Title: Ties That Bind
Fandom: Merlin (bbc)
Disclaimer: I do not own
Summary: When Merlin saves a young boy from would-be-kidnappers, he unknowingly starts the course of events that lead him to meet the boy's father, Arthur, who has played a painful part in changing Merlin's familiy's life in the past.
"There's something seriously
wrong with that woman."
Merlin smirked in amusement as he leaned over his newest creation. He was a book cover design artist, specializing in Children's Books, and was currently working on the cover of what promised to be the next Harry Potter series. "I'm going to take a huge intuitive guess and decide you're whining about Morgana."
lin." During the two months they'd known each other, Arthur had gotten a penchant for acting like a prat, for whining about Morgana, and for enunciating Merlin's name like that. "I do not whine
. I'm just stating that obviously that whole family has problems."
"Don't bring Morgause into this." Merlin frowned. "Morgana might be her sister but she's nothing like her."
"True." Arthur admitted. "Morgana's intimidating
Once again the amusement chased away annoyance. "Are you, the great Arthur Pendragon, admitting to being intimidated by a woman?"
"Not at all." Arthur scoffed. "She's obviously
a man in drag."
Merlin burst out laughing, not having heard that one before. "Are you still sensitive about Morgana telling you that you obviously
had to have been the female in your relationship with Morgause?"
Arthur growled at Merlin for reminding him of that comment.
Ever since they'd met each other, Morgana and Arthur had been at each other's throat. Honestly, it was as if they were a cat and a dog, or a brother and a sister, or something. Merlin would have thought that they liked each other and were in denial if it wasn't for the fact that Morgana was terminally lesbian and utterly devoted to Gwen...and Arthur seemed unable to believe that Morgana was truly a human being and not a cyborg sent from the future with the sole purpose of making his life miserable.
"So, how's the cover going?" Arthur asked after a moment.
"It's coming..." Merlin sighed, leaning back in his seat and looking at his outline with a critical eye. "It's still the first draft---I just can't get a sense of what the most important part of the book is yet. It's what I usually base the cover off of."
"What about an important part of the end?" Arthur offered.
"I don't want to give away the whole plot!" Merlin gasped.
"What about something from the first couple of chapters then?" The blonde asked.
"It's actually a little boring the first couple of chapters." Merlin felt horrible for admitting. "But it picks up around the fifth chapter and gets interesting then."
"If it took that long I'd never finish it." Arthur snorted. "I've never been much for reading myself, but if the bloody book didn't manage to get my attention by the third chapter then I didn't continue."
Merlin made a face and sighed, eyes still on his design. A lot of people were like Arthur in that aspect, and Merlin worried about the book because of it. The story was entertaining and enrapturing, but it took a while to convince you of its worth.
He sighed again.
"Stop frowning, you'll get wrinkles."
"Soph's my daughter---I've had wrinkles since she was born!" Merlin chuckled, looking up at the clock and pushing away from the table. "Mordred's been reading the manuscript for me to see what he found the most impressive part. He should finish it by today after doing his homework with the girls."
"That's child labor, Emrys." Came the teasing.
"The kid enjoys it." Merlin scoffed, making a face at Arthur although he knew that the other man couldn't see him. "And anyway, I'm going to have to pick up the girls and Mordred in a couple of minutes."
"Is it that time already?" Arthur asked in surprise. "The whole morning has flown by when you're having fun."
"What exactly do you do?" Merlin asked for maybe the hundredth time. It was a point of annoyance in him that Arthur seemed to spend his day calling Merlin at various hours to complain about this or that or just to talk, and yet the man lived the lifestyle of the rich and famous if his clothes and cars had anything to say about it. Obviously he did something he got a lot of money for, but Arthur would always sidestep the issue whenever Merlin brought it up, and Mordred had admitted to not knowing what his father or grandfather did. So, deciding that he wasn't desperate enough to try and Google Arthur and Uther Pendragon, Merlin had resolved to annoy the blonde until he broke and finally told him.
lin." Arthur sighed. "Why do we have to talk about this again?"
