A Merlin Christmas Carol.
Snow was falling across the great kingdom of Camelot. It was the day before Christmas and everyone was preparing, from the peasants in their homes, to the servants and residents of the castle. Everyone except one person.
Arthur Pendragon hated Christmas, always had and always would. A tedious waste of a day in anyone's book by his standards. His Father, Uther had been the same, so as Arthur looked out of the window he was becoming increasingly irritated with his man servants incessant whistling as he moved around the room merrily doing his job. Finally, his ears not able to take any more he spun around glaring at Merlin, who's back was to him.
"Merlin would you for the love of god shut up!" he ordered. Merlin jumped and turned around, eyes wide.
"What?" he asked, his expression showing that he honestly did not understand what he'd done wrong. Again.
"You and your whistling, its driving me insane!" Arthur shouted.
"oh. Sorry" Merlin replied. Arthur glared at him a moment longer, then turned away.
"What are you so happy about anyway?" Arthur asked.
"ermm it's Christmas?" Merlin stated as if speaking to an idiot.
"And that's special how?" Arthur asked.
"you know, tis the season and all that…" his voice trailing off at Arthur's shaking head. "So…" he said brightly, "what are you doing tomorrow?" he asked. Arthur looked back at him.
"Same as today Merlin, probably standing here listening to you rambling on about something stupid"
"I'll be here?" asked Merlin.
"Where would you be?" asked Arthur. Merlin blinked.
"well I thought, you know, being Christmas and all, I would have the day off or something" he said.
"A day off?" repeated Arthur.
"Merlin I said no. Its nothing special, and certainly nothing to give my manservant a day off over" Arthur snapped.
"You gave Gwen the day off" Merlin persisted.
"I like Gwen" Arthur replied, not seeing the hurt that went over Merlin's face.
"Oh. Okay" Merlin replied.
"Now, if you can get through the rest of the day without this nonsense you might get some work done" Arthur snapped. Merlin nodded, and quietly turned away.
"Yes sire" he replied as he got on with his duties.
Night came to Camelot, and people settled down in their beds. Merlin moved around Arthur's chambers extinguishing the candles, Arthur in bed.
"Good night sire" said Merlin with a bow. "Happy Christmas" he added. Arthur rolled his eyes and turned over. Merlin sighed softly, then left the room.
It was near midnight, when Arthur awoke with a start, sitting up, looking around, the room in darkness, outside, snow falling heavily. He could have sworn he heard something, so he listened, reaching for his sword. As soon as his hand touched it, the candle by the bed flared to life.
"What the!" he demanded. A cold wind whipped through the room, the candle going out in a puff of smoke. Slowly it began to glow. Taking on a shape, Arthur grabbed his sword and began to hit at the glowing smoke.
"Arthur…" the voice was faint. He hit again. "Arthur…" louder. He hit again.
"ARTHUR WILL YOU STOP DOING THAT THIS IS DIFFICULT ENOUGH AS IT IS!" Roared a commanding voice, Arthur eyes going wide as Uther appeared before him, clad in his armour, but also wrapped in chains.
"Father?" Arthur whispered.
"Hello Arthur" Uther greeted, pulling one of the chains.
"Father?" Arthur whispered again.
"Yes. Its me, or rather the ghost of me" Uther replied.
"What are you doing here?" Arthur asked, then shook his head. "Wait, your dead, you can't be here" he said.
"hence the ghostly presence" Uther replied.
"Or the twisted Magic" Arthur said. Uther sighed.
"No, not this time" he said. Arthur blinked, then slightly lowered the sword.
"the chain's, new look for you" Arthur said. Uther's face seemed to go sad at the comment.
"These are my prison Arthur, for misdeeds I have committed" Uther said. "And they're the reason why I'm here, especially today" he said.
"Okay" Arthur dragged the words out.. "So what's so special about today?" asked Arthur.
"It's Christmas day" Uther replied.
"Oh not you too, I thought you hated Christmas" he said.
"I did, I was a lot like you, uncaring about it, about how it affected people around me, darkened my mind to the possibilities of what it could be" he said.
"which is?" Arthur asked.
"A chance to enjoy the presence of your loved ones, to be with the ones you care about" Uther replied, then frowned as Arthur waved his hand through Uther's body. "what are you doing?"
"Arthur this is serious, this is your first Christmas as regent king of Camelot, this is an important time for you!" Uther yelled.
"Oh come on, you seriously expect me to listen to something made of candle smoke and air?" Arthur protested.
