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Merlinfic: All is Semblative (2/2)

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.



*

II

*


If Merlin had thought his magic was confused before, he knew now that it was actually thoroughly evil. Sadistic. Rotten to the core. And with no self-preservation instinct at all, obviously, because it was going to get him killed and then where would it be? 
           
Merlin had decided on a compromise; if he was going to go through this traumatizing, idiotic charade again, at least he could do it with some proper shoes this time. To that end he’d removed his worn, leather servant’s shoes and set them aside before trying to change again, with the intent of switching them with the glass monstrosities. To his surprise – and not slight unease – the change was ridiculously easy to repeat, and he could only pray that he’d kept the midnight expiry date in place and not just changed himself into a girl for real. He reached for his leather shoes but, to his horror, they had vanished, apparently replaced by the glass mistakes that now adorned his feet. He slipped one off experimentally, but the moment his foot was free of it he felt a familiar spasm in his chest. Merlin froze, blinking at his very male self in rags, and then the terror sunk in.   
           
Of course, having already established that he’d do just about anything to keep a promise to Arthur, he resigned himself to being executed at some point over the next two days and went through with it anyway. 
           
Which was how Merlin found himself skulking around the buffet tables an hour later, where the generous tablecloths sagged against the floor and hid his feet from the majority of the room. He avoided last night’s trees like the plague, because he’d promised Arthur only that he would come and, after having held up his end of the bargain, it would really be the prince’s own fault if they didn’t actually see each other. Just because he didn’t break promises didn’t mean he couldn’t play with semantics. 
           
The buffet tables also enjoyed the added bonus of deterring people from talking to him too much since, well, food. Or, that was Merlin’s theory, anyway. 
           
“You’re not eating.” 
           
That sounded a lot like something Merlin might say, so he was rather surprised to hear it coming from someone else. From this angle, it did seem fairly idiotic. And obvious. 
           
Being a lady (for the moment), Merlin said none of these things out loud (he did too learn), but something must have shown on his face anyway, for the speaker flailed, “I mean, it’s just all the time I’ve been here, you’ve been here too, but you…haven’t eaten anything.” 
           
And now Merlin was reminded of Gwen, so he smiled. This seemed to encourage the poor soul, who stopped flailing and smiled back.  
           
“I just...wondered…is everything all right?” 
           
Merlin sighed, a soft (but very unladylike) puff of air. What was all right? But he did appreciate the sentiment, so he repeated the answer that had served him so well last night with Arthur, “Balls aren’t really my thing.” 
           
The young man – one of the few males in the room tonight, which on this twisted evening didn’t include Merlin – looked relieved. “Me neither, but…well, the prince isn’t the only one whose father wants him to find a bride.” 
           
Merlin blinked. “What…really?” He looked around at the other men speckled throughout the sea of dresses, and then at Arthur holding court far, far away. They didn’t have a chance. 
           
His new friend laughed. “I know. Who’d settle for one of us when she could have him, right?”  

Too late, Merlin realized his reaction may have seemed rather insulting. “I didn’t mean—“ 
           
The young man waved him off. “It’s okay. Everyone understands that. It’s just, they can’t all have him, right? Or that’s what my father says, anyway.” 
           
“Right,” Merlin said, more to buy himself time than anything else. He’d never realized before how desperate all these nobles were to marry. “The king’s not likely to marry him off yet anyway,” he said, and then immediately panicked because, oh gods, what if that was one of those secret council things that he was never supposed to tell anyone, ever? 
           
“All the more reason for me to be here, then,” the man smiled, completely unaware of Merlin’s internal meltdown. His smile faded a little and he shuffled, but finally blurted, “May I ask your name, lady?” 
           
Merlin tried to calm down. “Er, it’s, uh…Emrys. And you?” 
           
“Winston. And, um, seeing as neither of us are eating, would you care to dance?” 
           
Merlin’s eyes widened. This man – a lord or something, must be – had admitted he was in want of a wife, and now he was asking for a dance? “I—“ 
           
His fear must have shown, for Winston waved at him again. “I’m not actually looking for a wife, you know. That’s just my father.” 
           
“Oh.” Merlin smiled embarrassedly, and was relieved when his new friend smiled back. “Um, I’m not very good at dancing. At all. Fairly terrible, actually.” 
           
“As am I,” Winston laughed. “So we should make right spectacles of ourselves, but at least we can do it together.”  
           
And he looked so enthusiastic that Merlin laughed too, and followed him out onto the dance floor. 
 

*  
  

Dancing wasn’t so bad, Merlin decided, once you got the hang of it. And the people stopped staring and laughing. That helped too. 
           
