Title: Pieces of Us
Pairing/characters: Merlin/Arthur, Morgana+Merlin+Gwen friendship
Rating: M-15 / PG-13
Genre: Romantic comedy, non-magical modern!AU, friendship
Warnings/Spoilers: Mentions of alcoholism, pregnant!Morgana, gayer-than-rainbows!Merlin, closet!Arthur, slightly-OOC!Gwen, language, sluttiness, genderbend (cameo characters only), Season 2 spoilers
Summary: Morgana is pregnant and doesn't know who the father is, Gwen sleeps around with all the wrong men, Merlin meets Arthur and thinks he's a tool, Arthur is getting married to the wrong person (who knew!) and it is possible Arthur is, actually, a complete tool after all. Or: Wherein Morgana Hires Merlin to Pretend to be Her Boyfriend So Arthur Doesn't Find Out She's a Big, Big Slutty Person.
Word count: 22,000+
Special thanks: To Huey for the encouragement, Lizzie for the feedback, Nikki for the awesome fabulous beta job and also to Ann, who pushed, encouraged and let me whinge at her over and over about this silly fic.
. . . .
Part 1 – The Stuff That Happens When Two People Come Together
"What am I going to do, Gwen?" Morgana agonised. "I've booked a train ticket to Camelot for Friday."
They were having after work drinks together at a small coffee shop near Morgana's office. She slid a finger down the porcelain handle of her tea cup, which contained herbal tea. Her doctor had told her she wasn't to have any caffeine, as well as alcohol, chocolate – in other words, everything good was off limits.
"We've still got time," said Gwen optimistically.
Morgana gave her a look across the table. "It's Wednesday."
"Er," mumbled Gwen, as she cast her eyes around the room. As she did, Morgana slumped a little in her chair, rubbing the smooth bump that was now her tummy and looked to the side. A young male employee was up on a ladder trying to change a light bulb on the high ceiling. The ladder teetered precariously and Morgana shifted in her seat, fearing for her unborn child. She was getting really paranoid about things like that recently – crowded streets, people on bikes speeding down the foot path –
She was going to have a baby.
Shit fuck buggery.
Four months ago, Morgana and Gwen had gotten rottenly sloshed one Saturday night, gone out on the town and Morgana had slept with Who The Hell Knew. The next morning, she had slid out of the arms of Mr Hairy Chest (or whatever his name was) and crept to the toilet down the hall to do a wee. As she sat on the loo, she'd felt something strange, and when she looked down she saw that the condom she'd used the night before had slid out of her and into the bowl.
One month after that, she had snuck out of the office to buy a pregnancy test. In the office toilets, careful not to ruin her suit, she'd – well, long story short, the test said positive.
Linda, one of the junior accountants, banged on the stall wall and Morgana almost dropped the stick in shock.
"Morgana," said Linda, "Steve wants you in the Training Room. They're having drinks with the Thompsons."
"I'll be right out," she called shakily. Steve was one of the partners, as was she; the only female partner of the cock-fest accounting firm in which she worked. She half-stumbled into the Training Room just as Mr Thompson had said a particularly unfunny sexist joke, and Steve's chin-wobbling guffaw almost made Morgana want to run back to the toilets and spew.
Morgana picked up a champagne flute, stared at the amber liquid for a moment, before putting it back down again.
Three months later, she'd almost gotten used to the whole being pregnant unexpectedly thing. Gwen was supportive and everyone at work was congratulatory without asking too many questions.
She hadn't told any of her family or friends back home, though. So when her half-brother Arthur called her Wednesday morning to remind her to come to his wedding, she'd almost cried.
But she would never cry in front of Arthur, not even silently over the phone.
"Thanks for the short notice, Arthur," she'd snapped at him.
"I sent you an invite six months ago," was Arthur's reply in his usual self-important clipped tone. Oh right, thought Morgana, he had. She remembered looking at it, then screwing it up and chucking it in the bin. Then she had called Gwen to come get drunk with her while she bitched and moaned about that back-stabbing cow, Sophia.
"Do I really have to go?" she asked.
"Yes. Sophia wants you to be there."
