Title: 5 times Merlin fell even deeper in love and 1 time he learned he was not the only one. Part 1. Smile, though your heart is aching.
Pairing/s: Arthur/Gwaine, Merlin/Percival
Character/s: Merlin, Percival, mentions: Arthur, Gwaine, Hunith.
Summary: 5 times Merlin fell even deeper in love and 1 time he learned he was not the only one. Part 1: After his father's funeral, the only thing that makes Merlin feel better is making Percival laugh.
Warnings: Grief, some dark(ish) humour
Word Count: ~980
Author's Notes: (This is a bit rough around the edges, but it will do.)
Follow up to Four beddings and a funeral
Merlin and his mother Hunith returned to Bali Noor's grave the day after the funeral. They carried plants and everything his mother had decided they needed to bring. The crowd from yesterday was gone, the unexpected media interest had been fed. The grave was covered up and ready to be left alone or cared for, depending on who would come. The stone had been placed, flowers from the funeral was placed carefully around it.
Hunith made sure all her flowers were right where she wanted them. She patted her hand around them while talking gently down to the damp soil and the man in the coffin beneath. A punch of guilt hit Merlin. Here he stood feeling sorry for himself, moping about Percival and how unlikely he was to become more than a friend. And there his mother sat, having lost both her lover and her friend in one go. Perhaps she had hoped he would slow down some day and maybe settle down a bit. But not like this. He swallowed and sat down beside her. He took her hand and leaned towards her, remembering how they would sit together in their garden back home many years ago. He reached out and pointed towards the plants she had so carefully chosen. He named them all and said when they would be likely to bloom, like she had taught him back then. Early bloomers, late bloomers and evergreens. There would always be something alive and vibrant here, just like the man she loved.
They spent a few days making sure everything was in order. But he had to return to college, he couldn't afford to miss too many classes. Merlin had expected the awkwardness of people not knowing what to say or fumbling when trying to bring their condolences. But in addition to that the news had spread of who his father had been. Merlin was now a sort of mini-celebrity that no one knew how to approach. He hoped it would pass. Merlin couldn't even bare to look at pictures right now, talking to well-meaning fans about the life and death of his father wasn't top of his list of things to do.
Returning also meant finding out that he had yet another thing to be grateful to Arthur for. Not only had he made sure Merlin's friends would be able to attend the funeral. Arthur was also secretly collecting newspapers and printing out online obituaries and other things he thought Merlin might appreciate later. All Merlin had to do was pretend he didn't know about it, or mention it at his own time. Arthur could have chosen a bit more subtle accomplice than Gwaine, but in a way it was nice seeing those two being oddly domestic together while failing at secrecy.
Tagging along to 'the Knight's Tavern' wasn't hard though. That was where Merlin wanted to be; sitting next to Percival, surveying the guests and chatting when they could. Same old, yet brand new Percy. There was no way Merlin could explain away the epiphany at the funeral as some grief-related temporarily insanity. Merlin was to be the sad fool who fell in love with his best friend, while said friend sent sad looks towards their other friend Gwaine. What a mess. At least they were alive.
“Do you think they'll last?”
The first rush of people had been dealt with. Percy's question was carefully voiced to not give anything away. Merlin sighed as he followed Percy's gaze towards Arthur and Gwaine snogging shamelessly by the bar.
Percival hummed in reply. At least Merlin could be honest about this, if not completely honest about other things.
“Honestly... I think they are made for each other. They are very similar; unfairly good-looking, egos the size of planets, loud, an obscene amount of self confidence with just enough humanity in them to keep you from strangling them...”
Percival chuckled, making Merlin's heart skip a beat and his thoughts loose track. An very inconvenient blush made Merlin's cheeks heat up. Still he couldn't help but look up and drink in the sight and sound of the cheery Percy-bear and he couldn't help the smile it brought to his face. He bit his lip and looked away, still smiling.
“Murder fantasies. Merlin, you surprise me.” Percy teased, giving his friend a little nudge with the elbow.
Merlin shrugged, still smiling. “Oh, it comes natural when you live with Arthur, even you would might have had to count to ten once in a while. But then he had to go and become nice. It really takes the joy out of it. And Gwaine too.”
Percy easily tuned into the more serious note underneath the jokes. Merlin could tell from the way Percy's voice and smile softens. How was this guy even real?
“They collect stuff about the funeral and such for me, so I don't have to. He was my father, but he was never around and now he's everybody's hero. I can't deal with that bit now.”
Grief, guilt and bitterness makes his eyes flood over. He lets the tears roll silently down his cheeks before he wipes them away with the sleeve of his shirt. Fighting them won't help, but he ducks his head down so no-one else will know.
“That's very nice of them. The bastards.” Percy answers gently, adding a little life-line at the end.
“Yeah, utter bastards...” Merlin sniffles and puts his brave face back on. “Or I could be wrong, and they have to put down newspapers because Gwaine isn't housebroken yet, but-”
Merlin is cut off as Percival throws his head back and laughs out loud, turning heads all around them. Merlin basks in the warmth of Percival's deep, roaring laughter. It was good to be alive and perhaps this would be enough.