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Merlinfic: All is Semblative (1/2)

Merlin - Court
Title: All is Semblative
Rating: PG-13 
Genre: Slash, fluff-romance, genderbender
Word Count: ~11k
Warnings/Spoilers: First season, let's say
Summary: Cinderella, Merlin-style.  Somehow, not AU, or crack (at least not completely).  Uther throws three balls to find Arthur a wife, sort of.  Merlin has some issues with this.
A/N: This got out of my hands quite badly.  It was supposed to be a short, fun, pointless stress-reliever.  It's still pointless, but it picked up delusions of realism, and is also eleven thousand words long.  IDEK.

Title is from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where Duke Orsino says of Viola-as-Cesario that "all is semblative a woman's part."

Also available on one page at AO3.




I

*


Once upon a time, Merlin had a plan.

It was a bad, horrible, disastrous, evil, soul-destroying…Arthurian plan, and Merlin should have realized that from the beginning but didn’t because he really was an idiot and also just didn’t learn, and he really should have given up on this magic business long ago because clearly he was rubbish at it and just gone off to live in a cave somewhere or locked himself inside a tree where he could never traumatize anyone ever again, especially himself.

The bad, evil, absolutely no good plan started innocuously enough. Or as innocuous as Uther throwing an extravagant three-day ball with the expressly stated intent to find Arthur a wife could be.

“So, why is he doing this?”

Merlin was perched on the trunk in Arthur’s room, busily polishing his helmet in the sense that he wasn’t polishing it at all, more like attempting to look busy until Arthur got bored and left and Merlin could finish the job using magic. Even though Arthur did know about the whole sorcerer business now, Merlin still had a sneaking suspicion that the prince wouldn’t react too kindly to Merlin using his magic to do his chores right under Uther Pendragon’s nose just because he was a lazy arse. Gaius wasn’t so fond of the idea either, but Merlin figured what they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them. Or him. (Arthur had taken the whole magic thing surprisingly well, actually, if you didn’t count the initial explosion with the accusations of enchantments and bewitching, and then the week of not speaking to Merlin or acknowledging his presence at all, followed by a truly grueling week of sparring and hunting trips that left Merlin sore for weeks, all interspersed with lectures about how being magic didn’t mean he was immortal, so would he please stop throwing himself in front of magical monsters and trying to sacrifice himself before he forced the prince to put him out of his misery because Merlin was definitely the worst sorcerer he’d ever seen. Other than that, Arthur had been grand.)

“You were there,” Arthur said absently, feet propped up on the table and fiddling with his dagger. Even after all this time, the habit still made Merlin faintly nervous.

Merlin restrained himself from rolling his eyes, mainly because that would interfere with the Very Busy persona he was attempting to maintain. Merlin had been there, although he wasn’t entirely sure why; but Arthur knew that wasn’t what he had meant. “I mean, why is the King doing this now? Why not ten years from now, or never?”

Arthur snorted, but said, “My father wants to see what I’ll sell for, and the best way to get the highest offers possible is to make sure everyone knows it’s a competition. Officially he’ll say it’s my decision, but unofficially, he gets the final say. That way, he doesn’t risk losing anything to my whims, but he can still blame my ‘contrariness’ if he doesn’t get a good enough offer. Which he won’t. I don’t think my father is ready to throw away such a valuable bargaining chip just yet.”

“Oh.” Merlin paused in his not-polishing; he couldn’t think of much to say to that. The idea of using marriage as a bargaining chip was just another facet of Arthur’s life that was as foreign to him as flying was to a fish. “But what if…you do find someone?"

“I won’t.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“My father will want to show me off, and there will be so many people there that I doubt I’ll get to talk to anyone for more than a few minutes. One sentence does not true love make.”

“But—“

“It doesn’t matter.” Arthur stood and sheathed his dagger in one smooth motion that made Merlin faintly jealous. “Even if I did…but I won’t, so it doesn’t matter.” With a final vague hand gesture that reminded Merlin of when Arthur was trying to refer to magic ‘subtly’, the prince left his chambers and Merlin was forced to consider the subject closed.

