Summary: In which Merlin owns every Christmas film ever made and there is some disagreement about how to celebrate (or not celebrate) — and, most importantly, who has better abs.
Word Count: 2200
Author's Notes: Happy Holidays, inspired_being! :D I was very excited when I received your prompts (OT3 Christmas fluff? Yes please!) and I hope you enjoy what I've done with them. I may have gotten a bit distracted by the bare chests part of your likes... Ahem. ;)
So much thanks to wrecksfic and ememmyem for being awesome and making this fic so much better!
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.
Also on AO3.
Merlin heard the door to their tiny flat slam open, followed closely by Arthur’s stomping feet and Gwaine’s laughter.
“Oh, come on, Princess, it can’t bother you that much!”
Arthur whirled in the entryway and pointed his finger in Gwaine’s face. “I’m not bothered! I’m just simply pointing out the factual inaccuracies in that— that blind idiot’s statement,” he said and threw his coat at their crooked, misshapen lump of a coat rack, where it promptly fell on the floor.
Gwaine tutted. “It’s not inaccurate if it’s true.”
Neither of them moved to pick up the coat. Merlin rolled his eyes and groaned. Somehow he just knew he was going to be the one picking that up later. “So what blind idiots are crowding the gym these days?” he asked and pointedly turned the page in his magazine.
(Gardening magazines were always full of fit, dirty men, no matter how much Arthur and Gwaine insisted on taking the piss out of him for it. Merlin had a thing, so what? Everyone had things. Arthur and Gwaine were just going to have to put up with their forced, shirtless labour in the garden Merlin would get. Eventually. When they were no longer poor, downtrodden students.)
Arthur, his hair still slightly damp from his post-workout shower and curling up deliciously at the nape of his neck, turned around abruptly and waved his hands about. “Someone at the gym implied that Gwaine has better abs and that’s just not true.”
“Now, now, Princess. No need to be a sore loser,” Gwaine said, coat sliding off the rack to land on the floor with Arthur’s.
“I’m not a sore loser! I haven’t lost anything. The man was blind,” Arthur insisted with a scowl, hands on his hips.
Gwaine smirked, lifted his shirt up, and ran his fingers teasingly down along his abs. “You know you love these right here,” he said flirtatiously and pushed a finger underneath the waistband of his jeans, which were slung impossibly low on his hips and giving absolutely no indication of any pants underneath. Knowing Gwaine there probably weren’t any.
Arthur licked his lips and watched Gwaine’s fingers with interest, before shaking his head and pouting. “Yes, you know exactly how much I like them, but they aren’t better than mine.” And then Arthur’s shirt was gone completely, tossed over his shoulder, as he posed in front of Merlin. Gwaine threw his head back and laughed and lost his shirt as well.
Merlin set his magazine down and sucked on his candy cane thoughtfully.
Well then. This was apparently going to be a splendid day and Merlin had absolutely no complaints, none at all, as he eyed the way their muscles and freshly-washed skin shone in the sunlight through the window as they both goaded each other into ever more ridiculous poses. And all right in front of Merlin; there were broad shoulders, and biceps, and many, many abs for his viewing pleasure.
Merlin’s eyes glazed over, just a bit.
“Well, Merlin?” Arthur huffed.
Merlin blinked. “What?”
“Admit that my abs are better than Gwaine’s!”
“Ohhhh, I don’t know. You should both flex a bit more. Can’t make these decisions hastily.” Merlin hummed around his candy cane and gave Arthur his best wide-eyed look. Clearly they both needed to pose more for him. Obviously.
Gwaine snorted and laughed. “No, no, the amount of shirtlessness in this room is unequal. I do not approve,” he said and flopped down next to Merlin, rubbing his beard against Merlin’s face and trying to wrestle him out of his shirt — which was a bit counterproductive to say the least.
Arthur grinned and pounced on his other side. “This is very, very true. There needs to be equal shirtlessness, it’s only fair.” And then he pushed Gwaine back enough so that he could yank the t-shirt over Merlin’s head.
Merlin (manfully) attempted not to giggle at the way his ribs tickled when he ended up smashed in between two very warm, hard chests and then sighed in contentment as they all wriggled into a nice, happy pile of snuggly limbs. Being squished in between them was actually his favourite thing in the world and he smiled into the crook of Arthur’s neck while his fingers tangled with Gwaine’s.
As Gwaine lightly kissed the back of his shoulder and Arthur petted his hair, Merlin glanced around their rather bare flat (one old, half-broken telly in the corner, a small coffee table, and a few random posters from god only knew where) and deflated a little.
“We really should decorate for Christmas since we’re staying here over the holidays,” he said wistfully.
The truth was that Merlin couldn’t afford to go home, Gwaine swore never to go home again, and Arthur’s dad had decided to cut him off until he got over his “university-induced, hippie-minded poly-whatever”. Nearly a year later and his father still seemed under some sort of illusion that Arthur was going to suddenly turn into the monogamous Tory poster-child he’d always wanted.
Well. Merlin knew he’d cave eventually, once he finally realised Arthur was serious and not going through a “phase”, which would result in them being forced into the world’s most awkward Sunday lunches. At least Morgana would be guaranteed to be drunk and snarky the entire time. Merlin thought he’d rather be hit with a mallet (just the idea of him or Gwaine, for fuck’s sake, sharing a posh meal with Uther Pendragon was absurd), but he also knew he’d put up with anything so that Arthur could have some sort of relationship with his father, no matter how strained or tense — and he’d smack Gwaine and his big, fat mouth into line with a mallet, if he had to.
Regardless, they were all going to be here, damn it, and Merlin scowled as he took in his boyfriends’ matching pinched expressions.