"Again?" Merlin raised an eyebrow. "Arthur, when have we talked about this? I've asked, you've sidestepped, just like you're doing now."
"What I do isn't important." Arthur's voice was getting a little hard. "What matters is that Mordred stays with you in the evenings after school, and that he has utterly fallen in love with you and the girls, and he's safe and protected with you. What matters is that Mordred doesn't have to be cooped up in the house every night because he spends many nights just sleeping over yours, playing games till ungodly hours of the night with the twins beating them at poker."
Merlin smiled despite himself at that.
Sophia rued the day she'd taught Mordred to play poker.
"What matters is that my son is smiling...has been ever since he met you."
Merlin ducked his head, unsure why he felt embarrassed all of a sudden.
"And...and I enjoy the sanctuary your house is, Merlin." Arthur sounded a bit uncomfortable. "Even if 'that woman' is around, Gwen is usually there to hold her reigns---god bless that brave soul---or I can always retire to the safety of my room."
Merlin smiled, going to the window and looking out at the sky, at the clouds that promised rain. "Your room?"
"Well, Mordred's and my room. Same difference."
The second guest bedroom had somehow become Mordred and Arthur's room. It was the room that Mordred slept in whenever he'd sleep over, which was becoming more and more frequent, and it was also the room Arthur would collapse in if he came to pick up Mordred after staying at work to an ungodly time of the night, and Merlin refused to let the red-eyed and obviously exhausted man drive home.
In these two months the two families had tried spending as much time together for the children's sakes, and yet Merlin had to admit that he was enjoying having Arthur around. Even if he was a prat.
"Do you have an umbrella with you?" Merlin asked as he grabbed his coat and pulled it on. "Looks like it's going to rain."
"Does it?" Arthur asked, the sound of a chair rolling around and blinds being opened clearly heard. "Bugger."
Merlin snorted as he reached for his keys and put them into his coat pocket as he went to put on his shoes. "Well, I"m going to go pick up the kids now, so you go and do whatever mysterious work it is you do."
"Thank you for your permission." Arthur's voice dripped of sarcasm before he chuckled. "Well, see you at home. Oh, and Mer
lin, try not to get in an accident while driving our kids?"
And he hung up before Merlin could retaliate.
"That prat." Merlin shook his head with a smile as he grabbed an umbrella and headed out to pick the children up.
The whole drive he couldn't help but wonder, once more, what exactly it was that Arthur did.
Obviously he was important and made a lot of money.
But why keep his profession such a secret?
It wasn't as if he was some spy for the crown or something.
He parked outside of St. Augustine's, since it was closer to his place than the girls' school, and got out, opening his umbrella and holding it above him as the first drops of rain began to fall. The tall, thin man made his way to the gated entrance of the illustrious school and waved a greeting to Barty the guard, who smiled and waved back, used to seeing Merlin now. The father of two looked around at the many young faces waiting for their parents to pick them up, and frowned in a moment's concern when he couldn't see Mordred.
Turning at the sound of the boy's voice, Merlin smiled at him. "You had me worried."
Mordred was walking with a beautiful, dark haired woman. "Sorry Merlin, Ms. Nimueh wanted to meet you." He led the woman (who was also protected by an umbrella) to Merlin and smiled. "Merlin, this is my homeroom and Latin professor, Ms. Nimueh---Ms. Nimueh, this is Merlin."
"I've heard so much about you Merlin." Nimueh offered him a bright smile and her hand, shaking his. "I needed to meet you for myself."
"I still can't believe kids his age are learning Latin." Merlin chuckled, shaking her hand as well. "It's nice to meet you, Ms. Nimueh."
"Please, just call me Nimueh." She smiled at him as their fingers slipped out of the other's hold. "Mordred. Would you go wait with Bayard for a moment so I can talk to Merlin?"
"Yes ma'am." Mordred nodded and went to the boy under the blue umbrella.
Nimueh waited until he was out of hearing to turn to Merlin once more. "I don't know what you've done to the kid, but I must thank you for it."
