Chapter 1: Aftermath
Arthur turned out the bedroom light and slid into bed with a groan. It had been a traumatic day for their sons, and consequently for Arthur and Merlin too. Five year old Jamie had reduced four year old Colin to tears when his beloved stuffed Dragon had been torn in a tussle, almost losing a wing. The episode had resulted in tears of regret from Jamie and a storm of sorrow from Colin who was sure his most precious possession was forever broken.
Lying on his stomach, Arthur nestled into the mattress, pulling up the blankets to cover his waist. Merlin, sitting up against the headboard, leaning on all the pillows and reading by the light of the bedside lamp, absently reached out and rested a soothing hand on Arthur’s back, automatically rubbing circles. Arthur moaned, wiggling under the touch. Merlin closed his book and set it on his nightstand, then snapped off his light. He rearranged the pillows, giving Arthur back his pillow, and slid down to snuggle onto Arthur’s back. He pressed kisses along the back of Arthur’s neck and across his shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” mumbled Arthur before turning around and scooping Merlin into his embrace and holding him close.
Merlin nudged his nose into Arthur’s neck. “For what?”
Arthur sighed. “I hate it when Colin cries. He’s so tiny and his tears are so big. Jamie knows better then to mess with Dragon.”
“Hey.” Merlin propped himself up on one elbow and reached up to stroke Arthur’s fringe off his forehead. “Jamie’s only little too. And it was an accident. Jamie loves his brother, you know that.”
“But he knows how precious Dragon is to Colin and – “
“And he’s five and he was jealous of Dragon. Now why are you apologizing?”
Arthur looked at Merlin with a guilty expression. “Jamie – “
“Is our son. He’s just lucky enough to take after you in looks and unfortunate enough to take after you in temperament.”
Arthur immediately looked affronted. “Are you saying that I have the emotional capacity of a five year old?”
Merlin grinned. “Nope, I’m saying that you and a certain five year old have an amazingly similar emotional capacity.”
“Merlin!” Arthur launched up and flipped Merlin over on his back. Merlin let out an undignified squawk as Arthur covered his body with his own then latched on to Merlin’s neck. Their wrestling match soon turned into something more adult and infinitely more pleasurable.
Merlin woke with a start as a mournful wail rose up from the baby monitor. It turned into sobbing and a little voice calling brokenly for his “Papa.”
“Colin.” Arthur identified as he pulled himself from a deep sleep.
“I’ve got him” Merlin answered, already out of bed and heading for the door.
As he entered Colin’s room, Merlin reached out and turned on a soft night light. It provided enough light to see by but not enough to fully waken a sleepy child.
Colin was sitting up in bed crying, his hands searching around, looking for something. Merlin knew he was looking for his Dragon. Colin had slept with Dragon every night since he was one month old. But now Dragon was on the table, waiting for Aunty Gwen to come by tomorrow to mend the torn wing.
“Shhh, baby.” Merlin sat on the bed and gathered the weeping child into his arms. “Dragon’s on the table, remember? He’s waiting for you on the table.”
Merlin rocked the little boy, his natural son. Colin was much like Merlin had been at that age, a head full of dark curls, big silver-blue eyes almost too large for his elfin face, ears that stuck out just that much too much, and a thin, fragile body.
“Papa, Dragon’s broke,” Colin sobbed into his Papa’s shoulder.
“I know, sweetheart, I know. But we’ll fix him tomorrow. I promise.”
They had already dealt with the issue of the broken stuffed toy earlier in the evening, but the trauma of not having his beloved, most precious possession was obviously too much for the little four year old.
Merlin had only gotten Colin to sleep by lying with him, telling him a story and rubbing his back soothingly. Now it was just after 2am and when sleepy arms had reached out for the comfort of Dragon and not found it, the upset of losing his ‘bestest’ friend had woken Colin up.
“Want Dragon, Papa. I want my Dragon.”
Merlin looked over at the stuffed toy, one wing hanging forlornly on with just a thread or two. Where the wing had attached, the body of the dragon was torn and stuffing was showing through. Merlin was just about to say something when he spied one of Colin’s t-shirts tossed carelessly under his desk chair.
“Tell you what, sweetheart. What if we give Dragon a nightshirt, then he can sleep in bed with you.”
Colin looked up sleepily and tearily at his Papa. “Want Dragon, Papa,” he said unhappily.
Merlin set Colin back on the bed, and walked over to the desk. He stooped down and picked up the little t-shirt, then picked up the dragon. Tucking the broken wing securely against the body, he put the dragon in the t-shirt, with just the head poking out. Then he tied the arms of the t-shirt together, and the bottom of the t-shirt together and Dragon was secure inside. He walked back to the bed.
Colin’s thin arms reached up to claim his beloved Dragon and he nestled him under his chin with a snuffling sigh. Merlin helped the little boy back under the covers.
“Make sure Dragon stays in his nightshirt now, OK?”
Colin nodded, already falling asleep, arms clutching his Dragon close to his chest. Merlin stayed with him, brushing his curls off his face and drying his tears.
“Night, night, baby. Sleep well now.”
Merlin looked down at his son, his heart full to overflowing with the intense love he felt for this little boy. He remembered the day he had brought him home, the most precious bundle in his universe.
Arthur watched from the door of Colin’s room. He felt someone at his side and looked down to see Jamie, and felt a small arm curl around his leg as Jamie leaned in. When Arthur looked down at his son, Jamie looked up, face tremulous, with tears bravely held at bay. As much as Colin wore his heart and emotions on his sleeve, Jamie was the opposite, always striving to be brave and strong, holding any distress in check. The fact that tears now trembled on his lashes spoke volumes about how upset he was.
“I’m sorry Daddy. I didn’t mean to do it,” he whispered desolately.
Arthur reached down and picked up his son. Jamie wound his arms and legs around his Daddy, with his face buried in Arthur’s neck. Arthur held him tightly, dropping a kiss on his silky soft hair.
“Shhh, it’s OK sweetheart, we know it was an accident.”
“Papa called me James Arthur,” Jamie snuffled and Arthur couldn’t help smiling. Calling Jamie by his full name was as bad as it got in Jamie’s book.
“Papa loves you very much James Arthur Pendragon. Just as much as I do, and just as much as Colin does, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about.”
Jamie turned his head so he could see Papa and Colin. Papa was doing something with Dragon by the desk. When he turned back so they could see, they saw Dragon’s head poking out of a bundled up t-shirt.
“Papa fixed Dragon?” Jamie asked in awe.
Arthur saw what Merlin had done, and saw Colin reach up eagerly for his beloved Dragon, pulling it in tightly against his small chest.
“Come on, little man. Let’s get you back to bed.”
Arthur carried Jamie to his bedroom next door and settled him back into bed. “I think Colin will sleep just fine now, so how about you go back to sleep too.” He stroked the heavy blonde fringe out of Jamie’s eyes.
Jamie’s blue-green eyes were heavy with sleep, his lashes spiked from the few tears that he shed. Arthur felt his heart clench with an outpouring of love for his beautiful son. Jamie was so much like him, not just in looks, but in mannerisms. He knew Jamie looked up to him and tried to emulate him. The older he got, the more Jamie took on Arthur’s characteristics.
As Jamie’s eyes closed in sleep, Arthur search his face for any trace of his mother. Perhaps his nose might have a softer edge, more like mother’s, and if Jamie’s hair got on the longer side, it tended to softly curl like hers. He definitely had his mother’s earlobes and that hint of green in his eyes was definitely his mother's. Arthur smiled as he remembered Jamie’s birth, holding him for the first time, bringing home his son….
Chapter 2: I've been thinking...
SIX YEARS AGO
Arthur stirred his cereal, lost in thought. He was going to talk to Merlin today about -
“You’re looking quite serious for a Saturday morning. What’s so fascinating about your bowl of cereal?” Merlin asked as he sat down at the kitchen table, putting down a plate of toast and a mug of tea.
Arthur looked up at Merlin. His husband. He still wasn’t used to that title considering it was already three months old. Merlin was the love of his life. Merlin was his every reason for everything. Merlin was his best friend and confidant. Merlin was the only person in the entire world who could steal Arthur’s breath away just by walking into a room. Merlin was the reason he existed. But Merlin as his husband? No, it still had a strange ring to it.
Right now, Merlin was looking back at him in great suspicion. Reaching up a hand, Merlin self-consciously began brushing at his face. “Why are you looking at me like that? Do I still have toothpaste on my face? Did I miss a spot shaving?”
Arthur grinned and leaned over to kiss him. “You look wonderful and beautiful and I love you very much.”
“Then why are you looking at me like you’re assessing a piece of meat at the butcher?”
“I was thinking.”
“Ah. Well, that’s always a bit hard on you, I know.” Merlin picked up his mug and took a mouthful of his herbal tea while Arthur pulled a face at him. Then schooling his features into one of utter innocence, Arthur announced,
“I think we should have a baby.”
Merlin swallowed his tea down the wrong way, just about dropped his mug and immediately began hacking and coughing, tea dribbling down his chin.
Arthur jumped up, patting Merlin on the back. He grabbed a napkin and dabbed at Merlin’s wet chin. Merlin gasped desperately for air while at the same time tried to wave Arthur off. When he had finally settled down, he looked at Arthur like he’d grown an extra head.
“What the hell?....where did that come from??” He choked out.
Arthur shrugged. “I think that now that we’re properly married, we should think about having a baby.”
“A baby? Arthur, we’re two men. While there are many, many things I would do for you, I don’t think I can pull off having a baby.”
Arthur scowled back at him. “I know we’re two men, for gods sake Merlin! Obviously we’d have to find a surrogate who’d be willing to carry the baby for us. Gay couples do this all the time. Being gay is no reason not to have children, not to have a family. And I’ve been thinking that we should have a child. A baby.”
Merlin was gobsmacked. This whole conversation, this whole line of thinking had come out of left field and left him completely nonplussed.
“Arthur – where is this even coming from? Since when have you been thinking about having a baby?”
Arthur had the grace to look embarrassed. “Um, for awhile now. Since we got married actually.”
“But…but you’re not exactly child oriented. I don’t think you actually like small children.”
“Well not all small children,” Arthur scoffed. “But there are some children I quite enjoy. Gwaine and Elaina’s twins are quite fun.”
“You play with them for 10 minutes then shoo them off! Babies are 24/7, Arthur. And they grow up to be children, then teenagers. You hate teenagers.”
‘Merlin, by the time my child is a teenager, I would be used to it. I would know how to deal with it.”
“Arthur, nobody knows how to deal with teenagers. You were one yourself once – remember?”
“You are completely missing the point Merlin. I was thinking that we should start a family. What do you think? How many children do you want?”
“Children?” Merlin squawked, “As in multiples of one? I’ve never considered it. I didn’t think you’d ever considered it. I know we’ve been together for three years, but we’ve just got married. I was thinking about just enjoying having you as my husband for at least a few more years yet.”
