Rating: Strong R/NC-17
Warning: Language, wanking, slash, and a blowjob. And some general ridiculousness and UST.
Word Count: Too damn much (~24K)
Pairing(s): Arthur/Merlin, Gwen/Lance, Morgana/Leon
Summary: True love and soul mates are myths. Arthur's always believed that. Fate, however, has a different opinion on the matter, and Morgana happens to agree. Unfortunately, she's always right about these things.
Artwork: Oh man, the artwork for this story is fabulous...and was done by the wonderful floridablanca. You can find it here!
Disclaimer: If I owned Merlin and Arthur there would be wayyyy more slashy times happening…and maybe a porno or two…without the bad acting, but with the great sex. Unfortunately, I don’t own any of the Merlin characters. Or the show. Or anything. But that’s okay. I’m content with just playing in their sandbox.
A/N: The min for this fest was 10K...yeah, I clearly don't know how to write a short story. Umm…lots of firsts here. My first ever Merlin story, my first attempt at slash, and my first fest fic in the fandom. So don’t shank me if you hate it or you find it too American (because I am American and I tried to Brit it up, dammit), kthxbainao. I pretty much wrote 80% of this story in two very gruelling weeks where there was a lot of flailing and stressing and comforting words from friends (you know who you are). I’d like to thank my beta and friend cardigankate, who I’ve managed to drag
In Arthur’s opinion, his cousin, Morgana, had the worst superpower—of all time.
She had dreams. Vivid, foretelling dreams. Not about information that could determine the fate of human race or even about tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers. Morgana had prophetic dreams…
About weddings. Seriously. Weddings.
She’d dreamt about all six of his father’s weddings months—even years—before Father had met the brides. She also had knew how many times someone would marry, which was, again, completely useless. However, when she held up eight fingers at his father’s last wedding, he knew that this stepmother wasn’t going to last as long as she’d promised in her vows. She’d dreamt of her older sister’s elopement two months before Morgause and her fiancé skipped town just hours before the actual wedding. They returned to the church – late, of course. Morgana had been the only person—outside of Arthur, who didn’t care for Morgause anyway—who had remained calm the entire time.
The most recent wedding she’d dreamt of was Lance’s to Gwen, and that happened years before they’d met. And when Lance proposed, Arthur thought it was all over. No one else was getting married; Arthur sure as hell wasn’t getting married, so it had to be over. Right? Right.
Two weeks before Gwen and Lance’s wedding, while dining at a Thai restaurant in Soho, Morgana said to him, “Last night, I dreamed about your wedding.” When he didn’t even look up from his Blackberry—he was texting ‘Morgana’s going nutters again. SOS!’ to Lance—she kicked him under the table. With the heel. Of her stiletto pump. The especially pointy one. Arthur had to take a few deep, calming breaths to stop from hyperventilating, but he glared daggers at her and hoped it got his message of pure, white-hot hatred across. Evidently, it didn’t, because Morgana merely smiled cryptically and asked, “Do you want to know what I saw?”
“Not particularly,” he hissed.
After stabbing a piece of broccoli on her plate, she lifted it to her lips and asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to know? It’s quite interesting.”
“Are you going to leave me alone if I say no?” It was worth a shot.
She tsked. “I thought you knew me better than that.”
Which meant no.
Arthur heaved a sigh. “Fine. Whatever.”
“Well.” Morgana set her fork on her plate and leaned closer as if she were telling him a great secret. “You’ll only marry once.”
That bit of news was worthy of the eyebrow lift it received, seeing as to how he promised himself that nothing but the deepest love would ever induce him into matrimony. It was nice to know that he had managed to stick to something, after all. His thoughts on marriage were dramatic of the Pride and Prejudice variety, but after witnessing six of his fathers marriages fail for various reasons (and knowing the seventh was going to go down the toilet soon enough), he felt he was justified.
“I was surprised, too,” Morgana confessed. “Want to know more?”
“Not really, but you’re going to tell me.”
Morgana smiled. “Uther and Ruby will be in attendance, so I know its still years away, so don’t…be yourself about it.” Unfortunately, he knew exactly what she meant by that. It made him frown. “I won’t tell you who you’re marrying, but I will tell you that you’re not marrying that leech you’re dating, Sophia.”
“Leave her alone,” Arthur defended in neutral tones. “She’s not that bad.”
She shot a ‘you’ve clearly been hypnotised by her breasts’ look. “If by ‘not that bad’ you mean ‘so ridiculous that she’s almost funny’, then sure, I suppose she has that going for her.”
He shot his cousin a look. “At least she’s better than Vivian.”
“A blow-up doll is better Vivian.” Morgana lazily swatted the air. “Not a good argument, Arthur.”
“Not the point. Sophia is a lot of things, but at least she isn’t actively trying to make my life hell. She’s not being sneaky or underhanded, and she’s not even trying to trick me into banging her up so I’ll marry her. She’s not poking holes in condoms or taking fertility pills or calling me for a shag during class because she’s ovulating. I haven’t even had a turkey baster incident with her.” Arthur shuddered at the memory. He didn’t date women or eat a turkey sandwich for two solid years after that fiasco. You couldn’t get a bloke pregnant…
But you could date a possessive psycho named Cedric for two months.
And then a winner named Valiant who dumped snakes in your car after a bad break-up.
In some way or another, all of his exes were crazy. Or ‘damaged’. Or clingy.
And everyone wondered why he was weird about marriage.
“Whatever. The fact is that you’re not marrying her or anyone you know as of today.” Morgana forked another piece of broccoli and chewed politely before she sipped her wine and told him, “You’re going to marry a bloke,” and looked positively gleeful about it.