Winston wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d made himself out to be, but Merlin actually found he was grateful for that, since the male had to lead and therefore had to have some idea what he was doing. Merlin had the much easier end of the deal, and after only a few minutes of fumbling managed to learn the cues and follow along decently enough. Being the lady had its perks at times, apparently. (Though he would deny ever having had that thought, if asked. Vehemently.) 
           
Eventually they grew tired and staggered off the dance floor, supporting each other a little because they were laughing too hard to walk straight. Merlin was sure he wasn’t being very ladylike, but he really didn’t care and besides, he was actually having fun. He definitely hadn’t expected to have fun tonight.  
           
Winston seemed to be of the same opinion. Merlin was glad to have found a friend. 
           
“Lady Emrys.” 
           
Merlin’s eyes widened as he watched Winston’s widen in sync. As one, they turned to face the intruder. 
           
Right. That’s why Merlin had been hiding.  
           
“Lady Emrys,” Arthur repeated. “May I have this dance?” 
           
Merlin blinked.  He could hear Winston spluttering beside him, but having just proved that he could, in fact, dance, Merlin couldn’t think of a way to decline that wouldn’t get him beheaded. “Er, of course, your highness.” 
           
Arthur smiled back in a strained sort of way, before quickly grabbing onto his arm and dragging him back towards the dance floor. Merlin tried to get him to let go so he could hook his hand around his arm the way he’d seen the other ladies doing but Arthur, the stubborn prat, was having none of it. Merlin looked around in the vague hope that no one was watching but, of course, everyone was. 
           
“Arthur,” he hissed. “Let go.”  
           
Arthur glanced down and then, looking startled, quickly released Merlin’s arm. Resisting the urge to rub his arm because he was not, in fact, a girl, Merlin rested his hand on Arthur’s arm instead as they fell into their dancing positions. 
           
“My apologies,” Arthur muttered, and Merlin blinked because, well, had Arthur just apologized? To him? And then reality set in and he remembered that he was a ‘lady’ right now and so maybe this wasn’t too unusual after all. So Merlin waved at him the way he’d seen Winston do and focused on keeping as much distance between himself and the prince as the dance would allow. If he noticed, Arthur didn’t seem to mind.  
           
“You use my given name so easily,” Arthur mused after a moment, and Merlin froze. “Why is that?” 
           
Prat. “It’s…er, it’s just that I’m used to hearing that. Sire.”  Merlin scrambled, desperate for a lie, any lie, and hoped he still could lie to Arthur, sometimes. Maybe the being-a-woman thing would throw him off. “That is, the village girls chatter, and…it’s different, outside Camelot.” There. None of that had actually been a lie. Merlin was quite proud of himself. 
           
And then Arthur said, “You live outside Camelot?” and Merlin took it back. He was still an idiot. 
           
“Er, yes, Cendred’s kingdom. But it’s, um, very small, I’m sure you haven’t heard of it. Sire.”  
           
Arthur looked dubious, but he didn’t press, and they were silent for a few turns. Merlin scrambled to think of something to say, and then berated himself for that when silence was possibly the only thing that wouldn’t damn him.  
           
“You know,” Arthur said, with a hint of that prattish whine that Merlin had grown to despise, “when you said you would return, I didn’t think that meant you’d spend the entire night hiding from me.” 
           
“I wasn’t hiding from you!” Merlin spluttered, but he could tell Arthur was laughing at him. Apparently he really couldn’t lie to Arthur, and wasn’t that just great.   
           
“You must be the only woman here who would actually hide when she knows the prince is looking for her,” Arthur said, shaking his head. 
           
Merlin hunched his shoulders a little. “Yes, well. Someone has to be able to resist your ‘charms’.” 
           
Arthur laughed out loud at that. “You do know who I am, don’t you?” 
           
Merlin couldn’t believe he’d said that. “Er, what’s the safest answer to that question?” 
           
But Arthur, still grinning, just shook his head again. “There’s something about you, Emrys.” 
           
Merlin froze. Arthur knew, Arthur had recognized him, it was over. He hadn’t had him executed when he found out Merlin was using magic to save his life, but he definitely would now that he’d discovered him using it to…to…what? Play games? Live out his fantasies? Break his heart? What was he doing here? 
           
It took a moment, through all this panic, for Merlin to register the tell-tale twinge in his chest. When he did, he took another look at Arthur, decided the prince would not still be grinning like that if he knew, and tried to calm down. 
           
Arthur, however, had noticed. “My lady? Are you all right?” 
           