"Considering I hate magic, I thought that was a nifty entrance" Uther replied. Then frowned.
"Nifty?" asked Arthur.
"Will you stop distracting me and listen!" Uther spat. "You are slowly heading down the same path that put me in these after I passed on, You must stop this, before it's too late. Before you end up like me! You may not realise it Arthur, but people here do care about you more than they can ever show you" he said. "Its time to start seeing them, not as a king Arthur, but for this one day, as a friend, is that too much to ask?" Uther snapped.
"Ermm.. yes, its not becoming of a king to become friendly with their subjects" Arthur replied. Uther closed his eyes, watching as Arthur lay back down.
"Now I'm going to count to ten and when I open my eye's you'll be gone" he said. "one"
"Arthur, I can see this is going to be more difficult than I thought…"
"you will be visited tonight by three-"
"Hey, you nicked my number!"
"Ghosts. Three ghosts, that will show you the error of your ways"
"And the consequences of your actions"
"you missed five"
"that was a long sentence. Seven"
"Three Ghosts Arthur… Three ghosts…."
"The first will visit you before the hour is up"
"Goodbye, my son"
"Ten" Arthur opened his eyes, the room was in darkness.
"Ha! That showed you" he grumbled, then he laid back in bed, turned over and closed his eyes.
The First Ghost…
The bell tower chimed to one AM, Arthur snoring lightly, turned over in his bed, even as the corner of the room began to glow, slowly a form took shape, then moved across the room to him. Arthur opened one eye sleepily, then closed them, then opened them wide, seeing Gwaine looking down at him.
"Ello Princess" he greeted.
"Gwaine what the hell are you doing in my room!" demanded Arthur. Gwaine stepped back and put his hands on his hips.
"See, its like this, I'm not Gwaine, I'm your first Ghost" he said.
"Nope, had one tonight, so technically you're the second one, and you're not even a ghost" Arthur retorted.
"ooo Boy, We got a doozy here and no mistake" Gwaine replied, then the air around Gwaine caught fire, his eyes turning bright red. Arthur blinked and huddled back as the flames died down.
"I can set fire to the bed if you want" Gwaine offered.
"Good" he suddenly gripped Arthur's arm. "Off we go then" he grinned, a moment later the room was empty.
"Gwaine you will get your hand off me before i-" Arthur stopped talking, looking around. He was in the castle gardens,, it was daylight and snow lay thick on the ground.
"Ok… I'm impressed, what did you slip me with? Did Gaius give it to you?" Arthur said. Gwaine raised an eyebrow at him.
"Ok, there are so many come backs for those questions, but this is a family establishment and we are not going there, now, do you know where we are?" Gwaine asked.
"I'm on the beach, by the Isle of the blessed, the sun is beating down and I'm working on m tan" Arthur replied, rolling his eyes.
"No, we're in the gardens" Gwaine replied.
"I was being sarcastic" Arthur replied. Gwaine smiled.
"So was I princess, so was I" he responded.
"Right, what's special about the gardens?" asked Arthur.
"Just wait" said Gwaine. "This was the start of your hatred towards Christmas"
"Oh give me strength" Arthur muttered. A moment later a little dark haired girl came running around the corner, quickly followed by a blonde haired boy, the boy maybe nine the girl seven or eight.
"Wait a sec isn't that Morgana? And me?" Arthur said, eyes going wide as the pair of kids ran right through them, giving no indication of actually seeing them.
"Ok what the hell was that?" demanded Arthur, touching his chest and legs, making sure they were real.
"Calm down Princess, At the moment your in a physical manifestation of your body but with the talents or ability to interact with the forces around you. You are an observer here" Gwaine said. Arthur looked at him blankly, blinking several times. Gwaine sighed.
"You can see them, they can't see you"
"Why didn't you say that?"
"Is this really important?" Gwaine said. Arthur opened his mouth to reply. "No" Gwaine cut him off. "Now, let's get on with this" he said following the path the children had taken. They didn't have to go far, the children had stopped not far away, A man talking to the boy sternly.
"Arthur I have told you time and again you are to stop this nonsense!" the man said.
"But father, it is Christmas, and Morgana wanted to play" Arthur protested.
"Enough Arthur, one day you will be king and can do whatever you want, but until that day you will follow my rules. You will act like a prince and you will not go running around the gardens like a simple minded beggar, do I make myself clear?" Uther demanded.