"No she doesn't, don't lie to me, Arthur; you know I hate it."
"Morgana. Father and I haven't seen you in three years."
She paused, speechless for about three seconds. "Alright," she said, finally. "I'll book a train for Friday morning, shall I?"
"Yes you shall. See you soon."
And that was how she got to sitting with Gwen in the coffee shop, quietly panicking.
"Why don't you just tell them the truth?" Gwen asked.
"I can't. Uther is the lord and mayor of Camelot, and he and Arthur are rich, upper-class snobs. Why do you think I ran away to London? I mean, can you imagine if I just turned up at Arthur and Sophia's wedding pregnant with no man? They'd have kittens – it would be a huge scandal."
Gwen's expression suddenly brightened, smiling widely. "I've got it! All we have to do is find a man who would be willing to be your date."
"Oh, really. And where am I going to find a date to the wedding who would be willing to lie to my whole family, in a day? Good-looking men don't just fall from trees, you know."
At that very moment, just as Morgana said you know, the man on the ladder slipped and fell down, landing on his back with a loud thump and a clatter right next to their table. Morgana and Gwen gaped down at him in shock.
"Ugh," the man groaned. He looked about their age, perhaps a bit younger, and had dark hair that curled around his ears and cheekbones. He pressed his lips together in pain and gazed up at them dazedly with the bluest eyes Morgana had ever seen.
"Are you alright?" Morgana enquired softly.
He grinned up at her, still looking dazed. "I'm fine!" He held out his hand for her to shake, which meant shoving it right up vertically in the air. "I'm Merlin."
Morgana awkwardly took his hand to shake. "Morgana."
Gwen did the same, then turned to Morgana and smiled triumphantly at her.
"What're you doin' on the floor, then?" A man boomed in suddenly. It was the owner of the shop, and he was not happy.
He stormed over to Merlin. "Only been working here two days," he berated, "and what do I see? You taking a nap on floor while you talk to your mates. I suppose you think you can just laze around all day! Well I'll tell you something, young Merla – "
"It's Merlin," said Merlin. He didn't get up.
"Don't speak to me in that ungrateful tone! You're fired!"
. . . .
Merlin stood self-consciously in his pokey little flat while the two women he had invited up also stood, watching him closely. He cleared his throat.
The women exchanged glances. Then the pregnant one called Morgana smiled at him apologetically. "I'm sorry about you getting fired."
Merlin returned her smile. "Not your fault. Besides, you shouted the house down. It was very entertaining."
She had. After the boss had fired Merlin she had stood up and loudly berated him in front of all his customers on how Merlin had fallen from his shoddy ladder and how Merlin was only being friendly to his customers and how none of them were ever coming back there again. Merlin had been speechless.
"I'm pregnant," Morgana told him, "I'm allowed to shout."
Merlin laughed and asked, "Would you like something to eat? I think I have – er - " He went over to the open kitchen and looked in his freezer. "Shepherd's pie?"
"Do you want to make some money, Merlin?" Morgana blurted out suddenly.
Merlin slowly turned from the freezer, frozen shepherd's pie in hand and making his fingers ache. The two women had moved closer and were staring at him.
He huffed out a surprised breath, eyes wide. "I'm really flattered, and everything, but I don't do women. And I don't do that either. Well, that is, I tried once, I needed the money – "
"No no – you misunderstand!" said Morgana, and she hastily explained her and Gwen's plan.
. . . .
After dinner, Morgana explained everything to Merlin, from her family and her shallow friends, to what she expected him to do. Merlin took it all in stride.
"Sounds like fun," he told them. He looked completely unruffled by the whole scenario.
Morgana watched him closely for any sign of doubt, but he looked carefree and happy. She hoped he wasn't high.
On Friday Morgana and Merlin took the train together. They bonded for some of the trip, but most time was spent reading their respective novels in silence. (Though Morgana had had a little snigger at Merlin's book choice: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. "It's my favourite!" Merlin defended.)
. . . .
They were picked up at the train station by a black Mercedes, whose driver actually wore a driver's hat and opened doors for them. When they arrived on the estate, Merlin couldn't help staring open mouthed at the lush green grass, the lake, the horses and the huge white castle. He couldn't believe the opulence: it was like something out of a fairy tale.
