The damned tubes being on strike again made the journey to and from work? a difficult one that included three buses and a ten minute walk. Gwen hated driving at the best of times but adding in the extra hardship of being seven months pregnant, and it made itwas near impossible. With short legs she had to have the seat as far forward as it would go, but that made it near impossible for her to fit behind the wheel and be able to safely reach the peddles.
Arthur had been on shift all night she didn't need to add her inability to get to work easily to become a problem for him too. So she opted for the three buses and the ten minute walk.
When she got home she hadn't been expecting for both her daughter and her son to run and greet her. They should have both been in bed over an hour ago. They didn't usually get the better of him. He could get scary when he wanted to, and they would stay in bed.
Jamie gently held onto the loose fabric of his mother's trousers which made it hard for her to move towards the lounge. She scooped him into her arms and held him to her side, "You should be in bed little man," she said and placed a kiss to his forehead. He rubbed his eyes with his fists and settled his head against her shoulder. Lexie sudden looked worried and ran towards the stairs. At least the girl had some sense.
"Arthur?" Gwen called out, gently resting her cheek on Jamie's head.
"What are you up to?" she enquired as she noticed Merlin sat with Nivian balanced against his chest as she slept. Arthur was sat with his back to her and a pad of paper in front of him.
"Birthday planning," Merlin said with a soft smile. His had his hand on the back of his daughter's head, his fingers gently running through her black hair.
"Of course," Gwen smiled at him. In less than a month their eldest child would be nine years old. That on its own created a little bit of dread in Gwen's ever expanding stomach. If Alexandria was nine, it meat she was thirty five and at the wrong end of the last acceptable age bracket, "And she wasn't in bed, why?"
"Because it's seven?" he answered warily looking at his watch, "Ah."
"Mmm. If she doesn't get up for school tomorrow it'll be your fault."
"Sorry," he looked over his shoulder sheepishly at her. She shook her head and smiled. She hooked his fringe from his forehead and kissed him before handing him Jamie gently as he drifted off on her shoulder. He held him in one arm and ran his other hand over her shirt, "How's Ava today?"
"Pressing on my bladder," she said and headed to the downstairs toilet.
Arthur gently ran his fingers through the back of his son's hair as he dozed against his shoulder. "Back in a second," he said for Merlin's benefit as he lifted Jamiethe pair of them from the dining chair. Merlin was gently rocking back and forth, looking exhausted. He was only still there so he could give Morgana the evening off to catch up on her much needed sleep before she headed to work for the Graveyard shift at ten.
Arthur moved quickly up the stairs and towards Jamie's room without waking the child. He gently laid him down in his small bed and tucked him under the cover. When they had initially found out that Gwen was pregnant for the third time they had gotten Jamie the new bed. The quicker he learnt to sleep in it the easier it would be for them the closer the due date became.
Arthur smiled as the boys thumb made its way into his mouth. Just like his sister.
He looked in on Lexie on his way back down the hallway, she was sitting in her bed with a book in her lap, "Lights out now, Blobs, 'kay?"
She smiled at him and closed her book. He noted the cover as she put it on her bedside table; Narnia. She always amazed him, just like her mother. She was an intelligent kid; she loved reading and making up her own stories. "'Kay Dad."
"Sleep tight," he placed a kiss on his fingers and pretending pretended to throw it across the room. She caught it and slapped it to her cheek and a grin on her face, "Love you sweetheart."
"Love you too, Daddy."
Gwen was standing at the top of the stairs shaking her head at him with a smile on her face, "She has you wrapped around her little finger," she said as her husband reached her, slipping his arm around her waist.
He kissed her, his lips lingering on hers for a moment, "She learnt from the best."
"Mmhmm," she hummed against his lips as she kissed him again, "I'm going to crash. I'm exhausted."
"I'll come join you in a sec. Just need to deploy Merlin."