“Yes, I’ve—I’ve only just realized what time it is. I have to go.” And without giving Arthur a chance to protest he broke away, stepping carefully over the dance floor and aiming for the doors. 
           
“Emrys!”  
           
And because he was an idiot, Merlin paused, looked back. Arthur was staring after him. 
           
“Tomorrow?” 
           
No.  “Yes.” 
           
Bugger. 
 

*  

              
On the third day, Merlin was forced to accept the fact that the world was against him. Not that he didn’t deserve it, of course. He still didn’t know what he was playing at with Arthur, but every time he thought of the coming night something twisted uncomfortably in his stomach and he knew he was going to go anyway.  
           
Someone, Merlin didn’t know who (though if he ever found out he would actually turn them into a toad and they could just stay that way, for all he cared) had informed the visiting ladies of his identity as the prince’s “trusted” manservant. And because the ladies seemed to share a hive mind of some sort, he was now being bombarded with questions wherever he went. He could only take so many wide, tearful eyes and “I just want Arthur to notice me”s before he caved and hid in the prince’s chambers. Ironically enough, that seemed to be the only place in the castle that remained free of them. 
           
Unfortunately, Arthur seemed to have realized the same thing, and by midday both of them were ensconced in the rooms together, shooting each other odd glances while Merlin picked away at his chores in the normal, unmagical and painfully slow way. 

“Couldn’t you just…?”

Merlin looked up. Arthur was gesturing incomprehensibly at him, which either meant that there was an invisible stag in the room that Merlin was unaware of, or he was talking about magic. “You know, if you’re bored, you could always go out and mingle.”

Arthur gave him a poisonous glare. “You’re the one hiding in my rooms.”

“I’m not hiding,” Merlin denied and then paused, feeling uneasy at the echo of last night. “I have work to do, which I understand is a foreign concept to you.”

“Please. Like you ever actually do any of the chores I assign you.”

“I—“

“Without magic.”

Merlin closed his mouth because, okay, that was true. But only because he was so busy with other things, which he wouldn’t be if Arthur wasn’t so intent on getting himself killed. Between protecting Camelot and saving the Crown Prince’s royal arse every other day, he just didn’t have time to polish Arthur’s boots and sharpen his sword and muck out his stables the old fashioned way. 

“Hah, I knew it,” Arthur crowed, and flopped victoriously back onto his bed. “I knew you couldn’t have been doing all that without magic. You’re far too incompetent.”

“What…” Many things suddenly made sense to Merlin, the main thing being that Arthur was actually a much greater prat than he had ever realized. “No, you know what, never mind. I don’t even know why I’m surprised.”

Arthur barked a laugh. “It’s your own fault for keeping secrets, Merlin.”

Abruptly all the fight went out of Merlin, because that was true, too. “Yeah.”

Merlin.” Reluctantly Merlin looked up again at the prince’s serious tone, and only when they had eye contact did Arthur continue.  “If you start agreeing to my insults I’m going to have to get a new manservant.” His tone was chiding and his eyes said I forgive you, and although Merlin knew he would feel guilty about this for a long time, he was reassured.

Merlin managed a cheeky grin. “But sire, I thought you always wanted a bootlicker.”

Arthur grinned back and flopped down on his bed again, out of sight. “Well, I was told once to never get one, although the source was a bit dubious. Besides, after your incessant chattering I’m not sure I would know quite what to do with all the peace and quiet.”

Merlin smiled and went back to attempting to mend Arthur’s spare cloak. A comfortable silence fell over them, and lasted until a guard came knocking on the door to inform Arthur that His Majesty the King requested his presence in the throne room. Arthur shared a pained look with Merlin, who laughed at him, and then was gone, leaving Merlin to magically do his chores in peace.


*  

  
The peace was short-lived, as were all good things in Merlin’s experience. Soon enough Arthur was back to get ready for the ball, looking considerably more weary than when he’d left. Merlin gave him a sympathetic grimace and got together his clothes with as little fuss as possible. Once dressed, Arthur lingered, and Merlin couldn’t blame him even if he did wish he’d get on with it so he could feel guilty and wretched without an audience. Or with a less knowledgeable one, anyway.   
           
“Are the balls really so terrible?” Merlin received only a grimace in reply. “Well then, at least they’ll be over after tonight.” 
           
“That’s part of the problem,” Arthur muttered, without seeming aware that he’d said anything. He tossed a shiny red apple into the air absently. 
           
“What? Is it…” Merlin half-choked, but forced himself to continue, “…is it about that person you met?” 
           
