Pairing(s)/Character(s): Arthur/Merlin, Morgana/Sophia, Lancelot/Gwen and others
Warnings: Graphic sexual content, swearing, horrible embarrassment, holidays with the family
Word Count: 7,656
Summary: Arthur and Merlin face various obstacles in the search for a semi-traditional family Christmas.
Author's Note: Happy Solstice! Thanks to 'V' for the beta.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fanfiction – none of this ever happened. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is made from this work. Please observe your local laws with regards to the age-limit and content of this work.
Merlin wakes up to a poster of The Smiths (Morrissey especially) staring soulfully at him. His brain takes approximately two minutes to process this as he looks around the rest of the room, noticing really red drapes, football trophies, and most notably his boyfriend’s arm slung over his chest.
The last bit wouldn’t necessarily been odd if they’d been at home, which they were not – they were Christmas guests at the Pendragon estate (more like bloody castle, Merlin spent an hour looking for the loo last night). Merlin lifts himself to a sitting position, jostling Arthur who grunts miserably and tries to drag a pillow unsuccessfully over his head.
“Arthur?” Merlin asks, and repeats the question (with a well aimed poke directly between two of Arthur’s ribs, until Arthur jerks up and glares at him through groggy eyes).
“Didn’t I fall asleep in the guest room?” Merlin remembers this very clearly. He’d thought how bloody comfortable the Pendragon guest beds were and was wondering if anyone would notice if he stole the comforter for their flat. Then he’d knocked his elbow sharply against a wooden gargoyle on one of the bed posts and spent a good fifteen minutes trying to understand the type of people that would want a wooden gargoyle on their bed and decided it explained absolutely everything about Arthur’s childhood.
Arthur looks as rumpled and attractive as he always does when he’s just woken up (because he’s a bastard like that). He also looks cagey, leading Merlin to be suspicious.
“The guest room?” Arthur asks innocently, covering a yawn with the back of his hand.
“Yes, you know the one, in the other wing of your father’s house, seeing as I’m betting this is your room.” He points to an entire wall covered with pictures of Arthur being successful at some sport with the same smug expression no matter if he was holding a blue ribbon, a first place trophy, or in one shot – a giant sword, posing like a character from Highlander.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Merlin.” Arthur clears his throat and shifts up onto his elbows with the same smug expression as in all the pictures.
“Did you—” Merlin has trouble choking out the last bit, so it comes out a bit garbled, but he at least means it to sound like, “Arthur Pendragon, did you bloody carry me?”
“You’re a very heavy sleeper,” Arthur points out, glancing thoughtfully at the sheet rucked around his middle. “I hit your head on the doorframe a couple of times and you didn’t even stir.”
“Arthur!” Merlin grabs Arthur’s shirt and part of his shoulder, drags him closer, and hisses, “Fireman’s hold or bridal?”
Arthur’s expression is cagey again.
“I’m going to murder you,” Merlin promises, letting Arthur go so that the prat thumps back against the mattress. Merlin groans and presses his palm against his forehead. It is Christmas Eve, he is staying at Uther Pendragon’s estate and there might be possible reports from all the stealthy servants (that have been popping out of nowhere and scaring the shit out of Merlin since he and Arthur arrived) of Arthur carrying him over the threshold of his childhood room.
“I don’t see what you’re getting so upset about. I didn’t want to wake you.” Arthur nudges Merlin’s leg under the covers with his foot.
Merlin turns to glare at Arthur over his shoulder. “You’re not the one that has to make an impression on your father. He made it very clear he wanted us in separate rooms.”
Arthur curls his lip stubbornly and it all becomes a bit clearer. “Separate fucking wings.”
“Oh god, it’s not a gay thing – you know it’s not a gay thing! He’d be pretty fucked with you and Morgana if it was a gay thing!” Merlin turns on the bed and rakes his fingers through his hair. He lets out a frustrated noise. “Arthur, loads of parents don’t want their kids having sex in their house. Not everyone is my mum and leaves condoms under the door –” Which really, if her plan was for them not to have sex, reminding them that Merlin’s mum would know sure worked like a charm.
“He didn’t even ask, he ordered,” Arthur growls and lifts up to a sitting position, wrapping an arm around his knee.
“Well.” Merlin shrugs. “That’s your father.”
“It’s supposed to be a fucking family Christmas.” Arthur points a finger at Merlin and jabs him in the chest. “You are my live-in boyfriend of two years and I can’t sleep in the same room as you? It’s bullshit!”
“Arthur,” Merlin sighs and rubs his chest where Arthur jabbed, “do you think you might be possibly projecting a wee bit here?”
Arthur’s eyes narrow and he gets a very determined expression. That can’t be good.
“I’m going to blow you.”
Definitely not good.
“No!” Merlin attempts to scramble off the bed, but gets tangled in the sheets instead. “Arthur! You are not seventeen and I am not some teenage rebellion – I am going to sneak, carefully, back to my own room and we are never to speak of—nggh,” Merlin can’t really finish that sentence, with Arthur’s hand wrapped around his dick. Arthur looks insufferably smug again as he pushes Merlin back onto the bed and tugs down his pyjama bottoms.
