Summary: Arthur proposes at Morgana's Annual Christmas Party
Word Count: 4,100
Author's Notes: Super kindly beta'd by the lovely blood_songs90 Happy Camelot Drabbling Kesmith. Much love to the mods for organising the fest too!
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 inspected the three ties he'd laid at the foot of the bed, one perpendicular to the other. One was a sober blue with tiny silver accents coming in the shape of minuscule stars like pinpricks in a night sky. It was a tie his father would approve of. It said 'this tie belongs to an upstanding, serious individual'. The second tie was one he had bought himself. It was silk, his personal nod to decadence, and had tiny grey and white checks that radiated with the insouciance of a gingham pattern. The third one... The third one had little footballs embroidered near the knot and again down near the bottom. On a green field.
Arthur didn't know which one to go for. At age thirty, he was about to go eeny meeny miney moe on his ties.
“Arthur, I swear to God,” Morgana shrilled from the other room, the rapid fire clacking of her heels resounding closer and closer, “if you make me late to my own Christmas Party I'll draw and quarter you.”
“I thought the Middle Ages were over,” Arthur said, without even looking over at Morgana.
“I'll reinstate them,” Morgana said, coming to stand next to him. “What in the hell are you dawdling over?”
“I see them.”
“I can't choose.” Arthur didn't exactly want to admit to that, not after he'd proclaimed far and wide that indecisiveness is the greatest shortcoming a man might possess. “That's the hold up.”
“Well, then pick one up at random!”
“I can't do that!” Arthur wanted to protest that idea as loudly as he could. “If I choose the first one then I'll be giving a clear message, 'I'm a boring though proper man'. If I choose the second, I’ll feel confident because it's my favourite tie.”
Morgana tapped her shoe against the floor. “And they say women take ages on outfits. They haven't seen you in action, obviously.”
Arthur ignored Morgana's rant. “But I think I should go for the one Merlin gave me last Christmas.”
“It's horrid, Arthur.” Morgana mimicked gagging. “It's one of the most horrible ties in creation!”
“That's the point!” Arthur said, perhaps infusing his tone with too much vehemence. “I'll be ridiculous.”
“You've stopped making sense,” said Morgana, shaking her head.
“Not in the least,” Arthur said. “It makes perfect sense. It will show my devotion and will help me with my plans.”
Morgana tilted her head. “Still sounds like total gibberish, but whatever gets your arse in gear.”
Arthur was pouring the punch he was sure Morgana had spiked when someone backed right into him. The upheaval made Arthur's hand jerk and a fall of syrupy alcohol-smelling liquid poured all over his front, his white shirt now a patchwork of mauve stains. “Shit, look what you're doing, you idiot!” Arthur said, holding both hands up, one still clinging to the cup. He looked down at the mess the man had caused and despaired.
The man who'd collided with him spun round. At any other time, such as when his shirt didn't stick to his chest in all its sugary glory, Arthur would have called him attractive. His blue eyes were of a shade that you didn't see every day, and his sharp features and and lush mouth were pretty. All that didn't matter today. Not even the man's apologetic, “Oh, my God, look at your shirt. I'm so sorry,” did anything to move Arthur.
It only added insult to injury. “Well, your being sorry doesn't help me much, does it?” Arthur said, and walked off in a huff.
From the other end of the ballroom, the man waved a tiny white flag at him.
Arthur squinted. He had a feeling he recognised the individual who was signalling him but he couldn't tell where from. He also wasn't sure he hadn't drunk too much – Christmas parties being conducive to getting soused – and that he hadn't hallucinated the flag part.
“Who's that?” Arthur asked his sister.
“Oh, that,” Morgana, said, raising her glass to her lips, “is Merlin, our brand manager.”
“That child is your brand manager!” Arthur squawked right as Merlin made it over to them.
“Hello,” Merlin said, holding his hand up in salute. “I'm Merlin and … well, I've come to bury the hatchet.”
Morgana's gaze jumped from one to the other of them. “What hatchet?”
Merlin favoured Morgana with a rather enticing smile, one Arthur would have been fully appreciative of if he only understood it at all.
