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2 February 5114 (Earth Standard Date)

Ddraig Llyn, Earth

 

 

“You know,” Ianto said, stirring the pot of stew that Jack had been working on, “you might be taking this just a bit out of context.”

Merlin stared at him in disbelief.  “Arthur said he wanted to get rid of our baby,” he exclaimed.  “How can I possibly take that out of context?”

“Did he actually use the word ‘abortion’ at any time during your screaming match?”

“It was hardly a screaming match!”  Merlin denied, and then considered his grandtad’s words.  “But no, he didn’t.”

“Then you shouldn’t have assumed that was the only thing on his mind.”  The elder dragon picked up a smaller spoon and dipped it into the stew.  He tasted it, muttered something about needing more salt, and went on.  “There are so many alternatives to that anymore.  He may have simply thought of another way that he wouldn’t have to carry a child.”

He was right, of course.  Merlin knew there were so many alternatives now, and so did his mate.  “Okay, maybe I was a bit hasty.  But Grandtad, I really want this baby.  I know Arthur and I discussed not having children back when we took over Torchwood, but that was before I really thought about it.  I also saw you and Grandfather raising a family and thought…well, I thought he’d change his mind someday.”

“Arthur is very stubborn.”

“Yes, he is, the obnoxious prat.”  Merlin couldn’t help but smile at that.

 Ianto returned the smile.  “See, you know you can’t hold things against him all that long.”

This was true.  Even back during their first lives Merlin always was able to forgive Arthur readily.  It was all part of Arthur’s charm…or lack thereof.

“I do know it’s Arthur’s decision in the end,” he went on, “and I’ll accept whatever he chooses.  But, Grandtad, I’ve always wanted a family of my own.”  He sighed.  “There have been times when I’ve felt alone around Arthur’s family, even though I know you’ve completely accepted me.  It’s just, well, no matter how much I love you all, you’re not related to me by blood.  And I really don’t have family of my own…well, there’s Dad, but I think I’ve seen him a handful of times in years Arthur and I have been mates.  Makes me almost wish for the times back when I travelled with him, even if Mum or Grandpa and Grandma weren’t around.  And I never could get used to his new companion, Clara.  I just don’t really care for her all that much, I’m afraid.”

“Sometimes the bonds of love are more powerful than the bonds of blood,” Ianto commented.  His eyes looked so very old in that moment, Merlin couldn’t help but hug him.

The dragon’s higher body temperature warmed Merlin’s naturally cooler skin.  “You will always be my grandson, Merlin.  Never doubt how much we love you.”

“I won’t,” the sorcerer promised. 

Their moment was broken by a pounding of feet, and a shouted, “Tad!”

“And here come the hellions,” Ianto chuckled, drawing away.  “Grab the plates, will you?  There will be eight of us for dinner tonight.”

“Sure.” He reached into the cabinets where the bowls were kept, and then for spoons in the silverware drawer. 

“Plenty of napkins, please,” the dragon reminded.  “The children are very messy eaters.”

 

**********

 

Dinner was boisterous; with six twelve year-olds it was bound to be.  There were the five orphans that had been retrieved from the past, and Alyce, who was the youngest of the blood Harkness-Jones children, born only a couple of months after the ‘quintuplets’.  It wasn’t the ‘starving hordes’ that his grandfather has claimed, but it was still rowdy and Merlin had a fantastic time with all of his youngest cousins.

This was what Arthur couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see: the happiness that children gave, even if they were too busy picking the peas out of the stew, like James was, and hiding them in Robyn’s bowl.  Or poking at each other, like Oswyn and William were.  Even Lisa’s quiet reserve and Alyce’s over-polite requests for various condiments did nothing to reduce Merlin’s enjoyment of the evening.   He tried very hard not to laugh at Lisa gripping her spoon in her claws and managing not to spill it on herself, not wanting her to withdraw into her shell just because he thought it was adorable.

The kids chattered about their day, all six of them taking lessons under the same teacher.  There was a small school in Ddraig Llyn, and even though Merlin had often heard his grandparents discussing sending the children out of the valley for a more rounded education, that never seemed to happen.  Especially with the five orphans, who were much happier in the valley among people they knew than among strangers. 