There’s really no dealing with Arthur when he’s like this and it is very hard to argue against Arthur’s hot, wet mouth wrapping around the head of Merlin’s cock, his hand pressing Merlin’s hip down onto the mattress.
Merlin tries staring at the ceiling and biting his lip to muffle the noises he always makes when Arthur swipes his tongue halfway down his cock and then swallows him down, sloppily, making slurping noises that seem to echo in the silence of the early morning.
Merlin plans on coming as soon as possible (even if he’ll never hear the end of it) so they can get this over with and start behaving like adults, but Arthur is putting a full class effort into this, his fingers tugging at the skin between Merlin’s balls and bloody humming.
Merlin settles for letting out breathy pants of air and threading his fingers through Arthur’s bed-rumpled hair. He looks amazing like this, concentrated on his goal of sucking Merlin off (lips wet, red and stretched), his thumb stroking Merlin’s hipbone absently while his other hand wraps around the base of Merlin’s dick and Arthur moves up and down the shaft.
Which is the exact moment the door to Arthur’s room opens, Uther Pendragon steps in, saying, “I was thinking we’d have some kind of brunch buffet, do you know if Merlin eats—”, freezes in place (and Merlin and Arthur, unfortunately still with Merlin’s dick in Arthur’s mouth, freeze as well), finishes with “crepes,” and turns around in one movement, shutting the door behind him.
Arthur removes his mouth from Merlin’s cock with a pop and says, “Bugger.”
Merlin groans and covers his face with his arm. He loves crepes.
An hour after Arthur is caught with his mouth wrapped around Merlin’s dick, his father calls him into his home office to say, “I’m afraid pressing business with Japan came up and I’ll be in teleconference meetings all weekend.”
Which is how they end up in Arthur’s silver BMW 3-Series heading towards Hunith’s place.
“So your mum will be thrilled we’re spending the Holidays with her after all?” Arthur tries, but Merlin is still glaring quite forcefully at the dashboard and giving Arthur the silent treatment. “I didn’t plan on him walking in, you know,” Arthur starts, “it was supposed to be – I don’t know, symbolic.”
Merlin turns his head slowly and Arthur catches the disbelieving expression from the corner of his eye (he has to focus on the road as a bloody lorry tries to cut him off), “A symbolic… blow job?”
“You know what I mean!” Arthur snaps and adjusts the volume on the radio (every station playing Christmas classics) from his steering wheel control. “Shut up.”
Merlin luckily doesn’t respond with the fact that he’d been quiet for over a half hour (not including the icy silence while he was helping Arthur pack), but mumbles something probably insulting under his breath.
“You love spending Christmas with your mum,” Arthur points out and taps his fingers against the steering wheel to the percussion section of Sleigh Ride. “Think of this as a way of making it happen.”
Arthur hears the way Merlin’s head snaps towards him. “I wanted to spend a Christmas with your family for once.”
“You wanted my father’s theatre room,” Arthur scoffs, hitting the right point, because Merlin crosses his arms and sinks into his seat, sulking.
“Mum’s telly is as big as his remote control! I am not watching David Tennant’s last performance as the Doctor on that thing.”
“We’re recording it,” Arthur sighs and switches lanes to overtake an ambling grey Volkswagen. “We can always curl up on the couch and watch it at home.”
“And eat beans on toast like we do every bloody weekend,” Merlin groans and covers his face with his hands. “We cannot be this boring yet. I am too young to be this boring.”
“We’re not boring,” Arthur grins at him, “we just got caught by my father in flagrante delicto.” He barely avoids the smack Merlin aims at him. “I’m driving – watch it.”
Merlin leans back in his seat and crosses his leg so his foot is resting against the dashboard. “I should have predicted this would happen. If Doctor Who has taught us anything it’s that Christmastime is a time for disaster.”
Arthur resists rolling his eyes, because it’s only an excuse for Merlin to go into a long rant about why David Tennant’s Doctor obviously trumps everyone and how Martha Jones (or whoever she was, the girl from Law and Order) was obviously the best companion – which only ever makes Arthur want to say, “I always liked that chap with the colourful scarf” to get Merlin twitching.
“My father’ll go back to repressing and pretending it never happened in time for Easter,” Arthur says instead. “And our television is of a fine size, we can watch Doctor Who when we get home.”
Merlin makes a noncommittal grunt and sinks further into his seat.
Arthur sighs and stops trying to start up a conversation, allowing the car to lull into comfortable silence (except for the hum of the radio that Merlin leans forward at one point and turns up when John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over) comes on). He spends the next twenty minutes on their way to Ealdor avoiding stupid drivers who misconstrue ‘snow’ for ‘drive like an arse’ and listening to Merlin’s off-key rendition of Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
Merlin sounds a bit like a dying harp seal with a frog in its throat. Arthur battles an entirely too fond smile and once Merlin’s gotten through an entire verse of singing both parts (with different off-key impressions) says, “You’re sure your mum won’t mind us surprising her?”
