brbsoulnomming: (merlin)
Bri ([personal profile] brbsoulnomming) wrote2009-04-29 05:02 am

Merlin fic - I'm Colorblind, Kid

Eeeee! First Merlin fic! *nervousnervous*

Title: I'm Colorblind, Kid
Rating: R, to be safe
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Warnings/Spoilers: Season 1 in general, slightly more specific references to The Labyrinth of Gedref and Le Morte d'Arthur
Summary: "It figures that even as a dog, you’d be a prat." Arthur gets turned into a dog, and is the worst pet Merlin's ever had, despite being completely adorable. Or something like that. There might be some plot, I'm not entirely sure.
Wordcount: ~13,800, in two parts
A/N: Betaed by [livejournal.com profile] coffeeordeath, any remaining mistakes are all mine! This was meant to be slightly more cracky, and short, but somehow it just kind of evolved and kept going. And got a few bits of emo injected in it. Oops?


In retrospect, it’s extremely lucky that Uther’s there at the time. (Whatever else becomes of what happened, Merlin will always remember it as one of the few times he’s been happy to be around Uther at all and the only time he’s ever been glad to have Uther present at a time involving magic.)

Early in the morning (far earlier than anyone should be awake, in Merlin’s opinion), a messenger comes to Camelot from one of the villages a few hours’ ride from the castle. He tells Uther of the desperate situation of his village, how most of their crops have mysteriously died, withered away into nothing or flattened onto the ground in circles. The last plague against Camelot is apparently still fresh in Uther’s mind, as he decides he and Arthur will ride out as soon as it is light, taking Gaius and Merlin with them.

The morning is cold, and Merlin ends up spending quite a bit of time trying to wrap his cloak tightly around him while not falling off the horse. About half an hour into the ride, Arthur pulls his horse back to ride alongside Merlin, which apparently is a cue for Gaius to move ahead, next to Uther. Uther and Gaius start conversing in tones that are as hushed as possible while on horseback. They’re quiet enough that Merlin can’t hear them, anyway, so he turns towards Arthur.

He’s vaguely planning on asking Arthur if he’s positive he hasn’t killed any unicorns lately, but the question dies on his lips when he gets a good look at Arthur. The prince is tense in his saddle, expression closed off and carefully neutral, and Merlin knows Arthur’s already thinking of that on his own.

So instead, he says, “Bet you anything it’s a hoax.”

Arthur’s eyes flick over to him. “What makes you say that?”

“It’s an old trick, some of the boys in villages around Ealdor played it,” Merlin says, managing to sound fairly convincing for all that he’s making this up as he goes. “Flatten all the wheat into shapes, or circles, and claim some sorcerer did it.”

Arthur raises one eyebrow, skeptical. “Why on earth would anyone do that?”

“For attention,” Merlin replies, growing more confident in his story. “Or just for laughs. See how many castle folk and nobles you can get believing you and spreading rumors about magic crop circles.”

Arthur stares at him for a moment, then gives a satisfied nod. “Well. That solves that question, then.”

“What question?” Merlin asks.

“Why you spend so much time in the stocks,” Arthur says. “If you country boys find amusement in flattening crops into circles, you must be thrilled by getting pelted with vegetables.”

Merlin scowls. “See if I trust you with important village secrets ever again,” he says, but Arthur’s jaw isn’t set as tight any more and there’s amusement in his eyes, so Merlin considers the mission successful.

It turns out that Merlin’s wrong. Though there isn’t quite the decimation the messenger claimed there was, there are indeed large swaths of crops crushed down, and the people of the village are clearly panicked over it. Moreover, the area around the ruined crops feels – wrong, somehow, in a way that makes Merlin uneasy standing close to them.

Uther spends a few moments talking with the village head, then leaves their horses with the guards that had accompanied them while he, Arthur, and Gaius head over the hill and out into the thick of the destroyed crops. Merlin follows, the feeling of unease growing and leaving him constantly looking over his shoulder.

It’s only because of this that he sees her, a young woman standing amongst the few remaining healthy crops and glaring at them while Gaius is collecting samples.