Merlin blinked, a little confused. "I haven't done anything to him."
"But you have." Nimueh smiled, twirling her umbrella slightly. "You probably wouldn't realize it because you didn't know how Mordred was before, but he's changed since you started taking care of him. He actually smiles in class, and he laughed out loud the other day! Everyone was so surprised!" She chuckled at the memory. "Don't get me wrong, everyone loves Mordred, but he's always been so reserved, so serious. I know his father loves him but sometimes kids need more than that, and you're obviously giving him something that he was missing in his life." Her gaze went to Mordred and it turned tender. "That boy is special, he's bright and charming and now he has all the little girls half in love with him since they've figured out how handsome he is now that he smiles."
Merlin grinned at the thought. "He's a lady's man, is he?"
"Oh, I think he's still at the age where he believes girls have cooties." Nimueh confessed with a conspirator's whisper. "But he's beginning to grow into himself more. That's good."
"Yeah, it is." Merlin nodded, eyes on Mordred as well.
"I know this may be forward of me, but how long have you and Mister Pendragon been together?" Nimueh asked.
Merlin choked on saliva and turned to look at her, eyes wide. "Pardon
She blushed slightly. "I hope you don't think I'm condemning you, I'm actually very much in favor of anyone being able to love whomever they choose. I'm just very curious. Mordred---he speaks of you so fondly, and according to him he practically lives with you and your daughters---and he calls them his sisters and so..."
!" Merlin ducked his head and laughed, a little relieved even though his heart was still racing. "No, uh, I don't think Mordred has explained the situation properly." He was blushing and he knew it as he looked at her curious blue eyes. "My daughters are Mordred's sister. They have the same mother. None of us knew this until a couple of months back, and since the kids love each other Mordred spends most of his time with the girls, which is why he's always over at my house."
Nimueh's eyes widened. "Oh. I thought---oh."
Merlin chuckled and nodded.
"Isn't that...awkward?" Nimueh asked curiously.
"Nah." Merlin smiled. "We love him dearly."
Her face broke out in a smile and she reached over to pat his cheek. "You're a good man, Merlin Emrys. I'm glad Mordred has you in his life."
Merlin felt his face going hot red.
"Let's go." A dark, unhappy voice said by Merlin's side, startling the grownups into noticing Mordred and Nimueh into removing her hand from Merlin's cheek. The young boy's face had clouded over, his eyes narrowed as he reached for Merlin's hand. "Let's go Merlin. Dad told me he'd be coming home early this evening. Lets go
"Mordred, I'm talking to your teacher." Merlin frowned at the boy, confused as to his suddenly dark mood. "Don't be rude."
Mordred looked down and to the side, eyes dark with displeasure, his grip tightening on Merlin's hand. "Merlin, dad wants to cook us dinner tonight. You should be there."
Merlin's eyes widened in horror as he remembered the last time Arthur had tried to cook something. "He's cooking us dinner? He'll burn my home to the ground!" The man turned to Nimueh. "It was nice meeting you, Nimueh, but I have to go pick up my girls and rush home before that prat burns it down!"
Nimueh looked amused and nodded. "Good luck."
He grinned. "Thanks! I'll need it!"
Mordred seemed way too happy to begin pulling Merlin away from Nimueh and towards the car.
The man allowed himself to be pulled, trying to keep the umbrella between them so the boy didn't get wet. "Is there something bothering you?"
"No." Came the curt answer.
Merlin raised an eyebrow. "You can tell me, you know, if there's something wrong."
"Nothing's wrong." Mordred insisted, opening the front passengers door and getting in, closing the door behind him loudly.
Confused as to what had brought on the mood, Merlin waited there a second before going to the driver's side, getting in, and driving towards his daughters' school.
"I think you overreacted." Sophia announced, laying on her stomach as she went over her homework.
"She was touching
him." Mordred frowned as he and Freya were in the same position, doing theirs as well. "It looked like flirting to me."
Freya frowned slightly. "Maybe he didn't overreact. Maybe she is
interested in papa."
