Greetings, my fellow FanFictioners!
Just in time for Christmas I present you... a One-Shot that actually isn't Christmassy at all, but oh well, I think there are enough of them out here anyway. And you requested this one to be written, so here you are.
Thanks to my beta Vernacular Jargon, who's hopefully thoroughly enjoying the holidays, and a Merry Christmas to all of you!
Warnings for limited knowledge of the UK version of the show and one seriously pissed off Chris Tarrant.
Enjoy and feel free to tell me everything I got wrong on the show. (Seriously, I'm quite interested in the different concepts of the shows.)
Arthur should have known that it had been a bad idea to accept that invitation. He should have known.
It was all Merlin's fault anyway.
If that genius idiot hadn't complained so much about what a horrible idea this was and how he would never, ever, under any circumstances participate in this mindless show, maybe Arthur wouldn't have accepted so fast without considering the consequences.
Which was why he was now sitting in a highly uncomfortable chair in the backstage area of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" surrounded by make-up artists and hairstylists, who wouldn't stop smearing odd smelling stuff onto his face and into his hair. And they wouldn't stop drooling over Merlin.
It was like every single woman standing around him had verbal vomitus, and all that came out of their mouths was about how excited they were, because the Celebrity Specials always were the best episodes, and how excited they were to meet the famous master thief, and how smart Merlin was, and how handsome and adorable.
Not that the fawning was what really bothered Arthur, mind you. He knew that at least the last part was nothing but dreamt up illusions, because all Merlin had done up to now was sending death glares in Arthur's direction and refusing to be made up by anyone else but himself. ("I used to change my appearance twice per day; I know how to use face powder, for crying out loud!") Not really what Arthur would call adorable.
It was that the constant "He's so intelligent!"s and "Can I have an autograph?"s were really getting on his nerves by now.
Also, he kind of had a bad conscience. Kind of.
Because no matter how often he had told the program manager that Merlin was haphephobic and would be fine if only left alone, nobody seemed to get it. Merlin's constant squirming to fight the urge to run away from all the people that were poking and prodding at his hair and clothes was rather painful to watch. He seemed to feel more and more miserable by the second.
Just as Arthur was about to stand up and chase off these hyenas, he was stopped by the host, Chris Tarrant himself, who entered the room the exact second Merlin got ready to bolt and effectively caught the attention of the entire staff, including the prodding hyenas.
Arthur didn't really listen to anything Tarrant said, but instead watched as Merlin slowly and stealthily slid down his chair and quickly retreated towards the general direction of the bathrooms.
Therefore, he slightly winced in shock as Tarrant's hand suddenly landed on his shoulder, startling him out of his thoughts.
"The show starts in about two minutes. You ready?"
Tarrant smiled at Arthur, a mischievous spark in his eyes. Arthur smiled back and said, "As ready as I'll be. But if you could excuse me, I think Merlin's wandering off again and it would probably be a bad idea to start the show without the first contestant, wouldn't it?"
Chris Tarrant chuckled and nodded. Arthur liked the old man already. Then, he turned around to go and get his colleague for his TV appearance.
"Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' and this year's Celebrity Special! Today, we start the show with two very special contestants. For weeks, their story has been all over the country, the story of how Britain's most wanted master thief became a member of the London police. Please welcome... Merlin Emrys and Arthur Pendragon!"
Merlin narrowed his eyes as he was pushed forward into the bright glare of the spotlights. Next to him, Arthur smiled and nodded towards the camera like the narcissistic prat he was and steered him towards the hot seats.
He just had time to hiss an "I hate you so much" into Arthur's ear before he was forced to shake the host's hand. He plastered his best fake smile on his face and tried not to cringe too noticeably.
This whole affair had been nothing if not a shock treatment for his phobia so far. And it hadn't even worked.
Merlin blocked out most of the obligatory introduction and explanation of the rules and concentrated on his breathing. He knew that the worst part was already over. Now he only had to answer a few questions, not make a fool out of himself and keep the polite smile on his face. He could do this.