Two weeks later, Arthur was busy checking his texts while opening the car door for Sophia. They were meeting everyone for Lance and Gwen’s combined stag and hen party, but as usual, they were late because Sophia changed her clothes three times and then complained for fifteen minutes about the pub they were going to. So when she didn’t immediately step out like she was on the red carpet, he tucked his mobile into the pocket of his khakis and peevishly said, “What are you waiting for? We’re already late.”
“I think we should get married.” She sounded completely sure of herself.
Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose as he started to feel the first pang of a Sophia-related migraine. They were more common than he liked to admit to himself. “What?” Maybe he had misheard her.
“We should get married. What do you think?”
Okay. So much for vouching for her to Morgana. “I think we should discuss this later.” Arthur gestured for her to get out the car. “Perhaps in four hours when I’ll be so pissed that I won’t remember ever having this conversation.” He considered it further. “Or never.”
“Arthur, I’m serious,” Sophia glared.
He snorted. “That makes two of us.”
She proceeded to spend the next few minutes pouting so hard Arthur thought her bottom lip was going to turn inside out. “Why won’t you marry me?” Her bracelets jingled with the question as she flapped her arms dramatically. “I’m awesome!”
“We’ve only been dating for two months.” Arthur couldn’t believe they were discussing this. Or rather that he was actually allowing her to go off on one about it. He felt he was well within his rights to leave her there. Many would agree.
“My parents dated two weeks before they got married.”
“Aren’t your parents divorced?”
“That’s beside the point.”
“Didn’t they divorce before you were even born?”
“Still not the point, Arthur!” Finally, she got out the car. But she continued talking crazy marriage nonsense that Arthur still didn’t compute. So, as far as he was concerned, it wasn’t much better. “It’s romantic. Sometimes when two people are so in love—” Arthur inwardly balked at that. He was not in love. At the moment, he wasn’t even in like. And he was certain that she couldn’t even spell love, much less feel it. For him. “Their love for each other just makes them do impulsive things, like take a leap and get married!”
“Well, that’s good for them,” Arthur deadpanned.
She stomped her foot and folded her arms. “You’re so infuriating, Arthur Pendragon.”
“I know.” Arthur glanced at his fingernails. “Have you stopped wanting to marry me yet?”
“No.” Sophia replied stubbornly. “Have you changed your mind?”
“No, and it’s very likely—scratch that, it’s definite that I won’t.”
He took back everything quasi-positive that he ever said about her. Maybe she didn’t stalk him like Cedric or try to trick him into fatherhood like Vivian, but Sophia clearly was a special brand of crazy if she thought he was going to marry her.
And right then, Arthur wondered why he was still dating her. It had been fine at first, albeit a little creepy. Sophia was a one night stand that had refused to go away, and soon enough he had grown weary with trying to fight her off with a stick. So she became his girlfriend. Minus the minor stalking at the beginning and the fact that she used her breasts to get whatever she wanted, she was okay enough. He didn’t have any feelings for her, but then again, he had never had feelings for any of the men or women that he dated.
Maybe that was why he dated so many crazies.
“I’m sure that I can convince you.” Sophia tried the ‘slither up to Arthur and press her breasts against him’ trick, which did not work.
He wasn’t that easy.
Arthur held her at arm’s length. “No, you can’t. I’m not just going to marry anyone who half-demands it. So drop it. And let’s go in.” He shut the car door and pressed the lock button to activate the alarm.
“I don’t want to go in with you anymore.” She raised her voice unnecessarily. Probably to get a rise out of him. Whatever. Sophia held up her left hand. “If you don’t want to put a ring on it, then I don’t see why we’re together.”
“So first you want me to propose and now you’re breaking up with me?”
“No, I’m breaking up with you because you won’t propose.”
“Okay,” he shrugged. “I’m going in now.”
“You aren’t even upset? You should be upset! I’m breaking up with you, Arthur!”
“I heard you the first time, but my best mate’s getting married tomorrow and I’m going to celebrate with him.” He walked toward the pub doors and opened them with one quick jerk. “Cheers!”
Arthur let the door shut behind him.
The first thing he did as a single man was order everyone a round. On him.
The next morning, Arthur rolled over to his back and pulled the blanket to his chin. It smelled like alcohol, fags, and aftershave, and filled him with an atypical feeling—nausea.
He flung the covers off and rushed to the bathroom, cursing every deity he could think of while heaving violently into the toilet. Staggering to his feet, Arthur frowned distastefully at his reflection before wiping the saliva from the corners of his mouth. He picked the crusty bits of sleep from his eyes, cringing as he vaguely recalled shouting the words, “Asexuality, for the win!” over and over last night.
The lights flipped on and Arthur was suddenly inundated with the smell of eggs, sizzling eggs, burning eggs. He looked up, expecting to see Satan himself relishing in his successful hangover hell, but found his cousin, Morgana, standing there with a crazy smile, a mixing spoon, and a frying pan in her hands.
So…not Satan, but his demon, wedding-predicting spawn instead. Close enough.
Arthur gagged. “Get that out of my face,” then cringed because even his own voice was migraine-inducing. He turned on the tap and thought about drowning himself in the running water, but considered Morgana’s sweetly scathing words at his eulogy and thought better of it.
After drying his face with a clean towel, Arthur glanced over at the un-moving Morgana just as her boyfriend…fuck-buddy…whatever, Leon, appeared and unceremoniously forked some eggs out. Arthur frowned so hard it hurt when he noticed the drops of eggs falling down Leon’s chest as he ate. Four years ago, when they were just starting out in Uni, the sight of food on Leon would’ve gone directly into the ‘wank’ category of his fantasies.
