Title: The Pepperpot Sorcerer
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (if you squint)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: In which Merlin finds himself with a small, er, problem.
Word Count: 900w
Prompt: 313 Art Prompt (In the Palm of My Hand)
Author's Notes: IDK if anyone else has read the book series by Alf Prøysen, but LFB's picture made me think immediately of Mrs Pepperpot :) I can't promise regular updates (...or any, tbh) but I might have a bit of fun with the idea before I'm done!
Sometimes, Merlin hated magic.
“Merlin, come out of there.”
“I can’t.” Merlin’s cheeks were hot. “I don’t have any clothes on.”
There was a considering silence, and Merlin decided he didn’t want to know what was going through Arthur’s mind just at that moment. After a few seconds, he heard the echoing thunder of Arthur’s footsteps as the prince crossed the room to the armoire and pulled open one of the drawers. “I suppose we ought to fix that.”
“How? It’s not like any of your clothes will fit me,” Merlin called back, with what was possibly an ill-timed bit of humour. “You’re far too big.”
“Fortunately, that means my brain is far larger than yours is right now,” Arthur said, and a moment later a large square of cloth dropped down behind the desk where Merlin was cowering. “There. Will that suffice to protect your modesty?”
‘That’ turned out to be one of Arthur’s handkerchiefs, a finely embroidered red linen cloth hemmed with golden thread. At this size, Merlin was small enough to wrap it around himself like a toga, and he fingered one of the delicate edges with envy. The only time he had ever worn anything so soft was the day Arthur had forced him to don that wretched hat.
“You want me to wear this?” he asked, and there went that blush again, although this time for an entirely different reason. “Are you sure? You never lend me your hankies.”
“That’s because I don’t want to get your snot all over them,” Arthur said. “But under the circumstances, it seems like the least I can do.”
“Are there bogeys on it?”
Arthur made a strangled sound. “Of course not, you idiot! It’s from the clean pile. Now, are you going to come out here so that I can take you to Gaius, or would you rather remain the size of a pepperpot for the rest of your life?”
Finally, Merlin did as he was told, securing his makeshift toga over his shoulder before shuffling out from beneath the desk.
“Not a word,” he warned, bracing himself for the teasing. “I can still turn you into a toad.”
But Arthur’s expression had softened at the sight of him. It was strange to watch—like a mountain trying to express emotions—and it seemed to take ages before his muscles settled into a familiar configuration of fond amusement.
“You know,” the prince said, crouching down and holding out a hand for Merlin to climb onto. “You could be quite useful like this. You could sit on my shoulder and tell me jokes during council sessions. Or tell me all of Leon’s cards when we play poker down the pub.”
“Would that be before or after your father had me burned as a witch, sire?” Merlin inquired politely.
Arthur’s face clouded over. “Good point,” he said, setting Merlin carefully onto his shoulder. “Let’s get you to Gaius. The sooner we can get you back to your normal self, the better.”
Gaius didn’t seem inclined to be very sympathetic.
“I told you not to go playing around with forces you don’t understand,” he said, peering at Merlin with a severe expression. His eyebrow was a lot more fearsome when it was literally half the size of Merlin’s body. “I suppose you were trying to make yourself disappear?”
“Something like that,” said Merlin, who had actually been trying to hex away a pimple. “I mean, if Mary Collins could do it—”
“Mary Collins was also three times your age and had a lot more practice,” Gaius said tartly. “You’re lucky you didn’t turn yourself invisible—or worse.”
Merlin wasn’t sure that invisibility would have been too terrible—visions of all the pranks he could play on Arthur without getting caught swam through his head—but the prince put a hand up to cup Merlin's tiny body gently as though to assure himself he was still there.
“But you can fix it?” he asked Gaius, sounding nervous.
“I can try,” Gaius said. “But there may be side-effects.”
Merlin felt Arthur’s grip on his waist tighten and let out a squeak of alarm. “What kind of side effects?”
“Shrinkage,” Gaius said ominously, “can be rather unpredictable. At best, you might end up with slightly smaller ears. At worst…” Merlin cringed. “You might never be permanently human-sized again.”
There was a long silence, during which Merlin tried not to panic and failed.
“What does that mean?” he demanded finally. “I thought you said you could fix it.”
“I can make you normal again, of that I have little doubt,” the old physician explained, turning to pull various potions from the infirmary’s shelves. “But there’s a chance it might not stick. Which could mean that you will revert back to pepperpot-size at random for the rest of your life.”
“That’s not so bad,” Arthur said, sounding like he was trying to be encouraging. “It could be worse.”
“It could also be a lot better,” said Merlin, already thinking about all the situations in which shrinking to the size of a pepperpot would not be a good thing. Standing right in front of Uther Pendragon was one of the first that came to mind. “So how do we know if the solution will stick?”
“I suppose we shall simply have to wait and see,” Gaius told him, and went to begin mixing the cure.