At least he could start on his chores properly now.


*


“What do you mean I can’t go?”

Arthur completely ignored Merlin’s spluttering and continued to dig into his chicken leg with great gusto. “It’s going to be a huge ball, Merlin; if personal servants were allowed to attend, there wouldn’t be room to stand.”

“So there’ll be no servants at all?” Merlin felt both incredulous and awed by the concept. Imagine, all those royals pouring their own drinks, spilling blood red wine all over their fine silk…

“Of course there will be,” Arthur scoffed, carelessly shattering Merlin’s happy vision. “Castle servants, kitchen staff; servants who don’t belong to anyone in particular. We can’t have hundreds of maidservants getting underfoot, and if the ladies aren’t allowed their maidservants then in the interests of fairness all personal servants must be banned.”

“Even me?” Merlin hadn’t meant to say it, really; it had just come out despite himself in his disbelief. Since when did he get excused from anything?

Arthur laughed. “Contrary to what you seem to believe, Merlin, your ineptitude does not make you special. You’ll have the evening off.”

And that just wasn’t fair; after all the banquets he’d had to suffer through with Arthur, now when the event held some real entertainment value and mocking potential, he couldn’t even watch? “But—“

“Merlin. You can’t come. How many times do I have to say it before it gets through your thick head?”

So of course Merlin made it his new life’s goal to get into that ball no matter what, even if he had to use magic to do it.  


*


In hindsight, that’s where things really started to go terribly wrong. Gaius was always harping on about the importance of intentions in magic, as well as the actual spoken words, but Merlin only listened about half the time, mainly because he was usually too exhausted from working for Arthur to properly concentrate. His book mentioned intentions too, which was why it explained the effects of certain spells down to minutiae; you had to know what you wanted to happen as well as how to make it happen if the spell was going to work.  

Neither the book nor Gaius had ever mentioned that intentions could make the spell do something else entirely.  
           
In hindsight, Merlin should probably have conducted some trial runs (as Gaius was so fond of saying) or made some attempt to settle his mind or maybe even read the spell straight out of the book instead of trying to recite it from memory. In hindsight, all of these were wonderful ideas that he definitely should have invested in, but at the time Merlin just couldn’t be bothered. And so it shouldn’t have been a surprise when things went terribly wrong. 
           
It was Merlin’s life, after all. Clearly he had been cursed at a young age. (Maybe it was that goat that had lived in the baker’s yard when Merlin was little and stared at him unblinkingly every time he had to cross the field to go see Will. Those bottomless black eyes had always been more than a little creepy, and the goat’s abrupt disappearance one year more than a little suspicious.)

It was supposed to be a camouflaging spell, something that would allow him to pass unnoticed through the hoards of people in the ballroom. Initially he wanted to do an invisibility spell, but after a tiny bit of experimentation with that he discovered that the spell made the caster invisible even to themselves, and decided that it was far too unsettling to do anything when he was never quite sure where all his body parts were. If he couldn’t even make it across his own room without knocking something over with a stray invisible limb, he had no chance in a crowded ballroom. People would start screaming sorcerer in seconds flat.

So this spell was a bit different. It basically caused people not to notice him, allowed him to slip past their attention and blend in. He would still be physically present, and people would notice him enough to avoid bumping into him or sitting on him or anything similarly awkward, but that would be about the extent of it. According to the spell, no one would even be able to look straight at him. It was perfect.


*


The night of the first ball Merlin helped Arthur get ready and did his best to appear innocent and completely not suspicious in any way. Merlin thought he was doing quite well until Arthur asked him flat out what idiotic thing he was planning now. For once Merlin’s mind helped him out (because whatever Arthur said, he was not actually an idiot) and he said he was meeting Gwen, who also had the night off. Merlin was actually prepared to elaborate, but Arthur seemed to shut down at that, and was quiet for the rest of the preparation. Merlin was confused, but he definitely didn’t want to answer any more questions and he had more important things to deal with tonight than another of Arthur’s odd moods, so he let it go.