"He was a right one, your father" Gwaine mumbled. Arthur shot him a look.
"No more Arthur, you will return to the castle and you will get on with your studies, is that understood?" Uther said.
"Yes father" young Arthur said.
"Bye Arthur" Morgana gave a little wave as he walked away, kicking the snow as he did so.
"And you" Uther said to her. She sighed and then she too left.
"Sire, is there really any need to be so harsh? They are children and it is Christmas" said the older man beside Uther. Gaius, it was Gaius, Arthur realised.
"I will not have this kingdoms sense of duty fouled by… such a ridiculous notion" Uther said, then stormed off.
"Father always made me study at Christmas, it took a few years but then I realised how right he was. Christmas serves no purpose" Arthur said.
"See Princess, that's where your wrong" said Gwaine, gripping his arm.
They reappeared in a small house, a black man grinning as his little girl attempted to cook them a small dinner.
"Is that Gwen?" Arthur asked. Gwaine nodded, but said nothing.
"Here, let me help" her father said.
"Nope, I can do it myself" she said, reaching up. "Can you get the pot please" she added, unable to reach it. Her father stood and took down the pot, then frowned looking in it and pulling out a small package.
"Happy Christmas!" Gwen shouted to him. He smiled as he opened it, a small cushion with his name sewn into it.
"I did it all myself" she said proudly. He turned his smile onto her and pulled her into a hug.
"I love it" he said kissing her head. "thank you Gwen" he said again, then indicated the door.
"Go, play with your friends" he said.
"But I'm making us dinner" she said.
"No, I'll make us dinner, it's my present to you" he said. She rolled her eyes.
"You don't need to" she said.
"But I want to" he replied.
"How nice" Arthur drawled. "Anything else or is this all you got?" he asked.
"Okay, lets see how your other friend coped during Christmas" Gwaine said.
"Merlin you twit" Gwaine said.
"Merlin? He's probably running around playing with some toy or something" Arthur said.
"He may be at that" Gwaine agreed, taking his arm.
They re-appeared in A small village, snow on the ground, kids running around throwing snowballs at each other.
"Oh… cute" Arthur muttered.
"Not for him" Gwaine said pointing, to a small thin boy with raven black hair who watched from the doorway of his house.
"Merlin?" asked Arthur. Gwaine nodded.
The boy Merlin watched as the other children in his village ran around laughing and playing, then slowly stepped out, joining them. A couple carried on playing, but most stopped, looking at him.
"Can I play?" Merlin asked.
"Go away, we're not meant to talk to you" yelled one of the girls. Merlin blinked.
"It's only snowball fights" he replied.
"NO!" yelled several of the other children. A moment later a man walked over, looking down at Merlin. He didn't say anything, just pointed to his house. Merlin blinked then walked away, behind him the snowball fight started up again.
"Now I know I can be a git but that was just damned mean" said Arthur, taken aback.
"It's how he grew up" Gwaine told him, following Merlin into the house.
Merlin walked over to his small bed and sat down, Hunith moving over to him.
"They wouldn't play with you?" she asked gently. Merlin shook his head, blinking tears from his eyes.
"Eric sent me away" he muttered, a tear falling from his eye which he quickly wiped away.
"Am I bad?" he asked, the innocent question slightly piercing Arthur's heart.
"No Merlin, no not at all" she said, pulling him into a hug.
"Then why don't they like me?" he asked. "Is it because-"
"Children are sometimes mean Merlin, you don't have a father, to a lot of people that's not right, but they're wrong" she assured him. "One day you'll go to live in a vast city, and they'll all be jealous of you" Hunith said. Merlin wiped his eyes and looked up at her.
"Will I get to be a knight? Or the king?" he asked. Hunith smiled.
"Who knows, you might" she said.
"Merlin? A knight?" Arthur gawked. Gwaine glared at him.
"Arthur he's seven, shut up"
"Now, dry your eyes and go set the table for dinner" Hunith said. Merlin nodded and wiped his eyes on his shirt sleeve, and moved to the table. Hunith watched him go then smiled, pulling a small bundle from one of the cupboards. Slowly she turned to Merlin.
"Happy Christmas Merlin" she said, handing it to him. He smiled as he took it, opening it, it was a red neckerchief. He grinned and hugged Hunith. Then quickly ran to his small bed and pulled out a parchment, it was a crude drawing of two people smiling and a badly drawn horse next to them.
"I drew this for you" he said. It was probably the ugliest picture Arthur had ever seen, but Hunith took it smiling in delight.