“Merlin,” Arthur reached out and took Merlin’s hand in his, his thumb ran small circles over Merlin’s palm. “I don’t mean doing this right this minute. I’m just asking you to think about it.” Arthur smiled softly. “I think you would make a great father.”
Merlin shook his head. “I have no experience with small kids, and I’ve never even thought about having kids of my own. If you want kids, Arthur, they’ll have to be your kids.”
“They’ll be our kids, Merlin.”
“What I mean is that you’d have to be the sperm donor.”
“I don’t know – I think having a little Merlin running around would be wonderful.” Arthur smiled fondly at his husband.
Merlin shook his head emphatically. “No. No little Merlin’s running around here. And even if there was a little Merlin, he sure as hell would not be called Merlin! I am not burdening any child of mine with a name like Merlin!”
“So what would you call a little you?”
“Anything but Merlin. A nice normal name – like John or Michael or Colin or…”
“I like Colin. It has a nice Celtic sound to it. Colin Pendragon.”
“NO! No, Arthur! No Colin Pendragon. No little Merlin of any sort!”
Arthur sighed theatrically. “Alright. If you insist, I’ll be the sperm donor.”
“Well I do insist. Wait… No! No sperm donor! Why are we even talking about who’s going to be the sperm donor? 10 minutes ago, I was a happy newly wed sitting down to my toast, now you’ve got us having multiple kids and naming them! You can’t do this, Arthur. Kids are a huge decision and we need to talk about this completely and make a mutual decision.”
Arthur gave Merlin a blinding smile. “So you’re willing to talk about having kids!”
“What? No! Dammit, Arthur. I just want to eat my toast in peace. I am not about to make any decisions or have any discussions about kids! For crying out loud – you spring this on me out of the blue – I never had the faintest inkling that you were even thinking about kids!”
“Alright,” Arthur ceded. “We won’t talk about it now. Just think about it, okay? We don’t have to do it now, have kids now, I mean, but you could think about it. For the future. Sometime.”
“Fine. I’ll think about it.” At Arthur’s huge grin, Merlin added. “Sometime. Not now. Sometime in the future. Waaaaay in the future!”
Six weeks later, when Lance and Gwen announced they were pregnant, Arthur was almost as happy as the proud father. Merlin realized he was fighting a loosing battle.
Chapter 3: Babies are no laughing matter
They were over for dinner at Gwaine and Elaina’s and Merlin was helping Elaina in the kitchen while Gwaine and Arthur occupied the three year old twins Tristan and Trudy. Glancing out of the kitchen once more to watch Arthur tickling a giggling Tristan, Merlin sighed.
“Okay, that’s it.” Elaina turned and faced Merlin, hands on her hips. “What’s going on? You’re mooning all over Arthur playing with the kids.”
“I’m not mooning – I’m….I’m….resigning.” Merlin sighed dramatically and slumped onto a kitchen stool.
“Resigning? Resigning from what?” Elaina pulled up another stool and looked at him curiously.
“Can I ask you something personal?”
“Depends on how personal.”
“About kids. When did you and Gwaine decide to have kids?”
“Well, I don’t know that we ever actually decided. We both knew we wanted kids. One day we just stopped using any protection and just let nature take it’s course. It was almost six months before I got pregnant with the twins. Why so curious?”
“Arthur wants a baby.”
Elaina jaw dropped open. “Arthur! Arthur? Your Arthur?”
“I know, right?” Merlin nodded at her disbelief. “You could have knocked me over with a feather when he asked me about it. I didn’t think he even liked kids – well, with the exception of yours of course. But out of the blue a couple of months ago, he says he wants a baby.”
“And how do you feel about it?”
“I never ever considered it. I sort of envisioned our life as growing old together, just the two of us. But now Arthur is getting all broody and I think I’m fighting a loosing battle.
“So you’re resigning the battle?”
“Well, look at him.” Merlin gestured to the racket coming from the livingroom. “We can’t walk past a baby without him getting all sappy looking, and you have to admit, the last couple of months whenever we’ve come over, he’s been all over the twins.”
Elaina nodded in agreement. “Gwaine was commenting on that after your last visit. So what are you going to do about it?”
Merlin shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s a huge thing, yeah? Deciding to have kids. It’s life changing, and I was quite liking our life together as it is.”
“Merlin, deciding to have kids has to be a mutual decision. One partner can’t force the decision on the other. You both have to both want kids or else you are going to have problems with your relationship and you’re going to seriously screw up your kid.”
“I know. That’s why I’m asking you about having the twins. Arthur asked me to consider having a baby about three months ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since – especially with Arthur getting all broody. And maybe…I don’t know,” Merlin shrugged in resignation. “Maybe we should have a baby. Arthur really wants a family.
“Merlin, you can’t have a baby because Arthur wants one. What about you? Regardless of how you decide to divide up the child-minding, ask Gwaine – both parents take an active part in their upbringing. You’re going to be caring for the child just as much as Arthur, so both of you have to want the baby. And there are so many practical things to consider – who stays home with the baby, who goes to work, in your case, who’s going to be the father?”
“Well since Arthur is the one who wants the baby, he’ll be the father.”
“Then you can’t have a baby.”
“What? What do you mean we can’t have a baby?”
“Listen to yourself. You just said ‘since Arthur is the one who wants a baby…’ Trust me, Merlin, please. Do not have a baby until you can say ‘we both want a baby’. You can’t have a baby just because Arthur wants one. Answer me this – are you prepared to give up your job and stay home to look after Arthur’s baby?”
Merlin looked at her puzzled. “If it’s Arthur’s baby, he can stay home and look after it, why should I be the one to give up my job?”
“Right! My point exactly. Listen to yourself. ‘If it’s Arthur’s baby’… not your baby as a couple, but Arthur’s baby. As long as the baby belongs to only one of you, you have no right to bring that child into this world. As a married couple, any baby you have should be your baby, not belong to one or the other. The twins are just as much Gwaine’s children as they are mine. Neither of us has sole claim on them. And that’s how it should be with any children you and Arthur have.”
Merlin chewed his lip as he considered everything Elaina said. He sighed again. “I guess we should wait until it’s not a matter of resigning, but a matter of wanting.”
Elaina hopped off her stool and dropped a kiss on Merlin’s cheek. “Smart man. Promise me that you’ll wait until you want a child and are not just resigned to having one.”
Merlin nodded and promised.
In the livingroom, Gwaine watched Arthur sitting on the floor as he laughed and played with the twins. This was something new. This had lasted longer then the usual 10 minutes. Arthur looked up and caught Gwaine’s frown.
“What’s with the frown?” Arthur asked over the head of Trudy, who was snuggling into her uncle Arthur’s arms.
“What’s with the cuddle time?” Gwaine countered.
Arthur looked down at Trudy and kissed the top of her head. Behind him, Tristan hung off Arthur’s neck, trying to jump on his back.
“You’ve got great kids.”
“Well, I’ve always known that – question is, since when do you think so?”
Arthur shrugged and put a hand behind him to support Tristan’s efforts.
“I like kids.”
Gwaine snorted and burst out laughing. “Since when?? Kids are – and I quote from your exact words, ‘Noisy, smelly, and they leak from both ends.’ When did you decide you liked kids? And more importantly, why did you suddenly decide you like kids?”
Trudy clambered out of Arthur’s arms – tired of getting kicked by her brother’s efforts. As soon as Trudy left, Tristan climbed down and joined his sister climbing on the couch to bounce.
Arthur looked at Gwaine. “I’ve been thinking about having kids.”
“What, you?” Gwaine asked astonished.
“Yeah, me. I think I want a baby.”
“What’s Merlin say?”
“He thinks I’m crazy.”
“He’s not wrong. Arthur, in case it’s escaped your notice, you don’t like kids.”
“I like your kids,” Arthur huffed defensively.
“Sometimes. Sometimes you like my kids. In small doses. And only since they’ve been potty trained and stopped spitting up.”
“Well,” Arthur gestured at the twins, bouncing on the couch and laughing in gay abandon. “They’re fine now, aren’t they? I mean, you can talk to them and have a half decent conversation, well, a limited conversation, but they know directions and all.”
Gwaine started laughing again. “Arthur, you can teach a dog basic directions ‘and all’. And it took three years to get them to this stage. Babies don’t come like this. Remember when the twins were born?”
Arthur wrinkled his nose at the memory. For over a year, Gwaine and Elaina’s house had smelt like baby food and poop and the two parents had been exhausted. But that was two babies at once. Arthur was only talking about one baby.
“One baby wouldn’t be as bad as two.”
“One baby is still noisy and poopy and will still spit up all over you. Arthur, you can’t be serious. Babies are a huge commitment, they’re life changing. And truthfully – they are a real test of your relationship.”
“Our relationship is fine – great.”
“Then let me ask you this – does Merlin want a baby?”
Arthur dropped his head and bit his lip. Merlin refused to talk about having a baby, insisting that Arthur was the last person in the world who could handle having a baby. Watching him, Gwaine had his answer.
“Arthur, having a baby is huge. The biggest decision you’ll ever make – because once that baby is here, it will never be just the two of you again. Suddenly you’re responsible for this whole other life – a life that is completely, utterly dependent on you to keep it alive and cared for and loved. And as much as you love your partner, when you hold that little baby in your arms, you know, with every fibre of your being, that you would go to hell and back for that little one.”
Gwaine grasped Arthur’s arm and Arthur looked up at him. “Arthur, if both you and Merlin don’t feel the same way, please, please don’t bring a baby into this world. I love our twins with all my heart, but I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to parent them without Elaina. We’re a partnership, both of us are 100% committed to these kids. It’s the very least they deserve. And 100% from both you and Merlin is the very least that your child deserves.”
Arthur looked at the twins, now calmed down and sitting chatting together.
“You’re right. I couldn’t do it without Merlin. I wouldn’t want to do it without Merlin, and I love him too much to force him to become a parent.” Arthur smiled ruefully at Gwaine. “I can wait until Merlin’s ready too.”
“What if he never is? What if he never wants kids?”
Arthur swallowed. “Then we still have each other. And I guess your kids get the hell spoiled out of them.”
“Ohhh, nuncle Ardur – you said a bad word!” Tristan looked at Arthur with wide eyes.
Gwaine and Arthur burst out laughing.
Over the next few months, Merlin kept an eye on Arthur and discovered he was definitely broody. When out walking, his eye would be drawn to small children. Standing in line behind a woman with a baby over her shoulder, Arthur made funny faces at the child and took great pride that he got the little one to laugh. He would get thoughtful when looking at couples with small children. And most telling, he became the favourite person of Tristan and Trudy.
Two months later, Merlin and Arthur were lying in bed together, Merlin on his back and Arthur curled around him. Merlin carded his fingers through Arthur’s silky blonde hair, as it lay on his chest. Over the last few months, he had seen Arthur through different eyes, and lately, he had imagined a blonde haired little boy, with Arthur’s blue eyes and sunny smile and every time he did, his heart had clenched.