The mentioning of his name suddenly made him prick up his ears and he quickly concentrated on what Tarrant was saying.
" – we all know, in this show, the candidates today will not get to keep the money they win. Merlin, Arthur, what do you intend to do with your winnings?"
Arthur gave him a light shove and smiled encouragingly. Merlin could tell he already had a bad conscience for talking him into this.
"Serves him right, the prat," he thought. Out loud, he said, "All the money we win tonight will be used to support the local orphanages. Most orphanages and protectories get far too little support from the city and struggle to properly provide for their wards. So we decided to help them with by participating in this show."
It had been his idea, of course, and everyone else had wholeheartedly agreed with his suggestion. But thankfully, they also hadn't commented on his choice. He still was rather withdrawn in regard of his past, and their silent support had given him a warm feeling.
"How very noble of you. Now, if you're both ready, let's start. Here's question number one, worth 500 pounds. You've got 15 seconds to answer it."
Arthur should have known this had been a bad idea. He should have known.
But at least it definitely was Merlin's fault this time.
Merlin had overcome his initial doubts pretty fast after the show had actually started. In fact, he was now acting exactly as he had in front of the telly when Morgana had made the fatal mistake of showing him a few older episodes of the show to prepare him for his awaiting TV appearance.
Well, almost exactly. At home, he had looked as if he was very tempted to shout at the contestants any second to berate them for their stupidity and only refrained because he knew it wouldn't change a thing.
(He actually had yelled at the TV once, after a contestant had answered a – in Merlin's mind – particularly easy question wrong and fallen back to 1,000 pounds. Afterwards, Merlin had stood up and declared that he wouldn't watch another minute of this show because it made his brain squirm with pain.)
His facial expression did, however, hover between amusement, disbelief and annoyance, just like it had all the times he had watched the show before.
The questions weren't a problem, of course.
Merlin had actually thought the second question to be a joke and wanted to know when the real question would come.
("You can't be serious. No-one in their right mind would willingly give one thousand pounds away for such a stupid question. The answer's D, by the way. A isn't even a vegetable and the rest is nonsense. I mean – come on! So, when do we get to the real question?")
It had earned him thunderous applause and roaring laughter. Arthur had tried to look as if it Merlin had meant it jokingly. Merlin had looked mildly irritated, but he had also been clever enough not to broach the subject of joke questions again.
They currently had 10,000 pounds for sure, all three lifelines were still intact and Morgana was having the time of her life among the audience where she sat as their companion.
No, the questions weren't a problem. The conversation in between the questions was. Or conversation in general, really.
"The answer is C, Sir Michael Caine. Final answer."
"This answer is... correct! You just won 20 grand! Congratulations!"
Arthur felt the need to interfere, because Merlin's smug face was riling him up and Merlin knew it only too well.
"How do you know that, Merlin? You're not even interested in celebrities!"
"No, but I do read the newspaper. You should try it sometime, Arthur, it's very informative."
"I do read the newspaper, Merlin."
"No, you read parts of the newspaper, Arthur. I, on the other hand, read it completely. You should try it sometime, it's very informative."
At this point, Chris decided to intervene. "So you read the whole newspaper every day? How do you find the time for that? I imagine reading the news at work is frowned upon even at the police."
"I don't read the paper at work, I read it during breakfast. And it takes averagely eighteen minutes."
"Yes, because you don't read, you skim. Just like you skim books, letters and the reports you're supposed to proof-read."
"I've got a photographic memory, Arthur. I can afford to skim if everything sticks in my mind anyway."
Arthur knew that this could easily escalate into one of their full-blown banters. During a quiz show. In front of the whole nation.
Arthur couldn't see Morgana, but he just knew she was wearing her evil shark smirk right now, daring him to call Merlin an idiot as he always did in such situations.
But since Arthur was a responsible, exemplary grown-up, he didn't rise to the bait. Not one bit.
"You're an idiot, Merlin."
It was all Merlin's fault, anyway.
