Gorlois was a hard man to startle. He was Morgana's father, after all, and the task of raising her had seen to that rather quickly. In the end, he was more surprised that Morgana had called him out of the blue—it wasn't his birthday, or Christmas, or anything—than he was to hear what she had to say.
"We're all moving in together," she said. "And—well. You should come visit us. We'd love to have you."
"I'd like that," he said.
"I think perhaps the weekend after next, if that works for you," she said, always the one to take the initiative. "Merlin is a wonderful cook. Steak and potatoes?"
"Anything will be fine," he said firmly, but was secretly pleased that she still knew his favourite.
"Which one of them are you marrying?" Tom asked.
Gwen worried her lip and said, "It doesn't quite work like that, Dad."
"I don't understand," he said, taking her hand in his. He looked down at the gleam of the ring against her skin, the little diamond. "Which one of them proposed to you? You're making this too complicated for me, baby girl. Maybe I'm too old-fashioned."
"Dad," she protested.
"Was it that upscale fellow—Arthur?" Tom asked. "He could give you so much, Gwen. I'd always hoped you'd meet a man who could treat you like the princess you are."
She said nothing, just curled her hand to squeeze his fingers tight.
"Or was it the thinner one—Merlin?" he tried. "He's always seemed like a good sort. I could see how dear you were to him. He's an honest boy, Gwen. He'd be a good match."
She smiled at him, but it didn't quite reach her eyes. "What would you say if I told you that Morgana was the one who bought me this ring?" she said, soft.
"Oh," Tom said, blinking. He thought back to all the times Gwen had told him about her girlfriend, and he had thought she'd meant one from a group of girlfriends. The sort that gossiped and painted toenails. Girlfriends.
"Well, that's fine too, Gwen," he hastened to say. "I know how happy you are when you're with her, and that's all that matters to me. I don't care if it's a man or a woman you're with, so long as you're happy. So long as you've found that one right person for you."
"Dad," Gwen said, smiling sadly, "this isn't about one person."
"I will not have it!" Uther raged, slamming his fists down on the desk. "If you mean to tell me that this is where you have been making your investments—in another house for these boarders of yours to inhabit—"
"They're not boarders, father," Arthur told him, face unmoved, insolent. "We've made personal commitments to each other that I consider as strong as marriage."
Uther stared at his son so hard that the sight of him whited out completely in his vision; it was just Uther, and the silent roaring in his own ears. When the world came back, his hands were frozen into white-knuckled claws on his desk, and Arthur's expression hadn't changed.
"Get out," Uther said.
"You stupid, stupid boy," Hunith said, tears in her eyes as she pulled him to her chest. "Of course it doesn't matter to me. I've always known you were one to do things your own way."
"Mum," Merlin said, but she silenced him with a smack to the head—she was still angry at him—then stroked his hair.
She had expected this, really. Perhaps not this way, but she'd always known that her baby was one who people couldn't help but fall in love with, with all their hearts. She'd known that from the first moment she'd seen him.
When she let go of him and looked him over, his face was wet and happy.
"You're inviting them all to dinner tomorrow," she said firmly. "You'll tell me all their favourites, and we'll cook together. And I fully expect you all for Christmas."
"Yes, Mum," Merlin laughed, and wiped his eyes.