Merlin starts to say something, to warn them, but she’s next to them in a blink of an eye, gesturing at them. Merlin reacts immediately, knocking Arthur to the ground. Some kind of green fire blooms above them, close enough that Merlin can feel the searing heat against his back. He presses himself closer against Arthur, attempting to shield the prince with his body (which, normally, would be very interested in his current position, but the combination of a murderous sorceress, Uther and Gaius standing a few feet away, and the very real chance of being burned to death by magic fire seem to have put a damper on that).

The heat stops relatively quickly, and Arthur shoves Merlin off of him and jumps up, hand reaching for his sword. Merlin stands as well, chest tight and heart beating wildly. It’s only when he sees the sorceress collapsed on the ground with the hilt of Uther’s dagger sticking out from her back that Merlin allows himself to feel both relief and belated terror of what could have happened.

Merlin wants to make certain Arthur’s unharmed, but Uther’s looking at Merlin in this odd way that Merlin recognizes, and last saw right before he was made Arthur’s manservant. Most of his relief fades and turns to panic as he tries to think of what more Uther can reward him with.

Before Uther can say anything, though, there’s a flash of light bright enough that Merlin’s temporarily blinded. When he stops seeing spots, the witch is standing up (apparently much less dead than they had thought) and pointing at Arthur. Uther lunges for her and she screams at him, then disappears. Uther draws up short, looking furious.

“We must go after her. Ar –” Uther cuts off as he spins to look at Arthur, fury changing to horror.

Dread fills Merlin, and for a long moment he just stands there, not wanting to see what’s happened. Finally he turns, and sees that Arthur’s gone. Just, completely gone, although there is a large pile of his clothes and cloak on the ground. Tangled up in them is a large golden dog, who seems to be unconscious. Merlin stares numbly at the dog until Uther shoves past him, carefully wrapping the dog – Arthur – in Arthur’s cloak.

“No one is to know about this,” Uther snaps. “He was – injured, by the witch, and can take no visitors.”

“I will make sure of it, sire,” Gaius says.

“You will stay with him,” Uther tells Merlin. “If you allow anyone to see th–” He stops, teeth grinding. “Do not leave his side until I find this witch. I will execute her myself.”

Merlin must have stammered out his agreement, or maybe Uther didn’t wait to hear it, because Uther’s moving back to the horses. The ride back is tense and silent, and Arthur stays unconscious the entire time. It seems to go much faster than the journey to the village, and before Merlin realizes it, he finds himself in Arthur’s chambers, alone with the sleeping Arthur-dog and with orders to send for Gaius as soon as Arthur awakes.

“This is really not good,” Merlin tells Arthur.

There’s no answer, though Merlin wasn’t expecting one, and Merlin pulls a chair up next to Arthur’s bed to wait. It doesn’t take long before Arthur stirs, stretches, and then looks around.

“Arthur?” Merlin asks, hesitantly.

Arthur swings his head around to look at him, but doesn’t say anything and Merlin finds himself deflating a little. He supposes it would be too much to hope for, that the sorceress would have turned Arthur into a talking dog.

“Are you, um. All right?” Merlin says, rather lamely.

Arthur gives him this look. It’s a very familiar look, one that says Merlin’s being an idiot, and though it’s not quite the same as the look human Arthur gives him and is a little unsettling on a dog, in an odd way it reassures Merlin a bit. At least Arthur still seems to be somewhat himself.

“Shut up,” Merlin tells him.

Arthur turns away from him and stretches again, then jumps off the bed. Merlin stands, stepping towards him to get a closer look. Arthur as a dog is big, possibly one of the biggest dogs Merlin’s seen (his head comes past Merlin’s waist, and Merlin figures if Arthur stood on his hind legs, they might be about the same height), and built sturdy, muscular even in dog form. He’s golden in color, a slightly different shade than his hair, and his fur looks soft and thick, like the perfect length to bury fingers in. Merlin finds himself reaching to do just that and stops himself, locking his hands firmly behind his back.

“I’m supposed to send for Gaius,” Merlin says. “Just – wait here a moment, all right?”

He darts out to tell the servant waiting outside Arthur’s chambers that Gaius is needed, then returns to Arthur’s side. Arthur hasn’t moved, and he eyes Merlin as Merlin sits back down in the chair. They wait in silence until Gaius arrives, and Merlin immediately stands to corner him.

