Title: Flirting with Fluting
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: That was when a different nervous flutter had taken hold in Merlin’s gut. It felt warm and restless, like a hundred dawn sprites trying to burst out of his chest, and they only quieted when he wasn’t with Arthur. Or on his way to Arthur. Or thinking about Arthur.
Warnings: Awkward young mythical creatures
Word Count: 999
Prompt: #207: Crushes
Author's Notes: Follows a few years after Flora for Fauna and Can't Sidhe the Forest for the Trees.
Merlin sprawled in the soft moss bed that grew thick around the roots of his favorite oak tree, gazing out at the first blush of sunset. The days were growing longer as summer solstice approached, and he loved coming to this hill to watch the sky turn gold and then dark.
He was more impatient than ever for the brightness and warmth of summer. It felt like spring had dragged on forever. He couldn’t even blame it on the unusually long stretch of rainy weather, which the Witch of Mists had said was the hive dwarves’ fault for cutting down too many cloudruby vines over the winter. The dwarves had turned around and accused the centaurs of destroying their altar stone, which led to a brawl between two trolls and an ogre, and then King Uther himself had had to intervene after a stand of yearling trees had been burnt down.
None of that had been Merlin’s problem, though. No, Merlin’s spring—Merlin’s entire life, really—was unbearable thanks to Uther’s heir.
For some reason Merlin could only blame on the enchantment of Camelot Forest itself, he and Arthur had been best friends since that very first day more than five years ago. Arthur had never stopped being a bit of a bully, especially to Merlin, but the prince didn’t tolerate anyone else being unkind to him.
Most of that had been settled in the first few months of Merlin attending school. All Arthur had to do was glare at the other students and they’d run off, and he’d even threatened curses on a full grown giant who’d called Merlin—well, that part didn’t matter.
He’d almost forgotten what it felt like to have people pointing and muttering around him, but then a group of older satyr kids from the outer edges of the forests joined the class at the start of the year. They’d mocked him for a lot of things, but the worst was when they’d discovered that he had no magic.
Fauns weren’t strong spellcasters to begin with, and Merlin’s human blood left him entirely disconnected from the flow of life energy that ran through every plant and creature in the forest.
The satyrs had cornered him at the end of the day, bound him with animated thorn branches, and told him they were throwing him out into one of the human villages where he belonged. Merlin had been terrified and thoroughly scratched from thrashing around by the time Arthur tracked the group down.
Arthur’s retribution had been swift and chilling. Merlin had actually been scared of him when it was over. Then Arthur had knelt down and freed him from the brambles with a touch. He helped him sit up and held out the hyacinth and bluebell wreath that Merlin only ever took off to sleep. It had fallen when the satyrs nabbed him. Merlin could only stare, so Arthur gently set it in place on his brow.
That was when a different nervous flutter had taken hold in Merlin’s gut. It felt warm and restless, like a hundred dawn sprites trying to burst out of his chest, and they only quieted when he wasn’t with Arthur. Or on his way to Arthur. Or thinking about Arthur.
Just that was enough to set them off again, but they’d barely begun when a strange, unpleasant whistling sound distracted him.
It sounded like someone choking on a flute, so Merlin got to his hooves and picked through the gnarled roots to investigate. He only had to follow the noise for a few moments before it ended with a frustrated grunt.
He immediately recognized Arthur, building up to a fit. Too curious to go cheer his friend up like he normally did, Merlin instead hid behind another large oak to peek out and spy on what had Arthur so irritated.
The prince sat with his back against the same tree Merlin was using for shelter, scowling down at a set of reed pipes. Taking a deep, determined breath, he lifted the pipes to his lips to try again. It was still just as bad, but Merlin looked at him, lips parted and frowning in concentration as the vanishing sun slanted just right to bathe him in a wash of golden light, and the sprites in his belly were more active than ever.
He couldn’t face Arthur like this. He’d make more of a fool of himself than usual. Naturally, he had to prove his point by tripping as he tried to back away quietly. The crash brought Arthur to stand over him, sneering and defensive.
“What are you doing, Merlin?”
Trying to ignore his racing heart, Merlin scrambled upright. “I was watching the sunset until someone tried to kill a harmless set of pipes.”
Arthur harrumphed. “They’re hard to play.”
“Like you could do better?”
“Of course I could.” Merlin grabbed the reeds from Arthur’s hand before he could pull away.
Shutting his eyes so he wouldn’t have to look at Arthur, Merlin started on the first thing that came to mind. It was his mother’s favorite song, the one she’d used to lull him to sleep and then, later, to teach him to play.
The notes moved between flowing like a river and skipping in bursts like stepping stones, but they came together into a soothing melody that had always felt like home to Merlin.
When Merlin opened his eyes, Arthur’s face glowed a soft pink that had nothing to do with the fading sunset. For probably the first time in his life, he was completely unguarded.
“That was beautiful. What was it?”
Merlin remembered only then why it was his mother’s favorite, when he’d never heard anyone else play it. It wasn’t a faun song at all. It was a human song of courtship, altered to fit the panpipes.
His human father had used it to woo his faun mother.
Wishing the darkness were complete enough hide him, Merlin thrust the pipes back at Arthur and fled.