“I think we started on the wrong foot last year,” Merlin said, grinning at his little flag, to which he gave an extra spin. “So when I learnt that the guy I had a little altercation with was going to be here, I decided to start a kiss and make up action.” Merlin went delightfully red at that. The fact that he did provided Arthur with an exorbitant amount of glee. “That is to say, I decided it was time for me to smooth out any animosity between us.”
Arthur was so taken with Merlin's becoming flushed and had forgotten the incident that had started them on the wrong foot so completely that he said, “I suppose that's negotiable.”
Morgana jabbed him in the chest, just under the ribs, where the flesh was softer. “Arthur, be polite, please.
“Negotiable?” Merlin said, his shoulders drooping.
Arthur continued, as though he hadn't been interrupted. “Yes, we'll negotiate our truce at dinner, next week. I'll be your guest.”
The dinner was a success. Merlin chose the venue. By way of retaliation he chose a strip bar, thinking it would embarrass Arthur. Arthur disappointed him. He wasn't the prude Merlin thought he was. On the contrary, he made the lewdest comments he could think of. That only got Merlin guffawing and trying to launch a game of one-upmanship. Every time Arthur made a comment Merlin leant close and murmured filth in his ear.
This way dinner turned into a date and the date turned into a shagging session that left Arthur aching in all the right places. Taking into account the fireworks between them, Arthur wasn't slow to ask Merlin out on a second date.
At the end of the second date Merlin invited Arthur out and so on and so forth until they'd been dating for a year. To Morgana's great amusement they turned up together to her 2009 Christmas Party. And then to her 2010 party and at her 2011 party.
“I wonder if this is the last of Morgana's parties.”
“Why?” Arthur absently asked as they lounged on Merlin's sofa, watching telly. “She seems very determined to host her annual parties until the day she croaks.”
“Well, if the Mayans are correct...” Merlin said, sniggering sarcastically, “There's no 2013 in sight.”
Arthur pinched Merlin's side and placed a slobbery kiss on the his neck. “That's all a stinking pile of horseshit.”
“But if it really was the end of the world,” Merlin asked, with some unsubtle eyebrow waggling. “What would you be doing?”
Arthur ran his palm down Merlin's chest, clearly aiming for his groin. “I have an idea or two.”
Needless to say the one from 2012 wasn't the last of Morgana's parties because the Mayans got it wrong.
The band stopped playing their rendition of Jingle Bell Rock and disappeared back stage for a break between sessions. Arthur's eyes raked the festively accoutred room for Merlin. Another thorough search yielded nothing; Arthur sighed into his glass.
At least the champagne tasted great.
“He'll come,” Morgana said, when she swept by. “You know how he is.”
Arthur knew how Merlin was, yes. He hadn't been with the man for five years for nothing. So he was aware of some of Merlin's less shining qualities, like his lack of punctuality, his forgetfulness, and his total inability to adhere to plans. While he loved those qualities because they were part of Merlin, tonight he couldn't stop feeling like a cat whose tail had been stepped on.
He turned the box in his pocket. “Yeah, yeah, I do. I don't even know why I put up with him.”
“I thought it was the sex.” Merlin's voice startled Arthur.
Crap, Arthur thought. Of all days to be caught saying something like that, it had to happen today. “Merlin!”
“Car broke down,” Merlin said with a grin. “I took out the repair manual but couldn't make heads nor tails of it so in the end I capitulated and called a mechanic. But by then, I was already late.”
“Oh, poor dear,” Morgana said, kissing Merlin's cheek and wiggling her eyebrows at Arthur.
Because of Morgana's kiss, Merlin reddened. “Thanks for the coddling, it's perking me up.” Turning to Arthur he asked, “Forgiven? I drove like a madman to be here in time.”
Half of the canapés had already been eaten; and the quantity of punch had dwindled. Arthur was also sure that the band had played most of their repertoire and was preparing for the finale. Arthur hadn't made provisions for this. Merlin's favourite song had already been danced to and that had was supposed to be Arthur's cue. But he couldn't not melt at Merlin's winning smile. “Forgiven, but only because it's nearly Christmas.”
Merlin beamed at him.
“Well, since I don't have to broker a peace between you two any longer, I'll go,” Morgana said, “I see Patsy over there and there's something I'm dying to tell her.” In a cloud of perfume, she sashayed off.
