A/N: I decided I wanted to write something Merlin related but, apart from a reveal-fic – which, I must say, I have already seen many which would surpass anything I could write – I chose to go a different way and show excerpts of Arthur and Merlin growing up. I thought I'd start young and work up from there. :)
Disclaimer: I clearly do not own Merlin, it belongs to BBC and I am simply dabbling in its world.
Uther frowned as his gaze followed the movement to his left. Placing his cutlery down as the figure stumbled yet again, the king devoted his full attention to his infant son, watching as, once more, Arthur tottered unsteadily on his feet. Three more steps towards the hearth and one of Arthur's leather bound feet caught on a raise in the rocks and he tipped forward, only just managing to catch himself on his hands. Expecting a cry or a whimper, Uther was remarkably surprised when the toddler simply pushed himself up with a frustrated sigh, rocking back and forth several times before finding enough balance to step forward.
Returning his attention to his supper, Uther gave the man to his left an unimpressed look. "I don't like it Gaius." The words were a statement, a declaration. "He's still far too unsteady on his feet."
The physician struggled within himself to fight the urge to gape. "But Sire, he's barely even one. And Arthur's already been walking near nine weeks. Many children would only be now taking their first steps, if that."
A moment of silence passed between them, Uther's eyes flickering to his son, ensuring the prince did not go too near the fire.
"I am still not reassured, despite your words."
"I am certain he will find his feet soon enough my Lord." Gaius allowed a bit of humour into his tone. "All too soon he will be running from you…and you'd better hope you can catch him."
Uther allowed himself a rare chuckle at that. "Why do you think I employ servants Gaius? I'm king. I don't have the time to be chasing Arthur."
While the humour was still in his voice, it had faded from his faithful physician's. King Uther may have been, but that did not exempt him from his duties as a father. As little as he was and yes, incapable of coherent conversation, that did not mean that Arthur did not need his time. If Uther did not seize his chances now, he would blink and they would be gone, never able to return.
"Arthur, come away."
A fair-blond head snapped up at that, blue eyes staring at his father curiously. Arthur remained painfully close to the open flame until Uther waved a hand, gesturing for the boy to come closer. As he set about obeying the command, Uther turned back to Gaius, whose attention had been brought back to the scene by his king's voice.
"At least I can be certain he understands how to listen. That gives me some hope."
"Sire…" Gaius' voice was laced with hesitation. "Surely you are aware you are being too critical? I know that Arthur's birth…" A dark scowl was shot in his direction but he continued nonetheless. "The circumstances were not what anyone wanted…But you have no right to take that out on Arthur. He is merely a child, an infant, Sire. He did not ask for it to be this way."
"How dare you!" Uther was on his feet, cutlery slamming into the table. "It is you, Gaius, who do not have the right to speak to me in such a way. I am your king. You would do well to remember that."
Whatever may have come next was not heard as Arthur, startled by the yelling, slipped on the step he was precariously climbing down. He gave a tiny cry of fright as he fell, toppling off the last stone stair. His head hit the hard floor with sickening force.
There had not even been a second's hesitation; Uther had swept from his chair and gathered his son into his arms before Gaius had managed to take more than a step or two. As the shock wore off and Arthur began to scream, tears running down his porcelain face, Uther pulled him close to his chest, smoothing down the fair hair and murmuring to him quietly.
"It's alright Arthur," Gaius said gently as he approached and began a quick examination. He winced at the blue bruise and raised lump that had already formed.
"Is it serious Gaius?" Uther demanded, having seen the bruise himself and having his own heart continue pounding in his chest as a consequence.
"I think he's very lucky Sire," came the slow, thoughtful answer. "A little more to the left and Arthur would have struck his temple. That would have knocked him out to be sure. But…I think some bruising balm should suffice. I could also wrap some snow; that may help reduce the swelling."
"Yes, do that Gaius." Uther dismissed him hurriedly. "I want you to do everything I can for my son. I will not see him hurt in my care. He is my son."
"Yes my Lord," Gaius replied as he bowed and took his leave.
Gaius mused on his hurried walk to his chambers that while, yes, an unfortunate accident, something good had come from it. It had finally allowed Uther to see through his own pain and acknowledge that of his son's.
A son Uther had only then for the very first time claimed ownership of.
Yes, Gaius thought. Things were looking up.
Even as Hunith stirred their supper over the fire, she had to tighten her grip on the wooden ladle she was using, feeling it start to slip from her grasp. Glancing across the room disapprovingly, the look could not stay on her face as Merlin beamed at her, a giggle erupting from his little mouth.
"I need this ladle Merlin," Hunith told him, tone both scolding and gentle.
Merlin's smile dropped momentarily as a frown took his face. Then he reached out a hand again and Hunith felt the ladle start to pull away from her. Snatching it back, the woman dropped it into the pot and served out a single bowl, all she could make with all she had. Placing it down beside her, Hunith dropped into her well worn rocking chair, holding an arm out invitingly.
"Come here my son."
Blue eyes lit up as a response, Merlin rocking himself out of the sitting position he had been in and onto all fours, starting his crawl across the small distance. Reaching his mother, Merlin's infant hands latched onto her dress, slowly hauling himself onto his feet, wavering there precariously until he was scooped up and plopped into a waiting lap. Once there, he immediately burrowed into his mother's neck, a hand clenching in the collar of her dress.
"Hello my Merlin," Hunith whispered, kissing the boy's head tenderly before running her fingers through his rough hair. "Hungry?"
She was not expecting a verbal response but Merlin's head did lift from where it was buried, his eyes following her every movement with hawk-like sharpness. Merlin's inquisitiveness knew no bounds and Hunith could only fathom what sort of troubles that could land him in.
So consumed was she in her thoughts that the bowl she was bringing up leant too far in and some of the scolding stew fell onto her hand. Yanking her hand away instinctively, she paled a moment later, knowing that that was the only food they had until tomorrow evening at the earliest. She could not have afforded to drop it!
But even as Hunith reached for it desperately, knowing she would be too late, Merlin's eyes flashed gold and their supper suddenly stopped its descent, hovering in mid-air until it was retrieved by his mother. The woman brought it to her chest with trembling hands, doing her very best to ensure it was not dropped again.
"Thank you Merlin," she praised shakily, only to quickly add, "But no more. No more magic."
The smile she got in return was wholly innocent though something in Merlin's eyes made her pause and wonder if what she had seen was really a cheeky glint. For his sake, she hoped not.
As Hunith lay Merlin down to rest that night, she sighed, wrapping the thin blanket tighter around him. For one so young to have such a dangerous secret…She shook her head. She could only hoped it remained that:
A/N: so Arthur's bit turned out longer but it won't always be that way. Hope you liked this first part. Reviews, along with suggestions, are always greatly appreciated!