Title: A Princely Observation
Characters: Merlin and Arthur
Summary: Arthur is unable to sleep, his mind besieged with the newcomer Merlin, therefore he decides to observe the strange boy who is in the cells.
Prompt 201: The Dragon's Call
The castle was eerily quiet as Arthur descended the steps, but at three in the morning that wasn’t a surprise to the prince, merely a reminder that most normal people were asleep. Arthur would rather be among those who were blissfully dreaming—and it wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried for the past four hours—but a certain cheeky, insubordinate newcomer to Camelot had taken over his every thought.
After tossing and turning, then grousing at the ceiling and cursing it for not answering his call for a cessation of the unwanted thoughts, Arthur had finally given up and decided he needed to take a walk. He’d planned to sneak outside and breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the breeze that the hot, stuffy castle did not afford him, but his feet had instead led him down the steps that would take him to the cells. If his sleep was going to be thwarted by the skinny brat, Arthur would make sure the annoying boy with the extraordinarily large ears didn’t get to sleep. Turnabout was fair play and all. Arthur smirked.
Who was this stranger who had dared challenge him? Arthur let out an almost imperceptible laugh. No one had ever attempted to do such with him. Well, that wasn’t exactly the truth—his father and Morgana seemed to take great pleasure in questioning him on a daily basis—but they were family or as good as and they could do that. This scrawny good for nothing peasant boy had no right. True, he hadn’t known who he was talking to, but that was neither here nor there.
When Arthur reached the bottom step, he was chagrined to see that the guards were asleep. He rolled his eyes and shook his head in the knowledge that Camelot was not at all protected at the most vulnerable time for any realm. Fortunately for its subjects Camelot’s only prisoner at the moment was the insolent Merlin, who probably couldn’t hurt a fly if he tried.
When Arthur found himself outside the cell Merlin was in he sat on the ground and settled in for observation. As a young boy, his father had told him that if he wanted to understand others and discover their motivations and objectives, he must observe. Training with weapons was what he did to prepare physically for his future responsibilities, but observing with his eyes and mind were what he did to prepare mentally. It’s what he’d done earlier as he’d stared down Merlin and provoked him. And what was it that he’d learned from his brief meeting with the brunet elven-faced boy? Arthur’s observations had shown him that Merlin would never willingly put up with anyone labeling him, suppressing him, and putting him in a category that meant he was a subject and thus had to bow down to the prince and king just because that is how it had always been.
It was a futile approach, to be sure, and couldn’t be allowed to blossom, but Arthur had to admit that for all that the boy probably didn’t have, he had nerve. He’d stood up for someone he’d not known. Arthur couldn’t think of one instance where he’d stood up for anyone, well, other than that one time when Morgana had turned on the tears and told Leon’s father that Leon wouldn’t let her play in the chess tournament that some of the children were having in the Armoury. Arthur had called her bluff and told Leon’s and his father that Morgana had called Leon a baby and told him that he didn’t deserve to be friends with the son and ward of the king. Morgana had been sent to her room without her afternoon treat that day and Arthur still remembered his giddiness at the thought that the perfect Morgana had been taken down a notch.
For some reason Merlin made Arthur think of Morgana, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why. She was arrogant and entitled, but Arthur also knew that she’d give her last morsel to a stranger if they asked for it. Perhaps that was what Merlin and Morgana had in common. Whatever it was, Arthur knew he needed to observe more to find out, so he hoped his father wouldn’t banish the boy. What Merlin had done deserved more punishment than one night in the cells of Camelot, but Arthur didn’t want to think about the boy leaving.
Sighing as he listened to the soft snores of the boy, Arthur stood and put his hands on the bars. It would be such fun to wake him and provoke him further, but that wouldn’t help him figure the boy out, so he decided to let him sleep. As he ascended the steps he looked disgustedly at the snoring guards and vowed to tell his father that it had been a long while since the guards of the cells had been secretly observed. He smirked.
Merlin would most likely not spend another night in the cells, but the cells never did stay empty for long.