“Arthur?” he whispered, aware that his partner was almost asleep.
“I think we should have a baby.”
Arthur stopped breathing. He looked up at his partner in wonder. “Merlin?”
Merlin smiled and stroked Arthur’s face. “A little boy who looks like you, with your beautiful blue eyes and your bumpy nose and your smile. I could really love a little boy with your smile.”
Arthur’s smile made itself known as he climbed up beside his partner. “Merlin, you mean it? You want a baby with me?”
“I want your baby, yeah. It’s going to be scary as hell, I know, and we’ve got a whole bunch of decisions to make, but your baby – a baby that you made, I would love that little baby as much as I love his daddy.”
Arthur laughed and gathered Merlin into his arms, hugging him tightly. “I can’t guarantee a boy, you know. It might be a girl.”
“As long as it’s your baby, I’ll love her just as much.”
Arthur kissed him with all the love he possessed. “What changed your mind?”
“You did. I love you so much, my Arthur. How could I not want your baby?”
Arthur started laughing with happiness. “We’re going to have a baby, Merlin.”
Merlin snuggled into Arthur’s arms and kissed his neck. “We have a lot of decisions to make, a lot to talk about before we try for the baby – before you try for the baby.”
Arthur looked down at him. “Are you sure you want the baby to be mine?”
“The baby will be ours. You’ll be the sperm donor but we’ll both be the daddy.”
“We can’t both be daddy. We won’t know who the baby is calling for if we’re both ‘daddy’”.
“Then I’ll be Papa. You be Daddy,”
“I like Papa. Do you like Daddy?”
“Yeah,” Arthur answered softly. “I like Daddy.”
Chapter 4: Jamie's Arrival
The next six weeks was one of intense discussions, a few fights, checking into child care policies at their respective workplaces, a few panic attacks (mostly on Merlin’s part), a lot of mooning over babies (mostly on Arthur’s part), assessment of their living conditions and checking into the whole matter of surrogacy. Merlin called in a few favours with couples he knew had small children, and he and Arthur became their on-call babysitters.
Once, when Arthur had to cancel a footie match at the last minute to babysit, and he got snippy about it, Merlin reminded him that babies were a 24/7 business and if they had their own child, Arthur could count on many more missed planned events.
Another time, Merlin arranged to be called in to work just as they reached their babysitting job, leaving Arthur to manage the six month old by himself. When Merlin returned a few hours later, it was to find Arthur slightly wild-eyed, spit-up on his shirt, walking a colicky baby up and down the livingroom. Merlin refused to take over, going instead to make himself a cup of tea. Arthur finally got the little girl to sleep but he refused to talk to Merlin for the rest of the night.
But through practice, both Arthur and Merlin became dab hands at diapering, entertaining and soothing children ranging in age from three months to Gwaine and Elaina’s energetic three-year-old twins. They discovered that Arthur was the faster one at diapering (after an unfortunate incident when seven month old Alfie shot an arching pee right into Arthur’s mouth. Merlin had laughed so hysterically that he collapsed on the floor while Arthur gagged and tried not to vomit on the gurgling Alfie.). They discovered that laying a fussy baby on Merlin’s chest while he reclined on the sofa had an almost magical calming effect, and Merlin’s antics while feeding could get any child to eat.
They discovered that they did indeed both want a child of their own.
It was Friday night and Arthur and Merlin had invited Gwaine and Elaina for dinner. Much to Arthur’s disappointment, the couple had left their twins at home with a babysitter, relishing the opportunity to have a grown-up night out. They arrived by taxi so that they could enjoy wine with dinner and drinks after, and the four of them enjoyed a lovely evening together.
They were all relaxing in the lounge, when Elaina made a joking comment on Merlin and Arthur’s adventures in babysitting.
“Not that we don’t appreciate the chance to get out by ourselves, mind you,” Elaina clarified. “But I heard a rumour that you had also babysat for the Griffan’s little Alfie, the MacIntosh’s Alison and Hugh and Ian’s little boy Stanley. You’re building yourselves quite a reputation as childminders.”
“Actually,” Arthur cleared his throat. “There’s a reason for that. Merlin and I have decided that we want to have a child in the near future, so we’re trying to get experience with actual children before we have one ourselves.”
Gwaine gave Arthur a piercing look while Elaina skewered Merlin with her narrowed eyes.
“Arthur I thought we talked about this…” Gwaine said
“Merlin, you promised you’d think this over until….” Elaina said at the same time.
“We did think this over, well and truly…” Merlin began
“…we’ve talked it over and discussed all the repercussions…” cut in Arthur
“….we’ve checked into our different child care policies….”
“…and we talked about who’d stay at home with the baby….”
“…and how it would affect our lives….”
“…we’ve even talked about names….”
“….and who’d be the father – biological father, I mean…"
“…that’s why we’re practicing with all the other kids….”
“….so we’ll know what to do with our child….”
“….we’ve even started investigating surrogacy agencies. Hugh and Ian gave us the information on the agency they used, and we’ve checked a couple of others. We’ve met with two agencies so far and we’ve got appointments at two more.”
Gwaine and Elaina exchanged looks at all this information.
“What have the agencies said?” asked Gwaine.
“Both said we’re good candidates. We both have good jobs, a strong relationship and a good home environment for a child. It’s just a matter of finding the right agency that we feel the most comfortable with.”
“Who’s going to be the father?” Elaina asked.
“We’re both going to our baby’s father,” Merlin answered firmly. “But Arthur will be the birth father.”
“How did you decide that, if you don’t mind my asking?” enquired Gwaine.
Arthur shrugged. “I’m the one who really wants my own child, my own blood so to speak. Although as Merlin says, the baby will be our child once it’s born.”
“And you’re really serious about wanting a child, Merlin? Elaina asked. “The last time we talked about it, you had more than a few reservations.”
Merlin smiled at Arthur. “Yeah,” he said quietly, his face softening with love for his partner. “I really want to hold and love Arthur’s baby, to watch him or her grow up and see my Arthur in their face, help them to grow up to be as strong and wonderful as Arthur is.”
“Arthur? You sure you know what you’re doing wanting a baby? They’re a lifetime commitment. Your life will never be your own again once the baby arrives.” Gwaine commented.
Arthur never lost eye contact with Merlin. “I’m sure. I know Merlin will make a wonderful father and nothing would make me happier then to see our child in his arms.”
Gwaine reached out and grasped Elaina’s hand. The two exchanged a long and meaningful look. Elaina nodded. Gwaine sat forward.
“Merlin, Arthur. We want you to stop investigating surrogacy agencies.”
“Stop? Why?” Arthur frowned at them.
“Because I would like to be your surrogate.”
Elaina’s statement landed like a bombshell in the midst of the four. Merlin and Arthur gaped at her, mouths open, speechless.
“Gwaine and I talked this over when you two first started talking about having kids and we decided to offer you my services. And you already know that I make beautiful babies.”
“We had already decided that the twins were enough for us, we don’t want any more children, so I had a vasectomy. But Elaina is still young and fertile, so she shouldn’t have any problem getting pregnant again.”
“We know through having the twins that I’m free of genetic risks, and Arthur, we’re similar enough in looks that your child should turn out closely resembling you, although nothing is guaranteed, mind you.”
“If you accept Elaina as the mother of your child, you can be part of the pregnancy, we see you all the time anyway, this way you can watch your child growing in her belly. And since we already have the twins, Elaina can help you with mothering advice for the baby.”
Merlin and Arthur’s heads moved back and forth between the two as they spoke, still in shock.
“But Elaina,” Arthur finally gasped. “Won’t you want the baby when it’s born? It will still be your baby.”
“Both Gwaine and I are offering you this knowing right from the start that this baby belongs to you and Merlin. It’s a mindset. I will just carry this baby for you, but it will be your baby, yours and Merlin’s.”
“It’s not like we’d never see the baby again after it’s born. We see you two all the time anyway, and I’m betting that you’ll need an experienced expert to guide your through the first few months. And if we see that you’re really screwing up with the baby, we reserve the right to come over and kick your arses and set you straight. But yeah, as Elaina said, this will be your baby, yours and Merlin’s.”
“The agencies. The fees they charge for their…”
“Don’t even think about paying us a fee!” Gwaine growled.
“We are not selling you this baby, nor are you renting my womb! We are offering you this because we love you both and because it is something we can do to help you have a child of your own.”
Merlin shook his head. “Elaina, this is beyond generous. We can’t possibly ask you to…”
“You’re not asking, we are offering.”
Arthur turned to Gwaine. “How will you feel if Elaina is carrying my child?”
Gwaine grinned back at him. “I’m fine with her carrying your child. Just don’t think you’re going to plant it there in the traditional fashion!”
“What? No!” Arthur face bloomed with an embarrassed blush and the others burst out laughing.
When she had calmed down, Elaine leaned forward and took Arthur’s hand. “We’re serious, love. Let us give you this. Let us help you have a child.”
Arthur bit his lip in consideration. “But what if you change your mind? What if you decide you want to keep the baby when it’s born? Or later, what if you want the baby back later? I’m sorry, I know this isn’t very nice to ask, but I have to. What if you want the baby back?”
Elaina shook her head. “I – we – couldn’t take the baby back because it’s not our baby. This baby is yours and Merlin’s baby. Gwaine and I know this as a fact – 100% fact. The baby is your baby, not ours.”
“We’d also sign legal documents just to make everything official in the eyes of the law. Elaina and I already have two wonderful children of our own, kids that we wanted and love with all our hearts. If you turn us down, we’ll never have any other kids of our own. We don’t want any more kids. But we are both willing to go through another pregnancy to give you two the chance to have your own child. So please, with all sincerity, please consider our offer to be your surrogate. Let us give you this gift.”
Arthur lurched out of his chair and over to Elaina, pulling her up and into a hug, almost squeezing the life out of her. “Thank you, thank you so much, thank you.” Arthur whispered into her hair, tears slipping down his cheeks.
Merlin sat in his chair, overcome by the generosity of their friends. He gazed at Gwaine with tears in his eyes. Gwaine stood and pulled Merlin into a hug. “Promise me you won’t bugger up this kid.” Gwaine growled into Merlin’s ear and Merlin nodded. “I promise, we promise. Thank you. Thank you.”
Three months later, Elaina and Gwaine phoned Merlin and Arthur, demanding to be put on speaker phone.
“Are you boys ready?” Elaina asked.
“Ready for what?” Arthur stared at the phone.
“We’re pregnant. You two are going to be daddies.”
Gwaine and Elaina’s laughter rang out from the speaker as Merlin and Arthur whooped and shouted and cried and hugged and danced around the room at the news.
The phone rang at 4am and Merlin and Arthur were both instantly awake. Arthur answered the phone on the second ring.
