Title: The Speech
Character/s: Morgana, Arthur, Merlin, Uther, Hunith, Gaius
Summary: Morgana gives a speech at Merlin and Arthur's wedding.
Warnings: References to violence and to homophobic bullying.
Word Count: 949
Author's Notes: Modern AU. The prompt and this little story inspired this fic.
Morgana walked to the small makeshift podium in the middle of the wedding party table. She smoothed the lapels of her suit jacket and looked around. To her right, Merlin was beaming at her, and her brother Arthur was staring at her warily. Nothing unusual there, she thought. No one else had noticed that she was about to speak.
She clinked the side of her champagne glass with her fork; when the conversations had died down, she leaned into the microphone.
"Good evening, everyone. I trust you all enjoyed the wedding. I wasn't asked to plan it, so if you have any complaints, please address them to the grooms," she said. The small crowd of family and friends laughed.
"When the boys asked me to be in their wedding party, I immediately began thinking of colour schemes and the latest fashions in bridesmaid dresses," she continued. "However, they wanted me as best woman, not as bridesmaid or maid of honour. Since I was taking on a role traditionally reserved for a man, I decided to have a suit tailored." She did a little twirl to show off her dark blue suit.
She glanced at Arthur, who was rolling his eyes. She chuckled.
"Yes, I know, enough about me," she told him, to more scattered laughter. "In any case, the best-dressed among us today is Uncle Gaius." She motioned toward Merlin's elderly uncle, who was sitting at the table nearest the wedding party. He was wearing a colourfully patterned tapestry waistcoat with a crisp white shirt and purple trousers, and he blushed bright red when she led everyone in a round of applause.
When the crowd's attention was back on her, she continued. "You may be wondering why I refer to two 25-year-old men as 'boys,' but I argue that I have every right to do so. They'll always be boys to me."
A few of the attendees cooed at this admission.
"It was my last year before university when Merlin first came into our lives. Arthur was 15, and I suggested that he find a tutor to help him with maths," she said.
Seated near Gaius were Merlin's mother, who was smiling as happily as her son, as well as Uther, who was peering at her with a furrowed brow. You don't know this story, do you? she thought. Their father had always been far too busy for parental duties. She was surprised he had found the time to attend the wedding.
"Arthur obtained the help of a maths wizard in his own year, one Merlin Emrys." She motioned theatrically at Merlin. "Within a few weeks, Arthur wasn't struggling anymore. And as I understand it, once Merlin finished up his PhD last year, in some field of maths that I could never hope to comprehend, he asked Arthur to marry him."
There were more coos from the crowd.
"I'm sure many of you are familiar with parts of that tale, but there's a bit more to it. I asked Arthur and Merlin for permission to share a story today of their early days together."
Morgana enjoyed giving speeches, and she knew she was very good at it. The faces of the crowd were all rapt with attention now.
"I could tell from the way Arthur never met my eyes when he talked about Merlin that there was something more than friendship between them. But Arthur didn't want to talk to me about it, despite my best efforts.
"Then one Saturday, Arthur asked me for a ride. I had just gotten my driver's licence and was eager to use it. He gave me an address on the city outskirts. When we got there, it was a karate dojo. I asked Arthur what on Earth we were doing there. He's always been athletic, but he'd never been involved in fights or anything of the sort.
"He explained that some boys in their year had been bullying Merlin. 'It's not fair,' he said, and I'll always remember it, because his voice was as hard as stone. The school refused to get involved, so Arthur got the idea that they should take self-defence classes together."
Morgana looked out at the crowd. Merlin's mother was smiling at Merlin and Arthur, pride gleaming in her eyes. Gaius' mouth had dropped open in surprise. Uther was fiddling with his champagne glass. A familiar anger surged within her at his disinterest. Perhaps if Uther had cared more at the time, Arthur would not have had to put himself in danger. But Uther didn't matter right now.
She took a deep breath and continued. "When I learned what Arthur was willing to do for Merlin, I thought that I might be attending their wedding someday. Mind you, I didn't like the idea of fighting. I expected I'd be driving them both to A&E with broken bones before long. But I didn't say anything to dissuade Arthur, and fortunately, our boys were never injured."
She turned to her right. Merlin had his arm around Arthur's waist and was gazing at him soppily; Arthur's smile was soft and happy. It was another pair of expressions that Morgana was well used to seeing on their faces.
"They were quite a formidable pair. When I consulted with them about my speech last month, they explained to me that once the bullies realised they were now facing two trained adversaries, instead of one frightened kid, they ran off.
"I've never known a couple more deeply in love than these two. I'm glad we can all celebrate with them today," she said. She raised her glass. "To Arthur and Merlin."
She heard people repeating her toast quietly and clinking their glasses around the room.