“I suppose,” Arthur murmured. “In a way.” He still sounded like he was talking to himself. “She’s…”  
           
“Yes?” 
           
Arthur stopped, as if finally realizing he wasn’t alone. He fixed Merlin with a suspicious, probing look and Merlin widened his eyes and tried to appear as innocent as he could which, in his experience, wasn’t very. After a long moment Arthur shook his head, apparently not finding whatever he’d been looking for, and turned away. Merlin exhaled and began to think he was safe which was, of course, a mistake. 
           
“I can probably get you into this ball, if you want,” Arthur offered evenly. “Since you wanted to go so badly. This is your last chance, after all.” 
           
Merlin tried not to gape. “Er…I’m—that is, I promised Gaius I would help him out tonight.” 
           
Arthur raised a brow at Merlin’s flimsy excuse but thankfully didn’t comment. He swept out of the room in a flurry of Pendragon red, and Merlin slumped against one ornately carved bedpost. If he hadn’t known what he was doing before, then he was hopelessly lost now.   
 




Merlin snuck down to the ballroom shortly after he knew Arthur had made his appearance, and was careful to stay away from both the tree-lined wall and the buffet table this time. Unfortunately this didn’t leave a lot of options for hiding spots, and Merlin resorted to trying to blend in with the crowd to remain inconspicuous. This, of course, somehow resulted in him becoming more conspicuous than ever before. 
           
He had already established that he was cursed so really, it shouldn’t have surprised him when his arm was randomly almost yanked out of its socket and he found himself dragged off into a dark corner to be stared at intently. By Morgana. 
           
“Er…” 
           
Morgana said nothing, just kept staring at him, eyes wide and eerily blue. Merlin shivered involuntarily, and tried in vain to dislodge her grip on his arm. Her hands were like steel, white-knuckled from the force of her grip. Merlin was quickly becoming seriously disturbed. He was starting to consider drastic, execution-dancing action when finally, she spoke. 
           
“…Merlin?” 
           
Merlin gaped. Too late, he realized he should be confused, or deny it, or something. “I—I don’t know what—“ 
           
“It is you,” Morgana said wonderingly, apparently not needing his input. “But how?” 
           
Merlin thought it best to concede that point. “I…got cursed?” 
           
“No…” Morgana murmured, and Merlin glared. Was she even listening to him? “No, you did this to yourself, you…have magic?” 
           
Merlin could only stare. “How do you…” 
           
Morgana blinked, as if coming out of a trance, opened her mouth to speak, and then— 
           
“Emrys! You didn’t tell me you knew the prince!” 
           
Merlin blinked too. For someone who didn’t exist, the Lady Emrys certainly had a lot of people wanting to speak to her. “Winston?” 
           
“Who else? Don’t tell me you know everyone—oh.” Winston paused, having evidently just noticed Morgana. “Er, good evening, my lady.” 
           
Merlin chanced a glance at Morgana, and found her looking between the two of them in amusement. He sighed a little in relief. While Morgana could be dangerous in any mood, amusement was one of the safer ones.  
           
“I don’t, not really,” Merlin tried to explain, and heard a muffled, ladylike cough behind him that sounded suspiciously like a laugh. 
           
“Then why’d he ask you to dance last night? He knew your name.” Another cough-laugh. 
           
“He, er…we were hiding behind the same plants for a little while. On the first night. By accident.” Merlin winced as Morgana gave up her coughing pretense and simply laughed, loud and clear. 
           
“Arthur was hiding behind plants? Oh, that’s priceless,” she snickered. “Literally. Thank you for that, Mer—Emrys. Emrys. That name sounds familiar…” 
           
And well, she apparently knew about the magic, so why not. “I believe it has…druidic origins, my lady.” 
           
Morgana’s eyes widened, but Winston wasn’t finished. 
           
“So what you’re saying, then, is that the prince sought you out after only knowing you for one night?” Winston jabbed a finger at Merlin accusingly. “You’re his favourite!” 
           
“What? No, I’m not!” 
           
“You are! The only friend I make at this stupid ball, and she’s going to end up marrying the prince!” Winston threw up his hands, looking thoroughly exasperated. Merlin caught Morgana hiding a smile, but could only stare at Winston himself. 
           
“I’m not—“ 
           
“Never mind,” Winston interrupted, and abruptly grabbed Merlin’s hands. “I’m glad to have met you, Emrys. It was fun. Remember me when you have all that power, yeah?” Merlin blinked, which Winston seemed to take as agreement. He released Merlin’s hands and walked away, giving Merlin a last little wave over his shoulder. “Good luck with the prince, Emrys!” He was grinning as he said it so Merlin grinned back, glad there seemed to be no hard feelings even though the other man was obviously deluded. 
           
