Touring turns out to be… well, just as awesome as Merlin has expected. They get to play in front of huge crowds for a living, and it's—it's brilliant, it's just also— "Terrible, right?" Brendon says, flashing Merlin a sympathetic smile. "Yeah," Merlin says, weary. Panic's bus is crowded, full of an assortment of bands, tour staff and random people -- not groupies, as it turns out that no one on this tour does that sort of stuff, but friends and lovers, even wives. Merlin and Brendon are in the back lounge, sitting at the corner of the room and away from the ridiculous Spin-the-Bottle game Ian had started. "It's just—" Merlin starts, then stops and shakes his head. "I miss home and clean socks, which someone keeps stealing from me, and—and a bed, a real bed, and oh god, real food." "Steak," Brendon says dreamily. "I dream about it at night." Merlin chuckles. "I actually find myself craving soup," he says, grinning when Brendon laughs. "Yeah, well, I eat at home all the time. Mostly because the other guys always finish the real food before I even have a chance to lay my eyes on it. But, I mean, I guess it just reminds me of home." "There is no shame in craving soup," Brendon says, raising his beer in the air in salute. "I have craved worse on tour." "There were times we thought he was pregnant." It's Spencer, and he slides down the wall to sit next to Brendon, leaning against his side. Brendon beams and presses a kiss to Spencer's lips, chaste and brief but intimate nonetheless. Merlin looks away, embarrassed. At the centre of the room, the game seems to have gone out of control. In the middle of the circle, Ryland is dancing and cackling while the others sing a line that sounds suspiciously like "I'd fuck you if you weren't a chicken". Merlin spots Gwaine within the circle, grinning like a maniac and probably pissed off his arse. "I think I'll go find Arthur," Merlin says to Brendon and Spencer, who are not making out, but look very close to doing so. Merlin makes his way through the bus, passing Elyan and Leon on his way. They're sitting in the small front lounge with a couple of sound technicians and Patrick Stump – and like, holy shit, Patrick Stump; Merlin cannot get over this – talking music loudly and passionately. Mostly it seems like Patrick and Leon are about to kill each other, and Elyan looks incredibly amused. Merlin just gets out of there, jumping out of the bus before he's dragged into the argument. "Mer-lin," a woman sing-songs, voice sweet and seductive, and Merlin nearly stumbles and falls on his face. But it isn't Morgana – of course it isn't Morgana, since she's probably in London, feeding off the soul and success of some poor band. It's Victoria, and she's draped over a sofa that is, for some mysterious reason, in the middle of the parking lot. Her feet are resting on Percival's lap, and Merlin can't wait to share this tidbit of information with Gwaine; Merlin knew they weren't just fucking. "Hi, Victoria," Merlin says, trying not to stare as Percival's hand slides high up Victoria's leg. It's kind of ridiculously hot, the two of them together. "Have you seen Arthur?" "Mmm, sure," Victoria hums. She smiles at Merlin, and suddenly she doesn't look like a sex god anymore. Well, she does, but she also looks like the lovely, strange and fierce woman she really is. "He's being all broody again. You know, with the face," Victoria pouts for a second, then adds, "He was heading towards the tech's bus." Merlin sighs, but gives her a smile in return. "Thanks." "No problem," she says. "Go and make your boy happy, while I deal with mine." Merlin does not need to see that, nor does he want to – he's pretty sure he doesn't want to, anyway – so he turns his back firmly on the couple and heads towards the tech's bus. It's locked and dark, deserted – all the technicians are on Panic's bus. But there's a weird curve to the shadows and Merlin instantly knows it is Arthur. He just does. "Hey," he says, coming to stand before Arthur. Up close Merlin can see that he isn't pouting, definitely not like Victoria, but Merlin immediately sees what she meant. Arthur looks sad and tired, frayed at the edges, the way he only looks when it's dark and he's alone; when he thinks no one will see. Merlin reaches out and takes the letter out of Arthur's hands, folding the paper and gently. They only got it a about a week ago, but the material is already worn, the corners of it soft and ruined. "I'm so sorry, Arthur," Merlin says, the same thing he said when Arthur first told him, his eyes red and his fingers tight against the envelope. Merlin takes a breath of cold air and says, "I'm so fucking sorry." Arthur shakes his head. "No," he says, his voice rough. "You've got nothing to be sorry about. You were right, and I'm glad—I'm glad I didn't stick around to watch him die." Arthur's voice breaks on the last word, and he shakes his head again. "Fuck." Merlin steps into the shadows, wrapping his hands around Arthur. "He was so proud of you," he says into Arthur's shoulder. "He always wanted you to play, Arthur. The music in your blood--" "It's his gift to me. My heritage," Arthur says quietly, and Merlin lets him go slowly, reluctantly, staying close. "I know. And I know that we had to accept the offer, and I'm glad we did because this band is—" Arthur smiles softly, sadly, and Merlin knows. "I just can't believe I'll never see him again, never hear him play again." "We'll write something for him," Merlin offers, and goes to stand be Arthur's side. "We'll make sure everyone hears about him. I promise." "And you never break a promise," Arthur says, his shoulder brushing Merlin's. "I remember that time you said we were going to travel the world, and you were smiling like the imbecile you are, and I didn't believe you." "And look at us now," Merlin finishes, and he looks at the mostly dark parking lot -and sees: a sofa, and what might be the first step towards the birth of some ridiculously good-looking children; a bus full of friends and idols-made-flesh and fucking rock stars; the thud of music in the air, so thick Merlin can actually see it. He sees Arthur, lovely, sad, beautiful Arthur, who is possibly the most stubborn prick in the whole world, and possibly the only thing Merlin has ever wanted, apart for the music, and how much he wanted to let it run free. And now he can. Now they can, together, and it feels like—it feels like— It feels like destiny.