"Already gone. He was basically asleep, so he took Niv home," Gwen backed into their bedroom and turned on the light, "I don't even have the energy for a bath."
"Which is a shame because you really need one," Arthur joked following her into the room and shutting the door. She gave an exaggerated laugh and threw her balled up sock at him. He pulled of his shirt and climbed into bed with his jogging bottoms on. Gwen grabbed her knee length nightie from the draw. She stripped until she was completely naked, Arthur didn't even hide his gaze as he looked over her and her large stomach. She pulled the loose garment over and her head and slipped under the covers. Arthur flicked the light switch on the wall and settled down into the pillows.
He rolled onto his side and rested his head next to hers on her pillow. He placed a kiss to her shoulder and gently rubbed his hand over her bump. She took his hand, interlocking her fingers with his and turned to face him kissing him on the end of his nose, "Night."
Arthur awoke the next morning to a text message from Merlin telling him that he found the wood that Arthur needed. He texted back quickly thanking him. He'd have gone into more detail, but he had to get to the hospital. His shift started at 9 and he had to drop both kids off at Tom's so he could take Lexie to school whilst while Gwen had an her appointment with her the midwife.
Lexie was bound to have issues waking up after her late night the day before. It wasn't going to be a relaxing morning, that was for sure. Gwen was already out of bed and it the kitchen boiling the kettle. But they wouldn't get to slowly enjoy her cup of tea like she would on a normal morning.
"Lexie!" she shouted up the stairs, "Breakfast!"
Arthur got out of bed and pulled on a plain white v-neck shirt and a pair of smwart trousers he could wear at the hospital. He trailed out of the bedroom and rubbed his hands over his face. He bumped into something considerably smaller than him in the hallway and had to catch himself before he fell on it, "Careful Lex."
"I'm tired..." she complained leaning against his stomach.
Arthur ran his fingers through her hair with a smile, "Come on, before your Mum kills both of us for making us late," he said with a hand on her back guiding her towards the stairs.
"Come on sleepy," Gwen encouraged, "You'll wake up when you've eaten your toast."
"I don't feel well," she whined, pouting so professionally she could rival her father. Gwen put the back of her hand to her daughter's forehead and smiled.
"You're fine. Just tired," Lexie groaned dramatically but it soon turned into a whine when her mother raised and eyebrow at her, "Don't start. If you aren't going to eat you can get your uniform on. You're going to be late if you don't get a wriggle on."
The young girl looked up through her unbrushed curls and ate her piece of toast quickly. She managed to get Strawberry jam around her chops. Gwen licked the pad of her thumb ad wiped at the sticky mixture, "Muuuuuuuum!" Lexie protested batting her hand away. She licked at the jam and rubbed away the bits she couldn't reach with the sleeve of her pyjamas.
"Not with your sleeve," Gwen reprimanded and handed her eight-year-old a piece of kitchen towel. She watched the girl wiped the mess away and took the tissue from her and deposited it in the bin, "Right, uniform, now," she gently guiding her back towards the hallway and left her at the bottom of the stairs and turned back to Arthur, "Quite finished being a useless lump?"
"Not quite," he said with a smile on his face. He stole a piece of toast from the toaster and ate it plain in a matter of seconds, "Now I'm done."
"Go get ready for work," she said pushing his face away from her as he stooped to kiss her with crumbs still obviously on his lips.
Merlin was in his shed with the bare light bulb that hung from the roof shining bright. He had the baby monitor turned on and on the top of the filing cabinet. With Morgana at work and Nivian asleep, he could make a start on the present that he and Arthur had agreed on for his niece's ninth birthday. With all the work he had planned out for him he was suddenly glad he'd opted to go part time whilst Nivian needed the care.
He had fives sheets of MDF, cut a couple with groves cut away so he could slide it all together. The front panel he left off for now, he would build up the main structure of the present before he added it, that way he could fix he hinges and finish the painting before attaching it.
