Would you believe that I totally forgot to update for the past four days? It's summertime, I'm out of school, I have minimal responsibilities, and I forgot. Honestly.
Arthur awoke the next morning to a sharp, startled yelp.
The king was pulled from his comfortable slumber by the sudden twisting of the blankets from off of his body, followed by a muffled thud which made him rub at his eyes and push himself up hazily.
It was then that he realized his soft blankets were missing entirely from the bed, and the pillow next to him preserved a roundish depression where a small, warm creature had lain all the night, but no small, warm creature was in sight.
He sighed, wondering where he would find the ridiculous cat this time when he'd sneaked off without Arthur's knowing it. Then, a flutter of noise made him peer over the opposite side of the bed as the mid-morning light trickled into the room from the window. His eyes widened at the sight which met him—tangled red blankets cocooned around a very familiar, very human body which was squirming like a distraught, pale fish caught in a net.
Merlin stopped his struggling with the blankets when he looked up beneath his uncombed mess of dark hair and found his master looking down at him rather amusedly.
"Arthur," said he hesitantly, nervously, as he glanced around the room, "what was I doing in your bed?"
Arthur grinned at him, (for once) actually glad to hear that slightly curious and more-than-slightly impudent voice.
Merlin never acknowledged Arthur's lack of response, because apparently something dawned on him at that moment, and he risked a quick peek under the twisted blankets and paled even more.
"And more importantly," he added, a twinge of frantic bafflement in his tone now, "why am I not wearing any clothes?"
Arthur resisted the urge to laugh, because really, it was all just too ridiculous to explain right off.
Merlin started to stand, but hissed in pain when he placed too much strain upon his hand, which had retained its injury from when it had been a paw. The white bandage having fallen off when he'd transformed, Merlin looked at his vaguely swollen fingers and his face attained more agitated bewilderment than painful discomfort from it.
"What happened?" he exclaimed, looking once more to his king for answers.
"You tell me," Arthur replied pointedly. "Only you, Merlin, could manage to be chased into an alley by enemy spies and come out a spoilt cat."
At that, Merlin's face acquired several expressions in succession. First, thoughtful confusion continued for a moment, proceeded by a second of glimmering realization, which was finally overtaken by a look which Arthur wouldn't even suspect as his servant's being mildly impressed with himself, but of course, that's exactly what it was.
"Mind explaining that, Merlin?" the king pressed on, but Merlin recognized it as his I'm-asking-though-I-frankly-don't-care-and-probably-don't-want-to-know intonation, so the young manservant stood, gathering the blankets with him, and stumbled over to Arthur's wardrobe.
"I've got to get to Gaius," he declared as he grabbed the first shirt and trousers he saw, no matter how big they would suit his narrow frame. "I was supposed to clean the leech tank two days ago."
Arthur watched as the other young man held onto the covers around his waist with one hand and slid Arthur's old tunic over his head awkwardly with the other, never even bothering to ask if he could borrow them. Merlin took two steps toward the quiet servants' hall and tripped gracelessly over the still-tangled blankets wrapped around his skinny legs. The king raised one eyebrow at him as Merlin went tumbling to the floor half through the doorway, promptly hopping back up to pull on the too-large trousers as he went.
"I'll be back with your breakfast, sire…and your speech. I have to write your speech," he said distractedly, and then he paused half-way out the door, as though abruptly remembering something, and turned back to face the other man with calmed sincerity in his blue gaze. "Thank you, Arthur, for…you know, everything. Taking care of me and all that." He touched his injured hand and recalled, in vague, clouded memory, the sound of Arthur's voice as he'd protected him. "It really means a lot."
Arthur just raised both blonde eyebrows.
Merlin huffed in that way he always did when Arthur refused to take his sentiments seriously, still struggling as he was with the knotted blankets.
"Right," he said understandingly and stumbled out of Arthur's sight toward the physician's chambers.
It was not until after Merlin had gone that Arthur found it on the bed beside him.
He would never admit it aloud, to anyone, but he kept the miniaturized neck-scarf in the bottom of a drawer in his wardrobe from that day forward.
So many thanks to everyone who's read, favorited, and reviewed! I'm so glad you've enjoyed kitty!Merlin, and do let me know if there's any specific story you'd like to see written, because while I have plenty of ideas at the moment, you all deserve a gift for your patience in late updates. ;) Thanks again!