“I tried calling,” Merlin says with a shrug. “She’s not answering though. Probably left the phone off the hook again.”
“Probably,” Arthur agrees as he takes the exit for Ealdor to the off-key sounds of Merlin singing to Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.
Merlin clings to Arthur’s side as they crunch through the snow covered path up to Merlin’s house.
“You should have brought a better coat, you idiot,” Arthur bitches, but wraps a blissfully warm arm around Merlin anyway.
“I didn’t know we’d be coming up here – your father has a heated pool,” Merlin grumbles through the scarf wrapped around his face and tries to make his glare as heated as he isn’t.
Arthur’s mouth twists and he hefts the strap of his bag further onto his free shoulder, dragging Merlin closer with his other arm. “I promise not to sexually harass you at your mother’s house.”
There’s too much padding in Arthur’s jacket, so he doesn’t feel the proper strength behind Merlin’s elbow to his ribs. Merlin has his big jangling thing of keys tucked away in his overnight bag, but since that would require actually moving from Arthur’s body heat (and even worse removing his gloves, because that damned zipper takes dexterity to get open), he settles for kicking at the door in lieu of knocking.
The unimpressed look he gets from Arthur makes it doubly worth it.
The door swings open abruptly and a very familiar male voice snaps out: “You already shook us down for pence an hour ago you stupid greedy carollers—” before Will steps into view and clamps his jaw down with a loud snap. “Merlin?”
“Will?” Merlin grins and detaches from Arthur to embrace his best friend (and get into the warm house). “I thought you were still in Denmark.”
Will pats his back awkwardly. “Um, yeah well plans changed,” he clears his throat and steps back from Merlin, his smile a little off. “I thought you were staying at Arthur’s dad’s place.” He gives Arthur a nervous half-wave thing.
“We were,” Merlin mutters darkly. He wants to inflict this entire story on someone, but even the depravity of their youth has not prepared for Will to deal with this kind of tale. He turns over his shoulder to glare at Arthur who is staring at Will with an unfocused kind of confusion.
“Well, shove over,” Merlin laughs, glad to feel the heat from inside the house.
Will steps aside awkwardly, staring at the floor and rubbing the back of his neck. “Merlin—” he starts, but Merlin’s already taking big fresh breaths of his mother’s cooking and feeling all the tension and irritation of earlier today slip from his shoulders.
“Where’s Mum?” Merlin throws his bag by the door and tugs down his scarf, turning to face Will and Arthur (Will wringing his hands and Arthur shutting the front door).
“See about that,” Will starts, but is soon interrupted by Merlin’s mum’s voice coming down the stairs.
“Will, was that the carollers again?” she laughs, sounding carefree and happy, “They might be like pigeons - if you keep feeding them they’ll keep coming back.”
“Oh my god,” Arthur blurts out, randomly, his eyes widening to epic proportions and his bag slipping off his shoulder with a rather dramatic ‘thump’ against the faded burgundy carpet.
Merlin gives him a look and then spins around to greet his mother – who is wearing a University of Aberdeen t-shirt and nothing else.
“Oh shit,” Hunith splutters and tugs on the shirt lower on her legs. “Merlin!” she smiles widely at him. “I thought you were staying at Arthur’s this year?”
“They were,” Will croaks from behind him.
Merlin blinks slowly, it seems his brain has flat lined for his own defence, but suddenly the fact that Will went to Aberdeen smacks him like a brick wall and he shouts out, “Oh my god!”
“Merlin,” his mother says calmly, her hands outstretched and placating, “it’s all right, dear.”
His mother is a liar, obviously. Because that is the silliest thing he has ever heard.
“It is not all right!” Merlin barks out, his hands shaking. “You!” he points at his mother and unable to process any of it involving her (though his mind keeps helpfully providing vomit-inducing mental images of her spread out over the kitchen table with Will thrusting into her), spins and settles his eyes on Will (who is grinning nervously like he always does when he’s caught red-handed), “You.”
“Look, mate. We were going to tell you,” his hands are held up and Will is stumbling backwards from Merlin’s steady, slow approach (his eye twitching with the best way to murder him), “but you were going to be gone for Christmas, so Hunith and I thought—”
Merlin lunges at him the second Hunith is out of his mouth and Will trips over the ancient wooden coat rack by the door and stumbles backwards into the living room.
“Merlin!” his mother shouts after him, but Merlin is too busy clambering over the couch and leaping at Will so he can get his hands around his slippery horrible little neck, to pay any attention.
“Worst!” he growls, throwing the nearest item near him (which is sadly a cushion) at Will, “Best! Friend! Ever!” He punctuates each word with a well aimed punch and Will only holds his arms over his face, not even having the decency to fight back so Merlin can really throttle him.
“Merlin Emrys,” his mother shouts in the way only mums can shout. “Stop beating on Will this instant!”
