A/N: On the fansite 'The Heart of Camelot' we got chatting about how stressed we were after watching 5.05 and that we now need to read and/or write light and fluffy stuff for a while. Which lead to a formal site title prompt ...
The Cure: A Fluffy Remedy for 5x05
I know this basic idea's been done before but I don't think we can never have too much of this type of cuteness. :D
An Easy Life
"Sire, may I ask you a favour?"
"Yes, Merlin. What is it?" Arthur looked up to find his servant had stopped what he was doing. Standing close to the table with the same haunted look on his face that the king had seen far too often recently.
"You remember when you asked me if I was alright?" he asked, looking at his boots rather than at Arthur.
"Yes, all of the times I asked you," the king replied pointedly.
"Well, I suppose I have to admit that … I'm not ... really."
"Well, that much is obvious."
"So, I wondered … if you don't mind me asking ..."
"Out with it, Merlin. I haven't got all day."
"Could I have this afternoon off, Sire? It's just that … I'm so tired and ..."
"Yes. Go," Arthur interrupted quickly. "That's an excellent idea. Anything to spare me from looking at that miserable face for a moment longer."
"Thank you, Sire," his servant replied with a large sigh, walking from the royal chambers without further comment whilst Arthur just shook his head sadly.
Gaius had tried to persuade Merlin to take some time off before this, but Merlin had assumed that keeping busy would help him to take his mind off of his troubles. That idea definitely hadn't worked, however, and now he felt exhausted in body as well as in mind. He should try to get some sleep, he thought. Eat something, perhaps read his spell book?
One part of him wanted to give up magic – to try and forget that he even had the ability. Yet another part of him though he should give up on his destiny entirely and just go back to Ealdor. As Merlin sat on his bed and flicked through the large magic book he realised that he had started to subconsciously look for something in particular. Something that could make the pain go away, perhaps? Something to help him escape from what he was and what he had done.
He quickly turned to the final section at the back of the book, to the spells he'd been itching to try out for years but hadn't dared. Much like the ageing spell, these types of enchantment could exhaust the inexperienced and then wear out at an inconvenient time, potentially exposing the sorcerer - as Morgana had recently found out to her cost. For someone like Merlin it was far more likely that he'd struggle to undo the enchantment at all and risk being stuck that way forever.
As he trailed his fingers across the words of this particular spell, Merlin decided that he didn't care if he never came back from this. Who would really miss him? He'd obviously ruined his great destiny anyway and perhaps Arthur and Camelot would stand a much better chance of survival without him around to mess things up.
With a small, sad smile, the warlock concentrated hard and chanted the words of the spell.
Merlin had to admit that one part of him had hoped that the enchantment would work so well that he would loose himself completely and be happily lost forever, but that didn't appeared to be the case. He still knew who he was and remembered everything about his life, but appeared to be thinking in a different and far more positive way. He could look back on recent events and wonder why he'd made such a fuss about them. Wonder why he'd been quite so upset about things that he really didn't have that much control over. Now simply curious as to how much of himself was still here, Merlin looked at the large book in front of him and focused. He felt his magic react just as it always did and the book closed up, floated up in the air and drifted down to hide itself under the floorboards. That was good to know, he thought as he yawned widely. If he still had full control of his magic then he could keep himself from coming to any real harm and perhaps, if he really wanted to, could even change himself back.
A daft notion, he scoffed. Why would he want to go back to that? Merlin stood up and tried to get used to the new sensations, looking around curiously and surprised at how big everything seemed. He took a few tentative steps forwards and briefly wobbled as he tried to come to terms with things. Of course, the fact that he was now standing on his own bed didn't help matters and, as he moved to the edge and looked down he found he was having to deal with two different thought processes at the same time; the human side of him suddenly fearful at just how far away the floor was, whilst the other part had apparently already calculated the jump and knew how exactly how easy it was really going to be. Seeing the whole point of casting this spell had to be to take a break from being Merlin, the warlock mentally shrugged and just allowed his new instincts to take over. He placed his front paws on the edge of the bed, braced his back paws against the covers and adjusted his tail. Then he pushed off and landed elegantly on the wooden floor.
With a smug look and a proud lift of the head, Merlin strode confidently towards the door.
First he pushed at the door with his nose but it didn't even budge. Then he tried tucking his paw around the gap in the side and pulling, but that didn't work either. Merlin looked up at the catch so far above him and glared at it for a moment before remembering that he still had other skills at his disposal. He focused hard until he felt his magic surge forwards and the door swung lazily open with a groan and squeak that seemed very much louder than usual.
Walking cautiously out into the main chambers, Merlin was glad to note that Gaius was not around, even though he was fairly confident he'd be able to sneak past the old man in this form anyway. A sudden movement out of the corner of his eye made him jump before he realised that he'd simply caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the physician's large mirror and, after a short pause, he walked a little closer in order to get a better view of himself.
Staring back at him was a lean black cat with large ears and bright orange eyes. Fascinated by the sight, Merlin sat on his haunches and studied himself carefully.
"Handsome," he decided smugly, turning his head from side to side to admire his new form. His coat looked quite healthy and shiny, his body, although fairly long, wasn't exceptionally skinny – reflecting his own recent growth in muscle, and his big ears, which he often felt took something away from his looks as a human, seemed to really suit him as a cat.
The eyes were especially interesting, he noticed, moving a bit closer. Not his usual blue but the same golden colour that appeared whenever he cast a spell as a human. Seeing a fallen bottle reflected in the mirror, Merlin focused on it to lift it back to the table and watched his eyes brighten very slightly as he did so. He grinned, pleased to note just how subtle the change was and that it was unlikely that anyone would see a difference if he cast a spell in this form. His smile translated onto the cat's face in front of him, his eyes half closing and the area around his mouth twisting up slightly. Feeling confident and relaxed, Merlin stood up and strode towards the main door, a quick thought allowing it to creak open and let him pass through.
As he walked down a corridor, Merlin was aware of just how amazing his senses were now. Every sight and smell was heightened and, when he heard a rustling sound coming from a nearby wall, he was surprised to find that he'd moved towards it without thinking, his nose now pressed eagerly against the wall, his stomach churning slightly in anticipation of a tasty meal of rat.
The human part of him quickly re-asserted himself as he decided that he definitely was not that far gone and that there were easier ways to acquire far more pleasant food in a place like this. Forcing himself away from the temping scuffles, Merlin changed direction and headed towards the kitchens.
Cats were common enough in and around Camelot and were generally tolerated and even appreciated because of their usefulness as rat catchers. Merlin wasn't sure that the head cook would be especially impressed by his appearance down here, but suspected he'd gain a few fans if he was cautious enough. Remembering the view of himself in the mirror, Merlin sat at the doorway, pushed his ears forward, tipped his head slightly and tried to make himself look as pathetic as possible.
"Oh, look at the cute cat!"
Olwen was a sweet girl but so shy around Merlin that he usually only saw the top or back of her head. Now she came right up to him and crouched down, revealing brown eyes and a kind, round face as she moved one hand slowly towards him. Instinctively, Merlin moved his head forward to sniff a finger and caught a faint smell that he somehow knew was her own personal scent. That however was completely overshadowed by the wonderful smell of chicken that she'd obviously been handling - he'd know it anywhere and in any form. He moved his head forward even more, inhaling the aroma and trying to resist licking the girl's fingers.
"Oh, you poor thing. Are you hungry?" she asked.
"Of course he's not hungry." The head cook Audrey loomed over Merlin suddenly causing him to back away quickly, seriously expecting a broom to descend around his head. "In tip top condition this one and probably stuffed full of rats."
"I am not!" Merlin replied indignantly, but the objection just came out as a meow – a rather small, pathetic noise that had the effect of instantly gaining the attention of the whole kitchen. There were then various cries of 'Aaw' and 'So cute' before Olwen reappeared at his side right with a piece of beef in her hand and Emma knelt to his left and ran a confident hand from his head right down his back to his tail. Merlin took the meat as delicately as he could and meant to move pointedly away from the assistant cook's rather over familiar touch, but then she stroked him again and his cat instincts took over, causing him to lift his body and lean into her hand, despite his determination not to succumb to the temptation.
"You're right, Audrey, this is no common ratter," Emma confirmed. "Just feel that coat?" Merlin was suddenly bombarded with sensations as various hands stroked, ticked and caressed different parts of his body. A feeling of great calm and contentment suddenly stole over him and his throat tickled for a moment before a strange vibration started from somewhere deep inside, before exploded out into a purr that seemed considerably louder than his meow had earlier. Another chorus of 'aws' rang out in response.
"Go on, you lot, get back to work. We've a dinner to prepare." All the hands suddenly left him and Merlin again shrunk back as Audrey approached him. That woman had never taken kindly to his presence in her kitchen as a human, so he doubted she'd be any different now.
"There you go, although I'm quite sure you don't deserve it." A large piece of chicken was suddenly waved in front of Merlin's nose and dropped to the floor by his feet. "Don't expect any more though, lad. We're far too busy to be wasting time on a cat that's obviously more than capable of catching his own food, no matter how cute you look."
"Cute?" His meow seemed to ask the same question, and the head cook of Camelot actually smiled at Merlin before giving him a few strokes of her own and going back to her work. He stared at her wide eyed for a long time before his nose reminded him of the chicken and bent down to eat it, marvelling at how much more delicious it tasted when he was a cat.
With another quick look around, and a parting "Goodbye" which actually got some farewells in return, Merlin lifted his tail and trotted out of the kitchens.
He found himself outside Arthur's door before he'd even really thought about it. Cat instinct and human instinct combined, he guessed with a large yawn. With a practically invisible glow of his eyes, Merlin opened the door and crept inside only to find the chambers empty. Well, considering the time of day that was perhaps not surprising, the King had a Round Table meeting that afternoon he remembered and wouldn't be back for some time.
Merlin yawned again, his own human tiredness combining with the very comfortable fullness in his stomach. Then again, he thought as he jumped nimbly up on the royal bed, cats seemed to need very much more sleep than humans did and, right now, he found he could hardly keep his eyes open. Somehow, the cat instinct pushed him into giving himself a slightly half hearted wash – his rough tongue cleaning and grooming his coat and washing his paws and mouth after the food – before total exhaustion took over and he fell asleep, curling himself up into a tight ball right in the centre of the royal bed.
A/N: So, this prompt was originally going to result in a one-shot but there was just so much I wanted to do that I quickly realised that I'd written a whole chapters worth without having Merlin interact with any of the main characters. So, this is definitely to be continued - which I think is going to be a nice break from the more angsty stuff I usually write.
I hope that made you guys feel better after this weekend.
It seems that I'm starting to develop my own cast of kitchen staff. Not only did I imagine and write the head cook before she appeared in 4.01 as Audrey but now I've brought Emma back, the flirty kitchen assistant from 'King Arthur's Ward' back too.
OT A/N: If anyone's interested I've written my first MA which includes Merlin, Arthur and Gwen ... and I'll leave it up to your imagination to work out why it's rated like that. :D Anyway, I thought I probably shouldn't try to publish it under an M heading here and so it's over at 'The Heart of Camelot' too if you fancy a read.