Right along with Lance’s mere existence.
Today, it just made him moan in pain. “It’s no wonder you’ve had to settle for the psycho. You eat like a bloody pig.”
Leon at least had the decency to flush before he took the pan and wandered back into the kitchen. Meanwhile, Morgana quirked an eyebrow at Arthur and countered, “And I see why you’re such an excellent catch, Arthur. It’s the inebriated striptease mixed with the morning-after regrets that does it, I’m sure.”
Arthur sputtered uncharacteristically. “The—the what?!”
The loony smile returned to his cousin’s face. “It wasn’t that bad. You made almost a hundred pounds and got two job offers before Gwen and I dragged you away from your adoring fans. Lance and I stuffed you in the back of a taxi and brought you back to your flat.”
He ran his hands over his face in horror. “What happened last night?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing. When I got to the party, you were ranting about how Sophia was a loon and your cat would be the only one to ever truly love you.” Morgana chuckled. “You don’t even have a cat.”
Arthur glared. “I may get one.”
“You’re allergic to their saliva.”
“My kitten put you in the hospital when he licked your foot.”
“It’s evil,” he retorted in the same tone he would use to tell her the weather.
“Mordred isn’t evil, Arthur, he just likes you, for some demented reason or another. He’s probably a kitty masochist or something. I have no idea.”
Arthur begged to differ. It was evil and he couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
Morgana stared as if she knew his thoughts—scary—and rolled her eyes, sighing the, ‘I’m related to the biggest douchebag on planet Earth’ sigh. He knew it very well. “Back to last night,” she clasped her hands together, wry grin returning. “I must say that I was extremely surprised to see you hammered and ranting to Lance and Gwen about how you were going to become an asexual, Buddhist monk because you were never going to find ‘the one’. I almost felt bad for you.” The corner of her lips quirked. “Almost. I’ve seen your future husband, after all.”
He could only blink at her, first in annoyance, “Shut your gob about—” Then his brain caught up with the rest of what she’d divulged and he gaped at her, horrified. "Shit. No. Why? Why did I—what the hell possessed me? How—" Arthur stumbled out inelegantly, unsure of what question to go with and trying to understand how he had gotten to that point last night.
Arthur remembered being three beers in before he told everyone what had happened between him and Sophia. Owain—Fucking Owain—had claimed that Tequila-Vodka combos made for a very easy remedy to the pain of the lovelorn. Lance and Gwen had warned him to take it easy, beer before liquor made you sicker, and all that jazz. But he ignored them in favour of shots. Lots of them. Alcohol worked like a dream. Soon, he was boldly toasting his best friend’s happiness, declaring his asexuality to the world, and dancing on stage, forgetting every shred of dignity he’d been born with and losing pieces of his outfit until he was—
She grinned. “Close, but not quite. I’m just Morgana.”
“Piss—” It was right about then when Arthur heard the frying pan slam into the sink, reverberating through his skull at insanely high decibels. “Pills. I need pills. And water.”
“What were you saying now? Piss what?”
“Morgana!” Arthur tried to snap with as much attitude as he could muster, but it came out in a pathetic moan. “Be nice to me. I’m in pain! I never pick on you when you’re hungover.”
“Yes you do.” She folded her arms, still holding on to the mixing spoon. “But I suppose I’ll be nice,” Morgana said the word as if put a bad taste in her mouth, “and fetch you some medication.”
When she walked out, Arthur did a half-walk/half-crawl back to bed and managed to get situated without any further head throbbing. Morgana returned several minutes later with pills and water. Arthur took the pills and frowned because his mouth still tasted terrible. He spotted a pack of Morgana’s cigarettes on his nightstand, which told him that she was a lot more concerned about his well-being than she let on. She only smoked when she worried. It made him preen on the inside. He pulled a cigarette from the pack, thinking maybe it would get the taste of Tequila and puke out his mouth.
Morgana intervened, snatching the dangling fag from his fingers. She stuck it in her mouth and before he could protest, it was lit. “Sorry, Arthur, but you’re not getting my last one.”
“That shit is going to kill you.”
“And chasing vodka with tequila shots is going to destroy your liver. I guess I’ll see you in hell, Cousin,” she replied coolly as she exhaled smoke.
He sipped on his water, glaring at her. It was only when a few drops of water ran down his chin and landed on his chest that he realised his shirt was missing. Arthur looked under the covers. Well, at least he had his trousers back on. “What happened to my shirt?”
“Gone forever, I’m sure of it,” Morgana replied flippantly as she took another drag from her cigarette.
“It disappeared a little bit after you propelled yourself onto the stage, gave Gwen and Lance a pre-wedding speech that sounded like lyrics to some badly translated Japanese love song, and started dancing to Ricky Martin. ‘Shake Your Bon-Bon’, if you really want to know.”
Morgana just flashed an amused grin, reminding him that he would never, ever live last night down. “Someone—who sounded an awful lot like me—“ Arthur glared as hard as he could with a raging hangover, “started a ‘Take it off!’ chant and you obliged…very willingly, I might add.” She tapped the cigarette in the ashtray on the bedside table before bringing it back to her lips.
“I hate you.”
“Sure you do, Arthur.” She rolled her eyes and exhaled smoke. “Anyway, I guess a few people started fighting over your shirt. There were a few fists thrown and it all got hazy after that.” She batted the air in front of her face as if she were lazily shooing a fly. “Security guards yelling, my laughter, and whatnot.” Morgana chuckled at the memory. “Good times, good times.”
“I really hate you.”
