Word Count: ~ 2,550
Contents/Warnings:[Spoiler (click to open)]Modern non-magic AU
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement intended.
Summary: Merlin has a new job around Christmas time. Arthur thinks it’s ridiculous.
Author’s Note: Dear sassafrasx, I hope you like what I have come up with. I know you wanted something that spoke of the holidays, and I tried my best to do just that:) Please enjoy the ficlet, and Merry Christmas! Thank you melusinahp for the thorough beta!
-- Mods, can I please have an author tag? :)
“Oh my god, what are you wearing?” Arthur asked when he walked into the living room. He wondered if he had too much punch at the office party; maybe his vision was off. But honestly, were those green tights?
Merlin turned around, exhaling hard through his nose, his lips pressed together. It was Merlin’s ‘gearing up to get made fun of’ look, and Arthur got to see a lot of it.
But the bloke deserved it, clearly. Of all the ridiculous things Merlin had done, this was certainly up there.
“Are you planning to wear that out of the house?” Arthur asked as he continued to stare at Merlin’s outfit. “You do realize you look insane?”
“I have to wear it,” Merlin said, turning back to his bag and bending over to retrieve something from inside. His green-clad arse stuck out from underneath a short, green tunic trimmed in elaborate gold embroidery. “It’s my new job.” He stood back up, holding a hat. A pointy hat. With an expression of extreme resignation, he pulled it on atop his head.
Arthur lost it.
He could hardly speak between shaky gulps of breath as laughter rolled through him. “Your new job is to be Santa’s helper?”
Merlin rolled his eyes. “I need a bit of extra money, all right? And it’s an easy job. All I have to do is stand around grinning at the children as they take their pictures with Santa.”
“Yeah, real easy job,” Arthur said, wiping his eyes. “Real easy way to lose your dignity, more like.”
“Oh, shut up.”
“Just get out of here before Gwaine gets home and sees you, or you’ll definitely never hear the end of it.”
“He already knows,” Merlin said pointedly, pulling out some more green garments from his bag. This time it was a pair of shoes. He proceeded to put them on. “He’s a good friend and he doesn’t tease me for needing to work.”
The shoes were upturned at the toes with little pom-poms at the tips, and truly did complete the whole laughable outfit. But this time Arthur kept his lips sealed.
“And anyways,” Merlin continued, “not everyone has their daddy’s money to fall back on. Some of us need to work.”
“Oh, wah, must be terrible for you.” Arthur took off his suit jacket off and then threw it casually onto the sofa; though, he did feel a bit bad now. “Let me know when you’re done whinging,” he added for good measure. Didn’t want to appear too soft. Besides, Merlin knew he was joking.
He certainly did throw it in Arthur’s face a lot how much better a friend Gwaine was. And that irked Arthur more than he cared to admit, out loud or otherwise. He set his jaw and marched to the loo, ready for a steamy shower after such a long, cold day.
Seeing Merlin dressed up and down like an elf was not something Arthur would have expected himself to be looking forward to. But by the next evening, he sat on the sofa with his tablet and pretended to scroll through news articles, while peaking over the top to watch Merlin’s arse wriggle around in those tights.
Merlin paced here and there, gathering up his things scattered all about the flat. Whenever he bent over even a little bit, his tunic rode up and his round, curvy arse came into view. Not to mention those shapely thighs. Had Merlin been jogging mornings again?
Arthur grunted to clear his throat, which had suddenly got dry.
“What’s wrong with you?” Merlin asked.
“Nothing.” Arthur averted his eyes.
Merlin snorted and then bent down to pick up his wallet, which had somehow made it on the floor next to the telly. God, Merlin was such a slob. His things were everywhere. It was a wonder he ever found anything. Arthur was constantly telling him to just keep everything in his room, where he’d know it was all in one place, but did Merlin ever listen to him?
Arthur leaned forward to get a better look. “Merlin,” he said, “while you’re down there, would you mind reaching under the cabinet. I think I… er… left my charger under there.”
“Your phone charger?” Merlin looked up at him, his cheeks flushed pink from all the running around. “What’s it doing under there?”
“I tried to plug it in behind the cabinet.”
“But there’s no outl--”
“Merlin! Will you please just look?”
“All right, all right…” Merlin continued muttering under his breath, but Arthur could not hear it. Likely he didn’t want to, either.
It didn’t matter. Because Merlin was on his hands and knees, arse up in the air. His chest fell to the floor as he looked underneath the large wooden cabinet.
Merlin exhaled agitatedly. “I can’t see anything.”
“Reach around, it’s probably there.”
