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This Will Be Our Year (Took a Long Time to Come)

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The moment Gwen wakes up she has to cough. Merlin must feel the vibrations because he stirs in bed beside her. It’s a sight she normally enjoys, Merlin waking up like a particularly disgruntled kitten, his face scrunched up and his limbs all stretched out. His hair’s in disarray, as always, he keeps meaning to get it cut but she rather likes him like this. When he’s in his Christmas jumper and reading glasses, the rumpled hair adds to the impression of a sexily dishevelled librarian. And call Gwen ridiculous but she always had a thing for Giles from Buffy…

She coughs again and Merlin’s eyes pop open. He turns to smile at her and then sits up, groping for his hearing aids on the side table. He usually takes them off before bed and leaves them in the living room but they’d both just stumbled in and crashed after Arthur’s New Year’s party last night.

He leans in for a kiss but Gwen coughs before he can make contact.

“Aw, are you alright?”

“I’m fine, just a cough,” Gwen tries to say but it comes out as a hoarse whisper.

Merlin looks puzzled and reaches up to adjust his hearing aids.

“No, it’s not you,” Gwen says, moving her mouth slowly. “I think I’ve lost my voice.”

Merlin’s face falls immediately.

“Is it the flu? Do you have a temperature? Do you need to go to the doctor-”

“No, fusspot! Just a cold.”

It doesn’t hurt to talk but it’s scratchy as hell. And she can tell Merlin’s having trouble hearing so she makes an effort to mouth the words.

“I’m okay, love, it’s only a sore throat. Also, good luck finding a doctor’s open on New Year’s Day.”

Merlin’s relaxed fractionally, though he still looks perturbed.

“I’d take you to A&E,” he says and she swats at him.

“For a sore throat?”

“Might as well take advantage of the NHS before the Tories chop it up for good.”

“I’m sure the junior doctors would love us for that,” Gwen tries to say but gets taken over by a coughing fit.

Merlin’s rubbing her back in an instant and while it doesn’t help at all with the coughing, it does feel nice. Gwen sinks into him when she’s done, tips her head up for a kiss.

“You haven’t said happy new year yet,” she teases and Merlin kisses her again.

“Happy new year. Even if you are a sickly thing.”

“Hey!” she protests but she’s glad really, because Merlin gets so worried when she’s ill or injured. He flaps around like a headless chicken when she so much as cuts her finger chopping carrots, and he was white faced on the trip to the hospital last year when she broke her wrist.

She loves him for his attentiveness and there’s a part of her that likes being a bit coddled when she’s in pain or ill. But this really is just a sore throat and a scratchy voice, nothing a cup of tea can’t fix…

“No tea!” Merlin announces and it reminds her so much of Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast that she imitates him and then the two of repeat it to each other until they collapse in fits of laughter.

“But seriously, I want tea,” she whines after they’ve subsided and Merlin shakes his head.

“You need honey and lemon first, best thing for a sore throat.”

“We’re out of lemons.”

“I’ll go to the shop,” Merlin says and then just pulls his coat on over his pyjamas because he has zero class. Gwen tells him so and he tweaks her nose.

“I’m harking back to my student days. Those classic hungover trips to Tesco for orange juice in your dressing gown-”

“I never did that,” Gwen rasps but Merlin’s back’s turned so he doesn’t hear.

She waves him off and then snuggles back down in the covers. Arthur’s party had been good last night but they’d been out until 4am. She and Merlin weren’t nineteen anymore (despite Merlin’s lack of pyjama related shame) and she could hardly be surprised that she felt under the weather today.

She dozes until Merlin comes back, armed with a truly ridiculous amount of lemons.

“Are we setting up a lemonade stand?” she tries to say but it comes out as a whisper.

“Poor button, all your snark is going to waste,” Merlin says smugly. “Can’t hear a word.”

“Jerk.”

“Hey!”

“Aha!”

Merlin jumps back onto the bed and then makes Gwen sit up so he can tuck the covers around her. Then he potters off to the kitchen and she hears the kettle boiling.

“Mrs Singh says get well soon,” he calls. “She recommends garlic.”

