Title: Laughter in the Dark
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Uther, Hunith
Summary: The closet was small, but then, so were they. Merlin and Arthur pressed as far back into the corner as they could, trying to bury themselves in the long coats.
Word Count: 855
Prompt: #211: Elusive
Author's Notes: Stands alone, but technically a sequel to my non-drabble Invitation to a Beheading
The closet was small, but then, so were they. Merlin and Arthur pressed as far back into the corner as they could, trying to bury themselves in the long coats.
“Ow!” Merlin complained as Arthur’s elbow jammed itself into his ribs. They jostled for the best position in the cramped space for a few seconds but Arthur won, because Arthur always won.
He said it was because he was the prince, but Merlin knew it was just because he was a little older and a little bigger. When Merlin got taller than him—and he would, he just knew he would—then Arthur would see how much being the prince really mattered.
“Shhhhhh!” Arthur commanded, even louder than Merlin had been. His face was right beside Merlin’s and he sprayed a little spittle around the finger he held up demonstratively.
“You shhhhh!” Merlin shoved him away and Arthur fell against the wall with a thud.
Arthur pushed back, sending Merlin toppling into a pile of boots. Merlin retaliated by throwing boot after boot at Arthur, though most of them got caught in the coats and didn’t even get close to him.
Then Merlin himself got tangled up in an especially long overcoat and couldn’t move his arm anymore without setting all the coathangers rattling.
“Be quiet!” Arthur shushed him again, though he had to say it loud enough that Merlin would be able to hear him over the racket he was making.
Merlin rattled in response, so Arthur threw a shoe at him. It missed very badly, whumping against a heavy winter jacket so hard that the jacket fell off its hanger and landed on Merlin’s head.
Between the jacket over his face and the darkness, Merlin couldn’t see Arthur, but he was sure that if he could, the other boy would be pretending he’d done it on purpose.
Merlin tried to pull the covering off his head, but his other arm got tangled too and soon the entire hanging rail of the closet was shaking and jingling with his efforts.
Arthur lunged over and tried to squish Merlin into stillness. “If he finds us because you’re being too loud, I’m going to have you thrown in the dungeon. And, and banished. After you’ve been in the dungeon. For a very long time!”
“You can’t banish the jacket dragon!”
Arthur tried but did not succeed at peering at Merlin through the dark. “What?”
“The jacket dragon!” Merlin waved his arms as much as he could while still being trapped, making the coats rustle and sway more. “He lives in the closet so you can’t send him to the dungeons, and he’s a dragon so he doesn’t have to listen to you!”
“He does so!”
“Of course he does, I’m still the prince! And what’s a jacket dragon, anyway? That’s a stupid monster.”
“You’re a stupid monster!”
“I’m not a monster, I’m a prince!"
“You’re still stupid.”
“I’m not the one being eaten by a jacket dragon.”
Merlin was quiet for a long time (for Merlin) and stopped moving. Then the jackets around him started shaking, just a slight tremble, and Arthur was suddenly worried he’d actually made Merlin cry.
It had happened a few times, because Merlin was kind of a girl and also a baby sometimes. It wasn’t like Arthur meant to, and Merlin needed to stop being so sensitive anyway. Everyone knew it. The only reason he didn’t get picked on at school anymore was because Arthur had put a stop to it.
But it did make Arthur feel bad, so he was about to come up with something to say that would cheer Merlin up, like pointing out how a jacket dragon was at least better than a sock lizard, when he heard an unmistakable sound from beneath the heavy coat.
It was giggling. It was Merlin giggling. He sounded like a little maniac, his laughter getting louder and more filled with little hiccupping gasps when he tried to catch his breath.
“What?” Arthur demanded. “What’s so funny?”
“It is—it is a stupid monster,” Merlin finally managed to say between snickers. “I mean, a jacket dragon?” His giggles took over again and he couldn’t talk anymore.
Arthur started laughing too, happy that Merlin was happy and, even better, willing to admit that he was wrong (like he always was). They sat side by side, giggling helplessly until their sides hurt.
Hearing footsteps just outside the closet, they tried to hush themselves and each other, but it was too late. The door opened out into the hallway, flooding the tiny space with light. King Uther and Merlin’s mother peered inside, his eyes moving right over Merlin’s jacket monster and the corner Arthur had retreated to.
“It’s no good, Ms. Emrys,” he announced loudly. “I don’t know if we’ll ever find them!”
“Oh dear,” Hunith sighed. “Maybe they’re back on the other side of the castle and we just didn’t see them?”
“Maybe,” Uther agreed, closing the door. “Let’s go look there again.”
Left alone again in the small, dark closet, the boys collapsed into laughter at their parents’ foolishness.