Title: On Notice
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin wants children, and Arthur doesn't.
Word Count: 1287
Author's Notes: Partly (only partly) based on real life. Chapter 2 is here: http://camelot-drabble.livejournal.com/1159163.html
“Arthur, what’s wrong? You seem so uncomfortable.”
“I came across your dating profile and fell into reading it again. I—well-- I guess I hadn’t read it so carefully before,” Arthur said quietly, avoiding Merlin’s eyes.
“My profile? It’s not like I had any deep dark secrets. What’s bothering you?” prodded Merlin.
“Well, it says, very clearly actually---it says that you want children,” replied Arthur.
Arthur lifted his eyes to Merlin and took his hand.
Merlin bit his lip, then finally said, “And I gather you don’t?”
Arthur shook his head sadly. His eyes were wet with unshed tears. He looked so upset that Merlin, stunned as he was, placed his arm around his shoulders, drew Arthur’s head down to his own shoulder, and kissed the top of Arthur’s head.
Arthur spoke quietly, “I feel like I’ve found and lost the love of my life in just a few short months.”
Merlin gently removed his arm from Arthur’s shoulders. They angled towards each other, knee to knee, holding each others’ hands.
Merlin shook his head in disbelief. “Arthur, maybe—I can—I dunno…”
“No, love,” said Arthur, “Don’t even say it. Raising a child is not something I could ever ask you to give up for me. You will be an amazing parent, and I’m afraid that you would resent me forever if you didn’t get to do that because of me.”
Merlin turned his head to hide his own tears. Took a deep breath and turned back to face Arthur. “What are we going to do? I can’t give you up.”
“I have no idea,” answered Arthur, pulling Merlin close. “I have no idea, because I can’t give you up either. I suppose we should both just turn around and walk away before we cause each other more misery, but I just can’t do it.”
Merlin lifted his hand to Arthur’s cheek and wiped away a tear, then pulled Arthur towards him and kissed him soundly. “Let’s just be together then. Since neither one of us can imagine walking away, let’s just be together, and see where this takes us. This time we’ve had together, short as it’s been---well, it’s like you said, I feel like I’ve found the love of my life, the other side of my coin—and I haven’t lost you yet, so let’s hold on while we can and try to find some trust that things will work out for us.”
As they lay in bed that night, Merlin cuddled up close to Arthur.
“Arthur, are you asleep?”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” said Arthur, yawning and moving up on the pillows a bit so that he could get his arm around Merlin.
“I was wondering—Please don’t take this as pressure, or me trying to change your mind—I mean, I’d like to understand why you don’t want to be a parent. You don’t seem to hate kids or anything, so I was just wondering why you feel what you feel about it. I mean if you don’t mind telling me. I hope it’s ok to ask.”
Arthur sighed. “Of course it’s ok. It’s hard, but there’s no way we can even try to get through this if we can’t talk about it.” Arthur sat up further, leaning against the headboard, and pulling Merlin up against his chest. “I guess I think about all the things we won’t be able to do. And my father was always annoyed by us. I felt like a rock around his neck. Half the time he pushed us off on nannies and baby sitters. And when he was with us, I just felt like he thought I was a nuisance. I’d look forward to seeing him, and then within moments, I’d just want to be anywhere else. Sometimes I still feel like that with him.”
Merlin pulled himself up further and turned to take Arthur into his arms. “I can’t imagine how hard that was. Every child deserves to have someone who makes them feel like the light of their life. I’m so sorry you never got that. I bet you were the most amazing, adorable little kid ever.”
“Maybe,” said Arthur. “But I felt like a big mistake. What if I had a child and couldn’t love it any more for it than my father loved me?”
“No,” Merlin said, “I find that impossible to even imagine. You’ve got a huge heart.”
“I don’t know, sweet heart. I don’t trust myself.”
Merlin nodded his head. “I can see that, and you know what, maybe that’s not a bad thing. I mean, I guess it’s hard to know how the stuff we grew up with is going to affect us. Listen, I’m not trying to pressure you—but if you decide that maybe you could consider it—well, maybe you could try therapy. And if you ever did decide to do it, and you didn’t like the way you were acting, that would always be an option. And I’d be here to whip some sense into you.”
“Hmmm,” said Arthur, nuzzling into Merlin’s neck.
Merlin pushed Arthur down back on the bed, and said, “You sound way too intrigued by that!” What followed was somewhere between an attempted seduction and a tickle war.
“Uncle! Uncle!” cried Arthur. Merlin stopped tickling him, and they settled back into the bed. “Um, I guess since it’s true confessions time, I should admit everything,” said Arthur.
“Anything you want to tell me. I want to know everything about you,” said Merlin.
“Since the day I came out to him when I was fifteen, my father has been on my case. In short, I can’t be gay because he wants grandchildren, heirs to the empire, etc. He has never accepted me, never been willing to meet anyone I have dated, pressured me into dating women, and made me feel like the ultimate disappointment.”
Arthur got out of bed and began to pace around the room. “To be honest, whenever I think about kids, all I can think is ‘fuck him’. Fuck that. He didn’t have the time of day for me for most of my childhood, and now he wants me to deny my own sexuality, and give up my chance for happiness so I can get some woman I can never love pregnant—just to give him grandchildren. And then, if I did have a kid, well, that’s a lose-lose situation too. Either I watch him ignore his own grandchild, just as he ignored me, or I get to see him give all the love and attention he never gave me to someone else. Ugh. It just—the whole thing just seems like a horrible trap.”
Merlin stood, and wrapped his arms around Arthur. “Thank you so much for being so open with me. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I am not going to pressure you, but I want you to know that if we did have children, that would never, ever happen. I’m here now. You never had the love and protection you should have had, but I love you like mad, and—well, you will just have to meet my mother. She’s the sweetest, kindest, gentlest thing—until you mess with her cub. I know that I would be that kind of dad—so no way is your father going to mess with anyone I love—not any possible future child, and certainly not my beloved man. So, one way or another, I will be meeting Uther Pendragon, and putting him on notice. And in the meantime, I’m going to love you so good that you won’t even dream of ever putting up with that shit from anyone ever again. Not even your father. Do you hear me?” asked Merlin, holding Arthur's face in his hands and holding his gaze.
Somewhat stunned, Arthur could only nod. Merlin pulled him back into bed and held him tightly.