She ignored him with practiced ease. “Who knew you could actually cut loose like that? Granted your dancing needs a fair amount work; you kind of looked like someone having an insane hip seizure during an earthquake, while drunk and on LSD.”
“Not a chance. Besides, we’ve got to be at the church in an hour for the wedding, Best Man.”
Arthur groaned and rolled over, only to go careening off the side of the bed.
Morgana’s laughter filled the room.
Arthur shifted his weight from one leg to the other, doing everything in his power to not look bored while his two best friends exchange wedding vows. He was happy for them. Really. There weren’t two people in the world better matched for each other. And he’d known that since Lance introduced Gwen to him the second year of Uni. But really. Really. Lance’s thirteen page poem—could it even be called a poem? That was like calling War and Peace a vignette—that fully expressed his love, adoration, and devotion to his bride was just a bit much.
If he didn’t shut up soon, Arthur was certain he would puke in the vase six feet to his left. He had it all calculated out. The scramble would only take three seconds and five long strides.
He might make it.
If he concentrated. Really hard.
His second option was upchucking on Owain’s shoes (because he’d never vomit on his own). Not only were they expensive (Cesare Paciotti’s, thankyouverymuch), but Owain deserved it as punishment for the Tequila-Vodka hell he was in.
Speaking of, The Enabler himself nudged Arthur. “You all right, mate?” he whispered. “You look a little green.”
Arthur felt green and was seconds from giving Owain the two-fingered salute in front of God, the minister, and everyone, but decided against it and just glared. Hard. Really hard. Like he was capable of making Owain’s head pop off with the power of his eyes. He was positive that his point had been made when Owain looked away—probably scanning the pews for the girl he was going to have a clichéd night of drunken post-wedding reception sex with, but that was neither here nor there.
Arthur focused back on Lance’s vows.
Lance was a shitty poet, but no one seemed to notice or mind the blatant cheese-fest going on. Arthur had told Lance a month ago to edit his vows down to five pages from the original nine, but his request had been met with a look of horror, “I couldn’t possibly express all my feelings in five pages,” and then he kept adding more. And more. Arthur hadn’t argued any more. If he wanted to make a right fool of himself, then he could. It was his wedding, after all.
Unfortunately, his poem—Novel? Epic? Spoken song?—was a hit.
Gwen wasn’t the only teary-eyed woman. He could hear the sighs and sniffles and soft coos. Clarice, his sixth stepmother, was dabbing her eyes carefully with the handkerchief that had come from the pocket of his father’s suit. Angela, one of his many ex-girlfriends from University, was crying mascara tears. And Morgana. She was standing right next to Gwen with an oddly emotional look on her slightly flushed face.
She was not going to live this down, Arthur decided. Not ever.
“You are the light of my life, and without you, there would be a blight. In my life…even at night.” Lance paused, and Arthur was filled with the hope that he was done. Disappointment was a stone cold bitch, he realised, when his best friend merely flipped over the page and continued reading. As much as he loved Lance, he was too hungover for this shit. Arthur managed to stifle the long-suffering sigh, but not the dramatic eye roll that accompanied it.
It was okay, he told himself, when he realised what he had done.
No one would even notice him over Lance’s vows of devotion.
He was wrong. Naturally.
When his eyes returned from their journey to the back of his skull, they immediately locked with a pair of unfamiliar eyes ones in the first row on Gwen’s side. Arthur was far enough away to be unable to tell their colour (maybe blue?), but close enough to notice the smile lines in the corners of them. And the ears that stuck out like Dopey from Snow White, but that didn’t have anything to do with it. He just noticed them. Because they were big. Like monkey ears. Or elves. And Arthur stopped because he was mixing metaphors again and the bloke was just smiling at him with amusement.
Arthur tried to give himself a quick onceover to make sure he hadn’t gotten anything on his tux (Morgana said that he hadn’t, but she was a known liar; at least when it came to making sure he didn’t look like a fool). He was clean. Pristine even. And the stranger’s grin widened. Now, he looked a bit mad…in a cute-ish way. Cute?! If Arthur could blush—and he couldn’t, really, he tried—he would have been as red as the bridesmaids’ dresses. He proceeded to scrub the cute thought clean out of his mind, vaguely noticing that the ancient minister was nodding off.
“…I can’t wait to start our life together, and I vow that we’ll be happy forever and ever. And that’s it.” Lance folded his thick tome of vows and put them in his pocket. Arthur almost whooped with joy, but restrained himself. Barely. The bright grin that appeared quickly after Lance concluded his poem disappeared when his best friend pulled out a thick stack of folded papers from his other pocket.
He pretty much wanted to die at that point.
“Umm…” Lance nervously fiddled with the papers. “These pages are blank, not because I didn’t have anything left to say—” Arthur almost snorted at that. “But because they represent our new beginning, the new poems—” Gwen promptly burst into tears as she fondly reached for the folded papers in his hand. It looked like Lance was at a loss for words. Also unusual. “I—” And Gwen finished his sentence by kissing him, a bit early, but the ‘awws’ broke out and Arthur found himself now smiling genuinely.
The minister decided that would be the perfect moment to regain complete consciousness and closed the ceremony as quickly as possible.
Arthur waited twenty minutes after the photographs before he puked on Owain’s shoes, and damn if he didn’t feel much better after that.
The reception was all Morgana: lavish, efficient, and coordinated down to the gold-rimmed rubbish bins. The Colette Peters wedding cake was taller than the groom, which was just disturbing on all levels. The red table linens were colour co-ordinated with the centrepiece flowers, which in turn matched the bridesmaid’s sashes, the groomsmen’s ties, the bunting, the place cards, the candles, and the guestbook pen. And really, as Arthur looked around, everything reminded him of Martha Stewart on speed.