Sophia stopped writing and looked up at that. "Will you two stop worrying? Daddy isn't going to all of a sudden decide he likes some random bint, okay?" Her eyes narrowed on Freya. "And anyway, you and I have chased away any woman who's been interested in him in the past, what makes this one so much different?"
Freya sighed. "I don't know. I just worry."
"You worry about everything." Sophia admonished before sitting up. "Listen to them."
Freya and Mordred went silent, listening to their parents' voices in the kitchen."You're burning my pots!"
"I'm not doing any such thing, Merlin. You just have crappy pots. I'll buy you new ones first thing tomorrow."
"I don't want new pots! I want you to stop destroying the ones I already have!"
"Stop being such a girl Merlin! Be a man! Toughen up! Forget about the pots!"
"Ouch! Merlin! You hit me with the wok!"
"You told me to toughen up, didn't you?"
"Why you cheeky, skinny little man!"
"Hey! I'm taller than you!"
"Face my wrath!"
The sound of food being thrown around and muffled laughter erupted from the kitchen."I hope you know you're cleaning this all up."
"Merlin, what good is magic if you don't use it for these sorts of things?"
"Hey! Don't abuse my magic! I don't use it for trivial things like cleaning!"
"Then don't complain when you help me clean later."
There was a sigh. "Why does 'help me clean' ALWAYS end up with ME doing all the work?"
"Because you don't use your magic?"
Sophia turned to the others and smiled. "See? Everything is perfectly fine between them. This Miniway hasn't changed anything."
"Nimueh." Mordred corrected.
." Sophia singsonged, laying back down on her stomach. "And anyway, everything's bee going according to plan. I mean, they're getting along smashingly on their own. I even haven't had to resort to my list."
Freya and Mordred exchanged looks at mention of The List."What's that smell?"
"It's burning! Arthur you nitwit! The food's on fire! Again!"
"It's your stove, Merlin. You just have a crappy stove. I'll buy you a new one first thing tomorrow."
The scent of smoke was the only warning they had before the fire sprinkler system went off.
Merlin growled."I'll buy you new furniture first thing tomorrow."
"I wanted take out food anyway."
"Merlin, put the spatula down!"
The kids, drenched in water from the sprinkler system, just giggled.
"I can't believe you attacked me with a spatula
." Arthur chuckled as he finished the mopping.
Merlin had had to use his magic to save the electronics and the furniture from water damage, but he'd refused to use it for anything else and had forced Arthur to help him mop.
"Be glad I didn't have a mincer at hand." Merlin chuckled, surveying the result of their hard work. "You're forevermore banned from the kitchen."
"I'm telling you---."
"No---don't even start." Merlin cut him off with a chuckle."You cheated!"
Sophia's voice could be heard complaining, from where the kids were playing some game after eating the pizza that had been ordered."No, you just suck at this."
Mordred replied easily."I do not!"
Sophia whined."Will you two just stop arguing?"
Freya sounded tired."I will if he lets me win at least one game!"
Sophia proclaimed."You're such a girl."
Mordred sighed."Of course I am!"
Sophia retorted hotly.
Arthur and Merlin shared a look before chuckling.
"They really are getting along well, huh?" Arthur asked.
"Yeah, as if they grew up together all their lives." Merlin agreed, putting away the mops in the storage closet.
"You---this home---it's all been very good for Mordred." Arthur cleared his throat. "I'm going to be out of the country for a few days and I don't want to leave Mordred with my father. I was wondering if he could stay here." There was a pause. "I know he'd enjoy it better and I'd feel more at peace if I knew he was with you."
For some reason that touched Merlin and he nodded, turning to Arthur. "Mordred's always welcomed here."
Arthur smiled at Merlin in an odd way that made him somewhat nervous. "You know, you'd make a great
Merlin's eyes widened. "Pardon
Arthur chuckled and patted Merlin on the shoulder. "You always get flustered so easily!" And with that he walked out the kitchen to go see what the kids were up to.
Merlin just followed him with his gaze, confused as to why his heart was racing so rapidly all of a sudden.