"Jesus," he swore. He turned to Morgana, who was staring out the window with a tight, frosty expression. "Do you own a pony?" he joked.
"I have two," she said absently, tone low. She seemed very tense, so Merlin slipped his hand into hers and she looked at him.
"It's going to be fine," he told her, hoping to come across as sincere as possible. She turned back to look out the window.
When they walked around the side of the castle (a fucking castle! Merlin thought) they found people drinking tea in the rose garden.
A man was walking towards them. Merlin's lips parted and he let out a soft breath as he approached – he was beautiful: soft blonde hair, red lips in a tight pout, strong jaw and broad shoulders under a white polo shirt.
"Who in the wide world of porn is that?" Merlin asked Morgana, a bit breathlessly. "He's gorgeous."
"It's Prince Prat Brat himself," Morgana answered from the corner of her mouth, because the man had come almost within hearing distance. "My brother," Morgana clarified quickly, in case Merlin hadn't already figured it out.
Merlin hummed thoughtfully. "Well from now on I'm calling him Prince Ken Doll," he said quietly.
Morgana snorted and Arthur stopped in front of them. "Morgana," he said in greeting, and bloody hell, his voice was sexy too. Arthur placed his hands on her shoulders in what Merlin supposed was Arthur's version of a hug.
Arthur turned to Merlin, eyes sweeping over him briefly, before asking, "Do I know you?"
Merlin smiled and held out his hand. "I'm Merlin."
"So I don't know you."
"No – "
"Morgana," said Arthur, turning to her and ignoring Merlin completely, "I was told to tell you to go see Father as soon as you arrived."
"What are you, his errand boy?" she drawled at him, and Merlin was shocked by the coldness of her tone. "How proud you must be, son of the mighty Uther."
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Don't be ridiculous – "
"Morgana!" someone screeched, and Merlin was almost knocked sideways as a girl with long blonde hair threw herself into Morgana's arms, the momentum sending them into Merlin. He steadied Morgana's shoulders and Morgana shoved the girl off.
"Watch it!" Morgana snarled at her, clutching her stomach. The girl's pretty mouth was curved into a 'O' of shock, eyes wide.
"Oh. My. God," she exclaimed. "You got fat!"
Merlin saw Arthur look at the round belly Morgana had tried to conceal with a loose blouse, and his expression was a mix of concern and surprise – but mostly concern.
"Merlin," said Morgana, turning to him, "this is the bride-to-be, Sophia."
"Morgana and I are bestest friends," Sophia gushed. She glanced at Morgana, giggled, then looked back at Merlin. "Oh! And you must be the help. That's good; I was starting to worry when you would finally arrive. The flowers need to be taken into the main hall and the soap in the bathrooms need to be swapped from lavender to chrysanthemum because I hate lavender – "
"And the wedding dais needs sweeping," Arthur added. Then he grabbed Sophia's hand. "Come, Darling, the priest will be arriving soon and we need to sort out our vows."
As he walked away with Sophia, Arthur looked over his shoulder at Morgana and said, "Go talk to Father." Then he was away.
Merlin gaped stupidly after them and Morgana was glaring at their retreating backs.
"Okay," said Merlin slowly. "What just happened?"
"They're a match made in hell," was Morgana's reply. She turned to him and something in her expression softened. "I'm really sorry about my family, Merlin."
He shrugged and gave her a small smile. "I just have to keep reminding myself that you're paying me."
. . . .
It went in a downward spiral of doom from there.
After Merlin had unpacked their luggage in Morgana's old bedroom, he had yet another run in with Arthur Small Penis Pendragon (he was coming up with more and more creative names). Merlin had gone downstairs to try and find Morgana and had heard her distressed voice through a closed door, along with a deep, argumentative one that Merlin assumed belonged to Uther. As he stopped next to the door to eavesdrop, Arthur rounded the corner, then rounded on him.
"What did I tell you earlier about the dais?" demanded Arthur, arms crossed and sharp blue eyes watching Merlin closely.