But it was Morgana’s wedding gift to her best friend, and really, who would complain?
“What do you think?” Morgana asked proudly, looking around. “Some people give their friends toaster ovens or ugly dishes or something they’ll never use, but I give my friends a reception. Something they’ll never, ever forget.” She spun around in a circle on the back of her heels. “I’m pretty much the best friend, ever.”
“And modest, too,” Arthur deadpanned.
“Exactly,” she preened. “It’s very hard to be this humble.”
Arthur rolled his eyes and politely offered his arm. Together, the maid of honour and best man walked towards the receiving line.
The next two hours of Arthur’s life were very proper. The receiving line was quite dignified. Dinner was grand. The first couple of toasts to the bride and groom were touching. Arthur didn’t have too many stories of Lance’s hijinks, because he typically was the one making a right fool of himself while Lance watched with amusement. And Morgana outed herself as the owner of the worst superpower, ever, and no one except Arthur—and maybe Lance—believed her. Her speech was more endearing and awkward than funny.
But by the time the rest of the speeches rolled around, the champagne and wine had started to wear the venerated edges off just about everyone and hilarity was setting in. Gwen, who seemed to be over the worst of her jitters, looked fiercely embarrassed when the first ribald remarks took off. To Arthur—and maybe Gwen’s—relief, it was all good-natured and in relatively good taste.
When the final speech concluded, the cake had been cut and all the tables cleared away for dancing. The party began in earnest just after Lance and Gwen’s first dance. The first sounds of music seemed to stir everyone from their post-dinner conversations and the jackets and ties, and in some cases high heels, started coming off faster than he could have ever imagined.
As soon as Morgana spotted him enjoying a second piece of wedding cake, she snatched the fork from his hand and pulled him to his feet with the other.
“Let’s dance,” was the only thing she said as she dragged him onto the floor.
“Why thank you for asking, Cousin.” Arthur drawled.
Morgana wasn’t lying when she said he was a crap dancer. When Arthur was fifteen, his fourth stepmonster decided that dancing would be good for him, and convinced his father to put him into a class. Arthur had never forgiven…wait, what was her name? Diana? No, she was the first. Helen? Wait, she was the third. Catrina. Yes. Catty Catrina. Morgana called her a troll behind her back for a solid year. Anyway, he never forgave Catrina for putting him in those stupid dance classes. They were heinously boring and formal, his classmates would fight like cats over who would be his partner because they all wanted to get close to Uther Pendragon’s son, and they made him wear suits.
Arthur hated suits with an irrational passion…no matter how good he looked in them.
“Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to dance with me?” Morgana asked, snapping her fingers in his face.
He gave a long sigh and led her into a poor rendition of a Waltz.
Arthur didn’t hate dancing; he just didn’t care—okay, he hated it.
It wasn’t that he was self-conscious or hopelessly awkward on the floor—Uther had exorcised the ‘awkward teen angst’ out of him before he turned eleven—Arthur just didn’t understand the purpose of it all. He knew the moves, knew where to put his hands, and how to not look like a total ponce, but Arthur couldn’t execute a dance to save his life. He stepped on Morgana’s foot four times—and received five icy glares—before he finally found some sort of rhythm and pulled her along.
“I have a request,” Morgana started a few minutes later.
“What do you want?”
“After you get married—”
“I really don’t want to discuss this.” And he didn’t, because if he thought about it, he would be curious. If he was curious, he’d start grilling her about the identity of his…err…future husband? That just sounded creepy. So if he started grilling her, he’d find out more information about…him. Then Arthur wouldn’t be able to pass by a bloke and not wonder if he was ‘the one’ and all that rubbish, which would just make him crazy. And weird. And possibly in need of a room with padded walls. So he decided not to think about it. That was best. Besides, just because a statistically significant amount of her dreams came true, didn’t mean that this particular dream would.
He wasn’t going to get married. Really. He’d seen how his father’s marriages worked out.
And when he told Morgana this, she just laughed. Hard. “Right, and I’m an android.”
“That would explain some things,” Arthur quipped.
His cousin retorted with an icy glare before shoving him in the chest. “You know, Lance said the same thing when I told him.”
“You told him?”
“Of course, I did. I tell everyone…except Uther, of course, he’d probably institutionalise me.”
“Might do you some good.”
“Shut up, Arthur. I’m not crazy and you know it.” Morgana huffed at him. “Goodness, Uther’s six marriages after your mother’s death has definitely left its mark on you.” And she didn’t sound too pleased about that, either. “Just wait for the signs, and soon enough, you’ll see that I’m right about these things.” She poked him in the shoulder. “And once you marry him, I was thinking that when you adopt your Cambodian baby, you should name her after me. Or Morgan, if it’s a boy.”
“I wouldn’t name my non-existent kitten after you.”
“What is with you and your newfound obsession with kittens?”
The song ended before Arthur made her give him the ‘you really were dropped on your head as a baby’ look by answering her rhetorical question. She wandered off to terrorize the masses with tales of her awesomeness and Arthur grabbed a fresh slice of cake and a glass of champagne, before finding an unoccupied table—the only one in the room—and sat down. He exhaled before—
“Mind if I join you?”
Arthur paused mid-bite, eyebrow arched like a tiny boomerang. Two things:
1) The song playing was terribly cheesy.
2) He didn’t recognise the voice of the bloke speaking to him. He didn’t sound very British.
He gave a noncommittal shrug, but didn’t look up. “If you want.”
