Title: The Christmas Present - part 2
Character/s: Merlin, Santa, Arthur
Summary: Merlin never gets Christmas cards but when one shows up on his kitchen counter, he has to open it up.
Word Count: 1435
Warning: not fluff
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 439: Invite
Author's Notes: Unbetaed. There will be more. Also there really is a North Pole, Alaska and it's pretty adorable, very Christmas themed. I tried but couldn't break this post into smaller pieces.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Surprisingly, there really was a Santa shop at the North Pole. Never mind that it was North Pole, Alaska, but still it was the real Santa Claus.
Merlin could feel the magic coming off the workshop a mile away. In fact, he assumed it was all hidden because ordinary people were just hurrying around outside the compound, paying no attention to the gaudy candy-cane coloured buildings, the pen full of reindeer talking among themselves in English—and shouldn’t it be in Finnish or something?, and all the elves bustling about.
Once the sleigh landed, the card kept directing him here and there, through toy assembly lines and dancing piles of chocolate treats. There was a chocolate river and peppermint sticks popping up as Merlin walked past and it was everything that any kid could have imagined. A wonderland of abundance and beauty, full of sweet songs and potential.
But Merlin wasn’t a kid, hadn’t been in centuries, and he hadn’t felt so much magic around him in all that time. He’d forgotten just how wonderful it could be. And he wondered why he’d not known about the North Pole and the reality of Santa. It was just a myth, wasn’t it?
He’d soon find out.
The card sang a final, “You are here.” Then it disappeared into little red stars and floated away.
The door was ordinary, old wood with a stained-glass window at the top, and a sign that said, “Enter at your peril. 4 days until Christmas.”
Well, Merlin had come far, and he might as well get it over. Besides, he was curious.
Merlin reached out to knock, but from inside, a deep voice rang out, “Don’t just stand there, come in, come in.”
Santa was everything Merlin expected. Rotund, clad in red and white, the man smiled as Merlin walked in and closed the door behind him. A snowy beard, although Merlin could see a bit of candy cane stuck to one side of it. His eyes looked kind of twinkly.
But then looks were deceiving. A friendly face could hide a lot of malevolence. There didn’t seem to be any evil that Merlin could sense but he was cautious as he said, “You wanted to see me?”
Santa smiled. “You are not as I pictured you. Where is your long beard and ragged clothes?”
“I left them at my flat?” Merlin said. He wasn’t sure if he should be cheeky with whoever this was, but he’d give it a try and see what would happen.
“Well, I guess you can’t believe everything Disney puts in films. I suppose you don’t live backwards in time?” Santa said.
“Nope, just forwards. Not Doctor Who either so one body, no regenerating every time I have a hangnail.” Merlin gave Santa a gormless grin. Better to seem innocuous and let people underestimate him.
For a minute, Santa just stared at him, then waved his hand at the chair across from him. The presents on the chair danced out of the way, and as Merlin sat down, a mug of hot chocolate appeared next to him. It smelled delicious. Merlin didn’t touch it, though.
Finally, Santa said, “Have you been a good boy this year?”
Merlin just stared at him. “I thought you knew everything. You see them while they’re sleeping, you know when they’re awake. You know when they’ve been bad or good, and so on. Shouldn’t you know the answer to that question?”
“I do, but do you?” Santa said.
It was a very odd thing to say and really the whole thing felt weird. Merlin said, “I haven’t killed anyone recently if that’s what you are asking.”
“When was the last time you did that?” Santa took a sip of his hot chocolate, then discovering the candy cane in his hair, pulled it out and put it aside. Perhaps for later?
“1945. Final German push. My platoon was being gunned down and I… got angry.” Merlin shouldn’t have felt ashamed about it. After all, he’d killed a lot of people over the centuries, either in self-defence or because he was protecting someone but still, murder was murder. He never really came to grips with what he’d done. He just ignored it as he had so many other things.
“And what will you say to your Arthur when he asks you what you’ve been doing all these centuries?” Santa said, not unkindly but still it cut Merlin to hear it.
“Waiting for him,” Merlin said, his voice sharp. “Look, why am I here?”
Santa took a sip of his hot chocolate, then said, “We’ve… ah… had a conference about you, me and my elves.” When Merlin scowled at him, Santa merely smiled as if he’d expected no less. “Today is Winter Solstice after all, the time of rebirth, and Christmas is a few days away. We thought we’d give you a gift.”
That sounded ominous. “A gift?” Once, Merlin had thought destiny was a gift and look how that turned out.
Nodding, Santa said, “You have been so patient over the centuries and it’s taken a toll on you. I can see it in your eyes. The gods of the Old Religion may have tied your fate to Arthur’s, and while we can’t change that, for your good works and kind heart, we have agreed that you deserve a Christmas present.”
Merlin shrugged. He was certainly no saint and good was relative after all. “I’ve been helping out at the shelter. Lots of people do. It’s no big deal.”
“But you’ve been using your powers to heal them, haven’t you, even to the point of exhaustion?” Santa said, gently.
It didn’t matter what he did. If he helped someone, at least they were happy and a little of the guilt of Arthur’s death eased for a time. “I have nothing better to do with my time. I’m not that important. You should give gifts to people who really deserve it.”
“Do you not want it?” Santa put down his mug and leaned forward, watching Merlin with intent eyes.
“Usually gifts come with strings,” Merlin said.
Santa seemed taken aback at that. “Not always.”
“I’ve learned to be cautious.” Merlin could see that Santa was upset at Merlin’s attitude and he guessed that from Santa’s perspective, Merlin was being obnoxious and not very nice. He wasn’t really, not nice, certainly not good enough for gifts. But since Santa seemed sincere at least on the outside, Merlin gave in. Trying to give Santa or whoever this was the benefit of the doubt, with a bit of cheek, Merlin said, “What kind of gift? Can I return it if it doesn’t fit?”
“It must be returned at the stroke of midnight on Christmas eve. For Christmas day, the gift will be needed elsewhere.” Santa wasn’t playing. He seemed to be intent on making sure Merlin knew that it wasn’t a present he could keep.
“Well, that was not very helpful,” Merlin said, sarcasm hard in his voice.
“Merlin, son of Hunith, your gift will arrive tomorrow morn. Whether you return it early or not is up to you.” Santa said, again. “But remember, the stroke of midnight on Christmas eve will see the gift disappear for it is needed elsewhere after.”
Apparently, whatever the gift was, it was very, very important and Merlin wasn’t good enough to keep it. Shrugging because it didn’t matter anyway, Merlin said, “Got it. A gift I can’t keep. Gone by Christmas day. Great.”
“I hope it brings you joy.” As Santa nodded, he waved his hand in the general direction of the door. “The hot chocolate is yours and there will be a plateful of cookies when you return.” Then he looked down at his list, picking up another candy cane—thankfully the one that had been residing in his beard was flicked into the waste basket, and popping it into his mouth. “Now off with you. I’ve toys to oversee and lists to check twice.”
So he was dismissed, just like that. His back up a little, Merlin said, “Okay… and if my gift needs batteries, can I get them at Tesco or do I need to contact you? And my size is medium, by the way.”
In the blink of an eye, Merlin was back home, standing by his kitchen counter. On it was a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a plate full of colourful cookies. And in his ear, he could hear the remnants of “Ho, ho, ho.”
Well, that went over well. At least Merlin got cookies out of it. And they were quite delicious.