“Well, this seems to be quite the mess you’ve made for yourself, Merlin,” Morgana pronounced, grinning wickedly. Merlin reevaluated rapidly. Perhaps amusement was one of the dangerous moods, after all. This suspicion was confirmed moments later when Morgana said, “Care to dance?” 
           
Merlin grimaced, but took one look in Morgana’s eyes and realized that graceful defeat was his only real option. For the third time in this disturbing farce, he very reluctantly allowed himself to be led out onto the dance floor. 
 

*  
 

Dancing with a girl really was much to be preferred, Merlin decided later. For one thing, it just felt better, more natural, even when he was a girl himself – things were soft where they should be soft, spaces and curves existed in the right locations. For another, the dance was a lot less formal when two women were dancing together which, considering the current gender imbalance in the ballroom, actually wasn’t all that uncommon. They took turns leading, or would have if Merlin had had any idea how to dance; as it was, he mostly followed Morgana’s lead, and she seemed happy enough to direct him. It was fun, in a way that was different from his dance with Winston but no less enjoyable for it. It was very different from his dance with Arthur, which he was still mostly trying not to think about. 
           
“He’s watching you.” 
           
Merlin didn’t have to ask who Morgana meant. He raised his eyes and almost immediately found Arthur, surrounded by a circle of giggling women as always, his eyes fixed unwaveringly on Merlin. Inexplicably Merlin felt his face heat and he looked away quickly. 
“What do I do?”

Morgana looked neutral. “I don’t know. This is your mess, Merlin.”

Merlin sighed in agreement, and then a sudden thought occurred to him. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t asked already, but he supposed that he had always believed Morgana wouldn’t betray him, if it came down to it. “You won’t tell anyone, will you? About the…”

Morgana didn’t need to ask what he meant, either. “Does Arthur know?”

“Yes.”

She smiled. “Then no. Your secret is safe with me.”

The relief he felt was immediate and overwhelming and he grinned widely, freely. “Thank you, my lady. You’ve no idea…wait.” Merlin trailed off, frowning. “You would’ve told Arthur? If he hadn’t known?”

“He has a right to know.”

“You…you wouldn’t be worried he’d tell Uther?”

Morgana shook her head, and her smile turned soft. “You’ve changed him, Merlin. He no longer obeys his father without question. I never doubted he would make the right decision, for you. He’s better than that. You both are.”

“Morgana…” 

Her arm crept around his shoulders and she enveloped him in a half-hug. “You’re safe now, Merlin. You’re among friends, and we’ll protect you.”

“Morgana…thank you.”

How long they remained that way, motionless in the middle of the dance floor, Merlin couldn’t say. Eventually Morgana released him and he stepped away, trying to swipe unobtrusively at his definitely-not-teary eyes. 

“Arthur might still kill me for this one,” Merlin reminded her, gesturing expansively at his current state.

Morgana’s wicked grin returned. “Oh, I think you’ll survive.” And with that she swept away, leaving Merlin only a few moments to stare after her in confusion before he was interrupted yet again. Really, Lady Emrys was getting to be far too popular; Merlin couldn’t wait to be rid of her.

“Lady Emrys,” came Arthur’s voice. “I wish to speak with you, if you have a moment.”

Merlin honestly wasn’t sure how many moments he had left, but he figured since he was only here at Arthur’s request anyway, he could give the prince the last of them. He obediently followed Arthur off the dance floor to a more secluded location near the wall, but still fully visible to the rest of the room. Thankfully, the giggling women displayed some sense of propriety and kept their distance, restraining themselves to whispering and pointing from afar.

“I wish to be honest with you,” Arthur began, and Merlin’s stomach plummeted. This was not going to be in any way good. “Despite the official purpose of this ball, my father does not intend to marry me off to anyone just yet, and neither do I believe myself to be quite ready. Even when the king does decide my time is nigh, doubtless I will have little say in the matter.”

Merlin gulped and Arthur held up a hand as if to forestall any comment, not that Merlin was actually going to say anything. He was far too petrified for that.

“That said,” Arthur continued, “I find I have genuinely enjoyed my time with you, even what little of it I have managed to get. I would be honoured if you would accept my invitation to remain in Camelot awhile as a royal guest, Lady Emrys. You may of course leave whenever you please, but you would be treated as royalty for the duration of your stay, however long or short that may be.”

Merlin felt sick; he should never have let it go this far. “I…I can’t, Arthur. I’m sorry.”

