Author's Note: I had several requests from multiple sources for a sequel to "Of Honey and Lizards" so I waited for the inspiration and it came surprisingly quickly! This is technically a stand-alone piece but it will make more sense if you read "Of Honey and Lizards" first. Since Arthur isn't a child here, the "cute" factor isn't as high but I hope this remains true to the tone of the first story. Anyway, thanks for reading!
What the Lizard Knew
"Do I know you?" You do seem familiar somehow.
"Uh, I'm Merlin."
"So I don't know you." Just to be clear.
"Yet you called me 'Friend'?" Why would you call a stranger your friend?
"That was my mistake."
"Yes, I think so." Because I don't have any friends.
"I'd never have a friend who could be such an arse."
Disappointment filled him with bitter cruelty.
"Or I one who could be so stupid." Or any one at all.
He watched in brittle annoyance as one more person that wasn't a friend was dragged away by the city guard.
No one had ever called him that before...friend. His stupid heart had actually lurched in his chest at the sound of the word directed at him.
He'd always watched in envy, others who possessed such companions. He was the son of the King of one of the most prosperous lands in all of Albion and yet that was just one more thing his father could not give him. There actually were several things, important seeming things his father had never been able to provide. Neither a sense of security nor belonging were ever his to cherish, nor love, comfort, nurture or parental support.
Arthur had a vague sense that there had been someone who'd given him those things once. However it was so long ago, dimmed by the same mists that shrouded every man's earliest memories that he could never be sure of who she was or even if she'd ever actually existed at all. He liked to think she'd been real, all warm honey smiles, soft fragrant embraces and joyful laughter that warmed his cold little heart.
Somewhere, once, there had also been the promise of a friend or at least the promise of a friend-to-come. He couldn't really remember. They weren't real memories anyway. Just feelings, the residue of a childhood spent seeing other children with friends. Many of them had had more than one. It had always seemed terribly greedy of them. They had several friends each. Could he not be spared just one?
He'd given up the wait for his promised companion years ago. Hope too long deferred makes the heart sicken. His had long since sickened and withered and diminished. It was a small, empty thing now, his heart. However, it still ached. It still yearned. It still hoped...stupid heart.
Two days later he saw that not-friend again, walking through the streets of his father's city and he was ignoring the Prince! He might not have friends but no one ignored him, certainly not the scrawny peasant boy who'd dared make his heart hurt by falsely calling him friend.
The cruelty of bitter disappointment reared up within him again. He taunted the boy, provoked him, lashed out hoping to wound as he'd been wounded. The boy refused to be injured. Oh he'd managed to thrash the impudent puppy but he knew he hadn't really dented that heart. A heart he could see shining right out of the boy. It positively glowed from his eyes. It almost hurt to look at him, yet he struck some chord in the Prince's soul.
"There's something about you, Merlin. I can't quite put my finger on it." So I'll let you go until I can.
He'd come across that same boy again only the following night. He was fooling around with several of his father's knights when he turned and saw the lad standing beside the court physician smiling. Again, something thrummed inside him when confronted with those shining eyes; the heart they now displayed visibly pulsed with delight.
"God have mercy!" What is it about him?
He felt his heart lurch in recognition. That smile. Somehow he knew that smile. He'd seen it before, somewhere, on someone. A honey smile it was, all warm golden sweetness. That damned boy glowed like a hearth-fire on a winter's night. However, he knew the warmth wasn't for him. It never is.
Trying to ignore the boy, he spoke with Morgana. His father's ward wasn't his friend either, despite his hopes when she'd first come to live in Camelot. However, like everyone else but him, Morgana had friends or at least one friend, Gwen.
He glanced over at Merlin and saw him with Gwen. It was clear that he already had a friend in the pretty maidservant and he'd only arrived in the city a few days ago! Of course he does, look at him, he's one of those people who make friends as easily as they breathe.
His stupid heart ached. Couldn't the world spare him just one? Someone for him? Anyone? He heard Merlin laugh and stopped breathing altogether. The joy he could hear in that rich chuckle! A warm honey smile and a joyful laugh that warmed his cold little heart. The sense of recognition grew stronger.
How can that be? I don't know him. I've never set eyes on him before, I'd have remembered!
He'd not forget a boy like that, not one who made him ache and yearn and hope and hurt like Merlin did. He could never forget a smile like that nor that laugh, that soul squeezing sound that wrapped itself around him like the warmest fur cloak.
Then Lady Helen had sung and he'd slept. He'd dreamt of honey and lizards and a promise and a secret. He'd woken to see a knife flying at his chest and suddenly that boy was there. He pulled the Prince away from the painful death arcing toward him. Arthur landed on the floor in Merlin's fragrant embrace and felt something lodge in his heart. It didn't hurt him but it made that organ swell uncomfortably. His heart felt...bigger...somehow. It was as if some part of him had been missing and was now returned.
He heard his father award the boy a position in the Royal Household. Wait, Merlin would be his manservant? He glanced at the youth and saw his mouth tighten in displeasure.
"Father!" How is that a reward? He clearly hates me!
He looked away in disgust from the boy who's heart shone from his eyes for that heart was clearly not happy with his father's proclamation. Now he'd have to look at that face every day and know there was no honey, no warmth, no embraces for him. However, he'd know those things were there for someone else.
His stupid heart ached.
Then several days later, a brutal and cruel knight wandered past after a hard day's fighting. The man congratulated him on his victories but Arthur wasn't stupid, even if his heart was. He could tell sincere felicitations from false. Apparently so could Merlin.
The Prince glanced up and stopped breathing for a moment because there it was; honey, sweet and golden and it was all for him!
His stupid heart sang.
That night he dreamt of honey and lizards and promises and secrets. When he woke, he knew what the lizard knew. He finally had a friend. Just one. Just for him.