Summary: All Merlin wants is for Gwaine’s first Christmas in Camelot to be absolutely spiffing.
Warnings: THIS IS JUST FLUFF
Word Count: A TINY bit over 2k *hangs head in shame* but only a small small bit.
Author's Notes: I was so happy when I found out my recipient omg :3 This is the first time I’ve written anything with Merlin/Gwaine as the central pairing, so I’m crossing my fingers that the characterisations are okay. I tried to put as many of the things you like in there as possible :’) Merry belated Christmas!
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.
Merlin’s elbows were propped on the table between himself and Gwaine as he watched the knight drain his fifth tankard of ale with the confidence of a man who knew he was able to hold his alcohol. It a trick Merlin had never got the hang of, and he nursed his own metal mug between two cold hands, vaguely aware that it had only been refilled once and yet he was already starting to feel lightheaded and giddy.
Arthur always said that Merlin was especially useless when he was drunk, but in this state Merlin felt as if he could conquer the world. That was what he told Gwaine then, leaning forwards and grinning. He would conquer the world this Yuletide, see if he didn’t.
Gwaine chuckled, reaching over to pry the tankard from Merlin’s stiff fingers and using his other hand to brush a lock of hair out from Merlin’s eyes.
“’Course you will.” He said gruffly, before getting to his feet and then pulling Merlin up beside him. Merlin gasped at the sudden shift, stumbling until he was lodged under Gwaine’s arm with his cheek resting against his shoulder, which was awkward seeing as Merlin was a few inches taller. Gwaine didn’t seem to mind though; he just laughed, dropping a coin onto the table and lifting a hand to the barmaid. Merlin sighed contentedly against his protector, only grumbling a little when Gwaine murmured:
“...like a baby bird,” under his breath as they left the tavern.
“Not a baby bird.” Merlin said, shivering when the cold hit him. He could almost feel the raised eyebrow Gwaine cast down on the top of his head, so he added, “don’t look at me like that.”
Gwaine snorted, pulling him ever so slightly closer. “Can’t stand this time of year.” he muttered, and Merlin just mumbled something non-committal against his jacket, one arm snaking around Gwaine’s waist and holding on tight.
It didn’t register in Merlin’s head until later, when Gwaine had deposited him in his bed in the physician’s quarters and haphazardly ‘tucked him in’ (or, kissed him thoroughly on the mouth before making sure that Merlin was sufficiently covered by his ratty quilt), that Gwaine had said something that was almost unfathomable.
Merlin blinked blearily, and was halfway towards sitting up with a frown twisting its way onto his face, when he questioned the empty room in a dumbfounded sort of way:
“Hates this time of year?”
His tired, drunken slur was so soft that he could barely hear it himself. Then he collapsed back down, snoring before his head hit the pillow.
It was Arthur who woke him, of course, because Arthur knew where he’d been last night and never failed to miss an opportunity to yell at his manservant when he was aware of said manservant’s brain-cracking hangover.
“Shu’up, prat’ead,” Merlin managed, succinctly, batting his hands in the general direction of Arthur’s face, “Get out.”
He could almost hear Arthur’s eyes rolling, and he certainly heard the familiar “Most useless manservant ever” and the sound of his bedroom door opening then closing again. He sighed, somehow managing to blink without ever opening his eyes. Magic oozed just beneath his skin, like an extra layer to his blood, and he felt it rushing up into his skull and clearing his mind of his headache.
He might be a complete lightweight, but he had ways of dealing with the aftermath that Gwaine would never be able to master.
Merlin climbed out of bed, somehow managing not to trip over his own feet as he dragged his nightshirt off over his head, and felt around with his feet for his breeches. In his head, he could hear Gwaine’s quiet admittance as if he was in the room with him, whispering it against Merlin’s ear in the same way that he sometimes whispered when they were in bed together, his accent broad and comforting against Merlin’s skin.
Can’t stand this time of year.
He supposed it made sense, thinking about it now without any drink-induced fuzziness behind his eyes. After all, before coming to Camelot how had Gwaine been spending his Yuletide? As far as Merlin was aware, the man had been constantly on the move. Was it likely that he had stopped during the winter months, to enjoy the festivities? Merlin didn’t know, and that small realisation pulled unpleasantly at something in his gut.
Because Merlin liked Gwaine, quite a lot, and it struck him as odd that this was something he had never thought to ask about.
His feelings must have still been showing on his face when he left the room, because Gaius even paused in between listing Merlin’s duties for the day to ask if he was ‘quite all right?’ Merlin hitched a sunny smile onto his face and assured the physician that he was just dandy, before escaping the room with every intention to not do anything he was supposed to, except find Gwaine.
Finding Gwaine was, of course and always, essential.
When he did locate the knight, it was out on the training field. The air was freezing, and Merlin shivered convulsively as he made his way across grass that had long since turned yellow and been trodden into hardened mud that practically crunched beneath his feet. With every step he took he had to repeat to himself firmly ‘do not trip’.
Gwaine saw him before he’d gotten all the way over, and he only had the chance to put one more foot in front of the other when there was a clanking of armour, and a hollering of “GWAINE, WHERE ARE YOU—?” from Arthur, that turned into an, “oh.” when he realised that Gwaine was heading towards Merlin, because there was no point trying to call Gwaine back if Merlin was in the general vicinity.
