Everything was white.
Merlin had opened one eye, and quickly closed it again. Too much white, too bright too early in the morning. Well, that was what the thumping pain in his head was telling him anyway. Far, far too much white.
There was a groan from beside him, and the bed shifted. Merlin froze.
He couldn’t remember a great deal about the previous night. There had been drinking, and food, and Arthur… Arthur had been sharing a room with him. That huge, completely over the top honeymoon suite and that hideous heart-shaped bed. Merlin risked opening his eyes again, just briefly, just enough to get a glimpse of blond hair and far too well-toned torso.
Oh god, he thought. I got drunk and slept with Arthur!
Maybe Arthur was still asleep? Maybe if Merlin moved really carefully and stealthily off the bed, he could find his clothes and escape before Arthur woke up and told him what a horrible mistake it had been and then fired him or something? Gwen would take him in. Probably. He wondered which room she was in.
Very, very slowly and carefully, trying very hard not to wake Arthur, Merlin shuffled to the edge of the bed and sat up.
That was a bad, bad mistake. The room tilted alarmingly, and for a moment he thought he was going to be sick. But the feeling settled, and he attempted getting off the bed and standing up.
Arthur groaned again, and pulled the sheet up over his head. “Shhh.”
Merlin was pretty sure that he wasn’t making any noise. He was also fairly sure it was Arthur’s fault they’d had so much champagne, and so was fairly low on sympathy.
He was still wearing his boxers. That was good, maybe they’d just collapsed together on the bed, drunk. Maybe he’d be able to keep his job after all. He needed water and pain killers, not necessarily in that order. There was some paracetamol in his case, so he staggered over and rummaged through it, not caring that he was throwing most of his belongings on the floor. Finding the tablets, he swallowed two dry, then grabbed a discarded champagne flute and filled it from the sink.
Only when he had drunk several glasses did he start looking around for tumblers and belatedly take one over to Arthur, dropping the pain killers on the nightstand nearest him and leaving a cup of water there too. And then he looked around the room properly.
There was a cake on the table. A large, garishly decorated cake with a plastic Elvis standing on the top. Next to it was a furry toy that was sitting on top of some sort of certificate.
It was strange, because Merlin had experienced an odd dream last night, in his drunken state, and it had involved Elvis. Specifically it had involved Elvis singing a lot, and Arthur kissing Merlin. Perhaps they’d found an Elvis movie on the hotel film channel or something, and Merlin had fallen asleep and dreamed, as he often did, of Arthur? It was all a blur, really. He wandered over to the table, curious, and picked up the certificate.
Merlin looked back at the bed, where Arthur was now sitting up and taking the tablets, grumbling and complaining and holding his head as if it might fall off. He looked no better than Merlin did, hair sticking up in all directions.
“Arthur,” Merlin waved the certificate at him. “Arthur…” He couldn’t actually think of anything else to say.
“Shh…” Arthur urged. “Head hurts.”
It was going to hurt a whole lot more in a moment. Merlin shoved the certificate under his nose.
“What’s this?” he demanded.
Arthur blinked slowly, and Merlin tried not to find that adorable. “Huh?”
“This!” Merlin jabbed a finger at the certificate. “It says we’re married! And I remember Elvis! I think we are!”
“Huh?” said Arthur again. He obviously wasn’t at his best in the morning. But Merlin wasn’t in London, he wasn’t going to look for one of Arthur’s fancy coffees just to pander to the pampered git. Not after this revelation.
“Elvis. Us. Married.”
“We’ve married Elvis?”
“Elvis married us. To each other!”
“No…” Arthur was reading it infuriatingly slowly. “That wasn’t a wedding, it was a joke. Vegas thing. It was Elvis. Not real.”
“Yes! People come to Vegas to get married. Elvis impersonators conduct the service. It’s a thing. It’s all legal. We. Are. Married.”
“Yes!” Merlin’s hangover was still painful, but it had taken second place to this new horror. “Look, we signed it. God, how much did we drink?”
“Hey!” Arthur looked affronted. “I’m a catch! Eligible bachelor!”
“Not any more. And you’re a catch? That’s all you’ve got to say?”
“Well… no, but…”
“Mum’s going to kill me! She’ll kill you too, in case you’re wondering. But mostly me.”
“Your mum likes me,” Arthur protested. “Oh god, my father…”
“Never mind your father. My mum, ever since gay weddings became legal, has been looking forward to mine. She’s planned it, even. She’s giving me away, she’s picked out a church, I think she’s even got an outfit planned.”
“You aren’t dating anyone, why would she?”
“Doesn’t matter! Oh god, oh god… she’s going to murder me! And cry! She’ll cry, Arthur. And be furious at the same time. I can’t go home, ever.”
Arthur was still looking at the certificate. “I’m sure it’s not genuine.”
“It’s real! Well we’ll have to get it annulled, that’s all. We didn’t actually…” he glanced at the bed, and then at Arthur’s state of undress. “Um… we haven’t actually… um…”
“Consummated, Merlin, that’s the word. No, you had an intimate moment with the bathtub, and you might want to check that’s all washed away because it was pretty gross. So no, don’t worry, your honour is completely intact.”
Merlin ignored the sarcastic tone, and took the certificate back. He sat down on the edge of the bed, regarding it miserably. “So what do we do now?”
