Title: Claws at the End of Its Paws 
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: A black cat sitting calmly on the living room rug is certainly not the worst surprise Arthur has come home to in recent years.
( Part 1 | Part 2 )
Word Count: 680 words.
Prompt: 336 Black Cat
Author's Notes: This isn't finished, but I ran out of time/energy so am posting as is. What's the difference between a cat and a comma? One has claws at the end of its paws, the other is a pause at the end of a clause.
There’s a cat in the middle of the living room when Arthur gets home.
This in itself isn’t altogether unusual. Arthur’s flatmate, Merlin—aka his best friend, aka his secret crush since God knows when—is a sorcerer, which means he’s prone to making friends with animals and taking in strays from time to time. He has even been known to hold entire conversations with them on occasion, although Arthur has never been able to figure out whether this is because of his magic, or if it’s just one of Merlin’s many personal quirks. Either way, a black cat sitting calmly on the living room rug is certainly not the worst surprise Arthur has come home to in recent years.
There’s something different about this cat, though. As soon as Arthur enters the flat, it lets out a welcoming mrow and trots towards him, winding its way between his legs as though determined to get his attention or lay him out flat on the floor, whichever comes first. When Arthur bends automatically to stroke it, however, the cat darts away into the kitchen, turning back in the doorway to fix him with a pair of mischievous blue eyes that look almost human.
“Well, you’re friendly,” Arthur grumbles, and the cat’s tail twitches as though registering his sarcasm. “Merlin! What have I told you about bringing pets home?”
There’s no answer, which is unusual. Of the two of them, Merlin is usually home first, and it seems highly unlikely that he would leave one of his ‘guests’ in the flat unattended. Frowning, Arthur leaves his briefcase by the door and wanders into the hall, checking both bedrooms and then the kitchen for any sign of his flatmate. Merlin is nowhere to be found, but when he enters the dining room the cat is sitting at the table, licking delicately at one of its paws and so obviously paying no attention to him that Arthur is reminded of his sister, Morgana, when she’s pretending to ignore someone.
“Have you seen Merlin?” Arthur asks it, on the off-chance. You never know with one of Merlin’s strays. “Skinny, dark hair, about yea high?”
The cat stops cleaning itself and makes a sound that, had it not come from a cat, Arthur might have characterised as impatient.
“I’m going to take that as a no,” Arthur says. The cat chirrups, ears swiveling, and Arthur wonders whether he’s imagining it, or if they’re actually having some kind of conversation. “But he has been home, yes? He brought you here?”
The cat lifts its head and stares at him with an expression of long-suffering patience, and Arthur is visited with the uncomfortable suspicion that he knows that look. Knows it very well, in fact, albeit on the face of an entirely different species.
“Don’t tell me,” he says, with a resigned sigh that is only a tiny bit incredulous. “You were messing around with the transfiguration potions again, weren’t you?”
Mrrrrp, says the cat, unblinking.
“You’re an idiot,” Arthur says, since that’s pretty much a given. “Don’t think I’m going to feel sorry for you if you get stuck like this.”
Mrrow, the cat says cheerfully, jumping down from the table to rub its whiskers against one of Arthur’s legs. It's purring audibly, and Arthur has to turn away to hide his smile. If he’d had any doubts that the cat is actually Merlin, this would have cleared them all up in a heartbeat; Merlin is probably the only person—or cat, as the case may be—who has ever shown such delight at hearing Arthur insult him.
“All right,” he says. “I’m going to assume that this isn’t an emergency and that you’re going to change back into your normal self eventually. In the meantime, I think we have some leftover tuna in the fridge, if you’re hungry.”
The resulting meow leaves no room for interpretation, and Arthur shakes his head as he goes to prepare their dinner. Some things, apparently, never change: no matter what species he is, Merlin will always be ready for a meal.