Merlin felt his face split in a smile at the thought, and he stopped trying to make his treacherous way across the frozen mud, and waited for Gwaine to reach him instead, and press a hand to the side of his neck. Gwaine’s thumb grazed gently over Merlin’s pulse point, and Merlin looked at his face for a moment, in order to simply marvel at what he saw there:
Laugh lines that cut sharply over worry lines in ways that made him the best looking man Merlin knew.
“When you’re done here,” he said, nodding towards where Arthur was standing and frowning in their direction them, with his hands on his hips, “come find me, all right?”
There was a reason Merlin didn’t cook, and that reason became apparent very swiftly as he attempted to make the things he’d laid out on the rough wooden table look edible. He hadn’t been able to get his hands on a goose because the kitchen staff were adamant that Merlin stay well out of their way while they worked, and Merlin hadn’t really fancied killing one of the downy, white birds that were currently squawking and flapping around several floors below him.
After deliberating for some time, Merlin realised that he didn’t fancy killing anything, and now he slumped down on the bench beside the table and stared mournfully at his arrangement of vegetables. He tried to conjure up some kind of memory that proved that Gwaine had ever ventured near a piece of broccoli, or a stick of carrot, in his life, and failed.
He himself had never seen a Christmas dinner that looked quite so dismal, but then maybe Gwaine wouldn’t mind? It wasn’t even Yule itself yet, but a few days before, and the real feast with the meat and puddings and gravy was still to come. Merlin just thought Gwaine might appreciate something else, on top of that.
Although, he prodded glumly at a wilting piece of cauliflower, perhaps not exactly this.
He was just considering using his magic to clear the whole lot away and have done with it, when the door to the physician’s chambers creaked open. Merlin startled and looked around, half hoping it would only be Gaius back from the lower town. The person who stepped inside though, with a grin on his face and dirt seemingly smeared all the way from his kneecaps to his nose, was Gwaine.
“Hey, Merl,” he walked closer and Merlin noted the slight limp in his step. “Your bloody princess was in a right mood today.”
“He’s your princess, too,” Merlin reminded, standing up in a sort of feeble attempt to shield the table from Gwaine’s view. “What did he do to you?”
Gwaine waves his hands in an ‘it was nothing’ gesture, and lifted an eyebrow. “What you hiding behind your back there?”
“Uh...nothing?” Merlin attempted weakly, already feeling a hot flush creeping up his neck. “I mean. I tried...um. Cooking?”
Gwaine blinked, then moved closer, until he was so close that Merlin was forced to shuffle out of the way or else risk being tipped backwards and landing in a bowl of peas.
“Merlin!” Gwaine’s startled laugh caused Merlin to grimace.
“I know, I know, it looks awful, I just can’t cook—I swear, I might be worse than Arthur, and that’s really saying some—”
Gwaine cut him off by dragging him in a hug, lips pressing against his forehead. Merlin gasped then smiled, slipping his hands around Gwaine’s waist despite all the dirt and despite how freezing cold the metal of his armour had become. “You don’t have to pretend, you know,” he murmured, “I’m aware it looks completely terrible.”
“I like vegetables,” Gwaine said, and Merlin snorted.
“Tell me the last time you ate one willingly?”
The silence dragged on and Merlin laughed again before saying, “I just...I wanted you to enjoy the celebrations this year. It’s your first Yule in Camelot and they’re pretty special here. Would hate for you to miss out.”
Gwaine still didn’t say anything, but he was looking contemplatively over Merlin’s shoulder at the table. “Nobody’s cooked for me in years,” he said, softly, and the lilting smile that spread across Merlin’s face was slightly sad.
“Not even all the girls you seduced in taverns? Surely some of them could cook?”
Gwaine looked at him sharply, a flicker of uncertainty flashing across his features before he realised Merlin was joking—there was no jealousy or annoyance. Merlin felt honestly curious as Gwaine sat down and he took the spot beside him.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve picked up a girl from a tavern, Merlin.” he said, and winked, “you were the last one.”
“Oi!” Merlin punched him in the shoulder, “we agreed that Arthur is the only girl we talk to apart from Gwen, so shut up!”
Gwaine’s laugh rang like bells and Merlin shivered—the sound reminded him even more of the season, and he pressed closer to the body beside him even though all the reflecting metal made him colder.
He felt Gwaine wrap an arm around him, and his chin come to rest on top of his head.
“It’s not the food that I like about Yuletide,” he said, suddenly, and Merlin blinked.
“You like the gifts?” he asked, unable to hide the slight note of panic in his voice, because he hadn’t gotten Gwaine anything yet...he’d been thinking about making something with his magic, but that might take time and—
“Nah,” Gwaine’s shoulders rolled in a shrug that jostled Merlin where he sat, “I like the mistletoe.”
Merlin’s nerves quietened instantly and enough so that he could roll his eyes. “Oh, really?”
“Yeah...you don’t have any of that stuff lying around, do you?”
“’Fraid not,” Merlin pulled back to see Gwaine’s eyes glittering with unvoiced mirth. He reached out, almost without realising what he was doing, and touched the smooth skin between his eyebrows—there were no traces of a frown on his face. Gwaine stared back at him, bemusedly.
“You’re a funny one, Merlin.” he said, voice slightly awed and very fond.
Merlin felt his face go red, and he hardened his gentle touch into a prod, “You’re funnier. I’m just generally brilliant—so brilliant, that I don’t even need mistletoe.”
“You don’t?” Gwaine shifted almost imperceptibly closer, and Merlin leant in so that he could brush his lips against the line of Gwaine’s jaw, moving until he could place a kiss to the corner of his mouth.
“Nope. Absolutely nope.”