Arthur raised his eyebrows as Merlin’s arse began to wriggle. It moved up and down, left and right, as Merlin tried to feel underneath the cabinet. Arthur bit his lip and adjusted his trousers, which were starting to feel tight.
“I really don’t think it’s here,” Merlin called.
“Oh, right,” Arthur said, swallowing. “I remember now, I left it in my room.”
When Merlin got up, his face was red, and he did not appear amused.
Arthur grinned guiltily.
“Don’t you have anything to do tonight?” Merlin snapped. “It’s Friday. Shouldn’t you be getting ready to go out or something? Why are you just hanging around?”
“Do you mind if I sit on my own sofa?”
“No. ‘Course not. I just thought maybe you had a Christmas party to go to or something like that. You usually go out Fridays.”
“Well, I don’t have a party tonight, Merlin. So I’ll be staying here, if that’s all right with you.”
“Sure.” Then an evil smile took form on Merlin’s face. “You can help me and Gwaine decorate the tree.”
“What?” Tree? What tree? “A Christmas tree?”
“No, an Easter tree.” Merlin rolled his eyes and laughed. “Of course a Christmas tree, you great git!”
“Well why didn’t anyone tell me about it?”
Merlin raised a judgmental eyebrow. “Oh, right, I forgot. We had to ask the Lord of the Flat first before we could decide to get a tree. My mistake, sire.”
Arthur ignored his sarcasm, because something else occurred to him. “Let me get this straight. Not only did you and Gwaine plot to get a tree together, you two were meeting up back here tonight after your shift to decorate it. Together?”
“We didn’t plot anything,” Merlin said. “We must have just forgot to mention it to you.”
“Right.” Arthur felt himself begin to sneer. Well, he’d made up his mind. “I’ll help you decorate,” he said. “You know, since I’m staying in tonight anyway.”
But the way he said it, Arthur couldn’t figure out if Merlin really did think it was brilliant. Maybe he was just saying that. Maybe he had really wanted to be alone with Gwaine tonight, so the two of them could decorate the Christmas tree together.
Like a date.
“Gotta run,” Merlin said, “or I’ll be late. See you tonight!”
Arthur’s jaw clenched as he watched Merlin dash out the door.
Yes. Merlin would see him tonight. He’d make sure to be here.
The next thing he knew, he was being shoved -- rather roughly -- on the shoulder.
Arthur snorted one more time before opening his eyes wide. “What’s going on?”
He looked around and saw Merlin kneeling on the floor, staring at him with a crooked smile on his face. He was in his living room. He was on the sofa. Oh, right… he had fallen asleep.
“Back from work already?” he asked, sitting up. His back was stiff from the awkward position he’d been lying in for hours.
“It’s eleven-thirty,” Merlin said. “Have you been sleeping since I left?”
Arthur shook his head, clearing his still foggy brain. He couldn’t remember when he’d fallen asleep, just that he’d browsing finance articles. Financial news had a way of doing that to him. And to think, he worked as an analyst.
“Where’s Gwaine?” Arthur asked.
Merlin’s smile fell, and he shook his head. “I don’t know. Out.” He held up his mobile. “Texted me while I was at work, and I just saw it: he’s canceled.”
“Oh.” Arthur couldn’t bring himself to feel bad about it. But when he saw Merlin’s face, a sting of guilt passed through his chest, closely followed by the sickly weight of jealousy. Merlin was disappointed that Gwaine wouldn’t be here. Maybe it really had been a date between them. “Don’t read too much into it,” Arthur said. He had to console Merlin, even if his heart was pounding painfully in his chest. “Gwaine’s always been like that, he’s all over the place. It’s nothing personal. You know that, right, Merlin?”
“Yeah, of course.” Merlin leaned back on his heels, getting ready to stand up.
“And you always have me,” Arthur blurted.
Merlin paused, his lips quirking.
“I’m here,” Arthur said.
“Yes.” Merlin smiled. “You’re here.” His eyes seemed to scan Arthur’s face. “You’re always here. I can count on you, Arthur.”
Arthur’s breath left him, and he suddenly couldn’t speak. Merlin wasn’t standing up, like he was about to a moment ago. In fact, he seemed to be coming closer. He was kneeling again. Arthur’s throat felt like it was tightening up. Was Merlin leaning in?
Merlin jumped to his feet. “Well,” he said cheerfully, “let’s order takeaway, then, shall we?”
Arthur let out a heavy breath. He watched Merlin hurry to the kitchen drawer where they kept all the takeaway menus.
“Takeaway?” Arthur asked.
“Well we don’t have a tree, since Gwaine was supposed to bring it, so we have nothing to decorate.”