"That it needed to be swept?" answered Merlin in disbelief.
Arthur gave him a patronising look. "And why haven't you done it, Merlin?"
Merlin was a bit surprised Arthur had even remembered his name. But he answered dutifully, "Because I am your guest, not your manservant, you dickhead."
Arthur huffed out a disbelieving laugh. "You can't talk to me like that."
"Oh sorry, I meant, ' I am your guest, not your manservant you fu – uummmm - "
Arthur had stepped forward right into Merlin's personal space. They were practically nose-to-nose; Merlin could smell Arthur's very alluring aftershave. He tried not to sniff him too obviously.
"Tell me Merlin," Arthur mocked conversationally, "do you know how to walk on your knees?"
Merlin took an abrupt step back and suppressed the wave of – of – something that definitely wasn't hot, raw desire and said, "If this your way of making me give you a blow-job you can just fuck right off!"
Arthur's look of wide-eyed blushing astonishment was priceless. Merlin only got a second to appreciate it though, as Sophia rounded the corner. She strode right up to Arthur.
"Where's Morgana?" she demanded. "I want to know where that cow has gone. I've just been told she's pregnant! If that woman has deliberately sabotaged my wedding – "
She was cut off as voices on the other side of the door were raised several decibels. Sophia slammed open the door and walked right into the room in which Uther and Morgana were having an obviously private conversation.
Arthur was scowling. He strode into the room himself and Merlin followed.
"Did you do it to sabotage my wedding on purpose?" Sophia shouted at Morgana.
"Oh yeah," said Morgana sarcastically, "I got pregnant to ruin your wedding!"
"Morgana," said Arthur in a level voice. She turned to him. "Why didn't you tell me? I'm only a phone call away, you know that."
"It's none of your business, Arthur."
"But it is our business," said Uther. Merlin, standing on the sidelines and feeling like a voyeur in a private family moment, thought Uther was the scariest man he had ever seen. He seemed to command authority every time he even moved or said anything. Merlin thought he could say "Hoozy Nozzle Watsit" in a stern voice and people would still take him very seriously.
"You're a bitch," Sophia told her, stupidly ignoring the men in the room. Uther and Arthur glared at her incredulously.
"Oh I'm a bitch!" Morgana stepped closer to the other girl, her face thunderous. "I'm not the one who kept going after her best friend's boyfriends and spreading rumours about her behind her back! And the fact that you're marrying my brother - ! I have no words."
"Morgana," said Uther, "we must make a decision about your predicament."
Morgana looked at him angrily, but Merlin saw the fear flash across her face. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
"It means you will move back here," said Arthur.
"I will not!"
"You will," said Uther.
Merlin cleared his throat and everybody turned and stared at him.
Uther looked at Arthur. "Who is this man?"
"My name is Merlin," said Merlin, lifting his chin and walking forward to stand shoulder to shoulder with Morgana. "I am Morgana's boyfriend, and the father of her unborn child."
The three angry people were standing in a semi-circle around them, glaring. Merlin was surprised his voice wavered only a little.
"And I – I don't appreciate you talking to her that way. Did you know undue stress can hurt the baby? Now we may not be married but that doesn't mean we don't love one another, because we do, and I," he threw her smile to make her feel better, "I love her."
Morgana gave him a small, grateful smile. Then they both looked back at the others, backs straight and confident.
The others stared back. Sophia sneered. Uther and Arthur raised simultaneous eyebrows.
"But you are coming back," Arthur said to Morgana, a half-question.
She rolled her eyes. "No, Arthur, I'm staying in London."
"Because it's my home," she answered simply.
"So why aren't you married?" Uther asked her. "You should get married before the child is born."
Morgana gave him an incredulous look. "I'm sorry, but what century are you living in?"
"Father's right," said Arthur, and Morgana glared at him. Then he smirked and gave Merlin another one of his once-over looks. "Get on one knee, Merlin."
"Oh ha ha, very funny," said Merlin.
"I'm serious." Arthur moved around to stand behind him and placed his warm, ring-adorned hands on his shoulders and tried to push down. At the same time, Morgana grabbed Merlin's arm hard, fingernails biting as she tried to keep him upright, muttering, "Don't do it, Merlin, don't!" There was an intense struggle while brother and sister tried to man-handle him in a game of tug of war.
