Disclaimers: The story and characters are mine. If you wish to use them in your own work, please ask. This is dedicated to my Betty who brought to life the true spirit of Christmas. Feedback can be sent to Taleweaver. Flames will be sent to the recycle bin.
THE NIGHT BEFORE: A MERLIN AND MORRIGAN CHRISTMAS TALE
© by Taleweaver
Merlin tiptoed down the stairs, pausing at the squeaky fourth riser. She stepped over the stair and continued down the staircase. She could just make out Paul and Verne’s silhouettes through the dimpled glass of the front door. She had known they would be here on time. Punctuality was one of Paul’s attributes.
She, Paul, and Morrigan’s biological father, Verne, had been planning this surprise for two weeks. They had all gathered at Verne’s house the night before to play cards, and when the time came to depart, invented car trouble had provided Verne with a reason to invite Paul to spend the night. Morrigan had no idea that Paul’s car ran as well as it ever had, and she went home none the wiser.
Now, at 5 in the morning, their surprise was about to start coming together.
Merlin unlocked the old door as quietly as she could and Paul stage-whispered, “Give a guy a hand, Merlin?”
She took five of the brightly coloured packages that threatened to spill from Paul’s grip and stepped aside so they could come in out of the chill.
“Is she still asleep?” Verne asked quietly.
“She’ll sleep until I wake her likely. We were up late.”
“I don’t want to know.” Paul mumbled from beside the tree.
“Was she suspicious?”
“Verne, you guys were Oscar-worthy.”
“Good thing she doesn’t know much about the electrical system of my car.” Paul whispered as he plugged in the tree lights.
“I’ll get the coffee.”
“Good idea, Verne. I’ll go wake Miss Sleepalot.” Merlin grinned and she turned back to the staircase.
“Morrigan. Time to wake up. It’s Christmas.”
“That’s nice.” Said the head under the pillow.
“C’mon! I’ve got a surprise for you!”
“Can it wait until dawn?”
“Nope!” Merlin couldn’t keep the grin from her voice.
A corner of the pillow lifted. “Does it come with coffee?”
As she rubbed the sleep from her eyes, Morrigan asked, “Are you always this perky on Christmas morning?”
“I don’t know,” Merlin replied as she handed Morrigan her housecoat. “This is the first Christmas I’ve looked forward to since I was a kid.”
At the bottom step, Merlin told Morrigan to cover her eyes, and she did as she’d been asked. Morrigan felt her stomach clenching as her guide led her slow and carefully. Finally she was told to uncover her eyes. As she was blinking to adjust to the tree lights, Verne, Paul, and Merlin all shouted "Surprise!"
“Dad? Verne? Wow … Merry Christmas!”
Paul chuckled. “Merry Christmas, kiddo. Here have a cup of go-juice.”
Morrigan sank gratefully onto the sofa and took a coffee mug from the man that she had thought for so long was her father. She’d had a rough year, and discovering family secrets had only been a small part of that. She had been stalked, drugged, tortured, kidnapped, and assaulted. But at that very moment, she didn’t care. She watched the tree lights twinkle and race amidst the greenery, and the scent of cedar made all the bad memories fade away. “So your car…?”
“Is just fine.” Paul grinned wickedly. “I didn’t want to face an hour drive back at four in the morning, so Verne and Merlin came up with phony car trouble.”
“Yeah, but the electrical system was your idea!” Verne protested.
“Speaking of which, where is Merlin?” Morrigan asked.
“Right here.” Replied a voice from the stairs. As she drew closer, they could see that Merlin had changed into a Santa suit. They watched her plant the cap on her head. “Okay. NOW I’m ready.”
They all laughed.
“Well, Santa was tuckered out, so I offered to pitch in.” Merlin came into the living room and took a sip from her own mug on the mantle before bending to retrieve the first package. It was wrapped in bright purple, with a holographic silver bow. “It’s for Paul.”
He grinned and carefully removed the bow and handed it to ‘Santa’. He ripped the paper off with the glee of a five year old and removed a plain brown box. Once he had wrestled it open, a confused shadow crossed his features. Inside was nestled another box, which held a smaller box, which finally gave up a plain envelope. They all watched as his eyes scanned quickly across the note found inside. He froze for just a couple of seconds, and then a wide grin split his stubbled face.
“Flying lessons! How did you two know?”
Merlin and Morrigan both smiled. “We can’t name our sources, Dad. It’s against the writer’s code, you know that.”