As soon as he had seen Arthur off in all his red and gold glory, Merlin slipped down the hall in the opposite direction, using servants’ passages to reach the ballroom safely. Even two corridors away he could tell this was going to be hard, even with magic on his side; Arthur hadn’t been kidding about the numbers. Noblewomen of all flavours lined the halls, chatting with each other amiably enough while they waited for their turn to enter.    The lines bunched up at the double-door entrance to the ballroom, where a pair of guards asked names and performed cursory weapon checks before admitting lady after lady. A fuzzy sense of camaraderie floated through the halls, and Merlin felt sure that many of the women weren’t here by their own volition.

And so when Merlin withdrew into an alcove and muttered his spell, perhaps he wasn’t concentrating as much he should have been on the camouflaging intent of the spell, and perhaps thinking a bit too much about the noblewomen’s plight and how it must feel for them, being paraded in front of Arthur like prize mares by their relatives. But Merlin felt the spell work regardless, so he assumed he hadn’t been as distracted as he thought. Until he properly took stock of the situation, that was. When he actually realized what had happened, he quickly became properly engulfed by horror.

Observation number one: Merlin was wearing a dress. A dress that he most definitely did not own, had not been wearing moments ago, and had in fact never seen before in his life. It was made of dark red silk to match the fanciest dresses in the waiting lines, and embroidered at the edges with swirling gold patterns that reminded Merlin of fire. A closer look revealed tiny dragons in the stitching, and with slight horror Merlin realized he and Arthur now matched

Observation two: his head felt heavy. Merlin reached up experimentally, and found that he had a lot more hair than he remembered. Moreover, something had been done to it; he felt patterns beneath his hand, where the hair had been twisted and coiled in some bizarre fashion. He shook his head, but despite the impossible balance, the entire mess did not collapse on the spot. Silky strands brushed across the back of his neck, making him shiver at the unexpected contact. As he reached back to test the length of his hair, he encountered a chain around his neck, and followed it down to a red gem clutched in gold talons. It looked ordinary enough but when he touched it he felt the magic glowing warmly inside

Observation three: something else felt very, very wrong. This one, being vaguer than the others, required a bit more exploration, and so Merlin took a moment to think it through. His hands looked weird, but he couldn’t figure out quite what was wrong until he took a step and then oh

A girl. He had turned himself into a bloody girl. By accident

That shouldn’t even be possible.

Merlin took a deep breath and tried not to scream or die – or faint, which would be by far more disastrous than those first two. He’d set the intended spell to wear off at midnight; with any luck, this…whatever it was would be over then too. So all he had to do was survive until the clock struck twelve.

Merlin paused. He looked at himself, at the lines of waiting ladies, and then at the guards. 

…He hadn’t turned himself into a girl for nothing.

A simpler, much more temporary version of the initial camouflage spell (said with utmost concentration this time) got him past the guards without having to give a name, and then he was out in a swirling sea of blues, greens, golds and reds all topped by beautiful, chattering faces and promptly forgot what he was supposed to be doing.

“Extravagant, isn’t it?” a voice said beside Merlin’s ear, and the sorcerer barely managed to stop himself jumping a foot in the air and making an utter fool of himself. With wide eyes that he couldn’t seem to shut, he turned to look at Morgana.

The king’s ward was also dressed in gold and red, and Merlin began to wonder if he’d committed some courtly faux-pas by choosing those same colours for himself (although technically he hadn’t chosen them and this was all his magic’s fault anyway). 

“I’m sorry, it’s just…have you been in Camelot before?” Morgana’s brow furrowed a bit, no doubt in response to Merlin’s less than stellar social skills. “You seem familiar.”