The two men had spent the previous evening planning out exactly what they wanted for the present. They had discussed it several times before, but now he actually had to put the plan in action. And Arthur would have to talk Gwen into spending her maternity leave with her sewing machine.
They had decided to cave in to Lexie's begging. For years she had wanted a dolls house. She would spend hours in Hamleys looking at all the miniature furniture and pointing out all the things she wanted.
As a child Merlin had spent the summers with his father, and one of the few things he had learnt in his time with him was how to work with wood. His signature item had been small dragons. Being Pendragons, Merlin was determined he was going to integrate the first thing he'd ever made into it somewhere. Maybe the staircase.
Arthur had given him a list of things he wanted. ; The the amount number of rooms and a layout. It was going to be simple, one room thick and only openable from the front. He could have wired it up with electrics but Arthur had banned him from it, just in case he electrocuted himself. He could still fit small lamps around the small house though.
Merlin had so many grand plans, but it was that staircase that he really wanted to work on. He needed to get the first story floor in before he cold do it, then he could start taking his exact measurements. He picked up his hammer and began to fix the outer walls. He held the small nail up and lined the hammer up to hit. As he set the hammer into motion a cry sounded over the monitor. The hammer collided with his thumb, "Fuck!"
He abandoned his hammer on the worktop and headed back towards the house, sucking on his thumb as he walked. He could hear Nivian's cries now. He bound up the stairs and into her room. It was incredibly pink and fluffy.
He picked her up from her mini cage and held her against his chest and headed back downstairs. He gently bobbed her in his arms as he reached the fridge and grabbed the bottle from the shelf and headed to the microwave and stuck it in. He rubbed a soothing hand over her back and started to hum.
The microwave beeped a minute later. He tested the temperature of it on the back of his hand. Perfect.
He fed the nipple of the bottle of his daughter. Her cries subsided as she drank.
The lock on the front door clicked open. Merlin looked down the hallway and smiled. He near trotted down the hallway and greeted his other half with a kiss, "Mmm, hello," she smiled, running her hand over her daughter's head, "How's she been?"
"Fine. Only just woke up."
"What have you been up to, you're cold," she mentioned as she took the baby from him and started to feed her. She missed her when she had to work. She could feel it leading to problems for her. Merlin was so much more connected to Nivian than she was. A sense of jealousy coursed through her, but then she looked down at her daughter and smiled again.
Morgana had never seen herself as a mother. Not through school, not through university and certainly not through her residency. It wasn't until she'd spent years playing Aunty to her brother's children that she had become remotely broody. Even then, when she'd found out she was pregnant it was more than a little surprise. It certainly wasn't planned. They had been perfectly serene in their family of two but once it had grown to a trip instead nothing seemed to be different. She still loved Merlin as much as she did before, but now they had a living memento of just how much.
"Dolls house for Lexicon," Merlin said and headed into the living room. The plush sofas would be welcome to Morgana. Immediately she relaxed back into the cushions, "How was your day?" he asked, sitting down next to her and extending his arm behind her head along the top of the sofa.
"Busy. Arthur's been totally elsewhere all day."
"Gwen had her appointment with her midwife. You know how he got last time. He just panics over every minute detail. He's got two months left of it. I mean, he's already making Gwen stop working in a week's time. He doesn't want to risk what happened to Lexie happen to Ava, regardless of Jamie's birth playing through without a hitch."
"And he always used to say he never got nervous."
Morgana laughed. Nivian was asleep in her arms, "Can you?" she gestured for him to take Niv from her. He willingly obliged and took her from his wife, pressing a short kiss to the corner of her mouth, "I'm so tired. I think I'm going to have a bath and go to bed."
"Good idea," He rested against the arm of the sofa. He raised one of her hands to his lips and kissed it. Even after so many years he knew how to make her go weak at the knees.
