Summary: Arthur works as Merlin's PA and celebrates Christmas with Merlin and Merlin's son Mordred.
Word Count: 2650
Author's Notes: Thank you Penn for being my beta and thank you saoci for the prompts, I hope you like the story.
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
“Arthur, did you hear me sing?” Mordred shouted in delight as he ran over to the blond man who caught him as if he had always done so. Sometimes it did feel like always even though it had only been two years of being there for Merlin’s son.
Two years ago Arthur had had his life completely turn onits axis, when coming out to his father had meant losing not only his family, but also his job. It had been a small miracle when he had heard his the son of his father’s enemy was looking for a PA and with Arthur's education and background, he had been perfect for the job. Overqualified, but perfect. Arthur went from having a PA to being a PA and even though it had been a drastic change, he was surprisingly content with his life right now, even if - or maybe because - it included sometimes picking up his boss’ son.
Mordred was a delight to have in his life and Merlin was a nicer boss than Arthur probably would have been in his shoes. The last year had been hard, with Balinor dying and Merlin taking over his father's company completely. Arthur had spent more time than ever looking after the little boy, even if it often meant reading and answering work emails while Mordred was watching Disney movies.
“I did, you sounded lovely. I bet your dad can't wait to hear you sing in the Christmas Concert,” Arthur said as he helped Mordred into his jacket and put his beanie on the unruly dark hair that looked too much like his father’s.
“You will be there too, right?” Mordred asked and turned around.
“Mordred, the concert is for family only. They can't have just anyone listen and they don't have enough room to have PAs attending as well,” Arthur said as he could feel his phone vibrate with another unread email.
“But you are my family!” Mordred stopped dead in his movement, which wasn't something the eight year old boy did often, and looked at Arthur with his big blue eyes. “Other kids are also allowed to bring two parents, I only have one so you can be my other parent.”
Arthur wanted to argue that he was not, in fact, a parent to Mordred, but couldn't fight the boys logic and break his heart.
“You can ask your dad about bringing me,” he said as a compromise, praying to whatever deity was listening that the boy would forget all about it until Merlin got home tonight.
Arthur's atheist ass was not saved by anyone when the first words Mordred said to his dad later were “Can Arthur come to my Christmas Concert?”
Arthur had spent all afternoon at Merlin’s place - making sure Mordred didn't accidentally burn down the whole building - working from Merlin’s kitchen table. He’d had his laptop and phone with him, so there had been no need for Arthur to get back to the office, especially because Merlin had a meeting in a restaurant anyway.
“I don't know Mordred,” Merlin said while hugging his son. He looked incredible tired and stressed out. “It's a Christmas Concert for the family. Besides we should let Arthur spend his holidays with his own family.”
“But Arthur doesn't have a family,” Mordred answered with all the tactfulness of a child. Arthur cringed; it was true that he’d had no family left to spent Christmas with for the last two years, but hearing a small boy saying it aloud made Arthur feel kind of pathetic. “His dad was mean so he can't spend Christmas with him.” Arthur really didn't know why Mordred knew that and wasn't sure he even wanted to know. “But we can be his family.” Mordred made it sound so simple.
Merlin looked at Arthur, unsure. Despite him being Merlin’s boss, they had formed some kind of friendship soon after Arthur had started working for him.
“If Arthur wants to come…” was all he said and Mordred squealed in delight. Letting go of his dad he turned to Arthur. “Please, please, please, Arthur. I want you to come. Please say yes. You can come to my concert and then you can celebrate Christmas with us. Dad is even cooking.” Mordred gave Arthur a look that told him that no would not be an acceptable answer.
“Ok, if you guys don't mind, I will come with you,” Arthur smiled as Mordred’s whole face light up. “Yes, yes, yes, yes,” Mordred jumped up and down in delight and even Merlin, exhausted as he looked, had to smile at that.
One week later the three of them were driving to Mordred's school for the Christmas Concert. Arthur still thought it was a weird decision to hold the concert on Christmas Day itself, but what did he even know about schools and concerts? They certainly never had any at the boarding school he had attended as a child.
“Thank you for inviting me,” Arthur said as he looked in the rear mirror to see a softly snoring Mordred. Apparently staying up late all night so he could maybe get a glimpse of Santa had finally caught up with the boy, who had fallen asleep minutes after Arthur had entered the car. Hopefully they would be able to wake him up without making him grumpy.
“No, I have to thank you for coming along. You are saving me from several mothers asking me why a handsome, young, single dad like me still hasn't found a stepmom for Mordred yet,” Merlin replied.
“So, am I the new stepmom? Is this a date?” Arthur joked and Merlin laughed at that. “Even an antisocial workaholic like me knows inviting someone to a children's choir concert might not be the best date plan.”
“Wouldn't be the weirdest I ever had,” was all Arthur could say and Merlin laughed once more.
“So tell me Arthur, why don't you have a hot date tonight with some nice guy who wants to bring you home to meet his family for Christmas?” Merlin suddenly asked. Arthur swallowed and went for a joke instead of the real answer, which was that he was right were he wanted to be for Christmas, with a kid he adored and a man he might adore even more.
“You see, I work for this antisocial workaholic who doesn't leave me a lot of time to date.”
“Haha,” was all Merlin replied with, but there was something like guilt laced into his voice.
“Which is okay, because I don't want to date anyone anyway,” Arthur added, the except for you was left unspoken.
He didn't ask Merlin why he had no stepmom or stepdad lined up for Mordred, knowing full well that Merlin’s only love was for his work and his son.
“Are we there yet?” Mordred suddenly asked with a sleepy voice, successfully changing the conversation topic just as Merlin entered the school's parking area.
Arthur got a lot of confused looks as he mingled and made small talk with several parents while Merlin dropped off Mordred at the locker room where all the kids changed into their concert costumes. Most of the parents knew him as Mordred's babysitter, he usually didn't correct them that he was actually Merlin’s PA, but clearly they were curious about his presence at this family event.
He was just about to stuff more cookies into his mouth from one of the bowls when Merlin appeared next to him, seamlessly taking over the conversation with Sophia, the mother of Vivian.
“Oh, I would be totally lost without Arthur. Just knowing someone cares for my son when I can't is the biggest relief I can think of. Mordred and I are lucky to have him,” he said and Arthur had trouble swallowing his cookie. Was Merlin really feeling that way or was he just exaggerating to get the mothers and their harping off his back. “We should sit down now, I have a feeling the concert is about the start.”
Arthur wordlessly followed Merlin to the two seats they intended to sit in. They were all children's chairs, too tiny to properly fit an adult man, so two sitting next to one another meant Merlin and Arthur were pressed closely together. Arthur had a hard time concentrating, but managed to at least get his head back in the game during Mordred’s solo but afterwards he was not able to retell most of the concert.
Thank God he didn't have to because Mordred was more than happy to tell them about every single second of the concert as if they had not been in the audience witnessing it for themselves. Mordred was only done once they all arrived at Merlin and Mordred's home and excitedly changed the topic.
“Dad, when will dinner be ready? Can I watch a movie while you cook? Can I have a look at the presents Santa brought me?” he asked one question after another without stopping for an answer.
“Yes, you can watch a movie. And dinner will be ready when I am done cooking it. You can look into the living room but no crawling under the tree, you know the rules. Dinner first and then presents,” Merlin said and gave Mordred a look that only a single parent can give to one’s child. Mordred nodded and ran into the living room, only to come back with a DVD in his hands. Arthur quickly helped him turn on the movie before he walked back into the kitchen.
“Can you cut the potatoes?” Merlin asked Arthur. “I know you’re our guest tonight, but dinner will be ready much faster if we work together.
“That's okay, what are we making for dinner anyway?” Arthur asked as he washed and peeled the potatoes. He quickly got a sharp knife from the drawer and a cutting board before he started slicing the potatoes.
“We are making some fish and chips. You know, as a child my dad often took me camping and fishing and then made fish and chips with the fish we caught. I want to do the same with Mordred this summer.”
“That sounds nice. My dad never did much with me. I spend most of my life in boarding school. Often even on the holidays,” Arthur replied as his heart yearned for someone to do simple family things with, like going camping.
“That's a horrible childhood! You know, I never met your dad, but I know mine hated yours. That's why we were so curious when you applied as my PA,” Merlin said as he put the water on the stove to cook the peas.
“I figured most companies wouldn’t hire me, unwilling to risk a feud with my dad, but your family never liked mine anyway, so going to a rival company seemed like the right move.”
“I'm glad you did, even though I still hate your Dad, especially after the way he treated you. I could never imagine turning my back on Mordred, no matter what.”
“You are a way better dad than mine ever was,” Arthur said and put the potatoes in the oven.
“No offense, but I don't think it's hard. I'm just trying to be the kind of father my father was. I mean, he had my mother and I do this alone. Well, not quite alone now that I have you. Thanks again for being here today.”
“Thanks again for inviting me,” Arthur smiled and really meant it. In moments like this, it was hard not to wish for more; to wish for Mordred and Merlin to be his family for real. Merlin looked relaxed as he worked on prepping the fish, an easy smile playing on his lips as he started first to mouth and then full on sing along to the Christmas music playing on the radio.
Soon enough, dinner was ready and Mordred seemed to eat as fast as humanly possible - eager to finally unwrap his gifts - despite Merlin telling him to slow done. The food was delicious, obviously nothing too fancy, but home cooked meals weren't something Arthur had too many of in his life. After they were done eating and clearing the table it was finally time for them to move to the living room. Mordred bounced around full of excitement as Arthur sat down on the couch next to Merlin.
“Go ahead, don't you want to open your presents?” Merlin asked his son, bemused.
Mordred didn't need to answer that. Instead he crawled underneath the tree to get his first present. Tearing the paper away, he revealed a new board game Arthur had never heard of.
“Wow!” Mordred squealed in delight before his attention was once more drawn to the other presents. One after another, Mordred unwrapped his gifts - two books, one DVD, a cuddly dinosaur, a few new shirts, and several new games, including the new special edition of Uno that Arthur had gotten him - before he walked over to the couch with his hands full of yet to be unwrapped presents.
“These are for you two,” he said and wiggled his way between them.
“Thank you,” Merlin said and looked into the bag Arthur had filled. In there was a bottle of wine and some products to relax. Mordred handed them both a picture he had drawn and Arthur’s heart nearly burst with emotions when he realised that his was a drawing of the three of them building a snowman with Arthur's name written on it.
Next was an envelope for Arthur. It had a beautiful card inside, a gift card for a local spa treatment and a cryptic message proclaiming Arthur's real present still had to wait till Mordred was asleep.
“Thank you,” Arthur said and hugged Mordred close. “And thank you, Merlin.” Even though he had no idea yet what he was thanking Merlin for.
“Can we play my new game?” Mordred asked and stood up to get the Uno.
“Sure,” they both agreed and soon they were playing several rounds of the game.
Later, later than usual, when Mordred was finally in bed and sound asleep, Merlin opened the bottle of wine Arthur had gotten him and sat down next to Arthur with a bunch of papers in his hand.
“This is your real Christmas present from me,” he said and handed them over.
Arthur looked at them and was shocked when he realised what they were.
“Is that…” he started, unsure what he wanted to ask.
“A contract for the position of Head of Finance? Yes, that it is.”
“But why? Are you firing me? Was I that bad of a PA?”
“Arthur you were, and are, the best PA anyone could ask for and it will be impossible to replace you, but we both know you are overqualified. You are meant for more and I need to cut back my hours so I can spend more time being a dad. I don't want someone else to raise my child because I am too busy running a company I have no idea how to run. But you do, and I need someone like you on my side, as a partner, to help me make sure I don't accidentally destroy this company because I am bad with numbers. So what do you say? Do you want to do this for me? With me?”
Arthur was speechless. Ever since leaving his dad's company he had not dared to dream of an opportunity like this.
“Yes, yes of course I want the job!”
“Then it is yours,” Merlin said. Arthur took the pen that was lying on the couch table next to a sudoku book and signed the contract without a second thought.
“Good. Now that I am no longer your boss I can finally do this,” Merlin said and finally did what Arthur had been dreaming of for months. He leaned over and kissed Arthur.