Title: Cheer Up, Emo Warlock!
Word Count: 850
Summary: Something is amiss in Camelot.
Notes: Playing icon prompts. Inspired by this icon.
Something is amiss in Camelot.
Something is making the fires burn less brightly and the fruit taste less sweet. Something has dimmed the luster on the jewels and gold. Something has made the girls’ smiles less merry and the boys’ laughter less jovial. In the practice fields, the knights stumble and fumble, and even Arthur loses his grasp on his sword and fails to throw daggers with his usual accuracy.
In his little room in Gaius’s quarters, young Merlin lies on his bed and submits to Gaius feeling his forehead for a fever and his throat for swollen glands. “You’re not sick,” says Gaius and Merlin flops dramatically onto his side.
The flowers throughout the castle wilt. The tapestries look unusually faded and frayed.
Arthur rides out to hunt and Merlin drags himself along behind. He can’t even smile encouragingly when Arthur fells a buck before sundown.
At the negotiating table, Uther loses his temper with one of his oldest friends, leaving the peace between their kingdoms in shambles for the first time in a decade. Morgana goes about the castle with the look of a cat who’s got the cream.
Merlin stays awake all night, writing poetry.
Arthur, Gaius and Gwen meet to compare notes. “It’s as if we’re under a spell,” says Gaius. “A curse of gloom and despair.”
“If that’s so, it’s a strange and mild magic,” says Arthur.
Gwen shakes her head, thoughtful. “I don’t think it’s magic.” She points to the closed door to Merlin’s little room, where in the quiet as they listen, they can hear Merlin softly singing.
They buried her in the old churchyard
Sweet William’s grave was neigh hers
And from his grave grew a red, red rose
From hers a cruel briar.
“He’s got a cold?” says Arthur, mystified.
“He’s got melancholia,” says Gwen. “He’s sad. It happens to everyone. There’s no reason to it. It just is.”
“But how can it be?” says Arthur. “How can it affect the entire court if it’s not a spell?”
“Sometimes,” says Gaius, “a feeling is so strong it touches all those around.”
Arthur exclaims, “Then we must discover what’s caused this melancholy and make Merlin happy!” and sits back, feeling very proud at having found a solution.
Gaius and Gwen look at each other with despair.
From morning to night, Arthur watches Merlin. He doesn’t appear to pine after any of the maids, as far as Arthur can see, nor to any of the pages. (Arthur prides himself on being a modern man, after all.) No one is abusive, no one is cruel. Everyone treats Merlin as they always do, with a genial sort of disinterest. He seems as like Merlin as ever, except there is no generous smile hovering on the edge of his mouth.
Arthur thinks about ordering Merlin to tell him what’s wrong, who’s been mistreating him, but he only says, “Good night, Merlin,” as Merlin closes the shutters and gathers Arthur’s abandoned clothes.
“Good night, sire,” says Merlin quietly, and for a moment the fire flares in the hearth.
Merlin pays it no mind but Arthur notices — notices and realizes like tumblers in a lock. “Merlin!”
Merlin turns to face him, eyes mild but there’s color in his cheeks. “You need something more, sire?”
Arthur says slowly, “Merlin. Cheer up.”
Merlin blinks at him. “Sire?”
“Cheer up. Be happy. I order you to be happy.”
“One can’t order emotions, sire. Not even you.”
Arthur leaves his bed and walks to Merlin, close enough so that their toes nearly touch, and the tips of their noses. He says quietly, “Merlin, I order that you cease this melancholy and be happy. Everything is just better when you are.”
“Better,” says Merlin, disbelieving.
“Better. I’m afraid if this gloomy mood continues the cows will refuse to give milk, the crops will be too depressed to grow and the sun will sulk instead of rise. So cheer up. For God’s sake. Whatever it is, it isn’t worth all of this.”
Merlin watches him warily, as if he expects Arthur to start foaming at the mouth and throwing dirt on his head. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
It is desperate times, thinks Arthur, because he is truly afraid that Merlin’s inexplicable sadness will affect every aspect of Camelot if it’s not curbed, and thus he acts out of desperation. (And maybe a little bit of selfishness.) He takes Merlin’s angular face in his hands and kisses Merlin’s unhappy mouth.
He can feel Merlin start to smile.
In the morning, the fires crackle cheerfully in the great hearths. Water tastes as sweet as cream, and the flowers on the tables bloom as if they were still out in the sun. Laundry snaps on the drying lines like dancers. There is laughter in the halls and a mellow good cheer from tower to village.
And Merlin has a smile in his eyes and sunshine in his face, and if only Arthur knows why, it’s a secret they’re both pleased to keep.