Summary: When Gwen gets dumped before the holidays, Arthur steps in as her fake boyfriend to meet her family.
Word Count: 3700
Author's Notes: Merry Christmas, ella_rose88! I hope you enjoy my gift! Thank you moderators, for all your work for this fest and for everything you do throughout the year. :)
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.
“This is unbelievable!” Gwen said as she stomped to her desk. She began unwrapping her scarf then took off her coat. Instead of hanging it up, she simply dumped everything on the floor.
“What’s unbelievable?” asked Merlin from the desk across from hers.
“I just got a text from Lance.”
“Okay, how’s that unbelievable?”
“He just dumped me. By text.”
“Ohh,” Merlin said. “What a jerk! He couldn’t even do it in person.”
“Right? I mean who does that these days?”
“More people than you think. Gwaine in accounting got dumped by text a couple months ago.”
“That’s awful. Well, I guess I know how he feels.” Gwen slumped into her chair.
“What did he say, if you don’t mind sharing?”
Gwen gave an ironic laugh. “Not at all. It says, ‘Dear Gwen, I know we’ve had some good times and I’ve enjoyed being with you, but I think it’s time to move on. I’m just not having fun anymore.’”
“’I’m just not having fun anymore.’ What a wretched thing to say! Gwen, you are a lot of fun and I’ve never gotten bored of being your office mate. I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
“Thanks, Merlin, I appreciate it. It just stings that it’s right before the holidays. I was going to introduce him to my family. I’ve only been talking about him to them for the last nine months. The timing was never right to introduce him. Now it is and he’s gone and dumped me. What am I going to do?”
“You should get someone to be your fake partner! So you won’t have to live it down with your family.”
“Merlin, that’s a terrible idea! My family would see right through that. Besides, who would I get? I’ve been dating Lance so long I wouldn’t know who to talk to.”
“You could ask Gwaine. I hear he’s currently single.”
“Gwaine? Isn’t he a serial dater?”
“Well, there is some truth to that. Hmm, I’ll give it some thought and get back to you by the end of the day.”
“I didn’t say I was going to do it.”
“You will. Besides, it always works in books.”
“Does it now? Hmm. I’ll think about it.”
Merlin grinned. “Great. Now I’ve got to take Arthur his mail. See you soon!”
Gwen waved him away; she had work to do. Meanwhile, Merlin picked up the stack of envelopes on his desk and made his way to Arthur’s office a few steps away. He knocked on the door and waited for Arthur to tell him to come in. A few seconds later, he did and Merlin entered the office.
“Hey, Merlin, how are you doing this morning?” Arthur asked.
“I’m great, but Gwen isn’t.”
“Gwen, Morgana’s assistant?”
“What happened to her?”
Merlin made a face. “Her boyfriend just broke up with her by text.”
“You have got to be kidding me.”
“I wish I was. She’s way too good to be trashed like that.”
“I don’t know her very well, but that seems harsh.”
“She’s the sweetest person I know. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. She didn’t deserve to be dumped, let alone be dumped like that.”
Arthur rose. “No question whose side you’re on.”
Merlin laughed. “Yeah, and she was going to introduce him to her family during the holidays. She had been talking him up to them and now she has no one. She’s going to be totally embarrassed.”
“That’s rough. I wonder if there’s something I can do to help.”
Merlin grinned. He’d just gotten the best idea. “Maybe you can.”
“How do you mean?”
“Ideally Gwen would have someone to introduce to her family when she sees them next week.”
“You don’t mean . . .”
“I do! You could be Lance. That way she wouldn’t be embarrassed. And after the holidays are over, she could just tell them you broke up. It’s a win-win.”
Arthur frowned. “And what would I win?”
“A nice holiday with a beautiful woman. And no strings attached . . . unless you want them to be.” Merlin winked.
“I don’t know about this. What if they see right through it?”
“Well, naturally you’ll want to get to know her before you go through with it. She can tell you what she’s told her family. I know you can act—you told me you’d done theater in school.”
“That’s true. I guess I’ll do it, if she agrees to it.”
“Thank you, Arthur, you’re the best.”
“I know. Would you ask her to come in here, please?”
“Of course. Arthur, you won’t regret this.”
“I really hope not.”
Merlin left Arthur’s office. He walked over to Gwen’s desk and casually announced, “Arthur would like to see you.”
“He wants to see me? Whatever for? I’m not his assistant,” Gwen replied.
“Remember my plan to get you a fake boyfriend?”
“Your plan to get me in trouble with my family?”
“Aw, come on, Gwen. This could work and you know it. Anyway, I explained the situation to Arthur and he wants to help.”
“Wait, you told Arthur about my disastrous love life?”
“Did you miss the part where I told you he wants to help?”
“Wait, he actually agreed to your plan?”