His mother used to say the exact same thing when he and Will were six-year-olds tussling in the snow over some toy they both wanted. He’s going to vomit and his stomach twists and leaps into his throat backing up that idea.
Merlin lets out an aggrieved noise and shoves his palms against his eyes until he sees spots. “What the fuck is wrong with you two?”
“There’s no need for that kind of language,” Hunith says sharply, automatic. Merlin drops his palms and glares at her and she shifts a little. “Well there isn’t.”
“We were going to tell you,” Will insists again, edging out from behind where he was wedged between the wall and the fireplace.
“Oh yes,” Merlin snaps, “Because that’s my problem with this.”
“Hunith,” Arthur says politely, staring at the floor, “maybe this conversation would go better with trousers?”
Merlin’s mum crosses her arms under her chest, ignores Arthur, and stubbornly says, “I never thought my son would be so narrow-minded.”
“Oh my god!” Merlin flaps his arms in every direction. “Are you mad? Do you not get the kind of Oedipal issues there are with this? Will is my best -- was my best friend, now I have to murder him, don’t you realise what this does to me?”
His mother seems unimpressed. “Will is an adult, Merlin. And you occasionally act like one as well.” She raises an eyebrow. “What kind of son doesn’t call to let his mother know he’s coming for Christmas anyway? I haven’t had any time to cook enough for two more mouths.”
“I did!” Merlin wants to know when this got turned around to him. He’s not sleeping with anyone’s mother or Will. This was shaping out to be the worst Christmas Eve ever. “You weren’t answering.”
“We probably knocked the phone over after that round in the kitchen,” Will says and slaps a hand over his mouth immediately afterward – Hunith sighs, Arthur winces, and Merlin lunges at him again.
Which is how Merlin ends up sitting on his front porch with an extremely sore (possibly bruised) eye from smacking into the corner of the fireplace when Will (the bastard) dodged.
“I’d get you a piece of frozen meat or an ice packet, but I suppose a bit of snow would do if you really wanted it,” his mother says, settling on the stoop next to him. “Merlin,” she sighs.
Merlin wishes for the first time in his life that his family was more like Arthur’s – that Mum could have a business trip and they could ignore this and it would all go away. Or even better, he wishes he could go back in time to when Will was thirteen, leaning over at the kitchen table and saying ‘Your mum is hot’ and do more than shove him off his stool. Merlin turns towards his mother. “Ealdor is not that small.”
“First of all,” Hunith says, her lips quirking, pressing her fingertips to the edge of Merlin’s sore eye, lightly, “yes it is. Second,” she sighs and drops her fingers, “is it too much that I get to be happy too, Merlin?”
“Of course you’re allowed to be happy!” Merlin throws his hands up almost smacking her and shoves his hands on his lap soon after. “With someone your age or maybe if you want to be daring two years younger -- not my best friend!”
“You don’t plan these things,” Hunith chides and brushes some snow off the stoop. “I recall very clearly three years ago getting calls about how atrocious the VP of the advertising firm you were working for was and how you hoped he got hit by a lorry filled with taste in art design so that if he didn’t gain a clue, at least he’d die from his injuries.”
“That is so not the same thing, Mum,” Merlin protests, resisting correcting her (his descriptions of what he wanted Arthur hit with were much more vibrant – he’d done up a photoshop jobs and sketches with specific murders that Arthur (because he’s a sick bastard and a prat) now had hanging in his office). “Arthur and I are only a year apart. You and Will are practically—you’re old enough to be his mother!”
“I had you when I was very young, Merlin.” Hunith’s voice is quiet and careful. “We didn’t have much when you were growing up, but I worked day and night – without a social life of my own, I might add – to provide for you, I don’t think it’s much to ask that you accept my new relationship, however unorthodox it might be.”
“Oh fuck, it’s a relationship?” Merlin groans and covers his face with his hands. This is officially the worst day of his entire life. Doctor Who was right, Christmas equals Disaster.
His mother pats his shoulder and he hears her rise up and go back into the house, exchanging words with a deep voice that better not be Will, because there’s a hand on Merlin’s shoulder and if it’s Will, Merlin is going to rip his arm off and beat him to death with it.
“Merlin?” It’s Arthur. “You all right?”
Merlin drops his hands, stares up at Arthur and tries to make his face express just how stupid that question is.
Arthur grimaces and nods. “Right.” He clears his throat and holds his hand out for Merlin to grab. Once Merlin has, Arthur tugs until Merlin’s on his feet and he squeezes his hand and gives him one of those careful, too fucking charming smiles that if Merlin weren’t resisting the urge to throw up on him would make his stomach twist in good ways.
“I called Morgana; she’s happy to have us coming over. It’d still be a family Christmas? Step-family anyway,” Arthur adds, shrugging helplessly.
Merlin grunts and kicks at the snow taking his bag from Arthur and walking with him to the car (ignoring the chill niggling at his bones again). “Did she laugh?”
