Title: The Most Adorable Army The World Has Ever Known
Summary: Young Merlin, Gwaine, Lancelot, Elyan, Leon and Percival vie for Teacher Arthur's attention. Here be knights, apples, pigtail-pulling, dragons and an exasperated teacher who is not fond of his children in the slightest, thank you very much.
A/N: This story was written in response to a prompt on KMM26. I posted a short fill because I didn't have much time to write when I posted this fic at the meme. However, the little men and Mr Pendragon have grown on me since then, so I'll probably add more one-shots set in the same universe in the future.
1. Of apples and Dragons
"Mr Pendragon, Mr Pendragon!"
Arthur looked up from his newspaper. "Hmm?"
The boys' cheeks were flushed, their clothes were hopelessly rumpled and their hair was in disarray already. A quick glance at the clock proved school didn't start for another three minutes. They were early for once, had probably arrived some time ago to play together before they were confined to their tables for the better part of the morning. Unfortunately, these children were incapable of playing peacefully like most other (undoubtedly better raised) children Arthur knew, he'd learned that the hard way on his first day at Camelot School.
"Merlin was pulling on my pigtails!"
Arthur stared at Gwaine, took in his hair and raised his right eyebrow in a near-perfect impression of the Headmaster if he did say so himself. It wasn't that Gwaine's hair wasn't long enough for pigtails; he could probably make them to his heart's content should he want to. But he didn't wear any, so how could he accuse his classmate of pulling on them?
Leon coughed and took a small step forward. "Figuratively speaking, of course" he said wisely, looking up at Arthur with a solemn expression on his face. Arthur frowned down at him.
"Figuratively speaking?" he repeated. Leon was five years old, maybe six. Just how did the boy's mother address her children? Suddenly remembering his own childhood, Arthur winced and shoved all thoughts of demanding parents from his mind. "That's not very nice of you, Merlin," he said sternly, focusing his attention on the sheepish looking little boy to Leon's right.
Merlin bit his lip. "Elyan said I could."
Sighing, Arthur laid down his newspaper on the desk in front of him. "You shouldn't encourage each other to tease others, and you shouldn't allow yourselves to be encouraged," he told the boys, smiling slightly when they all looked at him with wide eyes, taking in his every word.
"Thank you, Mr Pendragon," Gwaine said happily, before turning around and poking Merlin in the chest. "Told you so."
Merlin huffed a little. "He still likes me better than you."
"Enough." Arthur didn't even have to raise his voice. They were all looking at him again. "I'm not one for favoritism," he said seriously, looking at each of the boys in return, "but if you all don't get to your seats before the bell rings, I will favor all the children who did go to their seats in time by allowing them to go outside during the break."
Percival frowned. "We're always allowed to go outside during the break."
Lancelot cleared his throat. "I think Mr Pendragon is trying to say that we're not allowed to join the others if we're late." He raised his chin. "Right?"
Arthur couldn't fight down the smile that appeared on his lips. "Right. Now, off to your seats, boys."
"Wait." Merlin opened his bag and pulled out an apple. "This is for you, Mr Pendragon."
Arthur stared at the red piece of fruit, trying and failing to come up with a proper reaction. "Shouldn't you eat that yourself, Merlin?" Merlin's expression fell and Arthur hastily spoke again. "I'm sure your mom didn't give you that apple to give it to your teacher."
Gwaine frowned. "Oi. He bought it himself. With his pocket money."
"Oh." And really, there was nothing Arthur could do but reach out and accept Merlin's offering after that offended, touching declaration. "Thank you, Merlin," he said sincerely. "I shall . . . treasure it."
"Always?" Merlin asked hopefully.
"Always," Arthur confirmed, glad for small mercies, like the fact that Morgana wasn't here to witness this. "You have twenty seconds left. Go on."
The boys ran off to their respective seats, knocking over various school bags in their haste to make it in time.
Arthur shook his head, placed his apple on his desk and stared at it for a moment, pointedly ignoring the strangely fond, tingling feeling that was spreading through his chest.
The next day, there were six apples on his desk, placed in a remarkable, round formation, each one shinier than the next.
For Mister Arthur Pendragon it said on the note in the middle of the circle.
He didn't manage to keep them from calling him King Arthur Pendragon behind his back and he certainly didn't succeed at getting them to stop charging at the dogs some of their classmates' parents brought with them when they came to pick up their children ("they're dragons and it is our duty to protect you!"), but he did get them to hand in their homework in time and they listened to him well enough most of the time, so Arthur gave up on smaller, less important things like overactive children making him crowns of paper during Handicraft and decided to focus on teaching them all he knew instead.
And if sometimes, after school, the boys wanted to hear all about the Legends of King Arthur and Arthur had some time to spare, well, then there was no reason why he shouldn't indulge their wish to learn more about British tales and legends, was there?
No, Arthur didn't think so either.