“Elaina’s water broke. We’re heading to the hospital. Meet you boys there.” Gwaine said and hung up on his end.
Arthur leaped out of bed so fast he got caught on the sheets and fell on the floor.
“Merlin, get up – it’s time, the baby’s coming.”
Merlin and Arthur rushed into the maternity ward and up to the desk.
“We’re having a baby!” Arthur announced, out of breath from rushing.
The nurse looked up calmly then peered around them. “Haven’t you forgotten something?”
“What? No.” Merlin and Arthur looked around, confused.
“Where’s the mother? I think you’ve forgotten to bring the mother.”
“No, no – she’s already here. Her husband brought her in. Gwaine and Elaina Macken.” Merlin supplied.
“Oh, so you’re just friends. Well, you’ll have to wait in the waiting room…”
“No, you don’t understand. I’m the father!” Arthur said a little frantically, afraid he was missing the big event.
“And I’m the husband.” Said Merlin.
The nurse looked at them in confusion. “How can you be the husband if the husband brought her in?”
“I’m not her husband, I’m his husband!”
“You’re the husband’s husband?”
“No I’m Arthur’s husband.”
“I’m Arthur, and I’m the father!”
“The husband’s not the father?”
“No, he’s just the husband, I’m the father and I’m missing the birth of my baby!!”
There was a sudden burst of laughter and the two men turned to see Gwaine coming towards them laughing.
“You two should take that act on the road.”
“Gwaine! Did she have the baby yet?” Arthur looked a bit like a madman as he grabbed Gwaine’s arms. Merlin was right behind him.
“Relax, you two, it doesn’t happen quite that fast. Come on, you’ll need to gown up for the birth.”
“Just a minute!” The nurse stood up behind the desk and frowned at the three men. “You can’t all be in the delivery room, just immediate family.”
“Well I’m her husband,” said Gwaine.
“And I’m the father,” said Arthur.
“And I’m his husband,” said Merlin.
The nurse gawped at them. “Wait a minute, who’s baby is it?”
“It’s ours!” Arthur and Merlin said in unison.
“It’s okay, nurse,” Gwaine quickly assured the confused woman. “Check with Dr. Kilgarrah. My wife is the surrogate for Arthur and Merlin. We all have permission to be in the delivery room.”
Turning, Gwaine grabbed both Merlin and Arthur. “Come on, Elaina will be wondering where we are.”
Three and a half hours later, give or take a few minutes, a squalling, muck covered baby boy was placed on Elaina’s belly.
“Who’s cutting the cord?” asked Dr Kilgarrah.
“Me, I am.” A trembling Arthur stepped forward with Merlin close behind. Taking the scissors from Dr. Kilgarrah, Arthur hesitated and looked in panic at Elaina.
“I’m going to hurt you.”
“Relax, Arthur, she won’t feel a thing, and neither will the baby.” Reassured Dr. Kilgarrah.
Arthur cut the cord as Gwaine took a picture with his cell phone. Then the baby was wrapped in a blanket and placed in Arthur arms. Arthur was openly crying as he held his beloved son. Merlin, his arm around Arthur’s shoulder, was weeping just as hard. Arthur turned into Merlin’s embrace, oblivious to the flash of a camera.
“Our son, Merlin, it’s our son.”
Merlin reached out and touched the little boy’s hand. The tiny fingers instinctively clenched around Merlin’s finger and Merlin fell head over heels in love with his son.
“James Arthur Pendragon, welcome to the world. I’m your daddy and this is your papa.” Arthur whispered, kissing his son on the forehead, then passing the precious bundle to Merlin to hold. There was another flash of a camera, but the two men were completely immersed in their new son.
Over on the bed, Elaina clutched Gwaine’s hand as she cried, looking at Merlin and Arthur and their newborn son. Gwaine kissed the top of her head. “Honey?”
Elaina looked up at her husband and gave him a watery smile. “Don’t they make wonderful parents?” she asked wobbily.
Gwaine’s attention was totally for his wife. He stroked her sweat soaked hair off her brow. “Are you okay?”
Elaina nodded, looking back at the two besotted men gazing at their son. “I’m glad we could give them this. They have a son, Gwaine. Merlin and Arthur have a son.”
“No regrets, love?” Gwaine looked deep into his wife’s eyes.
Elaina smiled through her tears. “No regrets. Merlin and Arthur have a son.”
Merlin looked up at his beloved Arthur and leaned over to kiss him.
“Thank you for our son, Arthur. I love you so much.” He passed the baby back to Arthur.
“Gentlemen, if you don’t mind, we should get the little fellow cleaned up.” The nurse took the baby from Arthur and whisked him over to the side of the room to clean him up and give him a check-over.
Merlin and Arthur approached the bed and took turns leaning in to hug and kiss Elaina.
“I don’t know how we can ever thank you,” sobbed Arthur.
Elaina took his face between her hands and smiled back at him through her own tears. “You be the best father you can for that little boy, Arthur! Love him with your whole being and never, ever stop. Promise me!”
Arthur nodded and kissed her again. “I already love him more than life itself.”
Elaina nodded then turned to Merlin, holding out her hand to pull him close. “You too. Promise me.”
“I will never, ever stop loving him, I promise you,” Merlin cried.
Arthur looked up at Gwaine, a world of gratitude in his eyes.
“Gwaine, I don’t know…”
“You have a beautiful son, Arthur. You and Merlin, you have a beautiful son.” Gwaine said solidly and comfortingly. “Congratulations.”
“Thank you. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.”
“Here you go, gentlemen, your son is ready for his close-up,” the nurse joked as she handed a cleaned-up baby back to Arthur.
“Nurse, wait. Please, can you take a picture of all of us?”
“Arthur, Jamie is your baby now,” Elaina protested.
Arthur shook his head. “Right now, at this moment, he belongs to all of us. When he’s older, I want him to know how much he was wanted and loved, and I want him to know the two very special people that made his existence real.”
The four posed for a photo with James Arthur Pendragon held securely in his father’s arms.
Chapter 5: Colin's Arrival
Both Arthur and Merlin arranged to take parental leave from their respective jobs to care for their new son. The first month was a huge learning curve, despite the parenting classes they had taken and despite knowing that Elaina was just a phone call away. They saw Gwaine and Elaina frequently as Elaina was expressing her milk for Jamie. But while they saw each other, Elaina refused to hold Jamie, knowing that her break from her natural son had to be complete. However she was happy when she saw the unbounded joy and love with which Merlin and Arthur parented Jamie.
Arthur became the main caregiver of Jamie and Merlin let him, knowing how important it was for Arthur to bond with his child. But Jamie also made his own preferences be known. Nights when he just wouldn’t go to sleep, it was in Merlin’s arms that he calmed down, as Merlin walked around the house, keeping up a constant patter of small talk, allowing his voice to lull the little boy to sleep. Jamie laughed more at bath time if Arthur bathed him. And when Jamie peed in Arthur’s mouth (which Merlin once again found hysterically funny), Arthur didn’t gag quite as much as he had with little Alfie. After the Alfie incident, Merlin had perfected the art of diapering a baby boy while standing off centre from the target area.
Jamie was a happy baby, chuckling at his fathers and delighting them to no end. However when he suffered from normal baby issues like diaper rash, or he was really unhappy, Merlin and Arthur knew he had inherited the famous Pendragon temper. Then, there was nothing else to do but hold him and love him and rock him in the rocking chair until he calmed down.
Into Jamie’s second month, Arthur was feeling more confident with Jamie and it was decided that Merlin would return to work part-time.
It had been a rough night and day for Jamie. The little boy had developed an ear infection and had been in pain and cranky, not being able to sleep. He only took part of his bottle at feeding times, where normally he had a very healthy appetite. Arthur held him constantly as that was the only thing that reduced his pain-filled cries to sorrowful little whimpers. When Arthur tried to put him down for a nap, in his misery Jamie pulled his little legs up under him and rocked himself back and forth, crying despondently. Arthur could only take so much before reaching out to hold him again.
By mid afternoon, both Arthur and Jamie were exhausted. In desperation, Arthur stretched out on the bed and nestled Jamie close to him. The little boy was so tired that sheer exhaustion caused him to fall asleep. Arthur carefully arranged the pillows to form a barricade around Jamie, preventing him from rolling off the bed, then closed his eyes for two minutes.
When Arthur awoke he kept his eyes closed and reached out sleepily for his son. His eyes snapped open when he encountered empty air. Gasping in dread, he checked under all the pillows, then in mounting alarm he checked the floor, convinced his son had fallen off the bed. When he didn’t see him, Arthur lurched of the bed, dropped to all fours and checked under the bed in case Jamie had rolled there.
Thinking he must have forgotten that he had put Jamie in his crib, Arthur rushed to the nursery, only to see an empty crib. Now in full-blown panic he rushed downstairs, while a tiny part of his brain told him there was no way a two month old baby could get downstairs on his own. He was just about to call out Jamie’s name when he came to a screeching halt. In the livingroom, Merlin was slouched on the couch snoozing, Jamie cradled in his arms and sleeping soundly on Merlin’s chest, little diapered bum in the air.
Arthur slumped against the doorframe in relief, taking gasping breaths to calm his frantically beating heart. The serenity of the scene before him gradually calmed him and he found himself smiling at the picture of his son snuggled down in sleep in Merlin’s arms. Arthur left briefly then returned with a camera, knowing he had to preserve this magic moment.
The flash of a camera woke Merlin. Opening his eyes, he smiled at Arthur.
“I came home early. Jamie was fussing but you were dead to the world, so I thought I’d let you sleep.”
Arthur laughed softly. “Gave me a hell of a scare when I couldn’t find him. I thought he fell off the bed and rolled under.”
Merlin laughed softly back and Jamie snuffled on his chest, a tiny frown showing his irritation at being disturbed.
Arthur came and sat on the floor beside the couch. He looked with adoration at his husband and his little son.
“I don’t think I’ve ever loved you more than I do right now. I don’t know if it’s because you look so beautiful holding Jamie, or because you let me sleep.”
Merlin chuckled. “Jamie and I are fine. Why don’t you try and get a little more rest. Go back to bed. I’ll wake you when dinner is ready.”
Arthur leaned up and kissed Merlin before standing up to leave. “Have I told you lately how much I love you?”
The smell of dinner cooking woke Arthur up a few hours later. He felt so much better. It was amazing what a few hours of uninterrupted sleep could do. He headed down to the kitchen and stopped in the doorway, a grin on his face. Merlin was maneuvering around the kitchen one handed, Jamie tucked against his chest as he keeps up a running commentary on how to cook the perfect meal for daddy. When Jamie started whining, Merlin stopped what he’s doing and started rocking side to side, cupping a gentle hand over Jamie’s sore ear. It seemed to work as Jamie stopped whining.
“You have a magic touch with him,” Arthur said as he walked into the kitchen.