“No,” Arthur responds too quickly and after Merlin shoots him a sharp look he says, “okay yes.” He unlocks the car with a quick beep from his remote and opens the door. “Echoing laughter really. Wasn’t sure she could reach that pitch.”
Merlin sinks into the passenger’s seat and slams his door as hard as he can. Arthur squeezes his shoulder and starts up the BMW.
Arthur has to knock on the door quite a bit more than he’d like before it swings open. Sophia opens it with a tight, slightly unfriendly smile, a tan and pink apron slung around her hips and her hair clinging to her neck lopsided. “Arthur, Merlin, come in.” Her smile gets tighter and she holds the door open for them.
“Is it all right we’re here?” Merlin holds his bag to his chest and eyes her cautiously.
Sophia shrugs and sniffs. “Ask Morgana. She’s making all the decisions for the both of us.”
“Get your passive-aggressive head out of your arse, darling,” Morgana responds as she comes around the corner and kisses Arthur on the cheek and pulls Merlin into a hug, whispering something Arthur can’t quite catch into his ear.
He snorts, so Arthur supposes it can’t be too terrible. Or it’s horrible and about him, which knowing Morgana is more likely.
“This isn’t a bad time, is it?” Merlin asks, nervously to Morgana, his eyes darting to Sophia every few seconds. He always seems edgy around her – Arthur once asked him if he was allergic to lesbians or something (because he used to be the same way when Morgana was dating that Nimueh girl), but Arthur’s suspecting it might have something to do with the way Sophia always seems to look like she wants to tear Morgana’s teeth out whenever Merlin’s around.
(Arthur’s sure it’s bad timing – that and the fact Morgana has told him in great disgusting detail how much she gets off on angry sex with Sophia.)
“It’s fine. Christmas is for family after all.” Morgana grins brightly, frighteningly so and grabs Merlin’s bag, putting it by the door. “Come in, come in.” Morgana gestures to Merlin and Arthur and practically drags them through the door before closing it. The entire flat is decorated in dreamy tinsel and soft icicle lights.
Sophia purses her lips together and crosses her arms under her chest. “Yes, put your bags anywhere. Not as if I spent all day cleaning the flat.”
Morgana snaps the lock on the door loudly and strides towards Sophia. She smacks Sophia’s behind with quite a bit of force (causing Sophia to jolt up onto her tip toes and let out a squeak) and says in a chipper tone, “Get the boys some cocoa, would you, love?”
Sophia opens her mouth wide and snaps it shut and then turns on her heel and stomps off towards the direction of the kitchen.
Morgana watches her go, an amused curve to her lips. “Women, yeah?”
Arthur is ready to latch and respond to that one, but Merlin elbows him in the ribs and gives him a warning look.
“Seems a bit…” Merlin starts and makes a flailing gesture with his hands very close to smacking himself in the face right where a bruise is forming under his right eye, “tense in here.”
Morgana rubs her temple with long pale fingers. “We’re having a dinner party for some of my work associates and Sophia’s father. She’s—” Morgana gestures with her hand and rolls her eyes in the universal symbol for ‘I sometimes only tolerate the love of my life.’ She sighs, and then looks at Arthur. “So I thought you were staying with Uther this year?” Her smile widens into something vile, like she knows. “What happened?”
“Um,” Arthur stutters out a response and is saved by a crash coming from the kitchen and a loud cry of ‘Shit! Fuck! Buggery! Hell!’
Morgana holds up a finger and turns on one foot to stride out in the direction of the kitchen.
Merlin rubs his palms over his face and lets out a loud, annoyed breath. His shoulders are hunched in a way he only really gets when he has artist’s block and they have a deadline and Arthur really wishes he could restart this entire day and that they were eating brunch at his father’s, so that Merlin could be slightly awkward and uncomfortable, but mostly happy and not angry with him.
“Merlin…” Arthur tries to find something to say that could be reassuring and relaxing and maybe save this day from being shitty, but he settles for threading his fingers through the back of Merlin’s hair and rubbing at the knob where his skull melds into his neck.
Merlin grunts and turns towards Arthur to rest his forehead against Arthur’s shoulder, which is something. Arthur sighs and keeps making smooth, little circles with his fingers on the back of Merlin’s skull. “It’s all right. Sophia and Morgana are – well if this doesn’t pan out Gwen said she wanted help with her class’ Christmas play. Christmastime doesn’t have to be a disaster. And,” Arthur gestures uselessly with his free hand and clicks his teeth, “Morgana and Sophia’s television is of a respectable size.”
Merlin snorts into Arthur’s shoulder. “She’ll never let you live it down if you say it’s bigger than ours.”
Arthur laughs softly and presses his nose against Merlin’s head. He opens his mouth to say something, but instead, his stomach leaps into his throat as a loud clank and scream comes from the kitchen. Merlin detaches from Arthur’s arms and looks in that direction worriedly. They don’t have long to wait, however, Morgana comes from the kitchen covering her head while Sophia starts whipping decorative holiday plates with mistletoe at her, screaming. “Just! Just! Your favourite word is just! Just placemats, just hours spent on preparing dinner! Just!” Sophia shrieks, throwing another ivory coloured dinner plate.