Next was a gift for Verne. It was wrapped in silver with purple ribbon, and the contrast made Verne and Paul roll their eyes. No nested boxes here though, and as Merlin stuck the second bow to the mantle beside the first, Verne removed an air hammer.
“Very nice. A Bostitch finish nailer. I’ll even pretend that I don’t know you got it from a competitor.” Verne teased. “Now I’ll be able to give you a hand around here, Merlin. I may even be faster than you!”
“Ha!” Merlin replied with a cheeky grin.
“Thanks, Paul. I appreciate it.” Verne clapped his hand on Paul’s shoulder.
Morrigan quickly handed Merlin a gift, this one wrapped in metallic copper paper. Once the wrapping had been carefully removed, Merlin held a book on loft conversions, one on barn renovations, and a coffee-table style book on art knives. It was from Zuke and Tammy, their friends in Canada. Merlin grinned and said something about hints hidden in gifts. Then she handed Morrigan a rather hefty gift.
“This one is from all three of us.” Verne said.
Morrigan was not as patient or as cautious as her family. She tore into that present as if it were on fire. She was astonished to find a brand new Gateway 200XL notebook.
“Oh wow! It’s awesome!”
“They tell me it has 512 SDRAM, comes with Norton’s, 1.6 GHz processor, as well as Word 7.0, a DVD player and a CD-RW recorder and Windows XP.” Paul said before taking a mouthful of his coffee. “Not that I have any idea what most of that is…” He added.
Verne passed Merlin her coffee, and Paul a large paper-wrapped box. “It’s not fancy, but it’s from me.”
“Is it something that will bite me?” Paul asked, straight faced.
“You’re never going to let me forget that damned lizard, are ya?” Verne shook his head. At Merlin’s and Morrigan’s blank looks, Paul explained.
“When we were teenagers, he gave me some little lizard that I thought he’d found out in his yard. I thought it was pretty neat, until it bit me and drew blood. Turned out it was worth a small fortune.”
“Oh, go on and open it already!”
Paul had to have help opening it, but finally he withdrew a large leather, antique saddle, oiled to a handsome shine.
“It’s the same one your grandfather rode to war on. I found it years ago in the wreckage of that old barn your old man used to own. I had it renovated.” Verne said quietly as he watched Paul’s reaction.
“I don’t know what to say.” Paul’s voice cracked just a little.
“Then don’t say anything. Just enjoy it and keep it oiled.” Verne coughed a little and went into the kitchen to refill his cup.
Morrigan listened to Paul and Merlin discuss the memories associated with the saddle, and then followed Verne into the kitchen.
“That was really nice.”
Verne shrugged one shoulder while stirring sugar into the mug. “I knew how much it would mean to him.”
“I know you guys haven’t always been friends…”
“No, we’ve had our differences, but he loved your mother and he brought you up right, didn’t he? It doesn’t matter to me who you call Dad. I know I’m your father, but he’s your Dad, and that’s just as important. I knew he’d enjoy seeing a bit of his childhood.”
Morrigan wrapped one arm around Verne. “It was still a damn nice thing to do.”
Finally, the tree hid no further boxes or cards, and each person had a small pile spread around them. “So, that’s it then! Who wants to help make breakfast?” Morrigan exclaimed.
“Oh that’s not it, Morr. You haven’t gotten my gift yet. Verne, cover her eyes!”
“Again?” Morrigan groaned.
The wait seemed to stretch on forever until finally Merlin came grunting back into the room.
When Verne uncovered his daughter’s eyes, she saw an extremely large box, with small holes punched into the paper.
“After hearing the lizard story, I’m almost afraid to find out what this is.” Everyone laughed and watched as Morrigan hesitantly began to remove the wrapping paper. It wasn’t long before the sounds of whimpering and snuffling could be heard, and a look of enlightenment dawned on Morrigan’s features. She tore the paper off even faster and as soon as she could find the latch, released her newest gift.
He came tumbling out of the box he’d been in and barrelled the writer over with a mass of fur, slobber, and ears. Morrigan laughed so hard her sides hurt, but she was finally able to sit up and take a closer look. He was a little beagle with bright, brown eyes, a wet, black nose, and freckle-like spots along his muzzle and legs. His fur was a charming combination of copper, black and white, with a wrinkle between his eyes, giving him a concerned look. He was all paws and ears and extremely outgoing. Morrigan laughed and scratched him behind one ear. “I think I’ll call you Freckles.”
“Merry Christmas, Morr.” Merlin said quietly.
Morrigan grinned back at her from the floor, just before Freckles pounced on her.