“Have they found her? Have you found anything? What have you told people about what happened?” Merlin asks.

“Settle down, Merlin,” Gaius says absently, kneeling down to examine Arthur.

Arthur holds still and lets him, looking infinitely more patient than Merlin himself is feeling.

“I’ve told the court that Arthur’s injuries are serious and at a grave risk for infection, but will heal up fine as long as he isn’t exposed to anyone,” Gaius says when he’s finished. “That will keep everyone satisfied for now. As for the rest of it, we’re working as quickly as possible. You’ll know of any new information as soon as I do.”

Merlin thinks this is entirely unfair, and says so.

Gaius just looks at him. “Arthur needs you right now,” he says. “You must take care of him.”

“I always take care of him,” Merlin replies, resisting the urge to pout.

“Then you shouldn’t have any difficulty doing so now,” Gaius says, already heading out the door.


~*~



That night, Arthur refuses to sleep. Merlin supposes he can’t really blame him, since he’s not entirely sure how well he’d do at sleeping about twelve hours after being turned into a dog. But Arthur has a nice, big, warm, soft bed all to himself, and Merlin’s got a bedroll stretched out on cold, hard stone, so he’s finding it a little hard to be sympathetic. Arthur’s obsessive thrashing, the sound of hard nails scratching against the sheets, and the frequent irritated puppy noises coming from Arthur’s bed are making it even more difficult to sleep.

Finally, Merlin gets up to stoke the embers in the fireplace, building up a fire again in the hopes that the added warmth will make Arthur fall asleep. It doesn’t; it just makes him give a short, clipped bark.

Merlin turns to face the bed, irritated. “It figures that even as a dog, you’d be a prat,” he informs the lump of blankets.

The lump shifts, and Arthur’s nose peeks out from underneath the blankets. Merlin can just barely see it in the light of the fire, and he does not find it cute. Not at all.

“You are not cute,” he says, feeling the need to stress that out loud as well as in his mind. “You are the opposite of cute, and you are going to shut up and let me sleep.”

Arthur gives what can only be described as a pathetic whimper (and Merlin promises himself to never, ever stop teasing Arthur about that, once all of this is done), and wiggles forward, freeing the rest of his muzzle and his eyes from the blankets. He fixes a pleading gaze on Merlin, and despite his best wishes, Merlin finds some of his irritation vanishing. “Oh, all right. But I want you to remember that this is under protest.”

Merlin crosses the room and sits down on the edge of the bed, hesitantly resting his hand on top of the blankets covering the rest of Arthur’s head. A section of the blankets starts moving slowly, and it takes Merlin a few seconds to realize that Arthur’s wagging his tail. Arthur scoots forward a little more, resting his head on Merlin’s leg and looking up at him. After another moment of internal debating, weighing just how likely it is that Merlin’ll end up in the stocks again if Arthur remembers this when he turns back against the weight of Arthur’s (literal) puppy dog eyes, Merlin moves his hand to scratch behind Arthur’s ears.

The response is a huff of warm breath against his knee and a contented murmur as Arthur’s eyes slip shut. Soon, Arthur’s breathing slows, becomes heavy, and Merlin allows himself to hope that Arthur’s asleep. Merlin holds perfectly still, slowly petting Arthur’s head (he’s too tired to think about how odd that sounds), until he’s almost positive that Arthur’s sleeping. Then he very carefully shifts, sliding his knee out from under Arthur’s muzzle. Arthur makes a sleepy, disgruntled noise and Merlin freezes.

Arthur’s eyes open again and glare at him. If Merlin had any doubts that this was Arthur (which he doesn’t, really, since he was there when it happened, but still), he absolutely doesn’t have any now. That look is entirely Arthur, arrogant and annoyed, and Merlin finds himself rolling his eyes.

“I am not sitting here all night,” Merlin says, standing up to prove his point.

Arthur barks again, and Merlin hastily sits back down. Somehow, even as a dog, Arthur manages to look smug, and Merlin glares at him.

“Don’t do that,” he hisses through clenched teeth. “Don’t you think people will start to wonder why someone as gravely injured as you’re supposed to be is allowed to have a barking dog in his room?”

Arthur chooses to respond to this by pushing his cold nose against Merlin’s hand. Merlin groans and flops back against the pillows. He’s so tired his eyes close by themselves, and then he grins.