Morgana dodges another well aimed throw of a plate that slams against the bookshelf behind her and cracks.
“It’s a dinner party, Sophia. We are not inviting the bloody Queen!”
Merlin winces and rubs the back of his neck; he leans in and whispers, “Should we leave?”
Arthur shrugs, this is more entertaining than Doctor Who, and a little domestic squabble with his step-sister being bruised by fancy dinner plates is worth it for Sophia’s cooking.
“She wouldn’t want to come to this horrid space we call a flat anyway!” Sophia shouts back and Morgana picks up a piece of broke plate off the floor and grunts with the force it takes to throw it at the other woman. Sophia screams again, high pitched and rather horrible and seems to be out of plates because she takes off her shoe and tosses it at Morgana. “I still can’t believe you invited more guests without even asking me and you don’t see what the problem is! You come home and eat my well prepared dinners in four minutes and don’t ever say thank you! It’s as if you think I have magical fairies come in here and do it.”
“We can get takeaways!” Morgana shouts back, leaning up on the balls of her feet towards Sophia. “It’s not like you’re my bloody wife from the 1950s!”
“You treat me like it!” Sophia shrieks again. Her eyes are bulging, and her light hair is plastered to the sides of her face, she looks a little frightening (at least that’s probably why Merlin takes a step closer to Arthur).
Which is probably why Arthur should have known better than to say, “You two really fit that ‘angry lesbian stereotype’ don’t you?”
Though to be fair, Arthur wasn’t expecting Morgana to throw something at him for that.
“What happened to your face?” Gwen gasps, her fingers reaching out for the stitched up gash on Merlin’s skull (which on the plus, the small bruise below his eye is now hardly noticeable).
Merlin winces and she drops her hand. He takes a deep breath and says darkly, “One day, I applied for a job as a graphic designer at Pendragon Marketing.” Merlin twists his mouth into a frown. “Then I had the sod all luck of getting a boss who is too much of a prat to have any impulse control whatsoever!”
“I said I was sorry,” Arthur still looks satisfyingly wrecked, which he should. But since it still hurts to glare as hard as Merlin wants to (even with the painkillers the baby-faced doctor at the A&E had given him).
“You hit him?” Gwen’s eyes widen in confusion and then narrow at Arthur like she’s ready to hit him back for Merlin’s sake.
Merlin considers letting her, but Arthur shakes his head and shouts out a litany of “No, no, what? No! Of course not!” He rakes a hand through his hair, completely and satisfyingly flustered. “Morgana threw a book at him – well at me, but Merlin was sort of in the way.”
Gwen’s stares at Arthur for a long moment saying nothing. Her brows draw close to her eyes, until she finally blinks and turns back towards Merlin. “Are you sure you’re going to be up for helping out? Not that I’m turning down the help, any help we can get is great. Trust me, the kids are,” she rubs her temple, “I mean, I don’t want you to overstress yourself, but it’s—”
Merlin pats Gwen on the shoulder to pause her rambling before it gets worse. “I’m fine; it was only a couple of stitches.” He smiles sloppily at Gwen, because he’s fairly certain he’s not going to get caught mid-blow-job here, or see his mother with his best friend, or have a hard bound copy of ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women’ brain him, so cheering her up is better than the rest of his day so far.
Gwen smiles back and lets out a breath of relief. “All right then. I’m still doing last minute stitch-ups for Scrooge and the ghosts, but Lancelot is working on set pieces and could use some help—” She glances over her shoulder and sighs. “Galahad is over there as well, so I’m sure his mother will be stalking that area soon enough.”
“Elle’s here too?” Arthur blurts out and raises both his eyebrows giving Gwen a very significant look.
“Yes, it’s lovely that she could come and help out,” Gwen sounds like it is the exact opposite of lovely.
“Elle?” Merlin absently touches the bandage on his forehead, wondering what the hell they’re talking about. He’d been under the impression for the last couple of years that Gwen was Galahad’s mother, what with the six year old calling her ‘Mum’ and all.
“Elaine Carbonek,” Arthur offers, tugging his wrist away from his face, “Galahad’s birth mother, and stop touching that.”
Merlin pulls his wrist away from Arthur and crosses his arms over his chest. “I thought Elaine was still writing that television series in American based on when Lancelot dumped her for Gwen?”
He was certain they’d made that up when he’d first met Mr. and Mrs. Dulac, but Morgana had all the DVDs (it wasn’t bad, though a bit dramatic in parts).
“No that’s Elaine Astolat.” Gwen sighs and shoves her hands in the pieces of fabric that look like a sewing tool belt around her waist. “Elle was the one who recently got out of prison for identity fraud.”
“Oh,” Merlin nods, remembering vaguely Arthur mentioning something about that. He was pretty sure it was before he’d had his morning tea though, so the details were a bit fuzzy.