"Alright, that's enough," Uther told them in a commanding tone and the spoilt children let go immediately. Uther gave Merlin a level look. "You will propose to Morgana in a more romantic setting."
"Um," said Merlin.
. . . .
After the worst conversation Merlin had ever had was over, it was already time for dinner. He joined everyone at the large lavish dining table. It was a mediocre affair, as Uther, Arthur and Sophia decided to mostly ignore him and he was placed between Morgana and Arthur's best man by the name of Lancelot, who was actually a really nice guy. Why Lancelot was best friends with Arthur Merlin didn't know; Merlin half expected Lancelot to turn around and start saying Arthur-like things such as 'So how's that knee walking coming along?' But he didn't, to Merlin's intense relief; instead he just talked about how he'd always wanted to be policeman because his parents had been killed by robbers when he was small, and the police had been really kind to him. Come to think of it, Merlin thought as he nodded along to Lancelot's story, he's a bit gloomy.
There was an awkward moment come bed time when Merlin and Morgana stood in their pyjamas on either side of the large bed, ready to pull back the covers.
"I'm gay," Merlin blurted.
Morgana raised an eyebrow. "I'm pregnant and may fart during the night."
"So long as you keep it under the sheets," Merlin told her faux solemnly, and the awkward moment was gone.
. . . .
Merlin was already a bit late to the ceremony, as he had been trying to get his hair into some semblance of neat. That and he was rubbish at tying ties. So when he came to the garden where the wedding was held, almost everyone had already arrived and were either finding their seats or already sitting in them. Arthur, Lancelot and the priest were up front; Arthur's jaw was clenched in nervousness and Lancelot was talking to him, probably trying to console him. It didn't seem to be working.
Merlin walked down the aisle, hands in his trouser pockets, casually trying to look for Morgana. His steps faltered, however, when he looked back down the red carpet.
Arthur was watching him.
Merlin kept walking, but he was slower, so much slower, like time was pressing on and around him. It was just – the expression on Arthur's face: lips parted, expression serious yet soft. And Merlin could not look away, felt as if he could never look away. The corners of his vision seemed to blur: people's excited voices and children's laughter faded, white streamers tied to the trees undulated softly like a caress and Merlin could hardly breathe and still Arthur kept looking, watching, waiting, wanting and Merlin could barely swallow.
The moment was broken when Merlin arrived near the front and Morgana hissed his name and grabbed his wrist to pull him down into the seat next to her. Merlin looked up to see Arthur had looked away. But Arthur looked back again, over his shoulder, and it was Merlin's turn to cast his eyes down, force himself to swallow.
Everyone was seated and a small flower girl about six years old danced down the aisle. People turned to look to coo and murmur "how cute!" but Merlin didn't look; he glanced up under his lashes and saw that Arthur was watching him side-long.
Then the wedding song was in full swing and Sophia came down the aisle on her father's arm, and Arthur wouldn't look at him at all. And that was it.
It was over.
. . . .
At the reception in the Great Hall, Morgana sat at the round table with Merlin, as well as Nimueh, Helen and all the other bitchy bitches she went to school with, plus their dates. Nimueh was giving Morgana her usual creepy smile that clearly said, 'I know you got yourself knocked up' and Helen was looking sarcastically sympathetic. Next to Morgana, Merlin was already downing his third flute of champagne. She envied him.
There was a tinkling noise of a spoon being tapped on a glass and everyone stopped their conversations to look up at the head table, where Lancelot, next to the bride and groom, stood with a glass of white wine raised.
"I have been friends with Arthur for a long time," Lancelot began, his speech tinged with a kind of bleakness only Lancelot could accomplish. "He's a great man: honourable, decent, chivalrous – "
"Is he talking about the same Arthur who got married today?" Merlin murmured jokingly in her ear.
"Lancelot thinks the light shines out of his arse," Morgana murmured back.
"Then Sophia came along," Lancelot continued, "and Arthur changed. Now they are married, and we wish them all the best. So, a toast, to Arthur and Sophia!"