"Oh thank you" she said, kissing his cheek.
"I'm only going to give gifts to people I care about and you got the first one" he said. She smiled, and knelt down.
"That's very kind, but its not just gift giving Merlin, its about family" she said.
"Then I'll only give gifts to my family" he said.
"anything else you want to show me?" Arthur asked.
"Nope, that about sums up our little tour of the past, for you Gwen and Him, I just hope you remember what he said" Gwaine replied, grabbing his arm. "see ya on the other side Princess"
A moment later Arthur was back in his chambers, he sat down thinking, then sighed. So Merlin had a lousy childhood, not Arthur's fault, so Gwen had no money and knitted a cushion for her father, big whoop.
"Load of nonsense" Arthur muttered, lying back down. He turned over and nearly screamed, Morgana was laying on the bed.
"What the hell! Guards!" he yelled.
"They Can't hear you Arthur" she replied, sitting up.
"What did you do to them?" Arthur demanded.
"Me? Nothing. Oh and no I'm not Morgana. I just got… lumped into this, so rather than chit chat about our problems, lets just get on with it and focus on the present.
The Second Ghost
"you? You're my third ghost?" asked Arthur.
"Second" she amended.
"No, I've had My father and Gwaine so far…" he said.
"Your father didn't count, and he's not paying us by the hour, so shut up" she said Gripping his wrist.
The place they materialised was loud, but the noise was below them. She moved forwards, looking down A moment later Arthur joined her looking down into the Tavern from the top of the stairs.
"The Tavern? This is meant to change my mind?" Arthur sniped.
"Look Arthur, I don't want to be here anymore than you do, but I have my orders from on high so you're going to deal with it just like I am, got it buster?" she snarled.
"Prat, clotpole? Twit? Scrooge? Any of the above?" she replied.
"You're so not funny Morgana"
"Sue me" she replied darkly. Arthur sighed and looked around.
"So why are we here?" he demanded.
"Your prat of a manservant is late" she said, then looked at her wrist. "Sorry, we're a minute early" she amended, then smiled as best she could as Merlin walked in, with a little boy on crutches.
"here we go" she said.
"Who's the boy?" asked Arthur.
"Just shut up and watch… please" she grumbled.
Down in the tavern Merlin led the little boy through the crowd of people, picking him up and sitting him on the bar.
"Merlin! Its been too long" greeted the bar keeper. "what'll it be?" he asked.
"Nothing for me, I have to work tomorrow" Merlin replied with a grin, "But Tim will have a juice" he added.
"My pleasure" the barkeeper replied, turning around and getting some apply juice for the boy.
"Merlin, does that mean you won't be reading to us with Gwen tomorrow?" asked Tim, taking the juice.
"not tomorrow, but I'll come by the day after to see you okay?" Merlin promised.
"Okay, but Arthur's mean not letting you come to see us" Tim said.
"out of the mouth of babes" muttered Morgana.
"No.. Timmy, I've told you, Arthur isn't mean, he just has a lot to worry about, its not easy being king you know" Merlin said.
"wouldn't help him to appreciate you once in a while" said the Barkeeper.
"Out of the mouth of barkeepers" muttered Morgana.
"He does, in his own way" Merlin said.
"Funny way of showing it" said an old woman who looked like she had too much to drink already.
"Out of the mouth of-" Morgana tilted her head "Whatever she is"
"Will you shut up"
"Look believe it or not Arthur does try to do what is right for you all, it might not seem it, or he might get it wrong, but you don't know him, he's done a damned lot for all of us over the years, most of which you never see. You think it can be easy to be king when he's so young? To follow in his father footsteps? To constantly battle with someone he loved as his own sister?" Merlin said. "Well its not, I've seen Arthur face so many challenges, so many threats and all the time you can see how much he's trying to spare his people the pain he has to suffer, so stop knocking him down!" Merlin shouted, the room fell silent, everyone looking at each other.
"Three cheers for Arthur!" shouted the barkeeper suddenly, raising a tankard, passing one to Merlin.
The cheer was took up around the room, even by Tim, who's small voice was drowned out.
"You see the sort of person Merlin is?" asked Morgana, her voice gentle. Arthur blinked, and swallowed, then looked at her.
"I'm the king, it's natural" he said, his voice wavering slightly.
"oh boy, you're gonna be more difficult than I thought" she grumbled. "Okay next stop on the grand tour of your own personal nightmare" she said, then gripped his arm.
