Title: Everybody wants to be a Cat
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: It was an accident, the first time. He hadn’t meant to do it, the spell had gone wrong and instead of making himself move with cat-like stealth (and thus stopping Arthur complaining he was scaring off all the game on hunting trips) he had managed to turn himself into an actual cat.
Word Count: 1463 (sorry, it wouldn't end)
Prompt: 154 - Unwinding
Author's Notes: This also fills the 'animal transformation' square of my Trope Bingo round 4 card - that's 16/25 done. Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta.
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.
Now on A03 here
Everybody wants to be a Cat
There were times when it was all too much for Merlin.
Sometimes everyone seemed to want him for something. Other servants needing him to speak to Arthur on their behalf, Gaius always wanting some errand run, the knights all appearing to think that as he was Arthur’s servant he was therefore theirs as well. And Arthur… well the work for Arthur never ended.
It was an accident, the first time. He hadn’t meant to do it, the spell had gone wrong and instead of making himself move with cat-like stealth (and thus stopping Arthur complaining he was scaring off all the game on hunting trips) he had managed to turn himself into an actual cat.
Turning himself back had been… problematic. But he’d managed it, eventually. Not before being chased out of his own quarters by Gaius, being petted by Gwen and Morgana who apparently thought he was adorable, and spending longer than he really should sitting on the castle steps in the sun. Really, those last bits had been quite pleasant, and he realised afterwards that he felt more relaxed than he had in ages.
So, the next time everything got too much, Merlin repeated the spell and spent the late afternoon curled up on the windowsill in Morgana’s room being fed some delicious fish that had been fetched from the kitchen especially for him. He did feel a little bit guilty the next day when he noticed Morgana and Gwen searching the castle for the missing feline but as he could hardly tell them the truth he just had to feign innocence when they asked if he’d seen Midnight, as they’d named him.
Evidently they were too fond of him in cat form and he was going to have to find a new hiding place, although he was sorry to miss out on the fish and head-rubbing. In cat form, he’d noticed, any warm spot was pleasant. Window ledges in the sunshine were particularly good.
Arthur’s quarters had a window that faced south and a particularly wide and comfortable ledge. The prince was out most of the day hunting, or practising ways to be brutal with his knights, which was very convenient. Merlin could quickly do all his chores using magic, then transform and snuggle down for an hour or so to rest peacefully. It was wonderful and became his little haven. Once he even curled up on Arthur’s bed. Arthur would never know, and that bed was so warm and soft and comfortable…
The trouble with getting too relaxed was that it became far too easy to fall asleep.
Arthur’s annoyed shout woke Merlin instantly. For a moment he wondered where he was. Then he realised he was lying on Arthur’s bed, with Arthur glaring down at him.
“Merlin!” Arthur called again, but he was looking around, not down at the bed. That had to be a good thing.
Merlin stretched experimentally, and saw two long black paws stretch out in front of him. Still a cat. That was very good. Explaining why he had been lying naked on the prince’s bed might have taken some doing. He mewled softly, as that had worked very well with Gwen and Morgana. Arthur looked down at him, sighed, and picked him up.
That, Merlin thought, was really the best thing ever. Arthur was holding him in his strong arms and stroking his back. He purred encouragingly, hoping the prince would continue.
“You’re that stray Morgana’s been looking for, aren’t you?” Arthur asked, rubbing him gently between the ears. “Midnight, isn’t it? That’s a stupid name.”
Merlin stopped purring, insulted. He’d thought Midnight sounded quite good, dark and alluring.
“I think I’ll call you Merlin, after my manservant,” Arthur continued.
Well, that was a good name too. Merlin purred, contentedly. Arthur was still stroking him, after all.
“Ah, you like that, do you?” Arthur smirked. Merlin couldn’t actually see his face but he could hear the smirk in his voice. “Good, it suits you. Just like Merlin, always lazing around trying to get out of work…”
Merlin stopped purring for that. It was hardly fair, Arthur could see all the chores were done. Perhaps he had been lazing around, but it wasn’t as if Arthur knew about that. He was going to find a particularly gruelling chore, do it with magic, and then tell Arthur all about it. Just as soon as he’d changed back into a human again. But Arthur hadn’t finished.
“You know why else the name suits you?” Arthur asked. He rubbed the spot on the top of Merlin’s head, between his ears. It was quite lovely and Merlin couldn’t help letting out a little purr again, even though he was cross with the great clotpole. “It’s these huge, huge ears you’ve got. Just like his.”
Merlin gave an annoyed yowl at that one and heard Arthur laugh.
“Yes, they’re enormous ears, like dinner plates,” Arthur continued. Merlin wondered whether he’d get away with digging his claws into the crown prince. Perhaps if he did so and then ran to Morgana’s room very, very fast? But his clothes were in a heap behind a curtain in Arthur’s room and he wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep, so he didn’t dare. And Gaius hated cats with a passion so he couldn’t run back to his own room either, being hit with that broom would probably hurt. So instead he gave an angry growl.
Arthur laughed again, and sat down on the edge of his bed, still holding and stroking Merlin. “Perhaps I should tell you a bit more about your namesake. Would you like that?”
Merlin suspected that he wouldn’t, but he could hardly tell Arthur that in his current form. Hopefully Arthur would get fed up with him soon and he could go and change.
“Merlin is the biggest idiot I’ve ever met.”
Merlin did dig his claws in for that one, but Arthur just lifted him up and held him around the stomach, keeping just out of reach of those claws. Merlin found himself facing the prince now, wriggling furiously. Arthur didn’t look very pleased either.
“No scratching, Merlin,” he ordered. “Now, as I was saying. Merlin is very stupid. He does things that he thinks I won’t notice. Things that are illegal in Camelot.” Merlin stopped wriggling and froze, staring at Arthur in horror. “The latest thing I’m not supposed to notice is a pile of his threadbare clothes in my room, and a cat who sleeps in here whenever Merlin goes missing despite the door and window being closed. A cat who, more mysteriously, seems to understand what I’m saying. Don’t you think that’s strange, Merlin?”
Arthur, obviously, had looked around the room before waking Merlin up, and if he’d checked the window was closed he would have spotted the clothes. Perhaps Arthur was right and Merlin really was a bit stupid. Merlin tried to mewl adorably, because that had worked so well for him up until now. It didn’t quite come out right and sounded more like a squawk. He hoped he wasn’t about to change back because the spell was wearing off. That would be very bad right now.
“Yes, I thought so too. So,” he set Merlin down on the floor. Merlin contemplated attempting to roll over all kitten-like and play with Arthur’s shoe, but he had a feeling that wasn’t going to work. “Much as I like this version of you that can’t answer me back, I’m going to sit here and wait while you change back, and then we’re going to have a long talk about Camelot and its laws, and my father and how much he enjoys roasting sorcerers. And then we’re going to discuss you being a lot more careful in future.”
It could be a lot worse, Merlin realised as he slunk over to the curtain and his not very well hidden clothes, and changed. Arthur was accepting the magic and talking about protecting him. Better still, all that lovely stroking had been going on, even though Arthur knew who was on his lap. Or perhaps even because he knew.
No longer needing to hide, at least from Arthur, Merlin stepped out from behind the curtain to face his future. He felt more hopeful than he ever had before.
But as he faced Arthur as his manservant once more, he found himself giving what sounded like a little purr of pleasure. It was mortifying.
“It’s… uh… the spell takes a few minutes to completely wear off…” Merlin attempted, then abruptly stopped talking when the last word came out as a mew.
From the look of delighted amusement on Arthur’s face, this wasn’t going to be something he would be allowed to forget for a long, long time…