“Mrs. Dulac?” says a young girl with a white sheet wrapped around her, her face painted with white snowflakes and glitter, tugging at Gwen’s arm. “Percy got his head stuck in Gawain’s dress.”
“It’s not a dress, it’s a—forget it.” Gwen shakes her head and shoots Merlin and Arthur an apologetic smile before taking the little girl’s hand and walking across the back of the back stage.
“Lancelot sure does date a lot of Elaines,” Merlin says once Gwen’s out of hearing range. He’s going to be sure to grill Arthur for more details later – it’s going to be at least another couple of months before the next series of Shalott comes out for region two DVDs.
Arthur tilts his head and gives Merlin a careful look before saying, “His mother’s named Elaine too.”
“Well that’s Freudian,” Merlin snorts and reaches to touch his bandage again, but Arthur grabs his wrist.
“Don’t tell him that, he hasn’t noticed yet.” Arthur stares at the floor and brushes his thumb against Merlin’s pulse point. “We don’t have to stay here if you’re not up for it. I know it’s been a crap Christmas Eve so far.”
“No, really?” Merlin says, dryly. He’d add, “No shit, Sherlock,” but he’s not fourteen.
Arthur stares at him, helplessly. “I’m sorry, but it’s not like I threw the book at you.”
“She was aiming for you,” Merlin moves his arm uselessly to get Arthur to drop his wrist, but the prat’s grip just tightens in response. “You know I wasn’t banned from the dinner party, maybe I should head back and spend Christmas with them.”
“They’re too busy having makeup sex to have you over,” Arthur responds morosely.
“How do you know that?” Merlin stops trying to wriggle his wrist out of Arthur’s grip and raises an eyebrow.
“When you were discharging from hospital, Morgana called to make sure you were all right and she left her phone on.” Arthur grimaces. “I think you and I are sufficiently traumatised today without me having to relive the noises before I figured out what was happening and hung up.”
“You and I?” Merlin yanks his wrist back.
Arthur holds up his hands in defeat. “All right, fine. I cannot top Will sleeping with your mother.”
Merlin’s left eye is developing a rather persistent twitch from today.
Arthur presses his knuckles against the bridge of his nose and takes a very long deep breath. “Let’s go help Lancelot.”
Merlin considers flipping Arthur a couple of fingers, but there are a lot of small children around, so he resists and reaches for his bandage instead – and Arthur grabs his wrist and pulls him forward. “Stop that; you’re going to tear your stitches.”
“You’re not my mother!” Merlin snaps.
Arthur growls, “Good, because if I were I’d be shagging Will right now!”
Merlin is a mature adult. Which is why instead of punching Arthur in the face he kicks him in the shin, hard. He also doesn’t stick around to watch Arthur swearing and hopping on one foot and instead crosses the stage towards Lancelot, bent over an ornate set piece (which resembles a floating bed, but Merlin’s not sure).
“Gwen said you could use some help?” Merlin leans against one of the posts and spies Galahad hoisting a wrench over his head and making buzzing noises mimicking a plane.
“I’m helping,” Galahad says without looking up at Merlin and taking the wrench-plane for a loop-de-loop.
Lancelot pats Galahad on the head absently and smiles at Merlin. “Two hours and we go on and half the set pieces are falling apart. I don’t need help; I need a miracle.” He jumps off the platform the bed is resting on and walks towards Merlin, his focus mostly on watching Galahad up on the platform still. “I didn’t think you’d make it. Weren’t you and Arthur staying at—”
“Yes, we were,” Merlin cuts him off, not willing to rehash any of their Christmas disasters again.
“We’re always willing to help the cause,” Arthur voice comes from directly behind Merlin (making him jerk a little in surprise) and he wraps an arm around Merlin’s shoulder and squeezes far too tightly to be friendly.
Lancelot snorts, opens his mouth to say something and then focuses on Merlin’s face for the first time. “What happened?”
“Morgana,” Arthur responds for Merlin which makes Merlin feel very inclined to stamp on his foot, but he tries to squirm out from Arthur’s death grip on his shoulder instead.
Stupid, controlling, son of a—
“Hullo, Galahad,” Arthur smiles down too brightly at Lancelot’s son who looks up with all the disinterest of a six year old who is very focused on not helping Lancelot fix a set piece. “I hear your mother is visiting.” Arthur shoots Lancelot a look from the corner of his eye and Lancelot’s mouth twists in secret communication as if to remind Merlin that he’s the new one of the group (and that his friend is now dead to him for breaking the first rule of manhood and shagging his mum).
Merlin tries not to stamp both their feet.
He doesn’t have to, the moment Arthur leans down towards Galahad (finally letting go of Merlin’s shoulder) and takes a step forward, Galahad swings his wrench right across Arthur’s shin.
Arthur breaks out into muffled swearing (grabbing his shin and hopping again, as if that actually helps), Lancelot starts scolding Galahad (who breaks out into crocodile tears) and Merlin throws his head back laughing so hard he can feel it twist at his ribs until it aches.