Merlin grinned down at the little boy. “Jamie and me, we understand each other, don’t we little man?” Merlin dropped a kiss on the baby’s soft golden curls. “Can you fix him a bottle?”
Arthur fed Jamie while Merlin finished cooking dinner, and the two men chatted about their day. When Jamie fell asleep in Arthur’s arms, Merlin brought in the child carry seat and set it on the floor. Arthur lowered a sleeping Jamie into it, tucking a baby blanket around his son. Then they relaxed and ate dinner together.
It was while talking about Jamie that Arthur and Merlin agreed that it would be nice if their son had siblings to play with.
“Not right away, of course, but I think it would be nice if Jamie had a brother or sister,” Arthur said.
Merlin smiled. “Well, you made one beautiful child, I think a little girl with blonde curly hair would be lovely.”
Arthur shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about that. I think if we have another child, it should be yours.”
“Because as much as you love Jamie because he’s a part of me, that’s how much I would love to have a child who is part of you. A little baby with your beautiful silver-blue eyes and dark curly hair and I'd even take your ears.”
“Oh god, not my ears! I wouldn’t wish my ears on any child of mine.”
Arthur laughed. “You know I love your ears and I think I would love your baby even more if it came out with your ears.”
The two men laughed.
“Let’s wait awhile before we decide on another child. Jamie is too small and precious not to enjoy him fully just by himself.” Merlin smiled down at their sleeping son.
That weekend Arthur’s sister Morgana called and invited the Pendragon household to lunch, her treat.
“I want to see how much my nephew has grown since I saw him last.”
“Well considering the last time you saw him was last weekend, I don’t think you’ll notice that much change, but Jamie and I would love to join you for lunch. Arthur’s playing footie with his mates so he won’t be there, but if you’ll accept just Jamie and me….”
“Don’t tell my brother, but the only reason I still hang out with him is because of you and Jamie. How about noon at the Black Olive?”
Over lunch Merlin filled Morgana in on Jamie’s ear infection, which thankfully had cleared up with drops and lots of loving. Morgana held her nephew and talked nonsense to him while listening to Merlin. While they were chatting, an older woman walked past their table then stopped to coo over baby Jamie, who gurgled and smiled back at her.
“Oh he’s such a darling little boy, just beautiful. Isn’t it remarkable that he’s so fair and golden when his parents are both dark haired.” The lady leaned in to chuck Jamie under the chin. “Oh and it looks like his eyes are going to be green just like his mommy’s, you lucky boy.”
The lady straightened up and beamed at Morgana and Merlin. “Such a beautiful family. And such a lovely little boy. You’re so lucky.” She beamed at them one last time then tottered off.
Merlin and Morgana looked at each other gobsmacked then burst out laughing, Jamie joining in with a squeal.
Morgana looked at the blonde boy in her arms. “How on earth could she think we’re the parents to Jamie? If we had a child he or she would look nothing like Jamie.”
Merlin grinned at her. “Yeah, Arthur and I were talking about that just the other night. About a sibling for Jamie. Arthur said if we have another baby, he wants it to be mine. He wants a little version of me, ears and all.”
“A child of yours I agree with, but hopefully not with your ears – no offense. So you really are talking about more children?”
Merlin nodded. “Yeah, I think one more, so Jamie has a brother or sister to play with.”
“You’ll have to go through the whole surrogate thing again, unless you’re thinking of asking Elaina again?”
“No, not Elaina again. She and Gwaine have been just brilliant about Jamie, but we know it’s hard on her when she sees him. It would be easier if she wasn’t supplying her breast milk for him, but we all feel it’s best for him to have his mother’s milk for as long as Elaina is able to supply it. Unfortunately for Elaina, that means she sees Jamie far more than she normally would. Lately, Gwaine has been dropping off the milk by himself to give her a break.”
“Do you have anyone in mind for your next child?”
“No, we haven’t got anywhere near thinking about that. Just that we definitely want another baby sometime in the near future.”
A few days later, Morgana called Merlin at work and invited him out to lunch.
“That’s twice in less then a week. What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion. I want to talk to you about a something.”
“Shall I call Arthur and Jamie to join us?”
“No, I just want to talk to you first.”
Merlin met Morgana at the Camelot Café and they chatted about general topics while they ate. Finally over coffee, Merlin sat back and asked.
“So, what did you want to discuss that warranted a special lunch?”
Morgana put down her coffee mug. “I’ve been thinking about what you said over lunch on Saturday, about having another baby.”
Merlin’s eyebrows rose in surprise. That was the last subject he expected.
“Okay, what about it?”
Morgana paused and looked him straight in the eyes. “I want to be your surrogate. For your baby, Merlin.”
Merlin froze, eyes wide, and he forgot to breath.
“I know how the pregnancy with Elaina went, and I want to offer you that for your baby.”
Merlin gulped in a breath. “But you’ve never had a child. And you’re single. It’s not remotely the same thing as Elaina.”
“I know it’s not the same. But the more I think of this, the surer I am that it’s the right thing to do. Just as Elaina and Arthur made a beautiful baby, with our compatible looks Merlin, we would also make a beautiful baby.”
“The baby’s looks are not the issue, Morgana. This is a huge decision, a huge thing for you to go through. This is life changing for you. And it will be so much harder on you being single.”
“But it’s what I want. And if I’m the mother to your child, it will give Arthur a blood connection to the baby.”
Merlin sat back gobsmacked. “I don’t know what to say, Morgana. As much as I love you and appreciate the offer, I think you’re crazy! You can’t just decide out of the blue to have a baby and give it away to someone else – “
“You’re not ‘someone else’, you’re my brother and brother-in-law. You’re my family. I’ve thought very hard on this and I know I’m right in making the offer. There’s also another reason why I should be your child’s mother… Uther.”
Merlin drew back at the name and his face hardened. Uther had caused Arthur nothing but grief growing up and made his life pure hell when he came out as gay. Arthur had told Merlin that his older sister’s unwavering support was the only thing that had held him together during the ensuing battles, even though that support earned her Uther’s wrath in equal measure. When Arthur had married Merlin, Uther had responded by cutting his son off completely – no communication and no inheritance. Long after Arthur had walked out of Uther’s life for the final time, Morgana continued to battle with him, refusing to let him win.
“Merlin. Jamie is Arthur’s natural son. If you let me be your child’s mother, then the child would be my natural child. Uther has cut Arthur off completely, but I honestly believe he won’t abandon our children, his grandchildren.”
Merlin scoffed. “He hasn’t even acknowledged Jamie’s birth!”
“And he won’t. He won’t back down from opposing your marriage to Arthur. But I do know that after Jamie was born, he called his lawyers in to discuss his will. I don’t know for sure, but I believe that he changed his will to include Jamie.”
“We don’t want his money!” Merlin’s eyes flashed with distaste.
“Don’t worry, you and Arthur won’t see a penny of Uther’s money. But I honestly believe that Jamie will. Before you jump down my throat, it’s Jamie’s inheritance, just remember that. And if you let me be the mother of your child, Jamie’s brother or sister would share in that inheritance.”
Merlin shook his head. “Money is no reason to have a child, Morgana.”
“I’m not offering you this because of Uther’s money, that’s a side issue. I’m offering you this because I want you and Arthur to have the child you want. I want to help you give Jamie a brother or sister.
Merlin looked down at Jamie, now sleeping peacefully in his carry seat. He had a sudden vision of a dark haired little baby smiling up at him. Merlin looked back at Morgana and she saw the answer in his eyes.
Reaching across the table she grasped his hand. “Please Merlin. When you and Arthur decide to have another baby, please, let me be the surrogate.”
“But you don’t even know our schedule for the new baby.”
“You said on Saturday that it would be the near future, so I’m assuming sometime in the next year?”
“That works with my schedule. I’ve got a couple of new books that I need to write.” Morgana was a travel writer and her travel guides were best sellers in that niche market. “I’ll be staying home for the next year or so to write the books, so a pregnancy wouldn’t interfere with my work.”
Merlin shook his head again. “Morgana, I can’t –“
“Yes you can! Please Merlin, this is a serious, fully thought out offer. Talk to Arthur and let him know my offer. And I’ll talk to Elaina about the repercussions of doing this. But I promise I won’t change my mind.”
Arthur was as equally gobsmacked at Morgana’s offer as Merlin had been.
“Morgana wants your baby? My sister?” Arthur shook his head in disbelief. “I love my sister but I’ll be the first to admit she doesn’t have the tiniest iota of maternal instinct in her – and now she wants to have your baby?”
“I don’t know if you should sell her short on the maternal instinct. She looked after you and fought for you with Uther.”
A flash of pain chased across Arthur’s face before being quickly hidden. “That wasn’t maternal so much as full warrior mode, avenging angel, dark goddess of the night and all.”
Merlin laughed at Arthur’s description. He knew Arthur loved his sister fiercely and they were both equally terrified of her Pendragon temper, which she had inherited in buckets.
“Seriously, Arthur. How would you feel if Morgana was the mother of our next child?”
Arthur searched Merlin’s face then sighed. “I think you and Morgana would make a beautiful baby and if the gods are good to us, it would inherit Morgana’s ears, not yours.”
Merlin burst out laughing.
Since Elaina took three months to get pregnant, everyone – Merlin, Arthur, Morgana and Dr. Kilgarrah, believed it would take just as long if not longer for Morgana to get pregnant. One month later that they began the treatments.
“A surrogate pregnancy rarely ever takes on the first attempt. Think of this as tempering Morgana’s body for the eventual pregnancy to come,” reassured Dr. Kilgarrah.
One month later, Morgana dropped by the house unexpectedly, catching both Merlin and Arthur at home.
“To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?” Arthur asked, Jamie nestled in his arms sucking on a bottle.
“I need to talk to you both.” Morgana looked very serious and very nervous.
“Oh God,” Merlin blanched. “You’ve changed your mind, haven’t you?” He quickly schooled his features to neutrality. “Not that you don’t have that option. We really appreciate you trying, it’s fine if you’ve changed your mind, thank you for trying-“
“Merlin! Stop talking. I’m not giving up. It’s too late to give up anyway.”
“Too late?” Arthur frowned at her.
“Too late.” Morgana nodded. “I’m pregnant. You’re pregnant. First try and you’re pregnant.”
Merlin and Arthur stared back at her, struck dumb.
“I know you weren’t expecting to have another baby so soon. I’m sorry it happened so fast.”
“Right now? You’re pregnant now?” Merlin asked incredulous.
“Pregnant now. First try Merlin, that’s some powerful juice you’ve got there. Look, I know you weren’t planning to have a baby quite so soon. If you want to terminate this pregnancy and try again at a later date…”
“No! No Morgana.” Merlin leapt off the couch and knelt in front of Morgana, taking her hands in his. He could see the trepidation in her eyes.
“You’re absolutely sure you’re pregnant?”
Morgana nodded. “Four home pregnancy tests, plus I had it confirmed today by Dr. Kilgarrah. Definitely pregnant.”