Disturbingly, Arthur didn’t look disappointed by this. In fact, he looked almost pleased. “I suspected as much.”

Merlin opened his mouth to say…well, he didn’t know quite what, so it was probably for the best that his chest seized when it did, causing him to gasp and completely forget about speaking.

Merlin could vaguely hear Arthur in the background, shouting, but he couldn’t make out the words. He didn’t know what was going on, what was wrong this time, but he did know he needed to get out now. He mumbled something, hopefully a semi-plausible excuse of some kind, and stumble-ran out of the ballroom and into the hall.

After the colourful chaos of the ballroom, the hall was blessedly silent and plain, even bedecked in Pendragon finery as it was. Merlin stumbled over to his alcove, and had only stood there shivering for a mere handful of seconds before he felt the change sweep over him. Sick at heart now as well as physically nauseous, Merlin snuck back to his room as fast as he could without being seen. At some point along the way he registered the fact that he was missing a shoe, which was annoying but not overly worrisome; a servant’s worn leather boot would hardly cause an uproar, no matter where it turned up. With any luck he would be able to find it if he rose early enough the next morning, and wouldn’t have to go half barefoot for the foreseeable future.            

Fortunately Gaius was still at the ball, so Merlin was saved having to explain his late hour and appearance to his mentor. He made a beeline for his room and collapsed on his familiar, if not luxurious, bed, and tried to stop thinking. At least it was over now.  In a few weeks – months – he would be able to forget about this whole mess and things could go back to normal. Maybe one day – far, far in the future – he would even tell Arthur and they would laugh about it. One day. 
           
For now, he needed to sleep. And somehow, he did. 
 

*  
  

Sleep was far too precious to Merlin at the moment to be taken for granted, so he was understandably frustrated when he was awoken what felt like minutes later by his own magic. This was new. Usually it needed his consent or at least his conscious awareness to perform deeds that could get him killed. 
           
Merlin blinked blearily, trying to mentally prepare himself for whatever fresh horrors awaited him. He was unsuccessful. 
           
“Arthur?” 
           
Merlin didn’t recognize his own voice. No, that wasn’t quite right… His hand went to his throat rather desperately, and to his horror he felt an oval pendant, glowing warmly with magic. His skin felt far too smooth, as well, and he was… 
           
His eyes slowly lifted to Arthur, who was sitting on the edge of Merlin’s lumpy mattress and looking remarkably calm. 
           
“Merlin,” the prince replied evenly.  
           
Merlin blinked, uncomprehending. And then he became aware of the strange position his foot was in, slid his eyes down to investigate, and froze. There, cradled in Arthur’s hands, lay his foot, complete with the missing shoe. The missing glass shoe. He must have lost it before he changed back…and once it was separated, it hadn’t changed back with him… 
           
Merlin raised his eyes back to Arthur, horror engulfing him completely. This was it.  This was the end. He was going to die.  He didn’t even have an explanation because he didn’t know what he’d been doing, there was no way… 
           
Arthur was shaking his head. “You really are something, Merlin,” he said. “Can you change back?” 
           
“Uh…” Merlin forced his mind to catch up as Arthur’s expression began to shift into irritation. No need to provoke the scary Crown Prince. “I think so. Give me a minute.” He closed his eyes and tried to remember how it felt when the magic slid off him, how it felt to be himself again.  He wasn’t sure it had worked, but he heard Arthur gasp and he figured that meant something must have happened. He opened his eyes. 
           
He was himself again. With both shoes. 
           
He grinned ridiculously at that, and probably would have laughed a little too, hysterically, if he hadn’t looked up at that moment. The intense look in Arthur’s eyes sobered him immediately, and he remembered death was still very much on the table. 
           
“You really are an idiot,” Arthur growled, and then he was kissing him, and Merlin realized he had rather terribly miscalculated everything, and been a bit blind besides. And he was really quite okay with that.  
 




Epilogue (because this is the Story That Would Not End):


“So, who’s Emrys, anyway? Someone I should know about?” 
          
“…” 
           
“Merlin.” 
           
“It’s, uh…it’s what the druids call me.” 
           
“The druids. Have a special name for you?” 
           
“…Yes?” 
           
“Is that a question, Merlin?” 
           
“…No? Ow!” 
           
“Any other secrets you wish to share, Merlin, before I change my mind and send you to the stocks for impersonating a noblewoman?” 
           
“Er…” 
           
“I don’t believe this. Merlin.” 
           
“I, um, may have…Morgana knows about the…magic.” 
           