The person plopped—yes, plopped—into the seat next to Arthur like a pouting girl who didn’t get the biscuits she wanted. This, of course, drew Arthur’s attention. He couldn’t help himself. Really. And then Arthur wished he could, because the flopping bloke was Teacup-Handle Ears from the ceremony. The one who saw Arthur rolling his eyes at Lance’s ridiculous poetry. Shit.
And his smile widened when he recognised Arthur.
“You’re the eye-rolling Best Man.” Elf-Ears said, without much tact. And then he laughed at himself for some reason Arthur failed to understand. His laugh was weird, Arthur assessed. It was a series of snorts and fits and not-so manly giggles. And it went on for quite some time. Ten seconds. Maybe more. And by the time he stifled himself, Windmill-Ears was wearing a creepily bright smile. “You kind of made my morning. I was sitting there thinking, ‘there has to be someone in here who thinks his poetry is terrible’ and then I saw you. And I figured if his best friend was rolling his eyes, then I could at least snicker. Quietly. God forbid if Gwen had actually heard me. She knows my snicker.”
Normally, Arthur would have gone at him like a spider monkey for daring to talk about his best friend, but they were at a wedding reception and, really, Shrek-Ears had a point. Lance’s poetry really was god-awful. And long. But first: “You know Gwen?”
“Yeah, we grew up right next door to each other. I moved away after my mum died when I was twelve; went to live with my uncle Gaius in Maine. We kept up with letters for a few years and then, I’m not sure, we just stopped. Life, you know. But she found me on Facebook a week after I signed up, and we reconnected.”
Arthur just stared, blinking, as the stranger told him the Gwen-centric chunk of his life’s story. He would never get used to how direct some people were; how they never held back, and spoke candidly no matter what the situation. Arthur never expressed or told more than necessary. He didn’t know how to, really. Being the son of a popular Parliament member meant that he couldn’t trust everyone and the right information in the wrong hands meant a long lecture from Uther…and a lot of damage control. Hell, even his ‘hey, I’m bisexual’ announcement had been a carefully crafted ordeal to avoid a scandal.
“I just moved back to London two months ago,” Mr Spock continued. He probably should figure out the bloke’s name before he ran out of nicknames. “I was hired to teach First Years at Belknapp Primary School.” Gwen taught Third Years with special needs there. Three of the girls in her class had served as flower girls, one boy was the ring-bearer, and the rest sat with their parents in the second row. “She was my reference, and probably the only reason I got the job. I’ve been teaching for two years and this is my second classroom. I’m still a bit green.”
Gwen, Arthur inwardly mused, was the only person he knew who rambled like this. And her mindless chatter was the result of a nervous tick. His seemed natural. Like he always ran off at the mouth. It was kind of endearing…in a weird, quirky, and maybe demented sort of way.
“I’m Merlin, by the way.” He stuck out his hand, face open and friendly. “And you are?”
“Arthur,” he replied, shaking Merlin’s hand firmly. “Arthur Pendragon.” Then he waited for him to realise just whose son he was talking to.
Of course, Merlin never did.
“Pleasure to meet you.”
Oh right, he lived in the States up until recently.
“So,” Arthur began after taking a sip of champagne. “Merlin, eh? That’s a strange name.”
He shrugged. “It’s a—”
“Like the bird, the aero engine, or the wizard with the pointy hat?”
“Actually, like my great uncle and great-grandfatfher.”
“In 1931, Merlin was ranked as the two hundred and eighty-eighth most popular name for a boy."
He cocked a brow. "Why do you even know that?"
"I like random information, and when your name is Merlin, you like to find out all the facts."
A slow smile shifted Arthur’s features.
“What about you?” Merlin inquired, looking absolutely genuine. “I mean, I heard your toast so you don’t have to repeat the supporting material or explain how you know Lance, but…yeah.”
For the first time, Arthur didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t had to answer this particular question in a long time. So what about him? It would have been easy for him to give the textbook ‘I’m Arthur, I’m twenty-four, I just graduated from medical school and I’m an FHO1, and contrary to popular beliefs, my father fully supports my decision not to go into politics.’ It seemed impersonal, especially for what he already knew about Merlin. And that made him frown. Since when did he care about seeming aloof? Aloof was his middle name! So he stubbornly went with his textbook answer.
Only to receive a puzzled look from Merlin in response. “What’s an FHO1 and who’s your father?”
“FHO1 stands for Foundation House Officer One. It’s what fresh graduates from medical school are.”
“Like a Resident? That’s what they’re called in the States.”
“Yes, in a way.”
“And your father?”
Arthur cursed his selective memory and automatic answers. “He’s in Parliament,” which was the simple answer. The complex one involved explaining his father’s role as Speaker of the House of Commons. Arthur mentally sulked and waited for his reaction. If Merlin didn’t know how important his father was before, he definitely would know now.
So, of course he doesn’t know.
In fact, Merlin seemed to chew on Arthur’s words for several moments before he said, “He’s one of those guys with the wigs?”
“They don’t wear wigs, Merlin.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s become quite clear that I—” Arthur caught himself. “Gwen will have to educate you on your Mother Country at some point before you open your mouth and embarrass yourself.”
He smiled. “I figure that when someone catches on to how Americanised I am, I’ll just randomly break out with ‘God Save The Queen’ to distract them, and then run. I feel this is a solid plan.”
Arthur stared at him as if he couldn’t quite believe that a person like him actually existed. Then he laughed. Harder than he had in a very long time. Even while he had first started shagging Sophia on a regular basis and was uncharacteristically happy. Merlin joined in with his weird laugh that wasn’t all that weird the second time around. And that was how Morgana and Leon found them.