Somehow Arthur had managed to wing it so Gwen got an extra month off of work. She could understand that he still had minor freak outs at the thought of her going into another premature labour due to hospital related incidences. He'd done the same when she'd been pregnant with Jamie. She didn't put up a fight. It would be a lie to say that it didn't scare her that she could go through the very same thing again. Once was more than enough.
On her first day as a free expectant mother, Arthur presented her with a box full of random scraps of material and a list, "Curtains? Sheets? Seat covers? Um, Arthur we have all these things. And unless you want them all to be patchwork, I'm going to need bigger lengths of material."
Arthur grinned and gave her the drawing her had in his hand. Gwen took it and scanned it quickly, "Okay?"
"Lexie's birthday present. Me and Merlin have been working on it. Well, Merlin has. He's done this amazing staircase. It's really quite good."
"And I have all this, because?" Arthur pointed to her set up sewing machine, "Right, this is my list of things to do?"
"Yeah. It's what she wants. You've see her in Hamleys."
"I have. Why didn't you just say?"
"Because sometimes we men have to come up with ideas on our own," Gwen grinned at him and set the list down on the table. She reached up to rest her hand on the nape of his heck and pulled him down to kiss him. He rested his hand on the side of her bump and gently massaged his fingers over her shirt, "What was that for?"
"No reason," she said kissing him again, catching his tongue with her own, "Go to work," she ordered, he smiled against her lips and kissed her again a few times in quick succession, "Goooo," she jokingly pushed on his shoulder. He defiantly kissed her again before he moved away from her.
"There's measurements and everything on the drawings," he said as he picked up his satchel from the dining chair.
"I have a lot to do, today, Arthur."
"No you don't," he teased, "I'll see you tonight. Bye," he leant across the table and kissed her on the cheek.
As Arthur shut the front door and headed down the path to the street, Jamie started to shout from the top of the stairs where the safety gate was locked so he couldn't fall down the stairs, "Good morning little man," she greeted with a warm smile at she slowly made her way up the stairs, "Banana for breakfast?"
"Nanan," he repeated as she picked him up. It was getting hard for her to carry him for longer than a few metres without her back starting to hurt.
"Come on then," she set him down on the floor and he walked beside her to the kitchen clinging onto her hand.
Morgana sat at her kitchen breakfast bar with a pile of samples in front of her. She had no idea quite what she was meant to be doing. Gwen had brought around both her son and her box of materials for the afternoon.
Merlin was at work and Niv was fast asleep in her cot. The baby monitor sat on the kitchen counter beside the teapot. So far Niv had sighed heavily a couple of times with the occasional hiccup. Jamie sat in front of the television watching old reruns of In The Night Garden, which, quite frankly, freaked Morgana out. Still, he seemed distracted by it and that suited the two friends well.
"So what? They expect you to make al the finer details?"
"Not all of them, but it's a nice touch, don't you think?"
"I did wonder what the hell Merlin was doing out there. Have you seen it?"
"I only found out about it this morning," Morgana smiled slowly and walked over to the kitchen cupboard by the door and opened it and grabbed the shed key from the hook.
She swung the key on the ring around her finger and grinned at her counterpart, "Care to have a look?" Gwen checked over her shoulder, Jamie was immersed in the show in front of him and she knew he wouldn't move until the end credits rolled. They had five minutes.
The broke into Merlin's shed with ease. It wasn't somewhere Morgana would usually enter into. It was Merlin's private little hole. She knew what he got up to, when he finished projects he'd show her. He'd been working on a set of letter blocks for Nivian that he intended on having ready for when she became old enough to use them. He'd made a name plate for her bedroom door and had even added the detail to their fireplace after they had moved in. Morgana knew he was good at it and she knew he enjoyed it. She just didn't want to get in his way.