“Pass,” Gwen says to herself, burrowing down so only the top of her head is sticking out of the duvet. It’s so deliciously warm in her little cocoon, she could stay like this all day.

Merlin appears at the door suddenly, juggling three lemons.

“Hey, look how good I am at-”

He promptly drops one and the other two follow suit, bouncing across the floor. Merlin curses and Gwen gives him a sarcastic round of applause.

“You know what they say, Gwen,” Merlin says, crouching to retrieve them. “When life gives you lemons…”

She throws a pillow at his head and he squawks.

“Oi! I’m trying to take care of you!”

Gwen gives him a kiss for that, when he brings the honey and lemon over. He rearranges the duvet so she can poke a hand out and smiles when she pulls a sour face.

“Not enough honey.”

“It’s meant to be sharp!”

But he relents and dribbles some more in.

“You’re already sounding better.”

It’s true, Gwen’s voice is at least coherent now, if strained. She sings a few words of Auld Lang Syne and Merlin joins in, even though his voice is legendarily terrible.

“The neighbours will complain,” she points out and he sings louder, until she can hardly breathe for laughing. Then she starts coughing again and Merlin switches back into anxious mode.

“It could be a chest infection.”

“Oh hush. We were out on Arthur’s balcony at 2am waving sparklers, this was bound to happen.”

Merlin grins at the memory.

“Arthur kept getting the ones that fizzled out.”

“And he was far too drunk to relight them,” Gwen says, remembering Arthur huffing and puffing before he tried to snatch Morgana’s. A brief and vicious scuffle had ensued, from which Morgana had emerged the winner, predictably.

As if on cue, Merlin’s phone buzzes with a text from Arthur.

“He says he’s so hungover that he can’t even move to change the channel from QVC.”

“It’s an excuse, Arthur loves the shopping channels,” Gwen says, knowing full well from their uni days that Arthur had a funny thing for the useless tat they flogged.

“No way.”

“Where do you think he got those toast tongs from? And the toilet roll cover?”

Merlin’s eyes gleam and he starts texting back furiously, clearly eager to utilise this newly gained knowledge for purposes of mockery.

Gwen reaches out of her cocoon far enough to pick up her own phone and see that Morgana has sent her a picture from the country walk she’d gone on at nine am.

“God, she’s so annoying,” Gwen says fondly, showing Merlin the photo of a perfectly coiffed Morgana posing with some sheep.

“She’s a beautiful robot,” Merlin agrees cheerfully and they send her a picture of them sticking their tongues out.

Then Gwen has another coughing fit and Merlin insists breakfast is the answer. After some skilled pleading, she persuades him to bring her a bowl of porridge in bed, with the long awaited cup of tea. Then she sends him back to make some toast for himself because when Merlin’s in caretaker mode he tends to forget everything else.

“Can we just stay in bed all day?” she says when the breakfast is done and they’re both pleasantly sticky with honey and toast crumbs.

“Definitely. New Year’s Day is for lolling around and making empty resolutions we’re never going to keep.”

“Ah, of course. Let’s see. I’m going to give up smoking.”

“You don’t smoke!” Merlin says indignantly.

“Yes, so I’m guaranteed success. You?”

Merlin hums.

“I’m going to sing around the flat more,” he says at last.

“Oh no. Please no. Let this be a resolution you break immediately.”

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to miiiind,” Merlin warbles in an awful Scottish accent. Gwen finds the only way to shut him up is with a kiss, which isn’t too terrible a price to pay.

Then they huddle under the covers again, and Gwen tucks herself under Merlin’s arm, face angled so he can see her lips.

“Any real ones?”

“Maybe try learning Spanish again?” Merlin says. “Though I say that every year.”

“I’d like to learn to crochet,” Gwen says decisively. “I don’t know how or where but I’d like to.”

“Excellent. Two strong resolutions that might even last into February.”

She nuzzles into his neck, enjoying the slightly itchy feel of the stubble there.

“Thank you for the breakfast in bed,” she says and he threads his fingers into her hair.

“Anything for you, button,” he says softly and Gwen can’t hold back her smile.

“It’s gonna be a good year,” she says. “For us. I can feel it.”

“I’ll second that,” Merlin says and she falls asleep to the feel of him stroking her hair.