It makes no sense as to why that’s the reason Arthur simultaneously glares and fights a smile at Merlin from where he’s crouched on the floor holding his leg, or why Merlin grins at him and doesn’t feel quite as angry anymore (about at least the book incident), but that’s what happens.
Merlin and Arthur help Lancelot with the rest of the sets (while Galahad is banished to go help Gwen with costumes) and other than Galahad’s birth mother coming to tell Lancelot how horrible and shrill Gwen was to her and how she was going to press for custody again (to which Gwen calmly came over and said something in a very sweet voice that was too quiet for Merlin to hear but Elle seemed frightened enough by it to go sit in the audience until Showtime), Merlin running into three set pieces and falling off four, and a small child throwing up on Arthur’s shoes – well… it basically went as horrible as the rest of the day, but Gwen and Lancelot were so grateful and happy that Merlin and Arthur lie, say they had a great time and decide to give up and go home.
Arthur is great at a lot of things, but cooking doesn’t happen to be one of them. He can manage beans on toast though (because as Merlin’s repeatedly reminded him, only a gimp gorilla couldn’t manage warming up beans, cooking fried eggs, and toasting bread) and since that’s the only thing they have left that isn’t expired in the flat, Arthur sets about making the best beans on toast he can possibly make.
At this point it’s likely to be repeated tomorrow for Christmas dinner as well, unless Merlin feels up to going to Morgana and Sophia’s fancy dinner party (the fact that Morgana texted him to remind Arthur he wasn’t invited makes Arthur want to go even more to spite her).
Arthur serves up a couple of plates, balances one on the crook of his elbow and carries a couple bottles of malt lager with his other hand into the television room. Merlin’s sitting on the floor in front of the television with his knees up, but most of his attention is focused on the large sketchpad resting on his thigh. His mouth is frowning in concentration and there’s a smudge of charcoal on his cheekbone (and one on his bandage, but that might be dust from the theatre), but he’s got one of his art pencils in his hand so he must have switched mediums while Arthur was in the kitchen.
“Hungry?” Arthur tries settling down on the floor next to Merlin and resting his back against the bottom of the couch.
“Not really,” Merlin mumbles. He sticks his tongue of out of the corner of his mouth and makes a long sweep with his pencil down the sketchpad.
“I also brought beer.” Arthur places the plates next to his own legs (because if they’re in between him and Merlin, there’s no way Merlin won’t knock them over and get beans and egg all over the carpet) and holds out one of the lagers.
Merlin looks up from his sketchpad and glances at the bottle for a second before stealing it from Arthur. He puts one leg down flat on the floor and opens the bottle taking a drink.
“What are we watching?” Arthur asks, trying to get a glimpse at what Merlin’s drawing.
He’s pretty certain it is a detailed drawing of Will being torn apart by sharks in a vat of acid – Arthur at least admires the creativity, though it won’t beat the montage of sketches of various ways Arthur could be killed by a variety of dinosaurs and lizards hanging up in his office.
“Series four,” Merlin says before taking a sip of his beer, “The Sontaran Stratagem.”
Merlin sighs and puts his sketchpad aside, dropping his other leg to the ground and leaning over Arthur to steal a plate of beans on toast. “Doctor Who, Arthur. It’s the episode with UNIT and ATMOS – where Martha Jones comes back?”
“Oh,” Arthur says and then takes a bite of his toast, swallowing so he doesn’t have to say anything else. He sees a mouthy redhead that he can recognise as Catherine Tate on the screen and grins. “Oh, Deborah, right?”
“I’m never speaking to you again,” Merlin swears, his lips quirking in a smile as he eats sloppily and with his charcoal covered fingers. “It’s Donna Noble.”
“Sorry,” Arthur lies and sighs, wondering how much prosthetic makeup those aliens have to wear to look that ugly or if something naturally translates and they pick horrid looking actors. He also wonders how much of the night is going to be spent marathoning Doctor Who before the Christmas special airs.
It’s the likely scenario that this Christmas is going to be spent in their dingy flat, avoiding all future disasters, eating beans on toast, watching insane amounts of Doctor Who, and Arthur can still dream that he might get a shag out of this in the near future since the most action he and Merlin have had was an ill fated, not finished blow job, that Arthur didn’t even get anything out of except horrifying his father.
It doesn’t sound like the worst thing in the world, actually. More like what they do every weekend and Arthur hasn’t had any complaints about their routine so far. Christmas is another day, after all.
He smiles, glances at the clock (it’s past midnight, Christmas Day and this horrible day passed some time when he was messing with the can opener and a tin of Heinz baked beans), and leans over to brush his lips against the skin near the fading bruise on Merlin’s eye from where he collided with the fireplace. “Happy Christmas.”
“Oh shut up,” Merlin grumbles, not turning from the television, but he puts his head on Arthur’s shoulder nonetheless and takes a big messy bite of toast.