Most people immediately raised their glasses and cheered, but those who had actually been listening to Lancelot's back-handed compliment did so more hesitantly. Morgana laughed.
The band started playing 'Eternal Flame' and due to tradition, the groom took the bride's hand and led her to the dance floor for the first dance of the night. Everyone watched for a bit, then other couples went to join them in their slow dance. Merlin stood up and held out his hand.
"A dance, my dear?" Merlin requested.
Morgana took it. "It would be an honour, young man."
They only danced until the end of the song, because Merlin was truly bad at dancing and Morgana feared he would trip them up and hurt the baby. She saw Sophia's father ask his daughter for a dance and she took her opportunity and abandoned her frankly relieved date and made a beeline for Arthur.
"Morgana," Arthur murmured, inclining his head as he took her waist and hand and guided her easily around the room, graceful even though she was bulging a bit in the front.
"Arthur." She nodded back. "So who's responsible for the terrible song choice?"
He snorted. "Sophia obviously." The hand clasping hers shifted a bit.
"Nervous?" she asked casually.
He clenched his teeth and looked over the top of her head. "I don't get nervous."
"Say what you want about the food but – " She paused as Arthur turned them in a swift circle. "- you can't beat a good speech for entertainment."
"Mm," mumbled Arthur, still distractedly looking over her head. Curiously, she looked over her shoulder to follow his line of sight, but all she saw were Merlin, Lancelot and Leon talking together.
She excused herself to go sit down, and from then on the party seemed to go on without her. Everyone got drunk, danced to bad nineties pop songs (like the Macarena), played stupid wedding games while she sat on the sidelines, too sober to enjoy herself and too scared to join in with dances like the Chicken Dance Polka for fear someone would elbow her in the stomach while trying to flap their wings. She went to bed early.
. . . .
Merlin, on the other hand, had had loads of fun at the reception the night before. By the time he, Lancelot and Leon had snuck two tequila shots each and Merlin had tripped over his own feet twice while trying to do the Hokey Pokey, he had completely forgotten about that strange moment he'd had with Arthur while waltzing down the aisle. And when he did remember, he realised that he had been stupid. No way did Arthur... look at him like that; he probably wasn't looking at him at all! The sun had been quite bright; perhaps Arthur had been looking in a completely different direction, or maybe he'd been scrutinising Merlin's badly done-up tie, or staring off in the distance, or something.
He stood on the porch and watched Morgana and Sophia talking in the morning sun, while a servant packed Sophia's luggage into the boot of a silver Audi. Arthur came out of the house and stepped up beside him.
Merlin slid his eyes over to look at him. Arthur was watching the women with a stoic expression, arms crossed.
"Heard Tahiti's nice this time of year," said Merlin conversationally. "Lots of... flowers."
"So you get to go to Tahiti on your honeymoon," Merlin continued; "life is just not fair. And I'm... going to London." Merlin was unsure why he was bothering to talk to Arthur at all, except perhaps to keep up the pretence that they were almost brothers-in-law. But also because he sort of... wanted to talk to Arthur, to suss him out.
Arthur took a deep breath. "Well. You've been terrible. Really I mean it – the worst person I would ever have chosen for Morgana." The small smile he turned to Merlin belied his words, though, and Merlin smiled back, understanding the hidden message: but you're alright.
"Thank you, Arthur."
"Also your name is weird," Arthur added.
Merlin shrugged. "What can I say? My mum likes wizards. She has a dog called Gandalf, a cat named Rincewind and three fish called Harry, Ron and Draco."
Arthur broke out into soft laughter, his face transforming from handsome to just plain cute: wide grin, crinkles at the corners of his eyes. It was so endearing, so open Merlin had to look away after a bit, as if blinded by the sun.
Morgana walked up to them. Behind her, Sophia was scolding the servant for packing her luggage wrong. Morgana stopped in front of Arthur and said half-sarcastically, "Hope you have fun on your honeymoon."
Arthur gave her a sincere look. "I'll come and visit you in London."
Morgana's eyes were wide open with disappointment. "No you won't," she said.
. . . .