Summary: Merlin is home with his family for Christmas. If only Arthur could be there too...
Warnings: None, though it does get quite fluffy
Word Count: 3681
Author's Notes: Happy Holidays, Alafaye. Your prompt was 'Kisses in the snow!, coming home from tour (love modern AU with one of the boys in the army), holidays with family (not a lot of angst please)'. I have tried to do something that incorporates all of that and really hope I haven't put in too much angst! Huge thanks to celeste9 for the fast last-minute beta and to the Camelot Drabble mods for all their hard work in giving us another lovely fest <3
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.
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow…
It was snowing.
Merlin stared out of the window of his mum’s small cottage, looking out on the Welsh countryside that was slowly starting to turn white. It was light, so far, but the forecast was for it to get worse by nightfall. There was a very good chance of a white Christmas.
Downstairs he could hear his mother and sister laughing at something, Freya squealing excitedly. It was probably the snow. She loved snow.
Arthur loved snow too. He wouldn’t be happy about missing out on a white Christmas.
Merlin could remember the last winter, Arthur home on leave during a particularly cold January, sitting in bed in their London flat, watching the snow falling outside. They were snug and warm.
It didn’t settle, of course. It rarely did in London, the huge city too vast and too populated. Even in the parks it wouldn’t stay for long. Not like out here in Wales where the snow would settle and stay there for days, weeks even sometimes. It always made Merlin a little homesick, seeing snow when he was away from Wales. And, of course, there was the risk now that he would get snowed in, be stuck there until the New Year. That wouldn’t be so bad, and his mum and sister would love it.
If only Arthur were there to share it with them.
He had another two weeks to go before Arthur was due home from his tour of duty. Two long, cold, lonely weeks, the two weeks of the year when everyone wanted their loved ones around them. Arthur was off somewhere on the other side of the world, probably baking in the sun. Merlin didn’t even know exactly where he was because it was classified. Classified. That meant dangerous. It also meant there were often no calls home, none of the Skype chats he enjoyed so much. Just silence. Even though it was Christmas, he still was unlikely to get a call.
Downstairs the phone was ringing. He heard his mother answer it, heard her surprise and pleasure at hearing from whoever it was. Probably one of her friends, or some rarely heard-from relative, he supposed. Possibly Arthur’s sister, Morgana, who had threatened to descend on them rather than be left alone with Uther for the Christmas holiday. Hunith liked her and would certainly agree to it. Probably invite Uther as well… Merlin couldn’t think of anything worse than his sour, disapproving face over the turkey, without Arthur there to make it bearable.
Great. He’d probably have to speak to whoever it was and feign Christmas cheer. Reluctantly he went downstairs, and found his mother in the kitchen, a long list in her hand.
“That was a quick phone call.”
Hunith smiled. “Extra guest for Christmas.”
“You’ll see. One of your London crowd, preferring the appeal of the wild countryside.”
It was Morgana then. Merlin liked her well enough, but she wasn’t Arthur. His shoulders slumped just a little bit more.
“Now,” Hunith continued, apparently not noticing her son’s lack of enthusiasm. Or, he knew, probably noticing and ignoring it. “That’s an extra mouth to feed. Can you drive down to Tesco before the snow gets too bad and see how much of this you can pick up for me? Oh, and pop in to your uncle Gaius, bring him back with you in the car, I don’t want him walking in this weather, or worse, trying to ride that dreadful old bike.”
It was a huge list. Merlin couldn’t imagine how they could possibly need any of it when the cupboards and fridge and freezer were already all bursting at the seams. It wasn’t as if Morgana was a big eater or anything.
“Hush now, no arguments. There’ll be freshly baked mince pies when you get back, you know how you love those. Oh!” She grabbed the list back and scribbled something else on it. “More puff pastry. I’ll need to do another batch.”
Definitely Morgana then. She and Arthur had devoured the box of home-made pies Hunith had sent over last year. Reluctantly, wrapping up warm against the cold, Merlin did as he was bid.
The roads seemed so much smaller than he remembered. It wouldn’t take much more snow, he thought, to have them snowed in. He collected Gaius first, enlisting his help with the shopping at the Tesco superstore a few miles away. It was a fraction of the size of the one he normally frequented, but the staff were much friendlier. The shelves had still almost been stripped bare by the shoppers preparing for the Christmas period. Having nowhere to buy food for two whole days always, without fail, led to siege mentality, people going out and buying far more food than they could eat in a month. Tesco had a sign in the doorway and on the website telling people they’d be open at 6am the day after Boxing Day. Though there was an Express a couple of miles away that opened Boxing Day. Nobody was going to starve. Still, this year with the snow that was forecast perhaps it wasn’t such a bad idea.
