hummed in contentment and went to lie down with a pillow over his head, alright but still in shock. Arthur shut the computer and sat back, flipping through a book, by the sound of it.

"Well, I'm off," he finally said, grabbing his Econ folder from the floor. He sounded near whistling, and in any other situation Merlin would point this out, the smugness, but for now it was warranted. Arthur placed Merlin's book on the bed, saying, "Study. Lest you eventually end up career-less and, thus, not able to support your frivolous lifestyle of buying computer games."

"I haven't bought a computer game since...well, ever," Merlin muttered. He half sat up, just in time for Arthur to ruffle his hair before he left, and to receive a quick kiss just above the eyebrow.

"Good luck today."

When the door had clicked shut, and he had pulled the chemistry book from the desk, he saw that Arthur had slid a scrap piece of paper to bookmark somewhere in the middle. Merlin flipped to the page.

Arthur had shaded a small picture of Cendred on a horse, just over a graph. It happened to be a graph Merlin had never figured out how to read, and now it provided mountainous backdrop to the king's march.

Merlin studied the page for some time, memorizing both the written and implied facts. He thought of the computer coding, how he had never considered the play of algorithms outside of math.

It was like the turns of his life were just iterations, and somehow, despite low odds and possible computer glitch, he had somehow stumbled upon Arthur, at the right time, the right place, like a random number generator had been written straight into his heart.

furloughdayfurloughday on September 14th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
at least it's not, like, pants fail or something.
learn it, lovebug.vestigiales on September 14th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
what is pants fail?
furloughdayfurloughday on September 14th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure, but I also feel no doubt in my heart that one day it could happen, and I will recognize it immediately.
learn it, lovebug.vestigiales on September 14th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)