A/N: I wrote this today after watching the Royal Wedding (obviously). Congratulations, William and Catherine! But... as usual, it got the cogs of my brain working, leading to me churning out more Merlin fanfiction! Hope you like it :)
There was a strange, pale man in the crowd, watching the Royal Wedding celebrations with a knowing smile.
He folded his lanky arms across his chest, politely refusing the Union Jack offered to him by a passer-by.
The passer-by didn't seem particularly put out.
They simply stared into his blue eyes, which appeared far too aged and knowing for one so young, then shrugged and scuttled off, elbowing their way through the crowds, trying to get to the front of the throng in order to catch a glimpse of Kate and Will as they passed by in the horse-drawn carriage.
The strange, pale man fidgeted a little, wiggling his toes in his boots, and then turned to smile at a small, blonde child, who had apparently been frowning at him for a full five minutes.
"You look funny," she informed him, scrunching up her nose.
Merlin grinned at the child, because children were always his favourite to talk to; they never got boring. "Why is that?" he asked her, leaning down and resting his hands on his knees, so that they were about the same height.
"Your ears are too big."
Merlin wanted to laugh rather loudly at this observation, but as knew from experience that children did not appreciate being laughed at, he instead suggested, in a very serious voice, "Perhaps your ears are just too small."
The girl paused, apparently considering this because she fiddled with her earlobe unconsciously. She turned to observe the ears of those around her, and, on concluding that they were all of a similar size, told the strange man, "No. No it's definitely yours that are too big."
Merlin nodded, admitting defeat.
The girl contemplated her victory for a minute of silence, and then: "I don't think I'll be able to see them from here."
"Who?" Merlin asked, confused (he had got caught up in his conversation, and forgotten what he was doing there).
"The Prince and the Princess, when they come past in the carriage; I want to see them, but I'm too short."
"Oh," Merlin shrugged. "It's not so great."
This statement attracted a scowl from a passing royalist, who had been eavesdropping on the conversation.
"I was here for the last big one, thirty years ago, they're all much the same…"
The girl cut him off there. "That's a lie."
"That's a lie. You're not old enough to have been here thirty years ago. Anyway, today is special."
Merlin did not seem convinced. "And just why is that?"
"My mum says it's the first time an English prince who is going to be King has married a commoner." The girl beamed and added, "She's going to be the people's Queen, my mum says!"
That was when Merlin straightened up, as he remembered something rather important all of a sudden; something you are supposed to ask children on their own as soon as you see them, not five minutes into a dialogue. "Where is your mum?"
The little girl frowned, and pointed through the thick crowd to a frantic-looking woman, babbling away worriedly into a mobile phone and skimming the faces around for any sign of her daughter.
"I think she's worried about you," Merlin observed, trying to gently nudge her a little over to the right.
"Why? I can see her just fine."
"Yes, but I'm not sure she can see you."
The little girl frowned again, considering this paradox, as Merlin took her by the hand and led her towards the fretting mother in an oversized T-shirt, with a bulky rucksack (packed, no doubt, with things belonging solely to her daughter) slung over her shoulder and shoes on her feet that were so horridly unattractive they could only be worn by a person who doesn't care what they look like.
"Ellie!" the woman's face did a complex dance of a million different emotions that was almost comparable to a firework display; at first surprise, and then a surge of relief, next came obvious anger at what could have happened, after that was fear for her safety, and the most prominent feeling of all: concern as to who the strange man was holding her hand.
"Ah…" Merlin saw that his morning could soon be taking a rather unexpected and unpleasant turn, and that he ought to begin explaining himself. "I found your child, would you like it back?"
That would do. At least it didn't make him sound too suspicious.
The woman arched an eyebrow, but was quickly too absorbed in the important task of removing cake from around her daughter's mouth to bestow much energy on worrying about Merlin.
An eager voice halted Merlin in his tracks, and Ellie ran after him, tugging on the end of his shirt. "You didn't say good bye," she explained sheepishly, when he looked to her for an explanation.
With a smile, Merlin leaned back down towards the little girl, and whispered a very special secret in her ear, leaving her speechless.
Then he strolled off, whistling.
Moving against the crowds, as he so often did nowadays, Merlin caught a glimpse of the carriage carrying the future King and Queen as it rolled down the streets.
Hearing the screams, seeing the waving flags, feeling the crush as people tried to get closer; Merlin's mind was very far from in the present.
He was not seeing Union Jacks being brandished, but a golden dragon emblazoned on red.
He smiled to himself, remembering a very different kiss, on a very different balcony.
Shared by a man and a woman who had endured so much more.
He recalled the sighs from every female in the crowd as the Prince Regent held his wife so close it seemed they were in fact one person.
Merlin, for once, did not make himself ignore old memories.
Instead, he dwelled on them.
He sat, amongst London's street parties, raising his glass to weddings gone by.
Ellie frowned after the disappearing form of the strange, pale man.
What did he mean?
"Do you want to know a secret?" he had whispered, tickling her ear with his breath. "It's not the first time a Prince has taken a commoner to be his people's Queen."