Title: The Village Idiot
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius
Summary: What was Arthur to do? He couldn’t let the insult pass.
Word Count: 571
camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 288:thankful-unpredictable
Author's Notes: From Episode 01.01. Canon era.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
The last thing Arthur expected was the village idiot challenging him a second time. True, Arthur had mocked the boy, thrown him into jail on the slightest of pretences – although that was a kind of given considering the rough-edged fool had taken a swing at him in front of Arthur’s friends and the royal guards, but you would have thought someone would have taken the peasant aside later and explained things to him.
Things grew more interesting when the fool, bird-named and bird-brained, insulted Arthur yet again. It was surprising, taking Arthur aback for a moment, and making him feel pleased as well as intrigued by the notion that someone, anyone, would have the bollocks to argue back. This Merlin was inventive, too, mocking as well as daring, and that grin of his almost suggested that they were sharing a moment.
The laughter of Arthur’s hanger-ons, however, brought things back to reality. The king would never allow such derision, certainly not towards a prince of the blood royal, and he’d punish Arthur if Arthur didn’t push back. He had no choice.
Arthur did try to make it easy, tossing over the mace to Merlin, and laughing when the lad fumbled and dropped it to the ground. But when Arthur mocked him again, a fierce stubbornness settled onto the fool’s face, and so he wasn’t really surprised when Merlin picked the mace up and began swinging it wildly over his head.
It was a wonder the idiot didn’t injure someone, but it quickly became more than that. Merlin caught onto the mace’s weight and heft, and began using it as it should be used.
Surprisingly, very quickly, Arthur was in for the fight of his life, having to backtrack to try and avoid the swing of the mace, tripping over his own feet even as Merlin pressed his advantage.
It was only the call of Gaius, the court physician, that distracted Merlin enough to give Arthur time to rise to his feet, grab onto a broom and use it as a quarterstaff, ending the game.
But before Arthur could take another breath, perhaps mock the fool once more, Merlin was in the hands of the guards. Arthur knew that this time, there would be no reprieve, not from the king.
Merlin had given him a gift, a moment’s unpredictability in a life of boring sameness, and that had to count for something. Arthur ordered the guards to let the boy go. The gap-mouthed look of surprise on Merlin’s face was hilarious, and it was all Arthur could do not to laugh. He did snicker a bit, though, as he watched Merlin stumble away, Gaius berating him all the while. The boy was getting an earful and his was a very large ear.
It was likely that Arthur would never see Merlin again, that he’d go back to whatever village spawned him. Arthur just a little bit saddened by it. It had been Merlin’s stubborn ignorance of the way the things were supposed to go that had brought a little spark to Arthur’s increasingly restricted and monotonous life. He’d miss that.
But then life is full of surprises, as wild and impulsive as Merlin’s mockery had been. When Merlin was gifted to Arthur as a manservant, much as Arthur complained about it, secretly he rejoiced. With Merlin, wilful, mocking, inventive Merlin at his side, Arthur knew he’d never be bored again.