“…” 
           
“It wasn’t my fault! She guessed! I didn’t do anything!” 
           
“Right, nothing, except for where you magically turned yourself into a girl complete with magical glass slippers to get the prince’s attention. Gods, Merlin. How are you still alive?” 
           
“I did not—!” 

“What? Turn yourself into a girl? Pointlessly endanger yourself by wearing magical glass slippers and then proceeding to lose one of them? Want my attention? Because I think you’ll find that the answer to all those questions is that you did.” 
           
“…” 
           
“Gods, Merlin. Next you’ll be telling me it’s our destiny to be together, or some such rubbish, and that a faerie told you so. Or no, you don’t like faeries – a unicorn, then. Or a dragon.” 
           
“…” 
           
“Merlin?” 
           
“...Er.”  
 

end.


Comments

( 76 comments — Leave a comment )
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canarypaper
Apr. 20th, 2010 07:23 am (UTC)
Bwahaha! VERY cute! :D
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you!
dornfelder
Apr. 20th, 2010 07:36 am (UTC)
This is a great fic, thanks for sharing it with us! Funny and very enjoyable. I liked how you described Arthur's reaction to finding out Merlin is a sorcerer, a tantrum, a week of not talking, and a week of taunting him. I can so imagine Arthur doing that.
And what I liked best was the matching dress Merlin wore...
Very well done.
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:47 am (UTC)
Glad you liked it! And I figure, given time to properly react to the magic thing, Arthur would throw a few tantrums - in some respects he hasn't really aged past the terrible twos, after all. ;P
giecast
Apr. 20th, 2010 08:10 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this story. I love Merlin's voice here and how he couldn't quite refuse Arthur even if he didn't know what he's doing exactly. And great use of the glass slippers as conduit for the enchantment. It's great fun all around! Thanks for sharing.
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
I really wanted to use the glass slippers in this story, from the beginning; I've always had a problem understanding how they would work, if they weren't obviously magical. And of course they gave Merlin more to freak out about. ;D Glad you enjoyed Merlin's narration!
flaggerbasted
Apr. 20th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC)
That was a indeed a very fluffy and lovely strory that made my morning much better. Thank you!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
Yay, glad I could help!
fishwrites
Apr. 20th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC)
This is a fantastic read! I love the canon!twist on the fairy tale, especially how Merlin's magic made his and Arthur's clothing *match* - squee! That was just too cuuuute! *dances happily*

The pacing was awesome, characterisation spot on (I thought Morgana was particularly well done) and the dialogue! <3 I quite like your little omc too, I think he should have an reappearance somehow. :D

Love it!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
Well it's Merlin's magic, so of *course* it would make them match. XD

Characterization is always my main concern in fics, so I'm relieved to know I succeeded. The fun thing about Morgana is that I didn't even intend for her to be in it - she held a coup. Glad you liked Winston too, the poor guy. ;D
claddagh_girl
Apr. 20th, 2010 09:34 am (UTC)
Best version of Cinderella I've ever read. Hee! Loved it.
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! *huge grin*
shutupeccles
Apr. 20th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
Wonderful, from Merlin's fascination with his billowing sleeves through Morgana's reaction to Arthur simply putting the slipper on him, marvelous!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
Heh, yes, the sleeves. XD Glad you liked it!
neon_footprint
Apr. 20th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)
Awww :)

I like your Morgana very much!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)
Awww, thanks!

She wasn't even supposed to be in it, originally - she sort of took over. But, Morgana is <3, so that's OK. :D
hungry_bkworm91
Apr. 20th, 2010 12:26 pm (UTC)
heehee! So cute!
LOVE it!
Best take on the cinderella story EVER! *g*

and I love the epilogue! Brilliant!
"...Er." LOL!
And Morgana's reaction too =P

This whole fic was utterly adorable and really funny! Well done!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
Hee, thank you! *ridiculous grin* I think the epilogue might be my favourite part, now that it's done - but the whole fic was just fun to write. ;P
nightingale_r3
Apr. 20th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
That was just lovely :)
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! :D
hermitknut
Apr. 20th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
I loved this :D :D *laughs for a ridiculously long time*
hehehehe. Genius. :D I liked Morgana's reaction, I'm guessing she had figured out that Arthur liked Merlin? *giggles* I like Winston, too. :)
ahhh, excuse me while I go laugh more. :D
- HK.
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
Oh, she definitely knew. Morgana is omniscient, after all. ;P