Merlin stood up and pulled Morgana up into a hug that lifted her off the ground. Morgana was laughing and crying at the same time as she hugged him back.
Morgana looked over at her brother, sitting in shock on the couch, holding his four month old son. “Arthur?”
Arthur looked up at his sister and his lover, parents now of their unborn child.
“Arthur?” Merlin’s face reflected the worry in Morgana’s.
“I think we are crazy to have two babies one year apart. And I think we are going to have two babies one year apart.”
He was rewarded by equally brilliant smiles on the faces of the two adults he loved most in the entire world.
Over the next months, Merlin and Arthur adjusted (with a few moments of utter panic) to the realization that they would soon have two babies to contend with.
Within their household, changes were being made. Arthur also returned to work part-time, with the two of them adjusting their part-time schedule so one parent was always home with Jamie. Within a few months, they realized that it made more sense for Merlin to stay home with Jamie as he could work on his graphic design contracts from his home office, whereas Arthur could only do his job at his workplace. Jamie bonded more firmly with Merlin, but whenever Arthur came home, Jamie always squealed with delight to see his daddy and the two spent an intense session each day reconnecting.
Merlin was working on a design project while Jamie napped in his playpen set up in the home office, when the phone rang. Checking the number display, Merlin smiled.
“Hi Morgana, how are you doing?”
“Hi, hello – um, is this Merlin?” a strange male voice asked.
“Yes, this is Merlin. Who’s this?”
“My name’s Leon. Morgana asked me to call you. She’s been in a car accident. She asked me to call you and-“
“Oh my god, is she hurt? Where are you? Have you called an ambulance?”
“Yeah, an ambulance is on its way. Morgana said for you to meet her at the hospital. She’s a bit banged up but I don’t think she’s seriously hurt. She said to go to Camelot Hospital and – uh, just a minute.” There was a murmuring in the background and the male voice answered. “She said to tell you that she thinks the baby is okay but can you meet her at the hospital?”
“Yes, we’ll meet her there. Tell her we’ll be there. Are you sure she’s not badly hurt? Is she bleeding? Nothing’s broken?”
“No, she said nothing’s broken, but she’s got some cuts that are bleeding.” There was some more murmuring from the background. “She said don’t panic, none of the cuts are bad. And to tell you again that she thinks the baby is okay.”
“Okay, thank you – um..”
“Leon. I was walking past when her car was hit. I’ll ride in with her in the ambulance just to make sure she gets to the hospital safe and sound.”
“Thank you, Leon. We’ll meet you at the hospital.”
Merlin hung up and immediately called Arthur, arranging to meet him at the hospital too. Then packing up a still napping Jamie, he rushed to Camelot Hospital emergency department.
Arthur was already there when Merlin hurried in.
“She’s not here yet, she’s on the way.” Arthur took Jamie from Merlin, needing the reassurance of his warm little body. Arthur was white as a sheet, and his hands trembled as they held his son. “God Merlin, if she’s seriously hurt, if I lose her…” His eyes filmed with tears.
“She’s not seriously hurt, Leon said so and she was talking when I was on the phone. You’re not going to lose her, Arthur” Merlin pulled his partner into a reassuring hug.
They sat and waited anxiously, looking up every time the emergency doors opened. Finally the paramedics pushed through a stretcher with Morgana strapped on. Merlin grabbed Jamie and Arthur leaped to her side. Brother and sister reached out and clasped hands.
“Morgana.” Arthur’s voice broke.
Morgana was a mess, her long hair in disarray, her face blood smeared, cuts scattered across her lovely features. Following the nurse’s instructions, the paramedics pushed the stretcher down the hall and into a curtained area. Arthur walked beside the stretcher, Merlin and Jamie following, as well as a tall man with overgrown ginger curls. Merlin looked up at him enquiringly.
“Merlin. That’s Arthur, her brother. This is Jamie.”
As soon as they stopped the stretcher, the paramedics began a recitation of Morgana’s symptoms to the attending nurse. Arthur was intent on soothing his sister, Merlin stared on helplessly, the words going in one ear and out the other.
“She’s pregnant, five and a half months pregnant.” Merlin told the nurse.
“Right, I have that on her chart here. Now – all you gentlemen can’t stay. We need to check over Ms Pendragon and assess her injuries. Only one of you can stay with her.”
“I’m staying. I’m her brother.” Arthur said, voice booking no argument.
“Jamie and I will wait out here.”
“I’ll go with Merlin,” said Leon.
In the waiting room, Merlin sat down, numb with worry. Leon seemed to have disappeared. Jamie sat on his father’s lap, sucking his thumb, wide-eyed as he watched the action in the emergency department.
“Here, you look like you need this. I didn’t know how you take it so you got milk and sugar.” A cup of coffee was thrust at Merlin and he looked up to see Leon’s smiling face.
“Thank you.” Merlin hated vending machine coffee and he never took milk, but he sipped it anyway.
“Guess I should introduce myself properly. I’m Leon DeGrace. I talked to you on the phone.”
“Merlin Emrys. I’m Morgana’s brother-in-law. Arthur’s my husband. Thank you for staying with Morgana.”
“No problem. I saw the accident happen actually. Just happened to be walking by. Some idiot ran the red light. Only caught the back end of her car fortunately or it could have been a different story. When I got to her she was covered in glass and cussing like a sailor. Fortunately the airbags protected her from any serious injury, although the impact of those can knock the wind out of you. The car frame got knocked out of whack and jammed the driver’s door. That’s why it took so long to get here, they had to cut her out.
Merlin bit his lip and tried to hold back his tears. They had come so close to losing Morgana. And losing his baby.
“Oh hey, no, don’t cry – she’ll be fine. It’s all superficial injuries. She kept telling me to tell you the baby was okay. She seemed quite worried that you should know the baby was okay.”
Merlin nodded, sucking back his tears. “It’s my baby. She’s carrying my baby.”
Leon looked at him in confusion. “I thought…didn’t you just say that Arthur’s your husband?”
“Yeah, he is. Morgana is our surrogate for my baby.”
Leon looked down at the golden haired child Merlin was holding. Jamie looked back at him solemnly. “So who owns this baby?”
“Jamie is our son, mine and Arthur’s.”
“How old is he?”
“Just over 8 months.”
Leon laughed incredulous. “And you’re going to have another one in 3 months? Boy, you two are brave men!”
Merlin smiled back at him and nodded.
“So Morgana – does she have a husband or someone?”
Merlin shook his head. “No, she’s doing this on her own. We think she’s crazy, but we love her for doing it. It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. She got pregnant on the first try. That almost never happens. Came as a bit of a shock to all of us, but she’s just sailing through the pregnancy. It hasn’t slowed her down at all.”
“So, no one special in her life then?”
Merlin looked at Leon and he blushed.
“It’s just, you know, we got to chatting while waiting for the emergency personnel. Granted not the best of circumstances to be chatting up a girl, but once you get past her astounding range of swear words, she seemed quite lovely. I’m sure once she’s cleaned up a bit, she’s probably quite good looking too.”
Merlin stared at Leon then grinned. Leon blushed again.
“There’s no one special in her life right now and I think Morgana would love it if you called her once this was over. I’m pretty sure you’ve already got major points for coming to her rescue with the accident and sticking with her to the hospital. And yes, once she’s cleaned up, she’s going to knock your socks off with just how gorgeous she is.”
Leon grinned at the information.
“But she is pregnant.”
Leon nodded. “Yeah, I got that part. What happens to the baby when it’s born?”
“The baby comes home with me and Arthur. Morgana is just his birth mother.”
“So it’s a boy?”
“Yeah. His name’s going to be Colin. He’s Jamie’s little brother.”
Leon was quite for a few minutes digesting the information. Jamie continued to stare at him in fascination. After a while, Leon spoke up.
“Seems to me that Morgana should have someone around to look after her while she’s pregnant. Support and comfort, that sort of thing. When my sister was pregnant, her husband was forever having to do little things for Gillian to keep her happy.”
Merlin was liking Leon more and more. “She’s a wonderful woman, but she’s a strong personality. Both Pendragon’s are. You’re going to have to be strong to hold your own with her.”
Leon gave him a brilliant grin. “I think I’m up to the challenge – if she’ll have me that is.”
Arthur’s voice called out and Merlin’s attention immediately snapped to Arthur as he approached. Without a second thought, Merlin thrust Jamie into Leon’s arms and rose to meet Arthur. Still sucking his thumb, Jamie regarded his new caregiver then stuck out his hand and poked him in the eye.
As soon as he reached Arthur, Merlin pulled him into a tight hug. He could feel the tension in Arthur’s body and felt his stuttered breath as Arthur buried his face in Merlin’s neck. The two men held each other for a few moments before Arthur pulled back.
“The doctor said she’s going to be fine. They monitored the baby and said it’s fine too. None of her cuts need stitches. She’s just banged up and a bit bruised. She’s going to be stiff and sore for a couple of weeks, but she’s going to be okay.”
Arthur looked deep into Merlin’s eyes and Merlin saw the terror that Arthur had felt at the thought he might lose his sister. Merlin kissed him in reassurance and gently stroked his cheek. As important as his baby was to him, Morgana’s importance to Arthur was core to his being.
Arthur managed to dredge up a small smile. “She wants to see someone named Leon.”
Merlin walked Arthur over to where a ginger-haired man was making silly faces at his son.
“Arthur, this is Leon. He’s the one who stayed with Morgana after the accident.”
Arthur thrust out a hand to shake Leon’s. “I can’t thank you enough for looking after my sister. She means the world to me. Thank you.”
Leon smiled and stood as Merlin reclaimed his son. “No problem. Bit of a unique way to meet a girl, but I’m hoping it will turn out alright. How is she?”
“Bit banged up and bruised, but she’s going to be fine. She’s asking for you.”
Leon grinned at Merlin. “Well that’s a good sign, wouldn’t you say?” Then he headed down the hall to the treatment area.
Arthur looked at Merlin enquiringly. Merlin grinned back.
“I think Morgana has just met her match.”
Just over three months later, Morgana was reigning terror in the maternity wing, Colin having decided to arrive early.
“Where’s Leon!” Morgana spat out between gritted teeth, body taunt with a contraction. It wasn’t a question so much as a demand.
“They won’t let him come in. Hospital rules, I’m sorry Morgana,” Arthur broke the bad news.
Morgana struggled to sit up and pushed the sheet off.
“What are you doing?” Merlin asked in alarm.
“I – am – not – having – this – baby – without – him!” Morgana huffed as she struggled to swing her legs over the side of the bed.
“Where are you going? Jesus Morgana, get back into bed!”
Arthur attempted to push Morgana back in bed and she growled at him, causing him to jump back. Heaving and panting, her sweat-soaked hair sticking to her face, Morgana wore an expression of determination and ferocity.