“There you are, Arthur.” Just like that, their laughter died. Merlin went from smiling at him to looking straight ahead, clearly uncomfortable. Arthur realised two things:
1) They had been sort of close. Close enough for him to notice the light flush that had crept over Merlin’s face.
2) He was irritated. Not with Merlin, but Morgana for killing the mood.
He’d been enjoying himself. While talking to another human being who wasn’t in his circle of friends.
Funny how that worked.
Arthur’s head snapped to Morgana, ready to tell her where she could shove her interruptions, but she gave him a look that clearly said, ‘Try me, and I’ll show you what real suffering feels like’. So he didn’t. No need to embarrass himself in front of Merlin this soon. “Something you need, Cousin?” He made sure that his tone conveyed his annoyance.
It did, he knew this, because she smirked. “I’ve only been looking for you for ages.”
“Well, I’ve been right here the entire time. With—” The smile that surfaced on her pale face was disturbing enough to make Merlin’s name die in his mouth.
“I see.” Instead of looking at him when she said this, she was looking curiously at the back of Merlin’s head. Like a complete creeper. Leon, who had been previously tugging at his tie as if it were a malevolent noose, was even looking at her, eyebrow arched. “Sorry that we interrupted you and…” She trailed off, expecting Arthur to fill in the space with a name.
“Merlin,” he supplied helpfully. Merlin turned and gave her a one of his open, friendly waves. “This is my annoying cousin…” The words died on his lips when a now wide-eyed Morgana inhaled sharply and started coughing. “Morgana!”
Leon patted her back until she shooed him off, assuring that she was fine; that she’d taken in too much air. She downed the entire flute of champagne, gave Merlin a dazzling smile, and croakily said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Merlin.” And gave Arthur a meaningful look that he didn’t even come close to understanding.
She was off her rocker, anyway.
One of the last customs to be fulfilled before the bride and groom made their exit from the wedding reception was the traditional tossing of the bridal bouquet. Merlin, seconds before, had made an absolute spectacle of himself as he clumsily tripped over his own two feet and ended up with Gwen’s garter on his head. Which made him freak out harder. Merlin’s arm was stretched out as far as he could and he was holding the garter between thumb and index finger. He was staring at it in horror.
Arthur chortled, snatching the garter from twitchy fingers and stuffing it into Merlin’s pocket. “I had no idea that you were such a girl.”
“And I had no idea that you were such a prat.”
He smirked. “Merlin, you haven’t been back long enough to earn your ‘British-slang’ card. Try again next time.”
“Okay, how’s this? You’re an ass.” But he was smiling as he said that, so it didn’t count.
When they re-joined Morgana, who was helping Leon out of his tie, they were still taking the piss to each other. And Morgana was giving them funny looks and wide, glowing smiles. Weird. He thought it better to ignore her so he picked on Merlin more.
The fact that Merlin hadn’t left his side was the result of some sort of unspoken agreement; a look they’d exchange when Morgana dragged them from their table. Merlin hardly knew anyone, and Arthur didn’t want to be bothered with his friends, who were wrapped around their conquests, and Gwen’s giggling Uni friends. And besides, Merlin was interesting. Strange, yes. Uncomfortable around new people, sure. A terrible dancer, definitely; all the flailing he’d done on the floor could attest for that. He knew more useless information than anyone Arthur had ever known, but couldn’t remember what he’d eaten for breakfast that morning.
It was sort of refreshing.
When the call went out for all the single ladies to take their position, Arthur turned to Merlin. “So which one do you want to snog?” and gestured out to the single women who were crowding the floor.
Merlin looked confused. “What? I thought I’d have to dance with them.”
“Weren’t you listening when Gwen explained it before Lance threw the garter?”
“Useless.” Arthur rolled his eyes. “Anyway, Gwen and Lance fancy themselves matchmakers, so instead of dancing, the bloke who catches the garter—you—will snog whoever catches the bouquet.” When Merlin made a face, Arthur laughed and clapped him on the back. “You don’t need to be a girl about it, it’s just a kiss.”
“I haven’t kissed a girl since I decided that full-time heterosexuality wasn’t really me.”
The eavesdropping Morgana snorted. She handed Leon his tie and sent him off to get them more champagne. “So you’re gay then?” she bluntly asked. Arthur nearly choked, but disguised it behind a cough.
Of course, open Merlin just smiled and answered, “Bi, actually, with a side of whoever-will-have-me.”
“Arthur is, too.”
“Morgana!” he exclaimed. “Leave my sexuality out of it.” It wasn’t like he was hiding—Gods, no. He worked hard to be able to freely say that he was bisexual, but didn’t want his stupid cousin to broadcast it so brashly.
She looked unapologetic. “Well, you are. Even with the side of ‘whoever-will-have-me’ part.” Looking at Merlin, she whispered loudly, “He’s a bit of a prat.”
Merlin smiled. “So I noticed.”
“You both can fuck off.”
They both laughed at him just before Gwen did a last call for single birds.
“You should go, Morgana,” Merlin urged.
She made a face that was akin to having just been told she had to eat live, hissing cockroaches. Arthur laughed openly at her disgust. Vengeance was sweet. “She avoids catching the bouquet at all costs.”
“A lady at one of my father’s weddings, I forget which one, tackled Morgana just as she caught the bouquet. Fractured her hand in three places in the process.”
Merlin’s eyes widened. “Jesus.”
“Oh, the lady didn’t fracture her hand. Morgana did that herself when she punched her in the face.” He thought about telling Merlin about how big of a news spectacle that punch had been, but decided against it. He was having way too much fun to explain the politics of a punch.