She unlocked the door easily and pulled it open. On the worktop by the opposite wall stood the outer shell of the house. The front panel laid on the tabletop next to it. Inside was the staircase. The staircase he had carved a dragon into as the handrail for it, "Wow," she ran her finger over the carved wood and turned to the front of it. He had carved into the front of the wood and had given the house a Pendragon branding. A small silhouette of a dragon above where the door was going to be.
"That's about right," Gwen responded as she toddled through the doorway of the wooden structure, joining Morgana, "How does he do that?"
"I have no idea."
The two women got distracted from the woodwork when Jamie came haring tearing down the garden shouting for his mother. Morgana, able to move faster than Gwen, made her way onto the grass and picked up her nephew. He giggled, "Ann Mogo," he repeated over and over hugging against her.
"Time for lunch, eh, Jay?"
"Eggs and soldiers," Gwen said as she caught up with them, "He kicks up a fuss about it otherwise."
"And does the Duke of York like butter on his soldiers?" he made a face at her and stuck out his tongue, "I'll take that as a no."
The four adults sat around a table in the corner of the bar eating their dinner. Arthur and Merlin had their heads together, their plates already empty. The two women could make out the occasional word such as table or chair. Mostly they just zoned them out.
"So all the furniture is done?"
"Table, chairs, the bed, and the kitchen. I wasn't sure about the sofas or stands for the living room," Merlin said quietly.
"We can just buy those," Arthur said, knowing that with only a week left it wasn't worth the hassle of trying to make new things. Merlin had a lot of shifts coming up and Arthur was relying heavily on Gwen's maternity leave to get the job done.
"I made this little coat and hat," Gwen said to Morgana as she ate chips from the main bowl on the table, "I don't even know why. I just did it."
"Clothes for Borrowers," Morgana smiled and took a sip from her drink. Gwen laughed and leant back against the cushion of the bench seat. She rested one hand on the top of her bump whilst she continued to pick at the fried potato and stuff them into her mouth, "God you eat a lot."
"I'm eating for two people."
"More like an army."
In the dead of the night of the twelfth of October a small figure crept down the hallway. She quietly clicked open the gate on the top of the stairs. Below her the light shone under the dining room door. She halted in her footsteps as the stair creaked beneath her small bare foot.
"Get back in bed, Alexandria!" her father shouted from downstairs. She stayed quiet, not moving a muscle. A few seconds of silence passed, "NOW!" she squeaked and immediately ran back up the stairs, shut the gate and got back into her room and under her covers.
The two male adults crouched beside the table and moved the pieces about the toy house. Merlin had painted the outer walls red and white and the small dragon above the door a golden yellow. The inside had been decorated with modern wooden floors with the occasional rug. The staircase had a royal red 'carpet' running down it. The staircase had been dyed a darn dark brown along with the rungs on the rail.
"Don't touch the bloody chair," Merlin said slapping Arthur's hand away from it.
"It doesn't look right there."
"It's perfect," Merlin said. He was tempted to tie his hands up but that would only spell trouble for him once he let him go, "all of it."
"You're a talented man, Mr Emrys."
"Why thank you, Dr Pendragon," a grin split across his face. Nothing he had done had ever paid off this much before. He knew that he wasn't something that would get discarded. Once Lexie was too old for it they could gift it to Ava or Nivian. It could stay in their rooms then until they needed it.
"Alexandria!" Arthur shouted suddenly once again, "I said bed!"
"But I can't sleep!"
"Well try harder!" Merlin raised an eyebrow at him, "You have all this to look forward to. The amount of times she comes down after she should be asleep. Don't tell Gwen but she sits with me sometimes when I get back late."
"She knows Lex has seen a more grotesque episode of House, you know?"
"Lex had nightmares for ages about it."
"I tried to stop her watching," Arthur said sheepishly.
"Still, Gwen knows. Mummy powers, remember."
"Mmm," the pair of them laughed. "Ready for wrapping paper?"
"Can we do it simply?"
"I'm not awake enough for complex."