Glad you liked Winston!
zephre
Apr. 20th, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
really entertaining! well done~
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you!
lamentalone
Apr. 20th, 2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
This was adorable. And very amusing. :)
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:09 am (UTC)
Hee, glad to amuse. ^^ Thanks for the comment!
peachpai
Apr. 20th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
Only Merlin could get himself into such a predicament. XDD That was tons of fun to read!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:10 am (UTC)
Heh, yep, Merlin's rather perfect for these things. XD Thanks, it was fun to write too!
misanagi
Apr. 20th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
I really loved this. You have a talent for humor and I think you did a great job with this.
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:11 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you. That's great to hear. <3
mangacat201
Apr. 20th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC)
MAWEHWAEHEWAHEWAHWEHEWHEwaHewahEWHEwHewhewhewhewhew.... OH MY GOD; THAT WAS RATHER FABULOUS AND WILL GO MEMS: seriuosly. GOD seriously.
Cat
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
Yay, I get capslock! :DD Thanks!
(no subject) - mangacat201 - Apr. 21st, 2010 12:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
micheleeeex
Apr. 20th, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
ahah. i love this!
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:13 am (UTC)
Glad you liked!
lupus_malus
Apr. 20th, 2010 10:25 pm (UTC)
Most enjoyable.
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
Thanks!
special_schizo
Apr. 20th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
I should've gone to bed already, but lordy, this was too good to stop reading. I've been feeling a bit down and this (well, this combined with Summer of '69 - thoroughly recommend) made me grin like an absolute idiot. It's been way too long since I read Merlin fic and this one was just perfect to come back to. So many great moments (particularly loved the rants about impractical glass slippers, because I'm odd and am bothered by such things), and you managed to get the character voices spot on, which is brilliant in every way. Oh, and you wrote a genderbend that I read quite happily (possibly even with a spot of glee), which has only been accomplished, er, once? twice? before?

In short, love it, and I only wish there was more. And grammar is just a plaything when it comes to these things, so there. :P
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)
Aww, glad I could help - in my opinion, Merlin fic (and the show itself, for that matter) exists solely to cheer people up. ;) And depriving folk of sleep is possibly the best compliment I could receive, so thank you for that!

Heh, grammar. I think one of the best things about writing fic is that you get to throw grammar rules out the window, as long as it sounds good. It's so freeing~
eosrose
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:08 am (UTC)
Hahahahaha! Oh, where have you been all my life? This is wonderful. ♥
whitefox_69
Apr. 21st, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
*grins rather maniacally* Thank you so much! Apparently I do come out with decent stuff when exam-stressing. ;P
sinka
Apr. 21st, 2010 11:25 am (UTC)
This story is so cute and funny that I want to hold it and never let it go!! It's amazing how managed to make Cinderella canon, it fits perfectly!! I'm really looking forward to whatever more merlin/arthur stories your mind will create in the future!!
whitefox_69
Apr. 22nd, 2010 01:09 am (UTC)
Aww, thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! It'd be great if stories were huggable, this would for sure be one of the squishiest ones out there. ;D

I'll for sure be writing more in this fandom (I just got the DVDs yesterday! *squee*), just have to abuse the muse a bit first. :P
archaeologist_d
Apr. 21st, 2010 12:05 pm (UTC)
That was adorable. Loved how Merlin did it by mistake the first time and then getting trapped into going the other two nights. Loved how Arthur figured it out and was more amused than upset. Great job. Loved it.
whitefox_69
Apr. 22nd, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)
Heh, yeah, I figure Arthur must've learned long ago to be amused by Merlin's...problems, or he'd have gone crazy by now. He's a good sport, Arthur is. XD

Glad you liked it, and thanks for commenting!
owlrigh
Apr. 21st, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
(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.)

HILARIOUS.

This story's fantastic. I love your voice. This had me grinning all the way through.
whitefox_69
Apr. 22nd, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
Yay, I'm glad you enjoyed that part - I was quite fond of it, but all the way through I was half afraid my old English prof would somehow find out and shoot me for it. XD Good to know it emerged with enough coherence to make sense. ^^

Thanks for the comment!

bizarre_esque
Apr. 21st, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
This is gorgeous! I laughed my ass off xD And all all teary-eyed-and-smiling-like-a-loon <3
It's great to read something like this again ♥

*mems*
whitefox_69
Apr. 22nd, 2010 01:26 am (UTC)
*joins in smiling-like-a-loon* Thank you! I'm so glad you liked it!
meine_liebe
Apr. 22nd, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
ROTFL I LOVE YOU
this. is brilliant.
whitefox_69
Apr. 22nd, 2010 08:04 pm (UTC)
Yay, I'm so glad you liked it! Thanks for the comment!
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