They appeared in the corner of Merlin's small room, there was a package laying on the bed, wrapped, that said Arthur on it.
"Ooo is that mine?" he asked.
"Seriously, you're that self-interested, do you even remember what the boy of him said?" Morgana asked him dead panned. A moment later Merlin walked in, with Gaius, and sat down on the bed.
"How was Tim?" asked Gaius. Merlin looked at him.
"He's trying, but he seems to be getting more ill every week" Merlin said. Gaius smiled and placed a hand on Merlin's back.
"I'm sure he'll recover" Gaius said. Merlin nodded, then forced a smile, turning to the parcel.
"You think Arthur will like it?" he asked, gesturing to the package.
"He'd better, that was a month's salary there" Gaius replied, sitting down. "When are you going to give it to him?" he asked.
"When I take him breakfast and once I've cleaned his room" Merlin said.
"He's making you work?" asked Gaius. "I thought you were going to the orphanage with Gwen" Gaius exclaimed.
"Ughh I'm going to be violently ill" Morgana said.
"Shushh I want to know what the gift is" Arthur replied. Morgana blinked.
"You really have no self control do you?" she said.
"That was the plan, but its okay, Gwen said she's fine going without me" Merlin said.
"They'll miss you there though" Gaius said. Merlin shrugged.
"Arthur comes first" Merlin said.
"Humph, he always does with you" the old man replied, walking out. Merlin watched him go, then went to the window opening it and looking out at the falling snow.
"I never knew" Arthur said softly, then looked at Morgana. "Why would he think so highly of me when I treat him like… dirt most of the time?" he asked. Morgana slapped her face.
"Now we're getting somewhere. Christmas is about family Arthur, not just presents." she grumbled, grabbing his arm again.
"last stop!" she yelled.
They appeared in a large building, a small fire was going in the corner, Gwen was reading to several children, who sat cross legged around her. Arthur looked around seeing Tim on a bed, covered up, also listening, but shivering at the same time.
"What's up with him?" asked Arthur, unable to stop looking at the boy.
"He's very ill, but really, what do you care?" she replied.
"So the Princess said to the Prince 'I will marry you but you must earn my hand'" Gwen read, putting on a dainty voice, the children chuckling as they listened. "And the prince replied:- 'Of course my fair maiden, I will do whatever is needed to earn your hand'" she read, putting on a gruff voice, the children giggling even more.
"is this… Christmas day?" Arthur asked.
"yes, usually Gwen reads the woman's parts and Merlin reads the man's parts" Morgana said. "Now shut up, I want to hear what happens"
"and you said I have no self control" Arthur muttered.
"You're so funny, but truthfully, look at them Arthur, all innocent and cute and… I really didn't say that, all… child like" she said. Arthur looked around, smiling softly. Eventually Gwen finished her tail and the children clapped.
"Thank you" Gwen said with a smile.
"Thank you Gwen. Happy Christmas" said one of the girls.
"And you too" she replied.
"Tell king Arthur happy Christmas" said Tim from his bed. She smiled at him and nodded.
"Of course I will"
"I don't want to be here" Arthur said suddenly, looking away.
"No, but you had to be. This isn't the end Arthur, the worst is yet to come" Morgana said, gripping his arm. A moment later he was in his chambers, Morgana conspicuous in her absence. Slowly he sat on the bed, wiping a tear from his eyes.
Tell King Arthur happy Christmas from a sick boy who still remembered him, even though they had never met. Slowly he laid down. Looking at the ceiling. His thought's a whirlwind of emotions. Suddenly he sat up as there was a loud bang. Looking over he saw Gaius standing in a swirl of smoke, coughing.
"Gaius?" he asked, looking at him. Gaius blinked, then sighed.
The Third Ghost
"You're not Gaius are you?" Arthur asked.
"No my boy, I'm the ghost of Christmas yet to come" he replied.
"Then why do you look like Gaius?"
"They higher up's wanted someone old and decrepit for this role. It was me or the Dragon" he looked around the room with a beady eye. "And I doubt the Dragon would fit in here"
"So you're the ghost of Christmas yet to come?" asked Arthur.
"That is I" Gaius bowed, then without warning grabbed Arthur's arm.
They appeared at a small spot overlooking the city, by a lake. Arthur recognised it as the place where the people took their dead.
"Why are we here?" asked Arthur, looking around. Gaius did not reply, instead he pointed to the small pathway, Merlin and Gwen walking up it, holding a book. Slowly they knelt down.
