Summary: It was an innocent thing really. He just wanted some peace and quiet for a change. But Merlin must have messed up his pronunciation because now he was faced with a 10 year old monstrosity. And a decidedly not sleepy one at that. Somehow, this Arthur was shaping up to be even more annoying than a grown Arthur.
Word Count: 2222
Author's Note: Written for the "Characters as Children" square of my Cotton Candy Bingo card.
A Little Prat
"Oops," Merlin said in horror upon seeing the horror he had created.
"Who're you? Where's my regular nanny? I'm hungry!" A tiny Arthur demanded. "I don't like you. Are you an evil sorcerer? What...."
"All right, that's quite enough," Merlin stopped the incessant line of questioning and started pacing up and down the prince's chambers. "This is not good. Not good!" He had been trying out a new spell, one that would make the prince fall asleep, so he wouldn't have to deal with Arthur's needling as he did his chores. It was an innocent thing really. He just wanted some peace and quiet for a change. But Merlin must have messed up his pronunciation because now he was faced with a 10 year old monstrosity. And a decidedly not sleepy one at that. Somehow, this Arthur was shaping up to be even more annoying than a grown Arthur.
"I want my dinner now!" Arthur demanded as he stomped his foot angrily, managing to look adorable even when he was fed up. Merlin couldn't help but chuckle. "I am the prince, you can't laugh at me. You have to do what I say!"
"Or what?" Merlin sighed exhaustedly, the smile slipping off of his face. He was not looking forward to dealing with the arrogant child.
"Or I'll have my father execute you. All I have to say is I saw you using magic. Daddy will believe me and you'll be dead by morning." Arthur threw himself on his bed and smugly crossed his arms, a smug look on his childish features.
Merlin shivered. How many innocent people had young Arthur sent to their deaths simply because they didn't do exactly what he wanted? It was an unpleasant thought. "You are an evil, insufferable, unbelievable prat!" Merlin despaired under his breath. "Just stay here. I'll be right back with your dinner."
"Hah!" Arthur celebrated his victory by doing a cute little wiggle and throwing his hands in the air.
Merlin thought it was simultaneously the cutest and most insufferable thing ever. There was going to be a problem if he couldn't figure out how to guard against child Arthur's cuteness.
When Merlin left, he locked the doors with magic. The last thing he wanted was Arthur running around the castle unchecked, wreaking havoc on everyone who crossed his path.
The first place he went to was Gaius's chambers. Maybe the old man would know a potion or a spell to get Arthur back to the proper age.
"I'm afraid I can't help you, Merlin," Gaius apologized. "The only thing that can cure him is for the sorcerer who cast the spell and the victim to both make a discovery about each other."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that you have to realize something about Arthur that you didn't know before, and he has to realize something new about you."
Merlin sat down in defeat. “How about that he was even more of a prat when he was younger?"
"Hmm," Gaius mumbled, thinking on Merlin's words. "You might be onto something there. Why do you think he was so much worse before you came to Camelot?"
"I have no idea." Merlin rose and moved to the door. It looked like he'd be dealing with young Arthur for a while. It was time to come up with a plan to hide him. He couldn't let Arthur wander the castle in this state. Merlin would be killed in an instant.
"How would you like to go on a trip into the forest, Arthur?" Merlin asked as he served the boy his dinner. "We can go hunting and camping underneath the stars, and I'll even let you swim in the river!"
Arthur jumped up and down excitedly. "You want to take me hunting?" he asked happily. "No one ever takes me hunting!"
Merlin's smile faltered. No one had ever taken Arthur on a hunting trip as a child? That didn't sound like a happy childhood at all. "It'll be your first time then?" he asked.
"Yeah. Father says hunting is for peasants. He says there are other people who can go hunting for us. We don't need to because we're royalty." Arthur looked sadly down at his dinner. "But I really want to go. Do you promise you'll take me?" He leveled his puppy-dog eyes at Merlin.
Merlin could never deny a child much of anything. Even a pratly one. "Of course. We'll leave in the morning." When Arthur finished his dinner, after managing to avoid a food fight, Merlin ushered him off to bed.
"But Merliiiin," he whined. "I'm not tired yet." He rubbed his eyes sleepily.
Merlin covered the boy and tucked him in. "If you want to go anywhere tomorrow, you have to get some sleep."
Arthur stifled a yawn. "But I want to play Knights and Dragons with you." He pouted up at Merlin.
"Do you want to go hunting or not?" Merlin asked sternly.
"All right," Arthur conceded. As soon as Merlin turned to clean up the plates from dinner, Arthur's tiny hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. "Don't leave me," he ordered in a small voice. "I'm afraid of the dark, and my nannies always sleep in here with me."
Merlin looked around. "You want me to sleep on the floor?" he asked incredulously. Prat Arthur was back, as it seemed the boy wanted Merlin to suffer just so he could feel safe from the imaginary monsters.
He was about to leave with the plates when a small cry stopped him. He turned around and saw Arthur crying softly into his pillow. "Does this mean you hate me too?" he asked weakly.
Merlin sighed. "I don't hate you Arthur," he reassured the boy. "I would just prefer to not sleep on the floor." He watched sadly as Arthur continued to cry. "Who told you they hate you?" he asked, dreading the answer.
"Ev-everybody hates me," Arthur hiccoughed. "All my nannies quit because I'm too diffa-difficult. My father hates me because I cry too much and...and he says future kings don't cry. Morgana hates me because she hates boys."
"Oh, Arthur." Merlin set the plates back on the table. They could be taken care of in the morning. He walked over and sat on the bed. "I will never hate you, okay. I'll always be your friend and I'll always be here by your side."
Arthur blinked the tears out of his eyes. "You're my best friend ever," he asserted.
