Title: The Bet
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Uther
Summary: Arthur needs to bring a boyfriend to the family dinner.
Word Count: 1,073 (Yeah, I went a little over....)
Prompt: Family Dinner
Author's Notes:This is kind of weird, I think. Beta'd.
Merlin and Arthur have been friends for a long time. They went through primary, secondary, sixth form, and now uni together. God knows they did not always see eye to eye, but neither would have picked anyone else as their best friend. It’s an unspoken agreement that no matter how bad things can get, they can always rely on each other.
So, naturally, as Arthur is having a huge crisis, he has come to Merlin for help.
“I need you to be my boyfriend.”
Arthur sighs as Merlin stares at him with bewilderment and shock. Despite all their years together, Merlin never even imagined this scenario coming up. Sure, fake dating is a trope used in many romcoms and fanfics—which he definitely does not watch or read—but he never thought he and Arthur would ever come to this point.
“Look, my father is starting to get desperate,” Arthur begins, pacing. “Morgana is planning to become a nun, and so now I’m his only hope for any grandchildren.
Merlin stares at him with a deadpan expression. “And how exactly do I fit into this?” He asks tentatively.
“I’m getting to that!” Arthur huffs in frustration. “I’ve told him I’m not straight, and that no matter how many women he throws at me, my preferences will not change. We fought about it for a while, but, eventually, he relented and said that if I can get myself a boyfriend by our next family dinner, he’ll leave me alone.”
Arthur stares at Merlin. Merlin stares back. After what feels like entire minute, Arthur decides that Merlin is a lot slower than he takes him for and sighs.“I need you to be my fake boyfriend to get my father off my back.”
“Erm,” Merlin clears his throat. Would Merlin jump at the chance to be Arthur’s boyfriend if he asked? Yes. Would he jump at the chance to be Arthur’s fake boyfriend if he asked, though? No. This felt a little too insincere. He wanted something genuine with Arthur, not the plot of ‘Just Go With It’. “Why me?”
“Because you’re my best friend and I trust you.”
Merlin eyes him dubiously for a moment.
“And there is no one else I’d rather have as a fake boyfriend."
And so Merlin caves in.
“Merlin, stop pacing.”
“I can’t help it.”
“Just sit down!”
Reluctantly, Merlin does as he is told and sits at the foot of Arthur’s bed. Refusing to take no for an answer, Morgana had insisted that she pick them up so that the three of them could arrive to the dinner.
Merlin’s anxiety over this family dinner cannot compare to anything he’s ever worried about. Arthur instructed him to act natural, to simply pretend Arthur was someone he could fall in love with (obviously, he has no trouble with that part). Yet, the mere fact that it was Arthur he would be feigning the situation with made him all the more nervous.
In most situations, Merlin would look to his friend for help and immediately feel more calm, without even a word. In this situation, however, one look at his best friend would likely have the opposite effect.
A knock on the door causes both men to stand up. They stand awkwardly for a while, each encouraging the other to open the door. If it weren’t for a second, more insistent rap, they probably would have just stood there for the rest of the night. Eventually, Arthur braves himself and greets Morgana.
Arthur glares at his father as Merlin smiles uncomfortably. In all the years he’s known Uther Pendragon, he’s never seen him laugh this much.
“Are you joking? You’re really dating Merlin?”
“That’s right,” Arthur says, puffing out his chest. “Is there a problem?”
Uther continues to laugh for a moment, wiping tears of mirth from his face. Arthur’s glare hardens and he takes a surprised Merlin’s hand. Uther stares at them for a moment, then at their intertwined hands, then back to them. Morgana stands to one side, watching their father carefully and sending an occasional glance toward the couple.
Then, finally, Uther sighs. He shoves his hand in his pocket and takes out his wallet. Arthur’s glare disappears and begins to mimic Merlin’s very baffled expression. The old man takes out a couple of notes and hands them to Morgana. “Alright, you win,” says Uther. “I give up.”
Triumphantly, Morgana take the bills and places them in her purse.
“What the hell is going on?”
Arthur’s voice sounds as though it is borderline hysterical.
Merlin cannot even process what is going on anymore. His whole week has been completely strange, starting with Arthur’s call for help. Then there were Arthur’s lessons for the dinner to ensure they looked very much real and now this. He just thinks this is probably a horribly detailed illusion.
“Oh come now, Arthur,” Morgana says with a laugh. “Surely you cannot blame us. You and Merlin were always bound to get together. I just figured you would get it on during university. Father thought otherwise—”
“You bet on us? You knew I wasn’t straight?” Arthur continues.
“Of course I knew,” says Uther, “I just wanted to see if you would be open with me about it and finally work up to courage to get together with him.” He gestures to Merlin, who turns bright red and wishes he had never agreed to Arthur’s stupid plan.
Arthur stutters, struggling to find something to say. Merlin, meanwhile, realizes that Uther and Morgana keep glancing at their intertwined hands triumphantly. It seems that, even though he’s lost the bet, Uther was still pleased with the results. Quickly, Merlin lets go of Arthur’s hand.
“Er, actually,” Merlin cuts in. “We... we aren’t really dating.”
“What?” Morgana turns to him, looking a little scandalized. Uther seems to perk up at this and motions for him to elaborate.
“I, er, I’m only pretending to be his boyfriend because he said—,” Merlin glances at Arthur and sees his friend still looking completely out of it, muttering something about ‘bet’ and ‘bloody knew’. “Because he said that he needed one for the family dinner.”
“Ha!” Uther exclaims happily. He turns to Morgana and holds his hand out expectantly. His daughter glares at him and grudgingly takes the money from her purse before dropping it in his hand. Merlin has honestly never seen the man that happy, ever.