"So, Merlin, Arthur. You are the first contestants who ever managed to win 150,000 pounds without using any lifeline at all. Congratulations! Not that this turn is overly surprising. Merlin, is it true that you have got an intelligence quotient of almost 200?"
Merlin, who had been just about to take a sip from his water glass, choked on it and nearly spat the liquid onto his computer screen.
Arthur tried not to laugh. Really, he did. Chris, on the other hand, had no such inhibitions.
"I take that as a no, then."
Merlin blushed and hastily wiped his chin.
"No, it just… surprised me, I guess. I've never actually done an intelligence test, so I don't know myself. Where on earth do you get that kind of information from?"
Chris grinned. "Gossip rags. It's very fascinating what kind of rumours these journalists spread. You don't read gossip, do you?"
Arthur laughed. "Are you kidding? He doesn't even watch feature films, because he says they're 'too predictable'. You should've seen his face back when Gwaine – a friend – tried to introduce him to 'The Lord of the Rings'. It was hilarious."
Merlin merely wrinkled his nose in response.
"Alright," Chris said with a grin, "how about we tackle the next question?"
"This is it, dear audience. The one question everyone dreams about. The last obstacle on the way of becoming a millionaire. The one million pound question!"
The crowd erupted in cheers. Morgana may or may not have wolf-whistled.
"And for the first time in the history of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire?' the contestants haven't used any lifeline at all!"
This time, Morgana definitely wolf-whistled. Arthur grinned at Merlin, who actually seemed to be rather cheerful about reaching the last question.
… On second thought, though, that probably only was the case because it meant that they could go home in a few minutes.
"Merlin, Arthur, are you ready for the question that may bring you and the good cause you play for one million pound?"
"As ready as we'll be," Arthur replied, all but sensing the witty and probably more than inappropriate answer Merlin undoubtedly had in store. A quick look to the side confirmed his suspicion.
Merlin had that wicked look on his face again, the one he always wore when he was up to something. Just as he was about to open his mouth, Arthur kicked him into the shin as inconspicuously as possible.
Merlin glared at him, but he shut his mouth with a snap. Mission accomplished.
"Alright, here it is: Which sea is named after a mythological king, who supposedly drowned himself in it?
"A. The Caspian Sea,
"B. The Ionian Sea,
"C. The Aegean Sea or
"D. The Adriatic Sea."
Arthur stared at the screen. He had absolutely no idea what the answer could possibly be. But Merlin's answer startled him out of this musing.
"I'd like to use the telephone lifeline, please."
At this, a murmur went through the crowd. Even Chris Tarrant himself seemed surprised.
"Alright, who would you like to call? You've got Gwen, Gwaine and Annis. All colleagues from work, I guess?"
Arthur snorted. "Yes. Although I really don't know how Gwaine is still employed, he's good for nothing except causing chaos and destruction. Gwen is a very good friend and Annis is our superior. I guess Annis is most likely to know."
"So you want to call her?"
"No," Merlin interjected, "I'd like to call Gwaine."
"Gwaine!? Gwaine doesn't even know the difference between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans! Why on earth him?" Arthur exclaimed, baffled. For a genius, that was quite a stupid idea.
Merlin just grinned. "Trust me."
"I've got to be mad. Alright, phone Gwaine."
As Chris went on to explain the telephone lifeline, Arthur bent over to hiss a "You're crazy!" into Merlin's ear.
Merlin, the dimwit, only grinned a bit more and hissed back,
"Just shut up and enjoy the show, will you. I've got everything perfectly under control, you'll see."
The screen on the side of the studio turned on and showed a – unsurprisingly – very cheerful and kind of smug looking Gwaine, whose first action was – even less surprisingly – to flip his hair. Arthur rolled his eyes.
"Hello, Gwaine," Chris said, "You're needed here. Arthur and Merlin did well up to now. They're stuck in the last question, so your assistance could maybe bring them one million pound."
Gwaine grinned. "So no pressure at all then. Alright, let's go for it."
