Title: Do you like me?
Characters(s): Merlin, Hunith
Summary: Merlin is so lonely that he makes a new friend out of linen and sticks.
Word Count: 900
camelot_drabble Prompt: #208: Picture Prompt (Do You Like Me?)
Author's Notes: none
Disclaimer: I do not own the BBC version of Merlin; It and Shine do. I am very respectfully borrowing them with no intent to profit. No money has changed hands. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Do you like me?"
The rag doll didn't answer back. Merlin hadn't really expected it to. After all, it was just a mash of old linen, sticks, and a bit of charcoaled eyes. But it was better than being alone.
His best friend, Will, was being an idiot, ignoring Merlin's pleas for play time or chasing the sheep or maybe stealing some of Old Man Simmon's sour apples. It wasn't as if Merlin had done anything wrong, but they'd had a fight about something stupid – he couldn't even remember what – and Will had gone off in a huff.
Merlin went after him, of course, trying to make sense of Will's fury, but nothing worked. So after ages of scowls and being told to go away, Merlin gave up and scuffed his way back home.
Now Merlin was stuck with a silly rag doll and no friends. It hurt.
"Do you like me?" He gave the doll another little shake, hoping to hear something, but it was just a stupid doll, not even real.
It couldn't answer back unless….
Merlin knew better than to use magic, but he was alone in the hut, his mum off doing adult things, and who would know? It couldn't hurt to maybe make the doll move a little. If he were careful, he wouldn't get caught, wouldn't have his mum giving him stern looks and disappointment. And if he did make the doll dance or maybe bow, he wouldn't feel so… unhappy. Wouldn't miss Will as much.
"Do you like me?"
Merlin could never explain to his mum about magic and how it felt, but he always knew when it worked.
It worked now. The doll shook itself, then stood on his hand, and gave a little bow and a nod. There was a smile there, too, on the linen, and a bit of yarn hair, and the charcoal gleamed.
Trying not to laugh, still he giggled as the doll's raggedy feet tickled his palm. But then it jumped out of his hand and began to scamper around the hut, dancing and bowing and bumping into things. And before Merlin could breathe again, there were broken pots and dust rising from the floor and porridge sliding across the table.
As Merlin tried to grab it, the doll dove into his mum's bed, rustling through the covers, and then it hopped up the other side, gave a little spin, and began to climb into the rafters. But Merlin couldn't shout at it – that would bring questions and danger – so instead he got out the broom and began to swat at the dratted thing.
There were more broken things and noises, and he didn't even notice as Mother came in until the door slammed shut. "What is going on?"
Time seemed to stop, the rag doll hanging in the air an unending moment, and then Merlin let out a breath, and the stupid thing fell to the floor and lay there. An unmoving bit of linen and sticks and charcoaled eyes.
"Merlin, you should know better. If someone had seen…." He could hear the worry in her voice, the terror of being discovered, and suddenly the doll and the loneliness was not as important as making his mum not so unhappy.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't think… I'm sorry."
He didn't want to look up, didn't want to see the fear in her eyes, but she hurried over, knelt down and lifted his chin. He couldn't avoid staring up at her.
There was love and fear and a bit of exasperation there in her worried face. "Oh, Merlin. I don't know what I'm going to do with you. This was dangerous. You put yourself and both of us at risk with your foolishness."
His eyes began to fill up, and he gave a little sob, trying to stop the sudden hurt in his chest. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll be good, I promise. I don't…." And then he fell into her arms and started babbling about Will and how his best friend hated him and he just wanted someone to like him again.
She let him cry on her - she was his mum after all - and deep down, Merlin knew she loved him. She kept whispering, too, of worry and understanding and knowing how hard it was to hide his gift. Clutching each other, sitting on the dirt floor, it took a long time before Merlin could finally stop the tears.
But finally he gave a little shudder, and then whispered into her shoulder, "Do you like me?"
Mother pulled back, looking sternly into his eyes. "Of course, I love you."
Shaking his head, knowing that mums are supposed to love their sons, Merlin said, "But do you like me?"
Her frown disappearing, a gentle smile on her face, and the knot in Merlin's chest eased just a bit. "You are a scamp, and get into trouble more than any boy I know, but yes, I do like you." She gave him a little squeeze. "Do you like me?"
Diving back into her arms, Merlin hugged her with everything in him. "Yes, Mother, I like you, too."
As she hugged him back, Merlin realized a doll was just linen and sticks, but his mum was real, and more importantly, liked him just as he was.
And that everything would be all right after all.