“I – want – LEONNNNNNN!!!!” Morgana stopped as she gritted her teeth through another contraction. When it was over, she panted as she renewed her struggles to get off the bed.
“Morgana, for gods sake, get back into bed!” Merlin pleaded.
“If they won’t – pant, pant – let him in here – pant, pant – I’m going out to him! Get out of my way, Merlin!”
“You can’t go out there! You’re having our baby!”
“I will squat in the fucking hallway to have this baby if I have to. I WANT LEON!!!! I AM NOT HAVING THIS BABY WITHOUT LEON!!!”
“Arthur stop her, please stop her!” Merlin begged as Arthur struggled with his sister. Adding his efforts, Merlin and Arthur managed to push her back on the bed.
“I’ll go get Leon! Jesus, Morgana, please stay on the bed, I’ll go get Leon!”
Merlin raced out the door and ran to the waiting room. “Leon! You have to come now!”
Leon jumped to his feet, face white. “Morgana! Is something wrong with Morgana?”
“No, she’s still in labour but she wants you. She said she won’t do it without you. You have to come now!” Merlin grabbed Leon’s arm and turned to run back to the delivery room.
“Just a minute!” A stern, stout Matron stopped Merlin in his tracks, hand on his chest, arm ramrod straight. “Only immediate family in delivery rooms. This man is not family and he is not going in that room!”
“GET THE HELL OUT OF MY WAY WOMAN!!” Merlin roared. “The mother of my child is about to squat in the hallway to deliver my son because she won’t do it without him!”
Merlin pushed past the Matron, dragging an astonished Leon behind him. They reached the delivery room and Merlin thrust Leon through the doorway. Over by the bed, Arthur was staging a losing battle with Morgana.
“Morgana! Sweetheart, it’s okay, baby, I’m here.” Leon rushed to Morgana’s side and she suddenly gave up the fight with Arthur.
Merlin and Arthur stood back and watched as Leon’s calm steady presence soothed and quieted the distraught Morgana. Leon smiled serenely down at her, his hand stroking the hair off her face, murmuring soft endearments that she soaked up. Merlin and Arthur exchanged incredulous looks to see this formidable woman so tamed by the laidback Leon.
The door to the delivery room opened and the Matron stepped in, stopping short as a woman in labour, her frazzled brother, the manic father of the baby and the imposing boyfriend of the woman all glared back at her.
Gathering her dignity about her, the matron announced. “Non-family members are not allowed in the delivery room.”
“He’s my fiancée!” Morgana declared and the three men turned to stare at her.
“I am?” Leon asked bemused.
“Dammit, Leon, now really is not the time. Will you marry me, yes or noooooo?” Everyone paused as she had another contraction.
Leon soothed her through it then smiled at her. “If that’s a real proposal, then yes, I will marry you.”
“I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough, you can’t just…”
“Then get me a fucking priest and I’ll marry him right now!”
Merlin turned to the matron.
“You are removing him over my dead body. This woman is about to give birth to my child, and if she wants Leon, if she wants Santa Claus or the whole fucking London Symphony, then that’s who she’ll have! Now get the hell out! We are about to have a baby!”
With that, everyone turned their back on the Matron and focused on Morgana. The Matron left unnoticed.
Five hours later Morgana was still in labour. Periodically a nurse came in to check on proceedings, each time calling out how many centimeter’s Morgana was dilated - each time, not enough. For the most part, Arthur and Merlin stood off to the side, out of firing range of Morgana’s temper. Once, when Morgana looked over at them and saw Arthur’s worried face, she snarled at him and told him to ‘grow a pair! I’m having a baby, not dying!” Arthur physically retreated behind Merlin.
Every now and then, she would call Merlin over to rub her belly to sooth his son in his struggle to be born. The whole time, Leon stayed by her side, talking calmly, holding her hand through contractions, holding her cup of water, stroking her brow and wiping away the sweat. Leon was the only one Morgana never snapped at.
After one particularly painful contraction, Morgana glared at Merlin.
“Don’t you ever dare say I don’t love you, Merlin Emrys, until you’re dying day you remember this!”
Merlin nodded in wholehearted agreement and just a bit of terror.
Two hours later, Dr. Kilgarrah finally showed up, snapping on his latex gloves.
“Hello everyone,” he called out genially. “Let’s have a baby, shall we?”
As he settled himself between Morgana’s legs and peered in to inspect her, he asked.
“So Arthur, how’s Jamie doing?”
“He’s doing great. His mom and Gwaine are babysitting him.” Arthur answered.
“Merlin, have you picked a name for this little fellow yet?”
Merlin continued to rub a soothing hand over Morgana’s belly. “His name is Colin. Arthur picked it out.”
“Well it looks like our Colin is ready to make his appearance. Does anyone have a camera?
“I brought a camera,” Leon answered.
“Good, good. Well get it ready. Now Morgana, next contraction, I want a really big push.”
Colin Emrys Pendragon came into the world 20 minutes later. Dr. Kilgarrah laid him on Morgana’s tummy and Merlin cut the cord. Picking the baby up in a blanket, the nurse laid him in his father’s arms just as a camera flashed. Colin was much more slender then Jamie had been and was longer, with a shock of dark hair and a healthy set of lungs. Just as Arthur leaned over to meet his son, Colin let out a tiny shot of pee, hitting Arthur square in the chest. A camera flash caught the moment as everyone laughed.
A third camera flash caught the two fathers kissing while their newborn son wailed his disapproval.
Three months later, a stunning and once again svelte (except for an amazing bosom), Morgana Pendragon walked down the aisle on her brother’s arm, to meet her groom at the alter. Standing next to Leon, Merlin held baby Colin, decked out in a tiny tuxedo-like outfit as honorary best man at his mother’s wedding.
* Author's Note: Losing the baby actually happened to a friend of mine. When he told the story at a party, all his friends laughed at him, one person remarking "Dude - the kid can barely turn over, how the hell was he going to wander around the house?" But apparently when you lose your kid, logic completely flies out the window.
Chapter 6: We can do this
Arthur entered the house, a slight frown on his face. Six month old Colin had been fretful this morning when Arthur left for work and 18 month old Jamie was quieter than usual. He hoped that the boys had perked up over the day.
“Merlin? Babe. I’m home.”
There was no answer. From upstairs came the wail of one of their son’s crying, Jamie from the sounds of it. Arthur hurried up the stairs to check.
“Merlin? Is everything oka…”
Arthur stopped dead in the doorway of the nursery. Merlin was sitting on the floor, leaning up against the chest of drawers, a towel swaddled Colin whimpering in his arms. In the crib, Jamie was standing, clinging onto the rails as he cried heartbrokenly, his little face covered in tears and snot. An overpowering smell came from the room – a mixture of poop and vomit. In one corner, a pile of soiled towels and children’s clothing told their own story, and there were splashes of vomit on the floor.
Merlin looked up with deadened and hopeless eyes. “They’re sick. They’re both sick.” He whispered brokenly as he jiggled the fussy baby.
Arthur walked over to the crib to pick up his son, but just as he reached for him, Jamie stopped crying, gave a little choke and projectile vomited all over Arthur.
“What the hell?” Arthur leaped out of the way too late, his suit jacket covered in vomit.
Jamie took a staggered breath then vomited once more, this time all over the floor. Then he sat down in his crib and started crying piteously.
Arthur looked down at his vomit soaked suit jacket then at Merlin.
“They’re sick,” repeated Merlin in defeat. “They’re both sick.” In his arms Colin copied his brother and vomited into the towel.
Arthur pealed off his jacket and dropped it on the floor over the vomit, what was a little bit more to add to the mess? Then he reached in and picked up his son. He grabbed a baby wipe and gently wiped the little boy’s face of tears, snot and the trail of vomit on his chin. Jamie collapsed weakly against his father’s chest, whimpering. Judging by the smell coming from him, Jamie also needed his diaper changed.
“I’ll clean up Jamie then come and help you with this mess.”
But as soon as Arthur turned to take Jamie to the bathroom, the little boy let out a wail and reached over Arthur’s shoulder, arms outstretched, screaming in Arthur’s ear.
Arthur did an abrupt about-face and walked over to Merlin. Dropping down on his haunches, he placed Jamie on the floor next to his papa, and scooped up Colin from Merlin’s arms. As soon as the baby was gone, Jamie crawled into his papa’s arms, his little arms tightening around Merlin’s neck as he sobbed into Merlin’s shoulder. Merlin tightened his arms around Jamie and automatically began rubbing comforting circles on his back while making ‘shhhhh’ sounds.
“I’ll do Colin first, then we’ll do Jamie.” Said Arthur, adjusting his hold on his towel wrapped youngest son. As he did, the towel unraveled a bit and he saw that Colin was naked.
“Merlin, why doesn’t Colin have a diaper on?”
“We ran out.”
“We had a whole box that I just opened last night.”
Merlin looked up at Arthur and tears welled in his eyes. “They’re sick, they’re both sick, from both ends. We ran out of diapers. Jamie’s wearing the last of Colin’s diapers. We’re out of his too.
Arthur breath caught as he looked at his partner. “How long have they been sick?”
“Since just after you left. Colin got sick first, then Jamie.”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
Merlin shook his head. “You had that big presentation today.”
“Merlin, I would have come home if you told me the boys were sick.”
“I thought I could handle it. But then they both got worse and I just got one cleaned up and the other was sick. Then they were both sick together and I couldn’t leave them to call you.”
“Oh Babe, I’m sorry I left you with this.” Arthur grimaced in regret. “Come on, bring Jamie, I’ll help you clean them up.”
Merlin remained sitting on the floor and shook his head. “We’re out of towels too.”
“I’ll grab our towels.”
“I’ve already used those. We’re out of towels.”
Arthur thought quickly. “What about kitchen towels? Have you used those?”
When Merlin shook his head, Arthur made a quick decision. “Right, I’ll get the kitchen towels. Go start a bath for Jamie.
Arthur carried Colin downstairs and into the kitchen to fetch the kitchen towels. On the way, he pulled out his cell phone and made a couple of calls. While he was rummaging around in the kitchen, he felt Colin’s towel dampen with moisture and the pungent odor of poop filled the air. The little boy began to cry in earnest before vomiting. Fortunately Arthur had draped one end of the towel over his shoulder so the towel absorbed the vomit, but Arthur still felt a wet spot soak through to his shoulder.
With every available kitchen towel tucked under one arm, Arthur walked to the front door to ensure it was unlocked, then headed upstairs. He went into the master bedroom and rummaged around in Merlin’s drawers, pulling out a couple of Merlin’s beloved flannel pajama tops. They would have to do until he could get some laundry done. From what he’d seen, Merlin had also gone through most of the boys clothes in an effort to keep them clean and dressed before giving up.