“Fine,” he comments, burrowing under the blankets in defiance. “But I’m sleeping here.”

Merlin expects some kind of protest, maybe even another bark, but instead Arthur just shifts a little closer to him. Merlin curls up for warmth, back facing Arthur, and suddenly Arthur’s just – snuggling up against his back, as close as he can possibly get. Arthur’s muzzle presses against the back of Merlin’s neck, nose resting against the back of his head so that Merlin’s hair ruffles a bit every time Arthur exhales. Merlin starts to open his mouth to, to complain, or comment on the absolute, complete weirdness that is this, but Arthur’s warm against his back and the bed is ridiculously soft, and Merlin finds himself falling asleep before he can even formulate what he’s really going to say.


~*~



Arthur apparently likes jumping on people. The first full day he’s a dog, he does it quite a lot. When Merlin goes to the privy, Arthur jumps on him when he comes out. When Merlin goes into the outer chambers to retrieve the food that a servant has left by the outer door, Arthur jumps up on him when he returns to the inner chambers (which is the most irritating one, since it means he’s forced to balance the food and attempt to dodge a great big dog pawing at him). Sometimes when Merlin’s just standing across the room from him, Arthur darts over and plants his paws on Merlin’s chest.

It seems to be an expression of excitement, considering his tail’s always wagging at a speed Merlin didn’t think possible, but Merlin can’t get over the fact that Arthur likes jumping on people and finds it a bit traumatizing every time Arthur does it to him. Well, okay, traumatizing and slightly amusing. He’s leaning towards being more amused than traumatized (especially when he discovers that the only thing that will stop the jumping is getting down on the floor to tousle Arthur’s ears and wrestle with him a bit, which puts Arthur right on the road to being amusing, entertaining, and even just a little bit endearing). Then Merlin realizes he’s not sure if it’s people Arthur likes jumping on, or just Merlin himself, as Merlin’s the only person allowed to see Arthur at the moment. Well, aside from the few times a day Merlin takes Arthur outside of the castle to do dog-like things, but Merlin rushes him quickly through the corridors and doesn’t allow anyone to get too close. It helps that Merlin’s gotten quite good at a nice little “you don’t notice me, nothing to see here” charm.

Anyway, Merlin’s point is proven on the morning of the second day, when Gaius pulls himself away from researching to make a visit to Arthur’s chambers, keeping up the “Arthur is seriously injured” cover story. Arthur makes no move to jump on Gaius, and is the picture of a well-mannered, princely puppy.

You should be the one to take care of him,” Merlin grumbles, concluding that Arthur only jumps on him to get dirty pawprints on Merlin’s favorite shirt. “He behaves around you.”

Gaius raises one eyebrow and looks over to where Arthur is sitting calmly by his bed. “You mean he isn’t normally like this?”

“No!” Merlin replies indignantly, ignoring the obvious sarcastic response in favor of getting to complain to another human. “He’s, he’s irritating, and loud, and he keeps looking at me in this ridiculously smug way.”

The corners of Gaius’s mouth twitch. “He’s a dog, Merlin. Dogs can’t look smug.”

“He’s not just a dog, he’s Arthur,” Merlin protests, but he can see Gaius is losing a battle with his smile, so Merlin gives up.

Gaius goes over to take a brief look at Arthur, then nods and returns to Merlin’s side.

“Well, there hasn’t been any change,” Gaius says.

Merlin blinks, thinking he could have told him that. “Was there supposed to be?”

Gaius shrugs one shoulder. “I’d hoped…Well, no matter. I have a few promising leads, but it’ll take some more looking into. I’ve brought up some books for you, along with some of your things.” He nods at the leather bag he’d deposited by the door on his arrival. “With you being stuck in here all day, it’s the perfect time to do some research. Uther won’t be coming here.”

Merlin’s not surprised by that. He imagines that Uther doesn’t want to think about how magic is affecting his son, and that if he can distance himself from the situation, he can pretend it’s not happening. A darker part of Merlin says that if Uther is distancing himself from what’s happening, he can distance himself from the potentially negative outcomes, but Merlin doesn’t allow himself to dwell on that thought. “At least it’ll be something to do,” Merlin says in response to the books.