"You've got thirty seconds. The time starts now!"
Merlin smirked at the screen.
"Hi, Gwaine. Don't you worry, I already know the answer. But since you made such a fuss over Morgana being the one we chose as our support for the audience and not you, I – being the awesome friend I am – thought I'd make it up to you by telling you first we're just about to win. Happy?"
Whatever Gwaine had been about to say was drowned out by the thunderous applause and laughter of the audience.
Arthur fought hard not to slap Merlin on the back of his head.
"Merlin, mate, that's brilliant! We're so going to celebrate that tonight. And you're gonna pay the first round. And maybe the second one, too. By the way, did you –"
But then, the thirty seconds were over and the call was disconnected.
Merlin frowned and turned to Arthur.
"Um, he does realise that we don't get to keep the money, doesn't he?"
"Doesn't mean you can't pay the first round. And since when does Gwaine need a reason to go out for drinks?"
"True. But why do I have to pay? I did all the work here, after all.
"Oh, by the way, the answer is C, the Aegean Sea. It's from the Greek mythology. Aegeus drowned himself in the sea after he believed his son Theseus to have died in battle even though he didn't, he just forgot to give a signal of sorts. It's all very obscure.
"And I think you should pay. You were the one who talked me into this, after all."
"You say that like it's a bad thing. You just won a million pounds for a good cause! Be happy to have done something useful for once."
"For once? Oh, that's rich, coming from you!
"Who's the one who always whines about too many bureaucratic reports, shitty – am I allowed to curse on television? – tax declarations and too many difficult cross word puzzles which fill entire newspaper pages and who's the one who does all things named above? You call that useless? Now you've hurt my feelings."
By the end of his speech, Merlin could barely stop the snorts of laughter threatening to burst out. Arthur knew how much Merlin loved it to endlessly complain about things he couldn't care less about, just so Arthur was irritated with him and simultaneously had a bad conscience.
Because obviously, average banter wasn't enough for the two of them. No, they had to go for psychological warfare.
The spectators – and Morgana in particular – were having the time of their lives.
Chris, on the other hand, looked like he honestly regretted getting out of bed this morning. He would have really liked to just log in the answer, congratulate the contestants for the one million pounds they would have won, enjoy the glitter rain, and get on with the show.
But no, instead of sitting tense in their chairs, shaking with anticipation, the two young men rather spent the screen time bickering like little children. Chris Tarrant did not like not being the one in control. And this show was descending into chaos faster than he could blink.
But just as Merlin was about to explain at length why it was necessary to always keep car wash receipts in order to save on tax, Chris decided that he had enough.
"Gentlemen, I hate to interrupt, but do you want to take C as final answer or not?"
Arthur took his chance to escape the Economic Lecture Of Doom Merlin had probably already planned out in his head, and hastily said, "Yes, of course. Merlin, shut it, you're getting off the track."
Merlin smirked, but obeyed.
"We take C, Aegean Sea. Final Answer. And I swear to god, Merlin, if this is wrong –"
"C, the Aegean Sea!" Chris all but shouted, no doubt sensing another extensive discussion that was about to start.
"Arthur, Merlin," Chris said, inwardly reminding himself that he was a professional TV host and could not let his relief at the imminent change of contestants show, "you just… won ONE MILLION POUNDS!"
The audience roared with exaltation, the glitter rain fell, and Merlin gave Arthur the smuggest grin he was capable of.
Chris congratulated them and then tried to shoo them away as fast and inconspicuously as possible.
"Maybe," Arthur thought as he and Merlin made their way to the backstage, "this wasn't such a bad idea after all."
Of course, because Merlin was a sly fox and way too good at talking his way out of things, Arthur ended up paying the first round anyway. And maybe the second one, too.
Just in case you're interested: The million pound question is stolen from the German version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, because stealing it from the British version would've been a bit too obvious.
Also, the German version actually has joke questions. And they're downright hilarious most of the time. Best part of the show, really.