Title: Home for Christmas
Summary: Merlin invites Arthur to Ealdor for Christmas.
Warnings: angst about a past character death
Prompt: 293 - I’ll Be Home for Christmas
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
As he waited for Merlin, Arthur stood atop the roof and looked down over the snow-covered grounds, breathing in the crisp, cold air as he caught a whiff of something delicious—probably baked with love by the sweet little old lady, Miss Morgan, who sold her baked goods during the days leading up to Christmas. The thought brought a smile to Arthur’s face.
Christmas hadn’t ever been a joyous occasion for him, at least not in the castle. In the village, yes, there were families who celebrated—a few had even invited Arthur and his sister into their homes on the festive day—but Uther Pendragon had no room in his heart for Christmas.
Gaius had told him and Merlin that when Ygraine died, so had Uther, at least on the inside.
The thought made Arthur sad. It was his fault his mother had died. Gaius repeatedly told him that wasn’t the truth, but it was. Had Arthur not been born, his mother would be alive this very day, preparing to celebrate Christmas with her husband. No amount of good-will from others could change the truth of that fact.
The door opened, interrupting Arthur’s morose thoughts, but he was thankful for the distraction, and he felt good that at least someone would be having a happy Christmas. He turned around and attempted to smile.
“Gaius said you needed to see me,” Merlin said softly as he came to stand beside Arthur, his eyes searching his master’s, probably trying to figure him out. Arthur had tried to make that endeavour impossible, but the more time he spent with Merlin, the more he wanted his servant to fathom him out.
“Yes, I wanted to tell you that you are free to go see your mother for Christmas if you would like.” Arthur watched as Merlin’s eyes opened wide. The giant smile that followed warmed Arthur’s heart. “It has already been arranged. George will attend me whilst you are away. You may leave at first light.”
Merlin seemed to be struggling with his response, which Arthur didn’t quite understand. Of course, he really did. The boy was far too loyal and probably had it in his mind that he didn’t want to leave his Master alone; he knew that Arthur’s father didn't celebrate Christmas, after all.
“Why don’t you come with me?” Merlin blurted out, looking somewhat taken aback at his bold statement, but after taking a breath, he nodded. “Yeah, my mum would be happy to have you.”
Arthur let out a nervous laugh. There was no way he could take his leave and join Merlin. It was unthinkable.
But was it? The knights had the next few days off to celebrate with their families. Arthur had no reason to remain in Camelot, and it wasn’t as if his father had plans for them. It was more than likely that he would get on his horse early Christmas morning and ride off into the woods for the day. He had done that for as long as Arthur could remember.
Morgana said his father used this time to commune with nature and that it probably made him feel closer to his wife. Arthur wasn’t sure about that as it sounded a bit too sappy for the likes of his father, but Gwen assured him that even his father had it in him to be a romantic at heart.
Arthur very nearly said yes as he looked into Merlin’s eyes, but he needed to check with his sister first, to be sure it was okay with her. “I need to check with Morgana. I don’t want to leave her alone.” Arthur felt very unsure of himself, but he found that he wanted to go with Merlin.
“Okay, yeah, and you can even bring her if you want, and Gwen, too.” Merlin gave Arthur his patent grin that completely brightened the world around him.
Arthur did allow a hearty laugh this time. “What will your mother say when you bring three guests with you?”
“She will invite all of you into our house and ask you to remove your shoes,” was Merlin’s matter-of-fact response, his rosy cheeks looking adorable.
“Yes, she would, wouldn’t she?” Arthur whispered, and when he heard the door to the roof opening he turned around and was surprised to see Morgana and Gwen. “Just the people I wanted to see,” he said before he asked them if they wanted to go to Ealdor for Christmas.
“Yeah, it would make my mum happy for the three of you to join us.” Merlin looked like a little kid who was about to be handed a cookie.
Arthur grinned. He loved that innocent, happy look on Merlin.
“Thanks for asking, but Gwen and I planned a quiet day. Those are few and far between, at least without Father to contend with. I hope you understand.” Morgana looked between Arthur and Merlin, seemingly worried.
Arthur shared a knowing grin with Merlin. “It looks like it’s just going to be you and me, Merlin.” Yes, Arthur should probably be a bit more sad that his sister and Gwen weren’t going to join them in Ealdor, but as he would have Merlin to himself he couldn’t be bothered to feel the least bit remorseful.
Two days later Arthur and Merlin arrived at the small house, grey-ish smoke billowing out of the chimney, and watched as Merlin’s mother ran out to greet them, her smile so wide that her eyes disappeared. Arthur looked over at Merlin and felt a deep surge of warmth.
“You boys are a sight for sore eyes, I tell you. Now get inside and take off your shoes so you can warm up by the fire.” Hunith put her hands around both boys and led them inside.
Arthur’s heart was full. No, this wasn't the Christmas he would have had had his mother lived, but he was with Merlin, and even though they hadn’t known each other long, Arthur felt like he was home for Christmas.