Merlin let their rapid-fire talk soothe him, and he daydreamed a bit about another child at the table, with Arthur’s hair and Merlin’s eyes, eating soup with them and telling them about his – or her – lessons and how they were getting along with all the other kids in his group. 

A sharp pang on longing stabbed him just between the hearts, and he coughed as his stew went down the wrong pipe.

Ianto’s knowing eyes met his, and he knew he didn’t have to explain what he was feeling.

 

**********

 

It was late by the time Merlin arrived back at the townhouse he shared with his mate.

Jack had shooed him out when he’s gotten back from talking with Arthur, encouraging him to really sit down and tell his mate what he was feeling.  Merlin agreed, because to do anything else would have been silly since his grandfather made perfect sense.  He really did need to have a conversation with Arthur and make his stance clear, just as Arthur needed to do with him.  They couldn’t be at cross purposes, not on this.

Merlin opened the door cautiously despite Jack assuring him that he wouldn’t get yelled at the moment he entered the house.  He practically tiptoed into the lounge; Arthur was on the sofa again, just as he was when he’d stormed out earlier.  If Jack hadn’t told Merlin that they’d been out to eat, Merlin would have thought that his mate hadn’t moved since he’d left.

“Arthur?” he said tentatively.

His mate shot to his feet.  Arthur fidgeted slightly with his hands, but he gave Merlin a smile.  “You’re home.”

“I had to come home,” Merlin said lightly, “I was practically kicked out by Grandfather and Grandtad. Something about ‘go and mope at your own home’ or something equally sarcastic.”

“That sounds like them.”  Arthur fidgeted again, and then invited Merlin to sit beside him.

They both sat on the sofa, and Arthur turned to look at him, the blue of his eyes even truer than normal.  “I think we’re shit at communicating sometimes,” he began.

Merlin rolled his eyes.  “You think?”

“Idiot,” Arthur said fondly.

“Clotpole,” Merlin replied, equally fond.  “I think I really overreacted, and I’m sorry.”

“So am I,” Arthur returned.  “I didn’t make myself really clear.  I can understand why you were so upset.”

The sorcerer reached over and took his mate’s hand.  “You have to know I’ll support you no matter what.”

“I do.  But we really need to discuss our options, because as Grandfather pointed out to me there are quite a few.”  Arthur turned his hand up, tangling his fingers with Merlin’s.  “I figure we have several; we just have to decide which one is most acceptable.”

Merlin nodded, his heart in his throat.  He really didn’t want to have this conversation; he wanted things to be perfect, and no matter what they talked about that was not going to happen.  He wanted a family with him; he wanted everything that his grandparents had, even if it was sometimes like a madhouse and Jack and Ianto didn’t know which way was up. 

“I know what family means to you,” Arthur began.  “Grandfather was very kind to point it out to me, and I’m only sorry I didn’t realise it sooner.”  He looked embarrassed. “Well, I did, but I didn’t think about it in the terms he did until he made it perfectly clear to me.  I honestly didn’t mean to hurt you with my careless words earlier.  I can only apologise for it, and my only excuse is that I was in such shock by what Gaius told me that I didn’t think about what I was saying.”

“It wasn’t just your fault,” Merlin answered.  “I took what you were saying to mean you were about to do something drastic, and should have known you wouldn’t do any such thing.  I should have stayed and talked it out with you.”

“We both weren’t at our best.”

“Nope, we weren’t.  So,” Merlin settled back onto the sofa, still keeping Arthur’s hand in his, “what are we going to do about this?  I should let you know…I do want this baby, even if you don’t want to carry it.  We can arrange for another way to have it.”

Arthur nodded slowly.  “Yes, I thought you might say that.”  He squeezed Merlin’s hand.  “Grandfather gave me a few things to think on, and I really want to share my thoughts with you, if that’s alright.”

“Of course it is.”

And so, Merlin listened as Arthur talked.

 

**********

 

It was a long night, but for some reason Arthur wasn’t tired.

He felt invigorated, in fact; invigorated and just a bit morning sick.  But that didn’t matter.  Things between him and Merlin had been cleared up, and while what they’d eventually decided would be strange and difficult, he thought it was a fairly good resolution.