Pushing himself up off the couch, he crossed his arms over his chest and glared at them and their whole wide-eyed and innocent “who me?” looks and snapped, “I understand that you both have your reasons for trying to pretend that Christmas isn’t coming, but that’s just complete bollocks! We have each other and that should be more than enough reason to celebrate, yeah? And if nothing else, I love Christmas as you both damn well know — or at least that’s what I assume from all your whinging about my ultimate Christmas film collection — so you could try not to look like I’m threatening to pull your teeth without anaesthesia whenever I bring it up.” He reached down to shove his shirt back on, growling, “And now I have class, so I’ll talk to you wankers later,” and stormed out.
That weekend Merlin came home exhausted from his shift at Debenhams — Christmas shoppers were vicious, demanding little shites — and stood frozen in the doorway as he stared in shock whilst Arthur cursed and flailed in an attempt to hang fairy lights around the window and Gwaine poked and prodded at them as if that would help. There were his favourite candy canes strewn everywhere and tinsel all along the window ledge and, Christ, the most pathetic little Christmas tree Merlin had ever seen in the corner. All while they were both shirtless. And in Santa hats. Merlin felt rather like his brain had short-circuited and now he was trapped in some sort of strange, half-baked subconscious fantasy.
Merlin dropped his bag with a thud and they both jumped and whipped around to face him, the white ball from Gwaine's hat flopping forward to bat him in the nose.
Gwaine blew at it ineffectually and shouted, "You're home early!" Arthur just stood there with his mouth open, gobsmacked.
Merlin tilted his head and gave them both a bemused look. If anyone should be gobsmacked right now, it should be him. "Yes, I am," he said slowly. "What's all this?"
Arthur rubbed the back of his neck and blushed and even Gwaine looked contrite. It was unfairly adorable. In a sexy, bare-chested elf pinup sort of way.
"Well, erm, I was talking to Gwaine and we wanted to surprise you. Because you were right, and we might not be able to afford much, but we should still celebrate. We wanted to get you a real tree, since you seem to love them so much, but they were really expensive. But then I saw this small one that looked exactly like the one in that American film you made us watch last year, so I thought, maybe it'd be nice?" And Arthur looked so goddamn hopeful, covered in random bits of tinsel, that Merlin just wanted to kiss his stupid, big-eyed face.
Now that Merlin looked more closely at the tree he could see a blue towel wrapped around the bottom and one shiny, red ornament hanging from the crooked top and Merlin was going to cry. He was a grown man and he was going to cry like a baby and all he could do was laugh helplessly at their ramshackle flat while his vision blurred and his chest hurt with how much he loved these two utterly hopeless men who’d made him the bleeding Charlie Brown Christmas tree.
“Oh my god, you are both so ridiculous, fucking hell,” he choked out and wiped at his eyes. “And that is the best bloody tree I have ever seen.”
Arthur beamed at him brilliantly and that just wasn’t helping Merlin get control of himself at all, so he sniffed and turned to look at Gwaine and frowned when he caught sight of the ladder in the corner of the room. “And what exactly have you been doing?”
Gwaine clapped his hands excitedly and pointed up and Merlin burst out laughing so hard he nearly fell over. Their poor, water-stained ceiling was completely covered in little sprigs of mistletoe, all taped on haphazardly.
The. entire. ceiling. And the doorway, and what looked like the hallway, and who the fuck knew what their bedroom must even be like. “Gwaine!” Merlin shook as he buried his head in his hands and tried not to cry more at the whole over-the-top spectacle. “Dear lord.”
"There is no better way to celebrate Christmas than mistletoe and snogging! And, well, sex. But usually the kissing leads to the shagging, so really, I've made sure we're completely covered. There's not a corner of this flat that isn’t ripe for a nice Christmas shag,” Gwaine said with his widest, most proud-of-himself grin and Merlin had to laugh all over again.
“The bathroom?” Merlin asked, wiping at his face.
“There’s mistletoe in the shower!” Gwaine threw his arm around Arthur’s waist and gave him a big smack on the lips. “We’ve prepared everything. You don’t have to worry about a thing!”
Merlin giggled a bit hysterically. There were more than a few things to worry about if Arthur and Gwaine had decided to plan Christmas, but he couldn’t remember the last time he felt this happy. “Where did you even find this much mistletoe?”
Arthur groaned. “He saw a bush in someone’s garden that he insisted was mistletoe and hacked as much off of it as he could before the owners came out.”
“Oh my god, Gwaine!”
“What? I was being frugal! No one will even notice,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“No one will notice? You stole a whole forest’s worth of mistletoe — if that’s even what it is!”
“Slander. And they’ll never be able to prove it was me.”
Arthur piped up again. “We also got the smallest turkey we could find, and some vegetables, and I called your mum for her mince pie recipe!” Arthur looked unbelievably proud, like a small child who just knew he’d done something good.
Merlin could only imagine the explosion that was going to happen in their kitchen — he gave it a 50/50 chance of being at least edible, even with the powers of their combined cooking skills. It was going to be a disaster. A beautiful disaster and he’d never wanted anything more.
“Cider?” (Merlin was realistic: they would probably need it to wash the burnt taste out of their mouths.)
“Lidl’s finest, of course. And lots of it.” Gwaine nodded. “Couldn’t forget that.”
Merlin laughed. “You really have thought of everything, haven’t you. But I have to ask, what’s with the whole bare-chested Santa’s elves thing?”
Arthur and Gwaine looked at each other mischievously, arms slung around each other’s waists, and then turned back to face him. “We thought you’d like it better this way, with fewer clothes,” Arthur said with a shrug.
“Oh, for fuck’s— Come here, you big oafs. Yes, I love it. All of it. This is the best surprise I’ve ever gotten,” he said and hugged them both tightly as he admired their handiwork. “All I have to do is find you both some leggings and pointy shoes and Christmas will be complete.”