“But if you get the books back with pawprints on them, it’s not my fault,” he adds sulkily as Gaius leaves.


~*~



Merlin discovers that it’s exceedingly difficult to do any form of reading with Arthur around. Well, no, actually, he doesn’t discover that, seeing as he knew that before, but he does discover that it’s even worse when Arthur is around and a dog.

Yesterday, Arthur seemed to be mostly content to stay in the room, as long as he could pounce on Merlin and wrestle around with him a bit. But today, Arthur’s got cabin fever, or maybe he’s just extremely displeased that Merlin is paying more attention to some musty old books than him. Whatever the reason, he’s restless, pacing around the room and pawing randomly at Merlin in an attempt to get his attention.

When that fails, Arthur apparently decides that the best way to amuse himself is to run frantically around his chambers, over his bed and around the table and back again in endless loops. For some reason, this proves to be the most distracting Arthur has ever been (possibly because he’s a very noisy runner as a dog) and Merlin finds himself repeatedly watching Arthur have his little freak-out, or whatever it is.

Sometime during all the running, Arthur manages to find a hard leather ball. Merlin’s seen it before, when Arthur injured his hand and Gaius had him do some kind of exercises with it. Hopefully Gaius has more, because by the time Merlin realizes Arthur’s found it, the ball is covered with saliva and definitely looking worse for the wear.

Merlin isn’t terribly pleased with this, although really, that’s only because the way Merlin discovers Arthur has the ball is when Arthur drops it into his lap. Merlin jumps, startled out of his book reading, and stares at the ball in his lap. He looks up at Arthur, who’s standing by the chair with a pleased expression. Merlin absolutely does not want to touch the ball, but he doesn’t want it sitting in his lap either, so he picks it up with a grimace and chucks it away.

Arthur goes chasing after it, and returns a moment later to drop it in his lap again. Merlin groans.

“Oh, this is so not happening. I have work to do! Don’t you want to be human again?” Merlin asks.

Arthur bows his head, crouching down slightly with his butt sticking up in the air while his tail wags enthusiastically.

Merlin can’t help but be charmed. “Why do you have to be adorable in every form?” he asks, throwing the ball again.

Arthur adores this new game, and he’s so obviously happy about it that Merlin finds himself throwing the ball until his arm feels like it’s going to fall off. Fortunately, early in the evening, Arthur finally seems to get tired. He retreats to the rug in front of the fire, stretching out to sleep. Merlin looks longingly at the warm fire, but goes to sit at the table and resumes his reading.

The room grows cold as night sets in. Merlin gives up on researching at the table when he realizes his teeth are chattering, and makes for the bed with his current book. He arranges the pillows so he can sit comfortably against them, pulls the covers up around his waist, and rests the book in his lap. Arthur looks up at him from his position by the fire, but doesn’t move, and Merlin turns his full attention to the book.

At least until he leans forward, examining a passage closer, and suddenly finds Arthur on the bed with him. Before he can react, Arthur darts behind him. He wriggles around, settling himself more comfortably, until he’s sandwiched between Merlin and the stack of fluffy pillows. Merlin’s now completely unable to lean back again, stuck hunched over the book. He blinks, then turns slightly to stare at Arthur.

“How on earth is that comfortable?” Merlin asks.

Arthur responds by wagging his tail slightly and settling his head on his forepaws.

“I hate you,” Merlin grumbles, then vindictively scoots an inch or two forward and leans back against Arthur like he would the pillows.

Arthur gives a contented little huff of air and wags his tail again. Merlin scowls. That is entirely unfair. Arthur is supposed to be utterly crushed by Merlin’s retaliation, or at least visibly upset, not giving him happy puppy looks. Merlin sighs and resigns himself to the new position, pulling his knees up and propping the book against his thighs. He has to admit that his back is warmer now (which, he concludes, is probably why Arthur decided that squishing himself between Merlin and the pillows was the most comfortable place ever).

“I bet you’re nice and warm now. Which also isn’t fair. Of the two of us, who’s got the nice coat of fur?” Merlin asks, but said coat of fur is thick and soft against Merlin’s back, and the warmth and Arthur’s steady breathing are calming enough that Merlin doesn’t even sound irritated.

