Character/s: Merlin, Gaius, Arthur (briefly)
Summary: Merlin’s ears were red.
Word Count: ~870
Author's Notes: I don't know, I go from lack of coherency into complete silliness.
Merlin’s ears were red.
Not-- not blushing red, or rosy red, or some-knight-tugged-at-them-because-he-th
Considering the size of those two particular assets of his, as well as their nicely rounded shape... it gave quite an impression.
Gaius’s eyebrow just beat its own height record.
“Do I even want to ask?” he said just as Merlin blurted out: “Arthur’s crown is enchanted!”
The eyebrow twitched slightly, as if desperate to climb even higher and leave its owner’s forehead completely. Merlin hunched his shoulders miserably.
“How so?” Gaius asked carefully.
“It.” Merlin’s face blushed terribly, but it didn’t look as impressive with his ears that particular color. “It, er, I think it turns people’s ears red?”
They stared at each other and when Merlin showed no signs of explaining, Gaius gave in. “And how does it do that?”
“Um, with magic?”
Gaius’s eyebrow dropped. “Yes, Merlin, I gathered as much. But what triggers it?”
“Oh.” Merlin lowered his gaze and covered his ears with his hands. “Eh, um, I guess, it may be, probably, when someone puts it on their head?”
Gaius pursed his lips very, very tightly, and Merlin thought he might just die, right then. Before he could decide whether to set himself aflame or try to do it in a more traditional way, the old physician twitched, blinked, and promptly burst out laughing.
“This isn’t funny!” Merlin said fiercely, his face burning. “Just-- just imagine what’ll happen if Arthur wears it, and gets red ears in front of the whole court, and gets humiliated and then he’ll surely hate magic forever!”
Despite Merlin’s protests Gaius was still laughing heartily, so much that he had to lean against the table and slowly lower himself on a bench before he collapsed.
“Oh... oh, you stupid boy,” he managed finally, but his voice was affectionate. “The crown won’t do anything to Arthur.” He paused to take a few breaths and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “It’s probably only supposed to affect the person that shouldn’t, under any circumstances, wear it.”
Merlin scowled and shifted from one foot to the other, more embarrassed than he could ever remember being. “How can you know that?”
“For one,” Gaius said, calming fully at last, though his words were still laced with amusement, “it never did that before, and I doubt that if some magic user decided to enchant the king’s crown, they’d choose a spell quite like this one.”
Merlin opened his mouth to protest, but Gaius threw him a warning look.
“Besides, spells like that were quite common, back in the day, to ensure servants wouldn’t,” Gaius’s mouth twitched, “indulge themselves with their master’s possessions while fulfilling their responsibilities.”
“Haha,” Merlin said, deadpan, unsure if he wanted to keep covering his ears from his mentor’s mocking gaze, or hide his face in his hands. “And, uh, and how can I... revert it, because I tried and--”
“I’m afraid you can’t.” There was not even a grain of sympathy in Gaius’s tone. “The only way to make the spell stop working is to confess to your master what you did, which, as you can see, was never an actual choice, and accept the punishment.”
Merlin’s jaw dropped. “You’re joking! Please, Gaius, tell me you’re joking-- I mean haha, yeah, it’s hilarious, but tell me what really needs to be--”
“I’m afraid I am not joking, my dear boy,” Gaius interrupted him with glee. “It really is how it used to be done. Most of the spells like that were taken off after Arthur’s birth, but apparently some of them were completely forgotten.”
A groan escaped Merlin’s throat and he only just managed to take a few steps before collapsing on the bench next to Gaius.
“Arthur won’t punish me,” he said after a while, staring with growing mortification at his boots. “He won’t punish me just to make me walk around with red ears till the end of my days. Oh gods, Gaius, what will I do?!”
He did put his face in his hands then, unable to face more of Gaius’s inevitable amusement, when suddenly they heard a furious yell.
The sound echoed through the hallways even more fiercely than usual, and Merlin felt himself freeze.
“Merlin...” Gaius started with the tiniest note of concern, at last. “What did you do with the crown?”
“I,” Merlin turned to Gaius, his eyes wide. “I sort of... threw it across the room?” It might’ve landed in the leftovers of Arthur’s dinner, he didn’t say.
At Gaius’s scolding look he added quickly, “It stung! My ears, I mean, I thought it was attacking--”
His defense was interrupted by the sound of the door slamming open. The last thing Merlin managed to do before Arthur stormed inside, full of righteous fury, was pale horribly, his bright red ears a beautiful contrast on either side of his face.