"Which one?" asked Gwen softly, turning the pages. Merlin looked over her shoulder and pointed.
"there, that one is Tim's favourite" he said. Gwen smiled and nodded.
"Tim?" asked Arthur, looking at Gaius. Gaius inclined his head, remaining silent.
"Once, long ago in a far away land, the destiny of a great Kingdom rested on the shoulders of one small boy. His name.. was Timmy" Merlin read, as Gwen looked out at the lake.
"Timmy wasn't like the other boys in his village, because Timmy had a secret" read Gwen.
"I remember that story. You, sorry, Gaius used to read it to me when I was a child" said Arthur, tears rolling down his cheeks. The ghost chose not to respond, instead looking back at Merlin and Gwen, who were reading sections between them, both wiping tears away.
"Why did you show me this!" Arthur snarled turning, trying to deny the ache in his chest.
"Because you had to see it" the ghost replied, then took his arm. "Because you, Arthur Pendragon, need to learn the consequences of your actions no matter how miniscule they appear to you" Gaius said. "This is but the start, for it will become bleaker as time goes on" he added, Arthur held out his arm.
"Good, you're learning"
They reappeared in the castle, snow had fallen outside, but no celebrations were taking place. Arthur instead saw himself looking at Gwen from about twenty years in the future, who moved around with an air of disinterest.
"Hello Gwen, Happy Christmas" Said Merlin coming up beside her, he was limping, and using a crutch, he was even thinner than he was now, his face pale. Gwen turned to him.
"Did I give you leave to speak peasant?" she asked.
"No… no my lady" Merlin said with a nervous bow, the other servant's had stopped working to look at what was happening.
"Merlin, you must understand, what we once were, friends, if it could even be called that, was a long time ago, do not elevate yourself to my station and I will not have to lower myself to yours" she said.
"Yes.. my lady" he stammered.
"Now, what did you want?" she asked.
"Just, I thought you might like to visit Tim" he offered.
"Phiff, why do I want to go to that horrid place, I spent years doing stuff for those brats" she said. Merlin nodded, then turned, slowly limping away.
"Merlin" she called. He looked back hopeful.
"Please don't speak unless your spoken to in future" she said, then turned away.
"Yes my lady" he said.
"This is wrong, Gwen could never be so callous.. cruel hearted" Arthur muttered.
"This is what you will make her if you continue down the path your on" The ghost said.
"And what happened to Merlin?" he asked. The ghost took his arm, gently.
They appeared in Arthur's Chambers, Arthur sitting by his desk, face hard, a scar running down the left side of it, his hair long since gone grey.
Arthur shivered as he looked at his future self, the hardness in his eyes, seeing Uther there.
The door to the chamber slowly opened and Merlin came in, balancing a tray of food as he hobbled across the room.
"Dinner sire" he said.
"Put it on the table" Arthur said.
Arthur jumped at his voice, the same, but… cold.
"Of course sire" Merlin said, turning. He put it down and then moved to the armour by the bed, before he sat himself down, picking up the first part and beginning to polish it.
"Merlin" Arthur said. Merlin looked over at him.
"Did I say, clean my armour?" he stated, as he stood.
"No sire, I was just doing my job" Merlin said. Arthur nodded.
"ahhh, your job? So the little servant boy think's he knows his job now?" Arthur sneered. Merlin looked down.
"No sire" he replied.
"I see, and he want's to read as well" Arthur said snatching up the story book from where Merlin had put it when he sat down. Slowly Arthur opened it, and flicked through it.
"Children's stories?" Arthur asked. "You still read to the children?"
"Only to Tim" Merlin said.
"You wouldn't know him" Merlin replied. "Can I have the book back please" Merlin asked. Arthur looked at it, then at Merlin. Arthur held the book out then dropped it to the floor, cracking the binding.
"Sorry Merlin, I dropped it" he said with a chuckle. Merlin blinked, then looked up at him.
"What happened to you Arthur?" he asked. Arthur stopped chuckling, instead glaring at him.
"What did you call me?" he demanded.
"We used to be friends, now you're…" Merlin's voice trailed off.
"Now I'm what Merlin?" asked Arthur. "What am I?" he demanded, kneeling down and hauling Merlin to his feet.
"I'm nothing?" Arthur asked, then threw Merlin hard against the wall. "That's good for nothing then isn't it" he roared.
"STOP IT!" Arthur yelled, looking away from the image before him.
