Title: Family Man (Part 4)
Character/s: Gwaine, Leon, Merlin
Summary: Gwaine gets answers but more questions.
Warnings: Modern AU
Word Count: 1,082
Prompt: #241: What are you afraid of?
Author's Notes: Sorry for running late! This a continuation of Family Man (Part 3). The original concept is based on the movie The Family Man but I am taking a lot of liberties with it.
Gwaine stood with the front door open long enough that a chill began to climb up his legs.
He had no frame of reference for judging how he should feel seeing Merlin standing on the front step. He was in a house that wasn’t his, in a city that he’d left behind a long time ago; the whole world was completely foreign to him. He had no idea whether Merlin coming around was normal or a total anomaly.
Add to that Merlin’s unusual greeting and Gwaine felt completely lost.
“Gwaine, what are you doing?” Leon’s voice came up behind him and a hand landed on his shoulder. “You’re letting all the cold in… oh. Hi Merlin. Did we know you were coming?”
Gwaine found the confusion in Leon’s tone comforting even though they were confused about completely different things. He looked up at Leon and found his clueless shrug even more consoling. In that moment, Gwaine could at least pretend that everyone felt as lost as he was.
“I have no idea what’s going on,” Gwaine said honestly.
Merlin bowed his head sheepishly. “Maybe I should’ve called.” He laughed a little, offering his thanks as he accepted Leon’s invitation to come in out of the cold. “The merger that Arthur was overseeing in New York is finally done,” Merlin explained as he shrugged out of his coat and scarf, “and I was way too eager to come home to wait around for the final details. Arthur can survive a few days on his own. I thought this would be a good time to discuss his birthday? Do you mind?”
“No, not at all,” Leon said. His hand on Gwaine’s shoulder encouraged Gwaine to walk with him to the living room while Merlin followed behind them. “Just not too loud; Lexi’s already in bed. I’ll put the kettle on.”
Leon pressed a quick kiss to Gwaine’s temple before leaving them to start the tea. Merlin took a seat at the dining table. Gwaine could see no other option than to join him.
“So, Gwaine,” Merlin said as Gwaine sat next to him. “Did you figure it out yet?”
“Figure what out?” Gwaine assumed Merlin was talking about Arthur’s aforementioned birthday.
“Why you’re here.”
“What do you-?” Gwaine stopped himself, focusing on the simple smile on Merlin’s face. He leaned across the corner of the table. “What do you mean by ‘here’? ‘Here’ as in Camelot or…?”
“All of it,” Merlin answered. “Camelot, this house, marriage, fatherhood-“
“You know!” Gwaine said, pointing at Merlin. His mind was racing; it felt like it hadn’t had a moment to breathe since he woke up. “You know,” Gwaine said again. “You know that I don’t belong here, that everything is wrong.”
“I didn’t say that but I do know.”
“What the fuck does that even mean, Merlin?!”
Gwaine had pushed out of his chair without realizing it. He stared down Merlin, his friend, still looking far calmer than Gwaine felt he had any right to. Merlin glanced towards the kitchen and then reached for Gwaine’s arms. He pulled once, twice, and finally a third time before Gwaine agreed to sit down.
“Keep your voice down,” Merlin suggested. “Your daughter’s asleep.”
“She is not my-“
Gwaine’s voice disappeared. There was no better word for it; his voice had simply ceased to exist. He grabbed at his throat, looking to Merlin for help. A golden shine seemed to fade from Merlin’s eyes as he copied Gwaine’s earlier lean across the table.
“It’ll come back,” Merlin said dismissively. “Calm down for a minute and listen. You’re in a glimpse.”
Gwaine threw his arms out, waving at his surroundings. Thankfully, Merlin understood him.
“A glimpse is just what it sounds like: this is a glimpse of what your life would be like if one pivotal moment was changed. Have you figured out what that moment is?”
Gwaine rolled his eyes. Merlin’s explanation was almost patronizing, aside from the millions of scientific, logistical questions Gwaine had. He threw the tablet onto the table and did a quick Google search for Julian. He mimed taking Julian’s Wikipedia page and throwing it away.
“Right,” Merlin said with a nod. “This is a glimpse of what your life would be like if you had chosen to turn down Julian’s offer and stay in Camelot.”
Gwaine’s voice returned at the perfect time. “Why would I ever do that?!”
Merlin shrugged. “It’s not my place to say. I’m just here to make sure you understand what’s happening.”
“I don’t understand. I want to go home.”
“You can’t go home.”
Merlin’s smile faded. “Because you haven’t seen anything.”
“I’ve seen enough!” Gwaine pushed away from Merlin but remained seated this time. He could hear his voice rising, shaking, but he couldn’t make it stop. “I didn’t want this! I don’t belong here!”
“Gwaine, what are you afraid of?”
“Losing my life!”
“Which one do you think?!” Gwaine shouted. “The one in the London, where I was successful and famous and-“
Gwaine staggered. Merlin’s single word knocked the wind out of him. “I, I wasn’t… I’m not lonely. Merlin, I’m not. I’m not lonely.”
“It’s not my place to say.” It was the same sentence, the same shrug, but Gwaine could see an opinion Merlin was holding back.
“A glimpse last three days,” Merlin said, giving Gwaine information he was suddenly less interested in. “As you’ve already noticed you must remain in Camelot during that time. At the end of the third day, the iron bridge will open and you’ll be free to leave.”
“That’s it?” Gwaine asked.
“If you stay past the third day, the glimpse will merge with the rest of the world and it’ll become your reality. If you leave, you’ll return to the reality you remember and all of this will disappear.”
Gwaine glanced down the hall at Lexi’s bedroom door.
“All of it.”
The finality of Merlin’s statement made the heated room feel cold. Gwaine looked to his friend, searching for more but Merlin had nothing else for him. He offered Gwaine a smile.
“You’ll figure it out, Gwaine.”
“But what if I don’t?”
The kitchen door opened and Leon returned with a tray of warm mugs, spoons, and other tea necessities. He set everything down, putting a perfectly flavored cup of tea in front of Gwaine, and joined them at the table where Merlin filled him on the birthday party planning so far.
Gwaine let their words roll over him, drinking his tea in a futile effort to warm him against the chill seeping through his body.