|It's All Fun and Games (Until Someone Turns into a Squirrel) - Merlin - Arthur/Merlin
||[Apr. 30th, 2009|02:36 pm]
where the daydreams reign
Title: It's All Fun and Games (Until Someone Turns into a Squirrel)
Word Count: 1823
A/N: Vampire!AU in the Scent 'verse.
Summary: Arthur corners Merlin to get answers about his magic.
Over the past few days, Merlin has avoided certain areas of the castle. A survival strategy, of course. These areas include (but are not limited to) Arthur's bedroom, Morgana's chambers, the great hall, all the lesser halls, the training grounds, the castle's grounds in general, the stables, the armoury, and anywhere else that a royal vampire is likely to skulk around. Not that Arthur skulks, really. He's nothing like what Merlin thinks a vampire ought to be like, or even what tradition and legend would require him to be. He strides around in the sunlight and he doesn't wear any black clothing. Merlin's fairly certain that he can't turn into a bat either. If Arthur had such an ability Merlin has no doubt that he'd spend every waking moment showing off with it.
The wound on his arm is healing nicely, Gaius says, but it itches like mad. On nights when he can't sleep it's like he can still feel Arthur's lips against his skin and he can imagine Arthur's fangs teasing the cut. Arthur's eyes had shone gold as he drank and Merlin doesn't know what that means: he doesn't particularly want to know, and therefore the best thing to do is to avoid everywhere that might result in him running into the prince.
Unfortunately that does somewhat restrict where in the castle he can actually go. It's hard to hide from someone in his own castle. Merlin likes to think that he's done a rather admirable job of it, to be honest, though Gaius has taken to frowning at him in disapproval at every opportunity he gets and Gwen is fond of sighing at him.
Avoiding Arthur is a full-time job, and when Merlin heads to his bedroom at the back of Gaius's quarters at the end of the day he's looking forward to slumping into bed and sleeping for an unnatural length of time.
As with all things in his life, however, he should have known that this would not go exactly according to plan.
After plopping down onto the bed, lying on his back, Merlin tries to toe off his boots without sitting up to use his hands. It's fair to say that he does not succeed at all, and in fact his attempts only make his shoes wedge themselves in an uncomfortable position on his feet. With a put-upon groan, he pulls himself up into a sitting position and—
Finds himself staring at a moody-looking vampire standing by his door.
Merlin isn't sure if it's the fact that he's moody, the fact that it's a vampire, or the fact that it's Arthur that is the most terrifying, but he knows without a doubt that the combination of all three can't be a good thing. "Hello," he says after a brief pause during which it becomes clear that Arthur is not going to be the first one to speak.
"You've been avoiding me," Arthur says. "Ever since what happened on the full moon, you've been sulking around the castle without doing your job. If you were anyone else I'd fire you."
"Why don't you fire me?" Merlin suggests. "I'm awful at my job. You tell me that all the time."
"I tell you that because you are awful at your job. You didn't even see fit to turn up all this week." He sounds exasperated and – Merlin realises with a warm, loved sense of horror – more than a little affectionate. "But I want you working here so you won't get to squirm out of it that easily, Merlin."
He says Merlin's name like it's an insult, something mean to throw at him. Merlin finds himself smiling despite all his determination not to. "I needed a break," he states, a flimsy excuse. Judging from Arthur's expression, he knows it. "I did nearly die a few days ago, sire. I think that warrants a few days off."
Arthur nearly died as well, all because of him, and that's the thing he wants to avoid most. Not Arthur's presence as such, but the possibility of having to discuss what happened.
Arthur checks that the door is closed, and then looks at Merlin with the most serious expression on his face that Merlin has ever seen. He dreads what might be about to come out of his mouth, but the words he utters are certainly not what he was expecting. "I turned Gaius into a squirrel."
That, Merlin has to admit, is certainly not what he'd ever predicted Arthur would say when they ran into each other again.
"Oh?" he replies, eyebrows raised, because there is very little that he can think to actually say.
When he thinks about it now, Gaius has been uncharacteristically twitchy for the past two days.
"While you were passed out after I'd drank from you, Gaius touched my shoulder and a moment later he was running around the floor. I don't suppose you'd know why that is?"
The leading tone of his voice says that he knows Merlin has a few answers tucked away in the dark corners of his brain, but Merlin smiles all the same and shrugs innocently. "Why would I know? Maybe it's some new vampire thing."
Arthur watches him. Merlin would swear that he doesn't even blink. "It happened after I tasted your blood. Yours."