Arthur’s phone beeped with an incoming text, but Arthur ignored it. “We call that George person in, and tell him if he doesn’t sort this out I’ll have him fired. This is his fault.”
Much as Merlin would have liked to strangle George right then, he didn’t really want to see him sacked. Plus, if Arthur was starting to think about sacking people then who was to say that Merlin wouldn’t be next? “That’s a bit harsh. Gwen and your sister probably put him up to it.”
The phone beeped again. Arthur snatched it up, looked at the message, then started to text back furiously. “That harpy! She says she’s on her way down. We need to get out of here. Get dressed, we’re going on that canyon trip you wanted.”
“No of course not with Morgana. Away from Morgana. Far, far away from her till this is sorted out.”
Merlin didn’t really feel like going anywhere. “Really? Can’t I just sleep here, in the dark, till my head stops hurting?”
Arthur didn’t answer immediately, still texting. “Okay… we’ve got an hour. And I don’t think she knows yet. Go and shower, I’ll call George, get this sorted.”
Fifty-seven minutes later they were heading out of Vegas in a hire car. Merlin, his hair still curling damply from the shower, slumped low in the passenger seat, was hiding from the bright sunlight behind a spare pair of Arthur’s aviator sunglasses. He wasn’t sure how Arthur had recovered enough from his hangover to drive safely (and on the wrong side of the road as well), but Arthur insisted and there was no arguing with him. Merlin knew, he’d tried.
Besides, Arthur was in a very bad mood.
George, apparently, had done a very thorough job and they were married, and no amount of threats and yelling was going to change that. Arthur had attempted both, simultaneously, but George had stood firm and eventually pointed out that there was a clause in his contract that said he didn’t have to listen to abuse and could walk out on them. And so he did.
Not to be out-stropped, Arthur had promptly thrown everything into a suitcase, made Merlin do the same, and declared they were leaving the hotel. It was best not to argue with Arthur when he was in that sort of mood, so Merlin just went along with it.
“We could stop and get coffee?” Merlin suggested as they sped along the highway. He was fairly sure they were over the speed limit and didn’t want to wind up getting arrested on top of everything else. Arthur was quite likely to punch a speed cop if he was pulled over in this mood. “You’ll feel better with coffee.”
Arthur just growled, and kept going.
They drove along in silence for nearly an hour, then Merlin’s mobile bleeped for attention.
“Leave it,” Arthur snarled. “It’ll be Morgana.”
It was Gwen, but given Arthur’s mood right then that was probably just as bad. “We should let them know where we’ve gone.”
“Why? They don’t need us for this. I just come along because I have to, there’s no point in me being there. There were a couple of deals in LA, but this is just promotion and an excuse for Morgana to hit the casinos.”
“So why do I need to be here?” Merlin asked. He knew perfectly well that the answer was to keep him away from Gwaine, but he thought he’d let Arthur squirm a bit.
“Because you’re my assistant.”
“Actually,” Merlin tipped back further in the seat, and put his feet up on the dashboard. It was a big, roomy giant of a car, but then it was typical of Arthur to get one like that. “I’m your husband.”
“Ooh, abuse. I’ll mention it in the divorce papers.”
“Annulment, Mer-lin, on the grounds of mental incapability. Shouldn’t be hard to prove in your case. There’ll be no divorce.”
“But I want half of everything.” Actually, that wasn’t a bad idea, given how rich Arthur was. But Merlin would never do that do him.
“What?” Arthur gave him a sharp look.
But Arthur obviously didn’t think that was funny. His mouth was set in a hard, firm line, and it suddenly occurred to Merlin that yes, he probably could claim some kind of settlement if he tried, and that Arthur probably was wondering now if he was some sort of gold-digger.
“I wouldn’t,” Merlin added, sitting up. “You know I wouldn’t.”
“That Elvis,” Arthur said thoughtfully. “He knew you. He said something strange at the end of the ceremony, something about your Uncle Gaius.”
Merlin couldn’t remember that, and said as much, but he could tell Arthur didn’t believe him.
“You ordered more champagne.”
“You told me to! I told you I’m a lightweight! If anything it was your fault. And your sister. I told you, my mum’s going to be devastated.”
“Hmmm,” Arthur was, Merlin noticed, slowing down a little. “I suppose.”
“So can we agree neither of us meant to do this, and stop for breakfast?” Merlin pleaded. “I’m starving! And this is a five hour drive!”
“Five hours?” Arthur looked horrified. “It said two and a half to the Skywalk!”
“I want to see the proper canyon,” Merlin told him. “South Rim is best. North too, if we’ve got time. Come on, you said yourself we’re not needed back there. We’ve got a few days. I’ll drive too, if you like?”
Arthur was calming down, Merlin could tell.
“It’ll be fun,” he added. “And so far away from Morgana!”
They were passing a diner, and to Merlin’s relief Arthur pulled into the parking lot there.
“Yes! Thank you!”
“It had better be fun,” Arthur warned.
Merlin grinned at him, the smell of cooking from the diner already cheering him up. “How could it not be?” he asked, then cheekily batted his eyelids. “It’s our honeymoon!”
And, to Merlin’s relief, for the first time that morning Arthur laughed.