The end of the bed dipped and the duvet raised as Lexie crawled beneath the cover between her parents and cuddled into the gap between their pillows, "Good morning, Blob," Arthur mumbled ruffling his hand through her hair. He looked over to the clock it was barely six, "Go to sleep sweetheart," he managed. She ledlaid on his chest. He smiled against the top of her head. There was no point kicking her out only for the alarm to go off in thirty minutes anyway.
Arthur felt the tips of Gwen's fingers brush against his body as she rested her hand on her daughter's waist. Arthur smiled and let sleep take him back.
Thirty minutes later and they were all woken by the alarm. Lexie seemed to jump upright taking the duvet with her, "Up up up!"
"Happy birthday, Lexie," her mother said as she too sat up on the bed. The girl carefully hugged her around her shoulders, scared she would squash the baby.
"Who says you have any presents?" Arthur jested pushginpushing her fringe out of her eyes.
"Did he now?" she nodded vigorously, "Well, maybe you should go and wake him and Aunty Morgana up so you can have them, then."
Lexie rolled off the bed and ran towards the door and down to the other end of the corridor where her Aunt and Uncle were half awake. Nivian was asleep in the corner, "Up up up!" she chanted again and clambered over Merlin without a care to where she was putting her hands and knees, he yelped in pain as her foot caught him in the groin, "Presents!"
She rolled off the end of the bed and ran back towards her parents who were both emerging from their bedroom. She cut them off at the top of the stairs as she wrenched open the gate and ran down the stairs and opened the second gate and jumped towards the dining room.
Arthur bypassed the stairs to grab Jamie from his bed. He was already awake from the pandemonium Lexie had caused but was still moderately out of it. He scooped him up from his bed and carried him downstairs.
By the time he reached the dining room the house was already ridden of the paper he and Merlin had expertly wrapped it in early that morning. His now now-nine year old daughter was busy gushing away about the house. How there was a small painting on the wall of the bedroom of their family, including Ava. She kept talking non-stop and saying the word 'Dragon' over and over.
Arthur smiled over to Merlin who looked proud, grinning from ear to ear. His hard work had paid off. The elder male approached him and held his hand out in front of him. Merlin slapped his palm to Arthur's.
"It's pretty awesome in the harsh light of day, isn't it?" Merlin commented.
"Really is," Arthur agreed as he watched Lexie practically climb over the dining room table to get a good look at all of the features in her new toy. Nine years ago to the day had been an emotional one. He'd turned to his father for the first time in years. He didn't have anybody else to turn to at the time and their relationship was stronger for it.
Arthur was glad that it didn't take such an extreme for him to have built a good relationship with his daughter. He watched her turn, standing on the table to hug her mother and kissed her sloppily on the cheek before she launched herself towards her father. He had gently held out his free arm and hugged her to him, kissing the top of her head.
"Lex, come here," Gwen called, her hand on the top of her abdomen with a smile on her face. Lexie crawled across the top of the table. She took her daughters had and rested the palm flat on the same spot beneath her own hand. Lexie giggled and leant to kiss her mother's stomach on the very same spot. Gwen smiled, "Come on, down you get. You shouldn't be on the table anyway."
She helped her down from the table and led her towards the door, following Morgana to the kitchen to make breakfast, "Coming?"
"Be there in a sec," Arthur replied, adjusting his grip on Jamie.
"I'll take Jay," Morgana suggested doubling back. Nivian was still asleep in the spare room. He handed his son to his sister and turned back to Merlin as their other halves went to the kitchen.
"I just wanted to say thanks for this. It means a lot to all of us, especially her."
"The look on her face was more than enough."
"Well, if there's anything I can do."
"Extra shift off at the end of December for Niv's birthday?"
"Done," he shook Merlin's hand, "Remind me when we get to work later, yeah?" Merlin nodded and followed as Arthur walked to the kitchen, sitting at the smaller table next to his daughter who was already bouncing.
"Happy birthday, Blobs."