Title: The Meaning of Being Best Friends
Summary: Arthur tries to find out what's wrong with Merlin.
Warnings: unbeta'd, modern!au, another in the kid'verse
Word Count: 944
Prompt: 6: Whispers in the Dark
Author's Notes: Well, here is some snuggling in a sleeping bag, late night whispers between kid-Arthur and kid-Merlin.
“Merlin?” Arthur whispered softly into the dark stillness of their tent. The sound of the other kids laughing by the bonfire and telling ghost stories drifted through the partially opened tent flaps. The ruffling of Merlin’s sleeping bag on the far corner of the tent was the only answer.
“Merlin,” Arthur whispered again, crawling over many sleeping bags which covered the tent floor.
A sniffle and another ruffle as Merlin stayed infuriatingly silent. Finally making it to the only occupied sleeping bag that showed dark hair and big ears visible from the sliver of flickering light from the bonfire.
“Move over,” Arthur demanded, grabbing one edge of the sleeping bag and trying to join the moody Merlin in his warm cocoon. “Don’t be a baby, make room.”
“You’re too big,” Merlin finally whispered in a short, angry voice. Smiling, Arthur just made a more exaggerated attempt to get into the sleeping bag. After many elbows in stomachs and accidental kicks, Arthur’s front was pressed snugly against Merlin’s back. His nose was tickled by Merlin’s dark hair that held a smoky smell from the bonfire earlier.
“Why did you leave?” Arthur asked, making sure to keep whispering so that no one outside the tent could hear them. The three dreaded M’s of evilness would never let him live it down if he was caught being a big baby all curled up against Merlin like this.
“I was tired.”
“No you weren’t.”
“Yes I was.”
“Then why aren’t you asleep?”
“Because this loser face keeps talking to me.”
“So you are mad at me.”
“I’m not mad.”
“Yes you are.”
“No I’m not.”
“Why are you mad at me?”
“I’m not. Now shut up.”
“Did the Evil Ones do something?”
“No, Morgana, Morgause and Mordred were too busy trying to make potions using Root Beer and Pop Rocks.”
“You mean the Evil Ones were busy.”
“Yes, Arthur, the Evil Ones were busy.”
“Was it something the knights said?”
Merlin is silent and wiggles a bit further away from Arthur. Their Youth Group had gone on their annual camping trip. Three hassled and overwhelmed adults were looking after the Evil Ones (Morgana, Mordred and Morgause) and the Knights (Arthur, Merlin, Gwen, Gwaine, Leon, Lancelot, Percival and Elyan). It had been fun, Gwaine had even managed to smuggle in Pixie Stix and Fun Dip. Sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories, Arthur had been busy planning strategic battle plans with Leon in case Morgana tried to invade their tent during the night, when Merlin had called it a night. Merlin was never the first one to go to sleep. Arthur had known something was wrong.
Now it seemed that one of their own had made Merlin feel this way.
“What did they say?” Arthur asked, his whisper getting a bit louder. “And who said it? Don’t worry, I’ll kick their butts.”
“No one said anything.”
“Then what is it?”
Merlin stayed silent.
“If you don’t tell me right now, I will start tickling you.”
“Come on ...”
“Fine! Stop it!” Merlin gasped as Arthur attacked his sides. “I’ll tell! I’ll tell!”
“I was just thinking ... remember how when we were setting up tents you told me how useless I was?”
“Of course.” Arthur and the knights had run off to the playground before the adults roped them into helping put up the tents, but Merlin had been too slow. By the time they came back, they had found Merlin wrapped in the canvas and rope everywhere. Arthur had proudly told everyone that Merlin was the most useless tent builder ever.
“And how, when we were making hotdogs over the fire you said that I was pathetic?”
“Yes,” Arthur nodded, still not seeing where this could possibly be going. Merlin had needed Arthur to teach him the proper technique for roasting hotdogs, Merlin’s way was much too far from the fire.
“And when we were collecting frogs to put into Morgana’s tent, you kept calling me an idiot and to shut up?”
“You were talking so loud all the frogs could hear us coming.”
“I guess I just wondered why you even bothered being friends with me.”
“Don’t be stupid. You’re my best friend. That’s why we’re friends.”
“But I can’t put up a tent, and you always tell me how stupid I am and I’m not cool like the rest of the knights.”
“You’re cool; after all I am your best friend.”
“But why am I your best friend? Why not Leon or Lancelot or Gwen?”
“First off, Gwen is a girl. Girls are yucky. She’s only part of the group because she would beat us up if she wasn’t and we can’t give Morgana any more allies. And Leon and Lancelot ... they aren’t Merlins. There is a Merlin-quality they don’t have.”
“What Merlin-quality would that be?”
Arthur thought deep and hard about something that Merlin would have that the rest of the group didn’t. “They don’t have magic!”
“So that’s it? You’re just friends with me because I have magic? Why not hang out with Morgause or that new kid Gilli?”
“Morgause is Evil. And ... they aren’t you. They don’t call me names or laugh so hard when I do my walrus impression that milk comes out their nose. They don’t know our secret knock or where the spare key at home is or what my dad’s like. But you do, you know all of that because you are my best friend.”
“Even if I can’t put up a tent?”
“Please, that’s why I’m around. I’ll teach you.”
“That’s what Best Friends are for.”