Gaius found himself a decent bottle of whiskey, and then various snacks and things that were already on offer, and then two bottles of champagne. Those weren’t normally his thing, but perhaps his taste had changed in the past year. Somehow they found their way into Merlin’s trolley and ended up on Merlin’s credit card when it all went through the till, even though Merlin knew from past experience that the whiskey bottle at least would sit beside Gaius’s armchair in the lounge all through Christmas, and be half-empty by Boxing Day. His uncle would probably sit there, dozing in front of whatever was on the telly, full of Christmas dinner, cracker hat slowly slipping off his head. He did that every year. Goodness knows what he wanted the champagne for. It could be a very merry Christmas.
Freya’s favourite sweets were on special offer by the till, so he picked her up a pack. They were one of Arthur’s favourites too, but there was no Arthur. Even though it was only two more weeks, Merlin hated that he’d been cheated out of Christmas with him.
Of course, Merlin had known that there would be long, long periods when Arthur wasn’t around. It was the downside to dating a soldier. It wasn’t even the worst thing. The worst thing was never knowing whether he’d been injured or worse, hearing rumours and having to wait days, weeks sometimes, for confirmation that he was okay.
It would be over soon. This was going to be the last year on active duty, Arthur had promised. Next Christmas Arthur would be with him, choosing a tree, helping buy presents. There would be two packets of Maltesers in the trolley. Actually, there would be Arthur right there with him, helping with the last-minute shopping and good-natured griping about his sister’s cheek in inviting herself down.
Merlin couldn’t wait for that to happen.
The snow was falling more heavily when they left the supermarket. Huge, thick flakes were coming down, settling on the car.
“Get in,” Merlin insisted, when Gaius started to help load up the car. “I’m not having Mum telling me off if you catch a cold.”
“People catch colds from germs, Merlin,” Gaius told him.
Merlin just held the door open. “In.”
There would, he knew, be a long lecture all the way back about how viruses were spread and that he was more likely to catch something from that air-conditioned office where he worked than Gaius was from standing out for a few minutes in the snow.
He wasn’t disappointed there.
The trouble with living out in the middle of nowhere was the lack of gritting lorries. The main road through the village had been done, but as soon as they turned into the little lane where Hunith lived there was already a light covering of snow. Merlin suspected he would be spending a good part of the Christmas holiday clearing that snow. Hopefully not with Freya ambushing him with snowballs while he did so this time.
His little sister was watching from the window as they drove up. She waved, but didn’t move from her vantage point. Probably watching the snow, he thought. As if they didn’t see enough of the wet, cold stuff.
“Come and help!” he mouthed to her, but she shook her head and beamed happily at him from the snug, warm kitchen as Gaius shuffled into the house with a couple of carrier bags.
Perhaps he would keep those Maltesers, Merlin thought as he unpacked the car by himself. Freya was eleven now and had obviously got to that stage where she preferred to look at the snow rather than go out and play in it. Or perhaps she was just trying to look grown up in case Morgana, who Freya admired hugely, arrived. Arthur could have the sweets in a couple of weeks instead. He was definitely more deserving.
Arthur deserved many things after so long away. Merlin had been planning for a while just how he’d get them too. He was due back on a Thursday evening, and Merlin had booked in leave for those two weeks. It was the wrong time of year to go away, and anyway he knew Arthur would only want to enjoy being at home and spending time with Merlin in their flat. Then Arthur would go back for the last few months of his final tour, and after that Merlin would have him home for good. He couldn’t wait for that to happen, though he hid it from Arthur as best he could. He had, after all, known that this was part of the deal. Arthur had still been wearing his army fatigues that very first time Merlin saw him. Arthur had been sitting there in a bar in the middle of London, still in his army fatigues, delaying his journey back to his family home. When Merlin met Uther, months later, he could understand why.
Not that Arthur had made it home that night, or indeed any night of that particular R&R, and by the next time that Arthur was on leave they were looking for somewhere together. That was four years ago. It hardly seemed possible now that there was ever a time that Arthur wasn’t a part of Merlin’s life.
His mother was in the kitchen making mince pies when Merlin staggered in with the shopping. Freya squeaked at the cold blast from the open front door, so Merlin left it open when he went back for the rest of it and Gaius’s case.
The kitchen smelled of wonderful things, mincemeat and spices and baking. He sneaked one of the cooling pies, and they were every bit as warming and tasty as he remembered.
“Here,” his mother handed him a mug of hot sweet tea as he sat down at the kitchen table. “Thank you, sweetheart. Here, have another pie.”
