Title: Dollophead – a most noble creature
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Merlin’s hair is a mess. What was he doing in the stables?
Word Count: 1038
Prompt: 339 Attack
Author's Notes: I have no idea.
Merlin’s hair was its typical rats-nest. Looking as if he’d slept in the stables, straw and some things that Arthur would rather not know about, clung to the dark strands. And Merlin’s face was defiant, taunting Arthur to be his obnoxious self, and the girl’s petticoat must have known it because there was triumph lurking in those blue depths.
Not that Arthur would ignore it. Challenges were his stock in trade after all, and Merlin was a challenge every hour.
So smirking, looking Merlin up and down, and then reaching out to pluck one of the less noxious objects out of Merlin’s hair, as he flicked it away, Arthur said, “So where have you been? Gaius said you were at the tavern. Again.”
Merlin’s eyes narrowed. “Gaius… I was collecting herbs. As Gaius well knows.”
Herbs. Always Merlin’s excuse. And Arthur was not buying it, not with evidence of a barnyard tryst collected in his hair. “Merlin, no one believes that excuse, least of all me. So what were you doing in the stables? I didn’t order you to muck them out. Although I could. Since you obviously enjoy it so much.”
“I don’t… you are an arse, you know.” Merlin scowled at him. “I was just taking care of some servanty stuff. Nothing for you to worry about.” His face turned innocent, clearly a distraction that Arthur could see through quite easily. “How did the meeting with your father go?”
“I am not going to fall for that. So what were you doing?” Folding his arms across his chest, glaring, daring Merlin to lie to him again, Arthur said, “I can order you to tell me, you know. Or the stocks could use a bit of visiting. I know that the children have missed their targeting practice. In fact, I had a delegation from the lower town complaining about it quite recently. You are very popular, I will have you know. They claim that they’ve never had such an easy target when ridding themselves of rotten fruit.”
Merlin gave him a look, annoyed and concerned and a little bit guilty. “Yeah, well at least they are having fun. You just want to bash me over the head.”
“Obviously bashing good sense into that hard skull of yours hasn’t worked.” Arthur rolled his eyes, and stood there, waiting for Merlin to give in. “And since you aren’t going to tell me, I’ll just have to find out for myself.”
With that, Arthur grabbed onto Merlin’s arm, and started dragging him toward the stables. He hoped he wasn’t making a mistake. After all, Merlin might have really had an assignation there, one of the stable boys or a maid or even a knight or two.
“Arthur, Arthur…” Merlin was trying to tug himself free but Arthur’s grip was too strong. “Arthur, all right, I’ll tell you. I will, just please, don’t hurt him.”
Arthur didn’t let go but he did stop. Hurt who? Who was Merlin hiding in the stables? Someone dangerous or someone who had preyed on Merlin’s good nature? Merlin was standing there, wringing his hands, biting at his lip as if worried. Arthur said, “As long as he doesn’t threaten Camelot or you, I promise to be magnanimous.”
Merlin looked at him a moment, then nodding, he opened the door. “All right. I’ll show you.”
The stables were dark, lots of rustling in the straw, but Merlin walked past the horses, past the boxes of tackle and bales of hay, and plunged into one of the stalls. Knelling down, he reached in and pulled out a black kitten. Mewing and crying a bit and crawling up Merlin’s sleeve to mouth at Merlin’s shaggy head.
“A cat? All this for a cat? You could have told me.” Arthur tried not to roll his eyes but it was a near thing.
“It’s a black kitten and sometimes people are not kind.” Merlin nuzzled into the soft fur. “He’s the runt, too, and I didn’t want… he’s such a good little thing.”
Arthur tried not to stare at the kitten biting Merlin’s ear – and was Merlin giggling at that? Attacking him with a growl and a lick and Merlin looked as if he’d never been happier.
“Merlin, having a pet is a responsibility that you won’t have time for. Between Gaius and I, you barely have time to clean your clothes, or wash your face, and don’t think I haven’t noticed.”
“I’m not letting him die just because you think I’m too busy. I will sleep less if I have to.”
Arthur couldn’t stand it when Merlin looked as if somehow Arthur had done something that made him seem less in Merlin’s eyes. Arthur sighed. “I’m not saying that. How about instead of leaving him in the stables, you bring him to my chambers? I’ve a rat problem that you haven’t solved yet and this little one might… eventually… chase it away.”
Merlin’s face lit up. Then, the kitten hanging onto Merlin’s kerchief for dear life, Merlin lurched forward and gave Arthur a sharp hug. Whispering into Arthur’s neck, Merlin said, “Thank you, Arthur, thank you so much.”
Arthur didn’t know what to do. Hugging Merlin was the best and worst thing that could possibly have happened, but he couldn’t let Merlin know that. Instead, he stepped back, and plucking the kitten from Merlin’s shoulder, he said, “Don’t let my lapse in judgement go to your head. I’ve reached my generosity limit for the day.” Almost unconsciously, Arthur stroked the soft fur. “What did you name him?”
“Really, Merlin, really?”
Merlin grinned. “He reminded me of you, so much work, always complaining, never letting me have a day off.”
“We can’t call him buffoon, after all, because you own that title, don’t you, Merlin.” Ignoring Merlin’s sharp glare, Arthur tucked the kitten onto his shoulder, letting him settle into the folds of his tunic. The black fur felt good against his skin, and it warmed him, almost as much as the hug Merlin had given him just moments before. “Instead, we will call him Sir Lionheart. He is after all, a most noble creature.”
And the kitten mewed his approval, then crawled up and bit Arthur’s ear.