Merlin sidled over to him. “I am really sorry. I know you find Morgana's parties boring and I was supposed to be...” Merlin's face morphed when his eyes landed on the tie Arthur was wearing. “Is that mine?”
“Well, since you gave it to me--” Arthur's eyebrows pushed up, wrinkling his forehead. “--it's technically mine.”
“Never mind how anal you are,” Merlin said, leaning close to press his lips against Arthur's. “I'm still rather fond of you.”
Even though the kiss was chaste and suitable for the wide audience they had, Arthur's marrow curled in on itself. This was it, the indicator. So his plans had gone a bit awry, most people were in their cups, and Merlin had gone through a bit of an ordeal to get here. So what? He could still forge ahead.
“Yes,” Arthur said, apropos his own thought process rather than what Merlin had said.
Merlin frowned. “Yes, what?”
Arthur gave Merlin his glass and leapt on the stage the band had vacated. He stood right under a mistletoe twig the band leader had performed under. (So he could get kisses from eager fans, most likely.) Grabbing the microphone, Arthur cleared his throat.
A hush fell over the room. In expectation of the band resuming their playing most of Morgana's guests turned round, their eyes now trained on the stage.
Arthur felt his Adam's apple bob in his throat as he swallowed. “Right, hello.”
Goggling at him, Merlin smiled a confused smile. “What the hell,” he mimed from where he stood in the middle of that crowd Arthur was now addressing.
Arthur spoke on. “You're probably wondering what I'm doing on stage.”
There was a murmur of confirmation from Morgana's guests.
“Other than wishing you all a very merry Christmas.” Arthur thought he'd better ingratiate this crowd before they lobbed their shoes at him. “Well, there's a reason.”
“Then get on with it,” someone shouted from among the throng of invitees, a whistle following the invitation to proceed.
“Right,” Arthur said, rooting in his pocket. “I took the stage for a personal reason. See, I had this all planned.” Arthur's fingers closed tight around the box, the corners digging into his palm. “I was supposed to mount the stage after a Merry Little Christmas, and do this when the perfect moment struck.”
Merlin's eyes sparked with some kind of recognition. He must have got the song reference at least. Arthur read Merlin's lips as he said to his neighbour, “That's my favourite.”
Buoyed by Merlin's little pleased expression, Arthur went on. “But then things didn't go exactly to plan. But you know what, though, you don't need to have everything working like clockwork when you already have a slice of glorious madness in your life.”
Merlin smiled this time.
“So without further ado, I'll do what I jumped here to do.” His heartbeat loud in his ears, his face flaming, Arthur threw his shoulders back and said, “Merlin, the past five years have been anything but smooth-sailing. We've argued, one-upped one another, gone on not talking sprees. When I was younger I thought life had to be picture perfect and that relationships should be the same.”
A burr of voices joined in; the guests exchanging opinions on the subject opened up by Arthur.
“But that is not true, is it?” The question was a bit rhetorical since Arthur had answered himself. “What matters is all the good moments and bad moments put together, the fights and the challenges, the spark.” Every time he was with Merlin Arthur felt a literal thrill chase down his spine. “I want to continue to experience that.” Arthur paused. “Merlin, I want you to always be you and I'm here hoping to be sharing those bits of you in future.”
Silence fell on the room.
Arthur was aware of being the complete centre of attention now and that made his tongue feel clumsy in his mouth. His hands were damp with sweat and did a very bad job of holding the microphone. For a moment, Arthur froze and the silence deepened.
It was only when he glanced at Merlin's wide, shining eyes that he found the momentum to go on and do what he'd hopped onto this stage to accomplish. “Merlin,” he asked, taking the box from his pocket and opening it to reveal its contents, a plain gold band, “will you marry me?”
Everybody clapped and cheered but Merlin stood stock still.
Arthur's stomach took a dive for his feet. Oh God, he'd made an idiot of himself and Merlin. And Merlin was going to refuse him. Arthur didn't care about being ridiculous all that much. This was embarrassing, true, but he'd forget about it after a day or two. Maybe with the help of a couple of pints. But what he dreaded losing was Merlin. If he'd overstepped the mark, made him feel as if he was forcing his hand, then he'd wish this action undone in a moment flat.
“Merlin,” Arthur mumbled, shielding the microphone so that his voice wouldn't be picked up.