That was slightly suspect, but he took one anyway. Usually his mother was all about saving their appetite for the evening meal. He started to take his boots off as they were wet from the snow, but she stopped him.
“Oh no, leave them on, I need you to go back out in a moment. We need some logs stacked near the house for the wood burner. If the snow gets too heavy we won’t want to go to the shed.”
Merlin glanced at the depleted pile of logs near the door. He could have sworn there were more there earlier. Obviously this was going to be the holiday of hard manual labour. He looked up at his mother, who was beaming at him happily.
“It’s lovely having you home.”
Yeah, he was starting to see why. He sipped at his tea slowly. Freya was still sitting at the window. Somehow she’d found the Maltesers, and helped herself to them without noticeably moving from her seat.
“It’s good to be home,” he admitted. And it was, if he couldn’t be with Arthur then this was the next best thing, surrounded by people who loved him even if they did have him running errands all the time. “Morgana needs to move it though. The roads’ll get bad.”
“Who said it was Morgana?” Hunith asked. Her phone bleeped and she glanced down at it. “Ah. Weather report, the snow’s getting worse. Here,” she took Merlin’s half-finished mug from him, ignoring his protests. “I’ll make you another one when you’re done. Hurry up, before it starts to get dark.”
“Hurry up!” Freya echoed cheekily. He was, he decided, going to come back in with a snowball and put it down her back.
“Yes, do hurry along, Merlin,” Gaius added. He was on the warmer side of the table, his own mug of tea still securely warming his hands. “It’s getting a bit chilly in here.”
Next year he was going to go somewhere very warm with Arthur, and leave them all to get their own shopping and logs and chauffeuring and whatever else they might want. Bundling up in his coat, scarf and gloves, he gave a heavy sigh and trudged back out into the cold.
The snow was very heavy now. He wondered idly who it was that was coming if it wasn’t Morgana? Gwaine or Leon, probably. That would explain why Freya was sitting so eagerly in the window, she had a schoolgirl crush on Gwaine. Probably Leon too. In fact he suspected she had one on Arthur as well. He glanced back at the window, and she waved happily at him. She did look quite excited. Gwaine then. And at least Gwaine would liven up Christmas. As long as he didn’t get plastered and try to pull Merlin’s mother or something dire and frighteningly Gwaine-ish like that. It didn’t bear thinking about.
Merlin started to fervently hope that it was Leon who was joining them.
The logs were heavy, and there was already a reasonable pile outside the front door. He replenished the pile inside the house, then went down to the shed. It didn’t look as if it would take more than a couple of trips, then he was going to go back in and demand eggnog. Or hot chocolate. Or both.
On the second trip, Merlin could see headlights coming down the lane towards the house. It was a relief, even if it did turn out to be Gwaine. The roads through Wales were treacherous in bad weather, especially at night.
The snow was falling heavily enough that the tracks from Merlin’s car only a short while before were already starting to fade. The new arrival, a red four-wheel drive, wasn’t a vehicle that Merlin remembered seeing before. A horrible, horrible thought struck him. What if Uther had decided to come out and share Christmas with them? His mother would probably agree to it, think it was a good way to get the families together or something. She would expect Uther to be like Arthur… what a horrible Christmas that would be. No, Uther didn’t like Christmas and certainly didn’t like Merlin. That was one thing that wouldn’t be happening. He peered at the approaching car, trying to make out who the driver was. The headlights, the snow and the poor light made it difficult but…
It looked like… But it couldn’t be. Merlin dropped the load of logs he was carrying in a heap on the porch, not bothering to stack them properly, only interested in the occupant of the car as the strikingly-coloured vehicle came through the gate and stopped right in front of him. He could hear a faint squeal of excitement from inside the house, but didn’t look back.
His hair was a little shorter than last time Merlin had seen him, but there was no mistaking that smile as he turned off the engine and opened the door. Merlin ran over to the car, tripped, skidded on the slippery path and half-skated, half-fell into Arthur’s arms.
Of course, Arthur just loved that. Merlin had forgotten what a huge, loveable prat he was.
“Merlin! You’ve fallen for me!” He looked far too pleased with himself.
Merlin tried to think up something witty and cutting to reply, but Arthur was right there, really there, holding him, warm in the cold of the wintry afternoon, and he couldn’t think of a single thing except…
“God, I’ve missed you!”
Somehow that melted the overly-pleased expression on Arthur’s face to something softer, richer.
“I missed you too,” he admitted. “C’mere.”
