Title: Small Matters
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Arthur has no idea why his rooms were full of people no higher than his waist.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Hope you enjoy!
Arthur strode purposefully down the corridor, his head high and his posture screaming confidence. He looked every inch the warrior and defender of Camelot and, for the first time in a long while, he felt proud of the fact. This was his kingdom, and nothing was going to take that away from him.
Moving towards his chambers, Arthur hoped that Merlin was waiting for him. His Court Warlock had muttered about `things to do` when Arthur had announced he would spend the morning training. Arthur stifled a grin even now. He knew `things` meant paperwork, something Merlin hated more than cleaning.
But as Arthur approached his rooms, he heard the soft murmur of voices. He knew it wouldn’t be an ambassador from the Druids – Merlin always made sure the king was present for that. They weren’t expecting anyone, and Arthur had just spent the morning with most of Merlin’s friends down on the training grounds.
Resting one hand on his sword, Arthur threw open the doors, hoping to startle whoever was inside. He certainly did; a small yelp and a soft scream greeted him.
But considering there had to be at least a dozen faces staring at him, Arthur was surprised that it was the only reaction he had got. Blinking, the king looked around his chambers, wondering wildly for a moment if he had the wrong rooms. It was certainly his rooms, but that didn’t explain anything.
“Merlin,” Arthur said, forcing his voice to be calm, “why are there several small people in my room?”
“They’re called children, love.” Merlin’s voice came from the middle of the room. He was sitting cross-legged on the ground, one child on his lap while another two looked as if they were attempting to climb over him. Merlin pulled a face as one tugged at his hair, but smiled up at Arthur.
“Why are they here?”
Arthur hoped his nerves didn’t show on his face as two of the children shuffled a little closer to him. He had had a lonely childhood, but because his father hadn’t had any time for children, Arthur had grown up too fast and had no idea how to deal with them.
“You said I could.”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes over the fact that Merlin sounded like a child himself, Arthur stared at him. “I don’t remember that conversation.”
“You said if I could find a safe place, I could talk to them,” Merlin continued. “You know, about magic. Try and teach them if I could.”
Arthur could now recall the conversation vividly. But he had been implying Gaius’ chambers, or the middle of the forest… Certainly not his own rooms.
“This is your safe place?” He meant to sound indignant, annoyed over the fact his entire rooms had been taken over by people barely higher than his waist. But his tone softened and Arthur couldn’t help feeling touched. After all the years of lying and hiding, Merlin felt the one place that was safe in the whole of Camelot was the king’s chambers.
Merlin nodded but before Arthur could respond, a small hand was tugging at his cloak.
“Did Merlin really have to save you from all the bandits?”
The child couldn’t have been older than five and Arthur grinned before he could help himself. He always forgot how bold children were – and wondered what his council would make of them if he let the young of Camelot simply speak their minds about the matters that affected the common people.
But there was no way he could let Merlin fill their heads with such lies. They were the future of his kingdom, after all.
“Oh no. He’s got that all wrong. You see, apart from his magic, Merlin’s a clumsy fool.”
Unfastening his cloak, Arthur put his sword on the table – making sure it was out of reach – and mirrored his lover’s position, sitting down on the floor. Instantly, he had children clambering on him but he didn’t mind as he set the facts straight about some of their adventures.
The teasing grin never left Merlin’s face the entire time as Arthur wove extravagant twists into their battles and fights. He was careful to omit certain details though. This wasn’t a report to his father who hadn’t batted an eyelid at injuries and casualties. This was a group of children hanging onto his every word and Arthur had no intention of terrifying them.
There was one child, however, who never left Merlin’s lap. Arthur knew he was the one responsible for random items suddenly floating when danger lurked in Arthur’s stories. Merlin was always quick to calm him, but Arthur found himself thinking about the boy as they changed for bed that night.
“His parents were both killed in the war,” Merlin said softly, his voice heavy with emotion. “It’s a miracle his magic hasn’t consumed him yet. He’s powerful and has no idea how to control it; he’s too emotional.”
“Then you need to teach him,” Arthur said firmly, deciding on the spot that Merlin’s idea of connecting with the children had been a brilliant one after all. “We all know what happens if someone feels like they have no one to turn to.”
He had no intention of another child turning out like Morgana because they had no one to tell them that it was going to be alright and they had nothing to fear.
Climbing into bed, Arthur waited until Merlin’s head rested on his chest before blowing out the candles. He automatically carded his fingers through Merlin’s hair.
“You were amazing today,” Merlin murmured sleepily. “They loved you.”
Arthur shifted, glad that the darkness hid his blush but guessing that Merlin could tell otherwise. His lover knew him too well.
“Is this really your safe place?” Arthur murmured into the dark. He felt Merlin nod against his chest.
“Even when you didn’t know…being near you always made me feel safe.”
This time, even the darkness couldn’t hide Arthur’s beaming grin.