Title: The Summer Prince
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: As a last resort, Merlin gets a summer job as a camp counselor and ends up with Arthur as a bunkmate.
Word Count: 871
Author's Notes: none
Merlin didn’t want to be here.
Kids shouted and screeched as they ran through the open field, trying to get to the finish line on the opposite side. Counselors stood on the sidelines and whistled encouragement. The sun beat down with uncharacteristic fury, crisping the back of Merlin’s neck in spite of the copious amount of suncream he’d slathered over every exposed inch of skin. Worst of all, whenever one of their group navigated another obstacle, his partner for the next six weeks kept slapping him on the back, completely oblivious to Merlin’s irritation.
This adventure camp had not been his first choice. When he’d started looking for summer employment, he’d wanted someplace more creative. At the very least, he’d wanted to be indoors for most of it so he wouldn’t come out the other side of the summer looking like a boiled lobster. Nowhere was hiring. He’d turned his attention to something more local, then, someplace he could earn a few extra quid to take back to uni in the fall. That turned out to be a bust, too. He’d waited too long. Everybody had already snatched up the seasonal work in the small village of Ealdor.
Hunith had actually found the job listing for the adventure camp. After looking at the website, Merlin had to admit it didn’t seem half-bad. Kids only stayed for a week at a time, there was a nearby river that was frequented on a regular basis, and counselors worked in teams so he wouldn’t have to wrangle campers on his own. He applied with fingers crossed, focusing his experience on his team player attitude rather than his lack of athletics. When he was offered the job at the interview, it seemed too good to be true.
“You must be Merlin.”
The sudden sound of someone else in his room startled Merlin into jerking upward from where he’d been making his bed. His head banged into the upper bunk, and he winced as he backed away from the offending furniture.
Turning around to see who’d addressed him didn’t help matters. He was greeted by a grinning blond with a body that looked like it would have no problem with the hikes and the rock climbing and the zip line Merlin had only found out about when it was too late to refuse the job.
“Maybe you should’ve taken the upper,” the blond said, his smile unwavering. “You likely wouldn’t have even needed the ladder with stork legs like that.” He thrust his hand out. “I’m Arthur. I’m the other half of Team Otter.”
Merlin shook his hand, though only because he knew it was polite. “I prefer the bottom,” he said, then hastened to add, “Unless you need it for some reason.”
A sly twinkle appeared in Arthur’s eyes, like he’d just glommed onto some secret Merlin had been trying to hide. Which he was, though it wasn’t really a secret as much as nobody else’s business. Especially blue-eyed, blond perfection Arthur. “No,” Arthur said. “The top’ll do me just fine. I’m more than used to it.”
Merlin discovered later that day that, of course, Arthur was used to the best. He was a Pendragon, a detail he’d failed to disclose when he’d introduced himself. His family was one of the oldest in the country, so revered that even Merlin had heard of them in spite of growing up nowhere near London. He was also a legacy, which meant everybody in the camp knew him. Worse, everybody appeared to love him, the female counselors giggling like schoolgirls whenever he would talk to them, the older staff giving him leeway on rules others were forced to follow. Merlin was the odd man out, regardless of the fact that Arthur dragged him along wherever he went those first two days.
“We’re partners,” Arthur would explain when Merlin complained.
That was it. Nothing else. Apparently, that was the only explanation necessary because it was the only one he ever bloody gave.
Something was up with Arthur Pendragon. Merlin was sure of it. Sooner or later, he’d slip up and reveal himself as the prat Merlin was convinced he was.
Day three began with a groan.
“You all right down there?” The question preceded the appearance of Arthur’s head, hanging over the edge of the bunk, to peer down below. “Not sick, are you?”
“No.” He pulled the blankets over his head to block Arthur from view, only to be tortured by the light wool scraping over his raw skin. He gritted his teeth against making another sound that might draw undue attention. “Just need a few more minutes of sleep.”
He heard the thud as Arthur jumped from above rather than take the ladder. Such a show-off. But the expected footsteps toward the loo didn’t come.
“You need to get something on that before it gets worse,” Arthur said.
Merlin grimaced. Damn it. Arthur had seen. “Said I’m fine.”
“And I say you’re not.”
All of a sudden, the blanket was ripped away, leaving Merlin blinking against the sudden light and the spectacle of Arthur’s bare chest.
“Shit,” Arthur muttered. “What was the SPF you used? ‘Forget it, I’m going to crisp anyway?’”
“It was fifty, thank you very much.” Merlin wanted to crawl under his pillow and die from embarrassment. His sunburn must look as bad as it felt. “Not all of us won the gene lottery when it comes to tanning, you know.”
“Get dressed.” Arthur tossed the blanket aside and turned to their shared wardrobe. “I’m taking you to the infirmary.”
Alarm frizzled through Merlin’s veins. “I don’t need the infirmary for a little burn,” he argued. As much as he didn’t like his job, he didn’t want to lose it, either. If he couldn’t handle the time outdoors, there was no reason for the camp to keep him on.
Arthur thrust a shaving mirror into Merlin’s face. Merlin’s eyes widened. His fears about turning into a boiled lobster had come true. Every inch of exposed skin was bright red, even the bits of scalp he could see through his hair.
His reaction seemed to satisfy Arthur. He tossed the mirror aside and reached for a T-shirt. “Hurry up. We want to be done before the kids wake up for breakfast.”
Grumbling, Merlin swung his legs around and sat up. It was pointless to argue when Arthur got his mind stuck on something. “Fine, I’ll go. I’ll meet you at the dining hall.”
“I’m coming with you.”
Merlin stiffened. “Why?”
Arthur didn’t even look over his shoulder to respond. “Because we’re partners.”
That was it. Something was definitely up with Arthur Pendragon.