With a bit of elbowing Merlin made it to the stage. “This was theatrical and crazy and probably the most embarrassing moment of my life, but yes, you idiot. I do want to marry you.”
Grabbing Merlin by the collar, Arthur went to his knees and kissed him, slowly opening his mouth to a chorus of cheers that meant nothing next to the touch of Merlin's lips.
What did interrupt his fugue state was someone tapping him on his shoulder. “Can I have my microphone back, mate?” the band singer Morgana had hired asked.
As the last set played, Arthur and Merlin stole away. After the initial buzz the public declaration caused, attention drifted away from them, but not so much so that they could bask in the thought they'd just taken a huge, life-altering step without being questioned about it and congratulated.
In a bid for privacy, they got themselves a room in the hotel Morgana had booked for her annual Christmas event. Still a bit dazed, they made towards it.
A bit weak at the knees, Arthur spilled out of the lift and with hands that trembled not inconspicuously, he opened the door.
Arthur didn't even inspect the room they'd booked at rapine prices, he only had eyes for Merlin. In the low light coming from outside Merlin looked entirely fay. The low, white gleam cast Merlin's skin in a wash of milky whiteness. The reflection made his eyes shine bright.
Sitting Merlin at the foot of the bed, Arthur knelt between his legs, pressing his thumb at the corner of Merlin's lips before moving closer and kissing them. “So you okay with everything?”
“Yes," Merlin said, grabbing Arthur's face in his hands. "I'm a bit surprised and I wasn't expecting that to happen--"
Smiling wryly, Arthur interrupted Merlin. "Morgana always says I'm undemonstrative, I thought I'd do something to prove to everybody that--"
"You aren't?" Merlin guessed, entirely and completely wrong.
"That I really do want you in my life." Arthur gulped. "And that I do lo--"
Merlin bent over to fit their lips together, an exhale accompanying the move. "I know that. There's no need for you to become more like Morgana thinks you should be, or anyone. I don't want other people's ideal boyfriend."
Arthur said, "Not even if that makes me nicer?"
Merlin rolled his eyes and grinned against his mouth. "I like you just the way you are. You'll probably find the concept familiar after that oh so moving speech you ga--"
Surging, Arthur wound his arms around Merlin, kissing Merlin deep with his tongue until their mouths were worked raw and plump.
Arthur's knuckles brushed Merlin's neck as they stood still for a spell, panting, noses touching as they breathed the same hot and close air. Once they'd recovered a little, Arthur started to put small bites to Merlin's throat until Merlin's breath hitched. That was a signal Arthur knew well. He pushed Merlin back on the bed, crawling after him. When Merlin shed his jacket, Arthur couldn't not touch so he reached out and yanked Merlin's shirt off him. Merlin's fingers picked at the buttons of Arthur's button-down, his hands wandering under the cotton, covering Arthur's flesh.
Arthur let out a gasp, so Merlin shut him up with wet and dark kisses, long ones that made him drunk on them.
With his fingers Arthur caressed Merlin's bare arms, his knuckles skimming his chest, his thumbs pressing into the softer flesh under Merlin's ribs.
Probably teased too far, Merlin pushed at him, tugging at Arthur's shirt till it dropped off his shoulders, then he undid his belt.
Thrumming with excitation, Arthur reared and pushed down Merlin's dress trousers.
Merlin managed the same by him until they were naked, hip by hip, their breathing coming rapid and short.
As he swallowed, Arthur's pulse trip-hammered in his throat. He hovered there, on top of Merlin, his hands at Merlin's waist, tracing the bone, the skin hollowing on either side of the rise of it and stretched thin.
For the count of a few breaths they looked into each other's eyes, then Arthur took to dropping kisses on Merlin's hair, ears and temples, his nose brushing against the length of Merlin's shoulders.
Merlin breathed out sharply and rotated his hips. "So?" he said.
“So," Arthur answered, his cock hard against his lower belly, "how are we going to celebrate our decision?"
"I was thinking," Merlin said, his palm chasing down Arthur's back to map the slope of Arthur's arse till his fingers splayed on the back his upper thighs. "Sex?"
Arthur chuckled. "Really, I had no idea you wanted that."
"No, you're so pure, like driven snow really, that you wouldn't have had the faintest."
