Title: The Greatest Show on Earth
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur had that weary tone to his voice again, the one that always preceded him telling Merlin off about something.
Word Count: 914
Prompt: 142 - Wanderlust
Author's Notes: This also fills the 'circus au' square of my shiny new Trope Bingo round 4 card - that's 2/25 done. Which is why this is... um... circus au.
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
The Greatest Show on Earth
They were on the move again. The circus never stayed in one place for more than a few days before it packed up and moved on to the next town, the next city, the next country. And everywhere they went, people would rush to see them, stare at the brightly-coloured vehicles as they passed. It was an amazing life. Merlin had never been happier.
He leaned back in the passenger seat, making himself comfortable, considering breaking open the family-sized bag of crisps that he’d stashed behind him. Eventually Arthur would let him drive, but that was hours away because Arthur hated being a passenger and would sit there twitching until it was his turn again. Merlin, in contrast, loved being a passenger, loved watching the world go by. It was early summer, and everything was still very green. Even out on the motorway, the fields and woods they passed were bursting with life. It made him feel full of life too, excited and hopeful about their destination.
Arthur had that weary tone to his voice again, the one that always preceded him telling Merlin off about something. Merlin gave a little smile, looking at his feet up on the dashboard and knowing exactly what Arthur was going to say. He didn’t take them down.
“If we crash…”
“Try not to,” Merlin advised. “Think of everything in the back.”
“Again, try not to.”
“There are seat belt laws for a reason.”
Merlin reached up and clipped the belt into place. “Happy?”
“Feet.” Arthur reached out and tapped one of Merlin’s trainers, indicating he wanted them down.
“Happy… feet?” Merlin asked, grinning broadly and tapping his trainers on the dashboard. “Happy feet! I've got those hap-hap-happy feet!”
“Oh no, please…”
“Give them a low-down beat, and they begin daaaaaaaaaaaaan-cing!”
“No, no, no! No singing in the truck!”
Merlin ignored him, singing louder and winding down the window. “I've got those ten little tip-tap-tapping toes…”
“That can be removed…”
“When they hear a tune I can't control the dancing, dear, to save my soul!”
“A tune… that would make a change,” Arthur commented. “I’d say you can’t sing to save your soul!”
Merlin smiled, and opened his mouth to sing the next verse.
“And if you don’t stop, I’ll pull in at the next lot of services and put you in Cedric’s truck for the rest of the trip.”
Merlin closed his mouth, hearing the little grunt of satisfaction from Arthur when he did so. Not that Arthur had actually won. He just thought he had. For now.
Merlin loved this part of his life best of all. Sitting in the lead truck with Arthur, just the two of them, travelling across the country, across whole continents. It felt as if they were the only two people in the world. But there were actually a whole convoy of trucks behind them, all emblazoned with the ‘Pendragon’s Circus’ logo. It had been Arthur’s father’s, his grandfather’s and great-grandfather’s. And now it was Arthur’s.
Arthur stood in the middle of the Big Top every night in his bright red coat, brandishing a whip because he thought it looked the part, even though they’d long since stopped using animals in the performances. He did look good. It was Arthur, really, who had persuaded Merlin to join up. Arthur who’d found him performing in a sleazy club where nobody was that interested in the amateur magician. Arthur who’d taught him to project to his audience, to put on a show. Arthur who had built him up to become one of their headline acts. Arthur who loved him and shared everything with him.
He’d not succeeded in teaching Merlin to sing, but as Arthur regularly pointed out, even he couldn’t perform the impossible.
“Didn’t fancy Cedric then?” Arthur smiled.
Cedric was slightly deranged and had a strange gothic act that involved black-feathered costumes and rather creepy bird masks. He was always sneaking around at night, and although apparently harmless, Merlin did his best to steer clear.
“No, but I’d be right behind Leon and Percival. I could stare at that truck all day.” There was a massive painting on the back of that particular truck of Percival, shirtless, flexing his ample muscles. It would never compete with Arthur and his ringmaster outfit, but Merlin wasn’t going to let Arthur know that. “Might even be worth putting up with Cedric.”
Arthur snorted. “You’d give up the lead truck? I suppose I could invite Gwaine up here…”
Merlin grinned, and reached for the bag of crisps, tearing it open and grabbing a handful to munch on. “Touché.”
He would never give up his place, not up there at the head of the procession where he got to see everywhere first, and not with Arthur either. And Arthur knew it. The smug git was smirking happily as he guided them all along the motorway in the sunshine, his shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows and exposing his sun-tanned strong arms.
Motorways were boring, really. There wasn’t much to see, but they led to new places, and got them there faster. Merlin sat back again, watching the distances on the signs diminish, crunching contentedly. Occasionally he fed Arthur one of the crisps.
And then finally Arthur flicked the indicator, and the slip road opened up ahead of them. Soon, Merlin knew, there would be suburbs and streets and an audience to entertain. And a whole new town to explore. He couldn’t wait.