“He said he wanted to help. I talked him round after that.”
Gwen rose. “All right, I’ll go talk to him.” She came around the desk to hug Merlin. “Thanks for caring so much.”
“Aw, Gwen, we’re best friends. Of course I care! Now go in there and talk it out.”
“Okay. Great. How do I look?”
“Beautiful, you look beautiful.”
“How are you not taken, Merlin?”
He glanced toward Morgana’s office. ”I’ve got my sights set pretty high.”
Gwen patted his arm. “You’ll get there. Well, here goes nothing.” Gwen strode the few steps to Arthur’s office and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” Arthur called.
Gwen opened the door and slipped inside. “Hello, Mr. Pendragon.”
Arthur was immediately struck by how beautiful she was. He’d never really noticed before, since he usually just blew past her and Merlin on his way to his office. Maybe he could spin this whole thing positively. “Hello Gwen, thank you for coming. Please have a seat. And call me Arthur.”
Gwen sat in one of the chairs across from his desk. “First of all, thank you for agreeing to help me. I barely know you and yet you’re willing to help. You really must be the great guy Merlin always says you are.”
“I don’t know about that, but I’m glad to help. Now we need to set up a meeting where I can learn all about you and what you’ve told your family about, um, ‘me.’”
“Of course. Are you free tonight? I could make dinner and we could talk while we eat.”
“That sounds really nice. I am free tonight. What’s your address and phone number?”
Gwen gave those to him. “Seven pm work for you?” Arthur nodded. “Good. Come hungry.”
“I will.” They both stood. “And Gwen? Don’t worry about this. It’s all going to work out, I know it.”
“Thank you, Arthur.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you later.”
“See you later then.” With a little wave, she left and Arthur was left to contemplate what he’d just gotten himself into.
At five minutes to seven, Gwen paused to take a breath and smooth down her hair. The dinner she had prepared was hot and sitting on the table. Her flat was immaculate. Everything was ready, but was she? This was a new thing for her, to scheme with someone to fool her family. The alternative was too painful to contemplate.
A knock sounded at the door, snapping her out of her thoughts. She opened the door to find Arthur in casual but nice clothes. “Hello there,” Gwen said.
“Hi,” he replied. “May I come in?”
“Oh yes. Of course.” She opened the door wider to let him through. For a second she’d gotten lost in his blue eyes. She was a sucker for blue eyes. After he stepped in, she closed the door behind him. “Come on through to the dining room.”
He followed her through her living room and kitchen. “Nice flat.”
“Thank you. It’s small but I like to call it cozy. And I’m all about cozy.” She smiled.
“Cozy is good.”
“Here we are,” Gwen presented the table. “I hope you’re hungry.”
“Oh, I am.”
“Good. Shall we?” She pulled out a chair for him and they both sat. They served themselves and began to eat.
“So, tell me about your family.”
“It’s just me, my dad, Tom, and my brother, Elyan. My mother passed away when I was really young. My dad and brother work in construction, and they’re very good at it. I grew up in a tiny house in a tiny village barely on the map. I came to London for university and never really left.”
“That’s great. Well, not the part about your mum, of course, but I’m glad you’re here. You’re a great asset to the company. Morgana sings your praises all the time.”
“Thank you, I appreciate that. I’d ask about you, but Morgana has already told me about your family.”
Arthur frowned. “Nothing bad, I hope.”
“Not at all. I know you lost your mother too, though.”
“When I was a baby, so it probably doesn’t hurt as much as you, but I missed that female presence in my life. Until Morgana came, anyway.”
Gwen put her hand on top of his. “It always hurts to lose your parents, no matter what age you are.”
“Thanks. But let’s change the subject. It’s gotten a bit maudlin in here.”
Gwen laughed. “Yeah, I guess it has. Sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s finish dinner then we can talk more.”
So they finished dinner, talking about inconsequential office matters. When Gwen got up to take care of the dishes, Arthur joined her. “So tell me what you told your family about Lance.”
“Well, luckily, you’re in marketing, like he is, though you’re a bit higher up. And I’m glad I never told them what he looked like or showed them a picture. I told them a bit about his family. He has two sisters, so get used to that idea.”
“Great, another Morgana. I’m so thrilled.”
Gwen laughed. “Don’t worry about it; you can make her up however you want. I don’t mind.”
“So what else did you tell them?”
Gwen told him. She told him what clothes he liked to wear, where he liked to eat, what cologne he wore, what car he drove, and more. They finished the dishes and moved into the living room.
“I’m amazed you told them all that and never told him what he looked like.”
“I know. It just never came up.”
Arthur laughed. “Well now you need to tell me about you. I presume Lance knew most everything about you.”
“Yeah he knows a lot.”
“Well, here’s your chance to tell me.”