“She broke my nail,” Morgana seethed as if it had just happened. “My hand didn’t look right for weeks.”
“Your hand didn’t look right because it was in a cast for two months.”
Morgana waved Arthur off. “Semantics.”
Glancing around at some of the rabid expressions, Arthur had a gleeful feeling that this particular bouquet toss was likely to resemble the one at his father’s fifth wedding—a knock down, drag-out cat fight between a handful of desperate, unmarried women. All of whom had had too much to drink and were already in belligerent moods to be begin with, after standing for far too many hours in shoes that weren’t designed for long term comfort.
This was going to be epic.
Arthur grinned. He was thrilled that Gwen was so traditional. And not only was she traditional, but she seemed to be taking the idea of passing the ‘torch’ to the next bride-to-be far too seriously as she insisted that everyone should be positioned so the throw would be fair. When Gwen was finally satisfied, she turned her back to the crowd, closed her eyes, and bent her knees for a textbook backwards toss.
Like with most brides, and Arthur had seen a lot of bouquet tosses, enthusiasm got the best of her. It should have just been a backwards lob, but Gwen stumbled at the last second on something Arthur couldn’t see and the bouquet went wild. It flew through the air like a missile and, as Arthur and everyone watched in amazement, it sailed in an arc, nearly ripping through some of the bunting that swung from the ceiling. From there, it bounced off one of the crystal chandeliers, changed trajectory, and ricocheted—
Arthur had no warning; no time to get out the way. The best he could manage was to throw up his arms in self-defence so the bouquet wouldn’t hit him in the face. But when he lowered his hands, wide-eyed with shock, Arthur discovered that not only was he the newfound centre of attention, but that he was the recipient of a thundering round of applause and a great deal of laughter. Merlin’s was probably the loudest, followed very closely by Morgana’s.
“There are signs…and then there are signs…” Morgana choked out and dissolved into another peal of laughter.
For everyone present, it was nothing more than a hilarious event. For Arthur, it was a manifestation of everything his stupid cousin had said to him in the last couple of months. ’You’re going to get married, Arthur. I’ve seen it.’ Lo and behold, despite his efforts to ignore her completely, Arthur found himself clutching the most obvious sign of the end of his single days.
He’d caught the bridal bouquet.
Well, this was too awkward for words.
As soon as the Bouquet of Doom and Destruction beaned Arthur in the face, Morgana ran—yes, ran, in her four inch heels—to Gwen. And after a quick and chirpy conversation, the bride conspiratorially declared that Arthur should kiss Merlin. “It’s only fair, after all,” Gwen had said in a rush. “Since you’re both—well, errr, you know. Not that anyone cares here, right? We’re all open-minded, right? I’m not going to force it, so if that was okay with Merlin. And you, too, Arthur, and—” She noticed Morgana, who was wildly waving her arms off to the side. “Right then."
Merlin choked out a few half words before Morgana concluded that he was just fine with it. But when Arthur threw a fit—err, complained—about having to snog another bloke in front of everyone, Merlin was the one to mockingly say, “Don't be such a girl about it, Arthur. It’s just a kiss. Isn’t that what you said?”
He took back every quasi-nice thing he’d ever thought about Merlin.
What was worse was that the pro-snoggers were winning the battle. Everyone who gave half a fuck had crowded around them and started chanting for them to snog while his chipper cousin just grinned and mouthed ‘fate’ to him. Morgana was a sadist. An evil, wedding-predicting witch. And he hoped that she got pelted with a thousand—no, a million, wedding bouquets.
And after the chanting started, Arthur very well couldn’t prove everyone right. He had an image to uphold, dammit, and he was not going down like this. Merlin was giving him a sort of challenging smile and all he could think was: ‘Game on,’ while pursing his lips. Normally, Arthur would’ve worked out every aspect of the kiss in his head: the angles, intensity, and length. So, naturally, he didn’t do any of this before he grabbed Merlin by the tie and brought their lips together.
It was all wrong at first.
First, he realised too late that Merlin was slightly taller than him, so the angles were all wrong. But before that, Arthur found out that Merlin was really, really clumsy. Sort of a mess. A flailing mess of limbs that crashed into Arthur and nearly sent them backwards. But by some miracle, they managed to stay on their feet. Barely. Arthur tugged his tie again, impatiently murmuring, “Come on,” for only Merlin to hear.
Merlin exhaled against Arthur’s mouth, which should not have made his head foggy. But it did. In fact, Arthur didn’t fully snap out of the haze until Merlin started kissing him deeply, but with caution, like he was impatiently testing the waters. The pressure was all wrong and sloppy and Merlin was a shoddy leader.
So Arthur pulled back to where their lips were barely touching, and then they did things his way, which was better. More dignified. Arthur took his time, kissing Merlin gently and lingering before trying it again…with just a bit more pressure. He didn’t take it further; he wanted to taste him while he had the chance, but it wasn’t the right time and, honestly, they didn’t need it. Kissing a bloke was different. Arthur knew it. Kissing a woman was like a dance; an art. But kissing a bloke was more of a battle. And with Merlin, it was like a bloody war because he absolutely refused to just blindly follow Arthur’s lead. And before he knew it, Merlin’s hand was firmly behind his neck and they were snogging like a couple of horny teenagers.
And fuck him if it wasn’t good. Better than good.
A clearing throat made Arthur remember that it was Saturday, they were at a wedding, and everyone was staring at them, slack-jawed. It would have been the perfect time to get embarrassed, but Merlin randomly blurted, “God save the queen!” and everyone dissolved into laughter.