"Absolutely," Merlin agreed. "I'll even sleep on the floor tonight, to protect you from the monsters."
"Thank you." Arthur smiled sadly. "Will you tell me a bedtime story now?"
"Sure. Have you heard the one about the brave prince who wrongly slayed a unicorn, and then had to save his whole kingdom from destruction?" Arthur shook his head no, of course, as the events in the Labrynth of Gedref hadn't happened to him yet. "Well, once upon a time, there was an honorable prince named Arthur...."
Arthur and Merlin set off on their hunting trip early the next morning. It took a lot to rouse Arthur at such an early hour, but Merlin wanted to leave before anyone saw them. He packed their things quickly, informed Gaius where they would be so that he could inform the king, and stirred Arthur from his slumber by using the smell of his favorite breakfast: sausages. Once Arthur was done eating, Merlin snuck them both out of the castle.
By midday, Merlin decided they had probably trekked far enough. Arthur was starting to drag his feet and Merlin could hear the grumbling of his stomach from five paces ahead. They emerged into a clearing where Merlin dropped everything he was carrying. "This seems like a good enough spot." He helped Arthur take off the pack he was carrying. "Are you ready for lunch?"
"Ugh." Arthur collapsed. "You didn't tell me hunting was such hard work," he complained.
Merlin laughed. He had said the same thing on his first hunting trip with Arthur. He repeated what Arthur had said to him. "When we get a kill, you won't be complaining. You'll be basking in the glory." Arthur had actually said 'my glory' but Merlin wasn't nearly as conceited as the royal pain.
"When do we start hunting?" Arthur asked, perking up over the thought of killing something large.
"As soon as lunch is over," Merlin explained. "The hunter needs to keep his strength up. That way he can outwit the deer."
Arthur ate in a hurry, eager to start hunting. "Do you know how to use a bow?" Merlin asked him.
Arthur scoffed. "Of course. I've been training to kill since birth," he answered breezily in exactly the same manner he had threatened Merlin with during his first week in Camelot. "It'll be easy."
It was not easy.
They started off hunting big game like deer and wild hogs. Arthur had not yet mastered the art of stealth, so the game was scared off before they could get close. Next, Merlin had Arthur move on to hunting rabbits and birds. The birds startled very easily and flew off, the rabbits all seemed to have enough common sense to scamper away to their rabbit-holes. Finally, they moved onto squirrels.
"Be very quiet, Arthur," Merlin whispered as Arthur aimed his arrow at the unsuspecting animal. "Remember to breathe. When you have a clear shot, loose your arrow."
Arthur took a few breaths in and out before letting the arrow go. It soared through the air and hit its target straight on. "Woo!" Merlin cheerd.
"Yes!" Arthur jumped up and down. "I did it Merlin!" he rejoiced.
"Yes you did," Merlin encouraged, a warm swell of pride rising in his chest. "Go collect your kill. I'll show you how to skin it, so we can have squirrel for dinner."
They prepared the squirrel together, and then went out to gather sticks for a fire. Merlin showed Arthur to stack the small ones up first for a quick start and to add bigger logs once the fire was stronger.
However, Merlin had a little trouble starting the fire without magic. He sent Arthur to go gather more wood, so that he could cast the spell discreetly.
Just as he muttered the spell and felt the warmth of magic spread through him, he heard a small gasp. Looking up, he saw a terrified Arthur staring at him. "Is this why you wanted to take me hunting alone?" he asked in horror, backing away slowly. "So that you could kill me with one of your spells?" Arthur drew himself up, trying to look imposing (all it really did was make him look adorable, but now was not the time for thoughts like that). "My father warned me about people like you. He said I'd always have to be on my guard against magic. All sorcerers are evil." Arthur visibly deflated. "You're evil. My friend. You were my only friend, Merlin." His lip started to wobble and his eyes started to shine.
Merlin rushed over and hugged him tight, ignoring Arthur's frightened flinch at the contact. "I'm so sorry, Arthur," he soothed. "Please don't cry. I've been meaning to tell you about me for ages, I'm just sorry I didn't do it sooner."
"Are you going to kill me now?" Arthur asked weakly.
Merlin squeezed Arthur tighter. "Never. All I want is to protect you. That's all I've ever wanted. I would never harm you with my magic. I promise."
Arthur finally hugged Merlin back. "You're the only one who's nice to me," he said sadly. "I love you, Merlin. Whether you have magic or not."
"I love you too," Merlin whispered as he began to cry. He finally realized why Arthur had been such a prat before Merlin had come to Camelot. It was because he thought that no one truely loved him. Well, Merlin would make sure he never felt that way again. He would always do everything he could to make Arthur feel loved.
There was a big flash that temporarily blinded Merlin. When his vision cleared, he noticed he was no longer hugging young Arthur. He was embracing an unenchanted Arthur.
"What just happened?" Arthur asked, not letting go of Merlin.
"There's no chance you'd happen to not remember the past two days, is there?" Merlin asked hopefully.
"Oh, I remember clearly Merlin," Arthur answered angrily. "You turned me into a child!"
"It was an accident!" Merlin protested.
"I should have known you'd be just as incompetant a sorcerer as you are a manservant."
Merlin began to shift away from Arthur's hold. "Are you going to have me executed?" he asked warily.
Arthur looked seriously at Merlin. "Of course not. I love you, or are you such an idiot that you've already forgotten that?" Arthur blushed slightly at his confession. "But we definitely won't be telling my father about any of this. Is that understood?"
"Loud and clear, sire," Merlin smiled back at Arthur. "But just so we're clear on something else, does this mean I can kiss you now?"
Arthur rolled his eyes and drew Merlin into a chaste kiss. "That is what people who love each other do, isn't it? You really are an idiot!"
Merlin laughed. "But you love me for it."