Arthur had thought he’d known his mate very well, but he’d learned a few things he hadn’t even thought of before.  Jack had pointed out a few things about Merlin’s feelings on family, and he’d been correct, although it went a bit farther than that.  Arthur had come to realise that his idea of family and Merlin’s were two different things, and it actually harkened back all the way to their first lives together, when Merlin had lost his father and had been separated from his mother for so many years.  Arthur, it seemed, had always had some sort of family, even though Uther had skirted the edge of the psychotic and his half-sister, Morgana, had tried to kill him so many times and had eventually succeeded.  Then he’d been reborn into the Harkness-Jones clan, and had learned an entirely new definition of family that he hadn’t known existed.

Merlin though…it seemed, in every life he’d had, had lacked true family.  Arthur really had no idea how many times his mate had been reincarnated before they’d finally rejoined each other, but in nearly every one of them something had been wrong.  Even in his current – and fairly immortal – life wasn’t exactly the happiest.  He’d considered this his chance to finally make himself a true family, one that he could cherish and teach and be there for.  Yes, he’d done that for his cousins, and the students who had eventually become the instructors in the magical academy Merlin had set up hundreds of years ago.  But there was something special about teaching your own offspring that Merlin wanted more than anything.  He’d gained an insight into the man he’d loved throughout two lives, just as Merlin had gained a perspective into Arthur’s mind that he’d kept unintentionally hidden.

And so, the pair found themselves on the transmat pad in their family home, being greeted by their grandparents who both seemed anxious to hear what plan they’d figured out.

Arthur’s mother was there as well, and Anwyn Harkness-Jones was first forward, hugging Arthur and then Merlin and staring at them as if she was trying to read their minds.  “I just wanted to let you both know, whatever you’ve decided I’m behind you.  You’re my boys and nothing will ever change that.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Arthur said gratefully.  He hadn’t known there had been the weight of her disapproval on his shoulders until it was gone, but he really should have known better than to discount her.

“That’s actually why we’re here,” Merlin said, and he slipped his hand into Arthur’s.  All three saw the action and they received three happy expressions.

“Guess you worked it out, then,” Ianto assumed.

“We did,” Arthur agreed, “and that’s why we’re here.”

“Come and sit,” Jack said, waving them into the lounge. 

“Where’s the ravening horde?” Merlin joked. 

“In school,” Ianto answered.  “Let me get us all coffee and then we can talk.”  With that announcement, the elder dragon made his way toward the kitchen, where the distinct odour of good coffee was wafting.

“None for me, thanks,” Arthur called out. 

Ianto didn’t look back, but he waved his hand over his shoulder in acknowledgment.

Jack smirked.  “Do I need to even ask why you both look like you haven’t slept?”

Arthur rolled his eyes.  “We talked, Grandfather.  That’s all.”

Anwyn elbowed her father in the side.  “Goddess, Dad!  These are your grandchildren you’re making innuendo at.”

“Sweetheart, there’s only one way to get pregnant naturally…I do think Arthur and Merlin don’t need me to dance around the subject of sex.”

Merlin snorted back laughter, and Arthur shook his head in despair.

“Sit down, you two,” Anwyn invited.  She, herself, sat in one of the overstuffed armchairs, while Arthur pulled Merlin down next to him on one of the large sofas that dominated the room.  Jack took his own place on the second sofa, and they waited for Ianto to come out of the kitchen.

Which wasn’t very long.

The dragon came back, bearing a tray with four coffee mugs and a glass filled with what looked like orange juice.  He set the tray down on the enormous coffee table, passing out the mugs and the glass of juice, for which Arthur was grateful for.  He’d developed an addiction to orange juice since being reborn.  They hadn’t really had anything like it in Camelot.

Although he was going to miss coffee.

“Well,” Anwyn began, “what have you boys decided?”

Arthur took another drink of his juice, and then glanced over at Merlin.  He nodded in answer to his unspoken question, because they’d discussed it and Arthur had wanted to tell them himself.  Of course, he hadn’t expected his mother to be there; she was supposed to have been off-world on a run out to the frontier stations in her personal ship, the Dragon’s Eye, delivering supplies much needed by the settlers out on the rim of Imperial space.

He was glad she was there, though.  She needed to hear this as much as their grandfathers did.

“Merlin and I came to an understanding,” Arthur began.  “This pregnancy came as a surprise because I was on every contraceptive known to man –“

“I’ve said that before,” Anwyn snorted. 