“This is going to take a while.”
Arthur glanced at his watch. “I have all night.”
So Gwen began to tell him about herself. Her likes and dislikes, her favorite things, and more. She felt like she talked forever, but Arthur just kept asking questions and repeating her answers, memorizing the information. Finally he stopped after checking his watch again. “Wow, it’s late. I’d better get going.”
“Thank you again for doing this for me,” she replied as they both rose.
He picked up her hand and kissed it. “It’s been my pleasure, really.”
“If you have any more questions, feel free to text or e-mail me.”
“I will.” He opened the door. “Goodnight, Gwen.”
“Goodnight, Arthur.” She watched the door close and sighed. It had been a good night, filled with lots of laughter and sharing. She’d gotten lost in his eyes more than once, and every time she’d had to remind herself what Lance had done to her that very morning. Arthur was just a friend, doing a nice thing for her. Nothing more.
For the next few days before the trip to see her family, Gwen and Arthur became closer. He’d stop by her desk as he came to work, when he left work, and sometimes in between. He’d text her questions, and she’d reply, usually with a fun gif. Soon enough, it was time to leave for Gwen’s holiday visit. They packed their things in Gwen’s car, so they couldn’t ask about “Lance’s.”
Gwen looked up at Arthur. “Are you ready for this?”
“I think I am.”
“Great! Let’s go then.” She climbed into the driver’s seat and they were off. It was only a two hour drive, so they had more time to talk. This time they just talked about every day, average things. They went over the details of Gwen and Lance’s relationship very little.
When they arrived, Gwen parked in front of the house. They retrieved their bags and headed to the front door. It opened and a big, burly man stepped out. “Gwennie!” He yelled and rushed toward them.
“Dad!” Gwen replied catching her dad in a big hug. After a few moments, she stepped back. “Dad, this is my boyfriend, Lance. Lance, this is my dad.”
“A pleasure,” said Arthur, holding out his hand.
“Call me Tom,” the other man said, shaking Arthur’s hand. “We’ve heard so much about you.”
“I’ll bet,” replied Arthur, glancing at Gwen, who grinned.
“Anyway, come on in and meet Elyan. He decided to stay in out of the cold,” Tom said.
Arthur picked up Gwen’s hand and held it as they followed Tom into the house. Once inside, they put their bags down and took off their coats. Tom led them into the kitchen, where they found Gwen’s brother, Elyan, wearing an apron.
“Elyan, since when did you start cooking?” Gwen said, heading over to her brother to hug him.
“Since you left. Someone had to do it, and it sure wasn’t going to be dad,” Elyan replied, setting Gwen to giggles. He looked past Gwen to Arthur. “You must be Lance.” He held out his hand.
Arthur stepped over to shake it. “I must be. Good to meet you, Elyan.”
Tom gestured over to the table in the dining room. “Well, let’s not stand around talking. There’s food to be eaten.”
They all gathered around the table and sat then began passing the food around. Gwen dug in. “Wow, Elyan, this is good.”
“Don’t sound so surprised,” he replied, “I’ve been cooking for years.”
Time passed as they ate and talked. Tom and Elyan peppered Gwen and Arthur with questions, which they must have answered with ease, since neither man looked suspicious. After they cleaned up from dinner, they sat down and watched a holiday movie. They started another, but Gwen began yawning about halfway through.
“Sounds like you need to go to bed,” Tom said.
“That would be good,” Gwen replied. “Lance, you can stay up if you want.”
“No, that all right. I’m quite tired myself.”
“I’ll bet you are,” Elyan commented, winking.
“Elyan!” Gwen cried.
Tom cleared his throat. “I’ll show you to your room.”
Gwen and Arthur retrieved their bags from the foyer and followed Tom down the hall. “This used to be Gwen’s room when she was growing up. I’ve spiffed it up a bit and put in a bigger bed. You two should be comfortable in here. Give a holler if you need anything.”
“Thanks Dad.” Gwen kissed Tom’s cheek. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight Gwen, Goodnight Lance.” Tom turned and went back down the hall to the living room.
Gwen opened the door to “their” room. “Oh dear, I was afraid of this.”
“What is it?” Arthur asked.
Gwen stepped inside so Arthur could see. “There’s only one bed.”
Arthur closed the door behind him. “So, I’ll sleep on the floor.”
“I can’t have you do that.” She sat on the bed. “It’s a big bed; we can both sleep on this without too much trouble.”
“Are you sure about that? The floor looks comfortable enough.”
Gwen smiled. “I’m sure. We’re friends right? It’s all good.”
“All right. I’ll, uh, let you use the bathroom first.”
“Thank you.” She sorted through her bag and found her pajamas and toiletry bag. “See you in a few.”