And he pulled Merlin close, kissing him while the snow fell all around them. Merlin could taste the snow in that kiss, cold and sweet, the snowflakes melting on their skin. Somehow it didn’t seem so cold any more. He thought he could stay there, kissing Arthur, and never feel cold again.
“We should go inside,” Arthur murmured against him. There was snow in his hair. “Don’t want you catching cold.”
“I won’t,” Merlin told him. He couldn’t be bothered to explain why. Besides, Arthur would call him a geek and laugh, because that was something Arthur was never going to stop doing. Merlin wouldn’t want him to. He pulled Arthur in for another kiss, and that stopped any thoughts of going inside. He had a vague suspicion his mother had sent him outside because she knew Arthur was coming and wanted to give them a few moments alone together.
Arthur pulled away reluctantly, and fetched his bags, handing one to Merlin. He did look perfect, Merlin thought, a little tired perhaps but that would fade now he was home. The bag weighed a ton.
“Hope this is full of my presents,” he quipped, hoisting it over his shoulder with a little difficulty. Then it occurred to him. He hadn’t been expecting to see Arthur. All Arthur’s Christmas gifts were sitting in their flat, waiting for Arthur’s return in a few weeks’ time. “Ah. Presents.”
“Motorway service station gifts,” Arthur admitted. “Sorry. I only flew in this morning. It was all really last minute, I didn’t know I’d got leave until last night. The gifts are crappy, and not even wrapped yet.”
“No… I wasn’t expecting you to be here. Your presents are all in London. You’ve got nothing.”
“I’ve got you,” Arthur told him, leaning in for another kiss. “That’s all the Christmas present I want. Mmmm… you’re wet. Probably need unwrapping soon!”
“Has promised to put on a really noisy film while you help me wrap these presents later. Have I told you how much I love your mum?”
“No, I don’t want to hear about that!” Merlin didn’t want to think about that discussion. He noticed that Freya had vanished from her window seat, which was something. At least there probably had been no audience to their reunion. Their mother had probably dragged her away. Perhaps that was the shriek he’d heard.
“There’s one more thing,” Arthur reached into his coat pocket. He was still wearing his army fatigues underneath. “I did get you one gift that wasn’t from a service station. Had it on order.” He brought out a very small box. “I thought, later in the year, when I’m home for good… Well…”
Merlin held his breath. If that was what he thought it was, this was about to turn into the best Christmas ever. Arthur dropped to one knee, under the shelter of the porch, and held out the open box hopefully. Inside were two plain gold rings. Simple, but more to both their tastes than something ostentatious.
Merlin stared at the rings in shock. He had thought, perhaps when Arthur was back permanently, they might think about it. Arthur was ahead of him.
“Oh god, yes! Of course yes! Get up, it’s freezing!” He pulled the glove off his left hand, and held it out expectantly.
Arthur stood up, then took Merlin’s hand and slid the ring in place. “Officially mine, now,” he whispered.
Arthur was a possessive sod. It was annoying and wonderful in equal measure. “That works both ways,” Merlin reminded him, taking the other ring and pushing it onto Arthur’s hand. “I’ll be writing my own vows, just so you know.”
“Me too,” Arthur grinned, leaning in for a kiss.
Those vows would be longer than Merlin’s, Merlin could be sure of that. Competitive, too. And all his.
“Love you,” he breathed. It was getting very, very cold out there. And Arthur wasn’t really dressed for the extreme cold. “Let’s get you inside.”
Arthur followed him into the house. The warmth hit them immediately, and only then did Merlin realise just how cold it had been outside.
His family were gathered around the table, looking at them expectantly. Arthur grabbed Merlin’s hand and held it up triumphantly, displaying the ring. And then there was squealing and crying and congratulations. Gaius had produced those champagne bottles, which meant…
“You already knew!” Merlin accused. “What if I’d said no?”
Gaius snorted contemptuously at the very idea.
“As if!” Freya told him. “You were all mopey with no Arthur for Christmas!” She held out her hand hopefully for the champagne, then pulled a face at the tiny, tiny drop she was given.
“We would have needed the champagne to drown our sorrows,” Hunith admitted. “But we did think the chance was almost non-existent.”
“They knew you couldn’t resist me,” Arthur grinned. “Especially not at Christmas!”
He really was a prat. That part always faded from his memory when Arthur was far away from him and Merlin was missing him horribly. Obviously it wasn’t too late, Merlin could always change his mind. But he looked at Arthur, smiling at him, blue eyes twinkling with love and amusement, and he knew it was for keeps. He raised his glass, and tilted it towards his fiancé, making sure his ring was prominently displayed.
“Happy Christmas, Arthur.”
He had a feeling it was going to be.