“Er, no, my lady,” Merlin stuttered back, wincing inwardly while a voice in the back of his mind that sounded suspiciously like Arthur called him all sorts of idiot. Also, did his voice sound higher? “This is my first visit.” Yes, most definitely higher. Merlin tried not to cringe.

“Ah, my mistake.” Morgana’s face seemed to lighten as she smiled, although Merlin still felt she was studying him far too closely. And Merlin’s eyes must have still been unnaturally wide, because she said, “Don’t worry. This ball is extravagant even for those of us who live here. I’m sure most people feel a bit overwhelmed.”

Merlin managed a watery smile in return while his mind scrambled desperately for something to say because he didn’t have any sort of story or even a name planned (honestly, he was starting to think Arthur might be a little bit right about the idiot thing) and then he happened to glance over Morgana’s shoulder and oh gods, Gaius.

Of all the people he did not want to meet while wearing a dress (and the list was a very, very long one), Gaius was at the top. He would see right through him, girl or no.

“Er, excuse me, my lady, I have to – I have to go for – I mean, someone is – bye!” He completed that tragedy of a sentence with a tiny, panicked little wave, and tried his best to get lost in the crowd. As he slipped through the rainbow of silk while trying desperately not to actually touch anyone, he wished fervently for three things: i) that Gaius hadn’t seen him, ii) that Morgana was disturbed enough by his odd behaviour that she would avoid him from now on, because he really hadn’t trusted the look in her eyes, and iii) that the ground would please swallow him up right now because this was Merlin and therefore the night could only get worse. 

Eventually the sea of dresses ended and Merlin discovered he had reached a wall. He didn’t think he’d ever been this happy to see a wall before, and the three potted trees lining it were like a god’s blessing. They looked a bit sickly, true, but they wore garlands in the Pendragon colours which covered up most of the condemning holes in their spiky foliage. Merlin didn’t waste any time in slipping behind them and sliding down against the wall because he really needed to sit. Now.

It was around this time that Merlin noticed there was something wrong with his feet. He blinked at them, and then blinked again because the sight was a bit too confusing to comprehend immediately, on top of everything else. After a moment he poked his left foot and confirmed that his shoes were, in fact, made out of glass. 

Merlin felt nausea coil in his stomach as he twisted his foot experimentally and watched the glass bend impossibly to accommodate it. These had to be the most magical shoes he had ever seen, and they were going to get him killed.

What kind of magic decides that shoes should be made out of glass? Clearly, Merlin really needed to explain some things to his magic. Mainly, that gender really is a constant and should not change from day to day, and that shoes should be made out of reasonable things, like leather. Things that could actually bend.  

“Is this hiding spot taken?”

“Eep!” was the noise Merlin most definitely did not make as he rushed to cover his feet from sorcery-accusing intruders. And then the familiarity of the voice registered and Merlin found himself blinking owlishly yet again. “Arthur?”

Arthur raised a royal brow in a disbelieving way that Merlin was intimately acquainted with. “I didn’t realize we were on a first name basis, lady…?”

Merlin just stared for a blank moment before he realized that this was where he should supply a name. Happily he did manage to stop himself from giving his own name (which would have been enough for even Arthur to figure out), but realized it was a Bad Idea to invent a new name and then expect himself to remember it, so he said, “Emrys. My name is Emrys.” After a moment, he decided it would be prudent to add, “Sorry, sire.”

Arthur waved aside his apology in a way that Merlin was sure the Arthur from a year ago would not have done, and instead said, “An unusual name, but it suits you. Is the ball not to your liking, my lady Emrys?”

“Er, balls aren’t really my thing,” Merlin stumbled. “And this one…” He waved an arm vaguely to indicate the finery around them, and couldn’t help getting slightly distracted by the unexpected way his sleeve billowed. And then, because no matter how strange the situation it was hard for him to remain nervous around Arthur, he grinned and said, “I could ask you the same thing, your highness.”

