Merlin decides to hide Arthur so he can go consult with Gaius, which is going to be bloody hard to do since his prince and, you know, boyfriend, is now a cow, and he's being all bovine inside the castle. Merlin's plan is to take Arthur outside and if the guards find them first and wonder why there's this cow in the prince's room, Merlin is going to blame it on Arthur's knights drinking too much ale and making a silly bet.
But he's got to have a way of telling Arthur from the other cows, and leaving Arthur's pendant around his big cow neck would be giving away this secret, so he slips the necklace over his own head and hides it under his red kerchief and his slightly grimy shirt. Besides, he and Arthur have kissed, so he should be able to wear a token of Arthur's esteem. Well, he's pretty sure that Arthur esteems him. It's actually hard to tell the way Arthur can be such a prat of epic proportions towards him at times.
So Merlin picks up a bell that Arthur usually uses to summon him to polish boots or to make up the bed or to scrub his back. It's lying on the bedside table, and it's always been damn annoying to listen to because Arthur, when he was a human and not a cow, would ring it incessantly just so that Merlin would come and pay him some attention. Then he ties the bell around Arthur's neck, and Arthur gives a plaintive 'moo' at him and tries to shake it off, looking absolutely ridiculous.
But since Merlin has a kind soul, he pats Arthur and tells him he's going to help him, and ponders that um... maybe this would be a good time to confess that he's sort of, kind of, er, a sorcerer?
After all, Arthur can hardly lecture him or assign him extra duties as punishment for not sharing his secret. Or throw him in the dungeon or make him take a turn in the stocks, getting all sorts of rotten vegetables hurled at him.
Arthur takes the news quite well; he just lows and stares at him with those big Uther eyes of his.
Merlin supposes this is the silver lining to his boyfriend turning into a cow.
So, he does sneak Arthur out( that invisibility spell comes in quite handy, he's found) and takes him to the pasture outside the castle and leaves Arthur dejectedly eating grass.
And while Merlin is confessing to Gaius that he kissed Arthur because, well, he loves him, even if Arthur does act like a prat most of the time, and really Merlin should probably see a therapist about that, which is beside the point because now Arthur is a great big cow. Er, bull, because yes, Merlin did look.
And Gaius looks at him with his one droopy eye and sighs and then hugs him, and then spills the beans about the truth of Arthur's birth.
And then it's off to the deep, dark, deep cave to exchange a few words with the dragon, who laughs and belches fire for a good half hour before settling down and teaching Merlin the spell to change Arthur back into his disguise, or rather, back into a human.
Merlin was practicing the words to the spell in his head as he walked back to the pasture, ready to change the cow he loved back into a man, and really, would shagging Arthur count as bestiality?
But Arthur was gone. Only an enormous pile of bullshit was left at the place where Merlin had tethered the crown prince to a tree.
Feeling panicky, Merlin summoned his magic, and felt his eyes turning hot. He magnified the sound of the bell and made the notes freeze in the air so that he had a trail to follow.
And it was a bloody good thing that he did because when he found his boyfriend, Arthur's balls were about to hit the endangered species list.
All this time while waiting for Merlin -- who was a bleeding sorcerer, and Arthur planned to noogie Merlin into crying uncle for not telling Arthur about this till he'd been turned into a bull -- Arthur had been having furious conversations with Merlin and his father in his head.
Still, he was a bit hungry so no harm in snacking on a little grass. He was still berating his father while chewing his cud, because he just knew his father was at fault here, and well, arguing with Merlin was second nature to him now. Really, he was so looking forward to all the make-up sex he and Merlin would be having from now on.
So, yes, he wasn't paying as much attention as a Knight of Camelot should have been, and he didn't notice the rustlers sneaking up on him until it was too late and there was a rope around his neck.
"Look here at this fine cow," one of the rustlers said, and obviously as a rustler he sucked and was a moron, because, hello -- Arthur was obviously a bull, and a well hung one at that.
Was the man blind?
Still, fine cow was a bit of a compliment, wasn't it?
"We could sell that 'cow' and no one would be the wiser about what happened to it, if we did a little snipping and made him into a steer. If he was fattened up some, he'd fill the larder nicely when it's wintertime. I know someone who's a deft hand at castration, and then we can sell the beast at the market come Saturday." The other rustler was stroking his chin and looking thoughtful; he was obviously a much more clever bloke which meant Arthur was in real danger here.
Which is how Arthur found himself in a barn not too far away, and about to lose his balls.
He was mooing for all he was worth when Merlin blew the barn doors open and stalked in, eyes all glowing yellow, and really... that was kind of hot.
Merlin shouted some mumbo jumbo and the two rustlers and the fellow they'd asked to do the deed were knocked on their arses, and then some rope that had been hanging in the barn slithered over to them and proceeded to wrap all three up tighter than his father's royal purse.
Then Merlin, looking not quite so fierce, stood in front of him and said, "Now Arthur, will you promise that you won't tell your father I can do magic, and that you won't give me any punishments? The last time you sent me to the stocks it took forever to wash the stink of rotten potatoes from my hair, and I bloody well caught a cold from the dungeon."
Arthur mooed at him and tried to convey that, really, he was grateful that Merlin had saved his balls, and he was tired of being a cow, er, a bull, and he wanted to go back to kissing Merlin, which evidently had started this whole cow thing in the first place...
And Merlin made his eyes go all glowy and gold and... definitely, that was seriously hot -- and said a bunch of words that made no sense at all, and then there was a flash of light and Arthur gave one last moo before he passed right out.
When he woke up, he was himself again and the men who had cownapped him were gone.
And Merlin was being quite useful, since he was letting his lap be Arthur's pillow.
While he was drowsing, too comfortable to get up yet from his comfy boy pillow, Merlin explained that he'd warned the rustlers to leave the kingdom or else Uther would hang them for both cattle rustling and for almost ending the Pendragon line.
And then he gently explained about the small mistake that had been made at Arthur's birth, and how it had all been fixed until they'd shared True Love's First Kiss.
Which now that they'd gotten that out of the way, meant they could kiss and shag as much as they wanted and Arthur would remain the same old bully and prat that he'd always been.
Arthur supposed this was one of those experiences that contributed to character growth, and it was a bit hard to feel very regal when you'd been led by a rope around your neck and you'd been a bloody cow. And he'd been rescued by his very inept servant. Embarrassing, that was.
Well, Merlin was lousy at doing the royal chores, but he was a very good friend to have around. And they'd been doing something rather fun, before he'd been turned into a bloody cow, and he'd like to get back to where they'd left off.
"Merlin, you're really a terrible servant, you do know that, don't you? But you're a fantastic sorcerer and a cute boyfriend. And I know I'm a prat. But I'll try and not be such a jackass anymore. I suppose that if I am, you'll lift the spell and I'll be a bloody cow again."
Merlin started to shake his head no, but then he got a thoughtful look in his eyes, and Arthur decided it was time to distract him before he took what Arthur had just said too seriously.
So, he picked himself up, and then pulled Merlin up and started backing him towards a stall that was heaped up with clean, sweet-smelling hay.
And so ends this tale of enchantment and true love -- with a rather good roll in the hay.