"That is a very strange coincidence, I agree."
"Merlin…" Warm and coaxing, there is only the faintest hint of disapproval in Arthur's voice, but that doesn't stop Merlin from tensing when Arthur takes a step forwards. It's an instinctual thing, far beyond his control, but Arthur's footsteps falter then stop all the same. "If I was going to hurt you, I would have done so long before now," Arthur sighs at him, "and if I was going to have you punished for using magic I would have sent the guards for you immediately."
"I didn't use magic," Merlin lies automatically. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"It's in your blood," Arthur says, as if he hadn't bothered to protest his innocence. "The magic itself is in your blood. I didn't think it worked like that."
"What do you mean?"
"It's something you learn. I shouldn't be able to taste it any more than I'd be able to taste that someone can speak Latin or dance – which means that there's something different about you. I'd like to know what it is." Arthur's eyes search him, assess him, and Merlin doesn't know what to say: confession lingers on the very edge of his tongue. "What are you?"
"I'm a person," he answers: too fast, too defensive, because this is a question he's been left wondering far too often recently. "Just like everybody else."
"Not just like them." Arthur moves forward again and Merlin manages not to flinch, though he's tense: ridiculously tense. Arthur sits at the end of his bed, watching him with eyes that look so human now, a far cry from the inky blackness that fills them when he's hungry. "You used magic on me, didn't you? You don't have to say it: just nod."
It's easier when he doesn't have to say the words: easy but still a little on the terrifying side. He used magic against a member of the royal family. Merlin's fairly certain that a plea of self-defence isn't sufficient in such cases, but some irrational part of him trusts Arthur. He nods.
Arthur lets out a long puff of air and his shoulders sag. "So you're a sorcerer?"
Merlin's eyes are wide and he's trying to work out what he'll do if Arthur turns on him. "Yes," he admits, very small and very quiet.
"Does anybody else know?"
"You're sure of this?"
"Yes, I'm sure," Merlin sighs. It's the only secret he's ever been able to keep, and the only one he's ever had to. He doesn't let it slip out nonchalantly.
"Let's make sure it stays that way," Arthur says decisively. "Don't tell another soul. My father hates magic after what was done to Morgana and myself – it'd be best not to give him a target for his anger, unless you want to be the next in line for the chopping block."
"No thanks," Merlin mutters with a shiver. Knowing what happens to people like him in this kingdom makes him wonder every day if he should just go home and take his chances there: anything would be safer than hiding right under the king's nose, surely. "You're not going to tell Uther?"
Any troubles that Arthur may have with lying to his own father are hidden well by his expression. "No, I'm not. Now move over – I want to lie down."
"I'm not letting you sleep here, y'know," Merlin says even as he shifts over on the bed to allow Arthur room to lie beside him. "Last time we shared a bed you tried to eat me."
"But I didn't actually do so."
"Only 'cause I stopped you."
"Yes, with that strange magic of yours," Arthur says defensively, as if that had been cheating. He rests beside Merlin, and without asking if it's okay he moves his arm around Merlin's shoulders. One firm tug causes Merlin to fall against him, left leaning against his chest. "What else can you do, other than drive me mad?"
Merlin shrugs: he doesn't quite feel up to demonstrations yet. It's alarming enough to let Arthur know about it, let alone see it. "Sometimes when you give me too much to do I use magic to help," he confesses.
There's an amused smile in Arthur's voice when he answers. "You have all this power at your fingertips and you choose to use it on chores. You're something else, Merlin, that's for certain."
Merlin snorts. "When you had it, you turned Gaius into a squirrel. I think I'm making better use of it than you did."
"I also turned him back," Arthur points out.
"Ah, so you used my magic to fix your own mistakes?"
"… I'm the prince. I don't make mistakes." Arthur clears his throat importantly. Leaning against him, Merlin can hear the way it rumbles through his chest and smiles. "I knew exactly what I was doing."
"Mmhmm, I'm sure you did," Merlin agrees. He wishes he'd been around to see it. Maybe one day he will be: he knows that this won't have been the last time that Arthur drinks from him. Relying solely upon Arthur's self-restraint isn't an acceptable plan.
It isn't something he's worrying about now, lying in bed with Arthur. Arthur's arm around his shoulders is comforting, and though Merlin can feel the way he inhales deeply to take in the scent of him he doesn't bother to mention it. As long as it's smelling and not tasting, he thinks it can't be too harmful. With Arthur now aware of his secret, the world seems like a slightly less dangerous place: because he knows that, whatever comes next, they'll be facing it together.