Arthur sighed and glanced through the trees to where the ladies still swirled and some people had begun to dance. “There are places I’d rather be,” he admitted eventually. “And balls feel rather different when it’s your hand on sale.” Arthur looked at him then and Merlin threw up both hands in his rush to deny.

“I don’t want it!” he said in a voice that he was sure was far too loud on top of already being too high-pitched. “Your hand, I mean. I’m not here for that.”

Arthur looked mildly insulted but also amused, another expression Merlin was well acquainted with. “What are you here for then?”

“I…” Merlin floundered, desperately trying to spin a plausible story right then and there. “It was my uncle’s idea. I’ve never been to court before, and he thought it would be a good experience for me. Of course, he probably had some other hopes, but…” Merlin forced an awkward laugh, “obviously that’s not going to happen.”

Arthur just looked amused now. “Obviously.” His expression turned considering, and Merlin braced himself for another do I know you?, Morgana-style. But the expression resolved itself into a smile on its own and Arthur said instead, “You know, you remind me of someone.”

And that, right there, was why Morgana was scary and Arthur was not. Merlin breathed a sigh of relief. “Someone you like, I hope?”

Arthur’s smile shifted to a much more familiar mocking grin. “Incredibly, yes.” His gaze shifted back out toward the dance floor and the grin slid off his face. “I suppose it’s un-princely to keep hiding in the bushes like this.” He glanced back at Merlin with a strange look in his eyes. “I don’t suppose you’d care to dance?”

Something odd happened to Merlin’s stomach then. He swallowed and tried to ignore it. “I…” He felt a twinge in his chest and winced. What time was it?

“Are you alright?” Arthur’s hand came forward to rest on his arm, steadying him. Although, of course, Merlin most definitely did not need steadying. He wasn’t really a girl.

“Yes, fine,” Merlin lied, trying to smile. “I’m just not used to wearing all this finery.” Arthur still didn’t remove his hand, and Merlin felt oddly disinclined to make him. “I should be going though, your highness. I promised my uncle I would return by midnight.”

Finally Arthur seemed to realize where his hand was and snatched it back. He glanced out to the dance floor and then back to him. “You’ll come back tomorrow night?”

No, Merlin told himself firmly. I will say NO.   “I…” And it really, truly wasn’t fair, because if Merlin didn’t know Arthur as well as he unfortunately did, he would never have seen the carefully guarded hope in his eyes. “…Yes.” Idiot!, went the Arthur-voice.

Arthur’s smile was brilliant, and Merlin swallowed again. “Good. Then I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night, Lady Emrys.” And then, because Arthur was a stupid, noble prince and a prat besides, he grabbed Merlin’s hand and pressed a gentle kiss to the back of it. And while Merlin was standing there in dazed shock, he added, “Oh, and Arthur is fine.” With a final smirk in Merlin’s direction Arthur left for the dance floor. 

It took Merlin a long moment to recover himself enough to remember that he needed to get out of here, now, before Arthur’s manservant was discovered hiding behind the trees and things started to look very, very suspicious. He felt another twinge in his chest as he hurried out of the ballroom, not bothering with the charm this time. He found his old alcove and hid himself as well as he could, wisely (for once) deciding not to risk walking back to his room. In only a few minutes he felt the magic slip from him, like a heavy cloak being withdrawn, and then he was Merlin the manservant again, dressed in fraying rags and worn boots that were definitely not made of glass. Calling himself all kinds of fool, Merlin escaped through the servants’ passages and back to his room, where he hoped he could at least catch some sleep before dawn.