“Oh, yeah. Right.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m starved,” Merlin continued to say as he leafed through the various menus. “I didn’t get any breaks since we were swamped. I barely got to sit down. Been on my feet for hours.”
He continued to complain about how horrible it had all been even as he dialed the number of the Indian place. Arthur patiently listened to him talk about the screaming children, the pushy mums, and the one toddler who spit all over him when Merlin picked him up to place him in Santa’s lap.
“Remind me never to take my children to get their pictures taken with Santa,” Arthur said.
When the food came, they sat cross-legged on the floor and ate it on the coffee table with the telly on to some show about funny viral videos from the Internet. Arthur teased Merlin, and Merlin teased him back, and it felt just like the old days when they shared a dorm at uni. Just the two of them -- Merlin on the top bunk, of course -- before they graduated and Merlin met Gwaine and they invited him to share their flat to help pay the rent. Not that Arthur couldn’t have afforded the entire flat on his own, but Merlin had always been sensitive about his family’s lack of money in comparison, so Arthur tried his best never to flaunt it.
“Let me try some of your curry,” Arthur said, and didn’t wait before digging his fork into Merlin’s plate.
“Oi!” Merlin used his fork to swat Arthur’s away, but he was too late to stop him from grabbing a large portion of rice. “You have your own food.”
“I just want to try.” Arthur plopped the forkful into his mouth and chewed. He took his time relishing the taste, taking pleasure in the annoyed look on Merlin’s face, before swallowing. “It’s horrible,” he said finally. “You have terrible taste in curry, I always knew that.” He was lying, it was actually quite good. But he practically lived to get a rise out of Merlin.
“Well, if you knew, then why’d you try it?”
Arthur chuckled. Then he noticed Merlin still looked like an elf.
“Why are you still wearing that?” he asked. “You look ridiculous. At least take off the damn hat.”
Merlin grinned, looking up at him almost shyly through long, dark lashes. “I thought you liked it.”
Arthur nearly choked on his bite of curry. “What do you -- What?”
“Nothing, nevermind.” He tucked back into his food, a tiny smirk playing on his lips.
Arthur swallowed his nerves. “No, you said I liked it. What did you mean by that?” he demanded.
Could Merlin possibly be onto him? He would deny it, obviously, but he needed to know if Merlin had noticed. He really had to be more careful ogling Merlin all the time. He didn’t want anything to ruin their friendship, to change anything between them… to make Merlin pull away.
“Maybe I’m mistaken,” Merlin said, biting his lip. Arthur had fantasized about those full lips for so long. “But… I don’t think so.” Merlin took a deep breath, his cheeks colouring. “I’ve seen you looking.”
“Merlin,” Arthur said, his voice coming out heavily, “what on earth are you talking about?”
“Just…” Merlin got up. He held his hands out when Arthur tensed. “Sit still.”
Merlin walked around the coffee table, slowly, almost as though approaching a frightened animal that might flee at any moment. Arthur gathered all his courage not to do just that. Soon, Merlin was kneeling in front of him.
Merlin reached up and, finally, took off that damn hat. His hair clung to his forehead, and Arthur should have wanted to tease him about it, but he found it adorable instead. He fought the urge to reach out and push the hair from Merlin’s eyes.
Merlin was leaning in. For sure this time.
“What are you do--”
“Shut up, Arthur.”
Merlin was all over him, pressing their lips together. He pulled Arthur in by the back of the neck and snogged him. And Arthur let him, his head swimming, almost scared to open his eyes in case he found he was actually still asleep on the sofa and merely dreaming this.
But Merlin’s warmth as their bodies pressed together was nothing like a dream. It was real, and here, and now. Merlin wrapped both hands around Arthur’s neck, deepening their kiss. When they broke apart moments later, they both gasped for air.
Merlin looked at him with dark eyes, and with one of his radiant, happy smiles.
“What was that for?” Arthur asked.
Merlin shook his head. “I’ve been wanting to do that for ages.”
Arthur’s heart skipped. “You too?”
Suddenly, Merlin jumped back on him and continued to snog Arthur senseless. Arthur felt so deliriously happy, he didn’t even notice that his hands had somehow ended up on Merlin’s backside. Finally -- finally! -- he knew what that gorgeous arse felt like to touch and caress.
“I knew you liked this outfit,” Merlin said in his ear.
Arthur grinned. “Just the tights.”
It began to snow outside, and they stayed in, cuddled up together on this cold night in December. Arthur was glad Gwayne loved partying and therefore hadn’t come back with that tree, and somehow he knew it had never been a date at all. Merlin had wanted him for ages… just as Arthur wanted him.
This was going to be a very good Christmas.