Title: Play Date
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Hunith, George
Summary: Arthur just wants someone to play with.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Rather different to last week.
“Where would you like to go next, Sir?”
Arthur looked up at George. He wanted to tell the man to get lost, but knew word would get back to his father. He shrugged instead.
“I’m eight,” he told the man, “I can do this on my own. Wait over there.”
He nodded to benches on the outskirts of the park. George frowned and Arthur almost smirked. He could see the war waging in the man’s mind: disobey a direct order from his young master or leave Arthur on his own in the park.
In the end, Arthur sighed.
“You can still see me,” he said, “I’ll shout if I need you.”
George nodded curtly and walked off. Arthur breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t dislike the man, per se. George was the only one who took care of him, after all. But he always did it with such a detached air, as if he didn’t care about Arthur at all. Arthur was just his duty, nothing more.
Arthur couldn’t play when George was around. He couldn’t relax with the man watching him like a hawk. But now the hawk was viewing from a safe distance and Arthur moved to the swings.
Sitting down, he wrapped one arm glumly around the chain, swinging just a touch. He kept his head lowered, but peeked through his eyelashes as the scene surrounding him. Children of every age played happily, screaming with laughter, racing and joking with each other.
They all had someone to play with. Older children messed around with each other, enjoying a freedom they had never experienced before. The younger ones begged their mothers to go higher, faster, or pleaded with their fathers to spin them around one more time.
Alone on the swings, Arthur tried to hide that he was watching it all.
When he had asked his father the previous evening if he could go to the park, he hoped that the man read between the lines and understood that his son wanted to spend some time with him. Instead, the man had nodded and instructed George that, weather permitting, Arthur could attend the park between three and five in the afternoon, as long as he was back for dinner.
Huffing a sigh, Arthur kicked out moodily at the ground. He wanted someone to play with but had no idea how to approach the other children.
“I don’t want to go on my own though,” a voice suddenly protested behind him. The words were said in a low hiss, the owner clearly not wanting to be overheard.
Arthur shifted position until he straddled the swing, able to glance behind him without making it obvious. A boy his own age stood by the gate with his mother, a mop of untidy black hair and startling blue eyes that glared when Arthur looked too long.
“I’ll only be ten minutes,” his mother said, desperation in her voice. “I’ll still be watching you. You know I have to take this call, Merlin, it’s important.”
“I’ll look like an idiot on my own,” Merlin hissed. Arthur flushed, returning his gaze to the ground. He was the only one in here on his own currently. Did this boy think that Arthur looked like an idiot?
“You won’t. I’m trusting you to look after and occupy yourself for just ten minutes. Please, Merlin?”
Merlin paused for a long moment. “Okay.”
His voice was quiet and as Arthur watched, he reached out and touched his mother’s wrist.
“Don’t be long.”
She kissed the top of his head, promised and moved away. Merlin entered. Arthur quickly shifted position again as he realised the boy was heading to the swings. Merlin had a look on his face that Arthur knew well; wanting to be with a parent and not being certain how to press it.
“What are you looking at?”
Arthur suddenly realised he was staring and felt his flush rising again.
“Nothing.” He looked away again.
Merlin sat down moodily on the swings, his posture mirroring Arthur’s.
“I know she has to do it,” Merlin said suddenly, seeming to not care that he had never met his new confidant before. “But we’ve only just moved here. I don’t know anyone. I just…want someone to play with.”
The last part was said quickly, the tips of his ears turning red. Arthur didn’t think there was anything wrong with not wanting to be on his own. He glanced over at George, startled to realise the man was still watching him intently.
“At least she brings you here herself,” Arthur said, making no attempt to disguise that he had been listening. Merlin looked between Arthur and George.
“That’s not your father?”
Merlin didn’t look as if he knew how to react, but Arthur was used to it. It was one of the reasons why he was left on his own. None of the other children knew what to do around the son of a billionaire.
“Servants don’t play, do they?” Merlin said, as if there hadn’t been an awkward pause. Arthur was surprised; conversations didn’t usually go past introducing George. He shook his head.
“Well,” Merlin said, standing up and planting himself in front of Arthur. “You’ve got no one to play with. Neither have I. We’ll just have to play with each other.”
Merlin looked unsure. “If you want?”
Arthur shrugged. “No better offers.”
He got up slowly, trying not to act like Merlin had just offered him everything he had spent the day longing for.
“I’m not playing tag,” he warned, “that’s for babies.”
“Race you to the top of the climbing frame?” Merlin offered instead. Arthur’s eyes glinted and he nodded.
He ran off, hearing Merlin scrambling after him, laughing.
And, just like that, Arthur suddenly had someone to play with. To joke and race and challenge and, at the end of the day, say goodbye to with the promise to meet up to play again.
Everything he had ever wanted.