There’s no reaction from Arthur, and Merlin assumes that he’s already fallen asleep. Merlin sighs, trying not to feel discouraged and lonely. He focuses on Arthur’s breathing in an attempt to remind himself that he’s not alone, that Arthur is right there, but he’s only moderately successful, so he throws himself back into researching. He reads until the words start blurring together and swimming around the pages and his eyes keep shutting by themselves and taking longer and longer to convince to open again. Then he gives up, and is tired enough that he just checks to make sure Arthur is sleeping before floating the book over to the table and causing a gust of wind to blow out the candles.

He snuggles under the covers, using the still sleeping Arthur as a pillow, and takes a moment to be mildly concerned about getting used to the soft mattress and quality linens just in time to have to go back to his own bed. He’ll just have to make sure Arthur’s back before that happens. Merlin’s already been spoiled having a mattress at all, he’ll have to mock himself forever if he gets used royal finery and forgets that sleeping on the floor was once the most comfortable thing he ever knew.

He’s just about on the verge of sleep when Arthur registers that Merlin has moved. This is apparently unacceptable, because Arthur makes a displeased sound and stands, causing Merlin’s head to drop down on the bed. Merlin pushes himself up on his elbows and glares at Arthur as Arthur worms his way under the blankets. Arthur is unperturbed, so Merlin rolls his eyes and rearranges the pillows so he can lie back against them. Arthur settles himself at Merlin’s side under the blankets, head on Merlin’s shoulder and one paw on his chest.

Merlin considers making some comment about how only Merlin’s allowed to be used as a pillow, or that Arthur’s still single mindedly concerned with his own comfort, but he knows he’ll get no response. He’s not even sure Arthur’ll understand him, which takes all of the fun out of it and makes it seem just pointless and kind of depressing. Instead, Merlin just drapes an arm over Arthur’s neck and strokes absently through the fur on his back.


~*~



After a little bit of throwing the ball the next day, Arthur curls up for a nap and Merlin uses the time to make a quick visit to Gaius’s quarters. Merlin’s having no success in any of the books he’s looking at (the only mention of shape-shifting so far is people doing it intentionally, along with lots of warnings about the difficulty and level of danger), and he’s desperately hoping Gaius will have had more luck.

He hasn’t.

“Transforming something into another, especially changing a living creature into another, is infinitely complex. If the slightest thing were to go wrong – one tiny part not completely changed or changed in a slightly different way – the consequences would be dire,” Gaius tells him.

Merlin processes this, and tries to imagine what would have happened if Arthur’s spine had gone a little crooked, or his heart had been left too large or made a little too small. The thought makes him shiver and leaves him with a cold kind of anger. “She could’ve killed him. She could’ve been trying to kill him.”

“Given her first attempt, that seems to have been her intention,” Gaius replies grimly. “Though why she used a spell like this is a mystery.”

“Maybe she panicked, and it was the only one she could think of,” Merlin suggests, thinking of the times he’s rather conspicuously called on gusts of wind to knock heavy tree branches onto people when he could’ve easily made them trip or something, simply because the wind was the first thing he thought of. But it didn’t matter, at least not until Arthur was back. After that, Merlin would be quite ready to consider her intentions, and to make sure she considered it thoroughly as well. “There has to be some kind of reversing spell, doesn’t there? I mean, I turned a statue into a living dog and back, I have to be able to do this.”

“I have no doubt that you possess the power,” Gaius says. “But the spells I know of are ancient, and complicated. And while no harm could come to the statue with repeated attempts of the spell, miscasting a spell on Arthur –”

“Would not be good,” Merlin finishes, remember how long he spent practicing on the statue and wincing. “So – what, we just sit around and do nothing?”

“We research,” Gaius says. “Perhaps there’s a spell I’m not thinking of, or more information that can help us. Uther’s men are out searching for the sorceress, we can hope they find her quickly.”

“What good will that do?” Merlin asks grumpily. Researching and waiting for the sorceress to be found didn’t seem much better than doing nothing to him. “It isn’t as if she’ll just undo the spell if we ask.”

“An enchantment like this should end when the one who cast it is dead,” Gaius tells him.

“Oh,” Merlin says softly, and thinks that – for the first time he can remember – he’ll be glad to witness the execution of a magic user in Camelot.


Part 2