Merlin considered faking a terminal illness of some sort to get out of facing Arthur the next day, but he decided on the whole that it was probably best to draw as little attention to himself as possible. Besides, Arthur would probably come by anyway, realize he wasn’t actually sick, and then proceed to mock him for sulking because he wasn’t allowed to attend the balls. Which would be so horribly ironic that Merlin might actually have to turn him into a toad, and that would lead to a whole other mess of problems that Merlin just wasn’t prepared to deal with, because while he could actually do the toad bit he hadn’t quite figured out the changing-back bit yet. (He had only learned it in the first place because he found he could deal with a moody Arthur a lot better if he could threaten to turn him into a toad and actually mean it, even if the threat remained essentially empty; it was the principal of the thing. Changing the test-toads back had proven unexpectedly difficult, as if the transformed rodents were actually happier as warty amphibians, and there was now a pond somewhere in the woods of Camelot that was suffering from severe toad overpopulation which Merlin really did feel very guilty about, when he remembered.) 
           
Arthur had apparently had a late night, because he wasn’t even awake when Merlin showed up late. Merlin tried to avoid waking him as he bustled around preparing the prince’s clothes and fetching breakfast, but Arthur did finally stir when the food arrived and his chambers filled with the smell of warm pastries. Merlin knew he was acting strange, speaking little, avoiding eye contact and possibly staring a bit when Arthur wasn’t looking, but luckily Arthur seemed too tired to notice.  
           
The pair of them were enclosed in council meetings for most of the day, which Merlin was actually grateful about for once. Merlin still wasn’t completely sure why he was there at all, but Arthur had recently begun insisting he attend. When questioned, the prat just said that Merlin needed to know how the kingdom functioned if he was to be of any use to Arthur when he was king, but so far the kingdom’s “functioning” seemed to consist of bickering peasants, border skirmishes and lots of numbers that made Merlin’s head hurt, and he really didn’t know how any of this would make him better at polishing armor. Gaius told him that it was a great honour to attend the council, that it was a sign of trust and respect. He seemed surprised that Merlin was being allowed to attend at all, which Merlin was suitably indignant about even if he did wish that Arthur could show his trust and respect in a less mind numbingly boring way. 
           
It did seem to have some disturbing repercussions, however. Ever since he had become the prince’s manservant and it had become apparent that he wasn’t about to get sacked any time soon, the other servants had turned from sympathetic to rather cold. It had bothered Merlin at first, but he had Gwen, who really was the best friend he could ever ask for, so he got over it. Since he had started to attend the council at Arthur’s side, however, he felt like a leper. On one horrifying occasion, he’d even caught someone bowing to him.  
           
He was just Merlin, the incompetent manservant from Ealdor. People didn’t bow to him. It was highly unnerving, and Merlin rather pathetically hoped that it would never happen again. 
           
The single bonus about the council meetings was that Merlin actually got to sit down (sometimes, usually when someone was sick), which was rather novel. There was also plenty of irony in the fact that a sorcerer was attending Uther’s very important council meetings at the Crown Prince’s request, and Merlin was sure he would have enjoyed that if he wasn’t so busy freezing in terror every time the king so much as glanced in his direction. 
           
Just when Merlin was beginning to think of Arthur’s dented shield with longing, Uther finally declared the council adjourned, adding that there would be no further meetings for the duration of the ball. Merlin tried not to noticeably cringe at this news as he hurried out after Arthur, who had begun vibrating with pent-up energy at least an hour ago and surely would have done something unforgivable if cooped up in that room for much longer. Merlin usually tried to draw out some of the prince’s restlessness with subtle prods and humour so he didn’t work himself into a frenzy and explode (it truly was a wonder that Arthur had ever got on without him), and while he was usually fairly successful, it really was just a matter of time before one of them burst into totally inappropriate laughter during a report on grain supplies and got kicked out. Today, however, he’d been too occupied with his own awkwardness to be much use, and that combined with the extra long session had left Arthur a jittery bag of nerves. He strode off towards the training grounds as fast as was dignified, and Merlin gladly let him go. 
           
He managed to avoid the prince for the rest of the day – which, although Merlin would’ve like to think otherwise, wasn’t actually much of a feat considering Arthur probably never left the training grounds. He did have to attend Arthur at the banquet that evening, but it was shorter than usual in order to leave time for the ball. He kept Arthur’s goblet full and tried not to notice when the prince scanned the crowd as if searching for someone, and before Merlin knew it the meal was over. 
           
