When Merlin woke up this morning and rolled over to find Arthur’s side of the bed cold, he couldn’t say he was surprised but he still couldn’t help the feeling of disappointment that washed over him. Arthur had promised that he would be home before Merlin woke up in the morning and that they would spend the day together running errands and preparing to spend the weekend at Merlin’s mum’s house. Merlin had been skeptical but he knew that Arthur loved spending Christmas at Hunith’s so he’d actually believed that his boyfriend would keep his word this time.
Looks like I’m going to be spending another “day together” alone.
Sighing, Merlin rolled out of bed and commenced his usual bleary-eyed shuffled to the bathroom. He emerged from the bathroom twenty minutes later, threw on a pair of Arthur’s old track bottoms, and made straight for the kitchen. Merlin hadn’t been a morning person for a long time. He got out of that habit after years of living away from his mother and not even living with Arthur, whose body is programmed to wake up at all ungodly hours of the morning without the need for an alarm clock, has managed to bring it back. Merlin’s body drags along at snail pace for at least an hour after he wakes up and it takes at least two cups of strong tea to clear the haze from his mind in the morning.
Merlin downed the first cup in a flash, practically purring with contentment the whole time. As he prepared the second, he let his mind wander to all the things he had to do that day. He’d taken the luggage out of the closet and set them in the guest room to air out. The laundry that was waiting in the dryer had to be folded and packed, along with the clothes that Merlin would have to pick out from their closet. Then he had to go over to Gwen and Lance’s and pick up the cookies that Lance had baked for Hunith. While he was at it, Merlin figured he might as well take everyone’s gifts along and drop those off too.
Arthur should be with me for that.
If he got started right away, maybe he could have the bags packed and be on his way to Gwen’s before Arthur got home. He really didn’t want to hear the excuse this time.
Tamping down his frustration, Merlin picked up his mug and made for the guest bedroom. As he walked by the screen door that led to the backyard, something in the snow caught his attention. Walking closer, Merlin realized that it was Arthur in the yard.
What is he doing?
Arthur was carrying a giant armload of packed snow across the yard. Scanning the area, Merlin noticed another lopsided pile of snow near the tree that marked the center of the yard. He watched as Arthur plopped the armload of snow on top of the pile and started packing it down with his gloved hands. Leaning against the doorjamb, Merlin sipped his tea and watched his ridiculous boyfriend build a snowman at seven o’clock in the morning.
After a short while Arthur had the whole thing built and then he started dressing it. In Merlin’s clothes. He put Merlin’s favorite beanie on its head and tied Merlin’s favorite striped scarf around its neck. After putting on two stones in place of eyes, Arthur stepped back to admire his handiwork. Merlin watched him scrutinize it from every angle before shaking his head and heading toward the house. Merlin watched him approach, taking note of the high flush on Arthur’s cheeks and the mischievous glint in his eye turn to surprise when he took notice of Merlin standing there. Sliding open the door, Merlin stepped back to let Arthur in.
“You’re awake,” Arthur said, toeing off his boots and hanging up his jacket.
“I am,” Merlin said, eying him, “there’s a lot to get done today.”
Merlin didn’t try to keep his displeasure from showing in his voice and Arthur’s wince showed that it had not gone unnoticed. Rubbing the back of his neck, Arthur at least had the presence of mind to look properly chastened.
“I’m sorry, Merlin,” he began, the three words so familiar that they only ratcheted up Merlin’s irritation instead of soothing it.
“I’ve heard that enough these last few weeks, Arthur,” Merlin said, gripping the mug tightly in both hands.
“I know, I know,” Arthur said, sounding so pathetic that Merlin felt himself giving in already. He knew how hard Uther pushed Arthur at work, especially with this merger in the works, and he wasn’t surprised that Arthur kept having to break his promises. Merlin was really just upset that Arthur kept making the promises in the first place because Merlin foolishly got his hopes up every time.
“I know I promised to be home before you went to bed last night,” Arthur continued, “I should have been. When I came home and saw you already asleep…,” he trailed off, rubbing his hands over his face before letting them drop to his sides in a gesture of helplessness.
Merlin reached past Arthur’s shoulder to set his mug on the mantle place before taking Arthur’s hands in his own and removing both of his gloves. Arthur’s hands were cold and Merlin gently rubbed them between his own to warm them up.
“I know you meant to be home,” Merlin started, pausing in his ministrations until Arthur looked him in the eye, “but meaning to and doing are two different things. If you can’t, don’t promise me that you will. There’s only so many times that I can stand being stood up.”
Pulling Merlin to him, Arthur embraced him tightly, pressing his face up against Merlin’s neck. Merlin clung back just as tightly and breathed in the scent of Arthur that he’d been missing.
“This will all be over by New Year’s and I’ll be able to be home with you more often.” Releasing Merlin and stepping back, Arthur took both of Merlin’s hands in his own and squeezed them gently, looking Merlin right in the eye as he spoke, “And if it’s not, I’ll tell Father that he’ll just have to deal with it. I’ve missed you too much. Please say you forgive me.”
Looking at Arthur’s miserable expression, Merlin could only shake his head. “Of course I forgive you, you big idiot.”
Arthur’s grin was blinding and the kiss he gave Merlin was bruising and promised much more.
“Great. Now you let me finish this snowman and then we can go back to bed,” Arthur said, racing into the kitchen and throwing open cupboards.
“We can’t go back to bed, Arthur,” Merlin said, following after him, “we have things to do before we leave for my mother’s tonight.”
Pulling down two teacup saucers from a shelf, Arthur dashed past Merlin to put his boots back on. “It’s all done. I had my PA go pick up the cookies from Gwen and Lance’s yesterday as soon as I realized I wouldn’t be home on time and I packed our bags when I got in this morning. The gifts are in the trunk and we can drop those off when we leave for your mum’s,” he said, tying the laces on his boots before standing up. “I figured I’d at least try to make it up to you by making sure we could spend the day together just relaxing in bed.”
Merlin just stared at Arthur disbelievingly. That ridiculous man.
Arthur walked over to him and kissed him again, pulling back to rest his forehead against Merlin’s. “I really am sorry. I’ll make it up to you.”
Merlin considered a moment before grinning mischievously. “We’ll see about that. Let’s go,” he said, taking Arthur’s hand and starting for the bedroom, only to stop when Arthur pulled out of his grip.
“Wait,” he said, grabbing up the saucers from where he’d placed them on the mantle, “I have to finish the snowman.”
“You dressed it already. It’s done. What else is there to do,” Merlin asked, finally wondering what the saucers were for.
Arthur only answered him when he was already out the door and halfway across the yard.
“I HAVE TO PUT THE EARS ON,” he yelled, brandishing the saucers and laughing.
Merlin laughed to himself and made his way back to their bedroom.