"That's not me! That…. Thing could never be me!" he roared.
"Yet… it is" Gaius said, taking his shaking arm.
This time they were back at the lake, but it was night. The shivering form of Merlin was kneeling down with two candles lit. he coughed as he turned the page in the broken book and began reading by himself.
"What's he doing?"
"Visiting old friends" Gaius replied.
"No… not just the boy"
Arthur watched his friend, not much older than the one he had just… no… he could never do that. But could he? No it was impossible.
"Just watch Arthur" said Gaius.
Merlin finished reading, then took a deep breath.
"Not to worry Tim, The physician says I don't have long anyway, so I can read to you in person soon" he said.
"What?" Arthur heard his voice break.
"Not much more to say really" Merlin said, coughing again. "Happy Christmas Tim" he smiled. Then he chuckled.
"Happy Christmas Arthur" he added, looking at the second candle.
"Even after what you became, even after all that. Do you understand Arthur?" Gaius asked softly. Arthur felt the tears on his face as Merlin stood and turned around. He took about three steps, then fell in the snow. Arthur ran forwards, kneeling by Merlin. Trying to help, unable to do anything to do so. Merlin looked up, frowned, looking at him.
"You got young" he said, then his eyes closed, and he took his last breath. Arthur lay sobbing in the snow, as Gaius slowly walked up to him.
"No one came to see you Arthur, no one but him. A forgotten boy and a hated king" Gaius said.
"Gwen would have come"
"Sadly Gwen did not last that long" Gaius said.
"I don't want this. Stop it please" Arthur pleaded, tears streaming down his face.
"That, is beyond my control Arthur. Only you can change this. This is yet to come, but it does not have to" Gaius said. Arthur blinked, then looked back at Merlin, before he began to cry. When he finally looked up again, he was back in his room.
Slowly he looked up, seeing the lightening sky.
"A dream…" he muttered as he stood, then he realised something, looking down he saw the wet footprints, where snow had melted from the bottom of his boots.
"Guards!" he yelled. A second later the doors opened and the guards rushed in.
"What day is this?" Arthur demanded.
"sire?" asked one of the guards, confused.
"The day, what day!" Arthur demanded.
"Christmas day sire" replied the other guard. Arthur nodded, then grinned.
"Don't you have families to be with?" he asked them.
"Yes sire but our duties…."
"Oh yes, of course, ok you, go this morning you can go this afternoon" Arthur said. The guards grinned.
"Thank you sire" they beamed, rushing out. Arthur grinned, that had felt…. Good? Yep, good was the word. Arthur smiled, then blinking rushed out of the room.
He was back in his chambers when Merlin arrived with his breakfast, the cooks had been in a straggly very happy mood, but all of them insisted it was because it was Christmas, so Merlin hadn't paid it no mind. He looked up at Arthur as he walked in, the prince was in bed with some parchment and was reading.
"Morning Arthur, Happy Chris- Breakfast" Merlin quickly amended at Arthur's glare.
"Put it on the table" Arthur said. Merlin Moved sideways in front of the bed. Arthur watching him.
"Have you developed an allergy to walking properly?" Arthur asked.
"Just a kink in my back, Gaius says walking like this will help" Arthur nodded and shook his head, before Merlin made it the rest of the way to the table. He put the breakfast down, Moved some parchment out of the way, the ink quill the little package with his name on it, then put the plates down. Then he blinked. The little package with his name on it. A second later he jumped as Arthur clapped him on the back.
"Happy Christmas!" Arthur cheered.
"Wha…huh?" Merlin asked. A second later it sunk in and his dazed looked passed to become a broad smile.
"Arthur… I thought you hated Christmas" said Merlin.
"I had a change of heart" Arthur said. "go on, open it" he said. Merlin picked it up, and slowly unwrapped it, a new blue neckerchief.
"I was getting bored with the red one" Arthur said.
"Thank you sire" Merlin said, a grin on his face. Slowly he put it on, still grinning. Slowly he pulled out a package from his back pocket and handed it to Arthur.
"Its not much, but I hope you'll like it" Merlin said. Arthur took it, smiling.
"Thank you" he said as he unwrapped it. His voice caught in his throat as he came to a small book, written in elegant ink. Ygraine's Diary was written on the front.
"I found it down in the archives. Sir Geoffrey said I should give it to you, but it was in pieces" Merlin explained.
"you had it restored?" Arthur asked. "do you know how expensive that is?" he asked softly.