And then it was back to Arthur’s chambers so he could get ready proper. Merlin set out Arthur’s clothes and then puttered around the room trying to look busy and definitely not like he wanted to run away. Far away. 
           
“So, Merlin, aren’t you going to ask me about the ball?” Even from behind the screen, the smugness in Arthur’s voice was unmistakable. 
           
Merlin shrugged, even though he knew Arthur wouldn’t see it. “What’s there to ask? I expect all balls are quite similar.” 
           
“Oh? And what would you know about balls, exactly?” 
           
“I know they’re probably horribly boring and—“ here Merlin paused to gulp because Arthur had stepped out from behind the screen and, well, he’d chosen those clothes for a reason, “…and I’m glad I’m free of them.” 
           
Arthur smirked. “You can’t lie to me, Merlin,” Arthur reminded him, and Merlin grimaced because sadly, that was beginning to seem true. Arthur just had problems pinpointing what exactly Merlin was lying about. He stretched out his arms and Merlin obediently walked over with his jacket, completing the black and red ensemble. 
           
And then because Arthur was and would always be an utter prat, while Merlin was close enough to feel his breath he said, “I’ll have you know I rather enjoyed myself.” And then, just when Merlin was starting to feel safe again, he added, “I think you’d like her, Merlin.” 
           
Merlin choked and stepped back quickly, only to be met by Arthur’s knowing grin. (Although what he knew Merlin had not a clue, because he couldn’t possibly know.) “You…you found someone?” 
           
“You could say that.” Arthur carefully picked a nonexistent piece of lint off his sleeve, and Merlin had a moment to wonder who he thought he was fooling; Merlin had brushed that jacket himself just minutes ago. “You’re not jealous, are you Merlin?” 
           
Merlin opened his mouth to throw back an automatic jab, but then his eyes rested on Arthur, standing there lit by candlelight in majestic red and black with his hair glowing golden like the crown he would one day wear, and suddenly it all seemed so juvenile. So pointless, selfish. And Arthur was…more. Better than that. He deserved everything this life could offer him, and then some. Merlin’s previous awkwardness fell away and he slumped. 
           
“No, sire,” he said softly, not even noticing that he’d added the honorific, or that he actually meant it for once. “You deserve to find someone. You…more than anyone.” 
           
Arthur opened his mouth but after a moment seemed to reconsider, and instead closed it with an unreadable look on his face. A moment passed with Arthur staring at him and Merlin apathetically staring back, feeling suddenly very depressed.  
       
“You should go down to the ball, sire,” Merlin prompted eventually when it became apparent that Arthur was going nowhere on his own. “They’ll miss you.” 
           
Arthur shot him one last unreadable but perhaps slightly worried look, and then he did as told and left. Merlin remained immobile for a minute longer, struggling with what to do next. 
           
Inevitably, however, he found himself slipping into the servants passages on his way down to the ballroom because he’d made Arthur a promise, and Merlin would do just about anything to avoid breaking a promise to Arthur, no matter how trifling – or heartbreaking – it was.  
 

*  


Continue to part II   
 

 

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
giecast
Apr. 20th, 2010 07:34 am (UTC)
This is so fun! Loving Merlin's voice so far. *scampers off to read part 2*
shutupeccles
Apr. 20th, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
normally avoid gender-swap fics like Lady catrina avoids toothpaste but I am so glad I read this one.
Sheer brilliance!
*dances merrily off to read part II*
hungry_bkworm91
Apr. 20th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
THIS IS SO GOOD!
love it!

Off to read part 2... *g*
furloughday
May. 5th, 2010 07:12 am (UTC)
But the expression resolved itself into a smile on its own and Arthur said instead, “You know, you remind me of someone.”

And that, right there, was why Morgana was scary and Arthur was not


haha, awesome.
sayuri2023
Jul. 21st, 2010 07:03 am (UTC)
This was fantastic.. really nice
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )