Summary: Merlin invites Arthur home for a real Christmas.
Word Count: 4670
Author's Notes: Thanks to the mods for hosting this again. Moonflower999, I hope you enjoy! :)
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.
It was the end of November and Arthur was moping around the flat. After six months of living in the same space, Merlin liked to think he knew Arthur fairly well. But he had no idea what was wrong with Arthur. He hadn’t broken up with a girlfriend, he was doing fine in all his classes, and as far as he knew, everything was all right between him and his sister. She was the only family he’d ever mentioned and Merlin hadn’t felt the need to push him further on that point.
It all came to a head one day when Merlin felt his own holiday spirit waning. And he loved Christmas, so Arthur’s problem had to be cleared up so Merlin could back to enjoying the holiday season. It was a Tuesday three weeks before Christmas when Merlin finally approached him.
“Okay, Arthur, we need a flatmates’ meeting,” Merlin told Arthur over dinner.
“Since when do we have flatmates’ meetings?” Arthur replied.
“Since you’ve been moping about for the past few weeks.”
“Look, I just don’t enjoy the holidays, okay?”
“No, that is not okay. You’re wrecking my holiday spirit. I want to know why you don’t enjoy the holidays.”
Arthur pushed the food around on his plate. “You don’t want to know.”
Merlin reached out a hand. “Arthur, I’m your friend. If something’s bothering you, I want to help.”
“All right. Fine.” He put down his fork and crossed his arms. “If you must know, my mother died at Christmastime fifteen years ago, and if that wasn’t bad enough, my father hasn’t been the same since. He’s cold, distant and barely talks to me. My mother really loved Christmas, and my father did too, before . . . before she died. But now he just ignores Christmas.”
“Oh Arthur, I’m so sorry.”
Merlin frowned. “Clearly it isn’t. You’re moping.”
“Yeah, I guess so. I just wish I could talk to my father about all of this, but he refuses. I guess he was just hurt by her passing.”
“I’d guess so. But your sister seems normal.”
“Half-sister. And she grew up with her mother. I didn’t even know she existed until two years ago.”
“Yeah.” Arthur sighed.
An idea began forming in the back of Merlin’s mind. “So what are you going to do for Christmas then?”
“I’ll probably go home and somehow get along with my father for two weeks.”
“Arthur, why don’t you come home with me?”
“With you? Why?”
“So you can celebrate a proper Christmas.”
“I can barely remember a proper Christmas.”
Merlin grinned. “That’s exactly why you should come home with me. My mum and I do it right—decorations, food, the whole bit. And you’d love our village. Everyone’s so full of holiday spirit and cheer.”
“I wouldn’t want to impose on you and your mum.”
“Oh you wouldn’t be imposing. You can have my room. I’ll sleep on the sofa. It’s a comfortable sofa.”
“I don’t want to turn you out of your own bed though.”
“Oh, Arthur. It’s nothing. I don’t mind. Especially when I’d be helping a friend celebrate Christmas the proper way after fifteen years of nothing.”
“Are you sure about this?”
Merlin stood. “I’ll call Mum right now and ask her. I’m sure she’ll say yes.”
He retrieved his mobile from the counter and dialed. Arthur watched as Merlin waited for his mum to pick up. He still wasn’t sure what to think of the offer. He knew Merlin pretty well by now. He’d hardly met anyone more generous and kind, not to mention open. It might be fun to enjoy a proper Christmas for once. He found himself warming to the idea. Now there was just Merlin’s mum to approve it . . .
Merlin’s eyes lit up as his mother answered. “Hi, mum! How are you? . . . I’m doing well. Hey, listen, I have an idea. . . . You know my flatmate, Arthur, right? . . . Well, he hasn’t celebrated a proper Christmas in fifteen years, since his mum died. . . . It is awful. And his dad doesn’t celebrate Christmas. So I was thinking he could come home with me? . . . I could sleep on the sofa, I don’t mind. . . . Yeah? Great! . . . Term is over on the twentieth, so we’ll leave the twenty-first. . . . All right, we’ll see you then. . . . Love you too. Bye.” He pushed “end call” and turned to Arthur. “She loves the idea! So you can come, everything will be all arranged for you, you’ll see.”
“But Merlin, I haven’t said I would yet.”
“You were going to, I can tell.”
“All right. Yes, I’ll come.”
“Fantastic! Now we just have exams to get through and everything will be golden.”
Arthur groaned. “Exams.”
“Relax, you’ll do fine. Don’t you always?”
“I guess so.”
“I know so.”
Arthur walked out of his last exam, anxious to get home and finish packing. He couldn’t believe how the month had flown by. They were leaving for Merlin’s hometown, Ealdor, tomorrow. It was amazing how excited he was to go into the unknown like this, but it felt right.
He reached the flat, opened the door, and yelled out, “Merlin!”
“I’m here,” said Merlin from the kitchen. He wandered into the living area, crisps bag in hand. “You all done packing?”
“How did your exam go?”
“Pretty well.” He reached out for the crisps bag, but Merlin danced away,
“Hey, there’s food in the kitchen. Get your own.” Merlin stuck his tongue out at Arthur.
“Fine, I will.” Arthur went back to the kitchen and rummaged around a bit, finding ingredients for a sandwich, which he ate standing over the sink.
Merlin wandered back into the kitchen, munching on crisps. “You have all your presents wrapped?”
“All two of them? Yeah.”
“Merlin, can you at least let me finish eating before you barrage me with questions?” Merlin nodded. “Thank you.”
Merlin disappeared back into the living room, and a couple minutes later, Arthur heard Christmas music being played over the sound system. Arthur rolled his eyes but grinned. This was the first time in years he’d actually enjoyed listening to Christmas music. He finished his sandwich and went to his room where he could still hear the music, and pulled out his suitcase. No time like the present to get packing.
The next morning found Arthur and Merlin loading Arthur’s car. Merlin put the snacks up front while Arthur put their suitcases in the boot. Merlin had tried to argue that he should drive, since he knew the way, but Arthur insisted that it was his car and he was going to drive it. Arthur won in the end because he usually did, and they got in the car and took off for Ealdor.
Merlin did a fine job navigating and within a few hours, they made it to Ealdor. Merlin directed Arthur to his mum’s cottage, which sat at the crest of a small hill. Arthur parked in front of the cottage and they both got out of the car.
The cottage’s door opened to reveal a short woman with hair as dark as Merlin’s. She came running out and threw her arms around Merlin. “Oh Merlin, it’s so good to have you home!”
“It’s good to be home, Mum. Let me introduce you to my flatmate, Arthur. Arthur, this is my mother, Hunith.”
Arthur stuck out his hand to shake hers. She walked right past it and threw her arms around him, too. He stiffened for a moment then relaxed. This may not be how his family did things, but he was going to soak up all the warmth he could from this little family. He hugged her back, and after a moment she stepped back. “It’s good to meet you, Arthur.” She smiled and Arthur could instantly see where Merlin got his smile.
“It’s good to meet you, too,” he replied, grinning back. He couldn’t help it. Hunith just exuded warmth, like her son.
“Let’s get you boys inside. It’s supposed to snow later and I wouldn’t want either of you out in that.”
Merlin grinned. “Snow, all right!”
Hunith smacked her son’s arm. “That just means you’ll have to shovel it.”
“Oh, I don’t care. I don’t think Arthur’s experienced snow very often.”
“No, I haven’t,” he replied.
“Good! Hopefully it’ll snow enough that we can make a snowman. That’s an essential Christmas activity, you know.”
Arthur laughed. It looked like he was going to have an incredible two weeks with this little family.
Arthur and Merlin retrieved their backs and Hunith escorted them inside, where she had hot cocoa waiting for them. “Get warm, boys. We’re going out to find a tree in a little while.”
“Another essential Christmas activity?” Arthur asked.
“Of course. Then we bring it home and decorate it. It’ll be fun,” Merlin said.
As soon as they finished their hot cocoa and got their coats back on, Hunith directed them back outside to the car. They all piled in and Hunith navigated Arthur to the tree farm. Once there they got out and began looking at trees. Arthur found himself smiling as his two hosts argued playfully over several different trees. “Why don’t we let Arthur decide?” Hunith suggested. Merlin nodded and Arthur soon found himself a judge of different trees.
After about five more trees, Arthur paused in front of one. It was tall, but not too tall, and wide, but not too wide. “This is it,” he told the others.
Merlin and Hunith hurried over. “Oh, I agree,” Merlin said. Hunith nodded, smiling. It seemed like he was a pretty good judge of trees after all. Hunith paid for the tree and they strapped it to Arthur’s car and drove it back to the cottage.
Arthur and Merlin wrangled the tree into the tiny living room and set it down in an empty corner. It looked perfect in this space, Arthur thought.
Hunith appeared with a box containing what looked like hundreds of ornaments. Most of them looked homemade rather than store-bought, but that seemed to fit the quirky little family. She turned on some Christmas music and they began decorating the tree. Every now and then, Hunith or Merlin would stop and explain the significance of an ornament. Arthur loved their little stories and it only endeared them to him more.
That evening, during dinner, Merlin turned to the window, “It’s snowing!” he cried, and he started up, heading over to look out the window.
Arthur craned his head to see around Merlin, but Merlin turned back to him and said, “Come and look.” So Arthur got up and looked out the window. Sure enough, big, fat flakes were falling outside, dusting the world in white.
“Good thing we got the tree before that came down,” Hunith said.
They all watched it fall for a few minutes before returning to the table to finish dinner. After dinner, Arthur asked. “What’s next?”
Merlin grinned. “Now I light a fire and we watch Christmas movies.”
“There are Christmas movies?” Arthur asked.
“Hundreds,” Merlin said before heading for the fireplace. Soon he had a merry blaze crackling and the three of them settled on the sofa. Merlin was right—it was a comfortable sofa. Hunith let Merlin choose a movie and soon they were watching a funny movie set in the States.
After the end of the movie, Hunith was going to let Arthur choose a movie when Arthur yawned. She glanced at the clock and said, “Oh my goodness. You boys have been at it for a long time today. I’d better let you get to bed.”
“That would be great, Mum,” Merlin got out before he too yawned.
Merlin showed Arthur to his room while Hunith fetched a pile of blankets and pillows for Merlin. Arthur wheeled his suitcase into Merlin’s room and sat it on a chair. He changed into his pajamas then went back into the living room to say goodnight to Merlin and Hunith. Soon he was settled in Merlin’s old bed, dreaming.
Arthur woke to the sound of tapping on his door. Before he could become fully awake, Merlin opened the door. “Up and at ‘em! Lots to do today!”
“What exactly are we doing today?” Arthur wanted to know.
“We’re baking biscuits, then delivering them to friends. Then tonight, we’re having a little get-together with some friends of mine and their dad. It’ll be great!”
Arthur slumped back in bed. “More holiday essentials, right?”
Merlin grinned. “You guessed it. Now get up and get dressed. Breakfast is almost ready.”
Arthur dressed quickly and walked to the kitchen, where Hunith and Merlin were at work with French toast and bacon. He sat down at the table to wait until they finished.
They talked about all sorts of things, including Gwen, Elyan and Tom, whom Arthur would meet tonight. When breakfast was served, Arthur ate with gusto, surprised at how hungry he was. Normally he had coffee and a pastry for breakfast, which wasn’t terribly satisfying.
When they were done, Merlin tugged on his arm. “Come on, we’re going to build a snowman.”
Arthur glanced outside. The snow looked fairly deep, certainly enough for a snowman. He was glad he’d brought his good boots. “Okay.”
Hunith laughed. “You boys have fun. I’ll have everything ready for the baking when you come inside.”
Merlin and Arthur got their coats and boots on then went outside to the front. Merlin showed Arthur how to make a snowball and roll it in the snow until it got bigger and bigger. When he decided it was big enough, he stopped and pointed at Arthur. “Now you do the middle one while I do the top.”
“Oh-kay,’ Arthur replied. He was still pretty unsure about this, especially about the neighbors seeing two grown men doing something so childish. But he bent down anyway, and began rolling a ball. After a few moments, he got the hang of it and kept rolling until he had a sort-of ball a bit smaller than the first one.
“That looks great. Now let’s shape the balls a bit until they’re rounder then we’ll stack them,” Merlin said. He showed Arthur how to do this and they got to work.
When they finished that, they lifted the middle ball and placed it on the large ball then did the same with the small ball. Merlin grinned and said, “Almost done!” Out of his pockets he brought a carrot and a beanie. “We’ll use rocks for the eyes and mouth.”
Arthur shook his head. “This is crazy.”
“Yeah, but you enjoyed it.”
Arthur thought for a moment and found that he had enjoyed it. The Emrys’ spirit of Christmas must be rubbing off on him. “Yeah, I did.”
This was followed by something cold and wet hitting him in the face. “What the—” he said, when a white ball came hurling toward him. He ducked and it went sailing over his head. “Oh I see how it is.” He bent down and made a ball of his own and launched it at Merlin. It hit him in the chest.
“Yeah, it’s on,” Merlin replied, and soon a full-fledged snowball fight was going on between them.
Soon they were laughing more than throwing and Merlin conceded defeat due to the large amount of snowballs hitting him and few hitting Arthur. They went inside and took off their coats and boots then trooped into the kitchen.
Sure enough, Hunith had baking supplies spread across the counter. “Did you boys have fun outside?” They both nodded. “Good. Have some cocoa to warm up and then we’ll get started.”
While they drank, they told the talk of the snowball fight to Hunith. She laughed and shook her head at the “crazy boys.” All too soon they finished their cocoa and washed up at the sink. “Have you ever baked biscuits before, Arthur?”
“No ma’am,” he replied. What if he messed this up? He didn’t want to ruin any part of Christmas for this family.
Some of his worry must have shown on his face. “Don’t worry. Merlin and I have done this many times. We’ll go slow so you can learn how,” Hunith said.
“Thank you,” Arthur said.
Merlin and Hunith then took him through everything from setting the oven to cutting shapes from the dough. Pretty soon he felt confident enough to mix the dough and decorate. Merlin turned on some Christmas music from the living room, and they baked the day away. It was late afternoon when they finished. Stacks of biscuits sat on every flat surface in the kitchen.
Hunith looked at the clock. “Oh my, we’d better get ready for the party.”
“I thought we’d deliver the cookies today,” Arthur said.
“No, we’ll do that tomorrow,” she replied. “We have enough time to put them all in containers before we need to leave.”
Merlin fetched small plastic containers from the pantry and they got to work dividing up the biscuits and putting them in the containers. When they were done, everything looked neat. They cleaned up the odd bits of flour and crumbs then went to change for the party.
At Merlin’s direction, Arthur parked alongside a small house. Hunith knocked on the door and a moment later it was opened by a lovely young woman. “Come in,” she said, opening the door wider. Arthur looked around to see the house decorated for Christmas and grinned. Here was another family who enjoyed the holiday as much as the Emrys family did.
Merlin hugged the young woman and introduced her to Arthur. “Arthur, this is Gwen Smith. Gwen, this is Arthur Pendragon, my flatmate.”
Gwen stuck out her hand. “Good to meet you, Arthur!” Arthur shook it then looked up to see two men coming toward the group.
“Hunith, Merlin, good to see you!” The older man said. The younger man gave Merlin a quick hug.
“Arthur, these two are Tom and Elyan. Guys, this is Arthur Pendragon, my flatmate.”
They both offered their hands to shake, and Arthur did so. They ushered the group into the dining area, where a table was set festively. “If you all will just sit, we’ll bring out dinner,” Tom said.
The Smith family turned back to the kitchen area and picked up several dishes. They laid them on the table then sat themselves down. “Let’s eat,” said Tom.
Everyone served themselves and soon they were all eating and making conversation. Arthur was asked all sorts of questions, from his university studies to his family. He found himself quickly becoming fond of the Smiths. They got on well with Merlin and Hunith; it was easy to see why the two families were friends.
When they finished dinner, they relocated to the living room. There they played several games together and before Arthur knew it, they’d reached near the end of the evening. “Our last game,” Gwen explained, “is a gift-passing game. I’m going to read a story and every time I say ‘left’ or ‘right’ you must pass the present left or right. When I’m finished, you open the gift you’re opening.”
“Great!” Merlin said. “My favorite game.”
“But I didn’t bring a present,” Arthur said.
“Don’t worry, said Elyan, “it’s our gift to you.”
“Thank you,” Arthur replied, humbled at their generosity.
Tom passed out the gifts and they sat in a circle. Gwen read the very amusing story and they passed left and right accordingly, often with hilarious results. Soon the story was over and Arthur was left with a small, rectangle package.
“Arthur should open his first,” Tom said, “since he’s the new one here.”
The others seconded his decree, and Arthur opened the package. In it he found a Christmas tie. It was pretty but nothing out of the ordinary.
“Turn it over,’ Gwen said. Arthur did and found a button on the other side. “Press the button!”
The tie lit up so suddenly, Arthur almost dropped it. He turned it over and watched the lights blink on and off. “Does it play music too?” he asked.
“No,” Gwen laughed, “but it should.”
“Oh thank goodness.” Everyone laughed while Arthur pressed the button to turn the tie off. This was something he’d have to wear at least once then maybe never again.
The others opened their presents, and while theirs were outrageous, none were more outrageous than his. He laughed a bit at his luck. He would be the one to get the light-up gift.
Soon they were all saying “Merry Christmas” and “Goodnight” to each other. He was hugged by each of the Smiths, and surprisingly, he didn’t flinch. He’d genuinely enjoyed himself and had made some new friends in the process.
Back at the Emrys’ cottage, Arthur got ready for bed. It had been a long day, but an enjoyable one. He’d learned a lot and had gotten to know some very generous people.
The next day dawned—Christmas Eve. Arthur again woke to the tapping on his door. “What?” he managed to get out.
The door opened. Naturally it was Merlin again. “Let’s have you, lazy daisy!” he said.
“Merlin!” Arthur yelped, tossing a pillow at the door.
Merlin just laughed. “It’s Christmas Eve and we’ve got lots to do today.”
“Like what?” Arthur asked, sitting up.
“Well, we’ve got to deliver the cookies and prepare for dinner tonight. We have our big dinner on Christmas Eve.”
“Okay, but you know I’m not much of a cook.”
“That’s okay. We’ll teach you again. That way you can maybe do more of the cooking at home.”
“Okay, well, get up. Breakfast is ready.”
Arthur hurriedly got dressed and went to the dining room. Everything was laid out already. “Sorry I’m late,” he said to Hunith.
“Don’t worry, Arthur dear. We just finished.”
Arthur glared at Merlin, who smirked back at him. Then they tucked into breakfast and talked about what was going to happen that day. After eating, everyone got their coats and boots on, Merlin put the biscuit containers in a box and took it out to Arthur’s car.
“We can actually park in the village center and we can walk all of these to everyone,” Hunith said.
“That sounds nice,” Arthur replied. He hadn’t spent this much time outside in a long while, but it felt good even though it was cold.
He parked in the place Hunith indicated and they began walking. Merlin carried the box. They went from house to house, and were welcomed at each place. Sometimes they stopped to chat for a few minutes, and Arthur was introduced. By the time they finished, Arthur felt like he was known to at least half the village.
As they walked back to the car, Merlin clapped Arthur on the back. “See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
“No,” Arthur agreed. “It was pretty fun.”
“Now back home so we can worry about dinner,” Hunith said.
“Yum! This will be so fun,” Merlin said.
On the way back to the cottage, Merlin described all the things they’d be making: ham, rolls, mashed potatoes, mince pie . . . he went on and on until Arthur thought it would be nearly impossible to finish in one afternoon. Hunith assured him that it wouldn’t be a problem.
When they got back, they took off their coats and boots then went into the kitchen to wash up. Hunith assigned the rolls to Merlin and Arthur, and began preparing the ham herself. Merlin turned on the Christmas music again, and they got to work.
Arthur found that making rolls wasn’t hard. He even tried one right out of the oven, which was hot but very good. He and Merlin moved onto mashed potatoes next, which was a little harder due to the peeling and boiling the potatoes. But he had a lot of fun whipping them up in the mixer.
Hunith moved onto the pies next while Merlin and Arthur began preparing various vegetables. When they finished, they watched Hunith make the pies. She made a couple of fruit pies as well as the mince. When the ham was done, she put the pies in the oven one by one.
“Time to clean up,” Hunith said. The kitchen was a mess, but they put it to rights within a few minutes. Then Merlin and Arthur began setting the table. Merlin brought in a box that had decorations for the table, including Christmas crackers.
Before long, Hunith had pulled the last pie out of the oven and they were sitting down for dinner. Arthur put some of each dish on his plate. He dug in with gusto, enjoying this simple meal with these two simple people more than he had enjoyed any other Christmas dinner with his family. They talked and laughed and pulled crackers together. Arthur got a paper crown from one of his. He put it on immediately and called himself “King Arthur.” Hunith and Merlin called him that for the rest of the night.
After dinner was consumed, they cleaned up together then sat on the sofa for another Christmas movie, which Arthur got to choose. He ended up enjoying it as much as he had the first one. Soon, though, it was time for bed. Arthur pulled out his presents for Hunith and Merlin and put them under the tree. There were already a few other presents there and he found himself excited to open his tomorrow.
“Tap, tap, tap,” came at Arthur’s door again the next morning, He looked outside; it was still dark. “Go away, Merlin, it’s not morning yet.” The tapping stopped and he rolled over and went back to sleep.
The next time the tapping came, it was light outside. “I’m up, I’m up,” he called through the door.
The door opened a little and Merlin stuck his head in. “Happy Christmas!” he said. He then closed the door.
Arthur got up and got dressed. This time he went into the living room where a merry fire was roaring, music was playing, and the tree lights were on. “How beautiful,” he said, alerting the other two in the room to his presence.
“Come sit down here with us,” Merlin said. He and Hunith were sitting next to the tree.
“All right,” Arthur replied, and he sat awkwardly on the floor between the other two.
“Here’s how it works.” Merlin said. “We each take turns opening presents. And since you’re our guest, you go first.”
Merlin reached under the tree and found a present labeled “Arthur.” He handed it to Arthur, who took it and sat it on his lap. He turned it over and carefully pulled off the tape.
“Nooo,” Merlin moaned. “You’re doing it wrong.”
“How am I supposed to do it?”
“You tear into it with wild abandon.”
“Oh-kay.” Arthur made a tear in the package paper. “Like this?”
Arthur tore into the paper. When he was done shredding it, a beautiful bright red sweater sat in his lap. “This is gorgeous!” He looked for labels but there were none. “Did you make this?” he asked Hunith.
“Yes,” she replied, smiling.
“It’s wonderful—and my favorite color. Thank you.”
“You’re very welcome.”
After Merlin and Hunith unwrapped presents, Arthur opened his from Merlin. In the box he found a nice shaving kit—a nice leather bag with all the shaving essentials inside and room for other toiletries. “Thank you, Merlin!” He spontaneously threw his arms around his friend, who hugged him back.
“Happy Christmas, Arthur.”
And Arthur discovered that it had been a very happy Christmas. He’d never forget the time he spent here with the Emrys family, basking in the warmth and Christmas spirit they exuded. It was something he’d remember for the rest of his life.