"That didn't matter" Merlin replied. Arthur suddenly pulled him into a hug.
"Thank you Merlin" he whispered, then pulled away, Merlin smiled, thankful Arthur had liked the gift.
"So, what were you planning to do today?" asked Arthur as he sat down at the table.
"Oh just… stuff" Merlin said.
"Okay. So you don't like reading to the children then?" Arthur asked.
"You know?" Merlin asked mortified.
"lets just say a little witch told me" Arthur said with a grin. "Now, of course, I can't really deprive the children of their story time" said Arthur.
"So I can have the day off?" Merlin asked.
"Yes… but you're not going to the orphanage" Arthur said.
"No, the orphanage is coming here" he replied. Merlin grinned. "But Gwen doesn't know that, that'll be your job" Arthur said.
"Arthur wants us to both work?" demanded Gwen.
"Afraid so, apparently Godfry is on his way, so he's doing a banquit" Merlin said.
"That is so like him" she fumed.
"I know. I've promise the kids we'll read to them tomorrow" Merlin said. Gwen sighed.
"I suppose that'll have to do, but don't expect me to be a model servant" she replied as they walked into the banquet hall. She looked around at the tables that had been set out, the food on them, Arthur was standing at the end, by the head table, talking with Leon, he looked over as they moved towards him.
"Sire" Gwen said with a bow, her voice was however quite neutral.
"Ahh, Gwen, Merlin, I know you wanted to do something today, but affairs of state take precedence" Arthur said.
"Of course Sire" said Merlin, sounding as neutral as Gwen.
"Good, Our guests should be here in a few minuets, I trust you know what to do?" Arthur said.
They both nodded and moved away.
"Know what to do? We've been doing this for what? Five years now?" Gwen muttered. Merlin chuckled.
"You know how nervous he gets when he has to do these impromptu gatherings" Merlin replied as they busied themselves. A moment later Gaius entered, winking at Merlin, then moving to Arthur. They spoke briefly, before Gaius moved to his position at head of the table. A moment later Leon walked back in, Percival, Gwaine and Elyan with him.
"Sire, our guests have arrived" said Leon with a bow. Merlin and Gwen moved to stand slightly behind Arthur as usual, Arthur moved in front of his seat.
"Send them please Leon" he said.
"yes sire" Leon said, as the other knights moved to the side of the room. Suddenly Merlin pushed Gwen forwards to stand next to Arthur, him doing the same.
"Merlin" Gwen hissed, then her eyes went wide as the Matron from the orphanage entered the room, the children with her.
"Happy Christmas Gwen" said Arthur smiling at her. The children all walked up, making a upsettingly long line.
"Children" said Gaius stepping forwards. "This is king Arthur" he informed them. The children went all wide eyed and the boys made little bows while the girls did small curtsies. Arthur smiled at them.
"Welcome to our first Christmas celebration!" yelled Arthur, the kids cheering. Even Tim who was at the end of the line, leaning on his stick. Gwen smiled her chin quivering slightly as she looked at Arthur.
"Thank you" she whispered. "Happy Christmas Arthur" she said, as the children took their seats, eyes going wide as the food was brought out. She and Merlin went to move away.
"Sit down the pair of you" Arthur said.
"Sire?" they both asked. Arthur grinned as Elyan and Gwaine moved forwards with the water pails.
"They volunteered" Arthur said. "Don't ask me why" he added quickly. Gwen and Merlin both sat down, grinning.
"My lady?" teased Elyan as he poured Gwen some water. She laughed, the sound making Arthur happier than he had felt in a long time.
The meal went on for nearly two hours, the end of which Arthur stood.
"I hear that Merlin and Gwen read to you sometimes" he said looking around. The children nodded as they watched.
"who wants them to read now?" asked Arthur. Of course all the children did. Arthur smiled and looked around the room, then pointed to Tim.
"Tim, come here please" he said. Tim's eyes went wide.
"He knows me!" he exclaimed, causing Merlin, Gwen and Gaius to laugh. Tim stood and moved as quickly as he could to Arthur.
"Sire?" he asked with a shaky bow. Arthur moved around the table and picked him up.
"What story?" he asked.
"The boy from the village!" he said. "That's the one I like the most" he said. Arthur grinned then looked at Gaius.
"Mine as well, good choice" he said. Then he smiled again as over in the corner, the Ghosts of Uther, minus chains, Gwaine, Morgana and Gaius smiled back.