Arthur sorted through his own things and changed quickly. He wasn’t so sure about this bed sharing thing. He liked Gwen, probably more than he should, and sharing a bed with her meant keeping his hands to himself. How would he sleep with her next to him?
As Gwen changed in the bathroom, she thought about sharing a bed with Arthur and shivered. Should she have accepted his offer to sleep on the floor after all? She’d said they were just friends, but there were moments where she wanted more. Would sleeping next to him crumble her resistance? There was nothing for it but to try it and see.
Gwen woke up slowly, not wanting to ruin the peace she felt. Someone’s arms were wrapped around her and she felt totally comfortable. A few seconds later, she remembered whose arms they were and jolted awake and got out of bed.
Arthur startled awake, looking up at Gwen. “Who, what?”
“Arthur, you were curled up around me!”
“I was? I’m sorry Gwen, I didn’t mean to do that.” He sat up.
Gwen sat on the bed. “It’s all right, Arthur. I suppose it’s only natural to seek out warmth.”
“Yeah. Well, I guess we should get on with the day then.”
“I suppose we should.” She gathered her clothes and headed to the bathroom for a shower.
After she and Arthur had showered they went to the kitchen for breakfast. They found Elyan and Tom there already eating. They joined them and began talking about their plans for the day.
“I thought we’d spend some time at the Christmas market in town then join the carolers in the square,” Tom said.
“That sounds lovely,” Gwen replied. Arthur nodded.
After they cleaned up breakfast, they all bundled up and headed outside. They were walking to the market. They browsed for a little while, stopping at every booth to see what they had to sell. When they found one with jewelry, Gwen stopped and exclaimed at what she found. Arthur watched her and Tom watched Arthur.
He walked to Arthur’s side. “You’ve really got it bad.”
Arthur glanced at Tom. “I suppose I do. Probably more than she does for me.”
“I don’t think that’s the case,” Tom replied. “I’ve seen her watching you. She had the same look on her face that you do on yours.”
Arthur turned to him. “You really think so? Do I have a chance?”
Tom clapped him on the back. “I’m pretty sure you do, Lance.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t mention it.” Tom walked away, toward Gwen.
Arthur was thrilled. If Gwen’s father thought he had a chance then he definitely did. He’d talk to her tonight and see how she really felt. Yeah, that’s what he’d do.
The hours passed slowly for Arthur, though he enjoyed the time he had getting to know Tom and Elyan more. As evening came upon them, they followed the crowd headed to the village square for the caroling. There was a giant Christmas tree there, all decorated and lit up for the season. Everyone oohed and ahhed at the tree and the singers as they began to sing. Arthur again took Gwen’s hand in his. She settled against him, her head against his shoulder. He relished the contact and had a hard time paying attention to the carolers.
When at last it was over, Arthur, Gwen, Elyan, and Tom made their way back to the house, where they decorated the tree with Christmas music playing in the background. Arthur got to lift Gwen to put the angel on top. Once lit, the tree looked gorgeous, and they enjoyed some hot cocoa as they sat down to watch another holiday movie.
As Gwen snuggled up to Arthur, she thought about how nice it would be to have him be her real boyfriend. She was surprised at her feelings when she stopped to think how Lance had been her boyfriend only a few days ago. She supposed she should be more upset that he’d dumped her so unceremoniously. But she’d been growing closer to Arthur ever since and it just felt natural. She decided she’d talk to him when they got to their room, to see how he felt.
“Happy Christmas,” Gwen said as she hugged her father and brother goodnight after the movie. She and Arthur went into their room. After the door was closed, each turned to the other and said, “We need to talk.”
“You go ahead,” said Arthur.
“Yeah, I’m good to wait.”
“All right.” Gwen cleared her throat. “Arthur, I like you. A lot. Enough that I don’t want to be a fake couple anymore. I want to really date you.”
“Really? Because that’s pretty much what I was going to say.”
“Yes. Gwen, I feel like we’ve gotten pretty close these past few days, and that you may still be hurting after Lance, but I’d like to go out with you, too.”
“You know, I thought I would be hurting more after Lance dumped me, but I just don’t. I feel like being around you has healed me faster than anything. So, Arthur, would you be my boyfriend?”
Arthur stepped closer. “I’d like that very much.” He stepped even closer. “So, can I kiss you now?”
“Mmm hmm,” Gwen replied, clasping her hands around his neck.
“Oh goody.” He tilter her head up and pressed his lips to hers. It was a sweet kiss, full of promise and hope, and didn’t last nearly long enough for Gwen. But if she had her way, there’d be plenty more.
“So, should we tell Tom and Elyan the truth?”
“We can wait until morning, I think. Besides, we have snuggling to do.”
“Do you think they’ll forgive us?”
“It’s Christmas. Anything is possible.” And she pulled him down for another kiss.