“You're the debaucher in this partnership.”
Merlin fit himself around him so Arthur could feel the strength of him as he held Arthur, the long muscles in his thighs, his sinews flexing under Arthur's touch.
Merlin drew an unsteady breath. "Mmm."
Arthur trailed his fingers down Merlin’s sides, his fingers spaced just a little.
Merlin caught his kiss with hungry lips and wrapped his hand around Arthur's cock, pulling.
A warm up-rush of desire playing under his skin, Arthur pushed into the touch, his hips pistoning forwards in short bursts.
Merlin stroked him, covering Arthur's skin in goose flesh, slow and tender.
Arthur rocked forward into the grasp of Merlin's hand, his sighs punctuating his movements.
Initially, Arthur kept an erratic rhythm, rolling his hips to meet Merlin's touch, the breath puffing out of him in big heaves. The more he moved though, the better it all got. His cock started to spill pre-come, slicking everything up, and the slide and catch of his flesh became much more pleasurable.
For a moment all was white noise, his gasps short and broken, his whimpers drowned by the rapid coursing of his blood in his veins. But then he thrust out one last time and everything was easy and perfect. Starting at the base of his spine, a thrill licked through him and he came in long spurts that painted Merlin's knuckles a muted white.
On his last wind, Arthur collapsed on top of Merlin, his chin finding support on Merlin's clavicle, one of his hands wrapped around Merlin's shoulder, the other loose by Merlin's hip. “Give me a moment,” Arthur panted, the feel of Merlin's hard cock a clear reminder of what he had left to do. “And I will--”
“Don't feel pressed by my dying here,” Merlin said, cupping his cock.
Not one to let his partner down and especially not on a day like this, Arthur slid down Merlin's body. To work Merlin up he mouthed at his hip and at the crease that joined leg and thigh. The musk of Merlin was deep in his nostrils by then. Arthur wrapped his mouth around Merlin. He gave him two preliminary hard sucks before flicking his tongue back and forth over under and around his crown.
Merlin's breath came in hard little bursts. He was flushed, his cheeks like red apples. His sweat had pooled at the hollow of his throat and beaded his temples. As Arthur worked him, his hands gripped the stark white sheets in tight fists.
This told Arthur that he was doing rather well, so he brought his lips up to the head, then went all the way back down again.
Propping himself up, Merlin stared and held his breath, looking as though he was holding back by sheer strength of will.
But Arthur wanted him to come. He wanted to celebrate Merlin saying yes and he wanted to do it in a way that they would remember awhile.
Rubbing his tongue back and forth, he tried to vary it up, to make it so Merlin wouldn't know what came next. He wanted to please him, surprise him, keep him on tenterhooks. He teased him with his with tongue before taking him in his mouth and throat, swallowing around him. With his hands, Merlin held onto his shoulders and caressed Arthur's skin. All the while he made little noises, all snuffed out by his closed lips.
Relentlessly, Arthur bobbed his head, Merlin sliding down his throat, fat and hot, the length of him bringing tears to his eyes. The moment Arthur let up a bit, he trailed his fingers down, finding the ridged muscle of Merlin's hole. Pressing lightly with the pad of his thumb, Arthur skimmed the rise of skin with his touch, hinting at penetration.
Merlin made a rough, choking sound Arthur wouldn't have caught if he wasn't focusing hard on him and then, his whole body clenching, he came, the taste of him acrid on Arthur's tongue.
Arthur coughed and spat then settled back on the bed, his head on Merlin's stomach, his fingers playing with the hairs on Merlin's chest, smoothing them out.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, though Christmas was actually three days away.
Eyes closed, lips turned up, Merlin huffed a quiet, lazy laugh.
For his part, Arthur let his eyes slide shut for a nap.
When they got back downstairs there was nobody around but the hostess. Her heels clicking on the pristine sparkling floor, Morgana came up to them. “I wanted to congratulate you on your engagement but I see now,” she said, giving them a clinical once over, “that I should congratulate you on your felicitous shag.”
Complicit, Merlin and Arthur looked each other in the eye. They didn't laugh, but their eyes crinkled at the corners.
“Mind your own business, Morgana,” they said in unison, ambling towards the doors and the night outside, Arthur's hand within Merlin's inside his coat pocket.