Arthur gaped at his mother for a second, not having heard that particular story from her before, and then continued.  “I hadn’t realised just how much a family meant to Merlin, and he hadn’t known just how much duty meant to me.  But Merlin pointed out to me that duty wasn’t everything, and I pointed out to him that he had more family than either of us knew what to do with…”

Jack and Ianto both laughed; Anwyn grinned, rolling her eyes.

“The problem we really had,” Merlin cut in, “was that we’ve been this way through all our lives…well, through Arthur’s two and all of mine.  It’s hard enough breaking the habit of one life; doing it for a lot of them is downright crazy.”

They were nodding, so Arthur knew they understood what he and Merlin were saying.  He’d never doubted that they would.

“It took this to find out this about ourselves,” Arthur continued.  “Even we didn’t realise it was so bad, and although we’d both thought about it, we never really spoke to each other.  Sure, we danced around each other, making promises we knew, in the end, we couldn’t keep, but this…no, it was a complete shock for us both.”

Arthur took another sip of his drink.  “So, Merlin and I have decided that we really need to figure out just what we really want.  Do we want family…or do we want Torchwood?  So what we’re going to do is step away from Torchwood for a while and see what happens.  I’ll carry the baby to term, and consider what it’s like to actually be a father.  And, if we discover that we’ve somehow made a wrong choice, then so be it.  As Grandfather told me, we can always go back to Torchwood if that’s what we want.  Or, if we want to become full-time parents, then that’s certainly an option.  But we really need to figure this out between us because we can’t continue on like this.”

Anwyn had tears in her eyes, and their grandfathers both looked incredibly proud.  Arthur felt himself blushing under that pride, it meaning more to him that he could have ever said. 

His mother got up and insinuated herself between Arthur and Merlin, looping her arms around them and hugging them tightly.  “I’m gonna be a grandmother!” she practically squealed in Arthur’s ear.

“Mother!” he couldn’t help but laugh, “have some dignity!”

“Fuck dignity!” Anwyn exclaimed. “I’m going to spoil this child rotten and then send it back to you both to deal with, just you wait!”

“And you know if you choose to go back,” Jack said, “we’d be honoured to take care of the baby for you both.”

“Grandfather,” Arthur said, “did you and Grandtad ever consider going back to Torchwood?  After you both retired, I mean, and you didn’t have any younger children in the house.”  He knew that centuries separated his aunts and uncles from each other – except for Emlyn, Morgan, and Alun, who were born within the same one hundred year period – and he was genuinely curious as to why they never had.

“There was a time when we did consider it,” Ianto answered.  “But we knew that we’d have to quit again once your grandfather’s time stream caught up with his birth time, since we couldn’t risk anyone discovering his real identity and hoping to change time by doing something to keep him from achieving his immortality or his taking over Torchwood.  It wasn’t a chance we were prepared to take.  Perhaps someday down the timeline we’ll step back into a more visible role, but for now we’re perfectly happy with what we’re doing.”

“Ianto’s right,” Jack confirmed.  “Give us a couple of hundred years and we might get more involved.  But for now…family life suits us just fine.  And we do have five little dragons with certain issues that we need to help them through, plus a sixth about their same age, so we’re right where we need to be.”

Arthur nodded.  He’d known about the timeline issue, but he’d thought there would have been other reasons for his grandparents to keep remaining with such a low profile in galactic politics. 

“Have you thought about who’s going to take your places?” Anwyn asked, her arms still around the both of them.

“I think whoever becomes Director we should suggest they advance Guinevere to Second,” Merlin answered.  “What she doesn’t know about Torchwood operations aren’t worth knowing.”

“Excellent choice,” Jack agreed.  “Although why not Director?”

“Lance might actually try to kill us both if we do that,” Merlin laughed.  “And I, for one, don’t want to use up another regeneration.”

“Guinevere wouldn’t want it anyway,” Arthur replied.  “She’s a more of a “power behind the throne” type.”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” Anwyn said, “I’d like to suggest someone.”

“Certainly, Mother.  Who did you have in mind?”

Anwyn looked at both of her fathers.  “Isn’t it time we asked Uncle to finally come home?  It’s been far too long as it is…”