Once he reached the boys bathroom, Arthur checked his step, taking in the mound of soiled towels on the floor. Merlin was on his knees, supporting Jamie in the bathtub. Despite his fragile state, Merlin was murmuring softly and calmly to his little boy, and Jamie had wound down to staggered breathing, punctuated by the occasional leftover hiccup. Both father and son looked up as Arthur stepped into the bathroom.
“Hello little man, does that feel a bit better?” Arthur directed a reassuring smile at his oldest son.
Jamie held up an arm and pointed at Arthur. “Lolin” he said then hiccupped.
“Yes, this is Colin. He’s going to have a bath too, just like Jamie.”
Arthur closed the lid of the toilet, then set the towels and flannel pajamas on top. One handed, he pulled out the baby bath and set it on the counter, ran the water, adjusting the temperature, and filled the bath half full. Then he unwrapped Colin, using the towel to wipe up as much poop as possible before dropping the towel on the existing mound of used towels. Arthur hissed in a breath when he saw how red and raw his little baby’s bottom was. He gently placed Colin in the water, one hand supporting him while the other gently tossed water on the tiny little chest.
“I called Gwaine and Elaina. They’re coming over with more diapers and some medicine to settle the boy’s tummies. She said the twins had this last month.”
“Thank you, Arthur.” Merlin pulled Jamie up to a standing position and gave him a kiss. Jamie wrapped wet arms around his papa’s neck and held on. Merlin reached out and grabbed a kitchen towel, then carefully wiped Jamie dry, being careful of his sore little bottom.
“What do we do about diapers until Gwaine and Elaina arrive?”
“Use a kitchen towel for now.” Arthur instructed. “It’ll only be for a little while.”
Merlin laid Jamie on the bath mat and made a game of putting soothing cream on Jamie’s bum and tying on the kitchen towel and for the first time all day, Jamie let out a little giggle. Despite his complete and utter exhaustion, Merlin felt his heart bloom with love and he smiled besottedly at his golden son who looked so much like his beloved Arthur. Merlin sat Jamie up and wrapped him in one of his own pajama tops. Jamie smiled contentedly and sleepily back at his papa and Merlin picked him up and cradled him against his heart, an extra kitchen towel slung over his shoulder just in case.
Over at the sink, Arthur finished cleaning up the baby, pausing to catch another small bout of vomiting in his hand. Reaching over, he laid a kitchen towel on the counter and laid Colin on the towel. Then he used a second towel to dab him dry, smoothed diaper rash cream on the sore little bum and used the last towel to diaper Colin. Picking up the baby, he looked over at Merlin, sitting on the floor cuddling a sleepy Jamie.
“You’re choice Merlin. Feed the boys or start the clean up?”
Merlin looked up tiredly and Arthur made the choice for him. “Come on, you rest on the bed with the boys while they have their bottles. I’ll start the clean-up.”
Arthur settled Merlin and the boys on the bed in the master bedroom, a precautionary folded blanket under the boys, then he fetched the two bottles from the bar fridge they kept in the nursery. He used the small microwave on top of the fridge to warm the bottles for a few seconds to take off the chill, checked that both were an appropriate temperature, and brought them into the bedroom. Jamie held his own bottle and Merlin held Colin’s bottle for him.
Then Arthur leaned over the boys and bent to kiss his partner. “You’re a wonderful father. Thank you for coping with them today. I love you, Merlin.”
Tears glazed Merlin’s eyes and he nodded. “Thank you. I’m sorry the house is in such a mess.”
“Don’t worry about it, love. I’ll get it cleaned up in no time.” Arthur walked over to his chest of drawer, pulled out some t-shirts and dropped them on the bed within Merlin’s reach. “Until I get some towels cleaned, use these if the boys get sick again.”
Arthur had stripped both cribs, gathered and sorted the laundry, and had one load of towels in the washer when he heard Gwaine and Elaina enter the house. He popped his head out of the laundry room and saw Gwaine wrinkle his nose in distaste. Spying Arthur, Gwaine grinned at him. “Ah yes, the familiar odor of sick children.”
“Hi love,” Elaina gave him a quick kiss as she walked past him clutching a couple of large boxes of diapers. “I’ll take these up to the boys.”
“They’re with Merlin in the master bedroom” Arthur called after her. “Ignore the mess! I’m still cleaning up.”
Gwaine headed into the kitchen and began unpacking the grocery bag he carried. “We brought tummy medicine for the boys, some special bum cream that works wonders when the little ones have really bad diarrhea, and a special something for the stressed out parents.” Gwaine held up a bottle of Arthur’s favourite wine and Merlin’s favourite cider. Arthur grinned in appreciation.
“Have I ever told you that you and Elaina are my hero’s?” Arthur gave Gwaine a hug of appreciation. “Who’s looking after the twins?”
“They’re at the grandparents.” Gwaine continued to unpack the bag, this time bringing out food items. “Thought we’d invite ourselves over for dinner. That way we can help with the boys and help with cleaning up.” Gwaine wrinkled his nose again then pointedly looked at Arthur’s vomit covered shirt. In the madness of sick babies and mountains of laundry, Arthur had forgotten that he was still covered in Jamie and Colin’s vomit.
“Damn, forgot about that. Give me a minute.”
Grabbing the medicine and leaving Gwaine sorting food in the kitchen, Arthur headed to the master bedroom. Inside, he found Merlin wiping up and comforting Jamie, who had thrown up his juice, while Elaina rocked a sleeping Colin. Both boys were now wearing clean diapers. Following Elaina’s instructions, Arthur administered the medicine to both boys, carefully dribbling it into the sleeping Colin who swallowed reflexively. Then he changed out of his suit and into sweat pants and a rugby shirt. He took over holding Jamie while Merlin headed in to shower and change his clothes, which were covered in various bodily fluids from both boys.
When the door to the ensuite closed, Elaina looked at Arthur and smiled. “Merlin did amazingly well coping with the boys both being sick.”
Arthur laughed. “Well you haven’t seen the state of the nursery yet. But yeah, he did brilliantly considering the circumstances.”
Elaina smiled down at the sleeping child in her arms. “I remember when the twins both got really sick when they were babies. Gwaine came home to a house covered in vomit and poop and I told him I quit. Told him I didn’t want to be a mother any more and I just quit. I was a complete basket case, crying and mad at myself for not handling it and trying to get two babies to stop screaming and barfing and pooping constantly.”
“How did he handle it?”
“He did the best thing he could have done. Set both babies in the crib to fend for themselves for a few minutes, then took my vomit covered, poop covered body in his arms and hugged me and told me he had never loved me more then at that moment. It was so ridiculous - I looked and smelled hideous, that I started laughing and suddenly, the world wasn’t coming to an end anymore.”
Elaina looked up at Arthur. “As long as you two love each other through this, no matter what, you’ll be okay. Don’t loose your temper with Merlin, no matter how crazy he gets, and remember that the state of the house is the last thing you need to worry about. Babies are the number one priority.”
Arthur looked down at his son Jamie as he sleepily blinked his eyes, fighting a loosing battle. “His eyes are getting more green in them. Depending on the light, sometimes they’re pure blue, sometimes they have a ring of green in them.”
Elaina smiled at him and Arthur smiled back at the beautiful green eyes of Jamie’s birth mother. Elaina glanced down at Colin. “I thought I’d see more of Morgana in Colin, but so far he’s pure Merlin.”
Arthur nodded in agreement. “As long as he doesn’t inherit Morgana’s temper, I’ll be happy.”
Arthur noticed that Jamie had lost his battle and was sleeping exhausted in his arms. “I’ve set up the playpen for them to sleep in temporarily until I can wash their sheets. Merlin went through all four sets for both of them.”
Together Elaina and Arthur placed the sleeping boys in the playpen set up by the bed. The boys wouldn’t be moving back into the nursery until Arthur could clean and disinfect the floor and walls, and any other surface covered in vomit and/or poop. He set up the baby monitor and then he and Elaina headed back downstairs.
While Elaina and Gwaine started cooking dinner, Arthur changed over the laundry, putting one load in the dryer and putting the crib sheets into the washer. Then he headed into the nursery to begin cleaning up. He was half an hour into the clean up when he realized Merlin was missing in action. Pausing to check on the boys, he found Merlin spread-eagle face down on the bed, fast asleep. Arthur pulled a fleece throw over his partner and dropped a kiss on his forehead before pulling the bedroom door partially closed.
They had an hour of peace before Colin then Jamie woke up crying and the whole cycle of vomiting and diarrhea started all over again. But this time, Merlin had Arthur, Gwaine and Elaina to help with the care, cleaning and feeding.
They ate dinner with Merlin and Arthur each holding one fussy child. Colin screamed whenever anyone other than Arthur or Elaina held him, and Jamie refused to leave Merlin’s arms. The supply of clean towels was put to use as the babies were still sick and it seemed there was always one adult missing from the table to change a diaper, clean up a sick child or change over the laundry. Between bouts of sickness, they tried to get the boys to have their bottles filled with enhanced formula, hoping that some of it would stay down.
After dinner, Gwaine and Elaina pitched in to finish cleaning up the nursery, and when finally, the medicine started to kick in and the boys seemed to be settling down, they were able to settle the boys in their cribs in their clean and disinfected nursery.
Gwaine and Elaina left amid much hugging and effusive thanks. They had proved lifesavers to getting the house back under control.
When Merlin headed into the kitchen to empty the dishwasher, Arthur stopped him.
“Go to bed, Merlin. You’ve had an exhausting day.” Arthur pulled his partner into a loving hug. “I want to get a couple more loads of laundry done, and I’ll keep an ear out for the boys.”
Merlin wrapped his arms around Arthur’s waist, resting his head on Arthur’s strong shoulder. “I’m sorry you came home to such a mess. I’ll do better tomorrow, the boys hopefully won’t be so sick.”
“You did wonderfully well coping, love.” Arthur dropped a kiss on Merlin’s curls. “I called the office and left a message that I won’t be in tomorrow, so we’ll both cope with the boys.”
Merlin looked up tiredly and rested his forehead against Arthur’s. “It gets better, doesn’t it? Promise me it gets better.”
Arthur chuckled. “It gets better, love, I promise. As long as our sons have you as their father, they are the luckiest little boys on the planet. You are an amazing father, Merlin and I love you more each day, especially on days like today.”
Merlin looked at Arthur with a frown of confusion. “The babies are sick, the house is a disaster area and we’ll still be doing laundry when the babies enter school.”
“The babies are sick and you cared for them and held it together until I got home to help. The house can always be cleaned up, it’s not important. And I promise the babies will have clean clothes and clean bedding tomorrow. But right now, the most important things in the world are that our sons are sleeping safe and sound upstairs, and you are in my arms telling me that you still love me despite everything that happened today.”
Merlin’s lips quirked in his shy Merlin smile. “I love you despite everything that happened today.”
Arthur leaned in to kiss his partner but a sudden wailing from upstairs, echoed on the baby monitor spoiled the moment.
“Well, here we go again”
The two men went upstairs to care for their sons.