Title: To soothe the savage beast
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: When Merlin heard Arthur playing the lute, he couldn’t believe it. Arthur, the warrior, the man trained to kill from birth? And he was good, too.
Word Count: 1263 (sorry)
Camelot_drabble Prompt: 389 - music
Author's Notes: There was a lute in Arthur’s chambers in episode 2.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Merlin didn’t knock. He never did with Arthur. After all, as manservant, he was supposed to be at his master’s beck-and-call, wasn’t he? When Merlin barged in, ready to gather up the laundry and maybe steal an apple or two from Arthur’s fruit bowl, he could hear the pleasing sounds of lute music, light and sweet, coming from Arthur’s bedroom.
But in the next second, the music cut off abruptly and Arthur was yelling at him to get out and Merlin hadn’t even done anything yet.
It was all very confusing. Also annoying.
Merlin had chores and getting yelled at and thrown out of Arthur’s rooms was becoming an all too frequent occurrence from that princely pillock. Never mind having to duck when goblets and fruit were thrown his way. At least, he could eat the fruit later. So score one for Merlin.
When it happened again, Merlin didn’t exactly make a lot of noise, well, okay he creeped in on tiptoes to see what was going on. Was Arthur entertaining some musician that Merlin didn’t know about or a secret lady friend who was skilled with the lute? Heck, he didn’t even know that Arthur liked music after that whole debacle with Lady Helen and falling chandeliers and singing.
In Ealdor, when a traveling musician came through their village, it was a time of rejoicing and dance. In Camelot, not so much.
But this time, the music was melancholy, the sound of the lute soft and sad, and on tune. Whoever was playing for Arthur certainly knew what they were doing.
There was humming, too, a masculine voice that Merlin had to strain to hear. It sounded like Arthur, but that couldn’t be right.
Tip-toeing closer to see who it was, Merlin’s luck ran out. Who knew that Arthur had left his breeches on the floor, he was worse than a child that way, and of course, Merlin tripped on them. It would have been okay, but the suit of armor was in the way and a couple of swords and well, it got quite loud as they toppled over.
Arthur’s yelling was louder, though.
Merlin beat a hasty retreat.
The third time, Merlin was a lot more careful.
It wasn’t that he was nosy or anything, but the whole secrecy thing was driving him mad and he was determined to find out whose lute was being plucked. For Arthur’s sake. He could be enchanted or something or the person playing the lute was a secret assassin just waiting for the right moment to strike.
He removed his boots, tiptoed around Arthur’s mess, and peered past the corner.
Well, Merlin could have been knocked over with a feather – and don’t remind him of the time he was – but Arthur was just sitting there, alone, playing the lute like he was born to it. The song was rich and complex, still melancholy– the man must have issues if that’s all he knows, and Arthur’s fingers were flying over the strings as he sang along.
Arthur didn’t see Merlin there. His eyes were closed, his face a little sad and he looked young and vulnerable if truth be told, nothing like Merlin was used to. Not the rough-and-tumble warrior but a poet.
It was beautiful and Merlin felt like a real creeper watching Arthur like that. He backed away carefully and left Arthur to it.
There wasn’t a fourth time. Merlin could hear the music as he opened the door, then closed it again. Leaving Arthur alone.
The thing was that Merlin played, too, not the lute but the bodhrán. Usually with livelier tunes and song-filled dances. He’d not had a chance since he’d come to Camelot. Saving Arthur was pretty much a full-time job and never mind Gaius’s demands.
But when Arthur seemed more melancholy than usual, biting everyone’s head off and stomping away from the training field in disgust, Merlin knew it was time for an intervention.
Merlin didn’t knock. Holding his drum in his hand, he barged right in. “Dinner with your father isn’t for another hour so I thought I’d come in and entertain you, seeing how you’ve been a cabbage-head about things lately.”
Arthur looked up, astonishment in his eyes, then spied the bodhrán. “When you trip and hurt yourself, I find it vastly entertaining, same with you ducking as I toss things to you. You are supposed to catch them, you know, not get yourself clapped on the head with them. Although that would explain your buffoonish face right about now.” Pointing to the drum, he said, “Are you here to set your tripping over your own feet to a beat?”
“I’m here to play with you.” When Arthur just looked at him as if he didn’t know what Merlin was going on about, Merlin said, “So get out your lute and we’ll play a few tunes. It will be fun.”
“Merlin, I don’t play the lute. Only paid musicians and girls play such things. I play with my sword instead.” Arthur stopped abruptly, his face turning an unhappy shade of pink. “What I mean to say is that I’m a warrior. Lute-playing is beneath me.”
Rolling his eyes, Merlin just made a rude noise, then pulling the lute from behind the armoire, handed it to Arthur. Without a by-your-leave, Merlin sat down on the floor by Arthur’s chair, and started a lively beat.
Merlin was pretty good. He’d often been asked to play at the dances. He knew how to draw out the more reluctant villagers into laughter and dancing. So when Arthur just sat there, Merlin didn’t stop, just kept playing. But Merlin did look up and lift one eyebrow in challenge.
Squinting his eyes, scowling as if to say that he wasn’t falling for it, still Arthur could never resist a challenge. His fingers began to pluck at the strings, almost reluctant at first, but before long, they were playing a vigorous set of music. Arthur was singing, too, and Merlin, while his voice wasn’t as on-tune as Arthur’s, was good enough to harmonize.
It was wonderful.
When they were done, when they were both panting from the playing and the singing and laughter, Arthur was smiling again, and he seemed happier somehow.
But as he put the lute aside, Arthur said, “Merlin, I… my father can’t know of this.”
“But why? You’re good, really good, and don’t let this go to your head and make it any bigger than it already is, but you’re better than most of the musicians coming to court.”
Arthur pinked again, looking almost elated to hear that he’d done well. But instead of acknowledging it, he said, “A warrior doesn’t deal in such frivolities.”
“So no coming out, then? No entertaining the court?” As Arthur shook his head, Merlin gave out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Fine. But I expect you to play with me when you have time.”
“You do know that I’m the prince and I say what we’ll do or not do.” Arthur’s royal command voice was on full display. “And play with you? Really? That’s how you put it?”
It mattered not a whit to Merlin. He’d made Arthur smile and he wasn’t going to stop just because Uther was a being a wanker.
“Okay, then. I’ll watch you pluck your lute, you’ll watch me bang my drum.” When Arthur snorted at that, Merlin knew he had him. “And if we make music together, well, who’s to know.”
With that, Arthur grinned, then picked up his lute and began to play another song.
It was beautiful.